Monday, June 30, 2008

Tagged

So, I got tagged by DADvocate, so here's my response:

What were you doing five years ago?
Five years ago, I was working in the Borders Books of Athens, Georgia. It was the year after I graduated from college, and I was sticking around enjoying life for a bit. I played in two bands. One was Ori, a sort of acid jazz/R&B outfit. They moved me from bass player to publicist and we ended up getting some good press after that. The other was Overnight Low, and I'm not sure what kind of music that it was, but it was always very loud. It was some type of rock music like you would hear in the 1990's. My bandmates were the people I had been playing music with since the 11th grade. We had a fun year. I spent most of my time playing cards, tailgating for football games, writing about local music and figuring out what to do next.

If you want to get very specific, exactly five years ago I was most likely grilling meat for dinner and drinking a bourbon and coca-cola.

What are five things on your to-do list for today?
1. Use spray paint to mark off the football field at Coghill Elementary school.
2. Organize children into groups so they could practice basketball and football fundamentals.
3. Get my hair cut (not completed).
4. Write a proposal for a presentation on the day-to-day life of an RSD teacher (not completed).
5. Attend the Monday night dinner with my New Orleans family.

What are five snacks you enjoy?
We don't really have snacks in New Orleans. We have meals. I'll have to dig in the vault for this one...
1. Krispe Kreme donuts.
2. Peanut butter and grape jelly sandwiches.
3. Pop Tarts (strawberry) for their value as currency when dealing with students in the RSD.
4. Vlasic Dill Pickle spears.
5. Zapp's Potato Chips, generally Gator Tators, Spicy Crawtators, or BBQ flavored.

What are five things you would do if you were a billionaire?
1. My friends and family would be set for life;
2. Gameday suites at Sanford Stadium, the Superdome, and the Georgia Dome. Forever.
3. Fix the public schools in New Orleans and Glynn County.
4. Buy the New Orleans Saints and sell 60% of the ownership to the citizens of New Orleans (or however the Packers have their deal set up) so the team would never leave the city.
5. Start a home insurance co-op where policy holders are also shareholders.

What are five of your bad habits?
1. Smoking.
2. Smoking.
3. Smoking while procrastinating.
4. Smoking while drinking coffee.
5. Smoking while eating junk food.

What are five places where you have lived?
This is even more of a stretch.
1. Birmingham, Alabama: where I was born.
2. St. Simons Island, Georgia: 1983 - 1996, 2003 - 2006
3. Creswell Hall, Athens, Georgia: 1996 - 1999
4. Elsewhere in Athens, Georiga (Including LeChateau Apartments, 101 Highland Park Drive and 8130 Macon Hwy)
5. New Orleans, Louisiana: 2006 - present

What are five jobs you’ve had?
1. Service Industry, back of the house, baby! Line cook, prep cook, dishwasher, bus boy, delivery driver, expediter, etc. 1995 - 2007
2. Universities! Department of Housing (UGA), University College-Admissions (Troy), Office of Institutional Development (Loyola). 1997 - 2007
3. Teacher! Recovery School District (2007 - 2008).
4. Freelance journalist! Yes, people paid me to write for them in 2003.
5. Bass Player! Got paid in currency and in beer to make noise for drunk people.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Mythology

"A Great Reminder," indeed.

The Wall Street Journal, Rush Limbaugh and John McCain have all said similar things in support of their "drill now, drill everywhere" plan of getting more money for oil lobbyists.

They've been repeating it for weeks now, but it took Mike Huckabee on Fox News to really cap it off. Here's the party line they want you to believe. Here's the party line they want their supporters to repeat, over and over, until the public is led to believe something that is patently untrue:

"When Katrina, a Cat-5 hurricane, hit the Gulf Coast, not one drop of oil was spilled off of those rigs out in the Gulf of Mexico. So we know that the technology to drill offshore is extraordinarily safe and environmentally friendly."
- Mike Huckabee

Whenever you hear this said, refute it. Katrina put at least 11,104 barrels into the Gulf of Mexico and the Louisiana coast. Rita added even more.

Oyster has been tracking this for some time, but right here, right now, the truth cannot be repeated enough.

Update: For those of you wondering, the myth that "not one drop of oil was spilled" comes from the idea that "there were no major oil spills during Katrina and Rita." Oyster documents this here. Further, Oyster continues by tracking down where this talking point seems to be coming from (with links), and that - in addition to Huckabee - Gov. Jindal also seems to be propogating this myth.


Here's even more links to right-wingers parroting this talking point. In response to Dante's comment, here's the transcript of Rush Limbaugh defending drilling with the "even with Katrina and Rita....we have had no major oil leaks." (Link HT: White Noise Insanity)

This may not be a "conspiracy" as Dante pointed out, but why then would so many of the right's strongest voices, from talk radio to presidential candidates, be telling the same untruth over and over and over? They've laundered the information and are now free to use it on the national stage.

Unless it is repeated again and again that the "no oil spilled during the 2005 hurricanes" is a patently untrue thing to say.


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When White People Attack

I find this situation absolutely disgusting. These people are animals, nothing but animals. Videos are NSFW, and the profanity is extreme. Right now, my knuckles are white, my teeth are gnashing, and I'm considering supporting the right-wing plan to drill for oil off California's coast if they simply promise to wreck Malibu first. (But the last one will pass in a few minutes.)

Let me state a few things before you go and see what I'm talking about (reminder NSFW - language):

1. I don't like paparazzi, but there is no excuse to attack people who are doing nothing illegal on public property.

2. If these were black people attacking photographers, everyone would have heard about it ad nauseum on the evening news everywhere in this nation. Our reactions to this type of violence, which is nothing more than spoiled-brat thuggery - or wilding - as it has been called, should be outrage no matter what the race of the attacker. This should be all over the news, and the folks clearly identified in the video as attackers should be shown no mercy in the courts.

3. The woman in the second video blatantly assaults and batters a photographer, and informs the photographer that if he defends himself from this physical assault, that he will be the one in trouble. So much for equality.

4. The overwhelming number of surfers I know advocate a libertarian existence (do unto others etc) and are active in movements to keep beaches ecologically clean and open for enjoyment by the public. Most don't behave in such ways. It is a shame to have such a segment of the population painted by this, but again, it is more important that the criminals in this case be punished.

People who act in such ways, even against paparazzi, are nothing better than trash, trash, trash.


Update: 6/27/08 10:29pm CST Just saw the story run on Headline News. About damn time. I won't be happy until it runs in primetime.


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Word Association

Obama recently agreed to play a word association game in a recent interview. The words were all pretty lame. They really should've let Chevy Chase do it.

Mortal Kombat!

I love hostile takeovers. We'll most likely get to see one shortly. InBev, the world's largest brewery, recently made a rather generous offer for Anheuser-Busch. They offered $65 per share for a stock currently traded at $60 per. Busch rejected the offer which leaves InBev free to go straight after the voting shareholders. This is going to get bloody.

In their rejection, Busch tried to make their case to the shareholders regarding how they were going to increase savings and cut costs. Unfortunately for Anheuser-Busch, their stock that has been underperforming compared to its peers and it's looking increasingly bleak for the domestic mass-market brewing business they're so heavily invested in. They're still seeing growth but if you could snag 12% over market value for that stock, you'd be foolish not to take the money and run. There are better places to invest right now. Given that loyalty isn't a quality shareholders tend to have a lot of, I can't imagine InBev failing here.

UPDATE: Wow, things are getting fun faster than I thought. According to a few analysts, InBev may go back to the board with a much higher offer. So much for hostile. The board will have to cave at an offer of 10x what Anheuser-Busch makes in a year. Even if they had the shareholder support to turn that down, it would still be bad for Busch. InBev would just buy or partner with one of their rivals at that point.

UPDATE 2: Rush Limbaugh has an incredible quote regarding the takeover:
Yes, Mr. Snerdley, a question from the program observer. That's right, the Belgians have no interest in fighting terrorism. They've got their priorities. They'll fight for beer. If you were in Brussels, Belgium, what would you do, fight terrorism or fight for beer? And so yes, the Belgians are going to go to the mat here for Anheuser-Busch...
source

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Brunswick Blog!!

Finally, a general blog about Brunswick and the Golden Isles. Beautiful pictures so far. I can't wait to see more from the old stomping grounds.

Oh yeah, and through that, I found out that Island City has its own MySpace page. I shouldn't be surprised, as my old dorm at UGA has its own myspace page, too.

This reminds me. I need to update my blogroll rather badly. Anyone with new suggestions?

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Compare and Contrast...

...the media and pundit reactions to the recent floods in Iowa and the Midwest with the 2005 Katrina/Federal Flood of New Orleans. Hat tip: Dangerblond, who also reminds us that over 400,000 people evacuated themselves in front of Katrina.

This is dangerous ground, as "my disaster was worse than your disaster" comparisons tend to get ugly. But that is not what this is - this is more a contrast and comparison of how the media and the pundits distort news as a whole to advance agendas.

Blessedly, an overwhelming majority of the Gulf Coast and New Orleans residents I know are nothing but empathetic with and praying for the residents of the Midwest, as they now begin the long and difficult days of trying to put lives back together.

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"Kiss My Rebel Ass"

I can't believe I'm linking to an article at the Weekly Standard, but here we go. This is the most entertaining political article I have read in months, if not years, and the rambling subject matter will be one of the major subplots of this year's presidential election. Hell, it already has been, and it is something a lot of Southern Democrats have been saying for years.

I've already got a rather large wager going on with several colleagues as to who will win in November, I've got side bets on how the electoral map changes. During my recent vacation back to Glynn County - one of the brightest red counties in Georgia - I saw raging political movement down to even the most local offices. Obama bumper stickers already outnumber McCain fare 2 - 0, on Glynn plates alone.

What would happen if Obama pulled a Kennedy and went down to Appalachia himself? What would happen if he coupled that with a tour through the Black Belt of the Southland? It may force some folks to rethink their calculations, to be sure.

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Guns, Guns Everywhere and Not a Crackhead to Shoot...

So the Supreme Court decided that the right to keep and bear arms means that you have the right to keep and bear arms. Good to know. Here's the entire decision. I haven't had a chance to read it yet. It's a bit long. But here are the cliff notes.

We've Gone from "Sell" to "Don't Buy!"

The AP may be trying to doom-and-gloom the story as much as it can, but the US beat projections and managed 1% growth this past quarter. 1% is far from ideal but given that the projection was 0.9% and first quarter we only managed 0.6%, this is really good news. I'm not arguing that we're out of the woods, but a recession was a foregone conclusion at the beginning of the year. Now it might not even happen.

Are You Kidding Me?

A little background: In the long-ago-land when I was taking standardized tests, my classmates and I were presented with a "constructed response" (writing) topic that asked us "If you could repeal any law, what law would you repeal and why?" That's kind of a banal question, and I wrote a typically banal answer while crossing all the 't's and dotting all the 'i's to get my score. Then I spent the next 45 minutes drawing little cartoon characters in the test booklet.

But what impressed me was that not just one but two of my classmates, upon reading the same question, argued effectively to repeal the law. of. gravity. I was blown away by this clever little trick for middle schoolers.

But this test-taker takes it to a whole other level. In response to the CRCT (Georgia's version of the LEAP), this is what wunderkind decided to do as a way to kill time:

"After this, I was very annoyed. What am I supposed to do for the next forty-five minutes? I've finished and checked my work twice already. I decided to write in my test booklet instead of drawing aimlessly. I wrote notes to the editors of this book, hoping that they would read them. Notes about how this questions is worded enigmatically. Or pointing out the blatant cheesy endings in the readings. I told them about the questions that I thought had two answers. I explained to them that the pages with "No Material" are understandably mislabeled. A little smart-alec-y, but I think I proved my point about misleading questions. I think they haven't read the notes though."
That has got to be the absolute best reaction to a standardized test I have ever heard of, ever.

What I really wanted to point out was the eerie similarities between the CRCT situation in Georgia (statewide) and the LEAP situation in Louisiana (statewide). I also wanted to share what this kid's opinion of the Georgia test is, and who he thinks is to blame for it (teachers). This is an interesting viewpoint (both the post and the comments) from someone not involved at the top end of education policy.

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Oh wait, that's not yet the end. For the real education wonks - here's some more thoughts on the CRCT and some more notes on education. Its so late, I can't even digest that last post yet. I'll try again later.

All links here started at the Georgia Blog Carnival.

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Finish Him!!!

Everywhere I have worked or played, there have always been rivalries. Server staff vs. the Kitchen; restaurant vs. other restaurant; Creswell Hall 2nd Floor vs Creswell Hall 4th Floor; Seniors vs Juniors; Sattelite Office vs. Region; Store vs. Store. The list goes on. We have dealt with these rivalries in many, many ways. Some ways have involved football, others have involved laser tag, still others involved paintball. I've survived prank wars, fireworks golf, scavenger hunts, rock-paper-scissors and snowball fights.

I have legendary stories to tell about all of them. They carry me through life like a spark in my soul.

But I never thought to do a mock up of them and make it into a movie. That's what locates this video about a hundred and ten meters past awesome in my book.

Hat tip: Clicked



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Monday, June 23, 2008

McCain Picks Monty Hall as Veep

From the incredibly short article:

The Republican presidential nominee-in-waiting thinks the government should offer a $300 million prize to the person who can develop an automobile battery that leapfrogs existing technology.


To be honest, I kind of like it. This was part of a speech he delivered at Fresno State. After the speech he wandered the audience and offered $100 bills for odd items like safety pins, oranges, and a hard boiled egg. The people in the first few rows dressed up in outrageous costumes were considered a bit of a security risk but it was popular enough that McCain plans to keep the new speech format.

McCain is also currently trying to schedule a weekly pricing game with Presidential opponent Obama where each tries to guess the total value of their respective showcase. Whoever guesses closest without going over wins the showcase and if winner gets within $100 without going over, they win both showcases. Obama has been hesitant to accept the offer since he would prefer both the McCain and Omaba families meet and guess the top answers to 100-person surveys.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Brilliant!!

That link is also good for a laugh at the expense of hyperbole with a sort-of Chuck Norris twist on it. Short read, good stuff.

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

If you're not terrified by this...

...then you might want to check yourself for a pulse.

If you think gas prices are out of control now, wait until it takes an act of congress to change how much and what type of fuel we're refining.

Think long and hard at the polls this November, kiddies, this one may actually count for something...

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Oil Spillage

The link is your "must read" for the day.

There are too many lies and myths to debunk about drilling for oil in America and causing minimal environmental impact. Oyster is right not to let them get away with the mythology when it comes to Louisiana. Everyone should read it, link to it, email it, copy and paste it (with attributions, of course) and use it as evidence that the powers-that-be will lie about anything to keep oil money in their pockets.

And if you think I'm being a tree-hugging hippie, think instead about all the food you eat from the Gulf of Mexico, and the human costs we are paying for this kind of behavior.

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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Finger on the Pulse

Without real issues to talk about, the talking heads are really just making fools of themselves.

So the next time someone comes along and tells me they think Obama is an elitist and is out of touch with average Americans (because any of our other Presidents and Presidential candidates have seemed so salt-of-the-Earth), I'm just going to dap them up with my "terrorist fist-jab" and make another trip to the Applebee's salad bar to hang with David Brooks. Good to know he equates average Americans with sub-par dining experiences.

When I read about this stuff, I was going to give it a big thumbs-up, but right-wing readers might think I was threatening them. I mean, you can't be too careful, these days. So many right-wingers are just so in-touch with average Americans, they can point out anti-American sympathies based on trendy neckwear and hand gestures.



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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

AccreditateGate

WARNING!! Explicit wonkiness and bloviation to follow. Please proceed with caution, or fix yourself a drink and a sandwich now.

First of all, my cursory investigation of the accreditation of RSD schools (charter and regular) has not gone very deep, but I have found out some information. Some of it is common sensical, some of it leads to even more questions.

According to the few responses I have recieved and based on prior knowledge from an old Coastal Georgia accreditation situation, applying for accreditation from a regional accrediting organization (such as the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools [SACS]) is a fairly lenthy and expensive process. Current timelines indicate that an application can take up to 5 years to complete, and that comes after 3 years of data collection at the applicant school or district.

That makes some sense. As I understand it, the district or the school is responsible for proving to the accreditor that they should be accredited. It can take some time to prove that you adhere to the appropriate standards to recieve the stamp of approval.

But 8 years is one hell of a long time, especially if the RSD started operating as a blank slate in 2006. That means it could take until 2009 for the very first RSD schools to start applying and the first RSD schools won't recieve accreditation until 2014 at the earliest.

I have also learned that the individuals most affected by a school or district's accreditation are high school seniors applying to colleges. If you are going to a college or university that is regionally accredited, your admission is aided if you went to a high school that also had regional accreditation. If your high school was not regionally accredited, you may face additional hurdles when attempting to go to college. For the record, most of the recognizable colleges and universities have regional accreditation.

In response to this, many high schools require the GEE to graduate. This is a standardized exam that aids a passing student in proving to a regionally accredited university that the student's education has met certain standards necessary for admission.

Another way accreditation affects students is when it comes to transfer credits. This is actually a situation that Leigh wrote about that started this whole conversation. Many accredited schools will not accept transfer credits from non-accredited schools. This again becomes problematic for students as they may have to repeat classes based on what schools they end up attending in different years. I can also forsee this being a problem for students who attend RSD middle schools who then attempt to attend OPSB high schools that maintain accreditation. Let that roll around for a minute.

I have no current evidence that this has happened, but I wonder how many parents have been or will be told their children can't attend Lusher, O.P. Walker, Ben Franklin or Warren Easton not based on grades or LEAP scores, but because their children didn't attend an accredited middle school. (I also wonder how long it will take voucher-supporters to begin using this argument to further their cause.)

Questions Raised

1. Did all RSD schools and charters start with a blank slate as far as accreditation is concerned? Meaning - did the RSD changeover, which fired so many teachers, gutted the collective bargaining of UTNO and opened the door for so many new charter schools also remove any school's pre-storm accreditation?

2. If the above is discovered to be true, did pre-existing accreditation determine which schools stayed in OPSB and which became RSD?

3. If the above is discovered to be true, will RSD charters and RSD non-charters now all have to apply for accreditation based on the same timeline? Will the charters get to apply for accreditation independently and the RSD non-charters have to apply as a district?

4. If the RSD was created before the storms of 2005 to help turn around failing schools, wouldn't a part of the turnaround be based on applying for and recieving regional accreditation? If that is true, wouldn't one expect to see a plan, an accreditation point person or an accreditation committee working within the RSD to streamline and facilitate such an application?

5. Since the RSD took over schools in the 2006 - 2007 school year, wouldn't that mean that the schools that opened first will be able to apply for accreditation at the end of the 2008 - 2009 school year? Are those schools being prepped adequately for such an application?

6. Since so many RSD schools began year one in the 2007 - 2008 school year, were the data managers and administrators prepped on what specific data to begin collecting for the eventual accreditation application?

7. How did Lusher elementary completely take over Fortier HS and expand its scope as a school while maintaining accreditation? Did that school's special relationship with Tulane University (a SACS accredited university) aid this process in any way? What lessons can be learned from that to streamline other schools' application process?

Wow. Further down the rabbit hole we go. Special thanks to SAWB for the title.


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One Vote

How much does your vote count?

I just got off the phone with someone who knows.

In Florence, South Carolina, a cat I know just won the mayor's race by one vote. His younger brother, one of my best friends, called to tell me the news. Yes, it was just the Democratic Primary, but no Republican has declared a candidacy to face the winner in the fall. Yes, there will be recounts starting Thursday, to verify the vote tally. Things could change.

But right now, the election has been certified and the score currently stands: Willis 1467, Wukela 1468.

How powerful is one vote? If you think Globally and Act Locally, it can make a world of difference.

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Monday, June 09, 2008

Super Secret Liberal Takeover Headquarters Update

Welcome, Shakesville readers and linkers. Y'all roll mad deep, yo.

Tip of my sweaty red Georgia Bulldawgs hat to Suspect Device. Without him, I literally never would have seen this.

I love - and I mean really, really love hearing the right wing talk about college campuses being the places where young impressionable minds are brainwashed into the religion of liberalism. Back in the ol' days, when I was at college (and I was there for quite some time) there was a fair amount of political radicalism and social activism. There was quite a bit of umbrage and offense and indignaiton about the way the 'old world' worked, and how it would need to change!!

That's just part of the territory that comes from moving out of the fantasy-land of high school (you remember: when you lived with your parents, cruised the strip on the weekends, played in an atrocious cover band and worked in the service industry) and entered the reality-free-zone of college (where you lived in the dorms, tried to sneak into bars on the weekends, played in a slightly-less-atrocious cover band and worked in the service industry). Add the sweet socialist nectar of alcohol-on-demand to this enlightenment, and you've got a situation on your hands. That situation is half kegger and half revolution.

But, in all seriousness, so much of the politics is coffee shop smack talk that the equation is really 90% kegger and 5% revolution and 5% trying to find someone who's 21 to go get you some booze. Then add about 60% football season, another 30% going out to see bands, and another 135% chasing girls. I know that adds up to something like 300% or whatever, but my math skills = why I went to UGA and not Georgia Tech.

That enlightenment for the revolution thing is really moved to the back-burner, is what I'm sayin'. Other priorities emerge. It becomes more difficult to brainwash someone to any political bent if that person is nursing a hangover, by an order of magnitude at least. I point to exhibits "A" and "B".

Oh yeah, and occasionally you have to go to class to watch the right wingers look uncomfortable around liberal professors. Because right-wing children have been raised not to disagree with liberal professors because this may cause something called a discussion. This can be worked into one of the funniest drinking games I've ever ... umm ... witnessed. (Mom reads this stuff.)

Back to the point: I love it when the right-wing gets all up in a tizzy about college campuses and liberal brainwashing. But I lose my mind when they use the University of Georgia as an example of left wing shenanigans.

I guess this is our backlash for having the socialist HOPE scholarship for so long, right? I mean, we had our moonbats, to be sure (I used to be one of them), and they can be terribly obnoxious (as I once was), especially if they have power (which some of them do). But most of them haul ass back to Atlanta on game days for a reason.

Now this chick wants to complain, and I'm laughing so hard right now it is difficult to type, about left-wingery in the English Department??? Chick, that's why they built Park Hall. There is a reason the statement "you're not a communist, you're an English major" is so funny to UGA grads. There is also a reason the ROTC building is directly across the street from the English department. Just in case their drunk wears off and they start seriously thinking about that revolution stuff.

I mean, if you want to avoid liberal thought at UGA, leave the English department and walk in a northerly direction for about 200 feet. There you will find several buildings that service the "Terry College of Business," and there are few places in the world where you can go to see such a concentrated and fervent dedication to free-market Atlanta-fried capitalism.


But that might make too much sense, and not feed the myth of the left-wing intellectual brainwashing of America's youth.
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MSNBC Front Page

Talk about a softball article:

Charter Schools Rush To Fill Void in Big Easy. More of the 'kissing Charter school ass' media push, this one's gone national, that's all.

No mention, whatsoever, about the fact that none of these charters are yet accredited by a regional accrediting body (like SACS) - or that any of them are working actively for accreditation.

Some mention, at the very least, about the 'special education students to non-charters' problem. But the article phrases it as a naysayer's opinion, not a situation that any investigative reporter may have witnessed.

Positive mention of this:
For these new schools with taxpayer funding and independent management, old rules and habits are out. No more standard hours, seniority, union contracts, shared curriculum or common textbooks.
But these are also double edged swords: as there is also no peer review (like accreditation) and "no standard hours" means a constantly changing and inconsistent schedule - not to mention ridiculous workload.

No shared curriculum or common textbooks? I just don't think that is correct. I thought RSD charters had to follow the Louisiana LCC's and GLE's in their planning in order to get any state money. When I've spoken to my friends in charter schools, they seem to be using the same textbooks. I wonder what schools don't have to follow the same curriculums? Lord knows we all take the same LEAP test.

And this one is just dead wrong:
"The main difference is that most of the charters have the freedom to change, to get better, to hire the people they need to make the school better," said Jonathan Bertsch, KIPP's director of operations in New Orleans.
No. The Main Difference is that when charters finally get around to expelling students who have behavior problems and who constantly disrupt the school, the students they get to replace those come from their pre-screened waiting lists.

The regular schools just have to deal with discipline problems, bullies and fighting all the time because the system isn't really prepared to deal with such students in an effective way. They just go to the next school with an opening and begin their campaign of terror against that school's students.

But this article, for the most part, sounds like the reporter just called the people running the charter schools up on the phone and started asking for opinions. The whole story is not something that can be covered on two pages.

Hopefully the next one will be better.

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Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Not Accredited

Just. Fing. Wow.

Well, here's something I wasn't expecting. The Recovery School District (RSD), created by the Louisiana Board of Education, is not on the list of entities accredited by the Southern Association of Collges and Schools (SACS).

This could either be a big problem, or an even bigger problem.

If you were to look around on the RSD home website, you would be pressed to find any passing mention of what regional or national accreditation covers the dozens of schools and thousands of students in the RSD. I'm going to keep my ears to the ground and see if there has been some backdoor application to some sort of regional or national body that oversees standards in a school or system, but I don't think I'm going to find one.

I mean, one thing that is bothersome about the RSD is the accountability issue. If there is no overarching standards judged by the regional or national accreditation body, then there is almost no accountability at all.

Is there someone out there who knows what is going on? I sure hope so, but I ain't holding my breath.

Because, not belonging to any standard accrediting body would have been my very first retort to the vouchers-in-New-Orleans debate. I mean, it is legal to operate schools without accreditation, but it ain't a good idea. And while I don't agree with everything SACS requires, or the way they do their work, peer review is vital in the education field to maintain certain standard operating proceedures that are proven to aid student improvement.

Otherwise, schools are doing whatever they want to do, with no layer of peer accountability to go through.

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Gary Hart's Advice to Hillary

No, not advice from his experience in the 88 Presidential Campaign. It's advice from his sort-of similar 1984 Campaign against Mondale*. This article has kind of a VH-1 Behind the Music storyline of 1984 where if a band doesn't exactly fit the patterned story Behind the Music uses, they'll just cram the band into that storyline anyways**. There were a lot more differences between 1984 and 2008 besides the establishment candidate being on the winning end rather than losing end, respectively. First and foremost, they were really both establishment candidates. Gary Hart was a big time player in the Democratic Party long before his 1984 run. There was also a lot more bite to the fears that Mondale couldn't win a Presidential election against Reagan. Mondale had after all been part of the sinking ship that was the 1980 Democrat Presidential ticket. He had the stink of Jimmy Carter all over him.

But it was an interesting nomination process and this article is worth a read even if the only advice Hart really gives out in this 2-page article is relegated to a single paragraph.

* I am still convinced Mondale only ran for Senate a few years back so he could finish out the set and lose in all 50 states instead of just the 49 he lost in 84. Expect him to run for something in DC one of these days.

** See Bon Jovi as an example. Behind the Music likes to have the part in the show where the band breaks up and doesn't get along that well and with Bon Jovi they used the Blaze of Glory solo song Bon Jovi recorded as a jumping pad for that angle. But really the rest of the band just wasn't interested in recording at the time. No major band strife even though VH-1 tried to paint it that way.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Apples to Apples

But what if its all fruit from a poisoned tree?

The voucher argument is still ruffling feathers in New Orleans, as evidenced by this recent editorial by Jarvis DeBerry.

The new anti-voucher talking point is that the private and parochial schools that will be affected do not have to subject their students to the endless standardized testing that public schools are forced to endure. The new compromise is that, if any students recieve state money to attend private or parochial schools, they will have to take the LEAP exams - other students (the ones whose parents are paying for them to be there) still will not.

One sticking point is this: "if private and parochial schools are so good, why don't they prove it by making their students take the LEAP?" I read a letter to the editor today demanding a comparison of "apples to apples." Another point: why spend state money to send students to schools that aren't accountable to the public?

Another one I read (not in DeBerry's column) is that discipline problems and special education students will not be assisted by this, because they will be turned away by the private or parochial school.

To answer these questions and concerns, this post is about to get long and complicated, so bear with me.

First of all, let me state that I do not like the idea of vouchers. I was educated K - BA in a public education system, I've worked for public education in various forms, and I remain a stalwart believer that public education is one of the bedrock institutions of our democratic society. Let me also state that the current crop of folks running the public education system at high, high levels are doing everything in their power to shake me of this belief. While I do not agree with vouchers, I understand why they have so much support, in NOLA and nationally, and I understand why voucher proponents are winning more hearts and minds with every year. I also understand that most folks who are anti-voucher use rhetoric that only feeds the other side's credibility with the public.

I addressed many of the voucher issues in this post, which generally touched on issues of teacher certification, why the public school systems are strapped for cash and who the voucher programs actually would assist.

Having that out of the way, I'll address Mr. DeBerry's points:

1.) If public and parochial schools are so good, why don't they force their students to take the same kind of standardized exams as public schools?

First of all, people don't take their kids out of public school because instruction is better elsewhere, but I'll touch on that more in a moment. To speak directly to the "same kind of standardized exams as public schools" issue: in order to comply with state and national educational 'standards,' cash strapped school systems at the state and local levels spend huge sums of money paying testing organizations to generate numerous tests, distribute and deliver said tests, grade said tests, check said tests for cheating, then compile the results and compare them to all test takers.

What? Did you think LEAP tests fell magically from the sky? Princeton Review is gonna make their money off the taxpayers, believe that. That the Archdiocese of New Orleans doesn't give LEAP tests to their students probably has far more to do with a cost-benefit analysis than any attempt to decieve the public. Add to this information: parents who send their kids to private and parochial schools already pay for LEAP tests or similar exams for public schools through whatever mechanism the state uses to pay for schools, generally through a system we have around here called taxes.

2.) Let us compare "apples to apples."

In order to teach at a public school, I had to take a training course. I had to take certification classes. I've been around Master of Education classes and I took certification classes waay back at UGA for my first major. Every single one of these "how to be a teacher" programs stressed the idea that not every child learns in the same way. They all stressed that there will be students in my classes who are not on the same level. Every single class drilled into me that there was no "one size fits all" model in education. Every. Single. Class.

So, why the f**k do we force our students to endure "one size fits all" testing? No comparison in the world would be 'apples to apples.' Hell, comparing the testing results from the school I taught at this year to the testing results from other schools wouldn't even be considered 'apples to apples.' More like 'apples to orange soda.'

These tests aren't even designed to compare apples to the same apples! They exist in a vaccum of assuming every student shows up in the 4th or 8th grade with the same amount of pre-knowledge from the 3rd or 7th grade, regardless of their 3rd or 7th grade iLEAP scores.

And Princeton Review keeps makin' that money!!

3.) Why spend state money to send students to schools that are not accountable to the public.

You already do. The public education system is in its current state because high ranking officials are nearly free from accountability. When was the last time something changed because of a large public outcry? When was the last time the whole state legislature was kicked out for letting our schools get to such a point of disarray? What public accountability? But that's what happens when you focus on liability rather than accountability.

4.) Students with discipline problems and special education needs will be turned away at the door from private and parochial schools.

This. Is. The. Main. Selling. Point. Of. Vouchers. You know why public school LEAP scores are in the toilet? Because there are no consequences for students with discipline problems. They get suspended enough, they just get sent to another school to terrorize the student population there. Who the F can learn in a classroom, how can a teacher teach in a classroom when Student with a Discipline Problem is throwing rocks at everyone? Running around slapping other students on the neck and face? Its a classroom, not an uprising. Parents complained about their students not having textbooks, but didn't beleive the schools when they were told the students threw all the textbooks out the windows into the rain.

And they know what to say to people to keep getting away with it. One student, a rock thrower who liked to rip apart science experiments and slap young ladies in my class, told me that the answer was to "teach harder."

You don't have to turn them away at the door, but letting them terrorize your student body keeps every student down and the scores very low. Your system has to have mechanisms in place to deal with discipline problems. This does not include just "sending them to another school."

And the special education students? Same thing. There's a world of difference between "inclusion" and "dumping." I was able to do a lot with my students who had mild problems. They could still learn about the material. But if there's a student in my class who can't do anything more than drool on her paper; if there's a student in my class who can't do anything but copy words from around the room onto her paper...that's not learning, that's torture. Those students aren't supposed to be in the same classes as a bunch of squirmy 7th and 8th graders who need a great deal of attention anyway.

So you don't have to turn them away at the door, but you have to have a plan on how to deal with them so they aren't destroying every other student's ability to get an education, and forcing a high rate of teacher turnover.

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Half the Vote

Lot of protesting today. And I'm about to say some things that are going to get me in trouble down the line. Because I can't stand protesters when I agree with them (SAWB can vouch for me). But what really gets me are protesters who drive me to feel contempt.

"Count Every Vote," and all that. "What do we want? Democracy! When do we want it? Now!"

Yeah, right. How about this one: "What do you need? A Calendar! When did you need it? A couple months back, when you didn't look like a bunch of spoiled brats on C-SPAN!"

I dare these same people to show up to their voting precincts on the Tuesday after the first Monday in October to cast their ballot for President. See if that vote counts. Then they can go complain to the US government about it. Betcha no one will give an inch.

Yes, you live in a democracy, but that doesn't mean you don't have to follow rules, knuckleheads. Here's some real simple, common sense things: The sun will rise tomorrow in the East. If you jump into water, you will get wet. If you poo somewhere other than in a recommended receptacle, you've made a mess.

There are rules we have about voting in this country, for good or ill. And, if you vote in the wrong way, or during the wrong time or on the wrong day when you know that vote does not count, don't complain about it to me at some later date because NOW you want to particpate. Should have been thinking about that some time ago.

And one last thing: don't DARE come to the national party or complain about any candidate. You don't like it, talk to your damn state party leadership because this is their screw up, no one else's.

And, taking one for the team, G-Bitch liveblogged the "proceedings".


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