As you may have read before, my primary complaint about the “Global Climate Change” mafia is their attempt to silence any other opinions. I thought this FoxNews story was a great example of an effort to pressure someone to abandon unpopular views about global climate change.
A pioneering expert on hurricane forecasting says he may soon lose funding due to his skepticism about man-made global warming, according to a report in the Houston Chronicle.
Dr. William Gray, who once said that pro-global warming scientists are “brainwashing our children,” claims that Colorado State University will no longer promote his yearly North Atlantic hurricane forecasts due to his controversial views.
Gray complained in a memo to the head of Colorado State’s Department of Atmospheric Sciences that “this is obviously a flimsy excuse and seems to me to be a cover for the Department’s capitulation to the desires of some (in their own interest) who want to reign [sic] in my global warming and global warming-hurricane criticisms,” the Chronicle reports.
School officials denied that Gray’s stand on global warming was an issue, and said that they are cutting back on media support for his forecasts due to the strain it places on the school’s lone media staffer.
“It really has nothing to do with his stand on global warming,” Sandra Woods, dean of the College of Engineering at CSU, told the Chronicle. “He’s a great faculty member. He’s an institution at CSU.”
In the fall of 2005, Gray passed lead authorship of the yearly hurricane forecasts to his former student Philip Klotzbach, but he continues to head the Tropical Meteorology Project at CSU.
CSU will continue to publicize Gray’s yearly forecasts as long as they are co-authored by Klotzbach, officials told the Chronicle last week, but will end their support if Klotzbach, who recently earned his doctorate, moves to another institution.
“It seems peculiar that this is happening now,” Donald Wright, a professor on public relations at Boston University, told the Chronicle. “Given the national reputation that these reports have, you would think the university would want to continue to promote these forecasts.”
I thought this last statement was particularly interesting. Why would CSU want to drop the well-respected reports from a “great faculty member” who is an “institution”? I doubt the Professor would suggest his global climate change views were part of the problem he was having with the university if hadn’t been “counseled” to moderate those views.
I find it odd that the usual torch bearers of academic freedom and free speech are strangely silent when it comes to views that they don’t share.
In 1990, the Richmond Unified School District threatened bankruptcy and the State of California loaned it $42.3M to keep the doors open. As it came out of this fiscal crisis, the district changed its name to “West Contra Costa Unified.” Now that very same district is courting bankruptcy again due to the incompetency of its leadership in granting lifelong healthcare benefits to retirees.
The beleaguered West Contra Costa school district is sitting on a financial time bomb that if not defused could eventually send it into bankruptcy.
The district, which serves about 30,000 students from Richmond to Hercules, has been promising free lifetime health insurance to its employees when they retire. And it hasn’t been setting aside money to pay for it.
A 2006 actuarial report calculated that the generous and unusual benefit had created a $454 million liability for the district. At the time, that was an amount equal to about 170 percent of the district’s annual budget. Since then, the obligation has grown and the district has done little to trim the expense.
“There’s probably no single issue that’s more crippling to the district financially,” says school board Trustee Karen Pfeifer. “Whenever we talk about our budget and budget forecast, we have to consider that. It’s a huge expenditure.”
This issue is huge. It could lead this district back into a fiscal crisis if they don’t address it.
How did the West Contra Costa district, which barely avoided bankruptcy in the early 1990s, get into this mess? The free retiree health benefits date back to 1974, according to Martin Coyne, director of internal audits for the district.
At that point, retiring workers needed at least 10 years’ service with the district, and their age and years of service had to total at least 75. In 1998, as part of a change in the administration of the plan, the district liberalized the eligibility rules, offering the benefit to retiring employees with just five years’ service and abandoning the “Rule of 75.”
“Historically speaking,” says Pfeifer, who wasn’t on the board at the time, “it was relatively simple to borrow against the future to pay people for the present.” But people are living longer and health care costs are escalating more rapidly than anticipated. “Unfortunately our students, current and future, will pay for that mistake unless we can begin to negotiate out of it and we need to do that.”
District contracts with teachers and other workers expire this summer. Officials plan to seek changes to the retiree health benefits. For the solvency of the district and the sake of the children, let’s hope trustees stand firm and employees wake up. To be sure, the district is in a tough position as it seeks to attract qualified teachers to work in some of the Bay Area’s poorest schools. But if the district goes broke, it’s likely that a state receiver would impose more job cuts and benefit reductions.
Currently, the lifetime health-care benefit is available to teachers and other employees hired before Jan. 1, 2007, who retire from the district after five years of service. Workers hired since then must have at least 10 years’ service before retirement. (The benefit also is offered to school board trustees with at least 12 consecutive years of service. Of the current members, only Ramsey has made it that long. Clearly, retired employees should be required to pay part of the insurance cost. And the program should be shelved for future hires. The district simply can’t afford it.
But changing the eligibility requirements alone won’t get the district out of this mess. It must look at ways to fund more of the annual obligation. Indeed, if the district could do that, according to the actuary, the long-term obligation could be reduced by millions of dollars a year because the district could anticipate a greater rate of return on its investment. It’s a technical point with significant implications.
While everyone seems to be concerned, where are the changes? WCCUSD isn’t the only district facing this issue. Most districts have some health care benefits for retirees, but most programs are much more meager and those districts are taking steps to fund that obligation. WCCUSD needs to stop talking about this issue and start doing something about it now. If they don’t, then you and I will end up paying for it.
This Sacramento Bee story blew me away. While I personally suspected that this happens more often than we’d like to admit, it is very troubling to see it being described in the Sacramento Bee.
Will C. Wood Middle School faced a vexing situation when last year’s test results came out in August. Most students had met the mark set by No Child Left Behind. But African American students’ math scores fell far short of it, bringing the school into failing status in the eyes of the federal law.
One hundred students were categorized as black when they took the test last spring. But if the school had fewer than 100 students in that group, their low scores wouldn’t count. So Principal Jim Wong reviewed the files of all the students classified as African American on the test, he said, and found that four of them had indicated no race or mixed race on their enrollment paperwork. Wong sent his staff to talk to the four families to ask permission to put the kids in a different racial group.
“You get a kid that’s half black, half white. What are you going to put him down as?” Wong said. “If one kid makes the difference and I can go white, that gets me out of trouble.”
Over the past two years, 80 California schools got “out of trouble” with No Child Left Behind after changing the way they classify their students, a Bee analysis has found. The changes nudged their status from failing to passing under the federal law.
To me what troubles me the most is that the focus is on what is best for the school, not what is best for the kids. The school takes a kid who has been “African American” for all of their academic career and then reclassifies them as “white” for this year because it drops the total number of African American students below the “significant subgroup” threshold, so the school is no longer held accountable for the academic performance of that group. Those students didn’t magically get smarter, the school just “cheated” and changed the conditions of the test in order to get out of trouble.
Of course the district denied that they made this change to escape accountability and is quick to insist that the parents agreed. Well, of course they did. Parents love their local schools and they want to help them. So, if calling my kid white instead of African American “helps” my school, I’m there. After all, it is us (the school and parents) against the evil Bush administration’s NCLB which is trying to call our great school a failure. The administrators are counting on the love of the parents for the local school.
Appel, the Burbank principal, said the important thing is not whether schools are correcting data but whether they are helping students learn more.
At his school, test scores have gone up over the past five years – steeply in math, more gradually in English. After making data corrections this year, Burbank was removed from the list of schools facing No Child Left Behind’s consequences.
“The way to get out is not by making data corrections,” Appel said. “The way to get out is to improve student achievement.”
I agree with the principal’s last statement. You don’t get out of Program Improvement by “making data corrections.” Not in the long term. However, as Burbank High has proven, it works in the short-term.
While I thought the bulk of the article was pretty good, the reporter completely blew it here at the end. She takes the school’s word for their rising test scores. Check out these charts from Just for the Kids – California:
While the school claims math scores have risen “steeply”, their English/Language Arts scores are basically the same. The African American subgroup, the one the school is trying to avoid accountability for, has actually declined by 4.2 percentage points from 2002 to 2007. Overall, test scores for the entire school have only risen by 4 percentage points from 2002 to 2007 in Language Arts.
While the overall math scores have increased by nearly 26 percentage points , the African American scores have only increased from 10% to 23.8% from 2002 to 2007. The increase in scores for the African American students is about half of the overall gain in scores. There is still a huge gap between African American and white student scores.
In my mind, the school needs to focus less effort on changing students and more on actually changing instructional strategies to help all students succeed. Until they do that, they’re going to continue to deny that they actually can make a difference.
I thought the Complete List of of Things Caused by Global Warming was great. The list not only includes the problems themselves, but it contains links to the news story where that problem is attributed to Global Climate Change.
Some of my favorites include:
- Bagdad Snow
- Earth Wobbling
- Loch Ness Monster Dead
- Psychiatric Illness
- Witchcraft Executions
No, I’m not making this up. Be sure to check it out for yourself!
I just realized this evening that I had comments in the approval queue that I hadn’t approved for posting to the site. I’ve had some problems with Comment Spam, so I set the site so that comments require moderator approval before they get posted. That was fine, except that I forgot that I did it. So, there were about 10 comments sitting in the queue waiting for me and I neglected to look at them. Sorry about that!
For those who posted comments, I really appreciate your comments and I’m sorry it took so long to get them posted. I just approved them all and I’ll set up a process for reviewing them in a more timely fashion in the future.
There are a lot of articles that I call “Poor Me” stories which describe some wonderful school who teaches the “whole child” and strives to make “life long learners” but yet is under sanction by the evil George Bush administration’s No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act which “takes all the fun out of teaching.” So, when I see stories that celebrate schools that are having success in getting poor and minority students to grade level proficiency in large numbers, I get really excited.
This San Francisco Chronicle story celebrates the success of Monarch Academy an Aspire Public Schools Charter school in Oakland Unified.
Monarch serves 355 predominantly low-income Latino children in kindergarten through fifth grade, many of whom are still learning English – a demographic often linked to bottom-of-the-barrel test scores.
While education officials often say schools like Monarch are “beating the odds,” Principal Tatiana Epanchin says it isn’t complicated. She believes it involves hard work and high expectations.
“There’s not a single child who cannot learn,” she said. “One of our main mottos at Monarch is: ‘Think you can! Work hard! Get smart!’ All the people in the Monarch community deeply hold the belief that when a child believes in himself or herself and applies effective effort, he or she can learn anything. Our scores are a testament to that belief.”
Day to day, that belief system translates into strict school and classroom routines, uniforms, organic lunches and a no-sugar policy, a morning greeting with group cheers about college, art classes, music and physical education, and teachers who talk to each other.
And there are tests – lots of tests. The students and staff spend a great deal of time preparing for, talking about, practicing and taking tests.
Ten weeks before this year’s high-stakes standardized tests in May, Monarch shifted into high gear with student practice tests for an hour or so each week. They call it “Figure it out Friday.” They also review material and talk about the test between other lessons.
Recently, on one such Friday, students walked to their classrooms along hallways festooned with college banners. Every classroom at Monarch is named after a university – part of the school’s effort to put college on the radar of children with no exposure to higher education.
Whatever Monarch Academy is doing works. All you have to do is look at these charts from Just for the Kids – California:
Monarch Academy is a great example of what I’m talking about. This is a school that is having success at getting poor and minority students to grade-level. They realize they’re not getting them all there, but they’re making great progress.
The emphasis on testing is part of the philosophy of Monarch’s operator, Aspire Public Schools, a nonprofit organization with 21 charter schools across the state. Aspire uses quarterly assessments to determine the progress of every child learning grade-level academic skills. The annual statewide test comes too infrequently and too late to help a child who’s fallen behind, Aspire leaders say.
Epanchin believes in even more frequent standardized testing. In her office, for example, charts cover a wall with the names of every student in grades 2 through 5 – each child located above or below a red line based on recent assessments. Above is proficient; below is not. More than half the students are below.
Epanchin wonders out loud how a school can be so close to the state’s coveted 800 points “and still have so many students, according to this one measure, who aren’t proficient.”
While she believes in data and in regular assessment to help get the children above the red line, she’s aware there are those who believe the emphasis on testing and test preparation is sucking the life out of learning.
Epanchin said taking tests is a skill that every student and adult must have.
“I think it’s important for people not to be scared to take a test,” she said. “It is a part of life.”
In addition, the tests provide information to her and the teachers about each child’s needs. Another school motto is: “We’re down with data.”
Every week, Epanchin makes sure the teachers in each grade have 50 minutes to share information with each other about their students’ progress and how to improve the teaching.
“The amount of collaboration that goes on is really amazing,” Shafer said. “We have time built into the day to look at student work and data together.”
Wow, I couldn’t agree more. I’m also puzzled how a school only 5 points from the state’s goal of 800 on the API can still have more than half of their students who aren’t yet at grade-level in Language Arts. Monarch Academy has made great progress, but they still have a long way to go, yet the state says they’re almost there.
That’s because the state’s API model has set mediocrity as its goal. You can have an API of 800 and still have more than half your students below grade-level. For example, Mark Twain Elementary in Lawndale Elementary only had 46.7% of its students at grade-level in Language Arts last year, but scored an API of 800 points, making the state’s goal. At this point, according to the California Department of Education, all the school needs to do is maintain that 800 score.
Test-taking is a skill that students need to learn. I’m not aware of a single college or university that doesn’t require that students take tests. Many professions require certification testing as part of the licensing process. Testing doesn’t just go away because you graduate high school. Basic test-taking skills is something that all students should learn in their public school.
Critics, however, question the kind of success a charter school like Monarch has achieved, wondering whether the students choosing and attending such schools would have done well anywhere. These successful charters, they say, are simply “skimming” the best kids off the top of the public school system.
Yet, in 2001, Monarch’s first year in business, the students scored in the bottom 10 percent on statewide tests, posting an embarrassing API of 466. In the years since, the school has seen everything from a 31-point decline in 2004 to the recent dramatic gains.
Epanchin believes the high test scores represent more than points on a scale. They represent dreams. In March, she arranged for her students and their families to board chartered buses for UC Berkeley, where many of the 1,000 visitors stepped onto a college campus for the first time.
Sanchez was one of those visitors to Cal. The Oakland mother said Monarch’s focus on college has been ingrained in her sons, although she graduated from a continuation high school and her husband never got his diploma.
“For us to push them, to have that instilled in them since kindergarten, that’s a big dream for us,” she said.
As for Epanchin, even this year’s goal of an 800 score won’t be good enough, she said with a smile. She wants every child to be proficient – and a score of 950 would be nice. “I just think the work is going to get harder and harder,” she said.
As I’ve said before, I think that the high expectations adopted by schools like Monarch Academy is one of the major reasons for their success. Before Monarch Academy, many of these students wouldn’t have been talking about colleges. They wouldn’t be talking positively about assessments. Their parents also wouldn’t have been talking seriously about their student going to college. This is why these students are going to a charter school. Their parents have high expectations for them. Their parents want their school to have these same high expectations for their students. Until our traditional public schools start to change, charter schools are going to continue to grow in enrollment.
So, my son Alex is living with us right now. Along with Alex and his son Andre’, came his ball python. Unfortunately, tonight, Alex had the snake out on the living room table and he got distracted with the board game he was playing. The next thing he noticed, the snake was not where he left it. We’ve searched for about 30 minutes and so far, no snake.
So, needless to say, I’m not thrilled about the idea of the ball python loose in the house. The good news is that he isn’t likely to eat me, but he might try to choke my foot or something. So, we’re all on the lookout for the loose snake. Gosh, what fun.
I thought this Education Week story about research into the achievement gap between African American and white students was very interesting. The found that the gap grew faster for students who started with high academic skills.
New research into what is commonly called the black-white “achievement gap” suggests that the students who lose the most ground academically in U.S. public schools may be the brightest African-American children.
As black students move through elementary and middle school, these studies show, the test-score gaps that separate them from their better-performing white counterparts grow fastest among the most able students and the most slowly for those who start out with below-average academic skills.
“We care about achievement gaps because of their implications for labor-market and socioeconomic-status issues down the line,” said Lindsay C. Page, a Harvard University researcher, commenting on the studies. “It’s disconcerting if the gap is growing particularly high among high-achieving black and white students.”
Disconcerting, but not surprising, said researchers who have studied achievement gaps. Studies have long shown, for instance, that African-American students are underrepresented among the top scorers on standardized tests, such as the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Fewer studies, though, have traced the growth of those gaps among high and low achievers.
The reasons why achievement gaps are wider at the upper end of the achievement scale are still unclear.
But some experts believe the patterns have something to do with the fact that African-American children tend to be taught in predominantly black schools, where test scores are lower on average, teachers are less experienced, and high-achieving peers are harder to find.
If these findings are replicated by other research, public education needs to really take a serious look at how we serve the needs of African American students. If even those minority students who start their school career on par with their white peers end up falling behind in later years, it would seem that it is something we’re doing. What is it about public education in most schools that causes these gaps to grow faster in the brightest students? I don’t know the answer either, but we need to find out. By contrast, there are some schools that are successful at getting poor and minority students to grade-level. Those are the schools that have the knowledge and strategies that need to be replicated across the state.
I noticed this morning in reading my favorite blogs that Coach Brown posted about my post responding to a Sacramento Bee opinion piece. I think the Coach took exception to two paragraphs in the post which he quoted. I think those two paragraphs were a pretty small part of the thirteen paragraph post, but I’ll respond to the Coach’s concerns.
Take for instance Friends of Dave (blogroll), who is a fellow Ukiah blogger who made the common reference to “other jobs have less than favorable conditions so teachers should stop bitching” argument.
I think all too often in public education, we continue the same strategies year after year and we blame student apathy, parent apathy, too little funding or high-stakes testing for our failed teaching practices and educational strategies. If the goal of public education is to educate students, we can’t stop trying simply because students or parents aren’t making it easy. As I’ve said before, fireman don’t ignore fires that are started by dumb decisions made by a homeowner. Police don’t ignore calls from people who have made bad choices. Doctors don’t stop treating fat people because they made bad diet and exercise choices.
First of all, California constantly makes the mistake of CHANGING teaching strategies that have worked in the past to satisfy…….well, someone who was bored I guess. You could hate “drill and kill” to death, but the memorization of multiplication tables sure worked a hell of a lot better than that “whole math” crap.
Now for the “fireman, policeman, doctor” remark, which is often used when non-classroom related people decide to pop off about what’s right for education. Last I remember, firemen, doctors, and police are all given the tools of the game to make learning work. No, I’m not talking about gimmicky learning programs or “one laptop per child” tools, I’m talking about schools that are palaces and not dirty, in disrepair, or straight out crumbling. I also don’t remember doctors being told, “you don’t get O2 today”, cops being told, “you don’t get bullets today”, or firemen being told, “sorry, your allotment of water was used up this week”. In many cases, a teacher is ill-equipped for the job, ill-supported for the job, and then told to preform. Donald Rumsfeld was basically fired for saying, “You go to war with the Army that you have, not the Army you want”, but teachers are told that every day.
And by the way, firemen are never blamed for starting the fire, policemen are never blamed for committing the crime, and doctors aren’t blamed for people getting fat. Teachers are most certainly a target of blame for the lack of education of children, even though they have no control over a multitude of variables. Teachers still teach, firefighters fight fires, police control crime, and doctors treat patients, but only one of those is actually held accountable at the end of the day to entities that they have no control over; the other factors of a student’s life. Firefighters aren’t held accountable for the meth lab fire, they put it out. Police aren’t held accountable for the domestic violence, they arrest the suspect. Doctors aren’t held accountable for patients getting diabetes, they simply try and treat the condition. Yet teachers are somehow given lessor tools, more government oversight, less pay, and are supposed to be held to a greater accountability over things they have no control over?
I think that the Coach and I agree on a lot of things. There are several of his points in this post that I agree with. For example, his comment about California’s public education being torn to and fro from various strategies such as whole language vs. phonics or new math vs. traditional math. I agree with the Coach that these changes aren’t necessarily helpful. In fact, I’d go further to say that I don’t believe our textbook adoptions are helpful either. By overly prescribing what textbooks and materials that districts can use, we’ve created a huge bureaucracy and industry that leads us to inferior, politically correct instructional materials.
Then the Coach takes on my comparisons to the fireman, policeman and doctors. His point is that those professions get the tools they need to do their work. I bet if you asked those professionals, they’d all have complaints about resources and tools. I think anyone, particularly those working in government-funded organizations, have had complaints about how resources in their organizations were allocated.
Many public school districts are terrible at getting resources to the classroom. There are a variety of reasons for this including bureaucratic inertia, union contracts, administrator indifference and legislative mandate.
The Coach’s next point was that these other professions aren’t blamed for the crime, fire or sickness while teachers are blamed for low academic performance. I’m not among the people who place the sole blame on teachers for student academic performance. The key point of my post in the first place was that teachers shouldn’t claim immunity from having an impact on student achievement.
Teacher unions often stress the importance of students having experienced teachers who have advanced degrees, credentials and lots of ongoing professional development. If that is so important, then teachers must have an impact on student achievement. If not, what would it matter whether they had these credentials? Given that impact, I don’t believe it is reasonable for teachers like the one who wrote the original opinion piece to claim that they only “encourage students”. Those experienced, professional, well-qualified teachers are taught skills and strategies which they use to teach students. They can’t have it both ways. Either their instructional strategies make a difference and they have to assume some responsibility for student achievement or it doesn’t.
- updating my Moodle for the classes
- instant messaging with a student about an assigned book; Persepolis
- communicating with another student on Facebook about attending U.C. Irvine
- The duty of public education is to educate. If our instructional strategies aren’t working for large groups of our students, but other schools are having better success with the same students, we need to stop whining and making excuses and start looking to those successful schools for the answer. Schools aren’t relieved of the responsibility to educating students simply because they’re making it hard. Cowboy up and get to work.
Simply put, not nearly as easy to implement. I’m sure that the income of “successful schools” has plenty to do with it. Anyone that doesn’t think that schools with money are more successful are in dreamland. Then add it Second Language Learners, increased Special Education populations, lack of money, sue-happy parents, towns with increased drug culture, lack of money, equipment from the 1990′s, shoddy infrastructure, a district wide lack of vision or business sense, oh yea, and lack of funding. You say that California spends over half its budget on Education? Ok, when it walks into my classroom let me know. While your at it, let me know when you find a successful school that manages to operate through all these problems. I’ll be glad to jump on board.
In the meantime, until you make every effort to supply teachers with the tools needed to succeed, stop blaming them.
Oh yeah, while I’m making this blog post, I’m doing the following:
I also graded essays this evening. Doctors, firemen, nor policemen take that kind of work home with them.
First, the Coach suggests that these successful schools have more money than the not-so-successful schools. Unfortunately, the Coach went back to the money argument. If only schools had enough money, then all kids would excel. We all know that the experiences of students in Washington DC and other places show that isn’t necessarily the case.
Just for fun, I looked at the 126 schools that the California Business for Education Excellence Foundation and Just for the Kids – California selected as 2007 Star Schools. These are schools that are closing achievement gaps and improving the academic achievement of all students. Of those 126 schools, 94 spend less per student than the average in the our local school district. These are not schools that are wealthy. They’re just doing more with the resources that they’re getting. They’re doing something different, that works.
The paragraph that Coach Brown didn’t quote is this one:
The problem with Dave’s scenario is that while all schools are on the level playing field of standardized testing, some schools do much better at getting their poor and minority students to proficiency. Their students didn’t just wake up one morning and decide to care. Their teachers and their schools are doing something that is making a difference. Those successful strategies are the key. Dave and his colleagues need to find out about those strategies and see what they can implement in their own classrooms to make a difference.
I agree with Coach Brown that teachers don’t have all the resources they need. Most teachers are hardworking professionals who love to teach and love their students. My point was that teachers have to accept some of the responsibility for student achievement and that if what they are doing isn’t working and that other schools are doing much better, they need to find out why those other schools are successful with poor and minority students. The time that we spend complaining about resources or blaming others doesn’t make public education any better. At some point, you “fight with the Army you have” and make it work. Why wouldn’t a good teacher, principal or superintendent want to learn from educators that are making a difference?
The 167th Carnival of Education is now open at Columbus Education Association. Be sure to check it out.
I’m impressed that they included my submission. Our views differ so strongly that I’m not certain that the leadership of the Columbus Education Association and I could even agree on the color of the sky. Despite this, they linked to my submission. Thanks CEA folks for being open to contrary opinions.