Tag Archives: Consumer-Friendly

International tests show US children lagging despite record spending on education

Jay Richards tweeted this article from the Wall Street Journal.

Excerpt:

Since 1998, the Program for International Student Assessment, or Pisa, has ranked 15-year-old kids around the world on common reading, math and science tests. The U.S. brings up the middle—again—among 65 education systems that make up fourth-fifths of the global economy. The triennial Pisa report also shows—again—that East Asian countries like Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea produce the best outcomes.

U.S. performance hasn’t budged in a decade. For 2012, U.S. students placed 26th in mathematics, a bit below the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development average, and 17th in reading and 21st in science, close to the average. The U.S. slipped in all categories compared to international competitors, plunging from 11th in reading as recently as 2009.

American teenagers seem especially weak in core academic subjects with high cognitive demands, such as translating concepts into solutions for real-world problems. A quarter never become proficient in math. In Shanghai and Korea, the comparable figure is 10% or fewer. Some 7% of U.S. students reached the top two scientific performance levels, compared with 17% in Finland and an amazing 27% in Shanghai. Is it tiger moms or tiger schools, or maybe both?

The U.S. is way out front in one measure: per-student spending. Only Austria, Luxembourg, Norway and Switzerland spend more. Despite laying out $115,000 per head, the U.S. did no better than the Slovak Republic, which spends $53,000.

Perhaps most depressingly, the data show no statistically significant U.S. achievement improvement over time. None. In an era when it pays to be thankful for small mercies, at least we’re not getting worse, but America’s relative standing is falling as other countries improve.

[…]Massachusetts has been running public schools since 1635 and today is home to some of the best performers in the nation. The state entered Pisa as if it was its own country—but students of the same age in Shanghai performed as if they had two more years of math instruction than those in the Bay State.

[…]Pisa also adds another count to the bill of indictment for the Democrats who block reform to serve their teachers union patrons. Education Secretary Arne Duncan called the report “a picture of educational stagnation,” but liberals are major impediments to more accountability, merit-based compensation and school-choice competition. The Justice Department has even gone so far as to sue Louisiana to block its modest voucher program, which is a moral crime against the students consigned to failing schools.

There are a few areas of economics that I think that Christians really ought to understand, and education is one of them. We definitely need to be concerned about policies that make it harder for poor, minority students to get ahead. We keep throwing money at the unionized public school system, and we get no results. We need to think about making education more like online shopping. What makes online shopping great is choice and competition. If schools were allowed to compete with one another, then the customer would be assured of getting more quality for less money. The public school system is a monopoly, and it serves the teachers and the education bureaucrats – not the children.

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Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal unveils education reform plan

Here are the details on Bobby Jindal’s new education plan, from New Orleans Online Access.

Excerpt:

 Gov. Bobby Jindal on Tuesday outlined a far-reaching set of proposals aimed at improving education in Louisiana, including a state-wide voucher program for low-income students, an expansion of autonomous charter schools and steps to link a teachers’ classroom performance to their job protections and their compensation. The governor has been promising for months now to make education reform the centerpiece of his second-term agenda.

[…]The voucher program may prove the most controversial aspect of the plan. Jindal is proposing to help pay tuition at private and parochial schools for any child of a low-income family who attends a school that receives a letter grade of C, D or F.

More than 70 percent of Louisiana’s public schools would fall into that category, opening up districts across the state to competition for public funding from private institutions. Parents who opt out of those public schools would be able to take the public funding set aside for their child with them to pay for tuition.

Voucher opponents argue that offering private school tuition siphons money away from public education, but the governor is framing the idea as a way to put decision-making in the hands of parents.

Also toward that end, Jindal is proposing to fast-track the approval of new charter schools for proven charter operators. Charters are publicly funded but privately managed and typically overseen by nonprofit boards. They compete with traditional public schools in their area for students.

Jindal is also proposing to end regular annual pay increases for teachers based on years in the classroom, ban the use of seniority in all personnel decisions and weaken the power that local school boards have in hiring and firing decisions in favor of superintendents.

Teachers coming into the classroom for the first time would also see major changes under Jindal’s plan: districts would have greater flexibility to establish their own pay scales for new teachers and tenure would be set aside only for those who earn high ratings on evaluations five years in a row.

I thought it might be helpful to also post this quick introduction to the issue of school choice, from the Cato Institute.

I don’t agree with the Cato Institute on everything, but they’re right on this issue. The Heritage Foundation also has 3 small videos explaining school choice – with cartoons!

There’s an even longer video narrated by John Stossel that you can watch, that really explains the why school reform matters – and why it’s a conservative issue. Like the sex-selection abortion issue that I blogged about here before, this is an issue that conservatives need to seize on. Here, we can really let our compassionate side show by helping the poorest students, especially those in visible minorities, who simply cannot get a quality education in a public school monopoly that is not responsive to the needs of parents, or their children. This is an issue where we can win – the only losers are the educational bureaucrats and the teacher unions. But the kids are more important.

Supreme Court narrowly sides with private schools against government

From the Wall Street Journal.

Excerpt:

The Supreme Court’s big school choice decision yesterday is notable mainly for its insight into the progressive mind. To wit, no fewer than four Justices seem to believe that all wealth belongs to the government, and then government allows citizens to keep some of it by declining to tax it.

At issue in Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization v. Winn was a state tax credit for donations to organizations that offer scholarships for private schools, including (but not exclusively) religious schools. A group of taxpayers sued, claiming that religion was being subsidized on their dime, in violation of the First Amendment’s establishment clause.

The district court tossed out this novel church-state theory, only to have it revived by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Yesterday’s 5-4 decision was another well-deserved rebuke to the nation’s leading judicial activists who dominate that appellate court.

[…]And what do you know, four Justices assume precisely that. Both of President Obama’s nominees joined the four dissenters, and newcomer Elena Kagan delivered a fiery 24-page apologia for that position, claiming that “the distinction” between appropriations and tax credits “is one in search of a difference.” There’s a good debate to be had about tax credits (see below), but one question for Justice Kagan: Is the government also establishing religion by not imposing a 100% tax rate on churches, mosques and synagogues?With one more vote, the current Court’s liberal minority would surely ban school choice involving any religious schools. The Arizona decision shows again that the Court is only a single vote away from many decisions not all that far removed from those of the Ninth Circuit.

You can also listen to a 5-minute podcast on the decision from the Hugh Hewitt show right here.

Note that Obama’s two new appointees sided against Christian schools and private schools. Yet some brain-damaged Christians actually vote for Democrats, and claim to be Christians. (And they claim to want to get married and to raise children who will presumably be Christians, too!). School choice is as central an issue to informed Christians as is opposition to no-fault divorce, same-sex marriage and abortion.

Must-see videos on education policy

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