Big data is coming to education; the next step is figuring out how to use it

OETC:

Big data is coming to education; the next step is figuring out how to use it.

Horace Dediu is an expert at using big data to understand technology’s accelerating development. He has been interviewed by Forbes, Fortune, and various other news sources as an Apple expert, and his independent blog, Asymco, is filled with facts and data regarding mobile communication products and the companies that create and sell them. Dediu’s model is the opposite of that of most analysts: he charges for his opinions but offers all of his data for free. On November 7 at Impact Hub, Dediu will share both data and opinions with educational leaders at SPARK Seattle 2014.

With the upcoming educational leadership event in mind, we conducted a brief personal interview with Dediu. Read the full interview below!

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: the Midwest Declines while the South Rises

Aaron Renn:

This is an absolute blowout, with a massive amount of red on the map showing areas to which Chicago is actually losing young adults. Honestly, this only makes sense given the well known headline negative domestic migration numbers for Chicago.

I do find it interesting that there’s a strong draw from Michigan. Clearly Michigan has taken a decade plus long beating. There’s been strong net out-migration from Michigan to many other Midwestern cities during that time frame, and its the same in Cleveland, which also took an economic beating in the last decade. This is just an impression so I don’t want to overstate, but it seems to me that a disproportionate number of the stories about brain drain to Chicago give examples from Michigan. Longworth uses the examples of Detroit and Cleveland. These would appear to be the places where the argument has been truly legitimate, but that doesn’t mean you can extrapolate generally from there.

What’s more, even if a young person with a college degree does move to Chicago from somewhere else, will they stay there long term? They may circulate out back to where they came from or somewhere else after absorbing skills and experience. It’s the same with New York, DC, SF, etc. I’ve said these places should be viewed as human capital refineries, much like universities. That’s not a bad thing at all. In fact, it’s a big plus for everybody all around. Chicago is doing fine there. But it’s a more complex talent dynamic than is generally presented, a presentation that does not seem to be backed up by the data in any case.

Related: Madison’s planned property tax increase.

California Superintendent of Public Instruction Candidates

KCRW

A surprise for California voters: the hottest race in next month’s statewide election is for Superintendent of Public Instruction, a nonpartisan office with limited powers. Incumbent Tom Torlakson and challenger Marshall Tuck embody both sides of the national conflict over public education—which has made for a close race. We’ll talk to them both about teacher tenure, standardized testing, and John Deasy, former Superintendent of the LAUSD.

Getting the IT education you need without the debt: Could studying abroad be the answer?

Andrada Fiscutean:

Students who want to dodge the tens of thousands of euros in fees and living expenses that come with getting a degree in IT might want to consider Romania.

Landing a good job in technology often means spending several years at university, and racking up a huge bill. However, there are ways to cut the cost of education, including studying abroad. Romania, Europe’s software development powerhouse, could prove a cheaper option worth considering: fees are only a fraction of those found in the UK or US, and a student with a part-time job can break even at the end of the year. Student essentials, too, are wallet-friendly: students at Bucharest’s campus Regie can land themselves a large pizza for a mere €3, for example.

Compare and contrast to monolithic K-12 models.

Teaching to the Authentic Assessment

Barry Garelick, via a kind email:

Back in September, when I was doing my sub-assignment for the high school, I attended a math department meeting the day before school began. Sally from the District office presided, and among the many things she told us at that session was that this year the students in the District would not have to take what is known as the STAR test, by order of the superintendent of the District. “And as you know, the Superintendent is like the Pope. What he says goes.”

While this last was uttered partly in jest, the reaction in the room was celebratory. The STAR exam has been an annual ritual in California and in May of each year about two weeks are devoted to a review and prep for this test, which is keyed to California’s pre-Common Core math and English standards. Such activities inspire accusations that schools are “teaching to the test”. But now in the midst of a transition to implementing Common Core math standards, California was looking at the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) exam that would be given officially starting the following school year. (Actually, they don’t call it an exam; they call it an “assessment”. You’ll forgive me if I call it an exam.) For now, however, the state would be field testing the exam. What this meant was anyone’s guess: perhaps this first go-round on SBAC would be to provide a baseline to see how students scored prior to full implementation of Common Core. Or perhaps it was to fine tune the questions. Or both. Or neither.

In any event, when I started my new assignment at the middle school, I had to have my classes take a practice SBAC exam. The day before I was to take all my classes into the computer lab for the practice exam, I attended an after-school faculty meeting.

I had started my assignment at the school earlier that week, so the principal introduced me to the group. I was welcomed by applause, and urgings by fellow teachers to help myself to the tangerines that were brought in for the occasion. I took two tangerines, and as if he were taking that as his cue, the principal started the discussion.

Better Ways to Teach Teens to Drive

Sue Shellenbarger:

It’s one of the most dreaded rites of child-rearing—teaching a teenager to drive.

Many parents are riding shotgun with their teens for 40 hours or more to provide the supervised practice required to get a driver’s license in most states. Most do a good job of teaching steering, parking and controlling the car. Parents are not so good, however, at teaching the skills young drivers need to actually avoid accidents, according to new research. Now, there are new techniques and even guides that have grown out of new scientific research into the parent-child dynamic in the car.

Suzy Hoyle of Wallingford, Pa., has taught two of her three children to drive. “It’s a scary ride,” she says, “but I think it’s very important they gain confidence and learn that they can do it.” She has picked up tips from friends (have your teen drive on snow, stash the cellphone in the glove compartment) and refrained from criticizing her daughter Ashley, now 18, when she hugged the right shoulder, uncomfortably close to several trees.

New Tool for Children With Speech Errors

Sumathi Reddy

It is one of the most common and hard-to-fix speech errors: making the “r” sound.

Researchers and speech therapists say the use of an unlikely tool—an ultrasound probe—could help children who have difficulty saying the letter “r” correctly. Instead of red, these children might say wed. Or buhd instead of bird.

About 10% of preschool children have some sort of speech or sound disorder, experts say. Many children naturally outgrow these, or get help correcting the problem with conventional speech therapy. But when the problem is pronouncing “r,” speech errors can persist; studies have estimated that 2% to 3% of college-age people still have trouble with the sound.

Madison’s monolithic K-12 model, costs more & does less while the world races by…

Kevin Roose interviews Wisconsin native Marc Andreesen:

But let’s just project forward. In ten years, what if we had Math 101 online, and what if it was well regarded and you got fully accredited and certified? What if we knew that we were going to have a million students per semester? And what if we knew that they were going to be paying $100 per student, right? What if we knew that we’d have $100 million of revenue from that course per semester? What production budget would we be willing to field in order to have that course?

You could literally hire James Cameron to make Math 101. Or how about, let’s study the wars of the Roman Empire by actually having a VR [virtual reality] experience walking around the battlefield, and then like flying above the battlefield. And actually the whole course is looking and saying, “Here’s all the maneuvering that took place.” Or how about re-creating original Shakespeare plays in the Globe Theatre?

Latest spending increase plans while long term disastrous reading results continue.

Cost Disease.

And, a focus on adult employment.

New Jersey teacher Union implosion, irrelevance or evolution?

Laura Waters:

Last Thursday, the New Jersey Senate Education Committee heard testimony on Sen. Teresa Ruiz’s new charter school bill. One of the lobbyists there was New Jersey Education Association President Wendell Steinhauer and as he approached the podium you couldn’t help but feel sorry for the guy. This well-spoken and diplomatic head of NJ’s primary teachers’ union was in a bind, compelled to triangulate between NJEA’s historically consistent support for these independent public schools and a swelling rebellion within union ranks demanding a more combative stance against charters.

Indeed, teacher union leaders like Steinhauer are in an increasingly difficult position. For over a century political alliances have been easy and predictable: teacher unions were umbilically tied to the Democratic Party and, really, moderates of any ilk. But suddenly a more radical faction is forcing union leaders to shift from that safe center and, as Steinhauer did Thursday, testify against sensible updates to charter-school law and other reforms.

UK Teacher “Initiativeitis”

Tristram Hunt

alk to any teacher and they will tell you the chief frustration with their job is workload. The relentless churn of initiative-itis from this government has seen the workload of the average primary and secondary classroom teacher increase by nine hours and six hours a week respectively.

This is what happens when you announce curriculum changes overnight. Change marking criteria on a whim. Shift grade boundaries by diktat. And wilfully denigrate the professionalism of teachers.

Event: Breakthroughs in Education and Social Mobility Research: Isabel V. Sawhill

American Institute for Resaerch, via a kind email:

For low-income and minority students, education is the key to success and upward mobility. But evidence has shown in past decades that education has not been acting as the Great Equalizer. The Breakthroughs in Education and Social Mobility Research speaker series brings to light the most promising research illuminating the educational pathways to upward mobility. The series features some of the nation’s top scholars who are uncovering innovative and insightful evidence about what inhibits and enhances mobility.

The series will contribute to a new synthesis of findings informing education and social mobility policy and practice in the coming years. This goal is aligned with the long-term mission of the Equity Project at AIR, which is to work with others to open the doors of opportunity for all children and young adults. Please join us in welcoming our first speaker, Isabel V. Sawhill.

This Free App Uses Your Smartphone’s Camera to Do Your Math Homework for You

DL Cade:

Your smartphone’s camera might fall short of the typical DSLR in just about every respect, but there is one thing it now do that not even your ultra-portable mirrorless camera can handle: your math homework.

No, we’re not talking about shutting down the camera and opening your calculator app, what we’re talking about is PhotoMath, a new app from MicroBLINK that uses your smartphone camera to solve equations for you.

Either a great study aid, or a terrifying new cheating tool that teachers the world over will now have to contend with, PhotoMath is no slouch. Check out the demo below if you don’t believe us:

Elections, Rhetoric & Madison’s Planned $454,000,000 2014-2015 Budget That Features a 4.2% Property Tax Increase

Molly Beck:

Mary Burke faces a key vote on the Madison School Board on Monday a week before the gubernatorial election: whether or not to back a $454 million budget that raises taxes and delivers a 1 percent base pay raise to teachers.

Burke, challenging incumbent Gov. Scott Walker in a tight race, declined Tuesday to say how she’d vote. But she pointed out to reporters that she voted against a preliminary version of the budget that included a smaller tax increase than the final proposal to be voted on Monday.
“We did have a preliminary budget earlier that had a similar type of tax increase and I voted against it because I thought it wasn’t being as responsible as we need to be to the taxpayers in Madison,” Burke said Tuesday before casting an early ballot for the Nov. 4 election. “Certainly that issue will come up Monday night.”

If she backs the budget, she risks giving ammunition to Walker and other Republicans in a race that is going down to the wire.

Much more, here.

2014-2015 Madison School District budget notes and links.

For More Teens, Arrests by Police Replace School Discipline

Gary Fields & John Emshwiller:

A generation ago, schoolchildren caught fighting in the corridors, sassing a teacher or skipping class might have ended up in detention. Today, there’s a good chance they will end up in police custody.

Stephen Perry, now 18 years old, was trying to avoid a water balloon fight in 2013 when he was swept up by police at his Wake County, N.C., high school; he revealed he had a small pocketknife and was charged with weapons possession. Rashe France was a 12-year-old seventh-grader when he was arrested in Southaven, Miss., charged with disturbing the peace on school property after a minor hallway altercation.

In Texas, a student got a misdemeanor ticket for wearing too much perfume. In Wisconsin, a teen was charged with theft after sharing the chicken nuggets from a classmate’s meal—the classmate was on lunch assistance and sharing it meant the teen had violated the law, authorities said. In Florida, a student conducted a science experiment before the authorization of her teacher; when it went awry she received a felony weapons charge.

Madison Plans 4.2% Property Tax Increase

Molly Beck:

The Madison School District property tax levy would increase by 4.2 percent under the district’s final budget proposal.

That’s up from a 2 percent increase contained in the district’s preliminary budget approved in June.

The final 2014-15 district budget, which must be adopted by the School Board by Nov. 1, also includes a slight bump in the salary increase district staff were expecting this school year.

If approved, teachers will see a 1 percent raise in their base pay for the 2014-15 school year, a slight increase from the 0.75 percent increase the preliminary district budget included when it was adopted by the School Board in June. The salary increase is in addition to increases staff receive based on their level of education, training and years spent teaching, which brings the total increase to about 2.4 percent, according to assistant superintendent for business services Michael Barry.

Madison spends more than $15k annually per student, about double the national average. Yet, the District has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

A comparable Middleton home’s property taxes are 16% less than Madison.

American Schools Are Training Kids for a World That Doesn’t Exist

Davud Edwards:

Are Americans getting dumber?

Our math skills are falling. Our reading skills are weakening. Our children have become less literate than children in many developed countries. But the crisis in American education may be more than a matter of sliding rankings on world educational performance scales.

Our kids learn within a system of education devised for a world that increasingly does not exist.

To become a chef, a lawyer, a philosopher or an engineer, has always been a matter of learning what these professionals do, how and why they do it, and some set of general facts that more or less describe our societies and our selves. We pass from kindergarten through twelfth grade, from high school to college, from college to graduate and professional schools, ending our education at some predetermined stage to become the chef, or the engineer, equipped with a fair understanding of what being a chef, or an engineer, actually is and will be for a long time.

We “learn,” and after this we “do.” We go to school and then we go to work.

In Context: The big business of high school sports

Marketplace:

Illinois based-Paragon Marketing Group is working on a deal to bring high school football to a national audience. The group – which brought LeBron James’s high school basketball games to TV – is currently in negotiations with several states and ESPN to bring some type of high school football playoff to television. ESPN wouldn’t comment on the negotiations, with Paragon saying the talks are ongoing and private.

Yet, at least one contract between Paragon and one of the states it’s working with has been made public: Florida officials have agreed to let two state high schools participate in such a playoff each year.

Paragon Marketing Group will pay the Florida High School Athletic Association $10,000 each year for allowing the state’s schools to participate in a national playoff or bowl series. If two or more teams from Florida are picked to participate by Paragon, the Florida High School Athletic Association would receive $40,000.

Meanwhile, Florida high schools participating in a playoff will receive $12,500 for appearing in the game, and another $25,000 in merchandising fees. Paragon Marketing, the group organizing the event has until October 31st to cancel a playoff or high school bowl series this year, according to the contract the team signed with Florida.

School Standards Rebellion

Stephanie Simon:

Florida students no longer need chemistry, physics or Algebra II to graduate from high school. Texas just scrapped its Algebra II requirement. And the Washington state board of education last month reversed its own resolution calling for a foreign language mandate, over concerns that it appeared too elitist.

A standards rebellion — or in the eyes of the opponents, the dumbing down of America — is sweeping red states and blue, promoted by both Republicans and Democrats. President Barack Obama has called for a rigorous college-prep curriculum for all students. States, however, are responding with defiance: They’re letting teens study welding instead of Spanish, take greenhouse management in place of physics and learn car repair instead of muddling over imaginary numbers.

It’s a cold, hard fact: our world is becoming a better place

Max Roser:

Is it actually true that we are building a better world? Or are those who claim that things are always getting worse the ones in the right? Whether we’re discussing the way of the world over a pint in the pub or dissecting the issues at an academic conference, it’s a topic that lingers constantly: how is the world changing?

The evidence to answer these questions is out there, but it is often obscured by media headlines. So we created OurWorldInData.org to present long-term data on how our world is changing. Using empirical data, visualised in graphs, we tell the history of the world that we live in, looking at long-term economic, social and environmental trends. For each topic the quality of the data is discussed and comprehensive lists of the data sources are provided, giving a trustworthy and transparent starting point for researchers.

Harnessing depression: A writer’s journey

Dave Girard:

Last November, my father took his own life. I’m frequently aware of the fact that the depression which helped drive him to that dark fate lives on in my genes. That’s a doozy of a legacy to inherit, but it’s one that has not been wholly negative for me.

Getting to the point where I could write this article involved a series of debates. I debated talking about my father’s suicide; I debated “outing” myself as a depression sufferer; I debated not talking about it and what that meant. I decided in the end that I would be the worst kind of hypocrite if I believed that dialog about depression was essential but was unwilling to start that dialog myself. I hope that my story can help others understand why the traits that cause depression have been both a plague and a gift to so many.

Nothing’s easy when talking about depression. Navigating this sensitive topic is fraught with traps and taboos that can make Israel the good option at dinner discussion. But this dialog is important, and hopefully we can lift the grim veil that hangs over this subject before disaster strikes someone we know and love. Even as it goes underreported, suicide now kills more people than car accidents in the US.

Technology or Reading? Top Down vs. BYOD in Madison

Pat Schneider

The Madison Metropolitan School District is launching a $27 million initiative that by 2018-19 will provide each student in grades second through twelve with a wireless computing device. Students in kindergarten and first grade will have computing access at a 2 to 1 ratio of students to devices.

But the MMSD tech plan does not include any additional technical support positions.

“We do need to make sure to have good technological support in place — it’s something we’ll have to monitor,” Andrew Statz, the district’s chief information and information technology officer told the school board early this year. But other school districts going to 1 to 1 computing are not hiring additional tech staff, Statz said.

Although now retired school board member Marj Passman suggested the ratio of tech support staff to devices would become unmanageable with the addition of thousands of new devices, Statz said things will be different because the new equipment will be leased, not owned by the school district.

“When you are looking at leased equipment, when something is faulty with the equipment, part of the lease is replacing it,” he said. “We’ve also identified an opportunity to create a course for students to take for credit that’s like the AV club back in the day — an opportunity for students who are interested to identify themselves, be supervised and get some real world experience,” he said.

Perhaps it is unsurprising that our monolithic public schools are planning to adopt a technology approach largely built around those of the now declining PC era.

It would seem that supporting (and perhaps subsidizing) a BYOD (bring your own device) model might be far more effective from a personal responsibility, cost and support perspective.

The District’s past Infinite Campus implementation experience (expensive and not required…) does not bode well for this new scheme.

How Income Share Agreements Could Play a Role in Higher Ed Financing

Beth Akers:

In response to growing concerns over the issue of higher education finance, policy makers, advocates, and entrepreneurs have developed and proposed an array of solutions to address the shortcomings of our current system. Income Share Agreements (ISAs) are one such proposal that deserves more attention. ISAs allow students to raise funds to pay for their degrees by selling “shares” in their future earnings. This solution is sometimes dismissed as a gimmick, akin to indentured servitude, despite the fact that it has the potential to offer improvements over traditional loans in terms of shielding students from risk and providing information about quality, two widely held objectives among advocates and policy makers.

ISAs are financial instruments that can be administered by the government or by private financial institutions, just like loans, savings accounts and insurance policies. Their defining characteristic is that an individual gains access to capital, cash to pay for college, in exchange for a promise that they will pay back a fraction of their earnings for a prescribed period of time to the entity that administered the agreement. Unlike a loan, where the total to be repaid is known up front, individuals who use ISAs to “borrow” money will pay back an amount that depends on their actual earnings. A graduate who earns less than expected will pay back less than the full amount of the initial funding, while graduates who earn more than expected will pay back more than their share. ISAs are not broadly used in the United States, but are being used in a few particular settings, including trade schools that train web developers in exchange of 18% of their first-year income, and a non-profit who funds low-income students in California.

From Isaac Newton to the Genius Bar: Why it’s time to retire the concept of genius.

Darron McMahon:

Geniuses are a dying breed.

And yet, they seem to be all around us. We live at a time when commentators speak without irony of “ordinary genius” and claim to find it everywhere. From the “genius bar” at the local Apple Store to bestselling books that trumpet “the genius in all of us,” geniuses seem to abound. But if we consider the idea of “genius” as it has evolved across history, it starts to look like we don’t really need geniuses as we once did. It may be that we don’t need them at all. The increasing banality of genius in the contemporary world has begun to dissolve it as a useful category.

The modern genius emerged in 18th-century Europe as the focal point of a secular devotion of the sort previously reserved for saints. Like the prophets of old, these geniuses were conceived as higher beings endowed with natural gifts—intelligence, creativity, and insight took the place of grace. They, too, were granted a privileged place in the order of creation. As one astounded contemporary asked of Isaac Newton, among the first exemplars of the modern genius, “Does he eat, drink, and sleep like other men?” His virtues, commented another, “proved him a Saint [whose] discoveries might well pass for miracles.” Newton had revealed the laws of the universe—had he not?—he had seen into the mind of God.

Just like their saintly predecessors, the bodies of “geniuses” were treated as holy relics. Upon his death in 1727, Newton was buried in Westminster Abbey, resting place of the saints, and though his skull and bones were left intact (contemporaries marveled instead at his tomb, his death mask, and the many items he had owned and touched), the remains of other geniuses were picked over and venerated as the relics of the special dead. Three of Galileo’s fingers were detached when his body was exhumed in 1737; Voltaire’s heart and brain were absconded with at his death in 1778. Admirers fashioned rings from the repatriated bones of René Descartes during the French Revolution, and the skull of the great German poet Schiller was housed in a special shrine in the library of the Duke of Weimar in the early 19th century.

Adoptees reaching out to Hong Kong birth parents

Alice Woodhouse:

Almost 50 years ago, two-week-old Serena Sussex was found abandoned in a cardboard box in a Sai Ying Pun stairwell.

Last week Sussex, now a 49-year-old artist, visited the building on Hing Hon Road where she was found and said she wanted to reassure local birth mothers that their children could lead happy lives.

“I want to let mums that were forced or had to abandon [their children] due to their circumstances know that a lot of adoptees are very happy. If they wanted to get in touch there is an opportunity for them to find us,” Sussex said.

“I would have liked to have known my birth mother, who she was and what she is doing now.”

Sussex was 2½ years old when a British family adopted her and moved to the United Kingdom. She is now an award-winning artist based in Brighton, southern England, whose oil paintings are in exhibitions and collections across the world.

She spent her early years at the Chuk Yuen Children’s Reception in Wong Tai Sin, East Kowloon, where she believes there was little stimulation. She said her new parents had to teach her to cry and her speech was impaired.

Should You Go to College?

Kathleen Geier, Nancy Folbre, Anna Clark and Susan Feiner

Should you go to college? The answer used to be self-evident: college was a path to upward mobility, a ticket to middle-class adulthood. Higher education played a particularly critical role for women looking to secure independence through financial stability. But increasingly, stories about college focus on the relentless burden of student debt and efforts to channel students toward majors that will help them beat the ugly job market. In this installment of The Curve, Anna Clark, Susan Feiner, Nancy Folbre and host Kathleen Geier do the math, exploring the role that colleges play in breaking or boosting the class hierarchy in today’s economic landscape.

Anna Clark: You can’t use the word “debt” without stumbling on its double meaning. A seemingly simple term for money owed, it is steeped in morality. “Forgive us our debts” goes the Christian prayer, meaning “sins.” As David Graeber points out, our language of business depends on our language of ethics. “Reckoning,” “forgiveness,” “accountability” and “redemption” refer to both the state of our soul and our credit status. Our understanding of who owes what to whom defines our vocabulary for right and wrong. History is as much a story of lenders and borrowers as it is a story of rich and poor.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Across Wisconsin, uneven property assessments fly in the face of fairness

Raquel Rutledge and Kevin Crowe

James Fleischman and his wife, Barbara, have lived in their five-bedroom ranch on Applewood Drive in Glendale for about three decades.

In recent years, the assessed value of their house hovered around $331,400, and they paid about the same in property taxes as their next-door neighbor.

But when the four-bedroom Cape Cod next door sold last year, all that changed. The assessor slashed the value from $319,400 to $249,900, a drop of nearly 22%.

That cut shaved $1,642 off the new owners’ tax bill.

When the Fleischmans opened their bill, they owed $640 more. In fact, all the residents of Glendale whose property values didn’t go down paid more.
Gary Porter
This Glendale home owned by James and Barbara Fleischman has had the same assessed value for years while the assessed value of a neighbor’s house dropped significantly after a sale.

That change in their neighbor’s value didn’t account for all of the Fleischmans’ tax increase. Glendale officials had increased the overall tax levy, and the assessor had lowered a smattering of other residential properties.

But the change violated the state constitution, which was crafted to make the tax burden fair. Assessors are not supposed to modify values of individual properties based on market conditions unless they are revaluing entire neighborhoods or communities.

Yet assessors are doing it.

Regularly.

Voucher Politics & Commentary

Alan Borsuk:

What about Burke wanting to kibosh that small statewide program, while leaving the Milwaukee and Racine program alone (except, she says, she’ll take steps to deal with low-quality voucher schools)? If you oppose one voucher program, shouldn’t you oppose them all?

My reading of it is as simple as saying the statewide program is small and not yet deeply rooted. It’s vulnerable.

Undoing Milwaukee and Racine vouchers — especially Milwaukee – would most likely be a nightmare, as a practical matter. MPS is not ready to take on a flood of new kids and the impact on the state budget would be substantial. The Milwaukee and Racine programs are now deeply rooted. Parents like their schools. The fight over cutting off vouchers would be epic.

The political realities on vouchers for either Burke or Walker are almost sure to be difficult next year. Burke most likely would face an all-Republican or split legislature where she’ll have a ton of problems. Killing the statewide voucher program may be undoable.

For Walker, even with a Republican-controlled legislature, the same may be true when it comes to expanding vouchers. Too much opposition and too much cost would spell, at most, a small expansion for the statewide program, I bet.

As much as advocates on both sides of the voucher debate dream of big victories – unlimited vouchers or the death of vouchers – my guess is we’re in the zone where we’re going to stay. These programs will continue to be hot potatoes, but changing the potato recipe is not going to be easy.

Walker and Burke both know that, best as I can see.

Much more on vouchers, here.

TCR Academic Coaches

Via a kind Will Fitzhugh email:

The Concord Review Academic Coaching Service, founded in 2014, provides individual online guidance for students worldwide in writing high-caliber history and social-science research papers of around 6,000 words or more. Our service provides the necessary support for high school students who are able to and interested in going academically above and beyond what their schools require. Students will be assigned one coach online, whose availability and historical expertise matches their needs. Our coaches are past Concord Review authors and often Emerson Prize winners who currently attend or have graduated from Columbia, the University of Chicago, New York University, Princeton, Stanford, and Yale. Working with their coach, students will improve in academic writing, a skill necessary for any career path, to stand out in college and other competitive program admissions, and to excel in high school and beyond. We work with students writing papers outside of class and students writing International Baccalaureate Extended Essays, and on papers for any class where academic non-fiction writing is important. If you are interested in and/or have questions about The Concord Review Academic Coaching Service, please contact jessica@tcr.org or fitzhugh@tcr.org.

PDF

Identifying The Worst Colleges In America

Claudio Sanchez:

For years,Washington Monthly has been rating and ranking the nation’s colleges.

But for its 2014 edition, the magazine has done something new. It has put out a list of what it says are the nation’s worst colleges. That is, schools with high tuition, low graduation rates and high student debt rates.

Consider the case of Ferrum College, a small, private, liberal arts school in southern Virginia. As the magazine points out, the school accepts over 90 percent of the kids who apply every year, but barely half ever come back for their second or sophomore year.

Ferrum students borrow more, default on their loans more and are less likely to graduate, compared with similar institutions. That’s why Ferrum finds itself on the magazine’s “worst” list.

An Education on School Funding

Phil Kadner:

If a politician opens his mouth to talk about school funding in Illinois, chances are good he’s lying.

That’s the one hard and fast recommendation I have for voters and taxpayers after writing about education financing in this state for nearly 25 years.

It holds true for the current election for governor, where both candidates are promising to improve public school funding. It’s all about helping the children, don’t you know.

I was the first to expose the shell game that state legislators played with state lottery money, which was sold to the public for many years (via radio commercials) as a way of financing public education.

Jargon Commentary: competency-based education

Ray Henderson:

One issue I’ve noticed, however, is that many schools are looking to duplicate the solution of CBE without understanding the the problems and context that allowed WGU, CfA and Excelsior to thrive. By looking at the three main CBE initiatives, it is important to note at least three lessons that are significant factors in their success to date, and these lessons are readily available but perhaps not well-understood.

Lesson 1: CBE as means to address specific student population

None of the main CBE programs were designed to target a general student population or to offer just another modality. In all three cases, their first consideration was how to provide education to working adults looking to finish a degree, change a career, or advance a career.

How Apple’s Siri Became One Autistic Boy’s B.F.F.

Judith Newman:

Just how bad a mother am I? I wondered, as I watched my 13-year-old son deep in conversation with Siri. Gus has autism, and Siri, Apple’s “intelligent personal assistant” on the iPhone, is currently his B.F.F. Obsessed with weather formations, Gus had spent the hour parsing the difference between isolated and scattered thunderstorms — an hour in which, thank God, I didn’t have to discuss them. After a while I heard this:

Gus: “You’re a really nice computer.”

Siri: “It’s nice to be appreciated.”

Gus: “You are always asking if you can help me. Is there anything.

Teachers Unions Are Putting Themselves On November’s Ballot

Haley Sweetland Edwards:

While many political power brokers have quietly agreed this year’s midterms are big snooze—boring, uncreative, and largely meaningless—the teachers unions stand out as a loud, insistent counterpoint.

The National Education Association (NEA), the nation’s largest teachers union, is on track to spend between $40 million and $60 million this election cycle, while the smaller American Federation of Teachers (AFT) plans to pony up an additional $20 million—more than the organization has spent on any other past cycle, including high-spending presidential election years.

School Superintendents: Vital or Irrelevant?

Matthew M. Chingos, Grover J. (Russ) Whitehurst & Katharine M. Lindquist:

Superintendents are highly visible actors in the American education system. As the highest ranking official in a school district, the superintendent receives a lot of credit when things go well, and just as much blame when they don’t. But should they?

Research emerging over the past decade has provided strong evidence of the substantial effects that teachers have on their students’ achievement. More recent findings suggest that principals also have meaningful, albeit smaller, effects on student achievement. However, there is almost no quantitative research that addresses the impact of superintendents on student achievement. This report provides some of the first empirical evidence on the topic.

In an earlier report, Do School Districts Matter, we found a small but educationally meaningful association between the school district in which a student is educated and learning outcomes. The present report addresses the extent to which these district effects are due to the district leader vs. characteristics of districts that are independent of their superintendents. We do so by examining five specific questions using K-12 student-level administrative data from the states of Florida and North Carolina for the school years 2000-01 to 2009-10:

On Remedial Math

Ron Schacter

Many of the graduates entering college from New York’s Hampton Bays High School in 2011 weren’t ready for higher education math.

At neighboring Suffolk County Community College, 68 percent of the first-year students from Hampton Bays had to take remedial math.

“These numbers were horrifying to us and created a real sense of urgency,” says Denise Sullivan, the assistant superintendent for curriculum at the Hampton Bays Schools.

Sullivan approached the college president to discuss the problem and forged an innovative partnership.

In an uncommon move, Sullivan and the chair of the mathematics department at the college created a high school course that mirrors the remedial class that students deficient in math have to take when they start college.

The college was “thrilled.” “Nobody else was taking this approach,” Sullivan says. The college had found that only 20 percent of the students who entered in need of developmental courses went on to graduate.

Related: Math Forum audio & video.

Why Germany Is So Much Better at Training Its Workers

Tamar Jacoby:

At last, unemployment is easing. But the latest low rate—hovering below 6 percent–obscures a deeper, longer-term problem: “skills mismatches” in the labor force, which will only worsen in years to come. According to the most recent figures, 9.3 million Americans are unemployed, but 4.8 million jobs stand empty because employers can’t find people to fill them. With new technology transforming work across a range of sectors, more and more businesses are struggling to find workers with the skills to man new machines and manage new processes.

One solution has enchanted employers, educators, and policymakers on both sides of the aisle: European-style apprenticeship. The Obama administration is about to announce $100 million worth of apprenticeship grants—and wants to spend another $6 billion over the next four years. Meanwhile, lawmakers as different as Democratic Senator Cory Booker and Republican Senator Marco Rubio have expressed interest in the idea.

Americans should proceed with caution.

A New Kind of College Rating System

Paul LeBlanc:

Many of my fellow college presidents remain worried about the Obama Administration’s proposed (and still being developed) rating system for higher education. While Education Department officials have been responsive and thoughtful about our concerns, many among us fundamentally do not trust government to get this right.

Or anyone, for that matter. After all, we already have lots of rating systems and they mostly seem flawed — some, like U.S. News and World Report, extremely so. Institutions game the system in various ways. Rarely do rating systems capture the complexity of the industry with its rich mix of institutions, missions, and student markets served. Almost always, they are deeply reductionist.

Quality of Words, Not Quantity, Is Crucial to Language Skills, Study Finds

Douglas Quenqua:

It has been nearly 20 years since a landmark education study found that by age 3, children from low-income families have heard 30 million fewer words than more affluent children, putting them at an educational disadvantage before they even began school. The findings led to increased calls for publicly funded prekindergarten programs and dozens of campaigns urging parents to get chatty with their children.

Now, a growing body of research is challenging the notion that merely exposing poor children to more language is enough to overcome the deficits they face. The quality of the communication between children and their parents and caregivers, the researchers say, is of much greater importance than the number of words a child hears.

Perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate the pre-eminence of high school sports

Laura Waters:

Last week seven high school football players from Sayreville War Memorial High School were charged with aggravated criminal sexual contact through a series of brutal hazing rituals. This wrenching news made headlines in the New York Times, CNN, London’s Daily Mail, and Australia’s International Business Times. If you google “Sayreville War Memorial High School + hazing” you’ll get over one million hits.

The plethora of news reports describes the details of the Sayreville assaults that occur every year in the beginning of the football season. First a senior player howls and turns out the lights in the locker room. Then, according to a parent of a player who requested anonymity, “in the darkness, a freshman football player would be pinned to the locker-room floor, his arms and feet held down by multiple upperclassmen.” After that, the victim would be hauled to his feet and one of the perpetrators would force his finger into the victim’s rectum and then stick that finger in the victim’s mouth.

Apply for a Teacher Scholarship to Raft the Canyon with NCSE

NCSE:

Apply for an all-expenses-paid eight-day raft trip down the Grand Canyon with the National Center for Science Education! Winners will receive free airfare, lodging before and after the trip, and the trip of a lifetime, exploring the wonders of Grand Canyon with a team of scientists, educators, and science fans. The application form is at the bottom of the page, but please review this information on eligibility, requirements, and what to expect from the trip before submitting an application. Contact grandcanyon@ncse.com with any questions. The deadline for applications is January 5, 2015.

If you are interested in helping teachers participate in this adventure of a lifetime, you can donate to the Scholarship Fund.

The Ivy League is ripping off America!

Robert Reich

Imagine a system of college education supported by high and growing government spending on elite private universities that mainly educate children of the wealthy and upper-middle class, and low and declining government spending on public universities that educate large numbers of children from the working class and the poor.

You can stop imagining. That’s the American system right now.

Government subsidies to elite private universities take the form of tax deductions for people who make charitable contributions to them. In economic terms a tax deduction is the same as government spending. It has to be made up by other taxpayers.

A Cure for Hyper-Parenting

Pamela Druckerman:

I recently spent the afternoon with some Norwegians who are making a documentary about French child-rearing. Why would people in one of the world’s most successful countries care how anyone else raises kids?

In Norway “we have brats, child kings, and many of us suffer from hyper-parenting. We’re spoiling them,” explained the producer, a father of three. The French “demand more of their kids, and this could be an inspiration to us.”

I used to think that only Americans and Brits did helicopter parenting. In fact, it’s now a global trend. Middle-class Brazilians, Chileans, Germans, Poles, Israelis, Russians and others have adopted versions of it too. The guilt-ridden, sacrificial mother — fretting that she’s overdoing it, or not doing enough — has become a global icon. In “Parenting With Style,” a working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research, the economists Matthias Doepke and Fabrizio Zilibotti say intensive parenting springs from rising inequality, because parents know there’s a bigger payoff for people with lots of education and skills. (France is a rare rich country where helicoptering isn’t the norm.)

The Surprising Problem of Too Much Talent

Cindi May:

Whether you’re the owner of the Dallas Cowboys or captain of the playground dodge ball team, the goal in picking players is the same: Get the top talent. Hearts have been broken, allegiances tested, and budgets busted as teams contend for the best athletes. The motivation for recruiting peak performers is obvious — exceptional players are the key to team success — and this belief is shared not only by coaches and sports fans, but also by corporations, investors, and even whole industries. Everyone wants a team of stars.

While there is no denying that exceptional players like Emmitt Smith can put points on the board and enhance team success, new research by Roderick Swaab and colleagues suggests there is a limit to the benefit top talents bring to a team. Swaab and colleagues compared the amount of individual talent on teams with the teams’ success, and they find striking examples of more talent hurting the team.

Study Finds Many Colleges Don’t Require Core Subjects Like History, Government

Douglas Belkin:

A majority of U.S. college graduates don’t know the length of a congressional term, what the Emancipation Proclamation was, or which Revolutionary War general led the American troops at Yorktown.

The reason for such failures, according to a recent study: Few schools mandate courses in core subjects like U.S. government, history or economics. The sixth annual analysis of core curricula at 1,098 four-year colleges and universities by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni found that just 18% of schools require American history to graduate, 13% require a foreign language and 3% economics.

Is E-Reading to Your Toddler Story Time, or Simply Screen Time?

Douglas Quenqua, via a kind reader:

Clifford the Big Red Dog looks fabulous on an iPad. He sounds good, too — tap the screen and hear him pant as a blue truck roars into the frame. “Go, truck, go!” cheers the narrator.

But does this count as story time? Or is it just screen time for babies?

It is a question that parents, pediatricians and researchers are struggling to answer as children’s books, just like all the other ones, migrate to digital media.

For years, child development experts have advised parents to read to their children early and often, citing studies showing its linguistic, verbal and social benefits. In June, the American Academy of Pediatrics advised doctors to remind parents at every visit that they should read to their children from birth, prescribing books as enthusiastically as vaccines and vegetables.

The 5 Least-Flattering Details in Report on San Jose State’s Tech Spending

Steve Kolowich:

San Jose State University’s spending on technology over the past year has made the campus ground zero for heated discussions about how university leaders should try to innovate—and the role faculty members should play in those decisions. And it hasn’t been pretty: Just five months ago Mohammad H. Qayoumi, the president, had to apologize for bypassing “longstanding SJSU consultation practices” in his attempt to move quickly toward his goal of “engaging SJSU with Silicon Valley.”

That was in May. Now the San Jose Mercury News has published an article that lends more context to how Mr. Qayomi’s administration lost the faith of the rank and file.

According to the article, Mr. Qayoumi struck a sweetheart deal worth $28-million with Cisco Systems, the locally based technology giant, to overhaul the campus’s communications infrastructure. San Jose State did not take other bids for the contract, which draws on the university’s operating budget (among other sources) to fund tech upgrades that critics say are either unnecessary or available at much lower prices from other providers.

Social Media and Academic Surveillance: The Ethics of Digital Bodies

Dorothy Kim:

White media pundits and academics have a standard tactic: “Twitter is public.” Therefore, no one, and especially black women and other WOC, have rights or can complain about their digital bodies and intellectual property being taken without permission, plagiarized, used for media and academic data and news. This consistent appeal – “Twitter is public” – obscures the reality of Twitter as a digital publics, subject to the same problems of surveillance and ethics we find in geographical space.

In Mike Davis’s book City of Quartz, written before the LA Uprising of 1992, he discusses Los Angeles’s spatial panic around security. In a city lacking open public spaces, organized around the power of private property, and without a cohesive center, he writes:

Highly educated, unemployed and tumbling down the ladde

Martha White:

In the upside-down, topsy-turvy world of jobs these days, even an advanced degree can’t protect some Americans from tumbling down the economic ladder.

The conventional wisdom that more education bears fruit in the labor market gets turned on its head when it comes to unemployment. For people with masters and even doctoral degrees, long-term unemployment is especially insidious. At best, these formerly high-earning professionals face the prospect of a years-long climb back to their former level of income and stature, while they delay retirement to rebuild their decimated nest eggs.

Others won’t be that lucky. Debt, foreclosure and evaporated savings push them out of the middle class, and some just keep falling.

Campus Is this the end of the collegiate bacchanal?

Heather MacDonald:

It is impossible to overstate the growing weirdness of the college sex scene. Campus feminists are reimporting selective portions of a traditional sexual code that they have long scorned, in the name of ending what they preposterously call an epidemic of campus rape. They are once again making males the guardians of female safety and are portraying females as fainting, helpless victims of the untrammeled male libido. They are demanding that college administrators write highly technical rules for sex and aggressively enforce them, 50 years after the proponents of sexual liberation insisted that college adults stop policing student sexual behavior. While the campus feminists are not yet calling for an assistant dean to be present at their drunken couplings, they have created the next best thing: the opportunity to replay every grope and caress before a tribunal of voyeuristic administrators.

The ultimate result of the feminists’ crusade may be the same as if they were explicitly calling for a return to sexual modesty: a sharp decrease in casual, drunken sex. There is no downside to this development.

The absurd history of English slang

Jonathan Green:

Slang’s literary origins are widespread and ever-expanding. Its social roots, however, are narrow and focused: the city. If, as has been suggested, the story of standard English is that of a London language, so too is that of English slang. And the pattern would be repeated elsewhere as colonies became independent and rural settlements became major conurbations. London’s chroniclers had always noted the urban vocabularies, though none before the eighteenth century had rendered their discoveries lexicographical. The pioneer of such investigations, John Stow, laying out Elizabethan London in his Survey of London (1598), had barely touched on language (his text offers gong farmer, a latrine cleaner, night-walker, a thief, and white money, meaning silver coins). In time those who told London’s story would offer a far more central position to the city’s speech, alongside its population and topography. The first of these were the Jacobean city playwrights, but they suborned the language to their plays. For those whose work helped showcase the city’s particular way of speaking, one must look at the turn of the seventeenth century’s Ned Ward and Thomas Brown, and on to their successors.

K-12 Governance Trends: Decentralization

Ilya Somin:

On several important issues, majority opinion has actually flipped over the last forty years, shifting from a majority in favor of federal dominance to a majority against it. For example, the percentage of Americans who believe that state or local government should make the major decisions on drug policy has increased from 39% in 1973 to 61% in 2013. On health care, it has risen from 40% to 62%; on environmental protection, it has gone from 36% to 56%. On prison reform, the proportion supporting state and local primacy has increased from 43% to 68%.

In both 1973 and 2013, substantial majorities favored federal primacy on national defense, Social Security, and cancer research. But in the last two cases, the minority preferring state or local control has substantially increased. Similarly, in both 1973 and 2013, large majorities favored state or local control of education, transportation, housing, and welfare policy. But on all four issues, those anti-federal government majorities have grown substantially.

Yet, our local $15k+/student annual spending remains highly centralized. Swimming against the tide…

Princeton is giving up ground in its fight against grade inflation

Sonali Kohli:

Princeton University faculty voted to end their practice of grade deflation, bowing to concerns that it creates a negative campus atmosphere and can be a turnoff for applicants to the school. For the past 10 years, each department had been asked to give A’s to no more than 35% of course work—the intent was to create uniformity in grading standards across campus, and to combat the grade inflation that has seeped into American universities, especially Ivy Leagues, in the last 50 years.

Princeton adopted the recommendations (pdf) from a committee formed last October to examine the policy. While the group did not find overwhelming evidence that grade deflation hurts graduates’ prospects in the work force, it determined the caps generate unnecessary stress for students. (Both had been of significant concern on campus.) Now, each department will be responsible for developing its own grading standards.

Some Chinese Forgot How to Write

The Economist:

CALLIGRAPHY has been a revered art form in China for centuries. Children are taught to write with brushes; endless copying of characters is a rite of passage in their schooling. Writing is a feat of memory. Mastery requires learning thousands of unique characters. Despite these ordeals, literacy rates have increased from around 20% in 1949 to over 95% now. But computers, smartphones and tablets are posing a new obstacle to progress. Penmanship is on the decline. Reading skills may follow.

Pundits the world over blame a reliance on computers for shoddy handwriting and spelling. In China the problem is particularly acute. The number of primary schoolchildren with severe reading difficulties is rising, according to a 2012 study in the Proceedings of the National Academy

Teen Researchers Defend Media Multitasking

Sumatha Reddy:

Some teens doing homework while listening to music and juggling tweets and texts may actually work better that way, according to an intriguing new study performed by two high-school seniors.

The Portland, Ore., students were invited to the annual conference of the American Academy of Pediatrics in San Diego this past weekend to present a summary of their research, which analyzed more than 400 adolescents. The findings: Though most teens perform better when focusing on a single task, those who are “high media multitaskers”—about 15% of the study participants—performed better when working with the distractions of email and music than when focusing on a single activity.

Madison Teachers, Inc. Recertification Plans

Madison Teachers, Inc. Solidarity Newsletter, via Jeannie Kamholtz (PDF):

So far, one-hundred and fifteen (115) MTI members, teachers, educational assistants, clerical-technical employees and substitute teachers have stepped up to serve as MTI Member Organizers for MTI’s forthcoming recertification election. The Organizers will help to ensure that everyone in their school building/work site understands the importance of the recertification elections which are scheduled for November 5-25. Phone banks are being organized to contact substitute teachers, and other employees who work district-wide or intermittently. Are you aware and informed? If not, see your MTI Faculty Representative or EA-MTI Building Representative to see how you can help, or call MTI (257-0491). It is crucial that every school/work site has a plan to build awareness and assure that every eligible person votes.

Each MTI bargaining unit (MTI, EA-MTI, SEE-MTI, USO-MTI & SSA-MTI) will have a separate election. Under Walker’s signature legislation Act 10, 51% of all eligible voters is required, in each unit, to gain recertification. The election by all MTI represented District employees will be conducted between 12:00 Noon on November 5 and 12:00 Noon on November 25. Voting will be via telephone or on-line balloting conducted by the American Arbitration Association. This will be a simple and efficient process and detailed information will be provided by MTI.

More, in the “>13 October 2014 newsletter.

Lone Geniuses Are Overrated

Jeffrey Goldberg:

Somewhat to my surprise, Walter Isaacson’s new book, The Innovators, a group portrait of the men and women who invented computers and the Internet, is riveting, propulsive and at times deeply moving. My surprise is not rooted in doubts about Isaacson’s skills; he is considered to be the leading biographer of the digital age for a reason. I was surprised because I find books about technology unreadable. I enjoy machines as much as the next Amish-by-disposition American, which is to say, among other things, that I don’t care very much about where they come from, and on those occasions when I do apply myself to the study of machines, I usually fail to understand how they work.

One of Isaacson’s jealousy-provoking gifts is his ability to translate complicated science into English—those who have read his biographies of Einstein and Steve Jobs understand that Isaacson is a kind of walking Rosetta Stone of physics and computer programming. Thanks to my close read of The Innovators, I could probably explain, with a gun to my head, the principles of semi-conduction.

How genes can influence children’s exam results

Eva Kraphol & Kaili Rimfield:

The idea that children can inherit the ability to get good results at school can spark heated debate. But, put simply, all this means is that children differ in how easy and enjoyable they find learning and that these differences are to a large extent explained by differences in their genes, rather than differences between schools or teachers.

We know from previous research that educational achievement in primary, middle school years and at the end of compulsory education is highly heritable. Heritability is a population statistic – it doesn’t tell us anything about a single individual. It describes the extent to which differences between children can be put down to DNA differences, on average, in a particular population at a particular time.

As Apprentices in Classroom, Teachers Learn What Works

Motoko Rich:

Monica DeSantiago wondered how in the world she would get the students to respect her.

It was the beginning of her yearlong apprenticeship as a math teacher at Berkley Maynard Academy, a charter school in this diverse city east of San Francisco. The petite, soft-spoken Ms. DeSantiago, 23, had heard the incoming sixth graders were a rowdy bunch.

She watched closely as Pamela Saberton, a teacher with seven years’ experience in city public schools and Ms. DeSantiago’s mentor for the year, strolled the room. Ms. Saberton rarely raised her voice, but kept up a constant patter as she recited what the students were doing, as in, “Keion is sitting quietly,” or “Reevan is working on her math problems.”

To Ms. DeSantiago, the practice seemed unnatural, if not bizarre. But the students quieted and focused on a getting-to-know-you activity, writing down their hobbies and favorite foods.

A Bit of College Can Be Worse Than None at All

Melissa Korn:

Lauren Bizzaro has three years of college credits from High Point University in North Carolina and the University of Rhode Island. But with no degree, those credits got her little more than a late start in the professional world and a $40,000 student-loan balance.

Until recently, Ms. Bizzaro earned $11.50 an hour dressing, feeding and bathing patients as a licensed nursing assistant at a long-term-care and rehabilitation facility in Vermont. Now a unit coordinator who handles clerical tasks like arranging doctor appointments and updating patient charts, she can’t move further up the ranks without additional credentials, according to her employer.

A disturbing study of the link between incomes and criminal behaviour

The Economist:

“POVERTY”, wrote Aristotle, “is the parent of crime.” But was he right? Certainly, poverty and crime are associated. And the idea that a lack of income might drive someone to misdeeds sounds plausible. But research by Amir Sariaslan of the Karolinska Institute, in Stockholm, and his colleagues, just published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, casts doubt on the chain of causation—at least as far as violent crime and the misuse of drugs are concerned.

Using the rich troves of personal data which Scandinavian governments collect about their citizens, Mr Sariaslan and his team were able to study more than half a million children born in Sweden between 1989 and 1993. The records they consulted contained information about these people’s educational attainments, annual family incomes and criminal convictions. They also enabled the researchers to identify everybody’s siblings.

In Sweden the age of criminal responsibility is 15, so Mr Sariaslan tracked his subjects from the dates of their 15th birthdays onwards, for an average of three-and-a-half years. He found, to no one’s surprise, that teenagers who had grown up in families whose earnings were among the bottom fifth were seven times more likely to be convicted of violent crimes, and twice as likely to be convicted of drug offences, as those whose family incomes were in the top fifth.

Retooling vocational education

The Economist:

FOR decades vocational education has suffered from the twin curses of low status and limited innovation. Politicians have equated higher education with traditional universities of the sort that they themselves attended. Parents have steered children away from “shop class”. And vocational studies have been left to languish: the detritus of an industrial era rather than the handmaiden of a new economy.

A recent report from a management consultancy, McKinsey, called “Education to Employment: Getting Europe’s Youth into Work”, paints a dismal picture of the state of vocational education. In four of the seven countries surveyed, more than half of young people taking an academic course said they would have preferred a vocational one. But they had been put off by disorganisation and lack of prestige. Britain has more than 20,000 vocational qualifications offered by 150 different bodies. In America responsibility is scattered among government departments.

The great exception to this has always been Germany, of course. But now there are signs that other countries are trying to turn a back road into an Autobahn. Politicians are banging the drum for vocational education. Australia, for example, has created a Workforce and Productivity Agency. Educational innovators are flooding into the vocational market.

Bac Blues: Rethinking France’s Grading System

Economist:

WARY of competition when it comes to global markets, the French embrace it wholeheartedly in the classroom. As school pupils enjoy the end of their summer holiday, few will relish a return to their harsh grading system. Termly reports in secondary schools record pupils’ marks, in Cartesian fashion, to the nearest two decimal points. Every child knows how they compare with the average. A result at the school-leaving baccalauréat exam of 16 out of 20 is considered outstanding. For younger children, a dictée to test spelling is marked by progressively deducting points for every error, which can crush the grade down to zero, or even into negative territory.

Benoît Hamon, the education minister, thinks the system, at least for younger people, is too harsh. He argues that “in France we are defined by failure”, and this begins with poor grades. He wants schools to “stimulate instead of discourage” and to give pupils more positive feedback. Mr Hamon has launched a review of the national grading system. It is due to report early next year.

Scientific Curiousity: Questions, Questions

The Economist:

TAKE any child outside on a clear night and science becomes exciting. But science lessons at school are often dismal. Teachers drone on in front of whiteboards that are filled with perfect spheres rolling down frictionless inclined planes (usually in some strange airless world without any wind resistance).

But it does not have to be this way. Randall Munroe is a former NASA roboticist who now draws the webcomic “xkcd”, which offers up an eclectic mixture of science, maths and whimsy three times a week. One of its spin-offs is a website called “What If?”, in which readers can submit questions to Mr Munroe that he will attempt to answer to the best of science’s ability. That website has, in turn, spawned a book full of such questions (half of which are recycled from the web, half of which are new).

Rural schools: Down and out in rural China

The Economist:

LIKE many rural teenagers, Yan Jingtao, the lanky son of a watermelon farmer, did not have quite the stuff for a standard upper-secondary school. Last September, encouraged by his teacher, he and three classmates enrolled instead at a vocational school on the edge of the central city of Kaifeng to study computer animation. By November, he had quit; one of 23 dropouts in less than two months from a class that had started with 57. The students had often got into brawls and skipped school in order to play games at an internet café.

Now 18, Mr Yan has landed a decent short-term job as a guard at a local military airport. “My job is better than what my friends have,” he says. But he yearns to learn a skill and get a proper career. He will have too much company in that pursuit, and not much help.

In the past three decades China has made impressive gains in sending rural children to school. This has helped fuel its rise as a low-end manufacturing power. But the easy gains have been achieved. If the country is to create the “knowledge economy” it says it wants, the government will have to change the way rural teenagers are educated and schools in the countryside are funded.

It’s 2014. All Children Are Supposed To Be Proficient. What Happened?

Anya Kamenetz:

Take yourself back to those highly emotional, patriotic months after the 9/11 attacks.

In the midst of war, terrorism, fear and mourning, one bill passed 87-10 in the Senate and by a similar margin in the House — with equal support from both sides of the aisle. It was signed into law in January 2002 by George W. Bush, with the liberal lion of the Senate, Ted Kennedy, by his side.

The law set a simple if daunting goal: All of the nation’s students would perform at grade level on state tests. Every single one. 100 percent. Or as the name of the law put it, there would be No Child Left Behind. Here’s the formal language:

Madison’s long term disastrous reading results.

How English beat German as language of science

Nina Porzucki:

Two Norwegian scientists have won the Nobel Prize for physiology or medicine – for work published in the English language. Historian of science Michael Gordin explains why they wrote in the language of Dickens and Twain rather than Ibsen and Hamsun.

Permafrost, oxygen, hydrogen – it all looks like science to me.
But these terms actually have origins in Russian, Greek and French.

Today, though, if a scientist is going to coin a new term, it’s most likely in English. And if they are going to publish a new discovery, it is most definitely in English.

Look no further than the Nobel Prize awarded for physiology and medicine to Norwegian couple May-Britt and Edvard Moser. Their research was written and published in English.
This was not always so.

Managing Dyslexia Forum 25 October 2014

Lake Superior Tutoring Center (PDF)

Guest Speaker: Shantell Barrett
Shantell Barrett has a B.A. in English from BYU specializing in language processing deficits and behavioral issues. She is a former teacher and a parent of a child with dyslexia. She is also the Dyslexia Specialist and Director of Training for Reading Horizons. To learn more about Shantell and Reading Horizons go to: www.ReadingHorizons.com.
Forum Topic: Managing Dyslexia

We will discuss the why behind dyslexia and how it manifests in student behavior pertaining to language and otherwise. You will learn effective strategies for reading instruction, ways to address behavioral issues, and how to provide the most effective learning environment for these students.

Trends in American Public Schools Since 1970

Andrew Coulson:

For the past few years I have charted the trends in American education spending and performance (see below). The goal is to see what the national data suggest about the productivity of our education system over time. Clearly, these data suggest that our educational productivity has collapsed: the inflation-adjusted cost of sending a student all the way through the K-12 system has almost tripled while test scores near the end of high-school remain largely unchanged. Put another way, per-pupil spending and achievement are not obviously correlated.

What’s Next for Accountability?

Robin Lake:

here is a backlash against accountability. Critics have legitimate concerns about imperfect measurement and unintended consequences. But the demand to drop performance measurement and remedies in case of school failure is unrealistic: Americans can’t be compelled to send their children to schools that don’t have to demonstrate results. That’s why we (CRPE and Fordham) put together a group of people who agreed on the necessity of accountability but had different ideas on how it should work.

We landed on a pretty broad set of principles, which in my view imply that state agencies have to give up on the idea that they can regulate all schools into improvement. Instead, school districts and charter authorizers have critical roles to play and should be held accountable by the state for starting, overseeing, and closing schools based on performance. States should focus on providing good data and transparency for school staff, but keep testing to a minimum. And they should facilitate a healthy public school choice and parent information system to give parents options when government agencies fail to improve or close ineffective schools. Instead of trying to drive teacher evaluation from the state level, states should allow school principals to decide how to manage and staff their schools and hold the school accountable for results.

Property Tax Increase Climate: Madison’s Proposed 2015 Spending Referendum

A variety of notes and links on the planned 2015 Madison School District Property Tax Increase referendum:

Madison Schools’ PDF Slides on the proposed projects. Ironically, Madison has long supported a wide variation in low income distribution across its schools. This further expenditure sustains the substantial variation, from Hamilton’s 18% low income population to Black Hawk’s 70%.

A single data point (!) comparison of Dane County School Districts: Ideally, the District would compare per student spending, operating expenditures on facilities, staffing and achievement rather than one data point.

Where have all the students gone? Madison area school district enrollment changes: 1995-2013.

Pat Schneider:

Comments on the school district’s website range from support for the project to concern about the cost and how it was decided which schools would get improvements.

One poster complained about being asked to pay more property taxes when income is not rising. A parent suggested that more space should be added now — rather than later — at west side Hamilton Middle/Van Hise Elementary School, where $2.53 million in improvements would add classrooms and a shared library, allowing current library space to be used for classrooms. Better yet, build a whole new middle school, the parent suggested.

A parent whose children attend Schenk Elementary/Whitehorse Middle school on the east side was disgusted at what were described as inconvenient, even dangerous student drop-off conditions. Another parent at Schenk said overcrowding means kids don’t eat lunch until after 1 p.m.

“It’s hard to concentrate when you’re hungry — why didn’t these schools make the list?” he asked.

Another poster took the Madison school district to task for not routinely maintaining and modernizing buildings to avoid high-ticket renovations like that planned at Mendota.

From the campaign trail:

“I had been in the private sector and I felt like half my paycheck was going to insurance.”

Middleton’s property taxes for a comparable home are 16% less than Madison’s.

Aging Societies.

Scale, progressivity, and socioeconomic cohesion.

Finally, a number of questions were raised about expenditures from the 2005 maintenance referendum. I’ve not seen any public information on the questions raised several years ago.

Bill Moyers on declining household income.

Wisconsin AP exam performance strong, but racial gap persists

Erin Richards:

Wisconsin high school students performed strongly overall on Advanced Placement exams in the spring of 2014, taking more exams and performing better on them compared to 2013, according to new results released Tuesday.

About 68% of the AP exams taken by Wisconsin’s public- and private-school juniors and seniors earned scores likely to earn them college credit. The national average was 59%.

But beneath the overall results for exams taken in May are alarming figures for Wisconsin’s black students.

Black students were the only racial or ethnic subgroup where fewer students took AP exams in 2014 than in 2013.

For every other racial group in Wisconsin — American Indians, Mexican Americans, Puerto Ricans, other Latinos and white students — the number of AP test-takers rose from last year.

AP courses and the exams tied to them are a product of the College Board, a New York-based nonprofit that oversees the SAT college admissions exam and the AP program.

The challenging, accelerated AP courses culminate in a major exam scored from 1 to 5. Most colleges and universities grant credit or placement for scores of 3 or higher.

Performance on the latest exams varied widely among racial subgroups in Wisconsin. According to the new results:

No Letter Grades in New NYC School Rating System

Leslie Brody:

In another break from the education policies of former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, New York City schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña said Wednesday she would no longer give schools A-through-F letter grades, bringing mixed reactions of relief and concern about watered-down accountability.

The chancellor said the old system was punitive and too focused on test scores, and often tarnished schools unfairly. She unveiled an approach she said would spur student achievement by giving educators and parents more useful information while fostering a culture of teamwork and trust, with her department giving schools more support to address weaknesses.

“Schools have unique qualities that cannot be captured in a letter grade,” she said. “They are not restaurants.”

Abandoning letter grades was the latest in a series of shifts away from Bloomberg-era strategies. Ms. Fariña has pushed partnership among schools, rather than competition. And while Mr. Bloomberg closed many troubled schools he thought couldn’t be saved, Ms. Fariña has said shutting down schools is a last resort.

Madison school officials, MTI say claims regarding union dues, teachers’ rights don’t belong in Act 10 lawsuit

Pat Schneider:

The conservative legal group Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty has brought suit against Madison’s public schools through a plaintiff who does not have standing to bring the “scandalous” allegations of violations of teachers’ rights included in its complaint, school district officials claim in a court filing.

Plaintiff David Blaska, a conservative blogger, “is not a teacher in the district nor an employee of the District and he therefore lacks both standing and a factual basis on which to assert those allegations,” school officials say in their answer to a lawsuit brought last month against the Madison Metropolitan School District, the Madison School Board and labor union Madison Teachers, Inc.

In pleadings filed in Dane County Circuit Court last week, school officials and the union asked the court to strike portions of the complaint referring to union dues, fair share payments and other issues regarding employees, calling them “immaterial, impertinent and scandalous.”

WILL, not Blaska, is actually the “party in interest,” or entity that would benefit from the suit, Madison public school officials assert.

The lawsuit filed last month challenges the legality of labor contracts for Madison teachers and other school district employees that were negotiated and entered into after the 2011 enactment of Act 10, Gov. Scott Walker’s signature legislation curtailing the collective bargaining power of public employees.

Commentary on 0.0015% of Wisconsin K-12 spending over the past 10 years

Molly Beck:

Over the past 10 years, Wisconsin taxpayers have paid about $139 million to private schools that were subsequently barred from the state’s voucher system for failing to meet requirements related to finances, accreditation, student safety and auditing, a State Journal review has found.

More than two-thirds of the 50 schools terminated from the state’s voucher system since 2004 — all in Milwaukee — had stayed open for five years or less, according to the data provided by the state Department of Public Instruction. Eleven schools, paid a total of $4.1 million, were terminated from the voucher program after just one year.

Northside High School, for example, received $1.7 million in state vouchers for low-income students attending the private school before being terminated from the program in its first year in 2006 for failing to provide an adequate curriculum.

The data highlight the challenges the state faces in requiring accountability from private schools in the voucher program, which expanded from just Milwaukee and Racine to a statewide program last school year. The issue has emerged as a key area of disagreement between Republican Gov. Scott Walker and Democratic challenger Mary Burke, a Madison School Board member, in this year’s gubernatorial campaign.

Last school year, there were 108 schools and about 25,000 students participating in the Milwaukee voucher program, and 146 voucher schools total. The state has budgeted about $210 million for all voucher schools for the current school year, compared to around $4.4 billion in general aid for public schools.

Wisconsin spent $11,774 per student in 2011 [ballotpedia] or $10,256,390,270. So, let’s assume that Wisconsin spent on average $9Billion annually since 2004. That’s $90,000,000,000 over the past decade. The state paid $139,000,000 to “failed” voucher schools during that time, or 0.0015% of total K-12 spending…

Perhaps it would be worthwhile to further analyze the effectiveness of said 90,000,000,000… not to mention the present public school “accountability” models. After all, the oft criticized WKCE was used to evaluate schools for some time.d Astonishing.

Mike Rowe on the Value of a Strong Work Ethic

Paul Feine:

Mike Rowe’s new program, “Somebody’s Gotta Do It,” premiered on CNN this week. “In each episode,” according to the CNN website, “Rowe visits unique individuals and joins them in their respective undertakings, paying tribute to innovators, do-gooders, entrepreneurs, collectors, fanatics–people who simply have to do it. This show is about passion, purpose, and occasionally, hobbies that get a little out of hand.”

Providing a window into the lives of interesting, hard-working Americans is nothing new for Rowe, the long-time host of “Dirty Jobs” (the original title for which was “Somebody’s Gotta Do It”). Reason TV’s Nick Gillespie talked to Rowe about blue-collar jobs, the importance of having a strong work ethic, and the high price of college last December.

A veteran teacher turned coach shadows 2 students for 2 days – a sobering lesson learned

Via Grant Wiggins:

The following account comes from a veteran HS teacher who just became a Coach in her building. Because her experience is so vivid and sobering I have kept her identity anonymous. But nothing she describes is any different than my own experience in sitting in HS classes for long periods of time. And this report of course accords fully with the results of our student surveys.

I have made a terrible mistake.

I waited fourteen years to do something that I should have done my first year of teaching: shadow a student for a day. It was so eye-opening that I wish I could go back to every class of students I ever had right now and change a minimum of ten things – the layout, the lesson plan, the checks for understanding. Most of it!

This is the first year I am working in a school but not teaching my own classes; I am the High School Learning Coach, a new position for the school this year. My job is to work with teachers and admins. to improve student learning outcomes.

As part of getting my feet wet, my principal suggested I “be” a student for two days: I was to shadow and complete all the work of a 10th grade student on one day and to do the same for a 12th grade student on another day. My task was to do everything the student was supposed to do: if there was lecture or notes on the board, I copied them as fast I could into my notebook. If there was a Chemistry lab, I did it with my host student. If there was a test, I took it (I passed the Spanish one, but I am certain I failed the business one).

My class schedules for the day
(Note: we have a block schedule; not all classes meet each day):

On Teaching Mathematics

V I Arnold:

Mathematics is a part of physics. Physics is an experimental science, a part of natural science. Mathematics is the part of physics where experiments are cheap.

The Jacobi identity (which forces the heights of a triangle to cross at one point) is an experimental fact in the same way as that the Earth is round (that is, homeomorphic to a ball). But it can be discovered with less expense.

In the middle of the twentieth century it was attempted to divide physics and mathematics. The consequences turned out to be catastrophic. Whole generations of mathematicians grew up without knowing half of their science and, of course, in total ignorance of any other sciences. They first began teaching their ugly scholastic pseudo-mathematics to their students, then to schoolchildren (forgetting Hardy’s warning that ugly mathematics has no permanent place under the Sun).

Since scholastic mathematics that is cut off from physics is fit neither for teaching nor for application in any other science, the result was the universal hate towards mathematicians – both on the part of the poor schoolchildren (some of whom in the meantime became ministers) and of the users.

The ugly building, built by undereducated mathematicians who were exhausted by their inferiority complex and who were unable to make themselves familiar with physics, reminds one of the rigorous axiomatic theory of odd numbers. Obviously, it is possible to create such a theory and make pupils admire the perfection and internal consistency of the resulting structure (in which, for example, the sum of an odd number of terms and the product of any number of factors are defined). From this sectarian point of view, even numbers could either be declared a heresy or, with passage of time, be introduced into the theory supplemented with a few “ideal” objects (in order to comply with the needs of physics and the real world).

Unfortunately, it was an ugly twisted construction of mathematics like the one above which predominated in the teaching of mathematics for decades. Having originated in France, this pervertedness quickly spread to teaching of foundations of mathematics, first to university students, then to school pupils of all lines (first in France, then in other countries, including Russia).

Ford celebrates 30th anniversary of high school science & technology program

Ford Motor Company:

The new Ford Blue Oval STEM Scholarship Program will provide $500,000 in scholarships over four years to 50 students to pursue qualifying STEM degrees

To be considered for the scholarship program, students must have been associated with one of three Ford-supported STEM programs – For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, Ford Next Generation Learning or Ford High School Science and Technology Program

More than 10,000 participants have completed the Ford High School Science and Technology Program to date, some of whom continued on in Ford’s internship program and are now Ford employees

Ford today announced a new Ford Blue Oval STEM Scholarship Program during the kickoff of its 30th annual High School Science and Technology Program (HSSTP). The new scholarship program will provide $500,000 in scholarships over four years to 50 students interested in pursuing degrees in science, technology, engineering or mathematic (STEM) fields.

Felicia Fields, group vice president, Human Resources and Corporate Services, made the announcement as she spoke to HSSTP participants and employee volunteers at the Ford Research and Innovation Center during the first session of the 2014-15 program.

The school with no rules that teaches the unteachable

Sally Weale:

Ian Mikardo High School, in London’s east end, is the end of the line, a special school for boys aged 11-16, who have been deemed unteachable.

The boys, who have severe social, emotional and behavioural difficulties, are among the most troubled and troubling children in the country and have been excluded from their previous, mainstream schools. They are also about to appear on television, as the subjects of the latest documentary tracing the everyday ups and downs of school-life, following the hugely popular Educating Yorkshire, Essex and now the East End.

The boys’ stories feature poverty and bereavement; they may have witnessed domestic violence or murder. Their homes are unstable, their accomodation is crowded and temporary. This week a new boy kicked in a window at school. It turned out his family were to be evicted the next morning and he didn’t know where he was going to live.

What Happens When Second Graders Are Treated to a Seven-Course, $220 Tasting Meal

Jeffrey Blitz:

One Saturday afternoon last month, six second graders from P.S. 295 in Brooklyn got a head start on the fine-dining life when they visited the acclaimed French restaurant Daniel. There, five waiters presented them with a seven-course tasting menu (after the trio of canapés and an amuse-bouche, naturellement). The meal was overseen by the star chef and eponym himself, Daniel Boulud, whose goal was, he says, “for the children to really discover a lot of flavor, a lot of layers, a lot of texture.” These discoveries included Smoked Paprika Cured Hamachi (the “most-foreign thing for them,” Boulud says), Crispy Japanese Snapper (“which they loved to see”) and Wagyu Beef Rib-Eye (“a big success”). To capture the children’s reactions, the magazine asked Jeffrey Blitz, the director of the Oscar-nominated documentary “Spellbound,” to make a video. The initiates seemed to enjoy the experience, but that isn’t to say they loved all those flavors and textures. At one point, after tasting a custom-made nonalcoholic cocktail, 7-year-old Chester Parish said: “This is, like, the only good course. It’s yummy.”

David and Samantha Cameron look to send daughter to inner city comp

Robert Mendick, and Peter Dominiczak:

David Cameron, who was famously educated at Eton College, is considering sending his elder daughter to an ethnically diverse, inner city comprehensive.

Mr Cameron is understood to have visited the school – a Church of England all-girls’ comprehensive close to Downing Street – in the search for a place next September for his 10-year-old daughter Nancy.

It is understood Mr Cameron and his wife Samantha, who studied at Marlborough College – the same school as the Duchess of Cambridge – have decided to spurn a fee-paying school for Nancy.

Deadly Force, in Black and White

by Ryan Gabrielson, Ryann Grochowski Jones and Eric Sagara:

Young black males in recent years were at a far greater risk of being shot dead by police than their white counterparts – 21 times greater i, according to a ProPublica analysis of federally collected data on fatal police shootings.

The 1,217 deadly police shootings from 2010 to 2012 captured in the federal data show that blacks, age 15 to 19, were killed at a rate of 31.17 per million, while just 1.47 per million white males in that age range died at the hands of police.

One way of appreciating that stark disparity, ProPublica’s analysis shows, is to calculate how many more whites over those three years would have had to have been killed for them to have been at equal risk. The number is jarring – 185, more than one per week.

ProPublica’s risk analysis on young males killed by police certainly seems to support what has been an article of faith in the African American community for decades: Blacks are being killed at disturbing rates when set against the rest of the American population.

Our examination involved detailed accounts of more than 12,000 police homicides stretching from 1980 to 2012 contained in the FBI’s Supplementary Homicide Report. The data, annually self-reported by hundreds of police departments across the country, confirms some assumptions, runs counter to others, and adds nuance to a wide range of questions about the use of deadly police force.

Teachers Expectations Strongly Predict College Completion

Ulrich Boser, Megan Wilhelm, and Robert Hanna:

People do better when more is expected of them. In education circles, this is called the Pygmalion Effect. It has been demonstrated in study after study, and the results can sometimes be quite significant. In one research project, for instance, teacher expectations of a pre-schooler’s ability was a robust predictor of the child’s high school GPA.

Raising student expectations has been in the news a lot recently as part of a larger conversation about improving learning outcomes. Most notably, a group of states have developed the Common Core State Standards, which go a long way toward establishing higher standards by setting out what students should know and be able to accomplish in reading and math. More than 40 states have adopted the standards so far. Recently, however, there has been a great deal of political pushback against them; a number of states, including Oklahoma, recently abandoned the reform effort.

The importance of the Pygmalion Effect
To look at the issue of expectations more closely, we analyzed the National Center for Education Statistics’ Education Longitudinal Study, or ELS, which followed the progression of a nationally representative sample of 10th grade students from 2002 to 2012. The ELS has a longitudinal design, which allows researchers to link teacher expectations to individual student data collected up to 10 years later. For some findings, we conducted a logistic regression of students’ actual academic outcomes on teachers’ expectations. In other areas, we reported simple frequencies.

Classroom Rules and Procedures Meet Understanding

Barry Garelick, via a kind email:

Mrs. Halloran, the teacher for whom I was subbing, was known for her strictness. On the day I met with her, she had me observe some of her classes and she introduced me. She told the students “I expect you all to behave well with Mr. Garelick. He and I will be in contact with each other and if there is trouble with any of you, I will hear about it.” This was met with a reverential silence.

On my first day, I took advantage of the students’ association of me with their former very strict teacher. I started each of my classes on that day with a general introduction and my rules. “My name is Mr. Garelick,” I said. “Or you can call me Mr. G. I answer to both. Here are my rules; there aren’t too many and they’re fairly simple. Ask permission to leave your seat; ask permission to throw something away in the wastebasket. Do NOT try to throw it in basketball style. Walk it over and drop it in. Do not throw things in class. If someone asks you for a pencil, I don’t want to see it thrown across the room. Ask for permission to leave your seat and walk the pencil over to the person. As far as behavior goes, if you are disruptive, I will give you one warning to stop the behavior. The second time it happens you will get a referral. That’s it.”

Nice and simple. I only had one student ask a question: a boy named Jacob in my 4th period pre-algebra class. He was from Chile and from what I could see, he was either going to be a mathematician or a lawyer. His question: “You say there will be two warnings before we get a referral. Is that just during one day, or is it all year?” I told him it was just for the one day.

Over the course of the semester, my rules would slowly disintegrate, though some days were better than others. These were pretty good kids and they exhibited the normal range of misbehaviors one would expect at a middle school. And compared to the high school where I had subbed, this was like paradise.

The Status of College Dropouts: Struggling With Debt and No Degree

Carly Stockwell:

College is often touted as a requirement for a high-paying job, or a ticket to the middle class, especially for low-income students. However, college is also growing increasingly unaffordable for everyone but the most well-to-do families.

With students of all backgrounds unable to afford the rising cost of college on their own, the government is eager to assist by loaning them tens of thousands of dollars in order to pursue their degree.

The problem? Many of these students don’t graduate college, and when they drop out they are often burdened with debt that could be difficult for them to repay.

Less than half of college students graduate within four years, with about a quarter of first-time degree seekers not finishing their degree within six years. Not measured in these graduation rates are part-time students, transfers, and adult students, who make up a large chunk of the student population and who also often take out loans to help with tuition costs.

How Preschoolers Can Predict Disease Outbreaks

Alexandra Sifferlin:

Preschoolers might be the key to identifying the next big disease outbreak, finds a new study soon to be presented at the American Academy of Pediatrics national conference.

The idea is simple—the researchers created an online disease surveillance system that allows child care staff to log symptoms, like fever or stomach flu, that they see in the young kids they care for. Nearby public health departments have access to the real-time data, which helps them quickly spot emerging trends. Health officials can then loop back to the child care staffers about a spreading illness, along with instructions on how to handle it, so that the caretakers can prepare for it and alert parents.

Dangerous Places for Girls’ Education

Rebecca Winthrop and Eileen McGivney:

This week, we’re focusing on the challenges facing millions of marginalized girls who can’t access a safe, high-quality education. Yesterday we explored the data on enrollment, child marriage and attacks against girls’ education and identified hotspots—areas where girls do not have the same access to education as boys. Today, we have a top 10 list that you don’t want to be on—especially if you’re a girl.

Our data points to 10 countries in the world where girls are especially struggling to get an education, sometimes literally risking their lives to do so. These hotspots are characterized by far fewer girls than boys enrolled in secondary school, high rates of child marriage, and attacks on girls’ education. So while girls’ education has been a success story in many parts of the globe, in these countries girls are still severely disadvantaged.

New Jersey’s charter school law is too restrictive (Madison lacks independent charters)

Laura Waters:

Last week the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS) published a new study, “The Health of the Public Charter School Movement: a State-by-State Analysis.” No worries here: according to NAPCS’s data, New Jersey is in fine fettle, ranking fourth among twenty-six states. (The analyses are restricted to states that serve more than one percent of students through public charters.)

However, a closer look at our scores reveals an infirmity that belies our glowing complexion: N.J.’s charter school sector soldiers in spite of the Legislative failure to ameliorate our outdated, pockmarked charter school law. Prognosis is guarded.

NAPCS’s new report, a follow-up to its research on model public school laws, creates a rubric based on 11 factors that indicate a healthy charter school environment. These include increases in the number of children served by these independent public schools; proportional representation of students who qualify for free and reduced lunch; proportional representation of children with disabilities and English language learner status; innovative practices like extended school calendars and higher education courses; rate of charter school closures.

Madison’s rejected charter schools include the Studio school and the Madison Preparatory Academy IB charter school.

The status quo governance (and spending, > $15k / student or double the national average) continues despite long term disastrous reading results.

Educational credentialing and household income: 1973-2013

Paul Campos:

It’s well known that having more educational credentials correlates strongly with higher income. This correlation has led lots of people to make the common sense assumption that increasing the educational credentials of the population as a whole will in turn produce higher incomes. Common sense assumes, as it so often does in a naive pre-theoretical way, that correlation equals causation.

At a more sophisticated theoretical level, the assumption at work here is that enhanced credentials signal enhanced human capital. In other words, more education (or in any case more educational credentials — a distinction which is usually ignored) creates or enhances abilities in its recipients they would not otherwise have, and these abilities allow them to perform work they would not otherwise be able to do.

If we then further assume that this work would not be performed, or at least not be performed as profitably, in the absence of the enhanced abilities signaled by the credentials, then enhanced human capital increases income by ameliorating structural un-and-underemployment.

That’s why almost all of Tom Friedman’s conversations with garrulous cab drivers invariably end with him concluding that everybody needs to get an advanced degree in bio-mechanical statistics, because in a globalized flat world we can no longer afford for the average person to be average.

Strong Appetite Among Parents for Improving Public Education

Peter Cunningham:

New survey research of public school parents commissioned by Education Post shows a high level of faith and trust in local public schools, principals and teachers, along with considerable concern that today’s schools are not preparing our children to fully compete in the global economy.

The results also reveal an equally significant appetite for positive change, with only 3 percent of those surveyed saying they believe schools are “fine as is.”

There is broad support for the kind of improvements needed—high standards, meaningful accountability and quality educational options for parents seeking the right school environment for their children—along with honest questions about what is and isn’t working and what it means for their own child.

Too many schools fail UK pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds, says report

Richard Adams:

Tens of thousands of children from disadvantaged backgrounds could have their lives transformed if underperforming schools matched the results achieved by similar pupils in the most progressive schools in England, a report says today.

The report from the Social Mobility and Child Poverty (SMCP) commission, headed by former Labour cabinet minister Alan Milburn, says that schools are letting down many children from the worst-off circumstances, while others from similar backgrounds are able to excel.

“If some schools can do it, there is no excuse for others not to,” said Milburn, who claimed the report “unearthed a new and shocking gap in performance between similar schools serving similar communities”.

Preparing world-class teachers

Louis Freedberg, Ph.D., and Stephanie Rice, via a kind email (PDF):

Despite the fundamentally important role of teachers in our public school system, how they are prepared is receiving far less attention than other current reforms, such as the Common Core State Standards, the Local Control Funding Formula, and new ways to assess and hold schools accountable for student performance.

Teachers are routinely blamed for almost every underperforming child and every short- coming of the nation’s public school system. The length of time it takes them to get tenure, seniority protections in the layoff process, and the regulations protecting them from dismissal have all come under attack.

In addition, teachers were laid off in large numbers during the Great Recession. Paralleling these developments, enrollments in teacher preparation programs plummeted to less than 20,000 in the 2012-13 school year, according to latest figures—a decline of 74 percent since 2001-02.
It has been more than 15 years since the last major reform of California’s system of teacher preparation and credentialing (with the passage of Senate Bill 2042 in 1998). Fortuitously, numerous groups have carried out a substantial amount of work that focuses on this crucial element of the state’s education system.

Most influential have been the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, which issues credentials and oversees preparation programs; the Task Force on Educator Excellence, which released its influential “Greatness by Design” report in 2012; and the Teacher Prepara- tion Advisory Panel, which concluded its work in 2013.

Punctuation Tips

Janis Bell:

Punctuation marks are to writing what vocal delivery is to speech. Can you imagine talking in a monotone without pause? Your audience would have difficulty making sense of your words, let alone figuring out where emphasis and nuance belong.

If you drain the punctuation from your writing, you have no louds, no softs, no expression, no innuendo. If you use only a few punctuation marks, you seriously restrict your style. If you misuse punctuation marks, you send your reader down the wrong road, maybe even up a tree.

You need to understand exactly what each mark can and cannot do, as well as the message it gives to your reader.

Project Cybersyn and the origins of the Big Data nation.

Evgeny Morozov

In June, 1972, Ángel Parra, Chile’s leading folksinger, wrote a song titled “Litany for a Computer and a Baby About to Be Born.” Computers are like children, he sang, and Chilean bureaucrats must not abandon them. The song was prompted by a visit to Santiago from a British consultant who, with his ample beard and burly physique, reminded Parra of Santa Claus—a Santa bearing a “hidden gift, cybernetics.”

The consultant, Stafford Beer, had been brought in by Chile’s top planners to help guide the country down what Salvador Allende, its democratically elected Marxist leader, was calling “the Chilean road to socialism.” Beer was a leading theorist of cybernetics—a discipline born of midcentury efforts to understand the role of communication in controlling social, biological, and technical systems. Chile’s government had a lot to control: Allende, who took office in November of 1970, had swiftly nationalized the country’s key industries, and he promised “worker participation” in the planning process. Beer’s mission was to deliver a hypermodern information system that would make this possible, and so bring socialism into the computer age. The system he devised had a gleaming, sci-fi name: Project Cybersyn.

Why gifted education doesn’t make sense

Jay Matthews:

A new book out by nationally known gifted-education expert James R. Delisle, a former fifth grade special education teacher and Kent State University professor, says our schools are making war on our nation’s finest young minds by failing to fund enough programs for the gifted.

What’s the problem with that? He — and others involved with gifted education — doesn’t address what I see as the biggest problem with gifted education: its ill-considered selectivity.

After a school district has designated a certain group of students as gifted, what should it do for the children who missed being admitted by one or two IQ points, one or two votes on the selection committee or some other narrow margin in the variously complicated ways this is done?

Given the unavoidable imprecision of any selection criteria, many children being denied gifted services would be for all practical purposes identical to many of those selected. If gifted services are as necessary for the gifted as Delisle says they are, how can he deny them to children with the same capabilities and needs?

Every Child Reading: Linking Knowledge and Practice to Support School Systems

Wisconsin Reading Coalition, via a kind email:

Dyslexia 101: Wisconsin Institute for Dyslexia/Learning Disabilities is repeating Dyslexia 101 this Saturday, October 11, from 9-12, at the WILDD center in Madison. $10 [Brochure - PDF]

Free webinar: Dr. Margie Gillis presents Every Child Reading: Linking Knowledge and Practice to Support School Systems
Tuesday, October 28, 1-2 PM CT
Sponsored by Learning Ally
Margie is president of Literacy How, Inc., and a research affiliate of Haskins Laboratories and Fairfield University. She is a frequent presenter at the International Dyslexia Association annual conference and has a wealth of information. We encourage you to tune in to learn about:
supporting school leadership
using data transparently for accountability
coordinating a multi-tier system of support
providing embedded professional development based on best practice
engaging parents and families

Click on the webinar title to register

Why the White House Fudged the Numbers on Student Loans

Liz Peek:

Unfortunately, it turnsout the numbers are bogus.

In keeping with a White House that talks a good game on transparency but that is cloaked in secrecy, the Department of Education moved the goalposts at the last minute, changing how the default rates were calculated and thus sparing some colleges from tough penalties. It has so far refused to say which schools were given a reprieve, though it appears likely that black colleges were the major beneficiaries.

The academic world has been anxiously awaiting the Department of Education’s annual announcement on student loan defaults. As of this year, schools with three consecutive years of default rates above 30 percent (or one year above 40 percent) will risk losing federal financial aid. The review was expected to clobber the for-profit sector, but also to penalize some smaller schools characterized by higher-then-average

Connecticut Targets Homeschoolers

Matthew Hennessy:

But while Lanza’s abnormal social and emotional development surely contributed to his crime, homeschooling neither exacerbated his mental illness nor obscured it from local education officials. Lanza attended traditional public schools up to the eighth grade. From the beginning, everyone knew he was different. As Andrew Solomon detailed earlier this year in The New Yorker, Lanza suffered from sensory issues and received speech and occupational therapy beginning in kindergarten. At every juncture of his early life, he was analyzed and agitated over by psychologists, counselors, behaviorists, and other state-credentialed educators. Yet Lanza’s troubles deepened, and his anti-social behavior grew worse. Peter and Nancy Lanza were as desperate to help their son find psychological peace as they were to identify a school environment in which he could thrive. At 13, he was sent to a private psychologist, who diagnosed Asperger’s Syndrome. At 14, he underwent a psychiatric assessment at the Yale University Child Study Center, where obsessive-compulsive disorder was added to his growing list of personality disorders. The Lanzas considered moving 50 miles away, to a town with a school district known for excellence in special education. They briefly enrolled him in a Catholic school.

Notes on the Academic Job Market

Gerry Canavan:

I’ve been puttering around on Twitter this afternoon thinking through my sense that framing academic job searches as a “lottery” might actually encourage, rather than combat, the cruel optimism involved in the process. The commonplace description of the market as a “lottery” has emerged in response to the framing of academia as a “market” or even as a “meritocracy,” both of which suggest some rationalistic evaluation of a candidate’s value vis-à-vis the other candidates, with the “best” candidate ultimately being selected. The market/meritocracy framing is naturally a source of anxiety for academic job-seekers, to which the lottery framing is experienced as a relief (especially for those who have been through one or more cycles without finding tenure-track employment): not getting a job isn’t “failure,” it’s the arbitrary outcome of a random and capricious system. That the applicants-to-job ratio for the most desirable jobs is now in the many-hundreds-to-one undoubtedly fuels this pervasive sense that all you can do is hope your name is the one that gets pulled out of the hat.

But the lottery framing, despite its comforts and its useful provocations, also has its limits, including some conceptual problems that may cause more harm than good in prospective job seekers. Some of this can be seen from the thought experiment of simply taking the lottery idea seriously. People use the idea of the lottery as a critique of a logic of merit and moral desert — but, perversely, nothing could be more fair than random allocation by lottery. (This contradiction is why many people who call the academic job market a lottery in practice describe something more like an anti-meritocracy: only the worst, least-deserving people get picked.)

The History Of The English Language In One Chart

George Dvorsky:

Triangulations blogger Sabio Lantz recently put together this rather clever diagram showing how the English language has evolved over the past 3,000 years.

And yes, though it first emerged as a West Germanic language spoken in early medieval England, its roots go as far back as the Celts. It was carried by Germanic settlers to various parts of the Netherlands, northwest Germany, and Denmark. One of these Germanic tribes, the Angles, eventually made its way to what is now Britain. At the time, the native population in Roman Britain spoke Common Brittonic, a Celtic language, that had certain Latin features.

Lantz’s diagram is also fascinating in that it beautifully illustrates how cultural injections influence the evolution of language. For English, this ranged from the Viking and Norman invasions through to the Renaissance mixing and empiric imports, such as Hindi and Arabic.

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