Friday, March 18, 2005

So What Is The Vision for Education?

The whole country has fallen into a trap.

Those who have given up on public schools cry for "reform" and point out a variety of objections. These range from complaints about unions, to objections to bureaucracy, and on to complaints about universities and teacher/administrator preparation programs. The whole gamut. The greatest country in the world, educated by and large with public schools - is under intense criticism. Some of it deserved, some of it undeserved. Critics attack... and educators defend the status quo. Probably because many of them take it personally.

So let's take this in a more positive direction.

For those critics who post here frequently, we know some of what you don't approve of, but what do you WANT to see for a system of educating America's children?

Critics and supporters alike, everyone take a stab at answering one question:

What SHOULD education look like twenty years from now? What do you see?

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Simpson's Paradox: Improving in every category

We have appreciated the comments made by people on this board, especially those who have expressed questioning views and differences of opinion. We have been especially grateful to those who pose questions. But as you can tell, we don't have all the answers.

We hope we can all appreciate the freedom we have in this country to express our views. It is one of the greatest privileges that a democracy provides.

For those of you have been skeptical of public schools, we hope you can stand to read some positive news . :-) Read this report by Dr. David Berliner posted by Joe Thomas in a PDF file at Shut up and Teach. Try to read it with an open mind. What you may notice is that the problem isn't one of declining schools. Rather, it is a phenomenon of shifting demographics in this country.

Dr. Berliner points out the statistical phenomenon known as Simpson's Paradox. This is where every subgroup in a population can show dramatic improvement, but the average stays the same.

Read what happened to SAT scores and NAEP scores. You didn't read it in the newspaper that's for sure. Only negative sells. And... no one seems willing or at least eager, to talk about ethnicity, race or cultural norms among subgroups in this country.

Berliner points out areas where America can improve, but also points out that NCLB was sold to our citizens and legislators on the false premise that American schools are failing.

Cliff Notes Version:

SAT Scores over time:

American Indians, Hispanics, Whites = 8 points gain
Puerto Ricans = 18 points gain
Blacks = 19 points gain
Asians = 27 points gain
Urban Blacks = 36 points gain

Total = No change in SAT scores

He tracks NAEP scores the same way. They aren't as dramatic, but still Simpson's Paradox is in play. Average shows little gain, but almost every subgroup has improved. Why? The percentage of students taking the tests has shifted. The immigrant population and ethnic mix has changed the landscape. They are all doing better, but the total mix has changed, camouflaging the dramatic changes these subgroups are experiencing.

It's good news that so many subpopulations have made improvements. It's to be celebrated not criticized. All of America is doing better, but the population has shifted.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Did Indiana Chamber Lobbyist Cross the Line?

Indiana State Chamber of Commerce lobbyist David Holt, has been accused of threatening to insert a hidden amendment into a bill to prohibit public tax dollars for being used to lobby the General Assembly.

This threat was an attempt to get school people to back off their efforts to stop mandatory Core 40 curriculum requirements for high schoolers unless there is funding for the additional staffing it might take to get licensed teachers. This bill was another example of proposals presented by legislators with no care whatsoever as to their funding impact.

Holt allegedly said, referring to slipping legislation in under the radar screen of the public, "You won't be able to touch it, you might not even see it."

Is this tolerated by Governor Daniels who promised in his state-of-the-state address that his government would be "more ethical and more open?" Now granted the Indiana Chamber of Commerce is not supposed to answer to the governor. But it's a safe bet from all that we have heard and seen that the governor's office has a close relationship with the Indiana Chamber of Commerce.

We assume that sneaking these things through without public debate is not in the administration's long term best interests.

It is unfortunate that the positions taken by the Indiana State Chamber of Commerce so consistently seem to defy their average member's views. I have often polled our local chamber members and they seem to have no idea of the positions their state leadership takes on public schools.

Meanwhile, back home in the trenches, the average chamber member in your heartland Hoosier community is likely to be a small local retailer whose kids go to public schools. They are season ticket holders at the basketball games and are in the front row cheering on their public school kids.

At the same time, back in the rarefied air of the state capitol, state chamber lobbyists threaten school lobbyists by telling them to back off of their opposing views or we will "bury" you.

Super Bloggers have obtained a document detailing this alleged conversation between Chamber lobbyist David Holt and Chuck Little, Indiana Urban Schools Association lobbyist.

Is this approach sanctioned by the State Chamber? Or is Holt out on his own?

Or does it come from above where the air is sometimes thin and the oxygen levels low?

Monday, March 14, 2005

If I ran my business the way you people run schools.......

We get this line a lot from business people. There are so many differences between the two that it isn't even a useful comparison. It's not business - it's school.

Read The Blueberry Story from a businessman turned public school supporter. This is a brief but excellent story that points out one major difference that is difficult to argue about.

The Burden on Schools

Do you want to know why schools are besieged? Watch this short animation from Jamie Vollmer. Go to the Jamie Vollmer website, at the top of the page click on the tab marked "The Burden" and scroll to the bottom and click to load the animation. Depending on your connection speed it should only take a minute to load.

Jamie Vollmer Website

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Breaking News: Voters Admit to Voter Fraud

In a shocking development, numerous voters in several states across America have admitted that they may have been an unknowing partner in committing voter fraud during their state's gubernatorial elections.

The two states under the microscope for alleged fraud are California and Indiana. The gubernatorial homes of Arnold "The Terminator" Swartzenegger and Mitch "The Blade" Daniels. Our Super Bloggers have discovered what they have in common outside of steroid induced nicknames. They both have determined to solve their respective states' financial problems on the backs of public school children.

Many republican voters, especially those who admit to having empathy for children other than their own, confess that when they were in the voting booths they punched their gubernatorial ticket two times. They confess to voting for Arnold and Mitch for both the first and last times. Some legal experts believe this may fall within the guidelines of voter fraud.

To defend the voters, they have stepped forward to admit it, and they do seem repentful.