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Disenfranchised: The Buzz in Education Reform (Nancy Salvato)

The word that most aptly describes the momentum behind education reform going into 2007 is disenfranchised.  This can be applied to students in grades P all the way to 16.  It can also be applied to adults who want to go back to school, who never completed school, or who are learning English as a second language.  It can be used to describe those who find themselves on the wrong side of the law.  This word can be mixed and matched with pretty much any type of person that is deserving of more opportunity; and who isn’t?  To be sure, the word "disenfranchised" will inevitably be used to call for more education funding, to fight for more equitable education and to appeal for universal education.  "Disenfranchised" is the sort of descriptor that can be mixed and matched by any education reformer for any type of reform because it appeals to the conscience; it begs the decent person to look out for those amongst us who might need a little action on their behalf.  “It is the right thing to do.”  But be forewarned: those whose heartstrings are being pushed and pulled in every direction must try and be discerning about the various offerings and work through the maze of rhetoric so that the disenfranchised are truly helped by our efforts. Like it or not, sometimes the solutions can become part of the problem.

The effort behind universal preschool stems from the notion that some children are better prepared for Kindergarten than others.  For a multitude of reasons, underprivileged children are not accumulating as much practice playing with the English language and they are not exposed to the types of concrete experiences which lay the foundation for learning abstract mathematical concepts.  In my own observations with “disenfranchised” children,

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AB 1381: Scraps for the Children (Peter Ford, by way of Clark Baker)

I was recently asked about the ongoing battle between LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s bid to take over the LAUSD and the ensuing battle. My friend and career teacher Peter J. Ford III, who presently teaches in Inglewood, California, penned his analysis.

From the eyes of a classroom teacher, I view Mayor Villaraigosa’s (Mayor ‘V’) current setback of LAUSD control as little more than an extra element of entertainment to this humorous, yet insidious sideshow. When finally resolved, union bosses and politicians will win big but, as always, the children will be last in line – if they arrive at all.

This saga is only the latest chapter in the book of “use education as a stepping stone for your ambitions.” As a teacher, I’ve seen substitutes who were aspiring actors, choosing to teach while “in between jobs.” I’ve had colleagues who were simply waiting to get accepted into law or medical school and, after 2-3 years, were gone. I’ve had others who openly say (at least they were honest) they wanted to teach for 2-5 years then “go into policy.”

Assembly Bill (AB) 1381 is a façade that makes its writers and supporters feel good about themselves. Their self-congratulatory, “See, look what I did!” does nothing to help children. AB 1381 gives the mayor no authority to encourage and grow the pool of quality mathematics and science teachers LAUSD desperately needs in all schools, not just the urban ones.

The next time any politician demands “resources in the classroom,” ask him or her to quantify their statement; does it mean giving each teacher a full-time aide who actually teaches and maybe a $2000/year stipend to buy anything their classroom needs? Does it mean paying teachers for all

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Why We Need School Choice (Jamie Story)

Reality has set in.  Texas schools are trailing much of the United States, and United States schools are trailing the rest of the world.  Over the years, the “solution” offered for ailing schools has been an infusion of new resources.  Unfortunately, these “reforms” have done nothing to increase outcomes, and generations of students have suffered in the meantime.  We must find a true solution now.

School choice is the most effective and efficient means to improve student achievement.  It provides immediate help to students trapped in failing schools, while encouraging competition that leads to increased outcomes for all students, from public and private schools alike.  School choice is the most promising solution for our schools and our children.

Schools Must Improve

Texas students are being underserved by public schools.

  • Almost 40 percent of Texas students fail to graduate high school.1
  • 88 percent of Texas public schools are rated “Acceptable” or higher, but this designation only requires that 35 percent of students demonstrate proficiency in science, 40 percent in math, and 60 percent each in reading, writing, and social studies.2
  • Texas students exhibit the 3rd-lowest SAT scores and the 8th-lowest ACT scores among the 50 states, despite having below average participation rates on the two tests.3
  • Over the past ten years, SAT scores in Texas have increased by only one point, while the average for the rest of the country has increased by 18 points.4
  • Half of all students in Texas two-year colleges, and 40 percent of all college students statewide, require remedial coursework.5

Those favoring the status quo often boast that 4th and 8th-grade Texas students have recently outperformed the national average on several subjects of the National Assessment of Educational Progress.  Unfortunately, besting the national average is hardly impressive, as the U.S. ranks near the bottom of industrialized countries in student achievement.7

Traditional

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