Today's link is an easy read about a family's decision-making process about whether or not to send one of their children to a private school and what ensued. Of course, this family had the ability to choose, but many do not. As you read, think about the boy's probable fate if he had been born into a really poor familly.
SCHOOL FOR THOUGHT
Click here to find out what happened to New York Mayor de Blasio when he took on some popular New York charter schools. (Hint, it wasn't pretty.)
This speaks to the Ontario education establishment's resolute determination to keep out charter schools - even though they are a nifty way of experimenting with school choice without much risk to students. These educrats are afraid that charter schools will succeed, not that they will fail, and then it will be too late to bar the door.
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Ed Farkas has written a lovely text on high-school algebra, which is freely available from his website. http://edfarkasalg.blogspot.com/. I have been reading it for the pleasure of his lucid explanations, and can commend it to both students and teachers. But the most important lesson he shares is the following from his introduction:
"Learning requires work. Especially in mathematics, science, and engineering, learning requires active work by the student. The reader should have a calculator, and pencil and paper, at hand while reading this book, or any book in math, science, or engineering. Do the calculations shown in the book, to make sure you understand them, and to check if they are correct! Work through the equations, using pencil and paper, to make sure you understand where the equations come from, and the processes applied to them.
"For success in any mathematics, science, or engineering course, the student must read the textbook several times, typically at least three times, over the duration of the course. Unless the student is in the genius category (the author is NOT in this category!), it is impossible to understand and learn in one reading.
"In the present book and in books generally, don’t bog down on points that are not clear. Read on through the whole chapter or the whole book. Get the overview of where the book is heading and what it is trying to accomplish. After this first read-through, go back to any difficult points. You will probably find they are no longer so difficult."
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This afternoon, I sat down to learn JQuery from a grim-looking textbook, a task that has been looming over me. As is my habit, I keep a notebook and work through each example. Yet as my understanding grows, the subject becomes more interesting and fun. Ed is absolutely right.
This is a very interesting TED talk about the advances in science in the area of brain repair. The examples are muscular dystrophy and motor neuron disease, but the possibilities are endless.
A plan to celebrate Canada's prime ministers was recently voted against to the tune of approximately 80% of respondents, with many comments showing contempt for Canada's prime ministers. more
Of course, many of Canada's prime ministers were people of tremendous intellect and accomplishment whose hard work and vision resulted in the creation of a country that is the envy of the world. So why do so many people badmouth them?
The answer may lie in what our children are being taught in history class. Take a look at the Ontario grade 9 and 10 "Canadian and World Studies" curricula. Compare this mush with the International Baccalaureate curriculum and the Advanced Placement European curriculum.
If Ontario students had been taught about the considerable accomplishments of Canada's politicians, they would be more likely to be willing to honour their memories. H/T DW
This new case study of the New Hampshire scholarship tax credit program shows overwhelming parental and student support for the program. Below is a testimonial from the Burke family. I don't think anyone could read what the Burkes have to say and go on opposing school choice. It's a matter of fairness.
"Being the proud parents of twins (later in life), we have experienced the full spectrum of public education. Our daughter was blessed with exceptional intellect and spent years in elementary school not understanding why she had to conform to the pace of her other classmates. Our son was learning at a non-typical pace and was diagnosed as 'learning disabled' in the second grade.
"As parents with limited financial resources we had no choice but to accept the mandates of our public school system. Yet, as parents who questioned the lack of alternative educational options for our children, through due diligence, we were able to locate a small independent school for our daughter that had a most generous scholarship program. Even with this, we had to make major financial sacrifices to allow her to attend.
"Her twin brother continued in public school through junior high and started his freshman year at a large regional high school. Even though he received the available support from the Special Education Department, he was overwhelmed. After having struggled through his first year, he begged us not to send him back for his sophomore year.
"His Individual Education Plan prepared by the Special Education Department stated that he needed the benefit of 'hands-on' education. Unfortunately, the regional school could not provide this. Again we searched for him and found a small independent school that would work within our financial abilities. During his first year, he flourished. He became confident and realized he could do as well as others as a result of the hands-on methods of his new school.
"Everything looked so promising. However, things took a turn for the worse as a result of an industrial accident that left me disabled and our financial condition became dire. We knew that we would not be able to send the twins to their respective schools and dreaded the thought of having to explain it to them.
"We desperately sought funding options yet conventional bank loans were out of the question. During our search for a remedy, we discovered the scholarship program that the Network for Educational Opportunity offers and promptly applied. We have been most fortunate to have been awarded scholarships for the twins that allowed us to work out financial arrangements with their schools, allowing them both to complete their senior year.
"The twins have flourished at their respective schools. Our daughter has obtained high honors and plans to be a veterinarian. Our son has become a respected member of the student body and is well liked by his fellow students and faculty. He plans to be a writer and is already completing his first novel with the support and encouragement of the school.
"We hope that readers will help in any way they can to allow others in need of financial assistance to allow others the opportunity to find the best educational opportunities for their children."
Remember the Bill Murray movie where the weatherman found himself in a time loop and was ultimately forced to re-examine his life and priorities? Well, there is an element of that phenomenon in President Obama's recent charitable initiative to help young African American men. As the linked-to article points out, President Obama begins by ruling out school vouchers, the initiative most likely to help young African American men - even though his own Department of Education has looked into school vouchers and found them to significantly improve academic achievement, high school graduation rates, and college enrollment.
President Obama continues to try to kill the Washington, DC voucher program for poor children, even though the Department of Education found it to be highly beneficial to young African Americans, and even though President Obama is unwilling to send his own children to their assigned neighbourhood school.
It's hard to say what's going on here. Presumably President Obama does care about young African American men. Presumably President Obama is a smart, logical person who looks at the evidence before making a decision. Presumably, President Obama wants the best for his own children.
Yet President Obama is still not connecting the dots. It's clearly time for him to re-examine his life and priorities.
In Louisiana right now, really impoverished parents are able to send their children to a private school if their public school is rated C, D or F by the state. By most accounts, the program is a smashing success, with 93.6% of scholarship families being pleased with their children's academic progress at the new school and 99.3% of them feeling that the new school is safe.
Now, however, the Louisiana Justice Department is seeking to close down the program in the school districts that still have decades-old desegregation orders on thier books - on the grounds that "any change in racial composition would violate the orders".
On the face of it, the Justice Department's action is frivolous, but District Court Judge Ivan Lemelle is on record as being biased against the the scholarship program, saying "the more we take monies away from public schools, the more chances those institutions may go away". Last November, Justice Lemelle denied a motion by the Black Alliance for Educational Options and the parents of children with scholarships to intervene in the case. In January, Justice Lemelle presided over a closed-door session during which the Justice ruled that the parents of children with scholarships would not be permitted even to witness the proceedings.
Too bad these grown-ups care more about their own interests and prejudices than the well-being of the children concerned.
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The Prime Minister, Tayyip Erdogan, is caught in a huge corruption scandal and trying to shut down the internet and shackle the judiciary to contain the damage. He is blaming the corruption stories on a rival Muslim cleric, and his government has ordered the shutting of thousands of private schools run by that cleric's followers. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-26397755
Shutting down Islamic schools? Well things aren't quite what they seem. The Turkish government is in the hands of a religious party, and it is their publicly-funded schools that follow an Islamic curriculum. The private schools being shut down are almost secular, focusing on academic excellence with strong emphasis on science and math.
The graduates of these schools tend to be more successful in life (maybe because they are better educated), and to stay connected with each other. Like all Muslims they have an obligation to charitable giving which they fulfill by donating back to these schools, which creates a virtuous, organically growing cycle. Not unlike Harvard and Yale, or the Quakers of an earlier century. And so these schools have spread around the world, including hundreds in the United States.
Strangely, the cleric at the head of this organization lives in the Pocono mountains, about two hours from New York City. He is opposed to violence, promotes science education, and exhorts women to take off their headscarves. http://www.newrepublic.com/article/116044/fethullah-gulen-turkish-prime-minister-erdogans-biggest-rival
It's a delicious story: Turkish Muslim private schools spreading around the world. It unites Islamophobes, xenophobes, competing religious schools, shabby public schools, nervous governments, anti-school-reform cranks, anti-terrorist blow-hards, Nationalists, uneducated left-behinds, elites looking back over their shoulders, bigots, bloggers, cranks, and conspiracy nutters of every stripe. In other words, all of us.
The schools are, of course, a secret conspiracy. They deny the shadowy underground organization guiding them. They resist demands for transparency, deny their links the secret movement, and won't tell what their aims are. That's the clearest signature of a conspiracy. Yes I am being ironic, but that's exactly how it was reported in the Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/largest-charter-network-in-us-schools-tied-to-turkey/2012/03/23/gIQAoaFzcS_blog.html Google "Hizmet Schools" and you will find every flavor of internet cockroach.
Except that these hundreds of excellent schools are the best hope that Turkey has for escaping from poverty. In dozens of countries, these schools are beacons of hope and excellence. Most of the US schools are top-performers although a few are in the news for the wrong reasons.
This story has many uncomfortable parallels with social, economic, religious, political, civic, education, cronyism, and corruption issues here in Ontario.
The Fraser Institute has just released its annual report card on Ontario secondary schools and, as this newspaper article reports, the Toronto District School Board has continued its five-year streak of coming dead last of all the GTA school boards. The chairman of the board trots out the usual excuses - they get more poor, special-needs, and immigrant children than the other boards - but of course the immigrant kids on average do better than native-born Canadians, so that's not much of an excuse. With regards to the special-needs excuse, one has to wonder how many of the special needs are the result of inept teaching in the early years - not exactly a face-saver. And the last paragraph in the article demolishes the poverty excuse. Our very own Doretta Wilson is quoted in the article, making many of these points.