Black Shards Press – Electronic Gumbo is Our Specialty

Texas’ New Education Standards Deserve Failing Grade

31.07.2009 (10:38 pm) – Filed under: Education ::

image A pair of mismatched Houston Chronicle articles demonstrates the failed nature of Texas’ state education standards.  First, the bad news:

The number of Texas school districts rate by the state as “academically unacceptable” has increased to its highest level ever.

Next, the even worse news:

Texas’ new school rating system … helped record numbers of schools in the Houston Independent School District and across the state earn top marks.

Two hundred HISD schools — 77 percent overall — earned either a “recognized” or “exemplary” rating from the Texas Education Agency. Only 4 percent of HISD’s schools are “unacceptable” this year.

That’s great, right? Wrong. Instead of accurately measuring students’ mastery of material against objective standards, Texas’ new math vis-a-vis acceptability “gives campuses credit for improving test scores, even if students are still failing”. In other words, the standards reward marginal progress while failing to reflect the reality of overall systemic failure.

Not surprisingly, administrators whose professional chops are defined by their school’s ratings love it.  Lynn Brown, the principal of McDougle Elementary in Klein ISD:

“In the old system, you’re just like, ‘Well, too bad you didn’t make it.’ I think this way of measuring their growth is very authentic.”

What a crock. Measuring against what? What the rest of the world is doing? Against an absolute sense of mastery? No, against a feel-good, proves-nothing sense of “growth”.

Brown’s attitude toward results in education demonstrates something that’s fundamentally wrong with our system of education, specifically that lack of motivation to achieve real objectives and the abandonment of the principle of honesty by those whose highest charge is to promote it.

“The irony is we actually achieved these accountability ratings by ignoring them,” Superintendent Abelardo Saavedra said.

How ironic that Saavedra – he of the destructive, relativistic teacher bonus system – should be so utterly correct in his statement and so wrong at the same time. State education standards were dumbed down and cast aside. Small wonder achievement rates went up in the aftermath.

Twitter Updates for 2009-07-31

31.07.2009 (5:18 pm) – Filed under: My Tweets ::

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U.S. Tax Policy Must Regress

30.07.2009 (7:57 pm) – Filed under: Finance,Taxation ::

image In a short, direct article Scott Hodge debunks one of the radical left’s essential talking points, namely that the American rich don’t pay enough taxes to support their poorer countrymen. On the contrary, the U.S. system is more liberal than any other country in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD):

Indeed, the IRS data shows that in 2007—the most recent data available—the top 1 percent of taxpayers paid 40.4 percent of the total income taxes collected by the federal government. This is the highest percentage in modern history. By contrast, the top 1 percent paid 24.8 percent of the income tax burden in 1987, the year following the 1986 tax reform act.

Remarkably, the share of the tax burden borne by the top 1 percent now exceeds the share paid by the bottom 95 percent of taxpayers combined.

Hodge’s conclusion needs no further comment:

We are definitely overdue for some honesty in the debate over the progressivity of the nation’s tax burden before lawmakers enact any new taxes to pay for expanded health care.

An honest debate would be great. But the truth is, there’s nothing else to say.

Another Pelosi-ism: Immoral Insurance Companies

30.07.2009 (7:44 pm) – Filed under: Health,Politics ::

image Maybe Nancy Pelosi had a bad encounter with her auto insurance company recently. Admittedly I don’t know the speaker’s motivations, but that’s as good a way as any to explain her spastic attack on health insurance companies earlier today:

“It’s almost immoral what they are doing,” Pelosi said to reporters, referring to insurance companies. “Of course they’ve been immoral all along in how they have treated the people that they insure,” she said, adding, “They are the villains. They have been part of the problem in a major way.”

Health care companies have been the villain in more than one end-of-life scenario in recent years. That’s not news. But are medical providers truly immoral organizations, corporations whose very existence demands that the government act to drive them out of business?

Hardly. They are simply the mutant offspring of a once-free marketplace whose internal structure was warped by the introduction of government regulation and massive spending programs whose cost controls and bureaucratic compliance burden served only to shift costs from group of citizens to another.

If looking for a scapegoat – as Pelosi and her fellow Democrats obviously are – one need look no further than the government’s interference in the market to identify the primary culprit behind the upward spiral of medical costs in this country.

Can we dig deeper? I think so. If one were honestly interested in defining the morality of actors in the health insurance marketplace, would not the concept of health insurance itself qualify as immoral?

No? Consider what insurance is: a conspiracy of a group of consumers to collude together to artificially lower prices for themselves while raising them for the non-affiliated masses. That’s really the same thing as stealing, when you think about it.

Or have I gone too far?

Twitter Updates for 2009-07-30

30.07.2009 (5:18 pm) – Filed under: My Tweets ::
  • Kos says Repubs do committee chairs better than Dems (http://bit.ly/OSa1o). Problem is that replacing Baucus and Lieberman hurts the country #
  • Sudan’s whipping of women called “degrading” (http://bit.ly/A73jd). True. But primitive, asinine, and criminal are more apt adjectives. #
  • Obama DoJ official approved dropping Black Panther intimidation charges (http://bit.ly/1STWwY). It’s OK to bully people out of voting now? #
  • Iran police arrest mourners of murdered election protesters http://bit.ly/zN38O. A legitimate gov’t would respect their rights #iranelection #

Hiatus

13.07.2009 (12:30 am) – Filed under: Site News ::

Black Shards will be on hiatus until 8/1/2009. Please check back then for more updates.

I’ll be making occasional entries on Twitter until then.

Thanks, Marc

Obama Strikes the Right Tone on Africa

11.07.2009 (3:17 pm) – Filed under: Africa ::

image President Obama’s speech Ghana was televised across the African continent and in it Mr. Obama delivered the message that Africans have needed to hear for many decades, that after all of the history between the people of the continent and the outside world – western exploitation, remuneration, and billions in foreign aid – it’s up to Africans themselves to bring stability and hope to their own countries.

Peter Baker writes:

He delivered a strong and at times even stern message in words that, had they come from any of his predecessors, might not have been received the same way. Instead, it was cast by the White House as hard truths from a loving cousin who could say what no one else could.

more »

Sotomayor Backers Prepare to Oppo Firefighter

11.07.2009 (2:45 pm) – Filed under: Law,Politics ::

image Is there no depth to which liberal ideologues will not stoop? It seems that some of Sonia Sotomayor’s more devoted advocates are preparing to aim a campaign of “scrutiny” at Frank Ricci, the New Haven, Connecticut firefighter who sued the city for promoting less-qualified minority firefighters at the expense of whites.

If they perform the same sort of murderous character assassination on Ricci as they’ve done in the past to Robert Bork and more recently to Joe the Plumber, and Sarah Palin, the dyslexic fireman won’t have a chance.

more »

Mormons Murdered in Mexico Were Real Men

11.07.2009 (1:30 pm) – Filed under: Crime,Drugs,Gun Control,Mexico ::

image Two leaders of Colonia LeBaron, a Mormon community with roots in the United State, were murdered because they dared to defy the drug/kidnapping gangs that have killed more than 3000 people in Chihuahua, Mexico in the last 18 months.

Benjamin LeBaron, 31 and Luis Widmar were forced out of their homes earlier this week and shot multiple times by gangsters who want to ensure that people in Chihuahua stay afraid of them. Both men died.

The tactic may well work. It’s been said that all that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. Sadly, doing nothing is the easiest thing to do in a conflict, a fact that goes a long way toward explaining the state of Mexico and the world at large.

more »

Pic: Why Gun Control is a Bad Idea

10.07.2009 (10:17 pm) – Filed under: Gun Control ::

image003

Gun Control: The theory that a woman found dead in an alley, raped and strangled with her own pantyhose, is somehow morally superior to a woman explaining to police how her attacker got that fatal bullet wound.

Enough said.