Thursday, December 22, 2016

More Money For Schools Leads to Better Outcomes, According To Two Recent Studies

Posted By on Thu, Dec 22, 2016 at 1:57 PM

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Two recent studies take the topic of school funding and achievement head on, and they conclude that more money improves student achievement, and even boosts earning power after graduation. According to the studies, the results are strongest for children from low income families. It looks like "throwing money at schools," as critics like to typify spending increases, pushes students forward.

Results of studies on education are always worth questioning because it's so hard to run a controlled study. Children aren't genetically similar lab rats; every child is unique in nature and nurture. And you can't separate children into neat control groups and experimental groups. So researchers have to do their best to pull results from messy, real-world education data.

One group of researchers spent decades using a set of student data to "prove" that class size doesn't affect learning. Then another group of researchers took the same data set and created a convincing argument that lowering class size actually does improve student achievement. For years, education researchers on the conservative end of the spectrum have "proven" that you don't get any bang for added education bucks. When they're being more cautious, they say there's no evidence that increasing funding has any positive effects. Now, some researchers have created two high quality studies which indicate the opposite. Like all studies of this kind, the results aren't take-it-to-the-bank certain, but these are pretty damn robust. The two studies are summarized here, with links to longer discussions by the studies' authors.

The studies take advantage of the fact that since 1990, 26 states changed their school funding and 23 others left theirs alone. That allowed them to compare changes in student achievement in districts with increased funding to districts where funding didn't change.

The problem is, how do you compare student achievement? One group of researchers used the NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) exam which has been given to a national sample of students since the 1970s and is considered the most valid and reliable standardized test there is by educators across the political spectrum. The researchers were able to look at individual student scores in districts they were comparing so they could match up students who were similar in terms of race and income. The result was, student scores in districts with added funding increased more than those in districts where funding stayed the same.

If the authors have it right, more money for schools with low income students means a significant improvement in achievement.

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The Weekly List: 20 Things To Do in Tucson in the Next 10 Days

Posted By on Thu, Dec 22, 2016 at 11:21 AM

Your Weekly guide to keeping busy in the Old Pueblo.

Holiday

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Star Wars - A Holiday Special: Come the 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special on the big screen at The Loft Cinema and celebrate the season with the best space series ever. But what's better than space-themed holiday bash? The fact that said holiday bash is free. The Loft wants the Tucson community to enjoy a free evening of Star Wars. If you dress up as your favorite Star Wars character, you could win a super cool prize from The Loft. 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 22. The Loft Cinema, 3233 E. Speedway Blvd. Free, bring money for candy and popcorn.

Ballet Tucson's 'The Nutcracker': See the holiday classic that will enchant lovers of dance and laymen alike. Tucson's own professional ballet company will perform its annual production of "The Nutcracker" for three days only. With the spectacular scenes and dance ability, you don't have be a ballet enthusiast to appreciate this dance classic. Thursday, Dec. 22 - 7:30 p.m.; Friday, Dec. 23 - 3 p.m., 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 24 - 1 p.m. Tucson Music Hall, 260 S. Church Ave. $28 - 56.

St. Andrew's Episcopal Choir: Tap and Bottle is hosting a song-a-long with the choir from St. Andrew's Episcopal Church. Come celebrate the holiday season with this boozy, and yet, family-friendly musical event. 6 - 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 23. Tap and Bottle, 403 N. Sixth Ave. Free, bring money for drinks.

‘90s Christmas Eve Dance Party: Dance your little heart out at The Flycatcher for its Christmas Eve dance party with the hits from the 90s spun up by DJ Plastic Disease and E_Rupt. Don't forget to dress up in your favorite 90s fashion. 10 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 24. The Flycatcher, 340 E. Sixth St. Free, bring money for drinks.

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Nightmare Before X-Mas Party: Casa Video's film bar has made a name for itself as a great place to drink good beer while watching classically favorite films. For those last few hours of pre-Christmas and Hunannakh cheer, head on over to Casa for a family-friendly night of singing, boozing and Jack Skellington antics. 6 p.m. Friday, Dec. 23. Casa Video Film Bar, 2905 E. Speedway Blvd. Free, but you should buy a few drinks.

Winterhaven Festival of Lights: Tucson’s best-known holiday tradition wraps up its annual illumination of the season this week, so if you haven’t been out to experience what happens in a neighborhood full of Clark Griswolds, now’s the time. Take the stroll every night between 6 and 10 p.m. or brave the traffic on drive-through night on Monday, Dec. 26. Free, but bring a donation for the Community Food Bank in the form of cash or non-perishable food items. Winterhaven is north of Fort Lowell Road between Tucson Boulevard and Country Club Road.

Treecycle: Already thinking about the logistics of ditching your Christmas tree? The city has your back. Starting the day after Christmas and continuing through mid January, you can drop your naked, dying tree off at one of nine Treecycle locations throughout Tucson and Oro Valley. The city is mulching the trees, and will have free wood chips available at a few of their locations after Jan. 4.

Food & Booze

Prix Fixe with Roman Barten-Sherman: The tent and heaters are up, making the Coronet evenings nice and cozy. Think about doing a post-Christmas night out on Tuesday, Dec. 27 to listen to 13-year-old Roman Barten-Sherman give us some Delta Blues. Food for the night is a three-course dinner with wine, $48 for two people. Barten-Sherman has opened for the David Bromberg Quintet, Bobby Rush and John Mayall at the Rialto Theater and The Juke Joint Festival in Clarksdale, Mississippi, The Tucson Folk Festival, and Hotel Congress. His debut CD, Interstellar Blues was a 2014 KXCI top 40 pick of the year. 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 27. The Coronet, 402 E. Ninth St. $48 for two.

New Year's Eve at King Fisher: Need another idea for New Year’s Eve on the cozy side? Head over to a Weekly favorite. Kingfisher will be open for dinner from 5 to 11 p.m. (they are also open Christmas Eve until 8 p.m.) serving a special menu of favorite and specials. The Cochise County All-Stars featuring Amy Langely will perform from 7 to 11 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 31. Kingfisher, 2564 E. Grant Road.

Spend the Holidays at the Cup
: Another cozy idea is a place that always seems to be there when you need a restaurant friend. For us that’s the Cup Café at the .). Get in the spirit for Christmas Eve Dinner from 5 to 8 p.m. Tuna tartare, roasted NY strip with twice baked potatoes and Brussels sprouts with house-cured bacon and whole grilled branzino fish. Great choices. There’s also a Christmas Day brunch from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. There’s also a New Year’s Day Vegas Buffet brunch at the Copper Hall from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. $45 adults, $18 for kids and those 2 and under eat free. Chilequiles verde, fried chicken and waffles and crepes are a few of the things on the menu. Yum. Hotel Congress, 311 E. Congress St.

Cinema


Li'l Quinquin: A pair of bumbling small town detectives investigate a hilariously strange mystery involving murder, madness and farm animals in director Bruno Dumont’s one-of-a-kind comedy/thriller Li’l Quinquin. Catch a free screening of this French comedy/thriller next Friday, courtesy of the Loft. 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 29. The Loft Cinema, 3233 E. Speedway Blvd. Free.

Mad Max Fury Road Black & Chrome: Director George Miller has secured a place in many hearts with the majesty of Mad Max Fury Road. But, if Miller had his way, our whole Fury Road experience would have been different. Less colorful. Revisit the apocalyptic feminist hell dream in black and white, as it was meant to be seen at the Loft Dec. 30-Jan. 1. Times vary by day. The Loft Cinema, 3233 E. Speedway Blvd.

Lord of The Rings Movie Trivia: Look, it’s been a rough year. At least one actor or musician you appreciated died. There was the election from hell. Race relations took a turn for the worse. The Syrian civil war has led to the loss of so many lives. It’s not an easy time. Basically, we all need to channel Frodo and the other members of the Fellowship of the Ring: Do what we can to help those in need, stick together and endure. Spend your holiday weekend studying up by marathoning LOTR, then prove your knowledge via trivia night. 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 27. Casa Video Film Bar, 2905 E. Speedway Blvd. Bring money for beer.

Music

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Foxx Bodies: Foxx Bodies have all the ants-in-socks unrest of the best Riot Grrrl combos, the visceral rock 'n' roll spittle of vintage punk, and the feminist (humanist) punch of, say, author Naomi Wolf on a speed jive. Go ahead and try to escape the tragic lyrical hum in “Mercy Fuck” or the face-slap irony of “Rock Baby” or the familial terror of “The Trip.” More, their guitar-bass-drums-singer wallop is beautifully gnarly, yet melodic and concise, as if they’re banging it out in an empty garage—guitars reverberate, edges skate, vocals pierce. In fact, Tucson Weekly music columnist Josh Levine wrote recently that if Tucson has a 2016 “‘Band of the Year’ or ‘New Band of the Year,’ there's no contest: The four-piece punk band Foxx Bodies is easily one of the most exciting musical prospects to come out of this city in years.” Levine nailed it. With Pinion, Arizona’s father/daughter duo The Exbats, and local risers The Jagg. Thursday, Dec. 22 at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St. 8 p.m., 21+. Free.

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Blind Boys of Alabama: One can’t even imagine the racism a black singing group must’ve endured in the Jim Crow south in the 1940 and ’50s, particularly one armed with the gospel, and with some members handicapped with blindness. Well, that same combo scored their first bona fide hit in 1949, and eventually appeared on Broadway, earned Grammys, recorded for Peter Gabriel’s record label, and finally—after decades of hard nights and hard road, and holding steadfast to their timeless soul and gospel through myriad ugly trends in music—they became an American household name. Finally. All hail The Blind Boys of Alabama. See these spiritual uplifters while you still can. Thursday, Dec. 22 at the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St. 8 p.m. All ages. $29-$39.

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Connor “Catfish” Gallaher: As a sideman musician it’s really not odd to mention Connor Gallaher’s name in the same breath as pedal steel guitar greats like Buddy Cage, Ben Keith and Speedy West. He’s that good. In fact, his mournful lines buzz, hum and sting, and summon the kind of melancholy that makes goose flesh rise. This spindly kid with impeccable Byrds-era Gene Clark sense of style is an in-demand session man who has played on the most beautiful songs recorded in Tucson in recent years, including a few by Alpha Mule, Billy Sedlmayr, Gabriel Sullivan and Louise Le Hir. You can still maybe find him playing standard six-string in the too-ignored Myrrors, and The Night Collectors. Gallaher’s also a bit of a musicologist too, especially when it comes to country and psych and all things sonically glorious under wide southwestern skies. Hear him spin records, with an ear toward the holiday, at Maynard’s Late Night Happy Hour. Friday, Dec. 23 at Maynard’s Market and Kitchen, 400 N. Toole. 10 p.m. All ages. Free.

The Electric Blankets: Rising from shitkicker dust of the Provocative Whites and the Ghost of 505, The Electric Blankets kill it with a kind of mad Brit Invasion beatpound, dusty hypnotics, and good old alt-nation rock amped up on youthful urgency. Their “Dirty Prayers” is one of those songs anchored by a guitar hook and big chorus so persuasive it’ll invade your dreams against your will, and likely make them dirty. Band frontman Raul Michel has one of those rock ’n’ roll voices that pleads and commands with equal aplomb. They’re a force to be reckoned with on stage too. There’s that. With Rabbit Snare and the reunion of Tucson expats Faster Than Light. Wednesday, Dec. 28 at The Flycatcher, 340 E. 6th St. 9 p.m. 21+. Free.

Run-On: Sometimes something so minimalist is still difficult to unravel; such is the deceptively complex idea of less is more. But what we do know is Run-On Sunshine, the self-confessing lover(s) of “cats and sunshine,” plays a playful racket that’s been called guitar-free punk rock, which is really kind of an oversimplification. We mean, sometimes it might be instrument-free punk sung by a digit called Mullarkey, but overall it really isn’t punk rock at all, more like pure singsong pop distilled to its barest essentials, like a colorful, mad art project. Sometimes its propelled by sweetly toned voice and a perky toy keyboard and a punchy kickdrum, like on the deviously slinky ditty “You Probably Think This Song is About Your Cat,” which is way cooler than some boring ironic wink to Carly Simon. Then “The Call of Tempe,” with its cheap keyboard drone and girlish vocal, might make one actually yearn for the University town- turned open strip-mall, as well as all the lonely suburban burgs that surround it. Yep. With Ainsworth and Bigger Than Mountains. Wednesday, Dec. 28 at Tiny Town Gallery, 174 E. Toole. All Ages. 7:30 p.m. Free.

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Mantra: Glow in the Dark New Year’s Eve Party with XIXA: XIXA, the Gabriel Sullivan and Brian Lopez led combo, who not so long ago called themselves the less wieldy Chicha Dust, are just now beginning to headline theater-sized venues all over Europe, so loving is their overseas following—this after an Euro introduction by Howe Gelb and Giant Sand. Gelb aside, Bloodline, XIXA’s 2016 LP, can (lazily) be described as a cumbia-inflected psych, a sort of guitar-and-melody driven “Desert noir” that marries explosive rhythms (Latin and otherwise) with soaring refrains. The album has so far been criminally overlooked stateside, but not in Tucson. XIXA is bringing their show—in what could become a New Year’s Eve tradition—to the Rialto. Get yer tix, the show, which is billed as an all night, glow-in-the-dark cumbia party, will likely sell out. With DJ Dirty Verbs. Saturday, Dec. 31 at the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress. 9 p.m. $10-$50.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Laughing Stock: Open Mics are Free, Plentiful and Worth Every Penny!

Posted By on Wed, Dec 21, 2016 at 12:32 PM

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Asked how he sees his role in Tucson Comedy, Gary Bynum, owner of Laffs Comedy Caffé says, “I think just developing the local comics is important in the comedy scene in general. You have to start locally. Forty comics come every Thursday to open mic nights.”

Laffs, 2900 E. Broadway Blvd., has hosted open mics for 28 years. Bynum and his staff freely offer personal feedback based on their knowledge of what gets people out to see a professional comedian. If you pass muster at open mics, the club may offer you a guest slot opening for a nationally known comedian. That exposure could lead to other opportunities beyond Tucson.
The Laffs mic is the granddaddy, the pro, the three-minute set that can get an aspiring Tucson comic on the ladder to their dreams. There is literally no competition.

However, a whole lot of comics are competing for stage time, the more the better. Some have gotten busy creating free opportunities for themselves, their pals and anyone else who might enjoy a no-pressure opportunity to try out their comedy stylings. That’s lots more comedy for Tucsonans to see, if you’re out for fun and not looking for consistent high quality. Rarely, you may find someone crude. While nearly all regulars are sensitive to race, disability and animal-rights issues, a handful still struggle with representing women as people instead of, say, meat. Feel free to make your feelings known.

In the spirit of Giftmas, then, Laughing Stock(ing?) herewith presents you with the gift of free laughs throughout the month.

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'Classrooms First' Report. What It Means For Arizona Education

Posted By on Wed, Dec 21, 2016 at 8:31 AM

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Ducey proposes billions in new taxes to pay teachers! Oops, sorry, my bad. Wrong governor. That should read, [Washington State Governor Jay] Inslee proposes billions in new taxes to pay teachers. The Washington State governor wants to add $4 billion in taxes so starting teacher salaries can increase from the current $35,700 to $54,578. Meanwhile, our governor Ducey has been toying with us for the 215 days since Prop 123 passed, putting out teasers about raising education funding, but he hasn't proposed a penny, and it's unlikely he'll call for a significant increase in the upcoming state budget. He could surprise us, of course. But don't hold your breath.

One more thing. Before the $4 billion Gov. Inslee is proposing, Washington is already spending $2,500 more per student than Arizona.

Which brings us to the recently published final report from Ducey's Classrooms First Initiative Council. The main thrust of the document is to change the way we distribute money to K-12 schools. If we don't see a significant budget increase, the recommendations, if implemented, will create financial winners and losers. The amount each school receives will increase or decrease. If it stayed the same, why bother changing things? Inevitably, some schools will get a bigger slice of the pie, and others will have their slices cut a little thinner.

If the recommended redistribution becomes law, it will be the most significant change in the way money is given out to schools in decades. And if I read the report's recommendations correctly, and combine them with what I know Arizona conservatives have been advocating for years, school districts with lots of low income students will be the losers, while charters and districts with high income students will be the winners.

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Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Cinema Clips: La La Land

Posted By on Tue, Dec 20, 2016 at 4:39 PM


This is an all new, original musical from director Damien Chazelle (Whiplash) that is surprisingly low on melodrama while full of vibrancy, beautiful tunes, outstanding set pieces and a stunning sense of realism for a movie where the characters bust out singing. It’s the best “original” movie musical ever made.

The story follows wannabe actress Mia (Emma Stone) and jazz composer Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) as they try to make it in crazy Los Angeles. They meet, they don’t like each other much at first, but then they fall in love, which provides Chazelle and his performers ample opportunities for musical numbers that surprise at every turn. In what will go down as one of the year’s greatest scenes, the film opens on an L.A. traffic jam that evolves into a full blown dance number featuring many extras and top notch editing and camera work that make the whole thing look like one shot.

In a year when a lot of big blockbusters swung and missed, this relatively low budget venture delivers some of 2016’s best money shots. This solidifies Ryan Gosling as one of the best actors of his generation. He can wow you with insightful indies (Blue Valentine, Drive) and carry big budget blockbusters (the upcoming Blade Runner sequel … let’s hope it’s good). Now, with La La Land, he takes his game to a new level. He proves he can pretty much do anything when it comes to movie characters. He can sing with the best of them, he’s definitely no slouch when it comes to dancing and, by God, he sure can play the piano after a few months of intensive training for the movie (Those aren’t stunt hands playing the keys … those are Gosling’s).

Just like that, Gosling is a full bodied star of the musical genre. Emma Stone is a mind-blowing revelation. Stone doesn’t just make her mark with a beautiful voice and expert footwork; she embodies the character with the honest and almost tragic drive to “make it” in the business.

Decadence: A New Year's EDM in AZ with Personal and Communal Resonance, Starring Porter Robinson, Marshmello and Deadmau5

Posted By on Tue, Dec 20, 2016 at 11:38 AM

Porter Robinson live in Los Angeles. - ZION CROSBY
  • Zion Crosby
  • Porter Robinson live in Los Angeles.

If you’re seeking an artistically inspired way to end 2016, look no further than Decadence on New Year's Eve and the night before. Featuring all electronic artists spanning a wide array of genres and styles, Decadence goes down at the Rawhide Western Town and Event Center in Chandler, AZ.
A lineup star is Porter Robinson, a very young dude who has reimagined his sound and created an album that delivers a truly inexplicable experience. I saw Porter twice recently and both sets were extremely memorable, and not merely re-hashes of other artists' sounds.

A common EDM criticism is it isn’t poetic enough to allow individual interpretations; where as with, rock and folk songs many people relate to the lyrics on their own terms and thus have a relationship with the music only they can fully understand. Robinson creates in his live sets, and in the music itself, a kind of personal experience for each of his listeners; he manages to hit on emotional levels. Unlike most DJs, his music takes you on a journey visually and melodically, if you pay attention. Robinson is inspired by modern Japanese culture and blends tweaked anime vocal samples and beautiful animation. The effect is like a psychic rollercoaster that hits soaring peaks of joy and plummets to lows of sadness.

For those who dig the more typical, communal experience of the EDM scene, Marshmello is also playing a set. A spin-off of Deadmau5 (who is also headlining), Marshmello sports an LED marshmallow helmet and wears all white. His music has a lot of sugary synths and “mellow” rhythms that bring out the little kid in you. The hip-hop inspired beats are easy to dance to and he welcomes all to just let loose and join his "mellogang.” His messages of family, community and acceptance spread wide over his listeners as we dance together in circles and freely hug one another.

Just as Daft Punk and Deadmau5 once did, Marshmello conceals his identity and tries hard to keep it a secret in order to embody his messianic-y message that we are all Marshmello. He’s also suggesting anyone can be successful at something they love. One of his newest tracks, "Alone,” tells the story of how lonely he felt when he first left his hometown, and everyone he knew, to head out on tour. Marshmello eventually realized he wasn’t alone because he had all of his family with him. His family, of course, is us. See?

In a world where status and wealth divide us, Decadence strives to bring us together for a night of celebration, creative visuals and dance. It seeks to kick off 2017 in a joyous way. Friday and Saturday, Dec. 30-31 at the Rawhide Event Center, 5700 W North Loop Rd., Chandler, Ariz. 5 p.m. each day. 18+. For more info, go to decadencearizona.com.


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Monday, December 19, 2016

Out Of the Mouths Of Conservatives

Posted By on Mon, Dec 19, 2016 at 4:48 PM

COURTESY OF STATIC FLICKR
  • Courtesy of static flickr
Conservative talk radio loves to condemn the bias of the mainstream media. The hosts have persuaded their audience to ignore and discount any information coming from the MSM. The result is, the media has been delegitimized, the normal guideposts are down, the referees are discredited.

Of course I'd believe that, disliking conservative talk radio as much as I do. Naturally I'd blame them for harming our national discourse by demonizing the media. But I didn't say it. My first paragraph is a paraphrase from a column written by Charlie Sykes, a well known conservative talk show host from Wisconsin. Here it is in his words.
One staple of every radio talk show was, of course, the bias of the mainstream media. This was, indeed, a target-rich environment. But as we learned this year, we had succeeded in persuading our audiences to ignore and discount any information from the mainstream media. Over time, we’d succeeded in delegitimizing the media altogether — all the normal guideposts were down, the referees discredited.
It's a fascinating column from a guy like Sykes whose conservative credentials are impeccable. "I helped advance the careers of conservatives like House Speaker Paul D. Ryan; Gov. Scott Walker; Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee; and Senator Ron Johnson," he wrote in the column. He dislikes collective bargaining and is a staunch supporter of school choice. He and I have nearly nothing in common politically or ideologically. The only thing we share is a dislike of Donald Trump. And that's where his trouble began.

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Domingo Needs a Home

Posted By on Mon, Dec 19, 2016 at 1:04 PM

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Hi, I'm Domingo!

I'm a handsome 1.5-year-old boy and I need a new home! I was found as a stray, but I'm not letting that get my spirits down, I know I'll find a new home soon.

I love other dogs and love going on my daily walk. If you're looking for a fun, big dog to join your home I might be the perfect fit! Contact the Humane Society of Southern Arizona Main Campus at 327-6088 ext. 173 to check on my availability and exact location.

Lots of love,
Domingo (834695)

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