Thursday, December 9, 2010

HOPE that politicians do their job

A recent opinion piece in the AJC suggested that ACT/SAT scores be added to the criteria for HOPE scholarships in GA. Arguments were made to address a need to recognize merit, limit the impact of grade inflation, and for the state to be fiscally responsible with this scholarship program.

In tough economic times, we may have to find ways to stretch our dollars, but adding SAT/ACT requirements to the HOPE program is not the way to do it. Beyond the case that the Fairtest folks would make against using the SAT, I would add that K-12 grade competitiveness is localized. You compete with students in your classes and school for grades. The rigor in your course selection is limited  to your school, not your county or state. So class rank is the more tangible quantitative value for academic performance.

The responsible focus of providing HOPE is to provide within our means to those that are most deserving within the pool. That does not mean to only promote opportunity for the poor or rich, so I'll leave it to others to make this a class warfare fight.

Let's focus HOPE scholarships on the top percentage of a class based on what we can afford as a state. The people that manage the HOPE finances can make an annual estimate that identifies there will be HOPE scholarships for the top X% of students in the next school year. At every high school, the top X% of graduating seniors will get the merit based scholarships.

For example, if there were 100,000 HS seniors, and estimated HOPE scholarship per student costs were $7,000, it would cost $700,000,000 (= 100,000 x $7000) to give them all scholarships. If the HOPE budget for the new class was $105,000,000, then you could provide HOPE to the top 15%  (= 105,000,000/7000,000,000) of the senior class.

No more worries about grade inflation within one school giving it extra HOPE scholars. No more worries about how the student in Dougherty County compares with the student in Rockdale. The number of scholarships is linked to being in the top X% of your class. Students are encouraged to keep working because the cut off level can vary each year due to the financial state of the program. Not necassarily popular, but a reasonable way for all to share the fiscal load.

Now if we can only get beyond the politics...

Friday, April 30, 2010

Your Values & Your Cuts - An Educational View

As school districts, state & local governments figure out how to balance their budgets, many things are getting cut. It could be called hindsight to say save a little in good times and the cuts are less severe in bad times. However, politicians often seem to miss that message.

Going forward, there are tough choices to make about where we cut. Individuals have made these decisions with personal and household budgets. Now the government organizations have to step up. While there will always be people to lobby against cuts to their programs, I alwys think back to one simple question--If not this program, where would you make the cuts?

Individuals within large groups rarely step up to answer this challenge. Their focus is to save their favorite programs. In reality, the save also requires a method to reduce costs in some other area. When forced to choose, that choice says a lot about what you value more.

These decisions are often messy in misaligned industries. My definition of a misaligned industry is one where the customer that gets the service has a very limited or indirect association with the source of revenue/payment. Public schools have issues because funding comes from taxes and other government funds that loosely link to the student. In contrast, private schools have a more direct link of payment from the students' families. State & local governments also get taxes to fund their services, but rarely would an individual or family use all of the services of government. Some will be important to a family while others will go unused.

How do I link cuts to values? Some activities will never be valued by the majority, but the outcomes of those services ultimately lead to a better situation for all. I don't know people that are excited to pay taxes. Nevertheless, without taxes coming in, the government cannot provide their other services. For example, I would always take care of the potholes along the routes I travel. Places where I rarely travel would be at the bottom of the pothole repair list. I think pothole repair has a better priority list than where I drive.

Bringing all this back to real world examples...governments are always looking for businesses to add jobs within their state/local borders. Businesses often have interest in things like transportation, quality of workforce and housing, and tax benefits. When we cut things that negatively impact these business interests are we giving our municipalities a slow acting poison pill?

Public education budgets are being cut around the country. What does it mean relative to those businesses that are considering relocation? Don’t move or move to a place where the areas that were cut are not that important to you/your business.

I am sure that we will revisit this later as people react to cuts…because some folks get active when their valued programs are cut. Do you?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Closing Words on College Cash-ketball 2010

There was pleny of excitement as college basketball pools around the country went bad this spring. There was also talk of all the deserving teams that did not make the field of 64+1. Now there is considerable chatter about expanding the field to 96 teams. With the emergence of the Butler University there were comparisons to the movie Hoosiers and the role of the small school in the big tournament.

This is where I would like to say two things.

1. Good for Butler

and to the schools that didn't make the field of 64+1...

2. You reap what you sow. Deal with it!

Here's why. Butler is a school of less than 5000 students. Their licensing revenue more than doubled to $85k last year. Due to this year's performance that number will grow significantly. Duke spends more on one player's expenses than Butler does on all of theirs. I am not bashing the big guys, but I am giving credit to a small school that seems to have gotten the most bang for their basketball bucks. The catch is that the big schools are less ikely to play small schools that are on the rise. Too much to lose if they don't win and not enough to gain if they do win. The best recent example is Gonzaga University. They have improved their program to a level that recognizes them as a big time small basketball school. The catch is that good teams will meet them in tournaments or possbily at neutral sites, but rarely do they go to Gonzaga (where the 'Zags would potentially make more profit.)

On the 2nd point, teams from big conferences get more TV money, more exposure, and greater NCAA money even when they don't make the tournament. For example, St. John's finishes last in the Big East. Because 8 teams from the Big East made the NCAA tournament, every team in that league gets a cut of that money. This doesn't even count that all 5 teams that didn't make the NCAA tourney, played in the NIT. More moeny to share. When you have the conference advantage to get exposure and money, it helps with recruiting. If you cannot win after taking those advantages along with the visibility that allows you to cut favorable deals when you do play smaller schools, YOU DON'T DESERVE TO GO TO THE NCAAs!

The Most Profitable NCAA Tournament Teams - CNBC

...and if all that didn't convince you that this is really about money, this link is my last try to quantify how much it IS about the $$$. Thanks to Darren Rovell for much of the linkage that puts the money behind the sport into perspective.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

He Stood, He Delivered, He Will Be Missed

Almost everyone has a teacher in their formative years that made school special. I was fortunate enough to have several special teachers. Sometimes we are even moved by teachers we never had, but heard about. For me, Jaime Escalante was one of those teachers. I never met him. I never knew him. I did see his movie, Stand and Deliver. It really made me appreciate in a broader sense what it means to be called to share your passion.

Mr. Escalante died on March 30th. He will be missed by many.

It also leads me to ask the average person, have you used your passion to have a significant, positive impact on someone? Mr. Escalante touched the lives of many through teaching.

Monday, January 25, 2010


Earlier today, I was listening to the radio. The guy mentioned how some things just strike you as special pretty quickly. It doesn't take days for it to sink it, you see it and you get it. It is the stuff of great ideas. Not too fancy, not too complex, just good stuff.

While wandering about the internet today, I got knocked over by one of those great ideas.

I have ZOMM love!

Even though I cannot even get one yet, I saw the slickest useful technology idea. I need one. I want to give one to some folks I know because they often cannot find their mobile phones.

Without working all the bells & whistles, just imagine a bluetooth device for your phone that is part speaker phone and part phone locator. Now I can find the dumb thing when it slips between the sofa cushions and I don't notice.

I even had to tweet about this. I hear that you can see something about it on the Today Show this Thursday (1/28), but this CNN video did enough to confirm my interest...and it includes some other fun stuff from the Consumer Electronics Show.

Now why didn't I (or you) think of this!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Burst and Pace

Is it better to be quick or steady?

There are many things that we can categorize into the burst things and pace things. Sprinters, surgeons, and firefighters are roles that rely on bursts of excellence. Distance runners, family doctors, and police officers are more pace roles.

I don't believe one style is better than the other, but they both come with different expectations. You want your pace folks to be on their game all of the time. Parts of their roles may become automated because technology can do some roles all the time. One example is the role of surveillance cameras in police work. They watch all the time, even when people are not there to observe.

Burst roles require a high level of competency in small periods over the day. The tricky part may be the political perspective of the non burst periods. The firefighter needs to be very good when beating back the blaze. When the firefighter is at the station, we are not getting the bang for the buck.

More Burst & Pace to come. It's a long year, I'll have to pace myself ;-)