Education as a Political Pull-Toy?

Just sayin’…

The way education is being treated by mayors in large urban centers–as though it is a political pull-toy–is so objectionable to me that just reading this type of article ties my stomach into knots.

New York City After-School Programs May Be Trimmed in Budget Talks –

The article above, from the NY TimesOn Education column, has the following headline:

Curtailing a Service That Parents Depend On

Within the lines of this piece, columnist Michael Winerip says,

This year, one of the mayor’s most worrisome proposals — and I mean “worrisome” in the sense that he has thousands of blue-collar and poor parents very worried — is to cut back the city’s after-school programs.

Currently, New York finances enrichment programs that run from 3 to 6 p.m. at 454 sites, serving 53,000 elementary, middle and high school students and costing $90 million; the proposal is to reduce that to 261 sites, serving 27,000 children for $71 million.This would save $19 million in a budget of $67 billion, or about a quarter of 1 percent.

Says author Marianne Williamson via Facebook:

The problem isn’t just in New York…it’s national. In Los Angeles, the gifted and talented program is being eliminated, as is all the funding for our prestigious academic decathlon team, which has won 12 national championships! Two entire weeks have been cut from LAUSD’s schedule in the last two years. CA has the worst teacher-student ratio in the nation, and the worst guidance counselor-student ration, and the worst librarian-student ratio. #50 out of 50.

Is this really what we want for American education? Do we want our cities to fail by creating a culture of failure in our schools? I worked in New York, I currently live in Los Angeles. I am mortified that such things are happening in these schools. And this is just a sample, I’m sure.

I am old enough to have experienced any combination of enrichment programs (and lack thereof), either as a young student, a teacher, a parent, a teacher educator, and just an interested citizen. My experience tells me that we cannot touch our educational institutions–especially K-12, where the foundations for life are laid–and expect improvement in our overall lot.

Our children are the ones who will lead our communities in less time than any of us would like to admit. Do we want millions of uneducated thirty-somethings across all our major cities planning for our retirement, determining if we really need social security, or caring if we can get around? Will we reap what we sow if we fail today’s students?

Just something to think about…

It’s time to take education out of the political arena and establish it as a sacred artifact to be treated with ultimate respect, never to be used as a token of leverage by political parties or government legislative branches.

New York City After-School Programs May Be Trimmed in Budget Talks –

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National Education Leaders: Shared Vision for the Next Generation of Teaching

Document Outlines 7 Elements Needed to Transform Teaching

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan says, “The principles outlined in the document represent ways to strengthen and elevate teaching as one of our nation’s most valued and respected professions.”

The document apparently focuses on three main goals: 1) ensuring all students are challenged to meet a high bar that prepares them for college, career, and citizenship; 2) narrowing the opportunity and access gap between more and less privileged populations of students; and, 3) preparing all students to be globally competitive

Here are the seven core principles that make up the elements of achieving these goals. They include

  • A culture of shared responsibility and leadership;
  • Recruiting top talent into schools prepared for success;
  • Continuous growth and professional development;
  • Effective teachers and principals;
  • A professional career continuum with competitive compensation;
  • Conditions that support successful teaching and learning; and
  • Engaged communities

Find the link to the document from which this data came by clicking on the link below:

National Education Leaders Release Shared Vision for the Next Generation of Teaching During the 2012 Labor Management Conference | U.S. Department of Education.

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The Condition of Education 2012

Every year, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) publishes another volume of The Condition of Education. Each volume covers educational issues of interest for the past year, and addresses what I consider fascinating data. Tables and graphs abound, and explanations are clear and unbiased. Want to know the dropout rate this year in comparison to that of 10 years ago? 20 years ago? Want to know how many of them finished college? If the graph is not in this issue, check last year’s. Want graphic depictions of the growth of certain ethnic populations? In any two consecutive volumes, the data are provided as charts, as graphs, as tables, as trending plots–whatever works best for a given reader is right there. Want to know what kids who were in preschool 16 years ago are doing now? There’s a graph for that–along with a table, a breakdown activities, comparisons of family SES at the time, etc.

The minute I am in a position to advise a graduate student on where to start for information on an educational issue, I have them go to NCES and check the latest Condition of Education. Now, most graduate students fear statistics. However, there is so much information provided in graphic form in these volumes, that the reader can easily forget that he or she is “reading” statistics. If more information is needed, there are reports using more sophisticated analysis methods that are available for use in conjunction with or independent of the Condition of Education. I’ve been a regular visitor to and user of the NCES web information for years. This is not just a site to which I send students; it is my own starting point for information relating to any level of education and any topic related to these levels.

Very little of the information in any issue of the Condition of Education is analyzed beyond “descriptive statistics,” giving averages, standard scores, percentiles, proportions, and various measure of reliability. However, that’s a lot of information right there. Plus, NCES gives access to the databases represented by the information so that further analyses can be performed by interested parties.

So. Here we have open access to incredible amounts of information representing not only education but also basic population trends (the Condition of Education always includes census data, data from other government departments–such as labor, and even international data). Yet, media often report on educational issues without background checks for their data, as though the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), the agency that oversees NCES data, had no data to share. The same goes for many academic “reporters” on educational issues and education researchers. Yet, here is a rich site of information that is just waiting to be exploited. And the information covers anything even vaguely related to education.

Here is the description of the newest volume that just came out last week:

The Condition of Education 2012 summarizes important developments and trends in education using the latest available data. The report presents 49 indicators on the status and condition of education, in addition to a closer look at high schools in the United States over the past twenty years.. The indicators represent a consensus of professional judgment on the most significant national measures of the condition and progress of education for which accurate data are available. The 2012 print edition includes indicators in three main areas: (1) participation in education; (2) elementary and secondary education and outcomes; and (3) postsecondary education and outcomes.

Interested in learning more? Here is the link to The Condition of Education 2012.

Check it out!!

And while you’re there, browse the other publications–both printed and electronic–that’s available to you for free. Remember: if you request hard-copy publications, you don’t even pay a postage fee.


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