Sunday, June 28, 2009
Saturday, June 27, 2009
The United States is facing a serious problem with its demeaning attitude toward labor - good old fashioned "work" as a career. I've been writing about the area where this is most serious which is the myopic focus in schools on college-for-all. As the nation faces a serious shortage of skilled labor - four million jobs by some counts - millions of young people are steered toward college as the key to "a better job." However, most people don't need a bachelor degree for work that is meaningful and lucrative. As the nation lacks welders and electricians, we are putting out too many people with general education degrees.
By the way, a great read on the value of labor is Shopcraft as Soulcraft by Matthew Crawford. This is an excellent reflection on work, and is well worth the read.
Unlike many commentators, he is so reviled by his critics that numerous websites have sprung up to criticize and mock him. In fact, there is speculation that he is not even liked in his own camp at FoxNews. Most of the criticism is geared at the fact that Sean Hannity doesn't really think for himself - or even care about the issues - but simply serves as a lap dog for conservative media. I'm not really opposed to that perspective because I've truly always felt that this is just a lucrative deal for Hannity. And while I don't always agree with Bill O'Reilly, I don't feel that way about him. He is conservative, but he has his convictions, and like Chris Matthews he is likely to skewer both sides and complement either ideology or party when it's, in their opinion, correct or doing a fair job. But that's not Hannity.
Hannity's no good for us.
Friday, June 26, 2009
The case, Safford Unified School District #1 vs. Redding, began when another student was found with prescription- strength ibuprofen and said she received it from Redding.
Safford Middle School assistant principal Kerry Wilson pulled the honors student out of class, and she consented in his office to a search of her backpack and outer clothes. When that turned up no pills, he had a school nurse take Redding to her office, where she was told to remove her clothes, shake out her bra and pull her underwear away from her body, exposing her breasts and pelvic area.
No drugs were found, and Redding said she was so humiliated that she never returned to the school. Her mother filed suit against the school district, as well as Wilson.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
While I generally like much of what Senator Lindsay Graham has to say, I was rather disappointed in his comment on ABC's This Week concerning the "public option" in any health care reform bill. While much debate is necessary, the country can do without truly disingenuous and ideological statements like this.
Graham criticized a proposed system where "the bureaucrat sits between the doctor and the patient" and "you'll wait longer to get treated and you'll get the treatment the government decides for you, not your doctor." How that is any different from a system where "the insurance adjuster or HMO executive or financial manager sits between you and your doctor"? How is that different from "the insurance company or HMO deciding what treatment you get and not your doctor"? How is that different from the current system where I wait seven weeks to see a specialists and a colleague waits a year for an MRI and another for the necessary back surgery?
Clearly, his opposition to the "public option" has validity, but his comments are simply dishonest, and that sort of ideological use of sound-bites doesn't contribute to the discussion. Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of Senator Graham's comments is that he has government-sponsored insurance. Is he having problems with bureaucrats (namely himself) getting between him and his doctor? Is he having his care rationed? Is he letting the government decide which of his treatments are covered? The FEHBP preserves the private sector by allowing providers to bid to a pool of nine million employees, including Congress. Satisfaction with the plan is extremely high - Senator Graham certainly isn't pushing to change his plan.
I hope the Senator will consider revisiting his position on the public option, and seek to build a comprehensive understanding of the issue. He might also consider the reality that polls show 70 - 75% of Americans support the "option" of a government plan, and those statistics include Republicans. Therefore, in the spirit of a democratic republic, I am opposed to Congress refusing to give voters "an option." That doesn't mean people will have to choose it or will want to. But fearing the giving of a choice to voters shows a real lack of faith in the American people.
That said, I am not in favor of a public plan, but I think Senator Graham and the Republicans are missing a real opportunity to offer a comprehensive plan that legally "preserves" the private sector control of providing health care and insurance. This could be found in the bi-partisan Wyden-Bennett Plan, also known as The Healthy Americans Act (HAA). It is, in many ways, an extension of the FEHBP to all Americans where as many as 300 providers bid to serve a pool of 300 million Americans, and people purchase as much or as little as they need. It is a good plan, it resembles all the best parts of the American system, and it blends in the positive qualities of systems such as Switzerland or France.
If nothing else, I hope Senator Graham will answer the questions about his own health insurance and refrain from truly disingenuous and ideological malarky when discussing the issue - or just refrain from talking about it at all. I'd rather he be silent than actively deceiving people.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Saturday, June 13, 2009
Friday, June 12, 2009
According to the Denver Post, Gov. Bill Ritter says his administration is working on a master plan to change the face of education in Colorado and that he'll present his proposals to lawmakers in two years. Ritter says too much money is being wasted without substantial improvement in education.
I'm hoping he takes into consideration the op-ed commentary I had published in the Denver Post a few weeks ago, when I argued that reform should break from the obsession with bachelor degrees and consider offering graduation at sixteen for those entering associate degree programs and trades. There is much to be done in the field of education to bring about a more efficient system, the likes of which is common in Europe and Asia, and which is mentioned in books like Tony Wagner's "The Global Achievement Gap" and Richard Rothstein's "Grading Education."
Additionally, there has been much discussion about the need for all students to pursue at least one year of education beyond high school. While that seems reasonable to some, I see a glaring discrepancy in efficiency in that idea. It seems a bit ridiculous, to me, that students are not prepared for many opportunities as adults after thirteen years and more than a $100,000 invested in the education of each individual. If that is the case, then that is the starting place for reform.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
For some perspective on the public option, there is much debate and commentary going on in the papers and on the blogs, though sifting through it all could take hours, if not days. One notable piece recently featured on the Huffington Post argued "Fixing Health Care Does not Require a bi-partisan Bill - It Does Require a Public Health Insurance Option. Creamer offers some insight into the politics involved when he says, "it won't matter one whit to average Americans whether the bill passed by Congress is "bi-partisan." That's true. He goes on to explain that while the bill may not be bi-partisan, the feelings of country are. For example:
A poll conducted earlier this year by the highly respected Lake Research Partners found that voters overwhelmingly want everyone to have a choice of private health insurance or a public health insurance plan (73%), while just 15% prefer everyone having private health insurance.
And the preference for a choice between public and private health insurance plans extends across all demographic and partisan groups, including Democrats (77%), Independents (79%) and Republicans (63%). So in fact, President Obama's proposal that creates a choice of a public health insurance option is a bi-partisan plan - whether is has "bi-partisan" support in Congress or not.
I'd say Creamer is right especially when he notes:If private insurers can't compete with an efficient public health insurance plan, they have no business being in the market place. After all, they would be the first to argue that the "private sector" is always more "efficient" than government.
What they're really worried about is that in order to compete they would have to cut massive CEO salaries like the $26 million Cigna paid last year to its CEO - a figure that is 65 times higher than the salary paid to the CEO of the Federal Government - President Obama. Insurance companies are worried that they would have to become more efficient and cut their profit margins in order to compete. Of course from the point of view of the taxpayer, that is one of the major goals of health care reform: to control skyrocketing costs and incentiv-ize efficiency instead of waste.
Newsweek's annual list of the top high schools, based on Jay Matthew's Challenge Index of ranking schools simply by dividing the number of AP exams taken and the number of graduating seniors, has been released for 2009. The "formula" has been quite controversial among the education crowd, though it has generated some great discussion of what a "top school" is, and it is based on Jay's firm belief that "the best education for the best is the best education for all."
Thursday, June 4, 2009
Instead of just grading progress in one or two narrow subjects, we should hold schools accountable for the broad outcomes we expect from public education - basic knowledge and skills, critical thinking, an appreciation of the arts, and preparation for skilled employment - and then develop means to measure, and ensure, schools' success in achieving them.
Grading Education describes a new kid of accountability plan for public education. It relies upon both higher quality testing and professional evaluation. This new plan is practical and builds upon capacities we already possess. It requires a big commitment, but one necessary to fulfill responsibilities to provide for our youth and the nation's future.
After reading, Tony Wagner's The Global Achievement Gap, I have launched myself into Grading Education by Richard Rothstein, just in time for summer. It looks for some engaging reading, simply from the back of the book posted above. The concept of "broad outcomes we expect" - but don't evaluate - is important, and I am intrigued by the premise. Hopefully, many will be reading and discussing this book.
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
Colorado charter schools continue to grow — adding schools, students and more diversity, according to a study released Tuesday by the Colorado Department of Education.
"It's fascinating to see as time goes on, statistics and laws of nature take over and charters end up looking like everyone else," said Jim Griffin, president of the Colorado League of Charter Schools.As I've noted before, in Colorado, open enrollment and the growth of charters is the preferred model. This is preferable to a general statewide voucher system which is not needed or desired because for at least three quarters of families, the neighborhood school is preferable, and people move into neighborhoods for the schools. Thus, a voucher system isn't necessary, nor in demand, though I would concede that some voucher advocates want the option of private schools, and that concern should be addressed.
It's also important to remember there is regular opposition from the communities of struggling schools when districts attempt to close them. Thus, the support for the neighborhood model is still high. I applaud the growth of charter schools as well, and I will continue to support the system of choice that exists in Colorado.
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
Excellent teaching goes unrecognized and poor teaching is ignored across the country and in Denver, according to a national study that says failed policies make teachers as interchangeable as widgets. The two-year study called "The Widget Effect: Our National Failure to Acknowledge and Act on Differences in Teacher Effectiveness" examined four states and 12 school districts, including those in Denver and Pueblo. It found common patterns: that teacher effectiveness rarely factors into decisions, such as how teachers are hired, fired or promoted.
"If you ask a superintendent and head of a union to name the top teachers and the bottom teachers, they couldn't tell you," said Dan Weisberg, vice president of policy for the New Teacher Project — the national nonprofit that conducted the study. "It goes back to the widget effect, which is the flawed assumption that each teacher is as good as the next."While there is much to criticize in teaching today, there is much more to criticize in school administration. Granted, there are many stories of the difficulty schools face when they try to dismiss or discipline teachers. However, that does not excuse districts from managing their staff. Far too often, stories are revealed of all teachers receiving "satisfactory" evaluations when there are clearly ineffective and underperforming teachers on staff. In fact, Tony Wagner recounted, in his book the Global Achievement Gap, the story of his first evaluation in which he was called into the office to sign his "satisfactory" report, though he'd never been observed.
Again, start at the top people. The Rockies just fired their manager because the team was losing. Take a memo.