Homeschooling and Parental Rights Under Attack in California

Homeschooling_works The Acton Institute reported today, March 12, 2008, that the Appellate court in California has ruled against homeschooling in that state ignoring research that shows that not only is homeschooling as good as public schooling but actually gets better outcomes. Here is a brief snippet of the article on the Acton web site:

Declaring that “parents do not have a constitutional right to home school their children,” the Second District Court of Appeal for the state of California recently issued a ruling that effectively bans families from homeschooling their children and threatens parents with criminal penalties for daring to do so. According to the Home School Legal Defense Association (HDSLA) this court decision has made “almost all forms of homeschooling in California” a violation of state law. Once again our judicial system moves to restrict religious and personal liberties, severely limit parental rights, and significantly increase the power, scope, and control of the state over our lives.

There are approximately 166,000 homeschooled children in California. With the stroke of a pen the appellate court criminalized the lawful educational choices of tens of thousands of innocent families across the state, subjected them to possible fines, and labeled their children as potential truants. This activist court chose to bypass the will of the people and legislated from the bench based on anecdotal evidence and its own clearly biased and subjective opinions about the constitutionality of parental rights and the quality of a homeschooled education. This decision attacks the freedom of parents to decide on the best educational environment for their children, restricts their religious rights to practice their faith without governmental interference, and violates their freedom to raise their offspring as they see fit without the ideological pollution and atheistic/leftist indoctrination so prevalent in our public school system.

As a parent who homeschooled his children from 1985 - 1993 and as a grandparent who has four grandchildren being homeschooled, I am distressed and alarmed at this move on the part of the appeals court in California. People who truly value freedom and democracy should fight against this move on the part of the government to force our children into government schooling.

Link: Homeschooling and Parental Rights Under Attack in California - The Acton Institute.

Encouraging students to quit makes No Child Left Behind schools look good.

No_child It's called creaming. Under the Federal Governments No Child Left Behind schools can look good with percentage of students meeting the standards if they get the poorer performing students to quit school.

A new study by researchers at Rice University and the University of Texas-Austin finds that Texas' public school accountability system, the model for the national No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), directly contributes to lower graduation rates. Each year Texas public high schools lose at least 135,000 youth prior to graduation -- a disproportionate number of whom are African-American, Latino and English-as-a-second-language (ESL) students.

By analyzing data from more than 271,000 students, the study found that 60 percent of African-American students, 75 percent of Latino students and 80 percent of ESL students did not graduate within five years. The researchers found an overall graduation rate of only 33 percent.

"High-stakes, test-based accountability doesn't lead to school improvement or equitable educational possibilities," said Linda McSpadden McNeil, director of the Center for Education at Rice University. "It leads to avoidable losses of students. Inherently the system creates a dilemma for principals: comply or educate. Unfortunately we found that compliance means losing students."

The study shows as schools came under the accountability system, which uses student test scores to rate schools and reward or discipline principals, massive numbers of students left the school system. The exit of low-achieving students created the appearance of rising test scores and of a narrowing of the achievement gap between white and minority students, thus increasing the schools' ratings.

This whole NCLB policy fiasco is another reason that George W. Bush is a failed President. Under the guise of improving education by holding schools and teachers accountable, poorer students even have it worse.


Forgiving school debt for public service

Social_work How do you pay off school debts if you enter jobs in public service? Supposing you are a lawyer who becomes a legal aide lawyer making $34,000.00 per year and has over $100,000.00 in school debt, or a Social Worker making $27,000.00 per year and has thousands of dollars in school debt.

Marc Parry wrote a good story about this problem in the February 11, 2008 Albany NY Times Union. Here is part of his story:

Five years out of Albany Law School, Jennifer Monthie works at a chipped desk in a third-floor office whose window lets in the smell of burgers from McGeary's Pub downstairs. BlackBerry? She's lucky to have an extra chair. Six figures? Her job at a nonprofit organization that advocates for the disabled started at $34,000. Student loan debt? That, she has -- $103,749 worth. "It's a cold reality when you exit school," Monthie said. A change in federal law may ease the sting of student debt for public-spirited folks like Monthie. Under a new program passed as part of last year's College Cost Reduction and Access Act, the federal government would forgive loans for some people who stay in public-service jobs -- such as schools, charities and government -- for 10 years. Washington is still working out the details, but in a local economy with so many public-sector jobs, the program could help many. That's the good news. The bad news is you'll have to wait years to benefit. You can only qualify to have the balance of your loan canceled after making 120 monthly payments on an eligible Federal Direct Loan -- and only payments after Oct. 1, 2007, count. Which means you may have paid off your debt by the time you hit the 10-year mark.

It would seem that our society would have an interest in helping its members become prepared not just to make big bucks providing services for the rich, but also to assure a just and healthy society by being of service to the least among us. Parry writes a little further:

College of Saint Rose junior Ellen Donaghey is just as enthusiastic about her own public service -- service that's included working on behalf of tenants and people suffering from AIDs.

Donaghey already has over $11,000 in loans. The 20-year-old social-work major from Putnam County expects to rack up a lot more debt by the time she finishes graduates school. Her parents took out loans for her education, too.

A social worker's average starting salary was $27,163 in 2005, according to the study on debt and public service.

"It's always a thought in my mind -- how am I going to make all of this work?" she said. "But at the same time, my passion is more important to me. And if that means I'm not making the big bucks, I don't live in the big house with the white picket fence -- that's OK."

As a society we have a vested interest in forgiving school debt for people dedicating themselves to public service at low salaries. Encourage your lawmakers to support such legislation and programs

Link: Albany, N.Y.: - Print Story.

The difference between schooling and education

No_child_left_behind "The country where free public education was born struggles with the concept of what education is, what is should accomplish, and how it should approach the child." p. 239

The Whole Parenting Guide by Alan Reder, Phil Catalfo, and Stephanie Renfrow Hamilton

"As a society, we have erred in assuming that education should be something done to our kids by some external agent called 'school' and that it should conclude when a person finishes formal schooling and begins a career. The shallowness of this concept has motivated many parents to make learning their own family value, to encouare their kids in their education, and even join them in that great adventure.". 239 Ibid

One of my favorite bumperstickers says, "Don't let public schooling interfer with your education."

No child left behind is another travesty visited on the citizens of this nation by a government intent on keeping the citizens under control. The emphasis on drilling kids in math and reading focuses on lower level skills but skips the elements of critical thinking necessary for citizens of a free and democratic society.

"Teaching children to think critically is not a parental responsibility much talked about in America today, for reasons we'll soon make clear. It's also a responsibility about which many parents would rather not be reminded. Show your kids how to think and there's no telling what they'll start questioning - their religion, family rules, the need to graduate." p. 240 Ibid.

Never too old to learn

Last night, December 4, 2007, I attended my last class of the semester, in a course called Communication Research Methods, CMC 600. There is nothing unusual about this except that I am 61 and the student closest in age to me in this class of 10 was 31. Most of these graduate students are 23, 24, 25. It is the first time I have been in a classroom as a college student since 1972, 35 years ago. I have taught college classes as an Adjunct professor in Health Education and Social Work but it is the first time I have been on the other side of the desk as a student again.

It was a very interesting experience. First, I was struck with how the professor was pedantic and pontificated on his personal views of politics and the arts and society which had nothing to do with the course. As students we politely listened as he went on and on. I wondered to myself if I ever did that in my classes and I am ashamed to admit that I probably did. The use of power in a classroom where a superordinate gets a bully pulpit to indoctrinate subordinates is an interesting dynamic and one easily ripe for abuse. As most professions have codes of ethics I am not aware that college professors have a similar code. It there were such a code, there should be a section prohibiting the use of professional authority to gratify ones own emotional needs at the expense of clients (students).

Secondly, I was impressed with the level of intelligence of my fellow students. Even as young people they are very smart. I think they probably had much more to contribute to the learning experience than the professor allowed them to contribute because he seemed to have a need to maintain almost total control and he always got the last word on any discussion.

Having said this, I learned a great deal in this class and found it a very worthwhile experience and certainly would do it again. Most of my learning came from the reading assigned, the studies analyzed, and the 3 papers we were asked to write on quantitative communications research, rhetorical criticism, and ethnographic research.

I am now wondering if I should take another class next semester? It certainly is more stimulating and a better use of my time than watching TV, but then again, I don't watch much TV anyway.

I am taking courses an a nonmatriculated graduate student and I could matriculate for a Master's Degree in Communications but I am not sure whether the commitment and effort is worth the benefit. Professionally  this degree has no value to me, but for shits and giggles it is a hoot. Interestingly, I am doing this for the love of learning while my fellow students obsess about what grades they are getting because they are hoping to use the degree for professional purposes or to get into graduate school for a Ph.D.

The university today has become a vehicle for vocational training more than an institution for the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake. For whatever it's worth, I will get an A in this course, but it has no bearing on my life other than the satisfaction and enjoyment of learning. And I feel somewhat validated in my notion that one is never too old to learn.

New Research on Disruptive Kindergartners

On November 14, 2007, Diane Rehm had an interesting show on some recent research which has been done on disruptive kindergartners. Diane interviewed Sharon Landesman Ramey, Director, Center for Health and Education, Georgetown University, Dr. Philip Shaw, Psychiatry Fellow, National Institutes of Mental Health, and Greg Duncan, Edwina S. Tarry Professor of Education and Social Policy Faculty Fellow, Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University.

Here is a brief synopsis of the show:

A new study finds children considered troublemakers in kindergarten will do just as well academically as their peers in later school years. There's also new research on children with A.D.H.D. suggesting a possible brain development delay but no long term deficit. New insights on evaluating and educating young children with behavior problems.

In my practice I see many of these kids and every situation is unique and little bit different, but there are also developmental similarities as well. Overall our kids now days are terribly pressured to behave in ways that they are not biologically, biochemically, socially, and emotionally developed enough to comply with. I often suggest to parents that sometimes the best thing they can do for their children is to give them what I call "the gift of time". This can be oversimplistic, but often is exactly the prescription. Now there is research that bears my judgment out.

This show is well worth listening to and you can access it by clicking on the link below.

Homeschoolers score higher on ACT and SAT college entrance exams than public school students

In 1985 when my wife and I were only one of three families in our school district to homeschool our children, I was asked to sign a statement prepared by the school district which stated that I knowingly was giving up my children's opportunity to receive a free public school education which most educational authorities believe is superior to homeschooling. I refused to sign the statement and asked the Director of Pupil Personnnel Services to produce any evidence to back up the statement that public schooling was superior to homeschooling. They had no evidence or data. It was purely an ideological statement.

In the last 22 years homeschooling has grown enormously in the United States to the point were it is estimated that between 1 and 2 million children in the United States are homeschooled. There is some good information on the Home School Legal Defense Association web site citing some interesting facts which point to the success and effectiveness of homeschooling. One such indicator is how homeschoolers compare on ACT and SAT college entrance exam scores. Interestingly, homeschoolers as a group do better than public school educated kids. Here is what the HSLDA web site has to say about ACT and SAT scores:

Homeschoolers Score Higher on ACT and SAT College Entrance Exams Homeschoolers continue to exhibit academic excellence on national averages for college admissions tests when compared to public school students. The ACT college admission exam scores show homeschoolers consistently performing above the national average. In both 2002 and 2003, the national homeschool average was 22.5, while the national average was 20.8. The College Board, which administers the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) also notes the above-average performance of homeschoolers. In 2002, homeschoolers averaged 1092, 72 points higher than the national average of 1020. In 2001, homeschoolers scored 1100 on the SAT, compared to the national average of 1019. (2003 homeschool statistics not yet available.)

Link: HSLDA | Homeschooling Maintains Academic Success.

I Am a Promise: The Children of Stanton Elementary School, the film

I Am A Promise: The Children of Stanton Elementary School is an award winning documentary released in 1993 about an inner city school in Philadelphia which won the the 1994 Academy Award for Best Documentary.

The film depicts the challenges and difficulties of trying to educate kids in poverty who come from single parent, drug addicted neighborhoods. I doubt that much has changed in the last 13 years.

This film is well worth watching and I highly recommend it.

Link: I Am a Promise: The Children of Stanton Elementary School (1993).