September 29, 2010
President Obama wants public schools to hire 10,000 new math teachers nationwide. Andrew Coulson of the Cato Institute asks why? The last few million new public school employees haven't done much for student achievement. Maybe its about getting more due paying members to help fund political campaigns for things that have nothing to do with education?
September 23, 2010
A new Vanderbilt University study on merit pay - the most rigorous ever conducted - shows that a merit-pay plan in Tennessee had no statistically significant impact on student achievement. That is the bad news. The good news is that it also produced none of the doom-and-gloom predictions that unions normally attach to the concept of merit pay.
Eric Hanushek (Stanford University) notes that the study did not examine the long-term effects of attracting higher-quality teachers to the profession via merit pay (they no longer have to wait 15 years to maximize their salary). We already know that the average teacher today is recruited from the bottom third of college graduates and that paying teachers more money doesn't attract better teachers (we just pay more money for the same talent pool), so maybe merit pay has the long-term potential to attract higher-quality teachers. At this point, we still don't know.
Dr. Matthew Ladner (vice president of research at the Goldwater Institute and a policy fellow at the Nevada Policy Research Institute) still supports the idea of merit pay (for reasons including those given by Eric Hanushek) and wonders why merit pay worked in Little Rock, Ark., but not in Tennessee. He thinks more research on the right way to do merit pay is still needed.
Dr. Jay P. Greene (University of Arkansas) claims to have always been skeptical of merit pay (and now is even more skeptical). He reasons that creating market forces (via merit pay) won't work when the teachers are still operating within an uncompetitive, government-controlled monopoly. According to Dr. Greene, the whole system needs to change.
September 22, 2010
With the upcoming nationwide release of the education documentary "Waiting for Superman" by director Davis Guggenheim (Inconvient Truth) - which takes a critical look at the failure of American public education - Dr. Jay P. Greene (University of Arkansas) and Dr. Greg Forster (Kern Family Foundation) have announced that the unions have officially lost the war of ideas on education.
It is only a matter of time before the education unions (which influence more than just education) are replaced with professional service organizations that treat teachers like professional adults rather than cannon fodder.
September 20, 2010
September 16, 2010
Since the Clark County School District (CCSD) educates 3 out of every 4 children and spends $3 out of every $4 on K-12 education in the Silver State, examining its budget provides a reliable estimate for the overall health of spending in Nevada. So how are we doing in this economic downturn?
Since the massive 2003 tax hikes began funding K-12 education in 2004, CCSD's total budget has increased 9.2 percent per-pupil, operating budget 9.8 percent and salaries and benefits for employees 12.1 percent. From the end of one recession to the end of another, CCSD has more money per-pupil, even after adjusting for inflation. Hardly tough sledding and we suspect the same story is true for most of the other school districts in Nevada.
So even with the "massive budget cuts" K-12 education has seen in the last two years, per pupil spending is still higher today than it was from 2000-01 through 2005-06 school years.
But as you've heard from media reports and pundits (almost daily) for the last two years is that education has been "cut to the bone."
Since the recession began at the end of 2007, CCSD's per-pupil spending from the general operating fund (yes, even adjusted for inflation to 2010 dollars) has declined by a "massive" 1.01 percent.
Yup, 1 percent budget reduction - right down to the bone.
But as I've stated numerous times, the operating budget ($6,900 per-pupil) isn't the total budget ($11,900 per-pupil). CCSD's total budget per-pupil has declined by an "impressive" 3.3 percent.
So are the children really suffering with a 1 percent decline in the operating budget and a 3.3 percent decline in the total budget? Hardly, it's the policymakers and bureaucrats that are "suffering" because they have to make adult decisions on how to use scarce resources more effectively.
September 15, 2010
"Staffing hurt by budget cuts" writes the Las Vegas Sun. Yes, that is true, in part. But when you take a close look at taxdollars devoted to salaries and benefits for K-12 education in Nevada you'll notice that salary and benefits outstrips inflation and student enrollment growth combined - even within the last couple of years.
2004 was the first full school year in which the 2003 tax increases (largest in state history) were available to fund education (also the first year available in detail from the Clark County School Districts detailed budgets). Since 2004, CCSD's general operating fund (what they consider the day to day operating budget for the school district) increased by 9.8 percent.
Salary and Benefits for CCSD employees grew by 12.1 percent - more than the operating budget and total budget.
This isn't surprising. After all, in 1955 the Clark County School District employed 1 person for every 20 students; today they employ one person for every 8.6 students. We have more employees in education earning far larger salaries and benefits, but is this investment producing the results we need?
Maybe it is time we start thinking about the outcomes for children rather than how many jobs K-12 education can provide for adults?
FYI, if you think 2004 is an arbitrary figure to select, that date is higher than 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2003 with 2000 being the low point in the last decade. And if you are worried about the recent budget cuts, these increases are AFTER the budget cuts. In fact, per-pupil spending devoted to salary and benefits hasn't gone down...AT ALL since the recession started.
September 14, 2010
A new survey by William G. Howell, a professor at the University of Chicago and Paul E. Peterson and Martin R. West both of Harvard University, find overwhelming public support for tuition-tax credit education scholarship programs to help parents afford private school tuition.
A number of states—Arizona, Florida, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island, for example—provide tax credits for low-income families who send their children to private schools or to those who give to charities established for such purposes. Support for tax credits is much higher than for vouchers, especially if the question makes clear that credits may be used for school expenses at both public and private schools.
Today, 55 percent of Americans support the idea of tax-credits while only 20 percent oppose. The support continues to grow among African-Americans and Hispanic Americans. Allowing people and/or corporations to earn tax-credits for donations made to low-income student scholarship programs boosted the popularity further.
In other reform news, 47 percent of the American public opposes teacher tenure while just 25 percent support it. Additionally, 49 percent of the public supports merit-pay for teachers while just 25 percent oppose it. There was also strong public support for tougher standards and more testing.
Read the full article here.
September 8, 2010
Nationwide, enrollment in special education declined from 6.7 million in 2004-05 to 6.6 million students in 2007-08 (latest data available). Specific learning disabilities (SLD) - which is the largest but mildest form of special education - fell from 2.9 million to 2.6 million over that same period. Even the number of students classified with mental retardation fell slightly.
It is interesting to see this evidence (again) just after the Clark County School district requested legislation to boost funding for their special education programs.
But why are special-ed enrollments dropping?
Some, like professor Torgesen at Florida State, claim early intervention and improved reading education (like Reading First) are a cause for the decline in special education enrollment (some SLD children are classified as special-ed because previous teachers were ineffective, not because the student was born with an impairment).
Torgesen also suggest it may budgetary - special education costs about 1.6 times more than regular education - and other education programs like class-size reduction are squeezing funds available for special education.
Yet others, like Dr. Jay P. Greene at the University of Arkansas, argue that declining enrollment may also be the result of districts identifying fewer students as learning disabled to avoid paying private school tuitions (as required by Federal law if the public school cannot provide appropriate services). According to Greene, districts appear to have been labeling students SLD to acquire additional resources attached to special education. Greene found evidence that special education vouchers are correlated with a decline in students being labled SLD.
Also, Greene notes that students in private special education look considerably different than in public schools. Public school special-ed is dominated by speech/language disabilities and specific learning disabilities, while private school special-ed is dominated by students with autism, multiple disabilities and emitional disturbances.
September 1, 2010
The ranking was based on reading and math scores for fourth- and eighth-grade low-income students on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. By focusing on low-income student achievement the researchers create a better apples-to-apples comparison between states.
The good news is that Nevada beats all of its regional neighbors in educating low-income students. Nevada's ability to provide above-average education to low-income students is worthy of praise, but Nevada's middle- and high-income students don't perform much better, which drags Nevada’s overall achievement levels down.
Policies like identifying effective teachers, rewarding good teachers, alternative teacher certification and expanded school choice can all help improve the quality of education for all children in the Silver State.