Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Obama administration blocks Louisiana school voucher program

Fox News reports.

Excerpt:

The Justice Department is trying to stop a school vouchers program in Louisiana that attempts to help families send their children to independent schools instead of under-performing public schools.

The agency wants to stop the program, led by Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal, in any school district that remains under a desegregation court order.

In papers filed in U.S. District Court in New Orleans, the agency said Louisiana distributed vouchers in 2012-13 to roughly 570 public school students in districts that are still under such orders and that “many of those vouchers impeded the desegregation process.”

The federal government argues that allowing students to attend independent schools under the voucher system could create a racial imbalance in public school systems protected by desegregation orders.

Jindal — who last year expanded the program that started in 2008 — said this weekend that the department’s action is “shameful” and said President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder “are trying to keep kids trapped in failing public schools against the wishes of their parents.”

The Justice Department says Louisiana has given vouchers this school year to students in at least 22 of 34 districts remaining under desegregation orders.

Jindal called school choice “a moral imperative.”

Vouchers are a way of helping poor, minority students to get a quality education by letting them choose to attend better schools – any school the parents choose.

This lady from the Cato Institute explains in a 5-minute video why vouchers are a good thing.

A longer video featuring John Stossel is here:

You can learn more about vouchers below.

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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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New study: total compensation of public school teachers is 52% greater than fair market value

Whenever advocates of greater spending on education try to argue that teachers are not paid enough, they always compare teachers to other workers to other workers in terms of years spent in college. On that view, a software engineer with 6 years of college (B.S. and M.S. in computer science) is the same as an English teacher with 6 years of “Education college” (B.Ed and M.Ed in education). But is the ability to write code to perform real-time commercial transactions in a distributed database environment really deserving of the same total compensation as teaching 6-year olds how to read Dr. Seuss books? Is the supply of each skill set the same? Is the demand for each skill set the same? What should the price of each kind of labor be?

Let’s see what this new study from the American Enterprise Institute says.

Excerpt:

The teaching profession is crucial to America’s society and economy, but public-school teachers should receive compensation that is neither higher nor lower than market rates. Do teachers currently receive the proper level of compensation? Standard analytical approaches to this question compare teacher salaries to the salaries of similarly educated and experienced private-sector workers, and then add the value of employer contributions toward fringe benefits. These simple comparisons would indicate that public-school teachers are undercompensated. However, comparing teachers to non-teachers presents special challenges not accounted for in the existing literature.

First, formal educational attainment, such as a degree acquired or years of education completed, is not a good proxy for the earnings potential of school teachers. Public-school teachers earn less in wages on average than non-teachers with the same level of education, but teacher skills generally lag behind those of other workers with similar “paper” qualifications.

Here’s what the study shows:

  • The wage gap between teachers and non-teachers disappears when both groups are matched on an objective measure of cognitive ability rather than on years of education.
  • Public-school teachers earn higher wages than private- school teachers, even when the comparison is limited to secular schools with standard curriculums.
  • Workers who switch from non-teaching jobs to teaching jobs receive a wage increase of roughly 9 percent. Teachers who change to non-teaching jobs, on the other hand, see their wages decrease by roughly 3 percent. This is the opposite of what one would expect if teachers were underpaid.
  • Pension programs for public-school teachers are significantly more generous than the typical private sector retirement plan, but this generosity is hidden by public-sector accounting practices that allow lower employer contributions than a private-sector plan promising the same retirement benefits.
  • Most teachers accrue generous retiree health benefits as they work, but retiree health care is excluded from Bureau of Labor Statistics benefits data and thus frequently overlooked. While rarely offered in the private sector, retiree health coverage for teachers is worth roughly an additional 10 percent of wages.
  • Job security for teachers is considerably greater than in comparable professions. Using a model to calculate the welfare value of job security, we find that job security for typical teachers is worth about an extra 1 percent of wages, rising to 8.6 percent when considering that extra job security protects a premium paid in terms of salaries and benefits.

And they conclude:

We conclude that public-school teacher salaries are comparable to those paid to similarly skilled private sector workers, but that more generous fringe benefits for public-school teachers, including greater job security, make total compensation 52 percent greater than fair market levels, equivalent to more than $120 billion overcharged to taxpayers each year.

Well, maybe teachers are overpaid – but that would be OK if they were somehow super intelligent and productive.

Are teachers intelligent?

CBS Moneywatch explains what the research shows about teachers.

Excerpt:

Research over the years has indicated that education majors, who enter college with the lowest average SAT scores, leave with the highest grades.   Some of academic evidence documenting easy A’s for future teachers goes back more than 50 years!

The latest damning report on the ease of majoring in education comes from research at the University of Missouri, my alma mater.  The study, conducted by economist Cory Koedel shows that education majors receive “substantially higher” grades than students in every other department.

Koedel examined the grades earned by undergraduates during the 2007-2008 school year at three large state universities that include sizable education programs — University of Missouri, Miami (OH) University and Indiana University.  The researcher compared the grades earned by education majors with the grades earned by students in 12 other majors including biology, economics, English, history, philosophy, mathematics, chemistry, psychology and sociology.

Education majors enjoyed grade point averages that were .5 to .8 grade points higher than students in the other college majors. At the University of Missouri, for instance, the average education major has a 3.80 GPA versus 2.99 GPA (science, math, econ majors), 3.12 GPA (social science majors) and 3.16 GPA (humanities majors).

So it is easy for teachers with lower SAT scores to get much higher grades than other applicants to non-teaching programs with much higher SAT scores. It doesn’t sound like the smartest people go to teachers college. Nor does it sound as if they learn anything very challenging when they are there.

Are teachers doing a good job of teaching useful skills?

CNN sheds some light on how well teachers perform.

Excerpt:

Last week, the College Board dealt parents, teachers and the education world a serious blow. According to its latest test results, “SAT reading scores for the high school class of 2011 were the lowest on record, and combined reading and math scores fell to their lowest point since 1995.”

The reading scores, which stand at 497, are noticeably lower than just six years ago, when they stood at 508. And it’s just the second time in the last 20 years that reading scores have dropped so precipitously in a single year.

[...]The 2011 budget for the Department of Education is estimated to top $70 billion, while overall spending on public elementary and secondary education is about $600 billion a year. By comparison, in 1972, before the Department of Education even existed, SAT critical reading scores for college-bound seniors were above 525, more than 20 points higher than they are today, while today’s math scores are only slightly better than in 1972.

So, not only are these highly-paid teachers less intelligent (on average) than other college applicants, but they also fail to educate our children properly. And we are forced to pay them, through taxes, regardless of how they perform. Our children who are suffering from this failed monopoly.

Do teacher unions improve teacher quality?

And do you know who protects bad teachers from being fired, and prevents good teachers from being paid more?

This is why we need to abolish the federal Department of Education and teacher unions. Why are we paying these people ridiculous salaries and benefits to fail our children?

Must-see videos on education policy

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Indiana voucher program offers hope to low-income students

From the Courier Press, news of the latest success for Republicans in their long war against public sector teacher unions.

Excerpt:

Kristy Wentworth of Evansville said she was never dissatisfied with public education, and her three children, who attended schools in the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corp., were making good grades.

But when friends told her about Indiana’s new private school voucher program, she was intrigued.

After some discussion, Wentworth enrolled her children this year at Evansville Lutheran School, which is near her home. It didn’t take the single mother long to decide her choice was correct. Her children — who are in grades 7, 6 and 4 — are thriving at Evansville Lutheran. Wentworth noted the school’s small class sizes, and she marveled at the frequent communication she receives from her teachers.

“They come home from school excited, they leave for school excited. They can’t wait to get there,” Wentworth said. “(The school) encouraged them to sign up for Boy Scouts and volleyball, and on the first night they made the kids feel so welcome.”

Wentworth recently lost her job, and she said she couldn’t have afforded a private school without the voucher program, which proponents say helps overall educational achievement and closes achievement gaps along socioeconomic lines.

And these private schools help children to perform better in testing.

Can greater competition among schools help? That’s what state education officials are banking on. While scars from the lengthy spring debate over vouchers heal, they are encouraging local school districts to embrace the new environment.

Local nonpublic schools have courted voucher students. As of Friday, 114 were awarded to students in the EVSC district — the fourth highest number in the state.

Officials with the EVSC, meanwhile, point to recent academic progress, its network of community partnerships aimed at meeting students’ most fundamental needs and classroom innovations.

Delaware Elementary School, which is in the same neighborhood as Evansville Lutheran, has made strides in several areas in a short period of time, said Heather Ottilie, parent of a Delaware third-grader.

Delaware is in its second year as an EVSC “equity school.” Along with two other schools of similar socioeconomic demographics — McGary Middle School and Evans School — Delaware is free to have longer school days and longer school years and has more leeway in curriculum and rules. The three equity schools all showed gains on the spring ISTEP.

Ottilie said Delaware has placed heavy emphasis on independent reading. Other innovations include the use of netbook computers and iPod Touches in classrooms, world language instruction and new learning programs such as LEGO robotics, which emphasize problem-solving skills.

“I love it,” Ottilie said. “Everything is hands-on … the kids aren’t just doing worksheets.”

What is the conservative plan to help the poor? Is it wealth redistribution? Does that even work? Or is there a way to produce better results for the poor through free market capitalism? Those who advocate big government never bother to ask these questions. For those who take the time to study economics, the answer is clear – what works to reduce costs and raise quality is choice and competition.

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Must-see videos on education policy

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Atlanta public schools caught helping students to cheat on standardized tests

Beverly Hall and Atlanta public schools

Beverly Hall and Atlanta public schools

From the liberal Atlanta Journal-Constitution, news of a cover-up of “systemic” cheating in the Atlanta public schools. (H/T Reason to Stand)

Excerpt:

State investigators have uncovered a decade of systemic cheating in the Atlanta Public Schools and conclude that Superintendent Beverly Hall knew or should have known about it, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has learned.

In a report that Gov. Nathan Deal planned to release today, the investigators name nearly 180 educators, including more than three dozen principals, as participants in cheating on state curriculum tests, officials said over the weekend. The investigators obtained scores of confessions.

The findings suggest the national accolades that Hall and the school system have collected — and the much-vaunted academic progress for which she claimed credit — were based on falsehoods. Raising test scores apparently became a higher priority than conducting the district’s business in an ethical manner.

[...]The report’s release culminates more than two years of inquiries into Atlanta’s huge gains on the state-mandated Criterion-Referenced Competency Test in 2009. An AJC analysis first detected statistically improbable increases in test scores at two Atlanta schools in 2008. The following year, the AJC published another analysis that found suspicious score changes on the 2009 CRCT at a dozen Atlanta schools. The newspaper’s reporting ultimately led to the state investigation that is being released today.The investigators’ report, officials said, depicts a culture that rewarded cheaters, punished whistle-blowers and covered up improprieties. Strongly contradicting denials of cheating and other irregularities by Hall and other top district executives, the report describes organized wrongdoing that robbed tens of thousands of children — many of whom came from disadvantaged backgrounds and struggled in school — of an honest appraisal of their abilities.

At the same time, the document apparently provides a scathing assessment of the school system’s handling of the scandal, accusing district leaders of hampering the special investigators’ efforts to uncover the truth. The investigators reportedly accuse Hall and her top aides of refusing to take responsibility for the district’s problems.

The report also will detail potentially criminal acts by district officials, the AJC has learned.

In an effort to maintain Hall’s high profile in national education circles, the superintendent and her top aides reportedly tried to hide unflattering information as far back as 2006. District officials illegally altered documents related to the test and withheld material that should have been released under the state’s Open Records Act, the report is expected to say.

There is a possibility of criminal charges, and I do hope that this woman and all responsible spend at least a few years in jail.

We need to get taxpayer money out of the public school system, and back into the hands of parents, through a federal voucher system. Let the parents decide which school is best for their children. Let them buy education the same way that they buy things from other retailers. Choice and competition. Lower price and higher quality. If they don’t like the results that public schools provide, then let them take their money to a private school – or use the money to homeschool.

Notice that the largest teacher union, the National Education Association (NEA) has endorsed Obama. Democrats protect the failings of the education establishment, in exchange for votes and political activism. The faster we vote the Democrats out, the faster education in this country will improve.

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