Saturday, October 24, 2015

Playmobil toy pirate ship with slave figurine sparks outrage Melissa Chan

Some assembly — and a lot of explanation — required.
A Playmobil toy pirate ship equipped with what appears to be a shackled slave figurine has sparked outrage after a California woman stumbled upon instructions telling her to slap a chain around its neck.
"I am mortified," Aimee Norman wrote on Facebook. "Who would think in the year 2015? Slavery is not a game."
Norman said she bought the set for her 5-year-old nephew's birthday — and chose it specifically when she saw it came with a "black character."
But along with boat floats, two cannons and a removable upper deck, the family found the dark-skinned plastic doll came with a small silver cuff.
An arrow in the instruction manual directs users to put the piece around its neck.
"It's definitely racist," the boy's mother Ida Lockett told CBS Sacramento. "It told my son to put a slave cuff around the black character's neck, and then to play with the toy."
"You cannot have this specific accessory and call it anything else," she added. "The fact that you can Google it, look it up, say what it is — it's a slave collar."
The pirate ship set sells for $89.99 and takes about 45 minutes to assemble, according to Playmobil's website.
The Germany-based toy company told the Daily News that the figurine in question is "clearly a crew member on the pirate ship and not a captive."
It was designed to portray life on a 17th-century pirate ship, Playmobil said in a statement.
"The figure was meant to represent a pirate who was a former slave in a historical context," the statement said. "It was not our intention to offend anyone in anyway."

A smartphone's BFF: Teens and tweens Michal Lev-Ram

Forget checking email on your cell phone - that's soo 2004. Today's teens are doing much more with their mobile devices. Speed texting with their eyes closed is only the beginning, and the technology can barely keep up with their rising demand for new features.
That's exactly why adolescent consumers are a desirable demographic for phone makers and carriers hungry for data revenues - $5 a month charges for unlimited messaging and $1 song downloads, to name just a few examples - as the cost of a call per minute continues to decline.
In just two years, the number of teenage cellular subscribers has grown by nearly 26 percent (that's a full 10 percentage points above the growth rate of 45- to 54-year-old customers for the same time period). And there's ample evidence that teens want advanced capabilities on their phone. The same can be said for tweens - the 8- to 12-year-old crowd.
So why not make a smartphone geared toward teens and tweens? After all, they're the ones who are driving some of the most advanced mobile trends.
"This is a group that has never known the world without mobile phones, and they've come to expect a lot from their devices," says Mark Donovan, a senior analyst with Seattle-based research firm M:Metrics. "For just about every category of mobile media activity, if you look at the 13- to 17-year-old bracket they're doing more things with their phones than the average phone user."
According to a recent survey by M:Metrics, 47 percent of teenagers take photos with their mobile device - that's twice the industry average. Young adults also access social networks, share pics and videos and browse the mobile Web a lot more than their older, less tech-savvy counterparts.
But despite teens' hyperactive mobile activities, smartphones like Research in Motion's BlackBerry (dubbed "CrackBerry" by some addicted users) and Palm's Treo have been largely geared for the business user - older corporate customers perpetually tethered to their email.
It's true that smartphones are expensive to develop and build, and that the underage crowd isn't exactly the one with the most spending power. But recent mobile devices like the slimmed-down Motorola Q and the Blackjack by Samsung have already pulled smartphone prices down - they're selling for as little as $100 (with a 2-year contract, of course).
The new generation of phones are also sleeker and more multimedia-focused than their predecessors. "They don't want to walk around with a phone that makes them look like a dork," says Donovan. "Style and capabilities should go hand in hand."
It turns out kids don't want phones that look like they're made for kids. Case in point: Earlier this year, AT&T discontinued a child-centric, simplistic five-button phone it started selling in 2005 due to what analysts say were lackluster sales.
The maker of the AT&T phone, a Lincolnshire, Illinois-based company called Firefly Mobile, has since gone back to the drawing table to create a more souped-up phone for tweens. Dubbed the FlyPhone, the upgraded device will have a lot more than "call mom" and "call dad" buttons - it will include a camera, MP3 player, games and picture-sharing capabilities.
"Kids aren't afraid of technology," says Don Deubler, founder of Firefly. "The new phone allows them to do more things they want to do."
The FlyPhone will be available through Firefly's Web site and retail channels like Target (Charts, Fortune 500) stores by late September. According to Deubler, the device will retail for $125 without a contract.
To read more, click on the following link:

Ohio Supreme Court sides with for-profit company over charter schools By Valerie Strauss

Consider this scenario: A for-profit company operating a charter school uses public funds — that means American taxpayer dollars — to buy computers, copiers, desks and other things for students and staff. The charter school decides to get a different management company. Who should get the computers, copiers and other machines purchased with public dollars? The schools or the for-profit company?
It if seems like a no-brainer to you, it wasn’t for the Ohio state Supreme Court. In a mixed-decision, it ruled on Tuesday in a lawsuit by 10 now-closed charter schools that the for-profit company that once operated them, White Hat Management, owns equipment it purchased for the schools with public funds. How did the court reach this decision?
White Hat is one of the largest for-profit charter school operators in Ohio and runs dozen of charter schools that have consistently received low grades from the state, which has a $1 billion charter sector that is as troubled as any in the country.
A June 2015 story in the Akron Beacon Journal about the newspaper’s review of 4,263 audits released last year by the state said that Ohio charter schools appear to have misspent public money “nearly four times more often than any other type of taxpayer-funded agency.” It says that “since 2001, state auditors have uncovered $27.3 million improperly spent by charter schools, many run by for-profit companies, enrolling thousands of children and producing academic results that rival the worst in the nation” — and the misspending could be much higher.
Efforts by Ohio’s lawmakers to require better oversight of charters have been unsuccessful.  On the same day as the ruling, members of the Ohio school board questioned Richard Ross, the state’s superintendent of instruction, about a charter school data scandal involving the state Education Department, according to NewsNet5.  Ross said he did not know that David Hansen, the department official responsible for school choice and charter schools, was giving help to charter schools to make them look better in state evaluations. Hansen resigned in July.

If all of this doesn’t underscore the need for change in the sector, it’s hard to see what would.
State Impact in Ohio, a project of NPR stations, calls the Akron-based White Hat “a charter school giant.” It says White Hat is owned by former manufacturing company chief executive David Brennan:
Brennan has played a major role in shaping Ohio education policy. He and his family members have donated millions to state legislators and governors over the past decade. And White Hat lobbyists have played significant roles in shaping Ohio’s charter school policies. White Hat handles the day-to-day operations of the Ohio charter schools it manages, doing everything from hiring teachers to ordering school supplies.
White Hat was sued by the governing boards of 10 of the dozens of schools it had managed. Each of the schools signed virtually the same contracts with White Hat in 2005. The schools received a total of more than $90 million in public money from 2007 to 2010, though only two performed at levels the state considered satisfactory during those years. According to the court decision:
Of the ten original schools, as of the 2010-2011 school year, two Hope Academies had been shut down by the Department of Education due to academic failure and three were on “academic watch”; one of the Life Skills Centers was on academic watch and second was on “academic emergency” (one step away from shut-down). This poor performance caused the schools to raise several issues, including how White Hat spent the money it received to operate the schools. Financial information revealed that White Hat spent money to purchase buildings ultimately owned by or renovated for the benefit of its own affiliates. According to the schools, although White Hat used part of the continuing fee to purchase personal property for use in the schools, it improperly titled that property in its own name.
The schools filed suit in 2010 after White Hat refused to provide further information on how it had used the public funds. The decision said:
The complaint sought declaratory and injunctive relief, an accounting, and damages for breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty. As part of their allegations, the schools disputed White Hat’s claim of entitlement to all property White Hat purchased using public funds.
The schools said that White Hat had received nearly all of the public funding they had been given to operate and that the schools should have a right to what was purchased with the money.

To read more, click on the following link:

Activate GodMode in Windows 10 by Sarah Jacobsson Purewal

In Windows 10, settings and controls are divided between the new Settings menu and the traditional Control Panel. Some settings -- including touchscreen-specific settings and Windows Update -- are found only in the Settings menu, while others, such as the Device Manager, are still mostly accessed through the Control Panel.
Yeah. It's a little confusing.
If you're sick of switching between the Settings menu and the Control Panel, searching for your lost settings, there is a way to access all settings and controls in one place: GodMode.

GodMode is a dedicated folder that lets you see all control panels in one place -- here, you'll be able to do everything from adding clocks for different time zones to defragmenting your drives. And it's a snap to set up.

To enable GodMode, right-click on the desktop and click New > Folder.

Copy and paste the following* into the folder name:

The folder icon will change to a control panel icon. Double-click on the new icon to see your universal settings panel.
*You can put any text before the period in the folder name. So, for example, you can name it SarahMode instead of GodMode, and you'll get this:

Launch multiple programs with one shortcut in Windows 10 by Sarah Jacobsson Purewal

There are some programs that you always run together. For me, it's Google Chrome and Microsoft Word (hey, I'm a writer), for you it might be Skype and Steam. Maybe there are a few programs that you open every time you start up your computer.

What if you could open multiple programs with just one (double) click? Well, you can, by creating a batch file, or a desktop shortcut that opens two or three or more specified programs at once. This tip works in older versions of Windows as well.

Step 1: Open the Start menu and go to All apps to find the first program you want to open in your batch. Right-click on the program and click Open file location
Step 2: A File Explorer window will open to the program's location. Right-click on the program in the File Explorer window and click Properties
Step 3: In the Properties window, click the Shortcut tab. Find Target: field, select the text in the textbox, and copy it. Open up a new Notepad noteand paste this text in that window.
Step 4: Repeat steps 1 through 3 for the second (and third, and fourth) program(s) you want to open in this shortcut.
Step 5: Once you have collected the target info for all of the programs you want to open in one shortcut, arrange the text
Basically, you'll need to add @echo off to the top of the note, put cd in front of each file path, and chop off the last part of the file path (program.exe) and put it on the next line with start in front of it. At the end of the note, you'll need to add exit after a line break.
Step 6: Save your file as a BAT file to the desktop. To do this, go to File > Save As, navigate to the desktop, and type the name of your shortcut followed by .bat (for example, Chrome and Steam.bat) in the File name field. In the Save as type field, click the dropdown menu and select All files. Then click Save
You'll see a new shortcut appear on your desktop with a little gear icon. Double-click on this shortcut and you should see a Command Prompt window pop up and disappear, followed by the programs you wanted to open.

Education Department Recommends Less Testing Lauren Camera

States and school districts should evaluate the number of tests they administer to students and eliminate any deemed ineffective or duplicative, the Department of Education recommended in new assessment guidance released Saturday.
The department is also recommending that states cap the percentage of time students spend taking required state assessments at 2 percent. Parents should receive a formal notice, the department said, if a school exceeds the cap.
The guidance suggests that tests should cover the full range of each state’s standards, a recommendation that comes on the heels of a study from the Center for American Progress that found the instructional materials states use often aren’t entirely aligned to their standards.
In addition, the department is asking states to ensure a level playing field for students with disabilities and those still learning English.
The guidance emphasizes that while some tests are for accountability purposes, the vast majority of assessments should be tools in a broader strategy to improve teachers and learning.
“No single assessment should ever be the sole factor in making an educational decision about a student, an educator, or a school,” the guidance reads.

Outgoing Education Secretary Arne Duncan has been consistent in emphasizing this point, despite pushing states to adopt teacher evaluation and compensation systems based in part on student test scores.
“I still have no question that we need to check at least once a year to make sure our kids are on track or identify areas where they need support,” Duncan said in a statement. “But I can’t tell you how many conversations I’m in with educators who are understandably stressed and concerned about an overemphasis on testing in some places and how much time testing and test prep are taking from instruction.”
The department underscored that the president’s fiscal 2016 budget requested $403 million for state assessments, which it noted states will be able to use to review their existing test. By January, the department will provide additional guidance on what federal funds states and districts can tap to audit their current testing regimen.

“Good assessments are a part of the learning experience, and a critical tool to make sure that all students, including our most disadvantaged students, are learning,” said John King, No. 2 at the Education Department who has been selected to replace Duncan. “But duplicative, unnecessary or poor-quality, low-level tests subtract from learning time and undermine instruction. There are too many tests that do not provide useful information.”

To read more, click on the following link: 

Thursday, July 9, 2015

To rename or not? Institutions reconsider honors for racists by Becky Bohrer and Matt Volz

HARTFORD, Conn. — The massacre at a predominantly black South Carolina church has institutions from Alaska to Connecticut evaluating whether they should continue enshrining the names of historical figures linked to slavery and the Confederacy.
The June 17 slaying of nine black worshippers led to calls to curb displays of the Confederate flag after photos emerged showing the suspect posing with one and burning the U.S. flag. But it also has added urgency to discussions on whether it is time to do away with names given to schools, colleges and streets that have come to be seen in a new light in places far outside the South.
A petition is calling for Yale University in Connecticut to change the name of its residential Calhoun College, which honors 1804 alumnus John C. Calhoun, a prominent advocate of the slave plantation system who became a vice president and U.S. senator from South Carolina. The petition says the name, in place since the 1930s, represents "an indifference to centuries of pain and suffering among the black population."
Yale spokeswoman Karen Peart said the university welcomes the discussion. "The tragedy in Charleston, on top of countless preceding tragedies in our country's history, has elevated public opinion and discourse on difficult subjects that have too long been avoided," she said.
Other campaigns around the country include efforts to change the names of Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis and New York City's General Lee Avenue in Brooklyn, named after Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. In Helena, Montana, officials will meet Wednesday to discuss whether anything should be done with a downtown memorial to fallen Confederate soldiers. The foundation was built in 1916 by the Daughters of the Confederacy.

The Charleston shooting took place during Bible study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, and the man charged in the attack, Dylann Roof, posted photos online showing him holding a Confederate flag, along with writings laying out hatred of minorities.
To read more, click on the following link:

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The One Hundred Workout

“The One Hundred Workout”
●Sit ups
●Pull downs

Main Concept:
The reason why I chose these exercises is because I want to focus on my chest, calves, torso, legs and back.  These are the major muscle groups that I wanted to condition in a different way with more focus on them.  Hopefully the end result will be more stratification of the muscle and more definition.     I do these repetitions every Wednesday.  I am at an advanced stage so I can complete the repetitions in two sets of fifty per body part.  I work on the upper body first then I work on the lower body.  After I am done the rest of the workout is straight cardiovascular.  If you are at a beginning stage, break it up into four sets of twenty five and make it a circuit.  For those of you who wish to try this please leave some feedback and I will post your thoughts!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Your bank account: The next thing to go obsolete

People please read this article!  As citizens we need to be very wary of this issue.  I personally don't want to see the handling of money in a purely digital format.  The opportunity for crime is just too high.  It is bad enough that the IRS and the United States government website as well well as other financial institutions have been affected by cyber crime as well.  So, as citizens what do we do to combat this?

It might finally be time to break up with your bank.

Not only is banking not for everyone, accounts are inaccessible to about half of the world. People are too poor, live too far from a bank or don't have the required documentation. Abra, a new startup, makes banking more accessible while completely cutting out the actual bank.  With Abra, all of your banking lives on your phone. You can withdraw funds, deposit cash and send money using the app. There are no ATMs and no bank branches. (The service is different from recent innovations like Simple, Venmo, PayPal and Chase Pay because those all require bank accounts.)
The idea is that all banking should be as easy as sending a text message.
"In a hyper-connected world, it is astounding to me that you can't pick up the phone and instantly send money to any other phone number in the world," said Abra founder Bill Barhydt, a former software engineer for Goldman Sachs based in San Francisco. He presented his company last week at the Exponential Finance conference in New York.
"Traditional banking is really good at serving the global 5% to 10% of consumers who reach a certain income level," Barhydt said. "The reality is, the majority of the planet is a cash-based economy and banking doesn't work for those people."
Here's how Abra works: Say you need $100 in cash. To get it, you would open the app and find a bank teller near you using your phone's GPS. Bank tellers can be regular people, as well as businesses like convenience stores. If it's a person, they've had a background check through Abra. (The system is similar to how Uber vets drivers.)
To read more, click on the following link:

Teacher To Teacher: Classroom Reform Starts With “The Talk” by Melissa Halpern -- June 2, 2015

We teachers often complain, justifiably, that policy makers and even school administrators are too disconnected from the classroom to understand how students learn best. Research is one thing, we claim, but experience is another. As the only adults in the school setting who have ongoing, sustained experience with students, we’re in the best position to understand them—but do we really? Do we understand our students’ educational priorities, turn-ons, anxieties, and bones-to-pick in our classrooms and in the school at large?
The truth is that no amount of research or experience makes us experts on the experiences and perspectives of the unique individuals who inhabit our classrooms. If we want to know what’s going on in their minds, we have to ask. We have to have “the school talk.”
What have students learned that is important to them, and what do they wish they could learn? What makes them feel happy and empowered at school? What makes them feel bored, stressed, or dehumanized?
For the teacher who thinks his job is to deliver content, these questions are irrelevant. For the teacher who is interested in helping students build meaningful relationships with content, they are essential. A recent study, Caring Leadership in Schools, identifies “attentiveness”— paying attention to and understanding people as individuals—as an essential element of caring, which leads to “personal wellbeing and academic success” (Louis, Murphy, & Smylie 2015).
It makes total sense; if we understand our students and their needs, we have a better chance of meeting those needs.
But “the talk” can be scary. It will likely unveil a swarm of problems, some of them local, others systemic, and few, if any solutions. When I started having these candid conversations with my students, they said a lot of things I didn’t want to hear: “In school I feel like I’m nothing more than a number;” “Nothing I’m learning here is going to help me in life;” “I feel like I’m in prison;” “It’s hard to focus on learning when I’m stressed out about grades;” “I hate ____ (fill in the title of whatever required reading I had enthusiastically selected).”
Initially, hearing these things made me feel helpless. As a teacher, my realm of influence is mostly limited to the classroom, and even there, I work under conditions that are to a large degree beyond my control. But the more I ask and listen, the more I understand the underlying needs revealed by my students’ comments, even if what they say is not always true at face value.
To continue reading, click on the following link:

The Trunk Club

For all of you gentlemen who are clothes aficionado's such as such as myself, I came across this website that offers a personal stylist when shopping,  I have been purchasing clothes for a very long time but I must admit that this is a fresh approach to shopping.  I have joined "the club"  and now I will use it change up the wardrobe. Click on the link below and join "the club"  as well!'

GNC Pro Performance® AMP Amplified Wheybolic Extreme 60™ Power

So, it has been about a year since I have been using the IsoPure protein for my training.  The protein mix has given me the desired results.  I have leaned out and my weight has maintained itself at 195 pounds.  I love the mix because it helps with recovery and I know that my cholesterol levels won't accelerate due to use.  However, there is one thing that I miss in regards to the previous GNC brand that I was using and that is the power that it gives while lifting.  So, after my tri annual cholesterol check, my levels are now normal.  Therefore, I have temporarily switched to the GNC AMP Wheybolic Extreme Power protein mix for my training.  At this juncture, I have been using it for approximately one week.  I can already feel the bulking phase returning as well as the strength that I experienced previously prior to the switch to IsoPure.  I am making the commitment to use this protein mix the entire summer.  I will report out the results and the effects of my training once given the proper time trial.  I will list the ingredients of the mix and its purported effects when combined with a regular weight training schedule.  
Yours in training, T.

  • Clinically Proven Ingredients Deliver More Size & Anabolic Power + 30% Increase in Muscle Strength*
  • 60g Whey Protein Isolate & Hydrolysate Formula + 18g BCAA for Improved Muscle Recovery & Growth*
  • Features 600mg Testofen® Fenugreek to Support Testosterone Levels + 3g Creatine Blend to Boost Anabolic Factors in the Body*
30% Increase in Muscle Strength
This unique protein blend includes an anabolic module of 20 grams of whey protein and 6.2 grams of leucine that was clinically tested in an 8-week study of athletes performing an intense resistance exercise training regimen. The athletes using this proprietary module of whey protein and leucine demonstrated an increased improvement in muscle strength and muscle size as compared to those performing the same exercise training regimen who did not consume the proprietary module. In a clinical study of participants using a unilateral lower limb resistance training protocol, even the untrained limb demonstrated increases in muscle size.* 

What is Amplified Wheybolic Extreme 60™ Power?
GNC's most advanced protein, Amplified Wheybolic Extreme 60™, has evolved even further to help meet your specific training goals and develop more strength and power. This product is the only whey protein isolates to combine the whey and leucine clinically shown to the fuel increased strength and size with additional ingredients proven to amplify power and anabolism. This formula features a protein blend that has been validated in clinical studies to give you a 30% increase in strength, increased muscle size and a 100% improvement in exercise efficiency.* Our GNC scientists have AMPed up the protein with a Power Complex featuring an mTOR-stimulating BCAA blend for protein synthesis and added creatine to increase anabolic muscle growth*, making the product a combination of 7 products in 1!*

GNC Pro Performance® AMP Amplified Wheybolic Extreme 60™ Power - French Vanilla - GNC PRO PERFORMANCE - GNC

Monday, June 8, 2015

Dr. Cornell West

The escalating deaths and sufferings in Black and poor America and the marvelous new militancy in our Ferguson moment should compel us to focus on what really matters: The life and death issues of police murders, poverty, mass incarceration, drones, TPP (unjust trade policies), vast surveillance, decrepit schools, unemployment, Wall Street power, Israeli occupation of Palestinians, Dalit resistance in India, and ecological catastrophe.
Character assassination is the refuge of those who hide and conceal these issues in order to rationalize their own allegiance to the status quo. I am neither a saint nor prophet, but I am a Jesus-loving free Black man in a Great Tradition who intends to be faithful unto death in telling the truth and bearing witness to justice. I am not beholden to any administration, political party, TV channel or financial sponsor because loving suffering and struggling peoples is my point of reference. Deep integrity must trump cheap popularity. Nothing will stop or distract my work and witness, even as I learn from others and try not to hurt others.
But to pursue truth and justice is to live dangerously. In the spirit of John Coltrane’s LOVE SUPREME, let us focus on what really matters: the issues, policies, and realities that affect precious everyday people catching hell and how we can resist the lies and crimes of the status quo!
Is America in need of a new Progressive Era? Remember reform and change requires involvement people! Business, politics and race relations need to be addressed once again. It appears that the politicians are more interested in serving themselves than citizens. Corrupt machines are controlling once again. ‪#‎historical‬ precedent

Saturday, January 24, 2015

New data shows school “reformers” are full of it

Poor schools underperform largely because of economic forces, not because teachers have it too easy

In the great American debate over education, the education and technology corporations, bankrolled politicians and activist-profiteers who collectively comprise the so-called “reform” movement base their arguments on one central premise: that America should expect public schools to produce world-class academic achievement regardless of the negative forces bearing down on a school’s particular students. In recent days, though, the faults in that premise are being exposed by unavoidable reality.
Before getting to the big news, let’s review the dominant fairy tale: As embodied by New York City’s major education announcement this weekend, the “reform” fantasy pretends that a lack of teacher “accountability” is the major education problem and somehow wholly writes family economics out of the story (amazingly, this fantasy persists even in a place like the Big Apple where economic inequality is particularly crushing). That key — and deliberate — omission serves myriad political interests.
For education, technology and charter school companies and the Wall Streeters who back them, it lets them cite troubled public schools to argue that the current public educationsystem is flawed, and to then argue that education can be improved if taxpayer money is funneled away from the public school system’s priorities (hiring teachers, training teachers, reducing class size, etc.) and into the private sector (replacing teachers with computers, replacing public schools with privately run charter schools, etc.). Likewise, for conservative politicians and activist-profiteers disproportionately bankrolled by these and other monied interests, the “reform” argument gives them a way to both talk about fixing education and to bash organized labor, all without having to mention an economic status quo that monied interests benefit from and thus do not want changed.

Meanwhile, despite the fact that many “reformers’” policies have spectacularly failed, prompted massive scandals and/or offered no actual proof of success, an elite media that typically amplifies — rather than challenges — power and money loyally casts “reformers’” systematic pillaging of public education as laudable courage (the most recent example of this is Time magazine’s cover cheering on wildly unpopular Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel after he cited budget austerity to justify the largest mass school closing in American history — all while he is also proposing to spend $100 million of taxpayer dollars on a new private sports stadium).
In other words, elite media organizations (which, in many cases, have their own vested financial interest in education “reform”) go out of their way to portray the anti-public-education movement as heroic rather than what it really is: just another get-rich-quick scheme shrouded in the veneer of altruism.

An ‘anything goes’ approach to charter schools by Wendy Lecker

Editors Note:  Less than twelve hours after Governor Dannel Malloy took the podium to declare victory in November, Malloy’s political appointees on the Connecticut State Board of Education – including the appointee representing the American Federation of Teachers Connecticut Chapter – voted to request funding to open eight more charter schools in Connecticut.  The vote was unanimous, with absolutely no discussion of how to make existing charter schools accountable for their activities or the fact that Connecticut’s public schools are underfunded and additional funding will not be forthcoming anytime soon since Malloy’s fiscal strategies have left the state facing a large budget deficit this year and a massive $1.4 billion budget shortfall next year.
One aspect of the Common Core regime imposed on Connecticut schools by our political leaders is an emphasis, some say over-emphasis, on informational texts, based on the claim that reading more non-fiction will somehow make students "college and career ready." While our leaders force children to read more non-fiction, it appears that they are the ones with trouble facing facts.
Earlier this month, the Connecticut Department of Education quietly distributed a scathing investigative report on the Jumoke/FUSE charter chain, conducted by a law firm the department retained. The report reads like a manual on how to break every rule of running a non-profit organization.
The investigators found that although FUSE and Jumoke were supposed to be two separate, tax-exempt organizations, both were run byMichael Sharpe alone. FUSE, formed in 2012, never held board of directors' meetings until after the public revelations in the spring of 2014 of Michael Sharpe's felony record for embezzlement and falsification of his academic credentials. FUSE entered into contracts with the state to run two public schools without approval by its board. In fact, it is unclear that FUSE even had a board of directors then. Jumoke, too, played fast and loose with board meetings. Jumoke's board gave Sharpe "unfettered control" over every aspect of the organization. Even after he left Jumoke for FUSE, Sharpe still ran Jumoke, leaving day-to-day operations to his nephew, an intern there.
Hiring and background checks were in Sharpe's sole discretion. He placed ex-convicts in the two public schools run by Jumoke, Hartford's Milner and Bridgeport's Dunbar. Dunbar's principal, brought in by Sharpe, was recently arraigned on charges of stealing more than $10,000 from the school.
Nepotism was "rampant." Sharpe's mother founded Jumoke. Sharpe moved from paraprofessional to CEO in 2003, with no additional training. His unqualified daughter and nephew were hired, as well as his sister.

The investigation found extreme comingling of funds and of financial and accounting activities, noting that it "would be difficult to construct a less appropriate financial arrangement between two supposedly separate organizations."

How Black Middle-Class Kids Become Poor Adults by Gillian B White

When it comes to financial stability, black Americans are often in much more precarious financial situations than white Americans. Their unemployment rate is higher, and so is the level of poverty within the black community. In 2013, the poverty rate among white Americans was 9.6 percent, among black Americans it was 27.2 percent. And the gap between the wealth of white families and black families has widened to its highest levels since 1989, according to a 2014 study by Pew Research Center.
The facts of this rift aren’t new, or all that surprising. But perhaps what’s most unsettling about the current economic climate in black America is that when black families attain middle-class status, the likelihood that their children will remain there, or do better, isn’t high.
“Even black Americans who make it to the middle class are likely to see their kids fall down the ladder,” writes Richard Reeves, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute. In a recent blog post Reeves says that seven out of 10 black children who are born to families with income that falls in the middle quintile of the income spectrum will find themselves with income that's one to two quintiles below their parents' during their own adulthood.
A 2014 study from the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, which looked at factors like parental income, education, and family structure, shows a similar pattern: Many black Americans not only fail to move up, but show an increased likelihood of backsliding. According to the study, “In recent decades, blacks have experienced substantially less upward intergenerational mobility and substantially more downward intergenerational mobility than whites.”
The greater probability of slipping back applies toblacks across income groups. According to the Fed study, about 60 percent of black children whose parents had income that fell into the top 50 percent of the distribution saw their own income fall into the bottom half during adulthood. This type of downward slidewas common for only 36 percent of white children.
But the gap in mobility was also significant for lower-class families as well.  “For most of the bottom half of the income distribution, the racial differences in upward mobility are consistently between 20 and 30 percent," writes senior economistBhashkar Mazumder, the study’s author. “If future generations of white and black Americans experience the same rates of intergenerational mobility as these cohorts, we should expect to see that blacks on average would not make any relative progress.”
The explanations for this phenomenon are varied, but largely hinge on many of the criticisms that already exist in regard to socioeconomics and race in the U.S. Economists cite lower educational attainment, higher rates of single-parent households, and geographic segregation as potential explanations for these trends. The latter determines not only what neighborhoods people live in, but often what types of schools children attend, which could play a role in hindering their educational and professional attainment later on. According to Reeves, "In terms of opportunity, there are still two Americas, divided by race."
Still, most economists lack a clear, definitive explanation for why, after reaching the middle class, many black American families quickly lose that status as their children fall behind.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Was oldest gospel really found in a mummy mask? By Joel Baden and Candida Moss

(CNN)Media outlets have been abuzz this week with the news that the oldest fragment of a New Testament gospel -- and thus the earliest witness of Jesus' life and ministry -- had been discovered hidden inside an Egyptian mummy mask and was going to be published.
The announcement of the papyrus' discovery and impending publication was made by Craig Evans, professor of New Testament at Acadia Divinity College in Wolfville, Nova Scotia. Evans described the papyrus as a fragment of the Gospel of Mark.
He added that a combination of handwriting analysis (paleography) and carbon dating led him and his team of researchers to conclude that the fragment was written before 90 A.D. This would make it at least a decade older than other early fragments of the New Testament and, thus, an invaluable resource for biblical scholars and object of considerable interest for Christians the world over.
The fragment, according to Evans, was discovered when an Egyptian mummy mask -- known as cartonnage -- was dismantled in a hunt for ancient documents. Mummy masks were an important part of ancient Egyptian burial practice, but only the very wealthy could afford examples made of gold.
The majority of mummy masks were made from scraps of linen and papyrus, which were glued together into a kind of ancient papier-maché. Dismantling these masks yields a trove of ancient documents. Evans claims that in addition to Christian texts, hundreds of classical Greek texts, records of business transactions, and personal letters have been acquired. In the process, the mask itself is destroyed.
Though it may be making headlines now, the claim that the "oldest known gospel" has been discovered is not new.
News of the fragment first came to light in 2012 when its existence was (perhaps inadvertently) announced by Daniel Wallace, founder of the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts at Dallas Theological Seminary.
No one saw the text then, and no one has seen it now; though it has been mentioned repeatedly by a select group of people who evidently have been given access to it, its planned date of publication has been consistently pushed back, from an original plan of 2013 to 2015 and now, just this week, all the way to 2017.
Despite the seemingly explosive quality of the news, therefore, it is important to take a step back and consider what is actually being revealed here.
Some people are saying they have this really old and important thing, and they will show it to all the rest of us in a few years. (Essentially, this papyrus is the scholarly equivalent of "my girlfriend who lives in Canada.")
It is unclear why anyone would start talking about a text like this, a year, indeed now at least two years, in advance. The most important established fact about this papyrus, at this point, is that it has not yet been published—which is to say, only a small handful of individuals have seen the text and are able to say anything at all about it.
As Roberta Mazza, an ancient historian and papyrologist from the University of Manchester in England, told us, the academic community has not "been given access to firm information and images on the basis of which could eventually say something."
In other words, this sort of notice really serves mostly to remind us of just how little we know about this purported discovery. Here, for example, are five key, unanswered questions.
1. What is the actual text on the papyrus?
We are told that it is from Mark, but, after all, no one has seen it. Which part of Mark?
2. Is the handwriting consistent with the supposed dating?

Brice Jones, a papyrologist at Concordia University, told us that dating a text by handwriting, or paleography, "is not a precise science, and I know of no papyrologist who would date a literary papryus to within a decade on the basis of paleography alone."
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Arne Duncan Wants To Drop 'No Child Left Behind' — But Keep Its Tests by Anya K.

In a speech Monday at an elementary school in Washington, D.C., Education Secretary Arne Duncan laid out the president's position on the nation's largest federal education law, even as debate unfolds over the law's re-authorization.
Duncan called No Child Left Behind "tired" and "prescriptive." Nevertheless, he declared that the law's central requirement should stand: annual, mandated statewide assessments from third grade through eighth, plus one test in high school.
Some Republicans in Congress have been discussing the idea of reducing or eliminating those testing requirements.
In his speech, Duncan invoked famous phrases used by both President Obama and former President George W. Bush, the latter of whom introduced No Child Left Behind more than 13 years ago.
"This country can't afford to replace 'the fierce urgency of now' with the soft bigotry of, 'It's optional,' " he said.
Duncan acknowledged that high-stakes accountability testing is one of the "hardest topics" in the nation's education debate. He also called, as he has previously, for action on the state and district level to cut back on additional tests which are "redundant" and "unnecessary."
He said that the federal government will request funding to improve the quality of tests, beyond the $360 million already spent on creating exams aligned with the Common Core learning standards. At the same time, he wants student test scores to be included in teacher evaluations.
The Senate education committee is scheduled to hold a hearing specifically addressing testing on Jan. 20, the same day as President Obama's State of the Union speech.
A few other notable points in Duncan's speech follow below:
§  President Obama's budget request will include $2.7 billion in increased education spending. Of that, $1 billion will be designated for high-needs Title I schools.
§  Duncan renewed the call for expanded access to preschool.
§  He also called for distributing funding more equitably among public schools in high- and low-income areas. In 19 states, high-poverty districts receive less state and local funding than low-poverty districts, according to a 2014 report.

The Media's Influence on Public Education

Teachers On Trial: 5 Times The Media Failed Educators In 2014 by Hilary Tone

Teachers faced an unprecedented level of scrutiny in 2014, thanks to a landmark legal case dismantling teacher tenure in California, which is likely to spark copycats lawsuits across the country. In part due to this increased scrutiny, educators also encountered various attacks from mainstream and conservative media over the year, five of which were particularly egregious.
In June, a California Superior Court handed down the decision in the Vergara v. California trial, a case in which "a group of student plaintiffs ... argued that state tenure laws had deprived them of a decent education by leaving bad teachers in place." Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Rolf M. Treu sided with the students, in a ruling that Teacher Wars author Dana Goldstein wrote "has the potential to overturn five state laws governing" how tenure, which helps guarantee due process to prevent "capricious firings," operates in the state. The lawsuit became something of a model for media attacks -- sparking reactions that ranged from outraged to elated -- and prompted extensive media discussion about the positives and negatives to reform of the public education system.
Unfortunately, much of this discussion featured direct attacks on educators in 2014. They came from all facetsof the media sphere, and were often rooted in conservative misinformation, though some rang louder, stronger, and more abhorrent than others.
Here are the top five times media failed educators in 2014.

5. The Coverage Of Time Magazine's "Rotten Apples" Cover.

The November 3 cover story of Time magazine, titled "The War on Teacher Tenure" and promoted on the cover as "Rotten Apples," spurred significant backlash, particularly among teachers, who were dismayed at the portrayal of their profession as "rotten." The backlash led to a petition calling for an apology from Time that garnered more than 70,000 signatures. In their coverage of the Time backlash, however, several media outlets, including MSNBC's Morning Joe, Fox News' Outnumbered, andThe Weekly Standard's blog failed to discuss what was at the heart of the controversy: due process for teachers. These media outlets instead took to doubling down on the allegations of "rotten," and making outlandish claims. 

4. Fox News' Misplaced Blame On Teachers Unions.

If Fox News can find a way to blame any education controversy on teachers or teachers unions, it will do so. Two such instances in 2014 were particularly egregious. When hundreds of Colorado high school students walked out of class to protest a "conservative-led school board proposal" to change their history curriculum, Fox hosted the country board of education president to falsely allege that "teachers [were] using students" as "pawns" not over the history proposal, but over an upcoming teachers union contract. And in March, when New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that he would block three charter schools from using public school space rent-free, Fox figures took to speculating and attacking teachers and teachers unions, arguing, among other things, that de Blasio was trying to "kiss back butt on the unions" and wage a "war on children."

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