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Monday, March 19, 2012

Another Angle on the Tucson Mexican-American Studies Program Cancellation

Mexican Whiteboy from AmazonMichael Winerip this week helps keep the story alive about the unfair cancellation of Tucson's Mexican-American Studies program in Racial Lens Used to Cull Curriculum in Arizona. Winerip tells of Tucson High School junior Ana Verdugo's campaign to bring the author of one of her favorite books, Mexican WhiteBoy, to speak at the school. The book by Matt de la Peña was one that was banned by state officials from being taught in classes at Tucson for containing "critical race theory," but was allowed to remain on shelves for student leisure reading. Verdugo says of the book, "Most books I read, I don’t know the people. This book is the truth." Winerip found de la Peña's novel to be "pretty much the American dream."

There's a somewhat happy ending to Winerip's article, as Verdugo worked to raise the speaking fee for Mr. de la Peña, who in turn used the fee to donate copies of his books to the students at Tucson High School. Of course, teaching de la Peña's story of being "too white for Mexican kids, too brown for whites" is still illegal in Arizona. And Winerip does an excellent job of telling the story of how this injustice happened.

Pay Teachers Like CEOs?

Walt Gardner's Pay Teachers Like CEOs last Friday on his Reality Check blog on Education Week struck a responsive chord in me. He takes on the current rationale for merit pay based on questionable high stakes tests that says "that this strategy is how top executives in business are evaluated and compensated." Instead of pointing out all the known fallacies of the current merit pay and value-added fad in evaluating teachers, he deftly points out that the rationale "is dead wrong." He quotes Nell Minow in Executive Decisions on The New Republic, "CEOs are different: They are almost certainly the only category of Americans who regularly get rewarded for failure with massive amounts of money." He adds that following the corporate pay for performance standard "will lead to mass firings in education when they are not deserved. And unlike CEOs who leave with huge severance packages despite their failure at the helm, teachers will leave with nothing but the pensions they've paid into during their days in the classroom."

Possibly what struck me about Walt's article beyond the obvious wisdom of performance pay being a bad idea in education was a recent, one-sided dustup I had with a highly paid CEO who presides over a home improvement chain that hasn't really gone anywhere but down under his governance. I told the sad story about my dealings with Lowe's overpaid and underperforming CEO in January in Answer Your Mail, Robert A. Niblock!

Odds 'n' Ends

Other than Winrip and Gardner's articles, this has been an all odds 'n' ends Monday. Maybe there just wasn't any school news this weekend beyond March Madness. Or it could be that I just got lazy with my searches. Who knows? But maybe no news is good news in this time of school privatization and phony school "reform."

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Habitat for Humanity Web banners: Get Involved Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Your Daily Bashing

A new education report, U.S. Education Reform and National Security, was released yesterday. If you don't want to read it, be assured that it tells how woefully unprepared our students are when they leave school, giving the impression that we've all been slackers and have just been goofing off our whole careers. As an added bonus, the media has begun using yellow press headlines inspired by the report's title that should properly inflame public opinion to follow the report's suggestions for more testing, more choice, and of course, holding those dammed, lazy teachers accountable. (Well, maybe they didn't say damned.)

So if you've had one of those rare breakthrough days recently where you really made a difference in a kid's life and were feeling good about teaching, forget it. You suck.

Here's a sampling of the "enlightened" headlines:

For a more honest appraisal of the report, I'd suggest:

Florida Parents Step Up Big Time

Diane Ravitch's The Lesson of Florida is a posting that should give us all hope in the battle against corporate takeover of our nation's public schools. Ravitch briefly tells the story of parents across Florida mobilizing to pressure their legislature not to pass the so-called "parent trigger" law that would have enabled corporate charter takeovers of many more public schools in the state.

On the Blogs

I haven't been posting links to Organized Chaos this year, as I switched over to a whole new list of blogs last fall. But I still follow the adventures there, and two postings last week were outstanding. New Confidence tells about the incredible change in a child's interaction due to a new piece of assistive technology. Wet (pants) just sorta gives an idea of what it's like sometimes to be a special educator.

Mike Rose has posted the second part of a great speech he gave at the 2011 meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Rethinking Remedial Education and the Academic-Vocational Divide, Part II.

Larry Cuban turned over his blog to guest blogger Chris Myers Asch for an excellent posting, The Inadvertent Bigotry of Inappropriate Expectations.

Leo Casey's The Organization That Dare Not Speak Its Name on Edwise is a dandy exposé of...oops, I'm not supposed to speak their name.

Larry Ferlazzo suggested this week that Humanline Might Be A Good Source For Images. The site reminded me a bit of the Library of Congress site, only a bit more "museumy," but their stuff is free for educational use in the classroom.

Odds 'n' Ends

The Trekking the Planet folks have sailed from Sydney and are on their way to Singapore and two months in Asia.

I was seriously considering "calling in sick" for this posting until I read about the Rice-Klein report. Having shoveled out a (pickup) truckload of aggregate, followed by a (pickup) truckload of "topsoil plus," I'm tired, sore, and a bit grumpy. But when you're the sole proprietor of an operation, who do you call? And I gladly did those tasks of my own choosing, getting to work outside on a gloriously warm day. Even the "plus" from the topsoil (composted horse manure) reminded me of pleasant days with my sons at the county fair.

Old fart story alert: Back in the days when one could accumulate lots and lots of sick days, we used to joke about calling in sick on the first day of school for the whole school year!

March of Dimes

Friday, March 23, 2012

New York Times Reduces Free Articles per Month

I wondered when the New York Times announced its new online subscription plan last March if allowing folks 20 free articles per month wasn't a bit generous. It would appear that 20 free views per month, plus other exceptions and workarounds, allowed most readers to pass on the Times' rather pricey rates for unlimited access. This week the paper began adding pop-ups at the bottom of some articles informing readers, "Beginning in April, visitors to NYTimes.com will have access to 10 free articles per month instead of 20," with pages of exceptions and subscription plans linked.

When I took a look at the online subscription rates, something didn't seem right, so I checked the rates offered last March for comparison. It appears the Times is considerably boosting the price of each subscription plan along with cutting free access for non-subscribers.

NYT mar2011 rates NYT mar2012 rates

Note: I added the 26 week totals in red for the various subscription plans pictured above.

The Times first ventured into charging for online content back in 2005 with their TimesSelect subscription plan. In abandoning it two years later, Vivian Schiller, then a senior vice president for NYTimes.com, stated:

Since we launched TimesSelect in 2005, the online landscape has altered significantly. Readers increasingly find news through search, as well as through social networks, blogs and other online sources. In light of this shift, we believe offering unfettered access to New York Times reporting and analysis best serves the interest of our readers, our brand and the long-term vitality of our journalism. We encourage everyone to read our news and opinion – as well as share it, link to it and comment on it.

I'm not sure there's been all that much change since 2007 in the way we access news online. Obviously, the Times' need to generate more revenue via online subscriptions is a gamble that readership (and subsequent ad revenues) won't plummet, as they apparently did under the failed TimesSelect plan. They're taking a tremendous chance for what appears to be a few bucks at losing their editorial voice that is part of what has made the Times and American institution.

I know that since the 20 article per month limit was imposed a year ago, my reading and linking habits have changed. The same story equally well covered in the Times and another source will be linked here to the other, free source almost every time. And I hate to admit that I sometimes just don't click through to some stories that could have been of value here on EdNews because I'm watching my article limit, or don't want to employ some of the workarounds I've discovered to extend the limit (and which could stop working at any time). The same standard applies to online publications such as Education Week, to which I do subscribe, but limit links only to their free content.

Over the years, the Times' has provided some great news coverage, commentary, and editorials about education. I hate to see access to that content limited.

Odds 'n' Ends

Talk about your weird postings! I sorta got off on a mini-rant about the New York Times, but once written, that turned out to be almost the total content here today. Looking back to my 2002 column about Macintosh web sites going to subscription plans, The Tin Cup Syndrome, I find my opinion of such plans hasn't changed much over the years. But I also recognize that folks have to turn a profit to stay in business.

Have a great weekend!

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