Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Are the wrong people chosen as "experts" in education?

The World Conspires to Make Expertise Unreliable
By Rick Hess
Education Week
November 23, 2011

Note: This week, I'm giving RHSU readers a look at my essay in Richard Elmore's recent Harvard Education Press volume I Used to Think...And Now I Think. If you find this stuff at all interesting, I'd definitely encourage you to check the book out. For days one and two, see here and here.

Say something smart once and there are huge rewards for spending a career saying it, in increasingly elaborate forms. Academics who own an idea get hired by prestigious universities, deliver keynotes, and get all kinds of attendant perks. Consultants who own an idea become must-haves for districts, foundations, and contractors. The result is a familiar kabuki of hyperspecialists airing their prebaked views.

The world is composed of niches. In each, a thinker may be iconic so long as she stays in her little crevice. Thus, an expert in pharmacology may speak to a cheering conference hall of awe-struck attendees only to walk across the campus or the hotel and quickly become just an anonymous face in the crowd. An expert on school violence or science instruction might be feted as legendary by those in her field but sacrifice that respect and deference should she wander outside that circle. The result discourages individuals from spending much time wrestling with thorny questions or complexities that reach beyond their core expertise. Hence, enormously respected thinkers will offer prescriptions for educational policy or practice that are woefully naïve in terms of political dynamics, organizational realities, institutional pressure, incentives, or practical constraints. Why? Because many of these experts have never spent much time thinking about how their expertise intersects with all the stuff in which they're not expert.

Meanwhile, within niches, the interest in weighing competing arguments or determining how one's expertise translates to the larger world is massively undervalued. Expertise promotes deep knowledge, which can too readily lead to inflexibility and self-assuredness (along with the expectation that one's biases and assumptions will be afforded deference). There are always exceptions, but most thinkers become expert by struggling to the top of their niche on the back of their big idea, and then do all they can to extend the reach of that idea and of the acolytes who aid in that quest--incidentally, or quite purposefully, stymieing heterodox perspectives. In fact, the very nature of expertise is that it stifles dissent and reifies the orthodoxy of the moment.

Moreover, since established figures typically find themselves addressing friendly audiences and gatherings where it is deemed impolite to contest their assumptions and evidence too ardently, it is frighteningly easy for experts to settle into a comfortable bubble where they are surrounded by like-minded peers and adoring disciples, their word is gospel and they are buffered from anything more than occasional interaction with those who might disagree.

Finally, our criteria for expertise are, almost inevitably, relational (e.g. my colleague tells me Trang is terrific) or formulaic (e.g. Wylie was executive director of X for a number of years, launched Y program, or has published eleven articles on this). Why? Our ability to form independent judgments of the hundreds or thousands of individuals most directly engaged in our field of endeavor, much less the thousands more peripherally engaged, is limited by our own inexpert grasp of the world. Only the arrogant or the deluded imagine they perfectly understand the strengths and skills of hundreds of friends, acquaintances, and strangers. Thus, we turn to proxies that are themselves deeply imperfect--but that can lead to our investing great authority in this or that expert for a season.

Done with sufficient skepticism and care, this manner of finding experts is natural and normal. But there's a decided temptation to lodge excessive influence in our choice of the moment. I can't tell you how many times I've been talking with a superintendent who has become a guru for a foundation and found myself wondering why this unremarkable man was deemed any more deserving of that status than any of a dozen other superintendents. The difference, in many cases, is nothing more than a personal relationship, experience in a few big districts, or the fact that a superintendent was an early adopter of a reform--all of which, perhaps bizarrely, results in an individual being invested with presumed expertise across a broad range of issues.

So why does any of this matter? Does it make any practical difference when it comes to schools or schooling? I think it does. In education, for instance, despite decades of research, experts have no systematic way to tell who will be a good teacher or how to design practices that lead to predictable improvement at scale. This state of affairs means at least four things.

First, we ought to be hesitant in casually suggesting that we can name, based on our experience, a list of the nation's best school districts, superintendents, or reading programs. Short of some protocol that helps us identify excellence in a transparent and consistent fashion (for better or worse), we ought to be much humbler about such exercises. They frequently amount to nothing more than an echo chamber, with participants passing on names that they themselves have received second- or third-hand.

Second, we should be wary of prescriptive advice, especially when it's based on the assumption that expertise easily and immutably travels across contexts. In fact, given its narrowness, expertise can exert a gravitational pull that distorts how one thinks about the larger world. Expertise can come at the cost of perspective when an expert starts contemplating efforts to change policy, organizations, or human behavior. After all, expert advice tends to reflect what experts know, which may not reflect what is most useful for solving the larger problem in the real world. For instance, grand assertions about merit pay, school choice, differentiated instruction, or class size reduction that overlook the practical impact of contracts, policies, existing incentives, and embedded routines can yield results quite different from those the experts are touting.

Third--all that said--expertise has a terrifically useful place, as long as we understand what the experts actually know, which is how to do specific, concrete tasks right. I'm always eager to turn to an expert when the question is how to build a bridge, estimate how many people will visit Vegas next month, design an assessment, erect a new school, or conduct a complicated statistical analysis. I'm less inclined to do so when the questions are bigger, messier, and more dependent on judgment and values.

Finally, we need to recognize that individual experts ought not be invested with too much prescience, but the right mix of experts can help identify tensions, incentives, and the contours of possible solutions. If one assembles the right mix of experts, their competing views can prove enormously helpful in crafting smart policies. The key, however, is not to empower any one expert to play guru but to allow competing expertise to illuminate and inform complex decisions.

One last thought. For what it's worth, my approach nowadays is not to casually reject educational expertise but to regard its acclaimed ministers with the same attentive skepticism I reserve for financial advisers and real estate agents. They know stuff that's useful, but that doesn't entitle them to blind deference or even trusting obeisance. At least not in my book.

Monday, November 28, 2011

We're still in Kansas, Toto: teen Emma Sullivan at center of free speech debate after criticism of Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback

In my experience, many California educators also fail to understand and support the US Constitution. And they also like to maintain secrecy in schools.

Kansas teen won't apologize for her tweet about Gov. Sam Brownback
Associated Press
November 28, 2011

An American teenager who wrote a disparaging tweet about Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback said Sunday that she is rejecting her high school principal's demand for a written apology.

Emma Sullivan, 18, said she isn't sorry and doesn't think such a letter would be sincere.

The Shawnee Mission East senior was taking part in a Youth in Government program last week when she sent out a tweet from the back of a crowd of students listening to Brownback's greeting. From her cellphone, she thumbed: "Just made mean comments at gov. brownback and told him he sucked, in person #heblowsalot."

How much do you know about the US Constitution? A quiz.

She actually made no such comment and said she was "just joking with friends." But Brownback's office, which monitors social media for postings containing the governor's name, saw Sullivan's post and contacted the Youth in Government program.

Sullivan received a scolding at school and was ordered to send Brownback an apology letter. She said Prinicipal Karl R. Krawitz even suggested talking points for the letter she was supposed to turn in Monday.

The situation exploded after Sullivan's older sister contacted the media. Since then, Sullivan's following on Twitter has grown to about 3,000 people, up from about 65 before the tweet. She said she thinks the tweet has helped "open up dialogue" about free speech in social media..

"I would do it again," she said.

Sullivan has received emails from attorneys but is waiting to see what happens when she refuses to hand in a letter. Krawitz, her principal, told The Kansas City Star previously that the situation is a "private issue, not a public matter" but didn't return a phone message from The Associated Press at his home Sunday...

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Romney Likes Obama's Merit Pay, School Choice Policies

Romney Likes Obama's Merit Pay, School Choice Policies
By Alyson Klein
Education Week
November 22, 2011 2:06 PM

Gov. Mitt Romney's comments about beer and Mormonism in a forthcoming interview with People magazine are snagging lots of attention around the web, after Politico's Playbook published a snippet of the interview today.

But we at Politics K-12 are perplexed by Romney's comments on education policy, an area on which he says he has some common ground with President Barack Obama.

Here's the relevant exchange:

PEOPLE: In the holiday spirit of comity, can you say one thing President Obama has done right?

Romney: "He's a good example of a husband and father. Some of his education initiatives—merit pay for the best teachers and school choice—have been positive. The surge in Afghanistan was the right choice. But the pluses are far exceeded by the places where I'd give him a minus."

The merit pay for teacher thing we get. Obama has pushed for an expansion of the Teacher Incentive Fund, which doles out grants to districts to create pay-for-performance programs. And he made performance pay a component of both Race to the Top and the School Improvement Grant programs.

But school choice? Okay, Obama has pushed for an expansion of charter schools, again under Race to the Top and SIG. But he also scrapped the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program (though the money was ultimately put back at the behest of Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, the speaker of the House.) And his waiver package doesn't require districts to offer mandatory school choice or tutoring services.

So we're wondering what exactly Romney was talking about here.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

FAMU band director fired in wake of drum major's death

FAMU band director fired in wake of drum major's death
13 News
November 23, 2011

Florida A&M's band director has been fired, and Gov. Scott wants the state law enforcement officers to get involved.

They are the latest developments in the mysterious death of FAMU drum major Robert Champion following last weekend's Florida Classic.

As a task force begins investigating hazing at the school, a school spokesperson said the FAMU Department of Public Safety has three on-going investigations into hazing, and in two of those cases, 30 students were suspended.

Julian White, the school's band director, was placed on administrative leave with pay, with an official termination date of December 22. This is in line with the school's collective bargaining agreement.

In a letter from FAMU President James Ammons, White is accused of "alleged misconduct and/or incompetence involving confirmed reports of allegations of hazing within the department of music and the 'Marching 100'."

White has been with FAMU's faculty since 1972, and is a graduate of the school.

Gov. Rick Scott also asked Florida Department of Law Enforcement to get involved in the investigation. In a statement Wednesday he said:

The recent death of Florida A&M University’s “Marching 100” band drum major Robert Champion has generated great concern throughout the state and indeed the nation. While I recognize that the investigation into the death of Mr. Champion is being handled by the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, the reality is that the death investigation significantly impacts the University, the Tallahassee community, and the State of Florida as a whole.

Ammons suspended all practices and performances for the Marching 100 band Tuesday.

Champion died Saturday night in the parking lot of the Rosen Plaza Hotel on International Drive.

Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings said hazing may have been a factor and it is an active criminal investigation.

Ammons announced the school will form an independent task force to look into the death and determine if there were ongoing inappropriate band customs or traditions.

"I am asking all that if anyone has any information to fully cooperate with the Orange County Sheriff's office. There will be no consequences or retaliation for helping. There will however be consequences for anyone who tries to impede it," said Ammons.

Champion's fellow bandmates likewise had no idea how he died.

Deputies said Champion threw up and complained about not being able to breathe beforehand.

The school has had problems with hazing in the past. Ammons said the school will cooperate with Orange County deputies who are investigating.

Wednesday, the Florida Civil Rights Association called for further action by asking the governor and FAMU Board of Trustees to fire Ammons, assistants to Dr. White and the entire leadership of the Marching 100 program.

The organization said in a statement:

The current administration within the University and in the Florida A&M Marching 100 has created a culture of corruption that tacitly approves of the persistent and deadly hazing that occures within the Marching 100 and Florida A&M University.

FCRA likened the situation to the scandal with the coaching staff and administrators at Penn State University. Read the full statement here.

Under Florida Statute, any death that happens as a result of hazing is a third-degree felony.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

20 Students Now Accused in L.I. Case: cheating on SAT test

I always wondered how George W. Bush got such a high SAT score. Listening to him talk, I just wasn't seeing the level of brain power required to achieve the scores. Suddenly I have a suspicion as to how he might have done it.

"The arrests on Tuesday included three people accused of accepting payment to take tests and eight who the authorities say paid impersonators to take tests for them." I also notice that one student is from Roslyn High School, where administrators were found to have embezzled funds a few years ago.

20 Students Now Accused in L.I. Case on Cheating
New York Times
November 22, 2011

MINEOLA, N.Y. — Schools do not write the SAT or administer it. But when school officials at Great Neck North High School suspected that students were cheating on the exam, their investigation led prosecutors down a trail that has resulted in criminal charges against 20 students and calls for widespread test reform.

Bernard Kaplan, the principal of Great Neck North, said he believed cheating was pervasive. “I think it’s widespread across the country,” he said Tuesday. “We were the school that stood up to it.”

On Tuesday, Nassau County prosecutors accused 13 students from five schools of accepting payment or paying others to take the SAT and ACT between 2008 and 2011. Eleven students turned themselves in; two are expected to do so next week, prosecutors said.

The arrests, coming two months after seven other Nassau students were accused of cheating on the tests, seemed to underscore the district attorney’s assertion that security measures for the tests, administered by ACT Inc. and the Educational Testing Service, are inadequate, leading to widespread cheating.

“When this cheating scandal was first reported, E.T.S. said that this was an isolated incident, and that the SAT was secure,” Kathleen M. Rice, the Nassau County district attorney, said in a news conference. “I’m glad to know, now, that E.T.S. appreciates that this is a larger problem.”

The investigation began when administrators at Great Neck North looked into student rumors. Their focus soon fell on students who had registered to take the tests outside the district, and those whose scores and grades showed a disparity. They turned over the details to prosecutors, who opened a broad examination.

In September, prosecutors accused Sam Eshaghoff, 19, of impersonating six students, including a girl, to take tests for them. Officials allege that students paid Mr. Eshaghoff up to $3,500 per test for scores ranking as high as the 97th percentile. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The arrests on Tuesday included three people accused of accepting payment to take tests and eight who the authorities say paid impersonators to take tests for them. One student has declined to surrender.

Those accused of fraudulently taking tests face felony charges of scheming to defraud, as well as misdemeanor charges of falsifying business records and criminal impersonation.

Among those charged with taking the tests for others on Tuesday were Joshua Chefec, 20, now a senior at Tulane, and Michael Pomerantz, 18, both of whom attended Great Neck North; Adam Justin, 19, a graduate of North Shore Hebrew Academy and a student at Indiana University; and George Trane, 19, a graduate of Great Neck South who now attends SUNY Stony Brook. Officials said Mr. Pomerantz, citing a medical condition, told them he would surrender Monday; the others turned themselves in Tuesday morning.

Of the students charged with paying to have the test taken for them, five were from Great Neck North, two from North Shore Hebrew Academy High School and one from Roslyn High School.

Because those accused of paying test takers were 19 or under and face only misdemeanor charges, their identities will be not be made public, a spokesman for Ms. Rice said.

Matin Emanou, Mr. Eshaghoff’s lawyer, as well as the lawyers representing the latest students arrested, have argued that their clients are not guilty, and that the situation should be handled by the schools, not in the courts.

“While no one condones cheating, we have a school system that is separate and apart from the criminal justice system, and we have that for good reason,” said Brian Griffin, a Nassau County lawyer representing Mr. Chefec, who was accused of taking the test for others. Mr. Griffin said his client was not part of a “ring,” but was rather accused of having taken two tests for one student.

“It’s not a systematic scheme to defraud when you’re alleged to have acted with one person,” he said.

Gerard McCloskey, a Nassau lawyer who represents a student charged with paying someone to take the test and is still in high school, said, “My feeling is that it should be handled administratively by the College Board and the school board, not criminally, especially when the county is experiencing budget issues and resources are limited to begin with.” The College Board owns the SAT...

Friday, November 18, 2011

When doctors rely on attorneys who lie: Tri-City Healthcare attorney contradicts her own witness

Bonnie Dumanis' Public Integrity Unit seems to be confused about who the perpetrators are when it comes to bribery at Tri-City Hospital:

...On April 25, Elsner said, she received a call from the former intern, again asking for information. Elsner said she told her that it was not a good time to contact her because she was going through personal and financial issues, including a car that needed the engine replaced, which would cost $3,000.

“She said, ‘Charlie could help you out, right?’” Elsner said. “And then Charles said, ‘Of course. All we need you to do is talk to these people and tell them what you know about Sterling.’”

Elsner said she did not accept any money. She said she told her story to District Attorney’s investigators, who took no action on a Tri-City complaint against Sterling regarding the incident. The DA’s office declined to comment...

Paralegal says Tri-City report is wrong
She balks at hospital's version of events involving board member Kathleen Sterling
Aaron Burgin
Nov. 17, 2011

Oceanside — In making their case that elected Tri-City Healthcare District board member Kathleen Sterling should remain excluded from closed session meetings for the rest of her term, administrators cited what they considered traitorous activity.

At a meeting last month, Tri-City attorney Allison Borkenheim offered a sworn affidavit saying that paralegal Linda Elsner informed district officials that Sterling in 2003 or 2004 divulged confidential information to her law office, which was suing the district.

In response to the report, the public hospital board voted 5-1 to keep excluding Sterling from closed session, where issues such as CEO Larry Anderson’s performance and the strategic direction of the hospital are discussed.

The Watchdog contacted Elsner to verify Tri-City’s statements. Elsner said Tri-City officials misrepresented what she said — that she specifically told them Sterling shared only public information.

“How can they get away with this?” Elsner said. “How can they say I said these things and put them out as fact when I didn’t say them?”

Tri-City officials declined to be interviewed and issued a statement that they stand by Borkenheim’s affidavit and the belief that Sterling divulged confidential information to Elsner...


Heather Sterling
The integrity unit fails in integrity... My guess, they forgot they are supposed to protect the innocent and go after the perpetrators. Diverted tactic's, out-right lies, and evaded truths have made for a very frustrating year and a half! Who is the DA working for, Tri-City?

Leon J. Page
I hope that the San Diego District Attorney investigates Allison Borkenheim for perjury.

Randy Horton · San Diego State University
Tri-City heavily relies on lies as one aspect of its overall strategy to divert and distract from the truth of what is really going on. It believes that if lies are repeated often enough, soon the public will swallow them, hook, line and sinker. Tri-City may be world-class at maintaining superficial appearances, but it sorely lacks anything substantive. Tri-City routinely buries its dirty laundry in closed sessions, even though dirty laundry is public information!

Heather Sterling
Charlene, Your arrogance is enormous! At the board meetings, you act like a 3rd grader on a play ground... teasing, insulting, poking fun at your fellow board members because your daddy is the school principle and he rewards your behavior with goodies.

Charlene, What happened with the investigation by the Attorney General against you? You know the one... the one you thought Larry Anderson initiated against you because of his connection at the board of registered nursing? The investigation regarding multiple missing narcotics which were for the many patients you cared for during your grave yard shifts? Who was paying for your legal representation?...$LCEV2.QueryView?P_LICENSE_NUMBER=461728&P_LTE_ID=828

John Greenman
Heather, let's not lower ourselves to their level. Keep a cool and level head about this. I understand your frustration and salute your passion, but remember that this will come out in the wash.
It appears that Anderson's revocation may have been stayed and her license is now probationary.
The smartest thing to do at this point would be to publish the PUBLIC information regarding the license status from the state's PUBLIC website to as many outlets as possible. Consumers will then be able to make an informed choice when deciding whether to visit a location where she may be employed.

Charlene Anderson
My license is not revoked Heather.

Maura Larkins
Charlene Anderson, I am curious. What was the action taken today by the Board of Registered Nursing? The only thing on the public website is this:
Disciplinary Actions
Public documents relating to this action are available here:
...November 18, 2011 Revoked/Stayed/Probation

Why don't you make the decision public? I can see how someone would read the above and think that your license had been revoked. You say it was not revoked, so I guess that leaves "Stayed/Probation." What does that mean? Please be forthcoming. And please take your own words to heart: "So what is it? Give us the evidence"!

Okay, I think I understand now. Your license was revoked, but the revocation was stayed. And you were placed on probation. Do I have it right?
Add a Reply...

Brett Peterson · University of San Diego School of Law
Tri-City is ridiculous. This board member was elected. She was voted in by the public and she works for the public, not Tri-City. Only the public can "fire" her (through recall or voting her out of office). This is akin to all of the Democrats or Republicans in Congress trying to fire each other or exclude each other from working because they believe the other side is wrong. Tri-City, just let the democratic process work.

...Charlene Anderson · Oceanside, California
Tri City is not hiding dirty laundry as Mr. Horton states. Sterling is responsible for her behavior, unbelievable as it is, her behavior comes from her. We are simply trying to do business around it. Mr. Horton keeps insinuating that there is some hidden agenda by Administration or the Board. So what is it? Give us the evidence of what you say we are hiding behind the diversion of Sterling's behavior. These conspiracy theories you two have cooked up either independently or together don't hold water. I'm sure you both think they began in...Orange County perhaps? Randy why don't you speak at meetings? Why don't you participate? Why do you share closed session information illegally?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Allen School in Chula Vista loses score on teacher cheating concerns

School loses score on teacher cheating concerns
Karen Kucher
Nov. 15, 2011

CHULA VISTA — The state didn’t issue a key academic performance score for a Chula Vista elementary school this year after several fifth-grade students told their homeroom teacher they had seen passages of the English language arts test material prior to taking the state exam.

Allen School, a 300-student school in the Chula Vista Elementary School District, reported the irregularity to the state Department of Education in May.

As a result, the school was not issued an Academic Performance Index or API score for 2011. The district did receive score information for individual students, classes and grade levels.

“It was brought to the attention of the principal there,” said district spokesman Anthony Millican. “It was dealt with swiftly and decisively.”

Millican said the teacher is no longer employed in the district. He said he couldn’t say anything more because it was a personnel matter.

“It is very unfortunate this was done. This is a very high achieving school and we are certain that they are continuing to make outstanding progress,” Millican said. “During this year’s (testing) we expect them to do extremely well.”

In 2010, the school scored 881 on its API. A score of 800 is a state goal.

News of the school’s testing irregularities were included in a Los Angeles Times story Sunday that found about three dozens teachers in the state were accused this year of cheating, making mistakes or engaging in other misconduct involving standardized achievement tests.

According to a report Chula Vista submitted to the state, the teacher said she used poor judgment by downloading test passages from the Internet to use for test preparation.

Millican said the school principal sent a letter to parents in late August telling them about the incident.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Status inequality is unacceptable for high school teachers

The Inequality Map
New York Times
November 10, 2011

Foreign tourists are coming up to me on the streets and asking, “David, you have so many different kinds of inequality in your country. How can I tell which are socially acceptable and which are not?”

This is an excellent question. I will provide you with a guide to the American inequality map to help you avoid embarrassment.

Academic inequality is socially acceptable. It is perfectly fine to demonstrate that you are in the academic top 1 percent by wearing a Princeton, Harvard or Stanford sweatshirt.

Ancestor inequality is not socially acceptable. It is not permissible to go around bragging that your family came over on the Mayflower and that you are descended from generations of Throgmorton-Winthrops who bequeathed a legacy of good breeding and fine manners.

Fitness inequality is acceptable. It is perfectly fine to wear tight workout sweats to show the world that pilates have given you buns of steel. These sorts of displays are welcomed as evidence of your commendable self-discipline and reproductive merit.

Moral fitness inequality is unacceptable. It is out of bounds to boast of your superior chastity, integrity, honor or honesty. Instead, one must respect the fact that we are all morally equal, though our behavior and ethical tastes may differ...

Status inequality is acceptable for college teachers. Universities exist within a finely gradated status structure, with certain schools like Brown clearly more elite than other schools. University departments are carefully ranked and compete for superiority.

Status inequality is unacceptable for high school teachers. Teachers at this level strongly resist being ranked. It would be loathsome to have one’s department competing with other departments in nearby schools...

Why we must put an end to secrecy in our local schools

In my personal experience in Chula Vista Elementary School District, I have found that teachers will cover up wrongdoing rather readily in order to support the group. School lawyers and administrators pressure them to keep silent so as not to embarrass the school. We need transparency in our schools to protect our children; if it embarrasses some adults, so be it.

Bystander Psychology: Why Some Witnesses to Crime Do Nothing

By Maia Szalavitz
November 11, 2011

The grand jury investigation that resulted in 40 counts of child abuse against Penn State's former defensive coordinator, Jerry Sandusky, has raised profoundly unsettling psychological and moral questions about the actions — or lack thereof — of others involved in the case.

Head football coach Joe Paterno was fired by the university on Wednesday for his failure to intervene upon learning about the alleged long-running abuse. But many more questions center on Mike McQueary, who is still employed by Penn State; he witnessed child rape firsthand in 2002, when he was a graduate assistant coach, but did not alert the police.

How is it that a powerfully built ex-quarterback could watch the rape of a 10-year-old boy and do nothing to stop it? Why did he neglect to report what he saw to legal authorities for nearly a decade, even knowing that the perpetrator spent much of his time with at-risk youth? And why did the team and the university fail to act at every possible step?...

When the actions of a group are public and visible, insiders who behave in an unacceptable way — doing things that "contravene the norms of the group," Levine says — may actually be punished by the group more harshly than an outsider would be for the same behavior. "It's seen as a threat to the reputation of the group," says Levine.

In contrast, when the workings of a group are secretive and hidden — like those of a major college football team, for instance, or a political party or the Catholic priesthood — the tendency is toward protecting the group's reputation by covering up. Levine suggests that greater transparency in organizations promotes better behavior in these situations.

"It's the norms and the values of the group that are important," Levine says, noting that this fact doesn't reflect very well on Penn State. Indeed, the riot that broke out after the firing of revered coach Paterno — who appears to have covered up for his former colleague, Sandusky, or at least looked the other way, rather than reporting him to the police — suggests that group solidarity with the football team still takes priority over support for abused children at the school.

Another factor that may have prevented action by McQueary and others is denial. Social psychologist Stanley Cohen identified several forms of denial that may cause people to ignore atrocities. There's the denial that commonly occurs in response to difficult situations like receiving a cancer diagnosis or becoming addicted to drugs: the simple repressing of information and refusal to admit that the problem exists or has occurred.

In McQueary's case, however, there seems to have been another type of denial at play, which Cohen labeled "interpretative." "You don't deny that something happened, but try to transform the meaning of it," says Levine, explaining that a witness might minimize the significance of a crime or try to see it as something other than it was.

McQueary may well have been psychologically unable to accept that a man like Sandusky, someone he admired, had actually committed the abhorrent crime he witnessed. Research suggests that when people are faced with situations that threaten their view of the world as relatively fair and decent, rather than revising their own perspective, they often create accounts that deny reality, blame the victim or otherwise rationalize the situation.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Two Penn State officials charged in connection with sex-abuse investigation

Two Penn State officials charged in connection with sex-abuse investigation
November 05, 2011
By Joe Juliano

In a development that strikes very close to Joe Paterno's storied football program, Pennsylvania State University athletic director Tim Curley and another university official were charged Saturday with perjury related to a child sexual abuse investigation of longtime Nittany Lions assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.

The Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office said Curley, 57, and Gary Schultz, 62, Penn State's senior vice president for finance and business, also were charged with failure to report, a summary offense. The perjury count is a third-degree felony punishable by up to seven years in prison and a $15,000 fine.

The charges against Curley and Schultz, both of Boalsburg, Pa., stem from a three-year investigation of Sandusky, 67, who spent 32 years on Paterno's staff, 23 as defensive coordinator, before retiring after the 1999 season. Sandusky was arraigned Saturday in State College on 40 counts related to the sexual abuse case against him, and released on $100,000 bail.
Ads by Google

Humana® Insurance PlansEnroll in An Affordable Humana Medicare Plan by December 7!
AARP® MedicareComplete®insured through UnitedHealthcare. Request an Agent Appointment Today.

Paterno, in his 46th season as Penn State's head coach, will not be charged, authorities said.

In a four-page release, the Attorney General's Office said Paterno was informed by a graduate-assistant football coach in March 2002 that he had witnessed Sandusky allegedly involved in sexual activity with a boy in the showers of the Lasch Football Complex, where Sandusky maintained an office after his retirement.

"Paterno testified that he then called [Curley] and met with Curley the following day," the release said, "explaining that a graduate assistant had reported seeing Sandusky" involved in the activity.

Sources told the Harrisburg Patriot-News that prosecutors believe Paterno did the right thing. The newspaper also reported that Paterno will testify for the prosecution at Sandusky's trial.

Paterno, 84, the all-time winningest coach in Division I football, had no comment Saturday, athletic department spokesman Jeff Nelson said.

However, Paterno may not be completely in the clear. Twenty of the 40 counts filed against Sandusky, allegedly took place during the time he worked for Paterno, including three counts of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, a first-degree felony.

One accuser, now 27, testified that Sandusky initiated contact with a "soap battle" in the shower that led to multiple instances of involuntary sexual intercourse and indecent assault at Sandusky's hands, a grand jury report said.

Moral responsibility: Would a woman have handled the
Penn State child abuse allegations differently?

by Theresa Walsh Giarrusso
November 9, 2011

I keep trying to find the right words to write about the alleged child abuse by the former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky. I have just been sick about it for days and keep writing draft and draft not expressing exactly what I want to say. But I feel like we should discuss it.

Michael and I lived in the Happy Valley for two years after we first were married. I worked for the local newspaper there as a reporter and an editor. Michael covered central Pennsylvania, including Penn State football, for the AP. We met Joe Paterno on many occasions. I personally talked with him multiple times at university dinners and cocktail parties. He was sweet and very much like a grandfather. I think because I have met many of the people involved in this case, it is even more shocking to me that they didn’t do more to stop this alleged abuse.

A lot is being written about the moral responsibility of Paterno and the other leaders of Penn State. I think the Pennsylvania state police Commissioner Frank Noonan said it best on Monday. While he agrees that Joe Paterno fulfilled his legal requirement when he relayed to university administrators that graduate assistant Mike McQueary had seen Sandusky attacking a young boy in the team’s locker room shower in 2002, the commissioner also questioned whether Paterno had a moral responsibility to do more.

“Somebody has to question about what I would consider the moral requirements for a human being that knows of sexual things that are taking place with a child,” Noonan said.

“I think you have the moral responsibility, anyone. Not whether you’re a football coach or a university president or the guy sweeping the building. I think you have a moral responsibility to call us.”

I think we all have a moral responsibility to watch out for the children around us – in our neighborhoods, in our schools, in our churches. We can’t turn our heads and hope the system handles it.

We need to use our intuition. (One administrator at a school had a bad feeling about
Sandusky and told him he couldn’t come back to his school.) We need to be observant. We need to ask questions. We need to step in if we see something, and we need to shout loudly if we think something even seems wrong.

I am struck by the similarities between the Penn State case and the Catholic
Church child abuse scandals. These are well-respected men. They are men reporting
to other men. You don’t hear any women’s names mentioned in the chain of command.

Would a woman have made different decisions? Would a woman have called the
police? Would a woman have immediately broken up what McQueary reportedly
testified he saw happening in the locker room shower – the alleged rape of a 10-
year-old boy?

I believe almost any woman would have immediately marched into that shower and
stopped it – even if it was her boss, her father, or someone she respected or
someone she feared.

I’m not trying to slam all men, and I think many men would have also handled things
differently. However, many men were involved and none called the police.

Assemblyman Block to Grossmont-Cuyamaca: ‘Brian Jones Has Failed You’

"...[M]ore than 23,000 students were denied admission and put on a waiting list because of a $6.3 million reduction in state funds."

Assemblyman Block: ‘Brian Jones Has Failed You’
Democrat spoke to Grossmont College students and faculty on the GOP role in the state budget crisis.
By Eric Yates
La Mesa Patch
September 28, 2011

Democratic Assemblyman Marty Block rapped his Santee-based Republican colleague Tuesday while speaking at Grossmont College on the state budget crisis.

“Brian Jones—your representative, your assemblyman from this area—has failed you,” Block said. “And we need to elect people—Democrat or Republican—who are willing to tax millionaires, tax oil companies, tax tobacco companies, so that you guys have more money in the schools.”

Block represents the 78th District, which includes Spring Valley, Paradise Hills, Chula Vista, Lemon Grove, Bonita and parts of San Diego. Jones represents the 77th District, including La Mesa and Ramona.

With redistricting, The 78th Assembly District will be renamed the 79th, which includes La Mesa. If Block wins re-election in 2012, he will represent La Mesa.

Block noted the nuances of budget decision-making, but said the crisis boils down to a simple issue.

“By and large, the system needs more revenue,” Block told an audience of about 60 Grossmont students, faculty and staff members. “It’s tragic. We’ve cut billions, even over the last three years since I’ve been in office. We’ve gone from $120 billion to $85 billion.

“There are unemployed at record rates, so there’s less income tax, people losing houses, so there’s less property taxes. Because of this, people are not buying things so there’s less sales tax coming into the state. The only way to fight this is to raise revenues.”

Because of state cuts, Grossmont College of El Cajon had to cut more than 200 courses for this semester, and more than 1,000 courses have been eliminated over the past two years.

Block then lobbed a shot across the Assembly aisle, saying, “When it comes to budget, Republicans in the Assembly and in the Senate have refused to budge. They have refused to tax millionaires, have refused to tax billion-dollar oil companies in order to give you guys more classes by hiring more professors. I think it’s unconscionable.”

Block thinks that one way revenues can increase it to establish a tax on oil severance, which is oil taken out of the ground.

He said a tax would be successful because of three factors: 1) the tax would be taken from oil corporations, some of which profited more than $19 billion last year; 2) any tax that was “passed on to the pump” and absorbed by consumers would be spread out across the world, as California distributes its oil to all parts of the globe; and 3) Since “you can’t pick up an oil well and move it out of the state,” corporations would choose to pay the tax over shutting down their oil wells and losing out on massive profits.

Block answered questions from a panel of three—Sue Gonda, president of the Grossmont College Academic Senate; Russ Lindquist, editor of the Grossmont College Summit, the student newspaper; and Marc Arizmendez, news director for Griffin Radio, the campus radio station.

Arizmendez asked about the issue of violence on college campuses. Block referenced AB 620, a bill that would require four-year colleges and community colleges to establish and publish policies and penalties for harrassment, intimidation and bullying of individuals based on sexual orientation. These would become part of rules of student conduct.

An issue raised by Lundquist was that of so many students being denied admission and having no appeals process.

The Grossmont-Cuyamacca Community College District announced before the start of classes in August that more than 23,000 students were denied admission and put on a waiting list because of a $6.3 million reduction in state funds...

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Teachers Earn Too Much, Study Argues

Teachers Earn Too Much, Study Argues
November 2, 2011
By John O'Connor
State Impact

Teachers are paid 52 percent more than their market value, according to a new study.

Teachers, did you know you are overpaid by 52%?

That’s the conclusion of a new study by conservative-leaning think tanks The Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute.

Taxpayers, they conclude, are “overcharged” $120 billion each year from the difference in teacher salaries and compensation compared to similarly credentialed private sector workers. Teacher benefits are often far more generous than the private sector, the study notes.

Other conclusions from the study:

The wage gap between teachers and non-teachers disappears when both groups are matched on an objective measure of cognitive ability rather than on years of education.
Public-school teachers earn higher wages than private-school teachers, even when the comparison is limited to secular schools with standard curriculums.
Workers who switch from non-teaching jobs to teaching jobs receive a wage increase of roughly 9 percent. Teachers who change to non-teaching jobs, on the other hand, see their wages decrease by roughly 3 percent. This is the opposite of what one would expect if teachers were underpaid.

The study reveals a divide among those pushing for changes in public schools.

Raising teacher salaries is a foundation of school reformers, which includes Republicans, such as former Gov. Jeb Bush, and Democratic President Barack Obama. Better pay is more likely to attract better teaching candidates, they argue, and better teachers mean students will learn more.

Former D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee disagreed with the study, in a statement printed by Politico:

We can accomplish the goal of attracting and retaining the best teachers and be fiscally responsible at the same time by moving money out of bloated bureaucracies that doesn’t improve student learning and into the classroom where it can.