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06-13-2012, 08:54 AM   #1
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Louisiana school vouchers

Christian "schools" a-ok. Muslim schools? Not so much...

Louisiana Reps Object to Vouchers for Islamic School, No Problem With Christian Schools | AlterNet

The Islamic School of Greater New Orleans has since withdrawn its request for vouchers. But Havard’s concern for religious teaching being funded by taxpayer dollars seems to extend only so far. Reuters reported earlier this month that some of the parochial schools that stand to benefit the most intersperse biblical teachings directly into math, science and reading curricula, often at the expense of an actual education.

New Living World, which says it can accept more than 300 vouchers, is one such school. The campus has no library, and classrooms are often adorned with little more than a TV on which biblically-themed DVDs recite the day’s lesson. Another, The Upperroom Bible Church Academy, is housed in a windowless building with no playground. They can accept more than 200 students, and would stand to receive as much as $1.8 million. Eternity Christian Academy (135 vouchers) doesn’t permit the teaching of evolution.

06-13-2012, 11:37 AM   #2
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And that, my friends, is the reason for separation of church and state.
06-13-2012, 12:18 PM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by GeneV Quote
And that, my friends, is the reason for separation of church and state.
yep in a nutshell. there is a catholic schoolboard up here that didn't want to have Gay Straight Alliance clubs in their schools. The government gave them no choice (well there was a choice I guess they could go private and accept no government funding - Yeah right)
06-14-2012, 06:53 AM   #4
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I am conflicted about this change because there is a lot of room for abuse, but that abuse would have to be directed by parents' stupidity to send there kids to some school where there kids will learn math by watching an actor play Jesus the carpenter measuring wood. There are a lot of good things to like about it though. The kids that are eligible for these scholarships aren't really learning anything because they are at dropout factories currently, this allows them to escape that. These dropout factories have a way to scrape by with their guaranteed tax-payer financed funding streams and this will in effect be a financial death penalty for them. This also allows the parents to move there children to a better performing public school within their parish and makes it easier to create a new public or public charter school to replace the dropout factory.

These better performing public schools don't always have enough slots to absorb the refugees from dropout factories which is why they need to allow the overflow into the private school system. I am not crazy about them funding religious schools, especially fundie schools, but the catholic church does have a very good parochial school system and many of the best private schools are affiliated with religious organizations so I don't think this is something that can be totally avoided. Not all religious schools are run by bible thumpers and many do an excellent job at educating and nurturing children, even the Obamas send their children to a religious school.

One of the best things I think this will do is create some transparency into the academic quality at private schools because currently there is virtually no way to make an apples to apples comparison between any private school and any other private or public school, but the public schools are much more transparent to the academic quality. If a private school accepts kids on state funded scholarships, those kids will need to still take the state mandated standardized tests and report those results aggregated at the school level the same way public schools do. Only the scholarship students will need to take the tests, but they can give the tests to all of their students and have those results reported. My guess/hope is that most schools will take the second route since those results will probably paint a prettier picture than the tests for just a handful of at risk kids, at least initially, and peer pressure will force the rest into taking the same approach. Our plans are to send our kids to public school since we live in Orleans Parish and there are several good public schools we can choose from including one in our neighborhood, but it will be great if there is some better transparency in case we aren't happy with the results.

06-14-2012, 08:53 AM   #5
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Old Finnish joke from the 60s: An optimist will learn Russian. A pessimist, Chinese.

With that in mind, I think they should encourage a certain amount of Islamic schools, Sharia Law and everything. As long as the parents/politicians/preachers figure the kids will have a job with Haliburton or the CIA. You know, in the sense of 'know thy enemy'.

06-14-2012, 09:12 AM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by mikemike Quote
I am conflicted about this change because there is a lot of room for abuse, but that abuse would have to be directed by parents' stupidity to send there kids to some school where there kids will learn math by watching an actor play Jesus the carpenter measuring wood. There are a lot of good things to like about it though. The kids that are eligible for these scholarships aren't really learning anything because they are at dropout factories
IF I could pick and choose the quality of my students (as do private schools) my academic achievement would always shine..

UNTIL there is no selectivity, they should receive no public funding.. regardless of the source......

BOTTOM line in my book...

Discrimination should not be rewarded.....
06-14-2012, 09:34 AM   #7
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Jeff - please define "quality of students". Are we talking IQ , willingness to work or something else?
IMO one of the big problems with public ed today is mainstreaming or teaching to the middle. It is detremental to the developement of both the gifted and the challenged.
06-14-2012, 10:14 AM   #8
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The public schools at least attempt to set and enforce standards for their faculty. I'm certain that Catholic and the top tier private schools also have high standards.

I'm not so sure about the private schools which seem to have sprung up to take advantage of voucher systems or the tax gimmick set up here in Georgia and elsewhere, which allows parents and others to send money to a private school of their choice and deduct the amount from their state tax owed. The whole thing reminds me, as one who well remembers Virginia's "Doctrine of Interposition" and the era of "Massive Resistance," of the "seg academies" which arose like mushrooms across the American South to furnish "education" to white kids. How many of them are still around?

How much of the voucher push is inspired by the same sort of mind-set at work as was in the bad old days? Rather than work on fixing the public schools, let's starve them by reducing their enrollment, which in Georgia at least cuts state aid, and encourage kids and their parents to enroll in schools of questionable credentials. Sounds like a Norquist approach to pubilc education, starve the beast until it can be drowned in a bathtub.

06-14-2012, 03:56 PM   #9
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Public schools and charter schools don't exactly get to choose there students, they can set an application deadline and the better ones set deadlines early in the year (jan/feb) while the not so good ones end up advertising on the radio around this time that they still have slots available and usually have some kind of come-on like free uniforms or the ability to checkout laptops to entice parents who don't care enough about their children's education to make a decision until days before the school year starts to enroll.

Those "seg academies" which grhazelton mentioned are exactly why I am so weary of most private schools here. There is no transparancy into the quality of the academics at the private schools. I want my children to go to a coeducational, ethnically diverse, non-religious school and that is very hard mix to find here in a private school, but academics are paramount so if we aren't satisfied with the public schools it will probably be a parochial all girls school which I know will educate them well.

I think the risk of this providing perpetual funding to an undesirable school is mitigated by the fact that the scholarship students have to come from an academically failing school so no sane parent would try to send there kid to one of those schools deliberately for a year so that they could then be eligible for a scholarship and if those failing schools' failing admins and teachers get run out of the system, the kids who got out of the school into a private school on scholarship get to finish out there time at the private school and the next generation of public school students just goes into the new public school which replaces the old failed public school.

If each private and succeeding public school creates a few extra slots to handle the pupils coming from failed schools, it doesn't put an overwhelming amount of pressure on any one school and it benefits the students as the school board transitions towards a new public school or reforms the failed one, it gives the new/reformed school time to solidify those changes and grow back to its original size.
06-14-2012, 04:17 PM   #10

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Really wishing that we had the perspective of a college board on this one...

But when one attends any private school it significantly betters on chance of getting into a college/university than a public school. Sure there's the sat/act scores and a bunch of other factors. But the private school versus public school is quite up there on the list.

Which is also where there is a bit of irony. Some private schools don't even require certified teachers such as required by public schools
06-14-2012, 07:48 PM   #11
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What Americans Keep Ignoring About Finland's School Success

Everyone agrees the United States needs to improve its education system dramatically, but how? One of the hottest trends in education reform lately is looking at the stunning success of the West's reigning education superpower, Finland. Trouble is, when it comes to the lessons that Finnish schools have to offer, most of the discussion seems to be missing the point.

Finland's schools owe their newfound fame primarily to one study: the PISA survey, conducted every three years by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The survey compares 15-year-olds in different countries in reading, math, and science. Finland has ranked at or near the top in all three competencies on every survey since 2000, neck and neck with superachievers such as South Korea and Singapore. In the most recent survey in 2009 Finland slipped slightly, with students in Shanghai, China, taking the best scores, but the Finns are still near the very top. Throughout the same period, the PISA performance of the United States has been middling, at best.

Compared with the stereotype of the East Asian model -- long hours of exhaustive cramming and rote memorization -- Finland's success is especially intriguing because Finnish schools assign less homework and engage children in more creative play. All this has led to a continuous stream of foreign delegations making the pilgrimage to Finland to visit schools and talk with the nation's education experts, and constant coverage in the worldwide media marveling at the Finnish miracle.

So there was considerable interest in a recent visit to the U.S. by one of the leading Finnish authorities on education reform, Pasi Sahlberg, director of the Finnish Ministry of Education's Center for International Mobility and author of the new book Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland? Earlier this month, Sahlberg stopped by the Dwight School in New York City to speak with educators and students, and his visit received national media attention and generated much discussion.

And yet it wasn't clear that Sahlberg's message was actually getting through. As Sahlberg put it to me later, there are certain things nobody in America really wants to talk about.

* * *

During the afternoon that Sahlberg spent at the Dwight School, a photographer from the New York Times jockeyed for position with Dan Rather's TV crew as Sahlberg participated in a roundtable chat with students. The subsequent article in the Times about the event would focus on Finland as an "intriguing school-reform model."

Yet one of the most significant things Sahlberg said passed practically unnoticed. "Oh," he mentioned at one point, "and there are no private schools in Finland."

This notion may seem difficult for an American to digest, but it's true. Only a small number of independent schools exist in Finland, and even they are all publicly financed. None is allowed to charge tuition fees. There are no private universities, either. This means that practically every person in Finland attends public school, whether for pre-K or a Ph.D.

The irony of Sahlberg's making this comment during a talk at the Dwight School seemed obvious. Like many of America's best schools, Dwight is a private institution that costs high-school students upward of $35,000 a year to attend -- not to mention that Dwight, in particular, is run for profit, an increasing trend in the U.S. Yet no one in the room commented on Sahlberg's statement. I found this surprising. Sahlberg himself did not.

Sahlberg knows what Americans like to talk about when it comes to education, because he's become their go-to guy in Finland. The son of two teachers, he grew up in a Finnish school. He taught mathematics and physics in a junior high school in Helsinki, worked his way through a variety of positions in the Finnish Ministry of Education, and spent years as an education expert at the OECD, the World Bank, and other international organizations.

Now, in addition to his other duties, Sahlberg hosts about a hundred visits a year by foreign educators, including many Americans, who want to know the secret of Finland's success. Sahlberg's new book is partly an attempt to help answer the questions he always gets asked.

From his point of view, Americans are consistently obsessed with certain questions: How can you keep track of students' performance if you don't test them constantly? How can you improve teaching if you have no accountability for bad teachers or merit pay for good teachers? How do you foster competition and engage the private sector? How do you provide school choice?

The answers Finland provides seem to run counter to just about everything America's school reformers are trying to do.

For starters, Finland has no standardized tests. The only exception is what's called the National Matriculation Exam, which everyone takes at the end of a voluntary upper-secondary school, roughly the equivalent of American high school.

Instead, the public school system's teachers are trained to assess children in classrooms using independent tests they create themselves. All children receive a report card at the end of each semester, but these reports are based on individualized grading by each teacher. Periodically, the Ministry of Education tracks national progress by testing a few sample groups across a range of different schools.

As for accountability of teachers and administrators, Sahlberg shrugs. "There's no word for accountability in Finnish," he later told an audience at the Teachers College of Columbia University. "Accountability is something that is left when responsibility has been subtracted."

For Sahlberg what matters is that in Finland all teachers and administrators are given prestige, decent pay, and a lot of responsibility. A master's degree is required to enter the profession, and teacher training programs are among the most selective professional schools in the country. If a teacher is bad, it is the principal's responsibility to notice and deal with it.

And while Americans love to talk about competition, Sahlberg points out that nothing makes Finns more uncomfortable. In his book Sahlberg quotes a line from Finnish writer named Samuli Paronen: "Real winners do not compete." It's hard to think of a more un-American idea, but when it comes to education, Finland's success shows that the Finnish attitude might have merits. There are no lists of best schools or teachers in Finland. The main driver of education policy is not competition between teachers and between schools, but cooperation.

Finally, in Finland, school choice is noticeably not a priority, nor is engaging the private sector at all. Which brings us back to the silence after Sahlberg's comment at the Dwight School that schools like Dwight don't exist in Finland.

"Here in America," Sahlberg said at the Teachers College, "parents can choose to take their kids to private schools. It's the same idea of a marketplace that applies to, say, shops. Schools are a shop and parents can buy what ever they want. In Finland parents can also choose. But the options are all the same."

Herein lay the real shocker. As Sahlberg continued, his core message emerged, whether or not anyone in his American audience heard it.

Decades ago, when the Finnish school system was badly in need of reform, the goal of the program that Finland instituted, resulting in so much success today, was never excellence. It was equity.

* * *

Since the 1980s, the main driver of Finnish education policy has been the idea that every child should have exactly the same opportunity to learn, regardless of family background, income, or geographic location. Education has been seen first and foremost not as a way to produce star performers, but as an instrument to even out social inequality.

In the Finnish view, as Sahlberg describes it, this means that schools should be healthy, safe environments for children. This starts with the basics. Finland offers all pupils free school meals, easy access to health care, psychological counseling, and individualized student guidance.

In fact, since academic excellence wasn't a particular priority on the Finnish to-do list, when Finland's students scored so high on the first PISA survey in 2001, many Finns thought the results must be a mistake. But subsequent PISA tests confirmed that Finland -- unlike, say, very similar countries such as Norway -- was producing academic excellence through its particular policy focus on equity.

That this point is almost always ignored or brushed aside in the U.S. seems especially poignant at the moment, after the financial crisis and Occupy Wall Street movement have brought the problems of inequality in America into such sharp focus. The chasm between those who can afford $35,000 in tuition per child per year -- or even just the price of a house in a good public school district -- and the other "99 percent" is painfully plain to see.

* * *

Pasi Sahlberg goes out of his way to emphasize that his book Finnish Lessons is not meant as a how-to guide for fixing the education systems of other countries. All countries are different, and as many Americans point out, Finland is a small nation with a much more homogeneous population than the United States.

Yet Sahlberg doesn't think that questions of size or homogeneity should give Americans reason to dismiss the Finnish example. Finland is a relatively homogeneous country -- as of 2010, just 4.6 percent of Finnish residents had been born in another country, compared with 12.7 percent in the United States. But the number of foreign-born residents in Finland doubled during the decade leading up to 2010, and the country didn't lose its edge in education. Immigrants tended to concentrate in certain areas, causing some schools to become much more mixed than others, yet there has not been much change in the remarkable lack of variation between Finnish schools in the PISA surveys across the same period.

Samuel Abrams, a visiting scholar at Columbia University's Teachers College, has addressed the effects of size and homogeneity on a nation's education performance by comparing Finland with another Nordic country: Norway. Like Finland, Norway is small and not especially diverse overall, but unlike Finland it has taken an approach to education that is more American than Finnish. The result? Mediocre performance in the PISA survey. Educational policy, Abrams suggests, is probably more important to the success of a country's school system than the nation's size or ethnic makeup.

Indeed, Finland's population of 5.4 million can be compared to many an American state -- after all, most American education is managed at the state level. According to the Migration Policy Institute, a research organization in Washington, there were 18 states in the U.S. in 2010 with an identical or significantly smaller percentage of foreign-born residents than Finland.

What's more, despite their many differences, Finland and the U.S. have an educational goal in common. When Finnish policymakers decided to reform the country's education system in the 1970s, they did so because they realized that to be competitive, Finland couldn't rely on manufacturing or its scant natural resources and instead had to invest in a knowledge-based economy.

With America's manufacturing industries now in decline, the goal of educational policy in the U.S. -- as articulated by most everyone from President Obama on down -- is to preserve American competitiveness by doing the same thing. Finland's experience suggests that to win at that game, a country has to prepare not just some of its population well, but all of its population well, for the new economy. To possess some of the best schools in the world might still not be good enough if there are children being left behind.

Is that an impossible goal? Sahlberg says that while his book isn't meant to be a how-to manual, it is meant to be a "pamphlet of hope."

"When President Kennedy was making his appeal for advancing American science and technology by putting a man on the moon by the end of the 1960's, many said it couldn't be done," Sahlberg said during his visit to New York. "But he had a dream. Just like Martin Luther King a few years later had a dream. Those dreams came true. Finland's dream was that we want to have a good public education for every child regardless of where they go to school or what kind of families they come from, and many even in Finland said it couldn't be done."

Clearly, many were wrong. It is possible to create equality. And perhaps even more important -- as a challenge to the American way of thinking about education reform -- Finland's experience shows that it is possible to achieve excellence by focusing not on competition, but on cooperation, and not on choice, but on equity.

The problem facing education in America isn't the ethnic diversity of the population but the economic inequality of society, and this is precisely the problem that Finnish education reform addressed. More equity at home might just be what America needs to be more competitive abroad.
06-14-2012, 08:50 PM   #12

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americans ignore a lot of things that could clearly make america better.

Compare any of the educational standards/scores between america and most European or Asian countires, and america loses a majority of the time. america simply hasn't properly adapted. Perhaps america should be viewed with as much emphasis as the country places on education as it places on Phys Ed.

...And is it any wonder why americans spend more on alcohol than their entire educational system
06-15-2012, 12:25 AM   #13
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Not sure exactly how this fits in but thought this has something to say at least tangentially about American education and how much it has changed.

I have become the keeper of my families records - photos and records that my folks and other members of the fam have kept etc.

I have all the report cards of my sister who attended North High School in Minneapolis in 1952, 53 and 54.

A few highlights of the classes she took:

1952- Algebra, Latin, Art ("Painting and drawing from life"), Biology, Civics ("American and world governments"), English Lit ("Old English - Middle English), Creative writing and composition, Band.

1953- Analytical Geometry, French, American Lit ("American Lit and thought"), Economics, World History, American History to Civil War, Natural History and Geology.

1954- Intro to Calculus, German*, English Lit (Elizabethan to Modern), American History Civil War-present, Creative Writing, Zoology.

How things have changed.

*This was no big deal really - both my folks were fluent in German so she grew up hearing German spoken in the family.

Last edited by wildman; 06-15-2012 at 12:38 AM.
06-15-2012, 04:06 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by wildman Quote
How things have changed.
I don't really get how things have changed. it sounds a lot like the core high school curriculum I took a few years ago (and my high school was nothing special). The differences are that PE and chemistry were mandatory, and taking physics is fairly common.

As for the voucher system, I have always been intrigued. I think we should get some random state to serve as a Guinea pig, and see if it really makes a difference...or if it just end up widening the achievement gap (because there is no need to fix public schools, since people can just go elsewhere).

Though, I really think the ideal solution involves providing the "dropout factories" that were discussed earlier with more resources and attention. The "dropout factories" really have to be doing things better than other schools. This means they need the best teachers, the ability to implement a novel research driven curriculum (designed to help turn around "dropout factories") , smaller class sizes, good buildings that do not distract from learning, and after school programs (i.e. tutoring and mentoring). From my experience, the opposite of many of these factors is generally true.
06-15-2012, 04:32 AM   #15
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To me it seems like another step toward abandoning the American Dream for the poor. One of the biggest, if not the biggest, influences on education is parenting. Parents 'have bigger impact on exam results than schools' - Telegraph I had two educated parents from lower middle class families, but one of them stayed home and read with us until my youngest sibling started school. We never had a car that cost more than $50 in those years, but we all went to college and post-graduate.

Starting in the 80s, single-income two-parent families became rare, and struggling, single-parent families increased among the poorer parents. Public schools have to deal with this phenomenon, and the more we take both resources and successful students from the public schools, the worse it will get. We can talk about personal responsibility of parents, but these children will be with us for a very long time, and our educational system needs to provide more for them.
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