Cut administrators to save schools
When I listened to Claudio Sanchez's Aug. 20 story on NPR about the increased performance of Miami-Dade County's perennially troubled schools, I shouted out loud, "I told you so!" For years I have espoused that many of the budget shortfalls suffered by school districts since the George W. Bush era's assault on public schools began could be helped tremendously by making the cuts in more logical ways, namely, against the bloated and often redundant salaries of district administrators. Yes, school districts need administrators.
Nonetheless, many administrator positions do not add critical services to students. Trimming those superfluous services can save millions of dollars that could be better spent on direct services to students.
Sanchez spotlighted Miami-Dade County School District's superintendent, Alberto Carvalho, who took over back in 2008. Since that time, Carvalho has seen impressive gains in school performance. His trick? Developing positive relationships with school board members and cutting unnecessary administrative positions. Quoting the program, "[Carvalho] fired, he laid-off massive numbers of administrators. So millions and millions of dollars were saved ..."
Amazingly, not a single teacher's job was cut. Indeed, for this school year, Carvalho is issuing a 2.7 percent pay raise for teachers.
This breath of fresh air is sorely needed to boost the hammered morale of teachers nationwide.
The problems at Miami-Dade County School District's schools have not miraculously disappeared. Much hard work remains to be done. Still, the gains are impressive and the means attainable. Arkansas's school districts could stand for similar measures. I wonder if the state's superintendents have the courage to implement what appears to be rather promising practice.
Marshal, not Ranger
Although I would probably be characterized by many as an "old white guy" and am certainly not a student of the old West, I recognized Deputy U.S. Marshal Bass Reeves the moment I saw his picture on the front of the Arkansas Times. What was a little confusing was the reference to the "Lone (Black) Ranger." This because Deputy Reeves was never a Ranger, which at the time was best described as a territorial militia, whether in Arizona or Texas. On the other hand, the Marshal's Service is the oldest federal law enforcement agency. The title on the cover notwithstanding, the article was excellent, and I will have to have a copy of "Black Gun, Silver Star." "Black, Red and Deadly" also sounds intriguing. What I find disturbing is that Deputy Marshal Reeves will probably never have his picture on classroom walls during Black History Month. There are many black people who have made significant contributions to American society, but receive no recognition because they were not directly involved in the civil rights movement. What about Elizabeth Cotton, who learned to play finger-style guitar left handed without re-stringing the guitar, and without the benefit of any lessons? Or Colin Powell, one of the great military leaders and statesmen of our times? Condoleeza Rice? The Red Tails, Bill Cosby, Morgan Freeman, or B.B. King? We can do better.
Reminded of Pryor's virtues
Thanks to all the anti-Pryor ads, I now know that Mark voted along Democratic Party lines much more often than I thought! Great! When the time comes, I will vote for him again. Yes, some folks in our state still believe in the two-party system.
Wrong on Core
The article on Common Core by Benjamin Hardy ("Avoiding Core Meltdown," Aug. 22) has a number of merits. He brings in a number of facts, shows some historical perspective, and otherwise presents what reads like a sensible narrative. However, there are significant flaws.
First and foremost, he does not bring the same facts or historical perspective to Common Core as he does to Arkansas's struggles with public education. Now, I have not checked lately, but for the longest time, Arkansas was at or near the bottom in educational rankings through the '80s and '90s. Such a backdrop can explain the willingness to consider a "national curriculum" sold as "raising the bar." The problem is no one in Arkansas, least of all Mr. Hardy, did their homework.
Using a car dealership as an example, I believe few people would walk onto a particular lot and make such a significant purchase decision based solely on the pitch by the salesman. But that is precisely what has happened with Common Core in most of the states, including Arkansas.
Common Core has been in development since at least 2007. However, the development was all top-loaded first in order to get the states to sign on. It was never "state led." Do the homework and you will see. You will also learn that the standards were written in less than a year, which is highly unprofessional. There was never any true research and field-testing even though they claim they did it. Demands to produce the evidence are only met with silence.
Unfortunately, each state has to fight its own battle against Common Core. We are not going away, and we will not quit until Common Core is most very dead, most sincerely dead.
Common Core is an absolutely mediocre curriculum. The evidence is there. You just have to look past the snow job produced by the Fordham Institute.
Submit letters to the Editor, Arkansas Times, P.O. Box 34010, Little Rock, AR 72203. We also accept letters via e-mail. The address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include name and hometown.