No diploma, no job, 3 kids

Family Man in the Washington Post tells the story of a young father who wants to do the right thing by his 18-month-old son and his girlfriend’s two daughters by two other fathers. But 20-year-old Bobby Krotendorfer, a high school drop-out fired from his last job for skipping work and mouthing off, lacks maturity. His 22-year-old girlfriend’s bipolar but they’d rather spend their money on eating out than paying for her meds. Instead of getting his rotten teeth fixed, Bobby wants to buy an expensive gym for his little boy.

Bobby Krotendorfer plods through the garage and into the kitchen of the small, blue-gray Colonial in Southern Maryland. He drops a Snoopy diaper bag onto the kitchen table next to the GED prep book and a box of Hostess Twinkies. A lanky 20-year-old wearing baggy sweat pants, Bobby has just taken his girlfriend’s 5-year-old daughter, Faith, to school, then listened to his girlfriend fuss at him over the cellphone on his way back home. Seems she’s always yelling at him about something since she took a part-time waitressing job at the Lone Star Steakhouse & Saloon, leaving him to watch the children.

“I’ve had it,” Bobby says. Exhaustion pulls at his pale, angular face, and his day has just started. There are baby clothes to fold, floors to mop and three kids to put down for naps: 18-month-old Robert, called “Junior,” his biological child with his girlfriend; 3-year-old Hope, whom his girlfriend had with another man; and Savannah, the toddler daughter of a couple whom he agreed to watch.

By the end of the story, Bobby’s got an $8-an-hour job at a car wash. He and his girlfriend plan to get married next year. They’ll continue to live with her father — until she gets bored and moves on to another guy or Bobby gets tired of her mood swings.

The economy makes it worse for unskilled young men trying to support a family. But Bobby’s bad decisions — goofing off in school, quitting at 16, trusting a girl with two kids to stay on the pill — have dug him in a deep hole. He’s not ready to be a family man.

Portfolios replace tests for more kids

Despite the high cost of grading, Virginia is letting more students submit portfolios of their work rather than pass tests, reports the Washington Post. At first, only students with serious cognitive disabilities could bypass the state test, but now Virginia allows portfolios to evaluate “students with learning disabilities or beginning English skills.”

. . . Pass rates for portfolio tests are relatively high, which helps educators meet academic benchmarks but raises questions about the tests’ value in rating schools.

Teachers spend hours assembling each students’ portfolio, which shows work throughout the school year. Then other teachers must be hired to evaluate the work.

Parents of special education students often say the portfolio gives a more accurate picture of their child’s progress. However, some think grading is too easy.

Andrea Rosenthal of Oak Hill, the mother of a Fairfax special education student, said high pass rates on portfolio tests are often misleading because many children who score well on them are far below grade level on other measures. “It benefits the state, not the child, to say they are at grade level when they are not,” Rosenthal said

That is, it’s easier to meet No Child Left Behind’s requirements for educating disabled students and English Learners if they’re judged subjectively.

Killing D.C. voucher hopes

A week after 200 low-income Washington, D.C. families were offered $7,500 vouchers, Education Secretary Arne Duncan canceled the scholarships. No new children will start at private schools in the fall; those already attending will lose voucher aid in another year, unless Congress reconsiders. As the Washington Post editorializes, this makes it easier for congressional opponents to end the voucher program for good, despite a new study showing reading gains for voucher students.

(The decision) comes despite a new study showing some initial good results for students in the program and before the Senate has had a chance to hold promised hearings. For all the talk about putting children first, it’s clear that the special interests that have long opposed vouchers are getting their way.

. . . By presuming the program dead — and make no mistake, that’s the insidious effect of his bar on new enrollment — Mr. Duncan makes it even more difficult for the program to get the fair hearing it deserves.

The voucher families have missed the deadline to apply to many public charter schools or to apply for transfers.  Their kids will be stuck in their neighborhood district-run public schools.

Duncan has a boss, points out Jennifer Rubin on Contentions. His name is Barack Obama. He doesn’t send his kids to D.C.’s district-run public schools.

Duncan wasn’t lying when he said he didn’t know about the follow-up study’s positive findings, writes Grover Whitehurst, former director of the Institute for Education Sciences.

Update: At Flypaper, Mike Petrilli prints the letter the Education Department sent to parents who were offered vouchers, then told the scholarships were cancelled.  It expresses “regret” for the “confusion” and promises to do “everything possible to help ensure that your child is in a safe school environment that offers strengthened academic programs.”  Since transfer and charter deadlines have passed, “everything possible” isn’t much.

Petrilli suggests more honest wording:

“Because Democrats in Congress have voted to rescind funding for this program after next school year (despite the fact that a recent evaluation shows it to be a success, a rarity for federal initiatives), we have unilaterally decided to rescind your child’s scholarship effective immediately.”

It’s not too late for President Obama to step in. Send the Seals!

Dems to voucher kids: No hope for you

Some of Sasha and Malia Obama’s classmates at Sidwell Friends may lose their scholarships — unless President Obama stands up to congressional Democrats who are trying to kill school vouchers in D.C. It’s a double standard, writes William McGurn in the Wall Street Journal: Private school is OK for liberal Democrats’ children but not for low-income minority kids.

Like the Obama girls, Sarah and James (Parker) attend the Sidwell Friends School in our nation’s capital. Unlike the Obama girls, they could not afford the school without the $7,500 voucher they receive from the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program. Unfortunately, a spending bill the Senate takes up this week includes a poison pill that would kill this program — and with it perhaps the Parker children’s hopes for a Sidwell diploma.

Known as the “Durbin language” after the Illinois Democrat who came up with it last year, the provision mandates that the scholarship program ends after the next school year unless Congress reauthorizes it and the District of Columbia approves. The beauty of this language is that it allows opponents to kill the program simply by doing nothing. Just the sort of sneaky maneuver that’s so handy when you don’t want inner-city moms and dads to catch on that you are cutting one of their lifelines.

If the Parker children can’t afford Sidwell, their district-run choice is Roosevelt High, where most students fail to reach proficiency in reading or math.

The Dems are paying off the the teachers unions by destroying the voucher option, editorializes the Washington Post.

Why wouldn’t Congress want to get the results of a carefully calibrated scientific study before pulling the plug on a program that has proved to be enormously popular? Could the real fear be that school vouchers might actually be shown to be effective in leveling the academic playing field?

If D.C. public schools aren’t good enough for the Obama children — or for the children of Congress members — poor kids shouldn’t be trapped in the system,  argues the Chicago Tribune.

Update: Education Secretary Arne Duncan came out in support of the D.C. voucher program, telling AP:  “I don’t think it makes sense to take kids out of a school where they’re happy and safe and satisfied and learning.”
Mickey Kaus thinks the Obama administration “blinked” on vouchers. However, Edspresso points out that Duncan called for letting students stay in their current schools, not for allowing more students to enter the program, which serves 1,700 low-income students in the District. (Only a few attend very expensive, elite schools like Sidwell.)

U.S. court: Vaccines don’t cause autism

Vaccines don’t cause autism, federal special masters have ruled. Families claiming a link have sought compensation. From the Washington Post:

Yesterday’s ruling involved three separate cases, each of which explored a different mechanism by which vaccines might cause autism. Working independently, three special masters acting as judges in the federal “vaccine court” issued separate but similar rulings that found no evidence that the vaccines had caused the children’s disorders.

The decisions are especially telling because the rules of the vaccine court did not require the plaintiffs to prove their cases with scientific certainty — all the families needed to show was a preponderance of the evidence, or “50 percent and a hair.”

The special masters found the scientific evidence overwhelmingly showed no link between vaccination and autism.

Plaintiffs plan to appeal the decision. It never ends.