Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Hungry Children

Many of these children are on free and reduced meals at school. For them, the only meals they may get during the day are at school.

Hungry among us: Budget crunch hits kids in the belly
The Oklahoman Editorial

Summer is supposed to be fun time for kids. And for most Oklahoma children, it's just that unless the child is among the one in five at risk of going hungry. Then, summer can be painfully long without school-served breakfast and lunch.

It's difficult for most Oklahomans to imagine what it's like to go hungry. Perhaps it even seems implausible that in a generous state like Oklahoma, so many children are going hungry. And that was the case even before $4-a-gallon gasoline and rising food prices made family budget crunches ever more severe.

Oklahoman columnist Bryan Painter reported recently that Oklahomans were indeed generous in a recent food drive to help the state's hungry. The National Association of Letter Carriers drive brought in more than 626,000 pounds of food to benefit the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma. The drive also raised about $300,000, with officials estimating the combined donations will provide about 2.5 million meals.

Seems like that should be plenty, right? It won't be. Last fiscal year, the food bank distributed more than 24 million pounds of food to feed 63,675 people each week. Among that number were 20,000 children.

Times are tough for a lot of families, and many are turning to food pantries for help. Food stamps only go so far. Those working low-paying jobs are undoubtedly finding it more difficult to afford food for their families, let alone the kind of nutritious food children need to grow and stay healthy.

Metro-area residents are due a huge pat on the back for the recent food drive donations. But the need is growing, and so must our effort to help

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Alternative Certification

This report isn't surprising. Many quality people enter into the teaching profession unprepared for the rigors of teaching. Ultimately, schools and policy makers must address the needs of teachers for successful retention. The OEA's NBCT summit on staffing high needs schools recommendations includes special training and additional professional development, including offering teachers in high-needs schools five additional days to work on teaching practices needed to teach a diverse population.

Teachers in high-needs schools also need additional time to collaborate and build connections with their peers and to meet these demands.

Growing your own NBCT's should be priority for high-needs schools. Recent data indicates the most effective method for increasing National Board certification is through a local support network of teachers and administrators within the district and at the candidate's school site.

Salary incentives are not the only answer, but are necessary to recruit and retain highly qualified teachers to the high-needs schools. Money alone is not enough to keep them in theses schools, which is why we need to offer non-financial related incentives as well. Lower class sizes, improving building infrastructure to ensure the classrooms are properly heated and cooled, and the necessary resources to teach students must be addressed.

And finally, we need to align the various education programs throughout the state. Colleges and universities can align mentoring efforts with the skills necessary to be Board certified within their master's degree programs.

Alternative Teacher Certification Oversold

Report concludes that programs such as Teach for America lack evidence of demonstrated success

Programs that bypass traditional education training and certification receive good publicity, but there is no consensus from research evidence that they work, according to a new policy brief released by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

The policy brief, “Alternative Certification of Teachers,” was written by Gene V Glass, Regents’ Professor at Arizona State University.

Glass writes that alternative certification programs have been driven in part by the need for certain districts—often poor, urban, or both—to quickly find more teachers. But they have also been promoted, according to Glass, by ideological hostility toward traditional teacher education programs and toward government regulation as represented by conventional certification.

The policy brief examines research into various alternative certification programs. These include various local and state programs as well as prominent programs like the New York City Teaching Fellows and Teach for America (TFA). Such programs have “become a prominent part of the teaching profession,” writes Glass, who reports that the number of such alternatively certified teachers working in public or private schools currently exceeds 60,000 in the U.S.

Glass says that the current body of research on the subject is limited, but we do know that teachers participating in alternative programs such as TFA:

*Are clustered in poor, urban schools;

*Are no more likely—and possibly are less likely—to remain teaching after their initial commitment period (two years in the case of TFA) than regularly certified teachers; and

*Have yielded conflicting data as to their effectiveness compared with their fully certified counterparts.

“Investigations that contrast the lived experiences of beginning teachers placed quickly in the classroom are needed,” he writes. “Research must also honor teaching as something more than the production of scores on paper-and-pencil tests.”

Perhaps surprisingly, alternative certification approaches that target graduates who have deep subject matter training but little or no teacher education are unlikely to save money: “College graduates trained in science, mathematics, and technology require significantly higher salaries than the market will bear if they are to enter public school teaching.” But if alternative certification of teachers proves in the end to be merely about cheapening the costs of training teachers, Glass notes, we all will pay a price: “Unlike with some professions, the plane may not crash or the patient may not die when teachers are poorly trained, but a society that demeans teaching and degrades education will in time surely see aspirations and hope atrophy and wither.”

Find Gene V Glass’s policy brief, “Alternative Certification of Teachers” on the web at:

Monday, June 23, 2008

Flawed Research:Vouchers & Special Education

Another piece of flawed research for you to pass on to your teaching peers and refute arguments by voucher supporters.

Florida Voucher Report Too Flawed to be Valuable

Review criticizes report’s conclusion that vouchers have positive impact on special education outcomes

A recent Manhattan Institute report claims Florida’s program of publicly funded, private-school vouchers for special education students improves outcomes for special education students who remain in public schools. A Think Twice review of the report, however, concludes that research design problems and weaknesses in data analysis and interpretation render the report of little value to policy makers.

“The Effect of Special Education Vouchers on Public School Achievement: Evidence from Florida’s McKay Scholarship Program,” was written by Jay P. Greene and Marcus Winters and published by the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research. It was reviewed by Professor John T. Yun of the University of California at Santa Barbara.

Florida’s McKay Scholarship Program provides vouchers for special education students to attend private schools. The scholarship program is open to any Florida student classified as having a learning disability. As of the 2006-2007 school year, about 4.5% of Florida’s special education students received these vouchers though The Manhattan Institute analysis appears to cover an earlier period, from school years 2000-2001 through 2004-2005, during which time the program enrolled fewer students.

The Manhattan report is based on statistical analyses that, its authors conclude, shows that the McKay program spurred public schools to improve achievement for those special education students who remained in public schools during that time. The report presents relatively small effect sizes (a small competition benefit), but asserts that these results are probably understated.

Yun’s review finds the evidence weak. He points out that any contributions the report may make are, “outweighed by research design problems, failure to take into account alternative explanations and unsubstantiated assumptions about the direction of possible selection bias.”
Yun concludes that the report offers policymakers little guidance: “Any attempt to use this report for decision-making or policy evaluation, prior to validation using different methods and more robust approaches, should be viewed with extreme skepticism.”

Find John Yun’s review and the The Manhattan Institute’s report at:

Sunday, June 22, 2008


This is a recent letter to the Tulsa World regarding school funding.

Are Oklahoma schools heading into the light? by: TODD W. SINGER

Many rank and file politicians now repudiate any form of governmental appropriations for any American at any time. Presidential and congressional candidates display public disdain for federal earmarks and cast aspersions upon any elected official who dares to spend any of our tax dollars on any purported pet projects. It’s just plain un-American.

Oklahoma is 49th in the United States in per pupil expenditures. That means that 48 other states, which request and receive annual congressional earmarks, spend more education dollars on their students than Oklahoma.

This year our state Legislature again gave low priority to education funding. Appropriations for daily operating expenses such as utilities and gasoline for public schools have not been increased in the past 10 years, even though every legislator must be aware of the soaring energy prices. An opaque lottery funding formula obfuscates the ability to inspect the books and determine whether or not we can reconfigure Oklahoma’s lottery — Our Edsel of Opportunity.

There is no doubt Congress can trim much of the fat that has enabled the ballooning deficit, but do we expel the proverbial baby with the bath water?

Is it nobler to blindly decry the sins of purported waste or strike a watchful balance and secure robust funding for Oklahoma students who cannot read? Even if it’s more politically expedient to summarily reject all authorized appropriations, does that remediate a school’s erstwhile sewer lagoon or replace a rural district’s buses that were destroyed in a fire?

Does unreasoning antipathy for “pork” fund innovative AP curriculums or create programs that lower Oklahoma’s dropout rates in furtherance of sending more of our graduates to colleges and technology centers? Certainly, the foregoing are not wasteful and degenerate programs birthed in the smoke and cacophony- filled rooms of Capitol Hill.

Thanks to the independent efforts of U.S. Sen. James Inhofe and U.S. Reps. John Sullivan, Dan Boren,Mary Fallin, Frank Lucas and Tom Cole, earmarks are prudently reviewed on a case-by-case basis. Using greater discretion enables them to champion only worthy projects that, but for these efforts, would never have been possible. Through their advocacy, some Oklahoma schools now will not have to choose between retaining teachers or purchasing updated textbooks; servicing rising energy debt or providing special education programming.

Mark Twain once said: “Every time you stop a school, you will have to build a jail. What you gain at one end you lose at the other. It’s like feeding a dog on his own tail. It won’t fatten the dog.” Oklahoma is witnessing a renaissance in its educational institutions, lest we not prejudge all earmarks or it may be headed back to the dark ages. Time and informed voters will determine its future.

Todd W. Singer is president of Heartland Consulting, Inc. a lobbying firm that concentrates in education advocacy and appropriations.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Charter School Teachers/Teacher Quality

North Carolina, one of the leading education states, addresses the lack of certified teachers in charter schools.

RALEIGH NEWS AND OBSERVER"State Approves Charter School Penalties"

The North Carolina State Board of Education approved rules that will withhold some state funding from charter schools for not having enough licensed teachers - 75% of elementary teachers and 50% of middle school and high school teachers. State officials argue that the policy will hold charter schools more accountable for ensuring they have qualified teachers. But critics complain it's a harsh punishment that could force some charter schools to close.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

DC Vouchers

Tell Congress: End the DC voucher experiment!

Congress will soon consider funding legislation that could include provisions to extend the problem-ridden DC voucher experiment. This ill-advised program, set to expire this September:
*Has not demonstrated a positive impact on student achievement.

*Diverts $14 million per year from public education and is opposed by three-fourths of DC's own residents.

*Pays tuition for students to go to private schools with unqualified teachers - some do not have even bachelor's degrees.

Urge your elected representatives to put an end to the unproven, poorly managed DC voucher program.

Contact your representatives in Congress TODAY! Tell Congress the DC voucher experiment deserves to die on schedule this September.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Remembering Tim Russert

"The best exercise for the human heart is to bend down and pick someone else up."-Tim Russert

Related stories and videos: (1), (2).

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Former Student Profile:Brent Fuchs

My wife recently had a portrait setting and when we went to review the proofs, I had the pleasure of running into one of my former students, Brent Fuchs. I was thrilled when he told me he was married to another one of my former students, Lauris Banning. Lauris is a teacher in the Oklahoma City Public Schools.

Brent is a professional photographer from Stillwater who has a studio in OKC. He did a great job with my wife's portrait and I know he will do good work for you as well. Check out the link to Brent's website to see examples of his fine work.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Presidential Politics--Education

The latest in the race for the presidency:
Education Week: Candidates Are at Odds Over K-12 (Alyson Klein and David Hoff, News, National)

“Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the presumptive Republican nominee, and Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, who last week secured enough delegates to claim the Democratic nomination, both express support for the NCLB law’s goals and its use of testing to measure schools’ success. But Sen. McCain would promote market forces as a way to spur school improvement, and would likely seek to freeze education spending as part of a review of the effectiveness of federal programs. Sen. Obama, meanwhile, promises to search for new ways of assessing students and to invest significantly in efforts to improve teacher quality.”

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Education Opinions

From the Tulsa World:

Henry axes ill-conceived bill

Despite its self-important title, "Religious Viewpoint Antidiscrimination Act," House Bill 2633 was bad legislation.

The bill mandated that students in public schools "may express their beliefs about religion in homework, artwork, and other written and oral assignments free from discrimination based on the religious content of their submissions." Further, it forbade school districts to "discriminate" against a student "based on a religious viewpoint expressed by the student on an otherwise permissible subject."

The measure's language was so unwieldy and murky that it is difficult to determine what it would require. It may well have required that teachers accept simplistic religious explanations — "God's will" or "God's miracle" — on homework or class work dealing with natural phenomena or historical events. HB 2633's passage would almost guarantee lawsuits to establish exactly what it did require.

Worse, HB 2633 was a solution in search of a problem. It was unnecessary. There already were avenues, such as voluntary, nondisruptive prayer, for students to express their religious beliefs in school.

The measure, however, passed the state Senate unanimously and the House by a 70-28 margin. That's what happens in our era of gotcha governance: Lawmakers are stampeded into passing bad laws when saying "no" might be construed as voting against God.

Last week, after the Legislature adjourned and its members returned home to launch their re-election campaigns, Gov. Brad Henry vetoed HB 2633, in part because it might produce unforeseen or unintended consequences.

The governor's action was a good one; his reasoning was sound. Still, the veto required courage, especially if he intends to seek public office in the future. Henry is to be commended for taking a stand on this issue and saving the state from an ill-conceived and embarrassing law.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

What are you reading?

Top Searched Books on AOL Search:

1. Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
2. The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch
3. Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer
4. Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer
5. A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle
6. The Shack by William P. Young
7. Snuff by Chuck Palahniuk
8. Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson
9. Audition by Barbara Walters
10. Change Your Brain, Change Your Life by Daniel G. Amen