‘Trigger’ parents charge fraud

Fraud scuttled the “parent trigger” drive to take over a low-performing elementary school, charges the Desert Trails Parent Union in Adelanto, California. Seventy percent of parents of the school’s 666 students signed parent trigger petitions, but the board rejected some signatures as invalid and counted 97 revocations, pushing the percentage to 48 percent.

There is disturbing evidence that the revocations submitted here were secured through a campaign of fraud, harassment, intimidation and, in some cases, outright forgery,” stated attorney Mark Holscher in the letter to the district sent late Monday.

Two revocation documents were forged, said Patrick Detemple, of Parent Revolution, which is backing the trigger campaign. At least 27 should not have been counted because they lacked a signature or were signed by someone who hadn’t signed the original petition, he said.

If those revocations are invalidated, the petition would surpass the required 50 percent threshold.

One mother said she signed a petition to “save our school,” not realizing she was revoking her previous signature on the parent trigger petition.

Here’s the Los Angeles Times story, for those who prefer it.

One third of college students transfer

One third of college students transfer before earning a degree, often going from a four-year to a two-year school. Federal data counts transfers as dropouts.

California community colleges have cut 20,000 courses this year, making it hard for students to complete a degree or vocational certificate, but still offer Playing the Ukulele for Older Adults and Reclaiming Joy: Meeting Your Inner Child.

Common Core reading: Too hard? Too factual?

The new common standards for K-2 reading are too hard, “harsh” and “dreary,” writes Joanne Yatvin, a former president of the National Council of Teachers of English, in Education Week. The standards “overestimate the intellectual, physiological, and emotional development of young children,” Yatvin writes.

This amounts to meeting children where they are and keeping them there, responds Robert Pondiscio on Core Knowledge Blog. He lists the standards’ “three big ideas.”

1. Students should read as much nonfiction as fiction.

2. Schools should ensure all children—and especially disadvantaged children—build coherent background knowledge that is essential to mature reading comprehension.

3. Success in reading comprehension depends less on “personal response” and more on close reading of text.

The standards call for teaching vocabulary and background knowledge. It’s too much academics too soon, writes Yatvin. She thinks children should “learn words connected to their everyday lives and their interests rather than to things and experiences as yet unknown.”

We learn most words in context, Pondiscio replies.

So while it certainly it makes sense to connect words to kids “everyday lives and experiences” it’s something very close to educational malpractice not to make a concerted effort to expand a child’s knowledge base beyond their immediate experiences.  If there is anything that ensures a low-level of academic achievement it is the idea that kids can only learn from their direct experiences.

Yatvin also disagrees with the standards’ call to teach non-fiction as well as fiction. Young children have “limited experience in the fields of science, geography, history, and technology,” she writes. “It is one thing for a child to read The Little Engine That Could for the pleasure of the story and quite another for her to comprehend the inner workings of a locomotive.”

Actually, many children, especially boys, enjoy reading about science, nature and technology, including trains. I was a huge fan of history and geography — anything that wasn’t about the boring suburb where I lived.

Little Engine That Could “is ripe with opportunities to build background knowledge” about “colors, mountains, trains and transportation, to name but a few,” writes Pondiscio.

I’m all for reading for the pleasure of the story.  But start building background knowledge of the world beyond a child’s immediate surroundings today, and you geometrically expand the number of stories a child can read for pleasure tomorrow.

Very few kids have personal experiences with dinosaurs, dolphins, pirates or superheroes, yet many enjoy reading about them.  The first graders I’m tutoring in reading love the Magic School Bus series, which teaches science. They can’t read the book I’ve got (about kitchen chemistry), but they’re longing to be able to.

BA = ’50s high school diploma, asserts ‘Worthless’

Aaron Clarey’s Worthless: The Young Person’s Indispensable Guide to Choosing the Right Major is a ”hilarious primer for college students who would like to work as something other than nannies and theater interns after graduation,” writes Charlotte Allen on Minding the Campus.

Worthless degree.pngDon’t waste time, money and your parents’ credit rating on a bachelor of arts degree, Clarey advises. Only a bachelor of sciences will enable graduates to earn a living. Yes, that takes math.

Assuming a student might pay $30,000 in tuition (presumably at a state university) for a foreign language degree, Clarey explains how to save $29,721: Buy language software. How to save the full $30,000 on a women’s studies degree: Watch daytime TV.

With everyone going to college, regardless of talents or interests, “today’s college degree is the equivalent of the 1950′s high school diploma,” Clarey writes.

The humanities have destroyed their value by politicizing their fields, argues Allen. When English majors can skip Shakespeare for “post-colonial feminist film,” employers will “write off English majors as airheads.”

President Obama is a “snob” for pushing the college-for-all message, said Rick Santorum. (Remember “egghead?”) Not everyone wants or needs college, said Santorum, who holds a law degree.

While Obama identifies with professors, Santorum identifies with students oppressed by liberal academics, writes Ann Althouse, herself a law professor.

. . . every young person in America — regardless of their cultural and economic background — needs to see clearly that they can get a higher education. . .  They should to go to college for a good reason, and one particularly good reason is to study science and engineering. If they are going to study in some softer, less career-oriented area, the mushy notion that everybody ought to go to college is not enough, even if the President of the United States tells them it is.

Actually, Obama is pushing college as workforce training and science ‘n math education very hard these days.

Obama: Invest in education, job training

States should spend more on education, President Obama said at the National Governors Association luncheon. ”The countries who out-educate us today will out-compete us tomorrow.”

 

No “teacher effectiveness gap” in NYC

The “teacher effectiveness gap” was just a myth, writes Mike Petrilli, citing the New York City teacher ratings published this weekend. Fourth- through eighth-grade teachers rated highly effective and very ineffective “are evenly distributed  around New York City in low-poverty and high-poverty schools, he writes.

Some teachers in poor, low-performing schools earned high value-added ratings because their students improved on past peformance, even though they didn’t catch up with advantaged students. And some teachers with easy-to-teach students earned low ratings because their students didn’t maintain their previous performance levels.

Implications?

Affluent schools are spending more for their teachers — but they aren’t getting better results. We know from research by Marguerite Roza and others that low-poverty schools tend to employ older, and thus more expensive, teachers than their poorer counterparts. . . . But these older, more expensive teachers aren’t getting stronger value-added gains than their younger, less expensive peers.

It’s also possible that educators and parents in affluent, high-achieving schools don’t think raising math and reading scores is a high priority, he concedes. Perhaps these schools are spending more time on “art, music, science, history and P.E.” That’s a reasonable choice.

Shipping teachers from low-poverty to high-poverty schools, as many propose, would be “misguided,” concludes Petrilli.

The very large margins of error in evaluating individual teachers are troubling. Value-added numbers over five years, available for some teachers, would be meaningful, but a single year’s data that places a teacher somewhere between the 30th and the 90th percentile . . . That’s useless.

There’s no way out of the evaluation trap, complains Arthur Goldstein, a high school teacher who specializes in teaching English to immigrants.

California charters are high (and low) scoring

California charter schools are more likely to be top — and bottom — performers in state rankings, concludes a Portrait of the Movement released by the California Charter Schools Association.

The report finds a “U-shaped” distribution for charter schools, meaning they were more likely both to exceed their predicted performance compared with non-charters, based on student background, and — to a lesser extent — under-perform. It concludes that 14.7 percent of charters were in the top 5 percent of California schools, well above the 4 percent of non-charters in that category. But 12.7 percent of charters showed up in the bottom 5 percent of performance, compared to just 4.2 percent of non-charters.

Because successful schools enroll more students, California charter students are twice as likely to attend a high-performing charter as a low-performing charter.

Creativity isn’t learned in class

Japanese visitors asked Fordham’s Mike Petrilli how the U.S. produces innovative leaders like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg.

It’s not a school thing, he replies. It’s an after-school thing. While Japanese adolescents are going to cram school, American kids are doing “sports, music, theater, student council, cheerleading, volunteering, church activities, and on and on.”

If you are looking for sources of innovative thinking, leadership and teamwork skills, competitiveness, and creativity, aren’t these better candidates than math class?

Or course, some “are just hanging out, smoking pot, getting in trouble, etc.,” Petrilli writes. But “some of these young people end up creating successful start-ups too!”

And then there’s the American parenting style. U.S. parents don’t teach their children self-discipline and delayed gratification, asserts Pamela Druckerman in Bringing up Bebe.

This, she suggests, fosters out-of-control toddlers and may lead to serious problems down the road, particularly for kids growing up in neighborhoods where community bonds have frayed.

On the other hand, by allowing our young to negotiate endlessly with us and stand up for what they want, we are also teaching them a form of self-assuredness. Treating little kids as equals might wreak havoc in the short term, but it’s possible that it creates non-hierarchical, confident, transformational leaders in the long run.

Certainly, Steve Jobs exemplified the brilliant brat, but I’m not sure that self-discipline and creativity are antithetical.

‘Success courses’ succeed in boosting retention

“Success courses” that teach study skills, time management, career planning and use of college resources are boosting retention rates for low-skilled community college students. But some professors think they’re crowding out academic courses.

Occupy MoCo!,” a summer-school class for high school students at Montgomery College in Maryland, asks “are you ready to join the movement for justice?”  The two-week class “does not take a stance on the Occupy movement,” claims a community college official.

The middle school plunge

When students move from elementary to middle school, their scores drop significantly in the first year compared to students in K-8 schools, conclude Martin West and Guido Schwerdt in The Middle School Plunge in Education Next. Middle-school students don’t catch up with K-8 students in high school.

The transition to high school causes a small drop in student achievement, but the decline does not appear to persist beyond grade 9.

Middle schools were created to ease the transition to high school, but gathering large numbers of pubescent children in one place doesn’t seem to create a good learning environment.

A number of urban districts are creating K-8 schools. It’s a good idea,write West and Schwerdt.