Saturday, October 29, 2005

Education Myths and Cheating Our Kids

Looking for a great Christmas present, Hanukkah present or your favorite holiday present for your favorite education reformist consider Education Myths : What Special-Interest Groups Want You to Believe About Our Schools and Why it Isn't So by Jay P. Greene and Cheating Our Kids : How Politics and Greed Ruin Education by Joe Williams. Amazon is offering a special savings if you purchase these two books at once. For complete reviews of the books go to Amazon.

A Nation at Risk

In April 1983 the National Commission on Excellence in Education Published A Nation at Risk
. It has been 22 years since this piece was published and about 18 years of teachers who were educated in this system now teaching our children. Some of the indicators of risk included the following.

1. International comparisons of student achievement, completed a decade ago, reveal that on 19 academic tests American students were never first or second and, in comparison with other industrialized nations, were last seven times.

2. Some 23 million American adults are functionally illiterate by the simplest tests of everyday reading, writing, and comprehension.

3. About 13 percent of all 17-year-olds in the United States can be considered functionally illiterate. Functional illiteracy among minority youth may run as high as 40 percent.

4. Average achievement of high school students on most standardized tests is now lower than 26 years ago when Sputnik was launched.

5. Over half the population of gifted students do not match their tested ability with comparable achievement in school.

6. The College Board's Scholastic Aptitude Tests (SAT) demonstrate a virtually unbroken decline from 1963 to 1980. Average verbal scores fell over 50 points and average mathematics scores dropped nearly 40 points.

7. College Board achievement tests also reveal consistent declines in recent years in such subjects as physics and English.

8. Both the number and proportion of students demonstrating superior achievement on the SATs (i.e., those with scores of 650 or higher) have also dramatically declined.

9. Many 17-year-olds do not possess the "higher order" intellectual skills we should expect of them. Nearly 40 percent cannot draw inferences from written material; only one-fifth can write a persuasive essay; and only one-third can solve a mathematics problem requiring several steps.

10. There was a steady decline in science achievement scores of U.S. 17-year-olds as measured by national assessments of science in 1969, 1973, and 1977.

11. Between 1975 and 1980, remedial mathematics courses in public 4-year colleges increased by 72 percent and now constitute one-quarter of all mathematics courses taught in those institutions.

12. Average tested achievement of students graduating from college is also lower.

13. Business and military leaders complain that they are required to spend millions of dollars on costly remedial education and training programs in such basic skills as reading, writing, spelling, and computation. The Department of the Navy, for example, reported to the Commission that one-quarter of its recent recruits cannot read at the ninth grade level, the minimum needed simply to understand written safety instructions. Without remedial work they cannot even begin, much less complete, the sophisticated training essential in much of the modern military.

This must be a concern of all parents and all citizens for the full report go to A Nation at Risk
. The undereducation of American children effects all citizens because those who are not properly educated as children are either robbed of a more prosperous future or become burdens on society which we must support through welfare or the penial system. The problem is not the amount spent on education but the quality of education. You may think that your child is in a good school but that does not go far enough we need to make sure all children are educated properly and with that we need true education reform.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

How teachers union hurt teachers and institutions.

Teachers' unoins are taking big chunks of money out of teahers' paycheck to fight the Governor Schwarzeneggers reform plans. A great article appears in the Heartland Institute's magazine School Reform News

Class-Action Lawsuit Pending Against California Teacher Union
U.S. District Court allows union to use forced dues increase for political lobbying
Written By: Karla Dial
Published In: School Reform News
Publication Date: November 1, 2005
Publisher: The Heartland Institute

While a class-action lawsuit against the California Teachers Association (CTA) was pending, a U.S. District Court judge on October 6 refused to temporarily freeze funds the union seized from teachers statewide without due process in order to fight Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and several measures on the November 8 special-election ballot.

Since September 30, the CTA has been automatically collecting an additional $60 a year in dues from all 335,000 teachers and college professors statewide. Six teachers, represented by the National Right to Work Legal Foundation, filed a class-action lawsuit against the union in late August, citing a 1986 U.S. Supreme Court decision (Chicago Teachers Union v. Hudson) that says all union members must be notified of how their forced union dues are spent and be given a chance to prevent their money being spent for purposes other than collective bargaining.

Lead plaintiff Judy Liegmann, a fifth-grade teacher from Sunnyvale, said she found out about the three-year increase in late June from the CTA representative at her school. The union never formally notified her or told her of her constitutionally guaranteed options.

"Assessing dues for political purposes without asking permission [from members] ahead of time is very strange," Liegmann said. "That's money that has to do with our convictions. The union has done nothing to let teachers know they voted in an arbitrary way to dip into every teacher's paycheck to fight a political battle whether the teachers liked it or not."

Money Already Spent

In a sworn statement, CTA accountant Carlos Moreno revealed September 30 that the CTA already has spent on political activities the $60 million that will be raised by the forced dues increase. At press time, the union was seeking an additional $40 million loan from a bank.

While the U.S Supreme Court precedent boded well for the class-action lawsuit, Justin Hakes, a spokesman for the National Right to Work Legal Foundation, said the October 6 ruling violated teachers' consciences.

"The whole point of [seeking to freeze the funds] was that once the election is over, the money's been spent, and you can't undo the results of the election," he said. "Once someone's conscience has been violated, you can't undo that."

The CTA did not return calls seeking comment.

The teachers have been doing a great job of destroying the public education system now they are trying to mess up a Catholic School in Michigan. The below article appears in School Reform News
If Catholic school teachers want to unionize we would prefer they go to the public schools and not mess up the better performing Catholic school system.

Court: State Can't Force Catholic School to Unionize

Written By: Neal McCluskey
Published In: School Reform News
Publication Date: November 1, 2005
Publisher: The Heartland Institute

The Michigan Education Association (MEA) is deciding whether to appeal an August ruling by the Michigan Court of Appeals that held a state labor relations commission could not force a Roman Catholic high school to permit its teachers to unionize. This marks the latest twist in a two-year battle between Brother Rice High School in Birmingham, several of its teachers, and the MEA.

The case began in July 2003, when 30 of Brother Rice's 42 teachers requested that the school permit the faculty to vote on whether to join the MEA, the state affiliate of the National Education Association (NEA). The school refused, arguing that permitting its teachers to join the MEA, which sends a portion of all dues it collects to the NEA, would conflict with Roman Catholic teachings. The Catholic Church opposes legalized abortion, for instance, while the NEA has cosponsored pro-abortion marches.

After Brother Rice rejected the teachers' request, the MEA petitioned the Michigan Employment Relations Commission (MERC) to force the school to let the vote proceed. In August 2004, MERC ruled against Brother Rice, finding the Michigan Labor Relations and Mediation Act required the school to permit the unionization vote.

Brother Rice appealed MERC's ruling to the Michigan Court of Appeals, which on August 16 overturned the commission's decision, declaring MERC did not have jurisdiction over the matter and that government infringement on a parochial school's labor relations raises "substantial First Amendment concerns." The ruling was consistent with National Labor Relations Board v. Catholic Bishops of Chicago, a 1979 U.S. Supreme Court decision in which the Court found federal involvement in labor disputes involving religious organizations violates the religious freedom provisions of the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment.

Balancing Act

Patrick Gillen, an attorney for the Christian Brothers Institute of Michigan--Brother Rice's parent organization--was pleased with the appeals court's ruling. He told the Detroit Free Press on August 17 the "delicate balance" between keeping a Catholic school affordable and treating its teachers fairly "should be struck by the school community without any interference from the state."

MEA Communications Director Margaret Trimer-Hartley said the union has not yet decided whether it will appeal the court's ruling. Likely important to that decision will be whether the MEA thinks an entity like MERC or the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) will ever constitutionally be able to command a religious school to accept a unionized faculty.

Such a command was recently upheld at the post-secondary level. On August 30--just two weeks after the Michigan Court of Appeals overturned MERC's decision--the NLRB ordered Presbyterian-founded Carroll College in Milwaukee to allow its faculty to organize under the United Auto Workers. The NLRB rejected Carroll's argument that a unionized faculty would compromise the school's religious mission.

However, that decision did not necessarily bode ill for schools with clear religious affiliations. The NLRB found Carroll's connection with the Presbyterian Church had become very weak over time, with Presbyterians neither owning nor running the school today.

Ongoing Challenges

Justin Hakes, director of legal information for the National Right to Work Foundation in Springfield, Virginia, does not think efforts to unionize religious schools are near an end.

"Though the August ruling signifies a victory both for religious independence and teacher freedom in Michigan," Hakes said, "union officials will continue to target teachers as they hungrily pursue new sources of forced union dues revenues."

The MEA's Trimer-Hartley, in response to a question about future efforts to organize religious schools, suggested Hakes might be right in predicting continued union involvement.

"[Though] we have not actively sought members in religious schools, and we don't see this decision as changing that strategy," Trimer-Hartley said, "our organizing strategy is to answer the phone and respond to requests to hold elections. We will likely still answer the phone and judge each request individually."

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Funding for Schools to be Fair and Equal

Thanks to Bruno Behrend of Extreme Wisdom
for this great heads up. Tony Blair has decided to take on the left and the teacher's union and reform the education system in England. Not surprising many of the same lame excuses put out by the education establishment here are being touted in England.

Funding for Schools to be Fair and Equal

Funding for schools to be 'fair and equal'
By John Clare, Education Editor and George Jones
(Filed: 25/10/2005)

Every secondary school is expected to become an independent, self-governing academy within five years, Tony Blair said yesterday.

Parents would be given power to change the curriculum, replace failing heads and start new schools, he promised. Anticipating today's education White Paper - "a pivotal moment in the life of this Government" - he outlined radical plans to "complete the reform" of state education in England that Labour started when it came to power eight years ago.

Councils will be stripped of their responsibility for schools; businesses, churches, City livery companies and wealthy individuals will be allowed to take over schools; independent schools will be encouraged to accept state cash and join the state sector; and there is to be a new emphasis on grouping pupils by ability and offering advanced classes to the brightest.

Mr Blair made clear that he was ready to resist opposition from the Labour Left and the teachers' unions to opening up the system to parent power and ending comprehensive education.

He has decided to make reform of secondary education one of the defining issues of his remaining years as Prime Minister.

In what will be seen as a rebuff to his critics, including John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister, he said: "Parts of the Left will say we are privatising public services and giving too much to the middle class. Both criticisms are wrong and simply a version of the old levelling down mentality that kept us in opposition for so long."

The National Union of Teachers said Mr Blair's "obsession with choice" would "lead to chaos" and accused him of "pandering to the pushy middle classes" at the expense of poorer children.

Ian Gibson, the Labour MP for Norwich North, said he was -"dismayed" that all the good work in secondary education could be destroyed by the changes.

Government sources stressed that Mr Blair was ready for a final showdown with the Left over the plans to introduce more choice in both education and the National Health Service.

Although Mr Prescott is unhappy with the plans, fearing that they will discriminate against the poor and favour the middle classes, Mr Blair has the backing of Gordon Brown, the Chancellor and his likely successor, who is intent on creating more "personalised" public services.

David Cameron, the Tories' education spokesman, said that if Mr Blair really meant to introduce greater rigour, autonomy and choice he would "have the full backing of the Conservative Party because the education of our children is too important to play games over".

Mr Blair, addressing an invited audience of parents at No 10, said that successive reforms of state education since 1944 had not always fulfilled what they had promised. This time it was different because "we have learned what works".

Since 1997, good or better teaching in primary schools, as judged by Ofsted, had risen from 45 per cent to 74 and in secondaries from 59 per cent to 78. The proportion of 11-year-olds reaching the expected level in reading, writing and maths had risen from 43 per cent to 57 and pupils achieving five good GCSEs, including English and maths, had gone up from 35 per cent to 44.

But there was more to do to tackle pockets of deep educational disadvantage. Parents would be given real power. All schools would be able to have academy-style freedoms and be able to take on external partners.

"No one will be able to veto parents starting new schools or new providers coming in simply on the basis that there are local surplus places."

There would be a market in both education and the NHS but not one based on private purchasing power.

"Personal wealth won't buy you better NHS service. Funding for schools will be fair and equal no matter what their status and there will be no return to selection aged 11."

Parents would be able to replace the leadership or set up new schools if they were dissatisfied and they would be involved in decisions on issues such as the curriculum, school meals and uniform.

Although Mr Blair failed to acknowledge the debt his academy and specialist school programmes owe to the city technology colleges devised by the Tories, he did try to explain why he had abolished grant-maintained status, which provides the model for his independent schools.

He said: "Grant-maintained schools only covered 18 per cent of secondary schools and three per cent of primary schools and on both funding and admissions, where special privileges were given, created a real sense of anger amongst other less fortunate schools, needlessly creating a two-tier system."

Mr Cameron said: "Only now at the twilight of his premiership is he taking the steps that the Conservatives pressed him to take for so long."

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Teachers' Cost Of Living Matters More

Thanks to a friend in Harvard for passing this analysis on to CRAFT. The below analysis appears on the NATIONAL CENTER FOR POLICY ANALYSIS

Teachers' Cost of Living Matters More
Brief Analysis

No. 535

by Danielle Georgiou, Pamela Villarreal and Matt Moore

Public officials and teacher unions often compare teacher salaries in a particular city or region against the national average or against other U.S. cities. They assume teachers in areas with higher than average pay are doing well, whereas teachers in areas below the national average must fare poorly. Legislators in states where teacher pay is below the national average are under considerable pressure to raise salaries.

However, our analysis suggests officials may want to consider the cost of living — the quantity of goods teachers can actually purchase with their salaries — rather than simply comparing pay. Our analysis of teacher pay in 50 major metropolitan areas shows that after the adjustment, some cities regarded as higher-paying are actually below average, while cities that appear to pay so-so wages are actually quite generous.

Why Is the Cost of Living Important? Teacher pay is determined mostly by years of service and level of education; the grade level taught or a teacher's effect on student performance are not considered, and advanced degrees are given equal weight.

The average wage for elementary public school teachers in the United States is $45,670.
The average wage for elementary teachers in the regions considered in our analysis range from $59,514 in New York City to $32,209 in Oklahoma City.
Of course, other factors can affect a teacher's salary, such as continuing education credits and sponsorship of extracurricular activities. But simply totaling the number of dollars they are paid doesn't give a complete picture of how well, or poorly, teachers in a given city or region are faring. It is much more meaningful to know what a teacher's dollar will buy locally.

The local cost of living is determined by prices for a basket of consumer goods and services. Prices for housing, groceries, utilities, health care and so forth vary from city to city and region to region. The cost of living for each metro area was determined using the "ACCRA Cost of Living Index," published quarterly by the American Chamber of Commerce Researchers Association. The data shows the cost of living varies widely. For example:

The cost of living in San Francisco is 80 percent higher than the national average, largely because area housing costs are three times the national average.
The cost of living in Memphis, Tenn., is more than 11 percent below the national average, primarily because housing prices there are only three-fourths the national average.
Methodology. Average teacher salaries for elementary and secondary teachers were determined using the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' Metropolitan Area Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates report. The salaries in each area were adjusted for the cost of living. We analyzed 50 metropolitan areas, selected according to availability of data, size and geographic balance. They include the United States' largest 20 metro areas (except for Detroit, Mich., which was not included in the ACCRA data).

National Results. When pay for elementary and secondary teachers is adjusted by the cost of living, the rankings of the 50 cities shift:

With an average salary of $59,514, New York City's elementary teachers receive the highest salaries in the nation, but when adjusted for the cost of living, the number drops to $42,662, making New York City's teacher compensation 25th among major cities. [See the table.]
With an average salary of $59,284, elementary teachers in San Francisco rank 2nd in the nation; adjusted for the cost of living, the salary falls to $32,663, plunging the city to next to last (49th).
In Honolulu, the average annual salary equals $45,467, but the adjusted salary is only $27,048, pushing that city to last place (50th).
The results are similar for secondary school teachers:

In Los Angeles, secondary teachers average $56,384, well above the national average of $47,120, and rank 5th among major cities; however, when adjusted for the cost of living, Los Angeles teachers' pay plunges to 45th.
Salaries for secondary teachers in Houston rank 30th, but the cost of living adjustment moves the city up to 15th.
Slight improvements are seen in a few cities: in Beaumont, Texas, the average annual salary for elementary teachers is $39,960, while the adjusted salary is $45,513 and in Memphis, Tenn., average annual salary is $45,108 and adjusted salary is $50,797. [See the figure.] Overall, public school teachers who are paid above the national average may actually be compensated below the national average when the cost of living is considered.

Conclusion. Clearly, the cost of living makes a difference when examining teacher pay and making comparisons between different regions. Because the cost of living varies widely from city to city and region to region, public officials and teacher unions should consider how much a teacher's dollar can buy, not just numerical pay, when discussing teachers' wages.

Thanks again to the Harvard resident who passed this analysis on to CRAFT. CRAFT and other opponents to referenda have often pointed out cost of living vs. teacher pay to referendum supporters, teachers and administrators. However this analysis often appears to go over their heads. Perhaps a couple of courses in economics would assist in their understanding of the matter and why many residents believe teachers and administrators our overpaid.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Having Trouble saving for your child's college tuition?

Communism at its best. Your child's tuition may be paying for someone else to go to college.

The below editorial appeared in the Belleville News Democrat

Tuition, aid a bad match

We know that college costs keep going up. Still, Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville's plans to raise tuition 41 percent over the next three years is extreme -- especially given the way the university plans to use a huge chunk of the money.

Chancellor Vaughn Vandegrift said the increase will bring in about $3 million to $3.5 million in the first three years. Of that, $1.6 million will be used for scholarships and other types of student financial assistance.

So SIUE is going to raise tuition so it can turn around and give away more money for financial assistance? A lot of colleges and universities are doing it. But what's wrong with that picture?

No doubt more students will need financial help once tuition goes up so dramatically. In 2008, incoming students will pay about $6,150 a year in tuition compared with the $4,350 a year incoming students paid this year.

It seems more logical to keep tuition increases to a minimum, so that fewer students would need assistance in the first place.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Trouble or Waste in Districts 2, 15 and 50

On October 20th the NWH Published an Our View regarding Districts 2, 15 and 50. You can view the article below or in the Northwest Herald

Trouble chases

D-15, 50 and 2

Administrative and school board leaders in McHenry District 15 have had a hard time making new friends. "Yes" voters, actually.

Over the past three years, voters have defeated five referendums to increase property taxes for the elementary school district. The revenue would pay for everything from teachers to supplies.

Only Harvard District 50 keeps pace with District 15 for failed education-fund referendums.

Nippersink District 2 is close with four defeats. Yet teachers have threatened to go on strike Oct. 24 over wages and benefits. They say they will continue to negotiate and that a strike is unlikely. Nevertheless, what are they thinking?

But it is worth noting that Harvard is not deficit spending; it continues cutting programs and increasing class sizes in buildings stretched beyond capacity. It hurts the quality of education.

District 15 has a mounting deficit, and if the sixth referendum fails in March, $2.1 million will be cut. "No" voters call them scare tactics and threats. No matter; the cuts will be made.

More children will be packed in classrooms that already have 30-some students. Fine arts will be eliminated, as well as physical education teachers. Three administrators will be dismissed.

But school leaders need to fight the perception that they are overstaffed and overpaid.

Referendum opponents troop out the too-many-administrators argument every time, despite District 15 cutting the number. When people with high five- or six-figure salaries get raises, voters get cranky.

When the administrators were shamed into salary freezes, the next referendum lost by 193 votes, a far cry from margins of defeat in the thousands.

In the defense of teachers and administrators, the best people often leave the district for better pay elsewhere. The district is left with the young ones learning – and making mistakes – on the job, then leaving once they have it down.

But perception, fair or not, counts. Administrators getting raises and decent teachers-union contracts hurt on Election Day.

Voters in Districts 15, 50 and 2 remain unconvinced. They will wait for proof before March 21.

Below was the response from Jim Peschke in the form of a letter to the editor in the NWH.

Waste is no Illusion

If one reads the Northwest Herald's October 20th Our View, one might think that wasteful spending in Districts 2, 15, and 50 is all an illusion. Stingy voters are depriving poor, deserving districts of a few scraps of money needed to save their spartan programs from imminent collapse. Program cuts in these districts are all our fault, and its hurting kids.

Or so we are told.

History tells a different tale. District 2 teachers are threatening to strike, District 15 broke its promise to refund tax dollars, and District 50 hired a PR consultant while cutting programs. These are not acts of need, they're acts of greed.

The Northwest Herald bought into this nonsense hook, line, and sinker. Its not surprising that they'd draw poor conclusions from flawed assumptions. Classrooms with 30 or more students hurts the quality of education? Tell that to anybody over 40 who attended classrooms with 40 or more students. Tell that to high performing Asian students in 50-student classrooms.

The best teachers and administrators are leaving for better pay? Evidence, please! Younger teachers make more mistakes than older teachers? Again, show us some proof.

Parroting the lines of the education establishment hardly qualifies as responsible journalism. Those who question the waste in these districts need only visit private schools that do so much more with so much less.