Utterly Meaningless » 2004 » July

    Filed on July 31, 2004 at 6:14 pm under by dcobranchi

    CNN has the rest of the Sherelle Purnell story. In case you haven’t been following it, the thread from yesterday is still going strong. Right now, I think half my readership thinks I’m a racist troglodyte who would like to bring back stockades and witch burning. C’est la vie.


    Filed on at 10:36 am under by dcobranchi

    I’ve been ignoring Kyle Williams’ rants because, heck, he’s only a kid. Today, though, he went a bit too far, and I want to respond. Besides, he gets paid for his opinions; he’ll need to develop some thick skin if he’s going to run with the big dogs.

    The object of his latest is that the Dems were only faking it and the GOP is the real party of true family values. Zzzzzzz! No, my disagreement is with his close:

    It’s really long-standing cultural thing, but American, evangelical Christianity has aligned itself with conservative and Republican culture. These liberals like Howard Dean and John Kerry are attempting to take a piece of the Christian community vote, but it won’t be easy – and it probably won’t happen in this election cycle. Christianity and conservative politics are still very much intertwined for many people. Moreover, with leaders like Dr. James Dobson and ubiquitous movements like home-schooling, conservatives are going to have a market on the Christian community for a while.

    Apart from the confused phraseology, Williams makes the common error of assuming that homeschooling=conservative=evangelical Christian. Not so. Yes, there are quite a few, but there are probably more home educators who homeschool for secular reasons and would not self-identify as conservative or evangelical. In fact, I’d bet that those now five-year-old data are out-of-date and that an even higher percentage of home educators are homeschooling for secular reasons.


    Filed on at 9:57 am under by dcobranchi

    The Wilmington News-Journal has a profile of a homeschooled prodigy.

    By next spring, Spencer will have polished off the highest advanced placement calculus and physics courses through his at-home, long-distance learning program headquartered at Johns Hopkins University.

    “Actually,” Spencer said, explaining how he’d recently discovered a new way to solve a calculus problem, “I simply used a proof and I figured it out. And earlier today I expanded it. … Because I’ve done so many things in my head, it’s like second nature to me.”

    At 9, Spencer took the SAT college entrance exam and scored 740 out of a possible 800 in math. His total score was 1240. His parents are talking to University of Delaware officials about possible early entrance next fall.

    …Jeanne Tofts didn’t plan to home-school her son, but the way things have turned out, some of her neighbors joke about putting their kids in her school, she said.

    Unlike many home-schoolers, she said, she and her husband have no philosophical bent toward the practice. She home-schooled out of necessity, she said.

    For the locals in the audience, the family is associated with OCTAI.


    Filed on at 9:33 am under by dcobranchi

    Here’s a terrific lede from GreatPublicSchools.org:

    In 2002, the so-called No Child Left Behind Act was signed into law, mandating high stakes testing, forcing teachers to teach to a test, and wasting money on paperwork and bureaucracy instead of giving children what they really need: quality public school employees [translation: higher salaries for teachers] , smaller classes translation: more money], safe schools [translation: more cops in schools and more money], and up-to-date materials and facilities [translation: more money] in preparation for college and jobs of the future.

    One guess who is really behind the “National Mobilization for Great Public Schools.”


    Filed on July 30, 2004 at 1:35 pm under by dcobranchi

    Michael Peach?

    This one would have been right up his alley.

    The law governing children who are taught at home needs to change to ensure they are getting a proper education, teachers say.

    It is estimated that many thousands learn outside mainstream schools, but parents do not have to let officials know what they are studying.

    The Professional Association of Teachers called for more monitoring.

    …The PAT heard home-educated children were the only ones to be taught by unqualified people, yet they were also the only group not consistently monitored.

    Shades of NEA Resolution B-69. Fortunately, the UK teachers probably won’t fare any better at getting homeschooling banned than has the NEA here.


    Filed on at 7:36 am under by dcobranchi

    The nickel summary– The boy has some challenges to overcome. He hates being in school. The State is paying for a tutor in his home. But his mom wants him back in school for “socialization.” I try not to be judgmental, but sometimes I just scratch my head in wonder.


    Filed on at 7:16 am under by dcobranchi

    A future(?) statist writes in:

    Regulate bicycling to keep riders safe

    I think there should be more bike rules because people are getting hurt. If you have more bike rules, it will be a safer place.

    Keith Neuman, Newark

    I hope this is a child’s thinking.

    BTW, the title is the N-J’s.


    Filed on at 7:10 am under by dcobranchi

    The store manager deserves a medal:

    When Sherelle Purnell sped away from Gordy’s Tiger Mart in Salisbury, Md., without paying for $4.52 worth of gasoline, she probably didn’t think the punishment would be three hours of court-ordered public humiliation.

    But from noon to 3 p.m. today, the 18-year-old will be standing in front of the convenience store near the Centre at Salisbury on U.S. 13 wearing a sandwich board sign that reads: “I was caught stealing gas.”

    Though Wicomico County District Court Judge D. William Simpson ordered the punishment, the unconventional sentence was the brainchild of Tiger Mart store manager Jan Phipps.

    Public oppobrium can be a powerful thing.


    Filed on at 6:35 am under by dcobranchi

    A late night knock on the door?

    The Census Bureau has provided specially tabulated population statistics on Arab-Americans to the Department of Homeland Security, including detailed information on how many people of Arab backgrounds live in certain ZIP codes.

    The assistance is legal, but civil liberties groups and Arab-American advocacy organizations say it is a dangerous breach of public trust and liken it to the Census Bureau’s compilation of similar information about Japanese-Americans during World War II.

    The Census Bureau claims it did not provide data parsed below ZIP-code level. Riiight! And, the new INS needs a better liar spokeswoman.

    Christiana Halsey, a spokeswoman for Customs and Border Protection, said the requests were made to help the agency identify in which airports to post signs and pamphlets in Arabic. “The information is not in any way being used for law enforcement purposes,” she said. “It’s being used to educate the traveler. We’re simply using basic demographic information to help us communicate U.S. laws and regulations to the traveling public.”

    Now I know I’ll never fill out anything for the Census Bureau.


    Filed on July 29, 2004 at 9:49 pm under by dcobranchi

    Considering that TN has pretty crappy homeschooling laws, I’m not particularly impressed with this testimonial:

    Earlier this year, Rep. Wood announced he would be retiring after 28 years of service in the State Legislature. Rep. Wood has been a pioneer in the field of home school education, sponsoring legislation formulating home school policy that many states have since used as a model, it was stated.

    IIRC, TN is the only state that mandates homeschoolers take the state accountability tests, a requirement that is routinely ignored. (see comment from Kay Brooks in this thread)


    Filed on at 9:37 pm under by dcobranchi

    Here’s one to bookmark— all of the states classified according to their homeschooling laws.

    UPDATE: The AP article disappeared. Fortunately, I furled it. Here’s my copy (it’s at the top of the list).

    UPDATE: Sorry ’bout that. FURL keeps a copy but I can’t link to it directly. I’ve uploaded it to my server. Let’s see if this works.


    Filed on at 5:45 pm under by dcobranchi

    Joanne (aka The Happy Homeschooler) saw a TV show that portrayed a homeschooling family in a positive light. I’m going to see if a transcript is available.


    Filed on at 1:25 pm under by dcobranchi

    I have this nagging feeling that something in this quote is not quite right. In a paean to the g-schools, a local educrat speaks:

    And for parents like Cindy Smith of Lexington, public schools are what she believes to be the best and only choice for her family.

    “In public school, you’re with people from all walks of life from your own community. It prepares you for the world,” said Smith, a mother of two who is also on the Lexington 1 school board.

    When her daughters were in elementary school, they wowed her with their computer research skills and the PowerPoint presentations they created for school.

    Her high-schooler, who has taken French since first grade, is fresh from a three-week school trip to France.

    And because of the district’s extensive athletic program, the girls participate in soccer, volleyball and track.

    “Lots of private schools don’t have as many resources as public schools,” Smith said. “My daughters are receiving an excellent education.”

    Let’s see. Power Point. Trip to France. Athletics. I see all the really important things are covered.


    Filed on at 7:36 am under by dcobranchi

    All you need to create a terrific site is a passion and a sense of humor. Here, a mathematician expounds on the second great love of my life– espresso.

    Stovetop espresso makers ($12 and up) make fantastic espresso outdoors on Italian islands. Somehow this doesn’t translate back to a home kitchen. The basic problems are inadequate pressure and boiling water. (You can certainly spend a lot more than $12 on a low-end consumer appliance and end up with these same problems!) If you must, splurge for one made of stainless steel (not aluminum), tamp coarsely ground coffee at your own risk (you are betting your life on the safety release valve), and coax the coffee out slowly, stopping early. In college I also inserted chem lab filters into my stovetop unit, which made spectacular coffee until it exploded.

    BTW, the author appears to be a colleague of edu-blogger Bas Braams.


    Filed on at 6:51 am under by dcobranchi

    A statist legislator [redundancy alert] in FL thinks that state is being shafted by the Feds.

    Deutsch said he’s upset that Florida is getting short shrift from the Feds. The Sunshine State ranks 43rd in federal grants for transportation, 45th in federal housing grants, 47th in federal money for the environment and 45th in grant money for education.
    “This shouldn’t be done to one of the most dynamic and significant states,” he said. “If Florida were at the national average, it would receive an additional $7 million – money that could be used for teachers, transportation and the environment.”

    Populous Florida, with all those presidential electors and a Bush in the statehouse, ranks at the bottom in all those categories? And, moving it to the national average would generate a whole $7M? Either the legislator or the editor of the paper needs some math help.


    Filed on at 6:37 am under by dcobranchi

    Partner (v)- to absorb into a bureaucratic system.

    Suggested use: “”We just want to partner with home school families and allow them to use us and see the virtual school as a viable option,” [Gary Lewis, principal of the virtual school] said.

    Learning to Write

    Filed on July 28, 2004 at 8:32 pm under by dcobranchi

    Under the new state budget, starting these school year Illinois schoolchildren will no longer take state writing or social studies tests, all in an effort to save money for Illinois.

    It sounds like another lowering of standards.

    An A?

    Filed on at 8:22 pm under by dcobranchi

    “In the Greenville district, the A was higher to achieve than in other school districts,” said Superintendent Dr. Arthur Cartlidge.

    Another occurrence of lowering standards.

    Teacher Opinions

    Filed on at 8:10 pm under by dcobranchi

    NC teachers did an online survey.

    Among the survey findings, 49 percent of respondents said they don’t have reasonable class sizes that will help them meet the educational needs of all students.

    The average class size in 1999-2000 was 21.1pupils for public elementary schools and 23.6 for public secondary schools (table 69). In 2000, there were 8.2 pupils per staff member (total staff) compared with 9.8 pupils per staff member in 1980.

    Taxpayers are already paying for the staff of assistants, aides, and other help for the teachers, and now we’re expected to pay for new hires to reduce more of their workload so they can visit with their co-workers.


    Filed on at 5:30 pm under by dcobranchi

    Amanda Blake, 16, of Niles was one of nine local students able to take part in this year’s archaeology field school sponsored by Western Michigan University. The homeschool student said her love of archaeology has been confirmed over the last 21/2 weeks.

    A homeschooler enjoying, what she’s interested in.

    NEA and Fear

    Filed on at 12:27 pm under by dcobranchi

    Phyllis Schlafly reports on the NEA convention.

    The NEA opposes all varieties of school choice, tuition tax credits,
    vouchers, parental option or “choice” in education programs,
    designating English as our official language, and any possible action
    that might impinge on the secularists’ notion of “separation of church
    and state.”

    The most controversial vote at the NEA convention turned out to
    concern one word in the anti-homeschool resolution. B-69 as
    introduced read: “The Association also believes that unfunded
    home-schooled students should not participate in any extracurricular
    activities in the public schools.”

    The word “unfunded” precipitated a lively debate. Some schools
    provide funding for homeschoolers to participate in after-school
    activities such as sports. The amendment to remove the word
    “unfunded” was designed to put the NEA on record as opposed to
    letting homeschoolers darken the door of public school grounds
    regardless of whether or not there is money to finance their

    In the end, the majority of delegates voted to delete “unfunded.”
    Whether or not homeschoolers’ participation in public school
    activities is funded, the NEA does not want them in any way to
    compete with students who are “with us all day.”

    The NEA thus made its animosity against homeschoolers loud and
    clear. The only thing this powerful and wealthy union fears is

    Why are we to be feared?

    UPDATE: Editorial changes in html formatting by DC.


    Filed on at 10:38 am under by dcobranchi

    More on the “compulsory” mental health screening.

    This past spring, the Illinois General Assembly passed a new bill requiring compulsory mental health screening for children and pregnant women; it was signed into law by Governor Blagojevich. This program will require all pregnant women and children through the age of 18 be tested for mental health needs.

    Doesn’t anyone bother to read the law? Nowhere in the text of the bill are the words “mandatory” or “compulsory.” “All” shows up only once in reference to “all State agencies.” “Shall” is in there a bunch of times but none seem to apply to citizens. I just don’t see anywhere in this bill where anyone is compelled to do anything Where is all this coming from?


    Filed on at 10:25 am under by dcobranchi

    The LAUSD is short-changing students in failing schools on NCLB-required tutoring. Last year only 7,000 out of 164,000 eligible signed up. The district blames parents, but the edu-crats aren’t exactly going out of their way to publicize the availability:

    Companies that provide tutoring services said they face a number of obstacles in the LAUSD. The district restricts their contact with principals and parents… “It is the travesty that 90 percent of the eligible students are not signing up,” said Carl Benson, owner of Tutors of the Inland Empire. “I’ve had (advertising) money refused. I don’t know what else I can do.”

    Of course, it’s all about the money:

    Of nearly $60 million in federal funding for the district, only $1.8 million was spent on tutoring. The average cost per student is $1,500… This year, the number of eligible students in the LAUSD will jump to 230,000, and the district will be asked to set aside about $80 million for tutoring and other services… “If we got all 230,000 kids, we couldn’t serve three-quarters of them because the money isn’t there,” Robinson said.

    As I understand NCLB, this is not optional. If they take Title I funds; they have to at least make the offer. Limiting the number of kids who get to take advantage of tutoring because money is tight is simply not acceptable.

    99 TO GO

    Filed on at 7:22 am under by dcobranchi

    Kim at Relaxed Homeschooling waxes politic this morning. It’s pretty funny. Oh, she harbors a not-so-secret fantasy of recording 100 hits in a day. Help her out, ok?


    Filed on at 6:36 am under by dcobranchi

    Here’s a new edu-blog out of the “exemplary Milwaukee public schools.” Just kidding. It is an edu-blog out of Milwaukee. But, Prof. Bruce Thompson is distinctly not a Redovich fan. Well-written. Check it out.


    Filed on at 6:26 am under by dcobranchi

    The Inky does a more than credible job with a complicated homeschooling story. Kudos to reporter Leslie A. Pappas.


    Filed on at 6:13 am under by dcobranchi

    Here’s an interesting one from the News-Journal:

    Third World nations will compete with us

    Americans and our leadership must concentrate on a few core issues. What standard of living do we want, regardless of birthplace? How many people can be sustained under the projection of those goals?

    The most densely populated regions on Earth, once classified as the Third World, are rapidly developing into industrial and commercial giants. Consequently, these areas and people will soon demand, deserve and control the majority of the planet’s resources. When they clamor for the material comfort that only a few nations have enjoyed until recently, what is going to happen?

    America has 5 percent of the globe’s resources. China has 20 percent of the world’s population and is closing in behind America on petroleum imports. China is the model of a future, overpopulated society. Discipline, education and measured growth are the benchmarks of bulging human existence.

    Civil rights we take for granted may have to be modified or abandoned for the good of social stability.

    Donald F. McHugh, Felton

    Which civil rights did he have is mind? Are we going to have forced abortions like in China? Are parents with more than one or two kids going to be jailed? Details. We need details.

    The Roots of the Obesity ‘Epidemic’

    Filed on at 1:24 am under by dcobranchi

    The other day, I was having lunch at a local diner, and I was seated near a family of four. There was a baby, I’m guessing he was about six months old, crying the entire time I was there. This doesn’t bother me—I’m good at drowning out noise—but the parents’ reaction to their child interested me. The father kept trying to take the baby out of his highchair. The mother kept saying “don’t do that, it will only encourage him.” Apparently wanting to be held or touched is a sign of misbehavior to this mother. Finally, after about ten minutes, the mother stuffed a bottle filled with juice into the baby’s mouth. The baby clearly didn’t want it, but the mother was insistent, and eventually the child took the juice. The father looked annoyed, but didn’t say anything.

    I recount this scene because it made me think about the ongoing furor over the obesity “epidemic.” Lawyers blame the fast food companies for enticing children. The government wants taxpayers to subsidize dieting. The schools are banning soft drinks and snacks. Yet none of these factors hold as much sway over a young child’s body than a parent’s decision to use food as a behavioral control. I’m not saying the baby in my diner situation will grow up to be obese, but there is a correlation between feeding habits in infancy and eating habits later in life. Giving a six-month old baby juice to “shut him up” is unhealthy on two levels: Juice contains empty calories with few nutrients, and giving a baby food when he’s clearly not hungry confuses his body’s metabolic process. Would anyone be surprised if this baby, in three or four years, turns to junk food whenever he gets upset about something?


    Filed on July 27, 2004 at 9:31 pm under by dcobranchi

    This column is supposed to be entertaining (I think). All it did was get my blood pressure up as the entire thing confuses homeschooling with a cyber-charter.


    Filed on at 9:24 pm under by dcobranchi

    I just love officious truancy cops. This one is a smarmy as they get.

    “I have to take the parents to Justice Court and they are very understanding and eager to help,” said Harbin. According to Harbin the parent or guardian can be fined up to $1,000 and/or a year in jail if they are found guilty. In some extreme cases some have even been sent to prison said Harbin.

    “Some kids just need a push,” said Harbin. “Some of these parents just don’t care about their kid’s education. The kids that I have the most problems out of I find are not prepared. They are not given what they need to succeed.”

    But, what really gets my goat is this closing graf:

    Parents who home school their children are required to submit a certificate of enrollment and a curriculum to Harbin by September 1.

    According to HSLDA, that’s a bit of an exaggeration. Parents have until Sept. 15th to file a “simple description” of their homeschool program.

    Monopoly Money

    Filed on at 8:31 pm under by dcobranchi

    The issue isn’t money. The district is spending more than $13,000 per pupil this year — a large sum even for a big district.That kind of money is an issue.

    The big question before voters in November is whether Detroit should return to an elected school board instead of the current appointed one. That is the wrong question.

    The Detroit’s system isn’t floundering because of the way school board members are chosen. It’s doing so because it can. It has a monopoly on the provision of Detroit’s public education.


    Detroit families will have better-managed, more effective schools when they have real choice, and when all schools have to compete with one another to serve their kids. Freedom of choice will save money.


    Filed on at 6:43 pm under by dcobranchi

    Chris O’Donnell found Jay Mathews’ follow-up column on homeschooling. Chris (and I) liked this graf:

    For instance, the Home School Legal Defense Association, despite its energetic lawyers and many admirers, is not the leader of home schooling in this country. There is no leader, and no reigning ideology. There are instead at least a million American children — the real figure is probably twice that number — whose families want them to learn at home for many reasons, often having little to do with religion or politics.

    See? They can be taught. 🙂

    Misconceptions about Homeschooling

    Filed on at 5:09 pm under by dcobranchi

    Much of what I thought about home schooling was wrong. The conventional wisdom about this rapidly growing dimension of American education is too simple, too stereotyped and too stale.

    Aw…he admits that he was wrong about home schooling. 😉


    We save schools money

    Filed on at 4:59 pm under by dcobranchi

    Homeschooled students in the Easton Area School District can play on the schools’ sports teams, participate in band and attend any classes.

    Director Brooks Betts said: that while he had some concerns, he felt that the parents were taxpayers who save the district money by teaching their children at home.

    I was pleasantly surprised to read that a school board member said that.



    Filed on at 4:28 pm under by dcobranchi

    This is from my home state.

    Improvement requirements helped a S.D. school boost students’ proficiency in reading, math.



    Filed on at 11:44 am under by dcobranchi

    Homeschooler Kirsten Winston won a statewide public-speaking contest at the DE State Fair this past weekend. Ms. Winston, the Lance Armstrong of DE public-speakers, spoke on what it was like to be homeschooled.

    Winston, who plans to attend Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, Va., said she had lost track of how many times she won the state contest, but said it was nice to win her last time, with a topic so dear to her heart.

    Congrats to all the winners. (Hat tip: Traci)


    Filed on at 2:55 am under by dcobranchi

    Some things never change. Tim Haas pointed me to a 1966 white paper by E. G. West on “The Uneasy Case for State Education.” There’s so much good stuff in here it’s difficult to excerpt. A couple of samples:

    Protection of a child against starvation or malnutrition is in the same category of importance as protection against ignorance. It is difficult to envisage, however, that any government, in its anxiety to see that children have minimum standards of food and clothing, would pass laws for compulsory and universal eating, or that it should entertain measures which lead to increased taxes in order to provide children’s food “free” at local government kitchens or stores. It is still more difficult to imagine that most people would unquestioningly accept this system, especially where it had developed to the stage that for “administrative reasons” parents were allocated those stores which happened to be nearest their homes; or that any complaint or special desire to change their pre-selected stores should be dealt with by special and quasi-judicial inquiry after a formal appointment with the local “Child Food Officer” or, failing this, by pressure upon their respective representatives on the local “Child Food Board” or upon their Congressman. Yet strange as such hypothetical measures may appear when applied to the provision of food and clothing, they are nevertheless typical of English and American state education as it has evolved by historical accident or administrative expediency.

    …To what extent does nineteenth century history indicate that the English people, for instance, were in need of governmental help on this account? The evidence shows indeed that the majority of people in the first half of the nineteenth century did become literate (in the technical sense) largely by their own efforts.26 Moreover, if the government played any role at all in this sphere it was one of saboteur!

    West advocated homeschooling and vouchers. We’ve come a long way in almost 40 years, eh?


    Filed on at 2:12 am under by dcobranchi

    Ron Harrington forwarded a press release about full-day free daycare kindergarten. Ron wonders why parents are falling all over themselves to imprison enroll their five-year-olds. Of course, it’s for the “free” daycare.

    As approved at the April 19th Board of Education meeting, Broken Arrow Public Schools will offer full-day kindergarten free of charge at all fourteen elementary school sites for the 2004-2005 school year.

    After analyzing enrollment data, the district has determined that there will be no self-contained half-day kindergarten programs at any of its elementary school sites. Instead, parents wishing for their child to attend half-day kindergarten will be asked to pick up their child at 11:30 a.m.

    Hardly anyone has signed up for the half-day option. No wonder, with the attitude shown by the educrats. I basically predicted this same outcome for DE schools a while back. Full day prison terms kindergarten always crowds out self-contained half-day programs.

    The rest of the PR is a bunch of psychobabble bull****!

    Because the academic expectations have been increased for all students, including kindergarten students, teachers are increasingly finding it difficult to balance the students’ developmental and academic needs in a half-day program. A full-day kindergarten program supports the increased academic expectations in reading and math required by No Child Left Behind, and also allows teachers to use more appropriate developmental approaches.

    “A full-day program better prepares students and makes them more comfortable and confident first graders because they know the routine,” Oak Crest kindergarten teacher Carol VanDolah (who taught extended day kindergarten in 2003-2004) said. “I feel most five-year olds are ready for the all-day kindergarten program. Most have attended either private or public pre-K programs and they are ready for the next step. Even if the child is a young kindergartener, the full-day program allows plenty of time for their social development, and it allows the teacher more time to meet a child’s individual needs.”


    Filed on at 1:04 am under by dcobranchi

    I mentioned this column in a comment somewhere below, but I thought it deserved some more pub. Goose Creek, the War on Drugs, and g-schools in general. Worth a read.

    More Platform Tomfoolery

    Filed on July 26, 2004 at 7:51 pm under by dcobranchi

    More telling statements from the Democratic platform on education:

    Parents are our children’s first and most important teachers, and they have a responsibility to participate in their children’s education. We will help them do so by offering information and resources to better teach their children, whether reminding them about homework or attending a parent-teacher conference.

    Does this mean John Kerry will personally call every parent to remind them about their child’s homework or an upcoming parent-teacher conference? “Hi, I’m John Kerry, and I approved this math assignment.”

    And incidentally, it’s a good thing the platform says parents are their child’s “first and most important” teachers. I heard the NEA objected that parents weren’t certified to teach . . .


    Filed on at 6:53 pm under by dcobranchi

    Here’s a shocker– Chester Finn (aka the Education Gadfly) writing on the NRO is not impressed with Kerry’s education platform.

    “We must raise pay for teachers, especially in the schools and subjects where great teachers are in the shortest supply…. At the same time, we must create rigorous new incentives and tests for new teachers…. And teachers deserve due process protection from arbitrary dismissal, but we must have fast, fair procedures for improving or removing teachers who do not perform on the job.”

    I actually think two out of three of these are a pretty good start. Raising pay for teachers in short supply is just a market-based salary structure. The NEA would never go for it, but it’s good economics. The second proposal is just tinkering around the edges, but the third plank touches on the third rail of NEA politics– tenure. That Kerry would include even this indirect call for modifying tenure in the g-schools has got to be a watershed in Democratic Party politics.


    Filed on at 6:18 pm under by dcobranchi

    I just got another American Community Survey form. Apparently, they didn’t appreciate my mailing back the first one blank. So, this time I filled out how many people live in the house. The way I figure it, that’s all the data the Census Bureau is constitutionally entitled to gather. And, since the ACS is not the decennial census, I figure I’m being generous providing even that. I have a feeling, though, that the bureaucrats aren’t going to give up just yet:

    This survey is so important that a Census Bureau representative may attempt to contact you by telephone or personal visit if we do not receive your questionnaire.

    It’s going to cost them way more than the $100 for non-compliance to catch up with me. Ron Paul is right; this survey is an abomination.

    UPDATE: NPR had a brief piece on biometric data on passports. They reported that the 9/11 Commission recommended that US passports include some type of data such as fingerprints. No way will I ever provide those to any government agency (short of being arrested, I guess). If it becomes part of the US passport system, I’ll just let mine expire.

    And, if you think I’m being paranoid, just ask this guy.


    Filed on at 5:53 pm under by dcobranchi

    Several school districts, including Pittsburgh, provide bonuses or salary increases as incentives for obtaining the certification. City schools pay nationally certified teachers an additional $4,600 a year once they obtain the certification.

    Certification shouldn’t mean more money. The teachers should have been qualified to begin with.


    Filed on at 12:51 pm under by dcobranchi

    It must have been a very slow news day in Washington. The WaPo apparently needed to fill up column-inches. How else to explain the following, from an article on the never-ending quest for a new superintendent?

    Seventeen search committee members worked into the night Friday without pause, even interviewing one candidate over a catered dinner that included Caesar and tomato salads, side dishes of asparagus and broccoli and a choice of chicken, salmon or roast beef.

    Maybe the reporter is bucking for a restaurant critic gig.


    Filed on at 12:12 pm under by dcobranchi

    The Dallas News has a great example of why Superintendents should not be permitted to consult for companies doing business with their districts; it’s just way too easy to fall into a conflict of interest.

    Yvonne Katz earns $250,000 a year as superintendent of suburban Spring Branch ISD in Houston. She also moonlights for an energy conservation company that began contracting with the district after she got there.

    On Nov. 25, 2002, four months after she assumed administrative control of Spring Branch, school trustees approved her recommendation to hire Energy Education Inc. The Wichita Falls company helps school districts save money on electricity, natural gas and water bills.

    Spring Branch trustees didn’t know of Yvonne Katz’s EEI ties. EEI uses retired superintendents and sitting superintendents, including Dr. Katz, as paid marketing consultants to generate new business. Company officials would not answer questions about how consultant fees are calculated.

    She claims that she didn’t receive any money for steering business to her employer. Who knows? She may even be telling the truth. Still, it looks pretty bad. I imagine that the folks paying the taxes in her district will think twice before approving the next bond bill. Hey, come to think of it, maybe we should encourage all Supers to moonlight.


    Filed on at 12:01 pm under by dcobranchi

    This is what happens when the “State” interferes in what should be a purely private contractural agreement:

    When Kim Conolty came home from college this summer, she expected to save about $4,000 working as a lifeguard for the Batavia Park District.

    Because the 19-year-old Illinois State University sophomore plays for the soccer team and doesn’t have time to work at school, she was counting on racking up about 50 hours a week.

    When Illinois lawmakers adopted a new overtime law last spring, however, they threw a wrench into Conolty’s plans.

    Specifically, they neglected to include a provision that would allow seasonal laborers to work more than 40 hours a week and still be paid straight time instead of time-and-a-half. Many park districts, including Conolty’s, reacted by cutting overtime, and that meant smaller paychecks for seasonal workers.

    So, the college students make less money. The parks have to scramble to find replacement lifeguards. And this is our government “protecting” us how?

    If It’s Good Enough for Prussia…

    Filed on at 9:42 am under by dcobranchi

    Tom Smedley, a North Carolina-based writer, offers a spirited defense of homeschooling. Smedley reminds us of the g-schooling’s origins in the Germn military-industrial state:

    When the Prussian government implemented the first truancy laws in the early 1800s, they had to march weeping kids away from their families at bayonet point. This definitely violates the zero aggression principle. Imagine a commodity of so little value that you can’t even give it away; recipients must be forced to partake. And why the application of force? Because the State needs its docile taxpayers and cannon fodder. With characteristic thoroughness, the Prussian state decided to turn 94% of “its” children into those who simply followed orders. Another 4.5% went into the “talented and gifted” programs, receiving an education designed for the janissaries, the professional servitors of the State: accountants, preachers, lawyers, professors, physicians, etc. The children of the ruling elite, the remaining 1.5%, received a traditional education designed to impart flexibility, creativity, and rigorous thinking skills.

    The Prussian system worked like a charm. It led the German people to initiate two world wars and slaughter millions of people. No, that doesn’t mean the holocaust was caused by g-schooling, only that the German people were less likely to resist their goverment’s actions because they were g-schooled.

    Assuming Responsibility

    Filed on at 9:13 am under by dcobranchi

    D.C. officials are considering a law that would suspend the driver’s license of a parent whose teenage children break the law. Psychologist Michael Hurd says that’s not a good idea:

    It’s tempting, I know, to hold irresponsible parents legally accountable for the actions of their children. But in the process two things will happen. First, innocent parents will be unfairly punished. There are some parents who do everything possible to control the actions of their kids but to no avail. This is because children, especially teenagers, have free will. They are influenced not only by parents, but by peers and the all-pervasive media culture. It’s not right to punish parents who are trying their best for the misdeeds of their youth.

    Second, there’s the principle at stake. Once government starts to hold a significant other responsible for the misdeeds of an individual, the whole basis for law is undermined. It might seem harmless enough to suspend a parent’s license to drive when his son acts in a delinquent way. But where will it stop? We know that some kids commit serious crimes, such as murder. Are parents to be prosecuted for murder—facing stiff prison sentences or even the death penalty—for the actions of their sixteen-year-olds?

    I would add that some D.C. officials have called for forcing children as young as three to attend government-run preschools. As children spend more and more time locked up in these institutions, at what point can we say parents have no responsibility at all for their children, the state having assumed that function. Come to think of it, shouldn’t government officials–teachers–be held responsible for the crimes of teenagers? They probably spend more time with the kids than parents do.


    Filed on at 7:36 am under by dcobranchi

    As the two big conventions credential a few bloggers, the NYT has the obligatory piece declaring this the year of the blog.

    If the 1952 Republican convention was the first television convention, and the 1924 conventions were the first radio ones, the 2004 election will be remembered because of them, the bloggers insist.

    So, the Democrats let in a few lefty bloggers, and the GOP will allow a few righty ones later this summer. I wonder if the NEA will let me cover their next convention. Riiiight!


    Filed on July 25, 2004 at 9:21 pm under by dcobranchi

    Homeschool.com is sponsoring call-ins with some pretty big names in the homeschooling community. Everyone is welcome.

    Here is the schedule for the interviews. Our guests are some of the top homeschooling experts in the country and we would like to have lots of homeschoolers on the calls so that our guests feel special.

    The interviews take place as a phone-in conference call. We all dial into the same number, listen to the interview, and then you can ask our guest your personal questions. It’s really a nice opportunity to personally speak with some of the leading voices in homeschooling.

    Here is the telephone number and passcode for the calls:
    Dial-in number: 1-507-726-3270
    Passcode: 55095

    All times are in pacific time so click on the link below to convert to your time zone. (click here http://www.timetemperature.com/tzus/time_zone.shtml to convert Pacific time to your time zone)

    Here is the schedule for all of the interviews. Feel free to attend as many as you would like — free of charge. (Be sure to print this email out so you can tape it next to the phone)

    Monday, July 26th: This day will focus on Christian Homeschooling
    11-12:00 PST Igniting Your Child’s Passions and Talents, with Terri Camp
    12:30-1:30 ‘Relaxed’ Homeschooling, with Gena Suarez
    2:00-3:00 How to Avoid Homeschool Burnout, with Christine Field
    3:30- 4:30 A God’s Eye View of Education, with Barb Shelton

    Tuesday, July 27th:
    11-12:00 PST Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling, with John Taylor Gatto
    12:30-1:30 Discover Your Child’s Personal Learning Style, with Patricia Wyman
    2:00-3:00 Homeschooling on the Internet, with Patricia Carnabuci
    3:30-4:30 How to Get Your Homeschooled Teen Into Their 1st Choice College, with Diana Johnson

    Wednesday, July 28th: This day will focus on high school homeschooling
    11-12:00 PST How to Gain College Admission Without Anything Resembling a Traditional High School Education, with Wes Beach
    12:30-1:30 High School Record Keeping, Organizing and Class Design, with Barb Shelton
    2:00-3:00 How to Design an Incredibly Memorable High School Graduation Ceremony, with Barb Shelton
    3:30-4:30 Homeschooling Through Junior High & High School, with Diane McAlister

    Thursday, July 29th:
    11-12:00 PST Eclectic Homeschooling: Using Everything AND the Kitchen Sink to Teach Your Kids, with Diane Keith
    12:30-1:30 How to Use Games For Your Curriculum, with Carolyn Forte
    2:00-3:00 The Eclectic Method, with Beverly Krueger
    3:30-4:30 Unschooling, with Patrick Farenga


    Monday, August 2nd: This day will focus on homeschooling the special needs child
    11-12:00 PST Strategies for Bad Spellers, Reading Problems, and Other Challenges, with Patricia Wyman
    12:30-1:30 Eight Different Kinds of Smart, with David Lazear
    2:00-3:00 Homeschooling the Gifted Child, with Robert and Suzanne Arn
    3:30-4:30 Homeschooling the Challenging Child, with Christine Field

    Tuesday, August 3rd:
    11-12:00 PST How to Make Money From Home While Homeschooling, with Rhea Perry
    12:30-1:30 Car Schooling: Turn Car Time into Learning Time, with Diane Keith
    2:00-3:00 The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education, with Susan Wise Bauer
    3:30-4:30 FAQs about Homeschooling; Is Homeschooling Right For You?, with Rebecca Kochenderfer

    Wednesday, August 4th:
    11-12:00 PST Homeschooling the Younger Child, with Linda Dobson
    12:30-1:30 Nitty Gritty, Specific Techniques for Your Special Needs Child, with Joyce Herzog
    2:00-3:00 How to Teach Different Age Children at the Same Time, with Valerie Bendt
    3:30-4:30 Who Are Homeschoolers & What Do They Do All Day?, with Rhonda Barfield

    It’s a regular homeschooling how-to marathon!

    The more people on the call the better, so feel free to give the dial-in number and passcode to your friends, family and anyone else you believe would benefit from these fabulous calls.

    See you next week! And thank you again for your help and your feedback. We very much appreciate it.

    Kind regards,
    Rebecca Kochenderfer

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