Saturday, May 17, 2008

Making a difference in the world.

On more than one occasion we have been asked "how much we get paid to do what we do?" The answer is nothing or "zero." Zero is a concept my three year old learned about 2 months ago. Funny how a three year old can understand the concept of zero but legislators, bureaucrats and educrats can't grasp the concept of zero.
The people who seemed most amazed that we do what we do for nothing are teachers. Let's face it most of them get paid extra for teaching an extra class, being a coach, proctoring exams, lunch duty or bus duty. So they have a real hard time grasping getting paid nothing for doing a lot of work. For the past five and half years we were paid absolutely nothing for working anywhere from 5 hours to 40 hours a week doing research, blogging, lobbying, community presentations, radio interviews, op eds, etc. Why do we do it? We do it for our children and the future of this country.

Government spending beyond their means by prior generations is hurting us today. The excess spending today will only increase the tax burden of our children and future generations.

I received the following letter from someone who gets why we do what we do and he suggests others do the same.


Hello Cathy,
Thanks for your message. Its good to see others digging into such older exams, as much can be learned. The key, of course, is to find all ways possible to improve the poor quality of today's education in America, especially when compared in math & science to those students in nearly all other nations.

I hope you find time to read all of the Grandfather Economic Report series' chapter called Education Report - as well as the many sub-sections there to - - such as on text books, class size, international tests, etc. In doing so should you have suggestions please pass them along - - as I think all want to help any way possible to improve education quality for our young generation as they face the largest international and living standard challenge ever.

I can't recall comparing education costs to the Iraq war, unless it is in the National Security chapter.

While there are many ominous trends facing our nation > What can one do?

Since we as individuals have not the means to change national trends this should be no excuse not to find a way to best develop plans for ourselves and our own family members regarding the future.

I have found that our mission should be to first educate ourselves about these serious treats as much as possible based on hard data and data trends. I think the Grandfather Economic Report series provides help in that area. Next, we can develop our own To-Do List regarding what we and our loved ones should do about these findings to better protect and enhance our own future - - (on the home page below, under its category 'Action' you will note a link to the chapter "To-do List for Individuals & Families " to help get you started). Next, we can do the right thing - - pass along to others what we have learned and try to move as many out of Ostrich Mode as we can - - to learn themselves and develop their own To-Do List. For example, while an individual can do nothing to reverse national trends in household debt, as individuals they can do something about that subject regarding their own lives - - like get out of debt.

What can we do? We can sit on our hands or try to inform our selves AND others - - with hope such helps others better direct their own lives. I believe that most can better develop their own to-do lists if they understand many macro trends. Of course, that requires they also invest time in doing so.

Since the larger macro pix emerges from reading more than one chapter, you are invited to read most chapters of this series, each listed by category on the home page below - - whereby each chapter employs hard data trend graphics to more accurately assist telling the story as to where we are relative to the past. I leave it to readers to do their own forward projection, but suggest each take some time to think more deeply about current trends and implications for their own lives, both personally and professionally.

This series has zilch to do with party X vs. Y. It is non-political. Its based on data, not politics. As one reviews long-term data on many subjects showing negative trends it is sadly realized that such trends occurred on the 'watch' of both political parties. Sad, but reality.

Like any book, it takes a bit of time to absorb - - but, I hope you find that 'trip' helpful and if so that you consider assisting others. It is my view that the more who use hard data to better form their views, the better. That's the objective of this work - - provide some of that data, including data-based ammunition to assist their engagement with others as they try to help remove them from 'ostrich-mode'. After-all, these trends happened on 'our watch.'

You might first start with the summary page and then to the below home page's index of chapters.

I hope this helps. I hope your reading of this series assists your deeper understanding of these important issues and helps you think about your own action planning - and, as mentioned, that you assist understanding by others as best you can.

Very best regards,

Michael Hodges
The Grandfather Economic Report - or - home page

Graphic presentation reviewing economic issues facing today's generation compared to prior periods,
on: family income, debt, savings, government spending and size, trust funds, education quality, social security, regulations, taxes, inflation, productivity, foreign trade and exchange, voter turnout, trust, celebration, national security, energy, and health care/life expectancy

Friday, May 16, 2008

Sign of the Times

In the article below the editors conclude that failure of several warrant articles was the result of a poor economy. But they fail to take into consideration a second factor: the passage of SB-2 in May 2007. Some people are more willing to vote against a tax increase if their teachers, superintendents, firemen, police officers, etc. are not looking to see who is supporting their tax increases. We saw it here in Croydon and it happens in other towns across New Hampshire. We also saw it in caucuses across this country during the primaries the past 5 months.

The editors point out that it only saves $18 on $100,000 house. Most houses in Newport are well over $100,000 and Newport has one of the highest tax rates in the state. The authors fail to acknowledge that people are already spending thousands to to tens of thousands of dollars annually in property taxes. Its inappropriate to minimize the defeat by saying it is only 18 cents more per 1,000. That trick is commonly used to pass tax increases by tax eaters.

Voters were willing to spend money where they felt it was necessary (ex. the ambulance). If the economy was the true culprit, I doubt any tax increases would have passed.

The more plausible explanation is that people simply feel the schools and the town are getting enough money and it is time for them to start spending it wisely.


The following Our View appears in the Eagle Times.

Sign of the times
As general rule, if a town or a school district anticipates the tax rate will decrease under their proposed budgets and other spending articles, it is safe to assume voters will say yes.

But that is in so-called normal times and these are not normal times. With gasoline approaching $4 a gallon and home heating oil about the same, cash-strapped residents are wondering if they will have enough money to stay warm and get to work. This is no longer about cutting out the weekly movie.

We offer that as an explanation as to what happened in Newport during town meeting Tuesday. The town manager and board of selectmen had proposed a budget and other warrant articles that would have reduced the town tax rate an estimated six cents per $1,000 if they passed. As little as a year ago, such a proposal had a pretty good chance of gaining voter approval. But this year is different and by rejecting the budget and all but three articles, residents could see their town tax rate fall by 18 cents. Yes, that is only $18 on a $100,000 home but the escalating cost of energy means that money could buy maybe a half a tank of gas.

No one can say today what energy costs will be next March, but we would bet that if they are just as high, if not higher, many town and school districts will be experiencing what Newport experienced Tuesday.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

WNTK posed the question...How do you solve the school funding problem?

WNTK posed the question...How do you solve the school funding problem?

First there is not a funding problem there is a spending problem. Cut back spending and the "funding problem" will disappear.

Any individual can obtain information about their school's finances for the past several years. Analysis of said finances would show that schools are spending faster than the rate of inflation with some school districts exceeding inflation by as much as 50 - 100%. Limit spending to the rate of inflation.

An analysis of student to teacher ratios will show that ratios continue to decrease with no improvement in student performance. The decreased student to teacher ratios inflates the cost of education.

I am 44 I am sure many of my older readers remember a time when we did not have teacher aids. If there was any help in the classroom there was a room mother and they were not in classroom that often. The switch to teacher aids also inflated the cost of educating our children, as well as having another group of tax eaters demanding more of our tax dollars.

We need to get rid of the state department of education. It is just a bunch of bureaucrats wasting are tax dollars, furthermore they are just another lobbying group for educrats and education tax dollars. They have no direct educational influence on our children. Getting rid of the state department of education would send a ton of money back into the classroom or back into taxpayers’ pockets. I would like to see an analysis of student performance results, dropout rates and literacy rates before and after the state department of education existed.

We need to get rid of tenure. The only people it benefits are poor and mediocre teachers and the families that benefit from that paycheck.

We need to get rid of the teachers' pension plan. It is a Ponzi Scheme that has no benefit to New Hampshire's public school students. Our legislators need to switch from a defined benefit plan to a defined contribution plan. Today our pension system is 1.6 billion under funded. It is constitutionally protected with the taxpayers going to have to eventually foot the bill.

Increase the age of retirement.

We need to get rid of the SAU's this is yet another group of bureaucrats eating our tax dollars with no direct influence of the education or educational performance of our children.

These are just a few steps that could solve the school-spending problem but it will never happen. Because of greed on the part of those that believe "It's for the kids." If education were truly "for the kids" the funds would follow the child and not the institution. When will our legislators stop pandering to educrats and start really caring about the education of New Hampshire's children.

Public schools are nothing more than government schools and like many forms of government there is waste, patronage and corruption.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Sabrina Avedisian: Home schooling has given me tremendous opportunities

The following piece appeared in the Union Leader.

Sabrina Avedisian: Home schooling has given me tremendous opportunities
Monday, May. 12, 2008

HOME SCHOOLING provides amazing opportunities for students. At the age of 12, I planned to squeeze four years of high school into a two-year-period by studying through the summers. At this rate, I would graduate high school by the age of 16. This was my grand plan until through home schooling I became involved in a national speech and debate league.

Instead of graduating in two years as I had planned, I quickly realized that I wanted to spend five years in high school. From the ages of 12 to 16 I was seriously involved in speech and debate, winning many awards. I was able to win several state championships and go on to place in the national tournament.

Last fall, I decided that I would stop my "career" as a speaker and move on to something that I could not live without: music. After studying various forms of music for many years, I decided to attend a music conservatory in Cambridge, Mass., for voice. I am enrolled in the Young Performer's Certificate Program. I also began to teach piano. Home schooling has allowed me to follow my dreams and major in music for high school.

Home schooling presents the incredible opportunity for each student to follow their educational dreams. Anything is possible. Advanced aviation, music and science are all at the finger tips of these students.

None of this, however, would be possible if it weren't for dedicated parents who stand ready to support their students in their dreams. I am especially grateful for my parents, and particularly my mother. Every Saturday she makes the three-hour round trip to the conservatory.

One benefit of home schooling is the unique relationships built in home-school families. Home schooling has brought my family together in a special bond. As a family, we have been able to learn and travel together in a way only possible in home schooling. I am truly grateful that I can home school.

Although not every parent or every child was meant to home school, I feel that every child should have the opportunity. I also believe that every parent should have the choice. Home schooling provides students with opportunities that they might not otherwise have. Home schooling is a choice I am grateful my parents made for me.


Sabrina Avedisian is a home-schooled student from Auburn.

Within the comments section someone who appears to be a teacher named Joan made some snide remarks to the above eloquently written essay.

The following response which was not posted on the Union Leader to Joan comes from Jim Peschke.

I think what we have here is a teacher with poor reading comprehension trying to demean the well-written letter from a successful homeschooler. Joan, you get an "F" for Reading Comprehension, because Sabrina most certainly did back up her main point with copious examples from her personal life. Did you even read her letter?

Sabrina is NOT mistaken in her inference that her opportunities would be denied a public school student. No matter how much a student might get from their public school, it remains watered down because of the one-size-fits-none approach of public ed, endless red tape, and incompetence protecting tenure.

Sabrina is not responsible for "inspiring students in a group environment". That is the responsibility of the school teacher, a responsibility they frequently fail to meet.

10-year-old scholar takes Calif. college by storm

The following piece about a homeschooled boy appeared in My Way News.

10-year-old scholar takes Calif. college by storm

May 14, 7:30 AM (ET)


DOWNEY, Calif. (AP) - With the end of another school year approaching, college sophomore Moshe Kai Cavalin is cramming for final exams in classes such as advanced mathematics, foreign languages and music.

But Cavalin is only 10 years old. And at 4-foot-7, his shoes don't quite touch the floor as he puts down a schoolbook and swivels around in his chair to greet a visitor.

"I'm studying statistics," says the alternately precocious and shy Cavalin, his textbook lying open on the living room desk of his parents' apartment in this quiet suburb east of Los Angeles.

Within a year, if he keeps up his grades and completes the rest of his requirements, he hopes to transfer from his two-year program at East Los Angeles College to a prestigious four-year school and study astrophysics.

One of his primary interests is "wormholes," a hypothetical scientific phenomenon connected to Albert Einstein's theory of relativity. It has been theorized that if such holes do exist in space, they could - in tandem with black holes - allow for the kind of space-age time travel seen in science fiction.

"Just like black holes, they suck in particulate objects, and also like black holes, they also travel at escape velocity, which is, the speed to get out of there is faster than the speed of light," Cavalin says. "I'd like to prove that wormholes are really there and prove all the theories are correct."

First, he has statistics homework to finish. Later, he'll work with his mother, Shu Chen Chien, to brush up on his Mandarin for his Chinese class. Then it's over to the piano to prepare for his recital in music class.

His father, Yosef Cavalin, frets about the piano-playing, noting that his only child recently broke his arm pursuing another passion, martial arts. He has won several trophies for his age group.

"Finals are coming and everything and he cannot play with both hands. He'll just try to play with the right hand," he says. "I don't know how his grade's going to be in piano. It worries me a bit."

If past success is any indication, his son will find a way to compensate. Cavalin, who enrolled in college more than a year ago, has maintained an A-plus average in such subjects as algebra, history, astronomy and physical education.

College officials couldn't immediately say whether he is the youngest student in the school's 63-year history. Among child prodigies, Michael Kearney, now 24, is often cited as the world's youngest college graduate, having earned a bachelor's degree in anthropology from the University of South Alabama at age 10.

Cavalin's professors can't recall having a younger student in their classes.

"He is the youngest college student I've ever taught and one of the hardest working," says Daniel Judge, his statistics professor. "He's actually a pleasure to have in class. He's a well- adjusted, nice little boy."

Cavalin was an 8-year-old freshman when he enrolled in Guajao Liao's intermediate algebra class in 2006. By the end of the term, Liao recalls, he was tutoring some of his 19- and 20-year-old classmates.

"I told his parents that his ability was much higher than that level, that he should take a higher-level course," Liao says. "But his parents didn't want to push him."

Cavalin's parents avoid calling their son a genius. They say he's just an average kid who enjoys studying as much as he likes playing soccer, watching Jackie Chan movies, and collecting toy cars and baseball caps with tiger emblems on them. He was born during the Year of the Tiger in the Chinese zodiac.

Cavalin has a general idea what his IQ is, but doesn't like to discuss it. He says other students can achieve his success if they study hard and stay focused on their work.

His parents say they never planned to enroll their son in college at age 8, and sought to put him in a private elementary school when he was 6.

"They didn't want to accept me because I knew more than the teacher there and they said I looked too bored," the youngster recalls.

His parents home-schooled him instead, but after two years decided college was the best place for him. East L.A. officials agreed to accept him if he enrolled initially in just two classes, math and physical education. After he earned A-pluses in both, he was allowed to expand his studies.

"He sees things very simply," says Judge, his statistics teacher. "Most students think that things should be harder than they are and they put these mental blocks in front of them and they make things harder than they should be. In the case of Moshe, he sees right through the complications. ... It's not really mystical in any way, but at the same time it's amazing."

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Vote NO on Article 7

The following letter to the editor appeared in the Eagle Times.
Vote NO on Article 7

The spirit of SB2 provides better representation, allowing citizens to vote their conscience without the stigma of open air voting. State and national elections operate in much the same way, and with good reason.

Case in point is our 2008 Croydon town meeting. I motioned to reduce the school budget proposal and have the vote taken by secret ballot. Opposition to the ballot was strong and almost exclusively from the teachers and education staff who directly benefit from increased spending.

We lost the vote, but it was closer than much more controversial votes conducted by show of hands. Clearly ballot voting permitted residents to cast votes unencumbered by social taboo.

Nowhere are the benefits of SB2 better known than in Newport, where the citizens recently rejected the proposed school budget. Uppity Newport voters dared to challenge runaway school spending and won. How dare you!

This is precisely why we have SB2; to allow people to vote as they choose without intimidation.

It is also the real reason a group calling themselves "Concerned Citizens of Newport" launched an all-out campaign to rescind SB2. Their flyer, replete with emotional appeals, was carefully designed with a "grass roots" appearance.

But make no mistake. This is not "grass roots", its Astroturf. Grass roots groups don't organize against year old supermajority public votes with expensive mass mailings. Astroturf groups do.

Before going to the polls on May 13th, voters should know that Article 7 is NOT about restoring Democracy. Its about restoring runaway school spending.

SB2 has freed the genie of democracy. Special interests created Article 7 to put the genie back in the voter intimidation bottle.

Vote NO on Article 7!

Jim Peschke
Co-founder Citizens for Reasonable And Fair Taxes - Croydon

Jim wrote the above piece in response to the anonymous piece of propaganda that was sent out by a group called "Concerned Citizens of Newport" on a hot pink piece of paper this past week.

How ironic that an anonymous group sent out a piece of propaganda wanting to disallow voters from voting anonymously. Interesting... it must be from a group of large tax eaters who had a budget not pass recently because of SB-2. The people who have acted in such a cowardly manor and who want voting not to be anonymous should at least have the guts to step forward and not remain anonymous themselves. - Cathy

Monday, May 12, 2008

Student Tests – and Teacher Grades

The following article eloquently points out what is wrong with the monopoly called the American Public Education System which has been hijacked by special interests groups not limited to the National Education Association.

The following piece appeared in the Wall Street Journal.

Student Tests – and Teacher Grades

WSJ: May 9, 2008; Page A15
Suppose a swimming instructor told his 10-year-old students to swim the length of the pool to demonstrate what he'd taught them, and half of them nearly drowned? Would it be reasonable to make a judgment about his teaching ability?

Or suppose nearly all the 10-year-old students in a particular clarinet class learned to play five or six pieces well in a semester? Would it be reasonable to consider their achievement when deciding whether to rehire the music teacher?

These questions answer themselves. Only an idiot would overlook student performance, be it dismal or outstanding.

However, suppose test results indicated that most students in a particular class don't have a clue about how to multiply with fractions, or master other material in the curriculum? Should that be considered when the math teacher comes up for tenure?

Whoops, the obvious answer is wrong. That's because public education lives in an upside-down universe where student outcomes are not allowed to be connected to teaching.

Ten years ago, I encountered this view in an interview with Jack Steinberg, the vice president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers. Here is the exchange:

He said, "You're asking, can you evaluate a teacher on the performance of the students?"

I said, "Yes or no?"

He said, "No, you cannot."

I, incredulously, said, "You cannot evaluate a teacher on the performance of his or her students?"

He said, "Right."

Today, the notion that student performance cannot be used to judge teacher performance is the law in New York.

Until recently, New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein could consider whether teachers successfully used "analysis of available student performance" to improve their teaching when he was deciding whether to grant tenure. This isn't the same as using student test scores to judge a teacher's performance, of course. But the mere hint of connecting student performance to teacher effectiveness caused fits at union headquarters. Richard C. Iannuzzi, the president of the New York State United Teachers, complained that "Student assessments are designed to assess students, not teachers."

State and city teacher unions lobbied the state legislature, and last month Albany gave in to the pressure. Today, the law reads, "The teacher shall not be granted or denied tenure based on student performance data."

Celebrating the victory, United Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said, "There is no independent or conclusive research that shows you can accurately measure the impact of an individual teacher on a student's academic achievement."

Independent analysts disagree. Eric Hanushek, who specializes in the economics of education at Stanford University, told me recently that "It is very clear from the research into variations in teacher quality that such information would be useful." Calling this "very bad public policy," Prof. Hanushek added dryly, "I guess only friendships and politics count – just what the unions have always railed against."

Ms. Weingarten denies that her members are afraid of accountability. That may be a hard sell to the public.

School administrators have reams of data about student performance, thanks largely to the No Child Left Behind Act. Now that administrators are required to "drill down" to find out who is learning and who is not, they can also pinpoint who seems to be an effective teacher.

I've met superintendents, principals and department chairmen armed with this data. They all have named teachers who, they said, were either outstanding or deficient at teaching specific skills. One educator singled out a specific teacher and said he "doesn't seem to be able to teach his students how to multiply with fractions." He then showed me student performance data and contrasted it with data from another teacher's class.

Of course, not every kid comes to class equally able to complete the day's assignment. Some are new immigrants, others are gifted, and still others might have a learning disability. These factors affect test scores as much as or more than who is teaching.

Still, students at whatever level of performance can also be evaluated on how much they've improved over a given period of time.

Test data is not going to go away. So it is up to union leadership to decide if they'll ignore it, or if they will help school administrators figure out how to use it in the years ahead – and help the public understand its limitations.

Forward-looking union officials would push for creative uses of student performance data – such as using it to help teachers in areas where the data reveals they are not reaching their students. This would put union officials in a position of pushing to improve the quality of our public schools, instead of simply wielding their political power to protect every union member's job.

Denying any connection between teaching and learning is a dangerous course for teacher unions to chart. It contradicts what experience teaches us. And it flies in the face of common sense. If unions are telling us that there's no connection between teaching and learning, why should we then support teachers, or public education?

Mr. Merrow, a former teacher in high school, college and federal prison, is education correspondent for the "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" and president of Learning Matters, Inc

The Quote of the Day "That's because public education lives in an upside-down universe where student outcomes are not allowed to be connected to teaching." John Merrow.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Tenure for K-12 Teachers is Bad Policy

The following piece comes to us from our friend Pete the Finance Guy from Illinois. The piece is from his BLOG titled General Eclectic. To learn more about the problems with tenure go to The Hidden Costs of Tenure

Tenure for K-12 Teachers is Bad Policy

Tenure in educational institutions below the college level is an obscene concept.

A college can be described as a colloquy of fiefdoms. In universities professors are expected to conduct research free from biased criticism to advance the state of knowledge in their field.

Tenure is or should be granted based on the demonstrated advancement and the capacity for future advancement of knowledge.

Classroom teaching is an adjunct to all this and demonstrates the professor's ability to communicate the ideas which make up the body of knowledge. The college professor works from a base salary augmented by research grants.

In the K-12 field, tenure is based nearly exclusively on the time in position. Even before that time has been reached, discharge of the teacher based on classroom performance is nearly impossible for a school board to conclude.

K-12 teachers receive monetary increases usually based on a matrix with term of service along one axis and additional educational attainment along the other. For the most part the additional courses taken are in the education field and not in the subject matter taught. Methodological courses are taken in the evening and during the summer. Some high school teachers do work towards graduate degrees to obtain and extend subject matter mastery.

It is subject matter mastery as well as a love of both the material being taught and the ability to communicate that affection and respect for the pupils that define effective instruction.

Independent research such as is accomplished by professors at the college level is not part of teacher duties at the levels below college. Tenure is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for effective teaching.

It is an element of the closed shop of Public Education, which along with the lack of periodic testing of teacher Subject Matter knowledge (recertification), the dumbing down of standardized tests by the state agencies and the norming up of scores, has helped to create the sub prime results we see.

These outcomes are hindering the nation's performance in the 21st Century world economy. Tenure may provide security in teacher employment. It affects job performance in the rest of the economy.