Saturday, May 17, 2008

Canada: Human Rights Complaint Forces College to Permit Pro-Life Group Official Club Status

The Capilano College Heartbeat Club and the Capilano Students Union (CSU) have reached an agreement that will see the pro-life Heartbeat Club achieve CSU club recognition, pending they submit an application in the fall. The parties released a joint statement shortly after the agreement had been made: "The Heartbeat Club filed a Human Rights complaint against the Capilano Students' Union. The Club and the CSU have entered into a settlement agreement which is confidential. The parties agree that there is no admission of liability by the CSU and that the Heartbeat Club will be entitled to CSU club status if they apply."

The summer of 2006 saw the CSU pass a motion put forward by a member of the campus “Women’s Center” that made the group an official “pro-choice” organization. Shortly after, the CSU denied the Heartbeat Club’s application requesting official CSU club status. After a second application was also denied, for the reason that the club would hinder "a woman's right to choose", Heartbeat forwarded a complaint to the British Columbia human rights tribunal, that stated the club was being discriminated based on religious belief

In January of 2008, the tribunal rejected a request by the CSU to dismiss the Heartbeat Club’s complaint. This morning, the two parties reached an agreement that will finally give Heartbeat a chance to be recognized as an official CSU club, allowing them to utilize the University’s facilities in order to carry out their mission.


Gubmint Skools Fear the Competition

Gov. Sonny Perdue of Georgia recently signed into law legislation which makes it easier for charter schools to get funding.
The new law, called HB 881, allows a new state-appointed commission to authorize a charter school's use of a school system's per-pupil funding, including local money — even if the local board did not approve it.

The regular public schools, i.e., government schoolsaren't too happy, and of course in this over-lawyered society we have become, might take the expected next step and challenge the law in court.

Nothing like a little competition to bring out the best in folks, but of course the folks so firmly ensconced in the educational system in the administrative roles, rather then look to see what charter schools do that make them so successful and try to adopt those practices, would rather simply run the charter schools out of town.
If folks would really look at what portion of the school budget in their areas go to pay the salaries of the administrators, which is everybody from the principal on up to county board of education and compare that to what is spent in the classroom to pay the teachers and get school supplies there might be more outrage expressed by the citizens.

In Georgia, when you get your property tax bill it shows you just how much is going to education and how much goes to the county in real property tax. For me the amount targeted to schools is three times as much as what actually goes to the county. Since they have started doing this in Georgia a lot of people have started looking at the budget of their local school districts. If you gave people back that money there would be a lot more kids in charter and private schools. Once people started seeing that broken down they realized private school wasn't so expensive after all.


Friday, May 16, 2008

Students Fail — and Professor Loses Job

He refused to say that blacks were qualified when they were not

Who is to blame when students fail? If many students fail — a majority even — does that demonstrate faculty incompetence, or could it point to a problem with standards? These are the questions at the center of a dispute that cost Steven D. Aird his job teaching biology at Norfolk State University. Today is his last day of work, but on his way out, he has started to tell his story — one that he suggests points to large educational problems at the university and in society. The university isn’t talking publicly about his case, but because Aird has released numerous documents prepared by the university about his performance — including the key negative tenure decisions by administrators — it is clear that he was denied tenure for one reason: failing too many students. The university documents portray Aird as unwilling to compromise to pass more students.

A subtext of the discussion is that Norfolk State is a historically black university with a mission that includes educating many students from disadvantaged backgrounds. The university suggests that Aird — who is white — has failed to embrace the mission of educating those who aren’t well prepared. But Aird — who had backing from his department and has some very loyal students as well — maintains that the university is hurting the very students it says it wants to help. Aird believes most of his students could succeed, but have no incentive to work as hard as they need to when the administration makes clear they can pass regardless.

“Show me how lowering the bar has ever helped anyone,” Aird said in an interview. Continuing the metaphor, he said that officials at Norfolk State have the attitude of “a track coach who tells the team ‘I really want to win this season but I really like you guys, so you can decide whether to come to practice and when.’ ” Such a team wouldn’t win, Aird said, and a university based on such a principle would not be helping its students.

Sharon R. Hoggard, a spokeswoman for Norfolk State, said that she could not comment at all on Aird’s case. But she did say this, generally, on the issues raised by Aird: “Something is wrong when you cannot impart your knowledge onto students. We are a university of opportunity, so we take students who are underprepared, but we have a history of whipping them into shape. That’s our niche.”

The question raised by Aird and his defenders is whether Norfolk State is succeeding and whether policies about who passes and who fails have an impact. According to U.S. Education Department data, only 12 percent of Norfolk State students graduate in four years, and only 30 percent graduate in six years.

Aird points to a Catch-22 that he said hinders professors’ ability to help students. Because so many students come from disadvantaged backgrounds and never received a good high school education, they are already behind, he said, and attendance is essential. Norfolk State would appear to endorse this point of view, and official university policy states that a student who doesn’t attend at least 80 percent of class sessions may be failed. The problem, Aird said, is that very few Norfolk State students meet even that standard. In the classes for which he was criticized by the dean for his grading — classes in which he awarded D’s or F’s to about 90 percent of students — Aird has attendance records indicating that the average student attended class only 66 percent of the time. Based on such a figure, he said, “the expected mean grade would have been an F,” and yet he was denied tenure for giving such grades.

Other professors at Norfolk State, generally requesting anonymity, confirmed that following the 80 percent attendance rule would result frequently in failing a substantial share — in many cases a majority — of their students. Professors said attendance rates are considerably lower than at many institutions — although most institutions serve students with better preparation.

One reason that this does not happen (outside Aird’s classes) is that many professors at Norfolk State say that there is a clear expectation from administrators — in particular from Dean Sandra J. DeLoatch, the dean whose recommendation turned the tide against Aird’s tenure bid — that 70 percent of students should pass. Aird said that figure was repeatedly made clear to him and he resisted it. Others back his claim privately. For the record, Joseph C. Hall, a chemistry professor at president of the Faculty Senate, said that DeLoatch “encouraged” professors to pass at least 70 percent of students in each course, regardless of performance. Hall said that there is never a direct order given, but that one isn’t really needed. “When you are in a meeting and an administrator says our goal is to try to get above 70 percent, then that indirectly says that’s what you are going to try to do,” he said. (Hoggard, the university spokeswoman, said that it was untrue that there was any quota for passing students.)

Hall agreed that both attendance and preparation are problems for many students at Norfolk State. He said that he generally fails between 20 and 35 percent of students, and has not been criticized by his dean. But Hall has tenure and the highest failure rate he can remember in one of his classes was 45 percent.

Dean DeLoatch’s report on Aird’s tenure bid may be the best source of information on how the administration views the pass rate issue. The report from the dean said that Aird met the standards for tenure in service and research, and noted that he took teaching seriously, using his own student evaluations on top of the university’s. The detailed evaluations Aird does for his courses, turned over in summary form for this article, suggest a professor who is seen as a tough grader (too tough by some), but who wins fairly universal praise for his excitement about science, for being willing to meet students after class to help them, and providing extra help.

DeLoatch’s review finds similarly. Of Aird, she wrote, based on student reviews: “He is respectful and fair to students, adhered to the syllabus, demonstrated that he found the material interesting, was available to students outside of class, etc.” What she faulted him for, entirely, was failing students. The review listed various courses, with remarks such as: “At the end of Spring 2004, 22 students remained in Dr. Aird’s CHM 100 class. One student earned a grade of ‘B’ and all others, approximately 95 percent, earned grades between ‘D’ and ‘F.’” Or: “At the end of Fall 2005, 38 students remained in Dr. Aird’s BIO 100 class. Four students earned a grade of ‘C-’ or better and 34, approximately 89 percent, received D’s and F’s.”

These class records resulted in the reason cited for tenure denial: “the core problem of the overwhelming failure of the vast majority of the students he teaches, especially since the students who enroll in the classes of Dr. Aird’s supporters achieve a greater level of success than Dr. Aird’s students.”

DeLoatch also rejected the relevance of 16 letters in Aird’s portfolio from students who praised him as a teacher. The students, some of whom are now in medical or graduate school or who have gone on to win research awards, talked about his extra efforts on their behalf, how he had been a mentor, and so forth. DeLoatch named each student in the review, and noted their high grade point averages and various successes. Some of the students writing on his behalf received grades as low as C, although others received higher grades.

But although DeLoatch held Aird responsible for his failures, she wrote that he did not deserve any credit for his success stories and these students, by virtue of their strong academic performance, shouldn’t influence the tenure decision. “With the exception of one of these students, it appears that all have either excelled or are presently performing well at NSU. Given their records, it is likely that that would be the case no matter who their advisors or teachers were.”

Aird stressed that he does not believe Norfolk State should try to become an elite college. He said he believes that only about 20 percent of the students who enroll truly can’t do the work. He believes another 20 percent are ready from the start. Of the middle 60 percent, he said that when the university tells them that substandard work and frequent class skipping are OK, these students are doomed to fail his courses (and not to learn what they need from other professors). “I think most of the students have the intellectual capacity to succeed, but they have been so poorly trained, and given all the wrong messages by the university,” he said.

The problem at Norfolk State, he said, isn’t his low grades, but the way the university lowers expectations. He noted that in the dean’s negative review of his tenure bid, nowhere did she cite specific students who should have received higher grades, or subject matter that shouldn’t have been in his courses or on his tests. The emphasis is simply on passing students, he said.......

Jonathan Knight, who handles academic freedom issues for the American Association of University Professors, said that he has no problem per se with administrators asking questions about such a high failure rate. “It is not improper for an administration to be concerned about it,” he said. But he cautioned against automatic assumptions. He said the questions to be asked are why so many students are failing, what is being done to help students succeed, what is taking place in the classroom, and so forth. While Knight did not see academic freedom issues related to asking such questions, he said he would be concerned about orders to pass certain percentages of students. “Professors obviously should have the right to determine what grades the students should have,” he said.

Aird — who is applying for teaching jobs — acted on such a belief and stuck to it. While administrators have noted that they urged him to change his ways, his defenders note that he was always clear with his students about his belief in high standards. In a letter he sent to students at the beginning of last January’s semester, he wrote: “You can only develop skills and self-confidence when your professors maintain appropriately rigorous standards in the classroom and insist that you attain appropriate competencies. You cannot genuinely succeed if your professors pander to you. You will simply fail at the next stage in life, where the cost of failure is much greater.” Today, Steve Aird is packing up his office.

More here

CU seeks right-wing prof

How liberal is the University of Colorado at Boulder? The campus hot-dog stand sells tofu wieners. A recent pro-marijuana rally drew a crowd of 10,000, roughly a third the size of the student body. And according to one professor's analysis of voter registration, the 800-strong faculty includes just 32 Republicans.

Chancellor G.P. "Bud" Peterson surveys this landscape with unease. A college that champions diversity, he believes, must think beyond courses in gay literature, Chicano studies and feminist theory. "We should also talk about intellectual diversity," he says. So over the next year, Mr. Peterson plans to raise $9 million to create an endowed chair for what is thought to be the nation's first Professor of Conservative Thought and Policy.

Mr. Peterson's quest has been greeted with protests from some faculty and students, who say the move is too - well, radical. "Why set aside money specifically for a conservative?" asks Curtis Bell, a teaching assistant in political science. "I'd rather see a quality academic than someone paid to have a particular perspective."

Even some conservatives who have long pushed for balance in academia voice qualms. Among them is David Horowitz, a conservative agitator whose book "The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America" includes two Boulder faculty members: an associate professor of ethnic studies who writes about the intersection of Chicano and lesbian issues, and a philosophy professor focused on feminist politics and "global gender justice."

While he approves of efforts to bolster a conservative presence on campus, Mr. Horowitz fears that setting up a token right-winger as The Conservative at Boulder will brand the person as a curiosity, like "an animal in the zoo." We "fully expect this person to be integrated into the fabric of life on campus," replies Todd Gleeson, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

Boulder is far from the only campus to recognize a leftward tilt to the ivory tower. National surveys have repeatedly shown that liberals dominate faculties at most four-year colleges. And conservative activists have grown more aggressive in demanding balance. A group called the Leadership Institute now sends field workers to scores of campuses each fall to train right-wing students to speak up. College administrators are beginning to respond.

Academics studying the trend cite Georgetown University's recent hiring of former Central Intelligence Agency Director George Tenet. And Stetson University in DeLand, Fla., kicked off a conservative lecture series with a talk by the now-deceased William F. Buckley Jr.

At Boulder, long known for its lefty politics, the notion of a chair in conservative thought had kicked around campus for a decade. Then, in 2005, the college was thrust into a polarizing debate over an essay by ethnic-studies professor Ward Churchill, who argued that the bankers killed in the Twin Towers on Sept. 11 were legitimate military targets because they were "little Eichmanns" who "formed a technocratic corps at the very heart of America's global financial empire."

Fox News television host Bill O'Reilly seized on those comments, and Mr. Churchill swiftly became a national symbol of political extremists running amok on campuses. The university opened an investigation into his scholarship, and Mr. Churchill was fired last summer for what the school described as plagiarism and academic fraud that was unrelated to the Eichmann essay. Mr. Churchill didn't respond to a request seeking comment. Within days, the university launched an effort to woo back donors infuriated by the affair.

Several months later, fund raising began for the chair in conservative thought. Administrators say the move had nothing to do with Mr. Churchill, but was part of an ongoing effort to address weaknesses in the curriculum - for instance, by adding language classes in Farsi and Indonesian. "That's what a good university does - look for an area where they don't have depth or diversity and start investing," Mr. Gleeson says.

Mr. Peterson - a Republican who took over as chancellor two years ago - says he would like to bring a new luminary to campus every year or two to fill the chair, for an annual salary of about $200,000. No candidates have been approached, but faculty and administrators have floated big names like Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, columnist George Will and Philip Zelikow, who chaired the 9/11 Commission. "Like Margaret Mead among the Samoans, they're planning to study conservatives. That's hilarious," says Mr. Will, dryly adding that "I don't think it would be a good fit." Ms. Rice didn't respond to a request seeking comment, and Mr. Zelikow declined to comment.

On campus, the chancellor's fund-raising efforts set off a prickly debate. Faculty members demanded to know whether donors would control the appointment. (They won't.) They asked for a chance to vote on the endowment. (They didn't get it.) "We don't ask the faculty if it's OK if we create a chair in thermodynamics," Mr. Peterson says - so why give them veto power over conservative thought? After all, he says, "It's an intellectual pursuit."

Ken Bickers, who chairs the political science department, says that while he supports the concept of intellectual diversity, he has reservations about the university's strategy. He worries students will get the impression that the "conservative thought" professor speaks for all conservatives. And he resents the implication that ordinary professors don't air conservative ideas in class. Registered as unaffiliated with any party, Mr. Bickers says he makes a point of discussing all perspectives, but because he doesn't stick a political label on each lecture, students "don't realize, 'Oooh, that was conservative.'"

Mr. Peterson agrees that most professors try to be fair. He adds, "I don't know that it always happens." Indeed, on the lush campus, lined with flowering trees, professors tack articles slamming the Bush administration outside their offices. A humor piece posted in the philosophy department mocks the Bible. Job boards feature internships with left-wing groups and Democratic candidates.

Jack Roldan, vice chair of the College Republicans, has felt the lopsided politics keenly during his four years studying international affairs. He longed for a conservative mentor, and says he graduated last week with many questions left unanswered: When is military intervention necessary? Why does the GOP focus so much on economic policy? And what's up with the neo-cons? "There's a lot more about what I'm about that I'd like to know," Mr. Roldan says.

Other students don't have much sympathy. They love Boulder precisely because of its liberal swagger. Sophomore Marissa Malouff sees the campus as a sort of re-education camp. Sheltered rich kids from out-of-state might come for the snowboarding, but while they're here they get dunked in a simmering pot of left-wing idealism. And that, in her view, is how it should be. "They need to learn about social problems and poverty and the type of things liberal professors are likely to talk about," says Ms. Malouff, a Democrat.

Chancellor Peterson's response: Not to worry. He's not trying to change the essential nature of CU-Boulder. In fact, Mr. Peterson said it's not imperative that the new professor of conservative thought be an actual conservative. "We hire lots of scholars of the French language," he says, "and they aren't necessarily French."


Thursday, May 15, 2008

Discrimination Doublespeak At The University Of Oregon

Post below recycled from Discriminations. See the original for links

Last June I wrote:
If there were a prize for the most ridiculous rationale for racial discrimination, it would surely go to the University of Oregon.

I was referring to the university's almost hilarious defense of its "Underrepresented Minority Recruitment Program," under which departments are rewarded handsomely for hiring ethnically "underrepresened" applicants. According to economics professor Bill Harbaugh, I noted,
the startup package for a new, nonminority faculty member in the economics department typically would total about $7,000 over the first three years. A faculty member in the minority recruitment program could get up to $97,000, he said.

The university's explanation of why this blatant racial favoritism is not illegal was, well, entertaining:
Provost Linda Brady and general counsel Melinda Grier said the program, which helps new minority faculty set up an office or lab, is legal and needed to help attract minority faculty in a competitive market.... The funds come into play after a selection committee has chosen a candidate and made an initial job offer. The funds then can be used to negotiate a final contract, [Grier] said....

The money goes to the professor's department, not to the professor, she said. "Dollars aren't allocated based on race," she said. "Departments get reimbursed for costs."

Now it appears the Department of Justice is not amused.
"The Department of Justice has information that the University of Oregon may be engaged in a pattern or practice of unlawful discrimination against newly hired non-minority faculty members with respect to the disbursement of salary and other employment benefits via its `Underrepresented Minority Recruitment Program,'" according to a letter sent to University General Counsel Melinda Grier that is signed by David Palmer, chief of the employment litigation section of the U.S. Department of Justice.

The university is sticking by its story that rewarding departments for hiring minorities, some of which reward almost always goes to the minority in question, involves no discrimination against non-minorities. According to university president David Frohnmayer, the program has "been carefully examined by our legal council [sic] over a number of years. We've made reasonable judgment that it is defensible." (Almost anything is defensible; whether it's legal or not is another matter.) The university counsel also trotted out the same old argument:
University General Counsel Grier also defended UMRP's legality in a four-page letter she sent to the U.S. Department of Justice. The program "is designed to help the University of Oregon diversify its workforce and to help UO meet its obligations under state and federal law," Grier wrote. "The UMRP does not provide benefits to individuals based on their race or ethnicity. Rather, under the UMRP, departments are reimbursed for the expenses they incur in recruiting and hiring individuals or for general department activities where the hiring of the individual would help to eliminate an underutilization."

How odd to think of the University of Oregon "underutilizing," say, black philosophers or Hispanic (not, mind you, Guatemalan or Cuban or Puerto Rican) chemical engineers. And how refreshing it would be if the Department of Justice were to take seriously the requirements of the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibiting institutions from making distinctions based on race in the terms, conditions, privileges, or benefits of employment.

Offensive guesswork as "education"

School Survey Asks: Who'll Get Pregnant?

The father of a sixth-grader in Jackson, Miss., said he wants a teacher fired following a survey students completed that said his daughter will likely get pregnant before graduating high school, local station WAPT reported. Curtis Lyons said that when his daughter came home from Chastain Middle School Monday she told him what had happened. "She was humiliated," Lyons said. "She's an honor student."

Lyons said his daughter told him that the students were given a survey in science class that asked them to select a student they thought was most likely to die, get pregnant, or contract AIDS. The names of all of the students were included on the survey and the class associated the names with the scenarios. Once the results were tallied, Lyons said, the teacher told his daughter that the statistics showed that her classmates believed that she was one of four girls most likely to become pregnant.

"I don't think she should be teaching kids," Lyons said. "Those questions were out of place and inappropriate. I want to know what was the lesson in that?"

School officials said they are investigating the matter. "Jackson Public Schools expects all teachers to extend the basic courtesy of appropriate decorum to all students and to use good professional judgment in the selection of instructional activities," said Lucy Hansford, JPS communication specialist. "We are presently investigating the matter at Chastain. However, we are not able to release details in this matter so as to not violate the rights of confidentiality of personnel and students."

Lyons said he wants the teacher fired and he wants an apology from the school board.


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Preschool doubts

Lisa Downs Henry's father and stepmother opened Downs Preschool in 1984 as a private day care center in Watkinsville, Ga. Business was good, but it really took off in 1995 after the state approved state lottery receipts to pay for pre-kindergarten classes. The family converted the day care center into a preschool, which has since become a kind of institution in Oconee County, an hour's drive east of Atlanta. Of 12 preschool classes countywide, Downs boasts seven.

Each fall, Henry, the school's director, welcomes a new class of 140 children, all 4-year-olds, all attending tuition-free. "Since it's state-funded, you just don't have to hound parents about money," she says.

If you're a 4-year-old in America, it's a safe bet you're in school. The past 20 years have seen a quiet but steady rise in the number of children in preschool. The most recent federal statistics show that more than 1 million children were enrolled in public programs in 2005, up 63% from 1995. The rise far outpaces that of public school enrollment, up 10%. "It's what we do with children now," says Joan Lord of the Southern Regional Education Board.

What's behind the increase? A bigger share of working mothers and a shift in thinking: States increasingly finance preschool programs, citing research that says kids are ready for school at an earlier age.

Proponents of publicly financed pre-K say the push will pay off in better achievement, higher graduation rates and lower chances that a child will need expensive special-ed services. But they also say the quality of programs is uneven. Research suggests a lot of private programs are "pretty mediocre," says Steve Barnett, director of the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University. The institute says 75% of 4-year-olds now attend some sort of preschool.

A study released today by the RAND Corp. finds a growing body of research that shows funding pre-K pays off in the long run, saving money by reducing social services later in life and by increasing tax revenue from higher earnings when students grow up. "There's growing evidence that supports the idea that prevention has an advantage over treatment," says Rebecca Kilburn, a RAND economist who led the research team. But the RAND report also notes that not all pre-K programs produce long-term benefits big enough to offset their costs to states, which the Rutgers institute puts at more than $3.7 billion, or $3,642 per child.

It's still an open question whether the pre-K return will ultimately be worth the investment, she says. "The research we're doing says we're making a difference in the shorter term, and yet we need to know whether those results are going to hold."


Poison Ivy

What has me dwelling on ivy is my recent realization that much of what I don’t like about American politics — namely, American politicians — can be traced back to Ivy League schools. It can’t just be a coincidence that four or five universities keep spitting out presidential candidates and their spouses with the sort of regularity that Notre Dame used to turn out All American football players. What’s more, it’s not a sudden development and it’s not limited to just one party. William Howard Taft, for crying out loud, went to Yale. Theodore Roosevelt went to Harvard, and so did his fifth cousin, Franklin Roosevelt. Woodrow Wilson graduated from Princeton.

George Herbert Walker Bush went to Yale. His son, not willing to leave bad enough alone, went to both Yale and Harvard. Bill Clinton, Hillary Rodham Clinton and John Kerry, all went to Yale. Al Gore and Michael Dukakis went to Harvard. Ted Kennedy went to Harvard. Twice. The first time, they booted him out for cheating on a Spanish exam. Barack Obama went to Columbia and his wife, Michelle, went to Princeton. With such a terrible football team it’s really no wonder she was never proud to be an American.

Considering the politicians the schools have let loose on us, perhaps they should rename it the Poison Ivy League. It’s enough to make me wonder if the reason I liked Harry Truman was because he’s the only president since 1896 who didn’t have a college degree. Ronald Reagan had one, but it was from Eureka College, which probably didn’t even have ivy on its walls.

It is worth noting that, although Harvard has been around since 1636, Yale since 1701 and Princeton since 1746, none of them can claim Washington, Jefferson or Lincoln, as an alumnus. George Washington was home-schooled. Thomas Jefferson attended William and Mary and graduated in two years. Abraham Lincoln was also home-schooled, but he was both teacher and student, a true autodidact who read the Bible, Shakespeare and his law books, by candlelight.

Dwight Eisenhower attended West Point and John McCain graduated from the Naval Academy. So it’s no surprise that Ike was able to lead the fight against Nazi barbarians and that McCain was able to stand up to Viet Cong sadism for five long years. Which, come to think of it, is longer than Barack Obama has spent garnering leadership experience listening to the likes of Ted Kennedy and Robert Byrd spewing forth on the floor of the U.S. Senate.

The only thing that prevents me from giving whole-hearted endorsement to a military education is that one of our former presidents also graduated from the Naval Academy: Jimmy Carter.


Backdown on school 'league tables' in Australia

School secrecy prevails. Parents must not be told how bad a government school is

National literacy and numeracy testing of Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 school students begins for the first time today but frustration looms for parents who want to use the test results to compare individual school performance. Despite the Rudd Government declaring it was vital that Australians knew how well the education system was performing in providing literacy and numeracy skills, state education bureaucrats have vowed to stop the outcomes of the tests being released on a school-by-school basis. Individual schools will still have to report their results, but not until more than a year after the tests are taken.

The Queensland Studies Authority says it will keep secret results that would identify school performance on the tests. The authority also has reminded school principals that student assessment information it collects is exempted from release under Freedom of Information laws. It has warned schools that "access to these reports should be limited to those who have a legitimate reason to do so". Instead, the published data is likely to only compare the performance of the states as well as males and females and indigenous and non-indigenous students.

Parents will get reports on the performance of their child in the tests and schools will receive student, class and school reports. But, under current rules, parents wanting to know how their school fared in the tests this week may have to wait until June 30 next year to access the information.

The tests, hailed as the first truly national assessment of children's literacy and numeracy skills, will be spread over today, tomorrow and Thursday. It is the first time Year 9 students have sat national literacy and numeracy tests and also the first time all students will sit the single national test. Education authorities across the country decided on May dates for the testing because it was early enough in the year for the results to help diagnose learning problems or issues.

Parents will receive reports showing how their child has performed on a scale of achievement using bands, allowing the child's progress in numeracy and literacy to be tracked throughout their schooling. Education Minister Julia Gillard said parents would not just know how their child was performing against a national benchmark but whether he or she was in a low achievement band or a high achievement band. However, Ms Gillard yesterday ducked questions about how the performance of individual schools would be reported. "At this stage what parents are going to get is their own report card," she said in a radio interview. "We are talking to state and territory governments about the best use of this information. Obviously it can be used by government to work out who needs additional assistance."

State Education Minister Rod Welford said there would be little change from previous testing arrangements. He said parents should reassure their children that the tests include material that they would have covered in the classroom. "The real focus of the assessment program is to look at how students are performing and where they may need help so we can then look at our teaching and curriculum planning," he said.


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The nonsense never stops

Nobody seriously proposes that IQ can reliably be measured before age 4 but this guy is talking about measuring it at 8 months! Nonetheless, it is certainly true that more can be done to improve black educational achievement and the guy below is at least trying

What ails black America? Public debate falls between two poles. Some academics and most civil-rights activists stress the role played by racial discrimination. It may no longer be overt, they argue, but it is still widespread and severe. Julian Bond of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People reckons that racism is still “epidemic” in America.

Black conservatives, while never denying that racism persists, think it much less severe than before and no longer the main obstacle to black advancement. Bill Cosby, a veteran comedian, tours the country urging blacks to concentrate on improving themselves: to study hard, to work hard and—especially—to shun the culture of despair that grips the ghetto.

The debate is often bitter. Michael Eric Dyson, a leftish academic, argues that the black middle class has “lost its mind” if it believes Mr Cosby's argument downplaying the importance of race. Larry Elder, a conservative pundit, wrote a book about blacks who blame racism for nearly everything called: “Stupid Black Men”.

Mr Fryer eschews histrionics in favour of hard data. He is obsessed with education, which he calls “the civil-rights battleground of the 21st century”. Why do blacks lag behind whites in school? Mr Fryer is prepared to test even the most taboo proposition. Are blacks genetically predisposed to be less intelligent than whites? With a collaborator from the University of Chicago, Mr Fryer debunked this idea. Granted, blacks score worse than whites on intelligence tests. But Mr Fryer looked at data from new tests on very young children. At eight months to a year, he found almost no racial gap, and that gap disappeared entirely when he added controls for such things as low birth weight.

If the gap is absent in babies, this suggests it is caused by environmental factors, which can presumably be fixed. But first they must be identified. Do black children need better nutrition? More stimulation in the home? Better schools? Probably all these things matter, but how much? “I don't know,” says Mr Fryer. It is a phrase that, to his credit, he uses often.

His most striking contribution to the debate so far has been to show that black students who study hard are accused of “acting white” and are ostracised by their peers. Teachers have known this for years, at least anecdotally. Mr Fryer found a way to measure it. He looked at a large sample of public-school children who were asked to name their friends. To correct for kids exaggerating their own popularity, he counted a friendship as real only if both parties named each other. He found that for white pupils, the higher their grades, the more popular they were. But blacks with good grades had fewer black friends than their mediocre peers. In other words, studiousness is stigmatised among black schoolchildren. It would be hard to imagine a more crippling cultural norm.

Mr Fryer has some novel ideas about fixing this state of affairs. New York's school system is letting him test a couple of them on its children. One is to give pupils cash incentives. If a nine-year-old completes an exam, he gets $5. For getting the answers right, he gets more money, up to about $250 a year. The notion of bribing children to study makes many parents queasy. Mr Fryer's response is: let's see if it works and drop it if it doesn't.

Another idea, being tested on a different group of children, is to hand out free mobile telephones. The phones do not work during school hours, and children can recharge them with call-minutes only by studying. (The phone companies were happy to help with this.) The phones give the children an incentive to study, and Mr Fryer a means to communicate with them. He talks of “re-branding” academic achievement to make it cool. He knows it will not be easy. He recalls hearing drug-pushers in the 1980s joking “Just say no!” as they handed over the goods, mocking Nancy Reagan's anti-drug slogan.


Seniority stupidity

In 2004, Providence named a beloved biology teacher, John Wemple, Teacher of the Year. In the spring of that year, Amgen Corp. gave Wemple a $10,000 award for science teaching excellence. But shortly after, Providence laid him off from his job at Classical High. He’d been “bumped” by a teacher who had the right, thanks to state law, to displace a colleague with less seniority in the system. Wemple’s widely acknowledged merit counted for squat. A tony private school snapped him up. The message to the kids is that the silly grownups can’t tell the difference between an excellent or indifferent teacher, or that they don’t care who teaches the kids. Forget science; seniority-driven school systems teach cynicism.

Last year at Times2 Academy, a district-charter school in Providence, 14 of the 18 elementary teachers were bumped out and replaced with teachers that the charter’s home district no longer needed because of declining enrollment. The time and resources spent on professional development, team-building and cultivating those bumped teachers just went down the tubes. Times2 leaders had to start all over again building the school’s culture. Devastating. And in the service of what?

“Bumping” is only one of several educationally pernicious personnel practices left over from the factory-model labor contracts that depress the quality of Rhode Island schools. Factory-model contracts treat teachers as interchangeable. It doesn’t matter whose hand is on the educational die press. What matters is their date of hire.

Most other states are further along in the process of professionalizing teachers. Rhode Island General Law 16-13-6 states that when the student population declines, teachers must be laid off “in the inverse order of their employment,” and rehired, when possible, according to their seniority in the system. Period. Merit is not an issue.

Last October in Providence, the East Side Parents Education Coalition hosted an education forum with the elected officials from the greater East Side. To everyone’s surprise the officials all came — from the state Senate, House and City Council. The conversation was temperate until the subject of bumping heated up the room. A parent recounted the John Wemple story, leading others to share their experiences of having some marvelous teacher yanked out of the classroom, often replaced by someone distinctly inferior. Parents waxed so hot at the session that both Rep. Gordon Fox and Sen. Rhoda Perry agreed to submit legislation to end the practice of bumping. However, the two bills appear to be languishing in the legislature, at least partly because neither offers a clean, clear solution.

I consulted the Business Education Partnership, the go-to people for understanding Rhode Island education’s labor contracts. They have four reports on the state’s teacher contracts that propose solutions to each of the problems they identify, including bumping. (Available at For openers, BEP’s chief analyst, Lisa Blais, said, “There is no one bad guy here. There’s a culture of the way we do business that prevents us from getting what we need. Across the nation, districts complain that seniority does not work in the interests of the kids. Unions complain that administration doesn’t know what they’re doing. Both have a point. So our concept is to acknowledge fundamental practices like seniority and tenure, and to work with them instead of trying to bury them.”

To professionalize education personnel practices, Blais and her colleagues put the focus squarely on evaluation. Rhode Island is one of only a handful of states that do not mandate that teachers be evaluated. In fact, most Rhode Island teachers are never evaluated in any meaningful or helpful way. Blais says the key to an effective and fair evaluation system is to use several different measures, instead of just one principal’s say-so. Evaluations should include objective, quantifiable information, such as student achievement, as well as administrator and peer observations. The resulting evaluations should place teachers at one of four levels: master, pre-master, basic and below basic. With these categories in hand, teachers would no longer be interchangeable. Any teacher with two consecutive below-basic evaluations could be let go. (At last!) No basic teacher could bump a master, no matter how long he or she has been in the system. Only master teachers should be peer evaluators.

In other words, let’s develop standards that have teeth. The state’s official teacher standards are fine, but in practice they are treated as nice, ignorable guidelines and not as the foundations for rigorous evaluation. Distinguishing between the lazy and the committed, between the well-informed and the limited, between those who speak clear English and those who are poor communicators, would go a long way toward dismantling factory-model schools. This BEP recommendation is right on the money.

That said, however, developing evaluation systems takes time. In the meantime, Rhode Island could pass a very simple law stating that all teachers should be hired professionally — matched to the job via an interview and resum√© or portfolio in hand — and that no teacher, however senior, is owed any job other than as a substitute teacher. If enrollment declines, the “excessed” teacher automatically becomes a substitute — until landing a more permanent position. That way the schools stay stable, and the teacher’s livelihood is intact. Yes, an “excessed” top-step teacher will be more expensive than regular subs. But that would be far less expensive than the wasteful havoc seniority and bumping are currently causing. If no school wants the “excessed” teacher for a permanent position, it shouldn’t be the kids, parents and school that suffer.

The BEP’s idea is better than mine — more respectful, more professional — but the state needs to end bumping immediately. The kids and parents can’t afford it; the quality of the state’s education can’t afford it. So legislators need to work on those bills and see to it they get passed. We need to assure people like John Wemple they can confidently take jobs in our public-school classrooms and trust that their merits will be valued.


Monday, May 12, 2008

Propaganda-driven kids attack think tank

'We are going to tell you about global warming... you horrible people'

Students at a California public school have written a series of letters to Chicago's Heartland Institute, which works to discover and develop free-market solutions to society's problems, attacking its members for "destroying our planet" by refusing to endorse the politics of Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" film. According to students in the sixth-grade class of teacher Michael Steria at David A. Brown Middle School, the institute consists of "fools" and "horrible people."

"I think your (sic) fools for denying G.W. you know it could kill us all & you're just adding to it. I want you to help stop G.W. not increase it," said one letter. "We are going to tell you about global warming. I don't care if you don't want to read, but I'm making you read it you horrible people," said another.

Officials at the school, a part of the Lake Elsinore School District, declined to respond to WND requests for a comment. Officials at the district office also declined to respond. But Maureen Martin, a senior fellow for legal affairs for the institute, told WND that it was heart-breaking to see the results of such indoctrination of students. "It's tragic," she said. "The kids were terrified." She said some of the students expressed their belief they would be dead in 10 years. The district's allowance of such teachings is "shameful, especially when there's a divide in the scientific opinion," she said. She said the lessons reflected probably don't even meet the requirements of the state's educational guidelines, which for sixth graders demand lessons in earth sciences and the scientific methods of examining data.

Among the students' other comments:

* "We feel that it is wrong what you are doing. We know that you know that global warming is NOT we repeat NOT a myth, And we think it is selfish that you would take money over yours and your peers lives."

* "We feel upset because you are making Global Warming worse instead of helping it. We know that almost half of the country knows that G.W. is a crisis. We know that you could help the environment with the $800,000 you have."

* "We feel that they are destroying our planet by saying G.W. is not a crisis. You think GW is not a crisis but it is; you know deep down that it's a real thing that's happening. Everyone has a part in helping GW, and you're making worse."

* "I do not think that what you are doing is right because you are telling people that global warming is not a crisis. If this is not a crisis, how come floods have occurred in asia, Mexico, and India. Plus, how can you explain why the glacier glaciers are melting. they can't melt themselves, because they are in the coldest region in the world."

Martin told WND that by searching the Internet for key phrases used by the students, she was able to read seven of the 10 articles the students reported reading. "Three of the articles have nothing to do with global warming or greenhouse gases. Two are dire predictions from non-scientists at the United Nations disaster relief agency, the U.N. Development Programme, and nongovernmental organizations engaged in disaster aid. One article relates state efforts at monitoring greenhouse gases," she said.

One other was an attack on Heartland for its funding procedures, accusing the organization of selling out to energy corporations. But Institute chief Joseph Bast said such donations never have amounted to more than 5 percent of the organization's budget and more money comes in from individuals than from companies.

The facts, however, mattered little to the students doing the assignment. "I am very unhappy with your disgracing actions to the world, because you guys and woman are trying to hide the facts about Global warming so you can make more money. Well you guys aren't going to fool anybody except yourself. The reason is because if you were to look at a picture of Glacier National Park 50 years ago, you would see that there is less ice now then there was fifty years ago," said one letter.

Martin told WND one of the articles apparently came from a blog and condemned the organization's March conference in New York, which assembled hundreds of scientists and others who are skeptical of Al Gore's belief in the earth-threatening capabilities of temperature change, and his affirmation that man is at fault for whatever changes there are.

One phrase that appeared was "global warming denier group," which also had been used earlier on a critical blog article headlined, "Global Warming Denier Group Funded By Big Oil Hosting Climate Change Denial Conference."

"No. 1, no matter what people think, those who disagree ought not to be vilified," Martin said. "More than that, schools are supposed to be teaching kids about evaluating information. It's a life skill. We deal with it as citizens every day of our lives." In this case, however, the students reflect teaching that tells them anyone who disagrees is "wrong and evil."

Martin said she currently is working on a project for Heartland to address what the United Kingdom determined was propaganda in the Gore film, and present balancing information to public school classrooms whose students now often are shown the Gore production. "We're looking for parents, taxpayers, in the right situations. We're prepared to go to the schools and make a demand for equal time. We're not trying to stifle anything," she said.

What about the California school? "I wrote to the superintendent. I said I'd be willing to provide information, DVDs, printed material, a book, we can send speakers. I haven't heard back yet," she said.

Such teaching, however, raises huge concerns. "Global warming 'means that if we don't fix the climate, everything will be destroyed and we won't be able to survive,' two students wrote. Others found their global warming lessons similarly frightening," Martin wrote.

The students also left no room for discussion of the scientific issue. "We've read article about global warming. And we know all the facts," said one, while another added, "Natural disasters have quadrupled in 20 years, 53 bird species face extinction, World must fix climate in 10 years, Air pollution shrinks fetus size. THIS IS CAUSED BY GLOBAL WARMING!!!" said another.

When the Heartland Institute held its conference in New York in March, WND reported more than 100 internationally prominent environmental scientists argued that global warming is, instead, a natural process and not the result of human activity. "The purpose of the conference is to provide a platform for the hundreds of scientists, economists, and policy experts who dissent from the so-called 'consensus' on global warming," said Bast.

"Is global warming 'An Inconvenient Truth,' as Vice President Al Gore charges, or a 'Global Warming Swindle?' Harriet Johnson, spokeswoman for the Heartland Institute asked in a statement distributed at the conference. "The alarmists in the global warming debate have had their say - over and over again, in every newspaper in the country practically every day and in countless news reports and documentary films," a notice on the Heartland Institute website said. "But they have lost the debate."

In one of the papers released, environmental scientist S. Fred Singer's "Nature, Not Human Activity Rules the Climate" summarized a three-year international scientific research project conducted by the Nongovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or NIPCC. He said the climate is affected by many factors, but what can be ruled out by scientific evidence is that greenhouse gases are an important factor in causing global warming.


History textbooks promoting Islam

New report says Muslim activists 'succeeding' in expunging criticism

History textbooks being used by hundreds of thousands of public school students across the U.S. are blatantly promoting Islam, according to a new report by an independent organization that researches and reviews textbooks. WND has reported several times on issues involving the promotion of Islam in public school texts, including a recent situation in which California parents complained their children were being taught that "jihad" to Muslims means "doing good works." The new report is from the American Textbook Council, which was established in 1989 as an independent national research organization to review social studies textbooks and advance the quality of instructional materials in history.

In the two-year project, whose report was authored by Gilbert T. Sewall, the ATC reviewed five junior and five high school world and American history texts, concluding: "Many political and religious groups try to use the textbook process to their advantage, but the deficiencies in Islam-related lessons are uniquely disturbing. History textbooks present an incomplete and confected view of Islam that misrepresents its foundations and challenges to international security."

The report finds that the texts present "disputed definitions and claims [regarding Islam] . as established facts." "Islamic activists use multiculturalism and ready-made American-made political movements, especially those on campus, to advance and justify the makeover of Islam-related textbook content," the report continued. "Particular fault rests with the publishing corporations, boards of directors, and executives who decide what editorial policies their companies will pursue," the report said.....

The report noted that several of the textbooks have found harsh critics among parents and others, and "History Alive! The Medieval World and Beyond" published by the privately held Teachers Curriculum Institute has been criticized repeatedly. In Lodi, Calif., parents "were not objecting to a word or two that they took out of context but to a textbook long on chapters filled with adulatory lessons on Islam." This was the same book cited by parents who contacted WND with their concerns about such indoctrination.

A parent whose child has been handed the text in a Sacramento district at that time accused the publisher of a pro-Muslim bias to the point that Islamic theology has been incorporated into the public school teachings. "It makes an attempt to seem like an egalitarian world history book, but on closer inspection you find that seven (not all are titled so) of the chapters deal with Islam or Muslim subjects," wrote the parent, whose name was being withheld, in a letter to WND. "The upsetting part is not only do they go into the history (which would be acceptable) but also the teaching of Islam," she said. "This book does not really go into Christianity or the teachings of Christ, nor does it address religious doctrine elsewhere to the degree it does Islam."

She said the book's one page referencing Jews "is only to convey that they were tortured by Crusaders to get them to convert to 'Christianity.' (It fails to mention that the biggest persecutors of Jews throughout history and still today are Arab Muslims). It gives four other one-liner references to the Jews being blamed for the plagues and problems in the land. It does not talk about the Jews as making a significant impact on the culture at large."

Bert Bower, founder of TCI, told WND at that time not only did his company have experts review the book, but the state of California also reviewed it, and has approved it for use in public schools. "Keep in mind when looking at this particular book scholars from all over California (reviewed it)," he said. One of those experts who contributed to the text, according to the ATC, which earlier released a scathing indictment of that specific project, was Ayad Al-Qazzaz.

"Al-Qazzaz is a Muslim apologist, a frequent speaker in Northern California school districts promoting Islam and Arab causes," the ATC review said. "Al-Qazzaz also co-wrote AWAIR's 'Arab World Notebook.' AWAIR stands for Arab World and Islamic Resources, an opaque, proselytizing 'non-profit organization' that conducts teacher workshops and sells supplementary materials to schools."

The newest report cited the same issue raised by parents. "In a passage meant to explain jihad, they encountered this: 'Muslims should fulfill jihad with the heart, tongue, and hand. Muslims use the heart in their struggle to resist evil. The tongue may convince others to take up worthy causes, such as funding medical research. Hands may perform good works and correct wrongs,'" the new report said.

The ATC report noted a complicating factor is a ban in California, to whose standards most textbook publishers align their work, on "adverse reflection" on religion in school. "Whatever 'adverse reflection' is, such a mandate may be conceptually at odds with historical and geopolitical actuality," the study said.

"None of this is accidental. Islamic organizations, willing to [provide] misinformation, are active in curriculum politics. These activists are eager to expunge any critical thought about Islam from textbook and all public discourse. They are succeeding, assisted by partisan scholars and associations. It is alarming that so many individuals with the power to shape the curriculum are willfully blind to or openly sympathetic to these efforts," the report said.

Regarding the TCI book, the report said its lessons contain "stilted language that seem scripted or borrowed from devotional, not historical, material." Also, the "Medieval to Early Modern Times" book features a two-page prayer to Allah "the Merciful."

"Among the textbooks examined, the editorial caution that marks coverage of Christian and Jewish beliefs vanishes in presenting Islam's foundations. With materials laden with angels, revelations, miracles, prayers, and sacred exclamations; the story of the Zamzam well; and the titles 'Messenger of God' and 'Prophet of Islam' the seventh-grade textbooks cross the line into something other than history, that is, scripture or myth."

More here

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Lawmakers target big college endowments

Soak the arrogant Leftist b*stards for all they've got! They are almost certainly using their endowments in ways that the original donors never intended

Massachusetts lawmakers desperate for additional revenue are eyeing the endowments of deep-pocketed private colleges to bolster the state's coffers by more than $1 billion a year, asserting that the schools' rising fortunes undercut their nonprofit status.

Legislators have asked state finance officials to study a plan that would impose a 2.5 percent annual assessment on colleges with endowments over $1 billion, an amount now exceeded by nine Massachusetts institutions. The proposal, which higher education specialists believe is the first of its kind across the country, drew surprising support at a debate on the State House budget last week and is attracting attention in higher education circles nationally.

The idea has prompted a range of questions, including whether it is legal to infringe upon private colleges' tax-exempt status or single them out based on their wealth. It also faces significant opposition from the colleges and some skeptical lawmakers.

But proponents say the colleges' vast accumulations of wealth - Harvard University has the biggest endowment at $34 billion - and their often modest contributions to their host communities justify the assessment. "When is a nonprofit not a nonprofit because of the wealth they are acquiring?" said Representative Paul Kujawski, a Democrat from Webster and chief backer of the legislation. "It's mind boggling that one entity not paying taxes has $34 billion. How do you justify that?" said Kujawski, who serves on the influential House Ways and Means Committee. "When people can't afford to live. How do you justify not taxing them?"

University leaders criticized the plan as a gimmick that would backfire by hurting institutions that are pivotal to the state. "You'd be taxing success here," said Kevin Casey, Harvard's associate vice president for government, community, and public affairs. "Over time, this would put us at a real competitive disadvantage, which would drastically hurt the Commonwealth." Casey said it was understandable that lawmakers would search for new sources of revenue when economic times are tough. But he said the law would hurt colleges' fund-raising and financial aid initiatives.

The plan was introduced amid a national debate over whether elite colleges are hoarding their endowments. Members of Congress, including Senator Charles Grassley, Republican of Iowa, have questioned why elite universities do not spend more of their vast reserves to defray the cost of tuition. Amid the scrutiny, some top-tier colleges have sharply expanded financial aid offerings, often replacing student loans with grants and waiving tuition for a greater number of families. At some of those schools, increases in financial aid are outpacing tuition increases.

The Massachusetts plan has also brought to the fore a more radical notion: whether certain colleges have amassed so much wealth that they no longer deserve to be tax-exempt.


Free Public Schools are Far from Free Actual Costs Greatly Exceed Published Costs

Unlike businesses in the private sector, public school budgets often exclude many significant costs when computing expenditures, thus giving misleading information to the public. The Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA) found this to be the case in its comprehensive study, "Education in Oklahoma: The Real Costs." Based upon my hands-on experience with school budgets around the nation, the findings of this report are generally applicable to other states.

The report says that the state government's "official" per-pupil cost of education in Oklahoma in the 2003-04 school year (latest available figures) was $6,429. This amount was derived by the procedure commonly practiced in school districts nationally, that is, by dividing the (published) school district budget by the number of students in the district. However, when OCPA performed its thorough accounting according to the generally accepted accounting principles as promulgated by the Governmental Accounting Standards Board, it came up with a shocking real per-pupil cost of $11,250.

Why the difference? Unlike private-sector businesses, the government's school accounting systems exclude many significant and legitimate costs. If the CEO and finance division of any publicly held company attempted to influence public opinion with such misstated public financial data, they likely would be subject to criminal and civil prosecution. Remember Enron and WorldCom?

Many Costs not Included

Unbelievably, the "official" per-pupil cost did not include - according to OCPA accounting procedures - a number of significant expenditures. (1) Oklahoma taxpayers subsidize the retirement benefits of Oklahoma teachers by having part of taxpayers' individual income taxes, sales taxes, and use taxes sent directly to the Teachers Retirement System of Oklahoma, thus bypassing incorporation into local school district budgets. (2) The state's Department of Career and Technology pays for part of middle and high school business and industry programs. Again, not reported in the local district budget. (3) Yearly depreciation of school buildings is not included in district budgets. This unaccounted-for wear and tear amounted to about $2.2 billion in 2000. (4) The Teachers' Retirement System of Oklahoma defined benefit plan annually adds debt that will be paid for by future generations. In 2003, the total unfounded liability of the retirement system was $1.93 billion. This same problem exists in state retirement funds throughout the nation, where 45 states have gaps between assets and promised benefits

Also not included in the "official" $6,429 per-pupil cost are the state's financial contribution to teacher preparation programs and the $27,000 per pupil for students at the residential School of Science and Mathematics.

Additionally, the public schools receive "off-budget" funds from the state's earnings from state-owned lands and minerals. The OCPA study did not include a number of other revenues that should have been included in an accurate per-pupil cost. For example: the cost of incarcerated students under age 18, high school remedial instruction for freshmen students in college, the cost of collecting school taxes, special student health care paid for by non-education agencies, the cost of maintaining unused and underused school properties, and the "universal service" fee on consumers' telephones that allows a discounted rate for school access to certain telecommunications services.

Other Hidden Costs

The OCPA report could have included other legitimate costs not counted in the state's official per-pupil costs. Such cost are discussed in my book, The Deserved Collapse of Public Schools, such as needed tutoring fees paid by parents, in-kind and cash donations to individual schools, donations from booster clubs and similar organizations, free use of non-school district facilities (such as those at municipal recreation departments), the operational costs of the state department of education, the costs to manage the U.S. Department of Education, volunteer services, and the costs borne by parents for student supplies and materials, estimated to be around $500.

A factor that never is considered is the impact of dropouts on per-pupil costs. If the number of students at the opening of school is divided into the school district budget, a certain per-pupil cost will result. However, if by the end of the year, there are fewer students operating under the same budget due to dropouts, the per-pupil cost increases.

The OCPA study concludes that, "uncounted costs are routinely omitted from official government reports on public education. It's a small wonder that one scholar could remark that 'school accounting guidelines would bring smiles to an Enron auditor.'"

It is likely that any per-pupil cost published by any school district is grossly underreported by as much as 75% (for example, as in the case of Oklahoma). This means that public school per-pupil costs average about three times the per-pupil costs of private schools.

Those who expect full transparency and honesty in school district budgets are doomed to disappointment. All school budgets should be examined with intense skepticism. After generations of training and experience, government bureaucrats have become master illusionists.