Class-Size Reductions Seen of Limited Help on Achievement Gap

..but they sure do lard up the monopoly with mediocre seat-warmers

Reducing class sizes—a popular policy among parents, teachers, and lawmakers—has long been viewed as a way to increase student achievement.

But while shrinking the number of students in a class can lead to higher test scores overall, it might not necessarily reduce the achievement gaps that exist between students in a given classroom, a new study suggests.

Reviewing data from Project STAR—a longitudinal research study on class-size reduction in Tennessee and the most famous experiment on the topic—Spyros Konstantopoulos, an assistant professor of education and social policy at Northwestern University, in Evanston, Ill., said that it’s “tempting” to think that having fewer students assigned to a teacher will reduce the…

The rest of the article is for subscribers only. Class size reduction was (and is) the biggest scam since “whole language.” Give a dedicated teacher a class of 30 with some good discipline and a good curricullum, and they will outperfrom 3 classes of 10 kids using today’s content free drivel.

hat tip Illinois Review

If a Bobby Jindal exists in Illinois, he couldn’t run as a Republican…

…because the entire Republican Establishment couldn’t let him win.

Louisiana governor pierces business as usual

Jindal, an outsider to that rollicking if sometimes unsavory banquet, a Republican with a missionary’s zeal to smite Louisiana’s wickedness at one of its presumed sources, called on the Legislature to reform itself and its high-living ways.

Grudgingly, pushed by public opinion and business pressure, it went along. When the legislative session ended Tuesday, lawmakers had passed bills aimed at making their finances less opaque, barring their lucrative contracts with the state — some have been known to do good business with them — and cutting down on perks like free tickets to sporting events. The bills, which advocates say will put Louisiana in the top tier of states with tough ethics rules, now await Jindal’s signature, which should come early next week.

Business pressure? Here in Illinois, half of the business community cowers in the corner, fearful of reprisals and scrutiny, while the other half feeds at the TIF/ property tax trough built by the Democrat machine. (for the purpose of corrupting “Republican” businessmen, perhaps?)

If you want proof of that theory, just look at the cowardly (and fundamentally weak) arguments the craven “business community” makes against their best bet to fix Illinois in decades – an Illinois Constitutional Convention.

The Republican Establishment doesn’t want improvement. They want back at the trough.

The new requirements will force all state legislators, as well as most other elected and appointed officials around the state, to disclose all sources of income, real estate holdings and debts over $10,000. (Judges are exempted.) Lawmakers and executive branch officials will no longer be able to get contracts for state-financed or disaster-related work. Lobbyists will also have to disclose their sources of income and will be limited to spending no more than $50 per elected official, per meal; splitting the tab, say among other lobbyists or legislators, will also be prohibited.

Why should judges be exempted? Ann Burke is a Supreme Court justice. Do you think she would ever allow anything approaching transparency of husband Alderman Ed Burke’s financial empire? In Illinois, where the Supreme Court routinely ignores the Constitution in favor of protecting the political class (Term limits decision, Tort reform, ballot access), uncovering every penny of judges’ incomes and dealings should be a priority.

If that scares them off the bench, so much the better. There is plenty of talent to replace them.

In the legislative chambers, the votes for this ethics makeover were mostly unanimous, though the sarcastic commentary suggested that enthusiasm might not have been what was motivating legislators. Jindal has public opinion on his side, however.

The point was not lawbreaking, though, but what has long been permitted under existing loose laws, say reform advocates like Jindal.

Gee! Does that rhetoric sound familiar? I’ve been using the word “corrupt” to define virtually everything Illinois government does. I think it is accurate (particularly with regards to schools). I often make the case – and now Bobby Jindal is making it for me – that most corruption in Illinois isn’t indictable, because it’s 100% legal!.

Mayor Daley’s $500-800 million in TIF slush funds are all the evidence you need to see how the Democrat machine corrupted the Republican Party. Now, Illinois is too far gone to be improved by either party. Kass is right. Illinois is run by a “combine,” and there isn’t an electoral scenario that will change anything – save a Convention.

The IBRT study (linked above) has this one demonstratively false nonsense in their PDF.

Despite concern with the current functional capability of state government, many of today’s issues are neither the cause for nor remedied by constitutional change. Illinois current constitutional framework is adequate, open, and not hostile to resolving the serious issues that confront the state today.

Read the above article about Jindal. Look at the dynamics in Louisiana, and try to imagine a Jindal-style Republican in Illinois. His own “party” would have him (politically) killed. Try to imagine a Democrat cleaning up Illinois. (Belly laughs are healthy, aren’t they?)

Their is only one way to fix Illinois, and it is a Constitutional Convention. Only you – the independent citizen – can provide that for us. It will not be done by Jim Oberweis, Bill Brady, Pat Quinn or John Fritchey. The idea that Mike Madigan’s daughter will imporve things is good for another belly laugh.

Vote “Yes” for Illinois. A “No” vote only protects the corrupt status quo.

Was it Obama who “played the race card?”

Race Man

After several weeks of swooning, news reports are finally being filed about the gap between Senator Barack Obama’s promises of a pure, soul-cleansing “new” politics and the calculated, deeply dishonest conduct of his actually-existing campaign. But it remains to be seen whether the latest ploy by the Obama camp–over allegations about the circulation of a photograph of Obama in ceremonial Somali dress–will be exposed by the press as the manipulative illusion that it is.

Misleading propaganda is hardly new in American politics –although the adoption of techniques reminiscent of past Republican and special-interest hit jobs, right down to a retread of the fictional couple, seems strangely at odds with a campaign that proclaims it will redeem the country from precisely these sorts of divisive and manipulative tactics. As insidious as these tactics are, though, the Obama campaign’s most effective gambits have been far more egregious and dangerous than the hypocritical deployment of deceptive and disingenuous attack ads. To a large degree, the campaign’s strategists turned the primary and caucus race to their advantage when they deliberately, falsely, and successfully portrayed Clinton and her campaign as unscrupulous race-baiters–a campaign-within-the-campaign in which the worked-up flap over the Somali costume photograph is but the latest episode. While promoting Obama as a “post-racial” figure, his campaign has purposefully polluted the contest with a new strain of what historically has been the most toxic poison in American politics.

A hectoring lecture from a Canadian

OK, nothing matters less to your typical American than getting lectured by an annoying Canadian. Generally, you snort your low opinion of their commentary, and go about your day. OTOH, Americans need to understand that “ignorance is bliss” for only a very short time. What you don’t know WILL come back to hurt you some day…

…and Americans are turning into a nation of “know nothings.”

The most depressing book since Bambi
America’s sad state of knowledge

On September 11, 2001, New York author and historian Susan Jacoby headed home, not unreasonably stopping at a bar first, where she overheard a conversation between two men in suits:

“It’s just like Pearl Harbor,” one of the men said.

“What’s Pearl Harbor?” the other one asked.

“That was when the Vietnamese dropped bombs in a harbour, and it started the Vietnam War,” the first man replied.

That was when Jacoby decided to write her stunningly sad new book, The Age of American Unreason, on the anti-intellectualism of her nation. It’s the type of worthy, timely book that consolidates information rather than uncovering it, and stunning only in the sense that it is asteroid-like when it hits the reader. Just when Americans, led by the young, were getting their courage back and demanding a return to sanity — with the rest of us cheering them on — Jacoby delivers a harsh verdict.

Just like a pointy-headed Canadian to get the theory correct, and the application completely wrong. The allusion to electing Obama is instructive. Only an nation of un-educated ignoramouses would deliver themselves to an Obama candidacy. This isn’t to say that Obama, or his supporters are stupid. It is more complicated than that.

It suffices to say that when Hillary, McCain, or Obama are your choices after a grueling 2 year campaign, something is amiss in the land.

Jacoby traces the historical paths of anti-intellectualism. She studies the devastation caused by the U.S. system of locally controlled education, which dooms the poor and rural; the way the South for centuries ran a blockade against good schoolteachers; the primacy of religion; and, most tragically, the decline of the middlebrow.

Middlebrow culture began with the early 19th century adult-education lyceums, and continued with the postwar GI Bill that gave Second World War soldiers a free education, as well as a 1950s attempt by the middle class to improve themselves with such things as the Book-of-the-Month Club. But TV destroyed middlebrow. And highbrow dumbed down, Jacoby says, thanks to timid academics who allowed the core curriculum to drift into trendiness, killing off the study of the Dead White Males and anything that could be called an agreed-on central culture that all Americans should share. Now Americans, including the president, live in a lowbrow world.

First, education in America isn’t really “locally controled.” If it was the 1000s of school districts would have 100s of different ways to educate. The critique about the poor is accurate, but that is more a function of social pathologies in poorer areas.

No, the worst thing about American education is that it is controled by a corrupt bureaucracy whose “curricular wing” is steeped in the idiotic notion that knowledge of “mere facts” is worthless. These same set of ideologues have used a ficticious “district” system to impose an franchise like (think McDonalds, not “local control”) conformity on schools, all while loading up a protected monopoly with the most mediocre class of people the nation produces – all sucking down pensions and perks.

When you support this education system, you are supporting not only the intellectual degredation of the nation, but that of your own children.

Illinois Ethics metastasize to National GOP – The Cancer Grows

Remember this the next time some one tells you how great Hastert was for the party.

GOP sources cite lax controls at NRCC

The accounting scandal now haunting the National Republican Congressional Committee was preceded by a series of decisions over the past decade to relax internal financial controls at the committee, according to numerous Republican sources familiar with the NRCC’s operations during those years.

A pivotal moment for the NRCC occurred in spring 2003, shortly after Reynolds took over the panel, when he ousted Donna Anderson, a longtime committee staffer who oversaw the NRCC’s accounting.

Ward then moved up to the top accounting position within the committee, making him responsible for tracking tens of millions of dollars in political contributions and expenditures each cycle.

“Clearly, after the transition from Anderson to Ward, it was a different regime for what followed,” said one GOP insider with strong ties to the NRCC.

In another decision that has become controversial, the NRCC began, during Davis’ chairmanship, to allow its staffers to earn outside income. Taking advantage of that change, Ward founded Political Compliance Services in 2001 with Susan Arceneaux, helping dozens of lawmakers and congressional candidates comply with Federal Election Commission laws. The two severed their ties earlier this year, a lawyer for Arceneaux said.

It really is too bad that cultural inertia, combined with blisteringly stupid campaign finance laws, make it nearly impossible to form new parties. I’m hardly a proponent of goof ball extremes starting parties all over the place, but social science dictates that this rarely happens anyway.

Even “proportional representation” countries like Germany and the U.K. don’t really feel much of an impact from Greens and Reds.

What we need now – here in the United States – is a well-financed drive to destroy the Republican Party and replace it with a party that campaigns on “republican” principles. The ideas and ideals which the majority of Amerincans (even Democrats) subscribe to are being destroyed by a class of low-life hacks that populate both parties.

I don’t care how bad the Democrats get. That is their problem. My issue is with the scum that are taking some of the best ideas and ideals in the world, and dragging them down the drain with their greed and stupidity. Won’t some one finance the destruction of these goons?

Thus passes a truly great American

William F. Buckley Jr. Is Dead at 82

“You didn’t just part the Red Sea — you rolled it back, dried it up and left exposed, for all the world to see, the naked desert that is statism,” Mr. Reagan said.

“All great biblical stories begin with Genesis,” George Will wrote in the National Review in 1980. “And before there was Ronald Reagan, there was Barry Goldwater, and before there was Barry Goldwater there was National Review, and before there was National Review there was Bill Buckley with a spark in his mind, and the spark in 1980 has become a conflagration.”

Dan Proft is a genius

Dan Proft is promoting an excellent idea. He has an mp3 of this commentary somewhere, but here is his article.

Illinois GOP’s ticket to comeback: School choice

…Nevertheless and in spite of themselves, Republicans will be presented this year with yet another opportunity to reconfigure the political balance of power in Illinois and re-establish their electoral relevance. (ROTFLOL!!)

Against the backdrop of Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s trivial, half-hearted State of the State address last week, House Speaker Michael Madigan allowed House Bill 750 to begin slithering its way though the General Assembly once again.

Rather than getting caught in the false debate about how much money for schools is enough, Republicans should tell Democrats to name their price. Increase the foundation level by 5 percent? Or 10 percent? Or 50 percent? Fine. Whatever.

But Republicans must hold fast to one stipulation in return for their blank check on funding.

For the city of Chicago, those dollars no longer will be attached to the Chicago Public Schools. Those dollars will be attached to the individual students so their parents may send them to the school of their choosing, public or private, within the city.

Of course, the sad fact is that there isn’t Republican north of I-80 or east of the Fox River who would even whisper such sentiments. Having spent decades too cowardly to even criticize the corruption and greed of the Education Establishment, they are now wholly-owned by that corrupt establishment.

Listen to Dan Cronin or Christine Radogno. All they can do is lick the boots of their masters as they blather on about “more money for schools.”

Of course, some one as smart as Dan Proft (not Cronin) knows this. He even says so.

I previously and accurately have described the leadership (to the extent there is evidence of such) of the Republican Party in Illinois as gelatinous invertebrates. If ever there was a time to grow a spine, this is it.

The degree to which the Illinois GOP makes itself about the aspirations of low- to middle-income families trapped in a discredited edu-acracy that is robbing their children of their futures and stands up for now-proven market-oriented reforms is the degree to which Illinois once again will be a two-party state.

Illinois will become a two-party state when honest and decent Democrats force a split in their party. Perhaps someday, decent Democrats will see the corruption and waste in education for the travesty that it is, and throw the vile teachers unions and their lying Adminstrative fellow travelers off the bus.

Then we might see school choice, not just for the poor, but for everyone.
____

Just don’t wait for any Illinois Republicans to take up the cause. The extent to which they suck can not be overstated. Just look at the 11th district.

Welcome to the battle, Dan. When you don’t have time to write an excellent op-ed, just remember 4 words – Fund Children, not Bureaucrats.

“Nickel and Dimed” meets Dollars and common sense

Barbara Ehrenreich, a true believer in socialism and how it will cures all of America’s evils, wrote a book that “proved” just how bad life is for the working poor. She did so by actually going out and trying to make ends meet as a waitress and Walmart employee. I’ve read portions of the book. It makes some interesting points. It’s called “Nickel and Dimed.”

If you are interested in reading it, throw 41 cents my way by buying it here.

For an alternative view of how hard it can be to make it in America, try “Scratch Beginnings: Me, $25, and the Search for the American Dream.”

Homeless: Can you build a life from $25?

Alone on a dark gritty street, Adam Shepard searched for a homeless shelter. He had a gym bag, $25, and little else. A former college athlete with a bachelor’s degree, Mr. Shepard had left a comfortable life with supportive parents in Raleigh, N.C. Now he was an outsider on the wrong side of the tracks in Charles­ton, S.C.

But Shepard’s descent into poverty in the summer of 2006 was no accident. Shortly after graduating from Merrimack College in North Andover, Mass., he intentionally left his parents’ home to test the vivacity of the American Dream. His goal: to have a furnished apartment, a car, and $2,500 in savings within a year.

To make his quest even more challenging, he decided not to use any of his previous contacts or mention his education.

During his first 70 days in Charleston, Shepard lived in a shelter and received food stamps. He also made new friends, finding work as a day laborer, which led to a steady job with a moving company.

Ten months into the experiment, he decided to quit after learning of an illness in his family. But by then he had moved into an apartment, bought a pickup truck, and had saved close to $5,000.

The effort, he says, was inspired after reading “Nickel and Dimed,” in which author Barbara Ehrenreich takes on a series of low-paying jobs. Unlike Ms. Ehrenreich, who chronicled the difficulty of advancing beyond the ranks of the working poor, Shepard found he was able to successfully climb out of his self-imposed poverty.

Let’s be fair. Neither Shepard nor Ehrenreich suffer from most of the ills that plague most of the disadvantaged or very poor in America. Neither of them suffered from a crappy, over-priced, ossified public education system, corrupt inner-city governments, and a toxic social environment rife with pathologies that are beyond criticism in today’s PC culture.

That said, Shepard’s book does prove that getting ahead is possible for those with drive to do so. Somehow, I don’t think as many college professors will be assigning his book any time soon though. If your college bound kid comes back home with Nickel and Dimed, buy them Scratch Beginnings.

Tell them you won’t make their next tuition payment if they don’t read it.

UPDATED – Let’s buy Al Gore a snow shovel

Temperature Monitors Report Widescale Global Cooling

Over the past year, anecdotal evidence for a cooling planet has exploded. China has its coldest winter in 100 years. Baghdad sees its first snow in all recorded history. North America has the most snowcover in 50 years, with places like Wisconsin the highest since record-keeping began. Record levels of Antarctic sea ice, record cold in Minnesota, Texas, Florida, Mexico, Australia, Iran, Greece, South Africa, Greenland, Argentina, Chile — the list goes on and on.
No more than anecdotal evidence, to be sure. But now, that evidence has been supplanted by hard scientific fact. All four major global temperature tracking outlets (Hadley, NASA’s GISS, UAH, RSS) have released updated data. All show that over the past year, global temperatures have dropped precipitously.

Meteorologist Anthony Watts compiled the results of all the sources. The total amount of cooling ranges from 0.65C up to 0.75C — a value large enough to erase nearly all the global warming recorded over the past 100 years. All in one year time. For all sources, it’s the single fastest temperature change ever recorded, either up or down.

Temp Drop

Forget global warming: Welcome to the new Ice Age

Snow cover over North America and much of Siberia, Mongolia and China is greater than at any time since 1966.

The U.S. National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) reported that many American cities and towns suffered record cold temperatures in January and early February. According to the NCDC, the average temperature in January “was -0.3 F cooler than the 1901-2000 (20th century) average.”

China is surviving its most brutal winter in a century. Temperatures in the normally balmy south were so low for so long that some middle-sized cities went days and even weeks without electricity because once power lines had toppled it was too cold or too icy to repair them.

And it’s not just anecdotal evidence that is piling up against the climate-change dogma.

According to Robert Toggweiler of the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory at Princeton University and Joellen Russell, assistant professor of biogeochemical dynamics at the University of Arizona — two prominent climate modellers — the computer models that show polar ice-melt cooling the oceans, stopping the circulation of warm equatorial water to northern latitudes and triggering another Ice Age (a la the movie The Day After Tomorrow) are all wrong.

“We missed what was right in front of our eyes,” says Prof. Russell. It’s not ice melt but rather wind circulation that drives ocean currents northward from the tropics. Climate models until now have not properly accounted for the wind’s effects on ocean circulation, so researchers have compensated by over-emphasizing the role of manmade warming on polar ice melt.

Last month, Oleg Sorokhtin, a fellow of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences, shrugged off manmade climate change as “a drop in the bucket.” Showing that solar activity has entered an inactive phase, Prof. Sorokhtin advised people to “stock up on fur coats.”

He is not alone. Kenneth Tapping of our own National Research Council, who oversees a giant radio telescope focused on the sun, is convinced we are in for a long period of severely cold weather if sunspot activity does not pick up soon.

The truly sad thing about the silly “global warming” lie machine is that we now have all three of the presidential candidates shilling for a moronic “Cap and Trade” system that is sure to create “obscene profits” for the bureaucracies and corporations that will game them.

How our corrupt Public Education system destroys the culture

Teens losing touch with common cultural and historical references

Big Brother. McCarthyism. The patience of Job.

Don’t count on your typical teenager to nod knowingly the next time you drop a reference to any of these. A study out today finds that about half of 17-year-olds can’t identify the books or historical events associated with them.

Twenty-five years after the federal report A Nation at Risk challenged U.S. public schools to raise the quality of education, the study finds high schoolers still lack important historical and cultural underpinnings of “a complete education.” And, its authors fear, the nation’s current focus on improving basic reading and math skills in elementary school might only make matters worse, giving short shrift to the humanities ? even if children can read and do math.

“If you think it matters whether or not kids have common historical touchstones and whether, at some level, we feel like members of a common culture, then familiarity with this knowledge matters a lot,” says American Enterprise Institute researcher Rick Hess, who wrote the study.

Among 1,200 students surveyed:

•43% knew the Civil War was fought between 1850 and 1900.

•52% could identify the theme of 1984.

•51% knew that the controversy surrounding Sen. Joseph McCarthy focused on communism.

_____

None of the information above is difficult to convey or teach. In America, we spend about $10,000/year/student, which accomplishes little more than giving us the most ignorant population imaginable, “educated” by the most pampered, protected, and incompetent class of monopolists we could find.

If we cut education spending by 1/3, and merely handed the remaining $6,600 to parents to choose how they want their child educated, we would retain the most capable people in education, while putting the least capable on the breadlines they are so good at populating with our children.