Saturday, June 30, 2007

Interactive Map

Here's a fun interactive map that shows exactly why those of us who work on state tests think national standards are the only sensible way to go. Find a panel of 50 educators, one from each state, develop standards that are simple and consistent, and design a test to assess them. If you think you have local control now, you haven't been paying attention.

* Did you know that: Indiana and California have essentially the same standards? Why, I'll never know. As far as I know, they're the only two that correlate.
* Did you know that: the NYSED website is one of the worst-designed and hardest to navigate of all 50 state ed sites? It appears to have been set up by trained orangutans.
* Did you know that: a student who aces the NC test could likely fail the MI test?
There are really just a few of us in the biz who look at enough different state tests to know how disparate they are across the board.

Friday, June 29, 2007

The March of Resegregation

Well, it's official. The decades-long experiment that was the only thing that stood in the way of complete segregation in this country is over. It doesn't affect Dryden in any way, of course, but even the halfhearted attempts to even out racial diversity in Ithaca will probably go by the wayside. Neighborhood schools are segregated schools, because the move toward integration never managed to extend out into the community. Poor Clarence Thomas. He truly believes he got where he is on his own merits. I agree with Breyer that “It is not often in the law that so few have so quickly changed so much.” And although I think the decision is a disaster, I'm pleased that it got the justices so riled up. It's about time our side got mad. Judicial activism, legislating from the bench--everything they've accused our side of doing has just been done.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Summer Shapes Up

Paul's taking the week off, so he's off playing in a golf tournament all day with workmates and their relatives, some of whom are golf pros or former CU golf team members. O and I are into our summer schedule, traditional when she's not in camp. I work all morning, and she has a little calendar with an activity for us to do each afternoon. This week, we're swimming laps at TC3 MWF, we saw a movie in Cortland T (Surf's Up), and we're mini-golfing Th. Other typical activities might involve swimming at Hope Lake or Waneta (if we have most of the day free); visiting the Museum of the Earth, the History Museum, or the Johnson Art Museum; driving out of town to the Syracuse Zoo or Roseland Water Park or the Harriet Tubman House; etc. She starts Japanese lessons with an IC student from Japan this Friday afternoon.

Meanwhile, PZ writes from Dubai to question Dryden's new Athletic Code.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Just Painful

Last night's board meeting lasted till 1 AM, when we finally all agreed that we could no longer agree on anything. We divvied up some "found" money (really money the admin had overbudgeted), and I did manage to keep any of it from being spent on other than one-time purchases--one of which will be consulting help for the cafeteria program, at last. We approved a new, very strict code of conduct for athletes--one that requires full-day attendance and does not permit even proximity to alcohol and other drugs. It should be interesting to see how that works. On the one hand, it's pretty unrealistic. On the other hand, it gives some kids who might need an excuse a fairly strong one. We approved going ahead with the "First Annual Dryden Dash for Charity," a road race kids want to set up to benefit the Make-a-Wish Foundation. We talked a lot about raising lunch and breakfast prices by 25 cents but split down the middle and tabled it. We did approve a tentative dollar figure toward a new cafeteria point-of-sale program, but the program itself has not yet been selected. We heard from the administration on new class-size goals--20 or below for K-3, 20-24 for 4-8, and 20-25 for core classes at the HS, with a lower range of 10 and up for AP/Dual Credit courses and 24-26 for PE. I got to bed around 2. Ouch.

Required Reading

This is such a fascinating story, even if you think you know it already. The Washington Post is doing a three-part series on Cheney and his office, focusing on what makes this unlike any VP-Pres relationship that went before. Chilling.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Tonight's Agenda

See here for tonight's agenda. The most (only?) interesting parts will be the report from the lunch program on the software she wishes to purchase--a package Paul turned down at Newfield--and the report on class size from the administrators. O and I went in before swimming at TC3 today and checked over the new textbooks we're to approve tonight, most of which are just dandy.

The next meeting (July 9) is the reorganizational meeting at which we get committee assignments.

Paul's Sunday

We picked berries at Brookside Saturday, and here are the results. More to come; there's still a bowl in the fridge.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

British Politics

PZ sent along this ferocious article, which outlines the differences between the British loathing of politicians and our own "hate the guy, respect the office" mantra. I guess I'd always thought that if it weren't for Iraq, Tony Blair might be beloved. Apparently not.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Edwards Walks the Line

Here's a disturbing article about Edwards's money-raising for poverty, nearly all of which seems to have gone into keeping him viable.

Friday, June 22, 2007

If You Can't Stand the Heat, Abolish the Kitchen

Carrie sends this story of Cheney's office's shenanigans--refusing an order from National Archives for oversight of classified documents, and when challenged, trying to get rid of the oversight office. My favorite part is the section where they declare themselves not an entity within the executive branch, which observation I think would lead to a failing grade on "Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?"

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Moving Up

Happy summer! Today O "moves up," which is the modern equivalent to graduation from elementary school. Big excitement at our house. The Big Zs are coming, and we're all going to lunch afterward.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007


PZ writes from Kabul,
". . .where the suicide bombers run rampant on a field d’or. Actually things here are pretty calm for the moment, after the big bomb blast two days ago (I had the pleasure of seeing the bus shell go by on a flatbed on my way in from the airport). I actually like being here after a blast – it usually means some time of relative quiet. It’s the long spells of quiet that make me nervous."
I like the very silly pseudo-Sopranos video the Hillary crowd put together, though I hate the song choice.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007


Randy Kuhl just said "No." Maurice Hinchey and Mike Arcuri had nothing to say.

CNN called all 435 Representatives in Congress to ask them to release the list of earmarks they had requested this year. The results are rather--I don't know--sad???

Monday, June 18, 2007

Healthy Americans

I'd been hearing laudatory things from middle-of-the-roaders (as opposed to our usual universal health-care pundits) about this health care plan from Oregonian Wyden, so I thought I'd give it a look. You can, too.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Required Reading

Maureen Dowd in today's NYT. She's getting better after several years of lightweight commentary. Today she talks about the Obama campaign's inept critique of Hillary's finances, saying:
One question I’d like to ask the Leo who would be First Lad: When you rake in $10 million a year from speeches, do you really need that $150,000 for speaking to the Boys and Girls Club of L.A.?
She then homes in on the question that many of us are asking:
Obama is too busy modeling to make this point, but the Clinton financial disclosures raise a big question: Do we want the country run again by a couple who get so easily wrapped around the fingers of anyone who is rich? As long as a guy was willing to give them millions, would it matter if his name were Al Capone?

Saturday, June 16, 2007

On the Road Again

PZ writes that he's off to Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Mongolia, China, and then Tibet, all in the course of the next six weeks. In Mongolia, he's leading a trip involving potential donors in a part of the Gobi where he's never been. In the other places, he's either putting out fires in existing programs or looking for people and making plans to handle nascent programs. He returns July 26. We visit him in the new house we still haven't seen the next day, July 27.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Things Weren't Bad Enough?

The Pentagon has released a report decrying the mental health of Iraq vets, of whom some 40% have minor to psychotic symptoms, with at least 25% needing serious care. This is odd, because it was just a year ago that they said there was no problem. Here's a thought: Maybe they just want the extra $30 million for the war effort.

Champions of Character

OK, raise your hand if you think "Character Education" is a slick way of sneaking religion in the back door of our schools.

Nevertheless, the Champions of Character Celebration at Dryden Elementary School was lovely. Each class was assigned a character trait, which they illustrated with a description of how they practice it. The puppets were grand.

Thursday, June 14, 2007


Behold the evil deerfly, which primarily inhabits our driveway. At the bus stop yesterday, I received two bites on my palm from its saw-like mandibles. My hand promptly swelled up to catcher's mitt proportions, and the itch extended to my shoulder. After antihistimines and ice, today it just feels like a bad bruise. SAZ is allergic enough to horseflies, deerflies' larger cousins, to need immediate injections of epinephrine if he encounters one. In addition to nasty biting behavior, deerflies can carry tularemia, which is vicious enough to be considered a potential biological weapon. Usually they transmit it to rabbits, which then transmit it to humans. Martha's Vineyard, where we'll be vacationing July 22-27, is the only place where people have contracted tularemia by lawnmowing over rabbit parts and inhaling the bacterium.

I really hate deerflies. Do they serve any useful purpose?

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Board Meeting, Cortland Standard Style

Here's the coverage of Monday's meeting. Ida's usually good, but she missed the point of my remark about the Home & Careers position, which was--why should we consider putting the Business position back, just because Linda Bruno was there to advocate for it, when the also-cut Home & Careers position affects far more students? As always, we're rewarding the squeaky wheel without making a more reasonable, data-driven decision. It's the number-one fault of most boards, I think.


We had a mad lightning display last night and some big raindrops, followed by a crazy-looking sky. Click on the pic to see the full effect:

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Bored of Education

Midnight! That's when we got out of our second executive session. It was just like the old days when I was first on the Board. Everyone was telling me how SHORT the meetings had been lately, so clearly, it's me.

I did talk a lot. I aggravated: (1) the cafeteria director, by suggesting that the new cafeteria software contained hidden costs she hadn't mentioned (a dedicated server, training for employees); (2) the tech person, by suggesting that we put in the policy she presented a mandate that all teachers use the district's incredibly expensive website-producing software to create websites, instead of allowing 75% of them to ignore its existence; (3) the head of the business department, by saying that although her advocacy for her department was admirable, the position she wanted to add back in post-budget-vote was a perfect example of the squeaky-wheel, knee-jerk crap the Board (and all boards) is reviled for.

I won grudging assent on (1), and she will bring us true costs next time. I lost (2) to the superintendent, who prefers a gentler, peer-based method of getting teachers to develop websites (which I think means we'll never see it happen). But he did promise to talk to the administrative team about the issue and maybe to incorporate it into the mentoring program. I mostly lost (3), because at least two Board members wanted to review the situation next meeting (we have some surplus this year that they might want to apply to the position, which is a terrible use of one-time money, but oh, well).

Now I get to remember what Tuesdays are like on 5 hours of sleep.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Required Reading

Krugman(yes, again!) in the NYT on the myth of "authenticity" in politicians and how the question we should be asking is "Whose interests will be served if this person is elected?"

So smart.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Tomorrow's Board Meeting

Here's the agenda. We're honoring O's fabulous band teacher, who very much deserves it. We're granting an inordinate number of people tenure. We're honoring retirees, some of whom have been there over 30 years. We're hearing a report from the cafeteria director. (The cafeteria is in the red to the tune of a couple hundred thousand.) We're abolishing a number of co-curricular positions. We're discussing the technology acceptable use policy, about which I have several questions. We have at least 1 1/4 hours of executive session before the meeting even begins.

I expect to raise issues about (1) the cafeteria software the cafeteria director hopes to purchase, (2) the fact that we spend a grand amount on software that helps teachers create websites, yet we don't require them to create websites, and many/most teachers do not, and (3) why we need a copy aide and whether that isn't, in fact, just the kind of position that might be considered "fluff."

Should be a long, long night.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Dairy Day

It's Dryden Dairy Day. Last night it was 90 degrees and thundering. Today started out sunny and bright at 6 AM but is now cloudy and quite cool. Still, it's better than the freezing drizzle of 2006 or the stifling humidity of 2005. I'll post the pix later.


Former Mayor & County Legislator Mike Lane, Town Board Member David Makar, County Legislator Martha Robertson, Town Board Member Mary Ann Sumner, Dan Lamb, Jason Leifer, Village Trustee Mary Ellen Bossack, kids

Friday, June 8, 2007

Required Reading

Paul Krugman in today's NYT on how the media have failed us by reviewing the debates as entertainment, not in terms of factual errors.
In Tuesday’s Republican presidential debate, Mitt Romney completely misrepresented how we ended up in Iraq. Later, Mike Huckabee mistakenly claimed that it was Ronald Reagan’s birthday.

Guess which remark The Washington Post identified as the “gaffe of the night”?
In case we don't recognize the seriousness of this, Krugman reminds us of the Gore-Bush debate in 2000, in which Gore rolled his eyes at Bush's lies and errors. Because the media focused on Gore's sighs, Krugman posits, we ended up with a president who lies.

I absolutely believe this.

There are lots of books about the intersection of media and politics. One I recommend, which is sadly o/p, is On Bended Knee by Mark Hertsgaard, on the Reagan years.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Class Size Flap

I am perusing a summary of the literature our DCS librarian put together for us on the subject of class size. It appears that it makes a big difference at the primary years and not a whit of difference by secondary school, which is pretty much what you might have guessed.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Grading the Debaters, part deux

I put the "deux" in for Tancredo. But I really can't grade them, because, embarrassingly, I can't tell them apart. I wished for little squibs with names on them, because although I know Giuliani (who looked both little and old) and McCain (ditto) and Tommy Thompson (and Romney's the guy with the glowing teeth and tan), I can't tell Tancredo from Duncan Hunter. I finally was able to remember that Huckabee had the green tie. And Ron Paul, of course, is the Gravel of the GOP, so I could pick him out of the crowd.

All except Ron Paul are okay with nuking Iran. That was really all I needed to know. Tancredo obviously had some childhood trauma that has led him to his position on immigration; future biographers may be able to ferret it out, but I believe it disqualifies him. Huckabee scares me with his "culture of life" stuff, which I get confused with "Circle of Life" in The Lion King.

More later; time to drive O to school.

LATER: Now I'm confused; maybe it was Sam Brownback who scared me, not Huckabee. Actually, I think they both scared me. And Jim Gilmore IS Duncan Hunter.

Best moments: Lightning knocking out Giuliani's sound as he talked about his position on abortion; McCain speaking sincerely about Hispanics in the military and their other contributions to our culture.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

If You Care

The GOP candidates are "debating" on CNN at 7 tonight. Meanwhile, Fred (DA Arthur Branch)Thompson gets closer to diving in. The sweat you smell is coming from Rudy and John McC as they watch their undecideds glom onto ol' Freddie.

John Greets Spring

Okay, okay, I get it, it's spring, I'm awake, feed me.

Monday, June 4, 2007

LOL ; )

Those of us wondering how the Brave New World of interactive media will affect the 2008 election must check out Joel Stein's piece in TIME this week. Too funny.

Grading the Debaters

Well, I for one appreciated the debaters' refusal to fall into the Wolf Blitzer traps. Wherever possible, he tried to get them to beat up on each other or make blanket statements about invented scenarios, and for the most part, they refused.
Biden: A. He was fiery in a good way, and even where I don't agree with him, he was knowledgeable and convincing.
Clinton: A. A solid performance, somewhat professorial--no surprises, but the new focus seems to be on the GOP, not the other Dems, which is very smart.
Dodd: B-. He answered the questions, unlike some others, but had little flair.
Edwards: A. He came out swinging, which worked to a point, but he was actually better on areas other than Iraq. Still the best speaker of the bunch.
Gravel: C-. Too cantankerous by far. As Mark would say, "Too much truth???" I don't entirely disagree with his assessment of the other candidates, whom he despises, but I think he's borderline nuts.
Kucinich: A-.He was very well-spoken and much less loony than in some other appearances. But does anyone believe that this guy can rid the world of nukes?
Obama: B+. He scored points against Edwards, but as is often the case, his responses were vague and general rather than bold and specific.
Richardson: D+. He never answered a question directly, but always fell back on his stump speech. He gives a wonderful speech but appears unable to think on his feet. It's a shame, really--coming out of the February DNC meeting, he impressed me most.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Tired, But Not Angry

Today Frank Rich posits that people are drawn to Barack Obama and Fred Thompson because they feed our desire for "the mood pendulum to swing" away from anger and into conciliation.

You can see whether you're angry or just plain tired as you watch the Dem "Debates" on CNN tonight (7 PM). Something tells me that I'll end up both tired and angry.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Cultural Mix

We're having O's cousin Zoe to dinner tonight, so I'm making an ayurvedic cauliflower, asparagus, daikon, and rice dish, since she's on her way to a retreat in CA and is drinking only ghee. But since I'm also feeding Paul and O, I'm grilling burgers, too. Somewhere, a yogi is spinning in his grave.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Rufous-Sided Towhee

I was surprised to see this fellow and his somewhat duller wife on the back porch this morning. They were picking around in the thistle seeds the goldfinches had dumped.