Sunday, February 26, 2012

New York City Teacher Ratings: Teacher Data Reports Publicly Released Amid Controversy

Good heavens. It's really embarrassing for kids to graduate high school without being ready for the world, or to drop out with even less preparation for life. It's embarrassing to be a failure in life. The teaching profession should be willing to absorb a bit of embarrassment in the quest for better teaching.

New York City Teacher Ratings: Teacher Data Reports Publicly Released Amid Controversy

The New York City Department of Education released today a list of individual ratings of thousands of the city's schoolteachers, a move that concludes a lengthy legal battle waged by the local teachers' union and media.

The Teacher Data Reports rate more than 12,000 teachers who taught fourth through eighth grade English or math between 2007 and 2010 based on value-added analysis. Value-added analysis calculates a teacher's effectiveness in improving student performance on standardized tests -- based on past test scores. The forecasted figure is compared to the student's actual scores, and the difference is considered the "value added," or subtracted, by the teachers.

To some, the release means a step forward in using student data and improving transparency and accountability by giving parents access to information on teacher effectiveness. To others, it's a misguided over-reliance on incomplete or inaccurate data that publicly shames or praises educators, whether deserving or not...

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Virtual Education Advocates Respond to Wave of Criticism

I think online learning could be wonderful--but it looks like some people who don't care about kids are cashing in.

Virtual Ed. Advocates Respond to Wave of Criticism
By Ian Quillen
Premium article access courtesy of
November 23, 2011

It’s been a rough year for the public image of K-12 virtual education.

Studies in Colorado and Minnesota have suggested that full-time online students in those states were struggling to match the achievement levels of their peers in brick-and-mortar schools. Articles in The New York Times have questioned not only the academic results for students in virtual schools, but also the propriety of business practices surrounding the use of public dollars for such programs.

Meanwhile, two left-leaning magazines, The Nation and Mother Jones, contended this month that education policy reforms pushed by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush in the name of digital opportunities for students have the ulterior motive of funneling money to big technology companies. And the move into education by the right-leaning media tycoon Rupert Murdoch, with his News Corp. conglomerate’s purchase of the educational technology company Wireless Generation, has drawn protests from some teacher advocates at public appearances by Mr. Murdoch...

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Teachers Earn Too Much, Study Argues

Teachers Earn Too Much, Study Argues
November 2, 2011
By John O'Connor

Teachers are paid 52 percent more than their market value, according to a new study.

Teachers, did you know you are overpaid by 52%?

That’s the conclusion of a new study by conservative-leaning think tanks The Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute.

Taxpayers, they conclude, are “overcharged” $120 billion each year from the difference in teacher salaries and compensation compared to similarly credentialed private sector workers. Teacher benefits are often far more generous than the private sector, the study notes.

Other conclusions from the study:

The wage gap between teachers and non-teachers disappears when both groups are matched on an objective measure of cognitive ability rather than on years of education.
Public-school teachers earn higher wages than private-school teachers, even when the comparison is limited to secular schools with standard curriculums.
Workers who switch from non-teaching jobs to teaching jobs receive a wage increase of roughly 9 percent. Teachers who change to non-teaching jobs, on the other hand, see their wages decrease by roughly 3 percent. This is the opposite of what one would expect if teachers were underpaid.

The study reveals a divide among those pushing for changes in public schools.

Raising teacher salaries is a foundation of school reformers, which includes Republicans, such as former Gov. Jeb Bush, and Democratic President Barack Obama. Better pay is more likely to attract better teaching candidates, they argue, and better teachers mean students will learn more.

Former D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee disagreed with the study, in a statement printed by Politico:

We can accomplish the goal of attracting and retaining the best teachers and be fiscally responsible at the same time by moving money out of bloated bureaucracies that doesn’t improve student learning and into the classroom where it can.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Only 34% of Americans correctly identify Obama as Christian. How many identify Glenn Beck as the messiah?

Obama not worried about Muslim rumors
The fact that only 34% of people correctly identify him as Christian doesn't bother the president, he tells NBC. 'There is a mechanism, a network of misinformation… in a new-media era.'
Los Angeles Times
Michael Memoli, Tribune Washington Bureau
August 30, 2010

President Obama said in an interview Sunday that he can't worry about dispelling every rumor about him — even though a recent poll showed nearly 20% of Americans erroneously believe he is Muslim.

"The facts are the facts, right?" Obama told NBC's Brian Williams in New Orleans, where he was marking the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. "There is a mechanism, a network of misinformation that in a new-media era can get churned out there constantly.

"We dealt with this when I was first running for the U.S. Senate. We dealt with it when we were first running for the presidency. ... I will always put my money on the American people. And I'm not gonna be worrying too much about whatever rumors are floating on out there."

A poll released by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center earlier this month showed that 18% of people believe Obama is Muslim — up from 11% in March 2009. Only 34% said, accurately, that he is Christian, down from 48% last year...

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Will The Accelerated School (TAS) in Los Angeles replace Patrick Judd with Lowell Billings?

My source for this story has an avid interest in the behind-the-scenes machinations of the board of The Accelerated School. Unfortunately, she doesn't have access to the discussions of board members. She just has access to their track record.

"Look at the facts," she tells me. "When Patrick Judd mysteriously disappeared from his job as superintendent of Mountain Empire School district, then shortly afterward got booted from his long-held position on the Chula Vista Elementary school board, he applied to a lot of school districts. No one would take him in. If it weren't for his pal Lowell Billings, he might never have gotten another job as school administrator. Now Lowell Billings seems to have been forced to retire as superintendent of Chula Vista Elementary School District. Where will Lowell go now?"

I am flummoxed. "Belize?"

"No, silly. The Accelerated School! It's perfect. Pat Judd's contract expires this year. Lowell Billings had enough sway over TAS board members to get them to hire a guy that nobody else seemed to want. He can surely get them to hire himself."

"You think so?" I ask.

"I'll put good money on it. How much do you want to bet?"

"I always lose. I don't think I should take the bet."

"You're wise. Very wise."

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Tea Party supporter opposes mine safety changes until government explains how it will pay for increased enforcement of laws

Kathleen in San Diego is alarmed at the steps toward socialism that the current health care law represents, and wants to make sure that the government doesn't use the tragedy at a Massey Energy mine to justify expanding government's role in protecting the health of citizens.

Coal Boss Don Blankenship Cast as Cavalier About Worker Safety in Lawsuits

Investors Also Critical of Massey CEO's 'Extravagant' Pay, Perks
Apr. 8, 2010

As more details continue to surface about the checkered safety record of the Massey Energy coal mine where 25 workers perished Monday, the lavish lifestyle and allegedly cavalier attitude of the company's controversial chief executive, as described in lawsuits and corporate documents, are now coming under intensifying scrutiny.

Coal Boss Don Blankenship: If you take photos, "you're liable to get shot."

One miner who worked in Massey mines most of his 25-year career said working for CEO Don Blankenship was "like living under a hammer. It's all about the bottom line, we all know that." The miner, who would only agree to speak with an ABC News reporter if his name was not used, said Blankenship believes in "stretching the men to the limit … they want every ounce out of the men that they can get."

The public record describing Blankenship's bottom-line approach is long, much of it laid out in a series of investor lawsuits filed against Blankenship and his company, and in SEC documents submitted by a Wall Street investment house that made a failed bid to take control of Massey Energy four years ago. In these records, Blankenship was repeatedly criticized for both his approach to safety, and for what one investor called his "extravagant" package of pay and perks.

In just one year – 2005 -- Blankenship was paid $33.7 million in compensation, according to a 2008 lawsuit...

West Virginia disaster: Will Congress take on coal mining companies?

Mining companies have been slow to adopt new safety requirements. Critics say the West Virginia disaster shows that Congress needs to step in. The industry says it needs clearer guidance.
By Mark Guarino, Staff writer
Christian Science Monitor
April 7, 2010

The deaths of 25 coal miners in West Virginia Monday in what is considered the worst mining accident in a quarter century is raising questions about whether a congressional overhaul of mine safety four years ago went far enough.

The Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response (MINER) Act, passed in 2006 in response to a disaster in Sago, W.V., that killed 13 miners, was intended to improve miner safety by mandating the installation of preventive and emergency technologies.

But Massey Energy Company, the company that owns the Upper Big Branch South Mine in Whitesville, W.V., where Monday’s accident happened, has been leveled numerous fines for environmental and safety violations in recent years.

Moreover, only 14 percent of mines have complied with MINER Act requirements to install improved communications systems.

This suggests that the MINER Act is not thorough enough in leveling consequences for mining companies or for establishing a timeline for coming to compliance, say several experts. The result is that the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) – the federal agency charged with monitoring coal companies and making them comply with safety standards – essentially has its hands tied.

“The record of [the Massey mine] is problematic, and it may be the [MINER Act] needs an additional amendment...

No signs of life heard in West Virginia mine
Jon Hurdle
Wed Apr 7, 2010

MONTCOAL, West Virginia (Reuters) - Drills broke through into a stricken West Virginia mine early on Wednesday but rescuers detected no sign of the four miners missing since an explosion killed 25 people in a major U.S. mine disaster.

The rescue teams banged on pipes at Massey Energy's Upper Big Branch Mine in Montcoal, West Virginia, but heard no response from the men, Governor Joe Manchin told reporters.

Hopes were dimming that the men would be found alive after Monday's blast, the largest U.S. mine accident since 1984.

...Questions have been raised by experts and observers about Massey's safety record and the laws governing the mining industry. Mining has always been dangerous, but 2009 was the safest ever for U.S. miners, with 34 deaths, according to federal data, 18 fewer than 2008.

Massey's accident rate fell to an all-time low in 2009, the sixth consecutive year its safety record was stronger than the industry average, the company said on its website.

But Upper Big Branch Mine has had three fatalities since 1998 and has a worse-than-average injury rate over the last 10 years, according to federal records. Ellen Smith, editor of Mine Safety and Health News, said the mine has been repeatedly cited for safety violations.