Education: A Golden Age

“The education sector’s structure and policies will change more in the next 3 years than they changed in the last 2,500 years”

The three education sector evils

(Jay Mathews quote)

* District bureaucracies

* Schools of education

* Teacher unions

Advertisements

2008/09/18 Posted by | Policy | Leave a comment

Barack Obama: Education speech in Dayton, OH

http://my.barackobama.com/page/community/post/amandascott/gG5pB4

Obama describes the domestic and global gaps so well… but then goes on to emphasize the policies and structures that caused the problems as the vehicles that should be used for closing the gaps??  When will Obama get that the current system cannot be improved, only replaced?  How about the demand of students/parents – not DC or State-level bureaucrats – driving the allocation of funds (based on performance data that will continue to become more detailed and more accessible)??

2008/09/11 Posted by | Policy | Leave a comment

Stoltenberg: 1970-tallets monolittiske enhetsskole vil Ap/SV føre videre

http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=47474115872

“Like viktig som flere timer, er at de timene vi har skal gå til læring – og ikke brukes til unødvendige ting.

Mandag møter 60.000 skolebarn opp til sin aller første skoledag. Ingen av dem vet helt hva de går til, og de er nysgjerrige på hva som kommer til å skje. Dette er en nysgjerrighet og et vitebegjær som vi vil bygge opp under. Fremtidens førsteklassinger vil bli fulgt tettere opp fra første skoledag enn før. Før sommeren presenterte regjeringen mange tiltak for hvordan kvaliteten i skolen skal bli bedre, fra 1. klasse til utgangen av videregående opplæring.

Når lille Frida eller Farshad starter på skolen, vil de bli en del av et skoleløp der “tidlig innsats” er nøkkelordene. Ved å tidlig oppdage Fridas lesevansker, sparer man henne for den vanskelige opplevelsen det er å gå på ungdomsskolen uten å kunne lese eller skrive ordentlig. Ikke minst spares hun for de store problemene hun kan få senere hvis hun mangler disse grunnleggende ferdighetene.

Vi stiller krav om forsterket opplæring i lesing og regning, og vi følger opp med en “lese- og regnemilliard” hvert år. Pengene går til å styrke opplæringen i helt sentrale basisfag som norsk/samisk og matematikk på de fire første trinnene på barneskolen. Elever som sliter skal fanges opp underveis, de skal slippe å vente på hjelp.

Allerede i slutten av 2. skoletrinn vil Frida møte kartleggingsprøvene i lesing, som vi innfører fra 2010. De gjelder for elevene i 1. til 3. skoletrinn, og er ment som et verktøy for lærerne, slik at de raskt kan oppdage lesevanskene til Frida, og gi henne den oppfølgingen hun trenger.

Farshad er en elev som lett suser gjennom disse prøvene, og gjennom utvalgsprøvene på ungdomstrinnet, der vi sjekker nivået i fag og ferdigheter. Han gjør det også godt på de nasjonale prøvene i lesing på norsk, lesing på engelsk og regning på 5. og 8. trinn. På de nasjonale prøvene det nest siste året på ungdomsskolen presterer han middels.

Overgangen til videregående viser seg å være en større utfordring enn Farshad var forberedt på. Kartleggingsprøvene i lesing og regning, som vi også innfører på 1. trinn i videregående skoler, bidrar til at Farshad og lærerne raskt definerer de faglige utfordringene han møter. Slik kan tidlig innsats for Farshads læring gjøre at han ikke faller fra.

Hvis Farshad går på en av de 30 skolene med mer enn 20 prosent elever med innvandrerbakgrunn, vil han også kunne få konkret oppfølging fra de nyansatte minoritetsrådgiverne. Disse startet i juni i år på 30 skoler over hele landet, og skal være en ekstra rådgivningsressurs med solid kompetanse for elevene på disse skolene.

Hvis Frida etter ungdomsskolen finner ut at hun er trøtt av teorirettet undervisning, har hun ulike muligheter i videregående opplæring. Hun kan blant annet ta et praksisbrev. Da foregår opplæringen i en bedrift. Utdannelsen skal være praktisk og munne ut i en formell kompetanse. Kompetansemålene skal hentes fra ordinære læreplaner, slik at praksisbrevet kan inngå i et fagbrev uten forsinkelse, hvis Frida vil det.

Dette er eksempler på den nye skolehverdagen flertallsregjeringen er i ferd med å etablere. Vi har spesielt lagt vekt på to ting: For det første vil vi fortsette å styrke kvaliteten på innholdet i skolen, slik at alle elever kan få den oppfølgingen de trenger og bli utfordret nok til å lære mer. For det andre vil vi redusere antallet elever som faller fra i videregående opplæring.

For å ta det første først: Skolen er veldig viktig for barna, men også for landet vårt. De som starter i første klasse nå, skal utføre viktige jobber og oppgaver i samfunnet vårt om 15-20 år. Da må de få med seg det de trenger av kunnskaper og ferdigheter.

Derfor øker regjeringen antall skoletimer på barnetrinnet. Fra denne høsten øker vi timetallet med tilsammen fem uketimer à 60 minutter, fordelt på de fire første trinnene. Det vil si; to timer norsk, to timer matematikk og én time engelsk.

Like viktig som flere timer, er at de timene vi har skal gå til læring, og ikke brukes til unødvendige ting. Derfor skal vi bekjempe tidstyvene i skolen. Vi vil kartlegge lærernes tidsbruk, og setter ned en arbeidsgruppe som skal vurdere hvordan man kan bruke tidsressursene i skolen mest mulig effektivt for å oppnå bedre læring.

Vi har mange dyktige lærere rundt om i Norge. Det er jeg glad for. Lærerne er blant de viktigste voksenpersonene i barnas liv. Den faglige og pedagogiske kompetansen til hver enkelt lærer kan være helt avgjørende for hvor mye elevene lærer. Derfor innfører vi et nytt varig system for etter- og videreutdanning for lærere. På den måten sikrer vi at lærerne har utviklingsmuligheter i yrket og at de kan oppdatere kompetansen sin på en mer systematisk måte, for å møte nye utfordringer og krav.

Det andre flertallsregjeringen legger spesiell vekt på, er at elever ikke skal falle fra på videregående skole. Når en av tre elever ikke fullfører videregående opplæring, er det et fundamentalt brudd på muligheten til lik rett til utdannelse.

Vi vet at de som møter problemer senere i skoleløpet ofte har støtt på utfordringer allerede ganske tidlig. “Lese- og regnemilliarden” til barnetrinnet er dermed en del av arbeidet for å sikre at barn og unge tidlig får solid opplæring i de sentrale basisfagene.

Vi styrker også rådgivningstjenestene på skolen på flere områder. Rådgivningstjenesten blir delt inn i en sosialpedagogisk rådgivning og en yrkes- og utdannelsesrådgivning. Det blir fastsatt ny læreplan i faget Utdanningsvalg som gjelder fra høsten av, slik at ungdomsskoleelever får bedre grunnlag for videre valg av utdannelse. Vi styrker også rådgivningskompetansen på skoler med mange elever med innvandrerbakgrunn, fordi vi vet av erfaring at elever med innvandrerbakgrunn har større sannsynlighet for å falle fra.

Dette er noen viktige endringer av skolehverdagen som min regjering har stått for. Vi vil ha en skole som fanger opp elever som møter problemer, som Frida, og som klarer å utfordre vitebegjærlige elever som Farshad. Fremover vil vi fortsette fokuset på mer kunnskap til elevene, mer kompetanse hos lærerne og høyere kvalitet i undervisningen. Slik vil vi skape en ny og bedre skolehverdag.”

2008/08/17 Posted by | Policy | Leave a comment

Michael Tobman on the school choice sea change

Democrats in state legislatures throughout the country are supporting charter schools, education tax credits, special needs vouchers, scholarship tax credits and opportunity scholarships. Democratic candidates for offices at every level of government are being asked about and supporting all of the above. Democratic Party leaders are endorsing school choice bills and lending their offices to whip votes. Democrats who support school choice are winning legislative seats in districts with voter registrations that favor Republicans and they are trying to “out-school choice” one another in primaries for reliable Democratic seats. These are the facts on the ground as we look from coast to coast in the summer of 2008. The amazing thing is that this is all happening. The truly astounding thing is that it has taken so long to happen.

Democrats seem to have finally moved past blind adherence to the idea that winning is about cobbling together forced coalitions in advance of Election Day. Their rapid-response “war rooms” have evolved past simply refuting bad press. The permanent campaign finally has embraced the truth that winning elections depends on having winning ideas. Tired relationships that have long stopped being mutually beneficial are being cast aside in favor of ideas and policies that speak to constituencies that have eluded top-down communication and dictates. Newsletters with boring lists of endorsements are being replaced by idea-driven pieces authored by columnists in traditionally hostile newspapers. Democrats are finally taking on hard issues that require work and genuine discussion…

Democrats have again developed a pragmatic, results-oriented view of America that expects more of us all and elevates us in doing so.

2008/08/10 Posted by | Policy | Leave a comment

Michelle Rhee’s five year plan for Washington, DC

The planning document makes broad promises about the school system’s future under Rhee. “The experience of DCPS stakeholders will be dramatically different in five years,” it says. The paper divides that period into three phases. The first 18-month segment, currently underway, calls for action to “aggressively transition out poor performers at all staff levels.”

The shakeup began in March with the dismissal of 98 central office employees and continued this spring with the firing of more than 40 principals and assistant principals. Personnel change continues as an objective in the salary plan Rhee has proposed to the Washington Teachers’ Union, in which instructors opting for big raises and bonuses must agree to go on probation for a year.

The second 18-month period, from 2009 to mid-2010, stresses the use of test data to guide classroom instruction. A major theme of third though fifth years is to overhaul special education and completion of a data system intended to give parents real-time information about how their children are faring.

2008/08/10 Posted by | Policy | Leave a comment

Robert Reich: Wages and spending 1973-2008

2008/07/25

The Federal Reserve Board’s “beige book” for June and July offers a clear explanation for why the economy has slowed to a crawl. It shows American consumers cutting way back on their purchases of everything from food to cars to appliances to name-brand products. As they do so, employers inevitably are cutting back on the hours they need people to work for them, thereby contributing to a downward spiral.

The normal remedies for economic downturns are necessary. But even an adequate stimulus package will offer only temporary relief this time, because this isn’t a normal downturn. The problem lies deeper. Most Americans can no longer maintain their standard of living. The only lasting remedy is to improve their standard of living by widening the circle of prosperity.

The heart of the matter isn’t the collapse in housing prices or even the frenetic rise in oil and food prices. These are contributing to the mess but they are not creating it directly. The basic reality is this: For most Americans, earnings have not kept up with the cost of living. This is not a new phenomenon but it has finally caught up with the pocketbooks of average people. If you look at the earnings of non-government workers, especially the hourly workers who comprise 80 percent of the workforce, you’ll find they are barely higher than they were in the mid-1970s, adjusted for inflation. The income of a man in his 30s is now 12 percent below that of a man his age three decades ago. Per-person productivity has grown considerably since then, but most Americans have not reaped the benefits of those productivity gains. They’ve gone largely to the top.

Inequality on this scale is bad for many reasons but it is also bad for the economy. The wealthy devote a smaller percentage of their earnings to buying things than the rest of us because, after all, they’re rich. They already have most of what they want. Instead of buying, the very wealthy are more likely to invest their earnings wherever around the world they can get the highest return.

This underlying earnings problem has been masked for years as middle- and lower-income Americans found means to live beyond their paychecks. But they have now run out of such coping mechanisms. As I’ve noted elsewhere, the first coping mechanism was to send more women into paid work. Most women streamed into the work force in the 1970s less because new professional opportunities opened up to them than because they had to prop up family incomes. The percentage of American working mothers with school-age children has almost doubled since 1970 — to more than 70 percent. But there’s a limit to how many mothers can maintain paying jobs.

So Americans turned to a second way of spending beyond their hourly wages. They worked more hours. The typical American now works more each year than he or she did three decades ago. Americans became veritable workaholics, putting in 350 more hours a year than the average European, more even than the notoriously industrious Japanese.

But there’s also a limit to how many hours Americans can put into work, so Americans turned to a third coping mechanism. They began to borrow. With housing prices rising briskly through the 1990s and even faster from 2002 to 2006, they turned their homes into piggy banks by refinancing home mortgages and taking out home-equity loans. But this third strategy also had a built-in limit. And now, with the bursting of the housing bubble, the piggy banks are closing. Americans are reaching the end of their ability to borrow and lenders have reached the end of their capacity to lend. Credit-card debt, meanwhile, has reached dangerous proportions. Banks are now pulling back.

As a result, typical Americans have run out of coping mechanisms to keep up their standard of living. That means there’s not enough purhasing power in the economy to buy all the goods and services it’s producing. We’re finally reaping the whirlwind of widening inequality and ever more concentrated wealth.

The only way to keep the economy going over the long run is to increase the real earnings of middle and lower-middle class Americans. The answer is not to protect jobs through trade protection. That would only drive up the prices of everything purchased from abroad. Most routine jobs are being automated anyway. Nor is the answer to give tax breaks to the very wealthy and to giant corporations in the hope they will trickle down to everyone else. We’ve tried that and it hasn’t worked. Nothing has trickled down.

Rather, the long-term answer is for us to invest in the productivity of our working people — enabling families to afford health insurance and have access to good schools and higher education, while also rebuilding our infrastructure and investing in the clean energy technologies of the future. We must also adopt progressive taxes at the federal, state, and local levels. In other words, we must rebuild the American economy from the bottom up. It cannot be rebuilt from the top down.

2008/07/25 Posted by | Policy | 1 Comment

Obama’s education perspective: not yet fully formed, not yet modern, not yet bold

http://article.nationalreview.com/print/?q=NDgwNDcwMGYwNDcyZWQwMzMyNTUxMWNlOTRjNDdiMzI

The sky over Washington, D.C., was gray and gloomy this past Saturday when Barack Obama addressed thousands of members of the National Education Association, the nation’s largest teachers’ union, who had assembled several blocks from the Capitol for their annual convention.

Education has not been prominent in the presidential campaign to date and it’s unlikely that will change. Nonetheless, attention must be paid when Obama peddles his education wares to salivating teachers’ union members, who are equally ready to applaud or assail anyone — be he Republican or Democrat, mere mortal or Obama — who challenges their core beliefs.

The NEA always presents a particularly tough crowd for Obama because he sees education as one proven pudding of his bipartisan bona fides. Thus, on Saturday he could not simply recycle union claptrap and tell the NEA all the nonsense it desperately wanted to hear. The question, then, was this: In what way would Obama, in his speech, choose to break from the teachers’ union orthodoxy and thereby shore up his work-across-the-aisle credentials?

In the past, he has tried to do this by supporting the completely reasonable idea, unreasonably attacked by the NEA, that good teachers should receive more money than bad ones. Last year, well before he secured the presumption of presidential nomination, Obama suggested at the NEA convention that so-called merit pay for teachers made sense (for which suggestion he was the recipient of sundry boos). And in April of this year, in a segment on FOX News Sunday, Obama restated that position to host Chris Wallace.

Obama: I think that on issues of education, I’ve been very clear about the fact — and sometimes I’ve gotten in trouble with the teachers’ union on this — that we should be experimenting with charter schools. We should be experimenting with different ways of compensating teachers.

Wallace: You mean merit pay?

Obama: Well, merit pay, the way it’s been designed, I think, is based on just a single standardized test — I think is a big mistake, because the way we measure performance may be skewed by whether or not the kids are coming into school already three years or four years behind.

But I think that having assessment tools and then saying, “You know what? Teachers who are on career paths to become better teachers, developing themselves professionally — that we should pay excellence more.” I think that’s a good idea, so…Paying useful employees more money than lousy employees is indeed a “good idea”; in most industries, in fact, it’s known as common sense. Not so, though, in the American public school bureaucracy in which educators — the good, bad, and ugly — all receive raises based not on which subjects they teach or how well they teach them but on how long they’ve been in the profession. Tenure trumps talent.

Saturday, via video from Butte, Montana, Obama again told the NEA that merit pay made sense, and again boos swelled from the crowd. Good for him. He deserves credit for backing a smart idea. But that in no way proves that Obama has gone against his party or subscribes to his own post-partisan speechifying.

Merit pay may arouse the NEA’s ire and Republicans’ ardor, but it’s hardly a policy out of step with many left-leaning thinkers or with the Democratic party. Last November the liberal Center For American Progress released a report, “The Future of Teacher Compensation,” on the reformation of teacher salaries through merit pay. In September 2007, Democratic Representative George Miller, chairman of the House Committee on Education and Labor, clashed publicly with NEA President Reg Weaver after Weaver opposed any inclusion of merit pay in an updated draft of the No Child Left Behind law that Miller constructed.

Merit pay for teachers is abundantly sensible — so much so, that opposing it is widely seen as batty. The USA Today editorial board wrote last year, “Objecting to merit pay today amounts to opposing a proven tool for making teachers more effective.” The same can be said about charter schools, which Obama commendably supports but which are nonetheless also supported not only by Republicans but by large swaths of liberals and the Democratic party.

And despite his advocacy for merit pay and charter schools, Obama still took from the NEA convention its presidential endorsement after 79.8 percent of the union’s voting delegates backed him.

What else did Obama say to the NEA on Saturday? He said public schools need more money, he said he was a stalwart opponent of vouchers and private-school choice, he said we need 100,000 new teachers, he said we can’t hold teachers and schools accountable without holding parents accountable too, he said we need “better pay for teachers across the board,” and he accused McCain of “recycling tired rhetoric about vouchers and school choice.”

Such elocutions hardly amount to a post-partisan prescription for reforming the nation’s failing schools. Opportunities for Obama to show such post-partisan leadership have arisen– such as last month, when Washington, D.C.’s voucher program (supported by Marion Barry, even) was under attack from congressional Democrats — but the candidate has passed on these opportunities.

Nonetheless, Obama says that in the realm of education policy his actions have demonstrated his commitment to post-partisanship. Such meager efforts as his scarcely merit such claims.

— Liam Julian is a Hoover Institution research fellow who writes frequently about education.

2008/07/24 Posted by | Policy | Leave a comment

Robert Reich: economics approach should be bottom-up

http://robertreich.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, July 22, 2008
A Short Primer on McCainomics Versus Obamanomics: Top-Down or Bottom-Up

McCain and Obama represent two fundamentally different economic philosophies. McCain’s is top-down economics; Obama’s is bottom-up.

Top-down economics holds that:

1. If you give generous tax breaks to the rich, they will have greater incentive to work hard and invest. Their harder work and added investments will generate more jobs and faster economic growth, to the benefit of average working people.

2. If you give generous tax breaks to corporations, reduce their payroll costs, and impose fewer regulations on them, they will compete more successfully in global commerce. This too will result in more jobs for Americans and faster growth in the United States.

3. The best way to reduce the energy costs of average Americans is to give oil companies access to more land on which to drill, lower taxes, and lower capital costs. If they get these, they’ll supply more oil, which will reduce oil prices.

4. The best way to deal with the crisis in credit markets is to insure large Wall Street investment banks, as well as Fannie and Freddie, against losses. This will result in more loans at lower rates to average Americans. (Bailing them out may risk “moral hazard,” in the sense that they will expect to be bailed out in the future, but that’s a small price to pay for restoring liquidity.)

All of these propositions are highly questionable, especially in a global economy. The rich do not necessarily invest additional post-tax earnings in the United States; they invest wherever around the world they can get the highest returns. Meanwhile, large American-based corporations are doing business all over the world; their supply chains extend to wherever they can find low labor costs combined with high output, and their sales to wherever they can find willing buyers. Oil companies, too, are operating globally and set their prices largely at the point where global supply meets global demand. Additional drilling here creates environmental risks for us but generates the same marginal benefits for consumers in China, India, and Europe as we might enjoy (most likely not for a decade or more). Credit markets are global as well, so the beneficiaries of bailouts of large investment banks and lenders are also worldwide while the potential costs (including moral hazard) fall on American taxpayers.

This isn’t to argue that top-down economics is completely nonsensical. America is, after all, the world’s largest economy. So whatever helps the top of it will to some extent trickle down to everyone else here, and whatever hurts the top is likely to impose some burdens all the way down.

But in a global economy, bottom-up economics makes more sense. Bottom-up economics holds that:

1. The growth of the American economy depends largely on the productivity of its workers. They are rooted here, while global capital and large American-based global corporations are not.

2. The productivity of America workers depends mainly on their education, their health, and the infrastructure that connects them together. These public investments are therefore critical to our future prosperity.

3. Global capital will come to the United States to create good jobs not because our taxes or wages or regulatory costs are low (there will always be many places around the world where taxes, wages, and regulatory costs are lower) but because the productivity of our workers is high.

4. The answer to our energy costs is found in the creativity and inventiveness of Americans in generating non-oil and non-carbon fuels and new means of energy conservation, rather than in access by global oil companies to more oil. So subsidize basic research and development in these alternatives.

5. Finally, in order to avoid a recession or worse, it’s necessary to improve the financial security of average Americans who are now sinking into a quagmire of debt and foreclosure. Otherwise, there won’t be adequate purchasing power to absorb all the goods and services the economy produces. (As to “moral hazard,” the financial institutions that did the lending had more reason to know of the risks involved than those who did the borrowing.)

Listen carefully to the economic debate in the months ahead in light of these two competing economic philosophies. And hope that the latter wins out in years to come.

2008/07/24 Posted by | Policy | Leave a comment

Improving Public Schools Hearing

U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and Labor

George Miller, Michael Bloomberg, Joel Klein, Adrian Fenty, Michelle Rhee, Arne Duncan.

George Miller

Adrian Fenty

Michael Bloomberg

Joel Klein

Michelle Rhee

Beverly Hall

Arne Duncan

2008/07/17 Posted by | Policy | 1 Comment

Martin/CNN on Obama and McCain and vouchers

125px-flag_of_the_united_statessvg.png 160px-obamabarack.jpg 175px-raustadt_photo_of_mccain-1.jpg

http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/07/16/martin.vouchers/index.html?section=cnn_latest

” “All I want is for my children to get the best education they can.”

That statement, along with so many others, has been a consistent one that I’ve heard on my radio show and in discussions with parents for years, especially those whose children are stuck in inner-city schools with decrepit buildings and a lack of critical resources.

And for the past 20 years, one of the most talked-about solutions for parents stuck in dead-end, failing schools is to give them the option to use vouchers to send their children someplace where they could get a quality education.”

“But part of the reason why vouchers have been denounced and dismissed is
because Democrats have been far too obstinate on the issue, and have not
listened to their constituents, especially African-Americans, who overwhelmingly
support vouchers…. Obama’s opposition is right along the lines of the National
Education Association, and the teachers union is a reliable and powerful
Democratic ally. But this is one time where he should have opposed them and made
it clear that vouchers can force school districts, administrators and teachers
to shape up or see their students ship out.

“It is unconscionable to ask a parent to watch as his child is stuck in a
failing school or district, and ask him to bank on a politician coming up with
more funds to improve the situation. Fine, call vouchers a short-term solution
to a long-term problem, but I’d rather have a child getting the best education
— now — rather than having to hope and pray down the line.”

“But leaving out vouchers does a tremendous disservice to the parents who are fed up with deplorable schools, and allows school districts to operate with impunity and without any real competition.”

2008/07/17 Posted by | Policy | Leave a comment

Ideologi og fakta

125px-flag_of_norwaysvg.png

http://www.vg.no/nyheter/innenriks/norsk-politikk/artikkel.php?artid=194020

“Høyresidas markedsløsninger gir ikke mer kvalitet og likeverd i skolen. Både privatisering, rangering, stykkprisfinansiering og økt konkurranse fører til større sosiale forskjeller og dårligere resultater. Vi må få fram verdiforskjellene mellom oss og de andre, sier Henriksen.”

Faktum: det har allerede i 30 år vært godt kjent at fravær av valg og konkurranse fører til dårlige resultater og til at elever med foreldre med få ressurser kommer kronisk dårligst ut.  En hel generasjon er gått tapt.

Så lenge Ap/AUF og SV/SUF argumenterer ideologisk og ikke basert på fakta og bruker stadig mer penger med stadig mindre offentlige resultatdata å vise til vil Høyre og FrP med rettferdighet dominere utdanningspolitikken i Norge.  Vi oppfordrer Ap/SV til å følge eksempelet til Democratic Party i USA og gå sine utdanningsretningslinje-synspunkter etter i sømmene, fundamentalt, basert på faktiske erfaringer de siste ~35 årene.

2008/07/15 Posted by | Policy | Leave a comment

Robert Reich on the need for an unemployment insurance guidelines overhaul

Tuesday, July 08, 2008
Why Most Who Lose Their Jobs Don’t Get Unemployment Benefits

The great American jobs machine is grinding to a halt. In response, Congress has just extended unemployment benefits 13 additional weeks, over and above the 26 weeks normally provided. That’s good as far as it goes.

But most people who lose their job these days don’t qualify for any unemployment benefits at all.

How can this be? Simple. In order to be eligible, most states require you to have been working in the job you lost full time, and for a certain number of years.

These requirements made sense decades ago when labor markets were far more stable – when most working people stayed in the same full-time job for years, and only lost it temporarily during the downdraft of a recession, picking it up again when the economy rebounded. And back then, one full-time breadwinner could keep a family whole. In those days, unemployment insurance counter-balanced recessions by keeping money in the pockets of working families.

But nothing is stable about today’s labor market. Every time the economy sinks, employers fire workers permanently. Even when the economy is doing fine, pink slips proliferate — although under these circumstances it’s easier to find a new job. All of which means a growing fraction of the labor force is in a job only a few years.

Meanwhile, full-time jobs are vanishing. More companies are contracting out their work. As a result, more people are doing several part-time jobs, or are self employed. They’re also more likely to be part of a couple whose family depends on two sets of paychecks.

So when times get tough, as they are now — and people lose a job after having it for only a few years or lose their part-time job or lose their client, or one member of a couple loses earnings — a family can be in real trouble. And there are no unemployment benefits, not even partial benefits based on the proportional loss of income from a part-time job, to help them. Or to help counter-balance the economy as a whole.

It’s a disgrace that most Americans who lose their jobs don’t qualify for unemployment insurance. It’s also bad for the economy because unemployment insurance is less effective as a counter-cyclical device. Congress should expand coverage (condition federal UI funding of states) so a majority of American families have some security in these perilous times.

2008/07/8 Posted by | Policy | Leave a comment

The effect of technology and globalization on old K-12 education system

2008/07/2 Posted by | Policy | Leave a comment

Nation-building in America

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/29/opinion/29friedman.html

Anxious in America

Tom Friedman

Just a few months ago, the consensus view was that Barack Obama would need to choose a hard-core national-security type as his vice presidential running mate to compensate for his lack of foreign policy experience and that John McCain would need a running mate who was young and sprightly to compensate for his age. Come August, though, I predict both men will be looking for a financial wizard as their running mates to help them steer America out of what could become a serious economic tailspin.

I do not believe nation-building in Iraq is going to be the issue come November — whether things get better there or worse. If they get better, we’ll ignore Iraq more; if they get worse, the next president will be under pressure to get out quicker. I think nation-building in America is going to be the issue.

It’s the state of America now that is the most gripping source of anxiety for Americans, not Al Qaeda or Iraq. Anyone who thinks they are going to win this election playing the Iraq or the terrorism card — one way or another — is, in my view, seriously deluded. Things have changed.

Up to now, the economic crisis we’ve been in has been largely a credit crisis in the capital markets, while consumer spending has kept reasonably steady, as have manufacturing and exports. But with banks still reluctant to lend even to healthy businesses, fuel and food prices soaring and home prices declining, this is starting to affect consumers, shrinking their wallets and crimping spending. Unemployment is already creeping up and manufacturing creeping down.

The straws in the wind are hard to ignore: If you visit any car dealership in America today you will see row after row of unsold S.U.V.’s. And if you own a gas guzzler already, good luck. On Thursday, The Palm Beach Post ran an article on your S.U.V. options: “Continue to spend upward of $100 for a fill-up. Sell or trade in the vehicle for a fraction of the original cost. Or hold out and park the truck in the driveway for occasional use in hopes the market will turn around.” Just be glad you don’t own a bus. Montgomery County, Md., where I live, just announced that more children were going to have to walk to school next year to save money on bus fuel.

On top of it all, our bank crisis is not over. Two weeks ago, Goldman Sachs analysts said that U.S. banks may need another $65 billion to cover more write-downs of bad mortgage-related instruments and potential new losses if consumer loans start to buckle. Since President Bush came to office, our national savings have gone from 6 percent of gross domestic product to 1 percent, and consumer debt has climbed from $8 trillion to $14 trillion.

My fellow Americans: We are a country in debt and in decline — not terminal, not irreversible, but in decline. Our political system seems incapable of producing long-range answers to big problems or big opportunities. We are the ones who need a better-functioning democracy — more than the Iraqis and Afghans. We are the ones in need of nation-building. It is our political system that is not working.

I continue to be appalled at the gap between what is clearly going to be the next great global industry — renewable energy and clean power — and the inability of Congress and the administration to put in place the bold policies we need to ensure that America leads that industry.

“America and its political leaders, after two decades of failing to come together to solve big problems, seem to have lost faith in their ability to do so,” Wall Street Journal columnist Gerald Seib noted last week. “A political system that expects failure doesn’t try very hard to produce anything else.”

We used to try harder and do better. After Sputnik, we came together as a nation and responded with a technology, infrastructure and education surge, notes Robert Hormats, vice chairman of Goldman Sachs International. After the 1973 oil crisis, we came together and made dramatic improvements in energy efficiency. After Social Security became imperiled in the early 1980s, we came together and fixed it for that moment. “But today,” added Hormats, “the political system seems incapable of producing a critical mass to support any kind of serious long-term reform.”

If the old saying — that “as General Motors goes, so goes America” — is true, then folks, we’re in a lot of trouble. General Motors’s stock-market value now stands at just $6.47 billion, compared with Toyota’s $162.6 billion. On top of it, G.M. shares sank to a 34-year low last week.

That’s us. We’re at a 34-year low. And digging out of this hole is what the next election has to be about and is going to be about — even if it is interrupted by a terrorist attack or an outbreak of war or peace in Iraq. We need nation-building at home, and we cannot wait another year to get started. Vote for the candidate who you think will do that best. Nothing else matters.

2008/06/30 Posted by | Policy | Leave a comment

CHARTERS SCORE – OUTPERFORM AGAIN IN NYC

CHARTERS SCORE

By JAMES D. MERRIMAN

www.nypost.com/seven/06252008/postopinion/opedcolumnists/charters_score_117007.htm

By JAMES D. MERRIMAN

Chancellor has brought improvement via charters and traditional public schools.
Klein: Chancellor has brought improvement via charters and traditional public schools.

June 25, 2008

THE latest New York state achievement exams once again give charter- school students, parents and staff reason to be proud.

New York City charter-school students outpaced their counterparts in the regular public schools on the state English and math exams – the only tests that all kids take.

In math, charter students in grades 3 to 8 attained 84.9 percent proficiency – versus 70.5 percent for the other public schools in the same districts, and 74.3 percent citywide.

On the English Language Arts exam, charter students achieved 67.1 percent proficiency, compared to 53.6 percent for non-charter students in the same districts, and 57.6 percent citywide.

Note, too, that charters’ 84.9 percent in math is up from 73.8 percent last year, while the English score of 67.1 is up from 56.7.

Three other facts stand out:

1) Kids attending charters don’t just outperform students in those districts’ regular public schools: The performance-gap on these exams has steadily widened over the last three years, reaching double-digit margins this year.

2) Charter students’ performance showed significant gains in the middle grades – an area where the city’s traditional public schools have been having particular trouble of late.

In grades 6, 7 and 8, nearly four out of five charter students scored as proficient on this year’s state math exam – versus 61 percent of non-charter public-school students in the same districts, and the citywide average of 66 percent.

On the English test, 63 percent of charter-school students in the middle grades were proficient, compared to 47 percent for the host districts and 52 percent citywide.

3) Charters show great promise for closing the gap in performance between African-American and Latino students on the one hand and white students on the other: More than 90 percent of New York City charter kids are African- American or Latino – yet the city’s charters came within four percentage points of matching the math-proficiency rate of white students statewide.

While remarkable, these numbers aren’t surprising. They mirror the results of each of the last four years – showing that charter-school achievement is a sustained trend.

Charters’ success here doesn’t diminish the improvements that the city’s conventional city public schools have achieved – but it does show that giving parents options pays huge dividends.

Naysayers try to minimize charters’ success by noting that other children in the district don’t benefit from charters, which educate only 18,000 of the city’s million-plus public-school kids. In fact, charters are eager to share their best innovations with traditional public schools.

In the Chancellor’s Empowerment Zone, 10 charter schools work side-by-side with the most innovative new district schools to focus their efforts on what’s working well.

Above all else, when charter schools work well, no children are losers.

Some keys to sustaining the charter movement’s progress are:

* Keep encouraging charter schools and district schools to share space: Thirty-two charters are now housed in district facilities. That’s entirely legit – these public schools serve the city’s neediest kids. And sharing space gives charters and traditional schools the chance to collaborate to make a high-quality education a reality for every school in that building.

Yet some are trying to replace such cooperation with parent-on-parent animus by banning successful charter schools from public space.

* Provide charters with funding to build and improve their facilities: The state law that authorized charters failed to provide funds to build these schools; that’s the main reason charters use space in city Department of Education buildings.

Charters have to use funds from their budget to rent or buy classroom space. Every other public school in New York benefits from generous funding for building (and re-building) schools – regardless of whether the district or school is showing results.

* Let charters operate pre-kindergarten programs and receive funding for it. Charter schools have shown that they raise student achievement – so parents should be able to enroll their children as early as possible in charter-school pre-K programs, like any other public school.

* Reauthorize mayoral control of city public schools: Mayor Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein won high praise for their stewardship of the public-school system. Their successors should have the chance to build on their accomplishments – and that includes encouraging the growth of charter schools.

The high performance of the city’s charter schools shows that something wonderful is within our reach: a system in which our students are all allowed and encouraged to succeed. Now we must forge ahead to make that a reality.

James D. Merriman is the CEO of the New York City Center for Charter School Excellence, a nonprofit committed to increasing the number of high-quality charters in the city.

2008/06/29 Posted by | Policy | 1 Comment

En ny strategi for lærerstanden

125px-flag_of_norwaysvg.png

http://e24.no/kommentar/spaltister/andersen/article2506626.ece

Espen Andersen, Handelshøyskolen BI

Hvis lærerne skal øke sin status og inntekt, må de begynne å oppføre seg som kunnskapsarbeidere, ikke som industriarbeidere slik de gjør i dag.

Det er ikke lett å være lærer om dagen. Streiken i midten av juni resulterte i at arbeidsgiversiden skal tenke over saken. PC-satsinger sliter med variable kunnskaper og dårlig implementering. Elevene og studenter surfer i vei og forlanger stadig mer tilpasset og oppdatert undervisning hvis de skal gidde å følge med. Og Matematikkforbundets test av lærerskolestudenters matematikk-kunnskaper er en årviss og populær grøsser.

Læreren var engang høyt respektert – en av få i bygda med utdannelse, gjerne en mer progressiv innstilling enn prest, fut og lensmann, som representerte en port mot en videre verden for ungdom med evner og motivasjon. I takt med befolkningens stigende utdanningsnivå er ikke lenger lærerskole noe å slå i bordet med. Økt byråkratisering, gradvis overføring av oppdrageransvar fra foreldre til skole, og manglende differensiering har gjort at lærere har falt i status. Når vi beundrer en lærer nå, er det for vedkommendes idealisme og evne til å omgås barn og ungdom, sjelden for sine kunnskaper.

Lærerne er offentlig ansatte kunnskapsarbeidere som leverer en tjeneste det er vanskelig å spesifisere og enda vanskeligere å måle. I motsetning til leger, jurister og teknologer i samme situasjon, har lærerne valgt en industriell strategi for sin interaksjon med arbeidgiver: Kollektive oppgjør, lite differensiering, krav om prosessorienterte retningslinjer slik at man måles på at man har fulgt reglene heller enn oppnådd resultater. Problemet er at man da blir å betrakte som industriarbeidere – som en relativt anonym og utbyttbar innsatsfaktor, som i hvert fall i teorien jobber innenfor en fast arbeidstid og representeres av en ikke-faglig fagforening.

De fleste lærere har imidlertid en helt annen hverdag enn industriarbeidere. De er i praksis ansvarlige for sin egen kunnskapsoppdatering, de tar med seg jobben hjem, både fysisk og mentalt, de forventes å løse problemer på bredt grunnlag og representere skolen utad i mye større grad enn hva noen forventer av en fagarbeider. Men de er ikke kompensert for verken jobben eller ansvaret, og oppfattes ikke i samme grad som kunnskapsarbeidere av verken kunder (foreldre) eller sin ledelse. Fokus er i stedet på omsorg og service – læreren skal løse foreldrenes tidsklemme og sørge for fornøyde barn i en hverdag der foreldrene har mindre og mindre uorganisert tid avkommet.

Lærerne, både i seg selv og deres fagforening, må tenke nytt. Det er på tide å slutte å betrakte seg selv som premisstakere og begynne å ta initiativet – siden intet betyr mer for barns læring enn lærerens kvalitet, er det på tide at lærere begynner å dyrke kvalitet og initiativ fremfor middelmådighet og konformitet.

Skal lærerne øke respekten for sin profesjon og bedre sine kår må de begynne å oppføre seg som de som er godt betalt og/eller høyt respekterte i samfunnet – leger, advokater, teknologer, folk med forretningsutdannelse. Her er noen konkrete tiltak:

Gjør det vanskelig å bli lærer. I dag kan man komme inn på lærerskolen hvis man kan lese og har puls. Lærerne bør insistere på høye opptakskrav og tøff utdannelse, slik at antallet utdannede lærere går ned – men deres kompetanse går opp. Samtidig må man få regelfestet at bare lærere med skikkelig utdanning skal kunne undervise i skolen – først i videregående, deretter nedover til barneskolen.

Få sentralisert skoleeierskapet. I dag er videregående skoler et fylkeskommunalt ansvar og barne- og ungdomsskolen kommunalt. Denne oppsplittingen gjør at faglige hensyn må diskuteres og prioriteres vis-a-vis mange ulike beslutningstakere, med varierende kunnskap om skole og med utdanningsnivå og -kvalitet som et av mange hensyn å ta (og kanskje ikke det som gjør seg best i en lokalvalgkamp.) Fylkeskommunene er i dag en parkeringsplass for folk som ikke får jobb andre steder og roter videregående skole til med distriktspolitiske hensyn og revirtenking. Kommuner underinvesterer systematisk i vedlikehold og oppdateringer. Statlig ansvar for alle skoler flytter diskusjonen og kriteriene dit kunnskapen og pengesekken sitter, hindrer kommuner i å tappe skolebudsjetter til fordel for andre ting, og ansvarliggjør regjeringen på en helt annen måte enn nå.

Lag en faglig basert, alternativ karrierestige. En lærer som ønsker å gjøre noe mer enn å være lærer – å gjøre karriere – har i dag få muligheter uten å bli administrator. Lærerne bør kreve «superlærer»-stillinger, der de flinkeste lærerne får ansvaret for å gjøre de andre bedre. Dette er en parallell til faglig ledende stillinger i andre profesjoner, og gir de flinke lærerne en mulighet til å utvikle seg selv og andre uten å måtte slutte å gjøre det de kan best. Samtidig bør man jobbe for flere faglig baserte spesialiststillinger ute i hver enkelt skole – det gir mulighet for lønnsdifferensiering.

Oppmuntre til private alternativ. Private alternativ til offentlig skole – enten det nå er privatskoler eller lærere som er ansatt i konsulentselskaper og leier seg ut til skoler som trenger hjelp – gir lærerne flere karrieremuligheter, gir en mulighet for de som ønsker mer lønn i bytte for mindre sikkerhet, og er en utmerket brekkstang for å få opp lønninger og betingelser for de ”vanlige” lærerne. Om ønskelig kan jo fagforeningen gjøre en hestehandel som krever fagorganisering for å tillate dette.

Få inn folk med annen høyere utdannelse. Egentlig bør ikke lærerskolen være et studium i seg selv – den bør være en påbygning, fokusert på pedagogikk, til en allerede eksisterende høyere utdannelse. Ved å oppmuntre til rekruttering av folk med annen utdannelse som lærere får man inn folk med profesjonsforståelse og initiativ – og man kan, igjen, drive opp lønnsnivået for de «vanlige» lærerne.

Slåss for arbeidsvilkår i stedet for lønnstillegg. Det er ikke lett å skaffe seg kolektive lønnstillegg – og når det gis, gis det av medynk og ikke av respekt. Lærerne bør i stedet slåss for bedre datautstyr, skikkelige hjemmekontor, fine klasserom, skikkelige budsjetter til skoleturer, og – hvorfor ikke – firmabil og bonusordning. Dette muliggjør rekruttering og bedre leveranser, og man unngår sammenligning med grupper man ikke bør sammenligne seg med. Lønnsøkningene kommer de, som et resultat av tilbud og etterspørsel.

Samarbeid elektronisk om å gjøre skolen bedre. Lærernes største problem er at deres kommunikasjonsform er for forsiktig og for langsom i forhold til samfunnsutviklingen. De bør bruke Internett-verktøy – hva med et dedikert Facebook for alle norske lærere – for å utvikle undervisningsplaner, profesjonsstrategier og undervisningsmateriell som ligger i forkant av det politikere og obskure undervisningsideologier klarer å koke sammen. Neste skolereform bør komme fra lærerne selv i stedet for å bli tredd ned over hodet på dem!

Et kompetansesamfunn krever nye organisasjonsformer preget av initiativ, kvalitetsfokus og aggressiv satsing på faglig utvikling. Er lærernes nåværende organisasjoner klare for den oppgaven?

2008/06/27 Posted by | Policy | Leave a comment

Evolution of school mathematics exercises over the last 50 years

125px-flag_of_the_united_statessvg.png

1. Teaching Math In 1950s

A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is
4/5 of the price. What is his profit ?

2. Teaching Math In 1960s

A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is
4/5 of the price, or $80. What is his profit?

3. Teaching Math In 1970s

A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is
$80. Did he make a profit?

4. Teaching Math In 1980s

A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is
$80 and his profit is $20. Your assignment: Underline the number 20.

5. Teaching Math In 1990s

A logger cuts down a beautiful forest because he is selfish and
inconsiderate and cares nothing for the habitat of animals or the
preservation of our woodlands. He does this so he can make a profit of
$20. What do you think of this way of making a living? Topic for class
participation after answering the question: How did the birds and
squirrels feel as the logger cut down their homes? (There are no wrong
answers, and if you feel like crying, it’s ok. )

2008/06/26 Posted by | Policy | Leave a comment

Schools for teachers flunk math

WASHINGTON (AP) — For kids to do better in math, their teachers might have to go back to school.

Elementary-school teachers are poorly prepared by education schools to teach math, finds a study being released Thursday by the National Council on Teacher Quality.

Math relies heavily on cumulative knowledge, making the early years critical.

The study by the nonpartisan research and advocacy group comes a few months after a federal panel reported that U.S. students have widespread difficulty with fractions, a problem that arises in elementary school and prevents kids from mastering more complicated topics like algebra later on.

The report looked at 77 elementary education programs around the country, or roughly 5 percent of the institutions that offer undergraduate elementary teacher certification.

It found the programs, within colleges and universities, spend too little time on elementary math topics.

Author Julie Greenberg said education students should be taking courses that give them a deeper understanding of arithmetic and multiplication. She said the courses should explain how math concepts build upon each other and why certain ideas need to be emphasized in the classroom.

Teacher candidates know their multiplication tables, but “they don’t come to us knowing why multiplication works the way it does,” said Denise Mewborn, who heads the University of Georgia department of math and science education.

The university was cited in the report for having an “exemplary program,” while nine others met basic requirements. The rest offered too little math coursework or coursework that was considered weak, according to the report.

The University of Georgia requires teacher candidates to take courses to help them understand concepts underlying elementary-school math, as well as math courses not designed for teachers.

The report found significant differences in the number and kind of courses required by each education program.

Education schools also are not being selective enough, the report stated. Most require applicants to take an admissions test, usually around their sophomore year of college. But the test, which typically includes reading, writing and math sections, is far too easy, according to the report.

“Almost anyone can get in. Compared to the admissions standards found in other countries, American education schools set exceedingly low expectations for the mathematics knowledge that aspiring teachers must demonstrate,” said the report.

U.S. children often fall in the middle or bottom of the pack when compared to other students on international math tests.

Jane West, vice president of government relations for the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, said her organization had not received a copy of the report Wednesday. The National Council on Teacher Quality plans to release it publicly at a news conference Thursday.

The report also criticized the tests education students take when they complete their coursework, which are generally relied on by states in granting teacher licenses. In many cases, the prospective teachers are judged on an overall score only, meaning they could do badly on the math portion but still pass if they do well in the other areas.

Since states oversee the preparation of the nation’s school teachers, the report recommends they set tougher coursework and testing standards.

Francis Fennell, the past president of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, said the report fails to examine the math instruction students receive while attending community colleges, where many elementary-school teachers start their higher education.

He also said the study’s authors should have surveyed teachers to get their views on how well prepared they were to teach math.

Fennell, who instructs teacher candidates in math at McDaniel College in Westminster, Md., said a common area of weakness among his students is fractions — the same subject the national math panel described as a weak area for kids. “Part of the reason the kids don’t know it is because the teachers aren’t transmitting that,” he said.

To boost teachers’ understanding of math, the math departments at universities ought to place more emphasis on training educators, Fennell added.

2008/06/26 Posted by | Policy | Leave a comment