Feb 28, 2007

the balance neg for the UN resolution: a perspective

Via a reader, and regarding the current resolution, here's the article you've been looking for: Vesselin Popovsky discusses the new definition of sovereignty.
The realization that human rights are equally important along with territorial integrity presents States with a dual responsibility: external respect for the sovereignty of other States; and internal respect for the dignity and well-being of its people. These two attitudes become integral; the recognition and respect of other States depends on whether they respect their own people.
As is often said, read the whole thing.

legislature poised to weaken the WASL?

It certainly seems that way, as the AP reports:
The House Education Committee on Tuesday approved a bill that would establish a two-tiered system for awarding high school diplomas.

Students who pass the Washington Assessment of Student Learning or an approved alternative would be given a "certificate of academic achievement" when they graduated from high school. Students who didn't pass the WASL could earn a "certificate of individual achievement" and still graduate.

The Senate Committee on Early Learning and K-12 Education on Monday approved a bill that would delay the math WASL graduation requirement for two years and establish many more alternatives for passing the reading and writing sections of the test.
Later in the article the missing piece--Christine Gregoire's requisite signature--is addressed:
Quall said lawmakers are going to have some sorting out to do before they can send a WASL bill to the governor. He predicted the process would take another month or so.

"There will be ongoing discussions and negotiations," he said. "It will take an agreement between the House and the Senate and has to be something the governor can live with."
Indeed it does.

you're not here to have fun

Another day, another substitute in trouble. A memory sparked: how a sub I encountered in high school inspired my teaching philosophy.

this is not your grandfather's communism

Those looking for a primer on China's increasingly tense relationship between central planning and capitalist development would do well to read Andreas Lorenz and Wieland Wagner's (five-page) introduction.
China is becoming increasingly difficult to control. Despite their immense power, the days are long gone when Communist Party leader Hu Jintao and his comrades -- unlike Mao in his day -- could enforce their will by decree into every last corner of the party.

To avoid open disputes, Beijing's leaders must resort to the tactics of maneuvering, fine-tuning, bargaining and scheming. Hu himself is in the process of expanding his power by placing his confidants in key positions. Those are just a handful of the efforts made to ensure that people continue to toe the party line. All party officials in high-ranking positions in the central government or in provincial administrations are required to attend training sessions at the central party school for at least one week each year. The party also operates schools throughout the country. All party officials in key administration positions are required to be ideologically rearmed once every five years.

The times are even changing at the central party school. Harvard professors occasionally teach at the school, and 300 senior party officials periodically attend refresher courses in political science and economics at elite American, French and British universities. Indeed, Armani suits replaced the Mao jacket long ago. Some officials already feel more at home at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland than in the Communist Party's neighborhood committees.

Nowadays, the party is also admitting representatives of private enterprise into its ranks, a movement put in motion by former President Jiang Zemin's "Theory of the Three Representatives." In the past, the party welcomed only the representatives of workers and farmers.

In taking these steps, the Communist Party is conforming to real conditions in China. The number of state-owned enterprises declined from 238,000 in 1998 to 150,000 in 2003. And although these companies received 65 percent of all loans -- from primarily state-owned banks -- they were only responsible for about one-fourth of total industrial production in China.
If their analysis is wrong--I'm no Sinologist--it's at least wrong in an accessible and engaging fashion.

brainstorming's usefulness depends on the task

A little while ago I noticed a study that seemed to point out a weakness in brainstorming: that people would too easily fall prey to groupthink. I thought that MSNBC's headline--"Meetings make us dumber, study shows"--was more than a little overblown, given the design of the study.

Co-author Shanker Krishnan, via email, confirms my initial reservations.
There is quite a bit of evidence that groups in fact exhibit social loafing, which could make their joint performance lower. On the other hand, the brainstorming literature would suggest that groups can build off each others' comments, so the output could be higher.

Our perspective was to suggest that when groups are exposed to external cues, they inhibit memory more so than they would an individual. The reason is the group gets "stuck" on that external cue, and keep going back to it (what we call double cueing). The implication is that if it is a memory task where the group may be exposed to some information that might serve as a cue, the kinds of inhibition that we document are likely....

I wouldn't extrapolate beyond these conditions and memory, because the task seems to be important.
I'd like to focus on two interesting parts of the study's format:
[T]riads consisted of groups of virtual strangers. In many consumption situations, group members know one another.... Finally, the current experiments used one member of the collaborative group to record the group’s responses.
Many teachers--myself included--use small groups frequently, to help students get to know each other, fostering a collaborative dynamic in the classroom, which might reduce the phenomenon of "social loafing."

Also, I've noticed that in a brainstorm, when only one student holds the marker, that student tends to dominate the conversation and the shape of the "thinking map" produced. I've noticed similar effects when one student acts as the note-taker in small group discussion. That role, minor as it may seem, is powerful.

Years ago, one of my fellow Evergreen master's-in-teaching candidates theorized that education is just another form of aggressive marketing. No surprise, then, that a marketing researcher would prod me to critically analyze a teaching method I use all the time.

I thank Dr. Krishnan for his generosity in responding to questions and providing access to a copy of the study.

Das Kindergarten: or, high Marx for area tykes

Before you get too excited about expanding school choice, be warned: raving ideologues lurk in private schools, too.
The children were allegedly incorporating into Legotown "their assumptions about ownership and the social power it conveys." These assumptions "mirrored those of a class-based, capitalist society -- a society that we teachers believe to be unjust and oppressive."

They claimed as their role shaping the children's "social and political understandings of ownership and economic equity ... from a perspective of social justice."

So they first explored with the children the issue of ownership. Not all of the students shared the teachers' anathema to private property ownership. "If I buy it, I own it," one child is quoted saying. The teachers then explored with the students concepts of fairness, equity, power, and other issues over a period of several months.

At the end of that time, Legos returned to the classroom after the children agreed to several guiding principles framed by the teachers, including that "All structures are public structures" and "All structures will be standard sizes."
Reminds me of my own kindergarten, Lego, and property story: as a lad, I was quite taken with some nifty Lego accessories that were stored in a giant tub in a corner of class. I figured I could sneak a few home, and no one would ever know.

At home, as I was building a Lego house, installing a Lego sink and miniature Lego faucets, my dad wandered over to see what I was building. "Hey, what are these pieces?" he asked, suspicious. I figured the jig was up, and burst out crying. "They belong to teacher," I blubbered. (How did he know? They were cool, limited edition pieces, and we were poor. It's all obvious in retrospect.)

That afternoon I had to return the little Lego sinks and faucets, sniffling in shame as my kindergarten teacher looked on in what was probably amusement. And so ended my life of crime.

Update: The Onion, as always, provides the reality check.

festival of learning

In lieu of actual blogging, I send you hither.

Feb 27, 2007

a stamp is forever

The "forever stamp" story is rattling around again. Time to remember some sound investment advice.

what adequate funding could buy

Ryan puts it in perspective:
My district has about 2000 students, 600 of which attend my school. Using the Take the Lead figure would provide about $1,000,000 more for my district, while the Conley figure would mean $7 million dollars more. Conley seems pie-in-the-sky, so let’s play with the Take the Lead number. If my district received a million dollars, about $300,000 would come to my school. Here’s what I would spend that money on...
Don't stay here. Go there and find out.


From the Dad closet, circa 1997. Now part of the permanent collection at the world's finest and most exclusive polyester gallery.

if I were a rich man

Good thing I'm not, or I might have lost bales of green today.


This is a test of Google Docs and Spreadsheets. This is a link test. This is a test of italics. This is a test of bold print.

It works. By gum, it works. (That was a test of outdated idioms.)

Update: No, really, it works. Except for the title part. Hmm.

Update: The "tag" feature isn't working, either. I'll keep testing, so don't worry if weird posts show up and disappear for the next little while. (Oh, and yes, I did add the title and tags ex post facto.)

Update update: apparently, Google Docs and Spreadsheets, which says you can import the title and tags from GD&S to your blog, can't quite do it for Beta. Darn.

does choice matter? Compton vs. Oakland

I'm empirically minded when it comes to school choice: if vouchers lead to better education for all students, then by golly let's adopt vouchers. (I don't buy arguments that they're inherently going to gut public schools. Maybe--and maybe only in some places--but where I live, the public schools are well-established, quality outfits, as they are across most of the country, apocalypticists be damned. If we had to compete for students, we'd do just fine.)

Early returns haven't been terribly favorable toward vouchers, but a contrast between changes in Oakland and Compton might point in a new direction. Lisa Snell and Shikha Dalmia report:
In short, the two districts have similar student bodies, similar challenges, and—until now—a similar history of failure. But Oakland is beginning to break away from this history, and the reason is the weighted-student-formula program it embraced some years ago and fully implemented last year.

Under this program, kids are not required to attend their neighborhood school, especially if it is failing. Rather, they can pick any regular public or charter school in their district and take their education dollars with them; more students therefore means more revenues for schools. Furthermore, as the name suggests, the revenues are "weighted" based on the difficulty of educating each student, with low-income and special-needs kids commanding more money than smart, well-to-do ones. Schools have to compete for funding, but the upside is that they have total control over it.

Compton has stuck to a completely different approach that does not involve empowering parents—or decentralizing control to schools. Instead, it has tried to fix its failing schools by mandating "classroom inputs." To this end, all Compton schools over the last few years have been ordered to reduce class size by 12 percent, improve teachers' credentials, adopt a tougher curriculum, and even clean up bathrooms.

What are the results so far? Oakland schools have shown a remarkable flexibility in responding to student needs, while Compton has stagnated. In 2003-04, for instance, Oakland's high schools offered 17 Advanced Placement classes. Last year, they increased this total to 91, or about one AP class for every 143 students. By contrast, Compton's AP offerings went up by two that year, to one class for every 218 students. Oakland students also are taking high-level math and science courses more frequently. About 800 high school students studied first-year physics last year—nearly triple the number taking the course in the 2004 school year.

More to the point, of course, are student-performance measures. Oakland kids have shown major improvement on the California High School Exit Examination, which all students must pass in English and math before graduating from high school. Sixty-two percent of high school students passed the English-language-arts portion, compared with 57 percent in 2005—a 5-point gain—and 60 percent passed math, a 6-point jump from the year before. By contrast, Compton showed no gains in English—staying stuck at 58 percent—and posted a 2-percentage-point drop in math, from 50 percent to 48 percent.

Similarly, Oakland's score on the state's Academic Performance Index—a numeric grade that California assigns to its schools based on the performance of their students on standardized tests—went up by 19 points. Compton, in contrast, gained only 13 points. Yet even this overstates Compton's performance, because almost all of its gains came at the elementary level, where students are not so intractable. Compton's middle schools lost an average of 6 points, while Oakland's gained an average of 16 points. Meanwhile, half of Compton's high schools lost points on the API score—including Compton High, where now fewer than 6 percent of males are proficient in reading, and fewer than 1 percent in algebra. Conversely, Oakland high schools gained, on average, 30 points. Even Oakland's economically disadvantaged and limited-English students have shown major improvements. In 2006, its economically disadvantaged students gained 60 percent more on the performance index than Compton's, and its English-language learners gained 120 percent more.
Note that it's not that students can take the money and run to the nearest private school. Public funds stay within the public system, so this isn't a classic voucher system. Maybe that's why it works as well as it does.

There's much more--the whole thing is worth reading--but the description of the changes is compelling. I'm provisionally skeptical, only because such short-term results sometimes confuse statistical noise for useful data, but the article points out that San Francisco has used the modified voucher system for six years now, with positive results.

In the broader context, though, opponents will see the last paragraph as only more fuel for conspiracy charges that NCLB is all about gutting public education:
Nationwide, close to 10,000 schools are considered to be failing under the No Child Left Behind Act, hundreds for more than five years. Yet less than 1 percent of students in these schools manage to transfer to a higher-performing school, even though they have that right under the federal law. Political leaders can change this by building on Oakland and San Francisco's modest experiment in school choice. No student deserves anything less.
Ironically, what Snell and Dalmia miss is that NCLB is acutely centralizing--i.e., Frenchifying--education.

Adam Morrison and J.J. Redick Watch: Feb. 27

Last night, Montana's Mop Top dropped 15 as the 'Cats fell to the Clippers.

In the Windy City, J.J. Redick sat in stillness on the bench as Orlando beat the Bulls to snap a six-game road losing streak. (Over in Orlando, some fans are calling for more playing time.)

red light cameras vs. longer yellows

Why I'm even more skeptical of Lacey's plan to add red light cameras: in Lubbock, the city is gaming the system, shortening yellow light times below safety thresholds.
More interesting, that same city engineer promised the Lubbock city council last year that he wouldn't increase yellow light times at intersections with cameras. In a telling moment of candor, Jere Hart told the city council that though the public prefers longer yellow cycles, and though studies show longer yellows dramatically reduce red-light running and collisions, lengthening them would cut into the expected revenue the cameras are expected to generate.
Why don't we go with what's cheap, and actually works?

(Don't answer. Rhetorical question.)

Feb 26, 2007

ninny's tomb raiding

Haven't followed the (probably spurious) "Jesus tomb found!" story much, but one particular quote is too good to pass up.

House budget released; Lobby Day bears fruit

Yes, I'm going to give us credit for the successes in the fresh House budget:
K-12. The plan fully covers Initiative 728, with $238 million for class-size reduction and another $30 million to add 200 teachers in grades K-4. It includes $350 million for I-732, which mandates annual cost-of-living increases for teachers, and $50 million to ease pay disparity among districts. It includes bonuses of up to $10,000 for nationally certified teachers.

The proposal includes $60 million for additional special education spending, $5 million for technology, $25 million more for pupil transportation and $23 million to improve staffing of non-teaching school personnel.

All-day kindergarten is included, at a cost of $51 million, for children in high poverty areas.

Math and science programs would get $68 million, including money to hire 700 new teachers.

Dropout programs would get $8 million and a program for struggling 12th graders would get $12 million.
Gainsharing and the Rule of 85 are still wilcards, as those bills are stalled in committee and have until Thursday to make it out. Oh, and here's why we get credit:
Rep. Kathy Haigh, D-Shelton, chairwoman of the newly created subcommittee, said the budget plans reflect the best thinking of people in the field.

"The folks in the classrooms and on the ground really helped us understand how we can drive resources to the programs to make the most difference for our teachers and students," she said in prepared comments.
I remember certain teachers speaking with Rep. Haigh about those same concerns.

principal without principle: another free speech case

Via Ed Brayton, word of another principal on a power trip:
A student editorial in the Woodlan Junior-Senior High School newspaper calling for more tolerance for gays and lesbians sparked the principal to seek approval of each edition before it goes to print and issue a written warning against the journalism teacher....

Sophomore Megan Chase wrote an opinion piece – her first for the newspaper – that appeared in the Jan. 19 issue of the Woodlan Tomahawk that questioned people who believe it’s wrong to be gay or lesbian. Chase said she wrote the piece after a friend disclosed to her he was gay.

“I can only imagine how hard it would be to come out as homosexual in today’s society,” Chase wrote. “I think it is so wrong to look down on those people, or to make fun of them, just because they have a different sexuality than you. There is nothing wrong with them or their brain; they’re just different than you.”

Principal Edwin Yoder wrote a letter to the newspaper staff and journalism teacher Amy Sorrell insisting he sign off on every issue. Sorrell and the students contacted the Student Press Law Center, an advocacy group for student newspapers, which advised them to appeal the decision.

Last week, Yoder issued Sorrell a written warning for insubordination and not carrying out her responsibilities as a teacher. He accused her of exposing Woodlan students, who are in grades seven through 12, to inappropriate material and said if she did not comply with his orders she could be fired.

Yoder would not comment for this story, but Melin, who said he hasn’t read the editorial, said school officials do not have an issue with the topic but with the lack of balance and thoroughness in the opinion piece. Sorrell also should have consulted with Yoder before the article was printed, Melin said...

Melin said EACS has had a policy since 2003 that states principals have the authority to review each issue of a student publication before it goes to print. It’s up to the individual principal how he or she wants to enforce it, Melin said.
This is why Bruce Ramsey has it exactly backward: the issue of student censorship isn't about power-hungry English teachers, but about power-drunk principals who want to personally control the school paper. The more I think about it, the more I see just how badly we need HB 1307.

two Oscars for Scorsese

The director picked up best picture and best director for The Departed, which, I'll admit, is pretty good. All well ending well, I suppose, except that in not having to face Children of Men or Volver in either category, it's like winning the American soccer championship.

Feb 25, 2007

Know Your Evangelicals: Nathan Lord

Name: Nathan Lord (1792 - 1870)

Why you should know him: Lord abandoned abolitionism to promote the morality of the slave trade, which set him apart from his Northern intellectual and spiritual peers. Lord claimed that abolitionism places human intuition above God's will, human reason above God's word.

President of Dartmouth (1828 - 1863)

Graduate of Bowdoin and Andover Theological Seminary

A Letter to J.M. Conrad... on Slavery (1860)
A northern presbyter's second letter to ministers of the gospel of all denominations on slavery (1855)

Background: According to Dartmouth University,
The relative brevity of the Dana and Tyler administrations was more than offset by the long tenure of President Nathan Lord. A graduate of Bowdoin College and a Congregational minister, Lord remained at the helm of Dartmouth College for 35 years, longer than any president except John Wheelock. Lord was an independent thinker, an athlete and a strict disciplinarian. He is said to have preached scripture from memory, unbeknownst to his audience to whom his eyes were always camouflaged by dark glasses. Lord was also a prodigious fund raiser, establishing the College's first alumni association and securing $50,000 in a general solicitation that enabled Dartmouth to build Thornton and Wentworth Halls, the two Greek Revival buildings flanking Dartmouth Hall.

Under the leadership of Nathan Lord Dartmouth enjoyed considerable growth, both in student enrollments and in the physical campus. But many of Lord's strongly held views brought him into conflict with the campus and the external world. He looked on academic awards and other symbols of student achievement as subversive forces in what he considered to be the higher pursuits of virtue and wisdom, and held strong pro-slavery views. As the nation entered into Civil War, those views became more and more repugnant to Dartmouth's constituencies, including several prominent alumni, among them Amos Tuck (1835) and Gilman Marston (1837), a general in the Union Army. Finally, in 1863, the Dartmouth Trustees were asked to remove Dr. Lord from office. Instead, he tendered his resignation.
According to Wilbur Smith,
One of its greatest presidents, under whom Dartmouth experience unusual growth, Nathan Lord (1828-1863), was one who, says the latest historian of Dartmouth, "based the entire philosophy of life upon a belief in the literal accuracy and inerrancy of Holy Writ . . . He was insistent that God should be the main spring of all the activities of man." It was Nathan Lord himself who, in a famous letter to the alumni of Dartmouth College on its anniversary in 1869, said: "For Christ the college was founded and has been administered. To Christ all its influence in all time belongs."
Quote: "[Slavery] is wisely adapted to the ruder portions of mankind, and, in some conditions of the social state, necessary to its best interests, or to its preservation, during the appointed time."

Quote: "Domestic slavery breaks up the power of undisciplined and barbarous hordes, and prevents their destructive combinations.... The New Testament, equally with the Old, recognizes the natural institution, reflects its peculiar light back upon it, and confirms it as a natural ordinance of God."

Related: Wikipedia Entry on Lord
Primary sources on the great American debate over slavery

[topic via olvlzl the heretic. Apologies to Joe Carter.]

why I declined to liveblog the Oscars

I saw the first fifteen minutes or so, as Ellen DeGeneres played it comedically safe and that strange gospel choir leapt into the crowd, singing about nominees. (Did catch the sound effects choir, too, which was neat.) Otherwise, no liveblogging.

Sorry. Just couldn't watch the Oscars that long. Didn't have the fortitude, or lack thereof.

respect for sovereignty saves lives

Regarding the current resolution, a reader writes,
I was wondering if you had any specific ideas or evidence on running (neg) a value of protection of life and saying that incursions into national sovereignty in the name of human rights would
a. cause civil war/strife on a level worse than balancing HR and sovereignty
b. weaken the power of the U.N (by losing members etc.) to the point that it can't save lives as effectively
c. possibly damage the human rights which it was trying to protect
I'll address each one in turn.

a. Call the first claim the "Iraq objection." An invasion in the name of saving the world from weapons of mass destruction and freeing the Iraqi people from the rule of a tyrant has sparked civil war and caused thousands of deaths. The ultimate outcome is still in doubt, but the principle holds: sovereignty isn't just a symbol, but an expression of real power within a territory. The power vacuum that results from an incursion means that new powers will attempt to establish sovereignty, often in a bloodbath, and often along sectarian or ethnic lines. (The chaos after the fall of Communism, especially in Yugoslavia, is a similar historical example.)

b. This is a serious matter. The UN receives 22% of its funding from the United States, which, not surprisingly, also values its sovereign status quite dearly. (John Bolton, anyone?) The tenuous relationship between the US and the UN, exacerbated by Iraq and the scandal of the Annan years, means that the UN's efficacy is always questionable. Were the UN to continue to encroach upon sovereignty, withdrawal by the United States (and other nations) would be highly likely.

c. This is the outcome of a. and b. If the fundamental human right is the right to life, then we must protect sovereignty to preserve life.

I would also add a new point:

d. Rather than creating strife by intervening in a sovereign state, the UN can justify humanitarian intervention in failed states on the grounds that a sovereign state no longer exists. The contemporary view of sovereignty includes legitimacy as a requisite component. Sovereigns have obligations to their citizens and to the citizens of other nations.

For more on these matters, see Law, Power, and the Sovereign State.

Aff's, have at it.

key moment in legislative session approaching

The easiest way to kill legislation is to let it wither in committee. This Thursday, the Olympian notes, is critical:
Thursday marks the halfway point of the 2007 legislative session and is the day when bills must have passed out of committees to be eligible for a full Senate or House vote.
Most legislation out there is in that exact predicament. If you want to see action, better start making phone calls.

World Court to rule in landmark genocide case

Students of the current LD resolution, might find this interesting: the World Court, which has jurisdiction over U.N. member nations, is set to rule on a case that could radically alter international law.
Can a state commit genocide? Should an entire nation - not just its presidents, generals, and soldiers - be held responsible for humanity's worst crime?

In one of the most momentous cases in its 60 years, the U.N.'s highest court will deliver its judgment Monday on Bosnia's demand to make Serbia accountable for the slaughter, terrorizing, rape and displacement of Bosnian Muslims in the early 1990s.

If it rules for Bosnia, the International Court of Justice could open the way for compensation amounting to billions of dollars from Serbia, the successor state of Slobodan Milosevic's Yugoslavia, although specific claims would be addressed only later.

It also would be a permanent stain on Serbia in the eyes of history, regardless of any effort by Belgrade to distance itself from the brutality of those years.

Reflecting the complexities, the 16 judges have deliberated for 10 months since hearing final arguments. Officials at the World Court, as it is informally known, say reading out the summary of the judgment is likely to take three hours.
The World Court's decisions, unlike the Declaration of Human Rights, are legally binding. I think it's evidence, for the Neg, that the UN is still fundamentally committed to the nation-state system, respecting sovereignty so much as to declare a nation responsible for crimes in a corporate sense.

Feb 24, 2007

Adam Morrison and J. J. Redick Watch: Feb. 24

Yesterday I noted that both Orlando and Charlotte stayed out of the tradebath--as did nearly every singe NBA franchise. Thus, Bill Simmons is apoplectic.

The dish on Charlotte:
The only team with enough cap space to facilitate a three-team deal (where they'd absorb a big contract and pick up a No. 1 for its troubles) ... and naturally, it didn't do anything. For instance, let's say the Knicks wanted to get Vince from the Nets for Jamal Crawford and Channing Frye, only the Nets didn't want to take Malik Rose's contract back. Charlotte comes in and says, "We'll take Rose ($7.2m per, expires 2008) if you take Othella Harrington back ($2.2m per, expires 2008) if you gave us $3 million and Chicago's 2007 No. 1 pick." So the Nets get 80 cents on the dollar for Vince (Frye and Crawford, an underrated player with a reasonable deal); the Knicks make a huge splash with Vince; and the Bobcats pick up a No. 1 in a loaded draft. Everyone wins! Again, probably too logical of a scenario for this league.
I should point out that an "F" is a relatively high grade in Simmons' analysis. Cleveland bottomed out with a "Z-infinity-minus."

And Orlando:
ORLANDO: F-minus-minus-minus
I like Otis Smith's philosophy here: We don't own a 2007 No. 1 pick, our team is sinking like a stone, we have Grant Hill's expiring deal ($16.9 million) to move for an asset and save our season, we desperately need scoring ... screw it, let's stand pat. Hey, that's one way to keep your job -- just don't do anything. How can the Magic fire you if you don't do anything? I'd like to see how long Otis could keep this strategy going -- Orlando's owners probably won't catch on for another 2-3 years.
Meanwhile, apropos of Adam Morrison:
Now here's a guy who knows what he's doing: Bryan Colangelo. And yes, I'm quietly rooting for the Raps, who have the most rabid fans of anyone in the league. I get at least five angry e-mails every day from Toronto about (A) the fact that I dismissed their playoff chances two months ago (you're right, it was a mistake), (B) the fact that I killed them for taking Andrea Bargnani over Adam Morrison (you're right, big mistake, Bargnani is good with a nasty streak), and (C) the fact that I killed them for the T.J. Ford-Charlie Villanueva trade (the jury's still out on that one). You can stop e-mailing me. I like your team. I was wrong. OK? I was wrong! LEAVE ME ALONE, YOU BRYAN ADAMS-LOVING FREAKS!!!!
Tonight, Morrison met the Raptors, and the Raptors came out on top.

It's conceivable that Charlotte could make the playoffs, since they're only five games back of Orlando and Miami, tied for the last spot in the East. Scary.

why merit pay merits skepticism

Ryan of I Thought a Think explains.
These are the stories that will be passed around like folk tales when some district here in Washington takes the leap and tries it, and these are the problems that merit pay supporters don’t have ready answers to. Why would teachers risk public embarrassment for $100? How can we distinguish between the luck of the draw and truly effective teaching when it comes to evaluating the growth of a classroom?
Nobody really knows. Except me.

the narrative of a structure

David Denby ably reorders the asynchronous universe of contemporary cinema. Warning: major spoilers for some popular films.

Army denies Wiccan chaplaincy

A chaplain for me, but not for thee:
Larsen's private crisis of faith might have remained just that, but for one other fateful choice. He decided the religion that best matched his universalist vision was Wicca, a blend of witchcraft, feminism and nature worship with ancient pagan roots.

On July 6, he applied to become the first Wiccan chaplain in the U.S. armed forces. By year's end, his superiors not only denied his request but withdrew him from Iraq and the chaplain corps, despite an unblemished service record.

Adherents of Wicca contend that Larsen is a victim of unconstitutional discrimination. They say Wicca, though recognized as a religion by courts and the IRS, is often falsely equated with devil worship....

The widely respected American Religious Identification Survey shows the number of Wiccans in the United States rose 17-fold, from 8,000 to 134,000, between 1990 and 2001. The Pentagon reports 1,511 self-identified Wiccans in the Air Force and 354 in the Marines. No figures are available for the much larger Army and Navy....

Lt. Col. Randall Dolinger, the Army Chief of Chaplains spokesman, denied any discrimination: "What you're really dealing with is more of a personal drama, what one person has been through and the choices he's made. Plus, the fact that the military does have Catch-22s."

Brig. Gen. Cecil Richardson, the Air Force's deputy chief of chaplains, says there are simply too few Wiccans in the military to justify a full-time chaplain.

According to Pentagon figures, however, some faiths with similarly small numbers in the ranks do have chaplains. Among the nearly 2,900 clergy on active duty are 41 Mormon chaplains for 17,513 Mormons in uniform, 22 rabbis for 4,038 Jews, 11 imams for 3,386 Muslims, six teachers for 636 Christian Scientists, and one Buddhist chaplain for 4,546 Buddhists.
Even if Wicca were devil worship, what grounds would the Army have for denying representation to its adherents? Once you have a chaplain for one faith, you open the door to all, even the ones you find stupid or disagreeable.

If Larsen's dismissal is really just a technicality, it's only a matter of time before the Army has its first registered Wiccan chaplain.

more math? more time?

Today's word: more. (In education, isn't that every day's word?)

More math is on the table for the Olympia School District.
School Board President Rich Nafziger has proposed changing the math-credit requirement for Olympia students starting with those who are in fifth grade and head to middle school this fall. He said he wants Olympia to require high school students to take either algebra II or applied mathematics. The latter is a course that uses a hands-on approach to teach algebra II concepts.

Adding algebra II or applied mathematics wouldn't automatically mean students would have to take a third year of math. But because students often take algebra I as freshmen and geometry as sophomores, the algebra II requirement would make a third year inevitable for many, Olympia educators have said.
Meanwhile, nationwide, schools are thinking about expanding the school day and the calendar.
While Massachusetts is leading in putting in place the longer-day model, lawmakers in Minnesota, New Mexico, New York and Washington, D.C., also have debated whether to lengthen the school day or year.

In addition, individual districts such as Miami-Dade in Florida are experimenting with added hours in some schools.

On average, U.S. students go to school 6.5 hours a day, 180 days a year, fewer than in many other industrialized countries, according to a report by the Education Sector, a Washington-based think tank.

One model traditional that public schools are looking to is the Knowledge is Power Program, which oversees public charter schools nationwide.

Those schools typically serve low-income middle-school students, and their test scores show success. Students generally go from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the week and for a few hours every other Saturday. They also go to school for several weeks in the summer.

That amounts to at least 50 percent more instructional time for students in such programs than in traditional public schools, according to the report.

The extended-day schedule costs on average about $1,200 extra per student, program spokesman Stephen Mancini said.
The best part of the plan: it allows the rebirth of electives, which many districts are squashing because of pressure to boost test scores in core areas.

Read both articles, and consider: do we need more math? More time? More?

Update: The Science Goddess says:
I will be interested to see if this idea catches on. It would require a significant amount of community support and state dollars to make it fly; but as we continue to assign greater value in educating the whole child (not just the parts that can read, do math, and think scientifically), perhaps taxpayers may be interested in pursuing this option.
The "we" in "we continue to assign..." being teachers and parents and students. Policymakers, wanna jump on board?

Feb 23, 2007

what to do when an astronaut has a psychotic episode

NASA has a contingency plan for just about everything.

Iron Rabbit disappoints--or does it? (It doesn't.)

Update 5/19/07: I have visited twice in the past month, once alone, and once with a longtime friend, who declared their standard burger one of the top five he's ever had. I finally tried the Tequila Chicken, which is fiery and garlicky in just the right quantities. (Recipe here.)

The service was friendly and adequate--just one rookie mistake, letting coffee get cold by waiting until dessert to refresh. Minor, especially given the overall amiable atmosphere.

The food is moderately priced but outstanding in quality. I'm pleased to say that giving Iron Rabbit a second and third chance was a wise choice. I'll come back with family and friends, and recommend the same to you.

Update 4/23/07: I've thought twice and am going to visit the Iron Rabbit again. I want to be fair to the restaurant and my readers, and will publish an update as soon as I've visited. I also welcome the comments of other patrons.

I was hoping I wouldn't have to blog this, but here goes.

The Iron Rabbit, darling of The Olympian, lost a customer today. Not because of the food, which was good, or the service, which was wildly inconsistent, but because of poor customer relations.

The circumstances: we visited last Friday, were seated, small-talked with the server, and then waited for our order to arrive. The restaurant's open setup lets you watch the cook in action, so you can see just when your entrée hits the heat lamp, and then sits there as your server goes AWOL. And you wait. And wait some more.

My wife, patience gone, went and picked it up off the counter as the cook stared, clueless. Moments later our new (guiltless and competent) server arrived, and we realized that we were victims of a shift change. A neighboring couple was apologetic, offering explanations for the delay, as if they wanted us to enjoy our experience even more than the staff did. Nonplussed, we filled out a comment card with our name, phone number, and email, left, and waited to see how management would handle it.

And waited. And waited some more. I held off writing this for a whole week, just to give the restaurant the chance to earn a customer for life. I figured a place that would solicit comments--and ask for contact info--would care enough to respond.


So, sorry, Iron Rabbit. You have great food, I'll grant, and a friendly atmosphere. I even hear you have some decent live music. But service makes or breaks the experience. Consequently, I won't recommend you to my friends, and I'll think twice before visiting again.

whatever happened to Fafblog?

Anybody ever figure out what became of the greatest blog in the universe? Fafnir disappeared, then came back briefly before disappearing into the mist. I still have emotional whiplash.

City Hall plans up for discussion at open house, March 1

Afraid the new site of City Hall will be washed away when the oceans rise? Better chat with various planners and functionaries this coming Thursday, March 1.
The open house, which is hosted by the city of Olympia, takes place from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. at The Olympia Center, 222 Columbia Street N.W.

The session is expected to be informal, and the project architect, development team and key city staff will be present to answer questions.
Background here and here.

The city lays it all out here. Al Gore is nowhere mentioned.

Adam Morrison and J.J. Redick Watch: Feb. 23

Morrison scored 19 (3-3 beyond the arc) as the Bobcats embarrassed Philadelphia.
Morrison, who scored 26 points in Charlotte's come-from-behind win in Minnesota on Wednesday, had two quick buckets to start an 11-2 run at the beginning of the second quarter as Charlotte built a 39-22 lead.
In the post-Iverson era, Philly is 13-19.

Redick sat as Orlando lost
. Story of the Magic season.

Dems back unions; study backs education spending

Story one
Speaker of the House Frank Chopp, U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee, Gov. Chris Gregoire and Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, all Democrats, addressed a crowd of union members in the Red Lion Hotel Olympia.

Gregoire scored two standing ovations from union members during her speech - one for guaranteeing that state workers union contracts will be approved, and one when she called health care "a right to every Washingtonian and every American in this country."
Story two:
"This study, along with others that have been done ... all indicate that this state is not meeting its paramount duty" to fund public education, WEA President Charles Hasse said.

The report calls for improvements such as full-day kindergarten for all students, class-size reduction in kindergarten through third grade, additional special-education teachers, more professional development for principals and teachers, improved campus security and more counselors and social workers.

When asked about the price tag, Hasse said, "It is a big number, but we shouldn't be afraid of big numbers if we're attempting to provide quality schools in Washington."

Lynn Harsh, chief executive officer of the Evergreen Freedom Foundation, said adding more money to the system wouldn't solve the problem.

"It costs money to educate children, there's no question about it," Harsh said. "But there is no concrete evidence that extra spending significantly increases academic performance."
To a degree, Harsh is right: it's not about how much you spend, but where and how you spend it. The WEA's smaller class size recommendation, from this teacher's perspective, would be a wise place to start.

a little more outside the box

British psychics couldn't find Osama bin Laden. No cause for dismay, though:
"I don't think this was a waste of public money. Many people will say so, but I think it is marvellous that the Government is prepared to think outside the box. And this is as outside the box as it gets."
No it isn't.

In accordance with this blog's tradition of envelope-pushing, I offer the following outside-the-box solutions the British government could have considered in tandem.

1. Training capuchin monkeys to recognize bin Laden; wiring them with GPS transmitters and releasing them into the Afghan mountains.

2. Announcing that Osama has won the lotto for over $250 million, and if he would please come to the nearest office to collect remuneration.

3. Holding auditions for "Cabaret," OBL's favorite musical, if the debris discovered in Tora Bora caves gives any indication.

4. Killing Chuck Norris, and then calling upon his disembodied spirit to roam the hills of Afghanistan until OBL is found.

5. Having all adult males in Britain surgically made to look just like OBL, so his forces couldn't figure out who the real leader was, thus quitting in frustration.

I'm sure readers can suggest their own outside-the-box scenarios, thus proving yet another governmental "failure of imagination" in the war on terror.

[link via Kerry Howley]

bless us in this hour of trial

It's another workplace anointing, but this time, it's at a school, and to bless the outcomes of a standardized test.
Officials with the school district say they are not investigating, because monitoring employees' religious behavior isn't their only responsibility.

"We also can't discriminate against folks who want to practice or live within their religious practice, as long as it's not disruptive," said Hernando County school district attorney J. Paul Carland.

The principal, Mary LeDoux, reported it had been a difficult day with high levels of misbehavior, and the state's standardized assessment test was scheduled to be administered the following week.

She told the newspaper she found nothing wrong with what she and "four or five" colleagues did: they went from classroom to classroom, praying and blessing the students' desks with oil.

It happened late in the evening on Friday, Feb. 2, after the school was closed for the weekend.

"It was staff members on their own time who said, 'Do you mind if we say some prayers for the kids on the Friday night before FCAT, so the kids would do well?'" LeDoux told the Times.

An American Civil Liberties Union spokeswoman said the actions crossed the line, because Christians were imposing their beliefs on others by leaving prayer oil on the desks for others to see.
Quick! Someone snatch some grant funding for a study!

[link via Ed Brayton]

Feb 22, 2007

viva Las Vegas

I'm telling you, this was a f***ing free-for-all. This was every man for himself. This was Hunter S. Thompson's dream sports weekend. This was Vegas on steroids. This was Vegas' impression of Barry Bonds during spring training in 1998, only if he reeked like stale bong water. And now that it's over, I'm relieved that we finished the weekend without a single riot, that I made it home alive, that I'm still married, that I still have my wallet, that I spent 15 hours playing blackjack in each of four consecutive days and escaped dead-even, that I'm coherent enough to write with the stale smell of weed still trapped in my nostril hairs and my body battling the effects of 72 hours without a single REM cycle. Say what you want about the Hip-Hop Woodstock, but it was definitely memorable. Then again, so is an appendectomy.
Someone forgot to tell Bill Simmons that what happens in Vegas stays there.

are you ready for the revolution? e-philanthropy

A few days ago I mentioned a new form of philanthropy made possible by the internet. Called DonorsChoose, it allows people to fund micro-projects in classrooms all over the country. The organization acts as a facilitator, making it easy for teachers to post their needs, verifying their legitimacy, negotiating discount prices for materials, and even arranging for teachers to send thank you cards and digital photos of the gift in action, once their video cameras or lab equipment or books have arrived.

The benefits are obvious: you know exactly where the money is going and how it's being used. You can see an immediate impact. It's quick, easy, and understandable. To date, DonorsChoose has raised over $11 million.

I was contacted soon afterward by representatives of ChangingThePresent, an e-philanthropy foundation that brings together hundreds of national and global nonprofits all in one place. Finding a new charity is easy, and giving takes just a few clicks. You donate by choosing a particular good or service to give: a child's first book, an hour of cancer research, a surgery to restore sight. The varieties of opportunity are nearly limitless, thanks to the site's global reach.

Some differences:
  • DonorsChoose focuses exclusively on items requested by teachers, while ChangingThePresent covers a wide range of causes and organizations.
  • DonorsChoose sends goods directly to teachers, while ChangingThePresent grants the money to the nonprofit you recommend, earmarked for a specific use.
  • DonorsChoose emphasizes individual contributions, while ChangingThePresent is more about social networking, using wish lists, registries, printed greeting cards and other ways of making philanthropy a collaborative effort.
Robert Tolmach (via email) explains:
The receipt you receive from our site will indicate what you elected to fund. However, we cannot do what DonorsChoose does when they provide you with a receipt indicating the purchase of, for instance, a single slide projector or a single table. The first reason is that the nonprofits on ChangingThePresent are often providing services as well as goods, or some mix of services and goods, and so there simply is no single receipt to provide.

Second, nonprofits on ChangingThePresent are typically buying the goods in bulk and at large discounts. That means your money will go further, but that there’s no discrete receipt for them to send you. Would you rather have your $100 donation buy 33 books for kids at $3 each through First Book and ChangingThePresent or have it buy 11 books at $9 each through Donors Choose? Is it more important for you that the kids get the 22 additional books or for you to see a receipt for that purchase?
ChangingThePresent has stringent rules its associated nonprofits must follow, and makes every "reasonable effort" to make sure the money received goes to its intended purpose.

Though this post highlights many of the differences between the organizations, I must emphasize the overwhelming commonality: DonorsChoose, ChangingThePresent, and other e-philanthropies represent the promise of new technology to make giving easier. There are even nonprofits set up solely to help other nonprofits take advantage of the new medium, which, according to Tolmach, represents less than 2% of total giving.

In the end, though, it's all about trust and relationships. We're much more willing to give when we know the people who ask, and we can see how our gift gets results. Technology broadens our sense of community to encompass the globe, but our commitment to our local community is still as necessary as ever.

And, ultimately, there's one way to be sure your gift makes a difference: give time.

brainstorming in groups: bad for idea-generation?

Here's the study abstract:
This research examines the effect of brand cues on retrieval of target brands by individuals in collaborative (vs. noncollaborative) settings. We examine two theories, salience of the brand cue and retrieval-strategy disruption, as potential explanations. Two experiments show that brand cues lead to greater inhibition of target brands in a collaborative versus a noncollaborative setting. The theoretical contribution is the exposition of a double-cueing effect of brand cues such that both (a) cue salience and (b) cue-induced retrieval-strategy disruption are greater for individuals in a collaborative setting. The discussion highlights additional theoretical implications of this research.
Here's the MSN interpretation:
People have a harder time coming up with alternative solutions to a problem when they are part of a group, new research suggests.

Scientists exposed study participants to one brand of soft drink then asked them to think of alternative brands. Alone, they came up with significantly more products than when they were grouped with two others.
See the non sequitur? Where's the link between recall memory and problem-solving or insight?

Here's the researcher's take:
“When a group gets together, they can miss out on good options,” study team member H. Shanker Krishnan told LiveScience. This could mean ordering from a pizza place advertised on television even if there’s a better option, or making a poor decision in the boardroom. “Whether it’s with family or a group of co-workers, we could very quickly fixate on things and all come up with the same options.”
And here's MSN's version of the researcher's take:
The researchers speculate that when a group of people receives information, the inclination is to discuss it. The more times one option is said aloud, the harder it is for individuals to recall other options, explained Krishnan, associate professor of marketing at Indiana University.
So, does this apply to true "brainstorming," where the purpose is to generate novel ideas, and not recall names of soda brands? What, if any, are the wider implications? Do groups truly make us "dumber," as the title blares?

This warrants further investigation. Pity that the fulltext won't hit ProQuest for another eight months or more. I'll see what else I can dig up.

the briefest summary of all

Lobby Day in three sentences:
A squad of WEA members from the Olympia area visited with their local legislators on Presidents' Day. They advocated for smaller class sizes, all-day kindergarten and improved compensation. "I'm interested in learning more and getting more involved," said Cindy Roaf, president of the Shelton ESP.
Lobby Day in one word: fun.

surely the Second Coming is at hand

Meet the new Jesus. Not exactly the same as the old Jesus:
He says he has a church-paid salary of $136,000 but lives more lavishly than that. During an interview, he showed off a diamond-encrusted Rolex to a CNN crew and said he has three just like them. He travels in armored Lexuses and BMWs, he says, for his safety. All are gifts from his devoted followers.

And what about the tattoo of 666 on his arm?

Although it's a number usually associated with Satan, not the son of God, de Jesus says that 666 and the Antichrist are, like him, misunderstood.

The Antichrist is not the devil, de Jesus tells his congregation; he's the being who replaces Jesus on Earth.

"Antichrist is the best person in the world," he says. "Antichrist means don't put your eyes on Jesus because Jesus of Nazareth wasn't a Christian. Antichrist means do not put your eyes on Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Put it on Jesus after the cross."

And de Jesus says that means him.

So far, de Jesus says that his flock hasn't been scared off by his claims of being the Antichrist. In a show of the sway he holds over the group, 30 members of his congregation Tuesday went to a tattoo parlor to have 666 also permanently etched onto their skin.
There's a sucker born every .1666 hours.

[via PZ]

NAEP scores released; media misreports

From The Olympian:
High school seniors lag in math, reading on national tests

WASHINGTON -- High school students are getting better grades and taking more challenging courses, but that apparent progress is not showing up on national math and reading tests.
Keep that in mind: no apparent progress in math. Then, scroll down for the revelation:
The government said it could not compare the math results with the previous scores because the latest test was significantly different.
The claim is repeated on the NAEP's report page.
Results from the 2005 mathematics assessment could not be compared to those from previous years because of changes in the assessment content and administration.
So, there's no apparent progress in math, but the scores aren't comparable, so even if there was progress, we'd have to discount it.

Question that springs to mind: could the reporter who wrote this pass the Wonderlic?

Added: The NAEP details the changes that render comparisons moot.
The 2005 mathematics assessment is based on a new framework. The assessment includes more questions on algebra, data analysis, and probability to reflect changes in high school mathematics standards and coursework. Even though many questions were repeated, results could not be placed on the old NAEP scale and could not be directly compared to previous years.

the curse of the common name

A reader (who will remain anonymous) writes,
Was that your editorial in Wednesday's Olympian? I imagine there are other Jim Andersons, and the descriptive writing is similar to yours.
Actually, when I read the letter, which calls for politicians to write obituaries for fallen soldiers, I thought, Maybe someone will be confused and think that I wrote it. I'd better blog a preemptive disclaimer. And then I thought, I'm hungry. Food came first, and I soon forgot.

So no, I didn't write the letter. But thanks for asking.

just say no to 80s rap

Thank Radley Balko for this one. (Warning: before you click "play," have you thought about ear insurance?)

Merck backs away from HPV vaccination campaign

Jesse Walker links to a report that Merck, behind the campaign to make HPV vaccination mandatory, is backing off. ABC News has the scoop:
According to documents obtained by The Associated Press, Texas Gov. Rick Perry's chief of staff met with key aides about the human papillomavirus vaccine the same day drug giant Merck & Co, the manufacturer of the vaccine, donated several thousand dollars to his campaign.

Chief of staff Deirdre Delisi's calendar shows she met with the governor's budget director and three members of his office for an "HPV Vaccine for Children Briefing" on Oct. 16, according to The AP report. That same day, the documents show, Merck's political action committee donated $5,000 to Perry and $5,000 total to eight state lawmakers.

The revelation may provide ammunition to those in many states who oppose mandatory vaccination campaigns for pre-teen girls. On Wednesday, a House committee voted to rescind Perry's executive order requiring vaccination for girls in Texas.

Meanwhile, conservative family groups in Minnesota have criticized similar proposed requirements there, maintaining that such a plan would encourage promiscuity.

And in Connecticut, state health officials say they are concerned similar proposed legislation would be premature, citing a lack of available safety data.

The developments have added a new round of political heat that Merck had sought to avoid. Merck announced Feb. 20 that it would suspend its own campaign urging states to implement mandatory vaccination programs for pre-teen girls with its human papillomavirus vaccine.

In its announcement, Merck said it made the move to avoid having its campaign take attention away from the bills being drafted in several states that would make the vaccine mandatory for pre-teen girls.

"We … do not want any misperception about Merck's role to distract from the ultimate goal of fighting cervical cancer, so Merck has re-evaluated its approach at the state level and we will not lobby for school requirements for Gardasil," said Mary Elizabeth Blake, senior director of public affairs for the Merck vaccine division, in a prepared, e-mailed statement.
No word yet on whether Rick Perry will comply with the legislature.

are you ready for the revolution? e-philanthropy

A few days ago I noticed a new form of philanthropy made possible by the internet. Called DonorsChoose, it allows people to fund micro-projects in classrooms all over the country. The organization acts as a facilitator, making it easy for teachers to post their needs, verifying their legitimacy, negotiating discount prices for materials, and even arranging for teachers to send thank you cards and digital photos of the gift in action, once their video cameras or lab equipment or books have arrived.

The benefits are obvious: you know exactly where the money is going and how it's being used. You can see an immediate impact. It's quick, easy, and understandable. To date, DonorsChoose has raised over $11 million.

I was contacted soon afterward by representatives of ChangingThePresent, an e-philanthropy foundation that brings together scores of global charitable organizations and nonprofits all in one place. Finding a new charity is easy, and giving takes just a few clicks. The difference in method is critical: the money you give, though earmarked for specific projects, goes to an organization, not a person. Robert Tolmach (via email) explains:
The receipt you receive from our site will indicate what you elected to fund. However, we cannot do what Donors Choose does when they provide you with a receipt indicating the purchase of, for instance, a single slide projector or a single table. The first reason is that the nonprofits on ChangingThePresent are often providing services as well as goods, or some mix of services and goods, and so there simply is no single receipt to provide.

Second, nonprofits on our site are typically buying the goods in bulk and at large discounts. That means your money will go further, but that there’s no discrete receipt for them to send you. As a single example, I, for one, would much rather have my $100 donation buy 33 books for kids at $3 each through First Book and ChangingThePresent than have it buy 11 books at $9 each through Donors Choose. It’s more important to me that the kids get the 22 additional books than it is for me to see a receipt for that purchase.
ChangingThePresent has stringent rules its associated nonprofits must follow, and makes every "reasonable effort" to make sure the money received goes to its intended purpose.

DonorsChoose, ChangingThePresent, and other e-philanthropies represent the promise of new technology to make giving easier. There are even nonprofits set up solely to help other nonprofits take advantage of the new medium, which, according to Tolmach, represents less than 2% of total giving.

In the end, though, it's all about trust and relationships. We're much more willing to give when we know the people who ask, and we can see how our gift gets results. Technology broadens our sense of community to encompass the globe, but our commitment to our local community is still as necessary as ever.

And, ultimately, there's one way to be sure your gift makes a difference: give time.

television in moderation is no vice

Actually, high-quality TV shows such as "Sesame Street" and "Blues Clues" improve children's cognitive abilities. Study after study has shown that children 3 to 5 years old who watch "Sesame Street" for an hour a day are better able than those who don't to recognize numbers, letters and shapes. When 500 kids who had participated in some of those studies were followed up as teenagers, those who had watched educational programs as preschoolers had higher grades, were reading more books, placed more value on achievement and were more creative than those who had not watched.
What? Television isn't the root of all evil?

Disconcerting. Disturbing. Distressing. I'd think of more synonyms, but I obviously didn't watch enough Sesame Street as a tyke.

Feb 21, 2007

how to be sure your guy is The Guy

MSN Dating and Personals has the rundown, but they're way, way off. Here are five surefire ways to tell that your soulmate has arrived.

1. He can turn any embarrassment into a compliment.
You're choking, and he notes the rosy tincture of your cheeks. You leave a fleck of mousse on your chin, and he notes the lovely beauty mark adorning your visage. You stab him with a chopstick, and he praises the strength of your forearms. He is either The One, or on drugs. See if his eyes are bloodshot to be certain. (Ah, but of which one, you ask?)

2. He carries a journal.
Face it: you want to be someone's--anyone's--Muse. Yours will be the face that launched a thousand haiku.

3. He smiles when you talk.
You will have to learn how to distinguish smiling from grimacing. It would be well worth your time.

4. He sings, whistles, or hums when no one's watching.
This is definitely a good sign, you think to yourself, as you watch from around the corner while "powdering your nose." Why are you watching? Oh, right: you are desperate and stalkerlike.

5. He holds the door.
Think this is sexist? No you don't. You believe in soulmates. How antiquarian can you get?


My brother is soliciting feedback. (I like the miniblog. More fun than "fun size.")

Glenn Reynolds, one of the OBs, is once again mulling over adding comments (but not really). A while back I'd have said he should add them--but then, when you have a readership in the thousands, comments are just so much clutter. The way to let people follow the broader conversation without being flooded by anarchy: trackbacks.

Meanwhile, I'm here writing about reflection in order to avoid writing an essay about reflection. Is there a word for this?

Olympia city council votes to move to the waterfront

An update from the earlier story. Six to one, with the threat of a lawsuit.
But several residents came to comment against the waterfront site, including Arthur West, who has on multiple occasions come to the City Council meetings to raise concerns over contamination on the Port of Olympia property.

West served the council with a summons for a lawsuit that he plans to file today, claiming that there is a conflict of interest because two councilmen own downtown property and that the city did not go through a proper bidding process for the project. City attorney Bob Sterbank said the way the city is working with the development group Team Olympia is allowed under Revised Code of Washington Chapter 35.42 and has recently been used in King County and Redmond.
The council would like to move in by sometime in 2009. The lone dissenter: Karen Messmer, who isn't sure how global warming might affect the proposal.

math WASL going down in flames?

The protesters and op-edians may soon have a reason to cheer:
“We want to change the assessment tool to end-of-course exams. We’re proposing algebra, geometry and biology” testing, Democratic Rep. David Quall of Mount Vernon, said today. “There are many states already involved in end-of-course examinations.”

Rep. Skip Priest, a Federal Way Republican, said the new test would be multiple-choice and standardized, which does away with the story-problem and show-your-work approach in the Washington Assessment of Student Learning for math, which almost half of 10th graders are failing to pass.

The House approach — which has been developed with the help of Republican Rep. Fred Jarrett and Democratic Rep. Pat Sullivan — also delays the math and science tests to 2011 for the math and to 2013 for the science. But it retains the 2008 deadline for reading and writing, which most kids in the Class of 2008 are expected to pass.
A hearing is scheduled for tomorrow at 8:00 a.m.

Adam Morrison and J.J. Redick Watch: Feb. 21

Quick update: in their first action after the break...

Morrison dropped 18 on 4 of 5 three-point shooting as the 'Cats beat the Hornets.

Redick played just 4 minutes in Orlando's loss to the Knicks.

Incidentally, ESPN's enlightening Trade Machine said I couldn't trade Redick for Morrison straight up. Orlando has no cap space.

Evening update: Morrison came out cold, but heated up in the second half, scoring 26 as the 'Cats leveled the Timberwolves.

Redick, on the other hand, saw limited time as the Magic continued their descent into mediocrity.

all quiet on the western front

Things are calm over here, since I'm expending most of my intellectual energy on educational issues. (So much for a week off.) Not only that, but I'm finally getting the ball rolling on National Board Certification. I'm writing the scholarship and filling out the app I can start in April. I announced I was going to do it about a year ago, but life got in the way. What I wrote:
As a teacher in Washington state, I'm obligated to attain a professional certificate, to take extra courses to prove I'm Genuine 100% Teacherly Goodness. I've decided to attempt National Board Certification. Here are four reasons why.

1. Professional Growth
Quite frankly, I'm not yet a good teacher, not nearly as good as I want to be, not nearly as good as my students deserve. I have several good teacherly qualities--passion, intellect, self-criticism, open-mindedness, personality--but I haven't yet perfected my instruction, assessment, and curricular design. (I have perfected the art of the tacky tie, however.)

2. Economics
Washington still provides a $3500 annual stipend for nationally certified teachers, and scholarships to help defray the $2500 program fee. Since national certification supersedes state requirements, and I have to earn a ProCert anyway, the choice is simple.

3. Time
I've taught for four years, one more than the program requires. Next year is that magical fifth year when all goes well. Chances are, I'll have good classes again, in subjects I've already taught. That sailing's too smooth for this ship. I could stand 200-400 hours of extra writing, videotaping, and agonizing to maintain the chaos of my perilous voyage over the wine-dark sea.

4. Prestige
Step one: national certification. Step two: teacher of the year. Step three: bestselling author status for my memoir, Lord of the Ties. Step five: Oprah confessional. Step six: public scorn upon the revelation that the memoir is only 43% true. Step seven: movie deal.
It's all still true--and, thanks to earlier start times, I'll still begin the process in this very magical fifth year.

I'm really doing this. I'm going down the trail the trp blazed. Yikes.

myth or fact? dispatches from the math wars

A while back I noted the sloppy argumentation in a piece about math "myths." Now, Clifford Mass has covered some of the same territory. A sample:
The WASL exam reflects the reform math curricula that Warfield defends: Students are not taught, but asked to discover math for themselves, practice and competence with algorithms (such as long division and use of fractions) are neglected, and calculators are heavily applied. In fact, the WASL is too easy an exam and does not evaluate key ideas and skills needed in college and the real world. The WASL is also an extraordinarily expensive exam, and its development and scoring are done by one company, which also makes some of the leading reform textbooks. The WASL provides no usable information for the improvement of student learning or curriculum. Finally, because the WASL is used only in our state, we can't determine how well our students are doing compared with the rest of the country.

corruption in every crevice: or, how to make a trial lawyer part with cash without even flinching

SVC Alumnus thinks a conspiracy is afoot.
I find very, atrociously [sic] concerning the donations, the bills and the timing. Put them all together and you've got a bona fide bad hacker trying to hack the source code of our legal system.
The charge is that the WEA is buying off the sponsors of pro-WEA legislation. The evidence: campaign contributions over the last six years. Five representatives, $15,075 over four election cycles.


Or not.

Imagine that the Democrats were hosting a crab feed, and everyone there got violently sick. In would rush Doctor Insta-Diagnosis, grabbing the first four victims and asking them if they ate crab legs. If they said "yes," Dr. I-D would declare the crab meat tainted.

Only a later investigation would discover the real culprit: potato salad.

If you're a real doctor, a real scientist, a real detective, you have to isolate, compare, eliminate all potential confounding variables. You can't just put the numbers up and point at them, especially if you want "comprehensive and unbiased facts."

Look at Joe McDermott's funding in the last election, for example. The $1400 from the WEA looks like a lot, until you compare it to the SEIU's $2100 and the Teamsters' $2075. The WEA's contribution is a paltry 2.35% of McDermott's cash infusion. Conspiracy!

(Of course, some folks think all unions are in a gigantic conspiracy, a band of brothers, and this is just more evidence. I invite them to sit in on a Lobby Day sometime, when we're all scrapping over scraps--just like brothers. And hey, SVC: for the real scoop, investigate the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe. What do they have to hide?)

Or, look at the WEA's total contributions in 2006. Almost two hundred entries. Like I've said, that's a lot of candidates and concerns. If that's corruption, it's pretty darn transparent.

It doesn't take much effort to drum up a conspiracy charge. Let's look at Timm Ormsby, who took $700 from "Western Washington Trial Lawyers for Victims Rights." He's also primary sponsor on a bill to revise "the requirements for, and recoveries under, a wrongful injury or death cause of action." Coincidence, or conspiracy? Wait a minute--who else is sponsoring the bill?
Larry Haler (R): clean.
Pedersen (D): clean.
Wood (D): clean.
VanDeWege (D): dirty.
Tom Campbell (R): dirty. Not even Republicans are immune.
Flannigan (D): dirty.
Kessler (D): dirty.
Williams (D): dirty.
Lantz (D): dirty.
In just 2006, Western Washington Trial Lawyers for Victims Rights spent at least $7,000--perhaps to pass HB 1873? Why "perhaps?" Conspiracy!

In fact, let's look closer. HB 1873 [pdf] widens the scope of legal victimhood in wrongful death or injury cases, and broadens the definition of personal injury, including
any noneconomic damages personal to the decedent including, but not limited to, damages for the decedent's pain and suffering, anxiety, emotional distress, loss of life itself, loss of enjoyment of life, shortened life expectancy, or humiliation, in such amounts as determined by a jury to be just under all the circumstances of the case.
The act wouldn't be just remedial, but retroactive. More money for victims, and more fees for attorneys.

We all know who the real beneficiaries will be, though. That's right: bloggers, flush with newfound celebrity for exposing the rotten apple core of Washington state politics.

In all seriousness, it truly stinks that so much money flows into campaigns, that there are strings attached to everything. Money talks, and everyone's willing to listen. Interest groups try to game the system.

The bright side: the PDC makes it easy to "follow the money." If you want to prove a legislator is corrupt, though, you have to give better evidence than a table of context-free dollar amounts.

Sidebar: Timm Ormsby also took $675 from the Washington Soft Drink Association. He's sponsoring a bill to require everyday exercise opportunities in school. Why ban soda when you can just mandate exercise instead, and continue to let the fat cats sell fat juice? Conspiracy!

Sidebar II: Speaking of beverages, I thought it strange that the Washington Beer and Wine Wholesalers were jumping in to contribute this year, until I saw a bill on Ormsby's list: HB 2076, which would allow a few establishments to "trial run" wine and beer tastings. Our sponsors, and their WBWW payola:
Conway: dirty for $2075 in 2006. (1375 in 2004.)
Williams: dirty for $350.
Condotta: dirty for $2075. ($1025 in 2004.)
Newhouse: dirty for $700.
Ormsby: clean.

Feb 20, 2007

the information revolution is destroying sovereignty

In a piece related to the current resolution, so argues Jean-Marie Guehenno in The Topology of Sovereignty
Our very concept of sovereignty is being challenged. Let me explain.

The challenge is most visible in the economic sphere, where territorial nation-states find it increasingly difficult to keep up with multinational enterprises that take a global rather than a territorial view of their activities....

What does this mean for states? The distinction between domestic issues and international issues is becoming less relevant every day. The ability of nation-states to conduct an independent monetary and fiscal policy is constrained by the fluidity of capital markets. The ability of nation-states to tax, which is the basis of the power of a state, is constrained by the decisions of multinational enterprises and by the worldwide competition for capital....

And so in the economic sphere, it is clear that the sovereignty of states has been eroded by the necessity to enter into multilateral arrangements, as we have seen with the creation of the World Trade Organization, and by the emergence of non-state actors that produce their own norms. Such norms are sanctioned by the marketplace, and are particularly relevant when states fail to keep up with the pace of change....

Territory is no longer the basis of power, nor is it a sufficient guarantee of security. In an age of globalization, characterized by the migration of global capital markets, territorial security can only be achieved if states could transform themselves into large gated communities -- an unrealistic and dangerous goal that could only lead to the impoverishment of the state implementing such a policy.
In the new landscape, the Aff could argue that the UN's commitment to sovereignty is obsolete. Human rights, though, are every bit as important as they have always been. How might the Neg respond? Or is this a valid move for the Aff?

for the children

According to McMillan, children can suffer broken bones, head trauma, and even fatal injuries from unsupervised exposure to childlike awe. "If your children are allowed to unlock their imaginations, anything from a backyard swing set to a child's own bedroom can be transformed into a dangerous undersea castle or dragon's lair," McMillan said. "But by encouraging your kids to think linearly and literally, and constantly reminding them they can never be anything but human children with no extraordinary characteristics, you can better ensure that they will lead prolonged lives."
If The Onion's track record is sustained, watch for this one to appear on PubMed in about two years.

Where's the Math rally hits the newsstand

I should point out that the Where's the Math crowd sounds a lot more reasonable in the paper.
The group is supportive of Senate Bill 5528, which would establish a panel of 12 people to evaluate the state’s math Essential Academic Learning Requirements, known as EALRs.

The 12 evaluators would include four professional scientists or mathematicians; two college-level math professors; two parents; and four math teachers.

The bill asks that the committee also consider the standards set by other states and nations, specifically naming California and Singapore.

“If you look at the (Washington) standards, they really aren’t standards,” said SB 5528 sponsor Sen. Cheryl Pflug, a Republican from Maple Valley. “They are about reasoning and discovery, and using your calculator. But without basic computational fluency, kids don’t even know if they’re pressing the right buttons on the calculator.”
I wish them well.

teachers vs. NCLB: the Educator Roundtable

Who might best understand the ways No Child Left Behind fails to truly reform education? Could it be... teachers?
We, the educators, parents, and concerned citizens whose names appear below, reject the misnamed No Child Left Behind Act and call for legislators to vote against its reauthorization. We do so not because we resist accountability, but because the law's simplistic approach to education reform wastes student potential, undermines public education, and threatens the future of our democracy.

Below, briefly stated, are some of the reasons we consider the law too destructive to salvage. In its place we call for formal, state-level dialogues led by working educators rather than by politicians, ideology-bound "think tank" members, or leaders of business and industry who have little or no direct experience in the field of education.
The nascent organization has assembled sixteen major arguments against NCLB. Click through to examine them all, along with the evidence cited. I'll report back when I've studied their stance a little more closely.

[link via a reader]

Feb 19, 2007

Adam Morrison and J.J. Redick Watch: Feb. 19

In this post-All Star Breakdown by Marc Stein, two noteworthy omissions. First, in his principiante del año predictions, I see Brandon Roy, Steve Novak (?), Andrea Bargnani, and Randy Foye.

Hello? J.J. Redick, anyone?

Just kidding.

No Morrison, no reason. Meanwhile, no Redick in the trade rumors, which is too bad. J.J. deserves a chance to play everyday on a team that actually needs him. Until then, his also-ran / has-been status is up in the air.

Lobby Day visits with Karen Fraser, Gary Alexander, and Kathy Haigh

On a drizzly Monday, several WEA members joined up to lobby area legislators, including Karen Fraser, Gary Alexander, and Kathy Haigh. What follows is a summary of the various Lobby Day conversations regarding WEA priorities. Not available: Brendan Williams and Sam Hunt. Not included: the conversations I wasn't a party to.

Sen. Karen Fraser, Democrat, 22nd Dist. (info)
The state wants more money. Where to get it? I know, says Chris Gregoire: public employees' pensions. Eliminating gainsharing, a practice where state workers receive additional benefits when state investments earn above a set interest point, would raise revenue for a state strapped for cash hungry for new outlays. Fraser is distressed that Gregoire and high-ranking legislators are trying to eviscerate the program. Her bill, a concession, would preserve gainsharing for teachers hired before July 1, 2007. After that, nothing.

(Want the in-depth impacts? Read the fiscal note. We're talking hundreds of millions of broken promises dollars--and this is just the compromise.)

Fraser said that gainsharing is "going down to the wire." Pressure from public employees might be the main obstacle to its elimination.

Rep. Gary Alexander, Republican, 20th Dist. (info)
Representative Alexander was glad to talk to us about compensation, and was sure to mention the issues he thinks get passed by in the ongoing conversation about ed reform: special needs and transportation. (He didn't go into much detail about the latter.) Alexander is against one-size-fits-all education, telling us how much he'd like to see stronger vocational education, but, paradoxically, not wanting to give a high school diploma to anyone who can't pass the WASL. Several times he mentioned how some students just aren't served by the current model, and yet he never acknowledged the contradiction in his support for the dubious exit exam.

When asked about gainsharing, Alexander was quick to mention HB 2116, a different sort of compromise. Right now, gainsharing kicks in when pension investments top a 10% rate of return. Under Alexander's proposal, the "trigger" would be raised to 14%, reducing the state's odds of liability by almost two thirds. (A 14% rate of return is 64% less likely. Read the whole fiscal note if you dare. Alexander noted that the legality of the proposition--having different gainsharing options for old and new hires--is under investigation.) I asked Alexander what would replace gainsharing as a recruiting tool if it were done away with. He didn't really have an answer.

One bill Alexander is sponsoring would allow students who pass the WASL to skip the "intermediate" step of their licensing [pdf], the time when they can drive only during limited hours and without young passengers. Another secondarily sponsored by Alexander would force the legislature to determine proper education funding before passing an omnibus appropriation--in essence, making education a priority not just in emphasis, but in time. (Alexander didn't talk about either bill during our chat.)

In all, Alexander offered tentative support for some WEA concerns, especially in the area of fully funding education.

Rep. Kathy Haigh, Democrat, 35th Dist. (info)
Kathy Haigh, chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Education, kept pulling out a copy of the budget whenever we'd ask about upcoming agenda items. She declared her support for smaller class sizes for K-3 classes, and said she wanted to commit $50 million in the upcoming session to fund all-day kindergarten, at least for free and reduced lunch students. She "totally support[s] the simple majority" for levies, which would give rural districts greater ability to fund classroom renovations and technological upgrades. (Last year she cosponsored a similar bill that passed the House only to fail in the Senate.)

When we brought up pensions, she admitted, "I don't know anything about gainsharing. I'm not in the middle of that fight."

It's a good year for state government, which means that everyone wants a piece of the lasagna.
"It's a lot harder when you have a bunch of money," says Victor Moore, the governor's budget director and former House Appropriations staff director. "When you don't have money, there is a simple response to why you're not giving them anything. When there's money, you have to make arguments about priorities, why this investment and not another. It's tough and everybody wants their little $10 million appropriation."
Today the WEA was another voice in a cacophony of concerns, requests, and demands. When dozens of interest groups descend on the Capitol in a day, it's easy for issues to get lost in the noise. Union members who want their needs met have to keep contacting their legislators beyond Lobby Day, to keep reminding them of their promises to constituents and their obligations to the state's "paramount duty."

Sidebar: Among the more colorful and obnoxious interest groups were the Where's the Math folks, parading kids around as political props and chanting on the Capitol steps. One middle-aged demonstrator sported a placard reading, "Less Words! More Numbers!"

That would be fewer words. If only they'd had a writing WASL thirty years ago.