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clipped from news.yahoo.com

NEW YORK – The scarlet letter in education these days is an “R.” It stands for restructuring — the purgatory that schools are pushed into if they fail to meet testing goals for six straight years under the No Child Left Behind law.

Nationwide, about 2,300 schools are either in restructuring or are a year away and planning for such drastic action as firing the principal and moving many of the teachers, according to a database provided to The Associated Press by the Education Department. Those schools are being warily eyed by educators elsewhere as the law’s consequences begin to hit home.

Schools fall into this category after smaller changes, such as offering tutoring, fall short. The effort is supposed to amount to a major makeover, and it has created a sense of urgency that in some schools verges on desperation.

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Once again No Child Left Behind rears its ugly head. In the land of the free and the home of the brave 2300 schools are deemed failing. No doubt the vast majority of these schools serve urban or rural poor, people of color, or otherwise undeserved communities.
The crisis in American schools is not real, it is, as David Berliner pointed out, one that is politically manufactured, politically motivated. The same people that underfund urban schools rant about how urban schools are failing. The same people that rant about school failures are also behind the movement to privatize education in the United States urging vouchers to pay for religious education and the like.
John Dewey argued that the wealthy in a democracy have the absolute responsibility to provide for the poor the same level of education they provide for their own children. Dewey was speaking about school funding and the gap between funding in wealthy and poor communities. Jonathan Kozol revisited this claim in his fantastic book Savage Inequalities. Nothing has changed in 100 years.

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clipped from www.reuters.com
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The FBI possibly violated the law or its rules more than 1,000 times since 2002 in collecting data about phone calls, e-mails and financial records while investigating terrorism or espionage suspects, FBI officials said on Thursday.
The potential violations found by an FBI audit were far greater than the approximately two dozen previously documented violations in a U.S. Justice Department report released in March that was based on a much smaller sampling, they said.
The vast majority of newly discovered violations were instances in which companies, such as telephone and Internet providers, gave more information than the FBI sought, the officials said.
They said the FBI has drafted new guidelines in an effort to prevent future abuses, but civil liberties groups and Democrats in Congress expressed doubt that they would be sufficient to protect the privacy of Americans.

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When I was growing up in the 1950’s we were forced to watch propaganda films telling us all about the evils of the Soviet Union, especially the danger from the Secret Police. We were briefed on the potential abuse in such a system, one which went so far as to encourage children to spy on their parents, workers on their bosses and colleagues, and friend on friend. Awards, we were told, were given to those who reported to the secret police crimes real or imagined.I wonder just what the difference might be if the FBI takes upon itself the role of secret police. Of course, there is a great difference here. The FBI investigated itself and slapped its own hand. What would an external investigation, one that is independent of the Justice Department under the questionable leadership of Alberto Gonzales, might find?

Sad fact is that I am not surprised by any of this. Just another potential scandal for George II’s administration.

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Yesterday Education Week reported the results of a study by the National Center for Education Statistics that calls into question the efficacy of state educational assessments required by the No Child Left Behind legislation. In part, Education Week wrote:

Many of the states that claim to have large shares of their students
reaching proficiency in reading and mathematics under the No Child Left
Behind Act have set less stringent standards for meeting that threshold than lower-performing states, a new federal study finds.

The
study drew an immediate and strong reaction from many public officials
and education advocates, who said it laid bare states’ vastly divergent
standards for testing students.

The report judges states’ reading and math tests against a common yardstick: the proficiency standards used by the National Assessment of Educational Progress, often referred to as “the nation’s report card.”

Released last week by the National Center for Education Statistics,
the analysis appears to back up the suspicions of those who have cast a
skeptical eye on state data showing high percentages of students
reaching the “proficient” level in reading and math.

But researchers who were asked by the Council of Chief State School Officers
to review the study’s methodology cited what they see as flaws in
comparing two dissimilar sets of exams: NAEP and those administered by
states.

Even so, U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret
Spellings called it “sobering news” as the nation seeks to raise
academic demands on students.

States “must do their part by
setting high standards and expectations,” she said in a statement. “I
hope this report will be a catalyst for positive change.”

The
study was issued June 7, two days after a separate report by an
education policy group showing that student scores on state tests have
risen since the enactment of the No Child Left Behind Act, which
President Bush signed into law in January 2002. (“State Tests Show Gains Since NCLB,” June 6, 2007.)

There are many reasons that state testing shows greater gains than that of the NAEP scores, not the least is mentioned above, that the tests are dissimilar and therefore do not measure similar things. That, however, is a straw man when it comes to practical significance. Policy makers and both liberal and conservative think tanks have used comparisons of state testing and NAEP over and over to make their case that NCLB is flawed or is working just fine (it all depends on one’s political lens). What is clear, however, is that there is a discrepancy between NAEP scores, which remain flat and state tests, which show an increase in student performance since 2002, the year NCLB went into effect.

The emphasis in NCLB policy on annual performance growth has altered the face of educational practice in the United States. School children and their teachers now spend more time in preparation for testing where they learn formulas for appropriate performance on testing instruments designed by state boards of education. In some estimations, in a 180 day school year, students and teachers spend between 80 and 100 full days preparing for testing. This amounts to fully half of the school year spent in preparing for the state tests. Even of this estimate is on the high side (let’s reduce it by 1/2) the fact still remains that children are spending 25% of their academic year learning formulas for passing the test so the school’s AYP passes the muster of NCLB.

Because schools spend so much of their time engaged in test preparation, little time is left for rigorous academic inquiry. Students no longer study the arts, engage in social studies education and science instruction is somewhere on or near the back burner. What counts is reading and mathematics. But, reading about what? Math in relationship to what? Teaching reading and math (by the way it is not really mathematics that is being taught rather it is arithmetic) in isolation does nothing to provide a context for either reading or math. These subjects become tasks to do, something like doing the laundry. They get done because one must do them but one does not necessarily have to like doing them.

High-stakes testing provides a climate in which students and teachers must focus on the testing and not on instruction or learning. In a recent conversation with a focus group of high school juniors that I recorded as part of a study I am currently working on, I asked the students about their recent performance on a written take-home exam. The results of the papers that the students turned in was disappointing. The writing was formulaic, showing no creative thinking but sticking closely to conventions and structural components that are appropriate on state mandated tests. One of the students said, “I really don’t know how to write any other way. That’s all I’ve ever been taught. All my life I learned the 5 paragraph essay and now, sadly, i have to learn a whole new way to write.” Another member of the focus group wondered, “Why do you teach us this style for so long and then tell us we have to go beyond. I’m confused.” My point is simply that these students clearly can and, when given a chance, do articulate significant problems with high-stakes testing and NCLB.

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Reuters reports this afternoon that:

The Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday responded to the deadliest shooting rampage in modern American history by passing legislation to help keep guns out of hands of the mentally ill.On a voice vote, the House sent the measure — which would be the first major gun control bill enacted since 1994 and bolster background checks for gun buyers — to the Democratic-led Senate for needed concurrence.

The bill was drafted in consultation with the 4 million-member National Rifle Association, the nation’s biggest gun-rights group, after a deranged gunman killed himself and 32 others in April at Virginia Tech university.

“I think the chances are very strong that we can get this passed in the Senate,” said Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, provided the legislation is not laden with amendments that gun rights backers find objectionable.

It is a start. Interestingly the NRA apparently participated in the drafting of this bill–has the leadership of the NRA finally come to their senses. Gun control does not mean depriving Americans of the right to own weapons. It does not mean that Americans cannot hunt or participate in the infantile sport of shooting at paper targets. Gun control doesn’t even mean that one is deprived of the right to join the militia. As I have blogged many times before, making it more difficult to place weapons in the hands of those that are likely to to harm to themselves and others reduces the probability that another Virginia Tech is imminent. Hooray for the courage of the House. Now will the Senate follow suit? Will the lame duck sign legislation that limits placing guns in the hands of the mentally incompetent? All I know is that it is a beginning. I for one will be watching for the outcome.

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Education Week reported on June 8th:

House Democrats want to put their own stamp on federal education spending by increasing Title I and other programs they favor and slashing Reading First and other priorities set by President Bush.

In the $56 billion fiscal 2008 spending bill for the Department of Education unveiled by the Democrats, No Child Left Behind Act programs would receive a $2 billion increase, with the Title I program for disadvantaged students receiving $1.5 billion of that.

But the $1.03 billion Reading First program—which the Bush administration points to as one of its biggest accomplishments under the NCLB law—would take a cut of $630 million, or 61 percent. What’s more, the administration’s latest proposals for private school vouchers and new mathematics programs would not be funded at all.

“This [Reading First] cut will not be restored until we have a full appreciation of the shenanigans that have been going on,” said Rep. David R. Obey, D-Wis., the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. Reports by the Department of Education’s inspector general and congressional investigators have outlined management and ethical questions involving the program.

Republicans voiced no objections to the Reading First cuts or other spending levels during the June 7 session of the appropriations panel’s Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Subcommittee. The subcommittee approved the Democratic plan in a unanimous voice vote.

“If I were chairman,” said Rep. James T. Walsh, R-N.Y., the subcommittee’s senior Republican, “I don’t know that I would have made the bill a whole lot different.”

This should come as no surprise given the recent questions about how the DoED administered the Reading First program. Surrounded by questions of improper ethics and outright fraud when it came to forcing DIBLES on school districts large and small, draining much needed funds away from the classroom, the bipartisan support of this spending cut makes a great deal of sense.

The DoED, like other embattled Bush administration departments, is keeping a stiff upper lip claiming no ethical violations and that the Democrats are undermining the ability of the urban poor to learn. What they forget is that this legislation will most likely leave the committee with full bipartisan support. Republicans as well as Democrats have simply had enough of this scandal ridden White House. Of course, it is easy to take a stand when those directly effected by that stand are not voters.

Where is this kind of bipartisanship when it comes to the blatantly political Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales? But that is for another post…

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clipped from www.telospress.com
Richard Rorty, the leading American philosopher and heir to the pragmatist tradition, passed away on Friday, June 8.
He was Professor of Comparative Literature emeritus at Stanford University. In April the American Philosophical Society awarded him the Thomas Jefferson Medal. The prize citation reads: “In recognition of his influential and distinctively American contribution to philosophy and, more widely, to humanistic studies. His work redefined knowledge ‘as a matter of conversation and of social practice, rather than as an attempt to mirror nature’ and thus redefined philosophy itself as an unending, democratically disciplined, social and cultural activity of inquiry, reflection, and exchange, rather than an activity governed and validated by the concept of objective, extramental truth.”

Richard Rorty, 1931-2007

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Richard Rorty’s contribution to American Pragmatism was important and profound. I am deeply saddened by the news of his death, Rorty had a significant influence on my own thinking, especially his distinction between normal and abnormal discourse. It will be a long time coming before another philosopher of Rorty’s stature and influence appears on the American landscape.

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clipped from www.y-origins.com
Q.
IS THE ARGUMENT FOR DESIGN BASED ON SCIENTIFIC IGNORANCE?
A. But, today’s intelligent design arguments are based upon a growing body
of scientific evidence concerning everything from DNA to the laws of physics;
and upon our uniform and repeated experience.Design theorists offer extensive evidence that blind, material causes are
incapable of building irreducibly complex and information-rich systems.
They then point out that whenever we know how such systems arose such as
with an integrated circuit, a car engine, or a software program invariably
a designing engineer played a role. Design theorists then extend this uniform
experience to things like molecular machines and the sophisticated code
needed to build even the first and simplest of cells. An increasing number
of leading scholars attest that increased scientific knowledge about such
things has greatly strengthened the argument for design.

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The argument from irreducible complexity suggests that the removal of a single part from a system destroys the system’s function, ergo evolution is ruled out, ergo the system must have been designed by some external force. This is the basic argument advanced by Michael Behe and his followers. Below I counter some of the claims made by the proponents of irreducible complexity.

  • Sometimes the functions are changed so that they do something other than what they did prior to mutation. Such evolutionary development of irreducibly complex systems have been described in the scientific literature in great detail.
  • Even if irreducible complexity does preclude Darwinian evolution, the conclusion of design does not follow. Many other possible conclusions can be argued. It is an example of a failed argument from incredulity.
  • Systems have been considered irreducibly complex that might not be so. For example:
  • Michael Behe’s mousetrap example of irreducible complexity can be simplified by making some minor alterations to the mousetrap. Furthermore, the mousetrap may lose functionality as a mousetrap if a part is removed but then one might craft a fishhook from the spring, turn the nonfunctional mousetrap into a paper weight and so on.
  • The bacterial flagellum is not, in fact, irreducibly complex because it can lose many parts and still function, either as a simpler flagellum or as a secretion system.
  • The immune system example that Behe is so fond of is not irreducibly complex because the antibodies that mark invading cells for destruction might themselves hinder the function o fthose cells, allowing the system to function (although not as well) without destroyer molecules of the complement system.

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FactCheck.org does it again. In their analysis of the Fair Tax proposal they pay close attention to the numbers and the spin placed on those numbers by Huckabee, Tancredo and Hunter. Some of what they have to say is reprinted below:

Americans for Fair Taxation offers the following plain-language interpretation of H.R. 25:

Americans for Fair Taxation: A 23-percent (of the tax-inclusive sales price) sales tax is imposed on all retail sales for personal consumption of new goods and services.

It is the parenthetical that is important, for it hides the real truth of the tax rate.

First consider the way in which sales tax is normally figured. A consumer good that carries a $100 price tag might be subject to a 5 percent sales tax. That means that the final bill for the item is $105. The 5 percent figure is the amount of tax that is charged on the original purchase price. But now suppose that instead of pricing the item at $100, the shop owner simply priced the item at $105, then sent $5 directly to the state. The $105 price would be a tax-inclusive sales price. But $5 is just 4.8 percent of $105. That 4.8 percent number, however, is relatively meaningless. You are still paying exactly the same 5 percent tax on the item.

The 23 percent number in H.R. 25 is the equivalent of the 4.8 percent in the previous example. To calculate the real rate of the sales tax, we have to determine the original purchase price of an item. We can begin with the same $100 item, keeping in mind that a price tag that reads $100 has sales tax already built in. If our tax rate is 23 percent of the tax-inclusive sales price, then of the $100 final price, $23 of those dollars will be for taxes, meaning that the original pre-tax price of the item is $77. To get $23 in taxes on a $77 item, one must impose a 30 percent tax. In other words, a 23 percent sales tax on the tax-inclusive sales price is equivalent to a 30 percent tax on the actual price of the item.

FairTax proponents object to the 30 percent number, claiming that critics use the larger number to frighten people. Americans for Fair Taxation claims that it uses the tax-inclusive number to make it easier to compare the FairTax to the income tax that it will replace (since most of us think of income tax rates on an inclusive basis). But we are not accustomed to thinking of sales taxes inclusively. The result is that many FairTax supporters (about 15 percent of those who wrote to us, for example) do not understand that the 23 percent figure is tax inclusive.

Our analysis of the FairTax used a figure of 34 percent as the basic exclusive tax rate. One e-mailer complained that our number was at least 10 percentage points “higher than [the FairTax] is” because we calculated it as an addition to retail prices. But our 34 percent number is not 10 percentage points higher than the legislation. A 34 percent exclusive number is equivalent to a 25 percent tax inclusive rate – only 2 percentage points higher than the FairTax bill. We think that, intentional or not, the use of the tax-inclusive 23 percent rate has misled a lot of FairTax proponents.

clipped from www.factcheck.org
In our recent article on the second GOP debate, we called out Gov. Mike Huckabee as well as Reps. Tom Tancredo and Duncan Hunter for their support of the FairTax. We wrote that the bipartisan Advisory Panel on Tax Reform had “calculated that a sales tax would have to be set at 34 percent of retail sales prices to bring in the same revenue as the taxes it would replace, meaning that an automobile with a retail price of $10,000 would cost $13,400 including the new sales tax.” A number of readers pointed out that H.R. 25, the specific bill mentioned by Gov. Huckabee, calls for a 23 percent retail sales tax and not the 34 percent used by the Advisory Panel on Tax Reform. That 23 percent number, however, is misleading and based on some extremely optimistic assumptions. We found that while there are several good economic arguments for the FairTax, unless you earn more than $200,000 per year, fairness is not one of them.

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The clip below is part of a series of clips available at http://evolutionvscreationsim.info.

What is at stake here is not evolution or creationism, quite the contrary, what is truly at stake in the United States is a reliance on rationalism vs a reliance on revelation. But, then we must ask just whose revelation trumps all others? Rationalism, thoughtful analysis of observable data or revelation, interpretation of the mythical explanations for just about everything based solely on what someone said was revealed to him or her a long time ago (unless you follow Scientology as revealed to L. Ron Hubbard just a few decades ago).

For this educator, I choose to engage in rational rather than mythological debate. Not that I don’t like a good story from time to time, and not that one can’t learn anything from a good story from time to time; it is clear that one can. Rather, I choose rationality because it requires a balance of observations to theoretical predictions that form the basis of clarity and avoids problems of logical fallacies that mythology simply cannot avoid.

clipped from evolutionvscreationism.info

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I thought I would blog about the oxymoron of intelligent design for a while. What better place to start than with the remarks of President Bush on the subject. While Bush made these remarks in August of 2005, I am certain his position has not changed one iota–mostly because he has demonstrated a stubborn streak many times over when it comes to changing his mind.Mr. Bush argues that one must teach both sides of the controversy between evolution and intelligent design. So what could be wrong with that?

First, there is no controversy. Declaring something a controversy does not make it so. Simply declaring that a controversy exists (over fill in the blank) creates a straw man that allows the proponents of intelligent design to have talking points rather than to address the issues advanced by the FACT of evolution. The straw man argument is one of the deadly fallacies in logical argumentation.

Teaching the controversy is a favorite of Michael Behe who claims that evolution must not be taught unless one also teaches the controversy that surrounds it. There are two points I wish to make regarding this claim:

1. Regarding the fundamental tenets of evolution, the facts of common descent and natural selection there is NO SCIENTIFIC CONTROVERSY. To argue otherwise is an attempt to teach either pseudoscience in classrooms or to introduce a particular religious interpretation of creation into the classroom. Since it appears that the attempt to teach the controversy is based on not teaching bad science, the same standards that the ID proponents wish to apply to evolution should also be applied to ID. If that is the case then ID fails the test.

2. While there are controversies over details of how evolution proceeds, there is NO SCIENTIFIC CONTROVERSY over the foundational positions taken by evolutionary science. The controversies that do exist are not appropriate for beginning level science but, rather, are appropriate for debate among advanced students in biology or related subjects. The only controversy that exists regarding evolution is in the precise details of how relative contributions of sympatric versus allopatric speciation. The scientific controversy is not between differing creation myths versus observable science which is what the ID proponents would have us believe.

Once again the president fails to articulate a clear understanding of a fundamental issue relying, instead, on the Michael Behe straw man. the manufactured controversy, to make his case.

clipped from www.washingtonpost.com
President Bush invigorated proponents of teaching alternatives to evolution in public schools with remarks saying that schoolchildren should be taught about “intelligent design,” a view of creation that challenges established scientific thinking and promotes the idea that an unseen force is behind the development of humanity.
“Both sides ought to be properly taught . . . so people can understand what the debate is about,” he said, according to an official transcript of the session. Bush added: “Part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought. . . . You’re asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, and the answer is yes.”
These comments drew sharp criticism yesterday from opponents of the theory, who said there is no scientific evidence to support it and no educational basis for teaching it.

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Just a little tidbit I found on YouTube. If it weren’t so sad it might actually be funny. As the anti-evolutionists seek to introduce biblical mythology, call it what you will–creation science, intelligent design–into the classroom, they seem willing to turn back the clock to a time more reminiscent of the dark ages and the Inquisition than bring it to the light of the 21st century. Just because the human mind cannot conceive of the possibility of evolution does not mean that evolution is not true. It is all about evidence. The scientific FACTS based on evolutionary theory point to the validity of the theory. Other than a few scribbles in some sacred texts written 3000 years ago, and other than personal revelation (which is not rigorous evidence) there simply is no evidence to support what Richard Dawkins calls the God delusion. I think I’ll put my faith and trust in FACTS and not in the mythology of creation. If I wanted to put my faith in the mythology I would then be forced to choose from among thousands of FACTUALLY unsupported creation myths–what if I pick the wrong one? What then…

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In Illinois it takes 12 jurors to unanimously recommend the death penalty in order for that sentence to be imposed. One juror chose to spare the life of Juan Luna, convicted of multiple murder at a Brown’s Chicken store in the Chicagoland area.While we may never know the motives of the holdout, unless she decided to come forward, I want to applaud her conscious choice in withholding her vote to put this convicted killer to death.

Luna proclaims his innocence. He was convicted on circumstantial physical evidence. If there is one chance in 10,000 that the conviction is in error and Luna’s claims are, in fact, true then it is clear that life in prison is the proper course of punishment.

Every life, including that of the convicted, is sacred and worthy of being saved. To do otherwise, to sanction state murder, is not justice. It is vengeance. The death of the convicted murderer will not bring back the lives he took. It will not fill the hole left in the heart of the families of the victim. And, then there is the ever so slight possibility that we were wrong in convicting Juan Luna.

No, the proper punishment is to spend the rest of his life in prison, eating cardboard food, fearing for his safety around each and every corner, sleeping with lights on and guards staring at his every movement. He is 33 years old. He has a long time to think about what he did.

The families of the victims were split. The daughters of the slain owners of the Brown’s Chicken store took a strong stand against the imposition of death for Luna.

The Ehlenfeldt sisters, whose parents were both killed that night, had earlier taken a stand against the death penalty.

“We respect the decision,” said Jennifer Shilling, one of three daughters of restaurant owners Richard Ehlenfeldt, 50, and his wife, Lynn, 49. “At 33, Luna will spend the rest of his natural life in a maximum-security correctional facility where he will only know the sterile routine of a convicted felon.”

clipped from www.chicagotribune.com
Eleven of the jurors who convicted Juan Luna of the 1993 Brown’s Chicken massacre voted to sentence him to death Thursday, but his life was spared because of a lone holdout.
The 12-member jury spent just two hours deliberating, then voted overwhelmingly for the death penalty, according to Cook County prosecutors, defense attorneys and jurors who spoke to reporters after the sentencing.
Jurors said the holdout was the same woman who initially balked before the panel voted unanimously last week to convict Luna of murdering seven workers at the Palatine fast-food restaurant during a robbery. They declined to identify her.
“We didn’t gang up on her because that’s not right,” said juror Tim Beltran, 22, of Westchester. “You don’t want to force her into anything.”
Under Illinois law, a death sentence can be imposed only by a unanimous jury vote. The split vote left the jury to recommend a life sentence for Luna, 33.

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Alleged conflict of interest charges now swarm around the DoED’s sponsorship and use of the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS). DIBELS serves as the flagship assessment instrument for the billion dollar a year Reading First program administered by the DoED.In addition to significant charges of not properly screening consultants, many of whom had financial ties to DIBLES, the DoED appears to have promoted the use of DIBELS over any other early literacy indicator.

Furthermore, DIBELS does not appear to be a good indicator of whether or not children understand what they read. DIBELS also tends to be biased in favor of children that come from literacy-rich environments according to Samuel J. Meisels, president of the Erickson Institute for Advanced Study in Child Development.

One study found:

That DIBELS Oral Reading Fluency scores did predict performance on the TerraNova, a standardized achievement test, although students’ performance on DIBELS accounted for less than 20 percent of the variability in those scores. The study also found that students scored poorly on their ability to retell stories they had read, suggesting the tests may be sending a message that reading rapidly is more important than reading for comprehension.

So it seems than not only is there a significant scandal brewing surrounding the use and implementation of the DIBELS instrument, it also seems that the administration that insists on research based teaching and learning eschews research when it comes to promoting their pals and their profits. The emperor has no clothes.

clipped from www.edweek.org
Although teachers in the Moriarty, N.M., public schools report positive experiences with the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills, or DIBELS, the assessments have generated a lot of controversy nationally.
The assessment tool, developed by researchers at the University of Oregon, is now approved for use under the federal Reading First program in 45 states to monitor student progress on reading fluency and other measures.
But a contentious hearing before the U.S. House Education and Labor Committee probed allegations that the widespread use of DIBELS may stem, in part, from inappropriate promotion of the tests by federal officials as part of the rollout of the $1 billion-a-year Reading First program.
A report by the U.S. Department of Education’s inspector general, released in March, suggested that a federal contractor did not appropriately screen consultants, some of whom had financial ties to DIBELS, for conflicts of interest.

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Clipped from YouTube, this video is a powerful reminder that asking the skeptical questions is the first and only requirement of being human. Without skeptical inquiry we would still be napping flint weapons, living in caves, and wandering about the plains in search of food. Asking skeptical questions, however, is not a remedy for ambition, hubris, or evil. It is not a remedy for those who believe without evidence. It is not a remedy for stupidity. Skepticism is, however, the springboard to human progress and greatness.

clipped from www.youtube.com

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And this is a powerful response to Pale Blue Dot.

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I decided to mess around with making a video for my students as I begin to teach research methods to graduate students. In this course I push ideas such as clarity of thinking, accuracy in both thinking and in how one relies on source material, precision in thought processes, relevance of information to one’s argument, the depth and breadth of one’s investigation of both the relevant literature and the methodological approach one takes as a researcher, the logical development of the argument, the significance of the argument and, finally, whether or not one has been fair to all sides of a given position–this last point is not to argue that one cannot take a stand, rather that one must at the very least acknowledge alternative stances and, if one wishes, pick them apart.

This YouTube video will serve as an introduction to the class in which we discuss issues related to the difference between belief and rigorous research. I sort of like what I made here. I think it serves as a good introduction to the topic, but, then, I am the creator and am a bit biased.

My university is insisting that we all teach using technology to a greater extent in order to look good for an accreditation review upcoming in 2010. So there you have it.

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Another example of misusing data to fit a theist view of the world. By rejecting scientific evidence and more, Michael Behe is able to convince only the uninitiated, the believer. He is not able to make inroads on well trained biologists or other scientists. The lesson is, it seems to me, is that before one accepts anything at face value one has the obligation to address the appropriate available evidence and then asks the skeptical questions that make that evidence stand up to those questions. It is not good enough to believe in something because you believe in something. That tautology will only run you around in circles causing only severe dizziness.

clipped from www.youtube.com

Michael Behe is one of the most well known ID proponents. However, his arguments must be seen in light of his character and his agenda. This video deals with several problems with Behe’s position:
1. Behe ignores and rejects empirical evidence
2. No major scientific organization, including Behe’s own colleagues, endorse ID
3. In 20 years (some would say a couple of hundred years), ID has failed to make its case to the scientific community
4. Behe rejects the scientific method, and wants to replace it with his own5. Behe’s version of “peer review” is simply dishonest and misleading

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George W. Bush wants to hold every school child in the United States accountable for learning and every teacher in the public sector accountable for teaching what must be taught. Yet in his own behavior as President, accountability seems not to be an issue.After vetoing the Democratic Iraq war funding bill, the Democrats in the House of Representatives are working on a new bill that would fund the war effort fully through July. At that time the Bush administration must account to the people’s representatives and demonstrate real progress or changed strategy that will lead to real progress in Iraq or face the reality of not having any more money to fund this disastrous war. The administration’s response is to insist that Bush will veto this bill as well.

Let’s hold little children to the fire by making them accountable to some misguided set of standards, but when it comes to the lives of American soldiers fighting on a battlefield created by the policies of this administration the White House wants no part of being accountable to the American people. This attitude is an egregious breach of the use of power and must not be tolerated by the American people.

Mr. Bush must step up and accept responsibility for his failed policy. He must step up and be held accountable for his policies, decisions and actions. It seems he is unwilling to do so.

clipped from www.reuters.com
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday said they would press ahead with a new Iraq funding bill, despite a White House veto threat and a cold Senate reaction to a bill that would dole out combat funds in pieces and force a July vote on withdrawing troops.
“The House bill is going to change,” promised Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat.
White House spokesman Tony Snow told reporters President George W. Bush would veto the House bill if it reached his desk.
Under the bill, which is not expected to become law, Bush would get a $42.8 billion down payment. Then, after getting White House war progress reports in July, Congress would cast votes late that month on whether to release an additional $52.8 billion to continue fighting in Iraq through September, or whether to use the money to withdraw most of the troops by the end of this year.

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Seed Newsvine

The life of Allen Lee still hangs in the balance as Community High School District 155 officials fail to take any action in the case of Allen Lee, the student accused of disorderly conduct for writing what his teacher and other school officials considered to be a disturbing paper in response to a “free” writing assignment.At no time has the school or the district taken appropriate action in this case. Before involving the police options like counseling, social service intervention, or simply making parents aware of the situation should have been taken. The more appropriate actions would, then, have never been news. No one would even know Allen Lee’s name, which is as it should be. Had this young man been found to be a danger to himself or others then, and only then, should authorities be notified.

The chilling effect this story has on teaching creative writing is enormous. I spoke with several high school seniors who clearly understood Lee’s side of this controversy. One of the seniors told me that were she to be assigned a free write she would simply write “I can’t think of anything to write.” She would do this until the time for writing was over to assure that she would not have her life disrupted. What I find interesting in this student’s case is that she is a top-student, involved in many school activities, maintains a top grade point average and is headed for an elite school. While I have not seen her writing, her teacher assures me that she is creative and thoughtful. Now this…she is turned off and the incident didn’t even occur in her school.

Somewhere, somehow, there is an adult that will do the right thing in the case of Allen Lee. If not NOW–WHEN?

clipped from www.chicagotribune.com
After listening to two Cary residents speak in support of a Cary-Grove High
School senior whose essay resulted in a disorderly-conduct charge and his
removal from school, the school board met in closed session Monday evening
without taking any action on his future.
After the two-hour closed session, Community High School District 155 board
President Ted Wagner refused to answer any questions about Allen Lee, 18,
whose lawyer said earlier that he hopes the student can return to school as
quickly as possible and graduate as scheduled May 26. Lee is being tutored in
a district office away from the school.
During a creative-writing class April 23, students were given a “free
writing” assignment in which they were told not to censor or judge what they
wrote. Lee’s stream-of-consciousness essay included references to “shooting
everyone” and “having sex with the dead bodies.”

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