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I never had kindergarten - and I didn't speak English when I started school- and I have two Master's degrees... Of course, I had what many children don't have today - parents who valued education (although they only had 8th grade educations).

Great post. Would just diverge from you modestly in one dimension. Arizona schools are excellent for highly educated and skilled consumers. We have a number of public schools, both district and charter, which are in the top 1% of all schools in the nation.

However, on average, our schools are mediocre and haven't moved for 8 years. We rank at about the national average and you can trace that mediocrity to the policies of the department of education.

They have labeled schools as "performing" that are among the worst in the nation. The worst five schools in Arizona all have "performing labels". One even has an excelling label.

Arizona's number one asset is that we have more choice than any other state in the nation and we have not leverage that asset with accountability.

These schools with that "performing" label, the equivalent of a "D" grade, actually have banners out in front of their schools bragging about it.

We are guiding parents to schools which may be destructive to their child. Schools where students actually lose ground every year they attend.

Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

The insurgency is in its last throes.

There was a connection between Saddam Hussein and the 9-11 attack.

Reagan proved deficits don't matter.

Mission accomplished.

When you climb Camelback or Piestewa Peak, the layer of brown haze obscuring the entire valley is not air pollution.

We'll never run out of oil.

Trees cause air pollution.

When you've seen one redwood, you've seen them all.

Just because we have the highest high school dropout rates in the country doesn't mean our schools are bad.

The earth is not getting warmer. Ocean levels are rising rapidly due to some other reason.

Evolution is an unproven theory.

The 50 million people in our country with no health insurance receive excellent medical care.

Illegal immigrants don't pay taxes.

Most of George Bush's tax cuts went to the middle class.

Waterboarding is not torture.

I love facts.

"The rich pay nearly all the taxes and nearly half the population pays no income taxes."

Yes, but when one factors in all taxes the effective rates are essentially flat in all income quintiles.

Here is a more-extended excerpt from the "Implications" section (pp.15-16) of the study Greg cites. He chose only the two first sentences from the beginning of that section to prove his point, but neglected to include the rest of what the study's authors said:

"However, these findings should be interpreted carefully because we have not accounted for potential self-selection bias or other nonobservable factors. It is possible that some of our findings are driven by unobserved characteristics. Our results also suggest that investment in the development of nonacademic school readiness skills may not only raise overall achievement but may also narrow the achievement gap between minority and nonwhite students. Indeed, on average, white students enter kindergarten with better nonacademic skills than do blacks and Hispanics. Our findings indicate that racial/ethnic differences in achievement might be narrowed if we could enhance the nonacademic readiness skills of minority students, particularly black students, at an early age. Current full-day kindergarten programs do not affect nonacademic skills, but perhaps redesigned early education programs could improve nonacademic skills that ultimately translate into improved academic acheivement."

What Greg is attempting to do with half-truths is not an uncommon tactic for him to employ. Those who read this blog on a regular basis know his penchant for selective quotations, which are often followed up with preachy rants like the one we are treated to in this post.

I'll make you a deal, Greg. If I admit that all-day kindergarten is not the panacea that some folks say it is, will you ask your pals who run the Legislature if they will look into funding some of the early childhood readiness programs discussed in the Rand study? Given their boundless concern for kids, especially minority students living in the poverty that you say has been largely eradicated, I'm sure they will get started on that right away!

"Yes, but when one factors in all taxes the effective rates are essentially flat in all income quintiles."

Care to share some data to back up your claim. Alternately, from the CBO, for 2006, effective federal tax rates by quintile:
Lowest 4.3%
Second 10.2%
Third 14.2%
Fourth 17.6%
Highest 25.8%

That's for all federal taxes - income social security, excise...

That's not an effectively flat tax schedule, that's a highly progressive tax rate schedule.

Data: http://www.cbo.gov/publications/collections/tax/2009/effective_rates.pdf

Rex, the self-selection bias, if anything, worked the other way. All day kindergarteners started slightly ahead of the half-day kindergarteners in the study.

No half truths at all to Greg's posting. RAND says that a redesigned kindergarten might do something that the current kindergarten doesn't do: work. Duh.

But why redesign when current wisdom says full day kindergarten is the best things since slice bread?

Greg says that current full-day kindergarten hurts the typical student, RAND says the same thing.

You're wrong, Falcon9. RAND is not referring to kindergarten at all when it discusses readiness programs. It is referring to preschool initiatives that try to mitigate the effects of poverty on school readiness. In fact, the study cites the fact that family income is the best predictor of school achievement. No big insight there, but what do we tell kids who don't have that advantage? Let them eat cake?

Hi Washburn. Here's another one for you, "the american people want this HCR bill!".


It is nothing more than a tautology to say that "on average, our schools are mediocre." Did you now that 50% of all children perform below average on academic tests? On the other hand, 50% of them score above average. Same thing applies for school performance measures. Half of all schools are going to be below average. Amazing, isn't it!

Apparently we will not be satisfied until we all have Lake Wobegone schools where "all the children are above average."

Sorry Rex, the Goldwater Institute has reported on this issue and report that a "review of all available scientific research found that some full-day kindergarten students fared slightly better in reading, writing and math in the first grade, but this advantage fades rather quickly. By the end of the third grade, students who had enrolled in full-day kindergarten performed no better in their classes than students who went to kindergarten for a half-day only (which Arizona is still funding). More recently, a study by the U.S. Health and Human Services Department released in January 2010 found that any benefits from Head Start pre-school classes disappear by the end of first grade. Simply put, all-day kindergarten, pre-school, and other early childhood education programs are not effective over time."
Again, simply put, it's a waste of time and money for these social welfare programs (gee--what a surprise). Many billions of dollars are continually wasted by the government trying to be "mommy and daddy."

Wow. What color is the sky in your America? Because the view of your America is a lot different than mine. I can't tell if this post is satire or you're serious.

In the America I see, income disparity between the richest and poorest is growing.

In the America I live in real wages for the middle class have been stagnant for the last 10 years and the war against working people is taking more casualties every day. Show of hands of people who have seen their income go down in the last year because of corporate and government mandated furloughs? One week of pay is roughly 2% of income. That 2% takes a much bigger bite out of someone living on the edge of solvency than it does someone living in "tall cotton."

In the America I live people with decent jobs have health care but the poorest have none except emergency rooms. Which we all end paying for through our taxes. But even those with health insurance are denied coverage on many illnesses and one trip to the ER can bankrupt a family. How can you explain working class and middle income folks going to places like India and South Africa for health care procedures when the richest in those places come here. The problem isn't quality of care. It's availability of care.

In the Arizona I live in the public schools are suffering at the hands of a state that believes public education is a waste of time but private schools are funded by state tax credits. Anyone remember Jack Harper's comment about public school teachers "feeding at the public trough." What more proof do you need that the legislature (with the exception of a few brave individuals) has no interest in supporting public education.

And while the poor do pay "virtually no income tax" it's made up for by the horribly regressive sales tax. Taxes and food and clothing impact the more a lot more than they do the rich (especially those who shop online and duck their sales tax).

The America you apparently live in seems like a pretty terrific place. Where did you find it and how did you get there?

America's "poor" are the richest "poor" in the world. Many, if not most, (almost all?) have a cell phone, a car, at least one color television and often two or more, a swamp cooler, if not air conditioning, food stamps, access to free healthcare, access to free education--shall we continue? Give us break, Editior. If you want to see real poverty, just go visit our neighbors to the south. Our "poor" are hardly in poverty. Are there individuals and families who struggle? Certainly; but let's not confuse America's "poor", who pay almost no taxes for the thousands of dollars worth of welfare and "free" stuff they get, with people in true poverty. You ought to get out and really visit the America you claim you live in. It really is a pretty amazing place.

Scott Gustafson,
You are ignoring state and local taxes. Also, the CBO numbers include things in 'income' like 401K matches, corporate income taxes, retirement benefits, etc. This is not the definition of income most would think of - market income, or income from wages, investments and the like. If you add in effective local and state taxes, which are regressive, and also include what we normally call income, then it is flat. So we have a regressive tax system but this is counteracted by progressivity in transfers which do go to lower income people. See Kentworthy - http://contexts.org/articles/summer-2009/tax-myths/


One state has public schools, that, on average, perform better than all of the other states.

Arizona schools need to improve by about 20% in measured academic gains to be the number one state in the nation.

Right now, Arizona public schools perform at about the national average.

We have a statewide avereage performance and a national average performance.

It would perhaps be a tautology, or at least stupid, to say that Arizona schools perform at about the Arizona average.

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