Thursday, March 31, 2011

The KIPP "miracle"

With the chorus for Charter Schools like KIPP growing louder and louder each day, I'm glad to see some researchers dig into what makes KIPP successful and how to replicate that across other schools. Unfortunately, the answer to KIPP's great success could stem from the fact that it's not actually as successful as has been claimed. On top of that, they have much more money per student than other Charters or traditional public schools.

KIPP Charter Network Enjoys Financial Advantages, Study Says -

They also have rules that could certainly make many public much more successful but would result in millions of children without any school to go to. These include requirements from parents to check students' homework, make sure they get to school on time, and other "commitments." I'm sure that public school teachers and principals would love to have this apply to their students' parents as well but when those parents fail to comply, what then?

As it turns out, another secret to KIPP's success might be its high attrition rates. The Western Michigan study found that "on average about 15 percent of students drop from KIPP cohorts every year, compared to 3 percent in public schools."

If we want to see the types of results from our traditional public schools that KIPP has achieved we will need to invest more into our teachers and schools (as opposed to the budget slashing frenzy that is currently taking place) and someone will have to come up with a method to help parents be accountable for their children.

What continues to be absent from the national debate is the demonstrably negative effect poverty has on children and their ability to learn. While it's much easier for politicians to play "blame the greedy teachers" game all the time, it isn't going to fix education.

Finish your Broccoli before you start demanding Ice Cream Sundaes for Dessert

According to The Guardian, the Libyan revolutionary council in Benghazi is already making demands for Gaddafi's (going with the spelling from the article) former Foreign Minister to be sent back to Libya on charges of crimes against humanity once they have completely vanquished Gaddafi's forces.

Rebels, you need to take a moment and reflect. You aren't making nearly as much progress as you were supposed to by this point. Quite frankly, you're making NATO look worse and worse the longer you drag this out. So don't start making demands about what you want to do once you have 100% control of Libya. Work on achieving that first.

Libya foreign minister Moussa Koussa must face atrocities trial, rebels declare | World news |

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Give all Canadians the right to vote | views from away

A nice blog post about the unfair restrictions on voting for Canadians who live abroad.

Give all Canadians the right to vote | views from away

If it swims, quacks and walks like a duck...

USA Today just blew the lid off a systemic irregularity in DC public schools standardized test results.  Their article about the testing irregularities require us to ask, once again, why is everyone in love with Michelle Rhee?  Now that her so called "turnarounds" are becoming more and more questionable, why do policy makers continue to turn to her for ideas?  We don't see Fidelity or JP Morgan Chase asking Bernie Madoff for investing advice.

Thankfully, Diane Ravitch just posted a blog entry on The Daily Beast, that continues to question Rhee's "education celebrity" status.  Let's just hope that more people wise up and realize that evaluating teachers based on which bubbles their students fill in will encourage them to get the right bubbles dark, even if it means doing some erasing.

Monday, March 21, 2011

What does $1.3 billion buy these days?

On Saturday, March 12th, the Arab League urged the United Nations to vote on imposing a “no-fly zone” over Libya, to protect the civilians and the rebel forces in the eastern half of the country.  Since then, a “no-fly zone” was authorized with notable abstentions coming from Brazil, Germany, Russia and China.  But as France took to the skies to patrol the airspace around Benghazi, and British and American cruise missiles began to pound anti-air installations, the absence of any Arab military taking part in the “no-fly zone” is precisely the mistake that Western countries should have known to avoid by now.

For the last 30 years, America has given Egypt billions of dollars so that they could strengthen their armed forces ($1.3 billion just last year).  With those billions of our tax payer dollars, Hosni Mubarak has purchased hundreds of F15 and F16 fighter jets, and still more are on their way from Lockheed Martin.  Yet despite all of this military hardware at their disposal, and despite joining the call for a “no-fly zone” to be imposed, the military leadership in Egypt did not contribute to the imposition of the operation.

Nor did the Saudis who are another large purchaser of American military hardware, and who would have a much shorter flight for their sorties than the American bombers taking off from Missouri.  What is the point of purchasing all of those weapons if they are unwilling to use them even when they are calling for military action?  Obama, Cameron, and Sarkozy should have told the Arab League to put its money where its mouth was and fly a few missions over Libyan skies. 

One could call it a missed opportunity by the Obama administration, or, as his supporters have come to realize, just business as usual at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

TV REVIEW: The Chicago Code

Ok, first off, I would just like to say, this post has virtually nothing to do with politics...well...almost nothing.    The Chicago Code, Shawn Ryan’s new police-oriented procedural-drama (weekly bad guys to stop mixed in with a longer story arc) is fast paced and entertaining, but it’s a far cry from Ryan’s previous police drama, The Shield, or Jason Clarke’s unfortunately cancelled Brotherhood.  To be fair, The Shield was on FX, Fox’s edgy and courageous basic cable network, and Brotherhood was on premium cable’s Shotime, both of which tend to display far more creativity and departure from the broadcast networks’ need to appeal to the lowest common denominator in the American viewing public.
Jennifer Beals, Jason Clarke, and Delroy Lindo are certainly not to blame for the tepid feeling once gets while watching this show.  Their performances are spectacular and from his demeanor and delivery Clarke has convinced me that Wysocki could fly off the handle at the drop of the hat if someone puts a fellow police officer in unnecessary danger.  Unfortunately the procedural element, that each episode they will have one problem to solve and one bad guy to apprehend, diminishes the long story arc that shows like Brotherhood or The Wire were able to maintain.  Catching Alderman Gibbons becomes a kind of side-story that will likely only happen upon cancellation of the show…or not at all. 
Which brings me to my second problem with the show and that is the focus on political corruption.  Of course Chicago is a great place to tell a story about machine politics and corruption in City Hall, but the kind of corruption appearing in the show, at least thus far, is a comical simulacrum of the real abuses that occur in City Halls across the country.  From the concerned constituent who reports a possible crime to Gibbons only to end up murdered by his order, or the Irish street thugs being brought into Alderman Gibbons’ office for a chat are overly visible actions that would not go unnoticed in our post 9-11 security framework.  What it does provide is a very simple narrative for the broad viewership base that Fox is hoping to attract.  And don’t even get me started on the police informant Liam who does everything wrong for an undercover officer and would be dead already if David Simon were writing this show. 
So there it is…what was a great hope for a new series that could follow in the footsteps of The Shield, is unfortunately pandering too broadly to the masses and will probably last two, perhaps three seasons before it is abruptly canceled to make way for another crappy reality show from Fox.
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