Hardy Boys and Girls: On Undergraduates and Self-Infantilization

Andy Seal:

There has recently been a spate of essays investigating a striking tendency on campuses across the nation: many undergraduates are seeking more and more to avoid or pre-empt encounters with speech or images that they deem “triggering” or traumatizing. Instead of allowing these encounters to happen (as they would be forced to do in the world after college), they either try to form safe spaces in which they “burrow” as in a “cocoon” or they attempt to secure remedial action by school authorities after the fact.

I’m going to address one of these essays specifically here rather than the genre, Judith Shulevitz’s “In College and Hiding from Scary Ideas,” from the New York Times. Shulevitz references a couple of other similar pieces should you care to catch up, but her piece covers most of the arguments I’ve heard regarding students’ “self-infantilization.” To cut to the chase, I think what she and others have described is neither a process of infantilization nor a process initiated by the students themselves, and her essay badly misdirects readers from the larger transformations in higher education that I believe are actually at issue here.

Let us begin with one of the subtexts of Shulevitz’s essay: that undergraduates today are less mentally strong and flexible than students of yore. Well, it’s not much of a subtext, in fact. She writes, “it’s disconcerting to see students clamor for a kind of intrusive supervision that would have outraged students a few generations ago. But those were hardier souls. Now students’ needs are anticipated by a small army of service professionals — mental health counselors, student-life deans and the like.”

PhD ‘overproduction’ is not new and faculty retirements won’t solve it

Melonie Fullick:

In my last post I took a look at some of the history and context of Canadian universities’ hiring of contract faculty. While I was digging around for information, I couldn’t help noticing the relevance of some of the material to another ongoing debate in higher education: that of the “overproduction” of PhDs. Since “too many PhDs” is a recurring theme in media commentary about graduate education (e.g. Nature, The Economist), I thought I’d explore the issue in more depth and connect it to some of the research I found. Are we really “producing” too many PhDs, and if so, is this a recent problem?

Let’s start with doctoral enrollment increases: how have PhD numbers increased over time, for example in Ontario? Recent graduate expansion has been significant within a short period. On this COU page, we find the specifics spelled out: “Between 2003 and 2011, the government added funding for 15,000 additional graduate spaces. In the 2011 budget, the government announced funding for an additional 6,000 graduate spaces” to 2015. That’s more than 20,000 places added in about 10 years, some of it clearly an echo of the Double Cohort’s undergraduate enrollment bulge. Over that period, PhD students have comprised about 35 percent of total graduate enrollments.

Everything to Like About Kevin Carey’s End of College & Reasons to Pause

Miloš Milovanović:

Kevin Carey’s new book, “The End of College: Creating the Future of Learning and the University of Everywhere” has legs. It has been in the New York Times, on NPR and has an active Twitter hashtag (#endofcollege). Carey’s thesis is that technology can make learning happen anywhere. Rather than go to college once or twice, people will go to college forever. Colleges have grown greedy and short-sighted in their quest for prestige. Online degrees and short-term credentials of various sorts can, should, and probably will be the death of traditional higher education. The thesis should sound familiar. It’s been made enough times. But the thesis is better at describing than prescribing because it ignores the faultlines that created the problem: the politics of race, class, gender and inequality.

Carey’s take on higher education disruption is not unique for ignoring politics some people would rather not deal with. Many technological solutions to social problems have a blind spot for politics. And I don’t just mean electoral politics and public policy (although both are major). I mean the politics of how we choose where we live, how we live, and who we are. Fundamentally, most architects of the end of college want an apolitical solution to a political problem. Like Carey, they provide solutions for problems as we wished they worked and not the problems as they actually work.

Education is not a design problem with a technical solution. It’s a social and political project neoliberals want to innovate away.

Megan Erickson:

The point was this: forget the cash. Forget that American teachers spend an average of $500 a year supplying their classrooms with materials. Anything is possible, if you put your mind to it.

Similarly, Design Thinking for Educators, the eighty-one page “design toolkit” made available to teachers as a free download by New York City-based firm IDEO — which has designed cafeterias for the San Francisco Unified School District, turned libraries into “learning labs” for the Gates Foundation, and developed a marketing plan for the for-profit online Capella University — contains no physical tools. Problems ranging from “I just can’t get my students to pay attention” to “Students come to school hungry and can’t focus on work” are defined by the organization as opportunities for design in disguise.

Tim Brown, IDEO’s CEO and a regular at Davos and TED talks, has described design thinking as a way to inject “local, collaborative, participatory” planning into the development of products, organizational processes, and now schools.

Why Is So Much of Our Discussion of Higher Ed Driven by Elite Institutions?

Corey Robin:

One of the things that makes me crazy about the media’s discussion of higher education is how much of it is driven and framed by elite schools. During the 90s, when it seemed like every college and university was fighting over whether Shakespeare should give way to Toni Morrison on the syllabus, it occurred to few pundits to look at what was happening in community colleges or lower-tier public universities, where most students get their education. And where the picture looks quite different.

The same goes today for the wars over trigger warnings and safe spaces: on both sides of the debate, this is primarily an argument over elite schools. Which has little to do with a place like Brooklyn College, where I teach. Seriously: just check out Judith Shulevitz’s recent piece on the topic in the Times, which got so much notice. In a 2100-word oped, here are all the institutions that make an appearance: Brown, Columbia, Northwestern, Oxford, Smith, Hampshire, Barnard, and the University of Chicago. There are fewer students in all of these institutions combined than there are at CUNY alone; between them, these colleges and universities enroll less than .5% of all students in America (not counting Oxford, of course, though it wouldn’t really change the numbers).

Everything you need to know about Quebec’s latest student strike

Ethan Cox:

He was quoted in Le Devoir explaining that the austerity regime enacted by the provincial government would not allow him to pay for a makeup semester in late summer, as was held in 2012. “I don’t see how I can take money away from primary and secondary schools to fund people who decide to walk out the door of their university.”

The minister broke with the government policy of referring to student strikes as “boycotts” by calling on students who opposed the strike to show up to their general assemblies and vote against. Nevertheless, he insisted there was no right to strike accorded to students.

Can the minister follow through on his threat to make students pay if the strike continues? We’ll get to the bottom of it, along with all your burning questions about the current Quebec student strike, in this handy explainer.

Why America’s obsession with STEM education is dangerous

Fareed Zakaria:

If Americans are united in any conviction these days, it is that we urgently need to shift the country’s education toward the teaching of specific, technical skills. Every month, it seems, we hear about our children’s bad test scores in math and science — and about new initiatives from companies, universities or foundations to expand STEM courses (science, technology, engineering and math) and deemphasize the humanities. From President Obama on down, public officials have cautioned against pursuing degrees like art history, which are seen as expensive luxuries in today’s world. Republicans want to go several steps further and defund these kinds of majors. “Is it a vital interest of the state to have more anthropologists?” asked Florida’s Gov. Rick Scott. “I don’t think so.” America’s last bipartisan cause is this: A liberal education is irrelevant, and technical training is the new path forward. It is the only way, we are told, to ensure that Americans survive in an age defined by technology and shaped by global competition. The stakes could not be higher.

This dismissal of broad-based learning, however, comes from a fundamental misreading of the facts — and puts America on a dangerously narrow path for the future. The United States has led the world in economic dynamism, innovation and entrepreneurship thanks to exactly the kind of teaching we are now told to defenestrate. A broad general education helps foster critical thinking and creativity. Exposure to a variety of fields produces synergy and cross fertilization. Yes, science and technology are crucial components of this education, but so are English and philosophy. When unveiling a new edition of the iPad, Steve Jobs explained that “it’s in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough — that it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the result that makes our hearts sing.”

“The Future Should Belong To K-12 Spending Accounts”

Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry:

The tragedy of the discussion around “school choice” in America is the hidden presumption that “school choice” doesn’t exist already. But it does — for the privileged. This is not only a matter of the privileged being able to afford private schools, but also the fact that, through the public school catchment system, the real estate market is really the market for schools. Every family in America wants to buy a house in a place where there are good schools. Every commonwealth tries to boost real estate values by improving schools. That’s how the system works. The rich get school choice, the poor get… whatever.

The drive for school choice is not a drive to turn schools into a marketplace, it’s only to give the poor a way to access the preexisting market, which is currently closed off to them.

Charter schools are a step in the right direction, but the future should belong to K-12 spending accounts, whereby parents can spend their tuition dollars not just on a specific school but on a broad panel of educational activities, including internships, apprenticeships, and more. Families could pool accounts together and the poor and disabled would received fatter accounts.

I wholeheartedly agree. Madison is exhibit 1. Decades of monolithic K-12 governence combined with spending double the national average per student has failed to address its long term disastrous reading results.

Academic dishonesty at Stanford: What compels elite students to cheat?

Rowena Lindsay:

Stanford University is the latest in a series of top American universities to admit it has a cheating problem.

With nearly 16,000 thousand students enrolled at Stanford, a few incidences of cheating and plagiarism are expected each quarter. But in a letter sent Tuesday by University Provost John Etchemendy, the school is investigating “an unusually high number of troubling allegations of academic dishonesty,” during the winter quarter.

The school is concerned over incidents in a number of courses, particularly one of the school’s largest introductory courses where one in five students are suspected of having cheated. The University is currently in the process of contacting those students, Dr. Etchemendy wrote.

University protests around the world: a fight against commercialisation

Rebecca Ratcliffe:

University of Amsterdam, Netherlands
Dutch student protests ignite movement against management of universities
Read more

What’s happening? Students are occupying Maagdenhuis, the university’s main administrative building, calling for a democrastisation of the institution.

What prompted the protest? Protesters want to increase the transparency and accountability of the university decision-making processes and to pause and reconsider its programme of restructuring, cuts and sell-offs.

Stop Using College Students as Political Pawns

Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig

Among other collegiate eccentricities, Shulevitz details the somewhat infantile soothing materials set aside in a private room for Brown University students who felt upset by discussions of sexual assault. The walls of this room took on a near apocalyptic metaphorical significance for the chattering class, with the Foundation For Individual Rights in Education worrying that “universities cannot fulfill their vital function as places where students learn how to think, research, and debate if community members strive to avoid speech that makes them uncomfortable.” At the National Review Online, Charles C. W. Cooke adduced the Brown safe space as an apparatus of a new McCarthyism, while Reason’s Robby Soave declared that such accommodation “emboldens [undergraduates] to seek increasingly absurd and infantilizing restrictions on themselves and each other.”

All this coincided with an incident at Reed College in which an undergraduate was asked not to attend discussion sections of a required humanities course after he repeatedly made remarks about rape and feminism that the course instructor deemed disruptive. Conservative outlets took up the cause, convinced that the student’s non-PC perspective was responsible for his censure. As Mary Emily O’Hara pointed out at The Daily Beast, the misguided undergraduate swiftly became a stand-in for all of the conservative angst about political correctness and constitutional issues that would normally fester.

Social Studies [and history] Education in Crisis

Gorman Lee, via Will Fitzhugh:

The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education’s decision to indefinitely suspend the History and Social Science MCAS in 2009 has placed social studies education in a high risk of marginalization in K-12 public school districts across the Commonwealth. The problem has only exacerbated with increased emphases of English language arts and mathematics in the Common Core State Standards that was adopted in 2010. Therefore it comes to no surprise that once school districts have started to face budgetary constraints, social studies is now among the subject areas first on the chopping block… and it’s already happening.

There have been recent concerning reports of K-12 school districts reducing social studies departments in order to secure support to “high stakes” subject areas, despite the promised commitments to uphold civic ideals and to prepare students to become active and productive adult citizens as described in their mission statements. Many school districts have begun to merge social studies and English language arts departments into a Humanities department, where the social studies curriculum takes a secondary role to support the English language arts curriculum. In some schools, teachers whose primary subject area is other than social studies have been assigned to teach one social studies class; it now appears that “highly qualified” is no longer applicable when it comes to social studies. In some elementary schools, social studies instruction has been reduced to no more than twenty minutes per week so that classes can spend more time for instructions in literature, mathematics, and science.

If we continue to allow social studies education become marginalized in our K-12 schools, our students will continue to graduate from high school with limited knowledge and understanding of their nation’s heritage, government, economy, and role in international affairs. The deterioration of a rigorous social studies curriculum will limit our students’ appreciation of community and national identity. The absence of a comprehensive K-12 social studies education will deny our students crucial learning opportunities to learn and apply higher-order critical thinking skills to address and find solutions to real world problems and issues.

We would like to hear the current status of the K-12 social studies program in your school district. Please go to our online survey and tell us what’s happening in your school district and building. The results of the survey will be collected on March 31, 2015. http://goo.gl/forms/UpJ0yFXOE6 or you can email me at president@masscouncil.org.

Social studies educators must unite and let our elected representatives know that social studies education is facing a serious civic crisis. As President of the Massachusetts Council for the Social Studies, I am recommending that we coordinate a statewide Advocacy Day, where K-12 social studies educators schedule a meeting with their respective elected representatives at their local offices or at the Massachusetts State House in Boston.

If you are doing a special project with your students, I strongly encourage you to invite members of your school committee and your elected local representatives to your classroom and showcase what your students are learning in their social studies classes. It is our civic responsibility to express our collective concerns to our legislators and enlighten them on the importance and necessity to support and promote a strong K-12 social studies education in our public, charter, and private schools across the Commonwealth.

Please forward this letter to your colleagues and staff.

We need your help!
Sincerely,

Gorman Lee, Ed.D.
Mass Council President

The Electronic Panopticon

Neil Richards, via Will Fitzhugh:

Is the web private enough for you? Maybe you’re OK with every search you’ve made, every site visited, every email sent all being stored in databases linked to your name or account by your service provider, your phone carrier, or Google. Maybe you’re OK with Amazon knowing not just what’s in your Kindle library but also what you’ve actually read from it, and when. Maybe you’re OK with that data not just being stored in the cyberequivalent of a dusty warehouse, but vigorously sought after, bid on, and pursued through coercion by marketers, the police, and spies eager to know you better. Not to mention the aggregated identity and financial information compromised repeatedly by hackers breaching the firewalls of retailers, banks, and government agencies.

It’s just the cost of doing business, right? The trade-off for convenience and safety.

Really? The web is little more than 25 years old. Are we already fatalistically resigned to the intrusiveness that accompanies this infant technology? We shouldn’t be. We should be outraged that the Internet carries with it so much prying, that it has become an electronic panopticon. But to curb these tendencies, we have to channel our indignation into a unified political voice. We must let policy makers and corporate chiefs know that electronic privacy is a primary concern, one that factors into our values, our votes, and our spending.

Freedom of thought and freedom of speech are our most valuable civil liberties because on them depend our lifelong intellectual and emotional development and satisfaction. Sampling ideas, viewpoints, and aesthetics without being unduly judged by or associated with them are part of learning, maturing, becoming individuals, figuring out the world on our own terms. We need the free, unmonitored ability to think, read, and speak with confidants before presenting our ideas for public consumption.

That freedom is an idea with very old roots in our law and culture, and it is the basis for democratic self-government, individuality, diversity, and, yes, also the eccentricity, the vibrant weirdness, that often makes life so delectable.

When we are watched, when we even sense that we might be watched, we act differently. Writers and critics from Bentham to Orwell to Foucault have explored how surveillance drives our behavior toward the boring, the bland, the mainstream.

A growing body of empirical evidence supports these insights. One study at a British university measured the money its tea-drinking professors put into a contribution box for shared milk. The reminders to chip in were changed: The words stayed the same, but the background graphic was switched from flowers one week to eyeballs the next. The penetrating gaze of the eyeballs spurred significantly higher contributions. Other studies have documented the normalizing effects of surveillance in such contexts as drug testing and police ethics. Results are unequivocal: When we are watched, we “behave,” whatever that means in context.

Surveillance is warranted where it deters police brutality, but we shouldn’t deter new or unpopular ideas. In a free society, there is no such thing as a thought crime. Orwell’s warnings about surveillance are particularly resonant here. A recent study at MIT found that after the Snowden revelations, Google users searched far less for the sorts of terms (“dirty bomb” or “homeland security”) that might raise the attention of the U.S. government. More important, it found, the awareness that web searches might be monitored also apparently led people to search less about things having nothing to do with terrorism but that were just personally sensitive or embarrassing (“body odor,” “coming out,” “divorce lawyer,” “erectile dysfunction”). Being watched deters us from the kind of free and fearless inquiry on which political and personal freedoms depend.

Three aspects of intellectual privacy in particular need to be zealously guarded: freedom of thought, the right to read, and confidential communications. Each of these ancient liberties is threatened by new digital technologies and practices.

Freedom of thought: your ability to think and believe what you want, no matter how radical or weird. If any human right is absolute, it is this one. Supreme Court Justice Benjamin Cardozo once called it “the matrix, the indispensable condition, of nearly every form of freedom.” The prohibition on thought crimes is reflected in both the Fourth Amendment’s protection of “papers” and the Fifth Amendment’s protection against self-incrimination. These foundational Bill of Rights guarantees made it much harder to haul radical diarists or dissenting thinkers into court to answer for their beliefs. But our thoughts, once safely hidden in our heads, have started to be revealed by digital technology. As we increasingly use search engines to ask questions or cloud servers to store our documents, we create digital echoes and copies of those thoughts.

When we use search engines, we are thinking with the aid of technology. And when the National Security Agency’s surveillance chills our searches, it curbs our freedom of thought.

Once we have read and thought, we often want to consult our friends to see if our ideas are important, just a bit crazy, or both. Letters have long been protected by both the Fourth Amendment and ancient laws protecting postal privacy. But most modern communications are electronic. The Supreme Court ruled in 1967 that we have a reasonable expectation of privacy in our phone conversations, and that the police must get a warrant supported by probable cause before they listen in. Yet there remain open questions about whether the warrant requirement also protects emails or communication metadata. When it comes to digital technology, the confidentiality of our communications is up for grabs.The right to read is equally fundamental. Making sense of the world requires access to the ideas that other people have written down. Librarians have long protected their patrons’ reading habits, and those professional ethics have been backed up by law. But new technologies create new kinds of records. When the Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork’s movie-rental history was disclosed by a Washington video store, Congress quickly passed the Video Privacy Protection Act, which protects not just old records of VHS rentals but also the confidentiality of your Netflix queue. Bizarrely, though, in most states records of book sales are unprotected. So when Fifty Shades of Grey became a best seller on e-books, it happened under an illusion of reader privacy. No one on the subway might have known what you were reading on your Kindle, but Amazon did, down to the time you read each page and which ones you might have reread.

If we care about intellectual freedom and free speech, we must protect intellectual privacy. Protecting free speech is no good if surveillance stops us from thinking up anything new or original to say. We want to be safe, and we don’t want to regulate businesses needlessly, but sensitive data about our mental activities need special protection. We’ll have some choices to make as we update our laws, but we can create a world in which we have both intellectual privacy and the many benefits of our digital tools.

First, we should interpret the Fourth Amendment to make search results confidential and to require warrants before the government obtains records of Internet searches. When users can trust that sensitive data regarding their thoughts are held securely, they will search more fearlessly, with more confidence in and greater loyalty to their digital intermediaries. Privacy can be good for business, as companies like Mozilla, DuckDuckGo, Apple, and Microsoft are starting to argue.

We should treat records of both digital and paper reading as confidential, as we have done with library and video-rental records. Companies like Amazon provide a helpful service when they recommend books and movies to us on the basis of information we have shared about our preferences, but such data should be used only to help the customer. The information should not be put toward influencing preferences, or sold to the highest bidder, or potentially used for blackmail, as Uber is alleged to have contemplated to silence its critics.

Communications data, including metadata, should also be better protected. We should be able to trust that our digital communications are secure, and that the government can intrude on private confidences only when it establishes probable cause that the parties are involved in crime. Blanket warrantless surveillance of the conversations or metadata of a free people chills discussion and is ultimately inconsistent with self-government.

We must ensure that intellectual privacy is a basic norm of digital life. We should compel our elected representatives to impose fundamental rules of fairness on the companies whose tools increasingly affect our lives and political freedoms. As consumers, we should encourage companies to protect our privacy against the state through the use of encryption, and we should reject government calls to weaken encryption through “back doors.” A back door to our security services can be used by malicious hackers and criminals as well as by the state. Rather than weaken encryption, we should rely on impartial judges and the tested strengths of the legal process.

Some might argue that intellectual privacy, like other civil liberties, could make us less safe, that we must trade some liberty for security in a dangerous world. We should certainly strike a thoughtful balance — but one that preserves our ability to think, read, and communicate on our own terms. We already have tested methods for investigation and prosecution of crimes, ways that preserve the basic presumption that free people must be trusted with dangerous ideas and dangerous books.

And we already make trade-offs between freedom and safety in other areas. We allow people to drive fast cars and eat unhealthful cheeseburgers. We have chosen to live with the risk of car accidents and heart attacks. Such freedoms matter to us despite their dangers because, on balance, they make life better. In the seductive glow of our electronic age, let’s not give away the far more crucial liberties of intellectual privacy.

The real case against AP U.S. History

Alexandra Petri, via Will Fitzhugh:

Stepping back from State Legislatures And Their Strange Hobbies, if you wanted to object to AP U.S. History—which is run by the College Board, a private company, not, as many legislators seem to suspect, a Vast Conspiracy To Take Over State Control Of Learning — a better case might be not that it was Insufficiently Nice To America but that maybe, just maybe, that it should require the mention of some specific facts, any facts at all.

I understand that it is supposed to be an advanced course, operating at the college level, under the assumption that this is not students’ first exposure to American history. As the authors of its framework note in an open letter, “The AP U.S. History course is an advanced, college-level course—not an introductory U.S. history course—and is not meant to be students’ first exposure to the fundamental narrative of U.S. history. Because countless states, districts, and schools have their own standards for U.S. history teaching, we did not want to usurp local control by prescribing a detailed national curriculum of people, places, and events. As a result, we created a framework, not a full curriculum, so that local decision makers and teachers could populate the course with content that is meaningful to them and that satisfies their state mandates.”

If the students learning AP U.S. History already know U.S. history, they will not have any problems. If, however, there are any gaps—well, there’s the rub.

So far the people in the anti-APUSH movement have complained, “How dare you not mention Martin Luther King or George Washington at any point in your 142-page framework!” and the people behind the framework have replied, “No, no, you don’t understand. We don’t mention ANYONE! It’s just a framework that you can fill in with facts of your own choosing!”

That’s to say, the framework lists everything you should learn about American history to get college credit—except, er, specific facts about American history.

I appreciate that this is how we do things now. This is the way courses work. We emphasize “critical thinking skills” and “approaches” and “concepts,” and we have put rote memorization behind us. Dates, names, places? Please. Google exists.

This is the product of something called Backward Design. Here’s how it’s described in “Getting to the Core of Literacy for History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects,” a book put together by Vicky M. Giouroukakis and Maureen Connolly to assist teachers in meeting Common Core standards in these content areas (yes, I know the Common Core and AP are different, but the principle of Backward Design is the same):

“Many teachers initially think about their teaching—what they will teach and how— without considering what student outcomes they want at the end of their instruction. In other words, they are concerned with inputs rather than outputs first. For example, they select a topic (civil rights), then the text (Martin Luther King’s Letter From Birmingham Jail), followed by instructional methods (discussion and cooperative learning) and learning experiences (close reading and analysis of text, identification of rhetorical devices, and argument writing), to help students meet the state standard. In contrast, BD ensures that teachers identify first the standards that they want their students to meet, followed by student results called for by the standards, and then learning activities that will lead to the desired results.” (Wiggins & McTighe, 2001, pp. 7-8).

The College Board has been answering critics of the framework’s suggestions by making the case that any good teacher will know which facts to teach to fill the framework, which is why the framework did not mention them.

“When the new framework was first reviewed by AP U.S. History teachers,” the framework notes, “they indicated that it would be useful to provide examples for teaching some of the concepts. For most concepts, AP U.S. History teachers know exactly what figures, events, and sources they will focus on, but for others, they asked that the framework provide suggestions.” (bold mine)

But, well, how did those teachers know what figures and events to focus on? Because someone at some point taught them specific facts from the American past and said that those facts were worth knowing and other facts were less worth knowing—if only because they were more connected to the mass of facts around them. This incident inspired pamphlets and cartoons and protests; this one didn’t. Citing this one strengthens your argument more than citing that one does. In other words, it matters which facts you use to make your arguments.

The problem is not that we need to be nicer to the Founders, that we must insist they were angels who rode golden clouds to form cities on hills while falling short zero times. That’s not history. That’s hagiography. It’s not that we should not take new cases for beginning and ending historical periods into account, or give short shrift to minority experiences.

But is it worth making sure you know certain names and dates? Not just so you can use Paul Revere and John Adams as examples in your essay on how “The resulting independence movement was fueled by established colonial elites, as well as by grassroots movements that included newly mobilized laborers, artisans and women, and rested on arguments over the rights of British subjects, the rights of the individual, and the ideas of the Enlightenment”—but so you can move freely about arguments for the rest of your life? I think it is.

If you really want to argue with the College Board, don’t argue that AP U.S. History isn’t nice enough to America. Argue that which specific facts you use to teach U.S. history— even at an advanced level—isn’t something you can just handwave like this. As the state legislators are demonstrating when they try to craft their own requirements, which facts and documents you include and which ones you don’t makes a difference. Do you want speeches by Ronald Reagan and sermons by John Edwards, or speeches by Lyndon Johnson and poems by Walt Whitman? This choice is nontrivial. You’d think the AP would have some interest in making certain there’s a balanced diet of facts—not just laudatory, not just condemnatory, but somewhere in between, where history is.

Alexandra Petri writes the ComPost blog, offering a lighter take on the news and opinions of the day.

The real reason research blaming black poverty on black culture has fallen out of favor

Jenee Desmond-Harris:

This year marks the 50th anniversary of sociologist-turned-US Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s 1965 study, The Negro Family: The Case for National Action. Generally referred to as the Moynihan Report, it primarily blames black poverty on “ghetto culture,” failure to marry, and absent black fathers, in an analysis that was instantly controversial and is still debated today.

But the report’s focus on the weakening of the black nuclear family as the key explanation for racial inequality has largely fallen out of favor in academic circles. Why? Some believe liberal backlash against the report has had a chilling effect on research that focused on so-called “cultural pathologies” — versus structural issues — for problems faced by African Americans.

But University of Maryland sociologist Philip N. Cohen, author of The Family: Diversity, Inequality, and Social Change, says that’s ridiculous. The shift in sociology to a “new, less victim-blamey perspective” about the black experience in America, Cohen wrote in a recent blog post, wasn’t because liberal scholars were scared to look at black culture as a way to explain black poverty and inequality. Rather, he said, it was that they simply didn’t agree those factors were the real problem.

I spoke to Cohen about why he says the narrative about liberals stifling studies like Moynihan’s doesn’t make sense, and how it connects to modern-day complaints about “political correctness.”

End near for Dictionary of American Regional English?

Mark Johnson:

The end may be near for one of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s most celebrated humanities projects, the half-century-old Dictionary of American Regional English. In a few months, the budget pool will drain to a puddle. Layoff notices have been sent, eulogies composed.

“It’s a damned shame. It’s a shame that this country can no longer support scholarly work of this magnitude,” says Grant Barrett, co-host and co-producer of the public radio show, “A Way With Words.” “It’s one of the great reference works.”

The dictionary, often referred to by its acronym DARE, pulls together regional words from 1,002 communities across the country, drawn from newspapers, novels, maps, menus, diaries, obituaries and, most of all, from long interviews with ordinary Americans willing to plow through a survey of more than 1,800 questions. Planned in 1963 by its first editor Frederic Gomes Cassidy, the project stretched far beyond its first deadline of 1976, and even beyond Cassidy’s death in 2000 at the age of 92.

DARE finally reached the final volume including “Z” in 2012. A digital version was published in December 2013, by which time editors already had begun working to update the early volumes.

Milwaukee ‘turnaround schools’ plan likely to be scaled back

Alan Borsuk:

While the proposal didn’t specify a targeted zone, there were more than 40 Milwaukee public schools in the state’s lowest performance category (“fails to meet expectations”) in the most recent round of school report cards.

Kooyenga said in an interview last week that he and Darling wanted to get feedback before they created a formal proposal. And they’ve gotten plenty.

That includes adamant opposition from the Milwaukee School Board and the Milwaukee teachers union. For example, the board brought to Milwaukee three people last week who are critics of what has happened in New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina in 2005. And the union has been making opposition to charter schools outside of MPS one of its urgent focal points.

But the feedback also includes advice from some who are more favorably inclined, including some charter leaders in Milwaukee. Their message: Go slow, mostly because there isn’t much alternative. The higher quality existing charter operators in town are not interested in growing rapidly and know the difficulties of doing that. And better national charter organizations are not eager to enter the Milwaukee scene, given the frustrations and difficulties such operations have encountered already.

“Doing it wholesale, taking every school that doesn’t meet expectations, and (saying) let’s flip those schools around next year, is a scaling problem,” as Kooyenga put it.

But a small number of schools — that’s different. Kooyenga said the goal is for legislative action before summer and to launch the “turnaround” schools in 2016. Kooyenga said he and Darling are working on what to propose when it comes to specifics, such as how schools would be picked and who would have oversight.

Academia’s 1 Percent

Sarah Kendzior:

Will your Ph.D. lead to an academic job? To answer that question, prospective students are often encouraged to see how recent graduates fared — a task easier said than done. Department placement lists are catalogs of untold stories, a logroll of the disappeared. Those who left academia are erased: According to my own alma mater, for example, I never existed, along with the majority of my colleagues who failed to find academic jobs in the Great Recession. There is no placement list for the displaced.

A more useful indicator of whether your doctoral program is a pathway to employment lies in whom the department hires. Because chances are, you will see the same few institutional names again and again. During my own time in graduate school, my department hired several faculty members, all with different specialties and skills, all with one thing in common: Harvard, Harvard, Harvard, Harvard.
– See more at: https://chroniclevitae.com/news/929-academia-s-1-percent#sthash.P9IHjPLv.dpuf

Teaching Medieval and Early Modern Cross-Cultural Encounters: The Pleasures and Perils of Research on Teaching

Karina Attar & Lynn Shutters:

Many academic projects are born out of naïveté, a not knowing just how much work an article or book will involve. This was certainly true of us when we conceived the idea for our recently published collection of essays: Teaching Medieval and Early Modern Cross-Cultural Encounters (Palgrave Macmillan, December 2014). We’re both literature professors, of medieval English and early modern Italian, who share an interest in European literary representations of Christian-Islamic relationships. One evening at Kalamazoo 2011, we were commiserating on the difficulty of actually teaching our research. Because cross-cultural encounters involve multiple languages, cultures, geographical regions, and academic fields, they are challenging to both study and teach. Wouldn’t it be great, we thought, to put together a volume of essays on these challenges, a volume that would present the experiences of instructors from a wide range of disciplines? How hard could it be?

In some ways, it was easy. We received submissions from a great group of contributors who are passionately invested in teaching, and whose innovativeness in the classroom, as expressed in their essays, continually surprised and inspired us. Questions raised by contributors included: How did nineteenth-century translations of Beowulf for children shape British imperialism in India? What cultural work motivates the adaptation of early modern Italian epics featuring Christians and Muslims in nineteenth- and twentieth-century folk theatre? How might Shakespeare’s Othello help us theorize questions regarding President Obama’s religion and nationality that surfaced in the 2008 campaign? Most broadly, how is our twenty-first-century study of the medieval and early modern pasts itself a cross-cultural encounter, and how can we make that encounter relevant to our students?

The Unmanageable University

anonymous students ucsc:

Before dawn on Tuesday, March 3, a group of six students at the University of California Santa Cruz went to the fishhook connecting Highways 1 to 17. Evoking the practice of highway blockades popularized during the Black Lives Matter movement, they chained themselves to aluminum trashcans filled with cement and blocked traffic for nearly five hours. The traffic jam this caused stretched over the hill to snarl Silicon Valley commutes, an act of peaceful civil disobedience that has since become the most controversial of the “96 Hours of Action” declared across the UC system for the first week of March, in protest against tuition hikes and police violence. After their arrest, the students were informed in jail that the university had suspended them indefinitely, leaving the campus residents homeless and without access to dining plans or healthcare.

Since then, student activists have vigorously debated whether such tactics can effectively build towards a mass movement – all while insisting on defending these six students from excessive and unprecedented punishment. In the meantime, we have been drawn into a difficult discussion with community members and apolitical UC students who fail to see why a protest of tuition hikes and police violence warranted this level of public disruption – and what these two topics have to do with each other in the first place.

Ironically, UC president Janet Napolitano has herself already laid out the political stakes for us, in a recent article for the Washington Post. “Too many states, including California,” she writes, “spend more money on prisons than on higher education.” Such lopsided priorities, which emphasize repressive policing at the expense of our futures, expose the deep hypocrisy of the state’s budget cuts. Even the former Secretary of Homeland Security recognizes that it’s a problem when our society is more interested in locking people up than sending them to school.

Of course, Napolitano did not refer to the highway blockade, let alone the Black Lives Matter movement. Her impassioned defense of higher education wasn’t intended as a critique of the state’s prioritization of incarceration over education – it was part of a process of backroom politicking and closed-door negotiations with the state, in which talk of “university privatization” was used as a bargaining ploy. In November 2014, the UC Regents, an unelected board composed of politicians, CEOs, and investment bankers, voted to raise tuition by 28% over the following five years. This decision was met with widespread outrage, attracting student protest across the state and consistent opposition by Governor Jerry Brown. Yet both Brown and Napolitano have tried to use students as pawns in their game. Their decisions have resulted in a very real crisis at the UC – a crisis of governance.

My big fail: losers come clean on their all-time low

Tom LaMont:

Failure is universal in a way that success is not. A failure confessed tends to make somebody endearing, while their successes, told aloud, may make us want to bite them. And still it is success we dwell on. Search your social media newsfeeds for admissions of failure, and you’ll find them; but the success story, the achievement post, rules.

My daughter loved the app. Her friends loved it. And, of course, you feel this is going to be the next Snapchat
I became interested in failure having got up close to a good few success stories myself. As a writer, I’ve profiled people who have got somewhere close to where they want to be: high in the album charts, at a Cup final or in a CEO’s chair, front and centre in a Hollywood film. Research and retell the histories of enough achievers, and their rise begins to look less talent-fuelled – not so much the result of hard, solitary toil – and more like a bet that has paid off. The flourishing musician, the medal-winning sportsperson, the profitable entrepreneur: all of them took a punt, once, and we come to consider their story because that punt came good.

There’s another narrative we’ve become familiar with: failure as a past-tense business, something overcome. It’s a narrative that fuels a self-help industry, books titled Success Through Failure, How To Fail Most Successfully, How I Raised Myself From Failure, Fail Better, Fail Up and Failure: The Womb Of Success. But I wonder what there is to learn from the countless others we don’t hear about, those relative failures without whom there could be no corresponding successes. The people who simply fail.

What does failure feel like in the low, crummy moment of it? I speak to a couple of musicians, hopefuls who had high ambitions in rock or pop and for whatever reason had to shelve them. It is possible to get by as perfectly OK teachers, lawyers, chefs or journalists, but there are certain pursuits that seem to insist on binary dealings with success and failure, and the music industry is one.

NYU Asks Employees For Donations To Help Students Pay Crippling Cost Of Attending NYU

Gothamist:

The tipster who sent it works in admissions, and said that the request was widely perceived as “tone deaf,” though “unfortunately somewhat indicative of the culture within the university, particularly within the upper echelons of the administration.”

“The ever-increasing tuition is very much a concern for our students and some of our administration, so that request to employees for money to help subsidize financial aid awards is absurd and asinine,” the tipster writes. “Especially when you factor in the millions of dollars spent on expansion of the University’s presence around the world and NYC.”

So where is the money going? That’s the question posed by Professor Mark Crispin Miller, who teaches media studies at the school. “It’s not going to the faculty,” he said, adding that he and his colleagues receive, on average, raises of 2.5 percent—a “stark contrast” to the princely sum poured into the coffers of the higher-ups.

Nor, he said, is it going to the “lower administrative level.” After the Princeton Review ranked the school’s financial aid and administration the worst in the country, Miller said the quality has only continued to diminish: “There just aren’t enough people who know how to get things done—they’ve been kind of squeezed out,” he said.

Paly school board rep: ‘The sorrows of young Palo Altans’

<A href=”http://www.paloaltoonline.com/news/2015/03/25/guest-opinion-the-sorrows-of-young-palo-altans”>Carolyn Walworth</a>: <blockquote>We are not teenagers. We are lifeless bodies in a system that breeds competition, hatred, and discourages teamwork and genuine learning. We lack sincere passion. We are sick.

We, as a community, have completely lost sight of what it means to learn and receive an education.

Why is that not getting through to this community? Why does this insanity that is our school district continue?

It is time to rethink the way we teach students. It is time to reevaluate and enforce our homework policy. It is time to impose harsher punishments upon teachers who do not comply with district standards such as not assigning homework during finals review time. It is time we wake up to the reality that Palo Alto students teeter on the verge of mental exhaustion every single day. It is time to realize that we work our students to death. It is time to hold school officials accountable. Right now is the time to act.</blockquote> 

The library Of The Future

Oxford:

ARE you sitting comfortably? Here is the Story of the Decline of the Academic Library.

Once Upon A Time libraries were the gatekeepers to most of the information students and academics needed. Books had the information and libraries had the books. Then one day the Big Bad Internet came along and made hundreds of millions of books, articles and manuscripts freely available to anyone with access to a computer. The library was no longer the only game in town. Most of today’s students have used computers since a young age and Googling is second nature to them. Why would they go to a library when they could find the answers from the comfort of their own home — or Starbucks?

Even without Teacher evaluation agreement, LAUSD may not lose $171 million

Vanessa Romo:

But Hilary McLean, communications director for CORE, says the absence of an agreement on a three-tier system is not a deal breaker. Even without an agreement, “we believe that LAUSD will be in a position to submit an application,” she told LA School Report.

“This is also a somewhat iterative process,” McLean added, explaining that even after the district plans are submitted, “CORE is constantly in communication with the Department of Education so even as we meet certain deadlines on the calendar, we continue sharing information for their review purposes.”

The district will submit a proposal regardless of whether it can strike a deal with UTLA. But Cortines said in a statement today, “I think it’s important we do this together…It’s more powerful if we do it together.”

Teacher evaluations have been part of the current contract negotiations between the district and the union, which are now in the hands of a federal mediator who is not scheduled to meet with the sides again until April 6 and April 15.

More and more money is being spent on higher education. Too little is known about whether it is worth it

The Economist:

“AFTER God had carried us safe to New England, and we had builded our houses, provided necessaries for our livelihood, reared convenient places for God’s worship and settled Civil Government, one of the next things we longed for and looked for was to advance learning and perpetuate it to posterity.” So ran the first university fundraising brochure, sent from Harvard College to England in 1643 to drum up cash.

America’s early and lasting enthusiasm for higher education has given it the biggest and best-funded system in the world. Hardly surprising, then, that other countries are emulating its model as they send ever more of their school-leavers to get a university education. But, as our special report argues, just as America’s system is spreading, there are growing concerns about whether it is really worth the vast sums spent on it.

The American way
The modern research university, a marriage of the Oxbridge college and the German research institute, was invented in America, and has become the gold standard for the world. Mass higher education started in America in the 19th century, spread to Europe and East Asia in the 20th and is now happening pretty much everywhere except sub-Saharan Africa. The global tertiary-enrolment ratio—the share of the student-age population at university—went up from 14% to 32% in the two decades to 2012; in that time, the number of countries with a ratio of more than half rose from five to 54. University enrolment is growing faster even than demand for that ultimate consumer good, the car. The hunger for degrees is understandable: these days they are a requirement for a decent job and an entry ticket to the middle class.

The 10 Best States For College Grads to Get a Job

Akane Otani:

For a report released this week, the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce analyzed job postings on 15,000 websites to see where jobs were most plentiful. Massachusetts, Delaware, and Washington produced the most job ads per college-educated worker, while West Virginia, Rhode Island, and South Carolina produced the fewest. “If you look at college degrees on average, the numbers on the payoff [for a degree] are very positive and powerful,” says Anthony Carnevale, director of the center and one of the report’s authors. But the return on investment for a college degree “really depends on not just your major, but also what part of the country you’re in.”

Teachers as role models in changing classrooms

David Johns:

This school year is the first in U.S. history where the majority of public school students are non-white. Long referred to as “minority,” the term no longer applies.

This has huge implications for our schools and kids. As we seek to do more to support the learning and development of our most diverse group of American students yet, we face a major challenge. Today, while student demographics shift, our teaching force remains mostly white. African-American and Latino teachers comprise less than 15 percent of the teaching workforce. In over 40 percent of public schools there is not a single teacher of color. Working to close the teacher diversity gap stands as a critical element of our work to close the educational opportunity gap more broadly. As in all industries, we need leaders as diverse as the people they serve.

Latest glitch delays Common Core exam in Wisconsin

Erin Richards:

The new standardized state achievement exam has been in the works for years, and is expected to be a much better gauge of student performance than the old pencil-and-paper, fill-in-the-bubble Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam.

The Badger Exam will be taken online and should be tougher, because it will align with the more rigorous Common Core academic standards.

It was also designed to feature test questions that would automatically adapt to individual students’ skill levels, but that feature was dropped because it wasn’t ready.

Because of concerns about testing time, DPI also eliminated a set of performance tasks that were to accompany the English portion of the exam.

State officials blamed the problems on Educational Testing Service, the company it contracted to administer the exam. It has not yet paid anything to the company, DPI Spokesman John Johnson said in an interview Thursday.

Finland’s reforms won’t scrap subjects altogether

Pasi Sahlberg:

Finland’s plans to replace the teaching of classic school subjects such as history or English with broader, cross-cutting “topics” as part of a major education reform have been getting global attention, thanks to an article in The Independent, one of the UK’s trusted newspapers. Stay calm: despite the reforms, Finnish schools will continue to teach mathematics, history, arts, music and other subjects in the future.

But with the new basic school reform all children will also learn via periods looking at broader topics, such as the European Union, community and climate change, or 100 years of Finland’s independence, which would bring in multi-disciplinary modules on languages, geography, sciences and economics.

It is important to underline two fundamental peculiarities of the Finnish education system in order to see the real picture. First, education governance is highly decentralised, giving Finland’s 320 municipalities significant amount of freedom to arrange schooling according to the local circumstances. Central government issues legislation, tops up local funding of schools, and provides a guiding framework for what schools should teach and how.

International Students Stream Into U.S. Colleges

Miriam Jordan:

scholarships offered by oil-rich Gulf states such as Saudi Arabia.

Cash-strapped public universities also are driving the trend, aggressively recruiting students from abroad, especially undergraduates who pay a premium compared with in-state students.

There are 1.13 million foreign students in the U.S., the vast majority in college-degree programs, according to a report to be released Wednesday by the Department of Homeland Security. That represents a 14% increase over last year, nearly 50% more than in 2010 and 85% more than in 2005.

How Much Do College Students Actually Pay For Textbooks

Phil Hill:

While I am entirely sympathetic to the need and desire to lower textbook and course material prices for students, no one is served well by misleading information, and this information is misleading. Let’s look at the actual sources of data and what that data tells us, focusing on the aggregate measures of changes in average textbook pricing in the US and average student expenditures on textbooks. What the data tells us is that the answer is that students spend on average $600 per year on textbooks, not $1,200.

First, however, let’s address the all-too-common College Board reference.

New York’s best schools Asians beware Top marks largely go to Asians. Bill de Blasio wants to change the exams

The Economist:

The SHSAT also faces a legal challenge. The NAACP, the country’s biggest civil-rights legal defence fund, joined others in 2012 to file a suit demanding changes in admissions procedures. New York City’s public schools, the suit claims, are among the most racially segregated in the country.

Do they have a case? Asians make up more than 70% of pupils at Stuyvesant; blacks and Hispanics combined make up 3%, and falling. White pupils took 80% of places in 1970; now it is less than 25%.

But Asian-Americans are also a minority, says Tina Jiang, Harvey’s 16-year-old sister, who already goes to Stuyvesant. And many are also poor. Almost half of Stuyvesant’s pupils qualify for free lunches. The difference, according to Clara Hemphill, who runs a service that reviews public schools, is the “culture of test prep” among Asians: “Even families of modest means will put their kids through that.”

Success Academy charter schools applications soar

Carl Campanile:

More parents than ever are trying to get their kids into Success Academy charter schools, according to figures released Monday.

With 10 days until the deadline, 19,000 applications have already been filed for 2,688 seats this fall — or about seven requests for every opening, the charter network reported. Last year, there were 14,400 students trying to snare 2,870 slots.

The number of applicants has soared 57 percent over two years ago as top-performing Success Academy expands its foothold.

“These numbers reveal the sad truth about the lack of educational options in New York City,” said Success Academy founder and CEO Eva Moskowitz. “Parents are desperate for better schools. It’s heart-breaking that the wait lists just grow longer each year.”

Why the SAT Isn’t a ‘Student Affluence Test’

Charles Murray:

Spring is here, which means it’s time for elite colleges to send out acceptance letters. Some will go to athletes, the children of influential alumni and those who round out the school’s diversity profile. But most will go to the offspring of the upper middle class. We all know why, right? Affluent parents get their kids into the best colleges by sending them to private schools or spending lots of money on test preparation courses. Either way, it perpetuates privilege from generation to generation.

The College Board provides ammunition for this accusation every year when it shows average SAT scores by family income. The results are always the same: The richer the parents, the higher the children’s SAT scores. This has led some to view the SAT as merely another weapon in the inequality wars, and to suggest that SAT should actually stand for “Student Affluence Test.”

It’s a bum rap. All high-quality academic tests look as if they’re affluence tests. It’s inevitable. Parental IQ is correlated with children’s IQ everywhere. In all advanced societies, income is correlated with IQ. Scores on academic achievement tests are always correlated with the test-takers’ IQ. Those three correlations guarantee that every standardized academic-achievement test shows higher average test scores as parental income increases.

The Point of No Return

Sophie Monk:

A few days ago, audio emerged from negotiations between university management and members of the Free Education occupation of Rootes Building from last term. The recording features our Academic Registrar Mike Glover and head of security Mark Kennel telling students that the only way to make their complaint heard is through something called the ‘democratic channels’ of the university.

In other words, if you have a problem, it can only be mediated through the student’s union. We are certainly lucky to have an SU that supports and sympathises with our aims, but how is it that the terms of our dissent are now being dictated to us by the object of that dissent – by the very structure we oppose?

This is problematic firstly because the notion that the university is responsive and cooperative with our legitimate concerns, is patently a lie. Since presenting our reasons for fossil fuel divestment to the university’s finance managers last spring, followed by submissions of letters of support from members of our sabbatical team and university staff, we have been persistently ignored and stalled at every turn. Every attempt at dialogue has been met with shallow attempts to distract and repress us, and the promise of these issues being taken to Council has been repeatedly postponed, from February, to May, to July.

Cuomo Fights Rating System in Which Few Teachers Are Bad

Kate Taylor:

“In New York last year, about 99 percent of the teachers were rated effective while only 38 percent of high school graduates are ready for college or careers,” he wrote in an op-ed article in Newsday this month. “How can that be?” (During his State of the State address, he was even more blunt, calling it “baloney.”)

The governor’s proposal, which is strongly opposed by the state’s teachers’ unions, would reduce the weight of principals’ observations to just 15 percent of a rating. The judgment of an independent evaluator from outside the school would make up 35 percent. Fifty percent would be based on how much students improved, or slipped, on state exams; alternative measures would be used for teachers whose subjects do not include state exams, like art and physical education.

Whether the Legislature will go along with his plan is still unclear. But if nothing else, the fight between the governor and what seems like every principal, teacher and parent-teacher group in the state shows the enduring difficulty of finding an evaluation system that works.

Can education change Japan’s ‘depressed’ generation?

Mariko Oi:

A few hours later, they queue quietly before being served their lunch.

Towards the end of their education this conformist attitude is still evident. Each year, more than half a million university students start looking for work together.
The first step is to perfect a handwritten resume, or CV, because many in Japan believe that students’ characteristics and personalities can be judged by the way they write.
All dressed in a black “recruit suit”, they then visit hundreds of companies. Bold hues of black, navy or dark grey are the recommended colours for their job-hunting suits.
Stripes are not encouraged. According to the teachers and career counsellors, it is considered risky to be fashionable.

Grading Teachers by the Test

<A href=”http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/25/business/economy/grading-teachers-by-the-test.html?smprod=nytcore-ipad&smid=nytcore-ipad-share“>Eduardo Porter</a>: <blockquote>The question is, what will happen when teachers are systematically rewarded, or punished, based to some extent on standardized tests? If we really want our children to learn more, the design of any system must be carefully thought through, to avoid sending incentives astray.

“When you put a lot of weight on one measure, people will try to do well on that measure,” Jonah Rockoff of Columbia said. “Some things they do will be good, in line with the objectives. Others will amount to cheating or gaming the system.”

The phenomenon is best known as Goodhart’s Law, after the British economist Charles Goodhart. Luis Garicano at the London School of Economics calls it the Heisenberg Principle of incentive design, after the defining uncertainty of quantum physics: A performance metric is only useful as a performance metric as long as it isn’t used as a performance metric.</blockquote> 

Flunking the test Failing schools pose a big challenge to President Enrique Peña Nieto’s vision for modernising Mexico

The Economist:

GOING into the offices of the National Co-ordinator of Education Workers (CNTE) in Oaxaca, a city 350km (220 miles) south-east of Mexico’s capital, is like entering a world of rebellious teenagers rather than teachers. Graffiti are scrawled on the walls and posters denounce “state terrorism”. The trade union’s radio station, Radio Plantón (Demonstration Radio), rails against President Enrique Peña Nieto’s education reforms, which it blames on the IMF and other capitalist bogeymen.

In the main square nearby, the CNTE’s Oaxaca chapter, known as Section 22, maintains a campsite occupied by teachers not a bit repentant about abandoning their classrooms for weeks on end. Drivers have adopted a pragmatic response to the teachers’ frequent road blocks: they use a GPS app called, appropriately, S-22 to avoid them. The state government is just as anxious to keep out of the way. It is wary of a repeat of a crisis in 2006, when a teachers’ strike turned into a violent rebellion that shut down parts of the city for months.

Finland’s radical new plan to change school means an end to subjects

Max Ehrenfreund:

Finland’s classrooms are very different from America’s — far more permissive, with less of an emphasis on academics. There are no standardized tests until high school, and children get 15 minutes of recess in between lessons — more than an hour of recess a day. “Play is important,” one Finnish teacher told the Smithsonian magazine. “We value play.”

Yet Finnish kids always get good grades on comparisons of student achievement between countries. Their average scores on the Program for International Student Assessment, a test that’s given to 15-year-olds in 65 countries, are among the highest in the developed world. As a result, critics of education reform in the United States often cite the Finnish example. It’s a stark contrast to America’s reliance on using test scores in public school teacher evaluations, or the strict, “no-excuses” model of discipline in charter schools that many have touted as improving academic results.

Now, Finnish schools are embracing an even more radical approach to teaching. One major initiative is to encourage teaching by topic instead of by subject. According to The Independent, instead of teaching geography and foreign language classes separately, teachers will ask kids to name countries on a map in a foreign language. Instead of separate lessons on history and economics, they’ll talk about the European Union.

Income, Education and Inequality in the “Recovery”: Prepare to be Surprised

Charles Hugh-Smith:

ote to the higher education industry: issuing diplomas doesn’t magically create new jobs in the real world.

By virtually any standard, wealth inequality has soared to historic levels in the six years of “recovery” since the Great Recession of 2008-09. Economist Emmanuel Saez, who has long collaborated with Thomas Piketty, described the recent extremes of wealth inequality in a recent paper Striking it Richer: The Evolution of Top Incomes in the United States, which provides an in-depth look at the widening gulf between the top 1% and the bottom 90% from 2009 to 2012.

Here is a chart of the top 10% share of income, based on their research (the note in red marking the beginning of financialization in 1982 is my own):

What Happens When A 38-Year-Old Man Takes An AP History Test?

Drew Magory:

I never took an AP course in high school. I’m pretty sure it was because I never qualified for it (I went straight B-minuses throughout my high school career), but it was also because I went to school back when taking AP courses wasn’t the dire necessity that it is for today’s students. According to this article, taking just one AP course now doubles your odds of getting a college degree; according to this other article, “Approximately 85 percent of selective colleges and universities reported that they looked at whether or not a student had taken an AP course to make their admissions decision.”

In other words, if you haven’t taken an AP class, you are fucked. Or, at the very least, you will feel as if you are inadequate, dumb, and doomed to a life of washing cheese off of fajita platters at the local Don Pablo’s. Students and parents alike know all this by now: They also know that doing well in an AP course gets you college credit (and I like that you can learn so much in high school that expensive colleges will be like, “Yeah, you don’t have to learn as much here”). I wonder if there are advanced placement courses WITHIN the AP infrastructure, so that Harvard can only admit kids who have taken AP AP AP AP calculus. I have children in the public school system, and I’m already a bit intimidated by all this potential AP jockeying. It lords over everything.

Dutch student protests ignite movement against management of universities

Jonathan Grey:

On 24 February 2015, mounted police, live television crews, protestors and crowds of onlookers surrounded a building called the Bungehuis, a six storey art deco style construction that currently houses the University of Amsterdam’s humanities faculty. The building is scheduled to be converted into a luxury hotel and spa complex as part of an international chain of private members’ clubs called Soho House.

Only 11 days earlier dozens of students had occupied the Bungehuis in response to a programme of sweeping changes that the university’s administration was apparently unwilling to discuss.

The students’ demands for a “new university” included greater democratisation of university governance, greater transparency of the university’s finances, halting plans to restructure and cut a number of departments, a referendum on plans for departmental mergers with other universities, better conditions and protections for temporary staff, and an end to risky financial and property speculation with university funds.

The pretext for the cuts and structural changes being opposed is an unprecedented crisis in the university’s finances – including a deficit rumoured to be up to €12m or €13m, according to an internal letter sent by a professor.

The Sweet Briar Dilemma: Will Predatory Lending Take Down More Colleges?

Alan Smith:

After 114 years of educating young women in rural Virginia, Sweet Briar College recently announced that the 2015 academic year would be its last. It’s closing its doors, administrators say, because its model is no longer sustainable.

There are plenty of people coming out of the woodwork to explain Sweet Briar’s problems. Dr. James F. Jones, the school’s president, claims that there are simply not enough people who want to attend an all-women’s rural liberal arts school (though application numbers and some pundits disagree); he blames the discount that the school was giving to low-income students for the institutional budget shortfall. Billionaire investor Mark Cuban says that Sweet Briar has fallen victim to the student loan bubble and that students are unwilling to commit the money to attend, which sounds a lot like the blame-the-homeowner narrative that came out of the 2008 financial crisis. Others are wringing their hands that small colleges in general are doomed.

These takes are varied and complex, but they are all missing an important point: that predatory banking practices and bad financial deals played an important and nearly invisible role in precipitating the school’s budget crisis.

A quick look at Sweet Briar’s audited financial reports (easily available in public records) reveals enough confusing and obfuscating financial-speak to last a lifetime, but a few days of digging did manage to unearth a series of troubling things.

Majority of Minnesotans favor performance over seniority during teacher layoffs

Ricardo Lopez:

More than two-thirds of Minnesotans believe performance, not seniority, should be the deciding factor in determining which teachers keep their jobs when public schools conduct layoffs.

The Star Tribune Minnesota Poll, taken March 16-18, found that 68 percent of the state’s residents say layoffs should be based on a teacher’s performance, as measured by recently implemented state evaluation standards.

Support for performance over seniority was strong across the state, among all age groups, and across party lines.

Fewer than one in five Minnesotans agree that seniority should continue to be the primary factor in determining who loses their jobs, as currently dictated by state law and union contracts.

“Experience does come with teaching for a number of years, but I don’t think it should be the only factor in teachers being laid off,” said Janelle Kanz, 77, a retired educator and Winona resident. “Seniority is for the advantage of the teacher. Performance is for the advantage of the student.”

Obama and Walker: Both Wrong

Matthew T. Hora and Ross J. Benbow and Amanda K. Oleson :

While touring a factory in northern Wisconsin that makes millions of aluminum cans on a daily basis, we asked the plant manager whether he thought regional colleges and universities were meeting his company’s needs. He looked surprised by the question and answered, “You can’t teach [in a classroom] the way we make cans here.” If he had employees with basic skill sets in the field, he said, his company could train new hires to use their machinery and learn their procedures.

Similarly, the human resources director of a large plastics manufacturer told us, “As long as [employees] have the basic knowledge and certain abilities, we can typically teach them the skills that they need on the job — that’s the bottom line.”

Such responses beg the question: What are these fundamental, even nonnegotiable skill sets that employers seek in their employees? This is a question that our research group is investigating within the biotechnology and advanced manufacturing industries in Wisconsin. As part of a three-year study, we have interviewed over 150 C.E.O.s, plant managers and human resource directors in companies large and small, as well as educators and administrators at two- and four-year colleges and universities across the state, asking them about the skills and aptitudes required to succeed.

On China

Evan Osnos:

His message centered on the key to answering that question and is at the heart of the mission of the Zeidman lecture: knowledge. The more average citizens of each country know about each other, the better off the relationship between the two countries will be.

That knowledge, however, has to be accurate.

In pre-Obama, pre-iPhone 2007, a study of Chinese high school students asked them to think of America and name the first five words that came to mind. Bill Gates, Microsoft, the NBA, Hollywood, democracy, presidential elections, 9/11, Bin Laden, McDonald’s, oil, “police officer to the world,” and Harvard and Yale made the list.

“That’s a kaleidoscopic image of the US to us,” says Evan, adding that this is the same kind of partial-picture portrait that we have of China.

He noted that, “For a long time, those things were so out of reach for most people. That’s changing incredibly fast.” Chinese citizens, mainly the middle class, are traveling to the West more than ever now. And, as he personally saw while living there, they are extraordinarily hungry for information about the rest of the world—information that they did not have access to, and still need more of.

Brooklyn pre-K for adults is the latest thing in self-indulgence

Anne Cadet:

“My parents are psyched,” said student Sarah Fader.
“My fake parents are psyched,” said Ms. Devereux.

“I need to find some parents,” said Mr. Chu.

During the arts-and-crafts session, Ms. Fader, a 35-year-old Park Slope mother of two, decorated a folder with purple finger paint and sequins. “I despise organization, so I’m trying to embrace this,” she said.

She is a substitute teacher, blogger and the CEO of a fledgling mental-health nonprofit with chapters around the globe. There is not much time in her schedule for fun. “It sounded so freeing, to go play and not deal with adult problems,” she says of the preschool.

The very notion of a preschool for adults has inspired a lot of negative commentary online, much of it unprintable.

The Problem With History Classes

Michael Conway:

Before the release of Selma, I wonder how many people ever reflected on President Lyndon B. Johnson’s attitude toward the 1965 marches in Selma. I wonder if anybody thought that conventional wisdom afforded him either too much or too little credit for the Voting Rights Act. I imagine that Johnson’s legacy was not on the average American’s radar until Selma ripped it into the public consciousness.

The movie compelled many Americans to reconsider their perceptions of Johnson. The curators of his legacy lambasted the film for portraying the 35th president as a prickly antagonist to Martin Luther King Jr., asserting that the film unfairly reduces Johnson to an irascible politician who was forced by King into advancing the Voting Rights Act. Joseph A. Califano Jr., Johnson’s top assistant for domestic affairs from 1965 to 1969, wrote in the Washington Post that Selma distorts these facts so considerably that the movie “should be ruled out this Christmas and during the ensuing awards seasons.” Selma director Ava DuVernay fired back, tweeting that the “notion that Selma was LBJ’s idea is jaw dropping.”

How to Write a Thesis, by Umberto Eco

Robert Eaglestone:

These seem to be very bad times for graduate research students in the arts and humanities, the intended audience for this book. The job market is not great; funding is scarce; casualisation, which might appear to serve grad students but actually exploits them, proceeds apace; the smooth, high walls of the ivory tower seem ever more exclusive and imposing; the groves of academe (odd, I’ve always thought, to have groves inside a tower) ever more remote. Even from the pages of Times Higher Education, our little world’s local paper, opinion pieces declare that, to prevent them getting “exalted notions of themselves” (forfend!), researchers in the arts and humanities should realise that they are simply “trainspotters in their field” about whom no one cares (wait: trainspotters in a…field?). Instead of doing research, it’s argued, they should simply teach, concentrating, as Jorge of Burgos demands, in Umberto Eco’s bestselling 1980 novel The Name of the Rose, on “the preservation of knowledge” or at best “a continuous and sublime recapitulation” of what is known.

Into this bleak picture comes the first English translation of Eco’s How to Write a Thesis, continuously in print in Italy since 1977. That was a long time ago in academia, and, at first sight, lots of this book looks just useless, rooted in its historic and specific Italian context. Who uses index cards any more? (I mean, I used to, but I wrote my PhD on a computer with no hard drive, using 5¼-inch diskettes, when the internet was still for swapping equations at Cern or firing nukes at Russia.) Who has typists copy up their thesis? The sections on using libraries and research sources sound like an account of a lost, antediluvian culture.

The 1 percent’s white privilege con: Elites hold “conversations” about race, while resegregating our schools

Corey Robin:

Facebook can be a weird place on Martin Luther King Day. Some of my friends post famous passages from MLK’s speeches. Others post statistics on racial inequality. Still others, mostly white parents, post photographs of their children assembled in auditoriums and schoolyards. These are always hopeful images, the next generation stirring toward interracial harmony. Except for one thing: nearly everyone in the photos is … white.

In her public school this year, my first-grade daughter learned that Daisy Bates helped integrate the Little Rock schools. She knows that Ella Baker, someone I’d never heard of till I went to college, was part of the civil rights movement. Meanwhile, her school has a combined black and Latino population of 15 percent, down from nearly 30 percent just seven years ago.
Other stories recommended for you

In school, white children are taught to be conscious of race and racism in a way I never was when I was as a kid in the 1970s. Yet they go to schools that are in some respects more segregated now than they were in the 1970s. In 1972, under Richard Nixon, 36 percent of black students in the South attended white-majority schools. By 2011, under Barack Obama, that number had plummeted to 23 percent. In every region of the country, a higher percentage of black students go to nearly all-minority schools than was the case in 1988. The same is true of Latino students in the South, the West and the Midwest.

Related: One size fits all vs. increased rigor and expanding the least diverse schools.

The Shifting Landscape in Management Education

Margaret Andrews:

I’ve worked in management education for over fifteen years and continue to do so because I believe that developing management talent is important, the need is universal and growing, and that how we develop talent will continue to evolve. While educating managers is expensive, not educating them is even more costly – to the individuals they manage, the companies they run, and the societies in which they live.

All of this said, the management education landscape is evolving rapidly, offering both opportunities and threats for universities and their business schools. New players are entering the market, students have an expanding array of offerings – and providers – from which to choose, the need for internationally-savvy managers is increasing, society questions the value of what business schools produce in terms of research and student skills, and technology is changing the way we think about and deliver education – and has the potential to create new winners and losers in the m

Academy Report Stresses Importance of Science and Engineering Research for American Prosperity and Competitiveness

American Academy of Arts & Sciences (PDF), via a kind Richard Askey email:

The Academy is also working with the university community to identify steps that could be taken on campuses across America to advance the recommendations from Restoring the Foundation. Com- mittee member Venkatesh Narayanamurti (Harvard University) presented the report at the November 2014 annual meeting of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities as part of a panel moderated by Kelvin Droegemeier, Vice President for Research at the University of Oklahoma and Vice Chair of the National Science Board. The Academy is now working with Dr. Droegemeier to orga- nize a conference in the summer of 2015 that will convene univer- sity research vice presidents and state officials from nsf epscor (Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research). The objective of the meeting is to foster new interinstitutional collab- orations that encourage the sharing of experience and the rapid adoption of innovative policies and practices.

The conversations taking place across the country will provide a venue for a system-wide assessment of progress on overcoming barriers to the discovery of new scientific knowledge and technol- ogies, the translation of these discoveries to business and industry, and the training of a future stem workforce that is commensurate with maintaining America’s position of scientific leadership in the world. Together, they will ensure that Restoring the Foundation–and similar reports from other organizations–do not fade from the col- lective consciousness, but continue to drive thoughtful discussions for years to come.

Robert D. Ballard video presentation.

Promoting school quality can be done on many fronts

Alan Borsuk:

Some of the best schools in Milwaukee are independent charters, Ziebarth said, and he’s right. Later Wednesday, I got a news release from a reputable research organization known as CREDO at Stanford University, which found that students in independent charter schools in Milwaukee were making more progress overall than students in Milwaukee Public Schools.

Why aren’t there more green lights to create such schools? Ziebarth asked. Good question.

Then, in the afternoon, I got a call encouraging me to take an interest in a statement signed by the leaders of more than 30 government and nongovernment bodies involved in Milwaukee’s complex education scene. A lot of them aren’t known for cooperating with one another, and this was an encouraging example of working together, initiated by the Milwaukee Succeeds campaign.

Many of the signers have bigger fish to fry with the Legislature and state budget now. But they set that aside to support a relatively modest request for $250,000 in each of the next two years to increase tutoring in reading for children in all types of schools. One of the most shocking statistics about Milwaukee as a whole is that close to six out of seven third-graders do not read proficiently.

Madison’s Teacher Team Toolkit

Madison School District (PDF):

Purpose Overview

“Great teaching matters most! Great teaching, when well defined and supported, benefits all students and should serve as the foundation for success” (MMSD Strategic Framework, 2013). This will serve as the focus of our teacher teamwork. Teacher teams will use data to inform their long-term and short-term planning and to monitor implementation and outcomes throughout the year. Teams will demonstrate effective data use, analysis, and instructional planning that is communicated with other school teams as needed. The Teacher Team Toolkit provides a set of guidelines and resources to support the important work of teacher teams.

Overview
The Teacher Team Toolkit begins with the MMSD Great Teaching
Framework. This is followed by information on Multi-Tiered System
of Supports (MTSS) and how teacher teams fit into MTSS. Together,
these frame MMSDs effective teaching practices and the work of
highly effective teacher teams. The toolkit is then organized into
five sections. The first section, Prepare for Success, provides
guidance on developing collaborative and effective teacher
teams. This is followed by the components of the Great Teaching
cycle. At the center is Culturally & Linguistically Responsive Practices. Around this is Plan, Teach, Reflect & Adjust. As teacher teams move through the cycle, they intentionally ask and answer: What do we want all students to know and be able to do? How will we know they have learned it? What instructional strategies will we use? and How will we respond when they haven’t learned it? or What do we do for those who already know it?

Within each of these components, the toolkit provides:

An overview of the section
The actions teacher teams take
The purpose
The tools and resources to support actions

Great Teaching Matters Framework (PDF):

Strengthening core instruction through weekly planning that focuses on the Great Teaching cycle.

Great Teaching Matters (PDF):

Research shows that the teacher is the strongest school-based predictor of student success (Cantrell, S. & Kane, T., 2013). MMSD’s Great Teaching Matters Framework communicates the district’s vision and goals for effective teaching that is responsive to the cultural and language assets of all students. This vision is grounded in a commitment to all students as we prepare them to be college, career and community ready. Culturally and linguistically responsive practices are at the center and embedded throughout Great Teaching. The plan, teach, reflect and adjust cycle represents key teacher actions that advance students learning.

Madison Teachers, Inc. “Employee Handbook” Planning Meetings

Solidarity Newsletter, via a kind Jeanie Kamholtz email (PDF):

Plan now to attend one of the MTI ALL-MEMBER meetings scheduled for the week of March 23. Because of the importance of the Employee Handbook, MTI has scheduled meetings, hopefully one convenient to all members, on March 23, 24 and 26.

Governor Walker’s 2011 Act 10 eliminated all public employee collective bargaining agreements (except for police and firefighters) and mandated that terms and conditions of employment be placed in an “employee handbook.” Of 424 Wisconsin school districts, MTI members have the benefit of the only Contracts which run through the 2015-16 school year. It has been agreed that the various current Collective Bargaining Agreements will be the foundation of the handbook. A joint Union/District committee is now in the process of developing the handbook. Union committee members include five MTI appointees; two from AFSCME and one from the Building Trades Council. Three building principals and five other administrators round out the joint committee.

The handbook will replace the Collective Bargaining Agreements when they expire at the end of the 2015-16 school year. Come and learn about the handbook development process, and share your thoughts about what you believe the Union’s priorities should be.

Much more on the “employee handbook“, here.

Goodbye, math and history: Finland wants to abandon teaching subjects at school

Kabir Chibber:

Finland already has one of the best school education systems. It always ranks near the top in mathematics, reading, and science in the prestigious PISA rankings (the 2012 list, pdf) by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Teachers in other countries flock to its schools to learn from a country that is routinely praised as just a really, really wonderful place to live.
But the country is not resting on its laurels. Finland is considering its most radical overhaul of basic education yet—abandoning teaching by subject for teaching by phenomenon. Traditional lessons such as English Literature and Physics are already being phased out among 16-year-olds in schools in Helsinki.

Instead, the Finns are teaching phenomena—such as the European Union, which encompasses learning languages, history, politics, and geography. No more of an hour of history followed by an hour of chemistry. The idea aims to eliminate one of the biggest gripes of students everywhere: “What is the point of learning this?” Now, each subject is anchored to the reason for learning it.

I Gave My Child Autism

Juniper Russo:

My first clue that I gave my child autism came when she was in the middle of an evaluation by a speech-language pathologist at two and a half years of age. The therapist had noted that her eye contact was poor, but acceptable for her age.

“Oh,” I explained, looking straight at my lap, “Well, that’s probably a learned behavior. We just don’t really ‘do’ eye contact in our little family. I’ve never been much of an eye contact type.”

The speech therapist bit her lip.

The same pattern was played out time and time again as we danced between physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, neurologists, psychologists, and teachers.

“No, she’s not potty-trained, but I still had accidents all the way into second grade. It just runs in the family.”

“Hyperlexia? Yeah, she’s a great reader. My family is full of early readers.”

“Picky eating is just something she got from me. I don’t like food much. And as a kid, I would completely flip out if someone tried to make me eat with a spoon or eat foods that had touched each other on my plate. No big deal.”

“Clumsiness runs in the family. I couldn’t ride my bike until I was eight, so the motor delays are just in her DNA, that’s all.”

“Oh, sure, she won’t wear her pants correctly, but that’s just another thing she got from me. You should have seen how I use to shriek if someone put a turtleneck on me!”

Common Core’s cyber spies

Stephanie Simon:

But Pearson is hardly the only company keeping a watchful eye on students.

School districts and colleges across the nation are hiring private companies to monitor students’ online activity, down to individual keystrokes, to scan their emails for objectionable content and to scrutinize their public posts on Twitter, Facebook, Vine, Instagram and other popular sites. The surveillance services will send principals text-message alerts if a student types a suspicious phrase or surfs to a web site that raises red flags.

Education Governance: University of Texas and “the secret backdoor admissions system for children of legislators with low test scores”

Jim Schutze:

From the very beginning, top Texas legislators and key officials at the University of Texas have offered only one response to revelations of wrongdoing brought forward by UT System Regent Wallace Hall of Dallas — absolute denial, backed up by a yee-haw hog-hunting bloodlust for Hall’s scalp. The more they do it, the deeper they dig.

In the last few days, the corrupt practices discovered by Hall — funny money at the law school, secret backdoor admissions for relatives of legislators, bogus accounting of endowment funds and more — have spurred a cascade of negative external consequences for UT.
Plaintiffs in the longstanding Abigail Fisher reverse discrimination litigation this week filed a new writ in the U.S. Supreme Court charging that the university’s system for achieving racial diversity “is a sham,” citing evidence first discovered by Hall and confirmed in subsequent investigations.

The American Council of Trustees and Alumni in Washington yesterday issued a blistering condemnation of efforts we told you about here Monday by a state senator who wants to pass a law against university trustees asking too many questions. Citing the Enron debacle, the council warns that putting directors in blindfolds and handcuffs is exactly the wrong way to go in seeking institutional responsibility.

No shit.

See also: Senate Bill Aims to Improve UT Oversight by Blinding Regents

Just in case somebody thought there was anything “conservative” about Amarillo Republican state Senator Kel Seliger’s attempt to hog-tie university trustees and regents, the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank in Austin, weighed in yesterday: Thomas K. Lindsay, director of the foundations’ Center for Higher Education, wrote an open letter to Seliger explaining to him the concept of fiduciary responsibility:
“‘Fiduciary'” derives from the Latin fiducia, for ‘trust,'” Lindsay told Seliger. “A trustee possesses the legal power and duty to act on behalf of others, both the school and the Texas citizenry, under conditions requiring both complete trust and complete openness.”

It’s the same thing lawyers hired by a faked-up impeachment committee in the Legislature told the committee about the charges it wanted to bring against Hall for asking too many questions: Asking questions was the dude’s job, people. You’re supposed to ask questions, too, you know.

Music Education Needs to Be a Click Away

David Gelernter

Most children learn nothing about serious music in school and don’t expect to learn anything. Outside school, the music world is being upended and shaken vigorously. The ways we choose music and listen to it are being transformed by iTunes and Spotify and other such sites.

For most young people, music is a minor consumable, like toothpaste. Musicians and music majors aside, my students at Yale—and there are no smarter, more eager, more open students anywhere—just barely know who Beethoven is. Beethoven. “He composed music”—that is the general consensus.

To know nothing about Beethoven? That is cultural bankruptcy. That is collapse. It goes far beyond incompetence, deep into betrayal and farce.

“Why should we know anything about Beethoven?” The question was asked in all seriousness by a sophomore just a few months ago. When I dredged up old, tired clichés, he listened carefully—and seemed convinced! What could be sadder? He was only waiting for the smallest bit of encouragement.

Ironically, the Madison School District Administration tried for a number of years to kill the “strings program“.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: As the U.S. celebrates 50th anniversaries of many Great Society social programs, Americans ought to re-evaluate their effectiveness.

Martin Conrad:

One important answer is that most of our inflation in the period has been concentrated in the government-subsidized sectors of education, housing, and health care, which are all less affordable because costs for social engineering far outran benefits.

Millions of students leave increasingly expensive public schools prepared for mass consumption and mass opinions but unable to do simple arithmetic or to read or write simple sentences.

College students have accumulated more than $1 trillion of debt, and their default rates are soaring. Too often they are paying for a commodified education and empty credentials that don’t guarantee the practical problem-solving skills employers want.

The U.S. spends twice as much of our gross domestic product as other developed nations do for health care, yet we rank only 34th (tied with Costa Rica) in longevity. Studies show that a third of that spending is unnecessary.

The true success of our government housing policies can be measured in the trillions of dollars and millions of jobs that were lost in the recent meltdown.

Indeed, we spend more than any country on education.

Would You Rather Be a New Mom in the U.S. or Germany?

Sabine Muscat

Sometimes I wonder what my son’s first year would have been like if he had been born in my native Germany. Or what my first year as a mother would have been like.

As a German expat and mother of a one-year-old living in the U.S., I find myself constantly torn between family policies and attitudes on both sides of the Atlantic – and I often wish that it would be possible to combine the best of these two worlds.

American moms are tough – because they have to be. This starts at giving birth. Most pregnant women in the U.S. work until at least a week or two before their due date. Once labor sets in, most are in and out of the hospital in less than 48 hours.

Austin Community College’s Experiment With Personalized Remedial Mathematics

Paul Fain:

Administrators and instructors at Austin Community College decided to go big when they tried a new approach to remedial math — like 600 computer stations in the nation’s largest learning lab big.
“We wanted to do something very bold,” said Richard Rhodes, Austin’s president. “After all, we’re in Texas.”
Most students arrive at community colleges with remedial needs in math and English. And relatively few ever complete their developmental course work, often dropping out of college completely.
Dismal remedial success rates have been a problem at Austin, which enrolls 60,000 students. So faculty members from the college looked around for alternative approaches to teaching math.

Yale’s First Online Degree Gets Complaints From Alumni, Cheers From Investors

Molly Hensley-Clancy:

When Yale announced it last week that it would offer its first fully online degree, the backlash was almost immediate. Students and alumni of of the physician assistant program that Yale will offer online vocally opposed the move, urging the university to reverse the decision and stoking a letter-writing campaign. At a meeting in the wake of the announcement, they warned that offering an online degree would devalue the program, the profession, and the university.

On the student newspaper’s article about the move, the most popular comment read simply: “This seems like an unbelievably bad idea.”

But the idea received a much more positive response from another group: investors in 2U Inc., the online education company that is partnering with Yale to offer the degree. 2U’s stock is up 24% since the announcement, and its market capitalization is now just shy of $1 billion — a rapid rise for a company that had flown relatively under the radar since it went public last April. It is not yet profitable, but revenues have grow steadily , and it expects to turn a profit by 2017.

India students caught ‘cheating’ in exams in Bihar

BBC:

Most of the incidents of cheating this year have been reported from Saharsa, Chhapra, Vaishali and Hajipur districts.

Local newspapers have been full of photos of parents and relatives trying to help their children cheat even at considerable risk to their own lives, BBC Hindi’s Manish Saandilya reports from the state capital, Patna.

Some photos even show policemen posted outside the centres accepting bribes to look the other way, our correspondent adds.

The Log-on degree

The Economist:

The notion that online degrees are inferior is starting to fade. Top-notch universities such as Pennsylvania State and Columbia now offer them in many subjects. Georgia Tech has had an online-only master’s degree in computer science since 2014, which it considers just as good as its campus version. Minerva, a “virtual” university based in San Francisco, offers online seminars to students who hop from city to city gaining work and cultural experience.

Even Harvard, long a digital resister, has softened a bit. From this year, its master’s course in public health can be done full-time, part-time or in intense bursts. For much of it, students do not need to be present on campus, so long as they gain the required course-credits. That touches on another idea that could change the way other courses are taught, paid for and accredited: the SPOC (Small Private Online Course).

Commentary on tension in the Madison Schools over “One Size Fits All” vs. “Increased Rigor”

Maggie Ginsberg interviews Brandi Grayson:

Can you give an example of what you’ve described as “intent versus impact?”

The Behavior Education Plan that the [Madison Metropolitan] school district came up with. The impact is effed up, in so many words, and that’s because the voices that are most affected weren’t considered. It’s like standing outside of a situation and then coming in and telling people what they ought to do and should be doing, according to your experience and perspective, which is totally disconnected from the people you’re talking to and talking at. In order to come up with solutions that are effective, they have to come from the people who are living in it. When I first heard about this Behavior Education Plan, I immediately knew that it was going to affect our kids negatively. But people sitting on that board thought it was an amazing idea; we’ll stop suspensions, we’ll stop expulsions, we’ll fix the school-to-prison pipeline, which is all bullcrap, because now what’s happening is the impact; the school is putting all these children with emotional and behavioral issues in the same classroom. And because of the lawsuit with all the parents suing for advanced placement classes and resources not being added, they’ve taken all the introduction classes away. They can’t afford it. So then our students who may need general science or pre-algebra no longer have that. So then they take all these students who aren’t prepared for these classes and throw them in algebra, throw them in biology and all together in the same class. And you know it’s very intentional because if you have a population of two percent Blacks at a school of two thousand and all the Black kids are in the same class, that is not something that happens by random. And then you have kids like my daughter, who is prepared for school and can do well in algebra, but she’s distracted because she’s placed in a class with all these kids with IEP issues who, based on the Behavior Education Plan, cannot be removed from the classroom. So what does that do? It adds to the gap.

Speaking of education, you’ve mentioned the critical need to educate young Black kids on their own history.

Our children don’t know what’s happening to them in school, when they are interacting in these systems. Whether it’s the system of education, the justice system, the human services system, the system within their own families—that’s programming them to think they’re inferior. We have to educate our kids so they know what they’re dealing with. In Western history, we’re only taught that our relevance and our being started with slavery, but we know as we look back that that’s a lie. That we are filled with greatness and magnificence and if our children can connect the link between who they are and where they’ve come, then they can discover where they’re going. But with that disconnection, they feel hopeless. They feel despair. They feel like this is all life has to offer them and it’s their fault and there’s no way out. We have to begin to reprogram that narrative at kindergarten on up. We have to teach our children the importance of reading and knowledge and educating yourself and not depending on the education of the system because it’s already biased, based on the very nature of our culture.

Related: Brandi Grayson.

Talented and gifted lawsuit

English 10

High School Redesign

Madison’s long term, disastrous reading results. This is the core issue, one that has simmered for decades despite Madison spending double the national average per student.

Ironically, the April, 2015 Madison schools tax increase referendum includes a plan to expand two of the least economically diverse schools:

Van Hise Elementary / Hamilton Middle

Problem: With enrollment numbers on the rise, this combination elementary/middle school exceeded capacity in 2013 and 2014. Because the building is designed for a smaller student enrollment, simply adding classroom space is not a solution.

Proposed Solution: Relocating the library to the center of the building and dividing it into elementary and middle school spaces will free up seven classroom-sized spaces currently used for library activities. Est. Cost: $3,151,730 – View Plan Details.

Madison School District keeps education, ahem, old school

Chris Rickert:

Finances are always a consideration; they can also be an excuse. The district has cried poor at budget time for years, and yet somehow continued to find the money to, say, cover the full cost of union employees’ health insurance.

Board member Ed Hughes said he wouldn’t vote for Madison Prep because the district’s plan to address the gaps is better now.

“As compared to 2011, there is much more of a districtwide focus on addressing the achievement gap as well as improving outcomes for all students through an emphasis on a rigorous, coherent curriculum and great teaching in every classroom,” Hughes said.

The district’s shifting efforts to address the achievement gap is a story in itself.

After Madison Prep failed, then-Superintendent Daniel Nerad proposed a plan to address the gap that would have cost $105 million over five years. It was later whittled down to $49 million. Current Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham’s plan was advertised as costing nothing.

The Average Student Debt Load in D.C. is a Whopping $40,885

:

The nation’s student-debt tab has more than doubled since the recession to roughly $1.3 trillion, but the burden varies greatly by state.

The nation’s capital of Washington, D.C.—one of the most educated cities in the U.S. and home to high-priced private schools–is the most indebted compared with states when it comes to average federal student-loan debt. Some 140,000 borrowers in D.C. owe a whopping average of $40,885, according to new data released by the White House. Georgia is second on the list with 1.45 million residents owing an average $30,443. North Dakota sits at the bottom, with 114,000 borrowers owing an average $22,379.

Rebuilding Education for the Real World

Grand Central Tech:

Here at GCT, we spend a lot of time thinking about the intersection of education and technology – particularly as it relates to two key areas:

1.) As a robust and increasingly attractive market 2.) Through the lens of our educational programs, partnerships and outreach

Two of the companies in GCT’s first class aim squarely at educating students with real-life skills in unique and remarkable ways:

Hopscotch is a platform that kids use to code their own games and art in a fun, welcoming and collaborative environment. The thousands of projects that are published every week on the platform, and by an even split, across gender, highlight the appetite for, and opportunity to, teach students to love to code by placing it within the context of a fun and immersive experience.

Ballooning Student Debt Levels will Usher in New QE

Nathan McDonald:

The average American student graduating with a bachelors degree leaves with approximately $28,400 of debt to be repaid over the course of their career. In fact, over 70% of students graduating will be in this position, making it the norm.

Of course, that is simply a bachelors degree, which in today’s world will get you a management position working at McDonald’s. Let’s face reality. Most of those starting their post-secondary education today, will not find a job that is related to what they studied at university after graduation. At best you can chalk it up to a grand social experiment, although a costly one.

1912 Eighth Grade Examination for Bullitt County Schools

Bullitt County History:

This copy of the Eighth Grade Exam for Bullitt County Schools in 1912 was donated to the museum. We thought you might like to see what the test looked like a hundred years ago. Obviously it tested some things that were more relevant at that time than now, and it should not be used to compare student knowledge then and now.

Note that there are several typesetting mistakes on the test including a mistake in the spelling list. The word “eneeavor” should be “endeavor.” This version of the exam was probably a master version given out to the schools (note that the spelling words wouldn’t be written on a test.) The museum has been told that the exam was handed out in a scroll form (that is why the paper is long.) The typos would have been corrected simply by contacting the teachers and telling them to mark their copies accordingly, much like would be done today. And there might not be quite as many typos as you think; “Serbia” for example was indeed spelled “Servia” back then.

Bullitt County Schools were mostly one-room schools in those days, scattered around the rural county. Students came together at the county courthouse once or twice a year to take this “Common Exam.” It was apparently a big deal. The local newspaper urged students to do well, even urging seventh graders that it was not too early to start preparing. Some scholarships were provided to those who passed to go on to high school, which was also a big deal back then. In those days, high school was sometimes another county away and a rare thing for many farm children to be able to otherwise attend.

Minding the nurture gap, Madison plans to expand least diverse schools

Economist:

THE most important divide in America today is class, not race, and the place where it matters most is in the home. Conservatives have been banging on about family breakdown for decades. Now one of the nation’s most prominent liberal scholars has joined the chorus.

Robert Putnam is a former dean of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and the author of “Bowling Alone” (2000), an influential work that lamented the decline of social capital in America. In his new book, “Our Kids”, he describes the growing gulf between how the rich and the poor raise their children. Anyone who has read “Coming Apart” by Charles Murray will be familiar with the trend, but Mr Putnam adds striking detail and some excellent graphs (pictured). This is a thoughtful and persuasive book.

Among the educated elite the traditional family is thriving: fewer than 10% of births to female college graduates are outside marriage—a figure that is barely higher than it was in 1970. In 2007 among women with just a high-school education, by contrast, 65% of births were non-marital. Race makes a difference: only 2% of births to white college graduates are out-of-wedlock, compared with 80% among African-Americans with no more than a high-school education, but neither of these figures has changed much since the 1970s. However, the non-marital birth proportion among high-school-educated whites has quadrupled, to 50%, and the same figure for college-educated blacks has fallen by a third, to 25%. Thus the class divide is growing even as the racial gap is shrinking.

Meanwhile, the Madison School Board & District administration plan to expand Van Hise and Hamilton schools via the April, 2015 referendum.

Hamilton and Van Hise are among Madison’s least diverse schools…..

U.S. students losing interest in China as dream jobs prove elusive

Alexandra Harney:

American students are getting cold feet about studying Chinese in China, with many study abroad programs in the country seeing a substantial drop in enrolment over the last few years.

At the University of California Education Abroad Program (UCEAP), student enrolment in programs in China is expected to be less than half the level it was only four years ago. Washington-based CET, another leading study abroad group, says interest in China has been falling since 2013.

The apparent waning of interest worries some China watchers. Given the importance of the U.S.-China relationship, having a group of Americans across different industries who speak Chinese and understand the culture is “a matter of national interest”, says Robert Daly, director of the Kissinger Institute on China and the United States at the Wilson Center in Washington.

“We can’t respond coherently, effectively and fully to China unless we understand China on its own terms,” he said.

The Harvard-United States Military Academy Mathematics Competition of 1933:Genesis of the William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition

Colonel David Arney and George Rosenstein:

The predecessor of the first national Putnam Competition was a mathematics contest between Harvard and the United States Military Academy. The details of this contest from William Lowell Putnam’s original idea for academic competition between schools in 1921 through the examination day in 1933 and later consequences of the competition are provided. Much of this history was compiled from original letters between the principle organizers found in a historical file of the Department of Mathematics, United States Military Academy (USMA). The role of the Mathematical Association of America, which has been involved in all 50 national Putnam Competitions, in this 1933 contest is also explained. A copy of the 22 question examination is provided.

Background

In an article in the Harvard Graduates’ Magazine [1] in December, 1921, William Lowell Putnam suggested the development of academic competitions between teams of undergraduate students of different schools in regular college studies. He believed that the motive of winning laurels for their college in team competition would provide students more interest in their studies. He concluded the article with: “It seems probable that the competition which has inspired young men to undertake and undergo so much for the sake of athletic victories might accomplish some result in academic fields.” The merits of his suggestion were shared by Mrs. Putnam and her brother, A. Lawrence Lowell, President of Harvard. Mrs. Putnam established a trust fund in her will to support such competition [1].

The first experiment of such academic competition supported by the Putnams was held in 1928 in the subject of English between Harvard and Yale. The winner, Harvard, won a prize of $5000. While Harvard and the Putnams wanted to repeat this contest, potential adversaries, Yale and Princeton, declined to compete in another English examination, as did Cambridge University in Economics.

Ivy League Admissions Are a Sham: Confessions of a Harvard Gatekeeper

Anonymous:

I graduated from Harvard in 2006, and have spent eight of the last nine years working as an admissions officer for my alma mater. A low-level volunteer, sure, but an official one all the same. I served as one of thousands of alumni volunteers around the world—a Regional Representative for my local Schools Committee, if you want to get technical. And, as a Regional Rep, my duties fell somewhere between Harvard recruiter and Harvard gatekeeper.

But now I’m done with all that. For a long time, I believed in the admissions process. I thought that I could use my position to help regular smart people with great test scores and impressive extracurriculars break into an elitist system. After eight years, though, I’ve learned that modest goal is more or less unreachable. Ivy League admissions are a complete racket, rigged in favor of the privileged and completely impervious to change. So I’m quitting the business.

And because I’m quitting, that means I can tell you, the reader, all the secrets of being a Harvard admissions representative, and what it really takes to get in.

(Why) Does Your Education Website Collect Information about Visitors?

Audrey Waters:

The top 10 most popular education technology sites, as ranked by Teach 100, place on average of 10 trackers, that is, snippets of code that monitor what you do on a website and, oftentimes, share that with others. This is skewed admittedly by Alan Singer’s blog on the Huffington Post that places 49. The top 10 include the Department of Education’s Homeroom blog, which sends tracking information to YouTube, Google Analytics, Crazy Egg, and Foresee. “Visualized where your visitors click,” boasts Crazy Egg. (This sort of tracking data is not protected by FERPA, for what it’s worth.)

They’re not in the top 10, but Free Technology for Teachers places 15 trackers, according to Ghostery; Privacy Badger finds 21 on the site. Diane Ravitch’s blog places 4 according to Ghostery; Privacy Badger finds 3.

Science Fairs Aren’t So Fair

Hana Schank:

As a parent of two elementary school-aged kids, I know spring is approaching when my Facebook feed fills with desperate pleas for more time, calls for patience, and questions about the locations of retailers selling tri-fold posters.

Yes, it’s science-fair time.

Last year, one mother’s satirical science-fair poster titled “How Much Turmoil Does the Science Project Cause Families?” went viral as parents around the country vented their anger toward this most frustrating of school assignments. Science-fair angst has even made it into children’s literature, with myriad books about stressed-out kids and failed projects.

The Single Best Idea for Reforming K-12 Education

Steve Denning:

Given that the factory model of management doesn’t work very well, even in the few factories that still remain in this country, or anywhere else in the workplace for that matter, we should hardly be surprised that it doesn’t work well in education either.

But given that the education system is seen to be in trouble, there is a tendency to think we need “better management” or “stronger management” or “tougher management”, where “management” is assumed to be the factory model of management. It is assumed to mean more top-down management and tighter controls, and more carrots and sticks. It is assumed to mean hammering the teachers who don’t perform and ruthlessly weeding out “the dead wood”. The thinking is embedded in Race to the Top and No Child Left Behind.

These methods are known to be failing in the private sector, because they dispirit the employees and limit their ability to contribute their imagination and creativity; they frustrate customers, and they are killing the very organizations that rely on them. So why should we expect anything different in the education sector?

One size fits all continues to reign in Madison, despit its long term disastrous reading results.

Will Technology Kill Universities?

Zocalo Public Square:

Free online courses, crowdsourcing, and big data are transforming the university from a gatekeeper to a public resource.

In 2001, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology announced it was going to put the university’s entire body of course materials online, for free. That meant syllabuses, as well as problem sets and exams—and their solutions. There were even going to be some video lectures online. In 2002, the MIT OpenCourseWare pilot project debuted with 32 courses. Today, according to MIT, 125 million visitors access material from 2,150 classes, including the very popular “Introduction to Computer Science and Programming,” which helps students feel confident about “writing small programs that allow them to accomplish useful goals.”

Study shows charters modestly outpacing traditional Milwaukee schools

Erin Richards:

Milwaukee students enrolled in charter schools showed modestly higher levels of academic growth in math and reading compared to their peers in traditional public schools, according to a national study released Wednesday.

But the so-called “charter lift” is not enough to offset the overall achievement deficit facing children in urban Milwaukee compared to the rest of the state, the study said.

Still, charter-school advocates were quick to embrace the results, as bills to expand charter schools are pending in Wisconsin and other states.

“The (new) report is one more piece of evidence that charter schools in Milwaukee lead the way in closing the achievement gap,” said Sean Roberts, executive director of Milwaukee Charter School Advocates.

The Urban Charter School Study was conducted by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University. It concludes that students in urban charter schools receive the equivalent of about 40 days of additional learning per year in math and about 28 additional days of learning in reading compared to their peers in conventional urban public schools.

In Milwaukee, the study showed the positive effect of charter schools relative to traditional public schools was stronger in math than in reading.

Charter schools are independently run, non-religous public schools. They receive flexibility from some some state rules in exchange for meeting academic performance targets spelled out in a contract with a state-approved authorizer.

Meanwhile, Madison continues its one size fits all K-12 governance model, despite long term, disastrous reading results.

We Live in an Age of Irrational Parenting

Jennifer Senior:

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We Live in an Age of Irrational Parenting
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If you fancy yourself a normalish, reasonably rational parent, you probably read, with equal parts horror and fascination, about the recent travails of a Maryland couple that tried to allow their children to walk the one mile from a local park to their home in Silver Spring. They were charged by child protective services with “unsubstantiated” child neglect — itself a near-oxymoronic and self-canceling term — which means their case will be held on file for five years. There are many things wrong with this action, not least what it says about the excesses of parenting culture (more on this in a bit), but among the most egregious is that it runs completely contrary to the trends in child safety that have emerged in the past couple of decades. Bluntly put: It’s hard to think of a safer time and a better place than the United States of 2015 to raise children — but we act as though the opposite were true.

A quick scan of the data, provided by the meticulous researcher David Finkelhor, the director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire: The physical abuse of children declined by 55 percent between 1992 and 2011, while sexual abuse declined 64 percent; between 1997 and 2012, abductions by strangers also went down by 51 percent. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, motor vehicle deaths among kids 12 and under declined by 43 percent in the last decade.

Why Writing Is so Hard

Matt Summell:

OK so—while I’m truly grateful for any and all interest in my book—I’m not sure I even know how to answer the question of how autobiographical it is. 53% in this story? 26% in that one? Kinda? Very? The book is a fiction regardless of what details I’ve taken from “real life.” I’ve selected things to include, which means I’ve also selected things not to include—it’s not the whole truth but a distortion of it, a deliberate misrepresentation to suit the needs of the story. And that’s not even taking into account all the stuff I made up.

That said, I can’t and won’t deny that parts of it are deeply personal, that it was emotionally expensive for me to write. I also cannot deny that when people call the book’s narrator, Alby, “despicable,” or “a raging idiot loser,” or “totally unlikeable,” or “a turd” (and I could go on but why bother) I feel a tinge of defensiveness shoot through me, and it’s sometimes difficult to separate which vulnerable character that tinge of defensiveness is for: Alby or myself. There are certainly things we share, most especially a heightened sensitivity. Like halogens—those light-em-ups of the periodic table—we’re both highly reactive. (Unlike halogens, no one calls us noble.) But with the idea that bad choices make for good stories, I’ve given Alby license to follow those baser impulses and do and say things I never did or would.

Why Many Smart, Low-Income Students Don’t Apply To Elite Schools

:

Right now, high school seniors across the country are trying hard not to think about what is — or isn’t — coming in the mail.

They’re anxiously awaiting acceptance letters (or the opposite) from their top-choice colleges and universities. But this story isn’t about them. It’s about a big group of seniors who could get into great schools but don’t apply: high-achieving students from low-income families who live outside of America’s big cities.

These students often wind up in community college or mediocre four-year schools. It’s a phenomenon known in education circles as “undermatching.”

Museums Turn to Technology to Boost Attendance by Millennials

Michael Cannell:

If museums face an uncertain future, you wouldn’t know it from “Henri Matisse: The Cutouts,” which recently drew 664,000 to the Museum of Modern Art. The show was so thronged that MoMA kept its doors open round-the-clock on the closing weekend last month.

But blockbusters like Matisse may be deceptive. Art museum attendance dipped 5 percent from 2002 to 2012, according to the National Endowment for the Arts. Museumgoers 75 and older were the only age group to increase over that period. The guardians of posterity must be concerned about the future, no matter how long the lines may be.

Curators worry most about millennials. How do static galleries of canvas and artifact engage a generation raised on the reactive pleasures of right swipes and hyperlinks? How do you sell Goya when “Game of Thrones” is a click away?

The Highest-Paid Professors in the U.S.

Akane Otani:

Law schools are in crisis: Enrollment is plummeting, bar exam pass rates are declining, and the employment rate for fresh graduates is abysmal. There’s one area, however, in which these institutions still outpace the rest of academia: how much they pay. Tenured law professors pulled in a median salary of $143,509 in 2014, more than professors in any other discipline, according to new survey data.

All told, professor salaries rose 2 percent in 2014, edging above the inflation rate and pushing the median pay for tenured professors to $100,087, according to a report released on Monday by the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources. The group tracked faculty pay at 303 public institutions and 543 private institutions.

7 things every kid should master

Susan Engel:

In the past few years, parents, teachers, and policy makers have furiously debated whether standardized tests should be used to promote or hold back children, fire teachers, and withhold funds from schools. The debate has focused for the most part on whether the tests are being used in unfair ways. But almost no one has publicly questioned a fundamental assumption — that the tests measure something meaningful or predict something significant beyond themselves.

I have reviewed more than 300 studies of K–12 academic tests. What I have discovered is startling. Most tests used to evaluate students, teachers, and school districts predict almost nothing except the likelihood of achieving similar scores on subsequent tests. I have found virtually no research demonstrating a relationship between those tests and measures of thinking or life outcomes.

The revolution that could change the way your child is taught

Charles Bonello:

Here at GCT, we spend a lot of time thinking about the intersection of education and technology – particularly as it relates to two key areas:

1.) As a robust and increasingly attractive market 2.) Through the lens of our educational programs, partnerships and outreach

Two of the companies in GCT’s first class aim squarely at educating students with real-life skills in unique and remarkable ways:

Hopscotch is a platform that kids use to code their own games and art in a fun, welcoming and collaborative environment. The thousands of projects that are published every week on the platform, and by an even split, across gender, highlight the appetite for, and opportunity to, teach students to love to code by placing it within the context of a fun and immersive experience.

Finally, Some Unbiased Educational Statistics on Newark Public Schools

Laura Waters:

Comparison in student outcomes between traditional and charter schools: “A substantial and persistent achievement gap exists in pass rates among students in Newark traditional public schools and charter schools. For example, while 71 percent of charter school students in Newark passed 3rd grade language arts tests in 2013–14 — higher than the state average of 66 percent — only 41 percent of students in Newark traditional public schools passed those tests. Similarly, just 42 percent of traditionals school students passed 8th grade math tests, compared to 75 percent for charter school students. Comparable trends can be seen throughout other grades and tests.”

Bottom line: charter schools in Newark are educating larger numbers of children with disabilities (the report doesn’t include percentages of English Language Learners, the subject of some anti-charter rhetoric) providing safer environments, and demonstrating higher academic gains for students.

That’s why there are 10,000 kids on waiting lists. How could it be different? Regardless of means, any parent wants the best school for his or her children. Families with wealth can exercise school choice by paying for private school or moving to a higher-achieving district. Families without wealth or mobility can exercise school choice by choosing a public alternative like a charter school.

State Of Parenting

Parent Toolkit:

While it may be true that divorce rates are still high and Americans are delaying marriage, the idea that American families are worse off and continuing to decline is up for debate. The findings of this new NBC News State of Parenting Poll which was sponsored by Pearson, paint a different story. The results are based on telephone interviews in English and Spanish with 803 parents, guardians, or primary caregivers of children ages 3-18 in the continental United States. Interviews were conducted on both landline telephones and cell phones from October 28 to November 16, 2014. This survey shows that parents are generally positive about the future, spending more time with their children than their parents did with them, and having family dinners together regularly.

Can Robert Putnam Save the American Dream?

Marc Parry:

he event is billed as a lecture on a new book of social science. But the speaker visiting Cambridge’s Lesley University this Monday night sounds like a political candidate on the hustings. Robert D. Putnam ­— Harvard political scientist, trumpeter of community revival, consultant to the last four presidents ­— is on campus to sound an alarm. “What I want to talk to you about,” he tells some 40 students and academics, is “the most important domestic challenge facing our country today. I want to talk about a growing gap between rich kids and poor kids.”

Two decades ago, Putnam shot to fame with “Bowling Alone,” an essay-turned-best-selling-book that amassed reams of data to chart the collapse of American community. His research popularized a concept known as “social capital.” The framework, used in fields like sociology and economics, refers to social networks and the norms of reciprocity and trust they create. “He’s one of the most important social scientists of our time,” says Gary King, director of Harvard’s Institute for Quantitative Social Science, because of his ability to blend scientific rigor with popular appeal.

But tonight Putnam sets the science aside, at least to start. He opens his Cambridge talk with a story. It’s about two young women, Miriam and Mary Sue. Their families, he says, both originally came from the same small Ohio town. Miriam, who had well-educated parents, went off to an ultra-elite East Coast university. Mary Sue, the daughter of high-school graduates who never held a steady job, ended up on a harrowing path of abuse, distrust, and isolation.

The revolution that could change the way your child is taught

Ian Leslie:

The video does not seem remarkable on first viewing. A title informs us that we are watching Ashley Hinton, a teacher at Vailsburg Elementary, a school in Newark, New Jersey. Hinton, a blonde woman in a colourful silk scarf, stands before a class of eight- and nine-year-old boys and girls, almost all of whom are African-American. “What might a character be feeling in a story?” she asks. She repeats the question, before engaging her pupils in a high-tempo conversation about what it is like to read a book and why authors write them, as she moves smartly around her classroom.

On an October morning last year, I watched Doug Lemov play this video to a room full of teachers in the hall of an inner-London school. Many had brought their copy of Lemov’s book, Teach Like a Champion, which in the last five years has passed through the hands of thousands of teachers and infiltrated hundreds of staffrooms. To my eyes, the video of Hinton’s lesson was a glimpse into the classroom of an energetic and likable teacher, and pleasing enough. After leading a brief discussion, Lemov played it again, and then a third time.

New Jersey’s last in class school chiefs

Shannon Mullen:

With his criminal conviction last week, former Wall schools chief James Habel left one exclusive club, and joined another.

No longer a member of New Jersey’s elite superintendati, he now finds himself among a group of ex-school district bosses who left their privileged posts under dubious circumstances.

Each was gifted enough for their school boards to shower them with high salaries, luxury cars, generous expense accounts and other cushy perks. They were treated like corporate CEOs, educational Zen masters, and rainmakers of state aid. Habel himself was once hailed as a “visionary.”

Some of the officials even had buildings named after them. Now, their names are forever linked to a “me first” era of educational leadership.

‘Education savings account’ for students with disabilities? Or ‘voucher?’

Hank Long:

Public schools are required by state and federal law to accept students with disabilities and to make appropriate accommodations for their learning.
So when a district – despite its best of intentions – fails to meet the individual educational needs of such students, where are the students and their families to turn?

That’s an issue Amy Christensen-Bruce grappled with for years before she discovered Academy of Whole Learning. The private school located in St. Louis Park primarily serves students with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Christensen-Bruce said it was the first school that was able gain her confidence that the unique needs of her now fourth-grade son – who has autism – were being met.
Whether he was enrolled at a local public school or a charter school, Christensen-Bruce said her child struggled to learn at the rate she knew he was capable of.

Georgia releases ‘school climate ratings’ for 2013-14 school year

David Schick:

“Research has shown us that school climate has a strong impact on student achievement,” state school Superintendent Richard Woods said in a statement. “The data used to develop the 2014 star ratings proves this once again. If your school has a positive climate, it’s giving students the environment they need to learn. You’ll likely see high achievement there — or a school that’s on the right track toward high achievement.”

Each school received a rating from 1 to 5, with 1 meaning that a school needs improvement and 5 meaning excellent school climate.

The Telegraph broke down the average of each Middle Georgia school district by county, and here were the results, rounded to the nearest whole number: Bibb, 2; Crawford, 4; Houston, 4; Jones, 4; Monroe, 5; Peach, 3; and Twiggs, 4.

To block union power, school reformers try courts

Stephanie Simon:

Education reformers stymied by teachers unions and liberal state legislatures increasingly are turning to the courts to get their way on everything from funding charter schools to making it easier to fire teachers.

It’s an end-run strategy championed by Republican and Democratic reformers alike: When they find it hard to change policies through the political process, they reframe the issues as civil rights crusades and take them to the courts.

Locally, Madison continues its one size fits all governance approach, rejecting the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school despite long term, disastrous reading reults.

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