Texas Ed: Comments on Education from Texas

August 30, 2007

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing?

Filed under: Accountability, Higher Education — texased @ 6:36 pm

Very interesting article. I know a while back everyone (myself included) was aghast at Spelling’s proposed accountability version of “No Child Left Behind” for higher education. I don’t agree with the punishments mandated by the testing the law requires, but I think it’s a good idea to have the data available. Apparently, most colleges don’t think it’s a good idea even to have the data available.

Apparently Pell grants didn’t turn out they way colleges would have preferred:

Inside the Higher Education Lobby

the Democratic Congress was considering ways to help expand access to higher education, and colleges advocated an approach by which they would receive aid as institutions, which would then allow them to offer tuition breaks to poorer students. But instead, Congress created federal grants that would be given directly to college students, to use at the school of their choice. (The program, conceived by Democratic Senator Claiborne Pell of Rhode Island, now bears his name.) Many in higher education circles blamed the defeat on a lack of lobbying sophistication.

Law schools and med schools publish their licensing exam passing rates but teacher colleges shouldn’t?

Inside the Higher Education Lobby

For decades, education experts have been concerned about declining teacher quality in K–12 schools, and in the late 1990s the Clinton administration tried to address the problem by improving colleges’ notoriously lackluster teacher-training programs. The Education Department put together a proposal requiring states to report the percentage of teacher-training-program graduates from each school who pass the state licensure exam, and to report which of their education schools, many of which are affiliated with major universities, were underperforming. Schools that consistently failed to produce graduates capable of passing the exams would lose their eligibility to receive federal aid for teacher training.

For many colleges, teacher-training programs, which can count on a steady stream of applicants and have relatively low administrative costs, represent a crucial revenue source—and the higher ed lobby went into overdrive to protect it. “They didn’t want publicly accessible info for the performance of their graduates,” says Sara Mead, who worked on implementation at the Education Department. “They didn’t want to be held accountable. They would come up with all sorts of technical objections, but that was the real issue.”

And then there is the whole student loan lenders relationship thing:

Inside the Higher Education Lobby

Last February, legislators from both parties proposed the Student Aid Reward Act (STAR), which sought to encourage schools to choose direct lending over private lending, by allowing them to keep three-quarters of the savings that direct loans generate—to be spent on additional Pell Grants for their students—with the remaining one-quarter going to deficit reduction. Schools that continued to participate in the lender-based program would face no penalty. In other words, schools would receive free federal money for Pell Grants, or would get increased leverage in negotiating with private lenders for a better deal.

One might expect, then, that the proposal would have received the enthusiastic support of the higher education lobby. But none of the Big Six associations (see “The Higher Ed Lobby: A Glossary”), and very few of the smaller lobbies, came out for STAR, much less put their political muscle behind passing it. “The silence was deafening,” says Michael Dannenberg, an education expert at the New America Foundation. Without higher ed pushing back against the deep-pocketed lenders’ opposition to STAR, it went nowhere.

What explains the lobby’s reticence? NAICU’s Flanagan says her organization opposed STAR because it would have meant that some students ended up receiving more aid than others. But that stance makes little sense, since no student would have ended up with less aid because of STAR.

As someone who is starting to look at colleges for my son and expecting to pay the full price of tuition, I would appreciate a little more information than what you find at most admissions’ sites.

Technorati Tags: , , , ,


August 29, 2007

Unintended Consequences

Filed under: education, High Stakes Testing, TAKS — texased @ 5:56 pm

Pleasanton ISD, Texas

Our Mission Statement

The mission of the Pleasanton ISD as an educational community is to ensure a quality public education through learning, unity, and pride, fully preparing all students for the future.

So does the district accomplish it’s mission by having students do well on the TAKS? The reason I ask is because it seems that the Pleasanton Junior High will no longer offer Algebra I so that students to do better on the 9th grade TAKS exam. See, if you take Algebra I in eighth grade then you take Geometry in 9th and the 9th grade math TAKS exam focuses on Algebra I.

Talk about teaching to the test.

So now the only way students can make it to Calculus by the end of high school is by doubling up on math classes for one year. Think about it, in order for high school students to do better on the TAKS exam, the district is willing to reduce the number of students able to take Calculus.

Does anyone else see a problem here? Will Pleasanton ISD still be the school of choice for Toyota workers?

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

August 27, 2007

Back to school

Filed under: Homeschooling, Socialization — texased @ 8:00 pm

Broadsheet: Women’s Articles, Women’s Stories, Women’s Blog – Salon.com

It’s that exciting time of year when adolescent girls across the nation go in search of the essentials for starting off the school year prepared and ready to learn as a hot new ‘tween: pink, padded bras, T-shirts with slogans declaring their total lack of smarts (“I Left My Brain in My Locker”) and, perhaps, a Juicy Couture gym bag made especially for prepubescents, announcing “Juicy and Happy.”

If you want to understand why homeschoolers give you a look of amazement when you ask about socialization, think about “back to school.” Now if the phrase “back to school” conjures up a collection of warm feelings and exciting images, you can stop reading write now. But if “back school” brings a creeping feeling of dread, you might get some glimmer of understanding why homeschoolers think it’s schools with the socialization problem and not homeschoolers.

Do homeschoolers have to deal with the latest fashion trends? Yes. But it generally isn’t in the context of who is wearing what in Algebra class. And I don’t know many homeschoolers avoiding advanced math and science classes because they might be perceived geeky.

So the next time you have a feeling that all the “back to school” hype has gotten a bit out of control, you’ll have some insight as to why people choose to homeschool.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

August 23, 2007

Community colleges: the good and the bad

Filed under: community colleges — texased @ 6:54 pm

Carlos Guerra is my favorite Express-News columnist but talk about cherry-picking data.

MySA.com: Carlos Guerra

Studies show that students who start out in community colleges and go on to earn BAs tend to graduate at higher rates — and with higher grades — than students who start at universities. But about four of five new community college enrollees also need help — and sometimes, a lot of it — to make them “college ready.”

I’ve no doubt that the students who do go on to earn BA’s graduate at a higher rate since they have shown incredible perseverance by making it out of the community college system. The latest figures from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board lists the six year graduation rate for Bachelors in fiscal year 2005 as follows:

Northwest Vista: 16.7%

Palo Alto: 9.6%

San Antonio College: 9.9%

St. Philip’s: 4.9%

These numbers are nothing to write home about. Ultimately, they should be used to demonstrate the need to put more resources into our community college system and make the transition from two year colleges to four year institutions much more seamless.

The Washington Monthly has created a ranking of community colleges along with it’s other college rankings. Five Texas colleges make the list including Northwest Vista College. We just need to figure out how to help more students at community colleges make a successful transition to a four year university. I don’t know exactly what sort of initiatives that might require but I’m pretty sure cutting state funding for community college employee health benefits isn’t one of them.

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

August 21, 2007

Washington Monthly College Rankings are out

Filed under: college rankings — texased @ 11:54 am

The Washington Monthly

BACK TO SCHOOL….U.S. News & World Report publishes its university rankings every year, and every year people complain about them. So starting in 2005 we decided to do more than just complain, and instead came out with our own rankings — based not on reputation or endowment size, but rather on how much of a contribution each university actually makes to the country. This year’s #1 school? Texas A&M.

Maybe the fact that Texas A&M comes in first in the Washington Monthly rankings as opposed to 62nd in the U.S. News & World Report rankings will get the attention of some Texans. UT Austin moved up to 19th in the Washington Monthly over it’s 44th place in the U.S. News ranking. Take a look, it’s definitely a different way of evaluating what constitutes a “good” school.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

August 20, 2007

The only place to play baseball

Filed under: Homeschooling, sports — texased @ 2:53 pm

Several people have been telling my husband that we should enroll our son in high school because he’s certain to make the baseball team. This isn’t about his need for “socialization” or better academic opportunities. This is about how the only place to play high school age sports is in high school.

It’s not that he would have a chance to learn to play baseball, it’s that he is already good enough to play–the high school isn’t going to waste it’s time teaching kids a sport when they need their team to win.

And this is the only reason people can come up with for him to go to high school. So what does that mean?

August 17, 2007

U.S. News and World Report’s College Rankings

Filed under: college rankings — texased @ 8:49 pm

U.S. News and World Report’s annual college rankings is out and of course, everyone bemoans the shallowness limitations of the rankings. Yet the education establishment can console themselves with the fact that there aren’t any alternatives so it’s okay to use the rankings anyway. Even other media sources seem to reinforce this attitude:

MySA.com: Metro | State

But if the rankings are harmful, what’s the alternative? To date, there hasn’t been one, since colleges and universities haven’t devised their own quality-assessment system for the public.

Except there are alternatives. Enter “college rankings” into Google and while the first four results all have to do the U.S. News and World Report rankings, the fifth one is

college rankings – Google Search

College Rankings, Education and Social Science Library, U of I This site provides a compendium of links to online college ranking services for undergraduate and graduate programs, business schools, law schools, … http://www.library.uiuc.edu/edx/rankings.htm – 7k – Cached – Similar pages

which references ten college rankings. The sixth result is The Princeton Review ranking, the seventh, a website of student rankings, and the eighth is the Washington Monthly College Rankings. Why none of these are considered viable alternatives to the U.S. News and World Report rankings I don’t know.

I really shouldn’t be surprised since about the same time last year I was complaining about the reporting concerning the value of the rankings so why would I expect things to change after a year? Oh well. If you’re interested in a different perspective on college rankings, I highly recommend the Washington Monthly College Rankings. I look forward to reading their list next month.

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

August 15, 2007

It was just a veto

Filed under: community colleges, Rick Perry — texased @ 5:11 pm


After veto, governor proposes more money for community colleges

Trying to quell unrest over his June veto of $154 million for health insurance for community college employees, Gov. Rick Perry is proposing a unique solution: More money. Lots of it.

Maybe people are actually going to blame Perry for increases in local property taxes. Looks like he’s back-peddling quite a bit.


After veto, governor proposes more money for community colleges



In June, Perry vetoed the health insurance money because he and the community colleges disagree how the costs should be split between the state and local taxpayers and students. Several senators said they were unaware of the governor’s concern or the prospect of a veto. Perry’s staffers testified that most of the discussions were at staff levels, not with lawmakers.

And the staff just didn’t bring it to the lawmakers’ attention? I still haven’t seen a plausible explanation as to why Perry slashed the funding. Which political constituents did he think he was pleasing with his veto? He (or rather fellow Republicans) is just now finding out how much he has pissed people off.

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

August 13, 2007

Only principals have the authority to know what is in the best interest of the child

Filed under: education — texased @ 7:00 pm

The story is about special needs but I think one of the cases is just the perfect example of what a difference a teacher makes.

Star-Telegram.com | 08/13/2007 | Parents, schools are often at odds

Ryan’s classroom was down the hall from the restroom. Life as an incontinent 9-year-old is hard enough, but being so far from the restroom made it terrifying.

He needed to drink water in the classroom to fend off dehydration. He got in trouble for not holding his pencil “at the ready” and for fidgeting in his seat because of the chronic pain. His teacher left him in the hallway while the rest of the class participated in gym class. His mother came to the school to tutor her son during that time.

When the school’s elevator broke and two janitors were carrying her son up and down the stairs, MacKechnie had had enough.

“He was so embarrassed, he was crying, and he was red,” MacKechnie said. “I said, ‘This is unacceptable and inappropriate.’

“With Ryan, it’s just about dignity. He’s had everything else taken away.”

Three weeks into the school year, MacKechnie was still struggling to set up an admission, review and dismissal meeting. Such a meeting involves a child’s teacher, parents, and other educators or administrators to establish how to address the needs of a child in special education.

After the elevator incident, MacKechnie went up the chain of authority, calling the director of special education for the Fort Worth schools.

“Here these people are supposed to be helping my child, and I’m feeling like a bad guy for having to go over people’s heads,” she said. “But it’s my job to protect him.”

Small victory, big difference

Ryan was moved to a classroom across the hall from the restroom. MacKechnie sings the praises of Lori Taylor, Ryan’s second fourth-grade teacher, who was supportive of Ryan and his family, even visiting him in the hospital.

Taylor understood Ryan’s illness and watched for signs that he felt sick, but didn’t treat him differently from any other student in her class, MacKechnie said.

How hard could it have been for the school to use a little common sense? Why keep him in a room where a teacher punishes the kid for not having his pencil at the ready position? Could it be that the word might get out and other parents might want to get their kids out of that teacher’s classroom as well?

Star-Telegram.com | 08/13/2007 | Parents, schools are often at odds

Tanglewood Principal Connie Smith said dealing with Ryan’s illness was as difficult for the school as it has been for his family. He has an obscure illness, and teachers don’t have much training in dealing with it.

“His mom was our best source,” said Smith, who praised MacKechnie’s involvement and positive attitude in advocating for Ryan. “I don’t know how a child acts when they’re at home. [Ryan’s] a tough kid. He puts up a good front. We weren’t seeing any of the things at school that Jennifer was describing at home.”

Smith said that in most cases, switching classrooms is not the best solution for a child. In Ryan’s case, she said, it worked out well, but it was not an easy decision and was made only after she was sure there was no other way to meet his needs.

I can’t believe that the principal actually said that to a reporter. Let’s see, since it’s an “obscure illness” the teacher couldn’t see her way to not punish the kid for fidgeting. Since Ryan put up “a good front” it was only natural for the teachers not to trust the parent.

And switching classrooms is not the best solution for the child? Give me a break. What is the reasoning behind that? Oh, I know, “children must learn to deal with a variety of personality types and that they can not always expect to be in a pleasant learning environment.” Maybe the teacher should be held accountable for creating a “hostile” learning environment.

How pathetic that the principal could only make the decision after she was sure that she couldn’t convince the first teacher to stop punishing the student for fidgeting that there was no other way to meet his needs.

Of course there are parents of children who demand services that may not be warranted. This doesn’t appear to be such a case. Given that the principal had the political cover of special needs, why didn’t she just make the switch as soon as she realized the teacher was a bad match for the student? If any other parents requested a change of classrooms, she could just have claimed that is was only made to accommodate the child’s unique conditions. I have a feeling that parents in general at her school don’t have much standing with her.

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

August 11, 2007

Because education officials wouldn’t lie

Filed under: Accountability, Education reform, Homeschooling — texased @ 5:54 pm

Critics say TEA’s dropout figures mislead public | Chron.com – Houston Chronicle

Bob Sanborn, who runs a Houston-based education research and advocacy group, said the changes addressed some of his concerns. But, he said, the state still allows schools to get credit for students who never graduate. Students can say they are dropping out to be homeschooled, for example, but the state never checks on whether that is true.

Is he seriously suggesting that the high school dropout rate will be affected by cracking down on those “fake” homeschoolers?

HISD has already shown that if a high school has listed a big enough number of students having withdrawn to homeschool that it actually gets notice then the problem is with the keepers of the list, not the homeschoolers. They could just as easily have stated that they had transferred to a private school or moved out of the state.

Counting dropouts in Texas has been a problem for over 30 years. If the best Sanborn can do it to point to “homeschoolers” then you’ve got to wonder about the quality of his education analysis. Somehow, I have a feeling that Sanborn would want to check up on homeschoolers regardless of the dropout situation.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Older Posts »

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.