Saturday, August 29, 2015

Expand and improve higher-ed vouchers in Oklahoma

"The United States has long been a world leader in school vouchers—for higher education," Greg Forster writes in Perspective. "Now we need a revolution in higher education vouchers similar to the revolution that is hitting K-12 vouchers in the form of education savings accounts (ESAs)."

Friday, August 28, 2015

Editorials laud Henry Scholarship program

In the last 24 hours, three great editorials have made the case for the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship program. In The Journal Record, law professor Andrew Spiropoulos writes:
We must free ourselves from the destructive notion that public funding of education means that a student must be educated at a public school. These reports prove that there are some children who require a different school environment than a public school can supply. Our children, the school district, and the larger community will all benefit if the state enables parents to send their children to the school, public or private, that best meets their needs. 
Fortunately, our state has established a program, the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship Program for Students with Disabilities, which empowers parents to choose the right school for their disabled child. At best this program helps a few hundred children. We need to expand and trumpet it so it serves thousands. 
Unfortunately, instead of treating the scholarship as a blessing, too many public educators perceive it a threat.
Meanwhile, The Oklahoman opines:
[M]any Oklahoma public schools need a culture change. By freeing the families of children with special needs to take those students to private schools that do a better job, as the scholarship law does, lawmakers have taken a step in the right direction. 
It's not irrational for parents to think second-graders can be disciplined without being handcuffed, or wrong to want their education tax dollars to pay to actually educate their children.
And in The Journal Record, OCPA president Michael Carnuccio writes:
Oklahoma has an opportunity to innovate, create its own solutions to address autism and avoid the perils of mandates. State-specific programs such as education scholarships, high-risk pools, and expanded training for parents and teachers with autistic students are the right solutions. 
Oklahomans should rally to make their voices heard and oppose state bureaucrats who are currently trying to overturn the Henry Scholarship program in court.
I encourage you to read all three pieces in their entirety.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Tulsa teacher charged with sexual battery bound for district court arraignment

The Tulsa World has the story.

What are tax-credit scholarships and how do they work?

Toddler technocracy


"It is no coincidence that the aggressive expansion of power in the hands of government monopoly schools since the 1950s has coincided with a declining social role for families and (by extension) churches and other community groups," Greg Forster writes in Perspective. "They’re being pushed out of their role in the formation of children, and hence displaced from the center of culture."

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Tired of the establishment PR blitz, lawmakers fire back

Check out this House media release. The lawmakers raise some excellent points about ACT spending, teacher signing bonuses, and out-of-control administrative growth.
House Speaker Jeff Hickman and House Republican education leaders called for a more cooperative approach to address the impact of the national teacher shortage on Oklahoma school districts. The Oklahoma State School Boards Association (OSSBA) announced results Monday of their survey of the impact in Oklahoma of a challenge most schools across the U.S. continue to face: finding enough certified teachers to fill classrooms across the country. 
The OSSBA survey showed approximately 1,000 teaching jobs still open in Oklahoma because school districts are unable to find qualified applicants. The situation is not unlike most other states, many of which have higher costs of living than Oklahoma and pay teachers higher salaries than the mandated minimum wage for Oklahoma teachers. State lawmakers said they remain ready to work together creatively with school districts here to meet the needs of Oklahoma students. 
“Significant signing bonuses might very well have helped our school districts fill those 1,000 teaching jobs this summer and it is still an idea worth exploring by the state superintendent,” said Hickman (R-Fairview). “Last week, paying for the ACT test for all 11th grade students was a higher priority than our teacher shortage. I believe the state superintendent should reconsider the priorities and allocate the $1.5 million in excess funding she said she received in this year’s state budget to provide a $1,500 signing bonus for those 1,000 Oklahoma classrooms in need of teachers.” 
An announcement last week by the Oklahoma Superintendent of Public Instruction of a new state program to spend $1.5 million for all 11th grade students to take the ACT exam while new state education standards are still in development and when the state faces a potential budget shortage as low oil prices impact the Oklahoma economy met questions from many House Republican legislators. Approximately 75 percent of Oklahoma high school students already register on their own to take the ACT before graduation and ACT offers financial assistance to students who may not be able to afford the roughly $40 cost for the exam. Lawmakers now have more questions about why that $1.5 million would be directed to start a new state program when it could be used as an incentive to help with the impact of the national teacher shortage on Oklahoma schools.

“I understand that we want more college graduates, but we need to make sure we have the teachers to ensure our children receive the education needed to succeed in college,” said Rep. Dennis Casey (R-Morrison), a former teacher and school superintendent who is now vice chairman of the House Appropriations & Budget Committee. “A test doesn’t do that but an incentive to hire more teachers just might.” 
House legislative leaders also expressed their desire to develop a long-term solution to teacher compensation in Oklahoma by looking at reallocating the billions of dollars the state now spends on public schools. Despite the false rhetoric of political education groups recently claiming Oklahoma schools faced greater cuts than other states, revenue for Oklahoma’s pre-K through 12th grade schools was greater than ever for the 2013-14 school year, almost $5.5 billion dollars. Examining expenditures and reprioritizing how the taxpayers’ dollars are spent by school districts could be the quickest way to boost classroom teacher salaries in Oklahoma. 
“Our teachers need competitive wages,” said Rep. Chad Caldwell (R-Enid), a member of the House Education Committee. “The 33 percent increase in the number of non-teaching staff members in Oklahoma schools from Fiscal Year 1992 to FY2013 when our enrollment grew by 14 percent and the number of teachers only grew by 11 percent is concerning at the least and merits a legislative review. If the growth of non-teaching staff had even been equal to the 14 percent increase in the number of students, it would mean roughly $294 million dollars would be available annually to significantly raise the salaries of our classroom teachers. These are dollars that could have addressed teacher compensation but instead the education lobbyists would have everyone believe that the legislature is the only group responsible for being efficient with state tax dollars when we should all share in that responsibility.” 
House education leaders said they believe there is a way to find solutions to the teacher shortage and increase compensation for Oklahoma classroom teachers, but it will require new approaches and a willingness by the education lobbying groups, like OSSBA, to work with lawmakers instead of continuing their partisan attacks.

“We can still address these issues,” said House Education Committee Vice Chairman Rep. Michael Rogers (R-Broken Arrow), a former educator. “There must be less rhetoric so we can have an honest conversation and a commitment to changing how we do things. Together, we have to develop a long-term plan that addresses the teacher shortage, student testing and bloated administration levels. Schools cannot continue to operate as they have in the past.”

Underfunded-schools watch


Henry scholarship program has been 'life-changing' for many Oklahoma children

"The Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarships for Students with Disabilities Program Act provides state funds so children with special needs can attend private schools with services tailored to those kids," The Oklahoman pointed out yesterday.
Unlike an autism mandate, that program benefits nearly all affected families. 
In Oklahoma City, the scholarship program has allowed the creation of the Good Shepherd Catholic School at Mercy, which provides intensive intervention based on Applied Behavior Analysis. Many children with autism attend the school. It serves students ranging from 2-year-olds to those in the eighth grade. 
That approach provides more services for a longer period of time to more children than do many state autism mandates. Some states’ autism mandates apply only to young children; many have benefit limits that can be less than the cost of treatment. A 2012 MedClaims Liaison and Autism Speaks survey found more than half of families affected by autism in states with autism mandates complained that their providers didn’t accept their insurance, and most described their autism coverage as “poor” or “unacceptable.” 
By and large, autism mandates offer more hype than substance to desperate families. In contrast, the Henry scholarship program has been life-changing for many children with special needs. Policymakers should build upon that success, not divert their focus to less-effective alternatives.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Pay successful teachers more

"If you want to incentivize more people to go into hard-to-fill areas like math, then you must pay those teachers more than you do individuals working jobs that attract more applicants," The Oklahoman sensibly points out. "That’s basic supply and demand."
Also, why not provide merit pay? Tying raises to overall student learning growth would provide greater rewards to the best teachers, even if their students start the year below grade level. To give a hardworking, successful teacher the same pay as one who only punches a clock drives good teachers out of the profession.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Tulsa school loses 6-year-old boy

KJRH reports that "a parent found him half a mile from the school trying to cross Apache."

Friday, August 21, 2015

Balancing human freedom and the common good

"Education refers to the development of the person, of his or her character and loyalties, everything required to be a decent human being, family member, neighbor, and citizen," Boston University education professor Charles L. Glenn writes in the Journal of School Choice ("Balancing the Interests of State and Citizens").
Education also occurs in schools, but it starts in the family and is commonly sustained by participation in voluntary associations, both religious and cultural. ...

Education ... must ultimately rest upon convictions of the heart and disciplines of the spirit which government in a democracy is not entitled to prescribe. Here we see the contrast between democracy and a totalitarian regime like the Soviet Union or Nazi Germany, which made limitless claims upon those subject to their control. No other enemy of human freedom and dignity is as dangerous as a government that treats the shaping of convictions, loyalties, and fundamental worldview as a high priority.

A democratic regime is of course deeply concerned about the character of its citizens, and about their loyalty to the common good, but it entrusts the formation of the hearts and habits of youth to their families and to the voluntary associations of civil society, intervening only when there is clear evidence that a family or a school or a religious institution is acting in a way that abuses the interests of a child or nurtures antisocial attitudes and behaviors. A democratic regime even accepts that the best citizens may at times oppose the decisions of their own government on the basis of a higher principle than routine loyalty, indeed as an expression of a higher loyalty.

It is for this reason that American national and state governments, and the corresponding authorities in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and in the European Union, focus on holding schools accountable for measurable academic outcomes, the results of instruction, while leaving very considerable freedom to how children and youth are educated.

This includes, in almost every case, providing public funding to schools with a religious character if parents select them as alternatives to schools with a secular or distinctive pedagogical character. ...

Real education cannot be mandated or managed bureaucratically; it depends upon the commitment and creativity of those closest to the children and youth who are its beneficiaries. Wise policy makes this possible.

Special-needs children being handcuffed, paddled, arrested


Over at Oklahoma Watch, Nate Robson has an important story about the punishment of special-needs students in Oklahoma.
In Jenks Public Schools, campus police physically restrained and handcuffed a second-grade special education student. 
His crime? He ran to the playground to escape a noisy classroom. 
At Tulsa Public Schools, officials called a father and told him to pick up his 6-year-old daughter, who was having an emotional meltdown. He arrived to find four armed campus police officers holding her down, saying she assaulted one of them. 
In the Deer Creek School District in Edmond, a member of the school staff slapped an autistic child on two occasions, but a judge tossed out the federal lawsuit, saying the employees acted out of frustration. 
The discipline trend has angered and frustrated some Oklahoma parents and triggered calls for reform from groups that advocate for special-needs children. They say excessive discipline is hurting students academically and psychologically. Across the state, students with physical and mental disabilities are bearing much of the brunt of classroom discipline, government data show. They’re more likely than their peers to be suspended, expelled, arrested, handcuffed or paddled. In dozens of schools, special education students are anywhere from two to 10 times more likely to be disciplined, the data show. At some schools, every special education student has been physically disciplined, suspended or expelled.
I encourage you to read the whole thing here. And on the positive side, it's important to remember that these children have an escape hatch.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Do teachers who commit rape receive harsh punishment?

The state's largest newspaper today takes note of the short prison terms given to some Oklahoma schoolteachers who sexually exploited children.
Former Western Heights Public Schools teacher and coach Tyrone Nash was sentenced to just two years in prison for a 2014 conviction of multiple counts of second-degree rape of a 17-year-old girl. 
In July, a former Commerce teacher and coach, Thomas Fenderson, was sentenced to only one year in jail after being convicted of three separate charges of second-degree rape involving a 17-year-old student (including on school grounds). 
According to the Miami News Record, the Ottawa County judge who handed down the sentence told Fenderson, “I would be surprised if this ever happened again in your life” due to the associated humiliation Fenderson had experienced. 
But the newspaper reported that a pre-sentencing investigation found a former student accused Fenderson of inappropriate behavior from 2005 to 2007 while he was employed by a school district in Mount Vernon, Mo. Fenderson’s wife was also a student at a school where he previously taught. 
Prosecutors had sought a 25-year sentence, arguing Fenderson’s crimes were willful and repetitive. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Teaching couple moves to Oklahoma

Looking for better teaching opportunities and more competitive pay, an Indiana couple has moved to Oklahoma City to teach in a public charter school.

Monday, August 17, 2015

The great vision of Christian education

Justin Taylor gives us 10 foundational truths.

How do education tax credits and deductions work?

OCA students, parents satisfied with online school, teachers

"Oklahoma Connections Academy, a tuition-free online public school that serves students statewide in kindergarten through 12th grade, logged on for the first day of school on Aug. 12," the Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise reports.
The new school year kicks off just as the results of Oklahoma Connections Academy’s annual Student Satisfaction Survey reveal that 91 percent of students in grades K-12 are satisfied with the online school program. 
These results come on the heels of Oklahoma Connections Academy’s Parent Satisfaction Survey, which revealed that 95 percent of parents would recommend the online school program to other families.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Is it unconstitutional to set up a monument quoting the Oklahoma constitution?

Writing in the Tulsa World, Gonzaga law professor Mark DeForrest says the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s denial of a motion to rehear its recent Ten Commandments case failed to address the linkage between Article II, Section 5 of Oklahoma's state constitution and the failed Blaine Amendment in the 19th century.
The concurring opinions in support of the Court’s decision vigorously deny that Article II, Section 5 was based on the infamous Blaine Amendment. While mustering historical evidence to support that position, the concurring opinions and dissent do not address the specific linkage between the prohibition in Article II, Section 5 against use of public aid or property for “sectarian institutions or systems” and language in the Blaine Amendment. Yet, as the dissent notes (and the plurality decision in the U.S. Supreme Court case of Mitchell v. Helms explains), when the Blaine Amendment was debated, “it was an open secret that ‘sectarian’ was code for ‘Catholic.’” It is the use of the term “sectarian” that links Article II, Section 5 with the Blaine Amendment and its background. In the 19th century, the word “sectarian” was like a dog whistle, without emitting an audible sound, it communicated very effectively. None of the justices supporting the Court’s decision acknowledge that aspect of the Blaine Amendment’s connection with Article II, Section 5. A more nuanced and informed overview of the language would be helpful in deciding how to apply Article II, Section 5 to remove the taint of prejudice that follows from the word’s history and usage. ... 
A final reason to doubt the court’s conclusion is its failure to harmonize Article II, Section 5 with the express language found in the Preamble of the Oklahoma Constitution. The Preamble explicitly calls upon “the guidance of Almighty God” to help the people of Oklahoma establish a free, just and beneficial government. This is a direct, active statement of theological principle, one that even perhaps could be characterized as a prayer, enshrined at the very start of the fundamental charter of Oklahoma. It was drafted and adopted by the same convention responsible for Article II, Section 5. Yet this same charter is now read to prohibit the state from passive acknowledgment of the Ten Commandments. Constitutions are to be read as a whole. While preambles are declaratory in nature and not usually prescriptive, the Preamble of the Oklahoma Constitution expresses the intent of those who drafted and ratified the constitution Would it now similarly be unconstitutional to set up a public monument that simply quoted the Preamble to the Oklahoma Constitution?

Illiteracy is (still) tied to school failure

Today in The Oklahoman, Heather Warlick reports on an Oklahoma City woman's "journey through school, when, despite her inability to read, she was promoted year after year, eventually graduating from Douglass High School."

"For a large percentage of Oklahomans, to read this article would be impossible," Warlick reports in an accompanying article.
Some experts use data from the 2003 Oklahoma State Assessment of Adult Literacy, which they say is largely still statistically representative of Oklahoma's literacy rates. 
That study suggested that 12 percent of Oklahomans read at a "below basic" level. This means they have only the reading skills to make out short, simple text; to sign their names and perhaps fill out a bank deposit form. 
Another 31 percent performed at a basic level, defined as having the skills necessary to perform simple and everyday literacy tasks such as using a TV Guide or comparing ticket prices. Forty-seven percent were considered intermediate readers and only nine percent were deemed proficient.
And now for something I wrote (sigh) a dozen years ago in The Oklahoman:
By now the story formula is well known. A reporter or columnist will trot out Oklahoma's mind-boggling illiteracy statistics, profile a recovering illiterate, then end with some warm fuzzies about reading to your kids or becoming a volunteer tutor or launching a "Read Y'All" marketing campaign, as in the case of "Henry backs reading program" (news story, Oct. 19). 
Stories about literacy programs have their place, but why must they always ignore the elephant in the living room? Surely I'm not the only one who wonders how we ended up with 421,000 illiterates in this state. I thought schools were supposed to teach people to read. 
"The full truth can't be told," Joseph Sobran once remarked, "if some subjects have to be danced around like Uncle Harry's drinking problem." 
Let's be honest: Our illiterates have been to school. Oklahoma doesn't have a mere 100 literacy programs, as one source indicated. We have more than 1,800 of them. They're called schools. Taxpayers pour billions of hard-earned dollars into them. 
Oklahoma has a compulsory attendance law that mandates school attendance from ages 5 to 18. About 95 percent of Oklahoma students attend a public school ... Yet 1,127,482 Oklahomans—nearly half the adult population—have a literacy repertoire ranging from practically nonexistent to "quite limited." 
Isn't it time someone confronted poor Uncle Harry? I'm not asking that every child become a National Merit scholar, but at $6,772 annually per child, even if you taught them nothing else you could at least teach them to read, y'all.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Teacher salaries, student performance not linked

The ABC affiliate in San Diego has the story.

Pizza in the park

The Oklahoma chapter of PublicSchoolOptions.org is hosting two “schools of choice” picnics next month. Families are invited to come have some pizza and hear about the latest school choice news. There is no cost to attend, but please RSVP here. For more information, contact Colleen Cook (Colleen@PublicSchoolOptions.org).

'Leave our funds alone'

When it comes to parental choice policies, Mr. Tracy Borden of Vici, Oklahoma, is "NOT interested!"

This according to a message he sent to us over at the Choice Remarks Facebook page. "My boys are getting a good education in a school they like," he writes. "I am a school board member, and teach at a Tech Center. Leave our funds alone."

A few thoughts. First, it seems to me that Mr. Borden is a school-choice success story, both as a parent and as a teacher. Remember, many parents have concluded that choosing a public school is the best choice. Indeed, even in states with the most robust school-choice programs, the overwhelming majority of parents still choose a public school for their children. Moreover, Mr. Borden teaches in a school of choice. As Oklahoma's former CareerTech boss Bob Sommers once reminded me, career-tech schools were actually the first charter schools.

Next, I would suggest that, as a school board member, Mr. Borden owes it to his constituents to be open to policies which improve the public schools. (Yes, the empirical evidence shows that school choice improves public schools.) According to the Global Report Card, which compares American school districts to 25 developed countries, Vici students scored at the 44th percentile in math and the 33rd percentile in reading. If, for example, you picked up the Vici school district, airlifted it north and plopped it down in Canada, the average Vici student would be at the 36th percentile in math and the 24th percentile in reading. If Vici were relocated to Finland, the average Vici student would be at the 29th percentile in math and the 20th percentile in reading. So it's conceivable that parents in Vici would like to have more educational options for their children (which, yes, is possible even in rural areas).

Lastly, there's this notion of "our funds." That truly is the mindset of many folks in the monopoly school system: that it's their money. Whereas parental-choice supporters believe policymakers should fund the children, too many of the status-quo folks believe policymakers should fund the system. I commend to your attention a short piece Andrew Spiropoulos and I wrote about this topic here.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Ted Cruz embraces school choice

In a speech this year at Liberty University (see the 42-second clip below), Sen. Ted Cruz gave a passionate plea for parental choice in education.
Imagine embracing school choice as the civil rights issue of the next generation. That every single child—regardless of race, regardless of ethnicity, regardless of wealth or ZIP code—every child in America has a right to a quality education. And that's true from all of the above, whether it is in public schools or charter schools or private schools or Christian schools or parochial schools or home schools—every child. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Are teacher unions really the main problem?


"Gov. Christie may be correct that the teachers unions are the single most toxic element among the special interests that feed off the government school system," author Bruce N. Shortt writes in a letter to the editor published today in The Wall Street Journal.
The question that ought to be asked, however, is whether we need effective educational reform or just another round of tinkering with the government schools. If the U.S. had a system of failing, unionized Soviet-style collective farms instead of a free agricultural sector, would a recommendation that we get tough with the agricultural unions be regarded as a serious policy suggestion? While the agricultural unions might pose a problem, the real issue would obviously be the socialist agricultural model. So it is, too, with education. True educational improvement won’t come until we abandon the statist “education-by-government” model. The model is the mistake, and the solution is a complete separation of school and state.

School-choice parents are satisfied

Let's not overlook the importance of parental satisfaction.

Tuition vouchers okay, but obsolete

Economist John Merrifield likes tax credits and ESAs.

'Are we going to tolerate school systems that put the interests of adults ahead of children?'

"Meaningful progress toward social justice cannot be made in sclerotic education systems that put adults' job security before children's civil rights," Arthur Brooks writes in his new book The Conservative Heart.
Only a crusade for social justice will stand a chance at winning this fight. The public schools in this country are failing millions of kids. Are we going to be the generation that tolerates this? Are we going to continue to tolerate school systems that put the interests of adults ahead of children? ... 
Why do we want education reform? It's not because we hate teachers' unions. It's because we love kids. It's because the abuses of the bureaucracies and unions are eating up all of the public school money while resisting accountability and innovation, which hurts kids—especially poor kids. We believe in school choice because it will unleash innovation and allow poor families to escape failing schools. We believe in collective bargaining reform because it frees school districts from the stranglehold of collective bargaining rules—allowing them to save money, add more teachers, and hire and fire based on merit instead of seniority. It is common decency to put the interests of children ahead of the interests of employees.
Arthur Brooks is speaking in Tulsa on October 21. For more information, contact my OCPA colleague Rachel Hays at 405.602.1667.

A watershed moment in school choice

On July 31, Lindsey Burke of the Heritage Foundation convened an all-star panel to discuss education savings accounts.

Monday, August 10, 2015

'Homeschooling in the city'

"Frustrated with the public schools," Matthew Hennessey writes in the estimable City Journal, "middle-class urbanites embrace an educational movement."

Teacher unions, Planned Parenthood exchange donations, political cash

The Washington Free Beacon has the story.

School choice for special-needs kids

In The Wall Street Journal, a dad writes about school choice for special-needs kids like his son.

Forward-looking superintendent says ‘a one-size-fits-all approach is not effective’

In a recent blog post containing an admirable and honest bit of self-examination (“A Long Gaze in the Mirror”), Sand Springs assistant superintendent Rob Miller made the point that there are many policies and practices in the public school system—“self-inflicted wounds,” some of them—which Mr. Miller believes could be unhealthy. This one caught my eye:
Allowing parents to make choices about placement (gifted/talented pods, magnet schools, selective programs) to keep their child away from “those kids.”
It seems to me there are a few troubling assumptions baked into that statement. First, notice the word “allowing.” School leaders are granting permission to the people who are paying their salaries.

Second, notice that school officials are allowing parents to make choices. It’s well-known that the hireling doesn’t care for the sheep like the shepherd does. And yet the assumption here is that the very people who conceived and bore the children, who love the children more than any government official ever could, shouldn’t be permitted to direct their children’s path.

Third, Mr. Miller appears to assume jurisdiction over some parents’ motives—and to ascribe dishonorable ones. Isn’t it possible that parents could have valid educational reasons—reasons that have nothing to do with “those kids”—for wanting particular educational options for their children? In any case, regardless of the parents' motives, I refer you to the two preceding paragraphs.

Alberto M. Carvalho
In stark contrast, note the actions of another school administrator that very same day. Alberto M. Carvalho, the superintendent of the Miami-Dade County Public Schools, unveiled 53 new choice and magnet program offerings for the new school year—bringing the district’s total number of choice programs to more than 500.

“Students and teachers of Miami-Dade County Public Schools are in for another exciting year of innovative programs and initiatives,” he said. “We understand that a one-size-fits-all approach is not effective. That said, we have once again tailored our educational programs to meet the personalized needs of students and provide them with specialized resources to ensure they have every opportunity to excel academically.”

Mr. Carvalho is the same superintendent who last year said, “Rather than complain about the incoming tsunami of choice, we’re going to ride it.”

Saturday, August 8, 2015

ESAs and disruptive innovation

"With an ESA," writes Molly Field, "a family in Wyoming, for example, can purchase an online AP physics course that isn’t offered at the nearby public school, enroll in a dual-credit writing course offered by the local community college, and take calculus from the online Harvard Extension School. The family can also use the ESA to hire tutors, pay for textbooks, and pay for education therapy services. As with other forms of school choice, the child in rural Wyoming would not be limited to his assigned public school, and thanks to online learning, that child would also not be limited by geography."

Luther superintendent cites behavior problems, including students hitting, cursing teachers

"Dr. Sheldon Buxton, Superintendent of Luther Public Schools, has a problem," Jay Chilton reports for MiddleGround News. "As he enters his third year, Buxton has great concerns about the lack of discipline and respect he has witnessed in Luther High School."
Buxton said he believes quick action in this matter is important. ...
"Two years ago, when I first came here, the high school and middle school were combined as the new high school was being built. There were problems with the younger kids and high school kids together but we were about to separate them so I let it go (to deal with the next year). 
"When we decided to move the high school kids to the new school, there were still problems. The 'flex time' plan wasn't working, the kids were getting into fights, I even lost a teacher—a teacher I greatly respect and admire—because of the problems. 
"I tried to get (the teacher) back," he said. "She wouldn't come back. I asked her why." Buxton paused, as if to remember or decide if he wanted to continue. He then turned back and resumed. 
"She said she didn't want to deal with the problems anymore. I asked her what happened and she told me about a (student) she said she came down pretty hard on last year. 
"She said, 'I told (the student) if he wasn't going to bring any tools to class then there wasn't any reason for him to be there. He can't do the work. He looked at me and said I could (expletive) off.' 
"I asked her what happened and she said she sent him to the office. I asked what happened after that and she said she didn't know. 'Was he kicked out?' I asked. She just said, 'No.' 
"That is why this (hiring) couldn't wait. I'm not going to lose my teachers, and I'm not going to have them cussed in their classroom. 
"Something had to be done," Buxton said. "We had a teacher hit as they were trying to break up a fight. (The teacher) didn't want to press charges—I don't know why—but I had (the student) removed. Some were not happy about it, but that's part of the job."

Friday, August 7, 2015

Some Oklahoma districts report 100 percent graduation rates

"Oklahoma's high school graduation rate has declined, and may be worse than what’s been reported," The Oklahoman notes today in an editorial.
Also, officials won’t reveal graduation rates for more than half of school districts. 
This combination of bad data and concealed data is a serious impediment to improving Oklahoma’s schools. If the public doesn’t have valid information, how can anyone develop policies to address genuine education needs? 
Oklahoma Watch reports that Oklahoma’s high school graduation rate dropped from 84.9 percent in school year 2012-13 to 82.7 percent in 2013-14. 
The data behind those figures is an improvement over prior estimates, because it’s supposed to involve a four-year cohort. Previously, students who dropped out of school during their freshman year might not be counted in the graduation rate, artificially inflating that number. 
Even so, there’s reason to believe current data is still flawed. 
Robyn Miller, deputy superintendent for educator effectiveness and policy research at the state education department, told Oklahoma Watch that some districts may be filing inaccurate reports. At least 35 districts claimed all students graduated on time. 
“There are districts that report 100 percent and that can’t be possible,” Miller said. “For whatever reason, they don’t understand how to report.” 
A less charitable interpretation is some school officials feel free to inflate performance figures.

Let the money follow the child

Today in The Journal Record, OCPA president Michael Carnuccio lauds a new report ("Understanding Oklahoma’s School Funding Formula and Student-Centric Alternatives") published by the Oklahoma Educated Workforce Initiative (OEWI). OEWI is an important new organization which partners with the State Chamber of Oklahoma and Oklahoma Works. I urge you to read Carnuccio's column here.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Norman teacher accused of soliciting sex with child

News 9 has the story.

Blaine bloodline obvious in Oklahoma constitution

"It's a sign of progress that no one wants to be associated with the anti-Catholic heritage of state constitutional 'Blaine amendments,' the state's largest newspaper points out today. "But that doesn’t make that heritage disappear."

Monday, August 3, 2015

OEA has fewer members than in 1994

Mike Antonucci has the details.

$96K superintendent creates $65K 'dean of students' position, then hires wife

"Luther Public Schools has 940 students and three permanent administrative positions," News 9 reports. "A dean of students would make four."

'Charters are about choice'

"Tulsa is on the verge of a charter school explosion," Andrea Eger and Nour Habib report in the Tulsa World.

"I’ve been really working on trying to get her in a charter school because I don’t feel the Tulsa Public Schools system can actually attend to her needs," one parent is quoted as saying. “If I have to move, I will, but I need to get her out of this school system because there is just too many kids to one teacher. There are too many fights. There is too much drama that is not needed.”

In the comments section, a former Tulsa teacher adds:
People are looking for a way out of Tulsa Public School System and its horrendous management and administration. I was a teacher at TPS and I witnessed firsthand just how bad it is. We moved to Broken Arrow because we have two small children and I would never ever put them into a Tulsa Public School!!!!!

Bad bus behavior

Fights between students, bullying, a gun threat, and more.

'The single most destructive force in public education'


Chris Christie on the teacher unions.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Keating raps odious Blaine Amendment

Terrific piece in The Oklahoman by Oklahoma's 25th governor.