Sunday, August 26, 2007

Sunday roundup and branding -- the Gazette, and beyond...

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More kindergarten smoke-blowing from the Gazette editors: One would think that proponents of full-day kindergarten in Montana such as the Billings Gazette editors would be content with the fact that the program was rammed through the 2007 legislature in spite of other, more pressing, educational spending needs in Montana, and in spite of a lack of evidence that full-day kindergarten increases long-term educational attainment.

Last week, Montana Headlines pointed out that Montana's ACT scores were above the national average, with only 13 states having higher average scores -- many of whom use the SAT as their primary exam for college-bound students, thus inflating ACT scores.

The Gazette editors, however, take that same information and make the case that since Montana's ACT scores didn't increase last year, that it was because Montana hasn't had full-day kindergarten.

In other words, since Montana students 13 years ago had half-day kindergarten rather than full-day kindergarten, their 2007 ACT scores were lower than they would otherwise have been.

Maybe, just maybe, the quality of post-kindergarten teaching has a little more to do with an 18 year old's ACT scores than does whether that student as a five-year-old had an extra 3 hours a day in kindergarten.

Beyond this, there are a couple of problems. As MH pointed out back in January when the kindergarten wars were raging in the legislature, a Kansas Dept. of Education study on full-day kindergarten revealed that in 2001, there were only 12 states nationwide that required that full-day kindergarten be offered. One presumes that 7 years earlier than that, when Montana's 2007 ACT-takers were suffering under the primitive conditions of half-day kindergarten, even fewer than 12 states required that full-day kindergarten be offered. Remember that only 13 states scored higher this year than Montana on the ACT. Do the math.

Add to this the fact that given the fact that 40% of Montana's population was born outside this state, at least a fair number of the students taking the ACT in Montana this year went to kindergarten in other states.

Advocates for choosing to spend millions of dollars on full-day kindergarten rather than on other educational needs are long on rhetoric and short on logic.

Some of them are charged with teaching our children to think logically.

Others, like the Gazette editors, are presuming to teach the general public.

As was pointed out at the beginning of this segment, one would think that they would be content with having won the legislative battle, and would leave the matter alone at this point.

Except that, as educators across the state know, the funding provided by the legislature is just startup money and part of the ongoing funding for a single biennium -- each district has to come up with its share of funding full-day kindergarten. Every year. On top of all other educational needs.

So advocates like the Gazette editors aren't particularly fond of information that indicates that Montana students are doing very well -- such as this year's ACT scores. Unfortunately, we won't know whether full-day kindergarten is going to help until 2020 -- if then.

In other vital Gazette editorializing: ... city officials are scolded for not changing light-bulbs on the "Welcome to Billings" sign, and tut-tutted for not cleaning our "defining element." Slow news week.

Shocking news about Montana's Washington delegation: They are trying to bring federal spending to Montana. Really? Too bad we don't have a Senator on the Appropriations Committee. Tester's win against Conrad Burns, with the assistance of all of Montana's newspapers, means that instead of having a senior Senator in the majority on the Appropriations committee -- we have no Senator on the Appropriations committee.

Interestingly, the biggest single request was an intelligent request from Rep. Denny Rehberg that addresses both the loss to the Great Falls economy of part of Malmstrom AFB's missile mission and the vital need to secure our borders:

...$150 million for P-3 acquisition, or unmanned aircraft to patrol the border, for the Northern Border Air Wing at Great Falls International Airport.

The Wall Street Journal is worried about Mike Huckabee: In what amounts to a hit piece on Gov. Mike Huckabee, whose surprisingly strong 2nd place showing in the Iowa straw poll has ignited his Presidential candidacy, Brian Carney criticizes Huckabee for (eghad!) speaking in political generalities rather than hyper-specific policy proposals.

But it is clear that what really worries the WSJ (a paper that MH generally likes very much) is that Huckabee has a populist appeal that doesn't bow down to Wall Street interests.

Mike Huckabee v. Fred Thompson: In the latest dead-tree edition of National Review, Byron York's cover article on Fred Thompson begins, interestingly, by telling the story of one of the first times that Thompson has shared a podium with another candidate, at the annual meeting of the American American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC.)

Ironically, that candidate was Mike Huckabee, whose suddenly flourishing campaign may pose one of the biggest challenges to Thompson's candidacy.

Huckabee is what is historically the most electable of candidates -- a governor, and a Southern governor at that. Since Thompson has been counting on wrapping up the Southern primary vote, this spells trouble for him.

As MH has said repeatedly, Republicans have looked at Giuliani, McCain, and Romney -- and indicated that they prefer "none of the above." Thompson's great appeal is that he theoretically has the tools to be "none of the above," but it has always been predicated on whether he can go from 0 to 70 in a very short period of time. In short, whether he has the stuff to be a presidential candidate -- not at all an easy task.

If some of his recent interviews are any indication, he is not as quick a study as had been hoped. His appearance following Huckabee was apparently more of the same:

(Huckabee is) in top shape, on his game. He gives a speech that is tight, well-constructed, and impassioned, all from one scribbled note-card. By the time he's finished, the ALEC members are on their feet.

After a break, Thompson enters to great applause; the crowd is clearly ready to love him. But this, as it turns out, is not his day.

York continues with more of the events, and concludes:

When it's all over, most observers agree that the former governor has run rings around the former senator. 'The consensus of the crowd was that Huckabee wowed 'em,' John Wiles, a state senator from Georgia, tells me. 'Thompson's speach was a disappointment.'

Another attendee said that "Huckabee is right on, has a great delivery, is very articulate -- all the things Thompson wasn't."

Not a good sign for Thompson, but it is a very good sign for conservatives that Thompson is not our only hope in the race for the GOP nomination.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I thought the most interesting Gazette edit was the one Friday on the flags being lowered for soldiers killed in Iraq. It started out like it might criticize the governor's office for failing to get the word out on the last one, but then veered off into a mealy mouthed piece that talked (rightly so) of the importance of honoring these soldiers. One got the impression that the Gazette suddenly got cold feet about saying anything that might be remotely interpreted as being critical of the governor. Seems to be a fear that pops up all the time among most of the Mt. papers.