Friday, March 24, 2006
NEWS BRIEFS: ANOTHER OPS SOLUTION,
LOTS OF ETC.,
AND GO BIG ED TAKES A SPRING BREAK
The proposed solutions in the Legislature for the controversy over the Omaha Public Schools are both bad: one would expand the bureaucracy with a metro-wide school board, and the other would result in still more highly expensive building projects and more debt, as districts would collaborate on mutual magnet schools.
Gubernatorial candidate Dave Nabity is the only one who has proposed a cost-saving solution. He recommends that the OPS board make long-term contracts for the management of the 23 most troubled OPS schools to the eight surrounding suburban school districts. Then let them compete to see who can make the biggest difference for low-income kids. If you use the right methods – phonics-only reading instruction, and traditional math with an emphasis on computation – kids of all income levels can soar, for a lot less money than we’re wasting on these boneheaded social engineering “programs” in low-income schools.
But the best solution of all, of course, would be school choice. And guess what? Low-income families already have it, under the No Child Left Behind Act.
School districts are supposed to provide and publicize transfer options for children in failing schools – educational opportunities where the parents want to re-enroll them. Has OPS been doing that enough, in its schools with the worst test scores? Maybe. Maybe not. Since Nebraska has such a weak assessment policy, in which districts get to evaluate themselves by subjective means, it doesn’t look like we have as many lousy schools as we do, at least on paper.
But in California, there’s hope. This week, the Phoenix-based Alliance for School Choice joined the Coalition on Urban Renewal and Education (CURE) in demanding that the Los Angeles and Compton Unified School Districts immediately provide that transfer information, and for federal education funds to those districts to be cut off until they do.
According to those two groups, a 2004 federal report by the General Accounting Office found that more than 3 million schoolchildren -- overwhelmingly low-income and minority children
-- were entitled to transfer, but only 1 percent of those eligible actually transferred.
The California complaints charge that of at least 250,000 children eligible for transfer in Los Angeles, only 527 (.2 of 1 percent) received transfers to better-performing schools. In Compton, zero students have received transfers despite appalling educational conditions, the groups contend. The complaints charge that the districts have failed adequately to make information available to parents or to provide sufficient options.
Since there aren’t enough available places in classrooms of other public schools, the two groups also are pushing for private-school options for low-income children in failing public schools.
See www.allianceforschoolchoice.org and www.urbancure.org
ATTENDANCE FRAUD IN DETROIT?
IS IT HAPPENING HERE?
The Detroit Public Schools is in a freefall. It recently was accused of overreporting its enrollment data to the state by more than 800 students. An audit also has found that the Detroit district had 11,500 fewer pupils than the previous year. Low quality schools are literally bleeding enrollment away from the urban district.
The finding will cost the district $63 million in reduced state aid to education. Besides gaining more money than it was entitled to, overreporting enrollment directly distorts test score interpretation and inflates dropout rates, making a district look better on paper than it really is.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: there’s something that bothers me about that big gap between reported enrollment – average daily membership – and average daily attendance in the Omaha Public Schools.
See http://ess.nde.state.ne.us to surf to the Omaha Public Schools’ latest annual financial report on file.
You’ll see they report enrollment of 44,036,60 – and average daily attendance of 39,915.21. That’s a difference of 4,121.39 pupils, more than 10%, who are enrolled but aren’t in school on the average day.
Multiply that many pupils times the $8,724.02 in spending per pupil in OPS, and it comes to . . .
. . . GULP! . . .
. . . nearly $36 million.
I definitely am not accusing OPS of enrollment fraud, or reporting “ghost” pupils. I know they have a highly transient student population compared to most districts.
But dang! That’s a lot of kids . . . and a lot of money. Wuzzup wit dis? Isn’t it worth a hard look?
EDUCATORS ACCUSED OF CHEATING TO GET HIGHER TEST SCORES;
COULD IT HAPPEN IN NEBRASKA?
APRIL 8 WORKSHOP ON THE U.S. CONSTITUTION
OFFERED FOR ALL AGES IN BASSETT, NEB.
“The Making of America,” a seminar on the U.S. Constitution, is planned April 8 in Bassett, Neb., sponsored by Class Ones United. It features Earl Taylor of Mesa, Ariz., president of the National Center for Constitutional Studies (www.nccs.net), and a charter school administrator. Students, parents, educators and the public are invited. A fee of $15 is anticipated, with lunch available for a nominal price. For more information and to register, contact Mike and Trudy Nolles, firstname.lastname@example.org
GOES TO CREATION, INTELLIGENT DESIGN SCIENTIST
All those who find the theory of evolution ridiculous, and regret the censorship of creation science and intelligent design in our science classrooms, can take heart in a big deal: this week, John D. Barrow of Cambridge University received this year's Templeton Prize for his work on the “Anthropic Principle” – the study of the incredible “coincidences” that allow for the presence of life in any form, and human life in particular, in our universe. He has proved that there is no way, Jose, that random chance and purposeless rule; there has obviously been design, purpose and order all the way.
Evolutionists, in other words, are completely and thoroughly wrong. But we knew that.
The prize is awarded for "progress towards research or discoveries about spiritual realities." Among others who’ve received it: Mother Teresa and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.
SHUT UP AND TEACH:
COLORADO TEACHER REINSTATED
Did you follow the case of Jay Bennish, the Denver-area teacher who was recorded giving students a vicious, erroneous, slanderous rant against President Bush and capitalism, but somehow got his job back with barely a slap on the wrist?
It’s one thing for a teacher to talk that way to his buddies away from school, on his own time, over the weekend. But not to other people’s children, a vulnerable, captive audience, at taxpayer expense. Are we paying him for his opinion? Or to teach history?
And it would have been different had he made the slightest attempt to give equal time to other points of view. But according to his students, he doesn’t.
Do you think he should have been fired? I don’t. I think he should have been given a big cut in pay, and reassigned to picking up trash and cleaning toilets. Then maybe he’d learn the difference between what America stands for, and trash and toilet talk:
GO BIG ED TAKES A SPRING BREAK
GoBigEd will resume on Monday, April 3.
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