Too often, the traditional public-school model fails students and teachers. Charter schools, scholarship tax credits, and merit pay are giving students a better education and teachers a better career.
Remember the movie "Network"? I'll never forget that classic scene in which news anchorman Howard Beale decided he was mad as a hornet and just wasn't going to "take it" any more. Well, I'm there.
I'm a public school guy. I attended and graduated exclusively from public schools. My mother worked in a public school. My sons attend a fine public school that my wife and I are very happy with. I've got nothing against public schools. I am, however, opposed to dysfunctional public schooling, and that sadly widespread practice has just got on my last nerve.
Arizona's scholarship programs for children with disabilities and children in foster care have given hope to hundreds of children. Hope for a good education. Hope for a better future. For hundreds of children receiving scholarships this hope has become reality.
Sadly, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne told the East Valley Tribune that their hopes are coming to an end: No new scholarships will issue for next school year.
Later this month the Goldwater Institute will release a study titled New Millennium Schools. I'll use my next few emails as a wonky tease for the study. Here are the first two charts:
So, the United States has very small class sizes, Japan and South Korea have very large class sizes...
Governor Janet Napolitano has very different ideas about education reform from my own, but I have had to confess a grudging respect for her.
In 2006, she went down in history as the first Democrat governor to sign a new school voucher program into law. A few seconds later, she did it again, creating voucher programs for both students with disabilities and foster care children.
Dr. Raj Chopra has made a career of turning around failing school districts. Hes pretty good at it. When he came to Phoenix Union High School District in 2001, the graduation rate was a dismal 55 percent and seven of the 10 high schools were rated underperforming, the lowest classification. By 2006, the graduation rate had climbed to 72 percent and all 10 high schools had achieved a performing plus rating.
The performance of every public school in Arizona gets judged under two sets of standards: the state system (AZ Learns) and the federal (No Child Left Behind). Under the federal system, schools failing to make yearly progress over a prolonged period of time face sanctions such as paying for private tutoring and even closure and reconstitution with a new staff.
Arizona school administrators need not worry about any of that too much, however, as the powers that be have rigged the game in their favor.
Arizona's Constitution strictly limits the amount of taxes school districts can levy. If they want more, they have to ask voters to override the limits. But 19 school districts, including Phoenix, Tucson, Tempe, Mesa, Scottsdale, Roosevelt, Agua Fria, and Window Rock, enjoy an exception that swallows the rule: the so-called "desegregation tax override.
Education reforms DO make a difference.
A prominent Arizona policymaker asked me to compare Arizona and Florida's NAEP scores for non-English language learning students and the results are in. It's clear that taking a combination of new approaches has paid big dividends in the Sunshine State. And given the comparable numbers of non-ELL students in Arizona, it begs the question: Why have Florida student scores skyrocketed while Arizona's remain stagnant?
Rebelling against tedious 12 minute rock songs in 1974, the Ramones invented punk rock by taking 1950s Do-Wop songs and speeding them up to last a minute and half. Music fans have been grateful ever since, even if punk isn't everyone's cup of tea. Spin Magazine voted them second only to some obscure group from Liverpool when ranking rock bands.
In tribute, I offer my own piece of short entertainment in the form of a blitzkrieg summary of our new study School Choice in Arizona: A Review of Existing Programs and a Road Map for Future Reforms.