Solid Foundations Mean More Graduations

Did you know that students who drop out of high school are three times as likely to face unemployment, earn less than half the average salary of a college graduate, and are 47 times more likely to end up incarcerated than college graduates?

In Oregon, a third of public high school students do not earn a standard high school diploma in four years. What if you could do one simple thing to increase a lower-income child’s likelihood of high school graduation?

A study by the U.S. Department of Education shows that children who finish 8th grade in a private elementary school are twice as likely to graduate from high school and to attend and graduate from college.

The Children’s Scholarship Fund is the only national K-8 scholarship organization in the country providing help and hope today to children from lower-income families through a partial tuition scholarship to any private school of their parents’ choice.

Here in Oregon, the Children’s Scholarship Fund-Portland has assisted more than 600 low-income students in getting a quality education. Would you like to help a lower-income child get a head start today? 100% of donations go directly to tuition scholarships supporting lower-income kids in our community. For more information about the Children’s Scholarship Fund-Portland, visit CSF-Portland on the web or contact Cascade Policy Institute.

Kathryn Hickok is Director of the Children’s Scholarship Fund-Portland, which provides partial tuition scholarships to Oregon elementary students from lower-income families.

  • Britt Storkson

    Simply graduating from high school does not mean that one is educated – or even literate. It just means that one has been institutionalized 12 years. Public schools are not required to certify that their students can even read their diplomas upon graduation.

    Throwing money at a failed system that benefits school teachers and administrators at the expense of students is definitely not the answer.

    • scatctpdx

      The design of the program is to allow low income students to escape the public educations system for a quality private education than simply throw more support to a failed pubic education.

    • eagle eye

      Bashing the public schools is popular, but it won’t improve things, nor are private schools a likely answer, not in the big picture.

      Suggest you take a look at the website for the book “Bad Students Not Bad Schools”

      • Rupert in Springfield

        >Bashing the public schools is popular, but it won’t improve things

        Why not? Isn’t identifying the problem usually the first step in getting a solution? by any measure other than teacher pay, our public school system has deteriorated over the past several decades. If pointing this out won’t improve things, Im not sure what will.

        >nor are private schools a likely answer, not in the big picture.

        Why not? Private schools consistently educate better at lower cost.

        Why is it not a likely answer? Just because you popped up and said so?

        That doesn’t make a lot of sense, especially when we know private schools do a better job at lower cost.

        >Suggest you take a look at the website for the book “Bad Students Not Bad Schools”

        Ok, so the refrain a few years ago was schools were performing badly because teachers weren’t paid enough. Now that teachers get paid plenty we are blaming the students?

        Good luck with that one.

        Lets face it, if the students were so terrible, you guys wouldn’t be fighting every voucher program and charter school to hang on to them.

        Clearly you don’t have much of an argument here.

        • eagle eye

          You’re generally not worth responding to. But I will just say that I’m not one of “you guys”.

          • Rupert in Springfield

            >You’re generally not worth responding to.

            Well, the reason why you dont have a response is obvious. You want to protect union jobs, for you this is not about education first, its about jobs first.

            This is why you dont present a lot of reasoning or evidence – because there isn’t any. Union jobs are your concern, and since you like to pretend that is some hidden fact here, you dont want to reveal that.

            You are worried that increasing criticism of public schools will in fact lead to improvement or questioning of the public school system. You are worried that improvement will not include the OEA in its plans. You are worried that any privatization or vouchers will lead to better education by non union teachers and thus more questioning of the public school system itself.

            This is why you can’t give reasoning or evidence, because there isn’t any, its about protecting union hacks.

            You pretend we don’t all know that.

            We pretend you actually might have some rational beyond running the school system as an OEA jobs program.

            >But I will just say that I’m not one of “you guys”.

            Well, this is patently ridiculous since in your own post above you state, with no reason whatsoever given, that private schools are not the answer.

            In other words – that puts you so squarely in the camp of “you guys” (union hacks or friends of hacks who fight vouchers and charter schools) that you are pretty much the flag bearer.

            You dont think private schools are the answer – you dont have a reason why – thus either you have no reason why you feel that way, or want to hide the true reason i.e. protecting union jobs is the motivation, not improvement of schools.

            You is “you guys” and if you think us guys don’t know your you guy status you is crazy.

        • Anonymous

          “Why not? Private schools consistently educate better at lower cost.”

          Four words: small classes and selectivity.

          • Rupert in Springfield

            One word – Ha ha ha ha ha……ok, thats a whole bunch of non words but this one is laughable.

            First of all, small class sizes.

            That’s a joke. Class size has varied through time in our public school system and there have been plenty of times in our history when class size was larger and performance was better.

            In addition private schools very frequently have larger class sizes than public schools. They consistently perform better.

            Class size does help when it comes to special needs or disadvantaged students but for the average student it is not a huge factor.

            Selectivity – This one is truly ridiculous. Parochial school regularly deal with some of the poorest and most disadvantaged students in any city I have lived in. In fact in NYC when this selectivity canard was brought up, the archdiocese offered to let the public schools select who they would send to Catholic schools as part of an experiment to test the validity of the theory. Obviously the public schools backed down very quickly from that one, their bluff had been called.

            No – the reason why private schools perform better is two fold. One, lack of unionization. The students right to an education is held as the higher priority than job security. Teachers can be fired for poor performance. Two, parental involvement. Money is a great motivator, and even if a student is on full scholarship the parents understand that can be withdrawn and their child sent back to public school if they dont perform, Parents are far more involved with their kids education when they are writing out the check, even if it is for $1,000 or whatever fractional amount of the tuition.

          • Anonymous

            I can see what Eagle Eye was referring to when he said you are not worth responding to, your superior tone and hostility don’t serve you well. Regardless, non-words? Apparently not since you were able to respond with your sophistic comments.

            Do you have experience in a classroom? As a teacher? I was not implying that class size is solely responsible for the successes or failures of a given group of students, but to suggest that it is not a factor bespeaks a degree of ignorance on your part. There is nothing to discuss with you on this point.

            Next, you, like many, lump parochial schools in with private schools. This is a half-truth as parochial schools function as quasi-public schools, which are open to all children within their parish, and are quite distinct from private “prep” schools. They are structured in and funded by completely different methods. Most private schools are highly selective with regard to who they grant admission. If you are inclined to debate this point, then there is little reason for anyone to take anything you say on this matter seriously.

            Lastly, I neither made nor will make a defense of unions. And I agree, money is a great motivator. The ritual of writing a tuition check probably does, generally speaking, have a great psychological effect on parents and the demands and expectations they place upon their children. Ironically, it seems you have come full circle and inadvertently supported Eagle Eye’s argument, which, if I understand him correctly, was to essentially hold public school students to higher standards (not to “blame the students” as you so shiftily put it), rather than simply moving them through the system when they are clearly deficient in certain areas.

          • a retired professor

            I can’t speak for eagle eye, but I too have read Weissberg’s book — did I perhaps recommend it, eagle eye, I have recommended it to several people! I know something about both public schools, parochial schools, having attended both. Neither one can work miracles. I think that is probably eagle eye’s point. It is largely Weissberg’s point: the biggest factor by far in educational success is the native ability and the motivation of the students (backed by the parents, of course). It works its way down to questions like discipline. If a populace or society tolerates violent, undisciplined conditions, that will be reflected in the schools. There may be little or nothing the school can do about it, to say nothing of individual teachers. The great advantage of the Catholic schools is that they do have control of behavior. If a student acts up, he knocks it off, or his parents get called in. If they don’t cooperate, the student is out. Same with parental cooperation in academic matters.

            I happen to support charter schools, the whole choice movement, but I don’t expect it to change things overall very much. That is what Weissberg says, too.

            As for union resistance, I think one reason for it is the suspicion — amply verified at websites like these — that the real agenda is to destroy the public schools and, as I thin eagle puts it, trash the teachers. This is a prescription for continued educational decline.

            If school teachers get nothing but contempt and attacks, no sane person is going to want to do it. As I’ve said here before, most science graduates — that is who I taught until recently — want nothing to do with teaching in the K-12 schools. Especially the better graduates. The current environment is only going to make that worse.

          • Anonymous

            “Money is a great motivator, and even if a student is on full scholarship the parents understand that can be withdrawn and their child sent back to public school if they dont perform”

            You just dismissed selectivity as a factor behind private schools’ superior performance, and then you come out with this. You don’t care much about logical consistency, do you?

            Public schools can’t throw out kids who don’t perform. And since the advent of the policy of “mainstreaming” they have to deal with kids of all abilities (and disabilities) in the same classroom.

            I could say a lot of things on this subject but I’m just going to mention one more: Your constant bashing of “unions” as the culprits behind every social ill is tedious — and stupid. Police and firefighters are almost all union members, yet I never see you (or any other right-winger) complaining about how terrible their performance is. How come?

          • Marvin McConoughey

            Rupert says “Class size has varied through time in our public school system…” That is true. In 1900 the pupil-teacher ratio exceeded 35 students per teacher. It fell quite steadily down to about 17 students per teacher in 1991, the last year shown in the U.S. Department of Education publication: “120 Years of American Education: A Statistical Portrait.”

            After WWII, both Japan and South Korea built successful industrial economies while having large class sizes. The more recent Japanese trend to smaller class sizes has been followed by stagnating economic performance. There is no strong connection between class size and student learning.

          • a retired professor

            Interesting that you relate everything to economic performance. I suspect that a violin class with 35 students has something lacking compared to a class with three or one. Those earlier US classes and in Japan and Korea were at a time of much greater regimentation, in education and business as well.

            But the point is basically right: class size generally doesn’t matter so much, except probably in early grades and in some specialized subjects. However, misguidedly or not, smaller classes is what the public seems to want (this is true at private and parochial schools too, by the way).

          • Anonymous

            I never said there was a direct connection between class size and student learning. The connection is between class size and the ability to maintain discipline, and discipline often leads to improved performance. If you really believe that having 35 or 40 or however many children in a room doesn’t make a difference, particularly when we’re talking about K-12, and when today’s teachers have essentially zero disciplinary authority, then I would suggest that you are either living in fantasy land or you’ve never met a child. Anecdotally, when I was in school I remember one (older) teacher who had a paddle hanging behind his desk. The paddle was covered with the signatures of those it had been used upon. Even in my time that paddle had been retired.

            Furthermore, in 1900 what did the curriculum look like? What was the average public school student being trained for? Farming? Factory work? How many students went on to college? Did they have cell phones? Television? The internet? Please, lay some more pieces of educational trivia on us, Marvin. What else does “120 Years of American Education: A Statistical Portrait” have to teach us about the modern pupil?

          • Anonymous

            “What else does “120 Years of American Education: A Statistical Portrait” have to teach us about the modern pupil?” The publication was still available at NCES the last time I checked, several months ago in downloadable form. It has numerous graphs, tables, and narrative discussion of student enrollment in various levels of education, gender distribution trends among teachers, average school days per year over time, graduation percentages, expenditures, etc. The USDE should have made this book an annual publication, but progress stopped following a change of administrations.

          • Anonymous

            Anonymous, my intention above was not to diminish the value of that document, the data contained within, or of statistics in general, but rather to mock Marvin’s superficial analysis of said document. Statistics are meaningless and less than useful without proper context.

          • Marvin McConoughey

            The poster I now reply to says “My intention was … to mock Marvin’s superficial analysis of said document [120 years of American education] … Statistics are meaningless and less than useful without proper context.”

            My reply had identified a reference document that supported Rupert’s belief that class size had varied over time. The context was already established and needed no further clarification. Additionally, I had commented on the class size situation in Japan and Korea. The context was adequately identified as post war, and in two specific nations. My response provided a specific reference source for any who wish to learn more than could be stated in a brief online forum comment. My statement that there is no strong connection between class size and student learning remains true.

          • Anonymous

            Yes, and I still maintain that your analysis is superficial and the context lacking. In order for the statistics cited to have any value we need to address issues of curriculum, authority, discipline, and culture. Comparing pupil-teacher ratios from 1900 to 1991 is only the beginning. The numbers themselves have no meaning.

          • Anonymous

            “In order for the statistics cited to have any value we need to address issues of curriculum, authority, discipline, and culture. Comparing pupil-teacher ratios from 1900 to 1991 is only the beginning. The numbers themselves have no meaning.” I disagree, and see no basis on which we might come to agreement.

    • eagle eye
    • Sybelloa

      Simply graduating from high school does not mean that one is educated – or even literate. It just means that one has been institutionalized 12 years. Public schools are not required to certify that their students can even read their diplomas upon graduation.

      This is true graduating from high school does not make you any smarter than somebody who did not. It does however require at least a small amount of stick to it attitude. It has been my experience that graduates are more likely to stay on the job than non graduates. That however, isn’t 100%. But the majority do. They had what it took to stay in school while drop outs don’t.

  • Marvin McConoughey

    Thanks, eagle eye. One small improvement would be for teachers to grade more honestly. Telling kids the truth about their relative performance promotes parental and student understanding of deficiencies. The new universal national tests now being studied might also hold promise.

    • eagle eye

      Yes, realistic grading would help. I just doubt that the public really wants it. One of the points in the “bad students not bad schools” book by Weissberg is that only a small fraction of the public, maybe 10%, really cares that much about academics, about excellence and high achievement. The rest care more about, say, athletics. That is one reason charter schools and the rest won’t make that much difference in the big picture (Though it might make a difference for individual students if they can get away from the mass of indifferent, dumb students in “bad schools”.)

      The book also goes into, ahem, “changing demographics”. Without going into too much detail, one observation is that if these “bad schools” were suddenly filled with, say, immigrants from China, they would soon become known as “stellar schools”.

      • Anonymous

        “[R]ealistic grading would help. I just doubt that the public really wants it.” I agree. Graduating from high school is a rite of passage for most students and their families. Seat time is usually sufficient to get the diploma. I’ve never seen an international study of grading rigor in K-12 but will read any inputs.

  • Mary’s Opinion

    I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t like to see our school systems and high school graduation rates improve. The local school system is an institution bound by rules established by the sources of funding. All monies come with strings attached. The larger the district the more rules and restrictions are in place for administrators and teachers. No, I’m not defending the folks in these positions but I do think “teacher bashing” is frequently over the top and mostly unwarranted.

    None of you have memtioned the family, parental responsibility, student responsibility or our changing culture. These play huge roles in the success of a student. Our rapidly changing electronic technology is unquestionably a distraction for our young people.

    Several weeks ago in the dairy section of a local Walmart, a young mother with a young child in her grocery cart asked me if the quart of yogurt she was holding was 32 ounces. A few years ago in a Houston, Texas
    TCBY yogurt store, the sale was buy one pint get one pint free. The clerk, in her late teens, did not know there were two pints in a quart. No yogurt jokes please. I don’t know if these young women graduated from high school or not but having this kind of basic knowledge is essential.

    I’m hearing the beginning of talk about more control at the state level – teacher contracts being negotiated at the state level rather than at the local district level – and a change for ESD’s. That will take time and I’m not sure it will be positive change.

    • eagle eye

      Actually, Robert Weissberg’s book “Bad Students Not Bad Schools” makes many of the points you do, about parental indifference.

      I’m not at all surprised about the ounces, quarts, pints.

      • Mary’s Opinion

        Eagle Eye,
        unfortunately it is not just parental indifference, it also the lack of knowing how to be a good parent. I used to tell my children that nobody teaches us how to be good parents. Hopefully, with common sense, our own parents good example and a strong desire, with each child we learn better parenting skills.

  • Anonymous

    The reason high school graduates do better than dropouts has nothing to do with the education or the diploma. It has everything to do with the person. A person with no ambition, no drive to succeed, no willingness to do even the ridiculously small amount of work necessary to pass classes and graduate high school is a person who will display the same lack of drive in a career. If we could use “Matrix” technology and just download all the knowledge learned from high school into this slacker’s brain and hand him a diploma – well, he might have a better shot at getting that first minimum wage job. But a month later, he’ll either have quit or been fired, burned a reference, and soon wind up exactly where he would have been without the education and diploma: a burden on society.

    Why are we continuing to throw money at these problems? We would all be better off accepting the fact that the world needs ditch diggers and encouraging those without ambition to start shoveling and get out of the way of those who WANT to succeed in life. I say stop even trying to help those who won’t help themselves, slash the K-12 budget accordingly, stop handing out welfare benefits, and let nature take its course. We could do most of this at the state level, and when the losers run out of gummint cheese, they can migrate to entitlement Meccas like Kalyfornya and be someone else’s burden.

    Problem solved. Mission accomplished!

    • valley p

      “Why are we continuing to throw money at these problems? We would all be better off accepting the fact that the world needs ditch diggers and encouraging those without ambition to start shoveling and get out of the way of those who WANT to succeed in life.”

      We continue to throw money at education because educated people make more money, stay out of trouble, and contribute more to society. Being better educated, not simply having a diploma, counts for a lot. And anyway, we use backhoes and excavators to dig ditches, and operating machinery also takes education and skill. Times have changed.

      • Anonymous

        Show me a public school that prepares students to use a back hoe.

        And, you fail to address my basic point: better educated people do better, not because they are better educated, but because they are better PEOPLE who CHOOSE to become better educated given the exact same opportunities as given to the dropout.

        You can lead a horse to water…

        • valley p

          Schools teach students to read, write, and communicate. A backhoe operator needs to know all 3. Ditches are not simply dug. They are dug according to a plan, and a backhoe operator needs to be able to read and interpret plans.

          Better educated people are not simply better people. Most kids who drop out come from poor, uneducated families, and many attend our worst schools. Yes, you can lead a horse to water, but if you lead them to stinky, polluted, foul water they won’t drink it.

    • Anonymous

      Problem solved? Maybe if you’re advocating a return to feudalism.

      • Anonymous

        That’s unfair! Feudalism is so much more civilized than these hill apes will ever be! You should be comparing them to stone age savages.

  • a retired professor

    A piece by Robert Weissberg, author of “Bad Students Not Bad Schools”, at a conservative website. On how American education shortchanges the gifted students. Note that he takes a swipe at all sides.

    • John in Oregon

      Hi retired prof

      I wondered how you happened to run across that somewhat obscure article by Weissberg?

      • a retired professor

        The website is called “American Thinker”, it seems to have a bunch of pretty obscure, often over the top, but sometimes interesting conservative writers. I check it every other day or so.

        Robert Weissberg is a retired University of Illinois political science professor. I know him a bit from occasional personal contacts. No, I wasn’t in poli sci. He seems to be a good-naturedly acerbic person who is very happy to skewer people from both left and right, though I think he’s generally of a market-oriented, conservative persuasion. Oh, he also likes to go after university administrators, which endears him too.

        Recently I learned of his book “Bad Students not Bad Schools” and the title and his website struck a chord. Basically, he says that the various miracle cures for the schools coming from all sides haven’t and won’t work — pay for performance, smaller classes, online learning, charter schools, you name it — because they don’t address the basic problem. Which is too many dumb, unmotivated students often (but not always) from bad family backgrounds, in a society that really doesn’t value academics that much.

        He is also aghast at the de-emphasis of education for gifted K-12 students, as in the article in American Thinker.

        I got the book and read it, I recommend it. Or take a loot at the reviews on

        • valley p

          Retired professor, there is a lot of research that points to good teaching (and good teachers) as able to overcome unmotivated students, including those from the poorest households. Those theories are being put to the test in Washington DC, where the current superintendent has adopted a very “market oriented” approach to hiring and firing and rewarding teachers based on measured performance. It will take a few more years to have a better idea if she succeeds, but what she is trying is based on a lot of good comparative research.

          • a retired professor

            I notice that you left out “dumb” from the “dumb, unmotivated” category. (Which really should be dumb or unmotivated.) Very telling! But let’s cotinue.

            Sure, the “best” teachers may make more headway than the “worst”. Of course, the definition of best and worst is difficult. The “best” teacher for little Albert Einstein might be a terrible teacher for the typical dumb, unmotivated student. I know this very well from my own experience! But let’s suppose there is some meaning to the notions of best and worst teachers.

            You still have the problem of coming up with “best” teachers for the vast numbers of dumb or unmotivated students. It’s not easy to clone great teachers. The colleges of education certainly don’t accomplish that! So, for example, rewarding the best teachers to go work in the worst slum schools is going to deplete the inventory of good teachers for the not-failing schools and students. Not a great way to improve overall achievement; it might even lower it.

            Weissberg’s thesis is not that bad students can never be helped, but rather that doing this on a mass scale, with an positive effect on overall achievement, has not been successfully accomplished with the many attempts.

            After all, it’s been, what, 28 years since the “rising tide of mediocrity” report that was going to lead to a transformation of our schools? And the results, though there may be some are not exactly stunning. Lots and lots of things have been tried. The most massive, up until perhaps Obama, being NCLB.

            It will be interesting to see if the Washington DC experiment achieves anything. Perhaps experiment N+1 will work where 1 – N failed, N being a large number.

            One key, of course, is not alienating the current and potential pool of teachers too much. If working in DC means you’re likely to get hacked to pieces by the superintendent of schools, you may find that no quality people will want to go near it. But we’ll see.

            Watch out for unintended consequences!

          • valley p

            “But let’s suppose there is some meaning to the notions of best and worst teachers. ”

            We don’t have to suppose this. There are best and worst everything, from carpenters to doctors to college professors. Differentiation of skill or talent in any field should be taken as a given.

            The real questions are: (1) can we measure talent within teachers? (2) using what methods? (3) can we use these measurements to improve teacher quality? and (4) Is this an affordable and effective and politically palatable way to improve public education, especially for those who are failing at present?

            My answer is I do’;t have a freaking clue. But the present Sup of Washington DC thinks she does, is well into year 3 of her efforts, and time will tell whether this works. Early signs are that it is working.

            “You still have the problem of coming up with “best” teachers for the vast numbers of dumb or unmotivated students.”

            Yes, DC is addressing that by offering better pay to the better teachers to teach at the lesser schools. Money as the main motivator. “Dumb,” aside from being pejorative, is not a helpful descriptor unless you think poor people are inherently dumber than the middle class. Many have tried to prove so. None have succeeded.

            Cloning better teachers probably would not work, because teaching is a learned profession, not one inherited through genes. What they are trying is not only to reward better teachers, but also to understand what makes them better and to copy methods and approaches. Also, they are trying to motivate the lesser teachers in 2 ways. First, by firing those who have consistently bad results (that is a negative motivator). Second by rewarding (mo money) good results. In effect, what they are doing is trying a capitalist type experiment. Conservatives have suggested allowing parents and teachers to choose the better schools as their way forward, and it makes sense up to a point, but has failed politically. DC is trying to focus on the teachers themselves. Reward the better and weed out the worst. If they can overcome teacher and union resistance, it should work.

            I fully agree on your last part. I do not know if N+1 will work. Odds are it won’t, not because it is a bad idea, but because it won’t be given enough time to succeed.

  • a retired professor

    Gee, it looks like you’ve been taking lessons with Rupert.

    ‘ “But let’s suppose there is some meaning to the notions of best and worst teachers. ”

    We don’t have to suppose this. There are best and worst everything, from carpenters to doctors to college professors. Differentiation of skill or talent in any field should be taken as a given. ‘

    You completely missed my point. Better get Rupert to explain it to you. Or give Jerry a call!

    “Dumb,” aside from being pejorative, is not a helpful descriptor unless you think poor people are inherently dumber than the middle class. Many have tried to prove so. None have succeeded.

    This makes no sense at all. Who cares if it’s pejorative. OK, substitute “less intelligent” or “cognitively challened” if it feels better. I suspect Weissberg thought “dumb” would get more attention for his book.

    And NOWHERE did I connect being poor with being dumb. That is YOUR interjection.

    I’m not holding my breath!

    You’re rolling out the old “not even time (or money)” excuse already?! I guess the stimulus experience has made all the liberals jumpy, it certainly seems to have spooked Paul Krugman. Who has gone from sounding like a brilliant lunatic to just a lunatic.

    • valley p

      Equating me with Rupert? Eeek. What did I do to deserve that low blow?

      No, I don’t think I missed your point at all. I responded directly to your question as to how DC plans to get the best teachers to the lowest performing (dumb?) students. Maybe this will work and maybe not. But they have a plan and are implementing it.

      “And NOWHERE did I connect being poor with being dumb. That is YOUR interjection. ”

      Fair enough, I did interject it. But any statistical comparison of schools shows that those populated by low income students fare worse on every measurable level than those populated by middle or upper class students. So you do the math. If one believes that “dumbness” is the causal factor of poor performance, then one would have to conclude poor kids are “dumber” or more “cognitively challenged” than middle class kids. I don’t buy it.

      Yes, time and money both matter. In the case of DC, they have plenty of money by any measure. The issue is whether the present Sup will have enough time to put her ideas into practice and measure the results.

      As for Krugman, yeah, time and money matters in macro political/economics as well. I don’t see him as “spooked” other than like the rest of us liberals, we hate to see the Republicans ride back into power on a still stalled economy that they broke in the first place. I see him making a statistical case for a higher level of federal spending as necessary to mend a stalled economy. He has made that case from the beginning. He backs it up with data.

  • John in Oregon

    Hi retired professor. The question I asked wasn’t quite what I was most interested in. Nevertheless you answered both what I asked and my interest. Thanks.

    With schools I don’t think there is a magic bullet. No focused like a laser solution to the real and perceived problems. So my comments here are more like a shot gun with not much choke.

    In an earlier thread you commented that new graduates are not attracted to the low entry level teacher pay. I agree with that observation totally.

    Suppose we had an equation for K-12 teacher pay. Something like; P=YxDxB+G+C+T where:
    P = Pay
    Y = Years
    B = Base pay ($30,000)
    D = Academic Degree
    G = Steps
    T = Tenure
    C = On going Ed Classes

    Obviously this is an illustration not an actual equation. However it conveys the spirit of the situation. The starting teacher has multipliers for years = 1 and degrees (bachelor) = 1, IE no multiplier, and no step, on going education, or tenure adders. For the teacher with seniority all those things greatly push up pay.

    Moving on from pay, Robert Weissberg’s prospective is simple:
    1] American students are unmotivated
    2] Getting by in an anti-intellectual culture
    3] Mass media, not the school, their primary source of experience
    4] Not interested in learning
    5] Unfamiliar with English and lacking relevant background
    6] Insist that all children are equal (equal outcome, not equal opportunity)

    Obviously that’s a gross oversimplification of Weissberg’s points but will do for now. What he is saying is that many students brings a deficit to the classroom. A lack of desire to learn. There is actually a corollary in the common complaint (excuse?) from administrators / teachers union about the lack of parental involvement. Like all things this has some support. Not the least of which is that the single strongest indicator of a positive student learning outcome is a two parent household.

    Given that view its not surprising that Weissberg supports a focus on talented students and those of high academic achievement. In a way the present system does that anyway with little remorse over high drop out rates.

    So schools tell us they are off the hook. It’s the students and all they, the schools, need is more money. Except.

    In the last 40 years public school employment has doubled, the number of students has risen 9% while the Math, Reading and Science scores have risen not at all. Spending in Washington DC is now pushing $28,000 per kid while only one program ever made any difference in outcome.

    The schools complain of lack of parental involvement. Let me relate a story from years ago. Starting first grade my kid sister was out sick the first three weeks of first grade. The first day back the class was given a test. The sad results, the school told us my sister was unteachable. My mother and father went in to talk to the school. Miss Bickel showed them the material taught in the first three weeks, then my sisters test. She learned none of it.

    She was out sick said my dad. How dare you screechith Miss Bickel. How dare you question our judgment. We are the professionals and you, you are just a parent. You know nothing.

    Unfortunately this is not atypical. Parents quickly learn there is a line a parent may not cross. Yet the schools complain about lack of involvement.

    Well my parents got involved. They pulled my sister out and put her in private school. We ate Spam so she could go to school. I hate Spam, But I ate Spam. My unteachable sister. Well she graduated from college. So much for Miss Bickel being a professional.

    My point here is that often the actions of the school administrations make a clear statement to parents your involvement goes only so far. Do not cross the line.

    Remember that equation? P=YxDxB+G+C+T What’s striking is what is not present.
    There is no term A = Child Ability.
    There is no term S = Students.
    There is no term F = Family / Parents.
    There is no term X = Tax Payers.
    There is no term R = Results.

    So a fair question might be did the system give Miss Bickel much incentive to consider the parents or student? Was Miss Bickel the cause of the “problem”. Or was Miss Bickel one of the victims of the US model of free, compulsory education. A system in which everyone knows that he poor can’t afford to pay for education and there are some parents who don’t understand the importance of education.

    Here locally Rob Kremer has long been an advocate of charter schools. Free from the rigid school rules, more responsive to parents who are free to withdraw and go somewhere else. For some time I thought charter schools were the solution. Oregon connections academy (OCA) is an example. A charter school OCA became an alternative for home schoolers and rural parents. It flourished for several years while the system devised the rules to destroy it.

    I have seen comments here that fully funding public education is vital to economic recovery. Yet I am forced to observe that an educated workforce is one of the most fungible commodities there is. A local example serves nicely here.

    As fonder of Tektronix Howard Vollum recognized an educated engineering workforce as vital to the success of Tektronix. Vollum put in place policies that reflected that belief. For example engineers were free to use company components and facilities to build home / personal projects. Knowledge gained on a personal project was knowledge available for future Tek products. Engineers learned how to run the fab shop and tin benders built home stereos. This was the Tektronix VT (Vollum Tek) period.

    When Tek decided to enter the sound electronics test instrument business they hired the number 1, number 3 and number 4 engineers in the field. The resulting team was tasked with producing a series of test instruments.

    My point here is that an educated workforce is mobile. Free to move to follow opportunity. In fact during this period Tek University (TU) was one of the most respected electronics engineering schools in the country, besting graduates of MIT.

    That team took Tek to prominence in the sound test instrument field. Included was an ultra low distortion audio oscillator and ultra precision analyzer. As they were rolling out the last instrument of the series they sat down for a critique. We did this not so good. We learned this. These other kinds of instruments would be useful. They produced a road map for the follow on instruments. Call that product road map door number one.

    By then Tek was in what I call the Harvard School of Business phase (Harvard Business Tek — HBT). The parts stock was off limits, fab shop closed, etc. Under HBT the sound team learned there was a door number two. The products were released, the team can breakup and find positions elsewhere in the company. They chose door number 3 starting a new company.

    Two other observations. If we think the housing bubble was bad how about the higher education bubble with tuition and spending running up faster than housing prices. All at the time we have a shortage of skilled workers.

    Its not a magic bullet, but I did notice that the only Washington DC school program that ever showed any results was the voucher program that Obama rushed to shut down.

    Finally I would recommend James Tooley “The Beautiful Tree:A personal journey into how the world’s poorest people are educating themselves”.

    In the slums of Lagos, India, Nigeria, Ghana, and Kenya private schools are flourishing. Tooley tested 24,000 school children from all types of schools in Africa, and India. Results were unequivocal. The slum schools out-performed government schools by a wide margin. They performed only a little below the regulated private schools for the middle class.

    ‘There is no mystery about this. Regulated or not, the slum schools work because there is a chain of accountability. “[P]oor parents [are] keen education consumers.” School owners must deliver to their fee-paying customers. They must offer the programs that parents want, and they must deliver results in the government school qualifications exams. And they do.’

  • Marvin McConoughey

    John in Oregon asks “how about the higher education bubble with tuition and spending running up faster than housing prices.” Information is more readily and freely available than at any previous time in history, yet the cost of formal education rises without any apparent limit. Perhaps American higher education should be considered a free trade commodity for U.S. citizens where all states would be forced to compete openly, and without price discrimination based on state of residency. That would increase competition and possibly lead to better cost control.

    • John in Oregon

      Marvin I can see several different aspects to your comments so I’m not quiet which you had in mind when you said > *Perhaps American higher education should be considered a free trade commodity for U.S. citizens where all states would be forced to compete openly.*

      A bubble is generated when unrealistic conditions push up demand, which in turn pushes up cost when market conditions do not justify the demand. I saw a comment that states this nicely. What goes up for no good reason comes crashing back down for very good reason.

      About competition, we have that at Linfield college, Reed, Lewis & Clark College, and University of Portland. All private institutions.

      Like the housing bubble with Freddie and Fannie no down loans we have government pushing up demand. Thus both private and public institutions are impacted. Glenn Reynolds put it this way:

      “The buyers think what they’re buying will appreciate in value, making them rich in the future. The product grows more and more elaborate, and more and more expensive, but the expense is offset by cheap credit provided by sellers eager to encourage buyers to buy. [IE. Government student loans.]

      Buyers see that everyone else is taking on mounds of debt, and so are more comfortable when they do so themselves; besides, for a generation, the value of what they’re buying has gone up steadily. What could go wrong? Everything continues smoothly until, at some point, it doesn’t.”

      Glenn observed ‘A recent Money magazine report notes: “After adjusting for financial aid, the amount families pay for college has skyrocketed 439 percent since 1982. … Normal supply and demand can’t begin to explain cost increases of this magnitude.” ‘

      This is a contradiction in terms as K-12 schools fail because “American students are unmotivated” producing dropout rates as high as 50% while college demand is at the same time up.

      John Ratzenberger brings a different prospective. While K-12 schools fail and higher Ed bubbles Americas need for skilled workers goes unfilled. “America works when Americans are working. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 25 percent of the working population will reach retirement age by 2012, resulting in a potential shortage of nearly 10 million skilled workers. This heightens the price our nation is paying for dismantling so many in-school vocational training programs during the past few decades.”

      “America’s infrastructure is falling apart before our eyes. Municipal water and sewer systems are failing, and more bridges are unsafe to cross. Yet the nationwide shortfall of more than 500,000 welders is causing already-funded repair projects to be canceled or delayed.”

      The American people willingly take on the public obligation of equal opportunity of K-12 education. The bureaucracy twists opportunity into equal outcome while generating mounds of red tape that insure neither opportunity or outcome will survive.

      Contrast today with the Tek U education system, which rivaled any of the large universities. Yes it championed cutting edge research and design engineering skills. It also promoted skilled worker education. Both are necessary.

      Tek began to fail when business school decisions began to pull Tek back from cutting edge test instrumentation in favor of commodity products. Did you know for example that Tektronix produced a 1 GigaHertz real time analog oscilloscope? They did it using those old things called vacuum tubes which made that a double challenge. Those instruments, now more than 40 years old are still in use.

      Yet with all this I see no evidence that common sense is a factor welcome in the education equation. Until that changes and common sense returns there is little hope. I would suspect that with disparate views, both VP and Retired Proff would agree.

      Occasionally there are glimmers of hope. Recently the Illinois State Senate passed a bill that would allow vouchers to students at Chicago’s worst-performing public schools. Now in the Illinois House the bill received committee approval by a 10 to 1 vote.

      Joel B. Pollak observed ‘There was an interesting pattern in the state Senate vote. The voucher bill passed because Republicans teamed up with black and Hispanic senators. The opposition came from white liberals. As the Chicago Tribune observed, “Many Democrats from relatively affluent areas opposed the measure. But a majority of the African-American and Latino senators — those whose constituents’ kids would directly benefit — voted yes.”‘

      Is Vouchers the way to foster common sense? I don’t know but I have seen nothing else that has.

      By the way about common sense. Freddie and Fannie are once again offering NO DOWN LOANS. Oh well.

  • Anonymous

    Good thoughts. Vouchers do offer relief to parents who want their children out of low quality schools. There is some competition, as you point out, in higher education. There would be more if a student could choose among all institutions of higher education without being offered lower in-state tuition. My thought is not a fleshed-out proposal, because the present system has developed around state-subsidy of state higher education. Changes would be difficult.