Friday, December 30, 2005


No, I haven't fallen off the planet. In the last couple of weeks we've celebrated the 18th birthday of our oldest, the birth of our Savior, our 20th wedding anniversary and next up is our family New Year's celebration. It's enough to keep anyone busy.

Keep the RSS feed. We'll be partied out soon. :-)

Monday, December 26, 2005

Coal for the TEA

...courtesy of the Tennessee Center for Policy Research. Children and families desperately need educational options. Excellent teachers ought to be paid well and not have to support the mediocre on the team. Government must get the highest return for taxpayer dollars possible. The one entity that consistently stands in the way of all of that is the teacher's union and TCPR does a good job of explaining how they stand in the way.

TCPR "grants the award to the person or group that, more than any other over the past year, has bah-humbugged the American ideal of personal initiative, individual liberty and a constitutional government while acting as a Grinch to taxpayers by unnecessarily and wastefully spending their money."

Congrats to the TEA...considering how busy a political year this has been in the state, this was no small feat.

Read the entire award at the TCPR website.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

I believe the President.

And in despair, I bowed my head:
"There is no peace on earth," I said,
"For hate is strong and mocks the song,
Of Peace on earth good will to men."

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep;
"God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With Peace on earth, good will to men."

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Teacher salaries

Before the school board, union leaders, legislators, parents and taxpayers crunch those school budget numbers they may want to read the latest from Mike Antonucci. Using figures from the latest NEA report called Rankings and Estimates he write:

NEA's tables clearly indicate that the reason so many states are having education funding problems -- and why the average teacher salary is not higher -- is not because of NCLB, cheapskate taxpayers, stingy administrators, or any of the other usual targets. It's because as a percentage of the whole, we're hiring more teachers -- many more teachers -- than we're enrolling students to support them.

In 2004-05, America enrolled 297,101 more students than in 2003-04. But it employed 49,732 more teachers. That's 1 teacher for every additional 6 students.
(emphasis mine--K)
According to Mike's math Tennessee hired 1.6% new teachers for a .9% student increase. The question then is: is this unbalanced increase correcting overcrowding or, perhaps, staff that isn't really 'essential'?

And let's not overlook this from the NEA report:
Teacher salaries, however, increased at a rate higher than inflation in nine states, giving teachers more money to cover their living expenses, support their families, pay for continuing education, and save for unexpected emergencies. Maryland, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Vermont, Virginia, Tennessee, New Mexico, Montana, and Oklahoma were among the states where increases in teacher salaries rose faster than the rate of inflation.
(Again, emphis mine--K)
Again, I'm all for paying excellent teachers well. They earn it. I'd just like to be able to verify that they really are excellent teachers before they get those excellent paychecks and benefits.

Saving Girlhood

We've got three girls in this house. Each one of them eagerly anticipated their 7th birthday rite of passage which included receiving their own American Girl doll. These were all purchased during the more innocent and sweeter time when Pleasant Company owned the doll and before the Mattel Company bought out the originator of the doll. The mailman delivers the catalog and chores and schoolwork are done quickly in order to be the first to scan the new stuff available. Mom and Gma haul out the sewing machine to create clothing and their website knows our debit card number.

What nearly derailed their AG love affair was learning that Mattel had politicized their favorite doll by linking to and supporting an organization that supported abortion as a right.

Today, though, we're glad to read that they've come around to realizing that the issue isn't one that is appropriate for these young girls. And Mattel didn't just drop the hot potato, they've even taken it one step further and started "Saving Girlhood".

From every angle, today's girls are bombarded by influences pushing them toward womanhood at too early an age—at the expense of their innocence, their playfulness, their imagination. We'd like to change that.
We'd like to save girlhood.

Talk about backpaddling! That's quite a change. From funding an organization that supports 'a woman's right' and actually helping to push them toward womanhood to recognizing that the innocence of these girls is valuable. I don't think it was a change of heart. I think it was market forces at work.

I'm glad they came around. Now I can finish the Christmas shopping--Molly needs a new pair of glasses.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Tuesday 12/13/05

Lots of activity this holyday season and so things have gotten backlogged. Hang on while I clear the desktop.

Freedom in Ohio--

The state that was the demarcation between free and slave states does it again by demonstrating education freedom. That same ethnic group joyfully embraced and fought for choice in Cincinnati and their struggle has set more captives free in the rest of the state.

The State Legislature has passed a voucher program, okaying millions of public tax dollars to send students to private schools. Monday, the state began getting out the word on how the program will work.
The Cincinnati Federation of Teachers says draining money from public schools is no way to help public schools: From WKRC
Note to the Cincinnati Federation of Teachers: it's not about helping public schools--it's about actually educating students.

Oh...captives is too harsh a word? 'Compulsory attendance' isn't?

Well said--

But if public school districts wish to keep their enrollment numbers up -- and stop parents from homeschooling their children or sending them to parochial, private, charter or online schools -- they'd better be willing to adapt to changing trends in our society.

Academic freedom does not trump parental rights. From the Mansfield( OH) News Journal

Educated? Maybe not--

Sarah Moore's piece about an author's use of a thesaurus made me laugh out loud. The only thing Sarah overlooked was responding to this sentence by the editorial writer:

From the safety of any state university, the quixotic thrill of honorably serving the public can be thoroughly quenched with a bachelor of education degree.

Education majors may want to rethink that. I served in the military. I'm sure that my mother-in-law's experience in a inner city Nashville school was much more dangerous than my service during the Carter administration.

And since we're criticizing 'educated' folks.

I wouldn't wish this visit to the woodshed with Balidlocks on anyone. A "a 19 year old white william and mary student" has such poor writing skills that you wonder how he managed to get into the school. This isn't the half of it:

(As an aside, were I one of the faculty at William and Mary, I’d give you an ‘F’ simply for staining that august institution’s reputation by displaying your poor writing skills; it wouldn’t matter what subject it was. Were I one of your parents, I’d demand a refund for your tuition. However, I’m glad that you are only nineteen because you will have time to improve all of the writing-skill deficiencies displayed above.)

Here's an excellent idea
that ought to be replicated across the nation--

Nashville's KIPP charter school created an Amazon wish list to fill the school's library.

[KIPP principal Randy Dowell] and KIPP business manager Matt Grace stumbled upon the idea when doing research for the redesign of the school’s Web site.

Grace said they saw other school Web sites had wish lists and decided to coordinate one with Amazon because it would allow them to register for a variety of needs.

Staff members sent an e-mail invitation to check out the wish list to all their friends and family and the donations quickly rolled in. From Nashville City Paper

Anyone surprised that it's a charter school that's taken this innovative action? Let's have more schools with this kind of 'git er done' attitude. Here's their wishlist. Big upside--you don't have to pay for anything you find objectionable.

I'm pro-choice--

and so is Nathan Moore:

It’s something all school systems in America should not only consider but implement- especially Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools. Creative solutions and new ways of thinking seem to be beyond the abilities of our current administration. It’s the vision thing, and as I’ve said before, we’re short on visionaries at the local level.
And Nathan takes it a bit further and asks when Nashville's school board chair is up for reelection. Not until 2008, Nathan.

More from the Moores---

Frankly, the Moores are doing a great job covering and commenting on education issues--maybe I am expendable. :-)

Here Nathan uses an essay on the need for a college education to make the case that too many aren't even ready for college and they'll get a sub-par college education as it is.


the higher cost of that lower education is the result of government control. Sen. Lamar Alexander was quoted as saying:

“Yet, thanks largely to the last two rounds of the federal Higher Education Act, each one of our 6,000 higher education institutions that accepts students with federal grants and loans must wade through over 7,000 regulations and notices. The president of Stanford has said that seven cents of every tuition dollar is spent on compliance with governmental regulations.”
I remember some years back asking why the state of Tennessee was even in the business of higher education. Why are my tax dollars funding any of this? A correspondent replied "Because it's too expensive for me to send my children to school without help." Apparently it never occurred to them that if they got to keep their tax money they may actually be able to afford this college education.

And at the other end of the education process--

Current House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh (D-Covington) looks toward the opening of the legislative session in January and writes:

The first round of pre-K expansion this fall is being financed with $25 million in excess lottery proceeds. As we move forward, we will need to commit additional funds out of existing revenues if we're going to realize the dream of offering prekindergarten to every 4-year-old in the state whose parents want him or her to attend.

Accomplishing that could prove politically difficult. Despite overwhelming support for pre-K, there still are some in the General Assembly who have exhibited short-sightedness and flawed logic when it comes to investing in our children. From the Memphis Commercial Appeal.

It is not 'short-sighted' for legislators to look into their constituent's wallets and see that we don't have the money you clearly want. What's short sighted is to begin a program knowing that the finances for that program are tenuous and 'politically difficult'.

I strongly recommend reading the Speaker's entire article.

Government as landlord--

That whole school board as landlord thing keeps popping up. After fussing about the terrible condition of the old Litton High School Gymnasium I realized I'd completely overlooked the Baxter Alternative Learning School, also in Inglewood. The school was in such bad condition that they built another one just down the road to replace it. BUT somehow it was good enough for those 'alternative' students. Never mind it was an eyesore to their neighbors we were told the school board didn't have the funds to fix it up. So the neighborhood business group took it upon themselves to do the job. And it seems the students are appreciating the effort.

And now comes news via Enclave that the renovations of Jones Paideia, saved from the brink, may not get the contracted renovations. He does provide some useful suggestions for community input.

Kingsport ALC---

The Kingsport Times-News supports the formation of an alternative school in their area.

Modern public schools, unlike a generation ago, are required to educate any student, short of truly violent criminal misbehavior.
Well, the system did this to themselves. They wanted compulsory attendance. They've got compulsory attendance and all that comes with it--to include meeting the needs of special needs children and badly behaving ones. The only real solution is to recognize that compulsion isn't the answer.

Speaking of punishment---

Thaddeus Matthews and his commenters have a fair amount to say about the issue in Memphis.

Supt. Carol Johnson and some of the members of the City of Memphis school board wanted to end corporal punishment and go to a program called Blue Ribbon.A program that will cost taxpayers $6,000,000 over 3 years. But is it working? Are we hearing about all the violence that is taking place now that we have given control of the schools to the students?

Friday, December 09, 2005

Plays well with others

It always seems odd to me when folks point at socialization as an issue with homeschoolers while refusing to play with them. Thankfully, TSSAA has finally recognized that their charges play homeschoolers in other states during tournaments and it no longer makes sense to disallow athletes within the state to play together.

The TSSAA issued a memo which oulines the changes in their Bylaws.

The Legislative Council amended Article IV, Section 1 to now state:

A member of the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association is permitted to play or scrimmage any secondary school with grades 9 and above in regular season play.

For purposes of this rule, a school team may be one school or a cooperative program of one or more schools.

We will also add the following to the definitions section:

School team – An entity comprised of one or more students in a school, under the control and conduct of the school, which represents the school in interscholastic athletic competition.

In amending the Bylaw, the Legislative Council also took action for this change to go into effect immediately.

As an attendee of the Senate Education sub-committee studying this issue it was my understanding that this is a first step for TSSAA in this area. There are still several issues to be worked out. But a step forward is good.

The legislation that encouraged this change (SB1356 and HB1297) also sought to allow homeschooler participation in public school extra-curricular activities such as music, art and drama. No word yet on what will be done in January to accomplish the rest of these goals. The current law allows this and more, but superintendents are very reluctant to give their permission--and their permission is required. The TEA has been adamant in their opposition.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Do not close any school

Here's MNPS Director of Schools Pedro Garcia's complete statement as released earlier today:

Dr. Garcia Statement to the Board of Education
Thursday, December 8, 2005

At its August retreat, the Board of Education listed as a priority the study of school
capacity issues across the district. The Metro Council and Mayor had all repeatedly asked us to look at this issue as well. In September, after the Sales Tax referendum failed, it became clear that budget reductions for 2006-2007 were going to be necessary. The Board asked us to look at which small schools could be closed or consolidated, without changing cluster lines, as a way to reduce recurring costs.

We immediately began to study the issue of school capacity across the district. It became apparent that there were only a few schools that could be closed or consolidated. At the November 8th Board meeting, I presented options for discussion and consideration.

After significant dialogue over the past several weeks, it is clearly evident that neither
this community nor this Board is ready to close schools. I initially said that the Board had to decide if it was worth it to disrupt and displace 2,000 students in order to save $4 million by closing seven schools. We know how painful school closures are and this has been evident in the comments from our students, parents, and community members, as well as in the Board discussions. Therefore, I recommend that we do not close any school for the 2006-07 school year. I also recommend that we do not change any of the present school configurations except for the proposed Antioch rezoning. This recommendation allows ample time for issues to be thoroughly studied for later consideration.

The process for the operating budget begins in just a few months and, as in the past, the Administration will bring its recommendation to the Board in March for consideration.

I want to remind everyone, as we move forward, that it is of the utmost importance that
this Administration and Board be united for the students, parents, and community of this district.
Well, that's good news for many areas. But that still leaves unanswered--what about the $25 million shortfall?

Garcia says...

Oh, wait, can I say what he said?

Not being a professional journalist I'm not completely familiar with what 'embargoed until 5:00 p.m. 11/8/05' means on the just released (3:50 p.m.) press release from Metro Nashville Public Schools. But I'm assuming it means I can't say what he says about closing schools [COUGH don't COUGH] until 5:00 p.m.

What rot. Seems a bit unfair and overly controlling if my assumption is correct. The news services can be working on this piece but we mere citizens can't know about it or discuss it until after they've had their shot at telling what is/ought to be public information and the MNPS office is closed? Who made that rule?

Stay tuned.

Here's a thought...

...real scientists teaching science--

The Thomas Fordham Institute has released a study of science in public schools.

Mr. [Paul R] Gross [the study's chief author] said that more critical [than evolution v. intelligent design] has been a retreat from an emphasis on all science instruction, which is leaving students ungrounded in basic subjects like biology, human physiology and the environment. From the NYTimes

and from the Fordham website comes this suggestion:

More involvement by bench scientists, and better editing, could greatly improve what’s out there.

Bench scientists--I'm all for encouraging people who actually know the subject being recruited and placed in our classrooms. I suspect we'd have less dogmatism about evolution and ID if such were so.

Here's the link to the Fordham study: The State of Science Standards 2005.

Diploma lite

Georgia is thinking like Tennessee and other states. Student's are having a hard time passing the necessary tests to get a high school diploma so the GA State Board of Education has:

approved a rule Wednesday that will give some students who repeatedly fail one portion of the high school graduation test a chance to get a diploma anyway. From AJC.
and let's not overlook the kicker at the end of the article:

Sean McKenzie, a northwest Georgia teacher, asked legislators to intervene last year on behalf of several of his Hispanic students who could not pass the test.

He said the students worked hard to learn the material, but they didn't speak English well enough to pass. He has said he doesn't think the new state rule goes far enough in making the process fair to students with language barriers.

Couldn't speak English well enough to pass the test. So how well are they really going to do in our society?
And if we allow this accomodation have we really provided the skills necessary to be successful? Or are they going to be limited to their own communities? Educrats continuously throw the socialization question in the face of homeschoolers--isn't this a fundamental socialization skill that shouldn't be overlooked?

Phonics wins again

An Australian coalition has published the newest report on phonics v. whole language and according to this news article whole language goes down hard--again.

The inquiry calls for schools to embrace "systematic direct phonics instruction so children master the essential alphabetic code-breaking skills required for foundational reading proficiency".

You can read the report from the AU government site here. They also have recommendations for parents at this page. The report tells parents that in the first three years of schooling children do best if there is an integrated approach to teaching reading that includes:
  • phonemic awareness: the ability to hear and manipulate the sounds in oral language
  • phonics: the relationship between letters and sounds
  • fluency: the ability to read quickly and naturally, recognize words automatically, and group words quickly
  • vocabulary knowledge: new words and what they mean; and
  • text comprehension: understand what is being read and developing higher order thinking skills.
Homeschoolers can tell you from experience that MOST children do well with systematic phonics instruction. It's not difficult to teach and it can be done inexpensively. I used the same $25.00 book for each of my own four children. So for $6.25 each and a library card they were well on their way to reading Lord of the Rings and Shakespeare as well as math and science texts. And their mother, a voracious reader despite learning via the Dick and Jane method, learned to read even better. Parents: if your child's school isn't utilizing phonics, take the job on yourself--it's worth the time.

This skill is too important for 'experimenting' with. My own brother suffered from a reading experiment in the '60's. I don't' wish that on any child. In my conversations with a juvenile parole officer it's not unusual for their charges to suffer from the inability to read well. That leads to frustration which leads to acting out. We've got to get this right. This skill is the first most important step to being a self-sufficient adult and citizen.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005


More and more I hear from parents who are tired of performing what's being called "afterschooling". Their child is up early, boards a bus (carpool) spends all day in the school and then carts home an impressive burden of books and assignments that eat up what precious little family time there is with homework. They wonder what on earth is actually being taught in school if so much of it still has to be done at home?

I ran into Glenn Reynold's piece today which comes complete with a photo of the book burden his young daughter must lug around. It appears that obesity in children may be necessary to keep them from just toppling over. Anyway, Glen writes:

Given that they seem to find time during the school day to have kids write D.A.R.E. essays in which they promise that alcohol will never touch their lips, I wonder why they can't find enough class time to get all this work done during the school day?

Some of these parents are using the term 'homeschooling' to describe the tutoring they do their own children in the evenings. My experience tells me that it's not too far from the truth and some parents have figured out that if they can do 'afterschooling' they can do homeschooling. In fact, it'll be easier once you don't have to interface with the school system.

There are studies about how homework impacts family life, reports of parents who handle the issue badly and newspaper living sections now devote inches and inches to the issue. But the question remains unanswered.

Why can't it all get done during the day?

Of all the social issues that schools might impact for the positive, family life and interaction ought to be very high on the list. A friend of mine (Hey, JJ) points out that we're creating a Chinese knot of sorts with parents taking on the education of the children at home and the schools taking on the parenting at school and working at cross purposes. Only coming together or dropping your end is going to bring freedom to either party.

Oh, and Glenn...Spunky thinks you ought to just drop your end and homeschool already. ;-)

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

TCAP changes

are causing TIGER (Tennessee Initiative for Gifted Education Reform) to put out an action alert.

Recent changes to the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP) hamper screening and identification of special education students including intellectually gifted students and prevent students from entering academic talent searches.
Read the rest at the TIGER website and voice your opinions.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Pre-school problems

A portent of things to come?

California is dealing with universal preschool. They used Quebec's version as a model and...well, it turns out it's not going very well up there. This from Lisa Snell and Shikha Dalmia

The final price tag for Quebec's day care program is 33 times what was originally projected: It was supposed to cost $230 million over five years, but now gobbles $1.7 billion every year.

With this kind of spending, one would think that Quebec was offering top-notch day care to every tot, toddler and teen.

Think again.

Much of the increased spending has gone not toward increased access, but increased costs. Day care worker unions, on the threat of strike, negotiated a 40 percent increase in wages over four years. The cost of care has doubled since the program began, with the annual per-infant cost now exceeding $15,000. From SFGate

Now go read what Simply I has posted about the Pre-K quagmire that's begun in Tennessee.

Who's up for this?

From Mike Antonucci's latest EIA update:

Six-Month Newspaper Investigation of Illinois Teacher Tenure. Here's a D-Day type effort you rarely see newspapers put together for an education story. The Small Newspaper Group, publishers of a handful of small, Midwestern papers, filed some 1,500 public records requests with all of Illinois' public school districts to learn how often they attempted to fire a tenured teacher. The results: In the past 18 years, 93 percent of the state's districts have never even tried to fire a tenured teacher. Of the more than 95,000 tenured teachers in the state, an average of only two per year are fired for poor job performance.

Illinois Education Association (IEA) President Ken Swanson had called the notion that you cannot fire a tenured teacher in Illinois "an urban legend." Judge for yourself. The Small Newspaper Group has set up a web site that will contain all the stories in the series, a discussion forum and links to the series' supporting documents. It is located at

I'd sure like to see how Tennessee measures up.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

It's Christmas

Apparently last evening's Channel 2 piece of the Nashville Christmas Tree got S-Town Mike worked up. Brittney at NiT had to respond and so must I.

I saw the broadcast. I don't remember the blessing. I do remember Bob Mueller saying that the mayor's office didn't care what 'the tree' was called. And then Bob Mueller said they'd (Channel 2) be calling it a Christmas tree. I understood it to be an attempt at humor in light of the current brouhaha across the nation.

Brittney called it a 'paper thin' piece. Please, it's not like the station hasn't broadcast 'paper thin' pieces before. It's not all hard hitting investigative journalism all the time at any of the stations or papers. But sometimes the fluff is a bit obvious, I'll grant.

We call it a Christmas tree. We understand it's pagan roots and I don't believe it keeps us some celebrating the birth of Jesus (and yes we know we can't nail down the real date). But I appreciate recognition of his birth, death and resurrection. I don't expect any of us to get that done perfectly.

I was at Target the other morning to buy a new smoke detector for my MIL. It was oddly silent as I entered the front and it took me a moment to realize why it seemed wrong. And then it came to me--there was no Salvation Army bell ringer out front. And then my daughter and I scanned the place, which was decorated to the nines, and we could only find one instance of the word Christmas and it was on a product. In fact while the decorations were obviously seasonal, Christmas was nowhere and even the word holiday was scarce.

I don't want our businesses and governments to be the definers and protectors of my religious holy days. But I do want the freedom to celebrate them without being constrained by the government and business. I do feel that between our bending over backwards to accommodate diversity in this nation and the commercialization of the season we've lost our focus on what Christmas is supposed to celebrate. Blame it on Macy's, I suppose. Maybe it started with that famous "Yes, Virginia" letter. I don't' know. But I do grieve when people are constrained from wishing each other, with the best of intentions, "Merry Christmas". When folks are more willing to embrace a fat stalker in ermine rather than a loving God's attempt to prove he understands us and loves us there is something majorly wrong.