Google Offers User Location Data to Health Officials Tackling Coronavirus

Rob Copeland:

Google will help public health officials use its vast storage of data to track people’s movements amid the coronavirus pandemic, in what the company called an effort to assist in unprecedented times.

The initiative, introduced by the company late Thursday, uses a portion of the information that the search giant has collected on users, including through Google Maps, to create reports on the degree to which locales are abiding by social-distancing measures. The “mobility reports” will be posted publicly and show, for instance.

Many taxpayer supported K-12 school districts use Google services, including Madison.

The Dangers of Moving All of Democracy Online

Marion Fourcade & Henry Farrell:

GOVERNMENTS AROUND THE world are struggling to deal with the public health and economic challenges of coronavirus. While many have pointed to how authoritarian regimes exacerbated the pandemic, we’ve so far paid dangerously little attention to coronavirus’s challenge to democracy.

In a democracy, citizens need to be able to vote, politicians to deliberate, and people to move about, meet, and act collectively. Democratic politics is a mixture of mass involvement and endless meetings. All this is hard when people can be infected with a potentially deadly virus if someone simply coughs nearby. The obvious answer might seem to be to move democracy to the internet, but some parts of democracy translate badly to an online world, while others are already being undermined by emergency powers (for example, Hungary’s parliament just passed a law that allows the prime minister to rule by decree) and by the rise of digital surveillance.

If people have to vote in person, they might catch coronavirus from queuing, pressing buttons, or handing ballots to election officials. No wonder 14 US presidential primaries have been postponed so far. But not postponing elections in the midst of the crisis has been just as controversial, since the resulting vote is likely to see a dramatic reduction in turnout (as did France’s first round municipal elections, and as is feared in the Polish presidential election this May).

Returning to one small schoolroom in the country, 1955 (part #1)

David Blaska:

We are in the midst (and we hope, not the beginning) of a history-making coronavirus pandemic that could well change America forever, in ways not yet apparent. Will distance learning become the new normal? America work from home? Sporting events in front of the cameras only? Has the simple handshake gone the way of the spittoon? 

In my youth, we thought we would never see as much change as our grandparents, who were 18 years old when the Wrights took flight. Now I realize my generation has seen as much history as they. We admire the scenery of a chosen street in Prague using Google Earth and peered down from the moon. We have put a birth date on the universe’s origin and mapped out genomes, the building blocks of life. We had our own wars but different, against stateless terrorists.

Pardon, therefore, this Old Settler if he recounts a little history of his own. It is of the quotidian kind but so was The World of Yesterday, a Jewish kid growing up in pre-WW1 Vienna. (We’ll concede Stefan Zweig has greater literary merit.) But in many ways, so much remains the same.

Civics: The FBI Can’t Be Trusted With the Surveillance of Americans

Eli Lake:

For years, we civil libertarians were told that our concerns about the secret court that oversees the FBI’s applications to monitor U.S. citizens were overblown. So what if the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court approved more than 99% of all applications. The bureau and Justice Department must follow an onerous process, we were assured, that protects innocent citizens from being snooped on by their government.

Those assurances, as it turns out, were not very reliable. On Tuesday, the Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz issued a new report that found systematic errors of fact in the FBI’s applications for warrants under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The memo does not speak to the materiality or significance of those errors — but they are startling nonetheless.

Out of 42 applications, the report says, 39 included major defects. All told, the inspector general uncovered 390 deficiencies, including “unverified, inaccurate, or inadequately supported facts, as well as typographical errors.”

The memo follows the report Horowitz issued in December that reviewed four FISA warrants for Carter Page, a former foreign policy adviser to then-candidate Donald Trump’s 2106 presidential campaign. The bureau suspected him of being a Russian agent, but the report found that it repeatedly relied on an opposition research dossier to persuade the secret court to renew the surveillance warrant even after agents knew the dossier was riddled with errors. Rules that have been in place for nearly 20 years to verify the accuracy of facts presented in the warrant and include exculpatory information, known as the Woods procedures, were ignored.

The December report was a black eye for the bureau. It prompted one judge on the surveillance court to reprimand the agents involved in the Page applications, temporarily barring them from appearing before it.

Those applications were so troubling that Horowitz launched an audit of how the FBI was complying with its own rules in all FISA applications between October 2014 and September 2019. His conclusion is straightforward. “We do not have confidence that the FBI has executed its Woods procedures in compliance with FBI policy,” the report says.

The Woods procedures are crucial because the surveillance court is unlike other U.S. courts. For obvious reasons, it does not operate under the adversarial system, whereby a lawyer representing the suspected spy or terrorist can challenge the government’s evidence. Instead, the court itself is supposed to provide special scrutiny to the prosecution’s case — but as the Page fiasco showed, it is in no position to do so.

Student Town Hall

Boston Globe:

Students of all ages are navigating uncharted territory during an unprecedented time in history as the coronavirus crisis forces schools to close and students to adjust to new and uncertain routines. Facing a migration to virtual learning environments, the loss of access to critical in-school resources, and the disruption of their social lives, students may be feeling more disconnected than ever. 

Join reporters from the Boston Globe in a weekly virtual town hall organized in collaboration with area students. These virtual forums will create space for students to share their experiences, connect with peers, pose questions to an adult support network, and offer their own suggestions and ideas on how they would like to see their schools and communities support them at this time.

China, coronavirus and surveillance: the messy reality of personal data

Yuan Yang, Nian Liu, Sue-Lin Wong and Qianer Liu:

Three days after the Chinese government locked down Hubei, the province at the centre of the coronavirus outbreak, a local government official more than 1,000km away received data from telecoms carriers alerting her to a list of people who had left Hubei and entered her town.

The data included traces of the estimated locations of users’ mobile phones, showing that many had driven back along the highways from Hubei to Guangdong province in southern China, where the official works in a small town. The location data helped the official’s team “more or less” pin down everyone who came back from Hubei, she said. 

But for another Guangdong town, the information it was able to get hold of was much less comprehensive.

“We did identify one man from Hubei on the list who was high-risk. We searched everywhere for him but just couldn’t track him down,” a second official told the Financial Times, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“Credentials alone no longer make one credible”

Gregory Kaebnick:

This is where Fauci shines. He’s showing us how to be not just trustworthy but actually trusted.

The role is still fundamentally about providing accurate information. Fauci is fighting the outbreak with “the sledgehammer of truth,” as the Washington Post columnist Karen Tumulty put it—helping everyone to understand the real dimensions of the problem in spite of widespread misinformation and politics-driven fact-spinning.

But what makes him so helpful and credible has to do with how he provides the information, and what’s especially powerful about his approach is that he’s more or less the opposite of a sledgehammer. He is grounded in humility and humanity: he uses plain language; he admits uncertainties and failings; he seems to be at pains to say that he has a special perspective, “as a scientist,” rather than the only possibly useful view; he refuses to make the science overtly political; he is gracious and cautious when offering corrections.

In the midst of this transformation, what it means to be an expert has also changed. At one time, one could qualify as an expert just by being particularly smart or well educated about a technical topic and having been anointed as an expert by other experts, like university officials or political leaders. Think of 1950s scientists and doctors whose lab coats signified their training and the respect and deference they deserved.

Today, more is required. To qualify as an expert is to meet the criteria for a special social role, and nowadays, having the requisite knowledge, ability and recognition is only part of what one needs. Credentials alone no longer make one credible.

This is where Fauci shines. He’s showing us how to be not just trustworthy but actually trusted.

The role is still fundamentally about providing accurate information. Fauci is fighting the outbreak with “the sledgehammer of truth,” as the Washington Post columnist Karen Tumulty put it—helping everyone to understand the real dimensions of the problem in spite of widespread misinformation and politics-driven fact-spinning.

But what makes him so helpful and credible has to do with how he provides the information, and what’s especially powerful about his approach is that he’s more or less the opposite of a sledgehammer. He is grounded in humility and humanity: he uses plain language; he admits uncertainties and failings; he seems to be at pains to say that he has a special perspective, “as a scientist,” rather than the only possibly useful view; he refuses to make the science overtly political; he is gracious and cautious when offering corrections.

Rather different than “we know best“.

“The last shall be first and the first shall be last”. – duckduckgo links.

Commentary on Student Teaching amidst remote necessity

Scott Girard:

Strehlow said the school has offered her cohort three options: submit the edTPA to Pearson as they would normally; submit the edTPA to UW and receive approval from the school; or come up with an alternative self-assessment with the UW staff to demonstrate their fitness for licensure. She is planning to submit her edTPA to Pearson as she would have anyway, because she’s heard that will be necessary if she ever plans to teach outside of Wisconsin.

Owenby said students are working with their partner teacher on the transition to online learning, and Strehlow said she and her partner teacher at Lincoln are doing their best to collaborate as they work in an unfamiliar setting.

“Still trying to navigate a place where we can slowly start to become those lead teachers, but also at the same time this is brand new territory for everybody,” Strehlow said. “It’s just like, ‘Oh my gosh, we just need to figure out what’s going to happen Monday.

We Are All Homeschoolers Now COVID-19 will bring about an education reevaluation, if not revolution.

Jeremy Lott:

School is out for the year in most locales. More innovative districts are retooling like crazy and trying to do online classes. Parents are looking for cheap or free resources to do the job and keep their kids occupied during our enforced isolation.

Now that we’re out the money and have to take care of the kids, reassessment is going to happen.

In short, we are all homeschoolers now. Expect that to be much more the case next school year, as enough parents who were forced to try it either a) like it and decide to keep this knowledge train rolling or b) don’t believe the schools are safe enough to send their kids back into and so suck it up.

This will create knock-on problems for public schools certainly, and also for private schools.

Kids go to school for six-plus hours a day, but a lot of that time is wasted. In most cases, you could run through the lessons in about two hours. Parents are seeing that now.

Expanding Course Access (SB 789) Will Empower Families for Post-COVID Education

CJ Szafir and Libby Sobic:

SB 789, which improves upon the outdated “Part-Time Open Enrollment” program — allows any elementary, middle, or high school student to take up to two courses at any other school, including public, public charter, and private. And this happens all without the student ever dis-enrolling from their school. This could allow students to take courses at any nearby school “in-person” — or at a school across the state “virtually.” SB 789, led by Senator Alberta Darling and Representative Jeremy Thiesfeldt, received bipartisan support in its passage in the Assembly and now awaits a vote in the Senate.

Even before COVID, Wisconsin had a course access problem. Too many students in rural and urban K-12 schools simply do not have access to important courses. 60% of public high schools in Wisconsin do not offer intro computer science. Surveying AP courses offered at all traditional Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) high schools, 95% do not offer computer science, 84% do not offer economics, and 84% do not offer physics. In Northeastern Wisconsin, a survey of high schools found that 100% do not offer Spanish or economics, and 78% do not offer government or computer science. All of this is directly related to Wisconsin’s K-12 educational woes — struggling urban and rural schools, major racial achievement gaps, and too many graduates not equipped for the workforce.


Related: credit for non-MMSD courses.

Higher Education Will Never Be the Same—And That’s Not All Bad

Robert Wright:

Many colleges and universities will evidently have to tighten their belts for some time. Counterintuitively, it would be the lack of resources rather than a surfeit of them that could spur positive change among our very costly but not very effective schools.

Business, education, and policy leaders tend to think in terms of inputs. Achieving goal X will require inputs that cost at least a certain amount. That common approach, which often spends more than anticipated for something less than the stated goal, will be forestalled for the foreseeable future. Budgets will be tight at public and private schools (the former due to state government budget cuts and the latter due to endowment and donation losses because of the stock market crash). Planned educational “essentials” like rock climbing walls, expanded sports stadiums, and new buildings for administrators will have to be put on hold and possibly canceled altogether.

If, as seems likely, a recession or depression hits, student applications may well increase. They have in previous downturns because people who are out of work have a lower opportunity cost of time. But schools shouldn’t count on revenues increasing since many applicants will need more financial aid than they previously would have. In addition, universities that are reliant on foreign students (who often pay full tuition) will be stressed due to travel restrictions and cautious parents keeping their children closer to home.

On the plus side, biology and nursing departments and medical schools may find themselves flush with grants and donations—but likely at the expense of other programs. Universities may urge private donors left on the fence by the stock market crash to donate to promote public health education and research, money that pre-COVID-19 would have gone to general, or other specific, ends.

Introducing 1.1.1.1 for Families

Matthew Prince:

Since launching 1.1.1.1, the number one request we have received is to provide a version of the product that automatically filters out bad sites. While 1.1.1.1 can safeguard user privacy and optimize efficiency, it is designed for direct, fast DNS resolution, not for blocking or filtering content. The requests we’ve received largely come from home users who want to ensure that they have a measure of protection from security threats and can keep adult content from being accessed by their kids. Today, we’re happy to answer those requests.

Introducing 1.1.1.1 for Families — the easiest way to add a layer of protection to your home network and protect it from malware and adult content. 1.1.1.1 for Families leverages Cloudflare’s global network to ensure that it is fast and secure around the world. And it includes the same strong privacy guarantees that we committed to when we launched 1.1.1.1 two years ago. And, just like 1.1.1.1, we’re providing it for free and it’s for any home anywhere in the world.

More, here.

Yale comes under fire at New Haven budget meeting

Mackenzie Hawkins:

In place of the standing-room-only budget meetings normally held in the Board of Alders Chamber, New Haven residents filled the city’s Zoom budget meeting to capacity on Monday. While the venue was different, this year’s budget negotiations featured a recurring theme: that Yale fails to meet its moral — and financial — obligations to the Elm City.

Amid the COVID-19 public health crisis, New Haven’s annual budget negotiations labor on. Mayor Justin Elicker said last week that the novel coronavirus outbreak will affect the budget process and outcome in ways yet to be determined, as the pandemic has put additional pressure on a city already in fiscal crisis. At Monday’s public hearing, scores of New Haven residents — some of whom are affiliated with the University — identified another strain on the municipal budget: Yale. Many said that COVID-19 has only exacerbated existing issues in the city, underscoring that today’s problems are symptoms of Yale’s long-standing failure to adequately contribute to New Haven.

“Our communities have always been in crisis,” West Haven resident Briyana Mondesir said. “Right now, we are just in a deeper and more widespread sense of emergency.”

Ted Chiang on how we may never go “back to normal”—and why that might be a good thing

Halimah Marcus:

TC: The familiar is always comfortable, but we need to make a distinction between what is actually desirable and what is simply what we’re accustomed to; sometimes those are the same, and sometimes they are not. The people who are the happiest with the status quo are the ones who benefit most from it, which is why the wealthy are usually conservative; the existing order works to their advantage. For example, right now there’s a discussion taking place about canceling student debt, and a related discussion about why there is such a difference in the type of financial relief available to individuals as opposed to giant corporations. The people who will be happiest to return to our existing system of debt are the ones who benefit from it, and making them uncomfortable might be a good idea.

Civics: Justice Department audit finds widespread flaws in FBI surveillance

Josh Gerstein:

A Justice Department audit of the FBI’s use of secret surveillance warrants has found widespread problems with the law enforcement agency’s process for ensuring that all claims it makes to judges to get the warrants are backed up by facts.

The finding of broader failings in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act program came in a review launched by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz after an earlier inquiry found numerous errors in applications for surveillance for former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page.

In a bid to assess whether the faults in the Page’s surveillance process were an aberration or a chronic problem, Horowitz’s audit team zeroed in on 29 applications for surveillance on U.S. citizens or green-card holders over a five year period and whether the so-called “Woods procedures” for justifying an application were properly followed.

What Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice Teaches Readers

Karen Swallow Prior :

Before she was a writer, Jane Austen was a reader. A reader, moreover, within a family of readers, who would gather in her father’s rectory to read aloud from the work of authors such as Samuel Johnson, Frances Burney, and William Cowper—as well as, eventually, Jane’s own works-in-progress.

Not surprisingly, then, in Austen’s novels, the act of reading is a key indication of how a character should initially be judged, and of major turning points in her development. For Austen, the way a character reads is emblematic of other forms of interpretation: One’s skills in comprehending written language are linked to one’s ability to understand life, other people, and oneself.

Characters’ choices of books are a frequent target of Austen’s satire. Persuasion, for example, opens with a vignette that might otherwise seem insignificant: the reading habits of the protagonist’s father, Sir Walter Elliot, who “for his own amusement, never took up any book” except one—the record of British families that contains his own lineage. In Pride and Prejudice, the insufferable clergyman Mr. Collins chooses to orate from James Fordyce’s Sermons to Young Women one afternoon because (as he piously proclaims) he abstains from novels. This episode clearly represents what Henry Tilney, Catherine Morland’s love interest in Northanger Abbey, means when he says, “The person … who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.” On the other hand, Catherine’s friend Isabella Thorpe takes great pleasure in novels—but not high-quality ones. Accordingly, Isabella’s character turns out to be as excessive, hyperbolic, dramatic, and deceptive as the Gothic tales she recommends to Catherine.

Penguin Classics and Others Work to Diversify Offerings From the Canon

Concepción de León

When the playwright and filmmaker Kathleen Collins’s short stories were published in 2016, nearly 30 years after her death in 1988, they were called a “revelation.” The stories, deeply moving and autobiographical, had been locked in a trunk untouched for decades, along with a trove of other work, until Collins’s daughter, Nina Lorez Collins, took on the task of bringing them to light.

At first, Ms. Collins said, she thought no one would publish these “literary short stories by an unknown dead black woman.” But in 2016, Ecco released them in a collection titled “Whatever Happened to Interracial Love?,” which was met with widespread acclaim. Elizabeth Alexander, in the book’s introduction, compared finding Collins’s stories to discovering Atlantis.

The revival of Collins’s work is part of a larger trend of recently released titles by authors who were previously marginalized or entirely lost to history. Some of these books are being published for the first time ever (like “Romance in Marseille,” by Claude McKay, and “Barracoon,” by Zora Neale Hurston), while others are being resurfaced for new generations, such as “The Street,” by Ann Petry.

Coronavirus: The good that can come out of an upside-down world

Matthew Syed:

Our world has changed immensely in the last few weeks but amid the upheaval and distress, there are reasons to believe we can emerge from the crisis with some human qualities enhanced, writes Matthew Syed.

A few years ago, Michael Michalko, a former US army officer, came up with a fascinating idea to sharpen creativity. He called it “assumption reversal”. You take the core notions in any context, subject, discipline and then, well, turn them on their head.

So, suppose you are thinking of starting a restaurant (obviously not possible right now!). The first assumption might be: “restaurants have menus”. The reversal would be: “restaurants have no menus”. This provokes the idea of a chef informing each customer what he bought that day at market, allowing them to select a customised dish. The point is not that this will turn out to be a workable scheme, but that by disrupting conventional thought patterns, it might lead to new associations and ideas.

Or, to take a different example, suppose you are considering a new taxi company. The first assumption might be: “taxi companies own cars”. The reversal would be: “taxi companies own no cars”. Twenty years ago, that might have sounded crazy. Today, the largest taxi company that has ever existed doesn’t own cars: Uber. Now we are living through a disruption (you might even call it a reversal) of unprecedented scale.

With videos, phone calls and food deliveries, Milwaukee Public Schools teachers stay connected with families during shutdown

:

In addition to academics, schools are where many students are fed two meals a day, where they receive mental health services to counter the often daily trauma of their lives, where they have safe places to stay and play after school and where their families get connected to vital resources in their community.

Now, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, which has closed schools in Wisconsin and across the country, many of the district’s staff and even volunteers are trying to maintain that lifeline under what most would have considered unimaginable circumstances just a few weeks ago.

“Milwaukee Public Schools and the people who work there are really trying to … function as a social safety net for students and families because there aren’t enough,” said Amy Mizialko, president of the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association.

Zoom Meetings Aren’t End-to-End Encrypted, Despite Misleading Marketing

Micah Lee & Yael Grauer:

ZOOM, THE video conferencing service whose use has spiked amid the Covid-19 pandemic, claims to implement end-to-end encryption, widely understood as the most private form of internet communication, protecting conversations from all outside parties. In fact, Zoom is using its own definition of the term, one that lets Zoom itself access unencrypted video and audio from meetings.

With millions of people around the world working from home in order to slow the spread of the coronavirus, business is booming for Zoom, bringing more attention on the company and its privacy practices, including a policy, later updated, that seemed to give the company permission to mine messages and files shared during meetings for the purpose of ad targeting.

Still, Zoom offers reliability, ease of use, and at least one very important security assurance: As long as you make sure everyone in a Zoom meeting connects using “computer audio” instead of calling in on a phone, the meeting is secured with end-to-end encryption, at least according to Zoom’s website, its security white paper, and the user interface within the app. But despite this misleading marketing, the service actually does not support end-to-end encryption for video and audio content, at least as the term is commonly understood. Instead it offers what is usually called transport encryption, explained further below.

Sacramento City Schools Superintendent Aguilar Takes a Big Pay Increase While Schools Closed

Katy Grimes:

In March 2019, California Globe reported Sacramento City Unified School District Superintendent Jorge Aguilar and seven other administrators spent more than $35,000 to attend a six-day conference at the Harvard Business School, while the district teetered on the verge of insolvency, and under the threat of state takeover as it struggled with a $35 million budget gap.

Flash forward one year and SCUSD is still faltering; the district threatened to pink slip teachers right before the March 3 Primary Election. This is likely how the school district managed to convince voters within the Sacramento school district to vote to authorize the district to sell $750 million of bonds to improve schools’ facilities.

While this infusion of funding may stave off the bleeding for now, the Sacramento City Teachers Association just reported, “Superintendent Aguilar has taken a significant pay increase after stating last year that he would not accept a salary increase while the District had significant financial issues.”

In a March 25 email sent to union members titled, “SCUSD to Present Its Draft Plan for Distance Learning Tomorrow (Thursday)District Refuses to Pay Day-to-Day Subs, as the Superintendent Takes His Pay Increase,” the union questions district priorities.

Notably, the district is refusing “to pay short-term, day-to-day substitutes as required by Governor Newsom’s March 13 Executive Order,” during the shutdown of schools over the coronavirus crisis, which SCTA says is “saving the District $44,000 per day or more than $800,000 per month. We asked the District what it intended to spend the money on and received no response.”

Former Madison School District Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham is the new director of Harvard’s “Public Education Leadership Project”.

The article referenced this $32,000 course [PDF]

Civics: A Litany of Useless Laws Have Been Exposed By the Coronavirus

Charles Blain:

From the start of the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States, state and local governments responded in various ways from issuing emergency orders⁠—citywide shutdowns⁠ to school closures and beyond⁠—but it’s the suspension of various laws and regulations that is exposing the unnecessary regulatory web that burdens businesses.

As often happens during emergencies, governors and mayors across the country have used executive power to waive laws and bypass regulations. This allows goods to get to the public quicker at lower cost, more service providers to enter struggling industries, and the market to respond to the crisis in countless other ways.

Lifting these regulations does not put public health or safety in jeopardy; if that were the case, they wouldn’t be lifted with such ease. But this should lead the public to question why the regulatory burdens exist at all.
Useless Regulations

Is the MPS Tax & Spending Increase Referendum Good for Milwaukee?

– via a kind reader.

Milwaukee annual per student $pending:

Public: just over $14K

Charter: just over $9k

Voucher: just under $9k

“The problems have less to do with funding and more about policies and practices”. Mission vs organization.

Madison’s taxpayer supported school district spends around $19 to 20K/student and is planning a substantial tax and spending increase referendum. This, despite tolerating long term, disastrous reading results.

Commentary on the current K-12 Climate: Long breaks are damaging. Virtual learning is erratic. The stakes are high. (2020 lack of digital prep…)

Kevin Huffman:

Schools and teachers are mobilizing to roll out instruction. Many are showing entrepreneurial spirit and creativity, and the ad hoc home-school universe is awash in ideas and resources. District leaders are working long hours, trying their best to serve kids. While larger districts have at times struggled with communication and rollout, some schools and districts are showing a more nimble and collaborative approach. Achievement First, a charter network with schools in multiple states including Rhode Island, has jumped in and offered to share all resources with the Providence Public School District, which is under a state takeover for low performance. And Chiefs for Change, an organization of state and local education leaders, is hosting a virtual forum for school districts to share how they are collaborating with charter schools during this crisis. Hopefully, in the coming weeks, those jurisdictions struggling to support online coursework will catch up and find workarounds for students without access to technology, learning from the more entrepreneurial players.

Related: Twitter notes. Commentary on Virtual Learning and the taxpayer supported Madison School District.

Title IX and high School SPortS Litigation

:

Title IX requires that “[n]o person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, . . . be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” 20 U.S.C. §1681(a); accord 34 C.F.R. § 106.41(a). Title IX’s prohibition against sex discrimination extends to athletics operated or sponsored by recipients of federal money. 34 C.F.R. § 106.41. As a result, covered institutions must “provide equal athletic opportunity for members of both sexes.” Id. § 106.41(c). The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC), however, has adopted a policy that requires biological males to compete against biological females—despite the real physiological differences between the sexes—if the male is a transgender individual who publicly identifies with the female gender. CIAC claims that “federal law” requires this state of affairs. CIAC 2019-2020 Handbook (CIAC Handbook), at 55, http://www.casciac.org/pdfs/ciachandbook_1920.pdf; see also Defs.’ Initial Summ. Issues at 7, ECF No. 63. So do the proposed student-intervenors. See Mot. to Intervene at 11, ECF No. 36

More than $1.6B in school referendums on ballot as COVID-19 pandemic creates economic uncertainty

Logan Wroge:

The passage rates of referendums have historically tended to track with the strength of the economy, said Anne Chapman, a senior researcher for Wisconsin Policy Forum.

At the height of the Great Recession in 2009, voters approved 45% of school referendum questions, down from 60% in 2006, Chapman said.

Notes and links on Madison’s planned 2020 tax and spending increase referendum.

Civics: Contagion and the Right to Travel

Anthony Michael Kreis

Not since 1918 has the United States faced the kind of wide-scale public health crisis that Americans face today. The novel coronavirus pandemic of 2020 jeopardizes multiple millions of Americans’ lives, especially the elderly and immunocompromised. It also stands to cripple the American economy with the real prospect of the nation plunging into a depression. The virus itself is more easily transmitted than other seasonal diseases like the flu. Each non-isolated case of novel coronavirus will infect 2 to 2.5 additional people compared to the flu, where each additional case will infect 1.3 other people on average. Moreover, it is more deadly than the flu. As I write, nearly 85,000 Americans have been infected, and over 1,000 lives have been lost to the pandemic. These numbers will surely grow as the challenges to respond to the crisis mounts. Public health resources are strained, and the testing capacity of the United States lags behind other nations. 

Public health experts and government officials face a stark choice: swift crackdowns on private movement or the possibility of mass mortality. To “flatten the curve,”i.e., slow the exponential growth of new infections and avoid overwhelming the healthcare system, governors and mayors have mandated social distancing and instituted stay-at-home orders. And while the pandemic has touched every state in the nation, certain states like New York, New Jersey, and Washington have acute outbreaks. In response, some governors have instituted de facto travel bans for short-term visitors. The governors in Alaska and Hawaii issued mandatory self-quarantine periods for all persons entering either state for 14 days. Travelers whose final destinations are Florida or Texas coming from New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut must quarantine for 14 days, as must persons traveling from New Orleans to Texas. Rhode Island has instituted a similar policy directed at New Yorkers, including police stops of non-commercial vehicles entering the state with New York license plates, that has come under fire from the state American Civil Liberties Union chapter.

‘An honor and privilege to step up’: Community, school staff aid MMSD food distribution efforts

Scott Girard:

In the first nine days since schools closed for the COVID-19 pandemic, the Madison Metropolitan School District has given out 15,500 meals to students.

The Monday through Friday distribution of breakfast and lunch at 12 sites has been “running without a hitch,” MMSD spokesperson Tim LeMonds wrote in an email Thursday.

And it’s being helped by community efforts that are delivering some of the meals to families and others offering additional food to cover snacks, dinner and weekends.

A partnership between Thoreau Elementary School and Cherokee Middle School has delivered meals to 275 families — all of them from food collected through the Second Harvest and River food pantries. It will soon expand to serve between 400 and 500 families, all in the elementary schools that feed Cherokee plus West High School.

Cherokee social worker Abby Ray said the effort has “come a long way” from the first day of the closures, March 16, when they were just delivering to families they knew were in need. Schools are closed until at least April 24 by order of Gov. Tony Evers.

“A lot of it shows the relationships that families have with schools already,” Ray said. “The school is so much more than a place for kids to get learning and so many other needs are met through education in schools.”

2025 Vision

Law School Transparency:

Law school tuition has exceeded inflation for decades.Private and public law school tuition is 2.8 and 5.9 times as expensive as it was in 1985—after accounting for inflation. In 2019, tuition topped out at $72,360. The average tuition at top-performing law schools is much higher than the rest. But prices do not scale with job outcomes. The average tuition at the lowest-performing schools is similar to the average for mid-range schools.While law schools typically discount the sticker tuition price for a portion of the class, 25% of J.D. students paid full price in 2018-19. Students who pay full price or close to it are more likely to come from lower socioeconomic backgrounds or be underrepresented racial minorities. Their tuition dollars subsidize the scholarships that their more advantaged classmates receive.

These disparities enhance persistent inequity in law practice.1Students borrow to pay these high prices. Three in four graduates borrow for law school at high interest rates. Among borrowers, the average 2018 graduate borrowed $115,481. This person is likely to have roughly $130,000 in debt from law school alone when they start repayment six months after graduation because interest accrues immediately on law school loans. As with scholarships, underrepresented racial minorities—not to mention women—borrow more on average for law school.2When factoring in graduate salaries, students borrow excessively for law school.

One common-sense rule in student lending provides that students should not borrow more than they expect to earn after their first year. At 94% of law schools, the median amount borrowed exceeds the median earnings in the first full year after graduation. The median debt-to-income ratio is 1.86. One in six law schools have a ratio of 3.0 or higher, which means that the median amount borrowed exceeds the median earnings by 200%.

2020 Madison School Board Election notes and links

Scott Girard:

While campaign season looks slightly different in a social distancing world, the Madison School Board races have continued this spring.

The ballot for the April 7 election includes two contested races and one uncontested seat. The five candidates participated in a virtual forum hosted by Simpson Street Free Press earlier this week.

Much more on the 2020 Madison School Board Elections, here.

Madison School District requiring teachers to find child care while remote teaching

Scott Girard:

Madison Metropolitan School District teachers will have to find child care for their children while teaching remotely, according to an email sent to staff Thursday night.

Portions of the email from MMSD’s human resources department were sent to the Cap Times and shared on Facebook. Virtual learning is expected to begin April 6, with training and planning time the week of March 30 through April 3.

The email informed staff they “cannot watch (their) children and work at the same time,” but that employees working from home “can flex their hours within the workday.”

“The expectation is that you secure childcare,” the email states. “Whether the childcare is outside of your home or in your home is up to you.”

Related: Madison teachers balk at directive to secure child care when working from home

Civics: If we learn anything from the virus outbreak, it should be the importance of free speech

Kevin Carrico:

On March 18, Mingpao published an opinion piece entitled “This pandemic originated in Wuhan, the lessons of seventeen years ago have been completely forgotten.” The authors Dr. Kwok-Yung Yuen and Dr. David Lung are unrivalled experts in their field. Dr. Yuen is a microbiologist whose SARS study group discovered the role of the coronavirus in the SARS epidemic in early 2003. Dr. Lung is also a microbiologist who has recently published on the detection of COVID-19 via saliva samples.

In their article, the authors offer practical advice on understanding the virus for the general reader. First, they explain how the World Health Organization and the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses name viruses, while also acknowledging that the colloquial use of “Wuhan pneumonia” is understandably more straightforward than COVID-19 or SARS-CoV-2 and thus does not need to be condemned.

Second, Yuen and Lung explain that genetic sequencing has shown the virus likely originated in horseshoe bats before spreading to an intermediate host in the Wuhan Seafood Market (most likely endangered pangolin), which then served as an amplification epicentre spreading from animals to humans, before mutating to enable human-to-human transmission.

What do young Chinese think about social credit? It’s complicated

Marc Oliver Rieger (University of Trier), Mei Wang (WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management), Mareike Ohlberg (MERICS)

  • China’s emerging social credit system should be understood not as a single unified system but as a package or policy framework combining many different policies.
  • Results of our student survey at three Chinese universities between December 2018 and April 2019 suggest that no easy conclusions about broad-based approval of such policies can be drawn. We also surveyed Taiwanese and German students for comparison.
  • Our survey sought their responses to four policies associated with the social credit system mega-project. Students from China rated the measures more positively, with approval rates between 41 and 57 percent, than their German counterparts, who gave a maximum of 19 percent approval. However, approval rates from students in China were lower than the 80 percent approval rates found in a previous study by researchers at Freie Universität Berlin.
  • Our results also show a complex picture of how Chinese respondents think about social credit and the associated risks: e.g. government surveillance was rated as a higher risk in China than abuse of data by private companies, although media discussions related to “privacy protection” in China’s official media has focused predominantly on the latter.

Civics: How Competitive Are City and County Legislative Seats?

Public Policy Forum:


The level of competition varies in these counties, but in none are even half the seats contested. Eleven of Brown County’s 26 seats (42.3%) are contested placing it at the top of the list, while none of Waukesha County’s 25 seats are competitive. In Wisconsin’s two largest counties, few seats are up for grabs: only three out of the 18 Milwaukee County seats (16.7%) are contested, while Dane County features six competitive races out of 37 (16.2%). Assuming each seat represents the same number of people in a county, more than 80% of the 10-county population – or 2.56 million residents – will not get a choice for their supervisor in April.

Using 2017 population estimates, Milwaukee County supervisors represent 52,894 people on average, while each of Marathon County’s supervisors represents just 3,572. While many smaller counties’ supervisors volunteer, some are paid. Milwaukee County pays its supervisors a salary of $25,924, the most on our list.

Due to a constitutional provision called home rule, cities have broader authority to govern themselves than counties, meaning municipal elections are not uniform. For this analysis, we look at Wisconsin’s 10 largest cities.

LA Schools Go Online, but Seattle and others Say No

Danny Westneat:

So Los Angeles announced an “unprecedented commitment” of $100 million in emergency funding to get all students who need them both devices and internet access for continuing their educations online this year.

Compare to what school leaders have been saying here.

Seattle Public Schools “won’t transition to online learning,” Superintendent Denise Juneau tweeted last week. “2 things — not all students have access to internet and technology AND educators can’t just switch to online teaching overnight — it’s a specialized approach.”

“There’s just no way a district this large can do that,” Juneau said in an interviewwith Time magazine.

This is not our finest moment, Seattle.

How is it that Los Angeles, a district with half a million students, is attempting to keep its schooling going online during this crisis? And we are the ones barely trying.

I suggested to several Madison Superintendents that teachers and staff receive a stipend to purchase and maintain an internet connected device (cellular iPad would be my choice) and begin to interact with everyone using this device. Further, Apple’s assistive efforts are substantial.

This occurred during Infinite Campus evaluation and implementation meetings. I wonder what the teacher/staff utilization data looks like today?

Infinite Campus – or similar – was for many years an expensive, missed opportunity.

Despite spending far more than most taxpayer supported K-12 school districts, Madison has apparently made little progress online– in 2020.

An update won the 2020 Madison School Board Election

Scott Girard:

“People win elections by hitting pavement, just historically. That was one of my biggest things, before the pandemic,” she said. “I wanted to gain the knowledge, or get more insight and talk to more people regarding my platform so that if I win the election that I kind of have that knowledge already.”

Like Pearson, Strong said he was adding some personalized letters about his platform to his plans along with more mailers.

“We knew eventually, once we saw other states putting in the stay-at-home placements, that was going to definitely impact us at some point,” Strong said. “It’s going to be a very close race, I believe it’s going to be very hard-fought. So I’m just trying to garner as much support from the community as I can.”

Vander Meulen said as a “semi-tech person,” the transition to focusing there hasn’t been too hard. What she misses, though, is connecting with voters on the campaign trail.

“People need human connection,” she said.

Notes and links on the 2020 Madison School Board election, here.

Madison teacher’s accidental text to parent: ‘I want to slap them through the phone!’

Chris Rickert:

According to a police report released Wednesday to the State Journal under the state’s public records law, the parent, Tyeisha Ivy, considered the text a threat and reported it to police because she wanted it documented. Ringelstetter was not arrested, and no charges were filed in the case.

Ivy told police that with school canceled because of the coronavirus outbreak, she was exchanging texts with Ringelstetter in an attempt to get online access to homework for her daughter.

In screen shots of the texts sent to the parent and reported by Madison365, Ringelstetter appears to be asking a co-worker for help getting online access set up and wrote “I want to reach out and slap them through the phone!!

According to the police report, Ringelstetter told police she was frustrated with the school’s closing, that the text was meant for someone else and that she never meant to slap the parent or her daughter.

I suggested to several Madison Superintendents that teachers and staff receive a stipend to purchase and maintain an internet connected device (cellular iPad would be my choice) and begin to interact with everyone using this device. Further, Apple’s assistive efforts are substantial.

This occurred during Infinite Campus evaluation and implementation meetings. I wonder what the teacher/staff utilization data looks like today?

Infinite Campus – or similar – was for many years an expensive, missed opportunity.

Despite spending far more than most taxpayer supported K-12 school districts, Madison has apparently made little progress online – in 2020.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: The Coming Age of Dispersion

Joel Kotkin:

Living in dispersion may not save you from contagion, but being away from people, driving around in your own car, and having neighbors you know, does have its advantages in times like these. Even the urban cognoscenti have figured this out—much as their Renaissance predecessors did during typhus and bubonic plague outbreaks, wealthy New Yorkers today are retreating to their country homes where they struggle with the locals over depleted supplies of essentials.

Back to the Dark Ages?

In classical times, plagues devastated Athens, Alexandria, Constantinople, and Rome. Along with barbarian invasions, they reduced the population of the Eternal City from 1.2 million at its height to barely 30,000 by the sixth century. Outside Europe, pandemics devastated cities such as Cairo, Canton, and Harbin. Following the conquest of the New World, the indigenous population suffered massive casualties from exposure to European diseases like smallpox.

Civics: Toronto is gathering cellphone location data from telecoms to find out where people are still congregating amid coronavirus shutdown: Tory

Mural Hemmadi:

The City of Toronto is obtaining cellphone data from wireless carriers to help it identify where people have assembled in groups, part of its attempts to slow the spread of COVID-19, Mayor John Tory said on Monday. But city staff said Tuesday morning the city doesn’t plan to collect such data.

“We had … the cellphone companies give us all the data on the pinging off their network on the weekend so we could see, ‘Where were people still congregating?’” Tory said during an online video-conferencing event Monday evening hosted by TechTO, a local meetup organization. “Because the biggest enemy of fighting this thing is people congregating close together.”

Tory said the data will be used to generate a heat map. He did not name the companies that had provided the city with data.

Other governments are using or seeking location data to inform measures to combat the spread of COVID-19. Dr. Vera Etches, Ottawa’s deputy medical officer of health, said Monday the city was considering using “aggregated data, potentially from electronic sources” to see where residents were congregating, citing mobile devices as one option. Last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu authorized internal intelligence agency Shin Bet to use geolocation data it already collects from cellphone companies to identify and contact people who have had close contact with infected individuals.

Keeping Government Out of Your Business

R Colin Johnson:

The U.S. Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) grants government agencies permission to surveil citizens who assume privacy in their electronic communications. Today such oversight, even by the U.S. Congress, is opaque (summarized and anonymized), and any notification of those being monitored nearly always takes place after the fact.

New Mexico State University (NMSU) researchers presented a paper at the ACM Conference on Computers, Communications and Security (CCS 2019, London) in which they claimed to be able to automate proactive oversight that prevents privacy violations before they occur, using algorithms and blockchain in the form of what they call the Enforcer software.

Said Stephanie Forest, director of the Biodesign Center for Biocomputation, Security, and Society at Arizona State University in Tempe, “Electronic surveillance is the single biggest security threat we face today. It comes in many forms, ranging from the surveillance we agree to when we purchase and activate network-enabled electronic devices, to stealthy monitoring of which we are unaware.” Forrest said the paper, Scalable Auditability of Monitoring Processes using Public Ledgers, tackled the problem “of how to audit electronic surveillance processes involving multiple actors, focusing on government surveillance, especially agencies and companies, that violate court-sanctioned authorities. Methods such as these represent an important check and balance in our democracy and provide a way to audit government-sanctioned surveillance.”

What kind of light is there at the end of the tunnel?

Mary Beard:

But I see some far less desirable outcomes. How many universities (I hope not mine) will discover that online lectures are much cheaper and more “convenient” than the traditional face-to-face versions? And how many will discover that those large lecture buildings have a different, commercial potential? I am all in favour of exploiting online resources in teaching, but no one is going to tell me that face-to-face teaching has no advantage over the remote version. Lecturing and teaching is made special by real-time interaction.

Much the same goes for conferences. I think there is a hell of a lot the matter with some of the big international academic congresses and would be very happy to see some of them go (indeed I doubt I will ever/hope I will never go to another, for various reasons). But the idea that we can really productively thrash out academic issues via Skype, rather than face-to-face, over the seminar table and over the dinner table is impoverishing. Others may be more adept at this technology than I am, but I never found that a crackly Skype connection gets anywhere close to the progress you can make when you actually meet, and get that breakthrough over dinner late at night … 

The crowning example for me was my experience as an assessor for (the very generous) European Research Council awards. I am not sure how these are awarded now (and especially now), but a few years back the international assessors all met in Brussels and went through the applications together. A waste of time and a worrying carbon footprint, you might say. But two or three days together, dawn till late, fostered a communal project and a sense of understanding between the adjudicators that I don’t think it will ever be possible to achieve remotely.

The Rise of Reassurance Lit

Charlie Tyson:

My life as an advertiser began at a firm that specialized in one of the oldest American industries: grift. Staffed almost entirely by interns earning minimum wage, the company sold ad space in phone directories that, once printed, were promptly dumped in desolate corners of campus student centers, next to stacks of greasy pizza boxes. Flailing business owners who bought ads were locked into contracts that forbade cancellation. By the time they sensed a scam, it was too late: We would dispatch a collection agency to press them into line.

My job — keep in mind that I was 17 and entirely unskilled — was to make the ads for which the tanning salons, auto-body shops, and pizza joints paid so dearly. I would drag and drop images with whimsical abandon, superimposing brand logos and stock photographs on top of one another in the manner of a Magritte painting.

That adolescent flirtation with advertising was inevitably short-lived. When I chose to go to graduate school in literature, I did so with the maximum possible moral smugness. I dropped meaningful hints among my consultant-friends about the “coarse imperatives of business” and the “disfiguring strictures of our capitalist order,” all of which, I suggested, I would sidestep by bowing into the university’s hallowed halls.

You know how the story ends, how the academy makes advertisers of us all. Exhortations to promote our work, to lure undergraduates into our courses, to specialize in a sexy brand or niche (“I’m an ecocritic focusing on the aquatic imaginary [translation: I read books about dolphins]”), turn nearly every young scholar into a walking PR firm.

Announcing a National Emergency Library to Provide Digitized Books to Students and the Public

Chris Freeland:

To address our unprecedented global and immediate need for access to reading and research materials, as of today, March 24, 2020, the Internet Archive will suspend waitlists for the 1.4 million (and growing) books in our lending library by creating a National Emergency Libraryto serve the nation’s displaced learners. This suspension will run through June 30, 2020, or the end of the US national emergency, whichever is later. 

During the waitlist suspension, users will be able to borrow books from the National Emergency Library without joining a waitlist, ensuring that students will have access to assigned readings and library materials that the Internet Archive has digitized for the remainder of the US academic calendar, and that people who cannot physically access their local libraries because of closure or self-quarantine can continue to read and thrive during this time of crisis, keeping themselves and others safe.  

This library brings together all the books from Phillips Academy Andover and Marygrove College, and much of Trent University’s collections, along with over a million other books donated from other libraries to readers worldwide that are locked out of their libraries.

This is a response to the scores of inquiries from educators about the capacity of our lending system and the scale needed to meet classroom demands because of the closures. Working with librarians in Boston area, led by Tom Blake of Boston Public Library, who gathered course reserves and reading lists from college and school libraries, we determined which of those books the Internet Archive had already digitized. Through that work we quickly realized that our lending library wasn’t going to scale to meet the needs of a global community of displaced learners. To make a real difference for the nation and the world, we would have to take a bigger step.

Civic: Privacy after Coronavirus

Yuval Noah Harari:

In order to stop the epidemic, entire populations need to comply with certain guidelines. There are two main ways of achieving this. One method is for the government to monitor people, and punish those who break the rules. Today, for the first time in human history, technology makes it possible to monitor everyone all the time. Fifty years ago, the KGB couldn’t follow 240m Soviet citizens 24 hours a day, nor could the KGB hope to effectively process all the information gathered. The KGB relied on human agents and analysts, and it just couldn’t place a human agent to follow every citizen. But now governments can rely on ubiquitous sensors and powerful algorithms instead of flesh-and-blood spooks.

Yes, It Really Is Harder to Get into Highly Selective Colleges Today

Michael J. Petrilli and Pedro Enamorado

It’s often noted by individuals of a certain age that “I could never get into my alma mater if I were applying today.” The conventional wisdom is that it’s now much harder to be accepted into highly selective colleges and universities than it was a generation ago. But is that true?

To find out, we identified the median SAT scores (math plus verbal) of most of the 100 top national universities and 50 top liberal arts colleges (as determined by the 2020 US News and World Report college rankings) for the incoming freshmen classes of 1985 and 2016. The 1985 data came from the 1986 edition of Barron’s Profiles of American Colleges, tracked down at the Library of Congress. The 2016 data were found in the 2018 edition of Barron’s Profiles of American Colleges. Since the SAT was re-normed in 1995 (and again in 2016, but after the time period for our data), we used a concordance tablepublished by the College Board to adjust the 1985 scores accordingly. Of the 150 institutions examined, median SAT scores were available in both years for 95 of them.

We used SAT scores as our measure of selectivity rather than acceptance rates because those rates have plummeted for most institutions in recent years, due to changes in the application process itself. For example, the “common app” makes it relatively easy and affordable for students to apply to larger numbers of schools. More and more students, particularly those gunning for the big-name institutions, are doing so. Given that the college rankings lists give a lot of weight to rejection rates, colleges face strong incentives to push those rates as high as possible by doing things such as generating large numbers of applications from students unlikely to be accepted, much less attend. In contrast, median SAT scores—appropriately adjusted—give us a better measure of the academic quality of an institution’s freshman class.

Civics: Around the world, rulers are using the pandemic as an excuse to grab more power. And the public is going along with it.

Anne Applebaum:

On March 13—Friday the 13th, as it happened—my husband was driving down a Polish highway when he turned on the news and learned that the country’s borders would shut down in 24 hours. He pulled over and called me. I bought a ticket from London to Warsaw minutes later. I don’t live there all of the time, but my husband is Polish, the only house I own is in rural Poland, and I wanted to be in it. The next morning, Heathrow Airport was spookily empty except for the Warsaw flight, which was packed with people trying to get one of the last commercial trips back into their country. During check-in, agents were refusing to board passengers without a Polish passport (I have one) or residency documents. Then someone realized that the new rules went into effect only at midnight, and so I witnessed a conversation between one of the stewards and two non-Polish passengers: “You realize that you might not be able to fly out again. You realize that you may be in Warsaw for a very long time …”

That same day, we called our college-freshman son in the United States and told him to get to the airport. He had been planning to stay with friends and family after his university closed. Instead, we gave him 30 minutes’ notice to get on one of the last flights to London, connecting to one of the last flights to Berlin. By the time he landed in Europe on Sunday, Poland had shut its borders to all public transportation. He took a train from Berlin to Frankfurt an der Oder, a town at the Polish-German border. Then he got out and walked across, carrying his luggage, as if in a Cold War movie about a spy exchange. He saw roadblocks, soldiers with guns, men in hazmat suits taking temperatures. My husband picked him up on the other side.

Civics: How Civic Technology Can Help Stop a Pandemic; Madison’s K-12 System stuck in the mud

Jaron Lanier & E. Glen Weyl:

The spread of the novel coronavirus and the resulting COVID-19 pandemic have provided a powerful test of social and governance systems. Neither of the world’s two leading powers, China and the United States, has been particularly distinguished in responding. In China, an initial bout of political denial allowed the virus to spread for weeks, first domestically and then globally, before a set of forceful measures proved reasonably effective. (The Chinese government also should have been better prepared, given that viruses have jumped from animal hosts to humans within its territory on multiple occasions in the past.) The United States underwent its own bout of political denial before adopting social-distancing policies; even now, its lack of investment in public health leaves it ill-equipped for this sort of emergency.

The response of the bureaucratic and often technophobic European Union may prove even worse: Italy, although far from the epicenter of the outbreak, has four times the per capita rate of cases as China does, and even famously orderly Germany is already at half China’s rate. Nations in other parts of the world, such as information-manipulating Iran, provide worse examples yet.

Taiwan’s success has rested on a fusion of technology, activism, and civic participation. A small but technologically cutting-edge democracy, living in the shadow of the superpower across the strait, Taiwan has in recent years developed one of the world’s most vibrant political cultures by making technology work to democracy’s advantage rather than detriment. This culture of civic technology has proved to be the country’s strongest immune response to the new coronavirus.

TECH FOR DEMOCRACY

The value of Taiwan’s tech-enabled civic culture has become abundantly clear in the current crisis. Bottom-up information sharing, public-private partnerships, “hacktivism” (activism through the building of quick-and-dirty but effective proofs of concept for online public services), and participatory collective action have been central to the country’s success in coordinating a consensual and transparent set of responses to the coronavirus. A recent report from the Stanford University School of Medicine documents 124 distinct interventions that Taiwan implemented with remarkable speed. Many of these interventions bubbled into the public sector through community initiatives, hackathons, and digital deliberation on the vTaiwan digital democracy platform, on which almost half the country’s population participates. (The platform enables large-scale hacktivism, civic deliberation, and scaling up of initiatives in an orderly and largely consensual manner.) A decentralized community of participants used tools such as Slack and HackMD to refine successful projects. (Much of our analysis is based on open interviews through these tools with leaders in the g0v community of civic hackers.)

I thought about this in light of the taxpayer supported Madison School District’s long term online education challenges, from Infinite Campus to the recent imperatives – this, in 2020! This lack of progress has continued, despite spending far more than most K-12 school districts.

Successful technology transformations and implementations require constancy of purpose, that is mission, vs. perpetuating the organization.

Virus spurs unexpected test for US schools: Online learning

Jennifer Peltz:

The coronavirus shutdowns have launched an unplanned, unprecedented experiment with online education at schools across the U.S., and the nation’s largest school system plunged in Monday as New York City asked over 1.1 million students to log in and learn.

After a whirlwind week of planning, students — those who could — signed in to Google classrooms and Zoom video conferences for virtual versions of everything from high-school English discussions to kindergarten gym classes. City officials were still trying to get laptops to hundreds of thousands of students in need. Parents grappled with how much to expect of their schools, their kids and themselves.

Emily James was pleased to see the vast majority of her ninth-grade English students showed up for class by video Monday, some using smartphones or borrowed laptops.

2020 Referendum Climate: Madison Tax Base Edition

Dean Mosiman:

More than 70% of the city’s General Fund revenues come from the property tax, and nearly two-third of property taxes have already been paid for 2020, which brings some stability, Schmiedicke said. The city already imposed a $40 wheel tax for the current budget. But preliminary projections show an overall drop of 4%, or about $13 million, in general fund revenues that wipes out forecast growth from 2019 to 2020, he said. 

The city expects hotel room taxes to fall 30%, or about, $6 million, and anticipates general state aid cuts of 5%, or $1.6 million, due to state revenue shortfalls, Schmiedicke said. City investment earnings could fall 40%, or $1.5 million, he said.

Meanwhile, fines and forfeitures from moving and parking violations are expected to fall 25%, or 1.6 million, and licenses and permits may be down 15%, or 1.5 million, this year, Schmiedicke said. Many other revenues are expected to fall, including Metro Transit fares, street use vending; and Monona Terrace events. 

Other impacts include rising pension costs due to reduced earnings in the Wisconsin Retirement System portfolio, and reduced liability insurance dividends, he said.

Notes, links and some data on Madison’s planned 2020 referendum.

“Madison spends just 1% of its budget on maintenance while Milwaukee, with far more students, spends 2%” – Madison’s CFO at a recent 2020 referendum presentation.

Using Zoom? Here are the privacy issues you need to be aware of

Richie Koch:

Zoom has seen a flood of new users as the COVID-19 outbreak forces more and more employees to transition to working from home. Zoom’s big selling point is its near-frictionless video calls. 

However, new users should be aware of the company’s privacy practices. By looking through its privacy policy and some of its support documents, you quickly discover that Zoom allows your boss to track your attention during calls, shares the copious amounts of data it collects with third parties, and has already had a major security vulnerability.

We believe it’s important for our community who may be switching to Zoom in their workplace during the coronavirus outbreak to be aware of these issues, and this post looks at each of them in detail. At the end, we’ll offer some suggestions for what you can do to protect yourself while using Zoom.

Madison’s English language learners face a different set of challenges during COVID-19

Nicholas Garton:

Imagine navigating the constantly updating information landscape as someone who doesn’t speak much English. Tackling that challenge has been the focus of Madison’s Literacy Network for the past several weeks.

In light of calls for social distancing and deep cleaning of public spaces, the organization has had to revamp how it helps its students. Normally, Literacy Network staffers would meet face-to-face with students and provide individual educational help. But with much of the city shut down, staff at the nonprofit organization have had to pursue other means of not just continuing coursework, but helping students receive appropriate and accurate information about COVID-19.

MIT has made the decision to no longer consider the SAT Subject Tests

MIT:

MIT has made the decision to no longer consider the SAT Subject Tests as part of the admissions process. You can read about our revised testing requirements here.

I’m happy to announce our decision to discontinue the use of subject tests starting with the 2020-21 admissions cycle for first-year and transfer admissions (for students entering MIT in 2021 and beyond). We made this decision after considerable study, in consultation with our faculty policy committee. We believe this decision will improve access for students applying to MIT.

Below are answers to some questions you may have about our change.

Madison School Board members want to keep staff with current health insurance provider, add deductible

Scott Girard:

At the same time, MMSD has increased base pay more than surrounding districts in recent years, according to the presentation.

Board members said maintaining that competitive advantage in recruitment is important.

“Our health care is one of the biggest elements of competitiveness for staff in the area,” Toews said. “It’s an area I would really like to keep differentiated.”

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

Health insurance costs have long been an issue in the Madison School District.

Administrators warned that benefits were unsustainable in 2014.

Christina Gomez Schmidt and Wayne Strong for Madison School Board

Wisconsin State Journal:

With a pandemic closing schools, protesters disrupting board meetings and a new superintendent starting June 1, the Madison School District needs stability and experience.

That’s what Christina Gomez Schmidt, seeking Seat 6, and Wayne Strong, running for Seat 7, will provide on the Madison School Board.

The Wisconsin State Journal editorial board endorses Gomez Schmidt and Strong in the April 7 election.

Our editorial board last week interviewed by teleconference the four candidates in the two competitive School Board races.

Gomez Schmidt and Strong highlighted deep involvement in the district and community. They would focus intently on improving reading skills, particularly for struggling students, which is key to closing achievement gaps.

Much more on the 2020 taxpayer supported spring 2020 Madison School Board election, here.

When writer’s block strikes

Matthew Duffus:

It didn’t happen all at once. I didn’t wake up one morning to find myself unable to write creatively. For months, I could eke out a story or group of poems, but all attempts at another novel arrived stillborn, exhausting themselves after a few thousand words. My father suggested I had a form of postpartum depression, that seeing my first novel in print, and therefore out of my hands, was too much of a shock, temporarily. I didn’t have the heart to tell him this had been going on for years. 

I finished a decent draft of my novel in 2015, made revisions based on a publisher’s interest in 2017, and sold it to him later that year. The editorial process spanned 18 months, but I had plenty of downtime between rounds of edits to work on something new. A colleague inquired about just this at one point, mentioning, “I hear you’re supposed to have a draft of the next thing by the time the previous book comes out.” I smiled, nodded, and assured him I was on my way. 

That year, I even tried NaNoWriMo. 

Soon, the stories dried up, followed by the poems within a semester. I took an online “poetry salon,” recycling work I’d set aside for the lean months. For a flash-fiction workshop, I generated a few thousand words, most of them rescued from earlier failures. After spending 500 dollars on these two courses, I had yet to spur myself into action. By the time the first box of copies of my novel arrived, the climate in my mind had grown hostile to new growth. 

Madison schools use social media to keep students connected during COVID-19 break

Scott Girard::

Others are offering read-a-longs, bedtime stories and daily mindfulness practice videos. The district has offered enrichment materials online, but so far not mandated virtual learning. An email to families sent Wednesday night stated that virtual learning would begin in early- or mid-April if schools are still closed at that time.

“It is taking time to work through the many details, such as the large number of our families who do not have long-term access to the internet or devices, how to best meet students with special needs concerns, and ensuring our teachers are equipped to teach online and that we have the infrastructure to do it,” the email from interim superintendent Jane Belmore states. “We know from our discussions with other area superintendents of larger districts that they are wrestling with the same concerns.

In the meantime, Elvehjem Elementary School posted a Facebook Live video of principal Sarah Larson reading “Goodnight, Madison,” a book the students have read together before, she said in the video. It has more than 1,000 views.

Commentary on Virtual Learning and the taxpayer supported Madison School District.

Madison’s No-Bid $30,000 Contract to Burns/Van Fleet (?)

No bid contracting by our taxpayer supported Madison School District:

a $30,000 no-bid contract to “Burns/Van Fleet” for 25 days of services to help in the new superintendent transition. (The superintendent search contract to BWP Associates was $32,000 plus expenses.) The Mike Hertting memo on the item touts this outfit as having “over 50 years of collective experience,” but it lacks much of an internet footprint other than this skimpy website: https://burnsvanfleet.com and a Columbus, OH telephone number.

A few questions that the School Board might ask:

  1. is the work that’s being outsourced within the job description of someone already on payroll (in this case, Jane Belmore and Mike Hertting), and
  2. (2) who benefits internally from favor-trading and/or influence-building by steering business outside (especially on a no-bid basis).

– via a kind reader.

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

In addition, Madison recently expanded its least diverse schools.

‘Invoice Barr’ and the ‘Second Modification’: How Article Spinning Works

Sarah Thompson:

There is a large network of websites using political content to draw an audience to the sites where some dubious advertising techniques are being employed. All of the content published on these websites is lifted from other sources. Some is current news, some is old – but true – news, published without a byline or date. And many stories are fake-news classics.

But most of what is published is satire stolen from “America’s Last Line of Defense,” a group of websites run by a self-described liberal troll named Christopher Blair. Many people do not recognize the ALLOD-branded watermark left behind on the swiped satire stories. Published without context, these stories mislead many people into believing they are actually new news. Adding to the confusion is the legibility problem – many of the stories have been spun.

Law Schools Adopt Pass-Fail Grades as They Move Online Amid COVID-19

Karen Sloan:

Several top law schools this week have announced switching to pass/fail grading for the spring semester, now that courses and exams are being delivered online amid the coronavirus pandemic. And many law school administrators have told students they are weighing changes to grading procedures and plan to announce such decisions in the coming days.

Thus far, Stanford Law School; Harvard Law School; the University of Michigan Law School; the University of California, Berkeley School of Law; and Cornell Law School have said they have adopted what is effectively a pass/fail system—the names vary by campus—or are giving students the option to have their grades issued as a pass or fail for the current semester. All American Bar Association-accredited law schools are now holding classes online, or will soon begin online classes.

The move to pass/fail grading is a dramatic shift for law schools, where grades play a large role in employment opportunities and co-curricular activities such as eligibility for law review, especially for first-year students. Mandatory curves are staples of law school grading systems and many students pay close attention to their class rank—which is determined by grade-point averages.

How to Get a World-Class Education for Free on the Internet

Amy Wang:

As crucial as a university degree has become for working in the modern economy, it is not the only route forward into a wildly lucrative and satisfying career—just ask famous dropouts Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Michael Dell, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg.

In the future, a single bachelor’s degree in a particular subject will no longer suffice for many of us anyway. As robots and automation sweep the global workforce, hundreds of millions of people—the majority of whom do not have the time or money to go pick up a brand-new four-year degree—will have to “re-skill” in order to land new jobs. The question that employees and employers alike face is how to get that done quickly, efficiently, and, most importantly to many, cheaply.

The internet, luckily, is already a booming resource. Whether you find yourself seeking new employment mid-career, curious about alternatives to a college education, or simply are interested in learning for learning’s sake, Quartz At Work has compiled some of the most dependable, high-quality materials you can access to learn anything on the internet.

Build Stuff!

Tim Berners-Lee:

Extending on the about page, I want to emphasise even more the importance of creating personal projects, having independent work and going far beyond what a degree might teach you. Just so that we are on the same page, I will not take into consideration the reason for choosing a Computer Science degree, nor the money aspect of doing a degree, but rather I will assume only that you are doing a Computer Science degree and my focus will be on how to make the most out of it.

The computer world has evolved a lot in 50 years and computers, with everything they entail, are nowadays easy to use; take for example GUIs for art designing or forums for programming erros. That is why the Computer Science degrees also adapted and stopped teaching irrelevant topics, such as Fortran (an old programming language) or MS-DOS (an outdated operating system). The currently taught topics make use of the most significant advantacements in technology and free students from some of those old pains. Nevertheless, degrees seem to lack lectures on fundamental skills in programming and in dealing with machines.

Of course, there are important things the degrees do teach, and those are mainly related to basic concepts of algorithms and data structures, architecture, databases and networks. They also teach compilers and security, so one gets a good grasp of various relevant fields and can definitely do more with computers than simply plugging together a couple of cables. However, that is the apparent safety net we do not want to find ourselves in, at least for two reasons: first, this knowledge may not even be useful in an actual job, as all the trivia you know is general and possibly long disregarded in the industry, and second, graduates from Physics or Engineering are competing with you for all the tech jobs, because they require the same amount of job training, while potentially having a stronger analytical side.

How to Reduce Digital Distractions: Advice From Medieval Monks

Jamie Kreiner:

Medieval monks had a terrible time concentrating. And concentration was their lifelong work! Their tech was obviously different from ours. But their anxiety about distraction was not. They complained about being overloaded with information, and about how, even once you finally settled on something to read, it was easy to get bored and turn to something else. They were frustrated by their desire to stare out of the window, or to constantly check on the time (in their case, with the Sun as their clock), or to think about food or sex when they were supposed to be thinking about God. They even worried about getting distracted in their dreams.

Sometimes they accused demons of making their minds wander. Sometimes they blamed the body’s base instincts. But the mind was the root problem: it is an inherently jumpy thing. John Cassian, whose thoughts about thinking influenced centuries of monks, knew this problem all too well. He complained that the mind ‘seems driven by random incursions’. It ‘wanders around like it were drunk’. It would think about something else while it prayed and sang. It would meander into its future plans or past regrets in the middle of its reading. It couldn’t even stay focused on its own entertainment – let alone the difficult ideas that called for serious concentration.

Commentary on Virtual Learning & The Madison School District

Logan Wroge:

In an email Friday, district spokesman Tim LeMonds said the district is now aiming to roll out virtual learning the first week of April, but it “takes time and thoughtful planning to prepare an all inclusive virtual learning program.” 

“The complexities being addressed include there being a large number of our families who do not have internet access or devices,” he said in an email. “Additionally, how to best meet our students with special needs concerns.”

The district also needs to make sure its approximately 2,700 teachers are trained, LeMonds said, and a “reliable infrastructure” needs to be in place to deliver online instruction.

There’s also a large number of students in the district who don’t speak English as their first language, speaking more than 110 other languages as their primary language, LeMonds said.

I recall discussions many years ago about creating a fast, wireless network at every school for neighborhood internet connectivity.

In addition, we discussed changing the District’s technology policy from top down to BYOD, that is bring your own device. I suggested to several Superintendents that teachers and staff receive a stipend to purchase and maintain an internet connected device (cellular iPad would be my choice) and begin to interact with everyone using this device. Further, Apple’s assistive efforts are substantial.

This occurred during Infinite Campus evaluation and implementation meetings. I wonder what the teacher/staff utilization data looks like today?

Infinite Campus – or similar – was for many years an expensive, missed opportunity.

The Doctor Who Helped Defeat Smallpox Explains What’s Coming

Steven Levy:

LARRY BRILLIANT SAYS he doesn’t have a crystal ball. But 14 years ago, Brilliant, the epidemiologist who helped eradicate smallpox,  spoke to a TED audience and described what the next pandemic would look like. At the time, it sounded almost too horrible to take seriously. “A billion people would get sick,” he said. “As many as 165 million people would die. There would be a global recession and depression, and the cost to our economy of $1 to $3 trillion would be far worse for everyone than merely 100 million people dying, because so many more people would lose their jobs and their health care benefits, that the consequences are almost unthinkable.”

Now the unthinkable is here, and Brilliant, the Chairman of the board of Ending Pandemics, is sharing expertise with those on the front lines. We are a long way from 100 million deaths due to the novel coronavirus, but it has turned our world upside down. Brilliant is trying not to say “I told you so” too often. But he did tell us so, not only in talks and writings, but as the senior technical advisor for the pandemic horror film Contagion, now a top streaming selection for the homebound. Besides working with the World Health Organization in the effort to end smallpox, Brilliant, who is now 75, has fought flu, polio, and blindness; once led Google’s nonprofit wing, Google.org; co-founded the conferencing system the Well; and has traveled with the Grateful Dead.

We talked by phone on Tuesday. At the time, President Donald Trump’s response to the crisis had started to change from “no worries at all” to finally taking more significant steps to stem the pandemic. Brilliant lives in one of the six Bay Area counties where residents were ordered to shelter in place. When we began the conversation, he’d just gotten off the phone with someone he described as high government official, who asked Brilliant “How the fuck did we get here?” I wanted to hear how we’ll get out of here. The conversation has been edited and condensed.

“data usage has surged double digits over four categories”

Tyler Clifford:

“In less than a week, we have transformed this company dramatically,” he said in the “Mad Money” interview.

In a week-over-week comparison, streaming demand increased 12%, Vestberg said. Web traffic climbed 20%, virtual private network, or VPN, jumped 30% and gaming skyrocketed 75%. Social media usage remained constant.

Verizon announced March 12 that it would step up its capital guidance range to $17.5 billion to $18.5 billion from $17 billion to $18 billion this year as the wireless provider prepares for the 5G transition and to support the economy through the coronavirus crisis. The company said at the time it had not seen a notable increase in data usage as the health epidemic reached pandemic levels.

Network connection is critical, especially for telecommuting and online learning.

2020 (!) Madison School District not moving to online instruction as Wisconsin schools ordered to close.

Open-Access JSTOR Materials Accessible to the Public

Orla Murnaghan:

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article incorrectly implied that JSTOR had made its database accessible to the public for the first time. In fact, only certain materials from its database are available to the public, and this has been the case for some time. The headline, subheading and body of this article have been updated to reflect this information.

Online academic resource JSTOR has clarified that much of its database is accessible to the public, amid the widespread closure of universities across the world due to the coronavirus pandemic.

How the virus kills dreams for Chinese teens

the Economist:

AS A TEENAGE schoolgirl, Tang Sisi has mixed feelings about the snowstorm that hit her village in the poor western province of Gansu on March 16th. On the downside, the snow burned out the village’s electrical transformer, cutting her access to online classes that have replaced normal lessons since covid-19 closed schools across China weeks ago. On the upside, when the internet dropped just after Chinese class, Sisi’s first lesson of the day, she could abandon her usual place of study—a rough wooden chair and desk in an outdoor courtyard, placed to catch the signal from a neighbour’s Wi-Fi—and shelter from the storm.

Sisi, whose father is a village official and whose mother is a migrant worker, cannot afford to miss many classes. Like millions of Chinese teenagers she is preparing for an examination for entrance to senior secondary school. It is known as the zhongkao, and sends students down one of two tracks. A vocational track involves three years studying a trade at a technical school. An academic track starts at senior high school and, for the most studious, ends with a four-year degree course at university.

Put bluntly, those who do well at the zhongkao have a shot at becoming doctors, bank managers, government officials or teachers—Sisi’s own ambition is to teach English. Teenagers who do badly must either enter the labour market or study for vocational diplomas of varying quality. The zhongkao may not be as famous as the gaokao, the terrifying university entrance exam that has inspired books, documentaries and feature films. But the zhongkao shapes more lives. In one sign of the exam’s hold on parental imaginations, Chinese social media erupted in heated debate when Hubei province, seat of the virus outbreak, announced that the children of medical workers would be granted ten bonus points on their zhongkao scores.

Civics: Wisconsin Emergency Powers and Their Limits

Rick Esenberg:

Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers’ response to the threat of COVID-19 has included cancelling school indefinitely throughout the state, closing bars and restaurants except for take-out service, and tight restrictions on social gatherings to fewer than 10. The state’s response, like the crisis itself, has moved with enormous speed. At the behest of guidance from the Centers for Disease Control, gatherings and businesses that were permitted on Monday were barred by Tuesday. Is all this legal? Let’s walk through it.

What does the law say?

Can a governor effectively suspend economic activity in a state and impose strict restrictions on public life? The answer is not clear. In our federal system the power to order this type of emergency shutdown has traditionally been reserved to the states. Wisconsin law is not unique, and the governing principles here do not differ dramatically from those that exist elsewhere.

Wisconsin law grants the Department of Health Services (DHS) the authority to “close schools and forbid public gatherings in schools, churches, and other places to control outbreaks and epidemics” and “authorize and implement all emergency measures necessary to control communicable diseases.” Other statutes also provide authority including the Governor’s power to declare a public emergency and, in such circumstances, to “issue such orders as he or she deems necessary for the security of persons and property.” Other states have similar provisions.

Upon reading these statutes, you might conclude that the Governor can do whatever he wants. But you would be wrong. Any action the Governor takes must also comply with the state and federal constitutions. And there are at least four potential constitutional challenges. Each would have to overcome centuries of law supporting the right of governments to impose quarantines to prevent the spread of disease — recall the story of Typhoid Mary — and even the cordon sanitaire — the centuries old practice of preventing the movement of people to stem the spread of disease. But each would be buoyed by the unprecedented breadth and indeterminate length of the Governor’s order. In short, we have never seen anything like this.

On the Technical Advancements and Instrumentalization of Rumor

CD/DC:/

The quality of information matters immensely in situations like this. I want to briefly direct your attention to an opinion piece on the Scientific American written by Dr. Bill Hanage and Dr. Marc Lipsitch, both great epidemiologists at the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health. They did a great job dissecting and categorizing different types of information.

In short, there are three categories of information about an outbreak of a communicable disease:

(A) what we know is true; (B) what we think is true—fact-based assessments that also depend on inference, extrapolation or educated interpretation of facts that reflect an individual’s view of what is most likely to be going on; and (C) opinions and speculation.

And of course, if I may add, there’s another category of information: rumor.

Wikipedia explains rumor as “a tall tale of explanations of events circulating from person to person and pertaining to an object, event, or issue in public concern.” However, in the context of Chinese language and the age of internet-driven public opinion, rumor possesses more of a derogatory meaning here in China. It is generally used to categorize information that is not fact-based, but rather invented out of thin air or manufactured for numerous purposes—be them simply trolling around, or more conscious ones.

Rumor in the Chinese context is often baseless speculations that are lacking in trustworthy source and hard for average readership to do their own fact-checking. That’s a big difference compared to what I perceived as the western people’s understanding towards rumor, which is mostly neutral. Keep in mind that I’m only going to talk about rumor in the Chinese context in this essay.

What I was pleased to see is that Chinese people are finally showing signs that they are fed up with these baseless rumor, and are more cautious than ever about their information intake. However, I’ve began to see two advanced versions of rumor beginning to circulate and people are still falling for them.

The first is forged statements claimed to have come from prestigious sources containing baseless claims that, upon first hear, sound kind of legit.

One example is the rumor of “holding your breath for 10 sec to check if you are infected with Covid-19”, believed to be originated from an Indian entertainment website, citing that it proves that if you can, then you don’t have pulmonary fibrosis. This one, or more specifically, the Chinese translated version, had been circulating quite well among my Chinese friends in the U.S.

Civics & Privacy: Federal government in talks with tech groups to use phone location data to track coronavirus: report

Maggie Miller:

The federal government is in talks with Facebook, Google and other tech companies about ways to use smartphone location data to tackle the coronavirus, The Washington Post reported Tuesday.

Washington is reportedly interested in using the data to better understand how the virus spreads and to see whether people are practicing social distancing.

A new task force made up of tech and other industry executives presented ideas for the use of the location data at a White House meeting Sunday, the Post reported. Presenters included officials from Harvard University and representatives from top tech groups and Silicon Valley firms.

The White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) did not immediately respond to The Hill’s request for comment.

An unnamed OSTP official told The Washington Post that they were “encouraged by American technology companies looking to leverage, aggregate, anonymized data to glean key insights for COVID-19 modeling efforts.”

The Philosophy of Computer Science

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

The philosophy of computer science is concerned with those ontological, methodological, and ethical issues that arise from within the academic discipline of computer science as well as from the practice of software development. Thus, the philosophy of computer science shares the same philosophical goals as the philosophy of mathematics and the many subfields of the philosophy of science, such as the philosophy of biology or the philosophy of the social sciences. The philosophy of computer science also considers the analysis of computational artifacts, that is, human-made computing systems, and it focuses on methods involved in the design, specification, programming, verification, implementation, and testing of those systems. The abstract nature of computer programs and the resulting complexity of implemented artifacts, coupled with the technological ambitions of computer science, ensures that many of the conceptual questions of the philosophy of computer science have analogues in the philosophy of mathematics, the philosophy of empirical sciences, and the philosophy of technology. Other issues characterize the philosophy of computer science only. We shall concentrate on three tightly related groups of topics that form the spine of the subject. First we discuss topics related to the ontological analysis of computational artifacts, in Sections 1–5 below. Second, we discuss topics involved in the methodology and epistemology of software development, in Sections 6–9 below. Third, we discuss ethical issues arising from computer science practice, in Section 10 below. Applications of computer science are briefly considered in section 11.

Mary Dash’s Writing Tips

Plainlanguage.gov:

Readers prefer active voice sentences, and we should try to use the active voice in most of our business writing to communicate our message most effectively. Active voice clearly identifies the action and who is performing that action. Unfortunately, much of government writing is in the passive voice, giving documents a wordy, bureaucratic tone. Over time, writing in the passive voice simply becomes a habit, one we should all work to change.

Will Wisconsin School Performance Ratings 2018-2019

Wisconsin Institute of Law & Liberty:

WILL’s performance data represents the most comprehensive look at Wisconsin’s test scores. WILL takes DPI’s report card data and adjusts the scores to place all schools on a level playing field. Schools with a negative performance score have lower performance than would be expected based on the composition of their students. Schools with a positive performance score are doing more than would be expected.

Several Dane County districts move to online, remote education

Logan Wroge:

As of now, the Madison School District isn’t moving to online schooling, but spokesman Tim LeMonds said the district is preparing for “distance learning alternatives as a requirement, if schools remain closed longer than what was initially expected.”

In the meantime, Madison is providing “enrichment” activities for students and directing parents to online resources to keep children academically engaged.

LeMonds said district staff are in daily communication with DPI and other large districts to address the “unique complexities” for a bigger school system to move online.

I recall discussions many years ago about creating a fast, wireless network at every school for neighborhood internet connectivity.

In addition, we discussed changing the District’s technology policy from top down to BYOD, that is bring your own device. I suggested to several Superintendents that teachers and staff receive a stipend to purchase and maintain an internet connected device (cellular iPad would be my choice) and begin to interact with everyone using this device. Further, Apple’s assistive efforts are substantial.

This occurred during Infinite Campus evaluation and implementation meetings. I wonder what the teacher/staff utilization data looks like today?

Infinite Campus – or similar – was for many years an expensive, missed opportunity.

Free Cambridge textbooks

Cambridge.org:

Cambridge University Press is making higher education textbooks in HTML format free to access online during the coronavirus outbreak.

Over 700 textbooks, published and currently available, on Cambridge Core are available regardless of whether textbooks were previously purchased. 

Free access is available until the end of May 2020.

Civics: Why Democracy Is on the Decline in the United States

Evan Osnos:

The latest edition was published last week, and, as you might expect, it recorded the fourteenth straight year of deteriorating freedom around the world; sixty-four countries have lost liberties in the past year, while only thirty-seven registered improvements. (India, the world’s largest democracy, has seen some of the most alarming declines.) Its assessment of the United States is also disturbing. In 2009, the U.S. had a score of ninety-four, out of a hundred, which ranked it near the top, just behind Germany, Switzerland, and Estonia. In the decade since, it has slipped eight points; it now ranks behind Greece, Slovakia, and Mauritius. Looking at the United States, Freedom House analysts note the types of trends that they more customarily assign to fragile corners of the globe: “pressure on electoral integrity, judicial independence, and safeguards against corruption. Fierce rhetorical attacks on the press, the rule of law, and other pillars of democracy coming from American leaders, including the president himself.”

Explaining what, exactly, accounts for this decline is the work of a growing body of literature. Much of it focusses, of course, on the tenure of Donald Trump, but, interestingly, some scholars and advocates tend to identify a point of origin well before the election of 2016. According to Protect Democracy, a legal-watchdog group dedicated to combatting the rise of authoritarianism in America, “the growth and spread of democracies that defined the 20th Century peaked in the early days of the 21st; since 2005, the state of democracies around the world has receded.”

One of the most frequently cited theories for this change is depicted in what’s known as the “elephant graph.” The graph, which the economist Branko Milanović popularized, in 2013, is, in fact, a chart that shows income growth by stratum (or, in technical terms, by “percentiles of the global income distribution”) in the twenty years leading up to the 2008 global financial crisis. The graph got its name because it looks like an elephant: on the left, there is a plump body of rising incomes—China, India, and other beneficiaries of globalization—and, on the right, a rapidly rising trunk, which reflects the spectacular fortunes of the world’s top one per cent. The most politically significant part of the elephant is in between: the bottom of the trunk, which shows the stagnant incomes of American and European working and middle classes. Those groups have proved to be fertile bases of support for populist rebellions against democratic traditions that, from their vantage point, now appear false or obsolete.

Commentary on Cuba’s Education Outcomes

Paul Peterson:

Mr. Sanders is not alone in his ad­mi­ra­tion for Cuban ed­u­ca­tion. In 2016 Pres­i­dent Obama quoted him­self as telling Raúl Cas­tro, Fi­del’s younger brother and suc­ces­sor: “You’ve made great progress in ed­u­cat­ing young peo­ple. Every child in Cuba gets a ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion.” Dan Domenech, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Amer­i­can As­so­ci­a­tion of School Ad­min­is­tra­tors, vis­ited Ha­vana in 2017 and ex­ulted: “Cuba’s ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem might as well be con­sid­ered the ul­ti­mate wrap-around in­sti­tu­tion for chil­dren.” In 2007 Stan­ford’s Mar­tin Carnoy pub­lished a book called “Cuba’s Aca­d­e­mic Ad­van­tage.”

It’s all bunk—though it’s hard to prove, be­cause Cuba re­fuses to par­tic­i­pate in in­ternational tests such as the re­spected Pro­gram for In­ternational Stu­dent As­sess­ment. The only ex­ter­nal tests in which Cuba did par­tic­i­pate were the 1997 and 2006 waves of the Latin Amer­i­can Lab­o­ra­tory for As­sess­ment of the Qual­ity of Ed­u­ca­tion, spon­sored by the United Na­tions Ed­u­ca­tional, Sci­en­tific and Cul­tural Or­ga­ni­za­tion and nick­named Lab­o­ra­to­rio. This was the main ev­i­den­tiary ba­sis for Mr. Carnoy’s book.

Legacy Preference Gets Fresh Look Following College-Admissions Scandal

Douglas Belkin:

Some elite universities are walking back the practice of giving the children of alumni preferential treatment in admissions, in some cases reacting to the public distrust of college admissions that was laid bare last year in the nationwide cheating scandal.

The practice, called legacy preference, is out-of-step with many schools’ stated goal of attracting a more diverse student body, admissions officers say.

The custom, which dates back to the 1920s and disproportionately benefits wealthy, white families, has drawn increasing criticism in recent years. Some schools have done away with the practice.

“The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”

How I teach classes remotely

Ifost:

I’ve been teaching classes remotely for over a decade now — mostly to adult learners — and so I thought I’d share what I’ve learned. With a lot of schools and universities having to switch to remote classes, here’s what I can suggest:

  • One of the most useful tools is Krisp.AI. (Affiliate link to get one month free: krisp.ai ; link for the free version for students and educators https://krisp.ai/blog/covid19-response/ ) — this automatically removes background noise, so you can be delivering a class in a noisy coffee shop and it sounds to your listeners like you are in a quiet recording studio. It is free to students and educators at this time.

By donating food to Chick-fil-A, you’ll be helping children and families in need while schools are closed

Evan Frank:

Chick-fil-A in Pewaukee is helping those in need while school districts are closed due to coronavirus concerns.

Owner Kyle Bartz said the restaurant has the opportunity to provide for some children and families affected by the loss of food while school is out.

“We’ve been asked if we could provide some basic groceries for some families in need,” Bartz said. “We are going to do a food collection at Chick-fil-A Pewaukee, 1454 Capitol Dr., between 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on March 18.”

Bartz said the goal is to collect 100 boxes packed with the following items:

• 1 loaf of bread

• 1 gallon of milk

• 1 box of easy to open yogurt

• 1 bag or apples/oranges/bananas/etc

• 1 jar of peanut butter

• 1 jar of jelly

• 1 box of health cereal

Civics: 1619 Project Fact-Checker Says The New York Times Ignored Her Objections

Robby Soave:

Leslie Harris is a Northwestern University historian who helped fact-check the 1619 Project, The New York Times’s recent package of articles that recast chattel slavery as a foundational aspect of America. The project has been praised for drawing attention to underscrutinized racial inequities throughout American history. But has also attracted criticism from historians who say that some of the project’s claims are false. Harris is one of those critics—but when she raised her objections with Nikole Hannah-Jones, the Times reporter who spearheaded the 1619 Project, she received no response.

“On August 19 of last year I listened in stunned silence as Nikole Hannah-Jones, a reporter for the New York Times, repeated an idea that I had vigorously argued against,” writes Harris in Politico.

When a fact-checker asked Harris to verify some of the project’s statements, Harris “vigorously disputed” the claim that protecting the institution of slavery was a major reason the American colonies rebelled against British rule:

Time to Go Back to School on the ‘Kiddie Tax’

Laura Saunders:

Congress made a big change to the so-called Kiddie Tax when it overhauled the tax code in 2017. But when lawmakers learned its terrible consequences, they switched back.

This zigzag is giving some taxpayers important choices on 2018 and 2019 tax returns. Others, such as generous parents or grandparents, need to relearn how Kiddie Tax rules will apply for 2020 and beyond.

Let’s recap. Congress passed the Kiddie Tax in 1986 to prevent wealthy people from giving income-producing assets to their children to take advantage of their lower rates.

The levy imposed income tax on children’s “unearned” income at the parents’ tax rate, above a small exemption. For 2019 and 2020, the exemption is $2,200. The tax doesn’t apply to a young person’s earned income, say from being a camp counselor.

Fair Use & Emergency Remote Teaching & Research

Public Statement of Library Copyright Specialists:

This Statement is meant to provide clarity for U.S. colleges and universities about how copyright law applies to the many facets of remote teaching and research in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak. We write this as copyright specialists at colleges, universities, and other organizations supporting higher education in the U.S. and Canada who work every day with faculty, staff, and librarians to enable them to make ethical and legal choices about copyright issues in online teaching.   

The United States is in a time of crisis. As of this writing, more than 200 universities and colleges have moved to remote teaching. These moves aim to promote public health by slowing the spread of the disease, while maintaining at least some of the important functions higher education plays in teaching, learning, and research. We have heard concerns that copyright may pose impediments to a rapid shift to remote instruction, or conversely, that copyright is not relevant. While legal obligations do not automatically dissolve in the face of a public health crisis, U.S. copyright law is, thankfully, well equipped to provide the flexibility necessary for the vast majority of remote learning needed at this time.

Everybody Ready for the Big Migration to Online College? Actually, No

Kevin Carey:

Nobody planned for an abrupt mass migration of traditional college courses to the internet.

But because of coronavirus, that’s where we are.

Hundreds of thousands of students have been told to clear out their belongings and head home, many through the end of the semester. In nearly every case, colleges have said that instruction will continue online.

Making it work will require much more than giving every professor a Zoom account and letting instruction take its course. That’s partly because not all students will be able to access or benefit from suddenly online courses equally.

Undergraduates at places like Harvard, Stanford and M.I.T. will largely have no problem getting online to complete their work. But one recent study found that roughly 20 percent of students have trouble with basic technology needs. Their data plans are capped, their computers break, or their connections fail. Those with technology challenges are disproportionately low-income and students of color, who are also more vulnerable to dropping out.

Those students need courses that are not just accessible, but also well designed.

In some ways, colleges have been building toward this moment for more than a decade. One-third of all undergraduates are enrolled in online classes now. Thirteen percent are learning exclusively online. Online course-taking has increased for 14 consecutive years, even as overall enrollment has declined.

Civics: What the Bible Taught Lincoln About America

Meir Soloveichik:

When Abraham Lincoln was elected president in 1860, he was certainly not thought of as a man given to religious fervor. But over the next 4½ years, as hundreds of thousands of Americans died in the Civil War, the 16th president evolved into a theologian of the American idea, using the language and concepts of the Bible to reflect on the war’s larger meaning. This year on Presidents Day, Americans will observe the 211th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth. But in an age of declining biblical literacy, we are in danger of losing touch with a key source of his greatness.

Why, for instance, did Lincoln begin the Gettysburg Address with the words “fourscore and seven years ago?” It isn’t because he usually spoke that way, as many readers of the speech might now assume. Rather, he knew that his audience was deeply familiar with the King James Bible and would recognize the language of the Psalms: “The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years.” As Adam Gopnik has written, Lincoln “had mastered the sound of the King James Bible so completely that he could recast abstract issues of constitutional law in biblical terms.”

The Bible’s influence on Lincoln’s language can be seen even before he took office. In February 1861, with the South seceding and the future of the Union hanging in the balance, the president-elect received an unusual gift from Abraham Kohn of Chicago. A Bavarian immigrant who was fiercely committed to both Judaism and Republican politics, Kohn was convinced, as his daughter later wrote, that Lincoln “was the destined Moses of the slaves and the savior of his country.” The gift that he sent reflected those convictions—a framed painting of an American flag, on whose stripes Kohn had inscribed Hebrew verses from the book of Joshua: “As I was with Moses, so I will be with thee; I will not fail thee nor forsake thee. Be strong and of good courage; be not affrighted, neither be thou dismayed; for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.”

Students demand fee reduction after university goes online over coronavirus

Jennifer Kannaby:

Some 12,000 people have signed a petition demanding that UC San Diego officials reduce their fees in the wake of the decision to move spring quarter classes online over the coronavirus.

The petition comes as more students and parents across the nation are asking what the shift from on campus to online classes amid the coronavirus contaminant means for their wallets.

Questions regarding partial housing and meal plan refunds, as well as assistance with spur-of-the-moment travel plans as college students are asked to leave their dorms, have also increased.

As for the petition at UC San Diego, it was started by student Jessica Liang and “argues that the university should lower certain student fees that amount to $4,817.22 for in-state students and $14,735.22 for out of state students. The fees include tuition, transportation, student activities, and events,” the UCSD Guardian reports.

Liang explained to the student newspaper that since spring 2020 classes have moved online “I found a lot of UCSD students complained about that … they think it is not worth [it] to pay such high tuition for online classes.”

The issue has struck a nerve. Another UCSD student tweeted out her story as well:

Hey, Teacher, Teach Those Kids at Home

Paul Vallas:

Ensuring that all schools have the capacity to provide high-quality remote instruction need not be financially prohibitive. Even financially strapped school systems have options. Schools can secure needed curriculum and instructional materials through subscriptions and by using online materials. By leasing the technology, a district can create and maintain a comprehensive, technologically supported instructional system at a fraction of what it would cost to buy laptops and tablets outright. A byproduct of such arrangements is that vendors will often donate used laptops and tablets to the district when the time comes to replace them with newer models, usually about every thee years. With proper maintenance, schools can expand their technology assets at little to no additional cost.

Other benefits to remote learning include reducing the cost of transportation and minimizing wear and tear on facilities. By helping maintain and improve student enrollment and average daily attendance, remote learning will help preserve and even increase state and federal education funding, which is often determined by these measures.

Although it’s possible now to teach students remotely, and it may even be desirable in moments like this one, it’s far from optimal. There’s still no substitute for in-person, high-quality teachers. I also don’t mean to minimize the socialization that schools provide. Learning alongside other students is critical to ensuring that young people eventually mature into healthy, engaged and socially adept adults.

Much more on Paul Vallas, here.

Coronavirus Tech Handbook

Coronavirus Handbook:

How to use this handbook

  1. 💬 Subscribe for updates

  1. 📣 Help other technologists find it

  1. ✏️ Contribute where you can

  • If you come across any useful resources about Coronavirus, add the link in one of the subsections below.

  • Even if this page is overloaded and can’t be edited, the subsections below likely will not be.

  • If you’re not sure where something should go, put it in miscellaneous and we’ll find a home for it.[a][b][c][d]

  • If you are working on a new project yourself, join the chat in the relevant section and tell us about it!

  • If you’ve added something, post about it in the Facebook Group.

  1. ⚠️ Disclaimer

  • This website may contain information about medical conditions and treatments. The information is not advice, and should not be treated as such. We bear no responsibility for any decisions or actions taken resulting from information found here, nor do we claim that any of it is complete, true, accurate, up-to-date, or non-misleading. Use and re-use it at your own risk!

Why Conventional Wisdom on Education Reform is Wrong (a primer)

Corey Keysor:

Spending is the guiding principle for how most people make sense of education policy. We have very high expectations for what our public schools need to offer and, on top of that, we frequently assume that reform means more spending.

This spiral has led to the United States spending more than almost any other developed country despite having poor relative rankings on international measures of education quality. This misconception drives a lot of the dysfunction and gluttony in the system. We can’t just spend our way out of education problems. We’ve tried and it’s led to education being one of the largest parts of the US federal budget despite the fact that most of us are dissatisfied with the results.

A common misconception about US education is that the property-tax based funding of local school districts makes it so that poor students are underfunded relative to non-poor students. There’s some truth to this statement. A lot of districts do fund schools based on property taxes and there are large differences in school funding between states. This spending disparity closely matches the actual educational ranking of the states. This, again, makes it look like poorer students are being left out to dry, and although that is the case in some cases, on average US school funding is somewhat progressive.

The combination of state, local, and federal school funding makes it so that the districts attended by poor students are funded 2.5% more than non-poor students. And even within districts, “schools with less advantaged students spend at least as much (and often significantly more).”

The future of work requires a return to apprenticeships

Matthew Lauer:

One of the major concerns of the Fourth Industrial Revolution is that artificial intelligence and automation – robots – will eliminate jobs, both blue-collar and white-collar roles across a variety of sectors.

While C-3PO and WALL-E might be good at processing algorithms, they can never replace living, breathing, thinking humans entirely in the workplace. From the auto factory producing a fine-tuned machine where safety and functionality are of utmost importance, to the commodities trading floor where high-value transactions must take into account complex, rapidly changing geopolitical movements, businesses of all kinds still require human intelligence.

And these humans must have bespoke skills and sharp problem-solving and decision-making abilities to fulfill these jobs – jobs that will remain lucrative and dependable, regardless of what robots come along.

Open Records Response: “Community Leader & Stakeholder” meeting with Madison Superintendent Candidates

On January 21, 2020, I sent this email to board@madison.k12.wi.us

Hi:

I hope that you are well.

I write to make an open records request for a list of invitees and participants in last week’s “community leader and stakeholder” meetings with the (Superintendent) candidates.

Thank you and best wishes,


Jim

Hearing nothing, I wrote on February 13, 2020:

Has my open records request gone missing?

School Board member Cris Carusi emailed me, twice that day, kindly following up on this request.

I received an email on February 18, 2020 from Barbara Osborn that my “request has been shared with our legal department”.

I received this response from Sherrice M Perry on March 13, 2020:

Dear Mr. James Zellmer,

Please accept this email as the Madison Metropolitan School District’s (the “District”) response to your public records request for “a list of invitees and participants in last week’s ‘community leader and stakeholder’ meetings with the candidates.” Attached below are the records that are most responsive to your request.

With regard to the requested records, the District redacted portions of the attached records consistent with the provisions of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA; 34 CFR 99.3 et seq.) and Wis. Stat. § 118.125(1)(d). The requested records contain “personally identifiable information.” Pursuant to FERPA, “personally identifiable information” is defined as “information requested by a person who the educational agency or institution reasonably believes knows the identity of the student to whom the record relates” or “information that, alone or in combination, is linked or linkable to a specific student that would allow a reasonable person in the school community, who does not have personal knowledge of the relevant circumstances, to identify the student with reasonable certainty.” (34 CFR 99 3). According to these definitions, the District determined that the redacted documents contain information regarding very small populations (e.g. one or two students) from a distinct group or affiliation and thus, a “reasonable person in the school community” could identify the students who were referenced in the record. Nonetheless, by providing you the record with only limited redactions, the District is in full compliance with Wis. Stat. 19.36(6).

Please note: The denials, in the form of the redacted material referenced above, are subject to review in an action for mandamus under Wis. Stat. 19.37(1), or by application to the local district attorney or Attorney General. See Wis. Stat. 19.35(4)(b).

If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact the District’s Public Information Officer, Timothy LeMonds, at (608) 663-1903.

PDF Attachment.

Much more on the 2019 Madison School District Superintendent Search, here.

2005: When all third graders read at grade level or beyond by the end of the year, the achievement gap will be closed…and not before:

On November 7, Superintendent Art Rainwater made his annual report to the Board of Education on progress toward meeting the district’s student achievement goal in reading. As he did last fall, the superintendent made some interesting claims about the district’s success in closing the academic achievement gap “based on race”. 

According to Mr. Rainwater, the place to look for evidence of a closing achievement gap is the comparison of the percentage of African American third graders who score at the lowest level of performance on statewide tests and the percentage of other racial groups scoring at that level. He says that, after accounting for income differences, there is no gap associated with race at the lowest level of achievement in reading. He made the same claim last year, telling the Wisconsin State Journal on September 24, 2004, “for those kids for whom an ability to read would prevent them from being successful, we’ve reduced that percentage very substantially, and basically, for all practical purposes, closed the gap”. Last Monday, he stated that the gap between percentages scoring at the lowest level “is the original gap” that the board set out to close.

Unfortunately, that is not the achievement gap that the board aimed to close. 

2006: “They’re all Rich White Kids, and they’ll do just fine, NOT!”

2009: An emphasis on adult employment.

2013: What will be different, this time?

Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham, 2015:

Shortly after the office was proposed, Cheatham said non-district-authorized charter schools have “no consistent record of improving education for children, but they do drain resources from public schools, without any control in our local community or school board.”

Rather than invest in what we know works in education, this proposal puts resources in strategies with mixed results at the expense of our public school students,” she said in May 2015

2011: A majority of the taxpayer supported Madison School Board aborted the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter school.


The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, lead by Governor Elect, Tony Evers, has waived Massachusetts’ style elementary teacher content knowledge requirements for thousands of teachers. 

Compare Madison, WI high school graduation rates and academic achievement data.

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

In addition, Madison recently expanded its least diverse schools.

Madison School District not moving to online instruction as Wisconsin schools ordered to close

Logan Wroge:

During the unprecedented hiatus, the district is not requiring students shift to online instruction — a move colleges and universities, including UW-Madison, have announced in recent days.

“When school is closed, we will not have required academic instruction,” Belmore said at a news conference Friday afternoon. “We will however provide books, packets and enrichment opportunities for all students at every grade level.”

She said the district is not pursuing online instruction, which was an option it had been exploring, because there are technical difficulties in getting internet access to all 27,000 students, “student-related instructional need difficulties,” and staff and family issues to take into consideration.

Candidate Q&A: Milton School Board

Emily Hamer:

What is the best way to improve student literacy?

Crull-Hanke: Early childhood includes getting the parents involved in reading and giving them strategies to use with their children. Having a balanced literacy program which includes oral, guided, and independent reading, writing, and repetitive use of phonics and site words. Middle school age would be to get books in their hands instead of phones!

Hall: I think the best way to improve student literacy is to meet the individual student where they are at. At the same time, we need to challenge each student to do their best. While electronics have their place, I feel we need to get books and print media back into the hands of students.

Hoffman: In Milton we collect a great deal of data on students of all grade levels in the area of literacy. We have the ability to analyze the data and identify standards that are in need of improvement. Concentrating instruction in these areas for students of all learning abilities is the best way to improve literacy and academic achievement.

Holterman: We need parental involvement and one-on-one interaction with students. We start early in the pre-K/elementary setting and maintain both reasonable class sizes as well as a reasonable staff-to-student ratio. Additionally, we measure progress among students and assign additional resources if we identify kids that are struggling to keep up.

Candidate Q&A: River Valley School Board

WiSJ:

Why should voters elect you instead of your opponent?

Flint: My opponent has closed four schools and shipped our kids and resources to Spring Green with no plan to fix the problem. Division, bitterness, declining enrollment, open enrollment is what we are left with. We need a plan! We can’t keep asking the taxpayers to pay more for bad management.

Nelson: I have served on the board for 27 years. I have attended the State Education Convention and other valuable training many times. I know the history behind what has happened in our district over the years and I can help our district continue to be the great district it is.

What is the most pressing issue in your community and how would you address it?

Flint: Enrollment! Advertising and increasing our state and federal stats by increasing our reading scores so the other 60% can be proficient would go a long way. Good schools and good special education programs bring people to communities. Arena had a 23% increase in enrollment! Too bad they closed it.

Nelson: We need to continue to build on the great school district that we have. We are preparing our children for jobs that don’t even exist yet. We need to work with local businesses and post-high school educators to have our students career-ready.

Why Modern Feminism Wants To Get Rid Of The Family

SG Cheah:

Why the Nuclear Family Is the Feminist Public Enemy No. 1

Feminist theory states that the patriarchy is the reigning status quo of society. Therefore, to move towards a superior form of society, a revolution is necessary because women have to rise up and overthrow the patriarchy.

Keep that thought in mind, and you will understand why the lunatic fringe of the radical feminist movement truly believe that they’re victims of the patriarchal oppression of the cis-gendered, straight, white male.

This is why leading feminist thinker Jessica Valenti said, “Feminism is a structural analysis of a world that oppresses women, an ideology based on the notion that patriarchy exists and that it needs to end.” The only way to eliminate female oppression, feminists believe, is to change men and society, essentially disintegrating and reorganizing society in order to completely transform it.

Oberlin College planning to lay off 108 employees in its dining services and custodial departments

Dave O’Brien:

The effort will save the college an estimated $2 million per year, it announced Tuesday.

Oberlin College is not the only four-year liberal arts college to take measures to improve its finances. Across the country, the number of college-age youths is shrinking as the population ages. That also means undergraduate enrollment is down, which in turn shrinks the amount colleges receive in tuition payments.

Fewer students are expected to graduate high school in the coming years, with a story at EducationNext.com from fall 2018 saying the decline already has taken place in the Midwest and Northeast, where there are more small, private colleges than in other regions of the U.S.

The late Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen predicted last decade that up to 50 percent of American universities would either close or go bankrupt within 10 years.

He and higher education writer Michael Horn explained in a 2013 New York Times article that “a host of struggling colleges and universities — the bottom 25 percent of every tier, we predict — will disappear or merge in the next 10 to 15 years,” Horn wrote in an article for Forbes in December 2018.

Eagle School sixth-grader Maya Jadhav wins Badger State Spelling Bee for second year

Howard Hardee:

After competing against nearly 50 of the top young spellers in Wisconsin, 11-year-old Maya Jadhav won the Badger State Spelling Bee on Saturday for the second year running.

The Fitchburg phenom won the competition and a ticket to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Maryland by correctly spelling “panchax,” a common aquarium fish native to southern Asia. Maya, a sixth-grader at Eagle School, also took top honors last year as a fifth-grader and won third place in 2018.

Following her victory, Maya admitted that she had been “pretty nervous” ahead of Saturday’s Badger State Spelling Bee, sponsored by the Wisconsin State Journal.

“I really wanted to go to nationals, because I went last year,” she said, adding that anything less would have been a disappointment.

Adding to the perceived pressure, only the first-place winner is proceeding to the national competition. In previous years, a few of the top finishers in Wisconsin moved on.

Maya’s parents, Nitin Jadhav and Terra Theim, said they’ll make another family trip out of going to nationals in late May. Jadhav said his daughter takes the competition “very seriously.” Last year, Maya made it to the final round and tied for 41st place in the country.

As long as Montgomery County fails to teach children to read, it will have gaps

Karin Chenoweth:

In the words of the report, Montgomery County’s curriculum does “not include the necessary components to adequately address foundational skills.”

If you’re not immersed in these issues, you might not recognize just how scathing this language is. Montgomery County fails to do what just about all cognitive scientists and most reading researchers agree is critical to ensuring that children learn to read.

In addition, the report said that MCPS provided little to no support for students to build the vocabulary and background knowledge necessary for students to read well as they proceed through the grades. That doesn’t mean that teachers aren’t doing their best with what they have. But for decades the county has failed to provide a coherent, research-based curriculum that would mean that teachers don’t have to spend endless evening and weekend hours writing and finding materials. “Teachers should not be expected to be the composers of the music as well as the conductors of the orchestra,” the report said, quoting an educator.

In the wake of that report, Montgomery County adopted new curriculums for elementary and middle school that may help children to build vocabulary and background knowledge through the elementary and middle school years.

But if students don’t learn how to get words off the page efficiently and smoothly, huge numbers of children will continue to struggle academically. And there is little evidence that Montgomery County is providing teachers with either the knowledge or the materials to help them teach their students to read. Nor is the county ensuring that principals understand how to support teachers as they learn to improve reading instruction.

2005: When all third graders read at grade level or beyond by the end of the year, the achievement gap will be closed…and not before:

On November 7, Superintendent Art Rainwater made his annual report to the Board of Education on progress toward meeting the district’s student achievement goal in reading. As he did last fall, the superintendent made some interesting claims about the district’s success in closing the academic achievement gap “based on race”. 

According to Mr. Rainwater, the place to look for evidence of a closing achievement gap is the comparison of the percentage of African American third graders who score at the lowest level of performance on statewide tests and the percentage of other racial groups scoring at that level. He says that, after accounting for income differences, there is no gap associated with race at the lowest level of achievement in reading. He made the same claim last year, telling the Wisconsin State Journal on September 24, 2004, “for those kids for whom an ability to read would prevent them from being successful, we’ve reduced that percentage very substantially, and basically, for all practical purposes, closed the gap”. Last Monday, he stated that the gap between percentages scoring at the lowest level “is the original gap” that the board set out to close.

Unfortunately, that is not the achievement gap that the board aimed to close. 

2006: “They’re all Rich White Kids, and they’ll do just fine, NOT!”

2009: An emphasis on adult employment.

2013: What will be different, this time?

Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham, 2015:

Shortly after the office was proposed, Cheatham said non-district-authorized charter schools have “no consistent record of improving education for children, but they do drain resources from public schools, without any control in our local community or school board.”

Rather than invest in what we know works in education, this proposal puts resources in strategies with mixed results at the expense of our public school students,” she said in May 2015

2011: A majority of the taxpayer supported Madison School Board aborted the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter school.


The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, lead by Governor Elect, Tony Evers, has waived Massachusetts’ style elementary teacher content knowledge requirements for thousands of teachers. 

Compare Madison, WI high school graduation rates and academic achievement data.

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

In addition, Madison recently expanded its least diverse schools.

Curated Education Information