March’s Speaker Series brought Professor Christine Rossell to BU Roosevelt’s Tuesday event in CAS 323A. Professor Rossell, aside from being BU Roosevelt’s faculty advisor, is a professor of political science in the College of Arts in Sciences. She specializes in public policy, education policy, bilingual education, and school desegregation.
Professor Rossell’s lecture was entitled, “Why Government Cannot Fix Our Schools’ Academic Achievement.”
Professor Rossell started out by noting that politicians, Arne Duncan and President Obama included, are confused about education. They claim that schools are failing and are in need of being fixed. However, this presumption is based on misleading evidence.
The misleading evidence? National achievement trends not increasing over time, international comparisons of achievement between the US and other countries, and the inability of educators to improve achievement in poor schools and districts. The politically correct conclusion, Rossell argues, is that schools are failing.
National achievement shows no long-term improvement. This evidence is based on confusion about test scores and what they mean. Test scores are rank-ordered. Mathematically, only 10% can be placed at the 90th percentile (half of the nation will be at the grade level of 50% and half will be below). Norm-referenced tests (the SAT) and criterion-referenced tests (state achievement tests) are essentially the same, correlated to .8. On the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the press reports that only 4% score at the advanced level, evidence that schools are failing. Rossell notes that, the NAEP was designed so that only 4-5% would score at the proficient level. What happens when achievement on tests increases? The test makers renorm the tests, as they did for the Massachusetts achievement test (MCAS) when too many high schoolers were passing on the first try. Rossell concludes, there has been no long-term improvement in test scores because test makers make sure this does not happen!
International comparisons, US does bad. Rossell argues that you cannot compare international tests. Difference in countries on who takes the test, curriculum, tests in different languages are psychometrically different, time on task varies, grade structure varies, metric system usage, and rank ordering on tests. International tests, Rossell notes, has nothing to do with productivity.
Inability of school to convert additional resources to achievement in poor schools. Schools can only explain 20% of the variation in test scores. Students spend only 9% of their waking hours in school. There are strong effects of family, environment, and genes on test scores. For a policy, a large amount of funds would be needed in order to increase the test scores of the poor.
Rossell concludes, we have the schools we want but we do not know it. Schools are sorting machines, sorting students for the workplace. Everyone does not need to be smart in the academic sense; not everyone needs to go to college. Rossell argues that our society does not need any more intellectuals, but we need people who are willing to work hard, be good citizens, and do essential jobs.
Rossell advocates for educational policies that provide support to poor families and children in order to not increase achievement but to decrease crime, child abuse, and grade retention. Her policy includes subsidized childcare at birth, universal preschool at age two, extended day in school, and twenty-four hour child care.
Rossell’s lecture was certainly provocative and entertaining. BU Roosevelt will be holding a debrief along with a discussion on new educational policy initiatives (Race to the Top, Obama’s reforms to NCLB) next Tuesday at 7pm.
Cross-posted at the BU Roosevelt Campus Network.
Filed under: Election 2010
Recently, political commentators (and people who work in the study abroad office that come interrupt class for 15 minutes) have been discussing the possibility that the 2010 Congressional elections could resemble the Republican takeover of Congress in 1994 during the Clinton Administration.
It is not doubtful that the Republican party is poised to win many seats in the House and the Senate in 2010, possibly resulting in a Republican takeover of Congress. In political science, this phenomenon – the President’s party loses seats in Congress during the first midterm election following his presidential election – is called surge and decline. The surge corresponds to the increased support for the President’s party during the presidential election which saw him elected (Obama’s Democratic support in the 2008 election), while the decline corresponds to the decrease in support for the President’s party during the first Congressional election (the Democrats losing seats in the House and Senate during the 2010 midterms).
Saying that the Republicans have a better chance of gaining seats in 2010, like the did in 1994, just show the phenomenon of surge and decline in the works. 2002 stands in contrast to the idea of surge and decline – mostly because of factors like the War on Terror and 9/11 drove up support for President Bush, the Republicans, and incumbent Congressmen in general.
But, looking beyond political theories, 2010 doesn’t quite resemble 1994 as much as the media and some seemingly politically knowledgeable people may make it sound.
First – The Democratic take over of the current Congress began with the 2006 midterms and expanded during the 2008 election. In 1994, the Democrats had been in power since the era of Truman (1948).
Second – The 1994 midterms saw a united Republican Party, centered around Gingrich’s Contract for America platform. 2010 sees a united Republican Party centered around fighting all Democratic initiatives. Yet, internal Republican Party has seen increasingly large divisions between its Tea Party, social conservative (evangelical), and fiscal conservative factions – creating a split Republican electorate and a divided party platform.
Finally – Many consider 1994 as the cumulation of the formation of the solid Republican South – with Southerners kicking out incumbent Democratic Representatives in favor of more socially conservative Republicans. 2010 shows no parallel to this – as no section of the nation has changed party affiliations that drastically from 1994 – 2008 in favor of the Republican party (in fact, most areas of the country post-2002 have seen a surge in Democratic support).
2010 may turn out like 1994, but the reasons for this change are inherently different. America is more partisan than ever before – if anything, the 2010 midterm elections will serve to drive the parties further apart in platform forcing a further separation of the nation as well (which could lead to party crossover in the electorate – a factor that drives electoral realignments).
Filed under: Civil Rights
Background: Andrew, a gay Conservative blogger from England, strongly views himself as a Conservative who does not support the way in which the Republican party is moving and has been acting (because they’re not following the guidelines of political theoretical Conservatism). Ta-Nehisi Coates, is a liberal blogger who grow up in the Baltimore projects. His blog focuses a lot on how race plays into many of the issues and policies of our nation.
In our world today, TNC makes a good point on race politics, power, and the Liberal-Conservative spectrum:
There is a fundamental problem here, one that can’t be elided by pointing out the differences between “true” conservatism and Republicans. A bias toward time-tested, societal institutions almost necessarily means a bias toward institutional evil. Likewise, a skepticism of change almost necessarily means a skepticism of those who seek to expand democracy beyond property-owning white men. Taken in sum you have an ideology, whatever its laudable merits, that will almost always, necessarily, look charitably upon those with power, or those who control the institutions, and skeptically upon those without power, or those who seek to change those institutions.
As a black person, I find that really hard to take.
Via a NYT article on teenagers with cancer:
Clinical trials for this age group have led to some breakthroughs — especially when it comes to acute lymphoblastic leukemia, the form of cancer Simone Weinstein had, said Dr. Crystal L. Mackall, chief of the pediatric oncology branch of the National Cancer Institute.
Teenagers with this type of leukemia, often called A.L.L., do not fare as well as younger children with what appears to be the exact same disease, a discrepancy that has baffled oncologists. But when researchers compared teenagers treated by pediatric oncologists with those treated by adult cancer doctors, they found that the first group did remarkably better.
“When we saw the differences, I was floored,” said Dr. Wendy Stock, director of the leukemia program at the University of Chicago Medical Center. “It wasn’t a subtle 5-percentage-point difference, but a 30-percentage-point difference in survival.”
Now the pediatric protocol is being offered to teenagers through clinical trial sites. Dr. Stock and others are trying to figure out what factors are responsible for the better outcomes, and whether the greater survival is because of the treatment protocol itself or other factors, like the more structured environment of a pediatric center or pediatric oncologists’ greater familiarity with A.L.L.
Filed under: Life
On the personal side of things.
A close family friend, Casey, passed away last night from her fight against her relapse of leukemia.
Casey, as anyone who knows her could tell you, was quite the fighter. A quirky spirit, always lively and entertaining, I first came to know Casey through my mother’s stories while I was at college. Casey graduated from Miss Porters, but held off admission to Emerson to fight her cancer. Last summer, I had the opportunity to meet Casey and her mom (Rosemary) at a variety of cancer events – CCMC survivor’s day and Vie for the Kids. While Casey was battling cancer the first time around, she wrote a book about her experience – an amazing story. This fall, Casey started the semester off as a Freshman at Emerson. Soon after Thanksgiving though, she relapsed and she completed her first semester at college at home and at CCMC. Casey was in her final stage of treatment before her bone marrow transplant (BMTs as they’re known in the cancer world) in April.
Our kind thoughts and words of encouragement go out to Casey’s family and the rest of our CCMC family who are struggling with this news. As one friend posted on Casey’s facebook wall today: ”There was an extra ray of sunshine in the sunset today, just for you.”
It’s been amazing to know someone as kind and energetic as Casey. Her smile is not easily forgotten – and I’m sure she’s looking down upon us all with that big grin on her face.
Filed under: World Politics
Just heard some drastic news.
There’s a family (the mother’s) blog I follow all about a family in Iowa who recently adopted two children from Sierra Leone, bringing their total number of children up to 6. The father is a pastor and the mother works full time caring for the kids and house while also running an off-shoot of a major charity dedicated to work in Africa.
As the mother returned from a mission trip to Africa a couple days ago – she was confronted with her husband’s marital infidelity confession.
Soon, what seemed to be the most caring and faithful bond between two people was brought crumbling to the ground, with six kids lying in the middle of the ruins.
It breaks my heart to see another family torn apart by the selfish actions of one spouse. Regardless of whether it had been him or her that cheated, it is unfair to put those children through that. In a family that seems full of love and hope, it is almost unfathomable to believe that all of this actually transpired. I can only hope that things turn out okay for them, but in the meantime, Jackie’s words of wisdom (f*cking men, can’t keep it in their f*cking pants!) always come back to me.
I guess it goes to show you, things can sometimes look perfect, but you never know what is actually occurring inside the house (very Stepford Wife-ish, don’t you think?). It also drives home the point that it’s important to remember that each day is a miracle unto itself – know that things can change in an instant, be prepared for that change, but live in the present because that’s where your memories will be made.
In real English: The Citizens Election Program (CT’s public financing system) was slammed in two separate reports on its effectiveness by the Campaign Finance Institute and Center for Competitive Politics.
The CCP is a conservative organization, as opposed to CFI’s nonpartisan status; therefore, only the CFI press release is noted below (campaign finance is an extremely partisan issue, didn’t you know?).
In 2005, Connecticut became the third state in the country to adopt a voluntary system of full public financing for candidates who run for election to the state legislature and statewide constitutional office, the Citizens’ Election Program (CEP). The system went into effect for the election of 2008. In 2006 a team of scholars set out to study the results of what would be a rare natural experiment: the scholars would compare the political system in 2006 with that of 2008. This is a preliminary report on The Campaign Finance Institute’s (CFI) part of the project. CFI is a nonpartisan research institute affiliated with The George Washington University. Its work in this project has focused on donors, with a particular emphasis on the role of small donors. Other aspects of the state’s system – including candidate recruitment, competition, political parties and interest groups – were being considered by others.
CFI is reporting preliminary results at this time because a recent federal district court decision declared that two provisions in the CEP made the law unconstitutional and people in the state say the decision has put pressure on them to respond quickly. Rather than wait until a final research report, which will be forthcoming, CFI decided to publish preliminary results now in case those participating in current deliberations may find them useful.
When the Connecticut General Assembly was considering the CEP in 2005, its supporters expressed two different kinds of policy goals with respect to campaign donors: (1) to reduce the role of large donors and (2) to provide an incentive for candidates to raise their small, qualifying contributions from a broader and more diverse set of constituents. Our major conclusions (detailed below) are:
- The CEP has succeeded in reducing the role of large donors, who were not representative of the state as a whole;
- The requirements for small qualifying contributions meant that candidates actually raised money from a larger number of individual donors in 2008 than 2006;
- However, because there was no incentive for candidates to raise private funds after qualifying, most candidates appear not to have reached out to a broader and more diverse set of donors from the kinds of people who gave in 2006.
Because of this final point, policy makers considering revisions to the system should look for comparison at low-donor multiple matching fund systems that permit donors to become involved throughout the election season (such as New York City’s) or newly proposed hybrid systems that combine grants with multiple matching funds (such as in the federal Fair Elections Now Act).
2006 DONOR PROFILE
- In the 2006 election cycle – the last in Connecticut before that state’s Citizens’ Election Program took effect – about half of the money raised by gubernatorial candidates came from individuals who gave the candidate $1,000 or more, according to CFI’s analysis of data provided by the National Institute for Money in State Politics (see Figure 1).
- Legislative candidates in 2006 did not raise much money from donors who gave $1,000 or more to a single candidate, partly because of low contribution limits for House candidates ($250 per election for the House, $1,000 for the Senate and $3,500 for Governor). But they received 1/3 of their money from PACs which strongly favored incumbents and 9% from individuals who gave $500 or more (see Figure 2 and Table 1).
- Income distribution: Donors who gave large amounts were not like the rest of the state. Figure 3 shows the distribution of incomes among donors and non-donors based on parallel 2007 CFI surveys of both groups.Nearly 60 percent of the donors in the survey who gave $500 or more (to all gubernatorial and state legislative candidates combined) had household incomes of $250,000 or more. One-quarter were above $500,000. The average Connecticut household earned $65,496 in 2006.
2008 DONORS COMPARED TO 2006
Under Connecticut’s system, participating candidates must collect qualifying contributions of from $5 to $100 per donor. House candidates qualify after raising $5,000 in contributions, 150 of which must be in-district, or from a town at least part of which is in-district. Senate candidates must raise $15,000, with 300 in-district (or town). Excess private contributions go to the Citizens’ Election Fund. Because there was no gubernatorial election in 2008, we cannot yet compare gubernatorial donors before and after public financing.
- Most state legislative candidates who participated in the CEP received money from a larger number of individual donors in 2008 than the predecessor candidate of the same party and same district in 2006. Participating candidates (especially incumbents) were shifting from PACs to individuals. Donors to participating candidates were limited to giving a maximum of $100 in qualifying contributions and the total from private funding was well below the size of the public grant.
- But because there was no incentive to raise money from more donors than were needed to qualify, few participating candidates did so.
- As a result, most candidates seemed to stay within “comfort zones” – going to old donor or business-social networks (excluding lobbyists and their families, and state contractors and their families, whose gifts are prohibited under the CEP).
- The income and racial compositions of typical donor neighborhoods for donors who gave $30 or more was about the same in 2008 as 2006 – wealthier than the state average, with fewer minority residents.
- Information is not available for donors who gave less than $30 in 2006. Donors who gave $5-$30 gifts to CEP candidates in 2008 appear to have come from only modestly less affluent neighborhoods than those who gave more than $30 to the same candidates in 2008.
- Note that because CFI did not conduct a survey in 2008, the comparisons are of donors’ neighborhoods. Without a survey, it is not possible to get income or demographic information for individual donors. The findings are based on census block groups, which are small enough (optimum size of about 1,500) to be reliable for this purpose. Further information is available on request.
The CEP has succeeded in reducing the impact of large donors for participating candidates. In addition, even though the total amount of private money in 2008 was much less than in 2006 (by the same candidate or same party in the same district) the participating candidates actually had a larger number of individual contributors in 2008 than 2006.
However, the CEP seems to have fallen short with respect to another objective. Some legislators said during floor debates in 2005 that one goal was to induce candidates to reach out to a more representative set of donors and volunteers, not simply to get to get private contributions out of the system. The findings reported above suggest that, contrary to this goal, full public funding was not acting for most candidates in 2008 as an incentive for outreach to a broader and more diverse set of donors. Instead, most candidates shut off their private funding when the qualifying requirements were satisfied, knowing that any excess would be turned over to the state.
By comparison, other public systems that allow for more extensive cultivation of small donors would seem to contain stronger incentives for candidates to reach out to new people. These include:
- Multiple-matching fund systems, such as New York City’s six-for-one program, which continues matching through the full election season and thereby gets more people involved; and
- Hybrid systems, such as the one proposed in the federal Fair Elections Now Act. This system, which is not yet in effect anywhere, would begin with a flat grant and then move to multiple matching funds for low contributions. This system does not have a spending ceiling but permits candidates who receive a maximum amount of public funds to continue raising from donors who give no more than a total of $100.
Note that these conclusions comment only on the effects of the CEP program on donor participation. Effects on competition, candidate recruitment, interest groups and policy all are important but were not part of CFI’s research.
Over at The Daily Dish, a Friday redesign left everyone on Atlantic.com’s blogs in a tizzy. I do have to say – I don’t like the new look. Blue? Channels? No, thanks! But let’s take the analysis from someone who would know. The Daily Dish – reader comments – featuring BU’s one and only TF, DJ, political science master: Alex Whalen:
@AlexWhalen: Check it out! A letter I wrote to Andrew Sullivan about where The Atlantic’s redesign went wrong is on his frontpage! http://bit.ly/cTPmCm
by Patrick Appel
A reader writes:
I was a Content Manager at America Online back in the mid to late 1990s. Although I had a variety of roles, at the end of my tenure my primary job was to manage one of AOL’s 18 content channels. This was the period just *before* AOL tore down the walls separating it from the rest of the Internet, and *before* the much maligned merger with Time Warner. It was very much AOL’s heyday.
Our model within these channels? To aggregate material by subject matter into a series of always updating headline driven content areas.
The goal? Through a series of redesigns and reiterations, to make the AOL channels – rather than the partners who provided the content within each channel – the primary point of loyalty for our members.
The result? A mishmash of genericized content that diluted the very thing that had made us so successful – the uniquely identifiable voices that, along with basic features such as email and chat, had brought people flocking to the service in the first place.
As just one example, ask the guys at the Motley Fool, one of the commercial Internet’s first true success stories, how it all worked out for them.
I’m sorry to have to say this, but Goldberg’s description of the new site (“a thorough reimagining of what a magazine’s website could be”) could not possibly be more wrong.
What they’ve done to you, TNC, and the rest isn’t new at all. It’s AOL circa 1998. I realize that’s the Internet’s Stone Age, a time no doubt well beyond the memory of most of the people who put this design together, but…. that should underscore the point, right?
You guys are repeating one of the mistakes that I will always believe killed AOL. I have no reason to think anyone there will take my advice – the Senior VPs at AOL ignored me when I fought against this very same model, and they were paying me for my opinion! – but here it is:
Know your strengths. They are your Voices. Don’t bury them. Don’t integrate them under brand names and channels. Make them louder. And clearer. You should be working to bring them front and center. Instead you are pushing them to the back, putting more distance between them and your readers. That is, in a word, insane.
People don’t want a series of headlines. They can get that elsewhere. They want personality. They want community. They want names and faces they can identify and bond with.
The age of nameless, faceless “editors” is over. It has been over for quite some time, even if many don’t yet realize it. People accepted it when the market provided them with no alternative, but as you both well know the moment alternatives became possible they flocked to them in droves.
And most importantly: for the love of all that is holy, please stop trying to “re-imagine” the magazine. That’s an entirely backward looking enterprise. Be the entirely new thing that you ALREADY are. Or, I’m beginning to fear, were.
From the very beginning, the Atlantic was about the voices it contained, and not about the package that they came bound in. Somehow, in the move to the web, this magazine kept that tradition alive. Unlike most of its competitors it found success by combining what it had always been – strong voices in long-form articles provided at a more thoughtful pace – with the Internet’s greatest innovation – strong voices in short-form updates provided in real-time to a community of not-always likeminded souls. I always assumed that this near perfect mix of 20th and 21st century publishing models was the result of some very forward thinking management. With the last redesign I began to doubt that. With this newest one, I’m on the verge of concluding it was all just dumb luck.
Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe this model will work this time. Maybe the way forward is to borrow a failed model from the past. But, well….