Sunday, August 30, 2015

The School Choice Families Should be Making

The internet is a marvellous invention for educators, since it empowers readers linked to it to compare practices and structures established around the world with those available in their local communities. In the case of American educators and families, the results can be humbling. Those who read comparative education, as I have done, arguably obsessively, quickly come to realize what poor value the American people have been receiving from the traditional system established in this country, in particular from its almost indefensible high schools.

I just read a story in today's Sacramento Bee about parents in the western area of that city wanting alternatives to their established local district alternatives. Such a desire is justified. Even in Irvine, better reputed in education than most communities in California, I have found our local high schools wanting. The alternative I advocate is a lyceum, a generally European model of upper secondary school that should be adapted to fit our American context. My current vision for an international lyceum model (which has been long evolving) to be introduced to the United States would have private secondary school pupils accelerate, after six years of state-governed primary education, in middle schools (which should be chartered, as true alternatives to the state middle schools that are already similarly obsessed with all those children who have fallen behind) managed like those in east Asia so as to prepare for private lyceum admission exams: such practices give teens real incentives to study, unlike the customs in the United States, which are to give children so many chances that the opportunities on offer are generally spurned by young people grown overly comfortable in their inherited prosperity. Those succeeding on such admission exams (likely the top half or so of scorers, which is the proportion accepted in the high achieving Finnish system, which includes such lyceum admission conditions) will have a plausible likelihood of preparing, in the three years of the lyceum's upper secondary education, to matriculate into university colleges with three-year bachelor's degree programmes, thus netting families investing in a top lyceum's education approximately $130,000, which accounts for both the approximately $50,000 price a fourth year of top university college education would have cost the families of such "seniors" and the approximately $80,000 such graduates can expect to make in that 22nd year of their lives. 

Monday, July 20, 2015

Next Steps for a New Education Policy

The most important news in the education world today is not the U.S. team winning the International Mathematics Olympiad, in spite of its headline status in Real Clear Education, a continually useful website where, along with Alexander Russo's likewise invaluable (to me) This Week in Education, I start my weekdays by reading the morning news; it's the continued progress of the opt-out movement, which started in the managerial east of this country, in New York and New Jersey, with largely middle class European-American (I hate the word "white" because of its racist history -- more on that, perhaps, another time) mothers objecting to what their local schools had become under the influence of education reformers like Secretary Duncan and then-New York state schools commissioner John King, but which has now spread across the country to blue states like Washington and Oregon, along with purple states in between like Colorado and New Mexico.

Politico has a new article out today, which I accessed through Real Clear Education, that aptly summarizes the state of education policy play in the United States; for in spite of isolated glimmers of hope such as our young mathematicians' triumph, the trend lines in U.S. education have been discouraging for about eight years now, approximately dateable from the time (see Class Warfare 178 -- "Money Meets Data") when Bill Gates finished reading Tom Kane's Hamilton Project policy paper and decided that rotating out bad teachers -- Jack Welch's personnel policy on steroids, applied to the entire U.S. teaching corps -- was what was needed to accelerate educational reform in the United States. That approach is now in flames, headed for a crash landing, as a conference committee begins attempting to reconcile two competing bills, the Student Success Act and the Every Child Achieves Act, passed by the House and the Senate respectively this month, in sincere though misguided attempts to "fix" No Child Left Behind", that law that has failed to prevent millions of American children from falling behind their peers, and that has led the United States as a whole to fall further behind the world's educational leaders during the seven years the Obama administration has been in office. So the time for a new education policy for the United States, and in particular for Democrats, has clearly arrived.

The opt-out movement presents Democrats with a choice: either stick with the failed social policy of George W. Bush, which depended upon nationalizing the fake "Texas miracle" as a cheap means of equalizing opportunity in America by reforming public schools only; or see the expiring future of the path erroneously (although the error wasn't obvious at the time) chosen by President-Elect Obama in late 2008 to back what is now status quo education reform and choose another path, one that presents freedom of educational choice to all families, not just rich ones -- the path of education reform that was gaining momentum, before Bill Gates read Tom Kane's paper.