Government vs. teacher-training programs

Public school teachers and academics in the universities are among the Democratic party’s most loyal footsoldiers, advocating government intervention in a whole host of endeavors.  But they don’t like it much when the government intervenes with them.

And yet here is a case where government intervention might well be a good thing:  Tying federal (that is to say, taxpayer) money to the performance of teacher education programs (that is to say, the effectiveness of the teachers they turn out).   This currently would relate only to one smallish federal program, one that gives grants to graduates willing to teach in “high need” areas.   Needless to say, this is spurring outraged opposition from schools of education, which seem to have pulled the teeth from the original proposal:

Teacher colleges and their accreditors pushed back against a Department of Education plan to tighten eligibility for federal Teach Grants this week, winning concessions on a proposed rule that could have ended aid to hundreds of colleges and set a precedent for other federal programs.

Under the department’s original proposal, states would have been required to sort teacher-education programs into four categories—”low-performing,” “at risk,” “satisfactory,” and “high quality”—based on their graduates’ job-placement and retention rates, the academic “growth” of graduates’ future students, and customer-satisfaction surveys. Only programs that received the highest ranking and were approved by a specialized accreditor would have been eligible to award the grants, which provide up to $4,000 a year to students who agree to work in “high-need areas.”

Sophia McArdle, the department’s representative on a panel that is negotiating the teacher-training rules, said the agency’s goal was to set a “minimum bar” for Teach Grant eligibility. (While federal law limits Teach Grants to “high quality” programs, it doesn’t define the term. In the past, department officials have claimed that the grants go to too many “mediocre” programs.)

But negotiators said the bar was being set too high, and would deny aid to all but “the crème de la crème,” as one panel member put it. They maintained that it was unfair to exclude the hundreds of programs that lack specialized accreditation, or the potentially hundreds more that might fall under the new “satisfactory” category. They argued that the grants should go to students attending programs deemed “effective” or higher, regardless of their accreditation status, and the department agreed.

Under the compromise language, programs lacking specialized accreditation would be judged based on whether they provided graduates with “content and pedagogical knowledge” and “quality clinical preparation” and had “performance based” exit requirements.

Even more significantly, panelists succeeded in striking any reference to “high quality” from the state rating system, replacing it with “exceptional.” That seemingly semantic change ensured that the “high quality” definition wouldn’t outlive Teach Grants, and be used to limit aid under other federal programs. President Obama has proposed ending the Teach Grant program and replacing it with a “Presidential Teaching Fellows” program that would provide scholarships to high-achieving students.

Even with the changes, the new rules still represent a significant expansion of the federal involvement in teacher-training programs. Until now, the government has largely stayed out of teacher prep, leaving it to states to set their own standards for judging and penalizing programs. The proposed rules, with their outcome standards and survey requirements, mark a “much more rigorous and intrusive federal role,” said Jane West, senior vice president of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education.

via Teacher-Training Programs Win Concessions on Proposed Federal Rule – Government – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Many of these government interventions are simply efforts to provide accountability for taxpayer dollars.  That, I think, is a legitimate concern for Congress and ought not to be confused with the bigger issue of government attempts to regulate our lives.

HT:  Jackie

Harold Camping admits he was wrong

Finally Harold Camping accepts the plain words of Matthew 24:36 (“of that day and hour knoweth no man”):

After numerous failed doomsday predictions, Family Radio founder Harold Camping announced this month that he has no plans to predict ever again the day of God’s Judgment. He also issued an apology to listeners, admitting that he was wrong.

“We have learned the very painful lesson that all of creation is in God’s hands and He will end time in His time, not ours!” a statement on Family Radio’s website reads. “We humbly recognize that God may not tell His people the date when Christ will return, any more than He tells anyone the date they will die physically.”

Camping, 90, has made predictions about Judgment Day, Christ’s return and the end of the world for the past few decades – with the May 21, 2011, forecast receiving the most media attention. Each time the date passed, he did not admit to mistaking the timing but instead reasoned that the events happened “spiritually” rather than physically.

But once Oct. 21, 2011 – the day Camping said the world would be destroyed physically – came and went, the Christian broadcaster began to reevaluate his views about being able to calculate and know the exact date of the apocalypse.

“Even the most sincere and zealous of us can be mistaken,” Camping and Family Radio staff stated in their March letter. “We realize that many people are hoping they will know the date of Christ’s return. In fact for a time Family Radio fell into that kind of thinking.

“But we now realize that those people who were calling our attention to the Bible’s statement that ‘of that day and hour knoweth no man’ (Matthew 24:36 & Mark 13:32), were right in their understanding of those verses and Family Radio was wrong. Whether God will ever give us any indication of the date of His return is hidden in God’s divine plan.”

via Harold Camping Admits Sin, Announces End to Doomsday Predictions, Christian News.

Hopefully he will now  admit his other errors and accept other plain words of Scripture.  For example, another finding of his odd interpretation of the End Times is that we have entered a dispensation in which all organized churches have become apostate.  Thus, people should stop going to church.  Instead they should just listen to his radio program.  Maybe he could now announce that he is now taking Hebrews 10:25 to mean what it says and that his followers should now start going to churches again.

Romney limping towards victory

In Super Tuesday results, Romney won 6 states (Massachusetts, Vermont, Virginia, Idaho, Alaska, and the big prize of Ohio); Santorum won 3 (Oklahoma, North Dakota, and Tennessee), and Gingrich won 1 (his home state of Georgia).

In terms of delegates, with some states awarding them proportionally and others “winner-take-all,” Romney picked up 212, Santorum 84, Gingrich 72, and Paul 22.   So Romney got 54%.

Altogether at this point in the campaign, Romney has 415 delegates, Santorum 176, Gingrich 105, and Paul 47.  Winning the Republican nomination takes 1,144.   So Romney has twice as many as his closest competitor and is just short of being halfway to the nomination.

(I would like to report that in the two-man race in Virginia, where I voted, Ron Paul took 40% of the vote, far more than anyone expected.)

So what now for the Republicans?  Should the other nominees drop out and let the coronation proceed for Romney.  Is it now time for all good men to come to the aid of their party?  Stop bashing each other and unite against the Democratic incumbent?  Or are the stakes so high and electoral doom so inevitable that the competing candidates should just fight for their principles?


via News from The Associated Press.

Only churches can be religious

How to restrict religion given the Bill of Right’s protection of the “free exercise” of religion?  Easy, the secularists in power are finding:  Define religion as only what goes on behind the walls of churches.

That’s what the administration has done in its abortion pill/contraceptive mandate in exempting only church congregations, while requiring church-run hospitals and other ministries to provide that coverage free of charge even when they violate their religious convictions.

Now colleges are using the same strategy, as Greg Forster reports:

The Supreme Court declared in 2010 that public universities must permit religious student clubs to select leaders who share their faith. UNC-Greensboro is now getting around this by declaring that a Christian student club isn’t really religious.

On what grounds? It isn’t affiliated with a church.

Other schools are apparently pursuing this strategy as well. Expect to hear more about it.

via An Arm of the North Carolina State Government Says Christianity Isn’t a Religion » First Thoughts | A First Things Blog.

The next step, as in the former Soviet Union:  Religion is restricted to what goes on inside of your head.



Today politics “is about nearly everything”

Political scientist James Q. Wilson has died.  Among his many contributions was an article on “Broken Windows”–observing that if a broken window in a building doesn’t get fixed, soon all the windows will be broken, an example of how social order must be established in small things so as to create social order in big things–a theory that led to new methods of police work that, famously, caused the crime rate in New York City to drop dramatically.

George Will sums up some of his other insights:

New Deal liberalism, Wilson said, was concerned with who got what, when, where and how; since the 1960s, liberalism has been concerned with who thinks what, who acts when, who lives where and who feels how: “Once politics was about only a few things; today, it is about nearly everything.” Until the 1960s, “the chief issue in any congressional argument over new policies was whether it was legitimate for the federal government to do something at all.” But since the “legitimacy barrier” fell, “no program is any longer ‘new’ — it is seen, rather, as an extension, a modification, or an enlargement of something the government is already doing.”

The normal dynamic of politics, Wilson warned, is a process of addition, candidates promising to add to government’s menu of benefits. Hence today’s problem of collective choice: Can Washington, acknowledging no limit to its scope and responding to clamorous factions that proliferate because of its hyperactivity, make difficult choices? With government no longer constrained by either the old constitutional understanding of its limits or by the old stigma against deficit spending, hard choices can be deferred, and are.

Try, he wrote, to think “of a human want or difficulty that is not now defined as a ‘public policy problem.’ ” The defining is done by elites to whose ideas the political system has become so open that changes of policy often result not from changes of public opinion but from changes in the way elites think. Liberal elites define problems as amenable to government engineering of new social structures. Conservative elites emphasize the cultural roots of many problems and hence their intractability.

America, Wilson said, increasingly faces “problems that do not seem to respond, or to respond enough, to changes in incentives.” This is because culture is often determinative, is harder to change than incentives and impedes individuals’ abilities to respond to incentives. . . .

Wilson warned that we should be careful about what we think we are, lest we become that. Human nature, he said, is not infinitely plastic; we cannot be socialized to accept anything. We do not recoil from Auschwitz only because our culture has so disposed us. Children, Wilson thought, are intuitive moralists, but instincts founded in nature must be nurtured in families. The fact that much of modern life, from family disintegration to scabrous entertainment, is shocking is evidence for, not against, the moral sense, which is what is shocked. And the highest purpose of politics is to encourage the flourishing of a culture that nurtures rather than weakens the promptings of the moral sense.

via James Q. Wilson: America’s prophet – The Washington Post.

Super Tuesday

Today is Super Tuesday, when 10 states hold their presidential primaries and caucuses all on the same day, delivering over 400 delegates (nearly 18% of them all).

The states and their number of delegates are as follows:  Georgia (76), Idaho (32), Massachusetts (41), North Dakota (28), Ohio (66), Oklahoma (43), Tennessee (58), Vermont (17), and Virginia (49), and Alaska (27).

We will learn at the end of the day whether the Republican contenders will keep slugging it out or if Mitt Romney makes himself inevitable once again.

My impression is that lots of Republicans who aren’t big fans of Romney are wanting these primary competitions to just be over.  The candidates are tearing each other apart, making them all less popular in the general public and making Barack Obama’s re-election campaign all the easier.  As a result, many Republicans are willing to settle.

Then again, Super Tuesday has so many varied states that Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, and Ron Paul may pick enough delegates to allow the carnage to continue.  And if Romney continues to be unable to “put it away,” the claim that he is “electable” will lose more and more credibility, perhaps opening the nomination to someone else.

What do you think will happen?

And thanks, by the way, for your counsel on whether I should vote for Romney or Paul, the only two candidates on the ballot here in Virginia.  I think my way is clear.