Saturday Bonus Cartoon Fun: Iran Fist Edition

New JibJab

New Rules: He's Not Your Boyfriend, He's Your President

Robert Reich And Conan O'Brien, Detectives

Saturday Cartoon Fun: Swat Edition

Goldman, Sachs: Apology Not Accepted

Matt Taibbi takes down Goldman, Sachs apology. A taste:
So some Dutch teachers’ union that a year before was buying ultra-safe U.S. Treasury bonds in 2006 runs into a Goldman salesman who offers them a different, “just as safe” AAA-rated investment that, at the moment anyway, just happens to be earning a much higher return than treasuries. Next thing you know, a bunch of teachers in Holland are betting their retirement nest eggs on a bunch of meth addicted “homeowners” in Texas and Arizona.

This isn’t really commerce, but much more like organized crime: it was a gigantic fraud perpetrated on the economy that wouldn’t have been possible without accomplices in the ratings agencies and regulators willing to turn a blind eye. Imagine a meat company that bred ten billion rats, fattened them on trash and sewage, ground their bodies into chuck, and then sold it all as grade-A ground beef to McDonald’s and Burger King, right under the noses of the USDA: this is exactly the same thing, only with debt instead of food. We’re eating it, they’re counting the money.


The Future Of Education On Disastrous Course

More New Democrats and DFER

According to Rahm Emanuel, Democratic policymakers are working on a "quiet revolution" in education reform. If yesterday's DLC gathering and two briefs from DFER are indicators of what's to come, we're in for some big changes. Here is a summary of the hour-plus DLC discussion on education reform and the DFER policy briefs.

DLC Policy Forum on Health and Education Reform:
The DLC gathering began with speeches by Emanuel and DLC President Bruce Reed (education viewpoints explored here). Emanuel, when not pressuring freshmen Democrats from voting against another $100+ billion for the War on Terror, is pushing support for Duncan's brand of education reform. This includes common standards, removing the caps from charter schools, pay for performance, and the incentives built into the "Race to the Top" fund. "We know what's necessary as it relates to quality teachers," says Emanuel. "We know what's necessary as it relates to competition in the public school system, i.e. charters," he continues. "And we know what's necessary to adopt the common standards so you're raising the capacity of our children, our schools, and our teachers." Reed suggested education reform was the "sleeper issue" of the Obama administration, which is dealing with healthcare reform and the ongoing economic crisis. But the Democrats are "just getting warmed up" in education reform and in the next few weeks, President Obama will be making announcements about expanding both community college and early childhood education.

The action really gets interesting during the panel following the speeches of Emanuel and Reed. Andrew Rotherham moderated a discussion between DFER's Joe Williams, DLC's Harold Ford, Jr., Alabama Congressman Artur Davis, and Florida Democrat Lorraine Ausley.

There was agreement on expanding charter schools and shutting failing schools ("Bring in the proven operators," says Williams), reforming teacher preparation programs (or eliminate them entirely: "proficiency in subject matter" is all that matters to Davis), and support for more testing.

The support for charter schools is not surprising given the presence of Rotherham and Williams, two vocal supporters of charter schools. DFER and Education Sector are certainly New Democratic organizations looking for competition and choice in public education (echoing their funders' desire for market-based reforms).

Williams even comes out with a strong anti-union stance and suggests that higher wages are a way to "buy out" potential union employees. This, of course, is needed for the charter chain that simply need a disposable source of laborers that can be fired for a variety of reasons. Rotherham suggested that we could be entering a "moneyball era" in evaluating teachers, a reference to the various statistical models used by the Oakland A's GM Billy Beane. There was a general hostility towards teacher preparation programs, particularly from Davis. Proficiency in subject matter, in Davis's opinion, is all that matters for good teaching. Davis also thinks we should establish a fast-track principal program for high-achieving college graduates who don't want to go to Wall Street and don't want to teach, which would look something like a Teach For America/New Leaders for New Schools combination.

At one point, the discussion turns to student evaluations. The idea of using a portfolio assessment method, which would certainly allow for a much more dynamic form of demonstrating learning, was brushed aside because it could not be applied evenly across the board. The crisis in standardized testing, according to DFER's Williams, is "a lack of confidence in the tests we're using." Student performance, Davis agues, is the best indicator: "performance is pretty objective - how do they do on tests?" Sharpen your pencils (or fire up your computers), American children: more testing is coming down the pipeline.

The charter school movement, it was noted, needs to do a better job of educating the public about their role in education. Most of America, the panelists argued, did not understand the concept of charter schools. Many people erroneously believe they're private schools; keep this in mind the next time you see the New Democrats refer to "public charter schools" instead of just "charter schools." This is a very intentional part of their marketing campaign.

The presentation - dubbed the "DLC Policy Forum on Health and Education Reform" - gives a pretty comprehensive view of the New Democrat's platform for education: charter schools, altering the "human capital" in education, and embracing common standards.

DFER Briefs:
One document, "Public Charter Schools and High Quality Pre-K," suggests the charter school movement could increase the availability of Pre-K for 3- and 4-year olds. I'm supportive of expanding educational opportunities, but we should also be very careful about making preschool too academic (education researchers down at the University of Oregon must be salivating over the prospect of more DIBELS testing). Sadly, I doubt this crowd of reformers understands this concept, but they also have little to no understanding of teaching and what is developmentally appropriate for children.

The second document, "Unleashing Innovation in American Schools," describes the Race to the Top fund as the "icing on the cake" of the stimulus plan. Practically drooling over the $5 billion to be used for leveraging reform, the document goes on to describe some up-and-coming school reformers who have been able to "break through bureaucratic inertia and move beyond outmoded ways of thinking about what schools can and should do." These reformers? Green Dot, NewSchools Venture Fund, MATCH Charter School, and Uncommon Schools. These school management organizations "are linking their high-achieving networks of schools with new approaches to teacher education." Uncommon Schools, KIPP, and Aspire have launched a partnership with Hunter College to train 1,000 teachers every year. These new teachers, and hopefully teachers everywhere, will use more "data-driven instructional practices," a creative euphemism for dumbing down the teaching profession and injecting more computer-based learning (which is deceptively called "student-based learning" by many business-minded education reformers).

The $650 million Innovation Fund should be used to expand charter school chains, expanding data-driven instruction, and the funds should be "administered through nonprofit intermediaries that have proven track records of successfully baking and launching innovations in education." DFER is referring to venture philanthropy organizations like the NewSchools Venture Fund (who has two former partners running the Race to the Top fund and Innovation fund, Joanne Weiss and Jim Shelton) and the Charter School Growth Fund.

A final word: Green Dot is described as a "disruptive innovator" in the field of education. This concept of "disruptive innovation" is laid out by Clayton Christensen, Michael Horn, and Curtis Johnson in their new book, Disrupting Class. Christensen and his pals run the Innosight Institute; their website, which tilts strongly towards applying market fundamentalism to public education, is certainly worth exploring. There's also an interview with Jeb Bush, who evidently has read the book on his Kindle and really likes their ideas (gulp). I'll elaborate on their book in the coming days.
h/t Schools Matter

Friday Cartoon Fun: I'd Rather You Die Edition


Thursday Cartoon Fun: Health Care Reform (Not) Edition

Thursday Cartoon Fun: Rebel Edition

Wall Street Regulation: Yeah. Right!

Does the Obama Plan for Reforming Wall Street Measure Up?

In a word: No.

The plan doesn't stop stop bankers from making huge, risky bets with other peoples’ money. It does increase capital requirements and oversight, but it doesn't require bankers to take their pay in long-term stock options or warrants, and it doesn't even hint that banks should go back to being partnerships instead of publicly-held corporations.

All this means traders still have very incentive to place big and often wildly risky bets as long as the potential winnings are big enough, and top executives have very little incentive to monitor what traders are up to as long as the traders are collecting large commissions on the bets.

Nor does the plan do anything to prevent banks from becoming too big to fail. It doesn't hint at a return to the days before the late 1990s when commercial banks were separate entities from investment banks -- before mammoth bank supermarkets like Citigroup came to be so tied up with so many other commercial and investment vehicles that they couldn't be allowed to go under. And there's not the slightest mention of antitrust, to break up the largest banks.

The plan does focus on a few conflicts of interest, such as how credit rating agencies are paid. And it does establish a new agency to oversee all forms of consumer loans -- thereby helping make sure borrowers know what they're getting into, and can comparison shop. But these are small potatoes relative to the size of the overall problem. The Fed is given new oversight powers, but there's no suggestion that regional Fed bank presidents, who already have a substantial oversight role, should be recruited from the ranks of people who are not bankers and don't have a big financial stake in keeping oversight to a minimum.

In short: It's a mere filigree of reform, a sheer gossamer of government. Wall Street must be toasting its good fortune. Unless Congress shows some spine, the great Wall Street meltdown of 2007 and 2008 -- which lead to the biggest taxpayer bailout in history, very likely the largest taxpayer losses on record, and the largest investor losses since 1929 -- will repeat itself within a decade, if not sooner.

In fact, the banks that have repaid their TARP money are already planning to resume supersize bonuses, even though many of them are still awash in toxic assets and their non-performing loans are up. Bad credit-card and commercial property debts are mounting. Foreclosures are soaring. Yet several of the big banks are showing profits. How are they pulling this off? First, they strong-armed the Financial Accounting Standards Board into allowing them to assign whatever value they wanted to all the junk on their balance sheets. Then they played hardball with the Treasury staffers whose so-called "stress tests" lapsed into little more than negotiations over numbers and probabilities. (The national unemployment rate is already approaching the highest unemployment rate in the stress tests.) Then they convinced investors that financials have hit bottom and were now good bets. Presto!

Watch your wallets. The Street is up to its old tricks. And the White House's so-called reform is little more than a whitewash.


"A Pretty Sobering Finding"

Will the Washington Post or NY Times Print the Facts About Charter Schools?

Not yet. Does this report from CREDO pose too much of a threat to the DFER's corporate charter agenda, which has nothing to do with quality education and everything to do with cheap, anti-union, apartheid, corporate welfare schools?

From the LA Times YESTERDAY:
6:54 PM PDT, June 15, 2009

California charter schools outperform traditional public schools in reading but significantly lag in math, according to a national study released Monday by researchers at Stanford University.

The study of charter schools in 15 states and the District of Columbia found that, nationally, only 17% of charter schools do better academically than their traditional counterparts, and more than a third "deliver learning results that are significantly worse than their student[s] would have realized had they remained in traditional public schools."

"We find that a pretty sobering finding," said lead researcher Margaret Raymond, director of the Center for Research on Education Outcomes.

Charter schools have been widely scrutinized, but the Stanford study was one of the broadest and deepest attempts to come to grips with their progress, in part because the researchers were able to look at test scores down to the level of individual students . . . .

Tuesday Cartoon Fun: Ballot Box Edition


For Iran...

From Sully, who is doing the world a favor by blogging the Iranian debacle for us, to use as your avatar on facebook, or wherever you desire to show your support for the many Iranians being beaten for voting for freedom.

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