If I had a son…

With those words, the President sought to assure African-Americans that he truly cared about them, and would do all he could to improve their lives. But, oftentimes, actions speak louder than words. Read more

Symptom of the Disease: Atlanta public school educators cheat to improve student test scores

Teachers, school administrators and principals were directly involved with various efforts – including outright cheating and changing student answers – to increase the Atlanta school systems student performance scores. Some even held “erasure parties” on weekends to change answers.

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School kids taught to sing praise to Obama – video – UPDATE 2 More video

Jim will cover this in detail today, but here is the video of the school kids singing praises to President Obama. I’m wondering if they are allowed to recite the Pledge of Allegiance each morning? Read more

You’re seeing more honors graduates the past few years

I noted this phenomenon in 2002 at the graduation of a family member. There seemed to be a high number of students graduating cum laude, magna cum laude and/or summa cum laude.

I certainly did not remember such a high percentage of graduates with honors during my stint (late 1980s) in college. Were students getting smarter or were standards being lowered?

Knowing the academic world as I do, I figured it was the standards. At the time, I thought it would be a good idea to look at graduate statistics during the last 20 years to see what percentage of students graduated with honors.

gpa-trendsStuart Rojstaczer, a retired Duke professor, has looked into the subject and has a detailed Web page about grade inflation. Rojstaczer collected data from more than 200 schools and reviewed grade point averages, which directly reflect honors status.

Grade inflation started in the 1970s and accelerated in the 1980s. Click on the image to see recent GPA trends across the country.

Do take a look at the charts and comments on Rojstaczer’s page, he found grade inflation did not occur everywhere and one very substantial set of data showed no change – even a decline – in grades. Your reader participation homework is to find out where, and post it in the comments. 😉

Thomas Reeves at the National Association of Scholars took a look at Rojstaczer’s research and has a recap.

It is no secret that grade inflation is common within contemporary academia. The extent of it, however, is known to comparatively few. One student of the topic, Stuart Rojstaczer of Duke University, recently published data showing a steady increase in undergraduate grades from 1991 to 2007. In public institutions the average GPA rose from 2.93 to 3.11. In private schools the average GPA climbed from 3.09 to 3.30.

This escalation appears more dramatic within a historical context. Rojstaczer observed that in the 1930s the average GPA at American colleges and universities was about 2.35; in the 1950s, it was about 2.52. In the turbulent 1960s, grades soared; they leveled off somewhat in the 1970s, and then began again to escalate in the 1980s. “The grade inflation that began in the 1980s has yet to end.” And this is true at all sorts and conditions of colleges and universities in both the sciences and humanities.

Walter Williams comments today

Some college administrators will tell us that the higher grades merely reflect higher-quality students. Balderdash! SAT scores have been in decline for four decades and at least a third of entering freshmen must enroll in a remedial course either in math, writing or reading, which indicates academic fraud at the high school level. A recent survey of more than 30,000 first-year students revealed that nearly half spent more hours drinking than study. Another survey found that a third of students expected B’s just for attending class, and 40 percent said they deserved a B for completing the assigned reading.

Parents with kids in college… how does this make you feel?

Department of Education school choice study supressed

Charter schools are working, vouchers are working, but teacher unions and the National Education Association helped President Obama get into the Executive Branch, so funding for programs that work is being diverted to programs – public schools – that don’t work.

Hat top to Malkin for reminding me about this Wall Street Journal piece from Sunday that I got through but never commented on.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan did a public service last week when he visited New York City and spoke up for charter schools and mayoral control of education. That was the reformer talking. The status quo Mr. Duncan was on display last month when he let Congress kill a District of Columbia voucher program even as he was sitting on evidence of its success.

What it comes down to is that federal money is being spent by local cities and towns as they see fit, to promote what works in their education system. I don’t think that one federal dime should be used for education, but when you take federal dollars, that cash usually comes with strings attached or they could take the funding away in the future with little or no warning.

Programs that are working in Washington D.C. are being cut off in favor of sending cash to public schools. I wrote about the subject and Duncan’s differing point of view here and here. More about the District’s program…

It’s bad enough that Democrats are killing a program that parents love and is closing the achievement gap between poor minorities and whites. But as scandalous is that the Education Department almost certainly knew the results of this evaluation for months.

Voucher recipients were tested last spring. The scores were analyzed in the late summer and early fall, and in November preliminary results were presented to a team of advisers who work with the Education Department to produce the annual evaluation. Since Education officials are intimately involved in this process, they had to know what was in this evaluation even as Democrats passed (and Mr. Obama signed) language that ends the program after next year.

And from the beginning of the article, we have the New York information…

In New York City with its 1.1 million students, mayoral control has resulted in better test scores and graduation rates, while expanding charter schools, which means more and better education choices for low-income families. But mayoral control expires in June unless state lawmakers renew it, and the United Federation of Teachers is working with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to weaken or kill it.

Homeschooling plan discarded by judge – not good enough

A North Carolina judge – ruling in a civil case – has ordered three kids to attend public school in the fall. The kids routinely tested better, were active in outside-the-home clubs and involved in sports activities; but that was not good enough “rounding” for Judge Ned Mangum.

The decision came down in a divorce case between the mother and father. The father cheated on his wife, and since he was moving out, he’d have to provide child support to mom. Homeschooling means mom would stay at home.

Dad did not like that idea and the judge agreed. So since dad messed up, the kids will get the short end of the stick.

Most likely, when the family was together, dad was fine with mom staying home with the kids. But now since he’s not there – due to his adultery – the poor man’s expenses have gone up. He wants mom to go to work.

The terrible thing here is that the kids are hurt.

Read the full story over at World Net Daily, but here are a few excerpts.

A statement released by a publicist working for the mother, whose children now are 10, 11 and 12, said [Judge] Mangum stripped her of her right to decide what is best for her children’s education.

The judge, when contacted by WND, explained his goal in ordering the children to register and attend a public school was to make sure they have a “more well-rounded education.”

“I thought Ms. Mills had done a good job [in homeschooling],” he said. “It was great for them to have that access, and [I had] no problems with homeschooling. I said public schooling would be a good complement.”

The judge said the husband has not been supportive of his wife’s homeschooling, and “it accomplished its purposes. It now was appropriate to have them back in public school.”

Mangum said he made the determination on his guiding principle, “What’s in the best interest of the minor children,” and conceded it was putting his judgment in place of the mother’s. …

The order proposed by the father’s lawyer also conceded the reason for the divorce was the father’s “adultery,” but it specifically said the father would not pay for homeschooling expenses for his children.

The order also stated, “Defendant believes that plaintiff is a nurturing mother who loves the children. Defendant believes that plaintiff has done a good job with the homeschooling of the children, although he does not believe that continued homeschooling is in the best interest of the children.”

I’d say dad does not believe continued homeschooling is in the best interest of his wallet.

Pam Geller over at Atlas Shrugs thinks you should get on the horn and request the judge be removed from the case. A Web site has been set up by supporters with more details.

Obama administration attacks school choice

By offering school choice, many cities – including Washington D.C. – have been able to provide some kids with the opportunity to attend better performing schools. Following marching orders from the National Education Association, the Obama administration intends to let a popular D.C. program end.

As mentioned here and here, the administration is taking some heat after the Wall Street Journal introduced us to the Parker family.

Like the Obama girls, Sarah and James [Parker] attend the Sidwell Friends School in our nation’s capital. Unlike the Obama girls, they could not afford the school without the $7,500 voucher they receive from the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program. Unfortunately, a spending bill the Senate takes up this week includes a poison pill that would kill this program — and with it perhaps the Parker children’s hopes for a Sidwell diploma.

Look, the Obama family decision to send their kids to Sidwell Friends School was probably a good move. Not only does the Obama family have the income to afford tuition, there are security concerns I’m sure Sidwell is familiar with.

But why take the opportunity from other families?

More about the programs offered
The Washington Scholarship Program (WSP) provides varying scholarship opportunities funded with private and public money. One opportunity is the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (D.C. OSP).

The D.C. OSP provides genuine school choice for low-income families in the form of scholarships for children to attend K-12 non-public schools within the District’s boundaries. The maximum annual scholarship amount of $7,500 per child is available for families at or below 185% of the federal poverty level ($39,220 for a family of four). Families must reapply and prove their eligibility each year.

Established in 2003 as a fully funded government pilot, the pre-2008 budget allocation seems to have been less than $13 million ($7,500 x 1,715 kids). The Bush administration suggested increasing this amount by $5 million in April of 2008.

So, how well was the program doing? The Heartland Institute’s John Schilling, chief of staff and director of national projects for the DC-based Alliance for School Choice, chimes in.

“This is a program that is working phenomenally well for nearly 2,000 very low-income children and enjoys overwhelming parental satisfaction,” Schilling noted, “yet [it] receives significantly less funding than DCPS or charter schools.”

Even the Heritage Foundation reviewed reports and suggested expansion in a Web memo last month.

I know, you’ve often heard me – and other libertarians/conservatives – flat out state that the government should not be involved with education at all. In this example – as with other school choice voucher programs across the nation – this is a perfect example of bipartisanship destroyed by liberal politicians.

Damn do I cringe at that word. Anyway…

As noted in a previous post, Obama’s current appropriations bill increases the District’s school budget by $20 million. The argument from liberals will be they are closing one program and replacing it with more funding for the public school system.

I’m certain the parents of Sarah and James Parker are confident that if their kids must return to the public school system, they will get the same service and quality they received from Sidwell.

The federal government is, after all, throwing more funding at the public system than was provided to the school choice program!

Good luck with that, since we’ve proven more dollars do not improve student performance. When will the politicians, the NEA and parents come to the same realization? By taking this funding and giving it to the public system, students and families who who have tasted educational success will learn an important lesson. If the government gives it to you, they can certainly take it away.

Zero tolerance alert: student wears wrong shirt

Here we go again with another ZTA. A high school student in Dos Alos, California wore a shirt to school that the administration did not like. The assistant principal deemed that the shirt violated the dress code, falling into the category of promoting a specific race, culture or ethnicity.

The shirt was tie-dyed red, white and blue – sort of, but not really representing the U.S. flag – with the words “United States of America, Washington, D.C.” on the front. The student had to remove the shirt and replace it with a bright yellow T-shirt that said “DCV: Dress Code Violator” during the school day.

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What is the Cost of Educating Kids?

Quite frequently local municipalities provide data detailing how much money is spent per pupil for budget disclosure. But are the numbers we are provided the real cost of educating kids in the United States?

It should be a pretty easy calculation, take the total amount of money spent to run the facility, pay teacher salaries and benefits, pay the administrators, buy the books and supplies, play the utilities bill and then divide that by the number of kids in the school.

But what if a town or city is only using money appropriated to the schools that is contributed by the local tax base in their per-pupil spending numbers? Read more