Saturday, January 21, 2006

Real results, not effort

Another great letter to the editor we need more citizens speaking up for our children and their future. Bravo!

Real results, not effort
[published on Sat, Jan 21, 2006 in the Northwest Herald]
To the Editor:

Peter Krallitsch wrote Jan. 13, "I suggest that we get back to basics and set teachers salaries based on results, not based on union demands."

Hear, hear! It's about time someone sees and says the truth.

In the "real world," there is no such thing as tenure.

In nearly every job (besides teaching), little credit is given for past results. The job world is one of, "What have you done for me lately?" Performance evaluations, pay increases, etc., are based on the most recent results.

Even if one has been an exemplary employee for 10 years and has a year with little or no effective results, that employee likely will face disciplinary action, and perhaps even lose his or her job.

Employment in the "real world" depends on results, not effort or execution.

Why should our posterity, our most cherished and important life investments, be entrusted to those unwilling to step up and prove their results?

Why should anyone be able to maintain a job, despite sinking results, simply because he or she has held a position for a given time period? It's nonsense.

I say: "Prove it. Show me the money."

John Vales

Crystal Lake

Friday, January 20, 2006

Most College Students Insufficiently Literate

Study: Most College Students Insufficiently Literate
Thursday, January 19, 2006

WASHINGTON — Nearing a diploma, most college students cannot handle many complex but common tasks, from understanding credit card offers to comparing the cost per ounce of food.

Those are the sobering findings of a study of literacy on college campuses, the first to target the skills of students as they approach the start of their careers.

More than 50 percent of students at four-year schools and more than 75 percent at two-year colleges lacked the skills to perform complex literacy tasks.

That means they could not interpret a table about exercise and blood pressure, understand the arguments of newspaper editorials, compare credit card offers with different interest rates and annual fees or summarize results of a survey about parental involvement in school.

The results cut across three types of literacy: analyzing news stories and other prose, understanding documents and having math skills needed for checkbooks or restaurant tips.

"It is kind of disturbing that a lot of folks are graduating with a degree and they're not going to be able to do those things," said Stephane Baldi, the study's director at the American Institutes for Research, a behavioral and social science research organization.

Most students at community colleges and four-year schools showed intermediate skills, meaning they could perform moderately challenging tasks. Examples include identifying a location on a map, calculating the cost of ordering office supplies or consulting a reference guide to figure out which foods contain a particular vitamin.

There was brighter news.

Overall, the average literacy of college students is significantly higher than that of adults across the nation. Study leaders said that was encouraging but not surprising, given that the spectrum of adults includes those with much less education.

Also, compared with all adults with similar levels of education, college students had superior skills in searching and using information from texts and documents.

"But do they do well enough for a highly educated population? For a knowledge-based economy? The answer is no," said Joni Finney, vice president of the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, an independent and nonpartisan group.

"This sends a message that we should be monitoring this as a nation, and we don't do it," Finney said. "States have no idea about the knowledge and skills of their college graduates."

The survey examined college and university students nearing the end of their degree programs. The students did the worst on matters involving math, according to the study.

Almost 20 percent of students pursuing four-year degrees had only basic quantitative skills. For example, the students could not estimate if their car had enough gas to get to the service station. About 30 percent of two-year students had only basic math skills.

Baldi and Finney said the survey should be used as a tool. They hope state leaders, educators and university trustees will examine the rigor of courses required of all students.

The survey showed a strong relationship between analytic coursework and literacy. Students in two-year and four-year schools scored higher when they took classes that challenged them to apply theories to practical problems or weigh competing arguments.

The college survey used the same test as the National Assessment of Adult Literacy, the government's examination of English literacy among adults. The results of that study were released in December, showing about one in 20 adults is not literate in English.

On campus, the tests were given in 2003 to a representative sample of 1,827 students at public and private schools. The Pew Charitable Trusts funded the survey.

It has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Stuck on Stupid in America

Stuck on Stupid in America
By Chuck Muth Commentary
January 17, 2006

I hereby bequeath Citizen Outreach's 2006 Thomas Paine Award to ABC's John Stossel for his 20/20 report entitled "Stupid In America: How We Cheat Our Kids," a blistering expose of the government education system in the United States today.

For those of you who learned American history education from a public school, you might be surprised to know that in 1775 most colonists did NOT support separation from England. Many actually preferred remaining as subjects of the King. They were called "Loyalists." They wanted to continue working within the existing system, but maybe with a few "reforms." They were opponents of independence. They were anti-freedom.

Then along came Tom Paine and his pamphlet titled "Common Sense." As Gregory Tietjen notes in his introduction of a reprint of this immortal historical document, Common Sense "immediately became the moral and intellectual touchstone for American colonists struggling to articulate their case for independence from England."

The pamphlet enjoyed unprecedented distribution; the "first printing of several thousand copies sold out in days, and the second, with additions, sold just as quickly."

Many historians consider publication of Paine's Common Sense to have been the turning point of public opinion against the status quo and for a break from the King. In that regard, we can only hope that John Stossel's "Stupid in America" has the same effect over 230 years later.

Stupid in America has the potential for becoming the "moral and intellectual touchstone" for Americans who have been fighting for independence from the tyranny of government schools in this country for many years now.

As in 1775, most Americans today harbor a belief, more a hope, that education under the current system isn't all that intolerable; that we just need to tinker around the edges a bit with a tweak here and a tweak there. Oh, and more money, of course.

Stupid in America obliterates that flight of fancy (click here to watch excerpts.

I won't go into the details and content of Stossel's actual report here. Rather, I'm suggesting that education patriots who have long supported a break from the public school monopoly may now have a modern-day version of Common Sense with which to finally turn around the majority of public opinion.

Stupid in America needs to be distributed far and wide. Every elected legislator in the country ought to watch it, as should every concerned parent and taxpayer. The case for complete and total education independence will no longer be arguable after watching this report by anyone but blind loyalists of the current system.

It's time to choose sides. No more fence-sitting. You're either with us or against us. You're either for total freedom, choice and independence from the government school monopoly or you're an education "Loyalist," deserving of disdain and derision. And that especially goes for our modern-day Lobsterbacks, the teachers union.

These militant foot soldiers of the status quo, as exposed in Stossel's report, will stoop to any level in defending their monopoly control over our kids' lackluster education - and they are 100% committed to crushing anyone who dares threaten their power.

It's time to strip away the Suzy Sunshine face they portray in public and expose them for what they and their agenda really and truly are: Anti-education. Or at least, anti-education excellence. These people are Masters of Mediocrity. At best.

And if you are a teacher who belongs to the teachers union, thus helping to perpetuate with your dues their iron grip on the current system, you, too, are anti-education. There's just no nice way to put it. It's well past time for you to...quit...the...union.

All of this might sound harsh if you haven't yet watched Stupid in America.

But once you see this eye-opener, you, too, won't be able to help coming to the conclusion that the education monopoly in this country must be obliterated -- not just accommodated or reformed -- once and for all. Which makes it all the more important for education patriots to assure the widest distribution and circulation possible of Stossel's Stupid in America.

It's just common sense.

(Chuck Muth is president of Citizen Outreach, a public policy advocacy organization in Washington, D.C.)

Copyright 2006, Chuck Muth

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Myth: Schools don't have enough money

You will see the story below on a number of BLOGs but it is well worth repeating and reading again.

Myth: Schools don't have enough money

"Stossel is an idiot who should be fired from ABC and sent back to elementary school to learn journalism." "Stossel is a right-wing extremist ideologue."

The hate mail is coming in to ABC over a TV special I did Friday (1/13). I suggested that public schools had plenty of money but were squandering it, because that's what government monopolies do.

Many such comments came in after the National Education Association (NEA) informed its members about the special and claimed that I have a "documented history of blatant antagonism toward public schools."

The NEA says public schools need more money. That's the refrain heard in politicians' speeches, ballot initiatives and maybe even in your child's own classroom. At a union demonstration, teachers carried signs that said schools will only improve "when the schools have all the money they need and the Air Force has to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber."

Not enough money for education? It's a myth.

The truth is, public schools are rolling in money. If you divide the U.S. Department of Education's figure for total spending on K-12 education by the department's count of K-12 students, it works out to about $10,000 per student.

To view the rest of the story click here to go to

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

What Can Happen If You Offer 4% Instead of 5%

I copy and pasted this post from Intercepts the BLOG for the Education Intelligence Agency. Just another example of how teachers' unions are out of control. Click on the title above to go to Mike Antonucci's BLOG on the BLOG you will find several must see links in the story that I did not place in this post.

What Can Happen If You Offer 4% Instead of 5%

This illustration of denial is brought to you by the Walnut Valley Educators Association in California.

The morning after presiding over a packed school board meeting with more than 100 union members wearing red t-shirts, four board members found their homes vandalized -- their driveways covered in red paint and with threatening notes identifying them by name.

The union is at odds with the board because contract negotiations are stalemated. The district is offering a 4 percent pay raise. The union wants 5 percent. District officials say currently 42 percent of Walnut Valley teachers make more than $69,000 annually.

"You can only assume the union is involved. It could be just an individual that's taking it to a level that has gone above and beyond what the expectation is," said board president Cindy Ruiz. "It's scary now. How do they expect us to react to this?"

Union President Jim Faren doesn't believe a teacher or union member was involved. "We didn't condone this type of activity. That's not the type of activity that we believe in," he said. Another union representative is disappointed that "the knee-jerk reaction has been that the union did it."

Really? Who else even knows all the school board members by name, never mind where they live?

Faren posted a statement on the union web site:

"The WVEA Leadership and the Negotiations Team received news on Friday, Jan 13th that the homes of four members of the Board of Education were vandalized. We are disturbed and upset that this act was directed toward members of our own district. No one in our educational community deserves to be the recipient of such behavior."

Disturbed and upset. But was he surprised? Take a look at this video the union shot of Faren's speech at the school board meeting. He is cordial and contained throughout, but at about the six-minute mark, he says this: "WVEA will continue to impress upon our members rational and positive behavior during this campaign. But what individual groups or individuals may do could be out of our control."

Monday, January 16, 2006

Bringing light to dark hours ahead no easy task for tax hike pushers

Another Daily Herald writer hits one out of the ballpark. Great Job Chris Bailey. If you do not live in the Daily Herald readership area I strongly suggest you subscribe to the Daily Herald and have it mailed home. Their education pieces have been excellent.

This story appeared in the January 15th edition of the Daily Herald. Click on the post title to view the story at the Daily Herald website.

Bringing light to dark hours ahead no easy task for tax hike pushers
Chris Bailey
Posted Sunday, January 15, 2006

If the endless gray days haven’t already sent folks into a mid-winter funk, they should have no fear. Despair is just around the corner. The darkest hour for any taxpayer — referendum time — is upon us.

For the most part, the primary election on March 21 will be ignored by all but the most party-oriented or habitual voters, of which there are very few. The exceptions, of course, will be where voters are being asked to approve tax hike or bond sale requests for their school, fire, park or library districts.

That’s because most voters know they’re being asked to give more money to public servants who, by and large, already have it better than they do in terms of pay, pensions and health care benefits. And those who pay any attention to the numbers also recognize that such requests are coming from people proposing budgets and long-range plans that are not financially sustainable — unless taxpayers ante up again later.

If you think this is “all about the kids” or “all about public safety,” ask yourself who benefits from passage. And then ask who will be paying if the tax hike rejected.

The answer to the first question is “public servants.” The answer to the second is “students” or “consumers.” None of these proposed tax hikes will be accompanied by plans that freeze or control wages in any significant way or bring to an end the belief that the expense side of the ledger can grow forever without consequence. Few will be accompanied by serious attempts to control the growing health care or pension costs that are bankrupting governments everywhere. Some will actually ask to put more people on the government pension dole.

You will hear many heartfelt arguments about the need to remain “competitive” in the employment marketplace, but no one will be able to explain why community colleges require more and more students who come from those so-called competitive marketplaces to take remedial classes.

And then look at the consequences for non-approval of referendums. I am not among those who consider those explanations “threats,” but they do tell me who is serious and who isn’t. Athletics and extracurricular activities and gifted programs are drops in school budget buckets, for example. If they are at the top of the cut list, attempts to rein in spending aren’t serious, but simply dabbling in emotion.

Without wage controls, any serious attempt to restrain school expenditures must look seriously at the big, often bloated programs like special and bilingual education. Because of parental and political pressure, they are often far out of line with expenditures on other students and legal requirements.

Though Elgin School District U-46 is often maligned, it stands as proof that spending can be restrained. A few years ago it was buried in red ink — $60 million worth or so. It analyzed program costs and then acted decisively. It delayed opening four new schools and slashed hundreds of teachers, many of them in bilingual and special education programs, with little discernible negative impact. Without any referendums passing, it has halved its deficit, which now stands at less than $10 million, every year. Beyond that, its test scores are improving in most areas and it has involved its unions in attempts to scale back health-care expenditures. Though results in those areas are not yet worth wild celebration, there is no denying the numbers are moving in the right direction. Yes, the district has issued life-safety bonds that don’t require taxpayer approval but do affect tax bills. But at least that money goes toward the basics and the other gradual improvements show the expense side of the ledger can be restrained — with effort.

I’m guessing most upcoming referendums will fail for one of three reasons. Taxpayers will feel they can’t afford them. Taxpayers won’t trust those who’ve said one thing and done another. Or they will resent that increasing the revenue side of the ledger remains the first resort while little serious effort is expended to reduce the cost side. Anyone expecting the sun to be shining March 22 had better be prepared to address all three.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Stupid in America

Stupid in America
How Lack of Choice Cheats Our Kids Out of a Good Education

Jan. 13, 2006 — "Stupid in America" is a nasty title for a program about public education, but some nasty things are going on in America's public schools and it's about time we face up to it.

Kids at New York's Abraham Lincoln High School told me their teachers are so dull students fall asleep in class. One student said, "You see kids all the time walking in the school smoking weed, you know. It's a normal thing here."

We tried to bring "20/20" cameras into New York City schools to see for ourselves and show you what's going on in the schools, but officials wouldn't allow it.

Washington, D.C., officials steered us to the best classrooms in their district.

We wanted to tape typical classrooms but were turned down in state after state.

Finally, school officials in Washington, D.C., allowed "20/20" to give cameras to a few students who were handpicked at two schools they'd handpicked. One was Woodrow Wilson High. Newsweek says it's one of the best schools in America. Yet what the students taped didn't inspire confidence.

One teacher didn't have control over the kids. Another "20/20" student cameraman videotaped a boy dancing wildly with his shirt off, in front of his teacher.

If you're like most American parents, you might think "These things don't happen at my kid's school." A Gallup Poll survey showed 76 percent of Americans were completely or somewhat satisfied with their kids' public school.

Education reformers like Kevin Chavous have a message for these parents: If you only knew.

Even though people in the suburbs might think their schools are great, Chavous says, "They're not. That's the thing and the test scores show that."

Chavous and many other education professionals say Americans don't know that their public schools, on the whole, just aren't that good. Because without competition, parents don't know what their kids might have had.

And while many people say, "We need to spend more money on our schools," there actually isn't a link between spending and student achievement.

Jay Greene, author of "Education Myths," points out that "If money were the solution, the problem would already be solved … We've doubled per pupil spending, adjusting for inflation, over the last 30 years, and yet schools aren't better."

He's absolutely right. National graduation rates and achievement scores are flat, while spending on education has increased more than 100 percent since 1971. More money hasn't helped American kids.

Ben Chavis is a former public school principal who now runs an alternative charter school in Oakland, Calif., that spends thousands of dollars less per student than the surrounding public schools. He laughs at the public schools' complaints about money.

"That is the biggest lie in America. They waste money," he said.

To save money, Chavis asks the students to do things like keep the grounds picked up and set up for their own lunch. For gym class, his students often just run laps around the block. All of this means there's more money left over for teaching.

Even though he spends less money per student than the public schools do, Chavis pays his teachers more than what public school teachers earn. His school also thrives because the principal gets involved. Chavis shows up at every classroom and uses gimmicks like small cash payments for perfect attendance.

Since he took over four years ago, his school has gone from being among the worst in Oakland to being the best. His middle school has the highest test scores in the city.

"It's not about the money," he said.

He's confident that even kids who come from broken families and poor families will do well in his school. "Give me the poor kids, and I will outperform the wealthy kids who live in the hills. And we do it," he said.

At age 10, American students take an international test and score well above the international average. But by age 15, when students from 40 countries are tested, the Americans place 25th. (ABC News)

We did not post the complete story, to view the complete story click on the title of this post.