Monthly Archives: June 2015

Opt Out Humor

In my last post, I looked at the arguments in favor of opting out.

For a lighter look at the debate on standardized testing, check out this satirical take on standardized testing from The Onion:theonion

As the American education system continues to place more emphasis on standardized testing to measure academic achievement, critics have argued that it can be more harmful than helpful to students’ development in the long run. Here are some of the pros and cons of standardized testing:


  • Every student measured against same narrow, irrelevant set of standards
  • Holds teachers personally accountable for success of large, monolithic testing organizations
  • Western tradition of critical thinking best embodied in bubble-sheet format
  • Keeps students quiet for upwards of 90 minutes
  • Repeated testing carefully develops teachers’ cheating skills
  • Only biased against kids who couldn’t afford college anyway
  • Data. More data.


  • There are easier ways to measure parents’ income
  • Takes up time that could be used to teach toward additional standardized tests
  • Standardized test–scoring machines kill and maim more than 200 workers annually
  • Allows U.S. students to be compared with those of other developed nations
  • Fails to measure attractiveness, which will have far greater impact on future success or failure
  • Students may in fact become too prepared for future
  • Probably could be more profitable


2015-16 UCFSD Tax Increase vs. Chester County

The UCFSD school board recently approved a tax increase (average across Chester and Delaware Counties) of 2.28%.   And our board and community had a lively debate about how to meet our present and future fiscal requirements, challenges, and risks.

Across Chester County, other school districts faced similar challenges and questions.  How many exceptions above the Act 1 index should be taken?   Should we draw down reserves or increase reserves?  How do we cope with the escalating costs of PSERS and medical insurance?

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The Arguments for Opting Out

Let’s look at the reasons behind the “opt out” movement.   (It is perhaps worth noting at the outset that the opt out “movement” is still embryonic and composed of many different voices.  Advocates of opting out have divergent motivations, and come from all points across the traditional liberal-conservative spectrum.)

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2015-16 Budget and Tax Rates – My View

Approving budgets and tax rates is one of the most important functions of our school board.  On Monday June 15, the Board will approve the 2015-16 budget and the tax rates that go with it.

Although the expense budget is set, there has been a lively debate about the millage rates needed to fund that budget.  At our June 8 school board working session,  several community members expressed their opinions about tax rates, and many board members also offered their views.

Below are the remarks I offered at the work session:

On the Budget, I think it is critical that we manage our finances for the long-term, and that we maintain our historically conservative approach to financial matters.  We have a strong credit rating, which reflects our history of careful decision making, efficient operations, and respect for our taxpayers.    The expense side of our 2015-2016 budget is set, and I think we have a responsible expense budget.  Our programs are fully funded.  There are no cuts to programs, no changes to class sizes, no investments needed that have been turned down.

Where we do have a decision to make is in how we raise the revenue to cover those expenses.

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Pension Incentives

Pension systems have their own internal logic, which unintentionally reward certain behaviors.  A recent article from EducationNext, a reform-oriented journal sponsored by Harvard, Stanford, and Fordham U,  illustrates how a hypothetical teacher could maximize the ROI of teacher pension systems.

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