Is Your Fifth Grader Smarter than Your Fifth Grader's Teacher?

From the Washington Post's The Answer Sheet (2011-12-05):...
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.
“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."
Perhaps a serious criticism of standardized tests impends. Or not. Later we read this...
The man in question is Rick Roach, who is in his fourth four-year term representing District 3 on the Board of Education in Orange County, Fl., a public school system with 180,000 students. Roach took a version of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, commonly known as the FCAT, earlier this year.
Follow the link and the success and Math test performance are explained:...
Roach was a teacher, counselor and coach in Orange County for 14 years. For the last 25 years he has trained over 18,000 educators in classroom management and course delivery skills in six eastern states.
That explains the "big house in a good part of town", the "paid-for condo in the Caribbean" and the "influential friends". While this:...
He holds a bachelor of science degree in education and master of arts degree in education and educational psychology
...explains the dismal 10th grade Math performance.
The volunteer victim makes some decent points:...
“Many of the kids we label as poor readers are probably pretty good readers. Here’s why.

“On the FCAT, they are reading material they didn’t choose. They are given four possible answers and three out of the four are pretty good. One is the best answer but kids don’t get points for only a pretty good answer. They get zero points, the same for the absolute wrong answer. And then they are given an arbitrary time limit. Those are a number of reasons that I think the test has to be suspect.”
*The math section, he said, tests information that most people don’t need when they get out of school.

“There’s a concept called reverse design that is critical,” he said. “We are violating that with our test. Instead of connecting what we learn in school with being successful in the real world, we are doing it in reverse. We are testing first and then kids go into the real world. Whether the information they have learned is important or not becomes secondary. If you really did a study on what math most kids need, I guarantee you could probably dump about 80 percent of math scores and leave high-level math for the kids who want it and will need it.

*His final conclusion on the FCAT:

“They are defending a test that has no accountability.”
"Accountability" is a matter of feedback. We deal with a system that responds to political feedback and resists market feedback mechanisms. System insiders dominate the political feedback systems, which explains "the margins of his electoral wins and his good relationships with administrators and teachers testify to his openness to dialogue and willingness to listen". Ten-to-one he gets the Florida teachers' union endorsement. Still, there is a point here. Why do schools require their particular course material? The State (government, generally) cannot require attendance at school without a definition of "school". The State cannot subsidize education without a definition of "education". These definitions then bind students, parents, real classroom teachers, and taxpayers.
Consider again "IIf you really did a study on what math most kids need, I guarantee you could probably dump about 80 percent of math scores and leave high-level math for the kids who want it and will need it."
Seems to me if you really did a study on what schooling most kids need, you could probably dump about 80 percent of schooling and leave everything beyond fifth grade reading and Alg I for the kids who want it and will need it.

Update: The Headmistress over at the Common Room provided this link to a version of the Florida Math test. If this test reflects the 10th grade curriculum, then that curriculum is "a mile wide and an inch deep".


Technology, Education, and Collaborative Learning Systems (Guest post by Lindesy Wright)

Updated with links.
The use of technology in the education of younger children, from kindergarten to grade school, has become an important tool in modern education. By effectively integrating new technologies into both individual and collaborative lesson plans, parents and educators can drastically improve the educational experience of their children. Furthermore, the importance of classroom technology has grown as computer literacy becomes vital to a child’s later success in society.

By the virtue of being capable of modifying the lesson to the child's strengths, educational technology focuses on those areas most difficult to address in the general classroom setting. Educational programs to assist in reading or math can adjust their questions and procedures to match the child's growing knowledge of the subject. This permits an individualized educational experience, where children of all skill levels can all benefit equally from using the same program.

Classroom technology also can be designed to be entertaining, such as planing a lesson around an educational computer game. The use of interactive learning games and activities can help maintain the child’s interest in the activity, long after a simple book would have palled. The value of this approach is well know, but the introduction of learning technology allows it to become far more integral to the student’s learning experience.

Beyond the use of computerized games and activities, the growth of technology, such as the adaptation of eBooks to the educational process, has vastly expanded both the amount and accessibility of resources available to the children and educators alike. eBooks now have a variety of features, including text-to-speech systems that make it much easier for non-native speakers to adapt to both the spoken and written word. The inclusion of integral dictionary, spelling and thesaurus functions can also assist students in the process of independently exploring their reading material.

The use of such computerized learning systems not only helps students learn the basics, but also prepare students (even kindergarten or grade school level students) for a future where computer literacy and skill will become ever more vital. In fact, one of the greatest benefits of classroom technology is that it will ensure that even low-income students, who might not have access to computers at home, are not left behind in their understanding of technology and its uses.

Classroom technology also assists with the collaborative learning process. Via the use of school intranets, online classes, as well as chat and other social media, a child can learn with other students, even when they are not physically together. This has already become one of the strengths of classroom technology as applied to developing nations, and is growing in importance in developed nations as well. This process will assist in the development of interpersonal social skills both in and out of the classroom setting.

Finally, interactive and collaborative classroom technology makes it far easier for parents, teachers, and administrators to observe and examine the child’s progress. By making use of a variety of computer based grading and evaluation processes, it is possible to continue to tailor the educational experience to best assist the student. In addition, this permits the student’s progress to be tracked throughout his or her educational career, which can be important in detecting the early signs of learning disabilities.

The use of computer assisted classroom technology, has been demonstrated to produce better results when compared to other methods. By adopting such techniques and tailoring them for kindergarten and grade school, students, teachers and parents will all benefit greatly. Given the now ubiquitous nature of the use of information technology in society, classroom technology is not only valuable for educational purposes, but as a method to prepare children for the information age.


Liberal Arts: Personal Investment, Public Good, or Luxury Good?

Higher Education Bubble

After decades of selling college as an “investment” — and pricing it accordingly — it’s going to be hard for the higher education establishment to pivot to a college-as-personal-fulfillment argument. If it’s the latter, it’s a consumption good, priced on a par with a Porsche or Ferrari. Those shouldn’t be financed by debt, or bought by 18-year-olds. If college liberal-arts degrees, on the other hand, are to be sold as a public good, benefiting society so much that society should pay the freight, then (1) Society should have a much bigger say in what’s being taught; and (2) It might be nice to see some actual, you know, evidence of that.
Consider three possibilities:
1. The post-secondary Liberal Arts curriculum is an investment from which students will reap a financial return.
2. State support for Liberal Arts degrees provides a "public good".
3. The Liberal Arts curriculum provides "psychic income" to consumers (students) that is independent of any financial reward.

These are not mutually exclusive, but the implications, which are left as exercises for the reader, for the arguments for tax support are wildly different. Of course, there remains...

4. The post-secondary Liberal Arts degree is an employment program for due-paying members of the NEA/AFT/AFSCME cartel, which this suggests.


Read Fernandez

Richard Fernandez ranges widely, though most often with a security policy emphasis, and expresses deep analysis simply. Anyway, read this. All of it.
...The market is writing down the value of the world economy. Right across the board. It is making a judgement on what they think the future is worth. By recent numbers, not much. Not just because policymakers have gotten it wrong about the “root cause” of terrorism, or the Euro; but also about “Too Big To Fail”, population policy, multiculturalism, a crippling environmentalism and Global Warming, to name a few. The financial, national security and educational systems of the world are in utter collapse because they are stuffed with lies, which even when they are shown to be obviously false suck up trillions of dollars in their pursuit . And nothing will turn the global elites from continuing their ruinous path until they have spent the last nickle and dime they can lay their hands on. Certainly not the media. As Osborne and Weaver wrote:
One urgent lesson concerns the BBC. The corporation’s twisted coverage of the European Union is a serious problem, because the economic collapse of the eurozone means that a new treaty may be needed very soon — plunging the EU right back into the heart of our national politics.

The problem is that the BBC’s record is dreadful. It simply cannot be trusted not to become part of a partisan propaganda operation.
Neither the BBC nor any of the similar organizations which have jointly created our fantasy world will return to honesty. Not until it annihilates itself into bankruptcy along with all the other causes it touted and supported. The bad news is that by then most of us will have sunk beneath the waves.
Neither can the mainstream US media be trusted. The relentlessly State-worshipful reporters and editorialists who write for local and national newspapers and broadcast media have not, by and large, accepted responsibility for the one-sided criticism of the Bush presidency and the sanctification of the Obama candidacy, which shifted control of Congress in 2007 and the White House in 2009. This is not a purely partisan point. If Guantanamo detention, warrantless wiretapping, and budget deficits mattered under President Bush, why do they not not matter under President Obama? If climate science mattered enough to appear in the Vice Presidential debate between Sarah Palin and Joe Biden in 2008, why does it not matter now? Why did it never matter enough to merit a thorough public discussion with all relevant areas of expertise represented? When journalists and politicians use issues as partisan weapons, news consumers discount news. Public attention is a scarce resource which reporters and politicians squander with their partisan cheerleading.


Voters, Journalists, or Politicians?

Voters, journalists, or politicians? Whom to target with policy arguments? What impact can any interested individual have? Someone recently quoted Milton Friedman to the effect that political feedback involves less electing good people to office than creating an incentive structure such that bad people will enact good policy or lose office. Anyway, here.


You Already Knew This

My Political Views
I am a right moderate social libertarian
Right: 5.71, Libertarian: 2.49

Political Spectrum Quiz

Sunny out. Good weather for climbing avocado trees. Enjoy the day, friends.
Tantalus workday next Saturday.


"I'll Probably Teach"

This, from the Crack Emcee.
A friend who usually made sense once recommended to me a book by Cornell West. I could not get past the first few pages, for the reason given in the above video clip.


Happy Birthday, Milton Friedman

Milton Friiedman, 1912-07-31-2006-11-16. The Grassroot Institute held a luncheon in Dr. Friedman's memory on Friday, 2011-07-29. Hawaii Pacific University Economics professor Ken Schooland and former Governor Linda Lingle spoke. Honolulu Star-Advertiser reporter Derrick Depledge, formerly of the Honolulu Advertiser, attended. Depledge once called a "conspiracy theory" Harriet's assertion that DOE officials will lie about the DOE budget if cornered. He did not respond to documentary evidence and the question why he implied that people who hold this view are crazy. At the Grassroot luncheon Harriet suggest to Mr. Depledge that reporters ask to see the DOE Personal Service Contract logs. He said he'd pass the suggestion along to the Education writer, Vicki Viotti.

Wanna bet? Either reporters prefer to avoid conflict with a powerful bureaucracy that grants to friendly reporters easy access to story material or they fear to confront their own beliefs about the healing power of organized violence (the State). Or both.

Save the Cartel!

Via Instapundit, this sequence: Michelle Fields of Reason TV interviews Matt Damon, Deborah Meier (who?), Jonathan Kozol, and some teachers.
Updated (* material added).
*(Fields): "So, you're the founder of the small schools movement, which promoted creativity and choice. Why won't vouchers and charter schools do that?"
*(Meier): "Uh, because the other were part of uh, uh community, democratic operation. This is precisely what differentiates me from libertarians. I've the same ideals but I also know more about the corruption of money."
From personal experience, right? If this response addresses the question "Why don't vouchers promote creativity and choice?", would it not then follow that a voucher-funded school which receives less than the per pupil budget of the cartel's schools be less corrupt and so more likely to promote creativity and choice than the cartel's schools?

*(Fields): "How much more would you like to see going to students?"
*(Teacher 1): "How much money do you think a child is worth? It's unconditional. Children aren't 'worth' money."
*(Fields): "It cost ten thousand dollars, more than ten thousand dollars per student right now."
*(Teacher 1): "I'd pay a million dollars to raise my children. There is no money that can be set, price, on a child's life and learning. This shouldn't be about money; this should be about educating our children in how to survive in today's world."
*(Field): "But if you want the government to spend more, how much more, per student, do you think should go to education?"
*(Teacher 1): "Billions."
*(Fields): "A billion dollars per student?"
*(Teacher 1): "Sure. Why not?"
Because it's mathematically impossible. One billion dollars per student times forty-nine million students is more than three times the US GDP.
**Duh! (49x10^6)x(10^9)=49x10^15, more than three thousand times the 15 trillion US GDP.

(Teacher 2): "Education is a basic social right. Everyone has a right to a public education."
(Fields): "What about food. Isn't food just as important as education?"
(Teacher 2): "Yes. We have...we have various kinds of social safety nets to make sure people can eat. That probably doesn't make some people in this town happy, that we have things like Food Stamps."
Food Stamps are vouchers.

(Fields): "We have choice and competition in preschools and universities, so why not K through 12 education?"
(Teacher 3): "Private schools and universities, if you're talking about private universities, then that is a, that's a money-making operation, right?..."
The NEA/AFT/AFSCME cartel's schools received a tax-generated revenue stream of more than $ 500 billion in 2007-2008, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
(Teacher 3): "...That is in bed with the capitalist system. If you're talking about public schools; I don't want that to be privatized."

(Fields): "You've written a lot about poverty in the South Bronx. Why aren't vouchers and charter schools an answer to that?"
(Kozol): "Vouchers and charter schools are the worst possible answer. First of all, because they will never serve more than two or three percent, maybe five percent, at most, of the population."
(Fields): "So then we need more charter schools."
(Kozol): "That's insane. The fact is, first of all, charter schools are, on average, are no more successful than public schools?"
Kozol does not address the rebuttal to his point about the fraction of the population served by vouchers. In some countries, it's well over 50% of the population.

Vouchers work.
Gerard Lassibile and Lucia Navarro Gomez
"Organization and Efficiency of Educational Systems: some empirical findings"
Comparative Education, Vol. 36 #1, 2000, Feb.
Furthermore, the regression results indicate that countries where private education is more widespread perform significantly better than countries where it is more limited. The result showing the private sector to be more efficient is similar to those found in other contexts with individual data (see, for example, Psucharopoulos, 1987; Jiminez, et. al, 1991). This finding should convince countries to reconsider policies that reduce the role of the private sector in the field of education.
Inevitably, for each sub-adult and at any level of tax support of sub-adult education, some adult or group of adults decides how to spend the subsidy that applies to that sub-adult, and what curriculum that sub-adult will pursue. The argument between voucher, charter, and tax credit advocates, on the one hand, and defenders of the NEA/AFT/AFSCME cartel's exclusive position in receipt of the taxpayers' pre-college education subsidy, on the other, turns on the issue of which adults decide: parents or government agents.

*Telling, isn't it, that the people whom our elected representatives employ to provide education services make such weak arguments in support of their exclusive position in receipt of the taxpayers' K-12 education subsidy.


Democrats versus Government School Teachers

Years ago, one of Honolulu's daily papers reported a fatal auto accident in which a driver apparently misread the ground, turned off his headlights, and, in the dark of night, rolled over the cliff on the Hamakua coast of the Big Island. A witness reported seeing the brake lights blink after the car was airborne. I think of this when I contemplate the finances of the City and County of Honolulu, the State of Hawaii, the United States of America, and governments worldwide. Vaclav Smil calls the inevitable slow-motion default the "Great Unraveling".

Via Public Finance, this news.

Off the cuff, and just eyeballing chart VI of this report, it looks like there's a strong negative correlation between unfunded public sector pension and benefit liablilities, on the one hand, and NAEP 8th grade Math scores, on the other. I'll take that as a measure of the relation between public-sector integrity and school system performance. Compare North Dakota (tops in the US on NAEP by some measures, low unfunded benefit exposure) and Hawaii (NAEP scores in the national cellar, high unfunded pension and benefit exposure).

Politicians at all levels have made more promises than they can keep. In democratic polities, they make these promises to influential interest groups such as unionized public sector employees and other contractors to the State, and to other well-organized, politically active constituencies. In bureaucratic one-party States, bureaucrats ascend the hierarchy through strategic alliances with superior patrons and loyal subordinates. Financial opacity allows politicians to make impossible promises without fear of immediate contradiction. Within organizations, opacity in either finances or goals contributes to inefficiency (and fraud), as Canice Prendergast suggests in his A Theory of "Yes-Men", (AER). Mounting inefficiencies reduce future resources, including those which would otherwise fund pension and benefit promises. When you (formally, "one", for the nit-pickers of the English Department) have made more promises than you can keep, you will have to break some of them. As Vaclav Smil observed, this will take decades to unfold.

Sorry to sound so grim. Hawaii politicians have not yet acknowledged the financial situation. We're accelerating toward the cliff edge and they refuse to accept even that brakes have a useful function. Individually, many probably accept that the State cannot long continue on the current path. Collectively, they close their eyes.

Homeschool. Start a garden. Learn First Aid. Buy ammunition.


More Questions than Answers

Dr. Goe spoke for an hour, using Power Point or some such product. The audience occupied most of the seats in conference room 309. In the course of her presentation, Dr. Goe raised an issue that, while obvious upon a little reflection, receives little attention in popular discussions of teacher evaluation: the lack of standardized measures of performance in courses other than English and Math (once English instruction moves beyond vocabulary and grammar into Literature, common standardized tests no longer assess usual classroom goals here, either).
At the start of the Q&A, Senator Nishihara asked Dr. Goe about the Atlanta School District cheating scandal. Dr. Goe said that cheating on standardized tests is fairly easy to detect and prevent. A larger point behind Senator Nishihara's question remained unadressed: all of Dr. Goe's assessment options assume good faith by system insiders, which assumption the Atlanta District falsifies. Peer review and assessment by a teacher's Principal open wide the door to abuse of whistleblowers. For this and for a reason that Dr. Goe raised at the start, the rudimentary state of evaluation mechanisms, an official, State-wide committment to a single mechanism creates a large risk.
I had parked in metered parking in the Capital basement, so I left. On the way out, I asked the committee clerk about the audience. The clerk suggested that the HSTA sent them.
Milton Friedman once observed that the best protection a good worker has is a competitive market for his talent.
As ever: "What works?" is an empirical question that only a federal system (numerous local policy regimes) or a competitive market in goods and services can answer. A State-monopoly system is like an experiment with one treatment and no controls, a retarded experimental design.


Hearing Notice, 2011-07-21

What will the witness say at this hearing?
Dr. Laura Goe
has served as a visiting scholar to the NEA and advisor on their teacher evaluation work, advises the AFT as a member of their expert panel on teacher evaluation, and serves as a consultant to the AFTs Innovation Grant sites in New York and Rhode Island as they design innovative, comprehensive teacher evaluation systems.
This blog addressed the matter here.


Advice: "Be Grateful For The Chance To Be Lost"

Five Feet of Fury linked "Best Alternative To Grad School" by Penelope Trunk. Excerpt:
...the thing that is pushing me over the edge with graduate school is that people who are thinking straight about schooling are not even considering graduate school. These people are debating if college is a rip off (here's a great discussion in New York magazine with James Altucher, a venture capitalist in NYC) And people are even debating if high school is useless (here's a great blog by Lisa Nielsen who is with the NYC Department of Education). And anyway, I'm losing interest in the debate about grad school because I'm convinced that the future belongs to home schoolers because they are self-learners.
A legislator recognized me on a downtown street yesterday. We were headed in the same direction for a ways and she asked what I thought of the last session, and specifically of education-related bills. I answered that I had not expected much from this session, and the session met my expectations. I was disappointed but not surprised that the legislature passed on the opportunity to expand homeschoolers' options. In testimony, HSTA representatives opposed bills that would have allowed homeschoolers to participate in extracurricular activities and most legislators voted as the HSTA instructed. You can measure how much the outlook of the average legislator must change before the legislature will address the State government's financial situation that they raided dedicated funds like the hurricane relief fund to address the budget deficit. A more accommodating attitude toward homeschoolers would reduce demands on the government's overstretched resources.


Thomas Sowell on "Education"

If education is an investment, then the NEA/AFT/AFSCME cartel's K-PhD school system is Enron. State "investment" in education makes as much sense as "industrial policy", the 50's era fad for State direction of investment in heavy manufacturing. Here's Thomas Sowell on "The Education Mantra".


No Way To Run A Railroad

GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt (Reuters, 2011-05-05): "Even though I believe in global warming and I believe in the science ... it just took on a connotation that was too elitist; it was too precious and it let opponents think that if you had a green initiative, you didn't care about jobs. I'm a businessman. That's all I care about, is jobs."

Whatever happened to Cornelius ("The public be damned. I am working for my stockholders") Vanderbilt?

A CEO who cares only about jobs runs a charity, not a business. The same goes for politicians who, in the interest of current recipients of tax subsidies (such as State employees), subsidize inefficient providers of public goods (such as government-operated schools) at the expense of taxpayers, recipients of those services (such as students), and current and potential employees of alternative providers (such as private school teachers).

Meanwhile, from the Milton and Rose Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice comes this news:...
Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels Signs Historic Voucher Bill into Law
Thursday, May 05, 2011
Milton and Rose Friedman’s vision of school choice for all takes one step closer to reality
INDIANAPOLIS, IN — The Foundation for Educational Choice today praised Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels for signing the nation’s largest voucher program into law. The School Scholarship Act (House Bill 1003) creates a school voucher program that has the broadest eligibility of any voucher program in the nation.

“This is truly a historic day for Indiana’s children,” said Robert Enlow, President and CEO of the Foundation for Educational Choice. “Gov. Daniels’ signature today puts Indiana at the top of the class for educational choice. Moreover, this sends an important message to families across the country: meaningful education reform is possible. We should never give up fighting for access to high-quality educational options for every child, regardless of family income or where they live.”


School Choice Legislation in Oklahoma

From Milton and Rose Friedmans' Foundation for Educational Choice:...
Oklahoma House Passes School Choice Program with Broad Student Eligibility
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK — More Oklahoma families will be able to send their children to the schools of their choosing, following today's passage of the Oklahoma Equal Opportunity Education Scholarship Act. The bill will provide partial tax credits to individuals and businesses that donate to nonprofits that distribute private-school scholarships to eligible families.

By a vote of 64-43, the Oklahoma House of Representatives approved the measure, which previously passed the Senate chamber by a vote of 30-14.

"This is another step in the direction of choice for Oklahoma's parents and children," Robert Enlow, president and CEO of the Foundation for Educational Choice, said. "We look forward to seeing school choice continue to flourish in the Sooner State, and we are eager to watch other states follow Oklahoma's lead."


Indiana Voucher Legislation

From Milton and Rose Friedman's Foundation for Educational Choice:...

Indiana Senate Passes Nation's Largest Voucher Bill
INDIANAPOLIS, IN — The Indiana Senate today passed legislation that would create the nation's broadest school voucher program, allowing low- and middle-income families to use taxpayer funds to send their children to the private school of their choice.

House Bill 1003, which was approved by the Senate in a 28-22 vote, would create a new scholarship program enabling families to send their children to the private school of their choice. Scholarship amounts are determined on a sliding scale based on income, with families receiving up to 90 percent of state support.

The Indiana House of Representatives previously approved a similar version of the bill by a vote of 56-42. The Senate version, which adds a $1,000 tax deduction for families that pay out of pocket for private or homeschool expenses, will now go back to the House. If the House agrees to the changes made in the Senate, the bill will proceed to Governor Daniels, who is expected to sign the bill into law.

"This is exciting news," said Robert Enlow, President and CEO of the Foundation for Educational Choice. "We applaud those legislators who stood tall for kids, and we hope the House will concur as soon as possible so that Indiana families who desperately need educational options do not have to wait any longer."

If enacted, the voucher would be available to far more students than other programs in the country, where vouchers are limited to low-income households, students in failing schools, or special-needs students. Under HB 1003, a family of four earning up to $61,000 per year would be eligible.

Additionally, the $1,000 tax deduction for private and homeschool expenses has universal eligibility. The bill also improves Indiana's scholarship tax credit program by increasing the program cap to $5 million, making $10 million in scholarships available to Hoosier families.
This will merit celebration when the Governor signs it. Arizona's Governor, Jan Brewer, just vetoed a tax-rebate-funded voucher program (wasting litigation that had won a 5-4 decision from the US Supreme Court), so strange things can happen. Still, expect this to become law.


Let's Change the Name

Governor Dr. Neil Abercrombie has made clear his support for public sector employees. He forgets (or refuses to acknowledge) the accumulation of pension debt. Do you get the impression he's just topping off his own pension, and leaving the mess for others to address when he's gone? As with federal entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security, State pension obligations are uncertain but large. The Government Accounting Standards Board determines the rules according to which actuaries calculate pension commitments. Let's change the name to Government Accounting Standards Panel.


Education Bubbles

...(F)or Thiel, the bubble that has taken the place of housing is the higher education bubble. “A true bubble is when something is overvalued and intensely believed,” he says. “Education may be the only thing people still believe in in the United States. To question education is really dangerous. It is the absolute taboo. It’s like telling the world there’s no Santa Claus.”
Much of this applies to K-12 schooling as well. State and local governments spent more than $800 billion on their K-PhD schools in the 2007-2008 fiscal year, according to this chart from the NCES.


Not The Tiger Mom

P. J. O'Rourke reviews Amy Chua, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother:
Amy Chua, I’ve got bad news. "A"' students work for "B" students. Or not even. A businessman friend of mine corrected me. "No, P. J.," he said, " ‘B’ students work for ‘C’ students. ‘A’ students teach.”
I used to tell my students that it was okay to get an A if they found my course easy. A Math professor friend of mine says he prefers "B" students to "A" students, on average, since the temperment of the "A" students inclines them to unthinking acceptance. I'd like to see a scholarship for students with the widest variance between SAT scores and GPA. The kid with a combined 700 SAT (old style) and a 3.75 GPA would be an interesting kid to have in class. Ditto the kid with the 1560 SAT and the 1.75 GPA. I wonder if they'd get along in freshman Physics.


Awww, Shoot

How does one man with a six-shot revolver hold 76 hostages in their seats? He plugs the wheelchair-bound old man across the room between the eyes with one shot, to demonstrate that (a) he can hit his target and (b) he has absolutely no inhibitions regarding killing. If the crowd rises simultaneously, they'll get him, but the first five out of their seats will die.

The tragedy of the commons is a multi-party, iterated prisoner's dilemma, with memory. Why do people pick the mangoes on trees which grow on public land at an earlier stage of development than they pick the mangoes from the trees in their own yards? The commons does nor reward self-restraint in the harvest. The commons does not reward courage against a threat. Stay seated and live, or, at least, hope to be the last to die.

Friday, 2011-04-01 (1-April-2011), the Hawaii Senate Education committee holds hearings on Governor Abercrombie's nomination of J. N. Musto (Executive Director, University of Hawaii Professional Assembly) to the Education Commission of the States and Louise Cayetano (teacher), Wray Jose (teacher), and Barry Wurst (teacher) to the Hawaii Teacher Standards Board. The University of Hawaii Professional Assembly is an NEA subsidiary. Whether or not Dr. Musto's contributions to the Governor's election campaign influenced the Governor's selection, members of the legislature will note the access that the Governor has given to Dr. Musto.

Governor Abercrombie devoted several lines in his inaugural address to the State's budget problems, immediate and long-term. The State-Advertiser recently reported comments by legislators expressing dissatisfaction with the lack of leadership from the Governor on the budget issue. Leadership on budget issues will not come from the legislature. Public sector unions hold legislators hostage; oppose them and the NEA/AFSCME cartel will subsidize a primary challenge and your general election opponent, guaranteed.

Humans have the mass of the Earth, a steady rain of meteoric dust, and a solar budget. They apply ingenuity to these resources. The sun shines, rain falls, and the Earth sustains plants. Variations in the circumstances we call "economic" largely result from variations in human attention. While it may seem natural to nominate insiders to governing boards, the Governor's nominations of insiders to governing boards of the most expensive programs in the State budget communicate to legislators that they will get no leadership on budget issues from him. He may as well have tossed the gunman an extra box of cartridges. Governor Abercrombie won't be leaping from his seat, you can be sure.


Supreme Bigotry

The New Hampshire Supreme Court has ruled that it's illegal for a parent to be too Christian.
...(I)t represents a sustainable exercise of the trial court's discretion to determine the educational placement that is in daughter's best interests.
The case arose from a contest for control between divorced parents. I see nothing but typical snobbery against people of faith, dressed in legalese and weasel words. Expressed as a principle (the quote above), it authorizes nearly unbounded intrusion into parental rights.

For the counter-argument, read John Coons, "School Choice as Simple Justice" (First Things).
Until yesterday it was also the practice of our schools to force dissenting and nonbelieving children of the poor to behave like Protestants. Eventually the courts said no. That particular tyranny is behind us only to be replaced by another: children of whatever belief now must study the gospel of secular neutrality.
Note that system defenders typically blame parents for system failures. Parent involvement is beneficial, except when it's not.

Food for Thought, Later

Sarah Palin in India. This goes on the "to do" (view) list. Governor Palin could be stronger on school choice and immigration, but no one's perfect. Perhaps Herman Cain.
Update: More food. John Ray linked this


If The Nation Was A Family

Here's a useful analogy. Thanks, Common Room Headmistress/Zookeeper.

Off to the Legislature, to make futile protest (about which, more later).



There's not much to add to this post by Neal McCluskey. Go and read.

I have a small disagreement with many NCLB critics: one could make a decent argument for local determination of curriculum and performance measures, and still support NCLB. The choice of metric or English Standard measurement will not change my height or weight. The numbers will depend on the standard, but the rank (measure) will not change. If I outweigh my neighbor, by metric measure, I will outweigh my neighbor by English Standard measure.


Writing On The Wall

Where's the clue bat? Oh, here it is.
It is not the on-balance sheet public debt of close to 100 percent of gross domestic product that makes governments insolvent but "the off-balance sheet liabilities of an additional 300-400 percent of GDP that are total impossible to fund," according to Edwards.
"Governments will have to default in some shape or form and part of that process will be inflation. But you cannot inflate away some of these liabilities. The US cannot inflate its way out of these ludicrously expensive, unfunded health care liabilities. It can only default. But how?" Edwards wrote.

In the same vein, more here.
Cicilline explainst that he "balanced" the budget every year through a variety of devices, which amount to gimmicks such as increased borrowing, depleting reserves, etc.. The problem is that those were bandaids on a gaping fiscal wound, and now there are no bandaids left. None of this explains how Cicilline during the campaing insisted that Providence was in good fiscal shape when it was not.

In fairness to Cicilline, the underlying problems were not of his creation. The problem arose because of outrageous union contracts with unsustainable retirement benefits. So I don't fault Cicilline for the underlying problem, but I do fault him for not dealing with it for 8 years and for minimizing it during the campaign.

Had Cicilline taken serious steps to deal with the looming crisis, rather than year-to-year budget gimmicks, it would have ruined his relationship with the unions and his liberal base.

One last whack across the legislators' and journalists' foreheads, here.
the power of the public sector unions will be broken, because there is no alternative. The ability to buy politicians who then "negotiate" pay and pension increases with their union friends delayed the inevitable for a while, but unions have priced themselves out of the market in the public sector, just as they did in the private sector. They are, I think, doomed.

Update (2011-03-08):Last.
Fiscal austerity may sometimes sound like a dogmatic religion, but fixed principles often help us do the right thing, especially when temptation beckons. Professor Buchanan argued that the real choice was between a religion of budget balance and a rule of illusion. Seeking an optimal technocratic path is not on the menu...In any case, the rigor of the numbers will soon sweep away the fiscal illusion. The only question is whether we will end the charade on our own terms or continue to play the fool.


Letter to My Legislators (spelling corrected)

To: Senator Fukunaga
From: Malcolm Kirkpatrick
in re: Education and the State budget
2011-03-02 (2-Mar.-2011)

Aloha, Senator Fukunaga,

The State's amortized annual financial commitments (including pension and health care obligations to retired government workers and current employees) exceed its income. This condition defines "bankruptcy". In this respect, the government of Hawaii resembles many governments at all levels, city, county, and national, across the Earth. Politicians in democratic polities and bureaucrats in one-party States ascend the political hierarchy by promising support to superiors and buying support from constituents. Governments at all levels have made more promises than they can keep. When someone has made more promises than s/he can keep, s/he will break some.

The Governor and State legislators have arrived at only the first, just-walked-past-a-mirror-and-seen-themselves-naked stage of acceptance that the State needs to go on a financial diet. As with any serious addiction, government's addiction to tax revenues will not yield to the first, second, or probably even twentieth resolution to lose weight (or quit smoking, or quit drinking, or quit an abusive relationship).

The State of Hawaii cannot raise taxes. Literally "cannot". Charles Schultz, a Kennedy-Johnson era member of the President's council of economic advisers, called the Laffer curve a straightforeward consequence of standard economic analysis. Productive private-sector workers will not passively accept unlimited taxation. At some point, each productive private-sector worker (and corporation) will either 1) take productive work off the books, 2) trade productive work for leisure, or 3) move to a polity with a more favorable tax environment.

The government of Hawaii will cut spending. The only choices decision-makers have are when and where. The longer legislators procrastinate, the narrower and more unpleasant the range of options becomes. Legislators will not make up the State's budget shortfall seeking quarters under sofa cushions or making cuts to minor programs. Legislators will cut major programs or financial markets and a shrinking tax base will deprive them of any power to make these choices.

To minimize the harm of cuts, legislators must assess the relative value to taxpayers of individual State programs, and transfer to private service providers, whether under contract to the State or unsubsidized, those functions which State agencies currently perform which independent agents would fulfill better and cheaper. I suggest that the above considerations imply a major reduction in the DOE budget and in the State's role in the education industry.

Hawaii's government-operated K-12 schools cost taxpayers over $2.5 billion per year. It does not take 12 years at $16,000 per pupil-year to teach a normal child to read and compute. Most vocational training occurs more effectively on the job than in a classroom. Homeschooling parents out-perform classroom teachers. Independent and parochial schools outperform government-operated schools. In Hawaii, juvenile arrests fall when school is not in session. Juvenile hospitalizations for human-induced trauma fall when school is not in session.

In abstract the education industry, with its critical dependence on enormously varied inputs (each individual student's interests and abilities, each individual teacher's personality and skill) an its enormously varied outputs (the possible career paths which a modern economy offers) is an unlikely candidate for (inevitably bureaucratic) government operation. It is simple mental sloth and fear of organized insider interest groups that blocks a reconsideration of the arguments for the State role in the education industry.

There are too many "r"s in "revolution". Radical change imposes costs in the form of lost information. The least disruptive path from the current policy, which restricts individual parent's options for the use of the taxpayers' K-12 education subsidy to schools operated by government employees, is a policy I call "Parent Performance Contracting" (PPC).

1. Mandate that DOE schools --must-- hire parents, on personal service contracts, to provide for their children's education, if the parents apply for the contract.
2. A child is eligible if:
2.1 S/he is at or above age-level expectations on standardized tests of reading vocabulary, reading comprehension (any language) and math as of August 15, the start of the contract year, and
2.2 S/he has not been convicted of any felony or misdemeanor crime against persons or property in the previous calendar year.
3. Make payment equal to some fraction 1/2 < a/b < 1 of the previous year's Hawaii DOE regular-ed per pupil budget.
4. Make payment contingent on
4.1 Performance at or above age-level expectations on standardized tests of reading comprehension, reading vocabulary (any language) and Math and
4.2 Remaining conviction-free of crimes against persons or property.
5. Count students educated under this program as enrolled in the DOE school which they would otherwise attend.
6. Administer the GED at any age.
7. Allow children who test out of school before age 18 to apply the taxpayers' K-12 education subsidy toward post-secondary tuition or toward a wage subsidy at qualified (e.g., has filed W-2 forms on at least 3 adult employees per sub-adult employee for at least the previous four years) private-sector employer.

Parents could then homeschool, hire tutors, extend daycare to age 18, or supplement the contract amount and send their children to an independent or parochial school.

Parent Performance Contracting (PPC) has several advantages over school vouchers and charter schools.
1. Districts already hire consultants on personal service contracts, so PPC requires no new administrative machinery.
2. PPC includes all currently available options (e.g., homeschooling, charter schools, independent schools).
3. PPC provides greater financial and performance accountability than do school vouchers.
4. PPC requires less intrusive oversight than tuition tax credits.
5. PPC poses less of a threat to the autonomy of independent schools than do school vouchers.
6. PPC is less respectful of current institutions, and so will more likely promote more rapid evolution of the education industry than will school vouchers or charter schools.
7. Since children educated under PPC remain enrolled in State (government, generally) schools, PPC elides the whole Church/State separation argument.
8. Since children educated under PPC remain enrolled in State (government, generally) schools, PPC is immune to the rhetorical attack that it "takes money from public education" or "from public schools".
9. PPC allows incremental implementation, which reduces the financial shock to the current system, and which allows continual assessment and modification.
10. PPC reduces taxpayer exposure to uncertain (but substantial) future public-sector pension and health care costs.

cc Della Belatti

Updated: noun-verb agreement, add comma.


EDN Hearings, 9, 11, Feb. (Wednesday, Friday)

Senate, Wednesday. What's up with SB 1104?
House, Wednesday. HB 941 (Homeschooling), HB 875 (Power of Atorney).
House, Friday (none).
Senate, Friday.


Experience Abroad

The Cato Institute's Andrew Coulson points to a study of schools in Sweden since voucher implementation.
• For-profit schools benefit students from all socio-economic backgrounds, but they
produce the largest benefits for students from less privileged backgrounds.
• School competition in Sweden has increased levels of educational achievement.
• Free schools enjoy higher levels of parental satisfaction than government schools.
• Competition from free schools has improved conditions for teachers.
• The profit motive provides strong incentives for entrepreneurs to enter the schools market and to expand their businesses. Banning for-profit schools risks dramatically reducing the number of free schools that are created, thereby limiting the benefits of competition.


SB 806

To: Members of the Senate Education Committee
From: Malcolm Kirkpatrick
in re: SB 806 (Teacher Standards Board)

Please DO NOT support SB 806 as written.

The Hawaii DOE operates one of the largest school systems in the US, the only State-wide school district. According to the NCES 2009 Digest of Education Statistics, table 36 the DOE reported a 2006 fall enrollment of 180,729 students. Taxpayers supported the Hawaii DOE with a revenue stream of $2.985+ billion dollars in the 2006-2007 fiscal year, according to the US Census bureau's Public Education Finances, 2007, table 1. The DOE reported total current spending of $2.081+ billion, according to table 6 and per pupil spending (table 8) of $11,060. Table 11 puts the Hawaii per pupil revenue at $16,520, which ranks fifth in the US. For all this, the Hawaii DOE generates a level of performance which puts Hawaii in the national cellar, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (8th grade Math).

The above figures understate the cost of the Hawaii Department of Education. These figures do not include the cost of pension and health benefits to retired employees. These figures do not include the cost of pension and health benefit promises to current employees. These figures do not include the opportunity cost to students of the time that they spend in school. These figures do not include the cost to society of the lost information which a competitive market in education services would generate.

With SB 806, the legislature would tinker with an enterprise its defenders call "broken", "dysfunctional" and "obsolete". The Teacher Standards Board makes a large contribution to the failure of the State school system. Recall the history of this board. When Teacher Standards Board legislation first appeared before the Hawaii legislature, the HSTA testified in favor and the Board of Education opposed the legislation. At that time, I testified against the creation of a Teacher Standards Board. In the next session, the Board of Education supported the bill, and the legislature passed a bill that authorized the creation of a temporary board which was to prescribe credential requirements for applicants for teacher positions within the government school system. The Board would then hand these recommendation to the DOE Personnel Office and expire. Before the Teacher Standards Board existed, a Teacher Standards Board Planning Commission met to determine the shape of the Teacher Standards Board. This Planning commission discussed how to talk the legislature into making the Board permanent and how to talk the legislature into extending the Board's authority to teachers already in service. Since then, the legislature has repealed the sunset provision of the enabling legislation, expanded the Board from nine to fifteen members, and given the Board authority over licensing of teachers already in service. Meanwhile, the Board has failed to develop effective standards for new-hire or in-service teachers. For new-hire teachers, the Board requires College of Education training. No statistical, empirical evidence supports policies which restrict the teaching profession to graduates of Colleges of Education. For in-service teachers, the Board requires, among other things:
Standard V: Demonstrates Knowledge of Content
STANDARD STATEMENT V: The effective teacher consistently demonstrates competency in content area(s) to develop student knowledge and performance.
Performance Criteria for Standard V: The extent to which the teacher:
Keeps abreast of current developments in content area(s).
Teaches mastery of language, complex processes, concepts and principles unique to content area(s).
Utilizes the school's current technologies to facilitate learning in the content area(s).
Connects knowledge of content area(s) to students’ prior experiences, personal interests and real-life situations.
Possesses an understanding of technology appropriate to the content area, e.g. computer-assisted instruction.
Standard VI: Designs and Provides Meaningful Learning Experiences
STANDARD STATEMENT VI: The effective teacher consistently plans and implements, meaningful learning experiences for students.
Performance Criteria for Standard VI: The extent to which the teacher:
Plans and implements logical, sequenced instruction and continually adjusts plans based on learner needs.
Provides learning experiences and instructional materials that are developmentally appropriate and based on desired outcomes, principles of effective instruction and curricular goals.
Incorporates a variety of appropriate assessment strategies as an integral part of instructional planning.
Links concepts and key ideas to students’ prior experiences and understandings, using multiple representations, examples and explanations.
Applies concepts that help students relate learning to everyday life.
Provides integrated or interdisciplinary learning experiences that engage students in generating knowledge, using varied methods of inquiry, discussing diverse issues, dealing with ambiguity and incorporating differing viewpoints.
Teaches for mastery of complex processes, concepts and principles contained in the Hawaii Content and Performance Standards.
Provides knowledge and experiences that help students make life and career decisions.
Organizes material and equipment to create a media-rich environment.
Standard IX: Demonstrates Professionalism
STANDARD STATEMENT IX: The effective teacher continually evaluates the effects of his or her choices and actions and actively seeks opportunities to grow professionally.
Performance Criteria for Standard IX: The extent to which the teacher:
Engages in relevant opportunities to grow professionally, i.e., taking university/college or in-service coursework, actively participating in a professional organization, serving on a cadre, council, or committee or serving as a cooperating teacher, mentor or advisor.
Reflects on practices and monitors own teaching activities and strategies, making adjustments to meet learner needs.
Provides and accepts evaluative feedback in a professional manner.
Conducts self ethically in professional matters.
Models honesty, fairness and respect for individuals and for the laws of society.
Demonstrates good work habits including reliability, punctuality, and follow-through on commitments.
Maintains current knowledge in issues and trends in education.
Practices effective listening, conflict resolution and group-facilitation skills as a team member.
Works collaboratively with other professionals.
Participates actively and responsibly in school activities.
Problems with the above abound.
Consider: "Keeps abreast of current developments in content area(s)." Why? Does an English Literature teacher need recent Melville scholarship into the homoerotic imagery of Moby Dick to teach this book? Does a US History teacher need the latest reports from Colonial-era excavations to teach the origins of the American Revolution? What "current development" in Polynomial Ring Theory do you imagine I need to teach Alg. I? If I could read current research in Real Analysis or Polynomial Ring Theory I'd have a PhD in that topic.
Consider: "Provides learning experiences and instructional materials that are developmentally appropriate and based on desired outcomes, principles of effective instruction and curricular goals."
What "principles of effective instruction"? The College of Education for years promoted Whole Language methods of reading instruction. The DOE paid consultants from PREL to conduct workshops on Whole Language methods of reading instruction. The Whole Language fad died after PhDs in Linguistics and Psychology insisted that Whole Language theory was so misguided it was "not even wrong", so stupid it couldn't be said to be a coherent theory. Since a PhD trumps a EdD, the Whole Language fad died. The College of Education promoted "discovery" methods of Math instruction. A massive study of methods of Math instruction, Project Follow-Through, has demonstrated the superiority of direct instruction and practice over "discovery" methods. Why hire experts if you do not intend to use their expertise? Why compel attendance at school if children will discover Math on their own?

Some of these "standards" describe good practice, but they are too vague to qualify as "standards". Consider: "Reflects on practices and monitors own teaching activities and strategies, making adjustments to meet learner needs." How does the TSB propose to measure that?

Consider: "Teaches for mastery of complex processes, concepts and principles contained in the Hawaii Content and Performance Standards."
I looked at the the HCPS III standards for Alg I. They are clear and relevant. The problem with this Teacher Standards Board recommendation is that the TSB made the same practice a "standard" when student "Content and Performance Standards" referred to the Final Report of the Hawaii State Commission on Performance Standards (the Blue Book), which PREL billed taxpayers over $600,000 to develop and which the DOE discarded after four years as hopelessly complicated and vague.

The Teacher Standards Board advocated enhanced salaries for teachers who obtain National Board certification.
A review of the literature concerning national board certification will produce a vast amount of information, both for and against. According to Goldhaber, Perry, and Anthony (2003), national board certification is a process by which "outstanding teachers with demonstrated skills would be appropriately recognized" (p. 1). Supporters of NBPTS believe that teachers with national board certification will become the leaders in changing the culture of American education and that these changes will have "significant beneficial impacts on students" (p. 1).

In opposition to national board certification, Goldhaber, Perry, and Anthony cite Wilcox (1999) in claiming that the "NBPTS is an "insiders' organization that bases its authority on the evaluation of its own members. The inclusion of two prominent educators' unions on the Board also raises red flags for some" (p. 1).

Ballou and Podgursky (1998) questioned the value of the national board certification. They cited many policy questions that remain unanswered in regards to this popular type of teacher certification.

Their first question is at the heart of the NBPTS's philosophy: "Is the national board able to identify superior teachers?" (p. 1). The answer to this question, according to Ballou and Podgursky, is that "we simply do not know" (p. 1).

My point here is that the Teacher Standards Board members would not know a standard if you dropped one on their toes.

Who benefits from the Board's control over teacher credential requirements? As I suggested above the HSTA lobbied for TSB legislation. The Board originally consisted of four teachers, on HSTA recommendation, three administrators, on HGEA recommendation, a representative from the College of Education, and a Governor's appointee. Since, like the HSTA, the UHPA is an NEA subsidiary and UH administrators, like DOE administrators, pay dues to the HGEA, public sector unions controlled eight of nine seats on the Board. The current 15-member Board is similarly lopsided in it's representation by insiders.

In giving to the HSTA and HGEA the power to decertify teachers, the legislature has placed the HSTA and HGEA in a serious conflict of interest. Unions function as a combination of talent agent and law firm. They negotiate contracts and enforce contracts. A teacher's dues basically put the HSTA on retainer. By giving to the HSTA the power to decertify teachers in service, the legislature has created an enormous potential for abuse. It's as though the legislature has given to a committee of lawyers the power to determine which clients a lawyer who has collected a retainer must defend.

In the 1990 Brookings Institution study of school effectiveness by Chubb and Moe, Politics, Markets, and America's Schools, the authors found that the strongest predictor of school success, after parent SES, was a composite variable they called "the degree of institutional autonomy". That is, the more people above the principal telling the principal how to do her job, the worse a school performed.

Principals at each school should have the power to determine the credential requirements of their own staff.

Thank you for this opportunity to speak.

I did not read the text to the committee. I explained that any discussion of the details of legislation regarding specific programs within the DOE implicitly accepts the suppositions on which that program rests. Once the legislature has created an institution like the Teacher Standards Board or the DOE itself, comments on related legislation do which address details of the legislation or the program assent to the existence of the program. Senator Sam Slom looked bored. The others displayed no expression at all. The HSTA will get its way, again. Homeschool.


SB 1120

To: Senate Economic Development and Technology, Education Committee Members
From: Malcolm Kirkpatrick
In re: SB 1120

Please DO NOT support SB 1120 as written. This bill would appropriate an undetermined amount of money for uncertain and ill-defined benefit. This bill subsidizes a demonstrably failed enterprise in pursuit of its stated goal.

As governor Abercrombie observed in his State of the State address, the government of Hawaii faces a serious budget deficit. This is not the time for expensive new projects. Further, the Hawaii State government's attempts at economic planning have failed repeatedly. You take resources from profitable enterprises and subsidize loss-making enterprises and wasteful bureaucracy.

The Hawaii DOE operates one of the worst school systems in the US. Its employees misrepresent DOE performance and the DOE budget. We have seen schools called "Blue Ribbon schools one year and "failing" by NCLB measures the next. We have heard administrators complain of budget cuts when the DOE budget was growing, in absolute and per pupil terms. They are not to be trusted with one more dime of taxpayer money. Your Auditor repeatedly finds misallocation of funds and deceptive accounting within the DOE.

This bill provides:...
SECTION 6. There is appropriated out of the general
revenues of the State of Hawaii the sum of $ ________ or so much thereof as may be necessary for fiscal year 2011-2012 and the same sum or so much thereof as may be necessary for fiscal year 2012-2013 for the development of professional development
programs in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines for practicing teachers. The sums appropriated shall be expended by the University of Hawaii for the purposes of this part.
If the purpose of this bill is NOT a subsidy to the make-work program we call "public education", why are funds restricted to the government-operated university system?

This bill provides:...
SECTION 7. There is appropriated out of the general
revenues of the State of Hawaii the sum of $ or so much thereof as may be necessary for fiscal year 2011-2012 and the same sum or so much thereof as may be necessary for fiscal year 2012-2013 for the transition to teaching program to provide stipends to attract science, technology, engineering, and mathematics graduates to the University of Hawaii post baccalaureate certificate in secondary education program.
1. If this bill is NOT a subsidy to the make-work program we call "public education", why are funds restricted to the government-operated university system?
2. No evidence supports policies which require that teachers have College of Education credits on their transcript. Abundant evidence supports policies which give to Principals the power to determine for themselves the credential requirements of their staff.

Thank you for this opportunity to speak.

Bad Goods

Jane Shaw asks: "Is College a Bad Public Good?"
The public goods argument implies subsidy and regulation, at most, not government operation of an industry.


HB 1055

To: Members of the House Education and Labor Committees, Senate Education Committee
From: Malcolm Kirkpatrick
In re: HB 1055, SB1282

Please DO NOT support HB 1055 (SB 1282) (repealing the administration of a norm-referenced test).

The text of the bill includes:
"SECTION 1. The recent implementation of the common core
2 state standards initiative led by the National Governors
3 Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief
4 State School Officers, has resulted in a set of common core
S state standards in English language arts and mathematics that
6 have been developed by teachers, school administrators, and
7 experts to provide a clear and consistent framework to prepare
8 students for college and the workforce. These standards define
9 the knowledge and skills students should possess within their K-
10 12 education careers so that they will graduate high school able
11 to succeed in entry—level, credit-bearing academic college
12 courses and in workforce training programs. Therefore, the
13 administration of nationally norm—referenced tests is no longer
14 necessary."

Note how much this resembles what DOE administrators said about the Final Report of the Hawaii State Commission on Performance Standards (the Blue Book), which the PREL compiled at a cost of over $250,000, and the DOE abandoned after four years, after floundering and failing to develop practical tests based on unnecessary or vague or contradictory "standards".

The Bill further says:
(Page 1)
18 The board of education has adopted the common core state
(Page 2)
1 standards and Hawaii is a governing member of the SMARTER
2 Balanced Assessment Consortium that will be developing and
3 implementing a summative assessment
in grades 3 through 8 and
4 high school in English language arts and mathematics that will
5 provide comparable achievement standards
across all of the
6 states that are members of the Consortium.

As the bill indicates, the alternative assessment does not yet exist.

The Hawaii DOE operates one of the worst school systems in the US, as measured by standardized tests. For years, DOE officials told the people of Hawaii that Hawaii students scored "above average" on Math. In 1990 Hawaii schools participated in the NAEP and we learned that DOE instruction generated a level of performance that put Hawaii in the national cellar. Standardized assessment is to system administrators and Professors of Education what sunlight is to vampires. Please do not eliminate one of the few means by which taxpayers and parents may assess DOE performance.

Thank you for this opportunity to speak.

To: House Education and Labor Committee members
From: Malcolm Kirkpatrick
In re HB 1540

Please DO NOT support HB 1540 (lowering the time uncertified teachers may work in the DOE).
The "standards" advanced by the Hawaii Teacher Standards Board have no relation to teacher or student performance. The Teacher Standards Board requires College of Education credentials. College of Education credits add nothing to teacher performance. Please read Robert Holland's Policy Review article "How to Build a Better Teacher".

In the 1990 Brookings Institute study of school performance (Chubb and Moe, Politics, Markets, and America's Schools), the authors found that the strongest predictor of school performance, after parent SES, was a composite variable the authors called "the degree of institutional autonomy". That is, the more people above the principal telling the principal how to do her job, the worse a school performed. One key element of control the authors recommend that authorities give to principals is the power of a principal to choose her team. For this reason, they opposed policies which limit teacher employment to College of Education graduates, which current Teacher Standards Board standards require.

Thank you for this opportunity to speak.

To: Senate Education Committee
From: Malcolm Kirkpatrick
In re: SB 810

The text asserts:...
(page 2)
6 ......According to the Georgetown
7 University Center on Education and the Workforce, by 2018
8 sixty-five per cent of Hawaii's jobs will require postsecondary
9 education and training beyond high school. Despite these
10 trends, Hawaii ranks forty-first in the nation in the percentage
11 of recent high school graduates who attend college. Even among
12 Hawaii's students who do go on to attend college, many are
13 academically unprepared and require remediation.

Against this, please consider:...

"The Great College Degree scam"
First, the push to increase the number of college graduates seems horribly misguided from a strict economic/vocational perspective. It is precisely that perspective that is emphasized by those, starting with President Obama, who insist that we need to have more college graduates.

Second, the data suggest a horrible decline in the productivity of American education in that the “inputs” used to achieve any given human capital (occupational) outcome have expanded enormously. More simply, it takes 18 years of schooling (including kindergarten and the typical fifth year of college to get a bachelor’s degree) for persons to get an education to do jobs that a generation or two ago people did with 12-13 years of education (graduating more often from college in four years and sometimes skipping kindergarten).

Third, a sharp rise in the dependency ratio—those too old or too young to work relative to the work age population is coming because of the aging of the American population. This means we need to increase employment participation in younger ages (e.g., 18 to 23) where participation is low today because of the rising college participation rate. The falling productivity of American education is aggravating a serious problem—a shortage of workers to sustain a growing population of those unable to care for themselves.

Fourth, all of this supports the notion that credential inflation arises from a perceived need by individuals to demonstrate potential employment competence through a piece of paper, i.e. a college diploma. Employers are using education as a screening and signaling device, at a low cost directly to them (although not costless because of the taxes they pay to sustain much of this), but at a high cost to the prospective employees and to society as a whole.

Fifth, this shows that the current problem of college student employability is not a new, and merely temporary, problem.

Lastly, I am saddened that this is happening. Many of those advocating more access are well meaning and have pure motives, but they are ignorant of the evidence. But higher education is all about facts, knowledge—learning how the world works and disseminating that information to others. Some in higher education KNOW about all of this and are keeping quiet about it because of their own self-interest. We are deceiving our young population to mindlessly pursue college degrees when very often that is advice that is increasingly questionable.
"From Wall Street to Wal-Mart: The Great College Degree Scam"

Executive Summary
Colleges and universities are turning out graduates faster than America’s labor markets are creating jobs that traditionally have been reserved for those with degrees. More than one-third of current working graduates are in jobs that do not require a degree, and the proportion appears to be rising rapidly. Many of them are better described as "underemployed" rather than "gainfully employed." Indeed, 60 percent of the increased college graduate population between 1992 and 2008 ended up in these lower skill jobs, raising real questions about the desirability of pushing to increase the proportion of Americans attending and graduating from four year colleges and universities. This, along with other evidence on the negative relationship between government higher education spending and economic growth, suggests we may have significantly "over invested" public funds in colleges and universities.
Please also read Ivar Berg, Education and Jobs; The Great Training Robbery.

It does not take 12 years to teach a normal child to read and compute. State (government, generally) provision of History, Civics, and Economics instruction is a threat to democracy, just as State operation of newspapers and broadcast new media would be. Most of the world's work is grunt work and most vocational training occurs more effectively on the job than in a classroom.

Please do not support this bill.

Update. I was late, due to an appointment with the vet, and delivered the testimony to the Senate hearing after the committee's decisionmaking. I presented the testimony on HB 1540. As recently as three years ago I would have rescheduled the vet appointment, but since legislators pay no attention to what I say, my cats have a higher priority than the lives of 170,000 children.
Update. Added link to Holland's Policy Review article. Added link to Brookings study by Chubb and Moe (1990).


HB 97 (and HB 11)

HB 11 (Cynthia Thielen, (R)) and HB 97 ( Kyle Yamashita, (D)) would lower the age at which the State compels attendance at school from six to five. Senator Avery Chumley's proposal to lower the age of compulsory attendance (start) from six to three provoked my initial interest in the relation between institutional variables such as age of compulsory attendance, district size, per pupil budgets, and teacher credentials, on the one hand, and system performance, as measured by standardized test scores, juvenile arrest rates, and juvenile hospitalization rates, on the other hand. Smaller is better. Later is better.

To: House Education and Finance Committee members
From: Malcolm Kirkpatrick
In re: HB 97 (mandatory kindergarten)

Please DO NOT support HB 97 (mandatory kindergarten). HB 97 will increase the cost of State government, add to looming pension and health benefit obligations, and degrade overall system performance.

Increased CostsThe Hawaii DOE reported a 2006 fall enrollment of 180,728 and a 2007 fall enrollment of 179, 897 students, according to the NCES 2009 Digest of Education Statistics, table 34. Dividing by twelve grades, this gives about 15,000 students at each grade level. The DOE per pupil budget was more than $12,000 per pupil in the fiscal year 2006-2007, according to the NCES 2009 Digest of Education Statistics, table 183. This figure understates the total cost as it does not include pension and health benefit obligations to former and current system employees. Adding one more mandatory grade level will increase K-12 costs by $180 million (plus uncertain but large pension and health benefit costs).

Degraded PerformanceAcross the US there is a clear and strong relation between the age at which States compel attendance at school and NAEP 4th and 8th grade Reading and Math scores. States which compel attendance at age 7 or 8 have higher scores than States which compel attendance at age 5 or 6. Later is better. Early education may be important. Early compulsory attendance at school is counter-indicated.

Thank you for this opportunity to testify.

A Hectare of Confusion and a Tonne of Indifference

As noted earlier ("Did He Mean It?"), Governor Abercrombie expressed concern for State's financial difficulties and then expressed his determination to treat State employment as a welfare program. Nothing better expresses the priority that legislators assign to maintaining the income of dues-paying members of the HSTA/HGEA/UHPA/UPW (NEA/AFSCME) cartel than the practice of measuring education in terms of time. "A year of Algebra I" and "three credit-hours of Sociology" make as much sense as "a pound of friendship" and "a square meter of health". With House Bill 954, Representatives Ty Cullen (D) and Joey Manahan (D) declare their affection for ... the support of the HSTA and HGEA in the next election, I suppose.

US "public education" has become an employment program for dues-paying members of the NEA/AFT/AFSCME cartel, a source of padded construction, consulting, and supply contracts for politically-connected insiders, and a venue for State-worshipful indoctrination. If this is not so, why cannot any student take, at any age, an exit exam (the GED will do) and apply the taxpayers' age 6-18 education subsidy toward post-secondary tuition at any VA-approved post-secondary institution in the State or toward a wage subsidy at any qualified private-sector employer?

Criminalizing Concern

Jay Greene asks "Who's the Criminal?"
In Akron, Ohio a woman who put her children in a better public school was sent to jail when private investigators hired by the school found that she did not live in the district. Her father did and she sometimes stayed with him, but that was not enough to keep her out of prison for seeking a better education for her children.

Meanwhile, in Atlanta there is evidence of widespread cheating on standardized tests by teachers and administrators as well as a potential cover-up in the investigation of those accusations. No one has gone to jail (and no one ever will) for robbing children of a quality education and then lying about their true achievement by cheating on the state test to hide that fact.
If Linda Ichiyama (D) and Aaron Johanson (R) have their way (House Bill 875), concerned parents in Hawaii will face charges for aiding and abetting their children's escape from wretched DOE schools.
Establishes requirements for powers of attorney executed for student enrollment purposes. Expressly prohibits uses of powers of attorney to circumvent school enrollment requirements, and requires parents and guardians to certify that a power of attorney is not being used for those purposes.


Did He Mean It?

This morning, I went to the State Capital, seeking help in identifying the sponsors of HB 25. The Public Access Room distributes lists of legislators' committee assignments, office locations, e-mail addresses, and signitures. Capital guards directed traffic away from the public parking in the basement, reserving space for guests at Governor Abercrombie's State of the State address. I parked on Richards street and walked into the building. The Governor was a few sentences into his address when I walked into the Public Access Room.

Readers may decide for themselves how seriously the Governor intended the talk about facing financial reality and how much, on the other hand, he intended this:...
I expect collective bargaining negotiations to be conducted in good faith and with common goals in mind—to achieve savings without disrupting service to the public, to keep state employees on the job with paychecks for their families, and to exercise creativity and long-term thinking in the bargaining process to improve the work experience and achieve a resolution of the crisis of unfunded liabilities in pension funds and runaway health costs.


Rebutting the First Lady

Professor Ann Althouse quotes First Lady Michelle Obama: "We can teach ("our" children) to give others the benefit of the doubt, particularly those with whom they disagree. We can also teach our children about the tremendous sacrifices made by the men and women who serve our country and by their families. We can explain to them that although we might not always agree with those who represent us, anyone who enters public life does so because they love their country and want to serve it."

Althouse responds: "But that's quite obviously untrue! Some people seek power for the wrong reasons or go astray after they've reached power. We need to observe the government with a clear, active, and critical eye."

A loving mother can teach a normal child to read (decode the phonetic alphabet) before that child can speak. The infant ears, eyes, and brain function at a level sufficient to this task before the child can coordinate the diaphragm, larynx, and tongue. A loving mother, moving through the lessons at a crawl, can teach a normal child to compute (add, subtract, multiply, and divide integers, decimals, and fractions) by age 8 if she starts early. Once a child can read and compute, s/he can study independently with a coherent course of instruction crystallized in books. Most vocational training occurs more effectively on the job than in a classroom. State (government, generally) provision of History and Civics instruction is a threat to democracy, just as State operation of newspapers would be, and is in totalitarian States like Cuba and North Korea.

Professor Althouse explains that last point: "It would make more sense to teach creationism instead of evolution than to teach these wishful lies about government since children need to learn how to be effective citizens and lulling them into passive admiration of the government undermines the democratic process. Believing or not believing in creationism, by contrast, isn't going to change what happened in the grand expanse of evolutionary time."


What the State Can Contribute to the Education and Health Care Industries

From the Why Evolution Is True site...

MichieuxPosted January 1, 2011 at 4:34 pm
Would you you care to elaborate on the “serious defects” in the “standard arguments for state provision of health and education services”? That is, could you explain what you take those arguments to be, and provide some evidence not only for those arguments, but also how they are defective? Also, and perhaps more importantly, how would you measure a nation’s health?
I will sketch a skeletal outline. I admit numerous qualifications.

Why the State cannot make any useful contribution to the medical care industry or the education industry.

The government of a locality is the largest dealer in interpersonal violence in that locality (definition, after Weber). A law is a written threat by a government to kidnap (arrest), assault (subdue), and forcibly infect with HIV (imprison) someone, under specified circumstances. Individual A has a “right” to do X if the government has pomised not to interfere when A attempts to do X and, further, has promised to interfere with individuals B,C, etc. if they attempt to stop A when A attempts to do X. A State grants “title” to a resource X to an individual A when the State reecognizes the right of A to control X which includes the right to transfer control to other individuals B (to sell the resource) on terms mutually agreeable to A and B. Market-oriented policies combine title and contract law. Because barter and commerce benefit both sides of a transaction, markets unite control over resources with the incentive to use resources is socially benefiicial ways.

A society is free in proportion to the range of behaviors between compelled and forbidden. The advantages of freedom are obvious: how many times should you chew your next bite of apple? Should we conduct a nationwide vote on that? Each individual is the best judge of his own interests.

Separation of powers, federalism, and markets institutionalize humility on the part of government actors.

At this point, I invite critics of market economies to address two questions:
1. From a State presence in which industries does society benefit, beyond what the State contributes to markets generally (an original assignment of title and enforcement of contract law)? You may imagine either a) two categories: A = likely candidates for State operation or subsidy, and B = unlikely candidates for State operation or subsidy or
b) a continuum
(highly unlikely) -1_____._____+1 (highly likely).
2. What criteria determine an industry’s categorical assignment of position on the continuum?

Usual welfare-economic arguments for State intervention in an industry involve externalities, economies of scale, and information assymetries between buyers and sellers. In the case of the medical care and education industries, the information assymetry argument applies with greater force to remote State actors than to exchange between doctors and patients. Beyond a very low level, there are no economies of scale at the delivery end of the education industry as it currently operates. Education only marginally qualifies as a public good as economists use the term and the “public goods” (positive externalities) argument implies subsidy and regulation, at most, not State (government, generally) operation of school. The State cannot subsidize education without a definition of “education” and the State’s definition will then bind students, parents, real classroom teachers, and taxpayers to the State’s definition.

Similarly, the State cannot subsidize medical care without a definition of “medical care”. The taxpayers of one medium-sized US State could probably afford one band-aid and one aspirin for every person on Earth, but the entire Earth’s GDP is insufficient to keep even one person alive forever. Everyone dies. Barring a fatal accident, most of us will consume medical resources which we will never repay. In an unsubsidized market in medical services, relatives will face the decision: pull the plug on grandma and put braces on the kids, or sell the house, extend grandma’s life another six months, and declare bankruptcy. In a tax-subsidized market or a State-operated medical care industry, some State body will make the decision when to pull the plug (a “death panel”). Aggregation of resources and authority for control over resources into government hands contributes nothing to the performance of the medical care industry.

The “public goods” argument for subsidization of medical care or education has the logical hole I mentioned earlier, that oversight of corporate functions is a public good and the State itself is a corporation. Therefore, oversight of State functions is a public good which the State itself cannot provide. State assumption of responsibility for the provision of public goods transforms the free rider problem at the root of public goods analysis but does not solve it.

More later.

This was overlong, and the site owned complained, so I brought it here.