Thursday, January 31, 2008

14 Games Left for Fulham

The remaining schedule for Fulham breaks down somewhat negatively if looking on at current standings. Here is the list and current ranking on the league table:

Aston Villa (5th)
Middlesbrough (13th)
West Ham United (10th)
Manchester United (1st)
Blackburn (8th)
Everton (4th)
Newcastle (12th)
Derby County (20th)
Sunderland (14th)
Reading (16th)
Liverpool (7th)
Manchester City (6th)
Birmingham (17th)
Portsmouth (9th)

Right now, Fulham sits 19th on 16 points. The difference between 19th place on the table and 13th place on the table (occupied by Middlesbrough) is 9 points. The differnce between relegation and staying in the Premier league is 5 points right now. Wins against Derby, REading, Birmingham and Sunderland and drawing probably 5 of the remaining 10 matches may be more than enough to get Fulham out of the drop zone. The way I cacluate it, Fulham will need 20-22 points in the remaining 14 matches to avoid relegation. Of course, more would be helpful.

Fulham News

Yesterday, Team Captain Brian McBride completed 90 minute match for the Reserves, putting him on pace to return to full action with the First Team in short order. Fulham Manager Roy Hodgson noted, though:
"We mustn't overestimate the level of opposition. It was an extremely young Cardiff team and that game was nothing like a Premier League game but the really positive thing is that our captain, Brian, who is a really influential character and person, is well on the road to recovery. We’re hoping that if he continues at this rate it won’t be long before we see him in the First Team."
McBride could start seeing action as substitute in the coming weeks. McBride is recovering from dislocated patella and related damage to his knee he suffered in the third match of the season.

McBride's return could not come at a more fortuitous time as the Cottagers are looking to escape relegation.

In other news, Eddie Johnson has been permitted dispensation from U.S. National Team Coach Bob Bradley to miss the remainder of the U.S. Training camp in advance of the Feb. 6 friendly against Mexico. Johnson will return to Craven Cottage and begin full training at Motspur Park shortly. Along with Erik Nevland, Johnson's joining the team and McBride's return, Hodgson will soon have a full complement of striking options, something the team has been sorely lacking in recent months. Said Hodgson:
"Clint Dempsey is playing as our lone striker and is, in actual fact, a midfield player. We have new strikers now to bring into the team alongside David Healy, who is a different type of striker.

In Nevland and Johnson we have two out and out central strikers to bring in. I think they’ll make us better in that area but you have to take things step by step."
After a scoreless draw against Bolton (coupled with some strong play), it may be the Fulham is ready to turn a corner. I certainly hope so.

MIchigan Law Review Symposium on Electoral College Reform

Check it out here. I haven't read the meat of the symposium yet, but here is a synopsis of papers sent to me by the Michigan Law Review Editors:
Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law Professor Daniel P. Tokaji argues that the thirty-five day period in which states can take advantage of the “safe harbor” provision under federal law offers insufficient time for the resolution of post-election disputes over electors. Professor Tokaji proposes a new timetable that would allow states more time to complete recount and contest proceedings in the event of close, contested elections—a change he feels is justified on both fairness and federalism grounds.

Sacramento-based election law attorney and former legal counsel for California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and the California Republican Party Thomas W. Hiltachk explains and defends his proposed statewide initiative that would change California’s winner-take-all system of awarding its fifty-five electoral votes to a system that arguably would make California more relevant to the election process. If the California initiative took effect, the state would award the presidential candidate winning the popular vote in each of the state’s congressional districts one electoral vote while awarding the winner of the state’s overall popular vote two electoral votes.

Washington, D.C.-based election law attorney and former Democratic campaign manager Sam Hirsch critiques Hiltachk’s proposed initiative, arguing that the congressional-district system increases the chances of the presidency being awarded to the second-place finisher in popular votes, is significantly biased to favor one political party, and is founded on the erroneous assumption that congressional-district lines are politically “neutral” and thus well suited to functions other than electing members of the U.S. House of Representatives.

University of Chicago Dean of Social Sciences John Mark Hansen examines the effects of the Electoral College system and the proposed reforms to it on the prospect of equal voice in elections, concluding that if every vote is to count equally, the only solution is to elect the president by direct popular vote.

University of California’s Hastings College of the Law Professor Ethan J. Leib and Hastings College of the Law J.D. Candidate Eli J. Mark critique three state-based reform systems—reforms granting electoral votes based on winning congressional districts, reforms granting electoral votes in proportion to the state’s popular vote, and reforms granting all of a state’s electoral votes to the nationwide popular vote winner—and note the effects of partisan principles on defenses and critiques of them.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Visiting Scholar Alexander S. Belenky discusses instituting direct popular election of the president as well as the National Popular Vote interstate compact but also evaluates a third option that makes the nationwide popular vote a decisive factor in electing a president but retains the Electoral College as a safeguard against failure to elect a president.

University of Michigan J.D. candidate Daniel Rathbun contends both legal and sociological theory can explain the National Popular Vote compact’s failure to take hold. Legally, Rathbun argues, the NPV overlooks significant constitutional and practical-institutional obstacles. Sociologically, he contends, the NPV is structurally incapable of dis-embedding the federalist theory underlying the Electoral College.
To be certain, the Electoral College may be in need of reform, but by the same token, many of the proposals will drastically alter the manner in which presidential campaigns are run.

In particular, I think that a direct popular vote is likely to skew campaigning to just a few states, whereas now, some of the smaller states, particularly those that are intensely competitive can be important states for candidates to visit. But with a direct national vote, you run the risk of marginalizing even further some of the small to mediums size states in favor of large states like California, Texas, New York and Florida since that is where most of the voters are located.

I think in such a situation you could get two radically different campaigns. One would be the candidates simply facing off in the big states. The second type would be one candidate who simply tries to be competitive in the big states, but then tries to round up lots of votes in the smaller states.

The purpose behind the electoral college, as originally formulated, was to allow the political elites, those with knowledge of the candidates and their qualifications to vote on a President. The reason, of course, is that in 1790, there was no mass communication and certainly no campaigning in the manner we see today. Candidates thought that those who campaigned were beneath the dignity of the office they sought--so they didn't campaign. Today though, we have a massive information glut (much of it fairly useless) and most voters have a mechanism by which to learn about candidates. As originally formulated, the Electoral College gave voice to the smaller states in the Presidential election. I am not sure you can get to that same place with a direct election of the President.

I certainly don't know the perfect answer (assuming one exists), but I do think that symposiums like the Michigan Law Reviews are a good place to start to look for answers.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

GOP Delegates

Hugh Hewitt talks delegate math for the GOP and the worst case scenario for Romney.
Total at the end of Super Tuesday without a major reversal of fortune for Romney:

McCain 745, Romney 327, and Huck 197.

It takes 1,191 delegates to secure the nomination. There are more than 900 delegates left to fight for after Super Tuesday.

Start looking hard at the numbers and put yourself in the discussions with Team Romney. It isn't pretty, but it is far, far from over.

And if the Huckabee voters look at the reality and see they are voting for McCain when they vote for Huck, anything can happen.
It is still a wide open race and while there are a number of big states leaning to McCain, the margin of error is doable for Romney.

At least it is starting to get interesting.

Hillary Clinton Is A Liar

Via Extreme Mortman: The Manchester (New Hampshire) Union Leader writes in Editorial:
Hillary's word: It's worth nothing

Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2008

COURTING VOTERS in Iowa and New Hampshire, last August Sen. Hillary Clinton signed a pledge not to "campaign or participate" in the Michigan or Florida Democratic primaries. She participated in both primaries and is campaigning in Florida. Which proves, again, that Hillary Clinton is a liar.

Clinton kept her name on the Michigan ballot when others removed theirs, she campaigned this past weekend in Florida, and she is pushing to seat Michigan and Florida delegates at the Democratic National Convention. The party stripped those states of delegates as punishment for moving up their primary dates.

"I will try to persuade my delegates to seat the delegates from Michigan and Florida," Clinton said last week, after the New Hampshire primaries and Iowa caucuses were safely over.

Clinton coldly and knowingly lied to New Hampshire and Iowa. Her promise was not a vague statement. It was a signed pledge with a clear and unequivocal meaning.

She signed it thinking that keeping the other candidates out of Michigan and Florida was to her advantage, but knowing she would break it if that proved beneficial later on. It did, and she did.

New Hampshire voters, you were played for suckers.

I wonder how many other newspapers and others, like Obama, will say about this.

Of course, I have never relied upon the word of a Clinton--Except maybe George Clinton.

Election Administrators Just Can't Win

Just when you thought election related litigation couldn't get any sillier, the ACLU steps up to do just that. The ACLU of OhioACLU asked a federal judge to block the March 4 Ohio primary in Cuyohoga County (Cleveland to me and you) if the county switches to paper ballots.
The lawsuit argued that the proposed paper-ballot system would violate voters' constitutional rights because it doesn't allow them to correct errors on ballots before they are cast.

"The evidence is overwhelming that when voters do not have access to technology that notifies them of ballot errors, many more ballots are left uncounted," said Meredith Bell-Platts, a voting-rights attorney with the ACLU.
So let's see, if I have all of this straight.

First, the ACLU and other didn't like machines to count ballots because the machines could be tampered with and therefore could disenfranchise voters. Second, we got machines that included a way for voters to make sure the machine accurately tabulated their votes. Third, for whatever reason (probably a lawsuit of some sort), Cuyohoga County has to revert to a paper ballot.

Now, the paper ballot is presumably filled out by a voter before submission. What the ACLU seems to be saying is that the average voter is too stupid to check for themselves to see if their ballot has any errors without a machine to tell them.

I'm sorry, but if that is the case, then we as a nation are in deep trouble when it comes to voting.

Oh, and if the ACLU wins and the county has to use the new computerized machines, you can bet that if something goes wrong the ACLU will sue again.

How to Get to School Reform

The Eduflack writes about an exchange he had with a reader:
Over the weekend, though, Eduflack engaged in an electronic give-and-take with a reader who saw things differently. The reader suggested that the only stakeholder who should be involved in K-12 reform is the teacher, with the intent being only those who have taught (and taught for more than a year or two) are knowledgeable and qualified enough to opine and decide on what is taught, how it is taught, and how it is measured.
It is exactly this kind of "only I know best" mindsets that always sends me to teh medicine cabinet for pain relief after gnashing my teeth so hard.

Yes, teacher should have a voice, indeed an important voice, in the education reform debate. But they cannot be and should not be the only voice. If that logic is carried to its extreme, most (if not every) member of Congress and most state legislators would not be permitted to opine on school reform (despite the fact that they control the purse strings for education). The same goes for school boards, most of whom are usually not teachers.

Furthermore, if the mindset that Bill Ferriter is running into is any indication of a larger problem, then not only are current teachers ill-suited to be the only voice in education reform, they are likely the worst prepared voice. Ferriter cannot convince teachers to adopt new technology in their classrooms and if that small step appears to be a giant chasm to changing the way teachers teach in their own classrooms, the opportunity for real and substantive change is diminutive at best.

Eduflack has it right and I have said it time and again. Just because I am a teacher does not diminish my voice for education reform, in fact, as a consumer of public education services as a surrogate for my daughter, I would argue I have much more immediately at stake than any group of teachers. Should we listen to teachers? Absolutely, to do otherwise would be ludicrous. But they cannot, indeed should not, be the only voice in the education reform debate.

Teacher Evaluations Suck

If Thomas Toch and Robert Rothman could have gotten that line past the editors, it would have been just as accurate a title asRush to Judgment: Teacher Evaluation in Public Education. From the blurb:
Because teacher evaluation is at the heart of the educational enterprise —the quality of teaching in the nation’s classrooms—it has the potential to be a powerful lever of teacher and school improvement. But that potential is being squandered throughout public education today.

A host of factors—a lack of accountability for school performance, staffing practices that strip school systems of incentives to take teacher evaluation seriously, union ambivalence, and public education’s practice of using teacher credentials as a proxy for teacher quality—have resulted in teacher evaluation systems throughout public education that are superficial, capricious, and often don’t even directly address the quality of instruction, much less measure students’ learning.
Still reading the actual report, but it doesn't take much of a genius to know that teacher evaluations are hard on the school's administration. In a typical elementary schools, and my daughter's school is pretty typical, there may be 22-25 classroom teachers, each of whom has to be evaluated. There is a principal, a vice principal and that is it for evaluators. There may be a "department head" but that is usually another classroom teacher.

Rothman and Toch make some recommendations--more on that to come.

Edwards Out

This took longer than I expected, but John Edwards has quit. I seriously doubt that Clinton will choose him as VP, but Obama might.

But Edwards lack of experience in anything that matters as far as government is not going to improve his chances outside of a cabinet posting.

Edcuation Carnivals

The Carnival of Education #156 and the 109th Edition of the Carnival of Homeschooling are open for reading.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

"A Pox on Both Their Houses"--A Worthless Debate About Education Reform

Ten days ago, I wrote a post in reaction to a piece appearing in City Journal by Sol Stern in which he argues that current models of school choice (an "incentivist" approach to education reform) have hit a wall and that we as a nation should look to improving the curriculum (an "instructivist" model of reform) as a better alternative. Well, the Stern article has created quite a storm of debate among people allegedly smarter than I. But this particular debate about school reform has given me pause about the future improvement of our schools.

In my reaction to Stern, I made a connection to the lack of innovation in the management of schools and the labor market (teachers) for schools. Largely this lack of change is a result of the a failure of imagination when it comes to thinking of new ways to educate our kids. So we have a disconnect between other markets in American life and the manner in which we teach our kids (which is not based on market forces). I still believe that the more we make our education system for K-12 like our market based-educational system for college and beyond, the sooner we will see real change in the manner in which our children are taught and learn.

Creativity and innovation is what will change our schools, and nothing less. What troubles me most, though, about the debate on City Journal is the absolute lack of creativity among the participants. In light of Stern's article, which I admit seems to abandon the idea of market based, incentivist approaches to education reform, it seems as though there are two sides taking shape here, incentivist versus instructivist reform. Neither side seems willing to give on the notion that their way is the right way.

One writer, Andrew Coulson, cites Romeo & Juliet, in his "contribution" to the debate. Let me do the same and say "A pox on both their houses." This kind of debate, while it might make for entertaining rhetoric is shamefully devoid of any ideas. We have all kinds of statistics and dueling theories offered, but absolutely no ideas for moving education reform forward.

While I have my belief that an incentivist approach will work in the long term, I see absolutely no reason to foreclose the idea that an instructivist approach will not work as well. Why cannot these supposedly smart people see that both tracks can be pursued and it may be possible for them to overlap? Indeed, they may already be overlapping and we just don't know about it.

Somewhere, right now, there is a school reformer, be it a teacher, a principal or simply a principled idealist, who has in their head a charter school (incentivist) with a radically different idea of what and how to teach (instructivist) and that school could revolutionize how we teach kids. But if we close our minds to the fact that only one approach to education reform will work, then how are education reformers any different from the defenders of the educational status quo-those who don't want to see any change?

Simply put, we don't have the answers and we must continue to search for them. But if the leading educational thinkers and "reformers" do nothing but attack each other's position, why then should we take their word for anything? The secret to education reform success certainly does not seem to lie with these people.

So if you are looking for these so called "educational leaders" to present us with ideas, the debate at the City Journal is not the place to go.

Barack Obama--A Really Different Candidate

As Howard Kurtz notes, because Obama does not court the press-particularly in the same manner as Hillary Clinton or any of the GOP candidates.

That is not to say he doesn't talk to the press--he does. But it is him talking to the press, not his campaign advisors spinning every reporter they can find.
In an age of all-out political warfare, the Obama campaign is a bit of an odd duck: It is not obsessed with winning each news cycle. The Illinois senator remains a remote figure to those covering him, and his team, while competent and professional, makes only spotty attempts to drive its preferred story lines in the press.

"There is no charm offensive from the candidate toward the press corps," says Newsweek correspondent Richard Wolffe. "The contact is limited. . . . They see the national media more as a logistical problem than a channel for getting stuff out."
In some ways this is not surprising to me.

From the start, Obama has eschewed the "normal" political style. He has courted younger voters (who it must be noted, don't get their news and information through the national media), he has projected a campaign style that is different than the pugnacious approach of Clinton and Edwards. But Kurtz notes that the Obama campaign is a little different in that Obama is much more isolated as a candidate as well, noting one anecdote:
All traveling campaigns have a bubble-like quality, but Obama seems unusually insulated. One moment of absurdity came Tuesday, when reporters on the press bus were asked to dial into a conference call in which Obama announced a congressman's endorsement -- even though the candidate was nearby and just as easily could have delivered the news in person to the bus captives. Obama answered a few questions, but reporters are generally placed on mute after they speak so there can be no follow-up.
But the funny thing is, for all the isolation, it doesn't seem to be hurting Obama's public perception. His campaign rallies are raucous affairs, with large crowds cheering and an energy. The line to get into Obama's rally where he received the Kennedy endorsements stretched for four blocks in Washington DC, that is four blocks with people four and five deep in the line to get in. CNN showed the endorsement and Obama speech afterward. Then CNN showed a Hillary Clinton campaign event and the place looked lively, for a morgue. The contrast could not have been more different.

To a certain extent, Kurtz is whining that the "national" media don't have good ins and sources with the Obama campaign. Obama's people have been as disciplined as the Marine Corps when it comes to message management and that is what is driving the media and Kurtz nuts. It is not so much the lack of spin from the Obama camp so much as it is the lack of differing spin to play off one another.

Obama's campaign is different and it seems to work for him--just not for the media.

Fodder for Conspiracy Theorists for Later This Year

The Appeal is John Grisham's new (not so fictitious) novel about rigging an election in Mississippi.

I kind of want to read it, if for no other reasons than to see if anything like it will be mentioned in the days before and after the 2008 elections.

Advisers Say Bill Clinton Hurt Campaign

Teagan Goddard reports: Advisers Say Bill Clinton Hurt Campaign.
"The sources -- who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject -- act as either unpaid advisers or surrogates for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. Interviewed separately, they agreed that the former president's recent headline-generating statements "hurt more than helped" his wife's South Carolina campaign."
Well duh!

Here is my reasoning why it probably won't stop.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Preschool Priorities-- Are We Killing Childhood?

My children attended pre-school, largely to give them someone to play with since the neighborhood kids are older than them. However, with all the hubbub about universal pre-school, I am left wondering if in our rush to educate our kids, we are educating them right out of childhood?

Tennessee Approves Tougher Student Standards

From Ed Week:Tennessee Approves Tougher Student Standards:
The state Board of Education has approved tougher standards for Tennessee students and dropped the Gateway exams.

The new guidelines include math all four years of high school and mandatory chemistry or physics in addition to biology.

The requirements will take affect in the 2009-10 school year and will affect current 7th graders.

The Gateway exams are a series of tests that have been required for students to get a diploma.

Other changes approved Friday include aligning language arts and math standards for students in kindergarten through 12th grade with national standards.
Instead of the Gateway exams, the state is proposing a series of 10 year end tests that would account for 25 percent of a students grade (enough to save a struggling student, but not enough to tank a good performer.
The goal is to have the exams in 10 courses: English 1, 2, and 3; algebra 1 and 2; geometry; U.S. history; biology; chemistry; and physics. The exams have yet to be developed.
Here is going to be the test for Tennessee, will they stick with the 10 tests when students start failing them?

Executive Order States Pork Has to Be Statutory Pork

An executive order issued by President Bush will require that
executive agencies will not commit, obligate, or expend funds on the basis of earmarks from any non-statutory source, including requests included in congressional committee reports or other congressional documents, or communications from or on behalf of Members of Congress, or any other non-statutory source, except when required by law, or when an agency itself decides that a project or other transaction has merit under statutory criteria or other merit-based decision-making.
A fiscally conservative step that will at least allow light to be shed on earmarks. It doesn't end the practice, but sunshine is a pretty good disinfectant and it is a start.

Hillary and Bill Clinton

Until the past six weeks, most people probably assumed that Hillary Clinton would be the Democratic nominee for President and realistically, it was not a bad assessment. But of course, reality changes and often in the blink of an eye, or the cast of a ballot (or few thousand).

Hillary Clinton's reality though is coming home to roost. The fact is that she is a flawed candidate trapped by circumstances, partly of her making and partly of history that she cannot change. Let me be clear, Hillary Clinton, had her name been anything else, might or might be a viable candidate for the Presidency, but her name is Clinton and that is a problem, or rather a whole series of problems for her.

First, there is the whole Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton dynamic which is working against her. True, this is not a dynamic wholly of her making, but it is a problem that she has to overcome and as time wears on, it is becoming increasingly difficult to do so.

Second, she has always had a woman problem (which I have noted a number of occaisions) and in reality she has not corrected her campaign's belief that she will outperform any candidate in the gender gap.

Third, she has a big problem with her message. In every poll taken where the question of whether experience or change matters to people, she is getting beaten badly on the change issue, which seems to be driving a lot of action on the Democratic side. There seems to be no end to the American people's dissatisfaction with the way Washington is doing things and Obama is tapping into that dissatisfaction in a big way.

Fourth, and this may be her biggest problem--Bill Clinton. Let's face it, Bill Clinton is both a boon and an anchor around her neck. A great big part of her "experience" argument is tied close to Bill Clinton, but while embracing Bill Clinton, both as her husband and the source of her experience, she cannot avoid the negatives of Bill Clinton, and I am not even referring to the racially tinged statements that came to light in the run up to South Carolina.

Spouses campaigning for the other is nothing unusual, if fact it is almost expected. The problem for Hillary Clinton is that her husband generates his own press by just being former President Bill Clinton. That takes some focus off of her in the good times and shines a glaring spotlight on her when Bill shoots his mouth off.

But while it would be nice to put him in the penalty box for the whole South Carolina thing, she can't really do that. Again, her claim to the mantle of "experiernce" is based on her proximity to him and she needs to have him around. Additionally, it would look bad to have your husband campaigning hard for you one week, only to have him sitting the next week because you are mad at him. Of all a candidate's surrogates, the spouse is the one who you are supposed to trust the most not to go off message.

But Hillary's problem with Bill extends beyond spousal surrogacy and "experience." In a campaign that is increasingly becoming about change, her ties to him keep her trapped in the past and that, more than anything else, may be costing her the lead in some states. Finally, Bill's proximity to Hillary reminds people of not only the relative good of the Bill Clinton years, but the bad as well and that simply is not going away.

Sure, in campaigns, you take the good with the bad, but in this case, life for Hillary Clinton would have been much better is Bill Clinton had lost his voice for the past eight months only to suddenly regain it if she wins the nomination. But alas for Hillary, she can't change the past--although she must surely want to do so.

Democratic Endorsements

Somehow this endorsement for Hillary Clinton doesn't quite match this endorsement for Barack Obama in stature. I'm just saying.

Odd Response by YouDiligence Owners

a couple of weeks ago, I posted this piece about YouDiligence as monitoring tool that would allow colleges and universities to monitor what their student-athletes post on the web about anything.

I have receive three comments to the post that quite frankly, I didn't expect. One was trying to correct my understanding of how the software operates and made this statement:
Second, let me ask you a question. If a student goes running though the halls screaming "Let's kill all the kikes and niggers", is it censorship to take this student aside and have a discussion with them? I believe it is educators' duty to confront this student.

Now let's consider that the student is screaming these words in Chinese. It should not change the need to have a discussion with this student. All YD does is give educators the power to understand within the public forum, the world of the web. In the case of Chinese student, opaqueness comes from the language. With the web, it is the sheer amount of data out there that creates the opaqueness.
Well, actually pulling a student aside for racial slurs and talking to him is not censorship. But mandating that he talk to someone about his speech is. Monitoring his speech is not censorship per se, but you are one step closer. but it goes futher. The only speech that the university could monitor is public speech, but that speech is protected--even it is racist, uneducated and otherwise offensive. That is the point of free speech.

Then there is this:
Lastly, it is the University's interests that are being served. Over time, a University's reputation and endowment will be much better served by good respectful citizens than by inappropriate, rascist assholes. If users are revealing themselves as such within public spaces, why shouldn't a University have the right to say "we do not want to be associated with a person who behaves as such"?
Yes, the university's interests are being served, possibly at the expense of their free speech rights. A public university may not take any action against any student for the content of that student's speech absent a clear contractual obligation by the student otherwise (and no a student Handbook doesn't count). Something like an athletic scholarship that was clear in its langauge would suffice. But since an athletic scholarship, even if it has a morals and behavior clause, is not likely to be specfic enough, but I am willing to concede it is possible.

Sure, a public university can choose not to associate with a student (and most readers of a Facebook page would never impart a student's words with the stamp of university authority). But the university cannot, absent something significantly more, dismiss a student for racist or stupid language. Nor can they punish a student.

As a tool, I would suspect that YouDiligence is rather neutral in its approach. My guess is that it works like a web search tool, looking for specific combinations of schools names, mascots, players, students and other terms it is programmed to seek and if present notify the designated person. In and of itself, the tool is probably not much more than specific type of search engine. Harmless enough. But is is not the tool that is the problem, but the application of the tool. Univesities of late have not exactly proven themselves as defenders of the freedom of speech and thought. Just take a look at FIRE's Website.

The second comment said this:
We would like to clarify that the person who wrote this post is not part of the company that built, owns and operates YouDiligence(TM) . The opinions of the person expressed while in spirit do match an important part of the mission ( efficient reputation management) -the tone and words used in no way reflect the opinions of GlobalNI Inc. The fact is that people who conduct themselves in certain ways in public are with or without YouDiligence(TM) risking personal and professional consequences- the technology is neutral and defensive not invasive. Additionally there is much false information posted about high exposure individuals and Youdiligence(TM) is also designed to give people situational awareness and empower them to manage exposure that may harm their personal or professional interests. Athletes are not the only people who are exposed.
First, no where on the post or my blog do I indicate that I am in anyway associated with the program or its designers/owners. Similarly, I am not sure if the second comment was referring to the first comment or not. (so if someone from GlobalNI Inc. wishes to clarify I will post those comments in their entirety).

By freedom of speech, as I have said, I do not mean to indicate that the speaker is free of the consequences of their speech to either their personal or professional reputation. A person must be associated with their words and deeds. But the problem I have with this kind of service and its application is the potential for a student-athlete to be punished by the university for their speech. The university cannot (again absent a contractual clause otherwise) punish a student for his/her speech. that does not mean the student can't otherwise be held accountable.

Finally, MVP Sports Media Training posted this comment:
We at MVP Sports Media Training, have the exclusive rights to market YouDiligence(TM) to the collegiate and education markets would also like to get on the record that the person who made the initial post is not part of MVP. Additionally, the initial post includes tone and words that do not reflect the opinion or mission of MVP. We are about helping student-athletes proactively protect their reputations and athletic departments project a positive image. YouDiligence(TM) can be an effective tool to assist with both in the new media era. We welcome further open discussion and debate about this topic.
Again, I don't know if MVP is referring to my original post or the first commenter. As with GlobalNI, I am willing to post verbatim anything MVP sends to me.

I know that image management is an important part of any athlete or athletic department's mission. However, having said that, the Athletic Department is still part of the university community and a public university cannot discipline a student or student athlete for the content of that student's personal Facebook account. As for managing the reputation of a student-athlete-certainly, I will grant that YouDiligence will enable a school to monitor what others might be saying about their student-athletes to manage the reputation. But it is the monitoring of the student-athelte themselves by the school that is troubling. This is from the YouDiligence materials:
YOUDiligence, searches MySpace and Facebook for any potentially damaging material. YOUDiligence automatically notifies you by email should it find questionable written material posted by one of your
. What you decide to do with that information is entirely up to you.
It is the last statement is what is troubling?

Perhaps MVP could clarify how it intends the product to be used? What does it envision the University doing with the infromation they receive? Managing reputation is one thing, policing the online thoughts of a student-athlete is a far different thing.

Again, I will be happy to post verbatim anything MVP sends my way.

The Argentinian Invasion Continues

For the MLS and DC United in particular.

Maybe with the impending U.S. recession, American players will start being exported as well.

Women Play Soccer in Saudi Arabia

There has been a lot of hubbub recently about Saudi Arabia starting to allow women to drive, but this too is good news: Women Play Soccer in Saudi Arabia. This is a huge step forward. Granted, everyone on the stadium, from the players, to the fans, referee and assistant referees were women, but at least they are playing.

Soccer can change the world or the playing of soccer can be a sign that the world is changing.

Iraq Soccer Star Can’t Play in England. Iraq Blames America

Here is a bit of news to conflates two things and one that can make America better in the eyes of Iraq. It seems that Iraqi soccer stat Nashat Akram was denied a British work permit by the British Interior Ministry to play soccer in England with Premier League side Manchester City.
The reason? Iraq’s standing in the soccer world isn’t high enough, despite the fact that they won the Asian Cup soccer championship this summer.

Akram’s would-be employer, Manchester City Football Club, said the government’s rejection of the appeal was based on a technicality. The Iraqi national team has not recently played against any of the world’s top 20 teams and its two-year average rank is 71. To meet the requirements of the visa, the team needs to be ranked in the top 70.
The Interior Ministry has rules set up so that English Soccer clubs cannot simply bring in all the high-priced internationl talent they want. Aside from the rankings of the players national team, the player also has to have played in 75 percent of his national team's internation matches and a few other requirements.

The Iraqi national team has not been able to play at home (and thus improve their ranking) due to their "domestic troubles," which includes soccer players getting killed among other things. Iraq did very well in the last World Cup (better than the U.S. I might add), and was the winner of the Asian Cup. The technical ranking issue can be overruled by an Appeals Board.

This would be a good chance for the U.S. to help by appealing to the Interior Ministry to let Akram play. To my knowledge, Akram would be the only Iraqi playing in the Premier League and the addition to him to a Premier League club would be a further demonstration of how far the nation of Iraq has come. Plus, it would make the Brits look good, the Americans look good and we would get to see Akram play in one of the best leagues in the world--and he has mad skills to boot, so it wouldn't be a charity case.

Carnival of Maryland #25

Check it out at The Greenbelt. A great way to see what Maryland Bloggers are writing about.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Resegregation of U.S. Schools Deepening

The story appearing in the Christian Science Monitor breathlessly cries
At one time, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District in North Carolina was a model of court-ordered integration.

Today, nearly a decade after a court struck down its racial-balancing busing program, the school district is moving in the opposite direction. More than half of its elementary schools are either more than 90 percent black or 90 percent white.

"Charlotte is rapidly resegregating," says Carol Sawyer, a parent and member of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Equity Committee.

It's a trend that is occurring around the country and is even more pronounced than expected in the wake of court cases dismantling both mandated and voluntary integration programs, a new report says. The most segregated schools, according to the report, which documents desegregation trends, are in big cities of the Northeast and Midwest. The South and West – and rural areas and small towns generally – offer minority students a bit more diversity.

Suburbs of large cities, meanwhile, are becoming the new frontier: areas to which many minorities are moving.

These places still have a chance to remain diverse communities but are showing signs of replicating the segregation patterns of the cities themselves.
Once again, even a reputable paper like the CSM gets things wrong.

Segregation, as it referred to in the landmark Brown v. Board case, which led to Charlotte-Mecklenburg's forced busing system, was about de jure segregation, that is segration by law. What is happening now is de facto segregation, segregation that is occuring for reasons other than a law that mandates a separation of the races.

The type of de facto segreation that is occuring now is the product of so many different influences it is hard to describe them all, but it boils down to a couple of key points-- housing costs, economics and choice. The fact is that the neighborhoods of Charlotte and other urban areas are themselves less racially diverse and since we still have, and will continue to have neighborhood schools, the schools have slowly become less racially diverse than in the past. People instinctively choose to live next to those that are most like them, which means they choose to live in neighborhoods where they have the most in common with their neighbors, including racial characteristics, education, background, employment, etc. That the schools are not fully segregated tells us that there are no legal mandates for racially segregated schools, but that there are economic and social forces at work that are creating de facto segregation.

So what is the solution? There is none. Sure, urban schools could continue to bus kids across town, but when parents and communities are demanding neighborhood schools, you can't have a neighborhood school whose population is different than the population of the community. But to truly "re-integrate" the schools, you would have to re-integrate the population, which as pointed has segregated itself based on social and financial strata. Forcing a change in housing patterns and social problems creates even more issues for the govnerment and social engineering has been notoriously unsuccessful.

Another, often overlooked, factor when talking about Brown v. Board, and desegration is that at its heart the argument that Thurgood Marshall and the NAACP were making was a question of resources, not necessarily integration. The blacks only schools received a far lesser share of the economic and professional resources of a geographic area. Marshall and the NAACP figured the only way to address that funding and resource gap was to do away with segregation, so that all schools would receive the same level of resource.

Today, a funding gap still persists in some areas, but in other areas of the country, the funding gap actually runs counter to what you might believe. A recent Education Trust report, The Funding Gap, actually indicates that some urban districts in Maryland, Ohio and Wyoming now provide more funding to high poverty schools than to other schools.

On the surface, the so-called resegregation of our schools seems like a real problem. The solution may not be more laws or voluntary integration plans, but more options for the education of our children. Be it charter schools, magnet schools, exchange programs, private scholarship programs or any combination of options, giving more choices will lead to better integration of schools. The one thing that should be avoided at all costs is any government invervention, it always makes things worse.

A Class About Dreams

Forbes asked leaders of industry, public policy and education to offer a vision for improving American schools. I haven't read all twenty ideas, but the fact that they asked 2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus intrigued me and his answer was an amazing break from what most people would expect:
The process of imagining a future world of our liking is a major missing element in our education system. We prepare our students for jobs and careers, but we don't teach them to think as individuals about what kind of world they would like to create. Every high school and university ought to include a course focused on just this exercise. Each student will be asked to prepare a wish list and then to explain to the class why he wants the things he wants. Other students may endorse his ideas, offer better alternatives or challenge him. Then the students will go on to discuss how to create the dream world they imagine, what they can do to make it happen, what the barriers are, and how partnerships and organizations, concepts, frameworks, and action plans can be created to promote this goal. The course would be fun, and more important, it would be a great preparation for an exciting journey.
Yunus goes on to talk about something that ended up winning him the Nobel Peace Prize--focusing on a small, local problem. Yunus pioneered the concept of a micro-loan. His concenpt for education is not necessarily to look at all the big problems, but to focus on one small problem at a time, attacked by one small group of people at a time.

Thus instead of top down, mass solutions, you build a bottom up ground swell of improvement. A neat idea.

One Benefit of McCain-Feingold

You can spend an unlimited amount of corporate money to disparage Bill Clinton.

Dumb Moves by Canada

Note to the Canadian Human Rights Commission, if you want to intimidate someone, don't pick a like Mark Steyn, who has a world-wide audience--it only makes you look stupid.

Looking at Social Security in a Different Light

I found this to be interesting:
Most economists will tell you that the real problem with Social Security is demography. (Here's William Poole). The fraction of people over 65 will keep rising, implying a growing dependency ratio.

The problem is that this is only the ratio of retirees to working-age people. But wouldn't a better measure of dependency just be the ratio of workers to people? When you think about it this way, the aging of the population is balanced by (a) the fall in the fraction of children, and (b) the rise in female labor force participation. As one website that I wouldn't normally like explains:

It's the overall dependency ratio—–the number of workers relative to all non-workers, including the aged, the young, the disabled, and those choosing not to work—that determines whether society can "afford" the baby boomers' retirement years. In the 1960s we had 1.05 workers for each dependent, and we were building new schools and the interstate highway system and getting ready to put a man on the moon. No one bemoaned a demographic crisis or looked for ways to cut the resources allocated to children; in fact, the living standards of most families rose rapidly. In 2030, we will have 1.27 workers per dependent. We'll have more workers per dependent in the future than we did in the past. While it is true a larger share of total output will be allocated to the aged, just as a larger share was allocated to children in the 1960s, society will easily produce adequate output to support all workers and dependents, and at a higher standard of living.
Hmm, I hadn't though about that.

Freedom Leads to Wealth Which Leads to Economic Growth

Contrary to the news media, the world is getting freer and richer.
It is beyond dispute. Economic freedom leads to good things, while government coercion leads to poverty and oppression.

It's stunning that some people still find the free market controversial.

Phillip Mella on the Obama-Clinton Battle

From Clear Commentary:
In Clinton's cross-hairs is the affable, charismatic, Senator Barack Obama, who has had the political audacity of upstaging Hillary Clinton, whose grasping, visceral desire for the White House approaches the level of a birthright. Voters not only forgive human frailties, if candidly expressed, they can become touchstones of identification between the common man and presidential aspirants who, modern pretensions to the contrary notwithstanding, we still view as well above us poor mortals. However, hubris, arrogance, or the monarchical stain of electoral presumption is something they will not countenance.

With the able assistance of Bill, that is precisely what Hillary has created in the past few weeks and it has spread like a plague throughout the Democratic Party. Indeed, stalwart Clinton loyalists in the media and in Washington have expressed their discomfort with Bill's unpresidential, finger-wagging, red-faced confrontations, suggesting that party unity--read, the election--is at stake. But since the Clintons' ambitions have always trumped everything from politics to common sense, the storm is showing no sign of abating.

Unintended Consequences Defined

Quite elegantly.
The law of unintended consequences is what happens when a simple system tries to regulate a complex system. The political system is simple, it operates with limited information (rational ignorance), short time horizons, low feedback, and poor and misaligned incentives. Society in contrast is a complex, evolving, high-feedback, incentive-driven system. When a simple system tries to regulate a complex system you often get unintended consequences.

Unintended consequences are not restricted to government regulation of society but can also happen when government tries to regulate other complex systems such as the ecosystem (e.g. fire prevention policy that reduces forest diversity and increases mass fires, dam building that destroys wet lands and makes floods more likely etc.) Unintended consequences can even happen in the attempted regulation of complex physical systems (here is a classic example involving turbulence).(Internal links omitted).

If Wal-Mart is So Evil....

Why do 7,500 people line up to apply for 350-400 jobs at a new Wal-Mart? From the Atlanta Journal Constitution: They came in droves — high school students, retirees, young moms, the unemployed — all for a shot at a job at a new Wal-Mart on Memorial Drive in central DeKalb County.

In just two days, and with virtually no advertising or even any signs, a staggering 7,500 people filled out applications for one of the 350 to 400 available jobs. Sounds like this story from almost two years ago to the day in Chicago.

Hat Tip: Cafe Hayek

What Really Happened In Jena, LA

Well, it certainly is not what the mainstream media told you, as Charlotte Allen discusses in the Weekly Standard. It all started with a noose-hanging by three white, probably historically illiterate students, progressed to a six on one beating and then a national civil rights cause bolstered by prominent civil rights "leaders" like Jesse Jackson and others. What it turned out to be was something far different.
In early December the case of the "Jena Six"--the six African-American high school students in Louisiana accused of viciously beating a white classmate in 2006--collapsed dramatically with a felony guilty plea by one of the defendants. As something that was going to trigger "America's next great civil rights movement" (to quote National Public Radio) and grassroots protests against the "new Jim Crow" and the systematic discrimination against blacks in the criminal justice system, this was quite a letdown. The Jena Six were supposed to be the new Scottsboro Boys, the nine black youths railroaded to death sentences by all-white juries in 1930s Alabama on charges of raping two white women.


No one who subsequently investigated the noose incident--and that included sheriff's deputies for LaSalle Parish and the U.S. attorney for Central Louisiana, -Donald Washington, who is black himself and led a behind-the-scenes FBI probe of the Jena nooses within days of their discovery--found any connection between the nooses and the attack on Barker in December. Nonetheless, the nooses--and the supposedly unduly lenient punishment meted out to the boys who hung them--became the causal linchpin of the twin demands of the Jena Six cause: that the noose-hangers be criminally prosecuted for hate crimes and that all criminal charges be dismissed against the six defendants in the attack on Barker. Catrina Wallace, sister of a Jena Six member, summed up the reasoning at a rally in front of the Jena courthouse on July 31: "For them to say it was a prank left those kids to do only one thing: defend themselves." This interpretation gained wide currency among Jena Six sympathizers. One of them, rocker John Cougar Mellencamp, released a recording in early October with the chorus, "Jena, take your nooses down." The video accompanying the song includes footage of 1960s civil rights marches, police beatings from that era, and sheet-draped Ku Klux Klanners.

So it was that the attack on Barker--which, viewed from any other angle, was simply a brutal and potentially lethal six-against-one pile-on at a high school--became a civil rights cause célèbre. The Jena Six affair generated more than seven momonths' worth of national news headlines and scolding op-eds; became a pet cause of the Reverends Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, the rapper Mos Def, the Congressional Black Caucus, and dozens of black bloggers, commentators, and talk-show hosts (one notable exception was the black contrarian sportswriter Jason Whitlock); provoked a September 20 march through Jena by some 20,000 people (setting a record for a post-1960s civil rights demonstration); and inspired a BBC documentary titled Race Hate in Louisiana; and catapulted Jena into the dubious standing of "the most racist town" in America. Jackson called the charges against the Jena Six a "miscarriage of justice," while Sharpton labeled Bell "a fine young man" and vowed to keep returning to Jena until "the charges are dropped on these young men and until Mychal walks out of that jail." A strange logical inversion had occurred in which Barker became the aggressor in the December 4 incident and his six alleged assailants the victims.
That the media didn't investigate a story is not surprising and since it matched with a "racist" meme that is all but guaranteed to get headlines and ratings, it was carried on with nary a thought to the flimsy circumstances behind the "reasons" for the beating or the pea-brained idiocy behind the nooses.

E. J. Dionne Does Like What Bill Clinton Has Become

and that is a hypocrit.

Dionne laments the fact that Bill Clinton is chastising Barack Obama for mentioning Ronald Reagan, when Obama noted that Reagan was a president who put the country on a different path than the one we had been on. The whole Obama clip that I have seen doesn't say that the path was right or wrong, simply different. Dionne is sad because he is finally seeing the Clinton Machine for what it is, desperate to win and stay in power and willing to do or say anything to achieve that end--even if it is hypocritical.
I have been thinking about that episode ever since Hillary Clinton's campaign started unloading on Barack Obama for making statements about Reagan that were, if anything, more measured than Bill Clinton's 1991 comments. Obama simply acknowledged Reagan's long-term impact on politics and the fact that conservatives once constituted the camp producing new ideas, flawed though they were.

Obama's not particularly original insight was a central premise of Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign. Clinton argued over and over that Democrats could not win without new ideas of their own. To reread Clinton's "New Covenant" speeches from back then is to be reminded of how electrifying it was to hear a politician who was willing to break new ground.

That's why the Clintons' assault on Obama is so depressing. In many ways, Obama is running the 2008 version of the 1992 Clinton campaign. You have the feeling that if Bill Clinton did not have another candidate in this contest, he'd be advising Obama and cheering him on.
But politics is about winning and I have absolutely no qualms about candidates playing hard to win, but the worst thing to be in politics is a hypocrit--it is far worse than flip-flopping.

Dionne has finally learned his lesson and I think a lot of Democrats are too.

A Question About the Feminization of Schools

Darren posts a great question.
What changes would you recommend if I told you that African-American children were:

four to eight times as likely to be drugged with Ritalin and other stimulants, which pediatrician Leonard Sax, calls “academic steroids.”

reading much more poorly than are other students.

five times more likely to commit suicide.

two and a half times as likely to drop out of high school.

severely underrepresented in college and even more so among college graduates, thereby locking them out of today’s, let alone tomorrow’s, knowledge economy.

You’d likely invoke such words as “institutional racism” to justify major efforts to improve African-Americans’ numbers.

All of the above statements are true except for one thing: I’m not talking about African-American children. I’m talking about children of all races, indeed half of all children, half of our next generation: boys.

When a disparity hurts females or minorities, major efforts are implemented to redress the situation. Why not with boys?

Value-Added, NY Schools and What's Next

The Edusphere has recently been abuzz with concerns regarding a pilot program that will take place in New York City schools in which some teachers will be adjudged by test scores. Kevin Carey of The Quick and the Ed talks about the experiment and some of the reaction.

What got my attention about Carey's post about the value added methodology that will be used in New York was his reference to Moneyball, the book about the Oakland A's Billy Beane, in which Beane used different statistical measurements (and past performance) to find value in overlooked ball players. Carey writes:
And at some point I realized that the underlying premise of Moneyball and the promise of value-added were the same: using empirical data to fundamentally change and improve a labor market. Instead of relying on human observations of characteristics, with all the biases and errors that result, focus on outcomes instead.
. Carey has caught some flack for his posting. I had pretty much the same thought about teacher evaluations which led to a project that I have started and not gotten very far on. (See Teacher Quality Stats topic on the left). To be honest, I have had to do a lot more research on the matter and I have been looking at some data.

But like I noted in my last post, we have to look beyond how we currently do things and quite frankly, every other industry and yes, even govenrmental departments, look long and hard at outcomes now. Education seems to be the last bastion where outcomes don't take precedence in evaluating the performance of the labor market.

Just as Billy Beane's theories and practices have changed the labor market in Major League Baseball (as has steroids), looking at value-added statistical analysis has the potential to radically alter not only the labor market, but also the manner in which we train, prepare, recruit and pay teachers. Those who are most successful will get more pay, those who are not will at least have a clue where to look. Instead of gut reactions and a good show, there will be hard data to look at. As Carey writes:
One of the biggest problems with the teacher labor market is that the top teachers--the ones who are one or more standard deviations above the mean in terms of effectiveness--are criminally underpaid, and have no way of demonstrating their real value to the labor market. Their unions, however, are totally aghast at the prospect. Randi Weingarten, head of the United Federation of Teachers (and rumoured to be next head the national AFT) said:

“Any real educator can know within five minutes of walking into a classroom if a teacher is effective."

This is the equivalent of the scouts and general managers in Moneyball who were always on the lookout for the "good body," the "five-tool guy," the player who just looked like a major leaguer. As everyone now knows, they were profoundly mistaken, and people like the Oakland A's Billy Beane were able to exploit the market distortions that resulted.

What we're seeing in New York City today is all the major challenges of 21st century K-12 teacher policy being played out in real time. Value-added methods are still very much in development, subject to limitations of standardized tests, among many things. But in the long run, there will only be more, better information about student performance, along with newer, faster ways of analyzing that information and drawing increasingly accurate conclusions about how well teachers are doing their jobs. At some point the methodological debates will be resolved and the margins of error whittled down the satisfaction of reasonable people.
In reality, the only debate that is worth having and that will be important is the methodology argument. Yes, there will be the obstructionists who argue that we shouldn't do value-added at all, but we are already on that path, and it is a path that is accepted by just about everyone but the teachers' unions, including many really good teachers.

The fact is that just as in any other labor sub-pool, the newest practitioners will need help to get started and to be fair a little bit of leeway. But the strong performers will be evident quickly and their performance will be backed up by hard data. The poor performers, those who are in teh bottom five percent of their cohort, will be quickly identified so that they can either A) improve or B) move into another career more suited to their talents.

Make no mistake though, value-added is coming and the teachers had better start coming to grips with it. The unions would be far better served to be a partner in developing an adequate methodology for computing value-added than being an obstructionist.

K-12 Education--The Last Stand of the 19th Century

Eduflack offers up one of the most succinct indictments of the current K-12 education system. In a world where today's computers will be obsolete in 12-18 months, when information is shared across teh globe in the blink of an eye, where you can get and expect to get customer support 24-7 for just about anything you need and where the pace of change is so rapid that you wonder what happened, we still cling to an educational system that would not suprise our grandparents or even great grand parents in its style, content or delivery.
K-12 education is one of the last bastions of old-world thinking. Consider this, most of today's high schools are just like the high schools we went to, or our parents, or our grandparents. The fact is, little has changed in secondary education over the past century. We still have rows of one-piece desks. We still have teachers lecturing 25 some-odd students for the full class time. We still have worksheets and multiple-choice tests on relatively arcane topics. And we still have anywhere from a third to a half of students dropping out before earning their diploma.

At the same time, we preach the need for education. We tell students that high-skill, high-wage jobs require both a high school diploma and some form of postsecondary education. We talk about the relevance of school and the need to achieve. And then, in far too many communities, we go back to rows of desks and a lecture on the French Revolution.
To be sure, we are taking baby steps in the direction of making it better, but we often put bigger roadblocks in the way we approach education than we need.

To be sure, we are often quite reluctant to "experiment" with the education of our children, but that fear has paralyzed the ability of policymakers, teachers, parents and even students to find innovative ways to teach or to even put technology front and center as an integral part of the classroom. Bill Ferriter, for example, has routinely blogged about the barriers to using technology in the classroom and the fact that students place as much importance on their "virtual" friendships as they do their relationships with their flesh and blood classmates.

As was hammered home to me recently with my own children, both who are growing up in a time that did not know a world before the internet, we have an entirely new generation
a generation that never knew corded telephones, typewriters, a library card catalog, or UHF television. A demographic that can't recall a pre-Internet world. A group we hope is being built on the notion of working smarter, not harder; to innovate and not follow.
We need to radically rethink the manner in which we educate, pay and retain our teachers. We must alter our perception of what "school" is and realize that for our children and the children of the future, there is no real need for them to actually be physically in a room with a single teacher at any one time. Their teacher can just as easily be three or four thousand miles away as three or four feet away.

In a world where even Congress operates in a high tech fashion, it seems anachronistic to say the least to expect our children to operate in an educational world in which George Washington and Thomas Jefferson would be comfortable.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Eddie Johnson Signs with Fulham

Here is the news release from Fulham with a simple headline:Johnson Signs,
Following a hearing at a tribunal held in London earlier today, Fulham Football Club is pleased to announce that Eddie Johnson has been granted a work permit. The US international striker has signed a three-and-a-half year deal from The MLS that will see him remain at the Club until the summer of 2011.

23 year-old Johnson joined the Kansas City Wizards in the 2006 season and scored on his debut. He received his first cap and scored his first goal for the senior US national team against El Salvador on 9 October 2004, becoming one of an elite group of American players to get his first international goal in a World Cup Qualifier. He then scored a hat-trick in his second appearance, all in a 17-minute span against Panama, just four days later. Johnson scored a total of seven goals in his first six World Cup Qualifiers and has been the source of much speculation linking him with a move to the Premier League.
Fulham Manager Roy Hodgson was thankful:
"At 6’1'' inches tall Eddie has the presence that will complement the other forwards within our squad and he has the ability to offer us another dimension to our attacking play. I am delighted that he has joined us and am grateful to the representatives from the Home Office for granting him the work permit which will enable him to play for us as soon as possible."
Johnson, who was already in London for the hearing, could begin training quite soon, although no word on when that would actually happen.

Johnson brings some speed and scoring ability to be sure. If Hodgson sticks with a 4-4-2 formation, Johnson combined with Clint Dempsey and/or a healthy Brian McBride will add speed to a scrappy front line. With the addition of other players in recent weeks, Hodgson clearly hopes that some size in the back line and some speed up front will make a difference in the Club's hopes to remain in the Premier league.

155th Carnival of Education

Is open at The Median Sib. Also, check out the Carnival of Homeschoolers being hosted this week by Alasandra.

Always good reading to be had.

Fulham Out of FA Cup on Penalties

The Bristol Rovers eliminated Fulham from the FA cup after winning 5-3 on penalty kicks following a scoreless tie in the replay. See the full write up. Fulham was not without chances and American striker Clint Dempsey was denied by Bristol's goalkeeper on two occaisions. There is no doubt that Bristol Keeper Steve Phillips kept the game scoreless. Midfielder Jimmy Bullard is apparently fully match fit and does appear to be something of a catalyst for the Whites.

Now that Fulham's FA Cup campaign is over, they can focus their attention preparing for the next 15 Premier league matches, which they are going to need to get some wins in order to avoid relegation. Up next is Bolton in a mid-week fixture next Tuesday.

In other news

Today is the day that Fulham and potential American striker Eddie Johnson are to appear before the work permit appeals board. If the appeal is successful, Johnson could join the club by the end of the week.

The rumor is that Marlon King's knee may keep him off of the Fulham roster.

The Bristol match gives quite the impression that Fulham is ready to turn a corner. With the addtion of Brede Hangeland (at 6'5" tall) in the backline, perhaps the defense's lack of stature will be corrected.

I saw a comment on another Fulham blog posing the question of moving Carlos Bocanegra into a holding midfielder position rather than the bank line. It is an intriguing thought, but Boca will have to rapidly improve his distribution skills to make that happen.

Clay County (Florida) School Board Adopts Pro Creationist Standards

I don't know all the details behind this move by my home county. I grew up going to Clay County schools, from W.E. Cherry Elementary, Orange Park Middle School, Orange Pary High School for two year and graduating from Middleburg High School. I was always well schooled in science and I don't think that is going to change.

By stating that evolution is a theory in the guidelines is true. It is just a theory because we don't know for certain, at least I don't and I consider myself pretty well educated (thanks in part to these same Clay County Schools). I don't know the politics behind the move and I am most certain that they are complicated to say the least. Clay County has always had a sizeable population of evangelical Christians and tends to be quite conservative.

Hat Tip: Carnival of Education

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Teachers, Pay and the Labor Market

Last week, Kevin Carey of the Quick and The Ed, had a number of posts and a running debate with Ed at the AFT Blog regarding teacher pay. In one post, Carey acknowledges some key arguments made by teachers:
There's an active argument going on about whether teachers are or aren't underpaid, involving lots of dueling statistics about benefit levels as a percent of salary, the number of hours worked in and out of school, which professions are fairly comparable to teaching, and whether or not a 9-month job with no vacation is really just 3/4ths of a 12-month job with vacation. But I don't think it's actually all that relevant to this discussion. I'm perfectly willing to concede that given stakes involved, and the amount of training, experience, and hard work required to do a good job teaching, public school teachers aren't paid enough, by a significant margin. And it's abundantly clear that individual teachers haven't proportionately shared in the overall growth of the economy over the last 30-plus years, in terms of salary.
In another post, Carey writes:
While we're on the subject of how teacher pay compares to other professions, another issue that often comes up in the debate is the fact that many teachers nominally work less than an eight-hour day, since the average school day is about 6.7 hours long. The usual rejoinder from the teacher perspective is that good teachers put a lot of time in before and after the school day, which is certainly true. The response to that is that lawyers and accountants and other professionals also do their share of work on nights and weekends. Then both sides start snarling at each other.


Spend some time in the classroom of a good teacher, by contrast, and you'll quickly notice that they're working the whole time. Not most of the time, but all of it. That's what it takes to succeed; you have to be constantly paying attention, planning, reacting, making decisions, keeping the whole intricate complex process on track. Somehow this needs to be taken into account in discussions of how much teachers work.
Now I would quibble, at least as far as my profession goes, I have to not only work 8-plus hours a day, I am expected to bill as much of that as possible, not only so that I get paid, but that the paralegals, secretaries and file clerks get paid as well. But that is a lesson in law firm economics for another time. I will stipulate that teachers are working a full 6.7 hours non-stop with meager minutes of break time.

The National Education Association has recently issued a call for a minimum salary of $40,000 for teachers,
No one who dedicates a life to driving, nourishing, counseling, or teaching our nation’s students should be forced to live at or below the poverty line. But all too often, teachers and ESPs who choose a life of public service must trade away their right to a decent standard of living.

NEA is fighting to change that with a nationwide salary campaign to win a $40,000 starting salary for all teachers, an appropriate living wage for all education support professionals, and appropriate professional pay for higher education faculty and staff.
While one could argue that the $40,000 figure is grossly overpaying for some regions and grossly underpaying for others, what is rarely mentioned is the fact that teachers, as workers, are subject to market forces when it comes to their salary, or rather would be if the NEA and local unions would quit interfering.

As Carey noted, there is little dispute that teachers are underpaid and that the public generally acknowledges that underpayment. Of course, people quibble (as I have) about whether greater pay should be conferred or not based on all factors that Carey mentions. But the biggest impediment to teacher's getting more pay is that fact that teacher's unions, by seeking (and getting) certain changes in schools, classrooms and benefits, actually skew the pay market in ways that harm individual teachers to the benefit of the union itself.

A minimum salary of $40,000 is a minimum wage. Just like any other minimum wage there are economic consequences to that minimum wage. One of the primary consequences is that a minimum wage skews the supply and demand for a particular type of labor, whether it is unskilled labor, or professional labor as a teacher. It is no secret that most teachers start with a salary of less than $40,000. Establishing a minimum salary will no doubt entice more, potentially better qualified, teachers to the profession--a good thing. But an increased base salary will also incentivize others who might other wise leave the profession to stay. You get an increased pool of teachers.

A superintendent's dream right? Well not so fast. As I said, the minimum salary skews the labor pool, now we have more teachers and need more money to pay them but money is a scarce commodity and now some tough choices will have to be made--like, do we cut teacher benefits (sure to cause a howl at the union offices), do we cut extra services for students (won't be particularly popular with parents), do we require more time from the teachers via longer class days, do we halt school construction/modernization or repairs, etc. In short, just raising the minimum salary puts a great deal of pressure on already squeezed school budgets and will no doubt increase demands among the public, who will rightfully demand a little more accountability out of their teachers that they are now paying more for.

But what is also lacking in the whole debate about teacher salaries is how union tactics to this point are to blame for the skewed salary scales. In an effort to protect teachers, unions have forced some pretty rigid pay scales on the school districts. These scales remove the incentives for teachers to do better and thus earn more money, in place they are urged to just do their time and then get rewarded for longevity rather skill or ingenuity as a teacher. The hard scales also increase the power of the union at the expense of the average teacher, because the only way a teacher can get more pay is to put in more time, get an advanced degree or wait for the union to negotiate a higher pay scale (which it seems odd that the unions are unable to do with any regular success).

Second, starting about a decade ago (maybe longer), the NEA and other unions began pushing for a lower student/teacher ratio. This meant that schools had to hire more teachers to get the student/teacher ratio down. This provided more teachers, for which the school system had only so much money for salary and benefits. Since the unions tend to be inflexible about benefits, salaries, while not necessarily cut, certainly have not increased as much.

Now the NEA wants a minimum salary, but you can't have a mandated student/teacher ratio and a minimum salary without some big concession on the unions' part. There are three concessions that I would demand were I negotiating this deal. I will give the unions a mandated student/teacher ratio and a minimum salary, but only with these concessions:

1. Principals at the schools will have full hiring and firing authority over teachers for the first five years of teacher employment. There will be one appeal to a Superintendent designated Board, and one final appeal to the school board (and the teacher is on unpaid leave) So long as the firing doesn't violate other laws, there is no judicial recourse. After five years of employment, a teacher can be suspended at half pay or placed on administrative duty (at full pay and the discretion of the Superintendent) while a hearing on their dismissal is held. But that hearing and one appeal to the school board is their only recourse. Gone are the days of long drawn out grievance procedures. Poor teachers or misbehaving teachers can and should be fired with a lot more ease than you see now.

2. The NEA and the unions have to withdraw and refrain from any and all objections to any rational scheme of merit pay proposed, to include any rational scheme of teacher evaluation. No, I don't want to see teachers evaluated solely on test scores, but you can be assured that test scores will be a significant factor in that evaluation. Simply put, if the NEA wants a minimum wage, the schools get to determine evaluation and merit pay.

3. The school board and the principals of the schools get to determine how much a teacher will be paid. Excellent teachers get more money, poorer teachers get less. Again, this would have to be based on a rational methodology of review, but the schools have to have the power to reward excellence and punish incompetence and not reward mediocrity.

Undoubtedly, these kinds of demands by the school boards will not be met favorably by the unions. But if you really want a minimum wage, you have to realize that it must come with a price.

The NEA and other unions need also to realize that their policy desires have radically skewed the teacher labor market. Once they come, publicly, to that realization, then and only then can we really talk about improving teacher compensation.

Eddie Johnson and Fulham--Hampered by a Work Permit Problem

From Interviews « Craven Cottage Newsround comes this little bit:
Ed Johnson, as he calls him: says that McNally has sorted out a fee with MLS and that the player is keen to come here. Have to wait for the appeals board in terms of getting a work permit, which will be next Wednesday.
So apparently a work permit is the only thing standing in the way of Johnson's transfer to Fulham. The work permit rules are based upon eligibility for the player's national team and Johnson has 11 cpas with the U.S. squad and has made regular appearences in both friendlies and the Gold Cup.

Fulham Still Courting Strikers

As talks with Watford and the MLS for strikers Marlon King and Eddie Johnson seem to have stalled, Fulham Manager Roy Hodgson continues to look for scoring threats, evaluating South Korean International Cho Jae-jin in training this past week.

Cho, a 27 year-old-striker has made an impression in the J-League according to Hodgson.
Cho is the latest South Korean footballer to knock on the doors of English football. Seongnam Chunma midfielder Kim Doo-hyun is also in talks with Championship side West Bromwich Albion.

Should he land in Fulham, Cho becomes the fifth South Korean international featured in the Premiership, joining Seol, Manchester United midfielder Park Ji-sung, Tottenham defender Lee Young-pyo and Middlesbrough forward Lee Dong-gook.

Aside of the Spurs' Lee, none of the Koreans are getting regular minutes, but Cho is a good bet to leave an impression right away, considered clearly a superior talent to either Seol or Middlesbrough's Lee.

The athletic, 1.85-meter striker is regarded for his ability to win balls in air and keep possession in traffic, making him a constant frontline predator and a terror for defenders in set pieces.
Frankly, I don't know anything about Cho, but any threat to score is helpful as Hodgson looks for a way out of the relegation zone.

Fed Slashes Interest Rates to Stave Off Stock Panic

From The Hill:
In response to global markets plummeting and in “view of a weakening of the economic outlook and increasing downside risks to growth,” the Federal Reserve cut the federal funds rate by 0.75 points to 3.5 percent.

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said Tuesday that the Bush administration is monitoring “economic signals closely” and stated that his confidence in the “underlying strength of the global economy remains.”

The Federal Reserve’s emergency move shows the urgency of the situation and puts additional pressure on the White House and Congress to quickly pass a stimulus package.

“We will work with Congress to quickly enact a broader temporary growth package to support our economy this year, as we weather the housing correction,” Paulson said. “The President has asked me to lead this effort, and so far we are engaged in a collaborative, bipartisan process that should result in a robust, broad-based, temporary growth plan that can be swiftly passed and enacted.”

Michigan to Deny Driver's Licenses to Illegal Immigrants

Michigan Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land announced the new regulation yesterday, leaving only seven states that permit illegal immigrants to obtain driver's licenses. I am sad to say that my state of Maryland is on teh list of seven, the other states are Hawaii, Maine, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Washington.

The REAL ID Act is probably going to push these other states to comply soon, but the question I have for the Maryland government, is why is it taking so long?

Too Funny

Bill Clinton dozes off during MLK celebration.

Virginia Tech Families Urge Gun Control

I feel for the families of the Virginia Tech shooting victims, I truly do. A member of my extended Fraternity family was killed in the attack. But a recent protest for more gun control is not the proper way to go, and to take the advice of a group of people who are grieving as the only impetus for change is not smart policymaking.

Do the families have a right to express their grief, their anguish and their desire for change? Absolutely, but their grief may be clouding their judgment. The lack of gun control laws did not lead to their family member's death. Virginia Tech, like most college campuses in America was a "gun free zone." But the shooter, not only apparently mentally deranged, was also violating state and local laws, but also campus rules and regulations had weapons. The fact is that there is more gun control on college campuses than in Blacksburg, Virginia in general. The fact is that more gun control, if it were possible on Virginia Tech's campus, would not have changed the facts of their family member's death.

Obstensibly, the protest was to close the so-called "gun show loophole" and to ban criminals and the mentally ill from obtaining weapons. But like almost all legislation and policymaking, you have to make sure what you are banning is, first, constitutionally permitted and second, not too broad. Sure banning criminals from having weapons sounds like a good thing, but a criminal, by definition has already broken a law, a ban on their possession of a gun is not likely to make them stop being a criminal.

The ban on the mentally ill is troubling on a number of levels. If a person has been certified by a court to be a danger to themselves or others, a ban on weapons purchases for a fixed period of time is appropriate. But we must be careful of over reaction. Just because a person has been treated for a mental illness does not, in and of itself, indicate that they are unfit to own a weapon. We have to be careful not to trammel on the rights of individuals just because they seek mental help.

The State of Maryland issued a gun purchase regulation recently that that would require a gun purchaser to permit their mental health records to be examined by state police. But like I said then, the burden must be on the state to prove that people are unfit to own weapons, not on the gun purchaser to prove that they are fit to own weapons. Any law that shifts the burden of proving fitness, either mental or otherwise, to own weapons to the individual is a fundamental burden on an individual right and must be viewed with a very, very healthy dose of skepticism.

Voter ID Gets Broad Support

In a recent poll, the concept of voters showing an ID before being allowed to vote gathered lots of support, as reported by The Washington Times. Coming on the heels of recent Supreme Court hearing on an Indiana voter ID law challenge, the results show not only strong support, but bipartisan support and support across racial and ethnic groups as well.
Overall, 67 percent said they support requiring photo identification, and that support ran high across all demographic groups. More than three-fourths of Republicans supported showing identification, as did 63 percent of Democrats and independents. And 58 percent of blacks, 69 percent of whites and 66 percent of other ethnic or racial minorities backed the concept.

The question was: "Should voters be required to prove their identity by showing a government issued photo ID before they're allowed to vote?"
Rasmussen surveyed 1,000 adults on a number of issues, including the economy, gas taxes and whether people would vote for Martin Luther King, Jr. were he alive and running for president.

But the biggest surprise was the voter ID question. When nearly 2 out of 3 Democrats support the idea, it may be time for the Democratic party to stop and get a clue. The need for govnerment ID cards has never been more prevalent. You need an ID card to board a plane, enter most buildings, including some public buildings, and a whole host of other normal, everyday activities. That most Americans see a voter ID requirement as a good thing only goes to show that most Americans are pragmatic about the matter and don't see it as an imposition on the poor or minorities.

The Democratic argument that a voter ID requirement might cause some people to not come to the polls is spurious at best. Government IDs are issued for a relatively nominal fee and could be issued for free if the person is truly indigent. Requiring the production of an ID can accomplish many things at once. First, it can verify indentification. Second, it could speed up the checking in process at the polls since most government ID cards come with a magnetic strip that can be swiped to produce identity information and could quickly match up to a voter database. Third, it can help those individuals that move between elections to update their voter registration on site, without having to do much other than go and update their ID card.

The Supreme Court will probably issue the Indiana voter ID case in late spring of this year.

Monday, January 21, 2008

U.S. Soccer Updates

From Soccer Insider:
  • Goalkeeper Brad Guzan to Celtic?
  • Benny Feilhaber to leave Derby County?
  • The European based U.S. Internationals will join the U.S. team training camp around Feb. 3 (the international break) in advance of the U.S.-Mexico match on Feb. 6.

Interview of Clint Dempsey

I never knew how much death has touched his life. Check it out.

Bush. Clinton. Bush. Clinton? Is This Pattern a Problem

I tend to think so, but there are others according to the NY Times who think othewise.

DC Schools Poll

The Washington Post conducted a poll regarding the state of public schools in Washington, DC. The results are surprising in some respects:
  • 68% think that the takeover of the schools by Mayor Adrian Fenty will lead to long-term improvement
  • 78% of respondents say that the condition of the facilities is a big problem
  • 76% believe that parental apathy is a big problem for the schools
Undiscipline students and violence at the schools were also big problems cited by 3 out of 4 respondents.

Farther down the list was the city's central school office and the quality of teachers. However, these results maybe affected by the moves that Chancellor Michelle Rhee and Fenty have made regarding improving the teaching corps and bringing the central office to heel. But the problems that most plague the schools, parental apathy, violence and undisciplined students may the issues the Rhee and Fenty are least capable of altering. Surely, the schools can and are on track, to fix the facilities, but beyond that there is little that the schools system can do.

What remains an odd contrast is the pubic reaction about Rhee's plan to close 23 district schools due to poor enrollment and the general apathy about the schools themselves among most parents.

The question then for the DC schools is how to motivate parents to give attention to their kids' education? Query also whether the DC results are mirrored in other urban school districts.

School's Unmentioned Fight

This Editorial from the Washington Times talks about the battle that teachers and schools face everday, summed up perfectly
It's called the "hallway culture vs. the classroom culture."

"If you were to spend five minutes in my school's hallways at class change or at the end of the day, you would despair for our country's future. Students screaming obscenities at each other, male students bullying and degrading, in the most graphic and unmistakable ways, female students (and the females usually laughing hysterically at each insult), fights between residents of one neighborhood vs. another, and enough anger to blow up a city block or, for that matter, a city."

Haven't seen that story on the 6 o'clock news, have we?

Mr. Fox introduces us to this untold story through one of his students, David, (a pseudonym, of course), who stands one day in the threshold uncertain of whether he wants to enter the classroom culture or the hallway culture — "50 Cent or Shakespeare, the pull of the popular or the push of schooling."
The Editorial is referring to this op-ed by Lynn H. Fox.