You want to REOPEN the epic school-equity case? Really?

I was a bit surprised that this was played at the bottom of The State‘s front page today. Back in my front-page-editor days, I would have found a way to get it above the fold along with the Metts plea deal — to the right of it, in the traditional lede position.

We spend two decades trying a case in which the poor, rural school districts of our state petition for an equal chance for the children in their charge. Finally, finally, the state Supreme Court issues its ruling — that the state is indeed not providing an equal chance for all its pupils, and must remedy the situation.

And now, this:

Gov. Nikki Haley and state lawmakers are fighting a court order aimed at improving the state’s school system in rural, poor districts.

In two petitions filed with the S.C. Supreme Court on Tuesday, attorneys representing Haley and lawmakers asked the justices to rehear a landmark school equity lawsuit that rural school districts, including Abbeville, brought against the state more than 20 years ago…

The court ruled 3-2 in November that the state failed to provide children in poor, rural districts with an adequate public education as required by the S.C. Constitution.

Without recommending specific policies or actions, the court ordered lawmakers and the school districts to devise a plan to address the problems the court identified, including weak rural tax bases, aging facilities and the difficulty of recruiting quality teachers to rural areas. The court also said the state’s method of paying for schools was unfair and needs to be updated, and hinted some small school districts may need to be merged.

However, Haley and Attorney General Alan Wilson’s petition for a rehearing says the Supreme Court’s majority “overlooked recent education initiatives put in place by (Haley’s administration) and the General Assembly that will directly affect rural school districts in South Carolina.”…

Really? You want to reopen a case that took this long, rather than go ahead and do what you should have done without a lawsuit?

What — do you think the court didn’t spend enough time pondering it before?

Look, I appreciate that the governor and lawmakers took steps in this past session to do more to help the poorer schools out. I’ve praised them for it. But that improvement is the sort of thing you would hold up to show, as we go forward, that you’re trying to implement the ruling — not used as an excuse to ask the court to reconsider.

But going back and trying to drag this thing out further is no way to follow up that good first step. The governor and lawmakers should instead be competing with one another to come up with the best ideas to improve the rural schools, starting perhaps with something that most politicians at least give lip service to — consolidating districts, to eliminate duplication in administration and give the poorest districts access to the tax base in the more affluent districts in their counties.

Or something. Show some leadership, folks. Instead of what I can only categorize as sullen foot-dragging.

94 thoughts on “You want to REOPEN the epic school-equity case? Really?

  1. Juan Caruso

    The States’ article correctly cited the General Assembly’s 2014 approval of Haley’s education reform proposals in new education spending. Will current appropriations be adequate for an overnight cure?

    As University of South Carolina law professor Derek Black said, “As I read the opinion, the education issues were so systematic and so woeful” that it would take much more that [sic] one year of reforms to make a difference.”

    As we will undoubtedly need to spend more later, isn’t it wise to spend more on what works and less on what does not?

    Legislation from the courts is one thing. Overnight performance of idealistic court orders encourages the unaccountably mismanaged, feel-good largesse for which tax and spend (liberal) politics has become wastefully infamous. Apparently, some courts have less concern with with their own performance relative to the “Speedy Trial Clause” (in the 6h Amendment) than with issuing orders to EQUAL branches of our government. Professor Blaclk, wittingly or not, brought up a great point.

    Reply
  2. Mark Stewart

    Alan Wilson is going out of his way this year (or last year that is) to prove that his principled and courageous stand opposing Bobby Harrell was just a fluke – a lucky roll of the dice on his part.

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  3. Doug Ross

    Spending more money has yet to be proven to work to fix the problems that cause poverty. Describe a scenario that would dramatically improve the educational experience in the worst districts. How much will you have to pay the best teachers and administrators to work there? How will you convince uneducated parents that they should support their children’s educational efforts on a daily basis so they can leave their community? Will you allow all current teachers and administrators to remain? It’s so easy to say “let’s just make everything fair”. The problem is in the implementation. It’s an impossible task.

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    1. Mark Stewart

      Humans do the impossible every single day.

      Educating children may be difficult, but it is never “impossible”. I don’t give up on people, and neither should you, Doug. No one should ever treat this situation as unsolvable. It is – it simply requires small steps every single day, and an understanding that setbacks are inevitable.

      I don’t want or expect to see dramatic improvement. We should all expect, and work toward, slow, steady and almost imperceptible movement. This is a glacial problem. There are no quick and easy fixes. That is the fallacious outlook here, as is fatalism. Nothing is impossible. Life just requires effort. Sustained effort…

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      1. Doug Ross

        Give me a set of steps, Mark, that you think would work too dramatically change the outcomes for kids in those poor communities. Except you can’t even suggest vouchers on a limited, trial basis because that’s off the table.

        My plan:

        Take over the schools at the state level. Remove all school boards. Terminate all administrators and make them reapply for their Jobs. Provide cash bonuses to parents who get their kids to meet the standards of the PASS test and graduate. Year round schooling focused solely on literacy during the summer. No high school athletics for schools rating poor.

        None of those can or will happen. What will happen is that the legislature will eventually throw some money at hiring consultants to come up with ten year plans.

        What needs to be done is immediate ACTION, not additional spending. Let’s see the districts prove they want to improve first by taking the initiative to do so.

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        1. Kathryn Fenner

          Early childhood interventions. “combat pay” for proven teachers wiling to work in troubled districts. Adequate buildings and learning materials…

          These cost money.

          Try things your ancestral homeland of Finland has done with success.

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          1. Doug Ross

            Import a bunch of Finns and let’s see what happens.

            Everyone who thinks the state should spend more must first admit that the school districts in question are already spending significantly more per pupil than other districts. It hasn’t worked yet.

            Why should teachers need combat pay, anyway? Are the students and their parents unable to enforce discipline? That’s a parenting problem. Which goes back to over of my previous suggestions – pay women in those districts to not have children before the age of 25. That would do more to help than anything.

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            1. Kathryn Fenner

              I put “combat pay” in quotation marks–I meant incentive pay for working under challenging conditions. The challenges I refer to are students who are not from academically supportive backgrounds.

              Proven teachers generally need an incentive to locate in these communities. Why would any rational Ayn Randian person who has a choice choose to teach troubled kids when s/he could teach suburban superstars?

              My sister-in-law’s first parish was in a blue collar hood in Philly. Her older son fell in with his peers and barely got into college, despite previously being a star at the academic magnet school while Kay was in seminary. I suspect if he had spent his teen years amongst the academic strivers his younger brother did, his life would have been different. He’s a happy Philly cop now, but…. Why would a proven teacher with kids want to expose them to a troubled peer group? In the end, these troubled districts become self-perpetuating.

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            2. Doug Ross

              Exactly. You won’t be able to pay the best teachers enough to enter a hopeless situation. There has top be another approach. Save the kids who want to be saved, encourage the rest to not procreate.

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            3. Doug Ross

              Nope. Only need to pay the ones who bear the burden of having the child..and in those communities they typically get no support from the father. Think about the impact of poor women waiting till age 25 to have children, especially if they were given enough money to educate themselves, start small businesses, or just move out of the bad district till a place where their kids could get better schooling.

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  4. scout

    Mark says: “I don’t want or expect to see dramatic improvement. We should all expect, and work toward, slow, steady and almost imperceptible movement.”

    And Doug responds, “Give me a set of steps, Mark, that you think would work too dramatically change the outcomes for kids in those poor communities.”

    Are you listening, Doug?

    You say “Spending more money has yet to be proven to work to fix the problems that cause poverty.”

    It’s true that all spending won’t be effective, but it’s also true that you won’t be effective without spending money. The answer is not to swear off spending any money, period (which seems to be your position), but to spend wisely and considerately on evidence based strategies and to be realistic about what progress will look like. Unfortunately, if you will only acknowledge sudden and dramatic results as valid outcomes, it will be easy for you to continually shoot down anything that is offered.

    We are making slow steady progress.

    You know, Bud Ferillo has another documentary now – When The Bough Breaks… – that details a lot of the new initiatives going on across the state to address early literacy. I realize you will probably reject all these efforts out of hand since they don’t immediately and significantly increase the high school graduation a second after implementation. But whether you acknowledge it or not, we are making slow steady progress.

    http://scetv.org/index.php/etv_learn_blog/entry/documentary_addresses_state_of_literacy_in_sc/

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    1. Doug Ross

      It’s too slow. Too slow because the bar is set too low. Too slow because those who need the most help are unwilling to own their responsibility when it comes to education. And I didn’t say anything about spending no money. I said don’t spend more. It hasn’t worked to spend double…it won’t work to spend triple..it won’t work to spend ten times as much.

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        1. Doug Ross

          If you are unable or unaware of what it means to raise a child, don’t have one. That’s what we should be teaching kids.

          I find it hard to believe that a woman capable of having a child has no understanding of the basic requirements of raising the kids. They understand how to sign up for food stamps and Medicaid and free lunches at the school, right? Why are those processes so easy to grasp but spending time reviewing homework or reading to a kid are not?

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          1. Kathryn Fenner

            Well, try a bit harder. Babies happen naturally, but education doesn’t. People around them know how to sign up for benefits. People around them are likely just as clueless about how to educate kids. It’s a slef-perpetuating problem unless those of us who have a clue help them. Early childhood intervention, ongoing assistance.
            Colleges have figured out that a lot of first-in-the-family-to-go-to-college kids need extra help, and when the kids get it, they do a whole lot better. Why not younger kids?

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  5. Karen Pearson

    I suspect that there’s a great need for early childhood intervention in any of the “failing” schools so that the children will have the skills necessary to profit from school. So much of that happens before a child is 6 or 7.

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    1. Doug Ross

      And when that doesn’t work? Let’s check back in five years to see how many of the 4k kids are reading at grade level. What should the goal be? 90%? 50%? My guess is we will see a small improvement but nothing that justifies the expense.

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  6. Mark Stewart

    Doug, while you completely miss the point here, you are correct: a few radical steps should be taken to address this issue.

    One should undoubtably be to combine the 36 school districts into 4-5 consolidated districts. It isn’t that control of the school boards should be yanked out of control by the local people and controlled from Columbia (Doug, I can’t believe you argued for that); it is that these positions also need to be consolidated and their quality elevated. The new boards should also be appointed, and removed at will, by the SC dept of education (not the legislature) from members of the local communities within these districts – not outsiders. Accountability and transparency at the top should be baked into the system. A culture of success, as difficult as that is to instill In a sea of hopelessness, needs to be established. But that does not mean a focus on instantaneous gratification. That never works. Crawl, walk, run… That is how we learn – we build one small block upon an other and repeat and repeat and repeat. The trick is to inject small lessons into each new action. That’s accumulation.

    Another should be to invest in real infrastructure improvements to the schools – specifically the classrooms and other educational spaces. And, no Doug, that should not include eliminating sports from the schools.

    A third would obviously be to invest in a consistent and broadly available 3k and 4k program – and yes, maybe these should be year round programs.

    You want a model for how to approach this problem? Look at how New York City confronted and addressed its subway system from 1978 to today – that’s 36 years of small steps moving from the eradication of graffiti to the construction of new subway lines and a replacement of the entire fleet of cars. Change has to come from politicians, bureaucrats, employees, users, and the public. It takes focused effort to overcome inertia and fatalistic acceptance of what has devolved over (also) a long period of neglectful malaise.

    If we have anything here, it is fatalistic malaise…

    Reply
    1. Doug Ross

      The difference between a subway system and an educational system is enormous. There are alternatives to a subway system. Other means of transportation, carpooling, choosing to move somewhere else. Incremental fixes are fine for a subway.

      But with an educational system, every kid who does not get an opportunity for a good education TODAY is destined to be a net burden to the rest of society tomorrow. They have no alternatives. Incremental changes over decades will still leave those poor communities poor. If you’re at the bottom of a hole filling with water, slowing the flow still leaves you at the bottom of the hole.

      This is not fatalistic malaise on my part – it is accepting reality. I’d love to see a different outcome for those kids. But it isn’t going to happen by throwing money at the situation. There are five stakeholders when it comes to education: the student, the parents, the teachers, the administration, and the community. All five have to be engaged in the process to achieve success. And the most important stakeholders in the equation are the parents and students. This is why I look at the problem as one of supply versus demand. We have too many poor women having children they cannot support. And they have them at an age where they are essentially robbing themselves of the opportunity to escape poverty. The community as a whole should be educating young women to delay motherhood until they are capable of caring for a child. Think of the impact that would have on poor communities and the resources that would free up to focus more attention on those in need — without increasing spending at all.

      Mark – you may have optimism that there is a solution to what I think is an impossible task. But, guess what? Neither of our opinions matter. You can’t force your optimism onto those in the worst situations. You can’t buy their hope. You can’t regulate their ambition. There always has been poverty and there always will be poverty.

      Reply
  7. Ralph Hightower

    As was seen in Governot Nikki Haley’s campaign commercials, she demonizes lawyers; that is until she needs one, as in her dismissal from Lexington Medical Center’s fundraising position.
    She has this Robert Blake “Go ahead and knock this brick off my shoulder” attitude of “I double-dare you”.

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    1. Juan Caruso

      Nikki Haley, a government official “demonized lawyers”?

      As a taxpayer fed up with the concentration of authority exercised by lawyers (regulators like Lois Lerner) and the opportunists with outright monopolies on feeding from the public troft, here is but ONE example of why the SELF-GOVERNING law profession seems to have richly earned such opprobrium:

      Between 2002 and 2010, SSDI rolls shot up 48%, even though the number of actual working-age disabled climbed only 15%, according to Census Bureau data.

      Lawyers raked in more than $7.5 billion in fees from the federal Disability Insurance program since 2009, according to a Manhattan Institute report issued Friday. And that money has come directly out of the pockets of workers through the Social Security payroll tax. By October of 2014, such lawyers’ fees had already topped $970 million.

      As noted in a November 2014 Manhattan Institute report, lawyers have “found ways to exploit legal rules in disability statutes to their personal benefit.” The paper highlights allegations of fraud, kickbacks and other schemes to get the maximum number of people on the disability rolls.

      In addition, those who’ve been turned down twice by the program can appeal their denials to an administrative law judge, some of whom have records of approving 90% or more of those appeals.

      Reply
      1. Ralph Hightower

        Yup! But when Lexington Medical terminated her from her “fundraising” position, Governot Haley lawyered up to contest Lexington’s rightful termination. South Carolina is a “Right to Work” state, which means that employees can be terminated at will, even though she was a House Representative and “hired” for that position for Lexington’s heart surgery program.

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  8. Doug Ross

    Now this is the type of program that I could support It requires parents to participate in job skills training in order to get cradle-to-elementary school care. And it shows specific positive results in literacy and other areas.

    Why not do more of this rather than just say “let’s spend more on poor schools”?

    http://dish.andrewsullivan.com/2015/01/02/when-just-one-leg-up-isnt-enough/

    The Dunbar Learning Complex is a calm and bright space in the otherwise blighted streets of Mechanicsville. There, children receive free schooling, from infancy to pre-K, when their parents register with a career-development center to begin improving their job skills.
    The complex is home to both a public elementary school and a pre-school, which accepts children beginning at six weeks of age. The pre-school, which opened five years ago, holds itself to high standards, and is part of Educare network, a national network of full-day, early-education schools. It has an entire art studio where children can experiment, part of a Reggio approach to learning, and its infant classrooms allow only eight students at once. …

    The results at Dunbar have been impressive—after the first year alone, 55 percent of incoming kindergarten students at the elementary school were reading at or above grade level, up from 6 percent in 2010. The percentage of children below the thirtieth percentile on the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test dropped by 23 percentage points the first year alone, while the percentage of those scoring above the 50th percentile increased 12 points.

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    1. Juan Caruso

      Doug, The Dunbar Learning Complex (the DLC) makes a rather excellent example of opportunities available to improve SC’s learning deficit in key cities. Experience tells me that some of Brad’s “shoot-from-the-hip” readers, however, would utterly miss one of the DLC’c best practices —- its Funding Model:

      To wit:

      “The partners who helped create the Dunbar Learning Complex recognized the
      importance of investing iearly in child learning and development. They also
      recognized the realities of tight budgets and limited public and private funding
      — which led them to develop a financing model that integrates multiple funding
      sources to support the high-quality, comprehensive, seamless services and
      programs critical to child and family success. This blending of funds is a model
      that can be replicated to support similar endeavors in other communities.”

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    2. M.Prince

      It looks like a good program.

      But let’s not get carried away. It draws on the educational resources and opportunities of a major metropolitan community. Whereas the underachieving schools in SC are largely in rural areas, with few if any community educational resources to draw on. Plus, the Dunbar Complex serves a very small slice of Atlanta-area population, currently just 577 children, total. And it’s worth noting that the great bulk of the school’s funding (over 80%) comes from either federal (Head Start) or state (GA DHS, etc.) sources – with additional small amounts coming from various private foundations and (notably) not from for-profit or non-profit companies. Lastly, the Dunbar Complex expends close to $14,000 per year per child. South Carolina’s average per pupil expenditure per anum is somewhere in the $11,000 range, according to 2012 figures.

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      1. Juan Caruso

        Assuming your unreferenced round numbers fare ball-park correct, Prince, you seem unaware that “additional small amounts” (the 2o%) coming from various private foundations account for the extra $3,000 cost per pupil at the Dunbar Complex over the average SC outlay of around $11,000./pupil ?

        On one hand you claim the private donation is insignificant to the total, yet it
        accounts for the excess Dunbar has been able to spend, which you then conversely indicate is an important sum.

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        1. M.Prince

          I am not unaware of anything, Mr. Caruso. On the other hand, you seem so wantonly eager to crow over the (still comparatively small — I did not say “insignificant”) amounts that private foundations (again, not corporations) provide in funding to a single school in a single municipality that one wonders if you yourself appreciate the amounts it would take to make this a viable option in the multiple locations in SC that might profit from such a program. You might appreciate this more if you were less argumentative.

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          1. Doug Ross

            Let’s not disregard the key component of this program: parental responsibility. Without that, it would likely become another sinkhole of funding.

            It works because it is targeted, small, and engages the parents. Those are the types of solutions that will provide the most benefit in the shortest timeframe.

            Also, I have posted the per pupil spending for Allendale before- it’s around 14k. Hardly a good investment in education.

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            1. Kathryn Fenner

              Just because some money didn’t work doesn’t mean more money wouldn’t help. “Enough” is the concept. Also, the money perhaps needs to be spent more wisely.

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  9. Doug Ross

    It’s not “some”.. it’s more than any other district. 40% more than average. And the results are terrible. Will you guarantee even an average result if the funding was doubled? How about we double it for five years and if they are still below average, we cut it back to today’s funding?

    Unless you remove ago those in charge, why would you expect a different outcome?

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    1. Kathryn Fenner

      Yes, and it is a far needier district. I think sometimes there is a tipping point, spending-wise, and maybe it hasn’t been reached.
      A thorough analysis by impartial experts would be appropriate. Neither of us knows what the actual problems are in that particular district–we have theories. Maybe it’s the people in charge, maybe it’s entrenched poverty and the legacy of centuries de jure illiteracy followed by de facto illiteracy. Maybe it’s learned helplessness, ignorance of better ways to act, lousy teachers because good ones won’t work there…lack of good employment opportunities, unwillingness or inability of the populace to relocate…
      but just rattling off conclusions based on how much is spent, even relatively, is useless.

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      1. Doug Ross

        Okay..so you favor the typical government response: form a committee, do a study, hire some consultants, come up with a ten year plan. I immediate action.

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        1. Kathryn Fenner

          That is not at all what I said, but as one who has served on a lot of committees, you learn an awful lot on them–things different from what you might have thought coming in. You get evidence and testimony.

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          1. Doug Ross

            “A thorough analysis by impartial experts would be appropriate. ”

            So what would you call that group of impartial experts? (a committee) And would they be paid for their work (consultants)? and what would result (some type of long range plan)?

            It doesn’t take experts to figure out what’s wrong. Kids who aren’t motivated to learn by parents who are incapable of motivating them. It happens all the time even in the best districts. Do we need experts to determine why Richland 2 has gone from an Excellent district to an Average one over 20 years? Or do we just need to use common sense?

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    2. scout

      You talk as if you expect that every district should be able to get the same results from the same level of expenditure. You don’t take into account that every district has it’s own individual needs and strengths. Would you expect the health care costs of someone with stage 4 cancer to be the same as someone who only has the occasional cold. The difference in needs between various districts can be as great. The overall health of the cancer patient on whom much more has been spent is probably going to remain worse than the patient with the occasional cold. Would you advocate not helping the cancer patient because the cost/benefit analysis can never match up to that for the healthier individual?

      Cancer may not be a good analogy for intractable poverty – I don’t know – but my position is it is still worthwhile to help even if the outcome is destined to be less than perfect.

      Reply
  10. Bob Amundson

    Complicated problems require complicated solutions, and as I read this thread, and Brad’s blog, I find myself agreeing with most everything the smart people writing on the blog say. The amount of information available addressing the problem of child development is overwhelming, but I’ll try to condense my thoughts and opinions into something useful.

    First, I hope the DLC can spread to other areas, as I hope the many other small scale programs will spread. The challenge is the diversity of our nation, as there rarely is a one size fits all solution. That is one of the major challenges of developing and implementing Public Policy.

    I agree teaching children to not have babies until one is emotionally and financially mature is critical, but that does not always work. Pre-natal risk assessment and intervention, and providing services to families that need help, are the next pieces of this puzzle. The biggest risk is poverty, as our poor are less educated, tend to have larger families sooner, often with only one parent. Developing support systems, whether family or some other type of support (e.g., Social Services), is critical. The many people that have advanced out of poverty describe highly developed support systems (that are not always familial).
    The challenge is cost. These “soft” services cost money, and there really is no way to profit from providing the necessary social services. Sure, government can contract the services to a private provider, but government still has to pay the provider. Requisitioning, contracting and monitoring these soft services has proven problematic, as providers tend to “cream” and take the easy situations and do everything they can to avoid the “hard to serve.”

    Public/Private Partnerships may be the key, but “start up costs” are high. I believe that as employers need a better educated work force, they will invest more in the soft services I’ve briefly outlined. As our workforce ages, and supply diminishes, something will happen. Hope is so important, to me and all the other “children of the world,” so I hope my analysis is correct.

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    1. Doug Ross

      The cheapest solution is to not have babies born into poverty. You can’t prevent them all, but slowing the birth rate of teen mothers living in poverty would have the greatest impact at the lowest cost.

      Reply
        1. Doug Ross

          We already do a lot. Food, housing, healthcare, college grants, etc.

          Fewer kids would mean more resources to spend on the rest.

          In Allendale, $4000 more per student translates into about $100K per classroom per year. Where is that extra $100K going? Can’t be to teachers…

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          1. scout

            It could be – could be funding additional teachers to reduce teacher/pupil ratios and hiring additional support staff that work directly with kids in small groups on their differentiated weaknesses – i.e. reading and math interventionists, special ed teachers, speech therapists, nurses, guidance counselors etc.

            It could also be funding technology – smartboards, ipads, networks, online subscriptions to learning resources – starfall, earobics, etc., software, etc.

            It could also be funding teacher coaches – in my personal experience, these are the least cost effective use. They don’t work directly with the needy kids – I’ve not ever learned anything earth shattering that I didn’t already know or couldn’t figure out from the coaches I’ve known, though they are usually nice well meaning people. Maybe I’ve just not met the right ones.

            Could also be funding curriculum and programs – RTI, progress monitoring, etc.

            Reply
    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Also, we could do away with all the children who show low aptitude. That should have a great effect on test scores.

      Oh, wait — I thought this was the annual Eugenics Bowl, in which we compete to see who can come up with the most monstrous social engineering plan…

      Reply
      1. Doug Ross

        Monstrous? Rewarding poor women to wait until they are 25 to have children is monstrous? Better to have a child as a poor teenager and continue the cycle of poverty?

        Having a child is a choice (no matter how you feel about it). I’m suggesting rewarding those who choose to wait. There would be no penalty for having a child.

        If you think it’s a big problem, you could do your part and adopt a poor child. Or just expect others to deal with it.

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    2. Doug Ross

      Sure. I support free birth control and abortion. Why wouldn’t I? As tragic as an abortion is, having a baby that cannot be provided for is worse in my mind.

      Reply
  11. Doug Ross

    Please provide a counterargument to this statement:

    “Communities should make it a top priority to educate young women in poor communities to delay having children until they are capable of caring for them.”

    Is that really a bad idea? What would be the negative effects of dropping the birth rate for single women living at the poverty level by, say, 50%?

    Reply
    1. Bob Amundson

      “I agree teaching children to not have babies until one is emotionally and financially mature is critical, but that does not always work.” What’s your Plan B?

      Reply
      1. Doug Ross

        The more you do of Plan A, the more resources you have to spend on Plan B. I’ve already given my Plan B – take over the districts at the state level, pay bonuses to parents for students who achieve standards on PASS test and graduate from high school, year round schooling with summers focused on literacy, eliminate sports programs for schools that are measured as failing (or instead for any high school student who has not passed the exit exam). I’ve got plenty of ideas. Make me the czar of failing schools with total authority and I’ll fix them. How about paying off student loans for college education students to go into these communities (in addition to salary).

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        1. Bob Amundson

          Your Plan B is too late. Research clearly shows interventions after the age of 4 are not as effective. What is your plan B BEFORE schooling begins.

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          1. Bob Amundson

            We must use evidence to improve social programs. Wyman’s Teen Outreach Program works with 6,000 ninth graders a year to promote healthy behaviors, life skills and a sense of purpose. Evaluations of the program, which is based on a nine-month curriculum, show that it helped reduce teen pregnancies and lowered the risk of school suspension and dropout. But it REDUCES teen pregnancies.

            Nurse-Family Partnership serves 175 low-income, first-time moms. Nurses start visiting the mothers before birth and continue, with diminishing frequency, until the child is 2. The nurses are trained to form a close relationship with the mother and advise her on prenatal health and child-rearing issues — including smoking and drinking during pregnancy and planning future pregnancies — and on life skills. Typically, 20 to 30 visits are involved. Three randomized controlled trials have shown that the program has major impacts that last at least until the child is 15. The mothers who participated were less likely to abuse or neglect their kids, and more likely to be working, and their kids were more likely to be healthy and ready for school.

            Success for All, a comprehensive schoolwide reform program, primarily for high-poverty elementary schools, emphasizes early detection and prevention of reading problems before they become serious. Students of various ages who read at the same performance level are grouped together and receive daily, 90-minute reading classes, as well as one-on-one tutoring and cooperative learning activities. We know it works because a study that randomly assigned 41 schools across 11 states to an experimental or control group found improved reading skills, including comprehension, in students in the experimental group. Most of the students were black or Hispanic, and from low-income families. Success for All was awarded $50 million to more than double its network of schools over five years, to train teachers and to improve effectiveness in new sites.

            Let’s be smart and use ideas that WORK! We’ve been reinventing the wheel too long . . .

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          2. Doug Ross

            Ok, then let’s cut back the programs that are in place for after age 4 and push the funding into the age 4 and under programs.. (although I am skeptical that there is the benefit you suggest – more likely the research is biased).

            Reply
            1. Doug Ross

              And I am fine with spending more on these programs if we make cuts in other areas that are non-essential. Why do we spend tax dollars in Columbia on ice rinks and New Years Eve parties when there are more pressing general needs? People who want to skate or party shouldn’t be subsidized by the taxpayers – the “hospitality tax” should be abolished.

              Reply
            2. Bob Amundson

              A good example of a program I’d cut is Head Start; benefits are modest and not enduring. The intervention is too late. Can you name a situation where waiting to intervene works better than intervening as soon as the problem is recognized?

              The fact is, most social programs DO NOT WORK. The good news is there is an Evidence-Based movement that should eventually “separate the wheat from the chaff.” Evidence-based initiatives go primarily to programs with rigorous evidence of success, as measured by scientifically designed evaluation. Continuing evaluation is necessary because programs that work in one location can fail when implemented by new organizations in different locations.

              Reply
            3. Bob Amundson

              I am not a supporter of either the party or the ice-rink. Columbia has a long history of funding capital projects at the expense of maintenance.

              Reply
            4. Mark Stewart

              Doug, you have kids – isn’t it obvious that most imprinting occurs in children before they turn six? By Kindergarten they are what they will be. Intervening at 4 years old isn’t young enough.

              Calling it research bias when it is the same interpretation that you most likely reached about your own kids seems disingenuous.

              Promoting extensive education-based daycare from a very early age would seem to be far more cost-effective than attempting later interventions on teens and pre-teens – and more likely to yield quantifiable results as well.

              Reply
            5. Kathryn Fenner

              Doug, “we” don’t spend tax money on NYE and the rink, the city of Columbia does. I am not a fan of Famously Hot NYE, but the ice rink seems pretty cool (haha). Nonetheless, the city has nothing to do with education–that’s at the county level. The city does fund an awful lot of enrichment programs for youth and disadvantaged neighborhoods, though.
              If you don’t like how we spend your H-tax dollars, don’t spend here.

              Reply
            6. M.Prince

              I think we’re fooling ourselves if we believe that we can shift all interventions to a child’s early years and then let things take their course. Research indicates that, in the aggregate, gains produced by educational intervention in a child’s early years shows decreasing effect as the child grows older. There are just too many distractions and temptations in today’s world. Plus, risky behavior tends to mount considerably starting around age 13 and peaks at age 17. Given these indicators, it would seem that in many cases continuous intervention in one form or another throughout a child’s life is what is required.

              Reply
            7. Mark Stewart

              M.Prince – Yes, but I wouldn’t call such action “intervention”; it is support that is needed by everyone all the time. Modeling behavior is something we all need all our lives and society does this in many ways and through many channels. It seems beneficial to avoid labeling this sort of guidance as a foreign intervention. It isn’t; it is just society being compassionately involved in generational development. It’s a hallmark of civilization, actually.

              Reply
            8. Doug Ross

              “continuous intervention” – also known as “parenting”.

              As for the claim that my kids were “imprinted” by age 6, no, I don’t agree with that for one second. It’s an ongoing process that is a result of the experiences they have – at home and in school. Some kids (like my daughter) develop certain skills later.. she was not a very good writer even into high school. Now, she writes well.

              Reply
            9. Doug Ross

              And you all realize that unless you can magically fund a one-to-one personal support system for every poor kid, the results are going to be minimal? As someone else suggested, you may teach a four year old kid to read but when he gets to be 13 or 16, there are many factors in the community and home that can derail that progress.

              I read an article posted on Facebook by a former commenter on this blog who has an autistic son. It talked about all the various support people required just to keep an autistic 5th grader in a semi-normal school situation. The boy in the article had frequent violent outbursts (kicking, biting, spitting) which demanded the attention of his “support” group. Counselors, aides, teachers, transportation, It was staggering to think about multiplying that by hundreds of kids in a school district. Where will all this funding come from? And when the child reaches age 18, then what? As I read the article, the sense I got was that the boy’s mother felt that her son deserved access to what would amount to tens of thousands of dollars of focused care. This same mother was taking up to SEVEN credit classes in one semester to get an advanced degree.. and she THINKS that may have been why her son slipped backwards during that time:

              “Carol thinks it is partly because she had entered Lincoln College of New England and begun a rigorous course of study to gain her certification as an occupational therapy assistant. At one point, she was taking seven classes and studying on the weekends. There were far fewer family dinners. “As that part of my life was finally working out, my son’s life was falling apart,” Carol said.”

              Well, gee, lady, maybe you should have put your educational goals on hold instead of expecting everyone else to care for your son?

              http://projects.courant.com/raising-child-autism/#navtype=outfit

              Reply
            10. Doug Ross

              From the article:

              “Carol and Evan are not among the relative few families lucky enough to have landed a spot in the autism program at the state Department of Developmental Services. Each slot provides up to $60,000 worth of counseling, life-skills training, clinical treatment, job coaching and other services. But there are only 114 spots in the federally funded program, and more than 400 Connecticut families are on the waiting list. It will take years for some of the families to move up the list. Evan is somewhere on it, having qualified for the services.”

              $60,000 per student.

              Reply
        2. scout

          “How about paying off student loans for college education students to go into these communities (in addition to salary).”

          This happens. SC Teacher Loan Program. “The SC Teachers Loan and Career Changers Loan may be forgiven if the applicant teaches in a South Carolina public school in a critical subject or critical geographic area.” https://www.scstudentloan.org/students/loanprograms/scteachersloanprograms.aspx

          Worked for me. Half of my graduate school loans were forgiven after I worked 3 years in special ed in a high poverty school.

          Reply
  12. Bob Amundson

    Risk assessment Doug. We need to identify the families and children that need support, and then provide the support. Your example shows how important support is to parents, to families, to children.

    Reply
        1. Doug Ross

          By “good college try” I guess you mean spending a whole lot of money on something that may not be of much value to many people…

          But, really, all we have to do is stop spending 1.3 TRILLION dollars on the new F35 fighter jet and use that money on education and healthcare instead. Hllary? You in for that? Elizabeth? Ready to give up some of those defense dollars that flow in Mass.? Surely, Bernie Sanders, the Socialist Senator from Vermont would put people before jets, right? Whooops, nope. He’s fighting to get a slice of that pork for Burlington, VT.

          Our #1 national priority is war. Until we decide to change that (by voting for someone who is opposed to war), the lip service given to education and healthcare is a ruse.

          Reply
  13. Karen Pearson

    It’s unlikely that a child will learn to read well if she has parents who can’t read. Parents tend to use the parenting skills they learned from their parents. If those parenting skills did not work well for them, they probably won’t work well for their children. In those years before 4 children learn such skills as paying attention, following instructions, and playing cooperatively. If a child lacks those simple skills, the chances are that she will be unable to learn more complicated skills because those are basic to learning. It’s not that she may not write well; it’s that she won’t have the ability to pay attention well enough or to follow directions well enough to learn to write at all. And yes, the “windows” for learning those skills easily close early. So they need early childhood intervention, not just 4k.

    The parents need help also, obviously. They didn’t have any better opportunities than their children have. But they can be coached. And yes, I’m all in favor of job training, especially if there are jobs available that can be gotten with that training. They need jobs in those high poverty areas desperately.

    And btw, Doug, I’m all in favor of free birth control, and factual sex ed. I think it’s absurd that we don’t provide those for all teenagers given their high hormone levels and their comparatively poor impulse control. And I have no problem providing incentives for any worthy goal, as long as those goals are obtainable. If we offer incentives, but provide no way to achieve the required goals we only add to the despair and hopelessness.

    Reply
    1. Doug Ross

      Nothing can match the attention of a committed two parent household. A small slice of time for 1/4 of the day, 3/4 of the year has marginal benefit. Moving kids from illiteracy to below average isn’t progress. I want to see the data that shows across-the-board transformation of 4 year olds to students who exceed the standards for reading and math. It won’t happen. If they don’t graduate high school, the system is a failure. Money has been pouring into Allendale for years with no real difference.

      Reply
      1. Bob Amundson

        Doug you are correct, unless there is domestic violence, drug abuse or other issues making the relationship dysfunctional. Also, living with a single parent does not doom a child to failure; many children from one-parent homes grow up to become productive adults.

        There is no question prevention works best in health care and social service (including education) delivery, and the “disease model” is being replaced by the “wellness/prevention model,” albeit slower than I would hope.

        Invest early, and let the benefits compound over time!

        Reply
      2. scout

        “Moving kids from illiteracy to below average isn’t progress.”

        Actually, it is.

        It’s not where we should stop.

        But it is progress.

        Look it up. it is.

        Reply
            1. Doug Ross

              So to continue the analogy, the cost will be even more than if you just had four flat tires. Much like SC education… spend, spend, spend on tiny incremental improvements and then spend, spend, spend on a lifetime of government support for those who don’t graduate.

              Reply
  14. scout

    “A small slice of time for 1/4 of the day, 3/4 of the year has marginal benefit.”

    Not necessarily. Depends entirely on the quality of the relationship.

    Reply
    1. Doug Ross

      Only if that quality relationship lasts for many years. One year with one good teacher at age four isn’t going to make a difference.

      Reply
      1. scout

        It can. Especially if the child comes from an environment without a lot of quality relationships. Early childhood is such a critical time in brain development. Even if it’s a brief relationship that the child doesn’t even consciously remember later, if it’s at the right time, it can lay the mental groundwork for future relationships – it is exposure at the right time to what is possible – a template for future relating, like for example – employer-employee relationships.

        But it’s true for older students too. It doesn’t have to be a long term relationship to make a difference, if it’s a quality relationship at the right time in the child’s development. One person at the right time can be the difference in if the child learns how to trust himself or trust others.

        Reply
  15. scout

    “I want to see the data that shows across-the-board transformation of 4 year olds to students who exceed the standards for reading and math. It won’t happen. If they don’t graduate high school, the system is a failure.”

    Cool! Sounds great.

    Do you also want to see the eradication of all major diseases – if everybody born doesn’t live til 90, the system is a complete failure. Fire all the doctors today.

    How about eradicating all natural disasters. If a hurricane hits the east coast, the system is a complete failure.

    Clearly we need to continue to work towards improvement, but having unrealistic expectations doesn’t help anybody.

    Reply
    1. Bob Amundson

      Thanks for your perspective, Scout. I’m not a teacher (do have family members in the business), so it is useful to read your comments that specifically address the school issue.

      Thanks for your service in a challenging profession!

      Reply
    2. Doug Ross

      If you attempt to treat a person for cancer and he dies of cancer, the treatment didn’t work, right?

      If you attempt to teach a student to read and he doesn’t graduate from high school, it didn’t work either.
      Without a high school diploma, the chances of success are slim to none.

      A for effort, F for results.

      Reply
      1. scout

        “If you attempt to treat a person for cancer and he dies of cancer, the treatment didn’t work, right?”

        If the treatment extended the patients life, improved quality of life above what it otherwise would have been in final years/months, gave time for the person to come to terms with their situation, and find resolution, then no, the treatment was not a complete failure.

        “If you attempt to teach a student to read and he doesn’t graduate from high school, it didn’t work either.”

        Well technically, whether they graduate from high school tells me nothing about if they learned to read, so I don’t actually know if it didn’t work. There are kids who can read who don’t graduate for all kinds of other reasons.

        “Without a high school diploma, the chances of success are slim to none.”

        Be that as it may, there is a huge spectrum of functionality below the level of high school diploma. Do you really not think there is value in looking at the levels we are achieving for those who don’t make diploma – ie. are they completely illiterate or are they getting close and are fairly functional despite not getting a diploma for whatever reason? Surely you don’t think it’s all the same when these non-graduates enter the community which end of the functionality scale they are on.

        What about the autistic child who will never be on a diploma track but progresses from being completely dependent, not toilet trained, not able to communicate, and non-functional to being able to functionally communicate and interact with others and has basic life skills. There is value in that progress.

        even though it is not a diploma.

        It costs money.

        High school graduation rate is not the only measure of things.

        Reply
        1. Doug Ross

          Leaving the special needs tangent aside because that is unrelated.

          “High school graduation rate is not the only measure of things.”

          No, but it is the best measure. Not graduating high school effectively closes off the majority of jobs, especially for women who cannot do the manual labor that some men can do.

          Here’s a simple chart from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics:

          http://www.bls.gov/emp/ep_chart_001.htm

          Median weekly earnings for those without a high school degree are 30% lower than those with a degree. Median income of $472 a week – $23K per year. $25K per year means no home (unless paid for by government), a junk car (if they can afford one at all), poor nutrition and a dependence on the government for most of the basic needs.

          Not attaining a high school diploma is failure no matter if you can read at a 5th grade level or an 8th grade level. But it seems you would suggest that the 8th grade level represents some measure of success. I don’t.

          Reply

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