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Senator Mark Hass, Chair of the Oregon Senate Education and Workforce Development Committee, has an op-ed “Oregon’s education outcomes: The financial case for full-day kindergarten” in today’s (3/30/11) Oregonian. He argues (here):
.... The Oregon schools that have moved to full-day kindergarten on their own -- without state help -- have discovered that it's only about 20 percent more costly than half-day. It's far less than the ridiculously inflated numbers cited by lobbyists for school administrators.
After 10 years in the Legislature, I've come to conclude these folks have two priorities:
--Don't change the status quo.
--More money for the status quo.
Oregon parents and taxpayers deserve better. They deserve schools that spend their money on things that work -- even if that means change...
First, his op-ed does not mention the foreign language immersion alternative for kindergartens. Foreign languages are best learned at as early an age as possible. Given the growing importance of the global economy, more Oregon students need to learn foreign languages. It would have strengthened his financial case for early education to have mentioned learning foreign languages in immersion kindergartens. The state of Utah, after all, is moving towards all kindergartens being foreign language immersion programs.
Second, I am glad to see Senator Hass calling for educational change. Maybe he could now support strengthening foreign language programs and developing high school study abroad programs. They work.
Which risk is greater over the next 100 years: that the US and China will have a nuclear war touching Portland or that a Richter 8.0 or greater earthquake will hit Portland? I think the nuclear war with China is more likely. Rising great powers often have wars with the existing dominant power and China already has nuclear missiles.
Of course, we should prepare for both. Yet, here in Portland, Portland Public Schools (PPS) does not take seriously the risks of a rising China. It is only willing to prepare for the earthquake risks. It refuses to expand it Mandarin immersion programs or to send high school students to study abroad in China. Programs which could reduce the likelihood of war with China.
PPS does take the earthquake risks seriously. Portland Public School Board members Pam Knowles, Bobbie Regan and David Wynde have an op-ed in today’s Oregonian titled “Seismic safety is an unfinished job at Portland’s schools.” It’s a plead for passage of PPS's May construction bond levy (here):
Thousands of students, teachers and staff are safer today because of the investments we've already made. But we need to do more.
The PPS facility bond measure, on the ballot in May, will make a significant difference in the seismic safety of our schools.
In the next six years, nine schools across the city would be completely rebuilt and brought up to today's national seismic safety standards. A tenth would be made ready for rebuilding and seismic upgrading.
In addition, Beverly Clearly K-8 near Northeast Portland's Grant High School will receive $5 million in seismic reinforcement, and four roof replacements will add earthquake protection at Ainsworth Elementary, Grant and Wilson High Schools and the Harriet Tubman Leadership Academy for Young Women.
Of course, PPS should take both risks seriously. So I’m against a set of tax levies that only deals with one of them.
Oregon does not have a good system for credentialing Mandarin teachers, especially Mandarin immersion teachers. Further, the lack of a good credentialing system means Oregon also lacks an in-state training program for Mandarin immersion teachers. How, if Oregon were to “mainstream” immersion programs like Utah, would we find enough teachers to fill the need?
Last week, trying to bring this issue to the attention of the legislature, I wrote members of the Oregon Ways and Means Education Subcommittee requesting that they ask the Teachers Standards and Practices Commission some questions. This is what I wrote:
Please ask the following questions of the Teacher Standards and Practices Commission, if they are available and if appropriate at the hearing on Monday, 3/28/11:
Please explain the process for certifying Mandarin teachers in Oregon. Is it the same for primary Mandarin immersion teachers as it is for non-immersion high school teachers? How are the temporary (1-3 years) Mandarin teachers from China certified? How difficult is it for a native Mandarin speaker to teach in Oregon classrooms? Does the Commission offer a specific Mandarin endorsement? If not, why not? And would the Commission need additional funding to do so?
Note the following from the Oregonian article “Shortage of Chinese language teachers in Oregon prompts virtual classes with educators in China” by Wendy Owen:
Nationally, districts have struggled for years to find enough certified Chinese teachers already in the United States.
In Oregon, there are a total of 17 licensed Chinese teachers, said Vickie Chamberlain, executive director, Teacher Standards and Practices Commission.
The Commission does not offer a specific Chinese language endorsement as it does other languages, which has kept universities from developing programs to prepare those teachers, Chamberlain said.
Please work towards having strong Mandarin languages programs in Oregon K-12 educational system.
You mentioned Chinese. There seems to be a renewed interest or a new interest in teaching Chinese in some of our schools. There is a Chinese program at Woodstock Elementary in SE Portland. I just wondered if that’s increasing and what your role is in terms of…. Many of these teachers I know were actually born in China and come over to teach. I just wonder what your role is and how you go about certifying people that were trained and maybe grew up and were trained in China to come over here and teach Mandarin to our kids.
Vickie Chamberlain responded:
Chairman Monroe, there’s a couple of issues going on here. We’ve had licensed Chinese teachers since I arrived here. They were teaching even before I got here. I think that Woodstock program is older than the nine years I’ve been here. And those folks have been primarily on a limited teaching license, as have Japanese, and Hmong, and Vietnamese, and a few languages that may have concentrations in an area or metro area but not in other area.
And so, those folks, if they’re teaching the language only, can get a limited teaching license.
When No Child Left Behind was passed, the federal government said that, if teachers are teaching core academic subjects, then they must show competency in the subject. Well, the problem with an elementary school immersion program is that the person is teaching the subject matter in Chinese. They have to demonstrate that they know the subject matter. Now, we have a No Child Left Behind alternative route license for those folks. And the federal government is clear. There is one way and one way only for a new teacher to be qualified at elementary and that is to pass the elementary multiple subjects test. You have to pass a rigorous state test. So that’s immersion.
The other way we license them is that we have a partnership with ODE (Oregon Department of Education). We have an international teacher license so that someone who is coming over doing visiting teaching, we have a license for that that we work out with the ODE program.
The Northwest Regional ESD out in Beaverton right now, many of you may know, is starting a program. We’re going to give those folks limited licenses because they’re going to be doing distance teaching fro China.
So it sort of depends on the circumstance. Whether there are other requirements that, I think, will depend on what they’re teaching.
I worry that there may be a higher ed bubble (and that Oregon is making the wrong public investments in higher ed). That traditional higher ed costs have risen faster than earnings to graduates and that less-expensive, more efficient online programs are increasingly providing an alternative. Now law schools are in trouble. Annie Lowrey in her Slate article “Law of Averages: Why the law-school bubble is bursting” reports (here):
The law-school bubble may have just burst.
According to data from the Law School Admission Council, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, the number of applicants to law school has dropped a whopping 11.5 percent year-to-year—to the lowest level since 2001 at this point in the application cycle. Some schools are still accepting applications, so the numbers will change in the coming weeks, says the council's Wendy Margolis. But about 90 percent of applications are in, and the pattern is clear.
As for why, she writes:
But the biggest reason may be cultural, not economic. In the past year or two, scads of blogs have committed themselves to exposing law school as a "scam," and the New York Times and Wall Street Journal have devoted thousands of words to telling readers why law school is a bad, bad idea if you do not actually want to be a lawyer. Look to any of a dozen blogs or news sites to explain how wages for legal workers might continue to fall, as automation takes over rote tasks and businesses increasingly refuse to pay obscenely high per-hour fees. Wandering further into the realm of anecdata, virtually every young lawyer or law student I know would love to talk my ear off about the worrisome employment prospects for new legal professionals.
Oregon state senators followed the advice of traditional educational leaders in voting to mandate full day kindergarten statewide. What Oregon’s traditional educational leaders continue apparently to ignore, and have passed on to our state senators, are changes in global economy and the need to strengthen foreign language programs. They do not seem to have a clue that the world has changed. There were no mention of foreign language immersion programs in the news reports of kindergarten expansion. Yet, kindergarten is when immersion programs begin. In Utah, they understand this. They are “mainstreaming,” or expanding, immersion (Spanish, Mandarin and French) to most kindergartens.
I’m for full-day public kindergarten, but they should be 21st century, foreign language immersion kindergarten.
Oregonian columnist Susan Nielsen in her column “Senate goes for broke: No such thing as “free” kindergarten in Oregon” opines (here)
Oregon senators think it would be really neat to have free full-day kindergarten for all kids. So they decided last week to make school districts offer it by 2015, shrugging off the state's money troubles with the ease of a toddler losing a sweatshirt.
We looove kindergarten, they said.
We'll probably have more money by then, they said.
Then they voted, 27-3, on an unfunded mandate that would load more than $130 million a biennium in new costs onto Oregon schools.
I love kindergarten too, but could someone please put these people in time-out?
The state pays for half-day kindergarten. Many school districts offer full-day kindergarten classes anyway, using a mix of private tuition, federal anti-poverty money and general funds. More than one-third of Oregon kindergartners now attend full-day classes, an upward trend that's pushed by parents and educators alike….
It’s sad to think that we have no funds for public kindergartens, and that, if we did, we would probably fund the English-only, forget-the-global-economy, second-rate variety. Is there such a space as "double time out?"
Portland Public Schools has a $548 million bond measure on the May ballot. That’s $2 per one $1,000 assessed value or $300 per year for an average, $150,000 house. On the ballot will also be an additional operating levy of an additional $2 per assessed $1,000, or another $300 per year. We are now up to $600 per year or $50 per month for this average house..
I have been at public meetings where attendees on fixed incomes spoke about this potential additional tax impact. They said they were being “taxes out of my home.”
The $548 bond measure will pay for heating/cooling, safety, health and earthquake upgrades at buildings across the district, keeping buildings functional and safe. But $4 million will go to pay for athletic field upgrades. According to an Oregonian article “Grant High turf project, 3rd in Great Fields Project, a go with or without May bond measure funding” by Larry Bingham (here):
The Grant High School fields improvement project, the third in the Portland Public School Great Fields program, will go forward with or without passage of the May bond, said organizers at a recent open house.
The $3 million project will replace existing grass fields with synthetic turf and make other field improvements at the Northeast Portland school. If voters don't approve the bond, which would give the project $800,000, organizers will have to scale back plans, said Lloyd Lindley, president of Friends of Grant Athletics.
The volunteer group has raised $390,000 since September. Most of that has come from 700 individual donors who have given as little as $1 and as much as $100. The number of donors "really shows a commitment by the community that these fields are important," Lindley said.
A linked Portland Public Schools news release gives more details (here):
Voters in May will decide on Measure 26-121, a bond measure to update learning environments and upgrade safety, security and building systems across Portland Public Schools. (The total facilities bond, $548 million over six years, will cost approximately $2 per $1,000 of taxable assessed value, or $300 a year for the median homeowner.) The bond would invest dollars covering most – but not all - project costs to build or replace six sports fields:
Franklin High School: Passage of the bond will put Franklin in the position to complete its new athletic field by fall 2012. Together with a PPS Great Fields Fund allocation of $191,930, the $1.6 million in the bond program will allow for field construction. Community fundraising for the track will complement the bond investment.
Grant High School: One new athletic field plus a track at this school location costs approximately $1.6 million. Passage of the bond will provide $800,000 towards a new athletic field, which will be augmented by approximately $92,000 in Great Fields Program allocation. Additional funds have been raised and continue to be raised by the community for the balance of the project they have proposed.
Jefferson: A field and track at Jefferson will be part of the master planning and rebuild included in the bond, and will be completed later in the bond program.
Lincoln High School – Funds will cover a replacement of the existing field, which is at the end of its useful life due to its success and heavy usage, with a new surface, and exterior improvements no later than fall 2011. Passage of the bond will provide $800,000 towards a new athletic field and exterior improvement which will be augmented by $41,000 in PPS Great Fields Fund allocation.
Madison High School: Passage of the bond will put Madison in the position to complete its new athletic field by fall 2012. Together with their PPS Great Fields Fund allocation of $276,280, the $1.6 million in the bond program will allow for field construction. Community fundraising for the track will complement the bond investment.
Wilson High School: Passage of the bond will provide$800,000 towards a new athletic field, which will be augmented by a $77,000 in Great Fields Program Fund allocation. Community fundraising covered the recently installed track; with the bond investment, the new field can be ready for play by fall 2012.
New athletic fields at a price of $4 million, however desirable, are not essential for the continuing educational operations of the schools. Making them a higher priority than additional Mandarin classes or sending high school students abroad is being just plain stupid about our future. Putting athletic fields ahead of fixed income persons staying is their homes is callous.
The Economist in an article on “Entrepreneurship in China” titled “Let a million flowers bloom: China is often held up as an object lesson in state-directed capitalism. Yet its economic dynamism owes much to those outside the government embrace” reports on the growth or private enterprise in China (here)
… No one knows quite how much private companies contribute to China’s fast-growing economy. Chinese firms fall into a bewildering variety of legal categories and their respective contributions to GDP are not reported in official statistics. However, enterprises that are not majority-owned by the state account for two-thirds of industrial output, according to the latest figures from the National Bureau of Statistics. And according to Eva Yi of Keywise Capital Management, a hedge fund, such firms account for about 75-80% of profit in Chinese industry (see chart 2) and 90% in non-financial services. Jun Yeop Lee of Inha University, in South Korea, calculates that enterprises not majority-owned by the state contribute about 70% of GDP, assuming that they account for all agricultural output and two-thirds of services….
As Tom Barnettt comments (here):
Point: the rise of state capitalism can be overstated. China isn't succeeding through state capitalism, but despite its lingering presence.
An Oregonian article “Google Notebooks change the way Astoria High School students learn” by Lori Tobias reports (here):
Lunchtime at the Astoria High School cafeteria tends to be a bit on the raucous side. That is, as Principal Larry Lockett puts it. "Loud, kids bouncing off the walls."
But on a day in February, Lockett stopped by the cafeteria and was startled to find absolute quiet.
"So silent, it was almost eerie," he said.
That was the first day of an experiment that put Google Chrome Notebook - a first-of-its-kind computer not yet available to the public – in the lap of every student in the 700-student high school. It is one of only six schools in the country and one of two in Oregon – Crook County Middle School in Prineville is the other – to be chosen for the pilot program that some say could change the education system as we know it.
"It's a game changer all the way around," said Lockett. "It has the potential to become an electronic textbook. It broadens the resources available. It encourages students to become participants in learning, and it allows teachers to reach the students they weren't reaching before. It moves learning from the classroom out into the community. It's gigantic." ……
Even in these declining educational funding times, we could provide all Oregon high school students with computer. And shift to more online courses. And yes, it would mean fewer teachers.
(Photos by Rachael Wente-Chaney)
The Oregon House Education Committee held a hearing on 3/23/11 on HB 2010, which would require a “public school to offer students instruction in Mandarin Chinese if school offers students instruction in two or more second languages.” A bi-partisan group of five legislators spoke in favor of the bill. I did not attend but submitted written testimony.
Rep. Dennis Richardson reported news in his testimony: “within the last week we have had approval for eleven new schools in Oregon to be able to teach Chinese to their students. That makes thirteen altogether. A year and a half ago, when we went over and met with the Ministry of Education, we made a commitment that we would have fifteen schools in a year that were teaching Chinese, to take advantage of their Confucius Classrooms.” He went on to report that two more schools are pending, making fifteen.
Rep. Jules Bailey voiced “my strong support for a system that has at its core a preparation of students for excellence.” And that “education in Mandarin Chinese is a fundamental part of that preparation. It is a major market. It is part of job creation.”
Rep. Matt Wingard reported that “China is Oregon’s number one export market, which means that our economy is tied directly to this country.” And added “No child in Oregon will be unemployed if they know Chinese. And there are jobs to be had.”
Reps. Gene Whisnant and Brian Clem also spoke in support of HB 2010.
Part of my written testimony follows:
The economic, technological and military rise of China is the defining event of this century. Our next generations will live in a very different world. China will within decades have the world’s largest economy. China’s economy may grow during the lifetime of a student in Oregon schools today to be twice the size or more of the US economy. As China’s economy grows and it invests in education and research, its products and services will become more technologically sophisticated. The growth and increasing technological sophistication of its military are also predictable. China already has nuclear weapons (although few) and missiles to deliver them to the US. One of its nuclear missiles is probably targeted at Portland as you read this.
Oregon’s public educational system should respond to this rise of China by increasing its Mandarin and study abroad in China programs. HB 2010 could provide a needed push to those efforts.
Two highly practical reasons for Oregon to increase its Mandarin educational opportunities are (1) for our economic growth, and (2) to avoid war with China (or win such a war, if it comes). In both cases, there are no higher priority actions the legislature could take. Oregon’s best long term opportunities for economic growth are in China. For world peace and US national security, the most significant actions this legislature could take is to expand Mandarin programs.