Monday, September 14, 2015

Back to School

The nation's school children and their families are well into the time of year we know as "back to school," filled with excitement and anxiety that accompany a new school year. Summer is also over for teachers and school leaders, who face controversies over testing, teacher evaluation, fundraising, and even the academic standards used to guide their work. Add to this a presidential campaign that's bound to stir up the politics of what we teach our kids and how we teach it, and you've got fuel to burn. Let's try to shed some light on a few of the issues that seem to generate the most heat to Rink Rats.

1). There is too much testing in U.S. classrooms.

There is no question that education is enamored with data, inching closer to its own version of Moneyball every day. Much of those data come from student assessments, including those that are state-mandated, plus an assortment of local tests and demographic indicators. Much of the debate over Federal education legislation involving education centers on reducing testing in public schools. But the clamor over too much testing obfuscates and masks three more important questions: Are the tests we are giving the right ones? How are educators using test results? What aren't we assessing that we should? The argument over too much testing is not the right one. If we care about outcomes and dollars spent, and about ensuring all American schoolchildren learn, then we need data that is visible to the public and to educators. We need multiple, valid indicators of the quality of classroom teaching and children's learning. We need data, but most importantly we need to know how to use it.

2). The “Reply All” mentality

An email storm (also called a Reply Allpocalypse) is a sudden spike of Reply All messages on an email distribution list, usually caused by a controversial, misdirected or worthless message. Such storms start when multiple members of the distribution list reply to the entire list at the same time in response to the instigating message. Other members soon respond, usually adding vitriol to the discussion, asking to be removed from the list, or pleading for the cessation of messages. If enough members reply to these unwanted messages this triggers a chain reaction of email messages. The sheer load of traffic generated by these storms can render the email servers inoperative, similar to a DDoS attack. But, more importantly, fellow colleagues, I do not care what you think!!! Keep me out of it.

3). All teachers in this school are terrific.

This is the "back to school night" mantra of every principal/school leader in the country. And as the leader of an organization with responsibilities for morale and the public face of a school, it is understandably the right thing for leaders to say. It's also not true and everyone knows it. A more nuanced version could be, "Every teacher in this school is prepared to teach your child and participates in this school's continuous improvement plan through which teachers will receive critical feedback and supervision to ensure they are not only prepared but performing at the level your child needs to be a successful learner." See #1 about data and measurement because to make this statement true, we have to be smarter about collecting the right data and using it well. We have a long way to go to make the more nuanced version of this mantra the reality in American schools. Unfortunately, by some estimates, including observations of almost ten thousand U.S. classrooms, 25 percent of teachers (across public, private, and charter schools) are not all that effective in fostering students' engagement and learning. The responsibility for this lies with unions that have stonewalled efforts to put metrics into teacher evaluation, reformers who have dogmatically stuck by narrow and controversial assessments of student learning and effective teaching, policies more focused on firing bad teachers rather than improving everyone, and teacher preparation programs that are more accountable to state bureaucrats than to learners. It's sad, but this is where we have landed 15 years after No Child Left Behind and dozens of reports calling for improvements. Shame on everyone; we all own this one.

4). Territorial world of Higher Education

The constant “ego” and territorial management of higher education departments; time to grow up people the students are the only ones who get hurt here: the lack of communication, cooperation, planning between departments/programs/colleges is inefficient and expensive.

5). Common Core is a federal takeover of a state role; winner or loser.

Educational standards describe what students should know and be able to do in each subject in each grade. In California, the State Board of Education decides on the standards for all students, from kindergarten through high school.

Since 2010, a number of states across the nation have adopted the same standards for English and math. These standards are called the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Having the same standards helps all students get a good education, even if they change schools or move to a different state. Teachers, parents, and education experts designed the standards to prepare students for success in college and the workplace. This canard is being perpetrated actively by every Republican candidate for U.S. president except Jeb Bush, and even he is waffling his way through the questions. The Common Core State Standards Initiative was launched by governors, including many Republicans, and at one time was supported by 46 of them. The reason Common Core was so popular among governors was that they saw it as a way to raise standards for students and boost economic productivity and community well-being. And much of the impetus for higher standards came from the business community. Federal dollars were used to articulate standards and build assessments. Teachers' unions were supportive at first because these new standards required a way of teaching that wasn't the reviled "drill and kill" that was driven by the first wave of accountability testing. But once teachers' evaluations were tied to student performance, and it was looking like students might not perform so well on these new, higher standards, the unions joined forces with ideology on the right to undermine political will in statehouses across the country. The federal government also shares blame here. Had they developed and deployed the assessments for Common Core at a faster pace, we would now be focused on students' performance on skills far more relevant for their success now and into the future. And don't forget that the assessments for Common Core would also allow comparisons of how states' systems performed against one another on the same test, enabling the states to really be a laboratory of experimentation. And with similar tests and standards across states, the 30% of students who move across state lines would not have not start fresh every year.

6). Education still the most rewarding profession.

Try working in investments these days, Education is a wonderful profession: Students, colleagues, parents, administrators truly care about their work and outcomes. We just ask one and all to relax, lighten the load, and use common sense now and then.

Welcome back to school. It may be a new year, but it hardly feels like a fresh start.

BACK TO SCHOOL IN D.C. - Stay tuned for a busy fall in D.C. and beyond. The Education Department will be issuing a new round of School Improvement Grant data, a final rule that aims to improve teacher preparation programs and a comprehensive report about the Obama administration's signature Race to the Top program, among other things. And the agency is finally supposed to unveil its new consumer tool - the one that started out as a plan to rate colleges. In addition, the department's "special master" says he will continue to oversee the thousands of claims coming in from former Corinthian Colleges students seeking to have their student loan debt forgiven. Already, the department has wiped away $40 million in such debt, with the ultimate price tag potentially in the billions.

- Then, there's the impending demise of the Perkins loan program: The clock is running out on a $1 billion, 57-year-old student loan program that helps the very poor. Perkins, a relatively small, campus-based federal loan program has survived threats before. But with a Sept. 30 expiration looming, key Republicans lawmakers showing no inclination to act, and the Education Department advising institutions not to enroll new borrowers, this could finally be the end of the road for the federal government's oldest student loan program - even in the midst of a presidential campaign focused on college costs. "Extending the Perkins loan program comes at a significant cost to taxpayers and provides little benefit to students," Senate education committee Chairman Lamar Alexander said. Higher education officials say the loans are critical to a student who’s other federal grants and loans don't quite cover costs.

BACK TO SCHOOL BY THE NUMBERS: Based on Census data from 2012, 2013 and 2014:

- $8.2 billion: The estimated amount spent at family clothing stores in August.
- 78 million: The number of children and adults enrolled in school.
- 75 percent: The percentage of 3 to 6 year olds enrolled in school.
- 25 percent: Percentage of K-12 students with at least one foreign born parent.
- $82,720: Average earnings of full-time workers with a bachelor's degree or higher.

BACK TO SCHOOL FOR CONGRESS - WELCOME BACK! SHUTDOWN AHEAD? - Washington really didn't need to make it tougher to avoid a government shutdown when the new fiscal year begins on October 1. But the prospects that no deal would happen, which we estimated at 60 percent at the beginning of August, got worse last week when it became clear the White House would have the votes it needed to prevent Congress from stopping the deal it negotiated with Iran.

The Obama administration's impending win on Iran complicates the already problematical CR debate even further. Because of that, I'm increasing my estimate of the chance of a government shutdown to 67 percent. ... The Iran deal worsens the outlook for a shutdown for two reasons. The first is the amount of time it will take for Congress to debate the issue. ... The second reason for the increasing odds of a shutdown: the continuing resolution will provide those senators and representatives against the deal with a second bite of the disapproval apple.

COLLEGE CHRONICLES - The gap in wealth and income between rich and poor is the worst since the Great Depression, and the gap between the rich and the middle class is at its highest since the government began keeping such statistics 30 years ago. After more than three decades of income growth for the wealthiest 10 percent and stagnation for everybody else, the top 3 percent now has more wealth than the bottom 90 percent.

Meanwhile, Yale University increasingly resembles a large corporation rather than the quiet, if haughty, academic institution that Horowitz and Gillette attended. With an endowment of nearly $24 billion, administrators are constantly expanding their hospital complex and real-estate holdings in New Haven. Recently they awarded the departing President Richard Levin, who had swelled the treasury, a whopping bonus of $8.5 million. As the university grows, its "officials seek to contain unionism and, if possible, shrink its base," writes Jennifer Klein, a history professor at Yale. When "full-time employees retire or leave, they are often not replaced. New corporate vice presidents (from companies such as PepsiCo) work to de-skill jobs as well as to downsize staff."

Whether ivory tower or big business or a fusion of both, Yale continues to provide its chosen ones with the same self-confidence and cultural capital it did during the 1960s. Whatever a student’s race, gender, or sexual identity, she or he has an excellent chance to win a race that most other citizens can barely afford to enter. Unless that begins to change, both Yale and the society its graduates help to rule will stay much as they are.

THE BEST JOBS FOR YOUNG ADULTS: High school seniors and college students might want to consider a career as a physician's assistant, an actuary, a statistician or a biomedical engineer, according to a new report from Young Invincibles. Those jobs are considered the best ones for young adults based on their salaries, projected future growth and access to the positions. About half of the top 25 jobs are in the STEM fields and more than half of the top 25 employ more men than women. Most of the top jobs require an associate's degree or a bachelor's degree, but one notable outlier on the list is elevator installer and repairer. It's a job that requires no postsecondary degree, but is highly in demand, offers significant growth and a competitive salary. While no degree is necessary, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says that job candidates often need an apprenticeship under their belt to be considered, "which highlights the importance and potential of the Registered Apprenticeship program as an option for young adults seeking a productive career without attending college," the report says.

ADJUNCT JUNCTURE: Carolina Frederickson of the liberal American Constitution Society writes in the Washington Monthly about university adjuncts, concluding that American universities are enriching administrators at the expense of teachers. Adjuncts, Frederickson explains, have been gradually displacing tenured faculty. "In 1969," she writes, "almost 80 percent of college faculty members were tenured or tenure track. Today, the numbers have essentially flipped, with two-thirds of faculty now non-tenure and half of those working only part-time, often with several different teaching jobs." Meanwhile, "universities increased the number of administrator positions by 60 percent between 1993 and 2009, ten times the rate at which they added tenured positions." By 2013, Frederickson writes, less than one third of college and university revenue was being spent on instruction.

EVEN PRESIDENTS CRY- If first day of school goodbyes left you with tears, you're not alone. President Barack Obama admitted Wednesday to crying as his daughter Malia started the first day of her senior year of high school Tuesday. "You know, I was sitting in her room because I was going to see her off ... her first day of school. She puts her head on my shoulder and she says, 'Daddy, you know, you realize this is probably going to be the last time that you ever send me off for my first day of school ... And I started - I had to look away. I didn't want to just be such a crybaby," Obama said from his speech at Macomb Community College in Michigan.

BIRTHDAYS THIS WEEK – Birthday wishes and thoughts this weekend to: Maria Bartiromo (48) New York, NY, Carly Fiorina (61) Palo Alto, CA,  Hugh Grant (55) London, England, Bob Newhart (86) Beverly Hills, CA, Raquel Welch (75) Carmel, CA

HAPPY RETURN TO FOOTBALL!! - The National Football League's 32 teams received an especially pleasant bonus at the end of its recently completed fiscal year - some $226 million apiece from league headquarters, or nearly $40 million more than each team got the previous year. ... Those funds, from revenue produced mainly by national media and sponsorship deals, are set to rise once again, pushing the NFL's annual take for the new season that kicked off last Thursday in Foxborough, Mass., to more than $12 billion.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL PICK OF THE WEEK – Saturday 9/19, 12:30 PM ET, ABC: #14 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (2-0) at #8 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (2-0). Best Irish team we have seen in the Brian Kelly era, Irish 35 Jackets 28Season to date (1-1)

SMALL COLLEGE FOOTBALL PICK OF THE WEEK – Saturday 9/19, 1:00 PM ET, HGTV: #15 Hobart Statesmen (2-0) visit Ithaca College Bombers (1-0), Hobart is the best of the Liberty League, 24 – 21. Season to date (2-0)


(NCAA, Sept. 19) #18 Auburn Tigers (2-0) at #13 LSU Tigers: The Swami likes LSU in a close one; 38 – 35.

(NCAA-SCIAC, Sept. 19) University of La Verne Leopards (1-0) at Whitworth Pirates (1-0): We predicted a 6-3 season for the Leos, this is one of the loses; 35 – 24.

(MLB, Sept. 19) St. Louis Cardinals (89-54) at Chicago Cubs (82-60): the Cubbies are for real; Cubs win 5 – 3.

(Solheim Cup-LPGA Sept. 18-20) LPGA vs. European LPGA: a route in Germany, American women professional golf is in trouble, Europe wins 19 – 9.

Season to date (70-35)

MARKET WEEK – China continues to shake the world. In recent weeks, stocks, currencies and commodities have swung dramatically on signs of a slowdown in Chinese growth. Disappointing economic data out of the world’s second-largest economy, as well as the devaluation of its currency, have exacerbated concerns. Oil prices resumed their downward trajectory today and global stock markets steadied, as investors remain wary. Meanwhile, China is imposing new controls to prevent too much money from leaving the country, with lenders beefing up internal checks on foreign-exchange conversions and regulators aiming to rein in illegal money-transfer agents.

DRIVING THE WEEK - The Fed announcement Thursday is the biggest game in town followed by the GOP debate Wednesday ... President Obama is in Iowa today to talk college access and affordability ... Retail sales Tuesday at 8:30 a.m. expected to rise 0.3 percent headline and 0.2 percent ex-autos ... FOMC makes its announcement at 2:00 p.m. Thursday followed by Yellen presser. Narrow consensus is no change but a stronger hint that labor conditions mean a rate hike is close ... Leading indicators on Friday at 10:00 a.m. expected to rise 0.2 percent.

Next week: Words of the month and Dear Rink Rats.

Until Next Monday, Happy Rosh Hashanah.

Claremont, CA
September 14, 2015


Friday, September 4, 2015

The High Price of Cheap Oil

“The oil industry, with its history of booms and busts, is in a new downturn,” said Clifford Krauss in The New York Times. The price of oil closed at $44.10 a barrel on September 1 for the first time since 2009, a 60 percent plunge from its peak last year. The explanation “boils down to the simple economics of supply and demand.” The world is awash in crude, with U.S. oil production doubling over the past six years. Meanwhile, the economic slowdown in China, the world’s largest oil importer, and sluggish growth in other developing countries are crippling demand. There’s no end in sight for the global oil glut. Lower prices mean even more pressure on oil-producing countries to pump to make up for lost revenues. Saudi Arabia, Russia, and Iraq are pumping as many barrels as they can in order to defend their market share, in a battle that’s looking increasingly like “the energy-industry version of trench warfare.”

At first look, $44-a-barrel oil sounds like a beautiful thing. American consumers get cheaper gas, businesses benefit from lower energy bills, and automakers sell more vehicles, especially gas-guzzling trucks and SUVs. But there’s a price to pay for all this cheap oil. Employment in the 500,000-person U.S. oil and gas industry will take a hit as energy companies scale back operations. Cheap, plentiful gasoline could also derail work on alternative fuel sources like solar and wind. Jobs are already being lost in the energy industry around the world. Last week, Royal Dutch Shell said it would eliminate 6,500 jobs worldwide in response to collapsing crude prices. Because such layoffs tend to lag market prices, more job cuts could be on the way.

In Texas, cash-strapped oil companies are already shifting into survival mode. Companies are slashing costs by putting hundreds of rigs into storage and canceling expensive projects, including deep-water drilling and oil sands extraction. Gone are the days of frenetic growth, lavish spending, and frantic hiring sprees. The one bright spot: Companies that survive will emerge leaner and more cost-conscious, focused on safer bets in areas with proven resources.

The most dramatic consequences of the oil bust will unfold beyond U.S. borders. When a similar drop happened in the 1980s, the Soviet Union collapsed. Countries that rely on oil revenues are “facing a fiscal reckoning” that could fuel unrest. Venezuela’s socialist government has long been propped up by oil, which makes up 96 percent of its exports. Vladimir Putin’s reign has coincided with a steep rise in oil prices, but Russia’s economy is expected to contract 3.4 percent this year. Saudi Arabia, where the royal family spends oil revenues lavishly to preserve its legitimacy, now faces massive budget deficits. Cheap oil may be a boon for consumers, but it will create more uncertainty in an already uncertain world.

COLLEGE CHRONICLES - DISCOUNT RATES RISING: The average private four-year college covered 48 percent of their institution's advertised tuition and fees in 2014-15, up from 43.4 percent the year prior, according to an annual study from the National Association of College and University Business Officers. The 48-percent tuition discount rate is the highest in the study's 21-year history. In an effort to attract more students, colleges continue to increase their discount rates (resulting in lower net tuition revenue) across the board, the survey found. The average discount rate - defined by NACUBO as institutional grant dollars as a percentage of gross tuition and fee revenue - reached 41.6 percent last year for all undergraduates, up from 39.8 percent in 2013-14. The 411 private colleges surveyed provided slightly more students with financial aid, too. Nearly 90 percent of first-time, full-time freshmen and 77.1 percent of all undergraduates got institutional grant aid in 2014-15, including scholarships, fellowships and other grants that covered an average of 54.3 percent and 48.9 percent of tuition and fees, respectively.

Congrats to the University of La Verne and their annual golf fundraising tournament, the event raised $80,000 for their scholarship funds. Here is a picture of a distinguished group of golfers from left to right; Hal Assel, Adjunct Professor of Marketing; Catherine Abbott, current student; Allison Krich, Adjunct Instructor Kinesiology; Chris Krich, Head Football Coach; Devorah Lieberman, POTULV; Unidentified golfer; Mark Jebbia, current student; Jeff Bracken, Group VP & General Manager Lexus Division Toyota Motor Corporation.

BIG EIGHT O - Social Security turns 80. The Peter G. Peterson Foundation has some charts to mark the occasion like this one showing Social Security is expected to run a cumulative cash deficit of $2.8 trillion between now and 2034:

AUTO LOANS ENTER $1 TRILLION CLUB - The amount of auto loans in the U.S. has passed the $1 trillion mark for the first time, joining student loans: With the recession now six years behind in the nation's rearview mirror, lending for automobiles has sharply accelerated: Around $119 billion in auto loans were originated in the second quarter of this year, a 10-year high, according to figures from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York released Thursday.

GAME CHANGE - "Biden strategy for White House run taking shape: 'I think he's getting closer to saying yes,' one Biden ally says: With his blessing, confidants to Vice President Joe Biden have begun strategizing about travel to early primary states and identified potential donors who could bankroll a campaign even as he remains undecided about whether to pull the trigger on a late-entry 2016 run for president. ... Biden's strategy ... would be to focus on South Carolina while almost writing off New Hampshire, where both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have considerable footholds.

Biden proxies have also homed in on rich supporters who could help finance a run through a super PAC - in particular, Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos, a past top donor to both Joe and Beau Biden, whom Democratic operatives noted has not yet given to the Hillary Clinton-backing Priorities USA Action ... Biden allies also have set their sights on Geocities founder and tech investor David Bohnett, a longtime Democratic donor. Angelos didn't return a call for comment. ... There is significant operational planning going on around him.

The final call ... is expected to be made at a meeting [not yet scheduled] of the vice president's closest circle of advisers at his home in Wilmington, Delaware; they are likely to include chief of staff Steve Ricchetti, Mike Donilon, former Sen. Ted Kaufman, Larry Rasky and Tom Donilon, along with Biden's son, Hunter, and his oldest and closest political adviser, his sister Valerie Biden Owens. Ricchetti and Mike Donilon have been involved with many of the discussions going on already.

After enduring months of ridicule fueled by Donald Trump, whose frequent outrageous comments have forced a number of GOP rivals into a corner, and as a seemingly endless parade of Republican contenders have jumped into the presidential race, there's a sense of relief at the idea of Biden mounting a late-in-the-game run and mixing up the Democratic field.

Days until the 2015 election: 61. Days until the 2016 election: 432.

MADE IN CHINA: THE NEXT GLOBAL RECESSION? - The policy panic in Beijing over its currency and the fall of its stock market suggest that the next global recession likely will be made in China. The problem is that China's economic rise of late has been facilitated by a massive and unsustainable stimulus campaign, no emerging nation in recorded history has ever tacked on debt at such a furious pace as China has since 2008, and a rapid increase in debt is the single most reliable predictor of economic slowdowns and financial crisis.

So before you start talking about how this is "like 2008" remember that it isn't. At all. It's an equity price decline following a big run-up in valuations. There is no huge underlying debt bubble ready to pop with horrific consequences. The U.S. economy still looks pretty decent though a rising dollar, an ill-timed Fed rate hike and hits to consumer confidence from scary stock market headlines could still tilt things the wrong way.

BIRTHDAYS THIS WEEK – Birthday wishes and thoughts this weekend to: Frank Robinson (79) Tucson, AZ., John McCain (79) Phoenix, AZ., Dr. Phil McGraw (65) Beverly Hills, CA., Jessica Naccache ….famous financial consultant, Itzhak Perlman (70) New York, NY, Tom Ridge (70) Latrobe, PA.,  Shania Twain (50) Maui, HI. 

SPORTS BLINK - Vin Scully to return for record 67th year with Dodgers, The Dodgers ... revealed the news last Friday night in the second inning... Magic Johnson, a co-owner of the team, appeared on the Dodger Stadium video board to tell the crowd that Jimmy Kimmel had a major announcement. ... The 87-year-old Scully stood up and waved from his booth as the crowd cheered. The Hall of Fame announcer's consecutive years of service make him the longest-tenured broadcaster with one team in sports history. ...

Scully calls all nine innings of the team's home games and road games in California and Arizona for the Dodgers' television home on SportsNet LA, while the first three innings of his games are simulcast on the radio. ... A dispute between Time Warner Cable and other cable [companies] now in its second year is keeping 70 percent of the [L.A. TV] market from seeing the team's games. ... Even Scully can't watch road games because he lives in an area not served by Time Warner.

Scully began his ... career in 1950 with the Brooklyn Dodgers. He has called three perfect games, 25 World Series and 12 All-Star games. He was behind the microphone for Kirk Gibson's Game 1 homer in the 1988 World Series, Don Larsen's perfect game in the 1956 World Series, Hank Aaron's record-setting 715th home run and Sandy Koufax's four no-hitters, including a perfect game.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL PICK OF THE WEEK – Saturday 9/5, 5:00 PM ET, ABC: #20 Wisconsin Badgers (0-0) vs. #3 Alabama Crimson Tide (0-0); first game, first upset, Badgers 32 Tide 24, thank you!  Season to date (0-0)

SMALL COLLEGE FOOTBALL PICK OF THE WEEK – Saturday 9/5, 12:00 PM ET, HGTV: #19 St. John Fisher Cardinals (0-0) visit #23 Thomas More Saints (0-0), early season matchup between the E8 and the PAC Conferences: we like the Cardinals in a road victory 24 – 21. Season to date (0-0)

Rink Rats NFL Preseason Picks

East – Cowboys                     North – Green Bay                South – Carolina       
West – Seattle            Wild Cards – Philly and St. Louis                
Conference Champion – Seattle Seahawks

East – New England  North – Baltimore                 South – Indianapolis
West – Denver           Wild Cards – Houston and Pittsburgh
Conference Champion – Indianapolis Colts

Super Bowl Champion – Seattle Seahawks


(NCAA, Sept. 5) #13 UCLA Bruins (0-0) at Virginia Cavaliers (0-0): The Swami likes UCLA in a close one; 28 – 24.

(NCAA-SCIAC, Sept. 5) George Fox Bruins (0-0) at University of La Verne Leopards: Now is the time for The Leos; 35 – 24.

(MLB, Sept. 5) Pittsburgh Pirates (79-53) at St. Louis Cardinals (86-47): two National League powers; Red Birds win 4 – 3.

Season to date (64-34)

Next week: Words of the month and Dear Rink Rats.

Until Next Monday, Adios.

Claremont, CA
September 4, 2015