Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Flawed Research:Vouchers & the Friedman Foundation

“Evidence-Based” Report on Vouchers Lacks Evidence

Review finds that report claiming Ohio vouchers improve public schools is riddled with flaws

EAST LANSING, Mi. (Sept. 8, 2008)— A new report from the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice claims to find evidence that Ohio’s private-school voucher program spurs public schools to improve achievement. A review of the report finds numerous flaws that seriously undermine the research.

The report, “Promising Start: An Empirical Analysis of How EdChoice Vouchers Affect Ohio Public Schools,” was reviewed for the Think Twice project by Professor Christopher Lubienski of the University of Illinois, a nationally recognized expert on school choice research.

“Promising Start” examines Ohio’s EdChoice program, which offers vouchers of $4,375 or more to allow up to 14,000 students enrolled in “chronically under-performing” public schools to instead attend private schools at taxpayer expense. The report asserts that there is empirical support that the voucher program, by fostering competition with public schools, improves those public schools’ performance, thereby providing an indirect benefit to those students who remain in the public schools. In particular, it claims that in EdChoice’s first year, students experienced substantial academic gains at public schools exposed to the possibility of losing students to vouchers.

“Despite being presented as scientifically rigorous, the report suffers from serious methodological shortcomings,” Lubienski writes. “The analysis uses weak variables and an incorrect approach to measuring academic gains, and it tries to make claims based on cherry-picking uneven results.”

“Instead of being empirically based, the report’s assumptions appear to be more statements of belief based in a rudimentary and simplistic view of economic behavior in markets for education,” Lubienski writes. “The Friedman report selectively focuses on studies—no matter what the quality—that appear to support its agenda. In doing so, it leaves out much high-quality research, much of it peer-reviewed that seriously questions the assertion that the threat of losing students has a positive impact on public schools.”

“In view of the announced advocacy mission of the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice regarding vouchers, and the notable flaws on this report, it is better read as a statement of belief than as an empirical analysis,” Lubienski writes.

Find Christopher Lubienski’s review and a link to the Friedman report on the web at
: http://www.greatlakescenter.org/.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Presidential Politics:Education

The latest on the Federal role of education dealing with Senator Obama and Senator McCain's ideas. The links require a free sign-up.

Education Week: NCLB Debate at the Sidelines(David Hoff, News, National)“In their education proposals, Democratic Sen. Barack Obama and Republican Sen. John McCain have outlined specific plans to address provisions of the almost 7-year-old federal education law. Both would refocus the teacher-quality section to bolster the recruitment of new teachers and to experiment with new forms of teacher pay. Sen. McCain promises to make school choice and tutoring available to students in struggling schools sooner than the current law allows. But neither candidate has said what he would do to address significant questions about the NCLB law’s future, such as whether to keep its goal of universal student proficiency in reading and mathematics by the end of the 2013-14 school year, how to increase the rigor of states’ academic standards, and how to improve the interventions in schools failing to meet achievement goals.”

Education Week’s Campaign K-12: Obama vs. McCain: The Budget Battle Lines Are Drawn (Michele McNeil, Blog)“Specifically, Obama--who listed education third in his list of priorities--said: "We have to make sure our children are competing in math and science." In addition, he said college must be affordable. In all, he wants to spend an additional $18 billion on education. And a little later, Obama said he would prefer to see more investments in early education rather than subsidies to private companies that participate in Medicare.”

Thursday, September 18, 2008

National Geographic Society:Stress

It's not surprising life might be a little more stressful with everything going on in our lives today. How can we identify and deal with stress? Take the quiz from the National Geographic Society.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Heather Sparks:2009 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year

The 2009 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year is Heather Sparks from Taft Middle School in Oklahoma City. Heather is an 8th grade algebra and pre-algebra I teacher with 15 years of experience, including 14 years in OKC.

Heather wrote in her biography to the selection committee, "I had an opportunity to make a real difference for students, especially those who struggled in math. After years of basic textbooks and worksheets, the majority of my students lacked any appreciation for math. I embarked on a new teaching mission: to engage students in math, so they could experience the power it held and, yes, even how fun it could be!"

Sandy Garrett, State Superintendent remarked: " Heather Sparks is a fantastic choice for Oklahoma Teacher of the Year and the work she is doing to foster love of math and raise math achievement among the inner city students she serves is inspiring."

I taught with Heather's father-in-law, the late James Sparks, a science teacher at OKC's John Marshall High School in 1982. He would be very proud of Heather.

The OEA hosted a luncheon for the finalists and their families. The finalists included Sherilynn Admire of Midwest City, Debbie Flowers, Meeker; Betsy Glad, Union; Matt Holtzen, Enid; Valorie Lewis, Stigler;Cheryl McCord, Jenks; John Nolan, Norman; Denise Radcliff, Claremore; Mandy Rowley, Woodward; Phillip Scott, McAlester; and Nolan Watson of Cache. Also in attendence were several previous Oklahoma Teachers of the Year.

Heather's selection ends the representation of Stephanie Canada of Shawnee, the 2008 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year. Stephanie did a great job of representing Oklahoma teachers at events across the country. She was selected as one of 5 people to be named as Ambassadors for Teachers for the Federal Department of Education in Washington.

Monday, September 15, 2008

HOPE in the Norman Transcript

An editorial from the Norman Transcript about HOPE.

Educators will take case directly to the people

Educators, spearheaded by the Oklahoma Education Association, will begin circulating a petition next week asking for a statewide vote requiring legislators to fund schools at the regional average. The state currently funds pupils at about $6,900 per year when the regionalaverage is said to be about $8,300.

Some lawmakers said the drive would require up to 850 million additional dollars for education each year. They're not just pulling that figure out of thin air. An independent study commissioned for the legislature more than three years ago said the state needed to pump more than $800 million into the formula to help districts meet state and federal student performance expectations.

At the time, the Augenblick, Palaich and Associates report said Oklahoma's "formula" funding doesn't reflect the level of resources needed tofully implement standards-based reform."

Petitioners may find some comfort in the study to buttress their position. There were questions as to why the study itself wasn't quickly released.

But the drive may fall victim to timing. A roads versus education showdown is developing and taxpayers are in a lean mood these days. If the drive succeeds in gathering nearly 140,000 signatures over the next 90 days, organizers are asking that it be on the ballot in 2010. Perhaps,by then, the timing will be better.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Oklahoma Teachers

Oklahoma Teachers always make us proud.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Do You Believe In Me?-Dallas ISD Opening Speech

This is the essence of what teaching is all about. There are so many great parts in this presentation. One of my favorites is "You better not give up, because as you know, in some cases you're all we've got."

How do you measure that on a standardized test. How do you reward "not giving up" with merit pay?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Quality Research:Preschool Education

Oklahoma has a great commitment to early education programs and now there is a new policy brief to support that commitment.

Children Reap Lasting Benefits from Quality Preschool Programs

As candidates debate national preschool policy, expert urges policymakers to stick with what works

EAST LANSING, Mi., (Sept. 10, 2008)—Amid a contentious debate over the value of preschool programs, a new policy brief, Preschool Education and Its Lasting Effects: Research and Policy Implications examines what researchers currently know about the short- and long-term effects of preschool. The brief concludes that preschool can strongly benefit children’s learning and development. But it also finds that the quality of programs varies dramatically and that increased public investment in preschool education should be focused on program designs that have been demonstrated to be highly effective.

The policy brief is written by W. Steven Barnett, director of the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University in New Jersey. It was released today by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

Preschool programs have become increasingly common over the last several decades. Recommendations for or against various forms of universal, publicly funded preschool have emerged in the current presidential campaign. For example, Senator Barack Obama is proposing grants to encourage states to institute universal, voluntary preschool programs, while John McCain’s campaign has called for a more limited federal role, providing information and databases to help parents choose a preschool education program.

Barnett’s brief offers a solid research foundation upon which this policy debate can proceed.

In his brief, Barnett explains that well-designed preschool programs have been shown to produce long-term improvements in school success—raising students’ achievement test scores, reducing the rates of students being retained in grade, reducing the assignment of students to special education programs, and raising student educational attainment. He also finds that these well-designed programs are extraordinarily cost effective, with their long-term payoffs far exceeding their costs.

The strongest evidence suggests that children from all socioeconomic backgrounds reap long-term benefits from preschool, Barnett says. And he notes that the strongest benefits are received by economically disadvantaged children.

However, Barnett also warns that current public policies for child care, Head Start, and state pre-Kindergarten programs offer no assurance that American children will attend such highly effective preschool programs. Some attend no preschool and others attend educationally weak programs.

Although there are exceptions, highly effective preschool programs are generally characterized by small class sizes and the use of well-educated, adequately paid teachers, and Barnett recommends that policymakers stick with those approaches. Preschool teachers should undergo intensive supervision and coaching and “should be involved in a continuous improvement process for teaching and learning.” Preschool programs also should regularly monitor children’s learning and development.

Because preschool programs vary so much in quality, Barnett counsels against simply raising child care subsidies. Instead, he recommends greater public investment in effective preschool education programs, with a focus on state and local pre-K programs with high standards, which have been found to be the most effective. Such programs “need not be provided by public schools,” he notes; public, private and Head Start programs all “have produced similar results when operating with the same resources and standards as part of the same state pre-K program.”

Finally, Barnett recommends that policies expanding preschool access to children under four give priority to disadvantaged children because an earlier start and longer duration appear to produce better results.

Find Steve Barnett’s report, Preschool Education and Its Lasting Effects: Research and Policy Implications on the web at:

Monday, September 08, 2008

Tax Cuts Create Reasons for HOPE Petition

During the early 1990's, common education received 39% of the state budget. Now common education is funded at 35%. Had the percentage remained at 39%, Oklahoma would not be under-investing in its kids. The HOPE Initiative wouldn't be needed. However, tax cuts have eliminated much of the growth revenue in our state and you can read about the results those cuts have had on Oklahoma's services.

OKLAHOMA'S INCOME TAX CUTS: Revenue Collections Dampened by $400 - $600 Million; Benefits of Top Rate Cut Go Primarily to Wealthiest

Cuts to the individual income tax have decreased state revenues by several hundred million dollars, with most of the benefits going to the highest-income Oklahomans, according to a pair of new fact sheets from Oklahoma Policy Institute.

The first fact sheet calculates that, if not for the tax cuts enacted between 2004 and 2006, the state would have collected $400 million to $600 million more in revenues last year than it actually did. This revenue could have been invested to meet our urgent priorities as a state.

The second fact sheet reveals that when fully phased in, the wealthiest fifth of households will receive 73 percent of the benefit from lowering the top income tax rate, totaling $423 million. By contrast, the bottom 40 percent of households will receive only 3 percent of the benefit from cutting the top rate, totaling $17 million. Tax cuts going to the wealthiest 1 percent of households alone ($169 million) are the rough equivalent of the cost of a $1,500 salary increase for every teacher in the state, a 3 percent cost-of-living adjustment for state employees, and additional staff for our child welfare system and correctional facilities.

Matt Guillory, executive director of Oklahoma Policy Institute, stated that, "During this time of robust economic growth in our state, it is unfortunate that decisions made in recent years have squandered what could have been a real opportunity to create a better educated, healthier and more economically competitive state."

Click here to link to the two fact sheets; or click here to view OK Policy's full press release.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

More Reasons for HOPE

This is a recent editorial by Ken Neal of the Tulsa World. While not addressing the HOPE campaign, his rational and reasons are why Oklahomans are supporting HOPE and signing the petitions.

Education and money by: Ken Neal

City leaders playing a mournful tune

Members of the Tulsa Metro Chamber gathered for the usual rubber-chicken luncheon last week to hear state education leaders report on the "State of Education."

There were even a few legislators present to hear of the progress and problems of education in Oklahoma from leaders in common education, higher education and Career Tech. The problem? In every instance, not enough money.

All face steadily rising costs, largely fueled by soaring energy prices. Schools are curtailing bus service and sacrificing classroom needs to meet those costs.

Universities are raising tuition to make up for funding that was not provided by the Legislature. Career Tech, funded mostly by property taxes, is in jeopardy from still another movement to limit values on property. The Tulsa Chamber has certainly backed education through the years.

This city, thanks to the chamber, was the birthplace of early childhood education in Oklahoma. Today, Oklahoma is recognized as one of the leaders in the nation in early childhood education. Early childhood education was passed in Oklahoma only because Tulsans insisted on it.

Remember how then-Gov. Frank Keating was virtually bullied by Tulsans into naming an early childhood task force? Or, how he vetoed his own legislation when the Legislature finally passed it?

Chamber leaders last week bragged about Tulsa's role in passing the landmark House Bill 1017 reform of nearly 20 years ago. It was a reform that was opposed and nearly stopped by several Tulsa-area senators.

Everyone on the dais appeared to be boosters of education, but no one mentioned the 900-pound gorilla lurking in the room, the failure of the Legislature to properly fund the education that the Chamber and others say is vital to Oklahoma's future.

At a previous Chamber event, the Legislative Forum, hardly anything was mentioned to a dozen or more lawmakers who have gleefully cut the income tax rate to the tune of about $700 million. Instead of patting those lawmakers on the back, Chamber leaders should have been raising Cain over the failure to support state services, primarily education.

Because of another oil boom, the lawmakers were able to whack the tax rates and still have a "steady state" budget. Steady state budget, in the face of rising costs, means schools and other agencies in reality face budget cuts. The $700 million could have been used to boost the education services the Chamber says are so vital to the welfare of the state.

It could be that the worst is still to come. If oil and gas prices should fall, the Legislature will be presiding over actual income declines. High oil and gas prices not only boost the gross production tax but feed income and sales tax income.

University of Oklahoma President David Boren apparently foresees a rough year ahead. He has ordered a freeze on OU salaries and expenses because he knows this Legislature will have hardly any new money and no way to get any.

Under the ill-advised tax limitation law called State Question 640, the Legislature must pass a tax increase by 75 percent or submit it to a vote of the people at general election. Those requirements mean that once a tax is lost, it most likely will never be restored. Tulsa's Chamber has been named the finest chamber in the U.S., raising the question:

How can the finest Chamber in the nation sit idly by while lawmakers starve education and most other state services? The suspicion here is that a number of Chamber leaders would rather have the tax cuts than finance education, despite rhetoric to the contrary.

Remember, Oklahoma is hardly a high-tax state despite what some unknowing, unthinking lawmakers claim.

Nor will cutting taxes at the state level boom the economy as some of the same ilk contend. It is the high price of oil and gas, not tax cuts, that have fueled a strong Oklahoma economy. Many studies show that tax cuts have a minimal effect on economic growth.

The Oklahoma Legislature is controlled by a bloc of lawmakers who believe state education agencies spend too much money; that if leaders of education would only become efficient, they would have enough money.

Still others are enamored by the idea that the only way to reduce the size of government is to "starve the beast." That theory holds that if education funding is cut, if teacher pay is held below that of most other states, that administrators and teachers will work harder. We all know how well that works in other pursuits. Cut a CEO's pay and watch him work harder!

The Chamber luncheon got a lot of information about common schools, efforts to increase the workforce and improvements to higher education. Most everyone appeared to be impressed. It was a sweetness and light meeting. But no one dared mention that 900-pound gorilla.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Moore Wars and HOPE

The HOPE volunteers were gathered in the football parking lot collecting signatures for the ballot initiative. There were many people willing to take the time to sign and support our schools as they made their way to the annual Moore Wars football game between Moore and Moore West.

There were many compelling stories from patrons. They are extremely frustrated with the legislature and Oklahoma's lack of investment in their kids. It's a shame our legislators aren't hearing these stories of concern about the future of Oklahoma children and the impact it will have our state.

In the picture is Moore ACT member Keri Ortega, OEA Staff members Sherri Childress and Pam Westbrook, and MACT mebers Teresa Potter and Monte Lawler. In the back row are MACT members Jill Dudley and David Wall; and me, Bruce Treadaway and David Kueter of the OEA.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Claremore and HOPE

What a great group of people in Claremore. I got to meet so many good people. Sue Lamb presided over the meeting and I got to speak about the HOPE campaign. These ladies are excited about the campaign and what it will do for education. They were also very patient when I had to run back outside into the rain to get my camera so we could get a group picture.

McCain on Education-Acceptance Speech

Senator McCain finished his acceptance speech and here are his remarks on education. Here is a comparison of the two nominees on issues impacting kids, teachers, and schools.

Education is the civil rights issue of this century. Equal access to public education has been gained. But what is the value of access to a failing school? We need to shake up failed school bureaucracies with competition, empower parents with choice, remove barriers to qualified instructors, attract and reward good teachers, and help bad teachers find another line of work.

When a public school fails to meet its obligations to students, parents deserve a choice in the education of their children. And I intend to give it to them. Some may choose a better public school. Some may choose a private one. Many will choose a charter school. But they will have that choice and their children will have that opportunity.

Senator Obama wants our schools to answer to unions and entrenched bureaucracies. I want schools to answer to parents and students. And when I’m President, they will.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Swing Vote

Katherine and I went and watched the movie "Swing Vote" starring Kevin Costner. It's a comedy with adult language scattered throughout the movie, but there are also a number of messages for us as Americans.