Wired’s Danger Room starting to suck

Danger Room is starting to suck.

I noticed it a little while ago that the leftwing rhetoric on several posts went up.

Then I noticed the pattern: all of those post were written by lefty “journalist”  Spencer Ackerman.

I searched for and found the post introducing him – which makes no mention of his leftists views and writings.

Here is a blast from the past about Ackerman and Journolist:

In one instance, Spencer Ackerman of the Washington Independent urged his colleagues to deflect attention from Obama’s relationship with Wright by changing the subject. Pick one of Obama’s conservative critics, Ackerman wrote, “Fred Barnes, Karl Rove, who cares — and call them racists.”

I think that is about it for me and Danger Room unless I can filter by author.

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Lack of Money is NOT the problem with the Milwaukee Public School System

MPS is failing its customers (the students, the taxpayers and the community). It is NOT because of a lack of money.

I took a stab at the money issues in a comment at the Fraud Files Blog. The author of Fraud Files (a Forensic Accountant) cleaned it up and improved upon the point I was trying to make with the post:

I don’t think taxpayers have any idea what wasteful spending MPS does. One reader of this blog broke it down in the comments of another article on this site. I’m going to refine those numbers a little. MPS is going to have 80,228 students next year. Assuming 30 students per classroom, that gives us 2,674 classrooms. With the MPS budget of over $1.3 billion, that’s spends over $490,000 per classroom. How could $490,000 be spent? Keeping teacher compensation at the current outrageous $100,000, that leaves $390,000 to spend on all the other needs for the students:

    * Books – $10,000 per classroom
    * Breakfast and lunch for all children – $50,000 (and that would spend $9.25 per child per day, which is far more than necessary)
    * Computer for each child – $30,000
    * School supplies for each child and classroom needs – $15,000 (way more than necessary, but work with me on this)
    * Renting a classroom with utilities and internet – $60,000 (way more than necessary again, but I’m just playing it safe)
    * Transportation? Nope. This is an urban area. Classrooms will be in walking distance for everyone! No more buses. Wheeee!

This still leaves $225,000 unspent. This is an astronomical amount, and all needs have been filled for all children in this classroom. Let’s think about other expenses:

    * We need some administration to take care of paperwork. One person at $100,000 (includes salary and benefits) should be able to oversee at least 5 classrooms, don’t you think? That’s $20,000 per classroom on the administrator.
    * Maybe we need secretarial help as well. Let’s say one person at $50,000 (includes salary and benefits) for every 5 classrooms. That’s $10,000 per classroom.
    * How about a library and some musical instruments? Let’s say that for every 5 classrooms, we need to spend $100,000 per year for those needs.  That’s $20,000 per classroom.
    * Of course we need equipment for some physical education too. How about $50,000 per year for 5 classrooms. That should buy quite a bit of equipment, don’t you think? That’s $10,000 per classroom.
    * The kids also need some fully funded field trips. How about if we give each classroom $20,000 to spend on field trips each year? That ought to buy some very nice outings

This is an additional $80,000 per classroom spent on all the extras, leaving us with $145,000 unspent per classroom. There will be “special needs” children in the district who need additional care, supervision, and resources. But guess what? I’ve got $145,000 left over per classroom, and 2,733 classrooms…. which means almost $388 million district-wide is our surplus even after using the outrageously high spending estimates above. I’ve factored in plenty of spending that isn’t necessary and is likely well beyond what would be needed for each classroom.

This simple exercise makes it painfully clear how bad MPS is wasting taxpayer money. It’s time to force the administrators to get their heads out of their asses and start doing right by the taxpayers and the students. Quit wasting our money on a system that doesn’t educate children. MPS is broken. Time to fix it.

Its NOT about a lack of the money.

I am thinking something like my vouchers-and-charter-schools-for-everybody plan is NOT the right answer either. MY plan is really Grade 9-12 alternative idea. MPS has failed its students before they ever enter High School.

If large number of students are hitting high school with 2 grade reading levels, 2nd grade math levels and with no sense how to properly behave themselves, the problem is with K-6 at MPS. By the time those students enter 9th grade they are – sad to say- a lost cause under the current system. Why

A better plan would be to do something like:

-The entire way that education services are delivered in Milwaukee must be changed. We get too little for too much money. The MPS Leaderships (Schools Board and Administrators) have shown themselves to be incompetent.
– For K-6-ish: emphasize reading, writing, arithmetic and personal behavior at the grade school level. Test early and often to find students falling short; provide remedial opportunities
– For 7-12, have separate parallel Grade 7-12 tracks. Put those falling short in reading, writing, arithmetic and personal behavior into an alternate system. For those not falling short, consider my 21st century ED plan.
-There should most likely be mass firings of the current K-6 teachers and administrators. Most are not competent. The student reading and math numbers speak for themselves.

Education X 5

Some education related links and thoughts here today:

1. Geolounge points to Carlton College using Google Earth to aid in teaching.

2. Econlog has a post on economics education where Kling asks for suggestions. I think concentrating on basic concepts (with broad applicability is a good idea. Kling also brings in entrepaunerlism by having his students work through the nuts andbolts of starting a company.  Other posters reference two chapters from D. Friedman, or playing Settlers of Catan (I am a big fan of the use of  simulations and games in classes and not just because I kicked ass in those classes in my MBA program), The Henry Hazlitt book (which got me excited about economics), Mankiw’s “Ten Principles of Economics”, “Economics in One Page“, and Milton Friedman’s Free to Choose (big thumbs up from me).

3. Perthaps I was a bit harsh on the MBA. Just a bit though.

4. Shlok suggests a different approach to medical education. I do think more PAs and Nurse Practioners is a good idea.

5. Learn to be a spy

“Douchebag spreadsheet manipulation is not in high demand right now…”

There is an interesting discussion of the merits/value of an MBA at Business Insider.

As a MBA holder, there is much I regret about the time and effort that went into it. The cost was partially on me, partially on my employers. I had already devoured my company’s business library and was reading/practicing other stuff myself. About 1/3 of the program has been not useful. The rest of the program gave me a broader set of business/management skill and tools which has made me more valuable. I wonder if I had a business minor as an undergraduate, if that would have been better. I imagine an MBA on my resume was a better signal then a business minor. I bet a PMP certification would have been just as good though.

FYI: The snip in the subject is from commenter “getta life”.

Federal Government and Education in a Nutshell from “Yes, Prime Minister”

I found this funny and thoughtful “Yes, Prime Minister” bit via The Fifth Column:

Films For Intelligence Analysis Exercises

Kent’s Imperative has a post about appropriate films for teaching entry level intelligence analyst skills. The authors in the end suggest The Kingdom.

I thought of a few others and emailed them to the authors:

Day of the Jackal
The Battle of Algiers
The Wire (especially season 1)

As stated elsewhere (Eddie/Hidden Unities), the fictional Detective Lester Freeman of the Baltimore Police Major Crimes Unit (from The Wire) is the model Intelligence Analyst on TV.

After sending the email, I though a of one more:

Russia House (my favorite espionage movie with Sean Connery)

My Dream for a 21st Century U.S Educational System

Originally, I was going to post on dumb budget moves the Milwaukee Public Schools are making and the the stale plan the teacher’s union proposed for fixing the schools.

I don’t have time for that.

Here is my from scratch plan for the Wisconsin (and National) Education System. I wrote it down several years ago pre-blogs. I don’t have all of the sources that may have inspired me (but I will list them if they are brought to my attention).

Goal: A better, more efficient Educational System
that utilizes American Strengths and Values. Education is too important to America’s future to not be treated as a national issue.

a. Funding Equalization

– Equalization of K4/K5/1-12 funding.
– Federal per-pupil education vouchers.

b. Customized Individual Programs for every student

– Idea Based upon Special Ed IEP (individual Education Program)
– Year round programs.

c. Mass Customization:

– Multitudes of choices, options, styles, sizes, variety, niches, and possibilities in education service delivery.
– Let a hundred experiments bloom. Replicate what works, and junk what doesn’t

d. Private system with strict public accountability

– Charter Schools everywhere for everybody (essentially a mega-charter school system)
– Choice
– Public Reporting and auditing (academic and financial).
– Need an Internet based, system that is like eBay or Amazon.com’s feedback system, crossed with consumer reports that is available to all, with education service consumers reporting on education service providers with infrastructure provided by regional government sponsored enterprises (GSE). Have several GSE (5-15). They can be geographically unique areas of responsibility for first three years. After that they can compete with each other. Eventually they would consolidate into 3-5 GSE.
– Zero tolerance for troublemakers (the real troublemakers, not those that are the victims of the troublemakers). Create alternate environments for the bad apples.

e. Professional Excellence

– No Residency rules for teachers, staff and administrators.

– Pay teachers more, pay also for performance in exchange for accountability
1. Increase pay 40% – 60%
2. Additional bonus pay on performance
– Value-added metrics
– Whole-school metrics
– Peer-review
– 360-student review
– Job security and tenure goes away
– To transition, make this a parallel personnel system. All new teachers go into the new system, along with any old teachers who want to.
– The USA needs the education profession equivalent of the IEEE (either a new
organization or an organization morphed from former national teachers unions)
– Grow a new teaching culture
– Apprenticeships for new teachers. Structure the first two-years of teaching like an internship in medicine, with the new teacher consulting with a master teacher and receiving constant feedback, ongoing advice, regular evaluation, advice, and
further development.
– Career-long professional development programs to nurture and stimulate great teachers.
– Alternative Paths to teacher certification.

f. Basic skills for all students demonstrated with a federally sponsored American Primary Education Certification and American Secondary Education Certification.

– Learning how to learn
– American Civics, Democracy, and Citizenship
– History & Moral philosophy
– Ethics
– Lifetime fitness, nutrition, and wellness
– Basic skills: reading, writing, mathematics, and science
– Academics
– Job skills
– Communication, rhetoric, and logic
– Economics,statistics and personal finance
– Life-long learning, creativity, and problem-solving skills
– Organizing and Leadership
– Personal time & task management
– First aid, life saving, and emergency preparedness
– Fine Arts performance and appreciation
– Conflict resolution and self-defense
– Legal system basics (see examples from http://www.streetlaw.org)
– No teaching of creation science (or “Intelligent Design” or whatever else it is called) and other idiotarian pseudo-sciences as science.

I would vote for any candidate that signed onto something like this.

Update: I think some of the teacher pay stuff was inspired by a book caleld the 2% solution (or perhaps I just heard an interview with the author).

Update 11/6/2008: Teaching service delivery will most likely need to adopt an industrial model (at least in some options) to get gains in productivity and efficiency.