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December 12, 2011

The Unaddressed Link Between Poverty and Education

The Unaddressed Link Between Poverty and Education - NYTimes.com
No Child Left Behind required all schools to bring all students to high levels of achievement but took no note of the challenges that disadvantaged students face. The legislation did, to be sure, specify that subgroups — defined by income, minority status and proficiency in English — must meet the same achievement standard. But it did so only to make sure that schools did not ignore their disadvantaged students — not to help them address the challenges they carry with them into the classroom. So why do presumably well-intentioned policy makers ignore, or deny, the correlations of family background and student achievement? Some honestly believe that schools are capable of offsetting the effects of poverty. Others want to avoid the impression that they set lower expectations for some groups of students for fear that those expectations will be self-fulfilling. In both cases, simply wanting something to be true does not make it so. Another rationale for denial is to note that some schools, like the Knowledge Is Power Program charter schools, have managed to “beat the odds.” If some schools can succeed, the argument goes, then it is reasonable to expect all schools to. But close scrutiny of charter school performance has shown that many of the success stories have been limited to particular grades or subjects and may be attributable to substantial outside financing or extraordinarily long working hours on the part of teachers. The evidence does not support the view that the few success stories can be scaled up to address the needs of large populations of disadvantaged students. A final rationale for denying the correlation is more nefarious. As we are now seeing, requiring all schools to meet the same high standards for all students, regardless of family background, will inevitably lead either to large numbers of failing schools or to a dramatic lowering of state standards. Both serve to discredit the public education system and lend support to arguments that the system is failing and needs fundamental change, like privatization.

December 10, 2011

Parents upset that Kindle Fire has no parental controls or password-locked purchasing

Anybody who picks the device p can buy anything, which is dangerous if you let your kids read or play with the device. AppleInsider | Parents complain Amazon's Kindle Fire gives kids access to porn, accounts
Amazon delivered its low cost Kindle Fire tablet primarily as a way for users to browse and buy digital content, but it omitted parental controls that can block access to pornography, explicit content or allow unattended kids to "charge up a storm" on their parents' account. Caryn Talty, a parent blogger at HealthyFamily.org noted that while the Kindle Fire was a "very cool, sleek electronic toy," it "has no parental monitoring safeguards installed on the device or available through a software download." Talty observed that "anyone handling the device can buy whatever material they wish (electronic downloads and merchandise shipped to your door)," thanks to the way the Fire is linked to the buyer's Amazon account. While that makes it easy to buy Android apps and stream movies from Amazon's Prime service, it complicates efforts by parents who are considering buying the device as a gift for their children.

Krugman: Romney got rich by destroying jobs and businesses

All the G.O.P.’s Gekkos - NYTimes.com
For the current orthodoxy among Republicans is that we mustn’t even criticize the wealthy, let alone demand that they pay higher taxes, because they’re “job creators.” Yet the fact is that quite a few of today’s wealthy got that way by destroying jobs rather than creating them. And Mr. Romney’s business history offers a very good illustration of that fact. The Los Angeles Times recently surveyed the record of Bain Capital, the private equity firm that Mr. Romney ran from 1984 to 1999. As the report notes, Mr. Romney made a lot of money over those years, both for himself and for his investors. But he did so in ways that often hurt ordinary workers. Bain specialized in leveraged buyouts, buying control of companies with borrowed money, pledged against those companies’ earnings or assets. The idea was to increase the acquired companies’ profits, then resell them. But how were profits to be increased? The popular image — shaped in part by Oliver Stone — is that buyouts were followed by ruthless cost-cutting, largely at the expense of workers who either lost their jobs or found their wages and benefits cut. And while reality is more complex than this image — some companies have expanded and added workers after a leveraged buyout — it contains more than a grain of truth. One recent analysis of “private equity transactions” — the kind of buyouts and takeovers Bain specialized in — noted that business in general is always both creating and destroying jobs, and that this is also true of companies that were buyout or takeover targets. However, job creation at the target firms is no greater than in similar firms that aren’t targets, while “gross job destruction is substantially higher.” So Mr. Romney made his fortune in a business that is, on balance, about job destruction rather than job creation. . . .