Uncommon Sense

politics and society are, unfortunately, much the same thing

What works in helping the poor?

How do we help struggling Americans rise out of poverty? In his first Vision Talk, Robert Doar, AEI’s fellow in poverty studies and former New York City welfare commissioner, offers four key principles everyone concerned with fighting poverty should know.

conservative, economics, ideology, poverty, public policy, reform, video, welfare

Filed under: conservative, economics, ideology, poverty, public policy, reform, video, welfare

New Website Exposes Sky-High Public School Salaries, Including Dozens of Six-Figure Custodians

July 30, 2014 by Victor Skinner

California school employees are squirming to justify their top-dollar salaries to the public after a government watchdog group recently launched an online database with the eye-opening compensation records of over a half-million employees.

“The public votes on tax measures, bond measures without complete knowledge about how the money is being spent,” Ed Ring, executive director of the California Policy Center, told the LA Times. “Taxpayers are paying these salaries so they have a right to know.”

That’s why the Center recently launched Transparent California, a searchable online database with compensation figures for more than 581,000 California public school employees, as well as pay data for other public sector employees.

And the figures are staggering.

“Last year, James Hammond, the superintendent of the Montclair-Ontario Unified School District in the Inland Empire, was paid $492,077. Jonathan Eagan, the principal of a junior high school in the Bay Area city of Martinez made $279,669,” the Times reports.

“And 31 custodians at California public schools were paid more than $100,000 in 2013.”

The data was collected through public information requests sent by the Center to 1,058 school districts across the state, though only about 653 responded with relevant data. The Los Angeles school district, for example, hasn’t released the salary figures for its school employees.

The data the Center did receive back, however, certainly erode the relentless claim by union and school officials that school districts are underfunded.

read full article: New Website Exposes Sky-High Public School Salaries, Including Dozens of Six-Figure Custodians

budget, education, funding, government, nanny state, scandal

Filed under: budget, education, funding, government, nanny state, scandal

More States Abandoning the Sinking Common Core Ship

July 28, 2014 by Vicki Alger

Barbarians at the gate.” That’s what Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal called opponents of Common Core national standards several weeks ago. His remarks are symptomatic of just how far elected officials within and outside Arizona have strayed from our Constitution, which doesn’t even contain the word “education.”

Supporters claim Common Core will provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students should know to be prepared for college and their future careers. On the contrary, many experts serving on Common Core review committees warn that academic rigor was compromised for the sake of political buy-in from the various political interest groups involved—including teachers unions.

Unsurprisingly, the curriculum is being used to advance a partisan political agenda, showcasing one-sided labor unionObamaCare, and global warming materials, along with more graphic, adult-themed books under the auspices of promoting diversity and toleration. But the politicization doesn’t stop there.

Non-academic, personal information is being collected through federally funded Common Core testing consortia about students and their parents, including family income, parents’ political affiliations, their religion, and students’ disciplinary records—all without parental consent. That information, including Social Security numbers of students in at least one state, is being shared with third-party data collection firms, prompting a growing number of parents to opt their children out of Common Core.

But they’re not alone.

Originally, 45 states signed on to Common Core, but so far four states have formally pulled out. Indiana recently became the first one to reverse course and implement state standards instead. This decision earned athreatening letter from the U.S. Department of Education about withholding funds and revoking Indiana’s waiver from onerous federal No Child Left Behind Act mandates.

South Carolina, Missouri, and Oklahoma have also ditched Common Core standards. In fact, Oklahoma’s legislation is considered the strictest to date for expressly reinstating previous standards for a two-year review period and prohibiting any aligning between assessments and Common Core. Seven additional states have pulled out of their federally subsidized testing consortia, and four more are considering doing the same—although one testing consortium, Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC),still lists several withdrawn states as members.

Common Core is publicized as a state-led, voluntary initiative, but in reality it’s an offer states can’t refuse if they want their share of billions of federal dollars for education programs.

read full article: More States Abandoning the Sinking Common Core Ship

budget, children, corruption, education, elitism, funding, government, ideology, indoctrination, nanny state, oppression, pandering, political correctness, politics, propaganda, public policy, reform, scandal

Filed under: budget, children, corruption, education, elitism, funding, government, ideology, indoctrination, nanny state, oppression, pandering, political correctness, politics, propaganda, public policy, reform, scandal

POLITICO: MOMS ARE WINNING THE COMMON CORE WAR

July 30, 2014 by DR. SUSAN BERRY
Despite Common Core champion Bill Gates funneling millions of dollars from his foundation to powerhouses like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the two largest teachers unions in the country, and the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, Politico says it’s “the moms” who are winning the Common Core war.

The moms have been so successful in educating parents about the development and nature of the Common Core initiative that the standards’ proponents have concluded they’re losing the larger public debate and need to switch to a better PR plan, says Politico.

In the rebooted campaign, new infusions of cash to pro-Common Core groups will not be used for more charts depicting graphs of the decline of the American student, nor for ads showcasing Common Core talking points words, such as “rigorous,” “research-based,” “internationally benchmarked,” and “state-led.”

Instead, the focus of the new ad campaign will be on “emotion.”

“We’ve been fighting emotion with talking points, and it doesn’t work,” said Mike Petrilli, executive vice president of the Fordham Institute. “There’s got to be a way to get more emotional with our arguments if we want to win this thing. That means we have a lot more work to do.”

Petrilli and his fellow Common Core proponents plan to “get more emotional” by trying to make Americans angry about the current state of education in the nation.

For example, according to Politico, Petrilli says college students who must take remedial classes should be “mad as hell” that their school systems failed them. Interestingly, his assumption appears to be that none of the students taking remedial classes were slack-offs in high school who chose to party instead of study. His comment only proves that the bureaucratic theme of Common Core may well be that students are not responsible for their failures, but “the system” is.

In their new PR campaign, Common Core supporters will also be showcasing business owners who really tried to hire local high school kids but couldn’t find any who knew how to divide piles of lumber into thirds.

read full article: POLITICO: MOMS ARE WINNING THE COMMON CORE WAR

campaign, children, education, ideology, indoctrination, nanny state, pandering, political correctness, propaganda, reform, scandal, victimization

Filed under: campaign, children, education, ideology, indoctrination, nanny state, pandering, political correctness, propaganda, reform, scandal, victimization

Another bloodstain on Islam’s holy calendar

July 30, 2014 by Colin Freeman

The Islamic world has just observed the end of Ramadan, the month-long spell of fasting that unites the world’s 1.6bn Muslims. For the vast majority, it’s a time for celebrating the virtues of self-sacrifice. And for a tiny monitory, it’s a time for celebrating the virtues of sacrificing others.

That, certainly, is the message given out by the horrific new video produced by the Islamic State, the Islamist group that last month seized vast swathes of northern Iraq.

Released to coincide with the Eid festival that marks the end of Ramadan, it’s grim even by the X-rated standards of jihadi snuff movies, a half-hour “best of” compilation of clips of mass executions and beheadings by masked Islamic State gunmen.

In one section, a group of terrified Iraqi soldiers are led to a sandy desert pit and executed one by one with an AK-47. In another, they are shot dead by the edge of a river and then shoved into the water, their pistol-wielding killer standing in an ever-expanding pool of blood. Other shots include suicide bombers and snipers in action, and Shia mosques and shrines being destroyed. Judging by the slick quality of the editing, it’s presumably only a matter of time before the Islamic State releases its own boxset of its various atrocities to date.

The idea of this stuff, of course, is not just for the Islamic State’s sadists to feel good about themselves. Its real purpose is to terrify ordinary Iraqis, showing the fate that will befall them if they try and defend themselves. One piece of footage, for example, shows a captured Iraqi soldier being humiliated for trying to hide his uniform under civilian clothes. Sadly, in a paranoid culture like Iraq’s, where no news is news unless there are pictures to prove it – or at least purport to prove it – it tends to have the desired effect.

In a sense, there is nothing new about this stuff. It first surfaced with the al-Qaeda beheading videos that followed the US led-invasion of Iraq in 2003, and since then, both sides in Iraq’s sectarian divide have producing video nasties to make their point. In 2005, I remember my old translator in Iraq gleefully showing me a mobile phone video of three Shia soldiers playing football with a suicide bomber’s decapitated head. It made the “happy slapping” craze that was taking place back in Britain at the time seem rather tame.

Back then, though, it was only relatively techno-savvy people like my translator who would see it. Now it is far more omnipresent, and it does not take a genius to work out how incendiary this kind of material is in fuelling the fires of civil war. Indeed, Western diplomats I have spoken to in Baghdad say they believe one of the main sources of radicalisation in both Iraq and Syria has been jihadist videos of various sorts, circulated among young men who may not have much in the way of jobs or prospects, but do have access to 3G mobile phones. The diplomats were referring mainly to the videos’ effectiveness in recruiting young Sunni men to join the Islamic State. But I would also imagine that any Shia who saw their loved one being executed before the camera – victims’ terrified faces are often clearly visible – would be pretty keen to take up arms as well.

That should really be enough gloomy observations for now. But there is one other that I can’t help making. During my decade as a foreign correspondent, I have lost count of the number of bombings, massacres and other atrocities that have been timed to take place during Muslim holy periods, be it Ramadan, the Eid holidays or other times. Sadly, dates in the Muslim calendar that are supposed to be synonymous with peace and happiness are now often anything but.

original article: Another bloodstain on Islam’s holy calendar

extremism, foreign affairs, hate crime, ideology, terrorism

Filed under: extremism, foreign affairs, hate crime, ideology, islam, terrorism

View: Zephyr Teachout on Common Core

The Fordham law professor who is challenging Gov. Andrew Cuomo for the Democratic ticket outlines her concerns about Common Core, and education plan for New York.

In 2008 Microsoft founder Bill Gates, one of the world’s richest men, decided that he should take charge of education policy. He promoted a single set of standards to measure our children’s achievements in school. Since then Gates has spent more than $200 million to advance this idea, called the “Common Core.” Gov. Andrew Cuomo, since taking office in early 2011, has supported the use of Common Core in New York schools.

The idea of a shared, high standard sounds appealing. But in practice what Common Core means is that students and teachers are subject to a grueling regime of tests that the citizens and families of our state never really had the chance to discuss. In the words of education historian Diane Ravitch, the imposition of Bill Gates’ Common Core has been “the closest thing to an educational coup in the history of the United States.”

Common Core forces teachers to adhere to a narrow set of standards, rather than address the personal needs of students or foster their creativity. That’s because states that have adopted the standards issue mandatory tests whose results are improperly used to grade a teacher’s skill and even to determine if he or she keeps their job. These tests have created enormous and undue stress on students, and eroded real teaching and real learning. What’s more, there’s sound reason to question whether these standards even measure the right things or raise student achievement. No doubt, many teachers have found parts of the standards useful in their teaching, but there is a big difference between optional standards offered as support, and standards foisted on teachers regardless of students’ needs.

Widespread outrage from teachers and parents has led Gov. Cuomo to tweak the rules around the implementation of the Common Core and call for a review of the rollout. But Gov. Andrew Cuomo has not addressed the real problem with Common Core.

Bill Gates’ coup

The fundamental issue is not the technicalities of how the standards are implemented. It is not even that Gov. Cuomo allowed this regime even as he was stripping schools of basic funding, leading class sizes to swell and forcing schools to slash programs in art and extra help. The root problem with Common Core is that it is undemocratic. It is a scheme conceived and heavily promoted by a handful of distant and powerful actors. Here in New York, it was adopted with insufficient input from local teachers, parents, school boards or students, the very people whose lives it so profoundly affects.

read full article: View: Zephyr Teachout on Common Core

bureaucracy, corruption, education, government, nanny state, politics, reform, scandal

Filed under: bureaucracy, corruption, education, government, nanny state, politics, reform, scandal

How does the federal gov’t take over state-lead education initiatives?

The nation’s top education official threatened Monday to withhold federal funds if California lawmakers approved pending legislation to revamp the state’s standardized testing system.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan issued the warning as AB 484 awaits a full vote of the Assembly and state Senate.

The proposed law would end the standardized exams used since 1999 and replace them next spring with a computerized system. The purpose is to advance new learning goals, called the Common Core standards, that have been adopted by 45 states.

California would be moving up its timetable for the computerized tests by a year, leaving some school districts scrambling to prepare. The plan also would result in the suspension of test scores for at least a year during a trial run of the new exams.

The lack of test scores attracted Duncan’s criticism.

“Letting an entire school year pass for millions of students without sharing information on their schools’ performance with them and their families is the wrong way to go about this transition,” he said in a statement. “No one wants to over-test, but if you are going to support all students’ achievement, you need to know how all students are doing.”

Duncan declined to specify what action he would take, and in fact, the federal government has no direct authority over state school systems. But the department controls billions of dollars in federal funds, which can make up about 10% of a school district’s budget. This money adds up to about $600 million a year for Los Angeles Unified, according to the district.

“If California moves forward with a plan that fails to assess all its students, as required by federal law, the department will be forced to take action, which could include withholding funds,” Duncan said.

read full article: U.S. secretary of education opposes California’s testing plan

bureaucracy, corruption, education, extortion, funding, government, ideology, indoctrination, nanny state, oppression, philosophy, political correctness, politics, public policy, reform, scandal

Filed under: bureaucracy, corruption, education, extortion, funding, government, ideology, indoctrination, nanny state, oppression, philosophy, political correctness, politics, public policy, reform, scandal

Video: The History of Common Core

bureaucracy, cronyism, education, elitism, funding, government, ideology, nanny state, political correctness, politics, public policy

Filed under: bureaucracy, cronyism, education, elitism, funding, government, ideology, nanny state, political correctness, politics, public policy

Major Win For School Choice: Charter Students Smarter, Earn More

July 22, 2014 vy Robby Soave

A just-released study from the University of Arkansas provides a substantial endorsement of charter school education. U.S. students who spent several years in charter schools were found to score significantly better on tests and make more money than their counterparts in traditional K-12 public schools, when adjusted for funding discrepancies.

Researchers examined data from 21 different states. While the results varied, charter schools were found to be more productive—and generate a higher return on investment—than traditional public schools (TPS). On average, charter school students scored so much better on assessments that spending money on charters was roughly 40 percent more efficient than spending money on TPS. According to the study:

Comparing [National Assessment of Education Progress] achievement obtained in public charter schools versus TPS for 21 states and DC, we find the public charter school sector delivers a weighted average of an additional 17 NAEP points per $1000 invested in math, representing a productivity advantage of 40% for charters; In reading, the public charter sector delivers an additional 16 NAEP points per $1000 invested, representing a productivity advantage of 41% for charters.

… The analyses we present in this report indicate that charter schools are more productive than TPS, either because they produce higher student gains at a lower cost or because they produce similar or only slightly lower student outcomes at a significantly lower cost.

The results were more pronounced among students who had spent significant time in charter schools. A student who attended a charter for just a year typically enjoyed only a slightly more productive educational experience, whereas students who spent six years in charters enjoyed a higher return on investment.

The Department of Education Reform at UA published the study. (The Walton Family Foundation, which supports school choice, funded the study. The authors claim that the foundation played no other role in developing the study.)

The study may not persuade charter school skeptics, but it’s still a powerful piece of ammunition for libertarians trying to make the case that market incentives and individual choice are the best tools for fixing American education.

original article: Major Win For School Choice: Charter Students Smarter, Earn More

children, education, funding, reform, spending

Filed under: children, education, funding, reform, spending

Homeschoolers take on Common Core reforms

July 10, 2014 by Michael D. Clark

Long before eight states began rejecting Common Core school reforms, the sweeping new academic standards were considered enemy combatants in Lesley Hodge’s Loveland home.

A former attorney and mother of a home-schooled teenager, Hodge is hard pressed to limit her criticism of the educational changes hitting Ohio public schools with full force in the coming school year.

But she is laser focused on the single largest impact Common Core will have on her daughter and the 1.8 million students – 3.5 percent of all American K-12 students – whose parents eschew public and private schools for home instruction.

Initially, Common Core will have little impact on home-schooled students.

But in a few years, when home-schooled teens walk side-by-side with public high school students into ACT and SAT college examination rooms, they may be at a distinct disadvantage for not having studied a Common Core curricula.

“Common Core standards drive curriculum, curriculum drives testing … Children will be taught to the test and it affects us home-schoolers because our children have to take those same college entrance exams as everybody else,” said Hodge as she joined thousands of area families at a recent home schooling convention in downtown Cincinnati.

“Everything will boil down to what (home-schoolers) provide on a test and then that will determine where they go to college and I believe that … (at) some point, some committee will say, ‘Well, your child shouldn’t have this career because your child is not qualified.’ ”

read full article: Homeschoolers take on Common Core reforms

bureaucracy, children, education, government, nanny state, political correctness, public policy, reform, regulation, unintended consequences

Filed under: bureaucracy, children, education, government, nanny state, political correctness, public policy, reform, regulation, unintended consequences

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