Tuesday, August 02, 2005

A simple solution

Amidst talk of salvaging the second called special session with a minimal teacher raise, funding of textbooks, and nothing else (and even that still has about a 50-50 chance), John Kelso writes a hillarious column, proposing a bold new solution to the (seemingly) intractable problem of school finance:

For sale: one state Capitol, seldom used

The solution to the school finance problem? It's a pretty simple tradeoff.

Sell the state Capitol to developers for downtown lofts, and make legislators conduct business in those horrible portable buildings the schoolkids get stuck with.

Leave it to the humor columnist to come up with the best solution yet.

Is there intelligent life in the White House?

Bush endorsed the teaching of "intelligent design" in a discussion with reporters on Monday. Of course, intelligent design is nothing but dressed-up creationism.

Sorry, folks. Evolution is a reality. The Earth was not created 6,000 years ago. I know it's hard to take. I suggest therapy.

A Right Wingnut's Dream Come True

Check out this gem from the Palm Beach Post:

Education is a commodity, a marketplace, an economy into itself, proponents of this new education say. Others add that a "bottom-line" paradigm shift only makes sense.

"Where consumers have more choice, providers have to compete, provide better services and lower costs," said David Salisbury, director of the Center for Educational Freedom at the libertarian CATO Institute. "It doesn't really matter what economic sector you're talking about. There isn't any reason education should be different."

No, it is different and it absolutely does matter what sector we're talking about. This is not about a consumerist choice like we're buying tomatoes here. We're talking about the educating a generation of children and teenagers. There is a huge different. You can't just speed up production and streamline operations when you have hundreds of kids with individual needs. Sorry Right Wingers -- it just ain't that simple.

And then check this out:

About 27,000 children use one of the state's three types of vouchers to attend private or religious schools. Parents whose children's public schools are labeled as failing are eligible. Any student with a disability or who is poor has the option of getting public or corporate money to attend a private school. Although the vouchers have been abused, the state legislature failed two years in a row to pass laws that would better monitor the programs.

That's great. I can see it now: Enron High. Thousands of schools with no oversight teaching whatever they want, whenever they want it: a Right Wingnut's dream.

Is this really what we want for the future of education?

Monday, August 01, 2005

A preview of coming attractions

As state accountability ratings rise to comply with NCLB, we're going to see a lot of press releases like this one from the Texas Education Agency. A sample:

Higher standards producemore Academically Unacceptable ratings

AUSTIN – The number of Academically Unacceptable schools, districts and charters rose this year as the state implemented tougher standards, but 27.3 percent of campuses and 14.5 percent of districts still managed to achieve an Exemplary or Recognized rating under the more rigorous system, the Texas Education Agency announced today.
The agency released ratings from the state’s standard and alternative accountability procedures for more than 1,200 school districts and charter operators and about 7,900 campuses.

The percentage of schools and districts receiving ratings of Academically Acceptable and Academically Unacceptable increased in 2005, while the percentage of those earning the top two ratings of Exemplary or Recognized fell.

Sixty-one districts – 19 regular school districts and 42 charter operators – received the state’s lowest rating of Academically Unacceptable today under either the standard or alternative accountability rating procedures. That compares to 24 – four regular school districts and 20 charter operators – that received this rating in

Among the state’s 7,908 schools, a total of 364 were rated Academically Unacceptable, up from 95 in 2004.

As the bar rises, so will the number of failing schools. Ironically for some school choice advocates who claim that more choices will improve education, many more charter schools failed than traditional schools:

Among traditional schools, 4.1 percent or 313 campuses received the low rating. Among the state’s charter school campuses, 17.2 percent or 51 campuses were rated Academically Unacceptable.

One out of every six charters was given the lowest rating compared to 1 out of 20 public schools. I'm not anti-school choice (though I am anti-privatization), but this certainly suggests that traditional public schools aren't doing as poorly as many would have us believe.

The Sun stood still...

The NYT ran a story on the very controversial Bible course being taught in over 50 districts in Texas. As you might imagine, the course is not merely for academic purposes:

But a growing chorus of critics says the course, taught by local teachers trained by the council, conceals a religious agenda. The critics say it ignores evolution in favor of creationism and gives credence to dubious assertions that the Constitution is based on the Scriptures, and that "documented research through NASA" backs the biblical account of the sun standing still.

I'd love to see the documented research from NASA; should be an interesting read, huh? I've got an idea-- why not just scrap science altogether? We could just ignore all scientific advancement and go back to living in a pretechnological society where the revealed Word of God is Absolute Truth.

There's nothing wrong with teaching about the Bible, but teachers and groups that take this on have to know that they will be watched very closely: The public schools are not an acceptable place to do missionary work.
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