Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Blind Spot

Yes, I know I get in trouble when I go down this road (Hi, Trent), but sometimes you just can't help yourself. From the Evergreen Freedom Foundation's "Leaving a Legacy" newsletter:
Raised in rural Missouri, Keith earned a Bachelor of Science degree in physics at the University of Missouri. He attended graduate school at the University of Wisconsin, receiving a master's degree and a doctorate.

Keith worked as a nuclear physicist at Lawrence Livermore Laboratory in California doing thesis research, then switched to the study of medical physics. He came to the medical school at the University of Washington to take part in an innovative program that treated cancer with neutron beams. When the funding ran out, Keith went to M.D. Anderson Hospital at the University of Texas. ...

After several professorships in various locations, including the University of Washington, Keith began a nearly 20-year teaching career as a professor of physics ath the University of California Medical Center in San Francisco. He took early retirement 11 years ago, and in 2003, moved back to Redmond, Washington. ...

On the role of government: "Government doesn't produce wealth. It takes money from others who earned it. Government in fact is just people who often want to have power over other people. The idea that they are going to do a better job taking care of me than I am is absurd!"
So here's a guy with a long, long career of getting subsidized education at public universities, then working for the government at public universities, and who worked at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, which gets most of its funding from the Department of Energy, but boy howdy he sure gives it to those government thugs who just want to have power over other people.

Read more here, if any.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Wasted Effort

I spent about a day and a half earlier this month working through the new writing assessment with my kids. It was a pain in the ass that ate up an awful lot of instructional time. Looks like it was also wasted effort:
Dear District Assessment Coordinators and Principals:
This fall, grade 5 teachers in your district volunteered to administer the writing pilot for the Measurements of Student Progress (MSP). Stand-alone pilot research programs such as this are one of the best ways to obtain data necessary for the development of new MSP writing prompts. We very much appreciate the additional time spent by you, as well as your district and school staff and students.

About two weeks ago, Governor Chris Gregoire announced to OSPI that across the board budget cuts would need to be made by October 15. Since that announcement the Assessment and Student Information Division has had to make some very difficult decisions in order to meet this latest budget challenge. Many activities were identified that would either be postponed or cut. Among the list of activities was the grade 5 writing pilot.

At this time we are holding all writing pilot booklets in our processing center in Minnesota. All subsequent activities, including scoring and training workshops, also have been put on hold. It is our hope that at some point in the near future we will be able to resume processing, scoring, and convening a teacher training workshop.

Please share this news with the fall writing pilot participating teachers.
If you have any questions, contact us at (360) 725-6348 or at Assessment@k12.wa.us.

Assessment Operations

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Freedom (Funded with Tax Dollars) Isn't Free

We need charter schools, the thought goes, to allow experimentation. To get rid of silly, onerous regulations. To provide choice. How's that working in practice down in Utah?
The State Charter School Board needs to polish its practices to more effectively regulate Utah’s growing number of charter schools, according to a legislative audit released Thursday.

The report highlights the board’s handling last year of financial struggles at Beehive Science and Technology Academy in Holladay. The board voted to revoke Beehive’s charter but later reversed that decision because of its own “ambiguous standards” for charter finances, the audit states.

The report recommends the board establish and apply clear financial standards for all charter schools. The board also needs to clarify procedures for disciplinary actions and school closures.

“We agree with the legislative auditor that it is important to have clear policies for financial management and oversight in place so that all charter schools are held to consistent standards,” Beehive principal Yavuz Durmus said via e-mail. “With [the charter board’s] cooperation, we have decreased overhead expenses and increased our enrollment this school year, placing us in a sound financial position.”
This is my concern with charter schools: that we'll set up a two-tiered system with state schools that have to follow legislative whims and chartered schools that don't. If the goal is deregulation, the legislature can do that. Snide remark, start by defunding the PESB.

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Sunday, October 24, 2010

There's Nothing Like a Good Union Fight...

...and this is nothing like a good union fight:
Delta Chief Executive Richard Anderson is accusing labor organizers of "fear and smear" campaign tactics, calling them un-Christian. Labor leaders charge that Delta is trying to demonize unions, and one pro-union website has likened Mr. Anderson to Adolf Hitler.
Meanwhile, in France, shit's gettin' real:
Several football matches in the north over the weekend had to be postponed.
I also rather adore this website, and while it takes a while to load the pictures are phenomenal.

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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

And When There Was One Set of Footprints? That Was After I Kneecapped You for Being a Godless, Child Corrupting Scumbag

Generals International:
The National Educators Association is extremely liberal in their practices, promoting, among other unrighteous agendas, homosexuality in our children's schools. Under the guise of "safety," "diversity," and "equality," our children are being indoctrinated into believing that homosexuality is an acceptable way of life.

We release the blood-covered justice and judgments of God upon those forces that are trying to subjugate American education and thereby, destroy the family unit through the advancement of the homosexual agenda.

We affirm that the United States of America is a Christian nation and we release the blood-covered justice and judgments of God upon those forces that are trying to denigrate the importance of Christianity in American culture to advance the Islamization of America.

I'm glad I'm not a member of the National Educators Association, or I'd be a pretty terrible person.


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Monday, October 18, 2010

On the Seattle Children's Levy

Seattle is running a new levy to pay for services in the schools: remedial programs, intervention programs, early learning programs, etc. Spokane has a similar version on the ballot, too.

I wish them both well. The struggle that I have with levies like these, though, is that they're designed to circumvent the current 28% levy lid that school districts are allowed to ask for. By having these additional levies run by outside groups you can pour that much more additional money into the schools, which is great for those schools but only makes the disparity between the very richest and the very poorest that much greater.

If levy equalization goes away this session you'll see that chasm get even wider as property-poor districts lose one of their major funding sources while property-rich districts move along with their lifted lids and supplemental levies.

Education is a resource game.

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Sunday, October 17, 2010

Post-Irony, Defined

I adore Garfield Minus Garfield.

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Boogity Boogity BOOOOOOOO!

From Diana Cieslak of the Evergreen Freedom Foundation, regarding online learning:
So far, unions haven't interfered in Washington--but we'd be fooling ourselves to think it will last. The iLearn Project exists to help online learing gain a firm foothold before special interests take aim.
No real need for the union to do anything--the numbers can speak for themselves.

Read more here, if any.

School Superintendents I Feel Sorry For: Toledo, Washington

If it ain't the water closing their schools, it's gun threats on Facebook.

Read more here, if any.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Rep. Reuven Carlyle on Teach for America

Rep. Carlyle, out of Seattle's 36th legislative district, had a pair of posts here and here looking at a potential future for Teach for America in the Seattle Public Schools.

I'm not anti-TFA. Good for them for wanting to make a difference. The issue I have is that right now the certification process is far too onerous on everyone--ProCert is a damned nightmare--and it's fundamentally unfair to say that one group of teachers can come into the schools with only 5 weeks of training while another has to play the games that the Superintendent of Public Instruction, the State Board of Education, and the Professional Educators Standards Board have set up.

Part of this is on the feds, too--remember HOUSSE?--and this national schizophrenia we seem to have over what we want a teacher to be.

It'll be an interesting legislative session.

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I Think I Found Some Government Waste

From Crosscut:
Participating were former GOP state party Chair Chris Vance, a Crosscut contributor who has also served on the King County Council, as a state representative in Olympia, and is currently on the state's payroll as a part-time advisor to state schools Superintendent Randy Dorn.
Beyond finishing 3rd in the race for SPI in 1996, when Terry Bergeson first took the office, what does Chris Vance bring to OSPI that's worth paying $2,000 a month for? Vance apparently advised Dorn in 2008; what does he do now? I also find some cites that have Vance with the PSE when Dorn was their executive director.

Is this essential?

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A Non-Priority

To me the most interesting bit from the Washington Poll released yesterday was not that it shows Patty Murray ahead of Dino Rossi by a healthy margin, or that 47% of respondents think we're "Seriously on the wrong track". Instead, when asked what the major issue of the campaign was for them, only 9% said education. That's a tie for 6th place with "Don't Know" and puts schools behind health care reform and the national debt in the rankings.

Given the share of the state budget devoted to education, and all the conversation around the Race to the Top, I'd have expected it to place higher.

More from Horse's Ass on the Rossi/Murray angle here.

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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Seattle Labor Agreement Judged, Found....

....rather lacking in the reform department, if this press release from the Department of Education is any indication. 8 districts cited for innovation, and Seattle isn't one of them.

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Sunday, October 10, 2010

Throw-Away Snark

Anyone who is basing their opinion on education in America based on Waiting for Superman is every bit as silly as the person who bases their opinion on global warming off of a viewing of An Inconvenient Truth.


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The Weekly Liv

I was going to do a full fisking of this column from Liv Finne of the Washington Policy Center, but after a year of pointing out that she tells the same half-truths over and over again, it's getting repetitive.

She sets up the Harlem Children's Zone as a cure-all; the research is mixed.

She praises charter schools; their results are mixed, too.

She complains about all the things that she presupposes principals can't do, but never has all that much to say about what they can do.

She points out correctly that the public has voted down charter schools, and says that we should vote again. I welcome that challenge, because when the proponents are people as bad at reading research as Liv is then I'm more than happy to have the debate. Seriously, this is trite:
The research is solid that high-quality charter schools outperform traditional public schools.
...and the sort of framing of the argument that won't stand up to any serious examination.

Where have the capable conservative commentators on education in Washington State gone?

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Saturday, October 09, 2010

Wow, That Labor Unrest Was Bad for the Seattle Schools

That's why they're 700 student above the projected enrollment.

Next you'll be hearing from certain elements who'll kvetch about their spending being up without mentioning the concurrent enrollment increase.


Read more here, if any.

Fun With Public Records Requests

I've been curious since the grant application fell apart to know just how much effort Randy Dorn's OSPI put into it. Here's the answer:
Good afternoon, Mr. Grant,

Thank you for contacting the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) with your request for how many hours were spent by OSPI on the Washington State Race to the Top (RTTT) application, and how many different OSPI staff members were involved in the process. Your request has been logged as public records request No.10-0330.
OSPI does not have records on the hours spent on the RTTT application or the number of specific staff assigned to work solely on the application.
OSPI does not track employee’s work by specific projects or tasks, so we are unable to determine the number of staff or hours dedicated to this project.
There were, however, four staff who were considered the "lead team" from the agency, and all of whom had multiple duties during this period, including RTTT work. Again, they did not track their hours.
I hope this information was helpful, and let me know if I can provide further assistance.
Later, I got this follow-up:
In reviewing the agency’s documentation related to the Race To The Top (RITT) application, the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) has found that one staff member was assigned for a short duration to assist with administrative support for the Race To The Top (RITT) application. We show she worked a total of 37.4 dedicated hours on the project.
Does it seem odd to anyone else that OSPI would know to the tenth of an hour how much time the one staff members spent on the application, but not know how much time the four highly-paid lead people spent?

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Friday, October 08, 2010

Cognitive Dissonance

I'm eating a Jimmy John's sandwich and drinking a Coke while listening to a speaker tell us to reject the worker's comp initiative so that we can support the broader labor coalition.

So. That's that, then.


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Monday, October 04, 2010

Really, WSSDA?

A dues increase? Really? In the worst financial straights we've seen since 1981, when levy equalization is on life support, when the state is in a $4.5 billion dollar hole....really?

That's chutzpah.

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Sunday, October 03, 2010

Davis Guggenheim on School Reform

"I think unions should defend their workers. They should get teachers paid a lot more money. But they should not get...they should not be so deeply involved in how schools are run and in how the state capitals decide where to go with school reform."

In other words: I trust politicians more than teachers. That's the enduring lesson of Waiting for Superman.

"I'm not saying that teachers shouldn't be involved--I'm saying that they shouldn't be in the way of school reform."

In other words:  As long as we agree, you can be involved.  If we disagree, then you obstructionist jerks can bugger off.

KUOW's Weekday program from this past Wednesday.

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What Have The Unions Ever Done For Us?

I'm Assuming They Meant Pennies

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Due to Uncertainty.....

Don Brunell:
Student loan companies say the federal takeover will cost 35,000 private sector jobs, a figure proponents dispute. What will actually happen? No one knows for sure, and that’s the problem. Federal takeovers of private industries create uncertainty, and uncertainty kills the prospects for an economic recovery.
I-1098 would lead to years of uncertainty that could irreparably harm Washington's ability to thrive in challenging economic times.
Business Week:
Uncertainty is everywhere: taxes, health care, jobs, stimulus, cut-backs,… How do you invest if you don’t know where you are going? With all due respect to Simon & Garfunkel’s Seven O’clock News (44 years ago), Uncertainty is the greatest single weapon working against the U.S.
It's with great sadness that I have to announce that, due to uncertainty, your kids won't be getting much of an education this year.

With the potential adoption of the common core standards, what the kids will be tested on is going to change, again. With the rise of tying test scores to teacher evaluation, I can't be certain that what I'm teaching is going to be what's tested, because we've decided that my classroom assessments aren't authentic enough.

With the uncertainty around what test will be used to measure the kids--the WASL, the MSP, the NWEA, the DIBELS, AIMS, or the MAP--and the way the cutoff scores change from year to year, I can't be certain if I'm really targetting the right kids for remediation or not. They get Title support based on how they do on two assessments, but we don't really know if those assessments are correlated to success or failure on the state tests.

I'm uncertain why our science scores were terrible, and I'm uncertain that the LASER kits are in any way good enough to get us where we need to be. I'm uncertain how I'm going to buy the supplies to teach science, because I'm paying $730 a month out of pocket for health insurance this year, and that's on top of what the state kicks in.

I can't be certain what I'll make next year, because of LID days. I can't be certain if my school district will have counselors, librarians, art teachers, summer school, or intervention specialists. I'm uncertain that we'll have levy equalization, class size reduction money, or full day kindergarten for our poorest schools.

And I'm uncertain why the uncertainty of the business community is more important than the uncertainty being forced on the public schools. And I'm uncertain how I'm supposed to do more with less, when I'm working like mad to even do the same with less.

Certainty would be nice. For everyone.

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Friday, October 01, 2010

Don Brunell Agrees: Don't Extend the Bush Tax Cuts!

I mean, is there any other way to read this:
There is a lesson for American politicians. Don't make promises to you can't keep.
Actually, he was talking about pensions for government employees, not tax cuts for the top 2%, but that's because some promises are more equal than others.

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