The Seven Deadly Sins of the K-12 Education System: Costly and Ineffective Programs and Strategies

Philip S. Cicero:

This book is for anyone who believes that reducing class size, doing more homework, being taught by experienced teachers, using technology, receiving remediation, repeating a grade and increasing school time will improve student achievement. The reason this book is for you is because these long practiced academic interventions just don’t work. Not only do they not work but they are overly priced, costly and put an unnecessary financial burden on school districts and taxpayers. So why do we continue to use them? We use them because we believe they work. However, that’s not the reality. Recent research demonstrates that those respective interventions have little, if any, impact on improving student achievement. This book reviews the research debunking the myths, estimates the various wasteful costs of these ineffective myths and offers practical and alternative means to improving student achievement.

How Parents Experience Public School Choice

Ashley Jochim, Michael DeArmond, Betheny Gross, Robin Lake:

• Parents are taking advantage of choice, but they want more good options.

Parents’ optimism about whether schools are improving varies widely.

Parents with less education, minority parents, and parents of children with special needs are more likely to report challenges navigating choice.

Some parents are forced to make difficult trade-offs between academics, safety, and location.

Some cities have done much more to support parent choice. Denver, New Orleans, and Washington, DC, have made the most progress on transportation, fair enrollment, and information systems. However, all cities have work to do to ensure choice works for all families.

The authors recommend that civic leaders:

Expand the supply of high-quality schools.

Recognize that different families have different needs.

Guarantee free and safe passage to schools.

Invest much more heavily in information systems
This report is the second in CRPE’s Making School Choice Work series.

Obama Spells Out College-Ranking Framework

Douglas Belkin:

The Obama administration spelled out an ambitious college-rating plan on Friday that introduces new metrics to judge the nation’s roughly 5,000 colleges and universities at a time when student debt is hamstringing the U.S. economy and the efficiency of the higher-education sector is in question.

Under the draft framework, schools may be judged on graduation and retention rates; the ability of their graduates to pay back their student loans; and the schools’ accessibility to low-income and first-generation students.

The Department of Education will seek comments to weigh the pros and cons of each metric before finalizing the system before the start of the next academic year.

“The public should know how students fare at institutions receiving federal student aid, and this performance should be considered when we assess our investments and set priorities,” said Department of Education Under Secretary Ted Mitchell. “We also need to create incentives for schools to accelerate progress toward the most important goals, like graduating low-income students and holding down costs.”

Wisconsin won’t admit it, but its new egalitarian policy leads to grading quotas

W. Lee Hansen:

In July, I wrote about the pressure that University of Wisconsin officials have been exerting on the faculty for greater “equity” on campus.

My “Madness in Madison” essay pointed out that university administrators are so caught up in egalitarian groupthink that they want to reduce or eliminate differences in students’ choice of majors and in the distribution of grades.

That essay elicited a defensive reaction from the university. Chief Diversity Officer Patrick Sims stated in a July 22, 2014 press release that UW’s diversity plan does not entail “a quota system for apportioning grades by race.”

Bringing up quotas, however, is a distraction from the plan’s impact—a red herring.

UW-Madison’s new diversity plan, “A Framework for Diversity and Inclusive Excellence,” calls for the elimination of the grade gap, but in a veiled way that never uses the word “quota.” Unfortunately, the result will hardly be any different than if it did.

Boost Your Chances for College Aid

Annamarie Andriotis:

Here’s another source of stress for families with children racing to finish college applications: The moves you make between now and year-end could mean the difference between collecting or losing thousands of dollars in financial aid.

Timing is crucial because the amount of need-based aid a student qualifies for depends largely on parental income in the calendar year before applying for assistance. If parents sell stocks this month to lock in a large gain, for example, their high school senior could receive less aid next fall.

Good fortune also can backfire if, for example, that same high school senior receives large cash gifts from other relatives at the holidays. The formula for federal financial aid requires students to contribute a much greater share of their income than parents do.

Percentage of Bachelor’s degrees conferred to women, by major (1970-2012)

Randall Olson:

One oft-cited problem with Computer Science is its glaring gender disparity: In a given Computer Science class, men will outnumber women as much as 8 to 2 (20% women). This stands in stark contrast to most other college majors, which have women outnumbering men 3 to 2 on average (60% women). This observation made me wonder: Are other STEM majors suffering the same gender disparity?

To get at that question, I checked into the NCES 2013 Digest of Education Statistics and looked at the gender breakdown from 1970-2012 for every major they report on. I charted the data below to offer a bird’s eye view of the trends. You can download the cleaned data set here.

College ratings draft light on details

Alie Grasgreen:

The highly anticipated draft release issued Friday morning was delayed twice before officials settled on an “end of the fall” deadline. (The winter solstice is Sunday.) It’s largely a list of things the department is considering in its analysis of which institutions offer students and families the biggest bang for their buck.

And half the metrics — all of which aim to measure accessibility, affordability and outcomes — can’t even be measured right now. All told, it could be at least a few years before the system that the Obama administration envisions will be in place, though the plan is to rate more than 4,000 two- and four-year colleges by the start of the next academic year. And it will have to survive any challenges by Congress or the next administration.

“The question is, will we actually see ratings for the 2015-16 school year,” said Robert Kelchen, an assistant professor of higher education at Seton Hall University and expert on college ratings. “I’d be surprised … to be honest.”

But in the draft, the department didn’t back down from that schedule. Officials want more input on the ratings framework, which they say was “based on extensive consultation with stakeholders and experts,” and are taking comments through Feb. 17.

Should the Government Rate Our Colleges?

Robert Kelchen:

Should the federal government be in the business of rating colleges? And can it do them right?

That’s been a question ever since the summer of 2013, when President Obama announced the Department of Education’s new plan to score American colleges—a source of intense controversy in the world of higher ed that could explode again in the days ahead, as the department gets set to release a draft of the metrics that will be used to calculate federal college ratings.

A poll released by Gallup and Inside Higher Ed last year found that only 16 percent of 675 surveyed college presidents said the Postsecondary Institution Ratings System (PIRS), as it’s called, is a good idea, compared to 65 percent who said it is not. The powerful American Council on Education, a professional association representing much of the nonprofit higher education community, said in a statement earlier this year that “many question whether rating colleges is an appropriate role for the federal government to play, and most believe it is nearly impossible for the federal government to do such a thing with any degree of reliability or validity.” And members of Congress on both sides of the political aisle have expressed concerns about the ratings’ goals.

Throwing money at the ‘Bacon districts’ won’t solve their problems

Laura Waters:

Again, the rut: it’s not just about the money.

So it’s worth going back to those 2009 Assessment Reports and examining whether those non-fiscal obstacles have been addressed. Let’s look at two, Lakewood and Buena Regional.

Lakewood Public Schools (Ocean County) is one of N.J.’s weirder districts: it transports upwards of 25,000 children per day to Jewish day schools at enormous cost while the fewer than 5,000 in-district students, primarily poor and Hispanic, make do with the dregs, especially non-Jewish children with disabilities. State assessors noted in 2009 that the district’s fiscal problems are largely due to the school board’s “decision to direct a large proportion of resources” — over $5 million — “to providing courtesy busing to its public and non-public students,” which is a choice, not a mandate. Five years later, Lakewood’s transportation costs are almost $20 million.

For context, if the State funded the Bacon districts at the level requested by ELC, the total tab for all 16 would come to about $20 million.

Sizing Up the College Rating System

Kevin Carey:

Last year, President Obama announced that his administration would, by the beginning of the 2015 academic year, rate America’s colleges “on who’s offering the best value, so students and taxpayers get a bigger bang for their buck.”

Then the president charged the Department of Education with figuring out how, exactly, to build a rating system so that schools that enroll low-income students and give them a good, affordable education would be rewarded and recognized while those that don’t would be penalized and shamed.

This has proved to be a complicated task.

Madison Schools & Reading Recovery. Decades go by….

The Madison School District (PDF):

What Have We Learned?

Nationally and internationally, large body of research on Reading Recovery with mixed evidence

Locally, although some RR students in some schools have success during and after the program, results over time show no consistent positive effects at a systems level

What do these findings mean for interventions overall and for Reading Recovery?

Next Steps
In General for Interventions:

Review current interventions on a cycle that is commensurate with core curriculum review

Central office will provide guidance and support to schools as they select interventions based on student needs

Tighten up system of documentation for all interventions (Oasys)

Continue to identify effective research based interventions that may meet the needs of more students

Continue with our expanded and enhanced professional development model as it is a comprehensive training model that supports coherent instruction

Specific to Reading Recovery:

Based on capacity to implement with fidelity, history of student success, and alignment with School Improvement

Plan, principals have discretion to offer Reading Recovery within their multi-tiered system of supports

Fits with district belief of flexibility within clear parameters

Keeps schools at the center of decision-making because they know their students and staff best

Title 1 schools are no longer required to have Reading Recovery as an intervention

Title 1 schools will not lose any funding if they choose not to implement Reading Recovery

2014 Madison Schools’ Reading Recovery Evaluation (PDF).

Notes and links on Reading Recovery.

Madison’s long term disastrous reading results.

Inaugural National Data Science Bowl

Booz Allen Hamilton & Kaggle:

For us, data science is more than a skill or profession. It is a calling and a way of life. It rewards grit as much as talent. Failure, curiosity, and small successes lead to discovery. Data science grants the power of entire nations or corporations to the individual. It gives a megaphone to those who were previously silent. Our purpose is bigger than any one of us.

Become part of this global movement. Enter the first-ever National Data Science Bowl, co-sponsored by Booz Allen and Kaggle in partnership with Oregon State University’s Hatfield Marine Science Center. The competition will be challenging but it will also be incredibly rewarding. At stake? The very health of our oceans. We will award $175,000 to those able to observe the right patterns, ask the right questions and, in turn, make our beautiful and complex world a little easier to understand and a better place to live. Register for free for the NDSB competition on to become part of something bigger than any one of us.

Private colleges are a waste of money for white, middle class kids

Max Ehrenfreund:

Many parents whose kids have their eye on an exclusive, private college face a difficult question: Is it worth unloading your life’s savings or having your child take on tens of thousands of dollars in student loans?

The average four-year private college costs over $42,000 a year for tuition, room and board, after all, while the average four-year public school costs less than half that — $18,943 for in-state students, according to the College Board. So the question is really, really important, especially at a time when nearly half of recent college grads have a job that doesn’t even require a degree.

Fortunately, for many Americans — white, middle-class kids — there’s an easy answer: Don’t pay more to go to a private college.

That means choosing the University of California over Pomona, the State University of New York over NYU and the University of Maryland over nearby American or George Washington.

GOP gives feds’ college rating plan an F

Stephanie Simon and Allie Grassgreen:

Education Secretary Arne Duncan has said he sees rating colleges as “a financial and moral obligation,” meant to help families make wise choices and to ensure taxpayers’ $150 billion annual investment in student aid isn’t squandered.

But GOP critics frame the rating plan — expected Friday — as yet another example of arrogance and imperialism from the White House. They argue that it’s not just presumptuous, but logistically impossible for the Education Department to assess the quality of so many institutions, ranging from Harvard to Honolulu Community College.

And they have some powerful allies in their corner, including several higher education trade associations and numerous college presidents, some of whom have been quietly lobbying their representatives for months — not that it took a lot of lobbying to rouse opposition to the ratings. Republicans on the Hill were already up in arms over the administration’s proposed crackdown on for-profit career-training colleges, calling it an unwarranted intrusion into the free market.

Florida charter schools post more A’s, more F’s in latest high school grades

Travis Pillow:

As is often the case, Florida’s charter schools were likely to earn both A’s and F’s than their district counterparts.

Dozens of Florida charter schools withstood tougher high school grading rules and kept their top marks in a new state accountability report released today.

For both charter and district schools, there were more F’s and fewer A’s in Thursday’s annual release of high school grades than a year ago. Elementary and middle school grades came out earlier this year.

In what has become a familiar pattern, charters were more likely than district schools to land at either the highest or lowest ends of the grading scale, and less likely to receive B’s and C’s.

Just over 56 percent of charter high schools earned A’s for the 2013-14 school year, a decline of about 10 percentage points from a year earlier. The percentage of A-rated district high schools fell to 32 percent, from nearly 48 percent a year earlier.

Certain Parenting Tactics Could Lead to Materialistic Attitudes in Adulthood

Christian Basi & Phil Hayes:

“Our research suggests that children who receive many material rewards from their parents will likely continue rewarding themselves with material goods when they are grown—well into adulthood – and this could be problematic,” said Marsha Richins, Myron Watkins distinguished professor of marketing in the Robert J. Trulaske, Sr. College of Business at MU. “Our research highlights the value of examining childhood circumstances and parenting practices to understand consumer behaviors of adults.”

Richins, who completed the study with Lan Chaplin, associate professor of marketing at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Business Administration, found that three parenting strategies led to greater materialism:

Identifying Autism from Neural Representations of Social Interactions: Neurocognitive Markers of Autism

Marcel Adam, Vladimir L. Cherkassky, Augusto Buchweitz, Timothy A. Keller, Tom M. Mitchell::

Autism is a psychiatric/neurological condition in which alterations in social interaction (among other symptoms) are diagnosed by behavioral psychiatric methods. The main goal of this study was to determine how the neural representations and meanings of social concepts (such as to insult) are altered in autism. A second goal was to determine whether these alterations can serve as neurocognitive markers of autism. The approach is based on previous advances in fMRI analysis methods that permit (a) the identification of a concept, such as the thought of a physical object, from its fMRI pattern, and (b) the ability to assess the semantic content of a concept from its fMRI pattern. These factor analysis and machine learning methods were applied to the fMRI activation patterns of 17 adults with high-functioning autism and matched controls, scanned while thinking about 16 social interactions. One prominent neural representation factor that emerged (manifested mainly in posterior midline regions) was related to self-representation, but this factor was present only for the control participants, and was near-absent in the autism group. Moreover, machine learning algorithms classified individuals as autistic or control with 97% accuracy from their fMRI neurocognitive markers. The findings suggest that psychiatric alterations of thought can begin to be biologically understood by assessing the form and content of the altered thought’s underlying brain activation patterns.

What’s So Troubling About Competency-Based Education?

Marni Baker Stein:

In the last week since it was announced that the University of Texas System is diving in to competency-based education (CBE), it has become clear to me that a lot of the controversy around this programming model is grounded in fairly extreme misconceptions around what CBE is …and perhaps more troubling, around just how powerful today’s technology enhanced education has the potential to be.

What are the most concerning of these myths?

1. All CBE is “Direct Assessment” CBE
I haven’t been able to find too many great explanations about what “Direct Assessment” actually means in practice — but here is a set of definitions from a recent white paper, “All Hands on Deck”, written by Patricia Book, that describes in brief the two major types of competency based education:

The MBA is losing its magic

Terence Tse and Mark Esposito:

hat is the staying power of an MBA education? Why year after year do students sign up for the countless MBA programmes across the world? Are they after new skills? Maybe. Eager to learn about the latest academic research output? Unlikely. Keen to go through a learning experience? Possibly. In search of a networking opportunity? Most certainly.

But perhaps a principle motive is to boost their career prospects. The notion that the harder you work, the higher you will climb the corporate — and therefore social — ladder is rooted in our DNA. Very often, this also translates into the higher you are in the corporate echelons, the more successful you are. For many, an MBA degree promises to deliver this; for anyone wishing to progress in their career, just get an MBA and its magic will do the rest.

The SAT is meaningless because it’s so easy to game

Jessica Brondo Davidoff :

I scored a perfect 1600 when I took the SAT test in 2004.

A year after graduating from Princeton, I founded and ran The Edge in College Prep, an elite test preparation and admissions counseling company. Now, as the founder of Admittedly, a college advisory platform and an expert on these high stake tests, I’m convinced they shouldn’t be such a large part of the higher education decision-making game.

There are many, many reasons to take issue with these tests. But one of the reasons which resonates most with me is that it is so easy to improve someone’s score by 20%, 30% even 40%. That kind of improvement shouldn’t even be possible on a test that is supposedly designed to measure aptitude.

Matt Pommer:

The post-World War II baby boom swept into American colleges in the 1960s, driving up total taxpayer costs and sending officials looking for financial answers.

Parsons College in Fairfield, Iowa, was making headlines. It was enrolling thousands of students, many of them who had attended other schools and were getting second chances. At one point, Parsons College reportedly was paying the highest faculty salaries in America.

Wisconsin business leaders decided Parsons might have the financial answers for the state’s public universities. Companies dispatched their corporate planes to Madison to take officials, legislators and reporters for a junket to Iowa.

What they found was a year-round trimester program and faculty required to spend most of their time in classrooms. The college had a limited number of academic majors. Before the decade was done, Life magazine printed an expose of the college and it lost its accreditation. The college went bankrupt in 1973.

Why the Admissions Office May Be Part of the Problem of College Access

Jon Boeckenstedt:

Access to college is a hot issue these days, with policy makers and colleges looking for ways to enroll more low-income, first-generation, and minority students. Many people see the admissions office as a key part of the solution. But as a longtime admissions professional, I suspect just the opposite is true: That the admissions office, especially at highly selective institutions, is the agent that keeps these students out of college in the first place, by creating a game that is heavily skewed in favor of students from high-income, well-educated families.

I don’t believe that this is a matter of purposeful, overt discrimination, but rather a reliance on traditional means of evaluating students coming out of high school, and our own belief about what will make a student successful.

I’m a fan of digging into the numbers to better understand trends—something I do regularly on my blog, Higher Ed Data Stories. And these days the data are clear: If your parents are educated, you have a much better chance of being educated too.

Our Teacher Diversity Problem Is Not Just About Recruitment. It’s About Retention.

Alexandria Neason:

As a fifth-grade student in Clarksville, Tennessee, a small city near Nashville, I constantly got in trouble. Just about every day, I came home with a pink slip. I didn’t always know what I’d done wrong. But I knew the pink slips weren’t good and that three of them added up to detention. That’s where I—one of only a few black students at the school—spent countless afternoons.

The teacher, who was white, told my mother that I moved around too much and finished assignments too quickly. The teacher said she didn’t understand me; she suggested I get tested for attention deficit disorder.

My mother had a different interpretation. You were “a black student she couldn’t control,” she told me recently. “She wanted a reason for that.”

I was the child of an Army officer, so we moved around a lot. I attended seven different public schools in six states before leaving home for college. In all, I had just one black teacher: Mrs. Bishop, at MacArthur Elementary School in Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas. That year was my strongest academically. I’m convinced there was a reason for that.

A black hole for our best and brightest

Jim Tankersley:

The thing Deborah Jackson remembers from her first interviews at Goldman Sachs is the slogan. It was stamped on the glass doors of the offices in the investment bank’s headquarters just off Wall Street, the lure of the place in two words, eight syllables: “Uncommon capability.”

Jackson joined Goldman in 1980, fresh from business school and steeped in the workings of government and finance. She found crackerjack colleagues and more business than she could handle. She worked in municipal finance, lending money to local governments, hospitals and nonprofits around the country. She flew first class to scout potential deals — “The issue was, can you really be productive if you’re in a tiny seat in the back?” — and when the time came to seal one, she’d welcome clients and their attorneys to Manhattan’s best restaurants.

Can a simple algebra test predict programming aptitude?

Jenni White:

Every year since the establishment of Computer Science in the 1960s, 30-60% of CS college majors have failed their Introduction to Computer Science course because they simply could not learn to program. Despite hours of studying and tutoring, most of these underperforming students struggle with, and many ultimately give up on, programming as a career

Identifying Autism from Neural Representations of Social Interactions: Neurocognitive Markers of Autism

Marcel Adam, Vladimir L. Cherkassky, Augusto Buchweitz, Timothy A. Keller & Tom M. Mitchell:

Autism is a psychiatric/neurological condition in which alterations in social interaction (among other symptoms) are diagnosed by behavioral psychiatric methods. The main goal of this study was to determine how the neural representations and meanings of social concepts (such as to insult) are altered in autism. A second goal was to determine whether these alterations can serve as neurocognitive markers of autism. The approach is based on previous advances in fMRI analysis methods that permit (a) the identification of a concept, such as the thought of a physical object, from its fMRI pattern, and (b) the ability to assess the semantic content of a concept from its fMRI pattern. These factor analysis and machine learning methods were applied to the fMRI activation patterns of 17 adults with high-functioning autism and matched controls, scanned while thinking about 16 social interactions. One prominent neural representation factor that emerged (manifested mainly in posterior midline regions) was related to self-representation, but this factor was present only for the control participants, and was near-absent in the autism group. Moreover, machine learning algorithms classified individuals as autistic or control with 97% accuracy from their fMRI neurocognitive markers. The findings suggest that psychiatric alterations of thought can begin to be biologically understood by assessing the form and content of the altered thought’s underlying brain activation patterns.

As Robots Grow Smarter, American Workers Struggle to Keep Up

Claire Cain Miller:

A machine that administers sedatives recently began treating patients at a Seattle hospital. At a Silicon Valley hotel, a bellhop robot delivers items to people’s rooms. Last spring, a software algorithm wrote a breaking news article about an earthquake that The Los Angeles Times published.

Although fears that technology will displace jobs are at least as old as the Luddites, there are signs that this time may really be different. The technological breakthroughs of recent years — allowing machines to mimic the human mind — are enabling machines to do knowledge jobs and service jobs, in addition to factory and clerical work.

And over the same 15-year period that digital technology has inserted itself into nearly every aspect of life, the job market has fallen into a long malaise. Even with the economy’s recent improvement, the share of working-age adults who are working is substantially lower than a decade ago — and lower than any point in the 1990s.

Om Malik:

Last week Amazon revealed how it is using robots. Did the company divulge a secret lab where humanoid machines made out of steel are slowly plotting to take over the planet? Hardly. The 320-pound, orange automatons from Kiva Systems (which Amazon acquired in 2012) move high, heavy shelves full of products closer to human employees, speeding up the time it takes to dispatch goods to customers.

Kiva’s robots look remarkably like steroid-enhanced versions of the vacuum-cleaning robot Roomba. Both Kiva and Roomba robots are essentially automation machines guided by software, compute and other sensors to move around and do tasks that humans would have previously done. This stands in stark contrast to what we expect: Real-life robots don’t look like humans or animals, and they certainly can’t wrest control away from the people using them.

As Robots Grow Smarter, American Workers Struggle to Keep Up

Claire Cain Miller:

A machine that administers sedatives recently began treating patients at a Seattle hospital. At a Silicon Valley hotel, a bellhop robot delivers items to people’s rooms. Last spring, a software algorithm wrote a breaking news article about an earthquake that The Los Angeles Times published.

Although fears that technology will displace jobs are at least as old as the Luddites, there are signs that this time may really be different. The technological breakthroughs of recent years — allowing machines to mimic the human mind — are enabling machines to do knowledge jobs and service jobs, in addition to factory and clerical work.

And over the same 15-year period that digital technology has inserted itself into nearly every aspect of life, the job market has fallen into a long malaise. Even with the economy’s recent improvement, the share of working-age adults who are working is substantially lower than a decade ago — and lower than any point in the 1990s.

Learning By Doing

Brandis Friedman & Kristen Thometz :

Students at a Northwest Chicago magnet school are getting unique lessons in building everything from robots in the first grade to websites in the eighth grade.

It’s all part of a blended learning model that merges technology with education, and it’s helping students get the most of out of a longer school day.

“We invented them, we were the first ones,” said 6-year-old David Somers.

The 6-year-olds at Wildwood World Magnet School may not have actually invented robots, but their teachers say they’re glad they think they did.

“Then you put the battery on. Tape it on with electric tape,” Somers said. “You’ll need wires. Clip those on battery.”

Taking ownership of their learning is central to the experience at this kindergarten through eighth grade school in Chicago’s Forest Glen neighborhood.

Commentary on a Milwaukee voucher school; contemplating accountability & spending differences

Erin Richards:

The operator of one of Milwaukee’s longest-running private voucher schools says her organization strives to give disadvantaged children the best shot they can get in life, even when they’ve been left behind by other schools.

But new documents and former employees have raised concerns about the internal workings at Ceria M. Travis Academy, a private school that’s received more than $35 million in state voucher payments through the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program since 1996.

Complaints filed with the state in 2014 and obtained by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel through an open records request allege that the school has violated state law by employing people without bachelor’s degrees to teach students.

Much more on vouchers, here.

Ideally, the writer might compare outcomes and spending between voucher and traditional public schools. Voucher spending in Wisconsin is minuscule compared to the present K-12 system. Further, one would hope that all publicly funded schools face the same accountability requirements.

Finally, voucher schools often spend less than half the amount per student than traditional public schools.

Compare Wisconsin’s teacher credential ism with Massachusetts’ (MTEL).

Americans Want Democratic Candidates Who Will “Modernize the Teaching Profession”

Laura Waters:

Third Way, a global research group, has a report today on a recent survey that asked voters what they want to hear from Democratic candidates on the American public education system. The authors note that as recently as twenty years ago, Democrats were widely trusted by voters on education issues, but that support has faltered. Currently, Democratic candidates best GOP candidates by only eight points when voters consider which party will more reliably protect and improve public education. Regard for teacher unions has fallen as well:
In addition, to the extent that the endorsement of teachers’ unions was crucial in the past to a Democratic candidate’s election, the numbers no longer tell that story. Only 20% of voters say they’d be more likely to vote for a candidate who is endorsed by the national teachers’ unions—a mirror image of the 21% who say that endorsement would make them less likely to support that candidate. A solid majority of voters (54%) say it would make no difference, including 59% of Democrats, 59% of Independents, 62% of liberals, and 46% of teachers.

School Cafeterias Try Haute Cuisine

Tensile Tracy:

The Santa Clarita Valley school systems in California lost $250,000 in cafeteria sales last year when students rejected healthier fare designed to meet new federal nutrition standards. Now the districts are trying to win back diners by hiring a chef trained at Le Cordon Bleu, the prestigious culinary school.

To make the lower-fat, reduced-sodium fare more appealing, new hire Brittany Young is employing restaurant-style techniques. She moved popcorn chicken out of a steamy wax bag and into an open boat serving platter. She told kitchen staff to wipe down serving bowls so chow mein noodles don’t hang over the side. “Think about how [you’d] like to see the food,” Ms. Young told them.

Turkish President Erdogan Seeks to Reshape Secular Education

Emre Peker:

Political divisions here are extending into the classroom as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inspired by the country’s Ottoman past, vows to reshape a secular education system.

Turkey’s National Education Council this month recommended the country’s most sweeping curriculum changes in decades, including Islamic religion classes for first-graders who are Muslim, Ottoman-language lessons for some students and a rewrite of textbooks on modern Turkey’s secularist founder, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.

The Education Ministry—headed by a member of Mr. Erdogan’s party—has the power to now put those recommendations into effect.

Opposition lawmakers said the shift stems from a broader pivot away from the West to the Middle East, as Mr. Erdogan seeks to turn the country into a regional power.

Teacher Wars and Teaching Machines

Boundary 2:

eaching is, according to the subtitle of education journalist Dana Goldstein’s new book, “America’s Most Embattled Profession.” “No other profession,” she argues, ”operates under this level of political scrutiny, not even those, like policing or social work, that are also tasked with public welfare and are paid for with public funds.”

That political scrutiny is not new. Goldstein’s book The Teacher Wars chronicles the history of teaching at (what has become) the K–12 level, from the early nineteenth century and “common schools” — that is, before before compulsory education and public school as we know it today — through the latest Obama Administration education policies. It’s an incredibly well-researched book that moves from the feminization of the teaching profession to the recent push for more data-driven teacher evaluation, observing how all along the way, teachers have been deemed ineffectual in some way or another — failing to fulfill whatever (political) goals the public education system has demanded be met, be those goals be economic, civic, or academic.

Doctorates Up, Career Prospects Not

dog Lederman:

Universities are awarding doctoral degrees at an accelerating pace, despite the fact that the career prospects of those who receive their Ph.D.s appear to be worsening.

That dichotomy is among the starker findings of the annual data on doctorate recipients from the National Science Foundation, drawn from a survey sponsored by the foundation and other federal agencies and conducted by the University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center. The data may for some reinforce the idea that institutions are turning out more Ph.D. recipients than can be absorbed, at least in some fields.

American universities awarded 52,760 doctorates in 2013, up 3.5 percent from nearly 50,977 in 2012 and nearly 8 percent from 48,903 in 2011. Those large increases followed several years of much smaller increases and one decline (in 2010) since the onset of the economic downturn in 2008, as seen in the chart below.

What Students Do (And Don’t Do) In Khan Academy

Dan Meyer:

tl;dr — Khan Academy claims alignment with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) but an analysis of their eighth-grade year indicates that alignment is loose. 40% of Khan Academy exercises assessed the acts of calculating and solving whereas the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium’s assessment of the CCSS emphasized those acts in only 25% of their released items. 74% of Khan Academy’s exercises resulted in the production of either a number or a multiple-choice response, whereas those outputs accounted for only 25% of the SBAC assessment.


My dissertation will examine the opportunities students have to learn math online. In order to say something about the current state of the art, I decided to complete Khan Academy’s eighth grade year and ask myself two specific questions about every exercise:

NEW REPORT: Most U.S. Colleges Violate Students’ Free Speech Rights

Foundation for individual rights in education:

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) released its 2015 report and interactive infographic on campus speech codes across America today. FIRE’s findings show that more than half of the 437 schools analyzed maintain policies severely restricting students’ right to free speech.

“Most universities continue to enforce speech codes that don’t satisfy First Amendment standards,” said FIRE President Greg Lukianoff. “For the seventh consecutive year, however, the percentage of speech codes has dropped, and we’re happy to see that. But the federal government’s efforts to address sexual harassment on campus are leading a number of universities to adopt flatly unconstitutional speech policies.” Lukianoff added, “The greatest threat to free speech on campus may now be the federal government.”

Major findings from Spotlight on Speech Codes 2015: The State of Free Speech on Our Nation’s Campuses include:

Best Way for Professors to Get Good Student Evaluations? Be Male.

Amanda Marcotte:

Many in academia have long known about how the practice of student evaluations of professors is inherently biased against female professors. Students, after all, are just as likely as the public in general to have the same ugly, if unconscious, biases about women in authority. Just as polling data continues to show that a majority of Americans think being a man automatically makes you better in the boss department, many professors worry that students just automatically rate male professors as smarter, more authoritative, and more awesome overall just because they are men. Now, a new study out North Carolina State University shows that there is good reason for that concern.

One of the problems with simply assuming that sexism drives the tendency of students to giving higher ratings to men than women is that students are evaluating professors as a whole, making it hard to separate the impact of gender from other factors, like teaching style and coursework. But North Carolina researcher Lillian MacNell, along with co-authors Dr. Adam Driscoll and Dr. Andrea Hunt, found a way to blind students to the actual gender of instructors by focusing on online course studies. The researchers took two online course instructors, one male and one female, and gave them two classes to teach. Each professor presented as his or her own gender to one class and the opposite to the other.

“Defense Offsets” Raytheon’s $50m will help start UMass Lowell campus in Kuwait

Bryan Bender:

Waltham-based Raytheon Co. is planning to invest at least $50 million over the next seven years to establish a campus in Kuwait for the University of Massachusetts Lowell, officials said.

The defense contractor called the arrangement a unique way to meet its contractual commitments to invest in Kuwait, one of its foreign customers, in return for the Arab nation’s purchase of its high-tech weaponry. The university hailed the new campus as a major step in raising UMass Lowell’s international profile.

The pact, two years in the making, will offer undergraduate and graduate degrees in engineering, business, education, and science on the campus of the Gulf University for Science and Technology, set up in Kuwait in 2002. Ultimately, an estimated 1,200 students will be enrolled for up to two dozen degrees through the UMass Lowell-Raytheon partnership.

Classes would be available beginning in January. A new engineering college will also be built on the Kuwait City campus, but the details of the construction have not been disclosed.

Long Term Disastrous Reading Results in Milwaukee….

Dave Umhoefer:

So we did our own look at reading scores at all Milwaukee schools fitting the 80/80 description, including high schools and separate elementary and middle schools that include smaller groupings of grades. Our main data source: the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.

Why are officials focusing on these schools at all?

High-poverty schools tend to have lower achievement than low-poverty schools. Milwaukee’s highest-poverty schools serve racial minorities. Milwaukee’s black students post some of the lowest achievement scores nationally among black students nationwide in certain grades and subjects.

To the numbers

Under Tyson’s approach, the K-8 schools, we found 57 that met the criteria.

Their average schoolwide reading proficiency score: 7.9 percent.

In the broader pool of schools, which tallied 95 schools, the average was 7.3 percent.

So the 8 percent claim is on target.

Of course, this is the reading average based on the collective reading proficiency at each school. It doesn’t mean every school came in at the overall school average of 7.3 percent.

Five schools, for example, had not a single pupil score proficient in reading on the state tests, which are administered to students in third through eighth grades, and once in high school, in 10th grade. The state assigned those schools a 0 percent score.

On the other end of the scale, the best reading proficiency score at an 80/80 school was 21 percent at Hartford Avenue University School in MPS. Second (20 percent) was Franklin School, also in MPS. St. Marcus Lutheran was third (19 percent).

Madison, too, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

Sam Walton’s Granddaughter Has Plans To Fix Public Education In America

Luisa Kroll, via a kind Erich Zellmer email:

A vision for the future of education sits within a converted church in the heart of a working-class neighborhood in northern Houston, abutted by auto parts stores and a heat treatment plant. At YES Prep North Central, homogeneity reigns: Of the 953 middle and high schoolers at the 11-year-old charter school, 96% are Hispanic, and a similarly large majority live at or below the poverty line. The kids are dressed the same–blue or khaki pants with school-issued polo shirts. But most important, their outcomes are uniform, too: 100% of graduates get into a four-year college, as the university pennants lining the hallways suggest.

Gliding into the school, 44-year-old Carrie Walton Penner sticks out from the students–older, blonder and, in jeans and a black wrap jacket, more polished than the young collegiate uniforms she weaves through. She’s also the granddaughter of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton, the daughter of current company chairman Rob Walton, an heir to the largest family fortune, to the tune of $165 billion, in the entire world. And as the family’s point person on education issues, she’s arguably the most powerful force in the charter school movement. “How long is the longest-serving teacher?” she asks the school director, amid a flurry of questions. “Is there step-up pay and pay for performance?”

The Lombardi of Teen Running

Kevin Hilliker:

In all of sports, few leaders are more accomplished than Bill Aris, a high school cross-country coach in suburban Syracuse, N.Y.

It isn’t just that his teams have won nine national titles in nine years, including sweeping the boys’ and girls’ competitions last weekend at the Nike Cross Nationals. It’s that Aris coaches at a public school, Fayetteville-Manlius High, meaning that he can’t recruit outside its modest-sized district.

Also, his teams usually lack superstars. No runner of his ever finished first at nationals. Last weekend, his fastest girl finished 11th—but her teammates finished 12th, 13th, 14th and 20th, giving their squad the team title.

“There’s something special going on at that program, for it to win year after year,” says Bob Larsen, a former UCLA cross-country coach who now coaches professional stars such as Meb Keflezighi.

A Brooklyn School’s Curriculum Includes Ambition

Winnie Hu:

As Kareem left school on an overcast afternoon, he looked up and down the street before heading home to the Van Dyke I Houses. Last spring, he recalled, he was jumped a block away by a couple of boys from another project. They threw him to the ground and stomped on him, though he did nothing to provoke them, he said.

“I want to leave Brownsville because a lot of violence goes on,” said Kareem, 12, soft-spoken in a navy sweatshirt and gray cargo pants, a backpack over his shoulder. “I feel that I could have a better life.”

For Kareem, Mott Hall Bridges Academy is more than just a place to learn algebra and history. A public middle school, it is seen by many families as a safe zone in a crime-plagued neighborhood, and a gateway out of generational poverty for those born with few advantages in life. Nearly all 191 students in grades six through eight are black or Hispanic; more than 85 percent are poor enough to qualify for free or reduced-price lunches.

Wisconsin Education Political Commentary

Alan Borsuk:

everal years ago, I was writing about how the most significant debates in approaches to improving education didn’t pit Republicans against Democrats. They pitted Democrats against Democrats.

Now, the dynamic to watch is between Republicans and Republicans. Both in Washington and Madison, they have so much power now — and they have some pretty big differences within their ranks.

Early in the Obama administration, the Democratic battles could be summed as education “reformers” vs. the education establishment, including teachers unions. For Republicans, I’d call it the smaller government people vs. the demand-quality-and-results people.

For Democrats, the differences included whether to push creation of charter schools, whether to evaluate teachers in ways that include student progress measured by test scores and, in general, what to think of a rising number of schools with high demands on students when it comes to both academics and behavior.

For Republicans, the differences include whether there should be a nationwide requirement that students take standardized tests in language and math, whether the goals for what students should learn should be a matter of broad agreement or left to each state or school district (the Common Core issue) and, in general, the ways federal or state power should be used to deal with low performing schools. In Wisconsin, but not really in Washington, you can add the question of the future of private school choice.

For context, start 13 years ago, when President George W. Bush and Congress, with sweeping bipartisan support, approved the No Child Left Behind education law. The law was scheduled to be revised by Congress in 2007. And it set the goal that by the end of 2014, all children in America would be on grade level in reading and math.

It is now the end of 2014. Not only are millions of children not on grade level — it was a ridiculous goal in the first place — but Congress has never agreed on how to fix No Child Left Behind. Seven years late and no action! Also ridiculous, right?

What We’re Missing in the Global Education Race

Wendy Kopp:

Nearly 15 years ago, the global community set an unprecedented goal—to give every child access to primary education. We have made progress, but today 58 million children in developing regions remain out of school, and 250 million school-aged children around the world lack basic literacy and numeracy skills.

While the 2015 deadline for delivering on our promise will pass unfulfilled, we are coming to the end of a year that has seen tremendous momentum as the world recognizes the need to improve education: This week, 17-year-old Pakistani education activist Malala Yousafzai became the youngest person ever to accept the Nobel Peace Prize, alongside Indian child rights’ activist Kailash Satyarthi. In June, developing nations, donor nations and NGOs pledged a historic $28.5 billion in new funding to make quality education available to every child. In September, more than 30 organizations made commitments to increase access to quality education for girls as part of the Clinton Global Initiative, and XPRIZE launched a new $15 million challenge to build technology solutions to make quality education more accessible.

K – 12 tax and spending climate: ongoing property tax increases and the “lost middle class”

Jim Tankersley:

One day in 1967, Bob Thompson sprayed foam on a hunk of metal in a cavernous factory south of Los Angeles. And then another day, not too long after, he sat at a long wood bar with a black-and-white television hanging over it, and he watched that hunk of metal land a man on the moon.

On July 20, 1969 — the day of the landing — Thompson sipped his Budweiser and thought about all the people who had ever stared at that moon. Kings and queens and Jesus Christ himself. He marveled at how when it came time to reach it, the job started in Downey. The bartender wept.

On a warm day, almost a half-century later, Thompson curled his mouth beneath a white beard and talked about the bar that fell to make way for a freeway, the space-age factory that closed down and the town that is still waiting for its next great economic rocket, its new starship to the middle class.

Meanwhile, Madison schools’ plan to seek additional property tax increases (2015 referendumpdf board document) to find bricks and mortar. This proposal, rather ironically, perpetuates decades long demographic gaps.

Will a Mockable Week in Higher Education Help Deflate the College Bubble?

JD Tuccille:

Horse FeathersThis week, Columbia Law School students demanded—and got—delayed exams to compensate for the trauma the fragile things experienced over the Eric Garner case. Also in response to the Garner case, Smith College President Kathleen McCartney had to apologize for insisting that “All Lives Matter” when the acceptable sentiment of the moment is that “black lives matter.” And at the University of Iowa, David Ryfe, director of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, insisted “I would follow the lead of every European nation and ban this type of speech” after an anti-racism art installation misfired and upset students who are defintely not spending years of their lives at an institution of higher learning to have their ideas challenged or their feelings bruised.

If this was all, it would still be enough reason for me to start contemplating just how much motorcycle my kid’s 529 can buy. But of course there’s more. College, after all, is where Rolling Stone went dumpster-diving in eager expectation of finding seamy tales of sexual assault, and instead unearthed the revelation that students dipping their toes into adulhood are unpredictable, perhaps unstable—and that its own journalistic practices suck.

Professors Grow Weary of Idea That Technology Can Salvage Higher Education

Hechinger Report:

“They would just blather something,” said Arnold, who teaches higher education and educational administration. “They didn’t have a conversation. It was more like a hoop-jumping exercise.”

That was around 2008, and Arnold has avoided assigning online discussions ever since.

Like other faculty nationwide with memories of failed experiments such as these, she’s pushing back against the widespread notion that technology can necessarily improve teaching and cut costs.

“We are fooling ourselves that we’re getting more efficient,” she said.

It’s been a high-stakes bet. Universities and colleges are marketing themselves to tech-savvy teenagers while promising higher productivity and financial savings. They will pour $10.4 billion into education technology this year, according to the Center for Digital Education, from computers to in-class gadgets such as digital projectors and wireless “clickers” that let students answer questions electronically.

Charter Schools: Revolution and innovation in some of America’s toughest neighbourhoods

The Economist:

AS PUPILS file into their classroom at Kipp Renaissance, a high school in a battered corner of north-east New Orleans, each one stops to shake the hand of a history teacher. “Changes”, a rap song by Tupac about the struggles of being poor and black in America, plays quietly in the background. Within a minute or two, the dozen teenagers—all black—are busily filling in test papers. Soon afterwards, Mr Kullman, the teacher, begins rapping himself—hopping around the room demanding quick-fire answers to questions about the civil war. Pupils shout back answers in chorus.

Kipp Renaissance is one of New Orleans’s newer high schools. Since Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, only six traditional public schools, directly run by the city, remain. Instead 94% of pupils now attend charter schools, which are publicly funded but run by independent non-profit organisations such as Kipp (in full, the “Knowledge is Power Programme”).

Six National Takeaways From The CREDO Ohio Charter Report

Andrew Rotherham:

Earlier this week CREDO, the education research outfit at Stanford led by Macke Raymond, released another in its series of city, state, and national evaluations of charter school performance. This one was on Ohio (pdf). The studies are an amusing Rorsarch test for charter critics. The ones about places where charters are underperforming are widely cited and CREDO is presented as an august institution to be heeded in a Solomon-like fashion. When one comes out showing a city or state where charters are dramatically outpacing other schools it’s crickets or suddenly CREDO is another front group for “corporate reform.”

Actually, CREDO is none of those things but it’s a good research shop offering a great analytic view into how charters are playing out in different places. This week’s Ohio analysis, in broader context, offers some important lessons.

First, beware the ecological fallacy. Not every charter in Ohio is dreadful and there are some quite good ones. That said, overall the state is a charter debacle. If your only experience with charter schools was Ohio it would be understandable if you thought the entire idea was essentially flawed. Within Ohio there are cities doing a better or worse job. For instance Cleveland, the site of some interesting charter innovation, is an outlier high within in the state. Also pay attention to the different impact on different socioeconomic, racial, and ethic groups. Still, the overall story remains discouraging.

Second, this isn’t new. Ohio has been a laggard for some time and despite multiple evaluations pointing this out for more than a decade (Sara Mead and I included it in multi-state charter evaluation we led in the early part of the 2000s and things were not good then). More importantly, the state has missed numerous opportunities to improve its policies and by extension its charter operations. Policy mistakes in the early going of chartering were par for the course, that’s what innovation looks like. But Ohio has failed to learn from its own experience and the experience of other states that are higher performing. That’s inexcusable. The CREDO analysis says that more recent reform efforts are only, “dimly discernible” in the charter data. Bellwether is working with some charter leaders in Ohio on ways to use policy to accelerate the pace of improvement.

Public education needs transformation

John Florez:

spite of anything you do, little Oliver or Abigail won’t end up a doctor or lawyer — or, indeed, anything else you’ve ever heard of. … Fully 65 percent of today’s grade-school kids may end up doing work that hasn’t been invented yet,” according to an article titled Education Needs a Digital-Age Upgrade in the New York Times in 2011.

If we don’t know what kind of work our students will be doing in the future, why do business folks and politicians keep making incremental changes to education when the world is changing exponentially? We are in the midst of a digital revolution and our schools are being left behind; yet business leaders keep lulling us in to complacency with cosmetic changes. Over the past decade, the business community has proposed plans and held summits to improve education; however, many of their solutions are the same ideas they take from the professional experts that have benefited by keeping the same system.

College Enrollments Drop for 3rd Straight Year

The Chronicle:

Summary: College enrollments dropped by 1.3 percent this fall after slipping 1.5 percent last fall and 1.8 percent in the fall of 2012.

For the public sector over all, the decline was 1.5 percent, with two-year colleges down 3.4 percent and four-year colleges up 0.4 percent. (Those categories have been shifting as more community colleges offer four-year degrees.)

The for-profit sector fared much better than in previous years, with enrollments down by just 0.4 percent in the fall of 2014. That compares with the previous year’s decline of 9.7 percent. Growth in the number of younger students accounted for much of the turnaround.

Also in the good-news column, enrollment inched up by 1.6 percent at four-year private nonprofit colleges.

Looking at the national picture, enrollments declined in 39 states and the District of Columbia. They were up in 11 states, with the largest jumps in New Hampshire (home of Southern New Hampshire University’s booming online program), at 19.9 percent, and Arizona, at 5.2 percent.

The biggest drops were among students older than 24. Their numbers were down by 2.8 percent this fall.

How Brazil Plans to Teach a Million People English Before the Rio Olympics

Issie Lapowsky:

Throughout Ohmaye’s childhood, his father had run a thriving imports business, selling fine crystals and luxury watches to wealthy government employees in Brazil’s capital city, Brasilia. Ohmaye says he felt like “a spoiled little prince” during the good years. But in 1964, the Brazilian government was overthrown by a military coup, and four years later, Congress was shut down. The once prosperous government workers who had frequented the store were now jobless, and Ohmaye’s father went bankrupt.

By the time Ohmaye was 18, after years of struggling in Brazil, he bought a ticket to the United States in installments, so he could work as a busboy at a country club in Monticello, New York. A year later, with a little money in his pocket, he moved back to Brazil to get a degree in computer programming. Ohmaye says he had an easier time at it than his classmates did, for one reason only. “I could read the manuals,” he says./blockquote>

Why Math Might Be The Secret To School Success

Anya Kamenetz:

Little children are big news this week, as the White House holds a summit on early childhood education on Wednesday. The president wants every 4-year-old to go to preschool, but the new Congress is unlikely to foot that bill.

Since last year, more than 30 states have expanded access to preschool. But there’s still a lack of evidence about exactly what kinds of interventions are most effective in those crucial early years.

In New York City, an ambitious, $25 million study is collecting evidence on the best way to raise outcomes for kids in poverty. Their hunch is that it may begin with math.

Schools’ Discipline for Girls Differs by Race and Hue

Tanzina Vega

To hear Mikia Hutchings speak, one must lean in close, as her voice barely rises above a whisper. In report cards, her teachers describe her as “very focused,” someone who follows the rules and stays on task. So it was a surprise for her grandmother when Mikia, 12, and a friend got into trouble for writing graffiti on the walls of a gym bathroom at Dutchtown Middle School in Henry County last year.

Even more of a surprise was the penalty after her family disputed the role she was accused of playing in the vandalism and said it could not pay about $100 in restitution. While both students were suspended from school for a few days, Mikia had to face a school disciplinary hearing and, a few weeks later, a visit by a uniformed officer from the local Sheriff’s Department, who served her grandmother with papers accusing Mikia of a trespassing misdemeanor and, potentially, a felony.

What if a college ditched lecture halls, sports and clubs?

Nichole Dobi:

An experiment in higher education uses computers to give every student a virtual front-row seat in the classroom.

Classes at Minerva Schools at KGI, a four-year undergraduate program, are conducted entirely through a software program created specifically for the school.

During class, there is real-time interaction through the computer between professor and students. They can see each other through the screen. Each class has fewer than 20 students. Professors do not lecture. The virtual experience is recorded each day so it can be reviewed for purposes such as assessment of students and faculty performance.

The first 28 students started their freshman year this fall in San Francisco, Calif. They are not required to attend class from any particular physical location, but they live together in buildings leased by the school. The founder of the school says he intends to compete with the nation’s most elite institutions — at a fraction of the cost to students. Tuition, housing and books are about $28,000 a year. Students must also pay travel costs.

What Makes a School Successful?

OECD Pisa:

Equipping citizens with the skills necessary to achieve their full potential, participate in an increasingly interconnected global economy, and ultimately convert better jobs into better lives is a central preoccupation of policy makers around the world. Results from the OECD’s recent Survey of Adult Skills show that highly skilled adults are twice as likely to be employed and almost three times more likely to earn an above-median salary than poorly skilled adults. In other words, poor skills severely limit people’s access to better-paying and more rewarding jobs. Highly skilled people are also more likely to volunteer, see themselves as actors rather than as objects of political processes, and are more likely to trust others. Fairness, integrity and inclusiveness in public policy thus all hinge on the skills of citizens.

The ongoing economic crisis has only increased the urgency of investing in the acquisition and development of citizens’ skills – both through the education system and in the workplace. At a time when public budgets are tight and there is little room for further monetary and fiscal stimulus, investing in structural reforms to boost productivity, such as education and skills development, is key to future growth. Indeed, investment in these areas is essential to support the recovery, as well as to address long-standing issues such as youth unemployment and gender inequality.

Professor floats idea of three-year B.A. to cut college costs

Jason Song:

Weinstein’s idea isn’t original. Some campuses, including Bates College in Maine and Wesleyan University in Connecticut, have instituted similar programs, but widespread implementation is rare, Weinstein said. In the last five years, 22 private, nonprofit colleges have begun offering three-year degrees, according to the National Assn. of Independent Colleges and Universities.

Gov. Jerry Brown supports the idea of offering more three-year track degrees, and a University of California special panel — the Commission on the Future — suggested that fast-track degrees were worth exploring in 2010, but the UC system has never tried to implement or experiment with a three-year model.

“Colleges and universities are a little like the healthcare industry,” Weinstein said. “They’re not very transparent and tend to be risk averse. Changing them isn’t going to be a grassroots movement among the universities; it’s going to take a visionary to implement it from the top down.”

When unions attack standardized testing they should at least do their homework

Laura Waters:

Last month the Executive Committee of the Delran Education Association (Burlington County) issued a “massive position statement” detailing its “defiant opposition to the New Jersey Department of Education’s obsession with the use of high-stakes standardized testing.” Certainly, the leadership of DEA is not alone in its indignation at the state’s implementation of a new set of standardized tests called PARCC that are aligned with the Common Core State Standards. Indeed, there’s been demonstrable growth in opposition to public school accountability over the last year or so, and this movement attracts both liberals and conservatives.

But problems crop up when statements of opposition or support are interwoven with distortions. That doesn’t mean we dismiss the sentiment but a little weeding never hurt any garden.

Thoughts on diversity

Mike Zamansky:

It gives a reasonable overview of the gender issues in computer science education. The article talks about the drop in popularity of the old Advanced Placement AB course and its eventually being dropped as well as thoughts on how the current A course is pretty dry.

It made me think about the old vs new exams. The current APCS A exam is roughly analogous to a typical college 101 course: programming in one language and one paradigm. The old AB class represented a 101 and a 102 with the 102 being data structures and algorithms. Much more interesting for both guys and girls. Over the years, the AP A exam has become more and more vocational, at least in my opinion, and that makes matters worse. Its more and more about using the language and built in collections and less about thinking and problem solving. What’s fun about that?

Of course, we teach our version, a super-set, of the AB curriculum over the course of a school year.

Interesting that even though we teach that old school hardcore CS, we far exceed the national numbers in terms of gender balance, but more on that later.

It’s Not About You, It’s About the Kids


I am so sick and tired of hearing that “xyz” person doesn’t have teaching experience, or is a “non-educator” and therefore can’t possibly have a worthwhile view on the education of our kids.

We are not applying for teaching jobs. We are not writing curriculum (standards are not curriculum). We do however, pay for education and that comes with the responsibility to ensure our money is spent effectively.

Every single person in this country helps to pay for education. Every single person has the right to question if their money is being spent properly, when the results they see are not ideal.

Related: A focus on adult employment.

Shimer College: the worst school in America?

Jon Ronson:

In a classroom in Bronzeville, on Chicago’s South Side, eight students are locked in intense debate about Lawrence Kohlberg’s stages of moral development. They’re tearing Kohlberg apart, with justification, as far as I can tell, but keeping up with fast-paced Socratic dialogue about complicated philosophy is not my strong suit. I’m visiting this college, Shimer, because something quite calamitous has just happened to it.

The communications officer, Isabella Winkler, gives me a tour. Which lasts about three minutes. Shimer is tiny. The entire college is squeezed onto two slightly disheveled floors rented from a more successful neighboring college – the Illinois Institute of Technology. There are no sports teams at Shimer, no sororities. This place will never get ranked America’s No1 party school (which is currently the University of Pennsylvania, according to Playboy). No: the list Shimer currently tops is a miserable one. The reason why I’m here is because it has just been ranked the No1 worst college in America.

So what’s it like, this worst college? What criteria put it there? The compiler, Ben Miller, a former senior policy advisor in the Department of Education, explained in the Washington Monthly that they were looking for colleges that ‘charge students large amounts of money to receive an education so terrible that most drop out before graduation.’ Actually, Shimer topped a list that was adjusted for race and income. So a truer description is that it’s the worst college in America that doesn’t have many students of color or low-income students.

New Anti-Reform Meme: Too Many Kids Go to College

Laura Waters

There’s a relatively new meme running through the edu-blogosphere that claims that the Common Core and its attendant standardized tests are built on the false premise that all kids should prepare for college and careers. For example, on Monday New Jersey blogger Marie Cornfield claimed that the “big, fat myth of standardized testing “was foisted upon the public with the sole goal of scamming money from school districts. She writes, “It’s not about developing a generation of super students or magically lifting every single child out of poverty. It’s all about money, and the money is the hostage.“

The result of this scam, says Cornfield, is that now “students are graduating college with Cadillac degrees only to find work in the Edsel factory. The CCSS and PARCC will not solve that problem, but they will make a boatload of money for the testing industry. And while college debt is at record highs, that debt, unlike corporate debt, isn’t erased in bankruptcy.” The aspirations underlying the Common Core — that students should graduate high school ready for college and careers — are both quixotic and cynical because “a large sector of the American work force is highly over educated and working in jobs that don’t require the education they earned, because those jobs do not exist.” (Emphasis her own.)

U. of Iowa Censors, Apologizes for Art About Racism

Susan Kruth:

University of Iowa (UI) students, faculty, and administrators are speaking out in support of the censorship of a statue created and displayed on campus by visiting professor Serhat Tanyolacar that they say constitutes “hate speech.” Tanyolacar’s piece comprised a seven foot tall sculpture of a Ku Klux Klan member whose robes are crafted from newspaper articles about racial violence. Many members of the UI community, however, ignored the intended anti-racist message of the piece and instead demanded that the university take action against what they perceive as a racist display—and the university is complying.

Tanyolacar erected the statue last week on an area of campus called the Pentacrest with hopes to “facilitate a dialogue with a community on a college campus,” responding to the controversy over the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. But students judged the piece to be racist and offensive, and within hours, university police instructed Tanyolacar to take his piece down.

State governments reign over the teaching profession

National Council on teacher quality:

State governments are arguably the most powerful authority over the teaching profession. Since 2007, NCTQ has tracked and analyzed teacher policies across all 50 states and the District of Columbia in our State Teacher Policy Yearbook. The Yearbook presents the most detailed analysis available of each state’s performance against, and progress toward, a set of specific, research-based teacher policy goals aimed at helping states build a comprehensive policy framework in support of teacher effectiveness.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Report: High property taxes the top concern raised in tax reform roundtables

Matthew DeFour:

The 19-page report from Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and Revenue Secretary Rick Chandler comes after more than a year of study. It identifies property taxes as the top concern raised at 22 tax reform roundtables held across the state with some 500 people, but does not contain suggestions for lowering them.

“Taxes are too high and too complicated,” the report concludes. “They hinder economic growth, discourage job creation, and burden family budgets. And though we’ve made great progress in the last four years, we still have a long way to go.”

Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance president Todd Berry, who wasn’t involved in the roundtables or consulted about the report, said he was surprised there were no recommendations.

“They certainly lay out the case that the governor made when he was running four years ago,” Berry said. “But there’s no fundamental comprehensive tax reform here.”

Related: Ongoing increases in Madison’s property taxes. “Delinquencies higher than we expect”. Madison schools raise taxes 4.2%.

How many good schools are there really?

Sam Coughlan:

How many good and outstanding schools are there in England? Record levels, never been so many before. That’s the official verdict of the education watchdog Ofsted.

“The proportion of schools judged good or outstanding at their most recent inspection reached 81%.

“This is the highest proportion of good or outstanding schools there has ever been.”
But what does this 81% figure really mean? Do parents really have more than a four in five chance of getting a good or outstanding school for their children? And how has it risen so rapidly? Or is this the inspection equivalent of grade inflation?

“Outstanding” and “good” are the top two inspection grades – with “requires improvement” and “inadequate” the bottom two.

Wisconsin’s example: The WKCE disaster.

Seeking coders, tech titans turn to schools

Stephanie Simon:

President Barack Obama sat down Monday to write a few lines of computer code with middle school students from Newark, N.J., for a PR campaign that has earned bipartisan endorsements from around the Capitol.

The $30 million campaign to promote computer science education has been financed by the tech industry, led by Steve Ballmer, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, with corporate contributions from Microsoft, Google, Amazon and other giants. It’s been a smash success: So many students opened up a free coding tutorial on Monday that the host website crashed.

UK Ministers answer calls for a College of Teaching

Sally Weale:

The government is to set up a College of Teaching, to drive up standards and put teaching on an equal footing with high-status professions like medicine and law, the Guardian has learned.

Education secretary Nicky Morgan and schools minister David Laws, writing in the Guardian on Tuesday, say a professional body will allow teachers to set their own standards for members and to take a lead in improving the profession’s skills and abilities.

“Many in the profession have talked of the need for a College of Teaching over the years. Yet such a professional body still does not exist.

Google Opens Its Cloud to Crack the Genetic Code of Autism

Marcus Wohlsen:

Google has spent the past decade-and-a-half perfecting the science of recognizing patterns in the chaos of information on the web. Now it’s applying that expertise to searching for clues to the genetic causes of autism in the vast sea of data contained in the human genome.

On Tuesday, autism advocacy group Autism Speaks said it was partnering with Google to sequence the genomes of 10,000 people on the autism spectrum along with their family members. Google will host and index the data for qualified researchers to sift as they hunt for variations in DNA that could hint at autism’s genetic origins.

“We believe that the clues to understanding autism lie in that genome,” Rob Ring, Autism Speaks’ chief science officer, told WIRED. “We’d like to leverage the same kind of technology and approach to searching the internet every day to search into the genome for these missing answers.”

Improving education and the UAB football situation

Danny Garrett:

The focus of the meeting was improving education in the United States. Participants had the opportunity to attend break-out sessions and learn more about the challenges and opportunities facing education in the U.S. A variety of viewpoints were expressed; some presenters/attenders favor the Common Core standards and approach, while other presenters/participants strongly oppose this approach. I found the conference to be very informative. I left the meetings maintaining a strong resolve that states control education within their borders, and that educational standards, resources and funding must increase if we are serious about improving education.

I also believe that charter schools and other alternative approaches to education merit consideration in certain circumstances. In addition, we need to promote and emphasize career, technical and vocational educational programs; every student is not going to attend college and our current system is generally not adequately preparing students who make up this category.

I spoke with several constituents, state legislators and University of Alabama System personnel about the decision by UAB’s administration to terminate its football program. If UAB is going to continue to emphasize and grow undergraduate programs and attract more resident students, I believe that athletic programs – especially football – are important to achieving this strategy. I wrote a letter to UAB President Dr. Ray Watts, urging him to work with the city of Birmingham, corporations and individuals in the metropolitan area to identify ways to financially support and continue the football program. I plan to continue to explore and better understand the issues surrounding Dr. Watts’ decision and recommendation.

36 Presidents of Private Colleges Earned More Than $1-Million in 2012

Sandhya Kambhampati:

Three dozen private-college presidents earned more than $1-million in 2012, with the typical leader making close to $400,000, a Chronicle analysis has found.

The millionaire club increased by one from the year before, and the median pay rose by 2.5 percent.

The highest-paid leader was Shirley Ann Jackson of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Ms. Jackson, who has regularly ranked in the top 25, earned just over $7.1-million, up from nearly $1.1-million in 2011. A large portion of her 2012 earnings came from a payout of almost $5.9-million that had been set aside over 10 years as a retention incentive.

Majority of New York city’s trainee teachers flunked literacy tests

Carl Campanile:

How do you spell illiterate?

A majority of students training at scores of New York colleges to become teachers flunked a literacy test they have to pass to be licensed, new figures show.

The state Board of Regents for the first time is requiring would-be teachers to pass the Academic Literacy Skills exam.

It measures whether a prospective teacher can understand and analyze reading material and also write competently. The results show many don’t belong anywhere near a classroom.

At Boricua College in The Bronx, 13 students took the literacy test. Not a single one passed.

At a half-dozen City University campuses, about half or more failed to make the grade.

Only 29 percent passed at York College in Queens, where there were 68 test takers.

Just one-third of the 21 test takers at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College passed.

The pass rate was only 41 percent at CUNY’s College of Technology in Brooklyn; 47 percent at Lehman College in The Bronx; 51 percent at City College; 54 percent at Brooklyn College and 55 percent at the College of Staten Island. CUNY vowed better results going forward.

Related: when a stands for average.

Free college: Kalamazoo County students can graduate high school with associate’s degree in new 5-year program

Julie Mack:

Kalamazoo County’s nine school districts are launching a new program in which students can earn a degree or certificate from Kalamazoo Valley Community College during a “13th grade” in high school.

Known as Early/Middle College, tuition and fees will be paid by school districts, which will collect the state’s per-pupil foundation allowance for those students, school superintendents told the Kalamazoo Gazette.

The Schoolcraft and Gull Lake school districts are piloting the program this school year. It is tentatively scheduled for implementation in fall 2015 at the other seven districts — Kalamazoo, Portage, Vicksburg, Comstock, Parchment, Galesburg-Augusta and Climax-Scotts — pending approval of the individual school boards, which is currently under way.

Teachers union rejects pay increase offer from LAUSD

LA School Report:

Following the most recent bargaining session last Thursday, the teachers’ union, UTLA, has reportedly rejected a pay increase offer from LA Unified negotiators that fell short its goal of a 10 percent salary increase.

The latest district offer included a 2 percent salary increase retroactive to July 1, a 2 percent lump-sum payment based on 2013-14 earnings and a 2 percent one-time payment for the 2014-15 school year to be paid at the end of this school year, according to a district press release.

The offer was essentially a one-year deal on salary at the same rate the district is paying other labor partners, and the district asked UTLA to accept the deal immediately and agree to continue negotiating on non-salary issues and pay beyond the fiscal year, which ends July 1.

Aside from a salary increase, UTLA also is seeking a reduction in class size, an end to “teacher jail,” and other concessions. The union’s demands are outlined in the Schools LA Students Deserve campaign.

An update on Wisconsin Voucher Schools

Erin Richards:

How many schools are involved?

A total of 159 as of this fall: 113 in Milwaukee serving 26,930 students, 15 in Racine serving 1,740 students, and 31 statewide serving 1,013 students. Almost all of them are religious. The majority are Catholic, Lutheran and Christian schools.

How much do the programs cost taxpayers?

About $211 million, according to state estimates for 2014-’15. The programs in Racine and statewide are fully funded by state funds. But Milwaukee is a different animal. The state only pays for about two-thirds of the cost of that program. The other third is paid, essentially, by local taxpayers.

What’s a voucher worth?

Participating private schools can receive a voucher worth up to $7,210 annually for each qualifying K-8 student. The voucher for qualifying high school students maxes out at $7,856 annually. Those amounts are an increase over the previous $6,442 maximum voucher payment per pupil.

What private schools have the most voucher students?

St. Anthony School in Milwaukee is No. 1, with 1,960 voucher students in K-12. An additional 15 students are not using vouchers, for a total enrollment of 1,975 this fall. That makes St. Anthony the largest K-12 Catholic school in the nation.

Here’s how to do better in education for incarcerated young people, Education and Justice departments say

Renee Schoof:

The estimated 60,000 young people who are held in juvenile justice centers must have the same opportunities for education as students in the nation’s regular public schools, Education Secretary Arne Duncan and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said on Monday as they announced new guidelines aimed at improving what a White House task force found was a low level of educational achievement in the detention facilities.

A report from the My Brother’s Keeper Task force in May found that only 6.6 percent of those in juvenile correctional facilities earned a GED or a high school diploma. The task force also found that only 47 percent of incarcerated youth earned any high school credits. The report called for facilities to provide academic and job-related instruction tailored to students needs’ and comparable in quality to what they’d get in public schools.

Smart money: What teachers make, how long it takes and what it buys them (Revised 12/5/2014)

National Council on Teacher Quality:

What teachers are paid matters. Many factors play a role in making the decision to become a teacher, but for many people compensation heavily influences the decision not only to enter the profession but also whether to stay in it and when to leave. For teachers, knowing where salaries start and end isn’t enough; they must also understand the path they will take from starting salary to the top of the scale.

Madison School Board: Mary Burke Seeks Re-Election, Arlene Silveira Will Not

Molly Beck

Mary Burke, the incumbent Madison School Board member who unsuccessfully challenged Gov. Scott Walker last month, confirmed Friday she will seek re-election in April. But Arlene Silveira, the longest serving board member and in her second stint as president, will not seek another term.

And Anna Moffit, who has served on the district’s special education advisory council, announced Saturday she’ll seek the seat currently held by Silveira. Silveira confirmed in a text message to the State Journal on Sunday that she will not run again.

Only Burke’s and Silveira’s seats are up in 2015. School board members are elected as at-large members.
Silveira was first elected in 2006 when Art Rainwater was superintendent and has since helped hire two superintendents as well as an interim leader.
She oversaw some of the most dramatic events in the district’s recent history, including in 2011 when Walker successfully sought to limit collective bargaining for public school teachers — a move that the Madison teachers union fought in court until this year when the state Supreme Court upheld the law.

The same year, the board faced another polarizing debate after the Urban League of Greater Madison’s then-executive director Kaleem Caire proposed a charter school aimed at reducing the persistently low achievement levels of the district’s black students. The board ended up voting against the proposal after months of tense discussion.

Notes and links on Mary Burke, Arlene Silveira and Anna Moffit.

Milwaukee Public Schools Continue to Shrink, despite some signs of life

Alan Borsuk:

But it’s another year in which enrollment in the main body of MPS schools shrank. That carries long-term implications.

Every year for at least the past half-dozen, the percentage of Milwaukee kids who are getting publicly funded kindergarten through 12th-grade education through MPS has gone down a percentage point or two from the prior year. This year, it went down more than two points.

I wrote a story for this newspaper about seven years ago with a premise that at the time was very striking to me: A third of all Milwaukee kids getting publicly funded educations were doing so outside of the conventional public schools.

It was such a change from days not long ago when the answer was always that publicly funded education meant you went to the public schools.

Now, instead of 33%, the figure is an even more eye-catching 43%. The official figures for this fall show 56.9% of the 120,895 publicly funded students were in schools staffed by MPS teachers.

You can see the day looming (maybe four years? maybe five?) when that percentage is 50% or less.

Where are all the other kids? I use the term publicly funded because Milwaukee remains one of the nation’s biggest arenas for options in schooling. Parents can utilize public support to send kids lots of places.

cost disease“.

Collision Course: School Discipline and Education Reform

Sarah Yatsko:

For over a decade, my job was to craft alternatives to incarceration for juvenile offenders. In the early 1990s, soon after I began this work, the juvenile crime rate soared and, along with it, a “tough on crime” increase in punishment for both the most severe and the most minor offenses. I remember visiting two clients who were cellmates: one was there for exchanging gunfire with a rival gang, and the other for a snowball fight on the school playground. Juvenile courts had always taken seriously children who wielded guns, and appropriately so. My caseload now included children who wielded snowballs, snatched Halloween candy, or got into shoving matches.

This same wide net of harsh punishment was cast in school discipline leading up to and in the wake of rare but widely reported school shootings—especially the horrifying Columbine High School incident. As with “tough on crime” laws, the new “zero tolerance” policies didn’t change how schools treated students who assaulted teachers or brought guns to school: they continued to get expelled and referred to law enforcement just as they always had. However, there was a sharp increase in the number of students caught in the highly discretionary zero tolerance zone, an unintended result of trying to prevent another Columbine. Unfortunately, these new policies have failed to show any corresponding increase in school safety.

How Parents Experience Public School Choice

Ashley Jochim, Michael DeArmond, Betheny Gross, Robin Lake, via a kind Deb Britt email:

• Parents are taking advantage of choice, but they want more good options.

Parents’ optimism about whether schools are improving varies widely.

Parents with less education, minority parents, and parents of children with special needs are more likely to report challenges navigating choice.

Some parents are forced to make difficult trade-offs between academics, safety, and location.

Some cities have done much more to support parent choice. Denver, New Orleans, and Washington, DC, have made the most progress on transportation, fair enrollment, and information systems. However, all cities have work to do to ensure choice works for all families. The authors recommend that civic leaders:

Expand the supply of high-quality schools.

Recognize that different families have different needs.

Guarantee free and safe passage to schools.

Invest much more heavily in information systems

A Map of American Student Activism 2014-15

Angus Johnston:

This has been an extraordinary autumn for student organizing in the United States. From protests against police brutality and sexual assault to anti-tuition demonstrations and a new wave of campus occupations, students have been standing up and speaking out to a degree not seen since the heyday of Occupy.

The protests of the last three months haven’t just been big, they’ve been inventive and extraordinarily diverse, too. An undergrad at Columbia created a senior project carrying a mattress around campus to shame the administration for its failure to respond to her rape, and students across the country stepped up to help her carry the weight. The killings of Mike Brown, Tamir Rice, and so many others have sparked sit-ins and die-ins, walkouts and speakouts. Administrators from New York to California have been forced to negotiate with and grant concessions to occupiers.

And perhaps most extraordinary has been the role of high school and middle school students. In dozens of incidents in dozens of states, such students have stood up and fought back against rape, violence, curricular meddling, and even infantilizing hall passes. They’ve been organizing and taking action, and they’ve been winning.

California Won’t Be Happy Until the Last Regent is Strangled with the Entrails of the Last Democrat

Education Should be Free:

The cowardly California Democrats, fearing the retribution of the students and people of California, have announced a new plan to avoid fee hikes. But their plan proposes cutting scholarship programs for middle-class Californian students and raising tuition for out-of-state students by over $4,000. Let’s be clear about the strategy they’re employing: instead of imposing cuts on all students, the Democrats intend to attack certain constituencies, middle-class and out-of-state students, the classic imperial maneuver of “divide and conquer.” They want to divide us, leave us to fight over the scraps left by the state.

On the Democrats’ Education Plan, Part 2: Resegregation

ReClaim UC:

On Tuesday, state Democratic Party lawmakers presented their 2015 plan for higher education. The most publicized aspects of the plan are, first, that it would marginally increase state contributions to the UC and, second, that it would freeze undergraduate in-state tuition. An in-state tuition freeze would be be much better than Napolitano’s original proposal for 5% annual tuition hikes.

But there’s more to the Democrats’ plan: it would also eliminate a recently-established middle class scholarship program, would tie CSU student support to timely completion of degree, and would raise UC out-of-state and international students’ tuition by 17 percent, or approximately $4,000 dollars. These proposed out-of-state fee hikes would be more than three times those initially proposed by Napolitano, and would generate for the UC an estimated $82 million dollars of revenue next year.

There are a number of reasons to oppose this plan, particularly its reliance on a $4,000 dollar tuition hike for out-of-state and international students. First, from the perspective of those students directly affected, the hike would involve a financial shock, almost certain to be managed by many through the taking on of even more debt. Those opposed to skyrocketing student debt levels and to the privatization of the university thus have reason to oppose the Democrats’ plan to increase out-of-state and international students’ debt levels, and to keep UC reliant on tuition revenue rather than on public funds.

How Cities Can Help Parents Navigate Public School Choice

Robin Lake, via a kind Deb Britt email:

We found that parents in these ‘high-choice’ cities are aggressively taking advantage of school choice when it is available. In seven of the eight cities, half or more of parents are choosing a public school other than their assigned neighborhood school. Clearly, when parents get the opportunity to choose, they take advantage of it.

But we also found that parents have vastly different experiences when choosing a school for their child. And while some cities are improving parents’ ability to choose with confidence, we saw that each has work ahead to ensure that every parent can find the right school for their child.

As with nearly all public schools surveys, parents from all types of schools across all high-choice cities reported very high satisfaction with their current school. But when we pressed and asked whether parents had other good options, stark differences emerged. At the high end, 60 percent of Denver’s parents agreed they have other good public school options, but only 40 percent of Philadelphia’s parents felt this way.

Three cities—Denver, New Orleans, and D.C.—that have invested a lot on developing high-quality schools, closing low performers, and developing transportation, information, and common enrollment systems to help parents navigate their choices, saw some good results. More than half of all parents in these cities reported that their cities’ schools are getting better, compared to less than a third of parents in Baltimore, Cleveland, and Philadelphia. Parents were the least likely to report transportation as a barrier in New Orleans, the only city where most non-neighborhood-based public schools provide transportation. Eighty percent of parents in D.C., and 79 percent of parents in New Orleans reported prioritizing academics over safety and school location. In other cities, where not all families are able to enroll in safe and accessible schools, smaller proportions of parents reported choosing based on academics. Parents in these cities are likely making difficult trade-offs between academics, safety, and location.

How or where to begin learning mathematics from first principles?

Hacker News

As I’ve become more skilled with programming and electronics I have felt myself begin to near a wall. My knowledge of and skills in math is relatively poor and all the interesting things that make up the more advanced programming and electronics pursuits seem to be heavily based on math.

When I butt heads with these more advanced topics I find I resort to scouring the internet to cobble together pieces of various tutorials and guides. While it does feel good in a way to hack together limited understandings to make satisfactory solutions I’m beginning to feel less like a hacker and more like a hack. The knowledge I gain is shallow and I don’t think my tactics will get me much further.

Instead of working backwards from implementation I would like to start from the beginning and learn math the proper way. Unfortunately most of the resources I find online seem to more focused on teaching me how to solve math problems. I have no interest in solving specific math problems on a test, I’m not going to school and I doubt I will ever take a math test again in my life. I want to work up from first principles and gain the tools to reason about the world mathematically and understand the cool things that are currently out of my reach like antenna design, machine learning, electromagnetism, cryptography etc.

In Wayzata, Minnesota, a school spies on its students

Nathan Ringo:

I’m a student. As a student, my school is one of my favorite places to be: I enjoy learning and find almost all my teachers to be agreeable. I’m also a programmer and an advocate of free speech. In that role, my school holds a more dubious distinction: it’s the first place where my interests in computers and my rights were questioned.

Like many other school districts, #284 of Wayzata, Minnesota puts censorware between students and the Internet. This filter lets the school claim federal funding in exchange for blocking pornography. However, Wayzata chose to implement an unsavory policy of blocking not just porn, but anything and everything they feel is inappropriate in a school setting. Worse, I could not find out who makes the judgements about what should be considered inappropriate. It’s not stated in the school board policy that mandates the filter: that police say that the filter should “only block porn, hate speech, and harassment.” Our censorware, however, blocks material ranging from Twitter to comic books. Meanwhile, students are told to use Twitter as part of our Spanish classes and our school offers a course on comic books. Beyond blocking sites that are used in classes, there are also many false positives.

I started trying to get around the content filtering system in 7th grade, halfway through middle school. I used the old trick of accessing blocked sites by looking up their IPs, then using those in place of their domain names. Back then, the censoring layer was something like a regex matcher strapped onto an HTTP proxy–in other words, all the data was routed through software that simply looked for certain domain names or terms in the URL, then blocked those requests. When the school upgraded their filter to a different product, I was stuck on the censored net again for a few months. By eighth grade, I had taught myself to code in C++, an “actual programming language” more powerful than the basic web scripting languages I’d known up until that point. Although I still wasn’t able to get past the new censorship with my relatively rudimentary knowledge, I did get introduced to the software tools that could – Linux, SSL, and SOCKS5. With these, I was unaffected by all the bad Internet policy decisions made in the next two and a half years: the blocking of YouTube and Vimeo, rate-limiting on downloads, and an exponentially expanding list of addresses that are deemed to be too horrifying for students to view, such as XKCD, Wikipedia, news websites and anywhere else that, somewhere, contains a naughty word.

The Einstein Paper Project Launches

Carl Straumshein:

The Einstein Papers Project, the decades-long effort to compile and preserve the scientist’s professional work and personal writings, is today opening to the public as a free searchable database containing thousands of documents.

The launch of the Digital Einstein Papers includes more than 5,000 documents that span the first 44 years of Albert Einstein’s life. As the organizations collaborating on the project — the California Institute of Technology (the project’s home), the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (which houses the Albert Einstein Archives) and Princeton University Press — work to sort through tens of thousands of articles and letters, the website will grow to one day feature what the publisher said may be the first free digital collection of a prominent scientist’s complete works.

“The best Einstein source is now available to everyone, everywhere through the web,” said John D. Norton, a University of Pittsburgh professor of history and philosophy of science who wrote his dissertation on the history of Einstein’s general theory of relativity. “This is a great moment for Einstein scholarship.”

Colleges Clamp Down on Bloated Student Schedules

Melissa Korn:

Full-time students complete four-year degrees with an average of 134 credit hours, according to Complete College America, a nonprofit focused on boosting college-graduation rates. That is well over the minimum of 120 hours—or about 15 credits per semester—required by most undergraduate degree programs.

That, in turn, means many students don’t graduate after the typical four years, which can weigh on a school’s reputation and a student’s wallet. A report this past week from Complete College America called four-year graduation timelines a “myth,” noting that less than one-fifth of bachelor’s degree students at nonflagship campuses of public schools graduate on time, while just over one-third of those at schools’ flagship campuses do.
Now, about half of states cap or plan to limit the number of credit hours that public institutions can require for a bachelor’s degree. Others are charging students extra for taking classes over certain limits, while schools are trying to do a better job of alerting students when they could have trouble completing enough credits in their major to finish on time.

On Preserving the K-12 Governance Model, despite Reform Efforts

Larry Cuban

The notion of institutions adopting reforms in order to maintain stability—sometimes called “dynamic conservatism”—captures how U.S. public schools, especially in big cities have embraced new policies (e.g., charter schools, Common Core standards, new technologies) signaling stakeholders that schools are, indeed, changing. Yet those districts and schools have left untouched essential structures that make U.S. schools the way they are (and have been for over a century) such as residential segregation, school revenue derived from property assessment, age-graded schools, self-contained classrooms, student promotion, and retention, textbooks, and state tests. [ii]

Without attending to these basic structures, entrepreneurial donors in their pursuit of particular reforms reinforce the stability of the very organizations they want to transform. Not intended to be Machiavellian or even necessarily planned, school districts have learned to maintain overall stability in structures, cultures, and practices—the status quo–in the face of strong external pressures by selectively adopting reforms.

Consider the example of grant-giving strengthening the status quo that occurred in the early 20th century when Northern white donors gave money to improve what was then called “colored” or “Negro” education in the South. John D. Rockefeller, Julius Rosenwald, and others gave grants to improve black education by building schools, helping teachers gain more knowledge and learn pedagogy, and raising teacher salaries. In aiding black communities improve schooling for their children, however, these donors gave the money directly to white school boards who then dispersed funds sparingly to black principals, teachers, and communities. In effect, these grants maintained the Jim Crow system of separate schooling for blacks and whites. Positive, negative, and perverse outcomes were rolled into one. [iii]

Introduce now: compulsory Kurdish language class for all children in Turkey

Kurdish Matters:

A new year of indoctrination started this week in Turkey. Not only of Kurdish children, who will be forced once again to learn a curriculum that excludes them in a language that is not their mother tongue, but also of Turkish children, who are made to believe that there is no diversity in their country.

Police violence at the stairs of the Kurdish language school in Diyarbakir
Police violence at the stairs of the Kurdish language school in Diyarbakir

It’s interesting that the education debate mostly revolves around the language in which instruction is given. The Kurdish movement wants education in the mother tongue, and this school year three such schools stared as a ‘pilot project’ in Cizre, Yüksekova and Diyarbakir. Governors however closed the schools, there was police violence to prevent the schools from opening again – read an extensive article on the matter here (by me). The ultimate goal of the Kurdish movement is to have not only private schools providing education in Kurdish, but state schools too. There’s a long way to go, since the constitution needs to be changed for that.

Madison Teachers Re-Certify their Union

Newsletter (PDF) via a kind Jeannie Kamholtz email:

“Love their Union” came through loud and clear as MTI-represented District employees in all five (5) MTI bargaining units voted overwhelmingly to recertify MTI as their Union. The teacher unit voted 2,624 to recertify (88% of the eligible voters), while the educational assistant unit (EA-MTI) voted 549 (77%); the clerical/technical unit (SEE-MTI) voted 180 (77%); the substitute teacher unit (USO-MTI) voted 359 (73.5%); and the security assistant unit (SSA-MTI) voted 22 (81.5%). In all, 85.35% of the eligible MTI voters voted in the recertification election. MTI has not been challenged since it became the bargaining agent for teachers in 1964. Since its creation, MTI has grown from 900 to 4,700 members, and has gained the reputation as one of the most successful public sector Unions in the country. It is Governor Walker’s Act 10 that forced the vote this year. MTI had to pay fees of $3,550 to the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission to conduct the election. Additional costs were experienced for educational and promotional materials related to the election which, under Act 10, must be conducted annually.

The large turnout is a testament to MTI members’ appreciation and support of their Union, and to the hard work of the over 200 MTI Member Organizers who reached out to engage their colleagues in conversations about their Union. MTI members clearly understand that students & staff will be better served if we continue to “Stand Together.” Thanks to all who made their voice heard by voting.

Teaching Essay Writing in Pyongyang

Suki Kim:

Essay was a much-dreaded word among my students. It was the fall of 2011, and I was teaching English at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology in North Korea. Two hundred and seventy young men, and about 30 teachers, all Christian evangelicals besides me, were isolated together in a guarded compound, where our classes and movements were watched round the clock. Each lesson had to be approved by a group of North Korean staff known to us as the “counterparts.” Hoping to slip in information about the outside world, which we were not allowed to discuss, I had devised a lesson on essay writing, and it had been approved.

I had told my students that the essay would be as important as the final exam in calculating their grades for the semester, and they were very stressed. Each student was supposed to come up with his own topic and hand in a thesis and outline. When I asked them how it was going, they would sigh and say, “Disaster.”

I emphasized the importance of essays since, as scientists, they would one day have to write papers to prove their theories. But in reality, nothing was ever proven in their world, since everything was at the whim of the Great Leader. Their writing skills were as stunted as their research skills. Writing inevitably consisted of an endless repetition of his achievements, none of which was ever verified, since they lacked the concept of backing up a claim with evidence. A quick look at the articles in the daily newspaper revealed the exact same tone from start to finish, with neither progression nor pacing. There was no beginning and no end.

School unions vital defenders of public education

Madison’s Capital Times

This fall, 305 local union organizations representing public school teachers, support staff, and custodial workers held recertification elections in school districts across the state. Despite everything that Walker has done to undermine them, more than 90 percent of the local unions were recertified. Indeed, according to the Wisconsin Education Association Council, 97 percent of its units that sought recertification won their elections.

The numbers are even more overwhelming for American Federation of Teachers union locals in Wisconsin.

“Since recertification elections began in 2011, every AFT-Wisconsin local union that has pursued recertification has won convincingly,” notes Kim Kohlhaas, an elementary school teacher in the Superior School District who serves as president of AFT-Wisconsin.

In many school districts, the numbers were overwhelming.

In Madison, where the Madison Teachers Inc. union has played a leading role in opposing Walker’s anti-labor agenda, the pro-recertification votes have been overwhelming.

According to vote totals released by the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission, Madison teachers gave 88 percent support to recertification, as did 81 percent of security staff, 77 percent of support staff, 76 percent of educational assistants and 74 percent of substitute teachers.

Notably, Walker won just 52 percent of the vote in his recent re-election run. So, if the governor claims any sort of mandate, he ought to accept that MTI has a much bigger mandate.


Act 10.

WEAC: Four Senators for $1.57 million.

Madison’s long term, disastrous reading results.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: No end in sight to Wisconsin’s politics of resentment

Paul Fanlund

A nationwide exit poll on Election Day revealed that 70 percent viewed the economy as “not so good” or “poor.” Only 22 percent thought life for the next generation would be better than for this one.

Second, because those with the most education are doing better (and Madison is jammed with academic elites) we are not seen as suffering as they do, and that is noticed and resented.

Third, they see school teachers and other public employees with a level of retirement and health insurance benefits they no longer enjoy or ever did. (Among public workers, only cops and firefighters seem to get a pass for being comparatively well-compensated.)

Fourth, they are constantly told that government programs are distorted to help those who do not help themselves. Given the concentrations of minorities in the two largest cities, the racial subtext is always there. Many in outlying Wisconsin see themselves as distinctively hard-working and self-reliant and getting no government help. They do not perceive their own public education, Medicare, Social Security, highway infrastructure and so forth as the sorts of “handouts” they think flow to others.

This thesis is supported by the election results for governor, where Walker won in rural areas, small towns and suburbs, and Democrat Mary Burke mostly dominated in the dependable urban centers of Madison and Milwaukee.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Basic Costs Squeeze Families

Ryan Knutson & Theo Francis:

The American middle class has absorbed a steep increase in the cost of health care and other necessities as incomes have stagnated over the past half decade, a squeeze that has forced families to cut back spending on everything from clothing to restaurants.

Health-care spending by middle-income Americans rose 24% between 2007 and 2013, driven by an even larger rise in the cost of buying health insurance, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of detailed consumer-spending data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

That hit has been accompanied by increases in spending on other necessities, including food eaten at home, rent and education, as well as the soaring cost of staying connected digitally via cellphones and home Internet service.

With income growth sluggish, discretionary spending on things like clothing and movies, live shows and amusement parks has given way.

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