Upper Left Coast

Thoughts on politics, faith, sports and other random topics from a red state sympathizer in indigo-blue Portland, Oregon.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Quote of the Day: on Oregon education

Rob Kremer writes today about the big three ideas floating around the education community in Oregon -- all-day kindergarten, Head Start, and decreased class sizes.

Kremer, who is the director of the Arthur Academies and an advocate for charter schools, says he would sooner focus on "effective teaching practices" at the elementary level than spend money on any of those three. Why? Because the research shows that none are terribly effective:
  1. All-day Kindergarten becomes nothing more than additional playtime for the kids and additional babysitting for the parents, because Kindergartners can't handle a full day of academics;
  2. Decreased class sizes are only effective when the size drops to at least 15 kids, and no one ever mentions that smaller classes means more teachers and more classrooms and, thus, more money that needs to be spent; and
  3. The gains made in Head Start disappear by third grade.
So, if we have to choose one, what's the best choice? Kremer answers:
...I'd say that the Head Start is the best option. At least it's targeted to the kids who are most in need - and most likely to fail. And it has the added benefit of keeping the dollars out of the education establishment and the teachers union!

This, of course, is the reason why the Head Start option will probably lose. The unions will get their way, and from their perspective, they like both lower class sizes AND all day kindergarten, because they both result in more dues paying members.
One other thing: in Kremer's analysis of full-day Kindergarten, he said that the Arthur Academies do have academic kindergartens that focus on phonics and basic math, but any change in the state's Kindergarten structure wouldn't change the AA focus. He adds:
Oh, by the way, our kindergartners are off-the-charts in academic achievement, which calls the question: if we can do that in a half day, why would a full day be required?
Why indeed?

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