Solving old problems often creates new ones in education
Kathryn Biel’s Nov. 4 Viewpoint, “Core Learning, teacher testing hurting kids and home life,” was an excellent exposure of unintented consequences in U.S. education reform. The list of these consequences is so great that it is difficult to find where to start.
A number are the result of federal funding with mandates for the use of the funds. Under the cover of equal education for all, the federal government has attempted to produce a nation of ideal robots. Save for the efforts of our institutions of higher education, we would be a nation in revolution, fighting for survival in the war for the American Dream.
Each administration has to come up with a plan to destroy the previous administration’s plan and present something “new” that will solve all problems, real or fictional. There is no consideration for unintended consequences; the plan must be different and exciting.
Teacher testing is part of the current plan and has some of the unintended consequences Ms. Biel is contesting. The current teacher evaluation program treats professional teachers like grade-school students and is an insult to the profession. Rather than make simple adjustments to the prior program, in which professional educators evaluated teachers to make the program more effective, political motivation required something “new” and exciting that had many unintended consequences.
The mother piece of federal fumbling came in the late 1970s, when under the cover of better education in math and science, funding for vocational education was taken away from junior and senior high schools and given to math and science education. Some of the funds were left for BOCES, regional schools for vocational training of students who would not go on to higher education. (I was an associate supervisor of business education with the state Education Department at the time.)
The unintended consequence: Business education was considered vocational education and, at that time, included consumer education; as a result, all of the students who dropped out of school at 16, and the graduates who did not go to college, entered the real world without any preparation in the management of their personal business affairs.
There are many problems that should be adjusted for improvement, rather than mass reform that creates as many problems as it may solve.
Time of Schenectady road race horrible for churches
On behalf of the churches disrupted by the Stockade-athon, the Schenectady County Clergy Association wishes to gently suggest that some kind of change be made in this wonderful race.
Currently, folks on their way to the six or seven different congregations affected are almost entirely unable to get to their weekly services of worship that take place Sunday mornings.
Of course, there are a variety of factors to be worked into decisions about the race’s timing, but affected churches would like their concerns at the table when these decisions are made.
Dr. William Levering
The writer is the senior pastor of the First Reformed Church.
No one scolded anybody in Nisky school audit
The Oct. 30 article on the Niskayuna Central School District’s 2011-12 audit was a good overview of the economic climate the district continues to navigate: Our reserves are limited, our expenses are increasing, and our fiscal controls are appropriate.
One element of the article warrants some clarification: The auditors did not “scold” the school district for draining its surplus, as the headline stated, nor did they even caution the district for its use of reserves to maintain programs in recent years. In fact, auditors did not comment on this at all. Instead, Niskayuna school leaders made the decision to include the statement about the status of the district’s reserves in a segment of the audit known as Management Discussion and Analysis (MD&A).
MD&A is a segment of the audit designated for the district to provide information and context, and draw attention to topics of importance that might not be addressed otherwise. We decided to include information about reserves in the report to make sure that our community has the most accurate and transparent picture of our fiscal position.
The fact is, during the unprecedented state aid reductions of recent years, we have spent down our reserve funds to preserve student programs and opportunities without greater tax increases. It is important to understand that this strategy is no longer available to the district, which means that even more difficult decisions are ahead.
Re the district’s credit rating: This summer’s decision by Moody’s Investor Services to lower the district’s credit rating one notch, from Aa2 to Aa3, which is still considered high quality, has received some attention. The fact that the other major rating agency, Standard & Poor’s, extended our excellent AA-plus rating right around the same time has gotten less publicity. The bottom line is that the change in Moody’s rating has no foreseeable impact on our borrowing costs based on both high-quality ratings.
Susan Kay Salvaggio
The writers are, respectively, the school district’s superintendent and assistant superintendent for business.
Beware long-term-care insurance minefield
Caveat emptor, Latin for “buyer beware,” has endured for millennia and especially applies today when purchasing long-term health care insurance.
For several months, an elderly family member who lives in the Capital Region has applied for in-home assistance but has met with inexcusable delays and denials for compensation.
On her behalf, I filed complaints with insurance commissioners and the Better Business Bureau and even wrote to the company’s CEO. I either received no response (from the CEO) or generic form letters that do not address my specific questions. A friend whose husband had a similar policy with a different company is experiencing the same runaround.
Older people purchase long-term-care policies with the best of intentions. They want peace of mind if they need extensive health care and do not want to burden their families or society, both financially and emotionally. But from what I have learned, the insurance mantra of delay, deny, don’t pay is not only alive, it thrives. My family’s battle has lasted far too long and has caused a great deal of stress.
For us, it plays out as a “can’t fight City Hall”-type scenario, but I want to warn others to research all aspects of such policies, which are apt to spell out generalities that clearly favor the insurance company. Sign on the dotted line and you’re locked in to a no-refunds commitment that can endure for years, with roadblocks such as exorbitant premium increases (but no increase in benefits) and flimsy reasons for claim denials.
I urge you to engage an attorney who specializes in elder care issues before considering any kind of long-term insurance. It may save you a lot of heartache and frustration.
The writer is a former Scotia resident.
Bombing Palestinians would be act of terrorism
I apologize to all Palestinians and Palestinian-Americans for the Oct. 26 letter [“Gaza didn’t deserve cash in the first place”] suggesting the bombing of Gaza, instead of helping educate its people.
As a Christian, I can’t condone, much less suggest, the killing of innocent people. Isn’t that how we define terrorism when it’s done by others?
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