... And Another Thing: Empty words, tests, polls and GOP primaries

... And Another Thing: Empty words, tests, polls and GOP primaries

May 23rd, 2014 in Opinion Free Press

Lip Service

President Barack Obama, making his first public comment on the situation in two weeks, gave a wholly unsatisfying response Wednesday about allegations of misconduct at Veterans Administration hospitals. With the knowledge of a report that 40 veterans on a secret wait list died while waiting for care at a VA hospital in Phoenix, he had the temerity to begin one sentence with the words "if these allegations [of misconduct] prove to be true ... ." Mr. President, with all due respect, at least 40 people have died. Don't discount their lives or the lives of their loved ones by suggesting there is a possibility that everything is OK or that an investigation must be concluded to determine that something really bad is going on. Don't tell us it's "dishonorable" and "disgraceful" and that you "will not tolerate it." Your administration did tolerate it. No one knows for how long. Now be about the business of fixing it.

TCAP Confusion

Either TCAP scores are vital measures of students' achievement and need to be processed in a timely way, or they are not and do not. There's really no middle ground. When the Tennessee Department of Education said Wednesday it was unable to deliver on time the results of the comprehensive tests for the students in third through eighth grades because it first wanted to complete a statistical analysis, it affects not only students but teachers who are evaluated and schools that are measured for success or failure by such results.

So, for the 2013-14 school year, the TCAPs -- normally 15 to 25 percent of a student's grade -- will mean different things in different school systems. Some may add the grades when they come in, passing or failing a student who left school believing the opposite result was true. Some will apply it only to those on the borderline. Some want to think about what they will do. And Hamilton County said it would ignore the TCAPs altogether for the year. It's a perfectly understandable response when time and manpower are short. It also keeps the playing field level among those who took the test. But, if the tests are as important as the state makes them out to be, it could delay for a year the implementation of assistance for students whose results indicate a new or continuing problem.

Everyone concerned deserves better on this issue from Commissioner Kevin Huffman and assurances that nothing like this will happen again.

Believe At Your Peril

A Vanderbilt professor may be fooling himself and his audience if he puts much stock in a Vanderbilt Poll that found 71 percent of voters don't back giving the state Legislature more power to regulate abortion. "Overwhelmingly," the professor, Josh Clinton, said, voters "disapprove of that," though he said he didn't know how it would translate in November. That's when a question will be before voters on whether to overturn a 2000 state Supreme Court ruling that limited legislators' ability to place new restrictions on abortions. Whether or not the ruling is overturned, though, the state would remain under the same federal guidelines all states fall under regarding the procedure. However, it's likely Vanderbilt Poll respondents both knew little about the November ballot question when asked and, when told of it, had no idea what to make of it since pollsters are generally prevented from answering many questions so as not to skew the poll.

Not So Analytical Analysis

As this page predicted, analysts immediately jumped on the results of Tuesday's primary elections by declaring that "establishment" Republicans outperformed tea party insurgents. An Associated Press analysis printed in Wednesday's Times Free Press went so far as to say "nearly all Republican candidates ... have shifted rightward to stay in step with ardently conservative voters who helped create the tea party in 2009." The analysis somehow missed the point that many in the Republican electorate -- and many who voted for President Obama in 2008 -- are aghast at what the president's policies have done to the country and are looking for the best Republican candidates who might offer hope of stemming some of those problems. Democrats and left-leaning analysts would love to cast Republicans in the fall elections -- tea party candidates or not -- as extremists. But the farther left Obama tacks, the more palatable all Republicans look to the electorate.