If you ever doubted the harmful effects of teachers unions on America’s public education system and the children who sit in its classrooms, doubt no more: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090622/ap_on_re_us/us_rubber_rooms
– New survey exposes school staff members’ lack of knowledge
A remarkable report of a recent survey of teachers and principals, “ON THE FRONT LINES OF SCHOOLS, Perspectives of Teachers and Principals on the High School Dropout Problem,” has just been released by Civic Enterprises. It shows that our school staffers have some very disturbing holes in their appreciation of the high school dropout situation.
For example, while it is a solid faith-belief among teachers that parents are a major part of the dropout problem, another Civic Enterprises report based on parent surveys, “One Dream, Two Realities: Perspectives of Parents on America’s High Schools,” shows, “Parents with less education, lower incomes and children in low-performing schools were the most likely to see a rigorous education, and their own involvement, as critical to their child’s success.” That parent survey report also says that lower income parents feel far less welcome in their child’s school. That unwelcoming attitude certainly would interfere with the ability of school staff to really understand what parents think and are trying to do.
Other comments in the new teacher and principal survey further support concerns about school staffer attitudes. The report found, “Less than one-third of teachers believe that schools should expect all students to meet high academic standards, graduate with the skills to do college-level work, and provide extra support to struggling students to help them meet those standards.” If you don’t expect kids to do well, they generally won’t.
The new survey also shows, “Significant majorities of both teachers and principals do not believe that students at risk for dropping out would respond to these high expectations and work harder.” I know some charter schools that would vehemently protest that incorrect belief. I just wrote about one earlier today.
More importantly, when Civic Enterprises discussed this issue with dropouts themselves, “Two-thirds of dropouts said they would have worked harder if more were demanded of them.” You have to wonder if the teachers ever effectively communicated with these kids.
There seems to be a lot of denial in the school community. Teachers and principals refuse to come to grips with the dimensions of the dropout crisis. Civic Enterprises reports, “Nearly half of teachers (48 percent) and more than half of principals (55 percent) reported their school’s graduation rates were 90 percent or higher. Only 23 percent of teachers and 20 percent of principals reported their school graduated less than 80 percent of their incoming freshman class.”
While there is plenty of controversy about what the real graduation rate is in the United States (largely thanks to educators doing a lousy and so far ineffective job of figuring out what the numbers actually are), the vast majority of researchers in this area point at US average rates no higher than 80 percent. If so, a very large proportion of our school staffers are either romantically in denial, or they purposely are hiding the sad facts from the rest of the country to cover their poor performance. Neither possibility is acceptable.
There is a lot more in the Civic Enterprises report, and anyone who really would like to see our dropout situation fixed, teachers included, needs to put their nose into these pages.
– Caught by Wall Street Journal
Per the Wall Street Journal, the union seriously misrepresented performance of students in the voucher program, which gives students a publicly financed money voucher that they can use to attend any school, either public or private.
The Journal quotes the union saying, “Over its five year span, the pilot program has yielded no evidence of positive impact on student achievement.”
The paper then points out that a recent study from the US Department of Education found, “Voucher students…are reading almost a half-grade level ahead of their peers,” and that the voucher program’s, “Earliest participants, … are 19 months ahead after three years.”
There seems to be a failure here, but it isn’t with vouchers, but rather with character and honesty. Either the Wall Street Journal is way out of line, or the largest teacher organization in the country is.
Sunday’s editorial in the Bowling Green Daily News didn’t pull any punches in describing the harmful effects of Kentucky’s prevailing-wage policy. It called the policy “a government enforced price fixing conspiracy” on public projects.
The editorial did a good job of addressing how Kentucky’s prevailing-wage policy is harmful to the commonwealth’s economy: “Rather than allowing the free market to deliver the best value, these laws require labor prices established at the prevailing (which is to say union) rate.”
Is anyone in Frankfort listening?
– but get results
The American Indian Public Charter Schools in Oakland are “Spitting in the eye of mainstream education” according to the Los Angeles Times.
The American Indian schools waste no time making the point that they are different, saying they, “…are looking for hard working people who believe in free market capitalism. . . . Multicultural specialists, ultra liberal zealots and college-tainted oppression liberators need not apply.”
That’s a slap in the face of most of the education philosophies we hear in Kentucky.
The only problem for Kentucky-style education philosophy is that the inner-city Indian Public Charter Schools (97 percent of students are disadvantaged) outscore almost all the rest of the schools in California on state tests. The middle school ranks fifth in the entire state of California on that state’s public school assessments.
There is a lot more, as well. According to American Indian’s School Accountability Report Card, Reported for School Year 2007-08 the school is doing an outstanding job academically on the California Standards Tests (CST). The school’s trend over the past three years is strongly positive, showing students perform far above California and Oakland District averages.
Except for African-Americans in History-Social Science and Latinos in English-Language Arts there are no significant gaps. And, even for those two groups and subjects, test scores are remarkably high.
Note that some groups of students are so small in number that their scores are not reported. The biggest standout is that this is strongly a school of color. About half the students are Asian, and the rest divide pretty evenly among Hispanics and African-Americans. Whites are virtually nonexistent here. However, because the Asians are high poverty, and they are balanced by the combined numbers of normally low-scoring Hispanics and African-Americans, the test results are most unexpected.
One last point: the school has no problem with discipline.
To learn more, and to see some of the remarkable, in-your-face philosophies in this school, check out its Web site here.
The Bluegrass Institute has been concerned for years about the fact that Kentucky’s public schools have consistently had among the nation’s most top heavy staff to teacher ratios of any state in the nation. We’ve pointed this out since our first publication of our “Ten Great Reasons for School Choice” flier.
Averaged across the United States and Washington DC, the ratio of teachers to total staff is 51.5 percent, meaning there are slightly more teachers than all staff combined. Here in Kentucky, however, the latest available data shows our teacher to total staff ratio is only 43.9 percent, way below the US average. That means staff significantly outnumber teachers in the Kentucky public school system.
Simply put, we have a lousy “tooth to tail” ratio. And, its teachers, not staff that research shows to be the most important factor in education. We even agree with the Prichard Committee on that one.
Now, thanks to tight funding, some of Kentucky’s excess fat is getting cut, at least in one school district. Oldham County Schools are doing a smart thing and evaluating low productivity staff positions and eliminating them.
Other school districts would do well to follow the Oldham County example. In these lean times when thousands of Kentuckians simply cannot afford the burden of more taxes, it behooves our schools to join the private sector to aggressively seek out and eliminate inefficiencies. And, as the graph above shows, a great place to start is to examine the top-heavy staffing found across all our school districts.