A Voice of Reason: Sane Views for a Crazy World

May 23, 2007

Guest Worker Program Slashed in Half

The number of guest workers allowed entry into the US in the proposed immigration reform bill has been slashed in half from 400,000 to 200,000.  The Senate voted 74-24 to provide such a reduction, and was brought forward mostly by Democratic Senators aligned with unions.  The fear was that the number of immigrants being allowed to enter would cause destabilization among wages earned by “blue collar” labor.

This may have an effect of giving more support to the bill from some Democratic legislators, although there is still opposition to the bill from the left on the formulaic process which gives less weight to family members entering the country than those who have skills which are deemed important to the economy.  The rationale behind the crafters of the bill behind having a large number of invited guest workers would be that the large number of invited workers would limit the pressure of those seeking to work in the US illegally.

Clearly this bill has sparked great controversy with regard to its content – from both the left and the right – and the manner in which it was brought to the Senate.  With the bill going through a typical, and in this case high profile amendment process many are beginning to express doubt that immigration reform will be accomplished in the President’s term.

While the need for immigration form to many seems to be apparent, the large concessions made by both parties to reach this compromise, may not allow for this bill to have a chance to survive, and be signed into law.

May 17, 2007

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!

GOP Debate was not about Education – A Rejoinder Part IV

The fourth in a multi-part rejoinder to a post found on Morewhat.com and Maggie’s Notebook, concerning The GOP Debate, Federal funding of Public Education and NCLB.

This part of my rejoinder to the position that NCLB is not vital policy will concern itself with the lack of teeth in Title I and how teacher retention is not always based on salary, but on other factors found within a particular learning community.

Title I Funding – Putting Teeth in the Title

Part of the solution is supposed to be solved by Title I funding.  While Title I funding is supposed to address these inequities in theory, what happens in practice is often quite different.  Despite enormous growth in expenditures from its early days as part of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s “Great Society”, and the astronomical growth of funding stipulated by 2001 NCLB legislation, in most urban districts a systematic bias is built into district allocation legislation.  This bias supports disproportionate funding for schools in the more affluent neighborhoods (Roza, 2005).   Title I funding is meant to equalize educational funding before state and local funds are brought into the mix of school budgets; these funds supplement, not supplant local funding.  To this day this rationale remains the basis of Title I funding. 

However, the “devil lies in the details”.  Typically, schools are resourced at the central district office level by formulas based upon student enrollments.  An example may call for a teacher for every 25 students and add an assistant principal for every 400 students.  Additionally, schools may be able to add staffing on individual needs of schools.  The number of staff, and staffing accounts for typically 80% of a schools budget, are then converted into dollars spent using average salaries for each type of staff.  While this policy makes sense, it can inadvertently hurt schools within the same centralized system that have a needier population. 

Another problem about this centralized system of resource allocation is in human personnel.  Typically, teachers have choice regarding assignments, based upon seniority, and these choices are often part of collective bargaining negotiations.  Typically, these teachers, who choose to leave, are more seasoned, better educated, better compensated, and are allowed to teach in schools with less need, than their less experienced; less well educated, and lower paid counterparts.  These effects are felt greater in larger districts, typically found in inner-city schools, servicing poorer minority students.  

This type of non-categorical allocation of resources has a devastating effect upon high-need schools, which in effect, nullify the legislative intent of Title I.  This effect was shown (Roza, Hill, 2004) by comparing actual spending in five urban districts, Austin, Texas; Dallas, Texas; Fort Worth, Texas; Houston, Texas; and Denver, Colorado.  It was found that in all school districts, other than Dallas, affluent schools within the same district were funded significantly greater in real dollar value than poor schools within the same system.  The reason for Dallas’ success in its equitable distribution is linked directly to its effective identifier system, in place since the late 1990’s, which tracks student achievement, teacher efficacy, as well as other factors outside the classroom on a longitudinal basis (Hanushek, Kain, Rivkin; 2004).  These findings regarding inequitable distribution of resources are not limited to the cities that were investigated.  Furthermore, districts are allowed to report their salary expenditures on a district wide level, and therefore they can mask the inequities that do exist within their own schools.  The effective result is that money meant to go to schools in need, may not be going where they are most needed, and are authorized to go by Federal statute. The good schools get better, and can be showcased, while poor schools are continually allowed to lag behind.

A casual look into this problem of salary differential may yield a reply that revamping salary structure is the answer to the problem, but this may not be the case.  New York City schools investment in professional development points to other underlying factors, which may be at play, with regard to retaining effective teachers, in hard to staff schools.  Within New York’s Big Five (Buffalo, New York City, Rochester, Syracuse, and Yonkers) districts, teachers in general tend to earn more than the rest of New York State (Loeb, 2000), but they have less qualified teachers.  Also, within the districts, the centralized nature allows for error in allocations, reflected by Roza’s (2004) research.  In spite of large increases in Title I expenditures, and federal mandates concerning their distribution, school districts do not adequately finance and staff individual schools that possess the greatest need, and within these larger districts affluent schools are typically over financed.

It’s not ALL about the Benjamins

Other research (Hanushek, Rivkin, Kain; 2004) adds to the body of knowledge concerning factors regarding school staffing.  In research that attempted to answer why teachers choose to work in certain schools over others, it was found that working conditions matter more than salary to most school teachers.  By utilization of Dallas’ impressive data base, information, concerning teachers and students, is able to be measured using a fixed effect, longitudinal approach, which enables research a better opportunity to isolate competing variables.  The four major areas that influence teachers to remain in a school are: (1) characteristics on the job, including salary and working conditions, (2) alternative job opportunities, (3) teacher’s own job preferences, (4) district personnel policies. 

Strong factors in teacher retention are the opportunities that may exist in the private sector for an individual teacher.  As an example, a math or science teacher typically has more options, which may be financially advantageous, than an English or elementary teacher.  This study under review considered that factor by limiting the subjects under consideration to elementary teachers. 

The major findings of this study were: (1) Teachers transfer from one school to another more often as a reaction to the characteristics of their students and perceived working conditions, more than in response solely to better pay in other schools.  (2) Teaching lower achieving students is a strong factor in decisions to leave Texas public schools. (3) The ability of a school district to retain teachers eases as the teacher progresses within a particular school district.  This is due in large part giving up higher salaries that come from experience within a school district. (4) To retain teachers in urban areas, by just salary adjustment, an average increase of 25% to 43% would be needed.

More to follow…….

GOP Debate was not about Education – A Rejoinder Part III

The third in a likely VERY long series of posts about the GOP, Public funding of education, and NCLB.

Gaps, Gaps, Everywhere There are Gaps

The problem with regard to equity in the nation’s public schools goes beyond merely finding qualified teachers to staff the buildings.  The Education Trust has identified the problems in four general categories (2006).  The first is a teacher gap, which has an inequitable distribution of qualified teachers.  The second area of concern is the lack of uniform standards, which promote equality in learning opportunities due to expectations.  The third area is a gap in the rigor of curriculum in many high-poverty schools as compared to typical schools found in predominately white suburban areas.  The fourth area to be addressed is the funding gap, as evidenced by the CSE lawsuit, where fewer dollars are spent to those schools that have the largest populations of students in need.  The end result of these inequalities is a real gap in performance, and perhaps more dangerously, a disparity in expectation, characterized correctly as “a soft prejudice of low expectations”, by President Bush in introducing NCLB legislation.  This perception is shown by data released by The Education Trust (2006), when it found in a survey of teachers that 60% of all teachers felt that disadvantaged students should be held to lower expectations.  Clearly, this low level of expectation is becoming more of a self-fulfilling prophecy in too many of the nation’s schools. 

Recruiting and Retaining Qualified Teachers, A National Problem

This problem of recruiting, attracting and retaining high quality teachers is not isolated to the “Big Five” school systems in New York; it is a national problem.  In comparison to the largest state in the nation, California, New York’s problems pale in comparison.  California’s problems are heightened by the large proportion of ESL students that their schools need to serve.  Schools in the most crowded and least successful schools experienced large enrollments bumps in the 1990’s, and that factor coincided with a teacher population that was declining.  In 2000, Governor Davis and the legislature dedicated twenty million dollars to recruit, train, and retain the estimated 300,000 teachers that would be needed by 2010 to replace retiring teachers (Pierce, 2001). 

The funds used were earmarked to attract, train, and retain teachers to work in schools that are typically hard to staff; typically these are inner city, high poverty schools.  One of the features was a grant of $20,000 to assist potential teachers in completing their post baccalaureate studies, in a college or university recognized by the California Department of Education.  This served a dual function of attracting qualified teachers to work in hard to staff schools, and to increase their efficacy upon completion of their studies.  After completion of their studies, the new teachers are statutorily required to teach in a needy school for four years.  This initiative has enjoyed success.  Early results, tracking the progress of nearly 1,250 teachers who have participated in this program, have shown increases in teacher efficacy, as monitored by student achievement. 

However, promising these results may be, California’s overall picture is dismal regarding teacher quality in hard to staff schools.  Poor and minority children still do not receive equitable distribution of highly qualified teachers.  Students that live in the areas of highest poverty are twice as likely to be taught by unqualified teachers (Esch, C. E., Chang-Ross, C. M., Guha, R., Tiffany-Morales, J., & Shields, P.M. (2004), and students that are within a minority group are three times more likely to be taught by teachers of low quality.  The outcomes of these students are also related to the incomes, regarding teacher quality.  In the schools where unqualified teachers were the most prevalent, 66% of the students tested, failed exit exams.  Although California’s initiatives are a step in the right direction, it is uncertain if the level of support provided by the legislature will meet the demands of its students.

Other aspects of California’s initiatives are being modeled by the New York City School System (Moir, 2006).  These include in-depth mentoring of new teachers, with a price tag of $36 million.  The collaboration of Mayor Blooomberg, the Chancellor of NYC schools, and the powerful teacher’s union of the city schools, is unprecedented, and will bring about the largest and possibly most aggressive overhaul of a teacher support system on record (Moir, 2006).  How this came about is an inquiry that begs to be answered, and this answer may lie in other research concerning findings in hard to staff schools. 

There are many issues concerning the retention of teacher’s salaries, particularly in hard to staff schools.  One consideration is salary differences between these schools, which are typically urban and have high levels of poor minority students, and their counterparts in the suburbs, which are typically attended by white students with significant differences in wealth distribution.  California schools mirror this disparity, where the average annual salary differential, even with grants included; between teachers in high poverty schools is over $2,500 per year when compared to low poverty schools.  With regard to racial equity, teachers where minority students make up a high portion of the student body, earn over $3,000 less per year, than in schools where non-minority students attend.

May 9, 2007

“Lean” – IBM’s Plan to Screw its US Workers

A fantastic post about the unethical business practices that an American Icon, IBM, is inflicting upon its employees, and the plan to fire over 100,000 employees and replace “some” of these employess with “workers” from Communist China and India. I guess they will work with Beijing to make sure that enough prisoners are available before this plan is put into operation.

IBM is about to go through the biggest restructuring in its operations since the Gerstner days, but this time for all the wrong reasons.

At least Lou Gerstner was trying to SAVE a dying company, while the current leadership seems to be planning another ENRON manuver.

The IBM project is called LEAN and the first manifestation of LEAN was this week’s 1,300 layoffs at Global Services, which generated almost no press. Thirteen hundred layoffs from a company with more than 350,000 workers is nothing, so the yawning press reaction is not unexpected. But this week’s “job action,” as they refer to it inside IBM management, was as much as anything a rehearsal for what I understand are another 100,000+ layoffs to follow, each dribbled out until some reporter (that would be me) notices the growing trend, then dumped en masse when the jig is up, but no later than the end of this year.

LEAN is about offshoring and outsourcing at a rate never seen before at IBM. For two years Big Blue has been ramping up its operations in India and China with what I have been told is the ultimate goal of laying off at least one American worker for every overseas hire. The BIG PLAN is to continue until at least half of Global Services, or about 150,000 workers, have been cut from the U.S. division. Last week’s LEAN meetings were quite specifically to find and identify common and repetitive work now being done that could be automated or moved offshore, and to find work Global Services is doing that it should not be doing at all. This latter part is with the idea that once extraneous work is eliminated, it will be easier to move the rest offshore.

India had been used, but the workers there were not predictable. I know this for a fact, that they were also having the unmitigated gall of demanding a salary of $3000 per year. Which would be a lucrative salary in that country. The instability, the riots over the death of a movie star or Richard Gere puckering up and laying a wet one on an Indian actress did nothing to make IBM feel like India was a new home. Enter Red China. Prisoners tend not to bitch about their salaries, and knowing about movie stars is not high on the priority. So good when IBM teams up with that model of enlightenment portrayed by Beijing.

All this is supposed to happen by the end of 2007, by the way, at which point IBM will also freeze its U.S. pension plan.

All of this is well under way. My wife is a “LEAN” manager, as well as filling the managerial shoes of six other positions, which have been eliminated. No longer are people being fired for incompetence and replaced, they are simply fired for made up reasons of incompetence, and not replaced. This has been IBM standard procedure for the last ten years, but the firings are wratching up.

The point of this has nothing to do with the work itself and everything to do with the price of IBM shares. Remove at least 100,000 heads, eliminate the long-term drag of a defined-benefit pension plan, and the price of IBM shares will soar. This is exactly the kind of story Wall Street loves to hear. Palmisano and his lieutenants will retire rich. And not long after that IBM’s business will crash for reasons I explain below.


This also seems to be part of the plan, to gut and strip the company while making the stock prices boom, and then bail out.

I am told there is a broad expectation at all levels of IBM familiar with the LEAN plan that it will cause huge problems for the company. Even the executives who support this campaign most strongly expect it to go down poorly with employees and customers, alike. But in the end they don’t care, which shows that only the reaction of Wall Street matters anymore.

So we can expect round after round of layoffs, muted a bit — as they were back in the Gerstner days — by some of those same people being hired back as consultants at 75 percent of their former pay (50 percent of their former cost to the company since they won’t be getting benefits). Throw in some overtime and it won’t look bad on paper for the people, but it is also very temporary.

I am married to a “manager” at IBM and can offer firsthand effects to the practices that “Big Blue” has been employing as the first step towards this “Lean and Mean” policy.

On her account she has sixteen agents, who cover a 24 hour period. When she started managing this account she had 22 agents for a project that required, and for which the client had been promised 32 full time agents. Needless to say the client has not been overly impressed with the performance of IBM in this account.

When my wife was an agent, she typically worked a regular 40 hour week, which on occassion would have some paid overtime sprinkled in. Of course when she went into management, there was an increase in her “desk” time as well as numerous occassions where she would have to go into the field to meet with the client, but typically she worked a 55 to 60 hour week for the few months. However, since IBM has started this “Lean and Mean” policy, her responsibilities are no longer to simply manage this account. She has also taken on five other administrative positions, which have been folded into this simple “Low level manager’s account”. Typically her work week is about 70 to 75 hours per week, and 90 hour work weeks are not at all uncommon, but come about once a month. She has not worked under 70 hours a week for the past year.
She has received for all of this extra work a raise of 4% as a PBC1 – which raised her total salary slightly over 42,000/yr, which is the highest rate available for an IBM low level manager. I have been alternately infuriated and dismayed as I have watched the shabby treatment that this once proud company dispenses upon its management, particularly those that they consider the most valued.
I have also candidly stated to her she should start looking elsewhere for employment, as this behavior by her company is nothing short of exploitation, and in reality is little more than white collar indentured servitude. Now that I learn the plans of IBM to do away with jobs, even though last year their corporation turned in profits that were rather significant, but did not meet the artificially inflated projection that had been set for them, I am torn between feelings of rage and impotence.

While I fully understand the purpose of a corporation is to make a profit for itself, and its shareholders, it is disheartening when a company of IBM’s stature and tradition treats its employees as vassals, while it plans upon making fewer employees do signficantly more as they shift American jobs to Communist China.

At some point one has to ask if the benefits that a company reaps from basing its business on the strength of the United States Economy, and the benefits it reaps from the infrastructure of these United States bestows upon it an inherent responsibility to act within ethical principals.

I am all for free markets. However the idea of these corporate entities sucking at the American tit of OUR tax dollars in tax breaks and other goodies, then giving the shaft to US workers, so they can outsource jobs to nations, which are our economic rivals, sort of sets me off. How about you?

May 4, 2007

Survey USA Poll: Giuliani Beats Opponents in Debate

A poll of 317 viewers watching the debate were asked to rate the performance of the candidates:

Rudy Giuliani 30%
Mitt Romney 12%
John McCain 11%
Jim Gilmore 8%
Duncan Hunter 7%
Sam Brownback 4%
Mike Huckabee 4%
Tom Tancredo 4%
Ron Paul 2%
Tommy Thompson 2%

UPDATE: Drudge report is having an interactive poll, but it does allow for multiple voting, so pretty worthless.

The Debate: Who Won and Why?

You see the title; what is your answer. I will reply after I think.

Updated: Well I thought and I will now take out my teacher’s red pencil and give each a grade in no particular order.

Rep. Tom Tancredo – Looked frustrated at times. I think part of it is that his campaign is struggling for air, and the format hurt him as he tried desparately to get out his views and distinguish himself, particularly on immigration. I also think that people saw that frustration and it didn’t help. Grade D

Rep. Duncan Hunter – Was clear, concise, and strong in many of his answer. One area that may hurt him was he was the most aggressive on Iran, and to a country that is not at all happy with Iraq, showing this posturing towards another nation in the area, one that does make everyone nervous may hurt with many even among Hawks. His trade and pro-worker solutions were noteworthy. Grade B-

Mayor Rudy Giuiliani – He was strong on war on terror and framing himself in his model of Conservativism. The questions on abortion won’t help with the base, and will help him with those who are softer on pro-life/pro-choice. He stumbled on that area, but did make his case with his time as NYC Mayor. I still support him. Grade B-

Sen. John McCain – Anyone who said that he lacked vigor got the reply in spades, he was energetic, perhaps too much so, to the point of aggressiveness in tone and body language. He also really had a problem keeping to the time, and wasn’t held to the time limits strictly. He didn’t hurt himself, but I don’t think he helped himself too much. He came out fairly strongly against President Bush, with saying numerous times, “The war was mismanaged”. He seemed passionate and assertive, but perhaps too agressive. Grade C+

Gov. Mit Romney – Of all the candidates the former Bay State Governor stood out. I am not a big Romney fan, but if I had to declare an overall winner, it would be him. He was able to frame his “flip flop” on abortion, and gave a reason that was credible. He also was well versed on the issues and inviting. Grade A

Gov. Jim Gilmore – Did very well tonight too. He was able to state that he was the “consistent Conservative”. He also did well to elicit his positions. However, there are few moments that make him stand out, and he probably won’t see his coin rise. Grade B-

Gov. Tommy Thompson – Did very well on many areas, but there was one area that may hurt him, and that was the question about firing people due to their sexual practices. I also believe that there was a pause that would have allowed him to nuance his position, and his silence was pregnant. This will be picked up. I don’t know if this is a valid reason to terminate an employee in the private sector, other than religious organizations, such as a parochial school, which are exempt from such restrictions and understandably so. His Iraq solution is interesting and deserves a look. Grade B-

Sen. Sam Brownback – Made some good points tonight, and particularly in his stressing the need for the political process to have a more dominant role in the process. His stands on abortion will help only with those who don’t know him, as they are well known. He also held up his credos to the bases fondness of evangelical base. Overall he may have helped himself, but like so many in the second tier is so far behind. Grade B-

Rep. Ron Paul – Made his stand as the maverick in the field. He also came across as passionate, principled, and had a good wit. However, his views on foreign policy are going to hurt him in the end. As much as America may wish to go back to isolationism, that ship has sailed. He advocated himself well, but his views won’t hold. Hard to grade with this dynamic, but based on his performance, and not his substance B.

Gov. Mike Huckabee – He had some good moments, and probably the biggest yuck of the night with his joke concering “The Governator”. He came across as genuine but may have suffered from the format as his positions are hard to define from some of the others, and nuance of his stands may be lost in the shuffle. Grade B-

Overall big winner has to be Romney. He did very well, and being slotted first, by the draw helped him. I think the big loser was Tom Tancredo, and this is not a slight, but he seemed frustrated and this won’t give him much of a bump.

I think that the only shift will be Romney moving up, but the question is who will pay for this hike Giuliani – who probably won’t lose support, McCain or maybe the non-announced candidate, who will also miss South Carolina’s debate, Fred Thompson.

If I had to be like a reality show and only promote five I think these five will likely be in SC.

Giuliani, McCain, Romney, Rep. Hunter, and either Sen. Brownback or Gov. Huckabee.

Then again, I could be wrong.

May 3, 2007

Where You Stand Politically

So, you want to  know where you stand and how you can get that cool little icon like I have on my blog?

Well, just go to this site and take the quiz.  I would put no opinion if you are not sure about something.

Please post your results, and you get BIG TIME BONUS POINTS for reasonableness if you score Moderate, Conservative or Liberal!  I “hope” I have constructed a place where divergent views are allowed and where we gain from seeing each other’s perspective.  I also hope that sometimes someone will say, I see your point, or something like that.

So often politics are too personal, so maybe this would at least bring back agreeable discussion and dissent to the forefront.

I’m posting this on all topics to hopefully get maximum participation.

IF you wish to take the quiz it is here.

Thanks!

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