Archive for September, 2006

Distorting the System

As part of my studies in the University of Dayton, I recently completed a wonderful book by Don Wheeler entitled Understanding Variation. The book is only 151 pages long, and is full of brilliant observations and theories. One of Wheeler’s points is that There are 3 Ways to meet a goal. 1. Improve the system. 2. Distort the system. 3. Distort the data. That is it. If you aspire to reach a higher target, those are your choices. Wheeler then proceeds to emphasize the importance of focusing on choice number one – improving the system. I was reminded of this point yesterday morning when I saw a television campaign that is currently being run by Dayton Public Schools. The campaign informs parents whose children attend Dayton Public Schools that an attendance “count week” is approaching soon, and that it is important to make sure children actually come to school that week.

Scott Elliot of The Dayton Daily News had this description of last year’s advertising campaign for count week in the November, 21st, 2005 edition of the paper.

The district is especially aggressive with advertising in advance of “count week,” the third week of October, during which the state uses attendance figures to determine enrollment. That enrollment figure is vital because the district receives state aid only for those students who attend during count week.

Here is the problem. Attendance is not measured daily, but on specific dates that are predetermined. Good attendance that week means a good score, although actual daily attendance the rest of the school year may be poor. A good score, which is likely to be a distortion of the system, means a better ranking. The resulting ranking, which is not likely to be accurate, yields more funding and a better public persona. In Dayton’s defense, more funding may actually help to solve some of the daunting issues facing Dayton Public Schools, and hence the motivation for the campaign. So based on the activity of one week, the school board can make the claim that it has improved the educational system, when in actuality it improved nothing but attendance on one specific week, which it needed paid advertising to achieve. To summarize this is a group of public officials, going on the public airwaves, using public funds, to advertise an attempt to distort the educational system looking for parents to buy into the plan. In 2005 Dayton Public Schools spent over $150,000 in television advertising. What if that $150,000 went to pay for college scholarships for graduates of the Dayton Public School System? What do you think that would do to attendance? Would it encourage students to come for more than just a week?

Instead of talking about the success they have made in improving the schools, they are asking for people to participate in a lie. Instead of selling the the lifetime value of education that comes from sending children to school every day, they are peddling a myth. Something about that just does not sit right with me. Let me be clear that I would love to see Dayton Public Schools score well. I firmly believe that strong schools benefit everyone, and as someone who works in Dayton, I help to pay for them too. However I think we should expect more from those charged with educating children than a public display of a distortion of the educational system. Time, money, and effort would be better spent on Wheeler’s choice number one – improving the system everyday.


Jack Johnson Music Video Gallery

Jack JohnsonJack Johnson is one of my favorite musicians. He writes simple, melodic songs that are meaningful, beautiful, and thoughtful. Periodically, I will stop by his site, to see what Jack is up to, and to find out when his next project will be released. I recently discovered a new section on the site containing a collection of Jack’s music videos. There are several to choose from, including Flake, Taylor, Sitting Waiting Wishing, Upside Down, and even an SNL parody of Jack called JJ Casuals. Many of the videos feature live audio of Jack and company jamming, and are worth a look (and a listen). For those of you who enjoy Jack Johnson’s music, the new video collection is something you will want to see.

Jack Johnson Music Video Gallery

Are you LinkedIn?

If you believe it is true that it’s not what you know, but who you know that counts, than you need to check out LinkedIn. My friend Doug Dockery invited me to LinkedIn a while back. I went ahead and created an account, but really did nothing more with it. Yesterday, they sent me a reminder email, and I decided to take a closer look at the service. I was really impressed, and proceeded to invite several of my colleagues and friends to join my network. Granted, I am waaayyy behind the early adoption curve on this one, but still I think there might be many out there who have never heard of it. LinkedIn is a professional networking site that puts you in contact with your friends and colleagues, their friends and colleagues, their friends and colleagues, probably Kevin Bacon, probably his friends, and then puts them all in touch with you. Truly a valuable resource for anyone in business today. Getting set up is simple and takes only a few minutes. Give it a look for yourself.

Welcome to LinkedIn

The Shoes Do Say Something About The Man

StarburyLast week my friend and co-worker D Wade stopped by the cube to tell me all about Steve and Barry’s. He was excited because Steve and Barry’s is an athletic apparel retail chain with a remarkable story, one that is easily retold and meaningful – one which he wanted to tell me. The company grabbed his attention by developing a basketball shoe with NBA star Stephon Marbury that will retail at $14.98 and will only be available in Steve and Barry’s stores across the country. The impetus behind this “Starbury” movement is, in the words of Stephon Marbury, “not about taking from the rich,” but rather “about looking out for those who aren’t.” Steve and Barry’s, by creating this shoe, started a conversation between 2 over 30 white guys, living the dream in cubical land, about Basketball shoes. How? By looking at the marketplace, identifying a problem, and developing a unique solution. I have a great deal of respect for Stephon Marbury and his involvement in this project. Perhaps the shoes do say something about the man. “Maximum Shine for Minimum Expense.” A great concept and a great story that begs to be shared.

Welcome to Steve & Barry’s

Where does your tax money go?

MoneyI am a huge fan of graphs. They make information so much easier for my feeble brain to digest. Well done graphs provide context that sheer numerical information simply can not. With that, I feel compelled to share an incredible graphical depiction of the Federal Budget. Want to see a high level picture of where your tax money is being spent? Check it out for yourself at Death and Taxes. Of note, check out the visual depiction of the National Debt. At a staggering 9.35 Trillion Dollars, it does not even fit in the box with the rest of the items. Thanks to BoingBoing for pointing me to this.

Death and Taxes: A Visual Guide to Where Your Federal Tax Dollars Go

Google Adds Tabs To Personalized Homepage

googleI love the personalized Google Homepage. It allows you to add content to the familiar stark white Google home page. I use it to see the weather, view my calendar, and preview incoming Gmail messages. The personalized homepage has many other great modules. However the problem I have faced is that by adding modules, the page just gets too busy. One reason Google is great is that it is such a clean site. So up until today I had to constantly resist the temptation to add Magic 8 Ball, Pac-Man, Dilbert, CNN, The Economist, Seth Godin, a timer, WMUB, WYSO, and other interesting modules to my personalized Google page. I chose to avoid the clutter and kept my Google pretty clean, but I was missing out on all that cool content. Today, my problem has been solved. Google has added tabs to the Personalized Homepage. “So What?” you say. “Why is that cool?” you wonder. Well, now I can load up all my favorite modules into individual pages, keeping my Google homepage clean, while still giving me access to all the fun toys I love. Now I can create multiple tabbed pages for National News, Local News, Blog Feeds, Games, Gadgets, Music, and more. This addition changes Google from a page, into a truly customized site containing all the content I seek and organized in any format I choose. I just discovered this today, and I am not sure if this has been around for a while or not. Have you seen this? What is your impression? How will you use this functionality? Thanks Google for making the things I like even better.