WUI (Writing under the influence)

Somebody once said we are all Americans, sometimes born in the wrong places.
On a warm autumn day in 1986, while enjoying beer with my college buddies,
I decided to join my new homeland.

I've come to appreciate the ideals that helped create this great country.
Liberalism, political-correctness, multiculturalism and moral equivalence
are destroying it.

This old house Grovenet Wal*Mart Visiting Poland American wine better than French.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

 

School choice

There are some in Forest Grove who would like to open a charter school. It seems from the school charter that I would probably not send my children there. But I still support the idea of charter schools. Though not a perfect solution, it's a first step toward school choice.

What is interesting about this story is the fact that people who are behind the charter school and who support it are what I would normally call lefties. It's good to see even the most stubborn opponents of school choice realize that government-run schools are not good for all children. In fact, they are no good for anybody.

There are many Democrats who have already realized that. Sometime it is just impossible to deny simple facts.

[...] African-Americans, by the 12th grade, "are typically four years behind white and Asian students," with Hispanics "doing only a tad better than black students." Translated, this means that black and Hispanic students are finishing high school, on average, "with a junior high education."


A common myth is that schools across the country with lots of low-income students are less-well-funded than schools with fewer low-income students. The opposite, actually, is more routinely the case. Minnesota, in fact, recently ranked fifth best in the nation in terms of "extra poverty-based funding per student living below the poverty line." This (benevolent) gap was $3,075.

But given that African-Americans in Minneapolis are doing unusually poorly academically, how do these conflicting findings compute?

To complicate matters even more, consider Ascension School, a K-8 Catholic school in north Minneapolis. Students are overwhelmingly minority; they're overwhelmingly non-Catholic; and in 2005, 90 percent of eighth-graders there passed Minnesota's Basic Skills test in math and 95 percent passed Minnesota's Basic Skills test in reading.

In contrast, eighth-graders in Minneapolis public schools, in 2003, passed at these rates in math: 82 percent for whites; 57 percent for Asian/ Pacific Islanders; 41 percent for Hispanics; 40 percent for American Indians; and 28 percent for blacks. Please note, though you probably already have, that the 82 percent passing rate for whites in Minneapolis public schools was substantially below Ascension's 90 percent for all its kids. MPS scores were significantly better in reading than they were in math; but again, they were significantly below Ascension's reading scores.

What are tuition rates (for non-parishioners) in inner-city Catholic schools in the state? According to the Minnesota Catholic Conference, they average under $3,200 for elementary schools and under $8,000 for high schools. By contrast, as long ago as 2003 -- in the wake of a recession -- federal, state, and local revenues in Minneapolis Public Schools totaled $13,658 per "pupil unit."

Now consider findings like these on voucher programs across the nation, as summarized by William G. Howell and Paul E. Peterson, both of Harvard:

"Voucher interventions that serve African American students seem particularly promising. ... [A]ttending a private school, compared with attending a public school, boosts African American students' test scores, educational attainment, likelihood of pursuing an advanced degree, and future earnings. Even studies that find little comparable benefits for whites typically find that private schools help African Americans."

This leads the two political scientists to conclude:

"The importance of such findings for the education of African American students has been underappreciated. ... With these new data from randomized field studies confirming prior observational studies, the positive impact of private schools on African American students' educational performance can no longer be dismissed as the product of some mysterious selection effect."

For the life of me, I can't understand how any educator, politician, editorial writer, or anyone else can read all of this and not believe vouchers are worth at least a try.
Mitch Pearlstein is founder and president of Center of the American Experiment. The findings above are from his forthcoming study, "Achievement Gaps and Vouchers: How Achievement Gaps are Bigger in Minnesota than Virtually Anyplace Else, and Why Vouchers are Essential to Reducing Them."

Via Powerline:

Minneapolis City Council member Don Samuels wrote the foreword to Mitch's paper. Don Samuels is a Democrat who represents Minneapolis's Fifth Ward, one of its poorest. Here is what Mr. Samuels had to say in introducing Mitch's paper:

As a Democrat and a politician, I consider it a hazard to attach my name and contribution to this fine essay. The majority of my voting base will probably frown on this association. Yet, I am impelled by an impetus greater than political survival. I am forced by nothing less than the socioeconomic survival of the poorer half of my people in these United States, who have gradually descended into massive academic failure and its disastrous attendant repercussions.

For me, it is as simple as this: what is the pool from which my young daughters will choose a life partner? Who will be their girlfriends here on our block? How many future murderers are in the first grade classes of the four elementary schools within a mile of my home? What level of change are we willing to endure to reverse the frightening answers to these questions?

If you can relate to such questions or are appalled at the academic decimation of African American and Indian children, you would do well to dispense with partisan fears long enough to give this essay an objective reading.

Mitch Pearlstein writes a balanced work of persuasion. He writes with the deference of one who has personal relationships on the other side of his own position, acknowledging the validity of some opposing concerns and challenging others with objective facts and a generous attitude.

The historically virulent nature of this debate has led many down the errant path of subjective accusations, personal attacks, perverted information, and emotional manipulation. Dr. Pearlstein avoids these pitfalls. He presents his position in a scholarly, dignified, sensitive, and winsome way. He subordinates his passion to his priority of persuasion. He critiques his own sources and limits the scope of their significance by the integrity of their methods.

There is among us a class of people who believe strongly in their positions and always strive to do what is right. They are keenly aware that the opportunities for wisdom are often disguised as trauma and betrayal. They always leave the door of reason open for new information and enlightened persuasion. They are willing to endure the inconvenience of change for significant personal and social gain. If you are one of these rays of hope, I urge you to suspend suspicion and give Dr. Pearlstein access to your intellect and heart for a few moments. The children of my race and community languish in wait of your transformation.

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