Wednesday, February 29, 2012

What's not to love?

Education Week recently reported on the Arizona Empowerment Scholarship Account:
Under the program, parents who sign up get a debit card loaded with 90 percent of what would have been the state's allocation to the school district for their child. They can use the money for tuition, textbooks, therapy, or college classes while students are still in high school—or the money can be saved and used to attend college full time after graduation.

Glenpool students take on bullying

More fighting and bullying here.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Conflict inevitable in school choice Big Tent

In writing and speaking about school choice, I often stress the importance of being ecumenical. There's room in the school-choice coalition for all sorts of options: private-school vouchers and tax credits, charter schools, virtual schools, homeschooling, and more.

Still, we need to recognize that conflict is inevitable. For example, Cato Institute scholar Adam Schaeffer points out that "charter schools often provide a safer, better alternative to traditional public schools. That’s good. Charter schools also destroy private schools, decrease educational options, pull private-school students into the government education system and thereby add significant new costs to taxpayers." Indeed, a new study says charter schools are siphoning students from Catholic schools. So, yes, KIPP schools are saving kids' lives, and we should be thankful for this. But we need to do it with eyes wide open.

Another example is virtual education. I'm a big fan (having hosted an entire symposium on the topic), and can see how it blends nicely with homeschooling, for example (something state Sen. Gary Stanislawski pointed out at the National School Choice Week event last month in Edmond). And yet, as the Home School Legal Defense Association points out, “tuition-free public virtual school from home” comes with strings attached.
What you need to know is: (1) you are required to use books and materials that they have pre-approved; (2) their books and materials are limited and may not suit your student; (3) like books and materials used in every other public school in America, they cannot tell the truth about God; (4) like all other public school teachers, online public school teachers cannot tell your student the truth about God.

As Grover Norquist says of coalitions generally, "We don't eliminate conflict -- we manage it." As the education policy landscape continues to change, school-choice advocates will need to do just that.

UPDATE: As if to confirm Mr. Schaeffer's point, a story in The Oklahoman informs us that a new charter school in downtown Oklahoma City will help prevent people from "making other choices" (such as homeschooling or attending a private school).

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Public-school educator and administrator ...

... lists the 12 most compelling reasons to homeschool your children.

'Deborah Brown charter school seeks to expand'

Good story in the Tulsa World by Kim Archer, who notes correctly that the voices of school-choice advocates are rising in Oklahoma.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Celebrate diversity

Over at redefinED, Ashley Berner says the U.S. could learn a few things from other nations about educational diversity. And in his latest Journal Record column, Andrew Spiropoulos, OCPA's Milton Friedman Distinguished Fellow, actually touches on the same theme. His piece is about the provision of social services, but applies perfectly to education as well. "The solution is not a massive increase in spending," he writes.
We must improve services, not spend more on what doesn't work. What can the government do to provide better services? It can partner with the private institutions of civil society, particularly our religious organizations, which already provide many of these services and do it more effectively than government agencies. ...

There are ways ... for government to help provide these services while minimizing the danger it will interfere with the operation of the religious group. It can refrain from providing direct funding to the religious organization and, instead, provide individuals the money to seek support from any organization they choose.

A person leaving prison, for example, should be able to choose the program that will work best for him. The religious provider has little connection to the government and should not alter what it is doing in any important way. All the government does is subsidize the person needing help. It should then let the rest of us do what it cannot -- treat people as human beings, not the clients of a bureaucracy.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Parents 'may not know what actually is best' for their children

During a House Education Committee hearing in Michigan this month, one of the benevolent shepherds in the education establishment inadvertently revealed what many educators think of we the sheeple:

Ms. Squires doubtless would be surprised to learn that parents, in addition to knowing what’s best for their children, in many cases actually educate children better than the educators themselves. As Milton Friedman observed, the explosive growth of homeschooling is "evidence of the failure of our current education system. There is no other complex field in our society in which do-it-yourself beats out factory production or market production. Nobody makes his or her own car. But it still is the case that parents can perform the job of educating their children, in many cases better than our present education system."

Even if parents don’t choose to do the teaching themselves, they are quite capable of choosing good schools for their children. But many education "professionals," especially administrators, tend to look down their noses at parents, who, after all, are mere "amateurs." These professionals have forgotten that the word "amateur" traces to the Latin amāre ("to love"), and that amateurs are people whose actions are motivated by love rather than something else. People motivated by love make it their business to “know what’s best” for the objects of their affection.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

'Home-schooling demographics change, expand'

Interesting story in USA Today.

Other pieces with similar themes here and here.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

School bullying leads to attempted suicide

More bullying in Broken Arrow:




And in El Reno bullying led to an attempted suicide:



As I never tire of repeating, bullied students deserve a ticket out.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Sucks to be you

Wealthy union boss tells low-income kids: "Life's not always fair."

School choice program found to reduce crime

According to a new release from Education Next, "high-risk middle- and high-school students who transfer to their preferred school are less likely to be arrested and spend less time incarcerated, pointing to impact of school choice."
CAMBRIDGE, MA – A new study of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg, North Carolina (CMS) school choice program finds that high-risk male youth who are admitted by lottery to their preferred schools commit fewer crimes and remain in school longer than their peers who seek admittance but do not gain seats in the lottery process. Lottery-winning middle school students also are 18 percentage points more likely than those who lose the lottery to still be enrolled in school in 10th grade.

In general, high-risk students commit about 50 percent less crime as a result of winning a school choice lottery. Among male high school students at high risk of criminal activity, winning admission to a first-choice school reduced felony arrests from 77 to 43 per 100 students over the study period (2002-2009). The attendant social cost of crimes committed decreased by more than 35 percent. Among high-risk middle school students, admittance by lottery to a preferred school reduced the average social cost of crimes committed by 63 percent (due chiefly to a reduction in violent crime), and reduced the total expected sentence of crimes committed by 31 months (64 percent).

David J. Deming, assistant professor of education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, conducted the study and authored an article that will appear in the Spring, 2012 issue of Education Next. The article, “Does School Choice Reduce Crime? Evidence from North Carolina,” is now available online at www.educationnext.org. Considering the impact of gaining admission to a first-choice school on high-risk youth, Deming writes, “The findings suggest that schools may be an opportune setting for the prevention of future crime.”

The study examines the impact of winning a school choice lottery on dropout rates and crime for groups of students with different propensities to commit crimes, using an index of crime risk that includes test scores, demographics, behavior, and neighborhood characteristics to identify the highest-risk group. The final sample (males only, as they are overwhelmingly at higher risk of criminal activity) included 1,014 high school students and 1,081 middle school students. The study finds that the overall reductions in criminal activity are concentrated among the top 20 percent of high-risk students, who are disproportionately African American, eligible for free lunch, with more days of absence and suspensions than the average student.

All of the students in the study selected schools to attend that they preferred over the default option, which was their assigned neighborhood school. High school lottery winners in the high-risk group and all middle school lottery winners transferred to schools featuring modest increases in standard measures of school quality, such as average test scores and higher proportions of teachers with more than 3 years of experience. For youth in the highest risk group (top 20%), the gain in school quality indicators is “roughly equivalent to moving from one of the lowest-ranked schools to one around the district average.”

After a thirty-year period of court-mandated busing to desegregate schools ended in 2001, CMS implemented a policy of district-wide open enrollment, launched in the 2002-03 school year. Children who lived in each neighborhood zone were guaranteed access to their neighborhood school. In cases where schools were oversubscribed, the CMS lottery system gave preferences to low-income students who applied to schools with a low fraction of low-income students. The author estimates that this policy choice lowered the social cost of crime by about 12 percent, relative to a simple charter-style lottery with no preferential treatment. If slots in oversubscribed schools were systematically allocated to not only low-income students, but also to students at highest risk of criminal activity, he states, “the social cost of crime would fall by an additional 27 percent” relative to the actual CMS assignment mechanism.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Gov. Fallin proclaims 'Oklahoma Homeschool Week'

"More than 2,000 homeschooled children and their parents are visiting the Oklahoma State Capitol," the Associated Press reports.
Throngs of people packed the rotundas on the second and fourth floors of the Capitol building to listen to speakers tout the important role that parents play in educating their children.

Gov. Mary Fallin addressed the group and says she supports a wide range of education options for Oklahoma children, including public schools, charter schools, online learning, and homeschooling. The Republican governor also signed a proclamation declaring this week "Oklahoma Homeschool Week."

Here's a brief clip I shot with my iPhone. 



UPDATE: The Oklahoman's Michael McNutt has a good write-up here.

Monday, February 6, 2012

'The child is not the mere creature of the State'

"Liberty, equality, and pluralism are so deeply embedded in the cultural DNA of America," writes lifelong educator and former union president Doug Tuthill, "that parental choice seems inevitable."

'Disestablishing our secular schools'

"It is true that American parents are free to choose a nonpublic school for their children," Charles L. Glenn writes, "but they must do so at their own expense at a time when spending in public schools nationwide is more than ten thousand dollars per pupil."

Cost-benefit analysis on pre-K

I've previously pointed out that "Oklahomans who favor increased government spending on early-childhood programs like to tout the 'return on investment' these government programs could provide. But intelligent investors, before committing resources to a project, will consider not only the potential rewards but also the risks."

In a report published by The Heritage Foundation, Jenet Jacob Erickson, Ph.D., writes:
The evidence of negative social-behavioral effects associated with outcomes of non-maternal care ... raises questions as to the benefits associated with currently proposed universal pre-K educational plans. Evidence of cognitive benefits associated with high-quality pre-K educational plans has already been questioned, and this review presents a strong case for potentially negative social-emotional and behavioral outcomes associated with early child care.

Further, the negative social-emotional and behavioral effects did not seem to be ameliorated sufficiently by higher-quality child care. An informed discussion of public policy around universal pre-K plans should include consideration of this evidence for potentially negative social emotional outcomes.

Erickson also says "tax policy should relieve the pressure on families rearing infants and young children," an idea I wholeheartedly endorse.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

The kid swears it's not his

"A marijuana pipe found in a child's diaper resulted in a Head Start teacher and her husband being charged Friday with child neglect and drug possession," The Oklahoman reports.
Jessica Renaker, a certified early childhood education instructor, has been teaching at the Coyle Head Start/Early Start Program since September 2007. The Coyle Head Start program is housed at Coyle Public School. Superintendent Josh Sumrall said district officials work closely with the program, but Renaker isn't an employee of the district.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Celebrating Catholic Schools Week

In northeast Oklahoma, Catholic Schools Week commemorations are focusing on faith, academics, and service, Sara Plummer reports in the Tulsa World. And over at the Cato blog, Andrew J. Coulson reminds us that "Catholic schools are much more educationally effective and vastly more efficient than state-run schools."

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

State's largest newspaper favors competition in education

How can we improve education? That's the question The Oklahoman asks today in an excellent house editorial ("Small tuition-assistance steps in Oklahoma too big a jump for some in education").
One approach is increasing the options for nontraditional learning such as a private education funded at least partly with taxpayer dollars. This is the approach the OCPA favors. Its liberal counterpart urges instead more taxpayer funding of traditional public schools, particularly in high-poverty school districts.

The problem that many taxpayers have with this suggestion is that it hasn't paid off. Greater funding doesn't automatically lead to better results in the classroom. This is why the appeal remains strong to try something different, such as vouchers for private school tuition.

The counter-argument is that vouchers weaken public schools. Evidence for this argument is lacking. On the contrary, the evidence suggests that traditional schools aren't improving fast enough and that substantial funding increases won't help. ...

Oklahoma has taken baby steps toward school choice with tuition assistance for special-needs students and a tax credit for those who donate to a fund that doles out private school scholarships to eligible families. Even these small steps are giant leaps for the defenders of the status quo. Costly legal challenges are mounted. The school establishment doesn't like competition.

We do. Taxpayer-funded tuition assistance for private universities hasn't destroyed public universities. It wouldn't destroy public schools. It would likely have the opposite effect.

Public money to private schools?

As I point out in the Edmond Sun, it happens all the time.