Sandi Jacobs, vice president of the National Council on Teacher Quality, a research and policy organization.
Vouchers, Savings Accounts and Private Schools
A growing number of lawmakers across the country are taking steps to redefine public education, shifting the debate from the classroom to the pocketbook. Instead of simply financing a traditional system of neighborhood schools, legislators and some governors are headed toward funneling public money directly to families, who would be free to choose the kind of schooling they believe is best for their children, be it public, charter, private, religious, online or at home.
On Tuesday, after a legal fight, the Indiana Supreme Court upheld the state’s voucher program as constitutional. This month, Gov. Robert Bentley of Alabama signed tax-credit legislation so that families can take their children out of failing public schools and enroll them in private schools, or at least in better-performing public schools. And in New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie, in an effort to circumvent a Legislature that has repeatedly defeated voucher bills, has inserted $2 million into his budget so low-income children can obtain private school vouchers.
Proponents say tax-credit and voucher programs offer families a way to escape failing public schools. But critics warn that by drawing money away from public schools, such programs weaken a system left vulnerable after years of crippling state budget cuts — while showing little evidence that students actually benefit.
Currently, 17 states offer 33 programs that allow parents to use taxpayer money to send their children to private schools, according to the American Federation for Children, a nonprofit advocate for school vouchers and tax-credit scholarship programs that give individuals or corporations tax reductions if they donate to state-run scholarship funds.
Some parents of modest means are surprised to discover that the education savings accounts put private school within reach. The school boards association and the state’s teachers union, among others, have challenged the savings accounts in court on the grounds that they violate a constitutional amendment banning spending public money on private schools. (Direct vouchers, begun in 2006, were deemed unconstitutional in 2009 for that reason.)
In January 2012, a Superior Court judge in Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, upheld the savings accounts, though the plaintiffs appealed the ruling. Oral arguments were heard last month. A decision is pending.
Should savings accounts from taxpayer dollars be able to send students to private schools?
Measuring MOOC Success, Few Complete Courses
Udacity, along with other MOOC designers, is moving rapidly away from the video lecture model of teaching toward an approach that is highly interactive and based on frequent quizzes and human “mentors” to provide active online support for students.
Moreover, there are early indications that the high interactivity and personalized feedback of online education might ultimately offer a learning structure that can’t be matched by the traditional classroom.
Duolingo, a free Web-based language learning system that grew out of a Carnegie Mellon University research project, is not an example of a traditional MOOC. However, the system, which now teaches German, French, Portuguese, Italian, Spanish and English, has roughly one million users and about 100,000 people spend time on the site daily. The firm’s business is based on the possibility of using students to translate documents in a crowd-sourced fashion.
Seventy-five percent of the students are outside of United States, and Carnegie Mellon computer scientist Luis von Ahn notes that the foreign students are significantly more motivated and have a higher completion rate than their American counterparts.
Question: Have you successfully completed a MOOC?
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A wild scene unfolded on Staten Island last Wednesday when a zebra and a pony were spotted running along a busy roadway after they apparently escaped from a Christmas tree seller.
Question: Is it legal to own a zebra as a pet in NYC?
Steve Hartman visits an animal sanctuary where a dog and an elephant have formed a very lasting, and unusual, friendship.
Congratulations to Robert Titus, An 80-Year-Old Graduate with an Online Marketing Degree!
Robert Titus, an 80-year old graduate with a bachelor’s degree in marketing management from W.G.U. Texas, a nonprofit online university created in 2011, said, “I wanted to get it while I was young, so I can start off on a good career.”
But Mr. Titus has no illusions about getting hired, and he is just fine with that. After more than a decade of retirement, he is happier than ever.
So why pursue the degree? “I promised my mother many, many years ago that I would get my degree,” said Mr. Titus, a former salesman who lives in Houston. “To me, it was a major, big, big, huge accomplishment.”
By a wide margin, Mr. Titus was the oldest member of the inaugural graduating class from W.G.U. Texas, a nonprofit online university created in 2011 with an executive order by Gov. Rick Perry.
More than 440 students have graduated from W.G.U. Texas. The average age in that group is 39, and the average time to earn a degree was about three and a half years.
Question: Well done, Robert Titus! Any comments for this recent grad?
Is Bigfoot is real?
Veterinarian Melba S. Ketchum sure thinks so. She has conducted a five-year study of more than 100 DNA samples that she believes comes from the elusive hairy beast, Bigfoot.
Under Ketchum’s direction at DNA Diagnostics in Nacogdoches, Texas, a team of researchers has concluded that the creature may be a human relative that somehow developed around 15,000 years ago as a result of a hybrid cross between Homo sapiens with an unknown primate.
Ketchum’s research has yet to stand the scrutiny of independent researchers and is still waiting to be published. While many people have claimed to have seen the creature, its existence has never been confirmed, despite a plethora of photos and footprints. The ongoing search is the subject of Animal Planet’s “Finding Bigfoot” television series.
One theory about a possible explanation for Bigfoot or Sasquatch is that it could turn out to be a large primate called Gigantopithecus, 9-foot-tall apes that presumably went extinct around 100,000 years ago.
Question: Do you believe that Bigfoot exists?