Friday, December 30, 2005

Putting tenure on trial

The below story was sent to us from a friend in Harvard and can be found by clicking on the title above or at

Putting tenure on trial
By Burt Prelutsky

Dec 30, 2005

An ongoing problem I have is that I am, at heart, a crusader, but, by temperament, a couch potato. To be really good at altering the status quo, you have to be ready to join with others in a mission, and I don’t happen to like group activities. Even when a group consists of people I like as individuals, as soon as they organize, some bossy person is handing out marching orders, and somebody else is putting me to sleep reading the minutes of the last meeting.

Ideally, the way it should work is that I come up with great ideas and then get to lie down on the sofa and take a nap while other people run off and do the heavy lifting.

My latest campaign is to do away with tenure. If there’s a dumber idea floating around than the guarantee of lifetime employment I’m not sure I want to hear about it. A person can take only so much stupidity in a single lifetime and I believe I’ve just about reached my quota.

So far as I’m aware, the only two groups that receive tenure in our society are Supreme Court justices and teachers. The theory is that these people need to be protected from undue political pressure. Well, these days, as we’re all very much aware, there is as much or more blatant politicking involved in a Supreme Court appointment than in a presidential election. For the life of me, I don’t see why a duly-elected president can only serve eight years, but a justice can serve thirty or forty.

It makes even less sense that professors are guaranteed a job for life. Guys on the assemblyline don’t have tenure. Gardeners and waitresses don’t get tenure. Why should professors who already work short hours for good money be treated like English royalty?

I have heard the argument that, without such guarantees, they might be fired for political reasons. The fact of the matter is that, as more and more colleges and universities are infested with leftwing radicals, professors are far more likely to be hired because of their politics.

As for the risk that a professor of any political stripe might be shown the exit because the administration disapproves of his leanings, the question should be moot. Even if his field of study happens to be history, philosophy or even the Republican party in the 21st century, no professor worth his salt has any business dragging his own politics into the classroom. But suggest that to a leftwing academic, and he starts yelling about censorship, as if the job description includes proselytizing.

To paraphrase George Bernard Shaw: those who can, teach; those who can’t, indoctrinate.

Instead of tenure, I’d give these academics with their childish Che Guevara posters the gate.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Why American Students Know So Little American History and What We Can Do About It

Today's entry was sent to us by our friend Joyce Morrison of News With Views. This story is posted on Education News.Org.

Why American Students Know So Little American History and What We Can Do About It
Sandra Stotsky
Commonwealth Education Organization
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

October 6, 2005

Introduction to the sources of the problem

The study of US history in K-12 has traditionally served two significant purposes, one academic, the other civic. It has been the major source for civic education, promoting both knowledge of this country's political principles, processes, and institutions and allegiance to them-i.e., the basis for US citizenship. Over the past 100 years, however, there has been a steady decline in the teaching of history through the grades. To view the rest of the story click here.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Getting Honest About Grad Rates.

The Education Trust is a great website. The information below is part of the press release from The Education Trust to view the whole press release go to the education trust website. To view the complete report click here.

June 23, 2005

CONTACT: Nicolle Grayson
(202) 293-1217, ext. 351

Getting Honest About Grad Rates: Too Many States Hide Behind False Data

(Washington, DC) – The Education Trust released a report today that sharply criticizes the way states calculate and report graduation statistics. The analysis, entitled “Getting Honest About Grad Rates: How States Play the Numbers and Students Lose,” also rebukes the U.S. Department of Education for failing to exert leadership by demanding that states get honest about graduation rates.

The Ed Trust analysis reveals disturbing patterns: Some states rely on ludicrous definitions of graduation rates. Others make little effort to accurately account for students who drop out of school. And others still provide no data at all. The final result: Extremely unreliable graduation-rate information that erodes public confidence in schools and their leadership and threatens to undermine the important work of high school reform.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Don't Keep School Tax

The letters below appeared in the Rockford Register Star. Schools are not going to listen until more taxpayers and parents speak up. Bravo to these two Rockford residents for speaking up. McHenry District 15 residents do not forget that the school district is not going to return taxes they promised to return. Can you trust them to do the right thing with new revenues if the spring referendum passes?

Published: December 27, 2005

Letters to the Editor
Don’t keep school tax

Wake up, Rockford School District taxpayers.

The School Board asks that we vote to make a temporary tax permanent. Any time we vote for a temporary tax, it seems the taxing body gets used to it and cannot live without it.

I urge every taxpayer to vote no next spring. Many of us are just making ends meet and the reduction in taxes is considerable if this tax is not extended.

We pay some of the highest school taxes and have not received a lot in return. Yes, there have been improvements. The board wants us to believe that they are good stewards of our tax dollars.

I do not question their motives, but why is it that other districts are doing great without nearly that amount of taxes levied?

The School Board is hoping that you are used to paying and will want you to think, “I am already paying it, so it is not so bad.” Stop and think about that kind of reasoning.

We, as taxpayers, have the power to stop a tax from being continued.

Now is the time to start talking to your neighbors and urge them to vote no.

— David Draper, Rockford

Published: December 26, 2005

Letters to the Editor
Focus on education

Are junk food vending machines the schools’ most pressing issue?

The governor is concerned. I agree, as most parents would, that junk food isn’t the best for our kids. My concern is: Are we spending too much time and resources on this issue, when there are more serious ones facing our schools?

We need the focus to be education of our students, not just whether they eat a bag of chips for lunch.

— Diane Walz, Rockford

Monday, December 26, 2005

Band, sports ready to return

The article below appeared in the Sunday, December 25th edition of the Northwest Herald. Harvard had asked for 7 referenda in a row that all failed. A referendum never passed and the school board managed to balance the budget. Bravo to the Harvard school board. But one must ask oneself did they really need the money in the past and what was the money going to be used for at that time.

Band, sports ready to return as board reinstates programs

[published on Sun, Dec 25, 2005]

HARVARD – Linda Russ was pleased to hear recently that some of the items cut by District 50 were approved by the school board to be reinstated.

But the mother of two fourth-graders at Jefferson Elementary School found herself asking why the cuts ever were made.

"I have to wonder how they can afford to bring them back now," she said. "The cuts never should have been made. Some of the teachers that they've let go should have never been let go."

The school board announced last month that it would look into bringing back its most recent cuts, which included junior high jazz band, freshman sports at Harvard High School, and the high school scholastic bowl.

The school board has approved a list of recommended items to reinstate. In addition to the above programs, these include a junior high reading specialist, art consultants, a high school math teacher, and an elementary librarian.

Bringing back those programs and staff would cost the district about $195,000, District 50 spokesman Bill Clow said.

District officials this fall began meeting with groups such as the Harvard High School Booster Club and HARMONY, a nonprofit group formed two years ago to promote music and stage-performance activities.

"They were wanting to at least have the board consider this," said Superintendent Randy Gross, who recommended the list to the board, whose members approved it Monday.

"This is a good example that the board is listening to the community and doing what it can within the financial constraints for the district," he said.

District officials have pointed to a balanced budget as the reason these programs could return. The district in September touted a $19.75 million budget showing that education-fund revenues would exceed spending by about $200,000.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Union leaders need to learn to behave

The Education Intelligence Agency is a must see website for those fighting for true education reform and spending reform. Intercepts is Mike Antonucci's BLOG. Mr. Antonucci established the Education Intelligence Agency in June 1997. I first spotted this article on his BLOG this article was originally posted at Inside Bay Area.

Jim, some of of our other educating reform fighting friends and I, are all too familiar with this behavior. We experienced it in Harvard, Huntley and Winthrop Harbor among other places. We are wondering just what will happen at the District 300 presentations planned for early 2006.

The article below can also be viewed at

Union leaders need to learn to behave

WHY do some Oakland teachers union leaders and members have to stoop to boorish behavior to draw attention to their demands?
It's one thing for the union to renew its threat of a strike if a new contract isn't crafted to its satisfaction. Negotiations have been bitter and emotions have run high since spring, when the union rejected the district's contract offer. So, talk of a strike in that context isn't shocking.

What's disturbing, though, were the antics some union members displayed at Wednesday night's school board meeting. One teacher went so far as to compare state School Administrator Randolph Ward to Hitler and to describe him as "a bourgeois black man" who has forgotten his roots. The teacher's comments were loudly cheered as others in the audience laughed and applauded.

We realize the great majority of district teachers, even if frustrated with the pace of contract talks, are civil and care more about their students' academic progress than demonizing Ward.

By all accounts, there are legitimate concerns about health benefits in the current contract talks. Teachers are worried their family health care costs could soar to $3,000 a year under the proposed "cap" on health benefits. Negotiating for teachers' benefits and rights should be serious business, and discussions should be handled seriously, not with sophomoric stunts.

Another low point came when a teacher tried to explain to the school board his plans for a new science and technology charter school in a partnership with NASA. Members of the audience berated the teacher, punctuating his presentation with noisy boos and jeers.

Where do these so-called educators get off demeaning and disrespecting a fellow teacher for daring to propose innovative ways to educate Oakland youths? There is always room for disagreement about methods and philosophy, but any differences should be focused on a specific issue rather than resorting to bullying and heckling out of a resentment against charter schools.
When they take to the podium to speak, would some of Wednesday night's hecklers want to be treated the same way — drowned out or made fun of?

We want to respect our teachers and support them. But when they use such juvenile tactics, it is hard to take them seriously. And what kind of role model are these teachers setting for their students? Will students learn, by observing their teachers, that the only way to express opinions is by being disruptive and disrespectful, outshouting any opposing viewpoints and resorting to derogatory name-calling to make their points?

It's time for the leaders of the teachers union to grow up, tone down the theatrics and work with the administration to find the best solutions to the myriad problems facing the district.

According to teachers union President Ben Visnick, the union "has been reasonable" at the bargaining table and is ready to reach a fair contract. He says the teachers have made concessions, and the district must do the same.

That all sounds fine. If only such civility could be extended to other public meetings, there might be more movement on all sides.