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Posts Tagged ‘legislation’

High Stakes Testing Dying in OK

April 19, 2014 Leave a comment

Oklahoma, like Texas, has overreached in its testing and the legislature is responding with rollbacks after getting an earful from parents, teachers and other voters. What kinds of legislation is being appealed?

  • “…the mandatory retention of third-graders who fail the state’s reading assessment administered under the Reading Sufficiency Act” which was repealed by overwhelming majorities in both the house and senate
  • The common core
  • A battery of tests in social studies and geography in the 8th grade, which, when coupled with previously passed legislation eliminates all testing of history in the K-12 continuum
  • A-F ratings for schools based on assessments

The reasons for abandoning “reform” are mostly political.

“I think their constituents are getting engaged and involved. They are paying attention to the issues, and they will look at their options when it’s time to vote,” said Meredith Exline, president of Oklahoma Central Parent Legislative Action Committee.

Oh… and one other issue came to light after the legislature passed all of these “reforms”: changes require money!

Amber England, government affairs director for Stand for Children Oklahoma, which advocates for school reforms, said repealing mandatory retention could be seen as a sign the government has failed to properly fund reading programs that were supposed to make the Reading Sufficiency Act successful. She pointed to Oklahoma’s ranking as 49th in the nation in per-pupil funding.

“Schools are being asked to do a whole lot of new things, but they are not getting any money to do them,” England said. “These measures are in jeopardy because the Legislature hasn’t provided the money to do them properly.

So this development in OK, hardly the most progressive state in the nation, is heartening on some counts. They demonstrate that voters who are opposed to the top-down imposition of unproven practices can raise their collective voices and effect change— a sign that democracy may still be alive. They provide evidence that legislatures will need to either raise additional funds for “reforms” or pay the price at the polls. And, they indicate that parents are mad as hell about the testing straightjackets and will either unite to repeal legislation or withdraw from the testing regimen.

The development is disheartening, though, because given the choice between providing more funding to make OK’s public school spending competitive with other states or backing down on changes… it decided to avoid increased spending. It is also disheartening because other articles on the Common Core indicate the withdrawal of support for it was based as much on the content of the new standards (i.e. the inclusion of evolution as settled science) was as much a provocation as the common core’s link to testing. Finally, it is disheartening because the children who lived through the poorly conceived testing regimen, the poorly conceived efforts to address their learning deficiencies through the elimination of “social promotion”, and the narrow interaction that resulted from these “reforms” can never recover the time they lost preparing for tests that turned out to be immaterial.

 

Paying the Price for Bad Legislation in NC

April 19, 2014 Leave a comment

The headline to the press release says it all: “.North Carolina Public Schools Are Facing Teacher Shortage”… and the report is brief enough to paste below:

It is getting harder to recruit new teachers to North Carolina Public Schools, according to Wake County Public School System Chair Christine Kushner. She says another obstacle was thrown in the path of incoming teachers when a state additive for teachers with a Masters degree was eliminated.

Kushner said, “And now, with the elimination of the state supplement for master’s degrees, we’ve seen that we’re no longer competitive for those same teachers.”

Legislators recently proposed raising starter teacher salary, but Kushner says a complete reform of teacher pay is necessary in the legislative short session this year. Leader’s of the state’s largest school system held a press conference on Thursday announcing that over 600 teachers has left their position since July 2013.

And three days later, this:

School leaders announced Thursday that nearly 7% of teachers in the Wake County Public School System resigned their positions since July, 2013, the start of the school year. Dr. Michael Maher, Asst. Dean for Professional Education at NC State, says not only are teachers leaving the profession, but fewer students are entering university’s to study teaching.

Maher said, “The UNC system as a whole, our 17 campuses, we’re the top producers of teachers in the state of North Carolina. We prepare nearly half of all new teachers in the state. We are seeing declines across the entire set of campuses.”

Maher says the pipeline is drying up, and that will ultimately impact student achievement.

Over the past year I’ve read of a litany of bad ALEC legislation passed by NC, including some crazy ones like eliminating additional pay for advanced desires, offering performance bonuses of $400 for higher test results (as if a 1% increase in pay for one year was an “incentive”), eliminating “tenure”, etc. All of this was supposed to improve student results while limiting the costs to taxpayers. As the results are showing, they only got half the equation right.

 

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A Lesson from For Profit Colleges?

April 17, 2014 Leave a comment

For profit colleges have a longstanding negative record. As noted in an editorial in today’s NYTimes they have low graduation rates, lower than average earnings for their graduates, and astonishingly high default rates on student loans. The administration is attempting to impose some regulations on these schools, but they are lobbying congress to remain unfettered in their operations… and if the default rate is not addressed at some point taxpayers will be asked to bail them out.

The need to impose regulations on for profit colleges combined with the well documented financial irregularities of several for-profit charter schools should be a warning to elected officials regarding the introduction of the profit motive into education. When money can be made by either asking students to go into debt to pay tuitions or asking the taxpayers to fund unproven schools led by individuals with no academic credentials one should expect profiteering behavior… and that’s what we are encountering. The Times editorial offers some ideas for regulating the loans issued by for-profit colleges. Here are some regulations I would propose to minimize the profiteering witnessed to date in the for-profit charter sector that draws on public funds:

  • AUDITS: For-profit charter schools should be subjected to the same audit regulations as publicly funded schools
  • WAGE DISCLOSURE: For-profit charters should be governed by the same public disclosure laws as publicly funded schools
  • ACADEMIC ACCOUNTABILITY: For-profit charters should have attrition rates that match publicly funded schools serving the same district
  • DEMOGRAPHIC ACCOUNTABILITY: The demographics of the for-profit should match those of the district in terms of socio-economics, race, and special needs

If these conditions were met, profiteering would be much more difficult… but without these, it is unrealistic to expect anything different than what we’ve encountered to date in terms of financial shenanigans.