Utterly Meaningless » 2004 » August

    Filed on August 22, 2004 at 6:52 am under by dcobranchi

    Maryland’s Governor Ehrlich wants to increase the number of charter schools in the state. Guess who’s opposed.


    Filed on at 6:43 am under by dcobranchi

    Delaware teachers, as represented by their NEA-affiliated DSEA, are refusing to participate in a pilot program aimed at implementing a teacher accountability program. It seems that a few years ago, the DE legislature included a requirement that 20 percent of a teacher’s annual review be based on student performance. Back then the union agreed. Today, though, they’re backing out. The News-Journal wonders why:

    It remains a mystery why teachers don’t want student progress to be considered a factor in their evaluations. Isn’t student progress what should most concern teachers? What is so wrong with being held directly responsible for the work that you do? It is the case in every other professional endeavor.

    Teachers view themselves as professionals. They are clearly well-educated and perform their work independently. But their union doesn’t seem to encourage teachers to act as professionals.

    The union says there are too many variables in measuring academic progress. That’s just another way of prolonging the old “excuses” approach. Teachers should be creative leaders, so why do they insist on acting like assembly line workers?

    If the teachers won’t cooperate in a pilot program, it should be implemented as soon as possible. That’s what the General Assembly demanded.

    Why don’t teachers want to be judged as professionals are– that is, on how well they actually do their jobs? Because, for the most part, those in leadership positions have far more in common with the AFL-CIO than they do with, say, the AMA.

    An old story to illustrate: The Frog and the Scorpion

    So, why does the DSEA oppose any meaningful form of evaluation? It’s a union; that’s what unions do. As long as teachers are represented by the NEA and continue to elect the same tired union “leadership,” this is what we’re stuck with.

    The solution, of course, is to blow up the whole system and let teachers sink or swim on their own.


    Filed on August 21, 2004 at 1:32 pm under by dcobranchi

    This is very cool. The Planetary Society has plans to enable you to build a scale model of the first solar sail, scheduled for launch in a few weeks.


    Filed on at 12:38 pm under by dcobranchi

    But fire the principal first.

    This has to be one of the most infuriating tales I’ve read in a long time.

    Chris Cibelli asked to transfer out of troubled James Lick High, but the answer was no.

    With 115 students already having left the East San Jose campus — a number equal to a quarter of the freshman class — co-principal Rick Esparza wanted to hang onto Chris.

    …As it turned out, Cibelli won his transfer this week — just days before classes begin — because federal law requires that certain chronically low-performing schools allow students to move to higher-performing schools, usually in the same district. Now the 15-year-old who dreams of becoming an astrophysicist will be able to attend Independence High, which has a space technology program.

    …”That’s the youngster that’s going to raise my test scores,” said Esparza, part of a turnaround team that arrived six months ago hoping to lift James Lick from the lowest levels of test performance. James Lick is one of 18 schools in Santa Clara County where test scores have remained so low that students are allowed to transfer. “It’s hard to take, that there’s a law that says your child has a right to move on.’

    Whose child!? The principal attempted to scuttle the kid’s transfer out because it would affect the principal’s aggregate test scores. Who cares about what’s best for the kid? The school has lost 115 kids for next year. Let’s hope they lose one principal, too.


    Filed on at 12:24 pm under by dcobranchi

    All I could think of when I saw this story was “The Omen.”

    A new identification system will track the academic progress of each public-school student in Rhode Island from elementary school through high school — even if they move from district to district.

    The 10-digit number, called a universal student identifier, will allow districts to follow the performance of all students, including transient ones, many of whom have traditionally fallen through the cracks.


    Filed on at 6:36 am under by dcobranchi

    Not the “S” word.

    The other day we had the Dolans’ stupid poll asking if homeschooling was a viable option. Today there’s apparently an answer in Milton, PA:

    Home-schooling a viable option for some

    I don’t know why it bothers me so. There really is nothing negative in the definition. It just seems like there’s a negative connotation in its use. Or maybe I’m just being paranoid?

    Other than the headline, the article gets a “B.” It loses points for including a line about a cyber charter.

    UPDATE: Here’s a copy of the letter I sent the reporter.

    Dear Ms. Snyder,

    I enjoyed your article on homeschooling in today’s Standard-Journal. As a home educator and homeschooling advocate (http://cobranchi.com), I try to keep track of both positive and negative comments about our community. Yours fell distinctly with the former. Thank you. I do have one not so minor quibble, though. You included several lines about Mrs. Paige’s son’s participation in the Pennsylvania Virtual Charter School. According to its website, PAVCS is a public school. It is not a homeschool under PA state law. It matters not a bit that her son takes his classes at home. He is not homeschooled.

    This may sound picky, but it’s not. Home educators have fought for 20 years for the right to teach our kids how, when, where, and most particularly what we feel proper. Charter school students are taught the same subjects and in the same manner as every other public school student. They also have to take the same NCLB-mandated tests. Not so for homeschoolers.

    The problem is that when those in the media confuse cyber charters with homeschooling, the general public gets the idea that they’re the same. The next step is to wonder why some “homeschoolers” (i.e., the cyber charter kids) have to follow the state curriculum and tests and other homeschoolers (i.e., the real ones) don’t.

    I would ask that in the future you please try to refrain from confusing the two.

    Thanks again for an otherwise terrific article.

    More Stories from the Frontlines

    Filed on August 20, 2004 at 10:34 pm under by dcobranchi

    I may have to start a regular feature—“Random Acts of Child Neglect”. Earlier in the week I discussed the daycare workers overwhelmed by unhappy infants and toddlers. Tonight I saw the mother who tried to forget she had a two-year-old with her.

    As with most incidents involving young children, the setting was a restaurant. I’m having dinner at a relatively nice place just outside Washington when a party of six is seated at the table directly in front of me: Three women, two girls aged between two and three, and an older gentleman. As the group sat down, one of the girls began to have a meltdown. Not a tantrum per se—she wasn’t screaming, just crying profusely. I don’t know what brought that on, but the mother was completely ignoring her. The mother sat down, started talking with the other women, and just acted like her crying daughter didn’t exist.

    After about five minutes, the older gentleman—apparently the crying child’s grandfather—said something to the mother. She turned to the child and said, calmly but firmly, “Honey, good children don’t cry.” She then returned to her conversation. The child continued to cry. (Apparently, telling a two-year old she’s bad doesn’t convince her to change her wicked ways.) The grandfather gave the mother a stern look, and then he went to the child, picked her up, and took her outside for a few moments. When they returned, she was happy as a clam and sat down next to the other girl, and that was the end of that. The mother didn’t seem to notice her child was even gone.

    What really struck me about this scene was that the grandfather clearly had a bad hip—he was carrying his granddaughter in one arm while using a cane in his other arm to maintain his balance.

    I’m still uncertain what brought on the initial meltdown, but my guess is that since this particular restaurant is near several hotels, these people were from out-of-town, and the girl was simply upset at being in an unfamiliar location. (She kept trying to tell her mother she wanted to leave.)


    Filed on at 12:06 pm under by dcobranchi

    An anti-charter letter in the New York Times scores points for the wrong team:

    To the Editor:

    Deep inside your Aug. 17 front-page article about charter schools is the most tragic part. In Los Angeles, 10,000 students on 60 campuses are without a school just two weeks before the school year begins because of the for-profit California Charter Academy’s financial problems.

    When was the last time your local public school announced in late August that it wasn’t opening and you had better find another school?

    There is a reason we shouldn’t turn over essential public services to the free market.

    Max Page
    Amherst, Mass., Aug. 17, 2004

    Yeah- of course local g-schools never close. They don’t have to, no matter how poorly they perform. That’s kind of the whole point to school choice, isn’t it?

    UPDATE: What a screw-up! I somehow copied the wrong letter. It’s fixed now.


    Filed on at 11:56 am under by dcobranchi

    The CS Monitor has an editorial about toy guns, but I’m not sure what they want. They might be proposing banning all toy guns or possibly asking parents to forego their purchase. Very confusing.

    I find all this apropos right now, as Anthony has developed an interest in the shooting arts (archery, paintball, and smallbore). Tomorrow a.m. we are going to a local gun range where he will take his first lesson in smallbore riflery. I may be more excited than he is. Once he shoots that .22 LR, I’m betting he gets the bug big time.


    Filed on at 7:31 am under by dcobranchi

    Homeschooling and caffeine just seem to go together.

    Christian business owners are finding Macon a fertile ground for the seeds of new ventures such as Christian coffee house The Nazarene Bean.

    …They’ve already begun hosting Bible studies, concerts and informal gatherings, Phelps said. The coffee shop is popular with the commuting professional set, while students of all ages have taken advantage of the wireless Internet access offered at the shop.

    “We have a large homeschool following,” Phelps said.

    I’m sure it’s all those bleary-eyed moms; I know Lydia couldn’t survive without her morning cappuccino.


    Filed on at 7:22 am under by dcobranchi

    Today’s Astronomy Picture of the Day is just phenomenal. My new wallpaper.


    Filed on at 7:14 am under by dcobranchi


    A federal appeals court has finally thrown out Pennsylvania’s mandatory Pledge of Allegiance law (first blogged here). I hate to think how many millions of tax dollars were wasted defending an utterly indefensible law.

    Hey, PA voters. There’s an election coming up in a couple months. You know what to do.


    Filed on at 6:54 am under by dcobranchi

    You make the call.

    Tom Ridge is hard at work keeping the skies safe from old, liberal Senators. It seems that Sen. Edward M. Kennedy happens to coincidentally share his name with a terrorism suspect. On multiple occasions, TSA agents have refused to allow him to fly.

    Instead of acknowledging the craggy-faced, silver-haired septuagenarian as the Congressional leader whose face has flashed across the nation’s television sets for decades, the airline agents acted as if they had stumbled across a fanatic who might blow up an American airplane. Mr. Kennedy said they refused to give him his ticket.

    “He said, ‘We can’t give it to you’,” Mr. Kennedy said, describing an encounter with an airline agent to the rapt audience. ” ‘You can’t buy a ticket to go on the airline to Boston.’ I said, ‘Well, why not?’ He said, ‘We can’t tell you.’ ”

    God forbid a terrorist ever have the name John Smith; half the country will be grounded.


    Filed on August 19, 2004 at 9:15 pm under by dcobranchi

    No, it’s not H&OES. (Hat tip: Joanne)


    Filed on at 1:11 pm under by dcobranchi

    Another state with crappy homeschooling laws: Iowa.

    Iowa law allows parents to provide “competent private instruction” to their school-age children, according to Edie Eckles, director of teaching and learning for the Waukee School District.

    …Eckles serves at the Competent Private Instruction contact.
    “We also have a Home School Assistance Program,” Eckles said. “Molly Boyle is the Home School Assistance Teacher.”
    Boyle meets with the parents four times each quarter to assess student learning progress and to provide assistance to the parents.

    Geez! I think I might have to meet Ms. Boyle with my shotgun sitting out, just to encourage her not to dawdle.

    Just kidding.


    Filed on at 12:59 pm under by dcobranchi

    I bet this guy’s book on separating school and state would be very interesting.

    BTW, he’s Canadian.


    Filed on at 11:53 am under by dcobranchi

    Sorry- couldn’t resist.

    Here’s another Op/Ed (this from the NYT) opposing the AFT’s take on charter schools. It’s pretty good with the exception of one glaring error:

    This is precisely the standard that critics apply in comparing public education’s two main forms: traditional schools and charter schools. The most recent example is a number-crunching exercise of federal school statistics by the largest teachers’ union, the American Federation of Teachers.

    Only in their wildest dreams is the AFT larger than the NEA.


    Filed on at 7:26 am under by dcobranchi

    More charter stats.

    The New York Post has some harsh words for the NYT concerning the latter paper’s alliance with the AFT. Interestingly, the editorial says Chester Finn has some problems with the AFT/NYT study. That’s interesting because Finn was quoted in the original NYT article that started all this. I’ll try to track it down and post as an update.

    UPDATE: Duh! Here it is. Finn doesn’t explain his quote in the Times. I think I’ll drop him a note and ask.

    AND 42 CENTS

    Filed on at 7:17 am under by dcobranchi

    I just love “experts” who can estimate with such precision:

    In another study estimating the cost of education in Texas, a school finance expert testified Wednesday that schools should spend $7,578 per student every year to achieve adequacy.

    Schools received an average of $6,317 per pupil in the 2002-03 school year.


    Filed on August 18, 2004 at 9:12 pm under by dcobranchi

    Michael Peach is blogging again with yet another URL. This one should last him his whole life, I’d hazard. His most recent post is interesting. Things may be different in the UK; here unschooling is just part of the continuum.

    I also do not feel confident that when push comes to shove that these ‘school at homers’ will fight too strongly for those of us with a more informal approach. Will someone who sits their children at little desks at home and follows a curriculum really back up the parents who let their children run free in the world when the man from the state comes a’calling…

    I think not.

    I hope MP is just being pessimistic. I’d hate to think that the edu-crats had managed to divide “us” over there.


    Filed on at 2:58 pm under by dcobranchi

    Time Magazine has an interesting article about smuggling marijuana into the US from Canada. What caught my eye was this bit of misdirection from a DEA agent:

    Canada’s attitude toward small-scale toking up has led some U.S. officials to blame the northerners for the influx of BC Bud in America. “If the perception is that it will be easier to get marijuana in Canada … then it creates problems at the border,” Paul Cellucci, U.S. ambassador to Canada, said at a Toronto Board of Trade dinner in February. Indeed, the trade has led to an increase in drive-by shootings in Canada by rival dealers, and to “grow-rips,” in which competing clans break into growers’ houses to steal their crops, according to Canadian police. The body of the suspected ringleader of a trafficking group was found stabbed in the neck in a ditch in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, in November 2002. “It’s still a dangerous drug,” says James Capra, the DEA’s chief of domestic operations. “People are killing each other over it.”

    Surely he knows better. The “danger” is entirely fabricated by our War on Drugs. And, when a drug is described as dangerous, it’s usually because of some problem inherent in its use. So, to say that cocaine is dangerous is legitimate. It is addictive and can kill. To say that marijuana is dangerous because some bad people go to war over it, is being just a bit disingenuous.

    And, in a related development, Chris reports that marijuana kills cancer cells.

    “High Quality” Day Care

    Filed on at 2:22 pm under by dcobranchi

    While walking through the George Washington University campus before, I noticed a group of infants and toddlers in “high quality” day care (I think they were from the International Monetary Fund building). About a half-dozen infants were parked in strollers, crying or otherwise looking unhappy. Three or four toddlers were running about while the two “caregivers” yelled for them to stop. And then there was an infant–he looked about seven or eight months old–sitting on the ground, crying profusely, and holding up his arms. Now I’m no child psychologist, but I’d say the little guy wanted to be picked up and held. The two “caregivers” were standing right next to him, but they wouldn’t acknowledge him, much less pick him up. I suspect they don’t pick up crying babies as a rule: After all, if they do it for one baby, they have to do it for all of them, and chaos would ensue. Better to let the infant tough-it-out by himself on the ground. It’s good preparation for being ignored in school.

    Just remember, when the politicians talk about more money for daycare, this is what they’re talking about.


    Filed on at 1:14 pm under by dcobranchi

    Vote early and vote often.

    CNNfn is running a really stupid poll: Is home schooling a viable option for elementary school children?

    You know what to do.


    Filed on at 12:57 pm under by dcobranchi

    Chris is having some problems with a pissed-off author. Me? I’m just sitting back laughing.

    BTW, I think we’ve finally convinced him that Chris is not my alter-ego (like Robin and Dick Grayson). I’ve invited him to “voice” his complaint here at H&OES. Dollars-to-donuts he doesn’t have the guts.


    Filed on at 10:44 am under by dcobranchi

    This one just struck me as unusual phraseology:

    There’s nothing that brings a community together better than a read-along…Parents, grandparents, siblings, educators and home-school advocates are encouraged to read the book, and use the Appeal’s glossaries and questions to help jump-start young readers’ interest in the book.

    Homeschool advocates? They’re already up to Chapter 4. Y’all better get crackin’.


    Filed on at 6:30 am under by dcobranchi

    Eduwonk parsed the data a bit and found less there than meets they eye.

    Most importantly, though, when one controls the data for race it turns out there is no statistically significant difference between charter schools and other public schools. But, you’ll search in vain in the Times story for that information. In fact, to the contrary, a chart accompanying the story fails to offer readers any significance tests for the numbers they’re looking at, inaccurately indicating that there are significant differences by race.

    He also doubts the claim that the AFT supports charters.

    Incidentally, per the Times story, how long can the AFT continue to trade on the notion that all this is more in sorrow than anger? They just don’t like charter schools, they’re not reluctantly concluding that they don’t work, they’re fervently hoping and working to ensure that’s the case.

    I tried to figure that one out yesterday. The union does claim that they’ve been long-time charter school supporters. From a 2002 report:

    The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) supported the creation of educationally strong charter schools from their inception. We believed that innovative schools could be a boon to public education, could provide good options for children if the schools were held accountable for student achievement, and would offer teachers new professional opportunities. The AFT insisted that the schools be nonselective, meet high standards, and protect the rights of teachers as employees. We are disappointed to report that charter schools often fail on all three criteria and that they have not lived up to the claims of their advocates or the hopes of the American Federation of Teachers.

    Outside of its own claims, I couldn’t find much of anything, one way or the other. So, for once, I decided to take the union at its word. What does Eduwonk know, and when did he know it?

    New York: The City That Never Stops Spending

    Filed on at 12:31 am under by dcobranchi

    In a new Cato Policy Analysis, Raymond Keating examines New York City’s perpetual budget crisis. Among Keating’s suggested reforms—increase the amount of time g-school teachers spend in the classrooms:

    The share of teachers’ time spent on classroom instruction should be increased to reduce costs. One idea is to eliminate sabbaticals for teachers, principals, and supervisors. Currently, teachers with 14 years of service can take a one-year sabbatical at 70 percent pay and full benefits, while those with 7 to 14 years of service
    can take six-month sabbaticals at 60 percent pay. In 2001, 1,600 city teachers were on sabbaticals. That is excessive, especially given that teachers work only 180 days (36 full weeks) a year. Eliminating sabbaticals for teachers and administrators would save the city’s budget about $88 million annually.

    Another idea is to eliminate the teacher preparation period. New York City teachers work six hours and 40 minutes a day including the preparation period. Substituting teaching time for this period would allow for the elimination of about 10,300 positions and create annual savings of $764 million.

    The city is paying 1,600 teachers who aren’t actually teaching? I wonder where homeschooling parents can get a deal like that.


    Filed on August 17, 2004 at 7:00 pm under by dcobranchi

    That’s the chemical symbol for mercury.

    Mothering Magazine (don’t ask) has a short piece on mercury-free vaccines that allegedly aren’t:

    Many manufacturers voluntarily began producing supposed “mercury free” vaccines in 1999. Some product inserts currently claim that a “trace” amount of mercury still exists in the final product but that the amount has been greatly reduced. Others claim to be producing completely mercury free products.

    …It is the position of Dr. Haley as well as HAPI that if mercury can be detected in any vaccine using standard instrumentation, the content should be disclosed in the product insert and manufacturers should not be allowed to call the product “mercury free”.

    Sorry, but this one I know about.

    Modern analytical instrumentation can be ungodly sensitive. I don’t know what “standard instrumentation” is supposed to mean, but a good ICP-MS can easily get down to parts-per-billion (ppb) and even parts-per-trillion (ppt). To put that in perspective, 1 ppt is about one eye-dropper-full in 250,000,000 gallons. By that standard, nothing would be mercury free (or plutonium free for that matter). There has to be a de minimus standard.

    We’ve been down this road before. For many years we regulated carcinogens in food the same way that HAPI wants to regulate mercury. Eventually, the analytical chemists got to the point where literally everything was a carcinogen. The FDA then (wisely) adopted the current de minimus standard for foods.


    Filed on at 4:26 pm under by dcobranchi

    HSLDA just keeps going and going in their never ending quest to make us into a protected class.

    August 12, 2004

    Homeschoolers Continue to Excel in the Military

    Dear HSLDA members and friends:

    The homeschool military access pilot project, enacted by Congress after HSLDA asked Congressman Hostettler to intervene on behalf of homeschoolers, enters its sixth year. It requires the military to admit a certain number of homeschoolers into Tier I, which is the same level as high school graduates and the Tier which most new recruits enter. The amendment has allowed homeschoolers to gain numerous advantages and benefits in the military since Tier II and Tier III offer only limited access to advancement because they are designed for students who have dropped out of high school. HSLDA’s website includes a list of many homeschoolers who have served America in Iraq and a significant number of homeschoolers have excelled under the new recruitment process.

    For example, one homeschooler from Seattle, Washington, was recently accepted into the Navy after scoring 94% on the Navy Advanced Training Exam in trigonometry, physics, and chemistry. He also took the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) and in one part gained a perfect score. To be considered for the Navy Nuclear Power School requires a combined score from all aspects of the ASVAB of 250. He scored 262, the maximum being 280. After about five hours of academic tests, and seven plus hours of medical exams, standing in line, fingerprinting and interviews, he has been accepted as a volunteer into the Navy Nuclear Power School. In addition, he received a $15,000 signing bonus and his pay will be at a higher scale. He has been told that working with submarines and nuclear weapons attract the top 3% of the Navy.

    We praise God for the success of this young homeschooler that demonstrates once again the importance of maintaining access for homeschoolers at Tier I. To ensure that this program continues we are working closely with Congress. An amendment to extend the pilot project for one more year has been added to this year’s military reauthorization bill. The purpose is to gather accurate statistics to prove that homeschoolers are not dropouts from the military. The first body of research that was released by the Center for Naval Research indicates that homeschoolers who score below the 50 percentile mark on the ASVAB test tend to drop out at a higher rate than high school graduates. We believe that these statistics are skewed since the military has had trouble with frauds who gain entrance into the various branches of the military disguised as homeschoolers. HSLDA has worked with the Army recruiting command to create a policy for all four branches of the military that would better scrutinize the homeschoolers who seek enlistment to more accurately determine if in fact, they are homeschoolers. The process is not burdensome, but it will certainly ferret out the frauds. This policy was implemented in September 2003. Our hope is that the extension for the military access project for one year will enable the Center for Analysis to complete new research based on a group of 2004 recruits which is representative of all homeschoolers, without the impact of frauds. We will continue to monitor this situation.


    Chris Klicka
    HSLDA Senior Counsel

    Bah! HSLDA is going to decide who is a real homeschooler? Look out unschoolers.

    UPDATE: In an H&OES exclusive, I have obtained a copy of the “test.”

    1. Are you an evangelical born-again Christian?
    a. No
    b. Yes
    c. Of course
    d. You mean some folks aren’t?

    2. Who is the greatest threat to American freedoms?
    a. Osama Bin Laden
    b. Saddam Hussein
    c. Syria’s Pres. Assad
    d. Hillary Clinton

    3. What is the real Party of God?
    a. Hezbollah
    b. The Palestinian Authority
    c. The Sunni Moslems
    d. The GOP

    Real homeschoolers will know that the correct answer to each of the questions is “D.”

    Someone Should Paddle the Trinity D.A.

    Filed on at 10:53 am under by dcobranchi

    Back in April, Daryl blogged about Justin Cousby, an 11-year old who was beaten with a paddle by his public school gym teacher. The original news report said, “Justin was paddled after a classmate tattled about him saying a derogatory remark toward an elementary coach. Justin showed how he was made to stand holding a chair.” Later it was revealed that Justin made the remark–he said the coach “sucked”–after the coach punished Justin for not keeping up with his classmates during a running drill. Justin is an asthmatic, something the coach either didn’t know or didn’t care about.

    Anyhow, since Daryl blogged about this story, officials in Trinity County, Texas, have gone the extra mile to exonerate the coach. School officials cleared the coach, saying his actions were consistent with Texas state law, which permit child abuse, er corporal punishment, at the sole discretion of the teacher. (Justin was hit by a teacher a few days later, even though his mother told the school never to use corporal punishment again; Texas permits schools to disregard parental wishes.)

    Justin’s mother swore out a criminal complaint against the coach, but the Trinity D.A. couldn’t be bothered. The law only protects adults, I suppose, never children. Justin’s mother ended up homeschooling him for the rest of the school year, because she said her son wasn’t safe in the public schools.

    This whole incident is crying out for a U.S. Department of Justice investigation. State officials conspired to assault an 11-year-old (at the time he was 10!) and than they refused to protect the child’s civil rights after the fact. Officials cannot claim they were acting in loco parentis, because the mother never authorized the use of corporal punishment. Even those of who you who support parental spanking cannot say that it’s acceptable for anyone–let alone a government official–to paddle your children until they bleed.

    I’ll say this much. If Justin were a black or Hispanic child, the DOJ would’ve brought down the wrath of God (er, John Ashcroft) on Trinity county officials. But Justin is a chubby white kid with asthma, and we all know that in the “socialized” world of g-schools, it’s acceptable to pick on–even beat up–those kids.


    Filed on at 10:43 am under by dcobranchi

    A recent homeschool grad has a very nice Op/Ed in today’s Atlanta Journal & Constitution:

    [T]here’s a whole mentality that comes with public school — you learn what the school tells you to learn, when and how they tell you to learn it.

    If the school board decides the theory of evolution or the Civil War should not be a part of the curriculum, you may not learn about those subjects until college. Everyone is measured against a standard, and if you fall short of that standard, you’re lost.

    Once you’ve taken into account school violence, budget cuts, zero tolerance and, of course, the teen drama (such as cliques and gossip), school isn’t always the ideal learning center it is meant to be.

    …As a home schooled student I didn’t have to deal with unnecessary distractions and I could focus on my education. I could also study things that interested me, so while most of my high-school-age buddies were griping about having to read “Great Expectations” (which I had read back in middle school after seeing the play) and having to write reports about the Renaissance, I was happily reading “Beloved” and learning about the Zapatista movement.

    There’s more good stuff.


    Filed on at 10:02 am under by dcobranchi

    Florida’s voucher program is the latest to fall victim to the Blaine Amendment built into its state constitution.


    Filed on at 9:28 am under by dcobranchi

    The NYT reports that charter schools results on the most recent NAEP left a good bit to be desired. It seems that regular g-schools outperformed them in most every category. It’s difficult to parse how meaningful these data are as, I think, the proof of the pudding will be in how well kids progress over time. Those data are not available. Regardless, Chester Finn expressed dismay:

    “The scores are low, dismayingly low,” said Chester E. Finn Jr., a supporter of charters and president of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, who was among those who asked the administration to do the comparison.

    Mr. Finn, an assistant secretary of education in the Reagan administration, said the quality of charter schools across the country varied widely, and he predicted that the results would make those overseeing charters demand more in the way of performance.

    “A little more tough love is needed for these schools,” Mr. Finn said. “Somebody needs to be watching over their shoulders.”

    Something to keep an eye on over the next few years.


    Filed on at 4:51 am under by dcobranchi

    RealNetworks is charging only 49 cents for music downloads. The cheap price is temporary.


    Filed on August 16, 2004 at 11:45 am under by dcobranchi

    I am so #@%$# tired of g-school educrats implicating homeschooling in their fight with Bill Bennett’s K12.

    Some public-education advocates are questioning $4 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Education (ED) to launch an online charter school in Arkansas that benefits the for-profit education company founded by conservative icon William J. Bennett. They say Bennett’s firm might have profited unfairly from his political connections, and they claim the federal funds are being used to subsidize education for home-schooled students at the expense of public schools.

    I have no doubt that this is intentional; the NEA has apparently decided that homeschoolers are acceptable collateral damage. In fact, the damage done to homeschooling is probably seen as a side benefit.


    Filed on at 9:46 am under by dcobranchi

    Where does EducationNews find these folks? Here’s a former prof who’s channeling Redovich:

    When schools are judged failing for two years, they must take money from instruction for transportation of kids to other schools. This further reduces teaching resources, further insuring failure. After that, schools would be taken over by the state, which will be impossible for large numbers of schools, or taken over by private, for-profit schools. That’s when the Bush-Alexander-Whittle Edison schools kick in. Edison will build hundreds, if not thousands, of private schools to accommodate the new NCLB Voucher Plan at taxpayers’ expense.

    Now, I am no particular fan of NCLB, as I think the feds and the states have gamed the system and will find it impossible to meet the AYP targets. That being said, Edison is (and will remain) a tiny player in all of this. Chris Whittle is not going to take over a bunch of schools, let alone the “world.” Heck K12 probably has more g-school students than Edison right now. And, K12 can scale up a whole lot faster than Edison, too.

    Why are these folks so scared of privatization? Never mind. I know the answer: IAATM.


    Filed on at 9:32 am under by dcobranchi

    Dennis Redovich is at it again. He seems to think there is some conspiracy among Big Business to screw over the wonderful but unappreciated g-schools. Why? Greed! I can possibly see the argument being appropriate for companies that would stand to benefit directly from school privatization. But, how would that affect any of the Dow 30, for example? I’m pretty sure GM isn’t going to start an online school if we somehow separated school from state.

    Now, to be fair, Redovich is reviewing a book, but it’s absolutely impossible to say which of the crackpot paranoias are from the book and which are Redovich’s own.

    Heck, Redovich even criticizes liberal groups who are aligned with Big Business, including the NEA-endorsed PEN and the Democratic Party’s PPI.

    Well, at least his column always gets Monday started with a chuckle.


    Filed on at 7:16 am under by dcobranchi

    T. M. Whitney doesn’t hang out with too many home educators.

    When our friendship first developed, she had two girls, a 4-year-old and a baby who was so charming and cute that she became something of a party favor at my wedding reception, quietly accepting as she was passed from arm to arm, eliciting coos and emitting burbles. Ten years later, her family had expanded by four more, with another on the way.

    … In Mike’s high school yearbook, the inscription under Leda’s photo makes reference to her then- ambition to become a kindergarten teacher. Whether it was a matter of life getting in the way of her dreams or for other reasons that I am not privy to, Leda never did become a kindergarten teacher. She fell in love, got married and, after her second child, decided to become a full-time, stay-at-home mother.

    After a decade of getting to know her, I think she is one of those women that I suspect must have a superwoman’s cape, costume and boots hidden in the same closet with the proverbial skeletons.

    Big family, home births, breastfed kids. Sounds pretty normal to me.


    Filed on August 15, 2004 at 5:59 pm under by dcobranchi

    The Boston Globe has a terrific column about homeschooling, HSLDA, and rightist politics and why leftist homeschoolers can’t “compete.” Quotes by Mark Hegener, Laura Derrick, and Larry Kaseman. I don’t know the reporter but he really appears to have done his homework.


    Filed on at 5:41 pm under by dcobranchi

    This would all be so easy if the government weren’t involved in education:

    Who’s authorized to send fliers, invitations, meeting notices, newsletters and other printed materials home from school in those ubiquitous backpacks? And what materials are allowable in what might be called the Backpack Express?

    …Late last month, the Montgomery school board voted to reserve the Backpack Express for government agencies, PTAs, day care centers, sports leagues and the school system itself.

    But that decision shut out the Boy Scouts, which is threatening legal action. Montgomery is bracing for “a few more rounds” of litigation, according to one of its lawyers, and the question of access to backpacks has become one of the most hotly debated in years in a county that loves nothing better than a good argument over First Amendment rights.

    Private schools can discriminate at will.


    Filed on at 6:49 am under by dcobranchi

    Here are some very interesting poll results on what Arizona schools do well. If I read this correctly, 97% of sheep parents are happy with their g-schools. Of course, the devil is in the details (i.e., the internals) which the paper neglected to report. As you might have guessed, the question is just a tiny bit leading:

    6. Is there one area where you think the public schools in Arizona are doing a particularly good job? ASK OPEN-ENDED AND CODE BELOW (Table 3)

    1. teaching basics
    2. extracurricular programs
    3. drug education
    4. providing high quality teachers
    5. vocational education
    6. motivating students
    7. motivating parents
    8. use of computers/technology
    9. promoting racial harmony
    10. valuing cultural diversity
    11. reducing drop-outs
    12. keeping order in the classroom
    13. providing small classes
    14. providing individual attention
    15. providing good physical education and athletic programs
    16. providing high quality programs in the arts and fine arts/music, art, etc.
    17. Other: specify

    What a stupid telephone survey question! There are way too many choices and they (evidently) didn’t randomize the order that choices were presented. Utterly meaningless.

    UPDATE: Check the comments. It appears that I misread the survey.


    Filed on August 14, 2004 at 3:56 pm under by dcobranchi

    Longtime blogger Deb English has just started homeschooling her 14-year-old daughter.


    Filed on at 2:53 pm under by dcobranchi

    I’m going to veer slightly into partisan territory here to point out that Atrios is trying to raise money to defeat Marilyn Musgrave. In addition to authoring the Federal Marriage Amendment, freshman Rep. Musgrave also came up with the HSLDA-dictated HONDA bill.

    Two horrible bills in two years and both strongly supported by Mike Farris. Hmmm. Idiot or lapdog? You make the call.

    UPDATE: And, yes, I made my first political donation ever to her opponent.


    Filed on at 8:38 am under by dcobranchi

    Here comes another expensive edu-fad: tablet PCs.

    This fall, MSU, an 800-student institution in rural North Dakota, will become the first college in the nation to offer tablet PCs–the pen-enabled, half-laptop, half-notebook devices–to all of its full-time students. According to Keith Stenehjem, MSU’s chief information officer, more than 40 percent of the students enrolled at the school are studying to become teachers.

    Fortunately, tablet PCs have been such a flop that by the time these prospective teachers are out in the real world, the real world will have likely ditched them completely.


    Filed on at 7:29 am under by dcobranchi

    Man, it just doesn’t get any better than this:

    To the editor:

    As a home-schooling dad I appreciated your recent editorial on the growing home-school movement. But toward the end, I found something troubling: You seem to be calling for vouchers and tax credits for home-schooling families.

    Yes, it is annoying that I pay taxes into a state “education” system that I find useless. Of course, I would find it just as useless if I had no children at all.

    The education of my children is my responsibility and right, and I have no call on the wealth of others to subsidize my efforts. More to the point, I don’t want government help, because I know the ultimate cost of that help will be much more than a couple thousand dollars a year in taxes.

    Government subsidies are carrots that always come with a big, ugly stick of regulations and codes. And even though a tax exemption simply allows us to keep money that’s ours to begin with, the government doesn’t see it that way — it considers it a “tax expenditure” which obligates the beneficiary (that is, the taxpayer) to jump through state hoops.

    I don’t need some pedagogic satrap deciding how my children will be educated — that’s why I’m homeschooling in the first place. I’ll take a tax cut, in the form of a general reduction of taxes we’ll all enjoy when enough of us finally wise up and get rid of this grasping, enervating monstrosity misnamed the “public school system.”



    Any readers out near Riverside? If someone wants to look him up and buy him a beer, I’ll pay.


    Filed on August 13, 2004 at 8:34 pm under by dcobranchi

    The predicted track takes this right over my house early Sunday morning.


    Filed on at 7:39 pm under by dcobranchi

    Here’s the television schedule for the Athens games.


    Filed on at 7:29 pm under by dcobranchi

    The Arizona Republic has a thoroughly positive homeschooling article. Even the “S” word comments look good:

    Rachel and Sean, on the other hand, have plenty of time for social activities. They go to school at home, finish their day earlier than other kids and have the rest of the day for other things.

    “It’s pretty much hard to get to know public schoolers because they don’t have as much time,” Rachel said.

    Though home schooled children are just as sociable as other kids, some people still hold the stereotype that they’re sheltered recluses. They don’t realize that because the children are getting intensive one-on-one academic attention, it frees them up for other activities.


    Filed on at 6:29 pm under by dcobranchi

    Sometimes a baseball bat upside the head is the only solution:

    The Hodge children never have lived in the Lake Fenton School District, but because their mother drives a Lake Fenton school bus they’ve always gone to school there.

    That’s especially been a plus to Bradley, a sixth-grader who has severe learning disabilities and autistic tendencies.

    … But while Jessica Hodge drives a Lake Fenton school bus and wears a Lake Fenton school badge, her paycheck comes from Laidlaw Transit Corp., the private company that provides busing for the southern Genesee County district.

    As a result, Hodge is a Laidlaw employee, not a Lake Fenton schools employee and therefore her children do not have transfer rights, said Larry Watkins, acting director of pupil personnel services for Flint.

    …”I think Flint just wants the money,” said David Hodge, referring to the $7,200 in revenue the financially strapped Flint gets from the state for each student.

    Bingo! Guaranteed, if the school district found some way to keep the money, they’d cut the kids loose in a heartbeat.

    Race Starts at the Nation’s Shore

    Filed on at 10:31 am under by dcobranchi

    The next time somebody tells you that the federal government needs more power to protect us from terrorism (or cigarette smoke, or unsocialized homeschoolers, etc.), you can point to the plight of David Joseph, a Haitian refugee imprisoned by the United States Government for two years simply on account of his race:

    Mr. Joseph is a refugee from Haiti who is seeking asylum in the United States. He is not a terrorist, and no one has even suggested that he is a threat to anyone. And yet he’s been in federal custody for nearly two years.

    An immigration judge and the Board of Immigration Appeals have ruled that he should be freed on bond, pending a final ruling on his asylum request. But the attorney general of the United States, John Ashcroft, won’t let him go.

    Playing his ever-present, all-encompassing terrorism card, Mr. Ashcroft personally intervened in Mr. Joseph’s case, summarily blocking his release. According to the attorney general, releasing this young Haitian would tend to encourage mass migration from Haiti, and might exacerbate the potential danger to national security of nefarious aliens from Pakistan and elsewhere who might be inclined to use Haiti as a staging area for migration to the U.S . . .

    Senator [Arlen] Specter urged Mr. Ashcroft to consider a policy in which the Justice Department would address cases like Mr. Joseph’s on a less sweeping, “more individual” basis, which would enable officials to determine whether there was any real basis for concern about terrorism.

    Mr. Ashcroft was unmoved. He told Senator Specter: “Sometimes individual treatment is important. Sometimes it’s important to make a statement about groups of people that come.

    When the nation’s chief law enforcement officer stands before a congressional committee and states, without guilt, that racism is the official policy of the Justice Department, I think we have a serious problem.

    (Hat tip: Arthur Silber)

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