Category: Educational Choice

Blog author: jcarter
Tuesday, January 7, 2014
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common-coreWhat is Common Core?

The Common Core State Standards Initiative is a state-led effort that established a single set of educational standards for kindergarten through 12th grade in English language arts and mathematics.

What do the educational standards entail?

Common Core is intended to cover fewer topics in greater depth at each grade level. In English language arts, the Common Core State Standards require certain content for all students, including: Classic myths and stories from around the world; America’s Founding Documents; Foundational American literature: and Shakespeare. The remaining decisions about what content should be taught are left to state and local determination. In addition to content coverage, the Common Core State Standards require that students systematically acquire knowledge in literature and other disciplines through reading, writing, speaking, and listening.

In Mathematics, the Common Core State Standards lay a solid foundation in: whole numbers; addition; subtraction; multiplication; division; fractions; and decimals. The middle school and high school standards call on students to practice applying mathematical ways of thinking to real world issues and challenges in an attempt to prepare students to think and reason mathematically.

Did the federal government implement Common Core?

No, the program is not being implemented by the federal government — though the Obama administration has had some influence over the program. Common Core is an initiative driven by state governors and education commissioners, through their representative organizations, the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). However, President Obama is a strong supporter and the federal government poured $438 million of economic stimulus funding into developing standardized tests aligned to the Common Core. Additionally, the federal government strongly encouraged states to adopt “college- and career-ready standards” in the competitive grant program Race to the Top and through No Child Left Behind, which outlines consequences for schools that do not meet goals.

Have all the states adopted Common Core?

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elementary-school-student-and-teacher-look-at-computerWhat is the key to improving education in America? Stuart Buck says that Barker Bausell’s book, Too Simple to Fail: A Case for Educational Change, provides the answer:

His main thesis: that the only thing that improves education is spending more time on instruction at a given child’s level. In his words:

All school learning is explained in terms of the amount of relevant instructional time provided to a student.

That’s it: more time + suitability for a child’s level.

This may seem too simplistic at first glance, but Bausell marshals evidence that his theory explains, well, a lot. Possibly even the achievement gap. Studies of home behavior have shown that middle-class families spend much more time talking and reading to their children at a high level. This is the most elegant explanation for why those children do better in school — they have had much more time devoted to their learning.

Read more . . .

TCC Banner

Dan Clements, an American student studying at the University of Leuven, and I help greet conference attendees

Last week, an exciting new organization called the Transatlantic Christian Council (TCC) hosted its inaugural conference. The theme of the conference was “Sustaining Freedom”, which aligns well with the Council’s mission “to develop a transatlantic public policy network of European and North American Christians and conservatives in order to promote the civic good, as understood within the Judeo-Christian tradition on which our societies are largely based.”

What I find most exciting about this Council, for which I commend Todd Huizinga and Henk Jan van Schothorst on their vision and initiative in founding, is this: like the Acton Institute, the TCC is not exclusively devoted to just one aspect of life, but rather aims to provide a forum for conversation on a broad range of life’s many important and fundamental human questions.

The starting point for these conversations is with a basic concept of human dignity. This concept is rooted in an openness to the idea of man as an image of God — endowed with the capacities for willfulness and reason, a creature and a sub-creator. And it is this understanding of the human person that serves as a point of departure for working through all sorts of interesting questions of politics, economics, liberty, government, religion, and family.

When I mentioned to a friend that I would be travelling to Belgium for this conference, he said to me: “Be sure they don’t euthanize you and harvest your organs!”

“Well,” I thought to myself, “that’s certainly a novel way to wish someone a good trip.”
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The educational cronyism of textbook publisher cartels is coming to an end as digital alternatives are on the rise, or so says AEI’s Mark Perry in a recent article. “Hear that hissing sound?” he writes, “It’s the sound of the college textbook bubble starting to deflate. . . . The era of the college textbook cartel and $300 college textbooks is ending.”

I have written on this subject in the past for the PowerBlog (here and here), mentioning Perry’s coverage of the subject at that time, among others.

In particular, I would maintain my position today that if more affordable, quality alternatives exist, educators ought to take the time to research them and find ones that fit their curricula if they can. Students are already overburdened by student loan debt in order to get degrees of decreasing quality and utility. If a professor can do a little to lessen the financial burden of higher education, it is one small victory for the common good. And Christian educators ought to lead the way.

Perry summarizes the problem as follows:

Between January 1998 and September 2013, the CPI for college textbooks has increased by more than 144%, compared to an increase of only 44.4% for the CPI for all items, and an increase of only 0.6% for the CPI for recreational books. In real terms, the cost of college textbooks has increased by more than 69% over the last 15 years, while at the same time the real cost of recreational books has fallen by more than 30%.

The reason that the college textbook bubble is on an unsustainable price trajectory and is already starting to show some initial signs of deflating is because of the increasing amount of competition for the college textbook market.

Read more . . . .

BrendleIn his article today Anthony Bradley asks, “When Did College Education Reduce To Making Money?

Our country’s narcissistic materialism has created a neurotic obsession with disparities between the incomes of individuals resulting in an overall devaluing of the learning goals and outcomes of what colleges exist to accomplish. There is a major disconnect here. I wonder if this explains why many parents do not want their children studying the humanities in college.

While I completely agree with Anthony about what the purpose of college should be (“a place where men and women are educated and formed into more virtuous citizens”), I think he’s overlooking how we got into this situation: College is priced like a luxury good but treated as a prerequisite for most forms of employment.

Unfortunately, the types of degrees that best fulfill the primary function of a college (e.g., liberal arts) are also the most likely to lead to underemployment.

A couple of years ago, Andy Whitman wrote an article for Image, “Starbucks and the Liberal Arts Major”, that highlighted the problem:
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saving-money-for-collegeSomeone should tell university administrators and educators that their primary purpose is to guarantee that graduates will have better incomes than those who are not fortunate enough to attend college. In addition, colleges and universities are now, it seems, supposed to be places where everyone equally becomes one of the “Joneses.”

In an article titled, “Rethinking the Rise of Inequality“, Eduardo Porter of the New York Times writes that college education is about solving the income disparity problem. Porter opens the story with this odd statement: “Many Americans have come to doubt the proposition that college delivers a path to prosperity.” What? Is that what college is about? Making people prosperous? What college has making graduates prosperous as its mission? Why would anyone go to college just to become economically “prosperous”?

Are colleges off the target then? Are they missing their new true calling? The mission of Brown University is “to serve the community, the nation, and the world by discovering, communicating, and preserving knowledge and understanding in a spirit of free inquiry, and by educating and preparing students to discharge the offices of life with usefulness and reputation.” Clemson University states, “Our primary purpose is educating undergraduate and graduate students to think deeply about and engage in the social, scientific, economic, and professional challenges of our times. The foundation of this mission is the generation, preservation, communication, and application of knowledge.” Fort Lewis College (Colorado), says that its mission is to offer “accessible, high quality, baccalaureate liberal arts education to a diverse student population, preparing citizens for the common good in an increasingly complex world.”

Do these colleges, and many others, simply not get it? It seems that these schools are primarily interested in student learning and the formation of good citizens, so when did college reduce to being a means of addressing “income inequality”?
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Blog author: jcarter
Thursday, October 24, 2013
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school-taxWhen it comes to public education, racial bias has not been acceptable for almost fifty years. So why is religious bias still tolerated?

If we really want to promote religious liberty and educational reform, says Charles L. Glenn, we have to end the public school monopoly:

[T]he rich diversity and energy that has been the glory of American religious life was, by the early twentieth century, largely suppressed in American K–12 schooling, though it continued at the collegiate level. This was not primarily through the regulatory efforts of state governments—that would come later—but through an emerging consensus among a class of professional educational administrators, part of the Progressive movement, who sought to create what historian David Tyack has called “the one best system.”

Accompanying this development over the course of the later nineteenth century was a growing popular concern about what was seen as the divisive and even subversive effects of Roman Catholicism, associated with immigrants and with contemporary conflicts in Western Europe. The efforts of Catholics to provide their own schools, as was the norm in most of the countries from which the immigrants came, was seen as a refusal to allow their children to become absorbed into American life, and rejection of Catholic demands for public funding of those schools became a winning formula in many elections.

Read more . . .