Sunday, March 28, 2010

Modeling Academics

There is a common practice that seems to be a pattern that takes on mythical significance. And that is that last year's school budget expenditures with the exception of co-incidental changes dictate next year's curriculum and budget make-up.

Furthermore, next year's budget is considered flat when it entirely accommodates the slope of increases in staff salary and benefits. So it is not unusual to hear Board members euphemistically say the the budget stays the same from this year to next or it doesn't cost us any more. In fact the unconscionable increases in salary not only increase costs, they compound the cost year over year assuming there's no intervention.

But given the economic environment, suburban schools in CT need to get smarter about school. In other words, we need to begin modeling every school every year. That means that the tight coupling of curriculum to spreadsheet budgets needs to be decoupled.

Based on the local fiscal tea leaves, communities need to determine what they can afford and settle on a figure that is fair to the average taxpayer.  That's the budget part.

Whatever this sum, the skeleton key to creating next year's academic infrastructure needs to be a school model of what's important to the school.

A Captain Obvious list of necessities includes:

  • bare bones services mandated by law
  • mandated curriculum offerings
  • fixed and inevitable costs (heat, water, fuel, books, supplies, consumables)
  • core sports costs
  • bare bones enrichment curriculum offerings
  • bare bones administrative costs
A second tier of expenses might include near and dear offerings and special programs that are successful and unique.  Also included may be periodic offerings such as a bi-annual AP course in an esoteric subject.

The final component might be:

  • non-core sports
  • supplemental courses
  • poorly performing courses or departments
  • vanity offerings or department silos that can be pruned without a loss of fundamental mission
This kind of modeling ensures that the quality of the school's academic offering can degrade gracefully in terms of cost without affecting the quality or integrity of the school's mission.

Schools that are growing can scale up intelligently and scale back equally intelligently.  This is different but related to strategic planning.  Modeling is about generating cost effective education and agile academic year-to-year continuity so that curriculum stay s fresh and vital.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Mary Glassman Gets It!

Mary Glassman not only gets it but she gets it right the first time.

Do any of you appreciate that as much as I do? OMG, a politician that advocates for children to read at the third grade level because that is scientifically sound. That's right, she looked at the facts and is advocating policy based on the facts.

Not feelings, not what's politically popular, but facts. Obviously she has no chance of winning but I want to be one of the first people to endorse her. Christ, it's like winning the lottery to find somebody who knows what the hell they're talking about AND is running for office.

Check out CT Bob's video (if you listen to one political video this year, this is it) ;



How much?

This, a twitter from Diane Ravitch about an hour ago.
The case against NCLB: no gain in NAEP reading scores for 8th graders from 1998 to 2009. The NCLB generation. Billions wasted.

Small comfort. Obama's Race to the Top is little more than re-branded NCLB funded to the hilt. More tax dollars being shoveled into a money sink that is pointless.

Our educators lecture us about math and science yet are incapable of actually using it themselves. And accountability is for other people's failures not programs like NCLB that have empirically done more harm than good for children.

Billions. Educational Fraud. No relief in sight.

What a country.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

My ADTC Resignation Letter

March 24, 2010

Dear friends and others,

Please accept my immediate resignation from the Ashford Democratic Town Committee. Until very recently, I have had the great pleasure of sharing the good company and goodwill of many of you. I plan on remaining a lifelong friend of those who are.

However, I can no longer support national candidates who solicit my time, money, and psychic energy to get elected and then turn around and marginalize or wholly lock-out points of view near and dear to my heart. I plan to dedicate those resources to ensuring that those people never again take advantage of my concerns as a citizen.

More importantly, as a Board of Education member I find myself serving with other members of the Democratic persuasion who chronically misrepresent our community. I find their indifference to the community of Ashford's best interests AND Region19's best interests unconscionable. Again, as someone who has dedicated time, energy, money, and goodwill toward both the Democratic party and the election of said individuals, I can no longer justify continuing to to so.

Our Region is being fiscally bankrupted by Board members whose cynical disregard for the plight of children in their own communities is obvious and unrelenting. I cannot and will not support any candidate from any town who is willing to stab the people who depend on them in the back.

Furthermore. our regional economics need to be addressed seriously and with all due haste. No one in any town, regardless of how complacent they may believe they are, can afford *not* to have the ability to vote for a reduction in the coming year-to-year budget. Families already hard hit by the national economy have a Constitutional Right of Self-Defense (the vote) to protect themselves from bureaucrats who are indifferent to watching their families suffer.

Every thinking citizen in our towns needs to demand that the right to vote on a one-percent decrease in the Region19 budget. The voters trusted me when I was elected and I trust them to do what's right for themselves.

The time is now. The pickpockets are at your door and on your Board. You can choose to save your communities or not. You can choose to play politics or not. But once the money is spent and the clouds roll in - DO NOT CLAIM YOU DID NOT KNOW THIS IS THE CASE.

With great memories and great regret,

Frank Krasicki

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Best. Movie. Ending. Ever.

I saw Samson and Delilah as a child and it was one of those stories that stuck with me.

There's a moral here.

Hartford Goes South Park

The epidemic of stupidity that's coming out of the State House in Hartford is threatening to engulf the entire State in a cesspool of ignorance that will not easily wash clean. The fine line between farce and maliciously moronic legislation is being tested (daily).

Steven Goode of the Courant reports that,
A bill proposed by a city legislator calls for residency restrictions for registered sex offenders that would make it virtually impossible for them to live in Hartford.

State Rep. Kelvin Roldan's bill, which went before the judiciary committee Monday, would make it illegal for registered sex offenders to live within 2,000 feet of a public or private school or day care facility.

According to Hartford police, 547 — or 96 percent — of the 568 registered sex offenders living in the city are within 2,000 feet of a school or day care provider. If the bill is passed, the restrictions would not apply to those who already live in permanent housing within the restricted zone. It would affect anyone living in a temporary shelter with 60- and 90-day housing limits and any offender who moves into the city after Oct. 10.

Roldan said the law would help keep registered sex offenders out of situations that might cause them to commit another crime.

"This is all about the safety of our children," Roldan said.

But Public Safety Commissioner John Danaher said he believes the provision could cause problems for police and other agencies required to keep track of offenders.

"It is our belief that it would create a situation that they would have no place to live, causing them to go underground," said Danaher. "It would create a problem for law enforcement because we want to be able to know where they are."

Right. It's all about the safety of -cough- our children. So where oh where will these people go? UNDERGROUND???? I don't think so. They will go to suburbia. That's right, the place that has no social service infrastructure or police forces who can deal with keeping track of these social misfits.

This law like so many of the "not in my back yard" legislations is evil. Evil like the episode of South Park called Night of the Living Homeless. Wikipedia's synopsis may have been the template for this legislation.
While talking to the survivors, who have clearly become paranoid, Kyle finds a pamphlet on the ground, which advertises South Park as a "haven for the homeless". He realizes the Evergreen townspeople got rid of their homeless by convincing them to migrate to South Park. The children realize that they must get rid of the homeless because, as Kyle reasons, their parents are as stupid as the people of Evergreen, and South Park would fall apart just like Evergreen did.

The law I would like to see introduced is one that would ban bad legislators from coming within two hundred miles of CT. The air would smell so much sweeter.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Flatly, Plutocratic Racism

Tom Friedman's latest column in the New York Times, America’s Real Dream Team is yet another disingenuous euphemism for advocating high-tech job piracy in the United States. He has become the master of a form of subliminal racism that insists all Asians are good at math (and/or science), all American children are dolts (and parenthetically the public schools are idiot factories), and that Americans are not only incapable of competing worldwide, we aren't even smart enough to let smart immigrants become our benevolent guardians. He writes;

Linda Zhou, Alice Wei Zhao, Lori Ying, Angela Yu-Yun Yeung, Lynnelle Lin Ye, Kevin Young Xu, Benjamin Chang Sun, Jane Yoonhae Suh, Katheryn Cheng Shi, Sunanda Sharma, Sarine Gayaneh Shahmirian, Arjun Ranganath Puranik, Raman Venkat Nelakant, Akhil Mathew, Paul Masih Das, David Chienyun Liu, Elisa Bisi Lin, Yifan Li, Lanair Amaad Lett, Ruoyi Jiang, Otana Agape Jakpor, Peter Danming Hu, Yale Wang Fan, Yuval Yaacov Calev, Levent Alpoge, John Vincenzo Capodilupo and Namrata Anand.

No, sorry, it was not a dinner of the China-India Friendship League. Give up?

O.K. All these kids are American high school students. They were the majority of the 40 finalists in the 2010 Intel Science Talent Search, which, through a national contest, identifies and honors the top math and science high school students in America, based on their solutions to scientific problems. The awards dinner was Tuesday, and, as you can see from the above list, most finalists hailed from immigrant families, largely from Asia.

Indeed, if you need any more convincing about the virtues of immigration, just come to the Intel science finals. I am a pro-immigration fanatic. I think keeping a constant flow of legal immigrants into our country — whether they wear blue collars or lab coats — is the key to keeping us ahead of China. Because when you mix all of these energetic, high-aspiring people with a democratic system and free markets, magic happens. If we hope to keep that magic, we need immigration reform that guarantees that we will always attract and retain, in an orderly fashion, the world’s first-round aspirational and intellectual draft choices.

This isn’t complicated. In today’s wired world, the most important economic competition is no longer between countries or companies. The most important economic competition is actually between you and your own imagination. Because what your kids imagine, they can now act on farther, faster, cheaper than ever before — as individuals. Today, just about everything is becoming a commodity, except imagination, except the ability to spark new ideas.

If I just have the spark of an idea now, I can get a designer in Taiwan to design it. I can get a factory in China to produce a prototype. I can get a factory in Vietnam to mass manufacture it. I can use to handle fulfillment. I can use to find someone to do my logo and manage by backroom. And I can do all this at incredibly low prices. The one thing that is not a commodity and never will be is that spark of an idea. And this Intel dinner was all about our best sparklers.
I look at that list of so-called immigrants and see the names: Linda, Alice, Angela, Lynnelle, Kevin, Benjamin, Jane, Katheryn, Paul, David, Elisa, Peter, and John Vincenzo, and I think to myself that we're looking not at new immigrant families suddenly storming the intellectual frontiers of America but second, third, or fourth generation American families of Asian descent who attend public schools getting the attention they richly deserve.

Friedman is never gracious enough to tip his hat to the public schools that nurture this talent.

And by emphasizing the last names of the winners strictly in Asian and Indian terms, he asserts a racist and dangerous propensity for disregarding the Italians, Irish, Poles, Israelis, and the multitude of other legal immigrants who ARE JUST AS SMART, JUST AS HARD-WORKING, and what have you. Friedman's monologue is as anti-American as I can imagine.

What this contest demonstrates is the success of America's melting pot of talent, not the cherry picking of talent from overseas. He misses that point. ALL. THE. TIME.

But that's not his biggest blind spot. There is no such thing as competition in an asymmetric contest. Magic isn't whats happening in his delusional celebration of 'free' markets. Economic chaos is what's happening. Ecological disaster is happening. Child labor is happening. American jobs are being plundered and our nation in depression is what's happening.

How about putting reality into your imagination once in a while, Mr. Friedman?

Oh, btw, readers will note that the winner did not come from that list. Just sayin'

Friday, March 19, 2010

Education's Marketing Crisis

You can't make this stuff up. If I did I'd lose all creditability.

A couple of days ago, high school graduate and Governor, Jodi Rell appointed a new panel to -cough- provide recommendations for closing the "achievement gap" our national euphemism for the urban internment camps that warehouse the poor, unfortunate, and chronically criminal or unbalanced elements of our society. I've cited studies about this in this blog before.

And I'm sure all of you are familiar with the overseas junkets that waste taxpayer's money in studying schools in places like India and China where universal education is, well, not universal. But boy oh boy is sure makes for a nice expenses paid vacation for the bureaucrats who take advantage, er, go to learn.

Well, this panel is nothing like that. According to Grace E. Merritt's reporting in the Courant,
The group's membership was carefully crafted, he [Steven J. Simmons of Greenwich] said, almost entirely comprising current and retired bank and insurance CEOs, along with three members of education and community foundations.

"I thought about the best way to do this and came to the conclusion that the idea that would make most sense is to have a commission of folks who were familiar with education but did not have a particular point of view or represent a particular interest group," Simmons said. "This gets some business folks together who are experienced at solving problems and have been the heads of their companies."

There's nothing as refreshing as a group of CEOs whose salaries and life experiences are so comfortably made possible by warehousing the poor in cities away from the yacht clubs, docks and four star restaurants they've grown so accustomed to. In fact, as CEOs one of the ways they "solved problems" is by keeping wages low, marginalizing non-conformists, stifling any hint of cultural diversity, resisting affirmative action, outsourcing jobs, promoting a police State mentality that ranks CT as one of the highest states of incarceration, driving the American economy to an era of depression, and other such feel good solutions.

Like me, I'm sure you can't wait to see their recommendations for closing the achievement gap.

It should be noted that the panel is...
Led by Steven J. Simmons of Greenwich, who is chairman and CEO of Simmons/Patriot Media and Communications, the privately funded commission will hold hearings, visit public schools, study research, and travel to see how other states have solved the problem.

That's right. Marketing - not that there's anything wrong with that. It's just that maybe a person familiar with housing discrimination, social inequality, or say, EDUCATION might be the person to lead the panel. Just sayin'.

But Connecticut's Teacher's Unions are advertising as well. And their commercials prove how bad science education is in this country. In their commercials, they claim small classroom sizes are important to teaching children. Yet no study has conclusively proved any such thing. It's true that it is a pervasive social myth that forces schools to over-staff but there's no science to it.

For shame.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Follow the Money

The State Capitol is abuzz with stories about money.  Lots of money.  This article by Don Stacom of the Courant states,

The $30 million is relatively small change in a state that gives more than $2.7 billion a year to towns and cities. But for many small towns, it's a big share of their state aid. They don't get the hundreds of millions in school aid and social services grants that go to big and mid-sized cities, and road maintenance is one of their biggest expenses.

"It's a big part of a small town's budget," Kent First Selectman Bruce Adams said Monday. "We're getting $135,000 — for a small town, that's a decent sum."
WOW!  Thirty million dollars to repair roads.  But what's that other number? HUNDREDS of MILLIONS in school aid and social services grants!  Hundreds of millions.  That's a serious chunk of change for a small number of CT large cities.

One would think AFTER DECADES of this kind of spending - BILLIONS of tax dollars that we could safely say schools in urban CT areas are well-funded.  I guess not.

In a different article by Christopher Keating we find that the burbs and small towns are so broke that Mayors Asking for a Regional Sales Tax.

Similar retail tax plans have failed in the past when the proposals would have given the communities with the malls all of the money. Under the latest plan, the money would be shared by multiple communities through the regional planning organizations. In Hartford, that would be the Capitol Region Council of Governments, which has 29 towns as members.

During a public hearing Monday, the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities and mayors pushed the concept in front of the legislature's tax-writing finance committee. Lobbyist Gian-Carl Casa said the towns need new solutions and new approaches at a time when municipalities can no longer rely on the cash-strapped state to give them additional aid. Nationally, 23 states allow cities and towns to levy sales taxes, and Connecticut's towns need the same authority, he said.

"They need the tools to do it themselves," Casa said. "We think its time has come."

With the state's budget woes expected to increase in the 2012 fiscal year, Casa said the state needs to try new ideas that would change the Land of Steady Habits.

"The need for revenue diversity is acute," Casa said. "What you're hearing from local officials is really a cry for help."

But House Republican leader Lawrence Cafero of Norwalk rejected the idea, saying that the state and towns should be thinking about cutting spending before raising revenue. One idea would be to install a 5 percent statewide sales tax and then allow the 1 percent municipal tax to keep the overall rate at the current 6 percent.

"It's more taxes to the general public," Cafero said of the proposal. "Everything is an add-on in this place. We don't need extra taxes now. I want to hear them talking about cutting spending."

In the same way, CBIA — the Connecticut Business and Industry Association — is lobbying against the bill at the state Capitol.

"You're creating numerous new jurisdictions" for sales taxes, said Eric George, a CBIA lobbyist. "Connecticut is a difficult state to do business in now. This is not going to help. This just isn't the right answer. The first thing you need to do is create more efficiencies."

Mayors and first selectmen throughout the state, however, say they have been cutting spending for years to minimize local property tax increases. Some mayors have testified that they have cut more from their budgets — as a percentage — than the legislature has cut from the state budget in Hartford.
Again, what we're hearing is more taxes that will do nothing to benefit Region 19.  No, this is throwing more HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS at the same places who've already squandered BILLIONS.

Oh, well - CT politics.  Right?  Right.

And I've already documented how corrupt the federal funding of schooling is here and here.  The politicians at the State Department of Education know it's a scam but its one that pays very well.

To top it off, United Technologies let the cat out of the bag by declaring the State is too expensive to do business in. In an article called, UTC Chief Financial Officer: Connecticut Too Expensive To Do Work, Eric Gershon of the Courant reported,
Connecticut's biggest private employer is determined to do more of its work outside its home state and other "high-cost" locations, top executives said Friday at an investors' conference in New York.

"Anyplace outside of Connecticut is low-cost," United Technologies Corp.'s chief financial officer, Gregory Hayes, told Wall Street investment analysts — paraphrasing previous remarks by another UTC executive, Jeff Pino, president of Sikorsky Aircraft.

"Even if work has to stay in the U.S., there are opportunities to reduce cost by moving out of those high-cost locations," Hayes said.
Nowhere in the article was the ever present CBIA trotted out to lecture CT residents that it is the public school's fault for all things economically failing. NO UTC finally figured it out. It's too expensive. Good for them. Even a broken clock is right once in a while.

So what else is the State concerned about?  School "reform" 'options".  Grace E. Merritt elaborates in the Courant;

Hundreds showed up for legislative hearings on a dozen major school reform proposals Monday that would significantly change the way public schools operate, from the way teachers are evaluated to parents' ability to shut down failing schools.

Students, advocates and others filled four overflow rooms to listen to 62 people testify on the bills. Several speakers spoke in favor of changing the way charter schools are funded. Currently the state pays $9,300 to charter schools for each student who attends — significantly less than the nearly $14,000 average paid to a traditional public school.

Francheska Calderon, a senior at Amistad-Elm City High School, credited her charter school with changing her from an angry girl worried about how others saw her to a student focused on achievement. She said that 100 percent of her senior class has been accepted to a four-year college.

"Charter schools deserve to be equally funded, not just 75 percent of what traditional public school students are given," Calderon said.

Advocates, such as the ConnCAN education reform group, said the state pays twice for the same charter school student: once to the local school system for a student that the system no longer educates, and once to the charter school.

The proposal calls for school systems to pay for their students who attend charter schools, a formula that would require towns to pay thousands, even millions more to cover charter costs.

Another bill calls for teacher performance evaluations to be tied to how well students perform in school.

The bill calls for building a database that would track students through college. Evaluators would look at how well students performs to determine how effective the teacher is.

The Connecticut Education Association, the state's largest teachers' union, said it favors solid, research-based reforms but said that the proposed system focuses too narrowly on test scores and might "scapegoat teachers for society's ills." It would penalize teachers who, for example, have a gift for motivating low-achieving or difficult students, they said.

Another major item was the so-called "Parent Trigger" legislation, which would allow 51 percent or more of parents from a school that has failed to make progress for three consecutive years to petition for intervention. During the hearing, many testified that they felt parents have no say and have had to watch their children attend failing schools, sometimes for generations.

Yeah, the charter school students look to be underfunded IFF you ignore the fact that charter schools serve the most capable and not the least capable students. The students with disabilities, handicaps, psychological problems, and so on [in other words the most expensive to service] are left to the public schools who are then attacked for receiving more funds. Sweet argument for the charter profiteers. Equal funding equals big profits on low maintenance students.

The bottom line for Region 19 is that our towns will continue to be underfunded as the State sinks deeper in debt and buries us in higher taxes. In Hartford, they will spend millions following the expert advice of dropouts and spineless politicians playing Washington's game of spending money to increase the cost of education.

An I the only one tired of this recipe?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Oh, Curriculum!

Sunday the New York Times reported on the textbook curriculum changes that were made to appease the State of Texas special interests. As usual, the changes are both dogmatic and intended to imprint students with ceratin myths that make open-minded learning and thinking difficult.
Battles over what to put in science and history books have taken place for years in the 20 states where state boards must adopt textbooks, most notably in California and Texas. But rarely in recent history has a group of conservative board members left such a mark on a social studies curriculum.

Efforts by Hispanic board members to include more Latino figures as role models for the state’s large Hispanic population were consistently defeated, prompting one member, Mary Helen Berlanga, to storm out of a meeting late Thursday night, saying, “They can just pretend this is a white America and Hispanics don’t exist.”

“They are going overboard, they are not experts, they are not historians,” she said. “They are rewriting history, not only of Texas but of the United States and the world.”

The curriculum standards will now be published in a state register, opening them up for 30 days of public comment. A final vote will be taken in May, but given the Republican dominance of the board, it is unlikely that many changes will be made.

The standards, reviewed every decade, serve as a template for textbook publishers, who must come before the board next year with drafts of their books. The board’s makeup will have changed by then because Dr. McLeroy lost in a primary this month to a more moderate Republican, and two others — one Democrat and one conservative Republican — announced they were not seeking re-election.

There are seven members of the conservative bloc on the board, but they are often joined by one of the other three Republicans on crucial votes. There were no historians, sociologists or economists consulted at the meetings, though some members of the conservative bloc held themselves out as experts on certain topics.

The conservative members maintain that they are trying to correct what they see as a liberal bias among the teachers who proposed the curriculum. To that end, they made dozens of minor changes aimed at calling into question, among other things, concepts like the separation of church and state and the secular nature of the American Revolution.

“I reject the notion by the left of a constitutional separation of church and state,” said David Bradley, a conservative from Beaumont who works in real estate. “I have $1,000 for the charity of your choice if you can find it in the Constitution.”

They also included a plank to ensure that students learn about “the conservative resurgence of the 1980s and 1990s, including Phyllis Schlafly, the Contract With America, the Heritage Foundation, the Moral Majority and the National Rifle Association.”

Dr. McLeroy, a dentist by training, pushed through a change to the teaching of the civil rights movement to ensure that students study the violent philosophy of the Black Panthers in addition to the nonviolent approach of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He also made sure that textbooks would mention the votes in Congress on civil rights legislation, which Republicans supported.

No sooner had the article been published than a twitter feed dedicated a parody of these changes was established. Twitterers from all over the country have added their own changes using a tag of #texastextbookfact to identify their entries.

Here are a few:

  • Texas was the first state to recognize the value of the Negro race to high school athletic programs
  •  Mountain top removal mining puts everyone on the same economic playing field.
  •  Slavery was an ambassador program meant to bring people to America to save them from poverty and socialism.
  •  Women should have the right to choose between paper and plastic. 
  •   Adam & Eve waited til they were married before the consummated their love.
  • You are only required to be able to count as high as your largest ammo clip.
  • Every time you shoot something, an angel gets its wings.
  •  Racial disparities in sentencing are the fault of activist judges.  
  •  native americans welcomed americans as liberators
 If you enjoy snarky humor just type #texastextbookfact into the twitter search app and it will begin listing the latest Texas revisions to American History, Science and Math.

    Thursday, March 11, 2010

    Deconstructing The American Dream

    There's a John Lennon tune, one of his last with the lyric, "There are no problems - only solutions".

    The quality of the solutions America has come to embrace have sucked us into a death spiral. Corporate pranksters with money enough to influence legislators unconscionably tinker with policies that toy with the needs and desires of citizens. Legislators surround themselves with self-serving experts who have no interest in the public good and eliminate wholesale class of solutions that would enrich this nation as a whole for the sake of a few who could care less if America disappeared into history's ashes.

    Today, Herbert Kohl writes in Philadelphia Public School's Notebook an essay on Opportunity to learn, rush to equity. In the article he describes how a reasonable and coherent program to introduce equity in schools nationwide was turned into the systematic , system-wide cancer that NCLB and Race to the Top have become. And he tells us what could have been.
    Jonathan Kozol’s Savage Inequalities dramatically documents the lack of opportunity presented to many poor children. Taking off from there, we raised the issue of how to negate those inequalities. The question that droves this analysis was: Do all children have the same opportunities to learn?

    We were careful to avoid the question of poverty, family background, etc. because we wanted to make strictly educational arguments. We wanted to focus specifically on the conditions of schooling and make the opportunity to learn an equity issue. In this context we wanted to create a series of measures of equity, amongst which were:

    * What are the facilities necessary to promote equitable learning?

    * What is an equitable ratio of students to teachers?

    * What is the range and scope of a learning program that promotes equitable learning – this would include the arts, opportunity for athletics and cultural learning, Advanced Placement courses, science labs?

    * What are the credentials teachers are expected to have to produce excellence in learning?

    * What kind of wages and working conditions contribute to educational opportunity for children?

    * What kinds of supplies and equipment must all school have access to (textbooks, computers, etc.)?

    * What kind of standards and measures should be used to measure a school’s effectiveness as an equitable learning institution?

    * What role should parents and community organizations play to ensure that schools in their communities are equitable?

    There were other conditions, but the idea was to establish a base for what was equitable based upon an analysis of successful public schools across the nation.

    We did not want to tie this notion into variables that had to do with conditions outside of the context of schools, as we wanted educational solutions to educational problems. In other words, we wanted to assert that, when given the resources, schools across the country could deliver excellent, equitable education.

    We were not advocating a single standard, so much as a series of baselines.

    We have to ask ourselves how this got so perverted.What progressives of that time - Wellstone, Kohl, Koziol, and others were advocating was that schools all be instrumented with infrastructure, personnel, pedagogy, and curriculum that offered ALL students the opportunity to learn and allowed all schools to contribute their best efforts toward improving the human condition.

    There is no explicit or implicit promise that EVERY child will literally be exactly equal in test score to another in lock step periodic progression ignoring all individual spirit. there is no mention that schools can be failures or that teachers be "held accountable" for anything more than pedagogical self-improvement. And there is no prescription that in the nation's poorest cities, modern school cathedrals should substitute shiny new buildings for vacant curriculum, demoralized personnel, and absurdist expectations.

    Yet that's precisely what we have. Not only that WE KNOW ITS A FRAUD. Let me repeat that. WE KNOW ITS A FRAUD and yet we keep throwing money, goodwill, and political capital into something that can only harm public education. In this Democracy Now interview, Diane Ratvich, one of the architects of the draconian solution exposes what it has matured into:
    JUAN GONZALEZ: One of the things that you’ve pointed out many times is that the entire testing system of the country right now is rife with corruption and with fraud—


    JUAN GONZALEZ: —because you basically have every state deciding its own test standards, and they keep reporting that their kids are doing better. But then every time the national government does a national assessment test, these same states are not improving.

    DIANE RAVITCH: Well, this is the great legacy of No Child Left Behind, is that it has left us with a system of institutionalized fraud. And the institutionalized fraud is that No Child Left Behind has mandated that every child is going to be proficient by the year 2014. Except they’re not, because no state and no nation has ever had 100 percent of the children proficient. Kids have all kinds of problems. And whether it’s poverty or a million things, there’s no such thing as 100 percent proficiency.

    But every year we get closer to 2014, the bar goes up, and the states are told, “If you don’t reach that bar, you’re going to be punished. Schools will be closed. They’ll be turned into charter schools.” That’s part of the federal mandate, is that schools will be privatized if they can’t meet that impossible goal. So in order to preserve some semblance of public education, the states have been encouraged to lie, and many of them are lying, and so we see states that are saying, “90 percent of our kids are proficient in reading,” and then when the national test comes out, it’s 25 percent.

    AMY GOODMAN: Diane Ravitch, we said at the top of this segment that the Department of Education announced sixteen finalists for its first round of the “Race to the Top” competition. They’re going to deliver something like $4.35 billion in school reform grants. And the Washington Post is reporting almost all of these finalists got money from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. In your book, chapter ten is called “The Billionaire Boys Club.” Explain.

    DIANE RAVITCH: “The Billionaires Boys Club” is a discussion of how we’re in a new era of the foundations and their relation to education. We have never in the history of the United States had foundations with the wealth of the Gates Foundation and some of the other billionaire foundations—the Walton Family Foundation, The Broad Foundation. And these three foundations—Gates, Broad and Walton—are committed now to charter schools and to evaluating teachers by test scores. And that’s now the policy of the US Department of Education. We have never seen anything like this, where foundations had the ambition to direct national educational policy, and in fact are succeeding.

    The Obama administration appointed somebody from the NewSchools Venture Fund to run this so-called “Race to the Top.” The NewSchools Venture Fund exists to promote charter schools. So, what we’re seeing with the proliferation—with this demand from the federal government, if you want to be part of this $4 billion fund, you better be prepared to create lots more charter schools. Well, it’s all predetermined by who the personnel is. And, you know, so we see this immense influence of the foundations.

    And I think that with the proliferation of charter schools, the bottom-line issue is the survival of public education, because we’re going to see many, many more privatized schools and no transparency as to who’s running them, where the money is going, and everything being determined by test scores.

    So the whole picture, I think—I just wish that people wouldn’t refer to this as reform, because when we talk about “Race to the Top,” we’re talking about a principle that is antithetical to the fundamental idea of American education. The fundamental idea, which has been enshrined at least since the Brown decision of 1954, was equal educational opportunity. “Race to the Top” is not equal educational opportunity. It is a race in which one or two or three states race to the top to have more privatized schools, more test-based accountability, more basic skills, no emphasis on a broad curriculum for all kids, and no equal educational opportunity. I think that’s wrong. I think it’s also not the role of the federal government to do what’s being done and to call it reform.

    We cannot say we don't know what's going on. It's time to stand up and demand it stops. That starts with a call for the resignation of Arne Duncan and a request that progressives snap-slap our legislators into an ethical deconstruction of the monstrosity that Federal and State educational policy has become.

    Make no mistake about it, these people are idiots and that won't change. But thinking adults need to rescue our taxes and our public schools from further buffoonery.

    Wednesday, March 10, 2010

    Education Budgets as Ponzi Schemes

    Today's School Boards are presiding over a sea-change in budgeting. Baby-boomer educators are retiring in large numbers and being replaced by the younger generation and boy, this is a good thing in many, many cases.

    So, in attending Board meetings you'll hear that the school is "saving" money". That's hard to argue with. Saving money means that that money can REDUCE the budget - the taxpayers should see their education taxes lower.

    But that's not how the system is being gamed. What happens year over year is that the so-called savings are rolled back into the coming year's budget. Fair enough. Maybe that pays for some increases. Maybe. Again, as a taxpayer one would think that that would mean that the school budget requires NO INCREASE because [simple math]:

    Last Year's Budget - retiring teachers = New Budget + increased expenses = NO TOTAL BUDGET INCREASE

    But that's not how the system is being gamed either.

    Every year without fail what happens is:

    Last Year's Budget + savings of retiring teachers + increased expenses = New budget greater than sum of all of last year's budget including "savings"

    Let's put this into perspective. You give your child a five dollar bill to go buy bread thinking its cheaper than five dollars but five dollars is sufficient because maybe somebody's price-gouging.

    The kid goes to the store and says, "Dad, good news! The bread's on sale for four dollars!"

    Dad thinks, Great, I have enough to by a cup of coffee.

    The kid gets home with the bread. "Where's the change?"

    "Change? I had to borrow money to buy the bread. It costs six dollars by the time I got to the cash register. They hired a new bagger to help the cashier and the price of bread went from four dollars to six dollars."

    Now Dad has no coffee today or tomorrow.

    "Don't worry Dad, the bagger really needed the job."

    Tuesday, March 09, 2010

    Race to the Gurney

    Mark Benjamin of Salon is reporting on the details of water-boarding technique used on prisoners in America's custody. It is this meticulous attention to detail that separates us from mere barbarians and it is this culture into which our children will learn their adult civic lessons.


    Self-proclaimed waterboarding fan Dick Cheney called it a no-brainer in a 2006 radio interview: Terror suspects should get a "a dunk in the water." But recently released internal documents reveal the controversial "enhanced interrogation" practice was far more brutal on detainees than Cheney's description sounds, and was administered with meticulous cruelty.

    Interrogators pumped detainees full of so much water that the CIA turned to a special saline solution to minimize the risk of death, the documents show. The agency used a gurney "specially designed" to tilt backwards at a perfect angle to maximize the water entering the prisoner's nose and mouth, intensifying the sense of choking – and to be lifted upright quickly in the event that a prisoner stopped breathing.

    The documents also lay out, in chilling detail, exactly what should occur in each two-hour waterboarding "session." Interrogators were instructed to start pouring water right after a detainee exhaled, to ensure he inhaled water, not air, in his next breath. They could use their hands to "dam the runoff" and prevent water from spilling out of a detainee's mouth. They were allowed six separate 40-second "applications" of liquid in each two-hour session – and could dump water over a detainee's nose and mouth for a total of 12 minutes a day. Finally, to keep detainees alive even if they inhaled their own vomit during a session – a not-uncommon side effect of waterboarding – the prisoners were kept on a liquid diet. The agency recommended Ensure Plus.

    "This is revolting and it is deeply disturbing," said Dr. Scott Allen, co-director of the Center for Prisoner Health and Human Rights at Brown University who has reviewed all of the documents for Physicians for Human Rights. "The so-called science here is a total departure from any ethics or any legitimate purpose. They are saying, ‘This is how risky and harmful the procedure is, but we are still going to do it.' It just sounds like lunacy," he said. "This fine-tuning of torture is unethical, incompetent and a disgrace to medicine."

    Did the report say "incompetent"? It won't be long before we'll have a Washington inspired Race To The Gurney competition for public schools.

    Monday, March 08, 2010

    Institutional Tough Love - Reduce the Upcoming Budget

    I received a critical comment for my Hitler parody video today on YouTube. It reads:
    I don't know who created this, but clearly it's a grandstanding person who is trying to curry favor by advocating cuts and fiscal prudence for an already underfunded school. As such, the author appears to be more part of the problem than part of the solution, IMHO.

    I'm the grandstanding person he's talking about. The critic must think there's something appealing about advocating budget cuts in education. There's not. My wife and many neighbors are teachers. They earn and deserve every penny.

    But getting elected to a School Board carries responsibilities that are a double-edged sword. We have to do right by the students and the community. The critic assumes our school is underfunded. And in the psychedelic world of educational economics this is always true. It is an American meme to believe schools are underfunded. The unions, parents, teachers and administrators will all swear on stacks of holy books that this is the problem. And far too many Board members believe their job is simply to escalate and spend endlessly like rich aunts and uncles - visiting dignitaries with no responsibilities except to be loved for their largess.

    In fact the idea of cutting a school budget is so antithetically imprinted on Board members that every year I sit through at least one near nervous breakdown monologue about how emotionally unprepared that school board member is to imagine cutting the school budget. No Hollywood drama can ever express the angst that goes along with these discussions.

    I pass along cogent and what I believe are compelling arguments for cutting the budget. And the argument I receive far more than any other is that teachers don't make as much as billionaires and CEOs. It's hard to argue with that. By that metric teachers are really making a lot less.

    But I don't live in a town of CEOs and billionaires who we can shake down for pocket change that will pay for the substantial increases in our expenses.

    I know better than that but the education industry is deaf and blind to the human condition outside their world. In fact, our teachers have NEVER gone a year without a substantial raise in the past decade. In a decade where most working Americans have seen zero income growth, teachers here operate as if its too damned bad. Cough up more taxes. Ditto for administrators making six figures more or less. Teaching shared community sacrifice is something abstract that doesn't happen here.

    The fact of the matter is that EO Smith is spending money as if this were the Roaring Twenties rather the Depression era of the new century. These days the unemployed are unionizing to get relief.
    It's been only a month that a union for the unemployed has come into existence through an ingenious grassroots organizing campaign. In case you haven't heard about it, the union's name is "UR Union of the Unemployed" or its nickname, "UCubed," because of its unique method of organizing.

    UCubed is the brain-child of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM), whose leaders feel that the millions of unemployed workers need a union of their own to join in the struggle for massive jobs programs.

    The idea is that if millions of jobless join together and act as an organization, they are more likely to get Congress and the White House to provide the jobs that are urgently needed. They can also apply pressure for health insurance coverage, unemployment insurance and COBRA benefits and food stamps. An unemployed worker is virtually helpless if he or she has to act alone.

    Joining a Cube is as simple as it is important. (Please check the union web site: ). Six people who live in the same zip code address can form a Ucube. Nine such UCubes make a neighborhood. Three neighborhood UCubes form a power block that contains 162 activists. Politicians cannot easily ignore a multitude of power blocks, nor can merchants avoid them.
    There is not a day that goes by that the State of Connecticut is either deferring pension payments or raising fees on citizens, or cutting local aid. In an economic climate in which the taxpayer is being squeezed from all sides the teachers and administrator's contracts project unbridled avarice and greed. If I were complaining about price gouging of oil companies, electric bills, or a local crook no one would claim I was part of the problem.

    I'm not a tea-bagger and I have better things to do with my life but as long as I'm serving I owe the public an opportunity to insist on a cutback this year and for the next few years. Its not a message, its not malicious. It's necessary.

    The community needs to set the amount that a school can spend and then the process of seeing what that sum affords can begin.

    Thursday, March 04, 2010

    Frugal Funding

    Yesterday, Tom Friedman reported a conversation with Intel's CEO Paul Otellini looking for yet another cheap shot criticism of American public schools. Otellini deflected the opportunity.

    Instead Otellini, offered a series of fairly pedestrian prescriptions that advocated the usual tax break rhetoric one would expect from a corporate lobbyist. But the closing statement in Friedman's column of Otellini's concern about changing the course of a company during economic crisis is worth examining in the context of education.
    “Having run a company through a major transition, it’s a lot easier to change when you can than when you have to,” said Otellini. “The cost is less. You have more time. I am a little worried that by the time we wake up to the crisis we will be in the abyss.”
    This year I have taken a very strong stand on reducing the EO Smith budget. I'm hoping to convince the Board that a one percent year to year reduction is in order. And my reasoning echoes Otelllini.

    I think we need to be preemptive about managing costs that are spiraling out of control. And I also have no intention of waiting for the next crisis to paralyze our communities. That's not the time to have this conversation.A friend of mine brought a recent speech by NJ Governor Chris Christie to my attention.
    ...we can no longer continue on a path where we say we are going to reduce spending at the state level but we are not going to give you any tools to do that at the municipal level and the school board level.

    By the same token I am tired of hearing school superintendents and school board members complain that there are no other options than raising property taxes. There are other options.

    You know, Marlboro, after a two year negotiation, they give a five year contract giving 4.5% annual salary increases to the teachers, with no contribution, zero contribution to health care benefits.

    But I am sure there are people in Marlboro who have lost their jobs, who have had their homes foreclosed on, and who cannot keep a roof over their family's head there is something wrong.

    You know, at some point there has to be parity. There has to be parity between what is happening in the real world, and what is happening in the public sector world. The money does not grow on trees outside this building or outside your municipal building. It comes from the hard working people of our communities who are suffering and are hurting right now.


    I would love to tell you that municipal aid will stay level, but it's not. And it's not because we don't have the money. So you need to prepare. You need to prepare for what's coming down the line because we have no choice but to do these things.

    And so we need to get honest with each other. In this instance, the political class,for which unfortunately all of us are a member of, the political class is lagging behind the public on this. The public is ready to hear that tough choices have to be made. They're not going to like it. Don't confuse the two. But they are ready to hear the truth.

    In fact, they find it refreshing to hear the truth.

    They are tired of hearing, don't worry I can spare you from the pain, because they have been hearing that for a decade, as we have borrowed and spent and taxed our way into oblivion.

    We have done every quick fix in the book that you can do. And now we are left, literally holding the bag.

    Leadership should be about making tough decisions. I'm not hear to tell you that anything you are going to have to do as mayors, council people will be easy. But I firmly believe after spending the last year traveling around the state of New Jersey, talking to regular citizens, that this is what they are expecting us to do.

    They are also expecting us to ferret out waste and abuse. But they also know that old song that waste and abuse is going to balance the budget is an old and tired one, and it's not going to.


    We need to understand we are all in this together. And you know, all of you know in your heart, what I am saying is true. You all know that these raises that are being given to public employees of all stripes, we cannot afford. You all know the state cannot continue to spend money it does not have. And you all know that the appetite for tax increases among our constituents has come to an end.

    And so the path to reform and success is clear. We know what it is. We just have to have the courage to go there. What we are doing is showing people that government can work again for them, not for us. Government has worked for the political class for much too long.

    There's no time left. We have no room left to borrow. We have no room left to tax. So we merely have room left now, to do this. We are all reaching the edge of a cliff. And it reminds me a bit of that part of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid where the had a seminal decision to make. So what did they do? They held hands and they jumped off the cliff.

    We have to hold hands at every level of government, state county, municipal, school board. We have to hold hands and jump off the cliff.

    I firmly believe we will land and we will be fine. It does not mean it will not be a scary ride on the way down. And it does not mean there won't be moments of fear and moments of apprehension.

    But for certain, the troops of the decades of overspending and overborrowing and overtaxing have gained on us. So the ruination of New Jersey's economy, and of the quality of life we want all our citizens to have, is certain if we do not take this course.

    It's time for us to hold hands and jump off the cliff. It's time for us to do the difficult things that need to be done and to stop playing the petty politics of yesterday, of lying to the people telling them they do not have to pay for it because someone else will.

    We are going to make the leap because that's what people elected me to do. We are going to make the leap because it is the responsible thing to do. We are going to make the leap and we are going to do it together because that is what leadership demands for us. That is what the responsibility of the offices we hold requires of us.
    Connecticut is in the same economic condition as New Jersey. A few details will vary but Gov. Christie's speech is true and urgent.

    In order for Region 19 to survive the current economic malaise and to eventually recover, our community needs to constrain the budget severely this year. It's unpleasant and it will be uncomfortable but its necessary for the sake of all the communities involved.

    EO Smith will have larger class sizes and parents, students, and teachers will holler but quite frankly these class sizes are already being experienced at the elementary school levels because of the strain the EO Smith budget puts on local budgets. And class size is a far more important metric at the elementary school levels than they are in high school.

    EO Smith, its teachers and students can handle it. If tax-payers can handle adversity then our schools and children need to learn to as well.

    EO Smith has a chronic problem that needs our attention. The track and field needs rebuilding. I cannot support a referendum to fund that rebuilding unless our Region 19 budget is brought into a significantly constrained scope.

    I have served on the Board for over four years and in all of those years generous spending habits dictated budget. For the foreseeable future we need to change that formula so that EO Smith spends only what is frugally budgeted.

    In a recent essay on abundance called "How Abundance Breaks Everything", Clay Shirky provides some insight in how we can manage the economic changes we're going through.
    It’s easy to say “preserve the best of the old and combine it with the best of the new,” but in revolution, the best of the new is incompatible with the best of the old. It’s about doing things a whole new way.
    Spending less money will have its challenges but those challenges are opportunities to re-invent the way we deliver education. We cannot reduce the budget and not change the way we do business. That is an implicit consequence of that decision.

    I've given you my viewpoint. This is what I'm voting for and why. As citizens you need to think about all of this and make your voices heard.

    I'm listening but this year I'm not voting to spend any more money than we can afford unless I hear some damned good arguments to change my mind.

    Wednesday, March 03, 2010

    Serpico - All Over Again, Adil Polanco - American Hero

    Jim Hoffer at an NY ABC affiliate is reporting on the covert practices of Police in one NY Precinct. Given the nature of the practice, it is likely a viral practice within all urban police communities and it is symptomatic of the way that society is being micro-managed by the self-appointed government bureaucrats who want to be our jailers.

    This video is a tribute to the fine art of journalism done right:

    Officer Adil Polanco is doing something so ethical that he reminds us of who police used to be.
    When Officer Adil Polanco dreamed of becoming a cop, it was out of a desire to help people not, he says, to harass them.

    "I'm not going to keep arresting innocent people, I'm not going to keep searching people for no reason, I'm not going to keep writing people for no reason, I'm tired of this," said Adil Polanco, an NYPD Officer.

    Officer Polanco says One Police Plaza's obsession with keeping crime stats down has gotten out of control. He claims Precinct Commanders relentlessly pressure cops on the street to make more arrests, and give out more summonses, all to show headquarters they have a tight grip on their neighborhoods.

    "Our primary job is not to help anybody, our primary job is not to assist anybody, our primary job is to get those numbers and come back with them?" said Officer Polanco.

    Polanco goes on to explain to Hoffer the effect this has on urban youth. The same urban youth public schools and teachers are being "held accountable" for. The math lessons they are learning in the streets will be hard to overcome.
    Eyewitness News asked, "Are you telling me they're stopping people for no reason, is that what you're saying?"

    "We are stopping kids walking upstairs to their house, stopping kids going to the store, young adults. In order to keep the quota," answered Officer Polanco.

    "Yeah, they locked us up for nothing," said Zebulun Colbourne.

    The Colbourne brothers say they and three other friends were the victims of quotas. All were arrested a few months ago after one of them had fallen while racing each other.

    Eyewitness News asked, "You fell and that's how you hurt your eye?"

    "Yeah, and they just wanted to arrest us. I told them I fell but that didn't matter to them," said Elijah Colbourne.

    All five were accused of engaging in tumultuous and violent conduct that caused public alarm, given a summons for unlawful assembly and locked up overnight.

    Eyewitness News asked, "So you're locked up waiting to see the judge, right?"

    "Yeah," answered the Colbourne brothers.

    Eyewitness News asked, "Then what do they do?"

    "We don't see the judge, they let us out the back door after they kept us for a day and some change," said Elijah Colbourne.

    The charges were dropped, but Officer Polanco says the patrolman still got 5 summonses toward their monthly quota.

    "At the end of the night you have to come back with something. You have to write somebody, you have to arrest somebody, even if the crime is not committed, the number's there. So our choice is to come up with the number," said Officer Polanco.