2006-07-18T14:30:32.003-07:00Is this a sign that government is doing more to help or that poverty is on the rise? Maybe both are true.
2006-06-26T10:37:41.746-07:00Thought-provoking article in the Dallas News today. Starts out with a story of a girl who graduated with a 3.0 or thereabouts, got to college and had to take four remedial courses. She's not alone. Not by far. Estimates range from 50% to 87% for schools that don't adequately prepare students for college.
The answer lies partly in the unique history of American education, according to Michael Kirst, an education professor at Stanford University.
"We built two mass, disconnected systems. The K-12 system built up on its own, and higher education grew away from it," Dr. Kirst said. Over time, they've developed in "splendid isolation" of each other.
In England, Germany and many other developed countries, the two systems developed together. They have a long history of cooperation. For instance, together they create tests for college admission and placement, Dr. Kirst said. And here?
Many states require students to pass a test built on their state's curriculum – in Texas, the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills – to graduate from high school.
But to get into many colleges, students must take the ACT or SAT, tests that were created by national companies and that don't really reflect the skills states require for graduation.
2006-06-23T14:26:06.080-07:00There's always a lot of talk about gaps in education, but one gap isn't talked about enough: the gap in teacher quality between poor and rich schools.
States have two weeks to comply with the latest requirement of the federal No Child Left Behind Act and come up with a solution to what U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings calls teaching's “dirty little secret”:
The disparity in teacher quality between poor, largely minority schools and their more affluent, white counterparts.
A recent Education Trust report revealed large discrepancies in teacher qualifications in Illinois, Ohio and Wisconsin between poor and rich schools, and between mostly white schools and mostly minority ones.
In Ohio’s poorest elementary schools, for example, one of every eight teachers is not considered highly qualified, but in the state’s richest schools, that number falls to one in 67 teachers. In Wisconsin, schools with the highest minority student populations have more than twice as many novice teachers as schools with the lowest numbers of minority students.
2006-05-04T12:39:37.400-07:00I stole the title from Think Progress. Now that that's out, check out the story: Lamar Alexander has filed a resolution that the National Anthem should be sung only in English. He blasted Bob Dole in '95 for taking a stand against bilingual education.
2006-05-03T08:38:32.343-07:00Congressman George Miller, the ranking Democrat on the House Education Committee (OK, so it's education and the workforce, forgive me) has an excellent feature on the Committee website that allows students to share college funding horror stories that will be entered in the congressional record.
2006-05-03T07:32:02.826-07:00Score one for diabetes prevention. Nice work, Bill.
2006-05-02T08:48:41.416-07:00DON'T HIRE BILL BENNETT!!!
District cuts its ties with Va. companyBy Susan Snyder
Inquirer Staff Writer
The Philadelphia School District said yesterday it would sever ties with K12, the Virginia company that came under fire earlier this school year after its cofounder made controversial comments about aborting black babies.
The company's $3 million contract to provide elementary science curriculum materials expired yesterday, and the School Reform Commission will not extend it, as the administration originally had planned to do, officials said.
A majority of commission members voted in November to honor the contract - eliciting an outcry from some community members - but indicated they would review it when it came up for renewal. None of the members who supported the contract in November returned calls yesterday to explain why they opted to discontinue the relationship with K12.
"The commission considered whether to terminate the contract at that point even though it would have meant a financial penalty, and the majority said they were not willing to do that," district spokeswoman Cecilia Cummings said. "As of today, the contract is no longer in play."
Cummings declined to say why.
"I can't comment beyond that," she said.
The controversy started in September when William Bennett, cofounder of K12, said on his national radio show: "If you wanted to reduce crime... you could abort every black baby in this country."
2006-05-01T11:01:06.563-07:00A great article about the changes in kindergarten. The upshot? Naps are out.
2006-05-01T06:32:55.913-07:00Odessa school officials are moving forward with their plans for a Bible class. Now, I've said many times on this blog that I'm all for teaching religion in schools if it's done in an, ahem, fair and balanced kind of a way -- that is, if it is comparative religion, or religion as literature. But if it's going to be done successfully, we need some model classes that are prepared by religion professors at the highest levels, that can bring perspective and evenhandedness to the teaching approach.
ODESSA — Dozens of students have already signed up and district administrators are testing a pilot course as a West Texas school district prepares to offer a high school class on the Bible, officials said.
The Ector County Independent School District approved the elective course in December, despite opposition from critics who condemned the course as Christian proselytizing instead of education.
About 60 students from two high schools have signed up for the course, which will be offered next fall, district spokesman Mike Adkins said. The semester's schedule includes the class for each period of the day, but that could change depending on demand, he said.
Ian Roark, the district's social studies coordinator, is taking the online version of the course to test out the curriculum. He described the course as "non-devotional" with a focus on history and culture related to the Bible.
The district selected a course developed by North Carolina-based National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools that uses the King James version of the Bible.
Critics said the selection showed favoritism toward Protestant Christianity.
Roark, who will oversee the implementation of the course, said students can use any version of the Bible they're comfortable with.
"Basically you are free to use whatever version of the Bible you and your family would like for you to use as a student," he said.
2006-04-30T20:16:56.980-07:00Watch out, Texas teachers. The Texas Legislature has you in their crosshairs. While a $2,000 across-the-board pay raise is bandied about (that would put Texas within $5,000 of the national average-- whoopee!), there could be a steep tradeoff:
Sen. Florence Shapiro, the Plano Republican who heads the Senate's education committee, said she plans to attach a proposal that increases accountability for Texas schools to her chamber's version of a tax overhaul.
One proposal — to reconstitute campuses deemed academically unacceptable two years in a row — is tougher than what the federal law requires. Under Shapiro's plan, a campus intervention team would decide which, if any, of the existing faculty could remain.
If the school has had the same principal for the past two years, that principal must go.
The school also could be subject to management from a private, nonprofit company or face being closed.
"How can you leave a school open that's failing our children?" Shapiro said. "If a school has been low-performing for at least two years, in my view, that's a bad school."
2006-04-17T21:53:31.650-07:00Getting sick of seeing report after report from right wing think tanks go unanswered? Well, the Think Tank Review Project is for you (and me). ASU and CU researchers are teaming up to provide a counterpoint to ideological bullshit trumpeted as scholarship. It's often anything but and the TTRP will expose them when they're... shall we say, stretching the truth.
“Calling these reports to account brings more discipline to what's become kind of a 'wild west' of scholarly writing," said University of Illinois education professor Christopher Lubienski, one of the participants in what is being called the Think Tank Review Project.
It plans to provide policymakers and the news media with "expert reviews" of major education studies within two weeks of a report's release.
Think Tank Review Project co-director Kevin Welner, who also heads the Education and Public Interest Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder, said the reports that will be scrutinized are generally generated by private think tanks. While they often gain media attention and influence policymakers, they have very little credibility among academic researchers, he said.
Many think tanks were founded to advance particular political agendas and have become adept at presenting ideological arguments disguised as research, Welner said.
"Reporters and policymakers are not in the position to do their own detailed analysis of the methodology and data when they read these reports, so they're left to just trust the institutions that produce them," Welner told Stateline.org.
"Think tank" usually refers to an organization that claims to be a center of research and analysis of public policy issues, according to Sourcewatch.org, a project of the Center for Media and Democracy. But it said "many think tanks are little more than public relations fronts... generating self-serving scholarship that serves the advocacy goals of their industry sponsors."
2006-04-13T19:45:55.246-07:00I've heard of this before but was reminded of it by the incomparable Al Franken Show.
2006-04-13T19:18:32.623-07:00Sen. Durbin and Rep. Miller have introduced the Reverse the Raid on Student Aid Act of 2006.
2006-04-08T19:25:23.130-07:00Tom DeLay To Pursue Corruption In Private Sector
2006-04-08T18:50:15.646-07:00Kids need financial literacy. The rates of young people racking up credit card debts and declaring bankruptcy are going through the roof. And with the recent cuts in student financial aid, that problem will get far worse before it gets better.
All of this is fueling a debate over the appropriateness of using educational material developed by banks, financial advisers and credit-card issuers, since they have a vested interest in getting their marketing message in front of future customers. "Teachers become suspicious when materials have a logo," says Robert Duvall of the National Council on Economic Education, a New York nonprofit, nonpartisan group for improving economic literacy.
Troy Krogman, a high-school economics teacher in Spearfish, S.D., didn't pass out any branded handouts when a Wells Fargo banker guest lectured last year about bad check-writing among college freshman, because he was concerned the company was trying "to involve itself in the lives of kids before they get banking assistance."
Companies like Citigroup and Merrill Lynch & Co. say they are sensitive about issues like these, but hesitate to remove their names from materials they invested time and money developing.
Companies and educators are starting to develop some solutions. The Idaho Financial Literacy Coalition asks corporate speakers to sign a so-called nonmarketing agreement, stating they will maintain a "nonselling approach" and "will not solicit clients" during presentations.
2006-04-05T15:41:10.416-07:00Austin school officials are insisting that students not walk out on April 10. I can understand their position, but I think it's wrong. As an Austin Statesman reporter put it:
As the debate over federal immigration laws and the student walkouts continue around Central Texas and nationwide, school administrators and civic leaders are facing a conundrum: After years of telling young people they can change the world, what do you do when they try to prove you right?
We shouldn’t expect school administrators to just say, “Go ahead, skip school.” But, at the same time, effective civil protest must always be of a form that can’t be ignored. Peaceful? Absolutely. But rendered harmless, conducted in a way the authorities can simply ignore and smile weakly at, protests become invisible. These students are too smart for that. The invisible become easy victims.
2006-04-03T13:03:55.286-07:00Some progressive Texas groups want you to sign a petition. Consider these three facts:
(1)Texas has declined from 32nd to 40th in spending on education in the last 5 years
(2)Texas now spends $1500 less per student per year than the national average
(3)Texas teachers now are paid $6800 less per year than the national average
2006-04-03T10:29:29.300-07:00An article from Saturday's Baltimore Sun details the Maryland Legislature's vote to hold off on a plan to privatize 11 Baltimore public schools. Conspicuously absent from the article is any mention of who was going to take over the schools or what their plans for the perenially failing schools might look like.
2006-04-03T10:14:30.556-07:00An excellent NYT piece today does an excellent job examining some of the underlying problems with charter schools. They don't recommend what would seem to be an obvious solution: more rigorous standards for applicants. Once these schools open, it is very painful for students, teachers, families -- whole communities -- when they shut down. And all too often, they do shut down.
2006-04-03T09:55:54.630-07:00Texas will be coming back for a special legislative session to fix the mess some call "the school finance system." It's less a system than a patched-together hodgepodge of local taxes coupled with state sales tax. Added together, it equals significantly less than what school districts need to meet the standards required by the state.
The assembly's focus will be answering the state Supreme Court's 2005 ruling that Arkansas had not adequately funded education for the state's 450,000 students. The state faces a Dec. 1 deadline to address problems with the current funding formula.
Legislators are looking at an additional $132.5 million in funding over the next two years for the state's 251 school districts, plus a $90 million appropriation for repairing crumbling school buildings.
"It's strange that the former first lady would want to do this. If her son's having a rough time of it, couldn't she write him a check?" said Daniel Borochoff, founder of the American Institute of Philanthropy, a Chicago-based charity watchdog group.
2006-03-24T16:58:08.413-08:00I knew one S&L criminal was into educational software, but two?
There are 40 Ignite programs being used in the Houston area, and 15 in the Houston school district, said Ken Leonard, president of Ignite.
Information about the effectiveness of the program, through district-generated reports, was not readily available Wednesday, according to an HISD spokeswoman.
Two years ago, the school district raised eyebrows when it expanded the program by relying heavily on private donations.
In February 2004, the Houston school board unanimously agreed to accept $115,000 in charitable donations from businesses and individuals who insisted the money be spent on Ignite. The money covered half the bill for the software, which cost $10,000 per school.
The deal raised conflict of interest concerns because Neil Bush and company officials helped solicit the donations for the HISD Foundation, a philanthropic group that raises money for the district.
Last year, Neil Bush reportedly toured former Soviet Union countries promoting Ignite with Russian tycoon Boris Berezovsky.
According to the Times of London, Berezovsky, a former Kremlin insider now living in Britain, is wanted on criminal charges in Moscow accusing him of seeking to stage a coup against President Vladimir Putin.
2006-03-21T15:10:10.653-08:00Do they really imagine this will work? Oh yeah, these are the same people that thought they could privatize social security and democratize Iraq. Almost forgot. I guess it's not too much of a leap then for them to imagine they can solve the teenage drug problem through testing. Gosh, these people are just full of bright ideas!