Fund Your Utopia Without Me.™

01 May 2014

'Toons of the Day: Clipped

Political Cartoons by Bob Gorrell

Political Cartoons by Lisa Benson

Political Cartoons by Robert Ariail

147891 600 Kerrys apartheid apology cartoons 

Political Cartoons by Glenn McCoy

 147889 600 Benghazi Email cartoons

147874 600 Adam Silver cartoons

Political Cartoons by Gary Varvel

147829 600 Donald Sterling cartoons

147887 600 Courtside Seats cartoons

Political Cartoons by Chip Bok


147892 600 Don Sterling cartoons

147851 600 Stupid Sterling cartoons

147837 600 Donald Sterling and girlfriend cartoons

147864 600 Donald Sterling In Exile cartoons

 147860 600 White racists cant jump cartoons

 147850 600 Donald Sterling cartoons

147843 600 NBA bans Donald Sterling cartoons

 147862 600 Donald Sterling cartoons
 147878 600 Donald Sterling cartoons

147876 600 LA CLIPPERS cartoons

147869 600 Sterling and Bundy cartoons

147841 600 Sterling stuffed cartoons

147858 600 Sterling cartoons

147840 600 Sterling and NBA penalties cartoons

Political Cartoons by Henry Payne

147836 600 Larry Birds View cartoons

147857 600 Police Brutality cartoons

147875 600 Russia cartoons

147848 600 Immigrant Rights   No Amnesty cartoons

147855 600 Wi Fi to be introduced in Canadas National Parks cartoons

147854 600 Please no provocation cartoons

147853 600 Iraq elections cartoons

147852 600 Egypt death penalty beating the record cartoons

147872 600 WHO WRITES LETTERS ANYMORE cartoons

147846 600 Opening Day Fishing cartoons

147834 600 Upgrade to Wheel Well cartoons

147826 600 Jenny McCarthys Advice cartoons

Political Cartoons by Henry Payne

Democrats: Silence & Conformity Are The Highest Forms Of Patriotism!!!


They can't talk about the 'recovery.'  They can't talk about Obama's stunning foreign policy achievements.  And, as for Obamacare, well, they proceed at their own risks facing polls that have been underwater since May 2009, upended the healthcare system, caused skyrocketing premiums and deductibles, dropped insurance plans for millions and has produced an unprecedented  angry backlash.

So, with a dismal record like that, what would the typical Democrat consider a practical feat?  Silence their critics.  If Democrats can't speak about their pathetic record of one failure after another, then neither is anyone else.  Capisce or do we need to send over a heavy with a truncheon to teach your kneecaps a lesson or two?

From The Hill:

Senate Democrats will schedule a vote this year on a constitutional amendment to reform campaign finance as they face tens of millions of dollars worth of attack ads from conservative groups.

The Senate will vote on an amendment sponsored by Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) that would overturn two recent court cases that have given corporations, labor unions and wealthy individuals free rein to spend freely on federal races.

“The Supreme Court is trying to take this country back to the days of the robber barons, allowing dark money to flood our elections. That needs to stop, and it needs to stop now,” said Senate Rules Committee Chairman Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who announced the plan.

“The only way to undo the damage the court has done is to pass Senator Udall’s amendment to the Constitution, and Senate Democrats are going to try to do that,” he said.

Schumer said the vote would take place by year’s end and called on Republican colleagues to join Democrats to ensure “the wealthy can’t drown out middle-class voices in our Democracy.”

Amending the First Amendment will never succeed.  First, it takes passage of the proposed amendment by 3/5ths of both the Senate and the House before being sent to the states for ratification, which requires 38 states to vote in the affirmative - something that is just not going to happen for an issue like this in today's polarised and Balkanised America.  As Allahpundit of dryly observed:

'I doubt that Senate Democrats will get three-quarters of their own caucus to vote to amend the First Amendment, but if they do, that will make a really tasty talking point for Republicans in the midterms. “Democrats can’t defend their policy failures,” they’ll argue, “so they want to keep people from spending their own money to criticize them.” And they’ll be right.'

As authoritarian, dictatorial, lawless, and absolutely peevish the Democrats have become, I am, quite frankly, surprised that they didn't attempt to revive the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, which criminalised criticism of the President, Congress, the Supreme Court, and the Federal government.  No, I didn't accidentally omit the Vice-President.  He was specifically excluded from coverage.  John Adams was President and Thomas Jefferson was Vice-President.  The two, especially the former, loathed one another.

These were just a few of the 'terms of endearment' thrown around by both during the 1800 presidential election:

From the Adams camp:

'Jefferson is a mean-spirited, low-lived fellow, the son of a half-breed Indian squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father.'

'Should Jefferson prove victorious, there is scarcely a possibility that we shall escape a Civil War.  Murder, robbery, rape, adultery, incest will be openly taught and practised, the air will be rent with the cries of distress, the soil will be soaked with blood, the nation black with crimes.'

'Jefferson is the son of a half-breed Indian squaw raised on hoe-cakes.'

'Are you prepared to see your dwellings in flames? Female chastity violated?'Children writhing on the pike?  If, not prepare for the task of protecting your government.  Look at every leading Jacobin as at a ravening wolf, preparing to enter your peaceful fold, and glut his deadly appetite on the virals of your country.'

'Jefferson is a weakling, an atheist, a libertine, and a coward.'

'Every dissolute intriguer, loose-liver, forger, false coiner, and prison-bird; every hair-brained, loud talking demagogue; every speculator, scoffer and atheist - is a follower of Jefferson.'

'The question is not what he will do, but what he is.  Is he an infidel?  Then, you cannot elect him without betraying our Lord.  From all known infidels then let us withdraw our confidence and support.  We are highly criminal if we knowingly contribute in any way to increase their influence or power for in so doing we contribute to our own and our country's ruin.  Let us hear no more, at such times, of amiability and gentleness -- or candor, liberality, and moderation -- of conciliating, mild and generous feeling.  Such qualities are now not virtues, but vices.'

'Great god of compassion and justice, shield my country from destruction.'

– The banner of The Connecticut Current, a Federalist-leaning newspaper.

'If Thomas Jefferson wins, murder, robbery, rape, adultery, and incest will be openly taught and practiced. The air will be rent with the cries of the distressed, the soil will be soaked with blood, and the nation black with crimes. Are you prepared to see your dwellings in flames, female chastity violated, and children writhing on a pike?'

'Jefferson is one of the most detestable of mankind.  Preach it!'

- Martha Washington to clergymen

From the Jefferson camp:

'President Adams has a hideous hermaphroditical character, which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman.'
'Hamilton is a Creole b@stard brat of a Scotch pedlar.' 

'John Adams is a blind, bald crippled toothless man, who secretly wants to start a war with France.  When he’s not busy importing mistresses from Europe, he’s trying to marry one of his sons to a daughter of King George III.'

'Adams is a traitor, who wants to marry one of his daughters to the Prince of Wales and return the United States to Britain.' 

'Adams is a fool, a hypocrite, a criminal, and a tyrant.'

Fortunately, Jefferson defeated Adams and the Acts were repealed.

Woodrow Wilson resurrected the Sedition Act and added the Espionage Act for good measure, which saw even men criticising America's entry into WWI - that would be the entry into a war four months after Wilson won reelection with the slogan 'He kept us out of the war - at their own dining room tables prosecuted for sedition and/or espionage.

Read this horrifying story for an idea of the hideousness and flagrant abuse of these two Acts:
How Progressives Killed Robert Goldstein Through Censorship, Police State Tactics, Unconstitutional Laws, & Railroading All The Way Into A Cattlecar On The Road To A Nazi Concentration Camp

Fortunately, the Sedition Act, for all intents and purposes, was neutered by the Supreme Court in Brandenburg v Ohio, 395 U.S. 444 (1969).  Per the decision, it is unconstitutional to punish Americans for their inflammatory or critical speech unless such is intended to incite and is likely to result in imminent, lawless action.

The most protected of speech is that which is political in nature.  Money is speech and when used for political purposes it should be given the same intense level of respect and protection that we afford the freedoms of speech, religion, the press, assembly, and the right to seek from our government redress of grievances.

30 April 2014

America, The Illiterate

HotAir's Allahpundit writes:
Via TheBlaze, watch this and remember that these are the people who decide elections. Not you, not the lefties you see on Twitter breathing into paper bags about Thomas Piketty. It’s these people, the proverbial low-information voters, who somehow can’t identify a guy who’s been vice president for five years now and are still trying to master this whole legislative-executive-judicial thing. They’re the swing voters in 2016. Now try to sleep soundly tonight — if you dare.
But first, explain to me what the point of this is. It can’t be … this, can it?

Tony Hernandez, co-founder of the Immigrant Archive Project, told TheBlaze Monday that his group aimed to debunk the “misconception that it’s relatively easy [for immigrants] to get their citizenship.” 

“We came to the understanding that the naturalization test is the easiest hurdle for immigrants,” he said. “And we thought it could shed some light on the experience to quiz Americans.”

This is like asking random men-on-the-street to solve for x in (x + 2)/2 = 5, then pronouncing it a hard problem because 40-50 percent of the people interviewed will inevitably scratch their heads and pronounce themselves stumped. It’s not a hard problem; an intelligent nine-year-old could solve it with an hour of tutoring on algebra. It’s really not a hard problem if you know the question’s coming and have been studying for it using the handy study sheet that the federal government makes publicly available on its naturalization website. The idea here, I suppose, is to show that it’s unfair to require an immigrant to master basic knowledge to gain citizenship that adult Americans aren’t required to know, but (a) the immigrant’s free to forget it the day after the test, just like ol’ Joe Sixpack did in school many years ago, and (b) most Americans are required to know this at some point as kids, not as the price of citizenship but as the price of advancing to the next grade. The real takeaway from the clip, besides the evergreen lesson that Americans are dumb, is that some immigration advocates object to placing even the smallest, most pro forma demands upon aspiring citizens before granting them full privileges. Something to bear in mind as Congress oozes towards compromise on immigration reform.

And no, contra the host here, George Washington didn’t sign the Declaration of Independence.

Fortunately, immigration classes aren’t straight-jacketed by teachers’ unions.

Take a look at these old tests:

III.  1928 West Virginia 8th Grade Graduation Exam

Bloomberg Businessweek's America The Uneducated by William C. Symonds from 20 November 2005:

How did the U.S. become the world's largest economy? A key part of the answer is education. Some 85% of adult Americans have at least a high school degree today, up from just 25% in 1940. Similarly, 28% have a college degree, a fivefold gain over this period. Today's U.S. workforce is the most educated in the world.

But now, for the first time ever, America's educational gains are poised to stall because of growing demographic trends. If these trends continue, the share of the U.S. workforce with high school and college degrees may not only fail to keep rising over the next 15 years but could actually decline slightly, warns a report released on Nov. 9 by the National Center for Public Policy & Higher Education, a nonprofit group based in San Jose, Calif. The key reason: As highly educated baby boomers retire, they'll be replaced by mounting numbers of young Hispanics and African Americans, who are far less likely to earn degrees.

Because workers with fewer years of education earn so much less, U.S. living standards could take a dive unless something is done, the report argues. It calculates that lower educational levels could slice inflation-adjusted per capita incomes in the U.S. by 2% by 2020. They surged over 40% from 1980 to 2000.

Not everyone is so pessimistic. Education Secretary Margaret Spelling argues that President Bush's 2001 education reform law, the No Child Left Behind Act, is working to lift minority education levels. "It makes me bristle when I hear people say, 'There's no way in hell we can have our children reach grade-level proficiency,"' she says.

Still, the Center's projections are especially alarming in light of the startling educational gains so many other countries are achieving. U.S. high school math and reading scores already rank below those of most of the advanced economies in Europe and Asia. Now education is exploding in countries such as China and India. There are nearly as many college students in China as in the U.S. Within a decade, the Conference Board projects, students in such countries will be just as likely as those in the U.S. and Europe to get a high school education. Given their much larger populations, that should enable them to churn out far more college graduates as well. More U.S. white-collar jobs will then be likely to move offshore, warns National Center President Patrick M. Callan. "For the U.S. economy, the implication of these trends is really stark," he says.

Callan's projections are based on the growing diversity of the U.S. population. As recently as 1980, the U.S. workforce was 82% white. By 2020, it will be just 63% white. Over this 40-year span, the share of minorities will double, to 37%, as that of Hispanic workers nearly triples, to 17%. The problem is, both Hispanics and African Americans are far less likely to earn degrees than their white counterparts. If those gaps persist, the number of Americans age 26 to 64 who don't even have a high school degree could soar by 7 million, to 31 million, by 2020. Meanwhile, although the actual number of adults with at least a college degree would grow, their share of the workforce could fall by a percentage point, to 25.5%.

These trends aren't carved in stone, of course. Bush's No Child law is helping to lift minority kids' test scores, says Jack Jennings, president of the Center on Education Policy, a Washington think tank that studies No Child. But the gaps are still enormous. On the recently released National Assessment of Educational Progress exams, 39% of white eighth graders were proficient in reading, vs. just 15% of Hispanics and only 12% of blacks. "Given these scores, there's no way the country will reach the 100% proficiency goal" of the No Child law, predicts Jennings.

Even with No Child, backsliding already has happened in Texas, the laboratory President George W. Bush used for the law when he was governor of the state. Why? The Lone Star State's Hispanic population is exploding. Because minority students are far more likely to drop out of high school, Texas now ranks dead last among the 50 states in the percentage of adults who have a high school degree. That's down from 39th in 1990.

Similarly, Texas ranks 35th among the states in the percentage of adults who have a college degree, down from 23rd in 1990. State demographer Steve H. Murdock is telling anyone who will listen that Texas public schools will be 80% minority by 2040, up from 57% in 2000. If the education gap persists, he warns, the income of the average Texas household will fall by $6,500 by 2040, after inflation adjustments -- potentially fueling a spike in poverty, the prison population, and other social problems. "We've been very hard hit," says Murdock.

In Texas and across the country, No Child's focus on test results skirts the biggest Achilles' heel of the public schools: the growing dropout rate. Nationally, the on-time high school graduation rate is lower now than it was in 1983, when the report A Nation at Risk first sounded the alarm about the nation's failing schools, says Michael Cohen, president of Achieve Inc., a nonprofit school standards group created by governors and business leaders.

In 2002 just 68% of high school students graduated four years after they started ninth grade. That's down from 75% in the early 1980s. True, many later earn a general educational development degree. But the GED has never been the same as a high school diploma. Once students quit school, it's difficult for them to make it into college, says Thomas G. Mortenson, head of Postsecondary Education Opportunity, a higher education newsletter.

Minority students who do get through high school face even greater obstacles in earning a bachelor's degree. Because many come from low-income families, they have been hit especially hard by the shift in student financial aid policy away from need-based grants toward loans and merit scholarships that favor the middle class. So just 10% of students from the bottom quartile of family income brackets earn a BA by the time they're 24, figures Mortenson, vs. 81% of those from the top quartile. "We are not dealing with the changing demography of the country," he says.

How can the trends be reversed? Jennings argues that the U.S. must push harder to get better teachers into poorer schools. States must also work far harder to keep students from dropping out of high school even as they raise graduation requirements. Today, only about a third of high school grads are prepared for college, estimates Achieve's Cohen. Many need remedial courses, a key reason why fewer than half of those who begin college earn a BA, says Cohen, whose group is working with 22 states to raise their high school graduation requirements. And more generous financial aid could make it easier for low-income students to go to college.

The prospects for U.S. education levels are a lot like global warming. Since erosion occurs gradually, it's easy to ignore. But if the U.S. doesn't pay more attention, everything from its competitiveness to its standard of living could sink.

Take a look at these results from NYC for 194 students, all low-income minorities:

Success Academy 4 Charter School:

Math: 80% passed

English: 59% passed

P.S. 149:

Math: 5% passed

English: 11% passed

NYC: 79.3% of city public-school grads need remedial help before entering CUNY Community Colleges because 'they haven’t mastered the basics of reading, writing, and math, and have to take non-credit remedial classes to catch up.’


Look around the country at the abysmal performance of our students, who are stuck in the clutches of teachers' unions and the politicians that are addicted to the campaign donations of the former...


Chicago:  79% of 8th Graders are not proficient in reading.

While the United States overall has a strong 99% literacy rate, Chicago, IL for example has a rate of just 53%.  37% of adults in Chicago are illiterate or cannot read/write.

From The Chicago Tribune's Many third-graders fail key reading standard: Research links reading proficiency to later education success:

Tens of thousands of Illinois third-graders failed to meet a key reading benchmark that can predict students' educational trajectory long after they leave elementary school.

Clusters of students in schools across Chicagoland did not demonstrate proficient reading ability on the 2011 Illinois Standards Achievement Test, with one Chicago school reporting 85 percent of third-graders falling short. Statewide, a Tribune analysis of School Report Card data found that more than one-fourth of all third-graders failed the reading portion of the high-stakes exam.

At Chicago Public Schools' Guggenheim Elementary, 85.3 percent of third-graders failed to meet state reading standards, the worst performance in the state. Yale Elementary, also a CPS school, came in second with 77.4 percent, followed by North Chicago's Greenbay Elementary. Schools in Chicago Heights, Aurora, Maywood, Elgin, Cicero and Wheeling also reported dismal third-grade reading scores.

The push for third-grade reading proficiency is not new, but it has picked up steam in the last 10 years and received a jolt last year after a study released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, as well as the launch this year of The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading.

The Casey study found that millions of children across the country enter fourth grade without learning to read proficiently and says those students are at a greater risk of dropping out of high school.

"The research is long-standing, and it just keeps getting stronger," said Ralph Smith, the foundation's senior vice president.

"What has changed in the past decade is there's a renewed public understanding that not graduating from high school has deeply negative consequences for the individual and the family, especially when it comes to escaping generational poverty and finding gainful employment with family-supporting wages," Smith said.

A University of Chicago report released last year found that students who could read at or above grade level in third grade attend college at higher rates than those who were below grade level. In addition, the report stated that adults without a high school diploma or postsecondary education are more likely to be incarcerated.

The focus on third-grade reading proficiency stems from what researchers have deemed a shift between third and fourth grade, where kids go from "learning to read, to reading to learn."

"If they're not reading well by then, they're going to struggle all the way through high school and possibly through adulthood," said Peggy McCardle, chief of the Child Development and Behavior Branch at the National Institutes of Health. "It's not that kids stop learning to read, but what we expect from a fourth-grader is to read math and science texts, which requires a certain level of comprehension."

At Greenbay Elementary School in North Chicago School District 187, 77.2 percent of third-graders failed to make the cut in reading.

"Obviously we're not pleased," Superintendent Milton Thompson said. "For 77 percent of our students to be below standards, I have no excuses for it. It's completely unacceptable. We will do everything we can to change that."

CPS, which had the two worst-performing schools when it came to third-grade reading, also earned the two top spots statewide. Not one third-grader at the small Skinner North Elementary or Edison Elementary Regional Gifted Center failed the reading portion; instead, 100 percent of kids at the two selective enrollment schools exceeded standards.

"We have many great schools, but we do not have enough schools in our system that are providing students with what they need for college and career readiness," said CPS spokesman Frank Shuftan, who added that a move to common core standards and a longer school day will provide kids with more reading time. "That is why we must take an aggressive approach and take the best practices from schools that are succeeding and share them across the district."

The effects of bleak third-grade reading literacy rates and subsequent high school graduation are even more pronounced for children of poverty, Donald Hernandez outlined in his report for the Casey Foundation, "Double Jeopardy."

One in 6 children who cannot read proficiently by third grade do not graduate high school on time, and children who lived in poverty and do not meet the benchmark are about three times more likely to drop out or fail to graduate, according to the report.

The gap is stark in the CPS schools that served as bookends to the 2011 third-grade reading scores. Last year, state data show that Guggenheim and Yale both enrolled nearly 100 percent low-income students, while Skinner North's low-income population was 34.3 percent and Edison's was 6.8 percent.
In Wheeling's District 21, where two schools had 66 percent of third-graders scoring below state reading standards, the director of curriculum and achievement, Janelle Hockett, said the district doesn't rely solely on the ISAT to define students' improvement.
"For students who by definition are not yet proficient in English, the ISAT English reading assessment is not an accurate measure of their academic abilities," she said.

Four schools in Cicero School District 99 had around 60 percent of third-graders not meeting state reading standards. Across the district, which has a high number of low-income students, a little more than half of third-graders didn't make the mark. Roughly the same percentage of students are classified as limited English-proficient.

Superintendent Donna Adamic echoed Hockett's sentiment of the inadequacy of the ISAT to test students who came into the district speaking little or no English.

Even so, Adamic pointed to a gain in reading scores by fifth and eighth grades in past years.

"We're making progress," she said.

But experts have said the mountain is a steep one to scale for most children who don't meet that third-grade benchmark.

"If you take (English-language learners) out of the mix, the research suggests that 74 percent of the kids never do catch up," said Smith, of the Casey Foundation.

In 2002, Florida implemented a law that required students who scored the lowest level on the state's assessment test to be retained in third grade. There were some exemptions, including those for English- language learners, students with disabilities or students who demonstrated proficiency through a different measure.

But even with those exceptions, the retention rate for third-graders skyrocketed from about 3 percent the year before the law took effect to 13 percent the year after, said Jaryn Emhof, spokeswoman for the Florida-based Foundation for Excellence in Education.

"In effect, we had about one-third of our third-graders who were scoring at the lowest level, which means they were functionally illiterate," she said.

Since then, the retention rate has dropped to 5.9 percent, and those scoring in the lowest level fell from 29 percent in 2000-01 to 16 percent in 2009-10, according to data from the foundation.

But the law hasn't been without controversy, with some pointing to the negative social implications that retention can have on a child.

"I think that's going to penalize the kids," said McCardle, of the National Institutes of Health. "If we hold these kids back … we're almost guaranteeing that they're going to be dropouts."

But Emhof defended the approach.

"I don't know what the bigger tragedy is — to promote a child out of a grade when they're not able to be successful or to hold them back until they can gain the skills," she said.

Last year, Indiana passed a comparable law stating that if children do not demonstrate reading proficiency by the end of third grade, they may not move on to fourth grade reading instruction (but can advance in other subjects). Similarly, Iowa is among a handful of states considering parallel measures that call for investing in reading programs as early as preschool and requiring basic literacy by the end of third grade.

"It's a moment in a child's development when we have to make sure kids are literate," said Iowa Department of Education Director Jason Glass. "Socially promoting kids and just hoping something happens isn't a risk we should be taking."

In North Chicago's Greenbay Elementary, a class of third-graders recently sat on a red tile floor snapping their fingers in unison with every syllable their teacher uttered. This is the first year the district has adopted a universal reading program, and the emphasis on early intervention and teacher training is stronger than ever, Thompson said.

"These test results indicate whatever we were doing, it wasn't working," he said. "It's beyond disappointing. You're not talking about numbers; you're talking about kids."
'When school children start paying union dues, that 's when I'll start representing the interests of school children.'

- Albert Shanker, President of the Teachers Union (United Federation of Teachers) from 1964 to 1984 as well as President of the Teachers Union (American Federation of Teachers) from 1974 to 1997.

Detroit: Only 10% of students from third to eighth grade are proficient in reading and math. As to be expected, the statistics get even worse as the students get older. Each year, kids in 11th grade take the Michigan Merit Exam to see if they are college-ready. In 2011, 90 percent of students failed the reading portion, 97 percent failed the math section, and 100 percent failed the social studies and science portions.

The devastating rate of illiteracy means that 200,000 adults aren’t able to read a newspaper, fill out a job application, or read instructions on a medicine bottle. Even more jarring is the fact that half of these functionally illiterate adults held high school diplomas or GED’s.

New Orleans: Before Katrina, New Orleans had only a 40 percent literacy rate and 50 percent of black students did not graduate high school in four years. After Katrina, 70% of students in New Orleans attend a charter school — the highest rate of any district in the nation. Additionally, the district now has an open choice policy that allows students to attend any public school regardless of their geographical location.

According to US News:

So far, the numbers show it has been mostly successful. A recent Stanford University study highlighted Louisiana…where charter schools outperform traditional pub­lic schools. Louisiana Superintendent of Education Paul Pastorek reports that in New Orleans, the combined district test scores have risen 24 percent since 2005, when most stu­dents attended traditional schools.

40% of the city’s adults lack the literacy skills to comprehend basic government forms. The National Adult Literacy Survey indicates that 25 percent of U.S. adults read at the lowest functional level, meaning, for example, that they can locate an expiration date on a driver’s license but cannot fill out most motor-vehicle forms. In New Orleans, that figure is 44 percent, according to the survey.


Students in large U.S. inner cities are struggling to improve their reading ability, especially at middle-school levels, according to results from a national reading test released Thursday.

Only Atlanta and Los Angeles, two of the 11 urban centers that took the reading exam, showed statistically significant growth in eighth-grade reading from 2007 and 2009. They also were the only two to show growth since 2002.

The lackluster reading results follow the December release of urban math scores, which also showed stalled progress.

The stagnating scores of urban schools come at a key time in education reform. President Barack Obama has centered his education agenda on lifting the achievement of inner-city children. Their progress, especially in literacy skills, is critical to his push to keep the nation competitive in a global economy.

The highly regarded test is scored on a zero-to-500 point scale, with scores broken into “below basic,” “basic,” “proficient” and “advanced.” Students are considered to have passed the exam at the proficient level.

The test is more rigorous than most state exams. So while many urban districts report impressive gains on state tests, they cannot claim such progress on the NAEP.

Overall, urban schools scored far below the national averages in fourth- and eighth-grade reading. Most urban districts posted higher scores on both exams. But in many cases, the gains were not statistically significant, meaning they could have occurred by chance and might not reflect real growth.

At fourth grade, four of 11 inner-city districts saw an uptick in performance between 2007 and 2009, with the District of Columbia and Houston notching the largest gains. D.C. jumped from an average score of 197 to 203. But even that kept them at “below basic,” the lowest quartile on the scoring chart.

D.C. posted a slight gain if charter schools were removed from the equation. Unlike most national school districts, the D.C. public school system doesn’t have direct control of its charter schools. In the national data, D.C. charter schools were included in 2007, inflating the scores.

Houston improved from 206 to 211, landing them one step up in the “basic” category. The national average was 220 last year, the same score as 2007.

But eighth-grade reading proved a bigger hurdle. Only two districts showed progress, and even then, their scores were far below the nation. Atlanta posted a 250, Los Angeles a 244. The national average was 262. All of these scores are below the proficient level.

The Wall Street Journal's Op/Ed piece "Unions vs. Race to the Top".  The article is worth reading in full, but here are some key points: 

  • 'Is the Obama Administration going to side with school reformers, or will it reward state and local teachers union affiliates that defend the status quo?'

  • 'Teachers unions in Minnesota and Florida are currently threatening to withhold support for their state Race to the Top applications, which are due later this month. So is the school boards association in Louisiana.'

  • 'Unions are mainly opposed to teacher accountability reforms.'

  • 'Collective-bargaining agreements that protect bad teachers also harm children. Unions, which put the interests of their members above those of students, aren't bothered by this.'

And don't forget the infamous words of Bob Chanin, from the NEA Teachers Union:

** Huge caveat relative to Atlanta performance:   NYT: Systematic Cheating Is Found in Atlanta’s School System