Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year

Have a safe and great New Year's Eve. If you plan to celebrate please do it sensibly with a designated driver.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Lesson Plans: 2009 Commemorative Stamp Program

The 50th anniversary of statehood for Alaska and Hawaii headline a variety of 2009 commemoratives to be issued by the United States Postal Service. There will be a number of lesson plans that can be developed using these issues.

WASHINGTON(12/29)—What do Lassie, The Tonight Show, Abe Lincoln, Gary Cooper, Gulf Coast Lighthouses, Civil Rights Pioneers and Wedding Cakes have in common? They’re all 2009 stamp subjects the U.S. Postal Service is providing a sneak peek at today. All stamp issuance dates and dedication locations are subject to change. The public is welcome to attend unless otherwise noted.

Monday, December 29, 2008

HOPE Update

The public notice for our HOPE Initiative, now known as State Question 744, was published today in several state newspapers. Challengers will now have 10 days to provide notice of a challenge. That means we will know about a challenge by January 8th or 9th depending on whether or not the 1st is counted.

We are one step closer to a vote of the people.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Best of the Best in 2008

From the top universities, safest cities, top schools, healthiest cities and more you can find the "best of the best" lists and debate the merits of the rankings. Plus, I'm sure there is a geography lesson or two in these lists.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Oklahoma's Budget Shortfall

Arnold Hamilton of the Oklahoma Observer addresses the state's budget crisis and gives a differing opinion than the state's largest newspaper:

Budget Blues

The numbers are worse than we thought: State lawmakers will have $309.6 million less to spend next year than they had last spring.

Government-haters will no doubt be cheering. But those who care about improving roads and education or caring for the mentally ill and poor – just to cite a few key areas – will be disheartened.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy Holidays


C H R I S T M A S ! !

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Geography Lessons: Map Skills

Many of these countries are in the news on a daily basis, but can you match them up with where they belong on the map? Good luck.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


Since we're in the holiday season, here are some great stories about regifting. Always remember the last minute gift you bought last year could end up in another person's hands or better yet, back in your own home.

One year I bought 2 of the same books, one for my brother, the other for me. I gave my brother the book for Christmas and I read the book over the same time period. The book was terrible. Neither my brother nor I enjoyed it. Every year at Christmas, one of us finds a way to give the book back to the other. The book has become a long-standing joke and regift. This year my brother will try to figure out how to get it back into my hands.

Monday, December 22, 2008

National Board Certification Facts

Here are the facts about National Board Certification:

1) National Board Certification is part of a growing education reform movement reshaping America’s schools by developing, recognizing and retaining many of the nation’s best teachers. Like board-certified doctors and accountants, teachers who achieve National Board Certification have met rigorous standards through a performance-based assessment that takes one to three years to complete. NBCTs have demonstrated deep knowledge of content and teaching practices to support diverse learners.

2) NBCTs improve student achievement. National Board Certification has a positive impact on student achievement, according to a congressionally-mandated report by the National Research Council released in June 2008. The NRC report states: “The evidence is clear that National Board Certification distinguishes more effective teachers…with respect to student achievement.”

3) National Board Certification is a widely accepted form of performance-based pay. National Board Certification is a model of pay-for-performance that is supported by teachers and administrators nationwide. More than two-thirds of the states provide salary incentives and cover the costs for teachers who pursue and/or achieve this advanced credential.

4) NBCTs offer students the skills necessary to thrive in school and in the workplace – essential factors for our nation’s success in the 21st century global economy. In the critical areas of math and science, for example, 10,000 math and science teachers have achieved National Board Certification, proving they are among the best teachers in the nation. Nearly 15 percent of all teachers who hold National Board Certification teach math and science.

5) National Board Certification retains teachers. National Board Certification is a proven way of ensuring that the most highly-accomplished teachers remain in the classroom. In Florida, for example, nearly 90 percent of NBCTs remain in teaching – which far exceeds the average 60percent retention rate for all teachers statewide. In Ohio, 52 percent of NBCTs surveyed said they plan to stay in teaching as long as they can as compared to 38 percent of non board-certified teachers in the state. South Carolina had similar results. Many NBCTs mentor new and struggling teachers—those most likely to leave the profession within the first five years of teaching.

6) NBCTs are proven teacher leaders. Research shows that NBCTs serve in significant school-based leadership roles. For example, researcher Gary Sykes (2006) found that NBCTs give input on curricular decisions, chair departments and organize professional development initiatives. A recent survey of NBCTs found that 83 percent mentor new or struggling teachers and 80 percent say that teachers and educators look to them for leadership. Hispanic, African American and Native American NBCTs report the greatest increase in leadership opportunities from National Board Certification.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Geography Lesson Plans:New Species Found in Mekong Delta

This is a great opportunity for a variety of different geography lesson plans.

New Species Found in Mekong Delta
A rat believed to be extinct for 11 million years, a spider with a foot-long leg span, and a hot pink cyanide-producing "dragon millipede" are among the thousand newly discovered species in the largely unexplored Mekong Delta region.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Inflation Continues to Outpace Teacher Salary Growth

Here is a great reason why it is difficult to recruit and retain teachers.

Inflation continues to outpace teacher salary growth

Average teachers' salaries declined over the past decade

WASHINGTON-Teachers across the nation are continuing to lose spending power for themselves and their families as inflation continued to outpace teacher salaries last year, according to the National Education Association's update to the annual report Rankings and Estimates: Rankings of the States 2008 and Estimates of School Statistics 2009.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Supreme Court Certifies HOPE


The Supreme Court acted with great speed and has certified 234,446 signatures on the HOPE petition and has authorized the Secretary of State to publish the notice regarding State Question 744. The Secretary of State could publish the notice as early as this weekend. Challengers will have 10 days from the publish date to provide notice of their intent to challenge.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

NCLB Critic Representative Peter Hoekstra won't seek Re-election

A special thanks to Representative Hoekstra and all the hard work against NCLB. It sounds like he will leave his role in good hands.

Education Week’s Campaign K-12: NCLB's Most Vocal Foe to Leave Congress(Alyson Klein, Blog)“Rep. Peter Hoekstra of Michigan reportedly won't run for re-election in 2010. Apparently, the Republican is mulling a run for governor of the Wolverine State. Hoekstra has long been one of the most vocal opponents on the House Education and Labor Committee—and in Congress—of the No Child Left Behind Act's expansion of federal power over public schools. Last year, he introduced a bill that would have permitted states to opt out of NCLB's accountability requirements and managed to get more than 60 co-sponsors, including the incoming Republican whip, Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia.”

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

21st Century Schools A Must

NEA President Dennis Van Roekel leads the charge for 21st century schools.

Time For America's Education System To Wake Up

Students today live in a wired world, and most of them are adept at using computers to find information, play or upload video clips, and even create personal Web pages.

The digital age has dawned, but too many of our schools still rely on models from 1908 to meet the growing and changing needs of the 21st century. Simply put, many of our approaches are outmoded and out of touch, which makes it harder for educators to challenge students and hold their interest.

NEA is a firm proponent of providing all children with the critical, intellectual, and personal skills they need to be successful in the 21st century. This is why we serve on the board of the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21)—a coalition of business, education, community, and government leaders focused on infusing creativity and innovation into K–12 education.

The fundamental belief of this partnership is that as the world is flattening out, it is imperative that our students are equipped with skills that reach beyond those required for a simple multiple-choice test. Our nation will need students capable of filling emerging job sectors like robotics, biotechnology, and microelectronics. And frankly, if we fail to move our students up the value chain by staying competitive, these jobs will simply go elsewhere.

As other nations around the world strive to improve their schools to create global citizens, the education conversation in America is dominated by an obsession with math and reading tests. This is a dangerous approach in an increasingly competitive global economy. We are clearly failing to do all we can to prepare our students to enter the 21st century workforce and secure our place as a world leader.

A national poll conducted recently by Public Opinion Strategies and Peter D. Hart Research Associates on behalf of P21 found that 88 percent of voters believe that schools can, and should, incorporate 21st century concepts such as critical thinking and problem-solving skills, computer and technology skills, and communication and self-direction skills into their curriculum.

Clearly, we have aimed too low at a time when the stakes are too high. We're not going to get the students we need unless we change what and how we teach. This month's cover story is just one example of this challenge.

It is inconceivable that textbook selection and purchasing decisions are made without the involvement of teachers. The current system is terribly shortsighted and robs the real experts—classroom teachers—of their ability to fully harness the imagination of our students and help children acquire the skills necessary to prosper in the future. In my view, this spells more resistance to change and more of the same unrewarding outcomes in America's public schools.

We have absolutely no idea what the world will look like in the next 100 years. The only thing we know for certain is that the pace of change will continue, and probably even accelerate. It is our job to prepare our students to adapt and meet whatever challenges they might face in the future. We can't do that by living in the past.

NEA president Dennis Van Roekel

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Arne Duncan Next Secretary of Education

Obama names Arne Duncan next education secretary

Duncan has called for doubling NCLB funding and adding more flexibility into the law

President-elect Obama: “In the next few years, the decisions we make about how to educate our children will shape our future for generations to come. When it comes to school reform, Arne is the most hands-on of hands-on practitioners. For Arne, school reform isn’t just a theory in a book – it’s the cause of his life. And the results aren’t just about test scores or statistics, but about whether our children are developing the skills they need to compete with any worker in the world for any job. With his leadership, I am confident that together, we will bring our education system – and our economy – into the 21st century, and give all our kids the chance to succeed."

Arne Duncan: "Whether it’s fighting poverty, strengthening the economy or promoting opportunity, education is the common thread. It is the civil rights issue of our generation and it is the one sure path to a more equal, fair and just society. While there are no simple answers, I know from experience that when you focus on basics like reading and math, when you embrace innovative new approaches to learning, and when you create a professional climate that attracts great teachers -- you can make a difference for children."

NEA President Dennis Van Roekel:“This could be the beginning of a promising new period for public education in this country. Arne Duncan has said before Congress that funding for NCLB should be doubled within five years, and that the law must be amended to give schools the maximum amount of flexibility possible. For too long, federal education policy has been about teaching to the test, and Duncan could use his new position to move beyond those failed policies, and provide every child with 21st century skills.”

In Chicago, Duncan set his sights on reducing the dropout rate, reducing school violence and creating successful new schools. His efforts have shown his commitment to quality public schools, Van Roekel said, and willingness to make decisive, bold changes.

Jo Anderson, Executive Director of the Illinois Education Association:"We applaud President-Elect Obama's choice of Arne Duncan to be the next Secretary of Education. In IEA-NEA, we have worked collaboratively with Arne Duncan on a number of ways to improve all Illinois public schools, including increased funding. In our experience, Arne Duncan is committed to working with others including the unions to promote excellence and equity in public education."

Duncan will inherit significant baggage from the failed policies of the Bush administration. NCLB is underfunded by $71 billion, and in economic downturns, school funding suffers.

“This is a challenging time for President Obama and for Secretary Duncan,” Van Roekel said. “We look forward to working together, along with parents and community leaders, to create great public schools for every student.”

Obama Tabs Duncan to Deal with NCLB Mess?

There are reports out this morning that Chicago school chief Arne Duncan will be announced later today to be President-Elect Obama's Secretary of Education. No matter who gets the job, they will have to address the mess the so-called "No Child Left Behind Law" has created. For further proof read the following:

Some Missouri School Districts Receive State Awards Despite NCLB Sanctions.

The Southeast Missourian (12/15, Bavolek) reported, "Some school districts that received federal sanctions this year for not making enough progress are now receiving a state award for distinction in performance. That's because the state looks at a broader range of data, including ACT scores, college placement rates and availability of advanced courses, while the federal government focuses mainly on test scores, holding all subgroups of students accountable." Thus, some districts "that received criticism when Missouri Assessment Program results were released in August are now celebrating their state distinction. The state's education department doled out awards to 330 districts out of 523 this year."

Many Hawaii Schools Make Progress, But Fall Short Of AYP Standards.

The Honolulu Star-Bulletin (12/15, Barone) reported that over the next six years, Hawaii AYP standards "will increase steadily until 2014, when all proficiency objectives will increase to 100 percent. ... A school that does not make AYP will face sanctions and may be put under reconstruction." The "percentage of schools to make AYP has decreased from last year and it is believed that increased proficiency objectives are to blame. ... Progress is being made, but not fast enough for NCLB. Superintendent of Education Patricia Hamamoto says, 'The progress made by our schools clearly indicates deep learning, especially with a substantial increase in math and reading proficiency targets this year.'"

Paper Calls For "More Realistic Expectations" From NCLB.

The Yakima (WA) Herald-Republic (12/16) editorializes, "Change is on the way for state and federal education agencies, and clearly one challenge facing their new leaders is the need for a complete re-evaluation of the Washington Assessment of Student Learning and federal No Child Left Behind Act. We're appalled that several Valley schools don't get proper credit for efforts that have produced measurable 'adequate yearly progress' mandated by the federal law." The Herald-Republic adds, that Yakima Valley students "are showing solid progress in academics, whether [NCLB] acknowledges it or not. With the new presidential administration and a new state superintendent in Olympia, we're at an important crossroads to revisit both programs and come up with more realistic expectations of students, and certainly a better way of measuring progress in learning."

Monday, December 15, 2008

Obama's Secretary of Education

The latest information on the uncertainty of President Obama's education plans are addressed in this article from the New York Times. One thing is certain, there will be changes to the so-called No Child Left Behind Law-we just don't know who will be leading the campaign for the new President.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Dan Rooney, People Magazine Heros of the Year

One of my former students, Dan Rooney, was honored by People magazine as one of their Heroes of the Year. Keep up the great work Dan.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Poverty, the Dropout Rate and the Achievement Gap

While some claim poverty has only a small impact on dropout rates and the achievement gap, research, anecdotal evidence and common sense prove otherwise.

Essay Cites Poverty, Nutrition, Health As Obstacles To Closing Achievement Gaps In Texas.

The Fort Worth (TX) Star-Telegram (12/12, Frazier) reports, Students in Texas "from poor families continue to perform worse in school than their classmates, according to research released Thursday by the Center for Public Policy Priorities." An essay in the State of Texas Children 2008-09 report titled Closing the Educational Gaps "cites...poverty, nutrition, and health" as "statewide factors [that] are pivotal in academic achievement." According to the essay, "Texas has more poor children than most states," and "poor children are more likely to drop out of school." Regarding nutrition, the essay claims that "children without enough to eat lack the fuel to learn, have lower levels of academic achievement and are less likely to be in school." Moreover, "sick children cannot learn well, and Texas' uninsured rate exceeds that of every other state," the essay says.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Flawed Research: Buckeye Institute Report on Charter Schools

I guess if you can't prove a point, you can always "create" research and truth to further your cause.

Ohio Charter Schools Report False and Deceitful

Review finds financial analysis and claims are only shoddy propaganda

EAST LANSING, Mi. (Dec. 10, 2008)—A recent report from the Buckeye Institute claims to show that charter schools in Ohio are unfairly underfunded when compared to traditional public schools. A new review of the report, however, finds it is misleading and, in some instances, false and deceitful.

The report, Public Charter Schools: A Great Value for Ohio’s Public Education System, was reviewed for the Think Twice project by Dr. Gary Miron of Western Michigan University, a leading evaluator of states’ charter school programs.

Miron begins his review by noting that the financing of charter schools has long been controversial. Supporters of traditional public schools contend that charters receive too much money based on the students they educate and the services they provide. Charter school proponents claim that they receive less money than they should.

But fair analyses of school finance issues must seriously address the complexities of school funding formulas and of the many sources of possible school revenues. Meaningful research would also include the caveats, nuances and exceptions which would help readers to fully understand the issues. In contrast, Miron says, “the analysis from the Buckeye Institute does not list a single limitation in the data or provide a single cautionary note for readers.”

Even more troubling, however, are the outright errors in the report’s analysis. Miron demonstrates in his review that all of the report’s main contentions are wrong or misleading, but one claim drew particular criticism. The Buckeye report contends that the state’s largest school districts receive a net gain in revenue on average for each student attending a charter school—and that returning those charter students to the regular schools would actually cost the districts in revenue per pupil. This contention, Miron says, is “ridiculously false, deceitful, and patently misrepresent[s] how the funding of public schools works.”

In reality, Miron explains, “If charter schools closed and a large portion of students returned to district schools, [the district] would still receive the same amount of revenues per pupil. The only difference is that the state share of the overall district costs would increase—with a shift in public funding from the charters to the school districts.”

Overall, Miron finds the Buckeye report to be of the type that presents “only selected data or partial evidence that supports a particular position.” It is, he writes, “intended to advocate, obscure, and redirect attention rather than deepen understanding and insight” and consequently offers little to recommend it as useful to policymakers.

Find Gary Miron’s review on the web at:

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Ed Kelley on Clara Luper

Mr. Kelley pays tribute to Clara Luper. Mrs. Luper was one of my high school teachers at John Marshall back in the mid-seventies.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Are you reading for Pleasure?

Reading for pleaure provides me with a special joy. I just finished Nelson DeMille's latest book, The Gate House. It is the sequel to an earlier work called The Gold Coast. I really enjoyed both of these books. Don't read them fast like a thriller. Sit back, relax and enjoy the pace and the dialogue. They are both tremendous reads.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

College affordability-Most Expensive Colleges

While it is difficult to pay for any college education, try footing the bill at these schools.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Teaching and the Economy

The economy has generated concerns about some companies being around after the holiday season. Here is the latest link about companies struggling.

This is another opportunity for teachers to use real-time issues in their classes for the utmost in learning opportunities.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Holiday Tipping Guide

Do you ever wonder if you should tip various service providers during the holiday season. This guide gives you ideas on who and what you should consider for holiday tipping.

For me, it all comes down to good service and relationships.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Reducing the Dropout Rate

The Oklahoma Education Association has been actively involved in a variety of programs that will reduce the drop out rate. This column was in the Oklahoman today or you can read it below.

In recent days, The Oklahoman has featured the importance of addressing the dropout rate. While there may be a variety of reasons kids drop out, it is important for them, and for Oklahoma and our nation, that they remain in school. The Oklahoma Education Association is committed to addressing those needs.

The OEA has initiated and participated in "community conversations” projects, which seek input and ideas from the community served by schools so the school can better understand and address the issues and concerns important to that community.

The first project involves Putnam City West High School and the Hispanic community. Listening to the concerns of parents and using bilingual communication allows for the opportunity to address needs in a non-intimidating fashion. Because of these conversations, parents and teachers more fully understand the barriers that language can play in impeding parental involvement. Parents want to be involved and want help because they want the best for their children and that means keeping them in school.

In Weatherford, the OEA joined an already-formed task force addressing the needs of American Indian students that includes the Cheyenne-Arapaho Tribe. Understanding the Native American culture and having those conversations with parents and tribal leaders will give everyone involved in education a greater opportunity to keep students in school.

On March 30, the featured topic at the second annual OEA Educator’s and Clergy Conference will be the dropout issue and how we can focus on ways in which schools can work with the faith community to have an impact on the dropout rates.

The ability to read is essential for kids to be successful and stay in school; not being able to read contributes greatly to the increase in the dropout rate. The OEA Read Across America program not only promotes the love and joy of reading, but also the positive impact being able to read has on students’ lives. In the past 12 years, tens of thousands of kids have participated in the program and been exposed to positive reading experiences.

It is extremely important for students and parents to understand the economic impact on the dropout. According to U.S. Census Bureau, a high school dropout will annually earn approximately $19,169 as compared with $28,645 for someone with a diploma or $51,554 for an individual with a bachelor’s degree.

No matter what the reasons for dropping out, quality teachers make all the difference in the world. OEA members mentor kids and provide a variety of opportunities for them to be successful and stay in school. There are also many times where students unburden themselves to caring teachers and counselors and the bonds formed between student and teacher keeps kids in school as well.

The OEA is serious about lowering the dropout rate. Losing even one child is unacceptable. We all need to work together to address this issue. Dropout rates aren’t statistics; they’re kids Oklahoma can’t afford to lose.

Friday, December 05, 2008

HOPE, Bake Sales or Selling Ads

Because of a recent budget shortfall, a California teacher gets creative with meeting his copying costs by placing ads on his tests. I guess if you have the open space on paper....We've sold the name of ballparks, the sleeves and backs of uniforms, walls, etc. so why not parts of open paper on a test?

While a creative way to go about meeting needs, I'm not sure there is enough space to solve the funding crisis in our state legislature or to stop the HOPE Coalition and State Question 744.

California High School Teacher Places Ads On Student Exams, Sells Out Semester Final.
USA Today (12/2, Toppo, Kornblum) reports on Tom Farber, a teacher at San Diego's Rancho Bernardo High School who sells "ads on his test papers: $10 for a quiz, $20 for a chapter test, $30 for a semester final." Farber began selling the ads after the school district announced that it would cut "spending on supplies by nearly a third. ... At three cents a page, his tests would cost more than $500 a year. His copying budget: $316." Both San Diego Magazine and the San Diego Union-Tribune "featured his plan just before Thanksgiving, and Farber came home from a few days out of town to 75 e-mail requests for ads. So far, he has collected $350. His semester final is sold out." USA Today notes that "about two-thirds of Farber's ads are inspirational messages underwritten by parents. Others are ads for local businesses, such from a dentist who urges students, 'Brace Yourself for a Great Semester!'"

Thursday, December 04, 2008

College Affordability

There has been a great deal of debate regarding whether or not college will be affordable to most Americans and according to the biennial report of the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, it won't be affordable.

If we are going to prepare all kids for college and most of them can't afford to go, what kind of impact will it have on them and our nation?

For more information, visit and see how your voice can be heard.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Flawed Research: Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice-Vouchers

Why are we presented with biased polling to push the voucher agenda? Perhaps it is because in Oklahoma, years of polling on vouchers shows the opposite, with 74% of Oklahomans opposed to vouchers.

Another interesting area in the 2008 Survey dealt with funding where 87.7% of Oklahomans believe the legislature doesn't provide adequate funding for education.

Review finds Pro-voucher Polls Plagued by Biased Questions and Sampling Problems

EAST LANSING, Mi., (December 2, 2008)—A series of reports based on public opinion polls in 10 states claims that state political candidates could increase their electability if they support school vouchers and other school-choice measures. A Think Twice review of the reports, however, finds that the polls on which they rely contain poorly worded, biased questions and suffer from sampling problems.

The states surveyed thus far are Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Maryland, Montana, Nevada, Oklahoma, and Tennessee, and the reports were published by the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, a think tank that promotes school-choice proposals, including taxpayer-funded private-school vouchers. They were reviewed by professors Jon Lorence and A.Gary Dworkin, both of the University of Houston.

The 10 reports conclude that voters view public schools as performing unsatisfactorily, that they prefer private over public schools, that public funds should be available so parents can send their children to private schools and that potential voters are more likely to support candidates who back school choice proposals such as vouchers.

Lorence and Dworkin note that none of the reports cite any other surveys or research literature regarding opinions on vouchers or on public, private, or charter schools. By comparison, the reviewers cite a series of Gallup polls, conducted annually for Phi Delta Kappa, that include questions measuring public support for private-school vouchers and for public education in general. Those surveys consistently find less support for voucher proposals than shown by the Friedman surveys. In fact, the Gallup surveys consistently show that more Americans oppose vouchers than support them.

In addition, the reviewers point to a number of other factors which might explain why the Friedman surveys yielded more favorable results for school choice proposals.

First, they note that that the population samples surveyed might not represent the voting populations of their states nor the population of parents for whose children school vouchers are intended. Information to establish sampling accuracy is largely missing from the reports, and in at least one of the three instances where sufficient data were provided, the low response rate raises a red flag about possible sample bias.

Additionally, Lorence and Dworkin found repeated instances in which the wording of questions appeared likely to bias the results. These questions appeared to be worded in ways to encourage respondents to favor private-school funding. The reviewers use the corresponding Gallup questions to highlight these problems with wording. Additionally, the survey questions in some instances used terms not widely understood, such as questions about proposals to grant tax credits to companies that finance private school scholarships (vouchers).

“Had the respondents been presented more neutral questions about tax credits and vouchers, the findings may have been less favorable towards these issues,” the reviewers write.

Lorence and Dworkin observe that the 10 papers reviewed are aimed at driving a pro-school-choice agenda through the promotion of tax credits, vouchers, and charter schools. They conclude that the reports should not guide policy and recommend that policymakers avoid relying on, “public opinion surveys that present beliefs as fact,” and encourage them to, “examine research investigating whether charter schools and vouchers actually increase student achievement and other important outcomes.”

Find the review by Jon Lorence and A. Gary Dworkin on the web at:

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Fixing Public Schools

Mr. Neal, a former OEA Marshall Gregory Award Winner and one of my favorite writers, has a better understanding about schools than a variety of people in all walks of life. Legislators would do well to read and pay heed to what he has to say.

State Question 744, sponsored by the HOPE Coalition, will provide our schools the revenue they need to be succesful.

Fixing public schools starts with funding by: KEN NEAL Senior Editor Tulsa World

Will vouchers or charter schools or both solve the problems of the public school system?

That question has bedeviled school observers for at least 20 years. The best answer after some limited experience with vouchers and charters is that they can be a part — but only a part — of the educational picture.

In the 30 years since Bill Bennett and the Reagan administration hammered the schools in the politically motivated and largely inaccurate "A Nation at Risk," bashing the public schools is increasingly a great sport.

Republicans generally lead that exercise, although Democrats often join them in blaming school boards and administrators for perceived failures of their children.

Even Mark Twain took a potshot at school boards. He once said, "God made the idiot for practice. Then he made the school board."

Yet the overwhelming evidence is that public school problems spring from the public's inability to deal with societal problems, specifically poverty.

Cal Thomas, whose syndicated column is carried in the Tulsa World, climbed on the school criticism bandwagon recently by chiding President-elect Barack Obama and his wife for selecting a private school for their two daughters when they move to Washington.

Never mind that putting the kids in a public school would drive the Secret Service nuts and cost the public thousands of extra tax dollars.

No, old thoughtful Cal claims "Obama and the Democrats" deny parents who can't pay for private schools the right to send their children to them.

Thomas sees nothing wrong with giving parents tax money to use to send their children to private schools.

Usually, this approach is but a way to help finance religiously affiliated schools. That would in effect allow government to support religion, generally considered to be unconstitutional.

That practice is what "Obama and the Democrats" oppose.

Private schools play an important role in the U.S.

About 11 percent of students are in non-public schools. While it makes a great column for Thomas to poke fun at the Obamas, the insinuation that private schools are an answer to the nation's education problem does not wash.

In fact, private schools could not possibly manage if substantial numbers of children in public school showed up with the inadequate amount of money spent on each child.

Nor would those schools be ready to accept the wide range of students with various mental and physical handicaps.

Thomas blithely speaks of what "parents" want, apparently oblivious to the fact that great numbers of school children have no parents in the usual sense.

In Tulsa, or any other metropolitan area in the U.S., it is surprising how many grandparents, aunts and uncles or foster parents are rearing children.

A child who has even one parent trying to get him or her into a private school has a big advantage over many of his or her peers. A parent or parents that care make all the difference.

Charter schools? These schools get the tax money (per child) that the government spends on them for public education.

Here again, Charter schools have a place, but the reason for their existence is that their sponsors believe they can do a better job than public school administrators with the same money.

So far, there has been little convincing evidence that children in private or charter schools perform better than their public school counterparts.

In Oklahoma charter school sponsors have found that the state does not spend enough per child on education to operate either public or charter school adequately. One group that wanted to operate charters for profit found that impossible on what Oklahoma spends on children.

Oklahoma is 46th in the nation when it comes to money spent on educating children. It spends $6,961 per year per child. The national average is about $10,400.

If Oklahoma spent more money on children perhaps all schools, including charters, could do a better job.

Monday, December 01, 2008

High School Reform:Multiple Pathways

Making sure Multiple Pathways is done correctly will help prepare students for college and the work place, but if not done correctly, it won't address previous problems. The issue is making sure you have everything in place to be successful.

Multiple Pathways prepares students for college and careers

New report focuses on high school reform done right

EAST LANSING, Mich., (December 1, 2008)—The Multiple Pathways approach to high school reform is being advanced by states and supported by philanthropy groups around the country. The approach was developed as a way to prepare students for both college and careers while rejecting a tracking system that provides academic preparation for some students but only vocational preparation to others. A new report highlights the potential of this approach but warns that if poorly designed and implemented, past problems will not be addressed.

Released today by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice, this legislation policy brief was co-authored by Dr. Marisa Saunders, a research associate at UCLA’s Institute for Democracy, Education and Access, and Christopher Chrisman, an associate with the Denver office of the law firm Holland & Hart.

The first half of the report explains the key elements of effective Multiple Pathways reform. The second half translates these elements into statutory language, concretely providing the details necessary to move forward with this important reform.

The Multiple Pathways approach to high school reform connects rigorous academic preparation and technical knowledge to opportunities to learn from adult, real-world settings such as the workplace. The reform rests on three research-based propositions:

*Learning both academic and technical knowledge is enhanced when the two are combined and contextualized in real-world situations;

*Connecting academics to such real-world contexts promotes student interest and engagement; and

*Students provided with both academic and career education are more likely to be able to later choose from the full range of postsecondary options.

Saunders points out that Multiple Pathways is not a “one-size-fits-all” approach. Students and families choose from a number of “pathways” which offer both the academic and real-world experiences that students need. Though each “pathway” differs in terms of curricular content, how courses are organized and how much time students spend on and off campus, Saunders says that what is most important is that “every pathway leads to the same destination: preparation to succeed in both college and career, not one or the other.”

However, Saunders cautions, “If poorly designed or enacted, the reform will only maintain the same old vocational education programs or alternative schools, continuing discredited practices of ability tracking rather than transforming the comprehensive high school.”

A well-designed Multiple Pathways reform must include the following four essential components within each and every pathway that is offered to students:

*A college-preparatory academic core that satisfies the course requirements for entry into a state’s flagship public university, using project-based learning and other engaging classroom strategies;

*A professional/technical core well-grounded in academic and real-world standards;

*Field-based learning and realistic workplace simulations that deepen students’ understanding of academic and technical knowledge through application in real-world situations; and

*Additional support services to meet the particular needs of students and communities, which can include supplemental instruction, counseling, and transportation.

According to Saunders, effective Multiple Pathways reform as proposed in the brief can, “meet the educational needs of a diverse student population by bridging the divide between education for work and education for college.”

Find Saunders’ and Chrisman’s report, Multiple Pathways: 21st Century High Schools that Prepare All Students for College, Career and Civic Participation on the web at: