Saturday, December 31, 2011

Gen Z homeschoolers will be prepared

Penelope Trunk is an A-List blogger who founded three startups, including Brazen Careerist. Her career advice runs in 200 newspapers, and Inc. Magazine called her "the world's most influential guidance counselor." She says Generation Z
will be homeschooled much more frequently than any generation before them, and Generation Z will understand how to synthesize data, self-direct learning, and ask the kinds of questions that make or break companies.

The portion of Generation Z that gets the old-fashioned, classroom-based education, will end up being unprepared to compete.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Give mothers their druthers (and their money)

"Is my mommy paying your salary?"
Let me say up front that I'm not thrilled to be writing about newborns and toddlers on a blog that deals with schools. I don't think babies and toddlers should be in schools. I agree with Patricia Cox, the superintendent of the Aline-Cleo Springs School District near Enid, that "in a perfect world, a beautiful world, children would not start school until age 8."

But that's not the world we live in. We live in a world where Oklahoma public schools offer extended daycare and happily enroll six-week-old students in an "education" program whose "curriculum" encourages "language enrichment" and "problem solving." We live in a world where Oklahoma's top education officials go out of their way to pronounce it "exciting" and "outstanding" that six-week-old students are part of Oklahoma's "early childhood education" system.

This surrogate parenting, of course, is key to the feminist project. As Suzanne Venker and Phyllis Schlafly explain in their new book The Flipside of Feminism: What Conservative Women Know—And Men Can’t Say:
The left wants to diminish the role and authority parents have over their preschool children. The lingo used for this goal varies. Sometimes it’s called "pre-kindergarten (pre-K)," sometimes "early childhood education," sometimes "full-day kindergarten," and sometimes just "day care." Except for old-fashioned nursery schools, which children attend for a few hours a day, two or three days a week, these programs are really euphemisms for babysitting.
This tax-funded-babysitting lobby was out in full force this summer as several Oklahomans—professional "child advocates," representatives of the daycare lobby, educators and bureaucrats, and so on—gathered on August 18 in Oklahoma City to consider policy recommendations of the Oklahoma Partnership for School Readiness (OPSR).

Now it's important to bear in mind that in 2010 Oklahoma spent $1.5 billion (billion with a b) on children from birth to five, according to the director of the liberal Oklahoma Policy Institute. This includes $447 million for "early education" and $128 million for "parenting education, child care, and family support." But for the left, of course, it's never enough. They want more of your money for more government intervention in the lives of infants, toddlers, and preschoolers.

When considering this push for an ever-expanding nanny state, "it is hard not to suspect the distorting influence of self-interest," as Bryce Christensen once observed. After all, said Dr. Christensen, author of Divided We Fall: Family Discord and the Fracturing of America, "mothers who stay at home with their children do not create new opportunities for educators or bureaucrats or lobbyists. Those opportunities open up only by persuading parents to turn their children over to surrogates while opening up their tax checkbooks to pay other people’s salaries."

Now what’s interesting—bizarre, actually—about the OPSR meeting is that of the 55 people there to discuss policy recommendations, 53 of them were women. (Where are the "gender equity" advocates when you need them?) But make no mistake, these 53 women hold views which are not consistent with the views of most Oklahoma women.

Indeed, the very afternoon of the OPSR meeting, the respected firm SoonerPoll released the results of a new survey. "Now thinking about early-childhood policies in Oklahoma," SoonerPoll said in one question, "do you think state government should focus more on creating and expanding programs for children from birth to age five, or making it easier and more affordable for one parent to stay at home with children from birth to age five?"

Only 26 percent of respondents said programs, while 57 percent said parents. Among women, the margin was 30 percent to 56 percent. Deliciously, among women with household income under $35,000, the margin was 29 percent to 57 percent. In other words, the 53 salaried women at the OPSR meeting can’t even win the very demographic they profess to care about the most.

Let’s look at another SoonerPoll question: "In two important ways, Oklahoma is a national leader in early childhood education. First, among all the states Oklahoma has the highest percentage of four-year-olds in state-funded preschool programs. Secondly, Oklahoma is one of the few states that offer a tax break for stay-at-home parents. Assuming there is a limited amount of money, which of the following do you think should take precedence: Increasing the amount of money spent on preschool programs for four-year-olds, or expanding the tax break for parents who stay at home with their four-year-olds?"

Now one would think preschool would prevail here. After all, Oklahoma parents signing little Johnny up for preschool or kindergarten routinely blurt out to reporters how much money they’ll be saving in daycare costs. And as George Bernard Shaw taught us, "a government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul."

But it turns out Oklahoma parents would prefer the tax break, and by a margin of 55 percent to 31 percent. Among women, the margin was 51 percent to 35 percent. Among women with household income under $35,000, the margin was 55 percent to 29 percent.

Gov. Mary Fallin and the legislature should make it more affordable for Oklahoma women to stay home if they choose. Rather than a mere tax break, let's eliminate the income tax altogether. The feminists won't like it, but the majority of Oklahoma women will.

  • "It is clear," writes Tyler Williamson of the 1889 Institute, "that schools no longer exist primarily to educate students."
  • Even liberals matter-of-factly acknowledge that public schools "provide not just education, but basic child care" and are "a reliable source of child care."
  • The Oklahoman ("Education and careers" supplement, April 29, 2012) avers that Oklahoma is "the leader in early childcare education." School principal Elizabeth Lund adds: "Let's be honest, schools are not about education."
  • It's small wonder the career-advice counselor Penelope Trunk says "the U.S. school system is really just the biggest babysitting institution in the world." 
  • "High child-care costs prompt many parents to enroll their children on time, or even early, in kindergarten to avoid the expense for another year," Education Week reports.
  • NPR helps drive home the point:

Monday, December 26, 2011

Oklahoma scholarship program off and running

The Oklahoman's Megan Rolland has a report on Oklahoma's new tax-credit scholarship program, which is similar to programs operating in seven other states.

Here's some more information:
Click image to enlarge

Friday, December 23, 2011

More Special Ed tragedies

Kevin P. Chavous of the American Federation for Children discusses Special Education and the "factory response" of many public schools.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Liberty superintendent works to suppress liberty

The Tulsa World has a slobbering puff piece today ("Rural superintendent speaks out against private school vouchers") on Donna Campo, a former small-town girls basketball coach now earning $124,125 annually to oversee fewer than 600 students in the inaptly named Liberty Public Schools.

A professing Christian, Mrs. Campo presides over a school district which, as a matter of law and public policy, must (like Peter) deny Christ. Seemingly untroubled by this, Mrs. Campo has in fact decided to double down: the World says she is "a central figure in the fight against vouchers," which is to say she's a leader in the movement to discriminate against Christians on the basis of their religion. All this despite the fact that not one of the students in her district has applied for a voucher.

Now one might think the Liberty superintendent would have more important things to do than to suppress educational and religious liberty. After all, the average ACT score in her district is a disappointing 18.5. Only 42 percent of her students go to college -- and nearly two out of three require remediation once they get there. Unsurprisingly, the math achievement of the average Liberty student is at the 41st percentile relative to an international comparison group. If one picked up the Liberty school district and dropped it into Canada, the average Liberty student would be at the 33rd percentile in math achievement. If Liberty were relocated to Singapore or to Finland, the average Liberty student would be at the 24th percentile in math achievement.

Come to think of it, with an educational product like that, perhaps Mrs. Campo's anti-liberty crusade is a wise use of her time after all. The monopolists know it's not easy attracting willing customers; it's much simpler to get your revenue units by force.

UPDATE: The state's largest newspaper has an excellent editorial here.

Not just creepy, but evil

The latest from the public-school cluelessness department: Incest humor!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

School choice helps thwart Special Ed bounty system

Nine years ago OCPA drew attention to Oklahoma's shameful Special Education "bounty system." Now Kenneth Campbell, president of the Black Alliance for Educational Options, reminds us that school choice can help alleviate the problem.

Obama rules by fiat, Oklahoma plays along

"Whether it is in the area of environmental regulations, labor and immigration law, No Child Left Behind, the auto bailout, the selective enforcement of other federal laws, and the regulation of the Internet (among others), the Obama Administration has in fact enacted its agenda via legislative fiat," attorney Mike Brownfield writes over at The Heritage Foundation blog. "So what’s the problem? A big thing called the U.S. Constitution and the separation of powers."

It's disappointing to see Oklahoma apply for a No Child Left Behind "waiver." As former deputy secretary of education Eugene Hickok says, these waivers are "unconstitutional, illegal, and immoral."

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Machete at preschool

"It's the kind of stuff that gives moms nightmares," the Associated Press reports:

a machete near a play area, household chemicals accessible to preschoolers, and instructors teaching without a criminal background check. These violations and others were found at Head Start centers across the country, according to a report released Tuesday by the inspector general of the Health and Human Services Department.

It's enough to make a fella nostalgic for the good old days, when the kids only had to worry about nunchucks.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Give a Catholic School scholarship, get a tax credit

Click image to enlarge

'The best and brightest (and politest)'

Hans von Spakovsky, a senior legal fellow at The Heritage Foundation, says "homeschoolers can get a great education, while at the same time learning the rules of civility and politeness that we seem to be losing in our culture."

School-choice program helping autistic boy

"When Kelly McLemore’s son Aaron was diagnosed with autism at age 3, she immediately enrolled him in the public preschool," writes the American Federation for Children.
In a self-contained classroom, Aaron struggled every day.

He didn't socialize well with the other students or his teacher. He often had outbursts of anger and was aggressive towards others. Kelly would keep Aaron home several days each week to give the teacher a break.

"My concern," Kelly said, "was that not all kids learn the same. Not all disabilities are the same."

When she heard on the news about a new school choice program that utilized education savings accounts, Kelly immediately applied. As the first family in the state to submit an application for the program, the McLemores were soon approved to participate.

Now in first grade at Chrysalis Academy, Aaron has made significant improvements.

"He is more calm and relaxed," Kelly said. "Aaron is interactive now with adults and other kids. He does tasks that are requested of him and is paying attention."

Aaron is able to watch television with his family, play with his three brothers and the dog, and has shown an interest in computers.

"This is what I’ve been praying for for three years," said Kelly. "My son can be active and productive in society now."

NEA already working to reelect Obama

Mike Antonucci has the story.

School choice documentaries available online

Three recent documentaries critical of K-12 education in America are now available for online viewing, two of them free of charge. Each film dramatizes the failures of public education, the efforts by lower-income parents to secure a better education for their children, and the ways that bureaucracy and entrenched interest groups work to thwart those efforts. If you missed the opportunity to see these films in theaters, now you can watch them at your convenience and easily encourage your friends, neighbors, and elected officials to do the same. (Hat tip to Ace of Spades HQ.)

The Cartel (92 minutes) is available for free streaming on Hulu and is also available for instant streaming to Netflix subscribers.

Teachers punished for speaking out. Principals fired for trying to do the right thing. Union leaders defending the indefensible. Bureaucrats blocking new charter schools. These are just some of the people we meet in The Cartel. The film also introduces us to teens who can't read, parents desperate for change, and teachers struggling to launch stable alternative schools for inner city kids who want to learn. We witness the tears of a little girl denied a coveted charter school spot, and we share the triumph of a Camden homeschool's first graduating class.

Together, these people and their stories offer an unforgettable look at how a widespread national crisis manifests itself in the educational failures and frustrations of individual communities. They also underscore what happens when our schools don't do their job. "These are real children whose lives are being destroyed," director Bob Bowdon explains.

The Lottery (80 minutes) is also available for free streaming on Hulu and for instant streaming to Netflix subscribers.

In a country where 58% of African American 4th graders are functionally illiterate, The Lottery uncovers the failures of the traditional public school system and reveals that hundreds of thousands of parents attempt to flee the system every year. The Lottery follows four of these families from Harlem and the Bronx who have entered their children in a charter school lottery. Out of thousands of hopefuls, only a small minority will win the chance of a better future.

Directed by Madeleine Sackler and shot by award-winning cinematographer Wolfgang Held, The Lottery uncovers a ferocious debate surrounding the education reform movement. Interviews with politicians and educators explain not only the crisis in public education, but also why it is fixable. A call to action to avert a catastrophe in the education of American children, The Lottery makes the case that any child can succeed.

Waiting for "Superman" is not available on Hulu, but is available for instant streaming to Netflix subscribers. It's notable as a critique of the public school system from the left side of the political spectrum.

It was a morning like any other -- as Academy Award winning filmmaker Davis Guggenheim was taking his young children to school -- that he was moved to act. Like many parents in America who are lucky enough to have the means, Guggenheim's children were headed that morning to an expensive private school, where he was assured they would find themselves in an invigorating environment with talented teachers devoted to bringing out the best in them.

But as he drove past the teeming, troubled, poorly performing public schools his family was able to bypass, Guggenheim was struck with questions he could not shake: What about the kids who had no other choice? What kind of education were they getting? Where were the assurances that they would have the chance to live out their dreams, to fulfill their vast potential? How heartsick and worried did their parents feel as they dropped their kids off this morning? And how could this be right in 21st Century America?

One would hope that anyone seeking a position on a school board in next spring's elections will have seen these films and be prepared to talk about the implications for the school system he or she seeks to serve. Would that Oklahoma's school boards were working to increase educational options for all Oklahoma children, rather than using lawsuits and foot-dragging to obstruct and attack the expansion of school choice.

Friday, December 9, 2011

ALEC pushes back against federal overreach

I'm a member of the education task force of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and last week's meeting in Phoenix was a lively one. The Heritage Foundation's Lindsey Burke was there, and writes:
American taxpayers, businesses, and families are outraged by the nationalization of health care through Obamacare. They’re upset by the federal overreach, the loss of health care choices they'll soon face, Obamacare's astounding price tag, and the opaque process by which this massive legislation was enacted.

If they found Obamacare upsetting, then Americans should take a look at the Obama Administration’s overreach in education. Last week, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) did just that, examining the push for national standards during a meeting of its Education Task Force. ...

Conservatives are concerned about this fast-moving effort to nationalize standards and tests. And last week, state leaders amped up the fight against more federal control of education.

At the ALEC meeting, model legislation was passed out of the Education Task Force that provides a blueprint for states that want to exit the national standards project and regain control over what is taught in local schools. ...

It’s time for state leaders to stand up to strong-arming from Washington, instead of faulting conservative organizations for pushing back on this latest federal overreach. A nationalization of education is underway, and unless conservatives work to fight Washington’s power grab, Obamacare won’t be the only overreach we’ll have to live under.

Not all Oklahoma school districts 'at their level best'

Mr. Ira Harris, who is paid nearly six figures to oversee a school district of 263 students, recently acknowledged that he "cannot and will not argue that all school districts in Oklahoma are at their level best ..."

He's right, of course. Indeed, he need look no further than his own district, Boise City, where the math achievement of the average student is at the 39th percentile relative to an international comparison group.

Here's another way to look at it:  If one picked up the Boise City school district and dropped it into Canada, the average Boise City student would be at the 31st percentile in math achievement. If Boise City were relocated to Singapore, the average Boise City student would be at the 23rd percentile in math achievement. If it were relocated to Finland, the average Boise City student would be at the 22nd percentile in math achievement.

This is unacceptable. Indeed, one is tempted to say there's a crisis in education in Boise City.

National School Choice Week will be here soon

January 22-28, 2012 is National School Choice Week across these United States. Several things will be happening in Oklahoma, including an event January 24 in Edmond featuring J.C. Watts and others (stay tuned for details). For now, here's a video recapping last year's festivities.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Special-needs program faces legal challenge

An innovative Arizona program for special-needs kids is being challenged by the education establishment. Fortunately, the good folks at the Institute for Justice are on the case.

Quote of the day

"We should not needlessly deprive families of valuable time they could spend together ... [for] whenever the family situation permits it, the best place for a preschool child is often at home. [Research] has demonstrated that the conversations children carry on at home may be the richest source of linguistic and cognitive enrichment for children from all but the most deprived backgrounds."
-- Yale professor Edward F. Zigler, one of the fathers of Head Start

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Quote of the day

"Freedom of education, being an essential of civil and religious liberty ... must not be interfered with under any pretext whatever. We are opposed to state interference with parental rights and rights of conscience in the education of children as an infringement of the fundamental ... doctrine that the largest individual liberty consistent with the rights of others insures the highest type of American citizenship and the best government."
-- From the national platform adopted by the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, 1892

OKC archbishop discusses school for autistic children

Yesterday at the Rotary Club of Oklahoma City, Archbishop Paul Coakley discussed the new Good Shepherd school for autistic children and the importance of the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship. The video is here.

Monday, December 5, 2011

How much will it cost Oklahoma to implement Common Core?

"So far states have done the costless and non-constraining step of adopting a set of standards," Jay P. Greene writes.
Once the nationalizers try to make the standards concrete and binding by incorporating them into newly designed high-stakes testing, we are likely to see a lot more resistance. And adopting those new tests, revising teacher training, professional development, and textbooks to fit the national standards and testing will require considerable effort and expense—causing more states to rethink their initial support for Common Core.

There's little evidence that national standards will work, but there's no question they're going to cost Oklahoma taxpayers a bundle. So I repeat the question I asked nearly a month ago: How much is it going to cost?

It's time to move school-board elections to November

In a speech this year at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels explained why Indiana decided to move its local school board elections from the spring to the fall. In the spring, he said,

nobody votes. It’s a lot easier to dominate, for a small or for an interest group to dominate the outcome and elect a friendly school board in the sparsely attended primary elections. And so now they will have more of the public at least eligible or at least on hand to take part in those elections.

Oklahoma should follow Indiana’s lead. Because as Hoover Institution fellow Bill Evers points out, Progressives have been able to transform our local school districts through such things as “nonpartisan elections, district boundaries that did not match other jurisdictions, [and] holding school elections at times other than that of the General Election.”

So instead of electing school-board members who represent the views of Oklahoma’s center-right majority, we find ourselves with school-board members who represent the views of the education establishment whose voter-turnout apparatus put them into office. And this results in bad public policies. I’ll cite five examples.

First, we see some surprising provisions in teacher contracts. Gov. Daniels points to provisions ranging

from things as trivial as what the humidity in the school shall be or what color the teachers’ lounge shall be painted—I am not making this up—to more troublesome things like the principal can only hold staff meetings once a month or can only hold them on Mondays, to still more troublesome things like no teacher will be required to spend more than x hours with students [and] … no teacher can be observed in the classroom by the principal without a pre-conference and two days’, three days’, five days’ notice.

These problems exist in Oklahoma too. Earlier this year, the Education Action Group analyzed collective-bargaining agreements from six Oklahoma school districts and concluded that teacher-union contracts are “bleeding Oklahoma schools dry.” Regrettably, I can’t say I was surprised this month when scholars at AEI and The Heritage Foundation concluded that American public-school teacher salaries are $120 billion over market value.

Second, we’re treated to the spectacle of school boards disobeying state law. This anarchy was too much even for the liberal Tulsa World.

Third, we’re treated to an even more disturbing spectacle: school boards using tax dollars to file a lawsuit against the parents of special-needs children.

Fourth, we have a school board teaming up with other tax consumers in a chamber of commerce to oppose reductions in Oklahoma’s income tax rate.

Fifth, we have a school board passing a resolution declaring its opposition to scholarships for special-needs children.

These things happen because not enough of these voters are voting in school-board elections. It’s time “to restore avenues for popular participation,” Evers says. It’s time to move school-board elections to November.

[Cross-posted at Inter Alia]

Another view on digital learning

"The chief technology officer of eBay sends his children to a nine-classroom school" in Los Altos, California, The New York Times reports. "So do employees of Silicon Valley giants like Google, Apple, Yahoo and Hewlett-Packard."
But the school's chief teaching tools are anything but high-tech: pens and paper, knitting needles and, occasionally, mud. Not a computer to be found. No screens at all. They are not allowed in the classroom, and the school even frowns on their use at home.