Thursday, March 31, 2011

Would schools and teachers encourage cheating? (Post #22)

Beginning April 5th, Galt High will begin taking the California Standards Tests for the 9th through 11th graders.  Our government uses incentives to encourage or discourage behavior.  Rewards (usually money) and punishments (fines, closings, and firings) are used.  For students historically, the test has no punishments and minor rewards.  This week, for example, some of you were invited to lunch with a teacher and some of you were let out of class early and given ice cream. This year, Galt High is offering a grade boost for high scores, but not for Fs.
Most incentives for the test affect schools and jobs.  Schools with low scores can be closed and Principals and teachers can be fired.  By 2014, the federal law dictates, 100% of public school students must be 'proficient' in math and reading. If not, a school can face replacement of its entire staff.
Some states and localities have rewards as well, including up to $25,000 bonuses for teachers with good scores and improvement.  So what are the consequences of high rewards and high punishments?
Schools in Washington D.C. have joined a list of schools around the country under investigation for irregularities in their testing on statewide standardized tests.  The claim is that cheating is occurring, including one teacher in Ohio who gave his class the answers to study before the test.  Read the article, so you have some basis to add to your answers.

Cheating already occurs among students on tests that affect their grades.

Does making a test count encourage more cheating?  For example, compare a practice test or CST before the grade bump to a normal in class test or a final exam.
What do you think the overall results of offering a letter grade increase will do to CST test scores?
Do all teachers do enough to prevent cheating?  Give examples if you know some.
If money were an incentive, would that make people work harder or just be more dishonest or both?
If you might get fired over low test scores, is cheating worth saving your job?
What then is the solution?  How do we get students and teachers and schools to educate and assess and care about the results?
Big question I know, but give it a shot.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Has the U.S. entered another Middle Eastern War? (Post #21)

Many questions have been raised since the United States began air attacks on Libya a week ago as part of a United Nations coalition. America turned the lead in the air strikes over to the U.N. Sunday night. President Obama will address the nation Monday night to answer some of the people's questions about our nations involvement in another foreign entanglement. The president's worst critics accuse him of an unconstitutional war and call for his impeachment while his supporters claim that the action prevented a massacre and will lead to eventual democracy. We are all feeling the effect of the disturbance in the form of rising gas prices. How do you feel about our military's involvement in another conflict? Can we afford the sacrifice of blood and treasure required to maintain our role as the moral police of the world? Or, is this a key key battlefield in the war on terrorism? Check the links for more information and respect others opinions when blogging.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Competition in the Telecommunications Marketplace (Post #20)

Most high school students have their own cell phone and by the time they are out on their own, practically 100% of you will be paying for cell phone service to some provider.  Many of you have heard that AT&T is purchasing T-Mobile for $39 billion in cash and stock.  T-Mobile has been owned by a German company that will receive a share of AT&T of less than 10% as part of the merger.  Currently Verizon ranks #1 in customers, AT&T #2, Sprint #3, and T-Mobile #4.  This merger will make AT&T #1 with Spring a distant 3rd.  The FCC and the department of Justice will review the sale and probably won't make a decision for 12 months.  Read the FAQ regarding what the merger means to customers.

What service, if any, do you currently have?
How do you think AT&T will benefit from the deal?
If the telecommunications industry is an oligopoly(market dominated by a few) already, what will be the effect of reduced competition?
What will be the effect on quality, service, and price in your informed opinion?
Why might the FCC and department of Justice block the sale?
AT&T claims that consumers will benefit from the merge.  Are there economies of scale (larger companies result in lower costs than smaller companies) in this industry?
Are you in favor of this merger? Why or why not?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Disaster in Japan, what effect on the economy? (Post #19)

As we are all aware, a major tragedy struck Japan over a week ago.  The loss of life, damage to property, and risk of radiation from nuclear power plants have been all over the news.  There are scarcities of water, food, and fuel in the impacted area for residents and rescue workers.  Additionally, Japanese stocks have fallen as industries have lost production. Japan is a major exporter in the region and that means less goods for other nations. 

Read and answer questions on any one of the links and stories below.  After answering them, include this question at the end: what could the U.S. could learn from this experience?

The cost of rebuilding will put burden on Japanese debt which is already one of the highest in the world.
Who will pay for the rebuilding in Japan?
How will Japan finance this debt?
Why do they already have such a big problem?

Production of energy is vital to operate a nation's industry.  With the loss of nuclear plants, Japan must rely more on natural gas and foreign petroleum.  This impact on foreign oil may affect prices throughout the world.
What affect could this have on the U.S. Economy?  Why?
Why would other nations look to buy Japanese yen in this situation?
How would we benefit from this?

The World Bank is an nongovernmental international organization whose purpose is to assist nations with loans.  They forecast a temporary slowdown of the Japanese economy, followed by a recovery.  Read the article on the link.
Based on the reading, explain in your own words how an economy's GDP could benefit from this situation?
Be specific to what is happening to Japan and how that relates to a nation's GDP.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

In Free Market We Trust? (Post #17)

Many of you have noticed that gas prices have inched up to $4.00 a gallon. This increase in gas prices may hamper the nascent economic recovery that is taking place in our economy and it comes at a time when oil companies are reeling in record profit levels.

The question becomes: should the government step in to regulate the price of gas?

A free-market advocate would argue that the increase in gas prices and the record profits of the oil companies are results of the finest aspects of capitalism. Oil companies are simply passing along the cost of the crises in the Middle East and consumers in America are not willing to adjust their lifestyles or purchasing patterns to keep costs down. Free market advocates would also argue that taxing oil companies or charging them a "obsessive profit" tax would undermine the incentive oil companies have to supply more of their product.

Regulators, on the other hand, would argue that since oil companies are making record profits at the expense of consumers who are tied into a car culture (inelastic demand?) that they cannot quickly change, the government should regulate. This regulation could keep the price of gas down while still allowing for a more modest profit for the oil companies. In this way, the government could also keep the modest economic recovery from falling apart.

Where do you stand? Regulate on oil companies or let the market take its natural course? Where do you think the major political parties stand on this issue?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

What are Your Plans? (Post #16)

Here is a survey of the economic terrain just three months before you graduate from high school:

The national unemployment rate dropped to 8.9% last week.

The California legislature increased community college costs $10 a unit, making a 12 unit semester cost $432 dollars. Costs and four-year colleges are escalating as well.

While the military offers various opportunities, you are obligated to serve for a specific amount of time and you may be sent to one of the several active war zones.

For profit private institutions such as Heald and DeVry are very expensive and have been under scrutiny by the federal government.

To summarize: the employment outlook may be improving while college costs continue to rise. The military, as usual, provides some opportunities but it also controls your time. What route do you see yourself taking and why? What are the opportunity costs and trade offs of your decision?

Where will you be one year from now?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

America and Libya (Post #15)

Libya is in the midst of a violent civil war with mercenaries from Africa are fighting the revolting citizens of that country. Kadafi is using bombers to try and take back lost ground while the rebels manage to hold on against unbelievable odds. Human rights are being stomped on by the dictator who seems to be in complete denial blaming the countries problems on Al Qaeda who he says drugged the populace to cause this uprising. Talk of american and U.N. intervention has begun. Should we, america, become involved to end human rights abuses and to oust the dictator? Should we stay out of the middle east and worry about issues here? As the worlds police force where do we stand? Please respect the opinions of others when you blog