Friday, September 26, 2008

Friday: Action!

Do you read the Comet?

Not out of a sense of, say, grudging dread and paranoia, but from a desire to be informed and info-tained, or at least gratified by reinforcement of your own preconceived worldview?

If so, you may be interested in surfing over to the Progress Pittsburgh PAC and giving them ten dollars right now.

They're good people whom we can vouch for, and they'll do righteous things with your money. Click the links, read up, and if you like what you see give them your digits. We'll wait for you. Go ahead. Dum dee dum dee doo. You back? Good! We've got a swell thing going on out here in the Intersphere (as you know) but the rubber's got to hit the road sooner or later. The spring primaries are right around the corner, and Pittsburgh's more decent challengers need excuses to run -- and excuses to demonstrate to even wealthier contributors that they deserve serious money.

Somebody vetoed campaign finance reform, after all, so now we all have to play like bigshots.

It won't be the last time we ask you, but it's important their little PAC enjoys an impressive start-up. Think of it like the Obama spam you've been receiving in your inbox. We are the ones we've been waiting for! Aren't you proud of my husband! There is no try! Ditty mao!


So the annual budget first goes to the state oversight boards -- and only then, upon approval, will it get submitted to City Council? Nice government we've arranged for ourselves!

The Mayor also announced that the updated plan will increase the City's annual payment to the Pension Fund by 15 percent in 2009, cut 65 vacant positions, and put 40 more officers on the patrol by hiring civilians to take over administrative functions. (Pittsburgh, Doven & Zober)

One minor point for now.

Excellent that 40 more police officers are being put on the streets. Does that mean we are adding 40 brand new persons to the payroll? And will that mean it will be inaccurate to say things like "we've cut 65 jobs" -- especially when the jobs we've cut have been long vacant, and the jobs we're adding are, well, occupied? If we are expanding the workforce, we should be frank about that.

C'mon, people. That's just off the top. It's a budget -- how hard can this be? [UPDATE: 50 bonus points if anyone can muster an argument that claims the budget is structurally unbalanced ... or non-structurally balanced]


Three shootings this week that carried the deadly signature of retaliatory gang violence are the sort of attacks Pittsburgh police might be able to prevent by this time next year, city officials said Thursday. (Trib, Jeremy Boren)

The perception sure isn't that violence is at a "40-year historic low", as certain press releases would have us believe. But at least the plan is being hastened, and that should be applauded.

"We want you to know, the hammer is coming," [Burgess] said yesterday, in a preview of the message of that meeting. (P-G, Rich Lord)

You're gonna send Jim Motznik after them?

But for those looking to escape thug life, there's "a pot of jobs at the end of this rainbow."

Only in America.


Superintendent Mark Roosevelt argues that the goal of the policy is keeping students engaged in the educational process. And Pittsburgh is not the only district to take this view of grading. In suburban Philadelphia, the Bensalem School District had a task force look into testing and grading, and the panel recommended the minimum score of 50 percent.

But giving students marks that are higher than they deserve is grade inflation, a practice that is dishonest and does a disservice to the students themselves. (P-G, Edit Board)

The Comet comes down with Superintendent Roosevelt on this one.

Let's say there are eight exams during the term. If a student scores 20's on the first three exams (let's say due to a bad run at home, or prior to some intervention) he or she would have to score 85's the rest of the way only to escape with a D. Hard to rationalize showing up for the rest of that academic year under those circumstances.

Meanwhile, if those 20's were to be counted as 50's, a student who picks it up to a respectable 70% average from there on out would get a passing grade. Any student capable of picking it up and maintaining a C average after that kind of start deserves to pass.

Failure is failure. The District is assigning a baseline value to failure on an exam, and ensuring that kids who fail a test or two especially badly do not to blow off the rest of the term, get held back and fall into more serious spirals. The difference between a mathematical 10 and a 50 is only the difference between guessing well and poorly on multiple choice tests. No one is being given a free ride, and we're not allowing Western civilization to rot.

See, Rosey? We're not so bad. Say, how is that community input committee that is supposed to decide "what to do" with the Schenley building coming along?


  1. Roosevelt is right (for once) on this one. All the tougher-than-thou yelling about kid coddling and grade inflation is really misplaced here.

    If you have a kid that struggles, or performs inconsistently, and there are many reasons for that, then you appreciate the wisdom of this policy. Once you screw up and make a 17 on a test, your semester is pretty much finished if you have to average a 17 with anything else. A 50 is still an F (or an E as they call them) but leaves a chance for improvement. The kid has to improve, in order to pass, but its feasible. Why we would want a system that dis-incentives improvement for school kids is beyond me.

    Oh right, they have to learn the cold hard facts that the average of 0 + 100 is an F.

  2. Well, since you asked, here's $20 .... I'm glad to see that PPPAC received their pledges before Sep 25. I hadn't heard about this till you mentioned it.

    And yeah, the grade plan is a good one. The kids who get 20% on every test will now get 50% on every test, and continue to fail. No free pass.

  3. Yeah, apologies to P2P for sleeping on this until now. $2000 in 20, anyone?

  4. I have heard the superintendent explain the logic behind the resurrection of the grading policy more than once. He spoke about it at a district level parent meeting and at the legislative meeting of the board the next night. It makes sense at this time to apply it uniformly. It is possible that this could be a temporary measure. It should be thought of as a strategy in the effort to make changes to the culture in our public education system.