Category Archives: school

>REACT: Pay-for-Grades … more nonsense from education industry

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As a long time education consultant, I take a special interest in the subject of urban education. I never cease to be amazed at the idiotic stuff the education industry comes up with to pretend to reform our city school systems which they do not really wish to reform. That is why decades of so-called “reforms” have failed at the bottom line – student performance.

These are the folks who have jerry-rigged test scores to make results look better. They promoted black vernacular under some notion that black students cannot learn English. They produce Spanish-only education, insuring that Hispanics will not matriculate successfully into the American culture (<= read that, good jobs). They invented “social promotions” to shove ill-prepared kids out of their classrooms and schools. They keep students held prisoners in substandard schools rather than embrace school choice. They have opposed every effort to rid the schools of unqualified and underperforming teachers. Because diplomas are now meaningless as indicators of a student’s knowledge, the education lobby offers special senior year testing to see who has skill levels and who does not. They have shortened the school day and school year to provide more time off for teachers and less education time for students. (You wonder why the Asian education system is killing us).

Now cometh the newest doomed-to-failure idiocy from the folks in Chicago.
In 20 schools students will receive cash on the barrel head for grades. Not only does this create the wrong incentives. It violates every notion of the purpose of education as a life-long process. More importantly, however, it will further corrupt an already corrupt system. With that added incentive of money (the source of all corruption), students, parents and teachers will game the system. We will see superficial success in the improvement in grades, but it will not indicate an improvement in learning. The system will dumb down the grades even further to get the money. Simple as that.
This is a form of bribery – paying money for something that should be accomplished without monetary compensation. Oh! Wait! This is Chicago, where bribery, of one sort or another, is the only way to get things done.
We are not talking allowance and lunch money. A straight-A student in one of the select school can “earn” up to $4000. But even Cs can get you money. Being average, even mediocre, is no barrier to financial rewards. The kids get half the money with the grade, and the other half is reserved for them until they graduate.
Now, my cynical mind wants to know … where is the reserved money kept? Is it just a down the line expense that will have to be funded later. That’s one of the major problems already. Or … will the money be preserved in some sort of escrow account that can be manipulated for maximum political benefit like the underfunded retirement accounts? Either way it is a loser for the taxpayers.
Presumably, if this “experiment” is successful, all Chicago students well reap the rewards. Students who naturally get A’s simply now get a windfall of money from the cash starved school system and the overburdened taxpayers. This idea generated out of the academia sector of the education industry – specifically the Education Laboratory of Harvard University. In other words, we have a theoretical solution from those who spend their life with theoretical problems. I would be more impressed if Harvard would launch a program to pay there students for good grades. Don’t hold your breathe for that one.
Well, for a while this will produce some faux results, and eventually slip in the recycle bin of history only to be replaced by yet another non-start idea from and industry more interested in the appearance of reform than the reality. Urban education will not improve until we get it out of the hands of the entrenched liberal establishment that sees the primary purpose of education as the perpetuation of their political power.
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>REACT: Thank God and John Walton for Wal-Mart.

>Wal-Mart just introduced the $199 computer. More about that below, but first a little preface …

The broad phalanx attack on Wal-Mart by the various battalions of liberal activists is typical of their hatred of the free market system, free trade and free just-about-anything-else — except lunch.

The unions grouse about Wal-Mart resisting representation – representation which would do nothing more than increase the costs of goods for the American consumer and make the fat cat leaders of labor a little fatter. They tell how Wal-Mart is paying wages in Asia that are a fraction of the American worker. They forget to mention that you can buy a bushel of corn in China for 12 cents. My tailor makes my pin-stripped power suits for under $100. I can leave KFC stuffed for about a buck and a half. I had $3000 worth of dental work (American dentist estimate) completed beautifully in China for $400. Also had a physical and the complete blood test cost me a Jefferson. (No, not a nickel. Geeez. A two dollar bill.)

In China, Wal-Mart is lifting tens of thousands of people out of poverty at every step of the supply chain. If Wal-Mart was such a damned awful employer, why is it when they open a store in China the job application line runs from Beijing to Shanghai? Unions also grouse about how poorly Wal-Mart treats its American workers. Same question. Why do they receive thousands of applications at every store?

Some of the alderman in my Chicago home town city council are fighting hard to keep Wal-Mart out of the Windy City – thus denying their constituents much-needed jobs and lower prices, and the city coffers some tax revenue. What is their motivation? Blind hatred with a dash of stupidity. Of course, that is only an opinion.

Then there is the crowd that complains that Wal-Mart’s lower prices are ruining the market. Pause and ponder here folks. These libs are so whacko that they think higher prices are good thing – competition is a bad thing. They say higher prices means more pay for the workers. Well, a lot of those wage gains will be eaten up by the higher prices…..duh. And the over-paid union leaders seem completely oblivious to the fact that a company also must serve its stockholders and the consuming public – and there are a lot more of them than workers. Wal-Mart has been a key player in bringing down the prices of tens of thousands of consumer products, even in the face of modest inflation. These are real dollar reductions, not the theoretical stuff we get from economists and accountants. Tee shirts that were once $14 are now $5.

One of my more liberal friends (and yes I DO have liberal friends – quite a few, in fact) criticized Wal-Mart for practically putting FAO Schwartz out of business. If you are not familiar with them, they are a trendy upscale toy store that catered to the rich and famous. It seems that nasty old Wal-Mart began selling a lot of the same toys for a fraction of the prices charged by FAO to the price-is-no-object crowd. (Since my friend’s heart is bleeding for FAO, the term “limousine liberal” suddenly jumped into my mind.)

This is how the free market and competition works. This is a good thing. I mean, yeah, I am sorry to see FAO become more like a Macy toy department. They were a fun store. However, price rules for most people – as it should.

Now … about those $199 computers. I can’t wait for the libs to figure out how to criticize this one.

The left pays a lot of attention to public education (which, in and of itself, serves as an example of the failure of their philosophy). They like to think that they are the vanguard of progressive and innovative education. Everyone agrees that getting computers in the hands of students at an early age is a good thing. The education industry has expressed that need for decades (ever since Al Gore invented the Internet).

The fear and reality is that the computer age created yet another gap between the “haves” and the “have nots.” Those financially-challenged kids trapped in the liberal-run city school systems are at the greatest disadvantage. The affluent parents are buying their kids thousands of dollars of cutting edge electronics to support education, while the kids in the inner city schools are getting the benefit of electronic metal detectors to eliminate cutting edges of a different sort.

There have been scores of programs to try to provide computers. The Holy Grail was always held out to be the $199 computer. Most programs fell far short of success because of the cost of the equipment. Now cometh that nasty old Wal-Mart again, this with the $199 computer. Suddenly, the dream of every kid having a laptop is inching toward reality.

Just think of the impact on our children when we can finally bring modern technology to the disadvantaged. (We do not call them disadvantaged for nothing, folks). There have been tons written on the enormous benefits of computers for kids, so you can only imagine the impact Wal-Mart pricing will have on education.

Next time you hear one of these liberal groups kicking about Wal-Mart, just remember those kids who are getting a better education – something the lip-service libs and the kids-last unions have failed to do for a generation or two.

The free market works. Alleluia!

>REACT: What’s next? An eleven-inch ruler

>If you do not believe government bureaucrats exist in a nether world of surrealism, then consider this.

The new contract between the Chicago public schools and the teachers’ union shortens the school year by approximately two weeks – essentially knocking off the June weeks.

At a time when America is losing the educational edge to the populous “backward” nations like China and India, the pressure is on to expand the school year. The most progressive education advocates talk of year-round schooling. Not only is this an educational advantage, but in today’s society, full time schooling conforms better to the career life of two-income families. The traditional school schedule is predicated on the anachronistic requirement to have the kids home for the summer farm chores.

Now cometh the Chicago Teachers’ Union and their cronies at the Board of Education. They have an explanation as to why less time at more money is better for the children – and the taxpayer.

This ought to get a really good belly laugh out of you.

By adding a marginal 15 minutes to each school day, the students will receive greater educational benefit than those two weeks on the eve of summer vacation. So, school administrator, Arne Duncan, suggests — with a straight face and I suspect crossed fingers – that the public school kids will get better quality time out of those few additional moments a day than two weeks of full time tutoring.

He proffers the idea that those two pesky weeks in June are really rather useless – not a lot of good quality education going on. After all, the kids are daydreaming of summer plans and the teachers are suffering from a form of “exit attitude.” Duncan does not explain why this same form of psychological meltdown would not occur in the last two weeks of May.

Also, the logic that a few minutes at the fudgey end of a school day can be equated with several full days of academic requirement is lost on me. How does that work? You add three minutes to each class? If you do the math, even those silly add-on minutes do not compensate for all the lost time.

(Hey, this gives me an idea. I am going to have my family add ten minutes to each meal, and then completely skip eating for a month or two.)

Furthermore, how professional are our Chicago teachers if they simply “lose it” when the weather warms up? My children were blessed with suburban public school educations or, in one case, a private school education. I do not recall a similar seasonal dysfunction in those institutions. Just this past June, we noted that our son’s teachers were pedal-to-the-metal within 24 hours of the close of the school year. It would appear the year-end malady is unique to Chicago public schools.

Basically, the new contact deal is grounded in the same philosophy that has produced all the old deals. It is very simple. The union fights for more money and less work – the children be damned.

Arguably, the group most responsible for the shameful and tragic decline of the Chicago school system is the union. With the complicity of weak or duplicitous administrators and cohort politicians, the union has been able to rape the public treasury of every well-intentioned new dollar the taxpayers coughed up. It is not about funding education. It is about funding union demands, and the political clout of billions of dollars in expenditures and pension investments – and those millions in campaign contributions.

As a person who was involved in several contract negotiations for both the Chicago and Detroit boards of education, I will tell without fear of refutation: I have never seen a time where the school unions placed the welfare of the student in the classroom above the narrow demands designed to strengthen the union. Never.

I like to remind people that the teachers’ union is not an educational institution. It is a private membership organization. Greater membership, more dues and growing pension funds are their objective. The public treasury is the means. Education is just the vehicle.

Once again, the school children of Chicago will be harmed for the sake of union peace – at any price.