By Doug Porter
I checked the calendar to make sure it wasn’t April Fools Day this morning after reading an editorial in UT-San Diego endorsing Lorena Gonzalez in the race for the 80th District Assembly seat.
There are, after all, only two Democrats, officially in the race and I fully expected the paper would pass up the opportunity to say anything encouraging about either of them. (There is, I’m told, also a write-in campaign by a Republican.)
Their endorsement was apparently triggered by Gonzalez’s positions on ‘job creation’. Rather than play into the conservative meme that ‘jobs’ and ‘the environment’ are mutually exclusive propositions, she told them during an extensive interview that policies respecting both are possible. Go figure.
As much as I hate to do this, I’m going to agree with the UT-San Diego’s choice of candidates in this race, although for different reasons. Lorena Gonzalez has done a terrific job of actually ‘leading’ labor in this town into areas way outside their traditional comfort zone.
I don’t know how the UT-SD missed this, but her efforts to get out the vote and involvement with grassroots organizing outside the walls of the Labor Council offices are a major reason why Democrats are an ascendant force in this town.
If she was smart enough to fool them, just think how good she’ll be with those dumbasses up in Sacramento.
Fighting Back Against ‘Teach to the Test’
In San Diego Schools, it’s time for the tests. Students are being herded into classrooms and told to fill in bubbles on test scoring sheets as part of a series of exams that are part of the Standardized Testing and Reporting program. California students take the California Standards Tests, the California Modified Assessment and the California Alternate Performance Assessment within 10 days or after a district reaches 85 percent of its academic calendar.
Today’s UT-San Diego has an article describing the challenges schools face in getting students motivated enough to take the tests seriously. While the exams have no potential impact on a students individual academic performance reports, they’re serious business for schools, the communities around the schools and the education industrial complex.
Here’s the lede from the UT-SD piece:
Principal Brian Martes stood outside a classroom, grabbed a microphone and let loose a thunderous greeting.
“Goooooooood morning, Beaumont!” he said at the elementary school in Vista last week.
As balloons swayed in the breeze around him, students cheered in response. Some were so excited that a few minutes later, their teacher asked them to burn off energy by running a lap before settling into class.
Yeah, baby – Good Times! I can almost taste the wood on those Number Two pencils.
Now, before I get to the meat of this item, let me state that nobody, with the possible exception of some very bored high school students (like my daughter), is suggesting that testing be eliminated.
There are, however, some very valid critiques of the value of No Child Left Behind (or successive incarnations) and the way standardized testing distorts and corrupts K-12 classrooms. Parents and students around the country are questioning the value of NCLB testing and exercising their right to ‘opt out’.
Students in Chicago simply walked out last week, rather than take standardized tests. Teachers in Seattle refused to administer tests earlier this year. And there’s a whole cottage industry of groups around the country that have sprung up around this issue.
Some of them are: United Opt Out National:, Opt Out of Standardized Tests: The International Movement, The Bartleby Project, Parents Across America, Save Our Schools. (This information comes from the National Center for Fair and Open Testing)
California State Superintendent of Instruction Tom Torlakson has called for a suspension of non-mandated state testing next year to give educators the opportunity to develop strategies for implementing the upcoming Common Core standards, which allow greater emphasis on creativity and innovation.
Today’s Washington Post has an article exploring Common Core and the difficulties arising from converting to a new system. It’s worth reading if you want more insight into what’s going on here, including the pushback underway from the Glen Beck types on the right. Here’s a good description of what Common Core is:
Several years ago, the National Governors Association began pushing a bipartisan idea of common standards in English and math. The Gates Foundation invested tens of millions of dollars in the effort to write them. And the initiative gained speed when the Obama administration required states to adopt the common standards — or an equivalent — to compete for Race to the Top grant funds or to receive a waiver from the requirements of No Child Left Behind.
By 2012, 45 states and the District had signed onto the math and English standards. Minnesota has adopted only the English standards; Alaska, Nebraska, Texas and Virginia have not adopted either.
The standards are designed to ensure that, for the first time, third-graders in Maine will acquire the same knowledge and skills as their peers in Hawaii. Once states begin testing against the new standards, it will be possible for the first time to compare test scores across communities and states.
For many states, the new standards will be tougher. When Kentucky became the first state to administer tests based on the new standards last year, the percentage of students in middle and elementary school deemed “proficient” or better in math and reading dropped by about one-third.
The Fight for Junior Seau’s Brain
PBS.org has posted an explosive new article stemming from research down as part of a joint project between ESPN’s Outside the Lines and PBS Frontline into events surrounding the autopsy of Junior Seau.
What emerges is essentially a scientific backroom brawl in which the NFL prevailed over a half-dozen researchers vying for Seau’s brain. To the league and the Seau family — and even some of the losers — this was the best possible outcome. The NFL ended an ugly free-for-all that brought added pain to Seau’s relatives, who received unsolicited calls from brain researchers, including [forensic scientist] Omalu, within hours of his death. With researchers unwilling to share tissue and bad-mouthing one another to Seau’s family, the intervention by league representatives led to a blind study by one of the most respected research institutions in the country. Five specialists consulted by the NIH found what Omalu himself suspected: Seau suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, the disease found in dozens of former players.
“Obviously, the NFL wants to be real careful as to not look as though they were inserting themselves in the middle of this, where they’re trying to cover something up,” said Kevin Guskiewicz, one of three members of the NFL’s Head, Neck and Spine Committee who helped steer Seau’s brain to the NIH. “I can assure you that is not the case right now.”
But there’s a déjà vu quality to the NFL’s recent strategy. A federal lawsuit filed against the league by more than 4,000 retired players and their families (including Seau’s) revolves around the NFL’s previous scientific exploration. The players charge that the league’s original concussion committee, which was disbanded in 2009, conducted fraudulent research to hide the connection between football and brain damage. That 15 years of research has been largely discarded, even by the league. When Mitchel Berger, chairman of the department of neurological surgery at the University of California San Francisco, joined the NFL’s new concussion committee in 2010, he and his colleagues “essentially started from zero,” Berger said.
Is the NFL’s intervention with the autopsy on the up and up? I don’t know. There’s the matter of the $30 million donation to the NIH not so long after they assumed control of the research. Coincidence? Maybe. Read the article.
The House’s Rube Goldberg Immigration Solution
Members of the House Representatives are hard at work on their own bill on immigration reform and they’ve come up with a, er, rather unique approach to solving the ‘problem’ of undocumented people already residing in the US: put ‘em on probation.
From Think Progress:
The bipartisan House immigration bill taking shape may soon make all undocumented immigrants plead before a judge for breakingU.S. criminal law. In a move certain to appease Republican lawmakers but anger immigration advocates, House group members have proposed that legal status and an eventual pathway to citizenship can be conferred once a federal judge places undocumented immigrants on “probation.” In a joint proposal meant to assuage conservative critics of “amnesty,” undocumented immigrants would have to serve out a minimum five year probation sentence before they can get on a path to citizenship.
Being undocumented is a civil infraction, not a criminal one. But as one GOP congressional aide described the process to Roll Call, it would be “similar to how judges handle small drug crimes, in which offenders are sentenced to probation, rather than jail, because it forces them to acknowledge that they broke the law but saves taxpayers the expense of incarceration.”
Comparing a large spectrum of undocumented immigrants (including so-called Dreamers who were brought to this country as children) to drug dealers serves as a reminder of how steadfastly disconnected the House Republicans remain in their widely condemned approach to immigration reform. The latest Republican- backed poll indicates that Republican constituents strongly support comprehensive immigration reform. In attempting to quell extreme conservative voices against the citizenship provision, immigration reform opponents would stigmatize eleven million immigrants as legal criminals.
I have no doubt we’ll have to dig into Social Security and Medicare funds to pay for all this Republican planning.
May Day Marches for Immigration Reform
Immigrant rights activists will hold rallies in San Diego and cities around the country tomorrow (May 1st) calling upon Congress to pass meaningful reform legislation. Events here in San Diego and Vista will seek to acknowledge the contributions of immigrant workers to society, especially those “left behind by a broken immigration system.”
Many grass-roots immigration activists are unhappy with key elements of the Senate immigration bill, including a 13-year wait for potential citizenship for undocumented immigrants – which many activists view as excessive – and a trigger mechanism in the bill that makes a path to citizenship dependent on the implementation of stringent border-security measures.
A 2pm, rally is scheduled at the Civic Center Plaza, 202 C Street, followed by a march to Chicano Park in Barrio Logan. At 3 p.m. in Vista, a march will begin at Bobier Drive and South Santa Fe Avenue and end at the Vista Courthouse on South Melrose Drive.
On This Day: 1889 – George Washington’s inauguration became the first U.S. national holiday. 1960 – Fats Domino recorded “Walking to New Orleans.” 1970 – U.S. troops invaded Cambodia to disrupt North Vietnamese Army base areas. The announcement by President Nixon led to widespread protests.
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