Considering Madison’s K-12 Enrollment Projections: 2009 and 2014; Dramatic Demographic Variation Persists

The Madison School District recently published a brief K-12 enrollment history (2010- PDF) along with a look at school capacities (PDF).

Happily, a similar 2009 document is available here (PDF). This document includes 18 years of history, to 1990.

Yet, the District and community have long tolerated wide variation in demographics across the schools.

Tap for a larger version.

I found it interesting that a number of schools are well below capacity. Cherokee middle school is at 74% of capacity while nearby Hamilton is at 106%. Hamilton’s free and reduced lunch population is just 18% while Cherokee’s is 60% (!) Details.

The District is planning to raise property taxes via a spring, 2015 referendum. Said referendum, if passed would expand Hamilton Middle School (“four additional classrooms”), among others. This is quite remarkable with available capacity at nearby Cherokee.

Church of England school taken aback by Ofsted rating amid extremism row

Richard Adams and Sally Weale:

The head teacher of the Church of England school in east London at the centre of a fresh controversy over alleged Islamic extremism, has expressed surprise at the Ofsted inspection findings that sent his school into special measures.

The Sir John Cass Foundation and Red Coat Church of England secondary, and a group of independent Muslim faith schools in Tower Hamlets, will be criticised by Ofsted over safeguarding concerns, following snap visits by the schools inspectorate in the wake of the “Trojan horse” affair in Birmingham.

The only maintained school involved, Sir John Cass, in Stepney, is to be downgraded from outstanding to Ofsted’s lowest rating of inadequate, primarily over Facebook activity by sixth formers linked to extremist material, and existing segregation between boys and girls in school areas.

Haydn Evans, the school’s headteacher since 1995, said: “We are surprised by the outcome of the Ofsted inspection, as we have always taken safeguarding very seriously. The teaching and results of this school remain good, which they have been since 1999, and my priority now is to address the issues that have been identified and work closely with the local authority and the diocese to return the school as quickly as possible to an outstanding school.”

Automation Makes Us Dumb

Nicholas Carr:

Artificial intelligence has arrived. Today’s computers are discerning and sharp. They can sense the environment, untangle knotty problems, make subtle judgments and learn from experience. They don’t think the way we think—they’re still as mindless as toothpicks—but they can replicate many of our most prized intellectual talents. Dazzled by our brilliant new machines, we’ve been rushing to hand them all sorts of sophisticated jobs that we used to do ourselves.

But our growing reliance on computer automation may be exacting a high price. Worrisome evidence suggests that our own intelligence is withering as we become more dependent on the artificial variety. Rather than lifting us up, smart software seems to be dumbing us down.

It has been a slow process. The first wave of automation rolled through U.S. industry after World War II, when manufacturers began installing electronically controlled equipment in their plants. The new machines made factories more efficient and companies more profitable. They were also heralded as emancipators. By relieving factory hands of routine chores, they would do more than boost productivity. They would elevate laborers, giving them more invigorating jobs and more valuable talents. The new technology would be ennobling.

Surprise: Humanities Degrees Provide Great Return On Investment

Jeffrey Dorfman:

Humanities degrees have received a bad rap recently, even from President Obama. Many people, including top policy makers, routinely push policies to encourage more students to major in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). Some governors have even suggested that state subsidies for public universities should be focused on STEM disciplines, with less money going to “less useful” degrees such as the humanities. Yet, in contravention to this perceived truth, the data show that humanities degrees are still worth a great deal.

As part of a recent project estimating the economic impact of my university, I had a reason to compute the predicted value of college degrees in a wide variety of fields. While it is certainly true that science, engineering, math and business degrees all produce graduates with high expected salaries, those humanities degrees still pay off rather handsomely.

Who Killed Wikipedia?

Virginia Postrel:

Wikipedia is the sixth most popular website in the world. It’s the quickest way to get the lowdown on the Battle of Nashville, find out exactly how old Ruth Bader Ginsburg is, or discover who invented Hot Pockets. You can find more authoritative specialized resources online—from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy to IMDb— but nothing is as comprehensive. The English-language edition, the largest of Wikipedia’s 287 language editions, now includes more than 4.5 million entries, and 11 other editions have more than a million each.

Few of the tens of millions of readers who rely on Wikipedia give much thought to where its content comes from or why the site, which is crowdsourced and open (at least in theory) for anyone to edit, doesn’t degenerate into gibberish and graffiti. Like Google or running water, it is simply there. Yet its very existence is something of a miracle. Despite its ocean of content, this vital piece of informational infrastructure is the work of a surprisingly small community of volunteers. Only about 3,000 editors contribute more than 100 changes a month to the English-language Wikipedia, down from a high of more than 4,700 in early 2007. Without any central direction or outside recognition, these dedicated amateurs create, refine, and maintain millions of content pages.

Property Tax Season: Comparing Madison Area Burdens in light of quarterly payments

The arrival of Thanksgiving means local homeowners will soon see their annual property tax bills. The chart below compares Madison area homes sold in 2012, ranging in price from $239,900 to $255,000

Tap to view a larger version. Excel. A Middleton home’s property tax burden is about 13% less than a similar property in Madison (based on 2012 sales and 2013 assessments and payments). The Madison home noted in this analysis was assessed $1100 higher than the Middleton property. Taxes, spending growth and academic achievement over time are surely worth a much deeper dive.

SIS notes and links on Madison area property taxes.

Property Taxes around the World. Madison’s 16% increase since 2007; Median Household Income down 7.6%; Middleton’s 16% Less.

Worth reading: Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance:

The property tax is Wisconsin’s largest, oldest, and most confusing tax. At least five governments use the tax, and two different methods of valuing property are used to distribute taxes among property owners. One source of confusion arises when tax rates and levies move in opposite directions, a common occurrence over the past 20 years. In addition, property owners are often unaware of how changing property values, both within a municipality and among municipalities, can cause individual property tax bills to rise, even when levies are “frozen.”

Madison Mayor Paul Soglin:”(Property Tax) Delinquencies 30% more than we expect“.

Spending and adult employment.

Property tax growth (along with other tax sources) is a manifestation of the challenges we see in our k-12 school districts.

November 19, 1957: Albert Camus’s Beautiful Letter of Gratitude to His Childhood Teacher After Winning the Nobel Prize

Maria Popova:

When Camus was less than a year old, his father was killed on the battlefield of WWI. He and his older brother were raised by their illiterate, nearly deaf mother and a despotic grandmother, with hardly any prospects for a bright future. In a testament to what happens when education lives up to its highest potential to ennoble the human spirit, a teacher named Louis Germaine saw in young Albert something special and undertook the task of conjuring cohesion and purpose out of the boy — the task of any great mentor. Under his teacher’s wing, Camus came to transcend the dismal cards he had been dealt and began blossoming into his future genius.

Three decades later, Camus became the second youngest person to receive the Nobel Prize, which was awarded to him for the “clear-sighted earnestness” of his work, which “illuminates the problems of the human conscience.” On November 19, 1957 — mere days after receiving humanity’s highest accolade — Camus recognized the impact of his former teacher with such “clear-sighted earnestness” in a spectacular letter, included in the last pages of Camus’s The First Man (public library | IndieBound), translated by David Hapgood.

Harvard Deserves Steve Ballmer’s Millions

Virginia Postrel:

Now that he’s retired as chief executive officer of Microsoft, Steve Ballmer has time for popular billionaire pastimes. First, he bought a basketball team for $2 billion. Now he’s gotten into big-bucks philanthropy.

Ballmer and his wife, Connie, are giving $50 million in unrestricted funds to bolster the endowment of the University of Oregon, her alma mater. (She’s also on the university’s board of trustees.) They’re kicking in a seemingly comparable amount to significantly expand the computer science department at Harvard University, from which he received his undergraduate degree in 1977. The gift will allow Harvard to add a dozen computer science professors, bringing the department to 36 faculty, compared with 55 next door at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. (The exact sum wasn’t disclosed, but when the Harvard Crimson estimated $60 million — 12 slots at an endowment of $5 million each — Ballmer called the numbers “pretty good.”)

Why I hate (and love) visualizations of mathematics

Jeremy Kun:

Let’s say I’m trying to learn about a difficult mathematical concept. For this example I’ll use Markov chains because I recently saw a highly-appreciated visualization of Markov chains due to Victor Powell and Lewis Lehe. For now I’ll pretend I’m the typical person who claims to be a visual thinker and the only reason I don’t get math is because nobody is patient enough to explain things in a way I can understand. (Such people are everywhere.)

So I’ve heard the mysterious term Markov chain, and tried to learn about it previously by reading a book. Maybe I want to even write a computer program to “do” a Markov Chain, whatever that means. I go check out the Powell-Lehe visualization and at the end I think “Wow! That was so easy to understand! A Markov chain is just a little diagram with a ball bouncing around, where the ball is represents the state a system, and the thickness of the lines is how likely the ball is to use that line to travel.”

Jeb Bush speaks up for Common Core

Chloe Sorvino:

“In my view, the rigour of the Common Core state standards must be the new minimum in classrooms,” Mr Bush said. “For those states choosing a path other than Common Core, I say this: Aim even higher. Be bolder. Raise standards and ask more of our students and the system, because I know they have the potential to deliver it.”

Mr Bush said the US government must make education reform a priority and, if that happens, it could make Common Core a 2016 election cycle issue. Last month, Rand Paul, Kentucky’s Republican senator, said that a supporter “doesn’t have much chance of winning in a Republican primary.”

Mr Bush pointed to Black and Hispanic American fourth graders reading two and a half grade levels below their white peers on average. He also cited the global rankings that place American students 21st in reading and 31st in mathematics.

“But if we buy the excuses, if we let kids struggle, if we herd them into failing schools, how can we expect young people to grasp those first rungs of opportunity?” Mr Bush asked. “That is why the challenge of fixing our schools must be among the most urgent of national priorities.”

Typing takes over as handwriting ends


Finnish students will no longer be taught handwriting at school, with typing lessons taking its place, it’s reported.

Learning joined-up writing, often in fountain pen in the UK, is almost a rite of passage for primary school students. But Finland is moving into the digital age by ditching the ink in favour of keyboards, the Savon Sanomat newspaper reports. From autumn 2016, students won’t have to learn cursive handwriting or calligraphy, but will instead be taught typing skills, the report says. “Fluent typing skills are an important national competence,” says Minna Harmanen from the National Board of Education. The switch will be a major cultural change, Ms Harmanen says, but typing is more relevant to everyday life.

Student Debt: A Calculator Focused on College Majors

David Leonhardt:

Student debt seems on its way to becoming a significant political issue, for better or worse. When a recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll asked people about a long list of domestic and foreign policy proposals, none received more support – 82 percent – than reducing the cost of student loans. When the 2016 campaign gets underway, candidates will most likely come forth with various plans to address the issue.

So it’s a good time for an interactive calculator that the Hamilton Project is releasing Thursday, meant to give more detailed information about loan burdens. The feature’s main contribution is the earnings data it gives on about 80 different majors, allowing people to look up typical debt burdens by major, over the first decade after college – which is when people tend to repay their loans.

Wisconsin school leaders release policy wish list at odds with GOP agenda

Erin Richards

The next legislative session doesn’t start until Jan. 5, but lines are already being drawn around education policy initiatives.

In one corner: the GOP-led Legislature, emboldened after key wins in the midterm elections, and soon-to-tilt farther right with the retirement of key Republican moderates in the Senate.

Their priorities are a new comprehensive school accountability system, revisiting Wisconsin’s academic standards and likely an expansion of programs that send taxpayer money to private schools.

In the other corner: Wisconsin’s K-12 administrators, who publicly released their own policy agenda wish list Wednesday, in hopes that lawmakers would embrace evidence-based practices as they shape the state’s education landscape. They want more funding for programs that research shows helps kids, and an end to “ideology-driven reforms” pursued by conservatives, especially over the past two years.

Is there any middle ground? Or will the next state budget increase the friction between lawmakers and district and school leaders?

Passing Rate Declines by 20% as State Uses New Certification Exams for Teachers

Elizabeth Harris:

New York State saw a significant drop in the number of candidates who passed teacher certification tests last year as tougher exams were introduced, state officials said on Wednesday, portraying the results as a long-needed move to raise the level of teaching and the performance of teacher preparation schools.

In the 2013-14 school year, 11,843 teachers earned their certification in New York, a drop of about 20 percent from the previous two years.

Candidates without certification cannot teach in public schools, and education schools with high failure rates may eventually lose their accreditation.

Related: a Wisconsin MTEL “toe dip”.

5 ways community colleges are fixing higher education

By Emanuella Grinberg, Jamie Gumbrecht and Thom Patterson:

Enter community colleges. They provide technical programs for emerging careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics that are comparable to — if not better than — some of their four-year counterparts, at a fraction of the cost. Often, they’re the launchpad to baccalaureate programs for people without the time, money or academic skills to jump into a four-year program straight out of high school.

And as part of the American Association of Community Colleges’ 21st Century Initiative, they’re updating their missions and nimbly shifting to serve the economy of the future.

Here are some of the ways they’re facing problems that weigh down all of higher education — and succeeding.

Graduates of Elite Colleges See a Payoff

Lindsay Gellman:

Sure, it’s nice to have a graduate degree from Yale, but a new study finds that attending an elite undergraduate institution counts for an awful lot when it comes to lifelong earnings.

A researcher at the Vanderbilt University Law School found that people with advanced degrees from elite schools and undergraduate diplomas from less-selective institutions earn less than people who attended elite schools for both their graduate and undergraduate degrees.

The results hold up across a broad swath of graduate programs, from law degrees to M.B.A.s. And those who attended less elite undergraduate institutions are unlikely to ever close the salary gap, according to the study.

Joni Hersch of Vanderbilt Law School said the survey results came as somewhat of a surprise, but suggests that it’s not really undergraduate education driving the pay disparity, but instead the social status of graduates of elite colleges.

The parents of students at elite colleges tend to be better-educated than the parents of those at less competitive schools, Hersch said; the children of educated parents tend to have more early networking opportunities and understand certain social cues.

“It’s the vacations you can talk about, the small talk you can make, what wine you order in restaurants” that could make the difference in a hiring manager’s decision, said Hersch, who earned her undergraduate degree at the University of South Florida.

Wisconsin Special Education Open Enrollment Lawsuit

Kelly Meyerhoffer:

The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty is suing state Superintendent Tony Evers, the Department of Public Instruction and three school districts — Elkhorn, Greendale and Muskego-Norway — on behalf of parents who claim the districts denied their open enrollment applications solely because their children have disabilities.

The lawsuit contends it's unconstitutional for the open enrollment law to allow nonresident districts to accept traditional students but deny students with special needs.

But a liberal advocacy group on Wednesday criticized the lawsuit as an attempt by the conservative nonprofit to reignite a legislative push to offer publicly funded vouchers to students with special needs.

Efforts in the Legislature to fund special-needs vouchers have failed twice in the last two years. The bills have been almost universally opposed by special education advocacy groups who are against channeling more money away from public schools.

WILL is financed almost entirely bythe conservative Bradley Foundation, which is led by Gov. Scott Walker's campaign co-chair, Michael Grebe.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of four students whose identities were not disclosed./blockquote>

Teens learn better when they’re awake

Laura Waters:

Last week the New Jersey Senate Education Committee approved a bill proposed by Sen. Dick Codey (D-Essex) that would authorize “a study on the issues, benefits, and options for instituting a later start time to the school day in middle school and high school.” Makes sense, right? After all, we know that the hormonal changes of puberty affect teenagers’ circadian rhythms which, in turn, dictate sleep schedules and alertness. If you’ve had teenagers (I’ve had four) you know that they’re late to bed and late to rise, a pattern that hardly squares with school start times of 7:30 or so. Sen. Codey’s bill logically proposes that middle and high schools students start school when they are awake enough to fully benefit from academic instruction. This shift is supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

You’d think that this would be an easy call for the State Legislature, but it’s complicated. With all the agonizing we do over the state of American education — our kids are underperforming! our kids are over-tested! it’s the race to nowhere! it’s their only chance! — we rarely focus on the fact that school schedules are shaped by an assortment of priorities that at times coexist harmoniously with the academic mission of schools and at times conflict with that mission. One of those conflicts is our tradition of designing school schedules to accommodate the needs of extracurricular activities. Perhaps the most valuable aspect of Sen. Codey’s bill is that it forces us to examine that compromise.

Here Comes The Student Loan Forgiveness

Jeffrey Dorfman

President Obama is in the process of expanding a student loan forgiveness program through his executive power (the infamous pen). Whether constitutional or not, he appears to believe that he can add more students to the eligibility list for a program he created by regulation in November 2013. This “Pay-As-You-Earn” program is partly about lowering the monthly payments to make student loans more affordable for graduates, but mostly it is the foot in the door to student loan forgiveness.

Under the latest version of President Obama’s giveaway to former college students, people with student loans that meet certain income eligibility standards will only need to pay 10 percent of their discretionary income for a maximum of 20 years. Discretionary income is the amount you earn above the poverty line for your family size. If a borrower works for a government or in a job defined as public service, they only have to pay for 10 years. After that, the remaining balance is forgiven.

What do you know? A simple way to revolutionise teacher quality1 2

Tom Bennett:

I want to talk about a topic so volatile and delicate it could be a kitten made of nitroglycerin: subject knowledge. And, for once, I don’t mean looking at what children know, because that’s a discussion that can currently be enjoyed on channels 1-100 on your Sky box (other cable providers are, of course, available). It’s a good debate, and an important one. But it isn’t this one.

This sermon is about teacher knowledge. What do you know about what you teach? It can be a sobering reflection, for me as much as anyone else. The personal is political, so here’s some history. I studied philosophy, because that’s where all the good-looking people earning big bucks started out [check this – Ed]. It was at the University of Glasgow, where you wisely begin with three subjects (English literature, philosophy and politics for me), narrowing one’s focus in year three, continuing to an optional master’s degree in year four. I received a joint honours MA in politics and philosophy. I learned a good deal about Thomas Hobbes and the social contract, type/token mistakes and the 100 best gags of Andrea Dworkin. You will note that, fascinating as these topics are, none of them particularly prepare you for a Year 7 lesson on the 5 Ks of Sikhism, the concept of authority and law in Judaism, or the Passion of Gethsemane.

Vape gathers linguistic steam to become Word of the Year 2014

Alison Flood:

This was the year of vaping, according to Oxford Dictionaries, which has chosen “vape” – the act of inhaling from an electronic cigarette – as its word of 2014 after use of the term more than doubled over the last year.

Vape – defined as to “inhale and exhale the vapour produced by an electronic cigarette or similar device” – beat contenders including slacktivism, bae and indyref to be chosen as Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2014. The shortlist is compiled from scanning around 150m words of English in use each month, applying software to identify new and emerging usage. Dictionary editors and lexicographers, including staff from the Oxford English Dictionary, then pinpoint a final selection and an eventual winner, which is intended to be a word judged “to reflect the ethos, mood, or preoccupations of that particular year and to have lasting potential as a word of cultural significance”.

UW-Madison ranks in top 10 for students studying abroad

Karen Herzog:

For the eighth consecutive year, the University of Wisconsin-Madison ranked among the top 10 U.S. universities and colleges in the number of students who study abroad in the latest annual Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange released Monday.

UW-Madison posted a No. 9 ranking with 2,157 students earning credit outside the country in the 2012-’13 academic year, according to the report.

The report found the number of international students at colleges and universities in the U.S. overall increased by 8%, to a record high of 886,052 students in the 2013-’14 academic year.

This year’s statistical analysis shows how much more global U.S. higher education has become since the first Open Doors report published in 2000 by the Institute of International Education.

The number of U.S. students studying abroad has more than doubled in the last 15 years.

The number of international students studying in the U.S. also has grown — by 72% since 2000. The U.S. hosts more of the world’s 4.5 million globally mobile college and university students than any other country in the world, with almost double the number hosted by the United Kingdom, the second leading host country, the report says.

American Education Week November 16-22

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

Though federal and state governments are obligated to provide free public education, both fail to fully fund their financial mandates. While every child in America deserves a quality public education, the failure of federal and state governments, and the state usurping the authority of local school boards to adequately fund their schools, has placed American education in a very difficult situation over the last several decades. America must provide students with quality public schools so that the next generation can grow, prosper, and achieve. NEA’s American Education Week ( presents all Americans with an opportunity to honor individuals who are making a difference in ensuring that every child receives a quality education for the nation’s 50 million students.

Direct new challenges to Bakke ruling

Lyle Denniston:

The saga over the use of race in selecting new college entrants that began with the Supreme Court’s famous ruling in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke nearly four decades ago now has a new chapter — and it is intended to be the final one. Two lawsuits, filed Monday in federal courts against two major universities, are crafted to eventually put before the Supreme Court an explicit plea to overrule Bakke and later decisions on the issue.

The lawsuits are, in a way, sequels to the Court’s ruling last year in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin — a case that is itself on the way back to the Supreme Court — but their goal is a more sweeping one than the one advanced so far in the Fisher case.

Harvard University — ironically, the same institution that had provided an affirmative action model that the Supreme Court embraced in the Bakke case — is one of the targets of the new challenges. The other lawsuit names the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

“Given what is occurring at Harvard and at other schools,” the lawsuit filed in Boston argued, “the proper response is the outright prohibition of racial preferences in university admissions — period. Allowing this issue to be litigated in case after case will only perpetuate the hostilities that proper consideration of race is designed to avoid.”

Why Is American Teaching So Bad?

Jonathan Zimmerman:

Aware of such research, Green circles back to the education schools, where a zealous coterie of scholars has been trying to identify and inculcate the “habits of mind” that define the disciplines. They tend to follow the work of Stanford University’s Lee Shulman, who coined the term “pedagogical content knowledge” to describe the intellectual apparatus that you need to teach a given subject. I am a full professor at a major research university, but I could not, without much preparation, teach high school chemistry. I could, of course, require my students to memorize the periodic table of elements. But I couldn’t teach the discipline, because I don’t understand its history or structure: how it developed over time, what it has discovered, what is left to know, and what counts as “knowledge” in the first place. These are hugely complicated questions, usually reserved for graduate study in the disciplines themselves. But unless you understand how a discipline actually works, you won’t be able to help anyone else understand it, either.

And that brings us to the saddest fact of all: most of our teachers don’t possess a deep working knowledge of any discipline, at least not in the way that good teaching demands. Perhaps the teachers of very small children do not need the same mastery of a discipline as their counterparts in middle and high schools. But surely they need a deep and theoretically sophisticated understanding of the ways that children learn. Even the teaching of so-called simple arithmetic turns out to be an immensely complicated endeavor, but most of our teachers do not treat it as such. Part of that failing has to do with the lack of constructive collaboration inside our schools, where teachers work almost entirely in isolation.

By contrast, many other advanced countries have institutionalized critical commentary by peers and also provide intellectual support to improve skills and learning as part of teachers’ professional practice. Japanese teachers even have a separate word for this process, jugyokenkyu, which is built into their weekly routines. All teachers have designated periods to observe each other’s classes, study curriculum, and otherwise hone their craft. But they also learn a great deal in their pre-service training, which is both more rigorous and more demanding concerning particular subject matter than anything American teacher-education students are likely to encounter.

When a stands for average.

Colleges and universities charge more, keep less, new report finds

Jon Marcus:

Forced to keep discounting their prices as enrollment stagnates, U.S. universities and colleges expect their slowest growth in revenue in 10 years, the bond-rating company Moody’s reports.

The squeeze could threaten further cuts in services even as tuition continues to increase.

A quarter of colleges and universities are projecting declines in revenue, according to a closely watched annual Moody’s survey. Half of public and 40 percent of private institutions say they will take in only 2 percent more than the inflation rate, or worse.

“Smaller entering classes in much of the country over the next few years foreshadows continued revenue pressure.” Eva Bogaty, vice president and senior analyst, Moody’s

Moody’s analysts say regional public universities and small private colleges, particularly in the Northeast and Midwest where birth rates are flat and enrollment growth has stalled, are at the greatest risk. But the problems are dogging campuses everywhere.

College Applicants Sanitizing Social Media Profiles

Natasha Singer:

Admissions officers at Morehouse College in Atlanta were shocked several years ago when a number of high school seniors submitted applications using email addresses containing provocative language.

Some of the addresses made sexual innuendos while others invoked gangster rap songs or drug use, said Darryl D. Isom, Morehouse’s director of admissions and recruitment.

But last year, he and his staff noticed a striking reversal: Nearly every applicant to Morehouse, an all-male historically black college, used his real name, or some variation, as his email address.

Ongoing Increases in Madison Property Taxes: “Delinquencies 30% More Than We Expect” (!); Schools up 4.2% this year

Bill Novak

Madison property owners will soon be able to pay their taxes in four installments, beginning with the 2014 tax bill coming in December.

The Mayor’s Office said on Tuesday the four-payment plan could help taxpayers avoid penalties by spreading out the taxes owed over a seven-month period.

“At the height of the recession, the city’s delinquency rate was over twice the historical average,” said Mayor Paul Soglin in a news release.

“Even today, delinquencies are 30 percent more than what we would expect,” Soglin said. “We hope offering the four installment option will help some of our property owners avoid the considerable penalties incurred when you go delinquent on their taxes.”

Taxpayers up to now had two options in Madison: Pay the full amount by Jan. 31, or in two installments, due Jan. 31 and July 31 (the two installment plan will no longer be used.)

Madison / Dane County property taxes among the highest in Wisconsin.

25% of the Madison School District’s 2014-2015 $402,464,374 budget spent on benefits.

Middleton’s property taxes are 16% lower than Madison’s for a similar home.

Chinese Students at U.S. Universities Jump 75% in Three Years

Janet Lorin:

In 2013-2014, the number of Chinese students in the U.S. rose 8.1 percent from a year earlier, while those from India swelled by 17 percent, the IIE said. Foreigners are attractive to colleges because they bring diversity to campuses and many pay full freight. That’s a boon to schools, which doled out about $48 billion in grant aid in the form of discounts in 2013-2014, almost double the rate of a decade earlier when adjusted for inflation, according to the New York-based College Board.

“There’s room in American higher education for more foreign students,” said Allan Goodman, president of the institute.

Algorithms on Khan Academy, a collaboration with Dartmouth College professors

Pamela Fox:

What is an algorithm? It’s a sequence of steps that you follow to solve a problem. In everyday life, you might have an algorithm for hanging up your laundry, efficiently going through a shopping list, or finding an empty parking space in a lot. In computer science, an algorithm is a sequence of instructions that a computer program follows. Algorithms form the basis of the most interesting and important programs we use, such as the algorithm that Google uses to calculate driving directions, or the algorithm that Facebook uses to automatically tag you in a photo.

Because algorithms are so important to computer science, they are a core part of a computer science curriculum. The AP CS A class teaches object-oriented programming with algorithms, every college CS student will have at least one algorithms class and encounter algorithms everywhere, and every software engineer interviewing for a job will review algorithms while they’re prepping for an interview.

On Common Core Reading


All week we’ve been reporting on big changes in reading instruction brought on by the Common Core State Standards: a doubling-down on evidence-based reading, writing and speaking; increased use of nonfiction; and a big push to get kids reading more “complex texts.”

Whatever you think of these shifts, they’re meaningless ideas without a classroom and kids to make sense of them. That’s today’s story, as we round out our series on reading in the Core era.

It’s mid-morning at Watkins Elementary in Washington, D.C. From the fourth floor, Amy Wertheimer’s fifth-grade classroom looks out over a red-brick grid of rowhouses and, looming over it all, the U.S. Capitol. But every back is to the view as Ms. Wertheimer calls her kids to the reading rug.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Americans Trust Government Less and Less Because We Know More and More About How It Operates

Nick Gillespie:

Fifty years ago, FBI operatives sent Martin Luther King, Jr. was has come to be known as the “suicide letter,” an anonymous note suggesting the civil rights leader should off himself before his private sex life was made public. The information about King’s extramarital assignations was gathered with the approval not just of the FBI’s J. Edgar Hoover but Attorney General Robert Kennedy and President Lyndon Johnson.

“There is but one way out for you,” reads the note, which appeared in unredacted form for the first time just last week. “You better take it before your filthy fraudulent self is bared to the nation.”

Thus is revealed one of the most despicable acts of domestic surveillance in memory. These days, we worry less about the government outing our sex lives than in it tracking every move we move online. It turns out that President Obama, who said he would roll back the unconstitutional powers exercised by his predecessor, had a secret “kill list” over which he was sole authority. Jesus, we’ve just learned that small planes are using so-called dirtboxes to pick up cell phone traffic. One of the architects of Obamacare publicly states that Americans are stupid and that the president’s healthcare reform was vague and confusing on purpose. The former director of national intelligence, along with the former head and current heads of the CIA, have lied to Congress.

On Free Lunch

Pat Schneider::

There are not a lot of wins in public education these days, says Mike Hernandez, principal at Sherman Middle School on Madison’s north side.

But a program new this school year offering free breakfast and lunch to every student at Sherman is a big win, Hernandez says.

“We had a large number of fringe students, whose family income was just above the line but were not able to afford to buy lunch,” he said. “Now they are able to eat, and I’m not seeing kids with their heads down because they are embarrassed because they can’t pay for lunch.”

Seven schools and 11 alternative programs in the Madison Metropolitan School District with high levels of poverty are offering free breakfast and lunch to all students, paid for by the USDA’s Community Eligibility Provision of the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Program.

The participating sites have seen a 27.5 percent increase in meals served at breakfast and an 18 percent increase at lunch, said school district spokesperson Rachel Strauch-Nelson.

Remedial Courses in College Stir Questions Over Cost, Effectiveness

Josh Mitchell:

College students are increasingly spending federal financial aid and taking on debt for high school-level courses that don’t count toward a degree, despite mounting evidence the courses are ineffective and may contribute to higher dropout rates.

The number of college students taking at least one remedial course rose to 2.7 million in the 2011-2012 academic year from 1.04 million in 1999-2000, federal data show. During the same span, the amount of federal grants spent by undergraduates enrolled in at least one remedial course rose 380%, after inflation, Education Department figures show. There was also a drastic rise in remedial students taking on student debt

The trends reflect a sharp rise over the past decade in enrollment at community colleges, which disproportionately serve low-income, minority and older populations. About 40% of students entering community colleges enroll in at least one remedial course, according to the Education Department; only about 1 in 4 of them will earn a degree or certificate.

College Athletes of the World, Unite

Kareem Abdul Jabbar:

When I played basketball for UCLA, I learned the hard way how the NCAA’s refusal to pay college athletes impacted our daily lives. Despite the hours I put in every day, practicing, learning plays, and traveling around the country to play games, and despite the millions of dollars our team generated for UCLA — both in cash and in recruiting students to attend the university — I was always too broke to do much but study, practice, and play.

What little money I did have came from spring break and summer jobs. For a couple summers, Mike Frankovich, president of Columbia Pictures and a former UCLA quarterback, hired me to do publicity for his movies, most memorably Cat Ballou (which was nominated for five Academy Awards).

In 1968, I needed to earn enough summer money to get through my senior year. So, instead of playing in the Summer Olympics, I took a job in New York City with Operation Sports Rescue, in which I traveled around the city encouraging kids to go to college. Spring breaks I worked as a groundskeeper on the UCLA campus or in their steam plant repairing plumbing and electrical problems. No partying in Cabo San Lucas for me. Pulling weeds and swapping fuses was my glamorous life.

Nobody likes to be told their children are overrated – especially if it is true.

Edward Luce:

Finally, there are Mr Duncan’s angry suburban mothers. They deserve sympathy. Nobody with a child in a US public school would disagree that their children are sitting far too many tests yet learning far less than they ought to be.

The answer, of course, is to have fewer and better tests and to give teachers the time resources to do them properly. In return, they should give up life-long tenure and accept merit-based pay. That is where a well-functioning political system would arrive. Alas, at current levels of polarisation, this is one test it is likely to fail. What will become of US schools reform? Here is a multiple choice test for the attentive FT reader. Will US politics a) improve the common core, b) jettison it, or c) indulge in a barrage of mutual point-scoring that fails America’s children? No conferring please.

Is Higher Education Run for the Benefit of Students, Faculty or Administrators?

Paul Caron:

Success in today’s global economy virtually requires a college or post graduate degree, but colleges and law schools have raised tuition enormously. The government subsidizes students to take huge loans to pay for college and law schools, loans which inflict an increasing burden on students, including law students in a troubled economy. Do these loans pay as much for faculty research and administrators as for direct student education? Are faculties producing research that justifies these costs? Are students getting a good deal now? Could or will on line education provide students with similar education at a fraction of the cost? Is it time to ask some hard questions about higher education? Does education policy benefit average and below average students or does it merely benefit the top of the class? This panel will focus to a significant degree on law schools.

Humanities: doomed to lose?

Mark Bauerlein

My colleagues in the humanities support Barack Obama nearly unanimously, some of them still believing the salvation narrative that developed in 2008 whereby the junior senator from Illinois would rescue the nation from the hell of the previous eight years—not to mention four centuries of white supremacy. But one thing about their admiration doesn’t jibe: The President cares little about the humanities. My colleagues admire his deliberative style and academic pedigree, but in speeches and policies he expresses no distinctive appreciation for Homer, opera, Baroque architecture, pragmatist philosophy, folk art, or any other standard topic in the disciplines. In an October 2010 interview in Rolling Stone, he listed his iPod inventory:

The State Funding Sleight-Of-Hand: Some Thoughts on UC’s Proposed Tuition Hike

reclaim UC:

Now that the UC administration has begun a full-fledged public relations campaign to raise tuition by about 5 percent per year for the next five years (adding up to an over 25 percent hike in total—if you calculate it out, it’s a 27.6 percent hike by 2019), it’s worth taking a second to think about how money moves through the university. As always, administrators justify the tuition hike by talking about how funding from the state has decreased. In a joint statement last Thursday, the chancellors of the ten UC campuses wrote the following: “State funding for the University is still $460 million below what it was in 2007-08, even though we are educating thousands more California students.” The proposed tuition hikes, they suggest, are necessary to make up for the difference.

This argument about the decline in state funding is a reasonable one, made by neoliberal university administrators and many defenders of public education alike. But the argument also has some pretty significant blind spots. The point isn’t that state funding hasn’t declined, but that this real decline doesn’t actually do all the work UC administrators are suggesting it does. Let’s see what’s really going on.


Over the period in question, tuition revenue grew significantly more than state funding fell. That extra $300 million in inflation-adjusted dollars is nearly three times as much as the proposed tuition hike will bring in. In spite of the story that administrators continue to tell, the UC’s own data show that tuition revenue has more than made up for the decline in state funding. If this were all that was going on, there should be no deficit. Of course, if you compare current levels of funding to the 1970s or 1980s, you’ll find a big difference. But you’ll also find that expenditures have increased a lot as well—among other things, the administration is spending a lot more money on itself. (Just the latest example: the Regents recently agreed to give chancellors a 20 percent raise.) This isn’t meant to be an exhaustive explanation, but to point out that when administrators talk about declining state funds what we should be asking them is what are they doing with all that extra money that’s rolling in.

‘Re-education’ campaigns teach China’s new ghost city-dwellers how to behave

Adam James Smith:

Yuan Xiaomei, a community supervisor in Kangbashi, China, tears open a cardboard box and hands out brochures and promotional fans to crowd of locals. The fans are emblazoned: “To build a civilised city, we need you. Thank you for your participation.” The residents fan themselves and flip through the brochures. One woman explains to her friend who can’t read: “It’s telling you how you should act in the city. Don’t spit, don’t throw rubbish on the streets, don’t play loud music, don’t drive on the pavement.”

It’s a lot to take in for people who, weeks earlier, were living in remote villages spread across the sparsely populated Ordos region of Inner Mongolia, China.

Fifteen miles away to the south, if you look out from the front entrance of Hao Shiwen’s farmhouse, you can see the tower blocks of Kangbashi looming over an otherwise unusually quiet pastoral landscape. Kangbashi – which became known as China’s “ghost city” when it was first built four years ago – is where Shiwen has been debating whether to move. He must decide whether to follow the path of his previous neighbours, seduced to the city by the government’s generous compensation package, or to stay in his village, now left surreally empty and quiet.

Ask Not What Your Country Can Do For You but What Coursera Can Do For Your Country, Part 1

Tressie McMillan Cottom:

Seriously, I emailed my chair and said, “they’re turning my dissertation and manuscript into a satire.” Thanks, Obama.

First, a little cursory background. Coursera is a major Massive Open Online Course provider. MOOCs provide (mostly) free online content for anyone who can log in. Coursera had to make a hard “pivot” when selling its platform to universities didn’t go too well. It turns out some people want to learn for the love of learning but other people want something that will get them a job. So, Coursera started offering certificates of completion (i.e. “credentials) for a fee, of course. Then they decided to go after employers by offering corporate training solutions. I suspect they found, like a for-profit college executive once told me they discovered, that employers aren’t nearly as interested in training workers as we seem to think they are. I use “we” loosely. I am not “we”.

Let me tell you something. If you ever want to get rich do two things. One, find some way that inequality is being reproduced and then tell the government that you can fix that for the bargain basement price of free.99.

That’s what for-profit colleges did.

Why Does a Campus Police Department Have Jurisdiction Over 65,000 Chicago Residents?

Hannah Gold:

Last month, three aldermen, a former police chief, community members, and students gathered at the Experimental Station in Hyde Park to push for changes to the University of Chicago Police Department, which has come under fire lately for its culture of secrecy and alleged racial profiling of neighborhood residents. During the meeting, Jamel Triggs, who works at Blackstone Bicycle Works, t​ol​d the crowd, “I’ve been held up, handcuffed and put on the curb for no reason, just because I was there.”

Also present were members of the Campaign for Equitable Policing (CEP), which was founded in 2012 and helped organize a series of events last month as part of “UChicago Week Against Police Oppression.”

“I was hearing a lot of stuff about that from people of color on campus who felt pressure to dress like a student and were very anxious about having their ID on them at all times,” says Ava Benezra, founder of CEP and a fourth-year student at the college.

How A Disgraced College Chain Trapped Its Students In Poverty

Molly Hensley-Clancy

Not long ago, Amber Brown, a student at Everest University, saw an article on Facebook about one of the many lawsuits against her school. The story, she wrote to BuzzFeed News, “dumbfounded” her: It mentioned former students facing mountains of debt for their degrees, but that didn’t seem to apply to her. Brown believed that she was “on a 100% Pell Grant through the government” and didn’t owe a cent.

Everest even paid for her books and her laptop, she wrote, and sent her a stipend check every semester. “Will I have to pay this back or am I one of the few students being treated genuinely by Everest University?” she asked.

In reality, most of what Brown believed to be a Pell Grant was actually loans: A review of documents she provided showed she owes more than $26,000.

Brown, 29, who lives in Kentucky and enrolled at Everest in 2011, has yet to learn that she is going into debt for her degree. (Her last name has been changed because she is a current student.) She no longer has a phone because she is unable to pay the bills, and she sent her student loan documents from a computer at a nearby food bank where she accesses the internet. She has since been hospitalized, unreachable by phone or email.

To Help Language Skills of Children, a Study Finds, Text Their Parents With Tips

Motoko Rich:

With research showing language gaps between the children of affluent parents and those from low-income families emerging at an early age, educators have puzzled over how best to reach parents and guide them to do things like read to their children and talk to them regularly.

A new study shows that mobile technology may offer a cheap and effective solution. The research, released by the National Bureau of Economic Research this month, found that preschoolers whose parents received text messages with brief tips on reading to their children or helping them sound out letters and words performed better on literacy tests than children whose parents did not receive such messages.

Pediatricians are now advising parents to read daily to their children from birth. Some communities are developing academic curriculums for home visitors to share with parents of babies and toddlers, while other groups are mounting public information campaigns for parents on the importance of talking, reading and singing.

Related: Madison’s disastrous long term reading results.

Teachers Unions and the War Within

Mike Antonucci

Seventeen years and a host of education reforms separate public declarations by its highest-ranking officials that the nation’s largest labor union should become a leader of education reform. Children who were just entering the public school system when National Education Association (NEA) president Bob Chase addressed the National Press Club in 1997 are adults now, perhaps with children of their own. NEA executive director John Stocks issued the same call to arms in 2014.

The notion was not a new one, even in 1997. In that same speech, Chase admitted he was not the first to call for the union to be an agent of change. “In 1983, after the A Nation at Risk report came out, NEA president Mary Hatwood Futrell tried to mobilize our union to lead the reform movement in American public education,” he said.

Futrell failed at that task, as did Chase, as did his successors, as will future NEA presidents. The failure is the inevitable result of the difference between what teachers unions are and what they would like others to think they are. This difference manifests itself as two messages: an internal one, meant for the unions’ leaders and activists, and an external one, meant for education policymakers and the public at large. In the good old days, the two audiences were always separate. But in today’s world, where everyone with a phone or Internet access can act as a reporter, the two messages can overlap, causing confusion and contradiction.

Running a school on $160TOM

Kristen Graham:

The number couldn’t possibly be right, Marc Gosselin thought: $160.

That was the total discretionary budget he was handed as the brand-new principal of Anna Lane Lingelbach Elementary, a public school in Germantown.

That’s all he’d have to pay for a whole year’s books, supplies, staff training, after-school activities, and incidentals — small but important items like postage and pizza parties.

“You can’t even buy groceries for $160, let alone run a school for 400 kids for a year,” Gosselin said.

For many, Tom Wolf’s election as governor is a turning point, a change that could finally address years of Philadelphia School District cuts so deep that a school has just 40 cents to spend on each needy student.

And though Lingelbach’s situation is the extreme, public schools around the city grapple with similar problems.

On a recent day at Lingelbach, it was plain how much some schools have been left to their own devices.

Coming into the year, Gosselin zeroed in on students’ reading levels — just 42 percent were meeting state standards. He wanted to administer short tests to gauge children’s reading fluency.

Design education is “tragic”


News: Apple’s head designer Jonathan Ive says he struggles to hire young staff as schools are failing to teach them how to make products.

Speaking at London’s Design Museum last night, Ive attacked design schools for failing to teach students how to make physical products and relying too heavily on “cheap” computers.

“So many of the designers that we interview don’t know how to make stuff, because workshops in design schools are expensive and computers are cheaper,” said Ive.

“That’s just tragic, that you can spend four years of your life studying the design of three dimensional objects and not make one.”

Ive, who is Apple’s senior vice president of design, said that students were being taught to use computer programs to make renderings that could “make a dreadful design look really palatable”.

Commentary on open Enrollment & the Madison school District

Chris Rickert:

Of course, public schools officials will never accept a rating system that includes a failing-grade option; some things are OK for students, but not for the people who educate them.

None of these initiatives is any older than 2011, when Republicans took over complete control of the state government, but parents have been voting against the Madison district — with their feet — since they were first allowed to in 1998.

The open enrollment program was included in the 1997 state budget bill and allows parents to enroll their children in any public school district that has the space.

In the years since, the Madison district has never seen more students coming in than going out. In the current school year, 1,203 children living within the district’s boundaries opted to go to other districts, according to a district report. Another 372 opted to come into Madison from other districts.

A 2009 survey of families who took advantage of the open enrollment program to leave Madison found that 61 percent of parents pointed to environmental problems with Madison schools as among the reasons they left. Overcrowded classrooms, bullying and poor communication were among the specific complaints.

Notes and links on Madison’s open enrollment history, here.

Teachers’ Union Democracy Alliance

Dropout Nation, via a kind reader:

Yesterday’s revelation by Washington Free Beacon of documents detailing how secretive progressive outfit Democracy Alliance coordinated its unsuccessful efforts to elect Democratic candidates during this year’s election cycle have certainly stirred discussion. After all, for all the carping of progressive groups (especially education traditionalists) this year over the role of David and Charles Koch in financing political campaigns, the report by Lachlan Markey show that they are also far too willing to leverage money in their campaigning — and even go around campaign finance laws to do so. This includes the Democracy Alliance members working with Catalist LLC, the data hub for the Democratic National Committee, to use the party’s donor and voter data to quietly coordinate their efforts.

Yet school reformers should pay great heed to Markey’s report as well as to the documents revealed. Why? Because they also offer a guide on how the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers are co-opting progressive groups in order to defend their declining influence over education policy.

As Dropout Nation readers know by now, the NEA and AFT have long been key donors to progressive outfits willing to do their bidding. In 2013-2014 alone, the AFT gave $25,000 each to Progressive States Network, Progress Michigan, and Netroots Nation, while handing out another $60,000 to Center for Popular Democracy’s Action Fund, which has campaigned against the expansion of charter schools and so-called “privatization” of American public education. In 2012-2013, NEA contributed $332,000 to Progress Now; $100,000 to Progressive States Action, an affiliate of the Progressive States Network; and and $30,000 to the Leadership Center for the Common Good Action Fund, one of the now-defunct ACORN’s many spinoffs.

Watch Harvard Students Fail the Literacy Test Louisiana Used to Suppress the Black Vote in 1964

Open Culture:

This summer, we revisited a literacy test from the Jim Crow South. Given predominantly to African-Americans living in Louisiana in 1964, the test consisted of 30 ambiguous questions to be answered in 10 minutes. One wrong answer, and the test-taker was denied the right to vote. It was all part of the South’s attempt to impede free and fair elections, and ensure that African-Americans had no access to politics or mechanisms of power.

How hard was the test? You can take it yourself below (see an answer key here) and find out. Just recently, the same literacy test was also administered to Harvard students — students who can, if anything, ace a standardized test — and not one passed. The questions are tricky. But even worse, if push comes to shove, the questions and answers can be interpreted in different ways by officials grading the exam. Carl Miller, a resident tutor at Harvard and a fellow at the law school, told The Daily Mail: “Louisiana’s literacy test was designed to be failed. Just like all the other literacy tests issued in the South at the time, this test was not about testing literacy at all. It was a … devious measure that the State of Louisiana used to disenfranchise people that had the wrong skin tone or belonged to the wrong social class.” (Sometimes the test was also given to poor whites.) Above, you can watch scenes from the Harvard experiment and students’ reactions.

Teacher Education: Easy A’s

National Council on Teacher Quality:

Using evidence from more than 500 colleges and universities producing nearly half of the nation’s new teachers annually, this report answers two questions that go to the heart of whether the demands of teacher preparation are well matched to the demands of the classroom: Are teacher candidates graded too easily, misleading them about their readiness to teach? Are teacher preparation programs providing sufficiently rigorous training, or does the approach to training drive higher grades?

Complete report (PDF).

Related: When A Stands for Average. Students at the UW-Madison School of Education receive sky high grades. How smart is that?

NCTQ notes and links.

Exploring the effects of high grades (PDF):

In addition to their failure to signal learning, awarding consistently high grades may, in fact, impede learning. As a Princeton University committee on reducing grade inflation reported: “Grading done without careful calibration and discrimination is, if nothing else, uninformative and therefore not useful; at worst, it actively discourages students from rising to the challenge to do their best work.”3

Several studies find that expected high grades are associated with reduced student effort, likely leading to decreased student learning. One study found that students spend about 50 percent less time studying when they expect that the average grade in a course will be an A versus a C.4 Similarly, a study of students’ expectations (rather than behavior) found that students expected to study more (and for the class to generally earn lower grades) in more difficult courses.5 On the other hand, higher standards may not lead to greater academic perserverance: A longitudinal study that followed high school students for more than a decade found that higher standards for coursework were associated with higher test scores, although not with higher educational attainment.6

NCTQ compares the States on teacher preparation requirements.

Community Colleges Make Four-Year Degrees Pay Off

Mark Schneider:

With college costs soaring and the job market for new grads sputtering, one trend is worth watching: more and more states are authorizing community colleges to grant bachelor’s degrees. Already, more than 20 states — now including California, which enrolls one out of every four of the nation’s community college students — have authorized community colleges to grant these degrees.

Turf will be an issue as this trend continues, but there is a division of labor between community colleges and universities that makes sense. Community colleges can and should be encouraged to develop bachelor’s-degree programs in career and technical areas and to avoid the liberal arts degrees that are integral to the mission and education delivered by universities. In any case, turf isn’t the bottom line in this coming shift. The bottom line is the bottom line: Do the technical and career-oriented degrees in which community colleges specialize pay off in the labor market?

Student Debt Rises Again

Michael Stratford:

Students in the class of 2013 who took out loans to attend public and private nonprofit colleges graduated with an average of debt of $28,400, a 2 percent increase from the previous year, according to a new report released Wednesday by the Institute for College Access and Success.
About 70 percent of graduates had student loans, the report says, but the amount they owed varied widely across different institutions and states.

Six states — New Hampshire, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Minnesota, and Connecticut — had graduates with average student loan debt in excess of $30,000. At the other end of the spectrum, New Mexico and California, at $18,656 and $20,340, respectively, were the states with the lowest average student loan debt.

An Update on Open Enrollment & The Madison Schools

Molly Beck:

There are 1,203 students living within the Madison School District’s boundaries who have enrolled in other school districts this school year — about 62 more than last year. The number of students from other districts who enrolled in Madison schools is 372, up by about 73.

The net effect is a loss of 831 students, which is down from 842 last school year.

Wisconsin is one of 22 states that allow open enrollment, under which students can enroll in other public school districts than the one in which they reside if the receiving district has room for them.

School districts gaining students receive a share of the students’ home district’s state aid to help pay for educating that student.

The Madison School District will lose about $5.7 million in state aid this school year because of open enrollment, the report said.

The report also noted that of the 1,203 students who are currently enrolled in another district, 356 are students who open enrolled in another district for the first time this school year — a 22 student decrease from a peak during the 2012-13 school year. The rest are students who were previously open enrolled in another district.

Much more on Open Enrollment, here and here.

Open enrollment leavers survey. More.

OntoMathPro Ontology Page


The OntoMathPro ontology has been developed by a research group from Kazan Federal University. The ontology is geared to be the hub for math knowledge in the Web of Data. We shared the sources with the Semantic Web community to engage our colleagues from elsewhere in its further development. We are going to create an ecosystem of datasets and mashups around the ontology.

Why Blended tops my thankful list

Heather Staker:

Each November our family has a tradition of listing things we’re grateful for on 100 colorful construction-paper leaves and taping them all over the windows by the kitchen table. The recent publication of Blended of course tops my list!

Admittedly that’s in part because of the relief of a finished project, but the more lasting joy is from knowing that Michael Horn and I helped preserve stories that I think need to be told about children and school and the profound effect of adults’ choices on children’s lives. The book begins with a story about Jack, a fifth grader at Santa Rita Elementary School who started the 2010-11 school year at the bottom of his math class. He struggled to keep up and considered himself one of those kids who would just never quite “get it.” In a typical school, he would have been tracked and placed in the bottom math group. That would have meant that he would not have taken algebra until high school, which would have limited his college options.

Liberals Are Killing the Liberal Arts

Harvey Silvergate:

On campuses across the country, hostility toward unpopular ideas has become so irrational that many students, and some faculty members, now openly oppose freedom of speech. The hypersensitive consider the mere discussion of the topic of censorship to be potentially traumatic. Those who try to protect academic freedom and the ability of the academy to discuss the world as it is are swimming against the current. In such an atmosphere, liberal-arts education can’t survive.

Consider what happened after Smith College held a panel for alumnae titled “Challenging the Ideological Echo Chamber: Free Speech, Civil Discourse and the Liberal Arts.” Moderated by Smith President Kathleen McCartney in late September, the panel was an apparent effort to address the intolerance of diverse opinions that prevails on many campuses.

Why College is a Poor Choice for a Lot of People

Levi Notik:

Instead, I’m addressing this post to a specific type of person. But it’s a type that I’ve been encountering with greater frequency recently.

I’m talking about the kind of person who has various passions — theoretical or practical — and wants to study and/or gain skills in their area(s) of interest. For this type of person, college is often a very poor choice. At the very least, college can be a very circuitous path to those goals; there are paths that are way more direct.

It’s not that college doesn’t include some things that can further these goals. It might, but only incidentally. And along with a bunch of stuff that has absolutely nothing to do with these goals. College also includes things that are diametrically opposed to them.

MTI Achievement of Equal Rights for Women

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

Among the many things MTI has accomplished for its members is the advancement of rights for females.

Early in the Union’s history was MTI’s achievement of equal pay. MTI negotiated a salary schedule which recognized that the value of the work of an elementary teacher, where almost all were female in the 1960s & 1970s, is as valuable as that of a high school teacher of advanced placement physics.

The salary schedule negotiated by MTI recognizes that the task each teacher faces is about the same and the economic reward should be as well. Given this, MTI’s negotiations did away with the School Board’s created “head of household” additive pay – which went to male teachers in those days; and MTI negotiated a salary schedule which treats all teachers equally. That salary schedule proposed by MTI in the late 1960s, while periodically improved, remains in the Collective Bargaining Agreement today. The right to equal pay for equal work was extended to those in all MTI bargaining units through negotiations.

Also, in the 1960’s and early 1970s, School Board policy stated that a female employee had to “immediately notify her supervisor upon becoming pregnant” and resign when the “pregnancy began showing.” This meant a loss of income until the individual was rehired – which did not always occur – as well as a reduction in Social Security and Wisconsin Retirement System benefits, due to the lost wages.

What Sayreville Teaches Us About High-School Locker Rooms

Josh Dawsey & Sharon Terlep:

Inside the Sayreville War Memorial High School locker room where prosecutors say younger football players were sexually abused as part of hazing rituals, older students ran the show. Adults rarely visited, according to former and current players.

At high schools across the country, adult-free locker rooms aren’t uncommon. And Sayreville’s is far from the first to become an alleged crime scene. From Vermont and California to New York and Indiana, largely unsupervised athletes have allegedly engaged in incidents of locker-room impropriety serious enough to result in criminal charges.

But the solution isn’t as simple as it may sound. In many cases, lack of adult supervision reflects administrative fear that grown-ups in the locker room could prey on children or face accusations to that effect, say some coaches and experts. Stationing adults in kids’ locker rooms “could bring a different set of issues or accusations,” said Chris Sampson, superintendent of an Indianapolis-area district embroiled in its own locker-room-related scandal.

In the wake of cases such as Sayreville, where seven older students face juvenile criminal charges of assaulting younger students, some victims, experts and school administrators are calling for rules requiring stricter supervision. The locker room is where students are most vulnerable, they say, making it the last place that supervisors ought to ignore.

U.S. Graduate Schools Rely More on Asia

Douglas Belkin:

Applications to U.S. graduate schools from Asia, led by India, have jumped in recent years, but total enrollment at programs has only inched up as mounting debt appears to be suppressing the number of American applicants.

International students now make up 17% of all U.S. graduate students, with more than half studying engineering, science and business, according to a report to be released Wednesday by the Council of Graduate Schools. This year has seen an 8% uptick in overseas students, while enrollment from U.S. students has stayed flat, the report said.

Graduate-school debt may be keeping U.S. students away, said Jason Delisle, an education analyst at the New American Foundation, a left-leaning Washington think tank. The return on investment for graduate degrees in many programs is still solid, but taking on all that debt at relatively high student-loan rates has become increasingly risky in an unsteady job market, Mr. Delisle said.

“It’s possible that there are people who are choosing not to go to graduate programs because of the expense,” he said.

The End of Education Schools & Teacher Credentialing?

Rishawn Biddle:

When it comes to America’s system of training teachers, two things are crystal clear. The first? That America’s university schools of education, which train nearly all of the 200,000 or so teachers who attempt to enter the profession every year, are doing a shoddy job of recruiting aspiring teachers and providing them with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in the classroom. The second: That there is no correlation between the credentials teachers are granted and their ability to improve student achievement over time.

This week, two studies once again confirm both realities. And it is past time to take real action to improve the teacher training pipeline so that our kids get the high-quality education they deserve.

The first bit of latest news comes courtesy of the American Enterprise Institute, which released a study earlier this week on the abysmally high levels of grade inflation among ed school majors. The average ed school student at Indiana University’s ed school on its main campus in Bloomington had a simple grade-point average of 3.66, higher than the g.p.a.’s of students in the university’s other majors; as the study’s author, Cory Koedel notes in another study he conducted this year, math, science and economics majors only average g.p.a.’s of 3.06 , while those taking social science and humanities courses barely average over a 3.0.

Chinese Enrollment in U.S. Graduate Schools Dips as India Surges

Andy Thomason:

Attentive observers won’t be surprised by the new international-enrollment numbers released on Wednesday by the Council of Graduate Schools. But there’s something momentous about the annual report’s key finding: For the first time since the council’s reports began, in 2004, first-time enrollment by Chinese students in graduate programs at American universities actually dropped this year.

The writing has been on the wall for more than a year. In April 2013, the council reported that Chinese applications to American graduate schools fell 5 percent after seven consecutive years of double-digit growth. The drop was so unexpected that the council’s president at the time, Debra W. Stewart, didn’t believe it at first. The possibility that the dip was an aberration was proved unlikely this year, when the council reported that applications from China fell again.

Who’s to Say Teachers Can’t Modify Common Core? No One

Barry Garelick:

I currently am on a second career after retirement—I teach math in middle school. During my last few years of work, I started taking courses in ed school at night. The first course I took was taught by a professor who had what seemed to me to be a unique gift. He managed to agree with whatever anyone said about teaching. I learned very quickly that this was pretty much the norm, and that ed school was the place where there are no wrong answers—just the “greater truth,” which will eventually prevail. It is the place where future teachers see the light and embrace the principles of student-centered, inquiry-based, discovery-based teaching, and answering students’ questions is “handing it to the student” (aka the “struggle is good” philosophy).

I am seeing something similar with respect to the Common Core math standards. Peter Greene, on his blog Curmudgucation, puts it this way: “If the Common Core were to collapse and everyone in the country came to see it as a disaster and a Huge Mistake, exactly whose head would roll? Who would be held responsible?” And he answers it as follows: “To use the language of the ed revolution, nobody is accountable for Common Core.”

And another perspective is offered by Katharine Beals at her blog Out in Left Field. She points out a constant refrain heard about Common Core:

Q&A: Lamar Alexander On Education In The New Congress

Claudio Sanchez:

What’s your first priority?

Our first priority is to fix No Child Left Behind. The Republican proposal to fix NCLB would give states the option — not mandate — to take federal dollars and let those dollars follow children to the schools they attend. We want to expand choice, but my view is that the federal government shouldn’t mandate it. … Republicans would [also] transfer back to states the responsibility for deciding whether schools are succeeding or failing. Tennessee, Texas or New York would decide what the academic standards would be, what the curriculum would be, what to do about failing schools and how to evaluate teachers.

Do you support the Common Core State Standards?

I support giving states the right to decide whether to [adopt] the Common Core or not.

What about higher education? There’s a lot of pressure to hold institutions more accountable for the $200 billion they get in federal aid and to bring the cost of college down.

The cost of higher education is more affordable than people think. At a community college, average tuition is $3,600. At a four-year public institution, it’s $8[,000] to $9,000. Many students can get a Pell Grant they don’t have to pay back, up to $5,000. We lend $100 billion every year in student loans at an interest rate of about 4 percent to people with no credit history. Tennessee is the first state to say two years of community college is free. I expect more states to do that.

I’m [also] working with [Colorado Democratic] Sen. Michael Bennet to take the 108-question student-aid application form, known as FAFSA, and reduce it to two questions: ‘What’s your family income?’ and ‘What’s your family size?’ … The complexity of the form is discouraging students from attending college. So the greatest barrier to more college graduates is this federal application form.

Reading Resources & Conferences

Wisconsin Reading Coalition, via a kind email:

IDA Dyslexia Handbook: What Every Family Should Know is now available online

Free Open LETRS Training An overview of the professional development program Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling. This session is especially for district administrators: superintendents, curriculum directors, special education directors, reading specialists, principals, etc. Let your district know you would like a few key people to attend!

Presented by Pati Montgomery, former executive director of the Colorado Office Of Literacy

Aimed at principals and other administrators responsible for raising reading achievement
Monday, December 8: WCTC Pewaukee
Wednesday, December 10: Madison College Truax Campus
8:00 – 3:30, lunch provided
Limit: two people per district
RSVP by November 15 to Kevin Kuckkan, 866-340-3692,

Lindamood-Bell Informational Session for Professionals and Parents

Learn about the Lindamood-Bell School Year Glendale Learning Clinic opening December 1st for 8 weeks: addressing dyslexia, hyperlexia, ADD/HD, and autism spectrum disorders
Thursday, November 20, 5:00 pm
Logemann Community Center, Ivy Room, 6100 W. Mequon Road, Mequon WI
Reserve your space by calling 888-414-1720 or email

December repeat of Dyslexia 101 at WILDD

December 13, 9:00 – 12:00
636 Grand Canyon Drive, Madison 53719
Call 608-824-8980 or email to register

Spotlight on Dyslexia: Interactive Virtual Conference from Learning Ally

Keynote speaker Dana Buchman (fashion designer and founding chair of the Promise Project); panel members Barbara Wilson (Wilson Language Corporation), Kelli Sandman-Hurley (Dyslexia Training Institute), Davis Flink (Eye to Eye), Ben Foss (Headstrong Nation), Susan Barton (Bright Solutions for Dyslexia), and Jamie Martin (Assistive Technology)
Friday, December 5, 8:30 am – 3:30 pm CST
Learning Ally members $59 ($89 after 11/15); non-members $89 ($119 after 11/15)
Discounted Early Bird registration until November 15

Ed Week Webinar Every Child Reading with Margie Gillis now available on demand; Powerpoint available at

London schools: the central role of ethnicity

Simon Burgess:

Urban areas are often associated with poor educational attainment. But London is different. Recent analysis suggests that the attainment and progress of pupils in London is the highest in the country. A leading education policy commentator argues that: “Perhaps the biggest question in education policy over the past few years is why the outcomes for London schools have been improving so much faster than in the rest of the country”. Some have argued that this is the result of policies and practices adopted by London schools. If so, identifying the key policies is a great prize, with the hope that they can be implemented more broadly. Another recent report emphasises more the importance of primary schools.

In this research I have set out the evidence that a big part, almost all in fact, of the answer lies in the ethnic composition of London’s pupils. More broadly, my interpretation of this leads to a focus on pupil aspiration, ambition and engagement. There is nothing inherently different in the educational performance of pupils from different ethnic backgrounds, but the children of relatively recent immigrants typically have greater hopes and expectations of education, and are, on average, more likely to be engaged with their school work. This is not by chance of course; a key part of the London effect is its attraction to migrants and those aspiring to a better life.

Word Problems, No Guess and Check, and a Sound Bite for an Interview

Barry Garelick, via a kind email:

I had come to the point in the chapter on systems of linear equations in my algebra 1 class where the book presented mixture, rate and current, and number problems. To prep them for the onslaught, I included a word problem into one of the warm-up problems I had them do as I checked in their homework.

The problem was: “The length of a rectangle is 3 units more than the width. The perimeter is 58 units. Find the length and width.”

Students asked me “How do you do this problem?” as I came around to check their homework. I offered one hint: “You can solve it using the substitution method”.

“What does this problem have to do with the substitution method?” a boy named Lonnie asked.

I answered his question when I went over the warm-up questions. “If you solve the problem to find length and width you will have two equations in two unknowns which you can solve by substitution.”

Many students shouted at once.

A Look at Ed Tech’s Biggest Money Magnets

Rebecca Koenig:

Investment in higher-education technology is booming. Venture-capital funding for individual companies trying to break into the market has climbed well past the million-dollar mark, and the growth shows no sign of slowing.

According to Peter Yoon, a managing director at the Berkery Noyes investment bank who specializes in the education and training sector, ed-tech investment has increased steeply since 2006. More than $1-billion was invested in ed-tech companies in 2013, he said, and in the first quarter of this year more than $50-million was invested.

“It’s quite a brisk pace in terms of the amount of investment,” Mr. Yoon said. “Compared to previous years, it’s a tremendous increase.”

– See more at:

Charter School in NYC Pays Teachers 125K. Gets Same Results as Most Other Charter Schools in NYC.

Neerav Kimgsland:

When the media gets a charter school story wrong, I usually suspect political bias.

Progressive media outlets often underplay the effectiveness of charter schools, while conservative outlets overstate their impact.

But sometimes everyone misses a major part of the story.

All of the following media outlets reported on Mathematica’s study of The Equity Project: (leans left), the Wall Street Journal (leans right), National Public Radio (leans left), the National Review (leans right), Shanker Blog (leans left).

Most of these education writers are top notch.

But all of them, I think, missed the mark.

The Mathematica Study; The CREDO Study

The Equity Project is a charter school in New York City. It pays teachers $125,000.

Mathematica just completed a rigorous study and found that, over four years, The Equity Project delivered an additional 1.6 years of math gains and .4 years of ELA gains.

Minneapolis Schools Implement Explicit Racial Bias in Suspensions

Robby Soave:

The good: Minneapolis Public Schools want to decrease total suspensions for non-violent infractions of school rules.

The bad: The district has pledged to do this by implementing a special review system for cases where a black or Latino student is disciplined. Only minority students will enjoy this special privilege.

That seems purposefully unconstitutional—and is likely illegal, according to certain legal minds.

The new policy is the result of negotiations between MPS and the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. Minority students are disciplined at much higher rates than white students, and for two years the federal government has investigated whether that statistic was the result of institutional racism.

Related. Madison’s problematic discipline policy.

Discipline & school violence forum

Scientists have unlocked a state of child-like fast learning in the adult brain

Fiona MacDonald:

When we’re young, our brains are able to form new neural connections extremely quickly – an ability known as “plasticity” that allows us to learn how to walk, talk and play all in the space of a few years. But, as we get older, this ability fades and, sadly, it takes us longer to learn new things.

Now scientists from Stanford University in the US have managed to unlock child-like plasticity in the adult brains of mice by interfering with a protein known as PirB (or LilrB2 in humans).

The breakthrough is pretty exciting as it could not only lead to new mind-enhancing drugs, but could also help us work out how to make the brain more malleable and better able to recover from damage.

Do Schools Really Need Principals?

Matt Collette:

Rafiq Kalam Id-Din is walking down a hallway at Brooklyn’s Professional Prep charter school when he sees a fourth-grader in the doorway of a so-called “djed room.” The room, named after an ancient Egyptian symbol for stability, is a quiet, safe space where students can recollect themselves if they’ve been disruptive or a teacher suspects they’re about to become so.

“Are you here by choice, or did you get sent here?” Kalam Id-Din asks. The student’s head is down, and he hedges a bit before acknowledging that a teacher saw him acting up and suggested he step out before the behavior escalated.

At Professional Prep, teachers can’t send their kids to the principal’s office. Because there isn’t one.

One of three “managing partners” at the school, Kalam Id-Din is about the closest thing Professional Prep has to a school leader. Yet his main job is to teach a group of 20 or so fourth-graders rather than deal with the day-to-day administrative issues—hiring, discipline, staff and parent meetings—a typical principal might handle. And he wouldn’t have it any other way.

The school’s entire approach to discipline, for instance, was designed by teachers and was rooted in the idea that every action is a deliberate choice by a student. Kalam Id-Din says the djed rooms are much more effective than a trip to the principal’s office, citing the school’s low suspension rate as evidence.

Fight Is On for Common Core Contracts

Caroline Porter:

As states race to implement the Common Core academic standards, companies are fighting for a slice of the accompanying testing market, expected to be worth billions of dollars in coming years.

That jockeying has brought allegations of bid-rigging in one large pricing agreement involving 11 states—the latest hiccup as the math and reading standards are rolled out—while in roughly three dozen others, education companies are battling for contracts state by state.

Mississippi’s education board in September approved an emergency $8 million contract to Pearson PLC for tests aligned with Common Core, sidestepping the state’s contract-review board, which had found the transaction illegal because it failed to meet state rules regarding a single-source bid.

Schools & Taxpayers Receive Poor Broadband Value

Rick Barrett & Erin Richards:

Wisconsin schools and libraries rely on Internet service that’s often inadequate and overpriced, with the true cost obscured by millions of dollars in government subsidies, according to research by a University of Wisconsin-Extension professor that has pitted him against the state’s telecommunications industry.

Andy Lewis, a professor and community development specialist at UW-Extension, in Madison, says the issue is twofold: Schools and libraries aren’t getting the broadband service they need to keep pace with increasing demands of technology and learning, and taxpayers could be paying up to 10 times too much for the service through a telecommunications network called BadgerNet.

Broadband speeds are measured in megabits per second. Higher broadband levels can accommodate more Internet users at the same time, which is important to schools and libraries and data-intensive services such as video presentations.

“It’s hard to believe, but schools and libraries in Wisconsin — or should I say the taxpayers — are often paying about the same amount of money for a 5-megabit-per-second circuit that other school districts across the country are paying for 1,000 megabits per second,” Lewis said.

Why academics feel overworked

Philip Guo:

OK finally onto academic jobs … why do academics so often feel overworked?

One common but unsatisfying answer is that academic work is harder or more all-consuming than industry work, so it simply takes more time. I don’t buy that, since I know people with ultra-challenging industry jobs as well. They also work really hard but don’t have as much trouble managing their workload.

I think the answer lies in the fact that, as an academic, your work comes from multiple independent sources. One claimed benefit of being a PI-level academic (e.g., a research scientist or tenure-track professor) is that you don’t have a boss. However, without a boss to serve as a single centralized source of work, academics end up taking work requests from multiple independent sources that have no knowledge of one another.

Academics receive work from at least seven independent sources:

The Tar Heels’ State: Academic Scandal, Big Money, No Surprises

Charles Pierce:

One of my favorite John Wayne movies is Trouble Along the Way, in which the Duke plays Steve Williams, a former major-college football coach reduced by circumstances and scandal to hustling pool and making book to raise his young daughter. Into their lives comes Donna Reed, as a straitlaced social worker who knows offensive line play, and Charles Coburn, as Father Burke, an elderly priest and the rector of St. Anthony’s, a struggling Catholic college1 somewhere in New York City. Donna has come to make sure that the little girl isn’t becoming too damaged living in a bar and grill. Coburn has come to offer Steve a job, and gives him carte blanche to turn the program around. So Steve starts raiding recruits from other colleges, hiring coal miners and returning war veterans, and cutting in the help on the concessions and all the other ancillary revenue. Naturally, the whole thing collapses, but it all collapses in a heartwarming way. Steve stays at St. Anthony’s, Father Burke retires, and it is clearly implied that Donna Reed and the coach soon will be making the ol’ single-wing with each other.

Fearful Parenting Is Contagious

Rebecca Tuhus-Dubrow:

On Immunity: An Inoculation
Eula Biss
Graywolf Press, $24 (cloth)

After my daughter was born, whenever I heard about parents who refused vaccines, I’d feel a flare of hostility. Not because I couldn’t relate to them—as an easily spooked new mom, I could relate all too well. No mother is thrilled to see a needle jabbed into her child. It hardly helps to know that the needle contains a substance derived from a disease-causing agent. Even leaving aside the debunked autism claims, the visceral reality of vaccination runs counter to every parental instinct.

But I had decided to trust the experts and not think about it too much. My daughter’s blue immunization book was fully up to date. Hearing about parents who opted out reminded me of my unease. Their existence was also an implicit rebuke; thinking of them put me on the defensive. They would, I imagined, deem me a bad mother, negligent and misinformed. I all but wanted to shout, “I know you are but what am I” at my hypothetical anti-vaxxer adversaries.

In On Immunity, Eula Biss’s quietly impassioned new book, the author evinces no such hostility (and considerably more maturity). She does attribute one pitch-perfect line to her father, a doctor who serves as the wry voice of reason in the book. Biss is groping for words to explain the phenomenon of chicken pox parties as alternatives to vaccinations. “I say, ‘Some people want their children to get chicken pox because,’ and pause to think of the best reason to give a doctor. ‘They’re idiots,’ my father supplies.”

Charter Schools Get Better over Time

Patrick L. Baude, Marcus Casey, Eric A. Hanushek, Steven G. Rivkin:

Studies of the charter school sector typically focus on head-to-head comparisons of charter and traditional schools at a point in time, but the expansion of parental choice and relaxation of constraints on school operations is unlikely to raise school quality overnight. Rather, the success of the reform depends in large part on whether parental choices induce improvements in the charter sector. We study quality changes among Texas charter schools between 2001 and 2011. Our results suggest that the charter sector was initially characterized by schools whose quality was highly variable and, on average, less effective than traditional public schools. However, exits from the sector, improvement of existing charter schools, and positive selection of charter management organizations that open additional schools raised average charter school effectiveness over time relative to traditional public schools. Moreover, the evidence is consistent with the belief that a reduction in student turnover as the sector matures, expansion of the share of charters that adhere to a No Excuses philosophy, and increasingly positive student selection at the times of both entry and reenrollment all contribute to the improvement of the charter sector.

More, here, including Madison’s ceaseless monolithic K-12 governance model.

Searching for consensus and New Jersey’s charter school wars

Laura Waters:

For those of you who follow N.J.’s charter school wars within the circumscribed twitter universe, the last few days have been pretty hot. The backstory here is that Mark Weber (a popular anti-reform blogger known as Jersey Jazzman who studies with Bruce Baker at Rutgers) and Julia Sass Rubin (professor at Rutgers and founder of the anti-charter organization called Save Our Schools-NJ) published a report on charter school demographics, paid for by an anti-charter foundation, also based at Rutgers. The study aimed to prove that charter schools “cream off” cohorts of kids who are less impoverished, less disabled, and more fluent in English than those enrolled in traditional district schools.

The conclusions imbedded in the report have been disputed by charter school leaders. Carlos Perez, head of the N.J. Charter School Association, for example, dismissed the report as “anti-charter propaganda.” But the primary igniter of this week’s heat wave was not the report itself but Ms. Rubin’s remark, printed in the Star-Ledger, that charter schools draw a less poor and more informed group of parents because “poor families are less able to focus on the best place to educate their children.” Here’s her quote:

This backpack designed for poor kids does so much more than carry books

Joonji Mdyogolo:

South Africans Thato Kgatlhanye and Rea Ngwane are co-founders of the business Rethaka. Their brand of Repurposed Schoolbags are made from recycled and reinforced plastic shopping bags. Many of the recipients come from poor families.

But it’s so much more than a bag. Because the kids often live in shacks and remote areas with no electricity, Repurposed Schoolbags are built with some other smart features. On the outside of the flap is a pocket for a solar panel, which charges on the long walk to and from school. That screws onto a Consol glass jar that the kids use as a lamp at home when doing homework in the evenings. The bag is also reflective because many of these kids wake up at the crack of dawn and walk in the dark to get to school on time.

The Fine Art of Tough Love

Joanne Lipman:

What does it take to achieve excellence? I’ve spent much of my career chronicling top executives as a business journalist. But I’ve spent much of the last year on a very different pursuit, coauthoring a book about education, focusing on a tough but ultimately revered public-school music teacher.

And here’s what I learned: When it comes to creating a culture of excellence, the CEO has an awful lot to learn from the schoolteacher.

The teacher at the heart of the book Strings Attached is on the face of it an unlikely corporate role model. My childhood music teacher Jerry Kupchynsky, who we called “Mr. K,” was strictly old school: A ferocious Ukrainian immigrant and World War II refugee, he was a tyrannical school orchestra conductor in suburban New Jersey. He would yell and stomp and scream when we screwed up, bellowing “Who eez DEAF in first violins?” His highest praise was “not bad.” He rehearsed us until our fingers were raw.

White Philanthropy for Black (mis)Education

Michael Barker:

Controlling the spread and evolution of institutionalized education has always been a foremost concern of the ruling class. Barely disguised by the humanitarian rhetoric of philanthropy, white power brokers have played a central role in ensuring that the steady extension of educational facilities across the globe serves to miseducate the bulk of its recipients: promoting the freedom to exploit others (for a few) and the freedom to endure exploitation (for the rest).

William Watkins’ book The White Architects of Black Education: Ideology and Power in America, 1865-1954 (Teachers College Press, 2001) thus provides a clear-sighted analysis of the history of black education. A historical undertaking which Manning Marable has described as “an invaluable contribution to our understanding of the complex relationships between white philanthropy and black education.”[1]

Watkins “destroys the myth that the debate between [W.E.B.] DuBois and Booker T. Washington over the character of schooling actually determined the future of educational policy toward African Americans.” Demonstrating that while the debates between such influential men may have been important, ultimately they “were minor players in the formation of black schooling and the philosophy that lay behind it.”

In this way Watkins “cuts to the very heart of the matter,” reviewing the key contributions made by the real power brokers such as General Samuel Chapman Armstrong, J.L.M. Curry, William Baldwin, Robert Ogden, Thomas Jesse Jones, Franklin Giddings, and the Rockefeller and Phelps Stokes’ family, friends and funds.[2]

Education, Inc.

George Joseph:

Over the summer, FBI agents stormed nineteen charter schools as part of an ongoing investigation into Concept Charter Schools. They raided the buildings seeking information about companies the prominent Midwestern charter operator had contracted with under the federal E-Rate program.

The federal investigation points to possible corruption at the Gulen charter network, with which Concept is affiliated and which takes its name from the Turkish cleric Fetullah Gulen. And a Jacobin investigation found that malfeasance in the Gulen network, the second largest in the country, is more widespread than previously thought. Federal contracting documents suggest that the conflict-of-interest transactions occurring at Concept are a routine practice at other Gulen-affiliated charter school operators.

The Jacobin probe into Gulen-affiliated operators in Texas, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, and California found that roughly $4 million in E-Rate contract disbursements and $1.7 million in Department of Education Race to the Top grantee awards were given to what appear to be “related parties.” Awarding contracts to firms headed by related parties would seem to violate the FCC’s requirement that the school’s bidding process be “competitive” as well as “open and fair.”

Related: Philadelphia Schools, Another Year, Another Crisis.

They want to raise tuition again

ReClaim UC:

The UC Regents want to hike tuition again. At their upcoming meeting, they are planning to vote on a new policy that, if ratified, would make 5% annual tuition increases the default for the next five years. According to Napolitano, the tuition hikes (as much as $3,400 over five years) would go forward unless the state government increases UC’s budget by amounts to be named later.

The Regents are trying to preempt what was supposed to be a four-year tuition freeze (spanning 2012/13 through 2015/16). They are threatening to end what has been a brief span without tuition increases and to again make annual tuition hikes the new normal.

The Regents’ strategy is fairly evident. In announcing the new tuition policy only two weeks before their meeting, they are hoping to establish the policy before mass student and worker opposition can materialize. And in making the decision to hike tuition contingent upon state inaction, they are trying to redirect students’ focus to Sacramento, and to create some ambiguity about when a tuition hike ultimately would happen, so as to prevent students from establishing a clear calendar of protest.

More broadly, the Regents are trying to set themselves up for a win-win situation. Either students, workers, and our allies, through our collective actions and power, will be able to compel the state to increase UC’s budget and to stave off hikes; or we won’t, and the Regents will get their money anyway in the form of higher undergrad tuitions.

The Sanctity of the Classroom

Harvard Magazine:

During the question period, Harry R. Lewis, Gordon McKay professor of computer science (he is also director of undergraduate studies in computer science, and a former dean of Harvard College), rose and made the following statement:

Madam President, I learned recently from two of my faculty colleagues that students in their courses had been surreptitiously photographed throughout the past spring term using cameras trained on the seats in the lecture hall. This was done under the cloak of research on class attendance. A senior university official called in these professors and explained that by means of this electronic monitoring, images of all the students in attendance had been captured at each class. These faculty colleagues, neither of them tenured, first learned that their classes had been under surveillance when this senior central administration official called them in without informing the computer science area dean, and asked them to comment on the attendance data. And contrary to a basic principle of research involving human subjects, the students who were subjects of this study still, I believe, have not been informed that their images were captured and analyzed.

This study raises many important and troubling questions. Questions about the oversight relations between faculty, deans, and department heads in the FAS, and the plethora of provosts we now have. Questions about who controls the classrooms in which we teach—this study seems to me at odds with a vote of this Faculty that describes the classroom as “a special forum” where the teacher determines the agenda. But I will focus on just the most obvious and urgent action item.

This university took great efforts under your leadership and Professor Barron’s to get a grip on issues of electronic privacy. Yet some basic principles seem not to have sunk in everywhere. Just because technology can be used to answer a question doesn’t mean that it should be. And if you watch people electronically and don’t tell them ahead of time, you should tell them afterwards.

2005 UNC basketball champs: 2 semesters, 35 bogus ‘paper’ classes

Dan Kane:

During the season that the UNC men’s basketball team made its run to the 2005 NCAA championship, its players accounted for 35 enrollments in classes that didn’t meet and yielded easy, high grades awarded by the architect of the university’s academic scandal.

The classes, some advertised as lectures but that never met and others listed as independent studies, were supervised by Deborah Crowder, a manager in African and Afro-American studies whoa report from former U.S. Justice Department official Kenneth Wainstein says graded required end-of-semester work leniently as part of a “paper class” scheme to keep athletes eligible. Crowder was not a professor and admitted to investigators that she assigned grades without reading the papers.

Of the 35 bogus class enrollments, nine came during the fall semester of 2004, when eligibility for the spring was determined. Twenty-six were during the spring semester, when the season climaxed with a victory over Illinois in St. Louis.

Read more here:

The Rise of Extreme Daycare

Alissa Quart:

In the garden of Dee’s Tots Childcare, amid the sunflowers, cornstalks, and plastic cars, a three-year-old girl with beads in her braids and a two-year-old blond boy are shimmying. These are Deloris Hogan’s 6:45 p.m. pick-ups. Nearby, also dancing, are four kids who won’t be picked up until late at night, as well as two “overnight babies,” as Deloris calls them. Dee’s Tots stays open 24 hours a day, seven days a week; the children’s parents work unconventional hours, producing an unexpected cycle of drop-offs and reunions. One afternoon in August, the kids bounce on the center’s inflatable castles, rustle around at the sand tables, and eat a watermelon snack. Then it gets dark.

Well-paid professionals who work evenings may be able to afford one or two nannies, or they may have partners who stay at home. But parents like the ones who rely on Dee’s can’t afford such luxuries.

Wisconsin superintendent seeks an Increase in Redistributed State Tax Dollars to $12,800,000,000

Erin Richards & Kelly Meyerhoffer:

State Superintendent Tony Evers wants to boost funding for Wisconsin’s K-12 schools by $613 million in the next biennial budget, combined with increases to the amount of money schools can raise in local taxes, and a new way of funding the Milwaukee voucher program.

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction’s 2015-’17 budget request released Monday kicks off the conversation about the future of public school funding, ahead of Gov. Scott Walker and the Legislature putting together the biennial state budget in early 2015.

But the newly elected Legislature is even more conservative than the previous two Legislatures — neither of which warmed to Evers’ similar “Fair Funding for our Future” budget proposals in 2010 and 2012.

“This is our third kick at the cat to get Fair Funding passed,” said DPI spokesman John Johnson.

The proposal calls for a 2.5% increase in state aid in the first year of the budget, which Johnson said would put the state back on track from the education cuts in the last four years. The 2016-’17 school year would see an even larger increase, 4.9%, in state aid. In total, that accounts for a $453 million increase in general school aid, according to the DPI.

The plan also calls for a $160 million increase in separate aid for specific uses, known as categorical aid.

More significant for school districts is Evers’ aim to increase the revenue limit — or the amount districts can raise in state aid and local property taxes — by $200 per pupil in 2015-’16 and $204 per pupil in 2016-’17.

Current state law calls for no increase to the revenue limit in 2015-’16 and thereafter, according to the DPI.

The DPI wants to tie the revenue limit increase each year to the rate of inflation.

Props to Molly Beck for including total spending. Ideally, the article would incorporate performance information…

Wisconsin’s K-12 taxes & spending have increased substantially over the years. Outcomes

I taught my black kids that their elite upbringing would protect them from discrimination. I was wrong

Lawrence Otis Graham:

I knew the day would come, but I didn’t know how it would happen, where I would be, or how I would respond. It is the moment that every black parent fears: the day their child is called a nigger.

My wife and I, both African Americans, constitute one of those Type A couples with Ivy League undergraduate and graduate degrees who, for many years, believed that if we worked hard and maintained great jobs, we could insulate our children from the blatant manifestations of bigotry that we experienced as children in the 1960s and ’70s.

We divided our lives between a house in a liberal New York suburb and an apartment on Park Avenue, sent our three kids to a diverse New York City private school, and outfitted them with the accoutrements of success: preppy clothes, perfect diction and that air of quiet graciousness. We convinced ourselves that the economic privilege we bestowed on them could buffer these adolescents against what so many black and Latino children face while living in mostly white settings: being profiled by neighbors, followed in stores and stopped by police simply because their race makes them suspect.

But it happened nevertheless in July, when I was 100 miles away.

Related: The Poverty & Education Forum.

Dormant for now, expect Common Core to flare in next Scott Walker term

Alan Borsuk:

January approaches and so, presumably, does the first hot round of education action of the second term of Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

There will be many other rounds, especially by the time the state budget is completed in June. In solidly re-electing Walker on Tuesday, Wisconsin voters made clear which side is going to prevail on some big questions about the future of kindergarten through 12th grade education.

But start with January, when the new Legislature convenes with solid Republican majorities in both the Assembly and Senate.

On July 17, Walker issued a remarkable, one-sentence statement:

“Today, I call on the members of the state Legislature to pass a bill in early January to repeal Common Core and replace it with standards set by people in Wisconsin.”

Pretty much nationwide, the Common Core went quiet as an issue during the several months leading up to the election.

At the time of Walker’s statement, several states had acted to drop out of the nationwide effort to have consistent goals for what students should learn in reading, language arts and math at each grade level.

The objecting states set standards of their own, and the Common Core had become a hot-button issue for opposing President Barack Obama and liberal educators, even if sometimes facts got in the way. Oh, well.

MTI’s Michele Ritt Honored

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

AFL-CIO Wisconsin President Phil Neuenfeldt presented MTI activist Michele Ritt with the State Union’s Public Sector Organizer of the Year Award, at last Tuesday’s MTI Faculty Representative Council meeting. Neuenfeldt commented that in spite of Governor Walker’s pledge to “divide and conquer” public sector Unions, that he sees the opposite as he travels Wisconsin. He said, “Solidarity among working people is really strong – and that it is because of activists like Michele Ritt, and Unions like MTI.” Neuenfeldt said success is built on one-to-one organizing and that MTI is in the forefront of that.

Michele enthusiastically recruited numerous new MTI members last school year and began recruiting during the summer at the school to which she transferred last school year. Last spring, Michele was elected to the Dane County Board. She also chairs MTI’s Special Education Sub- Committee.

Don’t fight school choice in Camden

Arthur Barclay:

Why does a Rutgers University professor from one of the most affluent towns in New Jersey want to take away great schools from Camden families?
Everywhere I turn, Julia Sass Rubin seems to be talking for Camden’s poor. Just last week she told one of the state’s largest newspapers: “People in abject poverty don’t have the bandwidth to even evaluate charter schools. It’s just not going to be high on their list.”

Excuse me? That deeply offensive comment toward low-income families in Camden shows not only her complete disregard of our families, but a dangerous misunderstanding about what our families want.

Meanwhile, Madison continues with its monolithic, one size fits all K-12 governance model.

Minneapolis offers students a wide variety of choices.

Anti-charter backlash grows

Laura Waters:

Everywhere I turn, Julia Sass Rubin seems to be talking for Camden’s poor. Just last week she told one of the state’s largest newspapers: “People in abject poverty don’t have the bandwidth to even evaluate charter schools. It’s just not going to be high on their list.”

Excuse me? That deeply offensive comment toward low-income families in Camden shows not only her complete disregard of our families, but a dangerous misunderstanding about what our families want.

Absurd. Yet we have similar “we know best sentiments in Madison“. This despite long term disastrous reading results.

Why parents prefer charters.

Deep Learning


Added 152 new Deep Learning papers to the Deeplearning.University Bibliography, if you want to see them separate from the previous papers in the bibliography the new ones are listed below. There are many very interesting papers, e.g. in the medicine (e.g. deep learning for cancer-related analysis such as mammogram and pancreas cancer, and heart diseases), in addition to the social network category as shown here:

UNC students blame capitalism, white supremacy for academic scandal

Kate Griese:

UNC students blamed racism and heteropatriarchal capitalism for the recent UNC academic scandal during a rally Wednesday afternoon.
A report released last week found that special classes were created for student athletes in order for them to remain grade-eligible to participate in games.

Students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill blamed racism and heteropatriarchal capitalism for the recent academic scandal that has plagued the university.

Gathering Wednesday afternoon, members of the Real Silent Sam coalition gathered to share their response to the recently released “Investigation of Irregular Classes in the Department of African and Afro-American Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill,” which found that certain classes in the former African and Afro-American Department were created simply to keep athletes grade-eligible.

“I think that, intentional or not, words have a lot of power and the language and proceedings of this investigation have shown that we don’t value athletes and we don’t value black studies.”

Commentary and Results of the Madison School District’s Maintenance Referendum Survey (3% Response)

Madison School District Administration (PDF):

MMSD received a total of 3,081 responses to the online survey. However, only Question #1 received the maximum number of responses; Questions #2-13 averaged around 2,200 respondents. Normally, a response rate is calculated by dividing the number of responses by the number of invitations to complete the survey. However, it is difficult to estimate an exact response rate to this survey, given that there was not a set number of invitations. The denominator, or number of possible respondents, could be calculated in a variety of ways, and that the survey allowed for an individual or family to take the survey multiple times. However, we have provided a couple possibilities for calculating a response rate, which should be considered very coarse estimates:

Per Housing Unit in MMSD Boundaries – According to ACS data, MMSD has about 100,000 occupied housing units, so about 3% of households within MMSD boundaries responded to any portion of the survey.

Per Households of MMSD Students – About 1,600 respondents reported having children in MMSD, and MMSD’s students as of October 2014 live in about 17,000 different households, so about 9% of households with MMSD students responded.

These response rates are high enough to be relatively certain about the survey results; the 2,200 responses to most questions out of 100,000 households would lead to a margin of error of about 2% with 95% confidence, and the margin of error relative to MMSD households would be similar.

Madison’s 2014/2015 budget includes a 4.2% property tax increase while spending between $15,000 and 16,000 per student – double the national average.


Madison’s long term disastrous reading results.

Substantial questions have been raised about the District’s last maintenance referendum. Unfortunately, we’ve not seen any additional information.

K-12 taxes and spending have increased substantially over the years, with little change in academic outcome.

Are the Kids Really All Right?

Sandra Knisely:

As the cost of higher education increases, campus experts debate how to protect students from making disastrous choices — and explore whose responsibility it is to do so.

“This is insane.”

That’s what Susan Fischer ’73, ’79 told an out-of-state father when he called the UW–Madison Office of Student Financial Aid to discuss taking out a loan package totaling almost $160,000.

The response? “He said, ‘I appreciate your opinion, but our children want to go [to the UW], and we’re going to let them,’ ” says the office’s longtime director.

For the UW experts who study or work closely with student borrowers, discussions about debt usually lead to discussions with and about parents. After all, the current federal financial aid system is built on the assumption that parents will provide their college-aged children with at least some measure of financial support until age twenty-four. Yet for students who come from families less adept at financial decision-making, the existing student-loan structure can put them at a disadvantage.

A growing number of UW researchers are focused on developing a better understanding of the impact of indebtedness, both on the well-being of individual students and on the system of higher education as a whole. For example, School of Human Ecology Dean Soyeon Shim is overseeing the first longitudinal study of its kind to track the effect of financial literacy and indebtedness on young-adult well-being. And Nicholas Hillman, an assistant professor of educational leadership and policy analysis, is developing ethical frameworks for college financial-aid strategies and policy recommendations related to student loans.

Curated Education Information