Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Preparing For The Scholastic Aptitude Test

My daughter has been studying for her upcoming SAT1 exam. She is taking it in the spring of her "junior year" as a homeschooler, as she is already making preparations for college admissions. So in honor of all the time she is putting into this effort, I thought I'd share some information and thoughts about the SAT's.

The Scholastic Aptitude Test, otherwise known as the SAT1, is a 3-hour-and-45-minute test that is supposed to measure the critical thinking, mathematical reasoning, and writing skills that students need to do college-level work.

According to the College Board website:

The test's three sections are divided into nine subsections, including a 25-minute essay, which are timed separately:

Tests Ability To
Critical Reading
(3 sections)
  • Understand and analyze what is read.
  • Recognize relationships between parts of a sentence.
  • Understand word meaning in context.
(3 sections)
Solve problems involving:
  • Algebra and functions
  • Geometry and measurement
  • Number and operations
  • Data analysis, statistics, and probability
(3 sections)
  • Use Standard Written English.
  • Identify sentence errors.
  • Write an essay and develop a point of view.
There are also SAT2 subject tests that are multiple choice format and about an hour long. The SAT2 is supposed to test ability in roughly 20 different areas of study.

Many colleges and universities use the SAT score results as an indicator along with class rank, high school GPA, extracurricular activities, personal essay, and teacher recommendations to determine a student's readiness to do college-level work. SAT scores may be compared with the scores of other college applicants, and sometimes the scores at college can be used as a basis for awarding merit-based financial aid. Each SAT section is scored on a scale of 200-800. The average score on the SAT is about 500 on the critical reading portion, 500 on the mathematics portion, and 500 on the writing portion. Students typically take the SAT in their junior or senior year of high school. At least half of all students take the SAT twice—in the spring of junior year and in the fall of senior year. It is reported that most students improve their scores when taking the test the second time around. All scores are reported to colleges, but colleges generally look only at the highest scores. The test is administered several times a year at various locations.

Around the early 1900's the science of intelligence testing was in its infancy with the development of IQ tests by Alfred Binet. In the 1920's, Carl Brigham was in charge of a committee to develop a test to be used by schools to determine intelligence and aptitude for higher education. In 1926 College Board administered the SAT to high school students for the first time. Later in the 1930's James Bryant Conant, president of Harvard University, and Henry Chauncey, head of the then brand-new Educational Testing Service, were given the task of using the SAT to determine eligibility for students to be selected for Harvard scholarships. By the end of the 1930's Ivy League schools were requiring applicants to take the SAT. In 1948 the Educational Testing Service was created, with Henry Chauncey as president and Bryant Conant as Chairman of the Board. Universities were encouraged to use it as a requirement for admission. In 1952, the verbal portion of the test, as we see it today, was created to include reading comprehension, antonyms, analogies and sentence completion questions. In 1959 a rival testing organization was formed, which was the American College Testing Service.

There is a really good book about the SAT and why it was developed called "The Big Test: The Secret History of the American Meritocracy" by Nicholas LeMann. In "The Big Test", you will see the ideas, people and politics behind the Scholastic Assessment Test, which was begun over 50 years ago as a utopian experiment. The goal of this kind of testing was to create a new democratic elite that would lead postwar America to progress, strength and prosperity. John Taylor Gatto also wrote about that in his book "The Underground History of American Education". PBS/Frontline also did a program about "The Secrets of the SAT"

It is all very interesting to see the origins of this kind of testing, the racial and social implications that came with it and how it's widespread acceptance as an educational benchmark was achieved. Today there is still much controversy about the relevance of the test and whether or not it really is a true indicator of college success. I believe that the controversy is what prompted College Board to revamp the test in 2003, but I don't believe that the changes they instituted improved the testing at all. In fact I believe, along with many others, that the changes were further indications of the test being somewhat "dumbed down" and it is more of a movement towards a national curriculum.

Some colleges are abandoning SAT score use, or at least relying on the scores much less than before. Some schools are developing other methods to determine applicants' suitability for admission. Many college admissions officers will tell you that they do not rely heavily on SAT scores and that they "look at the total picture". You have reason to be skeptical about that, and it is not really clear how each college evaluates a candidate. There are so many factors that admissions people deal with, from their own imposed standards and quotas to their availability of freshman housing, as well as their applicant pool. It is clear to see that most admissions offices struggle with wading through applications and trying to make admission decisions. Sometimes there doesn't always seem to be a rhyme or reason as to who gets accepted and who gets rejected.

The SAT has been changed several times in it's history and in 2002 the SAT was overhauled again and those changes happened for the SAT 2005 for the graduating class of 2006. The changes made were:

The "verbal section" became known as "critical reading". That section now no longer includes analogies, and shorter reading passages were added to the old version's longer ones. A new section called the "writing section" was added and now contains multiple-choice grammar questions along with a written essay. The previous "math section" was expanded to cover three years of high school math. Previously it covered concepts from Geometry and Algebra I, and the current "math section" now contains concepts from Algebra II.

One thing is for certain, College Board is making a fortune on testing. They charge you for taking the test and they charge you for sending out the results (the first couple that they send out are "free"). Colleges may require that you take more than one test. This can be an expensive proposition and you may have to restrict your number of college applications to keep within a reasonable budget. With one of my kids, he applied to 5 schools and took the SAT 1, three SAT 2's and 2 Advanced Placement exams and it cost him close to $600. If you have to retake any of the exams it is also an added expense.

Other people who are obviously making a profit on standardized testing are the SAT review services that claim to help you raise your scores. I am sure you have gotten lots of mail from them if your child is of high school age. You should be very careful about these review programs. They are expensive and most don't do more than show you how to play the testing game. They share with you tips and techniques to guessing multiple choice answers and deciding which questions to answer. There really is no content taught. You most likely will do better with getting test preparation materials from the library or local book store and just get yourself acquainted with the test format and the material which will be covered. If you find, by taking a few practice tests, that you are weak in some areas then it may be time to take out a few textbooks and review the material (i.e. angles in a triangle or vocabulary). There are many good SAT vocabulary and mathematics review books, CD's and videos available, and there are also some helpful websites on the Internet. Take the time to review content! Leave yourself a few months prior to the tests to do this - and do not procrastinate.

On the average nationally homeschoolers have done very well on the SAT's and have done 5-10% better nationwide on their scores as compared to their non-homeschooling counterparts. The question remains, what does all that mean if the tests themselves really do not measure adequately what a person knows or can achieve? Some homeschoolers opt not to do the standardized tests and apply to colleges that do not require them. Others may work something out with their prospective colleges and see if there are other ways for the school to measure their future success in a desired college program. Talk to the admissions counselors and see if admission can be done through and interview or portfolio presentation. What they really want to know is what you've been up to for the 4 years of your "highschool" experience.

Another strategy might be to audit some courses or just take one or two as a part-time non-matriculated student. If college admissions counselors see that you have already done some college work and have been successful, they may not need standardized test scores to make a determination for college acceptance. Some colleges can't be bothered by case by case review and it then just becomes the numbers game. If you really desire to go to a specific school sometimes you just have to play the testing game and take the required tests. Whatever your route, just be sure you plan for it.

This is definitely worth reading!
Time Magazine's 2003 article about the new SAT - Inside the New SAT
or here as well

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Ron Paul on CNN

And yes, he is still in the presidential race.

Ron Paul Revolution - I'm reading his latest book and it's terrific.
Count me in on the Revolution.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Cheap Efficient Electric Cars For 2009

Their website says: TH!NK city cars, possess effective utilization of energy. A traditional car with a combustion engine that uses less than 30% of the energy from the fuel it burns. Up to 90% of the battery's energy is used too in the TH!NK city. This means that the energy efficiency is three times as high in the TH!NK city. You can drive three times as far with the same amount of energy!

As for availibility in the US:

“The TH!NK city is the world’s only crash-tested and highway-certified EV and is ideal for markets such as California where we will initiate demonstration projects offering an exceptionally safe and fun car to drive” says Jan-Olaf Willums, CEO of Think Global. –“We are therefore proud to partner with the two pioneering investors in the clean tech field and to launch TH!NK city in North America with them.”

The new venture was announced at the 2008 FORTUNE Brainstorm Green Conference held in Pasadena, California, that brought chief executives from all over North America together to talk about the business opportunities of “going green”.

Ray Lane, a Kleiner Perkins Managing Partner and Chairman of TH!NK North America, says, “The transportation industry is undergoing its largest transformation since Henry Ford built the model T. Today we are witnessing a seminal event - the first highway-capable electric vehicle intended for mass production, representing a big step towards a zero emission transportation industry.”

“We believe there is a dramatic shift underway of how people think about mobility. Global consumer demand is forcing industry to come up with sustainable solutions, including the development of zero emission vehicles” says Wilber James, a Managing General Partner of RockPort Capital Partners, and acting President of TH!NK North America.

TH!NK city is an environmental vehicle, emission free and 95 percent recyclable. It reaches a top speed of 100 km (65 miles) per hour and can drive up to 180 km (110 miles) on a single charge.
TH!NK city meets all European and US federal motor vehicle safety requirements.

At the Geneva Motorshow earlier this year, Think announced a strategic partnership with energy giant General Electric, also an investor in Think. At the Show, Think unveiled its future car, the TH!NK Ox, the first 4/5-seater fully electric vehicle which is slated to begin production in 2010/11.

Think has also established partnerships in the US with battery suppliers A123 and EnerDel.

The TH!NK city is currently produced in Norway and international sales are slated to begin in Scandinavia, with Switzerland and France also being the initial focus areas. Sales other than initial trial and demonstration projects will begin in The North American market in 2009.

Vicki Northrup, an electric car veteran, has been retained by TH!NK North America as Operations Manager and will initially be based out of TH!NK North America’s Menlo Park Office.
I think electric cars have been under-rated. There is great potential here especially if electricity can be generated with wind, solar, and hydro power; all great renewable sources of energy.

We are witnessing the transformation of the auto and transportation industry. Perhaps slow in coming, but the entrepreneurs are out there and the new ideas are coming.

(H/T Jeff A.)

Friday, April 25, 2008

A Financial Storm Is Brewing

News reports indicate that many states appear to be in recession as deficits are growing.
The weakening economy is hitting tax revenue in a number of ways: People's discretionary income is being gobbled up by higher food and fuel costs, while the tanking housing market means people are spending less on furniture and appliances associated with buying a house.

The National Conference of State Legislatures said the news is even worse for the upcoming fiscal year, with 23 states and Puerto Rico already reporting budget shortfalls totaling $26 billion. More than two-thirds of states said they are concerned about next year's budgets.

The results are consistent with a drumbeat of bad economic news for states that several budget groups have produced in the past few months.


some economists have pointed to the string of declines in manufacturing orders to argue that the economy has fallen into a recession.

Bolstering their position, the Commerce Department reported Thursday that sales of new homes plunged in March to the lowest level in 16 1/2 years. The government also reported that orders to factories for big-ticket goods fell for a third straight month in March, the longest string of declines since the 2001 recession.
In CT, the projected budget surplus that was forecast was $263.2 million for the current fiscal and now it has shrunk to $15.7 million. The state budget is $18+ billion. Then again, any surplus means that taxpayers are being over taxed.

The Courant reported on a shrinking CT surplus:
One of the problems is that the state has paid out about $30 million more than expected in income tax refunds, along with collecting $20 million less in personal income taxes — cutting the projected surplus by a combined $50 million.

[Governor] Rell's budget office also lowered its estimates on the real estate conveyance tax by $5 million as the real estate market continues to slow, and payments from the two Indian gambling casinos were lowered by $6.1 million.

Overall, [Speaker of the House] Amann said, he is not particularly worried about the state's budget picture because many other states are facing deficits and are in far worse shape financially.

He predicted that the legislature's fiscal office would place the surplus at $30 million — double the governor's estimate.
CT taxation, spending and surplus aside, in my own town, the Town Council just adopted a 7% increase in spending which translates to 7%+ increase in their tax bill for most, and over 10% for at least a third of our taxpayers. The average tax bill (i.e. for a home valued at $354,000) is over $600+ a MONTH! Needless to say, taxpayers here are pursuing a referendum on the issue. Other surrounding towns have already slowed their spending and have come in with 3 and 4% increases in their budgets.

I think the message should be that states and municipalities have to cut spending NOW and give people some really meaningful tax relief. If that translates into less services and programs or staff reductions then that is what has to happen. The other alternative of course is to drastically change how we raise revenue to pay for things. But the message is clear, times are getting more difficult financially for many people and we can't keep going to the well of the public purse like some have become so very used to. It's time to take a really closer look at how money is being spent and allocated. Afterall, that is what every single household is also doing.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

In Honor Of Earth Day

Anyone wishing to buy carbon DEBITS can go here.

And don't forget to visit Junk Science today.

If you really want to save the Earth, laugh a little more, hug your kids and spouse, take care of your health, live an honest life, and don't pay attention to politicians or fear mongers (that includes pharmaceutical, and environmental).

Just Doing My Part......

Monday, April 21, 2008

Ron Paul Interview with Neil Cavuto

Yes, Ron Paul is still a Republican Candidate for President. He has not left the race. He was interviewed by Neil Cavuto on Tax Day (April 15) and I am sharing it with you here. As far as I am concerned it's worth a listen.

What a shame more people didn't vote for him in the primaries.

I had an advance order for his new book and it has just been shipped - I can't wait to get it and read it.

I have talked to many people in the course of my travels, and everyone seems to agree that the the three choices we have left - Clinton, McCain, and Obama are absolutely horrible choices for this country. I know a lot of people who will be voting third party. Some say that's a wasted vote.. I think voting for any of the three front runners is a wasted vote. Clinton/Obama marches us more quickly to Socialism and bigger nanny state government. McCain surely doesn't understand the economy and may get us even deeper into war and continue a meddlesome foreign policy along with icky ideas like REALID and the North American Union. Sigh... You know how some people have bumper stickers that have 01-20-09... signifying the inauguration of a new president.. I'd like to have a bumper sticker that says 01-20-13 because this election in 2008 has already gone to the dogs and personally I think it will be a really miserable and difficult 4 years if any of the current three picks are in office.

To my Republican colleagues: Sorry I just can't vote for a guy who sings "Bomb Bomb Bomb Bomb Bomb Iran".... and while I don't like what Amadinejad has said and done ... there has got to be better and smarter ways of dealing with idiot leaders like him.

And in my opinion, McCain's hit 3 strikes.... McCain Feingold (campaign finance reform), McCain Kennedy (illegals amnesty), McCain Lieberman (global warming). All awful legislation.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Parody Music For Saturday - Happy Passover!

OY - I haven't been blogging because I have been cleaning and cooking for Passover! But I hope you enjoy these two parodies even if you aren't celebrating Passover! (Oh, and we don't pour beer down the drain at my house .... ever! and my husband is waiting until after the holiday to start his spring brew)


Here is the original Margaritaville by Jimmy Buffet

Matzah Matzah Man

Here is the original Macho Macho Man by the Village People - Yeah, they were pretty strange... LOL

Enjoy the day! and Chag Sameach to everyone, especially Elisheva!!!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Is It Thursday Already?

These past two weeks have been such a blur. I have been so busy with family stuff and legislative stuff and local political stuff that I barely had time for blogging or more pressing issues like shopping and other domestic tasks. But I did have time for a physical yesterday - and for the most part everything is peachy. (yeah yeah... I have to exercise more and eat less)

But some cool things have happened this week. My daughter got her very first job. She was hired on the spot to work in a very terrific candy store in our town. So we had to go get working papers since she is 16. And that experience is a whole 'nother blog post.. suffice it to say that getting working papers from the local high school is a dumb practice. One should just have to produce proof of age to the employer - who could simply make a copy and place it on file in his office somewhere just in case the labor department ever pays a visit. That sounds like another bill for another legislative session. (sigh) We also had to go get some khaki pants and some white shirts. Done and done. She starts working part-time next week. She's also finishing up her college coursework and working on a bandslam music event that she is helping to plan with a colleague of hers. She's just finished a cable TV producers course and is planning her very own cable TV show entitled "Backstage Pass" which will debut on West Hartford cable TV fairly soon. No grass grows under her feet!

My middle son just had an interview with Lincoln Labs at MIT, and we are all very excited about that being his next Co-Op assignment in his college program. I can't believe he only has one more year of college left!

My oldest hasn't had any time for his blog because he has also been traveling a lot with his job. He also has an announcement forthcoming that I am not at liberty to say right now - but stay tuned (and my apologies for teasing you).

And now I have to make preparations for Passover.. "OY"

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

An Open Letter To The CT State Senate

Dear Senate Pro Tem Williams and CT State Senators,

As I sit here watching you all on CT-N debating and unanimously passing the Ethics Reform Bill with its amendment, and lauding the merits of working together in a bi-partisan manner to get important legislation passed, I can only wonder why it is that you cannot all work in a similar fashion to re-instate the language into SB162 that amends CGS 10-220, via LCO 4143 and LCO 4055, and pass the parental rights bill SB162. Instead, this bill is being held up and has been put to the foot of the calendar while parents across CT are being harassed by school administrators and DCF who threaten to take their children away from them even as you sit in session!

I know that many of you have already expressed your support and advocacy for this bill in the form that was originally and unanimously passed out of the Children's Committee with the help and leadership of Sen. Meyer, and for that parents across CT deeply thank and commend you. But for those of you who haven't expressed support or are unsure for some reason, we ask you to please reconsider, and to put party politics and Department of Education interests aside. It is time that you show the parents in this state that you support the rights that they have always had, and that you will put an end to the abuse of authority by school administrators and DCF that has been allowed to continue. By the volume and content of correspondence, you must know that your constituents are crying out to you for action and that their rights as parents cannot be compromised or haggled with.

Parents who have had their children sexually assaulted and bullied in school have also has to endure the bullying tactics of their local school administrators and of DCF as well. Parents who have decided that the public schools are not an appropriate choice for them are being harassed for choosing to withdraw. Parents should not be put into a position of asking permission to leave those public schools, especially when those schools have been abusive or hostile to their choice. Rather parents should be able to say they are withdrawing their children from public school and to have that declaration honored by the public school. That is what this bill's amendment seeks to accomplish, and in fact will accomplish. That was, and remains, the original intent. It will stop the current abuse of authority by schools from happening.

Put simply: When a parent sends a letter that they have written which says that they are withdrawing their children from public school, that letter should be honored by the school administrators and the child should be removed from the enrollment list upon receipt. There should be no reason for the school to continue to keep a child on their enrollment list only to report the child to DCF for truancy simply because the school disagrees with a parents choice to remove the child from public school. It is also unconscionable that schools should keep children on the enrollment lists merely to collect public funding for that child! That really constitutes fraud. You need to amend CGS 10-220 with the language offered by Rep. O'Neill and the Children's Committee. You need to stop the abuse of authority and harassment of parents. You need to protect parental rights in CT and You need to work together to do this NOW!

As always, CT parents who have been communicating with you welcome any and every chance to come to Hartford to speak with you about any questions or concerns that you have with this bill. Hear our voices. We elected you to represent US. Otherwise what will you say to the children who are now afraid of their government? What will you say to those children who have worked to study civics and believe that the voice of the people really does matter from where you sit? What will you say to the children who fear being taken away from their families because they have chosen non-public education? They are depending on YOU to work together and make the statement that in CT their parents and the choices they make regarding raising their families are protected. Understand too that someday those children will also be parents who may make similar decisions for their children. They want to have the right to make those choices preserved for them as have been preserved for the past 350 years.

Please do not delay. Take this bill off the foot of the Senate calendar, amend it to Rep. O'Neill's language and pass it to the House. Parents and children across CT are waiting to see you be the leaders and champions that we know you are.

Judy Aron

Monday, April 14, 2008

Robot Competition Observations

The Israeli boys that we were hosting this week, for the Trinity College Fire-Fighting Robot competition, left this morning.

I've been remiss in my blogging because of my hosting obligations and other things going on around here in general.

But here are a few thoughts and my own personal observation especially after discussion with other participants in the competition this year:

The robotics competition was a disappointment this year. The Chinese teams swept the placings this time around, not because they were smarter or more innovative, but because they just did better. The Chinese all used the same commercially made robots which were not manufactured or invented or substantially programmed by any of the kids that participated. I doubt any of the kids could really even tell you how their robot worked. The adult leaders gave directions.

The whole point of the competition is not merely to win, but to get kids thinking about how to problem solve and how to put an idea into practice, and to build the thing from scratch, and how to get it to solve the problem. These Chinese kids are essentially given a kit and they put it together and they use pretty much the same programming from one robot to the next. There were no deviations within their delegation. Their robots were, for all intents and purposes, identical in design and programming. They employed no originality and no real innovation. But their times through the mazes were the fastest. Good for them. They used fast motors. That is what gave them victory. But as for true problem solving and originality, I think they get a huge zero. Personally, I think they ought to have been disqualified. I had heard that each kid on their team spent upwards of $20,000 to compete (or perhaps the Chinese government pays their way), so I suppose the judges just couldn't send them home empty handed - especially when Chinese sponsorship of the competition may be involved. It just was quite disappointing.

Other teams really worked hard on some interesting and sophisticated robots and you could see that they really spent the time and LEARNED from their experiences in problem solving. That's what it is all about. They were the true winners. Technological advances come from innovation and originality and exploration through trial and error. This is something the kids on the Chinese teams unfortunately will not know; they will only know they have won a trophy.

Meanwhile, a local boy and acquaintance of our family, Nathanial Barshay, took the International champion cup (along with his team mate) and Nathanial took first place in the written part of the competition. Congratulations goes out to him.

Additionally, a homeschool team from Michigan also did quite well with their robot called Flutterbot. It was nice to meet and talk to them.

The Israeli teams took 4th place and on down in the high school competitions. All results are here.

Finally, it is truly a shame that more American middle and high schools do not participate in or encourage participation in these events. They do not even seem to foster the desire for application of math and science in this very important area of learning coupled with competition. Oh well....

We had a nice week with our guests and we were sad to see them leave.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Friday, April 11, 2008

Homeschooling - More Black Families Are Home Educating

This fabulous report by Village Voice says that because public schools are failing to provide adequately for black children there is now a growing number of parents who are homeschooling.

The stereotypes are changing. Homeschooling has long been thought of as mostly a white Christian endeavor where parents and children sit around the kitchen table. The fact is that the stereotypes have always been utter nonsense. Homeschooling is as diverse as society, and in fact there are many specialized homeschooling organizations to prove it. There are Islamic Homeschool groups, Wiccan Homeschool groups, Black and Latino Homeschool groups, Asian Homeschool groups, and every other imaginable synthesis of society that chooses to home educate. The common thread is that parents all want to do what works best for their children with regard to their education. When public schools fail, especially in urban areas, parents will seek out and have already found suitable alternatives, be it private schooling or homeschooling.

Village Voice reported this:
In the 2006–2007 school year, the city's Department of Education says that 3,654 students in New York were homeschooled. Most are white, but a growing number are African-American. Black parents tend to take their children out of the schools for other than religious reasons, and homeschooling groups say black children taught at home are nearly always boys. Like [P. Aurora ]Robinson, some of New York's parents have concluded that the school system is failing the city's black boys, and have elected to teach them at home as an alternative.
The article goes on to say what an incredibly rich and meaningful curriculum she is providing for her family.
She tries to make the lessons fun and informative. "I have them reading books like The Other Toussaint," she says, referring to a biography of Pierre Toussaint, the Haitian slave who became a free—and rich—man in early-19th-century New York. "I want them to have a more Afrocentric perspective and understand who our writers were and how they come about documenting our history." She also takes the boys with her when she reads to young children at a bookstore, and as she participates in other community activities.

There are cello classes for Tau at the Brooklyn Music School. Deion is interested in video-game design. The boys have taken classes in rock climbing, Japanese sword fighting, architecture, American sign language, film, and acting since they began homeschooling. And last year they completed and screened a film project they worked on with other black homeschooled children from Brooklyn African-American Homeschooler Connections, a support group that Robinson joined.
And as I mentioned before, there are networks of homeschoolers all around. They are tremendous resources for parents who have decided that homeschooling is an option for their children.
Jennifer James is a mother in North Carolina who chose to homeschool her children and also founded the National African-American Homeschoolers Alliance. "African-American homeschooling is definitely growing all over the coutry," she says, estimating that black children make up about 10 percent of the nation's 150,000 homeschooled kids. "I suspect it's because more and more African-American families have finally realized that home education is an option for every American family, regardless of race or socioeconomic status."
Parents are waking up and they are realizing that they DO have options, and that they do not have to put up with less than desirable education choices. They also feel that they cannot wait for more experimental education reforms or for workable voucher programs to emerge.
Parents that the Voice talked to listed various reasons for pulling their kids out of New York's schools—the lack of resources and diverse curriculums, overcrowding, violence, and an emphasis on standardized testing and not individual achievement. Combine those concerns with financial limitations that can make private school an unattainable option and you have more black families teaching their kids at home.....

While the school system continues to grapple with its problems, some black families are planning well ahead of time to keep their kids away from it, preparing to homeschool their children from birth.

On a weekday afternoon, Mocha Moms of Harlem, a support group for stay-at-home mothers, is having a play date in the nursery of Abyssinian Baptist Church. The chapter's co-chairs, Felicia Bradford and Christine Garrison, have already begun plans to homeschool their sons coming this fall. Having both worked in the public-school system, they believe it would be a bad fit for their sons. "I don't want anyone to kill his quest to learn," says Bradford, a mother of two boys ages three and a half years and eight months. "For black boys, expectations are so low. I just want him to be able to function and learn more about his culture."

"Public schools that are good are few and far between," says Garrison. "I remember working in schools and thinking, 'If I ever had a child, I would never send them to public school.' " She met parents who were teaching their own children and says she started wondering if she had the skills to do that herself. She eventually decided that she does, and she and Bradford have recruited other families to join their future school, which will be located in Bradford's home..
It is so wonderful to know that parents are realizing that not only do they have this option, duty, and obligation to educate their children and do it at home, but that they are fully capable of doing it. Parents can even have their own work responsibilities and still homeschool quite successfully.

There are many articles on the web about the rise of black families turning to homeschooling. Here is one by the San Francisco Chronicle. There are also many support groups emerging.

Another Resource is: African American Homeschoolers Network - They say this on their website:
Home schooling in America is growing rapidly among African American families. The population of African American home schooled children is estimated to be around 84,000 - 120,000. Many parents are selecting homeschooling and/or alternative education within the community instead of public schools as the choice for educating their children. Through strong networks with other homeschooling families, and partners within the community, we are able to raise well-rounded, academically and mentally strong children. These children will grow up to positively impact our communities. The public school systems within urban areas are struggling with academic deficiencies and violence. More and more parents are looking for another way. We are taking the destinies of our children into our own hands.
The fact that public education is failing to meet the needs of so many children is precisely why non-public education including homeschooling is necessary to have. I also believe that there needs to be an educational model that is free from government intervention and intrusion as well. Parents can and do have enough brains and ability to see that their children get a good education and they should have many choices available for them to accomplish those goals.

Simply stated, I think we can all agree that every child needs to be educated, and fundamentally it is and always has been up to the parent to decide how that is done.

This brings me to the issue again of withdrawal from public school. Kids should not be kept hostages by public school administrators, and the wishes of parents to withdraw their child from school should be respected and accomplished without hassle or harassment.

Legislators in CT now have the opportunity to end the abuse of authority by school systems by passing legislation crafted by Rep. Arthur O'Neill and passed by the Children's Committee which simply states:
when a parent or guardian of a child provides by certified mail, return receipt requested, to the principal of the school that the child attends, to the superintendent of schools for the school district in which such school is located or the local or regional board of education for such school district, written notice originated by and signed by the parent or guardian of the child stating that the parent or guardian is withdrawing the child from enrollment in a public school and will provide instruction for the child as required pursuant to section 10-184, the principal of the school that the child attends, the superintendent and the local or regional board of education shall accept such notice and shall deem the child withdrawn from enrollment in the public school immediately upon receipt of such notice (this is what must be inserted in CGS 10-220 (The Duties of Boards of Education))
Any other changes to O'Neill's intent and language, or the placement of other regulations or demands by school administrators in other sections of statute regarding duties of parents are unnecessary and very harmful to parents rights and should be avoided.

Legislators need to get past the unfounded suspicions about homeschooling and the mistrust that parents will not do what they say they will do, especially when it comes to Black and Latino parents. As one can see, they want the best for their kids just like anyone else.

Perhaps the school systems are just a bit threatened that parents are finding alternatives and they ARE in fact removing their children from enrollments. That is hurting school funding. That may be why they are trying to keep kids in their failing schools by trying to prevent their leaving.

It all goes to prove that a good education knows no color... the model that delivers good education is what really matters. When you add committed parents, the children can and do succeed.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

CT - Update On The Withdrawal Bill - SB162

Spearheaded by Liz DePalma, Sue Cox, and Jenny Mosher, a group of about a dozen constituents of Senator Thomas Gaffey, Co-Chairman of the Education Committee, met with the Senator today to discuss why he changed the language in Senate Bill 162 and asking him to change it back to the original language proposed by Rep. O’Neill.

While Attorney Deborah Stevenson, Executive Director of NHELD, and Judy Aron, Research Director of NHELD, went with those constituents to attend the meeting, Senator Gaffey refused to allow attorney Stevenson or Judy Aron into the meeting, although Senator Gaffey had his aide, and three attorneys from the Education Committee, the Office of Legislative Research, and the Legislative Commissioner’s Office in attendance at that meeting.

Because NHELD was refused access to the meeting, we have asked those who were in attendance to write letters describing what occurred in the meeting, which we will publish as soon as they are available. Sen. Gaffey also refused to allow his constituents to tape record the meeting when they asked to do so in order to provide an accurate account of what occurred at the meeting.

His constituents were firm in their commitment, raised questions, offered opinion and suggestions, and told him that SB 162, (as it was changed by Sen. Gaffey and approved by the Education Committee), needed to be amended to revert back to the original language as proposed by Rep. O’Neill and approved by the Select Committee on Children, or it must die.

From what we understand, Sen. Gaffey offered explanations of why he changed the language, and had his lawyers chime in with their opinion as well. While his constituents tried to get him to change the language back to the original Rep. O’Neill version, it would appear that Sen. Gaffey gave no firm commitment that he would do so. In the end, he merely indicated that he would “take a look at it”. We hope that he will. We hope that he will support the changes to 10-220 and leave the changes to 10-184 for another time to be properly debated at a public hearing.

Meanwhile, the bill, in its current form (Gaffey's version), appeared on the Senate calendar for the first time today. According to the rules of the legislature, a bill must remain on the calendar for three days before a vote may be taken on it. Once it appears on the calendar for three days, a vote may be taken immediately, or it may be passed and voted on at some other time, or perhaps never. There really is no way to tell when it will come up for a vote. The fact remains, it could be voted on as early as this week.

NHELD thanks all of those who attended the meeting with Sen. Gaffey today. They did a tremendous job of making their points known. Connecticut parents truly owe them a debt of gratitude.

It remains to be seen what Sen. Gaffey will do, but we remain hopeful.

We merely said this: Reinstate and pass the O'Neill version (which fixes the problem of schools not taking children off their enrollment list when directed to by parents, and then subsequently reporting them to DCF for truancy), and if they really want this new language that basically mandates a Notice of Intent and changes CGS 10-184, then they ought to bring it up next session and give it a full and proper public hearing that people can come and comment on.

Joint favorable report is here

Rep. O'Neill offered up a similar version of the bill in the past.

Until this language offered up by Rep. O'Neill gets codified, parents will have difficulty withdrawing their children from public school no matter if they plan to homeschool them or place them in private school. Schools will still be allowed to abuse their authority and make false reports to DCF without consequence and parents will continue to have to deal with legal bills and a DCF record. This is what is at stake here. Every parent who has a child in public school needs to take notice. The language as it is now really does nothing to fix the problem and it gives the Department of Education more power and control. It also removes the fundamental right of parents to withdraw their children from public school as they have always been able to.

This is all we want and this is what must be inserted in CGS 10-220 (The Duties of Boards of Education)

when a parent or guardian of a child provides by certified mail, return receipt requested, to the principal of the school that the child attends, to the superintendent of schools for the school district in which such school is located or the local or regional board of education for such school district, written notice originated by and signed by the parent or guardian of the child stating that the parent or guardian is withdrawing the child from enrollment in a public school and will provide instruction for the child as required pursuant to section 10-184, the principal of the school that the child attends, the superintendent and the local or regional board of education shall accept such notice and shall deem the child withdrawn from enrollment in the public school immediately upon receipt of such notice

Monday, April 7, 2008

Israeli Robotic Teams Arrive This Week

My family is hosting 2 boys from the Israeli teams that will be arriving this week in order to compete in The Trinity College Fire Fighting Robotics competition.

It should be another fun adventure sharing our home with these outstanding students. We have been hosting for at least the past 5 years now and my kids have really enjoyed the experiences of meeting these wonderful and talented teens. For most of them, this is a terrific opportunity to travel to the US and stay with families while competing. We do try to keep in touch with them after they leave. Because of compulsory service, many of them go on to serve in their country's military after they return home and finish their high school exams.

With regard to the competition (which is open to the public):
The main challenge of this contest is to build an autonomous computer-controlled robot that can find its way through an arena that represents a model house, find a lit candle that represents a fire in the house, and extinguish the fire in the shortest time. This task simulates the real-world operation of an autonomous robot performing a fire protection function in a real house. The goal of the contest is to advance robot technology and knowledge while using robotics as an educational tool.

The goal of the contest is to make a robot that can operate successfully in the real world, not just in the laboratory. Such a robot must be able to operate successfully where there is uncertainty and imprecision.
If you get the opportunity you should visit the competition. It is really interesting to watch the various methods used to solve the problems of navigating the mazes and accomplishing their ultimate goal of extinguishing the fire.

The Israeli high school teams have a history of dominating the competition. The teams from US colleges also do quite well.

Rules of the contest are here.

See last year's post about the competition.

Friday, April 4, 2008

On The Wrong Track

A poll released this morning shows that 81% of Americans think this country is on the wrong track.
The poll found that 81 percent of respondents felt "things have pretty seriously gotten off on the wrong track." That was up from 69 percent last year and 35 percent in early 2003.

Only 4 percent of survey respondents said the country was better off than it was five years ago, while 78 percent said it was worse, the newspaper said.

The Times said Americans were more unhappy with the country's direction than at any time since the survey started in the early 1990s....

When questioned about the mortgage crisis, Americans blamed government officials more than banks or home buyers and other borrowers for the turmoil, the newspaper said. Forty percent of respondents said regulators were mostly to blame, while 28 percent named lenders and 14 percent named borrowers, according to the poll.

Those surveyed said individuals, not financial institutions, should get government help. The paper said a clear majority told pollsters they did not want the government to lend a hand to banks, even if the measures would help limit the severity of a recession.
It doesn't say what track people think we should be on though. From the looks of things and the kinds of things people are demanding like having the government provide more for them - the track they seem to want to be on is one leading to Socialism.

They want government control on markets, on the price of energy, on the price of wages, and control of the cost and distribution of healthcare. Because the average person knows more about American Idol contestants and whether Britney is in or out of rehab, we have a monumental problem in this country. Public education certainly doesn't ever equip people with a firm grasp of anything having to do with economics or political theory or even history. So the masses wouldn't know if they were living under Socialism or not, and why that would be a good thing or a bad thing. They only seem to understand the concept of entitlement.

Do you think the average person is now contemplating how to protect themselves from really bad financial times? and if they are already living through bad financial times how to get themselves back on their feet? More likely is their thinking that government will bail them out. The question is who is the government? They don't seem to understand that it is for all intents and purposes, them. Taxpayers.

More bailouts = higher taxes.
More expenses on social programs = higher taxes.
More government control and intrusion = less liberty and freedom.
Financially we are at a breaking point.
It is evident that we are marching towards Socialism, and therefore we are absolutely on the wrong track.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Too Big To Fail and Fed Up!

Bailing out Bear Stearns because they are "too big to fail".

You see, it all started out with real estate and mortgage brokers who steered people into easy-credit sub prime mortgages that they really could not afford if interest rates went up. They were told it wouldn't be a problem and then when their interest rate climbed and the real estate market started to take a dive, they couldn't afford the payments. Some couldn't even sell their properties for the amount of their mortgage. Who knew?

But you see the only loser here was the homeowner who shouldn't have put himself into that position to begin with. No one told the buyer to read the small print or to be careful. It's been argued that they knew what they were doing (and should therefore take the consequences), but judging by what our education system has been producing it might be doubtful that they knew what they were risking. Anyway, before things went bad, the broker walked away with his tidy commission and the bank just turned around and sold that lovely dopey mortgage loan to big guys like Bear Stearns.

Multiply that by a whole lot more "losers" who now face foreclosure and financial ruin, the big bankers are now stuck with all these bad loans (as if THEY didn't know what they were getting into). So as usual, the problems of the little guys were chalked up to making poor buying decisions - and when the big investment houses like Bear Stearns got stuck ...well... then the "govmint" had to make efforts to step in to bail them out because these of course were the important banker guys making $500,000+ who were now "suffering" and swimming in red ink. Poor babies. Some might have actually been at risk to losing some of their own assets. Tsk, tsk. Pass the Kleenex.

Charging to the rescue, on a white steed of course, is JP Morgan Chase in a nice little buyout, and if this problem of bad loans and foreclosures continues to persist, even with lowered interest rates as the Fed's "cure", then we know the Federal Reserve and Chairman Bernanke will be at the ready with taxpayer money in the billions to fix the problem. Only it won't really fix the problem. It just puts taxpayers' money into the pockets of the rich to save them from (gasp) failure. Are we a bunch of suckers or what? Oh, but don't cry - you are getting a stimulus check in the mail, so you can go shopping. (It's not even a decent sized consolation prize).

Personally, I think if these big investment houses buy bad investments they should all suffer like the rest of us who make bad investments. And if that means they go out of business without a government bailout - so be it.

No one is too big to fail.

Some say this Bear Stearns bailout probably should be noted as one of the biggest bank heists in history.

So now, here we are further down the road to nationalizing the banks and that's frightening.
Federal Secretary Paulson is recommending sweeping reforms that gives the Federal Reserve more power and control over the economy.
The plan would greatly expand the role of the Fed, created in 1913 after a series of bank panics, to oversee the stability of the entire financial system including commercial banks, investment banks, insurance companies, hedge funds, private-equity firms and others.

Rather than checking on the health of a particular organization, the Fed's focus would be on whether a firm's or industry's practices pose a danger to overall financial stability, said Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, the former head of investment giant Goldman Sachs whom Bush put in charge of the plan.

"It will have broad powers and the necessary corrective authorities to deal with deficiencies," Paulson said.
Interestingly enough, you don't all believe that this 218 page document was just whipped up in the past few weeks do you? No doubt it's been sitting around waiting for Paulson and friends to spring it all on us. They had a "solution to a problem" that they have been creating all along! Are you surprised?

Seeing as these investment houses and the Fed got us into this mess to begin with don't you find it interesting that their solution is to give them more control? Has it occurred to you that this "credit crisis" is just being used as an excuse to expand the Federal Reserve's power over ALL financial markets just as 9-11 has been used as an excuse to curb our civil liberties and degrade 4th amendment rights (among other things)?

The 5th plank of the Communist Manifesto states:

Centralization of credit in the hands of the State, by means of a national bank with State capital and an exclusive monopoly.

We need a new monetary system...and like it or not Congressman Ron Paul was right in his predictions, and has been right all along with regard to monetary policy. Why didn't more of you listen? Read his most recent statement.
The Federal Reserve, a quasi-government entity, should not be creating money or determining interest rates, as this causes malinvestment and excessive debt to accumulate. Centrally planned, government manipulated economies always fail eventually. The collapse of communism and the failure of socialism should have made this apparent. Even the most educated, well-intentioned central planners cannot plan the market better than the market itself. Those that understand economics best, understand this reality.

In free markets, both success and failure are options. If government interventions prevent businesses, like Bear Stearns, from failing, then it is not truly a free market. As painful as it might be for Wall Street, banks, even big ones, must be allowed to fail.

The end game for this policy of monetary inflation is that the money in your bank account loses purchasing power. So, by keeping failing banks afloat, the Fed punishes those who have lived frugally and saved. The power to create money is a power that should never be granted to government. As we can plainly see today, the Fed has abused this power, and taxpayers are paying the price.
We are headed for some really bad stuff and marching even more quickly towards Socialism. It's not pretty at all if you believe in our Constitution and all that our forefathers have fought and died for. It's so sad to see this happening.

Redistribution of wealth, socialized medicine, nationalized economy, federal control of education... welcome to the New America. As for Hillary, Obama, McCain... it's all the same, just rearranging the deck chairs on this sinking ship of state.

Buy gold and silver. Work now to protect your assets. Vote all traitors out of office. See this all for what it really is and not what the media is telling you it is. Watch this video from Peter Schiff, author of Crash Proof: How to Profit From the Coming Economic Collapse (Lynn Sonberg Books).

“Extreme taxation, excessive controls, oppressive government competition with business... frustrated minorities and forgotten Americans are not the products of free enterprise. They are the residue of centralized bureaucracy, of government by a self-anointed elite.” - Ronald Reagan

and from Von Mises Blog:
The 3 towers of wealth destruction:
1. Interventionist Foreign Policy
2. Government provided services like education, health care and social security.
3. Intrusive law enforcement.

Yeah... that sounds about right.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008


Ok - I'm kidding - Joke over.
But check out this fun website with lots of pranks and funny articles, and don't forget to laugh today!
and visit my previous April Fool's post.