Downward educational spiral

Okay, it might not be quite as bad as FB and real friend Mike suggests, but he’s definitely onto something here in response to this article:

Wake facing out-of-state competition for teachers

Wake County (Raleigh NC) schools need to hire appox. 1,500 teachers for next year. Yet Houston Tx is holding a job fair in Raleigh to entice (poach) teachers to move to Houston where salaries are 20% higher. So, following the logic of the market place, Houston will pick the better teachers who apply, leaving Wake County with even more openings and a lower quality pool of teachers. The overall quality of this new cohort of teachers will be of lower quality than previous cohorts, giving the destroyers of public education (i.e., Republicans) more reasons to criticize the quality of public schools, justifying further reductions in pay, leading to an increasingly inferior cadre of teachers, justifying additional cuts, and so on. I read elsewhere that towns in South Carolina are poaching teachers from the Charlotte NC area because SC is actually paying teachers more than NC. It’s sad that a few years of GOP rule can undo 50 years of economic and educational progress.

Yep.  Though, I think the desirability of living in Wake County, NC versus Houston, TX works against this to some degree.  Nonetheless, so frustrating and depressing.  This is my county and the public schools my kids will be attending for 15 more years.


Photo of the day

Yesterday’s National Geographic photo of the day:

Picture of a sunrise from inside Cathedral Cove, New Zealand

Cathedral Cove

Photograph by Chris Gin

Sunrise lights up Cathedral Cove, an iconic spot near Hahei, New Zealand. The natural tunnel is part of the Te Whanganui-a-Hei Marine Reserve on the Coromandel Peninsula. It also served as a portal to Narnia in The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian.

IQ and the death penalty

The Supreme Court issued a ruling yesterday that basically says that since the SC has already held that states cannot execute the mentally retarded (official term of 2002’s Atkins v. Virginia) that it is ridiculous to simply say you can execute those with an IQ of 71 and above and not those 70 and below.  To anybody who has any understanding of IQ tests, or heck tests at all, and statistics, this hard 70 vs 71 cut-off is patently absurd.  Not so to the four conservative jurists who dissented (Kennedy is basically a solid conservative except when it comes to gays and capital punishment).  Great piece from Emily Bazelon on this:

Seven years after the Supreme Court clearly said the opposite (in the 2002 6–3 decision, by former Justice John Paul Stevens, in Atkins v. Virginia), the Florida courts held a hearing about Hall’s IQ score. He’d been tested nine times over 40 years. His scores ranged from 60 to 80. The court didn’t count the two lowest, leaving seven scores starting at 71. The Florida cutoff for “mental retardation” is 70 or below. So in the Florida courts, Hall lost his bid to escape execution by a single IQ point.

Here’s the problem: Experts on mental disability agree that the IQ test has a standard error of measurement of plus or minus 5 points. Florida’s cutoff doesn’t take this into account. At argument, Hall’s lawyer, Seth Waxman, said the state could use 75 as a cutoff, but not 70. From the point of view of a medical expert who studies or conducts IQ tests, this makes sense. By setting the cutoff at 70, Justice Kennedy writes, quoting the brief submitted in the case by the American Psychiatric Association, Florida “goes against the unanimous professional consensus.” Kennedy also notes that “Neither Florida nor its amici”—groups submitting briefs as friends of the court—“point to a single medical professional who supports this cutoff.” Also “the DSM-5 repudiates it.”

As Kennedy further explains, “the flaws in Florida’s law are the result of the inherent error in IQ tests themselves. An IQ score is an approxi­mation, not a final and infallible assessment of intellectual functioning.” He also puts it this way: “Intellectual disability is a condition, not a number.” Florida’s statute actually recognizes this reality, by also defining intellectual disability in terms of how a person functions. But the state Supreme Court has interpreted the law as treating the cutoff of 70 as final, once you score above it, that’s that…

This is, or should be, an easy case. There is a solid medical consensus. The Supreme Court paid heed to it. The court isn’t bowing down before psychiatrists or ascribing great enlightenment to them that they don’t have. But on this particular, relatively clear-cut question of measurement, Kennedy writes, “it is proper to consult the medical community’s opinions.”

This is anathema to Justice Alito, to a degree that seems misplaced…

alito writes. “Now, however, the Court strikes down a state law based on the evolving standards of professional societies, most notably the American Psychiatric Association (APA).” Pages later, he doubles down with this populist framing: “what counts are our society’s standards—which is to say, the standards of the American people—not the standards of professional associations, which at best represent the views of a small professional elite.”

Oh, those dreaded elites, otherwise known as scientists who know what they are talking about.

Ugh.  This is one of those 5-4 cases that depresses me that it’s 5-4.  Hall committed a pretty heinous murder, but is the concept of diminished moral culpability due to mental infirmity really so difficult for conservatives?  Apparently so.  Fry ’em all!

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