K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: California’s public pension debt is third-worst in U.S.

Allen Young

If all of California’s public pension debt were divided evenly by household, each house would need to pay $77,700, according to a new project from a Stanford University researcher.

The relatively high debt-to-household ratio makes the Golden State the third worst in the nation for total pension debt burden, behind Alaska and Illinois. That’s not to say that each Californian is responsible for paying $77,000, but the costs will fall on residents in different ways, as state and local governments figure out how to pay the debt, said Stanford researcher Joe Nation.

Oregon officials face truth behind state’s soaring public pension costs

Ted Sickinger:

Bad enough that Rukaiyah Adams, the normally polished investment professional who is vice chair of the Oregon Investment Council, broke down in tears last week as she spoke of passing a record $22 billion in unfunded promises to future taxpayers.

“My call to the Legislature and to the governor is for leadership on this, and I mean right now,” Adams said during last Wednesday’s joint meeting of the Oregon Public Employees Retirement System board and the citizen panel that oversees its investments. “This is becoming a moral issue. We can’t just talk about numbers anymore.”

The numbers are bleak. Oregon’s pension system owes billions of dollars more to retirees than it has, and the last major attempt to fix the problem was shot down in courts.

This month, cities, school districts and others will find out how much more they’ll pay to help prop up the system. Higher pension costs could come at the expense of funding for other needs, including social services, infrastructure investments and education programs.

New exhibit on American workers makes us think: Why do we work?

Rex Huppke

We all work, but we rarely take time to think about what a job means, how it shapes our identity and what it is, specifically, about what we do that matters in the grand scheme of things.

“So much of our life is defined by work,” said Jane Saks, president and artistic director of Project&, the group that created the exhibit. “It’s not just monetary. It’s not just skill or talent. It has so much to do with self and identity.”

The exhibit was inspired by Terkel’s classic book “Working,” a collection of interviews with working Americans. As you walk past the stunning photographs, taken by Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Lynsey Addario, you are given only general descriptions of each person: a name, a job title, where the person lives.

Here’s $160,000 Toward Your Stanford MBA. And Here’s the Catch

Zara Kessler:

What if somebody offered you a small fortune to … live in the Midwest?
Insert Garrison Keillor joke here. And then, if you’re thinking about getting an MBA and can demonstrate a bond with the region, you might want to get your application ready for January.

That’s the next deadline to apply for the new Stanford USA MBA Fellowship, which will cover tuition and associated fees for as many as three students in next year’s entering MBA class. It adds up to approximately $160,000 over the two-year program.1

The fellowship, offered by Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, is for people who qualify for need-based financial aid and are “committed to economic development in underserved regions of the United States.” In this first iteration, it targets the Midwest. Would-be fellows must show strong connections with at least one state in the area—Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin fit the bill—such as living there, currently or for at least three consecutive years in the past, or being a graduate of a Midwestern high school.

UW System fall enrollment down 5,000 students

Karen Herzog:

“Frankly, competition is fierce,” said Cathy Sandeen, chancellor of UW Colleges and UW-Extension. “There’s a big incentive to go after tuition revenue. We’re experiencing competition from institutions that haven’t competed with us in the past, including the four-year campuses.”

Several factors likely contributed to UW Colleges’ early loss of about 3,000 students this fall, she said.

When the economy picks up, enrollment at two-year institutions often declines as more jobs become available, especially for nontraditional students, Sandeen said. The national conversation about affordability, student loan debt and the value of higher education also has been “very negative,” she added. Some new high school graduates may delay college and choose to earn tuition money first to avoid taking out loans, the chancellor said.

Two-year campuses hit the hardest are in counties that have been severely affected by the demographic shift, she said. “We’re in a trough, in terms of the number of high school graduates. We’re at a low point in that demographic, and that’s the demographic that traditionally comes to our campuses.”

The Math Inside the US Highway System

Better Explained:

Whoa. There’s so much information conveyed in a simple numbering scheme! Without looking at a map, I know I can drive from Seattle to Boston on I-90. Maybe I’ll take I-95 South when I’m there and make my way to Florida. On the way I’ll take I-10 West, over to LA, then drive up I-5 North back to Seattle.

How does this work?

We have a concept of a number, and all its properties (even/odd, size, number of digits…)

We noticed a real-world object (a highway) that had various properties (North/South, position, major/minor)

We associated the properties of the number to the properties of the object

A Law Professor Explains Why You Should Never Talk to Police

Harry Cheadle

James Duane doesn’t think you should ever talk to the police. Not just, “Don’t talk to the police if you’re accused of a crime,” or, “Don’t talk to the police in an interrogation setting”—never talk to the cops, period. If you are found doing something suspicious by an officer (say, breaking into your own house because you locked yourself outside), you are legally obligated to tell the cop your name and what you’re doing at that very moment.

Other than that, Duane says, you should fall back on four short words: “I want a lawyer.”

In 2008, Duane, a professor at Virginia’s Regent Law School, gave a lecture about the risks of talking to police that was filmed and posted to YouTube. It’s since been viewed millions of times, enjoying a new viral boost after the Netflix documentary Making a Murderer spurred interest in false confessions. His argument, which he’s since expanded into a new book called You Have the Right to Remain Innocent, is that even if you haven’t committed a crime, it’s dangerous to tell the police any information. You might make mistakes when explaining where you were at the time of a crime that the police interpret as lies; the officer talking to you could misremember what you say much later; you may be tricked into saying the wrong things by cops under no obligation to tell you the truth; and your statements to police could, in combination with faulty eyewitness accounts, shoddy “expert” testimony, and sheer bad luck, lead to you being convicted of a serious crime.

Bad science misled millions with chronic fatigue syndrome. Here’s how we fought back

Julie Rehmeyer:

If your doctor diagnoses you with chronic fatigue syndrome, you’ll probably get two pieces of advice: Go to a psychotherapist and get some exercise. Your doctor might tell you that either of those treatments will give you a 60 percent chance of getting better and a 20 percent chance of recovering outright. After all, that’s what researchers concluded in a 2011 study published in the prestigious medical journal the Lancet, along with later analyses.

Problem is, the study was bad science.

And we’re now finding out exactly how bad.

Under court order, the study’s authors for the first time released their raw data earlier this month. Patients and independent scientists collaborated to analyze it and posted their findings Wednesday on Virology Blog, a site hosted by Columbia microbiology professor Vincent Racaniello.

Students are not hard-wired to learn in different ways – we need to stop using unproven, harmful methods

Stephen Dinham

In health there are well-established protocols that govern the introduction of any new drug or treatment. Of major consideration is the notion of doing no harm. In education there are no such controls and plenty of vested interests keen to see the adoption of new strategies and resources for a variety of ideological and financial reasons.

Teachers need to be critical consumers of research – as with medicine, lives are also at stake – yet with the best will in the world and without the knowledge and time to do so, decisions may be made to adopt new approaches that are not only ineffectual, but can actually do harm. A case in point is learning styles.

Prosecutors’ Group Doubles Down on Junk Science in Face of New Report


This week, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (“PCAST”) released a system-shaking report that explains how several fields of forensic analysis—including bite-mark analysis, hair comparisons, and shoeprint analysis—lack adequate scientific validation. Although many of these techniques have not been shown to be sufficiently reliable, they have been permitted to produce evidence in criminal cases across the country for many years. It is no wonder that D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Harry Edwards and Jennifer Mnookin, the dean of UCLA’s law school, wrote in the Washington Post that “[t]he report is a much-needed wake-up call to all who care about the integrity of the criminal-justice system.” Rather than waking up, however, the National District Attorneys Association (“NDAA”) is doubling down on the pseudo-science masquerading as forensic evidence. Given that district attorneys themselves widely evade accountability and face inadequate constraints on their power, perhaps it is no surprise that their representative organization is unwilling to stomach expert scrutiny of the evidence prosecutors introduce in criminal trials every day.

Why don’t black and white Americans live together? –


Legal segregation in the US may have ended more than 50 years ago. But in many parts of the country, Americans of different races aren’t neighbours – they don’t go to the same schools, they don’t shop at the same stores, and they don’t always have access to the same services.

In 2016 the issue of race will remain high on the agenda in the United States. The police killings of unarmed black men and women over the past few years reignited a debate over race relations in America, and the reverberations will be felt in the upcoming presidential election and beyond.
Ferguson, Baltimore and Chicago are three cities synonymous with racial tensions – but all three have another common denominator.

They, like many other American cities, are still very segregated.

Is science only for the rich? :


Last year, Christina Quasney was close to giving up. A biochemistry major at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Quasney’s background was anything but privileged. Her father runs a small car-repair shop in the tiny community of Millersville, Maryland, and she was the first person in her immediate family to attend university. At the age of 25, she had already spent years struggling to make time both for her classes and the jobs she took to pay for them, yet was still far from finishing her degree. “I started to feel like it was time to stop fighting this losing battle and move on with my life,” she says.

Zero Correlation Between Student Evaluations and Learning

Colleen Flaherty:

“Meta-analysis of faculty’s teaching effectiveness: Student evaluation of teaching ratings and student learning are not related” was written by Bob Uttl, professor of psychology at Mount Royal University; Carmela A. White, a graduate student in psychology at the University of British Columbia; and Daniela Wong Gonzalez, a graduate student at the University of Windsor, all in Canada. Most of the studies analyzed were based on U.S. data.

Alternative and Next-Generation Credentialing


In recent years, the higher education space has seen stunning transformation in the way we recognize and credential student learning.

With the resurgence and expansion of competency-based education, we’ve seen the value both students and employers put into mastery and learning outcomes. With the expansion and success of coding bootcamps—as well as institutional non-credit offerings—we’ve come to understand that a degree is not the ultimate goal for many learners.

This Special Feature explores the new higher education reality and shares some insights into how colleges and universities can compete and succeed in today’s rich and competitive postsecondary marketplace.

Oxford Tops List of World’s Best Universities

Beckie Strum

The University of Oxford, the oldest in the English-speaking world, took the top spot in the latest World University Rankings, released annually by Times Higher Education. The English university dating to 1096 dethroned the California Institute of Technology, a small, private school in Pasadena that had ranked No. 1 for five consecutive years, according to Times Higher Education, a London magazine that tracks higher education.

This is the first time a university outside the U.S. is No. 1 in the list’s 13-year history. This year’s list also underscores strengthening university systems in Asia as schools in China and Hong Kong have risen up the ranks, some by double-digits.

What does a kilowatt hour look like?


Some time ago I came across a very good read by David McCay – Sustainable Energy without the Hot Air. I’ve seen many good reviews of the book, so it didn’t take me long to download and start reading it. I haven’t finished yet, but I can already confirm that the book is outstanding – it’s one of the books that fundamentally change the way you look at things around you. The only thing I knew about “kilowatt hours” before, was that they come every month with an electricity bill. The book can give you a much broader picture of i.e. where they come from, and what they can do for you.

A Critique Of “We Know Best”

Chris Arnade

Trump voters may not vote the way I want them to, but, after having spent the last five years working in (and having grown up in) parts of the US few visit, I know they are not dumb. They are doing what all voters do: Trying to use their vote to better their particular situation (however they define that).

Labeling them dumb is simply a way of not trying to understand their situation, or what they value.

Related, Madison, despite spending nearly $18k per student annually, has long tolerated disastrous reading results and perpetual resistance of K-12 diversity.

Enrollments surge at historically black colleges amid rise in racial tensions

Walter M. Kimbrough

As we begin a new academic year, many colleges and universities find themselves with heightened sensitivity around issues of race. Led by the unrest last year at the University of Missouri, dozens of campuses from coast to coast saw protests as students of color, particularly black students, reached a collective breaking point. As students saw their peers at Missouri create a national conversation and topple both a system president and campus chancellor, they found the courage to address similar concerns on their respective campuses.

A typical outcome was a list of demands. Several themes emerged from the campuses: changing names of buildings, more black students, faculty and staff, mandatory diversity training, targeted support and counseling for black students, and the creation of safe spaces including in designated residential halls. Campuses have responded in kind with task forces, new initiatives, and the hiring of chief diversity officers.

In the safe spaces on campus, no Jews allowed

Anthony Berteaux

For Mokhtarzadeh, an Iranian Jew at UCLA, her freshman year was punctuated by incidents of anti-Semitism that were both personal and met with national controversy. She was shocked during her first quarter in school, when students entered the Bruin Cafe to see the phrase “Hitler did nothing wrong” etched into a table. Months later, Mokhtarzadeh’s friend Rachel Beyda was temporarily denied a student government leadership position based solely on her Jewish identity, an event that made news nationwide.

The campus was supposed to be her new home, her new safe space — so why didn’t she feel that way? She went to the conference hoping for some answers.

Textbooks: a closed-off corner of learning set free by technology

Anne-Marie Slaughter

Students around the world returning to university this week are, whether or not they know it, living disrupters of the global market in education. Given that tuition fees vary widely between colleges and countries, many are looking overseas.

A growing number of American students, for example, are trying their luck at British, Canadian, French, German and Australian institutions.

But there is one corner of the education market that is proving harder to disrupt.

Regardless of fees charged by the university, all students face high and rising book bills. For 75 per cent of those enrolled at the University of São Paulo, the cost of textbooks exceeded their family’s monthly income.

In the US the retail prices for recent editions of Fundamentals of Corporate Finance , Modern Physics and Principles of Microeconomics , textbooks that are required for big introductory courses, run to hundreds of dollars.

Textbook prices in the US increased 82 per cent between 2003 and 2013. The digital versions do not help much; they are often coupled with expensive access codes without which students cannot complete and submit coursework. These codes often come with expiry dates, at which point students’ access to their materials is cut off. The potential for reselling is eliminated.

How Are You Rewired My Brain To Become Fluent In Math

Barbara Oakley

was a wayward kid who grew up on the literary side of life, treating math and science as if they were pustules from the plague. So it’s a little strange how I’ve ended up now—someone who dances daily with triple integrals, Fourier transforms, and that crown jewel of mathematics, Euler’s equation. It’s hard to believe I’ve flipped from a virtually congenital math-phobe to a professor of engineering.

One day, one of my students asked me how I did it—how I changed my brain. I wanted to answer Hell—with lots of difficulty! After all, I’d flunked my way through elementary, middle, and high school math and science. In fact, I didn’t start studying remedial math until I left the Army at age 26. If there were a textbook example of the potential for adult neural plasticity, I’d be Exhibit A.

The Chicago Teachers Union’s vote charade

Chicago Tribune:

But here’s why the strike approval is a foregone conclusion: Instead of secret ballots — which would permit dissent — teachers and other CTU members are being asked to authorize a strike via “petitions” circulated at schools. The details aren’t clear, but that reportedly means union delegates will gather members’ signatures to authorize or reject a strike. Presumably that means members will be able to see how their colleagues vote. And so will union bosses.

Governance: Inspector general for Chicago school board says CPS auditor is interfering

Juan Perez:

A “parallel investigation” of that case by CPS’ Office of Internal Audit and Compliance last year “compromised a criminal investigation by prematurely alerting a main subject, and sowing fear and confusion in the minds of key witnesses,” Schuler said in his report, which was sent to Claypool and the school board.

Auditors also contacted Cook County prosecutors in an effort to inject their department into the inspector general’s fare card investigation, Schuler’s office said. He said “very troubling issues remain” with other investigations being undertaken by the auditor’s office.

Schuler’s report, obtained by the Tribune, outlines a dispute between his Office of the Inspector General and Claypool’s administration, which was installed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel in the wake of a scandal that led to the ouster of CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett prior to her conviction on federal corruption charges. As part of the Board of Education’s role to advise and oversee the district, Schuler’s office worked with federal authorities on the case against Byrd-Bennett.

CPS IG: Whitney Young offered facilities to for-profit sport clubs ‘for little or no cost’

The district’s internal audit team is led by Andrell Holloway, who previously worked with Claypool in a similar role at the CTA. The unit has received significant funding increases since Claypool took office.

Via a kind reader, who wonders if Madison might benefit from substantive oversight!

The College Application Advice I Wish Someone Had Given Me

Ann Brenaoff:

So your high school senior is in the throes of preparing his college applications. He’s retaking the SATs for the umpteenth time, hoping to squeeze out a few extra points there. He’s collapsing under the weight of the multiple AP classes that he felt compelled to take. And you honestly don’t see how to narrow his college list down from 25 schools, even though you know that applying to so many would be the definition of insanity.

Here is a list of eight things I wish I had known when my daughter was applying to schools last year. A version of this appeared previously on The Huffington Post.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: US building up to pension crisis

Robin Wigglesworth & Barney Jopson

Many are self-employed or work in smaller companies, which in many cases do not have the organisational heft to set up a 401(k) plan. Big companies in low-wage industries are also less likely to offer a retirement plan. And on modest wages, it becomes harder to set aside money for an IRA.

“We have a crisis unfolding here,” says Russ Kamp, a pensions consultant. “We’re asking people to set aside precious resources they don’t have . . . For millions and millions of Americans, the only thing they’ll have is Social Security.”

Social Security is a federal system originally set up by Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1935 and financed through payroll taxes. Together with the Supplement Security Income programme, it accounts for over 90 per cent of the income for the bottom quarter of retirees, according to the NIRS.

But Social Security only provides about 35 per cent of a typical household’s pre-retirement income. This is inadequate for most retirees, and especially so for those without some other savings to fall back on. “Because Social Security is so limited, we are far more dependent on 401(k) plans,” Mr Hunt points out. “In an era where people change jobs often and do more gig type jobs, this is a huge challenge.”

US business schools hit by weaker demand for two-year MBA

Jonathan Moules

In the US, 53 per cent of schools running full-time two-year MBA courses reported a decline in application numbers in 2016, while 40 per cent reported growth.

The drop suggests a shift in attitudes to business education due to increased job insecurity and the opportunity to study overseas or online, with prospective students opting for courses that take less time to complete and the highest-ranked schools seeing an increase in applications.

Meanwhile, the percentage of business schools worldwide reporting growth in applications declined for a third straight year, from 61 per cent in 2014 to 57 per cent in 2015 to 43 per cent this year.

Smaller courses tended to be worst hit while those with larger student intakes experienced growth.

Good News Liberal-Arts Majors: Your Peers Probably Won’t Outearn You Forever

George Anders:

Six years ago, Andy Anderegg’s decision to major in English looked like an economic sacrifice. When she left academia in 2010, with a master’s degree in fine arts from the University of Kansas, the first job she landed was a Groupon Inc. writing gig paying all of $33,000 a year.

Now, however, Ms. Anderegg is riding high. She rose rapidly as Groupon expanded, becoming managing editor of the shopping-coupon site in 2012; by the time she left in 2014, she was earning more than $100,000. Today, at age 30, she is executive editor at Soda Media Inc., a Seattle creator of online content, and building up her own digital-media consulting practice. She won’t disclose her aggregate income but says: “It’s better than what I made at Groupon.”

The 5,000-Year Government Debt Bubble

James Freeman:

Politicians playing by their own rules is an old story. But it should count as news that politicians have lately been rewriting a rule in place since 3,000 B.C.

This rule of history is that savers deserve to be compensated when they loan money. Not anymore. In much of the developed world lenders are the ones paying for the privilege of letting governments borrow their cash. Through the magic of modern central banking, countries in Europe and elsewhere have managed to drive their borrowing rates not just to historic lows but all the way into negative territory. As of Monday almost $16 trillion of government bonds world-wide were offering yields below zero.

Amazingly, governments have managed this feat even as they have become more indebted and even as slow economic growth undermines their ability to repay. Such conditions normally suggest a less creditworthy borrower and therefore a higher interest rate to compensate investors for the risk. But sovereign debt has become more expensive. Governments have succeeded in making their bonds more expensive in part by printing money and buying the bonds themselves via their central banks. Commercial banks are all but required to buy them too.

Teenagers oppose gay marriage and shun tattoos

The Times (London):

Teenagers born since the turn of the millennium are the most socially conservative and thrifty generation since the Second World War.

The newly classified Generation Z are much less likely to approve of gay marriage, transgender rights or the legalisation of cannabis than Baby Boomers, Millennials or Generation X, a study has found. They also have a much more prudent approach to saving and spending than any generation, except those born in 1945 or before.

Madison School Board proposes contract with opt-out for school police officers

Jeff Glaze:

Seeking flexibility to respond to community dialog over use of school-based police officers, the Madison School Board has proposed a so-called “compromise” to city officials that would keep officers in Madison’s four main high schools, at least for now.

The School Board on Tuesday unveiled a proposal intended to meet the city’s demands for contract length but also offer the district an opt-out should officials eventually decide to remove police from schools.

Contract length has been the sticking point in negotiations between the city and school district, with the School Board favoring one year and city leaders favoring three.

City officials, including Mayor Paul Soglin and Police Chief Mike Koval, have advocated for the longer contract to provide more certainty in budgeting, recruitment and planning. But amid a national conversation over law enforcement tactics, especially during interactions with minorities, opponents have lobbied the School Board to remove police from schools. Heeding those concerns, the School Board has pushed for a one-year deal while an expert hired by the City Council examines Madison Police Department’s policies, procedures, training and culture.

The latest proposal offers the city its desired three-year deal, but includes what the School Board called “a meaningful termination clause responsive to the city’s budget and hiring timeline.”

The Long Island University lockout is over. A rank-and-file librarian explains how faculty won and why it matters for public education around the country.

Edna Bonhomme & Emily Drabinski:

On August 31, the Long Island University Faculty Federation Union contract expired. Faculty and management began negotiations over a new contract, and on September 6, the faculty met to discuss a proposed agreement.

Faculty voted 226 to 10 not to accept the contract that was provided by the administration. Rather than renegotiate the agreement, however, management decided to lock out the university’s four hundred professors.

Lockouts are often confused with strikes — under both, workers aren’t working. But whereas strikes are offensive measures taken by workers against bosses, lockouts are a boss’s tool used to break unions. Such was the case in this lockout.

After Texas high school builds $60-million stadium, rival district plans one for nearly $70 million

Marisa Gerber:

The school district just up the street in McKinney plans to break ground within a month on a nearly $70-million stadium — the newest competitor in a spend-off critics call a stadium arms race.

“Oh, it’s a rivalry,” said Adam Blanchet, a junior at McKinney North, one of the three high schools in the McKinney Independent School District that will use the new stadium. “I have pride knowing my district is going to have the most expensive stadium in the country.”

In McKinney, a booming Dallas suburb of about 162,000 residents where the the median household income is $83,000, many seem to share a similar stance on the stadium — sure it’s expensive, but the students deserve it. But one group has fiercely opposed the new project: Grassroots McKinney, an offshoot of the local tea party.

Chicago Teachers Union helping charter teachers in contract fight

Juan Perez

With the Chicago Teachers Union mulling a possible walkout as early as next month, another school contract fight is unfolding outside the spotlight that could result in a strike at one of the city’s largest charter school networks.

Educators at the UNO Charter School Network, a chain of campuses that’s enrolled about 8,000 students and was once run by the clout-heavy United Neighborhood Organization, are careful to say they’re not sure if they’ll schedule a strike authorization vote, much less a walkout. But United Educators of UCSN leaders have scheduled what a bargaining team’s spokeswoman described as an informational meeting.

Udacity plans to build its own open-source self-driving car

Darrell Etherington:

Sebastian Thrun’s online education startup Udacity recently created a self-driving car engineering nanodegree, and on stage at Disrupt today Thrun revealed that the company intends to build its own self-driving car as part of the program, and that it also intends to open source the technology that results, so that “anyone” can try to build their own self-driving vehicle, according to Thrun.

Strings are making a comeback for fifth-graders at Sandburg Elementary

Amanda Finn:

Fifth-graders will soon be coming out of Sandburg Elementary fiddling happy tunes thanks to a major instrument donation making it possible for strings to be part of the fifth-grade curriculum.

The VH1 Save the Music Foundation and Madison-based Musicnotes.com teamed up to provide Sandburg with 36 new instruments, worth about $35,000, to fill gaps in an aged instrument inventory and to provide enough instruments to suit the needs of the children.

The foundation has already been working with the Madison School District to create 12 keyboard labs in various elementary schools.

“We are really fortunate that we began a relationship with VH1 Save the Music six years ago,” said Laurie Fellenz, fine arts coordinator for the district.

The Strings Program has a rather fascinating history, including numerous attempts to abort it.

Civics: Printing Money Goes Haywire in Venezuela

Megan McArdle:

Venezuela seems to be hovering on the edge of tipping into hyperinflation. Or perhaps it has already fallen into the abyss. Given the paucity of official data — the none-too-believable official figures were last published in February — it’s a little hard to tell. The best guess we have at the value of a Venezuelan bolivar comes from the Colombian village of Cucuta, where people go to buy currency so they can smuggle subsidized fuel and other price-controlled goods out of Venezuela. As The Economist notes: “Transactions are few; the dollar rate is calculated indirectly, from the value of the Colombian peso. The result is erratic, but more realistic than the three official rates.”

Using those rates, economist Steve Hanke recently told Bloomberg that annual cost-of-living increases are running at about 722 percent. To put that in some perspective, it means that a $400 monthly grocery bill would climb to $2,888 in a year. That may not approach the legendary status of Hungary’s postwar inflation, which reached 41.9 quadrillion percent in a single month, but it’s devastating for savers, or for people like pensioners whose incomes consist of fixed payments. It’s also pretty bad for the economy.

Related: US Debt Clock.

Berkeley Bans a Palestine Class

John Wilson:

Universities should never suspend courses in the middle of a semester except under the most dire circumstances, where a course has been proven to violate university policies and cannot be fixed, or some kind of extraordinary fraud has occurred.

Nothing like that exists in this case. In fact, nothing like that has even been alleged by the administration, which relies upon bureaucratic snafus to justify suspending this course.

Commentary on Federal Higher Education Regulation

Hans Bader:

The federal government happily subsidizes inferior state colleges that graduate few if any of their students. That includes Chicago State University, which has a 12.8 percent six-year graduation rate.

The Obama administration has rewritten federal student loan rules in a way that encourages colleges to raise tuition and effectively subsidizes the worst colleges the most. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York found that each additional dollar in government financial aid results in a tuition hike of about 65 cents.

The federal government also subsidizes expensive, low-quality third-tier law schools whose graduates are often unemployed. It does so even though many of their graduates will never pay back their student loans because of their low graduating salaries, and the huge amount of money law students are allowed to borrow from the government.

An Open Letter to the UC Berkeley Administration Regarding Academic Freedom

Ethnic Studies:

Chancellor Nicholas Dirks, Executive Dean of Letters and Sciences Carla Hesse, et al.,

We, the undersigned, are the students of Ethnic Studies 198: Palestine: A Settler Colonial Analysis, the student-designed Decal course that was suspended yesterday, Tuesday, September 13th.

We are a diverse group of students that includes Christians, Muslims, and Jews; we are white, Black, Latin@, Asian, North American indigenous, Middle Eastern, and more; we study Peace and Conflict Studies, Ethnic Studies and Middle Eastern Studies, Media Studies, Economics and Engineering. In short, we are a sample of some of the wide and varied backgrounds, beliefs, and interests that compose the campus community. One characteristic we all possess in common, however, is a genuine interest in the academic discussion surrounding Israel and Palestine.

University of California debt soars to $17 billion; regents consider new borrowing policy

Katy Murphy:

The University of California’s debt has ballooned to $17.2 billion since the start of the recession, more than doubling as the system borrowed to repair buildings, fund pensions, and build medical centers and student housing.

In the past decade, as states have cut support for capital projects, public universities across the U.S. have piled on debt to repair old buildings and build new ones. But some, including Gov. Jerry Brown, have expressed wariness about all the borrowing. Along with access to needed cash, UC is locking itself into more costs — and is fast approaching its limit for borrowing cheaply from the market.

But with the board of regents this week considering UC’s first-ever debt policy, university leaders insist the borrowing spree is strategic, given unusually low interest rates and federal tax exemptions on university financing.

“If we had not taken advantage of that and had to build buildings out of our operating budget, it would have been a risky or foolish way of doing it,” university CFO Nathan Brostrom said in an interview this week.

On Not Reading

Amy Hungerford:

I refuse to read books. Coming from a critic, this confession sounds both imperious and ignorant, but, truth be told, all of us, especially scholars of literature, refuse to read books every day. I remember someone telling me at a party in graduate school that my adviser — a famous Americanist — had never read Moby-Dick. Was it true? I did not dare ask him. Did the very idea amplify his bad-boy critical aura? Of course. (Recently, I did ask him. “For a while it was true,” he said; “and then, forever after, it wasn’t.”)

The activity of nonreading is something that scholars rarely discuss. When they — or others whose identities are bound up with books — do so, the discussions tend to have a shamefaced quality. Blame “cultural capital” — the sense of superiority associated with laying claim to books that mark one’s high social status. More entertainingly, blame Humiliation, the delicious game that a diabolical English professor invents in David Lodge’s 1975 academic satire, Changing Places. In a game of Humiliation, players win points for not having read canonical books that everyone else in the game has read. One hapless junior faculty member in the novel wins a departmental round but loses his tenure case. In real life, the game has been most happily played by the tenured professor secure in his reputation. Changing Places had apparently inspired my adviser’s confession to someone at some point, and the information then wound through the gossip mill to reach me, standing around in the mid-1990s with a beer, trying to hide my own growing list of unread books.

Dabrowski’s Theory and Existential Depression in Gifted Children and Adults

Davidson Institute:

When people undergo a great trauma or other unsettling event—they have lost a job or a loved one dies, for example—their understanding of themselves or of their place in the world often disintegrates, and they temporarily “fall apart,” experiencing a type of depression referred to as existential depression. Their ordeal highlights for them the transient nature of life and the lack of control that we have over so many events, and it raises questions about the meaning of our lives and our behaviors. For other people, the experience of existential depression seemingly arises spontaneously; it stems from their own perception of life, their thoughts about the world and their place in it, as well as the meaning of their life. While not universal, the experience of existential depression can challenge an individual’s very survival and represents both a great challenge and at the same time an opportunity—an opportunity to seize control over one’s life and turn the experience into a positive life lesson—an experience leading to personality growth.

It has been my experience that gifted and talented persons are more likely than those who are less gifted to experience spontaneous existential depression as an outgrowth of their mental and emotional abilities and interactions with others. People who are bright are usually more intense, sensitive, and idealistic, and they can see the inconsistencies and absurdities in the values and behaviors of others (Webb, Gore, Amend, & DeVries, 2007). This kind of sensitive awareness and idealism makes them more likely to ask themselves difficult questions about the nature and purpose of their lives and the lives of those around them. They become keenly aware of their smallness in the larger picture of existence, and they feel helpless to fix the many problems that trouble them. As a result, they become depressed.

Wisconsin Superintendent Tony Evers: Stop bad-mouthing teachers

Todd Richmond:

Wisconsin can slow a growing shortage of teachers if people stop bad-mouthing educators and pay them more, the state’s schools superintendent said Thursday.

Superintendent Tony Evers warned during his annual State of Education speech in the state Capitol rotunda that fewer young people are entering the teaching profession and districts are having a harder time filling high-demand positions in special, bilingual and technical education.

He offered almost no specifics on anything he spoke about, but he told the Wisconsin State Journal in an interview this week that he will propose to “level the playing field” among school districts by giving more money to schools in rural areas that have trouble matching salaries offered by wealthier districts.

Teacher shortage is payback for anti-teacher attitudes

Dave Zweifel:

Many in Wisconsin are convinced that the teacher shortage here stems from Gov. Scott Walker’s and the Republican Legislature’s Act 10, the 2011 legislation that not only made it illegal for teachers’ unions to bargain, but required them to shoulder part of the load for their benefits, which resulted in take home pay reductions of up to 17 percent.

Balderdash, counter Walker’s fans, who believe it’s perfectly fine to denude unions and make public employees pay more of the bills. Rightie talk radio host Jerry Bader wrote on Right Wisconsin a few days ago that the teacher shortage is a national phenomenon, not confined to Wisconsin and, therefore, has nothing to do with Act 10.

I’d dispute that cause and effect comparison since many of the other states experiencing teacher shortages have also adopted legislation that has hurt teachers, including Indiana, Ohio and Arizona, where Republicans of like mind rule the roost.

Much more on Act 10, here.

Digital literacy classes scheduled in Allied Drive, Kennedy Heights

Abigail Becker:

Digital literacy education courses are scheduled in the Allied Drive and Kennedy Heights neighborhoods as part of Madison’s Connecting Madison initiative.

Connecting Madison is an internet pilot project meant to close the digital divide by making affordable internet access available for as little as $10 per month to residents in Allied Drive, Darbo-Worthington, Brentwood and Kennedy Heights apartments.

DANEnet is partnering with the city as the project’s digital literacy partner and have scheduled classes in the coming months at the Boys and Girls Club in Allied Drive and at the Kennedy Heights Community Center.

Checking out: Drug users take advantage of public libraries

Kantel Franko

The same qualities that make libraries ideal for studying and reading — unfettered public access, quiet corners and nooks, minimal interaction with other people — also make them appealing places to shoot up heroin, librarians are finding.

In Norfolk, Virginia, a 47-year-old man died after a patron found him in a library restroom. In Batesville, Indiana, and New Brunswick, New Jersey, police revived others in library restrooms using a popular overdose antidote.

The body of a homeless man who frequented the Oak Park Public Library in suburban Chicago might have been there for days, fully clothed and slumped on the toilet in a restroom on the quiet third floor, before a maintenance worker unlocked it on a Monday morning in April and discovered his inglorious demise. The empty syringe and lighter in his pockets and the cut soda can in the trash pointed to the cause, an accidental heroin overdose.

“On both a personal and a professional level, we were all very shocked and of course worried about how this could happen in our spaces,” said executive director David Seleb, who fired the security company responsible for clearing the library before closing.

Mike Lynch’s Invoke Aims to Replace M&A Lawyers With Robots

Jeremy Kahn

Could the armies of lawyers needed to close billion-dollar deals soon be a thing of the past?

That’s what Invoke Capital, the London-based venture firm run by former Autonomy Plc Chief Executive Officer Mike Lynch, is betting with its latest project financing. Invoke said Wednesday that it’s making an investment in Luminance, a U.K. startup using artificial intelligence to process legal documents and automate due diligence in mergers and acquisitions. While the amount of the investment was not disclosed, Lynch said in an interview that the figure was “in the low millions.”

Luminance says its software can read and understand hundreds of pages of legal documents a minute, enabling lawyers to carry out due diligence far faster than previously. Sally Wokes, a partner at Slaughter and May who works on large company mergers and who helped trial Luminance, said the firm found that completing due diligence while using the system was as much as 50 percent faster than doing the same document reviews using only humans.

A statement on online course content and accessibility

Berkeley News

The department’s findings do not implicate the accessibility of educational opportunities provided to our enrolled students.

In response, the university has moved swiftly to engage our campus experts to evaluate the best course of action. We look forward to continued dialog with the Department of Justice regarding the requirements of the ADA and options for compliance. Yet we do so with the realization that, due to our current financial constraints, we might not be able to continue to provide free public content under the conditions laid out by the Department of Justice to the extent we have in the past.

Is High School Hard Enough

Alan Borsuk:

Four years of English and three years of math, science and social studies. That sounds like a fairly solid high school career, but not one that demands a super amount of effort.

In fact, that’s what Wisconsin’s graduation requirements call for, starting with the Class of 2017, which is to say, this year’s seniors. Until this year, requirements under state law were actually lighter, including only two years of math and science.

So it got me wondering when the annual report on the performance of Wisconsin students on the ACT college entrance test came out recently. Included was this: Only 55% of students in the Class of 2016 said they were taking what ACT defines as a “core curriculum” in high school. And the ACT definition is: four years of English and three years of math, science and social studies, the same thing Wisconsin is now requiring as a matter of law.

Is there that big a gap between what many students in the state are studying in high school and what they ought to be studying? Nationwide, 69% of students who took the ACT said they were taking at least the core curriculum. That’s 14 percentage points higher than Wisconsin. Is Wisconsin going easier on high school students than other states?

Furthermore, the average ACT score for Wisconsin’s Class of 2016 was down from the scores in a long line of prior years, and the percentage of kids scoring at levels ACT associates with likely success in college was also down (only a quarter of the Class of 2016 hit the benchmarks in all four ACT areas, English, reading, math, and science).

Time to worry? A range of educators I talked to last week generally assured me otherwise.

Nearly 500 immigrant children arrive at Fort Bliss

Kristopher Rivera:

A crucifix necklace hangs from a boy’s neck as he sits on his bed occupied with an art project inside a Fort Bliss complex on Thursday.

Faith seems to be a driving force here, as unaccompanied child migrants seek to get to a better place, leaving behind their culture and homes. Inside the dinner hall of the complex, a drawing of the Costa Rican flag had writing in Spanish that read, “A country of many beautiful women.”

Fort Bliss’ Doña Ana Range Complex, near Chaparral, N.M., is temporarily a shelter to nearly 500 unaccompanied children. The children made the dangerous journey from Central America; primarily El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to either escape violence in their home country, seek better economic opportunities or reunite with family already in the U.S. Central American countries have some of the highest murder rates in the world. The journey puts children at risk of human trafficking, exploitation and abuse.

Americans’ Trust in Mass Media Sinks to New Low


Gallup began asking this question in 1972, and on a yearly basis since 1997. Over the history of the entire trend, Americans’ trust and confidence hit its highest point in 1976, at 72%, in the wake of widely lauded examples of investigative journalism regarding Vietnam and the Watergate scandal. After staying in the low to mid-50s through the late 1990s and into the early years of the new century, Americans’ trust in the media has fallen slowly and steadily. It has consistently been below a majority level since 2007.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: US Economic Liberty Has Been Sinking for Sixteen Years

Daniel J. Mitchell

When Economic Freedom of the World is released every September, it’s like an early Christmas present. This comprehensive yearly publication is a great summary of whether nations have policies that allow people economic liberty.

I eagerly peruse this annual survey every year (here’s what I wrote in 2015 and 2014 if you’re curious about a couple of recent examples). And this year is no different.

Let’s start with the table that gets the most attention. Here’s a look at the top nations, led (as is almost always the case) by Hong Kong and Singapore. Switzerland also deserves some recognition since it has always been in the top 5.

Rules for trusting “black boxes” in algorithmic control systems

Cory Doctorow:

O’Reilly proposes four tests to determine whether a black box is trustable:

1. Its creators have made clear what outcome they are seeking, and it is possible for external observers to verify that outcome.

2. Success is measurable.

3. The goals of the algorithm’s creators are aligned with the goals of the algorithm’s consumers.

4. Does the algorithm lead its creators and its users to make better longer term decisions?

O’Reilly goes on to test these assumptions against some of the existing black boxes that we trust every day, like aviation autopilot systems, and shows that this is a very good framework for evaluating algorithmic systems.

Genes, Education, and Labor Market Outcomes: Evidence from the Health and Retirement Study

Nicholas W. Papageorge &Kevin Thom

Recent advances have led to the discovery of specific genetic variants that predict educational attainment. We study how these variants, summarized as a genetic score variable, are associated with human capital accumulation and labor market outcomes in the Health and Retirement Study (HRS). We demonstrate that the same genetic score that predicts education is also associated with higher wages, but only among individuals with a college education. Moreover, the genetic gradient in wages has grown in more recent birth cohorts, consistent with interactions between technological change and labor market ability. We also show that individuals who grew up in economically disadvantaged households are less likely to go to college when compared to individuals with the same genetic score, but from higher-SES households. Our findings provide support for the idea that childhood SES is an important moderator of the economic returns to genetic endowments. Moreover, the finding that childhood poverty limits the educational attainment of high-ability individuals suggests the existence of unrealized human potential.

How I Rewired My Brain to Become Fluent in Math

Barbara Oakley

was a wayward kid who grew up on the literary side of life, treating math and science as if they were pustules from the plague. So it’s a little strange how I’ve ended up now—someone who dances daily with triple integrals, Fourier transforms, and that crown jewel of mathematics, Euler’s equation. It’s hard to believe I’ve flipped from a virtually congenital math-phobe to a professor of engineering.

One day, one of my students asked me how I did it—how I changed my brain. I wanted to answer Hell—with lots of difficulty! After all, I’d flunked my way through elementary, middle, and high school math and science. In fact, I didn’t start studying remedial math until I left the Army at age 26. If there were a textbook example of the potential for adult neural plasticity, I’d be Exhibit A.

Learning math and then science as an adult gave me passage into the empowering world of engineering. But these hard-won, adult-age changes in my brain have also given me an insider’s perspective on the neuroplasticity that underlies adult learning. Fortunately, my doctoral training in systems engineering—tying together the big picture of different STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) disciplines—and then my later research and writing focusing on how humans think have helped me make sense of recent advances in neuroscience and cognitive psychology related to learning.

Sure Signs of an Outsourced College Essay

Joe Queenan

Between now and Thanksgiving, high-school seniors face the daunting task of writing riveting, revelatory personal essays that will make college admissions officers look more favorably on their applications.

Less-verbal students—and plenty of smart ones—routinely seek help preparing these essays. And sometimes, it is more than “help” that they’re looking for; they get their parents or moonlighting academics or impoverished poets or unexpectedly articulate classmates to crank out the essays for them.

Colleges insist that they can spot bogus essays because of anachronistic turns of phrases like “hoist with one’s own petard,” suggesting that a Shakespeare lecturer was trying to pay the rent, or because the entire 1,000-word essay lacks a single use of the words “awesome” or “sketchy.”

Spectacular discovery of drawings by Frans Post


The thirty-four drawings, all studies of animals, came from a 17th-century album that once contained 160 drawings of birds by the father and son artists Pieter Holsteijn the Elder and the Younger. The album was donated to the Noord-Hollands Archief in 1888, but the drawings by Frans Post had probably been part of it for centuries. The Brazilian animal studies were completely overlooked until De Bruin found them in 2010.

Dallas Is Regulating “Little Free Libraries” For Some Reason

Dan Solomon:

The complications that come with Little Free Libraries tend to be minimal. Dallas City Council expressed concern that they might become havens for pornography, a concern rebutted by the point that the owners of the libraries’ collections tend to be curated by the residents on a daily basis—if someone leaves smut in the box, it’s not going to be there long. In Austin, meanwhile, a rash of robberies hit a few Little Free Libraries earlier this summer, which Austin police declined to pursue because the libraries have the word “free” in the name. (Dallas-based Half Price Books refuses to buy books stamped with the organization’s “always a gift; never for sale” slogan, so library owners can remove the incentive for theft in that way.)

There’s still time for the Dallas City Council to walk back the vote, according to Wilonsky. The regulation that passed out of the committee has yet to be voted on by the full council, so Dallas can decide if it’s really a problem to tackle with such urgency.

Congress to allow special restrictions on speech ‘inappropriate with respect to race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, or other intrinsic characteristic’?

Eugene Volokh:

. On Monday the House of Representatives passed the Consumer Review Fairness Act, which would invalidate most form contracts that limit consumer reviews of businesses. If a business purports to require consumers not to criticize the business (see the KlearGear controversy), that contract would be unenforceable, and the Federal Trade Commission and state enforcement agencies would be able to take action against such a business even if it didn’t try to sue for breach of the contract. The Senate passed a similar bill last year.

There are plausible arguments both for and against the law; the law undermines the ability to agree on certain kinds of contracts, but it also provides more information (of varying quality) to consumers. I won’t engage that debate here.

2. Rather, what struck me about the law is its exemption of certain kinds of contracts (see subsection (b)(3)): The law “shall not apply to the extent that a provision of a form contract prohibits . . . submission of,” among other things, material that “contains the personal information or likeness of another person, or is libelous, harassing, abusive, obscene, vulgar, sexually explicit, or is inappropriate with respect to race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, or other intrinsic characteristic” (emphasis added).

So speech on all sorts of viewpoints would be protected by the proposed law, even against private contractual restrictions. A business couldn’t require users to agree to a contract that forbids critical reviews. A fur store couldn’t do the same as to anti-fur reviews; a restaurant couldn’t do the same to reviews that faulted it for serving foie gras. A business whose owner was pro-Donald Trump, and who was afraid that clients would learn this and would then publicly excoriate him for it, couldn’t do the same as to anti-Trump reviews. But contracts barring speech that “is inappropriate” (whatever that is) “with respect to race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, or other intrinsic characteristic” would remain perfectly legal.

Deans: How To Avoid Sinking Your Ship


You didn’t listen. A dean’s ability to avoid catastrophe is in large part due to the dean’s ability to listen and know what’s going on at the law school. For example, say you have a problem child in one of your departments, and everyone knows that but you. Let’s suppose this person is friends with your most trusted advisor, so you never get to hear about it. You’ve got a serious problem. Especially when you promote him or her and you’re left wondering why half your department staff quit. Why is everyone so mad at you? Because you didn’t listen. The reason you couldn’t listen is because you didn’t ask the right people. People need to feel as though they are being heard, even if you do decide in a way they didn’t want.

You built an atmosphere in which people are afraid to tell you the truth. Ask yourself, do you listen? Of course you do, say your closest confidants. They all agree with you. No problem, right? HUGE PROBLEM, dean. You have been surrounded by “yes staff,” who aren’t necessarily giving you all the information you need to make a decision. How on earth did that happen? It might be that the staff senses, for better or worse, that you don’t listen. Perhaps you dismiss their concerns too easily, without much thought. Regardless, you’re on your way to a complete and total disaster, one that could have been avoided by surrounding yourself with a group of people with sufficiently diverse opinions you’re willing to hear.

The FBI’s Own Watchdog Signs Off on Agents Impersonating Journalists

Alex Emmons

A new report from the Justice Department’s inspector general concludes that FBI agents can go undercover and impersonate journalists, as long as they sufficiently consult FBI headquarters.

The inspector general’s office investigated a case from 2007 where undercover FBI agents impersonated a journalist from the Associated Press. FBI regulations at the time “did not prohibit agents from impersonating journalists or from posing as a member of a news organization,” the report concluded.

Refugee High School: Media Coverage of Recent Arrivals In American Schools

Alexander Russo:

This past weekend, the NYT Sunday Magazine presented a package of words and images about refugee students in American schools, titled The New High-School Outsiders. Focused some of the roughly 1,300 refugees attending Boise, Idaho schools, it includes an overview essay, photographs, and profiles of a handful of Boise students who graduated high school last spring.

It’s not the first story focused on refugees in American schools — and, given the arrival of unaccompanied minors from Central America and refugees from the war in Syria, it’s unlikely to be the last. As the Times story notes, roughly 85,000 more refugees will be resettled this coming year, in 190 cities. Many of them will be school-age children who are legally entitled to a free public education. An August story from the Times showed the 231 towns where 10,000 Syrian refugees have already been settled over the past four years — many of them in mid-sized cities like Boise, rather than large hubs for immigration.

The combination of novelty, fear, and curiosity all but ensures that there will be many more refugee student stories during 2016-2017. The two main questions consider as the school year unfolds are (1) whether districts are providing refugee children an education that’s at least as good as the one they’re providing longtime students, and (2) are media outlets producing nuanced and accurate coverage of the experience?

Why Oakland Students Leave for Public Schools in Other Cities

Devin Katayama

John Foster and Sara Diamond didn’t leave the Oakland Unified School District because they were unhappy with their school choices.

They say they wanted an alternative to Oakland schools for practical reasons. Foster worked in San Francisco, where his daughter Claire’s day care was also located. So father and daughter had a routine of commuting together from East Oakland.

“I would take her with a baby carrier and I would read to her on BART, and for several years that’s how we did it,” said Foster.

Fancy Dorms Aren’t The Main Reason Tuition Is Skyrocketing

Doug Webber:

In 2000, Temple University was primarily a commuter school. On-campus dorms could house fewer than 4,000 students out of a total student body of more than 30,000. Most facilities were badly outdated, and the average student paid $12,800 a year (in 2016 dollars) in tuition to attend.

Today, Temple, where I work, looks very different. Beautiful new buildings are the norm rather than the exception. A recently built 24-story dorm and adjoining dining center highlights the university’s transition to a residential campus. Each of the dorm’s apartment-style suites comes equipped with a flat-screen TV and other amenities. The number of administrators in management and executive positions has grown by 40 percent to over 900. Oh, and tuition now runs $19,000 for the typical student after accounting for scholarships and other aid.

18 Year-Old Chicago Student Killed in Drive-by When School Sends Him Home for Not Wearing a Bow Tie

Rick Riley

The teen was rushed to Northwestern Hospital and pronounced dead shortly after.

“It’s getting senseless out here. That could have been my son, that could’ve been me, that could’ve been my aunty, that could’ve been me, that could’ve been anybody today,” Doss says. “It’s time to go. I love this city that I live in, but it’s time to go. The violence ain’t getting no better.”

Now, police are investigating the shooting.

Tech firm tries to pull back curtain on surveillance efforts in Washington

By Ashkan Soltani and Craig Timberg

As a black sedan pulled into downtown Washington traffic earlier this week, a man in the back seat with a specially outfitted smartphone in each hand was watching for signs of surveillance in action. “Whoa, we’ve just been hit twice on this block,” he said, excitement rising in his voice, not far from FBI headquarters.

Then as the car passed the Federal Trade Commission’s limestone edifice, “Okay, we just got probed.” Then again, just a few minutes later, as the car moved between the Supreme Court and the Capitol, he said, “That’s the beginning of an interception.”

Semifinalists for 2017 National Merit Scholarship awards announced

Logan Wroge:

Ninety-five Madison area students have been named semifinalists for the 2017 National Merit Scholarships.

They are among approximately 16,000 high school seniors across the country who have qualified as semifinalists. Of these students, about 7,500 will eventually be offered the prestigious scholarship in spring 2017.

Entering its 62nd year, the National Merit Scholarship Program will have about $33 million available for college-bound students. The money is provided by hundreds of businesses and higher education institutions across the country.

Here are the seniors in area high schools that have qualified as semifinalists:

Much more, here.

2017 National Merit cut scores:

Illinois 219
Minnesota 219
Iowa 215
Massachusetts 222
Michigan 216
Texas 220
Wisconsin 215

Massachusetts charter cap holds back disadvantaged students

Sarah Cohodes and Susan M. Dynarski:

This November, Massachusetts voters will go to the polls to decide whether to expand the state’s quota on charter schools. The ballot initiative would allow 12 new, approved charters over the current limit to open each year.

Would the ballot proposal be good for students in Massachusetts? To address this question, we need to know whether charter schools are doing a better job than the traditional public schools in districts where the cap currently limits additional charter school seats.

There is a deep well of rigorous, relevant research on the performance of charter schools in Massachusetts. This research exploits random assignment and student-level, longitudinal data to examine the effect of charter schools in Massachusetts.

This research shows that charter schools in the urban areas of Massachusetts have large, positive effects on educational outcomes. The effects are particularly large for disadvantaged students, English learners, special education students, and children who enter charters with low test scores.

Why I Majored in Philosophy Despite Everyone Telling Me Not to

WEAC is selling its headquarters

Molly Beck

She said the union has shifted staffing to a “new regional structure,” creating 10 regions to which members belong instead of a centralized location in Madison. Brey would not say how many members are in the union.

“After all, our union isn’t a building. Our union is teachers and support professionals who work in public schools,” she said. “Our strength is in parents, communities and educators who unite around the shared value of public education — not around brick and mortar.”

According to federal tax records from 2013 — the latest year available, the organization had $52,435 in cash and $126,246 in savings. Total assets, including their property, totaled $3.7 million while the organization’s liabilities totaled $1.6 million.

Related: WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators.

How to raise a genius: lessons from a 45-year study of super-smart children

Tom Clynes

On a summer day in 1968, professor Julian Stanley met a brilliant but bored 12-year-old named Joseph Bates. The Baltimore student was so far ahead of his classmates in mathematics that his parents had arranged for him to take a computer-science course at Johns Hopkins University, where Stanley taught. Even that wasn’t enough. Having leapfrogged ahead of the adults in the class, the child kept himself busy by teaching the FORTRAN programming language to graduate students.

Unsure of what to do with Bates, his computer instructor introduced him to Stanley, a researcher well known for his work in psychometrics — the study of cognitive performance. To discover more about the young prodigy’s talent, Stanley gave Bates a battery of tests that included the SAT college-admissions exam, normally taken by university-bound 16- to 18-year-olds in the United States.

A thought-provoking experiment showed what happens when children don’t have the internet for a whole day


Child psychologist Yekaterina Murashova describes an unusual experiment in her book showing what happened when a group of teenagers were deprived of access to the internet and modern technology for a single day. We think it’s well worth checking out — you can consider the implications for yourself.

Children and teenagers aged between 12 and 18 years voluntarily spent eight hours alone without access to any means of communication (mobile phones; the internet, etc.). They were also forbidden to turn on the computer, any other electronic gadgets, the radio and the TV. But they were allowed to engage in a number of ’classic’ activities by themselves: writing, reading, playing musical instruments, painting, needlework, singing, walking, and so on.

LA’s School Diversity Expansion; Compare To Madison…

Joy Resmovits

XQ officials, in announcing the winners on Wednesday, described RISE as a “completely new” model. The idea is to have three to four physical sites sharing space with existing nonprofits as well as an online learning system. A bus also be turned into a “mobile resource center,” to bring Wi-Fi, a washer/dryer and homework help to the neediest students.

That way, if a student suddenly moves or can’t get to school, he or she will have various options to get tutoring or the day’s lesson.

“The model exists outside the traditional confines of space and time,” Croft said.

RISE, which stands for Revolutionary Individualized Student Experience, is in its preliminary stages. It will be a charter school, but the staff is still figuring out governance structure, facilities and partnerships. As of now, the plan is to open with a small group of students next fall, but eventually to serve between 500 and 550.

Los Angeles parents have many charter choices while Madison continues it’s none-diverse K-12 structure.

Education, Georgia school reform heat up as political issues

Christopher Quinn

Gov. Nathan Deal proposes a statewide school district to take over chronically failing schools

There will be a vote on constitutional amendment 1 on Nov. 7 on Gov. Nathan Deal’s proposal to let the state take over chronically failing schools. This issue has attracted a lot of passion as those on both sides argue about how best to address the issue of helping children for whom education may be the one door out of poverty, failure and the “prison pipeline.”

Deal says failing schools are now a generational problem and local districts have already taken to long to fix this serious problem. It’s time for action.

Lawsuit Targets Detroit Public Schools for Failing Students Seven student plaintiffs say system violates constitutional right to literacy, Madison?

Tawnell Hobbs

“Plaintiffs sit in classrooms where not even the pretense of education takes place, in schools that are functionally incapable of delivering access to literacy,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit seeks class-action status on behalf of students who attend several schools run by the Detroit Public School Community District, formerly Detroit Public Schools; charter operators; and the Education Achievement Authority state-controlled reform school district.

Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

Poverty in America

Robert Rector, Rachel Sheffield

Here are 15 facts about poverty in America that may surprise you. (All statistics are taken from U.S. government surveys.)

Poor households routinely report spending $2.40 for every $1 of income the Census says they have.

The average poor American lives in a house or apartment that is in good repair and has more living space than the average nonpoor person in France, Germany, or England.

Eighty-five percent of poor households have air conditioning.

Nearly three-fourths of poor households have a car or truck, and 31 percent have two or more cars or trucks.

Nearly two-thirds of poor households have cable or satellite TV.

Half have a personal computer; 43 percent have internet access.

Two-thirds have at least one DVD player

More than half of poor families with children have a video game system, such as an Xbox or PlayStation.

One-third have a wide-screen plasma or LCD TV.

(The above data on electronic appliances owned by poor households come from a 2009 government survey so the ownership rates among the poor today are most likely higher.)

New Videos Show How Yale Betrayed Itself By Favoring Cry-Bullies

James Kirchick:

Around this time last year, a short video depicting an angry confrontation between a Yale professor and student came to symbolize the nationwide debate over campus political correctness. Four days before Halloween, a university organ called the Intercultural Affairs Council released an email to the entire student body warning them not to wear costumes that “threaten our sense of community.” In the absence of any recent incidents on Yale’s campus involving racist or culturally insensitive Halloween outfits, however, the missive struck many students as patronizing, if not entirely misplaced. Indeed, the email was nearly identical to one Yale’s associate vice president of student life had written to students at Northwestern University five years earlier when he held a similar job at that school. As one Yale professor would later tell me about the message, it “had no applicability to the culture and the actual history here at Yale.”

Sensing this incongruity between their own lived experiences and the prophylactic admonishments of a glorified residential adviser, some students brought their concerns to Erika Christakis, a professor of child developmental psychology and the associate master of Silliman College, one of Yale’s 12 residential houses. In a rejoinder email sent only to Silliman students, Christakis took umbrage with what she portrayed as a cosseting administration, asking, “Have we lost faith in young people’s capacity—in your capacity—to exercise self-censure, through social norming, and also in your capacity to ignore or reject things that trouble you?”

On Academic Diversity

Karen Herzog:

Campuses in the University of Wisconsin System have been abuzz since last week, when Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos cited data he obtained through an open records request to support his claim that campuses “more times than not” seek “a liberal-minded individual to disperse information to the young, developing minds who pay them thousands of dollars for their education.”

While many professors disputed his claim, and others said it was a valid point to keep in mind, they uniformly took issue with the methodology of data analysis and assumptions behind the politician’s provocative statements in his op-ed piece, “A Free Speech Challenge to the UW System” on www.rightwisconsin.com.

The open records request yielded hundreds of speakers on campuses, and Vos focused on the 50 top-paid speakers of 2015 across the system. His raw data included only names and titles of speakers, the campus group or event to which they spoke, and how much they were paid. It did not include speakers who were invited but declined to make appearances. It did not include the speaker’s topic.

“Any reader of Assembly Speaker Vos’ summary of UW honorary expenditures and his estimation of their political slant would like to know much more,” said David Hoeveler, a professor of history at UW-Milwaukee. “By what measures did he and his team decide whether the recipients were ‘liberal’ or ‘conservative’? At my university, those from the list with whom I am familiar balance pretty evenly; the list even includes one prominent neoconservative.”

By their very nature, college campuses are “places for open and progressive thought,” said Scott Adams, a UWM associate professor of economics and department chair. “(Vos) has a fundamental misunderstanding of how college campuses work.”

Adams said the vast majority of campus speakers “aren’t speaking about something political. … Science, the arts, aren’t inherently liberal in a political sense.”

Some may consider social and economic inequality to be liberal issues, but colleges invite speakers to talk about them because they’re important, Adams said.

Suggesting that Michael Sam, the first openly gay player in the NFL, is political because he’s gay “is repressing free speech in and of itself,” Adams said. “That’s reducing him to a political viewpoint. He’s a human being who has a story.”

Sam’s speaking engagement at UW-La Crosse late last year is an example Vos raises in his commentary.
Michael Sam, the first openly gay player in the NFL,

Michael Sam, the first openly gay player in the NFL, had a speaking engagement at UW-La Crosse late last year. (Photo: Associated Press)

Whether it is a liberal position or not, universities try to err on the side of inclusiveness and tolerance, said UWM political science professor and department chair Kathleen Dolan.

Cashing in on the Culture Wars

Maximillian Alvarez:

The University of Chicago’s Dean of Students, Jay Ellison, recently became a folk hero of sorts on the right flank of the culture wars after sending out a blunt warning to the incoming U of C freshman class. To the hand-wringers worried about creeping “political correctness” on the American campus, Ellison’s letter was sweet sauce. Laying out the U of C’s pedagogical mission, he pointedly stipulated that the school’s long-standing “commitment to academic freedom means that we do not support so-called ‘trigger warnings,’ we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial, and we do not condone the creation of intellectual ‘safe spaces.’” Within hours of the letter’s publication, the familiar tropes of our academic culture wars were once more engaged. Trigger warnings and safe spaces were hotly derided or righteously defended, depending on which side of the ideological railing disputants were on.

And just as predictably, these familiar set-tos missed the larger point. Once more, the anxious reading public was marched through a litany of formulaic questions: Are students being “coddled”? Are things like trigger warnings and safe spaces a threat to open academic inquiry? Is political correctness stifling higher education? But in the overheated climate of PC warmongering, the most important questions tend to go unasked. Many, for instance, like Chronicle of Higher Education reporter Beth McMurtrie, seem to take for granted that Ellison “very likely had no idea his words would add fuel to the national debate over academic freedom and the use of safe spaces and trigger warnings in higher education.” Of course he did. That was the point. The far more momentous, and dispassionate, question we should be asking in the wake of Ellison’s anti-PC broadside is this: How was it deliberately calculated to enhance the value of the University of Chicago brand?

Civics: Long-Secret Stingray Manuals Detail How Police Can Spy on Phones

Sam Biddle

The documents also make clear just how easy it is to execute a bulk surveillance regime from the trunk of a car: A Gemini “Quick Start Guide,” which runs to 54 pages, contains an entire chapter on logging, which “enables the user to listen and log over the air messages that are being transmitted between the Base Transceiver Station (BTS) and the Mobile Subscriber (MS).” It’s not clear exactly what sort of metadata or content would be captured in such logging. The “user” here, of course, is a police officer.

“While this device is being discussed in the context of U.S. law enforcement,” said Tynan, “this could be used by foreign agents against the U.S. public and administration. It is no longer acceptable for our phones and mobile networks to be exploited in such an invasive and indiscriminate way.”

Politics, rhetoric, Achievement And Charter Schools

Thomas Sowell

The one bright spot in black ghettos around the country are the schools that parents are free to choose for their own children. Some are Catholic schools, some are secular private schools and some are charter schools financed by public school systems but operating without the suffocating rules that apply to other public schools.

Not all of these kinds of schools are successes. But where there are academic successes in black ghettos, they come disproportionately from schools outside the iron grip of the education establishment and the teachers’ unions.

Some of these academic successes have been spectacular — especially among students in ghetto schools operated by the KIPP (Knowledge IS Power Program) chain of schools and the Success Academy schools.

Despite all the dire social problems in many black ghettos across the country — problems which are used to excuse widespread academic failures in ghetto schools — somehow ghetto schools run by KIPP and Success Academy turn out students whose academic performances match or exceed the performances in suburban schools whose kids come from high-income families.

A majority of the Madison school board voted to abort the proposed Madison preparatory Academy IB charter school.


Glenn Smith & Andrew Knapp:

Police forces across the United States are stockpiling massive databases with personal information from millions of Americans who crossed paths with officers but were not charged with a crime.

A person can end up in one of these databases by doing nothing more than sitting on a public park bench or chatting with an officer on the street. Once there, these records can linger forever and be used by police agencies to track movements, habits, acquaintances and associations – even a person’s marital and job status, The Post and Courier found in an investigation of police practices around the nation.

What began as a method for linking suspicious behavior to crime has morphed into a practice that threatens to turn local police departments into miniature versions of the National Security Agency. In the process, critics contend, police risk trampling constitutional rights, tarnishing innocent people and further eroding public trust.

Analysis: Unions Have Cash But Not Partners In Fight Against MA Charter Proposal

Mike Antonucci:

Save Our Public Schools, the Massachusetts campaign fighting to retain the state’s cap on charter schools, describes itself as “a grassroots organization of families, parents, educators and students.”

But a glance at its campaign finance disclosure shows it to be almost devoid of families, parents, and students, and includes educators only to the extent that their dues money is being spent by the teachers union they belong to.

Of the more than $7.2 million in cash and in-kind contributions received by Save Our Public Schools so far, 99.86 percent came from the nation’s two largest unions: the National Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers, and their affiliates. But even that percentage is slightly misleading.

Boston parents have many charter choices while Madison continues it’s none-diverse K-12 structure.

As Lockout Continues at Long Island U., Students Report Meager Classroom Instruction

Fernanda Zamudio-Suaréz:

When Kiyonda Hester started the final year of her master’s program in social work, on Wednesday at Long Island University’s Brooklyn campus, an instructor began a course by acknowledging he was unqualified to teach it.

The temporary instructor, who is an administrator, told the students that he had to be there so he wouldn’t be fired, Ms. Hester said. He took attendance and noted that the syllabus had been posted online.

When students asked why the syllabus bore a date from another year, Ms. Hester said, the administrator responded by saying he hoped things would get back to normal next week.

“They would literally outright let us know that they were not equipped to teach,” said Ms. Hester, who declined to name the administrator.

Some Rules for Teachers

Anne Boyer:

1. only ask the questions to which you really need answers

2. demonstrate uncertainty

3. reconstruct for your students your own previous errors of thought and elucidate to your students what factors lead to a changed mind

4. do not let the terms with which you understand the world get in the way of understanding it

5. give up any desire to be the smartest person in the room

6. remember that students have bodies and that bodies require movement, sustenance, rest, and relief

7. leave an inheritance of dialectic

8. preserve and sustain whatever delusions you’ve found necessary to behave in good faith

Evidence Rebuts Chomsky’s Theory of Language Learning

Paul Ibbotson, Michael Tomasello:

The idea that we have brains hardwired with a mental template for learning grammar—famously espoused by Noam Chomsky of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology—has dominated linguistics for almost half a century. Recently, though, cognitive scientists and linguists have abandoned Chomsky’s “universal grammar” theory in droves because of new research examining many different languages—and the way young children learn to understand and speak the tongues of their communities. That work fails to support Chomsky’s assertions.

The research suggests a radically different view, in which learning of a child’s first language does not rely on an innate grammar module. Instead the new research shows that young children use various types of thinking that may not be specific to language at all—such as the ability to classify the world into categories (people or objects, for instance) and to understand the relations among things. These capabilities, coupled with a unique hu­­­man ability to grasp what others intend to communicate, allow language to happen. The new findings indicate that if researchers truly want to understand how children, and others, learn languages, they need to look outside of Chomsky’s theory for guidance.

This conclusion is important because the study of language plays a central role in diverse disciplines—from poetry to artificial intelligence to linguistics itself; misguided methods lead to questionable results. Further, language is used by humans in ways no animal can match; if you understand what language is, you comprehend a little bit more about human nature.

Chomsky’s first version of his theory, put forward in the mid-20th century, meshed with two emerging trends in Western intellectual life. First, he posited that the languages people use to communicate in everyday life behaved like mathematically based languages of the newly emerging field of computer science. His research looked for the underlying computational structure of language and proposed a set of procedures that would create “well-formed” sentences. The revolutionary idea was that a computerlike program could produce sentences real people thought were grammatical. That program could also purportedly explain as well the way people generated their sentences. This way of talking about language resonated with many scholars eager to em­­brace a computational approach to … well … everything.

As Chomsky was developing his computational theories, he was simultaneously proposing that they were rooted in human biology. In the second half of the 20th century, it was becoming ever clearer that our unique evolutionary history was responsible for many aspects of our unique human psychology, and so the theory resonated on that level as well. His universal grammar was put forward as an innate component of the human mind—and it promised to reveal the deep biological underpinnings of the world’s 6,000-plus human languages. The most powerful, not to mention the most beautiful, theories in science reveal hidden unity underneath surface diversity, and so this theory held immediate appeal.

But evidence has overtaken Chomsky’s theory, which has been inching toward a slow death for years. It is dying so slowly because, as physicist Max Planck once noted, older scholars tend to hang on to the old ways: “Science progresses one funeral at a time.”

An Unprecedented Faculty Lockout

Alana Semuels:

Locking out a university’s faculty right before the start of classes seems like a drastic step, but that is just what Long Island University (LIU) did this weekend, when it barred all 400 members of its faculty union from its Brooklyn campus, cut off their email accounts and health insurance, and told them they would be replaced. The move came three days after the union’s contract expired. Now, the faculty is furious, and planning rallies and pickets with support from the American Federation of Teachers. On Tuesday, faculty voted 226 to 10 to reject a proposed contract from LIU, and the faculty senate voiced their support for a vote of no-confidence in the university’s president Kimberly Cline, 135 to 10. Faculty rallied outside the university’s Brooklyn campus Wednesday with a giant inflatable rat as classes began, taught by non-union members.

Labor historians say they can’t recall an example of a university using a lockout against faculty members. Kate Bronfenbrenner, a Cornell professor of labor relations, says they’re particularly unwise in the service sector, or any sector where a company has clients such as students and donors to placate. More typically, she says, lockouts are used in the industrial sector, where customers are removed from labor practices.

Even so, she said, such a move rarely works. “Historically, lockouts are bad PR in every industry,” she said. When an employer locks out workers, the media and the public are typically on the side of the workers, she explained, because workers are available for work but employers aren’t allowing them to. “Lockouts normally backfire,” she said.

‘Policing what people think or say’ doesn’t work, Mizzou students told at mandatory forum

Mark Schierbecker:

You can learn a lot from ‘Sausage Party’

Given the politically correct invective of the university’s racial protests last fall, new University of Missouri students were surprised to hear a professor celebrate a crude animated movie with “the most offensive stereotypes you could possibly imagine.”

Yet that’s exactly what happened at the mandatory student program Aug. 19, as shown by a recording obtained by The College Fix. A student also said that Islam is a particularly harmful religion – and he was not rebuked.

Free speech advocates at Mizzou who had written off the university as a lost cause for political pluralism shouldn’t get too excited, however: Another professor said some ideas are still unacceptable because they aren’t “respectful.”

Don’t Leave Your Kids Near Judgmental Strangers

Virginia Postrel:

As a child, Ashley Thomas loved to go by herself to a meadow about a 10-minute walk from her house in Ojai, California. Playing on her own let her imagination soar. “You can pretend you’re the Queen of Sheba,” she says. Exploring made her feel independent and grown up. Once, when she was in about the first grade, she even found a snake. “There’s no way I would have picked up a snake in front of my parents,” she says. “The reason I knew it was OK was I had also gone by myself to the library to take a snake safety class.” (Yes, a snake safety class.)

Ah, the olde-time memories of the days when kids could play on their own without someone posting a video online to shame their parents — or calling the police to have mom arrested and the children seized by social services. But Thomas isn’t an aging baby boomer telling tales to her grandkids. She’s just 30.

Civics – DNA Dragnet: In Some Cities, Police Go From Stop-and-Frisk to Stop-and-Spit

Lauren Kirchner

The five teenage boys were sitting in a parked car in a gated community in Melbourne, Florida, when a police officer pulled up behind them.

Officer Justin Valutsky closed one of the rear doors, which had been ajar, and told them to stay in the car. He peered into the drivers’ side window of the white Hyundai SUV and asked what the teens were doing there. It was a Saturday night in March 2015 and they told Valutsky they were visiting a friend for a sleepover.

Valutsky told them there had been a string of car break-ins recently in the area. Then, after questioning them some more, he made an unexpected demand: He asked which one of them wanted to give him a DNA sample.

After a long pause, Adam, a slight 15-year-old with curly hair and braces, said, “Okay, I guess I’ll do it.” Valutsky showed Adam how to rub a long cotton swab around the inside of his cheek, then gave him a consent form to sign and took his thumbprint. He sealed Adam’s swab in an envelope. Then he let the boys go.

Soaring Student Debt Prompts Calls for Relief

Josh Mitchell:

The industry warnings are urgent and often dire: The housing market could stall. Marriages are being postponed. Workers won’t have the savings to retire. The nation’s food supply will be disrupted.

They point to one threat: soaring student debt.

A tripling of student debt over the past decade to more than $1.3 trillion has unleashed a torrent of Washington lobbying from outside the education sector, with various industries describing a “crisis” requiring federal intervention.

Real-estate agents, farmers, architects, startup lenders, lawyers, tech companies, benefits administrators—even podiatrists—have sent lobbyists to Capitol Hill over the past two years to push for legislation to forgive or at least reduce what workers and consumers owe on their student loans.

Google Program to Deradicalize Jihadis Will Be Used for Right-Wing American Extremists Next

Naomi LaChance

A Google-incubated program that has been targeting potential ISIS members with deradicalizing content will soon be used to target violent right-wing extremists in North America, a designer of the program said at an event at the Brookings Institution on Wednesday.

Using research and targeted advertising, the initiative by London-based startup Moonshot CVE and Google’s Jigsaw technology incubator targets potentially violent jihadis and directs them to a YouTube channel with videos that refute ISIS propaganda.

In the pilot program countering ISIS, the so-called Redirect Method collected the metadata of 320,000 individuals over the course of eight weeks, using 1,700 keywords, and served them advertisements that led them to the videos. Collectively, the targets watched more than half a million minutes of videos.

The event at Brookings was primarily about the existing program aimed at undermining ISIS recruiting. “I think this is an extremely promising method,” said Richard Stengel, U.S. undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs.

Related: The stealthy, (Google Chairman) Eric Schmidt-backed startup that’s working to put Hillary Clinton in the White House.

ihttps://wikileaks.org/Transcript-Meeting-Assange-Schmidt.html, a former Secretary of State advisor to Hillary Clinton.

Google voice search records and keeps conversations people have around their phones – but the files can be deleted

Andrew Griffin

Google could have a record of everything you have said around it for years, and you can listen to it yourself.
 The company quietly records many of the conversations that people have around its products.
 The feature works as a way of letting people search with their voice, and storing those recordings presumably lets Google improve its language recognition tools as well as the results that it gives to people.

Two possible cases of leprosy reported at Riverside County elementary school

Soumya Karlamangla

Two elementary school children in Riverside County could have Hansen’s disease, also known as leprosy, according to health officials.

Nursing staff at Indian Hills Elementary School in Jurupa Valley notified county officials Friday of the suspected infections, which will take several weeks to officially confirm, said Barbara Cole, director for disease control for the Riverside County Department of Public Health.

“We have to keep stressing it’s not confirmed,” Cole said. “We’re just at the beginning of the investigation.”

Jurupa Unified School District officials sent a letter home to parents Friday to inform them about the unconfirmed cases and provide resources to learn more about the rare disease, said district Supt. Elliott Duchon.

Duchon said a parent notified the school’s nursing staff of a preliminary diagnosis of Hansen’s disease for a student at the school. He would not say whether the two suspected cases were in the same family.

Denied: How Texas keeps tens of thousands of children out of special education

Brian M. Rosenthal:

During the first week of school at Shadow Forest Elementary, a frail kindergartner named Roanin Walker had a meltdown at recess. Overwhelmed by the shrieking and giggling, he hid by the swings and then tried to escape the playground, hitting a classmate and biting a teacher before being restrained.

The principal called Roanin’s mother.

“There’s been an incident.”

Heidi Walker was frightened, but as she hurried to the Humble school that day in 2014, she felt strangely relieved.

She had warned school administrators months earlier that her 5-year-old had been diagnosed with a disability similar to autism. Now they would understand, she thought. Surely they would give him the therapy and counseling he needed.

Curated Education Information