ONE DOWN, TWO TO GO The North Dakota House defeated a state Department of Education plan to force homeschoolers to take the state accountability tests. The vote was 87-2 against. Now, if only Wyoming and Montana will fall into line. (What is it with these Plains states, anyway?)
OK, YOU'RE A CYNIC According to the Education Gadfly, states are gaming the NCLB Adequate Yearly Progress plans they have to file with the feds. At least two states have set it up so that they have to show most of their progress in the last couple of years.
[H]alf the total gain to be made by Ohio and Indiana students will—if you believe it—be made in the last three years of the NCLB timetable, from 2011 to 2014.

To believe that this approach is plausible, you have to believe that academic gains will be made in U.S. schools at an accelerating pace, indeed that as the going gets hardest—moving those last, toughest kids over the hump to proficiency—the rate of improvement will speed up. Does that sound right to you?

What I think is going on, cynic though you may call me, is that clever folks in at least two states figured out that, by the time 2011 rolls around, none of them will be responsible any longer. They'll all have moved on to new jobs, retired to their ranchettes, taken high-level posts in Washington, whatever. Nor will anybody from the Bush Administration still be in office after January 20, 2009. Hence the immense achievement gains being promised for those last three years of the NCLB timetable will be somebody else's problem to deliver.
WELCOME TO THE REAL, REAL WORLD Eva Tushnet at JWR posted a nice column on the "S"-word. Here's a sample.
Homeschooling, by contrast, enmeshes students in the real "real world," where there are babies to be fed, where people still recall the Great Depression, and where every stage of life and learning is represented. Homeschooling avoids the monolithic teen-culture, providing a wide array of models for kids to emulate. Natural hierarchies like age and experience are much more evident, and so there is less pressure to form hierarchies based on superficial or damaging attributes. Children whose better qualities or talents are overlooked by their peers are likely to find that other age groups are more open to what they have to offer--for example, a shy boy might blossom when teaching a younger student; a girl who often seems defensive and snobby might mellow when she finds an adult who appreciates her intellectual talents.
Defintely worth a read.

UPDATE: OK, so I'm slow. Isabel Lyman blogged this one the other day.
TEE HEE Alice Bachini on the school system:
[M]aybe the school system as educator is bound to fail because it's just an outdated Victorian tool of something-ist oppression that is well past its sell-by date in any civilised half-literate country? Just a thought.


WYOMING UPDATE Senator Sessions is not backing down on her terrible homeschooling bill. An additional bit of info- she's a public school teacher. Why am I not surprised?
''I would like to say to home-school parents that I would never, ever do anything that interferes with your right to educate your child,'' said Sessions, who is a career educator.
This bill is designed to interfere with homeschooling.
The sticking point is a provision in the bill giving the state superintendent of public instruction the authority to administer WyCAS, a state-sponsored grade level test, to home-schooled children.

Assessment reports would be given only to the school district and the child's guardian. If a child scored below the proficiency levels established by the assessment, the guardian would have to submit a remediation plan to the school district.

Opponents say that the bill violates the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

But Sessions said the act does not speak to states requiring home-school students to take a state test and only exempts home-school students from taking the National Assessment of Educational Progress.
Here's a quote from the NCLB Act.
(b) APPLICABILITY TO HOME SCHOOLS- Nothing in this Act shall be construed to affect a home school, whether or not a home school is treated as a home school or a private school under State law, nor shall any student schooled at home be required to participate in any assessment referenced in this Act.
Is this Clintonian English? "Any" means "any". It does not mean the NAEP, otherwise Congress would have said the NAEP. This provision was placed in NCLB at the behest of homeschoolers who wanted to make sure that states would NOT get any bright ideas about testing homeschoolers. Well, perhaps, no one can accuse Senator Sessions of having any "bright" ideas but stupid ones are apparently in season in Wyoming.
Still, Sessions is hopeful that the bill will make it out of committee and onto the Senate floor by the end of this week or early next week.

''This bill would give the state a way to track a child's education,'' she said. ''It's our responsibility to do that, as a state and as a nation.''[emphasis added]
This is now a national issue. If this interpretation of NCLB is allowed to stand, we will all be forced to administer the state tests to our kids. Guaranteed. Wyoming homeschoolers, HSLDA, NHEN and all other homeschooling activists. Please use whatever influence you have to stop this before it gets out of committee. Otherwise, we're going to have to fight this same battle in 49 other states.
WITH GOVERNMENT DOLLARS... come government strings. The NCLB Act requires schools receiving federal money to provide military recruiters a list of their students names, phone numbers, and addresses. Private schools are exempt. Some parents are whining about this:
Laurie Sellick, the mother of a senior at Firestone High School in Akron, is uncomfortable with the schools' giving anyone -- especially the military -- easy access to her son. She is equally troubled that students in private schools are off limits.

``I believe the (law) should be for all students, across all racial and socioeconomic barriers. If you do it for one, you have to do it for all,'' she said.
Tough! I've got nothing against the military but let them get their spam addresses like any other "business". I'll do whatever I can to protect my children's privacy. Besides, the law lets parents of public-schoolers opt out if they choose.
LOL! Cathy Henderson rips aparts a Washington State Resolution "recognizing" homeschooling.
DELAWARE ITEM HB 39 provides for a $500 income tax deduction if the credit is not already taken on the Federal Income Tax form. Don't bother asking if it applies to homeschoolers- it doesn't.
Section 1. Amend § 1106(b), Title 30 of the Delaware Code, by adding thereto a new paragraph as follows:

"(9) For individuals who are employed in a teaching or teaching support position, amounts not to exceed $500 which have been used for the purchase of goods or services used in or for classroom instruction if the same has not been previously taken by the individual as a deduction on their federal income tax form. For the purposes of the modification pursuant to this paragraph, no documentation shall be required by the Division of Revenue."
ALMOST A NEWBIE This young mother of five in Louisiana is considering homeschooling. She's given it a lot of thought (more than we did before jumping in).
All these elements converge, and I am left with a deep sense of duty, calling, and mission. Which of these is paramount, I do not know, and this brings me to my greatest obstacle thus far: “Am I considering homeschooling for pure and right reasons?”
A good blog.
IT'S CONTAGIOUS Isabel Lyman linked to an article detailing how Cal State- Long Beach is bringing freshmen up to "proficient" status in math and English. But check out this quote from the chief academic officer:
The problem, he said, is the students' lack "of ability to read critical (sic) and with comprehension. It constitutes 90 percent of the failure of students in this area."
And, perhaps, the other ten percent is due to chief academic officers who can't speak English? I'm sure he was misquoted. Yeah, that's the ticket.


UNSCHOOLERS The Southern Policy Law Center project "Teaching Tolerance" has a very positive article on unschooling in Tennessee.
CLOSE BUT NO CIGAR The Purdue student paper editorialized today in favor of treating homeschooled students the same as non-homeschoolers. Terrific! Factually, though, the editorial leaves a bit to be desired:
In 1998, the Higher Education Act made universities who admit homeschooled students ineligible for federal funding, but still allowed homeschooled students the opportunity to receive financial aid. This has caused many universities across the nation to openly question not only the fairness of the Higher Education Act, but the preparedness of homeschooled students as well.
The Higher Education Act never banned homeschoolers from attending college. The problem was some admissions officers were (mis)interpreting the Student Financial Aid Handbook in a way that prevented "underage" homeschoolers from being enrolled. HSLDA lobbied the U.S. Department of Education for a clarification which was issued on November 27, 2002.
An institution can admit most home-schooled students as regular students without jeopardizing its eligibility to participate in the Title IV, HEA student financial assistance programs. The Department considers that a home-schooled student is beyond the age of compulsory school attendance if the State in which the institution is located does not consider the student truant once he or she has completed a home-school program.


GEEK CHIC Here's a periodic table that provides lots of info for each of the elements along with some graphics and animations. Pretty entertaining (if you're a chem-nerd or homeschooling one).
GO, BOILERMAKERS This article starts out recounting how homeschoolers are facing discrimination in college admissions due to confusion among the admissions officers. They really should know by now that the schools will not lose federal funding if they admit homeschoolers. Purdue has apparently gotten the message.
[F]or those hoping to enroll at Purdue, there is no difference in the criteria that must be met for admission between those who are home schooled and those who attended an accredited high school. Indiana Department of Education dictates Purdue's admissions policies.

"In the state of Indiana, a diploma issued from a home school is a recognized diploma," said Doug Christiansen, director of enrollment. "There is no difference."

He said as long as a home-schooled student meets the admissions requirements they are eligible for enrollment.

"We, as an institution, have evolved to make sure that all requirements are the same for all students," said Christiansen.

Joyce Hall, director of the division of financial aid, said the same thing holds true for financial aid.

"It's a level playing field," she said...

"We are seeing increasing numbers of home-schooled (students) that are very, very prepared."

THIS IS COLLEGE? What a waste of tuition money:
Butler University students taking David Luechauer's business classes may have to put a colored dot on their foreheads for 10 days -- a diversity lesson.

They may invent the "superhero" they'd like to be. Or perhaps crawl on the floor while making animal noises -- freeing their inhibitions.

They're asked to write, stage and perform a play and create collages representing their past, present and future...

In his organizational behavior class, students often break up into small groups to share ideas. When they address the class, they stand. "Hi," the class says in unison. "Hi, class," the student responds, After each finishes talking, Luechauer calls for a round of applause.

On Thursday, the 32 students roamed the room, examining one another's collages and telling those in their group of their past and whom they want to be.
This would look stupid if 5th graders were being asked to "perform" this way. At the college level, it's just criminal.
DELAWARE ITEM Keep an eye on HB 21 which provides for free tuition at Del Tech for certain Delaware residents.
Residents of Delaware shall be provided an opportunity to minimize the use of loans to pay for educational costs by attending the Delaware Technical and Community College tuition free provided:

1. the individual graduated from any high school public or private located in the State of Delaware;

2. the individual was a Delaware resident at the time of graduation;

3. the individual graduated with a cumulative average of 85% or higher or equivalent GPA of 3.0 or higher on a scale of 4.0; and

4. the individual is accepted and enrolled as a full technology student as defined by Delaware Technical and Community College at one of the four campus locations no later than the fall semester immediately following the individual’s high school graduation; and

5. the individual, prior to completing the first two weeks of studies at Delaware Technical and Community College, applies for a Federal Pell Grant, and for all appropriate financial aid programs administered by the Delaware Higher Education Commission.
Provisions 1. and 3. are troubling. Provision 1. falls into the same "private" vs. "non-public" debate that we've discussed before. [For readers not familiar with DE law, the state sometimes tries to differentiate between "non-public" schools and "private" schools, although on what basis that differentiation is made remains a mystery]. Provision 3. appears that it could discriminate against homeschoolers who do not issue grades.

I think we need to fight for an exception to Provision 3 for homeschooled students; if they can get in the school, they should qualify.


WITH FRIENDS LIKE THESE... Our enemies might as well throw in the towel now. Skip Oliva, in his guise as President of the Citizens for Voluntary Trade, has penned a terrific letter to the Wyoming Senator who authored the absolutely awful homeschooling bill from the other day. A snip
[N]othing in the Wyoming Constitution grants the state authority to regulate home-educated students. To the extent the state has any authority over education, it comes from Article 21, § 28, which authorizes the legislature to maintain “systems of public schools,”that must be accessible to all students. This authority, however, does not confer a limitless power to compel the attendance of students. Indeed, Article I, § 23 recognizes the “right of citizens to opportunities for education.” These opportunities are not limited to those provided by the state. Parents retain the basic right to create their own opportunities and direct their child’s education, a principle affirmed by the United States Supreme Court in Pierce v. Society of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, 268 U.S. 510 (1925). The Wyoming legislature may not, as a matter of state or federal constitutional law, unduly interfere with a family’s right to home education.
Read the whole thing. And, while you're clicking around on the CVT website, consider subscribing to their journal "The Rule of Reason."
BLOGGER BUSTED I can't publish through the normal blogger interface. I've gone to a back-up which invariably screws up my archives. Sorry.
GOOD LITTLE DRONES Here's another story about how wonderful pre-school is for kids. This school has no data but just knows that pre-K is so terrific they expanded the program.
"The kindergarten teachers indicate they can identify those youngsters who attended the preschool," he said. "They are more prepared for group experience."
Translation: They do what they're told and sit quietly at their desks. Bah!
WHY SCHOOL? There's all sorts of interesting info in this short National Post (Canada) article about some schools switching to a four-day week. First off, data indicate that there is no significant difference in student performance between those who attend four longer days and those on a traditional five day schedule. But, there are significant benefits:
"It's a no-brainer," Teresa Rezansoff, board chairwoman, said of the 20% financial savings in custodial and busing costs. Also, teacher and student absenteeism in the first semester has dropped by 40%, student discipline problems by 80%, she said.
Nevertheless, some parents and educrats are opposed.
Victoria resident Jaime Matten, a single mother, juggles parenting and working full-time. Her seven-year-old daughter, Ellah, is in Grade 2.

"I have a lot of sympathy for the school boards in that they've been dealt a crappy budget, but I don't think this is going to assure the quality of education. It's solving short-term budget problems and causing long-term problems.... It's hard enough to make ends meet now, not to mention a full day of daycare."

Schools in Halifax and Prince Edward Island considered the four-day school week, but decided against it.

"I see the four-day school week as an economic measure almost exclusively. I don't think it stands the test of being good for kids academically," said Bob Brown, superintendent of the Regina School Board.

He said inconvenience on families is a real issue.
So, we see the real reason for having public schools- "free" child care.

This issue would make for an interesting debate: Parents of kids in the public schools would likely favor keeping the current system; parents of kids in private schools, homeschoolers, and empty-nesters would probably go the other way because of the significant tax savings. The deciding factor might be the teachers' unions. Would they opt for the status quo or prefer to have the kids four days with one day for "teacher planning, professional development and some extra-curricular activities?"


A NEW BLOG I've added Alice Bachini's blog to the blogroll. Check it out- interesting stuff.
DELAWARE ITEM The News-Journal has an op-ed today on the state's budget mess. Some of the ideas are pretty good (including vouchers) but at least one makes no sense to me.
Stop building and funding libraries that aren't part of neighborhood schools. This has caused a costly duplication of resources.
What does one have to do with the other? Public libraries are open to all. School libraries obviously aren't. Public libraries may not be mentioned in the Constitution, but they do date back to the founding of the country. They are integral to having an informed citizenry. This is just a dumb idea.
A RIDDLE Q: When can a student opt-out of a "high-stakes" test? A: When the reporter is confused.
Although it is their right to choose not to participate in the high-stakes test, school administrators do not like to see students opt out, because a large number of waivers would compromise the school’s standing in a statewide "accountability system" based solely on test scores.
I think this is a mis-use of the term "high-stakes", which, AFAIK, refers to the ramifications for the students. If they can opt-out at will, this is a "no-stakes" test.
TENURE DEBATE The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has an interesting aticle on the pros and cons of granting tenure to public-school teachers. It's labelled an "opinion" piece but I couldn't figure out which side the paper was taking.
A ROLE MODEL Here's what a pro-life activist had to say about the future of the pro-life movement.
Weyrich sees the fight over abortion more in terms of the larger skirmish over American culture. "We cannot put our faith in the Republicans or anyone else until we change the culture," he said.

Change might require that the pro-life community "do what the home-school movement did," Weyrich added. "They withdrew from a completely deficient environment and spared their children the dreadful things that are going on in public schools today."

"We can't expect to send our kids to the movies produced by Hollywood today and think that it won't affect them," he added.
While homeschoolers aren't looking to change the culture, I (now) understand the analogy, although I'm not sure it's 100% on target. Weyrich believes the abortion battle is going to be a long one and won't be won until the culture is changed through the kids. He wants to "protect" children from the culture at large in order to eventually win the abortion fight when these kids grow up. Now, I'm all for protecting kids from a harmful environment; that is a major part of homeschooling. Where we part ways, though, is that homeschoolers aren't necessarily doing this to further some political end 20 years from now.

NOTE: I have purposely tried to keep the tone in the post neutral. This blog is not "about" abortion, so let's not start any flame wars, ok?


A BAD BILL When the legislature's in session, keep your eyes open- you never know when a state will challenge Pennsylvania for the dubious distinction of having the worst homeschooling laws. Stepping up to the plate today is Wyoming Senate File Number 110 [pdf file]. This proposal is so bad (how bad is it?), that the best thing I can say about it is that major portions would be thrown out as a violation of the NCLB Act. Here's the offending section:
It shall be the responsibility of every person administering a home-based educational program to submit a curriculum to the local board of trustees each year showing that the program complies with the requirements of this subsection, specifying the name and grade level for each child receiving home-based instruction, program content areas and the student performance standards for each content area included within the curriculum. In addition to the curriculum, the person administering the program shall file with the local board a portfolio for each child receiving home-based instruction, providing evidence of academic achievement at the end of the first semester of each academic school year.

(c) In addition to subsection (b) of this section, if a child is withdrawn from public school and placed in a home-based educational program, the parent or guardian of the child shall within ten (10) days after the child is withdrawn, notify the appropriate local board in writing of the withdrawal and grade level of the child. Notice shall include the home-based educational program curriculum, program content areas and sequence plan for implementation, as specified under subsection (b) of this section.

(d) Each child receiving home-based educational program instruction shall be assessed under the statewide assessment system in the subject areas and at the grade levels specified under W.S. 21-2-304(a)(v).


JERK! What makes this Univ. of Wisconsin professor an expert worth quoting?
"I support the right of people to educate their own children, but I strongly believe it has very negative effects on society," Apple said. "I would not want home-schoolers to be admitted [to college] with any less evidence over another student."

...He noted the problems with standardized tests being that any student could theoretically take test preparation courses and receive a high score, which does not necessarily qualify an individual for admittance. He did stress, however, the importance of using a wider array of evidence in admissions decisions when dealing specifically with home-schooled students.
Test-prep courses are that good? This should be news to the psychometricians in the audience.

In a way, I agree with the professor. With the exception of transcripts/diplomas (which are meaningless), hold homeschoolers to the same admissions criteria as the public-school graduates. I have no fear that on a level playing field, homeschoolers will shine.

For a bonus quote, we have this:
UW professor Beth M. Graue oversees admissions within the School of Education and said she has never seen an application of a student who was home-schooled during their high school years. However, she strongly believes that the "very same criteria" should be used when deciding whether to admit a student to the university regardless if he or she has been home-schooled or not.
There's probably a reason that the Ed School doesn't get any homeschoolers. Maybe because the kids are too smart to fall into the public-school morass?
TESTING REALLY IS BAD FOR KIDS It burned down this kid's house and got him arrested:
A 14-year-old Long Island boy - who defiantly set school tests that he had failed on fire and tossed them out his suburban bedroom window - accidentally torched his home when the wind blew the blazing embers back into his room.
Take that Kim! :-)
BETTER DEAD THAN RED Er, Green. This UK school has banned teachers from marking students incorrect answers in red ink and will use green, instead.
Critics have condemned the change as "politically correct" and "trendy".

But Penny Penn-Howard, head of school improvement for Sandwell Council, said: "The colour of the pen used for marking is not greatly significant except that the red pen has negative connotations and can be seen as a negative approach to improving pupils' work.
What about kids who are red-green colorblind? They might still feel the "negative connotations". Let's just do away with marking incorrect answers completely; that way no one can have their feelings hurt.


QUICK! HIDE! First we were being targeted. Here's the logical next step, of course.
They [the school district] also tell us they want to capture some of the hundreds of students who have chosen home schooling options.
BURY IT North Dakota wants to force homeschoolers to take the state accountability tests. Not surprisingly, they don't want to. The article waits until the very end, though, for this:
[T]he No Child Left Behind act specifically says that state assessment testing cannot be required for home schoolers. So..the bill is expected to fail in the house... and that's good news to Barbara Jo's family... and the hundreds of others like hers in the state.
A SNOWBALL'S CHANCE IN PHOENIX? Three Republican members of the AZ state legislature are proposing to give homeschooling families a $1500 tax credit. Arizona, like most states, is facing a huge budget deficit, so chances of this passing are not good.
COMPULSORY ATTENDANCE A Montana bill would increase the compulsory attendance age from 16 to 18. Homeschoolers are worried that it will interfere with their efforts to homeschool.
HEHD UPDATE CNN.com picked up the "dads involved in homeschooling" article for their Education page. It's the same article as before but this is the first time that I recall CNN even mentioning homeschooling.


TAKE COVER! This headline is ominous: Homeschoolers, cyber students targeted. The article is about a school district marketing on-line courses to homeschoolers. Whew!
PHENOM This little girl will graduate as valedictorian from SUNY- Stony Brook at the age of 13. In her spare time she's a concert clarinetist and has earned a black belt in karate.
FIRST AMENDMENT UPDATE The straight-A student who was facing suspension for for making a racist remark on the internet has been granted a reprieve. He will not be suspended.
Houston Independent School District spokeswoman Heather Browne said the school backed away from suspending Huang because officials wanted to protect his right to free speech...

Nonetheless, Browne said, the principal could have suspended Huang based on a provision in the student conduct code that prohibits any activity that disrupts class.

"The fact that what he wrote was copied and distributed was technically a disruption of the educational day," she said.
Huang has been ordered to write an apology.
Huang, who did not attend classes Tuesday, said he agreed to write a statement for teachers to hand out in class.
Let me get this straight. He faced suspension because something he wrote was copied and handed out in the school, thus disrupting the class. Yet, he is being ordered to write something that will be copied and handed out by the teachers, thus disrupting the class. Makes sense to me!
I WONDER IF SHE KNOWS any homeschoolers. This Mom is at the end of her rope. Her third-grade son is struggling and is already in special ed classes.
I know he's healthy, sweet, and cooperative. I know he has a creative mind that processes information differently.

Yet, I also know that the milestones of school have confounded him at every step. I sigh when I find his spelling lists and homework sheets in his backpack, knowing that it's going to be another long night.

On especially challenging days, I let my dread of the looming homework mingle with my rising fears. How will he ever learn calculus and Shakespeare if he struggles so in third grade?

AN ALMOST GOOD IDEA WARNING: There are lots of caveats and assumptions ahead. OK, assuming that we are going to have public schools and that the federal government is going to be involved in the same, using a market-based approach to fill the chronic shortage in math and science teachers is probably a good idea. Assuming, of course, that the teachers who agree to teach math and science actually know a thing or two about the subject.
President Bush wants to more than triple the aid offered to college graduates who agree to teach math, science and special-education classes in poor schools, enough for many to wipe out their federal student loans.

Bush's coming budget proposal for fiscal year 2004 would forgive up to $17,500 in debt for teachers who enter fields known for chronic teacher shortages and fast turnover.


ANOTHER GOOD REASON TO HOMESCHOOL USAT has a column up on how poorly the public schools serve extremely bright children. Middle schools can identify these kids but typically have no classes or programs advanced enough to satisfy them.
With all of the talk of failing schools these days, few consider that schools can shortchange their highest scorers, too. When I recently asked several former talent-search participants who scored more than 1,000 on the SAT what their schools did with their scores, most seemed puzzled by the question. A typical response: ''What could they do? I was already in honors math.'' These bright students expected to be horribly bored, even in courses aimed at the top quarter of the class.

Their schools, flaunting honors English and maybe seventh-grade pre-algebra, were also blasé about providing more. Stephen Shueh did well enough on the SAT as a seventh-grader to be able to cover algebra and geometry during a talent-search program he took the next summer. He came back to eighth grade -- and went right back into algebra class.
THEY ALREADY ARE The SF Gate has a tongue-in-cheek proposal to turn the schools into prisons since the Correctional Department is not facing budget cuts.
YOU SAY POTATO Just as our Kindergartens and pre-K's are becoming more-and-more academically rigorous, Singapore is heading in the exact opposite direction:
All pre-schoolers will soon be taught through play, activity, discovery and experiment - methods already in use at many private kindergartens here.

...Pre-school teachers say the new programme may produce children who do not write or colour as neatly as the typical PCF [public school] product.

But it is likely to turn out more confident children, eager to learn and able to communicate easily with teachers and classmates alike.
I think this is a perfect example of my problem with the schools. One of these two government school systems is wrong. Either 5-year-olds learn best by playing and being kids or by being good little drones sitting at their desks doing worksheets (Does my bias show through here?) But, that doesn't stop the educrats from plowing ahead at full speed. I imagine that the truth lies somewhere in between: Some kids will prosper with withsheets while others need to play. One size clearly does not fit all. This is why homeschooling works so well. We can tailor the "school" to the kids, instead of the other way around.
ANOTHER FLAVOR This is a pretty positive article about a private school in which the kids work at home two days a week. At the bottom of the article is a decent FAQ (Florida based).


49 MORE AND WE'RE SET The President of the Montana state Senate is a homeschooling dad. He and his wife pulled their kids out of the government schools while he was school board chairman. And, how's this for a homeschool civics lesson- he often has his son at the Senate chambers running legislative errands.
IRONIC, AIN'T IT? A teacher named Browning has been fired because he allowed a student to bring in a toy gun for use in an art class. The irony here is that John Moses Browning was the inventor of several machine guns in the early 20th century. No word if the toy gun in question was an automatic weapon nor if the teacher is a relative of the inventor.
APATHY I'm sure I should be all worked up about the North Carolina Child Fatality Task Force Final Report. But, I'm not.
Of the five recommendations concerning home schools that were discussed, four involved the collection of data about the potential abuse that may occur in home schools. Members say this research is a way for the committee to determine whether home schools are harboring abused children, and to decide whether future legislative action is necessary. These recommendations include: 1) In any case of abuse, including fatalities, the Department of Social Services (DSS) should record what type of school (public, private or home) the child under investigation attends and this information should be placed in the Central Registry for future analysis; 2) Medical examiners should include the type of school a child attended in their report of a child’s death; 3) When Child Protective Services (CPS) is conducting an investigation of a home school family, they should ensure that all state requirements for home schools are being met, including whether the school is registered and has attendance records, end of year tests and immunization records. If these requirements are not met, the home school should be reported to the home schooling office and noted as a risk factor for children; 4) Staff at the state home schooling office should receive training in recognizing and responding to neglect and abuse. The task force unanimously agreed to pursue these recommendations.

The fifth recommendation, one that would require legislative action, was not approved but was set aside for further research. It would require all home schooled children to receive the same number and type of physical examinations as other school children. The mandated examinations were characterized as a way for an “objective observer” to examine children who, if being abused, may not be seen by anyone outside the family. After deliberating, the committee decided that this idea requires further study before being recommended to the General Assembly.

UPDATE: I just realized that this is not the Task Force's Final Report but recommendations from a sub-committee with the awful name "Intentional Death Committee."


JUST BECAUSE YOU'RE PARANOID... Here's yet another story on mandatory pre-schools- this time for 3-year-olds in "state care".
[S]tate Sen. Frederica S. Wilson said Saturday that she would introduce a plan in the upcoming legislative session requiring all 3-year-olds in state care to attend preschool.

Her idea, she said, is to add another person who would be keeping tabs on the child.
And who's keeping tabs on the teachers?
NO MORE P0RN I already get enough p0rn spam so I hesitated to blog this article. The subject is an important one and on-topic so I'll put up a link and hope for the best. WARNING: The article is fairly frank in its discussion of youngster's sexual practices.
FOREWARNED IS FORE-ARMED The rhetoric for mandatory pre-school is starting to ratchet up. Some claims-
-- Preschool graduates have fewer referrals to special education or remedial classes.

-- Preschool alumni are less likely to repeat a grade and more likely to graduate from high school than non-preschoolers.

-- Children who attended preschool show greater social and emotional maturity than peers who didn't. They have lower incidence of illegitimate pregnancy, drug abuse and delinquency. They are more likely to play sports, attend church and participate in volunteer activities.
The article provides no data to back any of these and I find them difficult to believe. And, then there's that pesky correlation/causation problem. Even if all of the claims were true, there is no guarantee that pre-school is the causative agent. Assuming that there are any data to back up these claims, I'd like to see that they controlled for other external factors such as income.

I have come to the conclusion that there is an organized effort to force the compulsory attendance age lower and lower. I am not normally a conspiracy theorist but this trend has me worried.


ONE FOR MICHAEL PEACH Here's a profile on how dads are becoming more proactive in homeschooling. Included in this article are several "Home Educating House Dads".
ANOTHER ONE FOR THE FILE The lede says it all.
An Issaquah High School senior who emerged from a brawl Tuesday bruised, beaten and requiring more than 100 stitches in his face has put out a call for peace between his school and its rival, Mount Si High School.

Jason Kauweloa, 17, was hospitalized after a fight broke out in the High Point area among dozens of teenagers from Issaquah and Mount Si. The violence followed a tense basketball game the previous Friday when Issaquah eked out a 66-63 victory on Mount Si's home court in Snoqualmie.
WHAT 1ST AMENDMENT? Schools continue to trample on students' First Amendment rights: A Houston student faces suspension and possible loss of his staus as class valedictorian because he made racially insensitive remarks about several Hispanic automobile mechanics. Did he do this at school? Nope. On his website? No again. He made the comment on an instant messenger board. He claims to have regretted it and immediately retracted the statement. Too bad. He is labeled "politically incorrect" and must be "re-educated." I hope the ACLU picks this one up.
IDIOTIC. STUPID. UNINFORMED. That's what homeschoolers labeled an editorial on homeschool "accountability." Well, this follow-up editorial, like most sequels, is no better than the first:
The point of the editorial was that current state law does not require parents who are home schooling their children to notify the state or local school districts they are teaching their children at home. The editorial called for the law to be changed at minimum to require parents to notify the state they are schooling their children at home. We also recommended that a curriculum be followed.

...[I]f I were home schooling my children, I would want to make certain my students were competent in the core subjects that are expected for post-graduation.

I would welcome the accountability and can't help but wonder why home school parents wouldn't welcome it as well.
Ms. Allen fails to understand the difference between her choosing to be "accountable" (to whom is not clear) and the state coercing homeschoolers to take some test and to follow some curriculum. I have attempted to set her straight in the comments section (not yet online). Feel free to do the same.


'TAIN'T SO Interesting developments on the other side of the Atlantic. On Brian's EdBlog, Julius claimed that "Home education in England and Wales (and to a lesser extent, Scotland) is probably easier than almost anywhere else in the Western World. By 'easier' I don't mean that British children are genetically predisposed to learning at home. I mean that the State puts very few obstacles in the way of British home educators." In the comments section, Michael Peach pointed to a draft of guidelines for how their LEA's (apparently some kind of truant officer) are supposed to deal with homeschoolers. After reading through the guidelines, all I can say is "BOO!! HISS!!"
Monitoring Agreement LEAs must investigate the nature of the education being provided for a child when they become aware that the child:

· Has been de-registered from mainstream school;

· Is not in school;

· Is not registered as being home-educated, and

· Is not registered as being home educated and has a statement of SEN. [that it, is a "Special Needs" student]

The Department expects LEAs to:

· Make initial contact with the home educating parents;

· Review the education being provided;

· Identify support required.

The initial contact should be supportive of parents who have made the decision to educate their children at home, guidance should for instance emphasise that: “the Authority will be pleased to support parents who opt for home education once it is satisfied that adequate provision is being made.”

Access to home

There is no obligation for parents to give the LEA access to their home and parents may choose to meet an LEA officer at home or a neutral location (e.g. a library), Frequency After 1st contact, when LEAs are satisfied with the education being provided for the child, they will then decide on the frequency of follow-up visits, most likely on an annual basis. However, LEAs may increase the frequency of their visits if not fully assured of the appropriateness of the education being provided.

LEAs should inform the parent of a home-educated child of a visit well in advance, and in writing.
These are just awful and, if enacted in the US, would easily place right up (down) there with Pennsylvania as some of the worst laws in the country. Sorry, Julius, here's how homeschooling works in Delaware: Each October we tell the state the names of the kids and their ages. Each July we tell the state we homeschooled for 180 days. That's it. No tests. No visits. No other requirements at all. And, there are several states that have even better regs.

I hope homeschoolers ("home eddors" over there) do everything they can to block these proposed regs from being enacted.
JESUS, TERRORIST The WSJ today points out that former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark made the following statement and the media yawned:
"The Christian Church overwhelmingly--there are exceptions--who choose to call Mohammed a terrorist. They could call Jesus a terrorist too," Mr. Clark told a group of reporters, somewhat awkwardly. "I mean, he was pretty tough on money lenders a time or two."
No major media picked this up, in comparison to the media firestorm that was generated when Falwell made his initial Mohammed comment. But, I think the editors may have been thinking of Trent Lott when they decided to write about this.
Now we could call up Mr. Clark and the folks at International A.N.S.W.E.R. in high dudgeon, demanding that they apologize or distance themselves from these remarks. But too often people who say things they oughtn't to have said find their statements amplified and twisted far beyond their original import by a media-driven culture. What bothers us is the glaring double standard that reserves this treatment for only one side of the political aisle.
I think they're wrong. The major media yawned when Lott made his gaffe, too.
E-MAIL Woo-hoo! All sorts of neat stuff coming in via email. "Jay Van Nostrand, Homeschooling Parent " pointed to a letter about changing school starting times. One graf caught my attention as it appears the author may need another dose of Kool-Aid:
And it's true that the school administration knows more about how best to provide education than do parents, whose views tend to be sharply focused on their own children and those children's needs, not the student body as a whole. Finally, it's true that selling change to your customers can be time-consuming and expensive, and if you operate what is pretty close to a monopoly, you may not be motivated to sell your customers. After all, what choice do they have?
Come on. You're almost there. Just follow the logic. It is a monopoly and they don't care about your kid. But you are not the customer. You are just a "stoooopid" parent PITA who complains about things by writing Letters to the Editor. The customers might be the teacher's union or maybe the bus driver's union. Or perhaps the state DOE. Whoever can make the administrators lives' more difficult- they are the "customers".

So, the administration (who, BTW, probably knows less about real education than you think) doesn't care about your kid or your life. They really don't want your input but will go through the motions for the sake of the next bond issue vote. The only solution is to get out. Trust me- that will make them happier, too.

CORRECTION: Jay Van Nostrand pointed out that the link is to an editorial, not a Letter to the Editor. Same difference.
"BIG BULLY" UPDATE There's been a positive resolution to the "Big Bully" story from the other day. Michele at A Small Victory emailed that her son had somehow befriended the bully. Click on over to read the whole thing but skip the comments- they get way OT (and coarse).
"S" WORD Steve Gallaher found a disturbing article about some bullies down in Texas. Not only did they beat a child, they filmed themselves in the act.
With their video camera rolling, five teenagers beat, kicked and laughed at a special education student as he waited at a bus stop, police said. Then, they said, the attackers "laughed hysterically" as they sped away.
Steve points out that homeschoolers miss out on this type socialization. Thank God!


NORTH DAKOTA UPDATE As I predicted, the (illegal) proposal to force homeschoolers to take that state's accountability tests was DOA. The House Ed Committee voted it down 14-0.
WWHS This is almost too crazy to believe. A 14-year-old pregnant student was thrown against a wall by a police officer because she was attempting to get into the ladies' room against his instruction. She was then suspended from school and gave birth the next day- seven weeks early. After a hospital stay, she returned to school only to be called truant for missing school. Her parents are now homeschooling her. Both young mother and daughter are doing well.
THE NAME GAME Researchers from the Univ. of Chicago and MIT sent 5000 resumes to potential employers. Resumes with "white-sounding" first names generated a response rate of 1 in 10. "Black-sounding" resumes with identical qualifications only received a response in 1 of 15.
A GOOD IDEA I like the lede for this column:
I want to get rid of homework as we know it.

I know I'm being wild and crazy. Usually in this column I gather lots of research and information from experts before stating an opinion. But today I'm just talking as the tired parent of two children who have done loads of homework over the past 12 years, much of which has been -- by any sensible reckoning -- a complete waste of time. Yet my children, along with most kids I talk with, don't read enough. Certainly no kids I talk with seem aware that Maryland standards require all students to read a minimum of 25 books a year.

So here's my idea: In elementary and middle school, there should be only one homework assignment -- that each student read for at least one hour a day and write about what he or she reads for at least 15 minutes a day in a dedicated reading journal.
An excellent idea which you'll never see in the government schools. Teachers are way too enamored of "projects" to ever put this into practice.
I'LL BE LATE I've a working lunch today so blogging will be non-existent until later this evening. See y'all then.


COOKIE DAY PHOTOS I finally got some pictures uploaded.

ISABEL LYMAN points to a very disturbing tale about a 4-year-old who was sexually assaulted on a school bus. WARNING: The original story is fairly graphic.
BELIEVE WHAT YOU WILL OK- guess what this teacher is comparing to the government schools:
Wilson said there are a lot of advantages to public schooling.

"I believe that it's more mainstream, that there's more diversity in public school and children have an opportunity to see a well rounded population," said Wilson. "I have a really strong belief that free public education is one of the basic principles that our country was founded on." (scroll down for the answer)

Surprise! No it's not homeschooling. She is comparing them to private schools. And, by the way, her belief about the founding of the country is completely wrong, of course: Public schools were not started until the mid-1800's.
NOW THIS IS FUNNY In an article about for-profit National Heritage (a competitor of Edison Schools) we get this quote:
"Before he came along, I had no interest in education," [National Heritage CEO] Huizenga said. His son, however, does not attend a National Heritage school. Huizenga said his wife insists on home-schooling their son.

"Dads don't get to make the decisions," Huizenga said.
THE PERFECT PUNISHMENT for this teacher will be to inflict on her exactly what she did to a female student:
A Milwaukee Public Schools special education teacher was accused Tuesday of repeatedly punishing an elementary school student who has disabilities by tying her to a chair in a dark, locked storage room.
The punishments went on for several months, even though other teachers (and possibly the school administrators) knew about it. The teacher faces five felony counts of false imprisonment.
ENOUGH ALREADY! The Houston Superintendent wants to make the PSAT mandatory for all 10th graders. This is on top of the state-mandated accountability tests.
INSIDE THE BLOGOSPHERE Joanne Jacobs relates an extremely disturbing tale of what life in one D.C. school was like for a new teacher. Joanne does a terrific job with it. This one falls into the must read category. And, I strongly recommend reading the original that Joanne links to (And, yes, I realize that I ended that sentence with a preposition.).


DOA North Dakota is attempting to force homeschoolers to take the state's accountability test. Unfortunately for them, this directly violates a section of the NCLB Act. Regardless, HSLDA is working to defeat the bill; I guess the thinking is it is easier to stop this before it is a law than to fight it in court.

CORRECTION: I originally wrote that it was Nebraska who was doing this. A reader pointed out that it is actually North Dakota. Doh!
THIS SOUNDS AWFULLY FAMILIAR Here's a nice profile of a family of seven kids(including 8-year-old quints) who are homeschooling, in part, because of the homework monster.
Last year, the five first graders had a vast assortment of homework that the family would spend entire evenings on. The Thompsons had friends who recommended home schooling so they thought they'd give it a try with all the children this year after acquiring the proper materials. They plan to re-evaluate every year to see if they want to continue. But so far, they are more than pleased with the results. They plan on putting a "classroom" in their new abode.
ROOM 18 sounds like homeschooling. A government school teacher shares some of the headaches associated with working in a PC school.
The usual bullies harassed the younger, smaller, or weaker children. One boy used a rubber band to shoot a hard, folded paper missile at a girl, hitting her in the upper lip. The girl was typically advised to 'stay away from' the tormentor.

The usual kids attended classes, minus pencils and homework, and the school moved close to a politically correct stance of just not expecting much from any of the students. Hurt feelings can be avoided if the unmotivated can spend their days without fear of standing in the shadow of the motivated. Low or failing grades might damage self-esteem.

But, things were different in Room 18. The door was kept closed; the window covered. PC philosophies were 'out'; expectations and encouragement were 'in.' 'Ladies and gentlemen' were shown how to behave; how to show respect for self and others. Swearing was 'out'; Greek and Latin vocabulary roots were 'in.' Room 18 felt more like a one-roomed schoolhouse; more like a home-away-from-home. Older students tenderly assisted younger students; stronger readers put weaker readers through decoding exercises. Discipline was rarely necessary because even the most hostile and defensive child mellowed and was enriched by successes brought about through traditional classroom management and instruction.
I'm pretty sure most homeschools already have a Room 18.
STATES RIGHTS No, these aren't code words for racism but my reminder to NEA President Reg Weaver (he reads this blog, right?) that public school education is a function of the states. Weaver has completely forgotten that fact in his latest missive. He does make a very apt analogy, though. He compares the public schools to the new Homeland Security Department. I agree 100%. Both are ridiculous, bureaucratic behemoths that should be dismantled ASAP. Do you think that's what he meant?
MUSLIM HOMESCHOOLERS The CS Monitor does a nice job summarising the reasons Muslims may choose to homeschool. For more general info, click here.
A SUCCESS We had a good turn-out at Leg Hall in Dover with over a hundred homeschoolers in attendance (in DE that is a BIG crowd). I'll post pictures as soon as I can get them uploaded.



A MUST READ I wanted to give this post as much publicity as I can. Skip Oliva nails the "early childhood education" issue at The Center for the Advancement for Capitalism.
A four-year old does not learn from being thrown into a pack of other four-year olds. He does not learn to work well with others. How could he? You can’t expect someone to work with others before they’ve even formed their own selfish identity. More notably, you can’t educate children in age-peer groups that young. Suppose you took a group of 10-month old babies and forced them to play in a group without any permanent adult presence. Would the babies learn to walk or talk? Of course not. A baby has nothing to learn from his peer, but everything to learn from older children and adults. Children learn from those who have learned before them, not from their struggling contemporaries.
Please, click over and read the whole thing.
OK FOR A YEAR OR TWO Here's a very positive article about homeschooling in Indiana. Naturally, the quoted educrat doesn't exactly give the option a ringing endorsement.
Oak Hill Superintendent Jim Smith said his opinion of home schooling depends on the age of the child.

"I think it's a mixed bag," Smith said. "I think there are individual students that may benefit, especially in early childhood."

But after second grade most students are going to benefit from the structure and socializing in public schools, Smith believes.
Thanks a lot.
A NEW DEFINITION Homeschooling v. to beat badly.
By the time Rich Gannon and the Raiders had finished home-schooling the much-hyped Master Pennington and his Jets, the New York tabloids and stellar quarterback ratings of previous weeks were nothing more than wasted paper, unless of course, one needed a few scraps to clean up the kitty litter.
"FREE" DAYCARE Michigan appears set to become the latest state to provide universal daycare (er, pre-school) for 4-year-olds. Here's the scariest graf:
Michigan has fallen behind over the last decade by neglecting to invest in the zero to age four years [emphasis added]. In 1995 Georgia became the first state to pay for preschool for every four year old. North Carolina, New York and Okalahoma have followed that lead. Many will argue that current fiscal challenges prevent this investment. The response should be to ensure a viable future for Michigan we must make this investment.
I'm sure it's only a matter of time until we see universal daycare from birth. Of course it will start out as voluntary. Anyone want to bet it doesn't end there?
IT'S NOT THAT EASY The Chairman of William & Mary's Economics Department, who claims to have done many cost-benefit analyses, commits the most fundamental of errors in looking at potential savings if VA had a voucher system- ignoring the fixed costs associated with education. The Professor basically just looked at the average private school tuition vs. the average public expenditure per pupil and subtracted.
Start by looking at a basic set of facts, suggests Professor Carlisle Moody, chairman of William and Mary's economics department. Taxpayers in Virginia spend an average of $6,400 per pupil on public schools around the state. Average private-school tuition in Virginia is $4,500 per pupil.

"If we could somehow entice public schoolchildren into going to private school, we could save $1,900 a year [per pupil]. That's almost $2,000 a year for every kid who somehow found his or her way into private school," Moody told a pre-Christmas conference at the Capitol. "If 10 percent of public school kids [116,000 of them] migrated to private schools on 100 percent scholarships, Virginia taxpayers would save $220 million."
And is VA going to fire 10 percent of the teachers and tear down 10 percent of the schools? Not likely. And in the category of you can't eat your cake and have it too, we find this section:
[State Delegate and public school teacher] Cox says that he is "a bit puzzled why many of my [public school] colleagues aren't for school choice." Choice, he said, "will do nothing but help the public schools."

One example is overcrowding. Last year, the state spent $126 million on reducing class sizes. Well, opening private choice to students would reduce class size.
If you get 10 percent of the kids to transfer out, you can reduce average class size by the same amount. Or, you can close some schools and save the fixed costs. You can't do both.


NOW THIS REALLY ISN'T HOMESCHOOLING Some parents in American Fork, UT (pronounced "Fark") are unhappy with the new, new, new math being taught in their elementary school and are grilling the kids on the basics at home. The reporter apparently "thinks" this is homeschooling.
''We're trying to make it a balanced math system,'' Alpine School Board president JoDee Sundberg.

Unimpressed, Osborn plans to keep ''homeschooling'' his children in math.
I'M SHOCKED! The WB network has ordered a show that insults everyone's intelligence, particularly homeschoolers:
Welcome to The O'Keefes guide at TV Tome.The WB has ordered The O'Keefes as mid-season. The title for the show was recently Brave New World.
Harry (Judge Reinhold, Beverly Hills Cop) and Ellie O'Keefe (Kirsten Nelson) are loving but eccentric parents who've home schooled their three children to protect them from the loud and libidinal world.

Despite a ban on all things pop culture, teenagers Danny (Joseph Cross, Jack Frost) and Lauren (Tania Raymonde, Malcolm in the Middle) and younger brother Mark (Matt Weinberg) are growing increasingly curious about what lies beyond the walls of their school/dining room. They can speak six languages, but are unable to converse with kids their own age. The answer lies in their father's worst nightmare - public school.
I can hardly wait. Check out the comments; homeschoolers are on the warpath. (link via Chris O'Donnell)


OT Dale Amon on Samizdata has an interesting post on the theory of Jury Nullification- that is, the right of juries to decide that the law itself is unjust. The Fully Informed Jury link eventually led to this quote:
Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to Thomas Paine, 1789: "I consider trial by jury as the only anchor ever yet imagined by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution."
I hadn't ever given this topic any thought but it seems clear that the founders recognized a jury as the defender of liberty through the act of nullification.
ZERO TOLERANCE A 7th-grader in Colorado has been expelled for playing with a laser pointer that was in the shape of a tiny gun.
Mitch’s parents are also upset with the school principal, Bruce Hankins, who apparently obtained a confession from Mitch, then told him to sign it. No other adult — including Mitch’s parents — were in the office when the confession was obtained and signed.
So, this is a government school two-fer: zero tolerance lunacy and a coerced "confession" from what was surely a scared and intimidated youngster. (Via the Insomniac)
ALLEN REECE- MIA The Apple-A-Day blog is gone including all the archives. The lone post is reproduced below:
I am deeply sorry for the damage that this website has caused to the teachers and students of the Capitol Middle School family and to the East Baton Rouge School District. The website demonstrated only my ignorance and arrogance towards a community working to improve educational conditions against difficult odds. I failed to consider the consequences of my actions, and that failing humbles and shames me today. I would give anything to be able to undo the damage I have caused. The damage cannot be undone, but I will do whatever is in my power to make some small atonement for it.

With deepest apologies,

Allen Reece
The post was made by Felix. Allen's other blog has also been silent for a month.

Allen, if you're out there, I hope all is well.
NEWS TO ME Teachers in this Seattle school district are basically playing hookie for a day to go lobby the legislature. They're still paid for the day, of course. Letters indicate some support for the teachers but at least one parent seems a bit confused:
I have a little girl that hasn't reached kindergarten yet, but I am thinking about homeschooling because I feel the teachers don't care as much. So basically you pay for what you get.
When has the American public gotten what it paid for when it comes to the government schools?


SCHOOLS VS THE 1ST AMENDMENT Slate has a nice piece on the issues surrounding schools banning clothes depicting the rebel flag. The last graf is a beaut:
If American kids can be counted on for anything it's this: Tell them they can't do/wear/say something and they'll do/wear/say it 'til their heads blow off. This is why Dixie Outfitters sold a million T-shirts last year, and why virtually every kid disciplined for wearing a Confederate flag to school shows up the day after the suspension in either the same T-shirt or one with a bigger flag. Yes, it would be a more civil world if we could all just agree once and for all that the Confederate flag is either beautiful or vile. But until that day comes, it would be a useful and educational exercise to at least hear one another out on the subject. One might think a school would be a good laboratory for such efforts. One would hope there's no better place to try.
DON'T GO TO AFRICA if you are rich. Or, at least, don't plan on depositing a large sum of American currency in any bank on that continent. You will invariably die, leaving no next-of-kin information. I just got another of those sob-story "Nigeria scam" letters. Apparently, richer people kick the bucket in South Africa than in other parts of the continet; the latest letter was for a cool $250M, to be split 50/50.

If you are rich and decide not to heed my advice, please feel free to fill out the next-of-kin info with my name.
WANTED: GEOGRAPHY LESSONS Here's a tale of a young lady who travelled to Australia and became a tutor to four young kids. What threw me, though, was this lede sentence:
She’s just returned from a four-month stay in Queensland, one of only five states in Australia, a continent of Asia located between the Indian and Pacific oceans.(emphasis added)
While I appreciate the paper's helpful touch of placing Australia between the Indian and Pacific Oceans, I'm pretty sure Australians would be surpised to learn they are a "continent of Asia", whatever that's supposed to mean.
THIS IS VERY INTERESTING Utah is moving towards a system that will allow students to move through high school at their own pace by demonstrating "mastery" of the subject based on some standardized test. As I read this, it appears that a particularly advanced student could graduate years before they normally would, perhaps even while still theoretically bound by the compulsory attendance laws. I hope this passes, as it would finally end the battle between homeschoolers and the Jordan School District in South Salt Lake.
IS THERE A GRAMMARIAN IN THE HOUSE? I read the following paragraph in an NEA email of hints and tips:
To keep notes on my students - observations, behaviors and assessments I have a clipboard with a full sheet of mailing labels. I jot the date, the student's initials and then record my observations on one label. The size of the label keeps the observations brief. The full page of labels allows me to record observations for all students on the same page. At the end of the day, or more likely once a week, I peel off the labels and paste them into a loose-leaf notebook where each student has their own page (emphasis added).
Now, I realize that "each" is singular and "their" is, of course, plural. When I learned grammar, the correct version would have been "each student has his own page." That would now be termed sexist and "his" would be replaced with "his/her." To any grammarians out there, has "their" become an accepted alternative to the awkawrd "his/her" construct? Is there another elegant solution that I have missed?


TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT! Literally. Evidently, the new school Superintendent in Anne Arundel County (MD), has been taking some criticism. A Mr. Fairley responded in the letters section of the Annapolis local paper. He basically takes a "my school district, right or wrong" position:
Who knows more about sound and effective educational strategies? The parents of the students who are not achieving to standards or the superintendent who has earned a doctorate and has many years of experience as an educational leader?...

Parents who think they are more qualified to educate their children than Mr. Smith have the opportunity to prove it through home schooling.
Of course, I wholeheartedly agree but not for the reasons that Mr. Fairley would hope, I'm sure.
THIS SHOULD BE FUN A SepSchool advocate is running for a school board in Wsiconsin. The Rev. Matthew Trewhella, who is running unopposed, lists as a "life goal" the "privatization of education through home-schooling and the abolishment of the public school system."
MINORITY REPORT I finally saw this movie the other day so retina scans were on my mind, so to speak, when Tony Rosenberg pointed me to this story.
LONDON -- A new high school said Wednesday its students will be charged for their lunches with a retina scanning device to prevent poor children who eat for free from being ridiculed in the cafeteria.
I've seen these scanners in action; way cool.
SO, SUE ME Here's a blatant "commercial" plug but, what-the-heck, it's my blog; I'll plug if I want to. If you haven't yet discovered The Political State Report click on over. It's a group blog by political junkies of every stripe, all reporting on local politics. I'm one of two DE "correspondents" as well as the one of the few self-declared libertarians (small "L"). Which reminds me, I finally got my card in the mail yesterday, so I am now officially a "card-carrying member of the ACLU." Like I said in the title.
INSOMNIA An email pointed me to this cartoon. It seems appropriate given the recent Arizona State studies. Also, check out the other education cartoons Daryl Cagle (gotta love the name) has accumulated.


Goodbye Cruel World by Pink Floyd

Goodbye, cruel world,
I'm leaving you today.
Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye.

Goodbye all you people,
There's nothing you can say,
To make me change my mind.
DELAWARE ITEM A reminder: Homeschool Cookie Day is scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 14th at Leg Hall.
ANOTHER EXAMPLE of "good" competition. This school district started a cyber charter, in part, as "an alternative, not a substitute for school, and as a tool to hold onto people it would otherwise lose to home schooling." More power to them. I wish DE had something like this. Not that we would ever use it but I know some kids who'd do better at home whose parents don't feel they can handle a high-school curriculum.
ARIZONA UPDATE Here's some more info on the two Arizona State studies which purportedly show little or no correlation between high-stakes results and performance on other tests. This EdWeek article goes into more details than others I have seen and is worth a read. Perhaps, Kim will blog this when she gets back from skiing.
OVERBLOWN The Chicago Sun-Times clangs the alarm bells over the precentage of teachers (7th grade and up) who are teaching subjects in which they don't pass the "most minimal threshold" of having at least minored in the subject. I think this may be a tempest in a teacup. I seriously doubt that any 7th or 8th grade math teacher in this country is called upon to use her knowledge of fractals or partial differential equations in order to adequately cover the subject. Heck, I'm sure I could teach 7th grade algebra and I only made it through ODE (ordinary differential equations).
ANTI-TESTING Here's another anti-high-stakes-testing (a new world's record for hyphens in one sentence) article. What piqued my interest, however, is this quote:
Based on [Prof. Weinstein's] studies of elementary school students, "children as young as 6 know where they stand academically, especially in classroom settings that make such so-called achievement differences very obvious," she says, "and this means they are vulnerable to not believing in themselves from an early age.
This strikes me as another good reason to homeschool. I have nothing against competition. In the business world, competition lowers prices and increases quality and choices for the consumer. In athletics, competition often provides the motivation to excel. BUT, do 6-year-olds really need to be comparing themselves on some "smartness" scale to the rest of their classmates? They're so little and their egos are so fragile that, to me, it seems the competitive nature of schools is counter-productive. Better to keep them home and teach them at a pace where they can learn without feeling "dumb". After all, in my "school" every kid is a valedictorian. (Hey, maybe a new bumper sticker idea.)


Parents in a Houston, Texas school district might find themselves before a judge if their children fail to do their homework. A program unique to Houston''s North Shore Middle School issues criminal misdemeanor citations to parents whose children fail to complete their homework and attend a mandatory after school program. The summonses are punishable by a fine of up to $185. The school issued 48 summonses last week. School districts in Texas are their own distinct taxing entities and therefore are granted the power to issue citations.

SELF-DEFENSE DAY Here's a homeschooling story that ties into the bullying post from this morning. This talented young lady (who expects to sign a record deal by spring) was being picked-on at her Middle School. Her solution- homeschooling and boxing lessons.
She had some trouble last year at Roxboro Road Middle School. So this year, in eighth grade, she's being home-schooled by her mother. Getting picked on, she says, also prompted her to learn how to defend herself.

"Home schooling and boxing lessons," Bayje says. "It's sad it had to come to this."

Last year, she says, she received "C's and B's" on her report card. But she didn't feel as if she fit in.

"Any time I was out sick, they said I was in New York recording. I have allergies and asthma. It's hard to find that healthy point," Bayje says. "Any time I wrote something good, they said it was plagiarism. But I worked hard. My mom helped me, too. It was a hard year for me."
ONE TO BOOKMARK MIT has placed material online for literally hundreds of courses from Anthropology to Urban Studies and Planning. Materials typically include syllabi, lecture notes, and sample tests. This should be an excellent resource for high-school level homeschoolers.
HOMEWORK? HOMESCHOOL INSTEAD A teacher opines on what makes a good homework assignment:
The best homework assignments are those that can be done only at home -- for example, reading aloud with family members and reporting back at school on what everyone liked best and why. Or a writing assignment that calls for interviewing relatives and neighbors to talks about important people in their lives. Or a science assignment that calls for experiments in the kitchen or the bathtub. Homes have resources that classrooms don't.
And tell me again, please, why the NEA says "...home schooling programs cannot provide the student with a comprehensive education experience."
READ IT AND WEEP Literally. A Small Victory relates one of those parental nightmares: a bully at the school and an administration too wimpy to do anything about it. Click over and read the whole post (and the comments). Apparently homeschooling is not an option but this kind of crap makes me glad it is for us. I can easily see my oldest son as one of the victims of Big Bully. In addition to homeschooling, here's our pre-emptive solution. The homeschool class is terrific. [link via Joanne Jacobs]


I THINK SHE'S GOT IT This article does an excellent job at summing up some of the issues surrounding cyber charters including what differentiates them from homeschooling. This one may be worth printing out to provide to reporters, relatives, neighbors who may be confused about the issue.
RITALIN UPDATE Methylphenidate (Ritalin, Adderall, etc.) appears to lower the use of other drugs in young people with ADHD by up to 50%. There is no indication that non-ADHD kids would show any such positive effect.
I'M NOT LAUGHING This Sports Editor should keep his day job.
Humor me, if you will. Little Mikey, with a grade-point average that would rival Andrew Dice Clay in lowness, decides public school is too hard and wants to be home-schooled. That way, he can cut out early while mom and dad are engrossed in a riveting episode of The Price is Right.
Problem is, Mikey is the best football player in the school he's about to quit. What to do, what to do, what to do?
After all, it was his family's decision to drop out. Shouldn't it be their decision on whether he can play sports? Or even where, for that matter?
It's a win-win situation, man. He can play for whichever school he wishes, and not be governed by silly rules such as a 2.0 GPA and - gasp! - having to go to class.
Then, while his teammates are talking about their big English test during practice, Mikey can't help but wonder, "If that guy would have placed the chip a little more to the right on the Plinko board, he might have won $10,000."

OK, so maybe all of that is a bit over the top. But, if the family of 11-year-old Aaron Jones is successful in challenging the SSAC's rule barring home-schooled athletes from participating in public school sports, an economy-sized can of worms will be opened.

Dwindling enrollment is already a problem among West Virginia schools. If the rule is overturned, can you imagine how many athletes will suddenly decide they can receive a better education at home than in school?

We might have to consolidate every existing high school into one facility, place it in Braxton County and call it Central Consolidated.

The bottom line is, if a home-schooler wants the privilege of participating in high school sports, he or she should be held under the same expectations as athletes who attend public schools. That means minimum GPA requirements, standardized tests and fish sandwiches on Fridays.

Home-schooling is a decision (probably a smart one in some ways, depending on the school system). With that decision comes certain sacrifices, like it or not.
WHAT'S FOR LUNCH This homeschooling family squeezes in lessons between filling orders at their pizzeria. I guess no PB&J sandwiches for these kids.
MAYBE THEY COULD The other day I wondered aloud (so to speak) if Bush could be so cynical as to craft the NCLB Act in a way that enabled conservatives to essentially wipe the slate clean. Well, MB at WampumBlog certainly thinks so.
In part, [NCLB is] really a guise to union-bust, I think. If a school continues to fail (and under these scenarios most schools will), administrators and teachers are all fired and replaced (probably with younger, less experienced and hence cheaper ones.) If the school still fails, its turned into a charter school (essentially private and not governed by union protections) or taken completely "privatized".
(link via Diane Patterson)


NICE Here's a very positive profile of a homeschooling family.
LETTER OF THE LAW A Los Angeles school which has shown remarkable improvement in test scores over a three year period was singled out by Gov. Gray Davis in last year's State of the State Address. Unfortunately, this year it's been labeled a "failing school" because of a quirk in the definition:
Under the No Child Left Behind Act, a school may not drop the failing label unless it has met state growth targets two years in a row for the entire school and significant subgroups -- such as Latino students and the socioeconomically disadvantaged.

In Melvin's case, the school overall posted a 79-point gain in 1999-2000, more than six times its growth target of 12. Then in 2000-01, the school improved its academic ranking by six points, two points below the target. But in 2001-02, it again made a huge gain of 45 points, whereas its growth target was 8.

It was the small drop-off in 2000-01 that caused Melvin to be labeled a failing school.
This really is non-sensical. There ought to be some kind of signal averaging in the law, so that a school which vastly exceeds the target one year only to narrowly miss it the next is not penalized.

UPDATE: An Atlanta school faces almost precisely the same situation- all the way down to praise from the Governor (of Georgia, of course).
YOU CAN GO HOME AGAIN It just may take $1400 for a new transmission and two extra days. Yes, we finally made it back to DE after a bit of an adventure. The tranny decided to go South (permanently). Fortunately, it was 12 hours before our scheduled departure so we were not stuck on the highway somewhere.

Unsolicited commercial plug: If you ever need transmission work in the Greenville, SC area call Leon @ Advanced Transmissions. Leon and his brother (whose name I did not catch) are Afrikaner emigre's who run a successful business by giving the customers what they want: good work, quickly done and at a fair price.


FOOD FOR THOUGHT Jeffrey Tucker makes some interesting points about high-stakes tests and the Soviet Union. He argues that the tests are causing schools to push out marginally-performing students in order to boost the schools' aggregate results. But the real problem is that this is a government monopoly:
Central planning has several universal features. It is coercive. It bypasses the needs of the consumers for the sake of politics. It relies on edicts which may or may not reflect reality. It does not take advantage of the price system, profit, or loss. It is impervious to change. It ignores local conditions. It does not permit flexibility according to circumstance. It robs those who know the most of the ability of make decisions and innovate. It creates incentives to obey the plan but diverts attention from the real goal, whatever it may be (and it may be the wrong goal). It ends up over utilizing material resources, underutilizing human ones, and not generating the intended results.
According to Mr. Tucker, homeschoolers may have the solution.
The whole subject of education and the institutions that support it needs to be rethought, away from the still-surviving Deweyite-Progressivist model and toward the ancient tradition of private tutoring now being revived in homeschools across America. All schools can learn from the experience of homeschools, with their attention to individual needs, the flexibility that allows students to develop in unique ways, their privately run and funded character, their employment of localized knowledge and resources. These are the elements that make for good institutions of all sorts, whether it is commercial businesses, charities, civic institutions, or schools.
There's more good stuff. Well worth a click.


AWE-INSPIRING And then there's this 13-year-old homeschooler who published her own magazine because she didn't see herself in others that were available.
Kenya Jordana James, founder and editor,
Blackgirl Magazine

For a girl who says she's "not quite grown up yet," 13-year-old Kenya Jordana James has made quite a mark on the world. This home-schooled eighth grader was an avid reader of magazines until she realized that none of the models or even stories appealed to the things that were important to her as a young African American. She created one that did.

At 12, James became the editor and founder of Blackgirl Magazine, a bimonthly publication that promotes healthy images for black female teens while covering lifestyle and entertainment news from that perspective.

"I didn't see any magazines that served my needs," James says. "It's a little selfish, but I wanted to see a magazine that reflected me and my friends."

To fund her publishing career, James started a baking business out of her mother's home that attracted enough clients to support her start-up publication. She invested $1,200 of her cake-making profits in Blackgirl's sold-out debut issue, which ran 20 pages and featured an interview from musical sensation Outkast.

"They were my first interview; I felt real official after that," James says with a smile.

James plans to launch her own clothing line next year, showcasing modest apparel with an African theme. Becoming a celebrity for being herself, she was featured on an episode of Oprah wearing a skirt she made herself. "I love to sew, so the clothing line was a natural," James says.

Her goals include becoming a midwife or an obstetrician, or maybe a television producer. From the record she has set already, James will probably do it all.