Cincinnati’s Catholic teachers are ‘ministers’

“Thou shalt not” do — or publicly support — premarital sex, extramarital sex, unmarried cohabitation, in-vitro fertilization, a gay “lifestyle” or a host of other issues, if you want to teach in Cincinnati Catholic schools. All teachers must sign a new “morality” contract that focuses on “pelvic issues,” reports CNN.  All teachers are now “ministers” to make it easier to fire them.

It stems from a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court decision in the case of Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. EEOC, in which the justices cite a “ministerial exemption” that gives religious institutions greater latitude when hiring and firing employees.

Molly Shumate, a first-grade teacher, plans to quit her job rather than pledge not to publicly support her gay son, she told CNN. “If in five or 10 years he finds a partner and he wants to be with that person, I’m going to be in the front row with the biggest bouquet.”

The Cincinnati Archdiocese has lost several lawsuits for firing teachers who didn’t abide by Catholic doctrine.

Computer teacher Christa Dias, who was single, used in-vitro fertilization to become pregnant and was then fired. She sued the archdiocese for discrimination and a jury awarded her more than $170,000.

. . . Also last year, a dean of students at a Cincinnati Catholic high school was let go after supporting same-sex marriage on his private blog.

And a female gym teacher at a high school in the Columbus, Ohio, diocese was fired after publishing the name of her partner in an obituary column announcing her mother’s death. She sued and the diocese settled.

I think the archdiocese will find it significantly harder to hire teachers.

Who’s using Indiana vouchers and why

Eighty-one percent of Indiana’s voucher students are eligible for a free or reduced-price lunch, reports the Friedman Foundation. Two-thirds live in urban areas, half are minority and 11 percent have special needs. 

A parent survey found:

92.2 percent found it easy to access private schools.
57.2 percent were dissatisfied with their previous public schools.
62.1 percent left their previous public/charter school because of “academic quality.”
78 percent chose their private school because of “better academics.”

Nearly every parent — 99.1 percent — was satisfied with the private school their child now attends. 

The statewide voucher program, which started three years ago, is doubling in size every year: 19,809 students used vouchers to attend private schools this school year. The School Scholarship Tax Credit adds 2,890 students.

How parents choose schools

Georgia parents don’t choose private schools for their test scores, concludes More Than Scores, a study of the the state’s tax-credit scholarship program by the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice.

Parents who chose to use the scholarships at private schools cared most about disciplinary policies, learning climate, class sizes, safety and individual attention for their children.

Since 2008, Georgia students have been able to receive scholarships to private schools through nonprofits, which are funded by individual and corporate contributions. Donors get an offsetting state income tax credit.

Only 10.2 percent rated “higher standardized test scores” as one of their top five reasons for choosing a private school. Parents were most concerned about finding a safe, orderly school.

Most popular among respondents were:

“better student discipline” (50.9 percent),

“better learning environment” (50.8 percent),

“smaller class sizes” (48.9 percent),

“improved student safety” (46.8 percent), and

“more individual attention for my child” (39.3 percent).

Low-income parents give top priority to graduation rates and college acceptance rates in deciding on a school.

Collegebound can’t opt out of Common Core

Common Core Standards will affect homeschoolers when their children apply to college, writes Paula Bolyard in PJ Lifestyle. Without traditional academic credentials, homeschooled students need strong SAT or ACT scores.

David Coleman, a “lead architect” of the Common Core, is now president of the College Board, which designs and administers the SAT and AP (Advanced Placement) tests. He plans to “redesign the SAT, transforming it from an aptitude test intended to control for varying levels of school quality, to a knowledge test aligned with the Common Core,” reports The Atlantic.

The ACT, which describes itself as “an active partner with the Common Core State Standards Initiative,” also plans to revamp their tests, notes Bolyard.

If your homeschooled children plan to go to attend college some day, the way things currently stand, they will be tested on Common Core “achievements and behavior.” That means you may need to consider altering your curriculum to align with the standards.

Alignment of the SAT, ACT and GED exams to Common Core “poses new questions about the extent to which states, private schools, and homeschooled students will be compelled to accept national standards and tests,” writes Brittany Corona on Heritage Foundation’s The Foundry

Even in states that do not sign on to Common Core, schools could find themselves having to align content with Common Core material in order to ensure student success on the SAT or ACT—something that could affect private schools.

The GED is “sometimes used by homeschoolers to demonstrate content mastery,” Corona writes. The new version of the test “could pull homeschoolers into the Common Core web.”

Michael Farris, co-founder of Home School Legal Defense Association, told Coleman (in a polite conversation): “Just because you have a good idea (homeschooling in my case, Common Core in his case), it doesn’t mean that it is appropriate to force everyone in the country to follow your idea. And that is my central problem with the Common Core and all forms of centralized educational planning.”

Study: Vouchers raise college-going for blacks

Black students who used vouchers to attend New York City private schools were 24 percent more likely to enroll in college compared to similar students who lost the voucher lottery, write Matthew M. Chingos, a Brookings fellow, and Paul E. Peterson, a Harvard government professor, in Education Next. But vouchers had little effect on Hispanics’ college-going rates.

In the 1990s, philanthropists created the New York School Choice Scholarships Foundation (SCSF), which offered three-year vouchers worth up to $1,400 annually to as many as 1,000 low-income families with children entering first through fifth grade. With the average Catholic school tuition at $1,728, parents had to pay some of their children’s school costs.

After three years, black students who won the voucher lottery had significantly higher test scores than the control group. The long-term study finds a large effect on college enrollment, but only for blacks.

The vouchers’ impact on college enrollment was larger than the effects of small class sizes in Tennessee, for much less cost. It was much larger than the impact of exposure to a highly effective teacher, Chingos and Peterson write.

They’re not sure why vouchers improved academic outcomes for blacks, but did little for Hispanics.

. . .  it appears that the African American students in the study had fewer educational opportunities in the absence of a voucher. . . . There is also some evidence that the public schools attended by Hispanic students were superior to those attended by African American students.

In addition, many Hispanic families chose private school for religious reasons, while most black families “had secular education objectives in mind.”

Gifted or test prepped?

Test prep for four-year-olds keeps escalating in Manhattan, reports the New York Times. It’s a game played by well-to-do parents eager to get their kids into public gifted programs or into selective private schools.

The New York City Education Department changed part of its admissions exam for its gifted and talented programs last year, in part to minimize the benefits of test prep. A test prep company “posted the news with links to guides and practice tests for the new assessment,” reports the Times.

The day Pearson announced changes in the exam used by many private schools, another company explained the changes in its blog:  “word reasoning and picture comprehension were out, bug search and animal coding were in.”

Schools worry that intensive test prep has made the admissions test invalid.

Nearly 5,000 children qualified for gifted slots in the city’s public kindergartens this year, double the number five years ago.

Natalie Viderman, 4, spent an hour and a half each week for six months at Bright Kids NYC, a tutoring company, working on skills like spatial visualization and serial reasoning, which are part of the Naglieri Nonverbal Ability Test, or NNAT 2, the new gifted and talented test. She and her mother, Victoria Preys, also worked every night on general learning, test prep and workbooks, some provided by Bright Kids.

Natalie’s brother, a Bright Kids graduate, tested into a gifted program. Natalie just missed the cut-off for a gifted school that uses an IQ test but hasn’t heard if she’s qualified for a gifted program that uses the NNAT 2.

Choice rules: Red tape or red herring?

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Most private schools will participate in choice programs, even if they’re held accountable for students’ achievement, concludes a new Fordham study, School Choice Regulations: Red Tape or Red Herring? Only 25 percent of schools listed state testing requirements as very or extremely important to their decision about whether to participate, but more than half worry about preserving their admissions criteria and religious practices. Fifty-eight percent of non-participating schools cited paperwork burdens and mandatory open-enrollment policies as important factors.

Fordham looked at 13 different school choice models and found very different regulatory burdens. Arizona’s “individual” tax credit scholarship is the least burdened by regulation, while Milwaukee’s long-running voucher program “has accumulated more rules as it has grown older and larger.”

Tax-credit programs will maximize participation by private schools, but “lose a measure of accountability,” researchers conclude.

A record 255,000 children are using vouchers and tax-credit scholarships to attend private school, according to The ABCs of School Choice by the Friedman Foundation For Educational Choice. “The ABCs” describes the 39 private school choice programs in 21 states and Washington, D.C.

Elite schools ease up on homework

Some ultra-competitive private schools are assigning less homework to avoid overstressing students, reports the New York Times.  Of course, that means cutting back to only four hours a night or perhaps even 3.5 hours.

Dalton invited Harris Cooper, a professor of neuroscience and psychology at Duke University, to speak last spring about the link between homework and learning. “At five hours a night,” he said of the homework burden, “they likely won’t do any worse if they only bring home four.”

. . . Denise Pope, a senior lecturer at the Stanford School of Education, co-authored a 2007 paper that looked at 496 students at one private and one public school and found that those with more than 3.5 hours of homework a night had an increased risk of physical and mental health issues, like sleep deprivation, ulcers and headaches. In a separate study of 26 schools, Ms. Pope said, 67 percent of more than 10,000 students reported that they were “often” or “always” stressed out.

“At some point, we say too much is too much,” Ms. Pope said. “In our study, that’s 3.5 hours.”

Not all schools are scaling back: Some parents equate heavy backpacks and sleep deprivation with excellence.

Indiana OKs broad voucher bill

The nation’s most sweeping school voucher program — with tuition aid for low- and middle-income families — is now law in Indiana. Gov. Mitch Daniels signed the bill today, along with another bill expanding charter schools.

Parents can choose to use vouchers at private schools that accept state regulation, including religious schools. As family income rises to $60,000 for a family of four, the voucher’s value will go down.

Other voucher systems across the country are limited to lower-income households, children with special needs or those in failing schools.

Indiana’s program would be open to a much larger pool of students, including those already in excellent schools. Indiana’s program will be limited to just 7,500 students for the first year and 15,000 in the second, a fraction of the state’s about 1 million students. But within three years, there will be no limit on the number of children who could enroll.

Indiana will save money on voucher students: Vouchers for elementary and middle school students are capped at $4,500 and no voucher will equal funding for public-school students.

According to Rick Hess, 60 percent of Indiana schoolchildren will be eligible for a voucher worth up to 90 percent of public education costs. The student must attend a year of public school to qualify for a voucher.

The bill also gives a $1,000 tax deduction for private-school tuition or the costs of homeschooling. That’s expected to cut revenues by $3 million.

While most choice advocates are celebrating, Cato’s Adam Schaeffer argues the law is a “strategic defeat for educational freedom” because it greatly expands state regulation of participating private schools.

To qualify for vouchers, schools will have to administer state exams and submit data on students’ progress, admit students by lottery and “provide good citizenship instruction” that stresses respecting authority, the property of others, the student’s parents and home, the student’s self and “the rights of others to have their own views and religious beliefs.”

What does this mean for religious private schools teaching that one can only be saved by belief in Jesus Christ?

Private schools that refuse to be regulated will risk losing most of their students,   Schaeffer writes.

Scores aren’t higher for Milwaukee voucher students

Milwaukee voucher students score lower in math and the same in reading as similar public school students, according to new state test results.  Math proficiency averaged 34.4 percent for voucher students, who come from low-income families, compared to 43.9 percent for low-income district students. Reading proficiency averaged 55.2 percent for voucher students, 55.3 percent for low-income public school students. (The voucher students are slightly poorer.)

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker wants to drop enrollment caps and income limits for the voucher program, which allows children to attend private schools, including many religious schools.