Saturday, November 12, 2011

FAIL: CT Superintendents Play Intellectual Hookey

The Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents (CAPSS) recently issued a comprehensive set of recommendations in a document called NextED - Transforming Connecticut's Education System.

In examining the documentation, the Superintendent's get the right answer but cheat when it comes to the details.  They haven't done their homework.

What they get right is that children need to learn at their own pace based on their personal intellectual, physical, psychological, and other maturities.  After forty years of empirical educational evidence that this makes perfect sense, the superintendents agree.  Rather than call them "slow" we'll defer to calling it "bureaucratic impairment syndrome". But identifying this self-inflicted, brain-deadening malady cannot excuse the poor scholarship.

You see, these folks are not really advocating anything along the lines of true personal learning, they are sugar-coating the toxic No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and Race to the Top (RTTT) anti-child pograms of the Bush/Obama administration.

In computer programming, we talk about code smell.  That is that the syntax and logic of a computer program is obviously lacking veracity just based on a superficial reading of the code.  NextEd suffers from this precise problem.  You can't get to a better education system based on their assumptions and recommendations.  Their recommendations are an expensive and poorly thought-out prescription for guaranteed continued public education dysfunction.

Where do they  go wrong?

First, they pander to the idea that CT public education "has been successful at providing access to a quality education for 150 years".  If that were true there would be no "education gap" between suburbs and cities and this set of recommendations would not be necessary. 

Second, their agenda reads like NCLB and RTTT, two disgraced, failing, and criminal programs that have been ram-rodded down the throats of State legislatures to marginalize local control of school districts.

The ideas are as stale as the vernacular.  The superintendents want to "raise the bar", "educate all students with high standards", "using direct measures", "strengthen the State Dept of Education", and so on.  This Orwellian slight of tongue is anathema to improving public education.

To get serious about educational reform this country needs to eliminate both the Federal and State Departments of Education.  Preferably they should be tried for child abuse first and embezzlement of taxpayer funds for disingenuous appropriation of said funds.

Secondly, all of the recently passed education legislation that was passed based on NCLB and RTTT need to be repealed entirely.  These laws prevent public schools from performing any kind of useful educational improvement.   As long as education is based on high stress, high stakes testing regiments - nothing of their recommendations, good or bad, is likely to have the desired effect.

And maybe this is the point of such studies - exhaust the funds, write some flowery platitudes, and wait for the predictable fail.

University Math -> the University As a Rogue IRS

A few days ago, Stephanie Reitz reported in the Courant that UConn had funded a study of "recommendations from McKinsey & Co., which it paid $3.9 million last year to suggest ways to cut costs and boost income as the school's state subsidies drop."

Wow.  Four million dollars to find ways to cut costs or increase revenues.  That's a pretty amazing  amount of money to throw at such dare we say *obvious* recommendations.

  • Offer more year round classes!
  • Charge more for parking and busing
  • Eliminate sparsely enrolled majors
  • Consolidating technology
  • Centralized purchasing
  • Increasing ticket prices for popular sports
  • Reviewing sports budgets
  • Offering more online courses
  • More aggressive fund-raising
  • Staff attrition savings
  • Premium dorm room price increases
Really?  This is what we get for four million dollars?

Here are my open source suggestions.  If you think they're worth more than four million dollars then donate a dollar to the first charity you encounter after reading this.

Everyone with a brain knows that the true cost of education is in administration.
  • Eliminate 10% of the administration, topmost first.  Consolidate accordingly. 
Everyone familiar with the free ride program - that is that if a person works at UConn, their children attend tuition free - is a profoundly expensive and discriminatory -cough- "perk".
  • Eliminate the free tuition ride perks, they're discriminatory, expensive and unnecessary
It is not centralized purchasing that needs to be implemented, it is competitive purchasing that needs to be introduced.

  • Open the purchasing up to competitive bidding for quality products - quality need not be compromised, crony-ism needs to be eliminated
Privatize the University maintenance functions.
  •  The keystone kop buffoonery that has become local legend must end.  maintenance workers who drive 15 minutes back and forth to take 15 minute breaks,  the Rube Goldberg repair of dormitory leaks, and other sordid tales is empirical evidence enough to rethink these positions and processes.
Repeat and rinse these recommendations every two years until the budget is balanced. Make education affordable by being serious about offering an accessible, affordable State University program.

The University system has no right to impose its own new taxes in the form of fees, new charges, or other subversive fiscal tactics.  If the State can no longer afford the expense the Universities are incurring  then those bodies need to tighten their budgets not act like an independent agency that is royally entitled to more State tax money no matter how they get it.

CT's private sector citizens have been taking massive cuts in pay and benefits while the public sector employees and institutions yawn as they plan their retirement homes in low tax havens leaving their scorched earth fiscal carnage to those who have already been kicked too often.  It's time for everyone to share the economic realities facing the State and the nation.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Where did this kid go to school?

To Hell with NCLB and Race to the Top, America needs to clone this kid's education.


Sunday, August 28, 2011

WikiLeaks on Chinese Education

A new wikileak exposes a cable from the US delegation in Chengdu, China, where a counsel met with a local representative of the World Bank's International Finance Corporation, for a candid one on one. What's most interesting is how poor the Chinese education system is. And what's of most interest in terms of the American system of education that is in such dire straits is that for over a decade American educators have been taking junkets to China to -cough- "study" the Chinese education system. All on the taxpayer dime of course. Nice "work" if you can get it. From ZeroHedge, here's the excerpt of interest;
"Terrible" Education System Is Main Impediment 11. (SBU) However, Lai identified China's "terrible" educational system as presenting a serious impediment toward achieving a shift to a more knowledge-based economy. The current system promotes copying and pasting over creative and independent thought. Lai said that the system rewards students for thinking "within a framework" in order to get the grade. He described the normal process undertaken by students when writing as essentially collecting sentences from various sources without any original thinking. He compared the writing ability of a typical Chinese Phd as paling in comparison to his "unskilled" staff during his decade of work with the IFC in Africa.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Ham-fisted Education ( We have Ways of Making Them Learn!)

Once the Berlin Wall fell there were few challenges left for our military leaders. And about that same time the politicians began a "War on Drugs". This opened the floodgates of opportunity for the militarists to retire and establish a front for the *war* in our schools. School Principals, Superintendents, and administrators soon required a military background as well as a few education courses to "straighten schools out".

Over a quarter century later, teacher pedagogy has been reduced to animal trainer memorization exercises

And along the way, a lot of bad educational theory and practice followed. Here we'll examine the mytheme made popular by the conservative and centrist forces of the time and that is that if a child is having problems learning then what's needed is MORE work, ever HARDER Work, LONGER days, SHORTER vacations, MORE tests, HIGHER standards, TOUGHER discipline - MORE, HARDER, LOUDER!

And we should acknowledge that anyone who takes exception to this American gospel will be marginalized, ignored, and -gasp- labeled as a soft liberal wimp whose ideas aren't worth considering. And the Teachers Unions not only go along with the myth but they structurally reinforce the MORE, HARDER, LOUDER paradigm because it is an easy, no-brainer. If it fails, they point the finger at the parents who aren't tough enough, hard enough, draconian enough to *MAKE* the child love learning.

Nazi Germany were amateurs compared to the kind of standardized education we can ensure these days. Our children goose-step through more nonsense that any child in history and recent studies continue to show that its all wrong. In fact a case is being made that public education is hazardous to the health and well-being of children.

The Chicago Public Schools are providing some interesting studies. The New York Times reports that efforts to lengthen the school day there are having unintended consequences;
Mayor Rahm Emanuel and new leaders of Chicago Public Schools have been pushing for a longer school day and school year to help raise student performance. But last week’s state test results show that charter schools — which typically have more instructional time — actually have a lower percentage of students exceeding state standards.

So does the empirical evidence suggest a closer examination of the concept? Um... NO;
In 2014, the state test will switch to a new, more rigorous exam that aligns with the Common Core, a set of curriculum standards adopted by states across the country to better prepare students for college.

Ms. Donoso — who is replacing Charles Payne, the interim chief education officer — is responsible for developing the district’s curriculum strategy and working with school leaders to carry it out. Her main focus in the coming years will be the Common Core, which is intended to develop analytical skills beyond those currently tested on the ISAT.

Ms. Radner said the district “needs to step it up” or scores could crash when the new test is given in 2014, calling the change “the biggest shift I’ve ever seen.”

”We can’t be complacent,” she said “This is a whole different generation of standards and assessment.”

This is always the answer MORE rigor, if its failing we aren't trying hard enough - there's a whole new generation of kids who we can experiment on - the perverse dysfunction of hope.

Wait, there's more. EDWeek reports that Chicago tried herding students into college prep courses and that too is having unintended consequences;
Research has shown that students who take high-level course sequences learn more in high school and are more likely to attend and to perform better in college than students who do not take these classes. Yet despite the popularity of default-curriculum policies, we actually know surprisingly little about whether changing course requirements will necessarily lead to improved outcomes for students. This is because previous studies cited by many in the policy and reform communities do not fully correct for selection bias: that is, the fact that students who choose to take high-level classes are often the most motivated and high-achieving in their schools, and that the schools offering advanced courses are those with the capacity to teach them, and often are college-oriented in other ways.
"Default-curriculum reforms are not likely to work effectively without other significant and complementary policy efforts."

To inform state and district curriculum policies, and to address some of the limitations of the previous research, the Consortium on Chicago School Research and the University of Michigan have spent the last three years examining an effort by the Chicago public schools to implement a version of the default college-preparatory curriculum. The 1997 policy change ended remedial classes and mandated college-prep coursework for all students in four subject areas: English, mathematics, science, and social studies. Our study compares outcomes for cohorts of students in Chicago before and after policy implementation in English, mathematics, and science. What we found is sobering, to say the least.

First, the good news: The 1997 policy did increase student enrollment in college-preparatory classes in all three subject areas, and significantly reduced previous inequities in coursetaking by prior achievement, race and ethnicity, and special education status. The policy had no effects, however, on any of the major outcomes that default-curriculum reforms generally seek to affect: Test scores did not rise, nor were students more likely to take advanced mathematics classes beyond Algebra 2, or to complete advanced science classes.

Moreover, the policy produced a number of adverse unintended consequences: Grades declined, failures increased, and absenteeism rose among average and higher-skilled students. There also were no improvements in college outcomes, and those students who attended college were no more likely to stay there than students were before the policy change. High-achieving students were actually slightly less likely to attend college after the 1997 curriculum reforms were implemented.

The Chicago experience should serve as a cautionary tale for those who advocate for similar default-curriculum policies in their communities. Let us be clear: Curriculum requirements have important equity benefits, and can play a role in efforts to improve students’ high school experiences and their preparation for college. But default-curriculum reforms are not likely to work effectively without other significant and complementary policy efforts.
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This raises an important point: As long as students are minimally engaged in their courses and attend school irregularly, policymakers should not expect substantial improvements in learning. Getting the content and structure of courses right is just the first step. Real improvements in learning will require states and districts to develop strategies that get students excited about learning, attending class regularly, and working hard in their courses.

Although our findings may be disappointing to default-curriculum advocates, we are not suggesting that such policies are misguided. Prior to 1997, the differentiated curriculum was clearly not serving Chicago students well; even when they took remedial coursework, large numbers of students failed those courses and eventually dropped out.

We argue instead that curriculum policies need to be accompanied by greater attention to instruction and stronger efforts to improve the academic behaviors—particularly attendance and studying—associated with better school performance. Without improved instruction and engagement, the promise of these well-meaning reforms is likely to go unrealized.

Paul Krugman reinforces the argument further;
Yes, we need to fix American education. In particular, the inequalities Americans face at the starting line — bright children from poor families are less likely to finish college than much less able children of the affluent — aren’t just an outrage; they represent a huge waste of the nation’s human potential.

But there are things education can’t do. In particular, the notion that putting more kids through college can restore the middle-class society we used to have is wishful thinking. It’s no longer true that having a college degree guarantees that you’ll get a good job, and it’s becoming less true with each passing decade.

So if we want a society of broadly shared prosperity, education isn’t the answer — we’ll have to go about building that society directly. We need to restore the bargaining power that labor has lost over the last 30 years, so that ordinary workers as well as superstars have the power to bargain for good wages. We need to guarantee the essentials, above all health care, to every citizen.

What we can’t do is get where we need to go just by giving workers college degrees, which may be no more than tickets to jobs that don’t exist or don’t pay middle-class wages.


But education is not only dysfunctional as a service to students, it is apparently equally dysfunctional for teachers at the University level. The Huffington Post reports;
Despite more than a decade of research showing the money has little impact on student achievement, state lawmakers and other officials have been reluctant to tackle this popular way for teachers to earn more money.

That could soon change, as local school districts around the country grapple with shrinking budgets.

Just this week, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said the economy has given the nation an opportunity to make dramatic improvements in the productivity of its education system and to do more of what works and less of what doesn't.

Duncan told the American Enterprise Institute on Wednesday that master's degree bonuses are an example of spending money on something that doesn't work.

On Friday, billionaire Bill Gates took aim at school budgets and the master's degree bonus.

"My own state of Washington has an average salary bump of nearly $11,000 for a master's degree – and more than half of our teachers get it. That's more than $300 million every year that doesn't help kids," he said.

"And that's one state," said Gates, the co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, at a speech Friday in Louisville to the Council of Chief State School Officers. Gates also took aim at pensions and seniority.

"Of course, restructuring pay systems is like kicking a beehive," he acknowledged.
The article concludes with the following understatement;
"There's a relationship between education schools and teachers that is not particularly healthy," he [Erick Hanushek, senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University] said.

One would think that University Education Departments would study the ways that children learn and don't learn and what they need so that the teachers they train can advocate and promote those things. Instead we find that they're paper mills that enrich teacher's paychecks but little more.

Maybe we need to *GET TOUGH*, demand *HIGHER EXPECTATIONS*, and *TOUGHER STANDARDS*.


Wait...

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Universal Small Class Size is an Expensive Lie

A number of years ago I studied the class size issue by examining national and international studies on the subject. The most interesting are locked behind the walls of academia and require JStor access. It was not and is not hard to understand why - the studies, one by one and cumulatively refute the veracity of the argument that small class size is a primary factor in the success or failure of children learning in the classroom.

These studies rarely see the light of day in the American discussion. I have added a tab on the home page that includes the best of them.

My analysis of these studies was and remains that class size *can be* meaningful in two cases. The first is in early elementary grades. Here very small classes can make a difference if the teachers involved are capable of making the most of small class size education. Not all teachers teach small classes well.

The second case are in classes at any level where the critical mass of students have exceptional needs either personally or due to the complexity of the subject matter. Certain art classes fall into this category. Remedial classes fall into this category.

I found no study that could claim that universally small classes yielded consistently superior students or learning experiences. Every study found that the anecdotal opinions of teachers were that they and the students were far better off in small classes yet no such thing could be discerned in comparing a small class to a larger class. The union propaganda never mentions this even though the STAR study and others make this point clearly. Disingenuously the union message is that class sizes are very important without saying that this assertion is based on teacher preference and not cost or learning effectiveness.

A new tsunami of evidence is washing ashore thanks in large part as a reaction to the propaganda wars between Diane Ravitch and her consumer groups and the political forces trying to reform eternally troubled schools.

Let's take a look;

Brookings recently released this report that concludes:
Because the pool of credible studies is small and the individual studies differ in the setting, method, grades, and magnitude of class size variation that is studied, conclusions have to be tentative. But it appears that very large class-size reductions, on the order of magnitude of 7-10 fewer students per class, can have significant long-term effects on student achievement and other meaningful outcomes. These effects seem to be largest when introduced in the earliest grades, and for students from less advantaged family backgrounds.

When school finances are limited, the cost-benefit test any educational policy must pass is not “Does this policy have any positive effect?” but rather “Is this policy the most productive use of these educational dollars?” Assuming even the largest class-size effects, such as the STAR results, class-size mandates must still be considered in the context of alternative uses of tax dollars for education. There is no research from the U.S. that directly compares CSR to specific alternative investments, but one careful analysis of several educational interventions found CSR to be the least cost effective of those studied.
Almost immediately the Brookings study was attacked by an organization called NAEP. Diane Whitmore Schazenbach asserts that the Brookings study...
conclusion is based on a misleading review of the CSR research literature. The report puts too much emphasis on studies that are of poor quality or that do not focus on settings that are particularly relevant to the debate on class-size policy in the United States. It argues that class-size reduction is less cost-effective than other reform policies, but it bases this contention on an incomplete accounting of the benefits of smaller classes and an uncritical, unexamined list of alternative policies. The report’s estimates of the potential cost savings are flawed as, in reality, schools cannot structurally reduce class size by only one student. Well-documented and long-term non-academic gains from CSR are not addressed. Likewise, the recommendation for releasing the ―least effective‖ teachers assumes a valid way of making such determinations is available.
Her criticism is hailed by Ravitch, Haimson, and others as if it is proof-positive that smmall class sizes are a panacea to the educational chaos. In fact, the criticism is both shrill and silly. Chingos of Brookings calls her out in a rebuttal;
The California and Florida evaluations certainly have significant limitations, but in my view they provide preliminary evidence that large-scale policies are unlikely to produce benefits as large as those found in Tennessee. But applying Schanzenbach’s standard for studies leaves us with no studies of these kinds of large-scale policies. It seems awfully hard to make a case for large-scale CSR policies if we know essentially nothing about their effectiveness.

Even more important than the effectiveness of a policy is its cost effectiveness. As Russ Whitehurst and I argue in our paper, the right question to ask about any policy is not whether it has any effect at all, but whether it is the most effective use of limited resources. Unfortunately, there is little rigorous evidence on the relative cost-effectiveness of various education policies. There is a clear need for such evidence, but in the meantime it seems unwise for policymakers to mandate widespread adoption of a costly policy with uncertain benefits.

CSR may well be cost-effective in some circumstances, especially if it is implemented in a targeted way. For example, a district may find it sensible to provide small classes for its most disadvantaged students or its newest teachers. But CSR mandates take exactly the opposite approach in that they apply across-the-board and take away schools’ autonomy to decide whether reducing class size is the best use of limited resources.

But Chingos gives the STAR study a pass as I do on its conclusions. Not all critics are so kind. It is not a foregone conclusion that classroom size reduction (CSR) truly makes a difference even when its cost is not part of the calculation.

Andreas Schleicher as profiled in the Atlantic reinforces Chingas' arguments.
He concluded that the best school systems became great after undergoing a series of crucial changes. They made their teacher-training schools much more rigorous and selective; they put developing high-quality principals and teachers above efforts like reducing class size or equipping sports teams; and once they had these well-trained professionals in place, they found ways to hold the teachers accountable for results while allowing creativity in their methods. Notably, in every case, these school systems devoted equal or more resources to the schools with the poorest kids.

And the Educational Writers Association just published some interesting studies about teacher effectiveness.
Are teachers the most important factor affecting student achievement?

This has become the default first sentence of many speeches and reports on teacher quality. Recently, it’s become common to clarify that teachers are the most important “school-based” factor in learning—a critical qualification, given that factors external to schools exert more influence overall on student achievement than any factors inside the school.

A famous 1966 study by James Coleman found that background characteristics such as race, parental achievement levels, and family income swamped most other factors studied as determinants of student test scores. Decades of research have confirmed this study’s general findings, with a 1999 paper estimating that 60 percent of variation in student achievement was attributable to such background characteristics. [1]

Researchers have been unable to link a significant share of the variation in student achievement—as much as 25 percent—to any particular input. Of the remaining share, attributable to what happens within school, researchers have linked most of that variation to teachers.

It is difficult to cite an exact figure on what percent of the variation in achievement observed is attributable to differences in teacher effectiveness. Three economists in 1998 estimated that at least 7.5 percent of the variation in student achievement resulted directly from teacher quality and added that the actual number could be as high as 20 percent.[2]

Researchers have found that school-based factors, including teaching, are more influential in math than in reading. A 1999 paper puts all in-school factors, including school-, teacher-, and class-level factors, at approximately 21 percent of the variation in 10th grade mathematics achievement. It further estimated that 8.5 percent was directly due to teacher effectiveness.[3]

Some researchers warn that other important factors that potentially affect achievement— such as the effect of principals and other administrators, and the interaction of teachers with the curriculum—have not been as carefully studied as teacher quality.[4]

It can be said:

Research has shown that the variation in student achievement is predominantly a product of individual and family background characteristics. Of the school factors that have been isolated for study, teachers are probably the most important determinants of how students will perform on standardized tests.

The myth of small class size will not go away for lots of reasons. But as we watch our state and national prosperity continue to evaporate we would be doing ourselves a favor to opening our eyes to the facts.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Education's Circular Firing Squad - What's the Plan, Diane?

These days as union teaching jobs become ever more threatened on a daily basis, teachers unions and teachers are raising their voices, rattling their pencil cases, and running with scissors. What they aren't doing is demanding more efficiently run schools, right-sizing of staff, better curriculum, diversity of learning rather than centralised conformity, nor a host of other things that might actually transform public schools.

No, mostly they practice the mean politics of industrial revolution unionism. This consists of rabid attacks on the messengers and agents of inevitable and obvious change. It's a shill game that's predictable and disheartening.

On one hand are public school teachers - most of whom are truly hard-working, well-paid professionals who for far too long have allowed the union politics of "workplace rules", insatiable greed, and out-of-control legislated educational malfeasance to trump common sense.

Most recently, Jonathan Alter wrote an opinion piece that criticized Diane Ravitch's assertions about public education alternatives.

Alter's criticism's are spot on;

She uses selective data to punch holes in the work of good schools and turn reformers into cartoonish right-wingers. Her view is that we should throw up our hands and admit that nothing will change until we end poverty in our time.

That is defeatist, wrong on the facts and the mother of all cop-outs.

On twitter, Ravitch and her sympathizers respond by attacking the credibility and integrity of Alter as if he were a villan rather than yet another educated and informed stakeholder in the conversation about education.

Ravitch raises the disingenuous question of whether Alter has a conflict of interest;

Conflict of interest? http://www.salon.com/news/michael_bloomberg/?story=/politics/war_room/2011/06/03/bloomberg_alter_school_reform

Yet, Alter's criticism is not about Michael Bloomberg nor is it political in nature. On the other hand, as I've questioned before, where was Ravitch when the damage could have been averted? She offers endless platitudes that are as empty as hoping for world peace:
Families are children’s most important educators. Our society must invest in parental education, prenatal care and preschool. Of course, schools must improve; every one should have a stable, experienced staff, adequate resources and a balanced curriculum including the arts, foreign languages, history and science.

If every child arrived in school well-nourished, healthy and ready to learn, from a family with a stable home and a steady income, many of our educational problems would be solved. And that would be a miracle.
One has to wonder if she reads what she says. There's not a word about improving the public schools in any of that. It is as if she is saying, "it is what it is, keep paying teacher raises and benefits, look the other way when none of that makes a difference and keep buying into the status quo until some utopian event takes place to straighten it all out."

I am an ardent supporter of public schools.  But they must transform themselves into  effective and responsible institutions willing to fire ineffective teachers, right-size and adjust their curriculum to ever-changing circumstances,  and serve the kids first and foremost.

Charter schools and alternatives aren't responsible for the hubris of the public schools - educators who profited for decades as the schools became ever more ineffective own that shame.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Public School Technology Scam

A recent entry on Slashdot caught my attention.

The Walking Randomly blog does a cost analysis of mathematical calculators that are often used in schools and finds them to be oddly technically deficient and profoundly expensive for what they do.

Furthermore the blog observes:
I (and many students) also have mobile phones with hardware that leave these calculators in the dust. Combined with software such as Spacetime or online services such as Wolfram Alpha, a mobile phone is infinitely more capable than these top of the line graphical calculators.

They also only ever seem to be used in schools and colleges. I spend a lot of time working with engineers, scientists and mathematicians and I hardly ever see a calculator such as the Casio Prizm or TI NSpire on their desks. They tend to have simple calculators for everyday use and will turn to a computer for anything more complicated such as plotting a graph or solving equations.

One argument I hear for using these calculators is ‘They are limited enough to use in exams.‘ Sounds sensible but then I get to thinking ‘Why are we teaching a generation of students to use crippled technology?‘ Why not go the whole hog and ban ALL technology in exams? Alternatively, supply locked down computers for exams that limit the software used by students. Surely we need experts in useful technology, not crippled technology?

So, I don’t get it. Why do so many people advocate the use of these calculators? They seem pointless! Am I missing something?
There is a simple truth staring us in the face when we wonder why our students seem stunted - they are often forced to use arcane technology to solve complex problems. Not only is this asymmetrically lame as a learning experience, it never actually solves the problem in a practical real-life way.

It's about time to examine the pseudo-monopolies certain technologies have created for themselves in our school systems. The comments that follow this blog include...

I suspect there’s a large number of nervous people at Texas Instruments. Surely they know that their huge profit margins that they’ve enjoyed from selling the same TI-83 calculator for the same price for 15 years (while everything else got cheaper) won’t last forever. I think you’ve identified their best hope – that standardized tests allow students to use certain calculators but not a computer. Even so, TI is probably moving the right direction by selling nSpire software for PCs, although I doubt the testing companies will allow that given all the other capabilities found even in the cheapest netbooks.

If we look past standardized tests, then you’re right – let’s not only teach students how to use crippled technology. The day after WolframAlpha was live, I showed it to every one of my classes. And in every class I got the same question: “Aren’t you worried that we’ll use this to cheat on our homework?” My answer was the same: “No, my real worry is that if you don’t know how to use this you’ll be at a disadvantage when compared to a student who does.” - Raymond Johnson

"Couldn’t agree more. I have always asked why I am not being taught the tools that I will use as an engineer. I agree that theory is important, but not teaching me these other tools is not good."

In the interest of balance there are many defenders of the simple calculator, but the question of why superior tools aren't taught remains an enigma.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

How High Stakes Testing has Divorced Reality

The educational community, such as it is today, is split about the use of high-stress, high-stakes testing. I've met a teacher or two in the past few years, who have helped develop and who have profited from preparing the testing regiments that are in use today. And behind them stand an army of companies whose very existence is owed to the process of standardized tests.

My conversation with them often goes something like this; if public schoolings primary objective is to assimilate children into the culture, to indoctrinate them with the principles of representative democracy, and to provide the children with the opportunity to learn what will be necessary for them to pursue their life's ambitions - why are we insisting on homogenized and, let's face it, arbitrary testing regiments that every child is forced to psychologically and academically pass?

And the answer is often that "we know best", "every child must absolutely without exception know this, that, and the other thing", and defensively, "*WE* have taken all of that into consideration".

But the fact remains that these arguments are both shallow and empty often driven by nostalgia, political agendas, and a hubritic ignorance that is ubiquitous in the teaching community (what we worry?).

The other way of thinking about testing is the way the best teachers have always used tests - as a metric of progress from where someone is to where *they* want to go and should go based on that inertia. For example, the cliche that, "schools need to keep raising expectations" is considered a political truth in this country.

And so schools try to oblige. Children who already have a love of reading are subjected to reading exercises that are mind-numbing. And over the years those who might be lifelong readers avoid the pain.

The expectations for an artist are different than the expectations for an athlete. a child who loves working with their hands have different expectations than those who like to research ancient history. And so all those natural expectations are sacrificed for artificial expectations. And with those artificial expectations come stress.

For the future young artist, they must put aside their love for subjects that they have no aptitude or love for. The same for the athlete, the musicians, dancers, cooks, plumbers, social workers and so on. In fact the standardized tests mostly serve the interests of politicians and bean counters, not the children.

And even in the political realm the pressure of standardized tests on poor, urban schools is nothing less than sadistic.

Which brings us to a couple of incidents this week that demonstrate how far wrong we've gone with the current testing practice.

First, a young girl- Isabella Oleschuk - an honors student runs away from home. The incident is described this way from this Courant article,
One question police did not answer is why Isabella ran away.

Brady, the superintendent for Regional School District No. 5, said he didn't have an answer, either.

"It's very perplexing," he said. "We saw her as a typical seventh-grader, a good student, with a circle of friends." Isabella is an honor roll student, he said.

The middle school's principal, Kathleen Fuller-Cutler, allowed students to respond to their classmate's disappearance in a positive way, Brady said. They decorated her locker, leaving messages of hope there and on her empty desks in her classes, he said.

The article claims the police could not figure out *why* Isabella ran away! In fact article after article are filled with descriptions of how fragile children are, how easily exploited they can be, HOW MUCH WE ALL CARE about children but few answer the obvious question, "Why did she run away?"

This article from the Connecticut Post tells us precisely why;

Beth and Roman Oleschuk are keeping their daughter home from school for now, said John Brady, superintendent of the Amity Regional School District.

"They want some time to regroup as a family. We'll provide tutoring if necessary, and then when Isabella is ready we look forward to welcoming her back to school in a way that is most comfortable for her.''

Brady discounted a statement by the girl's father that his daughter ran away because of pressure from taking the Connecticut Mastery Tests.

"That has us perplexed, because the tests ended on March 16, and this happened four days later," he said. "And we make it as normal as possible; the test is only an hour a day and there is no homework given during the testing period."

But a woman whose daughter is also a seventh-grader at Amity Middle School and is a friend of Isabella's said test pressure might have contributed to the girl's decision to flee.

"Those tests are hell for a typical kid, let alone these who are very bright but can't navigate the lunchroom," she said.

The woman, who asked that she and her daughter not be identified, said that the two girls and a few others like them have found each other in middle school and have formed a clique of their own. The woman said Isabella and her daughter are socially naïve and sometimes struggled with unstructured time during school like recess and time on the bus.

"They are super bright, but they don't handle things the way a typical kid would," she said.

An Amity district source said that Isabella does not receive special education services and has no identified social or behavioral problems. Assistant Chief Edward Koether said Orange police had not been called to the Oleschuk's Derby Avenue home for any reason until the girl was reported missing Sunday morning.

So how could the police not know? Why would all these concerned citizens dismiss the obvious?

You see if it was a bully then the police guns cocked, Miami Vice ready could take Brutus down. The community would be saved. Brutus could be shipped to Afghanistan to ply his stock-in-trade.

But the police aren't equipped to handle the bully they found - high-stress tests. They can't taze it, shoot it, rough it up.

So the only other explanation is that Isabella must have a special need - something MUST BE wrong with *her*. What other explanation could there be? Surely you've all seen the movie where the child is possessed.

And all those concerned citizens draw the line at testing. TESTING AM GOOD! So sayeth the LORDS OF TESTING. Yes, blah-blah-blah - children are fragile.... yada, yada, yada - but jamming standardized tests down their throats cures it all.

In America, the bully is testing and there ain't a damned thing anyone's going to do to bring it down.

The second incident involves a congresswoman from Alabama trying to legislate an easier-to-remember version of the mathematical PI.
Congresswoman Martha Roby (R-Ala.) is sponsoring HR 205, The Geometric Simplification Act, declaring the Euclidean mathematical constant of pi to be precisely 3. The bill comes in response to data and rankings from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, rating the United States' 15 year-olds 25th in the world in mathematics.

OECD is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2011, and the Paris-based NGO released its international educational rankings, placing the US in a three-way tie for math, equaling Portugal and Ireland, just beneath No. 24 Luxembourg.

"That long-held empirical value of pi, I am not saying it should be necessarily viewed as wrong, but 3 is a lot better," said Roby, the 34-year old legislator representing Alabama's second congressional district, ushered into office in the historic 2010 Republican mid-term bonanza.

Pi has long been defined as the ratio of a circle's area to the square of its radius, a mathematical constant represented by the Greek letter "π," with a value of approximately 3.14159. HR 205 does not change the root definition, per se. The bill simply, and legally, declares pi to be exactly 3.

Roby, raised in Montgomery, Ala., is on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, and the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education.

"It's no panacea, but this legislation will point us in the right direction. Looking at hard data, we know our children are struggling with a heck of a lot of the math, including the geometry incorporating pi," Roby said. "I guarantee you American scores will go up once pi is 3. It will be so much easier."

Laughable as this sounds, it is telling. We no longer care about inquisitive minds, learning, offering children the opportunity to find their own bliss.

Children are pawns to the delusional races, test status rankings, and me-first pathologies that drive this monster.

Yes sir. Children are fragile. Now back to the competition.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Public Accountability Tool

To understand CT's bloated public spending, one needs a tool like this:

http://www.ctsunlight.org/PayrollBranching/tabid/72/Default.aspx.

Connecticut Sunlight org is a very interesting site, enjoy.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Guidance Goes Digital

EO Smith's own Douglas Melody has joined the ranks of bloggers. I couldn't be happier or more proud.

I'm actually a bit late to the grand opening of two blogs. One called Learning Matters and the other called Guidance Matters.

Who said you can't teach veteran educators new tricks?

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Responding to Ravitch

Diane Ravitch has a guest blog on Edutopia that once again reinforced my perception of her educational opinions as opportunist pandering. Her thinking is neither original nor thought-provoking but it is annoying.

Here's some of what she asserts:

Myth #2: Achievement Will Soar With Younger, More Enthusiastic Teachers

A second, related narrative asserts that teachers who work in the poorest schools are lazy and burned out; achievement will soar if only we can fire more of the older teachers and replace them with young, enthusiastic ones, especially those from Teach for America, who have only five weeks of training. But this demand runs counter to what we know to be true in every other profession: experience is a plus. Indeed, while the evidence is mixed on some aspects of education policy, it is unmistakably clear on this point: experience is one of the best predictors of teacher quality.

I responded to the whole set of arguments this way;


Ravitch is as much responsible for the way things are as anyone. For over thirty years she's served in positions of authority often double-talking.

Her *truth* is disingenuous. The so-called achievement gap is pure fiction, a statistical artefact of an education industry run amok. It is the coinage of a social-engineered subliminal class-ism. By warehousing the poor in urban encampments, the rest of America doesn't have to deal or interact with them. The real-estate pyramid schemes that have wrecked our economy were the engine that kept this phenomenon rolling profitably.

Educators have known for forty years that children of poverty environments cannot be lifted from that original state of ignorance and desperation by schooling alone. We can talk about this. The fact that Ravitch insists that we can't speaks to the real myth.

Myth #1: Educators are the solution to America's education crisis

They are not. They and their unions have long ago sold out the welfare of children for the negotiated comforts of cozy and disingenuous work rules that eliminate any possibility that schools can be managed for the best interests of everyone involved.

Numerous studies indicate that the insane escalation of spending on education shows flat if not negligible classroom returns. *That* is the real achievement gap and everyone paying the bill knows it.

Politicians who pander to the idea that schools should become homogeneous in achievement ignore the fact that in order for schools to get better we need achievement gaps. If there are no superior schools continuously pushing the educational envelope how can we get better? Since when is being academically "equal" a good thing?

We should be advancing education gaps in every subject and pedagogy, dropping the ineffective and adopting the proven winners. WAIT! That's against union work rules.

Myth #2; The false dichotomy of young vs old teachers. Here Ravitch is simply acting as a special interest lobbyist for preserving a seniority system that is cancerous to educational reform.

She isn't trying to elevate the debate, she's trying to derail intelligent discussion. Ravitch and her followers will insist class size is an important factor in children's education because *magically* teachers will spend more time individualizing classroom learning.

Anecdotally, teachers ALL insist this happens. Study after study disputes this assertion. Studies indicate that *the opportunity for individual attention* increases. Yet only teachers who already practice the art actually practice the art - a rare breed. Furthermore, studies indicate that some teachers are better with small classes and some are awful. Likewise with large classroom sizes.

What does seniority have to do with this? What? Why can't schools be managed to take advantage of teachers strengths and weaknesses? Why?

WAIT! Union rules.

Yes, Diane let's be honest. By all means. But you have a lot of catching up to do .

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Indentured Servant Etiquette

The Orwellian opera that is taking place regarding Unions, collective bargaining rights, and paying a fair share is sheer farce.

A few weeks ago the Region 19 Board of Education met with Bryan Hurlbert, Tony Guglielmo, and other state representatives. It was a sobering meeting involving the potential loss of traditionally dependable funds. To a man, these elected officials declared that whatever budget cuts, restraints, and adjustments had to be made WILL BE A SHARED SACRIFICE. For sure. No. Two. Ways. About. It. Uh-uh. A reporter from the Chronicle was there - look it up.

I drove home that night assured that the last thing that would ever be considered short of being threatened with the End Days would be "Shared" sacrifice. Not a one of these guys had the decency to be honest. Not one. It was a WikiLeaks moment. Everybody pretended that the big lie was going to magically be realized because we all clicked our heels together to suspend reality and didn't want to piss off the political greeters in the room.

A few days ago, Chris Powell of the Journal Inquirer pulled back the curtain on the scam. He writes:
While "shared sacrifice" lately has been the governor's slogan, on Monday it seemed that municipal employees and particularly teachers would escape sacrifice. Not only would the governor maintain current levels of teacher salary reimbursements (euphemized as "aid to local education") but in raising the sales tax he would give municipalities a small cut of the new revenue, most of which also will be paid in raises to teachers, which is where such "aid" and the liquidation of student services have gone for years.

Asked to quantify the sacrifice he would seek from the state employee unions, Malloy answered, "More than you think," elaborating that he'd be negotiating "very aggressively." Apparently for the first time he even threatened layoffs. He said his budget would be built on concessions from the unions, and if they didn't cooperate there would be either "a shredding of the safety net" for the poor or "thousands of people unemployed." Is the governor ready for a fight or at least a game of chicken with this unpopular but powerful group to give political cover to his tax increases?

Other than the hope that many of the infirm and indigent elderly could be diverted from nursing homes to less expensive care, the governor and his aides did not offer any big ideas about changing premises in state government. The touted agency consolidations, which will produce only trivial savings, are only a pretense of structural change.

But government in Connecticut being as ravenous as it is ineffectual, Malloy may be given credit just for trying to freeze it at current spending levels while the private economy collapses underneath it. And while no net tax increase can be good, no one in authority in state government before Malloy has concretely proposed to repeal many of the nonsensical sales tax exemptions, like those for haircuts and car washes.

And of course since the election campaign produced no big thinking, not much big thinking could have been expected from Malloy in the three months since. Staffing the new administration and assembling a budget that would simply feed the machine of government for another year is probably all any governor elected in such circumstances could do.

-snip-

Really, why must teachers always be treated like royalty and everyone else like peasants? Why is so much expensive public policy merely remedial, never getting at the cause of Connecticut's decline, from the high school courses taught to most students in the state university and community college systems, to the coddling and encouraging of fatherlessness done by the Department of Children and Families, to the pouring of money into the cities, which only disintegrate the more that is done in the name of helping them? Why is Connecticut government's only inviolable service not Malloy's vaunted "social safety net" but the provision of pensions to public employees?

What Powell fails to mention is that this is business as usual. In the past decade when America was attacked and jobs began to evaporate teachers and government officials never missed a raise. In 2008, when the financial world collapsed and Americans lost jobs, pensions, basic work place considerations, government workers and the education industry rarely if ever missed a raise. In fact, it is widely reported that they - like the billionaires they vilify pulled far away and ahead of the private sector taxpayer.

Sacrifice, humility, and frugal lifestyle habits cannot be taught by those who never experience the necessity.

For those who are private sector citizens who either have jobs or fixed incomes or who are poor, they will become the indentured servants to this new entitlement class of government and education employee. These entitled, unionized elite have become accustomed to a lifestyle fuelled by an endless supply of taxpayer funny money and they will not be denied.

Make no mistake about it, indentured servitude is where all of this is going but the story doesn't end there.

In Wisconsin, RI, and other places some politicians are doing what is necessary to avert catastrophe. They are taking on the self-insulated public service unions by firing teachers, freezing the automatic pilot cost increases of government, and otherwise attempted to halt or reverse the fiscal crisis this situation represents.

Twenty years ago, achieving and maintaining a balanced budget was the bromide that politicians correctly identified as a practice that could avoid the situation we find ourselves in today. Predictably, not a one of them actually operated that way and we are where we are. Along the way, the public sector special interests self-insulated themselves with pension guarantees and perks that will effectively make slaves of the rest of us.

So as a Democrat, a Liberal, and a private sector employee I find an insulting humor in the rhetoric being used by public sector unions to misrepresent and obfuscate the situation this country and most states are in.

There is no "teacher bashing" as Diane Ravitch and others would have you believe. The citizens paying taxes have a right to say, "this is what we can afford and no more". Do teachers really believe they can starve the community they "serve" and expect the starving to be grateful?

There is no "union busting" going on when decades of negotiations never result in "shared sacrifice", improved quality of government services, the economy of technological innovation, vibrant educational pedagogies, or rich, innovative programs that save money, right-size government, and return on taxpayers investment.

It is not the union being busted, it is the bully being taken to task. Unions that engage in anti-societal behaviors have no right to complain about being dissolved. America needs unions and workers rights to organize but the result cannot be soft terrorist organisations who care not a whit for everyone's Union - the United States of America.

Taxpayers are having their backs broken while unions claim that political chaffeurs making over $90k per year with benefits coming out their ears are essential employees (see: Rick Green here).

The rhetoric of the unions is industrial revolution redux and there is a lot of knee-jerk sentiment this generates. But the truth of the matter is that only shared sacrifice by all will get us out of this mess. Anything else is ham-fisted greed thinly disguised by disingenuous and wholly expedient claims of representing working families, the poor, and workers rights. The truth is that the unions are creating a class society in which the poor will get poorer, the working class will work for them first, and workers rights in the private sector will be those of servants indentured to paying the benefits of government and education's employees.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

What Parents Across America Need to Know

A new special interest group has emerged to join the misguided education conflict. It's called Parents Across America and on it's home page is a posting that explains; Why I Am Not A Defender Of The ‘Status Quo’ In Education. The post is written by a fellow blogger, Sue Peters. She says,
Help bring parents’ voices to the education debate and support progressive, positive, constructive education reforms that work.

In her writing she gets some things right but mostly she repeats 20th century teacher union platitudes and political talking points (see: Diane Ravitch's tweets). And while she "calls" for desirable changes, most of the remedies she suggests are precisely the prescription that got us where we are - at the doorstep of a public education system that is corrupt, intellectually bankrupt, and disingenuous in it's complicity.

Here's the response I submitted;
With all due respect, the status quo as you call it, is a far different phenomenon than what you describe.

You are absolutely correct in asserting that NCLB and it's perverse successor, RTTT, are educational abominations. But if it takes a village to raise a child then it took a nation of complicit, selfish, and ruthless special interest groups to so totally undermine the public schools of this country. And this includes teacher's unions.

Schools cannot mask this nation's rising caste system. The gaps that schools measure is the speed at which the rich have moved away from what is left of the middle class and the growing lower classes. To believe test scores is to believe the children of wealth are smart and gifted and that the children of poverty all have irresponsible parents and teachers who should be fired. But even that is not enough.

Nothing is left to chance in this brave new classroom. Grades need to be shaved to ensure that the children of privilege will make competition for entry into the good colleges and Universities a sure thing rather than a true comparison of worthiness. This system is not broken, it is finely tuned. It is intentional. It is sugar-coated with Orwellian goodness to disguise the ugly truth.

The fact of the matter is that teacher bashing is a natural political reaction by parents and tax-payers who are oblivious to the paradox that education policy has become. Like cult followers they are being promised something that the system is precisely designed to prevent - that is the opportunity of all children to realize their true potential. That idea is anathema.

And that idea is anathema because teachers unions have become self-absorbed with every issue except that which are healthy for children. Today, education lawyers consume every bit of intellectual oxygen with tread-worn, industrial revolution policies that prevent teachers from teaching in the name of workplace and employment entitlements. And enough is never enough when it comes to salaries and benefits.

The children's issues are treated as throw-away, sentimental platitudes used for political gaming. The platitudes are noble and the execution non-existent.

Privatised schools are not a panacea but the quality of education they represent is a breath of fresh air to those of us who do care about kids and education and teaching innovation.

The best thing parents can do is demand a end to the lies of class-size, funding, and federal control of schools. Demand an end to standardized testing regimes. Demand that every public school do it's best to increase the size of the so-called education gap so that we can know how good all schools can be.

The best things teachers can do is to stop whining and propose through their unions new workplace rules that allow innovative teaching and curriculum reform. Demand that your professional peers be held expeditiously accountable to termination if need be. And demand that schools exercise the best practices teaching can offer instead of the meager practices that still exist despite retarded education policy, brain-dead administrators, and a teacher's union that is better suited for day labourers than professionals.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Critical Thinking Study Explains a Lot

The election of the Obama administration signalled a death knell for enlightened public education. That much is clear. The Federal Dept. of Education ramrodded the States into passing some of the most perversely regressive education legislation ever conceived by man. And now, the ability of enlightened communities to break the totalitarian grip of federal interference in local education issues is functionally impossible.

The bottom line is that a national obsession with high-stakes testing has poisoned every public school still standing. It is an intellectual cancer that consumes every conversation about schools, learning, and metrics. To understand how this was allowed to get this far, one only needs to tune in to the debates about public and private schools. And what we might look for first is critical thinking on either side. You will soon realize critical thinking is almost wholly absent.

A new study reported in the Seattle Times, Study: Students slog through college, but don't gain much critical thinking by Sara Rimer of the Hechinger Report goes a long way in explaining the phenomenon. She reports:
Arum, whose book "Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses" (University of Chicago Press) comes out this month, followed 2,322 traditional-age students from the fall of 2005 to the spring of 2009 and examined testing data and student surveys at a broad range of 24 U.S. colleges and universities, from the highly selective to the less selective.

Forty-five percent of students made no significant improvement in their critical thinking, reasoning or writing skills during the first two years of college, according to the study. After four years, 36 percent showed no significant gains in these so-called "higher order" thinking skills.

Combining the hours spent studying and in class, students devoted less than a fifth of their time each week to academic pursuits. By contrast, students spent 51 percent of their time — or 85 hours a week — socializing or in extracurricular activities.

The study also showed that students who studied alone made more significant gains in learning than those who studied in groups.

Some educators note that a weakened economy and a need to work while in school may be partly responsible for the reduced focus on academics, while others caution against using the study to blame students for not applying themselves.

Students who majored in the traditional liberal arts — including the social sciences, humanities, natural sciences and mathematics — showed significantly greater gains over time than other students in critical thinking, complex reasoning and writing skills.

Students majoring in business, education, social work and communications showed the least gains in learning. However, the authors note that their findings don't preclude the possibility that such students "are developing subject-specific or occupationally relevant skills."

Greater gains in liberal arts subjects are at least partly the result of faculty requiring higher levels of reading and writing, as well as students spending more time studying, the study's authors found. Students who took courses heavy on both reading (more than 40 pages a week) and writing (more than 20 pages in a semester) showed higher rates of learning.

I bolded the paragraph of interest because it is so shocking. Let's look at it again;
Students majoring in business, education, social work and communications showed the least gains in learning. However, the authors note that their findings don't preclude the possibility that such students "are developing subject-specific or occupationally relevant skills."
I can't think of a more important "occupationally relevant skill" than critical thinking. And the authors of the study can speculate all they like about making alibis as to why students in these areas are the poorest learners, the empirical evidence strongly suggests a serious disconnect here.

After all, how can professional educators become professional educators if they themselves are incapable of self-sustained learning? This is not a throw-away talking point. At a time when education policy insists on teachers becoming subject matter experts, this study indicates that liberal arts education produces the superior desired result, well-rounded educators who are capable of critical thinking AND learning. After all, that's what education should be about.

Let's circle back to the question of how education has gotten so far off track. For a long time I thought the hubris of systematic corruption that exists between education lawyers, legislators, school administrators, and the teacher unions was largely responsible for the disconnect between public education policy and the rhetoric of teachers and teaching.

In other words, the platitudes sugar-coat the closed, self-serving education system that thinly-veils public education. Parents respond most religiously to the platitudes while tax-payers rage at the insatiable appetite of the system to swallow tax dollars without so much as a hint of change or improvement.

But what about educators themselves? Is there a sincerity in their platitudes? Do they ever critically examine the politics of their positions to advocate in meaningful ways for children? I simply have not seen much evidence that there is a critical mass of educators who have the imagination, courage to question or propose substantial change to the status quo.

In a nutshell, this study goes a long way in explaining why public education is failing. It's failing because or educators are our poorest learners and thinkers. And, in my blog, that's a crisis.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Julie Amero's Husband Died Yesterday

A few months ago Wes Volle, Julie Amero's husband was diagnosed with terminal cancer. He was given but a few months to live and died yesterday.

Juie Amero, of course, was a substitute teacher whose life, Wes and Julie's life, was forever violated by procession of a demented judicial system that allowed disingenuous parents, magic accusations, bad cops, lazy judges, incompetent journalists, a lynch-mob public, and an unforgiving corporate culture to routinely toy with one person or another's lives.

A few years ago, Julie was falsely accused of a criminal act that she never committed. Wes Volle was not only her husband but he was her staunchest supporter and her guardian angel. Wes worked at Electric Boat and by everything I can ascertain was a fairly average fellow with no fights to pick with anyone.

After Julie was sentenced to a potential forty year sentence in prison (the prosecutor sadistically teased but 15 if they wink-wink played "the game"), certain journalists at the Norwich Bulletin began a smear campaign against Julie and her supporters that make the Salem Witch trials look like a high school musical. Wes fought back, writing letter after letter, valiantly defending his all too innocent wife. His words inspired us all.

After exhausting enormous time, money, and resources wrestling state government beast that has a bottomless budget of tax dollars to waste, a merciless and gutless bureaucracy, and brain-dead judiciary - Julie was spared. The cost was her ability to return to teaching, their savings, and the emotional and social stigmas that would haunt them long afterward.

Despite the state's abandoning their guilty verdict (the first time in CT's history), Julie would encounter the mean-spirit of innuendo and degrading whisper campaigns when she secured another job. Wes stuck by her through punishing times.

Wes is now gone.

Cartoons (click to site of ownership):