Archive for the 'Education' Category

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Going To Jail To Provide A Better Education For Your Child

That is what our education system has come to:

Kelley Williams-Bolar is serving 10 days in jail for using her father’s address to enroll her two children in a high-performing school in a suburban district instead of her neighborhood school in Akron, Ohio. She refused the district’s demand to pay $30,000 in back tuition, claiming she lives part-time with her father.

More here.

In Defense Of For-Profit Colleges

One of the biggest blind spots of policymakers and pundits is the inability to take target market into account. For example, you can’t just compare the wages of employees at Hilton Hotels vs Motel 6’s and conclude that Hilton Hotels are superior because the employees are paid more. You have to take the companies vastly different target market into account. Motel 6’s target a much poorer and cost sensitive segment of the economy, and so it’s understandable that they pay their employees less. In addition, Motel 6’s also hire from a lower socioeconomic level than does Hilton Hotels, so again you’d expect their pay to be lower (in exchange for lower productivity, ie education, ability to speak English, etc). What seemed like a bad wrap for the poor without taking target market into account, turns out to be an overall net gain when it’s included (who doubts that from the poor’s perspective, Motel 6’s are better than Hilton hotels?).

The same blind spot is apparent in the Wal-Mart vs union run grocery stores debate. Wal-Mart caters to a lower socioeconomic class, by hiring and providing cheaper products to those at the lower end of the income distribution. So it makes sense that their employees are paid less than their union run grocery stores counterparts, who cater to a higher socioeconomic class. Seen in that aspect, Wal-Mart is no different than the Motel 6. And since it’s our ghettos and poor areas that are plagued by unemployment, empty lots and general lack of opportunities, the Wal-Mart model is a superior model for the ghettos and poor areas.

The same blind spot resurfaces when talking about for-profit colleges. When comparing for-profit colleges to non-profits, critics will primarily focus on graduation rates and default rates, taking nothing else into account. But what happens when you take target market into account?

For-profit colleges tend to cater primarily to the marginalized segments of society: working mothers, high school drop outs, older people trying to change careers, and people who are in a rush to graduate. In other words, the riskier segment of society. The very same people that the non-profit education system often ignores.

Seen from this perspective, it’s expected that for-profit schools will be worse than non-profits when it comes to student debt. It’s expected because they cater to riskier students, so they are going to have a larger variance of outcome – whether that is graduation rates, or student loan repayment. But catering to a riskier segment of the population is not something that should be punished, it should be encouraged. Lets remember, for-profits are actually doing what we berate businesses to do – serve those at the bottom, often forgotten by others. They are a lot better at helping students who may have messed up through high school and want to change their lives around.

And this is without even mentioning all of the other benefits that come from for-profit colleges vs traditional colleges. For example, a significantly shorter time to graduation (averaging 3 years, when non-profits are getting closer to 6 years – a huge gain in opportunity cost), more income oriented majors (even the worst of the for-profit colleges will never have such time wasted majors like Chicano Studies, for example) and a clear path towards graduation. All benefits that primarily help the marginalized segments of society.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that I graduated from a for-profit institution. I got my BS in 3 years. Before that I was a high school drop out (in 10th grade) with about a 2.0 GPA. I had only a GED and no community college credits. I was also the child of a poor single mother, living in Compton, Ca. The group of friends I currently run with all have similar stories – all of us grew up poor, are minorities and graduated from the same for-profit college. None of us received any grants (my mom refused to fill out the FAFSA – she always hated anybody knowing how much she made and was convinced I would find out). More importantly, in the for-profit college I went to there were others – not a majority, but certainly a strong minority – in the same situation I grew up in. It’s the privileged kids that were the exception at the for-profit college, not the the poor minorities.

All of us, also, are currently successful engineers. We all make around 6 figures a year or more. All of us with just the bachelors degree from the for-profit college (I have some undergraduate and graduate work at UCSD, but never completed a full degree there). Without a doubt, graduating from that for-profit college was the single best thing I could have done for my life. Without it, my life would have been very different.

Update: Matt Rognlie makes a similar point here.

Quote Of The Day

“He ends up taking some odd directions with it, but I think the main thrust of Rick Hess’ article on making school choice actually work is mostly brilliant. His core point is that for the provision of extra options to drive major improvements in quality, you need a much more complete market system than the one we generally have—one where consumers have information about quality, and where providers lose something of value when consumers choose against them. A system where money doesn’t fully follow students into the charter school system, for example, is a system where losing a certain number of students can be beneficial to the incumbent school operators. And by the same token, if the idea is that schools faced with competition are going to start doing something differently and thereby improve they need to actually be given the flexibility to change.” — Matthew Yglesias

Quote Of The Day

“The right way to think about teacher compensation, I think, is this. You could have a system in which all teachers are paid the same amount. But we don’t have that system. Instead we have a system where veteran teachers are paid much more than novice teachers, and teachers with master’s degrees are paid more than teachers without master’s degrees. We could switch this to a system where teachers whose kids do much worse than average on value-added measures get fired, and teachers whose kids to much better than average get paid more than average teachers. The idea here wouldn’t so much be to create an “incentive” as simply to ensure that the best teachers aren’t tempted to leave the profession while the worst teachers are encouraged to do so. If you want to do something through a bonus/incentive mechanism, what would make sense is to offer teachers extra money to take on challenging assignments in high poverty schools.” — Matthew Yglesias

Governor Christie Responds To A Teacher

What a great response:


Quote Of The Day

“If you want to know why teachers are being laid off in California (even if teaching has remained one of the most secure jobs nationwide) you might want to check out this new $578 million high school in LA Unified School District.  As we’ve written before on JPGB, buildings don’t teach kids, people do.  Given the way school districts squander their resources, maybe they’ll soon need another $26 billion in Edujobs from Congress (read: taxpayers).” — Jay P. Greene, Professor of education reform at the University of Arkansas

The Face Of The Teachers Union

Many of my friends still innocently assume that the teachers union is really out to help the students, they have no real self interest in their own personal gain over those of students. Articles like this should remove them of such naive beliefs.

Quote Of The Day

“In this article about college funding, Kevin Carey says something that I’ve long believed, which is that government-supported financial aid doesn’t quite work how you might imagine: colleges can just raise their prices along with any aid packages that come along. The price tag for college is not fixed, and so what looks like a subsidy for low-income students can just end up being a way for universities to jack up their prices by a corresponding amount.” — Andrew Gelman

Milton Friedman On The Responsibility To The Poor

Just as true in 1978 as it is today.

Three Must Watch Education Movies – Upcoming

The first is Waiting For Superman. The second is The Lottery. The third is The Cartel. All about education. All a must watch.

Teachers Unions vs Students

If you want to see how teachers union stand in the way of educational progress, read this New York Times article.

My favorite part of the article:

A building on 118th Street is one reason that the parents who are Perkins’s constituents know that charters can work. On one side there’s the Harlem Success Academy, a kindergarten-through-fourth-grade charter with 508 students. On the other side, there’s a regular public school, P.S. 149, with 438 pre-K to 8th-grade students. They are separated only by a fire door in the middle; they share a gym and cafeteria. School reformers would argue that the difference between the two demonstrates what happens when you remove three ingredients from public education — the union, big-system bureaucracy and low expectations for disadvantaged children.

Same buildings, same resources and in many cases, the same family. In fact, the charter school often has more students per teacher than the public school.

The results?

But while the public side spends more, it produces less. P.S. 149 is rated by the city as doing comparatively well in terms of student achievement and has improved since Mayor Michael Bloomberg took over the city’s schools in 2002 and appointed Joel Klein as chancellor. Nonetheless, its students are performing significantly behind the charter kids on the other side of the wall. To take one representative example, 51 percent of the third-grade students in the public school last year were reading at grade level, 49 percent were reading below grade level and none were reading above. In the charter, 72 percent were at grade level, 5 percent were reading below level and 23 percent were reading above level. In math, the charter third graders tied for top performing school in the state, surpassing such high-end public school districts as Scarsdale.

Same building. Same community. Sometimes even the same parents. And the classrooms have almost exactly the same number of students. In fact, the charter school averages a student or two more per class. This calculus challenges the teachers unions’ and Perkins’s “resources” argument — that hiring more teachers so that classrooms will be smaller makes the most difference. (That’s also the bedrock of the union refrain that what’s good for teachers — hiring more of them — is always what’s good for the children.) Indeed, the core of the reformers’ argument, and the essence of the Obama approach to the Race to the Top, is that a slew of research over the last decade has discovered that what makes the most difference is the quality of the teachers and the principals who supervise them. Dan Goldhaber, an education researcher at the University of Washington, reported, “The effect of increases in teacher quality swamps the impact of any other educational investment, such as reductions in class size.”

This building on 118th Street could be Exhibit A for that conclusion.

The full article can be found here.

Why Democrats Fear Vouchers


A quick look will show you why: vouchers pits two traditionally Democratic constituents against each other, minorities and teachers union.  In case you were wondering, I am on the side of the minorities.

In this case, the voucher bill passed and the school choice effort marches on.

Unions Kill Voucher Bill In Chicago

The Chicago Tribune gives the details:

The legislation got through the Senate in March after being championed by Sen. James Meeks, D-Chicago, and suburban Republicans. But by Wednesday, teachers unions had regrouped and its supporters found themselves pleading with opponents to overcome a furious lobbying effort to stop the bill.

“Think back to why you ran for office,” said sponsoring Rep. Kevin Joyce, D-Chicago. “Was it for a pension? I doubt it. Was it to protect the leadership of a union? I doubt that. Actually in all cases, I believe each and every one of us here got involved to try and make a difference in the lives of our fellow man.”

Joyce could muster only 48 of the 60 votes needed to pass a bill that would have allowed students to get vouchers worth about $3,700 to switch to private or parochial schools beginning in fall 2011.

Joyce said the bill would have passed if it had not faced the union opposition. The bill got support from 26 Republicans and 22 Democrats, fewer votes than Joyce had expected from his fellow Democrats.

Fighting back tears during the lengthy debate, Rep. Suzanne Bassi, R-Palatine, called on fellow lawmakers to “search your souls” to support the measure because “we have failed these kids in the inner-city schools.”

“I’m pleading with you,” said Rep. Ken Dunkin, D-Chicago, who represents an area with four public schools where students would have been eligible for vouchers. “I’m begging you. Help me help kids in my district.”

Jay P. Greene has more here.

Quote Of The Day

What’s the quickest and easiest way to create a nationwide system of segregation academies? Force people to go to school based on where they live. How do you make them even worse? Let the district lines be drawn by an unaccountable bureaucracy that claims to care about kids but actually doesn’t care how many children’s lives it has to destroy in order to keep the gravy trains running on time. What is the only – the only – empirically proven way to successfully smash segregation? School choice.” — Greg Forster, blogging on the segregation of NY publc schools

Remembering Jaime Escalante And What His Experience Tells Us

Jaime Escalante, the brilliant public school teacher immortalized in the 1988 film, “Stand and Deliver,” died last week at the age of 79. Cato’s Andrew Coulson writes in the WSJ about what his experience tells us:

In any other field, his methods would have been widely copied. Instead, Escalante’s success was resented. And while the teachers union contract limited class sizes to 35, Escalante could not bring himself to turn students away, packing 50 or more into a room and still helping them to excel. This weakened the union’s bargaining position, so it complained.

By 1990, Escalante was stripped of his chairmanship of the math department he’d painstakingly built up over a decade. Exasperated, he left in 1991, eventually returning to his native Bolivia. Garfield’s math program went into a decline from which it has never recovered. The best tribute America can offer Jaime Escalante is to understand why our education system destroyed rather than amplified his success—and then fix it.

A succinct diagnosis of the problem was offered by President Clinton in 1993 at the launch of philanthropist Walter Annenberg’s $500 million education reform challenge. “People in this room who have devoted their lives to education,” he said, “are constantly plagued by the fact that nearly every problem has been solved by somebody somewhere, and yet we can’t seem to replicate it everywhere else.” Our greatest challenge is to create “a system to somehow take what is working and make it work everywhere.”

The most naïve approach has been to create a critical mass of exemplary “model” schools, imagining that the system would spontaneously reconstitute itself around their example. This was the implicit assumption underlying the Annenberg Challenge and, with donor matching, more than $1 billion was spent on it. As a mechanism for widely disseminating excellence, it failed utterly.

President Obama wants a government program for identifying and disseminating what works. In his blueprint for reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act released in March, he proposed the creation of “‘communities of practice’ to share best practices and replicate successful strategies.”

He’s not the first to advocate this approach. The secretary of the Massachusetts Board of Education pursued the same idea—in 1837. Horace Mann, father of American public schooling, thought that a centrally planned state education apparatus would reliably identify and bring to scale the best methods and materials in use throughout the system. Despite a century-and-a-half of expansion and centralization, this approach, too, has failed. Without systematic incentives rewarding officials for wise decisions and penalizing them for bad ones, public schooling became a ferris wheel of faddism rather than a propagator of excellence.

The full post can be found here. Link via Jay P. Greene here.

Democrats And Vouchers

Jay P. Greene, professor of education reform at the University of Arkansas, writes on the recent vote to end DC Vouchers:

It was perfectly predictable but still sad to watch. The U.S. Senate voted 55-42 yesterday against continuing the DC voucher program. Among Republicans only Olympia Snowe voted against the program. Among Democrats (or Independents), Feinstein, Lieberman, Nelson, and Warner voted for the program.

What was the reason Democrats gave for voting against the D.C. Voucher program that primarily helps minorities? He explains:

the quality of the opponents’ scientific reasoning was exemplified by Sen. Byron Dorgan of South Dakota. As you can see in this link to CSPAN coverage (starting around minute 21), he argues that there is no need for vouchers because our public school system is doing a great job. And we know this because graduates of American public schools were the people who put a man on the moon. I’m not sure what public school Wernher von Braun attended.

But it sure wasn’t a public school like those in DC…or any public school in the ghetto, schools that minorities are forced to attend. Like I’ve said a thousand times on this blog, Democrats first and foremost priority is to the teachers union and public school, Republicans, atleast on Education Vouchers, are on the side of the students – especially minority students.