Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Chicago teacher strike: average pay $71K, 80% of 8th graders not proficient at math

CBS News reports:

Thousands of teachers, parents and supporters marched through downtown Chicago on the first day of a school strike.

The crowd Monday afternoon stretched for several blocks and was expected to swell through the early evening and into the city’s rush hour. Some protesters carried signs that said “Chicago Teachers United” and “Fair Contract Now.” Others waved red pom-poms and chanted. Earlier in the day, thousands of teachers picketed around neighborhood schools.

[...]The city’s public school teachers make an average of $71,000 a year. Both sides said they were close to an agreement on wages. What apparently remains are issues involving teacher performance and accountability, which the union saw as a threat to job security.

They don’t want to be held accountable for failing to provide outcomes for their customers, the children.

Why do you think they might fear being held accountable? Are they doing a poor job of teaching? Is that why they fear being accountable? Let’s see.

CNS News explains:

Chicago public school teachers went on strike on Monday and one of the major issues behind the strike is a new system Chicago plans to use for evaluating public school teachers in which student improvement on standardized tests will count for 40 percent of a teacher’s evaluation. Until now, the evaluations of Chicago public school teachers have been based on what a Chicago Sun Times editorial called a “meaningless checklist.”

[...]In 2011, the U.S. Department of Education administered National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) tests in reading and math to students around the country, including in the Chicago Public Schools. The tests were scored on a scale of 0 to 500, with 500 being the best possible score. Based on their scores, the U.S. Department of Education rated students’ skills in reading and math as either “below basic,” “basic,” “proficient” or “advanced.”

[...]79 percent of Chicago public school 8th graders were not grade-level proficient in reading. According to the U.S. Department of Education, this included 43 percent who rated “basic” and 36 percent who rated “below basic.”

[...]80 percent of Chicago public school 8th graders were not grade-level proficient in math. According to the U.S. Department of Education, this included 40 percent who rated “basic” in math and 40 percent who rated “below basic.”

Fire them all. Abolish the federal Department of Education. Make teacher unions illegal.

Education policy tutorial videos:

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How teacher’s unions make war on charter schools

Story here in the Wall Street Journal. (H/T The Heritage Foundation and Independent Women’s Forum)

Let’s see what Jay P. Greene has to say about charter schools:

In New York, for example, the unions have backed a new budget that effectively cuts $51.5 million from charter-school funding, even as district-school spending can continue to increase thanks to local taxes and stimulus money that the charters lack. New York charters already receive less money per pupil than their district school counterparts; now they will receive even less.

When I was a young man, I dreamed of becoming a prosecuting attorney or English teacher. (Software engineering was my third choice). But the political activism of left-wing teacher unions, and their opposition to merit-pay, stopped me from becoming a teacher. I always think of unions as a form of adult day-care, insulated from real world competition and consumer needs.

Unions are also seeking to strangle charter schools with red tape. New York already has the “card check” unionization procedure for teachers that replaces secret ballots with public arm-twisting. And the teachers unions appear to have collected enough cards to unionize the teachers at two highly successful charter schools in New York City. If unions force charters to enter into collective bargaining, one can only imagine how those schools will be able to maintain the flexible work rules that allow them to succeed.

…Eva Moskowitz, former chair of the New York City Council education committee and now a charter school operator, has characterized this new push against charters as a “backlash” led by “a union-political-educational complex that is trying to halt progress and put the interests of adults above the interests of children.”

…When charter schools unionize, they become identical to traditional public schools in performance. Unions may say they support charter schools, but they only support charters after they have stripped them of everything that makes charters different from district schools.

And why does school-choice matter?

In New York City, Stanford economist Caroline Hoxby found that students accepted by lottery to charter schools were significantly outpacing the academic progress of their peers who lost the lottery and were forced to return to district schools.

Florida State economist Tim Sass and colleagues found that middle-school students at charters in Florida and Chicago who continued into charter high schools were significantly more likely to graduate and go on to college than their peers who returned to district high schools because charter high schools were not available.

The most telling study is by Harvard economist Tom Kane about charter schools in Boston. It found that students accepted by lottery at independently operated charter schools significantly outperformed students who lost the lottery and returned to district schools. But students accepted by lottery at charters run by the school district with unionized teachers experienced no benefit.

I highly recommend you read the whole article, as Greene is a respected authority on education policy. In case you missed my recent article on Obama’s cancelling of vouchers, check it out here.

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Secretary of Education rescinds previously awarded D.C. vouchers

Fox News reports on it here: (H/T The Cato Institute)

The Heritage Foundation has a lot more.

Let’s start with a personal experience from one of the 200 low-income households affected.

Put yourself in the shoes of LaTasha Bennett. A single mother living in Washington, D.C., Ms. Bennett is able to send her child to a private school thanks to the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program. Hoping to enroll her daughter in the same private school, Ms. Bennett applied for and recently received a voucher from the Washington Scholarship Fund.

But last week, Ms. Bennett and hundreds of other D.C. parents received a form letter from the U.S. Department of Education informing them that their children wouldn’t be receiving a scholarship.

And more:

Secretary Duncan’s decision to take scholarship money away from low-income families came just days after the Department of Education released a study showing that students participating in the Opportunity Scholarship program had statistically significant better reading scores than students who applied to the program but were not offered a scholarship. The students that were in the program the longest showed notable improvement reading at levels approximately 1.5 to 2 full school years ahead of the sample group.

The data is in. School choice works. And it significantly lower costs. Opportunity Scholarships offered through the program are worth $7,500. Since the participating private schools cannot charge scholarship students more than the amount of their scholarships, that amount is still less than half of the $15,315 that D.C. taxpayers spent per pupil in the 2004–05 school year.

And what about the educations of Barack Obama and Arne Duncan?

Growing up in Hawaii, President Obama attended a private school. Growing up first in Chicago, and now in Washington, Obama’s two daughters attended and still attend a private school. Growing up in Chicago, Secretary Duncan attended a private school. And when he moved to D.C. Secretary Duncan chose to live in Arlington, where good schools for his children are assumed.

But maybe they were just pretty typical progressives, living in an emotional fantasy-land, with no access to facts?

The Wall Street Journal reports: (H/T The Heritage Foundation)

Voucher recipients were tested last spring. The scores were analyzed in the late summer and early fall, and in November preliminary results were presented to a team of advisers who work with the Education Department to produce the annual evaluation. Since Education officials are intimately involved in this process, they had to know what was in this evaluation even as Democrats passed (and Mr. Obama signed) language that ends the program after next year.

Mr. Duncan’s office spurned our repeated calls and emails asking what and when he and his aides knew about these results. We do know the Administration prohibited anyone involved with the evaluation from discussing it publicly. You’d think we were talking about nuclear secrets, not about a taxpayer-funded pilot program.

And the Denver Post’s David Harsanyi reports: (H/T The Heritage Foundation)

When I had the chance to ask Duncan — at a meeting of the Denver Post editorial board on Tuesday — whether he was alerted to this study before Congress eradicated the D.C. program, he offered an unequivocal “no.” He then called the WSJ editorial “fundamentally dishonest” and maintained that no one had even tried to contact him, despite the newspaper’s contention that it did, repeatedly.

When I called the Wall Street Journal, I discovered a different — that is, meticulously sourced and exceedingly convincing — story, including documented e-mail conversations between the author and higher-ups in Duncan’s office. The voucher study — which showed progress compounding yearly — had been around since November and its existence is mandated by law. So at best, Duncan was willfully ignorant.

And why are we surprised? Teacher’s unions funded Obama’s election campaign, not children and parents. The purpose of schools, according to socialists, is to indoctrinate the youth with socialism, moral relativism, secularism, and the religion of global warming. The purpose of schools is not to provide them with an education, so that they can get a job and avoid dependence on the government!

Further study

The Heartland Institute’s series of podcasts on vouchers and school choice.

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Heartland Institute’s podcasts on school choice and education

I waited anxiously for this Heartland Institute series of 10 5-minute podcasts on education to finish, and now it’s finally done!

Here are the links:

  • In episode 0, the introduction, we respond to the question, Why Do We Need School Reform?
  • In episode 1, surveys reveal that parents who choose independent schools do so on the basis of academics, not athletics or convenience.
  • In episode 2, we discuss how allowing tax dollars to follow the child will give parents more control over their child’s education.
  • In episode 3, competition encourages creativity and lessens mediocrity.
  • In episode 4, choice makes parents accountable and frees leaders from excessive regulation.
  • In episode 5, school choice enables teachers to recover lost freedoms.
  • In episode 6, funding should be adequate to enable parents to chose high-quality schools, but parents should be allowed to add their own dollars.
  • In episode 7, voucher programs help teachers by paving the way for better teachers to receive higher pay.
  • In episode 8, private schools should be allowed to retain their self-government. This autonomy is in the best interest of the public.
  • In episode 9, school choice promotes and protects the institutions and organizations that create and protect democracy.
  • In episode 10, school choice creates a genuine free market for education, free from rules.

The booklet that the series is based on is here as a PDF.

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Assessing Obama’s 5-point plan for education reform

Found this article on Mercator Net, an Australian site that is really getting my attention with the quality and scope of their articles. This is more than just politics, it’s policy analysis. Here’s Kevin Ryan’s article on Obama’s education plan.

The plan is composed of 5 points:

He promises his administration will promote five reforms in particular: major funding for early childhood education; increased funding for and emphasis on standards and assessment; new funding to recruit, educate and reward teachers; a substantial increase in the number of the country’s charter schools and new funding for programs to expanding life-long learning with a special emphasis on all American’s having another year of education.

Obama is obviously equating more spending with better student performance, an approach that I like to analogize as throwing gasoline on a fire to put it out. The rest of the article deals with the policy implications of the 5 points. The article contains a couple of examples.

Here’s one of the examples:

Historically, it is a very modern idea that money will buy a quality education. Our current experience with funding education hardly supports such a view. Arguably the worst school system in America, the Washington DC schools spends the most dollars per pupil, US$16,650. On the other hand, Utah schools, which relative to the rest of the nation, are outstanding schools spend a third, $5,700, of what is spent in the nation’s capital.

Here’s an excerpt from the analysis of the 5 points:

Every one of the President’s five-point plan means more jobs and influence for the teachers’ union. More early childhood means more teachers and administrators, even though the effects pre-kindergarten and day care are increasingly in doubt. (Finland, whose students recently earned the highest scores in international achievement tests, doesn’t send its children to school until they are seven years old) The Obama Plan ought perhaps be called the NEA’s Full Employment Plan.

Having every America spend an additional year in a classroom sounds wonderful. It will mean a staggering increase tax dollars to fund such an increase. On the other hand, the opportunity costs for an individual student staying away from meaningful salaried work will also be huge.

The article concludes its analysis of the plan with this observation about Obama’s personal life:

As a Chicago politician and now as president, he has exercised school choice for the education of his two daughters, while, de facto, denying it to those parents without his income. The fact of the President’s stonewalling parents’ efforts to get real educational choice, plus the picture of his daughters being driven out the their tony private school, passing the orange school busses delivering Washington’s children to those failing public schools, is the unstated message of his speech.

The article does not mention that Obama himself went to expensive private schools. As Michelle Malkin says, be skeptical that his education will help anyone but teacher’s unions.

I will be tracking the education and health care plans that Obama has proposed closely, to find out who really will benefit from his big government approach.

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