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  • "Outsource Everybody?"

    by Randall Garton on July 22, 2010

    The New York Times apparently thinks that outsourcing all city services in times of financial stress is such a great innovation that it merits page one treatment. The case in point: Maywood, Calif., where city officials last month fired every city employee and outsourced their work. According to the Times, many Maywood residents seem delighted, hence the headline: "A City Outsources Everything. Sky Doesn’t Fall."

    The article describes Maywood as city that was abysmally managed for so long - its police department was especially singled out as a source of financial, legal, and political problems - that city officials claimed it faced bankruptcy unless drastic measures were taken. After reading the article, the first solution that came to my mind was to fire the city council that was responsible for the mess. But, of course, council members did not choose to fire themselves. Instead, after Maywood lost its liability insurance on June 30, city officials abruptly fired all city employees.

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  • Willie Sutton In China

    by Randall Garton on July 20, 2010

    When asked by a reporter why he robbed banks, convicted bank robber Willie Sutton famously replied, "because that’s where the money is." While Sutton later denied making the remark, it was such a fabulously duh response to a dumb question that the medical profession later adopted "Sutton's Law" to describe the principle of "going straight to the most likely diagnosis."

    So, what has this got to do with China? Well, in a recent Financial Times article, we learn that the All China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU), fresh from its disastrous showing at the Honda strike (where its minions were videotaped beating up striking ACFTU members), has turned its attention to foreign-owned investment banks.

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  • The Time Factor: It's Not Just KIPP

    by Matthew Di Carlo on July 20, 2010

    In this post, I argue that it is important to understand why a few charters (like KIPP) perform better than others. An editorial in today's Washington Post points out that KIPP’s results suggest the achievement-improving potential of more school time for lower-income students – i.e., longer days and years.

    Through longer days, mandatory Saturdays, and summer school, KIPP students spend about 60 percent more time in school than typical regular public school students. That's the equivalent of over 100 regular public school days of additional time. This is an astounding difference.

    But it's not just KIPP.

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  • The Anti-Sweatshop Label: Dignity At 80 Cents A Pop

    by Burnie Bond on July 19, 2010

    Can “doing the right thing” sell as well as “Just Do It”?

    That’s the premise of a recent New York Times story, which describes the Knights Apparel company’s efforts to pay a living wage to unionized workers at a model factory in the Dominican Republic (hat tip to Jeff Ballinger). Knight’s Alta Gracia factory will pay factory workers $2.83 an hour to make college-label clothing for the U.S. market. This is enough to support a Dominican family of four, and nearly three and a half times the prevailing minimum wage paid by other factories making products bound for the U.S.

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  • Teachers Matter, But So Do Words

    by Matthew Di Carlo on July 14, 2010

    The following quote comes from the Obama Administration’s education "blueprint," which is its plan for reauthorizing ESEA, placing a heavy emphasis, among many other things, on overhauling teacher human capital policies:

    Of all the work that occurs at every level of our education system, the interaction between teacher and student is the primary determinant of student success.
    Specific wordings vary, but if you follow education even casually, you hear some version of this argument with incredible frequency. In fact, most Americans are hearing it – I’d be surprised if many days pass when some approximation of it isn’t made in a newspaper, magazine, or high-traffic blog. It is the shorthand justification – the talking point, if you will – for the current efforts to base teachers’ hiring, firing, evaluation, and compensation on students’ test scores and other "performance” measures.
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  • What's Next For China's Workers

    by Randall Garton on July 14, 2010

    China's workers burst into the world headlines again recently (see here, here, here, and here, for example)—taking to the streets to protest wages and working conditions, and exciting speculation about the possible political, social, and economic implications. Strikes and protests by Chinese workers are increasingly common. The Economist, citing an official Chinese publication, reported that "labor disputes in Guangdong in the first quarter of 2009 had risen by nearly 42 percent over the same period in 2008...." (These are government numbers, so the real numbers are likely to be even higher.)

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  • What Is "Charterness," Exactly?

    by Matthew Di Carlo on July 14, 2010

    ** Also posted here on Valerie Strauss' Answer Sheet in the Washington Post.

    Two weeks ago, researchers from Mathematica dropped a bomb on the education policy community. It didn’t go off.

    The report (prepared for the Institute for Education Sciences, a division of the USDOE) includes students in 36 charter schools throughout 15 states. The central conclusion: the vast majority of charter students does no better or worse than their regular public counterparts in math and reading scores (or on most of the other 35 outcomes examined). On the other hand, charter parents and students are more satisfied with their schools, and charters are more effective boosting scores of lower-income students.

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  • Getting Serious About Education Advice For Workers

    by Eugenia Kemble on July 14, 2010

    Have we come to the “end of history” on the decades-long debate over whether skills training and further education beyond high school are the best ticket to a good job and a middle class life? And, if they are, do those who choose to navigate their educational way to a satisfying and well-paying job know what kind of ticket they need? Attention to both issues is escalating, and not only inside the Washington beltway.

    On June 14, the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University released a block-buster. Its Help Wanted: Projections of Jobs and Education Requirements Through 2018, argued that by 2018 our economy will fall short of needed workforce qualifications “by at least 3 million postsecondary degrees, Associates or better," and in addition, “will need at least 4.7 million new workers with postsecondary certificates." This is the situation without the compounding issue of a 10% “official” unemployment rate in an apparently unending recession. Tony Carnevale, a principal author of the study, in reflecting on its implications for workforce training, noted “Our problem is, our country lacks a guidance system."

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  • WELCOME TO SHANKER BLOG

    by Eugenia Kemble on July 14, 2010

    The purpose of this blog is to provide commentary on the issues that we deal with at the Shanker Institute: education, labor, and international democracy.

    This is a content-focused blog. You will not find pictures, sound bytes, videos, or superfluous rhetoric. You will find research, discussions of complex topics, and a balanced presentation of ideas. We will try our best to be thorough and thoughtful, but accessible, as was modeled by Al Shanker.

    Although most posts will be written by Shanker Institute staff, we will be providing regular posts from our board members and other experts that we know. Reader comments are welcome and encouraged.

    We hope you find our first posts (below) useful, and that you check back often for more. Please also take a moment to visit the Shanker Institute website, where you can learn more about our other activities and research.

    Eugenia Kemble, Executive Director

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  • One Person, 2.5 Votes

    by Matthew Di Carlo on July 14, 2010

    According to the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, the U.S. is ranked 139th in voter turnout out of the roughly 170 democracies in the world. To whatever degree participation is a measure of how well a democracy functions, the United States' is among the worst.

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