Friday, August 1, 2014

Ed Shorts: August Edition

Posted By on Fri, Aug 1, 2014 at 11:00 AM

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Time to clear some stories off my desktop that I'll never find time to get to on their own. Most of the mini-stories have links so you can learn more if you're interested.

School is in! Best of luck kids. Best of luck teachers. Best of luck administrators, administrative assistants, bus drivers, custodians, cafeteria workers and anyone I left out. Have a great year, all of you. And parents, give those kids every chance to succeed by being there in any way you can.

Not enough teachers. Fewer experienced teachers. A shortage of teachers in some fields and some geographical areas. Those are problems plaguing Arizona, and we're not alone, as you can see from the NPR story, The Teacher Dropout Crisis. Irony alert: while the conservative "education reform" movement cries "Throw the bums out!" hoping to get rid of bad teachers and replace them with great teachers, it's beginning to look like there aren't enough teachers to go around. Maybe indulging in less teacher bashing and paying teachers a living wage would help.

Waiting for Godot the court-ordered school funding hike. Anyone familiar with the Samuel Beckett play — two men wandering around an empty stage waiting for Godot to show up — knows how Arizona public schools (including charters) feel about now, with Gov. Brewer and Republican legislators swearing they'll appeal the court ruling that says the lege has to come up with $300 million extra for schools now and $2.9 billion over the next five years. Keep waiting, kids, the money may come sometime, after you've gone through a few more years of crowded classrooms, inadequate supplies and teacher shortages.

Yes, sometimes charter school teachers have unions. It's the exception, but teachers at some charter schools have organized and unionized. The latest is California Virtual Academies (CAVA), one of the many K12 Inc. online schools (Ours is Arizona Virtual Academy). Its 750 online teachers have joined the California Teachers Association. Given K12 Inc.'s record of assigning each teacher too many students — minimum 50, sometimes as many as 300 — and its tendency to emphasize retention over academics, this could get interesting.

Vouchers didn't work so well for Sweden. In 1992, Sweden started a voucher program for its kids. Since then, the country's students have fallen in their ranking on international test scores, while voucher-less Finland, which used a different approach to improving its educational system, saw its scores and ranking soar. Are vouchers part of the reason for Sweden's plunging international education ranking? Maybe so, maybe no. But I'm guessing we won't see any more articles from the Heritage Foundation like this one from 2009: Learning from Sweden's School Voucher Success.

A for-profit college chain is being forced to close. Corinthian Colleges has sold many of its campuses and closed others because it falsified records and reports so it would keep getting government funds. This kind of thing has been an ongoing problem with for-profit colleges. What money the government doesn't supply to these colleges in student financial aid comes from student loans, and students are often recruited with false assurances. Arizona's own University of Phoenix is under U.S. Dept. of Ed. review for its financial aid programs, not the first time it's been in trouble for its questionable practices.

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