Cider Press Hill

CNN SUCKS

Thursday, 9:53 pm

By Kate

Nov

03

2005

partly cloudy

CNN fired Aaron Brown!!! What a bunch of jerks. That’s one less reason to tune into CNN and I’ve already been scraping the bottom of the barrel for reasons as it is.

I LIKE AARON BROWN!!

I’m so bummed.



 

Novak suspended

Friday, 4:24 am

By Kate

Aug

05

2005

mist

Looks like Robert Novak got himself indefinitely suspended from CNN after uttering a bad word during live programming on Inside Politics yesterday. He was responding to a verbal jab that James Carville was giving him. It was fairly benign as James Carville jabs go. They were talking about Katherine Harris (R-FLA) running for the US Senate.

Novak is a pro and he’s been around the block a few thousand times. I’ve watched/listened to him have heated conversations and debates and arguments for years. I’ve seen him heatedly dish it out to other people he doesn’t like or agree with. But this time, he said what he said without much evidence of anger. While some reports have suggested that Novak screamed or yelled or in some way heatedly responded to Carville, my eyes saw a fairly calm, but irritated Novak, turn to Carville and say, “That’s just bullshit and I hate that.” And then he turned to the program host, threw up his hands and said, “Just let it go.” And the host quickly moved on to a different topic. It was at that point that Novak got up and simply walked off the set, removing his microphone from his jacket as he did so.

So what the heck? A seasoned pro who has avoided the use of profanity on the air for twenty something years finally lobbed a beaut when he wasn’t even in a shouting tizzy? That doesn’t make sense.

On the other hand, the show’s host did say he had told Novak before the show that they were going to ask him about the Plame case. The last paragraph of the above linked Chicago Sun-Times (Novak’s home newspaper) story may offer a hint at why Novak may have been...oh...a little on edge.



 

The Next Big Story

Saturday, 10:56 am

By Kate

Apr

02

2005

In case you haven’t checked in with your favorite cable news programs, the Pope is still locked in mortal combat with the grim reaper. There is no other news.

This has been a blockbuster month for media ghoulishness. First we had two weeks of unrelenting media hysteria about Terri Schiavo. But now that they’ve taken up the Pope Deathwatch, she has been relegated to the dustbin of old news. Such is the fickleness of the media.

During the height of the endless Schiavo news cycle, they reveled in whipping people into hysteria, appealing to all of humanity’s worst instincts. They pitted people against each other and drove the story with ever more outrageous claims. When she died, they turned off the lights, packed up their cameras and their interest. Switched it all off like a light bulb and walked away to the Next Big Story. No regrets, no accountability, no responsibility.

Certainly the carnage they left in their wake—the shattered lives voyeuristically exploited—are not their concern. Never were. One could cynically think their top, middle and bottom lines were ratings and money.

Fortunately, they are not in the position to do anything other than afford the Pope the dignity of dying in peace and privacy. He is out of their grasp. As all dying people should be.



 

Howie and the bloggers

Sunday, 11:25 am

By Kate

Feb

20

2005

I slept in this morning and when I awoke, I flipped the television on to see if the world was still out there. What greeted me was Howie Kurtz’s (Washington Post columnist) face and the caption at the bottom of the screen, “online lynch mob?” I thought, “How rich. The pot calling the kettle black.” A discussion ensued between Howie and two bloggers—John Aravosis from Americablog.org and I’m afraid I was still too fuzzy-minded to remember the second blogger or his blog. But they spoke well and kept Howie focused.

So the bloggers are giving the traditional press a run for its money. Bloggers are making the traditional press a little crazy and a whole lot uncomfortable. And the mainstream press doesn’t like it. Too bad. It’s a new world out there and the internet is becoming the mainstream press’s watchdog and critic. The mainstream press still hasn’t figured out how to deal with it. But that would be easy enough...be honest and do a better job. Getting scooped by bloggers must be really annoying. As Jon Stewart said, the other evening, “The Washington Post...you heard it [t]here...12th.” That’s not the bloggers’ fault, though, is it?



 

anti-racist=anti-American?

Tuesday, 10:35 pm

By Kate

Feb

15

2005

On Sunday evening I went to the FOX News website to look for something. Within two minutes, I'd lost track of what I went to find (and I still don't remember). Instead, I sat huffing and puffing over an article featured on FOX's main page. The title was a grabber -- 'Anti-Racist' Message in Mass. Math Class.

The first paragraph set the tone.

The "anti-racist education" program in place at Newton Public Schools in Newton, Mass., a wealthy, liberal niche of the Bay State, has angered some parents who believe the school district is more concerned about political correctness than teaching math skills.

Later in the article FOX asks the question in a sub-title, 'Anti-Racist' = 'Anti-American?' According to their thinking, apparently teaching tolerance is not only politically correct lunacy, but anti-American. Coming from FOX, I'm not surprised.

What fascinated me, however, was the origin of the story.

On January 12, 2005, a local Newton columnist (Tom Mountain) with the Newton Tab, wrote an article about Newton's math madness. Mr. Mountain is a man with an axe to grind in search of facts to prove his own bias. Mr. Mountain claimed that the Newton School district has seen a precipitous fall in the 6th grade students' MCAS (Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System) Mathematics test scores over the past three years.This news rocked Mr. Mountain's world.

To read Mr. Mountain's column, one would think that the 6th grade test scores, over the past three years, have gone from stellar to abysmal. It should be noted, too, that he ignores 4th, 8th and 10th grade scores. So why, Mr. Mountain wonders, are the 6th grade MCAS Mathematics scores falling so dramatically?

Try as he might, the only reason he could think of was "the new math curriculum, otherwise known as the anti-racist multicultural math." Which, it should be said, doesn't exist as a discipline. Connected Math, a curriculum also used in my son's school, does involve special math projects which often require essays that connect to other curricula and use features such as graphs, pie charts, probabilities, or percentages as a method of teaching how math is used in real life. Nevertheless, Mr. Mountain poked around Newton School District's web site and pulled information out of context and revised the district's mathematics curriculum by quoting information from the History and Social Sciences curriculum to make his case.

Newton is a wealthy community, about 6 miles west of Boston, with enormous pride in its school system. Newton has one the best school districts in the state. It also has a rapidly growing minority population, Asian immigrants in particular. Anti-racist/tolerance teaching is a good idea in a mixed racial/ethnic community. But, according to Mr. Mountain (and FOX), it is just another manifestation of multi-culturalism that doesn't belong in math class under any circumstances -- Connected Math notwithstanding. Mr. Mountain doesn't sound as if he's a fan of multi-cultural teaching, tolerance teaching, or anti-racism teaching of any stripe.

It was enough to make me go digging through the Massachusetts state education department's online MCAS Results summaries for the last 4 years. Just how bad were the 6th grade scores? And what about the rest of the scores? Surely, if the 6th graders were being harmed by this strange brand of 'anti-racist math', the other grades must be suffering, too.

Well, not quite. While it's true that the 6th grade test scores have fallen in the past 3 years, they don't gibe with Mr. Mountain's analysis. While it's useful for Mr. Mountain's axe grinding to focus only on the 6th graders (they are the only ones who make his anti-anti-racist math case), looking at the students in some sort of context is also useful.

For example, looking at the 4th graders in 2000, who became 6th graders in 2002, indicates that they improved their math scores quite significantly. Comparing the 4th graders in 2002 with the 6th graders in 2004 indicates a drop in overall test scores, but a significant increase in Regular Ed scores with a significant decrease in scores for Students with Disabilities (special ed, physical disabilities, learning disabilities). That particular student demographic increased by 40%, while the Regular Ed student demographic increased by only 2% between 2002 and 2004.

Mr. Mountain probably also forgot that state and federal school funding was hugely cut in 2003 and again in 2004 with...you guessed it...special education getting disproportionate cuts. I would also think the district has seen a lot of growth because of school choice. Many of the better school districts, with greater resources, are swamped with school choice applications from parents/kids from poorer/poorer performing districts. The transition from elementary school to middle school (5th grade in this state) is the most popular school choice year. Takes time for the kids to catch up.

Mr. Mountain, who believes that anti-racist (tolerance) teaching is pandering to some kind of lunatic liberal ideology, ignored the facts staring him in the face. Research isn't his thing, either. Meanwhile, his column, with the help of FOX, is causing untold problems in Newton and has now started sweeping right wing blogs. Because incorporating anti-racism studies into the curriculum is anti-American, dontcha know.

For those who are unfamiliar with the MCAS exams

The MCAS exams are standardized state assessment exams instituted as part of Massachusetts' Education Reform Act of 1993. The first exams were given in 1998, though it took two additional years of fine-tuning before the exams were considered ready for prime time. Math exams are mandatory for grades 4, 6, 8, and 10. In Massachusetts, all students must pass the 10th grade MCAS exams before they are awarded diplomas.

MCAS Mathematics Scores with some context

Grade 4 - 2000 Advanced Proficient Needs to
Improve
Warning/
failing
No. of
students
All students statewide 12% 28% 42% 18%
All Newton students 32 41 24 2 860
• Regular Ed. 38 42 18 2 671
• w/disabilities
10 36 48 6 164
• Limited English
8 52 40 0 25

Grade 6 - 2002 Advanced Proficient Needs to
Improve
Warning/
failing
No. of
students
All students statewide 13% 28% 29% 30%
All Newton students 41 35 17 8 848
• Regular Ed. 51 34 12 3 627
• w/disabilities
10 38 30 23 212
• Limited English
no stats no stats no stats no stats 9

Grade 8 - 2004 Advanced Proficient Needs to
Improve
Warning/
failing
No. of
students
All students statewide 13% 26% 32% 29%
All Newton students 40 33 20 7 864
• Regular Ed. 51 34 12 3 630
• w/disabilities
8 30 43 19 213
• Limited English
10 43 38 10 21



Grade 4 - 2002 Advanced Proficient Needs to
Improve
Warning/
failing
No. of
students
All students statewide 12% 27% 42% 19%
All Newton students 27 41 26 6 815
• Regular Ed. 32 44 21 2 617
• w/disabilities
9 29 43 19 175
• Limited English
17 39 30 13 23

Grade 6 - 2004 Advanced Proficient Needs to
Improve
Warning/
failing
No. of
students
All students statewide 17% 26% 32% 25%
All Newton students 37 32 21 10 900
• Regular Ed. 48 36 14 2 630
• w/disabilities
12 20 36 32 244
• Limited English
19 46 27 8 26



Grade 6 - 2000 Advanced Proficient Needs to
Improve
Warning/
failing
No. of
students
All students statewide not tested
All Newton students not tested

Grade 8 - 2002 Advanced Proficient Needs to
Improve
Warning/
failing
No. of
students
All students statewide 11% 23% 33% 33%
All Newton students 37 31 21 11 918
• Regular Ed. 46 35 17 2 705
• w/disabilities
6 20 35 39 208
• Limited English
no stats no stats no stats no stats 5

Grade 10 - 2004 Advanced Proficient Needs to
Improve
Warning/
failing
No. of
students
All students statewide 29% 28% 28% 15%
All Newton students 59 24 13 5 934
• Regular Ed. 73 20 6 1 684
• w/disabilities
17 35 33 15 229
• Limited English
48 19 19 14 21


 

Deep as a puddle

Saturday, 4:34 pm

By Kate

Jan

08

2005

You know that journalist guy, Armstrong Williams, who was on the White House payroll to shill for the Prez’s No Child Left Behind? Secretly? Unethically? Probably illegally? With our tax dollars? In our so-called liberal media? Makes you wonder how many others are on the take. Does me, anyway. It’s a sorry development that makes a mockery of the free press. Supposedly the keepers of democracy. Once that trust is broken, what’s left?

Armstrong says he did it because shilling for No Child Left Behind was something he believed in. $240,000 makes for some deep believing, I’d say.



 

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