Tag Archives: education

A strikingly effective way to ensure the success of disadvantaged students in college.

The Posse Foundation is premised on the notion that if dropout-prone high school students can enroll in college with a posse—a peer group they bring with them that all support one another—that they’re more likely to succeed. It’s been running for twenty years now, grouping 600 students into groups of 10 students, and enrolling them in 40 participating colleges (including Bryn Mawr, Middlebury, DePauw, Brandeis). Their average SAT scores are markedly below the average in the colleges that admit them, but by any measure, these students are among the most successful in their college classes. This doesn’t just highlight the weakness of SAT scores as an indicator of academic success, but it also highlights how easily the achievement gap can be erased, at least for the right kids. 

Links for October 31st

Links for October 5th

  • Chattanooga Times-Free Press: 96-year-old Chattanooga resident denied voting ID
    Dorothy Cooper even managed to vote under Jim Crow, but the Tennessee Republican Party has proved to be one obstacle she can't overcome. She's never driven, so she has no driver's license. She tried to get a photo ID, but she has to present her marriage certificate, and she got married a long, long time ago, and doesn't know where to find that. I guess the new photo ID laws are working just as intended.
  • Flickr: Fed Up with Lunch
    A Flickr stream of nothing but photos of what passes for school lunch in the Chicago Public Schools. Parents never see what the kids get for lunch, but this teacher did. I'd love to see somebody do this in area schools. Heck, the schools should be willing to do it themselves.
  • New York Times: After Ruling, Hispanics Flee an Alabama Town
    Alabama's new immigration law has left crops rotting in their fields, farmers unable to find workers. Business at grocery stores and restaurants has evaporated. Hundreds (thousands?) of people working perfectly legal have gotten the message loud and clear: Latinos are not welcome in Alabama. So they're packing up and moving.

Links for September 5th

Links for August 19th

Cuccinelli has found support for a UVA ban on firearms, but I’m not sure he’s got it right.

Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli issued an advisory opinion on firearms on campuses (PDF) a few days ago. Before I even read it, I knew I’d be torn about his conclusions, whatever they would prove to be. I own a few firearms (long guns, not handguns), and I paid close attention to Heller a few years ago, though I didn’t root for either side in that case—it was just clarity that I’d hoped for. Sen. Emmett Hanger (R-Mount Solon) had asked Cuccinelli for his opinion on whether UVA may prohibit firearms within university buildings, a topic on which there’s been a fair amount of debate over in the past few years, especially after the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre. Cuccinelli’s response was:

It is my opinion that, under the present state of the law, the University lawfully may promulgate a policy that prohibits persons from openly carrying a firearm in the buildings that are subject to the policy. It is further my opinion that with respect to persons who have a concealed carry permit, because the University adopted a policy rather than a regulation, it has not “otherwise prohibited by law” persons with a concealed carry permit from possessing a handgun, and, therefore, the policies may not be used to prohibit persons with such a permit from carrying a concealed firearm into the buildings covered by the policy.

In short, Cuccinelli finds that universities have the power to enact such prohibitions. (In Heller, Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the majority, wrote that “nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on…laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings.” So the SCOTUS provides backup on this point.) But there is that bit of important hair-splitting, the matter of a “policy” vs. a “regulation.” What’s the difference? Well, § 18.2-308 (“Personal protection; carrying concealed weapons; when lawful to carry”) says:

The granting of a concealed handgun permit shall not thereby authorize the possession of any handgun or other weapon on property or in places where such possession is otherwise prohibited by law or is prohibited by the owner of private property.

“Prohibited by law.” So what’s a “law”? We find that in Title 2.2, Chapter 40 of the state code (“Administrative Process Act”), which leads with a listing of definitions, including this definition of a regulation:

“Rule” or “regulation” means any statement of general application, having the force of law, affecting the rights or conduct of any person, adopted by an agency in accordance with the authority conferred on it by applicable basic laws.

UVA has both “policies” and “regulations.” They’re even listed separately: this is their list of policies, and this is their list of regulations. The ban on weapons is a “policy,” not a “regulation.”

Why is the ban a policy and not a regulation? I have no idea. I speculate that regulations require the Board of Visitors to approve them, and policies do not, but I’m really just making that up. Presumably the university could address this by simply making this prohibition a regulation and that would be that.

There is one bit of Cuccinelli’s decision that I’m not totally convinced of, though it doesn’t help that I’m not attorney. In support of his conclusion that a policy does not have the force of law, he cites the definition of regulation (as I have, above), but “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence,” as Carl Sagan once wrote. Cuccinelli’s only support of the idea that this is an actual matter of state law comes in the form of a citation of a case, in footnote 17, wherein he writes:

See also Woods v. Commonwealth, 26 Va. App. 450, 457, n. 3, 495 S.E.2d 505,509 n. 3 (1998) (“a statement of policy does not have the force of law ….”) (quoting Shenango Tshp. Bd. of Supvsrs. v. Pa. Pub. Util. Comm’n, 686 A.2d 910, 914 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 1996)).

So I did see also Woods v. Commonwealth, and I’m not impressed. A footnote on page 9 of that decision includes a series of examples of “other jurisdictions [that] recognize the power of administrative agencies to adopt interpretative rules or guidelines,” with quotes from decisions from Massachusetts, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and West Virginia. These quotes are just examples within a footnote—the words in those quotes are not standing in for the court’s own, in the manner of my use of the quote from Sagan above. It smacks of desperation for Cuccinelli to lean on this as his sole affirmative evidence that there is precedent for the notion that a policy does not have the force of law. I’m not saying that a policy is law. I have no idea. But if this is the best he’s got, I’m not real confident that it’s good enough.

I am glad to have this opinion as the basis to begin a larger discussion about this, but I hope that smarter folks than me (and less partisan folks than Cuccinelli) will weigh in on the specifics of this in the weeks ahead.

Links for May 30th

  • New York: How Not to Talk to Your Kids
    Po Bronson summarizes research on self-esteem, praise, and children. Kids who are praised for their intelligence freeze when faced with tasks beyond their intelligence. But kids who are praised for their effort quickly learn to relish challenges, and their learning improves accordingly. I was definitely in the latter group, as a kid—years of having teachers praise me for being smart (for which I deserved zero credit) left me with no idea of how to handle assignments that I couldn't just breeze through. I'll take persistence over smarts any day.
  • Public Policy Polling: Electoral Consequences of the Rapture
    PPP took a presidential poll to determine what the result of the 2012 presidential election would be if all of the people who believe that they're going to be raptured were raptured last week. In short, Barack Obama does very, very well.
  • Physorg: Electron is surprisingly round, say scientists following 10 year study
    If an electron were blown up as wide as the solar system, it would be spherical to the width of a hair. That's very, very round.

Links for May 25th

  • Gratiot County Herald Letters To The Editor
    Ithaca, Michigan school superintendent Nathan Bootz wrote an open letter to the governor to ask that his school system be converted to a prison, noting that Michigan spends $30,000–$40,000/year on each prisoner, but only $7,000/year on each student.
  • WVEC: Taxpayers foot the bill when the governor flies on state aircraft
    I don't think it's inherently bad that Bob McDonnell is using state aircraft more than prior governors, but using a state plane to fly his family to the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival to have his daughter crowned as queen? Less good. More problematic is the governor's office's response to WVEC's FOIA request, trying to figure out how to avoid responding, and offering conceptual excuses—it's a long drive from Virginia Beach to Cumberland Gap, it's a money saver—for which there's no real-world scenarios that support those claims.
  • New York Times: Steady Decline in Major Crime Baffles Experts
    Violent crime is at at forty-year low. Combine this with the recent news that divorce is at a thirty-year low, and you can see how the pervasive claims of alarmists are just foolishness. Those who would have you believe that our country is more dangerous and marriages more disposable than ever are either ignorant or trying to sell you something.

Links for May 16th

  • Discovery Channel: Mike Rowe Senate Testimony
    The host of "Dirty Jobs" provided an important argument to the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation about why our education system needs to emphasize skilled trades. College is not for everybody. Way too many kids are going to college—it doesn't make economic sense, for them or for our society. More kids need to learn skilled trades.
  • Wikipedia: Benford’s law
    Numbers are not evenly distributed. Not theoretical numbers, but the real numbers that describe the world around us: stream flow rates, bank account numbers, atomic weights, street addresses, etc. Numbers start with 1 about 30% of the time. (e.g. 11, 103, 1539) They start with 2 about 18% of the time, 3 about 12%, and so on, until 9, which leads of numbers 4.6% of the time. This is described by Benford's law, which has become useful for forensic analysis of any numbers (such as accounting data), to see if it's real, or somebody has just made the numbers up. The less the adherence to Benford's law, the greater the cause for suspicion.
  • New York Times: Wealthy Donors to G.O.P. Are Providing Bulk of Money in Gay Marriage Push
    The push to legalize gay marriage in New York is being bankrolled by Republicans. You might need to re-read that sentence to comprehend that—a double take is a reasonable response. Although some Democrats may regard this as bad news—we've basically got a lock on the gay vote—I think it's great news. My gay conservative friends will surely welcome it. This shouldn't be a partisan issue, and I hope this is a sign that transformation is in progress.

Links for April 27th

  • Virginian Pilot: Large alligator spotted near NC-VA state line
    Global climate change means alligators are marching northward, clear to Virginia. Ken Cuccinelli should go for a swim in the Pasquotank River with seven feet of global warming hoax.
  • The Washington Post: The shocking truth about the birthplace of Obama’s policies
    Ezra Klein's sensationalist headline aside, it's a fact that the president's agenda is substantially consistent with standard Republican positions in the early nineties. Cap-and-trade, an individual mandate for healthcare, and mixing tax increases and spending cuts for deficit reduction—all sensible conservative positions that Republican leaders are hysterically insisting are the stuff of communism. Conservatives eager to pretend that Obama is a "socialist" or a "Marxist" have tacked so far to the right—giving the president a wide berth—that they're left with Donald Freaking Trump as the most likely get to the the Republican nomination.
  • Future Journalism Project: Who Pays Teachers Best for their Time?
    A ranking, by country, of how much teachers work and their salary. Teachers in the United States work more than in any other ranked nation, but are paid the fifth-lowest amount.