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Archives for Education Policy (page 1 / 2)

Kids and Covid: Schools can reopen safely now

I've been as hesitant as anyone else to send children back to school. It seemed like a recipe for disaster—pulling together children from across the community, putting them together all day to spread sickness around, and then sending them back home to infect their families. But the research shows that school can be very safe. We should reopen schools and let every family send their children.

Kids and Covid: Schools can reopen safely now

Benjamin P. Linas, writing at Vox.

When Covid began to spread in the US last year, teachers were right to be worried about schools. We knew almost nothing about the virus’s spread. Operating schools under business-as-usual conditions very well could have led to more infections among teachers, students, and people in the community.

But since then, we have accumulated a massive amount of data about how to keep schools open safely.

First, last spring, we observed the experiences of other countries like Scotland, Singapore, and France, where schools reopened and masks and social distancing seemed to prevent large-scale transmission.

In the US, epidemiologists compared the timing of school closures to changes in Covid incidence. Some studies found that school closures might have reduced the spread of illness, but the findings are complicated because we were also making other major public health changes at the same time. And overall they failed to find a strong link.

Data and patterns also began to emerge about children’s Covid-19 test results and their exposures. Playdates with friends emerged as the common exposure among the infected; time in school did not.

Still, as reassuring as the data were, they were all indirect. The gold standard to learn if schools can open safely is fairly simple: Open schools, measure Covid incidence, and see what happens. Many US school districts have now done this, and we have the data.

First, researchers in North Carolina published results from 11 school districts and over 100,000 students and staff. Schools in those districts employed mandatory masking and six-foot distancing where feasible, but no major capital improvement to HVAC systems or buildings. In the first quarter of this school year, they found the rate of transmission of Covid in schools was dramatically lower (roughly 1/25) than the level of transmission in the community. Among all of the Covid-19 infections observed in school, the state health department’s tracers found 96 percent were acquired in the community, and there were no documented cases of the virus passing from child to adult in schools — zero.

Second, a similar study followed 17 schools in Wisconsin. Like North Carolina, those schools required masks indoors, three-foot distancing with effort to distance farther whenever feasible, and no major capital improvements. Between August 31 and November 29, with over 4,500 students and 650 staff, they found seven cases of Covid transmission to children and also found no cases of Covid transmission to educators in the buildings. Further, these schools eliminated Covid transmission at the same time that the surrounding community saw a rapid rise in Covid-19 cases.

A third important preprint study analyzes data from two schools in Atlanta. This study is small, but it is important because the schools were conducting routine asymptomatic screening of students, teachers, and staff. In Atlanta, 72 percent of the limited number of transmission events in one school were known to be the result of non-compliance with masking. And again here, there were no cases transmitted from students to teachers.

Sadly, at the same time that we are learning definitively that we can open schools safely and essentially prevent Covid transmission, data are emerging about the real damage being done to children by prolonged remote learning, including a rise in the use of pediatric emergency rooms for psychiatric illnesses, increasing anxiety and depression symptoms, losses in learning progress, and large racial disparities in both the availability of in-person instruction, and educational achievement.

At the same time, teachers also need to recognize that full vaccination is not a prerequisite for safe schools, as some educator unions have called for. We did not have a vaccine in North Carolina or Wisconsin when they safely opened schools in August 2020.

We must also not let other demands, such as universal asymptomatic testing or large-scale capital improvements to buildings, stymie the return to in-person learning. Yes, we should be working to implement more screening in schools and improving air exchange, but we can do that in parallel with re-opening. We know now from good data that we can effectively stop Covid-19 at the school doors and get American education back on track without these things. Essentially, all we need to safely reopen schools are mask mandates, reasonable distancing of at least three feet, minor and affordable upgrades to existing HVAC systems, and teachers.

A realistic plan for reopening schools is to immediately begin bringing the youngest learners back to full-time, in-person learning with strict guidance for masking indoors, three-foot minimal distancing with effort to maximize distance as much as possible. Districts can certainly conduct air-exchange surveys in classrooms as an extra precautionary measure and use simple and affordable mitigation strategies for suboptimal conditions, such as upgrading HVAC filters, opening windows, and deploying portable HEPA filters in problem spaces.

This entry was tagged. COVID-19 Education Policy Unions

School’s Closed in Wisconsin. Forever.

School’s Closed in Wisconsin. Forever. →

The New York Times provides an apocalyptic headline for this article by Julie Bosman. In reality, this is a story about one specific, rural school closing, with some notes about other tiny, rural schools that have also closed.

Lola was among the last students to attend Arena Community Elementary. After classes let out last Monday, the school was shuttered permanently by the River Valley School District, whose administrators say that unforgiving budgets, a dearth of students and an aging population have made it impossible to keep the school open. For the first time since the 1800s, the village of Arena has no school.

Arena Elementary is the second small rural elementary school in two years to close in the district, nearly 300 square miles of rolling pastures and dairy farms in southwestern Wisconsin. The one in the neighboring village of Lone Rock closed last spring. The district now has just one open public elementary school, in Spring Green, nine miles away.

Administrators say they hardly had any choice.

The numbers are there for anyone to see: The River Valley School District graduated 105 seniors this year, and expects only 66 kindergartners to start school in the fall.

Residents worry about what will happen to Arena, population 834, without the school. There isn’t much else on this two-lane stretch of Highway 14: a gas station, a cheese outlet, a cafe called Grandma Mary’s, beloved for its Friday fish fry and beef stroganoff.

But the reality of rural life in the Midwest, school officials say, is that younger people are fleeing. They want Starbucks and Thai restaurants, plentiful jobs and high-speed internet, and when they start families, they want schools with amenities and big, thriving athletic programs.

“In any small community, anywhere in this country, our kids grow up and move away,” said Mark Strozinsky, a River Valley school board member. “They go to college and get a job, but it’s not here, because the opportunity is not here. So who’s left here? Grandma and Grandpa.”

Two schools in the Portage school district in central Wisconsin closed several years ago after enrollment declined sharply, the district administrator, Charles Poches, said.

“You can’t have four teachers for 40 kids,” he said.

As the public face of the district, Mr. Poches said that he bore the brunt of residents’ fury at public hearings.

“It was hell,” he said. “We’d have 50 people, some who didn’t even have kids there but had gone to school there. They felt it was part of their community. It was very traumatic.”

Melissa Schmid, whose 10-year-old stepson, Evan, completed fourth grade this year, said she wished she had fought harder to keep the Arena school open. When the time comes for her 1-year-old daughter, she and her husband have decided to send her to school in a different district to spare her a long bus ride.

She worries about the value of their house. New people aren’t moving to Arena much anyway. But they definitely won’t now.

“We basically have a bank and a cheese factory,” Ms. Schmid said. “It’s not going to be a growing community.”

Communities are born, grow, mature, decline, and, eventually, die. This article tugs at the heartstrings, but it's not clear to me why we should try to stop what's happening, to make rural America great again. I understand how the existing residents feel. But the hard truth is that people increasingly prefer suburban and urban lifestyles to rural life. No amount of nostalgia or outside financial support is going to cause this rural district to grow again.

GOP Defectors Have Received Thousands From Teachers Union

GOP Defectors Have Received Thousands From Teachers Union →

The two Republicans who broke ranks with their party and announced they would vote against education secretary nominee Betsy DeVos have received thousands of dollars from the nation's largest teachers union.

Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R., Alaska) and Susan Collins (R., Maine) have each benefited from contributions from the National Education Association. Collins received $2,000 from the union in 2002 and 2008, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Murkowski, meanwhile, has received $23,500.

Is this an example of a special interest buying legislators or of legislators being responsive to public opinion? Careful — I'll hold you to your answer the next time that there's a vote involving a lobbying group and legislators that have received donations from that lobbying group.

Defending the Mismatch Theory of Racial Preferences

About five months ago, Ramesh Ponnuru quoted Justice Clarence Thomas, on the theory of academic mismatch.

Here’s Thomas in Grutter v. Bollinger (2003):

The Law School is not looking for those students who, despite a lower LSAT score or undergraduate grade point average, will succeed in the study of law. The Law School seeks only a facade–it is sufficient that the class looks right, even if it does not perform right.

The Law School tantalizes unprepared students with the promise of a University of Michigan degree and all of the opportunities that it offers. These overmatched students take the bait, only to find that they cannot succeed in the cauldron of competition. And this mismatch crisis is not restricted to elite institutions. See T. Sowell, Race and Culture 176—177 (1994) (“Even if most minority students are able to meet the normal standards at the ‘average’ range of colleges and universities, the systematic mismatching of minority students begun at the top can mean that such students are generally overmatched throughout all levels of higher education”). Indeed, to cover the tracks of the aestheticists, this cruel farce of racial discrimination must continue–in selection for the Michigan Law Review, see University of Michigan Law School Student Handbook 2002—2003, pp. 39—40 (noting the presence of a “diversity plan” for admission to the review), and in hiring at law firms and for judicial clerkships–until the “beneficiaries” are no longer tolerated. While these students may graduate with law degrees, there is no evidence that they have received a qualitatively better legal education (or become better lawyers) than if they had gone to a less “elite” law school for which they were better prepared.

Justice Thomas was wrote about academic mismatch with minority students and racial preferences. I hadn't heard about academic mismatch theory until recently, but I've seen that it makes a lot of people very angry, many of them claiming that academic mismatch theory is just another smokescreen for justifying racial discrimination.

I went to the University of Pittsburgh for an Information Sciences degree. I went because I liked Pitt's marketing materials and Pitt's campus. I also went because I felt like Pitt was the best match between my abilities (or the actual work effort that I was prepared to give to college studies) and the degree's rigorousness and requirements.

I didn't even bother to apply to Carnegie Mellon University or MIT. For the sake of argument, let's say that a program existed that would have given me a much easier admission into CMU or MIT and that I'd taken it. I'm convinced that I would have done far worse, academically, at either of those schools. I would have struggled to have mastered the material and I would have had poor grades. Knowing what I know about my employer and their hiring criteria, I doubt I would have gotten the job that I have now.

Whether going to Pitt or CMU or MIT, I'm the exact same student with the same abilities, talents, and skills. One school was appropriately matched to me and gave me a good education and prepared me for a great start to my career. The others would have been a mismatch for me and would probably have given me a worse education (in that I would have understood and mastered less of the class material) and wouldn't have launched my career in the same way.

I, myself, am as white as can be and am blessed with a full menu of "privileges". And I think going to the wrong school, one where I was overmatched, would have been a bad thing. I'm definitely sympathetic to the argument that enticing students into schools that they're not prepared for is a bad thing.

Transferring College Students Mess Up Graduation Statistics

Transferring College Students Mess Up Graduation Statistics →

A new report released Tuesday by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, a nonprofit higher-education research organization, shows that 13% of students who enroll at one school end up graduating from another. With a six-year overall completion rate of 55.1% for the class that started in fall 2008, that means nearly one in four students who graduated were transfers, according to the study.

Such high mobility among students points out potential challenges in the Obama administration’s proposal to rate school performance, as well as state-level funding efforts tied to school success.

Figures currently reported by the U.S. Department of Education include as success stories only students who initially enroll on a full-time basis and those who graduate from the same school where they started. The college ratings plan largely has been put on hold amid pushback by schools.

“We’ve got to make sure that we don’t let students fall through the cracks in the transfer process,” said Jamie Merisotis, president of the Lumina Foundation, a nonprofit that works to increase the number of college graduates and provided financial backing for the report.

He said historical assumptions about how students progress through school, including that they remain in the same institution, “run against the reality of the lives that today’s college students are living.”

According to the new National Student Clearinghouse data, one in four students who first enrolled at four-year, public schools in Minnesota graduated from a different school, as did 24% of those in Missouri. Forty-seven and 39% of students who started at such schools in those states, respectively, graduated from their original institutions.

In 22 states, more than 5% of students who started at public, four-year colleges in fall 2008 completed their programs in another state. For example, 8.4% of students who enrolled in public universities in Maine ultimately graduated from schools in other states.

"The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design." — F.A. Hayek, The Fatal Conceit

This entry was tagged. Education Policy

Practicing Self-Defense in School

Practicing Self-Defense in School →

A nurse in Surrey, England was called into her daughter's school and informed that her daughter had punched a male classmate—twice. The mother was confronted by the teacher, the head of the students' year, and the school's head (fka headmaster). Then her daughter explained what had happened.

Daughter: “He kept pinging my bra. I asked him to stop but he didn’t, so I told Mr. [Teacher]. He told me to ‘ignore it.’ [Boy] did it again and undid my bra so I hit him. Then he stopped.”

(I turn to the teacher.)

Me: “You let him do this? Why didn’t you stop him? Come over here and let me touch the front of your trousers.”

Teacher: “What?! No!”

Me: “Does that seem inappropriate to you? Why don’t you go and pull on Mrs. [Head Of Year]’s bra right now. See how fun it is for her. Or on that boy’s mum’s bra. Or mine. You think just because they’re kids it’s fun?”

Head: “Mrs. [My Name]. With all due respect, [Daughter] still beat another child.”

Me: “No. She defended herself against a sexual attack from another pupil. Look at them; he’s nearly 6 feet and 11 or 12 stone. She’s 5 feet and 6 stone. He’s a foot taller than her and twice as heavy. How many times should she have let him touch her? If the person who was supposed to help and protect her in a classroom couldn’t be bothered what should she have done? He pulled her bra so hard it came undone.”

My daughters' principal and teachers keep indoctrinating them with the idea that violence at school is never justified. As this event illustrates, it's sometimes very justified. If school staff are unwilling to protect students, my daughters will have my full support when they defend themselves.

School Choice For the Rich!

(For National School Choice Week.)

School choice is a hotly debated topic in state capitals around the U.S. I'm not sure why. Oh, I know the reasons that people give, but I don't understand why so many people are so vociferously opposed to school choice.

The truth is, we already have nationwide school choice. We just have the most regressive, anti-democratic form of school choice imaginable. Rich families have school choice and poor families do not. It's simple. If you can afford private school tuition, you can send your children to the private school of your choice. If you can afford to rent or to buy a house in the school district of your choice, then you can send your children to the public school of your choice. Either way, if you don't have the necessary money for tuition or housing, then you have no choice over your children's school.

What kind of progressive person supports a policy like that?

We need a school choice policy that's available to everyone: rich, middle class, or poor. I'm 100 percent in favor of school choice. But I don't support our current regressive system of school choice. I'm for school choice that's progressive. I want everyone to be able to choose the educational environment that's right for their child, regardless of race, creed, religion, or income. I want school choice that's available to every American—rich or poor.

It's a mean attitude that says I'll take my money, I'll take my high income, and I'll use it to bid up the cost of housing in the districts with good public schools. It takes a mean person to do that, but then turn around to tell their poorer neighborhors that you can't rescue your children from a school you don't like unless you can first afford to move out of the neighborhood, out of the house, out of the apartment that you currently live in. It's a mean attitude that says those who have money can move around and pick the best, but those who don't must stay put and suffer the worst.

I want school choice that gives everyone an equal choice regardless of income. I want school choice that's available to all. I don't understand why everyone else only supports school choice for the rich.

It's Urgent To Put The Liberal Arts Back At The Center Of Education

It's Urgent To Put The Liberal Arts Back At The Center Of Education →

In one of his academic papers, David Brat (he of the primary victory over House Majority Leader Eric Cantor), referred to government having “a monopoly on violence.” Journalists for the New York Daily News, Politico and the Wall Street Journal treated this as a statement of extremism rather than a straightforward reference to political philosophy.

Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry, writing at Forbes, used that to call for a renewal of real liberal education.

In particular, two of the most fundamental requirements of citizenship were virtue and a liberal education.

The expression “liberal education” is quite important. Today, when we think “liberal education”, we think “Would you like fries with that?” But as the common root with the word liberty suggests, liberal education is an education that helps make us free. Only by first understanding not only the empirical scaffolding of our Universe–a.k.a. science–but also its conceptual scaffolding, a.k.a. the ideas, concepts and history which shape the world we live in, can we ever hope to be free, that is to say to be able to make informed, conscious decisions.

Similarly, the great men (and, sorry, they were mostly men) who bequeathed us this wonderful order understood that a regime of majority rule cannot long withstand the test of time without having a citizenship that takes seriously the notion of virtue. The virtues, to Aristotle and others, are not so much about being a goody-two-shoes, but rather about the lifelong effort to reach self-mastery through confronting our passions (today, perhaps, we would say: our addictions) and properly ordering our will towards that which is good. If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll see how growth in virtue is itself a form of liberal education.

Without an awareness of these things, a bunch of very smart people who built our world and know the instruction manual have been warning us, we consign ourselves to doom.

Which brings me back full circle, which is that when a bunch of people, whose job is to write about politics, who presumably have nice-sounding educations, who have editors, don’t know one of the very basics of the political thought that gave us the world we live in, the hour is very late indeed.

This matches my own leanings pretty well. I believe that one should have a liberal education before undertaking the responsibility to vote. Voting shouldn't be a lark, a popularity contest, an opportunity for cheap point scoring, or for "gotcha!" campaigns. Voting should be a civic responsibility, taken only after prolonged consideration of the best way to promote the general welfare.

In the past, I've suggested voter tests as a way to determine which people actually take this responsibility seriously. Given our nation's history of racism and oppression, that's not a good idea. But I do wish that people would take the responsibility seriously enough to prevent themselves from voting, if they lack the requisite knowledge and tempermament.

The low-information voters that should most refrain from voting are the voters least likely to abstain out of principle. A true liberal education would give voters those principles, but then they wouldn't be low information voters in the first place. If you're wondering why our election campaigns attract only the worst candidates, look no further than the unqualified, illiberal voters that populate the political left, right, and center.

Have We Reached “The End of History” with Respect to What Education Can Achieve?

Have We Reached “The End of History” with Respect to What Education Can Achieve? →

Michael Strong talks about innovation in education.

Whereas once people believed that education would change the world, now people across the political spectrum tend to be skeptical. Academic performance remains stagnant despite a threefold increase in per pupil spending over the past forty years. We’ve tried thousands of new methods, pedagogies, textbooks, software, testing regimes, teacher training programs, etc. within the existing constraints without progress. Diverse thinkers (Plato, Rousseau, Kant, Jefferson, Dewey, etc.) in the western tradition believed that education could be transformative. The current zeitgeist is that we’ve reached the limits of what education can achieve. Were the earlier dreams of philosophers, humanists, and educators simply wrong about the potential of education?

He goes on to speculate that innovation is stalled because the vast majority of education happens in a government controlled system, where true freedom is limited. Everyone uses the type of school day, same type of textbooks, same type of tests, same type of teacher credentialing, same type of classrooms, etc. Even the private schools are constrained to follow this model, so that their students are more directly comparable to public school students for overall academic rankings and for college admissions.

It's an intriguing hypothesis and I think he might be on to something. Education has looked pretty much the same for the last 80 years. Is that true for any other industry? Might that very rigidity and conformity be holding back education?

Playing the Dunce

Playing the Dunce →

Steven Landsburg reminds people that prices actually represent something concrete in the real world. When the President demagogues against prices, he's playing the dunce because he thinks you're an idiot.

This morning I heard President Obama call for universities to lower their tuition rates so that “everybody in America can go to college”.

... To believe what the President wants you to believe, you’d have to be not just stupid but badly misinformed. At the University where I teach, we do not lack for applicants. The reason we don’t have more students is not that they can’t afford us; it’s that we don’t have room for them.

Review: Change.edu


Change.edu: Rebooting for the New Talent Economy by Andrew S. Rosen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Andrew Rosen is the CEO of Kaplan, Inc. Most people know of Kaplan through their SAT test preparation materials. Kaplan has been busy diversifying beyond test prep and is now also running Kaplan University, home to 50,000 online students. Andrew has written Change.Edu as an explanation of what he sees wrong with the traditional college experience and what he hopes to accomplish with Kaplan University. He also answers the most common criticisms of for-profit universities.

This is a book that I highly recommend, if you're interested in where higher education is going and how we can improve educational quality while increasing the number of college graduates, while dealing with bloated government budgets.

The book is clearly laid out, with six main ideas.

  1. Harvard Envy. Rosen calls this the "Ivory Tower Playbook" and says that most universities feel that "the only permissible strategy is to climb the prestige ladder". Schools are competing with each other to gain prestige, not to deliver an education. This strategy makes sense for the schools but not for society.

    Schools spend ever larger amounts of money on buildings, on attracting faculty, and on building better sports teams. Schools also compete for the best and brightest students. The result is that the school itself becomes more prestigious but doesn't increase the number of students receiving an education and doesn't even necessarily increase the quality of the education that the lucky students receive.

    The end result is that most schools are competing for the best and the brightest students. But no one is competing for the poor student or for the middle-class student that just wants to learn something, without breaking the bank.

  2. Club College. In many ways, this chapter is a continuation of the criticisms of the first chapter. Many universities are focusing their attention—and their budgets—on non-academic areas. In this chapter, Rosen examines the lavish lifestyle that many universities offer to students. From dining options, to living options, to fitness facilities, to sports teams and more, many universities are competing to offer incoming students the most entertaining 4 years possible.

    All of these expenditures have nothing to do with academics and everything to do with attracting the most desirable students. Then, after those students graduate, the school can bask in the glow of their famous and accomplished alumni. The alumni, in turn, will look back on their college years with favor, leading to donations, prestige, and word of mouth marketing.

    Rosen is careful to point out that there's nothing wrong with schools wanting to be prestigious or wanting to attract top students. The problem is that schools are spending large amounts of federal, state, and local tax dollars to do so. American taxpayers are paying hundreds of billions of dollars annual to subsidize expenses that have nothing to do with actual learning.

  3. Community Colleges. Theoretically, community colleges are supposed to be the solution to status obsessed or entertainment obsessed schools. They're supposed to be a low-cost alternative for the masses. Unfortunately, Rosen concludes, they're failing in their mission.

    They run their institutions based on a very different set of conventions—one I think of as the All-Access Playbook: They see their mission as providing an opportunity for everyone.

    ... Part of the problem with community colleges is the wide variety of goals and missions they are attempting to tackle. “If you visit a four-year college, you can predict what sort of student you are going to bump into,” writes New York Times columnist David Brooks. “If you visit a community college, you have no idea. You might see an immigrant kid hoping eventually to get a PhD, or another kid who messed up in high school and is looking for a second chance. You might meet a 35-year-old former meth addict trying to get some job training or a 50-year-old taking classes for fun.”

    The problem is that community colleges are dependent on state and local funding. Often, when students most want access to classes, funding is limited. Many governments can't afford to increase funding and most community colleges are unable or unwilling to raise tuition to compensate. As a result, community colleges are unable to meet the demand and students are left without options. The "All Access Model" has noble goals but is often unable to meet them.

  4. Private Universities. Rosen presents private, for-profit, universities as the answer to America's education dilemma. ("How do we educate a large segment of the population efficiently and without bankrupting the nation?") Private universities are often mocked, but it's clear that they meet a need for a large number of students.

    The largest of the private-sector schools, the University of Phoenix, counted more than four hundred thousand students in 2010, an enrollment larger than the undergraduate enrollment of the entire Big Ten.

    He talks about why these schools are popular with both students and employers.

    Private-sector schools tend to align their curriculum around those skills that are most needed in the workforce. Many of these institutions have advisory boards that consult with employers to get feedback on what employers want from prospective employees in a given area, and they regularly update their curricula to teach to those skills.

    If a school is giving students the knowledge that employers most want to see, employers benefit by having an appropriately skilled workforce available and students benefit by being able to quickly and easily find jobs that utilize their new skills.

    He points out that for-profit schools are not a new institution, driven by modern greed.

    “The earliest universities in late medieval times were profit-making corporate associations, and the black gowns that professors still wear at graduations and special events have deep pockets into which students in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries deposited their fees,” writes George Keller, an educational historian.

    ... Viewed in this light, the surge of private-sector colleges over the last generation can be seen less as a new phenomenon taking hold, and more as a long-standing and successful educational model enjoying a renaissance—largely as a result of the unsustainable funding model relied upon by the public institutions that became dominant over the last century.

    He points out that for-profit schools receive all of their revenue from student tuition. The only way they can grow, thrive, and survive is to offer students a benefit that's worth the direct tuition cost. By contrast, "at public universities, where taxpayers bear most of the costs, money from students can account for only 13 percent of the revenue." As a result, private universities are very responsive to the direct needs of students while public universities can give the impression of being contemptuous of the needs of undergraduate students.

    He talks, at length, about the culture and characteristics of private universities. Example: they don't live on donations, so you'll never have to worry about being hassled for alumni donations. For another: they don't focus on the educational inputs (teachers, buildings, libraries, etc). Instead, they focus on the educational outputs (percentage of students who graduate, percentage of graduating students who find work in their major, etc). The result is a university that feels far more focused on education than most public universities do.

    He also talks about how the private universities work to standardize their curricula, to ensure that all students receive the same quality education. As a result, their able to identify which teachers need additional help, which teachers need to be fired, and which teachers need raises. They're also able to quickly identify which students need additional help and how they can best be helped. They can also see when the curriculum itself needs to be revised, in order to better meet the needs of the students and to teach the concepts more clearly.

    By standardizing the curriculum, it is possible to measure outcomes and make continuous improvements that will ensure that each term of students is getting a better learning experience than the term before it. Over time, the compounding effect of these steady improvements will be enormous.

  5. Answering the Critics. This chapter was the main reason why I bought this book. Rosen offers an extremely compelling answer to all of the criticisms of for-profit education.

    Do for-profit schools waste taxpayer money by encouraging students to sign up for lots of financial aid dollars?

    Perhaps the biggest fallacy in the debate over proprietary schools is the argument that the private sector is “wasting” taxpayer money because most of its students make use of federal financial aid programs. In fact, the truth is precisely the reverse: analyses show that private-sector colleges use substantially fewer taxpayer dollars per student than traditional institutions, a gap that widens even further when you measure them apples to apples based on the number of demographically comparable students who actually make it through to graduation. Only by comparing use of federal Title IV student aid dollars in isolation, and ignoring all other governmental contributions to higher education, can one plausibly make the case that private-sector colleges over consume taxpayer dollars.

    Do for-profit schools suck up large amounts of taxpayer money?

    ... And when it comes to direct support—government money contributed directly to institutions, as opposed to student financial aid that is based on where an individual student goes to school—the difference is even starker. “For every $1 in direct support for private for-profit institutions, per student, at federal, state and local levels, private not-for-profit institutions receive $8.69 per student and public institutions receive $19.38 per student.”

    Do for-profit schools lead students to amass large debts and then default on them?

    ... [S]tudies have shown that nonprofit schools that also serve nontraditional student populations have nearly identical default rates, and that students’ socioeconomic level is by far the dominant driver of defaults. There is a very high (91 percent) correlation between institutional default rates and the percentage of low-income, Pell Grant students at an institution.

    Do for-profit schools sucker students into taking classes that they won't benefit from?

    At Kaplan, we’ve gone a step further by making the first weeks of school “risk free.” Kaplan assesses students during the first month of each program and determines whether they evidence the ability and rigor to succeed; if not, they are asked to withdraw, without any tuition owed or debt incurred. And any student who finds that the real experience during that period does not match his or her expectations for any reason can choose to withdraw, similarly without tuition obligation. A large percentage of those who drop out do so in the first term; the “Kaplan Commitment” leaves most of these students with no debt at all.

  6. The Learning Playbook. Rosen concludes with a look at how standardized curricula, online learning, and the lack of prestigious campuses could transform the face of American education. More students could receive a better education, at a lower cost. If he's right, the future is very bright. And I think he's right.

Comparing MPS and Voucher Per-Pupil Support

Comparing MPS and Voucher Per-Pupil Support →

I find discussions of the per-pupil funding level of different types of Milwaukee schools usually turns into a debate on how to make a true apples-to-apples comparison of per-pupil support for the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) and the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP).  While basic differences in MPS and MPCP schools and their cost-drivers make any comparison imperfect, the following is what you might call a green apples to red apples comparison.

...Though not perfect, I think $13,063 (MPS) and $7,126 (MPCP) are reasonably comparative per-pupil public support numbers for MPS and the MPCP.

A Big Life (Don't Fear the Student Loans)

A Big Life (Don't Fear the Student Loans) →

"Sugar" addresses a young adult who's worried and angry about having to start paying for her own student loans. Sugar's response was a great way to say what absolutely needed to be said.

Your parents helped you pay for your undergraduate education while you were a student and, presuming you didn’t graduate at 25 (a presumption which may or may not be correct), they also paid your monthly loan bill during the years immediately following your graduation. They’ve declined to continue to pay not because they wish to punish you, but because doing so would be difficult for them. This strikes me as perfectly reasonable and fair. You are an educated adult of sound mind, able body and resilient spirit who has absolutely no reason not to be financially self-sufficient, even if doing so requires you to earn money in ways you find unpleasant.

You say you’re grateful to your parents for helping you pay for your undergraduate education, but you don’t sound grateful to me. Almost every word in your letter tells me that you’re pissed off that you’re being required to take over your student loan payments. I point this out because I think it’s important that you acknowledge your anger for what it is. It does not rise out of gratitude. It rises out of the fact that you feel entitled to your parents’ money. You’re simply going to have to come to grips with the fact that you aren’t.

Her point is that working hard, working unpleasantly, will give you a big life that you can't get any other way. Hard work isn't a punishment, it's an opportunity. Don't squander it through self-pity and anger.

This entry was tagged. Education Policy

Union curbs rescue a Wisconsin school district

Union curbs rescue a Wisconsin school district →

Here’s some more information about the changes that Kaukauna School District is making, thanks to Governor Walker’s much attacked public sector union reforms.

Then there are work rules. "In the collective bargaining agreement, high school teachers only had to teach five periods a day, out of seven," says Arnoldussen. "Now, they're going to teach six." In addition, the collective bargaining agreement specified that teachers had to be in the school 37 1/2 hours a week. Now, it will be 40 hours.

The changes mean Kaukauna can reduce the size of its classes -- from 31 students to 26 students in high school and from 26 students to 23 students in elementary school. In addition, there will be more teacher time for one-on-one sessions with troubled students. Those changes would not have been possible without the much-maligned changes in collective bargaining.

Teachers' salaries will stay "relatively the same," Arnoldussen says, except for higher pension and health care payments. (The top salary is around $80,000 per year, with about $35,000 in additional benefits, for 184 days of work per year -- summers off.) Finally, the money saved will be used to hire a few more teachers and institute merit pay.

District swings from deficit to surplus

District swings from deficit to surplus →

As changes to collective bargaining powers for public workers take effect today, the Kaukauna Area School District is poised to swing from a projected $400,000 budget shortfall next year to a $1.5 million surplus due to health care and retirement savings.

“These impacts will allow the district to hire additional teachers (and) reduce projected class sizes,” School Board President Todd Arnoldussen wrote in a statement Monday. “In addition, time will be available for staff to identify and support students needing individual assistance through individual and small group experiences.”

The district anticipates that elementary class size projections for next year will shrink from 26 students to 23 students. Class sizes for River View Middle School are expected to fall from 28 students to 26 students.

Kaukauna High School classes could be reduced from 31 students to 25 students.

Huh. That’s certainly … unexpected.

(Hat tip to Glenn Reynolds, Ann Althouse, and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinal.)

Explaining Walker's K-12 Cuts to the Kids

Explaining Walker's K-12 Cuts to the Kids →

Jeremy Shown does his part to "explain to the kids" what Governor Walker's education cuts are and how students will be affected by them.

The student/teacher ratio here in Wisconsin is about 15 students for every teacher.  I suspect your class may have more than 15 students because this ratio probably includes teachers who specialize in small groups of students that need extra help.  Regardless, a ratio of 15 is right at the national average.  A political ad that is running on TV here in Green Bay alleges that the Governor's cuts to education could increase class size to "35 to 40 kids in a class."  Again, this sound like it is intended to scare people into opposing the governor.  It's too bad that so many people will be convinced by an accusation that is almost certainly untrue.

Worth a read and something I agree with.

Cut Head Start!

Cut Head Start! →

This is a terrific program to cut.

Because, despite all the good intentions behind Head Start, the program is not working. It is failing to make any significant difference in the educational advancement of low-income children.

And that’s not based on a study from a partisan group or an ideological think tank. That’s the conclusion drawn by a 2010 study conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services, which reported that “by the end of 1st grade, there were few significant differences between the Head Start group as a whole and the control group as a whole for either cohort.”

Badgering the Witless

Badgering the Witless →

Iowahawk returns to the subject of whether or not Wisconsin's unionized school system trumps the non-unionized nightmare that is the Texas public school system.

Spoiler: it doesn't.
Further spoiler: Wisconsin is not doing well, at all, in educating minority students.

Is a Texas Education That Bad?

Is a Texas Education That Bad? →

Iowahawk steps out of character for a moment to set Paul Krugman straight. Krugman has been claiming that Texas, without collective bargaining, has an education system that ranks far, far below the education system of Wisconsin, which does have collective bargaining.

It turns out that, once you control for the ethnicity of the overall population, Texas students out perform Wisconsin students, ethnicity by ethnicity.

Unions and the "Rights of the Workers"

I took a lot of heat after my last post, Are Teacher's Overpaid?. That's okay. I'm used to it. Let me quickly reiterate my main point from that post: I have no idea idea whether or not teachers are overpaid. Without a functioning marketplace for teachers and employers, it's impossible to know if teachers are overpaid or underpaid. What we really need in education is more information. And only a switch away from a monopoly educational system will give us that. We can start arguing over pay after we get a market.

I was told that, given the hours teachers work and the bureaucracy teachers deal with, it's only common sense that teachers are underpaid. I was told that I didn't need a market to tell me what any teacher could tell me. I was told that teachers take the jobs they do because they don't have any choice and they endure horrific working conditions because they truly believe in education.

Well, most jobs are crappy in some degree or another — just ask the poor sucker actually working the job. By that logic, should everyone get an awesome salary and gold-plated benefits? Who decides whose job is suckier, to merit awesomer pay? This is why you need a market, to settle those questions openly. And, of course teachers will tell you that they're underpaid. How many people really, honestly, say "Nope. I'm well paid. Give my raise to someone else" or "Nope. I'm overpaid. Want 5% back this year? It really wasn't my best effort, you know."

If teachers were as underpaid as they constantly claim, they'd leave for a different job. Period. They do have choices. Every teacher I've ever met has the smarts and skills to succeed in a different field, if they wanted to. They're not trapped in a job that they're being forced to work in. They're not slaves. They can leave anytime they want.

Don't misunderstand me here. I am saying teachers are whiners. I'm not saying that teachers are the only employees that whine about working conditions. I'm saying that every worker in every industry is a whiner. Even in my industry. Especially in my industry. I've been part of after-work bull sessions where we all gripe about how unfair we have it and how we're being worked like Mike Vick's dogs. We whine. And yet we still like our jobs enough to go back and do it with a mostly cheerful heart. Whining proves nothing. Actions prove words.

Actions like quitting. That's serious. If enough teachers leave, schools will have to offer wages sufficiently high enough to entice the teachers back. Salaries and benefits will rise. That's exactly the way it works in any other sector of the economy.

I've been accused of listening to someone cry "Fire!" from a burning building and merely responding with a callous "Move somewhere else!". I've been accused of telling teachers to just "Shut up and teach". But neither accusation is true.

The implication is that if I hear a shout of "Fire!", I should immediately spring into action. I disagree with that. If someone is shouting "Fire!", I'd first look to see if there was, in fact, a fire. If there wasn't, I'd shrug and move on. Performance art, or something, you know? You would too, unless you wanted to join in the art performance.

I also don't think teachers should just "Shut up and teach". I fully believe in the right of any worker to quit any job that he or she thinks is unjust or unfair. I fully support the right of every worker to quit a job and move to another job that has better pay, better benefits, a better work environment, more job satisfaction, or that's just more convenient.

Teachers and other public employees should have exactly the same rights as any other employee in any other sector of the economy. No one is chaining them to their desks, forcing them to work. No once is "forcing them to bend over and take it in the ass". They can leave. The same way I can leave my job, if my benefits and salary get slashed below a level I'm willing to accept.

When 40% of teachers start walking off of the job for good, I'll gladly admit that they're underpaid and start working to figure out what pay and benefit package they do want. But they're not doing that.

Sadly, most teachers have only themselves to blame for the fact that their education work choices are limited to the government or the government. Through the unions, they constantly fight any attempt whatsoever to end government monopoly control of education. They scream to the high heavens whenever someone talks about introducing multiple employers into the education world (through Charter schools, voucher schools, or through increased scholarships to privates schools). Then they scream to the high heavens when that one employer (the local School District or the State) talks about doing something they don't like. It's short sighted.

There are no other employers to compare the government to, to help decide whether or not teachers are being abused. That's why teachers need a market with more than one employer. A market where they would actually have multiple businesses competing to hire them. Then they could have a choice of employers, pay packages, benefits, etc.

I'm perfectly willing to pay teachers more. I'm eager to pay great teachers a lot more. But, before I do, I want proof that the extra money is actually needed. Especially since that money comes out of my property taxes each and every year. If there were more employers, if teachers supported ending the employer monopoly, there would be proof. They could say "Hey, pay me more or I walk across the street to accept a job that pays 10% more and gives me a TA to help with the workload".

And, you bet anything you want, I'll send my kids to the schools that gives teachers a nice pay/benefits package and has happy teachers teaching good classes. Absolutely I would. I'm a Mac user for Pete's sake. I've bought 3 Toyota's in a row. I hardly ever pick the cheapest option when I'm looking to buy something new. I buy quality. I've always bought quality and I'm completely willing to pay for it.

I'm talking favorably about taking away some power from a union — not from teachers themselves — that has tried to block every single major reform proposal set forth over the last 30 years. Charter schools. Voucher schools. Virtual (online) schools. Teacher merit pay. Teacher quality rankings. Alternative routes for teacher certification. Every. Single. One.

The union does not want quality. It wants higher pay for teacher's doing the exact same thing thing that they've always done. It won't allow progress. It won't allow change of any kind. It just wants me to fork over more money for salaries year after year.

Again. Teachers are complaining because the monopoly employer is offering a pay package that they think sucks. And everytime someone proposes ending the monopoly employer and giving teachers a choice of employers with a choice of pay packages, they throw a temper tantrum and demonize the person who suggested doing so.

I've wanted teachers to have a choice of employers for 15 years. I've wanted schools, that have less bureaucracy and better working conditions, to have a chance to thrive. I've wanted schools where parents can have more of say in policies and where parents and teachers can have better working relations.

Who's really being unreasonable here?