Tag Archives: education

We need your help to make Conservative Teachers of America better!

Interested in helping Conservative Teachers of America grow? We would love to have your help. Below is the Why? and Areas of Focus for Conservative Teachers of America. Please let us know if there is any area that you would like to help with.

Why?

Education takes on many forms in America; private, home school, and public education. Conservatives exist in every form of education delivery. Conservative teachers often feel marginalized in the profession. Believing that they are in the minority or that they do not have a voice, they often remain silent and do not speak out. Conservative Teachers of America is a place for conservatives, both teachers and concerned citizens, to speak out on education related issues.

Areas of Focus:

  • Give conservative teachers a voice.
    • Publish articles from conservatives in education
    • Encourage dialogue, think American Thinker for conservatives about education, not all conservatives are going to agree, but they can disagree respectfully. We are not the left.
  • Encourage teachers to leave the NEA and AFT and join professional teacher organizations.
  • Advocate for local control of schools
  • Encourage opposition to Common Core State Standards
  • Promote quality professional development in the classroom.
  • Encourage conservatives to be informed on and involved with public education.
  • Promote history education that demonstrates the truth about America, both good and bad.
  • Review and promote good young adult literature.
  • Promote freedom of conscience inside of our schools

You can join our discussion group over on Facebook. We would love for you to click Like as well on the side of the page.

We are on Twitter, @ConservTeachers. If you are a conservative teacher on Twitter, tweet with and add the hashtage #TCTOT to your profile page. TCTOT=Top Conservative Teachers on Twitter.

Please follow our editor, Andrew Palmer, on Twitter (@MOConservTchr).

Please contact us through email at conservativeteachersofamerica@gmail.com

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Are School Vouchers (and Charters) Really the Free Market at Work? Does the Free Market Include Government Funding/Regulations?

by Gretchen Logue of Missouri Education Watchdog

Andrew Coulson from CATO writes about the idea of “choice” and why many “choice” proponents who espouse “free market” are actually promoting unconstitutional ideas.  We at MEW have some rather spirited discussions the last several days with “choicers” about our recent articles on “choice” questioning whether this “choice” actually is free market or markets propped up by tax dollars.

Education is free market when the government doesn’t fund it and regulate its operation.  Coulson wonders how government funded vouchers can be considered free market by the choice movement.  How can does a government funded “choice” in education containing the same mandates as traditional public school be classified as free market?  Coulson explains why vouchers are not really choice at all in Obama, Romney, Teachers, and Choice:

Jay Greene has an excellent piece in the Wall Street Journal this week revealing that the teacher workforce has grown dramatically over the past forty years—and at enormous cost—without improving student achievement by the end of high school. And he rightly disparages President Obama for arguing that even more teachers would somehow do the trick. Even better, Greene notes that American education will not reverse its productivity collapse and become efficient until we allow it to benefit from the freedoms and incentives of the marketplace.

But then Jay cites Governor Romney’s goal of “voucherizing federal education funds so that parents can take those resources and use them to send their children to schools of their choice,” and he does so with apparent approbation. Even ignoring the fact that the Constitution does not empower Congress to run education programs, this is a very dangerous idea.

There has been no civilization in the history of humanity in which governments have paid for private schooling without ultimately controlling what was taught and who could teach, erecting barriers to entry and thereby crippling market forces.

For that reason, I recommended against a federal voucher program under the Bush administration. Since then, additional evidence has come to light. When I studied the regulatory impact of U.S. private school choice programs last year I found that even the small existing U.S. voucher programs do indeed impose a heavy and very statistically significant additional burden of regulation on participating private schools.

Perhaps a way will be found to enact and maintain minimally regulated voucher programs in the coming years. Until that time comes, it would be the height of folly to introduce a federal voucher program whose regulations would suffocate educational freedom from coast to coast.

In my statistical study of choice program regulation, I found that K-12 tax credit programs do not impose a statistically significant extra burden of regulation on private schools. But even a national K-12 tax credit program would be far too dangerous. By leaving education policy to the states and the people, we can see which programs flourish and which become sclerotic. We must encourage and learn from that policy diversity, not squelch it with federal programs or mandates.

Coulson has the correct idea about educational delivery and the only solution that is constitutional:  leave education to the states and the people.    Don’t try to sell the federally funded voucher idea as a viable alternative to traditional public schools when the private schools will have to conform to the same mandates and regulations of the traditional public schools.

He doesn’t mention charter schools in this CATO article, but I wonder if he would make the same argument when scrutinizing the free market argument made in favor of charter schools.  In this 2001 article from thefreemanonline.com critiquing a book on charters, he raises concerns about taxpayer funding of charters and understanding that once the government funds these schools, they lose their autonomy:

The risks and shortcomings of charter schools are several. For one thing, whenever the state rather than the consumer pays for a service, we have the breeding grounds for fraud and corruption. Parents cannot be duped into paying for children they do not have, but the same can’t be said of government agencies. The authors describe several fraudulent abuses, but fail to acknowledge that the problem is intrinsic to the separation of payment from consumption.

Allowing the government to hold the educational purse strings also draws the attention of charter schools away from families and toward the state. In a market, producers increase their income either by cutting costs or demonstrating improved services for which consumers are willing to pay more. Charter schools will only be able to raise revenues by lobbying the state. The 14-fold increase in inflation-adjusted per-pupil spending that has occurred in government schools over the past 75 years is a sobering harbinger of what to expect under charter schooling. The authors provide evidence of this lobbying already occurring among the country’s nascent charter schools, but seem not to understand its importance or inevitability.

Finally, charter schools preclude the direct financial responsibility of parents that history shows to be crucial for the maintenance of parental involvement in, and control over, their children’s education.

Based on historical and contemporary precedents, charter schools are likely to be re-regulated to the point where they are indistinguishable from traditional government-run schools. The authors are aware of this “ominous threat,” but can offer no solution.

The downside of charter schooling would be of negligible importance if their impact were limited to charter schools themselves. Charter schools would still constitute some improvement over traditional public schools. The real concern is that previously independent private schools are being lured into the charter fold. If large numbers of private schools adopt charter status, the eventual re-regulation of charter schools will expand the government education monopoly. The authors make no mention of this Damoclean sword hanging over the charter movement.

Don’t try to pass charters off as free market when they are taxpayer funded.  Don’t privatize education via charters where taxpayers and parents have no decision making abilities and mandates (not laws) dictate how and what standards/assessments will be taught to students and pre-determined vendors cash in on supplying the curricula and systems needed because of the mandates.

If your state legislators espouse “choice” as conservative and free market ideas, send them a copy of Coulson’s article.  These “choices” as they are currently constructed are neither. 

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The Numbers Game In Education

This piece comes to us from Missouri Education Watchdog.

Thomas Friedman, author of The World is Flat and most recently That Used To Be Us, was interviewed by Jim Fleming on NPR’s All Things Considered. He had this to say about American education,

“Well, if you take the PISA test, which is the best kind of international comparative test on writing, math and science for 15-year-olds, we’re right there in the middle of the pack with Slovenia.  We are not leaders in these math and science competitions or in the writing competitions.  We quote the latest sort of statistic, there’s an annual kind of you know, math genius competition for college students.  And I think we have one school in the top ten, in Michigan.  And you know, you look at any international comparison test and we’re now in the middle of the pack.  And a lot of people say well, that’s because we have more diverse populations–no, they factor in all of that, okay.  I’m tired of having to explain like why we’re in the middle of the pack.  How about we just come out number one and not have to explain anything anymore.”

His remark is typical of those who believe we are in an educational crisis in this country. The PISA test in particular has been used  to demonstrate America’s falling performance levels. We rank 24th in math and 17th in science out of 30 countries. But as we’ve already discussed, this is somewhat of a numbers game being played in the ranking.  Mr. Friedman is a smart man and a decent economist so he should be well versed in how statistics can be manipulated to make a point. In his statement he both acknowledges this fact and then dismisses it out of hand because it would be so much easier if we didn’t have to explain statistical manipulation.

There are easy ways to achieve his desired number one status by next year. We could require a certain GPA in order to even take the PISA test. That way only our brightest students, who are obviously on the path to college, would take it and our scores would go up. Instead we encourage everyone to take standardized exams like the ACT and SAT and go on to college. In the last four years we have increased the number of students taking the ACT by 17%. Statistics tell us that this should lower the score as less advanced students are now taking the test. The ACT says, however, that the national scores have not changed in the last four years. That means the we actually have more students doing better now than four years ago.

The question he should be asking is why would anyone manipulate the statistics in the first place. Could it be, as Rahm Emanuel now famously said, “Never let a good crisis go to waste?” First you have to convince people there is a crisis and then you can do all kinds of things to fix it.

Such numbers manipulation is done nationally, and it turns out, locally as well. The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Eductation reported earlier this year that Missouri was ranked 26th on our students’ average ACT score. That would put us right in the middle of the pack and add to the evidence that our schools are in crisis and need of changing. It was decent support for our state getting into the Common Core Standards.  We were barely keeping our head above water.

It turns out, when you try to compare apples to apples with ACT scores, Missouri is not doing so bad. In fact, we are 4th in the nation when compared with other states who have a similar percentage of students taking the test. Whew! Dodged that bullet. Let’s pat ourselves on the back and call it a day.  Well, not quite.

There is always room for improvement. As Mr. Friedman says it would be nice to just come out number one overall. To do that, we could look at states like Massachusetts which, while only having 15% of their graduating students take the ACT, blew us away on all the measures.  Forty four percent of their takers received benchmark scores on all areas of the ACT (English Composition, Algebra, Social Science and Biology) compared to the national average of 25% and Missouri’s average of 27%. Benchmark scores are the minimum score needed on an ACT subject-area test to indicate a 50% chance of obtaining a B or higher or about a 75% chance of obtaining a C or higher in the corresponding credit-bearing college courses. Perhaps we should adopt Massachusetts’ standards and curriculum. If only improving test scores were that simple.

At least adopting MA standards would make some sort of logical sense. Look at who’s succeeding and do what they do. Instead we have adopted Common Core Standards which don’t look like MA standards.  They don’t look like anyone’s because they’ve never been done before. They’ve also never been tested before so we really don’t know what they will do for our test scores. But at least we’ll be able to compare our students scores against other states on a level playing ground, right?  Not exactly.

Since it now looks like there will be at least two versions of each of the assessments, a short and a long, it will be harder to compared state-to-state. In addition, each assessment is self adjusting, selecting harder questions for those who get answers right and easier questions for those who answer incorrectly. No two students will take the exact same test. That makes comparing student-to-student within the same classroom a difficult challenge, let alone comparing students between different states.

The numbers game in education will continue as long as there is money and power to be gained from it. Test developers, tutoring schools, educational “thought leaders”, venture capitalists,  and a host of others who see an opportunity to make money or a name for themselves will continue to feed us statistics that tell us we need them; their money, their intellect, their policies. In the education numbers game, the only winning move, as they said in War Games, is not to play.

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Mitt Romney on Common Core

Mitt Romney made his position on the Common Core State Standards known last week at NBC’s “Education Nation” summit.

In response to Brian Williams’ question about what to make of the Common Core, Romney stated that it is not the federal governments place to be involved in educational standards.

I think it’s fine for people to lay out what they think core subjects might be and to suggest a pedagogy and being able to provide that learning to our kids. I don’t subscribe to the idea of the federal government trying to push a common core on various states.

It’s one thing to put it out as a model and let people adopt it as they will, but to financially reward states based upon accepting the federal government’s idea of a curriculum, I think, is a mistake. And the reason I say that is that there may be a time when the government has an agenda that it wants to promote.

And I’m not wild about the federal government having some kind of agenda that it then compensates states to teach their kids. I’d rather let education and what is taught state by state be determined state by state, not by the federal government.

In response to a New York City educator, Romney stated this about the responsibility of implementation.

I don’t happen to believe that every time that there’s a good idea that comes along the federal government should now finance the implementation of that. We certainly didn’t. States have responsibility for the education of their children, their respective borders. And I’m not looking for more federal spending. I mean, I know it is the nature of politics for someone in my position to promise more free stuff, to say we’re going to get more—we’ll send money, we’re going to do this, and people say, boy, he really cares about education. I really care about education.

I care so much about our kids that I don’t want to saddle them with trillions on trillions of dollars of debt when they come out of school. And so I’m just not willing to add more spending to get people happy with me. I’m willing to say, say look, education is done at the state level, the federal government provides funding for special needs students and low-income students. But in terms of implementing the common core, if you’ve chosen it, congratulations, work on it and do it within the resources of your own state.

There is much to applaud in Romney’s comments about the Common Core and its implementation. In a recent PDK/Gallup survey only 50% of Americans stated that they believe the Common Core State Standards will improve the quality of education. The Common Core State Standards is the latest over-promised, over-hyped “solution” to America’s educational woes. New, fancy, shiny standards do not fix bad instruction.

H/T Education Week

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@CatoInstitute: Gov. Romney, Federal ‘Incentives’ Mean Federal Power

Governor Romney’s education plan emerged on Wednesday, May 23rd. Governor Romney has a real opportunity to provide bold leadership on the topic of education reform, but the reality is he is going to stick to the same status quo approach of the past 40 years. Real reform involves trusting the states to make their own choices with regards to education, but the elitists in the Republican party would not dare attempt that approach. Real reform involves abolishing the Federal Department of Education, but that was once heard from that crazy, right-wing-zealot Ronald Reagan. Below is an excellent piece from Neal McCluskey over at Cato.org that we thought very worthy of cross-posting. It sums up the disappointment in the Romney education plan quite nicely.

In a speech today, presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney will lay out the foundations of his education platform. Based on an outline of his proposals released byEducation Week this morning, Gov. Romney seems just a little less disinterested in the Constitution — and the 40-plus years of proven federal education failure – than the man he seeks to replace. And no, calling what you want federal “incentives” neither absolves them of being unacceptable federal intrusions, nor makes them any less coercive.

The heart of what Mr. Romney wants in elementary and secondary education is federal enticements to get states to implement everything from “open-enrollment” policies for schools, to individual school “report cards,” to encouraging “talented individuals to become teachers.”

As I wrote last week, while “incentive” sounds kinda harmless, an incentive program is really all that No Child Left Behind is. No state has to do anything in NCLB. It only has to follow the law if it wants the federal money attached to it. The funding is only an incentive, but it is so big an incentive it is irresistible, even with the law being a huge millstone around the neck of American education. And, of course, taxpayers had no choice about furnishing the ducats to begin with. (Well, I suppose they were incentivized by a trip to prison…)

Where Romney’s K-12 offering is most enticing is his proposal that federal money be attached to low-income and special-needs children and made portable even to private schools. (Portable, that is, “in accordance with state guidelines,” a proviso the outline doesn’t flesh out.) But the very real threat, as with all federal funding , is federal control. What Washington funds it will regulate — though usually for political show, not efficiency or effectiveness — and that is something we should strenuously avoid for  private schools when states can implement more varied — and less regulation prone — choice mechanisms such as education tax credits. And, of course, the Constitution gives the federal government no more authority to deliver school choice than to dictate curricula. That is, except in Washington itself, and to his credit Mr. Romney is proposing to save the D.C. voucher program that Mr. Obama, for whatever shoddy reason, seems determined to suffocate.

The good news about Gov. Romney’s outline is that it directly addresses the primary problem in higher education, and one of its primary causes: insane tuition inflation fueled by massive federal student aid. Indeed, though he will no doubt get flayed for it by the higher ed establishment, who will publically deny it like so many naked emperors, Mr. Romney’s outline is refreshingly straightforward in identifying the root problem:

Governor Romney realizes that more spending will not solve the problem of tuition increases – to the contrary, it has helped fuel the problem. When Washington puts more money into student aid programs to help families and individuals pay for higher education, colleges and universities raise tuition rates.

So what grade does Mr. Romney get on education, at least from this initial outline? About a 30 percent for K-12, and a 90 percent for higher ed. That works out to 60 percent — a woeful D-minus – but that’s probably a tad bit better than most presidents would have gotten since the 1960s.

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Teachers Must Protect All Students from Bullying to Encourage Critical Thinking and Effective Debate

Teachers are typically caring people who are deeply concerned about the intellectual, emotional, and educational needs of their students. Over the years, many teachers have found protecting students’ rights more challenging as the educational system and the school curricula become more political. A teacher’s commitment to recognize the needs and protect the rights of each student becomes most important at that time.

During my 36 years as a conservative teacher in the classroom, it was difficult to witness the removal of conservative current-events materials from library magazine racks, to witness the removal of conservative ideologies from the text books, and to read the demeaning representations of the few traditional American values that remained in school textbooks. Nothing was more upsetting than hearing from students who supported conservative ideologies that they were bullied by classmates and teachers for their political stands and for expressing their intention to choose abstinence during discussions in health class.

I volunteered to donate two conservative magazines and one conservative newspaper to my school library so conservative children would feel comfortable discussing that side of political issues during current-events classes. The librarian told me, “NO.” She had to present only those items recommended by curriculum guides.* While conservative teachers were upset by this, few were willing to take a stand. It is time we all take a stand. We now must protect political diversity just as we support other diversity issues.

State governments have wasted millions of dollars creating and implementing anti-bullying curriculums which have been destined to failure because of the often unintentional but institutionally accepted bullying practiced by most political and social institutions, including the educational system. If there is any chance of limiting bullying within the educational system, legislation and district policies must include anti-bullying standards for the role models and leadership of the very institutions required to implement the anti-bullying curriculums.

Educators recognize that school libraries set the intellectual and social tone of the school. Librarians have been diligent about including literature that recognizes the contributions made to America by every race and nationality. The current-events materials may include everything from Mother Jones, Monthly Review, Mother Earth News, to Time, and Newsweek; but one typically will not see a copy of a conservative magazine such asThe Weekly Standard or National Review. Censorship is one of the most aggressive forms of bullying.

A Wisconsin teacher brought his fourth graders to the state capitol for a field trip and encouraged those children to participate in the anti-Governor Walker protests that are a well-known daily occurrence. When this instructor used his influence to encourage students to ignore the political views of their parents and to protest a Governor whom their parents support, intimidation was being used to bully young children. Fortunately, most teachers use better judgment.

This teacher, like so many others, was simply following curricula recommendations which encourage student activism. Unless teachers encourage students to become active on both sides of the issue, critical thinking and effective debate are lost.

When a student is met with derision when he responds to discussion questions presented by stating that the he or she intends to practice abstinence, that is bullying. When the instructor does not stop the mocking and/or if he participates, the instructor not only condones these behaviors but becomes a bully. Peer pressure is often used to push children into abandoning their goals and values. A common peer pressure tactic is represented by the false statement that “everybody does it”.

If bullying in schools is going to subside, teachers must support anti-bullying policies which include well-defined examples of bullying, well-defined consequences for any acts of bullying, and standards which must be applicable to adults as well as to students in the educational setting. Once that has been accomplished, legislators must take a careful look at curriculum core standards for every subject area and assure that those standards are fact-based and scientifically sound, that the data is replicable, and that the content encourages respect for the traditions and customs that have served the American people so well for over 200 years.

This is a piece written by Karen Schroeder. Ms. Schroeder is a member of Conservative Teachers of America and President of Advocates for Academic Freedom. She can be reached at 715-234-5072.

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Warning: Obama Ed aims at U.S. takeover

Found this over at World Net Daily this morning. Please read and share!

An organization that monitors the U.S. government’s influence on education, and specifically on parents who choose to school their own children, is warning of a pending move in Washington that would result in “de facto national education standards.”

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John Stossel-Teaching Capitalism in Schools

Hat tip to the Missouri Education Watchdog for finding this video. Don’t show this to your average Occupy Wall Street protestor, their head will explode.

Imagine that, capitalism works and raises people out of poverty, they just have to work for it. Man, that’s so cruel.

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Calif. Teacher Punishes Students for Saying ‘God Bless You’

We found this one a bit outrageous and wanted to share it with you. It comes from Billy Hallowell over at The Blaze.

When someone sneezes, a common response is, “God bless you.” But one California teacher finds this statement so offensive and disruptive that he’s working to cut back on its usage in the classroom.

Steve Cuckovich, a health teacher at William C. Wood High School in Vacaville, California, has attempted to banish the friendly gesture, as he believes it is both disrespectful and disruptive. To punish students who do, indeed, say “God bless you” after one of their classmates sneezes, he purportedly knocks 25 points off of their grade.

Make sure you read the rest, because it gets a little more outrageous… http://www.theblaze.com/stories/calif-teacher-punishes-students-for-saying-god-bless-you/

The real problem with this is how much it flies in the face of sound educational assessment. Grades are meant to reflect a student’s academic performance. If you want to email this educator and tell him how disappointed you are in his lack of understanding with regards to educational assessment, just click this link: Steve Cuckovich email.

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My radical view of the just-released SAT data and the perpetual correlation of test scores with SES (via Granted, but…)

This is a must read article on educational assessment by backwards design guru Grant Wiggins! Mr. Wiggins concludes the post “The issue is not ‘great’ teachers or schools, just solid ones in which best practice is the norm not the exception, and where the first instinct is not to blame the kid but to blame our practices. By contrast, as long as we allow teachers to do whatever they feel most comfortable doing, in isolation, schools will in general be ineffective and SES will thus be the determining factor of achievement results in all schools. Shouldn’t we at least try this idea on for size?” Well said, sir!

It is a longstanding ugly fact in education: the child’s socio-economic status is tightly correlated with test scores. The just-released SAT data from the College Board are right there for all to see and contemplate with the telling pattern visible for the umpteenth year: for every additional 20,000 dollars in parental income, scores rise in an almost perfect linear relationship by approximately 15 points. Liberal policy-makers use such data to r … Read More

via Granted, but…

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