A House of Cards, Built on Kids

“Big asset bubbles,” explains Gerald Epstein of the University of Massachusetts Amherst, “such as we saw in the housing market in 2004-2007…can be very dangerous because they are usually fed by massive increases in debt… which leads to dangerous interconnections and the building of a financial house of cards.”

If Epstein is right, how long until the cards topple?

And at what cost?

Save Maine Schools

In 2006, in a presentation to ReadyNation marked “Strictly Private and Confidential,” Paul Sheldon of Citigroup proposed a new way to finance preschool: early childhood student loans.

Non-profit organizations could borrow from banks or student loan companies, said Sheldon, and then offer loans to government organizations or individuals. Then, the loans could be pooled and turned into asset-backed securities, and – voila! – an early childhood education market would be created, worth as much as 10 billion dollars.

The idea of preschoolers saddled with debt, however, was clearly going to be too controversial. 

Over time, Citigroup’s model was reworked into the more palatable “social impact bond,” which are now proliferating across the country.

These bonds, which are really private loans made to government or non-profit agencies with repayment contingent upon pre-determined “outcomes,” are sold under the premise that they can help tax-payers save money in the long-run by preventing…

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Momentum Grows Against VAM Evaluations of Teachers, but Eradication of VAM Will Take Time

“Every year, policymakers across the U.S. make life-changing decisions based on the results of standardized tests. These high-stakes decisions include, but are not limited to, student promotion to the next grade level, student eligibility to participate in advanced coursework, eligility to graduate high school and teacher tenure. In 40 states, teachers are evaluated in part based on the results from student standardized tests, as are school administrators in almost 30 states. However, research shows that the outcomes of standardized tests don’t reflect the quality of instruction, as they’re intended to… The results show that it’s possible to predict the percentages of students who will score proficient or above on some standardized tests. We can do this just by looking at some of the important characteristics of the community, rather than factors related to the schools themselves, like student-teacher ratios or teacher quality. This raises the possibility that there are serious flaws built into education accountability systems and the decisions about educators and students made within those systems.”

janresseger

Earlier this month, Christopher Tienken, a professor of education leadership, management, and policy at Seton Hall University published a short commentary on research he and colleagues have been conducting about whether standardized tests ought to be used for high stakes policy decisions.

He writes, “Every year, policymakers across the U.S. make life-changing decisions based on the results of standardized tests. These high-stakes decisions include, but are not limited to, student promotion to the next grade level, student eligibility to participate in advanced coursework, eligility to graduate high school and teacher tenure. In 40 states, teachers are evaluated in part based on the results from student standardized tests, as are school administrators in almost 30 states. However, research shows that the outcomes of standardized tests don’t reflect the quality of instruction, as they’re intended to… The results show that it’s possible to predict the percentages of students who will score proficient…

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Every Six Months

Live to Write - Write to Live

Years ago, in a management class our instructor said that if you want to be a good manager/leader then you must constantly read new material on the subject. He told us that he had personally made it a point to read a new management book every six months.

Stack of Books

I’ve always thought that was good advice. And so I’ve tried to follow it in my life as a writer. If I want to be a good writer then I must constantly learn about the craft. (Try it for yourself, “If I want to be a good (fill in the blank) then I must constantly learn about the craft”- See? It works pretty well, right?)

It’s why I buy Writer’s Digest every month. And why I fork over big bucks to get a copy of the imported British magazine Writer’s Forum. I read both from cover to cover. But…

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Why Do Americans Like Guns?

mikethegunguy

When I was a kid growing up in Washington, D.C. during the 1950s, my two favorite places to visit was the NRA Museum and the FBI.  I loved looking at all the old and historic guns at NRA headquarters because I was a gun-nut by the age of five, and I loved the FBI tour because the last stop was at the shooting range where one of the agents would fire a 45-caliber tommy gun and I could take home the empty brass.

sales             The funny thing about those childhood experiences, however, was they took place at a time when Americans had much more positive views on the importance of regulating guns than we have today. Don’t believe me?  Take a look at the gun surveys conducted by Gallup, several of which started when I was a kid. For example, Gallup has been asking this question since 1959: “Do…

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Opposition grows at second AmplifyGR meeting, but even if the majority of the people opposed the project AmplifyGR director says they would still move forward

Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy

There were two things that were incredible about tonight’s community meeting hosted by AmplifyGR.

First, almost everyone of the the people who spoke during the roughly 80-minute public comment time, were critical of what AmplifyGR was doing, skeptical of the process or outright opposed to what AmplifyGR has in mind to do.

From the very get go, people were not mincing words about what they felt about AmplifyGR, Rockford Construction and the DeVos family. Community Activist LaDonna Norman told the AmplifyGR people sitting up front, “stop making our community look stupid.” Norman was referring to what AmplifyGR was doing and acting like they had nothing but good intentions. LaDonna then went on to name what was happening and that the whole thing was essentially, “DeVos owned. Everyone involved is bought and paid for by the DeVos Family.

The facilitator then asked the audience how many…

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City of Grand Rapids hires PR firm with a long history of involvement with GOP politics

Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy

Yesterday, in an article on MLive, it was announced that the City of Grand Rapids has hired the PR firm of Truscott Rossman to assist them with developing a better communications strategy. 

The City will spend $60,000 of taxpayer money for a 1-year contract with the largest PR firm in the state, Truscott Rossman. One of the reasons for bringing in the PR firm, according to the Mayor, was to help them develop a more comprehensive communications plan.

The MLive article gives an additional reason for bringing in Truscott Rossman:

“The city still has a $5,000 outstanding bill with Truscott Rossman from April, when the city hired them for emergency communications assistance. Guitar, the city’s spokesman, was on vacation when a video was released of police stopping five unarmed black youths at gunpoint as they were investigating the report of a gun, Guitar said.

The video and incident garnered…

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CURMUDGUCATION: Dear E: Impersonal Management

CURMUDGUCATIONThe slightly-cranky voice navigating the world of educational “reform” while trying to still pursue the mission of providing quality education.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Dear E: Impersonal Management

Dear E:

Only a few days till you ship out for your first ever real live teaching job. I envy the excitement you get to feel right now. I’ve already written you two notes, but here’s one more before you hit the road.

Everyone worries about classroom management when they start out. I used to have nightmares about entire classes spinning completely out of control (and by “used to” I mean as recently as last summer– and this summer isn’t over yet). This is normal and natural.

Part of the trick, as I’m sure you’ve been told, is to focus on what you want them to do, not what you don’t want them to do. In other words, I don’t make my class stop screwing around so we can get to work; I get to work so that they’ll stop screwing around. And I’m fudging the language– I teach school students just like you will, and we can’t “make” them do anything.

Another part of the trick is to earn respect, and it helps to give it. It also helps to know your stuff. I know it’s a thing for young teachers to be told that they should be the “lead learner” or a “co-explorer” with students, but I’m pretty sure all that gets you is a room full of teenagers thinking, “Well, if he doesn’t know any more than I do, why should I listen to him?” Know your stuff.

But you’re a new unknown quantity, and that means in addition to the usual squirrelliness of freshmen, you’ll probably be tested. The best thing I know here is what my own co-operating teacher taught me a thousand years ago, and it has held up all this time.

Don’t take it personally.

To students, we are not actual people. Oh, some will eventually see us as human beings, but probably not before March or thereabouts, if ever. But mostly we are just the face of the institution, part of the Big Machine.

Complaints about things like the assignments and subject matter are just fried grousing, with a side order of checking to see if we’ll come off track. When some student says, “This is just so stupid,” about the work we’ve devoted our lives to, it’s easy to hear “You’re an ugly, stupid jerk” and respond accordingly. But even when students actually say, “You’re a stupid ugly jerk,” it’s not personal. It’s just an attempt to push back against the machine, to see if some sand in the gears might get the machine to leave them alone for even five minutes (because five minutes a teacher spends ranting are five minutes that the teacher doesn’t spend trying to make you work).

Taking these things personally and either feeling hurt in your heart or escalating to strike back– none of that helps.

You know who you are and what you’re there to do, and you know how to pursue those goals. And when you’re not sure how to handle some part of your teacherly mission, you know how to get the answers you need. Don’t let the hasty words of some fourteen-year-old (words that they may not even remember tomorrow) throw you off track. Do listen– there may be a lot for you to learn about the student– but don’t take it to heart. Don’t take it personally. You know what you’re doing.

I know it’s hard in that first year to be sure that you know what you’re doing, but you’re a smart capable person, and you’ve trained for this (and I think we can rule out the possibility that you’re hopelessly cocky). You will learn a lot this year, but you already know plenty going in. You’ve totally got this.

PAG

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