Friday, July 15, 2016

Even When School Choice Works, Critics Call it a Failure

Thomas Paine recommended vouchers to help parents afford private schools for their children more than 200 years ago. While most college students today use vouchers to attend public or private colleges and universities, the concept remains needlessly controversial when it comes to parents using them for their school-age children.

For example, in a recent Washington Post article Emma Brown recently claimed school choice hasn’t worked based on evidence from New York City, where students are no longer assigned to public high schools based on their zip codes.

For starters, the Big Apple is hardly, as Brown calls it, “a real-life laboratory for questions of school choice” just because in 2004 the city deigned to allow parents of eighth-graders to choose up to 12 public high schools to attend out of a possible 400.

Currently, more than half of all states have parental choice programs that include private schools – not just public schools. New York isn’t one of them.

But Brown’s own evidence shows that empowering parents over their children’s education works. According to Brown, as of 2015 NYC’s overall public high school graduation rate has improved steadily and now exceeds 70 percent. Even neighborhood-based racial graduation rate gaps have diminished. Yet because they exist, school choice must be a failure. Brown seems to be implying (although she doesn’t say so explicitly) that returning to the old way of assigning students to schools would level the playing field.

It likely would...but not in a positive way since assigned schooling minimizes the likelihood students will be able to attend schools that are the best for for them. And, by removing competition for students schools have little (if any) incentive to customize instruction to individual students’ needs.

The reality is, parental choice programs are helping participating students (overwhelmingly those from disadvantaged backgrounds) as well as non-participating students who benefit from the effects of their schools having to compete for students and associated funding.

A new research synthesis helps shed light on the growing body of research proving that parental choice works.

Currently, there are 50 private school scholarship programs in 26 states and Washington, DC. What’s more, over half of them were implemented in the past five years. But do such programs work?

Experts from the University of Arkansas conducted a global review of “gold standard” studies, and using scientifically exacting methods concluded that private school choice results in statistically significant improvements in reading and math performance, 0.27 standard deviations and 0.15 standard deviations, respectively.

To put those results into perspective, 25 percent of a standard deviation represents approximately one year of academic growth on most measures of student achievement. These results are all the more remarkable because most private school choice programs limit eligibility to students from low-income families, and these students typically struggle academically.

Such results should come as welcome news for addressing chronic achievement gaps and high college remediation rates – but they likely won’t.

Parental choice in education, private-school parental choice in particular, remains a political hot button. Teachers and administrators unions, among others, fiercely oppose supporting parents’ right to choose non-public schools for their children.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration has done everything in its power to shut down the successful DC Opportunity Scholarship Program – (although it was recently reauthorized) in spite of evidence from the US Department of Education “What Works” division that the program is effective, efficient, and popular. It’s also accomplishes more for a whole lot less.

Thankfully, parents and policymakers in the states are moving ahead with an ever-growing array of parental choice programs, including vouchers, tax-credit scholarships, and education savings accounts (ESAs). Such progress will be difficult if not impossible to stop, no matter how loudly critics complain.


A Glimpse into the College Entitlement Mentality

Should a college education be a handout or something earned?

A recent feature in The New Yorker Magazine provides a sobering glimpse of things to come if advocates of “free college” get their way.

In his feature article “The Big Uneasy,” author Nathan Heller interviewed several Oberlin College students who demanded, among other things, the suspension of any grades below C so they could devote more time to on-campus activism (driving some 40 minutes to protest in Cleveland proved too burdensome).

About 85 percent of Oberlin students receive financial aid from federal, state, and local sources to attend this progressive liberal arts college, amounting to nearly $24,000 per student. About half of those funds come from the federal government.

Nationwide, just 33 percent of Americans have four-year college degrees. The vast majority of adults are slogging away at their jobs day-in and day-out to pay the taxes that subsidize college students, who are effectively absent from the economy for four to six years (more if they pursue graduate studies).

And what does this “investment” yield for Jane and Joe taxpayer? Apparently, far too many undergraduates who think that they are entitled to do whatever they want, whenever they want paid for by the sacrifices of others.

When asked about her post-graduation plans, Oberlin student government co-liaison and campus activist Megan Bautista stated, “Just getting the eff out of America. It’s a sinking ship.”

Well, bon voyage to Bautista and undergraduates like her. No doubt their acute sense of social justice will motivate them to pay back all the subsidized handouts they received from us bourgeoisie before departing.

Modern-day campus activists may romanticize their Vietnam War-era predecessors, but the real heroes are the Veterans, most of whom did not have trust funds or parents wealthy enough to buy their way out of the draft—so they could attend college, fight “the man,” then turn around and join him for the right price years later.

There’s a better way to support undergraduate education without encouraging this kind of entitlement mentality: make college an earned benefit.

This month marks the 72nd anniversary of what is now known as the G.I. Bill. Today, seven education benefit programs are helping more than 1 million Veterans, Servicemembers, Reservists, and eligible family members earn their college degrees, specialty certifications, and job training.

In spite of numerous challenges, including deployments that can last up to 13 months, nearly 60 percent of student veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan War generation complete their four-year college degrees within five years. Students like Leslie Lingo.

After serving in the U.S. Army, Lingo enrolled in Methodist University in Fayetteville, North Carolina, where she just completed her bachelor’s degree in social work. Not only is Lingo a single mom, she is also an active member of her local Student Veterans of America chapter. Her advice for success in college:

“Learn how to effectively listen...By listening you learn something new, whether positive or negative, and this leads to progress.” Lingo adds, “Have humility and resilience, while always being comfortable outside of your comfort zone – taking calculated risks that push you to your limits will help you progress to the next level.”

We value what we earn and in turn better appreciate the sacrifices others make on our behalf.

Earned benefits don’t have to take the form of military service, either. Businesses could fund performance grants for future employees, who could attend class and work part-time in exchange for a specified time commitment after graduation. Any number of such private and non-profit apprenticeship performance arrangements could be created for fields requiring postsecondary certificates or degrees.

The GI Bill shows that earned college benefits beat hand-outs hands down.



Half of British primary schools set to teach maths Chinese-style

Half of primary schools will adopt the traditional Chinese method of maths teaching in a Government drive to stop British youngsters falling behind their Asian counterparts.

They will ditch ‘child-centred’ styles and instead return to repetition, drills and ‘chalk and talk’ whole-class learning.

Teachers will be offered training, textbooks and advice on how to adopt the ‘Shanghai maths’ method.

Youngsters in the UK lag way behind those in China, Singapore and Japan in international league tables of numeracy.

Critics blame ‘progressive’ teaching styles that focused on applying maths to real-life scenarios in an effort to make the subject more interesting.

They say this has led to confusion and stopped children learning the basics.

Under the Government’s new plans, children as young as five will have drills to practise sums and exercises, and must master each concept through repetition before moving to the next. Nick Gibb, the schools minister, announced yesterday that training will be provided for 8,000 primary schools – half the country’s total – to switch to the Shanghai ‘mastery’ approach.

‘We are seeing a renaissance in maths teaching in this country, with good ideas from around the world helping to enliven our classrooms,’ he said.

‘The significant expansion of the Asian maths mastery approach can only add to the positive momentum, with thousands more young people having access to specialist teachers and quality textbooks.

‘I am confident that the steps we are taking now will ensure young people are properly prepared for further study and the 21st-century workplace, and that the too often heard phrase “can’t do maths” is consigned to the past.’

He has pledged £41million to provide textbooks and training for two teachers from each participating school, although the scheme will be voluntary.

Currently, classes are often divided into groups based on ability, with each group given work of varying difficulty. Under the new approach most classes will be taught as a whole.

This would mirror techniques used before new teaching philosophies were disseminated by teacher training colleges in the 1970s.

Mr Gibb and his predecessor as schools minister, Liz Truss, arranged exchanges between maths teachers in Shanghai and England, and set up 35 specialist maths teaching centres to encourage the ‘mastery’ approach.

The centres use textbooks such as Inspire Maths and Maths No Problem, modelled on Singapore’s teaching resources.

But some teaching leaders questioned whether the success of Asian countries was purely down to the style of lessons.

James Bowen, director of NAHT Edge, a union for middle school leaders, said: ‘Part of the success of maths teaching in countries like China and Singapore comes from the respect in which they hold teachers and the time they give them to plan and prepare. If the Government wanted to import these practices, too, we wouldn’t object.’

In the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s latest PISA tests for 15-year-olds, Shanghai came top in maths while the UK came 26th.


Thursday, July 14, 2016

Hillary’s $1.1 trillion-dollar tuition plan to be more Bernie than Bernie

Hillary Clinton lost the youth vote to Bernie Sanders, now to compensate, she’s trying to be him to get it back. Clinton has agreed to meet Sanders halfway on education policy in an attempt to convince America’s college age youth that she is their advocate.

The only problem is that her plan turns out to be just another ineffective and costly political tool — by promising to pay for almost everybody’s college tuition. A plan that could cost more than $1 trillion every decade once fully implemented.

Clinton’s newly unveiled plan states that “by 2021, families with income up to $125,000 will pay no tuition at in-state four-year public colleges and universities — covering more than 80 percent of all families. And from the start of the plan, every student from a family making $85,000 a year or less will be able to go to an in-state four-year public college or university without paying tuition. Students at community college will also pay no tuition.”

The plan also includes restoring year-round Pell Grant funding and promises and immediate executive action to offer a three-month moratorium on student’s loan payments to give students an opportunity to receive additional options.

With no specifics Clinton writes that this will be “fully paid for by limiting certain tax expenditures for high-income taxpayers.”

In 2015, the average yearly tuition price was $6,371 and the year’s public university enrollment was reported as 13,353,000 students, according to data compiled by the National Center for Education Statistics. This data provides a clear picture of tuition and enrollment trends, and allows us to determine how much Clinton’s plan will cost today and in the future.

Clinton’s plan aims to include 80 percent of all public university students, meaning that in 2015 for the 10,682,400 students affected the plan would cost $68 billion at present costs if implemented fully right away. And that’s just for starters.

Tuition has an average annual growth rate of 6.61 percent, and Clinton provides no plan for lowering the actual cost of tuition. Similarly, public university enrollment has grown over time as well, with an average annual growth rate of 1.34 percent.

By 2025 Clintons plan will be fully implemented, if tuition continues growing like clockwork at 6.61 percent a year it will have reached an annual average of $12,304 and enrollment is projected by the Department of Education to be about 15,255,000 students. In order to pay for the education of this class it will costs over $150 billion that year alone.

If the plan went into effect today rather than her 2021 rollout date, given these assumptions, Clinton’s plan will easily add up to $1.1 trillion over 10 years.

No wonder Clinton has neglected to discuss the cost. It would show how her plan to win over the Bernie-loving millennials is nothing but outrageously expensive and inefficient.

Sanders plan was projected to cost $70 billion a year with a third of the costs being burdened to states to pay, Clinton instead chose to place nearly the same costs on the high income tax payers who are also paying for their children’s education.

However, the cost of Clinton’s plan may not stop there.

In order to find the full cost for the Clinton plan, we must acknowledge two key limitations.

First, the Clinton plan is only assisting students in paying for public universities which is why we are using enrollment statistics for public universities. However, these enrollment numbers do not account for the inevitable effect of students who might have otherwise attended private schools, but that now have a greater incentive to attend public universities. Meaning enrollment numbers, and thus costs, could be higher. Second, with an influx of students entering the public university system, schools will have to accommodate to the need for larger classrooms, more buildings, more staff, and other expenses, driving tuition costs even higher. The cost of these consequences to the Clinton plan are hard to quantify may nonetheless be detrimental.

But even assuming public university tuition cost and enrollment follow their average growth trends over the next 10 years, the plan will still cost more than trillion dollars its first ten years.

This is not a plan to improve higher education and it does not aim to mitigate costs into the future. It is a blanket promise that Clinton is attempting in a desperate bid to gain the trust of millennials and appeal to the Sanders fans who have vowed to never vote for her. Clinton’s college plan is not an altruistic attempt to provide higher education, but a $1.1 trillion cynical, political ploy.


Is Hillary Clinton’s tuition plan doable?

The view from Boston:

Massachusetts education leaders strongly praised Hillary Clinton’s new plan to make college more affordable, but questioned how the state, which faces perennial budget deficits, would afford the costly program.

Clinton’s plan, widely seen as an attempt to appeal to Bernie Sanders’ young supporters, would eliminate tuition at in-state public colleges and universities for families that earn up to $125,000 a year. The policy would cover more than 80 percent of families, according to the Clinton campaign.

Tuition aid, estimated to cost the federal government $350 billion over 10 years, would be given to states that provide some matching funds and take steps to cut costs and boost graduation rates at public colleges and universities.

“Obviously, I support the thrust of it,” said Martin T. Meehan, the president of the University of Massachusetts. “If the federal government is willing to make a commitment to help offset the costs for students, I think that’s a good thing.”

States, including Massachusetts, have been providing fewer resources for scholarships and student aid in recent years, Meehan said.

“This would help reverse that trend,” said Meehan, a former Democratic US representative. “The key is whether or not the states will step up” and provide the matching funds needed to unlock the federal support.

By proposing the benefit last week, Clinton was moving closer to Sanders’ pledge to provide free college tuition for all, which helped him galvanize massive support from young voters during his hard-fought campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination.

After praising Clinton’s plan, Sanders is expected to formally endorse Clinton at an event in New Hampshire on Tuesday.

Under Clinton’s plan, families would still have to pay an unspecified “affordable and realistic contribution” and students would be expected to contribute their earnings from 10 hours of work per week.

Clinton would also restore year-round Pell Grant funding, in an effort to help low-income students afford summer classes. And she would grant a one-time three-month moratorium on federal student loan payments, to give students breathing room to refinance and consolidate debt.

Clinton’s campaign said the program would be paid for by limiting certain tax breaks for high-income taxpayers. It did not respond to several requests for additional details.

Chris Gabrieli, chairman of the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education, said he liked that the plan provides more federal aid while also pushing public colleges and universities to lower the cost of a degree.

“Like all grand bargains, it puts some money on the table and it uses it to induce states and universities to face the fact that we have to bring costs down and quality up,” said Gabrieli, a Democrat who was appointed to the board by Governor Charlie Baker, a Republican.

Clinton’s promise to deliver additional federal aid could also encourage Massachusetts lawmakers to restore state higher education funding that was slashed during the 2008 recession, Gabrieli said.

‘I think this is a really great step toward completely free and universal public higher education . . . [but] there’s a huge concern for me about whether or not there’s funding available and a priority to make this happen.’

Natalie Higgins, Public Higher Education Network of Massachusetts executive director, on Hillary Clinton’s proposal

Asked to comment on Clinton’s plan, a Baker spokeswoman responded with a written statement that pointed out that the governor released his own college affordability initiative in April. That plan provides 10 percent rebates on tuition and fees to certain qualifying students.

Budget watchers pointed out that Clinton’s request for additional education spending would face a tough road in a Republican-controlled Congress and on Beacon Hill, where Baker and the Democratic House speaker, Robert A. DeLeo, have vowed not to raise taxes.

Massachusetts, despite an improving economy, has also faced annual deficits driven in part by rising health care costs. Last month, officials warned that the state may be facing a nearly $1 billion shortfall in the current budget year, due to less-than-expected revenue collections.

“I’m not sure that this state is in a position to take on more of the costs of education through subsidies, or grants, or however the program is designed,” said Eileen McAnneny, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, a business-backed budget watchdog group. “It’s possible, but it’s speculative at this point.”

Noah Berger, president of the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, a left-leaning research group, agreed that requiring states to provide matching funds could be a challenge, depending on how the program is structured.

But he said there is “a very strong case” that when states help students graduate from college debt-free, both students and the economy benefit.

Advocates agreed, saying the plan would ease a crushing financial burden on young people, even if it does not go as far as Sanders’ promise to eliminate tuition for all, regardless of income.

“I think this is a really great step toward completely free and universal public higher education,” said Natalie Higgins, executive director of the Public Higher Education Network of Massachusetts, a nonprofit advocacy group. “We know it’s going to come in pieces. This isn’t the end.”

But she added, “There’s a huge concern for me about whether or not there’s funding available and a priority to make this happen.”

The funding crunch, she said, is one reason her group supports a proposal, backed by unions and liberal groups, to impose an additional tax on those who earn more than $1 million dollars in a single year.

Because the change would require an amendment to the state constitution, that plan faces a series of legal and political hurdles before it could appear before voters on the ballot in 2018.


Administration Defends UN-Funded, Anti-Israel Textbooks for Palestinians

U.S. taxpayers provide nearly $400 million a year to a United Nations program that critics say sends anti-Semitic, anti-Israel textbooks to schools for Palestinian refugees.

An elementary school textbook calls the 1948 establishment of Israel a “disaster,” and a high school text tells of the “End of Days” when “Muslims fight the Jews,” among other examples in a report from the Center for Near East Policy, a pro-Israel research institute based in Jerusalem.

“The incitement that we see in these textbooks is shocking,” @RepDLamborn says.

The agency—the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, or UNRWA—has come under scrutiny for years for supplying Palestinian schools with textbooks containing violent, anti-Israel references.

The Obama administration, however, defends the textbook program. A State Department spokesman told The Daily Signal that the books are part of “an education that instills respect for and appreciation of universal human rights and dignity of all persons.”

The program serves nearly 500,000 students in about 700 schools in the Palestinian territories, using the Palestinian Authority’s curriculum, according to the State Department.

The watchdog group UN Watch released a report last year accusing some of the Gaza-based U.N. agency’s employees of making anti-Semitic comments and celebrating violence on Facebook, providing 10 specific examples.

A U.N. deputy spokesman, Farhan Haq, said in October: “These postings have been removed and the staff have been subject to both remedial and disciplinary action, including suspension and loss of pay.” He did not provide precise numbers. 

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee’s subcommittee on the Middle East, last fall sponsored legislation—the UNRWA Anti-Incitement and Anti-Terrorism Act—demanding that the U.N. agency provide greater accountability or face defunding from the United States.

“After investigating allegations first brought to light by UN Watch, the U.N. recently announced that several [of the agency’s] employees had been suspended for posting inciting social media posts,” Ros-Lehtinen said in a formal statement. She added:

The U.S. can’t continue to send $400 million to UNRWA while ignoring the systemic and endemic anti-Israel, anti-Semitic bias and the blatant incitement to violence we see from its employees. [Its] employees and facilities are consistently tied to foreign terrorist organizations and a full accounting of the agency’s affiliations should be required before another dime is spent on this divisive organization.

President Barack Obama’s administration contends that because of U.S. and U.N. pressure, fewer violent references appear in the textbooks, but admits more progress is needed.

Some in Congress say the textbooks continue to promote violence. A leading senator asked for an investigation by the Government Accountability Office, the internal government watchdog that evaluates how tax dollars are spent.

The United States is the largest donor to the U.N. program, contributing $390 million in 2015, down slightly from the previous year. GAO reports in 2003 and 2009 asserted “weaknesses” in the program, but said it complied with State Department guidelines.

The agency made $1.1 billion in expenditures in 2013; the European Union, Britain, Sweden, Norway, Germany, the Netherlands, and Japan also make significant contributions.

The GAO probe comes at the request of Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on Near East, South Asia, Central Asia, and Counterterrorism.

“This is a matter with which I am deeply concerned and I have asked GAO to investigate,” Risch told The Daily Signal in a written statement. “I anticipate that the investigation will take some time, however, so I will reserve my comments until after I receive and am able to assess GAO’s findings on the matter.”

GAO spokesman Chuck Young told The Daily Signal in an email that he didn’t know the timeline for completing the review of the Palestinian textbooks.  

‘Political Agenda’

The ultimate goal is to withhold funding from the U.N. agency until it requires significant changes to the textbooks, said Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo.

“The incitement that we see in these textbooks is shocking. It’s an outrage and it shows that UNRWA has drifted a long way from its mandate of being a human rights aid organization,” Lamborn told The Daily Signal in a phone interview. “They now have a political agenda. That’s not serving the cause of peace. In fact, it’s prolonging the conflict and violence.”

The State Department has advocated that the U.N. agency teach Palestinian students about tolerance and human rights, a spokesman said.

“We have long supported UNRWA for its critical and life-saving humanitarian work in places like Syria and Gaza,” State Department spokesman Julia Mason told The Daily Signal in an email, adding of the agency:

UNRWA also plays an important role as a stabilizing force and counterweight to extremism in the region. … We are committed to ensuring that Palestinian refugee students receive an education that instills respect for and appreciation of universal human rights and dignity of all persons.

The U.N. program’s official mandate is to “provide relief, human development, and protection services to Palestine refugees and persons displaced by the 1967 hostilities [the Arab-Israeli War, also known as the Six-Day War] in its fields of operation: Jordan, Lebanon, the Syrian Arab Republic, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip.”

The agency has 30,000 employees, mostly Palestinian refugees and some international staff, with headquarters in both Gaza and Amman, and five field offices in Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and the West Bank.

The U.N. agency “is more a part of the problem than the solution,” said Jim Phillips, senior research fellow for Middle Eastern affairs at The Heritage Foundation. He said the program has “promoted victimhood” among Palestinians for generations.

In 2015, the program established dedicated units responsible for reviewing and improving the textbooks.

‘Close Examination’

Chris Gunness, spokesman for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, said of the textbooks in an email to The Daily Signal:

These have been subjected to close examination, including in studies commissioned by the U.S. Department of State, and found to be largely free of incitement. Moreover, UNRWA has in place a system of checks and balances to ensure that no incitement is taught in our classrooms. UNRWA has also put in place a systemwide Human Rights, Conflict Resolution, and Tolerance Education system in all 700 schools we administer, which integrates the concepts of human rights, tolerance, and nonviolent conflict resolution into the curriculum.

The U.N. agency has come under scrutiny on other fronts as caches of weapons, such as rockets, were found stored in its schools and medical clinics over the past several years.

Gunness, the agency’s spokesman, made a speech at Interpal, a British-based charity that has been known to fund the terrorist group, Hamas, The Washington Free Beacon reported in October.

Since the 1967 war, Israel—which defeated the forces of Egypt, Jordan, and Syria—has expanded to the West Bank, Gaza, the Golan Heights, and the Sinai Peninsula. Hostilities have continued in the region, including terrorist attacks by Palestinians.

In May, the Intermountain Christian News Service published a White House response to a question from correspondent Anthony Harper about the Palestinian textbooks.

In its statement to Harper, the White House said:

"While there is still work to be done, the Palestinian government has made significant progress in reducing inflammatory rhetoric and revising official textbooks. Over the past few years, the PA [Palestinian Authority] has helped improve the Palestinian curriculum, including textbooks that discuss human rights and the Holocaust, which has contributed to a better education for young Palestinians. The Palestinian curriculum is transparent, and all textbooks are available for review in Arabic on the website of the official Palestinian Curriculum Development Center. The government of Israel even approves of and utilizes the Palestinian texts for schools in East Jerusalem"

A senior administration official confirmed this statement, but had nothing to add when reached by The Daily Signal.


Hive of innovation found at Australian and NZ universities

A world-first study on innovation in Higher Education by the Australian Innovation Research Centre (AIRC) at University of Tasmania and the LH Martin Institute at University of Melbourne, has shown that Australian and New Zealand universities are prolific innovators.

The report, based on a comprehensive survey investigating the managerial and administrative functions of 39 Australian and six New Zealand universities has found that the majority of universities have implemented significant innovative measures in the last two years.

These include implementing faster processes for service and providing better support for students and teaching and learning activities.

Professor Leo Goedegebuure of the LH Martin Institute, co-author of the report, said that the high innovation rate is very similar to the results of other surveys of public sector organisations in Europe and Australia.

“Universities give a great deal of importance to improving the student experience, which is the largest reason given for innovating and trying new approaches.”

Professor Anthony Arundel of the AIRC, the other co-author, explained that the type of innovation also depends on the function.

“For inward facing functions like human resources and financial services, the biggest drive for innovation is the need to do more with the same amount of resources.

“While for outward facing functions like marketing and communication, the biggest motivation is to improve the student experience and their university’s brand or reputation”.

The report also found that innovation depends on the organisation’s culture. The research identified a link between senior executive support for a positive innovation culture and the percentage of staff involved in innovation.

According to Professor Goedegebuure, the research paints a different picture to what is typically thought of about the sector.

“The report shows that universities are very serious about process and product innovation, and that a lot of effort is being placed on doing the right things with the public resources they receive.”

“It also shows our universities adopting state-of-the-art methods, being open and collaborative, which in turn suggests that we have the capability to play a key role in a new, knowledge-based economy”.

Press release

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

School may be out, but the criticism of Common Core Isn’t Taking a Vacation

As the school year was winding down, results from the most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as the Nation’s Report Card, showed flat reading performance, and a decline in math performance among high school seniors compared to their pre-Common Core predecessors. So much for college-readiness.

“Worrisome” and “stalled” were just some of the reactions to the news. As Jane Robbins of the American Principles Project summed up: It’s “Time to Admit the Obvious: Common Core Has Failed Spectacularly.”

But Robbins isn’t alone.

An anonymous teacher leaked questions from a fourth-grade Common Core reading assessment produced by PAARC, Inc. [Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers ], a federally subsidized testing consortium that has received nearly $186 million in funding.

The questions show just how developmentally inappropriate the assessment is. On it students were prompted to write essays using advanced structural elements, “Prose Constructed Response,” what the teacher calls “a new pseudo-genre,” and research syntheses – all of which are absent from the Common Core writing standards for fourth-graders.

The questions went viral, and PARCC’s efforts to scrub social media kicked into high gear, which only appeared to make matters worse. But that’s the least of PARCC’s troubles. Since its heyday a few years ago, its member states have dropped from 24 to seven, indicating the growing dissatisfaction with Common Core assessments.

Dr. Kenneth Calvert, Hillsdale Academy headmaster and associate history professor at Hillsdale College, also gave Common Core a failing grade:

"Common Core is one of these well-intentioned pieces of legislation in which the federal government is trying to do something for children. They’ve perceived that children are behind the rest of the world and so let’s create a national legislation that’s not going to be forced on states, but we’ll give them money, and the states will take it. It’s just wrong-headed in so many ways. Number one, it’s unconstitutional. From the get-go there is nothing constitutional about the federal government getting its hand into education. Number two, it doesn’t do what they want it to do.

[The Federal Government] wanted to raise standards in their minds commensurate with, equal with, world standards. Neither the literature nor the science or the math standards come anywhere near that. What Common Core has ended up doing is creating, basically, what they considered to be, the lowest common denominator, the average point which students can be expected to reach"

Then earlier this month ACT, Inc., issued a report that found huge gaps between what Common Core deems “college-and-career-ready” and what real world colleges and employers do across subjects.

Given such momentum, such criticism is about as likely to let up as scorching summer temperatures.


Don’t Blame “Underfunding” for Soaring College Prices

Death, taxes, and rising college prices – these are among life’s few certainties. A new study helps shed light on the latter.

As the Washington Post’s Danielle Douglas-Gabriel reports:

Using Department of Education data, Seton Hall University professor Robert Kelchen found that inflation-adjusted fees grew faster than tuition at state schools between the 1999-2000 and 2012-2013 academic years. During that time, fees at community colleges soared 104 percent, while tuition climbed by 50 percent. Fees at four-year public colleges skyrocketed 95 percent over that period, eclipsing the 66 percent hike in tuition at the same time.

A common excuse for rising prices is that colleges and universities had to raise prices to offset state budget cuts.

The Cato’s Institute’s Neal McCluskey has shown previously that this excuse doesn’t hold water since college tuition price hikes either matched or more often exceeded budget cuts in most years he studied. More recent data from the US Department of Education confirms this trend.

Using constant 2015 dollars, overall state appropriations decreased 18 percent, almost $14 billion, from 2007-08 through 2013-14 (the latest year available). Combined tuition and fees, however, increased far more, 31 percent, almost $17 billion.

What’s more, those tuition and fees increases outpaced the 10 percent full-time equivalent student enrollment increase over the same period. They’re also more than double the 15 percent growth in overall public postsecondary revenue, which includes grants, gifts, self-generated funds, and other funds in addition to government appropriations, tuition, and fees.

So where’s the money going? There’s been growing criticism of administrative bloat

A recent report covering this time period documents that as the economy was heading south, administrative salaries kept going up (p. 9 and Table C).What’s more, another report finds that the creation of new administrative positions is a leading culprit for the growth in administration.

This trend has gotten so bad that an online University Title Generator has been created that spits out fake (yet credible) administrative position titles along with estimated salaries.

Vice Provost for the Committee on Neighborhood Diversity, with an estimated pretend annual salary of $258,704, is one example. Associate Coordinator of the Office of Dining Technology, with a pretend salary of $82,613 is another. There are plenty more funny examples, but the sad part is these made-up administrative positions aren’t all that far-fetched.

According to Richard Vedder, Ohio University distinguished economics professor emeritus and director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity:

...[universities] are in the housing business, the entertainment business; they’re in the lodging business; they’re in the food business. ... Every college today practically has a secretary of state, a vice provost for international studies, a zillion public relations specialists...My university has a sustainability coordinator whose main message, as far as I can tell, is to go out and tell people to buy food grown locally...Why? (Quotation from p. 93 here).

Of course, skyrocketing college prices are no laughing matter–but neither is trying to blame state taxpayers for not shoveling out more funding—particularly when leading indicators suggest this administrative growth will continue unabated.

Postsecondary education administration is projected to grow by 9 percent during the present decade, “faster than the average for all occupations,” according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

While enrollment is also projected to increase over this period, it’s likely that if given the option, students would prefer fewer community outreach vice provosts, government liaisons (i.e., lobbyists), and public affairs managers so they could earn degrees that won’t leave them saddled with around $30,000 in debt.


Federal ‘Educrats’ Have Failed America’s Children, New Book Shows

When President Jimmy Carter established the U.S. Department of Education in 1979 as the thirteenth cabinet-level agency, many hailed the move as victory for America’s taxpayers, educators, and school children. More than three and a half decades later, however, the federal education bureaucracy has yet to fulfill its promises, according to Independent Institute Research Fellow Vicki E. Alger. In her new book, Failure: The Federal Misedukation of America’s Children, Alger reveals the failures, their causes, and their solutions.

In every major aspect, the federal ‘educrats’ deserve a failing grade, Alger explains. Contrary to their promises, they have failed to eliminate waste from federal education programs (one of the initial rationalizations for the agency’s creation). Their wielding of fiscal carrots and sticks has robbed the states of their independence in setting educational policies and priorities (exactly as critics had predicted many decades ago). And they have failed to make American school children among the best educated in the world. (In fact, 17-year-olds as a group are reading at the same skill level as they were in 1971, and their math skills are only slightly better than they were in 1978.) The one promise that the Education Department has fulfilled, according to Alger, is dubious at best: It has helped make education policy a national issue. Consequently, K-12 schooling and higher education are more politicized than ever.

By international standards, U.S. high-school graduates on average are underperformers. So, what is it that the world’s best school systems have that America lacks? The top ones, Alger finds, feature decentralization and parental choice. Building on this lesson, Alger offers a detailed plan for making fundamental, systemic improvements in American schooling—including a blueprint for dismantling the federal education bureaucracy brick by brick, with some programs transferred to the states and others to be cast atop the dustbin of history. From top to bottom and from kindergarten to the graduation podium, federal involvement in education, Alger concludes, has been a disaster of such magnitude that it warrants a single overarching guideline: “End it, don’t mend it.” Fostering greater decision-making and accountability at the local level and expanding educational options (i.e., more parental choice) would make schools have to compete for customers and would introduce strong incentives to improve educational quality for all.


Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The Obama administration is Trying to Bypass Congress to Continue Meddling in Local Education

Last year, Congress passed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) with bipartisan majorities in the House and Senate, reflecting a consensus that the federal government needed to pull back from the prescriptive mandates of the No Child Left Behind law and give states more flexibility. While imperfect, the ESSA sought to move in the right direction. Like most laws, however, the ESSA left a significant amount of implementation decisions to the administrative state, in this case the Department of Education. The Obama administration in new proposed regulations is seeking to use this regulatory power as a back door to continue imposing federal control over local education issues, even potentially continuing its efforts to force Common Core on unwilling states.

As highlighted last week in a Senate hearing chaired by Sen. Alexander (R-Tenn.), one of the chief authors of ESSA, the law specifically sought to prevent the Department of Education from imposing Common Core on the states. As noted in the hearing, ESSA makes clear that each state must “assure” the Department of Education that it has adopted curriculum standards. However, section 299.16 of the proposed regulations would require each state to “provide evidence” of adopted curriculum standards. As Sen. Alexander rightly noted in the hearing, this seemingly minor language alteration leaves a potentially gaping hole: under these regulations federal bureaucrats could reject a state’s curriculum standards for insufficient evidence, and keep rejecting any curriculum that does not conform to the federal government’s preferred Common Core guidelines. These sort of regulatory games are precisely how the Obama administration attempted to impose Common Core under previous law.

This is only the most glaring regulation hidden in the more than 190 pages of proposed rules. The rules include numerous prescriptive mandates on the states, almost as if federal bureaucrats are deliberately ignoring the intent of the ESSA in order to maintain federal controls on state education. For example, despite widespread opposition to testing mandates, the proposed rules seek to require states to take “robust action” against schools which do not reach the arbitrary threshold of 95% participation in standardized tests. The Department of Education is effectively seeking to punish parents who choose to opt out of high-stakes testing, treating their judgement as worthless.

The proposed regulations also create what is described as a “summative rating system.” This would require each state to come up with a single rating system for its schools based primarily on scores on federally mandated tests. Nowhere in the ESSA is the department directed to take this action, the bureaucrats have simply made it up.

The Department of Education is hoping to sneak these rules through without much fuss, giving only a short window for the public to read and comment on the over 190 pages of rules and mandates.


Fury Over School Regulations: It’s the Department of Education, Stupid!

Proposed regulations bring education back under federal control

The new school regulations are so old school.

Last month's proposed rules on school accountability are yet another reminder that it’s time for federal bureaucrats at the Department of Education to get their hands out of our education system. They have done enough damage already with their long record of failed reform efforts.

However, when it comes to regulating our children, the Department of Education will never back down. Nothing is over until they decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Heck no!

Okay, maybe that was John Belushi in Animal House, not the Department of Education. At the rate Common Core is diminishing the humanities, it’s hard to tell. And, we all know what happened when Dean Wormer tried to regulate Delta fraternity: Toga! Toga!

Alright, back to the proposed education rule – we don’t want to give the Department of Education the chance to hand over the dunce cap – let’s take a look at the federal government’s role in our education system.

Since the Common Core curriculum is unlikely to cover this topic, it's time for a brief history lesson in education policy. Don't worry, there will be no standardized test on this. Not yet, at least.

Education Department 101: No Child Left Behind with Common Core and Every Student Succeeds with School Choice

The Department of Education, acting as a federal board of education, has a long history of enacting top-down measures that grab power from the hands of teachers and schools. These standards and regulations, always a far cry from effective education reform, merit the department a failing report card.

In 2001, Congress passed highly lauded, bipartisan effort at education reform known as the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).

Despite the initial positivity surrounding NCLB, over time it proved to be a bureaucratic one-size-fits all uniform testing program that vastly expanded the reach of the Department of Education.

After years of amendments and alterations by administrative rules, this program was left behind and replaced in 2015 by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The ESSA is a purported shift away from federal accountability provisions.

The success of this reform is yet to be determined, although recent events indicate that the expansive regulatory authority of the Department may limit its positive effects. The rule could be circumvented through legislation that takes power away from federal education regulators.

One instance of the federalization of education can be found in the Common Core fiasco. The Common Core curriculum provided an opportunity for exercise of federal authority.

Like NCLB, much of the Common Core debate centers around standardized testing. The debate intensified during this year’s Education Department-mandated “Testing Season”, a period that was transformed by the opt-out movement.

The opt-out movement led to some very heavy-handed Department of Education policies by penalizing schools for noncompliance and silencing teachers speaking out against Common Core.

School choice is the other recent Department of Education issue. School choice vouchers would allow student to escape poor policy decisions of educrats by allowing students the option to attend schools other than the school that was assigned.

Last month, parental choice in education was placed on the public radar as the Department of Education issued an absurd ruling that could require schools to allow transgender bathroom and shower facilities. In a Forbes op-ed, FreedomWorks’ Stephen Moore argued that this decision makes a powerful case for “school choice now more than ever.”

The Department of Education’s new proposal, with its implication of federal overreach, makes a powerful case for taking back control over our schools now more than ever.

The Proposed Regulation: More Federal Oversight and More Testing Equals More Education

Here's a Common Core math problem:

1.) Federal control of education + more standardized tests =

A. more education
B. the most education
C. the best education
D. monkeys

The best guess is probably D, but we won't know for sure until the Education Department's accountability report tells us if we passed.

If you couldn't answer the question, you (or your school) may be in trouble. The new regulation would impose federally mandated accountability measures that give the federal government oversight over student and school achievement.

While states and local school boards are given some flexibility in their methods of rating school performance, they are help accountable by the Education Department for administering achievement exams and for intervening in under-performing schools.

The need for school accountability rules, according to the Department of Education, stems from academic underperformance.

What is the Department’s solution to poor academic achievement? More testing, of course!

In a power grab that ignores the complaints of teachers and parents, the Department of Education is responding to the Common Core opt-out movement by making testing anything but optional. Under this regulation, school districts would be held accountable for ensuring that 95 percent of students take performance-indicating standardized tests.

The Education Department has recommended punitive measures for schools and students for opting not to participate in testing. Additionally, the new rule states that federal funds can be withheld from states that fail to test 95 percent of students.

Public outcry against the testing craze has criticized federally mandated standardized tests as a being poorly constructed, inaccurate indicators of performance used to unfairly evaluate teachers and students.

Rather than listen to teachers and students, the Department of Education has decided in favor of regulatory overreach.

The Initial Backlash: Sharp Criticism, Promised Hearings, and Congressional Review

Speaking out against the new regulations, Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.) stated:

"I am deeply concerned the department is trying to take us back to the days when Washington dictated national education policy… Congress worked on a bipartisan basis to move the country away from the prescriptive federal mandates and requirements of No Child Left Behind. We replaced that failed law with a fundamentally different approach that empowers state and local leaders to determine what's best for their schools and students."

Rep. Kline, Chairman of the House Education and Workforce Committee, also indicated he will hold a hearing on the rule. Echoing Kline’s opposition, Senate Education Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), promised to block the regulation through the Congressional Review Act:

"I will review this proposed regulation to make sure that it reflects the decision of Congress last year to reverse the trend toward a national school board and restore responsibility to states, school districts, and teachers to design their own accountability systems… If the final regulation does not implement the law the way Congress wrote it, I will introduce a resolution under the Congressional Review Act to overturn it."

The Congressional Review Act allows Congress to repeal regulations that are overreaching, expensive, or unduly burdensome.


Students at Mass. public colleges gird for higher tuition

The price for in-state students to attend Massachusetts’ nine state universities is going up by as much as 7.8 percent in the coming academic year, according to preliminary figures from the campuses. The increase for students attending the 15 community colleges will be as much as 10 percent.

The separate University of Massachusetts system is expected to raise charges across its five campuses this week by between 5 and 8 percent, officials have said.

Last year, tuition also rose by between 5 and 8 percent across the campuses, the first increase after a two-year freeze.

The burden of paying for an education is especially acute at the state universities and community colleges, which educate a combined 200,000 students, because they serve many of the state’s poorest residents — many of whom work to pay for school.

“How do they expect us kids to pay for this?” said Romie Blanc, a student at Bunker Hill Community College, where fees will rise 10 percent, or about $390 annually for a full-time student. “I’m glad financial aid is there, but I’m not glad that I have to pay back.”

Blanc, 20, plans to start her fourth semester of college in the fall and hopes to eventually become a nurse. She said she commutes to the Charlestown campus from Billerica and works at the Registry of Motor Vehicles as an assistant title clerk.

“They should actually be lowering costs,” Blanc said.

The tuition hikes come as Beacon Hill officials finalize the state budget for next year. It includes virtually no increase in funding for public higher education.

Some campuses await the final state budget before they finalize their increases, but it is all but certain that every campus will see at least a slight increase.

Students at Bridgewater State University will pay as much as $700 more next year, an increase of nearly 8 percent. At Framingham State, students will see a $636 increase, and at Salem State, it will be $490 more expensive.

Even with these increases, state universities and community colleges offer the most inexpensive degrees in the state. A year at Bridgewater State next year, for example will cost at most $9,473 in tuition and fees. Campus housing is another approximately $8,000.

College presidents said they understand how rate hikes squeeze students with already precarious finances. But increases are necessary to pay professors and keep facilities up to date, they said.

“Are we happy about increasing fees? Absolutely not, but at the end of the day we needed to make a choice to deliver quality education,” said William F. Messner, president of Holyoke Community College, who is retiring this month. Fees there are set to rise 10 percent, or about $420 for a full-time student for the year.

The higher education system in Massachusetts is largely decentralized. State officials set the tuition, which is virtually the same for all campuses, but local boards of trustees set each campus’s fees, which are more expensive than tuition. The base tuition rate for state universities was $970 last year and $720 for community colleges.

As campuses await the final state budget, they are not hopeful. Several college presidents called state support shamefully lacking.

“We’ve been trying to operate this place at a very, very low level of cost, and that’s very admirable, but we can’t do it, and unfortunately the state hasn’t been able to give us the level of support that’s necessary,” said Messner, at Holyoke Community College.

Many campuses said the main factor driving the tuition increases is contractual salary increases that the campuses must pay employees, as well as related increases to health insurance and other benefits. State officials negotiate the contracts but they must be funded by the campuses.

For example, Messner said, the state is likely to increase its support to Holyoke by$150,000 next year, but employee salaries are set to rise a collective $850,000.

At Framingham State, personnel costs are scheduled to rise 4 percent; meanwhile, the state support is expected to stay flat, said campus spokesman Daniel Magazu.

The school is also trying to comply with a policy that mandates that no more than 15 percent of courses be taught by part-time professors. Adding more full-timers costs more.

The university also recently renovated several buildings and is opening a new residence hall in the fall.

“We don’t take fee and tuition increases lightly,” Magazu said.

Schools are taking internal steps, as well. Bridgewater State’s trustees this year voted to cut the university’s overall operating budget by 2.5 percent.

Undergraduate enrollment at Bridgewater has risen 22 percent in the past decade, campus officials said, even as the number of students attending state universities and community colleges overall is shrinking, following a peak after the recession.


Monday, July 11, 2016

Philly Schools Ordered To Pay $2.3 Million For Anti-WHITE Racism


Philadelphia’s public school system was ordered to pay out $2.3 million in damages after a court found it deliberately discriminated against a white-owned business.

Security and Data Technologies, Inc. (SDT) was initially chosen by Philadelphia School District (PSD) and then-Superintendent Arlene Ackerman back in 2010 to install surveillance cameras at 19 schools PSD classified as particularly dangerous. After the company began preliminary work, it was abruptly “deselected” and the $7.5 million no-bid contract was then awarded on an emergency basis to IBS Communications, a company not eligible for no-bid contracts.

The abrupt turn of events, it turns out, had a racial motivation. An investigation by The Philadelphia Inquirer discovered Ackerman became fed up that the district kept giving contracts to white-owned companies. SDT is owned by two white men.

So, after telling other PSD administrators she would make sure “all these white boys didn’t get contracts,” Ackerman canceled SDT’s contract and diverted it over to IBS, which had black ownership.

After Ackerman’s stunt was publicized, SDT sued, and the six-year legal odyssey finally ended Monday with a victory for the plaintiffs. A jury ruled that the district, along with Ackerman’s estate (she died in 2013), must pay out $2.3 million in damages. The damages cover $2.1 million in lost profits along with a small sum of compensatory damages.

“It’s been a long, hard journey. Justice was served,” SDT attorney Michael Homans told the Inquirer.

PSD says it is exploring a possible appeal.

The case isn’t the only one that stemmed from Ackerman’s actions. Francis Dougherty, a member of the city’s School Reform Committee, was fired after he leaked Ackerman’s deeds to the press. He sued, claiming his free speech and whistleblower rights were violated. His case was settled for $725,000 earlier this year. Two more lawsuits are still pending.

Prior to her downfall, and almost simultaneously with her decision to cancel the SDT contract, Ackerman was praised by President Barack Obama.


British schools flunk the new 'chaotic' grade school exams, so what do teachers do? Blame the government

Teachers have provoked outrage by demanding the resignation of Education Secretary Nicky Morgan after the number of 11-year-olds who failed national English and maths tests rose sharply this year.

The militant National Union of Teachers said the ‘chaotic’ SATs were too difficult and had left children ‘extraordinarily demoralised’.

In an astonishing attack on Mrs Morgan, the union’s acting general secretary Kevin Courtney said: ‘A Secretary of State who demands accountability from schools should apply that principle to herself.

‘Because of the major failings of a key reform, and because of the effect of those failings on schools and children, the National Union of Teachers today calls on Ms Morgan to resign her office.’

But supporters of the tests, which were significantly tougher this year as part of Government efforts to increase rigour in the classroom, told teachers bluntly to stop complaining. Professor Alan Smithers, director of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at the University of Buckingham, said: ‘The Department for Education has made the changes to the curriculum and tests to move expectations in England closer to international standards. The teachers should stop whingeing and concentrate on getting our children up to speed.’

Almost half of 11-year-olds in England – 47 per cent – failed to meet the required standards in this year’s SATs, up from 20 per cent last year. But the Government said the results could not be compared with previous years because they are the first to be based on a new curriculum introduced two years ago by former education secretary Michael Gove.

The exams in reading, writing and maths were overhauled to include questions of a much higher level, with some parents saying their children had been left in tears because they could not finish the papers.

Mr Courtney said: ‘It is really important that we reassure parents and children that this is not an accurate judgment of their abilities. This is not their failure – it’s Nicky Morgan’s failure.’

While many parents objected to the stress that the tests placed on their children, one mother wrote on the Mumsnet online forum: ‘The SATs are doing what I and many parents actually want: improving standards.

‘At my [daughter’s] school, it was the teachers who were stressed and they were passing that down to the kids.’ Writer Toby Young, who set up a free school in west London, said that his 11-year-old son Ludo had taken the tests without stress.

He added: ‘Parents who oppose the Government are using their children as political weapons.’

A Whitehall source said: ‘It is disappointing that the NUT have whipped up parents as part of their political posturing.

‘We share the same objectives as parents, which is making sure their children get the best start in life.’


Education: What the Legislature got right

There is a reason the Louisiana Legislature has stayed true to school improvement based on high standards, accountability and parent and student choice. This past year, the progress on fourth grade NAEP national testing and high school ACT scores was top in the nation among 50 states. The statewide high school graduation rate is at an all-time high. Our teachers and education leaders are unlocking opportunity for our children.

These improvements in student achievement are important not only as an indicator of opportunity for our children but also the future economics of our state. A recent analysis from the Hoover Institute and Stanford University in Education Week pointed to the potential of substantial state economic gains related to simply boosting student achievement in Louisiana.

Over a decade ago, the National Governor’s Association made high standards in education a priority issue. They put together national experts from Pre-K-12 and higher education, curriculum developers, child psychologists and others to develop a set of standards that could be used by any state wishing to use them. This became the Common Core State Standards that were adopted and piloted in Louisiana beginning in 2010.

Three years ago, controversy over these standards resulted from concerns about encroachment on local control of school boards and the difficulty of implementing new teacher strategies. Education standards became the focus of a political battle royale.

Rather than leave educators in a constant state of uncertainty and continue a “war of words” in the House and Senate Education Committee, the legislature devised a process to take a new look at the Louisiana standards based on an analysis of each individual standard for potential improvement. This was led by Louisiana educators who used their experience over the previous four years in the classroom to determine what needed to be changed and what standards needed to be kept.

They then brought this back to BESE, the legislature and the Governor for consideration. This year, all three sets of policymakers endorsed the work of our teachers with little objection.

Legislators also had to make decisions about many bills introduced in the legislature this year to limit parent and student choice through new limitations on charter schools. These bills did not even garner enough support in the Senate or House Education Committee to be debated in the general sessions.

From its beginning, the charter school system in Louisiana has been based on a process that demands quality. Last year, only one-quarter of charter school applications were granted by the Louisiana Department of Education and those that were chartered function under the same accountability as other Louisiana public schools.

Over the last decade, the Louisiana legislature has stayed the course despite intense pressure to roll back higher standards, accountability, and choice. We now have high education standards that have been vetted and improved by great teachers in our state. We have school choice for parents and students with a focus on quality outcomes. And our accountability system is one of the best in the country and will be reexamined for potential improvement over the next year.

Because the legislature has been consistent, Louisiana now has the opportunity to prioritize the next steps. These include consideration of greater investment in the professional development of our teacher workforce, early care and education, and college and career readiness of graduates.

Because the foundation of developing new Louisiana standards was based on a partnership between policymakers and people doing the daily work, the result was a workable solution and good policy. It is a model legislators could use in solving other state problems in other areas of education, healthcare, transportation, etc.

Improvement in student achievement is the outcome of good schools. It is the foundation of improving our economy and providing opportunity for all of Louisiana’s children. Our policymakers and educators are on the right track. It is up to us to lend them the community support needed for continued education improvement.


Sunday, July 10, 2016

The limited efficacy of education

The report was so “seismic” — Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s word — that Lyndon Johnson’s administration released it on the Fourth of July weekend, 1966, hoping it would not be noticed. But the Coleman report did disturb various dogmatic slumbers and vested interests. And 50 years on, it is pertinent to today’s political debates about class and social mobility. So, let us now praise an insufficiently famous man, sociologist James Coleman, author of the study “Equality of Educational Opportunity.”

In 1966, postwar liberalism’s confidence reached its apogee. From 1938, when the electorate rebuked Franklin Roosevelt for his plan to “pack” the Supreme Court, through 1964, congressional Republicans and conservative Democrats prevented a liberal legislating majority. But Johnson’s 44-state victory that year gave Democrats 68 Senate seats and a majority of 155 in the House. Effortless and uninterrupted prosperity seemed assured as the economy grew in 1965 and 1966 by 10.7 percent and 7.99 percent, respectively. So, a gusher of tax revenues coincided with liberalism’s pent-up demand for large projects. It hoped to meld two American traits — egalitarian aspirations and faith in education’s transformative power.

The consensus then was that the best predictor of a school’s performance was the amount of money spent on it: Increase financial inputs and cognitive outputs would increase proportionately. As the postwar baby boom moved through public schools like a pig through a python, almost everything improved — school buildings, teachers' salaries, class sizes, per pupil expenditures — except outcomes measured by standardized tests.

Enter Coleman, and the colleagues he directed, to puncture complacency with the dagger of evidence — data from more than 3,000 schools and 600,000 primary and secondary school students. His report vindicated the axiom that social science cannot tell us what to do, it can tell us the results of what we are doing. He found that the best predictor of a school’s outcomes is the quality of the children’s families. And students' achievements are influenced by the social capital (habits, mores, educational ambitions) their classmates bring to school:

“One implication stands out above all: That schools bring little influence to bear on a child’s achievement that is independent of his background and general social context; and that this very lack of an independent effect means that the inequalities imposed on children by their home, neighborhood, and peer environment are carried along to become the inequalities with which they confront adult life at the end of school.”

Coleman’s report came exactly one year after — and as an explosive coda to — what is known as the Moynihan Report, which was leaked in July 1965. Moynihan, then a 37-year-old social scientist in Johnson’s Labor Department, presented in “The Negro Family: The Case for National Action” what then counted as shocking news: 23.6 percent of African-American births were to unmarried women.

Today 71 percent are. Almost 47 percent of all first births are to unmarried women, and a majority of all mothers under 30 are not living with the fathers of their children.

The causes of family disintegration remain unclear, but 51 years ago Moynihan and then Coleman foresaw the consequences. Moynihan said the “tangle” of pathologies associated with the absence of fathers produces a continually renewed cohort of inadequately socialized adolescent males. Socializing them is society’s urgent business if it is to avoid chaotic neighborhoods and schools where maintaining discipline displaces teaching. Coleman documented how schools are reflections of, rather than cures for, the failure of families to function as the primary transmitters of social capital.

The extraordinary synergy between Moynihan and Coleman was serendipitous. Today, their baton of brave and useful sociology has passed to Charles Murray of the American Enterprise Institute. His “Losing Ground” (1984) was an autopsy of 1960s aspirations. His “Coming Apart” (2012) explores the social consequences — we are wallowing in the political consequences — of a bifurcated society in which many do very well while many others are unable to reach even the lowest rungs on the ladder of upward mobility.

Coleman’s evidence that cultural rather than financial variables matter most was not welcomed by education bureaucracies and unions. Similarly, we now have more than half a century of awkward, and often ignored, evidence about the mostly small and evanescent effects of early childhood education. Today’s Democratic Party fancies itself “the party of science”; Barack Obama pledged, in his first inaugural address, to “restore science to its rightful place.” Social science, however, is respected by Democrats only when it validates policies congenial to the interests of favored factions.


Mother: My Third-Grade Son Talked about Brownies, and Someone Called the Race Police

An elementary school in New Jersey allegedly called the police on a third grader for talking about brownies — yes, as in the baked good — over concerns that the word “brownies” may have been a racial slur.

According to the student’s mother, her nine-year-old son was participating in a conversation about the bakery treat during his end-of-the-year class party at William P. Tatem Elementary School on June 16 when another student remarked that his comment was racist.

Rather than explain to the accusing student that the name of the baked good is a generally accepted term and not racially charged whatsoever, the school actually called the police. Yes — the police.

“He was intimidated, obviously,” the mother, Stacy dos Santos, said, according to “There was a police officer with a gun in the holster talking to my son, saying, ‘Tell me what you said,’” she continued. “He didn’t have anybody on his side.”

According to, the police department also contacted the boy’s father, and the incident was referred to the New Jersey Division of Child Protection and Permanency — because after all, hearing a nine-year-old talking about snacks definitely makes you wonder how he could possibly be safe living in a home with people who raised him to behave that way.

According to dos Santos, her son spent his last day of third grade at home because of the incident, and he feels so “traumatized” over it that they’re hoping to send him to a different public school in the fall.


‘Significant challenges’ ahead for Scottish higher education as graduate debt set to almost double

The once-envied higher education system of Scotland is facing “significant challenges” with the revelation debt levels are set to almost double as it becomes more difficult for Scottish students to get into university.

Over the next three years, university debt in the country is set to rise from £11,281 per student to around £20,000.

However, the cost north of the border pales in comparison to that of graduates in England who are now leaving with estimated debts of almost £45,000 since the tripling of tuition fees. Before the increase five years ago, the level was at just £16,200 per student, making England the nation with the highest level of graduate debt when compared with any other anglophone country.

The startling news has come following a major review, the first of its kind, by Audit Scotland which has also revealed how it has become more difficult in recent years for Scottish and EU undergrads to gain a place at a Scottish university.

With the number of students studying at Scottish universities having increased by five per cent over the last decade, the main reason for this is that applications have increased at a greater rate than increases in the number of funded places available for Scottish and EU students; applications have increased by 23 per cent since 2010, yet the number of offers made by universities has increased by only nine per cent.

The Scottish higher education system has long been looked at with envy from other parts of the UK - and further afield - for its top-class institutions, student funding system, and no tuition fees. However, the auditors’ report seems to have dealt another blow to the country’s universities following another recent report from social mobility charity, the Sutton Trust.

In May, the Trust found that, despite offering free tuition, Scotland has the worst record than anywhere else in the UK when it comes to getting students from poorer backgrounds into university.

Caroline Gardner, Auditor General for Scotland, described how Scottish universities benefit individuals, communities and economies both at home and abroad. However, she added: “It’s a complex sector which receives significant amounts of public money, both in the form of direct funding to universities and in financial support to students.

“Given the growing pressures on public finances, the Scottish Government must be clear about its priorities for higher education and how it will target public funding to support those aims. It also needs to work with the Scottish Funding Council and universities to plan for addressing the challenges ahead.”

Politicians have been quick to blame the SNP for the report’s stark findings. Labour education spokesman, Iain Gray, described how it “lays bare...the SNP’s refusal to protect education budgets,” reports the Daily Record, while Tory education spokeswoman, Liz Smith, added the it sends “a very stark warning to the Scottish Government about the funding crisis the SNP have created.”

The SNP, however, has said Scotland’s free tuition means the country has the lowest student loan debt amount than anywhere else in the UK, with a spokesperson saying the Scottish Government will consider all the report has found.

However, despite the largely less-than-positive findings, Audit Scotland did find the majority of Scottish students have a positive experience of higher education, and 90 per cent progressed from university to employment or further study in 2014.

Audit Scotland’s report has come in the same week it was also revealed around 70 per cent of students who left university last year are expected never to finish repaying their loans.

According to analysis provided to the Financial Times by NatWest, they will, instead, have to make repayments for 30 years before having the unpaid loan written off, something which is highly likely to affect an entire generation of potential homebuyers.

Sebastian Burnside, an economist at NatWest, told the Financial Times: “Compared to previous generations of homebuyers, it will take longer for them to have the income necessary to fund the homes they want to buy.”

New Hesa stats have also shown an overall increase in first degree leavers entering employment or further study last year, yet big gaps still remain at some universities and among certain ethnic groups.

Universities Minister, Jo Johnson, said: “It’s welcome news that graduate employment rates are continuing to rise, showing the value of our world-class universities in helping people into rewarding careers.

“But there is always more to do, particularly with variations in job prospects depending on a student’s background, ethnic group, or what course they studied. That’s why we are delivering on our manifesto commitment to introduce a new teaching excellence framework that will help ensure all students get the higher education experience they deserve.”