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items tagged with education

Ted Rall: Occupy Public Education
Written By: Jeff Ignatius
Section: Lifestyle

Category: Ted Rall

2011-12-28 11:53:43



Branstad Unveils 10-Year Education Plan; Democrats Concerned About Price Tag
Written By: Jeff Ignatius
Section: Commentary/Politics

Category: Iowa Politics

2011-10-05 15:22:04

Governor Terry Branstad on October 3 unveiled a 10-year plan to transform Iowa’s education system that would end promoting third-graders who read poorly, change the pay system for teachers, and require students to pass end-of-course exams to graduate.

“Instead of spending all of our time fighting over the issues of the past, we really want to focus on the things that will ... systemically reform and improve Iowa’s education system,” said Branstad, who added that earlier debates over ending state-funded preschool and zero-percent allowable growth in school funding will not be revisited.

“This is a plan for the next decade,” said Iowa Department of Education Director Jason Glass, who noted that the plan is intended to be a comprehensive package and should not be viewed as a list of options to be cherry-picked. “This plan ... should be the blueprint for where our resources now and in the future go into education.”

But Democrats were skeptical, especially because Branstad and Glass declined to set a price tag for the proposal and don’t plan to do so until shortly before the legislature reconvenes in January.


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Moving the Needle: Illinois Is Notorious for Its Politics, but Compromise on Performance-Based Education Reform Inches Forward
Written By: Jeff Ignatius
Section: Commentary/Politics

Category: Illinois Politics

2011-03-17 11:23:20

Education reform in Illinois features two major storylines: politics and policy. On the political front, two powerful forces – the business community and teacher unions – have competing proposals. On the policy end of things, the primary educational question is whether and to what degree teacher performance will be a factor in school-district workforce decisions, from budget-related layoffs to dismissals to tenure.

As the law stands now, layoffs and tenure are simply functions of teachers’ years of service and don’t take into account whether students are actually learning. Firing a tenured teacher is time-consuming and costly, and the current teacher-evaluation system, all sides agree, is ineffective. Common-sense reform is long overdue.

Given Illinois’ history and reputation, however, one might expect politics to dictate the outcome at the expense of sound policy. Somewhat surprisingly, the substance of the different proposals appears to be getting a careful vetting, and politics have thus far taken a back seat.


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The Real Curriculum of "Public" Education
Written By: Jeff Ignatius
Section: Commentary/Politics

Category: Guest Commentaries

2010-09-08 13:55:30

An August 28 article at the privacy-rights Web site Pogo Was Right argues that schools are "grooming youth to passively accept a surveillance state where they have no expectation of privacy anywhere." Privacy violations include "surveilling students in their bedrooms via webcam, ... random drug or locker searches, strip-searching, ... lowering the standard for searching students to 'reasonable suspicion' from 'probable cause,' [and] disciplining students for conduct outside of school hours ... ."

"No expectation of privacy anywhere" is becoming literally true. The schools are grooming kids not only for the public surveillance state, but also for the private surveillance states of their employers. By the time the human resources graduate from 12 years of factory processing, they will accept it as normal to be kept under constant surveillance -- "for your own safety," of course -- by authority figures. But they won't just accept it from Homeland Security ("if you've done nothing wrong, you have nothing to fear"). They'll also accept as "normal" a work situation in which an employer can make them pee in cups at any time, without notice, or track their online behavior even when they're away from work.

This is just part of what rogue educator John Taylor Gatto calls the "real curriculum" of public education ("The Seven-Lesson Schoolteacher," 1992). The real curriculum includes the lesson that the way to advancement, in any area of life, is to find out what will please the authority figure behind the desk, then do it. It includes the lesson that the important tasks in life are those assigned to us by authority figures -- the schoolteacher, the college instructor, the boss -- and that self-assigned tasks in pursuit of our own goals are to be trivialized as "hobbies" or "recreation."


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A Textbook Case: Why Digital College Materials Haven’t Taken Off
Written By: Jeff Ignatius
Section: News/Features

Category: Feature Stories

2009-09-23 14:13:03

At the beginning the school year, in a chemistry class at St. Ambrose University, Professor Margaret Legg offered students the option to buy a less-expensive e-book instead of the usual physical textbook. No one opted for the digital version.

Kelsey Berg, a sophomore majoring in biology, said she had already bought the hardcover edition. Had the e-book been offered before she bought it, Berg said she still wouldn't have purchased it. "I don't like reading on a computer. It's hard to concentrate," she said, adding that it wasn't worth the cost, either, because one can't sell an e-book back.

Many college students are embracing digital and open-source textbooks, which are accessed through computers and digital readers such as Amazon's Kindle. For some, it provides a more convenient way to carry multiple textbooks. Beyond being easier on students' backs, e-books are also better for the environment, because no natural resources are used in the production or transportation of a physical book.

But the major selling point is a lower cost compared to new textbooks. Textbooks cost an average of $900 per semester, according to the federal Government Accountability Office. The U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) has been advocating for reducing the prices of textbooks, which they say have risen faster than the rate of inflation in the past several years.

Although e-books are often 50 percent less expensive than unused print editions of textbooks, the cost evaluation isn't quite so clear-cut. In many cases, there's little or no cost savings to students in the long run.

And some people, like Berg, resist e-books for other reasons.


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