Carnival of Homeschooling

Thinking of homeschooling? This week’s Carnival of Homeschooling on Living Life & Learning is dedicated to parents who are considering the idea.

A restart for Head Start?

While Head Start has made some progress, the federally funded program “continues to lack clear, comprehensive goals for program performance,” writes Sara Mead in Renewing Head Start’s Promise: Invest in What Works for Disadvantaged Preschoolers.

In addition, Head Start overemphasizes compliance, requires programs to do too many different things and pays too little attention to curriculum, Mead writes.

While Mead believes Head Start can improve, her report is a devastating critique, writes Checker Finn on Gadfly.

Finn also takes on the idea that funding preschool education in poor countries should be a top United Nations priority. It “costs little and has lifelong benefits by getting children started on learning,” argues Matt Ridley in Smart Aid for the World’s Poor.

“Preschool is not like a polio shot or smallpox vaccination,” writes Finn. “It does not inoculate anybody against anything.”

. . . the right kind of preschool program can give a needed leg up to kids who aren’t getting such preparation at home.

But—and it’s a huge but—it’s only preparation for further education. The further education has to be waiting, and it has to be good education that takes advantage of what was accomplished in preschool.

In the U.S., which has universal elementary education and compulsory school attendance, “whatever boost was provided by preschool fades to the vanishing point during the early grades because the schools themselves fail to sustain it.”

In the Third World . . .

Do Core promoters ‘get it’ now?

Common Core advocates believe they’re losing the public relations war, while “Moms” are “winning,” writes Stephanie Simon on Politico. So pro-Core forces have decided to appeal to “hearts” rather than minds.

Or, as Neal McCluskey puts it, they’ll “stop being so darn principled.”

Rick Hess is dubious that Core advocates can stop patronizing their critics.

. . . each time the Common Core advocates say, “We get it now,” they make me think that a) they totally don’t get it, and b) they’re about to dig themselves into an even deeper hole.

Here’s his translation:

It’s tricky when we’re so obviously right.

You see, we really want to respect our opponents, but it’s hard when they’re such obvious nitwits.

The fact that they’re such nitwits has suckered us into just coolly sharing the evidence of our overwhelming rightness.

The problem is that all this evidence is too far over everyone’s heads, because they’re just not as sophisticated as we are.

So, we’ve decided we need to offer more sugar, candy, circuses, and heart-tugging appeals in order to really win this thing.

We’d thought push-polling and long-retired Republican governors would suffice, but now we’ve decided we need a national campaign of cute, smiling kids saying, “I WUV the Common Core!”

Core advocates haven’t engaged their “tempered and reasonable” skeptics, writes Hess.  “I see this self-diagnosis as both insulting to us non-advocates and flat wrong.”

There are “legitimate concerns” about Common Core standards, writes Fordham’s Mike Petrilli. “I’ve never argued that decisions to adopt (or retain) the Common Core are a slam dunk or that you have to be done dumb or crazy to oppose them,” he writes.

Instead of “warm and fuzzy TV ads,” writes Petrilli, proponents should focus on “fixing an education system that continues to tell kids they are doing fine until they find themselves in remedial courses or without a decent paying job.”

Homophonia strikes again

Hired to do social media for a Provo, Utah language school, Tim Torkildson wrote a post about homophones — ad and add, ail and ale, aye and eye, etc. He finished with a plug for the English language classes offered by Nomen Global Language Center.  

He was fired. “Now our school is going to be associated with homosexuality,” said his boss, Clarke Woodger, according to Torkildson’s blog.

Woodger complained he “had to look up the word because I didn’t know what the hell you were talking about,” according to Torkildson.

No, it’s not The Onion.  It’s not a hoax.

The Salt Lake City Tribune talked to Woodger, who said, “People at this level of English may see the ‘homo’ side and think it has something to do with gay sex.”

Default penalties worry community colleges

Community colleges could be penalized for high default rates on student loans — even if few students are borrowing. Colleges could lose eligibility for all federal student aid programs if the default rate exceeds 30 percent for three consecutive years.

Is the Core too much for disabled students?

Can special education students keep up with the Common Core? On the Hechinger Report, Amanda M. Fairbanks looks at a special-ed class for third- and fourth-graders at a Long Island school. Nicole Papa plays an audio recording of a nonfiction article about bullying and peer pressure. Then, she reads it the first part again and asks students to think the main idea.

Her students have “diagnoses ranging from autism spectrum disorders to learning disabilities to mood disorders.” They don’t read well enough to get through the article themselves.

“A couple of years ago, I would never have tried such a difficult passage with these kids,” said Papa, reflecting on her lesson. “My students are stepping it up and showing some unexpected successes. I see the light bulbs go on and I see a lot of growth in their comprehension, in their vocabulary and in their confidence. They know they’re doing exactly what their peers are doing right across the hallway.”

They’re doing it at a much slower pace. While the mainstream class finished the first of four English segments in October, Papa’s class was still working on it in May.

Common Core’s higher expectations is tackling a “huge underachievement problem,” said Lindsay Jones, the director of public policy and advocacy for the National Center for Learning Disabilities.

Nevertheless, Celia Oyler, a professor of education at Teachers College, Columbia University, is troubled by the uniformity she observes when visiting special education classrooms.

“Every child is being given the same materials at the same time,” said Oyler, who runs the Teachers College Inclusive Classrooms Project and directs the inclusive teacher education programs at the college. “The very essence of meeting the needs of children with disabilities is that learners need to be doing things at different times.”

Most special ed students weren’t meeting the old standards, notes Anya Kamenetz on NPR.

Jackson Ellis, who’s starting fourth grade in Louisiana, is on the autism spectrum.  “There’s always been a gap — academically, socially — between what he could do and other kids could do,” says his mother, Rebecca Ellis. “When the standards changed, the gap grew into this canyon overnight.”

End special ed

It’s time to end special education, writes Matt Richmond, co-author of Financing the Education of High-Need Students. The special ed model, developed in the 1970s to end the exclusion of “handicapped” students, is “broken,” he writes.

It assumes that only students diagnosed with a disability have needs that require attention and support. The student who reads poorly due to dyslexia gets special help. The student who reads poorly because his parents didn’t read to him – or his family moved three times when he was in first grade — is out of luck.

Monitor all students’ progress and help those who need it, without requiring them to fall into a disability category, argues Richmond. Response to Intervention is an effective model, ” but current laws limit its potential reach.”

Tearing down the divide between special education and general education would benefit everyone. The disability label is not necessary or helpful; it does not define the needs of a child or his potential — nor does the absence of a medical disability negate a child’s struggles or measure his advantage. Our laws and funding structures have created a line which is harshly demarcated but entirely meaningless. In reality, there are no special-ed kids or general-ed kids; there are simply children who need an education. Each one unique. Each one requiring special attention. And every one deserving it.

The special ed funding formula is badly out of date, writes Clare McCann on The Hill. Federal funds are based on old enrollment numbers: Districts with declining enrollment get more federal dollars per student than growing districts. In addition, small states get more than larger states.

Congress was supposed to reauthorize and revise the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) several years ago. 

Why Hoboken is tossing all its laptops

Mothballed laptops locked inside a storage closet at Hoboken Junior Senior High School.

Five years ago, federal “stimulus” dollars paid for laptops for every student at Hoboken Junior Senior High School. Now the school is throwing away all the laptops, reports WNYC.

Laptops broke. Laptops vanished. Students defeated the security software that was supposed to keep them away from pornography, gaming sites and Facebook. “There is no more determined hacker, so to speak, than a 12-year-old who has a computer,” said Jerry Crocamo, who installed the software.

The computers were slow. They crashed frequently. “Often, there was too little memory left on the small netbooks to run the educational software.”

The $500 laptops lasted only two years and then needed to be replaced. New laptops with more capacity for running educational software would cost $1,000 each, (Superintendent Mark) Toback said. Additionally, licenses for the security software alone were running more than $100,000 and needed to be renewed every two years.

Worst of all, the school had no plan for how to use the new technology to improve teaching. Teachers received little training, concedes Toback, who wasn’t there at the time.  

This has been a problem since the invention of the personal computer.

“Probably in the last few months I’ve had quite a few principals and superintendents call and say, ‘I bought these 500 iPads or 1,000 laptops because the district next to us just bought them,’ and they’re like, now what do we do?” said Allison Powell, who works for the International Association for K-12 Online Learning.

The district plans to pay a recycling company to dispose of the laptops. I’ve got to believe they could find a nonprofit to rehab and donate them.

Teaching grade 12½

The first year of college has become grade 12½, writes a community college writing instructor. Actually, it’s more like grade 7 1/2: He’s teaching punctuation, grammar, sentence structure and spelling.

On the blackboard …

Heh..