Friday, January 14, 2011

Response to Superintendent Luna

I tweeted in response to @TomLuna 's new proposal for Idaho schools. You can see his response (if he tweets - I think it is a staffer)- his response above. I read and here is my stream-of-conscience-esque response. Take it as it is...

Students Come first(?) Specifics?
Laptops for HS students- I like the idea. I have a couple observations. First, what good are the laptops without broadband internet access? There are still places in Idaho that do not have the infrastructure to bring broadband access to the home, let alone the schools. Second, assurances need to be in place that the program will continue regardless of who the superintendent is. In four years if there is a new Superintendent of Public Education they need to keep the program in place, not cut it at the first sign of budget crisis. Moreover, do not reinvent the wheel. There are many states and districts that have done similar programs with success. We can use the models that they have used to meet the needs. In the past Idaho (in general) has had a history of going it alone… That does not have to be the case. Technology changes so quickly, does Idaho have the fiscal desire to keep up? State of the art technology is not 5-year-old tech! (Businesses replace computers every 3-4 years. The public school where my children attend are not upgrading in that fashion)
Teacher accountability/ responsibility- Do we not have this already? Using student test scores to judge teacher performance does not show how good a teacher is doing. That is not how student-teachers are evaluated! It can be a small component, but supervisor evaluations should bear more weight than a test. That supervisor should be evaluated as well to ensure that there is not bias. In the business world, workers are evaluated on many components not just one, especially one where they are not the sole disseminator of the outcome. Where is parental responsibility? Without parental support to their children outside of the classroom students have a lower success rate. Where does that fit in to the equation? If a teacher has a majority of students from a lower-income area, there will be less parent involvement (both in school and at the home) and those students will, (in most cases) perform lower than others that have the parental support.  Or what about a charter school that can choose/ limit the students it enrolls versus a normal school that MUST take those that reside in the boundaries? There are many charter schools in the Treasure Valley that are not representative of the communities they are in. For example, in Nampa the Hispanic population and the percentage of Hispanic students at the charter schools is not equal. That gives those charter schools a different set of students and parental support than the normal schools.
Last you cannot run government like a business. A great explination of that comes from Lee N. Howell.

Why can't gov't. be run like a business?
By LEE N. HOWELL (April 12, 2000 The Citizen Online)
Politically Speaking
One of the favorite expressions of the verbally challenged political hacks in this country — the ones who can't think of anything original to say and figure that any trite phrase which sounds good on the stump will do — is, “Why can't we run government like a business?” We have all heard it said — we may have said it ourselves — for it does seem that this is one thing that some of every political stripe can agree upon.
But, the bottom line is that government can not run like a business.
The main reason is that government is not a business.
For starters, businesses are supposed to make a profit — and none of us really want government to make a profit.
(Of course, there is some difference of opinion on that point, depending upon whether you are looking at the state or federal government and what your partisan leanings are: In government, profits are called surpluses and, at the state level, Republicans tell us they are bad because they fund all those “pork” projects that Democrats believe are really the “meat and potatoes” their constituents demand; at the federal level, the Republicans and the Democrats, while differing on the specifics, both tell us they are good because they fund the projects we need but can't justify during the years and years of deficits we have struggled through.)
Then, there is the fact that in most businesses — especially the “Mom 'n' Pop” operations which make up the vast majority of America's small businesses and were the beginning of most of the big ones that exist today — the top level management is fairly stable while the employees come and go, sometimes voluntarily and sometimes not.
In government, though, the executives (read that the politicians) are elected for set terms and may be voted out of office on a regular basis, while the employees (read, civil service bureaucrats) are on board for the long haul and can just thumb their noses at the politicians with a
“I'll be here after you are defeated” attitude.
(One of the more controversial elements of Gov. Roy Barnes education reform package — the elimination of the so-called “teacher tenure” law — was aimed at combating this problem: Good teachers — like good administrators who gave up their tenure protection several years ago — don't need the crutch of tenure to succeed, while bad teachers can't survive without it.)
Now, some people who say “government should be run like a business” are probably sincere, and there are some tools used in business that could be useful in government.
But, many people who say it are simply voicing their frustration with what they perceive as a government grown too big. What they overlook, though, is that government is still charged with the
Constitutional responsibility of “creating a more perfect union, insuring justice, promoting the general welfare, providing for the common defense, and securing the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our
That is a big job — one which could sometimes be done more efficiently and more effectively, to be sure — but still a big job that demands big answers.
In the late 1970s, there was an argument in this country over returning control of the Panama Canal to Panama. The same conservatives who argued the loudest against big government were the same people who were most vehement about the U.S. keeping control of the Canal argued the loudest against big government were the same people who were most vehement about the U.S. keeping control of the Canal. What they overlooked was the fact that it took a pretty big government operation to defeat yellow fever, strong-arm local entities who objected, clean out a rain forest, and build the Canal in the first place.
Businesses had dreamed of a “pathway between the seas” — but, if it had not been for government which overcame many of the problems that businesses could not address, there would never have been any Canal to argue over.
Why can't government run like a business? Probably because they are not the same and never will be.
Government is not a business. Schools are not trying to make a profit. Kids WILL suffer. If @TomLuna 's plan was as good as he hopes it is, where are the troves of educators (both in Idaho and outside) applauding it?

Thursday, January 06, 2011

LOST: The Numbers are REAL!

I do not play the lottery. In fact I remember going out with my parents when I was a kid distributing anti-lottery flyers. Hmm. Anyway, that's not important. But what is important is that if you play the lotto USE HURLEY'S NUMBERS!

Two tickets matched all six numbers in Tuesday's Mega Millions drawing.
The owners of those tickets, purchased in Idaho and Washington, will split the estimated $355 million jackpot.
The winning numbers were 4, 8, 15, 25 and 47, with 42 being the Mega Ball number.
It also paid to be a fan of the TV show, "Lost." Four of the six numbers drawn in the Tuesday's Mega Millions lottery matched the numbers immortalized by the Lost character Hugo "Hurley" Reyes, who hit a $114 million jackpot off them - only to be haunted by the same numbers in later episodes.
If you played Hurley's numbers (4, 8, 15, 16, 23 and 42), you won $150, according to a payout table on the Mega Millions website, though the same table noted that fixed prizes such as the $150 one "may be paid on a pari-mutuel basis and (be) lower than" that amount.
Now you know what numbers to always play!