Today's news -- November 12, 2013




Poverty still lies at the root of the U.S. “education crisis”

Google the phrase “education crisis” and you'll be hit with a glut of articles, blog posts and think tank reports claiming the entire American school system is facing an emergency. Much of this agitprop additionally asserts that teachers unions are the primary cause of the alleged problem. Not surprisingly, the fabulists pushing these narratives are often backed by anti-public school conservatives and anti-union plutocrats. But a little-noticed study released recently provides yet more confirmation that neither the “education crisis” meme or the “evil teachers' union” narrative is accurate. Before looking at that study, consider some of the ways we already know that the dominant storyline about education is, indeed, baseless propaganda. As I've reported before, we know that American public school students from wealthy districts generate some of the best test scores in the world. This proves that the education system's problems are not universal–the crisis is isolated primarily in the parts of the system that operate in high poverty areas. It also proves that while the structure of the traditional public school system is hardly perfect, it is not the big problem in America’s K-12 education system. If it was the problem, then traditional public schools in rich neighborhoods would not perform as well as they do. Similarly, we know that many of the high-performing public schools in America's wealthy locales are unionized. We also know that one of the best school systems in the world -- Finland's -- is fully unionized. These facts prove that teachers' unions are not the root cause of the education problem, either. After all, if unions were the problem, then unionized public schools in wealthy areas and Finland would be failing. So what is the problem? That brings us to the new study from the Southern Education Foundation. Cross-referencing and education data, researchers found that that a majority of all public school students in one third of America's states now come from low-income families. How much does this have to do with educational outcomes? A lot. Social science research over the last few decades has shown that two thirds of student achievement is a product of out-of-school factors–and among the most powerful of those is economic status. That's hardly shocking: kids who experience destitution and all the problems that come with it have enough trouble just surviving, much less succeeding in school. All of this leads to an obvious conclusion: If America was serious about fixing the troubled parts of its education system, then we would be having a fundamentally different conversation.  We wouldn't be talking about budget austerity -- we would be talking about raising public revenues to fund special tutoring, child care, basic health programs and other so-called wrap-around services at low-income schools.  We wouldn't only be looking to make sure that schools in high-poverty districts finally receive the same amount of public money as schools in wealthy neighborhoods -- we would make sure high-poverty districts actually receive more funds than rich districts because combating poverty is such a resource-intensive endeavor. More broadly, we wouldn't be discussing cuts to social safety net programs -- we would instead be working to expand those programs and, further, to challenge both parties' anti-tax, anti-regulation, pro-austerity agenda that has increased poverty and economic inequality. In short, if we were serious about education, then our education discussion wouldn't be focused on demonizing teachers and coming up with radical schemes to undermine traditional public schools. It would instead be focused on mounting a new war on poverty and thus directly addressing the biggest education problem of all.


Reform of the reform


Why young kids are struggling with Common Core math


Common Core standards force Florida teachers to ditch “The Great Gatsby” and other classics


Florida teacher: "I was among those who reviewed the Common Core in 2009" (Interview with Mike Archer)


Truth, lies and standards


Test obsession is killing education


A teacher's take: Excessive testing, class sizes, salaries among key issues (by Patricia Farley Crutcher)


Can we reverse the wrong course on data and accountability?


The value added and growth score train wreck is here


Who questions the test questioners?


Santa Rosa teacher evaluation glitches shake confidence (Rhonda Chavers and Kathy Breakall quoted)


Public sparring over Palm Beach teacher salaries overshadows fight over job security (Lynn Cavall and John Ristow quoted)


Hernando teachers, district officials remain at odds over raise dollars from state (John Imhof quoted in the first link, Jo Ann Hartge in the second)


Orange administration rebuffed in appeal of ruling that favored union (Diana Moore quoted),0,


Lauderdale Lakes charter school latest in turmoil


Collier School Board votes to close troubled charter school


Palm Beach private school closes, after halt to voucher payments


Report: Complaints about McKeel Charter Schools' superintendent are valid


Charter school principal's letter angers parents


Ben Gamla charter schools take in millions in public funds as founder lives half a world away


Charter school rule changes raise local control issues, money concerns for school officials


Scott proposes 1.87 percent increase in per-pupil school spending


More Florida schools using online classes


Vouchers don’t do much for students

Ever since the Obama administration filed suit to freeze Louisiana’s school voucher program, high-ranking Republicans have pummeled the president for trapping poor kids in failing public schools. The entire House leadership sent a letter of protest. Majority Leader Eric Cantor blistered the president for denying poor kids “a way into a brighter future.” And Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal accused the president of “ripping low-income minority students out of good schools” that could “help them achieve their dreams.” But behind the outrage is an inconvenient truth: Taxpayers across the U.S. will soon be spending $1 billion a year to help families pay private school tuition -- and there’s little evidence that the investment yields academic gains. In Milwaukee, just 13 percent of voucher students scored proficient in math and 11 percent made the bar in reading this spring. That’s worse on both counts than students in the city’s public schools. In Cleveland, voucher students in most grades performed worse than their peers in public schools in math, though they did better in reading. In New Orleans, voucher students who struggle academically haven’t advanced to grade-level work any faster over the past two years than students in the public schools, many of which are rated D or F, state data show. And across Louisiana, many of the most popular private schools for voucher students posted miserable scores in math, reading, science and social studies this spring, with fewer than half their voucher students achieving even basic proficiency and fewer than 2 percent demonstrating mastery. Seven schools did so badly, state Superintendent John White barred them from accepting new voucher students -- though the state agreed to keep paying tuition for the more than 200 voucher students already enrolled, if they chose to stay. Nationwide, many schools participating in voucher programs infuse religion through their curriculum. Zack Kopplin, a student activist who favors rigorous science education, has found more than 300 voucher schools across the U.S. that teach the biblical story of creation as science; some also instruct children that the world is just several thousand years old and use textbooks describing the Loch Ness monster as a living dinosaur. Parents at one such school in Louisiana received a newsletter calling secular scientists “sinful men.”


Why I stopped writing recommendation letters for Teach for America


Activists say Jeb’s foundation a “dating service” for corporations seeking education dollars


James Madison Institute shills for corporations in education again, mentions FEA,0,7857153.story


Name-calling turns nasty in education world


Few as three test responses separate A from F Schools in Oklahoma., study says


Top picks to run Florida university system named


Proposal shoves more away from traditional pension


Detzner continues to push voter purge by a different name


Florida's history of suppressing blacks' votes


Rising seas threaten Florida’s future


Looting the pension funds


Some canceled insurance policies were “junk” targeted by law


When did America lose sight of the common good?


Awkward truth from a guilty rich guy


Texas voter ID law may disenfranchise a third of female voters


 0 user(s) rated this page
Login to leave a comment
No Comments yet