Thursday, March 15, 2007

Here we go again..

Kevin Drum offered up a few thoughts on NCLB. A sample here:

[...]Of course, this also leads me to one of my biggest complaints about NCLB and education policy in general. No, not testing. I'm agnostic on that for the moment. What really bugs me is that politically we're forced to create (and fund) a system that applies to every school system in America even though we all know perfectly well that 80% of our school systems are basically OK and could probably be left alone. It's the other 20% -- the low-income schools located largely in urban inner cities -- that need help. But for a variety of reasons, it's nearly impossible to target our reform efforts there. So instead we end up with broad brush efforts that waste lots of money and eventually fail because they piss off suburban voters. Bleh.

But maybe I'm off base on that. I invite our ed experts to chime in[...]

I'm not an expert, but I'll chime in anyway.

Umm..exactly how do we know that 80% of our schools are okay? And what does okay mean exactly? Not to parse his words too carefully here, but maybe we should try to nail some of these assertions down and find out exactly it is that Kevin and many of his commenters are complaining about.

In fact, I truly doubt that 80% of our schools are okay, and that they should be left alone. The unfortunate truth, borne out by the NAEP and those "terrible" testing regimens that are oppressing so many people in education, is many students are far from okay. And why is "okay" enough? What about great? Or "Holy Jesus, we are creating a genration of super intelligent mutant children straight out of village of the damned?" I'm cool with that.

Let's go back and ponder what is really up Kevin's nose. He doesn't like the requirement that all students test 100% proficient by 2016. Which is a perfectly reasonable complaint, it was a bone that the education reformers and Democrats threw the President to get what they wanted. They knew it was crazy, but the reauthorization process, which they knew they would get at least 3 of , could clean that up once they knew how the whole process was shaking out. According to Kevins conversation with EduWonk, they wanted 90% (still high), but the President wanted 100. So they tossed him his bone and waited to the bill got reauthorized to assess it.

BTW, Attention NEA jerkoffs: NCLB is not the product of a GOP corporate conspiracy as you like to argue in your fundrasing agitprop. It's the product of two of the most liberal Democrats in Congress. Feel Free to STFU. Or better yet, get off your asses and do something constructive.

Anyway, lets go through this one more time. NCLB is the reauthorization of ESEA, and it is essentially a Civil Rights law, or a law with a civil rights goal embedded in it. NCLB requires that each state test the students in it's school systems to determine if they are proficient, and if not, get them proficent by 2016. Each state was allowed to choose it's testing method, how they would address less than proficient students, and, here's the kicker, define what proficient is. Not only that, but the state must make the results public, and break down the results by race, among other catagories. Your inner civil rights detector should be clicking right now. Why exactly? Because schools, even those "okay" schools Kevin seems to want to leave alone, are adept at hiding the dismal education their minority students are getting by not breaking them out in their data, or by simply not publishing any data at all. You cannot logically, let alone morally and ethically, claim you are doing okay if a sizable portion of our student population is getting the shaft, even if their white and asian students are doing well.

If Kevin would get off the bong, (and he is trying, props to him), he could have jumped on the real problem, which is that the states took the opportunity given them to apply their own definition of proficient, which is often absurdly low. Couple that with some byzantine testing regime and you can call 80% of your studnets proficient in 2006, like some certain Southern Red States, Mississipi, I'm looking at you. Unfortunatley for them, the Feds in NCLB required that their NAEP test be applied on a large scale, giving them and researchers large amounts of valid data to crosscheck. Turns out many states are cheating their ass of. Therefore they are cheating their students. DOE is forcing the states to use testing standards they think are legit, so that problem might be on the road to being addressed. Still, it is a legitimate gripe.

Kevins complaint about the imposition of a national system on the poor, oppressed states I find bewildering from a liberal. Liberals have been trying to increase the role the Federal Government plays in public education for decades And now that NCLB rolled the Trojan horse into the city you want to climb out, burn it, and go back to laying seige to Troy. WTF?? The problem with NCLB is that is too deferential to the cheating bullshit that states try to pull when they get called on the parts of their school systems that are failing. Everyone knows that urban schools are terrible. But what is less commonly known are the rural schools that are just as bad in some cases. Or the suburban schools that fail to educate their low income and minority students.

And before someone busts out with this favorite, yes, NCLB is underfunded, and that does suck. That is not a reason to stop testing students or holding states and schools accountable. That's a reason to beat on the Bush Administration and the GOP.

The Feds are not oppressing anyone with NCLB. They are doing what should have been done decades ago, trying to generate real empirical data on our students to find out WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON! We demand empirical data in business and other endeavors. Yeah, it's often difficult to figure out EXACTLY what and how to measure something, and how to interpret. But we do it anyway because, it is argued, it is a critical factor in decision-making. That is really what we are doing with the testing and standard portion of NCLB. Trying to figure out where we are, and if our attempts at improvement are working. We can adjust the bar when we need to.

By the way, conservatives across the board DESPISE NCLB. Not that it makes it automatically a good idea, they are idiots for the most part after all, and who can fucking tell how their puny minds work these days. But it pretty much undermines the theory NCLB is a conservative plot to destory public education, that's what their voucher scheme and union busting is supposed to do. There are plenty of other schemes cooked up by the right to occupy even the most conspriacy minded of people. We don't need to invent ones out of whole cloth.

So, if we are going to have a good discussion about the reauthorization of NCLB, can we at least do the work to know what the FRAK we are talking about, PLEASE???

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Attention Hebisner!

[Via Avram, at Making Light]

I think we may have found your candidate for President of the United States of America.
The American Secret Service have launched an investigation into one of the candidates for the presidency in 2008 – after he pledged that as President, one of his first acts would be to impale President George W. Bush.
Sharkey told The Columbia Chronicle about the visit: 'They were telling me, when they were interrogating me, that their job was to protect Bush even after he's out of office. I'm looking at them like, “Oh, you're going to defy me when I become president?”
Sounds like an interesting Supreme Court case to me.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Ow, My Balls

I have no joke here [via TalkingPointsMemo.Com], I just like saying...
Among the complaints that Rove relayed were concerns among Republican Party officials in various jurisdictions that the Justice Department was not being aggressive in pursuing allegations of election fraud by Democrats.
The thing about this story about purging US attorneys that really grinds is that We Told You Fncking People This Would Happen.

Let me now tell you fncking people what will happen if you let them get away with this shit— just like you let them get away with all the previous shit when we were telling you this would happen. The next thing to go will be the judges. Don't think they can do that? Think again. Judges grow old, they retire or they leave office, and somebody has to replace them. After that, they'll start going after high profile liberal fundraising operations with the most nakedly thuggish tactics. You have been warned.

You cannot imagine where this goes unless you've studied how fascism is a failure mode of republics. If you let these nutjobs get away with the US attorney purge, they'll raise the stakes again. And again. And again. Understand this: they are deadly cold serious when they say they want to eliminate liberals by force. Let them think you'll let them get away with it, and they'll try. You have been warned.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

"No, There Is Another," says Yoda.

Just go read this opinion piece in the LA Times by Jonathan Chait today:
'THIS IS NOT Luke Skywalker here," said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), discussing his friend and Senate colleague John McCain's second run for the presidency. "This is a totally different campaign."

Graham was looking for a way to reassure his fellow conservatives that they no longer had anything to fear from McCain. His choice of metaphor is one of those windows into the fundamental cultural gap that separates hard-core conservatives from the rest of humanity. To most people, who think of Luke Skywalker as a hero battling an evil and immensely powerful empire, Graham's implication would be seen as an unmitigated insult. In the world of the GOP elite, though, it's a form of praise: No, no, don't worry, McCain's with the empire now.
Perhaps, now would be a good time to remember when Jonathan Last wrote in The Weekly Standard in an article called "The Case For The Empire" in a similar vein?
STAR WARS RETURNS today with its fifth installment, "Attack of the Clones." There will be talk of the Force and the Dark Side and the epic morality of George Lucas's series. But the truth is that from the beginning, Lucas confused the good guys with the bad. The deep lesson of Star Wars is that the Empire is good.

It's a difficult leap to make--embracing Darth Vader and the Emperor over the plucky and attractive Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia--but a careful examination of the facts, sorted apart from Lucas's off-the-shelf moral cues, makes a quite convincing case.
"Checque, please!"

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Paging Cassandra, Princess Of Troy...

Once again, the geeks know how to solve a huge problem, but nobody is interested in solving it yet— so, nothing will happen.