The Madison School Board meets Tuesday evening, June 1, 2010 to discuss the 2010-2011 budget. A few proposed budget amendments were posted recently:
- Lucy Mathiak: Task Force Funding Moratorium [57K PDF]:
I recommend that we place a moratorium on all funding for implementation of task force recommendations, with two exceptions:
1) Funding for middle school teachers to take UW-Madison courses designed to provide algebraic concepts, reasoning, and other content for middle school math teachers who are not proficient in upper level mathematics content. (up to $67,000) [Math Task Force]
2) Funding for fine arts teachers to work over the summer to develop a curriculum guide that is aligned to the recommendations of the Fine Arts Task Force and with state standards. (up to $20,000)
This is just one example. The recent correspondence from teachers and community members regarding the difficulties in producing a quality fine arts curriculum guide point to similar issues in that curricular area. It is impossible to produce change in an organization that is not willing to change. As such, it is hard to rationalize continued funding for initiatives with little or no relationship to the task forces’ findings and recommendations at a time when resources are scarce.
- Superintendent Dan Nerad: Reinstate recruiter travel budget: $30,000
- Superintendent Dan Nerad: Reinstate the Administrative Professional Development funds to $112,351.
The board decreased Administrative Professional Development (Conference Travel) to a total of $25,000 ($10,000 Elementary, $10,000 Secondary and $5,000 Doyle-based staff). This amendment would increase this dollar amount by $87,350 to a total of $112,351..
- Superintendent Dan Nerad: Reinstate $75,000 to consultant budget.
Much more on the 2010-2011 Madison School District budget here.
At Saturday’s rally in Trenton, teachers wondered when the Earth started spinning in the other direction.
“It’s like we woke up one morning and the world had changed,” said Linda Mirabelli, a music teacher in Livingston. “We were liked and respected, and now, overnight, people have turned against us.”
How did it happen? That’s easy: One bad decision, one stupid miscalculation: An overwhelming majority of teachers refused to accept a pay freeze. They could have won taxpayers’ eternal gratitude, but instead demanded their negotiated raises and fought against contributing a dime toward budget-breaking health insurance benefits. Teachers could have pitched in, but they dug in.
They thumbed their noses at taxpayers, who have lost their jobs, had their pay cut, gone bankrupt and fallen into foreclosure. As taxpayers made less, teachers demanded more. You do that, you become a villain. Fast. It doesn’t matter how many stars Junior gets on his book report.
Teachers listened to their overpaid brain trust, the architects of this disastrous public relations strategy. Together, NJEA president Barbara Keshishian, executive director Vincent Giordano and spokesman Steve Wollmer earn more than a million dollars.
Keshishian, who has been outmaneuvered by the governor at every turn, earns $256,450 annually. Giordano, with salary and deferred compensation, earned $550,203 in 2009, and Wollmer makes $300,000.
Who says you get what you pay for? Union members are shelling out a lot of money for lousy representation. They should stage a coup. Instead they joined hands at Saturday’s You-And-Me-Against-The-World rally and tried to convince each other they’re doing the right thing.
NJ Teacher who complained of low pay to Gov. Chris Christie makes >$100,000 with benefits.
Daniel Golden & John Hechinger:
Steven Eisman, a hedge-fund manager whose bet against the housing market was chronicled in a best- selling book, said he has found the next “big short”: higher education stocks.
The stocks of companies operating for-profit colleges could fall much as 50 percent if the U.S. tightens student-loan rules, said Eisman, manager of the financial-services fund at FrontPoint Partners, a hedge-fund unit of New York-based Morgan Stanley.
An Obama administration proposal to limit student debt would slash earnings of Apollo Group Inc., ITT Educational Services Inc. and Corinthian Colleges Inc. by forcing them to reduce tuition and slow enrollment growth, Eisman said yesterday at a New York investment conference. Without new regulation, students at for-profit colleges will default on $275 billion of loans in the next decade, he said.
The Chicago Public Schools is a system so broke it can’t afford sophomore sports, wants assistant coaches to work for free, and has summoned hundreds of teachers to the principal’s office to let them know they’ll be laid off over the summer. But it can still afford to pay 133 central office officials more than $100,000 a year.
That’s what budget reform looks like to schools CEO Ron Huberman.
About two months ago, when Huberman and the Board of Education cut sophomore sports, they said the district, roughly $900 million in the red, could only afford to let freshmen, juniors, and seniors play after-school sports–even after laying off dozens of well paid administrators.
It irked me that a city so rich it could afford to shower subsidies on profitable corporations such as United Airlines and MillerCoors to the tune of hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars couldn’t afford to let sophomores play.
So I decided to do a little digging. After spending hours plowing through the 350-page 2009-2010 CPS budget, I discovered that contrary to cutting wages at the central office, Huberman and the board had given raises to scores of top bureaucrats.
Ruth Robarts classic bears a visit: Annual Spring Four Act Play: Madison School’s Budget Process.
Meagan Batdorff, Larry Maloney & Jay May [Complete 2MB PDF Report]:
The Funding Disparity: Now and Then
In 2005, a group of researchers associated with the Thomas B. Fordham Institute examined the comparative funding of charter schools in the broader context of educational finance. The goal of that study, which used data from the 2002- 2002-03 school year, was to determine whether and to what extent there were differences in the financial resources provided to charter schools when compared to public school districts in the same states. These researchers used data from 18 states across the United States, and released their results in the report “Charter School Funding: Inequity’s Next Frontier.” The results of this first study demonstrated a clear pattern of inequity in charter school funding. Across the states included in the study, the per pupil funding gap was $1,801 per pupil, or 21.7 percent of district funding. The funding disparity was most severe in the study’s 27 focus districts, many of them urban, where charter schools received $2,256, or 23.5 percent less funding per pupil compared to the school districts in which they were located. The researchers identified lower local funding as the primary source of this fiscal gap, particularly with respect to capital investment.
Video @ Marquette University:
Wendy Kopp is founder and chief executive of Teach For America. She proposed the creation of Teach For America in her 1989 undergraduate senior thesis at Princeton University and has spent the past 20 years working to sustain and grow the organization. Today, 7,300 corps members teach in 35 urban and rural regions across the country. The organization expanded to Milwaukee in 2009, and Marquette is one of two area universities that provides course work for corps members.
Kopp gave the Commencement address to Marquette’s Class of 2010 on May 23, 2010 at the Bradley Center. More than 2,000 graduating students, their family and friends, and members of the Marquette community attended.
Clusty Search: Wendy Kopp.
Are you worried that we are passing our debt on to future generations? Well, you need not worry.
Before this recession it appeared that absent action, the government’s long-term commitments would become a problem in a few decades. I believe the government response to the recession has created budgetary stress sufficient to bring about the crisis much sooner. Our generation — not our grandchildren’s — will have to deal with the consequences.
According to the Bank for International Settlements, the United States’ structural deficit — the amount of our deficit adjusted for the economic cycle — has increased from 3.1 percent of gross domestic product in 2007 to 9.2 percent in 2010. This does not take into account the very large liabilities the government has taken on by socializing losses in the housing market. We have not seen the bills for bailing out Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and even more so the Federal Housing Administration, which is issuing government-guaranteed loans to non-creditworthy borrowers on terms easier than anything offered during the housing bubble. Government accounting is done on a cash basis, so promises to pay in the future — whether Social Security benefits or loan guarantees — do not count in the budget until the money goes out the door.
A good percentage of the structural increase in the deficit is because last year’s “stimulus” was not stimulus in the traditional sense. Rather than a one-time injection of spending to replace a cyclical reduction in private demand, the vast majority of the stimulus has been a permanent increase in the base level of government spending — including spending on federal jobs. How different is the government today from what General Motors was a decade ago? Government employees are expensive and difficult to fire. Bloomberg News reported that from the last peak businesses have let go 8.5 million people, or 7.4 percent of the work force, while local governments have cut only 141,000 workers, or less than 1 percent.
Locally, the Madison School Board meets Tuesday evening, 6/1 to discuss the 2010-2011 budget, which looks like it will raise property taxes at least 10%. A number of issues have arisen around the District’s numbers, including expenditures from the 2005 maintenance referendum.
I’ve not seen any updates on Susan Troller’s April, 12, 2010 question: “Where did the money go?” It would seem that proper resolution of this matter would inform the public with respect to future spending and tax increases.
Is Seattle Schools Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson in for a drubbing tomorrow?
The school board will hear a report from a local consulting company that summarizes what individual board members have said about the superintendent in one-on-one interviews, as well as what Goodloe-Johnson has said about herself.
The report will be used for a formal evaluation of the superintendent and will help determine whether she gets a raise and an additional bonus. It will also influence whether her contract, which runs through 2012, is extended.
If the report is anything like a recent community group’s survey, Goodloe-Johnson is in trouble.
Melissa Westbrook has more.
Lesley Surman, a 42-year-old housewife and mother of three – “working class and proud of it” – wants to set up a new secondary school in the west Yorkshire village of Birkenshaw.
Mrs Surman is no fantasist. She is part of a group of about 60 activists trying to establish the school in 2013 because she harbours doubts about the alternatives available to local parents. “We want to get back to core values, pastoral care and a school where you celebrate winning.” Instead of offering “beauty therapy and mechanics” – vocational subjects increasingly offered in the state sector – she would prefer a focus on nine or so academic subjects, including science and history.
The answer to her problems could lie several hundred miles across the North Sea. Tomorrow’s Queen’s Speech, outlining the ruling coalition’s legislative priorities, is expected to use Sweden’s “free schools” as a model for an overhaul of the English education system, making it easier for parents and teachers to create privately run but state-funded primary and secondary schools.
“Free” in the sense of independent, these private establishments were introduced in 1995 to provide greater choice for parents unable to afford the fees for Sweden’s tiny (now even tinier) privately funded sector. Underpinning the policy of the country’s centre-right government was the free-market principle that competition would raise standards in all schools as state institutions were forced to work harder to keep up.
The government has similar hopes for England (Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are responsible for their own education policies) – where, in spite of large numbers of private, fee-charging, schools, 93 per cent of children are state educated.
Related Links: The Guardian’s Editorial.
The Prime Minister’s Office:
“Legislation will be introduced to…give teachers greater freedom over the curriculum and allow new providers to run state schools.”
The purpose of the Bill is to:
Give full effect to the range of programmes envisaged in the Coalition agreement.
The main benefits of the Bill will be:
- To give all schools greater freedom over the curriculum
- To improve school accountability
- To take action to tackle bureaucracy
- To improve behaviour in schools
The main elements of the Bill are:
- To provide schools with the freedoms to deliver an excellent education in the way they see fit.
- To reform Ofsted and other accountability frameworks to ensure that head teachers are held properly accountable for the core educational goals of attainment and closing the gap between rich and poor.
- To introduce a slimmer curriculum giving more space for teachers to decide how to teach.
- To introduce a reading test for 6 year olds to make sure that young children are learning and to identify problems early.
- To give teachers and head teachers the powers to improve behaviour and tackle bullying.
- We expect standards across the education sector to rise through the creation of more Academies and giving more freedom to head teachers and teachers. We will also ensure that money follows pupils, and introduce a ‘pupil premium’ so that more money follows the poorest pupils.
Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction:
State Superintendent Tony Evers issued a statement today on the $13.8 million, four-year longitudinal data system (LDS) grant Wisconsin won to support accountability. Wisconsin was among 20 states sharing $250 million in competitive funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
“Receiving this U.S. Department of Education grant is very good news for Wisconsin and will allow us to expand our data system beyond its current PK-16 capacity. Through this grant, the Department of Public Instruction will work with the University of Wisconsin System, Wisconsin Technical College System, and the Wisconsin Association of Independent Colleges and Universities to develop an interoperable data system that supports the exchange of data and ad hoc research requests.
“Teacher quality, training, and professional development are key factors in improving student achievement. However, Wisconsin’s aging teacher licensing and certification system is insufficient for today’s accountability demands. This grant will allow us to improve our teacher licensing system and incorporate licensing data into the LDS, which will drive improvement in classroom instruction and teacher education.
2. Post-graduation Information Available to Wisconsin Schools
Public schools in Wisconsin can now obtain, at no cost, post-graduation student data for local analysis.
The Department of Public Instruction recently signed a contract with the National Student Clearinghouse, a non-profit organization which works with more than 3,300 postsecondary institutions nationwide to maintain a repository of information on enrollment, degrees, diplomas, certificates, and other educational achievements.
The NSC data can answer questions such as
Where in the country, and when, do our high school graduates enroll in college?
How long do their education efforts persist?
Do they graduate from college?
What degrees do they earn?
The DPI will integrate information about graduates from Wisconsin high schools into the Wisconsin Longitudinal Data System (LDS). In addition, any public high school or district in Wisconsin can use the NSC StudentTracker service to request similar data for local analysis.
The Madison School District is holding an update to their Strategic Planning Process this week. A number of documents have been distributed, including:
Cristina Sepe and Marguerite Roza via a Deb Britt email:
K-12 school districts that lay off teachers by seniority, a policy known as “last in, first out,” disproportionately affect the programs and students in their poorer and more minority schools than in their wealthier, less minority counterparts.
Looking at the 15 largest districts in California, researchers at the Center on Reinventing Public Education found that teachers at risk of layoffs are indeed concentrated in schools with more poor and minority students.
In these districts, if seniority-based layoffs are applied for teachers with up to two years’ experience, highest-poverty schools would lose some 30 percent more teachers than wealthier schools, and highest-minority schools would lose 60 percent more teachers than would schools with the fewest minority students.
Complete report: 354K PDF.
The District’s Appeal Brief is in — A link to the appeal is shown on the lower left.
The Seattle School District’s first brief in its appeal of Judge Spector’s decision was filed on Friday. To me, it is not surprising that its arguments are weak. I don’t think we could ever have scored this unprecedented victory had our case not been extremely well founded. Nonetheless, one can’t predict what the appeals panel will rule.
Basically, the brief restates the district’s original contention that, because the specified process was followed, any decision made by the board, (I might add — regardless of how it flouted overwhelming evidence) must stand. Also, the brief misstates and misinterprets many aspects of our case. One of the most egregious examples is the contention that the court overstepped its authority by making a decision on curriculum. Not so – the court simply remanded the board’s decision back to the board on the basis of the lack of evidence to support the decision.
We have 30 days to file our response brief (by June 21), and SPS has 15 days after (by July 6) to file its rebuttal. Our attorney tells me that a hearing will be scheduled after all briefs have been filed.
Much more on the initial, successful rollback of Seattle’s Discovery Math program here
New York Daily News Editorial:
The future of charter schools in New York hangs on negotiations between City Hall and teachers union President Michael Mulgrew. This is perverse.
The United Federation of Teachers is fighting to limit the growth of charters even as the state’s application for as much as $700 million in federal Race to the Top money demands letting the number of schools expand.
Mulgrew’s strategy has been to give the nod to upping the charter cap while trying to make it all but impossible for a sponsor to open one of these privately run, publicly funded academies. For example, by creating barriers to moving a charter into unused space in a public school building.
Although the city’s charter schools have almost universally racked up amazing achievement gains, the UFT resists them because most are not unionized. And the more successful charters have become, the greater the resistance has grown
Houston Independent School District:
The Houston Independent School District is in the midst of developing a long-term strategic plan that will provide a road map for the future as the district strives to become the best public school system in the nation. To ensure that all key stakeholders are engaged and involved in this process, HISD is inviting any member of the Houston community to give their input at an open discussion on Monday, May 24, from 6:00-7:30 p.m. at the Hattie Mae White Educational Support Center’s board auditorium (4440 West 18th Street).
To develop a long-term Strategic Direction, HISD is working with the Apollo Consulting Group in a six-month effort that started in February 2010 and will culminate in August with the release of a final plan. The goal is to create a set of core initiatives and key strategies that will allow HISD to build upon the beliefs and visions established by the HISD Board of Education and to provide the children of Houston with the highest quality of primary and secondary education.
Over the past two months, HISD has been gathering input from members of Team HISD, as well as from parents and members of the Houston community, including faith-based groups, non-profit agencies, businesses, and local and state leaders. After analyzing feedback and conducting diagnostic research, a number of core initiatives have emerged. They include placing an effective teacher in every classroom, supporting the principal as the CEO, developing rigorous instructional standards and support, ensuring data driven accountability, and cultivating a culture of trust through action.
“True transformation cannot happen overnight and it cannot happen without the input from everyone at Team HISD and those in our community who hold a stake in the education of Houston’s children,” says Superintendent of Schools Terry B. Grier. “In order for it to be meaningful, we need everyone to lend their voice to the process and help us shape the future direction of HISD.”
Related: Madison School District Strategic Planning Process.
Police estimate there are now more than 1,100 confirmed gang members in Madison and about 40 gangs, about 12 of which are the main Latino gangs.
The Dane County Enhanced Youth Gang Prevention Task Force recommended in August 2007 that a countywide gang coordinator’s position be considered. That group’s co-chairman, former Madison police Capt. Luis Yudice, who’s also security coordinator for the Madison School District, first called for a “comprehensive strategy so we can all work in unison” to address gang violence in September 2005.
Since then, Yudice said, staff in Madison schools are recognizing more issues involving gangs among students, which he attributes in part to greater awareness and training.
“We have gang-involved kids in probably most of our high schools and middle schools and some of our elementary schools,” he said. Staff do a good job of keeping gang activity out of the schools, he said, and work closely with students, families, police and social workers in an effort to keep students out of gangs.
Locally, the gang issue is not unique to Madison schools. “We’re seeing more gang activity in the suburban school districts,” Yudice said, as well as the emergence of hate groups targeting blacks and Latinos in Madison, Deerfield, Cottage Grove and DeForest.
Related: Gangs & School Violence Forum audio, video & links.
New York Times Editorial:
Summer vacation for Hawaii’s schoolchildren starts on Wednesday. About 170,000 young people will be hitting the beach, the mall, grandma’s house, the sofa — all the places they have already been spending most Fridays for nearly the entire school year. Seventeen school days were sliced out of their educations by a series of school-closing teacher furloughs to help close a nearly $1 billion state budget gap.
The furloughs were rightly deplored by parents and denounced by Education Secretary Arne Duncan, and showed Hawaii’s political and education establishment at its worst. When the first “furlough Friday” happened last October, we didn’t imagine that Hawaii — which has one statewide school district with a lackluster record of achievement — would slouch through the rest of the school year without getting its kids back in their seats.
These two documents [1MB .txt or 2MB PDF] include some email messages sent to “firstname.lastname@example.org” from 1/1/2009 through September, 2009.
I requested the messages via an open records request out of concerns expressed to me that public communications to this email address were not always making their way to our elected representatives on the Madison Board of Education. Another email address has since been created for direct public communication to the Board of education: email@example.com
There has been extensive back and forth on the scope of the District’s response along with the time, effort and expense required to comply with this request. I am thankful for the extensive assistance I received with this request.
I finally am appreciative of Attorney Dan Mallin’s fulfillment (a few items remain to be vetted) and response, included below:
As we last discussed, attached are several hundreds of pages of e-mails (with non-MMSD emails shortened for privacy purposes) that:
(1) Are not SPAM / commercial solicitations / organizational messages directed to “school districts” generally
(2) Are not Pupil Records
(3) Are not auto-generated system messages (out of office; undeliverable, etc.)
(4) Are not inquiries from MMSD employees about how to access their work email via the web when the web site changed (which e-mails typically contained their home email address)
(5) Are not technical web-site related inquiries (e.g., this link is broken, etc.)
(6) Are not random employment inquiries / applications from people who didn’t know to contact the Human Resources department and instead used the comments address (e.g., I’m a teacher and will be moving to Madison, what job’s are open?).
(7) Are not geneology-related inquiries about relatives and/or long-lost friends/teachers/etc.
(8) Are not messages that seek basic and routine information that would be handled clerically(e.g., please tell me where I can find this form; how do I get a flyer approved for distribution; what school is ____ address assigned to; when is summer school enrollment, etc.)
Some of the above may have still slipped in, but the goal was to keep copying costs as low as possible. Once all of the e-mails within your original request were read to determine content, it took over 2 hours to isolate the attached messages electronically from the larger pool that also included obvious pupil records, but you’ve been more than patient with this process and you have made reasonable concessions that saved time for the District in other ways, and there will be no additional copying charge assessed.
It would be good public policy to post all communications sent to the District. Such a simple effort may answer many questions and provide a useful look at our K-12 environment.
I am indebted to Chan Stroman Roll for her never ending assistance on this and other matters.
Related: Vivek Wadhwa: The Open Gov Initiative: Enabling Techies to Solve Government Problems
Read more: http://techcrunch.com/2010/05/22/the-open-government-initiative-enabling-techies-to-solve-problems/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Techcrunch+%28TechCrunch%29#ixzz0ohshEHIG
While grandma flips through photo albums on her sleek iPad, government agencies (and most corporations) process mission-critical transactions on cumbersome web-based front ends that function by tricking mainframes into thinking that they are connected to CRT terminals. These systems are written in computer languages like Assembler and COBOL, and cost a fortune to maintain. I’ve written about California’s legacy systems and the billions of dollars that are wasted on maintaining these. Given the short tenure of government officials, lobbying by entrenched government contractors, and slow pace of change in the enterprise-computing world, I’m not optimistic that much will change – even in the next decade. But there is hope on another front: the Open Government Initiative. This provides entrepreneurs with the data and with the APIs they need to solve problems themselves. They don’t need to wait for the government to modernize its legacy systems; they can simply build their own apps.
Sandra Stotsky & Ze’ev Wurman [PDF]:
During the past year, academic experts, educators, and policy makers have waged a confusing and largely invisible war over the content and quality of Common Core’s proposed high school exit and grade-level standards. Some critics see little or no value to national standards, explaining why local or state control is necessary for real innovations in education and why “one size doesn’t fit all” applies as strongly to the school curriculum as it does to the clothing industry. On the other hand, some supporters believe so strongly in the idea of national standards that they appear willing to accept Common Core’s standards no matter how inferior they may be to the best sets of state or international standards so long as they are better than most states’ standards. In contrast, others who believe that national standards may have value have found earlier drafts incapable of making American students competitive with those in the highest-achieving countries. No one knows whether Common Core’s standards will raise student achievement in all performance categories, simply preserve an unacceptable academic status quo, or actually reduce the percentage of high-achieving high school students in states that adopt them.
All these alternatives are possible because of the lack of clarity about what readiness for college and workplace means – the key concept driving the current movement for national standards – and what the implications of this concept are for high school graduation requirements in each state and for current admission and/or placement requirements in its post-secondary institutions. There has been a striking lack of public discussion about the definition of college readiness (e.g., for what kind of college, for what majors, for what kind of credit-bearing freshman courses) and whether workplace readiness is similar to college readiness. According to Common Core’s own draft writers, these college readiness standards are aimed at community colleges, trade schools, and other non-selective colleges, although Common Core hasn’t said so explicitly.
Erin Richards & Amy Hetzner:
A new study comparing reading skills of fourth- and eighth-grade children in 18 urban school systems once again places Milwaukee Public Schools near the bottom of the ladder, a pattern of underachievement that gave voice to worries Thursday about the future of Milwaukee’s children and calls – yet again – for a greater sense of urgency to improve.
In a set of national reading tests, Milwaukee’s fourth-graders outperformed only Detroit, Cleveland and Philadelphia, while its eighth-graders outperformed only Detroit, Fresno, Calif., and Washington, D.C., according to the results of the Trial Urban District Assessment, a special project of the National Assessment of Educational Progress.
The National Assessment of Educational Progress is a periodic national assessment, often referred to as the Nation’s Report Card, that allows for state-to-state comparisons in core academic subjects. The urban district study isolates scores among a number of the country’s high-minority, high-poverty school systems to better compare how those students are doing.
All of the voluntary participants in the program are from cities with populations of at least 250,000, ranging from districts serving Fresno, Calif., and Louisville, Ky., to those in New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago.
This is the first time that Milwaukee Public Schools participated in the reading tests for the urban districts. Last year, results from the math tests also carried bad news for MPS, which did better than only Detroit at the eighth-grade level.
Aileen Dodd & John Perry:
Under the state’s new math curriculum, lower scores plus a quicker pace of instruction equal greater anxiety for both students and their teachers.
“In my classes, I have 60 kids and only 17 are passing. You know how stressful that is on me?” said Donna Aker, a veteran math teacher at South Gwinnett High School.
It’s a problem common to many metro Atlanta schools. Nearly one in five ninth-graders in metro Atlanta last year got an F in Math I — the first year of the state’s new math curriculum in high school.
The math failure rate was more than double that experienced by the same group of kids in the eighth grade the year before.
We’re in graduation days for the Class of 2010. 1.6 million bright-faced young men and women getting undergraduate degrees, college diplomas, across the country.
And the job market? Brutal. It was brutal last year, of course. Now it’s brutal stacked on brutal. 19.6 percent unemployment for Americans under 25. The highest since 1948.
Just one in four new college grads who applied for a job has one. Twenty five percent. And many have applied for scores of jobs.
This Hour, On Point: we talk to the Class of 2010 about the job hunt – and survival strategies in the economy of 2010.
Ashbrook included a segment from media “star” Anderson Cooper’s commencement address at Tulane in his show. While not a fan of the generally thin coverage provided by the “Mainstream Media”, Cooper’s story of determination, risk and luck is worth a look:
When I graduated there were hiring freezes at most TV news networks. I tried for months to get an entry-level job at ABC news, answering phones, xeroxing, whatever, but I couldn’t get hired. At the time it was crushing. But in retrospect, not getting that entry-level job, was the best thing that could have happened to me.
After months of waiting, I decided if no one would give me a chance as a reporter, I should take a chance. If no one would give me an opportunity, I would have to make my own opportunity.
I wanted to be a war correspondent, so I decided to just start going to wars. As you can imagine, my mom was thrilled about the plan. I had a friend make a fake press pass for me on a mac, and I borrowed a home video camera… and I snuck into Burma and hooked up with some students fighting the Burmese government… then I moved onto Somalia in the early days of the famine and fighting there.
I figured if I went places that were dangerous, I wouldn’t have as much competition, and because I was willing to sleep on the roofs of buildings, and live on just a few dollars a day, I was able to charge very little for my stories. As ridiculous as it sounds, my plan worked, and after two years on my own shooting stories in war zones, I was hired by ABC news as a correspondent. I was the youngest correspondent they had hired in many years. Had I gotten the entry-level job I’d wanted, I would have never become a network correspondent so quickly, I probably would never have even become one at all. The things which seem like heartbreaking setbacks, sometimes turn out to be lucky breaks.
In Act 1 of “My Fair Lady”, Eliza Doolittle, the Cockney flower girl learning to speak like a lady, fantasizes about meeting the king. Of course, because it’s a musical, she sings:
One evening the king will say, ‘Oh, Liza, old thing — I want all of England your praises to sing. Next week on the twentieth of May, I proclaim Liza Doolittle Day.
Since I’m not Julie Andrews or Audrey Hepburn — or Marni Nixon, who sang for Audrey Hepburn in the movie, I’ll spare you the rest. But suffice it to say, Eliza envisions all of England celebrating her glory. The only ones who recognize Eliza Doolittle Day, however, are music theater geeks like me. And while an evening of cocktails and show tunes sounds like fun, it’s insufficient to mark the occasion because Eliza’s message is all too relevant today.
You see, “My Fair Lady” is based on George Bernard Shaw’s “Pygmalion”, and both pieces explore the ramifications of learning how to speak properly at a time when elocution was valued as a symbol of education and upward mobility.
Emphasis on the was.
Listen to Franklin Delano Roosevelt say, “The only thing we have to feah is feah itself,” and it’s almost inconceivable that ordinary Americans trusted someone who sounded like Thurston Howell III. We are now in an age when Sarah Palin speaks to a quarter of the electorate, even though she talks like she’s translating into Korean and back again. Even the rhetorically gifted President Obama has felt compelled to drop his g’s while tryin’ to sell health care reform.
Nowadays, soundin’ folksy has become more important than sounding educated. As Eliza’s teacher Henry Higgins says, “Use proper English, you’re regarded as a freak.” But our country’s biggest competitors are learning proper English and, judging from all the Indian call centers, learning it quite well. Our country was built by people striving to move up, not dumbing down. So on this Eliza Doolittle Day, perhaps we should all take a moment to think before we speak.
Marc Acito is the author of How I Paid for College and Attack of the Theater People.
When Gabby Abramowitz was younger, she was cautious about inviting new friends to the house. She wasn’t sure how they would react to her younger brother, Ben, who is autistic. And she didn’t want a repeat of the Simpsons incident. That was the time she had a friend over for dinner, and Ben sat at the table reciting the entire “Treehouse of Horror” Simpsons Halloween special.
Gabby pleaded with him to stop, but he persisted.
“My friend was like, ‘What’s going on?’ and then started laughing,” she said.
At that time, she was in elementary school and lacked the words and understanding to explain her brother’s condition. But with the help of her parents and through her own study, Gabby, now 16 and a sophomore at Tenafly High School, has grown to understand the nuances of autism and often speaks out to teach her peers while growing closer to Ben, 14.
Through her research, she found that her experiences, and those of others like her, often are overlooked. “I think the effect on siblings is underestimated. We get pushed into the background.”
If educators want to shrink the number of students who drop out of high school each year, they must greatly increase the number who can read proficiently by the time they’re in fourth grade, a key non-profit children’s advocacy group says in a new report.
The findings, out today from the Baltimore-based Annie E. Casey Foundation, echoes research on reading proficiency going back decades, but it’s the first to draw a direct line between reading and the nation’s long-term economic well-being.
“The bottom line is that if we don’t get dramatically more children on track as proficient readers, the United States will lose a growing and essential proportion of its human capital to poverty,” the authors say.
Ralph Smith, the foundation’s executive vice president, says recent research shows that dropouts “don’t just happen in high school” but that students give clear indications as early as elementary school that they’re on a “glide path” to dropping out. Among the clearest signs: difficulty reading and understanding basic work that becomes more detail-oriented around fourth grade.
Valerie Strauss has more.