Monday, September 15, 2008

American Schools: Troubles and Hopes - PBS

Contrast this with the views from the Career Switcher....

It helps to be close to the action rather than a remote participant.

Television Review 'Where We Stand'
American Schools: Troubles and Hopes
Published: September 14, 2008

Maybe Bill and Melinda Gates aren’t going to save the world after all.

“Where We Stand: America’s Schools in the 21st Century,” Monday on PBS, a look at American education financed by the Gates’s foundation, isn’t exactly brimming with fresh insights. It’s the same anecdotal hodgepodge that every attempt to assess the country’s schools ends up being: a few teachers who seem to be doing good things are heard from; a few programs that might be making kids smarter are profiled; the laundry list of familiar problems is checked off.

Though Geoffrey Canada and his Harlem Children’s Zone get some airtime, the program concentrates on schools in Ohio, both rural and urban. But every state has initiatives like those highlighted here. Educators might have an interest in comparing their own specialized programs with those on view, but the broader message, if there is one, isn’t clear.

More interesting are the troubling trends the program notes in how American education ranks internationally. The United States, we’re told, had the world’s best college-graduation rate as recently as 1995, but 10 years later ranked 15th. Not that the program offers anything like a concrete suggestion as to what to do about this. Instead one of its experts, Chester E. Finn Jr., president of the Fordham Institute, leaves you wondering how relevant the statistics are.

“It would be ridiculous, ostrichlike behavior to not look at how other countries are doing in terms of the results they’re producing,” he says. “That does not mean we should slavishly emulate the Japanese education system or the Finnish education system.”

America’s Schools in the 21st Century
On most PBS stations on Monday night (check local listings).

Rebecca Haggerty, producer; Ronald Thorpe, executive producer; Judy Woodruff, host. Produced by WLIW, New York.
A version of this article appeared in print on September 15, 2008, on page E2 of the New York edition.


Anonymous said...

Here is one case -

A former Los Angeles Unified School District curriculum director was arrested Thursday on federal felony fraud charges for allegedly ordering nearly $4 million in math textbooks he wrote for use in district classrooms, the U.S. attorney’s office said.

Matthias Vheru, 51, is accused of secretly using $3.7 million in federal funds that the district received to buy his instruction materials – a purchase that netted him nearly $1 million in royalties and other payments, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.

Anonymous said...

In investigating the allegations against Vheru, Thornton’s staff also raised questions about irregularities in his paychecks. In his report to board members, Thornton alleged that Vheru manipulated timecards to claim more than $21,000 in unearned sick and vacation pay.

Reed said the district had begun disciplinary procedures against Vheru, but that he had resigned before they were completed.

John Slafsky, the attorney for Coordination Group Publications, denied claims that the publisher had conspired with Vheru. The firm has sued Vheru, alleging that he should be responsible for any judgments against the company.

On June 28, after the publisher received the book orders, the company wrote a letter to the district’s ethics office, alerting officials that they would be paying Vheru royalties for the purchases.

The letter did not indicate, however, that Vheru had placed the orders himself.

“The critical fact here is that the orders that resulted in more than $3.5 million of his own books being purchased by the district were signed by his own hand,” Reed said. “He bought those books without anyone knowing about it.”

Anonymous said...

In California you go to prison, in Washington you get a new car.

Anonymous said...

According to an indictment returned under seal Wednesday afternoon by a federal grand jury in Los Angeles, Vheru struck a deal in 2002 with an English publishing company to write an Algebra I textbook. Once the contract was amended the following year, Vheru was entitled to 20 percent of all revenues generated by sales of the textbook and related materials.

In early 2004, LAUSD gave Vheru a temporary position as supervisor of Central Office Mathematics Department, which gave him the authority to issue book purchase orders without any oversight. Several months later, LAUSD notified Vheru that it intended to replace him as the supervisor of the Mathematics Department with another individual.

The indictment alleges that before he was replaced as the supervisor, Vheru executed a scheme that caused the district to issue $3.7 million worth of purchase orders for his Algebra book in violation of California conflict of interest laws and the district's code of ethics. He subsequently caused the District to pay for the book and related materials with federal funds that were specifically provided to the district under Title III of the No Child Left Behind Act for programs for students with limited English proficiency.

The federal government provides Title III educational funds to the State of California, which transmits some of the money to the school district. The district is required to spend the money on programs that are designed to increase the academic performance and English proficiency of pupils who have difficulty reading or writing English.

The indictment alleges that Vheru attempted to conceal his scheme by, among other things, having the purchase orders for the algebra books describe the items being purchased as materials that were intended to help students prepare for the California High School Exit Exam, and taking other steps to prevent the publisher from disclosing to the district the true nature of the course materials that were being purchased and Vheru's financial interest in the deal.

In July 2004, the school district paid nearly $4 million to the publisher for Vheru's textbook and related materials, and for a small amount of exit exam materials. Soon after, the publisher paid Vheru approximately $676,000 in royalties and a $255,000 consulting fee.

Vheru worked for LAUSD in several roles from 1982 until he resigned approximately two years ago during the course of the District's dismissal process.

Vheru is specifically charged with 11 counts of "honest services" wire fraud for allegedly depriving the school district of his honest services and misuse of the funds that were used to finance the purchase. The indictment also contains one count of misapplication of funds that were under the control of a federally funded government agency. If convicted of these 12 felony charges, Vheru faces a maximum possible penalty of 230 years in federal prison.

An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.

The case against Vheru is the result of an investigation by the United States Department of Education, Office of Inspector General; the Los Angeles School District, Office of Inspector General; the Los Angeles Unified School District, Office of the General Counsel; and the United States Postal Inspection Service.

Anonymous said...

How is this any different from Carkhuff and OSPI's own scandal with improving test scores?

dan dempsey said...

I guess I would add how is this any different than most of what takes place in education...

There is so little real relevant data used in these supposed data driven decisions that are pouring forth from our experts.

Leadership = 0
Ignorance rules the halls of the education bureaucracy.