Monday, July 20, 2009

States Open to Education Reform See Stimulus Money

Attention states: Allow for education reforms, and you will see stimulus dollars. Expanding charter school options and allowing for merit pay are two ways the stimulus dollars will make way into states. Many states have changed laws in order to make this an option. By allowing merit pay, lifting caps on charter schools, or overhaul troubled schools; certain states will reap the benefits. Now...when will Missouri do this???

From the Wall Street Journal:
Mr. Duncan has warned states in recent months that they are unlikely to qualify for the grants if they don't move toward changes such as merit pay for teachers and lifting caps on charter schools -- measures that unions have either opposed or tried to limit.

"We have been talking about these gaps for years while children wait," Gov. Patrick said Thursday....

Teachers are starting to adjust to the new landscape. They are "both feeling the pressure and willing to think about doing new things," said Jane Hannaway, director of education policy at the Urban Institute, a left-leaning research group. "It's a new world."

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Race to the Top

As Arne Duncan came out saying states need to be more charter friendly to get access to some stimulus money, states have been getting their act together. Perhaps Missouri will see the light too!

– Illinois. On Tuesday, April 14th, Duncan kicked off his nationwide “listening tour” in Chicago, saying “business as usual, to be clear, would basically eliminate Illinois from [Race the Top] competition” and citing funding inequity, a limit on the number of charter schools, and marginal efforts to police teacher quality as the biggest areas in need of change. In the wee of hours of June 1st, the Illinois state legislature answered Duncan’s call and ended its session by approving 45 new charter schools for Chicago, 5 of which would reserved for high school dropouts, and an additional 15 charter schools for the rest of the state. As a result, about 13,000 students now on charter school waiting lists or in otherwise low-performing schools will be enrolled in high-quality charters subject to stricter accountability requirements than other Illinois schools.

– Colorado. Gov. Bill Ritter took the unusual step of appointing Lt. Gov. Barbara O’Brien (a member of the DFER-Colorado advisory board) to serve as “Race To The Top Czar,” to make sure the state was positioned with enough progressive education policies to win the race outright.

– Tennessee. In late May, Duncan said Tennessee would “not be helping its chances” for Race to the Top funds if it continued arbitrary caps limiting the growth of charter schools. This set off a chain of events in which the state legislature held a special session and Democrats were freed to reverse their positions against charter school expansion from their leadership (and given a pass from the Tennessee Education Association), culminating in approval of charter school expansions in six school systems on a lopsided vote of 79-15.

– Rhode Island. On Monday, June 22 at a conference attended by thousands of charter school parents, teachers, and Administrators, Duncan said, in response to a question from the audience, that Rhode Island risked eligibility for Race to the Top funding if it continued to roadblock efforts to establish and equitably fund charter schools. On Friday June 26, just after 2 a.m. the Rhode Island legislature approved a final budget deal that fully restored funding for a system of “mayoral academies” that will serve students attending some of the lowest-performing schools in Providence. The first school, set to open this Fall, will be run by Democracy Prep, a Harlem charter operator. The lottery for slots will be held the first week of July.

– Connecticut. Duncan’s comments regarding Rhode Island rippled out to Connecticut, when on June 26, virtually simultaneous with Rhode Island’s action, Connecticut reversed its decision to cut charter school budgets, and moved toward an agreement that would fully restore charter school funding.

The victory was hailed not only by charter school advocates, but also by those who are working on behalf of statewide school reform efforts, like Alex Johnston, Chief Executive Officer of the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now (ConnCAN): “The education reform movement in Connecticut is gratified that this budget averts the tragedy of half-completed public charter schools so that they can continue their work to close Connecticut’s largest-in-the-nation achievement gap.”

– Massachusetts. On Monday, June 29, Massachusetts Secretary of Education Paul Reville announced that Gov. Deval Patrick will soon introduce legislation to lift the cap on charter schools in school districts in the lowest 10 percent on performance exams. Earlier this year Patrick said he was opposed to lifting the cap on the number of charter schools – proposing instead to increase spending on them in the lowest-performing districts.

– Louisiana. On Thursday, June 25, on the last day of Louisiana’s legislative session, Rep. Walt Leger III, a New Orleans Democrat, introduced legislation lifting the cap on charter schools. The state Education Department’s press release indicated that states that lift caps on charter schools will be viewed more favorably by the federal government in the Race To The Top.

– Indiana. The new state budget approved by the Legislature this week lifted the cap on charter schools and allows student performance to be used in teacher evaluations. Duncan had warned Indiana legislators that a failure to remove obstacles to reform, like charter caps, would jeopardize the state’s standing in the contest. These are encouraging developments.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Cartel, the Movie

A new movie to be released soon demonstrates the many failures of the public education system in the U.S. "Cartel: A Feature Documentary on How American Public Education Serves Its Employees, Not Its Children" shows how the American public schools have been growing worse and worse.
"According to the U.S. Department of Education national testing, only 35% of American high school seniors are proficient in reading. And fewer than one-in-four, 23%, are proficient in math. On the global stage, America ranks last in educational effectiveness among large industrialized countries despite the highest spending per student in the world."
Check out to watch the trailer and read the many other destructing yet motivating facts about the US public school system.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Op-Ed: Need Education Reform to Move Missouri Forward

In today's Springfield News Leader, Joe Knodell, a retired superintendent and a consultant for the Missouri Education Reform Roundtable Foundation, spells out the need for education reform and gives praise to the big steps taken in this past legislative session. He feels the 2009 session will hopefully be the beginning of education reform ideas to become reality. Missouri falls behind the other states in several educational testing areas, and this evidence may be the reason legislators are finally trying to change.

The best indicator that the legislature is ready to act was the passage in the last session of Senate Bill 291. Among other things, the bill calls for a study on open enrollment by the Joint Committee on Education. SB 291 also included measures involving charter schools, teaching standards, transparency, virtual schools and a parents' bill of rights . All should move us in the right direction.

Sen. Rob Mayer of Dexter introduced a bill on open enrollment that received a considerable amount of support in the Senate. But senators decided to study the matter first and reconsider the matter next year. Sen. Mayer, who is chairman of the Senate Education Committee, should be commended for his forward thinking.

We live in a world where kids know more about technology than most adults and many teachers. We cannot continue to educate children the way we were educated years ago. We must use the technology that is available and encourage talented people to become teachers. A well- educated work force is the key to prosperity. Kudos to our legislators who grasp this fact.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Charter School Students in MO Doing Better than Others

A recent report done by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Standford University found that Missouri charter schools are, on average, doing better than their peers at traditional public schools. From this national study, only 5 states show higher learning gains for charter school students, and Missouri is one of them.
Missouri charter schools are doing well and the children there are outperforming other students, yet we still only have charter schools in St. Louis and Kansas City. It is reports like these that should force these restrictions to be lifted and allow charter schools to go state wide.
This results are posted in the Kansas City Star.

“The results in the CREDO report are clearly encouraging for Missouri charters, though there are areas for improvement,” said Aaron North, executive director of the Missouri Charter Public School Association.

“Charter schools are not an experiment or a passing trend. They educate 31 percent of all public school students in Kansas City and 26 percent in St. Louis.”

Charter schools are helping thousands of children throughout Missouri get a better education, what would happen if thousands more could???

Friday, June 12, 2009

Milwaukee School Choice Program Under Attack!

School choice gives parents and children the right to chose where they attend school. With so many failing public schools, it gives thousands of children a chance. In some cases, the public school may not be failing, but is not the right fit for that child. Children from more successful families may have the luxury of attending a private school. Sadly, not all children can afford the top of the line luxury schools. In Milwaukee, a hugely successful voucher program has granted thousands of lower income families rights to chose their schools. Unfortunately, now they want to cut the number of students that can have a choice. Where is the sense in that? A successful program where the kids are achieving an excellent education, laying the groundwork for the rest of their lives, and the state might decrease the children they allow to use it? It is not more expensive for a child to attend another school...the money follows the child, money that would have been at one school or another. Why would someone want to take this opportunity away from children???

Chicago Tribune: Milwaukee school choice numbers may drop

MADISON, Wis. - Assembly Democrats want to lower by 3,000 the number of students who can participate in the Milwaukee school choice program.

Democrats voted Thursday night in a closed door meeting to lower the cap on the program from 22,500 to 19,500 over the next two years. The current lid was agreed to in 2006 by Gov. Jim Doyle and Republican lawmakers.

But now Democrats, many of whom want to do away with the program, are in control of the Assembly.

Under school choice, students from low-income families can attend private schools at state expense.

The enrollment change was added to the state budget that will be debated by the Assembly on Friday. It must also pass the Senate and be signed by Doyle to become law.

Friday, May 22, 2009

School Choice Movement Faces Strong Opposition

The school choice movement is running into new obstacles, despite it's proven success. Reading the USA Today blog, I came upon an editorial that describes the downfalls with the current administration and it's stances on school choice. The Obama administration will allow the children currently in the DC Scholarship program to continue through graduation, it will not let more children grow and succeed in it.
School Choice Movement Faces Strong Opposition

So it was curious that when President Obama recently allowed 1,716 of Washington's neediest schoolchildren to keep, until graduation, the vouchers they use to escape their failed public schools for higher-quality private ones, he also closed the program to new applicants. All this occurred as the Education Department reported that voucher participants show superior skills in reading, safety and orderliness. The news was buried in an impenetrable study released without a news conference.

Why the ambivalence? Because teacher unions, fearing loss of jobs, have pushed most Democrats to oppose vouchers and other options that invite competition for public schools. Put another way, they oppose giving poor parents the same choice that the president himself — along with his chief of staff and some 35% of Democrats in Congress — have made in sending their children to private schools.

Vouchers have improved the math and reading of inner-city children from Dayton, Ohio, to Charlotte, N.C., various studies show. The Washington vouchers improved the reading of girls and younger kids by about half a school year, though results for other groups were iffier. Yet opposition is so fierce that few voucher experiments survive past the seedling stage.

So school choice is in fact helping these children learn better...given them a better shot at being productive and successful citizens. So why stop it? Teacher unions?

As an Education Department spokesman says, "The unions are not happy." But 20 million low-income school kids need a chance to succeed. School choice is the most effective way to give it to them.