Tag Archives: Reading

In Los Angeles schools, only 45% of students can read at grade level

From Investors Business Daily.


There’s a law in California that requires school districts to take student progress into account when they evaluate teachers. The statute goes back 40 years; language specifically prescribing the use of statewide tests was added to it in 1999.

Until a court ruling last week, this idea of judging teachers by measurable results was pretty much a dead letter. Union opposition saw to that.

But a group of parents and students filed suit to force the Los Angeles city schools to follow the law. School Superintendent John Deasy, though nominally a defendant, was on their side. This was all about pushing the teachers’ union into the 21st Century.

On June 12, Superior Court Judge James Chalfant ruled for the plaintiffs. He noted that the current system of review gave 99.3% of the district’s teachers the highest possible rating in the 2009-10 academic year, when only 45% of students performed at grade level in reading and 56% did so in math. In a bit of judicial understatement, he said this process “provides little meaningful evaluation.”

The reaction of United Teachers Los Angeles to Chalfant’s decision was a teachable moment about union attitudes. A statement from UTLA President Warren Fletcher praised Chalfant for declining to rule on the question of whether a new evaluation system had to be worked out in collective bargaining. In other words, the union still holds out the hope that results-based assessment of teacher performance can be stymied at the negotiating table.

[…]The real dividing line is between those who cling to the old ways — rewarding teachers by seniority, course work and credentials — and those who believe in making teachers accountable for how well their students learn.

The latter group is a rising force. According to a 2011 report from the National Council on Teacher Quality, 24 states required teacher evaluations to have “objective evidence of student learning.”

California was not among those states at the time, but last week’s ruling should push it in that direction. And the more that unions resist such progress, the more they will cement their public reputation as guardians of mediocrity — or worse — in the teaching ranks.

Teacher unions protect underperforming teachers from having to care about what their customers – parents – think of them. You will never get good service when you are forced to pay for public schools through taxes. The only way to make teachers care about children is to put the money back into the parents’ pockets and then let them choose a school that works for them. Then, and only then, will schools serve parents.

Does the NAACP care more about children’s educations or union jobs?

Consider this article from the Wall Street Journal.


Here’s something you don’t see everyday. Thousands of American blacks held a rally in Harlem last week to protest . . . the NAACP.

The New York state chapter of the civil rights organization and the United Federation of Teachers, the local teachers union, have filed a lawsuit to stop the city from closing 22 of Gotham’s worst schools. The lawsuit also aims to block the city from giving charter schools space to operate in buildings occupied by traditional public schools.

Protesters at the rally, which included parents and charter school operators like Geoffrey Canada of the Harlem Children’s Zone, urged the NAACP to withdraw from the suit. But Hazel Dukes, president of the state NAACP chapter, is unpersuaded. Using the kind of language more readily associated with past opponents of black civil rights, Ms. Dukes said that critics of the lawsuit “can march and have rallies all day long. . . . We will not respond.”

What schoolhouses is Ms. Dukes standing in the doorway to protect? Well, at the Academy for Collaborative Education, one of the Harlem schools that the city wants to close, only 3% of students were performing at grade level in English last year, and only 9% in math. At Columbus High School in the Bronx, another school slated for closure, the four-year graduation rate in 2009 was 40%, versus a citywide average of 63%, and less than 10% of special education students graduated on time.

The teachers union wants to keep these abysmal schools open to preserve jobs for their members. This is bad enough. But the union and NAACP also want to limit better educational options for low-income families who can’t afford private schools and can’t afford to move to an affluent neighborhood with decent public schools. The union knows that in a place like New York City, where space is at a premium, blocking charters from operating in public buildings will hamper charter growth.

If the lawsuit succeeds, the awful schools will remain open to damage another generation of children. If you want to know why the NAACP has become irrelevant to the lives of African-Americans, this typical display of moral indifference to the plight of minority children is Exhibit A.

The NAACP is aligned with the Democrat party, and the Democrat party is beholden to teacher unions. They don’t care about children. Not only are the Democrats spending the next generation into debt, but they are also bankrupting medicare and social security, subsidizing the destruction of their families with single mother welfare, and now destroying their hopes of getting and education. It’s unconscionable. They hate children.

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What is the best way to encourage young men to read?

My answer is to have all-male schools, with all-male teachers, with all fiction books and drama selected by men, and field trips that appeal to male needs, (e.g. – the war museum! the air show! the underground caverns! a computer lab!).

But what about video games? Do they make reading seem boring to young men?

Consider this Wall Street Journal article.

The problem:

When I was a young boy, America’s elite schools and universities were almost entirely reserved for males. That seems incredible now, in an era when headlines suggest that boys are largely unfit for the classroom. In particular, they can’t read.

According to a recent report from the Center on Education Policy, for example, substantially more boys than girls score below the proficiency level on the annual National Assessment of Educational Progress reading test. This disparity goes back to 1992, and in some states the percentage of boys proficient in reading is now more than ten points below that of girls. The male-female reading gap is found in every socio-economic and ethnic category, including the children of white, college-educated parents.

The good news is that influential people have noticed this problem. The bad news is that many of them have perfectly awful ideas for solving it.

Everyone agrees that if boys don’t read well, it’s because they don’t read enough. But why don’t they read? A considerable number of teachers and librarians believe that boys are simply bored by the “stuffy” literature they encounter in school. According to a revealing Associated Press story in July these experts insist that we must “meet them where they are”—that is, pander to boys’ untutored tastes.

Spence explains how many publishers are writing books for boys that are really childish and disgusting.

Spence’s solution:

One obvious problem with the SweetFarts philosophy of education is that it is more suited to producing a generation of barbarians and morons than to raising the sort of men who make good husbands, fathers and professionals. If you keep meeting a boy where he is, he doesn’t go very far.

The other problem is that pandering doesn’t address the real reason boys won’t read. My own experience with six sons is that even the squirmiest boy does not require lurid or vulgar material to sustain his interest in a book.

So why won’t boys read? The AP story drops a clue when it describes the efforts of one frustrated couple with their 13-year-old unlettered son: “They’ve tried bribing him with new video games.” Good grief.

The appearance of the boy-girl literacy gap happens to coincide with the proliferation of video games and other electronic forms of entertainment over the last decade or two. Boys spend far more time “plugged in” than girls do. Could the reading gap have more to do with competition for boys’ attention than with their supposed inability to focus on anything other than outhouse humor?

Dr. Robert Weis, a psychology professor at Denison University, confirmed this suspicion in a randomized controlled trial of the effect of video games on academic ability. Boys with video games at home, he found, spend more time playing them than reading, and their academic performance suffers substantially. Hard to believe, isn’t it, but Science has spoken.

The secret to raising boys who read, I submit, is pretty simple—keep electronic media, especially video games and recreational Internet, under control (that is to say, almost completely absent). Then fill your shelves with good books.

What do you guys think about his idea?

I love video games. ECM helps me to find ones that I will like, and then I play those very sparingly. So this year, I played “King’s Bounty: The Legend”, “Brothers in Arms: Hell’s Highway” and “Arma II: Operation Arrowhead” on PC, “Etrian Odyssey 2: Heroes of Lagaard” and “Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies” on my Nintendo DS.

And previously I played games like “Silent Storm: Sentinels”,  “Dangerous Waters”, “Silent Hunter IV: Wolves of the Pacific”, “Combat Mission: Afrika Korps”, “Hidden & Dangerous 2: Sabre Squadron”, “Steel Panthers: World at War”, “Harpoon”, “Full Spectrum Warrior: Ten Hammers”, and my favorite RPG, “Wizardry 8”.

So I basically like large-scale tactical squad-based first-person shooters, large-scale realistic military simulations, and 2D turn-based fantasy role-playing games.

But what I noticed is that picking games like these that are adventurous, and playing them modestly, really hasn’t stopped me from reading. So long as I can link the topics that I read with apologetics or with developing a Christian view of politics, economics, marriage, family, parenting and foreign policy, then it seems to me that my reading is just an extension of my game playing. Life is an adventure, and books are weapons.

Specifically, I like to be adventurous and to fight, and I read books that help me to be able to have a job in engineering so that I can travel the world, and also fight about science, philosophy, history and religion. Maybe the real problem is that boys don’t see books as adventuring tools. My married friends view their marriages as very adventurous and subversive – they are very serious about reading and planning things out.