ETS: Even The Best and Brightest of American Young Adults are Dim

March 3, 2015

 

 

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Hey Mav, you got the number for that truck driving school in Oklahoma? I think we’re going to need it. ETS dives into Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) data to measure the abilities of the American millennial generation (aka our those tasked with keeping the lights on after the entire Baby Boom generation reaches retirement age circa 2030) compared to their peers around the globe. The news is not good:

One central message that emerges from this report is that, despite having the highest levels of educational attainment of any previous American generation, these young adults on average demonstrate relatively weak skills in literacy, numeracy, and problem solving in technology-rich environments compared to their international peers. These findings hold true when looking at millennials overall, our best performing and most educated, those who are native born, and those from the highest socioeconomic background. Equally troubling is that these findings represent a decrease in literacy and numeracy skills for U.S. adults when compared with results from previous adult surveys.

Link to full report here. I’ll be reading through this, I’m not convinced that this squares with other analysis of PISA data available, but I plan to look into it. If it holds up it is a damning indictment not only of K-12 but also of our six year beer soaked odysseys of self discovery sometimes resulting in degrees apparently of lower value that we suspected higher education system.

HT Kingsland

 

 


Father Ted Hesburgh Passes Away

February 27, 2015

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

A great man has been lost to us. Long time readers of JPGB will recall the passionate letter Father Ted sent to Senator Durbin and Secretary Duncan along with Father Jenkins and Father Scully during the attempt to destroy the Washington D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program in the early days of the Obama administration.

Dear Senator Durbin and Secretary Duncan,

Warmest greetings from the University of Notre Dame.  We hope this letter finds both of you well, and that the new year has been filled with grace and blessings for you and your families.

We write today because we are all deeply disappointed by the turn of events that has led to the imminent demise of the Washington DC Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP), and we are gravely concerned about the effects that the unprecedented gestures that have jeopardized this program will have on some of the most at-risk children in our nation’s capital.   

For the past decade, the University of Notre Dame, through its Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE), has served as the nation’s largest provider of teachers and principals for inner-city Catholic schools.  Since 1993, we have prepared more than 1,000 teachers and hundreds of principals to work in some of the poorest Catholic schools in the nation.  That experience, along with the research that we have sponsored through our Center for Research on Educational Opportunity, leads us to an unqualified conclusion: the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program provides an educational lifeline to at-risk children, standing unequivocally as one of the greatest signs of hope for K-12 educational reform.  To allow its demise, to effectively force more than 1,700 poor children from what is probably the only good school they’ve ever attended, strikes us as an unconscionable affront to the ideal of equal opportunity for all.

Three decades of research tell us that Catholic schools are often the best providers of educational opportunity to poor and minority children.  Students who attend Catholic schools are 42 percent more likely to graduate from high school and are two and a half times more likely to graduate from college than their peers in public schools.  Recent scholarship on high school graduation rates in Milwaukee confirms that programs like the OSP can, over time, create remarkable opportunities for at-risk children.  And after only three years, the research commissioned by the Department of Education is clear and strong with regard to the success of the OSP, as you both well know.  This program empowers parents to become more involved in their children’s education.  Parents of OSP students argue that their children are doing better in school, and they report that these scholarships have given their families an opportunity to break the cycle of poverty.  If this program ends, these parents will be forced to send their children back to a school system that is ranked among the worst in the nation, into schools they fought desperately to leave just a few years ago. 

At Notre Dame, we have recently witnessed the painful but logical outcomes of your failure to save the OSP.  For the past three years, the University of Notre Dame has worked in close partnership with Holy Redeemer School, a preK-8 Catholic school community located just a few blocks from Senator Durbin’s office on the Hill.  In fact, Senator Durbin visited the school and expressed his deeply favorable impression.  We too have witnessed the transformative capacity of Holy Redeemer, a place where parents report feeling a sincere sense of ownership in their children’s education for the first time in their lives.  Indeed, over the past three years strong leadership, excellent academics, low teacher turnover, and committed parents have all contributed to truly outstanding gains in student achievement.  The children at Holy Redeemer were, unlike so many of their peers, on the path to college. 

So we were deeply saddened to learn that the impending termination of the OSP has put the school in an untenable situation, leading the pastor to conclude that the school must be closed.  Families are presently being notified that their children will have to find a new school next year.  The end of the OSP represents more than the demise of a relatively small federal program; it spells the end of more than a half-century of quality Catholic education for some of the most at-risk African American children in the District.  That this program is being allowed to end is both unnecessary and unjust.  

We—and many others in the Notre Dame community—are wholeheartedly committed to protecting the educational opportunity of these children.  We encourage you to reconsider protecting the OSP and the children it serves from this grave and historic injustice.  You are joined by Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education, by the faculty and students on Notre Dame’s campus, by tens of thousands of Notre Dame alumni nationwide, and by millions of Catholic school families across the country in a steadfast commitment to ensure that these children continue to receive the educational opportunity that is their birthright.

Please know of our deepest appreciation for your consideration of this request.  We hope and pray that we can work together with you to save this program. 

 

Yours, in Notre Dame,

Rev. John I. Jenkins, CSC 

President, University of Notre Dame                          

Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, CSC

President Emeritus, University of Notre Dame

Rev. Timothy R. Scully, CSC

 

Father Ted’s lifetime of service meant that he spoke with authority when described educational opportunity as a birthright. Even oddball Anglican heretics such as myself found abundant reason to admire him. Father Hesburgh fought more than one good fight and has finished the race.

 


Florida Number One in Education Freedom, AZ #2, Indiana #3

February 25, 2015

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

The John Locke Foundation has published a study called the First in Freedom Index that ranks states for freedom on various aspects- including fiscal freedom, education freedom, regulatory freedom, health care freedom and a weighted index of all of the above- overall freedom (fiscal freedom counts for 50% of the overall index). Here is the overall ranking:

Overall Freedom

And here is the education freedom map:

education freedom

Notice anything about the 1st, 2nd and 3rd ranked states on both maps?

Let me just throw down the gauntlet now. While yes, we may have our share of eccentrics here in Arizona, and maybe some other state’s fair share too, we will not stand for losing freedom rankings to anyone! Not to you Florida, and don’t think we don’t see you trying to sneak up on us both Hoosiers! It is ON!


What makes you think you are better than everyone else?

February 24, 2015

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

This article by Caity Chronkhite about her experience attending a rural Indiana school district in the recent past is an absolutely must read. This is without a doubt the most heartbreaking education story I have read in a long while. Spoiler alert but let’s just say that her success in life came in spite of the school system. The incredibly sickening cultural norms discussed are not limited to rural areas.


Little Ramona’s View of Ed Reformers

February 24, 2015

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)


The Louisville Leopard Percussionists Rock

February 22, 2015

If you were worried about music education, take comfort in the Louisville Leopard Percussionists.  Their web site describes the Leopards as “a performing ensemble comprised of 60+ student musicians ages 7-14, who reside in 26 different Louisville zip codes and attend 48 different schools in and around Louisville, Kentucky.” It was founded by “Award-winning elementary school teacher Diane Downs”  and seeks “to provide a comprehensive musical experience for children that enriches lives and builds community.”

Check them out playing Led Zeppelin:

And here they play Ozzy Osbourne:

Get your #Shadowfaction coffee mugs here!

February 19, 2015

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(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

So we’ve had a little drama out here in the cactus patch.

Arizona has a State Board of Education appointed by the Governor and a Superintendent of Public Instruction elected by the voters. Per the Arizona Constitution, the Superintendent is a member of the Board. The previous Governor appointed all of the current members of the board. The board has a small staff, and we are five or so weeks into the terms of the new Governor (Ducey) and Superintendent (Douglas).  Some of the current members of the Board participated in the decision for Arizona to join Common Core. Governor Ducey campaigned on replacing Common Core while keeping high standards. Opposition to the Common Core served as the animating issue of the Douglas campaign.

A few days ago one of Douglas’ subordinates appeared before the two top staffers of the State Board of Education, announced that they were fired, and had an officer escort them out of the Department of Education building (the Arizona Board’s meeting room and staff inhabits the Department of Education building). The Board chair immediately stated that the Superintendent lacked the legal authority to take this action.

Governor Ducey’s team studied the matter over night and in the morning sided with the Board. As it happens, there is a directly on point advisory opinion from the Arizona Attorney General on the subject from 1985. The underlying statutes are clearly murky. Officials routinely follow Attorney General opinions in preference to having office holders sue each other- a sort of intergovernmental arbitration but formally lacking the force of law or a court decision. It would likely take an incredibly erroneous advisory opinion to have a court reach a different conclusion quite frankly because courts are busy with real cases and aren’t likely to want to jump into the quagmire of endless minor disputes. Advisory opinions are the fast solution to this with strong incentives for officeholders to abide by them.

This AG opinion examined the relevant statutes and clearly sides with the Board on the question of who has the authority to hire and fire board staff.

So why are you reading this tedious story? For the fun part, the epic press release from the Superintendent. Her reading of the relevant statutes is very different than the advisory opinion. The press release accuses Governor Ducey of seeking to short change schools “to give his corporate cronies tax cuts.” This is a reference to an ongoing lawsuit by public schools against the state, but that lawsuit is currently in settlement talks, the state is broke, and only modest tax changes have been placed on the agenda this year.

A little further down she states that “Clearly he has established a shadow faction of charter school operators and former state Superintendents who support Common Core and moving funds from traditional public schools to charter schools.” This is an overt reference to my Ducey transition K-12 co-chairs (one works for a prominent charter school outfit and the other is a former Superintendent of Public Instruction who supports Commn Core) and well, anyone who wants to know what any of us think about K-12 policy can either ask us, or gather intelligence through “google.” I mean I guess there is some way to be more transparent on the subject than writing columns, studies, blog posts, books and giving public talks, but I just don’t know what it is yet.

No, no, NO! #shadowFACTION! Not you!

Common Core as a plot to drive more students to charter schools is an innovative theory, but one that fails to withstand a moment of scrutiny. Charter schools are subject to exactly the same testing requirements as district schools. Unless the charter school folks have somehow stolen the answer key this seems fanciful. Did I mention that Governor Ducey does not support Common Core? Yes, that again.

Anyhoo, later down the press release makes a rather strident complaint about the need for lay-persons and African Americans on the board. This is odd in that Governor Ducey has yet to make any appointments to the Board and has been in office for all of five weeks and has pressing matters like a very large budget deficit and other issues with which to contend.

Just to be clear I personally am comfortable with the position Governor Ducey articulated in the campaign on state standards-high but not common.  Arizona has had them in the past but lacked the fortitude to keep them. The state will have academic standards for district and charter schools for the foreseeable future, and Arizona’s old system jumped the shark many years ago. Having said that, the state is scheduled to give a test in a little over two months and has yet to do little things like set the cut scores, a task for (you guessed it) the Board, who could use, well, a staff.

40% of Arizona 4th graders can’t read and less than 19% of the graduating AZ public school Class of 2006 received a BA degree in six years. Listen closely and you just might hear the soft melodies of a violin rising above the crackle of the flames. I’ll be over here in the corner drinking coffee if anyone feels like moving on to a serious conversation on AZ K-12.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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