Thursday, June 30, 2011

Game, set, match

"At 1900 N.E. 10 Street, amid rows of low income neighborhood blocks with blight and abandoned buildings, there is a little brown school building," Stacy Martin reports for CapitolBeatOK.
When school is in session, it is filled with students from homes just like one would expect: poor families, kids with parents in prison, adults who are addicted to drugs, neglectful, absent in their kids’ lives. Some have ceded their parenting to grandparents. These are proven obstacles to student achievement.

The building’s school on the first floor, F.D. Moon Academy, is now one of Oklahoma City’s most troubled elementary schools. Federal law has compelled the district to seize control and turn it around. But go upstairs to the second floor, and you will find irony incarnate.

On that second floor, there are the same kinds of kids from the same backgrounds. But this is (Knowledge is Power Program) KIPP Reach Academy, a charter school. It is the highest achieving middle school in the Oklahoma City Public School District ...

Meet the (suburban) parents

Lew Andrews has a very good article making the case that, when it comes to education reform, upper-middle class suburban parents are often part of the problem.
"[I]f we were being brutally honest," says Chester Finn, assistant secretary of education in the Reagan administration and now president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, "we would be saying to suburban America that your kids actually aren't learning very much either."

One telling indicator of the low quality of suburban schools is the rise of tutoring. In 2008, PBS's Nightly Business Report estimated professional tutoring to be a $4 billion industry that year, concentrated in the suburbs, with a 10 percent estimated annual growth rate.

Even this figure does not take into account either the common off-the-books arrangements with moonlighting teachers or burgeoning Internet options. With small online providers like Colorado-based e-Tutor seeing revenue jump from $180,000 in 2009 to a quarter million in 2010 despite the recession, the Kaplan online university division of the Washington Post has launched its own reading and math programs for elementary and middle school students.

How is it that intelligent and motivated parents, many sacrificing financially to afford homes in the most expensive suburbs, end up as uncritical supporters of a public school system that does a better job of filling students' leisure fantasies than providing a rigorous education?

Preschool gains limited, difficult to replicate

Heritage Foundation analyst Lindsey Burke says "the long-term social benefits to good preschooling for poor children found by a new study of a Chicago pilot program would be difficult to replicate for other children and towns, experts say."
While researchers found modest gains for low-income children, education experts cautioned it would be difficult to replicate these outcomes on a large scale, as with programs like Head Start, or for middle- and upper-income children.

"Any argument for universal preschool must show that middle-income and upper-income children are helped by having government-funded preschool available to all children," said Lance Izumi, senior director of education studies at the Pacific Research Institute. "Previous studies, such as the RAND study that was issued during the campaign for universal preschool in California, specifically admitted that there was little evidence showing that preschool improved the achievement and life circumstances of middle-income and upper-income children."

States' experience with offering universal or state-funded preschool programs have shown "disappointing" student achievement results, Izumi said. Internal reviews by the Department of Health and Human Services have shown for decades that the nation’s largest preschool program, Head Start, does nothing for students' test scores past first grade.

"Concluding that a program like this would benefit the average, middle-class child is akin to suggesting that penicillin will improve your child’s health," [Goldwater Institute president Darcy] Olsen said. "Penicillin is great for fighting infection in the sick, but has no effect on those who are not in need and may even be harmful."

I remember a conversation last year in which state Rep. Jabar Shumate (D-Tulsa) told me that even the best preschool is for naught if the child then goes to bad schools for 12 years. He's right. As Olsen puts it, "changing a child’s trajectory requires fundamentally reforming our public schools into schools that can meet children's learning needs throughout the years."

'Future schools'

Jonathan Schorr and Deborah McGriff on blending face-to-face and online learning.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

'School violence is getting out of hand'

So says 16-year-old Kalynn Antwine, a student at Webster High School in Tulsa:
I am ashamed of how our teachers, students and even parents do not take school violence seriously. ... Verbal abuse is worse than physical abuse because most likely if someone sees you being hurt they will help. If someone is putting you down, most people will just watch. I find it sad that this happens often. In Michigan, a 15-year-old girl committed suicide because her so-called friends started calling her names and being mean to her.

And it's not just Michigan. Jordon Shinn reported in The Daily O'Collegian on November 10, 2010, that "bullying was a hot topic at the Stillwater Board of Education meeting Tuesday night, as the father of a recent suicide victim gave his testimony to a room packed with quietly concerned parents."

Early in the meeting, Patricia Hughes, assistant professor for the School of Applied Health and Educational Psychology at OSU, gave a presentation on bullying in Oklahoma schools.

"It's leading to suicide more and more often, more and more young," said Hughes. "We're seeing an escalation in the incidents, in the violence. Here, we're seeing suicides happening very, very, very close to us."

Hughes participated in the Oklahoma Anti-Bullying Survey of 2005. The largest study of its kind done in the United States, it surveyed more than 10,000 third-, fifth- and seventh-graders from 85 school districts in Oklahoma, according to

"What we found out is that one out of five kids in Oklahoma schools is worried about bullying," Hughes said. The survey questioned students about three areas of bullying: physical, social, and sexual.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Advanced Academics expanding

"Advanced Academics, an online tutoring service, plans to add 50 more employees as it expands its home office in Bricktown," Steve Lackmeyer reports today in The Oklahoman.

Friday, June 24, 2011

'School voucher programs and the effects of a little healthy competition'

Gray Lady says homeschooling 'more mainstream'

Homeschooling "has become more mainstream," The New York Times reported last week in a story on a homeschool commencement ceremony in south Florida.

And speaking of homeschool commencement ceremonies, I happen to know a little something about those.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

'Charter school pensions: the sum of teacher unions’ fears'

"As if the teachers unions need another reason to hate charter schools," Michael Petrilli writes, "here’s one: The finding, from a new Fordham Institute report, that when given a chance to opt out of state pension systems, many charter schools take it. Furthermore, a fair number of these charters replace traditional pensions with nothing at all."

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

'The shelf life of state virtual schools'

Bryan Setser asks some important questions:
  • Can state-led virtual schools be nimble?
  • Can choice coexist with competent and creative curators?
  • Can state virtual schools get out of their own way?

Red states rule

Blue-state schools are "the shame of a nation."

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

OEA honcho pockets $229,768

The Oklahoma Education Association lost 707 members last year, Stacy Martin and Patrick B. McGuigan report over at CapitolBeatOK. Consequently, the union's 2010-2011 dues of $438 are set to rise to $450.

Many OEA members doubtless think a good chunk of their dues money goes to purchase their liability insurance. Think again! "Most of the dollars deducted from teachers' paychecks," says education reporter Mike Antonucci, "are inserted into the paychecks of someone else." Someone else like the OEA staffer who pocketed a cool $229,768.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Scholar says cheating is widespread

More diligence is needed to discourage cheating in schools, Herbert J. Walberg writes. Not only cheating by students, but cheating by teachers and administrators.

Personalized education is here

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

$21,000-per-month earner bemoans 'legislature's unwillingness to fund schools'

"[T]he Oklahoma Legislature is determined to have smaller government," says frustrated Tulsa school superintendent Keith Ballard. To which one must reply, "Not only the Legislature -- their constituents too!" Interestingly, Mr. Ballard doesn't appear to realize that Oklahoma government spending is at an all-time high and that smaller government has not yet arrived. 

For good measure, Mr. Ballard gets in a few licks on school choice and tax cuts, perhaps unaware that those are popular too and that he probably ought to brace for more of them. Somebody keep the Prozac handy!

"What in the world is going on here? Get Stratton on the phone!"

Monday, June 13, 2011

Colorado's third-largest school district enacts voucher plan

Choctaw-Nicoma Park and Oklahoma Virtual Charter Academy announce new online public charter school

"Families in Oklahoma now have access to an innovative new public school with the opening of the Oklahoma Virtual Charter Academy (OVCA)," according to a press release from OVCA.
OVCA is a tuition-free online public charter school that will serve students in grades kindergarten through high school beginning this Fall. The school is open to eligible residents of Oklahoma.

OVCA is now accepting applications to enroll in the school. The school is planning to host numerous community events and information sessions for parents and students interested in learning more about the online public school. Families can receive more information about OVCA at

OVCA was recently approved by Choctaw-Nicoma Park Public Schools. The charter school is governed by an independent, nonprofit school board.

Kristi Gifford, board president, said, "The board is excited to offer this public school option to Oklahoma families. This school will offer parents an excellent school choice with a focus on personalized learning through the use of a high quality curriculum. For many families, online schools are the best opportunity for their children to succeed academically. We thank the Choctaw-Nicoma Park Schools for making this possible."

Dr. Jim McCharen, Superintendent of Choctaw-Nicoma Park Public Schools, said, "Choctaw-Nicoma Park Public Schools is proud to partner with OVCA to expand education opportunities for Oklahoma's students. Online learning is growing as educators look for new ways to individualize learning. OVCA will help meet the education needs of students and help foster a close partnership with teachers and parents."

OVCA plans to use the curriculum and program offered by K12 Inc., the largest provider of K-12 online school programs in the U.S. The K12 program is used by school districts and charter schools across the country and has received numerous awards for innovation and excellence.

OVCA will offer students the opportunity to receive a personalized learning program outside the traditional classroom, usually at home. Students will have greater flexibility to work at a level and pace that fits their individual needs.

Students will benefit from a wide offering of courses including core subjects, world languages, AP and honors courses, and other exciting high school electives. Certified teachers will provide instruction and support and work in partnership with the student's "Learning Coach" – a parent or responsible adult.

Students will access online lessons, participate in teacher-led web-based classes, and also receive off-line education materials delivered to directly to their home.

Students will be required to meet accountability standards, including academic and attendance requirements, and participation in state assessment tests.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Tea Party growing, focusing on state issues

"These days," The Daily Caller reports, "Tea Party activists are focused on state and local issues, such as school choice legislation ..."

Friday, June 10, 2011

'Why Catholic schools matter'

"They’re still the best hope for poor, inner-city kids."

'Education showdown'

"The irresistible force of school reform meets the immovable object of teachers unions."

A little competition might help spur reform

Earlier this week in The Wall Street Journal, economist Richard Vedder suggested that we could cut tuition in half if college professors would simply teach more classes. As it happens, Dr. Vedder wrote the foreword for a new OCPA report, which Michael Carnuccio and I discuss in this brief video clip.

And while we're at it, now's as good a time as any to remind people that we should expand higher-ed vouchers in Oklahoma.

'Colleges of education aren't necessary'

"What should be required of prospective teachers," says an OU professor emeritus in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, "is to major in the subject or subjects they wish to teach and to take a couple of courses on how to teach."

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Do homeschoolers do well in college?

Michael F. Cogan explores the question in the Summer 2010 Journal of College Admission ("Exploring Academic Outcomes of Homeschooled Students"). Here's the abstract:
This exploratory study examines the academic outcomes of homeschooled students who enter a medium size doctoral institution located in the Midwest. Descriptive analysis reveals homeschool students possess higher ACT scores, grade point averages (GPAs) and graduation rates when compared to traditionally educated students. In addition, multiple regression analysis results reveal that students who are homeschooled earn higher first-year and fourth-year GPAs when controlling for demographic, pre-college, engagement, and first-term academic factors. Further, binary logistic regression results indicate there is no significant difference between homeschooled students' fall-to-fall retention and four-year graduation rates when compared to traditionally educated students while controlling for these same factors.

HT: Milton Gaither

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

KFOR covers bill signing, ad campaign

I had an opportunity to take part in a very meaningful bill-signing ceremony today, and to talk to Channel 4 reporter Tina McGarry about Oklahoma's newest school-choice legislation and a new ad campaign. Unlike the Associated Press, McGarry understands that private donations to charity are

Perhaps you've seen the billboards or heard the radio ads asking, Why not give Oklahoma families the freedom of school choice? Please visit the website, and let's keep the momentum going for school choice in Oklahoma.

I'll be doing an interview with a reporter from KFOR today, so look for the story tonight.

School vouchers improve public schools

One of the talking points used most often by school-choice opponents is that "vouchers hurt public schools." The problem with that talking point is that it is false.

In the second edition of his report "A Win-Win Solution: The Empirical Evidence on School Vouchers," Greg Forster "collects the results of all available empirical studies using the best available scientific methods to measure how school vouchers affect academic outcomes for participants, and all available studies on how vouchers affect outcomes in public schools. Contrary to the widespread claim that vouchers do not benefit participants and hurt public schools, the empirical evidence consistently shows that vouchers improve outcomes for both participants and public schools." Among the report's key findings:
  • Ten empirical studies have used random assignment, the gold standard of social science, to examine how vouchers affect participants. Nine studies find that vouchers improve student outcomes, six that all students benefit and three that some benefit and some are not affected. One study finds no visible impact. None of these studies finds a negative impact.
  • Nineteen empirical studies have examined how vouchers affect outcomes in public schools. Of these studies, 18 find that vouchers improved public schools and one finds no visible impact. No empirical studies find that vouchers harm public schools.
  • Every empirical study ever conducted in Milwaukee, Florida, Ohio, Texas, Maine and Vermont finds that voucher programs in those places improved public schools.
  • Only one study, conducted in Washington D.C., found no visible impact from vouchers. This is not surprising, since the D.C. voucher program is the only one designed to shield public schools from the impact of competition. Thus, the D.C. study does not detract from the research consensus in favor of a positive effect from voucher competition.
Click image to enlarge

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Celebrating Oklahoma's school-choice victory

To celebrate Oklahoma's new school-choice tax credit, OCPA is hosting a come-and-go reception (complete with wine and hors d'Ĺ“uvres) on Wednesday, June 8 from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Please RSVP to Jennie Kleese at (405) 602-1667 or

Autistic child flourishing in new school

In his Broken Arrow public school, eight-year-old Trent Kimery "cried every single day," his mother says. But thanks to his special-needs scholarship, he is now flourishing in a private school.

Schools miss the point

In First Things, Patrick J. Wolf reviews the new book Does God Make a Difference? by the late Warren A. Nord, a political and religious liberal who taught philosophy at the University of North Carolina.
"With regard to religion," writes Warren Nord, "American education is superficial, illiberal, and unconstitutional. ... This should be recognized for what it is, a scandal." From kindergarten through college, public schools do a miserable job of teaching students about religion, if they even make the attempt. They leave most young adults poorly prepared to understand their world.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Catholic school nurtured Tisdales

"Here's a story about three black Tulsans," Patrick McGuigan writes in this month's issue of Perspective. One of them is the late Wayman Tisdale.
A black Tulsan known for smiling through the pain is the late Wayman Tisdale, a man I never met.

Last year, when the Knights of Columbus presented the John F. Kennedy award to Tisdale, posthumously, I learned more about the basketball superstar from the University of Oklahoma who went on to a successful NBA career, then superstar success in jazz. Tisdale may be best remembered for his heroic battle against cancer, to which he first lost his leg, and then his life.

At the Jim Thorpe Hall of Fame, Wayman’s brother, the Rev. Weldon Tisdale, represented the family and accepted the award.

Weldon remembered his sibling with deep affection as he accepted the JFK Award. Now pastor of Friendship Church in north Tulsa, he reflected, "You don’t have to tell me about the Knights, my family knows all about them." He thanked the Knights, and I learned the Tisdale boys (three of them, and Baptists) were graduates of grades 1 through 5 at the now-closed Immaculate Conception school. They got that education thanks to adults who loved them, and Knights in Tulsa.

After the event, I burrowed into the archives of the Tulsa World, and found a news story from 1988. The Tisdale boys (Wayman, Weldon, and older brother William) were on a sentimental journey. They were dedicating new basketball courts there at Immaculate Conception.

Wayman, then in his prime, told the World's Clay Henry, "I spent more years at this school than any other I've attended. The teachers here gave me the guidance I needed."

He said, "The teachers here didn't tell my folks all the things I did up here or I doubt I would be standing here right now. I was a fidgety kid. I liked to run around in class, throw stuff and yell. The teachers recognized that I was just a hyper kid with a lot of energy."

The Tisdale lads played a lot of basketball on the old courts at Immaculate Conception, but that was not what Wayman remembered: "It thrilled me more than anything to go play in the sandbox. I wanted to build sandcastles. I didn’t want to play basketball."

April 2011: The Knights in Oklahoma City cosponsored the first annual Wayman Tisdale Awards, presented by Devon Energy Corporation. ESPN legend Dick Vitale was given the Humanitarian of the Year designation for his leadership in raising money to fight the scourge of cancer. Young Jared Sullinger, the Ohio State University superstar, was named NCAA men's freshman basketball player of the year. A little star-struck, I shook hands with Toby Keith, and embraced Wayman's beautiful widow, Regina.

But the personal highlight of that evening came when I saw Weldon. Before I could remind him of the Knights connection, the preacher gave me a great big hug, that glorious Tisdale smile, and said, "Hello again, brother."

Brother. That meant a lot.

I never knew Wayman personally, but I know him a little more every day.

I know his roots in a community that believed in him, and ultimately loved him. His experiences at a Catholic school his family chose, a place that taught discipline, and let him be a little boy with possibilities. Wayman Tisdale was a lad nurtured in love, an optimist with dreams rooted in good education and hard work.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Tulsa prof mentions American woes

"American education ranks closer to Second- or Third-World achievement than it does to its industrial world counterparts," one Tulsa educator writes.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

ALEC backs Taxpayer Savings Grants

The following ALEC Issue Alert, dated May 25, 2011, was sent to ALEC members in Texas. It was written by David J. Myslinski, director of ALEC's Education Task Force (of which I am a member).
Providing a quality education to every student represents an ongoing challenge each state faces, especially in times of tight budgets. The very nature of the task requires a flexible and tailored approach, one that accounts for the uniqueness of every child despite the various categories under which they may fall.

Texas has before it the opportunity to provide its students with quality education options while saving taxpayers money. The Taxpayers' Savings Grant Program is currently being considered as an amendment to an upcoming appropriations bill.

ALEC strongly supports programs that provide students a variety of choices which allow them access to schools that best suit their needs. ALEC also supports efforts that lessen the burden on taxpayers, especially in times of economic instability.

The Taxpayers' Savings Grant Program (TSGP) allows parents to move their children from public schools to private schools, using a savings grant of up to $5,143 to pay for tuition. By limiting the grant to a maximum of $5,143—60 percent of Texas’ per-pupil expenditure, or the cost of tuition, whichever is less—Texas will save, at a minimum, roughly $3,429 for each student who opts into this program, which will be put back into Texas' education fund.

Research by The Heartland Institute shows approximately 350,000 students would be enrolled in private schools under the program, creating a net savings of more than $2 billion over the next two years.

Parents would be given the option to transfer their child from a public school to a private school and use a Taxpayers' Savings Grant to help pay the tuition. All parents with children currently enrolled in a Texas public school are eligible to participate, including students enrolling in kindergarten and first grade for the first time.
With students leaving public schools while a portion of their funding remains, public schools stand to gain. In fact, Texas public schools retain all of their local funding (on average, around $3,000 per student) and receive another $3,429 with every student who chooses to participate in the Savings Grant Program. At the end of the day, the program bumps current per pupil spending up by an astounding $473, and lifts Texas by as many as 8 spots in the national rankings.

The Texas Taxpayers' Savings Grant Program is in line with the principles of ALEC's Education Task Force, which supports effective programs such as the TSGP. It empowers parents with choice, it helps to raise achievement and create accountability in public schools, and it does all of this while saving the state over $2 billion and putting a major dent in a problem budget deficit.

For these reasons, ALEC strongly supports the Taxpayers' Savings Grant Program as it aligns with ALEC's existing policies.