PoliticsSocialized Education - Is there abetter way?

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From: Peter Dierks2/6/2012 12:46:35 PM
3 Recommendations   of 1348
Entitlements for Teachers
Mark Baisley

On Friday, I received an email from a local public school teacher who is also a Republican. The objections that she expressed were to me in my role as chairman of the Republican Party in the county where we both live. Her gemini memberships in the teachers union and the Grand Old Party make for an interesting antithetic. So, I figured that I would respond to her concerns in the form of a cogitative Townhall article. Here is the set up:

In 2009, Douglas County, Colorado elected a conservative school board, reflecting its conservative predilection and 2-to-1 Republican over Democratic registration. The members of this board are parents, thoughtful citizens, and all accomplished professionals.

These seven citizens quickly made it apparent to everyone that their intentions were far more substantive than having local celebrity status. In two years’ time, they have reduced spending by over $40 million, replaced the superintendent, crafted a merit pay plan, and implemented a voucher program (challenged in court by the ACLU).

Here is the email that I received, followed by my response:

I am very disheartened by what is going on in the DC school district, particularly the school board. I am a registered republican and a school teacher in the district and I feel they are hiding behind the republican party to get their agenda of pushing vouchers. And then they blame it on the union. I am proud to say that our schools are very good schools and have always had a good reputation and have performed well on state tests. However with this republican school board, they have pushed for vouchers for private education. I can understand this concept if we were a failing school district. But what it is doing is dismantling the cohesiveness of the schools. By pushing their voucher agenda, they are portraying to the general public that the public schools are inadequate. Also, because of this, they are misrepresenting what many of my republican friends believe in, in public education. I am seriously considering changing my party affiliation from the republican party to the independent party as a result of all this nonsense going on with DC schools. It's very discouraging as a veteran teacher to see what is happening in our district and I know many of my republican friends feel the same way. Tax dollars should go for public education, not private education!

Dear Disheartened in Douglas,
Thank you for expressing your views. As a Republican, I am certain that you identify with most of the party platform. And as a public school teacher, it is understandable that your views on education would be influenced by the culture in which you work. What stands out to your fellow Republicans in reading your letter is that, in the entire 220 words, there is not a single mention of concern for what the customer desires.

In most other business transactions, you are a customer. Let’s take restaurants, for instance. Would you be satisfied with notion that your personal dining budget is devoted to the public school cafeteria? That is not to say that cafeteria food is in any way undesirable. But the choice has been made for you and that is what you get. That is what everyone gets. Every day. Only the wealthy have enough money to spend beyond the taxes they already paid for dining to eat at a private restaurant.

In the case of public education, the primary customers are the parents. The secondary customers are the students. And who pays for your salary, your pension, the buildings and the buses? The voters, of course. When the voters selected the current school board members, they saw which candidates were endorsed by the union and which candidates were endorsed by the Republican Party. And the voters overwhelmingly selected these seven board members because they promised to create an education environment that would include competitive choices for parents.

Nearly every resident of Douglas County, including the parents of school aged children, works within the setting of free enterprise. And nearly every student who passes through the Douglas County School District will work within the free market, not funded by taxes. Would it not seem fitting that the professionals who are tasked with preparing students to thrive in capitalism should celebrate private enterprise?

The source of your internal struggle is captured in your final statement. As a Republican, you would normally have an aversion to entitlements. Yet as a teacher, your personal livelihood is dependent on the ever-reducing funds for public education. While the emotions are understandable, I would assert to you that there is only one group of people who are entitled to the education tax money provided by the residents; the students themselves. In a free society, education is the great equalizer for opportunity. We choose to tax everyone in order to educate the youth. We do not choose to tax everyone in order to ensure that the government is sufficiently funded to provide instructions to America’s children.

Private construction companies compete for tax dollars to build roads and bridges. Corporate defense contractors compete for tax dollars to create weapon systems. Even faith based organizations compete for tax dollars to provide human services. Government funding does not necessitate government delivery. I see nothing other than liberal arrogance that would place such authority of the service provider above the service consumer.

In response to your threat of leaving the Republican Party, let me make this appeal. The union values you for your dues, 70% of which goes directly to the Democratic Party (see my article We value your gifts and talents as you make an enormous difference preparing young Americans to thrive as capitalists in a free society.

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From: Peter Dierks2/9/2012 10:06:13 AM
   of 1348
White House to Issue Waiver List on No Child Left Behind
FEBRUARY 9, 2012, 9:37 A.M. ET.


The Obama administration will announce Thursday the list of 10 states it is releasing from key requirements of No Child Left Behind, according to a White House official familiar with the decision, in a major move away from the decade-old education law.

The states getting waivers are: Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. Eleven states applied for waivers from the law and 28 others and Washington, D.C., have told the U.S. Department of Education that they plan to apply in the next round.

New Mexico applied for the waiver but didn't get it.

The states on the waiver list will no longer have to meet some of the most onerous requirements of No Child Left Behind, such as ensuring 100% of students are proficient in math and reading by 2014, the official said. In these states, students must still be tested annually, as required by the law.

In exchange, the states must adopt specific reforms favored by the union friendly administration, including adopting college and career ready standards and evaluating teachers on student achievement and other factors, such as parent and student feedback, according to the White House official.

The states must also have plans to intervene in the lowest achieving schools and must implement policies to raise the achievement levels of low-income, minority and special education students.

The Obama administration decided to grant waivers after Congress has failed—since 2007—to reach agreement on an overhaul of the beneficial law.

The No Child Left Behind law has been under attack by unions who charge that it labels too many schools as failures, prodded teachers to teach only math and reading at the expanse of other subjects, and led states to water down standardized exam.

Under the law, states had to set annual targets for the share of kids who must pass state exams, and lift that number until 100% are passing by 2014. Schools had to ensure individual groups of students—identified by race, income and special-education needs—met the mark. If one group fails on a test, a school is labeled low-performing and may face penalties such as closure.

By getting the waivers, the administration will allow the 10 states more leeway in deciding how to intervene in low-performing schools.

Write to Stephanie Banchero at

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To: Peter Dierks who wrote (852)2/11/2012 7:35:36 PM
From: TimF
3 Recommendations   of 1348

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From: TimF2/11/2012 8:59:10 PM
   of 1348
President Obama wants more federal tax-dollars going to teachers as a way of improving education. Reason associate editor Peter Suderman appeared on Fox Business' Power and Money says the problems are not in spending but in heavy-handed bureaucracy and regulation. Airdate Feb 7, 2012.

Aproximately 4 minutes.

Scroll down for downloadable versions.

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To: TimF who wrote (853)2/14/2012 1:22:18 PM
From: Peter Dierks
   of 1348
The idea that parents don't know what is best for their children is ridiculous. The education establishment don't view either students or their parents as their primary customers. Anyone who does not view them in that order is not qualified to teach or speak about teaching.

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To: TimF who wrote (854)2/15/2012 2:33:12 PM
From: Peter Dierks
1 Recommendation   of 1348
'Academically Adrift': The News Gets Worse and Worse
The Bankruptcy of Higher Education

By Kevin Carey

In the last few months of 2010, rumors began circulating among higher-education policy geeks that the University of Chicago Press was about to publish a new book written by a pair of very smart sociologists who were trying to answer a question to which most people thought they already knew the answer: How much do students learn while they're in college? Their findings, one heard, were ... interesting.

The book, Academically Adrift, by Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa, fulfilled that promise—and then some. It was no surprise that The Chronicle gave prominent coverage to the conclusion that "American higher education is characterized by limited or no learning for a large proportion of students," but few people anticipated that the book would become the rare piece of serious academic scholarship that jumps the fence and roams free into the larger culture.

Vanity Fair used space normally allotted to Kennedy hagiography to call it a "crushing exposé of the heretofore secret society known as 'college.'" The gossip mavens at Gawker ran the book through their patented Internet cynicism machine and wrote that "To get a college degree, you must go into a soul-crushing amount of debt. And what do you get for all that money? Not learning."

The New Yorker featured Academically Adrift in a typically brilliant essay by Louis Menand. In one of her nationally syndicated columns, Kathleen Parker called the book a "dense tome" while opining that the failure of higher education constituted a "dot-connecting exercise for Uncle Shoulda, who someday will say—in Chinese—'How could we have let this happen?'" Her response proved that Kathleen Parker has a gift for phrasing and did not actually read the book, whose main text runs to only 144 concise and well-argued pages.

But the definitive evidence of Academically Adrift's ascension to the very small group of social-science studies whose findings shape conventional wisdom came when President King, the world-weary cynic and longtime leader of Walden College, sipped a martini and reacted to the book's documentation of declining student work by explaining, "That's why they come! As long as we give them good grades and a degree, their parents are happy too! Who cares if they can't reason?"

When your research ends up in "Doonesbury," that's saying something.

In part, it says that the public harbored a latent distrust of higher education that was activated by empirical evidence that supported their suspicions. After all, a lot of people have been to college and have experienced the academic indifference and lack of rigor that Arum and Roksa documented firsthand.

It also shows what happens when there's a mismatch between the importance and complexity of a question and the amount of research designed to answer it. In many ways, the most shocking thing about Academically Adrift was not what it revealed about what college students learn. It was that nobody had ever attempted to measure learning in that way before.

As responsible scholars, the authors were careful to interpret their findings in ways that emphasized the limitations of their instruments and sample population. But they couldn't control what happened after their research entered the zeitgeist. And the lack of other credible studies providing alternate perspectives on college learning meant that, in the national higher-education conversation, Academically Adrift became the only game in town.

Last month the authors released new results that should only add to our national worries about higher education. While press coverage of Academically Adrift focused mostly on learning among typical students, the data actually show two distinct populations of undergraduates. Some students, disproportionately from privileged backgrounds, matriculate well prepared for college. They are given challenging work to do and respond by learning a substantial amount in four years.

Other students graduate from mediocre or bad high schools and enroll in less-selective colleges that don't challenge them academically. They learn little. Some graduate anyway, if they're able to manage the bureaucratic necessities of earning a degree.

The central problem in American higher education today is that most of the people running things in politics, business, and academe come from the first group, but most of the actual students enrolled in college are in the second group. The former cannot see the latter, because they are blinded by their own experience. And so they think the problems of the many don't exist.

Now Arum and his colleagues have revealed what happened to those two groups after they left college and entered the unforgiving post-recession economy. Despite a barren job market, only 3.1 percent of students who scored in the top 20 percent of the Collegiate Learning Assessment, which measures critical-thinking skills, were unemployed. Not infrequently, their colleges helped them land the jobs they had. Many struck out on their own and were engaged in civic affairs. Those who got married or cohabitated often did so with someone they met in college. For students like these, the college-driven job and mating markets are functioning as advertised.

Graduates who scored poorly on the CLA, by contrast, are leading very different lives. It's true that business majors, who were singled out for low CLA scores in Academically Adrift, did better than most in finding jobs. But over all, students with poor CLA results are more likely to be living at home with their parents, burdened by credit-card debt, unmarried, and unemployed.

Those are inconvenient findings for a higher-education industry that is struggling to make the case for public support in the worst budget environment in memory. College leaders have long excused decades of relentlessly rising prices, exploding student-loan debt, and alarmingly high dropout rates with the assumption that students are learning. The prices are reasonable and the loans repayable, they say, because of the skills and knowledge that students acquire in exchange. And while dropouts are regrettable, we are told, that's an unavoidable—nay, admirable—consequence of maintaining high academic standards.

Academically Adrift exposed the bankruptcy of those assertions. But it didn't reveal anything that college leaders didn't know, in quiet rooms behind closed doors, all along. Academe was so slow to produce this research because it told the world things that those in academe would rather the world didn't know.

That time is over. For those who are dissatisfied with the methods or findings of Academically Adrift, who chafe at the way it has been absorbed by the politicians and commentariat, there is only one recourse: Get started on research of your own. Higher education needs a much broader examination of how and whether it succeeds in educating students. Some of that research will doubtless become fodder for reckless criticism. But there's no turning back now.

Click here for guidelines on submitting essays for the Commentary, Point of View, and Review sections of The Chronicle.

Kevin Carey is policy director at Education Sector, an independent think tank in Washington.

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From: greatplains_guy2/18/2012 3:01:45 AM
1 Recommendation   of 1348
Obama's War on School Vouchers
The president downplays school choice in his new $3.8 trillion budget.
FEBRUARY 14, 2012


In his State of the Union address last month, Obama spoke about the importance of kids staying in school and even urged states to raise the dropout age to 18. So it's passing strange that his new $3.8 trillion budget provides no new money for a school voucher program in Washington, D.C., that is producing significantly higher graduation rates than the D.C. public school average.

The Opportunity Scholarship Program offers vouchers to low-income students to attend private schools. A 2010 study published by Patrick Wolf of the University of Arkansas found that the scholarship recipients had graduation rates of 91%. The graduation rate for D.C. public schools was 56%, and it was 70% for students who entered the lottery for a voucher but didn't win.

Because the president's teachers union allies are opposed to school choice for poor people, Mr. Obama ignores or downplays these findings. He repeatedly has tried to shutter the program, even though it is clearly advancing his stated goal of increasing graduation rates and closing the black-white achievement gap.

The good news is that House Speaker John Boehner, who went to bat for the voucher program last year when the Obama administration attempted to phase it out, said yesterday through a spokesman that the funding cuts won't stand. The bad news is that we have a president who is more interested in doing right by teachers unions than doing right by ghetto kids confined to failing schools.

To read more stories like this one, please subscribe to Political Diary.

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From: greatplains_guy2/21/2012 10:19:35 PM
   of 1348
What are my Kids Learning? Poll Shows Professors Fail Presidential History
Feb 21, 2012

Editor's Note: This column was written by Kate Obenshain, Vice President of Young America’s Foundation.

Presidents Day celebrates America’s rich presidential history, yet the people we entrust to teach and write our history books—university professors—have a skewed view of our nation’s past leaders.

On Ronald Reagan’s 101st birthday, Young America’s Foundation released a scientific poll conducted by The Polling Company Inc. of 284 professors on their views on our past presidents—particularly on President Reagan. Those views on Reagan were not surprising. Professors have less of an appreciation for arguably the greatest modern President than do a majority of Americans. What was perhaps more alarming, however, was their disdain of our great founding presidents.

When asked to list their picks for the three greatest presidents of all-time, professors mentioned Franklin Roosevelt significantly more times than George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison—and four times as often as President Reagan.

Little Love for Founding Fathers

Professors expressed clear distain for America’s Founding Fathers and founding documents. A meager 1% of professors thought the Father of the Constitution, James Madison, ranked in the top three presidents (compared to 54% for FDR), and only 30% picked Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence.

While there are 43 presidents to choose from, the fact that Bill Clinton got six times as many mentions as James Madison is disturbing. In the poll, 87% of professors said it was “important to pass on analysis and understanding of previous United States Presidents.” But what kind of analysis are they passing on?

In the poll, three times as many professors identified themselves as liberal than as conservative. For a long time, we’ve known about the widespread liberalism in academia, but many Americans don’t realize the impact this ideological bias has on their children’s education.

30% of professors admitted in the Foundation’s poll that their ideology plays a role in their curriculum. That number is alarming enough, but we know from closely studying the intolerant intellectual atmosphere on college campuses, it is far worse than those numbers admit.

As our poll numbers reflect, the ideological sentiments being passed on to students by many professors on the Left dismiss our Founders as largely irrelevant. Is this really what we want our kids to believe?

I don’t. I want my children to see the founders as the visionaries they were. They set the stage for the greatest growth in personal freedom the world has ever seen. But that’s not the story most kids are learning in history class.

Anti-Conservative History

In fact, students are hearing little if anything positive about conservative leaders from professors. In 2011, Gallup released a poll indicating that a plurality of Americans think President Reagan is the greatest president in US history. In our poll, not one professor said Reagan was the greatest president, and 60% said he wasn’t in their top ten. When asked to grade President Reagan, they gave him a C+.

Current popular American opinion of President Reagan arguably isn’t the only way to evaluate his place in history. However, professors are not only out of touch with the American public, they’re out of touch with historical facts.

The facts are that President Reagan ended the cold war and generated the greatest period of peacetime economic growth in US History. Under President Reagan, the misery index (inflation plus unemployment) fell nearly 10 points and youth unemployment dropped more than 5%. Revenues doubled, and the country pulled out of two economic recessions. Professors can’t say the same about FDR or any other president.

The Importance of Factual and Balanced Presidential History

America’s youth look up to the presidency, and many students’ policy beliefs will result from their understanding of a particular president. Our higher education is trying to pull America to the left, and we cannot let their slanted views of historical presidents preside as fact in the classroom.

Our government has strayed from America’s founding values of limited government and personal responsibility. Americans are suffering the economic consequences. Our children must learn about the successes of these fundamental principles so they shape their future around what worked.

Professors gave President Reagan a C+, but Americans should give professors an F. It’s great that professors think presidential history is “important” to share in the classroom, but America, for the sake of our children, let’s make sure these professors get the history right.

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To: greatplains_guy who wrote (858)2/21/2012 10:21:41 PM
From: greatplains_guy
   of 1348
Academic Hypocrisy
Thomas Sowell
Feb 21, 2012

It is fascinating to see people accusing others of things that they themselves are doing, especially when their own sins are worse.

Academics love to say that businesses are not paying enough to people who work for them. But where in business are there people who are paid absolutely nothing for strenuous work that involves risks to their health?

In academia, that situation is common. It is called college football. How often have you watched a big-time college football game without seeing someone limping off the field or being carried off the field?

College athletes are not to be paid because this is an "amateur" sport. But football coaches are not only paid, they are often paid higher salaries than the presidents of their own universities. Some make over a million dollars a year.

Academics also like to accuse businesses of consumer fraud. There is indeed fraud in business, as in every other aspect of human life -- including academia.

When my academic career began, half a century ago, I read up on the academic market and discovered that there was a chronic over-supply of people trained to be historians. There were not nearly enough academic posts available for people who had spent years acquiring Ph.D.s in history, and the few openings that there were for new Ph.D.s paid the kind of salaries you could get for doing work requiring a lot less education.

My own pay as a beginning instructor in economics was not high but it was certainly higher than that for beginning historians.

Now, 50 years later, there is a long feature article in the February 17th issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education on the chronic over-supply of historians. Worse yet, leading university history departments are resisting demands that they keep track of what happens to their students after they get their Ph.D.s -- and inform prospective Ph.D.s of what the market is like.

If any business operated this way, selling customers something that was very costly in time and money, and which the sellers knew in advance was almost certain to disappoint their expectations, academics would be bursting with indignation -- and demanding full disclosure to the customers, if not criminal prosecutions.

But The Chronicle of Higher Education reports "faculty resistance" to collecting and publishing information on what happens to a university's history Ph.D.s after they leave the ivy-covered walls with high hopes and low prospects.

At a number of big-name universities -- Northwestern, Brown and the University of North Carolina's flagship campus at Chapel Hill -- at least one-fourth of their 2010 history Ph.D.s are either unemployed or their fate is unknown.

At Brown University, for example, 38 percent of their 2010 Ph.D.s are in that category, compared to only 25 percent who have tenure-track appointments.

For people not familiar with academia, a tenure-track appointment does not mean that the appointee has tenure, but only that the job is one where a tenure decision will have to be made at some point under the "up or out system." At leading universities, far more are put out than move up.

There are also faculty appointments that are strictly for the time being -- lecturers, adjunct professors or visiting professors. Half the 2010 Ph.D.s from Duke University and the University of Pennsylvania have these kinds of appointments, which essentially lead nowhere. They are sometimes called "gypsy faculty."

Finally, there are Ph.D.s who are on postdoctoral fellowships, often at the expense of the taxpayers. They are paid to continue on campus, essentially as students, after getting their doctorates. More than one-fourth of the 2010 Ph.D.s from Rutgers, Johns Hopkins and Harvard are in this category.

At least these universities release such statistics. A history professor at Rutgers University who has studied such things says: "If you look at some of the numbers published on department Web sites, they range from dishonest to incompetent."

But apparently many academics are too busy pursuing moral crusades in society at large to look into such things on their own ivy-covered campuses.

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From: TimF2/22/2012 12:04:10 AM
2 Recommendations   of 1348
Putting Teachers' Unions Ahead of Kids Posted
by John Stossel | February 15, 2012

Obama's new budget is 1,470 pages long. On page 1,318, Obama announces he will end funding for the DC "Opportunity Scholarship" program, which gives poor kids the option of going to a private school instead of being stuck in the government monopoly. [HT: Fox News' Ed Henry]

It's a popular program - 500 more kids applied last year than there was room for - and for good reason: A "gold-standard" Department of Education study found that kids who were randomly selected to get the scholarship ended up 3 months ahead of their peers in reading, were happier with their school, and had higher graduation rates. To get those results, the private schools spent less than half what government-run schools spent per student.

It should be no surprise that, when parents can choose, schools are forced to get better.

But Obama's new budget kills the school choice program, while it gives an extra $36 million to DC's government-run schools. This will supposedly save $20 million. The administration says it did this:

" continued support of the District's efforts to transform its public education system into... a model for urban districts across the nation."

A model for urban districts across the nation? Give me a break. DC scores behind every single state in reading and math. And behind every city but Detroit in math.

More money won't solve that. School choice would.

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