Saturday, July 15, 2006

"But What About Socialization?"

Yesterday's piece about the Chicago public school teachers' union concern about home schooling promoted us to rerun the piece below which first appeared in the New Oxford Review.

This is a cute little piece on homeschooling and socialization. This piece came from the New Oxford Review

Apparently, the problem with homeschooling is the socialization of children. In the Kolbe Little Home Journal (Fall 2005), there is a brief item called "Homeschooling Family Finds Ways to Adapt to a Public
School 'Socialization' Program." Here it is:

"When my wife and I mention we are strongly considering homeschooling our children, we are without fail asked, 'But what about socialization?' Fortunately, we found a way our kids can receive the same socialization that government schools provide. On Mondays and Wednesdays, I will personally corner my son in the bathroom, give him a wedgie and take his lunch money. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, my wife will make sure to tease our children for not being in the 'in' crowd, taking special care to poke fun at any physical abnormalities. Fridays will be 'Fad and Peer Pressure Day.' We will all compete to see who has the coolest toys, the most expensive clothes, and the loudest, fastest, and most dangerous car. Every day, my wife and I will adhere to a routine of cursing and swearing in the hall and mentioning our weekend
exploits with alcohol and immorality.... And we have asked them to report us to the authorities in the event we mention faith, religion, or try to bring up morals and values."

So much for socialization!--

"You can have Peace or you can have Freedom. Don't ever count on having
both at the same time."
--Robert Anson Heinlein

Friday, July 14, 2006

Home-based online schooling ripped

The following article appeared in the Chicago Sun Times.

According to the Illinois School Report cards in Chicago School District 299 only 31.7% of the students meet or exceed state goals on the Prairie State Achievement Exam. It is time for the Chicago Teachers' Union to let go of their iron grip on the Chicago Education System and give students a fighting chance to get a proper education. 15,587 dollars is spent per student to educate the children, the results are only 31.7% can meet or exceed state goals. The system is failing far to many students and society and our country pays the price. While teachers except no accountability and retire early on hefty pensions primarily funded by the taxpayers. It is time for reform.

Home-based online schooling ripped

July 14, 2006


A new Chicago Public Schools charter that would educate students online from home is illegal, the Chicago Teachers Union said Thursday, threatening a court challenge to the school, which has yet to receive state approval.

"This is not the answer for our students," teachers union President Marilyn Stewart said at a press conference Thursday at the union's Merchandise Mart headquarters. "This school is a step back in education reform."

The Chicago Virtual Academy was approved by the School Board in January and plans to enroll 600 K-8 students this fall.

However, as a charter school, it must receive state approval and Illinois State Board of Education officials said they have yet to receive its application.

Malon Edwards, CPS spokesman, said the application from the school operators arrived in March and was sent to the state this week. He could not explain the delay, but said it shouldn't affect the timetable for state approval.

Hindered socially, academically?

State Board officials will try to rule before the school year starts, a state board spokesman said.

The union contends the online setting would violate a state school code that mandates "non-home based'' charter schools. Virtual Academy president Sharon Hayes denied the program would be "home schooling children'' since they would learn in the classroom as well.

The planned school would enroll students citywide and serve physically disabled and gifted students or those from underperforming schools as part of the city's Renaissance 2010 initiative. Students would work primarily from home with the help of a parent or another responsible adult.

One of the union's biggest concerns is that students would be hindered socially and academically.

According to Hayes, students will spend 25 percent of their time online with laptops and materials provided by the school, the rest of the time they will complete workbook exercises and hands-on activities as well as interact with a state-certified teacher and other students once a week at a downtown learning center.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Ex-CPS official indicted over bribes

The following story appeared in the Chicago Sun Times.

Ex-CPS official indicted over bribes

July 12, 2006

BY NATASHA KORECKI Federal Courts Reporter

A former Chicago Public Schools official who is the brother of a high-ranking mayoral aide was indicted on charges he took bribes in exchange for handing out millions of dollars worth of school contracts, officials disclosed today.

James Picardi, former assistant manager of operations and operations manager for the school system, was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit bribery. Picardi, 51, of Wauconda, is the brother of Michael Picardi, the city's Streets and Sanitation commissioner.

Federal authorities said James Picardi and two others scammed the schools out of money tied to fencing contracts.

Picardi received weekly payments totaling $5,000 in exchange for helping James Levin, a fence company executive, land contracts with the schools, authorities said.

Levin, former president of Tru-Link Fence and Products Co., and Tru-Link Commercial Inc., was charged with one count of wire fraud and tax evasion. Also charged with conspiracy to commit bribery is Arthur Miller, who owns All Power Electric.

CPS paid more than $2.6 million to Tru-Link between 1998 and 2000 for 106 fencing projects.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

New Century Project - John Kasich Chairman

The information below is from the New Century Project.

"I do not believe that there is any way to fix the public school system without opening it up to competition and parental choice. Our bureaucratic one size fits all public school system has lost its ability to encourage and nurture the uniqueness of each child. What is so radical about the idea of giving parents the power to send their child to the best possible school? I understand that this will bring huge change to our public schools, but I do not fear this change. The only thing I fear is the status quo."

- John Kasich in a speech to the Urban League

The education our nation's children is the most important civil rights issue in America today.

New Century Project supports school choice because it empowers parents to provide a better education for their children. It also increases the accountability of educational institutions and helps to restore local control over schools.

NCP continues to support initiatives and ideas for more accountable education, as well as elected leaders who are fighting for school choice, local control, and more accountability.

Our chairman, John Kasich, has a consistent and ongoing commitment to school choice.

To read more about John Kasich and the New Century Project go to New Century Project website.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Time to Face our Education Crisis by Newt Gingrich

The following is a letter from Newt Gingrich. This is a good start but he should put the finger at the teachers' unions just as Dole had when he was running for president.

Time to Face our Education Crisis

School is out for the summer, but as a grandfather and former college professor, the education of our children is never far from my mind. My own grandchildren are young -- ages 6 and 4 -- and have their entire educational experience ahead of them. I saw a report recently that makes me worry about the education system they will inherit. It makes me worry what kind of country they will inherit. And it makes me ask this question: When it comes to educating our children, at what point are we willing to face the truth and declare that the education system created for the industrial era is failing to prepare our children for the demands of today's information age?

If a 21.7% Graduation Rate Isn't Failure, What Is?

The education bureaucracy likes to play a game with statistics. They usually publish data on educational successes or failures only on a statewide basis, so parents and teachers have no way to hold the education bureaucracy accountable where it counts -- on the district level. But a new study sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation took a different approach, and the results it reported are deeply troubling to those of us with a concern for the future of American children.

The study looked at graduation rates on a district-by-district level and found that they are shockingly lower than previously reported by the education bureaucracy. In big-city public school districts like Cleveland, Los Angeles, Miami, Dallas and Denver, fewer than 50 percent of high school students graduate on time. In three districts, the public schools graduate fewer than 40 percent of their students: In New York City, the graduation rate is 38.9 percent; in Baltimore, it's 38.5 percent; and in Detroit, incredibly, only 21.7 percent of students who enter public high schools will graduate.

Failing Four Out of Five Students

Consider this finding for a moment. If only 21.7 percent of students graduate from Detroit schools on time, that means that 78.3 percent of students fail to graduate. Almost 80 percent of students -- four out of five -- are failed by our educational system. Why do we tolerate this level of failure? The fact is, in most aspects of life, we don't. If a private company took the money from its customers and then failed 80 percent of them, it would be closed in a day.

I am a firm believer in establishing measurable standards of success (or failure) and constantly assessing the wisdom and workability of policies against these standards. One of the most basic measures of the success of our school system is high school graduation. A high school diploma is the minimum requirement for successful participation in American life. The failure of our schools to graduate their students isn't limited to Detroit or to our big cities. Nationwide, it is estimated that three of every 10 students who start high school won't graduate on time. For minorities, these numbers are far worse. One of every two African-American and Latino students won't graduate on time or graduate at all. So dramatic is the failure that today there are more African American males in prison than there are in college -- a fact that is a national disgrace.

First, Save the Children

We've all heard the rallying cries of "Save the Whales" and "Save the Rainforest." My view is that reports on our public schools like this latest one should have us all shouting "Save the Children." Every time we allow policies that favor the education bureaucracy over our children, we not only hurt our children, we hurt our country and our prospects for future safety and prosperity.

Here's a case in point. One of the favorite talking points of the left-liberals is that more money will cure what is wrong with our education system. But here is just one of the facts that exposes this for the lie that it is. Nationally, our education bureaucracy is receiving more than $440 billion a year of our tax dollars to fund our schools, but only about 61 percent of this is actually spent in classrooms. In a state like Michigan, that number is even lower -- only 57 percent of education funds are actually spent on teachers and teaching. The rest goes to the bureaucracy for undefined, unaccountable "overhead." It cannot be overstated, that unless and until we make it a priority to put the welfare of our children over the welfare of the education bureaucracy, our education bureaucracy will continue to consign our children to future poverty and our nation to future failure.

The Valedictorian Who Flunked Out

America has many great public schools and many, many dedicated teachers. And we have more than our share of education success stories. The problem is that too often these successes are achieved in spite of our current education system, not because of it.

I am reminded of a tragic story I heard about the valedictorian at a high school in New Orleans who couldn't graduate because she had failed the math portion of her graduate exit exam five times. She had a near-perfect grade point average -- and had even received an A in an advanced math class her senior year. But when she took the test required of all Louisiana students before graduation, everything her school system had supposedly done for her was exposed as a lie. She hadn't been educated -- she had merely been processed, passed up the line from grade to grade in order to avoid exposing the failure of the very institutions and officials that were entrusted with her future.

To Rescue the Future, We Must Remember Our Past

From New York Times bestselling author William J. Bennett, comes America: The Last Best Hope, Volume 1. More than a history book, America: The Last Best Hope is a thrilling account of why America is the greatest country on earth, what made her so, and why she should prevail.

"The role of history is to inform, inspire and sometimes provoke us, which is why Bill Bennett's wonderfully readable book is so important."

- Walter Isaacson, author of Benjamin Franklin: An American Life

Had this story ended here, it would have been just one more tragic tale of how our education system is cheating kids and lying to their parents. But thankfully, the story of this young woman didn't end in failure. Even though she had been humiliated in front of her peers and the nation when the press picked up the story, she didn't give up. She persevered and, on her seventh try, passed the state graduation exam and received her diploma.

America abounds with more energy, resourcefulness and innovation than any nation in the history of mankind. We deserve an education system that nurtures and develops these qualities. I've said it before and I'll say it again: We owe our children and grandchildren an America at least as prosperous and secure as the one our parents and grandparents fought and worked to give us. "Save the children" isn't just a slogan, it's a call to win the future for all Americans, starting with our children. Let's not wait to get started.

Your friend,

Newt Gingrich

Monday, July 10, 2006

Can Political Leaders Find the Courage to Liberate Education?

The following article was published in The Heartland Institute's publication School Reform News.

Can Political Leaders Find the Courage to Liberate Education?

Author: Michael Strong
Published: The Heartland Institute 07/01/2006

Editor's note: This is the final installment of a seven-part series showing why charter schools do not have the freedom needed to create significant educational improvements through innovation.
Educational innovations leading to performance improvements were the goal of introducing school choice in the first place. It is possible that if Moreno Valley High School (MVHS)--a charter school in Angel Fire, New Mexico--had replicated its program across the state, SAT scores and AP enrollment statewide might have increased as additional Socratic Practice charter schools opened, staffed by faculty trained at the proposed MVHS Socratic Practice teacher training center.

Over the course of a decade or two, New Mexico might plausibly have moved from 50th in the nation educationally into the top 10. At MVHS, Socratic Practice programs have resulted in 120 point average annual gains on the SAT, compared to 40 point average annual gains for the United States as a whole, according to The College Board.

Legions of students currently incapable of college-level work, with SAT verbal scores below 300, could become legions of students with SAT verbal scores above 500, higher than the average entering college freshman's. New Mexico could have the highest percentage of students taking AP courses of any state in the nation.

Why accept failure? If indeed MVHS has such a good program, why can't the state replicate it statewide and reap the benefits of its innovative program?

Blocking the Way

Note the obstacles to such an approach:

Exactly the same program is perceived to be excellent by some, educational malpractice by others.
Although some parents, students, and educators love the program, the state regards it as largely a failing program due to noncompliance with regulations.
The program, despite its solid, measurable achievements, is similar to progressive pedagogies with a long history of failure and little documented success outside of MVHS and a limited track record even there. It is not a "research-based" reform.
In order for the program to be successful, it must be staffed and supervised by expert, highly intelligent Socratic educators, most of whom are not state-licensed and who must be trained in an institution that does not yet exist and if it did, would be completely outside the official university credentialing system and therefore an affront and a threat to that system.

Staking Careers on Change

In short, though some parents and educators are willing to stake their children's education and livelihoods, respectively, on this program, it is unlikely that bureaucrats and politicians, who must answer to majorities, media, and opponents, would stake their careers on it. It is just too controversial and too risky.

In addition, insofar as MVHS is staffed by non-credentialed personnel and uses an approach that does not teach to state standards, the public education establishment has both the incentive and the ammunition to undermine support for such a program.

Seeing Like Bureaucrats

Learning to "see like a state" means learning to see like the politicians and bureaucrats who constitute the state. To achieve political success, it is crucial to appear to be a leader, on the one hand, and to avoid appearing to be responsible for highly publicized disasters, on the other. Both President George W. Bush, with No Child Left Behind, and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (D), with his reform program that required all charter school personnel to be licensed, were able to portray themselves as strong, assertive leaders in educational policy.

In the hunter/gatherer communities in which humans evolved, the decisive leader was the good leader. A politician who supports diverse experiments, especially in an area of such importance as education, is apt to appear weak.

Worse yet, if some of those educational experiments fail due to "inadequate" regulatory oversight, the media and the politician's opponents will blame the politician for allowing the failure to happen. Therefore it is much safer to support tightly regulated programs than to support diverse experimentation.

We are all constantly impressed by the world of technological innovation. Read Wired, Technology Review, Popular Science, or Popular Mechanics, or visit Sharper Image or Radio Shack, to be dazzled by the rate of technological change. But the road to the dynamism of the world of technology is paved with untold numbers of failed experiments, failed technicians, failed entrepreneurs, and failed companies.

Experimenting with Children

Critics of school choice sometimes indignantly claim that the public task of educating children is too important to be allowed to a chaotic marketplace in which schools operated by uncredentialed amateurs might fail. But without experimentation, great innovations will not come into being.

Because of the policies supported through the responsible leadership of Bush, Richardson, and the New Mexico Department of Education, MVHS is now on track to be a successful school in the eyes of the State of New Mexico.

The same parties are also responsible for ensuring that New Mexico will likely remain among the poorest and educationally lowest-achieving states in the nation during the coming decades.

Demanding Freedom

Freedom is a prerequisite for innovation in every field of human endeavor. Silicon Valley, "the greatest legal creation of wealth in human history," was created out of math, sand, and freedom. The Soviet Union had the best mathematicians on Earth and plenty of sand, but in the absence of freedom they were unable to produce innovative information technology. By the mid-1980s, any decent university in the United States had more computing power than the entire Soviet Union.

If we want to create the greatest development of human intellectual power in human history, we will have to allow for much greater educational freedom.

As long as we are led by "responsible political leaders," regardless of political party, who protect the public from educational malpractice, we will never have amazingly good schools. Until the public supports politicians in liberating education from state control, regardless of whether that means we'll have public schools, charter schools, vouchers, or tax credits, risk-averse politicians will be forced by the public to support "responsible" policies that prevent innovation and thereby ensure mediocrity.

Michael Strong ( is CEO and chief visionary officer of FLOW, Inc. (, a group working to achieve world peace, prosperity, happiness, and sustainability in 50 years.

For more information ...

The College Board's "Retaking the Test" report is available online at

19 South LaSalle Street #903
Chicago, IL 60603
phone 312/377-4000 · fax 312/377-5000

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Break teachers union

The following letter to the editor appeared in the Sun-Times.

Break teachers union

As a homeowner and as a person without a great pension plan, I am forced to pay higher taxes so that the teachers union can have $70 million added to their pension fund. When will our government have the guts to break this teachers union?

Tenure is an insult to anyone who works on merit. In every other occupation, people keep their jobs only if they do them well. Why are new, vibrant, teachers being laid off when tenured teachers can't be touched (some of whom should retire)? In this wonderful country that boasts democracy, we are harboring a socialistic school system. Pouring money into a broken system and not fixing the real problem is a waste of homeowners' money.

Jackie Granlund,
Lincoln Square

Parents and Students for Academic Freedom (K-12)

The following piece is taking in part from Parents and Students for Academic Freedom (K-12) website.



WHEREAS, Public primary and secondary education in the State of ___________ is an important and valued institution that fosters learning, culture, and economic vitality; and

WHEREAS, Providing students with a solid foundation in the language arts, mathematics, science, history, the humanities, and the social sciences to adequately equip students to learn to think critically, acquire an understanding of our shared national heritage and the richness and diversity of our culture, and prepare them to lead productive lives as informed and responsible citizens in our democratic republic is among the principal purposes of public primary and secondary education; and

WHEREAS, The academic freedom of instructors and the academic freedom of
students are essential and complementary elements of successful education; and

WHEREAS, Teachers and school administrators from the state’s public elementary schools, middle schools, junior and senior high schools have often expressed their commitment to valuing and respecting diversity; and

WHEREAS, A commitment to respect diversity in the educational context necessarily includes a respect for the diversity of intellectual, political, and religious viewpoints, and this commitment must remain strong; and

WHEREAS, A respect for intellectual, political, and religious diversity means that a student should never be penalized because of the opinions he or she holds that differ from a teacher's, and that all students should be made to feel comfortable in exercising their right to listen critically, to express and defend their views, and to challenge an instructor's opinions; and

To read the full JOINT SENATE RESOLUTION CONCERNING ACADEMIC FREEDOM IN PRIMARY AND SECONDARY EDUCATION go to the Parents and Students for Academic Freedom (K-12) website.