Sunday, July 31, 2005

Carnival of the New Jersey Bloggers Eleven


New Jersey has many different types of bloggers, covering more topics than I ever imagined possible. Previous hosts have organized posts alphabetically, geographically, randomly, and by methods I am unable to discern with my limited mental capacity. I am humbled by the efforts of my predecessors, and hope you will appreciate my own contribution as much as I have theirs. So now, the Carnival:

Jersey daily life
a common topic of blogs
across Garden State

A mother's nightmare:
sick kid, emergency room.
White hot Mommy rage.

Rob picks up a meme
and shares the things he misses.
Memories of youth.

Jersey City bound?
Public service announcement
from Dojo Mojo.

New Jersey heat wave.
Tigerhawk's saving power,
only four PCs.

Cobweb Studios
photoblogs around our state.
Drawbridge near turnpike.

Beer or Piscopo?
Sinatra in Hoboken.
Where is the remote?

New Jersey humor
always gives me a chuckle.
Thanks, Parkway Rest Stop!

Soul bits gone missing,
Center of New Jersey Life
hearing old music.

PDC Ryan
is taking the bar exam.
Almost a lawyer.

Mary is also,
and spends a difficult day
creamless, breakfastless.

Debbie Galant notes
Much Ado about Garbage.
Commenters abound.

Joe sounds so angry.
Irresponsible woman
needs to see a shrink.

Jeff at Buzzmachine
makes a clean break with the past.
No more AO-Hell.

Jersey miracle.
Hoboken housing project:
Jesus statue sees.

Nightfly likes movies.
Amadeus makes the cut.
A month of good films.

Bob takes care of pets
while Gina enjoys The Shore.
Cat psychology.

Precious appliance
almost burns down This Full House.
The art of toasting.

When it comes to dance
Tami can't get serious,
but Nietzsche sure could.

Internet quiz time.
Pictures not all that they seem.
Think helicopter.

Cell phone ICE
In case of emergency
contact your loved ones.

Dental fetishist
tries to hit on Gigglechick.
Results not pretty.

Jersey politics
generate conversation
and create a buzz

Dynamobuzz says
ex-New Jersey senator
not fit for prime time.

Newark Policeman
slain. Gangs in the streets: Why? How?
Professor Kim asks.

Monmouth County "club":
LittleSilvered likes it not,
but New York is worse.

Whom should Newark trust?
Enlighten New Jersey notes
Forrester leading.

Gymnasium costs
spiral uncontrollably.
Thirteen point eight mil!

Meanwhile, SCC
has blown all of our money.
RBM: "No more!"

Outraged at Abbotts,
New political blogger
is Assemblyman.

Home rule is not cheap.
Double-dippers make it worse.
G.D.'s solution.

Beach access ruling.
Time and tide wait for no man
at Opinion Mill.

Math not improved by
state education money
in Abbott districts

Town changes its name:
Belmar? No, it's Lake Como.
Map Quest does not care.

Millburn gets a clock,
Nancy and David get ad.
True philanthropy?

United States pols
get their share of attention
in the Garden State

Political Dogs:
"liberals under my bed"
summertime reading

Princess Tata gives
Vice Presidential advice.
Think he will listen?

Poetic Leanings:
Org chart for Republicans -
Dante's Inferno.

John Roberts Gay? No.
Not really. But maybe yes.
greeneggs explores it.

Sluggo skips his nap
to ponder religious tests.
Dems need to step back.

Enlighten ponders
Hillary, Condi Oh-Eight:
why not their last names?

Terrorism is
a problem for all of us.
Bloggers have their say.

Mary Madigan
Covers Muslim Brotherhood.
This is light posting?

Gigglechick transforms
Bag search opportunities
to story treatment.

New Jersey Transit
can't protect its passengers.
SloppyDawg tells how.

Sometimes food brings up
a conversational urge.
Here are examples.

Yummy baklava
from a Lithuanian?
Secret recipe.

Inadmissible idea!
Hondo wants your thoughts.

Red Snapper isn't
what you might believe it is:
Reptilian broth.

issues affect New Jersey.
We write about them.

Dead Russian spammer
got what was coming to him.
Jim says "Too badsky."

Ali Abdullah Saleh
can release a child from jail.
Sign the petition.

Is Saleh running?
Armies of Liberation
has the full story.

A treaty is passed.
"repeal ... all import quotas"
Fausta likes free trade.

Free trade book review:
Steve says, Ideal weekend read.
Would Friedman agree?

Nuclear power
lets China make hydrogen.
We need power plants.

The French have some gall
criticizing the shuttle.
Can't build a damn roof.

Summer is a time
to kick back and enjoy life.
Bloggers do it well.

Lazy July week.
Vacation doing nothing,
except barbecue.

Perfect Pink Sunday
(except the poison ivy)
pondering boyfriends.

Down at Ell Bee Eye
Shamrocketship drinks and tans.
Girls do a tough job.

courtesy of her husband,
Suzette learns new word.

Ocean County Fair.
Many photographs taken.
Bet the girls had fun.

Everything's All Right
Down the Shore
with Count Basie,
"the Kid from Red Bank."

Bradley Beach pictures
show "Down the Shore" in color.
Nice traffic photo!

Thanks for stopping in, reading this far, and not going insane in the process. Next week, the Carnival moves to The Center of NJ Life, hosted by Sharon. Post early, post often, and forward your links to

TTLB UberCarnival

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Carnival XI

Coming real soon now -- about two hours. I currently have 58 links, and would like to get two more. Come on, Jersey bloggers, help push me over the top!

New Jersey Weblogs

There's a new aggregator in town -- New Jersey Weblogs -- providing a feed of all the most recent Jersey musings. A must for any aspiring Carnival hosts.

h/t: Jim

Carnival coming soon to a blog near you

I'm working hard on
Carnival the eleventh.
Fifty-five posts linked.

Last Call for Alcohol Carnival Eleven

Hi folks,

As of this posting, thirty-four links are included in the Carnival. Some of you are slacking!
I'd like to post sometime late Saturday night / early Sunday morning, so please get your preferences to me as soon as you can -- mail them to


Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Federal Funding For Education

Enlighten New Jersey points out that Federal Funding For Education Soars, Results DonĂ‚’t, which leads me to follow up on my last post about educational performance. There, I showed that there was no relationship between average salaries, number of staff per student, and performance, yet there is significantly different performance between socio-economic groups.
How do we solve this problem? Enlighten offers an interesting, almost Swiftian solution:

Those schools producing results should maintain current levels of funding; those that don'’t should lose funding until results are achieved. Schools still not producing should continue to lose funding until they hit the same average per pupil spending rate as non-Abbott schools.
Could it work? Let's take a look at the correlation between federal funding and performance to see if there are any answers. We already know that there's a significant difference in performance between district factor groups, so to isolate that we'll look only in the worst group, DFG A.

Over the last three years, there are significant differences in federal funding between counties in DFG A, both in mean and variance. The analysis of variance shows that in Hudson county, the average federal funding per student was $398, while in Cape May it was $660, and that Cape May and Monmouth Counties had significantly more variation than the rest. (Note on the graphs: values outside the red lines are statistically significant differences from the overall mean, with the significance limits driven by sample size.)

The variation from year to year does not appear to be significant, so the differences are likely occuring between districts. The graph to the left shows federal funding per student for each of the districts in DFG A. Six districts are significantly different from the mean of $512. Asbury Park, Camden City, Wildwood, and Woodbine each receive around $800 per student, while East Newark receives less than $200 and Harrison falls at about $340.

Are these federal dollars making a difference? A plot of test scores versus federal dollars per student would be useful here. I've chosen the percentage of students rated as partial proficient (by district), which shows an interesting trend. As federal dollars increase, partial proficiency (i.e., failure) also increases. If we limit the sample to just those districts that are different from the overall federal funding mean, the trend line is essentially unchanged. Based on this data, I would conclude that there is some negative correlation between federal funds spent per student and student performance -- as federal spending increases, performance decreases.

Performance on standardized tests also appears to be related to both state and local spending per student, but not as strongly as with federal spending. State spending shows a similar increase in failure (partial proficiency) to the federal results, while local spending levels appear to drive the result in the other direction. I wouldn't call it conclusive proof, but this suggests to me that the best way to improve the performance of our schools is to get control of funding back to the local level, and get the state and federal governments out of the process.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Hosting the Carnival of the New Jersey Bloggers


I'll be hosting the eleventh annual monthly weekly Carnival of the New Jersey Bloggers this week. I'm challenging the New Jersey blogosphere to top last week, when at least 52 posts were mentioned. I'm challenging myself to actually read all of them and come up with something snarky meaningful to say. Please try to help by submitting your links early via

As of this posting, I have three entries. Get hot, people!


Update: Just checked the records in the Carnival email archives, and it looks like Fausta only had one link five days out. Looks like we may have a bumper crop this week!

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Carnival of the New Jersey Bloggers - X

Fausta has posted the latest Carnival of the New Jersey Bloggers at the Bad Hair Blog, and done her usual fine job of writing in the process. The bar has been raised once again.

Thanks, Fausta!

Next week, your's truly will be hosting the Carnival. I'm looking forward to the deluge of links y'all will be sending my way via

Educational Performance

A while back, Enlighten-New Jersey posted an interesting item comparing high school proficiency assessment (HSPA) data from four school districts. Their comparison of Newark and Camden ($15k per student, more than 1/2 not proficient in math or language) to Millburn and Cherry Hill ($11k per student, less than 10% not proficient) made me curious: are there any strong, statistically valid relationships between financial and performance numbers?

Conveniently, the State of New Jersey publishes an annual set of school report cards. Looking up a single school is easy, and the raw data is also available. This database is not for the faint of heart, however. 35 MB of MS Access await; if you choose to download, grab the zipped version. An Excel version is also available.

If you've ever worked with or designed large databases, you'd be appalled at what I found. There are no key fields, and no indices, in any of the 25 tables provided. The same values (County Code, District Code, and School Code) are repeated over and over to identify each row of data. Numerical values are stored as text in some tables. (In the Excel version, ALL values are stored as text). Field names are cryptic: the assessment table includes names like tap, map, fap, wap, bap, aap, nap, hap, oap, gap, sap, mgap, lap, and eap. Each of these contains advanced proficient percentages for a different subgroup of students. It is nearly impossible to use the power of database queries to analyze this data.

Fortunately, I've finally found some time to look at the data and pull out a few interesting comparative charts. I decided to start out looking at the elementary school Assessments of Skills and Knowledge (ASK3 & ASK4), Grade Eight Proficiency Assessment (GEPA), and High School Proficiency Assessment (HSPA). Enlighten had shown a wide gap in performance between pairs of Abbott and non-Abbott districts with strong negative correlations between spending and performance, and I wanted to understand whether or not these were just extreme examples of indicative of a trend. Instead of per-pupil spending, however, I decided to look first at the staff information that was available - administrator and teacher salaries and ratios per student. Each of the following graphs shows the relationships between student performance and one of the staff factors. Red indicates the percentage “partially proficient,” i.e., not proficient in the tested material.

Students per administrator

It’s pretty clear from this set of data that there is no difference in student test performance attributable to the number of administrators in the district. Any argument that a district “needs” more non-teaching positions to bolster academic performance should be opposed on the basis of this data.

Average Administrator Salary

Like the number of students per administrator, there is no clear relationship between administrator salaries and student proficiency.

Teacher Experience

Again, no very strong trends present themselves here. There is an interesting spike in failing grades at the top end of the scale, but statistical testing shows it is no different than the overall mean.

Teacher Salary

If you expected teacher salaries to have a strong relationship to overall student performance, you’d be wrong.

Student-Teacher Ratio

One of the standard claims made by the teachers unions, and many administrators, is that having fewer students per classroom improves performance. In the tables provided by the state, it’s a bit difficult to get at that number and relate it to performance. The Salary table I’ve been using here includes the ratio of students per administrator (field name dstad), and the number of faculty per administrator (field name dfacad), each at the district level. I’ve combined the two, dividing dstad by dfacad to arrive at number of students per faculty member. As you can see from the graph, there is no strong relationship between student-teacher ratio and performance. The spike at the high end looks interesting, but again is not statistically significant.

So what does correlate with performance? At a school board meeting a while back, our district superintendent told the board that research had shown the only factor that could be repeatably shown to relate to student performance was the economic means of the community in which they lived. New Jersey classifies school districts by District Factor Group (DFG), which indicates “the socioeconomic status of citizens in each district.” Based on US Census data, the factors include adult education levels, occupations, population density, income, unemployment, and the percent of residents below the poverty level. DFG is strongly correlated with student performance.

The districts chosen by Enlighten to illustrate the point about spending versus performance are typical for their DFGs. I’ve marked their 03-04 average for partial proficient students on the chart.

How can we solve the differences in performance between schools? I don’t have an answer. But the data tells me that adding staff, finding more experienced teachers, reducing class size, and paying teachers more will not solve the problem. The cause appears to lie in the socio-economic factors in the districts where we live. We have to stop throwing money at the problem.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Watch This Space

I've been working on a post about education on and off for about the past month. If all goes well, I should be able to get it posted in time for this week's Carnival.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Carnival Number Nine


Sluggo Needs a Nap hosts this week's Carnival of the New Jersey Bloggers, providing a visual and textual tour of our fair state.

The size of the carnival seems to grow every week, so by the time it comes around to me (in a couple of weeks) I don't know how I'll be able to handle it.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

School Project Costs

Delanco recently approved a referendum to pay for renovations to our middle school and an addition to the elementary school, anticipating growth from new developments. During the renovation of the bathrooms at the middle school, some unplanned work popped up as would be expected when gutting a 50-year-old bathroom. A pipe in the crawl space needed to be removed, since it was wrapped with asbestos.
This incident helps shed some light on why school projects cost so much. The project manager had to solicit bids for the removal of this pipe, which was a few feet long and no longer in active service. The total time on site for the winning bidder was about two hours start to finish. The bill: $6,100, plus another $2,000 to have the air quality tested after the removal.

Why did it cost so much?

  • Certainly not the labor to do the work - at a $100/hour it would take a week and a half to run up a bill that size.
  • New Jersey requires licensing of all asbestos abatement contractors. The renewal fee for such a license is $1,000. I'd bet the compliance costs are a lot more than that. Take a look at Monmouth University's Asbestos Management Plan to get an idea of the scope of regulations involved in this kind of work.
  • Asbestos liability is a huge unknown future cost -- Google the terms New Jersey asbestos lawsuit, and note how many law firm web sites pop up. Insurance against this liability has got to be astronomically expensive.
What can be done about it? My gut tells me that it's the insurance (and thus the legal) cost driving up the total here. The Congress is considering a bill (S.852), that would "create a fair and efficient system to resolve claims of victims for bodily injury caused by asbestos exposure." Several sites have more information, including The Asbestos Alliance and The Cato Institute. Go read up on the issue.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Life on the road

The 5 or 6 of you that visit regularly may have noticed that my posting frequency is way down lately. I wish I could say it was because of vacation, but I've been traveling a lot for work the last couple of weeks.
Last week, after scrambling all day Tuesday to finish a presentation, I caught an evening train to DC. The next morning, I pitched to my VP for half of a four-hour meeting, then caught the train back to Philly, hopped in the car and drove to eastern Connecticut to pick up my daughter from grandma's. Drove back home the next morning, then worked a half day. Friday was another scramble to get ready for this week.
As I write this, I'm in a hotel in Suffolk, VA. Stuck here for 3 days, plus another meeting in the DC office either Thursday or Friday.
Next week will be more of the same, and weekend blogging will also be tough since we are in the middle of painting the house. So, come on back and check once in a while, but don't plan your day waiting for Ken's next post.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Cripes, Suzette!: The Carnival of the New Jersey Bloggers #8

Suzette hosts this week's Carnival of the New Jersey Bloggers, and does a damn fine job of it, too. Quite a few new (to me) Jersey blogs, so lots of good reading to do today.
Unfortunately, my week has been ridiculously busy, so no Carnival for me despite Suzette's best efforts to get me to post something. Thanks, Suzette!

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Carnival of the New Jersey Bloggers # 7


Enlighten New Jersey is hosting this week's Carnival of the New Jersey Bloggers. Quite a wide range of topics this week, and well done as usual. It never ceases to amaze me how many bloggers (and how many different viewpoints) there are in our happy little state.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Thank You

At the President's request, I have prepared the following thank you letter.

To the sailors and Marines of the Kearsarge Expeditionary Strike Group:

This Fourth of July weekend, Americans all over the world will celebrate our liberty. We are able to celebrate that freedom because of the sacrifices borne by others. Most people remember the sacrifices of the founding fathers, who risked their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor to give birth to a great nation. Their tradition lives on today in you. You risk yourselves every day, whether in the heat of the Persian Gulf in summer or the frigid waters of Onslow Bay in the dead of winter. Thank you!

Usually, only your families visibly notice your absence; sometimes the local news will run a 30-second piece on your comings and goings. The fact that the major media does not notice your deployments is a testament to your skill and devotion to duty. You are always ready to answer bells when your country needs you. Thank you!

In his speech to the American people on June 28th, President Bush asked that we, as Americans, "“find a way to thank the men and women defending our freedom."” Your unique capability to project American power from the sea is critical to the nation'’s defense. I can think of no more appropriate group to thank than an Expeditionary Strike Group. I am proud of you, and can'’t thank you enough for the freedom that we Americans enjoy.
The Kearsarge Expeditionary Strike Group is currently deployed to Central Command in support of the Global War on Terror. It includes:

Commander, Amphibious Squadron Eight
USS Kearsarge (LHD-3)
USS Normandy (CG 60)
USS Ashland (LSD 48)
USS Gonzalez (DDG 66)
USS Ponce (LPD 15)
USS Kaufman (FFG 59)
USS Scranton (SSN 756)
26 Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable)
Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines
Marine Medium Helicopter (HMM) Squadron 162 (Reinforced)
MEU Service Support Group 26

If all goes well, my message will be distributed to the group, along with a link to this site. Add a comment to this post to express your thanks to them as well.