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GOP Proposed that Public School Spend Millions on Unproven and Invasive Surveillance Technology

October 24, 2019 Comments off

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How can any members of the GOP support this mandate without money for surveillance technology that will cost local taxpayers millions and won’t do anything to help school children get the services they need. Why? Because the NRA likes it!

The Beat Goes On… DeVos’ USDOE Continues Funding Unaccredited For Profit Colleges… and Taxpayers and Students Are Paying the Price

October 23, 2019 Comments off
Categories: Uncategorized

International Tax Emergency. A Critical Time for Developing Nations to Speak Up!

October 23, 2019 Comments off

As long as corporations can offshore their funds into tax havens those nations that lose tax revenues will suffer. In the case of developing nations it means the lack of basic necessities. In the case of developed countries it means increasing inequality. If this issue is resolved it will help our country provide more money to our tax coffers which could result in a greater redistribution of funds for schools.

Source: International Tax Emergency. A Critical Time for Developing Nations to Speak Up!

Categories: Uncategorized

Warren Joins Sanders in Call to Ban For-Profit Charters, Use Wealth Tax to Fund Better Public Education

October 22, 2019 1 comment

As posted several weeks (or maybe MONTHS) ago, Bernie Sanders had separated himself from the pack of other presidential candidates by declaring his outright opposition to for-profit charters and his desire to use Federal funds to help level the playing field for public school financing. Now, according to a report by Bloomberg’s Misrelyna Egkolfopoulo, Elizabeth Warren has joined Bernie Sanders in the unreserved support for public schools… and doing him one better by offering a specific plan for funding her initiatives… and plan that calls for the transfer of $800,000,000,000 from the pockets of the top .1% to the neediest school districts. Oh… and Ms. Warren also threw down the gauntlet on those who are selling student data for commercial purposes:

Besides her vow to bar Facebook Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google from collecting student data to market products, Warren would ban the sharing, storing and sale of data with information identifying individual students to block educational technology companies and for-profit schools from selling their data to corporations. She would also tighten restrictions for companies that lobby school systems that receive federal funding.

And for-profit charter school operators will not be happy with her either:

Warren also would ban for-profit charter schools and halt federal funding to expand such schools, which she said have been an “abject failure.” She would toughen accountability requirements, direct the Internal Revenue Service to investigate any non-profit schools that break the law and expand enforcement of Justice Department whistle-blower actions for schools that commit fraud against taxpayers.

And finally, for teachers across the country, Ms. Warren would re-direct money to help increase their compensation and increase the ability of teachers’ unions to thrive.

The Massachusetts senator said she’d use some of the $450 billion in funding in her plan to increase teacher pay. She promised to replace DeVos with a former teacher and give public employees such as teachers more negotiating power while making it easier for them to join a union.

In a race to define differences among the various Democrat party aspirants, it is clear that Warren and Sanders have seized the highest ground possible in supporting democratically operated public schools. For the sake of the professionals who work in schools and the children who attend them, I hope one of them prevails in the primaries. We cannot afford another four years of the current underfunding and disrespect for public education.

Universal Free Lunch Program LOOKS LIKE A Good Idea… but COULD Be a Terrible One

October 19, 2019 Comments off

Common Dreams writer John Queally wrote a piece earlier this week supporting the proposal  advanced by Bernie Sanders and MN Representative Ilhan Omar that the US offer every child a free school lunch. This is an easy proposal to get behind for several obvious reasons, one of which was expressed in the subheading to the article:

“In one of the wealthiest countries in the world, no child should be turned away from a meal if they cannot afford it,” said Rep. Ilhan Omar.

It IS difficult to imagine how our country cannot provide free lunch to every child, especially when 1 in 5 children are going to bed hungry and a majority of students in many schools qualify for free and reduced meals. But there is one problem with offering a free lunch… and that is determining the contents of that meal. I’m listening to a book tape of Michelle Obama’s memoir and in it she describes the politics of school lunch, politics that have been in play for decades. The politics is not about Red and Blue: it’s about Green. The mega-corporations that grow and process food control what ends up on the trays of children because they can make cheap products that yield them big profits and result in result in over-sized children. Tater tots are easier to prepare, are more desirable to children, and yield higher profits for corporations than just plunking a potato on a child’s plate. The more food is processed, the greater opportunity for profits up and down the food chain, and the more likely it is that children’s diets will be compromised.

Universal free lunch is a good idea if and only if the lunch that is offered is healthy and well-balanced. Otherwise, it is unlikely to be contributing to the well-being of children though it may contribute to the bottom line of corporations.

 

Is the SAT About to be Abandoned? If So, Will Standardized Tests Follow?

October 15, 2019 Comments off

A recent PBS New Hour segment reported that many colleges are giving serious consideration to abandoning the use of the SAT as a primary metric for admissions. Why? Here’s one reason:

Critics of the tests have long argued that they reflect income more than ability, a chorus that is growing louder. And this year’s notorious Varsity Blues admission scandal — in which parents, through an intermediary, bribed test administrators to change test scores or let students cheat — reinforced the idea that the tests can be gamed, legally or illegally, by families with enough money.

My hunch is that there is another reason: the SAT score, viewed as a proxy for “academic excellence”, is the basis for lawsuits contending that colleges who use the test as the basis for entry are screening out many Asian-American students who attain higher scores on the tests than either African-American or legacy students.

The so-called “competitive colleges” have many high scoring students to choose from and, in some cases, more than ten times as many applicants as they need in order to sustain themselves. These schools have the luxury of picking and choosing who they want and, consequently, they select based on “diversity”. In many cases “diversity” provides a means for the colleges to avoid affirmative action challenges from African-Americans by accepting students-of-color with SAT scores that are below those of rejected Asian Americans. But “diversity” also provides a means of appeasing graduates who are large donors and whose children SAT scores are middling, a means of fleshing out orchestras, athletic teams, and a means of “creating” geographic and economic diversity in each class.

As the PBS report indicates, when “competitive colleges” ignore SAT scores it does not dilute the academic strength of the school. It DOES, however, undercut any argument that these schools are denying access to “less qualified” students at the expense of one group who consistently scores high on those tests. For Asian-Americans this abandonment of tests is, arguably, bad news. But for those who are born into poverty, who attend public high schools outside the affluent suburbs or college towns the abandonment of the SAT as a basis for entry is good news… for it forces college admissions officers to look at their applications and determine if they have what it takes to succeed in higher education.

From where I sit, the faster SATs are abandoned the better… and with any luck at all those who measure the “quality” of public schools based on standardized test scores will follow suit. If that happens, instead of defining individual “excellence” based on a single test 8th grade students seeking entry to NYC’s “competitive” public schools will be examined in a more wholistic fashion. If that happens, instead of schools receiving a “grade” based in any way on a standardized test they will be carefully assessed using a wholistic accreditation process, one that involves a self-assessment as well as an external one. Would such a system cost more money? Yes— but it would be fairer, more focussed on each student’s individual needs, and would greatly expand the opportunity for students to engage in creative activities. Here’s hoping it happens soon!

The Florida Legislature’s Solution to School Shootings: Collect Data on Children Instead of Limiting Access to Military Grade Weapons

October 12, 2019 Comments off

The title of a CNBC report by Kate Fazzini is chilling:

Florida is scooping up huge amounts of data on schoolchildren, including security camera footage and discipline records, and researchers are worried

The reason for collecting this data is not revealed in the headline but IS revealed in the second bullet point at the beginning of the article:

  • Florida schools are now required to collect, store and crunch data on students in the name of predicting a school shooting.

This bullet point was elaborated on later:

Florida schools are now required to collect, store and crunch data on students in the name of predicting school shootings. The Florida Schools Safety Portal, or FSSP, executive order was issued by Gov. Ron DeSantis earlier this year in response to the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Along with this caveat,drawn from research done by the Aspen Institute:

No evidence-based research has demonstrated that a data-driven surveillance system such as the FSSP will be effective in preventing school violence. In addition, no information is publicly available about how the database was designed, developed, or tested,” according to preliminary findings by researchers.

Researchers from the Aspen Institute DID offer some details, though:

The law requires Florida school districts to store huge amounts of data in one database, including thousands of hours of video footage, grade cards, student disciplinary records and teacher memos. It also includes information on children collected through “social media monitoring, local law enforcement agencies, the Florida Department of Children and Families, Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Baker Act admissions, and the School Environmental Safety Incident Reporting System, which aggregates data on crime, violence, and disruptive behaviors.

There’s a massive amount of data going into this database, but they still haven’t been transparent about what algorithm they are using. Using administrative data to predict future behavior, it’s not evidence-based.

Aspen expressed concerns that the data gathered would “disproportionately affect students with disabilities and African American males, two groups that have traditionally received disproportionately higher disciplinary actions than other students” while noting that “…there’s no evidence that students who have discipline problems in school go on to become school shooters.”

What neither CNBC nor the Aspen Institute did say was that the Governor and the Legislature had a choice: they could go after military grade weapons owned by a handful of gun owners or they could compromise the privacy of tens of thousands of school children. The choice from where I sit would be easy… but then the NRA isn’t underwriting my blog.