Utterly Meaningless » 2002 » July

In the blogosphere, the

Filed on July 31, 2002 at 10:47 pm under by dcobranchi

In the blogosphere, the UK-based Samizdata is pretty close to the top of the food chain. They (it’s a team effort) don’t often edu-blog but this one could easily have been written by Joanne Jacobs or Isabel Lyman. In reference to a phonics-based reading program that had shown remarkable success, Natalie Solent wrote

The libertarian morals to be drawn are (a) it’s taken thirty freaking years or more to overthrow the fraudulent orthodoxy that monolithic state education enthroned, and the job ain’t done yet; (b) that when you next hear statists moan on about how horrifically complicated, interconnected and hard to solve social problems are, mentally add the words “so long as you refuse to admit that you were wrong”; (c) watch the buggers in the educational establishment. Watch them with the eyes of a hawk. Sure, they are by now in their heart of hearts convinced that phonics is the system that works. But a little matter like the interests of actual children won’t override the fact that the last thing the Special Needs “community” want is sudden, clear improvement in children’s literacy. It would make them look bad. Worse, it would make them look unecessary. Expect them to obfuscate, distort and delay reform in every way imaginable. They’ll tell themselves that gradual change and a “mixed approach” are the best thing all round, which is true when the best thing is defined as covering their tails.

Check out the full post; it’s a beaut.

It appears that clueless

Filed on at 2:03 pm under by dcobranchi

It appears that clueless edu-crats are not indigenous only to the US but also to Malaysia.

Dr Ariff said the concept of home-schooling where teaching was conducted by parents at home was not illegal and these students could still sit for public examinations. “It is just that the practices of some home schools fall under the definition of a ‘school’ under the Education Act 1996,’’ he added.

“I do not understand why parents send their children to such schools when we have good public schools and qualified teachers,” said Hassan.

It sounds like Mr. Hassan may be campaigning for the presidency of his country’s version of the NEA.

Here’s the BIG problem

Filed on at 10:17 am under by dcobranchi

Here’s the BIG problem with the No Child Left Untested Act. Half of Michigan’s schools are labelled as failing, apparently because earlier efforts at reform had set particularly high standards.

Michigan educators are crying foul, saying the earlier standards were set at a high level to drive improvement and now are being used to punish schools. Schools winning the state’s Golden Apple and Blue Ribbon awards for excellence are among the 1,500 targeted.

Michigan now requires 75 percent of students to score at a proficient level in math, reading, writing and science, or close the gap by 10 percent each year between the highest- and lowest-achieving groups of students.

The national standards focus only on math and reading, and on schools with the lowest-scoring students.

The recommended solution, LOWER the standards.

Telman’s group, six major educational associations and unions, and a Department of Education committee recommend that the state follow the national standard.

“We’re perfectly comfortable with keeping our old standards, but when we’re looking at ourselves against our national counterparts, it’s only fair we use the same standards,” said Charles Anderson, executive director of the Michigan Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union.

Michigan Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Watkins agrees.

I firmly believe in

Filed on at 10:12 am under by dcobranchi

I firmly believe in parents’ rights to educate their children as they see fit but this seems extreme. Tutoring Gives Pupils an Edge . . . for Preschool

“Nonremedial tutoring for children entering school is a relatively new phenomenon,” said Arthur Levine, the president of Teachers College at Columbia University, “but like every type of tutoring, it is growing. Anything parents can do to give their children an edge, they are interested in.”

But such tutoring elicits sharp divisions on the questions of whether it is effective or appropriate. One side contends it is no different from sending a child to a gymnastics class to learn to do a handspring, and at the very least can do no harm. The other side sees it as emblematic of a society that seems to be putting undue pressure on children even as it farms out parental duties.

Count me in the latter category.

HSing is soaring in

Filed on at 10:07 am under by dcobranchi

HSing is soaring in NC, up 19% last year, according to this story .

Even as enrollment in traditional public schools also continued to increase, the growing popularity of home schools, charter schools and private schools whittled the Wake County Public Schools’ share of the county’s schoolchildren to 83.3 percent this past year, down from 90 percent in 1996 and 84.7 percent in 2000-01.

This seems to me a HUGE drop in the percentage of students educated at traditional public schools (as I understand the article, charter school students are lumped in with HSers and private school students). One more quote:

“All forms of nontraditional schooling are growing at an impressive rate,” said Mike McLaughlin, editor of North Carolina Insight (the magazine of the N.C. Center for Public Policy Research). “But the public schools are chugging steadily along. They’re still educating 90 percent of the state’s children.”

Here’s a disparity. Does the 90% figure include charter school students in the public school figures? If not, the think tank is using 6-year-old data.

Why We Homeschool found

Filed on July 30, 2002 at 6:57 pm under by dcobranchi

Why We Homeschool found a somewhat confusing Op-Ed apparently originally published in the NYT but later picked up by the Contra Costa Times. The authors start out as fairly pro-HSing but then veer off into the “autonomy” and “S-word” bugaboos. Then, they really go off the deep end with this:

I find it frightening to think of the consequences of giving up on public education altogether. Education is a social endeavor; it prepares children to play a productive role in their society…

Public schools must be supported to adapt to the individual learning styles and temperaments of children if they are to continue to be entrusted with this crucial socializing role.

I don’t want my kids to be socialized that way. I don’t believe the schools’ mission is “socialization” or “autonomy”. And I REFUSE to be scolded for not “entrusting” the public schools and the edu-crats with my children and their futures.

Cool! We made the

Filed on at 6:24 pm under by dcobranchi

Cool! We made the list of What Leftists Hate Most.

Home-schooling — a threat to unions, social engineers, and the government monopoly on public education — and a favorite among the religious zealots.

(link stolen from the Homeschooling board at The Motley Fool)

Michael Lopez @ Highered

Filed on at 5:24 pm under by dcobranchi

Michael Lopez @ Highered Intelligence blogged one yesterday that is enough to make any homeschooling parent scream; the Henderson (NC) county DSS placed an infant in full-time day care rather than with a HS family.

The Henderson County Department of Social Services (DSS) told foster parent Ann McChristian that an infant would be better served in a full-time daycare program than with herself and her two home schooled daughters. McChristian, wife of Stan McChristian D.D.S., says she told the social worker daycare would not be necessary and the infant would fit in as a member of the family while receiving respite care. According to McChristian, the worker replied “this baby is behind and needs the stimulation that daycare provides.” McChristian says she disagrees that a daycare worker, managing multiple cribs, could provide an infant with more “stimulation” and attention than three surrogate mothers, i.e. herself and two daughters. Later, McChristian claims she heard the DSS gave temporary custody of the infant to a working foster parent. Consequently the child was placed in full-time daycare.

Thanks to Cathy Henderson

Filed on July 29, 2002 at 10:16 am under by dcobranchi

Thanks to Cathy Henderson who has linked to us here. She has a bunch of stuff worth checking out.

Here’s an interesting Op/Ed

Filed on at 10:06 am under by dcobranchi

Here’s an interesting Op/Ed that claims Charter schools beat vouchers. The author apparently believes that these two are mutually exclusive. Here’s a snip:

Minnesota’s public charter schools achieve these goals far better than private school vouchers. Here’s the difference. Charter school laws stimulate real education reform. Vouchers merely fund an existing system of private and religious schools. Consider:

• Innovation. If the goal is to stimulate innovation and change from the smallest school to the largest school district, then charter schools do it better. Charter school laws allow someone other than the local school board to create and run a public school. The result? Charter schools give parents and teachers the freedom to be better.

More Muslims home in

Filed on at 9:54 am under by dcobranchi

More Muslims home in to educate children And more Jews, and more Catholics, and more pagans, and more wiccans, etc.

More Muslim Americans are choosing to home-school their children, making them one of the fastest growing minority groups within the national home-schooling movement.

Muslim parents are educating their children on their own for reasons common to most home-schooling families: improving academics and controlling social interactions.

The ACT has followed

Filed on at 8:52 am under by dcobranchi

The ACT has followed the College Board’s lead and discontinued flagging the results of students who took the test under non-standard conditions.

This PS program looks

Filed on at 8:47 am under by dcobranchi

This PS program looks pretty promising (and amazingly like HSing). But, we all know that HSing doesn’t work. Or at least that’s what the NEA keeps telling us.

Breaking away from the typical high school experience, they both opted for a one-hour weekly meeting with a teacher, a pile of homework and a chance for success that rested on their shoulders alone.

They traded in the hallways buzzing with the latest gossip, spirited pep rallies and the usual school schedule for an alternative education program — independent study.

Independent study is a growing option. Through the accredited program, students are required to check in with their teachers once a week for an hour or so. The teacher assigns them work to complete on their own. When the student returns the next week, the teacher corrects the work, discusses the material and makes assignments for the following week.

I’m back. Vacation in

Filed on at 8:45 am under by dcobranchi

I’m back. Vacation in sunny Ormond Beach, FL (ok, HSers, your assignment- find Ormond Beach on a map) was a wonderful break. No blogging occurred but, I swear, IT WASN’T MY FAULT (picture John Belushi pleading with Carrie Fisher in “The Blues Brothers”), as my laptop decided to go completely haywire on Day One. No internet, no email. So 1995ish.

Vacation! That’s right, folks;

Filed on July 19, 2002 at 6:33 am under by dcobranchi

Vacation! That’s right, folks; I’m not here. I’m taking the laptop with me (to download pictures off the digital camera, of course) so I may be able to post from time to time but, to quote Professor Reynolds, “Blogging will be light today.” See y’all Monday-week (that’s South Carolinian for a week from this coming Monday).

Tight IT security at

Filed on July 18, 2002 at 9:14 am under by dcobranchi

Tight IT security at the U of D (University of Delaware for all y’all out-of-towners). It seems a “university student broke into her school’s computer system and gave herself passing grades in three courses”.

According to an affidavit filed by Officer Charles J. Wilson, Insler called human resources employees at the school and requested a new password for each instructor, then logged into the system.

Cynthia Cummings, an associate vice president at the school, said security measures are being reviewed.

OK, I know I’ve

Filed on at 8:49 am under by dcobranchi

OK, I know I’ve been going OT more often but, remember, this blog comes with a double-your-money-back guarantee. File this one under some people just aren’t cut out to be parents.

Keith Eisenhuth held up his Allen Iverson fingerband, which he had just bought Wednesday to go with his gray and black Iverson basketball shoes, Iverson shirt, headband, wristband and jersey.

The 12-year-old Haverford, Pa., resident said he has no problem with the fact that Iverson is charged with four felonies and 10 misdemeanors stemming from an incident July 3 at the West Philadelphia apartment of his cousin. That night, Iverson, the Philadelphia 76ers star guard, allegedly went looking for his wife after a marital dispute and threatened two men in the apartment with a gun.

Eisenhuth’s father, Bill, said he doesn’t have a problem with it, either.

“Keith is into basketball because of Allen Iverson,” Bill Eisenhuth said. “He’s modeled things in his life after Allen Iverson. If he’s convicted, it wouldn’t affect anything, because I know people who have done what he’s done in the heat of passion. The action is less than the magnitude of what it’s become.”

The NYT has an

Filed on at 8:18 am under by dcobranchi

The NYT has an Op-Ed on the recent decision by the College Board to discontinue flagging scores of students who took the test under other than standard conditions. The author applauds the decision but then goes a step further:

The College Board’s decision is right. But I question whether there is any rationale for timing such tests at all.

Why not let anyone who wants extra time (or, for that matter, braille or large print) have it, no questions asked? My own guess is that most people would not take much extra time, but the decision would be theirs, not that of a screening body.

My guess is that he’s dead wrong in his guess. I taught at a community college for a while and proctored many exams while a graduate student. There were always students who continued to ponder their answers right up to and beyond the alloted time. If the SAT (a VERY high-stakes test) were untimed, some kids would bring sleeping bags and stay for days.

No, I’m not a

Filed on at 5:44 am under by dcobranchi

No, I’m not a pundit-wannabe. This article on the U.N.’s Women’s Rights Treaty is political but there is a HS connection. The HSLDA is opposed to this treaty and sent out an “e-lert” asking its members to call the appropriate U.S. Senators. DISCLOSURE: I take NO position on HSLDA or their non-HS politics. Officially I am a member for another month-or-so when my membership will expire unrenewed.

This is one to

Filed on July 17, 2002 at 12:20 pm under by dcobranchi

This is one to file away for future reference. The “No Child Left Behind Act” references homeschools in several places. Here are some relevant sections.

SEC. 411(b)(4)(D) “APPLICABILITY TO HOME SCHOOLS- Nothing in this section
shall be construed to affect home schools, whether or not a home school is
treated as a home school or a private school under State law, nor shall any
home schooled student be required to participate in any assessment
referenced or authorized under this section.”

Part E, Subpart 1, SEC. 9506 PRIVATE, RELIGIOUS, AND HOME SCHOOLS.
(a) APPLICABILITY TO NONRECIPIENT PRIVATE SCHOOLS- Nothing in this Act
shall be construed to affect any private school that does not receive funds
or services under this Act, nor shall any student who attends a private
school that does not receive funds or services under this Act be required to
participate in any assessment referenced in this Act.

(b) APPLICABILITY TO HOME SCHOOLS- Nothing in this Act shall be construed
to affect a home school, whether or not a home school is treated as a home
school or a private school under State law, nor shall any student schooled
at home be required to participate in any assessment referenced in this Act.

(c) RULE OF CONSTRUCTION ON PROHIBITION OF FEDERAL CONTROL OVER NONPUBLIC
SCHOOLS- Nothing in this Act shall be construed to permit, allow, encourage,
or authorize any Federal control over any aspect of any private, religious,
or home school, whether or not a home school is treated as a private school
or home school under State law. This section shall not be construed to bar
private, religious, or home schools from participation in programs or
services under this Act.

(d) RULE OF CONSTRUCTION ON STATE AND LOCAL EDUCATIONAL AGENCY MANDATES-
Nothing in this Act shall be construed to require any State educational
agency or local educational agency that receives funds under this Act to
mandate, direct, or control the curriculum of a private or home school,
regardless or whether or not a home school is treated as a private school
under state law, nor shall any funds under this Act be used for this
purpose.

Study Links Working Mothers

Filed on at 9:45 am under by dcobranchi

Study Links Working Mothers to Slower Learning This is sure to stir up a hornets’ nest.

“What we found was that when mothers worked more than 30 hours by the time their children were 9 months old, those children, on average, did not do as well on school-readiness tests when they were 3 years old,” said Jeanne Brooks-Gunn of Columbia’s Teachers College, the lead author of the study. “In other work we’ve done, we’ve seen that those negative effects of early full-time maternal employment persist among children who are 7 or 8.”

I wonder if the researchers controlled for breast-fed babies vs. bottle-fed? Surely, women who are back in the work force are less likely to be nursing at 9 months than those who are home.

Here are a couple of sad quotes:

“We really looked at different questions,” Ms. Waldfogel said. “They looked at early child care, while we looked at early maternal employment. You’d think that those would be the same, but it turns out that a third of the nonworking mothers put their children in child care before 9 months.”

In the families studied, 55 percent of the mothers were working by the third month, 71 percent by the sixth month and 75 percent by the ninth month.

This article describes computer-scored

Filed on at 8:10 am under by dcobranchi

This article describes computer-scored student essays. The new version of the SAT will include an essay section. I imagine that with so many essays to score, the ETS will have to use some form of computerized scoring. As an aside, the first author is Lawrence Rudner, who has previously studied how a large group of HSers performed on several national-normed tests.

Here’s a new motto:

Filed on July 16, 2002 at 7:02 am under by dcobranchi

Here’s a new motto: Homeschool- It’s cheaper than riding the bus! This article is about a school district’s bus woes. The HS conncection?

There may be an alternative. Under Missouri law, districts may bus ineligible students if a parent or guardian pays the district’s transportation cost. Last year, the cost of hauling a student was $385. Phillips [a parent of one of the affected kids] said she would be willing to pay, if her finances allow. “It may put me in a situation where I have to home school,” she said.

HS for less than $385/year?? I know some HSers can HS on a shoestring. We haven’t managed that yet. It’s my fault entirely. Before we HSed, our kids were in a fairly pricey private school. When my lovely wife decided to HS, I uttered those fateful words: “Unlimited Budget”. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea MAXIMA culpa. Actually, she’s really quite frugal and purchases only what she feels she needs. It’s still much cheaper and, of course, a much better education, than their old school.

Just a few years

Filed on July 15, 2002 at 3:25 pm under by dcobranchi

Just a few years ago we were all lamenting how schools discriminated against girls and how we needed to boost their self-esteem. Well, we must have succeeded because now colleges are wooing men to shrink the gender gap.

[T]he U.S. Department of Education projects female students will make up 60 percent of the student body nationwide by 2010.

This year’s graduation figures show some schools in Washington already are at or near that benchmark: SPU (65 percent of graduates are female), the University of Puget Sound (64 percent), Whitworth College (62 percent), Seattle University (61 percent), The Evergreen State College (60 percent), Eastern Washington University (60 percent) and Western Washington University (59 percent).

“Women are just stronger academically in almost all the ways that count,” said Christina Hoff Sommers, author of “The War Against Boys” and a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank.

For some undisclosed reason

Filed on at 3:03 pm under by dcobranchi

For some undisclosed reason Scientific American is running a poll on “Do you think home schooling is an acceptable alternative to public and private schooling?” As they say in Chicago, vote early and vote often.

UPDATE: As of 15:11 EDT the vote is 67% in favor (1220 votes total).

This one’s completely OT

Filed on July 14, 2002 at 4:00 pm under by dcobranchi

This one’s completely OT but I include it for two reasons: 1) I believe there is a large overlap between mothers who nurse their babies and HSers. 2) Original DHEA Yankee Kym Smythe is quoted in the article. Kym, if you read this and would like to elaborate on your museum story (it’s a beaut), click on the “Comment” link below and blog away. Who knows- maybe you can start a breastfeeding blog.

It seems to me

Filed on at 3:01 pm under by dcobranchi

It seems to me that this kid should save the 4 hour daily commute and HS instead.

Another in the never

Filed on at 2:43 pm under by dcobranchi

Another in the never ending series of WWHS. In today’s Wilmington (DE) News-Journal the main Op-Ed is a piece by English teacher Patrick Welsh (sorry, a quick Google News (beta) search yielded nada. Can anyone provide a link?). Mr. Welsh seems to be the kind of committed teacher who would just drive conservative parents batty. The regular contributor to USA Today, in discussing viewing the film Cinema Paradiso with his high-school senior students, writes:

Such works sometimes contain distubing imagery, sexually explicit scenes and offensive language- and some would say I was pushing the envelope by choosing “Cinema Paradiso”, with its nudity and sex. But I didn’t think those scenes were lewd or gratuitous and I thought my students would both be engaged in the movie’s story and gain from its message.

And what about what the parents might have thought to be lewd or gratuitous? When and how exactly did the PS teachers’ opinions as to what is proper supercede those of the owners of the schools (i.e., the parents)? I sometimes think tenure in the PS system is a very bad idea.

I realize that PS

Filed on July 13, 2002 at 8:56 pm under by dcobranchi

I realize that PS teachers are not the enemy- that, in fact, most of them really do care about the kids and are trying their best in a really crummy system. OTOH, there are some schools where, apparently, no one cares.

Dr. James Dobson had

Filed on at 6:27 pm under by dcobranchi

Dr. James Dobson had more on removing our kids from the public schools on his 7/8 and 7/9 broadcasts. I haven’t listened to them yet; I first have to download RealOne Player (2 hours on my dial-up). After I’ve listened I’ll try to summarize. One caveat- the files are only accessible for 30 days after original broadcast.

UPDATE: I found that Windows Media Player will work so you don’t have to download RealOne Player.

On 7/8 Dobson rips the schools in CA and NY (as well as in several other states) for a perceived pro-homosexuality agenda. He later suggests Christian teachers who are required to be members of the NEA should quit the public schools. Then, in a fairly lengthy segment he goes off on Scholastic, Inc. for selling the book “Conversations with God for Teens”. The teenage version includes “absolute heresy” according to Dr. Dobson. Based on the quotes he reads, he’s right. At the end of the program, they promote a web-site for parents who cannot homeschool their kids: www.focusoneducation.com

7/9- Dobson starts off the program discussing political correctness/activism among organizations catering to kids. He is upset that Big Brothers/Big Sisters will no longer exclude a volunteer because of their sexual orientation. At this point he replays a segment of the show from 7/8. If you listened to that one, skip ahead from 7:45 to 13:00. Scholastic then takes more hits for pushing Wiccan and New Age books in a catalog aimed at Christian schools. In Dobson’s mind, “Safe Schools” is equivalent to pro-homosexuality. According to Dobson, “Safe Schools” programs do nothing to prevent harassment of fat kids, or Christian kids, or anyone else other than kids who are believed to be gay. He believes that kids aren’t learning the basics because the schools spend too much time on PC activities. Dobson’s guest, education analyst Dick Carpenter is put on the spot. Dobson asked him if he would pull his kids out and he punted- saying if his kids weren’t learning he would.

More OT science stuff.

Filed on at 6:03 pm under by dcobranchi

More OT science stuff. If this is true, it represents the science equivalent of the unforgivable sin.

Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory has fired a prominent nuclear physicist for allegedly fabricating data that falsely revealed two new elements on the periodic table.

Joel Miller at WND

Filed on at 5:21 pm under by dcobranchi

Joel Miller at WND argues that it’s time to pull the kids out of the public schools as the teachers’ world-views don’t necessarily jibe with the parents’.

By its nature, a worldview is pervasive. It informs and answers questions of ethics and morality, economics and politics, arts and culture. Every sphere of life is affected by an individual’s philosophy.

I’m trying to provide

Filed on July 11, 2002 at 11:56 am under by dcobranchi

I’m trying to provide equal abuse to the extreme anti-voucher right and to the extreme anti-voucher left. Today, Tapped steps up to the plate.

The Other Case Against Vouchers:
Forget church and state. Vouchers are bad for a gazillion secular reasons.

To begin with, the stipends that most voucher programs grant their students aren’t enough to pay for a good private school. Florida’s program offers about $4,000 for students, for example, while Ohio’s offers $2,250. Although vouchers won’t pay for the best secular private schools, they generally do pay for inexpensive, inner-city parochial schools — which explains why so many vouchers go to religious schools… Some parents argue it grants them choice, but a choice between a failing public school and a mediocre parochial school is an unenviable one.

So, high tuition equals good secular private schools and low tuition equals mediocre parochial schools. What does this tell us about the free public schools? No, there are many reasons that parochial schools could provide a good education with low tuition: lower paid teachers who view their jobs as a higher calling, subsidies from the parish or diocese, no unions, etc.

And even if voucher programs conferred more money onto students from failed public schools, there’s no reason private schools would accept these students — who, sadly, come from schools that have often failed to teach them basic reading and writing skills, leaving them years behind their peers in private institutions.

And they should stay in these same failed schools? If there are no private schools that will accept vouchers then the program will have no effect. Where is the harm in trying?

Conservative economists claim that schools will materialize to cater to these students, in accordance with basic supply-and-demand market principles. But schools designed to accept voucher-students will inevitably [emphasis added] be profit-making ventures.

Why are we to assume that anyone who goes into the field of education is in it only for the money? I think the NEA would beg to differ. There must be thousands of churches and civic organizations that would love to sponsor a small, private school that caters to lower-income kids from failed public schools.

These voucher mills would be forced to put revenue drives and cost-cutting ahead of education, just like any other for-profit organization. They would also likely be prone to creative accounting. Edison Schools, the largest for-profit operator of schools, was just reprimanded by the Securities and Exchange Commission for booking costs as revenues.

Here’s a red-herring if ever I saw one. People starting up these private schools are not going to be public companies. They’ll be individuals or groups of parents who are just frustrated in the current system.

And still, there are other reasons to be skeptical of vouchers. For instance, they undermine the teaching of pluralism because voucher users will naturally gravitate toward schools that represent their own demographic. In fact, The Civil Rights Project at Harvard University recently found that 48 percent of black students in Catholic schools and 44 percent in other religious schools encounter a heavily segregated educational experience, meaning that fewer than 10 percent of students in their schools are white. While public schools have used busing programs for years to desegregate the schools, religious institutions have been unable to overcome the patterns of residential segregation. The situation is likely to worsen with the promulgation of vouchers.

A legitimate point. But what percentage of the kids in the failed Cleveland schools are white? Yes, segregation is worrisome and I don’t have a solution but I don’t see that “pluralism” should be the primary mission of schools. It should be educating the kids. The public schools have failed at their primary mission. Why should we be concerned about secondary or tertiary missions?

Hidden behind the effusive rhetoric about democracy and school choice, voucher proponents make a very simple statement to the public schools they believe are inadequate. The message is this: Schools can’t improve. Therefore, rather than waste government money on reform, we should put the onus for change on the market. It’s a horribly demeaning — and certainly incorrect — message for public-school faculty, administrators and students.

Is there evidence to the contrary? We’ve been working on improving schools since at least the Reagan administration. How many more generations of public school students are going to have to suffer with lousy schools before we can pull the plug? It is very difficult to prove a negative. Who knows? Maybe the Loch Ness Monster does exist. And maybe public schools will show some dramatic improvement. Just not yet.

Usage statistics released just this week in Florida suggest that parents aren’t actually dying for school choice the way voucher advocates portray them. Of nearly 8,900 eligible students, only 338 filed for vouchers — less than 4 percent. The numbers are comparable elsewhere. This lack of interest could mean anything, including a larger problem of priorities at home. But it’s just as likely that all of these obstacles make the voucher program more impracticable than public-school reforms.

And who exactly is throwing up the obstacles?

Most importantly, however, is that the assurances from voucher proponents that the programs will show real results are meaningless until these proponents actually try to measure results. So far, most private schools that accept vouchers have demurred from subjecting their students to the same standardized tests given regularly by public-school students. And they have completely balked at the prospect of industry standards…But without standards, or at least tests, the success of voucher programs will forever remain inconclusive.

Just how stupid are parents supposed to be? We know when our kids are learning and when they’re not. Any parent willing to be involved enough to get their kids out of a bad public school will be involved enough to pay attention to the private school. Does anyone really believe that the accountability tests revealed new information? Ohmigosh- I thought my kids were attending a great school and it turns out that it really stinks!

As long as regulation remains a conservative bogeyman, private schools will be free to disappoint students the same way America’s worst public schools have.

But maybe they won’t disappoint. The key is, we just don’t know. Public schools have not demonstrated an ability to improve. Vouchers are not a promise; they are an experiment. I don’t believe anyone knows what will happen if they become widespread. I think we do know what will happen if they don’t: If nothing changes, nothing changes.

Is the new CEO

Filed on at 10:45 am under by dcobranchi

Is the new CEO of the Philadelphia School District an optimist or completely clueless- you make the call:

“Fixing the schools is simple,” he said. “You have quality leadership, you have quality teachers, you have professional development, you have extended school days and extended school years, you have more time on tasks. The fundamental ingredients that go into successful schools are common.”

Please pray for these

Filed on at 10:42 am under by dcobranchi

Please pray for these students.

Here’s an interesting take

Filed on July 10, 2002 at 10:48 am under by dcobranchi

Here’s an interesting take on MA’s state accountability test. The author alleges the test was designed so that a certain percentage of students will always “fail”. If the allegation is true (and the author points out that MA is not unique), a bunch of programs may have to be re-designed.

This headline: “The world

Filed on at 10:42 am under by dcobranchi

This headline: “The world says no to spanking” is just a bit misleading. It is not until the 3rd paragraph that we learn that it is corporal punishment in schools that has been banned.

Preschools are popping at

Filed on July 9, 2002 at 10:26 am under by dcobranchi

Preschools are popping at the seams The author seems to think this is a good thing.

ST. LOUIS – American parents have finally gotten the message: Early education can make a big difference in a child’s future. Everywhere, private preschools are popping up and their enrollments are burgeoning.

Well I think this

Filed on at 10:12 am under by dcobranchi

Well I think this headline, Death Sentence for Private and Home Education, Courtesy of Supreme Court, is just a bit over the top.

Let’s try an experiment. I’ve never fisked in public before- please be gentle.

The Supreme Court’s recent 5-4 decision allowing the constitutionality of financial aid to parents which they may use at religious or private schools, including virtual academy (computer-assisted-instruction) charter schools available to home schoolers, will result in the deliberate dumbing down of all education.

I think “will result” is a bit strong. HSers are a fiercely independent lot; there just aren’t that many who would be willing to accept the strings that come with government money.

Now, private schools, willing to go the “voucher” route in order to get the money to stay in business, will have the opportunity to be equally dumbed down, denied a liberal arts curriculum, and stripped of all sound moral education. I can already hear the howling from voucher-supporting conservatives the first time the heavy hand of the federal government lands on a private school denying it the right to determine “what is right and what is wrong” in its curriculum, hiring practices, recital of the Pledge of Allegiance, The Lord’s Prayer, etc. Those private schools which courageously, for reasons of conscience, resist vouchers will eventually be forced out of business due to their inability to remain competitive.

There are two assumptions here that I think don’t hold up. One- that private schools that accept vouvhers will be held to some kind of accountability standards. That is a “political” decision that has not yet been made. I have no doubt that opponents to vouchers will attempt to have these requirements imposed on the schools; it is up to voucher supporters to work in opposition to this. Two- the market will be unwilling/unable to support private schools that don’t accept vouchers in order to remain “free”. I think the fact that there are still private schools (paid for by parents with after-tax dollars) indicates that there is a market for religious schools that aren’t “dumbed down”.

Is school choice a plot to implement the socialist, corporate fascist, workforce training agenda for the global planned economy? You ‘betcha.

This one is laughable. The left-leaning NEA would have to be the slickest, most organized, and far-seeing organization in the history of the labor movement to pull off such a great acting job. No, the unions are opposed to school choice (and homeschooling) because it threatens their money and their power base.

This decision will succeed in carrying out the long-standing leftist/internationalist goal of total control of all education (public and private) through the dollar.

There’s that pesky word “will” again.

Why don’t more people understand that government control of private and home school education is exactly what is going to happen? And why have religious organizations, especially those affiliated with the Catholic Church, supported school choice proposals when they have so much to loose [sic] once the government controls are implemented?

People understand perfectly well what is at stake. It is alarmist, at best, to assume that choice advocates are going to retire from the battlefield and grasp defeat from the jaws of victory. Lisa Snell has done an excellent job summarizing this here.

Elected officials and others in supervisory positions, including public school superintendents who complain about government regulations, should, when the government honey pot is passed around the board table, just say “NO”. That is the only way to avoid the regulations imposed rightfully in the name of “accountability,” and to remain a truly free agent.

That is one (mostly) sure way. Another way is to win in the political arena.

Do the five justices who ruled favoring school choice proposals live in such a dream world that they believe the government will require less regulation of the private and home schools than it requires of the public schools?

I doubt that the justices considered homeschooling but I’ll put homeschoolers grass-roots political skills up against any organization.

The NAEP is the tool for measuring accountability to politically-correct government viewpoints (60 percent of the test items measure political correctness and school-to-work readiness). The NAEP, which President Bush mandated be administered in all schools, will determine not only curriculum, but compliance with accountability standards and therefore will be essential in the determination of which private schools and home schoolers will receive vouchers. That is the reason this decision will do away with private and home schooling education as they are presently constituted.

The NAEP is not mandated for homeschoolers. If I recall correctly, language was inserted into the NCLBA specifically exempting homeschoolers from the federally-mandated accountability tests.

Ms. Iserbyt is convinced that this is all part of one big conspiracy dating back 75 years, and that Marx and Gorbachev will take over our private schools and homeschools if school choice is enacted. I don’t know- maybe the Carnegie Foundation has had some grand plan to take over the world. Let’s fight that battle when (and if) it arrives. For now, let’s drain the swamp of the public school system and allow parents to get their kids out ASAP.

You never know where

Filed on at 4:14 am under by dcobranchi

You never know where the topic of HSing is going to show up. This conversation is on Up Yours (another blog). Warning, the language is a bit coarse.

Dawn: How do you feel about marriage
Bitter-Girl: I’m pro marriage but up in the air about kids
Dawn: really?
Bitter-Girl: I like them and all, but it would be very hard to care for them in the way i believe kids need to be cared for with the way my life will be for the foreseeable future
Bitter-Girl: For example, i think public schools are uniformly terrible, and i’d want to home-school
Dawn: Home school? Why?
Bitter-Girl: (as if this one would be tough to figure out) – I was a gifted child, and I was bored out of my mind all through school, even after they skipped me. There’s too much lowest-common-denominator teaching going on, and teachers are overwhelmed with disciplinary problems rather than academic ones.
Dawn: Oh – that wasn’t what I thought you would say
Dawn: If I home schooled it would be because of the negative influence of other parents shitty parenting and neglict towards their kids rubbing off on mine.
Dawn: I am against home-schooling in general but a lot of people find it a good option
Bitter-Girl: I can just see my poor kid trapped in his or her own personal hell for 17 years like I was instead of doing something more practical, like learning real skills, or… as I think Free Agent Nation author Dan Pink put it, apprenticing themselves for a practical purpose.
Bitter-Girl: If you want to grow up to be a computer programmer, there’s no worse way than to go to school for computer science, for example. All the best programmers I know have other backgrounds.
Dawn: That is certainly true and you make a valid point
Dawn: Vocational training for high tech skills – Career track they call it in Germany
Bitter-Girl: yes. Dan Pink said ‘hey, apprentice yourself to a web designer if that’s what you want to do” — don’t waste $40,000 on college if you don’t have to!
Dawn: smart thinking

In what cave has

Filed on July 8, 2002 at 9:25 pm under by dcobranchi

In what cave has Reuters been living?

But the biggest change may be a new law that has gotten scant attention: the No Child Left Behind Act.

“Just because vouchers may be legal in some circumstances doesn’t make them a good idea,” said Bob Chase, president of the National Education Association, an organization committed to public schools.

“Scant attention”? An “organization committed to public schools”? Has Ms. Zabarenko ever set foot in the US?

Caps, gowns, and class

Filed on at 11:40 am under by dcobranchi

Caps, gowns, and class rings – for fifth-graders Just an excuse to sell “stuff” to parents and grandparents.

The Houston Chronicle carried

Filed on July 7, 2002 at 8:31 am under by dcobranchi

The Houston Chronicle carried a very interesting column on why the SCOTUS voucher decision may have only a limited impact- suburban parents are generally opposed to any changes in the funding of “their” schools:

People in the suburbs are generally satisfied with their neighborhood schools. They want to protect the physical and financial independence of those schools, as well as suburban property values, which are tied to local school quality (real or perceived). School choice threatens the independence of suburban schools by creating the possibility that outsiders, particularly urban students, will enter them and that local funds will exit them.

When suburbanites perceive a threat to their schools, they fight back — and usually win. Consider school desegregation and school finance reform. Suburban districts largely succeeded in insulating their schools from the reach of desegregation decrees, which rarely went beyond urban districts or required suburban schools to participate. Consequently, urban school districts were left to experience the costs and benefits of school desegregation, while most suburban schools remained safely on the sidelines.

Why are we so

Filed on July 6, 2002 at 8:14 am under by dcobranchi

Why are we so obsessed with exams? This is actually a UK story but it could just as easily been writen about the US.

Until the late 1980s the United Kingdom had one of the most decentralised and voluntaristic educational systems in the world; indeed in many respects it would hardly qualify as a national system at all, and this is certainly one of the reasons why the pendulum has swung so far in the opposite direction.

Currently, national curriculum test scores are rising, and primary schools are well on the way to meeting the Government’s targets. However, rather than real rises in standards, what is most likely to have led to increases in scores is practising for the tests.

All international research, not to mention personal experience and common sense, suggests that this is what happens when “high stakes” tests are encountered: ie when teachers and students are faced with tests that carry significant consequences for student life chances and teacher accountability, very significant time and energy will be devoted to test preparation. The minimal focus of the testing programme becomes the normal curriculum maximum; teachers and students alike become adept at cramming and, if the consequences of failure are too severe, cheating.

I’m back Blogger has

Filed on July 5, 2002 at 10:12 pm under by dcobranchi

I’m back Blogger has been down all day- in fact, it’s still down. I had to publish this through Blogger Pro. There are some differences between the two services; I pray that you’ll be patient as I learn the ins-and-outs. TIA.

The Contra Costa Times

Filed on at 10:26 am under by dcobranchi

The Contra Costa Times profiles a HSing family.

I find this statistic

Filed on at 9:31 am under by dcobranchi

I find this statistic hard to fathom:

One of every dozen U.S. children and teenagers — 5.2 million — has a physical or mental disability, according to new figures from the 2000 Census that reflect sharp growth in the nation’s young handicapped population over the past decade.

Some reasons for the rise can be quantified. But it is difficult to know precisely how much is attributable to an increase in certain conditions and how much is explained by greater recognition, changing definitions or more willingness to report a handicap.

I think this sentence may be the key:

The definition of disability has broadened to include conditions such as attention deficit disorder, which decades ago was often not even recognized.

Between the public schools and the drug companies pushing methylphenidate (Ritalin, Concerta, Metadate, etc.), I’d bet that kids labeled ADD/ADHD account for a huge percentage of any recent increase.

I’m done for today.

Filed on July 4, 2002 at 2:30 pm under by dcobranchi

I’m done for today. Everyone enjoy the 4th and stay safe. See y’all tomorrow.

This school tamed the

Filed on at 12:20 pm under by dcobranchi

This school tamed the homework monster. Homework is another of my pet peeves. BWHS (Before We Homeschooled) my then 3rd grade son regularly had 2 hours of homework several nights each week. It was completely frustrating for him and for the rest of the family. Numerous complaints from many sets of parents did no good. And this school supposedly has a rule that for 3rd grade there should be no more than 30 minutes of homework. HSing is so much more relaxed (even though the kids are in more activities now). No homework, no tests. I can’t imagine going back to the old routine.

I’ll never try this

Filed on at 7:03 am under by dcobranchi

I’ll never try this again. What a stupid policy. And, no, I didn’t pay the $60. The article is supposedly about HSing. Guess we’ll never know.

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