The Achievement Gap Is Neurological?

"Chronically elevated physiological stress is a plausible model for how poverty could get into the brain and eventually interfere with achievement," wrote Cornell University child-development researchers Gary Evans and Michelle Schamberg in a paper published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
You can read the article here. By posting this, I am not making excuses, or claiming that schools have no role to play; it's just that we haven't been honest about the problem, yet. With this research, maybe we can get to the root of the problem (poverty) and make some headway!

Robert Reich: "It's A Depression"

It's a Depression

The March employment numbers, out this morning, are bleak: 8.5 percent of Americans officially unemployed, 663,000 more jobs lost. But if you include people who are out of work and have given up trying to find a job, the real unemployment rate is 9 percent. And if you include people working part time who'd rather be working full time, it's now up to 15.6 percent. One in every six workers in America is now either unemployed or underemployed.

Every lost job has a multiplier effect throughout the economy. For every person who no longer has a job and can't find another, or is trying to enter the job market and can't find one, there are at least three job holders who become more anxious that they may lose their job. Almost every American right now is within two degrees of separation of someone who is out of work. This broader anxiety expresses itself as less willingness to spend money on anything other than necessities. And this reluctance to spend further contracts the economy, leading to more job losses.

Capital markets may or may not unfreeze under the combined heat of the Treasury and the Fed, but what happens to Wall Street is becoming less and less relevant to Main Street. Anxious Americans will not borrow even if credit is available to them. And ever fewer Americans are good credit risks anyway.

All this means that the real economy will need a larger stimulus than the $787 billion already enacted. To be sure, only a small fraction of the $787 billion has been turned into new jobs so far. The money is still moving out the door. But today's bleak jobs report shows that the economy is so far below its productive capacity that much more money will be needed.

This is still not the Great Depression of the 1930s, but it is a Depression. And the only way out is government spending on a very large scale. We should stop worrying about Wall Street. Worry about American workers. Use money to build up Main Street, and the future capacities of our workforce.

Energy independence and a non-carbon economy should be the equivalent of a war mobilization. Hire Americans to weatherize and insulate homes across the land. Don't encourage General Motors or any other auto company to shrink. Use the auto makers' spare capacity to make busses, new wind turbines, and electric cars (why let the Chinese best us on this?). Enlarge public transit systems.

Meanwhile, extend our educational infrastructure. So many young people are out of work that they should be using this time to improve their skills and capacities. Expand community colleges. Enlarge Pell Grants. Extend job-training opportunities to the unemployed, so they can learn new skills while they're collecting unemployment benefits.

Finally, accelerate universal health care.

The Beginning Of The End Of Public Schools

Jim Horn keeps warning you about the demise of Public Schools, and here is proof you should worry!
Stealth Bill in Oklahoma Set to Blow Up Public Schools

The conservatives are at it again. You have to wonder which wunderkind from the right-wing sludgetanks came up this newest strategy to dismantle public schools by destroying the state statutory system that maintains standards and practices for public schools--everything from state curriculum frameworks to rules for class size, teacher credentialing, to school libraries, to the qualifications of school nurses and bus drivers. The legislation, Senate Bill 834, just sailed through the Oklahoma Senate on a party line vote, and has passed the first committee hurdle in the House. Unless Oklahoma parents and teachers act quickly, this coming fall will bring the beginning of the end of the state system of public education in Oklahoma.

What the legislation does is give local boards all the jurisdiction and discretion that now resides at the state department of education. It would give local boards the same discretion as charter schools, except that local boards would have to accept all students, which, of course, charters do not:
A school district identified by the State Board of Education for participation in the School District Empowerment Program shall be exempt from all statutory requirements and State Board of Education rules from which charter schools are exempt as provided for in the Oklahoma Charter Schools Act, except that the district shall continue to be required to enroll all students who are residents of the school district.
So how is a school district "identified by the State Board of Education for participation" in this dismantling? Beginning in the Fall of 2010, all school systems with any schools on the NCLB hit list of "needs improvement" will be eligible for deconstruction. Then from 2011 to 2014, 20 percent of districts each year that meet a particular enrollment criteria will be randomly selected by the State Board for meltdown. At the end of 2014, there will be no state level governance of public schools in Oklahoma.

With changes coming to NCLB that threaten the scheduled dismantling of public schools that NCLB required, the conservatives have come up this new strategy to hasten the end, thus erasing the gains in public education and taking us to the middle of the 19th century in terms of standards and governance of public schools. If you think that fascists like Grover Norquist have taken a holiday, think again. Here, in Oklahoma, is their agenda about to burst into bloom.

1st Session of the 52nd Legislature (2009)

SENATE BILL 834 By: Ford


An Act relating to schools; establishing the School District Empowerment Program; stating purpose; exempting certain districts from certain statutory requirements and rules; specifying certain requirement; identifying districts for participation and implementation of program; specifying method of selection of remaining districts and timeline for implementation; providing for codification; and providing an effective date.

SECTION 1. NEW LAW A new section of law to be codified in the Oklahoma Statutes as Section 3-129 of Title 70, unless there is created a duplication in numbering, reads as follows:

A. There is hereby established the School District Empowerment Program which shall be administered by the State Board of Education. The purpose of the program is to empower locally elected school board members to govern school districts and make decisions based on the needs of their students and circumstances.

B. A school district identified by the State Board of Education for participation in the School District Empowerment Program shall be exempt from all statutory requirements and State Board of Education rules from which charter schools are exempt as provided for in the Oklahoma Charter Schools Act, except that the district shall continue to be required to enroll all students who are residents of the school district.

C. School districts which include a school that has been identified for school improvement for the 2009-2010 school year by the State Board of Education pursuant to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, as amended, 20 U.S.C. 6301 et seq., shall be identified for participation in the School District Empowerment Program and shall implement the program beginning in the 2010-2011 school year.

D. 1. By September 30, 2010, the State Board of Education shall randomly select twenty percent (20%) of districts from each of the following categories for implementation during the 2011-2012 school year:

a. districts with an Average Daily Membership (ADM) of less than two hundred fifty (250),
b. districts with an ADM of less than five hundred (500) and greater than or equal to two hundred fifty (250),
c. districts with an ADM of less than two thousand (2,000) and greater than or equal to five hundred (500), and
d. districts with an ADM of two thousand (2,000) or more.
2. The selection of districts as directed by this subsection shall:
a. occur during open meetings of the Board,
b. occur each year thereafter, for implementation by the districts selected during the following school year, until all districts have been selected to implement the program, and
c. be applicable to the number of districts in each category as of September 30, 2010, to allow for all districts to be selected by September 30, 2014.

SECTION 2. This act shall become effective September 1, 2009.

52-1-11 KM 1/14/2009 4:54:26 PM


Thursday Cartoon Fun: GM Trouble Edition

Thursday Cartoon Fun: Hope Revised Edition

Thursday Cartoon Fun: Black Hole Edition


I Now Officially Teach The Test

That's right. In staff meeting today we were treated to a discussion about how we are going to prepare our 2nd graders for the upcoming CST (the California version of the high=stakes test) test. We discussed the fact that the test items are beyond many's grasp, some of the test items are not even part of our standards in 2nd grade (recognizing paragraphs), and the test actually tests the teachers, not the students. And since this is the way it is, the principal indicated, in so many words, we'd better get on board and figure out how to make the test meaningful, not an exercise in panic, and just shut up about how useless and damaging it is. Ok!

The principal was concerned that the kids may be emotionally unable to cope with all the bubbles, and the stuff they have never seen. We said, Why yes! How true! Then the principal asked how we could ameliorate that sense of fear. I said that I tell my kids that the test is actually to test how well the teacher is teaching, so don't worry about it. The principal both liked it, and made a disgusted face. I think her duplicity is causing great cognitive dissonance for her (though it may simply be confusion, as ascribing cognition to her seems silly. She doesn't think, she reacts.)

What makes me mad, angry, enraged, is the fact that we teachers know the test is not a measure of student achievement, especially this young, yet we still (well, not me!) all seem to stay close-lipped about our outrage.

Unless and until teachers take a stand, the reformers and their systematic takeover of public education will continue, unchallenged.

Stand up! Rail against the unfairness, shallowness, narrowness and danger of "The Test"!

Wednesday Cartoon Fun: Bank CEO vs Auto CEO Edition

AG Won't Investigate War Crimes? Huh?

Jonathan Turley offers his thoughts on Eric Holder's decision not to investigate war crimes. I am very, very disappointed.
Attorney General Eric Holder Announces Justice Department Will Not Investigate War Crimes Due to Prosecutorial Misconduct

In a major decision, Attorney General Eric Holder has announced that he has found that the Justice Department has acted improperly in barring any criminal investigation of well-documented war crimes committed by the Bush Administration in the torture program. To punish the failure of the Department to act in a timely fashion, he has announced that no criminal charges will be pursued regarding torture to teach prosecutors a lesson that “justice delayed is justice denied.”


Obama Spouts Very Wrong Education Numbers: Updated

I remember seeing those "Get Disappointed In Someone new" bumper stickers and thought, how self-defeating! But now, oy vey...
From the St. Petersburg Times:
In his first major education speech, President Obama endorsed charter schools, merit pay for teachers and increases in school spending. He justified his agenda partly by saying American students are slipping compared to counterparts around the world.

"We've let our grades slip, our schools crumble, our teacher quality fall short, and other nations outpace us," Obama said in the March 10 speech to the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. "In eighth grade math, we've fallen to ninth place."

Since Obama brought up math, we decided to check his. Turns out we had to pull out the red pen.

We asked the White House to defend Obama's claim, and received no response. His claim that eighth grade math students in the United States are in ninth place internationally almost certainly comes from the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, a periodic comparison of math and science achievement carried out since 1995 by research institutions and government agencies worldwide.

The most recent study , published in 2007, did indeed show U.S. eighth graders in ninth place behind five East Asian countries and Hungary, England and Russia.

But it was misleading to say they had "fallen" to ninth place. In 1995, they came in 28th . In 1999, they moved up to 19th . In 2003, they climbed to 15th . So rather than falling, U.S. students have actually improved in the past decade.

We considered giving the president partial credit since American students did come in ninth. But the point of his statement was that they had "fallen" to that position and that mathematics performance in the United States is getting worse relative to other countries. And that's just plain False.
Update: FactCheck.org did some, uh, fact checking....


Obama Fires GM Chief

Wow! Who knew!
GM CEO to Step Down at White House's Request

By Peter Whoriskey and Michael D. Shear
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, March 29, 2009; 7:01 PM

General Motors chairman and chief executive G. Richard Wagoner is resigning at the request of the White House, clearing the way for the Obama administration to offer the company more federal aid.

On Monday, President Obama is expected to unveil his plan to prop up General Motors and Chrysler, offering them more money if the companies' agree to shrink and refocus their businesses.

Wagoner's resignation was one of the White House conditions for more federal aid. "He agreed and will do that," a senior administration official said Sunday evening.

Wagoner, 56, joined the company in 1977 and has been chairman and chief executive since 2003.
h/t Wonkette

Sunday Cartoon Fun: Mutual Trouble Edition

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