Some Education-Related Policy Snippets

Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAP)

The ASVAP has been a powerful recruiting tool for the Pentagon, with hundreds of thousands of student test scores being routinely being sent to the military each year, typically leading to follow-up calls from recruiters. About 621,000 students nationwide took the ASVAP test in 2006-07, yielding 23,000 military recruits — 9.3 percent of total enlistments, according to the Department of Defense (DoD). Of the 11,900 schools nationwide that gave the test, 92 percent allowed military recruiters to receive test results and personal contact information.

Civilian DoD employees seeking to market the ASVAP attend education conferences, give talks in schools, and can spend up to $1,000 for events where they make presentations or give training to school employees.

The 693,600 student LA Unified School District mandated  in the 2011-12 school year that no ASVAP information go to recruiters. About 2,700 students still took the test.

Among the changes that critics — notably Safe Passage USA — propose are: equal access for organizations offering alternatives to military careers; reporting policy violations to school boards; and possible banning of recruiting organizations after two violations.

Charter School Fraud

Between 2005 and 2011, the U.S. Department of Education opened 53 investigations of charter school fraud, resulting in 21 indictments and 17 convictions. Nineteen of Philadelphia’s 84 charter schools were under investigation by state and/or local authorities.

Effects on Student Performance

“Withering Opportunity” is the title of a recent study that reported the major influence on student performance as being the family, topping both school and community. It is the latest of a series of studies showing how difficult it is to overcome a bad family environment in educating a child.

In 2010, the results of international testing comparing students in 34 developed countries showed a stunning decline in U.S. test scores. Given that No Child Left Behind (NCLB) had been in effect for a number of years, it may be that NCLB has not had a beneficial effect on student performance.

These two outcomes relate to President Obama in the sense that he has tied teacher evaluations to student performance on high stakes testing. Teachers working in poverty-stricken areas have an additional hurdle to overcome in raising their students’ test scores. Secondly, although Obama proposes to remove the emphasis on failing students and schools found in NCLB, he doesn’t propose to kill it.

The Drawbacks of On-Line Education

When President Obama held a well-publicized meeting with former Florida governor Jeb Bush, the GOP’s “go-to” guy on educational issues, he gave prominence to the GOP’s ultimate goal of breaking teachers’ unions through the use of vouchers, increasing the number of mostly non-union charter schools and promoting on-line education. Jeb Bush has a possible conflict of interest problem, because a brother sells educational products tailored for on-line education. Bush also travels the country promoting for-profit on-line education.

On-line education has a number of drawbacks: it siphons money from public institutions into for-profit companies; it undercuts public employees and their unions; it is beset with allegations of fraud; on-line schools rank among the most troubled schools; and the digital learning products tend to be of low-quality.

There tends to be little teacher involvement in on-line education, as parents do much of the teaching. Class sizes tend to be large, as illustrated by more than 100 students in some Wisconsin on-line schools. Also, teachers’ salaries comprise just 17 percent of the budget for the on-line company, ECOT; in contrast, in Ohio’s public schools, teachers’ salaries may comprise 75 percent of the education budget.

Spending priorities may be very skewed at on-line companies: Q Academy Wisconsin spent $424,000 on ads to attract students.

Finally, a CREDO research study shows learning gains significantly worse in on-line schools compared to  traditional public schools.

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