Tuesday, February 21, 2012

School Board Contemplates Dress Code ... For Teachers

The Peoria (AZ) Unified School District board is working on a dress code for teachers. It would specify appropriate footwear and even address issues such as the square inches of skin visible on the torso. Existing policy in the district regarding teachers' attire specifies only that it be professional.

This amusing incident is emblematic of the general trend to de-professionalize teaching. Anything that can lower the level of respect accorded to public school teachers can lead eventually to lower pay, less autonomy, and more political regulation of the profession. De-skill, de-professionalize, and depreciate.

That such policies have absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the ultimate objectives of schooling is clear from a simple thought experiment: Imagine attempting to impose a dress code on teachers of Grade 13, i.e., university professors teaching the Freshman year of college. That such a course of action is inconceivable reveals the fact that a dress code for K-12 teachers is nothing more than an arbitrary act of disciplining a weak profession on its way to becoming a skilled trade, and one compensated as such.

Gene V Glass
University of Colorado Boulder
Arizona State University

Monday, February 20, 2012

Another Stunning Gubernatorial Appointment

Gov. Jan Brewer has appointed Craig Barrett, one-time president of Intel Corporation—a dominant Arizona presence—to the chairmanship of the recently formed Arizona Ready Education Council. The Arizona Ready Education Council is charged with spearheading reform in K-12 education in the state. Barrett also serves as president of Basis School Inc., a non-profit charter-school chain. In commenting on the condition of public K-12 education in Arizona, Barrett remarked: "We ought to be ashamed of ourselves."

This appointment ought not surprise anyone who understands the business of public education in Arizona. It is increasingly conceived of and operated as a business; and who better to advise on how a business runs than a business person.

That's old news. What's new—to me at least—is the fact that Craig Barrett was appointed to the Board of K12 Inc. on September 29, 2010. K12 Inc. is the biggest provider of full-time online schooling to nearly 300,000 children in the U.S. Those who read this blog will already be acquainted with the company. It is traded on the New York Stock Exchange, has revenues of more than half a billion dollars annually, and was created with the help and participation of William Bennett, former U.S. Secretary of Education, who resigned from the K12 Inc. Board shortly after his gambling problem became public...and before the authored the ephemeral best-seller The Book of Virtues.

David Safier of Tucson, Arizona, is an indefatigable blogger on the story of K12 Inc. I highly recommend that persons interested in the fate of American public education should spend some time on his blog.

Gene V Glass
University of Colorado Boulder
Arizona State University

Friday, February 17, 2012

Among the Many Things Wrong With International Achievement Comparisons

The Brown Center for Education Policy of the Brookings Institution released a report just a couple days ago with the jaw-breaking title “HOW WELL ARE AMERICAN STUDENTS LEARNING? With sections on predicting the effect of the Common Core State Standards, achievement gaps on the two NAEP tests, and misinterpreting international test scores.” (See for yourself: http://tinyurl.com/7vtwlfl.) The report is penned by Tom Loveless, a researcher from whom one might have expected nothing but analysis aimed at proving the abject failure of American public education. In this instance, he has disappointed any followers seeking such a message, and has in fact produced a fairly balanced analysis of the many pitfalls in basing policy on numbers.

My attention was drawn to the section on “misinterpreting international test scores,” since I have long felt that these international assessments are a mess of uninterpretable numbers providing a full-employment program for psychometricians, statisticians, and journalists. Loveless took a close look at PISA (Program for International Assessment). He concluded that policy makers, educators, journalists, and the public in general often arrive at “dubious conclusions of causality” based on the results of such assessments. Of course. Just recall the grand exodus to Japan in the 1980s when our nation was discovered to be “at risk” and the Japanese economy was booming, just before the Japanese economy tanked. And what did emissaries discover as the secret to education excellence? Jukus (privately operated “cram” businesses), high suicide rates among young people who were subjected to immense high stakes pressure, and an economy about ready to go into the dumpster. Now all eyes are on Finland. The whole scene is reminiscent of the IRA (International Reading Assessment on the 1970s) that showed that the top nation in the world on reading was …are you ready?...Italy. Italy?? That one sent people to Rome for a few months until it was discovered that the attempt at random sampling in the assessment was never so badly compromised as it was in Italy.

Loveless also pointed out that the numbers (averages of a nationwide sample of students) on which rankings of nations are based are frequently so close that there is no “statistical significance” to the differences. True, but let’s ignore this problem so as not to be diverted into an alley of dry mathematical mumbo jumbo.

But wait a minute. There is something far more wrong with these international assessments and comparisons than anyone seems interested in talking about. Think! A reading test that compares students in dozens of countries. The obvious question is “In what language is the test written?” And the obvious answer is “In the language of that nation.” But who is drawing the obvious conclusion? How in heaven’s name can you construct a reading test in dozens of different languages (English, Hungarian, Norwegian, and yes, Finnish) and be confident that the test is equally difficult in all of these languages? Well, the answer is that you can’t. It should be perfectly obvious to anyone who thinks about it for more than five minutes that it is impossible. And all the ministrations and obfuscations of the companies and consultants who make or supplement their living off of such stuff do not change that fact.

Let’s take a look at some of these results. I have excerpted some data from the 2003 PISA Reading test for 15 year-olds. They are merely illustrative and it’s of no consequence that it is a small subset of the complete results.

2003 PISA Reading 15 year-olds
Finland 543
Canada 528
Liechtenstein 525
Sweden 514
Hong Kong 510
Norway 500
Japan 498
Poland 497
France 496
USA 495
Germany 491
Austria 491
Hungary 482
Spain 481
Italy 476

So there is the USA a point or two or three below France and Poland and Japan and whoever, and a point or two above Germany and Austria. This is the kind of statistical insignificance that Loveless was talking about. However, even to take seriously the kinds of differences like 19 points between the US and Sweden ignores the question before us: How do you write a reading test in English and then translate it into Swedish (or vice versa) and end up confident that one is not intrinsically more difficult than the other? I insist that the answer to that question is that you can’t. And to claim that one has done so merely sweeps under the rug a host of concerns that include grammatical structure, syntax, familiarity of vocabulary, not to mention culture of the students taking the test.

Now the keepers of the PISA tests have produce a lengthy—almost 40-page–Appendix to a report that in which they claim to have solved the problem of producing equivalent translations by the assiduous application of the finest psychometric theories. ( I don’t believe it. Forget about DIF analysis, i.e., Differential Item Functioning which only tosses out a few items that show really large differences in difficulty between two forms and ignores consistent though small differences.) What the PISA technical manual omits are any examples of reading test items in two or three different languages so that we might scrutinize the results of all this fine theory. (Ironically, one keeper of the items declined to release a few examples to me even though that person was my own doctoral student some 30 years ago.)

So let’s look at an example of our own. Tom Sawyer setting up Huck Finn to whitewash the fence.

Tom appeared on the sidewalk with a bucket of whitewash and a long-handled brush. He surveyed the fence, and all gladness left him and a deep melancholy settled down upon his spirit. Thirty yards of board fence nine feet high. Life to him seemed hollow, and existence but a burden.
And now, a translation into German (since I majored in German as an undergrad some 50+ years ago):
Tom ist auf dem Bürgersteig mit einem Eimer von Tünche und einer langbehandelten Bürste erscheinen. Er hat den Zaun vermessen, und alle Freude hat ihn verlassen und eine tiefe Melancholie aud sein Geist geberuhigt wird. Dreißig Höfe von Ausschusszaun neun Füße hoch. Leben, zu dem ihn Hohlraum gescheinen hat, und Existenz aber eine Last.
Now we could observe multiple difficult choices that would have to be made in translating the English to the German that would surely affect the ability of a student to comprehend a sentence, phrase or the entire passage. Just a few: “whitewash” being Tünche in German is a relative obscure word? Is it equally obscure in American English or Canadian English (who are prone to speak of Scotch tape as “cello”); Melancholie might just as well be translated as Traurigkeit, depending on the local preferences for Latinate vs Germanic roots, such preferences still being strong in certain locales; etc. And what should we do with the 30-yard long fence? Translate it as a fence that is 27.432 meters long?

Bottom line: I believe that the differences in difficulty produced by the vagaries of translating a reading test across several languages are at least as large as many of the differences among average PISA Reading test scores, the latter differences being the stuff of media accounts as well as learned papers on school reform.

To bolster my belief, along comes an actual piece of education research addressed to precisely the translation question in international reading comparisons. A recent article in the Scandanavian Journal of Educational Research by Inga Arffman carries the title “Equivalence of translations in international reading literacy studies,” (Vol. 54, No. 1, 37-59). The paper summarizes a study that examined the problems encountered in translating texts in international reading assessments. And in spite of the fact that Arffman is a faculty member of the University of Jyväskylä in Finland—which has every motive possible to believe that PISA Reading assessments are the most valid tests in the history of psychometrics—the conclusion of the research is that “..it will probably never be possible to attain full equivalence of difficulty in international reading literacy studies….” Amen.

Gene V Glass
University of Colorado Boulder
Arizona State University

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Colorado Legislature Struggles With How to Handle the Cyber-charters

Colorado House Bill 12-1124 was approved by a vote of 13-0 on February 13th. If it becomes law it will require the Colorado Department of Education to hire a "Colorado-based consultant" to do a study of online K-12 education in the state. Cyber-charters in Colorado enroll thousands of students whose state allotment travels primarily out of state to the coffes of K12 Inc and Connections.

The study would have to be completed by January 31, 2013 and must address, among other things:

  • Eligibility for and access to digital learning
  • Quality of digital learning curriculum and instruction
  • Funding models for digital learning that create incentives for performance
  • Existing state laws and regulations governing digital learning
  • Existing accountability measures as they relate to online students

The bill was sponsored by a Republican legislator from a small town who serves as Chair of the House Education Committee. Some view the proposed legislation as a means of balking tougher legislation that would closely regulate the cyber-charters. That legislation may still be in the works, and is expected from Sen. Brandon Shaffer (D-Longmont) who began studying the online K-12 movement some months ago.

Gene V Glass
University of Colorado Boulder
Arizona State University

It's Just How Arizona Does Business

Governor Jan Brewer (R-AZ)—of finger-wagging-in-the-face-of-the-President fame—filled a vacancy on the AZ Board of Regents in a not unexpected way recently. The Board of Regents oversees the three state universities (U of A, ASU and Northern AZ Univ) and though not directly responsible for K-12 education, they often make decisions that redound to the operations of the K-12 system as well as the state’s huge community college system.

Brewer appointed one Jay Heiler to the vacancy. As a student at Arizona State University in the mid-1980s, Heiler led a conservative take-over of the campus newspaper, the State Press. Under the editorship of Heiler and his friends, the State Press refused to print announcements of meetings of the student gay and lesbian society. Not only were liberal professors and gays the target of a young Heiler’s pen, but immigrants came in for some rough treatment in the pages of the State Press as well: “The immigrants come here to start a new life, then try to cling to their own language and customs. This tendency leads to all sorts of societal problems, ranging from interracial unrest to unexplained disappearances of dogs. The former difficulty crops up wherever aliens are to be found; the latter arose in California when the Vietnamese arrived.”

Heiler went on to fame and fortune after graduation to become Chief-of-Staff to Governor Fife Symington, who was convicted of a half dozen felonies and bounced from office before the end of his term. Heiler’s career path after Symington led to the Board of the Goldwater Institute and lobbying for casino interests. The Arizona Legislature quickly approved Brewer’s appointment of Heiler to the Board of Regents.

But here is the possible tie-in to K-12 education in Arizona. Heiler is President of the Board of Directors on the Great Hearts Academies, a system of 14 charter schools—some being former Catholic private schools. His role at Great Hearts is described as “Political and public affairs consultant.” He is also Chairman of the Arizona Charter Schools Association. The Great Heart Academies cater to religious leaning families seeking a quasi-private environment. Veritas Academy is highly ranked in the Global Report Card issued by the George W. Bush Institute. In the Academies mission statement, one reads: "...we believe that true education (as the formation of the soul) is a matter of development over time and within a stable community." The Arizona Board of Regents deals with policy that directly affects K-12 education, including admissions policy. Now Heiler is strategically positioned to look out for some of his principal financial interest.

This is simply the standard way of doing things in Arizona. Conflicts of interest are accepted as an ordinary way of doing business; and in Arizona, seemingly everything is about business. As Henry Giroux recently wrote, “Buried beneath Arizona's new mode of education, pedagogy and politics is a return to a frightening antidemocratic ideology and a set of reactionary policies.”

Gene V Glass
University of Colorado Boulder
Arizona State University

Monday, February 13, 2012

Cyber-Schooling Comes to Iowa

The following post appeared as an op-ed piece in the Des Moines Register on Februray 12th:

The cyberschool movement is spreading across the country like a brush fire in a Santa Ana wind storm. Enrollments of kids whose entire school experience is on a laptop on the kitchen table have topped 250,000, and they are headed toward a half million in the next few years. Of the more than two dozen states that permit profit making companies like K12 Inc and Connections Learning—recently acquired by the U.K. publishing giant Pearson—to set up shop and collect hundreds of millions of dollars for running “schools,” there is little appetite to stop the spread or even to keep it in reasonable control. Abuses like those in Arizona—where essays were being graded in India—or in Colorado—where missing students were counted as enrolled so that state funds could be collected—seem to be ignored by legislators, some of whom may have been the recipients of the generous amounts of money spent by these giant corporations on lobbying.

And what about the kids? No one seems to have their interests at heart, at least, not as much as they look out for the interests of the stock holders of the companies. Students who abysmally fail an exam might be told to “go through the course again.” Students emailing a question to their “teacher”—often an uncertified “teacher’s assistant” responsible for perhaps hundreds of students—may get an answer a day or two later by return email. And how many students survive the boredom and isolation of school on a laptop? One suspects not many, but just try and find out what the true drop-out statistics are; you’ll never find out from the distant company.

No one denies that a little bit of math or grammar can be learned on a computer; real schools have been supplementing the efforts of flesh-and-blood teachers with networked computers for years. Yet hardly anyone truly thinks that 12 years of cyberschool can equal the benefits of a quality education in a brick-and-mortar school. Slick TV ads and corporate hucksters would have us believe that the cyberschool can teach even better than the best traditional elementary and secondary schools the Nation has to offer. Yeah, right. The day that Phillips Exeter Academy replaces its teachers with laptops is the day I might start to believe them.

Addenda, February 13, 2012:

  • Iowa, without a charter school presence, is being exploited by the cyber-vendors via the open enrollment law. With the exception of five districts, any child may enroll in any district in the state without question by March 1st of each year. A couple of superintendents in tiny towns have been bought off by K12 Inc. and Connections with promises of keeping 3% administration fees. The company sales forces are now scouring the state signing up cyber-students from among the ranks of homeschoolers and the disaffected.

Gene V Glass
University of Colorado Boulder
Arizona State University

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Education in Two Places

I'm on a flight from Phoenix to Denver, capitals of the two places referred to in the name of this blog. The contrast is amazing; surface slowly or suffer the bends.

The start-up of a legislative session is always revealing. Bills are drafted at the extreme of political positions, more to signal ideological purity to constituents than to stand any hope of passage. Even if a bill survives the political process to become law, it is likely to be considerably altered through a gauntlet of compromises. And so what legislators toss into the hopper at this stage is very revealing of the sentiment of an electorate.

So what are Arizona legislators up to and what is going on in Colorado?

The Arizona legislature is considering bills that a) would increase funding for a "virtual school" student to 100% of the normal per pupil expenditure, b) would fire teachers who use FCC-prohibited language in the classroom, and c) would bust teachers union a la Scott Walker's controversial Wisconsin edict.

Meanwhile, Colorado legislators are debating a) free tuition for children of undocumented parents, b) an "opt-out" provision from the CSAP, the state achievement assessment, and c) an appeal procedure for teachers who have been unfairly treated by the teacher evaluation system.

How things could be so different in two places so similar in geography, economy, and demographics, is a subject for a later day.

Gene V Glass
University of Colorado Boulder
Arizona State University

Friday, February 10, 2012

Almost Beyond Belief: Arizona Wants to Fire Teachers Who Say Bad Things

It's the nutty season as Arizona legislators fashion bills that pander to the small mindedness of their constituents. Bill 15-108 provides for firing any teacher who speaks or does anything that would be banned by the FCC from appearing on the broadcast networks. Herewith the details of the lunacy.
  • 15-108. Public classrooms; compliance with federal standards for media broadcasts concerning obscenity, indecency and profanity; violations; definition

  • A. If a person who provides classroom instruction in a public school engages in speech or conduct that would violate the standards adopted by the federal communications commission concerning obscenity, indecency and profanity if that speech or conduct were broadcast on television or radio:
    1. For the first occurrence, the school shall suspend the person, at a minimum, for one week of employment, and the person shall not receive any compensation for the duration of the suspension. This paragraph does not prohibit a school after the first occurrence from suspending the person for a longer duration or terminating the employment of that person.

    2. For the second occurrence, the school shall suspend the person, at a minimum, for two weeks of employment, and the person shall not receive any compensation for the duration of the suspension. This paragraph does not prohibit a school after the second occurrence from suspending the person for a longer duration or terminating the employment of that person.

    3. For the third occurrence, the school shall terminate the employment of the person. This paragraph does not prohibit a school after the first or second occurrence from terminating the employment of that person.
  • B. For the purposes of this section, "public school" means a public preschool program, a public elementary school, a public junior high school, a public middle school, a public high school, a public vocational education program, a public community college or a public university in this state.
At the very least, such nonsense reveals the low opinion in which Arizona politicians hold education professionals. What's next? Legislatively mandated dress codes for teachers?

Gene V Glass
University of Colorado Boulder
Arizona State University

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Colorado "Exempted" from NCLB

It was announced today by the Obama Administration that Colorado is among ten states exempted from the most onerous requirements of No Child Left Behind. Specifically, rather than being required to have 100% of students "at grade level" by 2014—a patently absurd standard when dreamed up a decade ago—Colorado and nine other states will be allowed to devise a new test achievement standard. For example, a state-designed test could be used to measure growth. Measurement experts will put together precisely what it takes to make certain that the state reaches its goal. Of course, the exemption comes at some cost. Now the exempted states must show that they are evaluating teachers and principals by a system that includes, in some proportion, student test data. Arguably, this is an even worse requirement than having to have all students at grade level by 2014.

Nothing in this exemption addresses the major problem with these crude accountability systems. Obama himself twice stated publicly—once when announcing the availability of exemptions and again later in his 2012 State of the Union address—that NCLB had produced teaching to the test and abandonment of teaching such subjects as history and science. He was right. But the substitution of "growth on a state-designed test" will do nothing to correct the problems of teaching to the test and narrowing of the curriculum.

Nearly all states will eventually be exempted from NCLB worst requirement, and nothing good will change in the schools.

Gene V Glass
University of Colorado Boulder
Arizona State University

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Why Should Anyone Care About Arizona?

Henry Giroux has just posted a brilliant article—quite long and definitely worth the read—entitled "Book Burning in Arizona." It is not merely an account of the recent shut down by the State Superintendent of Instruction of an ethnic studies course in the Tucson Unified School District, but a sweeping denunciation of anti-democratic authoritarianism in history and at large today.

If Giroux's analysis does not convince you that Arizona is front and center in the assault on public institutions in the United States, then I will attempt to convince you of that in a future posting.

In the meantime, watch to Giroux point the finger at AZ:

Crafted at a time when Arizona is at the forefront of a number of states in enacting a right-wing offensive that produces anti-immigrant and anti-Latino opinions, sentiments, and policies, the law was designed not only to provide political caché for Arizona conservatives seeking political office, but also to impose regulations "which [would] dismantle the state's popular Mexican-American/Raza Studies programs."

Buried beneath Arizona's new mode of education, pedagogy and politics is a return to a frightening antidemocratic ideology and a set of reactionary policies.

Arizona is but one example of how, at the current moment, what goes into American culture, what is aired in the media, and what is taught in both public and higher education is being intensely policed by right-wing fundamentalists in all sectors of society.

... what we see happening in Arizona poses a threat both to critical education and to the very nature of democracy itself.

Among the many noteworthy passages in Giroux's article is the following, that refers to Tom Horne, former State Superintendent of Education and now Attorney General of the State:
Not only has Horne invoked racist attacks against Mexican-Americans for over a decade, but he also has a long history of criminal behavior, including being banned for life from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). As a Tea Party favorite, he has been able to indulge his anti-immigrant racism with impunity, particularly since assuming public office in a state whose tough immigration laws have elevated it to one of the most high-profile states targeting and waging a racist attack on immigrants and all Latinos.
I had heard such things rumored about Tom Horne as far back as when he was running for State Superintendent, but this is the first time I have ever seen them mentioned in a credible place.

Gene V Glass
University of Colorado Boulder
Arizona State University

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Community Chats About Cyberschools

A bill working its way through the Arizona House of Representatives would substantially increase the funding that ultimately goes to the companies (read "K12 Inc.) that effectively run some of the biggest virtual charter schools. I'll have more to say about that in a post in a few days. Today's Arizona Republic ran an article by Anne Ryman, education writer for the Republic, that laid out many of the issues and what is at stake. What I found particularly interesting was the commentary posted by readers of the paper. I have excerpted and slightly edited these comments because I think they are an important source of information about the public's opinion of this movement ("cyber-charters") that is not readily available even to researchers with their carefully designed survey instruments. The anonymity of the venue—posting to the newspaper's web site under pseudonyms—brings out feelings and strong opinions that would be hard to get through conventional channels.

One of the most revealing postings is by rdawg2332 below. I commend it to your attention.

  • steeldog95 You can't prove its the kid behind the computer when they take the class online. This is a joke.

    • Tuishimi I find that personally offensive. We home school, online and off, and our kids take their own tests and when they fail, they need to study more and take it again. It is called honesty and integrity.

    • azjack1900 "Honesty and integrity." This is something lacking in today's environment when greed surpasses personal initiative.

    • Ak0ma I personally take offense to you using the terms honesty and integrity.

    • billclem You are the exception and not the rule perhaps. Most kids taking a test are going to have google open and using whatever tools necessary to pass unless monitored.

    • Lordnite "It is called honesty and integrity." While you are correct on what it is, your beleif that everyone has it is very misplaced. Azjack's observation is 100% correct. Considering these are the future leaders of this country we need to ensure they are prepared, and parent's today in MANY cases have proven they are simply not up to the task, and haven't been for a while now.

  • rdawg2332 These online high schools care more about the money than the student. Last year, I interviewed for Primavera Online High School for a part time summer teacher and was disgusted with the questions I was asked. Of the 10 questions I was asked, only two asked about my teaching experience. The rest had to deal with how I can recruit students and parents. I had to stop the interview at one point to make sure I was interviewing for the right position. When they said yes, I had to politely decline the job and explain to them that I'm a teacher not a sales rep.

    • teleprompter It's called staying in business Ever run one ??

    • rdawg2332 Really? That's why you hire recruitement personnel, not teachers for that job.

    • teleprompter Yes really !! Job descriptions are typically used as an excuse not to work.

  • Richard6521 I thought it was fun taking an online drivers ed class (ticket in Snowflake AZ). The class has an online timer! It would time how long you spent with that page open... course you could always open another tab, and shop on Amazon, or whatever... A dishonest person could have 2 internet tabs open, or maybe just watch tv, or.....

  • IndependantCynic At an on-line HS where a friend of mine teaches has the student's parents "certify" how much time the student spends working on the class each week. They almost always certify a goodly amount of time, yet many students have completed less than 10% of the class at the end. Students lie/cheat because their parents do too. The apple never falls far from the tree. Students with responsible and involved parents are usually successful regardless of the venue (ie, conventional schools, on-line schools).

    • Realistic55 Thus the request for final exam coverage in person

    • Joe49 The request will not likely not be implemented since the for profit schools will lobby to be sure that doesn't happen.

  • honestlivin Its so sad to see our future going down the drain. It's not about measuring a grade on a final exam. It's about spending public money to give kids an EDUCATION. The funding level of 85% for online is WAY too high as compared with brick and mortar funding. The costs of online is much less than 85% and this has invited businesses to poach students from legitimate schools for profit reasons. If we don't reign this in we LOSE and they WIN.

    • Realistic55 honestlivin, where are you getting your 85% from? The avg K-8 school is getting 9-10k per student total budget and 9-12 10-12k. Before you quote some low 6k number, you have to add federal grants plus the huge prop taxes which are supposed to pay for facilities. That said, ASU has an online program, so do a number of other govt sponsored institutions. Some public schools have it. There is nothing to stop public schools from doing this either. Costwise, it makes sense. However, many students (at least 50%) can't handle online courses; their learning style doesn't appeal to it. Thus, we shall always need brick and mortar.

    • steeldog95 he got the number from the story. Online programs now get slightly less money than brick-and-mortar schools, receiving 95 percent of the per-student funding for full-time students and 85 percent for part-time ones. Starting in fiscal 2016, if those online schools have more than three courses with a passage rate of less than 70 percent and a completion rate of less than 60 percent, they would be ineligible for additional funding, the bill says. Hmmm. wonder if the online schools that rely on the money would alter the scores they provide to the state??? How is this anything but wrong? If the govt requires that kids pass a mandated test, and their results directly effect the teachers income and possible job security, how do you not expect a teacher to focus their teaching to whats on the test? Doesn't it make sense to study what you are going to be tested on? Big business is making one test all-important. That is faulty to begin with.

  • azjack1900 These schools are unfortunately operated by the same legislators who run the charter schools and supposedly non profit tutition organizations.

  • steeldog95 Yes, there can be lying, cheating, and stealing with an online sytem-- just like 'regular' public schools. Do you think kids attending public schools do their own homework? Do you think some public schools don't alter test scores and attendance? As written in the article, current public school institutional objection is strong and...well...easy to understand. They insist it takes 5 administrators, 8 specialists, 2 nurses, and fewer, overworked teachers to educate a child. Real teachers are being cut out of modern education, while those remaining accept 'teaching to the test' constraints, shorter recesses and lunches, and longer school days. Some parents like the online option as a means to tailor education to their child.

  • billclem It even said the tests do determine competency have not been developed. if they are getting tax dollars they should have to take the same standardized tests under supervision

  • justfunaz They go take supervised state tests every year.

  • buster2u Why do I think this is just ANOTHER con by our criminal legislature?

  • az85021 Oh my yes, please divert more and more money from the "brick and mortar" schools into the hands of the for profit schools. As history has shown time and time again "for profit" schools, companies, corporations would never lie, cheat, or steal to protect or increase their profits. You have the added benifit that as more money is diverted from the brick and mortar schools they will physically deteriorate and will lay off more and more people, thus assuring their eventual failure. And finally we can raise a generation who has never actually interacted with their peers and will be devoid of any social skills.

  • justfunaz For profit education has proven to be the best education. Most Private schools with a tuition do very well.

    • az85021 "For profit education has proven to be the best education" I think a few people might disagree with that open statement. And as to your comment about privates schools, do you mean all or just the ones for the well to do? Finally the article is about online schools and you make no mention of the social implications of no interaction.

    • justfunaz Its open but where do well to do children go? This is the same argument for homeschoolers they have proven to do well. I'm sure we all agree the state education system is broken. Teachers should be screaming to fix it and stop trying to protect their jobs. Good teachers shouldn't worry bad ones should be on notice. Teachers cant even agree on what a good teacher is.

  • IndependantCynic "For profit education has proven to be the best education" That's often true because the student population is different, not because there's something inherently different between public and private. In an apples to apples comparison... where the students are of the same caliber, the discipline is the same, the curriculum is the same, etc. I'd bet the results would be very much the same. Public schools are broken because they must by law accommodate ALL students in the same classroom... the handicapped, the misfits, the academically challenged, the academically elite. One size never fits all. I'll bet if a Montessori School had to keep kids who misbehaved the entire day in their classrooms, or kids who are mentally handicapped in some way, their results wouldn't be much different than the public schools. Public schools used to succeed because they were allowed to have discipline, they could kick out students who refused to cooperate, and they were allowed to group like capability students in the same classroom... eg, special needs and handicapped kids were separated from the mainstream, accelerated kids were grouped together, average kids were grouped together, etc. Kids who failed were kept back. Pressure from parents and legislators changed all this over the years to what we have today. We adults got what we pushed for and now we're looking for a cheap way out. Anyone who believes a for profit entity can do it cheaper than a public school isn't comparing APPLES to APPLES... the for profit MUST always cost more due to the PROFIT. Kids who are home or on-line schooled often fail to develop social and life skills that are learned in a public school setting... debate, rational argument, public speaking, respect for other people's view, conflict resolution, self discipline, etc. What will happen when all these home schooled and on-line educated kids hit the work force and have to deal with real people face to face? It's not going to be pretty.

  • underdawg Another crap article promoting "pupils for profit" and the privatization of everything from you ONLY news source in town "The Goldwater Republic". This news agency couldn't put an objective viewpoint on for any issue. Now we have to listen as our "legislature" puts more money into a program that will make uneducated recluses out of our children. Forget the fact that these "diploma's" are not accepted by colleges or the military, don't offer sport programs and have no social interaction at all. These diplomas are another libertarian tool to keep our citizens stupid and poor.

  • underdawg Protest the Goldwater institute and pull your kids out of Charter schools, out of these "on line" classes and into a real school, with real teachers and real extracurricular activities.

  • justfunaz With Real teachers who have never seen a "bad teacher" who just want to protect their jobs. How can a teacher's have 40% of a class fail state testing and still have a secure job?

  • AZonie2010 Our legislature is out of touch with the voters. If they continue to spend money on things like this and selling and buying back state buildings etc, they will not be in power for long. Yesterdays article about what to do with the surplus said Jan wants to cut millions from education but she would put money into this. UGHHH.

  • Joe49 From the fourth paragraph: "lobbying by school operators, including national for-profit chains." This is the real reason this goofy proposal is even being considered. Like the private prison chains that pour money into the legislators' pockets, the for-profit schools will do the same. Experts say that these schools operate at less that 65% of the cost of a brick and mortart school, but the state is considering funding equal to 100%. You can bet that the huge profits will make executives of these school wealthy, and allow them to spend even more on lobbying as they market a striped-down, dumbed down, teach-to-the test education.

    • deddzone Exactly right. Why don't they lobby to write "FOR PROFIT" across the state of Arizona. They've drained money out of public schools so they could take it and give to the "for profit" schools.

    • billclem I agree they should not get anywhere near the funding of a brick and mortar school. 50% at best

  • CampinOut The kids don't need to go to online schools. They're all getting anti-social now from too much time on the computer. Make em go to school & interact with others. It's the only way to "socialize". Dam the bullies & the B's. We all had them in school & we made it through. Quit coddling your kids & make them grow up in the real world. It'll give em some character & backbone, which, from what I've seen lately, several of them could use.

  • pintobeans Accountability and AZ education system will never mesh.

  • kriz I am betting the Goldwater Institute is behind this. They are tearing apart public schools. Some public schools need to be held more accountable but online and charter schools are the vehicle to a worse level of education in this state than we already have.

  • CampinOut Yup, I'm sure they are. The GOP will NOT be happy until they've entirely torn down this country. "When facism comes to America, it will be wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross." --Sinclair Lewis

  • CHRISinTempe I don't mind online courses for adults. That makes sense in many cases, more options there the better. But for kids this should be tightly limited. Youngsters need the interaction with others to learn how to become adults.

Gene V Glass
University of Colorado Boulder
Arizona State University

Friday, February 3, 2012

What is REALLY driving education policy?

Herein lie buried many things which if read with patience may show the strange meaning of being black here in the dawning of the Twentieth Century. This meaning is not without interest to you, Gentle Reader; for the problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color-line.
—Du Bois (1903, p. 1)

Du Bois’s idea of the color line has not disappeared from American culture and politics. Perhaps it has grown fainter with the momentous changes of the past half century, culminating in the election of the first Black U.S. President in 2008. But the 21st century promises to feature a different line, one that partially grows out of the color line. It may prove to be the century in which the battle between individualism and communitarianism is contested. Public institutions of all sorts in America are struggling for survival against the forces of demographic shifts, the divisive influence of racial and ethnic prejudice, and the exigencies of a seriously weakened economy. This struggle is critical to the future of K–12 public education. The competing conceptions of individualism and communitarianism provide a lens through which to view how population pressures, prejudice, and financial concerns shape the politics and public debate over schools.

For more than 100 years, but intensifying in the past two decades, the importance of individual liberty and achievement, which can be labeled the philosophy of individualism, has stood against a belief in the importance of the community or shared achievement, or the philosophy of communitarianism, in debates on how to promote the welfare of society. This great debate is rising to the consciousness of ordinary Americans in various vernacular forms transmitted through and heightened by popular media. In the 21st century, the contest between private and public good will have profound implications for all public institutions, including K–12 education. In the United States today, individualism appears to be ascendant as a political philosophy both to conservatives on the Right and neoliberals on the Left. The causes for this rise in the rhetoric of individualism are rooted in a few fundamental forces: population changes, working their effects through the mechanisms of representative democracy; prejudice, lurking behind the veil of individual choice of affiliation; and economics (the “purse”) through policies of taxation and privatization. These forces have already had a profound effect on social institutions, family life, and schools in the United States as well as many other industrialized nations. They will exert pressure on developing nations, not only ones that are driven by nascent market economies but also communitarian nations and current-day theocracies. Absent from consideration of the forces driving education policy are such empty shibboleths as "international competitiveness," "job skills," and a "common core of standards."

Based on the introduction to Glass, G. V & Rud, A. G. (2012). The Struggle Between Individualism and Communitarianism: The Pressure of Population, Prejudice, and the Purse. Chapter 10 in Review of Research in Education, Vol. 36. To be published in March 2012.

Gene V Glass
University of Colorado Boulder
Arizona State University

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

AZ Legislators Want to Ban Collective Bargaining, ala Scott Walker

Arizona has been a "right-to-work" state for decades. Literally that means that company employee organizations can not force other employees to join a union. Practically it means a whole lot more. Unions have almost zero power in the state. Companies' negotiations with unions are not closely regulated by law, and organizations like NEA and AFT have little appeal for teachers who see no benefit from joining and paying dues.

As if this wasn't good enough for the employers, now Arizona legislators are trying to pass a law that would ban any collective bargaining with government workers. Since state government does not engage in collective bargaining with its employees already, the force of this bill if it becomes law would be felt at more local levels of government, primarily school districts. Republican legislators sponsoring this bill talk about government "servants" "ganging up" on taxpayers by wanting to negotiate for pay and working conditions. Arizona teachers are indeed looked on as "servants," but to imagine them "ganging up" on any school district is an absurdity. They are among the most powerless professionals in the U.S. as a result of the large numbers of individuals seeking teaching jobs, a tight-knit cartel of employers that fix their salaries, and a background of legislation has effectively denied them bargaining rights for decades.

A movement to recall Governor Jan Brewer is starting—February 2012—but probably has a whole lot less likelihood of ousting her than the movement that is much further along in Wisconsin to recall Scott Walker.

Gene V Glass
University of Colorado Boulder
Arizona State University