Utterly Meaningless » 2003 » July

    Filed on July 20, 2003 at 2:04 am under by dcobranchi

    I misread Banzhaf’s threat to sue. He’s actually threatening to sue the Seattle School Board for contributing to the obesity of a child. Seriously. Someone please rein this man and his ilk in.

    UPDATE: Skip Oliva has more and an excellent suggestion on how to stop this nonsense.

    Any lawyer that threatens legal action without identifying an actual client should be fined $10,000 for the first offense, and thereafter face loss of their bar license for up to one year for each additional offense. It won’t curb all the abuses of terrorist lawyers, but it would be a start, not to mention a signal from the judicial system that they’re willing to defend their powers from the abuse of a renegade minority.

    Well, if tar-and-feathering are out…


    Filed on July 19, 2003 at 8:53 am under by dcobranchi

    Last December, California state Sen. Sheila Kuehl sent a letter to all school districts in the state reminding them that pro-homosexual diversity training is mandatory for all CA g-school students. One Q&A, in particular, has recently received some attention.

    Q: Do parents have the right to notice about and to opt their children out of diversity education programs that include discussions of sexual orientation or other controversial topics?

    No. Diversity or tolerance education programs that focus on preventing verbal harassment, threats and violence against students are not “sex education” or “family life” programs within the meaning of the California Education Code. Parents do not have a right to receive notice about or to opt their children out of such programs. …

    If they elect to send their children to public schools, parents have very limited rights to prevent their children from receiving the entire range of instruction available in public schools.

    There are some topics that parents have a right to notice about and/or the right to opt their children out of, but, outside of these specific topics, parents do not have any general right to notice and the opportunity to opt their children out of the curriculum.

    Now, a conservative legal group is proposing an amendment to the CA constitution to override this:

    “Parents have a fundamental right to raise, and direct the moral upbringing of, their children. The state shall not interfere with this right without a compelling state interest.”

    Wasn’t this established by the US Supreme Court in Pierce?


    Filed on at 7:13 am under by dcobranchi

    A g-school teacher has quit (i.e., been asked to leave) after demonstrating to male and female students how to use a condom. The kids are in the 7th grade. Sigh.


    Filed on July 18, 2003 at 5:32 pm under by dcobranchi

    in the blogroll. I’ve added “Yet Another Homeschool Blog.” This one is a classic blog with lots of pictures of the kids’ activities.


    Filed on at 12:32 pm under by dcobranchi

    Some of you may argue that I do, every day.


    Filed on at 12:08 pm under by dcobranchi

    The Northwest Explorer has a lengthy article on homeschooling that is very well-done. Definitely one to print out and hand to the naysayers.


    Filed on at 11:45 am under by dcobranchi

    The Seattle School Board voted last night to renew a vending machine contract with Coke despite the nannies.

    “We need to provide a more caring, healthy, safe environment while these children are in our trust,” [Board member] Bass said.

    The “public-interest” lawyer John Banzhaf was involved. What a shock. This guy is everywhere lately, planning his lawsuits against McDonald’s and perhaps Coke.

    Public-interest lawyer John Banzhaf III of Washington, D.C., who has bruited about threats of a lawsuit against the Seattle schools for promoting obesity in children, implied in a news release shortly after the vote that the conditions set by the board were influenced by the specter of litigation.

    It’s not often that I run across a word in the mainstream press that is completely new to me. “Bruited” fits the bill. According to dictionary.com, it means to make noise as in spreading a rumor. See? Blogging is educational.


    Filed on at 6:50 am under by dcobranchi

    That’s what a union president claims in this puff piece about teacher’s summer jobs.

    “Getting a second job is almost a necessity,” said Sheila M. Finlayson, president of the Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County.

    Instructors’ salaries are notoriously low for the amount of work they do, and young teachers have it the worst, said Finlayson, who toiled in restaurants and clothing boutiques during the summers of her 28-year teaching career.

    That’s possibly because some young teachers are clueless.

    When Tina Lockett-Queen, a physical education teacher at Southwestern High School in Baltimore, started teaching, she was looking forward to taking summers off. But she quickly realized that was not feasible.

    “I thought, ‘Oh, a 10-month year.’ I didn’t realize the pay doesn’t stretch into the summer,” said Lockett-Queen.

    I’d be very surprised if Anne Arundel Co. doesn’t allow teachers to spread their paychecks over 12 months. Underpaid? Hardly.


    Filed on July 17, 2003 at 3:42 pm under by dcobranchi

    A couple of homeschooling parents went begging to the local g-school board to allow their kids to participate in extracurriculars. The board didn’t have any policy established so the homeschooling parents proposed one:

    The Wolcotts told the board they developed a possible policy the district could use that required part-time enrollment, weekly parent reports on students’ academic progress and testing at the beginning of each year, paid for by the parents, to determine eligibility for activities.

    Geez! They sound like edu-crats!


    Filed on at 7:19 am under by dcobranchi

    This is way cool and could be a fun break for homeschoolers studying chemistry: a periodic table linked to comic book pages that mention that element. The graphics-laden pages can be slow to load on a dial-up connection. (via Eve Tushnet)

    LOUISIANA EDU-CRAT: 1 + 1 = 472.9

    Filed on at 6:47 am under by dcobranchi

    LA g-school enrollment continues to drop, embarassing the edu-crats.

    Between the fall of 1991 and the fall of 2000, public school enrollment has declined 36,646. In the same period, private school enrollment has increased by 18,448, and the school-age population has increased by 17,126.

    Not to worry- they have scapegoats already picked out.

    State Superintendent Cecil Picard agrees with the numbers… He credits the shrinking public school population to families leaving Louisiana, the growing popularity of home-schooling and family size decreasing.

    Two out of three of his excuses make no sense- the school-age population is up. Families leaving the state and having fewer kids would tend to drive that in the opposite direction. So, the real culprits are homeschooling and the private schools, both of which are growing. Parents are voting with their feet- out of the g-schools.


    Filed on at 12:00 am under by dcobranchi

    Kim Swygert found a News-Journal article about how poorly special ed students are served by the DSTP and mandatory summer school. This one is a must read for Delawareans.


    Filed on July 16, 2003 at 9:50 pm under by dcobranchi

    According to this Focus on the Family site, HONDA was written by HSLDA. That would explain Finding (3); HSLDA has a habit of citing test scores.


    Filed on at 9:43 pm under by dcobranchi

    The NC Supreme Court has ruled that DSS erred when it took a couple of homeschooling parents to court because they refused to allow the social worker to interview their kids.

    Investigators had received a tip that the couple’s 2-year-old daughter was running naked through their yard. The girl apparently chased a kitten into the yard, and was quickly returned to the house by an older brother.

    HSLDA and the ACLU represented the parents.


    Filed on at 9:26 pm under by dcobranchi

    Pennsylvania’s mandatory pledge law has been declared unconstitutional. This one was so obviously unconstitutional that the law was never allowed to go into effect. So, PA legislators wasted not only their own time but the court system’s as well. Cut their pay and send them home.


    Filed on at 9:14 pm under by dcobranchi

    The WaPo really blew one today regarding charter school enrollment.

    As families with children abandoned the District and as some D.C. parents placed their children in private schools, the total D.C. public school enrollment dropped from 80,937 in 1992 to 77,111 in 1997, the year charters began. At the beginning of the last school year, this regular public school enrollment was down to 67,522, but when the nearly 12,000 new charter school students are added, that makes a total public school enrollment of 79,296, or a three percent increase since 1997.

    I think that is a rather remarkable reversal of fortune. We now have more students attending D.C. public schools than we did six years ago, despite all the turmoil in the school board and changes in the superintendent’s office. Parents are showing renewed faith in what their tax dollars, properly used, can do.

    Yes, charters are funded by tax dollars. But parents tend to look at them as alternatives to the g-schools. I seriously doubt a poll of D.C. parents would find any level of satisfaction with them


    Filed on at 1:01 pm under by dcobranchi

    I’ve added Boots & Sabers to the blogroll. Jed and Owen post a variety of libertarian/rightist commentary. Worth a click.


    Filed on at 7:09 am under by dcobranchi

    The Manhattan Institute has released a study that attempts to compare charter schools serving non-targeted student bodies with their nearest g-school. In this study, the charters come out slightly ahead on standardized tests.

    Executive Summary

    Charter schools—public schools that are exempt from many of the procedural regulations that apply to regular public schools—are a widespread but poorly-studied form of education reform. With nearly 2,700 charter schools now educating more than 684,000 children nationwide, policymakers and parents need to know how the education charter schools provide compares to that provided by regular public schools.

    Assessing the academic performance of charter schools is difficult, because many charter schools are targeted toward specific populations such as at-risk students, disabled students, and juvenile delinquents. This makes it very challenging for researchers to draw a fair comparison—comparing targeted charter schools to regular public schools is like comparing apples and zebras. As a result, there are very few reliable research findings on the academic quality of charter schools as compared to regular public schools.

    This is the first national empirical study of charter schools that compares apples to apples—that is, test scores at charter schools and regular public schools serving similar student populations. By comparing “untargeted” charter schools serving the general population to their closest neighboring regular public schools, we can draw a fair comparison and get an accurate picture of how well charter schools are performing.

    Measuring test score improvements in eleven states over a one-year period, this study finds that charter schools serving the general student population outperformed nearby regular public schools on math tests by 0.08 standard deviations, equivalent to a benefit of 3 percentile points for a student starting at the 50th percentile. These charter schools also outperformed nearby regular public schools on reading tests by 0.04 standard deviations, equal to a benefit of 2 percentile points for a student starting at the 50th percentile.

    The study’s strongest results came in Florida and Texas. In Texas, charter schools achieved year-to-year math score improvements 0.18 standard deviations higher than those of comparable regular public schools, and reading score improvements 0.19 standard deviations higher. These benefits are equivalent to 7 and 8 percentile points, respectively, from the 50th percentile. Florida charter schools achieved year-to-year math and reading score improvements that were each 0.15 standard deviations greater than those of nearby regular public schools, equivalent to a gain of 6 percentile points for a student starting at the 50th percentile.

    I haven’t read the whole report yet so I can’t draw any conclusions.


    Filed on at 6:48 am under by dcobranchi

    Here’s some more info on the “Home School Non-Discrimination Act of 2003.” (I think I misspelled it “Homeschool” yesterday. Mea culpa.) The full text of the bill can be found here. It’s short so please read the whole thing. My quick take- it seems like a good effort though I really don’t like Finding (3)

    (3) Education by parents at home has proven to be an effective means for young people to achieve success on standardized tests and to learn valuable socialization skills.

    Regardless, I hope all the state homeschooling groups will take this up and let their thoughts be known. Here’s a link to contact your Representative.


    Filed on at 2:28 am under by dcobranchi

    Dean Esmay linked to the Political Compass test, which I had seen before but took again for the fun of it. I’m still in the lower right quadrant, so no news there. What I found interesting, though, was this question:

    The function of schooling is to equip the future generation to find jobs.

    My first inclination was to strongly disagree. Upon further reflection, though, I’m not so sure. Undoubtedly, the principle function of the g-schools is precisely that. Education, per se, is not even a close second. And, then there’s that US/UK dichotomy (the test is a UK product). In the end I decided to punt with a weak “Disagree.” What do y’all think?


    Filed on July 15, 2003 at 9:21 pm under by dcobranchi

    That’s Homeschool Non-Discrimination Act, introduced by Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R-CO). The bill aims to eliminate some federal regs that discriminate against homeschoolers. Among these:

     [M]any college-bound homeschoolers have been denied college admission due to confusion about federal financial aid programs. Many colleges feel they are forbidden to admit homeschoolers because homeschooled students do not have state-issued diplomas.

     HONDA will also allow parents to utilize federal education savings accounts for their homeschool expenses, and allow homeschool eligibility for Byrd college scholarships.

     Federal privacy law is extended to include homeschool records.

     HONDA also permits older homeschooled teens to work during traditional school hours. Currently, federal law does not allow a student to work during school hours. This is an unfair restriction on homeschoolers, homeschool advocates believe, as traditional school hours have little relevance in a homeschool setting.

     HONDA would address forced evaluations under the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA). A Missouri family is currently in court fighting a decision by the state to force their homeschooled child to undergo an evaluation under IDEA, even though the family does not want, nor is even eligible for, the services which could be provided. HONDA makes it clear that IDEA does not require evaluations if a parent refuses services.


    Filed on at 4:09 pm under by dcobranchi

    Several schools in FL are suspected of cheating on their FCAT high-stakes tests. One school moved its grade up from F to A in a single year. Even the investigators, though, want to put a positive spin on it:

    ”I think it’s first compassion for the kids,” said Joe Melita, Broward’s chief investigator, who was the principal of Deerfield Beach High, a low-performing school from 1996-2000. “Teachers are good people, and they want their kids to do well. The second motive is going to be fear. It’s a huge stigma to be a school rated an F.”


    Filed on at 3:55 pm under by dcobranchi

    WND is reporting that some parents in OR are objecting to a proposal to erect a flagpole and American flag in front of their government-funded school.

    “I feel our country is on a strong push towards imperialism, and we’re not a democratic nation anymore. I want to raise my children to be citizens of the world, and the flag does not represent ideals I want to instill in my children. It represents dominance, greed, corporate power and not freedom. I think it even represents commercialism and consumerism.”

    I’m not one for forced pseudo-patriotism (such as mandating that kids recite the “Pledge”), but objecting to the flying of the flag itself in front of a school is just beyond the pale.


    Filed on at 3:33 pm under by dcobranchi

    Chris Whittle, Edison Schools CEO, has announced that he is taking the company, which has never shown a profit, private. Thus ends one of the more curious examples of the late 90’s bubble. EDSN traded as high as $36.75/share before crashing back to earth late last year.


    Filed on July 13, 2003 at 9:00 pm under by dcobranchi

    We’re heading back to DE starting tomorrow a.m. Blogging will likely be non-existent until late Tuesday. See y’all then.


    Filed on at 4:32 pm under by dcobranchi

    The Boston Globe trumpets the results of a study that shows that charter schools are not bowing to the diversity god.

    The study of charter schools in 16 states, conducted by Harvard’s Civil Rights Project, found that 70 percent of African-American charter school students attend schools where the student population is overwhelmingly minority.

    Oh, the horror! Nobody is forcing the parents to send the kids to these schools. That’s what choice is about. Parents are choosing schools that they feel will best need their kids’ needs. If they are less than ideally diverse, so be it.

    Charter school supporters argued that the study does not compare charter schools to the ethnic makeup of their school districts, and that charter schools, especially those in cities like Boston, attract more minority students because they provide a better education than their public school counterparts. In Massachusetts, two-thirds of the state’s 46 charter schools are in cities.

    So, the schools may even be more diverse than the districts in which they reside.

    Chungmei Lee, a co-author of the six-month study, said that although charter schools are designed to improve school choice, many schools do not advertise enough for the community to know they exist. Some require students to take aptitude tests and interview with faculty as part of their application. Others, including some in Massachusetts, require parents to sign contracts obligating them to monthly meetings with faculty.

    Many underprivileged families want a role in their child’s education, but cannot commit to those requirements between working several jobs, she said.

    ”Not every minority family can send their kids to charter schools,” Lee said. ”Who is choosing? These are already preselection mechanisms at work that prohibit equal access, and you haven’t even applied yet.”

    And the solution is what? Lower the schools’ standards to accommodate the parents who can’t “commit?” The kids at the schools, though, know what’s important.

    Some students said that while they may miss out on the cultural experiences of a racially mixed school, they are more concerned about gettting a solid education.

    ”Things that certain groups bring to the table I won’t have experienced, but I will learn in a work environment,” said Janelle Smith, an African-American senior at Media and Technology Charter High School in Brighton.

    Smith, who plans to attend Temple University or Brown University, conceded that she feels ”culturally disadvantaged” in a student body that is 60 percent African-American, 30 percent Latino, 5 percent Asian, and 5 percent white.

    But in the end, she said, ”It’s not as imperative for me to embrace diversity as it is to graduate and help me get that job.”

    Ignoring the “culturally disadvantaged” comment, she seems sharper than the study’s author.


    Filed on July 12, 2003 at 9:50 am under by dcobranchi

    The Boston Globe is reporting that Blair Hornstine, the NJ student who sued her school to be declared the sole valedictorian, has been “disinvited” to attend Harvard next year. I wonder how long before she files suit against Harvard, too.

    UPDATE: Kim Swygert, who has owned this story, has more.


    Filed on at 7:05 am under by dcobranchi

    Last Sunday’s Albuquerque Journal had a very nice cover story on homeschooling. Nothing negative that I could spot. The reporter seems fascinated with unschooling although other “flavors” also are mentioned. Worth a read.


    Filed on July 11, 2003 at 11:50 pm under by dcobranchi

    Robert Prather blogs about a bill before Congress that would require them to list what part of the Constitution gives them the authority to do whatever it is they’re about to do to us. Time to crank out an email in support of this one. (via Instapundit)


    Filed on at 11:30 pm under by dcobranchi

    This homeschooling mom has a nice open letter to a g-school teacher. If only I could write half so well.

    WELL, DUH!

    Filed on at 11:22 pm under by dcobranchi

    A study in Great Britain has found that boys do better on tests if they are seated next to girls. Well, of course. Since girls do better on exams anyway, the boys seated next to them have much more success in cheating.


    Filed on at 11:05 pm under by dcobranchi

    With the passage out of committee of the D.C. voucher bill, the WSJ is reporting that some GOP back-benchers are living down to stereotype and voting against setting D.C. kids free of the worst school system in the country.


    Filed on at 10:56 pm under by dcobranchi

    Kids in Georgia (the country) are apparently pretty hefty, too. CNN has a short profile of two toddlers (ages 4 and 5) who tip the scales at a combined 235 lbs. The staged wrestling match ended in a tie, after which the kids celebrated with cake and ice cream.


    Filed on at 7:24 am under by dcobranchi

    Isabel Lyman posts that Ellegirl.com is looking for a homeschooler to interview. Details are on Izzy’s site. And, yes, I actually clicked over to the ellegirl.com website. The titles of the articles appear benign.


    Filed on July 10, 2003 at 10:11 pm under by dcobranchi

    Like many of y’all, we look for educational opportunities when we travel. In Central Florida, that means the Kennedy Space Center. Highly recommended but bring your own food and water. Prices are steep and water fountains are few and far-between. Clockwise from the upper left, the astronauts are Anthony, Jonathan, Chelsea, and Katelyn.


    Filed on at 5:16 pm under by dcobranchi

    Marvin Miller, who probably changed the game of baseball (or, rather, the business of baseball) more than any other person ever, was a homeschooler way back when.


    Filed on at 5:08 pm under by dcobranchi

    This editorial is entitled “Home Schooling” but is entirely about the g-schools and parents lack of support for same. Boo! Hiss!


    Filed on at 8:04 am under by dcobranchi

    California has decided to delay implementing its high-stakes testing program for two years to allow additional time for a new curriculum to “sink in.” Predictably, anti-testing activists are upset that the delay isn’t even longer.

    “A two-year delay just isn’t adequate,” said Emily Hobson, a researcher for Californians for Justice, a group working to improve education in low-income communities. “The majority of students of color and low-income students are experiencing a separate but unequal education.”

    This debate, no doubt, will be re-visited in about 1 1/2 years.


    Filed on July 9, 2003 at 9:44 pm under by dcobranchi

    A NYC g-school forced several 8th grade girls to take pregnancy and STD tests after they played hooky. The girls were not permitted to return to school until they had proved that they were disease free. The NYCLU is suing on behalf of two of the girls.

    According to the lawsuit, the two plaintiffs got notes stating only that they had been seen in the clinic, but those were rejected. They were forced to get a second note that included their test results, said Rebekah Diller, director of the NYCLU’s reproductive rights project.

    “There seems to be an assumption here that if they had tested positive for pregnancy or for an STD that they would not have been allowed back in the school,” Lieberman said. “That’s clearly wrong under the law.”

    I guess 8th graders don’t have a Right to Privacy in NYC. Or Due Process. (via The Happy Homeschooler)


    Filed on at 7:30 am under by dcobranchi

    In one of those weird coincidences, we were talking yesterday about how heavy the kids on the beach appeared. Lydia wondered about the percentage that were overweight. The NYPost reports that, in NYC, it’s 43% with more than half of those being “obese.”


    Filed on at 7:06 am under by dcobranchi

    The NYT has an editorial in favor of promoting vaccination for diseases that affect adults. Surprisingly, they do not come out in favor of some statist mandatory program but, instead, endorse a system that would allow adults to more easily keep track of their own vaccinations.


    Filed on July 8, 2003 at 7:53 am under by dcobranchi

    New York has stupid homeschooling laws. They even attempt to reach beyond the compulsory attendance age.

    According to New York State law, students who are homes schooled through high school cannot get their college diploma, because they do not have a high school diploma…

    The state education department offered three solutions: A letter from the district superintendent certifying the student has completed the equivalent to a public high school degree; students can also complete a GED program or take an extra 24 credits in college.

    Or, they could enroll in a college out-of-state. No use keeping the best & brightest in state, right?


    Filed on at 7:39 am under by dcobranchi

    Here’s a little info out of Nevada. A g-school teacher is attempting to start a charter school to serve “at risk” students:

    “Nevada used to classify children of single parent families as at-risk, as well as children who aren’t performing where the school district thinks they should be and that could be for a number of reasons. It includes children who are non-native English speakers and children who qualify for reduced-price lunches,” she said. “It’s not kids being kicked out of regular school or kids who have been to juvenile hall. Until recently, home school students were considered at-risk.”

    I don’t know who’s left in the “at risk” category, but at least we know they won’t be targeting homeschoolers.


    Filed on July 7, 2003 at 3:07 pm under by dcobranchi

    I think Chris O’Donnell may have recommended the spam-blocker POPFile. What a terrific product. It learns what you consider spam, so it’s success rate gradually increases. After less than 1 month, it’s currently around 99% for me. Highly recommended to eliminate all those ads for enlarging body parts you don’t even own.


    Filed on July 6, 2003 at 11:37 pm under by dcobranchi

    The EIA is reporting that the NEA’s long-standing anti-homeschooling resolution has been strengthened.

    The resolution had a sentence that read: “The Association also believes that unfunded home-schooled students should not participate in any extracurricular activities in the public schools.” Some states provide funding for home-schoolers to participate in after-school activities. The amendment was to remove the word “unfunded” so that NEA’s opposition would be categorical.
    Some delegates fought hard to keep the word in. A surprising number of speakers taught, coached or otherwise had professional contact with home-schoolers. Others suggested that such extracurricular participation made home-schoolers more likely to enter public schools full-time. Still others suggested that the deletion would punish children for the choices of their parents.
    Ultimately, however, the will of the majority of delegates was to delete “unfunded,” reasoning that with or without the money to do so, they didn’t want home-schoolers in any way to edge out those students who were “with us all day.”


    Filed on at 11:32 pm under by dcobranchi

    In an article decrying the “whiteness” of teachers in g-schools, we have this:

    [W]hile the nation’s teaching force is as well prepared as it has ever been, critics say President Bush’s No Child Left Behind education reform law could hurt teacher diversity even more, unless schools improve working conditions and salaries.

    The law requires that schools hire only “highly qualified” teachers, which means more coursework for thousands of teachers.

    And, or course, black teachers will be unwilling or unable to pass this additional coursework.


    Filed on at 8:14 am under by dcobranchi

    We’re on the road to FL. New stuff should appear this afternoon. See y’all then.


    Filed on July 5, 2003 at 8:56 pm under by dcobranchi

    Anyone know anything about blogshares? I don’t recall signing up but H&OES is listed. Are we doing well?


    Filed on at 11:26 am under by dcobranchi

    I found this paragraph enlightening.

    Heckman is one of a growing group of parents going online to share data, advice, ideas and complaints – justified or not – about public education. Many don’t participate in Web sites, choosing instead to air their opinions on free e-mail groups called listservs, such as those offered by Yahoo, a company providing multiple Internet services.

    Parents post things about g-school education on the internet? You don’t say!


    Filed on at 11:20 am under by dcobranchi

    Lynn Stuter has a pretty interesting piece up on her “debate” with a facilitator possibly affiliated with K12®. She does a nice job of highlighting the problems that can arise when virtual charter schools get confused with homeschooling. I had only one minor quibble:

    [T]he purpose of K12 is to pull homeschoolers back into the system. Once there, of course the former homeschooler will no longer be harassed as the government has achieved its goal.

    No, the purpose of K12® is to make a profit. The purpose of the edu-crats who run the charter school is to snag the homeschoolers. K12® is just the means to that end.

    « Last | Next »