A Voice of Reason: Sane Views for a Crazy World

November 9, 2008

Opinion: Why President Elect Obama Won

Here is my analysis of a few key factors that elected our new President.  First just a few points.  This was not a landslide, not even close.  While Mr. Obama has in my view a clear mandate, he still has 46% plus who remain unsold.  However, gathering 52% is a good sign for his administration.  Secondly, statistically speaking he did NOT inspire people to vote more than in past elections.  The percentage of the voters relevant to total population was statistically insignificant in 2008 than 2004 and 2000. 

1) Ability to stay on message.  This is called by Jim Collins “The Hedgehog Principle”.  Hedgehogs in the business and political world have the ability to stay focused and on message.  They know what they do well and they make that their selling point.  The Obama campaign was highly disciplined.  Other than the occassional gaffe that he made against certain radio show commentators, which hurt him in all probability, the campaign, also helped by media which did not press the stories, would not allow themselves to be taken off their message, which was simple.  The message was, things are bad, we can bring about change.  The changes sought were tied to the current dissatisfaction the country has with the Bush Administration, but was generally short on details.  This was picked up by many as being vapid.  However, give credit to the Obama Campaign handlers.  They made a choice to keep him away from town hall venues and press interviews where he could be hurt.  I believe his relatively poor performance at Saddleback showed their wisdom in this and solidified their resolve not to let events they couldn’t control, such as the economy alter their message of change.  If anything they took the events handed to them and used the events to be an echo of a broad theme.

2) The financial debacle.  One of the things that in contrast to Sen. McCain’s reaction of “I must do something” was that the Obama handlers used the event to broadcast their theme.  This was in disregard to many of the inconvenient facts – the much of the problems of the banking mess were caused by policies created under President Carter and greatly expanded under President Clinton.  The correlation picked up by some in the media – mostly print – of ties to Fannie and Freddie and high ranking Democrats never was picked up.  Obama stayed out of the fray but framed the fray to buoy his premise that “change is needed”.  It worked.  While the crisis was not cooked by campaign, the decision to stay outside the mess initially showed him being detached, and that is not always a bad thing as it is more objective.  Many polls showed that McCain was gaining traction and had a slight lead up to this point.  This was caused in part by some slips by the Obama campaign, the momentum of the GOP Convention – which was effective, and the initial excitement of Sarah Palin into the foray. 

3) Ability to appear credible.  Sen. Obama’s largest hurdle was to keep the excitement of his base, youth and left to left of center Americans and expand his credibility to John and Mary Q. Public who are Center to Center Right.  America was seen, and most identified themselves as “Conservative”.  There is one bit of news that shows this to be true, at least socially.  California’s repudiation by the voters of same sex marriage – in a year where the left and center left continued to show their appeal over right and center right candidates by a 15% point margin – indicates that even among “blue states” there is a cultural position of maintaining the status quo.  Although he fared badly at Saddleback, and any objective reporting of the event along with the shift of pubilc sentiment alludes to that, the fact that Sen. Obama was visibly comfortable with the Evangelical community is important.  There is a reason.  Although politically many ” ‘Black’ Evangelicals” are left and left of center, culturally many of them are right of center – to include school reform (vouchers, NCLB) and most notably views on homosexuality  This allowed those Evangelicals who are more Centrist and whose interpretation of their Christitanity leads them to value social activism and bread and butter issues highly – such as The Soujourners – to ally with Mr. Obama.  Obama also showed a shift – and it was a major one – during the debates.  Stating that “conditions on the ground” would dictate American policy in Iraq was startling and far more hawkish than anything he or any other Democrat had said during the primary season.  This combined with his statements of expanding the war in Afghanistan and putting pressure on Pakistan took away the “wimp factor” in many.  Mr. Obama’s shifting to the center from the hard left of the Democratic base is as old as politics.  Run to your base in the primary, tack to the mainstream in general election.  It will be interesting to see how he governs.

4.  Weariness of the Bush Administration.  This is the real reason why Sen. Obama won the election.  I will not offer conjecture if Sen. Clinton would have fared better, but I think it would have been about the same.  By all counts this was the nation speaking with their ballots of their dissatisfaction with Iraq policies and the numerous failures of the Bush Administration – and there are many to bring to light.  The Bush Administration started losing this election with their victory in 2000.  Fifty percent of the nation was not happy with that result.  President Bush did enjoy many political and policy victories.  NCLB will remain with the nation in some form for many years.  Efforts to change the political and social framework in Africa will also remain.  Also, it is likely that US policies in the Middle East will remain in some form and that the “War on Terror” will be funded with many of the policies once opposed by the Dem base suddenly accepted.  The NYT reported about GITMO on Wednesday and it was amazing how suddenly GITMO was no longer the first level of Dante’s Hell.  
However, the many debacles of the Bush Administration including the handling of the Iraq War after the initial objectives had been achieved, the perception and reality of the “out of touchness” that the President had whether it was by not listening to then NSA Rice message to “Get back to DC NOW” or the realities and perceptions of the sluggishness of federal response to Katrina.  Throw in the perceptions of ABU and you get the picture.  Most reasonable people understand that the POTUS does not have a big say in economic trends.  They either benefit or take blame from the markets, but what Presidents can do is frame perspective.  Whether or not the latter is Mr. Bush’s fault – although many have viewed him as a “lame duck” since ’06, the people’s loss of confidence in the outgoing administration was in many ways deserved.  Sen. McCain had to fight against a skilled opponent and his own Party’s brand label.  Even Sen. Obama wouldn’t have been able to overcome those factors.

Summary:  All of this is prologue.  The interesting part to watch will be to see how Mr. Obama governs as President Obama.  If a President Obama is able to do as well as he did with the first three points in his administration it will likely enjoy success and populrity.  However, he won’t have George Bush to kick around after the first few months.  The onus will be on him and Congress to truly bring about policies that unite America.

I also believe he will shift back towards the left from the smaller moves he had made to the Center.  In many ways he should if you believe as I do he had a mandate.  The media and the Dems were correctly criticial of the Bush Administration – particularly from ’00 to 06 in not being inclusive.  I have a feeling the same will happen, and in some ways that troubles me as I am more Centrist than either the Bush or forthcoming Administration will be.

While I don’t believe he will make the US a “Socialist” country, I would be shocked if policies that favor Big Government a la New Deal and Great Society are not reintroduced.  There are other concerns that are shared.  Mr. Obama’s declaration of a “Civilian Defense and Security Force” equal in footing and funding to the US military is as vague as it is troubling.   I also think that this administration will be as partisan as President Bush’s was partisan, as President Clinton’s was partisan.  

Some things won’t change.  That is something you truly can believe in.

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November 6, 2008

Three Reasons I Say, “Thank God this Thing is Over”!

Two days after the general election. A new President. So many things to contemplate, and all I can say is “Thank God it’s over.”

In this post I will now give you my top three reasons why I am gleeful that this election season is over.

1 – I can have a conversation with my wife and not see her and her see me as a political enemy. I mentioned this to her the other day and she looked greatly offended. I also have to question why I felt that way, but suffice it to say I know I did. My wife and I are very different people who have world views which are antithetical to each other. She has often used the analogy that our relationship was similar to the Celt mythos of the Christian king of old marrying the “daughter of the tribe”. I bet you know which side of the political fence she is on from that statement alone. In most cases this causes our ideas to be encountered and our world view has an impact on the other in that a new view is formed. A synthesis of ideas occurs, with levels of respect borne from each others thesis. I know you philosophers out there are seeing the Hegellian Dialect at play.

2 – I don’t have to defend George W. Bush anymore to anyone or to myself. In many ways I still kinda like W, although I really am finding it pretty hard to find myself in agreement with many of the things he has done. I don’t know if that is just good old hard core political loyalty, or perhaps I do see something there. More than likely it is that I hate Monday morning quarterbacks, and since I was in the 45% in ’00 and the 50.6% in ’04 that voted for him, and that at the time based on what I was told, I supported the Iraq War as did most Americans, and in principle I like a lot about NCLB, and that in principle – which caused a lot of ruckus, I saw a lot to like about his immigration reform proposal, I figured it would be churlish to kick him while he was down. However, in all honesty I’m tired of offering apologetics for the POTUS. I’m tired of being made to feel that I am stupid, even though I have an IQ of 140, because I still support the guy. I’m glad he’s gone, and that history will be the evaluator of his time in office. I’ll also likely be dead if he has a Harry Truman repeat of history, and in the rear view mirror of fifty years is seen as a damned fine President. Then again, 96 isn’t impossible. Time to lose weight and do more exercise, and if history doesn’t bear this theory out, I’ll have the benefit of being a greater burden on my grandchildren.

3 – The country can reunite – even if my guy lost. I have a hunch that there will be some changes, and probably I won’t like them all. That is the reason why we have elections. I also don’t think that this will become Stalinist Russia with all the drabbery in between. One of the worst scenarios imaginable would have been a 269 to 269 tie with Congress deciding the POTUS. True, the evil part of my nature which would have revelled in the national hysteria would have been amused. It also would have been historic, and if President Elect Obama had emerged through the process as POTUS so much the better I suppose if you like more history. However, one historical first will be good enough. I am sure there will be a healthy debate about things in the near future. I also believe that while one can run a campaign on ideology, governance requires a bit more cooperation. It has been said that democracy is the government of the half-loaf. I think that some on the polar extremes may have less cause for fear and rejoicing than they may have thought this past Tuesday. Then again, I could be wrong.

Quote of the Day

If we will be quiet and ready enough, we shall find compensation in every disappointment.
– Henry David Thoreau, 1817 – 1862

Dedicated to my 57,000,000 fellow citizens. Along with best wishes (sincere ones) to our new President-Elect Obama. (Read yesterday’s post), who is now my President.

May 18, 2007

The Immigration Bill – What Would Reagan Say?

In the hubub for the GOP to take on the mantle of Ronald Reagan, one has to wonder what would The Great Communicator say about the bill being proposed about illegal aliens. I think he would have supported it.

This is from Otis Graham’s Reagan’s Big Mistake.

While I disagree with the title, I do agree with the facts.

Reagan did have a place in his mind and a rhetoric on the matter of immigration. His was the sentimentalist, Statue of Liberty conception so widely shared among assimilated Americans of his day who could not remember when immigration had been a problem. In one of the few references to immigration in his published state papers covering his eight years in the White House, Reagan displayed in 1984 the then-dominant language of diversity celebration when he told an audience of naturalizing immigrants that immigrants “enlivened the national life with new ideas and new blood,” and “enrich us” with “a delightful diversity.”

I guess The Gipper wouldn’t have minded some of the positive aspects of multiculturalism.

In May 1981, Alan Simpson (R., Wyo.), chairman the Senate subcommittee on immigration, sought to confer with the president prior to Reagan’s scheduled meeting with Mexican President Lopez Portillo in order to urge the administration to keep American options open on immigration. But the meeting lasted only 15 minutes. Reagan listened to Simpson’s views and limited himself to a broad promise of co-operation. Congress therefore assumed the lead in immigration reform, though Simpson, in, the words of a White House staff memo to Reagan, had “indicated his willingness to ‘carry the administration’s water’ on this issue.” They carried different water, as it turned out.

Simpson sensed from his early contacts with White House aides that cooperation with Reagan was shaky. To start with, the president’s newly appointed Immigration Task Force was leaning toward an expansion of legal immigration. One important bias appeared to shape the Task Force’s deliberations from the start. In the words of one White House staffer, “The President is himself a firm believer in a high degree of freedom in immnigration”.

This means that he wanted to “liberalize” immigration policy. If observers had expected a conservative government to shift the policy options toward firmer law enforcement while condemning liberal laxity, they were surprised.

Reagan’s own short message announcing these proposals could have been written by Ted Kennedy. He began with the ritual incantation that “Our nation is a nation of immigrants” which would always welcome more to our shores. But the “Cuban influx to Florida” required more effective policies that will “preserve our tradition of accepting foreigners to our shores, but to accept them in a controlled and orderly fashion … consistent with our values of individual privacy and freedom.”

Hmm… Ted Kennedy and Reagan. Ted Kennedy and Bush. Coincidence, I think not. Reagan and Bush were in many ways true progressives in that they understood that America stands for uplifting the human condition. Despite some of his views, which I disagree with profoundly, I would submit that in many instances, this view is more consistently found in Sen. Kennedy, and his staff, than in many of those current Republicans who think they model Reagan.

Ronald Reagan called himself a conservative, but on immigration, he was not. On this issue, conservative Ronald Reagan, in a moment of critical import, lined up with the liberals, and his historical reputation should reflect this.

As Reagan did, so does President Bush, and for the most part, on this issue, I agree. But maybe that bastion of liberalism the Cato Institute sums it up best.

“Like President George W. Bush today, Reagan had the good sense and compassion to see illegal immigrants not as criminals but as human beings striving to build better lives through honest work. In a radio address in 1977, he noted that apples were rotting on trees in New England because no Americans were willing to pick them. “It makes one wonder about the illegal alien fuss. Are great numbers of our unemployed really victims of the illegal alien invasion or are those illegal tourists actually doing work our own people won’t do?” Reagan asked. “One thing is certain in this hungry world; no regulation or law should be allowed if it results in crops rotting in the fields for lack of harvesters.”

Compare Reagan’s hopeful, expansive, and inclusive view of America with the dour, crabbed, and exclusive view that characterizes certain conservatives who would claim his mantle. Their view of the world could not be more alien to the spirit of Ronald Reagan.

Amen and Amen.

Quote of the Day

With special deference to today’s headlines:

Latinos are Republicans.  They just don’t know it yet.

Ronald Reagan

The Immigration Bill – The Good the Bad and The Ugly

Well after looking over this bill over I think that my initial reaction is pretty well stated, there is a great amount of moaning, wailing, and gnashing of teeth over this bill and the “amnesty” that it offers.  However, as I first thought when reading about this last night, there is plenty in this bill for both sides of the immigration fence, full pun intended, to be upset about, and in a rather devil’s advocate way, since I am not hard core on either side, I have to confess a bit of concern over the hysteria, on the GOP side, and a good deal of humor about the threats of never voting GOP again.  For those who hold that position, fine, do it, and enjoy an even larger DNC run of the Senate, House, and President.  You can kiss your “strict constructionist” goodbye, because if you think that “President Hillary or Barack or Johnny Boy will have the types of judges you prefer, you know the ones that keep Roe v Wade among other ideas valued by the base, but hey, you’ll have made your point known.

In actuality the “best” chance for this bill to not be passed is by the Pelosi led House, which finds it a step in the right – and I know she didn’t mean ideologically – direction.  That’s codespeak for softening what is actually very good in this bill, increasing what is bad, changing the order of operations in this bill’s equation, and then ramming down immigration reform DNC style after the GOP has lost the 08 elections with the aforementioned unholy trinity of candidates waiting in the wings.  Those on the hard right side of the GOP should take notice of that, because if this bill is allowed to fragment the GOP into three or four camps don’t think that the parts of this bill which are good will be kept, and rest assured that the parts of the bill that are unacceptable are going to be greatly enhanced and there will be lots of pork to go around.

The part of this bill which is good is that it offers decent proposals with regard to border security.  The fence is a nice idea, but unless you have lots of patrols, those fences are pretty easy to go over through or under – I’ve seen it done.  The doubling of the border agents is better, and hopefully the NG will be called in for more of a supprting role as had been proposed earlier.  The best part of the bill is the ID system, and if this is enforced it will greatly help ease concerns about terrorism and about illegals entering amok as they do now.  The most important part is it also allows, if enforced, to make sure those here legally don’t overstay their welcome, which is a huge cause of the current 12 million who call the US their illegal home away from home.

The bad would be the enforcement of this bill, and someone prematurely shooting the trigger.  If that happens, this will be 1986 all over again, and worse.  Enforcement will be the key, but the rub is that the current laws aren’t very well enforced.  Maybe the country has awoken, but I’m not holding my breath.

With regard to the “amnesty”, the plan is not unacceptable.  It does offer a path to citizenship but that is 13 years down the road.  What it does provide is that those here, and unless someone wants to cut out all aid and totally rewrite the laws concerning the way these people get aid, or deport the 12 million, and none of those are going to happen, it is likely the best plan that could be cobbled together and make a compromise.

The problem with the GOP base – or certain elements – since I am a lifelong Republican and am not ready to spit upon this bill, nor tear up my GOP Member card – is that they forgot that governance require compromise.  Perhaps if the last Congress had been a bit better at that uniquely democratic feature of our Republic they would be in the majority in at least the Senate.  However, ideologues are forever tied to the Four legs good, Two legs bad mantra.  So, the threats of leaving the Party en masse, and the way off the farm comments about some states trying to secede, I thought that was settled as treason, some love of America there!

The Good: Provides for some reasonable security measures and border control.  Also, sets out a reasonable path to normalization without being an amnesty, look up the word.  It will take 13 years to become a citizen, and will hopefully encourage many to enter legally where they can be monitored, pay taxes and all that good stuff.  The ID program is a strong part of this plan, and is laudable.

The Bad: The path to citizenship or the Z Visa is in effect a Green Card, this doesn’t bother me so much, but that is a bit of an odd inclusion to make one level of Visa which leads to a Green Card just like the card.  Enforcement of this will be tough, and I am not sold that the fence will work overly efficiently.

The Ugly: If enforcement doesn’t work well, and the performance of the last comprehensive immigration reform makes me leary, the situation will be much worse, and again I have little confidence in the ability or the will of this nation to enforce immigration policy laws.

May 17, 2007

Immigration Compromise Bill to Hit the Floor; S*** to Hit the Fan

From the Washington Post.

Sen. John Kyl (R-Az) and Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Ma), and I KNOW some just had an involuntary twitch at just viewing the Bay State’s Senior Senator’s name, along with negotiators from the Administration have cobbled a proposal towards illegal immigration reform. This compromise will likley hit the floor next week, and something may hit the fan much sooner. Like most compromises, this one will be guaranteed to upset more than a few people. The fur will fly, and I must confess a bit of unreasonable glee at the process to unfold before our very eyes!

Senate negotiators reached a tentative agreement yesterday on a broad overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws that would offer virtually all of the nation’s 12 million undocumented workers a route to legal status while shifting migration preferences away from the extended families of citizens toward more skilled and educated workers.

Under the tentative deal, undocumented workers who crossed into the country before Jan. 1 would be offered a temporary-residency permit while they await a new “Z Visa” that would allow them to live and work lawfully here. The head of an illegal-immigrant household would have eight years to return to his or her home country to apply for permanent legal residence for members of the household, but each Z Visa itself would be renewable indefinitely, as long as the holder passes a criminal background check, remains fully employed and pays a $5,000 fine, plus a paperwork-processing fee.

A separate, temporary-worker program would be established for 400,000 migrants a year. Each temporary work visa would be good for two years and could be renewed up to three times, as long as the worker leaves the country for a year between renewals.

I guess this is the amnesty part.

To satisfy Republicans, those provisions would come in force only after the federal government implements tough new border controls and a crackdown on employers that hire illegal immigrants. Republicans are demanding 18,000 new Border Patrol agents, 370 miles of additional border fencing and an effective, electronic employee-verification system for the workplace.

Oh, I have a feeling that most Republicans will be “quite satisfied” with this bill! I can see the cringing already, and I must admit that I am cracking my knuckles with glee over the political free for all this will create in the primary process! But guess what, many Democrats are also less than happy.

The agreement would effectively bring an immigration overhaul to the Senate floor next week, but its passage is far from assured. The framework has the support of the White House and the chief negotiators, Kennedy and Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.). But immigration rights groups and some key Senate Democrats remain leery, especially of changing a preference system that has favored family members for more than 40 years.

“When they say, ‘We’re all in agreement, we have a deal,’ certainly I don’t feel that way,” said Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.).

The new proposal would augment that system with a merit-based program that would award points based on education levels, work experience and English proficiency, as well as family ties. Automatic family unifications would remain but would be limited to spouses and children under 21. The adult children and siblings of U.S. residents would probably need other credentials, such as skills and education, to qualify for an immigrant visa.

To Republicans, the new system would make the nation more economically competitive while opening access to a wider array of migrants. “I think you’ll find the point system to be pretty well balanced,” said Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.).

But to immigration groups, the proposal is a radical break from existing U.S. law, and without changes, they could withhold their support from the final bill.

“We want to see an immigration reform debate on the Senate floor. We want to see this move forward. But we are wildly uncomfortable with a lot of what we’re hearing,” said Cecilia Muñoz, chief lobbyist for the National Council of La Raza.

I confess, that my post is a bit glib on a very serious subject.  I personally believe there is too much amnesty in this bill and not enough protection, but, whose fault is that?  It is the fault of the Congress which was under the control of the GOP with a GOP President to get meaningful legislation accomplished when they held the majorities.  Last year’s bill is looking pretty good right now to many, and I think that the GOP forgot that in a Federal Republic “compromise is needed for effective governance”.  The GOP “could” have compromised from a position of strength, but now they get the icky end of the lollypop.  It’s their own fault if they don’t like this bill.

The GOP Debate was not about Education – A Rejoinder Part VII

The last, at least for now, in my lengthy rejoinder to a post made at Maggie’s Notebook and Morewhat.com concerning the GOP Debate, Federal role in public education and NCLB.

This is the last part of my conclusions, and I confess that this is an area where I am a bit of an ideologue, towards some of the challenges facing implementation and the need for NCLB mandates.  I have written many more position papers on this topic, and may publish some of them here.   I have also included a list of the references which were cited in the previous posts for those who are truly bored and have nothing better to do other than search for scholarly papers.

Dante wrote, “In the middle of the journey of our life; I came to myself in a dark wood; where the straight way was lost”.  At the moment this could aptly describe the state of education in hard to staff schools, however, there are glimmers of hope on the horizon.  The challenge of educators is to reach that new horizon.

In summation, it would be constructive to consider what real leaders say about educating all children:

            “Until the gap is closed, our work is not done.” (Des Moines Superintendent Eric Witherspoon, Des Moines Register, 4/15/03).

            “There are people who’ll say, ‘Given the neighborhood a child is from, what do you expect.”  It’s our job to say there are no excuses – that we have to address students’ needs so they can achieve.” (Frank Tinney, director of standards, assessment and accountability in the Palm Springs Unified School District, The Desert Sun (Palm Springs, CA), 4/8/03).

            “It’s not that they are failing so much as we are failing…This shines a very bright light on something we have known for years but haven’t been forced to deal with until now —- that we have to close this massive gap if all of our students are going to succeed.”  (Ken Noonan, Oceanside Unified School District Superintendent, North County Times (CA), 5/25/03).

 References:

 

DarlinDarling-Hammond, L. (2001). Teacher quality and student achievement: A review of state policy
evidence, Education Policy Analysis Archives (8) 1

Darling-Hammond, L. & Youngs, P. (2002). Defining “highly qualified teachers:” What does
“scientifically-based research” actually tell us? Educational Researcher, 31 (9): 13-25.

Education Trust (2004). Measured progress: Achievement rises and gaps narrow, but too slowly,
October, 2004.

The Education Trust (2006). Testimony of Russlynn Ali, Director, Education Trust-West Before
the Commission on No Child Left Behind April 11, 2006

Esch, C. E., Chang-Ross, C. M., Guha, R., Tiffany-Morales, J. & Shields, P. M. (2004).
California’s teaching forces, 2004: Key issues and trends.  Santa Cruz, CA, The Center for the
Future of Teaching and Learning

Hanushek, Eric, (1971). The Effects of Quality Teachers, American Economic Association,
(61)(2), 280-88.

Hanushek, E., Kain, J., & Rivkin, S. (2004). The revolving door, Education Next, (3) Winter, 77
81.

Lankford, Hamilton, Susanna Loeb, & James Wyckoff (2002). “Teacher sorting and the plight of
urban schools.”  Education Evaluation and Policy Analysis. (24)(1) 37-62.

Learning First Alliance (2005) A shared responsibility, staffing all high-poverty, low-performing
schools with effective teachers and administrators.

Loeb, S. (2000). How Teachers’ Choices Affect What a Dollar Can Buy: Wages and Quality in
K-12 Schooling. Proceedings from the Symposium on the Teaching Workforce. Albany,
New York, Education Finance Research Consortium, November 8.

Moir, S. (2006). Understanding New York City’s Groundbreaking Induction Initiative. New
Teacher Center at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, US Department of Education, ed.gov

Pierce, C. (2001). California’s initiative to attract highly qualified teachers into low performing
schools. Paper presented at the meeting of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher
Education.

Reeves, Douglas. (2000). “The 90/90/90 Schools: A Case Study.” In Accountability in Action.
Denver, CO: Advanced Learning Press.

Rice, J. (2003), Teacher Quality, Understanding the Effectiveness of Teacher Attributes, EPI
Press.

Roza, M. (2005).  Strengthening Title I to help fund high-poverty schools. Center on Reinventing
Public Education, Daniel J. Evans School of Public Affairs, University of Washington

Southeast Center for Teaching Quality (2005). Unfulfilled promise: Ensuring high quality
teachers for our nation’s students.

Sunderman, Gail; Kim, Jimmy; Teacher Quality: Equalizing Educational Opportunities and
Outcomes. The Civil Rights Project, Harvard University, April 2005

US Department of Education (2004). The Secretary of Education’s Annual Report, ed.gov

Walsh, K., & O’Tracy, C. (2005). Increasing the odds: How better policies can yield good
teachers, National Center for Teacher Quality

Walsh, K (2006). Teacher education: Coming up empty, Thomas B. Fordham Institute

Walsh, K., & Snyder, E (2004). Searching the attic: How states are responding to the
nation’sgoal of placing a highly qualified teacher in every classroom, National Center for
Teacher Quality.

Wayne, Andrew J. and Peter Youngs. (2003). Teacher characteristics and student achievement
gains: A review.” Review of Education Research. (73) (1)89-122

 

 

The GOP Debate was not about Education – A Rejoinder Part VI

This is where I post my own humble conclusions about what I had offered from the body of literature.  It is also where I speak in my own – admittedly not so reasoanble voice.  On this issue I come as close as I ever do to becoming an ideologue.  It is not based upon a liberal or conservative view of the world, but it is based upon a passion which I feel towards teaching children.  I have literally cried when I consider the challenges facing teachers and learners in this present day.  I also believe strongly that in this case in particular Federal intervention was needed, but was also long overdue.  I may later present the legal arguements I brought forward in an education policy class in defense of Federal actions in this traditionally state manner.  I did so from legal rulings in the past based upon Constitutional cases.

Again, my thanks to Maggie’s Notebook and Morewhat.com for posting on this topic.

Conclusion

When faced with these challenges it is understandable that many would throw up their hands in despair.  These challenges may have been exacerbated by NCLB’s requirements of each school possessing highly qualified teachers, and annually holding schools accountable for the measured academic achievement of each student. 

However, an alternate theory may be that NCLB exposed existing inequality in the public school systems across the nation.  While many would say that NCLB is a series of unfunded mandates,  a countering argument can be made; that the federal government stepped into an area that should have been addressed and funded by the states a long time ago.  Candidly, if the problems associated with the education of inner-city poor and minority children were typical of the affluent, predominately white suburbs, one can only imagine how quickly the issues regarding equity in education would have been addressed.  The inferred message that American public schools sent was, as long as the white, affluent, and middle class children of the suburbs are performing well, education is fine.  Poor children, particularly those of color, do not count in the evaluation of school performance.  Those that would refute this supposition should take a look at the lack of a coherent and cohesive policy prior to NCLB to address equity in education; look hard, none existed.

Failure to face the challenges of providing quality teachers and education in hard to staff schools is nothing more than a failure of leadership.  Rather than addressing the inherent fiscal bias, the inherent racism of public perceptions, and unlawful application of federal funding measures, administrators react to the remarkably reasonable mandate that all public schools adequately educate children in the following manner:

“I have difficulty with the standards because they’re so unattainable for so many of our students . . . We just don’t have the same kids they have on Long Island or Orchard Park.” (Superintendent, Buffalo Schools; The Buffalo News, October 21, 2002).

If a school has five subgroups (of students) and four do well, but one fails, the entire school is a failure.  We don’t think that’s fair.” (Reg Weaver, President of the NEA, Whittier Daily News, 5/24/03). 

No matter how these statements are parsed, explained, or justified, they infer prejudice based upon race and financial background.  These statements truly mean, “Some children – particularly those who are poor and are of a different color than the majority – can’t learn”. 

In our society it is a given that all can pass a road test to get a driver’s license.  It is a sad commentary that educational leaders have less confidence in a person’s ability to learn to read, write, and compute mathematics based upon their race and financial background, than they do in their ability to learn how to drive a vehicle, obey laws of operation of said vehicle, and maintain said vehicle as a part of their daily routine.  “What these “leaders” say is heard by parents – about whose kids matter, by students – about how much the educators think they can learn, and by teachers – about if they should consider or even should they try to educate these students” (Education Trust, 2006).  These “leaders” should just exit the door, and not bother coming back.  America’s students, particularly those who need leaders, deserve far better.

            While real leaders may not like some of the implications of NCLB law, it is fair to consider that fifty years ago many did not like the implications of another federal law, Brown v. Board of Education.  There are quite probably difficulties, and areas of the federal law that will require revision.  However, NCLB mandates, at the very least, accomplishes a great deal by the following: (1) Requiring states to perform their gate-keeper responsibility in monitoring minimal teacher quality: (2) Requiring states to measure student achievement by objective standards, and thereby also measure school efficacy; (3) Requiring states to compile data in a disaggregated manner to allow an understanding of various impacts that social setting, economic diversity, racial composition, and other factors have upon student achievement; (4) Promoting equity to the schools which are in most in need; and who for years have been victimized by policies which are inherently biased due to race and economic status; having the cumulative effect of de facto segregation laws, in our public schools.  

Much has occurred with regard to meeting NCLB’s mandate concerning Highly Qualified Teachers in every classroom by the end of the current school year( this was written awhile back).  Clearly, this goal has not been reached by many of the states, and what remedy may be applied by the federal government towards those states and schools in non-compliance has not been determined.  One solution, that at first appears to be obvious, may not be correct.  Simply adding funding, to increase teacher salaries, may not be the best answer.  It is not practical to expect salaries to increase the estimated 25% to 43% that research shows would be needed for many teachers to stay in their current assignment within high need schools.  Trends in education concerning factors inside the workplace, offer a good deal of hope, and may offer a local and internal solution to a problem.  Rather than the traditional approach of throwing money at a problem, which in the case of Title I has been shown to often be ineffective, schools need to investigate what they can do internally to improve their efficacy, such as happened in Milwaukee.

GOP Debate was not about Education – A Rejoinder Part V

Again, I give credit to Morewhat.com and Maggie’s Notebook for bringing this vital area of national policy to the front row.  Although we may disagree upon the implementation of the policy, this topic is certainly worthy of discussion.

This segment will analyze and review the radical reform that the inner city schools of Milwaukee, which was launched under an initiative by then Governor Tommy Thompson, which made me “very” interested in his candidacy, undertook in the late 1990’s and early 2000 years.   This section focuses on what schools are doing to help improve efficiency, effectiveness, and equity.   The latter part of this post deals with “hypothetical” recommendations to be made to the Department of Education, or maybe to a GOP candidate!

The Milwaukee Miracle

While the evidence shows that all is not well with the state of schools meeting NCLB’s challenges regarding teacher quality, there is a basis for hope.  This hope rests upon the basis that quality teachers and sound district policies can make an impact upon children. One of the most startling examples was found in the City of Milwaukee’s public schools.

Analysis of data collected from 1995 to 1998 (Reaves, 2000), from over 228 diverse schools serving over 130,000 students of diverse traits, found that there are associations between school quality, some teaching qualities and student achievement.  This was found to be true in schools where: more than 90% of their student body eligible for free and reduced lunches, more than 90% of the students belong to ethnic minority groups, and more than 90% of the students met or achieved high academic standards, as measured by independently conducted tests.  The characteristics that these schools shared were: a focus on student achievement, clear curricular choices reached by collaborative efforts, frequent assessment, an emphasis on writing, and external, collaborative scoring of work.  Interestingly, consensus on the success of this approach is agreed upon by politically conservative voices (Heritage Foundation) and liberal voices (The Education Trust).  These findings also seemingly echo Hanushek’s findings, concerning factors other than salary, leading to teacher retention and student achievement. 

Recommendations

            From the literature a few findings demand attention regarding current school policy.  The following recommendations should be applied: 

(1) Strict control and regulation concerning allocation of Title I funds to ensure funding lands into the schools that need it the most (Roza, 2005).

(2) Each state setting up grants that encourage teachers to work in schools needing highly qualified teachers the most (Pierce, 2001). 

(3) A longitudinal study, financed by a public agency, regarding the teacher-mentoring program embarked upon by New York City Schools to measure if factors within a particular building can be attributed to teacher retention (Moir, 2006, Hanushek et al., 2004)

(4) Follow up studies of the Milwaukee schools to determine if such factors, concerning school building climate, being embarked upon by New York City Schools, were present in Milwaukee’s schools (Reaves, 2000, Moir, 2006, Hanushek et al, 2004). 

(5)  Longitudinal studies concerning the traits associated by statute with being a highly qualified teacher and teacher efficacy (Walsh, O’Tracey, 2004)

 (6) A commission, similar to those in the 1980’s and 1990’s, bringing together federal, business, state government, and educational leaders to discuss, analyze, and make recommendations to the United States Congress concerning the efficacy of the 2001 NCLB mandates regarding teacher quality in districts that are typically hard to staff.

More to follow!

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