Bear facts

September 18, 2009

A grizzly mauled a sheepherder and killed some sheep and dogs, along the Upper Green River in Wyoming.

Ralph Maughn’s blog has a lively and informative discussion on the incident, and on bears and bear protection in general.

For all the hard work they do, North American sheepherders sure seem to me to get short shrift in U.S. markets.  When was the last time you could find anything but New Zealand lamb at your supermarket?  And I ask this from Texas, the largest sheep producing state in the U.S. (with very few grizzlies).

While you’re at Maughn’s blog, look at this piece of good news:  You don’t have to eat ’em.

Nation’s best, but sub-par in Texas school ratings

September 18, 2009

In discussing the Broad Prize won yesterday by Aldine Independent School District (near Houston), William McKenzie, an editorial writer at the Dallas Morning News unintentionally summed up part of the problem with Texas’s testing-uber-alles school ratings, at the DMN’s blog site:

Like Brownsville last year, the state only recognized Aldine as an “acceptable” district, not a “recognized” or “exemplary” one. That could be for several reasons, but the best way to look at the difference between the state’s ranking and Aldine’s Broad Prize is that Aldine is showing substantial progress but still has a high mountain to climb before it’s on a par with suburban districts that do reach the exemplary level.

It doesn’t matter if your district has two of the top high schools in the nation on the Newsweek ratings, as Dallas ISD does.  It doesn’t matter if 85% of a high school’s kids go to great colleges with lots of scholarship money.  A school can get hammered by statistical flukes.

Too often teachers are pushed to focus on getting the subpar up to mediocre.  A school gets no additional credit, in state rankings, for championship performance in the top tier of its students — and so some of the best performing schools in Texas have rankings less than they should have.

It’s nice that Aldine ISD got the Broad Prize.  That prize recognizes outstanding achievement by students in many areas.  But it counts for absolutely nothing in the state’s rankings of schools and districts.

Remember, Texas is one of those states where International Baccalaureate programs come under fire for requiring kids to read “suspect” books, and study hard, and where AP-required course material is dismissed as wrong by members of the State Board of Education.

For teachers in Texas, daily floggings will continue until teacher morale improves enough to push scores up.  Or until someone in authority gets rid of the flogging (I was going to say “shoots the flogger,” but this is Texas; somebody might start shooting).

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