Friday, February 03, 2006

NEWS FLASH!

The Super's Blog has received a leaked copy of a press release that spokespeople close to the governor say is to be announced publicly in the next few hours.

NEWS FLASH:

Governor Mitch Daniels will be announcing his intentions to lease Indiana's statewide assessment plan called ISTEP, for a 75 year period to foreign countries. Daniels said, "Singapore and India have submitted the high bids. This will bring in 45 million dollars to Indiana immediately and will help us pay the cost to move the test."

Leading Democrats said, "It's highway robbery."

Dr. Sueellen Reed said, "These decisions are taking a toll on public education."

The Republican plan to move ISTEP testing from fall to spring has cleared the Indiana House on a party line vote. An amendment was added to put a little American flag on each test booklet.

Daniels admitted, "It's similar to the amendment to put an American flag on the Indiana highway toll booths to be owned by Australia and Spain." "Besides" he added, "There is nothing wrong with selling America to foreign countries. More and more savvy business people are doing this every year."

He added, "Another benefit is that when a teacher has a tech support problem with the on-line version of testing all they have to do is call tech support in India or Singapore to get help."

To which Democrats said, "Yeah, but you may be on hold for 75 years to get an answer."

Daniels smiled and said, "But we got the money up front!"

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Origins of the 65% Solution

As most readers are aware, the "65% solution" has been trumpeted as a way of "Driving Money into the Classroom." I thought a little background on its origins might be interesting for those who haven't followed it.

The primary person given credit for the "65% solution" is Patrick Byrne, CEO of Overstock.com. Interestingly enough, this eccentric CEO was also the dubious winner of CNNMoney.com's "Dumbest Moment in Investor Relations for 2005. (To find the link you will have to click on 2006 Smart List and follow the "10 Dumbest Moments link at the top) Here is what CNNMoney.com had to say about Patrick Byrne.

Over the course of 2005, Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne issues increasingly shrill pronouncements about nefarious short-sellers driving the company's stock into the ground. After listening to an Overstock conference call with investors in August, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban posts to his blog a list of the topics Byrne covered: "Miscreants; an unnamed Sith Lord he hopes the feds will bury under a prison; gay bath houses; whether he is gay, does cocaine, both, or neither; phone taps; phone lines misdirected to Mexico; arrested reporters; payoffs; conspiracies; crooks; egomaniacs; fools; paranoia; which newspapers are shills and for who; money laundering; his Irish temper; false identities; threats; intimidation; and private investigators. All in 61 minutes." Cuban then short-sells 10,000 shares of Overstock.

Not to join Cuban in selling Patrick Byrne short, but I am not sure what else qualifies Byrne for knowing what each school system in America needs to spend as a specific percent on instruction. Nevertheless, the the 65% solution picks up steam.

George Will, in the Washington Post, thinks Byrne's 65% solution is a great one. Will writes in April of 2005...
His idea -- call it the 65 Percent Solution -- is politically delicious because it unites parents, taxpayers and teachers while, he hopes, sowing dissension in the ranks of the teachers unions...

So there you have it. "A politically delicious" idea from the eccentric Winner of "The Dumbest Moment in Investor Relations" for 2005.

Not to be outdone, Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform, comes out with a ringing endorsement of the 65% solution proposed by the group First Class Education. I guess Grover is in competition with Patrick Byrne for President of the "I-wish-I-hadn't-said-that-now Club."
Here is an old Norquist quote reported more recently in the Washington Post.

"What the Republicans need is 50 Jack Abramoffs...," Grover Norquist told National Journal in 1995.

There you have it. Expert testimony from two big name supporters of the 65% solution. The brains behind the idea is the Winner of 2005's Dumbest Moment in Investor Relations, and the leader of the Americans for Tax Reform organization who thinks Republicans "need 50 Jack Abramoff's."

Educators everywhere --- don't you feel better now knowing about two of the characters that help frame and define educational policy debate in America?

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

A thoughtful parent reflects on NCLB

This is an excerpt from a Letter to the Editor written by a parent opposed to NCLB. I thought it had some excellent points.

We can do better for our teachers and our students than to standardize away attention to the variety of styles, interests, and abilities of both. We can design a better vision than one that holds a minority child or group accountable for the failure of a school. We can create a better plan than to have our brightest students in a program of study that is geared for minimal "proficiency" and memorization on standardized tests, which excludes the expansive spontaneity of creative debate and discovery. And, we can do much better than to spend hours training our least able children to bubble answer sheets to cheat the system as well as the child. We can use new and creative methods to help stimulate a joyful quest for knowledge and resist the boring, rote, and meaningless learning that is geared toward a limited and small-minded outcome that substitute for real learning. Yes, our students need to learn basic skills, but more importantly, they need to learn to think independently, to reason, to be honest and thoughtful, and to decipher and apply the principles and values of our democracy. These are the skills they will need to become informed citizens in a society that will require their participation.

With the imposition of and adherence to the NCLB act, neither the rhetorical nor statistical manipulation can recover the many losses suffered by our students, our teachers, and our system of public education.

A.E. Levin Garrison

Monday, January 30, 2006

Public schools do better...again.

NY Times reports on another large scale study of public and private schools.

The study, by Christopher Lubienski and Sarah Theule Lubienski, of the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, compared fourth- and eighth-grade math scores of more than 340,000 students in 13,000 regular public, charter and private schools on the 2003 National Assessment of Educational Progress. The 2003 test was given to 10 times more students than any previous test, giving researchers a trove of new data.

"Over all," it said, "demographic differences between students in public and private schools more than account for the relatively high raw scores of private schools. Indeed, after controlling for these differences, the presumably advantageous private school effect disappears, and even reverses in most cases."