Did you catch the segment on last night’s PBS Newshour featuring an interview with Diane Ravitch, who was a deputy secretary of education during the administration of George H.W. Bush (“Are Teachers Too Easily Caught in Crossfire Over Student Achievement?“). Surprisingly, she is an articulate critic of “No Child Left Behind” and the whole emphasis on teacher “accountability.” It is a fabulous interview.
Here’s a sample:
First of all, should teachers be evaluated? Yes. Should they be evaluated by the test scores of their students, as Race to the Top, the Obama program, requires? Absolutely not. That is an unproven and actually a very harmful way to evaluate teachers.
Should teachers be paid more if the test scores go up? No, they should not be, because that puts too much emphasis on very poor tests. It causes teachers to teach to the test, which everybody agrees is a terrible thing to do. It also leads to narrowing of the curriculum, so that schools will drop the arts. They will drop history. They will drop civics, foreign languages. And they will focus only on what’s tested.
So, it actually is very educationally harmful to pay teachers to get higher test scores in reading and math or in any subject, because it’s just not a good method. And, by the way, I might add that this whole idea of merit pay has been tried again and again since the 1920s. It has never, ever produced results.
Ravitch rejects the notion that teachers unions are somehow the problem, noting that the highest performing schools systems are in states where teachers enjoy union protections, and the lowest performing are states without collective bargaining.
Then she hits on the issue no one wants to talk about–poverty.
In every district where there is very low academic achievement, there is poverty and racial isolation. And yet we are now trapped in this national conversation where there’s almost an agreement we will not talk about poverty. We will not talk about racial isolation. We will just talk about teachers. We are talking about the wrong problem.
And this from a former Republican appointee?
In any case, you can choose between watching the video or reading through a transcript.
And now for something completely different, Bob Jones shares an interesting consumer interaction with Sears.
I wanted to make a reservation at Sears Auto Center Ala Moana for a wheel alignment. I went to the Sears website. Sure enough, under various things offered was Wheel Alignment. I asked for an appointment at the Ala Moana store. That was okayed and I paid $79 on my credit card. I was suspicious because the confirmation said “you can pick up your order any time between 11 and 3.” When I went to Ala Moana Sears, they had nothing in their computer so I paid again and prepared to do battle with Sears national customer service. Today I got an e-mail from Sears national that “the item you requested is not available in a Hawaii store. Sorry, and you will not be charged.”
Of course, wheel alignments ARE available there and I had one! Maybe they think because we’re a Pacific island we only need boat motor repairs, not wheel alignments?
A Wall Street Journal article caught my eye yesterday, “Next Frontier: Mining the Ocean Floor.” It reports that several companies are at the point of trying to commercialize deep sea mining of manganese and other metals in the Pacific.
This was an area in which Hawaii was an early leader, but that was back at least two decades. Here’s a summary from a 1981 program description.
The State of Hawaii Department of Planning and Economic Development (DPED) and the University of Hawaii have been interested in manganese nodules for the past ten years. One example of early intergovernmental cooperation was the convocation of a workshop on Manganese Nodule Deposits in the Pacific ,ll held in Honolulu in October 1972.1 This workshop was sponsored by the DPED, the Hawaii Institute of Geophysics, the State Marine Affairs Coordinator, and the Office of the International Decade of Ocean Exploration.
The potential of a manganese nodule industry was pointed out in Hawaii and the Sea-1974, published by the DPED.2 In that report, the Governor’s Advisory Committee on Science and Technology recommended that the DPED write a report which would look at the total mining industry system, investigate and evaluate alternative processes and sites which might be used by onshore manganese nodule processing plants, and discuss plans and processes with the major mining companies.
In 1975 the Legislature provided funding to begin ‘a manganese nodule program designed to assess the potential of a nodule processing industry in Hawaii. A study group of consultants from the University of Hawaii was hired and research began in March, 1977. In September, 1977, while research was in progress, a representative of Kennecott Copper Corporation visited Hawaii and at a press conference rated the Island of Hawaii as a prime contender for a processing site.3 The study group report, The Feasibility and Potential Impact of Manganese Nodule Processing in Hawaii,4 was published in February, 1978.
So we were way ahead of the game, but now that technology has caught up with concept, it looks like the investments are going somewhere else. Or does Hawaii still have a foothold in this potential industry?
I’ll wrap up with a moment of silence in honor of Ray Bradbury, who died yesterday. He was an important part of my early life, and I can still conjure up the feelings of wonder, and terror, that his writings created. I read through many of his early books before I reached high school, those that could convey the vastness of the Milky Way in a dark, mid-western sky, the wonders of space, the fears hidden deep in everyday characters and spaces. I gobbled up his early stories and novels, The Illustrated Man, Golden Apples of the Sun, Dandelion Wine, Something Wicked This Way Comes. I returned years later, reading some classics, but never got into his later writing, which couldn’t compete with my recollections of those early collisions between Bradbury fantasy, his magic prose, and my appetite for reading. Thank you, Ray Bradbury.