kitchen table math, the sequel: 6/21/09 - 6/28/09

Saturday, June 27, 2009

NCTE presents: Phonics Phacts

As risk-takers and decision-makers themselves, students make many choices about their own learning, within parameters established by the teacher.

Some Key Principles of a Whole Language Perspective on Learning and Teaching, courtesy of the NCTE

The writer is talking about elementary school children 'making a choice' about what materials will help them learn to read, write, do arithmetic, and learn science and history.

That's a risk, alright.

"Phonics Phacts"

under the banyan tree

from Paul:
Years ago, when I was an engineering manager, I had this Indian guy working for me. He was a graduate of IIT, India's equivalent to MIT or maybe Stanford. To qualify for IIT you have to be in the top 1-2% of applicants. He was incredibly smart and unlike a lot of young engineers he was also able to think out of the box. He could push the enevelope. Where his peers were better at just executing somebody elses plan, he could come up with the vision.

One day I asked him about his schooling. He said that except for IIT his entire education took place under a tree in the center of his village with a village elder/teacher/wiseman type of guy. I'm just guessing here because at the time I never thought to ask, but my bet is that this guy didn't go to a fancy ed school. We're not talking marble halls, olympic pools, or multimedia classrooms. There were no bulletin boards, reflections, projects, or discoveries. There was no group work, spiral curriculum, or state standards either. Just a smart man, a willing student, and the transfer of knowledge, probably not unlike what took place for the 10,000 years before we started education research.

Makes me go hmmmmmmmm?
I've been wondering for a while now whether you reach a tipping point: is there a point at which you're spending so much money on a school that quality declines?

I don't know the answer but the question relates to Gawande's article on The Cost Conundrum in medicine.

iatrogenic LD

Vicky S asks:
What percentage of identified learning disabilities do you suppose is inadvertantly caused by our schools, their teaching methods, and curricula?
I've been trying to suss this out for a while now. This week I found an estimate of the percent of reading problems that could be prevented:
We estimate that the number of children who are typically identified as poor readers and served through either special education or compensatory education programs (as well as children with significant reading difficulties who are not formally identified and served) could be reduced by up to 70 percent through early identification and prevention programs.

Chapter 12: Rethinking Learning Disabilities (pdf file)
Reid Lyon, Jack M. Fletcher, Sally E. Shaywitz, Bennett A. Shaywitz, Joseph K. Torgesen, Frank B. Wood, Ann Schulte, and Richard Olson
Rethinking Special Education for a New Century
I have the impression that most kids identified as having learning disabilities are struggling readers but if palisadesk or Liz Ditz are around they can let us know whether that's correct.

advertisements for myself

from a longtime member of ktm, whose high school is as good as its ranking in U.S. News:
X. and I just returned from our local Barnes and Noble. Under a sign labeled "Required School Reading" were several copies of Animals in Translation. Other books on the table included For Whom the Bell Tolls, The Great Gatsby, Blink, Night, The Cannery, Of Mice and Men, Animal Farm, Romeo and Juliet (and lots more). We decided it was quite an honor to have one's book included with such famous titles.
I am thrilled!

Obi-Wan on what means 'teaching'

Personally, I find the whole thing deeply insulting.

For all the thousands of years of human existence, teaching has meant one thing, and one thing alone. 

For a few years, a bunch of hippies told us that "teaching" meant the exact opposite of that, and that we couldn't do that thing that used to be called teaching. We went through the motions of their BS while they were looking, and taught our kids the right way when they weren't.

Now, they've rediscovered teaching, think they need a new term for it, and my district thinks I need to attend a week's worth of in-services to know how to do it.

I've got two words for the whole educational theory crowd, and they ain't gonna like the first one.

Friday, June 26, 2009

next time, try Core Knowledge

When it opened its doors in 2006, Philadelphia's School of the Future (SOF) was touted as a high school that would revolutionize education: It would teach at-risk students critical 21st-century skills needed for college and the work force by emphasizing project-based learning, technology, and community involvement. But three years, three superintendents, four principals, and countless problems later, experts at a May 28 panel discussion hosted by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) agreed: The Microsoft-inspired project has been a failure so far.

First Michael Jackson, now this. What a week. Who could have seen this coming?
"Microsoft chose to ... assign a team of educators and technologists to work in concert with the school system and the surrounding community to create a sustainable learning environment," said Mary Cullinane, Microsoft's lead on the project and one of the school's initial architects, in 2006.

By creating a general-enrollment school that was paid for, staffed, and operated by the public school system, project organizers aimed to create a model that could be replicated easily in other districts. (See "‘School of the Future' opens doors.")

The components of the school also were considered to be progressive. From alternative school hours to laptops for every student, from a customizable school portal to campus-wide wireless access, and from a panel to design 21st-century curriculum to a new teacher hiring model, the SOF was thought to be a sure winner.

"We naively thought, I guess, that by providing a beautiful building and great resources, these things would automatically yield change. They didn't," said Jan Biros, associate vice president for instructional technology support and campus outreach at Drexel University and a former member of the SOF Curriculum Planning Committee.
That's the difference between me and Bill Gates.

When I have a naive idea, the city of Philadelphia doesn't give me $63 million dollars to inflict it on other people's children.
Microsoft's expertise was based on what the company calls the 6 "I"s: introspection, investigation, inclusion, innovation, implementation, and--again--introspection. It was up to the Curriculum Planning Committee to design the underlying principles and goals for the school, based on this framework. 

However, these principles too often seemed unclear. 

You think?
Although the technology itself was not supposed to trump basic classroom practices, Microsoft and the school's planners had decided not to allow the use of textbooks or printed materials; instead, all resources were located online through a portal designed by Microsoft. 

Yet educators frequently encountered problems accessing the internet, because the school's wireless connection often would not work. 

"This vital part of the school's technology was never stable and robust enough to make it dependable," said Biros. "There was no safety net, and it seemed like a great leap of faith--faith that these teachers, amidst so many new circumstances, would be able to develop curriculum almost on the fly and store and distribute it electronically." 

Books are good.
Another problem was that the students--most of whom came from poorer families and neighborhoods--could not use or maintain their laptops properly. Students were either afraid to take their laptops home for fear of theft, or they didn't know how to access all the programs on the machines.

Books are good.
On another front, although Microsoft eventually sent someone to the SOF during its second year to try and foster community relationships, no one realized that school-community partnerships take time, perhaps even years, to mature--leading to uninvested partnerships with no long-term sustainability. 

I say forget the school-community partnerships and have the kids read some books. Also, math is good. You could teach kids math using a math book.
At one point during the discussion, an audience member asked: "All of your resources are online, and educators have to access [them] through this portal. However, your educators don't know how to work the technology. So, exactly what did the teachers teach in class? What were the students learning?" 

"Well, honestly, I'm not exactly sure," replied Biros. 

That's not an answer.
According to Biros, the creation of assessments was problematic. 

"We all agreed that students should be evaluated qualitatively, without customary grades and standardized tests, but we did not consider how colleges would use these assessments to determine students' acceptance into their programs," she explained.
They do what they do.
"It's been three years, only three years," said Hess. "I can't say it's a failure, and I can't say it's a success. Give it another three years, and then we'll be able to say for certain."

School of the Future: Lessons in Failure
by Meris Stansbury

eSchool News
'Cause what is 3 years in the life of a high school student?

But we don't feel like a failure...
Microsoft Lesson Plans

a definition of explicit instruction

Explicit instruction is instruction that does not leave anything to chance, and it does not make assumptions about skills and knowledge that children will acquire “on their own.”

For example, explicit instruction requires teachers to directly make connections between the letters in print and the sounds in words, and it requires that these relationships be taught in a comprehensive fashion. It also requires that the meanings of words be directly taught and be explicitly practiced so that they are accessible when children are reading text. Finally, it requires not only direct practice to build fluency, but also careful, sequential instruction and practice in the use of comprehension strategies to help construct meaning.

Using Common Science and Common Sense to Teach All Children to Read by Holly B. Lane, Ph.D. University of Florida (pdf file of ppt presentation)

Michael Jackson does long division without a calculator

via Frederick Public Ed

interviewing Mary Hake in 3 hours

Yes, I know, this is ludicrously short notice, but I'm interviewing Mary Hake at 9:30 East Coast time - so if you have questions, let me know.

Here are some Comments at Homeschool Reviews (haven't read yet).

Also, if you have questions about portfolios & Writing Workshop / Reading Workshop, I'll ask those, too. I talked to her a bit about Writing Workshop & she may not have much experience with it - but I'm sure she'll have a lot to say about incremental teaching, aka skills taught in isolation.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Year-End Parent Survey Questions

Here are two of the survey questions I had to answer:

1. My child's school encourages me to be involved with my child's learning.

2. I have the information and knowledge to support my child's learning.

Strongly Agree
Strongly Disagree

At least they had a box at the end to include comments. I suggested that they ask parents about tutoring. Then I asked them how parents can support learning if everything goes into a portfolio and never comes home.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Not As Good As You Think

Catherine often writes that "it's worse than you think."

The Pacific Research Institute has a similar idea in their heads.
They have released a new movie, "Not As Good As You Think, the Myth of the Middle Class School"

From their website:
Not as Good as You Think: The Myth of the Middle Class School is a documentary that shatters the myth that “good” schools located in “nice” neighborhoods are shielded from the education crisis that pervades schools in poor, urban areas. Using available data on school performance and interviews with parents, students, principals, and school reformers, Not as Good as You Think confirms every parent’s silent fear: that their financial sacrifice and investment in an expensive home in a “good” school district is not yielding the achievement results needed to get their kids in good colleges and good jobs.

Based on the groundbreaking book Not as Good as You Think: Why the Middle Class Needs School Choice released by the Pacific Research Institute in 2007, the film features Lance Izumi, one of the nation’s foremost education scholars and reformers. Not as Good as You Think takes audiences on a tour of America’s best neighborhoods—from the posh areas of Orange County, California, to the hotbed of innovation, Silicon Valley, to the lush green hills of Tennessee—to reveal that schools in America’s middle class and affluent neighborhoods are not adequately preparing kids for higher education, or even operating under widespread corruption. The documentary also explores freedom and choice in public schools by venturing to Sweden, a socially progressive country that has successfully established school choice for all children, no matter the family’s income.

This is a different film than The Cartel, which Catherine posted about here.

You can buy the DVD for $19.95 from the above website.

Maybe we should all try to help set up a screening of the two films? A double feature? I'll bring the junior mints.

A model school's selling points: everything but the math

(Cross-posted at Out In Left Field)

A year of activities: Spelling Bee | Talent Shoe | Musical | Science Fair | Fall Festival | 100 Days | Opera Company | Reading Buddies | Spring Concert | Valentine's Dance

So goes the text along the margin of the glossy school newsletter that came home yesterday on the last day of school--along with color photographs of smiling students and staff, and articles about the school and the community.

You'd never know that one of the school's activities was the Continental Math League club, run by yours truly and another parent volunteer, and attended 1 1/2 hours a week from October to March by 20 eager 2nd and 3rd graders.

Especially since, despite the principal's earlier assurances, the information sheet about next year's Continental Math League club (and ways to practice for it over the summer) somehow didn't accompany the above newsletter into students' backpacks.

Concerned that this might happen, I had sent said principal an email reminder the day before the last day. Then, when I bumped into her on the morning of the last day, I'd asked her about the email.

"I deleted it," she said, a big grin on her face.

I guess she's happy it's summer vacation.


For those who are interested in ways to polish up their math skills for Continental Math League, or for any other reason, here's what I spent several hours compiling for students at our school. Perhaps other schools and other principals will find this more worthwhile than ours did:


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Middle Class Entitlement

Children can't survive in our modern world without shoes. It would be a catastrophe to be in a child growing up in the 21st century without shoes. These children would be deeply impoverished, backward, and their futures would be horribly limited.

That's why the government makes and distributes childrens' shoes, because how else would children all be able to have shoes?

What? You suggest that companies should make and --gasp-- SELL shoes? How could you? You must be against the children having shoes to wear! And WHO would supply children shoes if the govt stopped doing so? Which people? How many shoes stores? How would the shoes stores be capitalized? How many brands would there be? What materials would they use? What pricing arrangements would be in place? WHO WOULD REGULATE THE SHOES TO MAKE SURE THEY MET OUR STANDARDS? How would those stores be sure to meet our requirements on sizing and stitching and hiring of shoemakers! How would poor children ever get a pair of shoes?! Suppose a poor person didn't have the money to buy a pair!

I'm paraphrasing and borrowing from Murray Rothbard in For a New Liberty. He isn't speaking of public education per se at this point, but just what happens when someone tries to suggest that the government should get out of a certain services and let the private sector handle them. These questions are absurd about shoes. We KNOW that we have more shoes now, at lower prices, than ever before, and that WalMart, Costco, and Target alone mean that even the poor can afford to buy comfortable stylish shoes for their children.

But what if we applied this to education?

Children need an education! They can't survive without it, and how else would all kids get an education?
What??? You suggest companies could SELL education? Private schools? Private tutors? Who? Which people? How many schools? How would they capitalize them? But but but...what standards would they have? How would we be sure they were teaching what the govt says should be taught? Who would regulate them? How could a poor person ever get an education then! You want to deny the poor an education!

Public schools were created in an era of industrial growth and immigration when a) states wanted to inculcate certain values into all of their populace, including the immigrants' children; b) parents by themselves, particularly poor parents, were viewed as not valuing education on their own enough to educate their children out of poverty; and c) there was an interest in stopping or discouraging the use of child labor (thereby remove competition from the workforce for adults); and d) there was no other entity (but the Catholic Church) massive enough to be able to create a system to educate as widely and deeply as was desired.

The public schools of the current middle class have nothing whatsoever to do with that model. We don't need them to inculcate values--or the values being inculcated don't match up anyway. We absolutely, positively, value education without question. We have moved as a culture to a place where child labor is practically unthinkable. And there are dozens? hundreds? thousands? of entrepreneurial and technical resources now in the private sector that could educate children, even on a massive scale.

Why then do we need public schools at all?

We don't. They are middle class entitlements. The middle class doesn't want to pay for schools, and doesn't feel it should have to. Yet, of course, some of them ARE paying for them, to the tune of 20k plus per student in Irvington and St. Paul, MN, but exactly who bears that burden is probably disproportionately those without school aged children. For others, it's simply the daycare issue--they want taxpayer funded daycare, and schools provide that. How else would they manage? How else could we all conceive of functioning!

The existence of the govt schools at such a low cost drives out the private money. It drives out low cost private schools, and in the end only leaves the boutique ones standing. The same as govt shoes drive out any competition, and leave only the Fendis of the world to purchase. If we had no govt schools, the private sectors--the Green Dots, the Kumons, etc. would still exist, and would expand. The religious schools would exist, and be affordable, too.

But but but! The poor! Who would educate the poor! We need vouchers, see!

No, the private sector could educate the poor; the Church did it in the past; other orgs could do it now. WalMart has done more for the poor getting good shoes than welfare vouchers ever did. If WalMart taught math and reading in DC, do you think poor kids would learn better than they do now? Even so, vouchers for the POOR are a vastly different claim than vouchers for EVERYONE. There is no place else except medicare healthcare, another entitlement for the middle class) where everyone gets covered.

The main argument of school vouchers boils down to this: the government is bad at making shoes that I want! They have the wrong style and they fit badly. They are ugly to boot. I want better choices in shoes!

I know! let's have them still make shoes and give them away, and then also have vouchers so I can buy real private market shoes that aren't ugly and aren't terrible but make the taxpayers pay for them, because they are SOOO expensive, I don't want to do it on my own!

I'm not suggesting we can actually abolish govt schools. And I'm willing to give DC vouchers just because they've got nothing else, even though I see general vouchers as a middle class entitlement that needs to die. But recognizing that the reasons public education was needed in the past have little to do with our current culture can help us to see the real problems we create for ourselves when we come up with convoluted solutions that leave the govt in charge of schools, and keep them in charge of the funding.

Charter schools are a different issue. Charter schools are more like Medicare. More on that later.

21st century skills

Flypaper has decided to try videos ---

Speaking turnarounds from Education Gadfly on Vimeo.

I'm sold!

I've gotten to know Debbie Stier a little bit, and this is what she does at HarperStudio. She sits her authors down on the couch, takes out her Flip camera, interviews them, et voila.

Enjoy the Good Things in Your Life: A Conversation with An Oncology Nurse

Random House Sales Rep, Ann Kingman, Talk about Blogging, VEA, and her Favorite New Book

Debbie sent me off the the board meeting the other night with 4 Flips & a tripod so I could tape the proceedings in a form all of us could actually use,* but I chickened out.

* long story

Customer Review

Just left this review of Work Hard. Be Nice. on Amazon:
By the end of Work Hard. Be Nice., I found myself weeping in every chapter. I think this book may become a classic.

I hope teachers will include Work Hard. Be Nice. on summer reading lists for upper middle school and high school students. Boys especially may cherish this book given how feminized our public schools have become.

Mike Feinberg and David Levin are teachers, yes, but they are fighters, too. They broke rules and they crossed lines. In this era of character education and "collaborative learning environments," the story of two young men who refused to collaborate with a failed system is strong medicine.
I need to get my Amazon review of Dan Willingham's book written, too. (Preview: 5 stars)

a beautiful book

Work Hard. Be Nice.

It's incredible. By the end I found myself weeping in every chapter.

This book may become a classic.

palisadesk on private schools for the poor

Any idea what the % of students in poor and developing countries go to private v. public schools?

In some "poor and developing" countries" it is 100%, for the simple reason that public schools are a) not available at all, or b) not available in that region, or c) not affordable.

In those cases, however, families often have to select only one child to educate, and that child may have to leave school if the family needs his (it's usually a he) wages or cannot afford the fees.

Many families in my school population have immigrated from countries where public education is not available, period. If available, it is in the cities and not in rural or mountain villages.

An uplifting read on one American's campaign to change this situation is Greg Mortensen's Three Cups of Tea.

private schools for the poor

Allison on trusting schools and doctors

I would say we've reached a point in society that parents should not be willing to simply trust the teacher or school as they would have a generation or more ago.

Fundamentally, there are too many people in the system claiming to be experts who aren't; too many people claiming their credentials give them knowledge they don't have; too many people in the system working at cross purposes with parents; all told, the authorized people can't be assumed to know more about your child's needs than you do.
This is my experience. I would add, too, that while there are some very good public schools (Karen H's high school, for instance) even there I would 'trust but verify' for my own children. I say that because even very good public schools are set up to teach and succeed with cohorts of children, not each individual child across the board. The measurement of success is the group mean.

I believe that "professional learning community" schools -- real ones -- have rejected this model, and I'm planning to get some posts written about "PLCs" soon.

doctors & patients
This isn't just a phenomenon related to schooling. We've reached the same point in medicine--we no longer trust doctors as we once did, or that they are our advocates. We have to be our own advocates. Our model has really shifted--we're expected to partner with our doctors in our healthcare outcomes; we're expected to "partner" with our kids educational outcomes. We've reached it in most of parenting too--we're expected to be far more responsible for our childrens' outcomes than any prior generation of parents; we're supposed to be deeply engaged in their molding (regardless of how possible that is), and we're supposed to be highly active in all levels of their universe. We're not really supposed to leave this stuff up to others anymore.
Now this is interesting because I am old enough to have lived through this history, and I often use the shift in the doctor/patient relationship as a model for what I'd like to see happen between teachers and parents (or administrators and parents).

When I was a child, the relationship between doctors and patients was fantastically hierarchical, and doctors were arrogant - or were certainly seen as arrogant by the grownups around me. "Doctors think they're God," people said. Or: "Doctors aren't God." And: "Doctors shouldn't play God. They're not God."

In short: they do what they do. (I have the sense nurses might still say this, but that's an impression so correct me if I'm off base.)

The most egregious case was that of the terminal cancer patient. Doctors would make the diagnosis, would know that the patient was dying, and would elect not to tell the patient because, in the judgment of the physician, he or she couldn't handle it. As I recall, family members weren't necessarily told, either.

I have no idea how often this kind of thing actually happened, but it was talked about constantly, and it was seen as the ur-case of doctors thinking they were God. Doctor Gods were in the movies, too. I remember a couple of years ago, flipping through channels, coming across an old war movie, maybe from the 1940s. The scene was a military hospital. The doctor comes into the ward, takes a quick look at a soldier's leg, and orders it removed. The soldier screams and begs. "No! No! Don't take my leg! Pleeeease!" Tough luck. Doctor's orders. The leg comes off.

Watching that scene, I marveled. How long has it been since anyone has heard the expression, "Doctor's orders?"

Doctors don't give orders any more. Doctors make diagnoses and prescribe treatment. Patients make the decision whether to comply.

I wish I understood the history of how this changed. I had always assumed that some kind of 'patients' rights' movement came into being and succeeded in changing the relationship between doctors and their patients. However, I'm pretty sure that's wrong; it seems more likely that, as I once read, there was a war between doctors and lawyers and the lawyers won. Which isn't what I would have wished; in a conflict between doctors and lawyers, I'm on the doctors' side. (I don't say that to attack lawyers! Or to imply that malpractice should not exist. It should. I think.)

In any event, the upshot is the partnership Allison describes. Having raised two children with autism, Ed and I have been deeply involved with doctors for many years now; we've been on the cutting edge of psychiatry and, at times, neurology.

Our doctors invariably, with perhaps one exception in lo these many years, treat us as partners in our children's treatment. Moreover, our respective roles are flexible. Any number of times I've come to one of our doctors with studies that have just been published or informal opinions from researchers and our doctor has immediately agreed to a medication trial. Other times, I've raised the possibility of trying a treatment based on something I've read, and our doctor has explained why it doesn't make sense.* And there have been perhaps two occasions on which Ed and I have decided not to give our kids a test our physician recommended. The tests would have been expensive, difficult to administer, and would not have made any difference to the treatment plan so we decided against. That was not a problem for the physician. In one case, we didn't pursue an experimental med that cost thousands, wasn't covered by insurance, and I think had to be specially ordered from Europe (?) Something like that. That was also not a problem because the relationship is a partnership: our physicians make the recommendations and we decide whether to follow their recommendations -- which we almost invariably do, or we would not be working with that particular physician.

This relationship works. The doctor is the professional; we are the clients and the ultimate deciders. It would be unthinkable for a doctor treating our kids -- or any kids -- to give 'orders.' The doctor's authority is based in his or her knowledge and expertise, not in power to force compliance.

For years, now, I've longed to have the same relationship with my kids' schools that I do with my kids' doctors -- and in fact, in special education, I do have that relationship here in Irvington. My kids' teachers see us as experts on our particular kids; we see them as experts in teaching autistic kids. And, because teaching autistic children, like treating autistic children medically, is not remotely a science, our kids' teachers here have always been interested in what we're doing at home that works. (ha!)

My take on Allison's observation is that she's right: the model has changed. We're supposed to partner with the professionals and experts in our children's lives.

The problem in the education realm is that parents aren't partners. We are subordinates who are expected to work up the chain of command.

That doesn't work.

* I'm sure patients bringing in stuff they found on the internet is a problem for plenty of doctors. And, of course, from the patient's perspective arrogance hasn't disappeared, either. Recently a young physician contemptuously dismissed my mother when she tried to tell him that whopping big doses of Acai juice had dramatically reduced her blood pressure and thus her need to take blood pressure medicine, a statement easy to confirm with a quick check of her medical history or a phone call to her internist. Or a phone call to her children, for that matter. Hearing her story, her new cardiologist rolled his eyes, turned on his heel, and walked out of the examining room. He didn't come back.

She changed doctors and wrote to Medicare about another problem that occurred on her visit to his office. I got a kick out of that. My mother has diabetes and heart failure; she's come back from the brink of death at least 3 times now. And on her good days she's watchdogging the medical profession. I applaud that.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

private schools for the poor

Schools for the poor are the obsession of James Tooley's book, "The Beautiful Tree." An education specialist with a severe case of wanderlust, Tooley had always believed that in developing nations, the upper classes attend private schools while the poor rely on public ones. But during a drive through the slums of Hyderabad, India, in 2000, he came across an unexpected phenomenon: an unending line of small, no-frills private schools catering to poor kids.

Tooley began seeking out and finding private schools for the poor across the developing world, interviewing students, principals, parents and officials in China, Ghana, India, Kenya, Nigeria, Somaliland and beyond. Parents everywhere cited similar reasons for paying the small fees for private schools rather than sending their kids to state schools. For some, especially in rural areas, the public schools were too far from their homes. To others, teachers and administrators in private schools seemed more attuned to their concerns. And despite the foreign aid and state spending on public school facilities, many parents simply felt that their children learned more in private schools. "What's the point of having such nice buildings," asked a mother in a fishing village in Ghana, "if learning doesn't go on?"

The officials Tooley encountered in his travels often denied the existence (much less the superiority) of private schools for low-income children. "There are no private schools for the poor," a bureaucrat in China's Gansu province told Tooley, "because the People's Republic has provided all the poor with public schools. So what you propose to research does not only not exist, it is also a logical impossibility."

Undeterred, Tooley spent years surveying private schools across the developing world. He found that, on average, they had smaller class sizes, higher test scores and more motivated teachers, all while spending less than public schools. With the zeal of a convert, Tooley invokes the market's "invisible hand" to explain why private schools perform better: When parents pay the fees that keep a school afloat, he reasons, the school becomes more accountable to them. Tooley blasts development experts for recognizing the problems with public education and still insisting that more investment in public schools is the way to go. "Why wasn't anyone else thinking that private schools might be part of a quicker, easier, more effective solution?" he asks.

Schools, Weddings and Funerals on $2 a Day
By Carlos Lozada
Friday, June 19, 2009 8:27 PM
via Cato