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.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Op-ed In Springfield News Leader

"Missouri Needs Education Reform Now", an opinion piece in the Springfield News Leader, once again shows the urgent need to reform education in Missouri! This is written by Joe Knodell, the state coordinator for the Missouri Education Reform Council:

The state legislature is currently considering school reform issues such as open enrollment and the expansion of charter schools. Performance pay, or merit pay as it is sometimes called, is in the mix, as well.

Missouri is behind many of our neighboring states when it comes to implementing school reform. I could list the statistics that show Missouri lags behind in student achievement and how the USA stacks up against other developed countries in math and science -- but these facts have been in front of us and in the media for quite some time.

We have a new president who advocates reform and is promoting performance pay and charter schools. Time will tell whether President Obama will match the rhetoric with results. New Secretary of Education Arne Duncan also has the credentials of a reformer because of his past work in Chicago.

With all of the momentum for school reform going forward, why is it so hard to pass legislation addressing our failing schools and the need to increase student achievement? Lawmakers from other states that have enacted education reform, including Arkansas and Iowa, can testify that it was not easy. Teachers' unions and the education establishment as a whole do not embrace reform and usually oppose it vigorously. That means state legislators and governors have to enact the needed reforms in spite of the intense lobbying efforts of educators and their organizations. This takes a great deal of intestinal fortitude. Governmental leaders have to look beyond the self interests of the education community and do what is best for students and parents. Whether this can be done in Missouri remains to be seen.

Why does the education community oppose reform? As with any endeavor, there are exceptions to the rule: There are many forward-looking teachers and administrators who understand that the status quo in education is not good enough. They are willing to try new ideas that have proven successful in other states.

But other groups remain opposed to such reforms. Teachers' unions are against the idea of performance pay because they prefer that all teachers make the same salary, no matter the quality of their work. To some, "accountability" is a bad word.

Administrator organizations oppose reforms because they fear the unknown. They wonder if a new charter school, for instance, would hurt their enrollment.

The next couple of months will show Missourians how serious lawmakers are about changing the way our educational system works. Will they send the message that we must do better? Or will legislators bow to the pressure from the establishment and do nothing?

We shall see.

Friday, May 8, 2009

US Chess Tournament Begins

The US Chess Championship begins today. Excitement all over St. Louis and the Central West End as the players begin playing today. The Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis is where the games will take place, and where the players will show their moves. Check Spelling
Preceding the start of the games were great events st SLUMA; Wednesday evening was the Marcel Duchamp Art and Chess show and Thursday evening was an amazing reception outside SLUMA where the drawing of the colors took place, with red and white wine glasses set up on a chess board. An incredibly talented teenager will be competing in the tournament (although he refrained from picking up a wine glass). Mayor Francis Slay and Lt. Governor Kinder welcomed the players and the crowd during the opening remarks.
The next week and a half will surely be exhilarating to watch!
Visit for live coverage of the tournament.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Caroline Hoxby Speaking at SLU about Charter Schools

Caroline Hoxby, a charter school scholar, will present on the Promise of Charter Schools.
The Show Me Institute is sponsoring this event; the fourth speakers series hosted at St. Louis University. It will take place at the John Cook School of Business Anheuser-Busch Auditorium: 3674 Lindell Boulevard.
There is a reception at 5:30 and the presentation at 6pm.

Click here to see event details from the Show Me Institute.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Jay Greene's Update on Effects of Vouchers

Jay Greene, author of "Education Myths, What Special-Interest Groups Want You To Believe About Our Schools - And Why It Isn't So", updates his blog about the systemic effects of vouchers. He has been studying and evaluating the effects of the various voucher programs throughout the country. The article quotes and links several studies about programs in Florida and Milwaukee, with final commentary depicting vouchers in a good light.

The bottom line is that none of the studies of systemic effects from voucher programs finds negative effects on student achievement in public schools from voucher competition. The bulk of the evidence, both from studies of voucher programs and from variation in existing competition among public schools, supports the conclusion that expanding competition improves student achievement.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

2009 U.S. Championship Chess Club & Scholastic Center of St.Louis

It is important to support programs that support our schools. On that note, the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis will host the 2009 U.S. Chess Championship this May 7-17. The organization offers many chess resources for our local schools, including an in-school chess curriculum and an after-school chess program.

For more information on both the up-coming Championship and how your school can benefit from chess programs check out their website at: The tickets are FREE, but you must RSVP on the website.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

St. Louis City Could Be in More Trouble

With the economy hurting and the failing schools popping up, why would one city decide to restrict the sale of closed schools? There is no logic in that!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Vouchers Students Testing Better Than Others

The US Education Department released a study yesterday, giving voucher proponents a stronger leg to stand on (if they needed one). It found that DC District students who were given a voucher to attend a private school, they outperformed public students on reading tests. Those scores put them about 4 months ahead of the public school students.

The Washington Post
lays out the study findings and how certain elected officials feel about the program. While the article said Obama does not intend to pull students out of the program, but he does not support the continuation.

Since it began, the voucher program has awarded scholarships to more than 3,000 students from low-income families, granting up to $7,500 a year for tuition and other fees at participating schools. This school year, about 1,715 students are participating.

The Bush administration, and many Republicans, have championed the program as a "lifeline" for students in struggling schools.

Supporters hailed the congressionally mandated study as proof the program works. "With concrete evidence in hand that this program is a success, we look forward to reauthorizing it as quickly as possible," Rep. Howard P. "Buck" McKeon (Calif.), the top Republican on the House education committee, said in a statement.

The study, conducted by the Education Department's research arm, the Institute of Education Sciences, compared the performance and attitudes of students with scholarships with those of peers who were eligible but weren't chosen in a lottery. Parents of students in the program were more satisfied with their children's new schools and considered the schools safer, the report found. Students showed no difference in their level of satisfaction.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Open Enrollment Bill

According to the Springfield News-Leader, a recent open enrollment bill is being debated in the House. With all the controversy between school choice, vouchers and scholarship tax credits, this bill seems like a great compromise. It would actually allow for parents, with the school boards, to decide if they want to right to choose. As a parent, I would like some decision making power in the way our state delivers education. I would also like the right to choose where my child attends school.

Part of the article is seen below. Notice the line "I'm not claiming this is going to solve all the problems in the schools," said Schoeller, a Republican from Willard. "But it would be an option for parents who feel their children are not getting the education they need."
Enough said. We need to start somewhere to help all the parents who are trapped in watching their children attend failing schools. How can those kids have a fighting chance if their school is failing? How can we sit by and hope someday the school will just fix itself without granting them a chance to get out?!

School transfer bill sparks controversy

Critics argue bill fails to solve issues.

Gregory Trotter • News-Leader • April 2, 2009

A bill allowing parents to send their children to public schools in other districts -- and even private schools --with state funding, stirred debate Wednesday in the House Elections Committee.

Rep. Shane Schoeller presented his open enrollment bill, House Bill 959, saying it would empower parents and provide options beyond failing school districts.

"I'm not claiming this is going to solve all the problems in the schools," said Schoeller, a Republican from Willard. "But it would be an option for parents who feel their children are not getting the education they need."

Under HB 959, school boards could elect to put open enrollment on the ballot. Voters could also petition -- with 100 signatures or 10 percent of registered voters -- to put the issue on the ballot.

If then passed by a two-thirds majority vote, parents could send their children to other districts or private schools.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Can We Have a Choice?

Who am I? Well, let's see. First and foremost, I am a mother. No matter what job I ever hold, what activity I ever do, or what hobby I may pick up, I will be a mother first. For me, being a mother means more than having a baby and sending them on their way. My child is my whole life...when I am away from him, I think of him all day long. I look forward to the welcome home hug at the end of the day, and even when this is followed or preceded by the fun toddler tantrums, I still have an overwhelming feeling of love for him. Yes, it is true, it's not all kisses and hugs. There are those times that can drive any parent crazy...and I have had my fair share of those.
Being a parent, you try so hard to make them smile; try so hard to keep them healthy. And as time goes on, you try to do what is best for him/her, even when that means they leave home...even if it's only for kindergarten!

You spend the first several years teaching them to walk and talk, then on to the ABCs and the colors of the rainbow. So much time and thought is investing in developing your child's brain and motor skills. Then what? You send them off to school and hope a teacher can continue on with what you have started. Will they do it right, will they teach him well, will the school be the right fit for him...are all questions a parent might wonder all day long.

As a parent, I feel very strongly that we should be able to decide where our children spend their days and where they develop more of their intellect that will take them through adulthood. The lines that divide up cities should not determine whether my child gets a great education or an average education. Missouri needs to allow parents everywhere that choice.

Open Enrollment Should Be Law

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

School Vouchers Proven Helpful

School Choice Illinois posted about a study that shows the positive effects of vouchers on public schools. The study is from the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice. With all the evidence, we need to stimulate changes within our public schools. Children are failing at alarming rates...and they need our help!
Empirical evidence shows school vouchers have positive effect on public schools

A newly published report collects all available empirical studies on how school vouchers affect academic achievement in public schools. The conclusion finds that the school choice programs improve public schools in a variety of ways such as racial integration, fiscal impact and academic achievement.

For instance, “A Win-Win Solution: The Empirical Evidence on How Vouchers Affect Public Schools,” authored by Greg Forster, Ph.D., took a total of 17 empirical studies, which have examined how vouchers affect academic achievement in public schools, and found that 16 showed that vouchers improved public schools. The remaining study found no visible impact on public schools.

Click here to download a copy of the full report from the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Charter school Excellence

Hello its me once again. Today I want to talk about how children everyday are being robbed of an education. A school is a place were we go to learn stuff we previously do not know. However in an effort to see who does the best, some schools have become uber competitive in the attempt to reign supreme as the best school in the country. Out of this fierce competition the children who are not as fast learners as the braniacs are left behind. However Charter schools which in a sense are hybrids of schools combine instilling tons of knowledge into a child’s brain while also not being competitive and gradually easing the child through the process of learning in an effort to confirm that the child learns the knowledge and is able to maintain it throughout his or her life.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Thursday, March 5, 2009

My education

Since first grade I have been in a suburban saint Louis school. I moved here from New York and had no idea what kind of education I would be receiving. However being a first grader at the time I could not care less for my education. Upon starting my first day of school I was amazed by the amount of attention that not only myself but all the other students received. I noticed this from first grade to where I am now, a second semester senior in high school. The point that I am making is that I have had ADHD my entire life and the amount of help I received from my teachers was amazing and led me to where I am now, a happy and successful student preparing to go on to a prominent four year college. This all adds up to the fact that without all that help and attention my teachers showed me I was able to become a successful student. My final point being that if the kind of attention and help I received was available in all schools and available to all children then we would see a vast increase in the amount of children that go on to college and the amount of children getting good jobs after college.