Texas Ed: Comments on Education from Texas

January 15, 2008

Start Checking Your Kindergartner’s Credit Report

Filed under: Accountability, education, Texas Education Agency — texased @ 2:33 pm
Texas Ed Spectator » Blog Archive » Start checking your kindergartner’s credit report
A new database will be collecting kindergartner’s social security numbers.

Company gets kindergartners’ Social Security numbers, data | Dallas Morning News | News for Dallas, Texas | Latest News

The new database for kindergarten test scores also includes sections for children’s names, Social Security numbers, dates of birth, gender, school identification numbers and parents’ names and addresses, educators say.

For some odd reason, some people are disturbed by this.

See the complete post at my new website www.texasedspectator.com.

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November 13, 2007

Vouchers are about choice, not quality

Filed under: Accountability, Education reform, Higher Education, Texas — texased @ 8:15 pm

MySA.com: Metro | State

In recent weeks, community members have rallied and pleaded with trustees, begging them to spare West Campus, which has about 600 students. But faced with a heart versus head dilemma, trustees voted to close the campus, which has had chronic low enrollment for years, operates at a deficit and has an “academically unacceptable” rating from the Texas Education Agency.

Now what is the point of school vouchers again? A way for poor parents to escape a failing school system? But what if parents are fine with their local schools no matter what its academic rating?

MySA.com: Metro | State

Parents, many of whom have their own memories of school days at West Campus, haven’t taken the decision lying down. On Friday, they filed a request for a temporary restraining order in U.S. District Court to challenge the school district’s effort to keep the dispute from bubbling up during the evening’s football game.

The latest legal challenge came after district officials announced that they would not tolerate any save-the-school fundraising efforts at the game or allow audience members to wear shirts or carry signs emblazoned with defamatory messages.

Despite the fact that their children will go a better rated high school, these parents aren’t happy. So how can you expect vouchers to “save” the school system if parents aren’t going to behave as voucher proponents expect them to? Let’s face it, “vouchers” at the higher education level, (grants and loans) don’t guarantee that students attend only schools with high graduation rates or job placement. It does allow quite a bit more diversity in education choice but it doesn’t mean that poorer quality schools shut down.

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October 31, 2007

We have vouchers for higher education

Filed under: Accountability, education — texased @ 1:14 pm

This is from one of my favorite blogs about an argument for school vouchers.

The Washington Monthly

And yet, despite its thoroughness, it somehow fails to address the single biggest problem with school vouchers: oversight. If you’re going to receive taxpayer dollars, then you have to agree to taxpayer oversight. That means that NCLB applies to you. It means that minimum state curriculum requirements apply to you. It means that teacher union rules apply to you. It means you have a lot less authority to pick and choose which kids you’re willing to accept.

Well, what Kevin Drum says would appear to be true except that it doesn’t seem to apply to higher education. Right now, the federal government will give you money to attend a private college, perhaps even run by a religious organization with no oversight in terms of graduation rates, teacher qualifications, or curriculum. Basically, the colleges have say they don’t discriminate and that they’re accredited by one of a number of accrediting agencies.

Individuals have to take a certain number of hours but I’m not even sure they have to pass all of their classes to receive the grant. But there’s no guarantee that they will be admitted to selective schools and if the money you get from the government isn’t enough to pay for some schools, too bad.

Of course, the higher education system could probably use some more accountability but it is an example of government financing private schools with minimal oversight.

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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.

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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.

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June 12, 2007

Who will be cheating now?

Filed under: Accountability, cheating, education, TAKS — texased @ 9:52 am

If you think there is cheating with the TAKS exam now, wait until you have end of the course exams.

End-of-course tests go to Perry | Dallas Morning News | News for Dallas, Texas | Texas Southwest

In addition to determining whether a student graduates, the new exams also would count 15 percent toward the final grade in each subject.

Currently, it appears to be the teachers or administration encouraging cheating, not the students. The TAKS doesn’t affect a student’s grade at all. All high school students have to do is to meet some minimum score on a general exam to get a diploma. Their gpas are safe from any sort of “objective” accountability.

What do you think will happen when A students start failing the end of course exam? I’m guessing that most people see this as something happening at poorer, academically weaker schools. These people will be breathing a sigh of relief when they can say their Algebra II class is far more academically demanding than those at some poorer school.

But just think, if that A means so much more in Collin county and the end of course exam is 15% of the grade, who do you think is going to be more likely to cheat? I’m betting on the ones for who that A is so much more important for their GPAs and college applications. Of course, as long as these districts are wealthy, they don’t have to worry since everyone knows that wealthy districts don’t cheat.

May 25, 2007

If they request it, you shall provide it

Filed under: Accountability, education priorities, Legislature — texased @ 9:27 pm

MySA.com: Politics

AUSTIN — After a bill to teach Bible classes to high school students easily gained approval from the Senate on Wednesday, lawmakers immediately disagreed on whether the measure would make the courses mandatory.

Legislative leaders were not sure whether school districts would be obligated to offer the religion studies course if 15 or more students sign up for it. Both “may” and “shall” show up in different sections of the House bill the Senate sent to the governor without changing.

So why limit it to Bible classes? Why shouldn’t schools be required to provide classes in the Chinese language if 15 students request it? What about Java programming, will the school also have to provide the computers?

Obviously, the original sponsor of the bill thought the school could just go out and hire a Sunday school teacher. Things are a little different if you have to go out and hire a teacher qualified to teach it as an academic subject.

And if a student requests a class which the school then provides, is the student obligated to take the class? What if a requesting student moves out of the district–what happens to the class? It looks like to me common sense prevailed in the Education Committee by changing the language from “shall” to “may.”

May 23, 2007

An argument for education reform?

Filed under: Accountability, TAKS — texased @ 6:47 pm

MySA.com: Metro | State

Lindsey Fernandez, a senior at Natalia High School, said she felt like an outsider when told she wouldn’t be allowed to graduate with the rest of her classmates because she failed the TAKS science portion.

“Graduation is a big part of my life,” said Fernandez, a self-described “A” and “B” student. “I have never gotten in trouble, I am not a bad person, and it’s just not fair.”

Though the state requires seniors to pass TAKS to graduate — they get five attempts — school districts decide whether they can participate in graduation ceremonies.

So do you think the parents were at the school demanding extra resources when she failed the TAKS the first time? After all, she has taken the test all five times, right?

If these people think it’s more important for a student to walk across the stage than actually pass the test (whether or not the test should be required or it’s actual value is a separate issue), how do you think these other “life events” are going to turn out?

MySA.com: Metro | State

 

“When you have children, you look forward to when they get baptized, graduate high school and get married,” said Lindsey Fernandez’s mother, Brenda Fernandez. “The graduation ceremony has got to be one of the biggest parts of the teenager’s life.”

They’re baptized but you don’t take them to church? They can get married even though they continue to see other people during the engagement and after the ceremony?

The fact the these parents seem to think that it’s the event rather than the actual work it represents that is important makes you wonder the value of the education they received.

May 19, 2007

And this is going to be a fair process because?

Filed under: Accountability, Education Finance, Higher Education, Rick Perry, Texas — texased @ 10:05 am

MySA.com: Metro | State

AUSTIN — A proposal touted by Gov. Rick Perry to boost university funding based on graduation rates is getting a new push from some leaders who worry he may veto a big swath of the higher education budget unless he gets some reforms he wants.

And people complain about how unfair NCLB is. Do you think UTSA’s graduation rates would come close to UT Austin’s if they received as much money from the state per student as UT Austin and could restrict admissions as does UT Austin? UTSA has to get approval from the UT System before changing it’s admissions policies. So is Perry going to punish UTSA for not graduating a higher percentage of students while the state also requires them to admit virtually all high school graduates regardless of qualifications?

I really think Perry doesn’t want to go there. Imagine the controversy it will generate when the inequitable funding of higher education is brought into the spotlight.

April 29, 2007

Data pictures

Filed under: Accountability, Higher Education, Texas — texased @ 1:04 pm

These graphs show the graduation rate and per student expenditures for Texas Colleges according the College Results Online website.

2005 Public Texas Colleges

2005 Private Texas Colleges

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