Report Shows Increase in Number of U.S. High School Graduations

Nonetheless, 1 out of every 4 American teens drop out of high school before finishing. That is the finding of a report released by the Alliance for Excellent Education, America’s Promise Alliance, Civic Enterprises, and the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University on March 19.

The report is titled  Building a Grad Nation: Progress and Challenge in Ending the High School Dropout Epidemic and the portion published today is the 2012 update.

Main findings were:

a) The national graduation rate increased by 3.5 percentage points between 2001 and 2009 from 72 percent to 75.5 percent in 2009.

b) The South and the suburbs saw the largest declines in the number of “dropout factory” schools with 410 and 171, respectively, between 2002 and 2009.

c) Contrary to 2008-09, progress in towns and rural areas stalled in 2009-2010.

d) Despite, and probably because of, all the upheaval in the state public schools under the Christie administration, New Jersey is among the states that lost ground.

High school graduation rate rises in U.S. – The Washington Post.

The WP writes:  “One of the success stories highlighted in the report is Washington County, Md., which increased its high school graduation rate from 78 percent in 2000 to 92 percent in 2010.

Recognizing that it faced a problem, Washington County devised a strategy in 2001 to turn around its sagging graduation rates. Teachers adept at working with struggling students were assigned to those most at risk of dropping out. Intervention specialists were hired. Support was offered to at-risk students before, during and after school. Summer classes and evening high school were expanded to help students complete graduation requirements.Designated staff at a special learning center focused on teen parents.”

Some of the above are among the steps I propose, notably the lengthening of in-school time. One point that I do not find – although it is probably somewhere in the report – is the issue of when we start with the enhanced program. I gather from the report that the expanded school year is only used where the lagging students are detected. Stressing on the fact that I am not an educator, I am fairly sure that the fate of a student is sealed as early as 3rd or 4th grade if a deficit in knowledge begins to build up with respect to class level. Such deficit accumulates and prevents further progress particularly in subjects where advance builds upon previous lessons.

Mathematics is possibly the best example of the above.

The part of working with the parents appears fundamental although it is not something that I had identified. At the very least, parents must send their children to school regularly. Absenteeism is certainly a factor in falling behind. Addressing cases where students are in danger of falling behind on an individual basis also seems to make a great deal of sense.

I have no doubt that we must start as early as 1st grade to see the benefits at the end of high school. But then there must be, as I have said before, a point where career paths separate. Not everyone is college material and there are great opportunities in non-college fields.

Trade-school grads in hot demand for manufacturing jobs – Mar. 14, 2012.

All developed and most if not all developing economies have such dual approach to education. We had it and seemed to abandon it as manufacturing moved overseas. It is time to undo the damage.

It is clear to me that one of the main factors in governor Christie’s drive against teacher tenure is motivated by revenge for the attacks the NJEA launched against him during the gubernatorial campaign of 2009. The problem with Christie’s agenda is that it robs a great deal of time and resources from the measures that really work. The governor and his accomplices in the education reform business have the potential to do a great deal of harm to an entire generation of children.

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New Jersey is a Fiscal Time-Bomb

NJ Spotlight | Budget Expert: Income Tax Cuts Will Benefit the Rich.

Christie and the democrats debate the merits of the proposed 10% tax cut and both miss the train. They want to make omelettes without cracking eggs, gain without pain, have the cake and eat it too.  As the Office of Legislative Services points out: The Tax cut as proposed will produce an insignificant benefit for all but a small minority.

Let’s forget about fairness for a moment:

From the strictest economic viewpoint, the 10% tax cut would fail to create the additional aggregate demand needed to stimulate the economy and I am presuming that that is the ultimate goal. Why would it not work? Because the immense majority of consumers would see their finances hardly changed by it – apparently Christie’s goal: The 10% cut is designed so that most people see almost nothing of it.

But even if we put that billion – following the democratic recipe – toward property tax relief, it amounts to approximately 2.2% of the total property tax paid by New Jersians – the equivalent of freezing property taxes for one year; again hardly worth to write home about.

Since the 2% cap is rather flexible, municipalities would find ways to make up for the one-year freeze. In fact, they would be forced to do so by their obligations. Postponed obligations accrue more debt. On the other side, Christie and Sweeney can talk all they want about merging services: It will not happen to the extent or with the speed needed.

The ultimate purpose of any fiscal measure should be to stimulate growth. Even measures of austerity should have the long term goal of stimulating growth. With growth come jobs, better wages, better infrastructure, more accessible education opportunities and wider horizons for our youth, higher standards of living, etc. I presume we all want our children to live better than we have. But everything that has been put on the table by both parties is insufficient: We have serious structural problems and among the main ones is the very expensive political class that permeates everything. We must address those structural problems with drastic reforms if we want to reverse an otherwise inexorable decline.

U.S. Lost 25% of Its High-Tech Manufacturing to Asia During Last Decade

U.S. losing high-tech manufacturing jobs to Asia – The Washington Post.

Thus is not only the old industries that have fled. We are losing the high-tech sector too. It was once considered the core of our post-industrial  economy; not any longer: 50% of the projected job creation in the U.S will be health related by 2018. That is an scary prospect.

Asian governments, notably but not only China, are providing all kinds of incentives for American capital to migrate. Add to that lower labor costs and a well educated work force. The Obama administration, to its credit, is trying too but it is falling short in almost every element. Above all, the administration is not even attempting to correct the tax laws to make capital flight less profitable.

Federal taxation policy encourages capital migration and that is not going to change any time soon because those benefiting from the current capital flight also control the government. Our corporate and even popular culture tends to be permissive in that regard as well. Steve Jobs was and still is considered a hero by many but he moved every single manufacturing facility of Apple Inc. to Asia, leaving a trail of unemployed Americans behind him. He is just one case.

Recognizing that New Jersey has limited capabilities to stop that tide when the federal government is pushing on the other side in opposite direction, I am confident that we can do a great deal to improve the situation here.

1. In education: Beginning with longer school periods, days, and years, more ambitious state-wide curriculum and creating or expanding polytechnic schools for those kids that are not bound for the typical college education. In the case of those students who deliberately and consistently sabotage the classroom, expulsion from the conventional public school system must be the ultimate option – but that option must be available. The issue of having a competent, well educated work force is vital.

2. In Taxation: I have already presented this issue in my economic program: We must reward investors who put their money in New Jersey while the normal tax rate for dividends will be much higher. We are not punishing those who invest overseas; we are rewarding those that invest at home.

3. Either we make all corporate tax zero  state-wide, or we have at zero in some portions of the state preferred for industrial activity and slightly above zero elsewhere. But we must understand that money is the only talk that corporations listen to and that we can not force them to relocate here. We must persuade them. When we think of a corporation we must remember that description of the Terminator in the first movie of the same title:  “They feel no pain or fear or pity or remorse.”

4. We must look long-term in infrastructure and renewable energy because those two factors will be decisive well after I am gone. New Jersey must excel in both to attract capital.

There is much more to be added to this topic but I will stop here today. I am pleased the the number of new unemployment claims fell to 352,000 nationwide this week – the lowest since 2008. Let’s hope that is a trend.

In Row Over Sick Time Payout at Retirement, Governor Christie Zeroes on Teachers Again

Sick pay a windfall for some teachers : page all – NorthJersey.com.

Is this what the governor understands for education reform? The sick time provisions in public employment in the State of New Jersey are quasi standard, modeled after Civil Service which mandates a 15-day yearly allowance. Subdivisions of government that do not belong to Civil Service may have 15, 12, 10 days. Civil Service does not mandate the payout at retirement. That is a negotiable issue. There is no doubt that the huge payouts that take place from time to time are an insult to taxpayers struggling to keep their finances afloat amid very high property taxes. But sick-time payouts have been blown out of proportion by the demagoguery of our governor. Furthermore, the largest payouts are made to politically connected individuals who are typically those making the most money.

Political patronage is by far much more costly than sick time will ever be. Likewise, change-of-orders in public contracts will always cost much more than sick time payouts. The governor has not mentioned either and in fact, during his administration, both lines of spending have increased – all his government reduction push has focused on public workers who actually work; not the parasites.

But sick time is a real issue regardless of the governor; the use and misuse were always  sticky points which I experienced when I was union president. I had to represent union members when they were accused of absenteeism  for abusing sick time. The enticement of being reimbursed for sick time not used at retirement was introduced not to fleece the public but to reduce absenteeism. The caps to sick-time payout conduce workers to use their time, and when they take a sick day, they get paid, so the matter is reduced – even if the governor achieves his goal of lowering payouts – to either pay now or pay later at retirement.

We all agree that sick time is exclusively for when one is sick. But even there, we enter a grey area : Defining sick. How sick one has to be to justify absence? In the end, it is a subjective decision.

The solution which benefits all is to abolish sick time as we know it and replace it with sick events. Events are not limited in length but end when the patient enters short term disability – usually between 21 days and one month. They do not get carried over nor go to a “bank” or build up toward retirement. There are no retirement payouts. The employee uses them when he/she needs it. Like sick time, an event could be for sickness of an immediate dependent although in those instances they are not open ended either and should give way to family leave.

The sick events policy has been in my plans for Civil Service reform for a long time. It is ongoing work and I am sure I will receive intelligent suggestions when the moment comes. In the meantime, let’s just unmask the maneuvering of the current governor who ignores the greatest abuses in our political system while continuing to punish the teaching profession.

Chicago Extends School Days

Chicago Schools Add 36 Minutes To The High School Day | Care2 Causes.

Just as I have proposed although the increases I advocate for here in New Jersey are more significant.

The small net increase of 36 minutes may have the virtue of not being long enough to warrant reopening negotiations with the teachers’ unions in Chicago.

The increases I propose, being much longer, will most likely require negotiating with the NJEA. It is a matter of existing labor laws, both state and federal.

From Finland, an Education Model to Reckon With

From Finland, an Intriguing School-Reform Model – NYTimes.com.

 

School starts at the age of 7, and nobody is tested until at all until later years. Teachers and their profession are held in high esteem, quite the opposite from the derogatory campaign undertaken by the Governor of New Jersey.

I have reached the conclusion that teacher testing, as it is proposed to be applied here in New Jersey, is a waste of precious time, and the privatization of public schools is a complete sham. Teacher merit pay is also a counterproductive measure for it destroys  the cohesion and spirit of cooperation of the school staff, and will be inevitably used to favor the politically connected.

Can we import the Finnish model and apply it to the letter? Certainly not, as Dr. Sahlberg has warned. But we must take from it as much as can be applied in New Jersey.

Above all, we must reduce the administrative arm in education in New Jersey and pass those resources onto actual teaching. We must substantially increase the amount of school time.

Above all, we must stop the governmental Jihad against teachers which is nothing but a travesty motivated by ideology and greed.

Some people are trying to make money out of education and to justify the takeover, they denigrate an entire profession while at they same time they clamor for good teachers.

Teachers’ morale could not be lower in New Jersey today, after all the public abuse they have taken.

Christie Administration Considering ‘Model Curriculum’ for Low-Performing Schools

NJ Spotlight | Christie Administration Considering ‘Model Curriculum’ for Low-Performing Schools.

New Jersey is moving one baby step closer to the state-wide curriculum I have proposed, along with the consolidation of all boards of education.

There is no greater form of adulation than imitation, even if it is in a very small portion of my program.