California’s Transition to the Common Core State Standards
The author begins by addressing the monumental changes in California’s K-12 policies. This change is in large part due to the Common Core State Standards and the Local Control Funding Formula. Districts are now introducing new curriculum, contributing to a decentralized approach towards reformation. The district approach towards implementing common core standards has been an effort that the state believed needed to remain at a local level. California is being recognized as a unique state in its contribution of implementation methods of common core standards due to the large amounts of states that are remaining quite centralized through this process.

California is also experiencing an alteration in its role in K-12 education just as much as adjustments in curriculum are being made. Some of these alterations include the abolishment of California establishing learning standards or developing student assessments in math or english. This leads to states having less control over standards and curriculum but also simultaneously affects textbooks markets for California. Now California will have to compete in a national market due to its lack of control on assessment. However, this does allow for more choice of materials for districts. Other financial changes that California is experiencing is the states Department of Education experiencing a new found increase in policy and regulatory power due to the elimination of categorical funding programs by the Local Control Funding Formula. Now that school districts hold power in determining funding needs of students, California Department of Education will seize more control.

The author suggests that California needs to increase district support in order to see quality improvements. The suggestion in the article relies on transforming textbook review processes into a consumer report guide to the materials districts have available to them. The author also suggests that the state Department of Education use its background in assessment to evaluate the quality of available high school tests for districts to replace statewide tests. This could offer districts with state testing longitudinal state to see perspective outcomes. The author does address that if these suggestions were to be implemented, the California Department of Education would need to solidify resources, but inevitably leads to a stronger state-wide K-12 education system.
C.Dye  educationpolicy  CommonCore 
may 2014
State Standards to Advance Social and Emotional Learning
This article addressed the purpose of CASEL (Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning) State Scan which states its support to develop high-quality standards for social and emotional learning (SEL) in preschools and high schools nationwide. The article begins by addressing the key elements of the high-quality SEL standards that have been identified through research. These elements included; free-standing standards that provide simple, clear and concise statements, integration from other subjects, guidance for parental/adult support, guidance for the creation of positive learning environments and to support implementation. All of these elements refer back to the purpose of development through the creation of resources and education.

The article then addresses Preschool and K to 12 SEL standard’s progress and challenges thus far. While most states (49) have adopted free-standing standards that provide simple, clear and concise statements at the preschool level, only 3 states have adopted the same standards at the K-12 level. Furthermore, the article states the integration of K-12 standards and other standards, such as common core standards, which can lead to a lack of comprehension. The preschool level can experience similar difficulties with integration as benchmark standards adjust. The author does address the current process of developing SEL standards through beginning elementary grade levels as a part of aligning pre-k standards with k-12 standards. Some state, such as Idaho and Washington, has begun this process by addressing SEL standards in third grade.

The author continues to provide recommendations based on how states are currently implementing high quality SEL standards. The overall recommendation is that these standards are implemented in preschool through high school. To address how states are currently meeting these standards, the author has listed standards with complying states and links to their efforts. The argument is made that the CASEL State Scan has grown and increased the presence of high quality SEL standards in many states across the country. Support of CASEL initiatives have come from the National Governors Association, which has played a long standing role in the development of education policy.

The author concludes with a plan to continue growth which includes; the development of a voluntary model for SEL, the dissemination of model standards for SEL, support states developing standards for SEL and assess the impact of model standards and support efforts. The author addresses the concern that this plan is in its early stages and work will continue to be done. Given the current support of states in little time, the assumption would be that this project remains successful.
C.Dye  educationpolicy 
may 2014
Hiding behind high-stakes testing: Meritocracy, objectivity and inequality in U.S. education
In this article, the author makes the claim that high-stakes standardized testing in the United States has contributed the marginalization and inequities of races and classes. As suggested, this policy tool as advanced the ideology of meritocracy in the United States. The establishment of standardized testing and its inequitable outcomes stems from a history that has generously celebrated positivistic views. Measurable outcomes and valuable statistics have manifested the support of standardization and the ability to evaluate based on numerical outcomes. The consideration of qualitative data, as suggested by the author, has been rarely supported in the proposition of education policy and evaluation standards.

The author refers to the publication of A Nation At Risk to trace a punctuation of education reform. The author supports this claim by suggesting that this particular publication was powerful in the reformation of standardization and measurable outcomes by stating that 26 US states raised graduation requirements within 3 years of its release. This publication continued to reflect itself upon a large amount of state and federal education reformation processes. The author continues to support this claim by showing a wide range of political support of reformation and high-stakes initiatives. The author suggests the use of high-stakes testing driving education reform produces an expectation of equilibrium that remains regardless of who is in political power due to the value placed on quantitative measurement.

However, the author proposes that this continued use of high-stakes testing only perpetuates the justification of elitism. This ties back to the history of funding in education linked to outcomes, suggesting funding will follow statistics and statistics will continue to thrive of funding, creating a viscous cycle of inequality. The author concludes with the suggestion that the United States will be left with two choices; tests are providing objective and accurate measures of human intelligence and learning, which validates IQ testing, or the tests are neither objective nor accurate and may in fact be contributing to the inequality they are attempting to measure.

Although the author presents valid evidence and raises interesting points, there is little attention to what needs to be done to recognize the significance of equity in education. Concluding with an obvious choice, without providing little guidance as to reformation challenges the author’s testimony of objectivity. I would be interested in hearing the suggestions this author would make to legislators in states that are currently battling with the federal government on the issue of incorporating qualitative measure of student progression in teacher evaluations.
C.Dye  educationpolicy 
may 2014
High Stakes for States on NCLB Waiver Compliance
As the U.S. Department of Education pushes obligatory compliance on states receiving No Child Left Behind Waivers, states are faced with the realities of consequences. The intention of the waivers were to provide states with flexibility of moving from the dated testing measures required by NCLB to determine state-wide measurement and evaluation procedures, keeping in mind the broader intentions of the education policy. However, after years of states not meeting waiver obligations, the U.S. Department of Education has begun a punctual process of waiver evaluation and revoking process.

Washington state, one of the first states to undergo the removal process, sets an example as to what the U.S. Department of Education implies when they require test scores in teacher evaluations. Washington failed to pass this requirement through legislation, leaving the state negligent of the waiver obligations, therefore Washington no longer holds a No Child Left Behind Waiver. Other states like Michigan and Indiana may be experiencing similar repercussions if legislation is not successful. Michigan was similar in to Washington in that it currently does not require state level testing as a reflection in teacher evaluations, but unlike Washington, Michigan was able to implement a new teacher evaluation system without having to go through new legislation.

Michigan will go through additional legislation in the 2014-2015 school years to adhere to the implementation standards of student growth rate on state tests in teacher evaluations. The approval to adopt measures of student growth on state testing in teacher evaluations was made in 2013 the U.S Department of Education. Although Michigan is currently in compliance, if new legislation is not considered by the next extension period, the state may experience sanction. Indiana is experiencing the same potential sanction threat due to their recent over-turn of common-core standards. The state is now faced with the pressure to demonstrate that the standards in place are sufficient to replace common core. Sufficiency is determined by the ability to prepare student for college of the workforce.

Amongst the states in danger of waivers being revoked, teacher evaluations remain a common theme. In order to meet waiver obligations, states must prove that the have considered students performance into teacher evaluations. The challenge for many states, such as Oregon, is how to develop a system that they believe will meet federal standards without having clear guidelines as to what is being taken into account for approval of flexibility versus falling back on outdated measure of outcomes to assess teachers. Arizona is an example of this debacle as they continue to wrestle back and forth with the Department of Education on assessment results and graduation rates to reflect performance. As the Department of Education continues to push for greater rates of compliance, states will continue to face legislation barriers leading to threatened flexibility.
C.Dye  Education  NCLB 
may 2014
Obama’s SCOTUS win throws another cloud over coal - Erica Martinson and Alex Guillén - POLITICO.com
In the last week of April the Supreme Court upheld a controversial air pollution rule. This rule is the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule that focuses on limiting the emissions of dangerous carbon emissions that drift into other states, similar to laws regulating second hand smoke. The Cross-State Air Pollution Rule impacts coal fire plant dependent states in the Midwest and the South. Many of these impacted states, however, are already facing the closure of their coal fire plants without the application of the EPA regulation.

Another notable aspect of the Supreme Court’s ruling on the EPA regulation is that the ruling sets precedence for the EPA’s authority over states and efforts to create a carbon credit-trading market. David Marshall, of the Clean Air Task Force, stated that the ruling indicated the courts are willing to give the EPA some flexibility in implementing aspects of the Clean Air Act as long as they are reasonable and implemented in an equitable manner.

Currently, the article states that the EPA has had success with its power plant regulations in the courts since the hits it took under the George W. Bush Administration. This same year a lower court upheld an EPA regulation placing limits on mercury and toxic air pollution emissions from power plants.

The Cross-State Air Pollution rule is believed to be part of a larger anti air pollution strategy by the Environmental Protection Agency to be released in June. This article claims that the EPA’s April win is another nail in the coal industry’s coffin.

After the ruling, the article indicated that individuals with the coal industry have said that the EPA is “usurping states’ ability to limit air pollution.” Hal Quinn, CEO of the National Mining Association released a statement indicating his organizations concern with the near unilateral ability of the EPA to preemptively regulate states before they have had a chance to regulate their own pollution emissions. Quinn also expressed concern with the impact of EPA regulations on job creation and economic development.

A Republican Senator and EPA critic, David Vitter from Louisiana, exemplifies the general sentiment of the party toward the EPA and other bureaucratic agencies with his statements warning against the dangerous precedent. Sen. Vitter stated that the ruling sets a precedent that federal bureaucratic agencies can use great liberty when interpreting and implementing the Clean Air Act while ignoring cooperative federalism. Vitter also expressed concern with the regulation’s impact on economic development.

The coal industry and Republicans seem to be primarily concerned with economic development and damage to cooperative federalism. While battling Republicans and the coal industry, the EPA has been working to develop regulations to implement the Clean Air Act that won’t be stricken down by the courts. The developments in this policy area display a shift in policy venues. While most regulations and laws are developed in the legislative branch, the pro-coal industry lobby has changed policy venues to the courts given it wasn’t able to stop the development of the Clean Air Act and Cross-State Air Pollution Rule in the legislative and bureaucratic agency policy venues. This article indicates how the pro-coal lobby operates in the policy development arena. The move to the courts may be enough evidence to indicate that if the pro-coal lobby in the State of Washington isn’t successful in the legislative and bureaucratic agency policy venues then it may move to the courts to challenge unfavorable legislation.

This article also indicates that environmental regulations are starting to play a role in reducing coal burning in the United States. Current decreased demand and reduced use of coal in the United States has been attributed to the growing popularity in natural gas not progressive environmental regulations. The EPA’s success in the courts in April may be a turning point for environmental regulations and progressive policy.
A.Miller  Sustainable  coal  Sustainable-Development 
may 2014
Natural gas: Difference Engine: Fuel for the future? | The Economist
Since 2008 the price of natural gas has dropped by more than two thirds. In 2008 the fuel was priced at $12 per million British Thermal Units and has settled at around $4 today. One reason for this price drop is the unexpected abundance of the fuel source as the energy industry continues to use hydraulic fracturing to drill the gas out of underground shale deposits. The Economist claims that this natural gas craze has contributed to reducing pollution at unprecedented rates, as much as efforts to restrict vehicle emissions, power stations, and other sources as well. Natural gas also happens to be one of the most spectacularly cleanest fossil fuels. After the gas is purified it produces 30% less carbon dioxide than heating petroleum and 45% less than coal.

The increased use of this cheap and abundant fuel has contributed to a reduction of carbon emissions as low as 1992 levels, even thought America’s population is over 25% bigger. Also, carbon emissions from power plants are down to 1961 levels through a per capita calculation.

This article claims that the growing popularity of natural gas is capturing the coal industry’s control over the energy market. Though coal is technically still cheaper than natural gas, the air pollution produced by coal fire plants has slowly become susceptible to environmental regulations making the plants “uneconomic” to operate.

Under the strictest Environmental Protection Agency standards emissions of nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxide, soot, and mercury need to be reduced. Many coal fire plants exceed the new EPA standards on every account. The cost of adhering to these new standards is not considered affordable for the industry. Additionally, as of 2012, power-plant owners across the country stated they would phase out over 12% of coal fire burning for natural gas.

As growing popularity, and thus demand, of natural gas captures the energy market new infrastructure is required to keep pace. The future of this infrastructure may also include an added bonus and include a new exciting use for the fuel in vehicles. Compressed natural gas (CNG) has already been implemented in vehicles used in small areas like towns. Calculated in a gasoline equivalent, CNG costs about $2.20 a gallon. Vehicles would need to be converted to run this fuel but companies like Honda have already released a vehicle meeting the requirements. The biggest hurdle to integrating natural gas into our vehicle fueling systems at this point is the cost of the vehicles and/or of conversion from a gasoline-powered vehicle. Additionally, fueling stations will need to become more abundant for motorists to travel long distances with CNG vehicles.

Despite the need for technology to catch up, and become more affordable to the masses, to the cleaner and cheaper fuel option of natural gas, the benefits will still remain once the rest of the country’s infrastructure catches up.

This article defines the power of natural gas over coal illustrating how threatening natural gas is and has become to coal. Though there are mentions of EPA regulations making coal burning more expensive to those who operate coal fire plants, the real push factor here, and identified in other articles, is the abundance and low cost of natural gas. This article crystalizes the claim that natural gas is pushing coal out of demand in the United States, rather than EPA regulations. The economic demand for natural gas, rather than regulations, pushing out coal indicates that the country isn’t emitting less carbon because the climate change discourse is so influential in the policy arena but because market factors have made natural gas a more attractive option. Coal may be more expensive to burn than it was ten years ago because of regulation but it is the decline in demand that has caused coal to loose its grip on the energy market in the United States.

This economic push indicates that environmentalists, and those who subscribe to climate change rhetoric, may look like they are winning the battle but in fact they haven’t been as influential in this carbon emission reduction as market forces. One alternative to strength of the market in this issue is if the EPA and other environmentalists are able to regulate the controversial “fracking” process of accessing the gas. Regulations could either increase the cost of natural gas and thus reestablish coal’s share of the energy market, or if the environmentalists and climate change subscribers are lucky, it could push the energy market into more sustainable and renewable fuels.
A.Miller  Sustainable  coal  Sustainable-Development  Natural  Gas 
may 2014
Demand cools as fight rages over coal-export terminals | Local News | The Seattle Times
When the coal export terminal construction plans in Longview, WA and Cherry Point in Whatcom County were proposed by SSA Marine and Millennium Bulk Terminals in 2011, the international demand for coal was at an all time high. Over the last two years, and throughout the summer of 2013, export prices and international demand has taken a dive of almost 40% since the original proposal. This dive in price and international demand has even impacted Australian exports and caused scale backs on Australian export terminal construction projects. Australia is one of United State’s primary competitors in coal exports. A decline in Australian export profits and a scale back on the country’s construction projects is a strong indicator of the overall strength and reliability of the coal marketplace.

The article states that the drop in coal export prices indicates that the market has been flooded with the good and demand has diminished. China’s high demand for coal has slowed over the last several years as it has endured economic downturn. Goldman Sachs reported that the window for profitability in the coal market is beginning to close. As China reduces its imports of coal the market is undergoing a change.

The response of the coal industry to the dip in the market has been that they believe this dip is only part of a fluctuation that all bulk good markets endure. Ken Miller, president of Millennium Bulk Terminals who has, stated that those with Millennium Bulk believe that the demand for electricity and thus the demand for coal in the developing world will only continue to grow, as will a demand for coal from the United States. Wood Mackenzie, an energy-consulting firm, runs with the same sentiment as Miller, stating that the Asian demand for coal will continue with robust economic growth in the region.

Vice President of SSA Marine, however, has a more skeptical perception of the reliability of the demand of the coal market, he is quoted saying weak demand could effect coal export terminal project funding.

One issue cited by this article is that the environmental impact study process will and has taken several years. Therefore, when it comes time for investment arrangements to be made, the market shifts can be addressed at that point rather than investment arrangements made with predictive models reaching further into the future than necessary. This sentiment doesn’t sit well with environmentalists who want the projects cancelled all together. These environmentalists are particularly concerned with the ethics of exporting goods that displace and contribute to greenhouse gas emissions.

A report by Bernstein Research, intended to provide analysis of the coal market for potential investors, predicts that China will stop importing coal in 2015, start phasing out coal burning plants, and replacing those former coal plants with nuclear and renewable-energy plants through the next 10 years.

The questions called out by this article is if the Asian market needs American, Montana and Wyoming in particular, coal as much as the American coal industry needs the Asian market demand. The resounding answer is that the American coal industry needs the Asian demand for coal to maintain in order to survive.
This article contributes to the field of the coal export policy issue by contributing further expert knowledge to the reliability of the Asian market heavily relied on by the American coal industry. The financial advisor reports provide a thorough and reliable synopsis of the coal market and its fluctuations in the next decade. Additionally, this article provides the reader with direct quotes from leadership of the corporations proposing the export terminal projects. Most articles highlight public opinion or expert opinion on the matter but not give SSA Marine or Millennium Bulk Terminals the opportunity to respond to claims of the coal market’s prospective unreliability.

This article provides a more holistic perspective of this issue while providing an alternative reason for China’s declined demand for coal. Most articles regarding the reliability of Asian coal demand discuss the decision, of China specifically, to begin introducing stricter environmental regulations to reduce coal pollution. This decision to introduce environmental regulations is generally attributed to China’s growing concern with the deaths and adverse health impacts of air pollution in their country’s major cities. This article claims that another reason contributing to China and the Asian markets decline in coal demand is also related to the economic downturn and slowed economic growth.
A.Miller  Sustainable  Sustainable-Development  coal  China 
may 2014
For Developing Nations, Exports Boost CO2 Emissions : NPR
A carbon footprint calculation for any given country is calculated by assessing the carbon output that occurs within the country exclusively. This article indicates that a problem with this calculation is it doesn’t accurately reflect actual carbon emissions related to the operations and consumption of a country. The issue is a carbon displacement effect perpetrated by developed nations as they cut back carbon emissions in their own countries through regulation while still buying goods priced at cheaper rates because they are made in countries, like China and India, with next to zero environmental regulations. About a quarter of emissions globally can actually be attributed to imported and exported goods and services.

This article indicates that if we want to know the actual carbon footprint of individual nations it is important to include the carbon emissions created by the manufacturing and shipping of goods imported. A country like China, through the use of the current carbon footprint/carbon emissions calculations, has quickly become the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gasses but in fact an estimated 25% of the emissions produced in China are exported to other nations around the globe taking advantage of the minimal environmental regulatory climate in the county. In fact, the article claims that if imports were added into the United States carbon emissions calculation the number would be 11% bigger, and a third to half bigger in for the collective European countries.

The claim the article makes is that individuals in the global climate change community, and ethicists, are calling for those countries displacing their carbon emissions to take responsibility for the impacts that emissions make on the respective countries producing those goods for export. This issue was addressed by developing nations that suffer from this carbon displacement during the last global climate change summit in 2009 in Copenhagen. Both China and India took issue with the carbon footprint calculation as it placed the majority of emissions restrictions responsibility on developing nations rather than the nations displacing those emissions.

The take away from of this article is that countries like the United States need to recognize and take responsibility for the displacement of carbon emissions. The onus for global climate change cannot be on the backs of countries still working to reach development, but rather the work to reduce these emissions together. Additionally, the article cites former climate negotiator Nigel Purvis who states that consumers need to become part of the solution by paying the price of carbon emitted for the goods consumed, reflecting a more accurate price of goods. Nigel calls for the world to put a price on carbon the could be integrated into international trade laws, through possibly taxes or tariffs, that will ensure international trade is more compatible with climate change mitigation goals.

This article, though not directly related to coal exports or pollution caused by coal, defines the macro issue of carbon displacement by developed nations. Though developed nations like the United States and countries in Europe work to reduce emissions they are in fact displacing their carbon emissions to other countries; case in point the coal export issue. As the coal industry works to maintain its market share in the energy industry, and national consumption of coal declines, the industry working to export that coal to other countries with demand. One concern among the environmental organizations and anti-coal terminal groups is the displaced coal pollution caused by the exports.
A.Miller  coal  Sustainable-Development  Sustainable  China 
april 2014
How Paradigms Create Politics: The Transformation of American Educational Policy, 1980-2001
From a perspective quite similar to that of punctuated equilibrium theory, Jal Mehta uses A Nation at Risk to demonstrate how changing policy paradigms can drive politics. He first describes the education policy paradigm before the release of A Nation at Risk by identifying four assumptions about education commonly held by Americans:
1. The purpose of education should be determined for each community by that community; the federal government has no role in determining its purpose.
2. Responsibility for schooling is shared between educators, parents, and the local government – the groups that have the most stake in their children's education.
3. Education policy should focus on helping the most vulnerable populations succeed, not on determining what should be taught and how.
4. Teachers are accountable to their administrations for their and their students' performance. Schools are accountable to the local school board.
This paradigm essentially remained constant for about two hundred years until the release of A Nation at Risk. The federal government would create education policy from time to time, but it was almost always a symbolic gesture meant to communicate priorities, with few practical ramifications inside the classroom.

According to Mehta, the popularity of A Nation at Risk caused the first major paradigm shift in national education policy. Its released fundamentally altered the assumptions about education that had been the foundation for education policy for almost two centuries. The new assumptions were as follows:
1. The purpose of education is defined by the federal government. Specifically, education was defined as a tool for economic competitiveness in an increasingly globalized market.
2. Responsibility for schooling now rests entirely on educators. They alone now take the brunt of the criticism for poor student performance.
3. Education policy should focus on expecting excellence from all students, regardless of background.
4. Teachers and schools are accountable no just to their local officials but to the federal government (via the states).
This paradigm shift initiated a political shift in the realm of education policy. Democrats, who had previously sided with teachers' unions in their opposition to teacher accountability measures such as high-stakes standardized testing and performance-based pay, reversed their position in favor of the A Nation at Risk recommendations on the subject. Republicans dropped their ideological objections to expanded federal authority and embraced reform on the national level. In the end, political feasibility often determines which ideas become policy. Mehta's analysis is important because it demonstrates how the politics of education reform monumentally shifted because of A Nation at Risk.
SDavis  education  ANationatRisk  PunctuatedEquilibrium 
april 2014
The Communication of Education Reform: "A Nation at Risk"
This literature review of the major scholarly work on A Nation at Risk (up to 1996) traces how the report was received by scholars and the popular media in the decade after its release. The articles reviewed are grouped into four categories: descriptive, evaluative, promotional, and retrospective (categories that can still be applied to more recent articles on the subject). The authors conclude that the communication surrounding A Nation at Risk was primarily rhetorical, leaving the report open to debate and interpretation, and go on to demonstrate how the rhetoric and discourse coalesced into a discernible education reform movement. In the article's final section, the authors analyze the actual rhetoric surrounding A Nation at Risk, identifying what they call “rhetorical ironies” that drove the debate. Given these ironies, which center around the political context of the release of A Nation at Risk, the authors identify the report not as a tempered discussion of the need for education reform but as a political treatise.

While other articles discuss the content of A Nation at Risk or assess the policies that came about as a result of its release, this article looks at how the actual language used by its authors, supporters, and dissenters shaped the national discourse on education policy. In analyzing changes in public policy, it is important to consider the rhetoric used by the relevant actors. Analysts should pay attention to the words and metaphors they choose, the manner in which they disseminate their message, and who their target audiences are reveal. By analyzing these, one can better determine policy actors' real motivations and goals, which are not always apparent without rhetorical analysis. In this case, for example, the author's conclusion that A Nation at Risk is more political treatise than policy study came about not from explicit statements within the report or made by members of the commission that authored it; it came from an analysis of the kind of language used in the report and the language used to promote it.
SDavis  education  ANationatRisk 
april 2014
A Nation at Risk
If you want to dig into the original government report that kicked off the education reform movement, click on this link. When Ronald Reagan ran for president in 1980, he vowed to reform education in the following ways: allow voluntary school prayer, provide tax credits for tuition payments at private schools (to make private school more affordable), and to do away with the Department of Education. To that end, he appointed Terrel Bell to be his secretary of education, directing him to figure out how to best dismantle his own department. One of Secretary Bell's first acts was to request that Reagan appoint a presidential commission on education reform. Running into resistance from the White House, Bell decided to appoint his own commission, called the National Commission on Excellence in Education.

The commission researched and deliberated for a year and a half, finally releasing – with unanimous support – its report, entitled A Nation at Risk. Unlike most governmental policy reports, A Nation at Risk was written for consumption by the general public. It was even billed as an “open letter to the American people.” Topping out at 36 pages (excluding the appendices), it avoided jargon and references to dense scholarly works. Its language could be described as vividly urgent at best and hyperbolic and alarmist at worst (as the title suggests, the commission warned that if education in American did not improve, the country's status as a major world power would be threatened). Either way, millions of Americans read the full report and many more were aware of its major points and recommendations.

Although the Reagan administration downplayed the differences, A Nation at Risk flew in the face of the president's stated education goals, which only increased the amount of media attention surrounding the report. Calling for more, not less, federal involvement in education policy, the NCEE recommended:
1. Public schools and teachers should be held accountable by the federal government (via the states) for student performance
2. Longer school days and years
3. Standards-based education
4. Performance-based pay
5. More rigorous training for teachers
6. Emphasis on “fundamentals” (English, math, social studies, and science)
7. federal aid for specific student populations, such as the gifted and talented, the economically disadvantaged, and those with disabilities
These recommendations resonated not only with policymakers but with the public at large. Looking through the lens of punctuated equilibrium theory, A Nation at Risk was a focusing event that fundamentally changed the way education policy was viewed. Almost overnight, education went from being a local matter to being a major federal responsibility. Current federal education policy stems from the release of this report, signifying that the field has settled into a new equilibrium. Therefore, to understand A Nation at Risk is to understand American education policy.
SDavis  ANationatRisk  education  PunctuatedEquilibrium 
april 2014
A Nation at Risk Revisited
Written by one of the members of the National Commission on Excellence in Education (NCEE), the body that produced the groundbreaking Department of Education report A Nation at Risk, this article is an account of the formulation and deliberations of the commission and what the author considers to be its main accomplishments. The author begins by describing the events leading to the commission's formulation as well as the kinds of people that made up the commission. Conspicuously absent were what Holton (the author) describes as the sorts of people who usually sit on these kinds of commissions: educators, representatives of education associations, professors who study education, and other people who are intimately involved in training teachers, formulating education policy, and actually teaching.

Although the members of the NCEE came together with different points of view on the status of education in the United States, by the end of the eighteen months it took to perform research and write the report, the members were unanimous in their assessment. According to them, American education was woefully lacking in every regard. The recommendations of the NCEE can be found in A Nation at Risk, which is also posted to this site; Holton also provides a summary. What follows is a lengthy and vigorous point-by-point defense of A Nation at Risk, answering the main criticisms of the report (e.g. its call for competitive, performance-based pay for teachers).

This article is useful to anyone seeking to understand the education reform movement in the US in the past thirty years. Regardless of one's opinion regarding A Nation at Risk, hearing from someone who helped write the report provides insight into the foundations of our current education policy. This is a great place to start if you don't want to actually read the text of a government report.
SDavis  ANationatRisk  Education 
april 2014
Association of Substance Use and VA Service-Connected Disability Benefits with Risk of Homelessness among Veterans
Edens Kasprow et al are writing in a time when the reduction of veteran homelessness methods were shifting from emergency services (an outcome of the 1987 McKinney Vento Act) to permanent supportive housing to social reintegration and primary prevention of homelessness (pg. 412). There are many factors associated with risk of homelessness according to this study which refers to many other previous works. Low socio-economic status at the time of entry, recent mental illness and substance use disorders, and criminal justice system involvement were better predictors of homelessness in veterans than wartime service, combat exposure, or post traumatic stress disorder (pg. 413). Also interesting, those more likely to become homeless are post Vietnam era veterans and black veterans. The uniqueness of this study is it's look at Veterans Administration service users because at the time of this study it had not been looked at from such an angle. “This study thus seeks to identify risk factors easily identified in the clinical record of service using veterans to allow more effective targeting of health related homelessness prevention efforts” (Edens and Kasprow et al 2011;413).

The data used in this study was from the fiscal year 2009 VA data of all veterans who utilized VA mental health services which included over 1 million participants. Overall roughly 10% of the veterans that used mental health services also used homeless housing services through the VA. Also consistent with the general United States population, substance use disorders were the strongest predictor of homelessness in this studies sample. Because of these results the authors suggest that a combination of substance use treatment and housing rehabilitation would be a successful method for reducing veteran homelessness. After a reduction in the use of substance abuse treatment from 1996-2006, there has been an increase from 2006 until this study in 2011.

Also interesting is that according to past studies, mental health was a very strong predictor of homelessness but in this study, they controlled for substance abuse disorders and demographic characteristics, mental health was no longer a strong predictor. This suggests that the co abuse of substances is what is really making this cohort vulnerable to homelessness (Edens, Kasprow et al 2011). Finally the study concludes that “substance use disorders, service connected disability, pathological gambling, and personality disorders represent the strongest modifiable correlates of homelessness and deserve special clinical attention” (Edens, Kasprow et al 2011;418).
Baker  veterans  homelessness 
april 2014
Commodity exports and transboundary atmospheric impacts: regulating coal in an era of climate change
This research paper proposes a theoretical model that would allow coal-exporting countries to exert control over the policies that importing countries use to mitigate climate change. Drawing on economic and trade theories, the author develops a three-phase scheme that would encourage coal importers to adopt environmental policies that would help to reduce the risks associated with coal trade for the exporting countries.

This “coal export safeguard regime,” modeled on uranium trade policy, would begin with an internationally approved carbon-emission reporting scheme, where importers would need to conform to accepted emissions reduction targets. Over time, importers would need to phase in carbon reduction technologies and trading systems or pay increasing fines. The licensing fees paid to exporters would then fund research into further technology and serve as an economic incentive to adopt more stringent carbon reduction methods. In the beginning, importers could apply for exceptions to allow them time to implement these policies, but eventually, only conforming countries would be allowed to import coal.

The author points out that for this model to work, the major coal-exporting countries, such as Australia, Russia, and Indonesia, would need to work together to adopt this scheme, and that achieving cooperation is difficult yet not impossible. In addition, these countries would also need to adopt the stringent policies domestically that they impose on importers. Despite these formidable hurdles, innovative policy solutions need to be proposed and adopted in order to make significant progress towards reducing greenhouse gas reductions, and this model is an attempt to do so through economic means. If individual states benefited from the licensing fees, such a model could be a compromise in the Pacific Northwest to allow coal to be exported from this region. This model also addresses a key issue that will be a factor in the upcoming environmental impact assessments for the proposed terminals: the climate change contributions from coal use in importing countries. Under this kind of scheme, these risks would be minimized as end users would have economic incentive to reduce their emissions.
coal  Sustainable  export_China  kthomas 
april 2014
Aging veterans fail to tap benefits More than half a million aren't getting what they earned, a study found. Some fault the VA's outreach effort. - Philly.com
Young and Adams (2004) explore the issue of outreach in providing veterans with access to their earned disability benefits. As mentioned in previous articles that I have posted this semester, there are many programs available through the Veteran’s Administration (VA) that go underutilized. Veterans advocates point to a lack of understanding in navigating a complicated bureaucratic system as one reasons, another being veterans may not know that they are eligible for benefits. A more comprehensive outreach program may help to thwart both of those causes.

While the VA does provide outreach services to active service members, largely in the form of exit counseling and supporting newly discharged service members in filing claims, it does little at the federal level to provide outreach to veterans of previous wars. Given the high number of Vietnam era veterans who experience chronic homelessness as well as mental and physical health issues, leaving outreach up to state veterans departments creates an imbalance of services with a stark inequity. Essentially, states with the resources to provide comprehensive outreach services have a higher percentage of veterans receiving disability benefits, as high as 16%. States that do not have said resources have may have as few as seven percent of veterans receiving the same benefits.

The VA estimates that there are as many as 572,000 veterans who are eligible for disability benefits who have not filed a claim. If these veterans were to initiate a claim, it could cost in the range of $4.5 billion dollars a year. Given the current budgetary crisis, could the U.S. afford to pay veterans what they deserve, assuming that one can put a price on a disability? Could the concern over the potential cost be a reason for not implementing an annual outreach plan, even though law has mandated it since 2000? The VA points to veterans themselves as the reason for gaps in service. Mike McClendon, deputy assistant secretary for policy within the VA, suggested that veterans make the choice to not apply for benefits, even though they may be eligible. Further, he argues that ultimately “the VA cannot order people to file for benefits.” Instead, the VA relies on notices about programs and benefits that are dispersed through the Internet, social service agencies, and pamphlets. While these may be useful tools, they are not appropriate to target the most vulnerable veterans who are less likely to use the Internet or have a home address to receive information.

Advocates who are successful in connecting veterans with the claim process find veterans where they are at instead of expecting them to seek out services. This strategy can includes knocking on doors, visiting emergency rooms, frequenting shelters, and making a presence known in veteran communities. Of course there is no one right way to provide outreach to veterans, but no outreach at all signals a lack of concern for individuals who have sacrificed. Individuals such as Joseph Hallemann, a man who stood in cow manure for hours at a time to keep his legs warm while he was fighting in World War II, a man who cannot walk without assistance as he has little feeling in his legs due to frostbite and gangrene. Hallemann applied for disability benefits and was denied, and didn’t understand that there was an appeal process until outreach efforts in Missouri helped him file another claim.

While there certainly may be veterans who prefer to not file a claim for disability benefits, there are likely more that simply need to know what their options are as well as the support to follow through and understand the process. A change in the practice of outreach at the federal level, as well as a systematized outreach effort at state and local levels, could provide the safety net that could keep veterans off of the streets or below the poverty level.
veterans  Wilson 
april 2014
Helping Veterans Overcome Homelessness
Little and Zimmerman (2009) explore the salient issues leading to homelessness for veterans as well as barriers in accessing resources that would improve their circumstances. Most importantly they note that the lag time involved in processing benefit claims is a hardship for vulnerable veterans, particularly those already homeless. Although the Veterans Administration (VA) has a policy dating back to 1991, which provides for an expedient determination of benefits for homeless benefits, the average wait time for a final decision is six months. Were the VA to process claims in manner consistent with it’s own policy, which dictates that thirty days is the maximum, many veterans who are homeless or who are at risk of becoming homeless might be able to procure housing.

While there are a variety of factors that could be considered causes of homelessness among veterans, Little and Zimmerman (2009) suggest that homelessness among veterans may grow more acute with the draw down of the current Iraqi and Afghanistan conflicts. The authors point to longer and multiple deployments for active service members as one cause for their projected rise in homelessness, as their risks of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Traumatic Brain Injuries, and substance abuse issues is much higher than that of veterans from prior eras. Substance abuse, in particular, is a serious issue among current service members, the VA has recognized that they have a higher than average rate of drug and alcohol abuse. Adding fuel to this potential fire is the higher unemployment rates for young veterans, as employers do not see the skills that they have learned in the military as transferrable to the civilian sector. Moreover, over 80% of current service members in both the Army and Marines have only a high school diploma or less.

There are many services and resources for homeless veterans and those at risk of homelessness, from prevention to long term or permanent affordable housing. On the prevention end veterans are eligible for educational benefits that can provide them with the job training or the education necessary to be competitive in the job market. For veterans who have served since 9/11 there is additional educational support that provides funds not just for tuition and books, but housing as well.

Employment initiatives are also plentiful for veterans, as many programs exist to support vulnerable veterans with job training as well as tax credits for employers who hire veterans. In addition, veteran’s preference within the hiring process may provide a leg up for veterans applying for federal jobs.

The VA administers a number of housing programs for homeless veterans, including supportive housing that provides veterans with the resources and services necessary to work on their other issues, such as mental health problems, physical issues, or drug and alcohol abuse. There are specific supportive housing programs offered through the VA, but social service agencies are also able to apply for grants to provide these services to veterans as well. Most importantly, however, are the increasingly available vouchers that allow veterans to choose their own safe and affordable housing with the long-term support of supplemental funding.
Given the variety of programs outlined, not to mention the growing prevalence of veteran’s courts and other programs designed to advocate for veterans, the current state of homelessness among veterans is inexcusable. What seems to be missing is a VA that is efficient in processing claims as well as proactive in providing outreach to veterans who may not understand their options. While significant gains have been made, largely due to the president’s emphasis placed on ending chronic homelessness for veterans by 2015, ensuring that veterans returning from conflict have a home to which they can return and heal their physical and emotional wounds, is literally the least this country can do for those who have sacrificed their bodies and well being.
Wilson  Veterans 
april 2014
Behind Bipartisanship: EBSCOhost
This article “Behind Bipartisanship” written in 2001 by Siobhan Gorman is a descriptive depiction that Bipartisanship, although rare, is still possible in the federal government. As an example, the author uses the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act noting that the last time a bipartisan bill of this magnitude passed was The Tax Reform Act of 1986.

Gorman moves on to discuss the 2000 election year and how the Elementary and Secondary Education Act became “the vehicle for an ideological showdown between Democrats and Republicans on education” (p.3). After Bush won the election, he immediately announced his education agenda which included a sweeping requirement of bipartisanship that he expected from Republicans and Democrats alike. According to Gorman Bush’s requirements were clear: “Conservatives would have to agree that more money should be spent on education; liberals would have to go along with the government’s demanding academic results in exchange for the extra funds” (p.3).

The article also goes into detail about the various political dealings that had to take place in order for the bill to pass. Bush first formed an alliance between Republicans and centrist Democrats shortly after he was elected by calling a meeting in Austin to discuss education reform. Kennedy and Lieberman were left off the guest list, but shortly after the meeting in Austin Bush lured Kennedy into the alliance through a mutual interest in “helping poor children rather than on divisive issues such as school vouchers” (p.4). After the alliance was formed Gorman explained the bargaining that ensued and highlighted some steps key political actors took to ensure the bill’s passage. One of these steps involved Boehner’s recommendation to the President to personally convince Jim DeMint to withdraw his amendment regarding block grants (p.6).

In a section of the article titled “Policy Sacrifices” Gorman discusses a number of “policy casualties” including “consolidating and focusing federal programs, changing funding formulas to funnel more money to poor children, and reforming some politically popular but unproved federal programs” (p.7). Highlighted in this section was the push and pull surrounding the consolidation of federal programs. Bush and the New Democrats wanted to reduce the number of programs from 56 to five in order to measure the results of each program. According to Gorman the issue wasn’t necessarily the number of programs but that they lacked focus and coherency (p.8).

The author concludes with some thoughts and quotes regarding bipartisanship in Washington. Critics like Rotherham (President Clinton’s advisor on education policy) claimed that even if NCLB is passed when “you look below the surface, there’s not much there”. Others like Bayh claimed the bipartisanship surrounding NCLB has been “a happy exception to the partisanship that has ruled around the Capitol” (p.8-9). Whatever the case may be Gorman concludes with an additional quote from Bayh that expresses a hesitancy to expect bipartisanship as a norm in the future. “This issue may be a rare oasis of bipartisanship. I hope it’s susceptible of replication, but that may be a triumph of hope over experience” (p.9).
S.Rinearson  education  educationpolicy  NCLB 
april 2014
No Child Left Behind - Education Week Research Center
This article originally published August 4, 2004 in Education Week and later updated in 2011 serves as an easily accessible summary of the main points of the No Child Left Behind Act. The article first provides January 8, 2002 as the date NCLB was signed into law and includes a reminder that it was a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. Also discussed is the expanded reach of the federal government into education through “a number of measures designed to drive broad gains in student achievement and to hold states and schools more accountable for student progress” (Education Week, 2004).

The first measure discussed revolves around annual testing. By the 2005-2006 school year states are required to test all students in grades 3-8 each year in mathematics and reading and by 2007-2008 students are to be tested in science at least once in elementary, middle, and high school. Additionally, a sample of 4th and 8th graders is required to participate in the National Assessment of Educational Progress program every other year. States are also required to bring 100% of students to proficiency by the school year 2013-2014 and if they didn’t meet “adequate yearly progress” toward this goal a number of negative consequences would follow. Another item on the list for the school year 2002-2003 is a requirement for schools to create report cards that include achievement data for students broken into different subgroups as well as the overall performance of schools and districts. By the end of the 2005-2006 school year every teacher in core content areas are required to be “highly qualified”. Lastly, the act created a grant option for states to seek additional funds to set up “scientific, research based” reading programs for children grades K-3.

The article continues by highlighting a few of the many criticisms that followed the 2002 implementation of NCLB including the fairness and feasibility of its goals and timelines as well as discussion of attempted changes to the law and requests for waivers. Among the major criticisms is the adequate yearly progress required until the 100 percent goal of proficiency by the year 2013-2014. Given this lofty goal the public saw schools “fail” that were traditionally high-performing and the article sights the U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan as warning that 82 percent of schools would be labeled as “failing” in the year 2011. Finally, the article suggests the true test of effectiveness may only be whether each state will stick to the principles of “tough accountability”. For those already familiar with the high level concepts and requirements of No Child Left Behind the information presented may not seem new but it allows the reader to find it all in one location from a credible source.
S.Rinearson  educationpolicy  education  NCLB 
april 2014
The True Cost of Coal: The Coal Industry's Threat to Fish and Communities in the Pacific Northwest
This National Wildlife Federation report is a comprehensive assessment of the issues surrounding the construction of coal export terminals in the Pacific Northwest. In addition to examining the environmental and public health impacts specific to the region, it is also a “call to action for Americans to stand up against Big Coal to protect our natural resource legacy and public health” (p. 3). Despite this obvious political slant, the report provides data regarding proposed building plans for terminal sites and new rail lines, information about the potential threats to wildlife and humans, and recommendations to mitigate these effects.

The report identifies six different plans to build new or expand upon existing terminals, and calls attention to the fact that information about the terminals has been kept from the public, particularly the amount of coal that will be moved through the area. Based on the information available, over 150 million tons of coal could potentially be shipped from the Pacific Northwest per year if all the proposed projects are approved. Furthermore, the report describes five potential impacts to the environmental quality of the region: habitat degradation due to port and rail construction, decreased water quality from coal dust, mercury deposits from coal burning and wind transport, increased carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to global warming, and the resulting increase in ocean acidity from climate change.

Based on these environmental effects, the report makes four specific recommendations on how government should proceed. First, a thorough analysis of worldwide climate impacts should be conducted by national leaders. Second, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers should include a more comprehensive environmental impact assessment that also takes Endangered Species Act considerations into account. Third, the National Academy of Sciences should perform a study to assess the effects of railroad and port expansion on habitat degradation. Finally, regulating agencies should consult with local tribes to ensure their rights are upheld throughout the process.

This report notes that the idea of coal – a “dirty” fuel – being transported through the environmentally conscious Pacific Northwest is ironic, and this region has reason to be particularly concerned with both the local, immediate effects of coal export, as well as the more long-term impacts that increased coal burning in Asia will have on global warming. The importance of the fishing industry to commercial fleets as well as tribal communities demands attention from local citizens and elected leaders so that these resources are considered in and protected by the policy process. Since this report was published in 2012, Washington’s Department of Ecology has decided to follow the first and second recommendations and has split with the U.S. Corps of Engineers by deciding to conduct a more full-scale impact assessment, taking into account more widespread impacts of coal use and export than is required by EPA regulations. This decision reflects the political influence that environmental groups have in the Pacific Northwest, and has set the State of Washington down the path of more restrictive policy regarding the construction and expansion of port terminals and rail lines.
coal  sustainable  export_China  kthomas 
april 2014
HOMELESSNESS: HEROES OR HOPELESS? HOMELESS VETERANS CAUGHT IN A DYSFUNCTIONAL SYSTEM
As explored in many other articles posted to this site, chronic homelessness among veterans is an issue that many public policies address. Margaret Costello, author of this current article, notes that veterans make up a disproportionate section of the homeless population, and outlines that some of the common causes for this problem are not only the standard issues of mental illness, substance abuse, and the emotional impact of participating in the theatre of war, but also the make-up of home life. Costello points to divorced, separated and single veterans experiencing a higher incidence of homelessness for men and the experience of rape and sexual assault during service for women.

Costello also outlines the benefits that some veterans receive, including pension and disability pay. It is a common belief that all veterans receive some sort of financial compensation as a result of their service, but this is not true. Instead, only veterans who have served during war periods designated by congress are eligible for monthly payments and must prove that they are disabled as a result of their service, unemployable, or above 65 years old. For homeless veterans, or those who are on the verge of homelessness, proving that they are disabled is a complicated bureaucratic feat that requires time and expertise in navigating the system, not to mention a relationship with a physician. Until 1988 veterans were not allowed to have legal counsel help them with any portion of the process of filing claims, but even now attorneys can only help veterans with an appeal process. Considering the timeline for determining eligibility for benefits can last months or years, many vulnerable veterans do not end up earning an income that could potentially alleviate homelessness in a timely manner.

There are many opportunities to improve the current system that veterans muddle through, and Costello argues that one of them is the simplification of the process for determining eligibility for VA benefits. Further, ensuring that there is a minimum income for veterans, regardless of ability or age, could provide the safety net necessary to keep veterans in their homes or to find temporary housing solutions. Restructuring the process for determining disability pay would create the opportunity for veterans to be assessed appropriately from the beginning rather than having to regularly seek increases in their pay, which adds work for the benefits calculators and ultimately jams the evaluation pipeline. Essentially, the VA system should operate in such a way that benefits are assessed accurately from the beginning and in a timely manner. With efforts in this direction the VA could save money on administrative costs and shift those funds to programs that benefit the people on the streets.
Veterans  Homeless  Wilson 
april 2014
Cost and U.S. public policy for new coal power plants with carbon capture and sequestration
This research study is a 2008 financial analysis of new coal plants using carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology in light of proposed climate change policy. The purpose was to predict the effectiveness of two specific policies, the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act of 2008 and the Low Carbon Security Act of 2008, on driving the research, development and implementation of CCS.

The paper provides cost estimates for new plants with and without the added CCS technology and illustrates that CCS remains prohibitively expensive. Beginning in 2003, capital, operations, and fuel costs have rapidly escalated. The authors note that the cost of transportation has increased significantly in the U.S. as coal exports have increased during this time. While economists speculate whether rising costs indicate a temporary bubble or the beginning of a long-term trend in an increasingly globalized economy, these cost and market uncertainties act as a barrier to the implementation of CCS by the coal industry. Therefore, climate change legislation will be the main driving force in directing coal plants down a more sustainable path.

Several programs were already in place by 2008 as a result of the passage of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which included funding for research and development, pilot-scale demonstrations, and investment tax credits. The Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 provided additional research funding and a new tax credit, aimed at supporting early private-sector investments. Two bills were also being considered in 2008 that directly affected the coal industry by targeting greenhouse gas emissions. The Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act of 2008 and the Low Carbon Security Act of 2008 would each establish a cap-and-trade program from all major emitting sectors and provide bonus allowances for plants using CCS. Both bills also included a provision that would allow companies to buy credits from the government, which would generate funds to support further research and early demonstration plants.

This study’s financial analysis of this proposed legislation’s effects on carbon price and subsequent CCS implementation finds that the break-even point for coal plants would not occur until 2030, making these two bills insufficient in creating an industry-wide change to CCS. The authors conclude that regulations alone will not be effective in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and managing climate change, and that increased research funding must accompany stricter legislation to spur private sector development of CCS technology. Interestingly, neither of these bills was passed in 2008, and climate change legislation continues to be an ongoing political struggle today. If tougher regulations are imposed in the U.S., coal companies will likely continue to turn to exports to keep their costs down. However, without an increased capacity in rail lines and export terminals on the West Coast, the coal industry will be limited in its ability to move product overseas.
coal  Sustainable  export_China  kthomas 
april 2014
5 Myths About No Child Left Behind
“5 Myths About No Child Left Behind” was written in 2008 as President Bush was pushing Congress to reauthorize the No Child Left Behind Act. The author Chester E. Finn Jr. explains five myths of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and questions whether these myths may have “poisoned the well” (Finn, 2008).

Myth number one surrounds an assumption that NCLB was an “unprecedented extension of federal control over schools” (Finn, 2008). Finn explains many who use this argument are Republicans who have forgotten the act was a bipartisan agreement and state officials who are complaining about constraints that are placed upon them. The author argues that not only do states have the power to decide whether they seek funding or not, No Child Left Behind was also not an unprecedented idea. NCLB was a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education act of 1965 and Finn describes the Improving America’s Schools Act signed by President Bill Clinton in 1994 as “No Child Left Behind-lite” (Finn, 2008).

The second myth revolves around funding. Finn states many democrats are complaining that actual appropriations of funds are nowhere near what were originally authorized. Finn argues “nearly everything born in Washington is ‘underfunded’’ and instead of focusing on that he seeks to place our focus on the fact that schools are not producing “returns” on the almost $10,000 per student they already receive (Finn, 2008).

The author Finn describes myth three as a misconception that “setting academic standards will fix U.S. schools” (2008). NCLB asks state governments to set the required standards in reading, math and science and Finn argues the standards being set are unclear, do not hold students to a high enough standard, and that NCLB does not address this issue.

Myth four is that “standardized testing required by No Child Left Behind gets in the way of real learning” (Finn, 2008). Finn claims with standardized testing comes accountability and that doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. He believes if the test is an “honest measure of a solid curriculum” then the act of teaching students that curriculum should be seen as honorable rather than cumbersome.

The last myth centers on the difference between “qualified” and “certified” teachers. Finn believes there are many qualified teachers who are not certified and because NCLB requires every teacher to be certified before they can teach in the classroom the pool of candidates is severely limited.

As we follow the progression of No Child Left Behind it is interesting to have an archive of opinions to consider along the way. Since this article was written in 2008 I am interested to see if Chester E. Finn Jr.’s perspective may have changed or if it remains the same.
S.Rinearson  NCLB  educationpolicy  education 
april 2014
Implementing NCLB - Measured Progress
"Implementing NCLB Assessment and Accountability Requirements" in an Imperfect World is a paper that was put together and sponsored by Measured Progress, an industry that develops K-12 assessments for schools, districts and states. The paper was presented at the Tenth Annual Education Law Conference in 2003. It addresses issues of NCLB implementation and points out the extreme efforts many education officials and local educators are taking in order to comply with NCLB requirements. Most specifically, this paper claims to look at the NCLB law, the mindset of political figures behind the legislation, the implementation of it, and the actions states have taken to comply with it (2003).

As with any new policy, there are consequences associated with its requirements. Measured Progress breaks their paper into two major requirements and four major problems. They claim that the two major requirements of NCLB are assessments and adequate yearly progress (AYP). NCLB required that by 2006, all students must be tested in grades 3 through 8 and at least once in a higher grade. Test results were then required to be disaggregated by subgroups. In addition, with AYP, NCLB required that all schools reach 100 percent proficiency by the 2013-2014 school year. Schools who did not meet AYP for two consecutive years would be designated as in need of improvement. If schools failed to meet these two requirements, parents would be given the opportunity to choose which school to send their student to and many schools were required to have a shift governance.

As for major problems, Measured Progress points toward four issues: 100 percent proficiency, same standards for all students, inadequate yearly progress and sanctions, and security issues. Requiring 100 percent proficiency is an issue for multiple reasons including that school test scores vary from year to year because there are different students with different backgrounds. In addition, Measured Progress points out that reaching 100 percent of anything is impossible. Secondly, requiring the same standards of all students is an issue because the scores that student’s with disabilities received on testing were often integrated into the standard data. This integration of data caused many students with disabilities to be labeled as not proficient. This issue begins with a basic foundation of NCLB – the goals for some students are unrealistic for some students from the start. Thirdly, by implementing a law that required yearly progress to be measured, then rewarded or punished, the federal government required testing agencies to send test results back to schools much faster than ever before. Due to this quick turn-around, many companies have shifted from using human scorers to using machines. The response questions have been preconstructed, which has compromised the overall reliability of the test scores. Finally, this has also caused an issue with security. Because tests are “off-the-shelf” tests, there is more opportunity for compromised security and inflated test results.

In order to wrap up their paper, Measured Progress throws in a couple of overall issues with NCLB, which are seemingly unconnected. They first mention the growing distrust of educators. In addition, they quickly discuss legislators’ distrust of the Department of Education, who failed to “crack down on non-compliant states” when the 1994 Title I legislation was passed. They also mention that although NCLB was not a good policy, people were more willing to accept it in the years following the 9/11 tragedy due to a “‘just-do-it’ mentality” (2003). Finally, they mention the idea that the solution to issues in education performance “was a simple business solution: ‘mandate improvement and throw a lot of money at the problem” (2003).

The authors of this paper did not fulfill their intent. It is important to keep in mind that this paper was intended to be an overview of a presentation given at an education conference, so the holes in the paper may have been addressed in the presentation. The authors very briefly discuss the idea that the 9/11 tragedy contributed to the passage of NCLB. This discussion could have been strengthened by contextualizing the passage of NCLB into policy theory. The authors could have viewed its passage as the result of a policy window opening (Kingdon), or as the result of a punctuation (Baumgartner and Jones).
mparker  NCLB  implementation  education  educationpolicy  federalpolicy 
april 2014
To Advance Education, We Must First Reimagine Society | MindShift
In her article "To Advance Education, We Must First Reimagine Society" (2014), Luba Vangelova discusses why education reform efforts have not improved education and its results. The majority of her article uses John Abbott, the director for 21st Century Learning Initiative, as an expert on what effective reform could look like. Vengelova begins her article asking “what kind of world we really want: a world populated by responsible adults who thrive on interdependence and community, or a world of ‘customers’ who feel dependent on products, services, and authority figures” (Vengelova 2014). Abbot argues that the answer to this question lies in the three pillars of education (schools, families, communities).

The article refers to current education techniques as products of the Industrial Age in which the world relied on “compliant factory workers and mass consumption” (Vengelova 2014). Schools have become a hub for monotony, robot-like, day-to-day interactions and requirements. They do not encourage students who “are born to learn,” rather they require students to be taught. Abott claims that in order for education reforms to be effective, we must first shift societal expectations and demands. Abott argues that we have been operating on the metaphor that people are customers and we have treated students in the education system as customers as well. He states that this metaphor has caused a severe disconnect between “people’s actual lives and their inherited expectations and predispositions” (Vengelova 2014).

Vengelova refers to the preindustrial period in which an entire community taught each other and various relationships were built between adults and children. In addition, she points out that learning did not simply occur in a classroom for 14 years; instead, learning lasted a lifetime. In the end, success was not based on test scores, but instead on whether or not people “carried out… their responsibilities within the community” (Vengelova 2014). It is for this reason that Abbott tells Vengelova (2014) that the school system needs to be developed on a community base; the opposite of current trends in education reform.

Vengelova ends her article by explaining that teachers should be guides for students, not directors. Teachers should encourage imagination and inspire students to “think about things in a much bigger way than they’ve done before” (Vengelova 2014). Abbott tells Vengelova that this type of teaching has an incredible impact and encourages students to think abstractly and critically.
Vengelova’s article encourages communities to think about education in a different way than it is currently envisioned. In the midst of constant education policy reform, Vengelova’s article calls attention to an important contrasting view on current reform tactics. Although it is a small group of people, there are researchers and scholars that whole-heartedly agree with Vengelova’s assessment of student-education relationships. One might argue that this type of publication might fit into an Advocacy Coalition Framework study of education policy.

Vengelova’s article is well-written and provides an important perspective that many education scholars forget to consider. Although her article will more likely than not influence policy, she does reference The 21st Century Learning Initiative, which has and will continue to be an important advocate in education policy reform.
mparker  education  educationpolicy  ACF  youthactivism  communitybasedlearning 
april 2014
Grading the No Child Left Behind waivers - Education - AEI
Supported by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), Morgan S. Polikoff, Andrew McEachin, Stephani L. Wrabel, and Matthew Duque conducted a study on state waiver applications for No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Their article Grading the No Child Left Behind Waivers (2013), grades both NCLB and the state waiver applications. The scholars chose to grade these based on four standards including construct validity, reliability, fairness, and transparency. By using these four standards, the authors are able to “evaluate important conditions of accountability systems now, before full implementation” (Polikoff, McEachin, Wrabel, & Duque, 2013).

The authors first rate NCLB on a scale from “A” to “F”. They define construct validity as “the extent to which a set of indicators actually measures what it purports to measure” (Polikoff et. al., 2013). They give NCLB an “F” in this category because it solely focuses on Math, English Language Arts, and graduation rates rather than focusing on a myriad of important school outcomes. In addition, NCLB does give schools an option to show growth and improvement, which makes NCLB appear as an attack on the most disadvantaged schools. On the other hand, the authors gave the waiver plans a “C” grade for construct validity because many states are submitting waivers with “nontest-based measures,” including attendance, test participation rates, educator effectiveness, school climate, and the opportunity-to-learn measures (Polikoff et. al., 2013). These types of indicators also have the opportunity to demonstrate growth and improvement.

Secondly, the authors look at reliability as a measure for NLCB and state waivers. They define reliability as “consistency of a performance classification” (Polikoff et. al., 2013). NCLB receives a “B” grade from the authors because NCLB holds schools accountable for their proficiency rates. State waivers receive a “C-” for reliability. The authors attribute this to issues with using data that demonstrates growth. Although using this type of data gave the state waivers a higher grade for construct validity, it lowers their grade for reliability because there is not enough historical data available.

Thirdly the authors address issues of fairness related to NCLB. They define fairness as “the extent to which performance ratings are systematically associated with features outside the control of schools” (Polikoff et. al., 2013). The authors give NCLB an “F” because it targets more “socioeconomically and ethnically diverse schools and those serving students from lower-achieving subgroups” (Polikoff et. al., 2013). Overall, state waivers receive a “D+” because although some states have implemented procedures that account for differences in subgroups and populations, the measures continue to work against schools serving certain populations.

Finally the authors address issues of transparency, which they define as “the extent to which the process for creating accountability measures is likely documented and the extent to which the measures themselves are clearly understandable” (Polikoff et. al., 2013). They give NCLB a “C” because while some of NCLB’s achievement measures are straightforward, there continues to be a lack of consistency between proficiency across states. State waivers also receive a “C” from these authors because many of the state waivers do not use their measuring tools to determine priority or focus schools.

Overall the authors agree that the state waivers did allow for states to improve NCLB, but few states took the opportunity to make important changes. The authors suggest that states should have created accountability measures that included the use of demographics and more long-term data. This article is an important look at the incremental shifts happening in standards-based reform. But, it seems that the article is a bit premature in its assessment of state waivers. Although the authors argue there needs to be more assessment of these state waivers as they are taking place, it is important to allow policy to run its course before determining its results and impact. After all, as scholars of incrementalism would suggest, these waivers are just a small step in a much longer incremental shift in education policy.
mparker  education  educationpolicy  NCLB  accountability  waivers 
april 2014
The Case for Allowing U.S. Crude Oil Exports - Council on Foreign Relations
As claimed by this article, the U.S. crude oil industry had no interest in exporting overseas until recently. Given significant growth has occurred in the U.S. industry over the last five years, more so than anywhere else in the world, the industry is trying to fight the case to overturn the ban, created by the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920, the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975, and the Export Administration Act of 1979, on crude oil exports as U.S. demand declines.

Given the decline in domestic demand the industry has been experiencing some problems. As demand declines a gap has been created between the types of oil the U.S. fields produce, the type oil refiners demand, and the oil transportation infrastructure. The argument of the author is that removal of export bans/restrictions could strengthen the U.S. economy and promote efficient development in the energy sector. The U.S. is already a big exporter of refined oil products, i.e. gasoline and diesel, but crude oil, unrefined oil, cannot be exported unless the government gives special permissions, further complicating the issue.

Some of the original laws banning crude oil exports were created during a time where Congress wanted to conserve domestic oil reserves and discourage foreign imports, the 1970’s. Presently, unprocessed crude oil has become a more and more economically attractive. Crude Oil exports classified as special exceptions all went to Canada.

Repealing the ban on crude oil and allowing the oil industry to export in accordance to market demand is the approach the author states will be more advantageous for the industry and country. The claim is that upward of $15 billion a year could be generated.

This article makes several interesting claims. To start it discusses a loss of profit experienced by the crude oil industry. This problem mirrors the problem the coal industry is having due to the growing popularity of natural gas. Both of these industries have worked to address their domestic losses by exploring overseas exports. The coal and crude oil industry also both share infrastructure problems regarding their ability to export. The biggest difference between these two industries is that coal does not have an export ban. I think the issue that both the coal and oil industry are ignoring is the displacement of pollution. This article claims that crude oil exports will help promote efficient development. The problem is that exporting America’s carbon fuels does not decrease our contribution of pollution; it simply displaces it to counties yet to develop more sustainable/clean energy sources.

Additionally, this article’s stance on environmental implications associated with the oil production are best exemplified with this quote: “Environmental regulators will need to manage risks of oil production regardless of whether the United States exports more crude oil.” The perception of the environment and the risk to it through the transportation and production of crude oil is almost brushed aside. This sentiment regarding environmental standards working to mitigate negative impacts associated with energy production and export, sounds as if regulations are just another annoyance along the road.
A.Miller  Sustainable-Development  Energy  Exports 
april 2014
US Coal Exports and Uncertainty in Asian Markets
This research memo, produced by the Sightline Institute, provides a counterargument to the coal industry’s claim that Asian markets, particularly China and India, are stable and lucrative for American coal exports. The authors highlight several key factors that may make the prospect of exporting coal – and the environmental ramifications that come with it – seem much less desirable and profitable.

One major challenge facing U.S. companies is that their coal exports will face tough competition in the international market from countries already supplying large quantities of coal to Asia. Australia and Indonesia currently have ample coal reserves that they can export relatively inexpensively, keeping costs down. For American exporters, transportation costs will be greater, making it much more difficult to price their coal competitively.

Another factor affecting the future of the international coal industry is looming uncertainty over levels of coal imports in countries such as China and India. Demand for electricity is indeed growing as the populations and industrial development of these areas increase, but both China and India have domestic coal reserves they could draw on as an alternative to importing coal. While they do not currently have the infrastructure to transport coal, it may become more economical to invest in electricity transmission instead and build power plants near coal mines. Furthermore, the political and regulatory climate surrounding coal in these Asian countries is unstable and unpredictable, and the increased focus on renewable energy adds a new dimension of complexity. This combination of domestic supply and uncertainty over future levels of consumption undermine the coal industry’s argument that the U.S. should invest in transportation infrastructure for the long-term export of coal.

This memo aims to cast doubt over the discussion to build port terminals and additional rail lines in the Pacific Northwest for the sole purpose of exporting coal to Asia. These arguments highlighted by the Sightline Institute are not new; economical analyses of global coal markets have reached these same conclusions regarding an international oversupply of coal and corresponding drops in prices, as was revealed in the Wall Street Journal article, “The New Future for American Coal: Export It.” Furthermore, uncertainty in the political and economic climates of developing countries will likely always be a concern in any debate over commodity export. While environmentalists have long been arguing against the export of coal from the Pacific Northwest, this report provides an additional criticism with different reasoning, but with the same overall goal.
coal  export_China  Sustainable  kthomas 
march 2014
The Politics of No Child Left Behind - Education Next : Education Next
The Politics of No Child Left Behind is an essay written by Andrew Rudalevige in the Fall of 2003. His essay heavily refers to the book written by Paul E. Peterson and Martin R. West called No Child Left Behind? The Politics and Practice of Accountability. The essay itself focuses on the political climate and inner workings of the politics leading up to the implementation of No Child Left Behind (NCLB). The author first clarifies that although NCLB was unprecedented in regards to the authority given to the Federal government, it was a “cumulative result of a standards-and-testing movement that began with the release of the report A Nation at Risk by the Reagan administration of 1983 (p.63).

Rudalevige discussed a “sea of change” that took place as the Clinton administration sought to reauthorize the 1994 Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Clinton’s proposal included various items such as a “pilot block-grant program”, it gave states the authority to define what “adequate yearly progress” meant, but also required after 2 years of being identified as “needing improvement” schools had to offer students the opportunity to transfer to a new school and to the cover the cost of transportation to that school (p.64). The bill satisfied practically no one and due to lack of agreement our nation witnessed the first time in history that the Elementary and Secondary Education Act was not authorized since its creation.

George W. Bush entered the landscape in 1999 during his presidential campaign and Rudalevige indicated although many voters saw education as a “Democratic” issue it was also a major issue in the Republican state of Texas. Shortly after Bush’s victory he called a summit of 20 members of Congress and “No Child Left Behind” is what emerged 3 days after his inauguration. It was presented to Congress “not as a piece of draft legislation but as a 30-page legislative blueprint” (p.66). What followed is what Rudalevige referred to in a section of his essay as “Horse Trading” among a coalition of conservative Republicans, New Democrats, and the Democratic regulars (pg.66).

Rudalevige continued in his essay to highlight the challenges the nation is already facing and those that will come throughout the implementation and reauthorization of No Child Left Behind. Challenges highlighted include the first round of state plans to identify adequate yearly progress, the question of “how will the secretary balance state experimentation and national rigor”, and the complicated task of solving budget issues (p.69). In the end Rudalevige quotes John Adams when he writes “the laws are a dead letter until an administration begins to carry them into execution” and indicates “the ways in which No Child Left Behind is implemented will determine how government works in real life” (pg.69).
S.Rinearson  NCLB  education  educationpolicy 
march 2014
Homeless Veterans: Perspective on Social Services Use
Primarily, the information gathered on homeless veterans up to this point (in 1997) was data about the number of homeless veterans, underlying causes, and health or mental health characteristics of homeless individuals. This exploratory qualitative study attempts to explore how homeless veterans perceive the nature and scope of their homelessness and the obstacles they encounter when they try to obtain services (Applewhite and Lozano 1997).
“Poverty, housing shortages, low incomes and a growing population of homeless veterans have resulted in a national problem that threatens to escalate” (Applewhite and Lozano, 1997, pg. 20). This quote reflects the majority opinion of researchers at this time. In addition to these causes, mental or physical illness, drug and/or alcohol addiction and chronic unemployment are additional factors. Specific to veterans are multitudes of additional service related issues that contribute to homelessness and make it very difficult for human services practitioners to deliver the needed assistance to this population.
The methods used in this study were qualitative focus groups to collect data on the “insider perspectives” of homeless veterans during a local community initiative to provide veterans with respite food and shelter in a tent city in 1993. The sampling method used was convenience sampling for a total of 60 male veterans ages 25 to 68 years old.
The findings of this study concluded that there were three main types of problems according to those interviewed: health and mental health, resource related problems and public perception issues (Applewhite and Lozano, 1997).
Although many of the needs of homeless veterans are similar to those of the general homeless population, the services that veterans need to have require specialization or intensification to their experiences with post traumatic stress, readjustment problems and feelings of victimization. This would require specialized care in psychiatric, medical and residential treatment services which would be best offered through the Veterans Administration and community based organizations which currently provide the majority of veterans services through an array of programs. The authors feel the implications of this study call for “creative planning and policies across different levels” (Applewhite and Lozano, 1997, pg. 28).
M.  Baker  Homeless  Veterans  socialservices 
march 2014
Collaborative Initiative to Help End Chronic Homelessness: Introduction
This article describes the effort of the first collaborative effort between four different organizations including Health and Human Services, The Department of Veterans Affairs, Housing and Urban Development and the US Interagency Council on Homelessness to “house and provide supportive services to individuals with serious psychiatric, substance use, health and related disabilities who were experiencing long term chronic homelessness” (Rickards et al, 2010, pg. 150).
In this case, the definition used by these organizations to define chronic homelessness was “the circumstance whereby an unaccompanied individual with a disabling condition who has either been continuously homeless for a year or more or has had at least four homeless episodes during the last three years” (Rickards et al, 2010, pg. 151). Supporting other studies, the prevalence of homelessness among veterans can be as high as 49% with the Vietnam era vets being the highest represented cohort among them. At the time of this article, the outreach and engagement for the homeless had begun to improve including more intensive services and efforts to provide long term and permanent housing.
The analysis method used for this comparison study included three qualitative and three quantitative papers describing the findings gathered by the VA Northeast Program Evaluation Center. Collectively, these papers offer insight into how difficult it is to find comprehensive services for individuals experiencing chronic homelessness.
An important aspect discussed in this article is that, especially among veterans, that there is an “ unwarranted expectation that short-term programs can adequately stem conditions, both individual and societal, that have been decades in the making” (Rickards et al, 2010, pg. 163). Meaning that short term solutions are not adequate to provide permanent solution for those individuals who have been chronically homeless, with mental illness or in a situation that has culminated many of these traits. What is needed is permanent, long term policy solutions that will provide intense management for individuals to utilize that are in these situations.
M.  Baker  Homeless  Veterans 
march 2014
Housing Outcomes for Homeless Adults with Mental Illness: Results From the Second Round McKinney Program
Approximately one third of all homeless adults have a mental illness. This article describes the effects of testing different housing, support and rehabilitative services for reducing homelessness (Shern et al, 1997). As it could be expected, serving homeless individuals with mental illness is challenging but research and practice has shown that those individuals will respond to nontraditional methods such as walk in clinics, and outreach programs if they feel it is responsive to their needs.
The McKinney research projects were a series of 5 demonstration projects that took place in Baltimore, New York (two studies), Boston, and San Diego in which the participant follow up ranged from 12 to 24 months. Participants were either long term residents of a shelter of homeless and all had severe mental illness. Different cities used different case management styles which included: rehabilitation, assertive community treatment and intensive case management (Shern et al, 1997). All projects used a randomized experimental design.
The results of this study show that most of the participants were in community housing at the final follow up. The results depended upon the city that was being studied due to the varying status of the participant obtained for study in that area. The New York studies observed people who were homeless and living on the street to begin with and these individuals were the least likely to be housed at follow up (39%). The authors compare this result with the Baltimore study where only 14% of the participants were living on the streets at first and overall, at the final follow up more than 80% were in community housing of some sort.
This study shows that when a variety of case management options are available in combination with acceptable housing alternatives, people with severe mental illness can be successfully housed.
Mentalillness  homelessness  M.  Baker 
march 2014
Issues of State Implementation for NCLB
Margaret E. Goertz's article "Implementing the No Child Left Behind Act: Challenges for the States" serves as a brief introduction to the issues surrounding state implementation of NCLB. Goertz assesses implementation hardships in four separate areas: assessment, accountability, special needs students, and the human and fiscal capacity to support school improvement (2005, p. 74).

First, in regard to assessment, Goertz points out that many states have had their own assessment tools for many years. When the federal government implemented NCLB, states were required to utilize federal assessment standards regardless of whether or not the state had their own assessment practices. This put states in the position of either creating an “increased ‘test burden’” on students by requiring both state and federal testing, or states could choose to “eliminate their local tests” (p. 76). This requirement is a clear overreach of federal government into issues that had typically been handled by state and local actors.

Secondly, Goertz addresses issues of accountability. Although NCLB was requiring states to create uniform accountability, many states found themselves holding Title I schools to different (lesser) accountability standards than non-Title I schools (p. 76). Goertz also points out that even after NCLB required states to hold schools accountable to certain standards, many states chose to also keep their own accountability measures in addition to NCLB requirements.

Thirdly, Goertz discusses issues of subgroup performance. Up until the implementation of NCLB, many states allowed ELL students to opt out of testing or to be tested in their own language, but NCLB required all ELL students to be tested no matter how long the student had been living in the United States. Not only were there issues with testing ELL students, there were also issues with testing students with disabilities. At the initial implementation of NCLB, the Department of Education did not allow any “states to set alternative standards for any students” (p. 81). Although some states have found ways to make their performance standards and reports demonstrate the issues with testing ELLs and students with disabilities (including disaggregating the data), all states agree that setting higher performance standards for ELLS and students with disabilities will not help narrow the achievement gap (p. 81).

Finally, Goertz looks at the capacity of the states to implement new programs and requirements to reach the new federal standards NCLB required. Goertz looks at both the human capacity as well as the fiscal capacity of states. Goertz argues that “the design of NCLB is based on the assumption that public reporting of test scores, the identification of schools that do not make AYP, and the threat of consequences for schools that fail to improve will create incentives for educators to work ‘harder and smarter’” (p. 82). Though NCLB required states to implement specific programs and extra support to schools who did not meet annual yearly performance (AYP) requirements, NCLB did not provide enough financial support in order for states to accomplish this. In sum, NCLB “assumes that states and local school districts possess, or can develop the capacity to assist school improvement efforts, to bring all students to proficiency, and to pay for these efforts” (p. 82).

Overall, Goertz’s article points out important issues with state implementation of NCLB. Currently, most of these issues are well-known and are considerably widespread and have only grown with new federal education legislation. The transition of NCLB to Race to the Top (RTTT) was supposed to assist states with these difficulties, but many states continue to have incredible financial difficulty in bringing the poorest performing schools up to standards required by RTTT and Common Core. It would be an interesting future study to apply Goertz’s four areas of implementation challenges of NCLB to current Common Core requirements.
mparker  education  educationpolicy  NCLB 
march 2014
How Paradigms Create Politics: The Transformation of American Educational Policy, 1980-2001
This article traces the drastic transformation in the United State's education policy paradigm from the publishing of the US Department of Education (DOE) report Nation at Risk in 1983 to the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. Prior to Nation at Risk, federal education policy had little effect on teaching practices and other day-to-day operations of schools or school districts. Federal policy, although in some ways substantive, was largely symbolic, communicating national priorities rather than causing major changes. Mehta describes the relationship between school districts across the country as “loosely coupled” before the policy changes resulting from Nation at Risk. After its widely-covered publication, however, federal policy began pushing school districts toward a more closely-connected system.

Nation at Risk – and the copious media attention it garnered – alarmed a significant swath of the American public to the extent that it jarred the federal government from the somewhat laissez-faire paradigm it had operated under for more than a century. The report warned that if drastic reforms were not implemented, the US would not just lose its competitive edge in the sphere of public education, but in the global economy as a whole. Its recommendations included longer school days and years, higher accountability for teachers (along with professionally competitive salaries and more rigorous training programs) and schools, and standards-based grading.

Many of the recommendations included in Nation at Risk have not been enacted. However, its publication made education a federal priority at an unprecedented scale. For the first time, federal education policy affected real ground-level changes in how American public education works. Of those recommendations, school/teacher accountability (sans higher pay and better training) and standards-based grading have most successfully taken hold. This transformation culminated in the implementation of No Child Left Behind in 2001, solidifying the new paradigm of intervention by the federal government.
SDavis  Education  NationAtRisk  NCLB 
march 2014
Housing Outcomes for Hospitalized Homeless Veterans
Homeless people tend to stay in the hospital longer, are readmitted more frequently and utilize emergency rooms and in patient care more often that non homeless individuals. They have higher rates of mental health issues and health problems in general. This article draws attention to the fact that “little attention has been given to the effectiveness of inpatient services in addressing the problems of homelessness itself” (Greenberg et al, 2006).
These researchers found one small study that concentrated on the housing status after an episode of inpatient care. The year of this study is not indicated but based on implications in the text it was many years previous to this study in 2006. Greenberg et al states that in this previous study the impatient time provided both increased opportunities and risks to changing an individual’s housing status. At the time of their study (and continuing into the present) hospital stays have decreased in length which have made it more difficult for housing providers to find post discharge care and increasing the risk of patients being homeless at the time of discharge.
Methods used for this study include data collected from the Veterans Health Administration from their annual survey of homelessness on September 30th. Also used is a Supplemental residential survey also implemented by the VHA.
At the time of discharge from a hospital for this study only 13% were homeless according to the researchers stated definition, 13% were independently housed, 33% were transferred to another institution, and 40% were living with a friend or relative in the community. In this study the average stay for each person was less than 14 days which allowed for at least a partial resolution of their homelessness in some cases.
They conclude that this is the first attempt to use a large nationwide data set examining the housing status of formerly homeless inpatients at the time of discharge from the hospital. The veterans that were transferred to another institution, have no data in this study as to their housing status after discharge from that institution but the authors are hopeful that they were placed into individual housing.
M.  Baker  Hospitalization  homeless  veterans 
march 2014
Program to End Homelessness Among Veterans Reaches a Milestone in Arizona - NYTimes.com
The federal program is working to eradicate veteran homelessness by using the strategy of Housing First, touting significant gains in Phoenix and Salt Lake City. With a lofty goal of eliminating homelessness among veterans by 2015 and overall homelessness by 2020, the aforementioned cities have provided homes for all identified chronically homeless veterans in previously existing and newly developed housing low-income housing units. These local programs have been wildly successful, with the retention rate in Phoenix hovering above 85 percent after a year. However, programs face challenges in other urban settings given the high cost of development that reflects the high price of scarce buildable land and intense competition over low-income housing already in existence. This said, the average public cost of housing homeless veterans is far less than the cost of regular emergency room visits and incarceration that plague the chronically homeless, at $605.00 versus $2,900.00.

While providing housing is an important element of combatting chronic homelessness, additional services that allow homeless veterans to work on other issues is a key piece of the Housing First strategy. Of the chronically homeless veterans surveyed in Phoenix, virtually all of them were also grappling with substance abuse and mental health concerns. Rather than using housing as a reward for positive behavior and actions, this housing model provides impacted veterans the necessary stability to address their other issues. Wrap around services that arrange comprehensive resources to veterans are funded not only through grants through federal agencies; private donors and religious organizations are also contributing to local efforts. Such funding assists with providing mentors and guides for veterans, which lead to effective outreach and liaisons that can walk participants through the complex processes of navigating bureaucratic systems. Considering the common reticence of veterans to seek out services, these individuals are imperative to the programs success.

May of the veterans that have been impacted by these programs are older, with all of the interviewees for this article being over 50 years old. As the presence of soldiers overseas fighting wars, implementing training, and providing security in Iraq and Afghanistan continues to draw down, further focus on providing services to this vulnerable population will be absolutely necessary. Ensuring a sustainable funding source for the program, including the requirement of participants to pay 30 percent of their gross income in rent, will be imperative for expansion and maintenance.

As the scope of this program expands to fully encompass civilians as well, it will be curious to witness the political ramifications that often accompany the concern around the nanny state. Noting the socially, although often symbolic, privileged status of veterans in the U.S., it is difficult to develop programs which benefit veterans that lack political support. However, when programs are perceived to give people an unearned advantage that runs counter to the narrative of hard work leading to success, the political tide is likely to turn. This is particularly true when the beneficiaries are perceived social deviants such the mentally ill, those with criminal records, as well as drug and alcohol users. Further, with civilian populations that cannot count on a steady income, creating opportunities for them to contribute to their rent will require creative enterprise.

In sum, the existence and development of holistic approaches to housing, employment, substance abuse and criminal justice that are being implemented for veteran populations hints toward reform for civilians that bestow opportunities for a distribution of goods necessary for marginalized communities to have their basic needs met.
Wilson  Veterans  Homeless 
march 2014
The New Future for American Coal: Export It
This Wall Street Journal article highlights the economic impacts of coal exports from the United States and situates the issue within both the national and global contexts. As domestic demand for coal decreases with the increase in environmental regulations and availability of less expensive natural gas, exports become more and more crucial to keep U.S. prices high; the international market for coal, however, is already saturated and U.S. exports act to lower global prices. Despite this, many companies turn to exportation as their only viable option to stay in business, and this is particularly true for operations in the eastern states, such as Maryland and Virginia, which are actively exporting their supply.

The article notes that coal shipments will likely exceed 100 million tons in 2014, marking the third straight year of such high levels. A graph using data from the Global Trade Information Services illustrates that coal exports have remained consistently between 40 and 60 million tons from 2000 to 2010, when they began to rise sharply year over year. Furthermore, a second graph depicts that the largest current importers of U.S. coal are the U.K. and the Netherlands. While demand is higher in Asian countries, the logistics of shipping there are cost-prohibitive and U.S. companies cannot compete with the lower-priced exports from Australia.

This article is clearly focused on the economic aspects of exporting coal, and only briefly mentions the three proposed terminals in the Pacific Northwest and the environmental concerns surrounding them. However, this analysis of the domestic and international economic factors affecting the coal industry provides insight into recent developments in Oregon and Washington. U.S. coal companies have become more and more reliant on international sales as the dynamics of the industry have changed, and high shipping costs are currently limiting their exports to areas of low demand. West Coast terminals would allow them to expand into more desirable Asian markets, but these proposals have been met with heavy opposition from environmental groups. While environmentalists across the country have opposed coal transport, particularly by rail, they have been successful so far in thwarting the industry’s efforts in the Pacific Northwest yet not as lucky in preventing exports from the East Coast. This may be evidence of the importance of region to the strength of policy subsystems and the effect of advocacy coalitions.
coal  exports  export_China  Sustainable  kthomas 
march 2014
Washington State Walks Tightrope in Bid to Keep Waiver
Currently, Washington State is challenged with the possibility of losing flexibility on the mandates of the No Child Left Behind Act, particularly teacher evaluation policies. Washington State’s use of waivers, implemented by the Obama administration and approved in 2012, allows the state to employ less restricting teacher evaluations than what was required under the No Child Left Behind Act. This includes the current decision of districts to determine teacher performance by state or local tests on student performance. Recently, the U.S. Department of Education has placed stress on the state, insisting that the state drafts proposals on accountability and teacher evaluation that are more in line with the Education Department’s waivers that rely on state assessment only.

Randy Dorn, the state superintendent of public instruction, has been working with law makers to make it clear that the Department of Education will be persistent and that a teacher evaluation plan that meets federal expectations must be on the forefront of education policy in the state. Thus far, there have been draft proposals by Governor Inslee that will be evaluated to determine success in meeting federal expectations. Such proposals would allow that state to begin using state assessments to inform teacher evaluations in the 2017-2018 school year. Although proposals are stated to be coming from Washington State, Sandi Jacobs (the vice president of the National Council on Teacher Quality) commented that the Obama Administration was going to take its time in assessing the current waivers.

Repercussions of the urgent matter include of loss of up to $40 million in Title I funds for districts in Washington. Regardless, Republicans in the state are pressing against this federal influence, arguing for more state control over the matter. Compromise on the matter includes implementing state tests, but allowing the use of local ones to determine teacher performance. Arguments against this compromise highlight inconsistencies with evaluation processes from one district to another and advocate for a more streamlined approach.

At the time of this article, it was unsure whether legislation action was going to be successful by the end of the session. More recent articles suggest that there was not successful legislation action and that the U.S. Department of Education is still continuing to work with the state on its request for further flexibility. This particular intergovernmental relationship occurring highlights the processes of NCLB mandates and some of the restraints in reaching optimum policies in limited time. Moving forward, it will be interesting to see how the state continues their teacher evaluation process with the pressure of the federal government on its heels.
C.Dye  education  educationpolicy  NCLB 
march 2014
The Effects of No Child Left Behind
As part of the Center on Education Policy, Jack Jennings and Diane Stark Rentner assessed ten "big effects" of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) on public schools in 2006. There are clear themes in this article that refer to aspects of intensive testing to lack of adequate funding for compliance with NCLB standards.

The effects include that (1) state tests scores are rising, but the rise may be attributed to the way the tests are laid out, (2) schools are focusing on reading and math and at times leaving out other important subjects that are not tested, (3) schools are working harder to ensure that curriculum and instruction life up, (4) low-performing schools are being reformed at the least possible level, (5) schools and teachers have demonstrated that teachers meet NCLB's academic qualifications, (6) students are taking more tests, (7) "schools are much more attention to achievement gaps and the learning needs of particular groups of students," (8) the list of schools that "need improvement" is no longer growing, but those on the list are facing sanctions, (9) the federal government is playing a more expansive role in education, (10) local governments and school districts have had to play a larger role in daily school operations, but there hasn't been federal funds dedicated toward supporting this role.

Overall the authors point out that there are some strengths of NCLB, but they wonder about whether or not the strengths can outweigh the weaknesses and if the weaknesses (i.e. not supporting certain populations like ELLs, higher administrative costs, etc.) can be overcome.

Though the article was written quite some time ago (in relation to how quickly education policy has been shifting), it gives an great overview of the issues of NCLB at the time of its initial implementation.
mparker  NCLB  education_reform  educationpolicy  IGR 
march 2014
Using the Transitional Jobs Strategy to Help Chronically Unemployed Veterans
The Transitional Jobs Strategy (TJS) has been successful in assisting the chronically unemployed obtain and maintain long-term employment. John Bourman and Kalia Coleman argue that the model has the ...
Wilson  Veterans  from notes
march 2014
Countywide Macomb program working with VA, court system to rehabilitate those who served | Michigan Lawyers Weekly
Douglas Levy presents that there are 22 million veterans in the United states and each year 1,159,000 are arrested while 72,600 veterans are currently serving jail time. The presence of veterans in the criminal justice is worrisome given their privileged hero status, and special court programs have emerged to address this particular population. These treatment courts provide opportunities to reduce or eliminate jail time by participating in other rehabilitative or restorative activities such counseling, anger management classes, and substance abuse treatment. The goal of such treatment courts is not only to keep veterans out of the formal criminal justice system but to also reduce the rate of recidivism. Such is the case for the first countywide Veterans Court in Michigan. Macomb County introduced a veteran’s treatment court in April of 2012 in order to address the needs of the states 700,000 veterans, 40% of which reside in Macomb and two other counties.

The Macomb County treatment court is unique to the state in that it is prepared to work with both non-violent and violent offenders with three different judges dividing the caseload between misdemeanors and felonies. The program is an alternative to the adversarial model of criminal justice, with a team of prosecutors, social workers, Veterans Administration representatives, Veteran mentors and community members working in concert in order to wrap services around troubled veterans. Proponents of the program argue that while special courts such as these require more time for the multitude of stakeholders to coordinate, negotiate, and evaluate compliance, the special courts ultimately save money due to fewer veterans actually serving jail time and more veterans gaining employment.

While the special treatment court is a vital option for appropriate candidates, not all veterans will be a good fit. Potential participants will be screened for eligibility, and individuals that not deemed as committed to the rehabilitative process will be funneled through the traditional system. While the program is designed to address issues that have a high prevalence within the veteran population, such as emotional disorders, substance abuse, and homelessness, those who participate in the program must be prepared to make real changes in their lives and take advantage of the services available to them. To ensure that veterans have the option to enroll in the court, police officers will began asking all arrestees to disclose their veteran status.

Veterans courts are an important avenue for localized intervention for such a vulnerable population. The high suicide rate among veterans is a grave concern on the national level, and it has been found that suicide is often accompanied by precursors such as drunk driving arrests and domestic violence. Early intervention by trained and caring professionals and community members may be one of the of approaches that keeps a troubled veteran from killing themselves or hurting others. Of concern, however, is the divisive approach to vulnerable populations in the criminal justice system, which favors veterans. If treatment under the law is to be equal, it is questionable how veterans should be given opportunities to straighten out their lives outside of jail cells when that same opportunity is not made available to others who have experienced similar hardships of substance abuse, traumatic experiences, homelessness, and mental health issues. If anything, this compassionate model should serve as a guide for local law enforcement agencies and courts to provide meaningful reform to their criminal processes in a fashion that prioritizes justice and reform over punishment.
Wilson  Veterans 
march 2014
Teacher Perspectives on No Child Left Behind and Arts Education: A Case Study
The author of this article Cydney Spohn called attention to a serious lack of research regarding the effects No Child Left Behind (NCLB) has had on arts education. Although many empirical studies have been conducted about NCLB Spohn claims arts education was not of concern nor consulted. In an attempt to remedy this oversight Spohn conducted a case study of a rural Ohio school district that receives Title I funding. The formal curriculum surrounding art’s education in the school district was her focal point and data was collected through one-on-one interviews with a number of art teachers in the district, as well as quantitative data regarding the district’s budget and spending, instructional time for various subjects, student demographics, and district report cards.

Findings from the study indicated that due to NCLB requirements instructional time for the arts was reduced and “arts education in the Ribbon Valley School District was threatened and showed signs of deterioration as a result of the administrators’ attempts to meet NCLB objectives” (p.5). Interviews with teachers in the middle school revealed if math scores did not improve more cuts to instructional time would be made as a result. The high school saw a 9 period day reduced to an 8 period day by adding an extra 5 minutes of instruction time to traditional classes while the number of art classes available was reduced.

The study also saw changes in the suggested strategies for teaching. Teachers were encouraged to give students multiple opportunities to succeed at a standard and then continue to reassess and teach until the student learned. For teachers whose subject areas were included in the standardized testing the changes were seen as positive. When it came to the opinion of the arts teachers some felt students took advantage of their ability to continuously retest so they wouldn’t have to learn.

In regards to funding, the study found that although funding for arts education was very limited, teachers didn’t necessarily perceive it as being different from before NCLB was enacted. Arts teachers received funds from school’s building budgets, consumable materials fees, and individual teachers also spent between $300 - $2,000 per year of their own funds to cover the cost of materials. Individuals interviewed also indicated grants were very difficult to receive unless they were related to tested subjects.

Due to the negative implications of continued marginalization of arts education the author produced policy recommendations to move forward in a positive direction. Included in the recommendations were demanding more local autonomy in the way students are taught and evaluated, restructuring the practice of retesting, greater representation of arts teachers in policy development, and increasing funding and support to arts programs.
S.Rinearson  education 
march 2014
Stimulating Reform
Patrick McGuinn's article "Race to the Top, Competitive Grants and the Obama Education Agenda" (2012) discusses the "origins, evolution, and impact" of Race to the Top (RTTT) and "places it in the broader context of the debate over the No Child Left Behind Act and the shifting intergovernmental relations around education" (p. 136). McGuinn begins his article by pointing out that RTTT has acted as a type of "political cover" for those who are pursuing strong assessment-based education reform. RTTT is unique in that rather than supporting states/communities based on demographics and need as most federal education grants have done, RTTT works as a competitive grant and rewards those states who agree to commit to intense reform (p. 137). As McGuinn suggests, this type of policy poses two different issues: “how to sustain the reform push in the winning states and how to disseminate and motivate reform among the losing states” (p. 137).

Race to the Top shifted the role of federal government in education from “a focus on means to a focus on ends… from sanctions to incentives… and from a compliance-monitoring organization to being… focused on capacity building and innovation” (p. 140). This shift has marked RTTT as both a policy tool and a political tool. For example, because RTTT encourages states to find innovative ways to approach education and meet standards, charter schools and other types of alternative education methods have become more politically acceptable. In addition, RTTT placed governors and chief state school officers “in charge of drafting state applications” for federal grant dollars (p. 141). This removed responsibility from legislatures who often make decisions based on winning votes in upcoming elections. By giving more short-term officials access to drafting applications, the Obama administration ramped up the ability of states to make dramatic reforms. As far as state policies, McGuinn suggests that in the long-run RTTT will have two policy accomplishments including a “more robust state student-data system and the adoption of common academic standards and assessments” (p. 144).

McGuinn uses teacher accountability as a case study for the way in which the politics and structure of RTTT have changed the education policy landscape (p. 145). McGuinn suggests that because of Obama and Duncan’s use of “the bully pulpit and the high-profile debates in state legislatures” teacher tenure and reform have received much more coverage in the years since the introduction of RTTT (p. 145). Similar to the study Baumgartner and Jones use in their book on punctuated equilibrium (2009), McGuinn searches Lexis-Nexis for the number of stories written on teacher tenure and reform since 2009 (222 stories) versus from 1971-2008 (559 stories) (p. 146). McGuinn claims that between this rhetorical push and financial incentives that RTTT provided, there was a swift shift to teacher evaluation and tenure reform.

Overall the tone of McGuinn’s article is one of failure. He suggests that although RTTT is seemingly causing drastic shifts in education, these reforms have only been taken on by a very few number of states and many other reform efforts were left up to commissions after financial awards were distributed. It is incredibly difficult for federal grant programs, no matter how competitive, to make their way down the chain all the way into district and individual school levels. In addition he mentions the fact that as economic crisis fades away, many states may be less likely to comply with federal requests. Though this article is a good overview of some very important issues with RTTT and the relative shifts RTTT has caused in intergovernmental relations, it seems to lack focus. McGuinn could strengthen his claims by focusing more closely on the relationship between federal, state, and local education entities rather than attempting to focus so broadly on so many different aspects of RTTT.
mparker  RTTT  NCLB  educationpolicy  IGR 
march 2014
The Northwest’s Pipeline on Rails
This report, produced by the Sightline Institute, provides a comprehensive overview of the planned and existing oil refineries and port terminals in the Pacific Northwest that will receive crude oil from North Dakota and the Canadian tar sands for export overseas. Using data produced by the media and industry publications, this analysis finds that there are ten ports and refineries that are either currently operational or seeking permits in Oregon and Washington, and that if all were functioning at full capacity, they would add over eleven mile-long trains per day on the rail system and transport nearly 785,000 barrels of oil per day. That much oil would be greater than the current refining capacity of the Northwest; it would also be more than the capacity of two controversial pipeline expansions planned in Canada and nearly equal to that of the Keystone XL pipeline.

The report highlights that new fracking and drilling techniques have only recently allowed oil from the Bakken formation in North Dakota to be extracted, and since the infrastructure did not exist to move it, the opportunity arose for the rail system to become a “pipeline on wheels.” While oil-by-rail raises safety and environmental concerns, such as an increased risk of train accidents and oil spills, it also has the potential to expand the Northwest’s role in the nation’s energy economy.

While only assessing the impact of increased rail transportation of oil, this report’s findings have implications for the use of the rail system for coal export as well. Increased rail traffic for the purpose of fossil fuel transport and export will have widespread effects on the Pacific Northwest, from train safety to environmental and public health concerns, as many of the other articles posted here have highlighted. What is interesting is that, as this report points out, there has been little effort by either the media or regulators to systematically evaluate the impacts of the multiple projects that are occurring simultaneously. Instead, individual proposals for new or expanded rails and terminals are reviewed in isolation, without consideration for the potential cumulative effects of increased fossil fuel transport. This analysis is a first step in quantifying the increase that will occur with the expansion of “oil-by-rail;” a similar evaluation for proposed coal transport would be useful in assessing total impacts to the region.
coal  Sustainable-Development  kthomas  export_China 
march 2014
The Impact of Failed Housing Policy on the Public Behavioral Health System
Most homeless individuals face some level of mental illness, especially homeless veterans whom are much more likely to have encountered serious trauma. Martone is addressing the problem of housing for people with mental illness and how it is not just a short fall for the public behavioral health system, but also for federal and state housing policy.

There are approximately 1.9 million people receiving Social Security Income in the United States in 2012, with the average yearly income being $8,714 which is 22% below the national poverty level for that year (Martone, 2014, pg. 313). At this rate, it is impossible to afford rent without a major housing subsidy. According to Martone, there are three areas that are being concentrated on with regards to mental health reform: health care, public safety and community integration. He feels that the shortage of public housing is going to be a tremendous barrier for the community integration goals. There are funds in many states that are earmarked for other services but are being shifted to community based housing services until more federal funding is available.

According to Martone there is a solution currently in existence which includes services for both housing and behavioral health needs. Data from the National Low Income Housing Coalition show that the cost of providing housing assistance to those individuals the have behavioral health problems “pales in comparison with the costs of chronic homelessness, institutionalization and incarceration” (Maltone, 2014, pg 314). But due to the magnitude of the problem and the lack of funding available because the states are still recovering from the cuts during the recession, there are simply not enough resources to implement a successful housing program that includes the necessary elements for housing our homeless with behavioral health issues.
M.  Baker  "mental  health"  homelessness 
march 2014
Who plays? Who pays?: education finance policy that supplants tax burdens along lines of race and class
In this article, the author Kasey Hendricks professor from Loyola University in Chicago applies a case study methodology to illustrate the inequality of state lottery revenue distributions contributing to race and class inequality in the public schools in Chicago. The author addresses the questions of who plays and who pays to look into lottery revenue gains and distribution to determine who benefits from this process. A hypothesis of disproportionate lottery gains from low socio-economic communities getting redistributed predominately to higher socio-economic communities is made (p.2).

Although there are not requirements to partake in the state lottery and no provisions of state lottery revenue that exploit race and class, Hendricks does not , “negate the potential for consequences of this exchange to be deeply raced and classed, particularly when money is taken from communities of color and poor communities and allotted to richer, predominately white one” (p.2). Though the use of lottery in this case study may be illustrated negatively, Hendricks does evaluate the use of lottery over time to provide viable alternatives for states gain revenue for funding public goods, without having to impose taxes (p.2). In the case of Illinois, the state has become more dependent on lottery revenue to fund education due to budgetary restraints.

Hendricks case study reports findings that, “communities of color, which proportionally have lower educational attainment and income levels, generate millions more than ‘white’ communities” (p.13). This was supported by the finding that “white” communities contributed $3 to $10 million dollars less per year than “black” communities from 1999-2002. Using these findings, Hendricks moves to show how these disproportionate lottery revenues are appropriated through the Illinois School Board of Education. Generally, education finance is determined by district property taxes, student enrollment and average daily attendance (p.16). Due to this determinacy of distribution, low income communities could potentially contribute larger amounts to education.

Examining where tax revenue comes from can help understand how the state of Illinois has shifted tax burdens to marginalized groups. In conclusion, Hendricks states, “The state of Illinois generates and distributes lottery revenues in a way that preserves undeserved enrichment and unjust impoverishment” (p.20). The unequal distribution challenges policy that has been cultivated to counter racial and class segregation in the public schools of Chicago.

The use of this case study is particularly important to education policy research in understanding best practice for limiting potential race and class inequalities with state money. Hendricks is not making a case to ensure that lower income communities pay more so they should get more, rather pointing to policy outcomes that further marginalize these groups despite curbing efforts.
education  educationpolicy  C.Dye  fundingpubliceducation 
march 2014
The Higher-Education Battle the White House Should Be Waging - Commentary - The Chronicle of Higher Education
This 2011 article written by Kevin Carey discusses the pledge President Obama made to be the lead in college attainment by the year 2020 with a critical tone. Carey argues in order for an attainable plan to be developed the administration must change the politics of higher-education; a change he feels they have shown themselves to be capable of based on recent activity that has occurred already but something he seems hesitant to hope for. Two examples were given including the redistribution of $87-billion in subsidies moving from private banks to low-income students who qualify for the Pell Grant in 2010 and the Department of Education’s modified system of regulating for-profit higher-education institutions in 2011 in order to protect students from borrowing too much money for a degree that is of low value.

Carey notes since the American Graduation Initiative was introduced, various changes have been made which show promise including the collaboration between the Department of Education and Labor addressing open-source learning resources and online education, and the Department of Education’s desire to create a “First in the World” competition to increase research innovation. However, when it comes to addressing the deeper issues at hand regarding students reaching degree attainment he believes these efforts have fallen short. Carey suggests areas he believes are “ripe for reform” including the TRiO program which is not only the largest investment the federal government has made in helping first-generation, low income students but also a program showing marginal impact on college attainment throughout its 45 year history thus far. Also noted is the low accountability required from minority-serving colleges and universities who received an extra $2.55-billion after the 2010 student-loan reforms took place.

Given that minority students have a lower degree attainment when compared to other groups Carey believes focusing our reform efforts on the colleges who serve the highest number of minority students is the best strategy to create an attainable plan addressing Obama’s pledge. He also suggests investing in innovative research to discover ways for students to learn and earn degrees should also be a top priority as well as focusing on new efforts to describe what educational institutions need in order to meet this 2020 goal, making more resources available in order for them to meet the goal, and ensuring they are held accountable to the results created by their efforts.

If Carey is correct in his critiques, in order for such a large objective to be attained it seems the incremental changes that tend to dominate the policy arena will not be enough. Punctuated large scale change as described in punctuated-equilibrium theory as well as time for those large scale changes to pay off will most likely need to occur in order to see success when it comes to increased college attainment in America. I suppose only time will tell whether President Obama was serious about his declaration.
S.Rinearson  education  educationpolicy 
march 2014
Coal in the rich world: The mixed fortunes of a fuel | The Economist
Coal-fire plants provide two-fifths of the globe’s electricity and power. The article, from January 2013, predicts that at the rate coal use has grown it could compete with oil as the world largest source of energy by 5 years. Both China and India have rapidly increased their production and demand for energy. Though the United States has decreased its use of coal, coal use has increased globally given rising energy demands and the low cost of coal to developing nations.

Declined coal use in the United States, however, is not attributed to environmental sustainability policy but in fact the growing popularity of natural gas widely abundant in the United States. The environmental and health costs of coal use in the United States, and even in Europe, are not significant enough barriers to drive a decline in this energy, but the cost savings associated with gas has made this impact. The popularity of natural gas is predicted to remain, maybe even permanently displacing American coal use.

Though environmental sustainability policy isn’t believed to be the primary driver behind reduced coal use in the United States, gas plants are able to meet environmental regulations more easily than coal fire plants. This advantage of natural gas plants is said to be a peripheral contributing factor to America’s declined favor for coal. The two primary reasons the article attributes to America’s shift to gas is that it is less expensive to produce and as demand rises is will occur without the immediate need to build new power stations, i.e. the switch will not require investments in new infrastructure.

Though the shift to natural gas will and has reduced coal use in the United States, the American coal industry has begun to displace coal usage to overseas markets in Asia. The problem with the shift to exporting is that the coal industry does not have the infrastructure to support massive exports. Given the lack of infrastructure required for a shift to an export driven coal industry, exports to China only rose a quarter in the first half of 2012. Additionally, as the industry changes the negative effects associated with coal will simply be shifted to another part of the globe rather then being eliminated all together.

This article is important to the research of the sustainable development group because it provides a narrative describing the declining coal use in the United States. This article also proposes several contributing factors and variables to this decline other than policy variables. Looking at the coal power topic outside of the influence of the policy causes the reader to ask, if current environmental policies aren’t impacting the American shift away from coal then what exactly are they doing? Additionally, this article discusses the barriers to the export driven strategy the coal industry is employing to counteract their domestic losses. Though this export driven strategy is felt all over the country, the barriers to this strategy haven’t been as highlighted.
Sustainable  Development  United  States  Coal  Industry  Exports  A.Miller 
march 2014
Coal Industry Pins Hopes on Exports as U.S. Market Shrinks
This New York Times article from June 2013 highlights the main points on both sides of the coal export debate, while adding a new dimension – the economic and social fate of members of the Crow Nation in Montana, who own land that may contain as much as 1.4 billion tons of coal, which would be more than the United States produces in a year.

Domestic demand for coal has declined significantly with the increasing turn to cleaner sources of energy and a renewed focus on developing natural gas sources, as seen with the Keystone XL pipeline proposal. In addition, environmental regulations are becoming more stringent in the effort to curb climate change. These issues have forced coal companies to turn to international exports to sustain the industry. However, transporting coal comes with several regulatory and environmental challenges. New infrastructure, including railroad lines and West Coast ports, will need to be constructed, and as was discussed in “Carbon Offshoring: The Legal and Regulatory Framework for U.S. Coal Exports,” this raises the issue over whether the federal or state government has oversight of environmental standards. The ports in particular have been the main focus of both national and local environmental groups in Oregon and Washington, who are actively campaigning against their construction. Their attempts to mobilize the environmentally conscious public in these states have so far resulted in some investors pulling out of deals to expand or construct new terminals.

On the other side of the debate lies the Crow Nation, a severely impoverished tribe that depends on the coal companies in Montana as their primary source of income. The coal mining industry employs several members of the tribe, although half of the adult population is still unemployed, and families receive small checks three times a year that allow them to buy Christmas presents for family and supplies for an annual cultural event. If the Interior Department approves their initial agreement to mine their land for export, the tribe will earn $10 million in the next five years and potentially hundreds of millions of dollars in years to come, effectively securing their financial future and rescuing them from poverty. This success, however, is contingent upon the ability to export the coal, which without the new infrastructure seems unlikely. This dilemma has driven the Crow to lobby tribes in the Pacific Northwest, who are opposed to the ports because they pose a threat to the fishing populations they depend on.

While much of the discussion around coal exports from the environmental perspective has focused on the potential detriment to natural resources that would negatively impact tribes, this article raises the issue that for at least one particular nation, increased coal mining is seen as an economic necessity. The implied question in this scenario is: Which tribes’ needs and rights are more important and thus worthy of protecting? Environmental groups often align with tribal considerations when the protection of natural resources are involved, but in the case of the Crow Nation, the intentions of the coal industry are more closely associated with their best interests. These issues highlight the nature of interest groups and the potential for conflict that multiple membership can introduce. While the Crow and the Pacific Northwest tribes likely agree on many topics, they are sharply divided on the issue of coal.
coal  export_China  Sustainable  kthomas 
march 2014
Education in our Schools and the Advancement of Democracy
In her article “The Right to Learn and the Advancement of Teaching: Research, Policy, and Democratic Education” (1996), Linda Darling-Hammond addresses issues of teacher education relative to student learning and the advancement of democracy and empowerment. Darling-Hammond’s article is all about developing education research, policy, and practice that encourages the nurturing “of the spirit as well as the mind, so that each student finds and develops something of value on which to build a life while learning to value what others offer as well” (p. 5). She argues that this type of education is available to very few students in the United States (p. 5). Moreover, she also explains that it is important to develop new education structures in order to fully prepare students for participation in democratic life (p. 5).

The first step in Darling-Hammond’s article is to point out that democratic education has consistently been a struggle for the United States. She dates her argument back to times of segregation when “factory model schools… stressed rote learning and unwavering compliance for the children of the poor,” while other schools “secured advantages by excluding—by economics, neighborhood, achievement scores, or racial codes” (p. 6). Although each student has access and is required to attend school in the United States, children are not even “guaranteed the right to a knowledgeable teacher” (p. 6). She uses these failures to point out that schools are not good examples of democracy: “they often illustrate authoritarian and coercive forms of social control, as well as social stratification both across schools and among tracks within schools” (p. 6).

Darling-Hammond points toward a disconnect between good research and the creation of school policy and implementation. She argues that there needs to be a space for production of knowledge “for and with educators and policy makers in ways that provide a foundation for a more complex form of teaching practice” (p. 7). Darling-Hammond suggests four ways in which we can build democratic schools including creating structures for caring and structures for serious learning, sharing exhibitions of student work, developing structures that enhance teacher collaboration, and supporting structures for shared decision making among teachers, students, and parents (p. 13-14).

Darling-Hammond’s final suggestion is to create better partnerships between researchers, teachers, and policymakers; as she explains, “we cannot hand knowledge to policymakers to enact in new mandates. We must work with policymakers to develop strategies for professional development that will infuse greater knowledge in schools and with schools of education to strengthen their ability to transmit and develop knowledge for practice” (p. 14). Darling-Hammond is seemingly suggesting a move to William Kelso would describe as a more public pluralism (McCool 1995, p. 52).

To me, Darling-Hammond’s article is disjointed and attempts to tackle too many issues in too short of a period of time. Although she makes some excellent points, they are not teased out and she too quickly moves from subject to subject. Her piece is in some ways a bird’s-eye-view of many different topics that effect education and the development of democracy and in that vein, it only scratches the surface. But, her suggestions for the collaboration of teachers, researchers, and policymakers strikes similar to the idea we have discussed in class regarding the necessity for experts in policymaking. Too often teachers are left out of the creation of policy that directly effects their day-to-day interaction with students.
mparker  educationpolicy  democracy  public  pluralism  Kelso  McCool 
march 2014
Stakes Are High for K-12 Policy in 2014 Elections
The author of this news article begins by emphasizing the relevance of education policy amongst political agendas this year with state elections in the foresight. The weight of these elections, including 36 governor, 6000 legislators and 7 state school superintendent elections nationwide, will conclude controversial outcomes regarding Common Core, school choice, collective bargaining and early education. The article illustrates the current political atmosphere surrounding collective bargaining, Common Core and finally employs a case study of standardize testing in Texas.

According to information from the National Conference of State Legislatures, Republicans control both the executive and legislative branches in 23 states; Democrats in 15 and 11 are split with only 4 states reporting divided control. Since the Republican state government dominance from the 2010 elections, we have seen state legislatures pushing issues of school accountability, teacher evaluation and employment. The author mentions an example of nine states adopting an A-F accountability system, exemplifying that not all implementations have been successful; such as Oklahoma’s attempt and the state’s resistance to the policy now effecting the state’s Superintendents re-election.

Recent news in collective bargaining includes hypothesizing responses of the public on the GOP’s ideas to reduce collective bargaining powers. The author challenges the idea that although these issues will be present, teacher unions are mobilizing and their push back and desire to increase funding and services will create unique outcomes for the 2014 elections. There seems to already be pressure with an 80 percent investment by the National Association of Education devoted entirely to state elections.
Although issues of employment will be at play, the author predicts that largest issue will be how candidates respond to Common Core. As stated in a previous post regarding Common Core and state races, the issue of standardization and the emphasis of analysis versus memorization is the general idea behind Common Core. Amongst this explanation, Governor Haley of South Carolina who was previously stated offering compromises to her Common Core approach in the last article review was cited in this article that she would repeal any Common Core movement in the state of South Carolina.

In conclusion the article explores a case study surrounding the election to replace Texas GOP governor Rick Perry. This race includes democratic candidate, Wendy Davis, who announced her plan to improve education and the importance of public schools. Within her plan, she stated she would promise a high school student within the top twenty percent of their class during their junior year an early acceptance to college and a Texas teaching job, if they commit to a teaching career; a loan-repayment program for teachers; and bring Texas teacher pay in line with the rest of the country. Her opponent, state Attorney General Greg Abbott advocated for school choice.

This article outlines the relevant points to be made in this year’s elections regarding education policy. With a Republican majority facing many of the states, agenda’s will likely include the issues of debunking Common Core and increasing school choice leaving influential outcomes on our nation’s K-12 youth.
C.Dye  education  educationpolicy  CommonCore  schoolchoice 
march 2014
Household air pollution from coal and biomass fuels in China: Measurements, health impacts, and interventions
Zhang, J. & Smith, K. (2007). Household air pollution from coal and biomass fuels in China: Measurements, health impacts, and interventions. Environmental Health Perspectives, 115(6).

Though public health is discussed as a consequence to the use of coal and other unsustainable fuels, it isn’t always at the center of the sustainable energy debate. This article examines the argument supporting sustainable energy by discussing the most immediate impact the use of coal and biomass fuels have on health. The article estimates that more than 60% of China’s population is rural and most use biomass and coal to power their indoor stoves. China recognizes this issue and is working to eliminate coal in households but in rural areas biomass and coal are still the dominant source of indoor air pollution causing significant damage to public health. The World Health Organization reported that an approximately 420,00 premature deaths each year are caused by indoor air pollution, 40% more than the approximately 300,000 attributed to outdoor air pollution.

Income level and location within a village that also uses coal and biomass fuels are two of several factors that exacerbate the impact of this fuel use on public health in rural China. Lung cancer, respiratory illness, lung function reduction, immune system impairment, poisonous coal endemics, and CO poisoning are among the health effects attributed to indoor air pollution. The impacts of coal burning and other unsustainable fuels has reached a breaking point in China that has forced the government’s hand to mitigate some of these effects through polices to limit these dangerous fuels.

There have already been several failed attempts within China to modernize and improve the stoves used in rural China. The problems with those attempts stemmed from their inability to make significant impacts on the mass scale. The article concludes with several recommendations including adding a chimney or a modernized bioenergy program. Any strategies employed to reduce coal emissions and indoor air pollution are warned to be aware that only coordinated support from the government and the private sector will result in successful transition into an era free of this issue.

This article exposes yet another aspect of the harmful effects of coal burning, particularly in developing nations. Additionally, this article also inadvertently highlights the environmental and social justice issues surrounding the disproportionate burning of coal conducted by the rural and energy starved parts of China. The urban locations in China and urban-based citizens have been the first to escape, or will be, the indoor air pollution problem. The urban focus of the government regarding emissions reductions policies exposes the volatility and sustainability of China’s demand and use of coal as well as where their social and environmental policies are not focused, in the rural areas. The article states that there are approximately 100 counties that have been concerned “endemic” because of the coal deposits have toxic elements that are impacting the safety of drinking water for example. This is yet another indication of the severity of China’s problem with coal and unsustainable energies.
Sustainable  Development  China  Coal  A.Miller  from notes
march 2014
Public School Choice: Non-Regulatory Guidance
This official federal Department of Education (DOE) document outlines federal policy regarding school choice in K-12 education as established by the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 and the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. Three scenarios are outlined in which parents may exercise some form of choice in their children's public education: when a school has “been identified for school improvement, corrective action, or restructuring;” if a family is in a lower income bracket and their school has been identified for one of the actions mentions above; and if a school has been identified as dangerous, or if a child has been a victim of violent crime on campus.

In the first case, all students attending a problem school have an opportunity to transfer to a school that is fulfilling federal standards. The idea is that students should be able to go to a fully functional school while their original school undergoes corrective measures and restores its good standing. If students are not allowed the choice to change schools during this time, claims the DOE, they run the risk of continuing to fall behind their peers.

The second case offers added aid to students from lower-income households who also go to problem schools as described above. Because of the added burden of their socioeconomic status, the DOE deems it appropriate to provide them with additional aid in catching up with students who go to better schools. As such, local school districts are required to provide supplemental education services (SES) for these students. According to the DOE, “SES are free tutoring and other academic enrichment services that are in addition to instruction provided during the school day and are of high quality, research-based, and specifically designed to increase the academic achievement of eligible students” (10).

Third, students who are victims of violent crimes on campus must be given the opportunity to transfer to a different school, just like students from underperforming schools. The DOE publication goes into more detail about the procedures surrounding school choice policy, as well as describing the philosophical underpinnings of the policy: briefly, students should not have to endure a substandard education due to situations beyond their or their parents' control, and should therefore be allowed to change schools if their current school is not serving their needs. In a general sense, the policies outlined in this document operate under the assumption that responsibility for substandard performance lies primarily with the schools themselves.
SDavis  education  educationpolicy  federalpolicy  deppartmentofeducation  schoolchoice 
march 2014
Baffling Rise in Suicides Plagues U.S. Military - NYTimes.com
Suicide is a tragic circumstance regardless of the person who has performed the act, but given the particularly delicate station of veterans and armed services members, the rising rates of suicide is particularly alarming. In 2012 the suicide rate of service members and veterans rivaled that of civilians and reached 22 deaths a day. The total of suicide deaths of service members mirror or outpace the deaths resulting from direct combat. While there may be a rush to assume that the stress of returning from war is the primary factor impacting the decision for one to take their own life, half had never been deployed and nearly 80 percent had never engaged in combat. Instead, a myriad of issues, including financial constraints, drug and alcohol abuse, relationship stress, sexual and physical abuse, and Post Tramautic Stress disorder are believed to be contributors to such a harrowing decision. Rarely is there a singular issue leading to soldiers or veterans demise, instead an aggregate of the above issues are thought to impact the choice for them to end their lives. Worth noting is the disproportionate rate of rank and file soldier and veteran suicide versus that of officers at a ratio of nine to one, with the risk of suicide increasing with multiple concussions sustained.
Concerned over the high rate of suicide, the Veterans Administration (VA) has a number of programs to provide support to at risk veterans and soldiers, including therapy, behavior modification and wellness programs that stress the importance of sleep, nutrition and exercise. Critics argue, however, that there are too many “inconsistencies, redundancies and gaps” in support to really support those who are at risk of suicide, and urge the VA to focus on whittling down the programs into a few that are more effective. Additionally, critics voice concern that the military culture of stoicism creates barriers to individuals seeking out help in the available programs for fear of appearing weak or risking their military careers. As many military suicides are performed using firearms, the VA was considering a voluntary means restriction program at the time the article was written, and actively encouraged loved ones of at risk service members to remove weapons and ammunitions from their homes.
Ultimately, to combat the threat and reality of suicide, programs that recognize and support individuals who are having suicidal thoughts are imperative. The VA has instituted a marketing campaign aimed to destigmatize soldiers and veterans asking for help as well as recognizing that they need help to begin with. In addition, Commanders are being trained to recognize that their subordinates may be displaying concerning behavior and are encouraged to refer them to the variety of available programs.
M.  Wilson  veterans 
march 2014
Letter from Handan: In the Air
In this New Yorker article from December 3, 2013, titled, “Letter from Handan, In the Air; Discontent Grows in China’s Most Polluted Cities” journalist Ian Johnson visits Handan, located in the Hebei Province of China. Handan is one of the most polluted cities in all of China and is home to the Hansteel Plant, which is a steel manufacturing facility with multiple coke plants located in an urban area of more than nine million inhabitants. This article gives a compelling look to the other side of the Pacific NW steel debate: how increased access to coal in China affects its citizens from an environmental perspective.

A lot of recent research has been published about the pollution impacts of China on its inhabitants. It has been estimated that there are around 1.2 million premature deaths in China due to pollution. Contamination specifically from coal reduces the life expectancy in China by 5 ½ years. Children have chronic respiratory problems; elderly citizens have critical digestive problems due to the food quality. There are “cancer villages” where the rate of cancer is so prominent, more people than not have the disease. Yet, government regulations do not allow citizens to organize themselves and protest this environmental atrocity. Demonstrations in the 1980s and 1990s included residents of Handan laying down on the railroad tracks to prevent the coal cars from reaching the coke factories. As a result of the uproar, residents of factory cities are paid a pollution fee of a few hundred dollars a year.

On a bad day in Handan, the air quality is so poor that you cannot see across a four lane road. As a general rule, reporters are not allowed to visit Handan and report on pollution. The World Health Organization measures the air particle index of this area of China to peak at one hundred times the recommended level, and to maintain a level 40% higher than is recommended. Party officials use scare tactics, violence and jail time to keep out the media and keep citizens quiet. As one steel worker told the author of this article, “Locals used to say that you’d lose thirty years off your life the moment you passed through Hansteel’s gates; now it’s the cleanest part of the city (Johnson, 2013, p. 34).” There has been much surface clean up to silence the environmentalists and government officials. However, you travel a few short miles from the main steel plant to the neighboring communities where the coking plants are located, and the scene is abysmal. An elderly citizen in one of these areas said it used to rain black rain, and the cabbage grown there was black on the outside. The people interviewed in this article feel the Party’s concern about the environment is more about keeping the citizen uprisings under control; a main focus of the Communist Party in China is that no one can hinder development.

When taking all of this into account, there seems to be a moral obligation to stand up for the voiceless citizens of China that are suffering in the worst pollution on the planet. Not only is exporting coal to China at a competitive price harmful to various aspects of the health of U.S. citizens, the effect is life threatening to the Chinese. As discussed in other articles, higher coal prices lead to more efficient uses of the resource, and inspire research into safer sources of energy.
R.Crawford  sustainable_development  3rd_post  coal  pollution  China 
march 2014
The Year of Education Common Core, Statewide Races Put Schools at Top of the Agenda
In this article the author explores the current political environment in South Carolina as Common Core makes its way to the top of election agendas. Explanation for unusual support of Common Core implementation was illustrated by current de-emphasis of school choice this year for many GOP candidates, including Governor Nikki Haley. Generally, the education policy point on the docket refers to school choice for republican candidates, although with elections in sight, the author states that this could be a strategic move for Haley. School choice refers to initiatives that use public money to fund privately ran schools; such as charter schools. Providing the opportunity for students to choose their learning environment, and those choices including non-traditional public school options, is a critical education policy point for many republicans. Opponents of school choice criticize the opportunity to increase social segregation by turning more money away from public schools. Although the de-emphasis on school choice in South Carolina’s agendas this year is unusual, a lot of attention has turned towards Governor Haley’s proposal to increase the state education spending by $160 million.

With current common core protests and candidates for state superintendent in conversation, South Carolina is currently in debate over the compromises to common cores effects. The author quotes Republic candidate, Kevin Bryant, as he states the current compromise consisting of sticking with the current math and English standards in place for two years and then revising them. With this the state would do away with its current standardized testing until common core outcomes to be assessed have been formulated. This would leave South Carolina without standardized testing for about two years. Opponents of Common Core, which has had standards implemented in forty-five states since 2010, state that the policy undermines teacher autonomy and increases federal involvement in education while supporters state the policy’s strengths in turning setting learning goals in K-12 education that turn more towards analysis and away from memorization.

The current turmoil of education policy in South Carolina will surely lead to an interesting election season. The author points to the idea that education policy has not been at the state’s forefront in years and these outcomes will make history for the state. Although the political ideologies in the state create diversity within the issue of Common Core, the author suggests that similar outcomes are at risk, the loss of the students needs. Whether it is Common Core or student choice at play, South Carolina has the responsibility to provide quality education policy.
CommonCore  education  educationpolicy  C.Dye 
march 2014
Empowering Youth to Influence Education Policy
The article, "Orchestrating the Effective Change: How Youth Organizing Influences Education Policy" (2013), gives merit to the impactful relationship between students and their schools. Jerusha Conner and Karen Zaino closely examine the relationship between a student activist group called the Philadelphia Student Union (PSU) and Philadelphia School District's (PSD) decisions over the course of the last fifteen years. More specifically, Conner and Zaino use PSU as a framework to develop a theory around effective youth organizing specifically related to education efforts. As the two suggest, "a strong theoretical foundation is necessary to establish youth organizing as a serious field of inquiry and endeavor… moreover [it can] raise significant practical implications for youth organizers, their supporters and policy makers" (p. 174).

Conner and Zaino begin by defining what exactly youth organizing is. They state that it is “a strategy that builds the collective capacity of youths to challenge and transform the institutions in their communities” (Conner 2013, p. 174). In many cases of youth organizing, we see students develop leadership and critical thinking skills, but Conner and Zaino point out that these should not be the only goals of youth organizing. Youth organizing must also work to “alter power relations, create meaningful institutional change, and develop leaders (Youth Action 1998, 13)” (Conner 2013, p. 175). In addition, many scholars argue that youth organizing must also include research and an intent to create social justice (Conner 2013, p. 176).

Conner and Zaino go on to set-up the criteria for their theoretical framework. Though, they are careful to point out that theorizing about organizing efforts can be difficult because these efforts are almost always responsive to very localized issues. This is something that makes PSU unique. Though PSU has always responded to local PSD issues, it has always responded to education issues that are not solely the issues of the PSD. Conner and Zaino ask how PSU has influenced education policy and more specifically, “what practices, strategies and tactics… make PSU effective” (p. 178)?

In response to this question, Conner and Zaino suggest that PSU has been and continues to be effective and influential because of their “orchestration framework” that includes relationship building, organizing, and self-presentation (Conner 2013, p. 183). Relationship building includes external and internal relationships and broad alliances and individual relationships (p. 185). The students involved in PSU have created relationships both within the schools and outside of the schools at the district and elected official levels. Organizing tactics include covert and overt tactics, long-term and short-term responses, identifying problems and solutions, conventional and new tactics, and local and national motives (p. 187). Each of these tactics demonstrate that PSU is willing to take on issues that are current while at the same time maintaining more long-term issues. In John Kingdon’s words (2010), these youth watch for policy windows to open. Finally, youth organizers in the PSU have strong self-presentation. They are insiders and outsiders, have authentic, raw and professional, polished voices, know how to balance both youth and adult leadership, and tie their youth development to social change goals (p. 193).

In conclusion, Conner and Zaino recognize the profound impact youth organization can have on education policy at the local, district, state, and federal levels. PSU is a strong example of this type of organization. This group has a unique opportunity to influence policy as these youth (students) are the direct recipients of chosen education policies. By utilizing Conner and Zaino’s theory of orchestration, youth organizing efforts and their influence may reach further and better effect current education policy. Although this article is lengthy, it is worth the read!
mparker  education  educationpolicy  youthactivism  orchestration  qualitative  research 
march 2014
A supply chain based assessment of water issues in the coal industry in China
This paper examines the potential impacts of increasing water use by China’s expanding coal industry and makes policy suggestions for how China can mitigate them. Water is essential for every stage of the coal supply chain, from mining, coal production, and transport to the end waste products and pollutant disposal. Current technologies consume large volumes of clean freshwater while discharging equally large volumes of contaminated wastewater back into the ecosystem, resulting in an inefficient, unsustainable practice that will eventually result in water scarcity, especially in the face of increased use through a growing coal industry and expanding population.

While China can and should focus on developing less wasteful methods at each stage of coal mining and production, the authors argue that a broader political perspective should be used to evaluate how these water issues might be resolved. They attempt to use this wider supply-side viewpoint as the basis for their model to evaluate four hypothetical scenarios. In the first instance, if the Chinese government had taken no action to reduce water consumption or improve technology, water use by 2030 would double the use in 2008, exceeding the target level by the State Council of China’s Comprehensive Plan for National Water Resources. In the second case, the model predicts that under the policies currently in place and through the further development of water-reduction technologies, the target level would be exceeded by 2020, because even though the use of water by the coal industry would be reduced, other industries will have expanded their consumption. The third example illustrates that if new policies are enacted using current water technologies, water use does not increase significantly but will still not meet the required target levels. According to the authors’ model, the only way to achieve water use reduction is through the use of more restrictive policies as well as better technology, as demonstrated in the fourth scenario. Furthermore, the implementation of improved technology will be more effective than policy measures in achieving water reduction goals.

The results of this study have political and economic implications for the export of coal to China by the United States. If China does not make technological improvements to its mining processes as well as adopt stricter policies regarding water use, a decreasing supply of water will limit their capacity to extract coal, potentially increasing their demand for coal imports from the United States.
coal  sustainable  kthomas  export_China 
march 2014
What Impact Did Education Stimulus Funds Have on States and School Districts?, by Diane Stark Rentner, Alexandra Usher at the Center on Education Policy
This article discusses the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) that was passed by Congress on February 13, 2009. This stimulus money was “directed toward tax cuts, funding for entitlement programs, and investments in infrastructure, health, energy, education, and other programs” (Rentner, Usher). In 2010 additional funds were provided for the Title I program and Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. This article focuses on the portion of funds that was provided to K-12 public schools.
The Center on Education Policy conducted a series of six reports over the period of December 2009-February 2012 that focused on survey responses of state and local officials that were responsible for implementing the funds received by ARRA. More specifically, the survey focuses on the portion of funding that went toward State Fiscal Stabilization Fund (SFSF). The funds could be used to support K-12 education costs as long as the school agreed to four reform-related assurances. Reform areas included creating college and career-ready standards, tracking students’ progress from prekindergarten through college or careers, increasing the effectiveness of teachers, and providing interventions for low performing schools under the No Child Left Behind Act.
The article discusses a number of themes that were consistent throughout the surveys. Themes include many institutions having budget shortfalls, the ARRA funding being used to save or create more jobs in K-12, but in areas where the ARRA funding didn’t cover shortfalls educators were still losing their jobs. In fiscal year 2012 it seemed K-12 budgets had seen the lowest funding they would receive but funding for state education agencies was still falling. ARRA created a common school reform agenda for the states but they are still struggling to implement them. Many states reported encouragement regarding progress toward education reforms because of ARRA, but state and local funding was still an issue when it came to making more progress toward said reforms. Compliance with ARRA reforms has proven difficult throughout continued reduction in funding. Through all the challenging themes identified most states still agreed they were better off after receiving ARRA and Education Job funds.
The author concludes by discussing that Federal stimulus funding has helped alleviate some of the effects of declining budgets since 2008 but since funding is still an issue local schools are still struggling to implement the ARRA reforms. The author also indicates a higher burden of funding problems being faced by state education agencies in particular, which in turn can slow their capacity to implement ARRA reforms.
S.Rinearson  Education 
march 2014
The Proportion of Veterans Among Homeless Men: A Decade Later
The authors, Gemache, Rosenheck and Tessler compared data from a 1987 study comparing the proportion of homeless men with homeless veteran men finding that veterans were “modestly higher” with data from 1996 of the same cohort. The previous author attributed the results of their study to the young age (20-34) of the veterans and the fact that those veterans were part of what consisted of the AVF (all volunteer force) which took place after the Vietnam war when military service was not very popular. They also argued that the all volunteer force allowed “poorly adjusted young men [in]to military service,” also because of “the reduced availability of Veterans affairs benefits to these veterans.” A decade later, Gemache et al found that the same cohort was still over represented but not to the extent it was in the 80’s.

Research of homelessness indicates disadvantaged childhoods or mental and/or substance abuse disorders that represent a higher risk of homelessness. The authors point out that the cohort from the 80’s should still be the group with the highest percentage of homeless if the risk factors of youth and reintroduction into civilian life were “distinguishing factors.” Comparing to the 20-34 year old veterans from the Persian Gulf war time who are eligible for wartime benefits, they would expect to find that they are still overrepresented a decade later. This comparison of the risks of homelessness between eras is an area of study the authors feel needs to be researched.

This study included data analysis from previous studies which took into consideration risks of homelessness among veteran men versus non veteran men stratified by age and race. After the analysis of this data, based on the results of the 1987 study, they expected to see that the, then, youngest cohort from the AVF would, 10 years later, still be the most at risk group of homeless men. Overall, the veterans in both the age groups consisting of the 20-34 year old in 1996 and the 30-44 year olds that would have been represented ten years prior, bothe groups are overrepresented in the homeless population, but the AVF cohort is still the most significantly at risk among all of them. The age group consisting of the veterans over the age of 55 show no increased risk.

The data presented by these studies can be hard to interpret because of all of the other contributing factors of homelessness. The results do suggest support for the theory that the all volunteer force allowed young men into military service for the previously stated reasons which had a contributing factor for that cohorts high levels of homelessness within the homeless population.
Homeless  Veterans  M.  Baker 
february 2014
Characteristics and Service Use of Homeless Veterans and Nonveterans Residing in a Low-Demand Emergency Shelter
Petrovich states that even though veterans have access to more services due to the fact they can utilize non veteran and veteran services, they still use low demand emergency shelter services more often than the more permanent solutions offered through per diem programs, continuums of care and domiciliary care for veterans.

The study included 110 veteran and non veterans staying at a low demand emergency shelter. Petrovich chose interviewing as his method of data collection to collect information on demographic characteristics, history of military service and homelessness, medical and mental function, alcohol drug and substance use, and the use of medical psychiatric and substance abuse services. He states that “ The purpose of this study was to describe the characteristics of veterans and non veterans who use low demand shelters, identify variables that predict their use of services, and compare the predictors of use of services by veterans and non veterans”.

Along with the results of this study, a recurring theme is appearing from previous readings I have done, which is that homeless veterans do not become homeless until a much older age than non veterans. This makes sense when you think about how most veterans spent their younger years in the military but if you combine that with the general knowledge of veteran homelessness not occurring for years after a vets discharge in most cases, it makes me feel there is some further research needed regarding this aspect of homelessness.

In order for veterans to access most of the services available to their specific cohort, they must have received an honorable discharge from the military. So when the author presents the question of why do veterans continue to access low demand emergency housing instead of the other veteran specific programs for permanent housing available to them, this would be one possibility. Also Petrovich concludes that because of the extremely high amount of drug and/or alcohol abuse prevalent in this study group, and given that most if not all VA funded housing programs for veterans require enrollment in substance abuse treatment programs, the homeless veterans may refuse to apply for these services due to their addictions. He also states that the fact that this cohort is still remaining in a housing assistance of some kind and that most of the vets are taking advantage of the medical benefits due to them, there is still an avenue not yet discovered that can help these veterans get off the streets because of the indicativeness that they are open to services in general.

Ultimately, he feels there continue to be barriers for housing or homeless veterans because of the fact that they are residing in low demand emergency shelters combined with the increased availability of services for veterans and the fact that there is an overrepresentation of veterans living on the streets.
shelters  veterans  homelessness  M.  Baker 
february 2014
New policy allows military members to help undocumented relatives | Arizona Democratic Veterans and Military Families Caucus
Veterans and service members have no shortage of issues to deal with as they prepare for combat, are engaged in the theatre of war, and when they return to civilian life. For service members who are permanent citizens and have undocumented folks in their immediate family, concerns over their families well being and potential deportation carries such weight that can detract from their military duties. For these reasons President Obama has signed a policy recently that will allow temporary parole for the immediate family of a service member, not including parents or siblings, essentially giving them safeguard from deportation, allowing them the opportunity to apply for residency without having to return to their country of origin.

Although parole in place has been an informal policy since 2010 under the leadership of Janet Nepolitano, enforcement was inconsistent. Because of inconsistencies from one location to another, families and service members have been hesitant to apply for such parole as it can alert authorities to ones undocumented status and put them at risk for deportation.

The policy would impact current service members, reservists, and veterans alike with the goal of ensuring that service members are able to focus on the task of combat without with less worry about their families immigration struggles back home. There is some concern, however, about how this new policy will impact service branches such as the Navy and the Marines that does not allow for service members to be married to undocumented persons.
M.  Wilson  Veterans 
february 2014
The Politics of Sustainable Development: Emergent Arenas and Challenges for Political Science
Meadowcroft, J. (1999). The politics of sustainable development: Emergent arenas and challenges for political science. International Political Science Review, 20(2).

This article analyzes three developments toward sustainable development in industrialized nations in the late 1990’s with a focus the United Nation’s work with sustainable development and environmental policy initiatives. These developments/activities studied represent national efforts, rather than local or state efforts, to engage with sustainable development. Studying these developments help further the understanding of the lengths at which sustainable development and environmental policy has become more of a priority for political actors and changed patterns of institutional behavior.

The three developments/activities studied are; the preparation and creation of national environmental policy, the growth of multi-party environmental governance, and any emergence of Sustainable Cities and/or other related initiatives. Meadowcroft (1999) states that there are other important indicators political scientists need to study in order to identify emerging attention paid to sustainable development in different nations such as “green taxation,” but breaking it done into the three in the article simply allows for identification of progress and impact.

Studying national environmental policy plans provide insight into the debate about social and economic planning practices and the ability for a government to actually change the direction of their development. Studying any emergence into multi-party environmental governance allows for a more thorough understanding of intergovernmental relations, public private partnerships, and aspects of pluralism that develop around large issue such as environmental policy. Recognizing any moves toward implementing Sustainable Cities or Agenda 21, a 1997 United Nations General Assembly sustainable development initiative, provides insights into which countries have committed to sustainable development and at what pace.

When this article was written in 1999 it found that environmental policy and sustainable development was breaking into the forefront of political focus. Meadowcraft (1999) finds that in many countries, i.e. Netherlands and Great Britain, environmental agencies and organizations were becoming more powerful and emerging as important political actors. The article also finds that sustainable development work had become more institutionalized in daily government activity and that corporations were taking environmental and sustainable development politics more seriously. These indications mark the start of the modern focus on sustainable development. Meadowcraft (1999) uses these findings to call for the field of political science to move environmental policy and sustainable development more central to the field of study given its increased salience.

Though this article is fifteen years old it provides insight into the state of environmental policy and sustainable development at the beginning of its move into the mainstream of political focus. This article also provides a simple framework for assessing nation state progress toward sustainable development and gives the reader the opportunity to assess the progress nations and organizations have made over the last fifteen years with sustainable development initiatives.
sustainable  development  politics  A.Miller  from notes
february 2014
Undermining the Master Plan: Divestment in Higher Education and Student Experiences
This article analyzes qualitative data gathered by the Ford Foundation-funded Diverse Learning Environments (DLE) project. The study focuses its attention on the impact Federal and State budget cuts have on completion rates in higher education as well as creating barriers to success especially in minority groups. The authors discuss the historical legacy created by the Master Plan for Higher Education in California and the difficulties encountered while attempting to honor it amongst budget cuts.

A mixed methods approach was taken to the collection of data and “broad access” institutions in California were looked at the closest. Broad access was defined as “those with open enrollment (such as community colleges) or at least 40 percent admission rate” (pg. 27). Broad access institutions were considered due to the increased occurrence of overcrowded classes and increases in tuition costs as well as them being less selective regarding admissions. Focus groups of students were the main resource of data.

The study found across all racial groups students identified 4 main barriers to their academic achievement. These barriers include decrease in support services and resources, furloughs, decreased course availability, fee increases and the high cost of higher education. These barriers were discussed further and included quotes of students from the focus groups that were conducted.

Decreased Support Services and Resources
Students identified shortened library hours, having to pay for printing on campus, cuts to tutors, and cuts to book fee waivers as examples of support services and resources that have negatively affected them. The authors state these seemingly minute services have a large impact on low income and underserved populations’ ability to continue with their education.

Furloughs
With the institution of furlough days at some colleges, students are finding themselves going weeks without seeing their instructors and then being tested on material that was never lectured on when they return.

Decreased Course Availability
Some institutions have decreased the number of courses they offer as well as how many times a year they are offered creating situations where students have to transfer because their major was dropped or wait another year for the course they need to be offered.

Fee Increases
With the increase in fees students are being faced with the decision to increase the hours they work so they can fund their education or to work less so they can handle their course load. This dichotomy creates a situation where degree completion is slowed and an increase in student loans is seen.

The authors conclude by discussing how California is at an important fork in the road. Historically California’s master plan supported low cost higher education but budget cuts have steered the state away from being able to offer this. They suggest more careful consideration be taken when it comes to budget cut discussions and also to consider the human impact rather than to look at it in terms of dollars and numbers.
S.Rinearson  education 
february 2014
CARBON OFFSHORING: THE LEGAL AND REGULATORY FRAMEWORK FOR U.S. COAL EXPORTS
This report was produced in 2011 by the Columbia Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School. It gives a comprehensive account of the legal framework needed to fight against U.S. Coal Exports, which will have a detrimental global environmental effect. The United States is not creating a positive environmental outcome by exporting Powder River Basin Coal to Asian markets where the regulations are more lax. This increased demand by Asian markets, specifically China, is for steam coal, which is used in power generation. The type of coal mined in Wyoming and the P.R.B region is subbituminous coal, a type of steam coal, which has a lower sulfer conent when burned; it is therefore considered cleaner coal. There are 4 sections to the detailed report: railroads, ports, the National Environmental Protection Act, and appendices, with numerous case studies that are invaluable to a legal framework.
Huge infrastructure increases will be needed on the U.S. west coast to support the proposed rise in exports to Asia. If any federal funding is used to build the new infrastructure, including railroads, the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) will have jurisdiction over environmental standards. However, if the improvements and ports are funded privately, it becomes a state controlled issue. The environmental requirements of the western states in question are not the problem, but more that state officials often look the other way when it comes to pollution issues because of the pressure of big business. In addition, due to the large amounts of railroad deregulation in the 1980’s, there are not a lot of options for concerned citizens to fight the planning and construction of railroad lines. The Surface Transport Board Authority has to approve and permit any new rail construction, but there are many loop holes, such as double lining, that the railroad companies employ to get around such permit requirements. If the federal government is involved, NEPA has to do an environmental impact study and approval before the STB can issue permits. Perhaps the best way for concerned local citizens to fight railroad and port expansion is through local zoning and constructions laws, as well as ordinances. The challenge from a legal perspective is that these laws and ordinances vary greatly from state to state.
Another alarming concern about transporting huge amounts of coal to west coast ports is the amount of coal dust that enters the air and is littered into waterways near ports. “According to one rail company, a single car loaded with coal can lose up to a ton of coal dust during its journey (CCCC, 2011, p.10).” Not only does the dust harm the air and water quality of surrounding environments, it makes the tracks very slick and dangerous, increasing the rate of dangerous and costly accidents. There are currently no federal limits on coal dust blowing off of mobile sources. Concerned citizens could fight the coal dust regulations, which would help create a less harmful and hazardous cargo.
In conclusion, there are some legal options in place to fight coal exports to Asia, mostly stemming from halting the creation of new rail lines and ports. However, whenever fighting against huge businesses, such as rail and coal companies, using the legal framework that is in place might prove frustrating. New laws and regulations, with universal implications, are required to have the most success.
R.Crawford  sustainable_development  coal  export_China  2nd_post 
february 2014
From Renewable to Alternative: Waste Coal, the Pennsylvania Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard, and Public Legitimacy
The authors of this article examine the 2004 implementation of Pennsylvania’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), a policy mechanism intended to stimulate sustainable development through renewable energy options. They choose to examine Pennsylvania’s policy process in adopting this legislation because it is one of the most coal-dependent states and is the only state to have passed an RPS that includes a fossil fuel (waste coal). In order to successfully implement an energy policy aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions in a state whose economy depends on coal, the authors employ a theory of legitimacy management, where “a legislative body serves as the location where social and environmental problems are defined, potential solutions are debated, and outcomes are justified to the public” (Glenna & Thomas, 2010, p. 858).
The RPS required Pennsylvania to generate 18% of its energy through more renewable resources, but left the definition of which sources would be “renewable” up to the legislators to operationalize. While some sources, like wind power, are accepted as unambiguously green by all, others – like waste coal – are not as straightforward. Despite the disagreement by experts on how clean an energy source the burning of waste coal really is, the piling up of this by-product in neighborhoods created both an environmental and political problem for lawmakers, and they decided to include it as an energy option under the new legislation.
In order to do this, they needed to change the wording, definitions and categories of the law to be able to include a nonrenewable resource – waste coal – in a renewable energy policy. The authors analyzed the written and spoken testimony from three hearings in front of the Senate and House environmental committees and two floor debates from the House and Senate, and identified four maneuvers that legislators used to overcome the public divide over the bill:
1) Defining waste coal as clean but not renewable, effectively creating a new category of energy under the new law;
2) Arguing that waste coal is cleaner than traditional coal and beneficial to use in order the clean it up as a pollutant;
3) Explaining away any alternative strategies of dealing with waste coal as being less economically viable than using it as an energy source; and
4) Changing the name of the policy to “Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard,” to reflect the inclusion of a nonrenewable resource
Through the lens of public legitimacy, Pennsylvania lawmakers faced the challenge of defining both a problem and a solution in such a way to garner support from opposed groups – in this case, coal lobbyists and environmentalists, as well as the general public. In order to adopt an environmental policy in a coal-dependent state, they framed the law in such a way that it appears to encourage economic growth through new waste coal-burning plants, while simultaneously cleaning up an existing environmental problem. This case study highlights the importance of rhetoric in policy decisions, and has broader implications for the effectiveness of environmental policies in the face of competing economic and industrial interests.
sustainable  coal  kthomas 
february 2014
Scientific Research in Education
Here is the National Research Council Report on scientific research and education policy.
SDavis  education  quantitative  science  federal 
february 2014
Arts, Humanities, and Sciences in Educational Research and Social Engineering in Federal Education Policy
A 2002 report by the National Research Council (NRC), a think tank that seeks to promote scientific research-based public policy, advocates for a more scientifically-centered approach to education policy research (to read the report, see my post above). Scientific research methods, the NRC claims, are the best way to inform education reform, and even goes so far as to dismiss qualitative methods in some cases. However, this article by qualitative researcher Frederick Erickson calls into question the premise that in the field of education policy research qualitative methods have little to offer.

According to Erickson, the word “science” carries with it a connotation of rigor, certainty, and measurement. Such a connotation tacitly diminishes the worth of disciplines considered to be “unscientific” (as in most qualitative research disciplines). Drawing on his own experiences as a student and academic, as well as the word “science” itself, Erickson asserts that qualitative research methods are no less rigorous or precise than quantitative methods. He makes a distinction between science – a legitimate set of disciplines – and scientism – a sort of reckless devotion to science and hard data that disregards the legitimate contributions of other disciplines. Although the NRC report sets forth “many reasonable recommendations for the organization of educational research sponsorship in the federal Department of Education,” it tacitly promotes scientism in education research. For Erickson, establishing such a narrow view of knowledge amounts to “social engineering toward extreme right wing ends,” although he does not expand much on that argument.

Scientific research has its place in education policy, says Erickson, but there are crucial questions that it cannot answer. In order to craft good education policy, one must take into consideration how policy is experienced by people such as students, educators, and parents. Scientific research cannot answer such questions, and must therefore be accompanied by equally rigorous, thorough, and – most important –valid qualitative research.
SDavis  education  science  qualitative  quantitative  federal  research 
february 2014
Recent Trends in Intergovernmental Relations
Julie A. Marsh and Priscilla Wohlstetter examine the relationship between federal, state, and local government relationships related to education policy in their article "Recent Trends in Intergovernmental Relations: The Resurgence of Local Actors in Education Policy" (2013). Their article combats the often agreed upon notion that federal involvement in education policy is increasing. Instead, March and Wohlstetter argue that at the time of growing federal involvement, local actors are actually empowered. The article emphasizes the growing contribution that school districts and other local entities are making in shaping localized education policy initiatives.

Marsh and Wohlstetter start their article by recognizing the standards-based movement that first caught fire in the 1980s and continues to fuel much federal education reform today. Though federal government has set federal legislation and has given strong “incentives” to states to jump on board with their policies and initiatives (i.e. NCLB, RTT, CCSS), state and local governments have been granted incredible amounts of autonomy in the implementation stage. In fact, Marsh and Wohlstetter argue that these types of initiatives have caused education processes to become increasingly localized.

The two authors discuss many current trends in intergovernmental relations (IGR). First, local actors strategically implement choice pieces of each policy (p. 278). For example, rather than spending the required (by NCLB) amount on supplemental education services (SES), districts sent home overly complicated letters with intense technical language that made it incredibly difficult for parents and their children to access any SES. In turn, districts used the money saved from the services “not needed” and put that money toward other needs in the district (i.e. fulfilling Title I). Second, local actors challenge the governance arrangements and current authority. This is best demonstrated in the way that local school districts applied for their own waivers of NCLB rather than waiting for their states to apply for waivers.

As federal education legislation has been enacted, states and local districts have become creative in designing state-specific programs and have maintained a certain amount of power. Two examples of this local empowerment are charter schools and parent trigger laws (p. 279). While charter schools are often viewed as taking control away from local school districts, they actually empower communities. Parents, donors, and other citizens have the opportunity to be more engaged in the decision making process. In addition, some districts have been able to shift the structure of the district by offering a portfolio approach (p. 279). This approach allows many different types of schools to be present in the school district and all are united under one district. This reserves the power of the district to remove any low performing schools. Parent trigger laws, on the other hand, allow parents to have an insurmountable amount of power in deciding whether a school should be required to adopt new “turnaround” strategies (p. 280). Once a school is categorized as low performing four years in a row, parents have the opportunity to petition for the enactment of new strategies or the closure of the school.

Marsh and Wohlstetter structure a convincing argument. Though we most often hear of the federal expansion of education policy, it is important to consider the different avenues that state and local governments take in order to maintain autonomy. The two women ask an important question – is federal expansion of education policy really limiting state and local control? Or is it simply requiring state and local entities to become more creative?
mparker  education  IGR  NCLB  RTTT  CCSS 
february 2014
Tough Bodies and Rough Sleeping: Embodying Homelessness Amongst Ex-servicemen
Although this article is a study whose participants are veterans of the British army,I feel that the relevance and generalizability is still applicable to most all veterans.

The author, Paul Higate, thoroughly describes the importance of the training soldiers receive, particularly combat veterans, and how the preparations and military culture especially in reference to the importance of physical capital change the individual to be more tolerant of the hardships of homelessness and "rough sleeping". This study is an attempt to account for the disproportionate amount of veterans that are homeless within the general population of homeless individuals.

Higate originally found inspiration for this research from an article he read by Anderson et al (1993) that attempted to link military service to homelessness. In his opinion the "links were framed to causally" and there was not enough of a distinction between the differences of inter and intra-military differences. His study was designed to minimize the "differences between participants experiences in the military". He claims that the training and experience the soldiers have with "rough sleeping" (which from what I interpret is the parallel of the American term of "roughing it") seem to be linked to their shared knowledge of survival and outdoor training and exercises.

Along the same lines as our common terminology of "muscle memory", the author describes how the military culture is ingrained in to an individual. Soldiers have different cultural expectations of what it means to be successful, such as their level of strength, agility, endurance and physical skill. Once discharged from the military, the transition to civilian levels of expectations of success can often be a difficult transition. In the case of these study participants it lead to a desire for paying jobs that were also based, on some level, upon physical stamina and ability. Some examples given were: bouncers, window washers and construction workers. Other, more service oriented jobs were often not viewed as an option for employment. This view of physical ability and it's importance in the stratification of military society was often described as a form of institutionalization.

An interesting comparison is made to illustrate the point of how the survival skills acquired in the military 'help' the homeless veteran. Several veterans that were interviewed described how through the mentality of training exercises,they developed a sense of survival that was more resilient than the average homeless population. They were able to adapt more quickly when presented with a difficult situation such as finding a place to sleep in the pouring rain and enduring uncomfortable sleeping situations for the time being. Often times when asked about these situations they were much more "matter of fact" and "robust" in their descriptions of their experiences. Comparing this to the responses of an author (Carlen [1996]) who interviewed the youth homeless population and often described their experiences with hunger and homelessness as "starvation" and "freezing to death".

In Higate's conclusion he proposes a thought that I find somewhat controversial but am willing to capitulate to a cultural difference being that this is an English study and I am of an American perspective, unfamiliar with English thought and custom. He states that "although many of the settled population remained 'fascinated' by homelessness because of it's liberation from the consumptive norms of society and therefore its promise of 'existential simplicity' (Wardhaugh 1999), intrigue might also be expressed toward the apparent 'impossibility' of sleeping outside in freezing conditions". I personally do not think that the fascination resides in being homeless for people but perhaps the freedom of a transient lifestyle. Much like our current "retirees" and vacationers who travel the country in a motor home, not living on the streets without shelter or food security.
homelessness  veterans  M.  Baker 
february 2014
Looking for a Way Around Keystone XL, Canadian Oil Hits the Rails
In his New York Times article, Looking for a Way Around Keystone XL, Canadian Oil Hits the Rails, Clifford Krauss discusses the potential for oil companies in Canada to increase exports to the United States and Asia even if the proposed pipeline is not approved by increasing the use of railroad transportation. Despite the higher shipping costs when using the rail system, companies have decided to move forward on alternative transport methods in the face of the uncertainty surrounding the pipeline construction. Building new terminals in strategic locations in the United States – like the Port of Vancouver along the Columbia River – will allow oil companies to not only increase their export volume to the U.S. but also move product more easily overseas.
While environmentalists actively protest the Keystone XL pipeline, there is also opposition to increased transport of oil by rail. Air pollution as well as safety are major concerns, especially in light of several recent train accidents involving oil transport that have resulted in major destruction and fatalities. Even with increased costs due to environmental and safety regulations, however, it is quicker and less expensive for oil companies to build rail lines than a pipeline. In addition, companies have begun leasing entire trains rather than single cars on a freight, which has allowed them to increase profits and deliver product more quickly.
This article is just a brief introduction to the myriad issues surrounding the extraction and transport of fossil fuels across international borders, but it highlights a few key points. First, companies looking to export product have multiple transport possibilities available to them, and depending on the particular political or regulatory climate, they can choose their most feasible and profitable option. Second, there are safety risks and environmental costs associated with each mode of transportation, and it is not necessarily clear which is the most sustainable for the long term. Fossil fuel transportation poses serious challenges to policy makers who are trying to balance public safety concerns, economic opportunities, and environmental sustainability.
Sustainable  Transportation  oil  kthomas 
february 2014
PROMOTING IMPLEMENTATION OF A SCHOOL DISTRICT SEXUAL HEALTH EDUCATION POLICY THROUGH AN ACADEMIC-COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIP
In April of 2006, the Chicago Public Schools Board of Education initiated sexual health education (SHE), in collaboration with youth activists organized by the Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health (ICAH). The SHE policy aimed to provide the CPS with comprehensive resources and methods in teaching sex education, particularly targeting unintended pregnancies and STI’s. Although intentions to increase youth community health through comprehensive educational policies, the results were less impressive. Findings led to unused resources, abstinence only implementation, or complete disregard for the policy all together. The failure to launch, led to a community partnership with the ICAH, CPS and the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health to conceive a policy to practice study. Ultimately, to goal of the study was to determine the challenges and gains of implementing the CPS SHE policy in local schools.

The study included five local high schools and four local elementary schools. The schools were picked based on diverse characteristics including; student body, locale, and level of schooling. The method for data collection was mostly interview processes with multiple groups of students divided amongst schools. The interviews were conducted by the MPH students attending the Chicago School of Public Health. The goals of the interviews were to “identify one key informant from every stakeholder category” (p. 4). Qualitative analysis of the interview results, done by the MPH students under professional supervision, led to an 81% agreement on the study’s findings.

The results of the findings led to five “barriers”, including;1. lack of time, 2.lack of training opportunities, 3.lack of resources, 4.competing norms and 5.lack of centralized support. Although these “barriers” created restraints for the success of the CPS SHE, the study did find four major positive outcomes; 1.supportive attitudes towards implementation, 2.dedicated teachers and staff, 3.CPS-approved curriculum and 4.existing local resources (such as community based organizations). Once these findings were confirmed, ICAH presented several recommendations to the CPS in the final study reports. These recommendations included; 1.increase awareness of the SHE policy and clarify access, 2.develop a systematic plan for implementation, 3. Provide more financial resources and 4.build knowledge about successful strategies for SHE implementation.

Since these recommendations were presented, the CPS has responded by revising the existing policy to include stronger language, instructions for implementation, articulation of curriculum devoted time and a required one designated teacher per school for proper training. Furthermore, the CPS SHE policy has advanced developments and research dedicated to HIV prevention and other health initiatives, with the help of community partnerships. From these experiences, the CPS plans to embrace community based partnerships in further education policy efforts.

Recognizing the power of community based partnerships in local efforts to implement education policy seems to be an increasingly used plan for sex education. Given the intergovernmental relations and range of sex education policy implementation, creating local coalitions can be a more efficient device to successfully reach sex education policy goals. Considering diverse goals, plans and evaluation strategies; the promotion of academic community involvement can be valuable tools for sex education policy, and beyond.
C.Dye  Education 
february 2014
MILITARY AND VETERAN AFFAIRS: ARTICLE: THE DEAD LETTER VETERANS PREFERENCE ACT: HOW THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT IS FAILING TO LEAD BY EXAMPLE IN HIRING VETERANS
There is no shortage of concern over the unemployment rates in the US. In the article “The Dead Letter Veterans Preference Act: How the Federal Government is Failing to Lead by Example in Hiring Veterans,” Kent Elier outlines the process used in federal hiring practices to address prevalent inequities in hiring veterans to federal positions. He begins by acknowledging that veteran unemployment rates are higher than the national average, at 9.7% compared to 8% respectively in fiscal year 2012. (Elier, 2013) The Veterans Preference Act of 1944 allows for the honorable service of veterans to count as a positive factor in the hiring of civil service or selective service positions where points are calculated to determine, at least in part, offers of employment. The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USSERA), among other things, provided for the right to resume a position temporarily vacated to enter military service or active duty. In addition, USERRA provided veterans with assistance and legal representation when their preference have been violated. The Veterans Employment Opportunities Act of 1998 further allowed veterans to be considered for positions that are listed as open to internal applicants holding positions in the competitive service classification. Outside of the 2009 Executive Order 13518 which espoused the presidents commitment to recruiting and promoting veterans within the executive branch, the author does not allude to any other congressional or executive actions that would address the unemployment inequity faced by veterans who have fought in post 9/11 armed conflict, particularly Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Most importantly, Elier outlines how the federal government, even given the above regulations, do not hire or employ veterans at a rate that is commensurate with top private employers, such as DynCorp and U.S. Airways whose employment of veterans hover around 35%. Because of the sheer volume of federal employees the federal government dons the title of the largest employer of veterans, however the percentage of veteran employees hovers just over 18%. In addition, Elier notes that the veteran population in the federal government largely holds unskilled, blue-collar positions that are predominantly clerical and administrative. He argues that hiring managers are largely made up of civilians who may not recognize the specific expertise and strengths that veteran applicants may bring to a position. Moreover, hiring managers may hold biases against veteran applicants by holding common, yet Elier argues largely exaggerated, concerns related to mental health issues such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and lower education levels.

Elier suggests that the federal government could move into being a model employer of veterans by aiming to reach the 35% employment rate of the more committed private sector employers as well as ensuring that issues such as nepotism are curtailed. In addition, Elier argues that where veteran applicants are not offered a position they should be given basic information about the person who has been offered the position, such as their veteran status. In addition he argues that hiring managers should be required to provide specific feedback to these applicants regarding why they were not offered the position. Lastly, he recommends that better data on federal applicants should be kept and made public so that we can better assess rates of veterans who are applying for positions and potential problematic hiring patterns.
mwilson  veterans 
february 2014
A Research Agenda For the Common Core State Standards
Most of the states in the US have signed on to implementing the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), an initiative aimed at creating a uniform set of K-12 educational standards for schools across the country. Prior to the publishing of this article (December 2013), research on the implementation of CCSS at the state and local levels was scarce. Furthermore, the research that has been performed has not been coordinated – and in many cases is not responsive to the needs of state officials and local educators. In response, the Center on Education Policy (CEP) convened two meetings in 2013 that brought together education practitioners (such as teachers and administrators), policymakers, and researchers in an attempt to identify ways in which research surrounding the implementation of CCSS could be useful to its consumers.

This article provides a synopsis of the discussions held at the two meetings and summarizes the conclusions drawn by the participants. Discussion focused on the needs of different participants, their experiences with past standards implementation, and the formation of a coalition to direct research efforts, among other topics. Practitioners' main concern about CCSS research seems to stem from their experiences with past research on education standards. Specifically, past research has tended to focus on accountability, and has therefore been focused on criticism rather than providing support for improving performance. To that end, participants at the meetings spent less time talking about how research can assess teacher performance in teaching the CCSS and more time on how the research can help improve implementation at every level. In particular, participants expressed interest in research that would help disadvantaged students and special populations (e.g. ELL students, students with disabilities).

Given this input, the CEP drew five conclusions:

1. Develop a research agenda for the CCSS that focuses on improvement as well as accountability.
2. Improve coordination and information sharing among important stakeholders.
3. Ensure that research studies are developed to provide a range of results that are timely and actionable.
4. Improve communication and outreach to maximize the impact of research.
5. Ensure there is adequate funding for a range of research that supports all aspects of CCSS implementation.

The article concludes by emphasizing the opportunity presented by the implementation of CCSS. The authors of the report expect that by adopting their recommendations, the education community can tap into a wealth of knowledge that will help maximize the positive impact of CCSS as well as prepare stakeholders for future education reform.
SDavis  Education  CommonCore  CCSS 
february 2014
On the Move: The Neoliberalization of US Public Transportation
Varying ideological approaches to economic policy shape the role of the federal government and substantially impact investment in transportation infrastructure. Farmer (2013) states that the neoliberal approach, adopted in the 1980’s, to transportation infrastructure works to push transportation investment into the private market. According to Farmer (2013), the neoliberal approach to economic policies drove federal disinvestment in transportation infrastructure placing the funding responsibility on states and local governments. During the 1980’s, federal investments in transportation infrastructure established by legislation, such as The Urban Mass Transportation Act of 1964, declined under President Ronald Reagan. The belief that Keynesian programs over extended the role of the federal government underpinned the disinvestment.

Farmer (2013) cites three ways neoliberal policies shaped the transportation funding structure of the present: the general decrease in federal funding, conversion of federal funding to states into block grants, and the phasing out of the federal daily operations subsidy created by Richard Nixon. An international comparison shows that in 2010 the United States spent 2.4% of its GDP on transportation and water infrastructure, China spent 9% and Europe spent 5%.

In response to decreased federal funding, local governments have generated revenue through taxes and by incurring larger amounts of debt as strategies to fund transportation investment and maintenance. Transit agencies have turned to increased fares and user fees to make up the funding gap. Given the high financial costs associated with transportation infrastructure, municipalities/local governments are also turned to developing public-private partnerships with infrastructure investors. Farmer (2013) sites mixed results in several case studies of public-private partnerships in transportation.

Understanding the funding structure of public transportation infrastructure projects is incredibly important for the field of sustainable development. As in any policy with a fiscal note, understanding the funding sources is key in identifying policy feasibility. Transportation infrastructure is a key component of sustainable development. This article indicates that the future feasibility of sustainable development in transportation largely rests with the ideological underpinnings guiding the federal government’s funding decisions. Additionally, understanding the complex funding structures built around addressing decreases in federal funding is also important when researching sustainable transportation development. The direction American cities take with transportation largely rests with complex tax policies, public private partnerships, and increased use costs, i.e. higher fares for public transportation.

Farmer, S. (2013). One the move: The neoliberalization of US public transportation. Harvard International Review, Fall, 2013.
A.Miller  Sustainable-Development  Transportation  Infrastructure  from notes
february 2014
The Limits of Federal Activism in Education Policy
Sandra Vergari’s article The Limits of Federal Activism in Education Policy (2011) examines the federal-state relationship in the implementation of recent top-down education policies. Vergari takes a close look at the implementation of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and Race to the Top (RTT), stating that each of these pieces of federal policy had and will continue to have implementation issues at the state level. Vergari argues that “states are able to resist and reshape federal education policy in accordance with their perceived interests” (p. 16).

Vergari seeks the answer to two different research questions regarding (1) how state governments have responded to increased federal action in education policies and (2) what the power relationship is between federal and state level governments (p. 16). Vergari first argues that states demand a certain amount of liberty when it comes to implementing federal laws. In the context of education policy, Vergari calls states pluralistic; in other words, “federal policy has a unique impact on a single state or has different effects on states” (p. 17). Each federal education policy has a unique impact on each state. States often times have the opportunity to influence federal policy as it is being created and as it is being implemented for this very reason.

Vergari demonstrates these claims with an analysis of the implementation of NCLB and RTT. As Vergari mentions, in relation to education policies the federal government has “often lacked both capacity and will to enforce its education policies fully… [because it] may impact innocent students” (p. 17). In addition, the federal government recognizes that each state is an expert on the best way to implement policy in their home state. Vergari also mentions that federal government cannot enact its legislation without the state’s cooperation, therefore the Department of Education is much more willing to grant waivers and bargains to states on a case-by-case basis.

Vergari demonstrates that in each case of federal education policy since its start in 1965, states have acted independently and have chosen small portions of the legislation to implement. She states that “states want the federal government to provide options as opposed to mandates, incentives rather than sanctions, goals instead of procedures, and ample time frames rather than firm deadlines” (16). Vergari admits that in order for education policy to be effective, communities need to band together and create a bottom-up form of policy. She then makes three assessments of current intergovernmental relations: (1) the U.S. Department of Education must take caution when engaging in these types of intergovernmental relations, (2) the fiscal and administrative interests of states regarding education policy are very similar, so they can “benefit from greater cooperation across levels of government,” and (3) citizens need to be informed and engaged in order to ensure accountability and commitment to bettering education for our students (p. 27-28).
mparker  education  federalpolicy  IGR  NCLB  RTTT 
february 2014
Implications of Reduced oil Imports for the U.S Trade Deficit
American spending on imports has exceeded export earning by over 7 trillion. The focus of this article touches not only on U.S and International markets but also the concepts of production and conception for resource innovation. Before analyzing the author’s assessments one has to ask what is the United States role with international markets? Do policies such as tax codes and regulations need further assessment?

There is a normative claim that if exports exceed imports then the foreign importer will have a surplus and in turn trade with other markets, thus leaving less investments for the United States. In addition, the connection between oil trade and the trade deficit reaches to economic realities and the multilateral markets in terms of good and services. Another key factor is the trade debt acquired by the United States, not only from domestic but more importantly foreign lenders. Increased oil production provides a marginal benefit although will not offset the trade deficit. To adequately discuss trade deficit you must understand savings and investment. The U.S will have to decide if investing in long-term oil production will generate greater savings, thus yielding greater foreign investments. Investments are necessary for the creation and expansion of new markets such as energy alternatives.
Though observation of foreign investments in alternative energy, such as in France and Great Britain, show they too are returning to fossil fuels due to high demands in energy and heating. This proves that, at least for now, alternative forms of energy cannot meet demand levels while fossil fuels can. In turn, because the United States has massive amounts of untapped oil reserves, mostly on public lands, the greatest claim for the United States to become energy self-sufficient is to increase production on public lands and to build new refineries. On the other hand, if domestic production increases, tax rates will increase on Oil companies (investors), which should more appropriately be felt by consumers. As the article draws attention to reduced consumption, there is also a discussion as to how both production and consumption affects employment rates. The increase of domestic production combined with less consumption of foreign oil could positively impact the deficit and generate more income, thus providing more American jobs.
As a result, Americans would have to undergo a cultural and economic shift regarding consumption. Because Americans see material ends as the symbol of success, the domestic market must undergo constant increases in demand. This will provide increases in income and employment to sufficient levels necessary to support consumption. Therefore, if domestic oil production is increased the dollar would become stronger, but the trade off is a deficit of market goods and services. This would mean the bilateral, multi-lateral, relations/policies with foreign nations would require reduction or elimination. The policy discussion at hand is surrounded by monetary means: Although the U.S is the number one place for global investments (for now), how will the United States attract foreign credit and or investment when domestic production increases? The tax code is the policy at hand and which must be restructured. We need a tax system that taxes consumption rather than savings, investment and production. The current taxing of innovators and producers eliminate the rational choice theory.
P.Watson  Sustainable-Development  Consumption  Competition  International 
february 2014
Race to the Top and the Exclusion of Welfare Recipients From Educational Policy Discourse
This article written by authors Michelle A. Johnson and Mattyna L. Stephens look at the ways recipients of welfare may be excluded from accessing state level adult education programs that receive federal funding as a result of Race to the Top (RTTT). The authors place emphasis on the fifth of six priorities outlined in the RTTT reform plan which states “P-20 coordination, vertical and horizontal alignment” (Johnson, Stephens, 2012, pg. 189) as a priority. According to the author’s interpretation of the RTTT Executive Summary the vertical alignment refers to the transitions from early childhood all the way through post-secondary education and the horizontal alignment refers to addressing the needs of adult learners through the “collaboration of schools, state agencies, and community partners” (Johnson, Stephens, 2012, pg. 189).

The authors specifically write about the language the state of Texas uses in their application for RTTT funding and look at the issue from the state, regional, and local level. At the state level they reveal a paradoxical situation where the welfare population is not mentioned in the definition of who they wish to serve and the welfare population is “primarily served by the local workforce boards and its systems partners” (Johnson, Stephens, 2012, pg. 192).

At the regional level in Texas the workforce center boards are responsible for annually creating an integrated plan that states the goals of the workforce centers. Although, their plan addresses how they coordinate with Adult Education Programs it lacks details regarding the demographic of their customers, who the providers of the programs are, and where the programs are located. Additionally, this plan strongly emphasizes ESL students to obtain employment instead of pursuing an education.

Workforce centers at the local level are the entities who implement the policies and the authors point out at this level as well how there is a very strong emphasis on finding employment rather than pursuing education. An example they use is when applying for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) “there is no mention of any educational resources offered to TANF recipients” (Johnson, Stephens, 2012, pg. 192) in the materials provided.

In their conclusion, authors Johnson and Stephens warn of the negative implications of focusing on job attainment with their welfare population instead of encouraging further education in the state of Texas. They state the growing need in the job market in Texas will be “middle-skilled work” which will require some further education or technical training. Finally, they argue that “adult learners in the Choices and WIA Adult programs, who are in need of adult education, are excluded from the current political discourses and language informing educational policies in Texas” (Johnson, Stephens, 2012, pg.194).
S.Rinearson  Education 
february 2014
The Greenhouse Gas Impact of Exporting Coal from the West Coast
This article by Dr. Thomas Power looks at the economic perspective of coal exports from the Pacific Northwest, specifically from the Powder River Basin, to China. Due to the declining coal use in the United States, coal companies are looking internationally for a market to sell their product. However, the economic impact of coal exportation to a market that does not have the same environmental standards as the United States has implications that are detrimental as well. In addition, an onslaught of coal to the Asian market at a competitive price will result in higher consumption of coal use, impeding the development of more environmentally friendly and efficient technology for energy production. Dr. Power claims that the decisions law makers in Washington and other northwest states make now will affect the coal consumption in China for the next 50 years.
Coal use in the United States is projected to be an ever declining market due to the negative environmental impact of mining, transporting and burning coal for energy production. Dr. Power states that “between the costs and risks associated with environmental regulation and the availability of relatively inexpensive alternative fuels, electric utilities have been shying away from coal-fired generation in the United States (16, 2012).” It is cheaper for China to import coal than transport it from the coal rich areas of China to the population heavy southern coastal areas. An onslaught of inexpensive coal from the United States will encourage the continued use of outdated and non-efficient coal power plants that emit huge amounts of toxins and carbon gases, effecting the safety of the air quality for the citizens and great damage to the environment. “To provide some context as to what 100 million tons of Powder River Basin coal represents in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, it is the equivalent to the annual carbon emissions of 40 million automobiles (Powers, 3, 2012).”
There are many domestic issues to address when looking at exporting large amounts of coal to Asia. The coal to be exported will be coming from Montana and Wyoming, with the projected mining amounts from Montana alone to be a 300% increase from what was produced in 2009. BNSF has explained that the coal dust the escapes off the rail cars is a problem, causing a serious pollution risks in states that have previous taken a large stand for clean air and water. One projected port is in Longview, WA, with at least one other port needed in Oregon or Washington. While it seems attractive to the local government to have such a large port built that will create jobs and add money to the economy, the environmental impacts of having millions of tons of coal transported through the area is devastating. Here is a quote from the article that puts this into perspective:
“Washington’s only coal-fired electric generator that the state has mandated be shut down beginning in 2020 consumes about 7mm tpy of coal. The two existing proposals by themselves would involve exports of close to 110 mm tpy, almost 16 times the amount of coal burned in the state’s only coal-fired power plant (Powers, 22, 2012).”
To conclude, exporting coal to China will give the Asian market a less expensive coal source, therefore creating greater demand. The coal mining and transportation of coal through pristine western states could be environmentally devastating. From an economic and environmental perspective, this is a public policy that if allowed to be carried out, should cover the “true” cost of coal mining and exportation, or not be allowed at all.
R.Crawford  sustainable_development  coal  export_China  1st_post 
february 2014
Veterans Pension Program Exploited
Thanks to ease of accreditation and lax oversight, lawyers, financial advisers and insurance brokers are commanding high fees for services to veterans that are never delivered. These individuals form a lucrative alliance with retirement and assisted living communities in order to collect fees for their referrals and send veterans to these facilities on a promise that the Veterans Pension program will pay for the cost.
Accreditation from the Veterans Administration allows someone to prepare benefits applications on veterans’ behalf. Federal rules ban them from charging fees for this service, but in practice many get around the rules by charging service fees under another name and by pitching additional costly products and services to trusting clients. The accreditation process is so lax that applicants provide their own background information, and oversight for the roughly 5000 applications received per year is covered by only four full-time employees.
Advisors and retirement homes can access large amounts of government funds through the Veterans Pension program. The V.A. paid out $5.1 billion dollars to veterans or their survivors in 2013. This number surged by 30 percent since 2006. In many cases, veterans are enticed by promises of benefits which never materialize, and are steered toward expensive or ill-suited financial shelters in the process.
In some cases, firms suggest they will procure benefits for people whose income would make them ineligible. Currently the V.A. does not have the authority to deny benefits when assets are transferred or disguised before applying. However, Medicaid and other federal programs do have safeguards against this practice, so veterans can subsequently lose access to these other supports. Advisory firms often charge fees of thousands of dollars, or collect a percentage of the monthly pension benefit received. Additionally, services have sprung up which advise retirement homes on ways to fill their facilities by offering to access to Veterans Pension benefits.
This situation highlights Veterans Administration policies regarding approval and oversight of representatives in the private sector, selection criteria for program participants, and spending choices for veterans’ funds. The exploitation of Veterans Benefits has been deemed a problem by lawmakers, bureaucrats, and the media at a time when the political climate is sensitive to wasteful government programs and veterans issues. As a result, V.A. policies may be accorded priority for reform.
C.Christian  veterans  pension  policy 
february 2014
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