Politically Incorrect Paper of the Month

Alex Tabarrok writes:

African-Americans make up a larger proportion of students than teachers. Many educators say that as a result African-Americans students suffer because they lack role models and white students suffer because they lack diversity. In a newly published paper (working paper version), Thomas Dee (Swarthmore College) supports some but not all of this story. Using data from Tennessee’s Project Star, a very important experiment in which K-3 students were randomly assigned to small and regular sized classes, Dee finds that black students improve when they have black teachers. So far so good. Dee also finds, however, that white students improve when they have white teachers. Uh, oh. There goes the diversity is good for everyone story.
Dee is quick to point out that we don’t understand why students perform better with a teacher of their own race. If it is a role-model effect then why would white students perform poorly with black teachers – surely there are enough white role models to choose from that one more or less isn’t going to have an effect on the self-esteem of white students. Another theory, with some support from other studies, is that teachers spend more time helping students of their own race. Note that if it is the latter then better teacher training, to overcome natural biases, could improve the effectiveness of both white and black teachers.
The cite for the paper is Dee, Thomas S. 2004. Teachers, Race, and Student Achievement in a Randomized Experiment. The Review of Economics and Statistics 86(1): 195-210.

Vote! April 6, 2004 Election

One week from today, Madison holds its spring election (school board, judges & county board). However and unfortunately, this race falls during spring break. If you are planning to be out of town, please obtain an absentee ballot from the City Clerk’s office.
Some have asked why I spent the time (and money) to put together this web page, dedicated to the Madison School Board Race. I’ve summarized a few reasons here:

  • These type of races generally don’t attract all that much attention.
  • There’s an intersting group of candidates this year.
  • Encourage Madison citizens to vote (turnout is never all that great)
  • Provide deep, convenient information on each candidate – as much as possible (four of the six agreed to sit for a video interview, as did Superintendent Art Rainwater – to his credit. I requested interviews from Mayor Dave & John Matthews, Executive Director of Madison Teachers, Inc., but never heard back from them.).
  • General disappointment with the lack of depth in local news coverage from traditional tv & print sources
    • My favorite scene: the local nbc affiliate was the only station covering a candidate forum at Cherokee Middle School – it’s great they were there for a few minutes, however the end result was a 10 second video clip on the 10 o’clock news that night.
    • The local newspapers, have two education reporters, Doug Erickson & Lee Sensenbrenner. Lee’s paper, the afternoon Capital Times, has posted most of his articles online (including one with a description of this site, but not a link on the web version), while Doug’s paper, the morning Wisconsin State Journal has posted very few (Doug’s candidate interviews have NOT been online, which is just amazing – correction, they are available on this page).
  • Support these candidates. Running and serving on the school board is a thankless job. I wanted to give them an opportunity to express their views without a filter.
  • Contribute: I contributed to four of the six (those who took the time to sit for an interview – you should, too. I’ve posted links to all 6 candidate web sites here.)

How did it work out? My election page has received quite a bit of activity. It’s also received some interesting comments. I hope other Madison residents start their own blogs…. Email me if you have questions (zellmer AT mac.com) Vote!

John Muir featured on California’s Quarter (2005)

Jim Wasserman writes that the design of California’s new quarter features former Wisconsin resident John Muir.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger unveiled the design of California’s new quarter Monday, which shows conservationist John Muir, a California condor and Yosemite National Park’s Half Dome mountain on the coin’s tails side.
More than 2 billion of the coins will be placed in national circulation in January 2005, said California State Librarian Kevin Starr.
Los Angeles graphic artist Garrett Burke, 42, designed the coin that Schwarzenegger selected from five finalists including images of sun and waves, a redwood tree, the Golden Gate Bridge and a gold panner.
“I’m thrilled with the outcome,” said the self-described nature enthusiast, calling Yosemite Valley and John Muir the “real stars.

Leahy Shills for Copyright Cartel

Dan Gillmor is right on the money with his criticism of Vermont’s Patrick Leahy regarding his co-sponsorship of the “Pirate Act“. One would think our politicians have more important things to do (education, health care, terrorism, the economy) than carrying water for the Hollywood cartel.

s stunning, and disheartening, to see U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, the Vermont Democrat who has been one of the champions of civil liberties on Capitol Hill, become a water-carrier for Hollywood and the music industry. But there’s no other interpretation for his co-sponsorship of what’s being called the PIRATE Act, a chillingly bad bill that would give the copyright cartel a gift for the ages.
The basics of this legislation are fairly simple: In a time when there are truly serious things on the minds of law enforcement, such as terrorism, Leahy and his colleague Orrin Hatch would send the FBI and Justice Department (Copyfight) after file-sharers. If this passes, look for a crackdown that makes today’s music-industry lawsuit frenzy look tame. And look for the end of most experiments in new media, because file-sharing networks are the only financially feasible way to distribute content for people who aren’t trying to corner a market.
If I still lived in Vermont, I would call Leahy’s office and ask anyone who’d listen how someone I’ve respected for years could do something so awful.

I’ve sent a note to Russ Feingold and Herb Kohl encouraging them to vote against this and any other similar nonsensical initiatives.

High School Sports: Coach Fitz’s Management Theory

Michael Lewis pens a fascinating article on Billy Fitzgerald, the longtime baseball coach at Isidore Newman School in New Orleans. Fitgerald has coached many exemplary student/athletes. Recently, some of them got together to fund the school’s gym renovation in his name.
Lewis’s article explores the friction between a coach trying to get the most out of student/athlete’s and parents who want to protect their children.

”The parents’ willingness to intercede on the kids’ behalf, to take the kids’ side, to protect the kid, in a not healthy way — there’s much more of that each year,” he said. ”It’s true in sports, it’s true in the classroom. And it’s only going to get worse.” – Scott McLeod, Newman’s headmaster.


Random Lake Schools Budget Challenges/Response

Martha Shad writes:

When the Random Lake School District cut high school course offerings last fall to save money, teachers and parents stepped in to help fill the gaps.
The district was faced with getting about $350,000 less in state aid, so it eliminated three high school teaching positions, one middle school teaching position and seven extracurricular activities, according to Joe Gassert, who?s been the district administrator for 10 years.
?The reduction in aid was a combination of declining enrollment and the smaller amount of money the state gave all school districts,? Gassert said.

UW Minority Students – Alone in a Sea of White

Nahal Toosi writes:

Madison – The day he moved into his residence hall as a freshman, Christopher Loving heard the whispers of his hall-mates.
“There’s a black guy on the floor. Somebody go talk to him.”
Finally, three fellow University of Wisconsin-Madison students appeared.
After noting he was from Chicago, one asked Loving if he was from a rough neighborhood.
No, Loving said.
“My dad told me that all the black people in Chicago live in the projects. . . . Are you sure you didn’t grow up in the Robert Taylor Homes?”
“Well, does your dad play for the Chicago Bears or something?”
No, Loving said. He wasn’t rich.
“Well, how do you go to school here then? I thought you had to be either really rich or really poor to go here if you’re black.”
Loving, now a junior and president of the campus Black Student Union, recalls the encounter with humor and sadness.