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.