Another federal education boondoggle?Feb 10, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 21 • By MARY GRABAR
As the nation observed the 50th anniversary of President Johnson’s War on Poverty in early January, the 2014 Georgia Family Engagement Conference here drew over 1,200 participants, up from 800 at the inaugural state conference in 2012. About a dozen states have held such confabs, pursuant to the “Parental Involvement” section of Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, an arm of the War on Poverty that sends federal funds to low-income-area schools in hopes of “equalizing” so-called educational outcomes.
About a third of the participants in the conference were parent volunteers; those I met were impressive in their dedication and length of service. Most in attendance, however, were professionals—state or local education officials, administrators of grant-funded nonprofits, education researchers, and so on.
An important thrust of the conference was to share strategies for fulfilling the federal mandates that go along with Title I money. Parental engagement receives 1 percent of the total Title I pot, which has risen from $3.2 billion in 1980 to $14.4 billion in the budget just passed. Naturally, that money comes with strings, many of them defined in legal jargon that is difficult for your average parent volunteer to understand.
Ken Banter, Title I director for the rural Peach County Schools, confirmed, “The monitoring piece with federal funds is humongous.” A whole session—“What is a Title I School and What Does that Mean for My Child?”—was devoted to basic explanations from two Georgia Department of Education Title I specialists. Judy Alger asserted, “We know through research that poverty equals low performance” (though when I inquired about the research, she suggested Google). Therefore, Title I designation is “a good thing” for a school, sending it more teachers, more literacy and math coaches, more tutors, and more technology. But, Alger warned, “They give us money because they want to tell us how to do things.” For instance, noted Kathy Pruett, under Targeted Assistance Programs, snacks are okay, meals not.
One string requires that parents be recruited to review the Comprehensive Local Education Agency Improvement Plan (CLIP). Ken Banter shared how he tried to make things easy for parents by dividing the 65-page CLIP into 2-page sections, preparing a 5-page handout on acronyms, and giving away donated book bags of school supplies to volunteers. As a result, he said, participation in his 4,000-student district increased from 10 parents in 2012 to more than 150 in 2013.
CaDeisha Cooper, Title I director for the Candler County Schools, said of her summer leadership program, “What you do is what the law requires you to do.” She makes a particular effort to translate the legal gobbledygook into simple language for parents.
The problem of parents’ difficulty understanding government programs arose again at the only panel on the controversial new federally orchestrated education standards, “Giving Students a Chance: Understanding the Common Core Georgia Performance Standards.” The panelists all represented organizations that support Common Core: Lisa-Marie Haygood and Donna Kosicki are president-elect and past president of the Georgia PTA, respectively, and Dana Rickman is director of policy and research at the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education. Kosicki led a word-association exercise on feel-good terms like “relevance.” Haygood offered that “it is important to stop switching gears” and not abandon Common Core.
Rickman showed a number of slides demonstrating Georgia’s lagging college readiness. When I asked how Common Core will help, Rickman replied, “It is believed that the new standards will lead to improvement” and directed me to the Fordham Foundation’s website. Fordham, like the PTA, has received funds from the Gates Foundation, the biggest private funder of Common Core.
2:05 PM, Jan 23, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
In school, the intense pressure to do well on tests creates a temptation to cheat. And in Philadelphia, it seems that teachers and their supervisors succumbed to it. As Stephanie Banchero of the Wall Street Journal writes:
9:01 AM, Dec 11, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
A Missouri school district faces a $150,000 bill for Obamacare, according to a report on KMIZ-MO:
"The Affordable Care Act could cost the Jefferson City public schools more than a $150,000," said the news anchor.
"This came to light at last night's board meeting when district officials told board members they would have to pay health insurance for substitute teachers," says the other anchor.
Misreading reading scores.
9:14 AM, Dec 3, 2013 • By ETHAN EPSTEIN
We’re going to hear a lot in the coming days about how the “Chinese” education system is superior to America’s. That’s because the results of an international exam were released today, and American students fared predictably poorly. And it was “Asian nations [who] dominated the test,” reports the Associated Press. “The top average scores in each subject came from Shanghai, China,” says the AP.
8:54 AM, Dec 2, 2013 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
The educrats have decided that if students are to be taught about Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, then it might be best to leave out any mention of that … well, that war that was being fought at around that same time.
12:15 PM, Nov 17, 2013 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
There is widespread opposition to the latest federal initiative aimed at improving education in this country.
10:44 AM, Nov 5, 2013 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
Elections, as we are too-often reminded, have consequences. You vote for someone who says that you can keep your health care plan and … er, bad example.
2:24 PM, Oct 23, 2013 • By MICHAEL WARREN
An organization representing Louisiana parents shouldn't be allowed to intervene in a federal lawsuit against the state's school voucher program, the Department of Justice said in a response to a motion requesting legal intervention.
9:39 AM, Oct 23, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
New research from the Republicans on the Senate Budget Committee shows that over the last 5 years, the U.S. has spent about $3.7 trillion on welfare. Here's a chart, showing that spending versus transportation, education, and NASA spending:
Oct 14, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 06 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
It was almost sad last June when the Los Angeles Unified School District announced its intention to buy an iPad for every one of its more than 600,000 students in a deal valued in the hundreds of millions of dollars. The scheme carried more than a whiff of desperation—education bureaucrats overseeing a school district where fewer than half of enrolled students can read or do math at grade level evidently thinking (hoping? praying?) that a technological deus ex machina would save the day.
The increasingly imperious Arne Duncan.Sep 30, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 04 • By FREDERICK M. HESS AND MAX EDEN
In the early days of the Obama administration, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan was the bipartisan superstar. At Duncan’s confirmation hearing, Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) told him, “President-elect Obama has made several distinguished cabinet appointments, but in my view of it all, I think you are the best.”
2:57 PM, Sep 18, 2013 • By MICHAEL WARREN
Bobby Jindal is outraged over a Department of Justice lawsuit against a Louisiana school voucher program. The suit, which he (repeatedly) calls “cynical, immoral, and hypocritical” and the “worst misuse” of federal desegregation laws, aims to stop a program that allows poor students in failing schools to enter a lottery for a voucher to attend a better school.
12:11 PM, Sep 16, 2013 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
If the public is to understand the full awfulness of the sequester, it seems that it must first suffer. So, as Eric Katz reports at Government Executive, the FBI will be furloughing agents and cutting costs in a way that, according to its departing director will:
"If you have a high school diploma, there’s almost nothing for you."1:39 PM, Aug 22, 2013 • By JERYL BIER
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, on Air Force One en route to New York for the president's education bus tour, had some strong words to say about the prospects of those who don't graduate from high school, and also about those who complete high school but do not go on to college.