Described as a “stinging setback for advocates of private school choice,” Teacher Magazine’s “Current Events in Brief” (January 1994) reported that “California voters in November rejected the nation’s most ambitious school voucher initiative yet by a seven-to-three margin. Proposition 174 would have given parents a tax-funded voucher-worth about $2,500 per child in 1994-95—to spend at any participating public, private, or parochial school.
“The overwhelming defeat marked the third straight loss for voucher proponents at the polls. Voucher referendums were defeated in Colorado in 1992 and in Oregon in 1990, both by two-to-one margins. Many national education groups seized on the overwhelming rejection of the California initiative as a referendum on the future of private school choice nationwide.
“ ‘We believe the size of the no vote reflects an abiding faith in the ideals and purposes of public education,’ said Del Weber, president of the California Teachers Association, ‘and we are encouraged by that expression of support for free and universal public schooling.’ The CTA, by far the most formidable opponent of the measure, contributed at least $10 million of the approximately $16 million spent on the anti-voucher campaign.
“Still the national fight over vouchers is far from finished,” according to the news brief. “The same day that Proposition 174 went down, voters in New Jersey and Virginia elected Republican gubernatorial candidates who have backed the school voucher concept. And backers of the California initiative have already pledged to repackage it for the 1994 or 1996 ballot. Voucher bills that include private schools are also expected to surface in at least a dozen states this year.”
The same issue of Teacher also announced that “Proponents of school choice have created a new national organization that will try to get voucher programs adopted through legislation and ballot initiatives at the state level. Launched this past October, Americans for School Choice has pulled together a prestigious board of directors that includes two former U.S. secretaries of education (Lamar Alexander and William Bennett), members of Congress, two governors, and several state legislators.”
The voucher issue, under its familiar banner of “educational choice,” is unlikely to go away any time soon. California public educators are perhaps a bit too optimistic in assuming that the defeat of Proposition 174 is a vote of confidence for the public schools. John Witte, a professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, makes this observation: “I don’t think the California thing should be read in too serious a manner. You had a situation of gross fiscal uncertainty in a place where they’re hurting terribly for money, and so it didn’t get passed.” To his comment we add that it is a mistake to assume that all people who opposed the initiative did so for the same reasons. Many private and home educators approached the vote with serious apprehensions about “government strings” which are inevitably attached to government funds, and thereby came to a negative conclusion—most of these participants would hardly be the ones to be giving the public schools a favorable mandate.
The Report Card On American Education 1993
William J. Bennett’s summary of “The Report Card of American Education 1993” highlights the following key issues and findings. First, American has invested heavily in the nation’s public schools, and this investment has not paid off. Second, ten states dominate the highest rankings on measures of student performance—all of which are also among the highest ranking of states for both white and minority student performance. Third, there is no direct correlation between increased spending and student performance. Fourth, there is a direct correlation between course-taking patterns and improved student performance. Fifth, small schools seem to produce better than large ones. Sixth, we have to do better in getting the money to the children in the classroom. The huge 40 percent increase in the number of non-teaching school employees hired over the last 20 years is squandering our educational resources and accomplishing little more than an inflated bureaucracy.
ACSI, The Psychological Corporation Collaborating on “Christian SAT”
The Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI) has for many years operated an extensive testing program in its schools, using the Stanford Achievement Test (SAT). The program has been so successful that it has grown to a sufficiently significant market share which allowed ACSI to appeal to the test’s publisher, The Psychological Corporation, to design a version of the SAT which would contain questions not offensive to students with a Christian worldview training.
The $4.5 million project will take approximately two years and is scheduled to be available in late 1995 or early 1996. The SAT 9 questions (items) are being field-tested in ACSI’s Christian schools, and Drs. Paul Kienel and Ollie Gibbs from ACSI headquarters will review the final draft. Since the norming process for the “Christian version” of SAT 9 will be identical to the other forms of the test, comparison of scores will be possible. This test will have the same educational recognition as the other forms of SAT 9.
The test will be made available to home educators, though all the details of how and where remain to be worked out. The National Center will be reviewing test items from SAT 8, the version used in the HSLDA testing program, to give additional input about questions which are “biased” against home-educated students.
Reaching At-Risk Students
A fascinating report in Education Daily (October 1, 1993) confirms a choice home educators have recognized as superior for years. Citing the experience of a California school with many “high-risk” students, the article reports that “Today, kids who were formerly candidates for remedial education are learning robotics, algebra and aerospace science: subjects usually reserved for the most advanced students. And [Principal Michael] O’Kane says, ‘kids across the board have improved [their standardized test scores] by 30 percent over a three-year period.’
“What helped turn those kids around, O’Kane maintains, was [the school’s] adopting the Stanford University Accelerated Schools Project. According to its founder, Henry Levin, the Stanford project ‘represents a process for creating a school where kids are treated as if they are gifted and talented. We want to bring at-risk kids into the mainstream and move away from remediation.’ …
“The goals of de-tracking classrooms and accelerating learning meant changes in curriculum and teaching methods. For example, Burnett [Academy] integrated language arts and social studies to create a cross-curricular experience. ‘During a double period, students might read The Red Badge of Courage and then study the history corresponding to the book,’ O’Kane says. ‘It demonstrates why we read history, why it ties together with other subjects.’ ”
The school also did a number of things like reaching out to business for “apprenticeship-type” experiences that would receive academic credit and allowing less-advanced students to work on stimulating projects in the computer lab. “In addition, Burnett reached out to parents. ‘In the past, parents did not feel welcome around the school, and that was something we needed to change,’ the principal says. Parents’ presence on councils and other outreach efforts resulted in both an increase in the number of parent volunteers and the time they gave.”
Interdisciplinary studies, avoiding negative labels on student potential, involving practical experiences to make learning applicable to life, and working with parents—it truly provides better educational results. This is no revelation to home educators!
Missing Doctor Appointments Can Constitute “Child Neglect”
United Press International reports from Columbus, Ohio (January 8, 1994), that “an Ohio State University study indicates child neglect is an even bigger problem than physical and sexual abuse. Unfortunately, most physicians can’t agree when neglect has occurred and when it should be reported to authorities, according to the recent research.
“A study of 52 doctors at Children's Hospital in Columbus showed a wide range of opinions about what constituted medical neglect. ‘There’s a lot of disagreement among doctors about many of the issues involved, and there are no guidelines for them to follow,’ said Charles Johnson, professor of pediatrics at Ohio State University and author of the study….
“In the study, which was published in a recent issue of the Journal of Child Abuse and Neglect, Johnson surveyed doctors specializing in pediatrics. Each of the physicians considered issues of neglect concerning one particular disease assigned to him or her. The diseases ranged from strep throat to Down’s syndrome and meningitis. The doctors were asked a variety of questions, including whether failure to provide care for the disease would hurt a child’s growth and development; how long a delay in seeking treatment would constitute neglect; and how many times parents could miss an appointment for their child before it becomes neglect.
“The answers to many questions varied according to the severity of the disease,’ Johnson said. ‘It’s much more important to seek immediate treatment for a child who is having seizures than for one who has strep throat.’
“Doctors varied in their responses about what they considered an acceptable excuse for a missed appointment, and the number of appointments that could be missed before it was neglectful. The number of acceptable misses for a single appointment averaged two and ranged from zero to four. About 85 percent of the doctors said a parent could be excused for missing an appointment because he or she was ill. About 71 percent said it was OK for parents to miss an appointment because they had no transportation. But 75 percent said it wasn’t acceptable for parents to miss an appointment because they had to work.
“What if a parent delayed in seeking treatment for a child who showed symptoms of illness? In this case, the doctors were almost evenly divided about whether they would report parents for neglect. But if a child showed symptoms because the parents failed to follow the doctor-recommended treatment, 85 percent of the physicians would report neglect.”
The final clincher in the article's description of the study: “Results could help policymakers come up with clear guidelines for doctors about their role in treating children and educating parents.” Watch those new federal health care bills!