Tom Bloch on Charter Schools

Question: What role should charter schools play in our system?

 

Tom Bloch: I think charter schools are a very, very important development in this country. I don’t wish to imply that they are a panacea, because there are good and there are bad charter schools. But I think for the first time in our nation’s history, in the urban core of most cities around the country, parents now have a choice of schools for their children. This is a very powerful concept for a parent to have the ability to be empowered to choose a school for their child gives them a great opportunity.

And the expression ‘a rising tide lifts all boats,’ is exactly what is happening, I think, in many urban areas around the country where charter schools are succeeding and what happens is they create a sense of competition in public education, and by creating this competition, parents will choose the best school for their kids, and government funding follows the child. So if a student transfers from a district school into a charter school, that state funding follows the kid to that new school. So, in other words, it puts a sense of pressure on all schools to do well so that they can compete successfully for students.

 

Question: How do KIPP schools fit?

 

Tom Bloch: I’ve heard wonderful things about the KIPP Schools [Knowledge Is Power Program Schools], and we now have a KIPP School in Kansas City, so it’s a charter school in our hometown. And I remember someone said to me, “Aren’t you a little concerned now, there is a KIPP School coming in to the market? Maybe they’re going to be so successful they’re going to compete and succeed in attracting some of your students to their school.” And my reaction was, “That’s great! This is what we need … we need better schools that are going to be formidable competitors, to us and others, because that will keep us on our toes. If there is a school down the street that’s doing a better job than we are, it tells me we better do something to improve our school.” So that, to me, is just exactly the kind of situation we need in every urban environment throughout our country.

 

Recorded on: October 13, 2008

 

Tom Bloch says charter schools provide a new level of choice for families.

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First off, let's be clear what we mean by "hear" here. (Here, here!)

Sound, as we know it, requires air. What our ears capture is actually oscillating waves of fluctuating air pressure. Cilia, fibers in our ears, respond to these fluctuations by firing off corresponding clusters of tones at different pitches to our brains. This is what we perceive as sound.

All of which is to say, sound requires air, and space is notoriously void of that. So, in terms of human-perceivable sound, it's silent out there. Nonetheless, there can be cyclical events in space — such as oscillating values in streams of captured data — that can be mapped to pitches, and thus made audible.

BepiColombo

Image source: European Space Agency

The European Space Agency's BepiColombo spacecraft took off from Kourou, French Guyana on October 20, 2019, on its way to Mercury. To reduce its speed for the proper trajectory to Mercury, BepiColombo executed a "gravity-assist flyby," slinging itself around the Earth before leaving home. Over the course of its 34-minute flyby, its two data recorders captured five data sets that Italy's National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF) enhanced and converted into sound waves.

Into and out of Earth's shadow

In April, BepiColombo began its closest approach to Earth, ranging from 256,393 kilometers (159,315 miles) to 129,488 kilometers (80,460 miles) away. The audio above starts as BepiColombo begins to sneak into the Earth's shadow facing away from the sun.

The data was captured by BepiColombo's Italian Spring Accelerometer (ISA) instrument. Says Carmelo Magnafico of the ISA team, "When the spacecraft enters the shadow and the force of the Sun disappears, we can hear a slight vibration. The solar panels, previously flexed by the Sun, then find a new balance. Upon exiting the shadow, we can hear the effect again."

In addition to making for some cool sounds, the phenomenon allowed the ISA team to confirm just how sensitive their instrument is. "This is an extraordinary situation," says Carmelo. "Since we started the cruise, we have only been in direct sunshine, so we did not have the possibility to check effectively whether our instrument is measuring the variations of the force of the sunlight."

When the craft arrives at Mercury, the ISA will be tasked with studying the planets gravity.

Magentosphere melody

The second clip is derived from data captured by BepiColombo's MPO-MAG magnetometer, AKA MERMAG, as the craft traveled through Earth's magnetosphere, the area surrounding the planet that's determined by the its magnetic field.

BepiColombo eventually entered the hellish mangentosheath, the region battered by cosmic plasma from the sun before the craft passed into the relatively peaceful magentopause that marks the transition between the magnetosphere and Earth's own magnetic field.

MERMAG will map Mercury's magnetosphere, as well as the magnetic state of the planet's interior. As a secondary objective, it will assess the interaction of the solar wind, Mercury's magnetic field, and the planet, analyzing the dynamics of the magnetosphere and its interaction with Mercury.

Recording session over, BepiColombo is now slipping through space silently with its arrival at Mercury planned for 2025.

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