Create panic, herd the stampede

In old western movies, the bad guys would try to get their way by stampeding the cattle herd of the good guys, knowing that the least that would happen is a lot of destruction, even if they couldn’t exactly control the stampede. Destruction, even mindless destruction, is good for bad guys — in the movies.

I’m not sure why that image popped into my mind this morning. I was reading about the vouchers election campaign in Utah, and then I was looking around the Strong American Schools (SAS) website  (“ED in ’08”).

Strong American Schools is a project of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, two of the largest philanthropic organizations in the world, have provided grant funding for Strong American Schools.
Roy Romer, the former governor of Colorado and most recently superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, is our chairman and lead spokesman.

At the SAS site I found an interactive map of the U.S., you can roll your cursor on a state and see that state’s graduation rate. ED in '08, campaign from Rockefeller and Gates Foundations

What’s the most-often stated reason for vouchers in Utah? Somehow, the schools are failing.

Which state in the U.S. has the highest graduation rates? At 84% of students graduating from high school, Utah leads the nation in that category. New Jersey is #2 at 80%, and most other states lag 10 to 20 points behind.

What are the Utah voucher advocates using to show “failing schools” when the state leads the nation in graduation?

If Utah leads the nation in graduation, with per capita spending on students in schools ranking near the bottom of the states over the last decade or three, what factor is pulling students from least spending to best graduation? It’s probably the teachers.

Excuse me while I wonder: Why are Utah voters (and the rest of us) in this hand basket, and where are we going in such a damned hurry?

5 Responses to Create panic, herd the stampede

  1. Pam says:

    EdD, But the data are available elsewhere. I can’t find one original piece of information at the site. Are you sure this isn’t Karl Rove in drag? a.k.a., Astro-Turf organizing? The site states it is an issues political action lobby.

    Why the prominent display of the funders without any evidence that they actually fund the lobbyist?

    I don’t know about their funding requirements but many foundations will not fund non- 501(3)c which require boards of directors, etc. ED08 isn’t a non-profit according to what they have on their site. Certainly the lobbyist who owns the site isn’t.

    How are the “grants” being spent?
    “The budget is estimated to be up to $60 million over 18 months.” to spend on a political lobbying campaign. [They could give me just 10% of that, or even 5% to be more effective in actually working with students and communities. Even $56,000. Even $21 a month for the dial-up and $120 for electricity. But I digress.]

    Aside from the fees Romer is paid on the lecture circuit, who actually does the accounting and billing? Who is keeping the email addresses?

    Those who track education trends may be able to parse [fitz?futz?frisk?fitch?] this
    “These three issues are basic to educational progress. Standards: We need to clearly set expectations for learning before we can rationally organize resources, teachers, time, and support to get the job done. Effective teachers: After we set our goals, effective teaching is the most powerful force to help a student learn. It is not the only influence, but it is the most powerful. Time and support: Adequate time for learning and support for students is necessary to enable all students to reach the standards.”

    OK, I’ll go back to my corner now.


  2. Brian says:

    “If Utah leads the nation in graduation, with per capita spending on students in schools ranking near the bottom of the states over the last decade or three, what factor is pulling students from least spending to best graduation?”

    I think that socioeconomic factors and cultural attitudes towards education affect statistical success far more than the abilities of individual teachers or great curriculum. Utah has a predominately white, middle class population with strong family networks. There are not a lot of broken families or gang violence in the slums of Salt Lake City.


  3. Ed Darrell says:

    Pam, I think that these foundations are trying simply to make stuff readily available on the internet without building an internal operation to do it, which would require that they hire expertise, and then fire the expertise when this project is over. They farmed it out, to someone who has a good track record of getting things up on websites quickly, that work.

    Pam and Dorid, I don’t vouch for the statistics. I thought they were inflated, too, except my experience in Utah suggests it may be pretty close there.

    I wondered what the point is of collecting such figures, when they are so soundly ignored, in this case by the Utah legislature in creating a vampire voucher program (meaning one that is designed to suck the blood out of public schools), using as a justification that public schools are failing, when the figures show Utah #1 in graduating students.

    You win the Super Bowl, but they fire you anyway. What’s with that?


  4. dorid says:

    What are graduation rates based on? Some school districts (cough, cough, HOUSTON, cough) have been caught inflating graduation rates. Since most of the rates are calculated on 9th graders who stay in school until completing 12 grade, it also excludes kids who don’t get enrolled in High School.

    In Pinellas Country FL, for example, kids who will graduate AFTER their 21st birthday are NOT eligible for high school enrollment.

    California is listed with a graduation rate of 71%. That’s funny, because last year the papers in So Cal had the number around 58%… and even lower in Los Angeles.

    In New Mexico, there is a wide difference (almost 20%) between different sources for graduation rates [source]

    That being said, giving public funds to private schools who do not have to meet state or federal criteria in reporting, teacher quality (certification) and other standards is a sure way to undermine the public school system and increase the number of special interest groups (both religious and industrial) who are building schools to teach kids “their way” without regard to the best interests of the children and society. I can never understand how some people can both support “No child left behind” and School vouchers. The two are mutually exclusive (and both are terrible ideas).


  5. Pam says:

    Flash and javascript have to be enabled to use the map.

    Once that hurdle is met, I’m not sure how useful the map is, at least for those of us who live “North to the Future”, a.k.a., last gasp of yesterday sometimes.

    Alaska is shown as a 65% graduation rate. However, our dropout rate in most places is over 65%. They list our High School to college rate as 45% yet that might be the percentage of all Alaskans with any college.

    Ethnicity is one of the stats displayed for each state, but a significant group of students and schools is missing entirely, American Indian / Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian / Pacific Islanders.

    Maybe I shouldn’t be in such a picky mood, but we had yet another of the shrub cabinet secretary of education out here on the “oh you poor people tour” last week. This followed the “ohmigod you poor people tour” the previous week of the Rockefeller and other foundations. No one was allowed to meet (or even see) with those folks unless they were invited by the (local) trip sponsors who, coincidentally, run the school board and district.

    (why is this site using a version of Youtube, brightcove, to host their videos? why is a non-profit with prominent sponsorship have their domain owned by an individual? who’s on the board?)
    Domain Name……….
    Creation Date…….. 2007-03-10
    Registration Date…. 2007-03-10
    Expiry Date………. 2009-03-10
    Organisation Name…. Shabbir Safdar
    Organisation Address. 1025 Vermont Ave
    Organisation Address. Suite 1200
    Organisation Address. Washington
    Organisation Address. 20001
    Organisation Address. DC
    “Shabbir J. Safdar is the co-founder and principal of mindshare Internet Campaigns, LLC, a Washington-based firm specializing in helping associations, coalitions, non-profit organizations and candidates harness the unique power of the Internet to advance public policy goals.

    Prior to starting mindshare Internet Campaigns, Safdar co-founded and served as president of the Voters Telecommunications Watch (VTW), a premier grass-roots Internet advocacy organization. From 1992 through 1997, Safdar served as Vice President for Information Security at Goldman, Sachs & Co. In 1996, Safdar was named one of Newsweek’s “50 People To Watch on The Internet”, and received the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Pioneer Award that same year for his work in defending civil liberties on the net.

    MSNBC noted that “In four years [Safdar and his business partner Seiger] have been at the forefront of the most contentious issues in cyberspace. They’ve created and honed their Internet strategies in the bare-knuckle world of Washington politics with incessant digital lobbying.” (December 9, 1997). The USA Today praised them as, “a cyber-savvy pair who have raised online-activism to an art form.” (March 3, 1997)

    Examples include the innovative “Adopt Your Legislator Campaign” which enables citizens to keep track of their Representative’s views on key Internet policy issues through customized news and timely Alerts. Seiger and Safdar also organized the 1995 “Black Thursday Protest” during which thousands of web sites went black to protest the enactment of the Communications Decency Act (CDA), and the June 1997 “Countdown to the Supreme Court Campaign”, in which tens of thousands of sites joined together to announce the landmark Supreme Court ruling overturning the CDA and establishing strong First Amendment protections for online speech.

    Shabbir holds a B.S. in Computer Science from Purdue University and is a native of St. Louis, Missouri. ”


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