Teens Who Say No to Social Media

Christine Rosen:

When 14-year-old Brian O’Neill of Washington, D.C., wanted to find out what his friends had been up to over summer vacation, he did something radical: He asked them. Unlike most kids his age, Brian isn’t on social media. He doesn’t scroll through his friends’ Instagram shots or post his own, nor does he use Facebook or Snapchat. “I don’t need social media to stay in touch,” he says.

Such abstention from social media places him in a small minority in his peer group. According to a 2015 report by the Pew Research Center, 92% of American teenagers (ages 13-17) go online daily, including 24% who say they are on their devices “almost constantly.” Seventy-one percent use Facebook, half are on Instagram, and 41% are Snapchat users. And nearly three-quarters of teens use more than one social-networking site. A typical teen, according to Pew, has 145 Facebook friends and 150 Instagram followers.

But what if a teen doesn’t want to live in that networked world? In a culture where prosocial behavior happens increasingly online, it can seem antisocial to refuse to participate. Are kids who reject social media missing out?

Geography & Economics

Joel Kotkin:

There’s little argument that inequality, and the depressed prospects for the middle class, will be a dominant issue in this year’s election, and beyond. Yet the class divide is not monolithic in its nature, causes, or geography. To paraphrase George Orwell’s Animal Farm, some places are more unequal than others.

Housing represents a central, if not dominant, factor in the rise of inequality. Although the cost of food, fuel, electricity, and tax burdens vary, the largest variation tends to be in terms of housing prices. Even adjusted for income, the price differentials for houses in places like the San Francisco Bay Area or Los Angeles are commonly two to three times as much as in most of the country, including the prosperous cities of Texas, the mid-south and the Intermountain West.

These housing differences also apply to rents, which follow the trajectory of home prices. In many markets, particularly along the coast, upwards of 40% of renters and new buyers spend close to half their income on housing. This has a particularly powerful impact on the poor, the working class, younger people, and middle class families, all of whom find their upward trajectory blocked by steadily rising housing costs.

In response to higher prices, many Americans, now including educated Millennials, are heading to parts of the country where housing is more affordable. Jobs too have been moving to such places, particularly in Texas, the southeast and the Intermountain West. As middle income people head for more affordable places, the high-priced coastal areas are becoming ever more sharply bifurcated, between a well-educated, older, and affluent population and a growing rank of people with little chance to ever buy a house or move solidly into the middle class.

Ironically, these divergences are taking place precisely in those places where political rhetoric over inequality is often most heated and strident. Progressive attempts, such as raising minimum wages, attempt to address the problem, but often other policies, notably strict land-use regulation, exacerbate inequality.

The other major divide is not so much between regions but within them. Even in expensive regions, middle class families tend to cluster in suburban and exurban areas, which are once again growing faster than areas closer to the core. Progressive policies in some states, such as Oregon and California, have been calculated to slow suburban growth and force density onto often unwilling communities. By shutting down the production of family-friendly housing, these areas are driving prices up and, to some extent, driving middle and working class people out of whole regions.

Civics: Baltimore police respond to report they secretly spied on city with aerial surveillance tech from Iraq War

Xeni Jardin:

A report out this week from Bloomberg says that since January, 2016, people in the city of Baltimore, Maryland have secretly and periodically been spied on by police using cameras in the sky. Authorities today effectively admitted that the report is accurate.

In response to Tuesday’s Bloomberg article, Baltimore police spokesman T.J. Smith today said not to worry unless you’re a “criminal,” and that the flights by a specially equipped spy plane were “effectively, a mobile citywide camera.”

In a feature released on Tuesday, Bloomberg Businesweek reported that police in the mostly black city used a Cessna airplane carrying an ultra-wide-angle camera array developed for use during the Iraq War. The police surveillance flights spent hours flying overhead, sending footage back to massive hard drives.

Monte Reel’s report for Bloomberg begins outside the Baltimore courthouse where ‘not guilty, all counts’ messages were popping up on reporters’ phones, in the Freddie Gray death by police case.

14 Years After Decriminalizing All Drugs, Here’s What Portugal Looks Like

Zeeshan Aleem:

In 2001, the Portuguese government did something that the United States would find entirely alien. After many years of waging a fierce war on drugs, it decided to flip its strategy entirely: It decriminalized them all.

If someone is found in the possession of less than a 10-day supply of anything from marijuana to heroin, he or she is sent to a three-person Commission for the Dissuasion of Drug Addiction, typically made up of a lawyer, a doctor and a social worker. The commission recommends treatment or a minor fine; otherwise, the person is sent off without any penalty. A vast majority of the time, there is no penalty.

Fourteen years after decriminalization, Portugal has not been run into the ground by a nation of drug addicts. In fact, by many measures, it’s doing far better than it was before.

Sexual harassment of students by university staff hidden by non-disclosure agreements

Sally Wealle & David Batty:

Universities’ use of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) in sexual harassment cases involving staff and students is allowing alleged perpetrators to move to other institutions where they could offend again, according to academics, lawyers and campaigners.

They warn that the prevalence of harassment is being masked because of the use of confidentiality clauses in settlements, which prevent any of the parties discussing what has happened.

Universities that find themselves at the centre of sexual harassment allegations are accused of prioritising their own reputations in an increasingly competitive higher education marketplace over their duty of care to vulnerable students. Those who described concerns include:

Count One More Gold For The U.S. — In Math

Jody Avirgan

Learning new ways to think about math

Jody Avirgan: I read that one of your innovations as coach was bringing in people from the rest of the world to train in the U.S.

Po-Shen Loh: Yes. In fact, when I was on the team in 1999 … [we were] brought to train with the Romanians, in Romania, because the national coach of the United States at that time had grown up [there]. That was very impactful for me. It was really interesting to meet our compatriots from other countries — not in a competitive atmosphere, but a collaborative one.

Avirgan: Are there differences in the way that different countries approach mathematical thinking? I imagine that a lot of people think of math as fairly standardized and universal. So what do you actually learn from another country’s mathematicians?

Loh: You learn things in the same way that you learn from meeting another country’s “X.” Meeting someone from another country automatically broadens your worldview. And especially in the next century, which [these kids] are going to be living in, they will be living in an increasingly globalized environment. So I thought it would be good and healthy for people to start thinking of the world as something much bigger than just the United States.

Friday Reading List: The Original Sin of Schooling As We Know It Is Property Taxes. Seriously.

Justin Cohen

Everyone needs to read Alana Semuels’s long piece in the Atlantic about the historical roots of using property taxes to fund schools. The piece uses Connecticut as a case study:
The discrepancies occur largely because public school districts in Connecticut, and in much of America, are run by local cities and towns and are funded by local property taxes. High-poverty areas like Bridgeport and New Britain have lower home values and collect less taxes, and so can’t raise as much money as a place like Darien or Greenwich, where homes are worth millions of dollars … In every state, though, inequity between wealthier and poorer districts continues to exist. That’s often because education is paid for with the amount of money available in a district, which doesn’t necessarily equal the amount of money required to adequately teach students … the fact remains that delegating education funding to local communities increases inequality.

I am a radical on this issue, as I believe that the link between property taxes and schooling revenues needs to be abolished. I get annoyed when defenders of the education status quo say that we need to “fully fund” schools, not because I don’t want schools to have more resources, but because that’s only part of the problem; the words “fully fund” are meaningless if the definition of “fully” is predicated on the whims of local school boards in segregated, suburban communities, which is where most of the power in public schooling currently sits. This system takes an already classist and racist education system and exacerbates it with all the classism, racism, and segregation built into our country’s housing apparatus. In Connecticut, like many states, plaintiffs are using clauses in the state constitution to argue that a funding system based on property taxes in unconstitutional. Because the US constitution is silent on education, state courts are probably the best current venue for remedies, but the system is inequitable to its core.

K-12 Achievement Analysis: We are now entering the Age of Stupid. How did our voters become so credulous?

Janet Daley:

Politics has passed through many epochs. There have been eras of isolationism, or imperial conquest, or egalitarianism, or nationalist aggression. Now, in the transatlantic sphere at least, we seem to be entering a new historical phase: the Era of Stupid.

American and British politicians at the highest level appear to be engaged in a competition to see who can utter the most defiantly ill-informed, aggressively ignorant statements about precisely the issues that governments have traditionally regarded as life-and-death matters. Somehow, this brazen guilelessness – the shameless display of the failure to understand even the basic meanings of significant words – seems to be offered as a bond with the common man, as if not understanding complicated things was a measure of authenticity.

More on the Sex Panic at Yale

KC Johnson:

The bizarre procedures of Yale’s sprawling sexual assault bureaucracy may well be the worst in the nation. We have come to realize this because Yale is the only university to publicly document all campus allegations of sexual assault, the result of a 2012 agreement with the Obama administration. Reports issued by Deputy Provost Stephanie Spangler don’t provide much detail, but with each new report, we see more clearly a campus environment characterized more by witch hunts than a pursuit of justice.

Consider this item: “An administrator informed a Title IX Coordinator that a Yale College student reported that another YC student made unwanted advances.” On the basis of this third-hand allegation, a current Yale student is being investigated.

The most recent Spangler Report, just published, says 20 Yale undergraduates were accused of sexual assault in the first six months of 2016. Twenty-six undergraduates filed sexual assault complaints. Assuming all were female (the source of around 99 percent of campus complaints), it would mean an annual violent crime rate for Yale undergraduate women of 1.9 percent, without taking into account any attempted murder or felony assault claims. That would be just under the annual violent crime rate for the city FBI stats deem the most dangerous in the country, Detroit.

ACT Scores Drop as More Take Test

Scott Jaschik:

Average ACT scores are down this year. ACT officials attribute the drop to the increasing percentage of high school seniors who have taken the test.

The average composite score for those who graduated from high school this year was 20.8, down 0.2 points from last year and representing a five-year low. (The highest possible score on each part of the ACT is 36, and the composite is an average of the four scores.) ACT data show that 64 percent of high school seniors in the Class of 2016 took the ACT this year, up from 59 percent last year and 52 percent in 2012. Generally, when a larger share of students take a test — in some cases encouraged by state requirements more than the students necessarily being college ready — scores go down. Score drops were the largest in states that have just started to require all students to take the ACT.

More from Melissa Korn and the Journal-Sentinel:

Nearly two-thirds of this year’s high school graduates took the ACT college entrance exam, and their scores suggest that many remain unprepared for the rigors of college-level coursework.

The testing company said Wednesday that only 38% of graduating seniors who took the exam hit the college-prepared benchmark in at least three of the four core subjects tested — reading, English, math and science — down from 40%. And 34% did not meet any of the benchmarks, which are designed to measure a strong readiness for college.

The four tests are scored on a scale of 1 to 36. The composite is the average of the four scores. The vast majority of colleges use the composite in admissions.

Of the ACT-tested high school graduates this year, 61% met the college-readiness benchmark of 18 points for English, which indicates a student is likely ready for a college composition course and would earn a “C’’ or better grade. In addition, 44% met the 22-point mark in reading, 41% met the 22-point threshold for math and 36% hit the 23-point benchmark in science. Thirty-four percent of 2016 grads nationally did not meet any of the four benchmarks.

Weeks called that number alarming, and an indication that those students are likely to struggle with first-year courses and end up in remedial classes that will delay degree completion and increase college costs.

6 key facts about the New Orleans school unification plan (and 5 for geeks)

Danielle Dreilinger

The unified Orleans Parish School Board central office will be a lean organization that sets standards instead of running schools — even as it absorbs 49 state takeover charters from the Recovery School District.

Orleans Parish schools Superintendent Henderson Lewis Jr. is presenting the roadmap Thursday evening (Aug. 25), describing how the district will take on its new responsibilities over the next two years.

In this, New Orleans is doing something unique. Traditional local school systems have been around for a long time; none has ever been designed for charters. The planning team “started with a blank sheet of paper and built up the organization,” CFO Stan Smith said Wednesday.

School officials provided an advance copy of the 72-page plan for reporters. The takeaways:

University of Chicago: ‘We Do Not Support Trigger Warnings’

Time:

In a letter, the incoming class at the University of Chicago were given a strong mandate by the institution they have elected to join: “Members of our community are encouraged to speak, write, listen, challenge and learn, without fear of censorship. Civility and mutual respect are vital to all of us, and freedom of expression does not mean the freedom to harass or threaten others. You will find that we expect members of our community to be engaged in rigorous debate, discussion, and even disagreement. At times this may challenge you and even cause discomfort.”

Relaxing Privacy Vow, WhatsApp Will Share Some Data With Facebook

Mike Isaac & Mark Scott

SAN FRANCISCO — When Facebook bought the start-up WhatsApp in 2014, Jan Koum, one of WhatsApp’s founders, declared that the deal would not affect the digital privacy of his mobile messaging service’s millions of users.
 
 “We don’t know your birthday. We don’t know your home address,” Mr. Koum wrote in a blog post at the time. “None of that data has ever been collected and stored by WhatsApp, and we really have no plans to change that.”
 
 Two years later, in a move that is rankling some of the company’s more than one billion users, WhatsApp will soon begin to share some member information with Facebook.
 
 WhatsApp said on Thursday that it would start disclosing the phone numbers and analytics data of its users to Facebook. It will be the first time the messaging service has connected users’ accounts to the social network to share data, as Facebook tries to coordinate information across its collection of businesses.

Black Families in Georgia Are Rejecting Public School

Annie Holmqvist:

During the 1950s and 60s, America’s black families fought a difficult battle to integrate the public schools, hoping to give their children a better education. Because of this hard-won victory, many black parents have been strong supporters of public schools in the subsequent decades.

But that support may be changing.

According to a recent article in the Christian Science Monitor, an increasing number of black families are leaving public schools for the same reason they once embraced them, and are instead gravitating to homeschooling.

Quoting a former public-school-teacher-turned-homeschool-mom named Nikita Bush, The Monitor explains this movement:

A Texas teacher stopped assigning homework. The Internet gave her an A+.

Lindsey Bever:

Brandy Young, a second-grade teacher in Godley Independent School District, not far from Dallas-Fort Worth, passed out a letter to parents, telling them that she will not be assigning homework to students this year.

“After much research this summer, I am trying something new,” she wrote in the letter, which was posted on Facebook. “Homework will only consist of work that your student did not finish during the school day. There will be no formally assigned homework this year.

“Research has been unable to prove that homework improves student performance. Rather, I ask that you spend your evenings doing things that are proven to correlate with student success. Eat dinner as a family, read together, play outside and get your child to bed early.”

Will UC-San Diego keep hiding witnesses that could prove accused students innocent?

Greg Piper:

The University of California-San Diego routinely hides the identity of witnesses that could help students accused of wrongdoing exonerate themselves, departing from its own rules on who is “relevant” to an investigation.

This policy, which has been applied against accused students for at least the past five years, was not publicly known until 11 months ago. A state appeals court fleshed out its existence in a due-process lawsuit against the school by a student who was found responsible for cheating and expelled.

That court struck down UCSD’s ruling against Jonathan Dorfman, saying it had no legal reason to withhold the identity of “Student X” – whose test answers Dorfman allegedly copied – from him.

The School-Security Industry Is Cashing In Big on Public Fears of Mass Shootings

Sasha Abramsky:

“Security was the number-one factor for me in choosing a school,” explained one of the mothers I met late last winter at a Montessori preschool in an affluent suburb of Salt Lake City. A quality-control expert at a dietary-supplement company, the woman said she vividly remembers the jolt of horror she felt when she first learned of the Columbine massacre in 1999. So when the time came to send her child to preschool, she selected one that markets itself not only as creative, caring, and nurturing, but also as particularly security-conscious.

To get the front door of the school to open, visitors had to be positively ID’d by a fingerprint-recognition system. In the foyer, a bank of monitors showed a live feed of the activity in every classroom. After drop-off, many parents would spend 15 minutes to half an hour staring at the screens, making sure their children were being treated well by their teachers and classmates. Many of the moms and dads had requested Internet access to the images, but the school had balked, fearing that online sexual predators would be able to hack into the video stream. All of the classroom doors had state-of-the-art lockdown features, and all of the teachers had access to long-distance bee spray—which, in the case of an emergency, they were instructed to fire off at the eyes of intruders. The playground was surrounded by a high concrete wall, which crimped the kids’ views of the majestic Wasatch Mountains. The imposing front walls, facing out onto a busy road, were similarly designed to stop predators from peering into the classrooms.

School District Economic Segregation

Fault Lines

The chasms between our school districts are growing wider. Today, half of America’s children live in high-poverty school districts, where they are more likely to experience poor health, be exposed to violence, and attend schools in decaying buildings. This is not always due to a lack of resources in the area, however; often, these high-poverty districts border affluent areas where better-off students benefit from greater funding.

In 1974, the United States Supreme Court issued a ruling in the case Milliken v. Bradley that actually strengthened the hand of segregationists: the justices held that integration plans may not be enforced across school district borders. This outcome cleared the way for district borders to be used as lawful tools of segregation.

Because property taxes play such an important role in school funding, well-off communities have an interest in school district borders that fence off their own neighborhoods from lower-wealth areas and needier students—and most states’ laws allow this kind of self-segregation.

ironically, Madison is currently expanding its least diverse school: Hamilton.

John Oliver Whiffs On The K-12 World

Jon Gabriel

On the most recent episode of “Last Week Tonight,” Oliver took on the 6,000 charter schools in the US and everyone involved with them. (Content warning on that link, natch. When he thinks he’s losing the studio audience, Oliver says a curse word which makes them giggle.) By attacking this popular K-12 option, he isn’t just hitting the few bad operators in the segment, but is setting his sights on the parents, teachers, and students who’ve decided that charter schools are their best option.

Why Do We Judge Parents For Putting Kids At Perceived — But Unreal — Risk?

Tania Lombrozo:

Many parents who grew up playing outdoors with friends, walking alone to the park or to school, and enjoying other moments of independent play are now raising children in a world with very different norms.

In the United States today, leaving children unsupervised is grounds for moral outrage and can lead to criminal charges.

What’s changed?

One possibility is that the risks to children have changed. What was safe in the past may be unsafe today, placing children in genuine danger. But, for the most part, the data don’t support this. Statistics from the National Crime Victimization Survey, for example, suggest that violent crime rates have decreased since the 1970s (and not only when it comes to children, whom one could argue are benefiting from the increased oversight).

Parents Give Their Kids’ Schools High Marks

Rasmussen Reports

Americans remain critical of U.S. public schools in general, but parents are more positive than ever about the performance of their children’s schools.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey finds that 85% of adults with school-aged kids give the performance of their child’s school good or excellent marks, including 47% who say it does an Excellent job. Only five percent (5%) say their child’s school performs poorly.

Remarkable. An academic friend mentioned this phenomena some time ago: “parents believe that their children’s school is doing well, but not others”.

Interview – James Der Derian

e-international relations:

Where do you see the most exciting research and debates happening in the field of critical security studies?

I really think the most exciting research on peace and security has been happening outside of any single academic discipline. I mean, if you want to learn about the greatest cyberwar since STUXNET, do you go to any of the academic journals, or even Foreign Affairs or Foreign Policy? No, the story of Nitro Zeus, the plan to take down Iran’s infrastructure, was broken by a filmmaker, Alex Gibney, at the Berlin Film Festival. Political science is too busy looking in the rear view mirror, to prove how we got here with models and numbers, to deal with now. Meanwhile forecasting in security studies has become monopolized, even militarized, in the form of computer simulations and wargames. The future might be unwritten, but you’ve got to engage in some risk-taking, you have to look over the horizon, look beyond the disciplinary boundaries. The future is looking pretty dire, so there’s always work to be done.

One of the reasons why I felt compelled to start Project Q with the Carnegie Corporation was because of this failure to speculate, to get outside the groupthink of academic disciplines, especially the fixation on whether great powers are rising or falling. I think it’s time to give the ‘Thucydidean trap’ and ‘Prisoner’s Dilemma’ a rest. I mean, it’s been years since my students at the Massachusetts State Prison were flattered but also befuddled that such a tired metaphor was being treated as some kind of universal heuristic. It’s also why I’ve done my best to steer clear of political science departments in favour of interdisciplinary international studies centres. And by interdisciplinary that doesn’t mean gathering ten political scientists and one economist, as someone put it at the Q Symposium today. We bring together physicists, biologists, historians, and social scientists as well as extra-disciplinary thinkers and actors, like novelists, filmmakers, artists, performers and, as you saw at Q, a bunch of guys in uniforms – the Royal Australian Navy has a thing for quantum.

Hillary Clinton’s Free College-Tuition Plan Short on Specifics

Laura Meckler

Hillary Clinton, who prides herself on the details of public policy, has said little about what is now the most ambitious and expensive proposal on her agenda: making public college tuition free for most Americans.

On the campaign trail, she typically offers a sentence, maybe two, about the plan. Sometimes it goes unmentioned altogether. Her campaign has offered few specifics about how the program would work, hasn’t said how much money states would have to provide or where the program would fall on her list of priorities.

The campaign website no longer lists a cost for the program, though campaign aides said they estimate it would take $500 billion in new federal spending over 10 years, $150 billion more than the college plan she put out last summer. Others estimate the costs would be much higher.

The Black Intellectual Tradition and the Myth of Objectivity

Brandon Byrd:

As Du Bois’s biographers have noted, that question became unavoidable on April 24, 1899. On that day, Du Bois walked along Mitchell Street towards downtown Atlanta. He carried a letter of introduction addressed to Joel Chandler Harris, an editor at the Atlanta Constitution. He also held a proposed editorial protesting the recent lynching of Sam Hose, a black farmhand accused of murdering his employer before raping the employer’s wife. Du Bois, familiar with the work of anti-lynching activist Ida B. Wells-Barnett, knew that the charges were false. He would expose the truth: that Hose killed his employer in self-defense and had not raped the wife. He would demonstrate through objective research that Hose’s only “crime” was being black in America.

Who Decides What Must Be on a Syllabus?

Colleen Flaherty:

Most professors probably have learning outcomes for their students — it would be hard to know what to teach and how to assess students without them. But whether professors write down those desired outcomes is a different question. And it’s a question at the heart of a new lawsuit against the College of Charleston by a faculty member who says he’s being booted for refusing to include learning outcomes in his syllabus.

The plaintiff, Robert Dillon, a longtime associate professor of biology at Charleston, is by all accounts an independent thinker, and his lawsuit alleges that numerous personal animosities were at the play in his case. Dillon has organized a popular Darwin Week on campus for the last 16 years, for example, and he alleges that his supervisors feel “threatened” by his challenges to state lawmakers over K-12 science standards in his role as president of South Carolinians for Science Education. But aside from his past clashes with his superiors, his suit raises questions about the role of learning outcomes in course syllabi, and, especially, in the accreditation process.

To Black Parents Visiting Earth

Letter #2 from Janet Stickmon

So before my husband and I even chose her name, the inoculation started when we decided to buy her African and African American children’s books. I was 11 weeks pregnant when I began our collection with a handful of books from Ashay by the Bay owned by vendor Deborah Day at the Ashby Flea Market in Berkeley. By the time Baby Girl was born, our collection included books like Shades of Black—A Celebration of Our Children, I Like Myself, Please, Baby, Please, and Book of Black Heroes: Scientists, Healers and Inventors. These were among several books we read to her while she was still in the womb.

On Handwriting

Anne Trubek:

When the Common Core standards were released in 2010, handwriting took a back seat to typing. Schools were told to ensure that all students could “demonstrate sufficient command of keyboarding skills” by fourth grade, but they were required to teach students “basic features of print” only in kindergarten and first grade. Cursive was left out entirely.

This infuriated many teachers, parents and lawmakers. At least nine states and numerous districts have lobbied, successfully, to reintroduce cursive into public and publicly funded charter schools, and others have bills pending.
People talk about the decline of handwriting as if it’s proof of the decline of civilization. But if the goal of public education is to prepare students to become successful, employable adults, typing is inarguably more useful than handwriting. There are few instances in which handwriting is a necessity, and there will be even fewer by the time today’s second graders graduate.

If printing letters remains a useful if rarely used skill, cursive has been superannuated. Its pragmatic purpose is simple expediency — without having to lift pen from paper, writers can make more words per minute. There have been cursive scripts since the beginning of writing: The Egyptians invented one of the first, demotic, which allowed scribes to take notes on business transactions and Pharaonic laws faster than they could using hieroglyphics

NSA’s 2016 Puzzle Periodical

NSA CSS:

Intelligence. It’s the ability to think abstractly. Challenge the unknown. Solve the impossible. NSA employees work on some of the world’s most demanding and exhilarating high-tech engineering challenges. Applying complex algorithms and expressing difficult cryptographic problems in terms of mathematics is part of the work NSA employees do every day.

Try your hand at this month’s problem written by a member of our expert workforce.

Are they students? Or are they employees? NLRB rules that graduate students are employees.

Danielle Douglas-Gabriel:

Stanford University, the Massachusetts of Institute of Technology and the entire Ivy League submitted a brief arguing that involving students in the bargaining process would disrupt operations if negotiations included the length of a class, amount of grading or what’s included in curriculum. Bringing more people to the table, they said, could lead to lengthy and expensive bargaining, potentially to the detriment of all students.

“If a union is allowed to bargain about what teaching and research assistants do, that would in effect be interfering with the educational requirement of many of these schools,” said Joseph Ambash, a Boston attorney who filed the brief on behalf of the schools and represented Brown in 2004. “That would have a dramatic impact on higher education.”

Paraplegics learn to walk after years with the help of virtual reality and exoskeleton

Ananya Bhattacharya:

The chances of recovery for paraplegic patients were once considered nearly nil. But in 2014, 29-year-old Juliano Pinto, who faced complete paralysis below the chest, literally kicked off the opening match at the FIFA World Cup. Researchers had created a brain-machine interface (BMI) that allowed Pinto to control a robotic exoskeleton for the symbolic kickoff at São Paulo’s Corinthians Arena.

Fast forward two years, the Walk Again Project (WAP), the same nonprofit international research consortium that designed Pinto’s exoskeleton, is now using virtual reality to help paraplegic people regain partial sensation and muscle control in their lower limbs. According to a study published Aug. 11 in Scientific Reports, all eight patients who participated in the study have already gained some motor control.

‘Get me off the Google,’ UC Davis Chancellor Katehi urged communications staff

Diana Lambert & Sam Stanton

In the end, UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi was done in largely by pepper spray and ego.

Although she faced serious allegations when UC President Janet Napolitano suspended her in April, the investigative report into her actions that was released Tuesday found the most damning evidence was a near-obsession with her own reputation, something that began when she first assumed the chancellor’s post in 2009 and escalated following the November 2011 pepper-spraying of students by campus police.

The Intellectual Conceit of IQ Ideology

Jeffrey Tucker:

The cultural fascination with the idea of an “intelligence quotient” or IQ seems to be experiencing a resurgence. Relentless testing is a feature of schooling and school admissions, and tests are used for a variety of occupational screenings. The practice reflects an intuition we all have: some bulbs are brighter than others. Surely there is nothing wrong with knowing, measuring, and acting on that information, however difficult it might be to assess.

Where matters become elusive is in codifying those skills, reducing them all to a single quantitative number, aggregating them based on other demographic traits, assessing the variability of the results, comparing the results across large population groups, determining the variety of causal factors – genetic, environmental, sheer personal determination – that make up what we call intelligence, and cobbling together a plan for what to do with the results.

teachers are laborers, not merchants

Frederick de Boer:

I got an email request to talk about online-only education and why I’m such a skeptic that it can replace physical education. I’ve written about this before but let me try to sum it up.

Here’s the model that the constant “online education will replace physical colleges” types advance: education is about gaining knowledge; knowledge is stored in the heads of teachers; schooling is the transfer of that knowledge from the teacher’s head to the student’s head; physical facilities are expensive, but online equivalents are cheap; therefore someone will build an Amazon that cuts out the overhead of the physical campus and connects students to teachers in the online space or, alternatively, cuts teachers out altogether and just transfers the information straight into the brains of the student.

Vernont Law School Seeks Federal Loan to Ease Debt Costs


Vermont Law School is hoping to borrow $15 million from the federal government to help restructure its debts and take advantage of lower interest rates.
VLS officials said the school has put the worst of its financial woes behind it, and the proposal would fund a land-lease transaction involving its 15-acre South Royalton campus.

“It means significant operating savings for VLS,” said Lorraine Atwood, vice president of finance at the school, which she said currently spends about $1.2 million annually to service about $13.5 million in debt.

The school, which has an annual budget of $28 million, is hosting a public information meeting at 5 p.m. Thursday at Oakes Hall about the plan, which would create a land-lease agreement with a separate entity, VLS Campus Holdings LLC.

The law school would continue to own its land and 22 buildings, which have a combined net book value of $22 million, according to Atwood.

Holding On to What Makes Us Human

LD Burnett:

The overpriced and understudied behemoth from “Intro to Econ” was easy to part with. And my well-used grammar and exercise books from French I and II? How useful could they be in our tiny apartment, on our tiny budget, with me staying home to take care of our tiny baby? In such straitened circumstances, I didn’t need those books taking up room in my life; I needed whatever money they might bring.

But those were not the only books I culled from my little library. I gathered up Robert Lowell and Alice Walker, Edmund Spenser and Harriet Beecher Stowe, Lucretius and Virginia Woolf, Lorraine Hansberry and Aristotle, Montaigne and Nietzsche, Flaubert, Boethius and Baudelaire, and many others besides — most of them authors I had never so much as heard of before I set foot on the Stanford campus.

How to stop your children catching ‘rich kid-itis’

Hugo Greenhaigh:

“Enough to give them opportunity, but not to induce a sense of complacency,” is how Gavin Oldham, philanthropist and founder of The Share Centre summed it up. Gerald Ratner confessed that it did his children “quite a bit of a good when I was in my wilderness years” following the infamous speech that cost him his job, as their inheritance was no longer assured.

The property tycoon Sir Jack Petchey said his children and grandchildren knew he was a “50:50 man”, explaining: “If they really believe in something and are prepared to raise 50 per cent themselves, then I would consider backing them too.” But the author Lesley Pearse said that beyond help with property and education, she intended to “spend as much as possible”, adding: “If I have to stay in a nursing home, it will be a posh one.”

As you wrangle with this question for yourself, you must determine when and how you intend to pass on wealth to your children. Will you leave a certain sum in trust for your heirs when they turn 18 or will they inherit the bulk of your estate when you die?

Will you choose to invest in the best education money can buy — and perhaps their first home — but then leave them to plough their own financial furrow?

Warren Buffett has it nailed. “A very rich person should leave his kids enough to do anything but not enough to do nothing,” he once said. How much this will be is almost impossible to answer: somebody whose parents are worth £1bn will be used to a different lifestyle from those with £10m to leave to their children.

Sometimes, the answer can be as simple as understanding your children’s character, says Alexandra Ruffel, a private wealth partner at law firm Irwin Mitchell. “You may have a child who’s lovely, but not the sharpest tool in the box when it comes to finances,” she says. “You have to recognise that.”

And at what age are they ready to inherit? Many trust structures will mature on a child’s 18th birthday, but parents should ask themselves if their teenage children will possess sufficient financial maturity at this age.

“It is a concern of a number of our clients,” says Chris Shepard, a partner in the private client tax department at Smith & Williamson, the accountancy and investment management group.

In Favor Of Open Education

David Mulroney:

What I consider my third year of higher education, from September, 1975, to June, 1976, was spent travelling around the world. It was a deeply influential experience that neatly separated my first two years at the University of Toronto, in which I was making the transition out of my high-school self, from my last two years as an undergraduate, when I began to grow emotionally and intellectually, developing the skills and inclination to be a lifelong learner.

My travels were partly financed from money I made delivering imported Italian delicacies to the corner grocery stores and pizzerias of Sydney, Australia – a stop on the first leg of my travels. I was a beneficiary of one of the earliest versions of the now-familiar working-holiday program for student travellers. The program was based on the assumption that international experience could be, as we said then, “broadening.” The idea was to extend your intellectual horizons, becoming aware of the depth, complexity and sheer richness of the world.

Commentary On Texas Charter School Study

Neerav Kingsland:

II. Walking Through Low Effect Size and High Effect Size Schools

The famous Anna Karena quote goes something like this: “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

I think the opposite is true of schools.

When I visit low effect size schools, I am often saddened by the level of dysfunction. Students walk the halls aimlessly, teachers seem woefully unprepared for working in a low-income environment, and the principal generally spends her day putting out fires.

When I visit high effect size schools, I’m often struck by how different they are. While most hit the basics of a calm culture and thoughtful instruction, they vary greatly in atmosphere, curriculum, and staffing models – as well as the overall student experience. A Summit school is very different than a Collegiate Academies school, despite both achieving high effects. Even No Excuses schools can feel fairly different from each other, though the do tend to gravitate around some core practices (that Fryer has helped illuminate).

I also think I would struggle mightily in a blind walk through of .1 and .2 effect size schools; it is highly unlikely I would be able to tell you which school has which effect.

So while it’s easy to identify schools that are a total mess, it’s a little difficult to tease out what’s going well in non-dysfuctional schools, as well as to distinguish between high-performing and very-high-performing schools.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Everything You Need to Know About the National Debt

Fix the Debt:

What are the effects of a high national debt?

The effects of the national debt on the economy are far from abstract. High levels of federal debt will cause:

Higher costs of living: Large amounts of debt mean higher interest rates on everything from credit cards to mortgage loans.

Slower wage growth: In normal economic times, every dollar an investor spends buying government debt is a dollar not invested elsewhere in the economy. That is, high debt “crowds out” more productive investments, leading to slower economic growth and lower wages.

Generational inequality: By not making responsible debt choices, we are placing higher debt burdens on our children and threatening their standard of living and retirement.

Reduced fiscal flexibility: Our debt levels doubled between 2008 and 2013 from 35 percent of GDP to over 70 percent, a result of and in response to the Great Recession. We can’t afford another recession. With an already high debt, the government has less room to respond to future crises such as international events or economic downturns.

Fiscal crises: Unchecked debt growth could eventually lead to a fiscal crisis, as recently occurred across Europe. At that point, investors in U.S. debt will demand higher returns, driving up interest payments, and leading to a debt situation spiraling out of control.

The Latest Big Education Fad, Social-Emotional Learning, Is As Bad As It Sounds

Jane Robbins, via a kind Will Fitzhugh email:

The U.S. Department of Education (USED) longs to plumb the psyches of our children (as its own reports reveal – see here and here), and it enjoys the eager complicity of state education establishments. As reported by Education Week, the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) recently announced that eight states will “work collaboratively to create and implement plans to encourage social-emotional learning in their schools.” These states are jumping on a bandwagon that threatens to roll over innocent children and their privacy.

CASEL is the big gorilla in the zoo of social-emotional learning, or SEL. Having proved so adept at (or perhaps having given up on) teaching students English, math, science, and history, state progressive-education establishments are joining CASEL to explore more esoteric pursuits. Better to diminish academic content knowledge and push SEL: “self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making.”

The average parent might object, “Wait, that’s what my child learns from me and from Sunday school.” But CASEL & Co. believe the government should take over in case the parents and church don’t do it right — perhaps teaching the wrong attitudes and mindsets.
CARTOONS | Henry Payne
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Suppose the government decides a child will be a more acceptable student, citizen, and worker bee if he learns to acquiesce to the “consensus” of the group, regardless of his own moral standards, or if she learns to accept that all commands of the government must be obeyed. The student may fulfill the standard by developing the correct attitudes, but under whose authority does the government presume to instill attitudes that may conflict with parents’ desires?

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: California Business Departures

Joseph Varnish:

In California, costs to run a business are higher than in other states and nations – largely due to the states tax and regulatory policies – and the business climate shows little chance of improving. It is understandable that from 2008 through 2015, at least 1,687 California disinvestment events occurred, a count that reflects only those that became public knowledge. Experts in site selection generally agree that at least five events fail to become public knowledge for every one that does. Thus it is reasonable to conclude that a minimum of 10,000 California disinvestment events have occurred during that period.

The report has been designed to rely only on public sources of information – primarily news reports and company reports to several government agencies. Each disinvestment event can be substantiated simply by checking the entries against sources of information available on the Internet. The nearly 2,600 endnotes in this report would ease any such effort.

This report provides a catalog of disinvestment events, which is why the bulk of Chapters 16 through 23 are fact-filled, listing actions by companies large and small. The entries show that some companies left the state entirely while others declined to grow their in-state facilities but invested in expansions elsewhere. A few companies that planned to locate in California decided against doing so – performing a “U-Turn,” so to speak.

Why so many businesses are fleeing California for Austin — and why a lot more may be on the way
.

Are parents trying too hard with their children?

Isabel Berwick:

Parents are struggling, it seems. We are obsessed with the job of “parenting”, trying to mould our children so that they are happy, garlanded with top grades and achievements, and ready to take on the future — even though that future is unknowable to us. Meanwhile, the frightening wider world lurks, chaotically, beyond our control. And to minimise our own fear and worry, we try to protect our young people so that a middle-class childhood now lasts until college, and often beyond.
There is an impossible mismatch between modern micromanagement inside the home and the unknowables outside. To assuage this crisis, parents (meaning, in my experience, anxiety-prone middle-class mothers) lap up advice from books telling us how to fix our family life so as to engineer more successful futures for our kids.

The standout among these manuals in capturing the parenting zeitgeist was Amy Chua’s Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother (2011). This memoir by a Chinese-American mother of bringing up two high-achieving girls details how a traditional Asian regime can work wonders. Its key mantras include: be very strict, enforce music practice, don’t allow free expression through drama, sport — or sleepovers. Overnight, “tiger mother” became shorthand for a woman who turns parenting into a high-stakes management career.

Common Core Links

Richard Phelps, via a kind email:

Drilling through the Core:

“The federal Department of Education’s coercion of states to join Common Core sought to preempt a necessary debate at the state and local level. Nevertheless, that debate is now raging in state capitals across the country and Pioneer has been at the forefront of the discussion with thoughtful critiques on every aspect, from the notion of common standards, to the specific standards as written, and the process by which they were adopted. This book is a valuable resource for parents or anyone else who wants to understand the criticisms of Common Core.” – U.S. Senator Charles Grassley

More:

The Common Core K-12 standards have gone from “inevitable” to “poisonous.” A new book adds to the woes of Common Core’s supporters by bringing together academic critiques from over a dozen scholars who provide an independent, comprehensive book-length treatment of this national standards initiative. The book arrives at a moment when popular support for the Common Core is declining.

Two national polls show widespread opposition; repeal and rebranding efforts are underway in numerous states; it has become toxic for presidential candidates; and the number of states participating in Common Core-aligned testing consortia has dwindled. The Common Core standards have lost credibility with the general public, parents, and teachers.

Common Core Math Will Reduce Enrollment in High-Level High School Courses:

Common Core math standards (CCMS) end after just a partial Algebra II course. This weak Algebra II course will result in fewer high school students able to study higher-level math and science courses and an increase in credit-bearing college courses that are at the level of seventh and eighth grade material in high-achieving countries, according to a new study published by Pioneer Institute.

Study Finds Common Core Math Standards Will Reduce Enrollment in High-Level High School Math Courses, Dumb Down College Stem Curriculum

The framers of Common Core claimed the standards would be anchored to higher education requirements, then back-mapped through upper and lower grades. But Richard P. Phelps and R. James Milgram, authors of “The Revenge of K-12: How Common Core and the New SAT Lower College Standards in the U.S.,” find that higher education was scarcely involved with creating the standards.

Fordham’s PARCC v. MCAS Report Falls Short:

The Fordham Institute has long been at work on a study of the relative quality of tests produced by the two Common Core-aligned and federally funded consortia (PARCC and SBAC), ACT (Aspire), and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (MCAS). What Fordham has produced is only in the most superficial way an actual analysis – in fact, it reads more like propaganda and lacks the basic elements of objective research.

It takes only a little digging under the surface to reveal pervasive conflicts of interest, a one-sided sourcing of evidence, and a research design so slanted it cannot stand against any scrutiny. In developing their supposedly analytic comparisons of PARCC, SBAC, Aspire and MCAS, the authors do not employ standard test evaluation criteria, organizations, or reviewers. Instead, they employ criteria developed by the Common Core co-copyright holder, organizations paid handsomely in the past by Common Core’s funders, and predictable reviewers who have worked for them before. The authors also fill the report with the typical vocabulary and syntax of Common Core advertising – positive-sounding adjectives and adverbs are attached to everything Common Core, and negative-sounding adjectives and adverbs are attached to the alternatives.

Study: Poor Performance of Other States in PARCC Consortium Would Translate to Lower Standards for Mass.

“If too many students fail to reach the new threshold and are denied diplomas, our education system seizes up,” said Dr. Richard P. Phelps, author of “Setting Academic Performance Standards: MCAS vs. PARCC.”

Massachusetts’ bar for scoring “proficient” on MCAS is currently the second highest in the nation for 4th grade math, third highest for 4th grade reading, fourth highest for 8th grade math and 23rd for 8th grade reading. The composite rankings for rigor associated with definitions of proficiency in the 11 states that were still part of the PARCC consortium in August (it has since dropped to seven states and Washington, D.C.) was 27th in 4th grade math, 20.5 in 4th grade reading, 25.3 in 8th grade math and 25.1 in 8th grade reading.

In this case, the inevitable reversion to the mean would translate to a one-half year drop in performance expectations for 4th grade math and reading and 8th grade math in Massachusetts.

The Education Writers Association casts its narrowing gaze on Boston, May 1-3
April 28, 2016

Many billions have been spent, and continue to be spent, promoting the Common Core Standards and their associated consortium tests, PARCC and SBAC. Nonetheless, the “Initiative” has been stopped in its tracks largely by a loose coalition of unpaid grassroots activists. That barely-organized amateurs could match the many well-organized, well-paid professional organizations, tells us something about Common Core’s natural appeal, or lack thereof. Absent the injection of huge amounts of money and political mandates, there would be no Common Core.

The Common Core Initiative (CCI) does not progress, but neither does it go away. Its alleged primary benefit—alignment both within and across states (allegedly producing valid cross-state comparisons)—continues to degrade as participating states make changes that suit them. The degree of Common Core adoption varies greatly from state to state, and politicians’ claims about the degree of adoption even more so. CCI is making a mess and will leave a mess behind that will take years to clean up.

How did we arrive in this morass? Many would agree that our policymakers have failed us. Politicians on both sides of the aisle naively believed CCI’s “higher, deeper, tougher, more rigorous” hype without making any effort to verify the assertions. But, I would argue that the corps of national education journalists is just as responsible.

Too many of our country’s most influential journalists accept and repeat verbatim the advertising slogans and talking points of Common Core promoters. Too many of their stories source information from only one side of the issue. Most annoying, for those of us eager for some journalistic balance, has been some journalists’ tendency to rely on Common Core promoters to identify the characteristics and explain the motives of Common Core opponents.

An organization claiming to represent and support all US education journalists sets up shop in Boston next week for its annual “National Seminar”. The Education Writers Association’s (EWA’s) national seminars introduce thousands of journalists to sources of information and expertise. Many sessions feature journalists talking with other journalists. Some sessions host teachers, students, or administrators in “reports from the front lines” type panel discussions. But, the remaining and most ballyhooed sessions feature non-journalist experts on education policy fronting panels with, typically, a journalist or two hosting. Allegedly, these sessions interpret “all the research”, and deliver truth, from the smartest, most enlightened on earth.

Fordham report predictable, conflicted:

On November 17, the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) will decide the fate of the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) and the Partnership for Assessment of College Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) in the Bay State. MCAS is homegrown; PARCC is not. Barring unexpected compromises or subterfuges, only one program will survive.

Over the past year, PARCC promoters have released a stream of reports comparing the two testing programs. The latest arrives from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute in the form of a partial “evaluation of the content and quality of the 2014 MCAS and PARCC “relative to” the “Criteria for High Quality Assessments”[i] developed by one of the organizations that developed Common Core’s standards—with the rest of the report to be delivered in January, it says.[ii]

Much more on the Common Core, here.

Amid STAAR Test Backlash, School Performance Stable

Kiah Collier:

The number of Texas school districts and charter schools considered failing under the state’s accountability system increased slightly in 2016, though the number of individual campuses that received that label decreased somewhat, according to ratings the Texas Education Agency released Monday.

Last year, 55 school districts and charters — or 4.5 percent — fell under the failing, or “improvement required” category; this year, it’s 66, or 5.5 percent. Forty-four of those failing are traditional school districts, while 22 are charter schools.

At the same time, the number of individual campuses labeled as failing fell to 467 in 2016, from 603 last year.

The accountability ratings — in which schools are generally labeled “met standard” or “improvement required” — are based mostly on how students perform on the controversial state-required STAAR exams, a rigorous testing regime implemented in 2012.

Will Wissert has more.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Wisconsin’s Utility Costs

Judy Newman:

Wisconsin’s average electric rates are highest among eight Midwest states for the first time since 2006, according to the SEA, at 10.97 cents per kilowatt-hour. The other states’ average rates range from 8.65 cents in Iowa to 10.87 cents in Michigan. The U.S. average is 11.02 cents per kilowatt-hour, the report says.

For industrial customers, rates are also highest in Wisconsin at 7.81 cents per kilowatt-hour compared with those in other Midwest states, ranging from 6.06 cents to 7.25 cents per kilowatt-hour.

Students And Savings

Barrons:

Apparently, some of the folks most tortured about retirement are still struggling through algebra I. Almost three-quarters of 15-to-19-year-olds, the oldest members of Generation Z—that’s the gang behind millennials—are focused on saving for a distant future, according to a Lincoln Financial Group…

Explainable Artificial Intelligence

David Gunning:

Dramatic success in machine learning has led to a torrent of Artificial Intelligence (AI) applications. Continued advances promise to produce autonomous systems that will perceive, learn, decide, and act on their own. However, the effectiveness of these systems is limited by the machine’s current inability to explain their decisions and actions to human users. The Department of Defense is facing challenges that demand more intelligent, autonomous, and symbiotic systems. Explainable AI—especially explainable machine learning—will be essential if future warfighters are to understand, appropriately trust, and effectively manage an emerging generation of artificially intelligent machine partners.

The Explainable AI (XAI) program aims to create a suite of machine learning techniques that:

98 personal data points that Facebook uses to target ads to you

Caitlin Dewey:

As explained on that shiny new portal, Facebook keeps ads “useful and relevant” in four distinct ways. It tracks your on-site activity, such as the pages you like and the ads you click, and your device and location settings, such as the brand of phone you use and your type of Internet connection. Most users recognize these things impact ad targeting: Facebook has repeatedly said as much. But slightly more surprising is the extent of Facebook’s web-tracking efforts and its collaborations with major data brokers.

While you’re logged onto Facebook, for instance, the network can see virtually every other website you visit. Even when you’re logged off, Facebook knows much of your browsing: It’s alerted every time you load a page with a “Like” or “share” button, or an advertisement sourced from its Atlas network. Facebook also provides publishers with a piece of code, called Facebook Pixel, that they (and by extension, Facebook) can use to log their Facebook-using visitors.

On Urban Governance

John Kass:

And while we’re at it, why not find that magical unlimited federal checkbook and a committee of the best and the brightest to guide us?

But we’ve already had government run by the best and the brightest. And we’ve spent trillions of dollars in America’s war on poverty.

And just what has been accomplished? The crime statistics tell you. The jobless numbers tell you. The graduation rates tell you. Open your eyes and see the despair.

College students increasingly caught in remedial education trap

Emily Hanford:

Attending Arlington Senior High School in St. Paul, Minn., she kept her head in her books and did her homework. “I was that student everybody wanted to multiply,” she said.

Her mother was elated with Arlington, a brand new school with the latest technology, web training, access to Apple computers and — best of all — the promise that it would prepare every student for college. Gandy’s parents hadn’t gone to college.

Gandy was in the honors program and graduated with a GPA of 4.2 out of 5.

But when she went to enroll at her local community college, a counselor said she had to take a placement test. When the results came back, Gandy was told she needed remedial classes.

Related: 21% of University of Wisconsin System Freshman require remedial math.

Madison’s math task force.

Tuition is now a useless concept in higher education

Danielle Allen:

If Congress wanted to make an actual difference regarding the rising cost of college, and to give universities and colleges a fighting chance to solve this problem, it would strip from the Higher Education Act the requirement that colleges publish a “tuition” number. The figure is as good as useless now.

Colleges should instead publish five numbers: how much they spend each year on educating each student; the range a family is expected to contribute to that expense, from zero to a maximum; how much a family contributes on average; the range of what a college itself will contribute for each student; and how much the college contributes on average to the total expense for each student.

Why is the concept of tuition as good as useless? Let me count the ways.

1. At Ivy Leagues and top liberal arts colleges, whose tuition announcements get lots of attention, the tuition is only a “sticker price.” The majority of families whose children attend these elite schools pay less, as determined by their level of financial need. Increases to tuition matter only for the full-payers. For those on financial aid, changes to aid policies, not to tuition, are what matter. These policies get little public attention or transparency. How often do our major newspapers publish stories on how colleges define need?

Many clinical trials’ findings never get published. Here’s why that’s bad

Ivan Oransky & Adam Marcus

New research suggests that nearly half of all clinical trials involving kids go unfinished or unpublished — either because the researchers lose interest in the work or take up more pressing projects, or, in some cases, because the companies that funded the studies don’t want the results to get out.

That news won’t come as a surprise to anyone who has followed the fate of studies in general. But it should catch the notice of the FDA: The pharma industry currently gets a special bonus, in the form of extended exclusive marketing rights, for testing their drugs in kids — a rule that was implemented to accelerate research into childhood ailments.

Coding School

Kirk Johnson:

Part of Jillian Boshart’s life plays out in tidy, ordered lines of JavaScript computer code, and part in a flamboyant whirl of corsets and crinoline. She’s a tech student by day, an enthusiastic burlesque artist and producer by night. “Code-mode” and “show-mode,” she calls those different guises.

“My mother got stage fright for me,” she said on a recent night while talking about her childhood performances and dreams. She looked like a 1940s starlet in a tight, black sequined dress, a red rose pinned into her red hair. “I like to be prepared,” she said. “I like to be in control.”

At age 31, she seems to be. This year she won a coveted spot at a nonprofit tech school for women here, whose recent graduates have found jobs with starting salaries averaging more than $90,000. Seattle, where she came after college in Utah to study musical theater, is booming with culture and youthful energy.

Why do I and other black families support charter schools?

Citizen Stewart:

Most Black families support charter schools, not because they are duped or privatizers, but because many see their neighborhood schools, and know their children need better options. I know, because I saw it first hand in West Oakland, struggling to get my brother the education he deserved, in a system that didn’t treat him with concern or respect.

I never intended to be the charter guy, it just happened. It all started when I went to my brother “johnny’s” school in West Oakland.

When schools disrespect you

“The teacher made fun of my mama” my little brother said, restraining his sobs.

I would help Johnny with his homework if I was around, but I was in law school and out a lot. If his mom couldn’t help him, I told him to just tell the teacher he couldn’t do the homework and needed help.

A majority if the Madison School Board rejected the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB charter school, among others.

Nate Parker, Bill Cosby and R. Kelly are What’s Wrong with Black Colleges

Crystal deGregory:

A degree from a black college has always been a valuable gear in the machinery of America’s class system. Early black college graduates emerged as exceptional models of black achievement and uncommon potential as well as leader-spokesmen of a race historically viewed as an industrial commodity.

It is tradition born out of the early post-slavery days when black women and men who were once reduced to chattel, labored to demonstrate their somebodiness to the white missionary teachers at most black schools, and oddly, to their former owners too. But what was — and arguably still is — a strategic attempt to survive racism and white supremacy, has devolved into a totem of assimilation, separating the “bad” black masses from the “good” black elite.

Black colleges, unwittingly or otherwise, have long been forerunners in the tradition now known as black respectability.

Millennials Don’t Use Credit Cards Because They Have No Money

Yoni Blumberg:

Millennials are too “spooked” to use credit cards, claims Nathaniel Popper of the New York Times.

Data from the Federal Reserve indicates that the percentage of Americans under 35 who hold credit card debt has fallen to its lowest level since 1989.

Why? Millennials are already in debt. In 1995, when there were fewer students going to college, and lower tuition rates for those who did, the average American under 35 had 182 percent less student debt, Popper notes, compared to today. The average millennial now owes $17,200. So maybe student loan payments are too much of a burden to even consider accumulating an additional form of debt.

US Federal Government Launches Initiative for Low-Income Students to Access New Generation Of Higher Education Providers

ed.gov:

These partnerships will allow students—particularly low-income students—to access federal student aid for the first time to enroll in programs offered by non-traditional training providers, in partnership with colleges and universities, including coding bootcamps, online courses, and employer organizations. The goals of the experiment are to: (1) test new ways of allowing Americans from all backgrounds to access innovative learning and training opportunities that lead to good jobs, but that fall outside the current financial aid system; and (2) strengthen approaches for outcomes-based quality assurance processes that focus on student learning and other outcomes. The experiment aims to promote and measure college access, affordability, and student outcomes.

What Free Won’t Fix: Too Many Public Colleges are Dropout Factories

Tamara Hiler & Lanae Erickson Hatalsky

Public colleges and universities play an essential role in unlocking the doors of higher education for many Americans. Today, more than 6.8 million students attend four-year public institutions, making up nearly two-thirds of the entire bachelor’s degree-seeking population in the United States.1 Close to two-thirds of all students attending these schools take out student loans in order to finance their education, with the average loan-holding student finding themselves more than $20,000 in debt four years later.2 And American taxpayers spend more than $10 billion dollars a year on federal Pell grants to help more than 2.7 million low- and moderate-income students attending these institutions afford a postsecondary education.3

This investment is one most Americans are willing to make—in part because of the irrefutable economic benefits gained in our modern economy by those who earn a college degree.4 But our analysis of the Department of Education’s College Scorecard data reveals that not all four-year public schools are giving students, or taxpayers, a good return on their investment. In fact, at many of these institutions, first-time, full-time students are not graduating, a large number are unable to earn wages higher than the typical high school graduate, and many cannot pay back the loans they’ve taken out.

A Central Texas Driving Instructor Is Giving Lessons On Driving In The Rain

Dan Solomon:

The good people of Texas possess many skills. (Learn some of the ones you don’t currently possess by reading TexasMonthly.com editor-in-chief Andrea Valdez’s book How To Be A Texan!) One skill that does not appear in the pages of that volume, however, is “driving in the rain”—and with good reason. Texans stink at it. Boy, Texans stink at it.

Flying down the highway at a perfectly legal 85 miles per hour? We’re great at that when it’s dry. Enduring the mind-numbing gridlock found in Houston, Austin, Dallas, and San Antonio every single day? We do it with charm, class, and aplomb. But navigating a roadway when there’s so much as a simple drizzle falling from the sky is beyond the ken of the average Texan. We don’t intend to bash our beloved home, or our fellow Texans, but we owe it to ourselves to be honest about our shortcomings.

Oprah Winfrey, Ava DuVernay on the Push for “Inclusion” (Not Diversity), Tackling Black Lives Matter Beyond the “Hashtag”

Michael O’Connell:

“Everybody gets caught up in the slogan and the protest,” says Winfrey as she and DuVernay sit for a joint interview around TV series ‘Queen Sugar.’ Adds the director: “If you treat being black as a plight, it affects your creativity.”

“Don’t count on me, I’m one person,” says Ava DuVernay, with a light shrug that suggests she’s sorry to disappoint. “That’s not change. That’s an anomaly.”

She’s back in New Orleans, where she has spent a sizable portion of her spring filming the first 13 episodes of the forthcoming cable series Queen Sugar — a present-day drama about a family of sugarcane farmers in Louisiana — and the conversation has turned to Hollywood’s “diversity” problem. It is a word that she bemoans but a subject on which she has become the industry’s reluctant expert ever since her star-making turn as the director of 2014 Academy Award nominee Selma. In the nearly two years since, the former publicist has been courted for (and passed on) a Marvel superhero movie, inspired a Barbie doll of her likeness and, in signing on to direct Disney’s A Wrinkle in Time, will become the first woman of color tapped to helm a $100 million live-action movie. She adds with the kind of steely confidence that has earned her a bevy of followers (197,000 of them on Twitter) and a platform that commands the industry’s attention: “The fact that the mainstream starts to gaze at this space doesn’t make it a moment. It makes it a moment for them

Modeled Fetal Risk of Genetic Diseases Identified by Expanded Carrier Screening

Imran S. Haque, PhD; Gabriel A. Lazarin, MS; H. Peter Kang, MD; Eric A. Evans, PhD; James D. Goldberg, MD; Ronald J. Wapner, MD

Importance Screening for carrier status of a limited number of single-gene conditions is the current standard of prenatal care. Methods have become available allowing rapid expanded carrier screening for a substantial number of conditions.

Objectives To quantify the modeled risk of recessive conditions identifiable by an expanded carrier screening panel in individuals of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds and to compare the results with those from current screening recommendations.

Design, Setting, and Participants Retrospective modeling analysis of results between January 1, 2012, and July 15, 2015, from expanded carrier screening in reproductive-aged individuals without known indication for specific genetic testing, primarily from the United States. Tests were offered by clinicians providing reproductive care.

Exposures Individuals were tested for carrier status for up to 94 severe or profound conditions.

Main Outcomes and Measures Risk was defined as the probability that a hypothetical fetus created from a random pairing of individuals (within or across 15 self-reported racial/ethnic categories; there were 11 categories with >5000 samples) would be homozygous or compound heterozygous for 2 mutations presumed to cause severe or profound disease. Severe conditions were defined as those that if left untreated cause intellectual disability or a substantially shortened lifespan; profound conditions were those causing both.

How college kids party differently from everyone else

Christopher Ingraham:

The United States’ full-time college students are more likely to be heavy drinkers than young adults who aren’t enrolled in college, according to a new federal report. But they’re no more likely to experiment with other drugs, including marijuana, than other people their age. And college students are far less likely to smoke cigarettes than other young adults.

Those findings come from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), using data from the latest National Survey on Drug Use and Health. The survey found that roughly 59.8 percent of full-time college students ages 18 to 22 drank at least monthly, compared to 51.5 percent of young adults not in college. More strikingly, while only 17.9 percent of college students smoked cigarettes in the past month, a whopping 32.6 percent of young adults not in college were past-month cigarette smokers.

Does Globalization Hurt the Middle Class?

Jacqueline Varas

Donald Trump’s jobs plan is largely defined by his desire to overhaul U.S. trade policy. During an address at a metals recycling facility in Pennsylvania, the Republican nominee asserted that “globalization has wiped out our middle class.” To rebuild it, Trump proposed withdrawing from major trade deals including the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). He also argued that restricting trade would be a job creator. By imposing high taxes on imports, Trump pledged to increase domestic production and bring jobs back to the U.S.

On the opposite side of the aisle, Hilary Clinton is not far from Trump on this issue. She spoke at length about the weaknesses of trade during an economic policy speech last week. After declaring that “past trade deals have been sold to the American people with rosy scenarios that did not pan out,” she vowed to “stop any trade deal that kills jobs or holds down wages – including the Trans-Pacific Partnership.”

Both candidates maintain that they want to advance American prosperity. Each has also blamed trade for the economic woes of working class families. But is globalization really the culprit?

The materiality of university campuses: the role and significance of students’ union buildings

Rachel Brooks:

In the literature on higher education, there is an increasing emphasis on the importance of virtual spaces in terms of both pedagogic practice and wider aspects of university life. It has also been argued that online spaces, and social media in particular, are playing a key role in facilitating the political engagement of students. In our research on contemporary students’ unions, however, much greater emphasis was placed by our respondents (students’ union officials and senior institutional managers) upon the physical spaces of the campus than on the virtual spaces available to students and/or students’ union officials for both academic and social activities. Indeed, the students’ union building itself was discussed, at great length, by many of the students’ union officials and senior managers who participated in our focus groups. Several respondents described how changes had recently been made to the buildings used by the students’ union, which, they claimed, had had a positive effect. For senior managers at one of our higher education institutions (HEIs), for example, a shift to a more central location on campus was thought to have had a significant influence on the visibility of the union, and the propensity of others to engage with it:

Simple techniques for bridging the graphics language gap

Alan Smith:

As the Pew research suggests, education is important. In most countries, while students of particular subjects — for example, economics, mathematics or science — may spend time developing chart-making and chart-reading skills, there is no educational strategy for ensuring everyone does.

Even many of those who develop chart literacy suffer an inverse problem: most of the professional statisticians and economists I have worked with have never received any formal academic training on how to present complex information to non-expert audiences. Entire organisations can suffer from this two-way skills gap: researchers and policy analysts often find it difficult to communicate effectively with leaders, even if they are in acute need of support.

Mathematicians Are Overselling the Idea That “Math Is Everywhere”

Michael Barany

Most people never become mathematicians, but everyone has a stake in mathematics. Almost since the dawn of human civilization, societies have vested special authority in mathematical experts. The question of how and why the public should support elite mathematics remains as pertinent as ever, and in the last five centuries (especially the last two) it has been joined by the related question of what mathematics most members of the public should know.

Why does mathematics matter to society at large? Listen to mathematicians, policymakers, and educators and the answer seems unanimous: mathematics is everywhere, therefore everyone should care about it. Books and articles abound with examples of the math that their authors claim is hidden in every facet of everyday life or unlocks powerful truths and technologies that shape the fates of individuals and nations. Take math professor Jordan Ellenberg, author of the bestselling book How Not to Be Wrong, who asserts “you can find math everywhere you look.”

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Why the White Working Class Is Falling Behind

JD Vance:

Gowing up in Middletown, Ohio, we had no sense that failing to achieve higher education would bring shame or any other consequences. The message wasn’t explicit; teachers didn’t tell us that we were too stupid or poor to make it. Nevertheless, it was all around us, like the air we breathed: No one in our families had gone to college; older friends and siblings were perfectly content to stay in Middletown, regardless of their career prospects; we knew no one at a prestigious out-of-state school; and everyone knew at least one young adult who was underemployed or didn’t have a job at all. In Middletown, 20 percent of the public high school’s entering freshmen won’t make it to graduation. Most won’t graduate from college. Virtually no one will go to college out of state. Students don’t expect much from themselves, because the people around them don’t do very much. Many parents go along with this phenomenon.

I don’t remember ever being scolded for getting a bad grade until my grandmother (whom I called “Mamaw”) began to take an interest in my grades in high school. When my sister or I struggled in school, I’d overhear things like “Well, maybe she’s just not that great at fractions,” or “J.D.’s more of a numbers kid, so I wouldn’t worry about that spelling test.” There was, and still is, a sense that those who make it are of two varieties. The first are lucky: They come from wealthy families with connections, and their lives were set from the moment they were born. The second are the meritocratic: They were born with brains and couldn’t fail if they tried. Because very few in Middletown fall into the former category, people assume that everyone who makes it is just really smart. To the average Middletonian, hard work doesn’t matter as much as raw talent. It’s not like parents and teachers never mention hard work. Nor do they walk around loudly proclaiming that they expect their children to turn out poorly. These attitudes lurk below the surface, less in what people say than in how they act. One of our neighbors was a lifetime welfare recipient, but in between asking my grandmother to borrow her car or offering to trade food stamps for cash at a premium, she’d blather on about the importance of industriousness. “So many people abuse the system, it’s impossible for the hardworking people to get the help they need,” she’d say. This was the construct she’d built in her head: Most of the beneficiaries of the system were extravagant moochers, but she — despite never having worked in her life — was an obvious exception. People talk about hard work all the time in places like Middletown.

You can walk through a town where 30 percent of the young men work fewer than 20 hours a week and find not a single person aware of his own laziness. During the 2012 election cycle, the Public Religion Institute, a left-leaning think tank, published a report on working-class whites. It found, among other things, that working-class whites worked more hours than college-educated whites. But the idea that the average working-class white works more hours is demonstrably false. The Public Religion Institute based its results on surveys — essentially, they called around and asked people what they thought. The only thing that report proves is that many folks talk about working more than they actually work. Of course, the reasons poor people aren’t working as much as others are complicated, and it’s too easy to blame the problem on laziness. For many, part-time work is all they have access to, and their skills don’t fit well in the modern economy. But whatever the reasons, the rhetoric of hard work conflicts with the reality on the ground. The kids in Middletown absorb that conflict and struggle with it.

Today, it seems that Orwell’s 1984 would better have been titled 2016


Technical progress is often associated with moral and political regress, a theme as ancient as Hesiod’s seventh-century b.c. poem Works and Days.

In 200 b.c., not a male could vote freely in Hellenistic Greece, but the so-called Antikythera analogue computer could predict astronomical cycles in a way unimaginable 250 years earlier in Periclean Athens.

The uncanny ability to craft the great dome of Hagia Sophia did not imply that the people of Constantinople in a.d. 537 had retained many freedoms from the impoverished Roman Republic of 700 years earlier.

We are in such a period of rapid breakthroughs in technology, consumerism, and scientific advancement — equally matched by cultural, social, and political ruin.

Take the question of free speech. Fifty years ago leftist student activists — without iPads and Facebook pages — fought for “free speech areas” in university plazas where they could voice unpopular and even uncouth expression.

Not today.

Why Do We Prosecute Some People Whose Children Die In Hot Cars, But Not Others?

Dan Solomon:

On Friday, six-month-old Dillon Martinez was supposed to be at day care while his dad worked. The boy’s father drove to his job at the Helotes Walmart at 6:15 in the morning, and when he returned to the car at 3 p.m., he realized what had happened: He left the infant in the backseat. Police and paramedics were unable to revive Dillon.

The man—whose name hasn’t been officially released—was hospitalized with chest pains upon returning to the car, though reports indicate that he was cooperative with police during the chaotic scene. At this point, Dillon’s father hasn’t been arrested or charged with a crime—though there are plenty of people on social media and in comment sections without much empathy for the man.

Writing instruction in our schools is terrible. We need to fix it.

Jay Matthews:

Several years ago, I stopped reading the reports I frequently receive on “the future of education research” from many fine universities. Most education research has little or no relationship to important developments in schools, and it never will.

Thankfully, there are exceptions. The Education Trust, a nonprofit that advocates for students from low-income households, has been peeking recently at what is happening inside classrooms, an intrusion rarely done because it is expensive and tends to expose unattractive realities.

Related: Madison’s long term, disastrous reading results.

Eton and the making of a modern elite

Christopher de Bellaige:

One of Simon Henderson’s first decisions after taking over last summer as headmaster of Eton College was to move his office out of the labyrinthine, late-medieval centre of the school and into a corporate bunker that has been appended (“insensitively”, as an architectural historian might say) to a Victorian teaching block. Here, in classless, optimistic tones, Henderson lays out a vision of a formerly Olympian institution becoming a mirror of modern society, diversifying its intake so that anyone “from a poor boy at a primary school in the north of England to one from a great fee-paying prep school in the south” can aspire to be educated there (so long as he’s a he, of course), joyfully sharing expertise, teachers and facilities with the state sector – in short, striving “to be relevant and to contribute”. His aspiration that Eton should become an agent of social change is not one that many of his 70 predecessors in the job over the past six centuries would have shared; and it is somehow no surprise to hear that he has incurred the displeasure of some of the more traditionally minded boys by high-fiving them. What had happened, I wondered as I left the bunker, to the Eton I knew when I was a pupil in the late 1980s – a school so grand it didn’t care what anyone thought of it, a four-letter word for the Left, a source of pride for the Right, and a British brand to rival Marmite and King Arthur?

The Write Stuff: How the Humble Pencil Conquered the World

Jonathan Schifman:

Pencils aren’t just for the SATs. It is the go-to drawing tool of the carpenter and the architect, the cartoonist and the painter. We used pencils when we learned math in elementary school, and a graphite-filled piece of wood remains the implement of choice for anyone who needs to make a mark that is not permanent.

The pencil’s journey into your hand has been a 500-year process of discovery and invention. It began in the countryside of northern England, but a one-eyed balloonist from Napoleon Bonaparte’s army, one of America’s most famous philosophers, and some of the world’s most successful scientists and industrialists all have had a hand in the creation and refinement of this humble writing implement.

The Most Intolerant Wins: The Dictatorship of the Small Minority

Nassim Nicholas Taleb

The best example I know that gives insights into the functioning of a complex system is with the following situation. It suffices for an intransigent minority –a certain type of intransigent minorities –to reach a minutely small level, say three or four percent of the total population, for the entire population to have to submit to their preferences. Further, an optical illusion comes with the dominance of the minority: a naive observer would be under the impression that the choices and preferences are those of the majority. If it seems absurd, it is because our scientific intuitions aren’t calibrated for that (fughedabout scientific and academic intuitions and snap judgments; they don’t work and your standard intellectualization fails with complex systems, though not your grandmothers’ wisdom).

The Greatest Failure of Democratic Social Policy

Walter Russell Mead:

No program epitomized the boomer progressive synthesis better than the efforts to increase black homeownership launched by the Clinton administration in the 1990s. Using the power of Fannie Mae and a flexible mortgage market, instructions went out to help get more black and minority families in homes of their own.

There is nothing wrong with the idea in many ways. Home ownership has been the foundation of middle class prosperity and wealth accumulation for many American families: $12.5 trillion in home equity, most of it held by middle class households, provides financial security, dignity and stability to millions of American families. I have written at length about how the owner occupied home replaced the owner-occupied farm as the central institution of American life in the 20th century.

While some black families were able to take advantage of the opportunity, many more were not. From the start of the postwar boom through the 1960s, legal barriers kept blacks out of the housing market in many neighborhoods and subdivisions. Blacks who tried to move into white neighborhoods met with mob violence in some cases, but usually other obstacles kept them “in their place”. Banks discriminated against African American borrowers, “redlined” neighborhoods where blacks lived, and otherwise helped separate black Americans from the most successful middle class wealth creating mechanism in modern American history.

Civics: PACS, Money & Citizenship

Paul Jossey:

But any insurgent movement needs oxygen in the form of victories or other measured progress in order to sustain itself and grow. By sapping the Tea Party’s resources and energy, the PACs thwarted any hope of building the movement. Every dollar swallowed up in PAC overhead or vendor fees was a dollar that did not go to federal Tea Party candidates in crucial primaries or general elections. This allowed the GOP to easily defeat or ignore them (with some rare exceptions). Second, the PACs drained money especially from local Tea Party groups, some of which were actively trying to grow the movement electorally from the ground up, at the school board and city council level. Lacking results five years on, interest in the movement waned—all that was left were the PACs and their lists.

***

Any postmortem should start with the fact that there were always two Tea Parties. First were people who believe in constitutional conservatism. These folks sense the country they will leave their children and grandchildren is a shell of what they inherited. And they have little confidence the Republican Party can muster the courage or will to fix it.

Second were lawyers and consultants who read 2009’s political winds and saw a chance to get rich.

For 18 months ending in 2013, I worked for one of these consultants, Dan Backer, who has served as treasurer for dozens of PACs, many now defunct, through his law and consulting firm. I thus benefited from the Tea Party’s fleecing.

The PACs seem to operate through a familiar model. It works something like this: Prospects whose name appear on a vendor’s list get a phone call, email or glossy mailer from a group they’ve likely never heard of asking them for money. Conservative pundit and Redstate.com Editor-in-Chief Erick Erickson described one such encounter. A woman called and asked if she could play a taped message touting efforts to help Senators Rand Paul and Ted Cruz fight for conservative governance. When the recording stopped an older man (the woman was gone) offered Erickson the chance to join “the Tea Party.” He wouldn’t say who paid him, just “the Tea Party.” Membership was even half price. For just $100 he was in! Erickson declined.

Erickson’s call came from InfoCision or a similar vendor hired by PACs to “prospect” for new donors. Often PAC creators have financial interests in the vendors—in fact, sometimes they are the vendors, too—which makes keeping money in house easier, and harder to track. PAC names include “Tea Party,” “Patriots,” “Freedom,” or some other emotive term to assure benevolence. And names and images of political figures the prospects admire (or detest), usually accompany the solicitation, giving the illusion of imprimatur. Those people are almost never actually involved and little money ends up supporting candidates.

According to Federal Election Commission reports between 80 to 90 percent, and sometimes all the money these PACs get is swallowed in fees and poured into more prospecting. For example, conservative activist Larry Ward created Constitutional Rights PAC. He also runs Political Media, a communications firm. The New York Times reviewed Constitutional Rights’ filings and found: “Mr. Ward’s PAC spends every dollar it gets on consultants, mailings and fund-raising—making no donations to candidates.” Ward justified the arrangement by saying Political Media discounts solicitations on behalf of Constitutional Rights.

Let that sink in. Ward takes his PAC’s money and redistributes it to his company and other vendors for more messaging and solicitations, but suggests critics should rest easy since the PAC gets a discount on Political Media’s normal rate. Constitutional Rights PAC may be extreme but it’s hardly an outlier.

The Slow and Painful Death of Academic Freedom Continue reading >> The Slow and Painful Death of Academic Freedom

Robert Steinbuch:

A now-former university president once said to me: “the most important title in academia is professor.” Professors are supposed to be given appropriate deference and respect to make critical decisions regarding teaching, research, and service.

Schools are places of inquiry and experimentation. Professors individually manage their spaces. I have seen recurring instances of a growing problem in academia, however, wherein administrators view their roles more like kings than deans. Under this model, administrators not only advise, but also dictate. I’ve seen this phenomenon, and it’s not good. Last year, the National Jurist published an article I wrote critiquing a recent practice at some law schools, including my own, of having new students recite what I call loyalty oaths.

I submitted the link for inclusion in the section of my school’s website dedicated to faculty publications in periodicals. After some time, the Dean informed me that the link to my National Jurist article would not be posted on my school’s website — because my article would not help with student recruitment. Only after a colleague intervened, the Dean reversed himself. I received no explanation why my article then met the administration’s good grace.

How Can So Many Students Be Invisible? Large Percentages of American Students Perform Above Grade Level

Matthew C. Makel, Michael S. Matthews, Scott J. Peters, Karen Rambo-Hernandez, and Jonathan A. Plucker:

America’s K-12 education systems place students in grade levels by age and set performance expectations accordingly, using historical, average grade-level performance rather than any specific content students are expected to master7. This should not surprise us. Nearly all aspects of America’s schools are built upon age-based grade levels and corresponding grade-level expectations: standards, instruction, curriculum, and assessment, among others. Indeed, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), like the No Child Left Behind Act before it, has a strong grade-level framework running throughout its nearly 400 pages. The stated importance of “getting students to grade level” reinforces the implicit message that doing so is the primary purpose of schooling. This emphasis ignores an important question: How many students already perform one or more years above grade level on their first day of school?

The answer to this question has profound implications for American education policy and for the organization of schools. If a mere 2% of students perform above grade level, the present obsession with grade-level proficiency might make sense. But what if it were a far larger proportion? If one in every five students has surpassed that criterion before the school year even starts, policymakers would need to re-think the merits of an age-based, grade-level focus.

The purpose of this policy brief is to answer the following foundational question, which should be considered by policymakers and school administrators well before adopting curricula or assessments: How many students perform above grade level?

Before investigating, we canvassed colleagues and friends for their estimates of the percentage of students performing above grade level. Our queries were generally met with bemused silence, followed by hesitant (and quite wide-ranging) estimates, and ended with comments such as, “That seems like a question we should be able to answer, but I just don’t know.”

Prior research in this area is limited. Two data points stand out: textbook and curriculum analyses suggest that intellectual rigor declined significantly over the last hundred years;8 the National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented found that teachers, using pre-testing strategies, could eliminate 40-50% of the existing curriculum for advanced elementary school students without causing achievement declines on out-of-level standardized tests.9 The authors noted, “Targeted students had mastered some material in all content areas prior to instruction; at a minimum, they demonstrated mastery of one-fourth of the curriculum for the year before it was taught” (p. 81). A few students in the same study had mastered three-quarters of the upcoming year’s curriculum. This research and related studies suggest that the regular classroom routinely under-challenges advanced students. This work does not, however, provide insight into the matter at hand: How many K-12 students perform above grade level?

Defending the humanities in a skills-obsessed university

L.D. Burnett:

A few years after I graduated from college, short on cash, short on space, and short on hope that I might ever again spend at least part of my days reading and writing and thinking, I made a decision that I have wished many times I could take back: I sold almost all of my textbooks.

The overpriced and understudied behemoth from “Intro to Econ” was easy to part with. And my well-used grammar and exercise books from French I and II? How useful could they be in our tiny apartment, on our tiny budget, with me staying home to take care of our tiny baby? In such straitened circumstances, I didn’t need those books taking up room in my life; I needed whatever money they might bring.

But those were not the only books I culled from my little library. I gathered up Robert Lowell and Alice Walker, Edmund Spenser and Harriet Beecher Stowe, Lucretius and Virginia Woolf, Lorraine Hansberry and Aristotle, Montaigne and Nietzsche, Flaubert, Boethius and Baudelaire, and many others besides — most of them authors I had never so much as heard of before I set foot on the Stanford campus.

‘Junkie’ in the Joint

Mikita Brottman

It was at this time that I discovered William Burroughs’s Junkie (original subtitle: Confessions of an Unredeemed Drug Addict). I knew literature didn’t always have to focus on rich people, or even the middle classes — I’d encountered the noble poor in Charles Dickens, George Eliot, and Thomas Hardy, and I’d read about the not-so-noble poor in George Orwell and H.G. Wells — but until then I’d never read literature that involved the kind of people Burroughs writes about. I loved horror stories but had read only the kind that elevate ordinary nastiness, making it lofty and supernatural. Junkie does just the opposite, grinding your face in the dirt.

During my first sabbatical year, I started a reading group in a men’s prison outside Baltimore and chose Junkie as one of our books because I thought the inmates would be interested in the unflinching description of the addict’s underworld. Many of these men had been addicts or dealers, and I was curious whether they would recognize themselves in Burroughs’s world.

Intellectuals are Freaks

Michael Lind

Intellectuals — a category that includes academics, opinion journalists, and think tank experts — are freaks. I do not mean that in a disrespectful way. I myself have spent most of my life in one of the three roles mentioned above. I have even been accused of being a “public intellectual,” which sounds too much like “public nuisance” or even “public enemy” for my taste.

My point is that people who specialize in the life of ideas tend to be extremely atypical of their societies. They — we — are freaks in a statistical sense. For generations, populists of various kinds have argued that intellectuals are unworldly individuals out of touch with the experiences and values of most of their fellow citizens. While anti-intellectual populists have often been wrong about the gold standard or the single tax or other issues, by and large they have been right about intellectuals.

Why more black parents are home-schooling their kids

Patrick Jonsson:

Nikita Bush comes from a family of public school teachers: Her mom, aunts, uncles – nearly all of them have been involved in public education at some level.

But her own teaching career ended, she says, “in heartbreak” when she had to make a decision about where her own child would go to school.
After being reprimanded repeatedly for folding Afro-centric education into her Atlanta classroom, she left. Fifteen years and six children later, Ms. Bush leads a growing homeschooling co-op near Atlanta’s historic West End neighborhood.

How VR Will Change Sports. And How It Won’t

Mary Pilon:

On a recent afternoon at Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab, in a dark, windowless, carpeted room, a group of visitors took turns playing on the school’s football team.
Under the protective watch of two lab assistants, I and my fellow visitors each strapped a set of virtual reality goggles to our faces. I listened as my newfound teammates, dressed in crisp white and red jerseys, talked through their plays.

I swiveled my head up to gaze at the blue California skies. When it came time to play, I shuffled my feet to dodge an oncoming athlete and to charge at a foe; and my arms swung as I tried to make myself open for a pass. The experience was tense and exciting, but also jarring; I constantly felt on the cusp of meeting the real-life ground below me.

27 children shot in Chicago this year: ‘Little kids getting shot out there is just stupid’

Elvia Malagon , Rosemary Regina Sobol and Alexandra Chachkevitch:

Her hair braided carefully around a white bandage, 6-year-old Zariah McCray-Muhammad held onto her mother with one hand and a dozen balloons with the other as she returned home in Chatham Sunday, three days after being shot in the head.

Hours later, about six miles away, 6-year-old India Tucker just got back from the beach when two young men stepped out of a gangway, shouted a gang slogan and opened fire, according to police and her family. India was hit in the right arm, breaking a bone.

Why Did Black Lives Matter and the NAACP Call for an End to More Charter Schools?

Kristin Rizga:

A few weeks ago, the Movement for Black Lives, the network that also includes Black Lives Matter organizers, released its first-ever policy agenda. Among the organization’s six demands and dozens of policy recommendations was a bold education-related stance: a moratorium on both charter schools and public school closures. Charters, the agenda argues, represent a shift of public funds and control over to private entities. Along with “an end to the privatization of education,” the Movement for Black Lives organizers are demanding increased investments in traditional community schools and the health and social services they provide.

The statement came several weeks after another civil rights titan, the NAACP, also passed a resolution, calling for a freeze on the growth of charter schools. The NAACP had equated charters with privatization in previous resolutions, but this year’s statement—which will not become policy until the National Board meeting in the fall—represents the strongest anti-charter language to date, according to Julian Vasquez Heilig, a professor of education leadership and education chair of the NAACP’s California State Conference. “The NAACP is really concerned about unregulated growth of charter schools, and says it’s time to pause and take stock,” says Vasquez Heilig, who posted a copy of the resolution on his blog.

Student test scores: How the sausage is made and why you should care

Brian Jacob:

Testing is ubiquitous in education. From placement in specialized classes to college admissions, standardized exams play a large role in a child’s educational career. The introduction of the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation in 2001, which required states to test all students in grades 3-8 in reading and math, dramatically increased the prevalence and use of test scores for education policymaking.

Contrary to popular belief, all modern cognitive assessments—including the new Common Core tests—produce test scores based on sophisticated statistical models rather than the simple percent of items a student answers correctly. There are good reasons for this, as explained below. The downside is that what we see as consumers of test scores depends on decisions made by the designers of the tests about characteristics of those models and their implementation. These details are typically hidden in dense technical documentation, if publicly available at all.

Claremont students refuse to live with whites

Elliot Dordick:

A group of students at the Claremont Colleges in search of a roommate insist that the roommate not be white.

Student Karé Ureña (PZ ’18) posted on Facebook that non-white students in need of housing arrangements should reach out to either her or two other students with whom she plans to live in an off-campus house. The post states that “POC [people of color] only” will be considered for this living opportunity. “I don’t want to live with any white folks,” Ureña added.

“This is directed to protect POC, not white people. Don’t see how this is racist at all…”

Dalia Zada (PZ ’18) expressed concerns to the anti-white discrimination. “‘POC only?’ Maybe I’m missing something or misunderstanding your post, but how is that not a racist thing to say?”

“This is directed to protect POC, not white people. Don’t see how this is racist at all…” responded AJ León (PZ ’18), a member of the Pitzer Latino Student Union.

“People of color are allowed to create safe POC only spaces. It is not reverse racism or discriminatory, it is self preservation [sic],” Sara Roschdi (PZ ’17), another Pitzer Latino Student Union member, stated. “Reverse racism isn’t a thing.”

Why We’re Post-Fact

Peter Pomerantsev:

As his army blatantly annexed Crimea, Vladimir Putin went on TV and, with a smirk, told the world there were no Russian soldiers in Ukraine. He wasn’t lying so much as saying the truth doesn’t matter. And when Donald Trump makes up facts on a whim, claims that he saw thousands of Muslims in New Jersey cheering the Twin Towers coming down, or that the Mexican government purposefully sends ‘bad’ immigrants to the US, when fact-checking agencies rate 78% of his statements untrue but he still becomes a US Presidential candidate – then it appears that facts no longer matter much in the land of the free. When the Brexit campaign announces ‘Let’s give our NHS the £350 million the EU takes every week’ and, on winning the referendum, the claim is shrugged off as a ‘mistake’ by one Brexit leader while another explains it as ‘an aspiration’, then it’s clear we are living in a ‘post-fact’ or ‘post-truth’ world. Not merely a world where politicians and media lie – they have always lied – but one where they don’t care whether they tell the truth or not.

How did we get here? Is it due to technology? Economic globalisation? The culmination of the history of philosophy? There is some sort of teenage joy in throwing off the weight of facts – those heavy symbols of education and authority, reminders of our place and limitations – but why is this rebellion happening right now?

How the Government Is Waging Crypto War 2.0

Daniel Oberhaus:

On December 2, 2015, Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik entered the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, California and opened fire on the attendees of a holiday party underway inside. After four minutes of shooting, the married couple fled the scene and left 19 dead in their wake. At the time, it was the deadliest act of terrorism in the United States since 9/11.

Farook and Malik were both killed in a shootout with authorities later that day, and in the weeks that followed the tragedy, it became apparent that this act of terrorism was an inciting incident in the renewal of another war which began over 20 years ago. This war, however, is only tangentially related to religiously motivated terrorism. Rather, its frontline combatants are programmers and hackers, the battlefield is cyberspace and the munitions are lines of code.

It is Crypto War 2.0, and its outcome will affect every internet user on Earth, for better or worse.

Civics: How Global Elites Forsake Their Countrymen Those in power see people at the bottom as aliens whose bizarre emotions they must try to manage.

Peggy Noonan:

with a story that I haven’t seen in the mainstream press. This week the Daily Caller’s Peter Hasson reported that recent Syrian refugees being resettled in Virginia, were sent to the state’s poorest communities. Data from the State Department showed that almost all Virginia’s refugees since October “have been placed in towns with lower incomes and higher poverty rates, hours away from the wealthy suburbs outside of Washington, D.C.” Of 121 refugees, 112 were placed in communities at least 100 miles from the nation’s capital. The suburban counties of Fairfax, Loudoun and Arlington—among the wealthiest in the nation, and home to high concentrations of those who create, and populate, government and the media—have received only nine refugees.

Children are being Tasered by school-based police officers. No one knows how often it’s happening or what impact it’s having on students.

Rebecca Klein:

Knightdale, N.C. — It was just a dumb fight. Two boys, both juniors, stood in the hallway discussing a classic teenage hypothetical: whether one of them could win in a fight against another student. But when one of the teens, Scott, said he didn’t think his friend could win, things turned personal.

They flung curse words back and forth that Thursday morning in March, lurching through the hallway of Knightdale High School, slamming into a row of lockers and tripping over a trashcan. A video shot by another student shows a teacher breaking up the fight after a few seconds, and both teens ending up on the ground, hurt only in pride.

Choosing Between Sports And Academics

Thomas Donlan:

Knocking five-hundredths of a second off a world-record race time, adding five inches to a world-record height, or lifting five more kilograms beyond a world record are minor accomplishments in every sense except two: the amount of time and effort required of the winning and losing athletes, and the amount of money wasted in building new facilities for each new Olympic Games, most of which aren’t used much afterward.

It still could be worthwhile if Olympians went on to new excellence after their last time on the podium. But that is rare, unless we count those who become coaches for the next generation of academic dropouts.

Protecting privacy in genomic databases

Larry Hardesty

Genome-wide association studies, which try to find correlations between particular genetic variations and disease diagnoses, are a staple of modern medical research.

But because they depend on databases that contain people’s medical histories, they carry privacy risks. An attacker armed with genetic information about someone — from, say, a skin sample — could query a database for that person’s medical data. Even without the skin sample, an attacker who was permitted to make repeated queries, each informed by the results of the last, could, in principle, extract private data from the database.

In the latest issue of the journal Cell Systems, researchers from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and Indiana University at Bloomington describe a new system that permits database queries for genome-wide association studies but reduces the chances of privacy compromises to almost zero.

Algorithmic Bias: from discrimination discovery to fairness-aware data mining

Sata Hajaian, Carlos Castillo & Francesco Bianchi:

Algorithms and decision making based on Big Data have become pervasive in all aspects of our daily (offline and online) lives, as they have become essential tools in personal finance, health care, hiring, housing, education, and policies. Data and algorithms determine the media we consume, the stories we read, the people we meet, the places we visit, but also whether we get a job, or whether our loan request is approved. It is therefore of societal and ethical importance to ask whether these algorithms can be discriminative on grounds, such as gender, ethnicity, marital or health status. It turns out that the answer is positive: for instance, recent studies have shown that Google’s online advertising system displayed ads for high-income jobs to men much more often than it did to women; and ads for arrest records were significantly more likely to show up on searches for distinctively black names or a historically black fraternity.

Can 42 US, a free coding school run by a French billionaire, actually work?

Cyrus Farivar

Eventually we were led to Brittany Bir, the school’s chief operating officer. She tried to answer our most fundamental question: why offer a free coding school?

“I do know that what [Niel] has been very interested in doing is to fill this gap that we have with Web developers to get projects to advance so that we can continue to evolve as a society and a community together,” she said.

“If we put up barriers to education with money or with backgrounds, that means there are innovative talents and individuals that are not able to have access to education. So the idea behind 42 is to create an opportunity where individuals from all different kinds of backgrounds, all different kinds of financial backgrounds, can come and have access to this kind of education so that then we can have new kinds of ideas. Because in order to innovate, you need to have new people who think differently.”

For now, the school clearly needs to do much more outreach, particularly to women: when we visited, 81 percent of the students were men.

“We’re only limited by the amount of women that want to apply to the program,” she said. “For us, we’re more than willing to take in more women, but more need to apply.”

Jump in, the water’s fine

Genetics And Sports

Jon Entine:

Is this running’s “smoking gun” gene? No. Sports ability, like IQ, is the product of many genes with environmental triggers influencing the “expression” of our base DNA. But its isolation does underscore that when it comes to performance, genes circumscribe possibility.

As UCLA professor Jared Diamond has noted, “Even today, few scientists dare to study racial origins, lest they be branded racists just for being interested in the subject.”

But we have no choice but to face this third rail of genetics and sports. Over the past decade, human genome research has moved from a study of human similarities to a focus on patterned based differences. Such research offers clues to solving the mystery of diseases, the Holy Grail of genetics.

Curated Education Information