Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Why Neighborhoods Decline?

We have a chicken or egg discussion going on at multiple locations, so I thought I would post some links and move the G2A discussion to this post.

Speed Gibson Full Steam Ahead
Speed Gibson Does Open Enrollment Work?
G2A Blame vs Contributions
G2A's View
"I don't think I have ever heard of someone open enrolling or moving because of a bad curriculum, bad building or poor Teacher."

J's View
"Of course not, because most of the other problems, the "social problems" and their side-effects, are secondary problems caused by the failure of schools to focus on education."
To add to my view, the older and smaller housing available in these neighborhoods also contributes to the flight to the suburbs.

What do you think? Did poor schools cause the Urban decay or did the Urban decay cause poor results in Urban schools?

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Holidays !!!!

I have to agree with J that it is time for family and the celebration of whatever holiday you and yours celebrate at this time of year.  And if you do not have one, check out the links below for some ideas.

Holiday Insights
December Holidays
Education World - December

And for some fun, here are some morse amusing links.

Funny Pics Holiday
Cartoon File Holiday
Glasbergen Holiday
Whipnet Christmas

Merry Christmas !!!  Happy Hanukkah !!!
Joyous Time Off !!!  or Enjoyable "fill in the blank" !!!

John and Family

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Blame vs Contributions

Since I got a sense that some thought we were picking on the Teachers excessively, I want to talk about another favorite book of mine. Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most (Stone, D., Patton, B., & Heen, S., 1999)  Thankfully some folks wrote up summaries that I have linked to below.
Peace: Difficult Conversations Summary
Frumi: Difficult Conversations Summary

This is another incredible book if you want to work productively with people that see the world differently than you do.  The area of interest for me today is the concept of "Contribution Systems".  I have found this to be one of the simplest and most profound concepts.  Before learning this I may have "blamed" someone or some group for some unfortunate turn of events, and from my viewpoint it was usually pretty clear who was at fault and it typically was not me.

Now when something goes wrong, I take a little time to think about all the factors and people that may have contributed to the event, and often I do carry some of the burden of responsibility.  Finally, if it is important I can then attempt to apportion the blame/responsibility amongst the factors/parties.  Now I usually do not do this so that I can club someone, though sometimes it may be useful when negotiating a settlement.

I typically apportion the responsibility to the factors and people so that I can learn from the incident.  With this information I can change a policy, train someone, give directions differently, add some checks to my list, fix a flaw, etc, etc, etc.  The truly bad mistake is one that people do not learn from, and are therefore doomed to repeat over and over.

Now if we were to create a list of contributing factors with regard to why "so many children are left behind?"  What would you add to this starting list I have created?

  • Irresponsible, yet they have children
  • Do drugs, alcohol, smoking, etc. (ie harm child)
  • Have more children than they can afford
  • Poor parenting due to laziness or ignorance
  • Propogating victim / entitlement mind set
  • Can't speak English  (Laurie)
  • Parents are illiterate (Laurie)
  • Working 2 or more jobs (Laurie)
  • Single parent household (Laurie)
  • Belief systems, behaviors and actions not aligned with "typical American culture"
  • ???
  • Choose to behave poorly or resist learning
  • Child is academically or behaviorally challenged for physical, mental or emotional reasons
  • ???
Public K-12 Teacher / Union System
  • Protect the time served and education based comp system
  • Resist firing of poor performers
  • Resist standardized curriculum
  • Resist competition / limiting options and availability
  • ???
Public K-12 Administration
  • Protect the time served and education based comp system
  • Resist firing of poor performers
  • Resist accountability measures
  • Resist competition / limiting options and availability
  • ???
Charter and Private K-12 Administration

  •  Fiscal and Result Reporting scandals that damage reputation
  • Cherry picking good determined students and leaving the others for the public schools to deal with
Belief Systems/Philosophy (may apply across categories)
  • Soft bigotry of low expectations, expected to fail (JE)
  • That universal public education is a public good AND entitlement. (JE)
  • That education can not be run as a business. (JE)
  • Belief that the Public School model is the only viable model. (JE)
  • Education is entitlement and social service (JE / NG)
  • ???
State Policies and Laws
  • Inadequate funding
  • Too many regulations
  • Inadequate early childhood education
  • ~9 mth school year (ie Summers off) 
  • Inadequate parent training
  • Inadequate health care
  • Inadequate social and nutritional systems
  • Limit competition
  • Too much or little accountability focus
  • ???
National Policies and Laws
  • Inadequate funding
  • Too many regulations
  • Too much or little testing and measuring
  • ???
American Culture
  • Too socialist - coddling lazy people
  • Too capitalistic - coddling rich people
  • Values Football more than Education
  • Self centered with little thought of others
  • Too few volunteers to help the unlucky kids
  • Rich and Middle Class parents run from Poor neighborhoods and kids. Leaving high density neighborhoods of poor and unlucky students. (ie less funds, fewer volunteers, fewer good role models, more problems, etc)
  • ???
Other Countries/Parties
  • Foreign infiltration plot (JE)
  • ???
Now this one I am going to do a little different. When you give me ideas I will add them to the list, so start brain storming...  Additional sub-headings are also welcome.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Whose Children have been Left Behind?

One of my Facebook Friends posted regarding the blog post linked below.  The thoughts we discussed in Liar Liar seem very related.  Here we have a woman that claims to have been a Conservative expert and ardent NCLB supporter claiming that she has seen the evil of her ways and switched sides.

So in this article she in essence says that Charters, Privatization, Testing, Incentive Pay, etc are NOT WORKING, and that we should focus on what seems to me as the typical Liberal / Public School agenda.  She references many facts and makes a convincing case.

Being an ardent NCLB supporter, of course I disagree with her.  If we don't have active system monitoring that drives system adjustments, we have no idea where we are relative to the goal and no way to correct the system.  It would be like a furnace without a thermostat, which makes no sense.

Now I do agree that NCLB does need some tweaks. Below are some links from our previous discussions on the topic. Some of her improvement points definitely make sense, like more early education and hire/keep only highly qualified Teachers.  Though I am sure we would disagree regarding what a qualified Teacher is...  She seems to like years and degrees... (ie pro-Union?)  And I am not sure how she would implement and pay for her ideas. 

It seems she believes that if we give the Educational and Social Services groups more money, they'll take care of the problem.  Which I find funny since we tried that for decades before NCLB, and the result was a huge gap and a burning platform that allowed NCLB to get passed. (Note: NCLB was a Ted Kennedy bill (ie Liberal), Bush just signed it... She forgot to mention that.) 

So what do you think, was she ever "Conservative"?  Is she trying to manipulate the information and us?  If so, what is her intent/motive?  What are your thoughts regarding the article and the topic?

Whose Children have been Left Behind?
by Diane Ravitch on Parents Across America
Parents Across America

G2A No More NCLB?
G2A AYP  Pick your corner
G2A AYP - The Top 10 List
G2A Sir, The Class is to Hard
G2A High Stds Reqd
G2A Dead Beat Parents
G2A Teaching to Test?

Diane's Top 12
  1. Every pregnant woman should have good pre-natal care and nutrition so that her child is born healthy. One of three children born to women who do not get good prenatal care will have disabilities that are preventable. That will cost society far more than providing these women with prenatal care.
  2. Every child should have the medical attention and nutrition that they need to grow up healthy.
  3. Every child should have high-quality early childhood education.
  4. Every school should have experienced teachers who are prepared to help all children learn.
  5. Every teacher should have at least a masters degree.
  6. Every principal should be a master teacher, not a recruit from industry, the military, or the sports world.
  7. Every superintendent should be an experienced educator who understand teaching and learning and the needs of children.
  8. Every school should have a health clinic.
  9. Schools should collaborate with parents, the local community, civic leaders, and local business leaders to support the needs of children.
  10. Every school should have a full and balanced curriculum, with the arts, sciences, history, civics, geography, mathematics, foreign languages, and physical education.
  11. Every child should have time and space to play.
  12. We must stop investing in testing, accountability, and consultants and start investing in children.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Liar Liar Pants on Fire

I know there must be something more important to discuss out there, but this concept still fascinates me to no end.  Here is one of J's quotes from the last post.
"If you're getting your news from CNN you have no idea whatsoever what those who get their news from Fox know, because you will never hear it. Most studies find exactly the opposite, in fact. Remember, people CHOOSE their sources for news, and they do so intelligently, contrary to liberal belief. Lying to them or slanting the truth loses you audience. Compare Fox News and CNN and you will see it, plain as day."
Now what do you think, is there really a huge conspiracy out there where the Liberals, Conservatives, Whole Organizations, etc are actually working to twist FACTS and state LIES?  Or do they truly believe what they are writing, saying, etc is the TRUTH / FACTS?

If you answer twisting and lying, who do you think is the biggest LIAR LIAR PANTS ON FIRE and why?

The reason it fascinates me is because it comes down to intent.  Are they really evil tyrannical manipulators or honest well intentioned engaged citizens, news people, politicians, etc?  That is a pretty big difference that seems very important to me.

As you are aware, I like to peruse all types of information sources so that I can understand the play from the perspective of all seats in the theater. Be it from the Left, Middle, Right or some other country. Overall I think most folks are being honest based on their perspective of reality, and I find it amusing when folks call these fellow citizens liars. 

Finally, what important sources did I miss below?

G2A Snopes and Relativity
Blind Spots
FOX News
Aljazheera (English)
BBC News
Huffington Post
EIB network
The Nation

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Republican Candidates Weak?

After browsing these 2 links, I am wondering how the Conservatives will ever find a great candidate?  It seems many of them are seeking a Far Right pious Christian who has not sinned.  Which is unlikely since sin and humanity tend to go together.  And I am thinking that even Jesus was more of a moderate on social issues.

My Mom and Dad were at the debates last night, so I will need to get the inside scoop later.  Of course Mr Carville would not think much Mom's choice of radio stations. (see below)

Questions of the day:
  • Who do you think should be the Republican nominee and why?
  • Is the current candidate pool weak?
  • If so..   Why?  How can they improve this?
Since I will likely vote for the Republican candidate, I hope the party works toward offering a better option than they did in 2008.  I liked McCain except for his advanced years, but had no faith in Palin.  And yes I voted for them anyway given the Socialism advancing alternative.

CNN Carville
CNN Belief Gingrich
""We have watched GOP debates where audience members booed gay soldiers and cheered the prospect of someone dying without health insurance. We've seen a candidate who wasn't penalized in the least for not knowing that China has had nuclear weapons since 1964 but had to drop out because of a consensual sexual relationship. We have seen a member of the House Intelligence Committee who apparently didn't realize that we haven't had an embassy in Iran for the last 30 years, candidates who don't believe in evolution, and a candidate that didn't even know the voting age in the United States. Maybe Bush, Daniels, Christie, Barbour and Thune figured out ahead of time what Fairleigh Dickinson University uncovered just recently: that people who watch Fox News are actually more ignorant than people who watch no news at all. Could you imagine what they would have found had they studied people listening to talk radio?
Perhaps the Republicans are getting exactly the kind of candidates that best match the intellectual composition of the majority of the people in their party -- just a thought, but it's my only explanation of our low bidders. Looks like their chance at the presidency is going, going, gone."

Thursday, December 8, 2011


You have just got to check out the video of the school board meeting where they approved moving forward with the STE(A)M school.  The presenter (Lori Simon) gave the recommendation and asked for questions.  At which time our Board members asked the HARD questions...  NOT !!! 

Their questions were simply verbal leaders that allowed Lori to pump up the sales pitch.  Then Gayle and Aldo got into the act, the Board Members started posturing, and the rest is history.

Now I don't get frustrated/angry too often with the Board, but this has got to be one of the most bone headed things the district has done since I have been watching these district politics.  The district community schools have many challenges, and here we go "de-worsifying" and losing focus.  What are they thinking?

Let's see...
  • demographics are shifting in the wrong direction in our neighborhood schools
  • so we set up another "escape pod" to drain off more of their engaged parents/students
  • closing the "gap" is supposed to be critical, and here are dropping those kids again
  • the district staff is tight, so we start them working to set up a new school, with new curriculum
  • we are tight on money so we open another school which means another school staff
  • an 8 yr payback, who would make that investment other than a gov't entity
  • etc, etc, etc...
I will give Helen credit for at least asking some more interesting questions.  And Tom asked a little about the budget and payback at the end.

I sure hope these folks know more than I do.  By the way, being an Engineer I totally support the STEM curriculum concept, so let's upgrade the community schools... Not set up one more odd duck to maintain. Thoughts?

Agenda with links to supporting docs
Dec 5th Meeting Video
Comm Solutions STEAM
STEM School Blog
STEAM site

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

MN Surplus $876 Million - Now What?

Being anti-debt, I am hoping they pay back the school shift and any other piggy banks they raided before they start raising spending or cutting taxes again...  Thoughts?

Independent Good News for Schools
MPR Surplus
KARE11 Surplus
Washington Post Surplus
MN Politics Good news

Friday, December 2, 2011

RAS Truth In Taxation

Since there seems to be some passion here, let's take a look at these documents.  And remember the meeting is on Monday, Dec 5th if you are interested in sharing your opinions with the Board.

One of my concerns right now is a rumor I have heard that there may be cuts in the budgets of Middle School after school activities.  It seems unwise to me since there seem to be a lot of reasons to ensure these activities stay in place. (ie build students tie to school, bored kids create issues, learning opportunity, prep for High School activities, etc)  Also, I have not found it written down anywhere...  Anyone know if this has been proposed or not?

A lot of information and data linked below.  Thoughts? 

RAS Truth in Taxation Presentation
RAS Truth in Taxation Agenda
RAS Truth in Taxation Worksheet

RAS Recommended Budget Adjustments
RAS Spreadsheet  on 2012/13 Expenses

RAS 2011/12 Budget
RAS 2011/12 Budget Presentation
RAS Audit Summary
RAS Accountability in Finance Pg
RAS Financial Advisory Council Pg