Friday, May 18, 2012

Every Child Left Behind

This guy failed the FCAT miserably(...Roach took the FCAT himself last year and failed dismally, getting wrong 84 percent of the math questions and only scoring 62 percent on the writing portion ): “It seems to me something is seriously wrong. I have a bachelor of science degree, two masters’ degrees, and 15 credit hours toward a doctorate. I help oversee an organization with 22,000 employees and a $3 billion operations and capital budget, and am able to make sense of complex data related to those responsibilities.”  

The following from WatchDog.org

Confessions of a standardized testing survivor

By / May 17, 2012 
By Yaƫl Ossowski | Florida Watchdog

Yael Ossowski
 
TAMPA — Even after hours of cramming mathematical formulas, composing rough drafts and tracking down ever-elusive No. 2 pencils, there was no more excruciating experience than having to complete a state-mandated standardized test.
The teachers, worn out from their recent intensive lessons on math, reading and writing expected on the next standardized test, would arrive on test day with the latest Mary Higgins Clark novel in hand.
Anxious students entered the classroom knowing all-too-well that failing the test, which had been drilled into their heads, would mean repeating the grade — risking total social shame.
Throughout my primary and secondary education, this was the essential feeling tied to standardized tests.
For our class, they represented a barrier to future goals and dreams, not the rubric used to measure them, whether they were yearly writing exams to pass to the next grade or the SAT and ACT to be accepted into college.
It was no surprise to hear, therefore, that 66 percent of students failed the writing portion of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test this year.
That led the Florida State Board of Education to do what has been done all too often —avoid admitting failure and pass an emergency rule lowering the standards of the standardized test.
This has been met with cries of outrage from the teachers and the parents, and they have every reason to be upset with the status quo.
‘Every Child Left Behind’
As a survivor of this form of standardized testing, I can attest to the fact that it is both narrow-minded and wrong.
Students with divergent strengths and passions, such as history, art or science, are made to conform to predetermined standards that simply cannot be met by the majority, evidenced by the 1.3 million students who dropped out of high school in 2010, according to the Department of Education.
It was no coincidence that friends of mine called the mandatory tests “Every Child Left Behind,” skewing the federal program of a similar named passed into law by President George W. Bush in 2001.
For example, we look to my 10th grade writing examination question, administered by North Carolina: “Write an article for a school newspaper about the meaning of individuality as it relates to being a member of a group.”
Now for some, this may seem quite simple. But to the majority of students, who are separated into academically gifted, remedial or sub-par “regular” classes, the writing subject requires much more focus and detail, one that cannot solely be achieved by a standard teaching style mandated in the school curriculum.
To that end, I did not do so well on that writing exam, scoring in the lower portion of the average tier of my peers — a sad fact for someone now paid to write.
This inspired me to reach out to a friend of mine now working as a high school English teacher in North Carolina, a studious chap who received a perfect score on the 10th grade writing test.
As a fellow survivor of the standardized testing scheme, he knew all too well the pitfalls of this method of grading students.
“What is the point of original thought if you must adhere to a standard that some administrators, far away from the classroom, have set?” he exclaimed, lamenting that teachers are required to “teach to the test” so that students will succeed.
“What we’re doing now is filtering an entire education and way of interpreting language down to such a narrow view,” said the English teacher.
He emphasized that more than 90 percent of his students passed the latest mandatory state tests, but he could not say the same for his colleagues in the teaching faculty.
“The bubbles on the paper don’t say more than the teacher who actually spends time with the students in the classroom everyday.”
Testing the test
A similar conclusion was reached by Rich Roach, a former teacher and 15-year member of the Orange County Board of Education, who decided to conduct a standardized testing experiment later featured in the Washington Post.
Roach took the FCAT himself last year and failed dismally, getting wrong 84 percent of the math questions and only scoring 62 percent on the writing portion, which would get him a “mandatory assignment to a double block of reading instruction,” according to Roach.
“It seems to me something is seriously wrong. I have a bachelor of science degree, two masters’ degrees, and 15 credit hours toward a doctorate. I help oversee an organization with 22,000 employees and a $3 billion operations and capital budget, and am able to make sense of complex data related to those responsibilities.
“It might be argued that I’ve been out of school too long, that if I’d actually been in the 10th grade prior to taking the test, the material would have been fresh. But doesn’t that miss the point? A test that can determine a student’s future life chances should surely relate in some practical way to the requirements of life. I can’t see how that could possibly be true of the test I took,” wrote Roach.
If the highly-educated people responsible for drafting the tests cannot even pass them, what hope is left for our nation’s children?

Related (from the Washington Post)
 “The math section had 60 questions. I knew the answers to none of them, but managed to guess ten out of the 60 correctly. On the reading test, I got 62%...
When an adult took standardized tests forced on kids
Update 12/12:
QUIZ: Take part of the test that the local school board member took in the story below: Reading Quiz | Math Quiz. Questions come from the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) for 10th grade.
Update 12/6:
Revealed: The school board member who took standardized test

Original post:
This was written by Marion Brady, veteran teacher, administrator, curriculum designer and author.

By Marion Brady
A longtime friend on the school board of one of the largest school systems in America did something that few public servants are willing to do. He took versions of his state’s high-stakes standardized math and reading tests for 10th graders, and said he’d make his scores public.
By any reasonable measure, my friend is a success. His now-grown kids are well-educated. He has a big house in a good part of town. Paid-for condo in the Caribbean. Influential friends. Lots of frequent flyer miles. Enough time of his own to give serious attention to his school board responsibilities. The margins of his electoral wins and his good relationships with administrators and teachers testify to his openness to dialogue and willingness to listen.
He called me the morning he took the test to say he was sure he hadn’t done well, but had to wait for the results. A couple of days ago, realizing that local school board members don’t seem to be playing much of a role in the current “reform” brouhaha, I asked him what he now thought about the tests he’d taken.
“I won’t beat around the bush,” he wrote in an email. “The math section had 60 questions. I knew the answers to none of them, but managed to guess ten out of the 60 correctly. On the reading test, I got 62% . In our system, that’s a “D”, and would get me a mandatory assignment to a double block of reading instruction.
He continued, “It seems to me something is seriously wrong. I have a bachelor of science degree, two masters degrees, and 15 credit hours toward a doctorate.
“I help oversee an organization with 22,000 employees and a $3 billion operations and capital budget, and am able to make sense of complex data related to those responsibilities.
“I have a wide circle of friends in various professions. Since taking the test, I’ve detailed its contents as best I can to many of them, particularly the math section, which does more than its share of shoving students in our system out of school and on to the street. Not a single one of them said that the math I described was necessary in their profession.
“It might be argued that I’ve been out of school too long, that if I’d actually been in the 10th grade prior to taking the test, the material would have been fresh. But doesn’t that miss the point? A test that can determine a student’s future life chances should surely relate in some practical way to the requirements of life. I can’t see how that could possibly be true of the test I took.”
Here’s the clincher in what he wrote:
“If I’d been required to take those two tests when I was a 10th grader, my life would almost certainly have been very different. I’d have been told I wasn’t ‘college material,’ would probably have believed it, and looked for work appropriate for the level of ability that the test said I had.
“It makes no sense to me that a test with the potential for shaping a student’s entire future has so little apparent relevance to adult, real-world functioning. Who decided the kind of questions and their level of difficulty? Using what criteria? To whom did they have to defend their decisions? As subject-matter specialists, how qualified were they to make general judgments about the needs of this state’s children in a future they can’t possibly predict? Who set the pass-fail “cut score”? How?”
“I can’t escape the conclusion that decisions about the [state test] in particular and standardized tests in general are being made by individuals who lack perspective and aren’t really accountable.”
There you have it. A concise summary of what’s wrong with present corporately driven education change: Decisions are being made by individuals who lack perspective and aren’t really accountable.
Those decisions are shaped not by knowledge or understanding of educating, but by ideology, politics, hubris, greed, ignorance, the conventional wisdom, and various combinations thereof. And then they’re sold to the public by the rich and powerful.
All that without so much as a pilot program to see if their simplistic, worn-out ideas work, and without a single procedure in place that imposes on them what they demand of teachers: accountability.
But maybe there’s hope. As I write, a New York Times story by Michael Winerip makes my day. The stupidity of the current test-based thrust of reform has triggered the first revolt of school principals.
Winerip writes: “As of last night, 658 principals around the state (New York) had signed a letter — 488 of them from Long Island, where the insurrection began — protesting the use of students’ test scores to evaluate teachers’ and principals’ performance.”
One of those school principals, Winerip says, is Bernard Kaplan. Kaplan runs one of the highest-achieving schools in the state, but is required to attend 10 training sessions.
“It’s education by humiliation,” Kaplan said. “I’ve never seen teachers and principals so degraded.”
Carol Burris, named the 2010 Educator of the Year by the School Administrators Association of New York State, has to attend those 10 training sessions.
Katie Zahedi, another principal, said the session she attended was “two days of total nonsense. I have a Ph.D., I’m in a school every day, and some consultant is supposed to be teaching me to do evaluations.”
A fourth principal, Mario Fernandez, called the evaluation process a product of “ludicrous, shallow thinking. They’re expecting a tornado to go through a junkyard and have a brand new Mercedes pop up.”
My school board member-friend concluded his email with this: “I can’t escape the conclusion that those of us who are expected to follow through on decisions that have been made for us are doing something ethically questionable.”
He’s wrong. What they’re being made to do isn’t ethically questionable. It’s ethically unacceptable. Ethically reprehensible. Ethically indefensible.
How many of the approximately 100,000 school principals in the U.S. would join the revolt if their ethical principles trumped their fears of retribution? Why haven’t they been asked?

QUIZ: How would you do on this same test taken by a school board member? Find out: Reading Quiz | Math Quiz. Questions come from the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) for 10th grade. Or try your hand at questions from the National Assessment of Education Progress for fourth and eigth graders.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Three Days In Hell

Source: G-Man Case File
THREE DAYS IN HELL
by Steve Moore, FBI special agent, (retired)
Santa Cruz, Bolivia, April 7, 2012:

Palmasola Prison, Santa Cruz, Bolivia, is a modern-day Dante's Inferno. But instead of the Roman poet Virgil guiding visitors through this modern-day underworld, my passage is shepherded by a good man named Jacob.

When one thinks "Bolivian Prison," one might think 'barbarian.' But really, that word is so inadequate in this case.

Palmasola itself is a series of concentric rings of walls and barbed wire. In the center ring is a squalid slum where the prisoners--and their children--live, and into which guards venture only a few times a day when all of the prisoners stand for roll call. (Unless, of course, you are one of the hundreds who have enough money to bribe your way out of appearing for roll call.) In actual fact, the prison is completely run by a mafia of powerful prisoners. They charge the others for their cells, taxes on "imported" items and privileges, and extortion money. Those who cannot afford to pay for a cell sleep in the gutter. Food is a gulag-style gruel served once a day for those who lack the dinero to have their food brought in. This is my third day with Jacob, an American incarcerated in the hell that is Palmasola, for a crime he did not commit. I would call it purgatory, but the concept of purgatory implies a temporary stay. There is no such promise at Palmasola.

There are many Americans in foreign jails who have earned their way there. Jacob is not one of them. And few human beings, even those guilty of crimes, have "earned" Palmasola. Open sewers run through the streets (yes, streets), and the prison garbage dump shares a plot of land with the prison kitchen. Cocaine sales, prostitution and footbol games are all equally sanctioned and 'above board.' They also take place within 20 yards of each other. I saw all three of these recreational activities occur just today inside the prison. It occurred to me while strolling past the cocaine "store" yesterday with Jacob, that with cocaine in the prison selling at approximately 1/100 of the price of cocaine on the outside, users should just find a friend to start visiting. Prostitution is even more convenient. Prisoners at the female prison within the same walls pay 10 Bolivianos ($1.50) for entry into the men's side, and charge 30 Bolivianos ($4.37) for each "trick." Or you can pay more for any of the local professionals who come in from town. This is not only endorsed, but facilitated by the authorities who rule the prison. And who are those authorities? The prisoners with the most power, of course. And power is determined by money and/or violence.

That the prison is run by prisoners is not a figure of speech implicitly condemning an inefficient or corrupt system; it is a fact, of which the Bolivian government is proud. They have intentionally and officially ceded control of the interior of the prison to the prisoners. All the Bolivian guards do is essentially form a blockade around Palmasola so that no one escapes and only those things that the guards are paid to allow in are imported. Oh, and they drag out the bodies of the prisoners who are killed, usually on the average of one a month; and usually at the hands of the security prisoners.

Members of the Disciplina Interna ("Internal Discipline," an appropriately chilling name) patrol the prison and enforce regulations, social convention and the power of the ruling prisoners. To be a member of the Interna Disciplina, you must of course be a prisoner and you must be sentenced to 30 years or more, which ensures that the very people who enforce "order" in the prison are those that committed the most heinous crimes. The huge person I paid to protect me, "Moso," is at least notionally one of the least violent ones; he only killed one woman. In reality, the Disciplina Interna are uniformed thugs who demand protection money from prisoners and visitors alike. Al Capone would be proud.

In the middle of this hell is Jacob Ostreicher, a grandfather from Brooklyn who made the mistake of trying to start a rice farm in Bolivia. Actually, the mistake was not so much starting the farm, the mistake was being successful. When you are successful in Bolivia, you have money. If you have money, you might not support the ruling socialist party. If you don't support the ruling socialist party, you might give your money to a party in opposition to the people in charge. Then you are a threat to Evo Morales, the megalomaniac in charge of Bolivia. When you are a threat to Evo, you go to Palmasola.

The prison is full of thieves and people more corrupt than you have likely experienced. And now I'm speaking of course, of the uniformed Bolivian guards who grant visitors access to the village of the damned. I have spent three days in this "prison" and each day, I have been robbed by guards who look me in the eye with a shameless "What are you going to do about it?" smirk as they took my money. Using a note written in Spanish that says that I do not speak their language (which I actually do), allowed me to hear the guards ridicule me, Americans and our culture. Entering the prison, visitors are branded with permanent ink stamps and 'Sharpie'-applied numbers. When I entered the first day, the guard told the line of Bolivians (in Spanish), "Instead of black ink, I'll use green for the gringo." Hilarity ensued.
Jacob Ostriecher has been condemned to this hell because he had money, and he has so far refused to pay the bribes required for release. He has been in this hell for 11 months, and no trial for the trumped-up charges is even on the horizon, though he longs to have a chance to prove his innocence. In the meantime, he endures the beatings, the abuse and the extortion.

Every night, I leave the prison promptly at 6:30 p.m. (the penalty for being late is spending the night in prison), suffering from a type of "survivor's guilt" . My guilt is from knowing that Jacob cannot leave, and that he is no more guilty of a crime than am I.

Tomorrow, I go back. But every day as I leave, I wonder why the United States has a State Department. And I wonder where they are--and if they suffer from survivor's guilt.
_____________________________
 
Note from Norm...  While Steve wonders why the United States has a State Department, I ponder the ways we could have Jacob trade places with the Secretary of State; Hillary certainly has committed more egregious crimes...  And by the way, our State Department is more concerned with taking away our constitutional rights than they are worried about the Jacobs of the world.

America's First Gay President...pretty convincing evidence!

"I have gone a wooing to several gentlemen, but have not succeeded with any of them.  I feel that it is not good for man to be alone; and should not be astonished to find myself married to some old maid who can nurse me when I'm sick, provide good dinners for me when I'm well, and not expect from me any ardent or romantic affection." ~ James Buchanan 15th President of the United States
The above quote was taken from the book, Presidents' Most Wanted by Nick Ragone.  The book, obviously not a best seller, was published in 2008 and found it's way into the dollar stores for lack of sales anywhere else.  Yes, I picked it up for a dollar a few weeks ago thinking perhaps I could find something of historical significance for an insignificant investment.
The author was not one I had any familiarity with but upon reading through his tiny tome I was amused at some of his historical inaccuracies and ill perceived opinions.  For example, some presidents categorized as 'good' where actually the worst (and this is just not an opposing opinion for some of his good guys actually conspired to destroy the country). In any event you'll find Buchanan's claim to fame in Ragone's chapter about President's Mistresses where he describes the females who dallied with the married guy in the White House (C'mon now, you haven't forgot Monica Lewinsky and Bill Clinton have you?).  And for some reason Ragone has conveniently left some mistresses out and/or he had not done his research...he cites Marilyn Monroe and John F. Kennedy but omits Kennedy's teenage lover, Mimi Alford
Ragone also mentions, "There is no denying, however, that for sixteen years Buchanan lived with Senator William Rufus King. ...Buchanan took to calling King, "Aunt Nancy" a commonly used eighteenth-century expression to describe homosexuals.  "I am now solitary and alone, having no companion in the house with me." wrote  Buchanan while King served as minster to France.  ~ Norman E. Hooben
Rufus William King


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Money: Getting to know you, Getting to know all about you.*

fiat money
---noun
money declared by a government to be legal tender though it is not convertible into standard specie

See also...

*from the song, Getting to know you

Sunday, May 13, 2012

John Kerry The Shrewd Investor (ya think?)

"Teva stock was trading at about $50 a share when Kerry started buying, but jumped to $62 a share after the healthcare bill was passed, an increase of nearly 25 percent. After Obama signed the bill into law, Kerry sold his Teva shares, realizing tens of thousands in capital gains."
It never ceases to amaze me how the people from Massachusetts continue to elect the same old corrupt politicians simply because the politician has that big 'D' after their name. Lately, it has been said, that people who do the same thing over and over again and expect different results are insane but in this case I believe that the big 'D' stands for 'Dumb'...insane people are generally put into asylums but dumb people are allowed to vote. And John Kerry knows that better than anyone alive today (you see, Ted Kennedy also knew!). 
We all know that Kerry did not get as good as grades as George W. Bush during their college years but that didn't put him in the dunce category...it just made him try harder.  And try harder he did!  He got himself elected and then he became the smartest guy in the room! (see story below). ~ Norman E. Hooben

The following from The Washington Free Beacon

 Smartest Guy in the Room
Five-terms in the Senate have made failed presidential candidate, Obama surrogate, and potential secretary of State John Kerry an amazingly prescient investor
By:
Failed Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry’s (D., Mass.) long history of ethically dubious investments could invite controversy as he takes on a new role as a “top surrogate” for President Obama’s reelection campaign.
Kerry’s net worth as listed on his 2011 financial disclosure form is at least $193 million and likely much higher, making him the wealthiest member of the Senate. He is also a prolific investor, maintaining an array of stocks and other holdings through a mix of family trusts, marital trusts, and commingled fund accounts with his wife, Big Ketchup baroness Teresa Heinz.
The five-term Senator has a well-documented history of investing in companies that would benefit from policies he supports, as well as making conveniently timed and highly profitable trades coinciding with the passage of major legislation and, in some cases, the dissemination of privileged information.
For years, Kerry has invested millions in a number of green energy companies that have benefitted from the president’s efforts to aggressively subsidize the industry with taxpayer dollars.
These companies include Exelon, which received a $646 million taxpayer-guaranteed loan in 2011 to build a solar facility in California and created only 20 permanent jobs, as well as Fisker Automotive, the fledgling electric car company that offshored its manufacturing operation to Finland after receiving a $529 million federal loan guarantee in 2010.
The loan guarantees, approved by the Department of Energy, were made possible by funding allocated in the 2009 stimulus bill, which Kerry supported. According to Kerry’s own office, the Senator “played a key role” in crafting the portions of the legislation designed to offer federal support for green energy projects.
Additionally, Kerry co-authored the controversial cap-and-trade legislation that would have effectively imposed a tax on carbon-dioxide emissions. Though the bill ultimately failed, the New York Times noted that Exelon and companies like it “would emerge as financial winners” if the legislation was enacted.
Kerry has hundreds of thousands of dollars invested in Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB), a venture capital firm run by John Doerr, a prominent Obama donor who served on the president’s Economy Recovery Advisory Board.
The firm, where former vice president Al Gore is a partner, invests heavily in alternative energy companies such as Fisker Automotive and Amonix Inc., a Nevada-based solar panel manufacturer that laid off two-thirds of its workforce earlier this year despite receiving nearly $6 million in federal tax credits.
Amonix was one of 16 companies (out of 27 overall) listed in Doerr’s “green-tech” portfolio to receive some form of federal support under Obama.
Kerry purchased—through family trusts—between $30,000 and $100,000 worth of shares in a number of KPCB investment funds, including its “Green Growth Fund,” and continued to purchase shares throughout 2010, according to the Senator’s financial disclosure forms.
Kerry is one of several lawmakers prominently featured in Throw Them All Out, Peter Schweizer’s landmark book on how elected politicians exploit their privileged positions to enhance their personal wealth.
The Massachusetts Senator’s most dubious trading activity coincided with two major political events—the financial crisis of late 2008 and the passage of President Obama’s controversial healthcare overhaul in March 2010.
Kerry was one of at least 10 Senators to trade financial stocks just days after a Sept. 16, 2008 meeting between Treasury Sec. Henry Paulson, Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke, and leading members of Congress to discuss the increasingly dire state of the financial markets.
In mid-October 2008, as the Treasury was discussing which banks would be bailed out in the Trouble Asset Relief Program (TARP), Kerry bought up to $550,000 worth of Citigroup stock and up to $350,000 worth of Bank of America shares. Days later, the American public learned that Citigroup would receive $50 billion from the TARP fund and up to $277 billion in additional loan guarantees. Bank of America also received $50 billion from TARP.
During the contentious healthcare debate in 2009, Schweizer noted, Kerry loaded up on pharmaceutical stocks, purchasing close to $750,000 worth of shares in one company—Teva Pharmaceuticals—in the month of November alone.
Drug companies were viewed to be among the major beneficiaries of the Democratic healthcare legislation. Pharmaceuticals “kicked in $80 billion to help make the bill work, but stand to make 10 times that amount in revenues from added government and government-subsidized business,” liberal columnist Howard Fineman wrote in Newsweek.
Teva stock was trading at about $50 a share when Kerry started buying, but jumped to $62 a share after the healthcare bill was passed, an increase of nearly 25 percent. After Obama signed the bill into law, Kerry sold his Teva shares, realizing tens of thousands in capital gains.
Kerry also bought shares of ResMed, a company that makes medical devices, which surged more than 70 percent after the healthcare bill’s passage. Throughout the healthcare negotiations, Kerry consistently opposed efforts to increase taxes on companies like ResMed.
He also purchased stock in Thermo Fisher Scientific, a firm providing products and services to hospitals, at $35 a share. After passage, they were trading at $50 a share, an increase of more than 40 percent.
As Kerry was buying shares of companies certain to benefit from healthcare reform, he was selling stock in healthcare insurance providers, which were deemed big losers under the new law.
That is hardly the extent of Kerry’s questionable dealings, however. He has millions of dollars invested in funds operated by some of his largest campaign donors, including Bain Capital*, Beacon Capital Partners, and the Blackstone Group, investment firms that have collectively given more than $170,000 to Kerry’s campaigns since 2007.
The Washington Free Beacon reported in February that Kerry helped secure a $3.5 billion windfall for hospitals in Massachusetts that would net tens of millions in new federal support for Partners HealthCare, another prominent campaign donor.
Kerry’s controversial financial activity could complicate his recently announced role as a top surrogate for Obama’s reelection campaign. The president has repeatedly sought to blame wealthy investors such as Kerry for precipitating the financial crisis of 2008 and has expressed sympathy for the controversial “Occupy Wall Street” movement, which has become notorious for advocating and in many cases carrying out vandalism against large banks and investment firms.
Employing Kerry as a prominent campaign spokesman could also unwittingly highlight a popular criticism of the president—that his major policy initiatives have had little impact on the struggling economy but have succeeded in enriching a small number of wealthy supporters.


*Note Regarding Bain Capital: See how the main stream media lies here
While the truth of the matter reads like this:
"But Romney had left Bain Capital a year before any layoffs and a public stock offering that ultimately netted Bain and Romney a big payday. The company's subsequent bankruptcy filing came two years after Bain had largely divested from the company, and was the result of the dot-com bust. Moreover, the company emerged from bankruptcy, and its current CEO credits those early Bain investments for setting the foundation for the company's current success." ~ Source USA Today

God Bless America Again