Saturday, September 17, 2005

Fifty Years Closer to Choice

In considering the role government plays in various areas of life in 1955, Milton Friedman cast his discerning eye on education and saw a Six Million Dollar Man. Government-controlled public education was already well on its way to becoming a total wreck. But Friedman, seeing what the G.I. Bill had done for soldiers returning from the recently concluded World War II, envisioned a way to rebuild it--better, stronger, faster. The result was an essay, "On the Role of Government in Education," which proposed a universal voucher system as a way to allow government to continue financing public education while separating it from its administration, establishing a true free-market arena in which choice would be equal for all, competition would be fierce, and only the best schools would survive. In 1962, the essay became a chapter in Friedman's historic book, Capitalism and Freedom. Fifty years after the essay was first written, Friedman's idea has become the ticket to a better education for some 36,000 students in a handful of voucher programs scattered nationwide.

To some education reformers, the numbers cited above read rather pessimistically: A half-century of thought, research, funding, and legislative struggle has given the nation only a half-dozen voucher programs, most operating at the city level. Another two generations of American schoolchildren, those reformers say, will be woefully undereducated before the nation can achieve true freedom of choice for all. And, if they're waiting for the pure, universal voucher system Friedman proposed in 1955, they could be right.

But others--including Friedman himself, recipient of the 1976 Nobel Prize for Economic Science, who is now 93--take a broader view. Though vouchers have been slow to gain a foothold--"distressingly slow," as Friedman wrote in his Nobel Laureate autobiography--the advent of new technologies is beginning to usher in some real free-market competition in the education arena. In addition to voucher programs operating in Milwaukee, Cleveland, Washington DC, Florida, and Utah, more than 3,000 charter schools are now educating about 1 million children across 40 states. Another 1 million students have foregone public education altogether in favor of homeschooling; many of them take advantage of distance-learning programs over the Internet.

In addition, in the sometimes-stressful atmosphere created by the stringent demands of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), for-profit companies are beginning to see vast opportunities, providing supplemental educational materials and tutoring to help schools and students achieve federally mandated goals.

The voucher program Friedman envisioned might have been slow in reaching even its infancy, but the time is ripe, he has said, for true choices to begin to emerge. "If I'm right," he told Education Next in 2000, "the voucher movement is going to expand and grow. There will be a brand new industry: the education industry, a private, for-profit, and non-profit education industry. It will introduce competition in a way that's never existed before. "The dam is breaking, and as it breaks, and I think it will, the water will rise more and more rapidly. I think choice is going to be here. I don't know when, it's been a long time coming, but it's starting to come.".....

In the next 50 years, Chubb thinks American education will come a lot closer to Friedman's vision, as the free-market atmosphere continues to evolve. It won't be long, Chubb said, until charter schools enroll 1 million children, and virtual schools complete with instructors are springing up online. "Even the way public schools work now is more market-oriented--they're much more accountable for results, they can be closed down, parents are being given more choice within systems," he explained. "I would share the skepticism of whether [universal] vouchers will be introduced," Chubb said, "but I think we're already seeing that more choices are being accepted, and in some places, they're quite dominant."

Charter schools provide about 25 percent of the public education in both Washington, DC and Dayton, Ohio. About 1,000 private providers are competing to tutor children in failing schools around the nation, "and that's done by vouchers, whether you call them that or not, because parents can go to any provider they want, public or private. Providers have flooded into that marketplace," Chubb said. Also, schools failing to meet NCLB's Adequate Yearly Progress requirements must restructure, and as a result, for-profit companies such as Edison Schools that can take them over are multiplying as the market grows. "If you look at the role of the market today versus where it was only a few years ago, that's an enormous change, and I think it's likely to continue," Chubb said.

More here

Public Choices

It's back-to-school time, and many of the adults trying to run American education have a lot to learn. They ought to start by memorizing a simple formula: increased federal funding leads to decreased educational flexibility, producing academic stagnation.

They definitely have not learned that lesson in Connecticut, where last month state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal launched the first-ever state lawsuit against the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), calling the Bush administration's enforcement of the law "rigid, arbitrary and capricious." Connecticut Governor Jodi Rell supports the suit and recently declared to a group of Connecticut teachers that rather than NCLB's strict rules, "we want the leeway to let our schools perform." Connecticut's problem is that it seems to want both more federal money and flexibility. "Our taxpayers are sagging under the crushing costs of local education," Rell commented the day the lawsuit was announced. "What we don't need is a new laundry list of things to do — with no new money to do them."

The day after Connecticut filed its suit the Center for American Progress (CAP), a progressive Washington, D.C., think tank, released a report in which it too decried schools' inflexibility but called for more federal funds. The report, from CAP's National Task Force on Public Education, starts off reasonably, arguing that a lot of our educational trouble can be attributed to the fact that "too much of our education system supports the status quo and a basic 'one size fits all approach.'" Unfortunately, it soon contradicts itself, intoning that "tragically, the commitment to uniformity in expectations and standards for what students should be taught is not reflected in the K-12 education system."

The result of this confused analysis is a proposal for the federal government to provide "leadership" and to spend at least $325 billion over ten years implementing numerous CAP-endorsed initiatives including universal pre-school and a "voluntary" national curriculum tied to expanded "national accountability measures."

What both the Connecticut lawsuit and the CAP report demonstrate is the inability of policymakers to grasp history and understand that more federal money inevitably means more rules, and that neither of those things helps America's schools. Keep in mind that it was only in the last few decades, with passage of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act in 1965, that the federal government became deeply involved in American education. Once it was in, though, its "investment" increased by leaps and bounds. According to the most recent inflation-adjusted data from the National Center for Education Statistics, the federal investment in education ballooned by nearly 400 percent between 1965 and 2003, and by more than 500 percent at the elementary and secondary level.

Federal meddling in education has grown with its funding. Over the last 40 years, despite the presence of a clause prohibiting federal control of education in almost all legislation passed in that time, as the federal government expended more money on the schools it heaped ever greater requirements onto the funds. Today its dictates are so extensive that Washington tells districts whether their teachers are qualified and their reading curriculum is acceptable, and requires schools to provide lessons on the Constitution every September 17, the anniversary of the signing of that once-respected document.

Despite this incredible growth in federal funding and "leadership," academic achievement has largely stagnated. The latest National Assessment of Educational Progress "Trends in Academic Progress" report reveals the sad truth. In 1971 seventeen-year-olds had an average score of 285 out of 500 points on the NAEP reading assessment. In 2004 the average wasn't a single point higher. Nine-year-olds' scores increased the most of any age group in reading, but their average only rose by slightly over 5 percent. Overall the improvements in math were higher, but were also nowhere near commensurate with federal spending increases.

What is critical for policymakers and voters to understand is that, contrary to Connecticut's complaint, the federal government does not simply force states to do as they're told. It buys compliance, attaching any and all requirements it wants schools to follow to the taxpayer money that states "voluntarily" accept. And, of course, the more money it supplies, the more rules and regulations it creates. States aren't going to be able to have it both ways. They can either take federal money and give up on flexibility, or they can demand flexibility by telling Washington to get out of the education business. What they can't do is the impossible: fixing our "one size fits all" schools by demanding ever more federal dollars.



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, September 16, 2005


And still does little good

"Flat, or even declining school enrollment, is the dirty little secret of the California education budget wars. While the Governor increased spending by over 6% this year, enrollment only increased by 0.4% comparing 2004/2005 vs. 2003/2004. Further, the California Department of Finance, which tracks and forecasts census data, now estimates school registration will grow at an annual rate of less than 0.4% through the year 2013.

Thus, just a 3.4% annual budget increase would cover both enrollment growth and inflation to maintain the current standard of school funding in California for at least the next 8 years. But that is just one of the many little secrets about school registration that the mainstream media simply refuses to report.

Did you know, for instance, that elementary school enrollment has declined in California for two consecutive years? Or, that total enrollment dropped in every coastal county but Santa Barbara when comparing 2004/2005 vs. 2003/2004? Or, that over 43% of all schoolchildren in the state are concentrated in Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego Counties but their elementary school registration has already declined for three consecutive years and is now below the level of 1999? That decline will continue because there are even fewer students in the first three grades to replace the children now in the 4th, 5th and 6th grades.

The San Francisco Bay area hasn’t fared much better with a year over year increase of just 387 students in that six county region. Apparently children are becoming as unaffordable as our housing prices.

Enrollment growth is now limited to Riverside and San Bernardino Counties plus the central valley from Bakersfield to Sacramento. This is an enormous turnaround from the last 10 years when the 5 Southern California Counties accounted for 69% of all registration increases in the state.

So, where did all the children go? The short answer is that we stopped making so many of them. Californians set a record when over 612,000 children were born in 1990 but the birthrate then plunged by 15% over the next 9 years. The California Department of Finance now estimates nearly a quarter century will have passed before we again reach the birthrate level of 1990. Further, the Department of Finance estimates school registration will grow a total of just 2.6% in the next eight years. That is miniscule compared to 1995 and 1996 when the single year increases were 2.4% and 2.7% respectively.

Recent news reports indicate dozens of California school districts are in financial trouble due to declining enrollment and thus lower reimbursement from the state treasury. They simply don’t seem to grasp the management concept of private businesses who reduce their staff when they have fewer customers.

Meanwhile the education lobby continues their scare tactics with the public as they release stories about teacher shortages even as they campaign for a Universal Preschool program requiring another 22,000 instructors. The program promises to save 10,000 dropouts per year at a taxpayer cost of $2 billion annually. Admirable, but that is $200,000 per dropout and saves only 7% of the kids who don’t make it to graduation each year.

The California Teachers Association clearly would like to return to the days when Governor Davis threw salary and benefits at them as they threw money into his campaigns. But, there was no impact on classrooms. Between 1998 and 2004, enrollment grew by 8.2%, the number of teachers grew by 8.1%, the number of administrators grew by 14% and the total number of non-teaching employees grew by 11.2%. The latter now account for 52.7% of all employees. During the Davis administration California’s teachers achieved an average base salary $11,000, or 22%, higher than the U.S. average.

So why haven’t you seen these facts before? Apparently no State Senator or Assemblyman who desires reelection is willing to confront the teacher’s lobby with the truth. Major newspapers presented with the facts simply call a couple of education lobbyists for background information who then tell them enrollment will soon start soaring again. What else would they say? Any lobbyist who spoke the truth would be blackballed from contract work in every district in the state. As for the Governor’s office, his advisors seem unaware of key school enrollment facts which clearly support his education agenda".


Schooldays last the longest for Australian children

Australian children will spend more time in formal education than children in any other developed country, an international study says. An Australian child aged five in 2003 can expect to be in education for 21.1 years, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development report released yesterday shows. That was the highest of its 30 members, followed by Britain and Sweden, where children are likely to be students for just more than 20 years. Australia's public schools also have some of the highest number of instruction hours for children aged seven to 14 - with 8000 hours of classroom learning over this period - trailing only Italy and the Netherlands.

The findings come in Education at a Glance 2005 — a snapshot of education trends around the world. The report says more people are studying longer and most young people - on average, 53 per cent - will take part in some tertiary education.

On average, a five-year-old in most OECD countries will take part in education for 16 to 21 years. Females are completing secondary and tertiary education at faster rates than males in most countries, but remain less engaged in maths and science.

Women still earn less than males with similar education achievements — from 60 to 80 per cent of what men earn. The report attributes this to differences in career choices and time spent in the workforce.

The number of foreign students is rising, up 11.5 per cent from the previous year to 2.1 million foreign students in 2003. Australia, France, Germany, Britain and the United States receive about 70 per cent of foreign students, many from China, Korea and Japan. Australia had the highest percentage of foreign students in tertiary education, at 19 per cent.

The big spenders on school education were Switzerland and the US, at more than $14,000 per student, with Australia below the average at about $9000.



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, September 15, 2005

"Postmodern" student assessments rejected

Australians love competitive sport and the idea of winners and losers. Australian parents also want to know how well their children are travelling against others at school and whether they have passed or failed.

Unfortunately, this is the very thing parents are denied. As noted by a federal report evaluating school reports and student assessment, titled Reporting on School and Student Achievement: "Parents understand how difficult it may be for teachers to convey bad news, but nevertheless they indicate that they want a fair and honest assessment, in plain language, of the progress of their children. "There is a lack of objective standards that parents can use to determine their children's attainment and rate of progress. Many parents specifically asked for information that would enable them to compare their children's progress with other students or with state, territory-wide or national standards."

Since the early 1990s, as a result of state and territory education systems adopting fads such as outcomes-based education, traditional forms of assessment have been replaced by what is called formative assessment. Teachers committed to formative assessment are against ranking students and using letter grades or percentages. It's assumed that failing is bad for self-esteem, that all students, given enough resources and time, will succeed and, as learning is personal, students cannot be compared.

Formative assessment also embraces a developmental approach to learning, based on the argument that "students develop and learn at different rates and in different ways" and "the rate of individual development and learning can vary enormously and students may achieve a particular standard at different age levels".

The result? Instead of pass or fail, student progress or lack of progress is clouded by suchpolitically correct terms as beginning, established, consolidating or emerging, solid, comprehensive. Instead of students facing regular examinations with consequences for failure, as do those students in stronger performing education systems overseas, students are automatically promoted from year to year, even though many have not mastered the basics.

While parents want an end to politically correct reports, the same cannot be said for those seeking to control our education system. The Australian Education Union, in addition to opposing statewide literacy and numeracy tests, is totally opposed to competitive, graded assessment, where students are ranked against one another or against set, year-level standards. Not only does the AEU argue that competitive assessment is socially unjust, as some groups in society tend to be better than others, the union also argues that collaboration is better than competition as everyone should be able to experience success.

Such is the influence of the postmodern on education that the Australian Council of Deans of Education, in New Learning: A Charter for Australian Education, also argues against testing students on the basis that some will pass and some will fail.

The deans argue that there are no absolutes, as knowledge is always tentative and shifting and, as a result, there are no right or wrong answers. Pass-fail and traditional approaches to learning are considered obsolete: "The essence of the old basics was encapsulated simply in the subject areas of the three Rs: reading, writing and arithmetic it was a kind of shopping list of things-to-be-known - through drilling the times tables, memorising spelling lists, learning the parts of speech and correct grammar. "There is no way that a curriculum based on factual content or straightforward right and wrong answers can anticipate the range of life alternatives any one student is likely to encounter across a lifetime."

The Australian Association for the Teaching of English is also opposed to the more traditional forms of assessment. In the jargon much loved by educrats, the AATE's policy, entitled Assessment and Reporting English, states: "The use of decontextualised, standardised tests for monitoring the performance of students and of schools is unhelpful. In the past such tests have been more frequently employed to attack good teaching than otherwise. Students have come to see the test as part of the curriculum because teachers feel compelled to teach to them."

The flaws and contradictions inherent in formative assessment are many. First, research tells us that before children can attempt higher order thinking, they have to master the basics, including times tables, mental arithmetic and knowing the structure of a sentence.

As noted by Jean Renoir, when he asked his father the secret of his success as an impressionist painter, success was based on years of hard, often repetitive work in the academy learning the basics of drawing and perspective. Creativity requires structure and discipline; it does not happen by accident. As such, there is nothing wrong with teachers teaching and then testing whether students have mastered what is required; teaching to the test can be beneficial.

Second, in the real world there are right and wrong answers and consequences for failure. The next time you fly, pray that the pilot knows the correct way to take off and land. While there is some truth in the proposition that learners construct their own understanding of the world, there are also objective facts related to the established disciplines of knowledge that teachers need to teach and students need to learn. The next time you drive across a bridge, hope that the engineers knew and respected the laws of physics and that their understanding was not at the "beginning" or "emerging" stage.

While there is an element of truth in the proposition that students learn in different ways and at different rates, there is also the reality that those children who fail to master the basics in the early years of primary school are destined to failure in later years. A related point is that not all students have the same level of ability or motivation to succeed. As a result of never being told they have failed, many students leave school with an inflated and unrealistic sense of their own ability and worth.

Third, formative assessment is very wasteful, time-consuming and overly bureaucratic. One only needs to see the hundreds of vague outcome statements that Australian primary teachers have to monitor and report against to understand their frustration and despair. Not only does formative assessment promote a checklist mentality that weakens the integrity of particular subjects by seeking to quantify everything, learning is reduced to what can be measured, but time and energy is diverted from the joy of teaching.

Finally, one of the most damaging myths associated with formative assessment is that it is impossible, as they do in overseas countries, to clearly define standards, either by ranking students one against the other or by setting objective levels of performance that measure student ability. The result? Not only do students in Japan, Singapore and The Netherlands regularly out-perform Australian students in international maths and science tests, but thousands of Australian students enter secondary schools illiterate and innumerate.

On the basis that there is no such thing as pass-fail and all students experience success, underperforming schools are also allowed to continue unchallenged.

To date, states and territories allow failing schools to continue unchecked and parents are kept in the dark about how schools compare. The Australian situation is unlike that in Britain and the US where underperforming schools are identified and given additional resources and expertise in order to improve.

During last year's federal election campaign, one of the policies the Howard Government put forward was a return to plain-English report cards. Instead of fuzzy, new-age reports, students would be graded A to E and placed in quartiles against other members of the class.

To date, NSW, Western Australia and Tasmania have agreed to both aspects of Education Minister Brendan Nelson's request for plain-English report cards. While Victoria and South Australia have recently agreed to implement A to E letter grades, parents will not automatically be given information about quartiles. The other states and territories have yet to respond.

The benefit of the more traditional federally inspired approach is that parents will be given a succinct and easy-to-understand measure of student performance. Better still, where individual students are ranked against classmates, parents will be in a position to more realistically judge their child's ability and, if needed, to help improve performance.



Surprise! "Head Start" has not worked in Britain either

The first major evaluation of the government's flagship 3 billion pound Sure Start programme for deprived preschool children and their families has revealed no overall improvement in the areas targeted by the initiative.

Although some Sure Start schemes were successful, an independent study by academics at Birkbeck College, London - due to be published by the government next month - revealed that Sure Start as a whole failed to boost youngsters' development, language and behaviour. It also showed children of teenage mothers did worse in Sure Start areas than elsewhere.

The findings, obtained by the Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee, represent only an early snapshot of the programme's effectiveness, and academics involved in the 20 million pound evaluation emphasise that they do not mean the scheme, which varies widely around the country, will not succeed in helping children in deprived areas in the long term.

However, the results represent a blow to a much-vaunted government programme that has cost 3.1 billion pounds since its launch in 2001 and is to be extended from the current total of 524 schemes to 3,500 Sure Start children's centres, one in every neighbourhood, by 2010.

Both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown have made much of the expansion, which was heavily promoted in Labour's general election manifesto in May. The scheme, influenced by the Head Start programme in the United States, is targeted at children aged up to five and their families in deprived areas, and is intended to offer a range of joined-up early years services, including high quality childcare, parenting classes, training to help mothers into work, health advice and a variety of other programmes according to local demand.

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


Wednesday, September 14, 2005


The following article appeared in the Brisbane "Courier Mail" on Sept 8th, 2005 under the heading "Overseas Uni student levels reach world high". That Australia is an English-speaking country in close proximity to Asia is of course a major factor. Most overseas students in Australia are Asian, particularly from nearby Malaysia, where Chinese are discriminated against. ("HECS" are student fees)

Australian university classrooms have the highest proportion of international students in the world, according to a new report. The report, Education Without Borders, has revealed almost 18 per cent of students at Australian university are from overseas. According to the report, the number of international students in Australia jumped from about 12 per cent in 1998 while the average for all other countries remained largely stagnant.

However, the release of the report has coincided with new figures showing almost a third of HECS-paying Australian students are likely to never pay off their debt.

Written by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the report found education was Australia's fourth largest export. In 2003-04, education services reaped $5.9 billion for the Australian economy, from 13 per cent in 2002-03.

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said the nation's education sector was booming because Australia was regarded as a safe and friendly destination with a reputation for quality tertiary services. "Whether people like it or not. English has become the language of international discourse, not national but international discourse, and the fact that Australia is an Anglophone country, the fact that students study in Australia in English is a significant advantage for Australia as well," he said.

However. Opposition foreign affairs spokesman Kevin Rudd said the report ignored the fact that the rate of Australia's education exports growth was actually falling. Mr Rudd said the rate of growth in Australian education exports had halved under the Howard Government from 22.1 per cent to 10.2 per cent between 1996 and 2004. "Today's report does acknowledge that our universities have been losing ground in the highly competitive market for international students relative to other countries," he said. "If Australia can't compete in our own region, cash-starved Australian universities stand to lose millions of dollars in student fees which they are now dangerously dependent on following nine years of funding cuts."

The report shows international student numbers increased from 35,290 in 1994 to 151,798 in 2004. Chinese students dominated enrolments. The US remained the most popular destination for globe-trotting students with almost 600,000 international enrolments.


The article from The Economist excerpted below notes that the huge numbers of students now going on to higher education is putting a big strain on the old system of university education. It then goes on to look at how universities might change in response:

Techno-utopians believe that higher education is ripe for revolution. The university, they say, is a hopelessly antiquated institution, wedded to outdated practices such as tenure and lectures, and incapable of serving a new world of mass audiences and just-in-time information. “Thirty years from now the big university campuses will be relics,” says Peter Drucker, a veteran management guru. “I consider the American research university of the past 40 years to be a failure.” Fortunately, in his view, help is on the way in the form of internet tuition and for-profit universities.

Cultural conservatives, on the other hand, believe that the best way forward is backward. The two ruling principles of modern higher-education policy—democracy and utility—are “degradations of the academic dogma”, to borrow a phrase from the late Robert Nisbet, another sociologist. They think it is foolish to waste higher education on people who would rather study “Seinfeld” than Socrates, and disingenuous to confuse the pursuit of truth with the pursuit of profit.

The conservative argument falls at the first hurdle: practicality. Higher education is rapidly going the way of secondary education: it is becoming a universal aspiration. The techno-utopian position is superficially more attractive. The internet will surely influence teaching, and for-profit companies are bound to shake up a moribund marketplace. But there are limits.

A few years ago a report by Coopers & Lybrand crowed that online education could eliminate the two biggest costs from higher education: “The first is the need for bricks and mortar; traditional campuses are not necessary. The second is full-time faculty. [Online] learning involves only a small number of professors, but has the potential to reach a huge market of students.” That is nonsense. The human touch is much more vital to higher education than is high technology. Education is not just about transmitting a body of facts, which the internet does pretty well. It is about learning to argue and reason, which is best done in a community of scholars.

This survey will argue that the most significant development in higher education is the emergence of a super-league of global universities. This is revolutionary in the sense that these institutions regard the whole world as their stage, but also evolutionary in that they are still wedded to the ideal of a community of scholars who combine teaching with research.

The problem for policymakers is how to create a system of higher education that balances the twin demands of excellence and mass access, that makes room for global elite universities while also catering for large numbers of average students, that exploits the opportunities provided by new technology while also recognising that education requires a human touch.

As it happens, we already possess a successful model of how to organise higher education: America's. That country has almost a monopoly on the world's best universities, but also provides access to higher education for the bulk of those who deserve it. The success of American higher education is not just a result of money (though that helps); it is the result of organisation. American universities are much less dependent on the state than are their competitors abroad. They derive their income from a wide variety of sources, from fee-paying students to nostalgic alumni, from hard-headed businessmen to generous philanthropists. And they come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, from Princeton and Yale to Kalamazoo community college.

This survey will offer two pieces of advice for countries that are trying to create successful higher-education systems, be they newcomers such as India and China or failed old hands such as Germany and Italy. First: diversify your sources of income. The bargain with the state has turned out to be a pact with the devil. Second: let a thousand academic flowers bloom. Universities, including for-profit ones, should have to compete for customers. A sophisticated economy needs a wide variety of universities pursuing a wide variety of missions. These two principles reinforce each other: the more that the state's role contracts, the more educational variety will flourish.

Public school daze: "Despite years of effort to improve American education, many students' schools will not provide them the basic skills needed to enter college or succeed in a career. Some states' public schools graduate as few as 55 percent of students. U.S. test scores versus other countries' decline the longer students are in school. Teachers complain of overwhelming bureaucracy and government mandates. Public school expenditures per student continue rising, even though higher expenditures don't produce better student performance. ... Clearly, our public school problems are not related to lack of money. But because the government has a near monopoly on education, and taxpayer support and student attendance are mandatory, the public school system is insulated from market forces and competition that might produce improvements."


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, September 13, 2005


James Marshall didn't expect it would be easy, being one of just a handful of black students at the University of California, Berkeley's, high-ranking business school. It wasn't. But his payoff came at graduation - job interviews with some of the country's most prestigious firms. "It's about getting that set of rules: OK, this is how you engage an employer; this is how you get this job," says Marshall.

This fall, preliminary figures put 129 new black freshmen at Berkeley out of a class of about 4,000, slightly higher than last year, but still an extreme minority. About 11 percent of the class will be Hispanic, well out of step with a state where Hispanics make up about 30 percent of the population and are projected to be the largest ethnic group by 2011.

For Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, it's a disturbing trend in diverse California. "There are very talented people out there, I believe, who for a whole variety of reasons end up not coming to Berkeley, or to another of the flagship campuses in the UC system," he says.

"Where are the leaders going to come from?" asks Christopher Edley, dean of UC Berkeley's Boalt law school, where just nine black students are expected in the incoming class of 268. "It's been such a short period of time in which our universities have begun producing minority graduates in substantial numbers that to let the door swing shut now would really be a calamity of historic proportions."

Birgeneau, who took over the top job at Berkeley last year, has been outspoken in his dismay at enrollment figures and the need to change them. He questions whether voters intended these kinds of consequences when they passed Proposition 209, the 1996 ballot measure banning consideration of race in public hiring, contracting and education.

But Ward Connerly, the former UC regent who chaired the Proposition 209 campaign, bristles at the idea that there's a problem with race-blind policies. "I just don't understand why certain people have gotten themselves all worked up about who gets to go to Berkeley and UCLA as if that's the only path to a successful life in California, because it is not and the evidence is abundant that it is not," he said. Connerly, founder of a management and land-use consulting firm, is a graduate of Sacramento State University, one of the 23 campuses in the California State University system, the state's other four-year university system and the nation's largest, with about 400,000 students. Black and Hispanic enrollment is higher at CSU - there, black students comprised about 8 percent of the freshman class last fall.

Still, CSU Chancellor Charles Reed says he'd like to see those numbers increase. "I go out and visit public schools and talk to people and I figured out just walking around that students, parents and, frankly, a lot of teachers in the public schools really don't know what it takes to go to college," says Reed, whose staff has blanketed schools and libraries with a "How to Get to College" poster spelling out requirements. "I ask kids sometimes, 'Do you want to be a millionaire?' Everybody wants to be a millionaire. I say, 'It's not all that hard. All you have to do is get a college degree. You'll earn a million dollars over your lifetime more than someone who didn't.'"

Even though blacks, Hispanics and American Indians are underrepresented at Berkeley, the school is far from all-white. The expected freshman class will be about 47 percent Asian-American (a huge category encompassing ethnicities from Samoa to India) and 31 percent white. "We should all be extraordinarily proud of the achievement of Asian-Americans," says Birgeneau, "and we need to learn how to propagate that to other groups." Sharon Browne, principal attorney for the Pacific Legal Foundation, which has defended Proposition 209, says race-blind policies are working. She counters that students now are admitted into universities where they can compete effectively and says the old system papered over public school inequality.

After Proposition 209, UC poured millions into outreach programs, partnering with high schools to help students prepare for college. "I'm seeing what's happening as a result of Proposition 209 as a positive improvement," says Browne. "It starts at the lower grades, but it has that cascading effect and eventually, when these students who are really being well-grounded in K-12 start applying to the UCs, I think we're going to see that, yes, race does not matter in California at all."

Looking at UC systemwide, admissions are up slightly for black students since 1997, with fewer black students going to Berkeley and UCLA and more going to newer branches of the 10-campus system. No single factor affects UC enrollment - for one thing fees have soared. At Boalt, for instance, Edley is looking into restructuring financial aid packages to offset hikes.

But one obstacle is "the absence of a community of learners who share their commitment to excellence, who look like them, who can encourage them not to give up when the going gets tough," says Winston Doby, UC's vice president for student affairs....

From an administrative point of view, Haas Acting Dean Richard Lyons says having so few black students shortchanges everyone - and puts Haas at a competitive disadvantage in a diverse marketplace. The school's doing what it can to change that, he says, but Proposition 209 is a constraint....."

More here


The following survey taken in Queensland shows that the people know that their public schools are not working and they know that lack of discipline is a large part of the problem. I am sure you would get similar results from such a survey almost anywhere in the Western world today. One result of the situation in Australia is that parents send 40% of their teenagers to private schools

Queensland's education system is facing a crisis of confidence among the public. While Premier Peter Beattie says the legacy of his leadership will be the establishment of a Smart State, an overwhelming majority of survey respondents believe schools are failing the basics. Only 17 per cent said they thought the Queensland school curriculum adequately taught the "3Rs" of reading, writing and arithmetic. Fewer than one in five (19 per cent) believe the curriculum adequately prepares school-leavers for work.

Education Minister Rod Welford defended the system, saying the state's students consistently achieved above national benchmarks in the 3Rs at Years 3, 5 and 7.

But small-business leader Ian Baldock shares readers' frustrations. "We see far too many young people who simply cannot add up," said Mr Baldock, executive director of the Queensland Retail Traders and Shopkeepers Association. "Our members find young people often have no idea of basic arithmetic . . . some of these kids cannot string a sentence together."

Les Gomes, owner of Professional Tutoring Service, said maths and English tuition were in high demand: "I think it's the class sizes that's made it very difficult for students to get that individual attention." .... Just over a third (36 per cent) rated the performance of teachers as good or excellent, while 32 per cent said it was average and 13 per cent thought it was poor or worse.

Queensland Teachers Union president Steve Ryan said criticism of the curriculum was probably based more on perception than reality: "We believe we are preparing students well for work. "While it's important that children can spell and add up, the reality is that they have things like spellcheck, which can have an impact, and the curriculum is much broader than just the 3Rs."

Comments on the survey forms suggest many readers believe teachers face a struggle to teach effectively while battling misbehaviour. More than half (55 per cent) of respondents would like to see corporal punishment, banned in 1992, reintroduced.



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, September 12, 2005


Leftists are still true to old Hegel. Only groups matter. And Hegel was the inspiration of Marx and Engels. So it's Communist thinking in U.S. schools. What do you expect from Leftist teachers produced by Leftist colleges? None of those pesky individual differences here, thank you very much. All kids are equal too

"Why is the concept of individual rights so important? The Declaration of Independence, America's founding document, states: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights..." These words affirm that our Founding Fathers saw rights as bestowed not by governments, but by God; not to groups, but to individuals.

The Declaration continues: "That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men." In other words, our Founders saw the role of government as that of protecting the rights of individuals.

However, by the mid-1990s, it was being postulated that America had become a nation where the rights of individuals have been superceded by the rights of groups. Evidence in support of this point can be seen in the observation by social commentator Jessica Gavora that the American Civil Liberties Union has switched its focus from the defense of individual rights to group rights.

This trend can be seen all across the country, in ways large and small - a blight that is nibbling away at individual rights. Consider, for example, that the goal of promoting group identity over individual identity appears regularly in educational literature. A National Middle School Association conference promoted cooperative learning as an "essential" classroom practice because, through this practice, "competition is directed away from individual performance and toward a group identity." Education professor Paul George of the University of Florida stated that for students, group membership "must be the focus of identification."

The preeminence of the group over the individual was seen recently in a report on the services for gifted students in one suburban school district. Teachers objected to allowing their gifted students to leave class for enrichment activities because these children "often provide a needed spark" for the rest of the students. This comports with the views of social activist Mara Sapon-Shevin who claims that "a child who is academically advanced could in fact be valued for this difference if that child's performance were helpful to the entire group."

In other words, in some school districts, allowing an individual to have their intellectual needs met is trumped by the perceived needs of the group. In this case, high ability students are expected to sacrifice the opportunity to develop their own talents and abilities in order to serve the needs of the group - needs that should be addressed not by students, but by the teacher. In a larger sense, this has evolved into the movement to eliminate the recognition of individual merit. As a result, in some schools spelling bees, science fairs, even the honor of valedictorian are being eliminated, often with the justification that individual recognition might harm the self esteem of others.

Consider the concept of merit pay for teachers. Doesn't it make sense to reward an individual whose classroom skills produce remarkable student achievement? The idea of rewarding excellence makes sense in the rest of the economy, but many educators blanch at the idea. They view the acknowledgement that some teachers may be better than others as unfair or demoralizing to the group, so they lobby for pay to be based on longevity and coursework as opposed to merit, thus keeping the members of their group happy. ....

Even prospective presidential candidates have made their views known on this topic. It is reported that when a woman complained to Hillary Clinton that she did not want to be forced into a health care plan that she didn't choose, Hillary replied: "It's time to put the common good, the national interest, ahead of individuals."

One of the fundamental principles that drove the founding of this nation, the acknowledgement and protection of individual rights, is now giving way to devaluing individual rights in favor of collectivist group rights. The Kelo decision merely mirrors the growth of this phenomenon within the culture at large. So come September, when your child arrives at school with the special pens, pencils and notebooks he spent hours carefully selecting, don't be surprised if they are dumped into a common bin for collective classroom use. This is but one more step in the long march toward eroding the rights of individuals to support the perceived good of the group".

More here


To graduate from High School in English in the Left-governed Australian State of Victoria, students will soon have to read only ONE book!(VCE stands for Victorian Certificate of Education)

Students would have to read only one book in year 12 English under contentious proposals that have been branded a dumbing down of the VCE compulsory subject. Under the system - dubbed by one critic as "English Lite" and deplored by the State Opposition - students would have to study only two texts instead of three in year 11, and two instead of four in year 12. One of the texts could be a film. The final VCE English exam would also change, with students having to answer only one question on a text instead of two.

Replacing the texts would be a new area of study called "creating and presenting", where students have to produce work for an adult audience, and may read texts for their research. In year 12, they would choose from such themes as "sustainable futures", and "citizenship and globalisation". There would be a shift away from written responses in work assessed during the year, with at least one oral assessment task. There would be a greater emphasis on new technology.

The controversial changes are proposed in a draft paper published by the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority. If approved, the changes will be part of VCE English in 2007. VCAA acting chief executive John Firth said the proposals were an attempt to "rebalance" VCE English. "We certainly haven't taken the texts out of the VCE, and it's still a compulsory part of this proposal as well," he said. "There's been a demand for quite some time that we need to find ways of developing students' capacity to communicate and write, especially in a range of different contexts for a range of different purposes." Mr Firth said that to bring something into VCE English, "you've got to create a bit of space. You just can't keep adding and adding." He said students who wanted to specialise in literature could still take literature as a subject, which counts as their compulsory English.

The proposals have already created heated debate. Tony Thompson, an English teacher at Princes Hill Secondary College, described the proposed changes as "English Lite". "It's a dumbing down, there's no question," Mr Thompson said. He said that in NSW, even students taking English as a second language had to read three texts.

Opposition education spokesman Victor Perton said education standards were falling "rapidly" in Victoria. "We are going to be the dumb white trash of Asia if we don't get our act into gear," he said. Mr Perton said the expectations on spelling and grammar in Victorian schools was less than other countries demanded of their students learning English as a second language. "There is a growing fear among parents and employers that kids leaving school with their VCE are not guaranteed to be able to read, and certainly can't write, can't spell and don't have grammar," he said.

Mr Firth said the early response from teachers had been positive. "We certainly don't see it at all as English Lite," he said.

More here


No. This is not in NYC or Los Angeles. This is in my quiet home town of Brisbane, Australia. Note this excerpt:

"The teacher, 43, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, was threatened with disciplinary action for "failing" to tell the Board of Teacher Registration of her "criminal history". She was told the board had the right to conduct a criminal history check "in order to assess a teacher's good character for the purpose of continuing teacher registration". Assistant Director Debra Cunningham informed Mrs W that the board had discovered she was convicted in the Inala Magistrates Court in April on serious charges - possession of dangerous drugs and producing dangerous drugs, for which she was fined $1000. "The board has considered this history and has decided no disciplinary action is warranted," Ms Cunningham wrote.

So the education authorities DISCOVER that she is a recent drug dealer and decide she is still OK to teach! The twist in the story is that it was all a case of mistaken identity and it was somebody else with a similar name who was the drug-dealer but the fact that the education authorities thought a drug-dealer was fine as a teacher is the amazing bit. Standards? What standards? Leftists are the same everywhere: "There is no such thing as right and wrong" to them. But would YOU like your kids to be in the care and supervision of a drug-dealer?

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


Sunday, September 11, 2005


I owe this post to Rafe Champion

Australian Ross Farrell has an "Education Unbound" website, dedicated to freeing education from the bonds of ideology and bureaucracy. See here

Ross has a paper (not online) in the current edition of Policy, from the Centre for Independent Studies, reporting on the rise of the modern "edupreneurs", providers of private education.

He has drawn on research in the Third World by Ross Tooley, describing a world of small, independent private schools thriving where some would least expect to find them - in the world's poorest countries such as: Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, India, and China. For the past two years, Tooley and a team of researchers have studied these innovative schools around the world.

Their findings are reported in a paper in the US magazine Education Next and in a report on the site of the E G West Centre. It is apparent from the references cited in these reports that there is a wealth of research on private education that is not even a distant rumour to the uninformed and doctrinaire protagonists of public education.

The successes of private education will not come as a surprise to those who are familiar with Ed West's historical research on the extent of private education before the "for profit" sector was sabotaged by the political entrepreneurs in the public system. So the private sector remained only as the preserve for the very rich and the members of religious communities who could subsidise their schools or recruit essentially unpaid staff.

Ross Tooley is the director of the E G West Centre, based in Newcastle, England, and dedicated to choice, competition and entrepreneurship in education. The site has information on the research program for the centre, including international studies on the prevalence and effectiveness of private education.

There is also a page on the life and scholarship of the late E G West.

The full text of West's book on historical research and the failure of government in education is on line here. Some excerpts from it:

"On my calculations (West, 1978), in 1880, when national compulsion was enacted [in Britain], over 95 per cent of fi fteen-year-olds were literate. This should be compared to the fact that over a century later 40 per cent of 21-year-olds in the UK admit to diffi culties with writing and spelling (Central Statistical Offi ce, 1995: 58)."

In New York: "By this time [1836]the superintendents were expressing complete satisfaction with the provision of schooling. On the quantity of it the report of 1836 asserted: 'Under any view of the subject, it is reasonable to believe, that in the Common Schools, private schools and academies, the number of children actually receiving instruction is equal to the whole number between five and sixteen years of age.' The fact that education could continue to be universal without being free and compulsory seems to have been readily acknowledged. Where there were scholars who had poor parents, the trustees had authority to release them from the payment of fees entirely, and this was done 'at the close of term, in such a manner as to divest the transaction of all the circumstances calculated to wound the feelings of scholars'."

On literacy in the US: "Richman (1994) quotes data showing that from 1650 to 1795 American male literacy climbed from 60 to 90 per cent. Between 1800 and 1840 literacy in the North rose from 75 per cent to between 91 and 97 per cent. In the South the rate grew from about 55 per cent to 81 per cent. Richman also quotes evidence indicating that literacy in Massachusetts was 98 per cent on the eve of legislated compulsion and is about 91 per cent today."

Virtual Classrooms Abound on Internet

"Just as online college and graduate programs have broadened the range of options in higher education, virtual charter schools and online classes are gaining popularity among the K-12 set.

To the delight of homeschooling parents and others wanting a different kind of education for their children than what is found in the local public school, entrepreneurs are flooding the Internet marketplace to offer everything from individual courses to entire schools. Improving technology is providing more opportunities for interactive features on Web sites, such as live chats, videos, and downloads.

Virtual K-12 education began to develop over the past five years as a way to support homeschool students. First, books and materials were made available for purchase and mail order, followed by programs that facilitated learning, and then video-linked instructors.

"The ability to create a 'classroom of one,' where each student has a focused learning experience with their teacher, is truly within reach," said Dan Cookson, CEO of TrueNorthLogic, a company serving 850,000 students, teachers, and administrators nationwide.

Accommodating Interests, Schedules

Supplemental programs and tools--often targeted toward students who rely on their parents and/or online schools for the majority of their education--are also being used in traditional classrooms.

Programs can be used to supplement the main lesson plan, providing children with another means to learn. Some parents of children in traditional schools use online education programs at home to enrich their children's education, give them remedial work, or assist them with unique situations such as a disability or unusual extracurricular or athletic training schedules.

In a climate where test scores rule, programs such as those available through provide distance-learning opportunities for students in alternative programs and traditional students requiring special assistance to hone their math skills for class work and standardized tests. According to its Web site, strives to enhance the experience of learning for online students by providing around-the-clock access to personalized tutoring, with "a daily and direct communication line to receiving quality, highly effective help in a timely manner."

Critics of online education point out the absence of live teachers and social interaction. But Cookson said students are separated from their teachers "only by distance, not by the level of attention or involvement. The online environment can be a student-centric model that increases communication capacity among teachers, students, parents, and administrators."

Improving Socialization

Steve Peha, president of Teaching That Makes Sense, Inc., a 10-year-old company that offers Web-based content management systems to school districts as well as online tutorials for writers and other supplemental services, notes some potential pitfalls. "There's no question that online learning resources are beneficial. The question is under what circumstances," Peha explained. "While online learning may soon replace in-school learning, the results will be very different. Access to information will be better. And the cost will be lower. But the quality of the final result may not be what we want for our children or for our country."

Learning is an inherently social process, Peha said, so when kids learn something in an online setting, the best "supplemental" activity is interacting with people in a different context, where they can put their new learning to use. After working with students in both online and classroom settings, Peha says, "the greatest success comes from the student's own initiative." As a result, he concludes, the ideal situation combines online and classroom learning.

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