Thursday, July 24, 2014

Oklahoma GOP voters (and their nominee for state superintendent) support educational choice

In this column in the Edmond Sun, I review some of the data from a recent Tarrance Group survey which finds that GOP voters in Oklahoma strongly support private-school choice.

Interestingly, the Tarrance survey found that those voters backing Joy Hofmeister for state school superintendent favor educational choice by a wide margin (69 percent favor, while only 25 percent oppose).

Hofmeister supporters favor the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarships (72 percent to 20 percent), the Equal Opportunity tax-credit scholarships (68 percent to 21 percent), and Education Savings Accounts (57 percent to 33 percent). At a July 17 meeting of the Muskogee County Republicans and Conservatives Club, Hofmeister told Jamison Faught, editor of MuskogeePolitico.com, that she supports all three of those educational-choice mechanisms.

Monday, July 21, 2014

'Study: More public school choices, fewer private school vouchers'

Travis Pillow has the details on a new study from Florida.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Former ed secretary: 'Consumer-driven education' is coming

"When I look ahead to the schools of 20 years from now, what I see are institutions that not only will be more diverse, but will in every way look and function differently from the schoolhouses of today," writes Margaret Spellings, who served as secretary of education from 2005 to 2009.

Ms. Spellings, writing recently in the 125th anniversary edition of The Wall Street Journal, predicts that

Parents, for one, will have access to the flow of data, allowing them to help their children find the education that best fits them. Buyers, meaning the parents and students, will be in control of the education, selecting from an à la carte menu of options. Gone will be the fixed-price menu, where a student attends a school based upon geography and is offered few alternatives. Students and their parents can take their state and federal dollars and find an education that best suits them.

For many Americans, this revolution will mean home schooling. For others, it will mean accessing coursework online at any time. For all students, this will mean more individualized learning. ... 

From early ages through college, data and information will guide students and parents through this new world. They will look for the best education options like travelers today look for a Trip Advisor rating.

The only reason we will not reach this better place is if the status quo prevails. But the market-oriented forces that have changed so much of our world — competition, customization, technology, modern management, and customer focus — are too powerful for even an entrenched educational establishment to resist.

'It’s opening day for new parental choice program in Florida'

Ron Matus has the details.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

'You don't have to reform your entire school system'

I'll never forget something I read many, many moons ago, around the time Lincoln was starting first grade. "After a combined total of forty years in education," wrote Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise, "we have come to one simple conclusion: if you want your child to have an excellent education, you need to take charge of it yourself. You don't have to reform your entire school system. All you have to do is teach your own child."

Through the years I have frequently had occasion to reflect on that thought. Usually it's when there's trouble in socialist paradise — not just your everyday run-of-the-mill trouble, but something that borders on the farcical. Today, for example, The Oklahoman provided a helpful summary of how Oklahoma state officials plan to begin developing new academic standards. Enjoy:

To develop new academic standards, a steering committee composed of several state government education officials will appoint four executive committees of up to 21 members apiece.

The executive committees will include everyone from parents to tribal leaders to business leaders. Then, 28 Standards Creation Teams, comprising mostly teachers, will draft the new standards with input from executive committees.

And then, Draft Review Committees, which can include Oklahomans from all walks of life, will examine standards.

Throughout the process, 12 Regional Advisory Committees will gather community input. Later, an Assessment Design Committee will review standards content, alignment from grade to grade, and assessment design and structure.

Proposed standards will then be submitted to 45 days of public comment. After that, the state Board of Education will have to approve the standards. ... [And] all the aforementioned work can then be thrown out the window on a legislative whim.

To which I can only respond:



As a policy wonk, I will leave the committees and the bureaus and the five-year-plans to those who still don't trust the free-enterprise system. I will continue to emphasize the one reform which the empirical evidence consistently shows improves student performance in the government-operated schools.

But as a parent, I'm exceedingly grateful for the truth expressed so well by Jessie Wise and her daughter: "You don't have to reform your entire school system. All you have to do is teach your own child."

No, really. How did they get there?

"We've got kids in 11th and 12th grade who can't read at a third-grade level," says Eddie Evans, Youth Services of Tulsa's director of north Tulsa programs. "How'd they get there?"

That's not a rhetorical question. I would honestly like to know how they got there.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Status quo decides to stick with the status quo

The state's largest newspaper is rightly concerned that "the new director of a panel charged with setting the passing grade for state tests has opposed efforts to raise the academic bar in Oklahoma." The Commission for Educational Quality and Accountability recently announced that Duncan superintendent Sherry Labyer has been hired as its executive director. "Labyer has been a vocal critic of education reform in Oklahoma," the paper notes, "opposing many transparency and accountability measures."

Labyer cheered lawmakers when they overrode Gov. Mary Fallin’s veto of a reading proficiency bill this year. Thanks to the override, schools can now socially promote third-grade students shown to be illiterate on multiple measurements over several months. Nearly one-third of third-graders in Labyer’s district weren’t reading at grade level. Labyer also opposed A-F grades for school sites. Of seven graded schools in her district, none got an A. Two received Bs, four got Cs and one got an F.

Perhaps most troubling is that Labyer criticized state officials for increasing cut scores on state tests. To pass the Biology I end-of-instruction test, high school students previously had to answer just 52 percent of questions correctly. That’s been raised to 70 percent, which is hardly unreasonable. Labyer’s objection to such minimal standards is worrisome: She will have a major role in setting future cut scores.

For years, Oklahoma was notorious for having a state testing system so lax that it produced wildly inflated results. In 2009, a study funded by the Oklahoma Business and Education Coalition noted a gap in student achievement on state tests compared with National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) tests, saying the gap was “particularly large in Oklahoma, compared to other states.”

Although 94 percent of fourth-grade students in Oklahoma were graded proficient on the reading and English portion of the state test in 2007, NAEP tests found that just 27 percent of students were truly proficient. For eighth-grade math, 77 percent were graded as “proficient and above” on state tests, compared with 21 percent on NAEP.

One major cause of the gap was that state officials set cut scores extremely low to inflate “proficiency” rates. There’s still a significant gap today, making the case for education reform even more compelling.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Sal Khan is not a state-certified teacher

I've mentioned before that I don't understand all the fuss about being a state-certified teacher. And in a new essay, Gary North reminds us that, umm, Sal Khan "was never formally certified as a teacher."

Khan has proven that 100+ years of educational theory is wrong. With no training whatsoever in a formal program of education, he became, almost overnight, the most important teacher in the history of the world. The teachers' union can scream bloody murder, but it won't do any good. His program is clearly better than anything that the typical tax-funded public school has to offer.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

College is expensive

... because high school is a failure, says economist David Howden.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

OKC school serves homeless children

And school choice would allow them to serve even more.


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Liberal PLAC devoted to the failed status quo

"Unionized government monopolies: the way of the future!"

"The Oklahoma Central Parent Legislative Action Committee (PLAC) bills itself as 'a nonpartisan group,' but it has a thoroughly liberal-leaning agenda," The Oklahoman correctly observed in a recent editorial. "The organization supports tax increases, opposes tax cuts and demands increased government spending with minimal state oversight. The group also opposes introducing market forces into public education and supports legislation to restrict parents’ educational choices for their children."

In the Oklahoma House, 32 lawmakers — 23 Democrats and nine Republicans — sided with PLAC’s agenda on 100 percent of rated votes. Missed votes didn’t count against legislators, so those getting 100 percent scores didn’t necessarily vote the liberal line advocated by PLAC on every single issue. But some did, including Reps. Dennis Casey, R-Morrison; Tommy Hardin, R-Madill; Jadine Nollan, R-Sand Springs; Dustin Roberts, R-Durant, and Pat Ownbey, R-Ardmore. Another Republican, Rep. Skye McNiel of Bristow, missed one vote. Otherwise, she also marched to the beat of PLAC’s drum.

PLAC's report card claims to measure lawmakers' "support of public education," but because it uses a hopelessly outdated definition of public education, it misses the mark.

Many of our status-quo friends stuck in the 20th (or even the 19th) century don’t seem to realize that "public education" is an end, not a means. The end goal is an educated public — and it doesn’t matter if that education takes place in a traditional public school, a charter school, or in a private school with help from a state-backed scholarship or a tax-credit scholarship.

Those truly committed to an educated public will not continue to support a demonstrably ineffective method of getting there — namely, dumping more money into a heavily unionized government monopoly. Rather, Oklahomans who want to see an educated public will embrace educational choice — the one reform which the empirical evidence consistently shows improves student performance for school-choice participants and for government-run schools.

Indeed, I’m eager to raise per-pupil funding to whatever level OK Central PLAC deems best — so long as the money is given to parents, not to the bureaucracy.

Oklahoma's iron triangle resists educational choice

I explain it in the Edmond Sun.

Monday, July 7, 2014

'The NCES, NIEER, and spinning preschool data'

"The issue," Chester Finn notes correctly, "is whether a federal statistical agency — intended to be immune to every sort of policy agenda and political interest — should outsource its data-gathering efforts to advocacy groups."