Friday, May 31, 2013

Tea party groups mobilizing against Common Core education overhaul

Why does the Tea Party dislike the bipartisan Common Core standards? Common Core is a wonderful plan, focusing on understanding rather than memorization. It's not so surprising, however, that the teachers union is against something new.

Bruce Ackerman / Ocala Star-Banner /Landov
Tea Party members like Beverly LaCross, right, hold signs to protest the Common Core in Florida.

Ohio Teachers Union Worried About Common Core Tests
May 1, 2013
By Ida Lieszkovszky

From the East Coast to the Midwest and beyond a backlash is developing to the Common Core – a new set of national education standards that schools in many states are already in the process of implementing.

Opposition began with Tea Party groups.

But now teachers unions in Ohio say they have their own concerns, mostly about the tests that will accompany the new curriculum.

Ohio Teachers Union Worried About Common Core Tests Many on the right have criticized the Common Core. Now teachers unions are expressing their own concerns.Download

“People have no idea” what the new Common Core standards mean, says Glenn Newman. He’s the founder of the Marietta 9-12 project, an anti-tax and pro-small-government group, and he says Ohio should back off from the Common Core.

The ABC’s of the Common Core in Ohio

Newman is concerned about tracking student data as part of the Common Core, and that students won’t read books like Tom Sawyer anymore and will instead read manuals.

(By the way, as far as we know, the Common Core does encourage schools to give greater emphasis to non-fiction texts in English classes, including manuals, but teachers will still be allowed to teach books like Tom Sawyer too.)

In fact, some on the right, fearing a loss of local control of schools, refer to the new standards as “ObamaCore,” and they want to stop its implementation.

Now some on the left are worried about the Common Core.

Teacher unions don’t want to get rid of it, in fact they say it’s a good idea. But they do want to slow down parts of its implementation.

“Our ask is that there be a moratorium on the high stakes decisions attached to the testing that goes along with Common Core,” says Ohio Federation of Teachers President Melissa Cropper.

Those tests will replace the existing tests starting in 2014-2015, and will be used to assess schools and teachers on their performance. Cropper is worried about decisions tied to those scores – like teacher evaluations and state voucher programs.

“It seems like we’re putting the testing out there before we’ve worked on some authenticity in implementing the Common Core,” she says. Instead, Cropper suggests implementing the tests but just as “field tests” for the first few years.

Other states are moving ahead with hitting the pause button – like our neighbor Indiana.

The Obama Administration, which encouraged states to move towards the Common Core through its Race to the Top competitive grant, is none too happy about the newfound resistance.

Here’s how Secretary of Education Arne Duncan framed the choice: “If any state wants to lower their standards, dummy down their standards they have the right to do that. They can do that tomorrow. I don’t see how that educates children or helps to bring good jobs to a state.”

The Education Committee in the Ohio House will hold hearings later this month on the Common Core, but Republicans who agreed to those hearings indicated it’s mainly to dispel some misinformation about the new curriculum – not to reverse course.

“It’s not going to happen with my assistance, I can tell you that,”says House Education Committee Chair Gerald Stebelton. ”We’ve worked too hard to get to this point, we’re not going to back up.”

Tea party groups mobilizing against Common Core education overhaul
By Peter Wallsten and Lyndsey Layton
Washington Post
May 30, 2013

Tea party groups over the past few weeks have suddenly and successfully pressured Republican governors to reassess their support for a rare bipartisan initiative backed by President Obama to overhaul the nation’s public schools.

Activists have donned matching T-shirts and packed buses bound for state legislative hearing rooms in Harrisburg, Pa., grilled Georgia education officials at a local Republican Party breakfast and deluged Michigan lawmakers with phone calls urging opposition to the Common Core State Standards.

The burst of activity marks the newest front for the tea party movement, which has lacked a cohesive goal since it coalesced in 2010 in opposition to Obama’s health-care initiative.

The movement has a renewed sense of purpose and energy following revelations that many of its groups were improperly targeted by the Internal Revenue Service, and members consider dismantling what some deride as “Obamacore” their newest cause. Unlike the health-care fight, though, organizers say the Common Core battle is winnable and could be a potential watershed moment.

“This is the issue that could change things for the tea party movement,” said Lee Ann Burkholder, founder of the 9/12 Patriots in York, Pa., which drew 400 people — more than twice the usual turnout — to a recent meeting to discuss agitating against Common Core.

Lawmakers have responded by introducing legislation that would at least temporarily block the standards in at least nine states, including two that have put the program on hold. The Republican governors of Indiana and Pennsylvania quickly agreed to pause Common Core, and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R), a vocal supporter of the plan, is nevertheless expected to accept a budget agreement struck by GOP legislators that would withhold funding for the program pending further debate.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal (R) — who, like the other targeted governors, is facing reelection next year — said, “We didn’t see it coming with the intensity that it is, apparently all across the country.” Deal has responded by signing an executive order “reaffirming state sovereignty” over education matters, but that hasn’t stopped conservatives from trying to undo the standards.

The White House has promoted Common Core, written by governors and state education officials in both parties and largely funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to create consistent math and reading standards from kindergarten through 12th grade. Academic standards vary widely among states, and that patchwork nature has been partly blamed for mediocre rankings of U.S. students in international comparisons.

The standards do not dictate curriculum. Rather, states decide what to teach and how to prepare children for standardized tests based on Common Core.

The standards have been fully adopted by 45 states and the District and are scheduled to be in place by 2014. Supporters fear that an eleventh-hour drop in state participation could dilute some of the potential benefits, such as the ability to compare student test scores across many states, while also creating logistical hurdles for school districts that are developing curriculum and training teachers.

Dennis M. Doyle turns up as CEO of the secretive charity CoTA (Collaboration of Teachers and Artists) in San Diego

UPDATE: CoTA finally responded to me after I contacted the San Diego Foundation and a reporter. The 2011-2012 Form 990 is now on the Internet.


School watchers may be wondering what happened to Dennis Michael Doyle after he suddenly resigned as Superintendent of the National School District in the middle of the school year in 2009. Mr. Doyle spent most of his career at CVESD (Chula Vista Elementary School District), then went to National School District for a very short time.

We don't know why he resigned, and his new job is no less secretive.

I have sent two emails and left one phone message asking why the organization's Form 990s for the years 2011 and 2012 are not on the agency's website, but Julie Kendrig, Doyle's assistant, is ignoring me.

Here's the email I sent:

May 25, 2013
subject: When will CoTA be putting its Form 990s for 2011 and 2012 on its website?

Hi Julie,
I could only find 2010 and earlier on your website. Is CoTA planning to put the more recent 990s on the site?
Maura Larkins

Julie Kendig

Here's more about CoTA and its board president Lucille Neeley's interesting relationship with San Diego Unified School District and real estate developer RNLN.

Photo: Dennis Doyle with former Assembly insurance committee member Paul Vargas*

*Paul Vargas left his insurance oversight post in 2006 to become an insurance company executive. Then he stepped up to the US House of Representatives. As my father used to say, California has the best government money can buy.

AIG to pay L.A. Unified nearly $79 million in claims settlement

AIG has been one of the largest investors in L.A. Unified's school-construction bonds. It also has provided investment accounts for teachers who want to put aside savings for retirement.

AIG to pay L.A. Unified nearly $79 million in claims settlement
L.A. Unified had sued insurer AIG over its refusal to pay claims on schools needing environmental cleanup.
August 06, 2012
By Howard Blume
Los Angeles Times

Insurance giant AIG will pay nearly $79 million to the Los Angeles Unified School District to settle a lawsuit over its failure to pay claims on properties with environmental and pollution hazards, The Times has learned.

Although AIG admitted no wrongdoing, the $78.8-million settlement, combined with earlier payments under the policy, approach the full value of $100 million in coverage the district purchased in 1999.

"This is a gold medal, not a bronze, in terms of success, a lot of money," said David Tokofsky, a former member of the Board of Education that voted to purchase the policy and later sued to enforce it. "Sometimes the huge L.A. Unified is the little guy against such giants as AIG."

The district's goal at the time was to provide a financial hedge against any extraordinary cleanup costs incurred during its $20-billion school construction effort.

The move proved wise for L.A. Unified and a poor gamble for AIG, which is best known for its central role in helping trigger the nation's 2008 economic crisis.

The district paid about $7.5 million up front for the 20-year policy and also agreed to pay the first $100,000 on any claim. Even so, the claims quickly absorbed what the district put in, and AIG resisted paying more. L.A. Unified filed suit in 2006, beginning a protracted legal battle that consumed millions of dollars, according to people inside the district who were not authorized to disclose the information.

Both sides agreed to keep the settlement confidential, except as legally required. L.A. Unified disclosed the settlement terms in response to a public records request, but officials declined to comment.

"We're pleased that we were able to reach an amicable resolution with LAUSD and have no comment beyond that," said Frank Kaplan, an attorney who represented AIG and its affiliates.

According to court documents filed by L.A. Unified, AIG's intention "was, all along, to book the premium on the policy — and the business from a prominent public agency — and to resist subsequent claims payments they had promised to pay."

AIG, on the other hand, said in court filings that L.A. Unified was planning "to undertake an extensive program of environmental investigation and remediation … with the intent to deceive [AIG] and to induce it to provide coverage."

As part of this alleged scheme, the insurance company contended that L.A. Unified tried to avoid its own responsibility to pay for cleaning sites long known to contain toxins. Time after time, the district "concealed material information" and converted an insurance policy into a $100-million construction subsidy, according to AIG.

The decision to seek environmental insurance grew out of the district's experience with the Belmont Learning Complex — erected on property that was not fully investigated before its purchase. The eventual cost of that school ballooned to more than 10 times early estimates — for many reasons — and its completion was delayed more than a decade. Belmont became a symbol of the school system's dysfunction.

The policy specifically excluded Belmont, which finally opened in 2008 as the Edward R. Roybal Learning Center.

But an older hot spot, Park Avenue Elementary in Cudahy, became a focus of contention. Park Avenue, which opened in 1968, was built atop a toxic dumpsite; and before long, a chemical, tarry sludge seeped periodically to the playground. In 1989, the district closed the school for a year, performed an interim fix, then abandoned further efforts.

Years later, when new problems arose there, the district resumed work at Park Avenue and filed insurance claims with AIG for the costs. The insurer paid $6.3 million, but the claims soon exceeded $11.1 million, according to court documents. AIG refused to pay more and threatened to take back earlier payments.

Sites with problems known before the policy term, such as Park Avenue, were not eligible for claims, AIG insisted. The insurer also said the work was unnecessarily expensive and that AIG had the right to approve cleanup measures in advance.

The district contended that AIG failed to exclude Park Avenue from potential claims when it had the chance and that L.A. Unified performed work under the direction of state regulators. AIG had access to public officials and reports as well as to the district's environmental consultants and records, according to L.A. Unified. The situation at Park Avenue and some other properties also had been the subject of news reports.

The parties disputed claims arising from more than three dozen schools.

Under state rules, all or most settlement money is likely to go into construction and maintenance funds, according to the district.

By next year, the district will have completed about 140 new schools and hundreds of improvement and renovation projects.

AIG has been one of the largest investors in L.A. Unified's school-construction bonds. It also has provided investment accounts for teachers who want to put aside savings for retirement.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Harper Lee sues agent over copyright to To Kill A Mockingbird

Good for Harper Lee. If this guy would cheat the author of one of America's most beloved books, he'd cheat anybody.

Harper Lee sues agent over copyright to To Kill A Mockingbird
Author claims she was duped into signing over the rights on her prizewinning book
Paul Harris
The Observer
4 May 2013

Harper Lee, the reclusive author of To Kill A Mockingbird, has sued a literary agent, claiming that he tricked the ageing writer into assigning him copyright on the classic book.

The move marks a rare step into the spotlight for Lee, who is known for keeping a low profile for such a household name, living quietly in a tiny town in the deep south of America and eschewing almost all media requests.

However, in a shock move, 87-year-old Lee has now filed a lawsuit in a Manhattan court alleging that Samuel Pinkus, the son-in-law of Lee's long-time agent, Eugene Winick, tricked Lee into signing over the copyright on the book.

The case claims that Pinkus "engaged in a scheme to dupe" Lee into assigning the copyright without any payment. The ploy is alleged to have taken place in 2007, five years after Winick became ill and Pinkus started diverting some of his clients into his own company. Lee's lawsuit says Pinkus engineered the transfer of Lee's rights to secure himself "irrevocable" interest in the income derived from To Kill A Mockingbird. It adds that he also avoided paying legal obligations that he owed to his father-in-law's company for royalties that Pinkus had allegedly misappropriated.

Lee has been suffering declining health for some years and has trouble with her eyesight and hearing. The case reveals that when she signed the document she was living in an assisted-living facility after suffering a stroke. It says she argues that she has no memory of agreeing to relinquish her rights to the book and signing an agreement that memorialises the purported transfer of income.

"Pinkus knew that Harper Lee was an elderly woman with physical infirmities that made it difficult for her to read and see," Gloria Phares, Lee's lawyer, said in the complaint. The suit also reveals that the copyright was reassigned to Lee last year after she took legal action. Though Pinkus then ceased to be Lee's agent, he was still getting royalties this year, according to the file. So far Pinkus has made no comment on the allegations.

Lee is one of the most renowned names in modern fiction. To Kill A Mockingbird is an esteemed part of the American canon, with its tale of racial injustice in the deep south. Framed around a young girl called Scout, it also features her father, heroic lawyer Atticus Finch, as he seeks to prevent an innocent black man from being convicted of rape.

The book was published in 1960 to wide acclaim. It won a Pulitzer prize and is a mainstay of literature studies in high schools and universities across America. It has sold more than 30m copies worldwide and was also made into a classic 1962 film starring Gregory Peck in the role of Finch.

However, the book remains Lee's only published novel, though it is far from the only reason that she became a major literary figure. Lee had an intensely close relationship with Truman Capote, who was a childhood friend. She helped Capote on projects such as his famous real-life crime exploration In Cold Blood and acted as a sort of muse, researcher and confidante for him.

But, unlike the gregarious and attention-hungry Capote, Lee has always preferred to remain in the shadows of public life. She has spent most of her life living quietly with her older sister in the small town of Monroeville, Alabama. She has rejected almost all interview requests for the past half-century and, despite keeping an apartment in New York City, has not been a presence on America's literary circuit...

McQueary files whistle-blower and defamation lawsuit in Penn State Jerry Sandusky case

Ex-Penn State assistant wants firing decision date
Seattle PI
May 25, 2013

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — A former Penn State assistant football coach who was a key witness in the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse case is disputing the university's assertion that he was fired as part of a routine changing of the guard under a new head football coach.

Former assistant coach Mike McQueary has filed a whistleblower and defamation lawsuit against Penn State alleging that statements made in 2011 by then-university president Graham Spanier after charges were filed in the Sandusky case made McQueary look untruthful. The university tried unsuccessfully last month to have the lawsuit thrown out, but a judge ruled that the allegations of "outrageous conduct" on the part of the school are sufficient to keep it alive.

The university has maintained that new head coach Bill O'Brien simply didn't rehire McQueary after his contract expired at the end of June 2012, and it was no different from the turnover of scores of college assistants every year, The (Harrisburg) Patriot-News ( reported.

But a response by McQueary filed Friday in Centre County court said he had been employed since 2004 "with no specified ending date," and even if the contract ended last year, "strict proof" is required of when the decision to terminate him was made.

Read more:

Teacher Punished for Telling Students About Constitutional Rights

Teacher Punished for Telling Students About Constitutional Rights
By Todd Starnes
Fox News
May 29, 2013

An Illinois high school teacher was punished by a local school district after he warned students about the Constitutional rights before answering a school-mandated survey about emotional and at-risk behavior.

John Dryden, a social studies teacher at Batavia High School, was issued a formal reprimand and docked a day’s pay. The punishment was doled out during a closed-door school board meeting.

The controversy started when the school district directed students to complete a survey about at-risk behavior – including past drug, tobacco and alcohol usage.

“I advised my students that they had a Fifth Amendment right not incriminate themselves,” Dryden told a local newspaper. “It was not my intention for them not to take the survey.”

Batavia School Superintendent Jack Barshinger told Fox News what the teacher did was against the rules.

“The issue before the board was whether one employee had the right to mischaracterize the efforts of teachers, counselors, social workers and others and tell students in effect that the adults are not here to help but they are trying to get you to incriminate yourself,” he said.

But Dryden said several questions on the 34-page survey asked students to self-report what could potentially be criminal behavior.

“I’m not here to stir the pot,” Dryden said. “I’m just trying to protect my kids.”

Barshinger told Fox News that school rules protect students from self-incrimination.

“It is not possible for a student to incriminate himself in a school setting that would make him eligible for any police action,” he said.

And while the superintendent said students “absolutely” have constitutional rights – he said there is a caveat.

“Unfortunately, it is how they are applied in a school setting,” he said. “The Fifth Amendment – you don’t typically hear about in a school setting. That’s because the law has already been set that don’t allow students to self incriminate.”

[Maura Larkins' comment: What law is it that? And why did Barshinger say above that it was "school rules" that protected from self-incrimination? In fact, many adults who work in schools have hostile feelings toward certain kids, and go out of their way to get kids suspended or expelled. Also, they often call in the police.]

He also said parents and students were given the opportunity to opt-out of the survey.

[Maura Larkins' comment: If they had the right to opt out, then what's all the fuss about? Basically, that's what the teacher was telling them, only he gave them a civics lesson at the same time.]

Nearly 100 students, former students and colleagues turned out at the school board meeting to show their support for the embattled teacher. A Facebook petition generated nearly 6,000 signatures for the 20-year veteran teacher.

“He is able to break through student apathy like no other teacher I know,” fellow teacher Scott Bayer told a local newspaper.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

This judge committed a lesser offense than judges who intentionally subvert court cases, but she's going to jail for a year

Judge Hathaway did not subvert justice for citizens who appeared in her courtroom. Instead, she concealed assets in a private mortgage deal that had nothing to do with her decisions in the courtroom.

I believe her crime is far less harmful to the public, yet she is going to jail for a year. Meanwhile, judges who undermine the legal system are protected by the powerful lawyers for whom they do favors, by the culture of professional courtesy that controls the legal profession.

When will our legal system start punishing its officers for intentionally subverting the law?

Former Michigan Supreme Court Justice Diane Hathaway gets year in prison for bank fraud
Khalil AlHajal
M Live
on May 28, 2013

ANN ARBOR, MI -- U.S. District Judge John Corbett O'Meara sentenced former Michigan Supreme Court Justice Diane Hathaway to one year and one day in prison followed by two years of supervised release for bank fraud Tuesday.

Hathaway pleaded guilty in January to hiding assets in order to convince ING Bank to agree to the short sale of her Grosse Pointe Park home, which allowed her to shed some $600,000 in underwater mortgage debt.

O'Meara appeared pained as he handed out the sentence, issuing it after a long pause and after extended praise of the arguments presented by both the defense and prosecution.

"This is hard," he said. "We're talking about a defendant that has accomplished a great deal in her lifetime and has done well and who I hope will be able to accomplish more... after all this is over."

Hathaway addressed the court in a shaky voice before O'Meara named the sentence, saying she has been ashamed, humiliated and disgraced over the crime.

"I stand before you a broken person," she said. "...I take full responsibility for my actions."

Hathaway was also ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $90,000, estimated to be the amount ING Bank lost in the scheme.

Her lawyer Steven Fishman in trying to convince O'Meara not to order prison time said Hathaway intended to pay the entire amount today.

"You'll be done with this and you'll be out being a valuable and successful citizen of this country very soon," O'Meara said.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Middle class and poor kids are scoring lower on tests than in the past compared to rich kids

Our society discards the potential contributions of gifted poor kids in order to keep the children of rich and middle class families in top positions. The rich-poor gap in test scores is about 40 percent larger now than it was 30 years ago. This statistic has nothing to do with race.

Obviously, this situation does not benefit our country since it puts less competent people in charge of progress. Nor does it benefit the planet, since our society is so powerful.

No Rich Child Left Behind
New York Times
April 27, 2013

...What is news is that in the United States over the last few decades these differences in educational success between high- and lower-income students have grown substantially.

One way to see this is to look at the scores of rich and poor students on standardized math and reading tests over the last 50 years. When I did this using information from a dozen large national studies conducted between 1960 and 2010, I found that the rich-poor gap in test scores is about 40 percent larger now than it was 30 years ago.

To make this trend concrete, consider two children, one from a family with income of $165,000 and one from a family with income of $15,000. These incomes are at the 90th and 10th percentiles of the income distribution nationally, meaning that 10 percent of children today grow up in families with incomes below $15,000 and 10 percent grow up in families with incomes above $165,000.

In the 1980s, on an 800-point SAT-type test scale, the average difference in test scores between two such children would have been about 90 points; today it is 125 points. This is almost twice as large as the 70-point test score gap between white and black children. Family income is now a better predictor of children’s success in school than race.

The same pattern is evident in other, more tangible, measures of educational success, like college completion. In a study similar to mine, Martha J. Bailey and Susan M. Dynarski, economists at the University of Michigan, found that the proportion of students from upper-income families who earn a bachelor’s degree has increased by 18 percentage points over a 20-year period, while the completion rate of poor students has grown by only 4 points.

In a more recent study, my graduate students and I found that 15 percent of high-income students from the high school class of 2004 enrolled in a highly selective college or university, while fewer than 5 percent of middle-income and 2 percent of low-income students did.

These widening disparities are not confined to academic outcomes: new research by the Harvard political scientist Robert D. Putnam and his colleagues shows that the rich-poor gaps in student participation in sports, extracurricular activities, volunteer work and church attendance have grown sharply as well.

In San Francisco this week, more than 14,000 educators and education scholars have gathered for the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association. The theme this year is familiar: Can schools provide children a way out of poverty?

We are still talking about this despite decades of clucking about the crisis in American education and wave after wave of school reform.Whatever we’ve been doing in our schools, it hasn’t reduced educational inequality between children from upper- and lower-income families.

Part of knowing what we should do about this is understanding how and why these educational disparities are growing. For the past few years, alongside other scholars, I have been digging into historical data to understand just that. The results of this research don’t always match received wisdom or playground folklore.

The most potent development over the past three decades is that the test scores of children from high-income families have increased very rapidly. Before 1980, affluent students had little advantage over middle-class students in academic performance; most of the socioeconomic disparity in academics was between the middle class and the poor. But the rich now outperform the middle class by as much as the middle class outperform the poor. Just as the incomes of the affluent have grown much more rapidly than those of the middle class over the last few decades, so, too, have most of the gains in educational success accrued to the children of the rich.

Before we can figure out what’s happening here, let’s dispel a few myths.

The income gap in academic achievement is not growing because the test scores of poor students are dropping or because our schools are in decline. In fact, average test scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the so-called Nation’s Report Card, have been rising — substantially in math and very slowly in reading — since the 1970s. The average 9-year-old today has math skills equal to those her parents had at age 11, a two-year improvement in a single generation. The gains are not as large in reading and they are not as large for older students, but there is no evidence that average test scores have declined over the last three decades for any age or economic group.

The widening income disparity in academic achievement is not a result of widening racial gaps in achievement, either. The achievement gaps between blacks and whites, and Hispanic and non-Hispanic whites have been narrowing slowly over the last two decades, trends that actually keep the yawning gap between higher- and lower-income students from getting even wider. If we look at the test scores of white students only, we find the same growing gap between high- and low-income children as we see in the population as a whole.

It may seem counterintuitive, but schools don’t seem to produce much of the disparity in test scores between high- and low-income students. We know this because children from rich and poor families score very differently on school readiness tests when they enter kindergarten, and this gap grows by less than 10 percent between kindergarten and high school.

There is some evidence that achievement gaps between high- and low-income students actually narrow during the nine-month school year, but they widen again in the summer months.

That isn’t to say that there aren’t important differences in quality between schools serving low- and high-income students — there certainly are — but they appear to do less to reinforce the trends than conventional wisdom would have us believe.

If not the usual suspects, what’s going on? It boils down to this: The academic gap is widening because rich students are increasingly entering kindergarten much better prepared to succeed in school than middle-class students. This difference in preparation persists through elementary and high school.

My research suggests that one part of the explanation for this is rising income inequality. As you may have heard, the incomes of the rich have grown faster over the last 30 years than the incomes of the middle class and the poor. Money helps families provide cognitively stimulating experiences for their young children because it provides more stable home environments, more time for parents to read to their children, access to higher-quality child care and preschool and — in places like New York City, where 4-year-old children take tests to determine entry into gifted and talented programs — access to preschool test preparation tutors or the time to serve as tutors themselves.

But rising income inequality explains, at best, half of the increase in the rich-poor academic achievement gap. It’s not just that the rich have more money than they used to, it’s that they are using it differently. This is where things get really interesting.

High-income families are increasingly focusing their resources — their money, time and knowledge of what it takes to be successful in school — on their children’s cognitive development and educational success. They are doing this because educational success is much more important than it used to be, even for the rich.

With a college degree insufficient to ensure a high-income job, or even a job as a barista, parents are now investing more time and money in their children’s cognitive development from the earliest ages. It may seem self-evident that parents with more resources are able to invest more — more of both money and of what Mr. Putnam calls “‘Goodnight Moon’ time” — in their children’s development. But even though middle-class and poor families are also increasing the time and money they invest in their children, they are not doing so as quickly or as deeply as the rich.

The economists Richard J. Murnane and Greg J. Duncan report that from 1972 to 2006 high-income families increased the amount they spent on enrichment activities for their children by 150 percent, while the spending of low-income families grew by 57 percent over the same time period. Likewise, the amount of time parents spend with their children has grown twice as fast since 1975 among college-educated parents as it has among less-educated parents. The economists Garey Ramey and Valerie A. Ramey of the University of California, San Diego, call this escalation of early childhood investment “the rug rat race,” a phrase that nicely captures the growing perception that early childhood experiences are central to winning a lifelong educational and economic competition.

It’s not clear what we should do about all this. Partly that’s because much of our public conversation about education is focused on the wrong culprits: we blame failing schools and the behavior of the poor for trends that are really the result of deepening income inequality and the behavior of the rich.

We’re also slow to understand what’s happening, I think, because the nature of the problem — a growing educational gap between the rich and the middle class — is unfamiliar. After all, for much of the last 50 years our national conversation about educational inequality has focused almost exclusively on strategies for reducing inequalities between the educational successes of the poor and the middle class, and it has relied on programs aimed at the poor, like Head Start and Title I.

We’ve barely given a thought to what the rich were doing. With the exception of our continuing discussion about whether the rising costs of higher education are pricing the middle class out of college, we don’t have much practice talking about what economists call “upper-tail inequality” in education, much less success at reducing it.

Meanwhile, not only are the children of the rich doing better in school than even the children of the middle class, but the changing economy means that school success is increasingly necessary to future economic success, a worrisome mutual reinforcement of trends that is making our society more socially and economically immobile.

We need to start talking about this. Strangely, the rapid growth in the rich-poor educational gap provides a ray of hope: if the relationship between family income and educational success can change this rapidly, then it is not an immutable, inevitable pattern. What changed once can change again. Policy choices matter more than we have recently been taught to think.

So how can we move toward a society in which educational success is not so strongly linked to family background? Maybe we should take a lesson from the rich and invest much more heavily as a society in our children’s educational opportunities from the day they are born. Investments in early-childhood education pay very high societal dividends. That means investing in developing high-quality child care and preschool that is available to poor and middle-class children. It also means recruiting and training a cadre of skilled preschool teachers and child care providers. These are not new ideas, but we have to stop talking about how expensive and difficult they are to implement and just get on with it.

But we need to do much more than expand and improve preschool and child care. There is a lot of discussion these days about investing in teachers and “improving teacher quality,” but improving the quality of our parenting and of our children’s earliest environments may be even more important. Let’s invest in parents so they can better invest in their children.

This means finding ways of helping parents become better teachers themselves. This might include strategies to support working families so that they can read to their children more often.. It also means expanding programs like the Nurse-Family Partnership that have proved to be effective at helping single parents educate their children; but we also need to pay for research to develop new resources for single parents.

It might also mean greater business and government support for maternity and paternity leave and day care so that the middle class and the poor can get some of the educational benefits that the early academic intervention of the rich provides their children. Fundamentally, it means rethinking our still-persistent notion that educational problems should be solved by schools alone.

The more we do to ensure that all children have similar cognitively stimulating early childhood experiences, the less we will have to worry about failing schools. This in turn will enable us to let our schools focus on teaching the skills — how to solve complex problems, how to think critically and how to collaborate — essential to a growing economy and a lively democracy.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

I'm delighted that UPforEd is addressing the issue of teacher evaluations

Teacher Evaluation: The Debate Rages On
Jan. 2013

Two side-by-side editorials questioning how to evaluate teachers, were in the San Diego U-T this weekend: One by UPforEd board member, Bill Ponder and the other by SDUSD Board Trustee, Kevin Beiser.

UPforEd believes that parents know the difference a great teacher can make in their child's school year. This is backed up by loads of data pointing to the teacher as a key ingredient to student success and even the district's own 2020 Vision Plan has an effective teacher in every classroom as a central premise.

While clearly test scores are not the only answer, this does not mean we should not have a comprehensive discussion about recruiting and keeping the best teachers in our classrooms. We congratulate Mr. Ponder and Trustee Beiser for opening the door to this long overdue conversation. Perhaps the solution is somewhere in the middle.

In Bill Ponder's opinion, "teaching and learning must be elevated to a standard that ensures that all students have the same access to great teachers" and that implementing a teacher evaluation system, where a percentage of the teachers' performance is based on their students' achievement, is needed to get there.

On the other side, San Diego Unified Board Trustee, Kevin Beiser says that test scores should not be used when evaluating a teacher, rather the focus should be on what a "broad array of research from around the country and around the world points to as proven best practices in effective teaching. Collaboration, ongoing professional development and low class sizes work."

Read the full opinion-editorials here, and let us know what you think:

Bill Ponder's Op-Ed
Grading teachers: Accountability needed
By Bill Ponder
Jan. 12, 2013

Year after year, San Diego’s students are failing to learn and San Diego’s teachers are not being held accountable.

The political issue around No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and waivers was clearly stated in the U-T’s Dec. 27 editorial, “Obama to California: Do better on schools.” The president said, “most teachers are solid or better, but bad teachers – perhaps 10 percent of those now on the job – must go.”

Now what do we do? Can we evaluate teachers – all teachers – to measure their effectiveness in helping all students achieve?

To some extent we already evaluate teachers based on student outcomes through end of semester exams, Advanced Placement exams, International Baccalaureate exams, etc. As well, teachers are evaluated by outside educational organizations such as College Board and IBO International that look at the effectiveness of teacher instruction based on the students’ mastery of a set of defined subject area standards.

When looking at student learning, the conventional wisdom is that an effective teacher is the central factor in student learning. So why are the most influential organizations in this state – the California Teachers Association (CTA) and California Federation of Teachers (CFT) – refusing to commit to evaluate teachers based on the students’ mastery of clearly identified outcomes?

After all, is teaching students to master the state’s educational guidelines not the responsibility of the teachers?

The CTA and CFT claim there is no way to measure the effectiveness of instruction because the individual needs of the students are too diverse. Not true. With computer adaptive assessment (such as the new Smarter Balance Assessment which will soon replace the California Standardized Testing) and peer evaluation models, other states have successfully created a teacher evaluation system where a percentage of the teachers’ performance is based on their students’ achievement.

Currently the National Education Association is discussing implementing “a bar exam” for teachers entering the profession. Are NEA officials now acknowledging that teaching is a profession and that professionals are evaluated based on their ability to perform at the level necessary to be a member of the profession? Finally it is becoming clear that top-level policymakers understand that teachers need to be held accountable for educating all children.

So what should we do, now that the No Child Left Behind waiver has not been granted to California? Do we maintain the status quo or do we demand that school districts do more to educate all children?

I submit that we need to change the paradigm by asking for the same accountability for teacher performance that is expected in any other profession. Further, that we not allow the current system to keep ineffective teachers and administrators in our schools. We hold children as young as five years of age accountable by assessing them, reporting out grades, and deciding whether to promote or retain them based on performance. Yet we have given the CTA and CFT enough power to control, and ultimately defeat, our waiver application.

Why have we not organized as concerned parents and community members to ensure that the bar is raised in the teaching profession? Teaching and learning must be elevated to a standard that ensures that all students have the same access to great teachers and, thus, to learning.

e must demand that school districts in “Program Improvement” – those that have not met adequate yearly progress in student achievement in English and math – implement the federal guidelines under NCLB. Corrective action under the guidelines includes changing staff, implementing more directed interventions for low performing students and providing parents with alternative school choices, to name a few. San Diego Unified is entering year three of “Program Improvement” status with half of its students not proficient in math and English. With or without NCLB, it is our moral imperative to effect change.

We know we need to change. It is not a matter of should we change, it is a matter of how soon can we change. Our children do not have time to wait for teachers to be held accountable. It is our responsibility as parents and citizens to ensure that our students have quality teachers in every classroom in order to create the capacity for our children to compete on the global stage

Teaching and learning must be elevated to a standard that ensures that all students have the same access to great teachers, and thus, to learning.

Ponder, a retired university administrator, was a candidate last year for a seat on the San Diego Unified school board.

Kevin Beiser's Op-Ed

Grading teachers: Scores not reliable
By Kevin Beiser
Jan. 12, 2013

[Maura Larkins' note: Actually, scores are very reliable for the top ten per cent of teachers. And heaven knows that the current system is completely useless.]

All children deserve to have effective teachers. As a trustee of the San Diego Unified School District, my job is to cut through the ideological and political debates about what produces effective teaching and to focus on what actually works. My own experience as a classroom teacher confirms what the broad array of research from around the country and around the world points to as proven best practices in effective teaching. Collaboration, ongoing professional development and low class sizes work. Using standardized test scores to evaluate teachers, and threatening or bribing teachers based on such standardized test scores, does not in fact produce effective teaching or improved student learning.

I have the privilege of teaching middle school students at Granger Junior High School in National City, where I work with a wonderful team of colleagues that has produced amazing results over the last several years. The students at Granger overcome the challenges of poverty, disability and language to achieve. Granger is a National Turnaround School to Watch and a National Center for Urban School Transformation Finalist (NCUST).

Research shows, and our experience at Granger proves, that when teachers work together students learn more. Professional learning communities work in collaboration to help improve instructional practices and by using student data as a tool to support students, not punish teachers. Ranking teachers using their student test scores destroys such collaboration and pits teachers against one another as they try to score higher than their colleagues. Students should be able to attend any teacher’s tutoring session after school or on Saturday if they need help or are below grade level.

Finland has a world-renowned public education system as a result of school reforms that have proved to increase student learning. Samuel Abrams, a visiting scholar at Columbia University, documented that Finland reduced class sizes (cap of 16 students in many sciences classes), boosted teacher pay and required all teachers to complete a rigorous master’s program. Finland ended standardized testing, except for seniors in high school going to college. Finnish teachers also have more time to plan lessons and collaborate with colleagues. The teacher evaluation system relies upon a variety of measures – none of which include standardized test scores. We can learn from Finland’s success.

The National Academy of Science clearly refutes using test scores to fire teachers when it concludes “VAM (value-added modeling) estimates of teacher effectiveness should not be used because such estimates are far too unstable to be considered fair or reliable.”

The Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education found that ratings were unstable and unreliable with a margin of error as high as 50 percentile in English and 30 percentile in math. That means a teacher rated as “average” in the 40 percentile could be as high as 90 or low as 0 percentile. 90 is an “effective” teacher and 0 percentile would be and “ineffective” teacher.

Of 500 New York state principals surveyed, 73 percent said the “ineffective” label from test scores assigned to some of their teachers was not accurate and 81 percent felt the tool was limited or of no value in evaluating teachers.

Even the American Institute for Research found that teacher scores decreased as the number of disabled and poor students increased. This factor was “supposed” to be taken into account with the “algorithm” to calculate teacher test scores – clearly it did not. It also admitted that there was no way to identify co-teachers or support teachers and over half of the student scores in grades 4 and 5 were not assigned to a teacher. Mild and severe disabilities were grouped in the same category, disadvantaging special education teachers.

I hope teacher and administrator evaluations are improved to benefit our kids. In many other countries, like Finland and Singapore, teachers are evaluated by trained observers on how teachers support the whole child, how they self-improve and how they collaborate with other educators to improve their practice. As a teacher and as a policymaker, I am interested in these forward-thinking, research-based best practices for improving teaching. I am not interested in anti-teacher strategies that do not work and that are based more in conservative political ideology than in research or practice.

Beiser is vice-president of the San Diego Unified Board of Education and was San Diego Math Teacher of the Year in 2009. [Maura Larkins' note: Teacher of the Year awards are usually won by politically-popular teachers.]

San Jose teachers agree to contract linking pay to student achievent

"While revamping teacher evaluations has been on the national agenda, California as a whole has lagged. And the California Teachers Association isn't looking at San Jose Unified as an example. 'If it works for them, we're supportive,' CTA Vice President Eric Heins said. But it's not necessarily a template, Heins said, because contracts need to meet local teachers' needs.

San Jose teachers, district agree to landmark contract
By Sharon Noguchi

Jennifer Thomas, president of the San Jose Teachers Association.

SAN JOSE -- In a groundbreaking contract, the San Jose Unified School District and its teachers union have agreed to peg pay increases to teaching skill rather than college credits, create a career ladder for outstanding teachers and slow the advancement of ineffective teachers -- or ultimately fire them.

The school board last week approved a three-year contract, effective July 1, after 72 percent of teachers ratified the contract in an election with a 76 percent turnout.

"I'm definitely excited about the direction and the opportunity that this contract presents," said Superintendent Vincent Matthews.

The contract includes incremental but substantial change in how teachers are evaluated and promoted. "It required both parties to come to the table and realize something needed to change fundamentally," said Jennifer Thomas, president of the San Jose Teachers Association. "We are really excited."

Unlike neighboring districts where acrimonious negotiations have stalled over pay and benefits, the San Jose Unified contract builds on two decades of cooperation and collaboration. The contract creates a teacher quality panel and outlines ways teachers will be evaluated and will advance. Those who fail to make the grade could be denied a raise.

While revamping teacher evaluations has been on the national agenda, California as a whole has lagged. And the California Teachers Association isn't looking at San Jose Unified as an example.

"If it works for them, we're supportive," CTA Vice President Eric Heins said. But it's not necessarily a template, Heins said, because contracts need to meet local teachers' needs.

San Jose's was a rough road. Relations were so broken that teachers went on strike twice in the 1980s, and negotiations in 1993 reached an impasse before being settled.

After intensive talks on how to move from negativity to partnership, the sides agreed on a revenue-sharing formula that today is still a rarity in the state. Certificated staff gets 67 percent of revenues.

"Once we opened the books, we were very clear: it is what it is," said Linda Murray, who began as superintendent in 1993. Teachers shared in the district's ups and downs. "It made all the difference in the world."

With that agreement, "we can see every penny," Thomas said.

But though dubbed revolutionary by some, the new contract omits some elements once discussed but deemed too controversial, such as paying teachers to teach at high-poverty, low-achieving schools, and pegging teacher evaluations to student test scores.

"There is no reliable study showing that increase so-called accountability by making student test scores a significant part of evaluation improves outcomes for students or teacher performance," Thomas said.

While student performance will be part of the discussion on evaluations, teachers won't be penalized if students don't meet expectations.

"What will drive this," Thomas said, "is the belief that teachers can be trusted to self-assess."

That doesn't entirely satisfy school reformers, who have pushed hard -- and succeeded in many states -- for test scores to be one element of teacher evaluations.

But teachers will get rewarded for being more effective and sharing their expertise with colleagues. "We want to end the isolation of excellent teaching," Thomas said.

Thus, the contract creates new categories of teachers who will mentor, advise and evaluate their peers, in ways that only beginning teachers get now.

The cost of the contract will be minuscule -- about $355,000, out of a $176.8 million unrestricted general fund for 2014-15, the year the new salary schedule kicks in, according to the district.

It includes a no cost-of-living raise, which teachers have not had since 2008, but the district is shouldering increases in health insurance costs.

But creating the expert categories -- which depend on the district finding outside sources of revenue -- could bump top salaries to $97,228 for a model teacher and $112,278 for a master teacher, both with 30 years of service.

Across the state, teachers move up the salary schedule based on both longevity and college credits. Currently, a beginning San Jose Unified teacher with 44 credits beyond a bachelor's degree earns $47,716 for working 186 days a year. Completing 16 more units adds more than $5,000; a master's degree adds $2,576.

The new schedule will keep the longevity steps and degree stipends but replace the credits with categories based on skills and expertise.

Evaluations will be more detailed and will be done by both administrators and a team of teachers. That's an improvement, said district administrator Jodi Lax, a former elementary principal. Now, she said, "we end up doing a less complete job because we are so overwhelmed by the number of people we have to evaluate."

Detailed evaluations focused on improving performance may be common practice in the private sector but have been slow to come to public schools.

The contracts adds the potential of a third year of probationary status, which will require a waiver or change in law, Thomas said. Currently, teachers either receive tenure or are let go after two years.

She credited Matthews for his faith in employees, and Stephen McMahon -- who pushed for the contract first as Thomas's predecessor at the union, then since January as the district's finance chief. "His style and skill -- that's what helped these conversations start."

While not as forceful as it could be, the contract is a step in the right direction, reformers said. The skill-based salary schedule is "fantastic," said Arun Ramanathan, of the Oakland-based advocacy group Education Trust-West.

Murray said, "I see this as the next generation of forward-thinking work."

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Standardized test cheating may be widespread in school systems throughout the U.S.

See all posts on cheating on tests.

Report: Test cheating may be widespread
by Donna Krache
March 25th, 2012

(CNN) An investigative report published in Sunday’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution found indications of standardized test cheating in school systems throughout the U.S.

The seven-month long investigation of testing data examined 1.6 million records from almost 70,000 public schools nationwide. Suspicious score increases, high numbers of erasures and other irregularities were uncovered in about 200 school districts. The indicators found were similar to those discovered in Atlanta Public Schools, says the AJC.

Atlanta as cheating ground zero

The Atlanta Journal Constitution has broken news before about test cheating. In 2009, the paper reported “statistically unlikely” test score gains at some Atlanta schools. A state review determined that some cheating had occurred in more than half of the district’s elementary and middle schools. About 180 teachers have been implicated in the scandal.

So far, one teacher, Damany Lewis, has admitted to cheating and been fired. Other educators suspected of cheating who have not accepted a “resign or be fired” deal are being brought before a tribunal to hear their cases and determine what actions will be taken.

Former University of Georgia Chancellor Dr. Erroll Davis was named interim superintendent of APS last year. He replaced Dr. Beverly Hall. Hall resigned in June 2011 after 11 years as the head of APS. She was the recipient of praise and awards for her role in the district’s increased graduation rates and higher test scores.

Officials from APS and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation are still investigating what has become known as the “biggest cheating scandal in American history," but according to the AJC, Atlanta is not alone in its testing irregularities.

A nationwide problem

According to the AJC, the paper’s investigation does not prove that any widespread cheating occurred, but “it reveals that scores in hundreds of cities followed a pattern, like, in Atlanta, indicated cheating in multiple schools.”

The report says that in nine districts, test scores fluctuated so much that “the odds of such dramatic shifts occurring without intervention such as tampering were worse than one in one billion.” Houstonschools, the report says, experienced test score jumps two, three or more times than typically seen in one year. When these students went on to the next grade, their test scores plummeted, so the likelihood that the score increases were due to learning is slim. A spokesman for the Houston school district, however, questioned whether cheating was the cause of all the irregularities that the AJC found.

The AJC says that 196 of the country’s 3,125 school districts had enough irregularities that the odds of these irregularities happening by chance alone are worse than one in 1,000.

The paper’s statistical analysis of test scores red-flagged more than one in six tests inSt. Louis and one in seven in Detroit. Officials in the St. Louis district have acknowledged the unusual score changes, but say that cheating is not the cause. Detroit officials have said that score increases were due to “better teaching,” according to the report.

According to the investigation, “dozens” of mid-sized school systems, including those in Gary, Indiana, East St. Louis, Illinois, and Mobile, Alabama exhibited “suspicious” tests in high concentrations.

No Child Left Behind and student outcomes

Standardized testing is a key point of No Child Left Behind, the bipartisan federal legislation signed into law ten years ago.

At the heart of the law is is a mandate for accountability and measured student outcomes, derived primarily from state-administered standardized tests that are given annually in grades 3 through 8 in math and reading.

Critics say that the law promotes “teaching to the test” and that it cultivates a climate for cheating, especially when teachers’ and administrators’ jobs and pay are tied students’ performance on tests.

But supporters say that there needs to be accountability for student learning among teachers and administrators, and that reliable, valid testing is one way to establish that. They call for stricter test-taking measures.

Regardless of the possible reasons behind them, inaccurate test results also erode public confidence in school systems and the credibility of public information.

And experts agree that when cheating happens, it’s the students who suffer. Schools with inflated test scores may look good on paper and earn praise for their staffs, but low-performing students who are entitled to tutoring and other educational options lose out when their scores don’t reflect their deficiencies.

Read the AJC report: “Cheating our children: Suspicious scores across the nation” here.

Friday, May 24, 2013

'Entitled' high school senior sparks a firestorm

Suzy Lee Weiss doesn't understand that she can not always have what she wants. She also doesn't understand that her sour grapes attacks on students that did get into the colleges she applied to reveals her contempt for people who are different from her. I doubt that she'd be much of an asset to an Ivy League College; this fact may have come through in her applications. But she may have a terrific career ahead of her at Fox News.

'Entitled' high school senior sparks a firestorm of anger after she writes a scathing open letter to the Ivy League schools that rejected her
By Daily Mail Reporter
5 April 2013

A high school senior who wrote an open letter to the Ivy League universities that rejected her has sparked a firestorm of anger, with readers accusing her of being 'entitled', 'whiny' and even racist.

But others have praised Suzy Lee Weiss, from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for the honesty and 'accuracy' of her article, which appeared in the Wall Street Journal on Friday.

She said she wrote the piece after she was rejected from a string of schools in one day.

Despite the teenager's 4.5 GPA, an SAT score of 2120 and work experience as a U.S. Senate page, she was shunned by Princeton, Yale, Vanderbilt and the University of Pennsylvania.

In her article she blamed not getting into the schools on the fact that she was not 'diverse' enough, and she even accused her parents of giving up on her because she is the last of four children.

She started out with an attack on diversity, suggesting that her white skin, business-owner parents and good education worked against her in the application process.

'What could I have done differently over the past years?' she wrote. 'For starters, had I known two years ago what I know now, I would have gladly worn a headdress to school. Show me to any closet, and I would've happily come out of it.'

She added she regrets not going to summer camps in Africa where she could 'scoop up some suffering child, take a few pictures, and write my essays about how spending that afternoon with Kinto changed my life.

Suzy Lee Weiss defends her scathing open letter to Ivy League...

Of her parents she added: 'As the youngest of four daughters, I noticed long ago that my parents gave up on parenting me.

'My parents also left me with a dearth of hobbies that make admissions committees salivate. I've never sat down at a piano, never plucked a violin.'

The article outraged many, who accused her of being entitled, self-indulgent and even racist.

'Entitled little brat,' one Twitter user said, as another said: 'Choking on the petulant privilege of Suzy Lee Weiss & hoping she matures out of her ignorance...

Human Intelligence Has Declined Since Victorian Era, Research Suggests

People Getting Dumber? Human Intelligence Has Declined Since Victorian Era, Research Suggests
The Huffington Post
By Macrina Cooper-White

Our technology may be getting smarter, but a provocative new study suggests human intelligence is on the decline. In fact, it indicates that Westerners have lost 14 I.Q. points on average since the Victorian Era.

What exactly explains this decline? Study co-author Dr. Jan te Nijenhuis, professor of work and organizational psychology at the University of Amsterdam, points to the fact that women of high intelligence tend to have fewer children than do women of lower intelligence. This negative association between I.Q. and fertility has been demonstrated time and again in research over the last century.

But this isn't the first evidence of a possible decline in human intelligence.

"The reduction in human intelligence (if there is any reduction) would have begun at the time that genetic selection became more relaxed," Dr. Gerald Crabtree, professor of pathology and developmental biology at Stanford University, told The Huffington Post in an email. "I projected this occurred as our ancestors began to live in more supportive high density societies (cities) and had access to a steady supply of food. Both of these might have resulted from the invention of agriculture, which occurred about 5,000 to 12,000 years ago."

As for Dr. te Nijenhuis and colleagues, they analyzed the results of 14 intelligence studies conducted between 1884 to 2004, including one by Sir Francis Galton, an English anthropologist and a cousin of Charles Darwin. Each study gauged participants' so-called visual reaction times -- how long it took them to press a button in response to seeing a stimulus. Reaction time reflects a person's mental processing speed, and so is considered an indication of general intelligence.

Hipp chronoscope, a device used to measure short intervals of time with an accuracy of 1/1,000th of a second. Hipp chronoscopes were used to measure reaction time in experimental psychology labs in the late 19th Century.

In the late 19th Century, visual reaction times averaged around 194 milliseconds, the analysis showed. In 2004 that time had grown to 275 milliseconds. Even though the machine gauging reaction time in the late 19th Century was less sophisticated than that used in recent years, Dr. te Nijenhuis told The Huffington Post that the old data is directly comparable to modern data.

Other research has suggested an apparent rise in I.Q. scores since the 1940s, a phenomenon known as the Flynn Effect. But Dr. te Nijenhuis suggested the Flynn Effect reflects the influence of environmental factors -- such as better education, hygiene and nutrition -- and may mask the true decline in genetically inherited intelligence in the Western world.

This new research was published in the April 13 issue of Intelligence.

Dog Gets Grammar? Chaser The Border Collie Knows Nouns, Verbs & Prepositions, Study Shows (VIDEO)
The Huffington Post
By Jacqueline Howard

Who said you can't teach an old dog new tricks?

Chaser, a 9-year-old border collie that gained fame for understanding more than 1,000 English words, now has shown that she can understand sentences. And not just two-word sentences, such as "fetch stick" or "paw ball" -- but sentences containing a prepositional object, verb, and direct object.

You go, girl.

"Chaser intuitively discovered how to comprehend sentences based on lots of background learning about different types of words," Dr. John Pilley, Chaser's owner and a retired psychology professor at Wofford College in South Carolina, told ScienceNews.

Dr. Pilley, the author of a new study about Chaser's abilities, previously taught her how to recognize objects by name, as well as verbs and prepositions in commands. He reinforced her understanding with praise and play.

Now one of Pilley's YouTube videos demonstrates how Chaser may understand these grammatical elements together in a sentence.

In the video (shown above), two of Chaser's toys are placed on opposite sides of a room (one toy is named "leopard," the other "ringneck"). When Chaser is told "to leopard, take ringneck," she follows the command by picking up "ringneck" and dropping it by "leopard."

Dr. Pilley wrote in his study's abstract that Chaser's understanding of such sentences was tested with multiple and familiar objects, as well as novel objects. She was even tested when she couldn't see the objects at the time she received a command. The study published online in the journal Learning and Motivation on May 13, 2013.

"Findings were statistically significant in all three scenarios," Dr. Pilley wrote. "Successful findings were attributed to Chaser's intensive training in her first three years of life."v Dr. Stanley Coren, a psychology professor at the University of British Columbia and an expert on canine intelligence, told The Huffington Post that similar studies showing dogs understanding simple two-word sentences -- such as "pull toy" or "fetch ball" -- have been repeated before.

Dr. Coren was not involved in Dr. Pilley's research.

So, just how smart are dogs?

"Roughly speaking, the average dog is equivalent to a human two-year-old in terms of mental abilities," Dr. Coren said. "And the 'super dogs' are equivalent to maybe a human two-and-a-half-year-old.”

"Super dogs" are breeds ranked in the top 20 percent of canine intelligence, Dr. Coren said. Border collies are considered the most intelligent, followed by poodles and German shepherds.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

CA Court of Appeal Overturns Firing of Teacher Accused of Molestation

The Thad Jesperson case sounds a lot like the Dale Akiki case.

C.A. Overturns Firing of Teacher Accused of Molestation

Metropolitan News-Enterprise
March 27, 2013

The Fourth District Court of Appeal yesterday overturned the firing of a San Diego elementary school teacher who served more than three years in prison before his child molestation convictions were thrown out by an earlier appellate ruling.

Justice Terry O’Rourke, writing for Div. One, said a San Diego Superior Court judge who upheld Thad Jesperson’s termination failed to give the required deference to the conclusion of a commission on professional competence that Jesperson was fit to teach and did not engage in immoral conduct.

Jesperson, who taught second- and third-grade pupils at Toler Elementary School in the Clairemont neighborhood and was by several accounts a popular educator, has fought for 10 years—through three criminal trials and an administrative hearing—to clear himself of accusations that he molested pupils during the 2001-02 and 2002-03 school years. The allegations initially involved eight students, but charges relating to four of them were dropped before trial.

The first trial resulted in his being convicted on one of 13 counts, with a jury deadlock on the remaining charges. At the second trial, he was convicted on one count, with the others resulting in acquittals or further deadlock, but a motion for new trial on the conviction was granted.

At the third trial, he was convicted on seven counts, and he was subsequently sentenced to 15 years to life in prison. All of the convictions, including the one from the first trial, were reversed in 2007, in a 2-1 decision based on juror misconduct and ineffective assistance of counsel.

Prosecutors declined to retry the case, and Jesperson requested reinstatement. The school district notified him in November 2008 that he was being formally terminated for unfitness, immoral conduct, and failure to maintain a professional relationship with students.

There was also a civil suit by one of the parents, but it was dismissed as untimely.

Jesperson exercised his right as a tenured teacher to a hearing before a commission on professional competence, made up of two education professionals—one selected by the teacher and one by the district—and an administrative hearing officer assigned by the state.

The commission, following a hearing at which one of the pupils and her mother testified, and criminal trial testimony by those witnesses was read into the record, ruled that the allegations were unproven. While Jesperson had been “physically affectionate” with pupils, including Emily A., as she was identified, “the evidence did not establish that he touched her in the manner to which she testified, or in any other manner that was immoral or a violation of district regulations or that demonstrated an evident unfitness to serve,” the commission said.

Jesperson’s lawyers, in both the criminal and administrative proceedings, contended there was no physical evidence of any wrongdoing, and that the children, who initially denied the teacher had done anything wrong, changed their stories under pressure from parents, police and social workers.

But San Diego Superior Court Judge William Nevitt, citing his three years of experience hearing hundreds of children testify in juvenile court, said he believed Emily’s testimony about being touched inappropriately.

O’Rourke, however, writing for the Court of Appeal yesterday, said Nevitt failed to hold the district “to its burden to convince [the court] that the Commission’s administrative findings were contrary to the weight of the evidence.”

The trial judge, he said, failed to give the required “great weight” to the commission’s findings regarding the implausibility of much of Emily’s testimony, such as statements that the “bad” touching occurred “everyday” and that it occurred in class when all of the students were present. Nevitt also failed to credit, as the commission had, the testimony of Connie Murphy, a special education assistant, who said Jesperson often patted students on the back, or hugged them, as a form of encouragement, that he was a good teacher, and that she never saw any improper conduct.

Murphy also recounted a conversation with a guidance aide, who had reported to the school’s principal that a parent had alleged improper conduct on Jesperson’s part—apparently the first the principal had heard of the accusations. Murphy said the aide had said she “hated” Jesperson and thought he was a bad teacher and wanted him “out of there.”

O’Rourke wrote:

“It is highly improbable that such inappropriate touching could occur on a daily basis for a period of weeks without someone, including Murphy, noticing, given the layout of Jesperson’s classroom and the presence at times of other students waiting in line behind Emily. …Emily admitted she never felt the need to move away from Jesperson and denied that his touching felt ‘weird.’ District presented no evidence that other students were inappropriately touched, or felt uncomfortable around Jesperson. Testimony is properly discarded on a sufficiency of evidence analysis when it is inherently improbable or improbable on its face….”

The case is San Diego Unified School District v. Commission on Professional Conduct (Jesperson), 13 S.O.S. 1522.

Outcry as teachers at Oldham school use staff training day to attend a wedding

Outcry as teachers at Oldham school use staff training day to attend a wedding
Kim Pilling
07 November 2012

A headteacher has defended her staff who attended a colleague's wedding after the school closed early for training purposes.

Pupils at St Hilda's School in Oldham, Greater Manchester, were sent home early on the afternoon of October 30.

Parents received a letter which gave a reason of "staff development training".

One of those parents drove past the voluntary-aided school on the training day and noticed the Tilbury Street car park was empty.

He said he later found more than 20 of the teachers at the wedding celebrations in the nearby Grand Venue.

Father-of-two Kamal Hussain told the Oldham Evening Chronicle: "As taxpayers, we pay their wages and now they're being paid to lie to us and go to a wedding.

"I want an inquiry to the bottom of it because it's unfair on the children."

Headteacher Gillian Pursey told the newspaper: "Staff were given that hour and a half of staff development time to research things for our golden jubilee celebrations.

"They could do that research on or off site, and whenever they liked. Some decided to do it straight away, and others decided to do it after the wedding. It was all agreed with the school governors and is all above board."

Randi Weingarten, president of American Federation of Teachers (AFT), arrested in Philadelphia

Randi Weingarten Arrested For Protesting Philadelphia School Closure Hearing (UPDATE)
Huff Post

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, was arrested Thursday afternoon for blocking a school reform hearing in Philadelphia, an AFT spokesperson told The Huffington Post.

Weingarten reportedly stood outside the meeting of the Philadelphia School Reform Commission, in which the group was supposed to decide which Philadelphia Public Schools would close. Weingarten, whose AFT is the second-largest teachers' union in the country, made a surprise visit to fight school closures.

AFT spokesman Marcus Mrowka told The Huffington Post that Weingarten was arrested with 18 other community activists for blocking the entrance to the meeting. He added that Weingarten was in handcuffs.

The Philadelphia police department would not confirm the arrest, because the protest was ongoing. "I don't have any information at this point and probably won't until it's all dispersed," Lieutenant John Stanford said when reached by phone.

"There was a rally outside the building and they were probably blocking the entrance for about 20 minutes until police arrested them and escorted them away," Mrowka said. "She's in custody now."

Weingarten and teachers' unions throughout the country have protested school closure as a tool for reforming schools. Currently, the nation's largest cities are deciding which schools to close in a purported effort to save money and improve academic outcomes. But research shows that it's hard for school districts to recoup the closure savings they project, and a study from the University of Chicago's Urban Education Institute found that only 6 percent of students displaced by closed schools performed better in their new academic environments.

Activists have also protested school closures on civil rights grounds, saying that they disproportionately affect black and Hispanic families.v "Kids have suffered cut after cut," Weingarten said at the protest, according to Mrowka's notes. "The powers that be don't care about opportunity for children."

"The people of Philadelphia have come up with a plan to improve schools and it has been ignored," Weingarten said, according to Mrowka.

Chicago, which also employs AFT teachers, is currently considering what would be the largest wave of school closures in its history. On Wednesday, the city's "Commission on School Utilization" issued its final report, which concluded that Chicago Public Schools could shutter about 80 schools. It found that "closing schools and moving students … are only justifiable if, as a result, students are moved into better educational environments," echoing the UEI research. The report also concluded that "CPS has a responsibility to ensure … the safety of students who are being moved."

UPDATE: At around 8:15 p.m., Weingarten tweeted that she had been released from custody, saying: "we must continue the fight for fixing&ensuring great public schools for all kids-in Philly &US."

UPDATE: 9:25 p.m. -- In an interview following her release, Weingarten said she knew blocking the meeting would get her arrested, but she saw it as a last resort. Along with a community group, Weingarten said she had vainly tried to get a meeting with the SRC and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter.

"They refused to listen and would not even consent to a meeting with us," Weingarten said. (Nutter and the SRC could not be reached late Thursday.) Even during strike conditions in Chicago, Weingarten said she was able to converse with the other side.

Weingarten said she sees the school closure plan as siphoning money away from public schools, since the plan doesn't touch charter schools. "This was really a plan to eliminate public education," Weingarten said. "This is not about how to fix public schools, but to close them -- not how to stabilize but to destabilize public schooling."

Weingarten called the closings immoral. "When the powers that be ignore you and dismiss you, then you don't have any choice but try to resort to civil disobedience to try to confront an immoral act," she said.

So she joined parents and union activists to form a group of 19 people who blocked the entrance to the meeting. She said she intentionally told Philly teachers not to join, lest they lose their teaching certification, and discouraged parents who are undocumented immigrants from participating.

"The road to justice is long and the fight is not over tonight," Weingarten said. "Some schools were saved tonight, but at the end of the day, what I am told is that by all of us doing this together, reflecting on all the four corners of the community, people throughout the country are talking about it."

Sunday, May 19, 2013

14-year-old boy slapped by teacher, has broken eardrum

14-year-old boy slapped by teacher, has broken eardrum
YouTube (Video)
Dec 16, 2007

It is yet another case of extreme punishment in schools. A 14-year-old boy in Jammu now has a ruptured eardrum, after he was repeatedly slapped by his school teacher. The boy, Shubam Manhas is still in shock. The Class VIII student studied in the Army school at Nagrota, 20 kilometers from Jammu.

Soldier at Fort Hood investigated for sexual assault, Hagel seeks changes to military legal process

Hot on the heels of a similar charge against Air Force Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, a solider assigned as a Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention program coordinator has been suspended while allegations of "pandering, abusive sexual contact, assault and maltreatment of subordinates" are investigated. See second story below.

Many are wondering what's the point in having investigations if commanders can throw out verdicts.

After sex assault case, Hagel seeks changes to military legal process
By Jim Kavanagh
April 9, 2013

In response to an Air Force colonel's overturned sexual assault conviction, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is asking Congress to limit military commanders' authority to toss out court-martial verdicts.

"These changes would increase the confidence of service members and the public that the military justice system will do justice in every case," Hagel said in a statement Monday announcing the initiative.

Hagel also wants to require commanders who change court-martial sentences to explain their decisions in writing.

The effort comes in response to the case of Air Force Col. James Wilkerson. The F-16 pilot was freed last year from a Navy brig four months after a court-martial convicted him of sexually assaulting a woman at his home outside Aviano Air Base in Italy.

Acting under the military justice system's Article 60, the Air Force's top commanding officer in Europe, Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin, exercised his power as "convening authority" of the court-martial to overturn the conviction.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, was among those expressing outrage over the decision.

"As we are trying to send a signal to women ... I question now whether that unit that that man returns to, whether there's any chance a woman who is sexually assaulted in that unit would ever say a word," McCaskill said during a hearing in March.

Lisa Windsor, a former Army Judge Advocate General officer, said any base commander has authority to do what Franklin did, but "I've actually never seen that happen before, that a convening authority would completely overturn the case."

Hagel ordered a review of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and Monday's announcement is the result. The Joint Chiefs of Staff and secretaries of the various services support the changes, he said.

"Despite the attention and efforts of senior leaders throughout the Department of Defense, it is clear the department still has much more work to do to fully address the problem of sexual assault in the ranks," Hagel said. "This crime is damaging this institution. There are thousands of victims in the department, male and female, whose lives and careers have been upended, and that is unacceptable."

About 19,000 men and women suffer sexual assault each year in the military, former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said last year in announcing a Pentagon effort to stop the crime. Panetta noted that only about 3,200 of those assaults were reported. About 10,700 cases -- 56% -- involved male victims in 2010, based on anonymous reporting collected by the military.

CNN's Brian Todd, Josh Levs and Ashley Fantz contributed to this report.

Army investigates sergeant for alleged sexual assault
By Dana Ford
May 15, 2013

(CNN) -- The Army announced Tuesday that a sergeant first class assigned to an assault prevention program at Fort Hood, Texas, is under investigation for sexual assault.

The soldier, who was not named in an Army statement, has been suspended from all duties.

Specifically, the soldier is under investigation for "pandering, abusive sexual contact, assault and maltreatment of subordinates," the statement said. Special agents from the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command are conducting the probe.

No charges have been filed.

"This is so contrary to everything upon which the Army was built," Secretary of the Army John McHugh said during testimony before the House Appropriations Committee Defense subcommittee, according to the statement. "To see this kind of activity happening in our ranks is really heart-wrenching and sickening."

McHugh spoke generally about sex abuse crimes in the military...

The solider was assigned as a Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention program coordinator when the allegations surfaced. "There is a distinct possibility," that some sort of prostitution-related activity was involved, an administration official told CNN. But investigators have not yet determined the scope of that possibility or the potential criminal misconduct... According to a Pentagon report released last week, the number of service members anonymously reporting a sexual assault grew by more than 30% in the past two years.

The Defense Department estimated that more than 26,000 troops experienced an episode of "unwanted sexual contact," a huge jump from 19,300 in the 2010 report.

The actual number of sexual crimes reported in fiscal year 2012 was 3,374, a 6% increase over the previous year, the report said.

Military officials worry that many victims don't come forward because they fear retaliation. But the numbers might indicate that more victims are willing to report crimes than in the past.

"I am outraged and disgusted by the reports out of Fort Hood today," said House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard P. "Buck" McKeon, calling them the "latest chapter in a long, sordid history of sexual abuse" in the military. The California Republican has a granddaughter in the Army. "I see no meaningful distinction between complacency or complicity in the military's latest failure to uphold their own standards of conduct. Nor do I see a distinction between the service member who orchestrated this offense and the chain of command that was either oblivious to or tolerant of criminal behavior," he said... "To say this report is disturbing would be a gross understatement. For the second time in a week, we are seeing someone who is supposed to be preventing sexual assault being investigated for committing that very act," said U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York. She plans to unveil legislation this week that would remove chain of command influence from the prosecution of such offenses.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

What was the Stroberg family's message to the children of CVESD's Salt Creek Elementary regarding "our God"?

Whatever the Stroberg family intended "our God is mercy" and "the kingdom of our God is near" to mean, it is certainly important that Salt Creek Elementary offer some different views of religion to all students in the near future. Perhaps the school might consider playing the Wolf Blitzer video clip discussed in the second article below.

I know that many teachers and principals in Chula Vista Elementary School District misunderstand the law regarding religion, but I agree with CVESD that there was no need for a lawyer to be involved in the Stroberg incident. Of course, CVESD itself has a habit of calling in lawyers unnecessarily. I guess the district doesn't like it when parents borrow a page from CVESD's playbook.

Since religion is a hugely important part of human culture, any school that wants to provide a basic education needs to teach about the various religions of the world. Schools simply may not limit discussion to a single religion.

Here are the lyrics of the song that caused all the commotion at CVESD:

"Our God Is Mercy" by Brenton Brown

Our God is mercy
Our God is mercy
If your heart is heavy
If your soul is thirsty
There is a refuge
A home for the lonely
Our God is near
Our God is near
Our God is near
Our God is near

The kingdom of our God is near
Lift your eyes, lift your eyes
The hope of heaven's drawing near
Lift your eyes, lift your eyes
You're blessed if you've been torn apart
You're blessed if you've a broken heart
'Cause hope is waiting at the door
Salvation's near

Lift up your eyes, lift up your eyes
Lift up your eyes and sing
Lift up your eyes, lift up your eyes
Lift up your eyes and sing

The song is obviously Christian, but at the same time it seems quite universal; it could appeal to Jews, Muslims and anyone else who believes in a higher power that offers comfort to human beings. Buddhists might simply substitute "nirvana" for "kingdom of our God". Hindus and others who believe in multiple gods, and atheists who believe in hope for humanity, could also relate to the sentiments expressed.

Is this what Brenton Brown meant when he used the term "our God"? Was he talking about all human beings when he said "our"?

Perhaps not. It's possible he wanted to differentiate "our God" from "their God". It's possible he wanted his co-religionists to feel that they are more blessed than people who don't share their beliefs. Perhaps he believes that when "the kingdom of our God" arrives, an event that he describes as occurring in the near future, his kind will be whisked off to heaven while those who don't share his beliefs will be left to the horrors of the end times.

Now that's not a nice thought for school children who don't share Mr. Brown's beliefs.

Whatever Mr. Brown or the Stroberg family intended this song to mean, it is certainly important that Salt Creek Elementary offer some different views of religion to all students in the near future.

Chula Vista mom hires attorney so 6-year-old son could sing song about God at talent show
10 News

CHULA VISTA, Calif. - The family of a local kindergartner says their son was devastated after he was told he couldn't perform at his school's upcoming talent show because he wanted to sing a song about God.

Six-year-old Austin Stroberg has been practicing hard and planning to perform the song, “Our God Is Mercy,” written by Brenton Brown at his school's talent show.

Following his audition at Salt Creek Elementary School in Chula Vista, Austin's mom, Amanda Stroberg, said she was told he would not be allowed to be in the talent show if he was "going to sing that song."

Then she received an e-mail stating, "The judges really liked him and are agreeing to have him in the show so long as it’s a non-religious song. Star-Spangled Banner or any other song that is non-religious."

Needless to say, that did not sit well.

“We wanted to know what are his rights as a student,” said Stroberg.

Stroberg decided to contact the Pacific Justice Institute.

Shortly after an attorney sent a letter to the principal on Austin's behalf , the minds of the administration at Salt Creek Elementary School quickly changed and Austin was added to the list of this year's talent show performers.

“Really excited,” Austin told 10News.

“We were extremely pleased, we're glad the district was so quick to respond,” said Stroberg.

The four-page letter to Austin's principal stated in part, "The fact that the school allows students to sing Jewish songs and Kwanza songs during holiday celebrations, but refuses to allow this Christian song during the talent show may be a violation of equal protection under the law."

10News Reporter Preston Phillips spoke to Stroberg about the situation and how the family decided to reach out to an attorney to try and resolve the issue.

“Unfortunately, but it seems like a sign of the times,” said Stroberg.

The Chula Vista Elementary School District contacted 10News Thursday night saying Austin's parents went too far and could have simply gone to the district with their complaint instead of contacting an attorney.

“They simply could have contacted the district office with their concern. Really doesn't take an attorney to resolve things amicably,” said Anthony Millican, spokesman for Chula Vista Elementary School District.

The school district says they do not endorse or support Austin's song choice.

Austin's parents and the district say they are pleased the issue has been resolved.

Tornado survivor to Wolf Blitzer: Sorry, I’m an atheist. I don’t have to thank the Lord
Wolf Blitzer pushes a tornado survivor to praise the Lord. She tells him she's an atheist, with dignity and respect
By Mary Elizabeth Williams
May 22, 2013

You’d think by now CNN would have learned to stop treating its assumptions as truths. But when Wolf Blitzer made a casual comment Tuesday, it turned out to be a teachable moment both for the newsman and television viewers.

Speaking live to a survivor of the deadly tornado in Moore, Okla., Blitzer declared the woman “blessed,” her husband “blessed,” and her son “blessed.” He then asked, “You’ve gotta thank the Lord, right? Do you thank the Lord for that split-second decision?”

But as she held her 18-month-old son, Rebecca Vitsmun politely replied, “I’m actually an atheist.” A flummoxed Blitzer quickly lobbed back, “You are. All right. But you made the right call,” and Vitsmun graciously offered him a lifeline. “We are here,” she said, “and I don’t blame anyone for thanking the Lord.” Nicely done, Rebecca Vitsmun.

One in five American adults – and a third of Americans under age 30 — now declare no religious affiliation. We are less religious now than at any other point in our history, and our secularism is rising at a rapid pace. Get used to it, Lord thankers.

As Vitsmun pointed out, there’s nothing necessarily wrong with a statement of gratitude or even an acknowledgment of spirituality. I recently had someone tell me that she felt very “blessed” – right before adding that she was agnostic. Where Blitzer was insensitive — and just plain unthinking — was in his no-doubt well-intentioned demand that his interviewee cough up a Praise the Lord moment for the edification of CNN viewers.

And Blitzer was not the only person this week who got his expectations rocked. When Tempe, Ariz., state Rep. Juan Mendez was asked Tuesday to deliver the opening prayer for the afternoon’s session of the House of Representatives, he delivered something different.

“Most prayers in this room begin with a request to bow your heads,” the Democratic official said. “I would like to ask that you not bow your heads. I would like to ask that you take a moment to look around the room at all of the men and women here, in this moment, sharing together this extraordinary experience of being alive and of dedicating ourselves to working toward improving the lives of the people in our state.”

He went on to say, “This is a room in which there are many challenging debates, many moments of tension, of ideological division, of frustration. But this is also a room where, as my secular humanist tradition stresses, by the very fact of being human, we have much more in common than we have differences.”

It was a call to love and empathy that stands right up there next to any prayer in the book, and one that offered bonus inclusion and humanity. Afterward, he said, “I hope today marks the beginning of a new era in which Arizona’s non-believers can feel as welcome and valued here as believers.” And if the conservative state of Arizona can make it happen, there’s hope yet for the other 49, people.

In a nation in which the divide between believers and non-believers can be great and truly ugly – one of “militant atheism” on one side and unbearably ignorant religious conservatism on the other — with just a few words, Rebecca Vitsmun and Juan Mendez showed that the ideals of being respectful and compassionate belong to all of us. Whatever our personal views, we can give others space to have theirs and to express them with dignity. We can challenge assumptions, but we can conduct ourselves with kindness. Because what matters most in life isn’t what we believe in our hearts, it’s how we practice those beliefs with each other.