Bruno Behrend on WPWR

The video is of appearance on WPWR’s (Channel 50) “Perspective” program a few months ago. You may be interested in the other 3 guests, as they make the conventional case for dumping more money into a failed education system. If not, my stint starts at the 11:22 mark.

The Latest News On School Reform and School Vouchers: My50CHICAGO.com

Yours Truly gets a Letter in the Wall Street Journal

Here’s the letter.

The un-edited version text is below.

Ravitch Can’t See Forest for the Trees

Diane Ravitch (“Why I Changed My Mind About School Reform,” March 9) illustrates why real education reform is too important to be left to “experts.”

Her call for “a coherent curriculum that prepares all students” and “a good school in every neighborhood in the nation” is a fine vision. However, anyone familiar with education reform realizes the marketplace is the only institution capable of making that vision a reality.

In the half-century that saw American education go from the best in the developed world to one of the worst, we have seen greater centralization and bureaucratization of education. Ms. Ravitch’s suggestion that better bureaucrats will improve outcomes is incomprehensible.

Ms. Ravitch’s attitude is made evident on page 222 of her book, Death and Life of the Great American School System, where she writes, “”Education is too important to relinquish to the vagaries of the market and the good intentions of amateurs.”

This is an attitude foreign to American experience. No wonder she pines for a powerful central bureaucracy to dictate curriculum to a diverse nation of more than 300 million people.

Her citation of data on charters and choice programs ignores the fact that education in America is controlled by powerful forces that have a financial interest in limiting reform. Anyone who has actually visited a small private or charter school can easily experience what her selective citation of data hides.

We can provide every child with an adequate, if not superior, education. We can likely do this by spending less money, not more. All we have to do is have the money follow the child, not the bureaucracy.

Ms. Ravitch has years of experience in the reform movement. That may be why she can no longer see the forest for the trees. Improving education in America is a political, not an academic, battle. It will be won when the “the market” outperforms the failed and over-priced bureaucracy-based education that brought us to where we are today.

Charters, choice, and other market-based reforms are the only way America will ever attain Ms. Ravitch’s vision.

Rating the Investments – “War vs. Education”

The article linked below is longer than most people have time to read, but it’s an important article nonetheless. I generally agree with its take, but challenge at least one point made.

Death Cometh for the Greenback

America’s debt-to-GDP ratio is slated to increase from 40.8 percent in 2008 to 70 percent or more by 2019, and if interest rates return to more normal levels of say 5 to 6 percent from their current range of 0.0 to 0.25 percent, it will mean the cost of paying interest on the debt will eat up a substantial fraction of tax revenue (20 percent or more)—unless taxes are raised. The costs of funding programs for the aging baby boomers will only put further strains on the budget.

Granted, deficits by themselves need not present a problem. Deficits are of course only one side of a country’s balance sheet. On the other side are assets. If a company borrows money to make high-return investments, no one is worried—so long as those investments do in fact yield returns.1 Our soaring deficit is not a concern if the money is spent on education, technology, infrastructure—all investments that historically have yielded very high returns, far higher than the interest rate the government has to pay—because then the returns to our society are far greater than the costs.

    But, if the money is spent on wars in Afghanistan or Iraq

, poorly designed bailouts for banks or tax cuts for upper-income Americans, then there will be no asset corresponding to the increased liabilities, and then there is cause for concern. This seems to be the road we have been heading down for the last eight years and, disappointingly, are to too-large an extent continuing to travel.

No one would argue with the overall point, but the attack on “money spent on wars” should be taken to task. It would be so easy to compare investment in a good education system to an investment in ‘war’, and pretend that the better choice is obvious.

It isn’t.

First, America takes a backseat to no nation in investing scads of money in bloated and unnecessary institutions call “school districts” and then loading those districts with needless overpaid and over-pensioned staff (both Admin and teachers). This is hardly a wise investment.

Next, while it may appear obvious that investing in “war” is less rewarding than even bloated education, please take the following fact into account. The 9/11 attacks destroyed billions of value in minutes, and that loss cascaded into greater billions in lost value and hastily enacted “investments” in security.

Saddam with a bomb (spare me the idiocy that he wasn’t a threat) is an extreme risk that no rational world would countenance. Getting rid of him could be viewed as a prudent investment in risk reduction. Furthermore, while the project is far from finished, 50 million free Iraqis and Afghans is an “investment” huge potential, as is creating a more democratic Muslim region. Lastly, while somewhat crass, we haven’t even begun to discuss the “investment” in the free flow of oil.

Of course, it is arguable that these investments could have been better allocated and deployed, just as I’ve argued we could deploy education dollars far more effectively than pouring money into the greedy maw of corrupt education bureaucracies and lying about how it’s “for the children.” Both of those are debates worth having.

Pretending the answer is “obvious” is just plain silly.

Those crazy Swedish right-wing nutjobs

The Education Revolution

In Sweden, the educational landscape has been transformed by the advent of a sweeping choice program that allows anyone–groups of parents, civil society groups, and, most important, for-profit enterprises–to establish their own schools that would then receive per-pupil funding at roughly the same rate as state-run schools. If this sounds like the familiar idea of universal school vouchers, championed by American libertarians and conservatives, you’re on the right track.

But it turns out that the solidarity-minded Scandinavians have gone far further in this direction than any American jurisdiction. The results have been a stunning success, one that has delighted students and parents alike. As Anders Hultin, one of the creators of Sweden’s system of “free schools,” has argued, the profit motive has encouraged successful schools to clone themselves, not unlike a fast-food franchise. One can easily imagine such schools touting their success in placing graduates in good jobs. The beauty of this approach is that it doesn’t demand that school administrators in some central office divine the one best way to encourage spontaneity; rather, it allows hundreds, if not thousands, of free-thinkers to experiment.

Edgar and Daley, Sittin’ in a tree

When these two are co-authoring an Op-Ed, you KNOW there is REAL MONEY to be made. Yet again, we are being sold a bill of goods under the rubric of reform. When either of these two Bozos calls for the complete de-Unionization of education, I may start taking them seriously.

Forcing public schools in Illinois to measure up

But the risk of losing new funding pales in comparison to what’s at stake if Illinois fails to change how it approaches education. Illinois has fallen behind the country on virtually all educational measures, and this at a time when the U.S. itself increasingly lags the rest of the industrialized world.

Fewer than 30 percent of Illinois students demonstrate proficiency on national tests, placing the state at or below national averages in all subjects and all grade levels.

Research by the college-testing organization ACT determined that less than a quarter of Illinois high school graduates are ready for college; that drops to 7 percent and 3 percent for Latino and African-American students respectively. Put together, the picture is bleak: For every four freshmen who enter high school, one will drop out, two will graduate unprepared for work or further education and one — just one — will graduate ready for whatever comes next.

So how do we think very, very differently in Illinois? As we gather information and hear from experts, teachers, students and families from across the state and country, a few answers emerge.

Teacher quality and performance are critical factors for student success. A 2006 paper by the Brookings Institution concluded, “If the effects were to accumulate, having a top-quartile teacher rather than a bottom-quartile teacher four years in a row would be enough to close the black-white test score gap.” At the same time, research by the Illinois Education Research Council tells us just the opposite happens in Illinois. According to the IERC, just two schools in the state with high concentrations of poor, minority children have a top-quartile teaching staff, compared with 420 schools serving a more affluent white population. It is time to get serious about recruiting, training and supporting effective teachers to ensure they are serving our most vulnerable students, then evaluating them rigorously and based on student outcomes.

In focusing on teacher quality, we should not minimize the central role played by principals. Research confirms what common sense tells us: Great teachers will not stay long at a poorly run school. If we are serious about employing the most effective teachers, then we must invest in strong leadership. That includes tougher certification, more relevant preparation and more autonomy at the school level.

Thin Gruel from 2 has beens.

The idea that any of this equals reform is laughable. Fund the Child, not the bureaucracy, break the backs of the awful unions, and abolish the school district while converting every school into an independent charter. It’s easy once you throw the greedy off the bus and put the child in the center of the equation.

And your I-Pod doesn’t strike or demand unwarranted pensions

With entire states careening toward bankruptcy because of teacher, administrator, and other public payroll and pension spending, there will never be a better time for technology to decimate the unwarranted numbers of “education” employees.

Cheaper and better.

‘iTunes university’ better than the real thing

Students have been handed another excuse to skip class from an unusual quarter. New psychological research suggests that university students who download a podcast lecture achieve substantially higher exam results than those who attend the lecture in person.

Podcasted lectures offer students the chance to replay difficult parts of a lecture and therefore take better notes, says Dani McKinney, a psychologist at the State University of New York in Fredonia, who led the study.

“It isn’t so much that you have a podcast, it’s what you do with it,” she says.

To find out how much students really can learn from podcast lectures alone – mimicking a missed class – McKinney’s team presented 64 students with a single lecture on visual perception, from an introductory psychology course.

Half of the students attended the class in person and received a printout of the slides from the lecture. The other 32 downloaded a podcast that included audio from the same lecture synchronised with video of the slides. These students also received a printed handout of the material.

The researchers told the students they would be tested on the material in a week, and they also asked students to hold onto their class notes.

Though her team’s paper is subtitled “Can podcasts replace Professors,” McKinney thinks these technologies can buttress traditional lectures, particularly for a generation that has grown up with the Internet.

“I do think it’s a tool. I think that these kids are programmed differently than kids 20 years ago,” she says.

If you shed your “be true to your school” dogma, you can see 1000s of places where technology can replace the bloat and bureaucracy of our education system. Sure, there will always be a place for a talented conveyor of content (which is all a teacher or professor really is). Let’s dump the ones we don’t need.

America needs a “radical” party

Maybe they can run on the “radical” idea of effective, but limited, government.

As Barack Obama goes about the business of turning the USA into a patronage farm for old (teachers unions, trial lawyers) and new (Auto industry, Banking industry) constituencies – and thereby turning the nation into a banana republic – the rest of the world is going in the other direction.

The closet radical: The Spectator on David Cameron’s policy platform (The Spectator, 18th February 2009)

There is growing evidence that, within his recycled trainers, the Conservative leader’s toes twitch with nervous energy: that he may be a closet radical. This week’s Tory green paper on local government did not satisfy the most ardent localists and Simon Jenkins was certainly right in Wednesday’s Guardian that when politicians use the word ‘localism’ we should ‘count the spoons’. The package of Tory proposals does not resolve the fundamental problem of local governance in this country, which is that our town halls are completely dependent upon central government: 75 per cent of the money spent locally comes from the Treasury, the most centralised system of local government finance in Europe other than Ireland’s.

Nonetheless, the ending of Whitehall capping powers and the introduction of local referendums to enable residents to overturn bad budgets would be a very desirable transference of financial control from the mandarin to the man in the street. The removal of disincentives to build houses, the devolution of planning power, the plans to plough the fruits of local businesses back into the community, the proposed statutory presumption enabling town halls to act in the best interests of their voters, even if no specific legislation supports their actions: all these measures, if matched by serious political will, would be significant steps towards the growth of a genuine localist culture.

The Spectator has pressed, and will continue to press, for more grammar schools. But the Conservatives’ plan to adopt the Swedish model of independent schools, enabling parents, voluntary groups and businesses to establish their own educational establishments funded by vouchers, is a truly radical blueprint which we support wholeheartedly. The Swedish experiment has shown how the liberalisation of public services can triumph where top-down, centralised bureaucracies and targets have failed.

There is nothing radical about government programs to provide education or health care for the citizenry. There is nothing radical about turning money over to the citizenry for them to use as they see fit. Yet, people who propose such ideas are considered “radical.”

What SHOULD be considered radical, is that a class of corrupt politicians, corrupt corporations, and corrupt public employee unions have been allowed to loot the citizenry’s assets, income, and FUTURE assets and income, as far as the eye can see.

The rest of the world is moving (in fits and starts) toward where the US has pointed them. In the personage of Barack Obama and the party he leads, we Americans have decided to stop and/or move backwards.

God help us.

The “Idiot Curriculum” fails another test

As you read the story linked below, please remember that the curriculum described there is in use (in some form or another) all over the United States. Your teacher (indoctrinated in and Ed School that actively ignores the science of learning) probably calls it “themed learning,” “integrated learning,” or some combination of those words.

It is a failure.

‘Tartan’ curriculum is a disaster as top school slumps to bottom of league table

A £20m school which axed traditional subjects in favour of a ‘tartan’ curriculum of lessons blended together has slumped to the bottom of a GCSE league table.

Bishops Park College in Clacton, Essex, emerged as the worst school in the country for raising pupils’ attainment five years after introducing an experimental curriculum which merged key subjects such as English, maths, science, history and geography into themed lessons that took up 70 per cent of the week.

“Slumped to the bottom,” as in the USA has “slumped to the bottom” in many subjects, and pays more for less and less “education.”

The 563-pupil school, housed in state-of-the-art buildings and trumpeted by Government curriculum advisers as a model for others to follow, recorded the lowest ‘valueadded-score of more than 3,100 state secondaries – the measure of how well a school helps its pupils make progress.

If teachers, who like to think of themselves as “professionals” despite the fact that they have sold their profession to a “Union drone” mindset decades ago, where held to “Professional Standards” for their work, most of them would be sued for malpractice.

For the 1000th time, this nation cannot afford your slavish devotion to these ineffective and corrupt public schools. Where they educate, they do so for far too much money. Where they fail, (and they fail much more than most of you are willing to admit) they so badly damage our society and the individuals they miseducate, that your support borders on enabling evil.

Asking the WRONG Question!

“Saving” our schools is NOT the function of one person, and it never will be. America is seems to be caught in the grip of the absurd notion that a “Czar” or an “Education President” can “fix” our schools.

Can She Save Our Schools?

The U.S. spends more per pupil on elementary and high school education than most developed nations. Yet it is behind most of them in the math and science abilities of its children. Young Americans today are less likely than their parents were to finish high school. This is an issue that is warping the nation’s economy and security, and the causes are not as mysterious as they seem. The biggest problem with U.S. public schools is ineffective teaching, according to decades of research. And Washington, which spends more money per pupil than the vast majority of large districts, is the problem writ extreme, a laboratory that failure made. (See pictures of a diverse group of American teens.)

Rhee took over Anacostia High and the district’s 143 other schools in June 2007, when Mayor Adrian Fenty named her chancellor. Her appointment stunned the city. Rhee, then 37, had no experience running a school, let alone a district with 46,000 students that ranks last in math among 11 urban school systems. When Fenty called her, she was running a nonprofit called the New Teacher Project, which helps schools recruit good teachers. Most problematic of all, Rhee is not from Washington. She is from Ohio, and she is Korean American in a majority-African-American city. “I was,” she says now, “the worst pick on the face of the earth.”

But Rhee came highly recommended by another prominent school reformer: Joel Klein, chancellor of New York City’s schools. And Rhee was once a teacher–in a Baltimore elementary school with Teach for America–and the experience convinced her that good teachers could alter the lives of kids like Rhodes.

Each week, Rhee gets e-mails from superintendents in other cities. They understand that if she succeeds, Rhee could do something no one has done before: she could prove that low-income urban kids can catch up with kids in the suburbs. The radicalism of this idea cannot be overstated. Now, without proof that cities can revolutionize their worst schools, there is always a fine excuse. Superintendents, parents and teachers in urban school districts lament systemic problems they cannot control: poverty, hunger, violence and negligent parents. They bicker over small improvements such as class size and curriculum, like diplomats touring a refugee camp and talking about the need for nicer curtains. To the extent they intervene at all, politicians respond by either throwing more money at the problem (if they’re on the left) or making it easier for some parents to send their kids to private schools (if they’re on the right).

If there is one sign of hope regarding education, it is that the drones in the media are starting to understand just how useless and corrupt the education bureaucracy has become. If they are starting to write sentences like the one bolded above, they may start to realize that the entire bloated ediface of education bureaucracy is worthless – EVEN in the SUBURBS.

Those of you reading this post need to know that no one person can “fix” education. YOU can fix education by telling all your friends the following four words.

Fund Children, NOT Bureaucracy.

If Teacher’s Unions hate it….

…then you can bet it’s a good idea

Regarding the post below (about identifying issues/ways that serve to steal voters from the surging Democrats), one would be to promote Charter Schools aggressively. Properly promoted, a campaign to defeat any politician who opposes charters could succeed. Being against expansion of charter schools should become akin to being against desegregation. Politicians who do the bidding of Teacher’s Unions are consorting with evil, and it’s time rub their stinking faces in it.

Charters lead state’s traditional schools in achievement for poor children, survey finds

The burgeoning charter school movement in California has largely made its mark as an alternative to low-performing inner-city schools. An analysis being issued today suggests that, at their best, charters are doing that job well, outperforming most traditional public schools that serve children in poverty.

Using the Academic Performance Index as a measuring tool, the California Charter Schools Assn. found that 12 of the top 15 public schools in California that cater primarily to poor children are charters.

The association, which is an advocate for charter schools, focused on schools where at least 70% of the children qualify for free or reduced price lunches. Of more than 3,000 public schools statewide that fit that description, the highest API score — 967 — was earned by American Indian Public Charter, a middle school in Oakland whose students are primarily Asian, black and Latino, and have a poverty rate of 98%. It was followed by its sibling, American Indian Public High School, with a score of 958.

The fifth-highest ranked school was another Oakland middle school run by the same organization, which began with a Native American theme. American Indian Public Charter II had an API of 917. The API, which ranges from 200 to a perfect score of 1,000, is a gauge of student performance.

Charter schools are public schools run independently of traditional school districts, typically by nonprofit organizations. Broad analyses of charter performance have tended to show that they slightly outperform traditional public schools, especially at the middle and high school level, although critics say that could be because their students tend to come from more academically motivated families.

“Traditional school districts” are engines of greed, waste, and abuse. The faster we realize that school districts are completely useless (if educating children is your goal), the faster we can convert every school to an independent charter.

If anyone reading this wants to attempt to defend the idiocy of a “school district,” please offer such a defense in the comments section.