“With government stuff, when you’re working on projects at that level, there is often a lot of downtime as you wait for things to go through.”

The Macro:

The Macro : The Detroit Water Project has helped more than 950 families keep access to running water since it was founded just 16 months ago. Can you take us back to the beginning? How did this start?

Tiffani Ashley Bell : Last summer in 2014, I was a Code for America fellow, working on software with the City of Atlanta. With government stuff, when you’re working on projects at that level, there is often a lot of downtime as you wait for things to go through.

Before I get up in the morning, I usually scroll through Twitter on my phone. One morning in July of last year I read an article in the Atlantic about how there were 100,000 people in Detroit who were about to have their water shut off for owing money to the water company. The article said that something like 50 percent of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department’s customers were behind on their bills. If you were $150 behind for at least 2 months, you were eligible for shut off.

This story really bothered me. It just really bothered me. This was a city-run water company having this issue. I thought it was shady that this was the city’s solution. How is turning off a household’s access to clean water helping people who are already hurting, who are already behind on their bills?

Madison’s government schools have long tolerated disastrous reading results.

“We can now deliver a top-notch education at home in a way that was never possible before.”

The Economist:

Mr Thrun insists that nanodegrees are distinct from massive open online courses (MOOCs), the digital lecture series which are now offered by many higher educational institutions. Udacity analyses individual students’ learning data (using AI) in an attempt to increase their retention and completion rates. “We effectively reverse-engineer the human learning brain to find out what it means for a person to engage,” says Mr Thrun. “It’s my dream to make learning as addictive as a video game.”

Online lessons and automated tests are free, although students pay for feedback from real humans and to obtain a certificate on completion. Because the teachers are usually recent nanodegree graduates rather than traditional professors, Udacity can keep prices to just a couple of hundred dollars a month, which is about a tenth of the price of a university. Mr Thrun also claims that over 60% of Udacity students finish their courses, compared with around 10% for MOOCs.

Depending on their complexity, nanodegrees are designed to take just 4-12 months to complete. Shorter courses like these are appropriate for today’s high-paced workplace, says Mr Thrun. “The dream of lifetime employment has gone. In my field, whatever you’ve learned becomes obsolete within five years. If you only spend six months on your first degree, as opposed to the average six years for a bachelor’s degree today, you can afford to get more education when you need it again later on.”

The Teacher Who Could Gut Unions

Josh Eidelson:

A Supreme Court decision coming by the end of June could be devastating for organized labor. The case, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association (CTA), challenges a 1977 ruling allowing public-sector unions to charge nonmembers covered by union contracts mandatory fees to pay for the costs of collective bargaining. The lead plaintiff, Rebecca Friedrichs, is an elementary school teacher. She claims that being forced to pay money to California’s politically powerful and overwhelmingly Democratic teachers’ union as a condition of her employment violates her First Amendment rights.

Related: an emphasis on adult employment.

Oakland preschool on wheels seeks to bridge access gap

Jill Tucker:

The idea is to bring goods and services closer to the customers. And in East Oakland, there’s a big demand for preschool — and not a lot of supply.

The preschool on a bus is a pilot program, serving 14 children, most age 4, for four months this fall. The experiment is a collaboration between Aspire Schools, a chain of 38 charter schools, and Tipping Point Community, a nonprofit philanthropy group focused on fighting poverty.

The bus is a rental, a field trip and party vehicle converted three hours a day, three days a week into a preschool classroom.

When children are breached—inside the massive VTech hack

Troy Hunt:

little bit too conditioned to data breaches lately. They’re in the mainstream news on what seems like a daily basis to the point where this is the new normal. Certainly the Ashley Madison debacle took that to a whole new level, but when it comes to our identities being leaked all over the place, it’s just another day on the Web.

When it’s hundreds of thousands of children including their names, genders and birthdates, that’s off the charts. When it includes their parents as well—along with their home addresses—and you can link the two and emphatically say “Here is 9-year-old Mary, I know where she lives and I have other personally identifiable information about her parents (including their password and security question),” I start to run out of superlatives to even describe how bad that is.

America’s higher education brought low

George Will:

thanks this day for some indirect blessings of liberty, including the behavior-beyond-satire of what are generously called institutions of higher education. People who are imprecisely called educators have taught, by their negative examples, what intelligence is not.

Melissa Click is the University of Missouri academic who shouted “I need some muscle over here” to prevent a photojournalist from informing the public about a public demonstration intended to influence the public. Click’s academic credentials include a University of Massachusetts doctoral dissertation titled “It’s ‘a good thing’: The Commodification of Femininity, Affluence, and Whiteness in the Martha Stewart Phenomenon.” Her curriculum vitae says she has a graduate certificate in “advanced feminist studies.” Advanced. The best kind.

Arizona’s End Run Around the Education Spending Lobby

Jon Gabriel:

More money for schools with no new taxes: What’s not to like? A lot, apparently. Mr. Ducey’s plan disrupted the usual coalition of teachers unions and public school districts, leading some in the K-12 establishment—those administrators and union officials who have a way of soaking up dollars while doing little for students—to take the unfamiliar position of objecting to new education funding.

The superintendent of Mesa Public Schools, Arizona’s largest district, launched an email and robocall campaign to turn parents against the proposal. He insisted he was fighting for “the children,” but he was less upfront about disclosing that his lobbying effort was funded with school-district money that could have been put into the classroom instead.

On the other side of the aisle, several of Gov. Ducey’s fellow Republicans preferred to keep the state lands in reserve as a safety net for the future. The green-eyeshade crowd was suspicious of any new spending, even without added taxes. State Treasurer Jeff DeWit, the most prominent official to criticize the plan, lobbied GOP legislators against his own governor. A political newcomer, Mr. DeWit worried that the plan would shortchange the state land trust by several billion dollars—40 years from now. The trust is one of the few fiefdoms that Mr. DeWit controls, and he wanted to keep that money in his back pocket, collecting interest. His re-election campaign three Novembers from now might be tougher if his balance sheet shows a short-term dip.

The disruptive nature of Gov. Ducey’s proposal was unmistakable. With the legislature weighing whether to place his plan on the next ballot, the two sides in the lawsuit were forced to the mediation table after judges’ pleas for the parties to settle had failed. After tense meetings at the governor’s office between legislative and education leaders, a deal was struck that would give schools $3.5 billion over 10 years—$2 billion from the land trust and $625 million reallocated from the state’s general fund. The legislature quickly passed the bargain, and Gov. Ducey signed it on Oct. 30.

Student Debt in America: Lend With a Smile, Collect With a Fist: the Price Of Government Prolificacy

Kevin Carey:

There is much truth in this diagnosis. But it does not explain the plight of Liz Kelley, a Missouri high school teacher and mother of four who made a series of unremarkable decisions about college and borrowing. She now owes the federal government $410,000, and counting.

This is a staggering and unusual sum. The average undergraduate who borrows leaves school with about $30,000 in debt. But Ms. Kelley’s circumstances are not unique. Of the 43.3 million borrowers with outstanding federal student loans, 1.8 percent, or 779,000 people, owe $150,000 or more. And 346,000 owe more than $200,000.

The Obama has largely federalized student loans, placing the burden on all Americans.

Our debt, via the handy US Debt Clock app:


One tired critique of charter schools “its The Unions”

Laura Waters:

Here’s the problem, Madam Secretary: The nature of teacher union contracts — rigid and prescriptive — is what typically precludes wider adoption of successful charter school innovations. While Clinton’s recitation of teacher union scripture may win her endorsements, it won’t win any votes from parents of New York City’s 95,000 charter school students, most of whom are Latino and black, nor will it win her the votes of the parents of another 50,000 city students who sit on charter school waiting lists, nor the the support of the parents of three million students who attend charter schools nationwide.

Can we blame them? The most recent CREDO study out of Stanford notes that New York City’s charter schools “stand out for providing positive gains for their students in both math and reading and serving a student body with achievement equal or higher than the average achievement within the state,” including black and Hispanic students, those from high-poverty backgrounds and those with disabilities.

Let’s take one simple example of the way in which teacher contracts forestall realistic implementation of innovative approaches to learning. While typical New York City school students attend school for a contractually-prescribed 178 days, 6 hours and 20 minutes per day, public charter schools are free to extend both the length of the school day and the length of the school year. Many N.Y.C. charter school students attend school for between 190 to 200 days per year, and about eight hours a day.

are the weird kids more likely to succeed?

connecting dots together:

I often think back to the times when I was in school and to which of the kids, who are adults now, really did turn out to be someone really successful or someone I admire for what they have done with their lives.

Very often, the people I find myself admiring were the weird kids in school. They were the kids that dressed funny, spoke funny or had really odd hobbies. They were the kids that simply did whatever they wanted to do, without letting the negative comments of others make them conform to societal norms. They knew from very young ages what they wanted to do, and they just did it. They never appeared to be affected by the need to fit in or to be a part of a group; they seemed to be just fine on their own, or at least fine enough so they wouldn’t try as hard as others to fit in.

The Priorities of University Presidents: Where Do College Athletics Fit In?

Jason Belzer:

The answer is, in fact, that there are many different answers. Depending on the level which the university participates in college sports, coupled with the overall goal of the institution, often dictates how its president approaches the day to day management of its athletic program. While you would be hard-pressed to find any university that holds athletic success above academic success, it is not uncommon to find situations in higher education where it appears that the tail is wagging the dog. There is little denying the importance that athletics plays in the overall campus environment, and as we recently saw with the University of Missouri, sports can be at the very center of critical campus conversations and a catalyst for academic and social change. Presidents need to give sports special priority while also keeping them somewhat in perspective.

How do university presidents manage the dynamic of academics and athletics on campus? Can presidents be too hands-on? How does money factor into their decision-making process regarding sports? Do competing interests and priorities on campus cause friction between presidents and athletic directors?

‘Outsiders’ Crack 50-Year-Old Math Problem

Erica Klarreich:

his Yale University colleague Gil Kalai about a computer science problem he was working on, concerning how to “sparsify” a network so that it has fewer connections between nodes but still preserves the essential features of the original network.

Network sparsification has applications in data compression and efficient computation, but Spielman’s particular problem suggested something different to Kalai. It seemed connected to the famous Kadison-Singer problem, a question about the foundations of quantum physics that had remained unsolved for almost 50 years.

Over the decades, the Kadison-Singer problem had wormed its way into a dozen distant areas of mathematics and engineering, but no one seemed to be able to crack it. The question “defied the best efforts of some of the most talented mathematicians of the last 50 years,” wrote Peter Casazza and Janet Tremain of the University of Missouri in Columbia, in a 2014 survey article.

Poor boys are falling behind poor girls, and it’s deeply troubling

Jeff Guo:

In fact, girls are pretty much the only reason the high school graduation rate went up in past 40 years, according to calculations by Harvard economist Richard Murnane. The male high school graduation rate has been stuck at 81 percent since the 1970s, while the female graduation rose from 81 percent to 87 percent.

Women have been so persistently superior it is perhaps time for a new stereotype about the sexes — girls as bookish mavens like Lisa Simpson; boys as goof-offs like Bart.

Mom Could Get 30 Days in Jail for Letting 4-Year-Old Play Outside

Lenore Skenazy:

Sacramento, California, mom who let her 4-year-old son play outside at a playground 120 feet from her home was arrested. Her neighbors called 911 when they saw the kid outside. While many people might think four is too young for a boy to be outside on his own, the bigger question is: Is this a criminal offense? And doesn’t the boy’s mother have the right to make that choice?

The boy (whose name is Tomahawk) was in a gated apartment complex and on a playground. He’s an outdoorsy kid who loves exploring and sounds like he can take care of himself fairly well.

The Yale Problem Begins in High School


A month before the Yale Halloween meltdown, I had a bizarre and illuminating experience at an elite private high school on the West Coast. I’ll call it Centerville High. I gave a version of a talk that you can see here, on Coddle U. vs. Strengthen U. (In an amazing coincidence, I first gave that talk at Yale a few weeks earlier). The entire student body — around 450 students, from grades 9-12 — were in the auditorium. There was plenty of laughter at all the right spots, and a lot of applause at the end, so I thought the talk was well received.

But then the discussion began, and it was the most unremittingly hostile questioning I’ve ever had. I don’t mind when people ask hard or critical questions, but I was surprised that I had misread the audience so thoroughly. My talk had little to do with gender, but the second question was “So you think rape is OK?” Like most of the questions, it was backed up by a sea of finger snaps — the sort you can hear in the infamous Yale video, where a student screams at Prof. Christakis to “be quiet” and tells him that he is “disgusting.” I had never heard the snapping before. When it happens in a large auditorium it is disconcerting. It makes you feel that you are facing an angry and unified mob — a feeling I have never had in 25 years of teaching and public speaking.

After the first dozen questions I noticed that not a single questioner was male. I began to search the sea of hands asking to be called on and I did find one boy, who asked a question that indicated that he too was critical of my talk. But other than him, the 200 or so boys in the audience sat silently.

NYT’s Mass. Testing Story Contradicted By Other Outlets, Appears To Overstate Decision

Alexander Russo:

Things have begun to look pretty bad for the multistate assessment known as PARCC in Massachusetts, according to a November 21 New York Times story:

State education chief Mitch Chester was “walking away” from the Common Core-aligned tests he helped create. The state would now “go it alone” rather than using one of the multistate consortia.

According to the Times story (penned by Kate Zernike and headlined “Massachusetts’s Rejection of Common Core Test Signals Shift in U.S.”), the state would “abandon the multistate test in favor of one to be developed for just this state.” A paragraph later, the move is described as an “about-face.”

Symbolically, no doubt the decision was a big one. The state once leading the way on high, uniform standards was modifying its approach in the face of opposition and concern – following a process that has unfolded in several other states that have renamed the standards and dropped or modified the assessments.

Commentary on Madison’s Growing Outbound Open Enrollment Count, despite substantial spending growth

Doug Ericsson:

The financial ramifications are significant. A school district gaining a student receives a share of the student’s home district’s state aid to help pay for educating that student. The Madison School District will lose about $6.5 million in state aid this school year because of open enrollment, the report said.

“Obviously, I am not pleased,” said Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham. “I want Madison to be the first choice for families. That’s what we’re working on.”

She said that while the report is disappointing, it will motivate her and others to work harder.

Overall, the district’s enrollment this school year is 25,231 in grades K-12, down 0.3 percent, or 74 students. There are an additional 1,778 students enrolled in 4-year-old kindergarten.

Much more on Madison’s $454,414,941.93 2015-2016 budget and open enrollment, (about $17K per student!).

Despite spending far more than most K-12 government schools, Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

More, here.

Portland Schools’ Proposed Boundary Changes

Laua Frazier:

Twenty out of 29 of the district’s K-8s have too few students in the middle grades, making it challenging to offer the same level of programming middle schools can, the district found. The district also has 11 schools that are over-crowded and nine that are under-enrolled.

The district developed performance indicators to show the impact of each proposal. Both would drop the number of over-crowded and under-enrolled schools to one. The percentage of students attending over-crowded schools would decline from 20 percent to 1 percent.

Madison is currently expanding one of its least diverse schools – Hamilton Middle School.

Life At an Indian School

Scott Mahaskey:

The Navajo reservation that stretches across vast swaths of desert in northern Arizona and New Mexico is home to 66 schools run by the Bureau of Indian Education. The landscape might be breathtaking, but the dilapidated condition of the schools is eye-popping for another reason. Despite well-documented needs for renovations, the schools linger unattended for years. The buildings that often need the most attention is housing for teachers, who sometimes must commute hours to reach the remote campuses. This makes hiring qualified instructors more difficult and hinders efforts to improve abysmally low scores on reading and math tests.

How Do Top High School Basketball Recruits Pan Out?

Jackson Geller:

When looking at the data, it’s clear that about 6-7 of the top 10 prospects carve out legitimate NBA careers every year. Some don’t always live up to expectations, but they find a spot in the league and make plenty of money. There are only a few prospects billed as “can’t miss” who actually didn’t “miss” and went on to become all stars. Those are your John Walls and Kevin Durants — others include, if you’re interested: Kevin Love, Derrick Rose, DeMarcus Cousins, Kyrie Irving, Anthony Davis and Andrew Wiggins.

Plenty “can’t miss” guys ended up having fine careers, but didn’t ascend to the level scouts anticipated: Gerald Green, Greg Oden, Michael Beasley, BJ Mullens, Josh Selby and Shabazz Muhammad.

But there are factors that vary for all these players. Some were billed can’t miss only because they were the best players in a relatively weak high school class (Green and Muhammad). Others were just overrated (Selby and Mullins). Then Oden and Beasley, both seen to be generational talents, floundered due to circumstances beyond their skill sets.

Technology In Teaching

Alice Flarend:

This brings me back to technology. Technology can provide efficient access to content but it teacher must manipulate the technology to fit the student, the curriculum. Google can provide factual information on almost any topic, but without design, those facts remain a pile of useless lumber. A simulation could be effective at addressing a common scientific misconception. The students could use it to test their prior knowledge, gather data to find a pattern or model a complex scenario. Without a design, however, the students will “play” but fail to develop a robust understanding. Too often the lesson is built around the technology rather than the technology helping to build the lesson.

25 Reasons to Give Thanks for Teachers

Mary Ryerse and Tyler Nakatsu:

While it’s pretty intuitive to know our expressions of gratitude might benefit another person (and that’s enough motivation!), there are also many scientifically proven benefits of gratitude, including:

Gratitude opens the door to more relationships
Gratitude improves physical health
Gratitude improves psychological health
Gratitude enhances empathy and reduces aggression
Grateful people sleep better
Gratitude improves self-esteem
Gratitude increases mental strength

Measuring Competency

Paul Fain:

Southern New Hampshire University used an outside testing firm to assess the learning and skills in areas typically stressed in general education that were achieved by a small group of students who are halfway through an associate degree program at the university’s College for America, which offers online, self-paced, competency-based degrees that do not feature formal instruction and are completely untethered from the credit-hour standard.

The university was the first to get approval from the U.S. Department of Education and a regional accreditor for its direct-assessment degrees. A handful of other institutions have since followed suit. College for America currently enrolls about 3,000 students, most of whom are working adults. It offers associate degrees — mostly in general studies with a concentration in business — bachelor’s degrees and undergraduate certificates.

Resume Tips

Austin Gunter:

The best resumes have a number of statements that look exactly like the above. If your bullets meander, or don’t have specific deliverables and quantified results, then you need to go back and re-work them.

If you’ve never done this before, it will be difficult because you may not have thought about your career in terms of deliverable results. However, this is exactly how a business will think about you. When you are hired, you are an asset to the business that can deliver a very specific sort of value, and you should be aware of this and be ready to explain how you have delivered similar value in the past, and how you can deliver even greater value to your future company.

Young ‘to be poorer than parents at every stage of life’


Worse off than their parents? Young people will not be as rich as earlier generation says the IFS.

Young people are on track to be poorer than their parents at every stage of their lives, according to a new report.

The study, by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), added that households actually grew richer during the financial crisis.
But it said that the reason for the growth between 2006-12 was the increase in pension values over the period.

And the slow rate of growth in overall wealth suggested that young people would lag behind earlier generations.

Dave Innes, a research economist at the IFS and an author of the report said: “Despite the financial crisis, household wealth on average increased in real terms over the late 2000s, driven by increases in private pension entitlements.”

“Rapidly expanding charters” – Washington, DC. Expensive one size fits all reigns in Madison

Caroline Bermudez:

In a city with the greatest economic inequity in the country and with a rapidly expanding charter school now serving nearly half of the city’s students, D.C. is one of the few traditional public school districts in the country with enrollment gains and is on track to exceed 50,000 students by 2017. Much of the credit goes to Henderson’s leadership.

Henderson’s relentless energy and boundless public praise in support of her teachers and principals has created positive morale and considerable buy-in among classroom educators to what is one of the most ambitious reform agendas in the country.

She has also maintained labor peace even while driving an aggressive teacher quality agenda that links evaluation and compensation in part to student growth, something few other urban superintendents can claim.

Madison rejected a proposed IB charter school several years ago.

“An emphasis on adult employment“.

What Belonging at Yale Really Means


Imagine you are green, and most of the people in your country, particularly people in positions of power, are blue.

Your first week as a freshman at one of the most powerful institutions in your country, you walk into the huge hall, called Commons, with its colossal blue and white banner bearing a single word: YALE. It’s beautiful. Your heart swells with pride when you see it.

And then you scan the room. There are roughly 60 tables with about 10 people per table. Fifty-eight of those tables are filled with mostly blue people, with a few orange, purple and green people mixed in. Two of those tables, front left, are full of green people. A green person motions for you to come over. You smile widely.

It is the first time in almost a decade you have had enough fellow green people at your school to fill two whole tables. Two tables out of sixty. You are excited about this.

You glance over at the people clearing tables and serving food. As you expected, they are mostly green like you.

The Myth of the Ever-More-Fragile College Student

Jesse Singal:

Over the last two weeks, the news has been dominated by coverage of two very different instances of campus turmoil at Yale and the University of Missouri. In both cases, students are protesting over what they see as administrations that turn a blind eye to the problems faced by marginalized students on their campuses. Some of the students involved have gotten upset or confrontational, leading to dramatic YouTube videos that are hard to watch.

For many observers, these incidents only proved what they already knew: College students are getting increasingly fragile and prone to meltdowns. Too emotional and skewed in their thinking, they latch on to petty issues and scream and cry until they get their way. “Yalies Whining for Protection, Not Fighting Adversity” was a Hartford Courant columnist’s headline. “College Is Not for Coddling,” scolded the Washington Post’s Ruth Marcus. In a piece that was picked up by Fox News, the Manhattan Institute’s Heather McDonald decried the “pathological narcissism” of college students today. “This isn’t the behavior of people who are capable of weighing opposing ideas, or of changing their minds when they are confronted with evidence that suggests that they are wrong,” USA Today’s Glenn Reynolds wrote of students on both campuses.

How Should We Talk to AIs?

Stephen Wolfram:

Not many years ago, the idea of having a computer broadly answer questions asked in plain English seemed like science fiction. But when we released Wolfram|Alpha in 2009 one of the big surprises (not least to me!) was that we’d managed to make this actually work. And by now people routinely ask personal assistant systems—many powered by Wolfram|Alpha—zillions of questions in ordinary language every day.

Commentary on Wisconsin’s K-12 Governance Model

Chris Rickert:

The case heard by the state Supreme Court on Tuesday pits Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s administration against Evers and public education backers who object to the 2011 Act 21. That law gave the governor power to approve or reject the administrative rules state agencies create to implement statutes.

A court blocked the law from applying to Evers’ Department of Public Instruction in 2012, ruling that it unconstitutionally elevated the governor’s authority over the state superintendent’s. An appeals court agreed in February. Lawmakers continue to review rules as they did before the law was signed, but they have not had the power to reject them without passing a law to that effect.

As you might imagine, administrative rule-making doesn’t usually come with the high political drama that lawmaking does.

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction brought us decades of low academic standards via the oft-criticized WKCE.

Bringing Up Genius

Paul Voosen:

Before Laszlo Polgár conceived his children, before he even met his wife, he knew he was going to raise geniuses. He’d started to write a book about it. He saw it moves ahead.

By their first meeting, a dinner and walk around Budapest in 1965, Laszlo told Klara, his future bride, how his kids’ education would go. He had studied the lives of geniuses and divined a pattern: an adult singularly focused on the child’s success. He’d raise the kids outside school, with intense devotion to a subject, though he wasn’t sure what. “Every healthy child,” as he liked to say, “is a potential genius.” Genetics and talent would be no obstacle. And he’d do it with great love.

China prepares to rank its citizens on ‘social credit’

Julie Makinen:

Internet users in America voiced outrage this fall over the imminent launch of a Yelp-style app intended to let anyone post public reviews of their friends, acquaintances and yes, enemies — with no opt-out option.

The outbursts prompted the creators of the app, Peeple, to reconsider. But in China, government authorities are hard at work devising their own e-database to rate each and every one of the nation’s 1.3 billion citizens by 2020 using metrics that include whether they pay their bills on time, plagiarize schoolwork, break traffic laws or adhere to birth-control regulations. And there’s no opt-out option.

On Urban Charter School Success

Susan Dynarski:

Charter schools are controversial. But are they good for education?

Rigorous research suggests that the answer is yes for an important, underserved group: low-income, nonwhite students in urban areas. These children tend to do better if enrolled in charter schools instead of traditional public schools.

There are exceptions, of course. We can’t predict with certainty that a particular child will do better in a specific charter or traditional public school. Similarly, no doctor can honestly promise a patient she will benefit from a treatment.

Teens can’t tell the difference between Google ads and search results

James Vincent:

familiar narrative of teens and technology is one of natural proficiency — that young people just get technology in a way that older generations don’t. But research suggests that just because children feel at home using smartphones, it doesn’t mean they’re more aware of the nuances of how the web works. In a new report published by the UK’s telecoms watchdog Ofcom, researchers found that only a third of young people aged 12 to 15 knew which search results on Google were adverts, while this figure was even lower — less than one in five — for children aged 8 to 11.

“The internet allows children to learn, discover different points of view and stay connected with friends and family,” Ofcom’s director of research, James Thickett, told the Financial Times. “But these digital natives still need help to develop the knowhow they need to navigate the online world.”

Education is for Everyone Unless You are Special

Giovanni Tiso and Hilary Stace (PDF):

When meeting with the parents of a prospective student with a learning disability or other impairments, a school principal has a range of options. If the child comes from outside the school’s zone, they can refuse admission outright, or make it subject to the school’s special enrolment conditions. Otherwise, the Education Act 1989 gives disabled children the same access to compulsory education as others. The question then becomes: how inclusive should the school be? A school not wishing to burden itself with children with disabilities can adopt a soft approach. The principal can, for instance, be less than totally welcoming at the pre-enrolment interview, or complain about the lack of funding, or praise the great work that the school down the road does in this area, or point to a drab, uninviting special room. Parents of children with special needs are quick to pick up on these signals and will look elsewhere.

MA Replaces PARCC with PARCC: Tea Party and Teacher Unions Cheer

Laura Waters:

Today’s New York Times features a doomsday article on the demise of the PARCC assessments aligned with the Common Core State Standards in Massachusetts. In language that would have warmed the cockles of Cotton Mather’s heart (fun fact: the Puritan Boston preacher predicted the end of the world in 1697), the Times describes the “dizzying” and “strange” alliance between the Pioneer Institute, a conservative, Koch Brothers-funded think tank that decries the Common Core and PARCC, in part, because they use an “unproven approach to teaching Euclidean geometry,” and the Massachusetts Education Association, which has waged a relentless campaign against the aligned tests in order to protect teachers from performance-based evaluations.

Time to cry out for academic freedom

Colin Macilwain:

Nowhere is this more true than in the United Kingdom, where reforms instigated by former prime minister Margaret Thatcher 30 years ago have enabled vice-chancellors to extend their grip over matters that were once controlled by academics, such as what subjects to teach, which kinds of grant to chase and criteria for hiring staff. By shifting decision-making to committees dominated by their close allies, many vice-chancellors now operate as if they were chief executives.

This managerial approach, and the growing reach and expanse of administrative staff that has accompanied it, is gathering pace worldwide. That is largely because British and US universities dominate international university league tables, and many countries’ higher-education policies seek to emulate their model. Germany’s Excellence Initiative, for example, has selected a small number of promising institutions and given them the money to build up stronger central administrations.

Madison Schools’ three-year history of kindergarten attendance and chronic absenteeism

The tables below show a three-year history of kindergarten attendance and chronic absenteeism (attendance less than 90%) across the seven HERE! Schools together (Allis, Falk, Lapham, Leopold, Mendota, Midvale, and Orchard Ridge).

PDF Version.

Background links.

NPR (November 12, 2015), Getting kids to show up.

Molly Beck on MMSD Attendance Report for 2013-14 (WSJ) (August, 2014)

MMSD 2013-14 Attendance Report.

Via a kind reader.

As schools grow more diverse, educators strive for stability

Alan Borsuk:

“For us, stability is key.”

Mark Flaten, principal of Green Bay West High School, said that to 10 members of the state Assembly when they visited last week at the school as part of the work of a legislative task force on urban education.

Flaten was talking about challenges faced at the school, where about a quarter of the students come or go during a school year or between school years, not counting incoming ninth-graders and graduating seniors.

Flaten could have been speaking for many educators across Wisconsin and beyond who every day face the challenges of trying to create educational stability in the lives of students whose circumstances aren’t so stable, sometimes in big ways.

In short, stability is a big plus when it comes to educational success, but change, both good and bad, is part of our times and the lives of large numbers of children. One central challenge for schools is to provide as much of the former as possible, given the high degree of the latter.

The notion that kids enroll in a school and stay there until they move up to the next level of schooling is not what it used to be. That’s the case across the board, but it is particularly true at schools serving a higher percentage of low-income students and students who are new to the United States.

If you think this is “a Milwaukee problem,” you’re right and wrong. It certainly is a big issue in Milwaukee, where thousands of students have unstable personal circumstances.

Paly student tells of school stress: ‘Students are gasping for air’

Carolyn Walworth:

As I sit in my room staring at the list of colleges I’ve resolved to try to get into, trying to determine my odds of getting into each, I can’t help but feel desolate.

As a junior at Palo Alto High School, and a student who has been through the entire PAUSD system, I feel qualified to speak about problems at our schools.

My stress began in elementary school, where students were segregated into separate class meetings as “early” and “late” readers. Although we were just elementary schoolers, we perceived this as a differentiation between the less and more advanced students and either felt superior due to our intellect or shamed for a “lack” thereof.

The Space Doctor’s Big Idea

Randall Munroe, via a kind Richard Askey email:

There once was a doctor with cool white hair. He was well known because he came up with some important ideas. He didn’t grow the cool hair until after he was done figuring that stuff out, but by the time everyone realized how good his ideas were, he had grown the hair, so that’s how everyone pictures him. He was so good at coming up with ideas that we use his name to mean “someone who’s good at thinking.”

Two of his biggest ideas were about how space and time work. This thing you’re reading right now explains those ideas using only the ten hundred words people use the most often.1 The doctor figured out the first idea while he was working in an office, and he figured out the second one ten years later, while he was working at a school. That second idea was a hundred years ago this year. (He also had a few other ideas that were just as important. People have spent a lot of time trying to figure out how he was so good at thinking.)

The first idea is called the special idea, because it covers only a few special parts of space and time. The other one—the big idea—covers all the stuff that is left out by the special idea. The big idea is a lot harder to understand than the special one. People who are good at numbers can use the special idea to answer questions pretty easily, but you have to know a lot about numbers to do anything with the big idea. To understand the big idea—the hard one—it helps to understand the special idea first.

Commentary On Wisconsin’s K-12 Tax and Spending Climate; Madison’s Above Average Spending

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes:

Is it misguided, inefficient and wasteful to compel school districts to resort to referenda for authority to meet the rising costs of school operations? Not everyone thinks so. For example, Republican Jeremy Thiesfeldt, chair of the Assembly Committee on Education, does not see a problem with government by referendum. “A school district, if they decide that they need additional money to provide a quality education, what is wrong with them having to sell this to the providers of the tax dollars, the voters?” Thiesfeldt says.

We shouldn’t require our school boards to win voter approval for their annual budgets any more than we should hold a statewide referendum every other year so voters can weigh in on the biennial budget. Representative Thiesfeldt voted in favor of requiring a civics test for high school graduation so he should know that our government does not operate by plebiscite. We have a representative democracy and elect office holders to make decisions so that the voters don’t have to.

Voters become understandably irritated if they are called to the polls every year for a referendum on school district spending. There are dedicated volunteers in every school district, but other community members have other priorities and would not welcome the obligation to educate themselves every year on school district finances in order to cast an informed vote on a referendum. That’s the kind of thing they elect school board members to take care of.

Madison spends $16,700 per student, substantially more than the national average. This, despite long standing, disastrous reading results.

Much more on Ed Hughes, here.

The right to fright

The Economist:

HALLOWEEN is supposed to last for one night only. At Yale University (motto: “Light and Truth”) it has dragged on considerably longer. As happens at many American universities, Yale administrators sent an advisory e-mail to students before the big night, requesting them to refrain from wearing costumes that other students might find offensive. Given that it is legal for 18-year-old Americans to drive, marry and, in most places, own firearms, it might seem reasonable to let students make their own decisions about dressing-up—and to face the consequences when photographs of them disguised as Osama bin Laden can forever be found on Facebook or Instagram. Yet a determination to treat adults as children is becoming a feature of life on campus, and not just in America. Strangely, some of the most enthusiastic supporters of this development are the students themselves.

The fight over K-12 education appears headed back to the states

Lyndsey Layton:

With Congress poised to pass a law that would shift power over K-12 public school policy from the federal government back to the states, the debate about improving schools is shifting from Washington to the 50 state capitals.

Congress is expected to take a final vote on a bill to replace No Child Left Behind, the current federal law, after Thanksgiving. House and Senate conferees endorsed the new legislation 39 to 1 on Thursday, and while some conservatives are unhappy with it, the bill is expected to pass and the White House has indicated that President Obama will sign it.

Autism’s rise tracks with drop in other childhood disorders

Nicholette Zeliadt:

The latest estimate of autism prevalence in the U.S., released last week, suggests the condition is even more common than previously thought. But the apparent rise in autism coincides with a decline in other developmental disorders, highlighting the complexity folded into this seemingly simple statistic.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 1 in 45 children have autism, up from 1 in 80 in 20131. The new figure is based on the annual door-to-door National Health Interview Survey, which asks parents whether a doctor has ever told them their child has autism, intellectual disability or another type of developmental delay.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Comparing The States

Wall Street Journal:

At the back of the pack are, in ascending order from the bottom, New Jersey, New York, California, Minnesota, Vermont, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Wisconsin, Ohio and Maryland. The only state to recently break out of this hall of tax shame is North Carolina, which in 2013 slashed its top 7.75% income tax to a flat 5.75% and its corporate rate to 5% from 6.9%. The former 44th is now ranked 15th.

By contrast, Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy earlier this year quarterbacked a major corporate tax hike and bumped the top income tax rate to 6.99% from 6.7%. Fairfield-based General Electric is now threatening to sign with another state. As Governor of Maryland from 2007 to 2015, Democrat Martin O’Malley increased some 40 taxes including the corporate rate to 8.25% from 7% and the sales tax to 6% from 5%. This may be one reason he’s warming the bench in the Democratic primaries.

In fairness, some high-tax states are trying to improve. New York last year trimmed its corporate rate to 6.5% from 7.1% while zeroing it out for upstate manufacturers. The reform catapulted the Empire State 12 spots in the corporate tax ranking to 12th, but its sky-high state and local income taxes are still second only to California.

University is a privilege but not all jobs need a degree

Michael Skapinker:

“All officers ‘should have degrees’,” was the BBC headline. An adviser to the College of Policing, which sets standards for police training in England and Wales, said: “We are looking to have degree-level qualifications for constable and masters for superintendent.”

The college said that France and Spain already demanded that new-entry police officers have degrees and that inspectors have masters degrees.

The college said professions such as medicine, nursing, law and social work all required university qualifications. The high level at which police officers operated today meant UK forces needed to consider degrees too.

It is easy to understand what the college is talking about. Dealing with cross-border terrorism, cyber crime and financial fraud needs sophisticated skills. Police forces that can attract graduates will probably benefit. But the idea that every officer needs to be a graduate seems wrong-headed.

24. Bringing it all together | Graphical Linear Algebra

Graphical Linear Algebra:

We are on the home stretch. In this episode we complete the set of equations of Interacting Hopf monoids, the technical name for the equational theory behind graphical linear algebra. Afterwards, we will not see any new equations for some time. Instead, we will explore what this equational theory is good for. In the next few episodes I hope to convince you that I haven’t been wasting your time with all of this!

Take out loans to live on campus or lose out on a collegiate rite of passage?

Michelle Singletary

Many colleges and universities require freshmen to live on campus, knowing that many will have to borrow to do so. (Schools often waive the requirement under certain circumstances, including “extreme” financial hardship or if a student will live nearby with a parent or guardian.)

In pitching the benefits, schools argue that students who live in residence halls have an easier transition to college life.

For in-state students living on campus at public four-year colleges and universities this school year, room and board represented an average of 42 percent of their estimated budget, according to the College Board. Tuition and fees constituted 39 percent.

Against Students

Sara Ahmed:

What do I mean by “against students”? By using this expression I am trying to describe a series of speech acts which consistently position students, or at least specific kinds of students, as a threat to education, to free speech, to civilization, even to life itself. In speaking against students, these speech acts also speak for more or less explicitly articulated sets of values: freedom, reason, education, democracy. Students are failing to reproduce the required norms of conduct. Even if that failure is explained as a result of ideological shifts that students are not held responsible for – whether it be neoliberalism, managerialism or a new sexual puritanism – it is in the bodies of students that the failure is located. Students are not transmitting the right message, or are evidence that we have failed to transmit the right message. Students have become an error message, a beep, beep, that is announcing system failure.

The Politics of Education Reform

Paul Hill
Ashley Joachim:

On The Lens today, Paul Hill and Ashley Jochim write: Creating and transforming schools is the core work of education reform. But educational change is inevitably political. It requires adults to work differently, threatens some jobs, empowers parents with new choices, and makes schools’ existence depend on enrollment and academic performance. As education reform efforts in some cities have shown, bypassing local politics is not a sustainable solution.

Beyond Measure Film Screening

Madison Teachers, Inc (PDF), via a kind Jeanie Kamholtz email:

“Beyond Measure” a film, sponsored by MTI & WEAC, paints a positive picture of what is possible in American Education. Ruth Conniff, Editor of The Progressive magazine, will facilitate a discussion following the film. The film begins at 7:00 p.m., at the Barrymore Theater. There is no charge to attend. Tickets are going fast, but can be reserved via: http://www.madisonteachers.org/beyondmeasure/

The Rise of the College Crybullies

Roger Kimball:

For more than a week now, the country has been mesmerized, and appalled, by the news emanating from academia. At Yale the insanity began over Halloween costumes. Erika Christakis, associate master of a residential college at Yale, courted outrage by announcing that “free speech and the ability to tolerate offense are the hallmarks of a free and open society” and it was not her business to police Halloween costumes.

To people unindoctrinated by the sensitivity training that is de rigueur on most campuses today, these sentiments might seem unobjectionable. But to the delicate creatures at Yale’s Silliman College they were an intolerable provocation. What if students dressed as American Indians or Mexican mariachi musicians? Angry, hysterical students confronted Nicholas Christakis, Erika’s husband and the master of Silliman, screaming obscenities and demanding that he step down because he had failed to create “a place of comfort, a home” for students. The episode was captured on video and went viral.

When the College Madness Came to My Campus

Charles Kesler:

Claremont McKenna College was once deliberately out of step with academic fashion. I used to tell prospective students and their parents, liberal or conservative, that one of the best things about CMC was that it refused to enforce the little catechism of political correctness. Regardless of political beliefs on campus, I assured them, students did not have to worry about speaking up in class or being persecuted for their opinions.

That is now very much in doubt. Last week the turmoil stirred at Yale and the University of Missouri swept my campus. A coalition of self-proclaimed “marginalized” students presented a catalog of “microaggressions” they had suffered, demanding new forms of “institutional support” in compensation. Demonstrators, who included both CMC undergrads and a few unfamiliar, skulking adults, denounced the dean of students and humiliated her in an open-air trial. Two students went on a hunger strike. Within days, Claremont McKenna—a place I have been proud to call my employer for more than three decades—surrendered ignominiously. How and why did it happen?

Uber Considers Steering Drivers To “Vocational Training” As Cars Go Autonomous

Josh Constine:

But Friday night, Kalanick offered new potential options for drivers while speaking on stage at the Summit At Sea getaway conference boat off the coast of Miami. The boat, which had little connectivity, just returned to port.

After an on stage discussion with Google/Alphabet chairman Eric Schmidt, a nervous audience member bluntly asked Kalanick about the fate of Uber’s drivers as autonomous vehicles hit the road. At first, Kalanick launched into a summary of why the act of driving is fundamentally bad. He cited that 30,000 people a year die of car accidents, billions of hours are spent “decreasing quality of life” during the stressful act of driving, and traffic hurts people’s efficiency. He sees driverless technology as a solution to many of these problems.

Why I left NC district schools to teach in a charter school

Mamie Hall:

My 10 years teaching in the public schools can best be described as a roller coaster of inspiration, innovation and disappointment.

After college, I began working in a pilot year-round middle school program. We had smaller class sizes and a lot of freedom. We set our own schedule, made our own policies and took our students on team-building exercises in the mountains and celebrations of success at nearby attractions. Yes, there were challenges, but being able to use our own creative methods to address those led to a sense of professionalism and accomplishment.

The icing on the cake, not that this is my main measure of my success as a teacher, was that our test scores were higher than any other in the district.

We Dissent

Claremont Independent:

The student protests that have swept through Claremont McKenna College (CMC) over the past few days—and the ensuing fallout—have made us disappointed in many of those involved.

First, former Dean Mary Spellman. We are sorry that your career had to end this way, as the email in contention was a clear case of good intentions being overlooked because of poor phrasing. However, we are disappointed in you as well. We are disappointed that you allowed a group of angry students to bully you into resignation. We are disappointed that you taught Claremont students that reacting with emotion and anger will force the administration to act. We are disappointed that when two students chose to go on a hunger strike until you resigned, you didn’t simply say, “so what?” If they want to starve themselves, that’s fine—you don’t owe them your job. We are disappointed that you and President Chodosh put up with students yelling and swearing at you for an hour. You could have made this a productive dialogue, but instead you humored the students and allowed them to get caught up in the furor.

The Myth of the Unemployed Humanities Major

Wilson Peden

For the last time: No, earning a degree in English, philosophy, art history, name-your-humanities-discipline will not condemn you to a lifetime of unemployment and poverty.

Actually, this is probably not the last time I will write some version of those words. It’s certainly not the first time I have written them. (See, for instance, the lede from another blog post I wrote almost exactly a year ago: “Good news for recent graduates who majored in the arts or humanities: you are not doomed to a lifetime of poverty and unemployment.”) But I feel compelled to keep writing these words because, in the face of all evidence, the myth of the unemployed humanities major persists. It may be more prevalent than ever: Florida Senator Marco Rubio has made snarky remarks about the job market for philosophy majors a trademark of his campaign speeches for the Republican presidential nomination.

There’s a good reason protesters at the University of Missouri didn’t want the media around

Terrell Jermaine Starr:

Video of a confrontation between a news photographer and protesters at the University of Missouri on Monday led to a dispute between journalists and the activists’ sympathizers beyond the campus walls. In response to a series of racial issues at the university, a circle of arm-linked students sought to designate a “safe space” around an encampment on the campus quad. When they blocked journalist Tim Tai from photographing the encampment, reporters complained that media were denied access to a public space.

Certainly, Tai – like any journalist – had a legal right to enter the space, given that it was in a public area. But that shouldn’t be the end of this story. We in the media have something important to learn from this unfortunate exchange. The protesters had a legitimate gripe: The black community distrusts the news media because it has failed to cover black pain fairly.

Homeschooled with MIT courses at 5, accepted to MIT at 15

Laurie Everett:

Ahaan Rungta and his family moved from Calcutta, India, to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in 2001, the same year MIT announced OpenCourseWare (OCW), a bold plan to publish all of MIT’s course materials online and to share them with the world for free. Little did his parents realize at the time that their two-year-old son — already an avid reader — would eventually acquire his entire elementary and secondary education from OpenCourseWare and MITx, and would be admitted to the MIT class of 2019 at the age of 15.

“When I was five years old my mom told me ‘there’s this thing called OCW,’” says Rungta, who was homeschooled. “I just couldn’t believe how much material was available. From that moment on I spent the next few years taking OCW courses.”

When most kids are entering kindergarten, Rungta was studying physics and chemistry through OpenCourseWare. For Rungta’s mother, the biggest challenge to homeschooling her son was staying ahead of him, finding courses and materials to feed his insatiable mind.

How to Write a “Political Correctness Run Amok” Article

Julia Serano

And here is how you will do it:

1) Make it clear from the very beginning that you are an open-minded, social justice supporter, preferably on the left side of the political spectrum. This will contrast your take on “political correctness run amok” from those of right wing commentators — you know, those hypocrites who are pro-free speech when it comes to white, straight, Christian people making fun of minorities, but against free speech when it comes to #BlackLivesMatter, or discussions about sex education and women’s reproductive rights, or secular holiday celebrations, or homosexuals and their so-called “agenda.” You are nothing like those hypocrites! Plus, you are pitching your soon-to-be-trending article to someplace like The Nation or The Atlantic, so you will most certainly need to win over liberal readers.

How College Students Are Funding the Athletics Arms Race

Brad Wolverton, Ben Hallman, Shane Shifflett and Sandhya Kambhampati:

A river of cash is flowing into college sports, financing a spending spree among elite universities that has sent coaches’ salaries soaring and spurred new discussions about whether athletes should be paid. But most of that revenue is going to a handful of elite sports programs, leaving colleges like Georgia State to rely heavily on students to finance their athletic ambitions.

In the past five years, public universities pumped more than $10.3 billion in mandatory student fees and other subsidies into their sports programs, according to an examination by The Chronicle of Higher Education and The Huffington Post. The review included an inflation-adjusted analysis of financial reports provided to the NCAA by 201 public universities competing in Division I, information that was obtained through public-records requests.

When Free Speech Becomes a Political Weapon

Kate Manne and Jason Stanley:

Students at the University of Missouri recently succeeded in pressuring the institution’s president and chancellor to step down. At other campuses across the country, we are witnessing a wave of similar protests. Frequently, however, the students protesting are being misrepresented and belittled in the news media as childish and coddled. More worryingly still, they are held to be attacking freedom of speech rather than exercising it to call for institutional reform — political action of the very kind this freedom aims at protecting.

What explains this apparent paradox? In a word, propaganda. The notion of freedom of speech is being co-opted by dominant social groups, distorted to serve their interests, and used to silence those who are oppressed and marginalized. All too often, when people depict others as threats to freedom of speech, what they really mean is, “Quiet!”

K-12 Governance Question Before The Wisconsin Supreme Court

Patrick Marley:

In 1996, the high court unanimously ruled the elected superintendent is in charge of education, finding the governor and lawmakers could not strip the office of those powers. Now, the court is being asked to overturn that decision.

Justice David Prosser was the speaker of the state Assembly during the legal battle two decades ago, and in that capacity he filed a friend-of-the-court brief arguing the Legislature had greater powers over schools.

He lost that argument, but as a member of the court he will get to revisit it.

The case now before the Supreme Court is meant to determine whether the governor can have a say in the administrative rules written by the superintendent’s Department of Public Instruction. Lower courts ruled the governor could not.

Overturning the 1996 decision wasn’t at issue when the case was before the lower courts but was raised when it got to the state Supreme Court. Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel is arguing for reversing the decision, as is Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, a business lobbying group that filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case.

Evers argues the decision should not be reversed because courts are supposed to follow precedent and there are no new facts or conflicting rulings that should prompt the court to reverse course.

The Seduction of Safety, on Campus and Beyond 265

Roxane Gay:

As a writer, I believe the First Amendment is sacred. The freedom of speech, however, does not guarantee freedom from consequence. You can speak your mind, but you can also be shunned. You can be criticized. You can be ignored or ridiculed. You can lose your job. The freedom of speech does not exist in a vacuum.

Many of the people who advocate for freedom of speech with the most bluster are willing to waste this powerful right on hate speech. But the beauty of the freedom of speech is that it protects us from subjectivity. We protect someone’s right to shout hateful slurs the same way we protect someone’s right to, say, criticize the government, or discuss her religious beliefs.

And so the students at Mizzou wanted a safe space to commune as they protested. They wanted sanctuary but had the nerve to demand this sanctuary in plain sight, in a public space. Rather than examine why the activists needed safe space, most people wrapped themselves in the Constitution, the path of less resistance. The students are framed as coddled infants, as if perhaps we should educate college students in a more spartan manner — placing classrooms in lions’ dens.

3 Lessons From University of Missouri President Tim Wolfe’s Resignation

Dave Zirin:

I n shocking news that comes in utter contradiction to a statement released just yesterday, University of Missouri President Tim Wolfe has announced his resignation.

The move comes after incidents of bigotry and racial vandalism that scarred the Columbia campus, followed by weeks of protest, a hunger strike by grad student Jonathan Butler, as well as the announcement that faculty members would not be showing up for work.

Yet the tipping point for Wolfe’s departure was the announcement Saturday night that the black football players at Mizzou would be refusing to practice or play until the school president was gone. Their announcement was followed the next day by a widely circulated photo of most of the team, including many white players, sitting with head coach Gary Pinkel, and the statement that the players had full support of the coaching staff in their efforts. Tim Wolfe makes $459,000 a year and the school would have to forfeit $1 million just for missing this weekend’s game against BYU. In other words, math was not on Tim Wolfe’s side and he was as good as gone.

Why journalists have the right to cover the University of Missouri protests

Jonathan Peters:

Hundreds of students, faculty, and staff gathered on the Carnahan Quadrangle to support the 1950 group, whose name is a nod to the year black students were first allowed on Mizzou’s campus. The president’s resignation—and later the chancellor’s—followed weeks of unrest at the state’s flagship university. One grad student declared a hunger strike, and the football team refused to compete as long as the president kept his job, all while the 1950 members camped out in tents on campus. The protests were sparked by anger that administrators had not acted more quickly to address recent expressions of racism directed at black students.

Eric Lundgren on Part of Our Lives : A People’s History of the American Public Library

Human Google

FIRST, THE GOOD NEWS. On the first page of Wayne A. Wiegand’s Part of Our Lives: A People’s History of the American Public Library, a stunning statistic from the Pew Research Center’s 2013 Internet and American Life Project: 91 percent of respondents over the age of 16 said that public libraries were “very” or “somewhat” important to their communities; 98 percent identified their public library experience as “very” or “mostly” positive; and 94 percent of parents believed that libraries were important to their children. The report also grouped the library with the military and first responders as the only major institutions not to fall in public esteem over the previous decade.

It’s worth pausing for a second to ponder this baffling consensus. In the polarized and paranoid America of the 21st century — these days I picture Uncle Sam with one hand on his concealed weapon, his other hand on his wallet — it’s hard to imagine 90 percent of us agreeing on anything, much less coming together to support an open, tax-funded, socialistic institution devoted (at least traditionally) to the distribution of books.

How This Teen Uses an iPhone To Manage His Diabetes

Christina Farr:

Blake Atkins receives regular messages from his mom when he’s at school. But unlike most teenagers, he doesn’t seem to mind.

That’s because Atkins, 15, who lives in San Carlos, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes four years ago. His mom, Lori, sends him a text whenever his blood sugar levels are out of the normal range.

“I do like that my mom can look at my numbers,” Atkins says. “It keeps me sane. It helps keep her sane.”

While enlisting caregivers might seem like a logical way to manage diabetes, it’s only recently that such tools have been available. Health experts say sophisticated devices to monitor blood sugar have been around for years, but it’s been a challenge to share health data securely with a smartphone — and from there, add it to a patient’s medical record.

College is the last place that should be a ‘safe space’: A voice of protest against student protests

By Hannah Oh, Steven Glick and Taylor Schmitt:

The student protests that have swept through Claremont McKenna College (CMC) over the past few days—and the ensuing fallout—have made us disappointed in many of those involved.

First, former Dean Mary Spellman. We are sorry that your career had to end this way, as the email in contention was a clear case of good intentions being overlooked because of poor phrasing. However, we are disappointed in you as well.

We are disappointed that you allowed a group of angry students to bully you into resignation.

We are disappointed that you taught Claremont students that reacting with emotion and anger will force the administration to act.

No One Has a Monopoly On “Beating the Odds”

Michael DeArmond:

We recently released a report that looked at nine indicators to measure educational improvement and opportunity in 50 cities across America. Despite a few bright spots, the results paint a sobering picture of the state of urban public education today, especially for students from low-income households and students of color.

With few exceptions, students eligible for free and reduced-price lunch and students of color in the 50 cities were less likely than more advantaged students to enroll in a high-scoring elementary and middle school, take advanced math classes in high school, and sit for the ACT/SAT. Equally important, the odds of a student being in a supercharged school where these education gaps might be wiped out were slim: overall, only about 8 percent of all students in the 50 cities enrolled in a school that “beat the odds” and outpaced demographically similar schools statewide. How can city leaders address these problems? Although the report can’t provide any answers, it offers some clues.

Closing the Discipline Gap

Bethany Gross:

Why would changing school discipline rank among the reforms recommended for a city where the most egregious injustice has played out in law enforcement and the court system? In a recent NPR story, Reverend Starsky Wilson, the co-chairman of the group of leaders known as the Ferguson Committee, explained:

The perception of our police is the same as many teachers who see young black men, particularly, as older than they actually are, as more dangerous than they present. And then they treat them differently with their use of consequences. So in the classroom, it’s out-of-school suspensions, and on the street, it’s extrajudicial killings.

That’s a stark statement, but the link between getting into trouble in and out of school is a reality for many students, so much so that people refer to a “school-to-prison pipeline” that moves students from school into the juvenile and criminal justice systems.

Commentary On Teacher Merit Pay

Jim Schutze:

The problem there, up until recently, has been that you can’t really do much research on a thing that doesn’t exist yet. So, for example, how does Ravitch know already that merit pay will turn teachers against each other?

Back to journalism and elephants: Just now, in fact, merit pay systems are up and running in a few major districts. Our own Dallas school district may even have the most comprehensive and sophisticated merit pay system in the country, a direct legacy of the tenure here of former Dallas school Superintendent Mike Miles.

This year is the first when we have had two years to compare in order to spot trends. But in most of its recent coverage of what is called the “Teacher Excellence Initiative” or TEI (merit pay) system here, The Dallas Morning News has focused only on the criticism of the system brought forward by the teachers unions.

English is not normal

John McWhorter:

English speakers know that their language is odd. So do people saddled with learning it non-natively. The oddity that we all perceive most readily is its spelling, which is indeed a nightmare. In countries where English isn’t spoken, there is no such thing as a ‘spelling bee’ competition. For a normal language, spelling at least pretends a basic correspondence to the way people pronounce the words. But English is not normal.

What’s a ‘safe space’? A look at the phrase’s 50-year history

Malcolm Harris:

But what is a “safe space” and why shouldn’t a university be one? This tweet from Dawkins would have been a psychotic response to a school shooting or campus rape, but that’s not the kind of safety he’s talking about. The safe spaces that Dawkins doesn’t like are encroachments onto his turf by queer and feminist activists. All of the sudden a self-styled public intellectual like Dawkins has to use “they” as a singular gender-neutral pronoun or risk censure. He signed up for science, not social studies.

And Dawkins isn’t alone in his frustration. At the University of Missouri, the president and chancellor have both been forced to resign by student protesters who accused them of failing to create a safe space for Black students. At Yale, a residential “master” earned national condemnation after he and his wife stood up for the principle of racially offensive Halloween costumes. “Safe space” has become a rallying cry for student activists who want to change the way their campus communities operate, but it has an older history.

How Marcuse made today’s students less tolerant than their parents

April Kelly-Woessner

When Samuel Stouffer first wrote on political tolerance during the McCarthy era, he concluded that Americans were generally an intolerant bunch. Yet, finding that younger people were more tolerant than their parents, he also concluded that Americans would become more and more tolerant over time, due to generational replacement and increases in education. However, Stouffer did not predict the rise of the New Left, which I argue has reframed our collective notions about free expression, resulting in a significant decline in political tolerance among America’s youth. I develop this argument in a chapter I wrote for Stanley Rothman’s last book, The End of the Experiment, (Rothman, Nagai, Maranto, and Woessner, 2015) My findings are outlined below.

First, I make the case that young people are less politically tolerant than their parents’ generation and that this marks a clear reversal of the trends observed by social scientists for the past 60 years. Political tolerance is generally defined as the willingness to extend civil liberties and basic democratic rights to members of unpopular groups. That is, in order to be tolerant, one must recognize the rights of one’s political enemies to fully participate in the democratic process. Typically, this is measured by asking people whether they will allow members of unpopular groups, or groups they dislike, to exercise political rights, such as giving a public talk, teaching college, or having their books on loan in public libraries.

Who’s really demanding to be coddled on campus? Yale students aren’t the spoiled brats for refusing to be racially trolled on Halloween

Silpa Kovvali Silpa Kovvali:

In December of 2012, many Harvard students woke to an unpleasant surprise that had been slid under their doors. A flyer, circulated by anonymous parties, was seemingly a parodic invitation to a final club. “Inclusion. Diversity. Love.” it read, with footnotes clarifying “Jews need not apply. Seriously, no fucking Jews. Coloreds okay. Rophynol.” (Final clubs are Harvard’s version of fraternities: they are very wealthy, very old, and bear a long tradition of elitism and sexism.)

In response, the (now former) Dean of the College, Evelynn M. Hammonds issued a statement. “I find these flyers offensive,” it said. “Even if intended as satirical in nature, they are hurtful and offensive … and do not demonstrate the level of thoughtfulness and respect we expect at Harvard when engaging difficult issues within our community.” That week, two Harvard House Masters, Nicholas A. and Erika Christakis, wrote a histrionic Time op-ed in which they described the school as a “a free-speech surveillance state.” Their sole evidence was the administration’s response to the anonymous gesture: Hammonds’s declaration that she, for one, did not care for it.

How to Be Smarter With a ‘529’ Account

Chana Schoenberger:

Many parents and grandparents love “529” accounts to save for college. But like anything involving money and taxes, not everyone uses them in the most efficient way.

These state-sponsored savings plans, which typically invest in mutual funds, hold a record amount of assets—$258.2 billion in 12.3 million open accounts, says the College Savings Plans Network, a state treasurers’ group.

The attraction is that they come with years of tax-free growth, as well as tax-free withdrawals as long as the funds are used to pay for qualified education expenses.

In effect, these plans are a hedge against the wave of student-loan debt engulfing many recent graduates.

“It is much less expensive to save for college than to borrow for college,” says Angie O’Leary, senior vice president with U.S. Bancorp Investments.

Here are some tips from consultants and other experts on how to use these plans in the best way:

Madison Government Schools Charter (and Innovation) Climate

Julie F. Mead & Preston C. Green III

This policy brief addresses the challenge of using charter school policy to enhance equal educational opportunity. Three overriding assumptions guide the brief’s recommendations: (1) charter schools will be part of our public educational system for the foreseeable future; (2) charter schools are neither inherently good, nor inherently bad; and (3) charter schools should be employed to further goals of equal educational opportunity, including racial diversity and school success. The creation of charter schools is just one among a variety of policy tools at the disposal of local, state, and national policymakers. As with all educational policy tools, one challenge is to wield the tool in a manner that will enhance equity and opportunity. Part I of this brief provides an overview of equal educational opportunity and its legal foundations and offers a review of prior research documenting issues concerning charter schools and their impact on equity and diversity. Part II presents detailed recommendations for charter school authorizers, as well as state and federal policymakers for using charter schools to advance equal educational opportunity. Separately, we are publishing a companion document based on these detailed recommendations, providing model statutory code language that can be employed by state policymakers to ensure that charter schools attend to long-established policy goals.

Madison Schools’ charter policy (pdf).

A majority of the Madison School Board rejected the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School several years ago, despite long term disastrous reading results.

Fostering Innovation in the Madison Government Schools.

Wisconsin Reading Coalition Newsletter

Wisconsin Reading Coalition, via a kind email:

Dr. Louisa Moats defends the use of the word “dyslexia” in this article: Defending the “D” Word.

Two resources are available for teaching bi-dialectal fluency for African American English speakers: Toggle Talk for kindergartners and Code Switching Lessons: Grammar Strategies of Linguistically Diverse Writers for older students. These programs are linguistically and culturally responsive practices designed to boost literacy outcomes for African American students.

The Legal Case Unions Fear They Cannot Win

Steve Malanga:

It has been a difficult five years for government-employee unions, and the Supreme Court appears poised to strike another blow. During the current term, the justices will hear Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, a case challenging rules in 23 states—including California, Illinois and New York—that force government workers to pay hefty “agency fees” to unions that they have no interest in joining.

Labor activists call these “fair share fees,” on the theory that nonunion workers, even if they don’t pay full dues, still benefit from collective bargaining—for example, from a wage increase negotiated by union representatives. In a brief filed last week with the Supreme Court, the California Teachers Association argued that such fees are vital “to avoid labor strife, to secure economic stability, to insure the efficiency and continuity of state and local governments.”

Study on the rise of autism wins Samuel Johnson Prize

Lorien Kite:

A study of autism has won the 2015 Samuel Johnson Prize, the UK’s most prestigious award for non-fiction writing.

Neurotribes, by the US investigative journalist Steve Silberman, began life in 2001 as an article in Wired magazine that sought to explain higher-than-average rates of the disorder among the children of programmers and engineers in Silicon Valley.

Combining contemporary reportage with a history of medical approaches and social attitudes towards the disorder, the book that emerged tackles the question of why there has been such a rise in diagnoses in recent decades.

Anne Applebaum, the historian and journalist who chaired the five-strong judging panel, described Neurotribes as “a tour de force of archival, journalistic and scientific research”.

Madison Government Schools’ Vision 2030 Research Report

PDF Slides

Madison has changed significantly in the past few decades, and likely will continue to change in the years to come. Since 1990, residents in poverty and residents of color have increased citywide, while MMSD students receiving free/reduced lunch and MMSD students of color have increased even faster.

Looking forward to 2030, Madison likely will look different in other ways – from the technology that affects our daily lives to the type of jobs that drive our economy. The Madison region has a history as a research and innovation hub; recent growth in the bioscience and information technology sectors as well as entrepreneurial start-ups will continue to shape our community’s economy. Although no one can know exactly what changes the next fifteen years will bring, creating a clear vision for MMSD’s future will anchor our work in constantly changing times.

Released in 2013, the MMSD Strategic Framework is a living document that gives the district a vision – that every school will be a thriving school that prepares every student for college, career, and community – and, more important, a strategy for moving forward towards this vision, including a focus on school improvement planning, a common learning agenda, and five priority areas to guide the work of central office. Working with the community, the district has set out to close the gaps in opportunity that lead to disparities in achievement, and to be a model of what a strong successful public school district looks like.

But research suggests that the greatest long-term improvement occurs when organizations know where they are headed and keep finding ways to improve. To maintain momentum, MMSD needed to create something to define clearly the components of its vision, including college, career, and community ready graduates, thriving educators and schools, and family and community partnerships.

The Vision 2030 process was our way to accomplish this goal, bringing life and specificity to these components. By doing so, MMSD can create a vision for the district that serves as an ambitious yet attainablestatementofwhereweareheaded,avividandaspirationalpictureofwhatMMSDcanbe. Thisvisionwill work in concert with the Strategic Framework to guide actions, both big and small, and serve as a beacon to which the district can align our actions and direct our growth in years to come.

Explaining Your Math: Unnecessary at Best, Encumbering at Worst

Katherine Beals & Barry Garelick:

“In general, there is no more evidence of “understanding” in the explained solution, even with pictures, than there would be in mathematical solutions presented in a clear and organized way. How do we know, for example, that a student isn’t simply repeating an explanation provided by the teacher or the textbook, thus exhibiting mere “rote learning” rather than “true understanding” of a problem-solving procedure?

“Math learning is a progression from concrete to abstract. The advantage to the abstract is that the various mathematical operations can be performed without the cumbersome attachments of concrete entities—entities like dollars, percentages, groupings of pencils. Once a particular word problem has been translated into a mathematical representation, the entirety of its mathematically relevant content is condensed onto abstract symbols, freeing working memory and unleashing the power of pure mathematics. That is, information and procedures that have been become automatic frees up working memory. With working memory less burdened, the student can focus on solving the problem at hand. Thus, requiring explanations beyond the mathematics itself distracts and diverts students away from the convenience and power of abstraction. Mandatory demonstrations of “mathematical understanding,” in other words, can impede the “doing” of actual mathematics.”

Related: Math Forum: audio/video.

Milwaukee School Takeovers?

Alan Borsuk:

School takeovers? Who said anything about school takeovers?

Well, Republicans in the Legislature did. Which means it’s in state law.

And a lot of other folks did, including opponents, led by the Milwaukee teachers union. The union campaigned energetically on a theme of “not one school” being taken away from the Milwaukee Public Schools system and put under the control of a charter school operator who would answer to a Milwaukee commissioner of education who would answer to Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele.

But the law doesn’t say school takeovers are required, you know. It just opens the way for them.

Last week’s appointment by Abele of Mequon-Thiensville School Superintendent Demond Means as the first Milwaukee school commissioner means the way is closed, at least for the 2016-’17 school year.

Officially known as the Opportunity Schools Partnership Program, the new effort looked initially like a mini version of the New Orleans Recovery School District, which basically replaced that city’s traditional school system with an all-charter system.

But the Milwaukee initiative emerged last week with a sharply different identity. It looks to me like it has a lot more in common with the initiative known as “community schools” than it has in common with takeovers of public schools. And the community schools idea has been backed by MPS leaders and the teachers union in the last couple years. How interesting.

Baby boomers and the end of higher education

Jeffrey Sellingo:

Fifty years ago this week, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Higher Education Act, ushering in an era of massive federal support for college students through a flurry of new programs: tuition grants, guaranteed student loans, and work-study funds. The law allowed a much greater swath of Americans to earn a college degree regardless of their family income. During the following decades, enrollment at campuses across the country grew threefold, to some 20 million students.

But today, Johnson’s vision of the Higher Education Act as a great equalizer in the American economy is at risk. Indeed, the divide between the haves and have-nots in higher education is almost as great today as it was in the mid-1960s. In the past decade alone, the percentage of students from families at the highest income levels who received a bachelor’s degree has grown to 82 percent, while for those at the bottom it has fallen to just 8 percent.

The Rise of the College Crybullies

Roger Kimball:

For more than a week now, the country has been mesmerized, and appalled, by the news emanating from academia. At Yale the insanity began over Halloween costumes. Erika Christakis, associate master of a residential college at Yale, courted outrage by announcing that “free speech and the ability to tolerate offense are the hallmarks of a free and open society” and it was not her business to police Halloween costumes.

To people unindoctrinated by the sensitivity training that is de rigueur on most campuses today, these sentiments might seem unobjectionable. But to the delicate creatures at Yale’s Silliman College they were an intolerable provocation. What if students dressed as American Indians or Mexican mariachi musicians? Angry, hysterical students confronted Nicholas Christakis, Erika’s husband and the master of Silliman, screaming obscenities and demanding that he step down because he had failed to create “a place of comfort, a home” for students. The episode was captured on video and went viral.

An Adult on Campus Mitch Daniels offers a lesson to college administrators.

Wall Street Journal:

It deserves to be quoted at length: “Events this week at the University of Missouri and Yale University should remind us all of the importance of absolute fidelity to our shared values. First, that we strive constantly to be, without exception, a welcoming, inclusive and discrimination-free community, where each person is respected and treated with dignity. Second, to be steadfast in preserving academic freedom and individual liberty.

“Two years ago, a student-led initiative created the ‘We Are Purdue Statement of Values,’ which was subsequently endorsed by the University Senate. Last year, both our undergraduate and graduate student governments led an effort that produced a strengthened statement of policies protecting free speech. What a proud contrast to the environments that appear to prevail at places like Missouri and Yale. Today and every day, we should remember the tenets of those statements and do our best to live up to them fully.”

So a commitment to tolerance can coexist on campus with a commitment to free speech and open debate. What a concept.

In an era of diminishing state support, what makes UC Berkeley a public institution?

Sahil Chinoy and Chloee Weiner:

In 1960, California passed the Master Plan for Higher Education, which established a framework for public higher education in the state. It envisioned a University of California without tuition that guaranteed access for the top one-eighth of the state’s high school graduates, funded by taxpayers who believed in the university as a source of economic and social mobility.

UC Berkeley, in particular, as an elite public school, has aimed to reconcile its responsibility to the state’s people with its status as a highly selective academic institution — a challenge faced by few others.

Today, state disinvestment, rising tuition costs, more out-of-state students, increased private research funding and a greater emphasis on alumni giving have left some questioning whether UC Berkeley is drifting farther from the public ideal of the Master Plan and closer to the private universities with which it has always competed.

What the Right Couldn’t Take: MTI’s Ability to Collaborate

Madison Teachers, Inc. Newsletter, via a kind Jeanie Kamholtz email (PDF):

The present condition of politics in education is gloomy. School workers report high levels of stress, health problems, and thoughts of abandoning their career. Numerous teachers in Wisconsin already have, and it’s caused a teacher shortage nationwide. Many pinpoint the source – a lack of respect for the professional by far-right legislators and governors, and that has become the new normal. However, a ray of hope broke its way through the malaise, with the announcement this fall of what has been accomplished with the Madison Metropolitan School District Employee Handbook. It is evidence of what the Right couldn’t take. While Act 10 destroyed a 50 year history of collective bargaining for Wisconsin’s public employees, save police and firefighters, it couldn’t take away the voice or the spirit of MTI’s collaborative ability. There is still power in Union.

The Employee Handbook was a result of the Union and District management working together to map out a path for the future of our students, our schools, and workers. One of the most powerful aspects of this Handbook is that it continues a grievance procedure which provides for a mutually-selected independent hearing examiner.

Also, within the Handbook is a process for its modification. Any modification will be the result of a joint employer/employee committee coming together to make a recommendation to the Board of Education. This follows a procedure similar to the process used to create the original Handbook. It honors collaboration and emphasizes the importance of workers’ voices in the workplace.

Purdue vs. Yale and Mizzou

Scott Jaschik:

The Wall Street Journal couldn’t have been much more excited about what Mitch Daniels said Wednesday about the protests at Yale University and the University of Missouri. “We’ve been wondering all week what happened to the grown-ups on American university campuses, and it appears we have a sighting. Mitch Daniels, the president of Purdue University, spoke up Wednesday about the children’s revolt at Yale and Missouri,” said the Journal in an editorial.

While many conservatives joined in praising Daniels, his comments angered many black students at Purdue and some critics elsewhere. A rally is planned at Purdue today.

Why Students Need to Sit Up and Pay Attention

Eva Moskvitz:

Success Academy Charter Schools, New York City’s largest network of free charter schools, has recently been the center of controversy over its policies on student behavior. Our critics accuse us of pushing out children who might pull down our test scores, and in doing so creating what some call “a kindergarten-to-prison pipeline.” In reality, our attrition rates are lower than those of the district schools. How then do our students, chosen by lottery and mainly children of color, routinely outperform even students from wealthy…

Curated Education Information