Saturday, July 02, 2005


American public schools can be described in only one way: an unmitigated failure. The government has created an educational system free of the checks and balances that normally guide success and encourage innovation in the marketplace, namely, profit and loss in a setting of open competition. Instead, government schools shelter teachers through life-long tenure, virtually eliminating all accountability about what and how subjects are taught in the classroom. Furthermore, there are few incentives for cost-efficiency because this could result in budget reductions. Instead, whenever there seems to be a “learning problem,” the cry is for more of the taxpayers’ money.

The only real solution is to put education back into the marketplace. Unfortunately, some of the proposed “market solutions” are really still government solutions, since they come with political strings attached. One of the most popular of these is the school-voucher plan.

The Voucher Plan

The voucher has excited many pro-market advocates over the years. Under the plan, government would still collect taxes for education, but parents would be allowed to select the schools that their sons and daughters would attend. Theoretically, the government would be a silent third-party to the transaction, merely issuing the vouchers used as payment.

This would purportedly place all families in America on the same level playing field. School choice no longer would be a privilege of the rich; it would become a reality for all. Allowing parents to choose their children’s schools would make those schools accountable to them. If a school failed to meet particular parents’ standards, they would shift their children to another, taking the vouchers with them.

Unfortunately, proponents of the voucher fail to fully understand that the government involvement which has been so destructive of education would continue with their plan.

The Voucher Fallacy

For the voucher scheme to work as its advocates suggest, government would have to separate its check-writing powers from its regulatory powers. In other words, the government would have to allow parents to use the vouchers at any school of their choosing, without any comments, criticisms, or controls over that school’s curriculum or methods.

However, even a cursory examination of the reality of American politics exposes one inevitable truth: whatever the government pays for it ends up controlling. There are no exceptions!

Two cases prove instructive on this issue: Hillsdale College and the Virginia Military Academy (VMI).

Hillsdale College is a small liberal-arts institution in Michigan that has been admitting and graduating women, blacks, and other minority students on an equal basis with white men since before the Civil War. The college was never accused of or shown to have discriminated because of race or gender in its entire history. But in the 1970s the government decreed that because Hillsdale accepted students receiving federal aid it must comply with all federal regulations, including anti-discrimination laws. Hillsdale argued that since the government money went to students, and not directly to the college, it should not be subject to regulations. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that any college which accepts students who bring along federal dollars must follow the government’s rules. What was especially disturbing was the Court’s ruling that, even without evidence of discrimination, student aid could be terminated if the school failed to abide by federal guidelines concerning student admissions and anti-discrimination campus policies.

Twenty years later that precedent was used against VMI, an all-male military school that received money from the federal government in the form of student financial aid. A lawsuit against the school claimed sexual discrimination, and the court ruled that because VMI received federal tax dollars, it had to adhere to all federal regulations, including those prohibiting sex discrimination.

The Flawed Compromise

Although appearing to be a free-market solution, the voucher system could actually destroy any real alternative to the public schools. While vouchers might improve education slightly in the short term, over the longer run they would threaten to destroy any possibility of real school choice and undermine existing educational pluralism among private schools in America.

First, private schools accepting vouchers would become hooked on government money and increasingly doubtful over whether they could exist without it. Then, like the VMI and Hillsdale cases, government regulations would begin to envelop these schools. Maybe not the first day, or the first year, but eventually pressure groups with “politically correct” axes to grind would pressure the government and courts to extend controls to these new institutions caught in the web of government dependency.

Many private schools that wished to maintain their autonomy might be unable to survive the subsidized competition from the public schools and private schools that accepted vouchers. Those that did survive would most likely have to raise their tuition and once more become schools more or less exclusively for “the rich.”

Private schools accepting vouchers and the accompanying regulations would become de facto “public” schools, reduced to the standards and quality of the existing government system. All would be forced to conform to the government’s model, with no real competition and choice. This would take from parents any incentive to shop around for the best schools for their children. Some of the weaker schools might close, but the vast majority would exist under the government’s regulatory standard.

Finally, a new layer of bureaucracy would arise, with new offices to oversee the program and to assure that schools followed the rules. Once again, tax money would finance a bloated government infrastructure—money that parents could have been spending on their children’s education.

How different, then, would that system look from today’s current public-school system, in which parents are stuck sending their children to deficient public schools unless they can afford to pay more money out of their after-tax income for better private schools?

Although the voucher proposal may look like a market-based alternative to public education, when analyzed with foresight and an understanding of how politics actually works, it is revealed to be a mirage and not a free-market oasis.

Like it or not, it should never be forgotten that every government dollar comes with strings attached. Schools dependent on government money can never become the basis of an actual market-based educational system. To develop such a competitive system, we must allow and require schools to operate according to the rules of the market, where consumers—in this case parents—spend their own money.



The NSW corruption watchdog has found two former senior University of Newcastle staff members acted corruptly, after an investigation into the handling of plagiarism allegations at the university. The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) also recommended the university consider disciplinary action against Deputy Vice-Chancellor Brian English, for failing to address the deficiencies of an internal review into the matter clearing relevant staff of misconduct.

The ICAC investigated an allegation of corrupt conduct made in January 2003 by lecturer Ian Firns, regarding how his report of plagiarism involving 15 postgraduate business students was handled. Mr Firns had failed the students from Institut WIRA in Malaysia, a partner organisation through which the university offered a Master of Business Administration, for what he alleged was work copied from websites. But on re-marking, the students' grades were overturned and they were awarded marks of up to 80 per cent, the ICAC was told.

The ICAC today found Dr Paul Ryder, former Head of the Graduate School of Business, and his former deputy, Dr Robert Rugimbana, engaged in corrupt conduct. They breached their duty by having assignments re-marked contrary to university policy and without any proper investigation as to the truth of the plagiarism allegations, the ICAC found. Dr Ryder and Dr Rugimbana were "motivated by a desire to avoid any potential adverse consequences that the allegations may have had for the offshore program", the ICAC reported. As as a result, it said, academic standards were undermined.


Waltons direct donations to Alliance: "One of the world's richest families picked Phoenix attorney Clint Bolick's non-profit group as recipient of memorial donations for Wal-Mart heir John T. Walton. Bolick is a conservative activist with a national reputation as a fighter for education reform and the rights of small-business owners. Walton died Monday after the experimental aircraft he was piloting crashed in Wyoming. Walton sat on the board of directors and was a $1 million contributor to the Alliance for School Choice, founded in 2004 by his friend Bolick. 'This is not the way we'd like to have people come to make contributions to us,' Bolick, 47, said Tuesday. 'It's a touching and typical gesture on John's part.' ... [He] said he didn't know who John Walton was when he sat next to him at a school-choice conference in Arkansas 10 years ago and struck up a conversation."


For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

The NEA and similar unions worldwide believe that children should be thoroughly indoctrinated with Green/Left, feminist/homosexual ideology but the "3 R's" are something that kids should just be allowed to "discover"

Comments? Email me here. For times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site (viewable even in China!) here


Friday, July 01, 2005


Conservative parents should at least refuse to pay for "Humanities" college courses. I must say I was pleased when my son chose to specialize in Mathematics

"A leftist professor isn't worried that conservatives produce more kids than liberals do, since universities effectively destroy the values traditionalist parents try to instill. "I don't need to have kids to create mini-me voters: I get classrooms full of other people's kids," writes Bill Savage of Northwestern University. ".Loyal dittoheads will continue to drop off their children at the dorms.And then they are all mine."

On my radio show, Savage said that conservative homes keep kids away from liberal ideas, but once they encounter enlightened thinking they instantly see its superiority.

In fact, it's far easier for liberals to isolate offspring from opposing viewpoints than it is for right wingers - given leftist bias in entertainment, and the teaching profession at all levels.

At least Professor Savage acknowledges the agenda in elite colleges - raising painful questions for parents who proudly pay $40,000 a year to let academics treat their kids as ideological pawns.



The NSW Teachers' Federation has dealt a double blow to the parents of NSW - a snap walkout tomorrow and a ban on reporting school performance. The first move - a stopwork meeting at every public school from 9am tomorrow that will disrupt families on the last day of term - is in protest at the Howard Government's industrial laws. The second is aimed at the Carr Government, with the union banning long-overdue reforms that let parents know how their child's school is performing compared with the rest of the system.

The Teachers' Federation admitted it had decided to oppose the measure before it was even announced by the Premier yesterday. An angry Mr Carr said yesterday he would legislate to give parents vital information about the performance of schools if teachers opposed public release of the data.

As thousands of teachers prepare to walk out of classrooms for tomorrow's stopwork meeting, Mr Carr said he would over-rule the the Industrial Relations Commission if it opposed new annual school reports. "We'll legislate for it ... I mean this is a right of parents and we're going to see that parents have got that right," he said.

The Daily Telegraph has learned the Teachers' Federation lodged a complaint in the Industrial Commission after receiving on June 17 a secret Government briefing on the planned new reports. Teachers claim the reports breach "protocols" outlawing the release of academic results in any way that allows schools to be ranked or compared. Among a raft of demands, the protocols state: "The annual report is not the mechanism for identifying ineffective teachers."

Despite demands from parents for more data showing how schools were performing, federation senior vice-president Angelo Gavrielatos maintained the public had no right to the information. He said parents received all the data they needed on how their children were performing. "We oppose it because it will lead to league tables ... not even the Premier's assurances will stop that," Mr Gavrielatos said. "We will see this data being misused and abused by opportunistic politicians ... it's a political stunt. "They [league tables] will make not one single bit of difference to the improvement of educational outcomes for any kid in any school."

Due in part to a campaign by The Daily Telegraph, the Government has ordered schools to produce reports showing exam results, student and staff attendance rates and teacher qualifications. For the first time, parents will be able to compare the results of their students to the statewide average and to the results of students in similar schools.

The Industrial Commission is due to report on the issue on July 8 but Mr Carr indicated he would ask Parliament to over-rule it. A trial of the annual reports will be conducted in 50 areas next year and they will be introduced in all NSW public schools in 2007.

Mr Gavrielatos accused the Government of going "well beyond" the requirements of the Commonwealth, which threatened to withhold $3.6 billion in funding if the reports and a host of other reforms were not put in place. Mr Gavrielatos said if parents wanted to know how their school was performing they should talk to the principal and teachers. Teachers also are angry that the reports will list staff absences.

But president of the Secondary Principals Council Chris Bonnor welcomed the new reports, "subject to fine tuning".


Email from a U.S. reader:

"Stupidity rules because the 'educators' are not doing their jobs educating children. The so called 'ethnomath' is probably just the lastest manifestation of this phenomenon.

How this came about is, I believe, the result of simple laziness on the part of lower grade teachers. The latest fads ("look say", "whole language") offered them a chance to 'do their jobs' without tears, without enforcing discipline, without actually making children learn. Without the actually grunge work of teaching. Why the education departments at the universities came up with such offerings as the 'audio-lingual method' of not learning a foreign language (imagine being taught Latin as a teeanager without anyone giving you a hint as to the grammar!) and other quick and easy frauds -- one-up-manship and the need to come up with something 'new' to earn a doctorate seem to be the easiest answers.

I lucked out. My parents sent me to a Catholic school staffed by terrorist penguins (the Sisters of Notre Dame de Nemours) who made me learn from fear of being hit (I also believed they were agents of the Spanish Inquisition who would burn me at the stake if I let them know what I thought of them, but over the years I have come to believe that was a misconclusion on my part) or kept back.

Public school teachers can never approach the terror factor that nuns have, but older generations kept discipline in their rooms and educated children to a high standard, just because they had the support of the parents, which isn't there any longer. When I was working as a security guard in a hotel in college I came across a room rented by the Dept of Ed. filled with ancient text books! Very un-PC, but by the 8th grade children in Boston in the 1890s were doing 1960s college level work!

American parents who realize their children are being cheated of a decent education are more frequently taking things into their own hands. In New York the Asian math cram schools now have lots of Jewish and non-Jewish white kids. Charter schools are more popular. In MA we have the MCAS, a series of mandated tests you need to pass to get out of high school. I am working with a teenager who was in the first group of kids who have to take it -- he can actually do division! (I now work in retail -- where the inability of teeangers to do simple math is legendary. The teenager takes a coat marked $19.99 off a rack that says "10 Per Cent Off Retail Price" and walks it over to the cashier and asks: "How much is this?") If only he had had math teachers who had actually studied math in college, rather than 'education.'"


For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

The NEA and similar unions worldwide believe that children should be thoroughly indoctrinated with Green/Left, feminist/homosexual ideology but the "3 R's" are something that kids should just be allowed to "discover"

Comments? Email me here. For times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site (viewable even in China!) here


Thursday, June 30, 2005

Give Africa a private schooling

Poor African children benefit more from independent schools than government ones for a fraction of the cost. Why are aid groups and pop stars against them?

"On BBC's Newsnight last week the international development secretary Hilary Benn showcased free primary education (FPE) in Kenya - supported by $55m from the World Bank and 20m pounds from the British government - as the shining example of aid to Africa not being wasted. He's not the only one clutching at this example for reassurance: Bill Clinton told an American television audience that the person he most wanted to meet was President Kibaki of Kenya, "because he has abolished school fees", which "would affect more lives than any president had done or would ever do . . ."

When Gordon Brown visited Olympic primary school, one of the five government schools located on the outskirts of Kibera, the largest slum in Kenya and in Africa, he told the gathered crowds that British parents fully supported their taxpayers' money being used to provide free places at that school. Bob Geldof and Bono rave about how an extra 1m-plus children are now enrolled in primary school in Kenya. All these children, the accepted wisdom goes, have been saved by the benevolence of the international community - which must give $7 to $8 billion per year more so that other countries can emulate Kenya's success.

The accepted wisdom is wrong. It ignores the remarkable reality that the poor in Africa have not been waiting, helplessly, for the munificence of pop stars and western chancellors to ensure that their children get a decent education. Private schools for the poor have emerged in huge numbers in some of the most impoverished slums and villages in Africa. They cater for a majority of poor children and outperform government schools, for a fraction of the cost.

My research has found this in Kenya - where the international community might excuse the inadequacy of state education as a blip while free primary education beds down. But it's as true in Ghana and Nigeria too - where free primary education has been around for a long time, supported by generous handouts from the British government and the World Bank.

In the poor areas of Lagos State, Nigeria - the same is true in poor areas of Ghana - my research teams combed slums and villages and found 70% or more of all schoolchildren in private school, more than half in schools unregistered and therefore unacknowledged in any official statistics. In the teeming shantytown of Makoko alone, where 50,000 people live, many in wooden houses built on stilts sunk into the dark waters of the Lagos lagoon, we found 32 private schools serving some 4,500 children (75% of those in school from Makoko) from families of impoverished fishermen and fish traders, and all off the state's radar.

Parents gave the same litany of complaints about government schools, that teachers don't turn up, or if they do they don't teach. I visited the three government primary schools on the outskirts of Makoko; although my visit was announced, and I came with the commissioner of education's representative, I saw the headmistress beating children to get them into the classrooms, and found one teacher fast asleep at his desk. The welcoming chorus of the children didn't rouse him.

The commissioner's representative, however, described parents who send their children to the mushrooming private schools as "ignoramuses", wanting the status symbol of private education (saying this, without irony, standing by her brand new silver Mercedes), but hoodwinked by unscrupulous businessmen. "They should all be closed down," she told me. At least she admitted that these schools existed - the British government's representative, co-ordinating the Department for International Development's 20m pounds of aid (all to government schools) denied flatly that private schools for the poor exist.

But was the commissioner's representative right about the low quality in the mushrooming schools? We tested 3,000 children in maths and English, from government and private schools, controlled for background family variables, and found that the children in the unregistered private schools, so despised by the government, achieved 14 percentage points higher in maths and 20 percentage points higher in English than children in government schools. Teachers in the government schools were paid at least four times more than those in the unregistered schools. The private schools were far more effective for a fraction of the cost.

More here

Australian parents to receive reports on schools

Over opposition from teachers, of course

A move by one state to issue detailed school reports allowing parents to compare the performance of schools, teachers and students looks set to revolutionise Australian education. The decision by NSW is expected to be followed by Victoria in the next few weeks, while other states are developing plans to enhance school reporting. NSW Premier Bob Carr yesterday unveiled the new school reports which will gauge student performance in statewide tests and attendance as well as teacher qualifications, and will go to every state-school parent. The reports will be trialled next year in 50 schools for implementation across the state in 2007. "This is the biggest ever reform to the way schools report their performance back to parents," Mr Carr said. "These new annual reports will allow parents to compare the performance of their child's school against similar schools and schools across the state. "It will become a vital tool in how parents decide the best school for their children."

NSW state schools have been reporting to the community since 1996, but those documents do not allow parents from different schools to compare school performance and school management. Now, for the first time, parents will be able to see how many teachers are leaving the school as well as how often they attend.

The NSW Teachers Federation immediately opposed the reporting of staff attending, claiming that absent staff in 500 small schools could easily be identified. Federation president Maree O'Halloran described the reports as a breach of the industrial award and an "act of contempt" for the Government's own Industrial Relations Commission.

Sharryn Brownlee, president of the Federation of Parents and Citizens' Associations of NSW, said the reforms had been driven by federal Government demands for better school reporting and would be welcomed by parents and parents' groups. "I really do understand the sensitivity of the teacher unions, especially with respect to privacy," she said. "But I also think the wider community needs to know and understand what happens to staffing in NSW schools and why it is that we do have high staff turnover in some schools. Staffing is a legitimate issue."

A NSW Government spokesman told The Australian that public reports grading individual students on their standing within the class were also under development and would be unveiled soon. The other states and territories are expected to follow NSW's lead and provide more information about student and staff performance in school reports in accordance with a precondition for $33billion in school funding from the federal Government.

Federal Education Minister Brendan Nelson asked all states to sign up for a rigorous and accessible system of reporting to parents and agreement was reached last week. The agreement mandates that all schools will need to provide report cards in clear language and traditional grades of A-E.

Ted Brierley, national president of the Australian Secondary Principals' Association, said the states were being compelled to issue more detailed reports "because they want the (federal government) money". The association opposed the move towards individual student rankings, he said. "We're at risk of testing far too much. We're at risk of going down the same bad tracks as the USA and the UK which have caused immense dissatisfaction in the education community without improving students' performance."



For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

The NEA and similar unions worldwide believe that children should be thoroughly indoctrinated with Green/Left, feminist/homosexual ideology but the "3 R's" are something that kids should just be allowed to "discover"

Comments? Email me here. For times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site (viewable even in China!) here


Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Lessons Not Learned in Publik Skools

If our modern-day government re-education camps, otherwise known as public schools, actually taught our kids about our nation's founding history, perhaps they would come across this quote by Thomas Jefferson: "A person once surrendering reason, has no remaining guard against absurdities the most monstrous." Government schools, especially those embracing "zero tolerance policies," have completely surrendered reason in their operations. Let me give you just three recent examples of "absurdities the most monstrous."

* In DeKalb County, Georgia, two high school honor roll girls were suspended for ten days for using a kitchen knife to cut a birthday cake brought in for a fellow classmate. They girls posed no threat to anyone, yet a teacher ratted them out for possession. As a result, they were barred from participating in their schools baccalaureate ceremony.

* In Bend, Oregon, a 14-year-old girl was given detention for giving her boyfriend a hug in the hallway of her Middle School. A spokeswoman for the school district assured the world that school officials weren't trying to be "the hug Nazis," but said the school had to be careful that students didn't make other "people uncomfortable."

* And in Frederick, Maryland, an 18-year-old senior was barred from attending her prom for being quoted in a local newspaper as saying she might drink alcoholic beverages at a party after the prom. Note: She wasn't barred for actually drinking; she was barred for thinking about and talking about drinking.

And these are just the tip of the "absurdities most monstrous" iceberg being foisted on our children by education apparatchiks in public schools these days. Everybody knows the public schools suck rotten eggs; however, the biggest problem is that white folks in the 'burbs think it's only the public schools in the ghettos which turn out modern-day Forest Gumps. "Their" public schools are different. Their kids can read and write (sort of). Why, their public school is ranked in the Top Ten compared to all the other schools in the area, don't you know. Well, here are two major problems with that line of thinking, and the republic is in serious jeopardy until parents wake up to these realities.

1.) Like it or not, for better or worse, our kids live in a global community today. Kids in Omaha aren't just competing with kids in Chicago any longer. They're competing with kids in England, Japan, Korea, China, Germany...and maybe even France. And not only are our kids failing to measure up against these developed-nation competitors, they're lagging behind kids coming out of many third-world countries, as well. It's one thing to compare your baseball team to the Bad News Bears. It's another thing altogether to be thrown up against the New York Yankees. Fortunately, our kids still lead the world in one category: self-esteem. They may stink in math and science, but at least they feel really, really good about themselves.

2.) It's not just learning how to read, write and add two-plus-two (the correct answer is four, no matter how good you feel about yourself) which make up an education - though it'd be nice if the government schools could at least reach that level of competence. It's learning HOW to learn. How to think critically and independently. How to use common sense. And dare I say it, how and when to challenge authority - especially government authority when Big Brother gets too big for its britches. But as you can see from just the three examples stated earlier, those are decidedly NOT the lessons being taught to our youth in government schools today. Instead, kids are being indoctrinated to submit willingly and meekly to authority. Not to step out of line, not even one little bit. To follow the rules without question. To forsake any notion of independent thought or action.

Our government schools today aren't about mind development. They're about mind control. Sure, many of the kids coming out of public schools in the 'burbs can, write a complete sentence. But that sentence will likely only express ideas pre-approved my the Ministry of Politically Correct Thought. And that is the true danger of government-run schools - be they in the ghetto or the suburbs.

Private school choice, including home-schooling, is no longer an option. It's an imperative. Perhaps then, and only then, will our kids learn about our founding history and the "radical" ideas held by our Founders which made the United States the greatest and freest nation in history. Perhaps then they'll learn of Thomas Jefferson proudly proclaiming, "I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man." In America today, such tyranny is being perpetrated on our youth by government schools, which more than deserve a little eternal hostility. Perhaps even a revolution.



Two Los Angeles-based radio talk show hosts almost put their finger on the problem with the public school system and why those who try to reform it run into brick walls. Here's how one of them put it: "It's like the only thing that matters is what's good for the adults, and not what's good for the kids." Bingo. It always comes back to this: the competing interests of the adults who work in the school system with those of the students supposedly served by that system.

The trouble was that the radio jocks - John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou - didn't go far enough in advancing that argument. Instead, they got hung up on what got them talking about education in the first place: a newspaper story about the $250,000 annual salary of a school superintendent in Southern California. It bothered the hosts that the superintendent was pulling down this hefty salary while students were being squeezed into portable classrooms.

Here's what should have bothered them: It's not just money, it's that this habit of putting adults first spills into everything. It helps explain why educators are quick to dig in and fight off any proposed reform, from testing to merit pay to fixing special education. You name it, and the reason that it's creating friction or meeting resistance is because it pits the interests of adults against those of children. And in the public school system, the adults run the show. I heard the same thing about 10 years ago during a frank and honest exchange with a Mexican-American school superintendent in Central California. He told me that the way the educational system was set up, everything is done - or, in case of reform efforts, often not done - to serve the adults who depended on that system for their livelihoods.

And I heard the same thing from departing San Diego Unified School Superintendent Alan Bersin, a hard-charging reformer who resigned recently after losing a shoving match with teachers unions and their allies on the school board. The thing is, Bersin is no pushover. A former U.S. attorney, he's a tough guy who has prosecuted corporate criminals and drug dealers and organized crime figures. You would think that, in him, the unions who barter and trade on what President Bush calls "the soft bigotry of low expectations" would have finally met their match. Think again. The more Bersin tried to hold schools accountable and set performance goals for students, the more the unions made him a target. He drafted a "blueprint" on how to raise student performance, and the unions leveled so much criticism against it - and against him - that before long, he was black and blue. Eventually, he lost favor with a majority of the five-member school board, and then it was only a matter of time before he was forced out.

Now Bersin is headed to Sacramento, having been appointed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to serve as California secretary of education. Recently, Bersin met with the editorial board of The San Diego Union-Tribune and shared some lessons he picked up from locking horns with those who fight for the status quo. Americans have to decide what they want from schools, he said. "Is public education going to be an enterprise that gives adults what they want for their jobs, or is it to be something that serves children?" he asked.

One thing that helps tip the balance in favor of the first option is the fact that teachers unions have their fingers in school board elections. I first heard about this insidious practice about a year ago when I spoke to a group of school board members about the federal education reform law, No Child Left Behind. After my talk, one of the members approached me and, trying to explain why the reaction had been so hostile, revealed that school board candidates often get contributions from teachers unions, which strongly oppose No Child Left Behind.

Bersin acknowledged that the unions contribute to school board elections in San Diego, though he said they were merely taking advantage of an "opportunity that the system provides them." That is too kind. Here's the drill. The unions scratch the backs of school board members, who reciprocate by scratching the eyes out of reformers like the superintendent - thus easing the pressure on teachers. That part of the education system isn't so complicated. In fact, it's as easy as ABC - as in Absolutely Broken & Corrupted.



For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

The NEA and similar unions worldwide believe that children should be thoroughly indoctrinated with Green/Left, feminist/homosexual ideology but the "3 R's" are something that kids should just be allowed to "discover"

Comments? Email me here. For times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site (viewable even in China!) here


Tuesday, June 28, 2005


California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s career as an action hero is only getting started. Last week, the top politician from the Golden State scheduled a November special election, giving voters the opportunity to consider a number of proposed ballot initiatives, including an education reform that would require teachers to work for five years, rather than the customary two, before gaining access to the job security of tenure. In addition, the measure would authorize school boards to dismiss even tenured faculty who receive two consecutive unsatisfactory performance evaluations. The reform arrives decades late, but still in time to combat the tyranny of incompetence that governs California public schools.

Tenure guarantees teachers mediation and due process should administrators attempt to fire them. Because of this, dismissals typically require legal proceedings averaging two years in duration and $200,000 in cost. Figures increase if the teacher appeals the judgment, as teacher unions fight tooth and claw to protect their members. Over the ten-year period from 1990 to 1999, Los Angeles Unified School District—the second largest in the nation—dismissed only one teacher.

The tenure practice began in California in the 1920s, the era of the Scopes Monkey Trial and the fight over evolution. At the time, tenure was a natural means of offering much-needed job security in an uncertain academic climate. But now that free speech rights have been expanded to protect the right of teachers to discuss controversial topics in the classroom, the challenge is not how to shield school employees from state politics, but state politics from school employees.

Limiting the protections of teacher tenure would enforce proficiency among both newer, unseasoned teachers and veterans of the system. Sub-par teachers would face longer periods of vulnerability in their early years on the job, translating into more opportunity for local districts to discover and correct inadequacy in their educational workforces. Those teachers who have become ineffective—and, in a few sad cases, senile—with age could be removed before inflicting irreparable harm on their students.

Perhaps most tragic is the disproportionate harm inflicted upon the children of the least privileged. Parents active in their local schools will lobby for the removal of incompetent teachers from their children’s classrooms, but because tenure presents an insurmountable obstacle to dismissal, administrators move these teachers rather than fire them. Eventually, they gravitate to schools in low-income areas, oftentimes populated by immigrant families, where parents are less likely to be vocal about their dissatisfaction with teachers. Those most in need of a quality education become those least likely to receive it.

Ironically, minimizing tenure actually improves the quality of the teacher applicant pool. While critics argue that tenure is necessary to attract new teachers to the profession, talented young people are more likely to become educators if the system rewards merit. When all teachers, good and bad, are treated equally, the mediocre stand to gain the most, and those are precisely the individuals enticed by tenure promises. Quality teachers need not fear for their jobs, but they may be put off by what they see as a misallocation of resources to their unqualified peers.

Defenders of the current tenure system often cite job security as a means of focusing teachers’ attention on their students. Education suffers, they argue, when teachers are concerned about the future of their careers. Such logic ignores the incredible productivity of the private sector, which lacks such safeguards. Were there a link between performance and job security, private businesses would have been issuing tenure to their employees for years simply in order to remain competitive. Unsurprisingly, they do not.


Split Over Schools . . .

Parents want higher standards than teachers

The good news is that the American public values education so highly that it is prepared to support almost any sensible reform that promises to improve the quality of grade schools and high schools.

The bad news is that the people teaching in those schools are deeply opposed to current reform efforts and skeptical of the basic premise that all students should be measured by the same high standards.

Those are the paradoxical lessons I draw from a briefing this week on a comprehensive survey of parents, educators and the general public sponsored by the Educational Testing Service and conducted jointly by the polling firms of Peter D. Hart, a Democrat, and David Winston, a Republican.

As for the value of education, when asked to identify from a list of five options the single greatest source of U.S. success in the world, the public education system edged out our democratic system of government for first place, with our entrepreneurial culture, military strength, and advantages of geography and natural resources far behind.

A plurality of parents gave a B grade to their own children's school and a C to the country's schools. When given a brief description of the No Child Left Behind Act, the Bush administration's school reform program, parents, by 45 percent to 34 percent, viewed it favorably. That may not seem like much of an endorsement, but it came after a year of increased controversy and criticism of the program, from some conservatives and many Democrats, and represented a slight improvement from last year.

But high school teachers were decidedly more negative, rating the legislation unfavorably by a ratio of 75 percent to 19 percent. When asked if the basic approach of that law should be extended to high school by requiring states to set standards and test students in grades nine through 12, more than four out of 10 parents said they strongly favored it, but an equal portion of high school teachers was strongly opposed.

More troubling, from the viewpoint of reformers, is the gap between teachers and the public on the question of performance standards for students. Those polled were asked to choose between the view that all students, teachers and schools should be held to the same standard of performance because it is wrong to have lower expectations for students from disadvantaged backgrounds, and the contrary view that they should not be held to the same standard because we should not expect teachers working with disadvantaged students to have them reach the same level of performance on standardized tests as teachers in more affluent schools.

More than half of the parents favored the single standard, but only one-quarter of the high school teachers agreed.

These differences help explain why the two big teachers unions and the Bush administration have been at odds over the implementation of No Child Left Behind.

The implications for the effort to improve the schools are pretty negative. Realistically, change in the classroom depends first and foremost on what teachers are willing and able to do. Change can be coerced only up to a point. If what President Bush has called the "soft bigotry of low expectations" is viewed by most teachers as a realistic appraisal of some students, that negative message will pervade the schools.

Fortunately, there are other findings in the poll that offer more encouragement. Parents agreed with teachers that problems in the broader society affect the schools and cannot be solved entirely within the classroom. While current federal standards rely primarily on achievement tests in evaluating school performance, and some educators argue that it would be better to measure year-to-year progress of students, large majorities of parents and teachers said that both measures were important and should go into the evaluations.

They also agreed that the work of improving elementary schools is far from finished and that reforming those schools should have priority over moving on to the high schools. Fewer than one in five teachers or parents would switch the priority to high schools at this point.

When it comes to high schools, there is broad agreement that real-world, work-related experiences are important and that the problem of dropouts is critical. But parents are much more likely than teachers to believe that expectations and standards are set too low and that students are not sufficiently challenged. An earlier survey by Achieve Inc., a private business group, reported that only 24 percent of recent high school graduates said they faced challenging standards.

Clearly the educators and the public are on different wavelengths when it comes to conditions in our schools. That is a real barrier to progress.



For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

The NEA and similar unions worldwide believe that children should be thoroughly indoctrinated with Green/Left, feminist/homosexual ideology but the "3 R's" are something that kids should just be allowed to "discover"

Comments? Email me here. For times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site (viewable even in China!) here


Monday, June 27, 2005


It doesn't say much for their other skills. The problem, of course, is that only desperates are willing to teach mush in undisciplined schools

The state Board of Education on Wednesday dramatically altered the way teachers are licensed by eliminating a basic skills test and replacing it with a more rigorous reading and comprehension exam. The result is that teachers will have to be more literate and proficient in the subjects they teach, but educators who do not teach math will no longer have to pass a math test. "We're trying to make sure every teacher who walks into a classroom knows their content area and is able to communicate well with students and with parents," said Board of Education President Thomas M. Jackson Jr. "You're losing some potentially excellent teachers in humanities because they're falling short in the math, and they haven't had math in some situations since their first year in college or before."

The board also decided that teachers who have not yet passed the new tests can spend only one year in the classroom on a provisional license. Previously, they were given three years. Teachers already holding a Virginia license or those with two years' experience and a license from another state will not be affected by the new requirements.

The No Child Left Behind law, which requires that every teacher be "highly qualified" by 2006, has prompted states to revisit their requirements to teach. So, too, has a national movement to make sure teachers are well versed in their subject areas and not just in educational techniques.

Essentially, the board voted to drop the requirement that all teachers pass the PRAXIS I exam, a skills test that includes reading, writing and math. Instead, they will have to pass a new "literacy and communications skills" exam that will be introduced in January. The new exam is intended to test reading and comprehension skills more rigorously than does the PRAXIS I, which is estimated to assess skills at an eighth- to 10th-grade level. In addition, teachers will still have to pass a higher-level exam in their subject areas.

Kate Walsh, president of the Washington-based National Council on Teacher Quality, said she pushed for a new literacy test when she testified before a Virginia panel examining licensure requirements. Research has shown that the ability to read and speak effectively is the most reliable predictor of future success in the classroom, she said.

Sixteen other states require teachers to pass the commercially available PRAXIS I, but each state chooses its own passing grade, and for years, Virginia's has been the highest in the nation. As a result, there have been yearly horror stories from beloved teachers who find themselves unlicensed when they could not pass the test after three years.

Rhea Butler, a physical education and health teacher in Alexandria, was almost one of them. In her third year on the job, she took the PRAXIS I and failed the math section by one point. She raced to take the test over and over again before she would lose her position at Francis C. Hammond Middle School. As her anxiety grew, her score dropped. She finally passed on her sixth attempt last summer, just in time to be rehired for this year.

More here


We must pretend that people asre equal even if they are not

Today, San Ysidro Middle School will recognize 516 eighth-graders in a ceremony to promote them to high school, regardless of whether they passed middle school. More than a fourth of them did not. In today's ceremony, 143 students who either flunked classes, didn't earn at least a 2.0 grade-point average, or missed too many days of school will march alongside those who did everything required of them.

Several teachers at the school have protested in staff meetings that students who don't make the grade shouldn't walk in the ceremony. To them, it's a matter of holding students accountable. "If you don't earn it, you stay home," San Ysidro Middle counselor Rosemarie Ponce said. Ponce said she's heard administrators say that all students should be able to walk in today's ceremony because it might be the only graduation ceremony they'll ever have. Such low expectations won't help them earn a diploma four years from now, she said. "We'll never know what they can do unless we raise the bar," Ponce said.

San Ysidro School District board member Paul Randolph agreed. "If you put kids through a ceremony that recognizes and rewards them for attendance, for school performance that is really subpar, what message is that sending them?" he asked.

Principal Carolina Flores agreed that San Ysidro educators need to expect more of their students. The problem is that low expectations are being communicated daily in classrooms, not by universal inclusion in a promotion ceremony, she said. "I see people not really believing in them (students)," Flores said. Part of Flores' rationale in allowing all comers into the ceremony is that they're all being promoted and leaving the kindergarten-through-eighth-grade San Ysidro School District. No teacher at San Ysidro Middle has filed paperwork to hold back a single student.

That isn't unusual. Even in a district as large as San Diego, which in the late 1990s called for an end to social promotion - passing students to the next grade regardless of performance - retentions are relatively rare. In 2003, city schools held back 40 of their 10,253 eighth-graders, although more students were retained in other grades.

Flores said her decision to include everyone is not about excusing students who fail school. It may be, Flores said, that school is failing them. Once San Ysidro Middle students fall behind, their main chances to catch up are two eight-day intersessions during the school year, when other students are on vacation. That's not enough time, Flores said. It's also sometimes the wrong kind of help. A student who's failing math, for example, might get a social studies teacher for two weeks if that's the only teacher who signs on to work intersession. "We have kids that do not meet these requirements who for no fault of their own have not received intervention," Flores said. "Somebody's dropped the ball along the way."

Whether they walk in today's ceremony or not, all 516 students are going to high school next year. And the problem is much worse than the promotion statistics indicate. How many students met promotion criteria and how many walk in the ceremony are irrelevant statistics to Hector Espinoza, principal of San Ysidro High, where today's ceremony will take place. They'll all be his students next year. He just wants to know whether they're ready for ninth grade. He sent a team of teachers out to test middle school students, and they reported back to him that 70 percent of the incoming freshman class at San Ysidro High is not at grade level.

For this year's entering ninth-graders, San Ysidro High will have a small school within a school for struggling freshmen. The students will get extra math and English instruction and won't take an elective class. A team of teachers will concentrate on these ninth-graders to establish solid student-teacher connections.....

Ultimately, Flores said, better teaching at San Ysidro Middle is the way to end social promotion and eliminate dilemmas about who should participate in ceremonies. "There's a lot not happening in the classroom," the principal said. She said she has faced resistance to her policy of demanding that teachers regularly submit lesson plans to her, for instance. Flores is the fourth principal at San Ysidro Middle in five years, and she suspects the holdouts are waiting for her to move on. Flores said an eighth-grader recently asked her if she was going to beat the curse of the one-year principal. "It's been a revolving door and these people have been left on their own for so many years that there's no real accountability here," Flores said.

More here


Post lifted from California Conservative

In an interview with the Contra Costa Times, discussing the topic of ending race-based admissions, UC Berkeley's undergraduate admissions director, Walter Robinson said:

Like Prop. 209 in California, the decision angered college administrators who believed racial considerations were integral to providing student bodies that represented a state's diverse population.

"It was like, `Where were you on 9/11?'" Robinson said of the announcement. "It was the same kind of pain. It cut that deep."

No, Walt. It's not the "same kind of pain" as 9/11, whereby 3,000 Americans lost their lives in the fiery blaze and collapse of WTC. It's not like crashing a commercial airplane to everyone's death. It's not like the horrors of terrorism. It's not like the butchery of civilians, the images of which shall forever be imprinted on the minds of all those who saw it. And New York's skyline will always be a reminder.

Prop. 209 was about ending preferential treatment based on race and gender. Ending reverse discrimination. (The proposition passed with California voters' approval)

Maybe if there'd been an attack and collapse of the ivory tower in which he dwells, Mr. Robinson might understand.


For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

The NEA and similar unions worldwide believe that children should be thoroughly indoctrinated with Green/Left, feminist/homosexual ideology but the "3 R's" are something that kids should just be allowed to "discover"

Comments? Email me here. For times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site (viewable even in China!) here


Sunday, June 26, 2005


Pouring more taxpayer money into universities doesn't lead to prosperity

When university presidents plead for government money, they often make an argument for social investment. Pump funds into higher education and the economy will grow, they claim. After all, this is an information- and skill-based age in which college graduates are far more productive than their less-educated peers. True. But the evidence suggests that increased public funding for universities doesn't lead to greater prosperity-and may even reduce the chances of it.

Compare the growth in real per capita income in states that spend a lot on higher education with that of states that spend less and a few surprises show up. Over the past 50 years low-support New Hampshire outdistanced neighboring Vermont on nearly any economic measure, though Vermont spent more than twice as much of its population's personal income on higher education (2.37% versus 1.15% in New Hampshire). Missouri, with modest state university appropriations (1.32% of personal income), grew faster than its neighbor to the north, Iowa (at 2.41%). Similar examples abound. Using data for all 50 states from 1977 and 2002, I compared the 10 states with the highest state funding for universities against the 10 states with the lowest. The result: The low-spending states had far better growth in real income per capita, a median growth of 46% compared with 32% for the states with the highest university spending. In 2000 the median per capita income level for the low-spending states was $32,777, 27% higher than the median for the 10 states where higher education got the most state money.

The results were the same when controlling for a state's oilfields or other energy sources, the age distribution of its population, the prevalence of labor unions, the tax climate and other factors that could affect growth-even the proportion of college graduates. This despite the fact that the states that were growing most quickly tended to have a high proportion of college graduates.

How could this be? Colleges have devoted relatively little new funding over the past generation to the core mission of instruction (spending only 21 cents of each new inflation-adjusted dollar per student on it), preferring instead to assist research, hire more nonacademic staff, give generous pay increases, support athletics and build luxurious facilities.

And while in the private sector companies have learned to get more work out of fewer employees, the opposite appears to have happened in higher education. In 1976 American education employed three nonfaculty professional workers (administrators, counselors, librarians, computer experts) for every 100 students; by 2001 that number had doubled.

Another piece of the puzzle: Only the weakest of positive correlations links funding level and enrollment. Even if students enroll, they don't necessarily finish school. Nearly 40% fail to graduate within five or even six years, suggesting that many who attend universities don't much benefit from them.

Yet another explanation is one Forbes readers know all too well. Taxes reduce private-sector activity. People who must pay high taxes tend to work and invest less and also tend to migrate to lower-tax areas. In other words, increasing funding to universities means transferring resources from the relatively productive private sector to higher education, which tends to be less productive and efficient.

So what should we do? College is still a decent individual investment, certifying that the graduate meets minimum standards (often missing in high school) for competence, intelligence, maturity and literacy. But we should rethink the nature and magnitude of public support for universities. State governments, facing rising Medicaid bills and demands for primary and secondary education funding, are already slashing their support. I hope and expect this trend to continue. Big changes are coming to higher education. They are overdue.



The speaker of the state House urged the city school district to reconsider what he called an "unnecessary" requirement that high school students take an African-American history course in order to graduate. "I would like to see them master basic reading, writing and arithmetic," Speaker John Perzel said in a letter Tuesday to James Nevels, chairman of the Philadelphia School Reform Commission. "Once we have them down pat, I don't care what they teach. ... They should understand basic American history before we go into African-American history," he wrote.

Perzel, a Republican, questioned why one ethnic group is singled out in the curriculum. He urged a course of study focusing on "the many cultures" in the district, which is about 67 percent black, 14 percent Hispanic, 14 percent white and 5 percent Asian.

Nevels and Paul Vallas, the district's chief executive, were out of town and weren't available for comment, district spokesman Fernando Gallard said.

National education groups say no other school district they know of requires black studies. The requirement is to apply to the class of students entering high school this fall.

Sandra Dungee Glenn, a black member of the School Reform Commission who proposed the requirement, has said she hopes African-American history and that of other groups eventually could be taught within basic history courses. "What we are doing now in many ways is reacting to the removal of information that has left all of us poorly educated in a lot of ways," Dungee Glenn said. "I would like to think that the end point would be to offer sound courses that were all-inclusive. ... But we're not there yet." The course, already offered as an elective at 11 of the city's 54 high schools, covers topics including African civilizations, civil rights and black nationalism, and teachers say it has captivated students.



For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

The NEA and similar unions worldwide believe that children should be thoroughly indoctrinated with Green/Left, feminist/homosexual ideology but the "3 R's" are something that kids should just be allowed to "discover"

Comments? Email me here. For times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site (viewable even in China!) here