Recently in Education Category

First off, kudos to the St. Charles School District for paying off existing bonds ahead of schedule. The district's finances appear to be well-managed, which is a big reason that I've decided to reluctantly vote "yes" on Proposition KIDS, despite my skepticism about the flagship product and what I consider to be a flawed campaign.

On April 4th, 2017, voters in the City of St. Charles School District will be asked to consider a ballot measure called Proposition KIDS. Proposition KIDS is a 47 million dollar bond issue that does not require a tax rate increase and allows the District to borrow money to fund capital projects such as building renovations, repairs, technology costs and other building upgrades. The money generated by Proposition KIDS, by law, can only be used to fund renovations, repairs, property acquisitions and other approved capital projects. Bond issues proceeds cannot be used to pay salaries or benefits.

Most Approximately one-third of the money will be spent to build an Early Childhood Center. (Corrected from "most" to "one-third".)

The building of the Early Childhood Center would provide approximately 200 additional spaces for students to enroll in the District and remove some of the burden placed upon the elementary schools currently housing pre-Kindergarten programs.

However, the district has nearly 1500 fewer students than it had 20 years ago, so why do we need to build new classrooms? I posed this question to Chris Bennett, the district's communication coordinator, who replied:

This is an excellent question. There are a few reasons for this. One is that schools use educational space much differently that they did 20 years ago. With the proliferation of technology and changes in pedagogy, today's teaching methods use more space than in the past.

Also, it's been a goal of our school board to keep our class sizes low, the lowest in St. Charles County in fact, in order to increase individual instruction for our students and to enhance the classroom experience for both teacher and student. So, while we do have less students than in the past, our dedication to keeping low class sizes means that same amount of space becomes more spread out in order to achieve this goal.

Finally, we've seen a shift in population the past few years, with the eastern portion of the district seeing quite a bit of growth. This means that schools such as Blackhurst and Lincoln are at capacity to achieve our class size goal and have 2-3 classrooms dedicated to preschool. Relocating these classes to a dedicated early childhood building will alleviate some of the burden placed upon these schools and allow us to offer our community a facility that is 100% dedicated to early childhood education.

There do seem to be some benefits to smaller class sizes, but the research isn't very strong despite the "obviousness" of the conclusion. A lot depends on the ability to provide enough high-quality teachers and facilities -- it's better to have a large class with a great teacher than a small class with a mediocre teacher.

(I couldn't find any more information about the population shift that Bennett referred to.)

Anyway, the plan seems generally reasonable, which is why I'm going to be voting "yes". Two elements of the publicity pitch grate on me though.

1. "Does not require a tax rate increase" -- this is literally true, but I think it's misleading. A bond issuance is exactly equivalent to a tax increase: the bond will be paid off with tax dollars, and if you don't issue the bond then you don't need the tax revenue. A bond is a tax on the future taxpayer. A person who makes the last payment on his 5-year-old car and then immediately buys a new car with an identical monthly payment is still incurring a significant expense.

2. Keeping up with the Jonses. An email I received from the district says:

"Early childhood centers are becoming more prevalent in today's educational environment," said Dr. Danielle Tormala, associate superintendent of curriculum and instruction to the City of St. Charles School District. "Due to research showing the importance of early childhood education to the overall success of a child, we've seen an increase of early childhood centers in districts across the region."

Currently, the City of St. Charles School District is the only district in St. Charles County that does not have a location solely dedicated to early childhood education.

"Early childhood centers are now a thing that young families have on their checklist when looking to move into a district," Tormala said. "It's an important thing to offer if you want to remain a viable option within the community."

This is a questionable argument, as the publicity email itself admits in the very next paragraph.

While early childhood centers are becoming increasingly common in the region, their prevalence is not based in the logic of "keeping up with the Joneses", but rather the numerous studies that statistically show their importance.

I've looked into some of the research, but I'd love to know specifically which studies the district relied on to make this decision. It appears to me that Early Childhood Centers are trendy -- oh, and by the way, there's some research somewhere that says you should build one. Great.

Anyway, as I said, I'm going to vote "yes". I've been impressed with the District since my kids started school, and I trust the administration despite my misgivings about the campaign. Maybe I'm just grumpy.

I'm not sure what to say about this, so I'll just link to it and you can make up your own mind: Cal State LA offers segregated housing for black students.

California State University Los Angeles recently rolled out segregated housing for black students. ...

Cal State LA joins UConn, UC Davis and Berkeley in offering segregated housing dedicated to black students. While these housing options are technically open to all students, they're billed and used as arrangements in which black students can live with one another.

As a Missouri resident, the collapse of Mizzou worries me. Of course, college as we know it may not exist by the time my kids are graduating future-high-school, so maybe Missouri is just ahead of the curve.

The steep dropoff in enrollment appears to directly traceable to the events of last fall. During October and November, the university found itself in the national spotlight after reports emerged of several racist incidents on campus. Protests erupted, forcing the cancellation of classes. In solidarity with a graduate student who went on a hunger strike, the university's football team refused to play until the demands of one organization, #ConcernedStudent1950, were met. As the protests raged, a video went viral portraying one of the university's communications professors, Melissa Click, calling for "muscle" against a student journalist covering the controversy.

The protestors ultimately ousted both the president and chancellor. But as Heat Street has reported, the fallout from the protests has been punishing. Donors and alumni have vowed to pull financial support, sports fans have declared that they will stop attending games, and parents and prospective students said they'd no longer consider Mizzou.

Victor Davis Hanson suggests college exit exam similar to the SAT and ACT. Sounds like a good idea, as long as they aren't run by the government.

Lawyers with degrees can only practice after passing bar exams. Doctors cannot practice medicine upon the completion of M.D. degrees unless they are board certified. Why can't undergraduate degrees likewise be certified? One can certainly imagine the ensuing hysteria.

What would happen if some students from less prestigious state schools graduated from college with higher exit-test scores than the majority of Harvard and Yale graduates? What if students still did not test any higher in analytics and vocabulary after thousands of dollars and several years of lectures and classroom hours?

Would schools then cut back on "studies" courses, the number of administrators, or lavish recreational facilities to help ensure that students first and foremost mastered a classical body of common knowledge? Would administrators be forced to acknowledge that their campuses had price-gouged students but imparted to them little in return?

And why not extend truth-in-lending disclosures to education loans?

The average pay associated with a particular major should be posted. Surely an 18-year-old student should have as much information about borrowing for an education as she does about going into far less debt for a car loan.

Cui bono?

I've got all daughters, but I think they'd benefit from some male teachers also.

China's approach is wise and much needed, both in Asia and the West. Many female teachers are doing a wonderful job, but schoolboys are in desperate need of male teachers. Boys are by nature more rambunctious, distracted, hyperactive, and physical than girls. This is obvious to anyone with rudimentary observation skills and access to a playground, but I saw it firsthand a few years ago when I was a teacher. Bluntly put, sometimes it takes a male teacher to handle male students.

Experts can conduct all the studies they want to and the government can hand out blue-ribbon panel guidelines on equality in schools, but all a person has to do to be faced with the difference between girls and boys in school is to simply spend a couple weeks--or even a day--as a teacher.

It's no mystery why men are reluctant to become teachers: a false accusation of misconduct with a child will ruin your life. The vast majority of men, just like women, want nothing but the best for children; it's a shame that our sensationalist culture has made teaching so unappealing and risky for men.

In a bizarrely ironic move that would have Dr. King rolling in his grave the Mizzou protesters have decided to segregate themselves by race. You can't make this stuff up.

In an ironic development, to say the least, protesters at the University of Missouri (MU) segregated themselves by race Wednesday night, having white students leave a gathering in order to create a "black-only healing space."

Supporters of the group Concerned Students 1950, which has spearheaded the protest movement at MU, assembled at the school's student center Wednesday night for a meeting after a planned protest march was canceled due to bad weather. And then, according to activist Steve Schmidt, whites were asked to leave.

"My favorite part about the Obama era is all the racial healing."

Ross Douthat writes that Yale and Missouri University are reaping what they've sown. As a conservative, I have zero sympathy for the university professors and administrators who are being devoured by the beast they've created. My sympathy is for the "normal" students whose educations are being disrupted and degraded by this nonsense, and the taxpayers who support these institutions with their hard-earned money.

The protesters at Yale and Missouri and a longer list of schools stand accused of being spoiled, silly, self-dramatizing -- and many of them are. But they're also dealing with a university system that's genuinely corrupt, and that's long relied on rote appeals to the activists' own left-wing pieties to cloak its utter lack of higher purpose.

And within this system, the contemporary college student is actually a strange blend of the pampered and the exploited.

A professor in Texas has quit his job because he's afraid of his students exercising their civil rights.

A professor emeritus at the University of Texas at Austin very publicly quit earlier this month in response to a new state law that allows students to bring their handguns into all classrooms and offices -- including his 500-person introductory economics lectures. The professor, Daniel Hamermesh, has become a symbol for frustrated faculty nervous over the spreading of campus concealed-carry laws.

Gun rights are civil rights. As Glenn Reynolds notes:

I'm sure that many professors in the past were uncomfortable about having women, or blacks, or openly gay students in their classrooms, too. But happily, progress marches on and people's visceral fears and dislikes weren't allowed to rule.

Random variance likely accounts for the mistaken perception that small schools and small classes are better for students. Did Bill Gates waste a billion dollars on this misunderstanding of statistics?

The problem is that because small school don't have a lot of students, scores are much more variable. If for random reasons a few geniuses happen to enroll one year in a small school scores jump up and if a few extra dullards enroll the next year scores fall.

Thus, for purely random reasons we would expect small schools to be among the best performing schools in any givenyear. Of course we would also expect small schools to be among the worst performing schools in any given year! And in fact, once we look at all the data this is exactly what we see. The figure below shows changes in fourth grade math scores against school size. Note that small schools have more variable scores but there is no evidence at all that scores on average decrease with school size.

States like North Carolina which reward schools for big performance gains without correcting for size end up rewarding small schools for random reasons. Worst yet, the focus on small schools may actually be counter-productive because large schools do have important advantages such as being able to offer more advanced classes and better facilities.

Good teachers and principals are more important than small classes and schools -- and the smaller your classes and schools, the more good teachers and principals you need to find.


The linked article doesn't mention class size at all -- in jumped to that conclusion myself!

I love this idea -- the federal government is already involved with accrediting colleges, so why not create a National University that accredits courses and offer degrees? There's a plethora of great online courses, but none of the universities who created them are willing to offer online degrees because they don't want to dilute their brands or lose out on tuition money.

That's where the federal government comes in. With some authorizing language from Congress and a small, one-time start-up budget, the U.S. Department of Education could create a nonprofit, bipartisan organization with only two missions: approving courses and granting degrees.

Don't worry, federal bureaucrats won't be in charge of academic matters. Instead, National U. would hire teams of leading scholars to evaluate and approve courses. Some of the decisions shouldn't be difficult. ...

National U. would also map out which courses students need to take to earn an associate or bachelor's degree. This won't be difficult, since existing colleges have already established a standard set of requirements: a certain number of approved lower- and upper-division courses, plus an approved sequence in an academic major, adding up to 60 or 120 credits. Once students complete the credits, National U. will grant them a degree.

While many of the courses will be free, students will bear small costs for taking exams through secure online channels or in-person testing facilities. (Textbooks will be free and open-source). Students will also pay a modest fee of a few hundred dollars for the degree itself, enough to defray the operating costs of National U.

When my six-year-old goes to college I bet it will look a lot different than it does now.

Ugh, this makes me embarrassed to be a UCLA graduate: UC student government votes to divest from America:

The University of California Student Association board - which represents all 233,000 students enrolled in the UC system's 10 campuses - approved a resolution on Sunday that calls on the system's leaders to financially divest from the United States.

The measure cited alleged human rights violations by America such as drone strikes that have killed civilians, and claimed the country's criminal justice system is racist, among other accusations.

The "Resolution Toward Socially Responsible Investment at the University of California" passed with an overwhelming majority vote of 11-1-3.

If the state and federal government divested themselves of the UC system it would vanish -- as with all public university systems, tuition and fees cover only a very small portion of the system's operating costs (not to mention research).

This has got to be the stupidest thing I've read in months. Good luck finding jobs outside the grievance industry when you graduate.

Lots more at Legal Insurrection, who sums it up:

I'm not glad that the Israel divestment passed, but at least it passed combined with a resolution which made the anti-Israel students and U. Cal student government look like fools.

The primary reason that teenagers should work is because it puts them in a position of having to win approval from adults rather than from other teenagers. The "real world" and the "school world" are completely different. The behaviors and attributes that win acclaim in the school world won't get you far in the real world, and most kids aren't wise enough to learn this just by hearing their parents repeat it. Teenagers who work at a real job earn far more than a few dollars per hour -- the experience they get will pay huge dividends for their whole lives.

What's a BA? (Warning: the content at the link is pretty offensive.)

Imagine a large corporate machine mobilized to get you to buy something you don't need at a tremendously inflated cost, complete with advertising, marketing, and branding that says you're not hip if you don't have one, but when you get one you discover it's of poor quality and obsolete in ten months. That's a BA. ...

"I have a degree." No one assumes you're smart because of it, so what was the point? You were tricked, your parents were tricked, your peers were tricked, your employers were not tricked at all. "There's more to a college education than employability." No there isn't. I am not anti-liberal arts, I am all in on a classical education, I just don't think there's any possibility at all, zero, none, that you will get it at college, and anyway every single college course from MIT and Yale are on Youtube.

Don't forget that the government at all levels is pushing the scam. You, high school graduate: do you really think everyone is looking out for your best interests? Or might the system be urging you onto the lowest rung of a gigantic Ponzi scheme?

Regardless of whether you go to college or not, you've got to find a way to be productive and create value that other people will pay you for. It doesn't matter what some piece of paper says, no matter how much you pay for it.

Most parents I know use some form of "time-out" as a part of their discipline repertoire. However, many parents don't use time-outs the correct and most effective way. (The article starts on page 8 of that PDF.)

So just what are the key behavioral factors of time-out that help it succeed as a discipline strategy with children and, when absent, doom it to fail? The discussion below highlights the main components that influence the effectiveness of time-out for behavior change in children. These components are based on the initial behavioral underpinnings of Ferster,the behavioral literature in general, as well as on the clinical experience of the present authors.

Two things I learned:

  • Warnings are very counter-productive. I need to stop warning my kids and simply put them in time-out as soon as they begin misbehaving.
  • Don't lecture. The point of the time-out is to withhold attention, not deliver a lecture. The punishment should be as close in proximity as possible to the misbehavior.

Lots of interesting and instructive survival information from Robert Wayne Atkins.

For example: on how to survive as long-term house-guests:

Before you move in with your relatives or friends, have your entire family spend two consecutive nights sleeping on the ground under a bridge (unless the health of someone in your family would make this impossible). Someone will need to remain awake, and armed, and on guard duty all night to protect the family from harm. This can be done in shifts if you have enough qualified people. After the second night everyone in your family will have a totally new perspective on the value of the tiny bedroom that you will all share at your relative's or friend's home.

If you skip this step then you will have reduced the chance of your family successfully blending in by at least 50 percent. If you skip this step and you are evicted from the home of the family that was your first choice, then sleep under a bridge for two nights before you approach another relative or friend.

There is a tremendous difference between textbook knowledge and real world experience. Actually sleeping on the ground under a bridge for two nights is a real world experience. Simply thinking about what it would be like to sleep under a bridge for two nights is nothing more than an intellectual exercise.

As politicians begin debating whether or not we subjects citizens should be stripped of our right to self-defense let's notice that the official gun-wielding government representatives didn't get to Sandy Brook Elementary School until 20 minutes after they learned about the shooting. I'm sure the police did their best, but 20 minutes is a long time no matter what kind of guns a shooter has.

The school staff was there right when the shooting started, but of course they were unarmed. We trust them with our kids every single day, and yet we balk at arming them. At least one teacher gave her life attempting to shield her students from a hail of bullets... why shouldn't she have had a gun if she was willing to carry it? We don't need to put police in every school, we just need to train and equip the adults we've already got to protect our kids.

I hope this doesn't come across as sexist, but it seems to me that our primary education system has become very feminized. I'm sure that many people will be shocked that I would even suggest arming school staff and training them to defend students. If the staff is supposed to act in loco parentis then they need to be able to protect our kids while they're at school.

The future of education will look much different than the past few decades. My daugher's learning experience will be very different from mine. Salman Khan from Khan Academy predicts:

Here's what I think it could look like in five years: the learning side will be free, but if and when you want to prove what you know, and get a credential, you would go to a proctoring center [for an exam]. And that would cost something. Let's say it costs $100 to administer that exam. I could see charging $150 for it. And then you have a $50 margin that you can reinvest on the free-learning side.

I think that is consistent with the mission. You are taking the cost of the credential down from thousands of dollars to hundreds of dollars. And the [software] system would tell them they are ready for it. So no paying tuition for community college and then dropping out, or even finishing the whole thing and saying "Oh, I'm $20,000 in debt and what did I get out of it?"

Now you are like, "Look, there is this micro-credential in basic accounting I can get for $150, and I basically know I am going to pass before I invest that money." That would be a huge positive for the consumers of education, and it could pay the bills on the learning side.

Removing the elite gatekeepers from education will be a huge benefit to human civilization. Cost will go down and quality/value will go up.

John Tierney says that Advanced Placement classes and tests are a scam. These paragraphs stand out to me because they reflect my experience:

AP courses are not, in fact, remotely equivalent to the college-level courses they are said to approximate. Before teaching in a high school, I taught for almost 25 years at the college level, and almost every one of those years my responsibilities included some equivalent of an introductory American government course. The high-school AP course didn't begin to hold a candle to any of my college courses. My colleagues said the same was true in their subjects.

The traditional monetary argument for AP courses -- that they can enable an ambitious and hardworking student to avoid a semester or even a year of college tuition through the early accumulation of credits -- often no longer holds. Increasingly, students don't receive college credit for high scores on AP courses; they simply are allowed to opt out of the introductory sequence in a major. And more and more students say that's a bad idea, and that they're better off taking their department's courses.

I took eight AP courses in high school (if I'm remembering right) and passed all my AP tests. In 1995 I did receive credit for those courses at UCLA as well as being allowed to skip many introductory classes. Because of my AP chemistry test score I didn't have to take any chemistry classes at UCLA, even though I was an engineering student. (I was excited at the time, but now I regret missing exposure to college chemistry.)

At least two of these AP classes were harmful to me: Calculus AB and Calculus BC. Because I aced these AP tests I received credit for two introductory quarters of calculus and was skipped straight to the third calc class of the series. I struggled to make sense of the course content and was relieved to pass the class with a C-. The two AP calculus classes I had passed had left me completely unprepared for the material. I also received a C grade on my next math class before I figured out that I wasn't stupid, I was just way behind the other students. It took a lot of studying and make-up work for me to bring my grades and my comprehension up to an acceptable level.

Those were the only C grades I ever received in college, and I blame them on the Advanced Placement classes.

This is actually a pretty good primer on the differences between liberal and conservative political beliefs as the terms are actually used (rather than just in theory).

Despite my penchant for privacy I don't really have a problem with using tracking devices on kids at school as long as the parents consent.

A school district in Texas came under fire earlier this year when it announced that it would require students to wear microchip-embedded ID cards at all times. Now, students who refuse to be monitored say they are feeling the repercussions.

Since October 1, students at John Jay High School and Anson Jones Middle School in San Antonio, Texas, have been asked to attend class with photo ID cards equipped with radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips to track every pupil's location. Educators insist that the endeavor is being rolled out in Texas to stem the rampant truancy devastating the school's funding.

Obviously kids don't want to be tracked because they want to be truant without getting caught. If the students are minors and the parents consent to the tracking, then I've got no problem with it at all. Seems like a great idea.

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