Analysis: Like ‘Death Tax,’ ‘Voucher School’ Is A Phrase That Aims For The Gut. It May Also Be ‘Fake News’

Analysis: Like ‘Death Tax,’ ‘Voucher School’ Is a Phrase That Aims for the Gut. It May Also Be ‘Fake News’

Updated on December 20th.

Calling for the attention of Frank Luntz.

An enlightening analysis conducted by Rebecca Klein of the Huffington Post recently shed light on the concerning lessons taught in private schools operated by evangelical churches. The article strongly argued that tax dollars in states that provide tuition vouchers to families who choose these schools are inadvertently supporting extremist curricula.

For instance, course catalogues examined by HuffPo included topics such as "Satan Created Psychology" and slavery being one of the main causes behind the "War Between the States." Another possible explanation? "God may have also been punishing people with the war, as it was preceded by a time of ‘religious apostasy and cultism.’"

However, the publication may have biased the story with the use of a loaded phrase to characterize these schools. The headline states, "Voucher Schools Championed by Betsy DeVos Can Teach Whatever They Want. Turns Out They Teach Lies."

The word "lies" is the crux of an ongoing debate about journalistic standards and linguistic precision, which was further escalated by Donald Trump’s presidency.

But what exactly is a voucher school? Is it a class of schools with a widely agreed-upon definition, or a political term used for certain schools? Initially referred to as chartered schools, these schools are officially constituted by a charter document that outlines their governance structure. Boarding schools, on the other hand, provide students with room and board in addition to education.

However, a voucher school can either refer to a private school, regardless of its identity, or a private school that accepts students with tuition vouchers. The term implies that the school was established to take advantage of public funds allocated for private school education.

The article describes these schools as either participating in a state’s voucher program or accepting families who have been granted tuition vouchers for private schools. This description is more accurate, albeit less attention-grabbing than the headline’s inclusion of voucher schools alongside Betsy DeVos, the US Education Secretary, who supports vouchers and has a strong online presence, as well as the word "lies."

A potential danger is that the public, already understandably confused about the distinctions between different types of schools falling under the umbrella of "school choice," may become even more confused. This confusion extends to the question of whether these distinctions actually matter. Particularly, Betsy DeVos’s advocacy for the term "school choice" has blurred the boundaries between various schools of choice, including public charter schools, district-run magnet schools, and even traditional public schools that accept students from other districts.

The article rightfully highlights the abuses and problematic curriculum found in some of these schools, and deserves commendation for its investigative reporting. However, the use of a term like "voucher schools" runs the risk of unjustly tarnishing all schools, including secular private schools that uphold rigorous academic standards.

Now, back to Frank Luntz. Luntz, a conservative Fox News commentator, political messaging expert, and pollster for figures such as Pat Buchanan, Newt Gingrich, and Ross Perot, is credited with popularizing the term "death tax" as a replacement for "estate tax," among other phrases designed to evoke emotional rather than intellectual responses from the public. The subtitle of his influential work on messaging is "It’s Not What You Say, It’s What People Hear."

The most prominent use of the term "voucher schools" that we found was in a series of 2012 position papers by the Democracy and Education Research Group, a joint effort by the ACLU of Wisconsin and the Milwaukee branch of the American Federation of Teachers to challenge Milwaukee’s controversial private school voucher program.

We inquired about the Huffington Post’s decision to use this phrase, but did not receive an explanation. It is possible that the responsibility for including the term in the headline lies with a copy editor or another member of the editorial team, although Klein used it in the body of the article as well.

To gain further insight, we consulted three education policy advocates known for their differing views. Michael Petrilli, President of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, was the first to respond. "Among school choice supporters, it is generally seen as derogatory," he stated. "This is because ‘vouchers’ does not poll well, while terms like ‘scholarships’ do. However, I admit to using it myself on occasion out of laziness. It refers to private schools that accept vouchers."

Andy Rotherham, Co-founder of Bellwether Education Partners and a member of board, expressed a similar sentiment, despite his lack of enthusiasm for vouchers. Lars Esdal, Executive Director of Education Evolving, an organization focused on teacher-led schools, also agreed with this view.

Naturally, if the term "voucher school" becomes widely known, alongside phrases like "corporate reform" and "school privatization," it would not be the first time that the intended meaning does not align with the interpretation.

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To Sell Vision Of Student Mastery, Oregon Fights Finances, Skepticism

Norma S. Paulus, the superintendent of public instruction in Oregon, is determined to convince a predominantly senior citizen audience in this coastal community about the importance of a groundbreaking school reform initiative. According to Ms. Paulus, Oregon’s "best and brightest children" are on par with students in other parts of the country, but the problem lies in the national average, which she deems a farce.

She goes on to highlight the dismal performance of American students in mathematics and science when compared to their peers in other industrialized nations. In addition, Ms. Paulus points out that around 25 percent of Oregon students fail to complete high school, and of the 55 percent who pursue postsecondary education, 30 percent drop out in the first year. She argues that too many children are ill-prepared for higher education or work upon leaving school.

Ms. Paulus emphasizes the need to understand the consequences of neglecting the education of children in the state. With only two young people to support each retiree, compared to the ideal ratio of four, Oregon is already facing a demographic challenge. The state ranks 10th in the nation for its senior population but a lowly 42nd for individuals under the age of 18. Therefore, Ms. Paulus asserts that the state cannot afford to let any child slip through the cracks and lead an unproductive life.

To address these issues, Ms. Paulus presents the Oregon Educational Act for the 21st Century as the solution. This legislation, passed in 1991, aligns with the recommendations of a report by the National Center on Education and the Economy titled "America’s Choice: High Skills or Low Wages." The report argues that America can either prioritize academic preparation and create high-paying jobs or settle for low-wage employment and a decline in living standards.

The president of the national center, Marc S. Tucker, praises the Oregon law as the most comprehensive response to the report’s findings. As a result, other states closely monitor the implementation of the legislation, recognizing the interconnectedness between quality schools and a prosperous economy. However, there are challenges to overcome within Oregon itself, such as the strained school-finance system, which may pose difficulties in financing new reform efforts. Critics also express concerns that the law might force students to choose between college and professional-technical programs at an early stage, leading to rigid tracking.

The centerpiece of the law is the redesign of the high-school curriculum to raise expectations for all students, especially those who do not plan to attend college. Starting in 1997, students will be expected to earn a "certificate of initial mastery" by grade 10. This certificate will ensure that students possess critical skills like reading, writing, problem-solving, critical thinking, and interdisciplinary communication at national and international levels by 2000 and 2010, respectively. After achieving the initial mastery certificate, students will focus on earning a "certificate of advanced mastery" corresponding to either college preparation or professional-technical courses and on-the-job training during the remaining years of high school. The "general track" that currently accommodates the majority of Oregon students will be eliminated from the curriculum.

Furthermore, the act expands early-childhood programs, including Head Start, to cover all eligible children by 1998. It also encourages the development of ungraded primary schools, introduces performance-based assessments in specific grades, grants teachers and parents more authority in school management, and establishes alternative "learning centers" for high school dropouts. Additionally, the legislation requires a state report card to monitor school performance, permits some level of public-school choice, and extends the school year to 220 days by 2010.

Representative Vera Katz, a member of the national center’s board and the primary sponsor of the bill, states that the goal is to provide Oregon students with a world-class education that enables them to compete in the global marketplace.

Strategy for Human Investment

The legislation aligns with the state’s comprehensive strategy for human investment, which goes beyond just the education department. In 1989, legislators established the Oregon Progress Board to establish long-term policy objectives for the state in various areas including housing, healthcare, natural resources, and education. The board, consisting of seven members headed by the governor, is also responsible for developing measurable benchmarks to achieve those goals. In 1991, another bill was passed to establish the Oregon Workforce Quality Council, comprising 21 members, with the aim of creating the most educated and prepared workforce in America by the year 2000 and a workforce comparable to any worldwide by 2010. The council includes representatives from major state agencies involved in education and training, as well as local officials, business representatives, and labor representatives.

To support the improvement of workforce quality, the state allocated $8 million from lottery funds in 1991 to fund 20 education, training, and evaluation programs. An additional $2.3 million was designated for tech-prep programs. Despite the ambitious goals, the main challenge for the state is to persuade the public of the necessity and importance of these changes. "Our biggest frustration is the lack of instant access to reach a wide range of people with our message," says Ms. Paulus, referring to the law. Oregon has 287 school districts, but only Portland has an enrollment of over 30,000 students. The rest of the districts vary in size, from smaller coastal communities like Lincoln City to rural farming towns in the eastern part of the state.

In recent years, the state’s economy, traditionally reliant on timber and agriculture, has seen the emergence of several high-tech companies, though they remain concentrated in specific areas of the state. Ms. Paulus and her staff have organized numerous informational meetings across the state, attended by thousands of teachers, administrators, parents, and citizens.

Ten separate committees, composed of educators, parents, and business representatives, are also working on recommendations for implementing specific aspects of the law, ranging from school choice to employing minors. The committees are expected to conclude their work this summer. Additionally, a few schools have been granted funds to pilot-test models for primary schools without grade levels, performance-based assessments, and a redesigned high-school curriculum leading to a certificate of initial mastery.

Lack of Public Awareness

However, according to Chris Dudley, the executive director of the Oregon School Boards Association, "I don’t believe the community has a deep understanding of the commitment required to support these changes." Julie Brandis, a legislative assistant for Associated Oregon Industries, which strongly supports the act, agrees that "most people recognize the need for reform, but they don’t associate it with their own school district." When the Oregon Education Association conducted 24 community hearings about the law last year, the audience expressed both apprehension and enthusiasm, according to Karen A. Famous, the organization’s president. "Many people felt like this was being forced upon them, and why weren’t these discussions held prior to passing the law?" she says. In reality, the bill underwent more than 30 revisions and 100 hours of testimony before it was passed. Its nearly unanimous approval by the legislative body was a testament to its political strategy.

The proposal gained support from a powerful bipartisan coalition, including influential figures like Ms. Katz, a former Speaker of the House, Ms. Paulus, a former secretary of state and passionate Republican, Senator Shirley Gold, the chair of the Senate Education Committee, and Representative Larry L. Campbell, a conservative Republican who currently serves as Speaker of the House. Ms. Gold and Ms. Paulus specifically endorsed the bill with the condition that it included a strong early-childhood education component. The bill also received support from Associated Oregon Industries and the Oregon Business Council. However, the failure to involve a large number of educators from the beginning left some members, particularly those from the state’s teachers’ unions, feeling bitter. For example, the Portland Association of Teachers has refused to support Ms. Katz in her mayoral campaign in Portland, where she is currently engaged in a runoff.

A ‘Two Track’ System?

"What we observe is an integrated professional-technical curriculum that caters to all students while maintaining academic rigor. This ensures that students do not receive less education in subjects such as math, science, or English, even if they choose a career path that does not require a college degree," explains J.D. Hoye, the associate state superintendent for professional-technical education.

The curriculum design is being approached in an innovative manner. Currently, six state-level task forces are refining the curricula and achievement standards for professional-technical endorsements across six broad areas: arts and communications, business and management, health services, human resources, industry and technology, and natural resources. The goal is to allow students the flexibility to transition between different professional-technical areas or between college-bound and non-college-bound paths as their interests evolve.

Dale Parnell, the state commissioner of community colleges and one of the creators of the tech-prep concept, describes Oregon’s plan as an "upside down" curriculum. He explains, "Almost all students in this program will have practical courses like applied-physics or applied-chemistry as their core high-school courses. These courses provide rigorous content, but they begin with tangible and concrete examples, never starting with theory. For too many students, we have allowed a disconnect between real-life experiences and education, and we must find a solution for that. Research in cognitive science indicates that people learn better when concepts are taught in context."

According to Mr. Parnell, the expectation is that most students will pursue further education beyond high school, whether through tech-prep programs that lead to an associate’s degree, apprenticeships, or other structured work experiences. In 1991, the state implemented the Oregon Youth Apprenticeship Training Program, which offered occupational training to up to 100 high-school students as a pilot test. The challenge, according to Hilary C. Pennington, the president of Jobs for the Future, will be for Oregon to create pathways that allow students to seamlessly transition from technical programs to college-bound tracks. Jobs for the Future is a national organization focused on the relationship between education and economic development. She notes, "The devil is in the details, but I have not seen a more dedicated or enthusiastic group anywhere in the country than the individuals in Oregon working on resolving those details." However, skeptics express concerns about the logistics involved in making such a system work. "I don’t believe that’s realistic," says Ms. Famous. "If there is a rigorous academic, college-preparatory program, how can a student from a vocational program seamlessly enter that without losing time?" The Oregon Education Association (O.E.A.) aims for most vocational training to continue within the existing four-year high-school structure.

The teachers’ union also contends that placing the certificate of initial mastery at the end of 10th grade could potentially discourage students from continuing their education by creating an artificial "stopping point."

Even its proponents acknowledge that Oregon will need to create a substantial number of structured work experiences in collaboration with businesses and industries to make the certificate of advanced mastery a reality. While the state’s business organizations have been supportive of this initiative, there is still work to be done. "The average business person is unaware of this development," points out Ms. Brandis. "They do not grasp what is expected of them." "Currently, most business and industry representatives will tell you that they want employees with a strong work ethic who show up on time and are willing to learn. However, that is not sufficient," emphasizes Ms. Hoye.

Some school districts and schools are already ahead of the state in implementing these ideas. For instance, Roosevelt High School in Portland has teams of teachers collaborating with business and industrial representatives to create six career pathways that combine academic and technical training.

In the coming year, they have aspirations to test their model by offering structured work experiences to approximately 90 to 100 students. Additionally, they have plans to introduce a yearlong program to expose freshmen to various career options, starting this fall.

In Albany, a blue-collar community located within the Willamette Valley, the school district has established task forces consisting of educators and business leaders. Their main objective is to revise the curriculum based on the specific skills that employers have indicated are necessary.

Superintendent Robert D. Stalick expresses his hope that by 1995, at least 35 percent of high-school students in the district will engage in "meaningful work-site internships." Currently, less than 5 percent of the district’s students participate in a vocational-technical track, while roughly 70 percent pursue a general-education track.

According to Mr. Stalick, there are students who believe they are destined for college from their early years in high school, but only realize during their senior year that their 2.5 grade-point average is insufficient. These students are left unsure about their future plans.

With the assistance of local corporate executives, the district has identified six broad areas that will offer skilled employment opportunities in the future. The district intends to concentrate their efforts in these areas, which include electronics and electronics technician, millwright and mechanics, medical secretary and transcription, nurse and medical careers, chef and chef training, and computer-aided design.

Facing Financial Obstacles

The state’s endeavors to develop a certificate of initial mastery pose significant challenges as well.

Ms. Paulus acknowledges, "We underestimated the difficulty of defining world-class standards." She adds, "No one has done it before." The state has collaborated with national level efforts and has organized various symposia with educators from other countries.

However, the most significant obstacle to the reform law is Measure 5, a constitutional amendment approved by voters two years ago. This amendment places restrictions on local property-tax rates. Consequently, lawmakers are required to compensate for the majority of lost local revenues with funds from the state’s general fund. This mandate will place immense pressure on the state budget in the upcoming years, leading to concerns about potential cuts to public-school funding that is already provided by the state.

Governor Barbara Roberts has spent a significant part of the year touring the state, soliciting input regarding desired state services and how people are willing to fund them. The true test will arise next winter when the legislature convenes for the 1993-94 biennium. Governor Roberts has already issued an order instructing all state agencies to prepare for potential budget reductions of up to 20 percent.

Mr. Parnell asserts, "The school-reform law presents an ambitious vision of what we should accomplish, but the real challenge will be determining how to do so in the context of Measure 5." It is widely believed that without a reliable revenue source, many school districts are hesitant to take risks and proceed with the implementation of the reform measures.

Mr. Dudley, from the school-boards association, points out, "Until they see some kind of solution to the funding problem, they are reluctant to invest significant amounts of emotions, energy, and money in implementing the reforms." However, he also suggests, "On the other hand, it may be necessary for the education community to demonstrate a commitment to change in order for voters to be willing to provide the necessary funding."

Uncertainty prevails, with little chance that lawmakers will identify an alternative revenue source during the upcoming session. Mr. Stalick reveals the sentiment among his peers, stating, "Some of my colleagues simply see it as another obligation imposed by the state without adequate funding. Consequently, they refuse to comply."

Vicki Barrows, the president of the Portland Association of Teachers, warns that the cost of training is exorbitant. It will require a significant amount of money to properly train staff and administration, but no funds have been allocated for this purpose. Critics are also concerned that the law’s lengthy phase-in period, with most provisions not taking effect until 1996-97, coupled with a provision that mandates adequate funding, may lead to its demise. However, Ms. Paulus argues that the timelines are actually too short. She acknowledges that changing an entrenched institution like education cannot be done overnight and believes that it is easier to change a law than to change people’s attitudes. Ultimately, Oregon’s school-reform law aims to transform attitudes and expectations. Ms. Hoye from the state education department emphasizes that our society still values unemployed sociologists over employed electricians, and this mindset persists within their office as well.

Thousands Of Young Historians Convene For National Competition

During the annual National History Day competition at the University of Maryland, 3,000 middle and high school students gathered to showcase their original historical research. They presented and defended their exhibits, papers, performances, websites, and documentaries in front of panels of judges.

The topics covered a wide range of historical events, including the Wilmington Race Riot of 1898 and Temple Grandin’s legacy, as well as issues such as human rights in Guantanamo Bay. The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of 1911 was a popular topic among the students. These participants hailed from various locations, including all 50 states in the US, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, China, and South Korea. These students were selected from a pool of 600,000 local-level participants, and many of them attended the weeklong event with their parents and teachers.

National History Day, now known as NHD, has evolved into an organization that not only organizes the contest but also trains teachers. It was founded 40 years ago at Case Western Reserve University. Every year, the winner of the contest receives a full, four-year scholarship to the college in Cleveland. A 2011 evaluation of NHD found that participants experienced various positive effects, including improved performance on high-stakes tests, enhanced writing skills, and increased confidence and ability in conducting research.

Becoming Experts

Camryn Kluetmeier, a 15-year-old student, passionately spoke about her project on the creation of the National Park Service. She explained that her interest in the topic started in 5th grade when she watched a Ken Burns documentary on the National Parks. Her co-presenter, Nell Williamson-Shaffer, 15, added that their performance was based on a ranger talk, similar to those held in Yosemite. Nell portrayed the ranger, while Camryn portrayed Stephen Mather, who played a crucial role in the establishment of the National Park Service. The students conducted research for their project, including interviews with the bureau historian for the National Park Service and a visit to the Wisconsin Historical Society. Camryn’s mother, Erika Kluetmeier, expressed pride in her daughter’s expertise and interest in becoming an environmental historian.

Growing Interest

The exhibit hall was filled with elaborate tri-fold poster boards, dioramas, and props that reflected this year’s theme of "Rights and Responsibilities in History." Each display included a short paper on the research process and a bibliography that listed primary and secondary sources used. Students were allowed to prepare their exhibits and then answered questions from a panel of judges, which included K-12 teachers, university professors, historians, archivists, and writers.

Cathy Gorn, the executive director of NHD, noted that there has been an increase in participation in their programs. For example, in Florida, the number of students participating in local contests has grown from 54,000 to 61,000 over the past two years. Gorn highlighted the importance of NHD in filling the gap for history and social studies left by the emphasis on math and reading in educational policies. She also mentioned the growing participation from international schools, especially in Asia.

Exploring History

In addition to the contest, there was a display on the history of elevators.

Presented here is the victorious creation of a captivating individual documentary in the senior division titled "Rough in the Bunch: Appalachia’s Rayon Girls Fight for the Right to Strike," crafted by the talented Emma Grace Thompson from Berean Christian School located in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Accompanying this piece are striking photographs captured during the event held at the esteemed University of Maryland, beautifully shot by the skilled lens of Liana Heitin.

How To Give Students More Agency In Class Without Losing Control

The concepts of choice and voice have gained popularity in the push to empower students in their education. Numerous studies indicate that when students have agency over their learning, they experience increased motivation and academic achievement. Additionally, they are more successful in their post-secondary endeavors because they have the skills to direct their own learning. However, simply deciding one day to give students control in the classroom is not enough. Lauren Boucher, a digital teaching and learning consultant, emphasizes the importance of laying the foundation before granting students autonomy. As she presented at a conference, Boucher stated that choice alone is not true agency; it is merely a strategy to help students develop agency.

Boucher highlights the need for teaching students how to have autonomy, self-regulation skills, organization skills, and time-management skills before allowing them to take charge of their learning. Letting go of power as a teacher can be challenging, as it raises concerns about being held accountable for test scores. Therefore, Boucher suggests starting small and making small adjustments to curriculum and assignments to gradually give students more choices and control.

To introduce more student agency into the classroom, Boucher recommends the following strategies:

1. Set clear expectations and provide guidelines and rules.

2. Explain the purpose of the learning to students and have them reflect on their role in the standards.

3. Foster a respectful classroom environment where students can express their opinions and thoughts.

4. Facilitate formative conversations that encourage critical thinking by asking open-ended questions and allowing for uncomfortable silence.

5. Implement problem-based learning projects that connect classroom learning to real-world problems.

Boucher acknowledges that not every assignment can be learner-driven, but teachers should aim to have a balance across the continuum of choice. By gradually giving students more agency and control, teachers can empower them to become independent learners.

According to Boucher, providing feedback is extremely important for empowering students. She emphasizes that even if students have the freedom to choose their own tasks, without constructive feedback, they will not be able to progress. Boucher suggests postponing the grading process and implementing a feedback loop instead. This means that after a student submits their work, the teacher provides feedback and allows the student to make improvements. The teacher then has the option to either end the loop or continue offering feedback and revisions for a few more rounds. Boucher advises against using feedback loops for every student and every assignment, but rather suggests staggering them. Her objective is to engage with each student through a feedback loop at least once during a marking period.

Fellowship Program Works To Beef Up Math Teaching

When Katherine Collins, a mathematics major at Pacific Lutheran University in her home state of Washington, began exploring options for her future after college, she stumbled upon a website that led her to a public school in the nation’s capital, all the way across the country. She was accepted into the competitive Math for America fellowship program, which aims to improve secondary mathematics education by recruiting, training, and retaining exceptional math teachers. The nonprofit organization’s website emphasizes the importance of finding individuals who have a profound understanding and passion for mathematics. Speaking of her decision to join the program, Collins said, "I considered the idea of going to graduate school in mathematics, becoming a professor, or working in industry. However, I felt that the mission of bringing math enthusiasts into the field of education was spot-on."

The fellowship program provides comprehensive preparation and support for new teachers. Successful applicants to the five-year program receive a master’s degree at no cost and continued mentorship, professional development, and other forms of support. They also receive generous annual stipends that can total up to $100,000 over the course of five years. Math for America initially launched in New York City and has since expanded to six additional locations, including San Diego, Los Angeles, Berkeley, Utah, Boston, and the District of Columbia. While the program initially focused on recruiting new teachers, it has since added two more programs: the Master Teacher Fellowship, which supports exceptional veteran math teachers, and the Early Career Fellowship, which offers growth opportunities and support for newer teachers. Currently, only the New York City site offers all three programs.

Furthermore, Math for America has started to include science teachers in certain locations. As of now, the program is relatively limited in its reach, with approximately 420 participants. John H. Ewing, the president of the nonprofit organization and a former math professor, sees this as a pilot program. He states, "Even if we expand to a thousand teachers, that’s just a small fraction of what is needed." The hope is that this initiative can serve as a model for a larger national program, possibly through a partnership between the federal government and states. Many of the local sites currently receive some federal funding from the National Science Foundation in addition to private funds.

The growth of Math for America is in response to growing concern about the inadequate math achievement of students in the United States. President Barack Obama himself addressed this issue in his recent State of the Union address, acknowledging that the quality of math and science education in the country lags behind that of many other nations. He called for the recruitment of 100,000 new teachers in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math over the next decade.

Math for America was founded by a group of business leaders, mathematicians, and educators, led by James H. Simons, a philanthropist, former hedge fund manager, and accomplished mathematician. While its name is reminiscent of Teach For America, Math for America distinguishes itself through its generous stipends and the requirement for new math teachers to complete a year-long master’s program in secondary math education. Fellows in Math for America also make a longer commitment to teach for at least four years in a public school in their program location. If they choose to leave early, they must repay a portion of the financial support they received. This extended commitment acts as a filter, ensuring that only serious and dedicated individuals apply. Each site operates autonomously but shares the same general principles established by Math for America. Ewing, who led the American Mathematical Society before joining Math for America, sees the variations between sites as a strength. He states, "They have their own boards, and each site is unique, which I believe is beneficial. We have seven different experiments."

Math for America is an ever-evolving program that continues to make changes and adapt to the needs of its fellows and the education system as a whole.

The program offers various forms of support to teachers, such as pairing them with mentors and providing monthly professional development. Some Washington fellows, including Ms. Collins, have had positive experiences with Math for America but believe certain aspects could have been stronger. Fellow Max J. Mikulec, who now teaches algebra and geometry at a magnet school, mentioned that there were some issues in the first year, such as coursework in the master’s program needing more relevance to the classroom. Ms. Collins wished there was more focus on classroom management strategies in the American University program, and Mr. Mikulec felt that some of the math coursework was too abstract and better suited for math graduate students than teachers.

Math for America acknowledges these concerns and states that the program is continuously evolving and striving for improvement. However, Mr. Mikulec acknowledges that no matter how much training one receives, it is difficult to fully prepare for the challenges of the first year of teaching. Ms. Collins appreciates the ongoing support provided by Math for America, which helps her grow professionally.

One of the challenges faced by Math for America is the cost of its programs. Despite this, the organization’s leaders and some observers believe that investing in attracting and retaining outstanding teachers is worthwhile. Eric S. Lander, co-chairman of a White House advisory panel on science and technology, views the program as promising and emphasizes the importance of investing in high-quality programs to prepare young Americans in science and mathematics.

Francis M. "Skip" Fennell, an education professor at McDaniel College, sees many positive aspects in Math for America, such as its focus on urban centers, emphasis on teachers’ content knowledge, and the creation of an educator community. He believes that the organization is committed to getting it right. Additionally, Math for America aims to expand its existing sites and potentially establish new locations, including rural areas. The overarching goal is to elevate the status of the teaching profession and attract and retain the best teachers. Recognizing and compensating excellence in teaching is a crucial aspect of achieving this goal.

E.P.A. Delays Ban On Asbestos Use In Surprise Move

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has unexpectedly postponed its plans to prohibit the mining, importation, and use of asbestos in certain products. This decision follows a two-year debate among the EPA, Congress, and interest groups regarding the agency’s inaction on asbestos regulations. Prior to the 1970s, asbestos, a known cancer-causing agent, was extensively used in school construction. However, once its health risks became widely known, the EPA proposed an immediate ban on the most commonly used asbestos-containing products, such as roof and flooring felt, vinyl asbestos floor tiles, and asbestos cement pipes and fittings, which all have available substitutes.

Experts suggest that these previously used asbestos-containing materials may still be present in schools, albeit not as frequently. The EPA initially announced its intention to ban asbestos in July 1983 and sent its proposal to the federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review in May 1984. The OMB has been reviewing the proposal since then. Recently, A. James Barnes, the acting deputy administrator of the EPA, revealed yet another postponement in approving the ban. Mr. Barnes explained that an obscure clause in the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 requires the agency to submit a report to both the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Consumer Product Safety Commission, outlining the health risks associated with asbestos that the EPA has discovered. The EPA can proceed with its own rulemaking process only if these agencies are unable or unwilling to address the issue within their legal authority.

Elizabeth LaPointe, a staff member in the office of toxic substances, points out that the interagency review may also impact other EPA regulatory projects concerning asbestos. Potential standards to safeguard school-maintenance workers who handle asbestos and various asbestos regulations are presently under consideration to comply with the interagency requirement. The EPA argues that this review, which has not been employed before, is necessary under federal law to prevent duplication of regulatory efforts. However, several union officials and a member of Congress suspect that the EPA is deliberately employing delaying tactics to avoid addressing the asbestos issue in schools. When asked about the agency’s delayed discovery of the review requirement, David Ryan, an EPA spokesperson, attributed it to a simple oversight. Similar statements were made by Mr. Barnes during the press conference.

Simultaneously, in response to the EPA’s announcement in November that it would not make significant changes to its existing regulations regarding asbestos in schools, the Service Employees International Union has filed a renewed lawsuit to compel the agency to issue more stringent rules regarding asbestos hazards in schools. Health specialists for the SEIU and the AFL-CIO suggest that the White House’s budget office is influencing the EPA’s recent actions and that budget officials want to provide the agency with an opportunity to backtrack on its asbestos ban plans. While the OMB has studied the EPA’s proposed asbestos ban, it has not disclosed its stance on the matter. The OMB spokesperson, Edward Dale, declined to comment on accusations that the agency has encouraged the EPA to postpone the ban due to cost concerns.

It remains unclear whether the EPA will offer the Consumer Product Safety Commission or OSHA the option to implement the ban themselves or which specific regulatory proposals related to asbestos these two agencies could or should take on.

The requirement in question continues to be a subject of debate.

A spokesperson for the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) declined to provide details on the extent of the agency’s authority. "We currently have no plans in place," they stated.

Bankruptcy Proceedings

In a separate development, a judge overseeing the bankruptcy proceedings of the Johns Manville Corporation, the largest asbestos manufacturer in the United States, has extended the deadline for filing property-damage claims related to asbestos against the company. This extension applies to a group of 400 hospitals across the nation and was granted until the end of last week. The Denver-based Manville company filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code in 1982. Later this month, the main presiding judge in the U.S. District Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York will consider requests from the hospitals and other groups for a further extension. The deadline for schools to file claims against the company was January 31. Manville officials are currently determining the number of schools and the amount of claims filed. Ellen P. Chapnik, one of the lawyers representing schools in the bankruptcy proceedings, hasn’t been made aware of any schools requesting an extension to file claims. As of now, approximately 90 percent of the 3,500 property-damage claims received originated from schools, with estimated damages well over $1 billion. A comprehensive analysis of the claims is expected to be available by the end of February, as there have been delays in receiving completed claim forms from the New Jersey mail processing facility.

The Creditors Committee for Asbestos-Related Property Damage School Claimants, representing schools involved in the case, has recently filed a class action against the company for property damages. In addition to the individual claims filed by schools, the committee has also submitted a claim on behalf of the entire group of schools. Ms. Chapnik, one of the committee’s lawyers, clarified that these additional actions were taken to provide further avenues for addressing Manville. However, she assured that there haven’t been any issues with the individual claims so far. Seven prominent school districts, including Baltimore, Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Los Angeles, New York, and Washington, D.C., have opted not to participate in the class action. They have separately requested not to be represented by the school committee. Ms. Chapnik mentioned that these large school systems will still collaborate with the committee. The bankruptcy court has scheduled a pretrial conference for the class action on March 12. Allegations in the lawsuit heavily rely on a similar class action filed against 54 asbestos companies in Philadelphia in 1982. However, jurisdiction and format have been modified to align with the specific constraints of bankruptcy court. Neither the lawsuit nor the claim forms specify a specific estimate for property damages, but Ms. Chapnik guaranteed that they will certainly exceed $1 billion. She disclosed that the Newark, N.J., schools alone submitted a claim form worth $1 billion.

Diverse Mix Of Students Win New Shot To Get Into The Swing Of Golf

Outside the gymnasium of the James Curiale School, a harsh and wet snowfall on the last day of March is disregarded. Inside, a determined group of approximately 50 middle school students spends their precious afternoon hours practicing golf techniques on plastic turf mats. They chip and putt, take swings, and receive guidance from their coaches- which include an amateur golfer, a high school golf coach, and a team of passionate teachers. Jomaira Plaza, a 12-year-old 7th grader at Elias Howe School, confidently positions herself, adjusts her grip, and expertly chips the ball onto the "green" – a large mesh basket across the gym floor on this wintry day. Jomaira expresses her love for the game and her aspirations of playing in high school and obtaining a scholarship for college. She believes she has a good swing.

Jomaira is one of the 70 middle school students, boys and girls equally, participating in the Bridgeport schools’ golf-academic program. This program, which has been running for 3 years, combines learning the fundamentals of golf with academic enrichment. Twice each week and throughout the summer, students from five of the district’s public schools spend an hour improving their math and reading skills using golf-related material. They then focus on developing their golf skills at a local golf course, or in unfavorable weather conditions, at Curiale School on imaginary greens. The program has not only provided Jomaira with an understanding of the game and the necessary self-control and etiquette, but it has also taught her that golf is a sport for everyone.

Organizers of the program affirm that this message is spreading, as more young people are finding golf to be cool. As Alan Wallack, the program’s organizer and the director of athletics for Bridgeport’s public schools, explains, the initial reaction from kids when the program started was confusion as to why golf was being introduced. However, he emphasizes that the sport has evolved and become more inclusive, leading to a positive response from children. Wallack initiated the program to introduce golf to minority students and to provide meaningful after-school activities for students in his district. It also serves as a feeder program for Bridgeport’s high school golf teams, allowing them to compete against wealthier neighboring districts whose team members start developing their skills at an early age on country club courses.

The explosion of interest in golf can be attributed to various factors, including the success of Tiger Woods, a young professional golfer who is black, and the efforts made by the golf industry to appeal to young people by covering some of the significant costs associated with the sport. According to Dorothy Mastromonaco, the grants administrator for the USGA Foundation, the recent change in perception of golf being an old man’s game is largely due to Woods’ influence. She believes that fostering interest in golf within a school system is a commendable idea. Marcus Williams from the National Minority Golf Foundation also expresses his delight at the increasing interest in golf among youth from diverse backgrounds. He describes it as uplifting. schools across the country have expanded their athletic programs to accommodate the rising demand for golf. The National Federation of State High School Associations reports that, in the previous school year, 11,400 schools had golf programs, with 440 of them being newly established programs. This makes golf one of the fastest-growing school-sponsored sports. In Chicago alone, over 90 public schools have added golf to their sports rosters since November.

A Tiger’s Story

Roophy Roy, a 13-year-old student in the 8th grade at James Curiale School and a devoted member of Bridgeport’s golf program for three years, is filled with joy because of the chance he had to learn golf. "I absolutely love it, and my skills have been getting better every year," he expresses. Only time will reveal the full extent of the positive impact that picking up this sport has had on Roophy’s life.

According to his teachers, Roophy’s academic performance and behavior have shown remarkable improvement since he started playing golf. Moreover, some of the members at the Brooklawn Country Club in Fairfield, where Roophy worked as a caddy last summer, were so impressed by him that they decided to sponsor his education at the prestigious Fairfield Prep School. Roophy looks forward to joining the school’s golf team and shares, "Golf has inspired me to think about the future. I aspire to play at the collegiate level and, who knows, maybe even professionally."

Roophy’s unwavering passion for golf, as well as his admiration for his idol Tiger Woods, became evident to the rising golf star when they met at a youth clinic in June 1995, held at the Brooklawn Country Club. As a sign of encouragement, Mr. Woods gifted Roophy his own golf bag, which Roophy considers one of the best presents he has ever received. Roophy, along with other participants in the program, closely follows Mr. Woods’ victorious performances since turning professional at the age of 21. They will be cheering for their hero in this year’s Masters Tournament in Augusta, Georgia, which is scheduled to commence this week.

Success stories like Roophy’s are both remarkable and gratifying, according to Mr. Wallack, the director of the Bridgeport program. However, he believes that the everyday victories are just as important. "These are the children who may not have had the opportunity to participate in sports otherwise," Mr. Wallack explains. "By introducing them to golf, their self-confidence grows, their academic performance improves, and even if they don’t pursue golf competitively, they acquire lifelong skills," he adds. "Out of all the experiences I’ve had, this one is the most fulfilling," he concludes.

Drama Queen

The winners of this year’s Royal Television Awards have been announced, and amongst them was an 18-year-old student from Southport College, who won the Network Newcomer award for her role in the controversial Channel 4 drama Pleasureland. Katie Lyon portrayed a teenage girl struggling with peer pressure and promiscuity and was praised by the judges for her "mesmerising, painful, and remarkable" performance. Despite receiving such high praise, Katie remained humble and claimed that her success came out of nowhere. She had never aspired to be an actress and found enjoyment in drama class during her school years. It wasn’t until her teacher, Mr Cunningham, encouraged her to pursue the BTec performing arts course at Southport College that she considered the possibility of a career in acting.

Katie went on to reveal that her original ambition was to become a drama teacher and that she had never even thought about acting before the opportunity presented itself. Even after receiving the award, she felt that she was just an average performer and considered the possibility of returning to her original ambition of being a drama teacher. Her experience with Pleasureland began when she received a leaflet inviting her to an open audition. Despite not believing that she had any chance of obtaining the part, she attended the audition nonetheless and was called back for over 15 different auditions. However, it wasn’t until her 18th birthday that she discovered that she had been selected for the role.

Katie was initially worried about taking on the role, but she explained that her fears were soon put to rest once filming began. She also admitted that she didn’t speak about her role with anyone at college and didn’t want to appear arrogant or pretentious. However, once the ads for Pleasureland started to air on TV, people started taking notice and expressing an interest in her role. Despite her recent success, Katie remained modest and didn’t believe that she was particularly talented. She expressed her belief that expecting good things to happen all the time often leads to disappointment and was happy to continue pursuing her studies in drama. However, she did reveal that she had been offered a small part in a new series by the director of Pleasureland, without having to audition.

Universities Should Work Together, Not Compete

Two years ago, Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson’s book "The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better" dealt a blow to neoliberal economics and neo-conservative politics. After three decades of Margaret Thatcher’s election victory, the privileged believed that equality could not work. However, Pickett and Wilkinson used graphs and charts to convincingly demonstrate that not only could equality work, but it did work. More equal societies were not only fairer but more efficient and everyone, including the rich, did better. Despite this, the message of equality has faced resistance for two reasons.

The first reason is that wealth generation, growth, and efficiency were merely a cover story. Instead of being a necessary evil, inequality is the end goal to maintain power, privilege, and hierarchy. The second reason may be that, after Thatcher and Blair, acceptance of inequality has become a mindset that is difficult to escape. It has seeped into our collective consciousness and created a new vocabulary in higher education. Terms like "top" universities, "world-class" research, and "top" students imply a hierarchy that did not exist before.

While there has always been a pecking order of universities, recent methodologies produce uncritical acceptance of league tables that promote the "right" result. This has led to an enthusiasm for inequality that has its funny side. Universities will confidently assert they are in the "top 10" positions, and others aspire to be there in the near future. The main attraction of such clubs as the Russell Group (of "top" universities) is that they keep other people out, rather than because of what happens inside them.

However, this enthusiasm for inequality in higher education has a darker side. Firstly, inequality featherbeds the already fortunate. People are expected to believe that one university is better than another simply because of its membership in the Russell Group. Secondly, this enthusiasm undermines the solidarity of higher education, which is a source of strength according to Pickett and Wilkinson. Enthusiasm for inequality allows politicians and Treasury cost cutters to divide and rule. It is remarkable that the armed services, despite being divided into three warring branches, work together better than universities.

The efficiency, success, and strength of higher education depend on habits of solidarity. The standard of degrees is maintained by a cat’s cradle of external examiners, and the quality of research and publications relies on academic referees. Lectures and seminars also depend on the culture of academic altruism. However, there is already evidence of the breakdown of these habits of solidarity. Universities are beginning to choose only referees from their own group on appointment or promotion committees or as external examiners. If these habits become entrenched, everyone will be a loser, and universities may realize too late that people are more willing to go the extra mile for the common good than they are for corporate bosses in a Brave New World higher education market.