Saturday, July 30, 2005

Mr. Smith, Call on Me: I can tell you: School-choice works

If the facts don't suit you, ignore them!

The biggest difficulty for defenders of the government's school monopoly is the overwhelming consensus in the empirical research finding that school choice works. They deal with this little problem primarily by ignoring the evidence and changing the subject, but it also helps that they have a stable of professors ready to distort, confuse, and obfuscate the research.

A new article in Perspectives on Politics, a prominent academic journal published by the American Political Science Association, shows how low they'll sink. Written by Kevin Smith of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, "Data Don't Matter? Academic Research and School Choice" is a warped and unfair review of the research on school choice: It's full of innuendo, misdirection, and selective omissions.

The academic effects of vouchers have been studied eight times with random-assignment methods, the gold standard of social science. But Smith, following standard procedure for opponents of vouchers, doesn't even acknowledge the existence of most of these studies. This may be because seven of the eight studies found statistically significant positive effects from vouchers and no significant negative effects. The eighth study also found positive effects, and only failed to achieve statistical significance by watering down the data with unorthodox methods, some of which violate federal research guidelines.

Smith also follows the standard anti-choice procedure in failing to acknowledge the research consensus in favor of school choice on other questions, such as the effect of choice on public schools and whether choice students learn values like tolerance. Not one empirical study has ever found that outcomes at U.S. public schools exposed to any form of school choice have worsened, and quite a few have found that they improve. Similarly, there is a large body of empirical studies finding that choice improves students' levels of tolerance and other civic values, while very few studies find the reverse.

There is certainly lots of room for legitimate discussion about the limitations of these studies. However, for such discussion to be honest it must acknowledge the preponderance of empirical studies supporting choice, and evaluate them on their merits. Smith carefully keeps most of these studies offstage. Instead, his primary tactic is to question the motives of those whose findings are favorable to school choice. And the substantive comments he does make on the content of the research are shockingly unfair.

Bias produced by researchers' beliefs and motives is a delicate problem. There's nothing wrong with researchers' developing a point of view about the things they study. And though we need to be on guard against biased research, we also need to avoid dismissing as bad scholarship any study produced by a researcher who has a point of view on the things he studies. Ironically, Smith himself acknowledges the difficulty of this problem at one point in the article, and even provides the correct answer: He says that the important question is not whether the researcher has a point of view, but rather this: "Were the data treated fairly? Fair means that the researcher offers demonstrable assurance that he or she has adhered to scholarly conventions designed to minimize the influence of [the researcher's] preferences."

Too bad Smith didn't stick to this rule. When it comes time to evaluate the research, he is more concerned with attributing positive findings for choice to the motives of researchers and organizations who support choice than he is with determining whether the data were treated fairly. For example, a systematic review of all available empirical studies found an overwhelming consensus that private schools and choice programs improve tolerance and other civic values among students, but Smith dismisses the review out of hand because many of the studies were sponsored by Harvard University's pro-reform Program on Education Policy and Governance. (Full disclosure: Smith includes my employer, the Friedman Foundation, on his list of suspect organizations, as well as my former employer, the Manhattan Institute.)

Smith also employs misdirection. He dismisses some positive school choice findings because the effect identified is small, but a positive effect that is small over one year can look a lot bigger when you compound it over the twelve years students are in school. He points out that not all voucher programs are identical, so a study finding that vouchers work in Milwaukee doesn't necessarily prove that they work elsewhere. This clearly leads the reader to believe that the findings on voucher programs in different cities are mixed, when in fact the findings of the best studies are similarly positive across all cities.

Finally, Smith mischaracterizes scholarly debates. One major voucher study found significant gains only for black students; Smith paints this as implausible because "there is no satisfactory causal explanation" for this result. In fact, researchers have pointed to several perfectly satisfactory possible explanations, including that the black students were more severely underserved by their public schools and thus had more to gain from vouchers, and that the much smaller number of non-black participants in the study may have prevented their results from achieving statistical significance. Smith likewise dismisses as inexplicable another study's finding of significant gains in math but not in reading, but it is perfectly plausible that math achievement is more affected by schools than reading achievement, since kids learn more about math at school, and reading in the home. To disagree with these explanations is fine, but to pretend that they don't exist is blatantly unfair.

In one of his most egregious distortions, Smith reviews several critiques of a study by my former colleague Jay Greene. What Smith doesn't tell you is that Greene later published new analyses showing that his findings aren't affected by those criticisms. He also doesn't tell you that two independent studies confirm the findings.

This is only a sampling of the innuendo, errors, misdirection, and injustices in Smith's article. This phony research review will undoubtedly reinforce the myth that the research on school choice is mixed or worse, when in fact school choice is as well supported by the research as any education policy. But I prefer to look on the bright side: If it weren't for people like Smith, people like me would be out of a job.


NYC: Education Policy in Wonderland

New York State now ranks number three in the nation in education spending, with a statewide per-pupil average of $14,000 a year; only New Jersey and Washington, D.C., shell out more per student. And New York City kids aren't shortchanged: while per-pupil education spending in the city once slightly lagged the state average, the gap has narrowed to almost nothing. Earlier this spring, New York city councilwoman Eva Moskowitz, who chairs the council's Education Committee, released a report showing that the Gotham schools' operating budget has ballooned 50 percent over the last five years, to $13.5 billion. That figure, Moskowitz noted, doesn't even take into account pension and benefit costs, representing another $2 billion annually, nor the billions the city spends on the schools' capital budget and interest payments on school construction loans. All told, the real New York City education budget is zooming toward the $20 billion mark-over one-third of the total city budget. That works out to a jaw-dropping $18,000 per pupil.

With nearly $20 billion spent annually on the schools and 120,000 employees, including 80,000 classroom teachers, working in them, the city, a reasonable person would conclude, has more than enough resources to provide an adequate education for its 1.1 million students. In reality, the reason the city schools are so lousy-with student test scores dismal, despite an uptick this year, and dropout rates shamefully high-has nothing to do with money and everything to do with a dysfunctional and unaccountable school system.

Unfortunately, logic has been in short supply in the Wonderland-like courtroom of State Supreme Court Justice Leland DeGrasse, the trial court judge who has overseen the Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE) school-financing case that has inexorably moved through the New York state court system for the past 12 years. The suit has successfully charged that Gotham's schools do not meet the state constitutional guarantee of an "opportunity for a sound basic education."

This past February, the case hit the headlines after DeGrasse affirmed the recommendations of the three "special masters" he had appointed and ordered the state to cough up an extra $23.3 billion for New York City's public schools over the next four years. The total includes $9.2 billion in capital funds and a phased-in $5.63 billion (40 percent!) annual boost in operating support, resulting in an average per-pupil operating expenditure (not including pension, benefit, or capital costs) of $18,000 per student. This figure would be nearly enough to cover tuition at one of the city's elite private schools, where the CFE attorneys send their kids. It would be three to four times the cost of enrolling at one of the city's well-functioning Catholic schools (which DeGrasse attended as a boy). Many of those schools are now closing up shop because working-class parents can't afford the rising tuitions, modest as they are....

New Yorkers need only look across the Hudson River to see the folly of this approach. New Jersey was a pioneer in the educational equity movement. Three decades of litigation have pushed the courts deeper and deeper into education-policy decision making, resulting in huge court-mandated increases in per-pupil spending, paid for with massive state and property tax hikes. Yet the targeted urban districts have seen little in the way of improved education results. Meanwhile, the tax increases have spurred a tax revolt among fed-up voters across the state.

Governor Pataki (and his successor) must not allow this to happen to New York. Instead, he should use his newly affirmed constitutional authority and tell the courts to stay out of education policy, especially when it comes to the spending decisions that are the responsibility of elected representatives. Pataki should shift the conversation away from the tired refrain of "more money" and toward measures that will actually help open New York's ossified educational system to competition and real reform. He has already proposed a key step (though without legislative approval, so far): lifting the teachers' union-imposed statewide cap on charter schools-several are now among the city's top-performing and have waiting lists in the thousands. A modest tax credit for poor and working-class parents who choose to send their children to parochial or private schools would also be a worthy goal. Most important, Pataki should support Mayor Bloomberg's and Schools Chancellor Klein's efforts to hammer out a new contract for city teachers that requires more classroom time and greater staffing flexibility, makes it easier to fire bad teachers and reward exceptional ones, and generally seeks to treat teachers as professionals rather than union cogs.

If Governor Pataki hangs tough and insists on these commonsense reforms, he could help usher in a new era of improved educational options for New York City's kids-which is what this whole circus was supposed to be about in the first place.

More here

Australia: Academic martyrdom highlights university brain drain

Legal academic James McConvill argues that academic conformity and correctness is stifling creativity in the universities

It has been reported that Sydney's Macquarie University is attempting to buy out embattled academic, associate professor Andrew Fraser, from his fixed-term contract, as a result of controversial statements made by Fraser. Over the last couple of weeks, Fraser has made a number of statements which have been described as "racist" and "inflammatory". Among these statements are that sub-Saharan Africans living in Australia are a crime risk as they have much lower IQ's and "significantly more testosterone" than whites; that Australia is creating an Asian managerial-professional "ruling class", and that the abolition of slavery in the US can be used as example to demonstrate a link between an expanding black population and increases in crime.

In an opinion piece published in The Sydney Morning Herald on June 15 this year ("Ideas Need an Airing in Halls of Learning"), I argued that Australian universities are at risk of losing their intellectuals due to a culture of mediocrity. The Fraser imbroglio only acts to prove my point. This is not because of the statements of Fraser, however, but rather the attempt by Macquarie University to silence him.

Universities are meant to be places where academics can raise ideas freely as a means of fostering discourse, engendering debate and enriching the community. But in Australia, many of our universities are full of academics that lack intellectual rigour and creativity, which is why most Australian universities barely come onto the radar screen in terms of international impact.

In a piece published in the Canberra Times on June 29 this year ("It's academic, really first, clean out the ordure"), I commented that it is wrong to accept this culture of mediocrity in some universities as being the result of cute eccentricity among academics. I argued that:

A number of academics are not eccentrics but rather bullshitters. Now, I am not getting crass on you - the study of bullshit has emerged as part of mainstream philosophy and should be taken seriously. Just recently, Princeton University philosopher Harry Frankfurt released a small book titled, 'On Bullshit' (2005, Princeton University Press), which has sold truckloads of copies worldwide.

According to Frankfurt, the difference between a bullshitter and a liar is that the bullshitter "does not reject the authority of the truth, as the liar does, and oppose himself to it. He pays no attention to it at all". Frankfurt argues that because of this "bullshit is a greater enemy of the truth than lies are".

Due to the way in which many universities have traditionally operated, bullshit is rife. A number of academics do not operate in the "reality-based community" because at many universities there is little in the way of meaningful monitoring of how they spend their time. As time goes by once smart, capable intellectuals sadly become bullshitters. This is an issue, as not only is bullshit useless, but it spreads - capturing in its wake generation after generation of young up-and-comers.

The solution, in my view, is a colonic irrigation of our universities. The bullshit must be flushed out, enabling universities to function properly by providing the higher education "true believers" with a clear opportunity to do their job.

In relation to the public debate concerning Fraser's statements, Macquarie University issued a press release on July 21 proclaiming that academic freedom is an important right, but that academics should ensure their comments relate to their "individual expertise and the specialised area of their appointment". In the same press release, it was also noted that "any form of discrimination, harassment, or victimisation is totally unacceptable and has no place in our society". What can be implied from this is that Fraser's statements took on these characteristics, and related to matters outside his own expertise.

The condemnation of Fraser's comments by Macquarie simply because they are not politically correct is a serious problem. Did the doyens at Macquarie University actually take the time to consider whether Fraser might be right? Did they test samples of sub-Saharan African testosterone, carry out IQ tests, or consult experts in the United States on that country's history, before issuing the July 21 press release, or before deciding to buy out Fraser's contact?

Is a university actually in a position to say that Australia will not experience an Asian managerial-professional ruling class, and what are the implications of this? All the press release can confirm is that in 2004, 31 per cent of Macquarie University students were international students. I praise my lucky stars that I work at a progressive and enlightened institution like Deakin University (where, as Vice-Chancellor Professor Sally Walker confirmed in a media release on May 18 this year, there is a "commitment to . academic freedom", in order to provide "leadership to the wider community . encouraging rather than fearing debate"), which has in terms of research output and impact - probably the most productive and influential law school in Australia.

While I wish to make clear that I do not agree with Fraser's comments, he has the right to express these views, enabling others to determine their accuracy. That is, there should be an informed debate about what Fraser has put forward, rather than immediate condemnation of his views. Macquarie University in its press release provided no assistance in this respect. To repeat what I said in my earlier opinion piece, "We should take the time to truly understand [what intellectuals] put forward, rather than resort to immediate condemnation. Once we understand their views, we are, of course, free to disagree". Fraser's comments may lead to him being ridiculed, and that should be the sanction for his views, rather than censorship of them.

The whole Fraser imbroglio, overall, highlights one thing, that commentators are right in saying that in many universities today the promotion of ideas is playing "second fiddle" to the provision of services. Only at Macquarie University, they are also in the business of creating martyrs.


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 29, 2005


I guess they've got better things to do

The University of Washington is about to gain the distinction of having the only Ph.D.-awarding program in women’s studies to be led by a man. That man is David G. Allen, a professor of psychosocial and community health in the university’s nursing school, who has taught for years in the women’s studies program. Allen is popular in the department, and is well respected as a scholar, a teacher and a feminist. But his status as a man has created some fears in the department — worries he considers completely appropriate. “I think it’s a very legitimate concern and a concern I honor and want to work with,” Allen said. He said that until there is gender equity in academe, it is natural for many women to want to see one of their own in a position such as directing women’s studies. “When we have a level playing field, then it will become a non-issue,” he said.

Nancy J. Kenney, an associate professor of women’s studies, said she had “mixed views” on the appointment. (At Washington, chairs are not elected by departments, but are appointed by deans.) “I think David is a wonderful person and can be a really good administrator,” Kenney said. “At the same time, I am disappointed that there are no women who are seen as qualified to move into this position. Why not? Where are they?”

When Allen was approached about being considered for the job, he said, he sent an e-mail message to all of the faculty members and graduate students in the department, and asked whether he should go forward. “Not everybody, but almost everybody said that I should,” said Allen. So he decided to keep his name in contention, but not without mixed feelings of his own. “On the good side, men should have a positive commitment toward feminism, just as whites ought to support anti-racism. I’m chairing a faculty of feminist scholars doing outstanding work and my job is to make their work easier,” he said. “At another level, one of the things I am ambivalent about is that universities, because of our history of sexism and racism, have very few women or women of color at the upper ranks of the university. So when the dean was looking for a full professor with a commitment to the program, he had a very small pool, and that’s damning of our history,” Allen added....

Allen said that events involving the recruitment of graduate students may be difficult for him. All 22 of the graduate students in the department are women. “The students here know me, but those who don’t know me could make a decision based solely on my demographics,” said Allen. Kenney said that she too was worried about what message the appointment would send to students or potential students. “Students may look at it and say, ‘Oh, here we have a feminist institution being headed by a white male’ or they may say ‘feminists come in all shapes and sizes.’ “

More here

Leaving No Child Left Behind

States charged with implementing Bush's national education plan balk at the cost of compliance.

George W. Bush may go down in history as a war president, but like his father he also envisions himself as an education president. Conservative columnist George Will, pointing out that under Bush the Department of Education's budget has grown faster than defense expenditures, recently wrote, "Had 9/11 not happened, Bush's administration might be defined primarily by its education policy, particularly the No Child Left Behind law." And as state educators increasingly revolt, the Republican Party's education policy ceases to be defined primarily by its commitment to local control.

When No Child Left Behind (NCLB) first passed, it appeared to be a political masterstroke. It stands as one of Bush's few genuinely bipartisan domestic-policy achievements, clearing the House by a 381 to 41 margin with more Democratic than Republican votes. Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) partnered with the White House to steer it through the Senate. The measure promised liberals increased spending and focus on minority-student achievement; it offered conservatives enhanced school choice and tougher standards. By the 2002 midterm elections, some polls found that Republicans had virtually erased the Democrats' traditional advantage on education issues.

It was the political equivalent of the lion lying down with the lamb, but it didn't last for long. Conservatives soon balked at NCLB's exorbitant price tag and federal meddling. Far from being a "universal voucherization program," as one popular Republican blogger described it, the measure offered only very limited public-school choice. Liberals were outraged that it did not cost more, accusing the Bush administration of failing to live up to its commitment to fund the law fully. Senator Kennedy complained, "The tragedy is that these long overdue reforms are finally in place, but the funds are not."

But the biggest challenge to NCLB comes from outside Washington, as state legislatures and education officials resist federal requirements they say they cannot afford. The issue doesn't fit neatly into the normal red-blue lines. Utah gave Bush 72 percent of its vote in 2004, his highest margin in any state. In April, the Republican-controlled legislature voted to assign a higher priority to the state's accountability laws than NCLB; the Republican governor signed the bill, putting at risk Utah's $76 million in federal education funding. The lower house of the New Jersey legislature recently passed a similar bill.

Connecticut Education Commissioner Betty Sternberg was an early and vocal opponent of NCLB, arguing that its testing requirements are too expensive and that taxpayers "won't learn anything new about our schools by giving these extra tests." Many parents seem to agree. According to the Washington Post, "You go, girl," is a representative response.

One of Sternberg's supporters is Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who is moving toward a lawsuit challenging the federal requirement that students be tested annually between grades three and eight and also in 10th grade. State auditors claim this is an unfunded mandate that will cost Connecticut $8 million more than it is receiving from Washington. Many local school boards have passed resolutions in favor of the potential suit. The Connecticut Association of School Superintendents also backs the attorney general. In late June, the state legislature closed ranks behind Blumenthal, voting to authorize him to sue. At this writing, Republican Gov. Jodi Rell was undecided about the legislature's action.

In all, officials in more than 40 states have proposed significant changes to the implementation of NCLB. The National Education Association (NEA) and three states are already fighting it in court. A standard complaint against the federal Education Department has long been that it makes some 50 percent of the rules but provides less than 7 percent of national education spending. NCLB was intended to use that 7 percent as leverage to get the states to abide by more rules still. The law creates new proficiency goals and requires regular testing to show results. Schools that are judged to be failing-i.e., leaving children behind-first receive additional funding but then are subjected to progressively stiffer penalties if they continue to miss their legal targets.

Not only must states strive toward the proficiency of all students by 2014, they must also provide data showing that designated subgroups of students-mainly minorities, students from low-income families, and the disabled-are making adequate progress. This subgroup category has contributed heavily to the controversy.

In Utah, for instance, Hispanic students test three years behind whites in the same grades. NCLB requires the state to work toward closing this achievement gap or be found leaving Utah's Hispanics behind. Standardized test scores revealed comparable discrepancies between Connecticut's black and white students.

But Connecticut education officials retort that the law doesn't take into consideration the state's demographics. Connecticut is a mainly affluent state dotted with troubled urban areas. Sternberg and others point out that the predominantly white suburban school districts perform above the national average, inflating the state's black-white performance gap.

The rebellion against NCLB has created some unlikely voices for states' rights. As early as the 2004 presidential campaign, Howard Dean was deploring the idea of distant bureaucrats-along with politicians like Bush and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas)-dictating how states run their schools. The debates in the Connecticut and New Jersey legislatures saw Democrats railing against unfunded mandates and federal encroachments, while many Republicans rose to defend their president's program.

The Bush administration has deployed Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, a former White House aide close to the president, to quell the grassroots revolt. Yet her strenuous defense of NCLB has often inflamed angry feelings rather than calmed them. She has compared recalcitrant education officials to children who need to be disciplined. In an interview with PBS's "NewsHour," Spellings said it was "un-American" for Connecticut to tolerate its achievement gaps between white and minority students.

The Department of Education's motion to have the NEA's lawsuit dismissed also contains some strong wording. The response says the suit is "no more than the use of a federal forum to proclaim an advocacy group's belief that states and school districts should be receiving more federal funds" and argues that "[s]uch advocacy is not an appropriate use of the federal courts."

But Spellings's angry comments belie her department's strategy of co-opting and accommodating NCLB critics through waivers and other inducements. Illinois was granted a waiver that allowed it to count fewer students' test scores toward its goals. School districts in the state will now have to have 45 special-education students in order for the federal government to monitor them as a subgroup under the law; last year it was just 40. This seemingly minor change cut the number of special-needs subgroups in Illinois from 535 to 394, relaxing standards for many districts. This means that state resistance may elicit greater federal flexibility, but not seriously jeopardize NCLB. Marie Gryphon, an education policy analyst for the Cato Institute, worries "that the state rebellion against NCLB will end with a whimper, not a bang."

"In Utah and elsewhere, waivers and backroom deals will replace the letter of the law and defuse the crisis," Gryphon says. "In the end, I think No Child Left Behind will become just one more expensive federal program that does not do what it was supposed to do."

Jack Jennings, president of the Center on Education Policy, points out that state legislation opting out of NCLB is still largely symbolic. Only when local principals and superintendents act under these laws by specifically refusing to do things mandated by NCLB will there be an impact-and this will likely be followed by bureaucratic negotiations and court wrangling. This takes time, and NCLB will be up for reauthorization in 2007.

Much will depend on the endurance and intensity of public opposition to NCLB. In the 1990s, the Clinton administration tried to head off congressional Republicans' welfare-reform bills by having the Department of Health and Human Services grant waivers to reform-minded governors. This approach ultimately failed because the public was willing to go further.

More here


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, July 28, 2005


An email from David Horowitz:

Like so many -- too many! -- young conservative students in America, Ruth found herself being singled out for abuse by a professor who simply hated Ruth's political views. Ruth -- an A-student at Georgia Tech -- mentioned to her professor that she was going to attend the conservative conference sponsored by C-PAC in Washington, D.C. Without batting an eyelash, the professor told Ruth "Well, then, you will probably fail my course." Can you imagine the arrogance and sense of superiority this professor must have assumed when she unflinchingly told Ruth she was going to see to it she failed? She proceeded to give Ruth "Fs" on all of her work - papers, tests, quizzes - and eventually forced Ruth to withdraw from her class.

First, Ruth reached out to the Georgia Tech Chapter of Students for Academic Freedom (SAF). SAF chapters are on more the 200 campuses across the country, created as part of our NATIONAL CAMPAIGN for ACADEMIC FREEDOM ...

I went to Georgia to join in Ruth's cause. I took her to the governor's office and asked them to help. I went to the Dean of Diversity and said, "You claim to teach respect for difference. Will you defend Ruth?" The Dean said she would. Together we scored two victories: Ruth was allowed to retake the course under a different professor, and the professor who tried so hard to punish Ruth for her political views has been banned from teaching in the Public Policy Department!


It is methods that Bush advocated that have worked. The educrats opposed the methods concerned

For years, nothing helped. America's children weren't reading as well as they should. An achievement gap showed black and Latino students trailing behind their white counterparts in reading and math. Educators and politicians agreed Something Must Be Done, but they made halting progress. Until now. This month, the National Assessment of Educational Progress -- also known as the national report card -- released good news on long-term educational trends in America. Reading competency for 9-year-olds has reached its highest level since NAEP began measuring progress in 1971. What is more, the achievement gap is narrowing. The gap between black and white 9-year-olds tested for reading was 44 points in 1971 to 26 points in 2004, while the gap between white and Latino students narrowed from 34 points in 1975 to 21 points in 2004. Half the gap-narrowing has occurred since 1999.

Of course, educrats are scrambling to make sure that no credit goes to President Bush or his No Child Left Behind program. The American Federation of Teachers issued a statement through an official, who noted that efforts that led to the higher scores predate the Bush presidency. The AFT is right. The reforms that boosted scores predate the Bush presidency. That said, when he was governor of Texas, Bush had the good sense to jump on the right horse. He believed in pushing basic literacy, even if he wasn't as strong on pushing phonics as I would have liked. He pushed for better testing to hold failing schools accountable. The approach paid off. When Bush was governor, black eighth-graders in Texas led the country in math and reading.

While Bush was on the right horse, some teacher groups and top educrats were leading a stampede of bad horses, carrying American children headlong toward ignorance. They eschewed phonics, dispensed with multiplication tables, denounced testing -- unless it gave credit for wrong math answers with clever essays -- and preferred failed bilingual education programs to English immersion programs for children learning English. Look at any reform that has boosted student performance -- phonics, direct instruction, English immersion -- and the chances are, the educrats were against it.

When parents revolted against whole language -- which teaches children to read language as a whole, without teaching them to decode words -- the educrats argued against a return to phonics, which they dismissed as "drill and kill." When reformers pushed for tests that could show which curricula worked best, educrats denounced testing. If children steeped in phonics scored well on reading tests, they were not impressed; it is because the children were brainwashed, not literate. And if whole-language learners scored poorly, well, it was because they were so creative.

When Bush and company demanded accountability, they complained that standards would hurt poor children -- as if undereducating poor and minority students didn't hurt poor and minority kids. The educrat lobby in California opposed the switch from bilingual education to English immersion. Fortunately, California voters, not educrats, had an opportunity to switch to English immersion programs, and now more immigrant children have mastered English. Over time, classroom teachers have seen their students make progress. Many have come to see the wisdom in emphasizing phonics -- it may be boring for teachers, but it helps kids learn to read better.

Bush packaged his approach under his promise to fight "the soft bigotry of low expectations." For years, educators blamed parents, demographics, money -- you name it -- for poor student performance. Bush didn't want to hear the excuses -- and his Texas swagger paid off. As Hoover Institution fellow and sometime Bush adviser Bill Evers noted, "There's no doubt that high expectations and trying to hold the system accountable from top to the bottom is having an overall positive effect."

And so the educrats are left with weak criticisms. They complain that No Child Left Behind is underfunded -- even as Bush budgets money for the Department of Education. They argue that students have no motivation to apply themselves when they take tests -- and still the NAEP numbers are up. They note that NAEP high-school scores are flat without acknowledging that they opposed reforms that are helping more of today's 9-year-olds read.


Socialist Public Schools In America

America's public schools are socialist schools. They are government owned-and-operated near-monopolies, like the schools of the former Soviet Union and present-day communist China.

Many parents might think it a bit far-fetched to compare our public schools to schools in socialist or communist countries. However, if we look closer, we will see striking similarities between the two systems. In the former socialist-communist Soviet Union, for example, the government owned all property and all the schools. In America, public schools are also government property, controlled by local government officials. In Soviet Russia, the government forced all parents to send their children to government-controlled schools. In America, compulsory-attendance laws in all fifty states force parents to send their children to public schools.

The Soviet rulers taxed all their subjects to pay for their schools. Here, all taxpayers pay compulsory school taxes to support public schools, whether or not the homeowner has children or thinks the schools are incompetent. In the Soviet Union, all teachers were government employees, and these officials controlled and managed the schools. In America, teachers, principals, administrators, and school janitors are also government employees, paid, trained, and pensioned through government taxes.

In the Soviet Union, most government employees could not be fired they had a "right" to their jobs. Public-school employees in America also believe they have an alleged right to their jobs, enforced through tenure laws. As we will see later, in America, it's almost impossible to fire tenured teachers. In communist Russia, competence and working hard didn't matter very much - the government paid most workers regardless of their performance on the job. In America, public-school teachers' salaries depend on length of service competence is irrelevant. In communist Russia, the elite ruling class had estates in the countryside while peasants starved. Here, public-school authorities get fat salaries, pensions, and benefits while our children starve for a real education.

In communist Russia, government control of food supplies created eighty years of chronic famine. In America, one hundred and fifty years of public schools has created an educational famine. Millions of public-school children can barely read while the system wastes twelve years of our children's lives.

Still think the comparison to communist schools is too farfetched? Albert Shanker, late President of the American Federation of Teachers, the second largest teacher's union, once said: "It's time to admit that public education operates like a planned economy, a bureaucratic system in which everyone's role is spelled out in advance and there are few incentives for innovation and productivity. It's no surprise that our school system doesn't improve. It more resembles the communist economy than our own market economy."

Finally, schools in some communist countries like China seem to give a better, more disciplined education in the basics of reading, writing, and math than our public schools. International math and reading test-score comparisons often find American kids lagging far behind children from China.

But what values do Chinese communist schools teach their children? Here is another apt comparison between communist schools and our public schools. In both cases, either a central or local government controls the curriculum and the values it chooses to teach its students. The Chinese government can and does indoctrinate all school children with its communist ideology and loyalty to the communist leaders.

Similarly, in our public schools, left-leaning school authorities control the curriculum and the values they teach our children. In many public schools, values-clarification programs and distorted American history courses in many public schools now indoctrinate our children with anti-parent, anti-religion, and anti-American values. In both communist schools and our government-controlled public schools, parents cannot (with a few exceptions) stop school authorities from teaching harmful or immoral values to their children.

Question --- Do socialist, compulsory, government-controlled public schools belong in America, the land of the free?


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, July 27, 2005


Left-wing professors who prey on captive and impressionable students will soon be purged in the state of Pennsylvania. The Keystone State has created a select committee that will examine the “academic atmosphere” within colleges and universities that receive public funds. Liberal groups couldn’t be more upset about the investigation. Meanwhile, those in conservative corners see this as a step in the right direction – providing young minds with an unbiased, untainted and truly well-rounded educational experience.

The committee, established on July 5th by a 111 to 87 state House vote, will probe a wide range of areas within academia including whether: “…students are evaluated based on their subject knowledge or ability to defend their perspective in various courses; …students are graded based on academic merit, without regard for ideological views, and that academic freedom and the right to explore and express independent thought is available to and practiced freely by faculty and students;” and that faculty are hired, fired, promoted and granted tenure based on their knowledge of the subject matter and their ability to educate students on “various methodologies and perspectives”.

Recently, Human Events has uncovered and reported numerous abuses of power and authority by liberal professors, as well as, students who have felt intimated to voice their conservative views in the classroom. One such case involved a biology professor at Shippensburg University, a publicly funded school located within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Yet, in spite of these abuses, a number of left-wing groups oppose the state’s new oversight of higher education.

Ruth Flower, national director of government relations for the American Association of University Professors, told the Daily Pennsylvanian, “we’re disappointed that [Pennsylvania lawmakers] thought there was even an issue there.” Dr. Patricia Heilman, president of the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties, told Human Events, “The resolution and its investigation quite simply are not needed. Each public college and university has policies and procedures in place to address the very issues that this Select Committee is going to investigate.” Human Events asked Dr. Heilman if she believes there is a liberal bias within Pennsylvania’s institutions of higher learning. She responded, “No.” William Cutler, president of the faculty union at Temple University, is cited by Inside Higher Ed as writing a letter to Pennsylvania legislators saying, “…the intellectual climate on college and university campuses will be far less open if students and professors feel that their work is being monitored by those who answer to a particular group or set of constituents.”

The comments and concerns raised by these intellectual heavyweights are astounding! I don’t even know how respond to such platitudinous (you professors might want to look-up that word) statements and reasoning. I believe a quote from the movie Bill Madison would serve as a suitable reply: “Nowhere in your rambling, incoherent response did you come close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. We are all dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points and may God have mercy on your soul.” Yep, that about sums it up.

The intellectual climate is already far less “open” on college campuses if you’re a student with conservative views. In fact, I can prove it. Walk onto any college green across American wearing a Bush/Cheney T-shirt and carrying a homemade sign that reads, “I’m a conservative and proud of it,” and you’ll be spit on, sworn at, screamed at, sneered at, possibly punched, kicked, shot or stabbed, but most likely egged by students and faculty alike at 8 out of 10 campuses. Contrast that experience by walking onto the same college greens wearing a Che Guevara T-shirt, carrying a rainbow flag and a homemade sign that reads, “Impeach Bush; He’s a criminal!” and you’ll have a good chance of getting elected student body president.

More here


Funnily enough. I guess nobody in the British educational establishment has heard of heredity

Billions of pounds of investment in primary schools has failed to close the achievement gap between children from rich and poor families, Ruth Kelly, the Education Secretary, has admitted to The Times. Research from the Department for Education and Skills (DfES), to be published tomorrow, shows that middle-class children have been the chief beneficiaries of record public investment. Results at the worst primary schools have risen rapidly since 1998, and many previously weak schools have caught up with the best. But while the gap between the best and worst primary schools has narrowed, the gap between children from deprived backgrounds and those from more affluent families has actually widened in the past six years, the research found.

Both sets of 11-year-olds have achieved better results, but middle-class pupils have improved by much more. The admission by Ms Kelly comes as she prepares to announce that every child in England will receive a free bag of books from the Government to address criticism that too many children leave primary school unable to read adequately. Nine million books will be sent out to children aged from eight months to four years under the œ27 million Bookstart programme to encourage parents to read with their children. Titles will include The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Where's Spot? and We're Going on a Bear Hunt.

Ms Kelly will use a speech on social mobility to the Institute for Public Policy Research think-tank tomorrow to outline plans for what she calls "a major policy shift" away from targeting deprived schools towards targeting deprived pupils. Speaking to The Times about the new research, she said: "We should be proud of what has happened since 1997. We can say for the first time schools in disadvantaged areas have caught up with schools in more prosperous areas." In London, for example, average results are now higher than the national average. She said: "That is a dramatic turnaround. However, this new data shows we have a lot more to do to reach out to those still falling behind."

Work on a range of new policies is at an early stage, but Ms Kelly said that the "whole class teaching" that formed the basis of the literacy and numeracy drive would be replaced with small group tuition, to help struggling pupils to catch up.

This first research at "pupil level" conducted by the DfES will ring alarm bells across Government. Based on results at Key Stage 2 - tests undertaken by children at 11 just before they leave primary education - it compares the performance of children who qualify for free school meals with the rest of the class. The results of both groups have improved, but the results of children from more affluent families have risen much faster.

Ms Kelly said that she was not shocked by the results, but it was certainly a sharp reminder that there was much more to do on education. She has been struck by other data showing that social mobility had fallen in Britain since the 1960s. [Do we still think abolishing the Grammar Schools was a good idea?] An authoritative study published by the London School of Economics in May showed that children born in 1970 were less likely to break free of their background and fulfil their potential than children born in 1958.

She said: "We now know social mobility declined in the 1970s. It may have increased since 1997. But this is an important issue for a progressive Labour Government. We want every child to have the opportunity to realise their potential and make a contribution to society whatever their background. "So not only should we care about overall standards rising, but whether children from the most disadvantaged backgrounds share in the rising standards."



They have been the best hope in Britain for bright kids from poor backgrounds but that acknowledges inequality and we can't have that, can we? All kids are equal too

Thousands of parents are appealing to the Government to reverse plans to end academic selection, which will in effect abolish 70 grammar schools at one stroke. Northern Ireland's grammar schools are among the highest achieving in the country but despite overwhelming opposition the Government has declared that they must stop selecting pupils on academic ability within three years.

Last month 7,000 parents delivered a petition to the Department of Education in Northern Ireland demanding the right to retain selection and prevent one of the biggest closures of grammar school in the UK in 30 years. Tomorrow a teachers' union meeting in Derbyshire will hear calls for the Government to bring back grammar schools to England - they are in only a few areas now - in an attempt to halt falling standards and help the most able to succeed.

At Belfast Royal Academy, Marcus Paterson, an economics teacher and father of two, is livid. "We are being treated like a colonised people," he said. "We have won the educational and political argument but Tony Blair is using his majority to cast us aside." Almost a third of the school's intake is Roman Catholic, in the heart of a working-class Protestant community. It accepts academically able children from all walks of life, is non-denominational and sends pupils to Oxbridge annually.

Northern Ireland is proud of its academic record. Last year 69.4 per cent of GCSEs taken were awarded A*-C, compared to 59.2 per cent across Britain. At A level, 30 per cent of Northern Irish students gained A grades compared to 22.4 per cent of students in Britain. However, in October 2002, Martin McGuinness, then Sinn Fein Education Minister, chose to scrap academic selection and the 11-plus from 2008, the day before the Stormont Assembly was suspended. Months earlier a household survey had revealed that two thirds of parents wanted to retain selection.

The Province has since been ruled by Westminster. Labour has opposed selection since the 1960s, when it first proposed comprehensive schools. In January 2004 the government-appointed Costello group recommended the end of selection with parents instead choosing a secondary school to send children to based on a "pupil profile" built up over years. The Governing Bodies Association, which represents grammar schools, condemned the proposals as "not fit for purpose". Sir Kenneth Bloomfield, an executive member of the association, said: "The grammar school has been a wonderful escalator for children from backgrounds where in England they find it difficult to succeed. It's not perfect but I can't believe that by removing the most successful bit, that we are improving it."

Critics fear the rise of a "postcode lottery" which reinforces social divisions as bright children from less well-off areas can no longer attend the best schools because the children's address, not their ability, will determine who enrols. In Derbyshire Peter Morris will appeal to the Professional Association of Teachers at its annual conference in Buxton to vote to bring back "the most successful type of school that Britain has ever had".

England's existing 164 grammar schools represent 5 per cent of secondaries but account for more than 40 per cent of the best 100 schools in the progress made by pupils aged 11 to 16. However, despite rising grades and studies showing that social mobility has worsened since grammar schools were abolished, the Government has vowed not to increase academic selection.



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, July 26, 2005

Can Whites Teach Blacks?

Race was at the heart of the Hartford school system's most wrenching incidents this year. A white principal didn't make it through the year at Simpson-Waverly Classical Magnet School, in a mostly black neighborhood, after she hired all white teachers to replace retirees, setting the tone for a racially charged atmosphere that seemed to worsen every week.

At the end of the year, parents and students also complained bitterly to the school board that a Simpson-Waverly music teacher told kids she didn't like "black music." The music teacher, who denies ever saying such a thing, had previously filed a complaint of her own accusing three black teachers in the school of racially harassing her and encouraging their students to misbehave in her class. And a black principal in the district's most troubled school, Milner Elementary School, attributed her school's woes, in part, to white teachers being culturally out of tune with black students.

Hartford's political focus on racial balance has long helped determine the composition of the school board and the selection of the superintendent and even principals. But it has rarely reached down to the classrooms as it did this year. School officials whiplashed by this year's incidents are now debating some tough questions: Can white teachers effectively teach children of color? Is the lagging achievement of children of color caused in part by low expectations of white teachers? And are white educators to blame for the high rate of minority group members directed to special education services?

Michael C. Williams, vice chairman of the board of education, is pushing hard for an aggressive affirmative action plan to drastically increase the number of minority teachers. The way he sees it, the achievement gap is inherently a racial problem. "We need a race-based solution," said Williams, who is black.

Superintendent of Schools Robert Henry, who is black and Latino, strongly disagreed and said Hartford's record of hiring a diverse teaching force is the best in the state. Half of all administrators, including Henry, eight of his 11 senior administrators and 32 percent of the teaching force are black or Hispanic. The student body is 96 percent black and Hispanic.

The debate about the race of teachers has spilled beyond board meetings and is creeping into broader public forums. Former Hartford Mayor Thirman L. Milner addressed the issue in a recent column in the Northend Agent's newspaper. "There is nothing wrong with white teachers," Milner wrote. "I had them, respect them, was the only black in an all-white high school, and appreciated the education that I received, but when they are sent into a problem environment that they are not used to, and may not want to get used to, what do you expect and what do you expect the students to learn?"

District officials say Hartford is a success story when it comes to minority hiring. They point to a minority recruitment and retention plan approved by the school board in 2000 as evidence of the district's attention to diversity.

Williams said the plan is inadequate and there should be a constant effort to improve, though he is uncertain what the goal should be. Some board members agree with him, to varying degrees. Others disagree altogether. "I don't think quota systems work," said board member Michael Lupo. "In the long run, they do more harm than good. You'll find white teachers that do an excellent job teaching all students."

But Williams voiced a skepticism that has long simmered in the North End. "Institutional racism exists within the school system," Williams said. As an example, he cited the high number of black and Hispanic students identified as needing special education services, particularly speech and language. When white refugees from Bosnia moved into the district, their children were not placed in special education, yet high numbers of black and Latino children are, he said. [Draw your own conclusions from that]

More here


Between 1995-6 and 2002-3, there was a 42 per cent increase in the number of people choosing to take a taught MA, with almost 10 per cent of graduates staying on for postgraduate education. Many of the extra 35,000 students a year are from overseas, attracted to the prestige associated with some British universities - but a significant proportion are British. While some British students stay out of academic interest, many seem to choose an MA as a way to postpone entering the job market. Between the lie-ins and long sessions down the pub, it's perhaps little wonder that more people want to stay as students.

Helen Finlayson is about to start an MA in Politics and Economics. 'I'm unsure what I want to do once I finally leave the comfort of university life, and I want to put that off as long as possible. But I'm also aware that my undergrad degree is largely useless, because of the increasing numbers of people who hold bachelor's degrees.' Bachelor's degrees are now pretty much open to anyone who wants one, and many are becoming easier by the year. When you can get a 2:1 off the back of three or four hours' work a week, or go months without even attending lectures, a degree is going to mean little to any prospective employers. People are now looking to masters to provide the new yardstick in academic achievement.

MAs were once seen as only for those with an aim to enter academia, but they are now becoming mainstream. Less than 30 per cent of graduates seriously look for a job when they first leave university. Stephanie Hammans, who is about to start an MA in English literature, says: 'I would rather "waste" a year getting an MA rather than working as a data imputer or checkout person. It's not like you can't work at the same time so you can still get money.' Mike Hill, chief executive of the graduate service Prospects, argues that this trend is likely to continue. 'I think it will inevitably follow the American model, where they tend to only take people with MAs and MScs. We're not quite there yet, but my daughter's 12 and by the time she graduates I think we will be.'

MAs aren't restricted to new graduates - as many as a third of postgraduates are people returning to university in a career break. Chris Gage, the education officer from the Mature Students Union, says that people may need the career boost within their chosen field, or because they have been made redundant. Some also return to university mid-career because of 'the realisation that the individual concerned may have wasted their original "bite at the educational cherry" and as a result they have ended up in a dead end job'. For others, it's about taking 'time out' from the world, in much the same way as other thirtysomethings choose to go backpacking around India....

The consumerisation of education has been affecting bachelor's degrees for years. Universities can feel like graduate factories, aiming only to churn out the maximum number of happy customers. MA students are often more comfortable than undergraduates with complaining to departments if they think that the service is not up to scratch. When students have to pay steeper rates for masters' degrees than for undergraduate study, they could feel more like consumers. All this is likely to mean that MAs won't count for much in the end. If bachelor's degrees are now perceived as devalued, it's likely that MAs will go down the same path.

More here


Post lifted from Betsy's Page:

If you're a school in New York and you hire a former seminarian with a history of exposing prominent plagiarists and then trying to get the Pulitzer Prizes for Alex Haley, Doris Kearns Goodwin, and David McCullough revoked, it might not be a good idea to try to commit massive fraud on the Regents' Exam in front of him. And retaliating against the teacher for blowing the whistle is also a bad idea. That is what happened when Philip Nobile, who had exposed plagiarism by those three authors was teaching at a school in New York. The school's administrator who was apparently masterminding the cheating retaliated against him, but he persisted and now she's had to resign and he's received tenure.

It sounds like part of the problem is having the exams graded locally at the school where teachers and administrators have an incentive to give higher grades. I'm not from New York and don't know if this is the common procedure for grading the Regents' but it seems ripe for cheating.

Of course, there can also be cheating when the school administrator responsible for giving the exam and protecting the answer sheet gives the multiple choice answers to his son who then writes the answers on his hand. Again, why is the answer key given to an administrator at the school? In North Carolina, no one at the school has access to the answer key or to grading the essays on our state tests. Those are all graded off-site and the essays are graded by people who don't know the students. That is the only fair way.


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, July 25, 2005


An excerpt from Texas Journal

In Texas, we've got an intractable problem with teacher quality Half of our teachers are incompetent, half are indispensable. The only people capable of discerning which are which are powerless observers of this continuing tragedy

It gets worse. The Texas legislature and/or Texas courts, are about to do additional grievous harm to our children by enabling and perpetuating poor teacher performance It appears they may flood our sickly system with billions of new dollars while demanding neither professional nor fiscal accountability from Texas public schools.

Both empirical and anecdotal analyses provide compelling evidence that not less than 50% of Texas teachers currently in the classroom should be summarily dismissed.

How did we get to this sad state of affairs? Poor education, over unionization, lax administration and parental disassociation has provided Texas with some of the worst results in the nation. The following details the causes, the evidence and the cure

Colleges of Education

On March 15, 2005, Dr. Arthur E Levin, President of Columbia University, the nations most prestigious teacher's college, released a scathing report on the quality of colleges of education currently producing education leaders He said the quality of programs was "Inadequate to Appalling." . Issues elucidated include:

An Irrelevant Curriculum - The typical course of study amounts to little more than a grab bag of survey classes Almost 9 out of 10 of program alumni said schools of education fail to adequately prepare their graduates to cope with classroom realities.

Low Admission and Graduation Standards - Education school faculty give students in leadership programs their lowest ranking on academic motivation and performance As a group, those students appear more interested in earning credits and the salary increases that follow than in pursuing rigorous academic studies.

Weak Faculty - Graduate programs in educational administration depend too heavily on adjunct professors, most of whom lack expertise in the academic content they are supposed to teach Their dominant mode of instruction is providing personal anecdotes from their careers as administrators.

Inadequate Clinical Instruction - Although many aspiring administrators say they want opportunities to connect university study with practical experience, meaningful clinical instruction is rare.

Inappropriate Degrees - There are too many degrees and certificates in educational administration, and they mean different things in different places

Poor Research - Educational administration is overwhelmingly engaged in non-empirical research and it is disconnected from practice Currently, the research in educational administration cannot answer questions as basic as whether school leadership programs have any impact on student achievement in the schools that graduates of these programs lead.

To arrive at these conclusions, Dr. Levine examined more than 1200 departments and schools of education across the country. A June 22, 2005 Education Week article buttresses Dr. Levine's conclusions. According to the article:

"After spending four years sifting through hundreds of studies on teacher education, a national panel has concluded that there's little empirical evidence to show that many of the most common practices in the field produce effective teachers."

The conclusion was published in a 766-page study produced by a panel of experts from the American Educational Research Association. Additionally, a review of GRE scores supports the contention that those least qualified academically are presently in charge of our children's academics The following numbers were obtained from the 2004-2005 GRE Guide to the use of scores The guide provided recent verbal and quantitative scores for a variety of disciplines

Mean GRE Verbal Score for Education Students: 450

Mean GRE Verbal Score For Engineering Students: 471

Mean GRE Quantitive Score For Education Students: 531

Mean GRE Quantitive Score For Engineer Students: 722

Number of other disciplines, out of 6, with mean scores higher than Education: 6. Dr. Levine reports that education programs are engaged in a: "Race To The Bottom" in which they compete for education students by lowering standards and offering faster and less demanding degrees. Independent evidence from a variety of sources supports his argument Unfortunately, Texas is way out front in this race........

Half Of Texas Teachers Can't Teach.

Fifty percent of Texas public schools cannot meet Adequate Yearly Progress as defined by No Child Left Behind For an expanded discussion:Click Here

Fifty percent of Texas High School Graduates require remediation in reading, writing or mathematics upon matriculation into a Texas state university For an expanded discussion, Click Here

According to the April 2005 Intercultural Development Research Association Newsletter, Texas leads the nation in adult illiteracy.

When Texas public schools can't perform, they fall back on tried and true methods They "Teach to Cheat." Click Here If that doesn't work, they "Pretend To Pass." Click Here.


Parents are shuffling the deckchairs in the Titanic. Only high discipline schools really help minorites and there will be snowstorms in hell before any significant group advocates that in California

Just 53 percent of Sacramento City Unified students graduate after four years in high school, according to 2002 data analyzed by the Civil Rights Project at Harvard University. The success rate is lower among the district's African American and Latino students, who graduate at rates of 38 percent and 41 percent, respectively, Harvard researchers found.

"What about the 60 percent that didn't make it?" said Reggie Fair, who serves on the board of Sacramento's chapter of the NAACP, as he addressed the crowd gathered outside the Capitol. "Where are they? What is the impact to our society?" The new group of which Fair is a member - called the Coalition for African American and Latino Academic Achievement, Now - was formed by several Sacramento community groups including the NAACP, La Raza Network, Greater Sacramento Urban League, Chicano Consortium and the League of United Latin American Citizens. The group came together in response to the Harvard report released in March, as well as others that have documented a big gap between the academic performance of Latino and black students and their white and Asian American peers.

In Sacramento City Unified, for example, 51 percent of white students are proficient in English language arts, while 22 percent of black students have reached that level, according to data from Just for the Kids - California, a Web site that analyzes state test data. The pattern continues across the region and the state. "It's been well-documented in various reports that we are facing a crisis," said Manuel Valencia, of La Raza Network. "We're here ... to solve this." Community leaders called on educators, parents and students to join the coalition and work on finding solutions to a problem that has nagged at public education for decades. They invited people to visit a new Web site,, for information on community meetings and links to reports on the achievement gap and graduation rates.

Fair said he wanted to listen to community concerns regarding the education of Latino and African American youth. Then, he said, the group would form an action plan. That could include conversations with school officials about race and equality, forming a more culturally relevant curriculum or coming up with ways to boost parent engagement, Fair said.

Rivera said she wants each high school to have an adult who is responsible for looking out for African American and Latino students. The person would act as an advocate for the students, call parents when their children miss class and make sure students are accumulating the credits necessary to graduate on time. That proposal mirrored one suggestion from a researcher who worked on the Harvard dropout report. "Something that's often useful is more individualized attention to a student's plan for graduation, someone making sure they get the credit they need," said Chris Swanson, who now works as a researcher for Ed Week in Maryland. It's important for students to feel "that adults at school care about how they do," he said.

Swanson also suggested an emphasis on literacy in the ninth grade as a way to close the achievement gap and boost graduation rates. Students with poor reading skills tend to suffer in all academic subjects, he said, because the skill is crucial to understanding lessons in history, science and math. Once they fall behind in credits, Swanson said, they're more likely to drop out.

The report has generated massive community response throughout California, said Julie Mendoza, a UCLA education policy expert who also worked on the Harvard study. "African American and Latino community members and politicians have known for years that these problems existed. The report gave them a framework to begin to organize," Mendoza said. Efforts similar to those in Sacramento have been launched in Los Angeles, San Diego and Oakland, she said. "This report provides the type of information that says: It's not just in our heads; this is concrete, this is real."

Two school board members from Sacramento City Unified - Roy Grimes and Miguel Navarrette - attended a press conference July 14 and said they were committed to boosting academic performance. They were joined by a trustee from Natomas Unified. "I started looking at the numbers in Natomas and I realized we are like the rest of the state when it comes to students of color," said Jennifer Baker, who was elected to the school board last year. Natomas schools generally score well on the state's standardized tests. But Baker said huge disparities remain between ethnic groups. "Just because you have high test scores doesn't mean all the kids are doing well," she said.

Demanding that schools focus on the students who are not doing well is exactly why the coalition came together, said Rivera, the Sacramento City parent. "I'm proud to be a part of a group of people who are finally saying, 'Ya basta,' " she said. That's Spanish for "Enough, already."

More here


A group of prominent civic leaders gathered at the Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library on Tuesday to discuss a "desperate" situation: the status of education in Denver for African-American teen boys. "The education of the African-American male is a desperate situation that needs to be talked about," said Celeste Archer, a member of the board of Women for Education , the hosting group, and a social-studies teacher at East High School.

Black students in Denver Public Schools tend to score low on CSAP tests. For example, among black 10th-graders in 2004, only 2 percent scored proficient or better in math, 23 percent in writing, and 33 percent in reading. Comparable figures for white 10th-graders were 31 percent in math, 60 percent in writing and 70 percent in reading. The district's figures don't differentiate between males and females, but national studies have indicated that black boys tend to score lower than black girls.

A host of problems can confront many black teenage boys, including economic pressures, a lack of positive male role models and an attitude among their peers that being smart isn't cool, panel members said. Panelist Richard Smith, an assistant DPS superintendent, said he worried that funds to create culturally sensitive programs may be shifting to projects for the fast-growing Latino population and that blacks might be left by the wayside. He suggested that projects for the two groups be combined because the groups face similar socioeconomic problems.

Panel members, all black men, discussed a wide range of solutions, including bringing parents into the schools. They also talked about encouraging teachers to become positive role models and to mentor students who need more attention. "A lot of times, our goals aren't high enough for black males," panelist and DPS board member Kevin Patterson said. "When we lower our standards, we allow the system to lower their standards."



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, July 24, 2005

This little pig goes post modernist in Australian schools

For a generation of young [Australian] readers, Mem Fox's Feathers and Fools is an enchanting story about peacocks, swans and the ugliness of war. In the eyes of the postmodernist critics, however, it is a skilful piece of propaganda for the cause of male supremacy. A teaching guide used in secondary schools around the country encourages students to "deconstruct" children's picture books such as Feathers and Fur and to "unpack" the concealed ideology. The peacocks become the dominant males -- "taller, leading the way, intitiating the dialogue, having the ideas" -- while the cygnets are "smaller, fluffy and dependant".

Twenty years after postmodern theory stormed university humanities departments, it is working its way into Australian classrooms, politicising the study of books, films and emails, now grouped under the catch-all of "texts". The culturally relativist theory, which teaches that there is no such thing as objective truth, has largely fallen out of fashion on university campuses. But the new lease of life it has been given in secondary education, under the guise of "critical literacy", is a trend Mem Fox finds "engraging". "It just drives you mad, it really does," she told The Weekend Australian yesterday. "You'd have thought academia had moved on from this ... I don't think people are as stupid as that any more, to tell you the truth."

For Australian academics John Stephens, Ken Watson and Judith Parker, compilers of the manual From Picture Book to Literary Theory, the story of the Three Little Pigs is really about "the virtues of property ownership and the safety of the private domain" -- both "key elements of liberal/capitalist ideology". The editors describe Widow's Broom, by Chris Van Allsburg, as a modern "rethinking of witches, situating them within particular historical conditions in which social, economic and political power narrowly defined women's roles". Even apparently politically-correct books, such as Anthony Browne's Piggybook, in which a mother rebels against her chauvanist husband and sons, has hidden subversive meanings. "Her victory is merely the exchange of one chore for another," the editors claim. "All the characters may be smiling but the mother is still outside the family frame."

Critical literacy has been described by one of its champions, Allan Luke, a former Queensland education bureaucrat and lecturer at the University of Queensland's Graduate School of Education who now teaches in Singapore, as a "radical educational idea" that has moved from the "political outlands to become a key concept in state curriculum". Professor Luke's influence has been felt in the Queensland English syllabus, which pays particular attention to the ideas of critical literacy.

In Tasmania, the official school syllabus website describes how its practitioners "deconstruct the structures and features of texts"; "no longer consider texts to be timeless, universal or unbiased"; ask "if the text presents unequal positions of power" and "work for social equity and change". "As we begin to analyse the powerful ways in which visual, spoken, written, multimedia and performance texts work and we discover the ways in which our feelings, attitudes and values are manipulated by language, we begin to operate powerfully within our world. We are able to become agents of social change working towards the removal of inequalities and injustices."

However the growing band of critics of critical literacy say the approach deprives students of the joy of reading for pleasure, excludes classical texts and ignores basic literacy skills. Catherine Runcie, honorary associate of the University of Sydney, described the impact of postmodern theory on schools as "a great pretentious movement of teachers pretending to be intellectuals". "School teachers and students have much more important things to do," Dr Runcie told The Weekend Australian. "They have basic learning and grammar to master. At university we're still marking grammar and we shouldn't be marking grammar after the age of 15. "Theory can't be taken on an empty stomach. "Before students can come to postmodern literature they need to know a lot of literature and a lot of philosophy."

Joseph Lo Bianco, professor of language and literacy at the University of Melbourne, told The Weekend Australian that critical theorists viewed books as "manipulations from various forces that need to be unmasked, or as an escapist bourgeois fantasy". "They are asking teachers to adopt a particular stance while masquerading as if it is not a stance," he said. "We need to teach language and teach it well; we need to teach awareness of language and some of this involves criticism of how language can be used manipulatively. But we also should teach creative, imaginative and articulate language use, both in speech and writing."



On Monday night, reality TV finally lived up to its name. Millions of ABC viewers were treated to the finale of a dramatic contest--not to see who could eat the most insects but to see who would win a $250,000 college scholarship. Though the 10 high-school seniors who made it onto "The Scholar" had already been admitted to top colleges, the announcer's voice promised that the show's financial competition would mirror the admissions process. And it did.

The first thing you notice about the show's candidates is their race--four are black, one is Native American and one is Vietnamese. Sadly, that identification may be the first thing that college admissions officers are likely to notice too, in real life. Just in case viewers missed the idea behind such group membership, Melissa, who is half Bahamian and half Austrian-Jewish, is described on the show's Web site as being "sensitive to the plight of the minority." Of course in the aftermath of the Supreme Court's Gratz v. Bollinger decision, college admissions officers are unlikely to keep a racial tally on paper--just in the back of their heads.

For the most part, the kids on "The Scholar" seem academically qualified, although it's hard to tell. It may just be a sign of rampant grade inflation that Alyssa from Yuba City, Calif., has a 4.67 GPA and Davis from Memphis, Tenn., has a 4.6. Scot from New Freedom, Pa., had only a 4.0, but then again he was home-schooled.

As viewers learned during the show's six episodes, skin color and grades are not enough to make you a winner in the college lottery, on TV or in real life. You also need a hard-luck story. Like real admissions officers, the judges on the show say they like to see not just where a kid ends up but where he starts too. (And you thought that your "Most Improved" softball-player trophy was just going to gather dust.)

Melissa had to cut short her gymnastics career at the age of 13 because of scoliosis. Jeremy's parents came from Vietnam and spent seven days on a boat with only a cup of water between them. Gerald experiences "occasional brushes with overt racism." There is no reason to belittle such hardship tales, but they have little to do with the students' actual accomplishments. As "The Scholar" shows, the college-admissions process has become a kind of victim pageant.

The students on the show are portrayed as financial victims, too--as if, according to that ominous announcer's voice, the "price of admission is threatening the American dream." This claim is the show's one glaring inaccuracy. Show me a black girl with a single mother, early admission to Harvard, near perfect SATs and a 4.0 GPA with AP classes in her schedule and I'll show you a girl on a full scholarship. Thanks to financial aid, for-profit colleges and public universities, everyone these days can afford some college. And poor students who get into elite colleges can count on financial help.

Still, there is nothing more heart-warming to a college administrator than a kid who comes from a poor background and who wants to succeed so that he can "give back to the community," a desire that just about all the contestants on "The Scholar" mention in one way or another. And the service imperative goes beyond the credentializing of high-school applicants. Indeed, community service has become a staple on every college campus. And it's easy to see why. Most college kids prefer ladling soup for the homeless to writing philosophy papers.

Where community service is popular, liberal politics can't be far behind. When one student on "The Scholar" is asked what global problem keeps her up at night, she explains that she is tormented by the ignorant people in our country who try to prevent stem-cell research from going forward. Another answers, "the Patriot Act," because it threatens our democracy. Arguably, both answers are defensible, but it is hard not to think of them, in this case, as reflexive platitudes.

"The Scholar" does feature contests that require students to know real facts, but the producers of the show have also picked up on another education mantra. "It's not what you know but how you use what you know," the host explains as the competitors are sent off to solve puzzles in teams. The kids who win the show's "Jeopardy"-like tests on literature or science advance to the next round, of course, but the judges also give the losers another shot if they demonstrate "teamwork" or "creativity."

Judging college admissions--or scholarships--by such fuzzy standards is absurd, not just because it destroys any notion of a meritocracy but also because it leads to a certain narcissism. Thus the contestants on "The Scholar" routinely say that they plan to change the world--really.

The level of self-obsession reaches its height, though, when Melissa is asked what famous person, dead or alive, she'd like to have dinner with. "Plato," she answers, noting that she has read his story about the cave and wants to discuss her own "process of self-discovery" with him. I'm sure Plato would have been fascinated.


Why Homeschooling Continues to Grow

For evidence that the homeschooling movement is growing up, look no further than the crowd - and excitement - generated by the National Christian Homeschool Basketball Championships held in Oklahoma City. The 2004 athletic event - in its thirteenth year - drew 240 teams from 26 states, featured over 600 games, and attracted college coaches eager to scout players. In attendance was Texan Debbie Verwers, the mother of Stephen Verwers, a homeschool graduate, who currently plays for Colorado State University's basketball team. Upshot? The extracurricular athletic activities that exist for active home scholars is only one cultural indicator that homeschooling has graduated from its fledgling, countercultural beginnings in the 1970s into a more popular choice.

The early days of homeschooling were not without their own buzz. Grant Colfax's admission into Harvard in 1983 (he was also accepted to Yale) attracted wide attention because he had been homeschooled by his bookish, hard-working mother and father - David and Micki - on a ranch in northern California. The teenager's acceptance to the venerable New England institution was proof that a schooled-at-home (and homesteading) student could acquire the type of education necessary to gain entrance into one of the most selective schools in the world.

While home education wasn't a new phenomenon, young Colfax, as well as his adventuresome parents, served as the catalysts to awaken a sleeping giant. A generation of baby boomers, who were in the thick of parenting and who were dismayed at the bureaucratic mindset that had overtaken American public education, now had inspiration to take the educational road less traveled. The 'Colfax method' gained even more credibility when Grant's younger (and homeschooled) brothers - Drew and Reed - were subsequently admitted into Harvard.

Twenty years later the electrifying accomplishments of the Colfaxes have been slightly eclipsed by a new generation of homeschoolers, who are also crafting impressive vitae. For instance, when Calvin McCarter, age 10, a homeschooler from Michigan, won the 2002 National Geographic Bee, he became the youngest competitor to ever win the contest. Home scholar Kyle Williams has been a political columnist for, since he was twelve years old. After his book Seen and Heard was published, the then 14-year-old Williams weathered a media blitz that included television interviews with Bill O'Reilly, Pat Buchanan, Bill Press, and Judy Woodruff.

Besides winning academic contests and enrolling in Ivy League schools, homeschoolers have been elected to public office, managed successful businesses, played on national sports teams, made a mark in Hollywood, authored popular books, graduated from law schools, and served in the armed forces. They show no signs of resting on their laurels. For its 1999 competition, the National Merit Scholarship Corporation selected 137 homeschoolers as semifinalists, and their numbers have steadily risen each year. In 2004, there were 250 homeschooled students selected as semifinalists. Given their small numbers, estimated by the U.S. Department of Education at approximately 1.1 million last year, only a cynic would find the achievements of homeschooled students unremarkable.

Homeschooling, like other grass-roots movements of the twentieth century, is largely a middle-American endeavor. Ponder this description of the 'typical' family: ".they are more likely than other students to live with two or more siblings in a two-parent family, with one parent working outside the home. Parents of homeschoolers are, on average, better educated than other parents - a greater percentage have college degrees - though their incomes are about the same. Like most parents, the vast majority of those who homeschool their children earn less than $50,000, and many earn less than $25,000" ("Homeschooling Here to Stay," 2003)...

But in an age of unprecedented technological innovation and mobility, one fact is clear: It's relatively easy and cost-effective for a youngster to bypass institutionalized schooling and receive a well-rounded education. Online classes, homeschool cooperatives, tutors, internships, volunteer work, travel, home businesses, hobbies, sabbaticals, even the great outdoors - these serve as gateways to the examined, enriched life.

One young Floridian - Jonathan Lord - has successfully combined several of these opportunities. The St. Petersburg Times reports, "Besides learning at home, Jonathan now takes math through a private tutor, creative writing classes at the co-op, chemistry through homeschooling classes offered at the Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa, and dual-enrollment classes in English and Spanish at Pasco-Hernando Community College" (Miller, 2003).

Other enterprising teens have used the flexibility of schedule to pursue extracurricular pursuits that range from the flashy to the altruistic. Emoly West, a homeschool graduate and college freshman, will be competing in this year`s Miss Oklahoma competition. She has used past pageant prize winnings to pay for college tuition. At 17, Iowa homeschooler Kelby Fujan, passed the written test to obtain his airplane pilot's license while accruing almost 50 college credits. Sam Goodman, a young teen-aged homeschooler from Indiana, regularly volunteers at a community food bank and has earned an award for his service.

In contrast to public school students, who are grouped by age and not ability, who are expected to arrive and depart at particular times, and who are labeled "learning disabled" regardless of potential, homeschoolers can receive their instruction in a highly-individualized fashion, often beginning at an early age. Their parents have a clear idea where their interests lie and the style of learning most suited to them, without being hampered with worries about bullies, politicized curriculum, teachers' union squabbles, or the air quality of the buildings.

Parents and students with a bent toward high achievement at the tertiary level have even come to view homeschooling as a ticket to success in college. Writing in Signatures, a publication of Anderson University, Maryann Koopman (2003) reports that the Indiana school admits a "fair number of homeschoolers each year." Jim King , director of admissions at Anderson, offers this: " ... homeschooled students are better prepared for the 'independent learning' atmosphere of college than the typical school student ...." (Koopman, 2003)....

When it's all said - and by now a countless number of articles, commentaries, and research papers have been written about homeschooling - perhaps the greatest lesson to be learned is how important the concept of liberty is to the delivery of education. Parents must have opportunity to do what is right by their children and not be limited by geographic location, punitive state laws, or societal prejudices. When freedom and choice peacefully exist, students thrive, and, ultimately, society benefits. As Dr. Lines (2000) has stated, "The hard evidence suggests that the vast majority of homeschooling families are more active in civic affairs than public school families." It will be interesting to observe, in the coming years, what a generation of such civic-minded homeschooled individuals bring to the education reform debate.

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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"

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