Sunday, October 14, 2012

As Election Day nears, voter ID laws still worry some, encourage others

At least 15 states have passed laws requiring voter IDs, limiting voter registration techniques or restricting early voting

Book Excerpt Battlegrounds America's War in Education and Finance A View From the Front Lines By Todney Harris

Entertainment and Media

            The media is also a major matter of concern.  The quest for the almighty dollar cannot be the placed over the needs of the masses.  The television networks are multinational companies.  They employ millions of people and they conduct business all over the world.  The sad truth is that nations that reside in Asia and Europe are taking the lead in education.  The glaring truth is that our educational systems and student performance is lacking behind other industrialized nations.  It is my opinion that culturally, our television and other forms of electronic entertainment have led to the denigration of our educational standards.  The youth in America are being exposed to subject matter that is adult orientated in an effort to maximize profit potential through advertising during what is considered “prime time hours”. 

            The Federal Government must intervene.  The content on television must be curbed.  I think that the Federal Communications Commission must do a better job of regulating the media outlets.  The television shows aren’t age appropriate.  The advertising commercials also aren’t age appropriate.  The music industry is all together another issue.  I cannot even begin to talk about how bad the music is.  Please keep in mind that I am not singling out any particular type of genre either.  For the most part, it is all bad.  The industry has become fixated on sex and it has permeated through to the youth.  The Federal Government in conjunction with the FEC should make the prime time networks to order them to create specialized time slots for these adult theme shows.  The music industry needs formal regulation as well.  I do not know how to curb the actions of the men and women who write the lyrics.  I understand that musicians have a right to produce the music of their choice.  I just wish that it would be better regulated.  The music videos are also another issue.  Once again, the issue of sex and sexploitation has to be addressed.  The women in these music videos are barely dressed and major body parts are in full frontal and rear view.  What on earth is going on here?  Is nothing sacred? 

            The entertainment industry is a major fixation of America’s youth.  It does not take a scientist to realize this.  The youth have hand held electronic devices that connect them to the wide world of entertainment.  MP3 players and cellular phones have transformed the connection between youth and entertainment.  It is very hard for youth to escape the constant bombardment of images and music that is only a click away from a device. 

What's wrong with affirmative action -- and why we need it

What's wrong with affirmative action -- and why we need it

By LZ Granderson, CNN Contributor
updated 11:30 AM EDT, Sat October 13, 2012

Saturday, October 13, 2012

New Study Finds Romney’s Tax Plan Can Only Reduce Taxes by 4% Without Increasing the Deficit

This is for all of the citizens who think that Romney should be the next President.  His tax plan is ludicrous and only ignorant Americans or the rich are in agreement with his plan! For example,

Mitt Romney is supposed to be a savvy business man. Yet the Romney/Ryan tax plan makes no economic sense.

The federal government has a massive deficit. When you are deeply in debt in business, your FIRST step is to cut expenses to the point where you're close to break even. Your next step is to INCREASE revenue (not cut revenue, which is what the tax cut does to the federal budget). The Romney/Ryan plan is to DECREASE revenue and hope for the best. They are not telling the truth to the American people.

This proves it!

New Study Finds Romney’s Tax Plan Can Only Reduce Taxes by 4% Without Increasing the Deficit

There really is no serious dispute that the parameters of their plan can’t be met. It’s like saying you’re going to drive from Boston to Los Angeles in 10 hours without speeding. There’s just no way to make the numbers add up.”
~Daniel Shaviro, a tax law professor at New York University.

Dylan Matthews
points out a letter written by the Joint Committee on Taxation to the Senate Finance Committee; it is no ordinary or inconsequential letter. The Joint Committee on Taxation is a non-partisan scorekeeper in Congress; whatever they write is to be taken as completely non-political and focused on facts and facts and facts. They conducted an experiment wherein they tried to determine if nearly every tax deduction were eliminated … how much could taxes be reduced without increasing the deficit; their finding: 4%.

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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

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There's a way to break the cycle: it's called prosecuting Wall Street for the laws they've broken.

If you agree it's time for a real investigation of Wall Street, sign our letter to Financial Fraud Task Force chair Eric T. Schneiderman and click SHARE:

Republican Senator endorses President Barack Obama for re-election

The great Republican legislator Larry Pressler, who served South Dakota in the U.S. House and Senate for a span of 22 years, has written an article describing why he voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and why he will be voting for the president's re-election in November.

Pressler says:

This decision is not easy for any lifelong Republican.

He cites his party's dramatic changes:

Drifting toward a dangerous path that put extreme party ideology above national interest. Mitt Romney heads a party remaining on that dangerous path, proving the emptiness of their praise as they abandon our service members, veterans and military families along the way.

Senator Pressler is one of thousands of Republicans that are part of a mass exodus to the Democratic party. The Republican party has become infested with those who are uninterested in morality and civic duty, and only in corporate profits. Pressler elaborates:

Behind closed doors with his donors, Romney made clear he'd write off half of America -- including service members and veterans -- because, as he said "I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility for their lives."

Unlike many others who politically pontificate Larry Pressler is one of a handful of people on the planet who knows the United States budget's intricate detail. He once served as Chairman of the Commerce Committee, and was a member of both the U.S. Senate Budget Committee and the Senate Finance Committee. He is a man who leaves little room for argument when he so directly says in his article posted by The Huffington Post:

Let's be clear, Romney and Ryan would be disastrous for America's service members, veterans and military families.

Pressler closes by reaffirming his support for President Obama:

As a life-long Republican, I stand by him as he stands by all of us, putting national allegiance ahead of party affiliation. I endorse President Obama for re-election in 2012.

Having alienated nearly every minority group sometime in the last 18 months, and brazenly shilling for corporate welfare has placed the GOP in a paradoxical position; they are trying to woo voters, but members of their core constituency are fleeing

President Obama and Governor Romney's Views on Education!

Assessing Ourselves to Death by Mathew DiCarlo

I have two points to make. The first is something that I think everyone knows: Educational outcomes, such as graduation and test scores, are signals of or proxies for the traits that lead to success in life, not the cause of that success.

For example, it is well-documented that high school graduates earn more, on average, than non-graduates. Thus, one often hears arguments that increasing graduation rates will drastically improve students’ future prospects, and the performance of the economy overall. Well, not exactly.

The piece of paper, of course, only goes so far. Rather, the benefits of graduation arise because graduates are more likely to possess the skills – including the critical non-cognitive sort – that make people good employees (and, on a highly related note, because employers know that, and use credentials to screen applicants).

We could very easily increase the graduation rate by easing requirements, but this wouldn’t do much to help kids advance in the labor market. They might get a few more calls for interviews, but over the long haul, they’d still be at a tremendous disadvantage if they lacked the required skills and work habits.

Moreover, employers would quickly catch on, and adjust course accordingly. They’d stop relying as much on high school graduation to screen potential workers. This would not only deflate the economic value of a diploma, but high school completion would also become a less useful measure for policymakers and researchers.

This is, of course, one of the well-known risks of a high-stakes focus on metrics such as test scores. Test-based accountability presumes that tests can account for ability. We all know about what is sometimes called “Campbell’s Law,” and we’ve all heard the warnings and complaints about so-called “teaching to the test.” Some people take these arguments too far, while others are too casually dismissive. In general, though, the public (if not all policymakers) have a sense that test-based accountability can be a good thing so long as it is done correctly and doesn’t go too far.

Now, here’s my second point: I’m afraid we’ve gone too far.

I am not personally opposed to a healthy dose of test-based accountability. I believe that it has a useful role to play, both for measuring performance and for incentivizing improvement (and, of course, the use of testing data for research purposes is critical). I acknowledge that there’s no solid line and I realize that what I’m saying is not at all original, but I’m at the point where I think we need to stop putting more and more faith in instruments that are not really designed to bear that burden.

One can often hear people say that test-based accountability won’t “work.” The reality, however, is that it probably will.

If we mold policy such that livelihoods depend on increasing scores, and we select and deselect people and institutions based on their ability to do so, then, over time, scores will most likely go up.

The question is what that will mean. A portion of this increase will reflect a concurrent improvement in useful skills and knowledge. But part of it will not (e.g., various forms of score inflation). To the degree the latter is the case, not only will it not help the students, but we will have more and more trouble knowing where we stand. Researchers will be less able to evaluate policies. We’ll end up celebrating and making decisions based on success that isn’t really success, and that’s worse than outright failure.

Obviously, this is all a matter of balancing the power of measurement and incentives against the risks. We most certainly should hold schools accountable for their results, and there are, at least at the moment, relatively few feasible alternatives to standardized tests. Furthermore, states have ways to keep track of tests’ validity, such as comparing them with the results of low-stakes tests, so we’re not quite flying blind here (though, even at this early stage, some of these comparisons are not exactly encouraging, and we sometimes seem unaware of what it means to have to resort to low-stakes tests to justify high-stakes test-based policies).

But think about what’s been happening – the big picture. Tests have been used for decision making for a long time, but, over the past decade or so, U.S. public schools have been held formally accountable for those outcomes. The pressure to boost scores is already very high – I would say too high in some places – but it’s now shifting into overdrive. More and more schools are being subject to closure, restructuring, reconstitution, and other high-stakes consequences based mostly on how their students’ test scores turn out. Several states are awarding grant money and cash bonuses using test results. Schools are receiving grades and ratings, and, just like their students, their futures depend on them.

In many places, the jobs and reputations of superintendents and principals rise and fall with scale scores and proficiency rates. Such increases are a necessary (though hopefully not sufficient) condition for being considered a success. Every year, the release of data makes headlines. Mayors run campaigns on them. Districts’ hire publicity experts to present results in the most favorable light.

Moreover, over just 2-3 short years, it has become the norm to evaluate teachers based to varying degrees on their students’ testing outcomes. Non-test measures are often deemed suitable based on their correlation with test measures. Teachers are the core of any education system, and we are increasingly moving toward hiring, paying and firing them using standardized tests (which, by the way, most of them don’t particularly trust).

New assessments – additional grades and subjects - are being designed largely for accountability purposes. There is a growing movement to hold teacher preparation programs accountable in part for the test-based productivity of their graduates. Websites and other resources are proliferating, allowing parents to choose schools (and even teachers) using testing data. Districts hire high-priced consultants specifically to boost achievement outcomes. We are even experimenting with test-based incentives for students.

Any one of these developments, or a group of them, might very well be a good thing. As a whole, however, they show how, at every level of our system, we are increasingly allocating resources and picking winners and losers – people and institutions – based in whole or in part on scores. This is a fundamental change in the relationships and structure of U.S. schools.

(And, making things worse, the manner in which in which the data are used and/or interpreted is often inappropriate.)

Few if any other nations in the world have gone this far. That doesn’t make it wrong, but it does mean that we have little idea how this will turn out.

I suspect that our relentless, expanding focus on high-stakes testing has already eroded the connection between scores and future outcomes. Some of this erosion is inevitable and even tolerable, but the more it occurs, the less ab;e we’ll be to have any sense of what works or where we are. I think that research on this connection and how it is changing over time is among the most important areas in education policy today.

And I’m troubled by the possibility that, if we don’t pull back the reins, this research may eventually show that we pushed the pendulum to its ultimate breaking point and structured a huge portion of our education system around measures that were only useful in the first place because we didn’t use them so much.