"Creating People On Whom Nothing is Lost" - A high school English teacher in Colorado offers insight and perspective on education, parenting, politics, pop culture, and contemporary American life. Disclaimer - The views expressed on this site are my own and do not represent the views of my employer.
Saturday, October 30, 2010
Friday, October 29, 2010
My Congressional Rep
After hearing Rep. Mike Coffman’s recent comments about furloughing federal workers and using tax cuts to “grow the economy,” I fear he’s become too comfortable in his safe Republican district. While I supported Mike in 2008 because he was a rational, pragmatic fiscal conservative, his lack of any real ideas for limiting the deficit and lowering debt casts doubt on his credibility as fiscally responsible.
It’s not simply about tax rates and public employees. Since campaigning to reign in spending and debt, Coffman has cut no spending, only recently proposing furloughs for federal workers. Prior to that, Coffman’s only significant stand had been to campaign for continued spending on NASA programs to the Moon and Mars. Clearly, those programs equal jobs in the 6th CD; however, they are simply “stimulus” based on government spending. One man’s “pork” is another district’s job. Does Coffman’s furlough proposal include private sector workers on government contracts? Does the proposal include suspending government payments to private companies with government contracts?
Additionally, despite concerns about jobs, debt, and deficits, Coffman seeks continued marginal rate tax cuts that produced no jobs in the last decade, but radically increased the debt and deficit. At the same time, he voted against tax cuts for small business and a stimulus plan that was 40% tax cuts. If Coffman wants to represent fiscal conservatism, he needs to cut spending – including his district’s projects – as well as pay down the debt by replacing lost revenue. At this point, I’ve not completed my ballot, as I am curious about candidate John Flerlage’s ideas. While Flerlage isn’t a guarantee on lowering the debt, Coffman’s recent commentary indicates he certainly isn’t.
Thursday, October 28, 2010
Thoughts on Teachers and Knuckleballs
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
It's the Literacy
If literacy skills are low, nothing else matters. And too many teachers in the content areas simply assign reading rather than teach it. English teachers in lower grades teach how to decode, then read. After that it becomes about content. Thus, at the upper levels, they teach the kids how to read various genres. Social studies teachers should do the same. And same with math and science. Once students have memorized the times tables and the formulas for basic math, it's about problem solving. That's why story problems matter - it's application of the abstract concept.
Sunday, October 24, 2010
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Job Growth in the Last Three Years
I'm not committed to anything that is going to exacerbate the debt or deficit. But, I am certainly not committed to any policies which fueled a decade of zero job growth and ballooning debt.
Sunday, October 17, 2010
Oligarchy and MLB
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Education Funding Silliness
While William Maloney correctly asserts that Colorado needs to re-think the way it funds education, his reasoning behind the need for change is fundamentally flawed, and his naïve comparisons to private and foreign systems will produce no practical solutions. Certainly, there has been incredible growth in funding and staff in the past thirty years. Yet that mostly reveals expanded mandates and an increased efficiency in reaching under-served populations that were long neglected.
Mahoney notes that parochial systems operate on 2/3 of public school funding. However, he fails to mention that they do not provide any special education or English to non-native speakers. In fact, they use the public system to meet those needs, and the public schools are mandated to provide the services. Private schools don’t struggle with the same discipline and security needs as public schools, and they don’t require the cost-heavy administration that comes with meeting requirements under NCLB legislation. Additionally, parochial schools aren’t mandated to accept all students regardless of ability. Thus, you won’t find any Catholic schools educating many, or any, autistic children or mentally/physically disabled students. Parochial schools also aren’t required to assign caseworkers and establish specialized education programs for students of special needs. Thus, while Catholic schools are successful with the students they admit, there is much they don’t do.
Additionally, Maloney’s praise for the lower costs in Asia ignores the fact that foreign systems don’t compare to America’s in many areas. They do not have large immigrant populations, and thus do not have to provide any native language instruction. They do not provide special education on the level of the United States, and they are not under mandates to provide fair and equal access to all students. They do not optimistically seek to educate all students for college, and thus a considerable majority of their students are graduating and entering trades or vocational schools by the age of sixteen. Maloney also seems to target PERA pensions as a conflict for funding. Yet, he ignores the high taxes and retirement systems that are prevalent through the foreign systems he praises. Clearly, those systems provide more benefits, national health care among them, not less.
Most education researchers are acutely aware of the flaws of comparing the U.S. to foreign systems, and I would have expected Maloney’s tenure as education commissioner to provide him with a wider and more credible understanding of the problems. Perhaps having such misinformed people in charge is indicative of America’s problems. Yet, Maloney is correct in a need to review funding. Colorado should follow the lead of education reforming states like New Hampshire and Louisiana by allowing students to graduate at sixteen and enter vocational training or associate degree programs. In a state that has large numbers of students successfully completing college-level classes – AP and IB programs – state schools should expand dual credit courses to allow advanced students to begin college early and complete bachelor degrees in less than four years.
Clearly, the system has a considerable degree of cost inefficiency, and the reason is the public’s unrealistic and fragmented understanding of the goals of public education. We need to re-think our obsessive focus on “seat time” and a K-16 system that seeks bachelor degrees for all students regardless of interest or ability. Mandates for individual and specialized education and expensive accountability testing are not going to change. But Colorado can change its preconceived notions of what education means, and that can lead to a more cost-efficient, productive, and high quality system.