Saturday, July 29, 2017

Public schools take all students?

"Opponents of school choice programs often defend the traditional public school system by saying it must take 'all students,'" the state's largest newspaper points out today.
 This isn't actually true, and there are many notable exceptions or caveats to that statement. A reminder was provided when it was recently reported that even within the Oklahoma City school district, students from one location are not guaranteed admission to another school in the same district. Principals alone make that determination, and there's no requirement to justify an approval or rejection. Furthermore, the district doesn't keep records on students who are denied a transfer or the demographics of those granted transfers. It's to their credit that local school leaders are now pushing for a standardized process that includes record keeping. One suspects that if records had been kept, you would find many schools even within Oklahoma City's district that don't always abide by a “come one, come all” approach to students.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Lawsuit alleges Norman officials ‘fostered an environment of hazing and assault’

"A civil lawsuit has been filed in Garvin County, Oklahoma alleging three former Norman North High School wrestlers, former coaches, and Norman Public School officials 'fostered an environment of hazing and assault within its wrestling program,'" Caleb Slinkard reports.

Oklahoma boy whose teacher raped him was threatened with paddling for speaking out about abuse, family say

"The family of an eighth-grade boy who was abused by his teacher say the school threatened to paddle him as punishment for 'spreading rumours," Shehab Khan reports.

Monday, July 24, 2017

‘Only 22 African-American senior boys were college-ready in Tulsa Public Schools in 2015’

North Tulsa community leader Justin Pickard "said that based on a benchmark ACT score of 21 (out of 36), only 22 African-American senior boys were college-ready in Tulsa Public Schools in 2015," Bill Sherman reports in the Tulsa World.

Hollis settles lawsuit over student sex with teacher

The U.K. tabloids have the story.

Leftist ideologues use big-lie technique to slam school choice

School vouchers "are impeded by a legacy of bigotry rather than being propelled by one," Robert Holland writes.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Lawmakers set to enhance school voucher bill

Stars and Stripes has the story.

CAP’s misleading, historically inaccurate report on the racist ‘origin’ of vouchers

A new report from the Center for American Progress (CAP), a leftist advocacy group, "plays fast and loose with the facts to offer a warped and historically inaccurate history of school choice," Frederick M. Hess writes.

Some Oklahoma districts are embracing Personalized Learning

Sarah Julian, the communications director for the Oklahoma Public School Resource Center, has a very interesting and encouraging article over at NonDoc this week. Headlined "Personalized Learning: Budget cuts spur new teaching model," the piece discusses personalized learning (PL), a new teaching model being adopted by many public school districts in Oklahoma and throughout the nation. She writes:
PL has gained traction nationwide not only for its ability to expand course options and engage students with a flexible learning schedule but also for the impressive student outcomes it produces. Gone is the "sage on the stage" lecture routine. Instead, PL provides students with a mix of digital and in-person instruction, which empowers teachers to serve as mentors and facilitators. Students are in the driver’s seat, where they have more responsibility and accountability for their own learning.

Staff with the Oklahoma Public School Resource Center (OPSRC) began working with school districts across the state in late 2015 to implement Oklahoma’s version of personalized learning: Momentum Schools. Momentum gives students the choice of how, when and where they attend school. For example, a school designates certain hours each day when the building is open. As long as students get their state-mandated 6.5 hours of seat time in each day, they can choose when to be physically present.

Further, instead of traditional group class time, students schedule meetings with individual teachers to assess schoolwork. Students work at their own pace to ensure they master the content. As a result, parents, teachers and, most importantly, students are excited about and engaged in their education, and their progress proves it. ...
With PL, though, students have a more extensive catalog of online courses from which to choose. Further, they can control the speed at which they learn the content. This means that many PL students are able to take far more classes than a traditional school setting would allow. And those students who need more time? They can work slower without the worry of falling behind or facing criticism from peers. In all, PL provides the opportunity for a richer educational experience for all students.
My only quibble has to do with the article's budgetary references, starting with the breathless lede: "Never in our state’s history have public schools been in such a dire financial crisis." That's not true, as economist Byron Schlomach has shown:

We're also told that schools have "no money in their coffers" and are "in the throes of extreme financial hardships." In truth, Oklahoma's education spending—in total and per-student—is higher than it was a decade ago, even when adjusted for inflation. In Chickasha, the one district mentioned in the article, total spending is down but per-pupil spending is up.

But those objections aside, I strongly recommend the piece and encourage you to read the whole thing here. If a teaching model can improve student learning, cut down on discipline problems, and deliver Mandarin Chinese and AP physics to kids from Boise City to Idabel, what's not to love?

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The failure of private-school choice was greatly exaggerated

"Although the 'failure' of private school choice is continuously echoed by education reporters across the nation, the scientific evidence largely suggests otherwise," Corey A. DeAngelis reminds us.

EPIC, Rose State partner to bring learning centers to Oklahoma, Tulsa counties

NewsOK has the story.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Oklahoma homeschool mom has seen children thrive

"We have had so many amazing experiences as a homeschooling family," Tahlequah mom Tavia Armstrong tells the Tahlequah Daily Press, "but probably my favorite thing of all was being able to serve other families."
"I love kids, and as one of the leaders of the local homeschooling community, I have been able to witness transformations in children," said Armstrong. "I've seen kids who were bullied in school make connections and find best friends. I've watched kids who were behind in school, often just because they had a hard time sitting still, get inspired and discover intellectual gifts they didn't know they had. I've seen kids so shy they wouldn't even speak bloom before my eyes into social butterflies."

Republican lends support to Drew Edmondson campaign

Political activist Angela Clark Little identifies as a Republican. Interestingly, however, last year her PAC, Oklahomans for Public Education, actively supported several Democratic legislative candidates over Republicans. Moreover, Little once acknowledged that she endorsed a Republican candidate in order to boost the Democrat's chances of winning the general election. And as recently as last month Little joined with former Gov. David Walters and a who's who of Democratic luminaries to help raise money for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Drew Edmondson.

Neither Edmondson nor Little are strong supporters of educational choice policies. By contrast, Republicans—as evidenced by GOP platforms, voters, and political leaders—support school choice. Not only leaders such as President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, but also Sen. James LankfordGov. Mary Fallin, Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb, and many more—including the late great President Ronald Reagan, who in his day proposed "a tuition tax credit plan," "a voucher system," and "education savings accounts."

But by all means let’s keep the kids trapped there

Four Oklahoma schools have been named among the "Top 20 Worst Schools in America," News 9 reports.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Some optimistic school-voucher findings from Indiana and Louisiana

Today in The Wall Street Journal.

Oklahoma parents combat bullying, suicide

KFOR has the story.

Griffin touts scholarships for foster, adopted children

State Rep. Tim Downing, Robert Ruiz, and state Sen. AJ Griffin are
pictured at the July 6 meeting of the Oklahoma School Choice Coalition.

The video is here, and Jay Chilton has a report here.

Economist takes down OU educator

Here's an excellent letter to the editor from economist Byron Schlomach:
You would think an associate dean at the University of Oklahoma would do his homework, but Lawrence Baines (Point of View, July 7) was clearly more intent on defending his institution's gatekeeping status for public school teachers than in telling the truth. His evidence against “emergency” certification, referred to as “exceptions” by the Oklahoma Department of Education, and better characterized as an alternative certification system, is really no evidence at all. While Baines is correct to equate teacher certification to occupational licensing, he also equates such regulation with consumer protection even though economists have pointed out for decades that licensing does more to harm consumers than protect them. He cites a real scholar, economist Eric Hanushek, regarding the dangers posed by ineffective teachers, giving the impression that Hanushek would take Baines' position in favor of traditional certification. Hanushek is actually quite critical of teacher certification and notes that certification purposely excludes many who could be effective in the classroom. Hanushek would be first to point out that the bulk of ineffective teachers are traditionally certified. 
Baines cites statistics regarding teacher misconduct in Texas with not one shred of evidence that the increased misconduct numbers have anything to do with their alternative certification system. The numbers in Texas would be expected to rise for no other reason than the growth they have experienced, but Baines doesn't bother to compare rates of growth in teacher numbers and incident numbers. He wrote propaganda, not facts.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Bureaucrat calls baloney—but why?

In a recent column published in The Oklahoman ["Oklahoma’s (missing) $8,872 teacher pay raise"], economist Benjamin Scafidi cited federal data showing that a decades-long employment surge of non-teaching staff (in Oklahoma and nationwide) has far outpaced student enrollment growth. Scafidi, who earned his Ph.D. in economics from the University of Virginia, is a professor of economics at Kennesaw State University. He is also a Friedman Fellow with EdChoice, a nonprofit organization founded by Milton and Rose D. Friedman.

One commenter is not a fan of Dr. Scafidi's article:

If nothing else Mr. Payne's comment should elicit a wry smile. Scafidi makes the case that teachers haven't gotten pay raises because non-teaching bloat has swallowed up the money. Then, as if to prove Scafidi's point, straight out of central casting comes a critic: a generously compensated non-teacher with a title that could have come from one of those parodic bureaucratic-job-title generators. Unlike teachers in the Union school district, Mr. Payne receives an annual salary of $99,220—as well as a six percent on-call stipend, paid teacher retirement of seven percent, a paid life insurance policy of $80,000, paid health, dental, and disability insurance, and 20 days of vacation.

Mr. Payne's comment raises some questions.

(1)  He says Scafidi's article is "not in line with the reality inside Oklahoma schools." But according to the latest data reported by the Oklahoma State Department of Education to the National Center for Education Statistics at the U.S. Department of Education, Union has more non-teachers (1,036) than teachers (828). Why is that? And why did Union's non-teaching staff grow by 150 percent over the past two decades while the number of students increased by 49 percent?

(2)  He says Scafidi's "numbers are highly suspect." How so? After all, they are numbers reported by the Oklahoma Department of Education to the U.S. Department of Education. Is Payne implying that Oklahoma bureaucrats have done something suspicious? Federal bureaucrats? Dr. Scafidi? A drive-by accusation is not sufficient; if Payne believes the numbers are suspect, he should explain why.

(3)  He says Dr. Scafidi's "premise is baloney." Again, please elaborate: What is his premise, and why is it baloney?

(4)  He says Ed Choice "has a vested interest in making public schools look bad." Here's what EdChoice says in its latest publication of Dr. Scafidi's findings:
EdChoice is committed to research that adheres to high scientific standards, and matters of methodology and transparency are taken seriously at all levels of our organization. We are dedicated to providing high-quality information in a transparent and efficient manner. ... All individuals have opinions, and many organizations (like our own) have specific missions or philosophical orientations. Scientific methods, if used correctly and followed closely in well-designed studies, should neutralize these opinions and orientations. Research rules and methods minimize bias. We believe rigorous procedural rules of science prevent a researcher’s motives, and an organization’s particular orientation, from pre-determining results. If research adheres to proper scientific and methodological standards, its findings can be relied upon no matter who has conducted it. If rules and methods are neither specified nor followed, then the biases of the researcher or an organization may become relevant, because a lack of rigor opens the door for those biases to affect the results. The author welcomes any and all questions related to methods and findings.
Again, Payne's vague drive-by accusation is unsatisfactory. Is he implying, as with the "propaganda" and "highly suspect" remarks, that Scafidi's research is inaccurate?

My colleague Trent England will be discussing these matters on his radio program. (Be sure to listen to Trent weekday mornings from 7:00 to 9:00 on AM 1640 The Eagle, with the TuneIn app on your phone, or at If Mr. Payne would like to elaborate on his comment, he has an open invitation to do so on The Trent England Show.

One more question. Despite Union's per-student spending of $11,566 (higher than it was a decade ago, even when adjusted for inflation), the average Union student is performing better in math than 55 percent of students in Oklahoma, 49 percent of students in the nation, and only 38 percent of students in other developed economies. Is this performance good enough to justify the Union superintendent's total annual compensation of $238,728?

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

‘The best education available’

LeVar Burton won the NEA "Friend of Education" Award yesterday. And as education reporter Mike Antonucci reminds us, Burton once told Oprah: "I was raised a Catholic because my mother is a teacher and knew that the best education available for her children was parochial school."