A Voice of Reason: Sane Views for a Crazy World

May 18, 2007

The Immigration Bill – What Would Reagan Say?

In the hubub for the GOP to take on the mantle of Ronald Reagan, one has to wonder what would The Great Communicator say about the bill being proposed about illegal aliens. I think he would have supported it.

This is from Otis Graham’s Reagan’s Big Mistake.

While I disagree with the title, I do agree with the facts.

Reagan did have a place in his mind and a rhetoric on the matter of immigration. His was the sentimentalist, Statue of Liberty conception so widely shared among assimilated Americans of his day who could not remember when immigration had been a problem. In one of the few references to immigration in his published state papers covering his eight years in the White House, Reagan displayed in 1984 the then-dominant language of diversity celebration when he told an audience of naturalizing immigrants that immigrants “enlivened the national life with new ideas and new blood,” and “enrich us” with “a delightful diversity.”

I guess The Gipper wouldn’t have minded some of the positive aspects of multiculturalism.

In May 1981, Alan Simpson (R., Wyo.), chairman the Senate subcommittee on immigration, sought to confer with the president prior to Reagan’s scheduled meeting with Mexican President Lopez Portillo in order to urge the administration to keep American options open on immigration. But the meeting lasted only 15 minutes. Reagan listened to Simpson’s views and limited himself to a broad promise of co-operation. Congress therefore assumed the lead in immigration reform, though Simpson, in, the words of a White House staff memo to Reagan, had “indicated his willingness to ‘carry the administration’s water’ on this issue.” They carried different water, as it turned out.

Simpson sensed from his early contacts with White House aides that cooperation with Reagan was shaky. To start with, the president’s newly appointed Immigration Task Force was leaning toward an expansion of legal immigration. One important bias appeared to shape the Task Force’s deliberations from the start. In the words of one White House staffer, “The President is himself a firm believer in a high degree of freedom in immnigration”.

This means that he wanted to “liberalize” immigration policy. If observers had expected a conservative government to shift the policy options toward firmer law enforcement while condemning liberal laxity, they were surprised.

Reagan’s own short message announcing these proposals could have been written by Ted Kennedy. He began with the ritual incantation that “Our nation is a nation of immigrants” which would always welcome more to our shores. But the “Cuban influx to Florida” required more effective policies that will “preserve our tradition of accepting foreigners to our shores, but to accept them in a controlled and orderly fashion … consistent with our values of individual privacy and freedom.”

Hmm… Ted Kennedy and Reagan. Ted Kennedy and Bush. Coincidence, I think not. Reagan and Bush were in many ways true progressives in that they understood that America stands for uplifting the human condition. Despite some of his views, which I disagree with profoundly, I would submit that in many instances, this view is more consistently found in Sen. Kennedy, and his staff, than in many of those current Republicans who think they model Reagan.

Ronald Reagan called himself a conservative, but on immigration, he was not. On this issue, conservative Ronald Reagan, in a moment of critical import, lined up with the liberals, and his historical reputation should reflect this.

As Reagan did, so does President Bush, and for the most part, on this issue, I agree. But maybe that bastion of liberalism the Cato Institute sums it up best.

“Like President George W. Bush today, Reagan had the good sense and compassion to see illegal immigrants not as criminals but as human beings striving to build better lives through honest work. In a radio address in 1977, he noted that apples were rotting on trees in New England because no Americans were willing to pick them. “It makes one wonder about the illegal alien fuss. Are great numbers of our unemployed really victims of the illegal alien invasion or are those illegal tourists actually doing work our own people won’t do?” Reagan asked. “One thing is certain in this hungry world; no regulation or law should be allowed if it results in crops rotting in the fields for lack of harvesters.”

Compare Reagan’s hopeful, expansive, and inclusive view of America with the dour, crabbed, and exclusive view that characterizes certain conservatives who would claim his mantle. Their view of the world could not be more alien to the spirit of Ronald Reagan.

Amen and Amen.

Quote of the Day

With special deference to today’s headlines:

Latinos are Republicans.  They just don’t know it yet.

Ronald Reagan

The Immigration Bill – The Good the Bad and The Ugly

Well after looking over this bill over I think that my initial reaction is pretty well stated, there is a great amount of moaning, wailing, and gnashing of teeth over this bill and the “amnesty” that it offers.  However, as I first thought when reading about this last night, there is plenty in this bill for both sides of the immigration fence, full pun intended, to be upset about, and in a rather devil’s advocate way, since I am not hard core on either side, I have to confess a bit of concern over the hysteria, on the GOP side, and a good deal of humor about the threats of never voting GOP again.  For those who hold that position, fine, do it, and enjoy an even larger DNC run of the Senate, House, and President.  You can kiss your “strict constructionist” goodbye, because if you think that “President Hillary or Barack or Johnny Boy will have the types of judges you prefer, you know the ones that keep Roe v Wade among other ideas valued by the base, but hey, you’ll have made your point known.

In actuality the “best” chance for this bill to not be passed is by the Pelosi led House, which finds it a step in the right – and I know she didn’t mean ideologically – direction.  That’s codespeak for softening what is actually very good in this bill, increasing what is bad, changing the order of operations in this bill’s equation, and then ramming down immigration reform DNC style after the GOP has lost the 08 elections with the aforementioned unholy trinity of candidates waiting in the wings.  Those on the hard right side of the GOP should take notice of that, because if this bill is allowed to fragment the GOP into three or four camps don’t think that the parts of this bill which are good will be kept, and rest assured that the parts of the bill that are unacceptable are going to be greatly enhanced and there will be lots of pork to go around.

The part of this bill which is good is that it offers decent proposals with regard to border security.  The fence is a nice idea, but unless you have lots of patrols, those fences are pretty easy to go over through or under – I’ve seen it done.  The doubling of the border agents is better, and hopefully the NG will be called in for more of a supprting role as had been proposed earlier.  The best part of the bill is the ID system, and if this is enforced it will greatly help ease concerns about terrorism and about illegals entering amok as they do now.  The most important part is it also allows, if enforced, to make sure those here legally don’t overstay their welcome, which is a huge cause of the current 12 million who call the US their illegal home away from home.

The bad would be the enforcement of this bill, and someone prematurely shooting the trigger.  If that happens, this will be 1986 all over again, and worse.  Enforcement will be the key, but the rub is that the current laws aren’t very well enforced.  Maybe the country has awoken, but I’m not holding my breath.

With regard to the “amnesty”, the plan is not unacceptable.  It does offer a path to citizenship but that is 13 years down the road.  What it does provide is that those here, and unless someone wants to cut out all aid and totally rewrite the laws concerning the way these people get aid, or deport the 12 million, and none of those are going to happen, it is likely the best plan that could be cobbled together and make a compromise.

The problem with the GOP base – or certain elements – since I am a lifelong Republican and am not ready to spit upon this bill, nor tear up my GOP Member card – is that they forgot that governance require compromise.  Perhaps if the last Congress had been a bit better at that uniquely democratic feature of our Republic they would be in the majority in at least the Senate.  However, ideologues are forever tied to the Four legs good, Two legs bad mantra.  So, the threats of leaving the Party en masse, and the way off the farm comments about some states trying to secede, I thought that was settled as treason, some love of America there!

The Good: Provides for some reasonable security measures and border control.  Also, sets out a reasonable path to normalization without being an amnesty, look up the word.  It will take 13 years to become a citizen, and will hopefully encourage many to enter legally where they can be monitored, pay taxes and all that good stuff.  The ID program is a strong part of this plan, and is laudable.

The Bad: The path to citizenship or the Z Visa is in effect a Green Card, this doesn’t bother me so much, but that is a bit of an odd inclusion to make one level of Visa which leads to a Green Card just like the card.  Enforcement of this will be tough, and I am not sold that the fence will work overly efficiently.

The Ugly: If enforcement doesn’t work well, and the performance of the last comprehensive immigration reform makes me leary, the situation will be much worse, and again I have little confidence in the ability or the will of this nation to enforce immigration policy laws.

May 17, 2007

Immigration Compromise Bill to Hit the Floor; S*** to Hit the Fan

From the Washington Post.

Sen. John Kyl (R-Az) and Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Ma), and I KNOW some just had an involuntary twitch at just viewing the Bay State’s Senior Senator’s name, along with negotiators from the Administration have cobbled a proposal towards illegal immigration reform. This compromise will likley hit the floor next week, and something may hit the fan much sooner. Like most compromises, this one will be guaranteed to upset more than a few people. The fur will fly, and I must confess a bit of unreasonable glee at the process to unfold before our very eyes!

Senate negotiators reached a tentative agreement yesterday on a broad overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws that would offer virtually all of the nation’s 12 million undocumented workers a route to legal status while shifting migration preferences away from the extended families of citizens toward more skilled and educated workers.

Under the tentative deal, undocumented workers who crossed into the country before Jan. 1 would be offered a temporary-residency permit while they await a new “Z Visa” that would allow them to live and work lawfully here. The head of an illegal-immigrant household would have eight years to return to his or her home country to apply for permanent legal residence for members of the household, but each Z Visa itself would be renewable indefinitely, as long as the holder passes a criminal background check, remains fully employed and pays a $5,000 fine, plus a paperwork-processing fee.

A separate, temporary-worker program would be established for 400,000 migrants a year. Each temporary work visa would be good for two years and could be renewed up to three times, as long as the worker leaves the country for a year between renewals.

I guess this is the amnesty part.

To satisfy Republicans, those provisions would come in force only after the federal government implements tough new border controls and a crackdown on employers that hire illegal immigrants. Republicans are demanding 18,000 new Border Patrol agents, 370 miles of additional border fencing and an effective, electronic employee-verification system for the workplace.

Oh, I have a feeling that most Republicans will be “quite satisfied” with this bill! I can see the cringing already, and I must admit that I am cracking my knuckles with glee over the political free for all this will create in the primary process! But guess what, many Democrats are also less than happy.

The agreement would effectively bring an immigration overhaul to the Senate floor next week, but its passage is far from assured. The framework has the support of the White House and the chief negotiators, Kennedy and Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.). But immigration rights groups and some key Senate Democrats remain leery, especially of changing a preference system that has favored family members for more than 40 years.

“When they say, ‘We’re all in agreement, we have a deal,’ certainly I don’t feel that way,” said Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.).

The new proposal would augment that system with a merit-based program that would award points based on education levels, work experience and English proficiency, as well as family ties. Automatic family unifications would remain but would be limited to spouses and children under 21. The adult children and siblings of U.S. residents would probably need other credentials, such as skills and education, to qualify for an immigrant visa.

To Republicans, the new system would make the nation more economically competitive while opening access to a wider array of migrants. “I think you’ll find the point system to be pretty well balanced,” said Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.).

But to immigration groups, the proposal is a radical break from existing U.S. law, and without changes, they could withhold their support from the final bill.

“We want to see an immigration reform debate on the Senate floor. We want to see this move forward. But we are wildly uncomfortable with a lot of what we’re hearing,” said Cecilia Muñoz, chief lobbyist for the National Council of La Raza.

I confess, that my post is a bit glib on a very serious subject.  I personally believe there is too much amnesty in this bill and not enough protection, but, whose fault is that?  It is the fault of the Congress which was under the control of the GOP with a GOP President to get meaningful legislation accomplished when they held the majorities.  Last year’s bill is looking pretty good right now to many, and I think that the GOP forgot that in a Federal Republic “compromise is needed for effective governance”.  The GOP “could” have compromised from a position of strength, but now they get the icky end of the lollypop.  It’s their own fault if they don’t like this bill.

The GOP Debate was not about Education – A Rejoinder Part VI

This is where I post my own humble conclusions about what I had offered from the body of literature.  It is also where I speak in my own – admittedly not so reasoanble voice.  On this issue I come as close as I ever do to becoming an ideologue.  It is not based upon a liberal or conservative view of the world, but it is based upon a passion which I feel towards teaching children.  I have literally cried when I consider the challenges facing teachers and learners in this present day.  I also believe strongly that in this case in particular Federal intervention was needed, but was also long overdue.  I may later present the legal arguements I brought forward in an education policy class in defense of Federal actions in this traditionally state manner.  I did so from legal rulings in the past based upon Constitutional cases.

Again, my thanks to Maggie’s Notebook and Morewhat.com for posting on this topic.


When faced with these challenges it is understandable that many would throw up their hands in despair.  These challenges may have been exacerbated by NCLB’s requirements of each school possessing highly qualified teachers, and annually holding schools accountable for the measured academic achievement of each student. 

However, an alternate theory may be that NCLB exposed existing inequality in the public school systems across the nation.  While many would say that NCLB is a series of unfunded mandates,  a countering argument can be made; that the federal government stepped into an area that should have been addressed and funded by the states a long time ago.  Candidly, if the problems associated with the education of inner-city poor and minority children were typical of the affluent, predominately white suburbs, one can only imagine how quickly the issues regarding equity in education would have been addressed.  The inferred message that American public schools sent was, as long as the white, affluent, and middle class children of the suburbs are performing well, education is fine.  Poor children, particularly those of color, do not count in the evaluation of school performance.  Those that would refute this supposition should take a look at the lack of a coherent and cohesive policy prior to NCLB to address equity in education; look hard, none existed.

Failure to face the challenges of providing quality teachers and education in hard to staff schools is nothing more than a failure of leadership.  Rather than addressing the inherent fiscal bias, the inherent racism of public perceptions, and unlawful application of federal funding measures, administrators react to the remarkably reasonable mandate that all public schools adequately educate children in the following manner:

“I have difficulty with the standards because they’re so unattainable for so many of our students . . . We just don’t have the same kids they have on Long Island or Orchard Park.” (Superintendent, Buffalo Schools; The Buffalo News, October 21, 2002).

If a school has five subgroups (of students) and four do well, but one fails, the entire school is a failure.  We don’t think that’s fair.” (Reg Weaver, President of the NEA, Whittier Daily News, 5/24/03). 

No matter how these statements are parsed, explained, or justified, they infer prejudice based upon race and financial background.  These statements truly mean, “Some children – particularly those who are poor and are of a different color than the majority – can’t learn”. 

In our society it is a given that all can pass a road test to get a driver’s license.  It is a sad commentary that educational leaders have less confidence in a person’s ability to learn to read, write, and compute mathematics based upon their race and financial background, than they do in their ability to learn how to drive a vehicle, obey laws of operation of said vehicle, and maintain said vehicle as a part of their daily routine.  “What these “leaders” say is heard by parents – about whose kids matter, by students – about how much the educators think they can learn, and by teachers – about if they should consider or even should they try to educate these students” (Education Trust, 2006).  These “leaders” should just exit the door, and not bother coming back.  America’s students, particularly those who need leaders, deserve far better.

            While real leaders may not like some of the implications of NCLB law, it is fair to consider that fifty years ago many did not like the implications of another federal law, Brown v. Board of Education.  There are quite probably difficulties, and areas of the federal law that will require revision.  However, NCLB mandates, at the very least, accomplishes a great deal by the following: (1) Requiring states to perform their gate-keeper responsibility in monitoring minimal teacher quality: (2) Requiring states to measure student achievement by objective standards, and thereby also measure school efficacy; (3) Requiring states to compile data in a disaggregated manner to allow an understanding of various impacts that social setting, economic diversity, racial composition, and other factors have upon student achievement; (4) Promoting equity to the schools which are in most in need; and who for years have been victimized by policies which are inherently biased due to race and economic status; having the cumulative effect of de facto segregation laws, in our public schools.  

Much has occurred with regard to meeting NCLB’s mandate concerning Highly Qualified Teachers in every classroom by the end of the current school year( this was written awhile back).  Clearly, this goal has not been reached by many of the states, and what remedy may be applied by the federal government towards those states and schools in non-compliance has not been determined.  One solution, that at first appears to be obvious, may not be correct.  Simply adding funding, to increase teacher salaries, may not be the best answer.  It is not practical to expect salaries to increase the estimated 25% to 43% that research shows would be needed for many teachers to stay in their current assignment within high need schools.  Trends in education concerning factors inside the workplace, offer a good deal of hope, and may offer a local and internal solution to a problem.  Rather than the traditional approach of throwing money at a problem, which in the case of Title I has been shown to often be ineffective, schools need to investigate what they can do internally to improve their efficacy, such as happened in Milwaukee.

GOP Debate was not about Education – A Rejoinder Part V

Again, I give credit to Morewhat.com and Maggie’s Notebook for bringing this vital area of national policy to the front row.  Although we may disagree upon the implementation of the policy, this topic is certainly worthy of discussion.

This segment will analyze and review the radical reform that the inner city schools of Milwaukee, which was launched under an initiative by then Governor Tommy Thompson, which made me “very” interested in his candidacy, undertook in the late 1990’s and early 2000 years.   This section focuses on what schools are doing to help improve efficiency, effectiveness, and equity.   The latter part of this post deals with “hypothetical” recommendations to be made to the Department of Education, or maybe to a GOP candidate!

The Milwaukee Miracle

While the evidence shows that all is not well with the state of schools meeting NCLB’s challenges regarding teacher quality, there is a basis for hope.  This hope rests upon the basis that quality teachers and sound district policies can make an impact upon children. One of the most startling examples was found in the City of Milwaukee’s public schools.

Analysis of data collected from 1995 to 1998 (Reaves, 2000), from over 228 diverse schools serving over 130,000 students of diverse traits, found that there are associations between school quality, some teaching qualities and student achievement.  This was found to be true in schools where: more than 90% of their student body eligible for free and reduced lunches, more than 90% of the students belong to ethnic minority groups, and more than 90% of the students met or achieved high academic standards, as measured by independently conducted tests.  The characteristics that these schools shared were: a focus on student achievement, clear curricular choices reached by collaborative efforts, frequent assessment, an emphasis on writing, and external, collaborative scoring of work.  Interestingly, consensus on the success of this approach is agreed upon by politically conservative voices (Heritage Foundation) and liberal voices (The Education Trust).  These findings also seemingly echo Hanushek’s findings, concerning factors other than salary, leading to teacher retention and student achievement. 


            From the literature a few findings demand attention regarding current school policy.  The following recommendations should be applied: 

(1) Strict control and regulation concerning allocation of Title I funds to ensure funding lands into the schools that need it the most (Roza, 2005).

(2) Each state setting up grants that encourage teachers to work in schools needing highly qualified teachers the most (Pierce, 2001). 

(3) A longitudinal study, financed by a public agency, regarding the teacher-mentoring program embarked upon by New York City Schools to measure if factors within a particular building can be attributed to teacher retention (Moir, 2006, Hanushek et al., 2004)

(4) Follow up studies of the Milwaukee schools to determine if such factors, concerning school building climate, being embarked upon by New York City Schools, were present in Milwaukee’s schools (Reaves, 2000, Moir, 2006, Hanushek et al, 2004). 

(5)  Longitudinal studies concerning the traits associated by statute with being a highly qualified teacher and teacher efficacy (Walsh, O’Tracey, 2004)

 (6) A commission, similar to those in the 1980’s and 1990’s, bringing together federal, business, state government, and educational leaders to discuss, analyze, and make recommendations to the United States Congress concerning the efficacy of the 2001 NCLB mandates regarding teacher quality in districts that are typically hard to staff.

More to follow!

GOP Debate was not about Education – A Rejoinder Part IV

The fourth in a multi-part rejoinder to a post found on Morewhat.com and Maggie’s Notebook, concerning The GOP Debate, Federal funding of Public Education and NCLB.

This part of my rejoinder to the position that NCLB is not vital policy will concern itself with the lack of teeth in Title I and how teacher retention is not always based on salary, but on other factors found within a particular learning community.

Title I Funding – Putting Teeth in the Title

Part of the solution is supposed to be solved by Title I funding.  While Title I funding is supposed to address these inequities in theory, what happens in practice is often quite different.  Despite enormous growth in expenditures from its early days as part of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s “Great Society”, and the astronomical growth of funding stipulated by 2001 NCLB legislation, in most urban districts a systematic bias is built into district allocation legislation.  This bias supports disproportionate funding for schools in the more affluent neighborhoods (Roza, 2005).   Title I funding is meant to equalize educational funding before state and local funds are brought into the mix of school budgets; these funds supplement, not supplant local funding.  To this day this rationale remains the basis of Title I funding. 

However, the “devil lies in the details”.  Typically, schools are resourced at the central district office level by formulas based upon student enrollments.  An example may call for a teacher for every 25 students and add an assistant principal for every 400 students.  Additionally, schools may be able to add staffing on individual needs of schools.  The number of staff, and staffing accounts for typically 80% of a schools budget, are then converted into dollars spent using average salaries for each type of staff.  While this policy makes sense, it can inadvertently hurt schools within the same centralized system that have a needier population. 

Another problem about this centralized system of resource allocation is in human personnel.  Typically, teachers have choice regarding assignments, based upon seniority, and these choices are often part of collective bargaining negotiations.  Typically, these teachers, who choose to leave, are more seasoned, better educated, better compensated, and are allowed to teach in schools with less need, than their less experienced; less well educated, and lower paid counterparts.  These effects are felt greater in larger districts, typically found in inner-city schools, servicing poorer minority students.  

This type of non-categorical allocation of resources has a devastating effect upon high-need schools, which in effect, nullify the legislative intent of Title I.  This effect was shown (Roza, Hill, 2004) by comparing actual spending in five urban districts, Austin, Texas; Dallas, Texas; Fort Worth, Texas; Houston, Texas; and Denver, Colorado.  It was found that in all school districts, other than Dallas, affluent schools within the same district were funded significantly greater in real dollar value than poor schools within the same system.  The reason for Dallas’ success in its equitable distribution is linked directly to its effective identifier system, in place since the late 1990’s, which tracks student achievement, teacher efficacy, as well as other factors outside the classroom on a longitudinal basis (Hanushek, Kain, Rivkin; 2004).  These findings regarding inequitable distribution of resources are not limited to the cities that were investigated.  Furthermore, districts are allowed to report their salary expenditures on a district wide level, and therefore they can mask the inequities that do exist within their own schools.  The effective result is that money meant to go to schools in need, may not be going where they are most needed, and are authorized to go by Federal statute. The good schools get better, and can be showcased, while poor schools are continually allowed to lag behind.

A casual look into this problem of salary differential may yield a reply that revamping salary structure is the answer to the problem, but this may not be the case.  New York City schools investment in professional development points to other underlying factors, which may be at play, with regard to retaining effective teachers, in hard to staff schools.  Within New York’s Big Five (Buffalo, New York City, Rochester, Syracuse, and Yonkers) districts, teachers in general tend to earn more than the rest of New York State (Loeb, 2000), but they have less qualified teachers.  Also, within the districts, the centralized nature allows for error in allocations, reflected by Roza’s (2004) research.  In spite of large increases in Title I expenditures, and federal mandates concerning their distribution, school districts do not adequately finance and staff individual schools that possess the greatest need, and within these larger districts affluent schools are typically over financed.

It’s not ALL about the Benjamins

Other research (Hanushek, Rivkin, Kain; 2004) adds to the body of knowledge concerning factors regarding school staffing.  In research that attempted to answer why teachers choose to work in certain schools over others, it was found that working conditions matter more than salary to most school teachers.  By utilization of Dallas’ impressive data base, information, concerning teachers and students, is able to be measured using a fixed effect, longitudinal approach, which enables research a better opportunity to isolate competing variables.  The four major areas that influence teachers to remain in a school are: (1) characteristics on the job, including salary and working conditions, (2) alternative job opportunities, (3) teacher’s own job preferences, (4) district personnel policies. 

Strong factors in teacher retention are the opportunities that may exist in the private sector for an individual teacher.  As an example, a math or science teacher typically has more options, which may be financially advantageous, than an English or elementary teacher.  This study under review considered that factor by limiting the subjects under consideration to elementary teachers. 

The major findings of this study were: (1) Teachers transfer from one school to another more often as a reaction to the characteristics of their students and perceived working conditions, more than in response solely to better pay in other schools.  (2) Teaching lower achieving students is a strong factor in decisions to leave Texas public schools. (3) The ability of a school district to retain teachers eases as the teacher progresses within a particular school district.  This is due in large part giving up higher salaries that come from experience within a school district. (4) To retain teachers in urban areas, by just salary adjustment, an average increase of 25% to 43% would be needed.

More to follow…….

GOP Debate was not about Education – A Rejoinder Part III

The third in a likely VERY long series of posts about the GOP, Public funding of education, and NCLB.

Gaps, Gaps, Everywhere There are Gaps

The problem with regard to equity in the nation’s public schools goes beyond merely finding qualified teachers to staff the buildings.  The Education Trust has identified the problems in four general categories (2006).  The first is a teacher gap, which has an inequitable distribution of qualified teachers.  The second area of concern is the lack of uniform standards, which promote equality in learning opportunities due to expectations.  The third area is a gap in the rigor of curriculum in many high-poverty schools as compared to typical schools found in predominately white suburban areas.  The fourth area to be addressed is the funding gap, as evidenced by the CSE lawsuit, where fewer dollars are spent to those schools that have the largest populations of students in need.  The end result of these inequalities is a real gap in performance, and perhaps more dangerously, a disparity in expectation, characterized correctly as “a soft prejudice of low expectations”, by President Bush in introducing NCLB legislation.  This perception is shown by data released by The Education Trust (2006), when it found in a survey of teachers that 60% of all teachers felt that disadvantaged students should be held to lower expectations.  Clearly, this low level of expectation is becoming more of a self-fulfilling prophecy in too many of the nation’s schools. 

Recruiting and Retaining Qualified Teachers, A National Problem

This problem of recruiting, attracting and retaining high quality teachers is not isolated to the “Big Five” school systems in New York; it is a national problem.  In comparison to the largest state in the nation, California, New York’s problems pale in comparison.  California’s problems are heightened by the large proportion of ESL students that their schools need to serve.  Schools in the most crowded and least successful schools experienced large enrollments bumps in the 1990’s, and that factor coincided with a teacher population that was declining.  In 2000, Governor Davis and the legislature dedicated twenty million dollars to recruit, train, and retain the estimated 300,000 teachers that would be needed by 2010 to replace retiring teachers (Pierce, 2001). 

The funds used were earmarked to attract, train, and retain teachers to work in schools that are typically hard to staff; typically these are inner city, high poverty schools.  One of the features was a grant of $20,000 to assist potential teachers in completing their post baccalaureate studies, in a college or university recognized by the California Department of Education.  This served a dual function of attracting qualified teachers to work in hard to staff schools, and to increase their efficacy upon completion of their studies.  After completion of their studies, the new teachers are statutorily required to teach in a needy school for four years.  This initiative has enjoyed success.  Early results, tracking the progress of nearly 1,250 teachers who have participated in this program, have shown increases in teacher efficacy, as monitored by student achievement. 

However, promising these results may be, California’s overall picture is dismal regarding teacher quality in hard to staff schools.  Poor and minority children still do not receive equitable distribution of highly qualified teachers.  Students that live in the areas of highest poverty are twice as likely to be taught by unqualified teachers (Esch, C. E., Chang-Ross, C. M., Guha, R., Tiffany-Morales, J., & Shields, P.M. (2004), and students that are within a minority group are three times more likely to be taught by teachers of low quality.  The outcomes of these students are also related to the incomes, regarding teacher quality.  In the schools where unqualified teachers were the most prevalent, 66% of the students tested, failed exit exams.  Although California’s initiatives are a step in the right direction, it is uncertain if the level of support provided by the legislature will meet the demands of its students.

Other aspects of California’s initiatives are being modeled by the New York City School System (Moir, 2006).  These include in-depth mentoring of new teachers, with a price tag of $36 million.  The collaboration of Mayor Blooomberg, the Chancellor of NYC schools, and the powerful teacher’s union of the city schools, is unprecedented, and will bring about the largest and possibly most aggressive overhaul of a teacher support system on record (Moir, 2006).  How this came about is an inquiry that begs to be answered, and this answer may lie in other research concerning findings in hard to staff schools. 

There are many issues concerning the retention of teacher’s salaries, particularly in hard to staff schools.  One consideration is salary differences between these schools, which are typically urban and have high levels of poor minority students, and their counterparts in the suburbs, which are typically attended by white students with significant differences in wealth distribution.  California schools mirror this disparity, where the average annual salary differential, even with grants included; between teachers in high poverty schools is over $2,500 per year when compared to low poverty schools.  With regard to racial equity, teachers where minority students make up a high portion of the student body, earn over $3,000 less per year, than in schools where non-minority students attend.

GOP Debate was not about Education – A Rejoinder Part II

So much to say about this issue, about which I have very strong feelings.

This is a follow-up from a post from Morewhat.com and Maggie’s Notebook. While I enjoy these blogs immensely, I have a feeling a friendly cat fight may break out. I trust that these fine two blogs will enjoy our agreeable disagreement! 🙂

First off, I will give a disclaimer. I am a teacher and prospective administrator in the public schools. I also support the public school’s mission from a historical and practical perspective. I also will admit that I am probably in the minority of public educators in that I strongly support most of the reauthorization of Title I commonly known as NCLB.

While I feel that there is need of revision in some of the legislation, I would add that with regard to promoting equity in society, and if you work in the public schools, particularly in inner city and rural schools, you know there is a great amount of inequity within this institution, NCLB is one of the most progressive (and I am not a dyed in the wool Conservative) and needed mandates this nation has produced. This will likely be a very lengthy series of posts, and will be gleaned from position papers I have written in pursuit of an advanced diploma in Educational Administration and in papers presented as part of my pursuit of an Ed.D.

In these posts I will be making frequent references to scholarly papers – all of these are empirical studies – no offense to qualitative researchers. I will attempt to be brief.

The first part is an Introduction to NCLB – or why the law came about.

In 2001 the landmark “No Child Left Behind Act of 2001”, (NCLB) was passed overwhelmingly by Congress, and signed into law by President George W. Bush. NCLB includes statutory mandates that require all teachers in public schools to be “highly qualified” (“No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.” 2002) The law further mandates that each state and district receiving Title I funding develop plans with the goal “to ensure that all teachers teaching in core academic subjects are highly qualified by the end of the 2005-2006 school year” (§NCLB, 2002, 6319 (a) (2)). The law also recognized the difficulties facing schools that primarily service low income children.

Research shows that schools with high poverty rates also attract lower amounts of high quality teachers (Lankford, Loebb & Weikoff; 2002). Therefore, a provision of NCLB was added for states to report the average quality measures for those schools with the highest poverty rates and those with the lowest poverty rates. (Sunderman, Kim, 2005). The purpose of the NCLB highly qualified teacher requirements is to make sure that all students are taught by teachers who really know the content of what they teach (U.S. Department of Education, 2004).

The law was also aware that those schools that suffered the highest poverty rates, typically those within inner city school districts, attracted the teachers that were the least highly qualified. Therefore, by statute schools were required to dedicate 5% of their Title I entitlements towards professional development. Furthermore, states were given the ability to receive additional funding by utilization of Improving Teacher Quality Grants. It was intended that this funding be used to aid schools in recruiting, training, retaining, and developing highly qualified teachers. (Sunderman, Kim, 2005)

The Need for Highly Quality Teachers

A large body of research shows that students taught by a highly qualified teacher perform significantly better than those that do not receive such training (Darling-Hammond, 2001; Darling-Hammond & Youngs, 2002; King, Rice 2003; Loeb, 2000; Wayne & Youngs, 2003). Indeed, the quality level of the teacher is the single most important factor in educational achievement, and the effects are cumulative in nature. A well regarded study by Eric Hanushek stated “the estimated difference in annual achievement growth between having a good and having a bad teacher can be more than one grade-level equivalent in test performance” (p.107). Furthermore, it has been shown that those students that suffer from the highest gap in achievement have the greatest need for highly qualified teachers, and that those schools that have the greatest need of these highly qualified teachers lack them significantly more than other schools (Sunderman, Kim, 2005).

Nationally, many schools, including those in New York State, are struggling with finding highly qualified teachers to fill the ever increasing needs of areas that traditionally are at risk due to low student achievement. (Sunderman and Kim; 2005) In most cases the shortages of highly qualified teachers can be found in large urban cities and rural areas spread throughout the nation (Lankford, Loebb & Weikoff; 2002). The challenge of finding highly qualified teachers to fill these traditionally hard to staff schools is increasing partially by other aspects of NCLB legislation (Southeast Center for Teacher Quality, 2005). Part of the NCLB legislation involves measuring annual school performance on the basis of standardized testing. Traditionally, schools that lacked highly qualified teachers lagged behind other schools without such a lack, and some studies suggest the proposed remedies offered by NCLB may be exacerbating rather relieving the disparity in attracting and retaining highly qualified teachers to stay in schools that suffer from low student achievement (Walsh & Snyder, 2004; O’Tracy, Walsh, 2005; Walsh, 2006).

In New York State the greatest area of need for highly qualified teachers is found within urban settings such as New York City and Buffalo (Sunderman, Kim, 2005) Yet, these inner city schools have a much higher proportion on teachers who are not highly qualified working with students than those in suburban areas. Typically the inner city schools service children who are by a great majority, poorer, in greater need of extra resources, have significantly less financial resources, and are composed of significantly more minority students than their suburban counterparts. (Learning First Alliance, 2005) While significant progress has been made in narrowing the wide achievement gap in student performance in New York State in math and language arts (Education Trust, 2004) much more work needs to be done before it can be stated that there is any semblance of parity between the urban schools and those of their suburban counterparts.

More to follow…………

GOP Debate was not about Education – A Rejoinder

Maggie’s Notebook and MoreWhat.com crossposted about the GOP debate and the Federal role in education. I will offer commentary and a Rejoinder.

It is impractical to expect the federal government to solve the education problem in this country. The press release authors could only be addressing NCLB or federal funding, grants and other money related issues as well as any regulations that affect education. And money at the federal level is not what will solve the education problems in this country. At least not the ones about how well educated are children become.

While there is merit into this statement, a countering view would be that the problem is so large, so pervasive, and so institutionally driven by other factors, particularly by forces of race and wealth, that there is “de facto” segregation in our public school system that is not in the interests of local schools to address. This “de facto” segreation offers a two tiered level of opportunity and the only agency that can bring equity to this failed system are the Feds.

Money alone does not educate children. With the exception of disasters or districts that have been poorly managed or somehow deprived of money for infrastructure, money is not what will solve the problem. Education is the process of teaching children how to function successfully throughout their lives. That requires teachers who can teach. Students who can learn. And a support group including but not limited to, a school district, school board, schools with the necessary amenities as well as parents and/or other adults to guide them successfully through the process.

While there is also truth in these statements, they are not at all the full truth, and in fact are much more effective as lies by mixing in a grain of truth. To say that money does not matter is folly. The truth is that funds available, and 75% of funds available to a public school are generated by the local tax base, provide the districts with the ability to support budgets which may include more equipment, better pay for staff members, the ability to attract higher quality teachers and retain them, the ability to have facilities which offer signficant advantages to the students of a particular school. When a person is shopping for a house, one of the first questions that are likely to be asked are the quality of the schools. Schools which have reputations of high academic achievement, typically have a history of offering more services to students who may be designated “at risk”, enjoy bases of commercial and industrial wealth which lower the effective tax rate for the residents of such communities. In 2004 the amount of dollars spent by the United States toward education was less than 1% of the money spent by the Nintendo Game Company on research and development. Is there any wonder why there have been revolutions in the gaming industry, and lackluster change in the environmental and hygeine factors concerning public education? In reality, while money alone doesn’t educate children, try doing so without it.

If the systems, groups and individuals at the state and local level are functioning properly, the federal government has little to do but provide funding and assist in defining universal goals and standards that enhance scholastic achievement and its benefits.

This statement is totally true. However, the state and local systems do not function favorably. It was found by the courts recently that in New York State, the schools of New York City, are funded in an inequitable manner, and the State of New York was ordered to redress this situation.

The success or failure of education in this nation lies squarely on the shoulders of the people at the local level. This fact is born out by the uncanny success of home schooled children. The simple fact is some children achieve a good education and others don’t. Educational spending continues to rise and student performance overall continues to fall or remain level. To say that students are unprepared for college is only part of the story. The same Mr Gates who supports this PR maintains American corporations need to import their talent from other countries. This would indicate his analysis changes depending on who he’s talking to or students are also unprepared when leaving institutions of higher learning. The same institutions graduating students from abroad where Mr Gates seeks employees and are claimed to be too expensive for American students.

The success of “home schooled children” may also be linked to other factors. It is wholly conceiveable that those parents who have the means to school their children in a home environment have the financial means to be able to afford to have a parent who is a stay at home parent. Is it more likely that both of these parents are better educated than the parents who can not afford the luxury of schooling their children at home. Also, if a child is being schooled at home, the adult to child ratio is probably 1:1 to 6:1, although there may be some cases where one parent is teaching more than six children, I am not aware of any scientific studies that have documented this phenomena. In a typical public school classroom the adult to child ratio in a non-inclusion environment is often 25:1 or 30:1. To compare the two is a patently unfair.

There is a great deal more evidence which I will offer shortly, but this post has gone too long already. The followup is coming.

Parents, teachers, students, local and state governments have primary responsibility for our children’s educational success and no amount of meddling by the federal government will change that. The federal government can assist and enhance the education function but the primary responsibility remains at home. The place where home schooled children find success.

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