What are the most costly myths and mistakes? How can you learn the truth about paying for college? Here’s a guide. Read more…
The list of things that will be more expensive in 2012 is a long one, and Iowans will find costs increasing for necessities like medical care and food.
Overall, consumer prices leveled in November, bringing some relief at the end of 2011 — a year in which the consumer price index grew 3.3 percent in the Midwest.
But Iowans should expect moderate price increases in 2012 for most things they buy, including electricity, medical care, college tuition and fuel. Utility companies are raising rates, and food prices will likely increase faster than they have historically. Even the cost of clothing will rise, because cotton is getting more expensive.
It adds up to another pocketbook squeeze for Iowans, whose incomes have dropped in 2008, 2009 and 2010, according to U.S. Census data. Read more…
As we get ready for the 93rd year of universal public education, here’s the question every parent and taxpayer needs to wrestle with: Are we going to applaud, push or even permit our schools (including most of the private ones) to continue the safe but ultimately doomed strategy of churning out predictable, testable and mediocre factory-workers?
Bingo. Of course, if you’ve read Transforming Education enough, this notion of the “factory” model of education should ring a bell.
The last time I checked, Godin’s blog post had gotten “liked” almost 8,000 times on Facebook and retweeted almost 1,500 times. It’s Godin, so no huge surprise there. But what’s important is that more thought leaders like Godin spread this idea around, because it’s a real issue affecting the futures of millions of students, parents, taxpayers, and teachers. Many are resistant to substantial, fundamental changes in education—that’s why people like Godin, who’ve built such large followings, are essential to the cause. Read more…
It’s rare to hear the word “education” from Tennessee’s leaders without “reform” coming after it.
Three years ago, the state began rewriting its curriculum and rethinking the way it dealt with educators. The resulting changes won Tennessee a half-billion-dollar federal grant to attempt to move students from among the lowest-achieving in the nation to the top of the pack.
The state is birthing charter schools at a brisk pace, from none seven years ago to 40 today and, some estimate, up to 20 per year moving forward.
Teachers will be judged routinely on their classroom performance and their students’ test scores. Individual districts are rolling out their own reforms, such as Williamson County’s invitation for students to bring their own technology and Metro Nashville’s dividing of high school students into specific areas of study called academies.
Across the nation and around the corner, there are more big ideas in education. And while it’s too early to say whether the state will adopt all these ideas, Tennessee has become known for testing the latest trends and doesn’t intend to back off, Gov. Bill Haslam said Friday. Read more…
Written By JOEL KLEIN
Like so many debates in America today, the fight over public education is as polarized as it is consequential. There appears to be a general sense of agreement that the results we are getting are woefully inadequate, especially given the demands that a high-tech, global economy will place on our future work force. Nevertheless, there’s a sharp disagreement over exactly what to do.
Spending more money is of course a perennial demand. Since 1970 America has more than doubled the real dollars spent on K-12 education. We have increased the number of teachers by more than a third, created legions of nonteaching staff, and raised salaries and benefits across the board. Yet fewer than 40% of the students who graduate from high school are ready for college. At the same time, students in other countries are moving ahead of us, scoring higher—often much higher—on international tests of reading, math and science skills.
The debate over education broadly divides into two groups. On one side are what might be called “traditionalists,” consisting largely of unions purporting to represent the interests of teachers. The members of this group argue that poverty is the great impediment to educational success and that we must lift people out of poverty if we are really to better educate our kids—and in the meantime we can’t expect schools to perform miracles. The traditionalists propose that we pay teachers more, hire more of them and spend more dollars on public education overall.
On the other side are what might be called “reformers” (some traditionalists refer to them as “deformers”). This group is made up largely of policy analysts skeptical of the status quo and young idealists, many of whom came to education through Teach for America, the nonprofit program that places talented college graduates in high-poverty, urban schools.
The reformers acknowledge that poverty is an impediment to educational success but argue that teaching itself can still have a big effect. They point to specific classroom achievements, as well as to various studies, to show that different schools and different teachers get very different results with essentially the same kids. Read more…
Masked demonstrators burned cars and barricades, looted storefronts and threw furniture at police in Santiago. Some attacked an apartment building, throwing rocks and breaking windows. Riot police used tear gas and tanks with water cannons to push them back.
By nightfall, at least 273 protesters were detained, including 73 in Santiago, and 23 police officers were injured, said Rodrigo Ubilla, a deputy interior minister.
Five days after a banned march ended in nearly 900 arrests, students and teachers marched peacefully in Santiago and elsewhere in Chile on Tuesday, calling for the government to increase spending on schooling and provide “free and equal” public education.
As in previous demonstrations, protesters danced, sang, wore costumes and waved signs. But then groups of masked protesters split off and tried to break through police barricades blocking the way to the presidential palace.
University of Chile student president Camila Vallejos said 150,000 marched on sidestreets in the capital because the government again denied them permission to march on the main avenue. Ubilla estimated that between 70,000 and 80,000 marched in Santiago. Read more…
By Fawn Johnson
Former District of Columbia School Chancellor Michelle Rhee was in town last week discussing one of her main complaints with the public school system–that it doesn’t use technology effectively. She described schools in the district that weren’t compatible with computers because their electrical outlets only accept two-pronged plugs. This drives her crazy because she believes technology is the great equalizer for disadvantaged students. Her crusade appears to be working, at least in some areas. TeachPaperless.com blogger Shelly Blake says many cash-strapped schools are pressing to make sure computers are in the classroom, although some wealthier schools are deciding not to connect. My own classroom visits in Phoenix–an area where 70 percent of kindergarten students don’t speak English and 95 percent qualify for free or reduced lunches–found young children successfully using computers in the classroom for the most basic of tasks: learning to read English and solving math problems. Read more…
By Morgan Smith and Ari Auber
Almost 55 percent of recent Texas public school students — a disproportionate number of them African-American or with learning disabilities — were suspended at least once between their seventh and 12th grade years, according to a statewide report released today.
The Council of State Governments Justice Center, in partnership with the Public Policy Research Institute of Texas A&M University, analyzed the individual school records of all Texas seventh grade public school students during the years 2000, 2001 and 2002. They tracked the records of nearly 1 million students for at least six years of their secondary school education.
“As much as I work in the field, I’m shocked by the numbers,” said state Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston and the chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice committee.
The 121-page report details how punishment at public schools might lead to later brushes with the law by linking the disciplinary history of each student who also had a juvenile record.
Among the findings: Minorities and special education students who caused “emotional disturbances” were more likely than white students to be disciplined. In fact, nearly three-fourths of students in special education classes were suspended or expelled at least one time; 83 percent of African-American male students ended up in trouble, in comparison to 74 percent for Hispanic male students and 59 percent for white male students. Among all students, suspensions averaged about two days per offense.
After being suspended or expelled in school, students were consequently more likely to repeat a grade or drop out than their more less-sanctioned counterparts. They were also more likely to have a run-in with the juvenile justice system.
Texas Supreme Court Justice Wallace Jefferson highlighted the link between school discipline and the juvenile justice system in his January State of the State address. In an emailed statement Monday, he said the report “adds important numbers to anecdotal evidence of needed reforms.” Read more…
I know that sounds like I’m channeling my inner Yogi Berra, but bear with me. A recent article by David Leonhart refuting claims that college is a waste of money has led to a further round of related posts (as you’ll see, I agree). But the reason the ‘college is a waste’ arguments have any traction is not due to what colleges are delivering, but what students (or their parents) pay to attend college. The price of college is becoming prohibitively expensive in light of an educational model–the real benefit–that really hasn’t changed much since the 1950s and 1960s. Before I get to the benefits, let’s consider the costs. Here’s what college, including all expenses, fees, and so on, cost in 1960:
The median household income in 1960 was $5620 (pdf). Housing was cheaper, thanks to suburban settlement policies. Scholarships, especially the GI Bill, could cover most or all of these costs. Importantly, the minimum wage was $1.00 and rose to $1.15 in 1961. That’s key: if we rescale the cost of college in terms of minimum wage hours, we notice something critical. Someone who worked after school and during the summer in high school, and, once in college, during the summer and maybe a few hours a week could pay for college–at least a state school–without incurring debt. With a median household income of $5620 (and half made more than this), many families could also help out too.
I don’t want to be overly pollyanish about this, but college was far more affordable than it is today (the only job for college students that could possibly pay the total cost of school by itself I can think of is ‘exotic dancer’). So the question then becomes what exactly is one affording? College has several key functions: Read more…
Initiative Creates an Ambitious Agenda for Public Higher Ed
There are many moving parts to the state Department of Higher Education’s Vision Project, but the bottom line is jobs, or, to be more precise, properly preparing individuals for the jobs that define a new, technology-centered economy. The Vision Project aligns all 29 public colleges and universities behind seven identified goals — from improving graduation rates to getting more people into math and science fields — and adds several layers of accountability.
Richard Freeland says there’s nothing new or particularly imaginative about the goals spelled out in the Mass. Department of Higher Education’s so-called Vision Project.
They range from improving graduation rates to increasing the numbers of people entering college; from eliminating historical disparities among racial and ethnic groups to encouraging more people to enter the math and science fields of study — and they’ve been goals for individual colleges and universities for decades.
What is new, said Freeland, the state’s commissioner of Higher Education, is a heightened sense of urgency attached to these goals, created by truly global competition and technology-focused jobs that increasingly demand a college education.
“Given where our economy is and given where our state is demographically, and given the competitiveness of the economic world, both nationally and internationally, we’re at a point in the history of Massachusetts where we need first-class public higher education,” he explained. “And I don’t think that, historically, public higher education has been the kind of priority that it needs to be today.”
And what’s imaginative is the Vision Project’s approach, a coordinated effort involving all 29 public colleges and universities that adds several layers of accountability.
“This is an attempt to pull together, against the background I’ve described, the coordinated efforts of all public high education,” Freeland explained. “We have a highly decentralized system that features a great deal of autonomy granted by statute to the colleges and local boards of trustees. That makes it extremely difficult for public higher education as an entity, as a statewide institution, to respond in a collective and focused fashion to statewide needs.
“There is a bit of a mismatch between the structure — the decentralized, desegregated, fragmented structure of public higher education — and the urgency of the concentrated focus on building a first-class system of public education,” he continued, adding that the Vision Project was created to align the 29 public campuses behind a short list of critically important goals.
To show how it will all work, Freeland talked about one of the items on that short list, the often-controversial matter of graduation rates.
“This is where the rubber meets the road,” he said of the need to see people who enroll through to commencement night. “When people talk about graduation rates, the answer, across the country, is that they’re not high enough; too many people are falling by the wayside.
To address the problem in the Bay State, a comprehensive, three-part program, developed as part of a national initiative known as Completing College America, has been implemented to move the needle in the right direction.
“The first part calls for every institution to have specific goals to improve student success,” he said, citing just one example of how the Vision Project operates. “When we surveyed our institutions, we found that that was not currently the case; while everyone’s working to do better, a number of our institutions had not formulated specific aspirational goals against national benchmarks to hold themselves accountable for forward motion.”
Ira Rubenzahl, president of Springfield Technical Community College, said he’s a strong proponent of the Vision Project, although, like others, he stressed that it will need a strong funding commitment from the Legislature to meet its goals, and he has concerns about whether that will materialize.
He stresses that the need for the initiative is real, and that while the initiative has a number of moving parts, at its core it is about one word: jobs, and, more specifically, adequately preparing people for the jobs of tomorrow — and today, for that matter.
“We recognize that some college is critical for young people to get jobs in this new economy, and it’s critical to grow this new economy,” he said. “All the elements — getting more students to attend college, getting more students to complete, getting students to be successful while they’re at college, eliminating disparities, and aligning with local businesses — have an economic lens to them.”
For this issue and its focus on education, BusinessWest takes an indepth look at the Vision Project, its goals, and the unique strategy mapped out for attaining them.
Schools of Thought
Freeland told BusinessWest that there are several reasons why Massachusetts has historically lagged when it comes to attention to and funding of public higher education. One has been the predominance of private institutions that attract students from across the state and around the globe.
“The success and sheer number of these schools have made it possible for state leaders at different kinds of institutions, as well as the general public, to believe that, because we have Harvard and MIT, not to mention all those other great places like my alma matter, Northeastern, we don’t necessarily have to invest in public higher education the way California does or Texas does or Ohio does,” said Freeland, who speaks with decades of experience working in the public higher realm, including a lengthy stint at UMass Boston. “But that perspective is way, way out of date.
“Over time, public higher education has grown increasingly important as an educator of young people in this state,” he continued. “When I started in 1970, the majority of high-school students were still going to private institutions for college, but today, two-thirds of the students who graduate from our high schools are going to public institutions if they pursue education in this state; we have become overwhelmingly a primary provider of higher education for the broad population of this state at a time when we’re not having a lot of in-migration, we’re not having any population growth, and we have a workforce that needs a large number of highly educated workers.”
All this adds up to what Freeland called a heightened sense of urgency that hasn’t existed before, and the need for a plan of action, or agenda, moving forward.
And thus, the Vision Project was conceived in late 2009, and officially adopted by the Board of High Education in May 2010. It completed its first full year of implementation on June 30, and the Legislature is earmaking several million dollars in the fiscal 2012 budget for the Department of Higher Education to provide incentive grants to individual colleges and universities to organize activities around the goals of the vision project.
In a nutshell, the initiative was launched with the recognition that the state is in fierce competition with other states and countries for talent, investment, and jobs, and that its primary assets in this competition are the overall education level of its people, its workforce, and the overall competence and creativity of individuals and organizational leaders driving the state’s knowledge-based economy.
“There is a heightened sense of urgency, because I do believe that Massachusetts needs the best-educated citizenry and workforce in the country, because that’s about all we’ve got in the competition among states,” he said. “And if we neglect public higher education, we’re simply not going to have that.”
The Vision Project is, in essence, the vehicle through which public higher education will remain focused on preparing individuals for this economy — and holding itself accountable for results.
Several key outcomes have been identified, said Freeland, noting that, for the state to thrive in this highly competitive environment, it must achieve national leadership in several realms, including:
• College participation, or the college-going rates of high school graduates;
• College completion, or graduation and success rates of the students enrolled;
• Student learning, academic achievements by students on campus-level and national assessments of learning;
• Workforce alignment, or alignment of degree programs with the key areas of workforce need in the state’s economy; and
• Elimination of disparities, meaning achievement of comparable outcomes among different ethnic/racial, economic, and gender groups.
Meanwhile, the University of Massachusetts must claim national leadership in research activity related to economic development, and economic activity derived from research.
As it went about creating the Vision Project, the Commonwealth’s public higher-education community considered what other states are doing well in this regard, said Freeland, adding quickly that the state’s highly de-centralized system makes it difficult to replicate what other systems are doing. Meanwhile, the state’s track record with public higher education and a lingering lack of urgency in some camps makes it hard just to put such an agenda in place.
“You don’t have to make much of an argument in Ohio that public higher education is critical to a state that has been losing altitude as the Rust Belt has declined,” he explained. “There, public higher education is understood to be the name of the game, and Ohio State is the Harvard of that region. But you do have to make that case in Massachusetts much more strongly.”
As he talked about specific goals within the Vision Project, Freeland said there is a universal aspiration for each — that phrase “national leadership.”
This is inherently a subjective phrase, he said, but not in the case of such matters as graduation rates and diversity, where there are hard numbers to compare and contrast performance. It is one of the underlying missions of the project to create meaningful measures for the specific goals, and then to score high in each category.
Returning to the subject of graduation rates, he said the numbers used are broad and often misleading.
“The best metric for measuring student success and graduation rates, particularly at community colleges, is a vexed question,” he said. “The rate that is often cited as the national standard [about 25%] is based on whether or not students who begin as full-time students graduate in three years, which is a very small percentage of the students who actually attend our community colleges.
“So we are working to develop a much more useful metric,” he continued, “which would measure such things as how successful we are in graduating part-time students, how successful we are in graduating people who transfer in from someplace else, and how successful we are transferring students who start at community colleges and transfer on before completing a degree.”
And while graduation rates are certainly one strong focus of attention, there are several other goals within the Vision Project that are key to achieving that overarching goal of making the Commonwealth more competitive on the global stage, said Freeland.
And with that he referenced an acronym, and statewide initiative, that is gaining visibility and attention across the state: STEM. That stands for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, and increasing the numbers of students enrolled in these fields — and then graduating them from those programs — are top priorities, said Freeland.
“Far too few young Americans are pursuing academic studies and scientific and technologically oriented careers, and far too few are coming out of our colleges with appropriate skills to drive an innovation-oriented economy,” Freeland told BusinessWest. “This has been a major focus in the business community as well as the education community.”
Local programs have been created to help spawn interest in the STEM fields, he said, listing everything from field trips to manufacturing plants to scientists coming into the classrooms to talk about careers, a “traveling road show,” as he called it, designed to inform and even entertain students.
One of the Vision Project’s goals is to build on these programs aimed at energizing students about STEM and graduating more students in those fields. “We get a good number of people coming out of high school who say they want to major in STEM fields, and start out in them,” he said, “but the dropout rate is very high.”
And the so-called ‘persistence rate’ is comparatively low, he continued, adding that this gauges how many students stay in the field of study they’ve chosen. Work to move those numbers higher is still another matter that the Vision Project will measure — and inject accountability.
The goal with all the initiatives is to prepare individuals for the job market they will face and create a workforce that will enable the state to compete for companies and jobs, said Rubenzahl, who echoed Freeland when he said the landscape has changed in nearly all aspects of business, and public higher education now has a larger role than ever in helping to create a pipeline of qualified workers.
He cited manufacturing and related fields such as biotech as examples of how things have changed, and how the role of public higher education has been broadened.
“We had some pretty good-paying jobs in various industries — originally it was textiles — that left,” he said. “And for many of those jobs, you didn’t need a college education. However, for many of the industries that stayed here or grew up here, you need much more education.
“The economy has changed, and public higher ed has a much larger role than it had before,” he continued. “Let’s face it, Harvard and MIT are not going to train highly skilled factory workers who can run these CNC machines or production workers in these biotech plants. They have a role, but we think we have a greater role as well.”
The Bottom Line
Summing up the Vision Project, Freeland said it is a comprehensive — and very visible — attempt to take public high education to a new level of excellence, responsiveness, and accountability.
“The campuses believe in these things … this isn’t about persuading schools to do things they don’t want to do,” he explained. “It is about taking it to a higher level of focus and having a higher level of aspiration and holding ourselves accountable.”
And it’s a long-term initiative, one that will play itself out over the next several years, involving perhaps many different gubernatorial administrations and college presidents. But he believes the program will stay on track, mostly because it has to if the state is going to thrive in this truly global arena.
“It’s easy for institutions to run out of gas addressing these very tough problems,” Freeland said. “You can bank on the fact that I’m not going to be here forever and Gov. Patrick isn’t going to be here forever, but these issues are going to be here forever.
“These are not issues for one day or one week,” he continued. “But once we get focus on them and get some momentum behind them, the gravitational force of statewide need will keep us focused. But it’s not going to be easy.”
George O’Brien can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
A protest demanding educational reforms turns violent in the Chilean capital Santiago.
POLICE have fired tear gas and water cannon on demonstrators in the Chilean capital of Santiago and arrested 13 during the biggest protest in two months of action demanding educational reforms.
Organisers estimated a crowd of about 200,000 people participated in the demonstration, while local media gave an estimate of 100,000. Read more…
What are the most costly myths and mistakes? How can you learn the truth about paying for college? Here’s a guide. Read more…
By Tiffany Teasley
The proposal was defeated by northern industrialists and southern planters who feared schools would deprive them of their cheapest form of labor—children and slaves. The Constitution made no mention of education and thus left the question to the states. The latter, in turn, largely left education to parents, who perpetuated the colonial system of either educating children themselves or, if they could afford to, sending them to local, church-run “common schools.” The landed gentry sent their children to independent private schools, also usually under the direction of churchmen. The only active state control over education was through the issuance of charters of incorporation, which determined a school’s right to operate. Read more…
A college degree is arguably worth more than ever in this still-recovering economy. In Michigan, so is its price.
The state’s public colleges and universities are setting tuition for the fall, and almost all are raising those costs by nearly 7 percent. That figure is just enough to soak students (and parents) to the maximum while avoiding the penalty of added cuts in state aid.
The effect has been punishing. Michigan State University students will pay more than $20,000 a year for tuition, fees and room and board for the first time as of this fall. Tuition at the University of Michigan-Flint climbed by an eye-popping 141 percent since 2000, The Flint Journal pointed out. Read more…
Story by CHRISTINE CULLEN and TOM RISEN
The seniors and parents of seniors who graduated from high school this year are coming to terms with the harsh realities of this new economy and are doing whatever they can to keep the costs of higher education manageable.
With an exceptionally soft job market, parents and students realize that it pays to save, rather than to become encumbered with student loans that could take decades to repay. That cost-versus-reward issue is the primary reason a Pew Research Center study shows that far fewer people today believe that a college education is worth the price. Of the people surveyed, 57 percent said college and trade schools do not offer good value for the money. Only 22 percent believed most Americans could afford college in this economy.
Yet, interest in college among Worcester County public school graduates is up slightly since 2008. Board of education statistics show that 81 percent of the county’s 526 graduates in 2010 continued as compared to 82 percent of the 496 graduates in 2009 and 79 percent of 550 graduates in 2008. One reason for this stable level of interest could be that parents and students are doing what they have to do to make it all work.
Approximately 84 percent of Stephen Decatur High School’s graduating class of 2011 is going on to some kind of post-high school study, according to Kay Russo, a guidance secretary who handles scholarships and works on student’s college applications.
“A big thing is when choosing a college, make sure that is a college they will realistically afford,” Russo said. “We try to tell these kids not to get themselves in so much debt that they wont be able to dig themselves out of it.”
Russo “constantly encourages students to complete scholarships,” based on everything from athletic ability to financial need. There are also hundreds of community-based scholarships available to those students who take the time to find them and apply.
Rachel Slotter just graduated from Decatur and will be attending Salisbury University in the fall to study business and biology. With only one parent to help support her financially, Slotter earned as many scholarships as possible. “I didn’t want to dump all the cost on my mom,” she said. “It was important to my family that I help out and do what I could to help pay for college.” Read more…
There is little doubt in my mind, after over forty years in the education business, that when the History of American Public Education is written for the last six or so decades that eventually “the story” will be how progressive education jumped the track and really messed up our schools. And the single worst sin of progressive education is the idea that all kids should perform equally well. Read more…
Our household is still talking basketball, even though our Coastal Carolina season is long over and the last game of the NBA season has been played. Our discussion is as usual consumed with statistics – numbers of rebounds per minute, free throw percentages, three point scores per season, etc. These numbers are important to anyone who is a fan of basketball, but they are especially important to someone whose livelihood depends on the achievements measured by those numbers.
Cliff and I have discovered that there are some other numbers that are even more significant to our lives. For instance, 90 percent of a child’s mental and emotional and social development is determined by the time that she is 4 years old. If a child reads on grade level by the time he is in the third grade, he is 85 percent more likely to graduate from high school. Research demonstrates that for every dollar invested in quality early childcare and education, society gets a return of from $8 to $16 in reduced costs of dependency and increased productivity. Much of this return on investment is long term, but there are many returns on that investment that are more immediate. Children who go to school prepared to succeed are less likely to repeat a grade at a cost of over $9,000 per year and are less likely to be placed in special education classes that are more expensive to manage and staff than regular education classes. Read more…
By Abbey Doyle
Bright-eyed and energetic, the 10 students lined up on the steps at Anderson Elementary all say, without a doubt, they will graduate from high school. The children — hopefuls in the classes of 2021, 2022 and 2023 — have aspirations of becoming teachers, police officers or basketball players.
But if Anderson Community Schools’ graduation rate doesn’t change, averages suggest six of them will never walk across that stage. Six won’t toss their caps in the air. And six will likely suffer insurmountable setbacks in the pursuit of their goals.
Less than four of 10 eligible black male students graduated from Anderson Community Schools in 2010. Not only is the system’s graduation rate for black males 21 percentage points lower than it is for students overall, it is the lowest in the state for traditional public schools. Read more…
By Michael Wotorson
Jobs are top of mind for most Americans, not only those needing work to help their families make ends meet, but also politicians who hope to keep their jobs on Election Day 2012. As many of us ask, “Where are the jobs?” an equally important question is, “Where are the workers?”
Business leaders who have asked that question don’t like the answer. According to recent data from The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, by 2018, our economy will fall 3 million employees short of the 22 million college-educated workers it needs to thrive. The bottom line is that millions of high school students who should be acquiring the education and skills that will enable them to lead the 21st century global economy are being shortchanged by America’s public school system. Members of Congress have the opportunity to reverse that trend, and if they don’t take action, our nation’s future is in serious jeopardy. Read more…
The measure also allows the education commissioner to consider budget cuts in allowing larger class sizes in some schools. The bill now goes back to the Senate to consider amendments added by the House on Thursday.
Lawmakers have slashed public school spending in order to balance the state budget without raising taxes or spending the Rainy Day Fund. The proposed law is designed to help school districts adjust to lower per-student funding.
Opponents claim that it allows school districts to mistreat teachers. Supporters say the measure is necessary under the current economic situation and will expire when school funding returns to 2010-2011 levels. Read more…
Written by Tiffany Owens
American public schools are still on the hot plate.
On a state-level, school administrators are scrambling to save budgets.
At least 21 states have proposed cutting spending on K-12 education for the 2011-12 fiscal year. A 2010 national survey of school administrators found that nearly half laid off employees last year and two-thirds anticipate doing so this year.
In Texas, lawmakers want to reduce public school funding by almost $4 billion from what schools would receive under the current distribution laws. Analysts say almost 50,000 of Texas’ 333,000 public school teachers could lose their jobs. Read more…
By Morgan Smith
Expect the Texas House to revisit old battles over school finance — and open a new one, for the lower chamber at least, over pre-kindergarten accountability — when it takes up Senate Bill 1 (today) on the floor.
Among the swarm of amendments offered to the fiscal matters bill will be several aiming to modify key elements of the state’s plan to distribute $4 billion in cuts across public schools — significantly one that eliminates the across-the-board reductions districts face in the first year of the biennium and replaces it with the sliding scale of the second, and one that keeps the state guarantee to repay districts in the next biennium when it comes up short. The architect of the House’s approach thus far, Public Education Committee Chairman Rep. Rob Eissler, R-The Woodlands, told the Tribune Wednesday that he would oppose any changes to the compromise plan agreed to between the House and Senate.
Most of the attention will be on school finance, but an amendment from Rep. Mark Shelton, R-Fort Worth, that would require the Texas Education Agency to develop accountability standards for pre-K programs will likely generate some heat, pitting House members’ regard for efficiency against their disdain for bureaucracy. Read more…
Phil G. Busey Sr. Special to The Sun
EDMOND — Education is in crisis. Outdated educational methods and systems are failing. We simply do not produce the quality students needed for America’s future success. We talk a good game but statistics show otherwise. We wrestle with dismal teacher pay and low per pupil expenditures. However, these are only symptoms of a bigger problem requiring deep reforms to overhaul an ailing system. We dare scratch the surface but shy away from difficult changes making Oklahoma a first-class education state.
Nationally we are behind other countries graduating technically skilled students for the global economy. Sadly, 40 percent of our college graduates do not use their degrees. There is a disconnect between education and business. Refocusing our priorities and risking re-investing in rebuilding a new infrastructure and model for public education is a must. We expect excellence across the board from sports to entertainment. We have to put the same expectations upon education. Read more…
Summit Preparatory High School, Redwood City CA, is a very good school, one of the best I’ve visited. You may recall seeing it featured in Superman. Quality is a result of vision and sustained commitment over a decade. The level of coherence—the degree to which every aspect of the school works together for students and teachers—is very high.
Some key aspects that appear to be well designed and aligned:
2) a long day and year with two intersessions
3) advisory curriculum and structure that prepares every student for college
40 days of high quality professional development
4) career lattice and differentiated compensation system Read more…
By Morgan Smith
Updated, 10:53 a.m.: Rep. Eissler has said he will file mandate relief legislation, but that it won’t target the class-size ratio as HB 400 did.
The biggest victory for teachers’ associations was the defeat of legislation allowing school districts to furlough teachers, reduce salaries and increase class sizes. Now, with a special session under way, all of that is back on the table — and state Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, has already filed a so-called “mandate relief” bill. Read more…
Sometimes it takes a budget crisis like the one virtually all states are facing to spawn a great idea. As the Texas legislative session nears its close, Representative Sid Miller (R-Stephenville) has introduced just such an idea: taxpayer savings grants. As is the case in every state, a huge proportion of Texas’s budget is spent on public schools. Now Texas has an opportunity to shore up its state budget while improving the quality of education for its children. The remaining four days in the state’s biennial legislative session will determine whether Texas is ready to demonstrate the kind of bold national leadership it prides itself on. Read more…
AUSTIN — Texas lawmakers on Saturday approved a revenue bill crucial to passing a two-year state budget.
The bill would save the state at least $2.5 billion, of which between $1.8 billion and $2.3 billion would be from delaying the state’s August payment to school districts by one month.
Among the amendments tacked on to the bill was one that bans indoor smoking in public places throughout the state, with exemptions for certain places such as tobacco shops, bingo and pool halls and VFW posts. Read more…
By Mike Green
Each year, many of the 15 million students enrolled in public secondary schools ask the same question: What’s the point of staying in school if the choices are a minimum-wage job upon graduation or a minimum-wage job now?
These students have astutely recognized a pitiful paradigm for far too many students enrolled in public education institutions.
“Education is the key to success,” proclaims the marketing of myriad organizations, companies and institutions. Yet, even high school dropouts are smart enough to read between the lines. If “education” is the key to success, then thousands of public schools are not educating students, as many of them graduate with worthless diplomas and a marketing mantra that dissipates along with the music from Pomp and Circumstance. Read more…
“I’m going to move my desk up to the front mic,” Mr. Eissler said, “so I can watch every bill that goes by.”
After failing on three separate occasions to pass his signature education bill for the session and running out of time on a fourth, the Republican from The Woodlands was describing his plan to attach the legislation as an amendment to other bills that are still working their way through the House.
The widely liked, pun-spinning Mr. Eissler has led the House Public Education Committee since 2007, and this session he has a Republican supermajority to back him. Yet even with 66 co-sponsors, he stumbled with the bill bundling several measures to relieve school district mandates required by the state — including removing the 22-to-1 student-to-teacher ratio in kindergarten through fourth grade, minimum salary requirements for teachers and contractual obligations dealing with layoffs. Read more…
Teachers, principals, district administrators, local school board members, legislators and parents are invited to attend the 2011 Equity in Action Conference June 10 to 11 at the University of Utah. The conference focuses on the policies, practices and programs necessary to create equitable and excellent schools. It will address ways to reduce and eventually eliminate achievement gaps through establishing systemic equity. Read more…
One letter separates democracy from mediocracy: I.
Our greatest leaders remind us of this from time to time. They have phrased this notion simply and eloquently: “Ask not what your country can do for you,” “Yes we can,” “Let us strive on to finish the work that we are in.” Yet their voices do not echo through the halls of the most important places they should be heard: our public schools. And I’m not talking about kindergartners who scream “MINE!” before they learn how to share.
I’m talking about the grown-ups.
I’m talking about adults blinded by their I’s. I’m talking about teachers who watch the clock in their own classrooms, principals who never leave their offices, district leaders who impose strict regimes on their educators, parents who quibble over their children’s grades and community members who think that living across the street from a great school is an inconvenience. At a school board meeting about the construction of a new high school, I actually witnessed one concerned citizen express that last sentiment, something to the effect of “What are we supposed to do with the burden of this school in our neighborhood?” Read more…
Science in Texas public schools would take a shocking leap backward if the State Board of Education approves newly proposed instructional materials that promote creationism and reject established, mainstream science on evolution, spokespeople for the Texas Freedom Network (TFN) and the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) said today. In addition, public schools using those creationism-based materials could face expensive legal challenges even as they struggle with massive budget cuts at state and local levels.
Mopati Morake will graduate shortly from Williams College. He was born in Botswana but finished high school in Hong Kong. He has attended schools on three continents, and Justin Snider, writing for the Hechinger Report, thought that sort of wide experience might have given Morake a distinctive perspective on educational matters.
By Morgan Smith of Texas Tribune
It did not, he said, lower testing standards. Nor did it delay the planned 2011-12 rollout of the state’s more rigorous STAAR exams.
Eissler was setting out to correct what he called the “misrepresentations” and “false claims” surrounding the bill, which, despite its overwhelming support in the House — more than two-thirds of his colleagues signed on to it, and only five voted against it — has generated vocal opposition from some within education circles who view it as a dramatic retreat from hard-won reforms.
The bill also reveals a divergence between the Legislature’s two public education chiefs — Eissler, who heads the House Public Education Committee, and his counterpart in the upper chamber, Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano — on how the state should hold students and educators accountable.
Shapiro staunchly supports moving forward with the testing standards in HB 3, the 2009 legislation that set up the transition to the new STAAR exams from the state’s current TAKS subject area tests .
“It’s a shame that it’s happened at the very same time that we are having problems with the budget,” Shapiro said, “but that doesn’t change the idea that this is the direction we should be going.”
Worried about how operating with fewer teachers will affect classroom instruction and whether they will be able to afford updated textbooks, districts have pushed to delay the new exams.
HB 500 makes significant modifications to HB 3, with the goals of reducing costs and easing districts’ concerns that the new testing regimen could lead to large numbers of students failing to graduate. Instead of the end-of-course STAAR exams counting 15 percent of a student’s final grade, HB 500 permits school districts to set their own policies. It also would allow districts to suspend a new requirement that students receive a cumulative score on 12 exams in four subject areas to graduate; instead, students would have to pass a total of four exams, one in each subject.
Business groups — including the Texas Association of Business, the Texas Coalition for a Competitive Workforce and the Austin Chamber of Commerce — oppose the measure because they believe it represents a step back for student accountability.
Drew Scheberle, a senior vice president at the Austin Chamber, said HB 500 “represents the first time in 25 years that we would actually reduce the expectations for graduation.”
To some extent, the divide between Eissler and Shapiro is a rehashing of an old battle between the House and Senate on student testing.
“This is basically a fight we had two years ago in conference committee, when the Senate wanted the standards as they are on the books today, and the House wanted relaxed graduation standards,” said Andrew C. Erben, president of the Texas Institute for Education Reform, which opposes Eissler’s bill.
The House more than the Senate has traditionally aligned with school districts on student accountability, Mr. Scheberle said. “The House has not always been the strongest on this issue,” he said. “It has usually been the Senate.”
Now, lawmakers in the House are looking for ways to soften the blow of their stark budget, which allocates about $4 billion less to public education than the Senate. “The House is dealing in a very different arena than the Senate is dealing,” Shapiro said. “If I was in their shoes and didn’t have money for textbooks, I didn’t have any money to keep our teachers or to keep our schools whole, I would be looking for ways to lessen the pressure, too.”
Eissler told his colleagues that his bill represented the “middle ground” between those who want a delay of the STAAR tests and those who want to hold firm. On Friday, he acknowledged he had “some missionary work” to do in the Senate.
“It’s not like there’s a difference in philosophy,” he said. “It’s a difference in application. Florence Shapiro and I agree that we need to have rigor, relevance, and responsibility or strong accountability, but how that translates to day-to-day operation in the school district is what made H.B. 500.”
Whether Texas schools end up with $4 billion or $10 billion less in state funding by the end of the 82nd legislative session, lawmakers face historic choices in deciding what course public education will take.
Tribune readers, wondering what was personally at stake for the state’s education policy makers, asked us to check where lawmakers send their children to school. We obhttp://timesoftexas.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post-new.phpliged, and posed that question to all 181 members of the Legislature and 15 members of the State Board of Education.
The results? Overwhelmingly, about 75 percent of their children attend, or have attended, public schools.