Saturday, February 21, 2015

Middle East Destabilization

Between being overwhelmed at work and upgrading my garage, I have been too busy to spend much time blogging.  However the garage is now fully insulated, has ~700 sq ft of storage above the insulation, has three more electrical circuits to eliminate those frustrating circuit breaker trips, and is now kept heated at a balmy 32 degrees. With the option to warm it up further as desired.

After ~19 years of freezing out there, it was real nice when I had to work on my daughters car last weekend !!!

So Friday I decided to take a moment to comment over at MinnPost, and was intrigued to find that their moderators are as odd as ever.  My comment that disappeared went something like this:
"Arguably, his older brother’s decision to bomb, invade, occupy and then “democratize” Iraq in 2003 was the key event that triggered the destabilization of the region, with (mostly unpleasant) consequences leading up to the present moment." Eric Black

"Really: You think that after thousands of years of instability in this region, you want to blame the USA's efforts to over throw a ruthless power hungry dictator for triggering instability?

On the other hand, you may be right. Maybe the USA should be backing Dictators and Oligarchs like Assad, Hussein, Jong Un, Putin, Gaddafi, Castro, etc. They do seem capable of maintaining peace in the areas they rule." G2A

Sunday, February 8, 2015

GOP Fights for the Middle Class

I read this and thought to myself, how in the world are they going to accomplish this goal.  CNN The GOP Battle for the Middle Class  Especially when compared to Obama's proposals that want to make the taxes on capital gains and dividends more similar to ordinary income.

Here is an interesting discussion on the topic. CNN What will it Take to Boost the Middle Class  The last comments were interesting, the male speaker said that only the rich will win if societies and economies are set up to encourage lower wages and rights for workers.  This seems aligned to my thoughts, since our personal consumer and investor choices continually encourage companies to pursue lower costs and higher profits.
  1. Are you willing to pay more for American designed, developed, manufactured, managed, distributed product and services?
  2. Are you willing to buy and hold stock in companies that make you less money, because they pass on moving jobs overseas? (ie this includes your pension funds, mutual funds, IRA, 401Ks, college funds)  Or do you invest in the fund with the highest rate of return?
G2A Made in America. The Myth
G2A How to Buy American? Why?

ACA / Obamacare : You Can't Handle the Truth

Now Jerry and Hiram have been having a long winded debate regarding ACA / ObamaCare.  G2A SS Disability

Jerry then made this outrageous comment that I think is very incorrect. "No, and Obamacare is the prime example. Every criticism that Republicans made has proved true, and almost every promise of Obamacare has been broken."

Now I am not a big ACA proponent, especially with regard to how much money was spent on setting up, marketing and operating the "market places".  And the wealth transfer aspects of it are not what I would prefer in our capitalistic country.  However it has accomplished much of what was intended:
  1. Health insurance costs lower income people less due to the expansion of Medicare and the premium subsidies that they are receiving. (ie tax credits)  Of course I am not happy that people like myself are paying more to fund this, but one can not get money out of those who have little.
  2. People with "pre-existing conditions" can now get insurance with somewhat reasonable premiums, and children can stay on their parent's plans longer. Of course this is costing us all a bit more, the insurance company actuaries need to adjust rates to cover these previously not covered situations.
  3. People get insurance policies that meet a minimum standard of coverage.  Again, we pay a little more if the benefits increased due to this.
Though Jerry likely disagrees, I think the primary purposes of ACA were to increase the number of people with health insurance (private or public), encourage more people to use preventive care, improve the quality of the low end insurance policies and stop insurance companies from dropping people just because they got seriously sick.

Now I agree that this has been an expensive way to pursue these worthy goals, and it has limited the choices of some people. (ie high deductible policies, doctor choices, etc)  However, I don't see the GOP offering any better option.  That is other than wishful thinking that somehow charities will take care of the medical bills for all the poor and unlucky in the USA.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Public Schools: Different Punishments

Laurie had pointed me to this Minnpost post.  And Jerry says that the Public Schools are not trying new things. In this case the schools are trying to reduce the number of suspensions.

The logic being that these kids do not learn anything by being sent home. It is deemed unfair since a much higher percentage of minorities experience this punishment.  And as I heard second hand from one school administrator, sometimes sending the child home to some parents can be dangerous for the student.

Minnpost MN Discipline Gap
Sun Sailor Suspension Rates Down
Sun Sailor Clean Out Bad Apples
Sun Sailor Fine Tuning at 287's NECA


Monday, January 26, 2015

SS Disability - The Money Pit

Here is an interesting Op Ed by a Liberal.  I say Liberal since he supports fixing SS by making the wealthy pay more, while giving them no additional benefits.  What I equate to making SS and Medicare more like Welfare and Medicaid than they already are.

CNN Why is GOP going after Social Security?

It was interesting that he noted that apparently the SS Retirement Trust Fund has been robbed several times to put more money in the SS Disability Trust Fund.  And he thinks it will happen again when the SS Disability Trust Fund hits $0 in 2016.

He also acknowledges that SS Retirement benfits in 2033 will likely be 77% of what they are today if we don't do something to fix the structural problem.  It is interesting that both the citizens and politicians choose to ignore this pending problem.  Maybe they think if they close their eyes and think positve thoughts, the problem will magically get resolved.  Thoughts?

Sunday, January 25, 2015

2015 State of the Union Address

Sorry for being a poor blogger of late, work and a home improvement project have me overwhelmed.  I am making my garage into a better year round man cave...  However I did make time to listen to The State of the Union Address last week.

It seems that Obama plans to become the new reason for the American government being "non-functional". (ie "The Veto Guy")  It will be interesting to see what he chooses to do when the Congress puts some bitter medicine in with spending bills.  Will he threaten to shutdown the government, or will he sign the bill into law?

And he is busy trying to promise a whole lot of free stuff to some citizens, that other citizens would have to pay for.  At least he is being straight forward regarding his desire to use the government aggressively to rob Peter to give to Paul.

MinnPost: State of the Union
MinnPost: Compromise


NCLB: A Civil Rights Issue

MinnPost: MN Parents to Congress: Maintain NCLB Testing

I liked this paragraph.

"For the group, black women with children in Minneapolis or St. Paul schools, educators in training or alumni themselves, testing is tantamount to a civil rights issue: the results of the tests give parents and administrators the chance to compare student progress against school districts around America, and provide a goldmine of information about the achievement gap that has consumed inner-city schools and minority students."


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Education Improvements 2015

Speaking of improving our existing status quo Public Schools instead of deserting them.  My favorite education focused politician, Terri Bonoff, is recommending some very common sense changes regarding using performance in staffing changes.  I am most certain that Education MN is not happy...

Minnpost Hot Education Issues


Parents United Legislative Updates
G2A Teacher Compensation
G2A MN Tenure
G2A Teacher Evaluation Forms
G2A MN Tenure

Friday, January 16, 2015

Ratios, Volunteers and Good Role Models Matter

Jerry provided the following link in a previous post as proof that the Minneapolis schools are a disaster and the request for more money is just an excuse.  I mean if a higher percentage of poor kids can succeed in Minnetonka, Minneapolis must be failing the poor kids and wasting our money.  Better Ed The Blame Game  Or so this terribly misleading comparison states.

At first glance the chart looks pretty clear, I mean only 24% of FRP kids are proficient in Mpls as compared to 55% in Mtka.  And worse yet, on an average per student basis we are paying much more for this much worse result.  What are those people in Mpls doing?


However when one takes a less biased and broader view, the story changes considerably. In Minneapolis there is only .5 non-FRP students/families for every FRP student/family, where as in Mtka there are 13.5 non-FRP/families for every FRP student.  Why does this matter, let us count the ways:
  • In a class of 30 students, the Mpls Teacher will be working with ~19 FRP students where as the Mtka Teacher will be working with ~2 FRP students.
  • In a class of 30 students, the Mpls Teacher will be working with ~11 non-FRP students where as the Mtka Teacher will be working with ~28 non-FRP students.
  • Also, the students in the Mpls classroom often change due to high mobility rates amongst the poor, where as the Mtka class roster is much more stable.
  • In summary, the FRP student in the Mtka school is in a stable environment, surrounded by peers who are likely more academically/ emotionally capable with a Teacher who has more time to address their extra needs.

  • In a school of 500 students, the Mpls personnel will need to work with ~324 FRP students/families who have difficulty affording food, housing, transportation, school supplies, clothing, tutors, etc, where as Mtka only has ~34.
  • In a school of 500 students, the Mpls personnel will have only ~176 non-FRP students/families who have extra time and money to volunteer, mentor, provide good role modeling, etc where as Mtka has ~466.
  • In summary the Mtka school has a lot of academically capable helpers and donations to assist those children who are facing extra challenges.

  • In Mtka the crime and poverty rates are very low, so the schools need minimal security and/or social services in the schools, where as security is a significant expense in Mpls.

Now I haven't even touched on the English Learner and Special Education differences that are huge !!!  You can see them for yourselves.  In that school of 500 in Mpls, 123 are English challenged and 90 have special needs...  As compared to 8 and 52...

As a point of comparison, when Geoffrey Canada set up the Harlem Children's Zone, he believed that at least ~60% of the parents and children in the community needed to be enrolled in the program if it was to succeed.  He felt without this critical mass, the societal influence would overwhelm the good works that the HCZ was doing.

Now I agree that the Minneapolis School District, and the Teacher's Union in particular, are partially responsible for the poor results and high costs experienced in their district. (maybe 20%)  However it is silly to blame them entirely when the demographics are so stacked against them.  The sad part of this story is that as bad as the "avg Mpls Demographics" are, if we broke it down by individual schools the numbers would be much worse since they have certain neighborhood and magnet schools with very different demographics.

So I agree whole heartedly that most FRP, special needs and English learner students can learn, the reality is that it takes a ton of extra support to ensure they do.  And this can come from their Parents, their community and/or their school.  And if the first 2 are lacking, the school leg of the stool will be very expensive.


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Cream Skimming Charter Schools?

To continue the comparison of Public Schools: Status Quo vs Charters, Laurie provided this interesting link.  Forbes Unappreciated Success of Charter Schools
"The charter sectors’ ability to do better for poor students and black students is important given that they disproportionately serve them. I remember when I was an undergrad in the early 2000s, the debates on charter schools were far more theoretical than they are now. Back then I frequently heard the concern that charter schools were just going to engage in “cream skimming”, be a way for middle class white families to escape urban school systems, and thus serve as one more form of segregation in this country. This concern has not come true, and currently 53% of charter students are in poverty compared 48% for public schools. Charters also serve more minority students than public schools: charters are 29% black, while public schools are 16%. So not only do they serve more poor students and black students, but for this group they relatively consistently outperform public schools."
With this in mind, are all minority and free & reduced lunch students created equal?

Or are there 2 classifications within these groups?
  1. Poor families who are dedicated to improving their situation and responsibly raising their children to be academically and overall successful.
  2. Poor families who make little effort to improve their situation and think the state should be responsible for teaching & raising their children.
Now you are aware that I believe there are clearly multiple types of poor families, just as there are multiple types of other families. Some are hard working and seeking to be successful, whatever that means. Others are lazy, criminal, dependent, etc.

If I am correct, which children do you think get signed up to attend Magnets, Charters and Private schools? And which children show up at the doors of the Status Quo school?

Image 1 Image 2 Image 3 Image 4 Image 5 Image 6

Now I am not trying to belittle the efforts of the Charters, Magnet or Private schools. I am over joyed that some children are seeing better success in these. Just as I am happy that some kids see more success when their Parents move the family to a "better school district" or open enroll their children into it. This is great for the kids with caring responsible Parents.

I think it is important to remember though that as these kids/families leave the Status Quo community school, that Status Quo's school's challenges just increase in complexity. So be pragmatic and careful when comparing results. Thoughts?

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Kids are Kids, Are They Not

This thought deserves it's own discussion.
"A school or district that spends twice the average and gets only half the results (test scores, graduation rate) is a poor value. That's Minneapolis, and in any truly competitive situation this "company" would be out of business in a trice, replaced by something far, far better, at lower cost. " Jerry

"Though it may be common sense to you, it seems to be incredibly illogical to me. It is like saying the manufacturing costs should be the same no matter where the plant is located or what the quality/availabity of the raw materials are...

The reality is that most kids enter the Orono school district with well developed social, physical, and academic skills. They come with ready and excited to learn, with Parents who are dedicated to and capable of supporting them.

In Minneapolis things are a bit different. " G2A

"OK, I am admittedly paraphrasing, but two posts later you say it again: "In Minneapolis things are a bit different." How so? Kids are kids, are they not?" Jerry

"Really... You are kidding, right?" G2A

"NO, I'm not kidding. I start from a position that all kids should have an equal opportunity for a good education, and have a reasonably equal ability to learn. In fact, it's required by the Minnesota Constitution. Do you expect me to believe that our urban schools are NOT egregious examples of failure? Offer any explanations you want, but they are not excuses. " Jerry
Lets make the following assumptions:
  • ALL children enter the K-12 system at ~5 years old and exit at about 18 years old, be it Public, Private, other.
  • The goal is to ensure that ALL children that do not have mental special needs meet or exceed a pre-determined level of academic capability. 
My question is what factors impact the cost of attaining this worth while goal?  We made a good stab at it before, however I am interested in revisiting it.  Thoughts?

Monday, January 5, 2015

True Cost of Teach for America

A belated Christmas gift from Laurie:

The True Cost of Teach For America's Impact on Urban Schools

I spent some of my xmas break reading abut how to improve education and I am always interested in what others think. Laurie


Laurie, And I have not forgotten that MinnPost article you mentioned...