Monday, August 29, 2011

The Great Decline

I'm currently reading The Decline and Fall of the British Empire, which has me thinking about declines in general. I'm starting to believe that when The Decline and Fall of the American Empire is written, one of the core reasons given for the decline will be the stubborn and poisonous ignorance of the American people, beginning in the last half of the last century (although the seeds were probably planted long before that). Krugman talks a little about that today.
Now, we don’t know who will win next year’s presidential election. But the odds are that one of these years the world’s greatest nation will find itself ruled by a party that is aggressively anti-science, indeed anti-knowledge. And, in a time of severe challenges — environmental, economic, and more — that’s a terrifying prospect.

LATER: As further evidence, I give you this recent thread in the IJ. (See the comments.) Heartbreaking, really.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

It's an Ill Wind

But not as bad as advertised. We've got mud where the geothermal dig happened, and the ground is spongy and the sky is gray, but we did not lose power, and we probably would have been fine if we'd left the patio furniture where it was rather than storing it in the barn.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Teacher Evals

The courts have knocked down Cuomo's plan for teacher evaluations by deciding that some of the tests that evaluations are based on may be chosen by districts.

Since NYS belongs to a consortium that is phasing in Next Generation Assessments aligned with the Common Core Standards in 2014, and since those tests will happen four times a year instead of just one, it's hard to imagine how additional local tests will be squeezed in.

Assume one day per test for ELA/Math, and you already will spend over 4 percent of the school year just testing students. (That doesn't count the time spent away from teachers as they grade the tests and students sit and watch movies with substitutes.) And now you're going to add local assessments to that mix? Or is everyone assuming that this plan is just for three years, and then the Regents will come up with something brand new?

Well, at least Pearson is getting rich off the deal.

Monday, August 22, 2011


A whirlwind trip to enjoy the BB Hall of Fame and the opera.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Primary Candidate Endorsements

The IJ, ever-dwindling, is allowing 50 words apiece for endorsement letters this year and publishing them as a stream-of-consciousness.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Go Ahead, Secede

Seriously. Do it. Soon.

LATER: More.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Caucus Reminders

Too often, we hold town caucuses that feature only committee members. This year, I think we'll get more attention, because the issues are important. Dryden's Democratic caucus is August 23 at 7:30 at Town Hall.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Cut Scores

Well, it's just too much of a pain to append a table in Blogger, so I'll simply report briefly on the 3–8 2010 test scores for Dryden. Statewide across the grades, 52.8 percent of students succeeded in ELA, which is to say they scored a 3 or 4 rather than a 1 or 2. Statewide, 63.3 percent of students succeeded in math, ditto. It's fair to say that these are not good numbers. In most places, 52.8 percent is not a passing grade.

And Dryden? At DES, students in grades 3, 4, and 5 came in below those statewide means in ELA and math. At Cassavant, where only 20 took the test in grade 3, students did much better, which is to say that 70 percent passed both ELA and math. At Dryden Middle School, students in grade 6 ELA beat the mean, but students in 7 and 8 and in 6, 7, and 8 math did not.

There will be a lot of chat in the upcoming days about "it's a snapshot, not the whole picture" plus comparisons and contrasts among districts and across years. I have stopped caring about all that. What I care about right now is the fact that only half of our students (and not many more statewide) are passing a test that supposedly assesses overall performance in reading and math.

Here's a statistic that might give you pause: Our community colleges spend $2 billion annually on remediation, yet fewer than a quarter of those remedial students earn an associate's degree college within eight years.

Well, when things look bad, change the test. That's what will happen in 2014, when we start phasing in Next Generation Assessments based on the Common Core State Standards. The good news is that those tests will be standards-based and correlated through those standards to requirements for college and career. They will require a lot more in the way of long answers and project-y type work rather than just multiple choice and an occasional essay. The bad news is that it's hard to imagine kids doing better (and easy to imagine them faring far, far worse) on those more rigorous tests than they did on the ones they just took.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Transactional vs. Transformational

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is one of the few progressives at the top of the NYS ticket, and he was the guest speaker at the TC Dems' annual fundraiser yesterday. Prior to that, a few of us sat down with him at the Statler, where he held forth on an issue dear to his heart, the need for transformational progressive politics. His indictment of "checklist liberals" in The Nation should be required reading for every grassroots activist who thinks that it's all about getting 'er done rather than changing the language of the debate and moving forward incrementally toward a grand goal.

I'll be talking about this soon with local activists who worked hard to push through the no-fracking change to town zoning but who are now starting to recognize that politics is actually part of this process. It does matter who gets elected or re-elected in November, and fracking or no fracking is just part of a much larger issue: How should we get and use energy? What do we want that to look like, not just this year and next year, but ten and twenty years from now? How does that connect with climate change, and what makes climate change a local issue? Most important, how do we talk about all that in a way that brings people over to our side? I'm excited to hear their ideas; many people involved in that movement are fiercely outside of party politics and don't like to consider their activism political at all. But it is.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Required Reading

Psychologist Drew Westin on the hopes and fears many of us share about our president.
That a large section of the country views him as a socialist while many in his own party are concluding that he does not share their values speaks volumes — but not the volumes his advisers are selling: that if you make both the right and left mad, you must be doing something right.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Geothermal Day One

Well, they ran our well dry keeping the engine cool and hit bedrock and had to redesign the plan, but things got started today....

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Dryden Bans Drilling

It's not yet in our paper of record, but last night the Dryden Town Board voted unanimously to keep gas drilling at bay. That's three Democrats, one independent, and a Republican, y'all.

LATER: A day late and a dollar short, the IJ weighs in. Nearly all of the comments so far are negative.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Reading List

And yet another dour Swede, this one a master of plotting. Sort of a cross between Joseph Wambaugh and Graham Greene, with a little LeCarre thrown in. Difficult and dense, but quite good, and in its way much more caustic about the fatherland than any of the others I've read. It's interesting that two of the four dour Swedes I've read recently hint around at Olof Palme's early connection to the CIA (as opposed to the KGB, which is the more popular belief). Sadly, this is Persson's only book in English translation. I love his characters and would like to read more.