Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Schools prepare for financially bleak year ... again

This from the News-Enterprise:

OUR VIEW:  Educational and economic issue needs new solutions
Hardin County and Elizabethtown Independent school districts recently adopted draft budgets, showing drops in Support Education Excellence in Kentucky money, the main source of revenue for Kentucky’s school districts. These SEEK funds will drop this year from $3,903 to $3,833 per student.

With the state carrying most of a school’s funding, budgeting can be a tricky business, particularly in a less than robust economy.

During the school year that just ended, for example, Hardin County Schools received $1.3 million less than expected in state funding. Now, that district plans to lose another $1.4 million with SEEK cuts. EIS also is working to get through cut on top of SEEK cut.

The recently approved plans are the second step in a three-step school budgeting process. Tentative budgets are approved early in the calendar year and a working budget, the most definite of school budgets, will be approved in September.

Salaries, as is the case for most employers, are the greatest expense. And salaries, as is the case for most of the middle class, aren’t increasing like they once did.

In both districts, teachers will receive what’s called a step increase — meaning they move up on the pay scale because they’ve gained experience — but no other raises are budgeted at this time.

That means something inside and outside the classroom. Certainly, we should flitch at anything endangering education standards. But as one of the largest industries in the county, school districts and their budgets simply are a local economic issue, too.

Consider Hardin County Schools alone. That’s 2,655 people — 2,106 of them are full-time employees — who probably won’t be improving their buying power until at least the second half of 2013. That might mean delaying a home or car purchase or just keeping the firm grip on household budgets. It’s not good news for business throughout our community.

Schools are a key to long-range economic development and improving Kentuckians quality of life. Period. It’s not time to debate its worthiness.

Instead, it’s time to start creating new solutions to protect schools, even go so far as to make them recession proof.

When will enough be enough? When the workforce of the future is pitiful and the workers apologize for learning to read during an economic downturn?

We need big ideas at the legislative level. We need big ideas for educating our children less expensively — that’s different from simply doing more with less, by the way. We need big ideas for creating new or redirected tax revenues.

No more broad solutions puffed up with jargon and tied down with excuses. There’s too much at risk to do any less.

Two EKU alums make good as authors and as consummate professionals

I am way behind in pimping my buddy "Ranger" Rick Robinson's rise to fame and a glorious life among the literati. My third semi-cousin twice removed and fellow Ludlow grad, Robinson really became "a friend" after high school (since he's my baby sister's age). We bonded during our Jaycee days in the early 80s when we first learned how to "count votes." Rick went on to count a lot more votes as Jim Bunning's chief counsel and court jester. Quick witted - even reminiscent of Robin Williams when he's on a roll - Robinson brings humor to every enterprise.

His last book, Sniper Bid, earned 5 national awards: Finalist USA Book News Best Books of 2009; Finalist Best Indie Novel Next Generation Indie Books Awards; Runner-up at the 2009 Nashville Book Festival; Honorable Mentions at the 2008 New England Book Festival and the 2009 Hollywood Book Festival. Throughout 2009 both books appeared on Amazon's Top 100 Best Seller List on the same day.

In Writ of Mandamus, Congressman Richard Thompson's reelection campaign is sent into a tailspin when his opponent files a lawsuit asking the Court to order that Thompson live up to his campaign promises and vote against a pending federal spending bill. Thompson's efforts to dodge the issue thrust him into the middle of a nefarious business deal where arms dealers are using the Keeneland horse sales to illegally run F-14 Tomcat parts to the government of Iran. In a fast-paced story that travels from the storied horse farms of Kentucky to the green fields of Ireland, Thompson is forced to realize that more is at stake than simply a campaign. In the end, an unlikely hero steps forward to make his future path clear. 

This from Don McNay at Ky Forward:
In 1980, I was the “student moderator” for an out of control Young Democrats debate at Eastern Kentucky University.

Student Regent Rick Robinson represented Jimmy Carter and Rob Dollar, the editor of the student newspaper, represented Ted Kennedy. Young Democrats president Jim Biaso was for Jerry Brown.

The “debate” grew more and more raucous each passing round. As moderator, I lost control of the room and it started to resemble a professional wrestling match.

In the final round, Dollar knocked over the podium and gave an impassioned, from the heart, speech about how the country had lost its focus under Carter and needed new leadership.

Robinson responded by singing “God Bless America”

Robinson went on to have a tremendous political career, first as an aide to Congressman Jim Bunning and then as a candidate himself for Bunning’s seat in Congress. Dollar went onto be an award winning journalist in Hopkinsville and Clarksville, Tn.

Now both are successful authors. In a way, both of them can trace their careers back to that debate at Eastern Kentucky University.

Rick’s career as a political insider is a central part of his books and Rob’s passionate advocacy, as a journalist and activist, play into his new book.

Robinson has put out four outstanding works of political fiction. All four are regulars in the Amazon top 100 bestsellers on the political fiction list.

The latest, Writ of Mandamus, was the Grand Prize Winner at the London Book Festival. It is a stunning masterpiece. It has all the plot twists and turns of a Grisham or Tom Clancy novel.
GRAND PRIZE WINNER London Book Festival Best Fiction

Robinson, who was named 2010 Independent Author of the Year, has a main character based on Robinson himself and Rick’s campaign for Congress.

Kentucky references and especially Eastern Kentucky University references are peppered through all of Robinson’s books but especially Writ of Mandamus.

Robinson dedicated the book to Dr. Thomas Myers, the longtime Vice President of Student Affairs at Eastern Kentucky University. When Dr. Myers died, Rick told me that he based his life on the standards that his father, Dr. Myers and Senator Jim Bunning set for him.

A pretty good group of mentors.

Both Rob and Rick reference me in their respective books but Rick has the most creative twist. He has me as a saloon keeper in Ireland.

Based on my family tradition as the ‘son of a son of a gambler” it was an inspired choice.
Rob Dollar co-wrote, When Newspapers Mattered: The News Brothers & Their Shades of Glory with award-winning editor Tim Ghianni.
When Newspapers Mattered is funny, profane, zany, profound and an auto-biographical history of how their work at small newspapers made a difference in an era before a “bottom line” mentality set in the media business...

Both Rick and Rob have remained close and loyal friends since college and I have been proud of their success.

I’m proud that both men have stayed true to the same values they exhibited in college and never “sold out” or stopped following their dreams. Being an author is hard work (I can tell you about that myself) and I am proud of my friends for making their books a reality.

My alma mater also should be proud. The education they received at Eastern Kentucky University shaped the rest of their lives.

We had big dreams in 1980.

Rick and Rob made their dreams happen.

Is Teaching a Science or an Art?

I teach that it is both.

Cognitive scientist Daniel Willingham has another answer.

  This from the Answer Sheet:
Daniel Willingham delves into the true nature of teaching and, in the video below, answers the question: “Is teaching a science or an art?”

Even if the answer seems obvious to you, the video will teach you something nonethless. Willingham is a psychology professor at the University of Virginia and author of “Why Don’t Students Like School?” (The answer, by the way, isn’t as simple as you think. Willingham explains here.)

His next book, “When Can You Trust The Experts? How to tell good science from bad in education,” will be published in July.

Willingham has made a number of what he calls “garage-band quality” videos. This one was posted on his new Science and Education blog.

KDE to Launch Kindergarten Screener

This from the Kentucky Department of Education (Press release):
Starting in the 2013-14 school year, kindergarten classrooms in Kentucky’s public schools will use a readiness screener to ensure that all children receive the support they need to be successful in school.
The Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) has contracted with Curriculum Associates, LLC and will be using the BRIGANCE® Kindergarten Screen as the common kindergarten readiness screener. The screener will be used in all Kentucky kindergarten classrooms to provide information and support children’s learning. Schools and districts also may use this data to collaborate with families and communities to ensure all children are receiving developmentally appropriate educational instruction leading to success.
The kindergarten screener will not be used to determine eligibility for kindergarten. State law provides that all children who are age 5 by October 1 of the school year are eligible to attend kindergarten. (NOTE: Senate Bill 24, passed in the 2012 Regular Session of the Kentucky General Assembly, revises the October 1 date to August 1, beginning in the 2017-18 school year.)
Educators will use the screener to observe students as they complete specific tasks. Data collected from the kindergarten readiness screener will inform teachers of each child’s readiness to learn.
There is no cost to school districts for materials to implement the screener; those are paid for by state funds. The initial contract period is May 23 to June 30, 2012, with options to renew through June 30, 2016. The cost to the state for the first year of implementation will be $8.95 per student, then $3.95 per student in future years for materials replacement.
Approximately 53,000 students are enrolled in kindergarten in Kentucky’s public schools each year.
School districts may use the kindergarten entry screener data in the following ways:
  • to inform educators, parents and communities about early learning in order to close the school readiness gap
  • to inform policy decisions at the local level to support early learning experiences prior to school entry
  • to establish local goals for program improvement in order to achieve early learning outcomes
  • to include data as evidence in the kindergarten through grade 3 Program Review

The BRIGANCE® Kindergarten Screen is aligned to both Kentucky’s School Readiness Definition and Kentucky’s Early Childhood Standards. Five areas are covered by this kindergarten entry screener: adaptive, cognitive, communication, motor and social-emotional.
In its final report, the 2010 Governor’s Early Childhood Taskforce recommended that KDE and the Early Childhood Advisory Council (ECAC) jointly establish the use of a common readiness screener for kindergarten. The proposed state regulation 704 KAR 5:070 will guide the implementation of the kindergarten readiness screener, and data collected through the screener will comply with the regulation’s mandates.
Data collected through the use of a kindergarten readiness screener will ensure that all children receive educational instruction to meet individual needs. The kindergarten readiness screener will not be used in isolation, but will be an important step in an ongoing assessment process. The proposed regulation indicates that children be screened no more than 15 calendar days prior to school starting and no later than the 30th instructional day of the school year.
It is anticipated that the kindergarten readiness screener will be mandatory and fully implemented in all kindergarten classrooms in the 2013-14 school year.
KDE invites school districts to volunteer to use the BRIGANCE® Kindergarten Screen during the 2012-13 school year, either in all schools or in selected schools. Volunteer districts will agree to comply with the expectations set forth in the proposed regulation. Any district interested in volunteering to participate in the use of the screener process for the 2012-13 school year must complete a survey at by Wednesday, June 6.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

School board meets in secret to evaluate JCPS superintendent

Hargens' first year is being evaluated

This from The Courier-Journal:

The Jefferson County Board of Education met privately for three hours Tuesday afternoon as they began evaluating Superintendent Donna Hargens’ first year on the job.
Following the three-hour executive session, school board chairman Steve Imhoff said no action was taken during the meeting and he expects there to be public discussion of Hargens’ evaluation at the school board’s June 11 meeting.

“We started the process of evaluating Dr. Hargens, and I think we had a really good discussion,” he said. “This process will continue over the next few weeks.”

The school board was allowed to hold Tuesday’s discussion in executive session under a 2010 law that allows portions of the process to be conducted in secret.

Three years ago, after former Superintendent Sheldon Berman's evaluation was discussed in private, The Courier-Journal filed a complaint with Attorney General Jack Conway, contending that the board had violated the state's open-meetings law.

After Conway issued an opinion agreeing with the newspaper, the school board took the matter to circuit court. In December 2009, Jefferson Circuit Judge Irv Maze concurred with the attorney general and ordered the board to pay $20,258 in attorney fees to the newspaper.

During the 2010 legislative session, however, a law was approved to allow preliminary superintendent evaluations to be handled in executive session, with the final evaluations to be discussed and voted on in public.

Imhoff is the only school board member who has not been in favor of holding the evaluations in private. He said Tuesday he still believes that a superintendent’s evaluation should be done in the public “since the school district is funded by taxpayer money.” ...

Monday, May 28, 2012

How Charters Compete

This from Diane Ravitch:
A while back, I read a story in the New York Times that really bothered me.

It explained that neighborhood public schools are now compelled to “market” themselves because of competition with charters. In Harlem, charters are omnipresent, and the city administration has closed many public schools to make way for charters. New York City Department of Education officials make clear their preference for charters, leaving no one to fight for or defend the public schools against their competitors. If charters want public school space, they get it, usually over the opposition of the parents and community.

But what was so striking about the story–and you have to read to the end to find this–was the contrast between the resources of the public school and the invading charter. The public school had $500 or less to market itself, with flyers, brochures, volunteers. The charter–in this case, Harlem Success Academy–spent $325,000.

Wow. How can a public school compete when the charter can expend $325,000 to persuade people to participate in the lottery?

This story made me realize that the lottery isn’t really about admission to the school. The lottery is a marketing device. By whipping up interest, curiosity, and enthusiasm, all that money produces large numbers of applicants for the lottery. The lottery is an extravaganza with balloons, the turning of the wheel, the announcement of the winners, the disappointment of the losers. The daughter of a hedge fund manager in Connecticut, who is deeply involved in the charter school “movement,” produced a documentary called “The Lottery,” to promote charters.

Marketing is part of the business plan. Public relations is part of the business plan. Promoting the idea that charters are a cure for the ills of poverty is part of the business plan. Presenting charters as “the civil right idea” of our time is part of the business plan (a cry echoed by both Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney)...

Pensions and the New York City Budget

This from the New York Times:
Few investors are more bullish these days than public pension funds. 

While Americans are typically earning less than 1 percent interest on their savings accounts and watching their 401(k) balances yo-yo along with the stock market, most public pension funds are still betting they will earn annual returns of 7 to 8 percent over the long haul, a practice that Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg recently called “indefensible.”  

Now public pension funds across the country are facing a painful reckoning. Their projections look increasingly out of touch in today’s low-interest environment, and pressure is mounting to be more realistic. But lowering their investment assumptions, even slightly, means turning for more cash to local taxpayers — who pay part of the cost of public pensions through property and other taxes.
In New York, the city’s chief actuary, Robert North, has proposed lowering the assumed rate of return for the city’s five pension funds to 7 percent from 8 percent, which would be one of the sharpest reductions by a public pension fund in the United States. But that change would mean finding an additional $1.9 billion for the pension system every year, a huge amount for a city already depositing more than a tenth of its budget — $7.3 billion a year — into the funds. 

But to many observers, even 7 percent is too high in today’s market conditions. 

“The actuary is supposedly going to lower the assumed reinvestment rate from an absolutely hysterical, laughable 8 percent to a totally indefensible 7 or 7.5 percent,” Mr. Bloomberg said during a trip to Albany in late February. “If I can give you one piece of financial advice: If somebody offers you a guaranteed 7 percent on your money for the rest of your life, you take it and just make sure the guy’s name is not Madoff.”...

CBO Report Says Deficit Reduction Will Cause New Recession

This from the Huffington Post:
A new government report said spending cuts scheduled to go into effect in 2013, coupled with the simultaneous expiration of Bush-era tax cuts, will shrink the U.S. economy and raise unemployment -- contradicting the Republican claim that reducing the federal budget deficit will spur economic growth.
The Congressional Budget Office report, released on Tuesday, estimated that the policies slated to kick in on Jan. 1 would slash the deficit and shrink the national economy by 1.3 percent during the first half of next year, likely throwing the country over a "fiscal cliff" into another recession. 
If left in place, the current policies would reduce the federal deficit by $607 billion, or 4 percent of gross domestic product, the report said. That reduction, from immediate tax increases or spending cuts, would "represent an added drag on the weak economic expansion," the CBO noted in its report.
"The resulting weakening of the economy will lower taxable incomes and raise unemployment, generating a reduction in tax revenues and an increase in spending on such items as unemployment insurance," the report said. 
The CBO report offers a stark contrast to a standard Republican argument. While Republicans frequently target President Barack Obama for the approximately $5 trillion increase in federal debt since he took office in 2009, this report suggested that rapid deficit reduction would cause short-term harm to the economic recovery. 
Many expect Congress to act on the fiscal restraints imposed as a result of last year's failed "super committee" negotiations, prior to the Jan. 1 deadline...

Obama spending binge never happened

This from Rex Nutting at the Wall Street Journal's Market Watch:

Of all the falsehoods told about President Barack Obama, 
the biggest whopper is the one about his reckless spending spree

As would-be president Mitt Romney tells it: “I will lead us out of this debt and spending inferno.” 

Almost everyone believes that Obama has presided over a massive increase in federal spending, an “inferno” of spending that threatens our jobs, our businesses and our children’s future. Even Democrats seem to think it’s true.
But it didn’t happen. Although there was a big stimulus bill under Obama, federal spending is rising at the slowest pace since Dwight Eisenhower brought the Korean War to an end in the 1950s. 

Even hapless Herbert Hoover managed to increase spending more than Obama has. 

Here are the facts, according to the official government statistics:

In the 2009 fiscal year — the last of George W. Bush’s presidency — federal spending rose by 17.9% from $2.98 trillion to $3.52 trillion. Check the official numbers at the Office of Management and Budget. 
In fiscal 2010 — the first budget under Obama — spending fell 1.8% to $3.46 trillion. 

In fiscal 2011, spending rose 4.3% to $3.60 trillion. 

In fiscal 2012, spending is set to rise 0.7% to $3.63 trillion, according to the Congressional Budget Office’s estimate of the budget that was agreed to last August. 

Finally in fiscal 2013 — the final budget of Obama’s term — spending is scheduled to fall 1.3% to $3.58 trillion. Read the CBO’s latest budget outlook.
Over Obama’s four budget years, federal spending is on track to rise from $3.52 trillion to $3.58 trillion, an annualized increase of just 0.4%.

There has been no huge increase in spending under the current president, despite what you hear.

Why do people think Obama has spent like a drunken sailor? It’s in part because of a fundamental misunderstanding of the federal budget.

What people forget (or never knew) is that the first year of every presidential term starts with a budget approved by the previous administration and Congress. The president only begins to shape the budget in his second year. It takes time to develop a budget and steer it through Congress — especially in these days of congressional gridlock. 

The 2009 fiscal year, which Republicans count as part of Obama’s legacy, began four months before Obama moved into the White House. The major spending decisions in the 2009 fiscal year were made by George W. Bush and the previous Congress. 

Like a relief pitcher who comes into the game with the bases loaded, Obama came in with a budget in place that called for spending to increase by hundreds of billions of dollars in response to the worst economic and financial calamity in generations. 

By no means did Obama try to reverse that spending. Indeed, his budget proposals called for even more spending in subsequent years. But the Congress (mostly Republicans, but many Democrats too) stopped him. If Obama had been a king who could impose his will, perhaps what the Republicans are saying about an Obama spending binge would be accurate. 

Yet the actual record doesn’t show a reckless increase in spending. Far from it. 

Before Obama had even lifted a finger, the CBO was already projecting that the federal deficit would rise to $1.2 trillion in fiscal 2009. The government actually spent less money in 2009 than it was projected to, but the deficit expanded to $1.4 trillion because revenue from taxes fell much further than expected, due to the weak economy and the emergency tax cuts that were part of the stimulus bill. 

The projected deficit for the 2010-13 period has grown from an expected $1.7 trillion in January 2009 to $4.4 trillion today. Lower-than-forecast revenue accounts for 73% of the $2.7 trillion increase in the expected deficit. That’s assuming that the Bush and Obama tax cuts are repealed completely. 

When Obama took the oath of office, the $789 billion bank bailout had already been approved. Federal spending on unemployment benefits, food stamps and Medicare was already surging to meet the dire unemployment crisis that was well under way. See the CBO’s January 2009 budget outlook. 
Obama is not responsible for that increase, though he is responsible (along with the Congress) for about $140 billion in extra spending in the 2009 fiscal year from the stimulus bill, from the expansion of the children’s’ health-care program and from other appropriations bills passed in the spring of 2009. 

If we attribute that $140 billion in stimulus to Obama and not to Bush, we find that spending under Obama grew by about $200 billion over four years, amounting to a 1.4% annualized increase. 

After adjusting for inflation, spending under Obama is falling at a 1.4% annual pace — the first decline in real spending since the early 1970s, when Richard Nixon was retreating from the quagmire in Vietnam. 

In per-capita terms, real spending will drop by nearly 5% from $11,450 per person in 2009 to $10,900 in 2013 (measured in 2009 dollars). 

By the way, real government spending rose 12.3% a year in Hoover’s four years. Now there was a guy who knew how to attack a depression by spending government money!

Monday, May 21, 2012

A Faith-based Initiative in the FCPS Transportation Department

For at least the second time, magical elements have been called into service to rid a Fayette County School bus of evil spirits.

A circle of salt, smashed strawberries, and feathers from some unfortunate (or is it heroic?) bird were essential elements in a cleansing ceremony performed by one FCPS driver on Thursday. The ceremony, which is said to be religious, was apparently well-intended; to keep the children safe through the elimination of unspecified evil spirits. One assumes the driver's involved were not thinking of the children themselves.

Still it is unclear how well Fayette County parents will accept this particular faith-based initiative.

According to The Only Wiccan Spell Book You'll Ever Need, at page 74 (ahem), it is the
Wiccans' modern awareness of the pathological problems associated with the use of actual blood that has led Wiccans to substitute strawberries or passion fruit in today's spell recipes. 

School officials told H-L they are handling the matter administratively. I wonder what that means.

This from WLEX:
School officials are looking into some strange happenings at a Fayette County bus garage Thursday after one witness found the leftovers of what she calls a voodoo ceremony. Some call it a joke, others say it's nothing to laugh about.
The ceremony happened at the bus garage on Old Frankfort Pike, and it had many people who saw it doing a double take. Photos sent to LEX 18 show what was left afterward, including feathers tied to the bus door, and another picture of a red-colored mess on the ground near the bus that's said to be a pile of mashed up strawberries, apparently one of the elements used in the ceremony.
A spokesperson for Fayette County says a bus driver who is a member of the Wiccan faith was asked by another bus driver to cleanse his bus of "evil spirits." The so-called cleansing ceremony took place after all the routes were over and no students were involved.
School officials say when they found out, they cleaned up the material and are handling the incident administratively.
Is there really a policy to turn to for such an occurrence? KSN&C has been told the driver has been "talked to" about this before. Assuming that talk included a request that the individual refrain from eliminating evil in this particular manner, what's next? One supposes this to be a matter of maybe a really stern talking to is in order.

I suppose an insubordination charge might hold up, assuming the district can legally request the driver to stop getting salt on the ground; and do so without alarming the maintenance department's road crews. But district officials have until next winter to worry about that.

Alternatively, the driver might be employed by the district to make salt circles around the Director's office. Weave a circle 'round him thrice....

A friend, FCPS employee, and KSN&C reader asked, "Can things get any worse at FCPS Transportation?"

Perhaps we will soon be able to quit worrying. Apparently, higher powers are being called do something.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Did Marcus Dobbs Get a Sweetheart Deal from Silberman?

When KSN&C posts reports from sources, while we don't reveal their names, we do know who they are and that, in fact, they are in a position to know the information they share. So the information we are sharing today comes with a warning - I do not know the source(s) other than they claim to be white women in the FCPS Transportation Department. Treat it as a rumor.

The reason I'm running (a greatly reduced version of) the information they provided is that some of it has been verified through other sources. The precise data mentioned however has not been confirmed.

An individual with the colorful handle, "Pissed Mary" ( claims that a number of white female members of the FCPS Transportation Division are upset because of an 11th hour appointment that Stu Silberman made just prior to his departure.

Mary says:
When Stu decided to retire, a couple of weeks before he left, everyone was shocked when he used his power to “appoint” Marcus Dobbs to a position of Assistant Director simply because he was a minority and he had to supposedly meet minority quotas.  John Kiser even seemed surprised at this move. He is sooo unqualified, he had not earned this position, and was given a big boost in pay, just like all the other positions that he held in transportation before. He is nothing more than a routing supervisor with big bucks!!!  How do you justify that to us~  Board Members, Mary Browning, and Stu?
Apparently the shell of this allegation is true. Marcus Dobbs was a member of the committee that brought Silberman to Fayette County and served as some kind of courier/helper for Stu during his convalescence following a bad spill from his bicycle a few years back. Dobb's appointment to a position that didn't exist may have surprised Director John Kiser, but it shocked the heck out of the district's only female Router, Kim Webb, who upon learning that she had no opportunity to compete for the newly created position, got up from her desk and made a beeline to Mary Browning's office to complain. Obviously, nothing came of her complaint. Stu was Mary's boss. But we hear that every chance she gets to make Dobbs look bad, she takes.

Dobbs serves as Assistant Director, but he does not supervise the Routers - making him more of an Assistant to the Director, rather than an Assistant Director. Yet, in his position Dobbs draws a big salary.

If Silberman ever operated under a racial quota, I am not aware of it. Still, he may have felt pressure to show some effort toward the advancement of African Americans late in his tenure. KSN&C, for one, was questioning why employment levels among African American teachers and Administrators lagged during his administration.

Was the appointment of Dobbs a sweetheart deal?
Let’s be more specific. Every year the Lexington Herald Leader publishes the yearly salaries for the FCPS employees. Check it out at: – then News-then salary/databases and then type in the small search engine at the top of the page (Fayette county public school salaries), then type in the employee name and scroll down and you will find the same information I am telling you.  Everything I am about to unload are pure facts, so hold on to your seat.

How many white women  routing supervisors ever made $64,954.00 per year?
Answer: NONE~ they weren’t friends of Stu Silbermans!

You can even go to the: FCPS board meeting minutes at  for the past five years to find out how Marcus Dobbs salary has increased at the tax payers’ expense. Check in the April or May budget minutes.  Well, wait, I’ll just tell you and save you the time.

·         2006/2007  White woman routing supervisor made $29,127.60
·         2007/2008  Marcus Dobbs $59,033.
·         2008/2009  Marcus Dobbs $61,933
·         2009/2010  Marcus Dobbs $64,954
·         2010/2011  Marcus Dobbs $77,847
 -         2011/2012  Marcus Dobbs $85,613
KSN&C sources say that is it Dobb's job to do Kiser's dirty work, so that he can keep his hands clean.

Mary goes on to suggest that:
  • Dobbs only supervises 3 people in routing.  
  • His job of providing customer service is a joke.
  • We have a white woman manager of Liberty Road bus garage with 15 years experience, makes 52k, and supervises 250 employees
  • We have a white man at the Miles Point bus garage, and has 3 years experience, supervises 150 employees and makes 48k a year.
  • Many, many employees are watching to see what happens with John Kiser.
  • Marcus has stated that his appointment as Director of Transportation is “in the bag.”
  • Marcus does a good job as a routing supervisor, but …. Does he deserve almost (100K) for being a minority and Stu’s friend?  Hell No! 
Apparently the Board is considering issues related to salary next week and folks in Transportation are paying attention. 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Wasted Effort Sends Another Bad Message in FCPS Transportation

It has taken me longer than anticipated to dig out from under the pile of work that had arrived on my desk recently. I have a backlog of material from April, and blogging continues to be lighter than normal. I have resolved "my Cassidy problem" and will post something on it soon. I hope to be back at full strength after the 8th International Symposium on School Reform (ISER) wraps up at UK in mid June.

But I have no complaint. The work is satisfying, and as I complete one task I can simply move on the the next. I don't have to do specific tasks over and over again. Too bad the Fayette County Schools Transportation Department managers and supervisors couldn't say that last month.

A February audit of district practices--on the academic side--called for more consistency in evaluation. Had the "diagnostic review" looked at operations, it may well have reported the same problem. Sources within Transportation Department leadership tell KSN&C that a meeting was held with managers and supervisors this spring to review the district's evaluation system. The system is based on a 5-point scale. But at that meeting, according to several who were in attendance, Transportation Director John Kiser directed his staff that "nobody should get over a 3." The supervisors and managers dutifully completed the process as they were instructed.

Meanwhile, in other departments, FCPS staff were being evaluated using the full scale of 5 points. Wanna guess what happened next? Transportation folks suddenly wanted to know why they were the only ones marked down on their evaluations. So much for consistency. Kiser had to obtain an extension on the due date, and all managers and supervisors had to complete a rush job of redoing all of the evaluations they had already done according to instructions, to put their ratings back in line.

In the April 17th bulletin, now titled "Training and Safety," (wasn't it formerly called the We Sheet?)  the department explains it this way:
Due to the inflated nature of previous annual evaluations, the district has developed new forms that were designed to more accurately depict grading of individual performance. Unfortunately, the new system caused some people to feel they were being downgraded.
Of course they felt that way because that's exactly what was happening. The new system, with Kiser's instructions, was meant to downgrade employees, but the department finds it unfortunate that transportation employees might notice and care? It's apparently those pesky feelings that are the problem.
Nobody wants to be considered average, and in order to correct the feeling that the grades did not accurately depict actual performance; all supervisors have been instructed to review their evaluations and to consider the 3-4 grades as a single "Component" category with the 3 representing the base level and the 4 representing the high end of the category.
So, if we understand Kiser correctly, either he just learned that nobody wants to be considered average, or he knew it at the time he instructed his supervisors to downgrade his employees. Apparently, the real problem for Kiser is that anyone would have negative feelings about being downgraded. How should an employee with perfect attendance feel about being downgraded to a 3? The strong implication remains that Kiser doesn't think much of the performance of his staff.
Explanation is needed for any grade 5's. An example would be that perfect attendance would be a 5, no more than 5 absences might be a 4, and more than 10 but less than 12 might be a 3. Many evaluation forms will be redone and new signatures will be requested. Any changes will be a higher number. None of the scores will be lowered. Therefore, there won't be a lot of time for discussion. We have a two-week extension on the completion time in order to accomplish the changes.
So shut up and let us get this mess cleaned up. Is it fair to ask how Kiser would feel about his own evaluation? Does he score higher than a 3 in staff relations, and if so, what's the explanation for that?

ALEC's Common Core Vote Now Under Public Microscope

This from State EdWatch:
At this rate, the American Legislative Exchange Council will be "about as clandestine as the National Football League," to use a Dave Barry phrase from a different context.

You may recall that both my colleague Catherine Gewertz and I have written about a resolution at ALEC opposing the Common Core State Standards. The common core, unlike other issues such as model legislation supporting charter schools and vouchers, has caused some dissent in the conservative policy shop. Without getting too deeply into the details, the group's Education Task Force approved the anti-Common Core resolution, but the group's board of directors did not. Now, ALEC is set to consider the resolution [at an upcoming meeting].

That reconsideration is being watched very closely. Stephanie Banchero of The Wall Street Journal wrote on May 8 that the group's deliberations could deliver a big hit to common core. Then on May 10, with a headline that read "'Common Core' Education Fight to Test ALEC's Conservative Chops," two other conservative think tanks, the American Principles Project (based in Washington) and the Pioneer Institute (based in Boston), directly appealed to ALEC to approve the resolution opposing the standards, which 46 states and the District of Columbia have agreed to adopt.

Both think tanks have produced a "white paper" (jargon for a "report") and a resolution that a state could use as a model to oppose the common core.

In a press release accompanying the report and resolution, Liv Finne, of the Washington Policy Center (yet another conservative think tank) stated directly that: "The ALEC board should approve the resolution. ... At stake is whether the government responds to the people or to other interests." Emmett McGroarty of the American Principles Project said the report details how the common core was created by "private interests and trade associations" and strongly promoted by the U.S. Department of Education. Finally, the Pioneer Institute's executive director, Jim Stergios, said three federal laws would be violated by the common core's tests.

Not to be outdone, Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, a Democrat, announced May 10 that he was "available to defend" the common core... Markell wrote a 2010 op-ed piece with Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, a Republican, praising the standards initiative. He believes that the standards will positively impact America's place in the world.

Magnets Reimagined as School Choice Option

This from Education Week:
Once considered a solution to desegregate racially divided districts, magnet schools today have been forced to evolve, given legal barriers that bar using race to determine school enrollment and increasing pressure to provide more public school choices.

In a post-desegregation era, many large districts like Chicago, Los Angeles, and Baltimore County, have maintained high numbers of magnet schools, even amid the economic downturn, and others are using magnets as a strategy to meet new goals around improving school quality.

The changing definitions and demands have left the purpose and future of magnet schools in flux, according to magnet school advocates and researchers, particularly as the charter school movement continues to gather steam on national and state levels.

“This is a pivotal time for school districts and education leaders to clearly define the role of magnet schools,” said Claire Smrekar, an associate professor of education at Vanderbilt University, in Nashville, Tenn., who has researched magnet schools for decades. “The future of magnet schools will depend upon which policy values and priorities school leaders embrace and whether the federal role will emphasize racial diversity as an educational goal or place the highest value instead on accountability and innovation exclusively, at the expense of diversity.”

Will We Listen to the Teacher?

This from Melinda Gates at the Impatient Optimsts:
When Bill and I first started thinking seriously about philanthropy, we realized we were both passionate about education. We were so lucky to attend great schools, and that made a huge difference in our lives. And we’re still convinced today that investing in great schools for all children would help every person have a chance at a successful life.
Over the years, we have studied schools that succeed against the odds, with students overcoming poverty or lack of school resources. What we’ve learned is that students with great teachers learn three times as much as students with ineffective teachers. But we’ve also learned that teachers simply do not get enough support to tap into their expertise and empower them to shape the reforms that impact their profession.

These learnings suggest a clear strategy: give all teachers the support they need to help their students reach the highest standards. 

This is why, yesterday, I was thrilled to take part in the PBS Teacher Town Hall as part of its American Graduate series. The series broadly fosters discussions about addressing the high school dropout crisis in America. We talked specifically about giving teachers a voice in how we improve and transform schools and what teachers need to be the best teachers they can be.

During the Town Hall, I shared some of the things I’ve learned from teachers. We’ve heard about the joys of teaching, as well as their struggles, and their concerns about changes to their profession. We’ve learned that the current system tells most teachers this: By the end of the year, your students need to have learned the subject you are teaching.

That’s it.

We don’t do a very good job identifying for teachers the most important concepts in their subject areas, and we rarely give them the kinds of rich classroom materials that can help them teach these concepts effectively. They rarely receive meaningful feedback about how they—and their students—are doing.

But it’s clear that teachers want a lot more. In fact, a survey conducted by Scholastic (with support from the foundation) shows that teachers want feedback. They want training that helps them become more effective in the classroom.

And they want to be heard. They want to contribute meaningfully to the dialogue about how to improve our schools and our education system.

This is in line with my own experience growing up. I went to school at the very beginning of the personal computer revolution. One of my teachers, Ms. Bauer, saw a demonstration of an early PC at a conference, and she made up her mind to start a computer program at our school. She was a full-time mom and a full-time teacher, but she got a degree in computer science so she could teach us about this powerful new technology. By the time I graduated, I knew I wanted to major in computer science.

This wasn’t something girls were supposed to do. But Ms. Bauer gave me the confidence and the knowledge to beat the odds.

Every child deserves a teacher who helps them beat the odds. Working together, with a focus on supporting teachers, and ensuring that teachers are heard, we can build a school system where the odds are better for all children.

President Obama calls charter schools 'incubators of innovation' in National Charter Schools Week proclamation

This from MLive:
President Barack Obama says the nation’s charter schools “serve as incubators of innovation in neighborhoods across our country,” and issued a proclamation calling this “National Charter Schools Week.” 
The charter movement in Michigan has been loudly opposed by Democrats, who argue that some of the schools are run by for-profit management companies, and some Republicans.

But Obama has been a supporter, sometimes frustrating state teachers union leaders.

In a proclamation released by the White House today, Obama said charter schools for years “have brought new ideas to the work of educating our sons and daughters.”

“Whether created by parents and teachers or community and civic leaders, charter schools serve as incubators of innovation in neighborhoods across our country,” he said in a release.

“These institutions give educators the freedom to cultivate new teaching models and develop creative methods to meet students' needs. This unique  flexibility is matched by strong accountability and high standards, so under-performing charter schools can be closed, while those that consistently help students succeed can serve as models of reform for other public schools.”

Obama said that a good education is “no longer just a pathway to opportunity -- it is an imperative.”
“Our children only get one chance at an education, and charter schools demonstrate what is possible when States, communities, teachers, parents, and students work together. This week, let us recommit to ensuring all our children receive a high-quality education that expands their horizons, inspires them to develop their talents, and instills in them a sense of possibility for their futures.”

Charter schools are one of a handful of issues where Obama and teachers unions – and many Democrats -- don’t see eye-to-eye...

Beyond Need and Merit: Strengthening State Grant Programs

This from the Brookings Institution with an interactive map: 
Rising college tuition levels—accelerated by cuts in state funding for public universities— have combined with today's tough economic realities to make financing a postsecondary education even more difficult for students and their families. State grant programs are more important than ever to make college possible for many students who could not otherwise afford to enroll.

For these dollars to make as much difference as possible in the lives of students and in the future of state economies, state grant programs must be designed to produce the largest possible return on taxpayers' investment. In this report, the Brookings Institution State Grant Aid Study Group, chaired by student aid expert Sandy Baum, examines the variety of state grant programs currently in place and makes policy recommendations based on the best available research.

The group proposes moving away from the dichotomy between “need-based” and “merit-based” aid and instead designing programs that integrate targeting of students with financial need with appropriate expectations and support for college success. Here are highlights from their recommendations:

Help students with financial need
• To maximize the impact of their financial aid programs, states should do a better job of targeting aid dollars at students whose potential to succeed is most constrained by limited resources.
• Students whose options are constrained by limited resources are most likely to be affected by state grant awards—in terms of both their ability to attend college and the likelihood that they will graduate.
Consolidate and simplify
• States should consolidate programs to make the system simpler and easier for prospective students and their families to understand and navigate.
• Programs can be better targeted but still relatively simple. Look-up tables like those that would base grant eligibility only on income and family size might serve as a model.
• States should welcome federal simplification efforts and should resist any temptation to collect additional data—restoring complication even as the federal government reduces it.
• States should create a single net-price calculator that students can use to calculate the cost of attendance at every public institution in the state.

Design programs that encourage timely completion
• To encourage on-time degree attainment, state grant programs should reward concrete accomplishments such as the completion of credit hours.
• Academic requirements embodied in state grant programs should provide meaningful incentives for success in college; they should not be focused exclusively on past achievement or be so high as to exclude students on the margin of college access and success.
• States should provide second chances for students who lose funding because they do not meet targets the first time around.

Improving state grant programs in difficult financial times
• Rationing funds is unavoidable and there may be no good options under these circumstances, but some choices are worse than others. Providing assistance to those who apply early and denying aid to those who apply after the money has run out is quite arbitrary, particularly if an application deadline cannot be specified in advance.
• States under pressure to reduce their budgets quickly could lower income limits; cut grants for all recipients, with the neediest students losing the least; or build more incentives for college completion into their programs.
• States should use this time of financial exigency to carefully evaluate the effectiveness of existing grant programs and put in place systems for periodic review of these programs.
• In addition to tweaking their existing programs, states should test and evaluate innovative approaches. A pilot program found to be very successful could then be scaled up and replace another program found to be less effective.

Kentucky tax reform moving ahead

This from The Courier-Journal:
Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson says he’s pleased with the early steps of the tax-reform panel that he chairs by appointment of his boss, Gov. Steve Beshear.
But some legislators who sit as nonvoting members of the panel caution that the goal of winning passage of a major tax reform in a politically divided General Assembly is a monumental challenge.

Beshear appointed the 23-member commission in February to recommend a plan to make Kentucky’s tax system more fair, more competitive with neighboring states, and capable of generating revenue to pay for the services Kentuckians need.

“I feel good,” Abramson said after the commission’s third meeting on Tuesday. “Members of the commission now share a basic knowledge of the tax system. Our next step will be to give the public an opportunity to engage.”

The state has also hired a team of three consultants on a $59,860 contract to study Kentucky’s system and make a report to the commission by Aug. 31. The consultants are William Hoyt, director of the Martin School of Public Policy and Administration at the University of Kentucky; and Michael Childress, policy adviser to the dean of the College of Communications and Information Studies at UK; and William Fox, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Tennessee.

Hoyt told the commission Tuesday the consulting team would provide detailed data. The data, he said, will allow commissioners to see where Kentucky’s system is different and allow them to recommend how to make it more fair, simple, competitive and able to generate sufficient revenues.

“We’re not going to be making any statements about what’s a fair or unfair tax,” Hoyt said. But he said the data will show commission members “how our current tax structures, and alternative proposals, affect distribution of who pays the taxes under different scenarios.”

Robo-graders like ETS’s E-Rater aren’t good enough yet.

Standardized tests will finally ask good essay questions. 

But robot grading threatens that progress.

This from Dana Goldstein in Slate:
In 2002, Indiana rolled out computer scoring of its 11th grade state writing exam. At the time, ETS, the company that developed Indiana’s software, said automatic writing assessment could help cut the state’s testing budget in half. But by 2007, Indiana had abandoned the practice.

Why? Though ETS’s E-Rater proved adept at scoring so-called “naked” essays based only on personal opinion, it couldn’t reliably handle questions that required students to demonstrate knowledge from the curriculum. State testing officials tried making lists of keywords the software could scan for: in history, for example, “Queen Isabella,” “Columbus,” and “1492.” But the program didn’t understand the relationship between those items, and so would have given full credit to a sentence like, “Queen Isabella sailed 1,492 ships to Columbus, Ohio.” Cost and time savings never materialized, because most tests also had to be looked at by human graders.

Indiana’s experience is worth keeping in mind, since although the technology has not advanced dramatically over the past decade, we’re now in the midst of a new whirlwind of enthusiasm about electronic writing assessment. Last month, after a study from Mark Shermis of the University of Akron announced that computer programs and people award student-writing samples similar grades, an NPR headline teased, “Can a Computer Program Grade Essays As Well As a Human? Maybe Even Better, Study Says.” Education technology entrepreneur Tom Vander Ark, who co-directed the Shermis study, hailed the results as proof that robo-grading is “fast, accurate, and cost-effective.”

He is right about “fast”: E-Rater can reportedly grade 16,000 essays in 20 seconds. But “accurate” and “cost-effective” are debatable, especially if we want students to write not only about what they think and feel, but also about what they know. Testing companies acknowledge it is easy to game the current generation of robo-graders: Such software rewards longer word counts, unusual vocabulary, transition words such as “however” and “therefore,” and grammatical sentences—whether or not the facts contained within the sentences are correct. To address these problems, the Hewlett Foundation, which also paid for the Shermis study, is offering a $100,000 prize to the team of computer programmers that can make the biggest strides in improving the technology.
The recent push for automated essay scoring comes just as we’re on the verge of making standardized essay tests much more sophisticated in ways robo-graders will have difficulty dealing with. One of the major goals of the new Common Core curriculum standards, which 45 states have agreed to adopt, is to supplant the soft-focus “personal essay” writing that currently predominates in American classrooms with more evidence-driven, subject-specific writing. The creators of the Common Core hope machines can soon score these essays cheaply and quickly, saving states money in a time of harsh education budget cuts. But since robo-graders can’t broadly distinguish fact from fiction, adopting such software prematurely could be antithetical to testing students in more challenging essay-writing genres...

Court Orders Further Review of N.C. District's Assignment Plan

This from The School Law Blog:
A federal appeals court has ordered a lower court to give greater scrutiny to a North Carolina school district's student-assignment plan, suggesting that the district's move away from racial diversity goals is inconsistent with a long-running court-supervised desegregation plan.

The case involves the 23,000-student Pitt County school district, which has been under court supervision for desegregation since the 1960s. The case was largely dormant when, in 2006, a parents' group filed a complaint about race-conscious student assignments with the U.S. Department of Education's office for civil rights. The district and the parents' group, the Greenville Parents Association, clashed before settling the complaint, with the parents' group backing away from efforts to have the district declared unitary, or legally desegregated. The district, meanwhile, agreed to include the parents' group in the planning and discussion for its 2011-12 assignment plan.(The district's enrollment is 48.3 percent black, 38.3 percent white, and 9.2 percent Hispanic this year.)

In 2010, the school district adopted a plan with less reliance on racial diversity and ended up with a new school with a high concentration of minority students. This prompted complaints from a second parents' group, the Pitt County Coalition for Educating Black Children, that the plan was moving the district toward more racially identifiable schools with lowered student achievement.

The coalition sought the intervention of the U.S. District Court overseeing the district's desegregation orders. The coalition argued that the 2011-12 student assignment plan moved the district further away from becoming a unitary system.

The district court sided against the coalition, ruling in August 2011 that intervention would disrupt the school system and that a review of the district's progress towards unitary status was due by December 2012.

The coalition appealed, and in a May 7 decision, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, in Richmond, Va., ruled 2-1 to set aside the lower court's decision.

"Given that there is no dispute that the school district has not attained unitary status, the evidentiary burden should have been on the School Board to prove that the 2011-12 Assignment Plan is consistent with the controlling desegregation orders and fulfills the School Board's affirmative duty to eliminate the vestiges of discrimination and move toward unitary status," Judge James A. Wynn Jr. said for the majority in Everett v. Pitt County Board of Education.

The court remanded the case to the district court for further factual development.

In dissent, U.S. Circuit Judge Paul V. Niemeyer said the 2009 settlement of the Greenville Parents Association's OCR complaint purported to settle all disputes in the desegregation case "going back to the 1960s and 1970s." The burden of proof was properly on the other parents' group, the Pitt County Coalition for Educating Black Children, when it brought its motion to have the district court reject the 2011-12 assignment plan, and the district court properly rejected the group's efforts, Judge Niemeyer said.

The coalition is represented by the Center for Civil Rights at the University of North Carolina law school, which has a Web page devoted to the case that includes legal briefs for both the coalition and the school district.

Breathitt school superintendent jailed for violating terms of bond

This from The Herald-Leader:

Breathitt County Schools Superintendent Arch Turner must stay in jail until his trial on federal vote-buying charges because he probably would try to influence witnesses if left free on bond, a federal judge has ruled.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert E. Wier revoked Turner's bond after a hearing Tuesday, ordering Turner jailed immediately.

Wier had released Turner from custody after he was arrested in the vote-buying case in March.

One condition of Turner's pretrial release was that he not have contact with prosecution witnesses or with defendants in the case, except through his attorneys.

However, evidence at the hearing showed Turner went to the home of another man charged with him, former county Sheriff John L. Turner, and discussed the case, Wier said in an order filed Wednesday.

Among other things, Arch Turner discussed lining up stories among defendants and witnesses in his trial and a related case, Wier said.

Read more here:

School-Standards Pushback

This from
STANDARDSThe Common Core national math and reading standards, adopted by 46 states and the District of Columbia two years ago, are coming under attack from some quarters as a federal intrusion into state education matters.

The voluntary academic standards, which specify what students should know in each grade, were heavily promoted by the Obama administration through its $4.35 billion Race to the Top education-grant competition. States that instituted changes such as common learning goals received bonus points in their applications.

Supporters say the Common Core standards better prepare students for college or the workforce, and are important as the U.S. falls behind other nations in areas such as math proficiency.

A 2010 report from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a right-leaning educational-research group, said the Common Core standards "are clearly superior to those currently in use in 39 states in math and 37 states in English. For 33 states, the Common Core is superior in both math and reading."

But conservative lawmakers and governors in at least five states, including Utah and Alabama, recently have been pushing to back out, or slow down implementation, of Common Core. They worry that adoption of the standards has created a de facto national curriculum that could at some point be extended into more controversial areas such as science...

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

How My Child Skipped the State Tests

A homework assignment for third graders in Astoria: 
Fill in the bubbles to practice for state exams. 
The parent copied the form and wrote on it.
This from The SchoolBook at the N Y Times:
As one of the parents who decided to have their children “opt-out ” of this year’s standardized high-stakes testing, I am most struck by the lack of empowerment that parents have in the education of their own children. When we try to explain the reasons behind our protest, we are met with bland bureaucratic platitudes, and even attempts at subtle intimidation.

On the first day of the English Language Arts exams, I brought my son into his elementary school in Astoria, Queens, after the testing period was finished.

I was told that, “according to Legal,” if he entered the building at any time at all he was “required” to take the test.

Never mind that I was in contact with other opt-out parents from different districts whose principals had tried to accommodate the parents’ wishes while their official response was sorted out (the city’s chief academic officer, Shael Polakow-Suransky, told one parent at a Brooklyn meeting he did not have a “clear answer” as to the consequences of a child not taking the test).

Our principal seemed confused by my opposition to the test, wondering if I was simply against all testing.
To be clear, I’m not against my kid taking tests; he takes a lot of them.

What I am against is taking a test that is used as a partial determinant in the future careers of the adults who are responsible for teaching and administering the test. Doesn’t that fundamentally change the relationship between a teacher and the children she teaches?

Or what about the fact that if enough children score poorly, their very school might be in jeopardy? ...

Maurice Sendak Dead: 'Where The Wild Things Are' Author Dies At 83

This from The Huffington Post:
The Associated Press reported that Sendak died early Tuesday at a hospital in Danbury, Connecticut after having a stroke on Friday. His longtime caretaker and friend, Lynn Caponera, was with him.
The popular children's book author wrote "Where The Wild Things Are" in 1963. He won a Caldecott Medal for the book in 1964, and was adapted into a movie in 2009.
According to The New York Times, a posthumous picture book, "My Brother's Book," is scheduled to be published in February 2013.
Here's more from the Associated Press:
Sendak didn't limit his career to a safe and successful formula of conventional children's books, though it was the pictures he did for wholesome works such as Ruth Krauss' "A Hole Is To Dig" and Else Holmelund Minarik's "Little Bear" that launched his career.
"Where the Wild Things Are," about a boy named Max who goes on a journey – sometimes a rampage – through his own imagination after he is sent to bed without supper, was quite controversial when it was published, and his quirky and borderline scary illustrations for E.T.A. Hoffmann's "Nutcracker" did not have the sugar coating featured in other versions.
Sendak also created costumes for ballets and staged operas, including the Czech opera "Brundibar," which he also put on paper with collaborator Pulitzer-winning playwright Tony Kushner in 2003.
He designed the Pacific Northwest Ballet's "Nutcracker" production that later became a movie shown on television, and he served as producer of various animated TV series based on his illustrations, including "Seven Little Monsters," "George and Martha" and "Little Bear."
But despite his varied resume, Sendak accepted – and embraced – the label "kiddie-book author." ...

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

How to Destroy Education While Making a Trillion Dollars

This from Common Dreams:

Here’s a three-step recipe for how to destroy education. It maps perfectly to how to make a prodigious profit by privatizing it. It is the essential game plan of the big money boys.

First, lower the costs so you can jack up the profits. Since the overwhelming cost in education is the salaries of the teachers, this means firing the experienced teachers, for they are the most expensive. Replace them with “teachers” who are young, inexperienced, and inexpensive. Better yet, waive requirements that they have to have any training, that is to say, that they be credentialed. That way, you can get the absolute cheapest workers available. Roll them over frequently so they don’t develop any expectation that they’ll ever make a career out of it.

Second, make the curriculum as narrow, rote, and regimented as you can. This makes it possible for low-skilled “teachers” to “teach.” All they need do is maintain order while drilling students in mindless memorization and robotic repetition. By all means avoid messy things like context, nuance, values, complexity, reflection, depth, ambiguity—all the things that actually make for true intelligence. It’s too hard to teach those things and, besides, you need intelligent, experienced people to be able to do it. Stick with the model: Profitable equals simplistic and formulaic. Go with it.

Finally, rinse and repeat five thousand times. Proliferate franchised, chartered McSchools with each classroom in each McSchool teaching the same thing on the same day in exactly the same way. So, for the math lesson on the formula of a line, you only need develop it once. But you download it in Power Point on the assigned day so the room monitors, i.e., the “teachers,” know what bullets to read. Now repeat this for every lesson in every course in every school, every day. In biology, chemistry, geometry, history, English, Spanish, indeed, all of a K-12 curriculum. Develop the lesson literally once, but distribute and reuse it thousands of times with low-cost proctors doing the supervision. The cost is infinitesimal making the profit potential astronomical.

This is the essential charter school model and the money is all the rationale its promoters need. Think about it. There’s a trillion dollars a year spent on public education in the U.S. and enterprising investors want to get their meat hooks on it. Where else in the world can you find a $1 trillion opportunity that is essentially untouched? Not in automobiles. Not in health care. Not in weapons, computers, banking, telecommunications, agriculture, entertainment, retail, manufacturing, housing. Nowhere.
Oh, to be sure, you have to soften up the public with a decades-long PR campaign bashing teachers, vilifying their unions, trashing schools, and condemning public education in general, all the while promising the sun, moon, and stars for privatization, which is the ultimate charter goal. Voila! You’ve got your chance...