Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

U.S. millennials perform horribly on technology tests compared to other countries

Education spending has tripled since 1970

Education spending has tripled since 1970

This is from the leftist Washington Post.

Excerpt:

There was this test. And it was daunting. It was like the SAT or ACT — which many American millennials are no doubt familiar with, as they are on track to be the best educated generation in history — except this test was not about getting into college. This exam, given in 23 countries, assessed the thinking abilities and workplace skills of adults. It focused on literacy, math and technological problem-solving. The goal was to figure out how prepared people are to work in a complex, modern society.

And U.S. millennials performed horribly.

That might even be an understatement, given the extent of the American shortcomings. No matter how you sliced the data – by class, by race, by education – young Americans were laggards compared to their international peers. In every subject, U.S. millennials ranked at the bottom or very close to it, according to a new study by testing company ETS.

“We were taken aback,” said ETS researcher Anita Sands. “We tend to think millennials are really savvy in this area. But that’s not what we are seeing.”

The test is called the PIAAC test. It was developed by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, better known as the OECD. The test was meant to assess adult skill levels. It was administered worldwide to people ages 16 to 65. The results came out two years ago and barely caused a ripple. But recently ETS went back and delved into the data to look at how  millennials did as a group. After all, they’re the future – and, in America, they’re poised to claim the title of largest generation from the baby boomers.

U.S. millennials, defined as people 16 to 34 years old, were supposed to be different. They’re digital natives. They get it. High achievement is part of their makeup. But the ETS study found signs of trouble, with its authors warning that the nation was at a crossroads: “We can decide to accept the current levels of mediocrity and inequality or we can decide to address the skills challenge head on.”

The challenge is that, in literacy, U.S. millennials scored higher than only three countries.

In math, Americans ranked last.

In technical problem-saving, they were second from the bottom.

“Abysmal,” noted ETS researcher Madeline Goodman. “There was just no place where we performed well.”

Nope. U.S. millennials with master’s degrees and doctorates did better than their peers in only three countries, Ireland, Poland and Spain. Those in Finland, Sweden and Japan seemed to be on a different planet.

Top-scoring U.S. millennials – the 90th percentile on the PIAAC test – were at the bottom internationally, ranking higher only than their peers in Spain. The bottom percentile (10th percentile) also lagged behind their peers.

Now the problem can’t be to spend more money on education – we already spend more money than all the other countries.

Excerpt:

The United States spent more than $11,000 per elementary student in 2010 and more than $12,000 per high school student. When researchers factored in the cost for programs after high school education such as college or vocational training, the United States spent $15,171 on each young person in the system — more than any other nation covered in the report.

That sum inched past some developed countries and far surpassed others. Switzerland’s total spending per student was $14,922 while Mexico averaged $2,993 in 2010. The average OECD nation spent $9,313 per young person.

So the solution has to be something else. What could it be? Previously, I linked to some ideas from Bobby Jindal. I think that’s the direction that we need to go in if we are to solve the problem. It’s pretty clear that raising taxes and throwing more money at teachers who can never be fired no matter how badly they perform is not the answer. It’s probably a good idea for kids to focus less on indoctrinating kids in leftist ideology, e.g. – sex education, postmodern skepticism and moral relativism. It’s probably a better idea for parents to take more responsibility for raising their kids and making sure that they do their homework and develop a love of learning. But that would require that we teach children as projects and have goals for them that we push them towards.

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Bobby Jindal’s education reform vs Jeb Bush’s big government Common Core

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal

The radically leftist National Journal compares and contrasts the education policies of Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal with former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.

They write:

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is in Washington Monday to unveil a series of education reforms as part of his 2016 presidential preparations. But his proposals call for scaling back Washington’s role in education while promoting increased parental choice for children’s schools, better measures to assess teacher performance, and more autonomy for individual schools over their own operations.

[…]Through his policy-focused nonprofit AmericaNext, Jindal will be delivering his education proposals at a Christian Science Monitor Breakfast Monday morning, speaking at an educational forum hosted by South Carolina GOP Sen. Tim Scott and meeting with conservative writers to discuss the plan at the Heritage Foundation. He has previously released detailed policy papers on health care, foreign policy, and energy.

Jindal’s education report is a balancing act between calling for higher standards and improved accountability, while limiting the role of the federal government to offer policies to solve the problem. Jindal argues that if parents have more choice in where to send their kids to school—be it local public schools, charter schools, or using vouchers for private or parochial education—the renewed competition will itself force public schools to do a better job. His report calls for less-regimented testing requirements, even as he supports stronger state accountability measures so parents can determine the best schools for their children.

“The federal government should absolutely not be offering incentives, mandates, or coercing states to adopt a national curriculum—whether it’s Common Core or the next iteration of it,” Jindal said. “We don’t think curriculum decisions should be made at the national level. I’m all for rigor, I’m all for standards, but ultimately, I trust parents. I trust choice and competition. I don’t want a top-down, one-size-fits-all approach.” To that end, Jindal said he favors rolling back the mandates in George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind law.

If he runs for president, Jindal is expected to make education a central part of his message. In the report, he touts the success of the New Orleans school system as a model of his school-choice pitch. After Hurricane Katrina, the city’s educational system was entirely revamped and turned over to the state-run Recovery School District. They allowed schools to be run independently; now more than 90 percent of students in the city attend charter schools. The results have been one of the country’s biggest educational success stories—the graduation rates have skyrocketed and the city’s passing rate on state tests now rival the statewide averages.

Many of Jindal’s school-choice proposals are an extension of the New Orleans experience. He calls for expanding the number charter schools, urges states to remove the caps on the number of charter schools allowed, and argues that principals should play a more active role in their schools’ direction than local school boards.

“Those on the left who believe in government power don’t trust the American people. In terms of education, the best way to drive excellence is to trust the parents. Parents know their kids best, they want what’s best for their children, and if you allow them to vote with their feet, they will then have the chance to give the best education for their kids. And we’ve seen that in New Orleans,” Jindal said.

All told, Jindal’s preferred policies are in line with what many leading educational reformers are arguing. He believes strongly that teacher quality is the strongest school-based factor in a student’s education, and he believes talented teachers should be rewarded for their work. He rails against the seniority system that keeps the most veteran teachers protected from scrutiny. He is dismissive of requiring teachers to hold educational degrees, preferring recruits that have expertise in the areas they teach. And he is bullish about the role technology can play in improving educational outcomes.

[…]But the political red meat of his proposals is directed squarely at Bush. The biggest differences between the two come from the federal role in education and over testing—two areas where the educational establishment is growing disconnected from public opinion. By calling for less testing, Jindal is taking the sides of parents who believe the sheer number of tests is crowding out time for creative endeavors—like art and music—and forcing teachers to drily teach to the test. On that front, Jindal’s critiques echo many liberals on the issue and contrast with the Bush view that progress is best measured through standardized tests.

So it’s ironic that, despite the report’s depth, Jindal’s advisers are hoping to reap the biggest political gain from conservatives by attacking Common Core and calling “the federal government [not to] touch curricula with a 10,000-foot pole.” It’s designed to clearly contrast his version of educational reform with Jeb Bush’s. “Our fundamental disagreement is on who is or should be in control of testing and curriculum. Locals v. federal. And make no mistake, the federal role in education is a huge fault line [between Jindal and Bush],” said a senior Jindal adviser.

If Jeb Bush gets the nomination, it will be like electing a Democrat on education issues – he favors big government control of education, and standardized tests controlled at the federal level. We would be much better off choosing a small-government approach like Bobby Jindal’s approach, an approach that is consistent with conservative principles and is proven to work.

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Republican senator Tim Scott pushes school choice in MSNBC interview

I managed to find some of the transcript here on Newsbusters.

Let Tim Scott explain it:

THOMAS ROBERTS: This is Thomas Roberts by the way. You said you are concerned about kids that growing up in the wrong zip code and — like yourself that had a tough start on the way out. But if we look at agencies that are following some of your voting records, they have concern. And the NAACP has given you an “F” on their annual scorecard. They also say that you voted against the ACA. You voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress. You oppose the Congressional Black Caucus’ budget. Delayed funding on a settlement between the U.S. and black farmers who say they were prejudiced against because of their race. So how do you respond to that, if your true concern is about lower-income families and kids? 

TIM SCOTT: Let’s just ask ourselves if we look back over history when the congress was controlled by the Democrats for 40 consecutive years. If we look at the result of that control, what has happened in black America? We saw greater poverty. If we take statistics from the 1970s to the 21st-century, what we see very clearly is that poverty’s gone from 11% to 15%. These are classic examples of the policies of the left have not worked. I will tell you, that if I have an “F” on the NAACP scorecard, it’s because I believe progress has to be made and the government is not the answer for progress. I was a kid growing up in poverty. I had a mentor who was a Chick-fil-A operator named John Moniz who taught me that the brilliance of the American economy happens through business ownership and entrepreneurial spirit. So whether you own the business or not, success is possible if you, a: have a good education, b: have a strong work ethic. For the average person who can work. These two key components come together and form a foundation. That is the way that you eradicate poverty. All the social programs that we’ve had. We have the largest government we’ve ever had in the history of the country. We have more nonprofit organizations working on the same issue. And yet we have higher percentage of people living in poverty. The key it seems like is individual freedom and economic opportunity, fusing those together in an agenda that focuses on education seems to leave forward.

Elsewhere in the interview, he talks about how Indian-American Republican Governor Bobby Jindal has pushed hard for vouchers for the poor in Louisiana, and how the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship voucher program helped the poorest black students to get a quality education – even though Barack Obama opposed it as a favor to their public sector union bosses.

See, here’s the deal. If Republicans want to get serious about winning the votes of poor people and minorities, they don’t have to pass policies that discriminate against the wealthy or against whites. They just have to pass good policies. It shouldn’t matter what color anybody’s skin is. School choice is a police that disproportionately benefits the poor and minorities, but it doesn’t discriminate. You just hand money to the parents whose children are stuck in an underperforming public school, and then the parents decide where to send their child. This is better than forcing parents to have to send their kids to a failing public school. It is not right for a child to be handed a garbage education just because lazy unionized Democrats don’t want to face competition from private schools. Kids come first!

Let’s learn about school choice from the Cato Institute and the Heritage Foundation.

Cato Institute:

The Heritage Foundation:

Awesome!

This is how you build Republican  voters and do the right thing at the same time. Republicans like to help the poor. But we also like to screw the public sector unions. Private unions are fine – public sector unions are poisonous. We have to destroy them and save the children, at the same time. Everybody wins! Well, except the Democrats.

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Governor Bobby Jindal’s fight to give poor, minority children quality education

Here’s an update on the Democrat war on vouchers in Louisiana, posted by governor Bobby Jindal in the left-leaning Washington Post. In it, he explains how is trying to reform education in his home state of Louisiana, and how the federal government is trying to stop him for doing that.

Excerpt:

We all know the harsh cycle of poverty that exists in the United States and that a disproportionate share of those in poverty are minorities. Studies of health-care outcomes, incarceration levels and economic opportunity all show that education is key to improving quality of life.

Millions of single parents in this country work two jobs to make ends meet, hoping that their children won’t have the same struggles. Hope is their only option because they live in neighborhoods with chronically failing public schools and lack the means to move to better school districts or to send their children to private schools.

Obama and Holder think this should continue to be the reality. In Louisiana, we think the opposite is true. We believe every child deserves the opportunity to get a great education.

That’s why we started a school choice program in 2008 in New Orleans and expanded it statewide in 2012. Low-income families with children in schools graded C, D or F by the state are eligible to apply for a scholarship and send their children to schools of their choice.

The program works. From 2011 to 2013, students who had been trapped in failing schools and now attend scholarship schools showed improvement on literacy and math tests. The share of students performing at grade level rose 7 percent, state data show, even though in 2013, 60 percent of students taking the test had been in their new schools for only eight months. More than 90 percent of parents of students participating in the program reported satisfaction with their children’s schools.

This opportunity is perhaps these children’s best chance to escape the cycle of poverty. No one in their right mind could argue that the Justice Department’s efforts to block the scholarship program will help these kids. This can only be an attempt to curry favor with the government unions that provide financial largess and political power.

President Obama should do the right thing and order the Justice Department to drop the lawsuit. Not because I am asking, but because the parents and children in the scholarship program deserve an opportunity. For generations, the government has forced these families to hope for the best from failing schools. Shame on all of us for standing by and watching generations of children stay in failing schools that may have led them to lives of poverty.

We in Louisiana are rejecting the status quo because we believe every child should have the opportunity to succeed. A scholarship program is not a silver bullet for student success. Maybe a student will perform well in a traditional public school, or a charter school, or a virtual school, but the point is that parents should be able to decide, not bureaucrats in Baton Rouge or Washington.

If the president and the attorney general believe their path is right, I invite them to come to Louisiana and look these parents and children in the eyes and explain why they believe every child shouldn’t have a fair shake.

If the administration does not drop this lawsuit, we will fight every step of the way until the children prevail. Giving every child — no matter race or income — the opportunity to get a great education is a moral imperative.

You might remember that the Obama administration previously went after the D.C. voucher program, which was also for helping poor, minority students.  Why are the Democrats doing this? The answer is simple. Come election time, the Democrats rely heavily on the fundraising and activism of the teacher unions. The teacher unions have more money if they have more children trapped in their failing public schools. Therefore, Obama has every incentive to make sure that no child is allowed to leave a failing school. He needs the help of the teacher unions at election time more than he needs to help children who cannot even vote. That’s what is really going on here. Bobby Jindal would love to have the support of teacher unions, but given the choice between helping the unions and helping the children, he’s choosing the children.

The main point here is that the politicians who talk the most about spending more money on education may not be thinking about what is best for children at all. They might be thinking about paying their union supporters more, so that they will do more at election time. An alternative to just giving more money to the unions would be Jindal’s plan of giving money directly to parents and letting parents choose. Parents might not be as politically connected as teacher unions, but if your goal is to help children get an education, then maybe unions and elections don’t matter as much.

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What factors are contributing to the higher education bubble?

This article from the Wall Street Journal was discussed at length by Dennis Prager on his radio show yesterday.

Excerpt:

College costs have continued to explode despite 50 years of ostensibly benevolent government interventions, according to Mr. Vedder, and the president’s new plan could exacerbate the trend. By Mr. Vedder’s lights, the cost conundrum started with the Higher Education Act of 1965, a Great Society program that created federal scholarships and low-interest loans aimed at making college more accessible.

In 1964, federal student aid was a mere $231 million. By 1981, the feds were spending $7 billion on loans alone, an amount that doubled during the 1980s and nearly tripled in each of the following two decades, and is about $105 billion today. Taxpayers now stand behind nearly $1 trillion in student loans.

Meanwhile, grants have increased to $49 billion from $6.4 billion in 1981. By expanding eligibility and boosting the maximum Pell Grant by $500 to $5,350, the 2009 stimulus bill accelerated higher ed’s evolution into a middle-class entitlement. Fewer than 2% of Pell Grant recipients came from families making between $60,000 and $80,000 a year in 2007. Now roughly 18% do.

This growth in subsidies, Mr. Vedder argues, has fueled rising prices: “It gives every incentive and every opportunity for colleges to raise their fees.”

Many colleges, he notes, are using federal largess to finance Hilton-like dorms and Club Med amenities. Stanford offers more classes in yoga than Shakespeare. A warning to parents whose kids sign up for “Core Training”: The course isn’t a rigorous study of the classics, but rather involves rigorous exercise to strengthen the glutes and abs.

Or consider Princeton, which recently built a resplendent $136 million student residence with leaded glass windows and a cavernous oak dining hall (paid for in part with a $30 million tax-deductible donation by Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman). The dorm’s cost approached $300,000 per bed.

[…]Some college officials are also compensated more handsomely than CEOs. Since 2000, New York University has provided $90 million in loans, many of them zero-interest and forgivable, to administrators and faculty to buy houses and summer homes on Fire Island and the Hamptons.

Former Ohio State President Gordon Gee (who resigned in June after making defamatory remarks about Catholics) earned nearly $2 million in compensation last year while living in a 9,630 square-foot Tudor mansion on a 1.3-acre estate. The Columbus Camelot includes $673,000 in art decor and a $532 shower curtain in a guest bathroom. Ohio State also paid roughly $23,000 per month for Mr. Gee’s soirees and half a million for him to travel the country on a private jet.

[…]Colleges have also used the gusher of taxpayer dollars to hire more administrators to manage their bloated bureaucracies and proliferating multicultural programs. The University of California system employs 2,358 administrative staff in just its president’s office.

“Every college today practically has a secretary of state, a vice provost for international studies, a zillion public relations specialists,” Mr. Vedder says. “My university has a sustainability coordinator whose main message, as far as I can tell, is to go out and tell people to buy food grown locally. . . . Why? What’s bad about tomatoes from Pennsylvania as opposed to Ohio?”

[…]Today, only about 7% of recent college grads come from the bottom-income quartile compared with 12% in 1970 when federal aid was scarce. All the government subsidies intended to make college more accessible haven’t done much for this population, says Mr. Vedder. They also haven’t much improved student outcomes or graduation rates, which are around 55% at most universities (over six years).

[…]”Thirty-percent of the adult population has college degrees,” he notes. “The Department of Labor tells us that only 20% or so of jobs require college degrees. We have 115,520 janitors in the United States with bachelor’s degrees or more. Why are we encouraging more kids to go to college?”

Mr. Vedder sees similarities between the government’s higher education and housing policies, which created a bubble and precipitated the last financial crisis. “In housing, we had artificially low interest rates. The government encouraged people with low qualifications to buy a house. Today, we have low interest rates on student loans. The government is encouraging kids to go to school who are unqualified just as it encouraged people to buy a home who are unqualified.”

The higher-ed bubble, he says, is “already in the process of bursting,” which is reflected by all of the “unemployed or underemployed college graduates with big debts.” The average student loan debt is $26,000, but many graduates, especially those with professional degrees, have six-figure balances.

Mr. Obama wants to help more students discharge their debts by capping their monthly payments at 10% of their discretionary income and forgiving their outstanding balances after 20 years. Grads who take jobs in government or at nonprofits already can discharge their debt after a decade.

“Somehow working for the private sector is bad and working for the public sector is good? I don’t see on what basis one would make that conclusion,” Mr. Vedder says. “If I had to make some judgment, I would do just the opposite.”

He adds that the president’s approach “creates a moral hazard problem. What it signals to current and future loan borrowers is that I don’t have to take these repayment of loans very seriously. . . . I don’t have to worry too much about getting a high-paying job.” It encourages “sociology and anthropology majors compared with math and engineering majors.”

The most trouble thing for me is that we are taxing money away from current earners, and borrowing money from future earners, in order to subsidize many, many degrees that will never pay back the initial investment we are making to send them to college. The more that government jumps in to pay people to do useless degrees and then doesn’t get the money back, the more students are going choose useless degrees. Other countries like New Zealand and Canada have major problems right now because these loans are not being paid back. That’s what happens when government takes over student loan administration – they aren’t as concerned about being paid back.

What’s also troubling to me is that people who choose not to go to college but instead to go to trade school or start their own businesses are subsidizing the worthless degrees that so many people choose to pursue today. Why would the government waste taxpayer money on these worthless degrees? Well, because college is four years of liberal indoctrination. Students are so stupid that they will actually accept the propaganda pushed by professors as if it were true, even though these professors often have no experience in the private sector themselves. And these students will have the illusion of being educated as they vote for the secular left come election time. They don’t even realize that they are voting to harm their prospective employers and increase the national debt which they will have to pay back. When I try to talk to them about it, they seem to fall back on name-calling instead of making any kind of factual case. This seems to be the result of college as well. They’ve learned to demonize their opponents rather than debate them with evidence.

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