“Family and Children First” Initiatives Considered in 18 States
From the National Commission on Children’s Summit in Washington, DC, last March, to editorial columnists offering advice to the new President, to state legislative initiatives throughout the nation, the concept of “streamlining” red tape to bring an “at risk” generation of American students their “entitlement” of government services is gaining popularity. Highlighting the fact that it is difficult to deliver services efficiently when the agencies who fund and implement them are spread throughout the branches of government, media and welfare reformers are calling for change.
And it seems that change is certainly on the way! That is, if states pass the “Child and Family First” initiatives which comprise a massive project to integrate all child and family service systems. The result of such action will be to team up each state’s Department of Education with its Department of Human Services. In other words, social services will include education, and education will include social services.
No less than 18 states are currently considering such “Family and Children First” initiatives: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Vermont, and Washington.
Data collection programs to enhance these efforts are also moving forward at record speed. Rochelle Sharpe, staff reporter of The Wall Street Journal, indicates that government leaders are recommending schools to “start collecting reams of new information on individual students, ranging from their birth weight to whether they register to vote at age 18” (April 21, 1993). This data collection system is tied to the work of the National Education Goals Panel, which is a major thrust of the Clinton administration’s school reform package—Goals 2000.
With increasing pressures on the federal government to provide a national system of healthcare and solve the nation’s many economic woes, American citizens will face the growing reality that their privacy must be surrendered in return for mandated services.
Citizens need to be alert to statewide and national efforts to facilitate “one-stop shopping” in the schools of their neighborhoods. The education reforms proposed in Outcome-Based Education programs demand the expansive electronic recordkeeping described here, as well as the cooperation of all agencies of government to assure compliance throughout society.
Illinois PTA Approves Resolution to Seek Home School Legislation
On April 29, 1993, the Illinois Parent Teacher Association voted to approve their resolution to seek legislation promoting home school accountability. The first attempts at legislative drafts are expected in the fall of 1993.
Citing the growing number of children being home educated across the nation and the fact that Illinois law only requires “parents who wish to educate their children themselves to sign and return a one-page form stating that they will be responsible for educating the child at home,” the group expressed concern that regulation spelling out accountability reviews at the 3rd, 6th, 8th, and 11th grades is sorely needed.
The proposed legislation will be designed to require parents annually to “ present a lesson plan demonstrating a well-planned curriculum appropriate for the child’s age and ability, that meets the State Goals for Learning as adopted by the State Board of Education in 1985, and  present their children for periodic achievement testing to assure that these children will be literate and able to take their proper place in society.”
Illinois home educators will certainly need to continue their efforts to familiarize lawmakers with the great job home schools are doing. It is also crucial to re-emphasize that current laws are adequate. As state leaders in Illinois say, “Let’s not try to fix what ain’t broken.”
The rest of us will need to watch the efforts of the PTA throughout all our states and faithfully pray for God’s protection in Illinois.
SAT Revisions are Met with Criticism
The American School Board Journal (March 1993) reports that “Antonyms are out, but calculators are in—that’s the latest word on the redesigned Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), scheduled to debut in the spring of 1994.
“The new test will do a better job of measuring reasoning abilities,” says Anne Buckley, a spokeswoman for the College Board, which redesigned the test. The updated SAT—called SAT I—will have math and verbal sections like the current test, but students will be able to use calculators, and the test will put more emphasis on critical reading skills.
—The math section of the SAT I will emphasize students’ ability to apply concepts and interpret data, Buckley says. Some math questions also will require students to supply their own answers. In the verbal section, the antonyms and the test for standard English will be eliminated, but new questions will measure vocabulary in context.
“The current achievement tests also have been redesigned. A new series of subject tests called the SAT II will have 20-minute writing sections and multiple-choice questions, Buckley says. Students will be able to choose from 18 specific subjects, including foreign languages and history.
“Approximately 1.8 million students take the SATs each year,” Buckley says. About 1,070 colleges in the United States-61 percent-use the test scores in the admissions process, according to College Board statistics.
“Despite the redesign, College Board officials are not expecting big changes in SAT scores,” Buckley says—and longtime critics of the test agree. “It’s like putting tail fins on an Edsel,” says Robert Schaeffer, public education director for FairTest of Cambridge, MA. “The changes are extremely minimal. It’s a repackaging of a few items.”
“But other experts say the changes are a step in the right direction. The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics applauds the revisions in the math section. ‘Calculators are part of the world today,’ says Mary Lindquist, an organization official.
“Robert Cohen, an official of Princeton Review, an SAT coaching company, is happy about the changes, too. ‘This makes it more coachable,’ Cohen says. ‘The antonym section was the most difficult to teach because if you don’t know a word, nothing can really help,’ Cohen says. ‘Guessing words in context is easier to teach. And you can show students where it is better to use calculators.’
“Buckley disagrees, insisting that coaching has never made a difference in SAT scores and that the test cannot be made more ‘coachable.’”
Congressman Files Resolution to Honor &lduqo;Christian Heritage Week”
On February 17, 1993, West Virginia Congressman Nick Rahall [D-WV] introduced House Joint Resolution 113 to proclaim November 21-17, 1993 (Thanksgiving Week) as “Christian Heritage Week” throughout America. The legislation requires 218 cosponsors from the 435 members of the House of Representatives for it to pass on to the Senate, where 51 “yes” votes will be required.
Currently there are no cosponsors of this resolution, and no committee hearings or other action have been scheduled as of May 24, 1993.
Home Schooler Wins Recognition as National Merit Finalist
Jonathan Loghry, a 16-year-old student from Arkansas, has been home schooling his entire school career. The payoff? — Academic excellence that has earned him recognition this winter as a National Merit finalist! His mother, Carolyn Loghry, says she hopes this is an encouragement to all those parents who have teenagers and are wondering if they can “make the grade” compared to public school seniors.
Carolyn’s letter tells it this way: “I was unsure whether the National Merit Foundation would award Finalist standing to a home school student. Therefore, I had him take the PSAT (the qualifying test for National Merit Finalists) with our local public school. This test is given in October of the student’s junior year of high school. I called the company who puts out the test and any student is welcome to take the test at a cooperative high school. Semifinalists are not notified until the following fall and then they must complete applications for Finalist. Many colleges give $2000 scholarships to students who are National Merit Finalists. It also helps validate the student’s high school grades if he has Finalist standing.”
Jonathan tells his college admission counselors, “I don't have any choice but to make good grades!”