Thursday, September 30, 2010

How much is enough?

“Everyone wants to increase funding on education," says state Rep. Jason Nelson in the latest issue of the Oklahoma Gazette. "What I never hear people say is how much is enough and how much should go to the classroom. We should have some expectation of how much that is."

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Cheer up already

"We’ve won the war of ideas," Jay Greene points out.

Liberalism's greatest failure?

I realize the competition is stiff, but Jonah Golberg makes the case that "the decrepit state of American education is a ... sweeping, profound, and lasting indictment of the very heart of liberalism."

'A joyful place to work'

Nice profile today in The Oklahoman of St. Mary's Episcopal School in Edmond.

Your tax dollars at work

The bad news: a history book being used in the Oklahoma City public schools contains a section on past U.S. presidents entitled "O.D.W.M.," which stands for Old Dead White Men.

The good news: the kids probably can't read it.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Oklahomans fed up with subpar performance


More black parents turning to homeschooling

"Drawing attention to failing schools and underperforming children, a group of elected officials representing east Oklahoma City called Monday for renewed community action and involvement in education," The Oklahoman reports. Meanwhile over at NBC, we learn that more black parents are turning to homeschooling.

'There's a bonding that took place between us'

'Your child's spirit is broken'

"Bullying has long-term effect," Patty Miller reports in The Edmond Sun
After being told by school administrators “that is just the way middle school students act and hopefully within a few months these girls would target someone else,” the Duncans requested that more be done.

After interviewing the girls the administrator told the Duncans’ daughter that things were probably going to get worse and she would just have to live through it.

An hour after the interview Kathleen picked her daughter up for lunch. “She was standing at the curb, shaking all over,” Kathleen said. “She jumped in the car, curled up in a fetal position on the floor and started sobbing uncontrollably.”

The Duncans had her evaluated by a professional counselor who advised them she was too traumatized to return to this school environment. She would never feel safe there again.

“That is when we moved her to a private Catholic school,” Duncan said. “Luckily we found the money to pay for private school tuition, unlike many parents who do not have that option.” ...

“On one front your child’s spirit is broken,” Duncan said, “and there is no more frustrating feeling than watching your child be abused.”

“The other front is the fact that the school administration just wants you and the problem to go away.”

Fair enough. Just give us that voucher or tax break and we'll be happy to go away.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Obama: Spending up, results down

"We can't spend our way out of it," President Obama says. "I think that when you look at the statistics, the fact is that our per-pupil spending has gone up during the last couple of decades even as results have gone down."

Now where does the man get off talking crazy like that?

And here's a look at Oklahoma:

You don't say

"President Obama said Monday that his daughters could not get the same level of education from D.C. public schools that they receive at the elite private school they attend," The Washington Post reports.

It only seems fair

News reports tell us that David Pennington, the top bureaucrat in the Ponca City school district, has a $227,000 yearly compensation package. You got a problem with that?

I don't (after all, it's not easy to get by on 19 grand a month), but I do think it's incumbent upon Mr. Pennington to share the wealth with those former students who were poorly served by the Ponca City public schools. I'm thinking not of the high-school dropouts or the graduates who can't read their diplomas, but rather of those young men and women who go off to college under the impression that they're ready for college-level work (what with having a high-school diploma and all). Nearly 1 in 3 of them require at least one remedial course, and could probably use a little help with tuition.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Are districts complying?

I raised the point yesterday ('Bureaucrats behaving badly?') that even though Lindsey's Law is now the law, school districts might hem and haw. They might drag their feet, make excuses, hide behind lawyers -- whatever it takes to avoid giving taxpaying parents their money.

So what say you? Have you applied for a Henry Scholarship? If so, what's been your experience dealing with your local school district? Has anyone actually been awarded their scholarship yet? Please leave a comment below.

Why merit pay doesn't work

"Public school merit pay lashes a few feathers to a brick," Andrew Coulson writes. "Why be surprised when it doesn’t fly?"

Friday, September 24, 2010

I'm discussing school choice ...

... with Martin Ramirez on Oklahoma Hispanic talk radio tomorrow afternoon at 1:30.

Where are the benefits?

"The evidence shows that government-funded, large-scale early-education programs fail to deliver long-term educational benefits," Katrina Trinko writes.
Comparing the most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress fourth-grade scores in reading with the results from before universal preschool was instituted [in Georgia and Oklahoma] shows that students either fell behind or failed to catch up with the national average. In 1998, the year universal preschool began in Oklahoma, the average score was 219 — six points ahead of the national average. By 2009, the average score had dropped to 217, even as the national average shot up to 220. In Georgia, where universal preschool became available in 1995, student scores did improve, from 207 in 1994 to 218 in 2009 — from five below to two below the national average, hardly a dramatic boost. If universal preschool confers lasting academic benefits, shouldn’t those benefits have shown up in these states’ test scores, considering that very few states offer widespread public preschool?

The fourth-grade math scores also failed to show significant progress. In 1992, Georgia was three points behind the national average, and in 2009, remained three points behind. Oklahoma, which was tied with the national average in 2000 (two years after the program was begun, but before any of the students could have reached fourth grade), is now two points behind. Looking at the data from these two states and other government-funded preschool programs in a 2009 Heritage Foundation backgrounder, policy analyst Lindsey Burke concluded that “a broader examination of research evidence from existing preschool programs casts doubt on supporters’ claims that new spending on universal preschool programs will yield meaningful long-term benefits for students.”

It is "exceedingly difficult to end ineffective education programs," she concludes. "Both Georgia and Oklahoma are right-leaning states, and both face budget problems ... but both continue to generously fund preschool. In 2009, Georgia spent $332 million, according to the National Institute for Early Education Research, averaging $4,239 per student. Oklahoma spent $147 million, averaging $4,084 per student."

Bureaucrats behaving badly?

"Seventeen private schools, including seven in the Tulsa area, received approval Thursday to participate in a new scholarship program for students with disabilities," the Tulsa World's Andrea Eger reports today.

But here's the thing: The Empire will strike back. The Empire always strikes back. Sure, Lindsey's Law is now the law. But hey, people disobey laws all the time. Even school districts. As law professor (and OCPA adjunct scholar) Andrew Spiropoulos pointed out this week,
I have found that too many of those who run school districts hate the three things -- high standards, parental choice, and accountability -- that are the foundation of education reform. You can pass all the education reforms you want, but if the superintendent doesn’t make school districts implement them, far too many will dodge, delay, and, if necessary, obstruct any reforms they don’t like. We have certainly seen this pattern of behavior in Tulsa concerning charter schools. It also would not surprise me if we soon heard stories about school districts refusing to help parents of special-needs children (as they are required to do by law) receive scholarships to send their children to private school. Make no mistake about it: Many districts will not willingly facilitate parental choice.

McCluskey nails it

Actually, now's a great time to emphasize local control and parental choice -- and to tell Uncle Sam to butt out.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Tinkering isn't working

"In the last week," Jay P. Greene writes ('Merit Pay Bust'), "I hope ed reformers have learned that we can’t really improve the school system by maintaining the same centralized system while trying to sneak a reformer into the control room (a la Michelle Rhee). And I also hope we’ve learned that we can’t tinker with the incentives within that same centralized system (a la merit pay). The key to effective reform is decentralization of control via school choice, including charters, vouchers, tax credits, weighted student funding, etc."

Monday, September 20, 2010

Healthy competition

Just as the presence of a Wal-Mart across the street helps to keep Target on its toes, the existence of the Henry Scholarships will push public schools to improve.

“I just don’t think [the Henry Scholarships] will impact us that much,” one public school official tells the Muskogee Phoenix. “But, it should challenge public education to continue meeting the needs of the students and provide good services.”

When Special Ed fails

The needs of many Special Education students are not being met in Oklahoma's public schools. Patrick McGuigan of CapitolBeatOK recently gave us one example, and yesterday in the Tulsa World Andrea Eger reported that
Problems kept mounting for Lauren Marshall's son Dylan at Tulsa's McKinley Elementary.

"He was hiding under a table or off in a corner with his hands over his ears from all of the noise," Marshall said.

After some testing, doctors determined Dylan has Asperger's Syndrome, a form of autism, and dyslexia. Marshall pulled Dylan and his younger brother, David, out of McKinley, quit her job at a department store and began home-schooling them in 2008.

"I didn't have a choice -- he was drowning," she said, referring to Dylan. "The school was going to promote him even though he clearly wasn't ready for fourth grade." 

Dylan ended up choosing virtual education, but it's good to know he also has other choices, including a scholarship to attend a private school.

'The kids are outgrowing our schools'

Virtual schooling is here, and there's no putting the genie back in the bottle. The Tulsa World has two new stories on the matter ("'Virtual school' gains popularity in Oklahoma") and ("Local school districts initiate online classes"), and here is a very interesting podcast on the subject.

Friday, September 17, 2010

OBA shines

"There are only two National Merit Scholarship Program semifinalists in northwest Oklahoma," the Enid News and Eagle reports, "and both are students at Oklahoma Bible Academy."

'There is waste'

A year ago at this time, OEA representatives brought in Phil Busey to testify at an interim study in favor of the HOPE initiative (later rechristened State Question 744).

Today in The Oklahoman, Busey says "there is waste" in the public education system. He says enacting SQ 744 will create budget crises. He says "throwing money at the problem without change isn't the answer."

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Palin lauds Oklahoma's special-needs law

Last night in Tulsa, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin praised Oklahoma for its landscape of educational choice, including "charter schools, effective home schooling," and a new law allowing special-needs kids to attend private schools. "Children with special needs for too long have been excluded," she said. "Why make it even tougher for these kids who have it so tough already?"

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

'When special education isn't'

Wondering why the Henry Scholarships are important? Take a look at this.

Some bullying victims now have an escape hatch

"Three children are charged in Logan County with felony assault after the kicking of an autistic 12-year-old in the stomach was videotaped and the schoolyard incident posted online," The Oklahoman reports today.

Obviously the schools need to solve their massive bullying problem, but in the meantime it's nice to know that autistic students, as well as other special-needs students, now have an opportunity to attend a school where they'll be safer.

Monday, September 13, 2010

You go girl

Women should set their sights high, one Heritage Foundation researcher suggests. Aspire to be the CEO ... of your child's homeschool.

Friday, September 10, 2010

12-year-old autistic boy bullied

KFOR reports on an autistic 12-year-old boy in the Crescent school district who was bullied by fellow students.

Fortunately, autistic students in Oklahoma now have access to a life preserver.

'Growth of online schooling reshaping 21st-century classroom'

The state's largest newspaper takes note of "the changing nature of a 21st-century education."

Teachers unions are swell!

Michael Bates has a good post over at BatesLine this morning.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

'A long-term waste of money'

The Journal Record editorializes against State Question 744 today, calling the measure "a long-term waste of money" and saying "it’s clear that the proposed formula will not improve classroom performance."

Now where do they get off saying something crazy like that?

[Cross-posted at Dutch, Reformed]

Teenager brings loaded handgun to school

A teenager in Marlow who was involved in a fight with other students last month brought a loaded 9-millimeter handgun to school this week.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A win-win situation

KFOR is reporting that some government schools in Oklahoma City have more students than chairs.

As it happens, some private schools in Oklahoma City have more chairs than students.

So how about vouchers or tax credits which let some of the students go someplace where there are enough chairs?

School choice a big help in tight fiscal times

Manhattan Institute researcher Marcus A. Winters reminds us that "these tight fiscal times provide just one more reason for state legislatures to embrace school choice."

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Demography is not destiny

[Guest post by OCPA intern Taylor Stair]
"The needs of Oklahoma children have become more complex and more difficult … In 1990 Oklahoma’s student poverty was 35 percent, overwhelmingly Caucasian and schools were educating 577,000 students. In 2010, schools served about 650,000 students with a poverty rate of 60 percent. Caucasian students now have a slight majority in the Oklahoma student population and the numbers of students who are homeless, speak English as a second language and/or are in foster care/state custody are astonishing."
-- Superintendent Sandy Garrett, State of Education Address, July 2010

Disadvantaged students have typically performed at lower levels on standardized tests, have lower graduation rates, and as a result are ill-prepared as they enter the workforce. This, according to state Superintendent Sandy Garrett, is a primary challenge facing Oklahoma’s educators as the demographics of Oklahoma’s students become increasingly diverse.

Yet despite the challenges of a shifting demographic, good news comes from the Sunshine State. Thanks largely to the leadership of then-Governor Jeb Bush, Florida has seen remarkable improvement among its students' standardized test scores, especially among disadvantaged students. How is this so? The answer lies in Florida’s embrace of comprehensive school reforms, including school choice.

Compare the education policies of Oklahoma and Florida over the past decade and the difference is clear. While Florida got innovative and expanded its use of charter schools, vouchers, and virtual education (Florida has the largest virtual school in the nation), allowing the unique needs of disadvantaged students to be met, Oklahoma resisted needed reforms to education and instead created a lottery.

The figures below show the results of each state’s efforts in education. And they help to illustrate that demography isn't necessarily destiny.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Unintended-consequences watch

Previous OCPA articles have drawn attention to Oklahoma's shameful "bounty system," wherein schools are rewarded with extra cash every time they diagnose a student as "disabled." We've reached the point now where some 94,000 Oklahoma children are identified with "disabilities" -- nearly 14 percent of the total student population.

Well, don't look now, but that means 94,000 children are now eligible for scholarships to attend a private school. Whoops!

"Whoever digs a pit will fall into it," the proverb says, "and a stone will come back on him who starts it rolling."

Thanks for the free advertising

So I'm over in Stockyards City today having lunch with state Rep. Jason Nelson, and he mentions to me that he loves it when Frosty Troy takes to the airwaves of NPR to badmouth the Henry Scholarships. Why? Because Rep. Nelson then gets calls from NPR listeners who had never heard of the scholarships but now want to know how they can sign up!

Which isn't surprising. Remember, Oklahoma voters favor school choice for special-needs kids by a margin of 55 to 39. Even those people who are most likely to listen to NPR are on board with the idea. Moderates favor it by a margin of 59 to 35. Those who identify themselves as "somewhat liberal" favor it 57 to 40. Even "very liberal" Oklahomans favor it 50 to 46.

House to study Henry Scholarships

On Tuesday, September 14, the Oklahoma House of Representatives will continue its interim study of the Lindsey Nicole Henry Students with Disabilities Scholarships Program. The hearing is scheduled for 2:30 PM in Room 512A of the state capitol building.

Trillions of dollars later, still 'ignorant'

In a colossal admission against interest, one Oklahoma public-school booster lamented this week that we don't have "a nation of educated, thoughtful ... people."

And after spending all that money!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

'Parents are looking for choice'

"Parents are looking for choice," assistant state superintendent for special education services Misty Kimbrough tells The Oklahoman. "Many parents are interested [in the Henry Scholarships] and we'll probably see more interest as the word gets out."

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Students are safer

... in private schools than in public schools, according to a report released July 15 by the National Center for Education Statistics. As the report notes on page 7,
The percentage of public school students who reported being victims of any crime (4.6 percent) and theft (3.2 percent) was higher than that of private school students (1.1 percent each for any crime and theft).

 HT: Council for American Private Education

New ALEC report card not kind to Oklahoma

"Today the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) released a new book that provides a simple, direct way of comparing the effectiveness of public education in every state," writes Matt Ladner, co-author of the Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress and Reform
For the Report Card, we rank all 50 states and the District of Columbia based on student test scores and learning gains on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). We focused in particular on the scores of low-income students who were not in special education programs from 2003 to 2009, the years in which all jurisdictions took the tests used by NAEP.

Our rankings give the same weight to overall performance (which states had the highest test scores) and overall gains (which states made the most progress over time). 

Oklahoma ranks a disappointing 43rd in the nation.

What, you think a Women's Studies major would be this cogent?

An OU letters major says more school spending won't help, but school choice will.

Lindsey's Law receiving attention

The Oklahoma House of Representatives began an interim study yesterday of the Lindsey Nicole Henry Students with Disabilities Scholarships Program. The Oklahoman's coverage is here and the Tulsa World's coverage is here. The next hearing is scheduled for September 14. More information on the Henry Scholarships is available from this page on the website of the Oklahoma State Department of Education.

Lest we get bogged down in things like interim studies and administrative rules, let's remind ourselves what this is all about: