Commentary On New Jersey teachers union stance on Health Benefits and Pensions

Laura Waters:

The union is wasting its time and making leaders look like wimps by denying the ‘joint accord’ mentioned by Christie in his budget address.

“If something cannot go on forever, it will stop,” said pragmatist Herbert Stein, and the New Jersey public employee pension system appears to have hit that wall. Last week the bipartisan Pension and Health Benefits Study Commission declared that “the situation is not only getting worse, but is also fast approaching the point at which it will be beyond remedy.”

So what’s the cure for a pension system that Mark Magyar describes on this website as a “fiscal basket case?”

Are Prestigious Private Colleges Worth the Cost?

Douglas Belkin:

The Wall Street Journal invited three people to join in an email discussion of the issue. They are: Levi Bisonn, a senior at Olympia High School in Washington state who has applied to 13 schools, including Johns Hopkins University and the University of Washington; Patty Pogemiller, the director of talent acquisition at Deloitte; and Scott Thomas, dean of the School of Educational Studies at Claremont Graduate University in California, who has researched opportunity in higher education.
Recruiting Edge

WSJ: Levi, the University of Washington and Johns Hopkins are both great schools but, depending on aid and scholarships, the price difference could be significant. If you were to pay full freight, Johns Hopkins would run you about twice as much. How much, if at all, will the price tag and prestige of the institution impact your decision if you get in to both schools?

Elementary School Dumps Homework and Tells Kids to Play Instead 

Heather Holland:

A public elementary school is abolishing traditional homework assignments and telling kids to play instead — outraging parents who say they may pull their kids out of the school.

Teachers at P.S. 116 on East 33rd Street have stopped assigning take-home math worksheets and essays, and are instead encouraging students to read books and spend time with their family, according to a letter the school’s principal, Jane Hsu, sent to parents last month.

Boys are being outclassed by girls at both school and university, and the gap is widening

The Economist:

“IT’S all to do with their brains and bodies and chemicals,” says Sir Anthony Seldon, the master of Wellington College, a posh English boarding school. “There’s a mentality that it’s not cool for them to perform, that it’s not cool to be smart,” suggests Ivan Yip, principal of the Bronx Leadership Academy in New York. One school charges £25,000 ($38,000) a year and has a scuba-diving club; the other serves subsidised lunches to most of its pupils, a quarter of whom have special needs. Yet both are grappling with the same problem: teenage boys are being left behind by girls.

It is a problem that would have been unimaginable a few decades ago. Until the 1960s boys spent longer and went further in school than girls, and were more likely to graduate from university. Now, across the rich world and in a growing number of poor countries, the balance has tilted the other way. Policymakers who once fretted about girls’ lack of confidence in science now spend their time dangling copies of “Harry Potter” before surly boys. Sweden has commissioned research into its “boy crisis”. Australia has devised a reading programme called “Boys, Blokes, Books & Bytes”. In just a couple of generations, one gender gap has closed, only for another to open up.

Addressing racial disparity in schools

Christian Schneider:

When the Madison Metropolitan School District School Board met in October of last year, members listened to teachers tell stories of being hit, bitten and kicked by students. The teachers were objecting to a new school district plan that sought to both allay the wide racial disparity in student suspensions and keep children in school for more instruction days. But teachers said the plan, which lessened punishment for many offenses that previously earned students out-of-school suspensions, was nothing short of a catastrophe.

Racial disparity in suspensions is an issue that has long plagued Wisconsin. According to a report released last week, Wisconsin ranks first in the nation in the rate of black secondary school students suspended. Previous studies have shown that in Milwaukee schools, black students represented 56% of the district’s total enrollment but made up 85% of the students who were given multiple out-of-school suspensions.

In Madison, however, the racial disparity is far more pronounced. Last year, black students made up only 18% of enrollment but comprised 59% of out-of-school suspensions. And the plan to lessen this disparity only seems to have made it worse; this year, while the total number of suspensions is down 41%, the rate of black students who earn out-of-school suspensions has risen to 64%. Further, teachers and parents alike argue that it leaves disruptive students in classrooms where they can lessen the quality of education for well-behaved students.

The Madison experiment’s problems are notable given the district’s proud status as a progressive stronghold. It would be difficult to find a district more sensitive to charges of racial insensitivity; and yet the district’s track record in dealing with black children is a near-scandal. In the 2013-’14 school year, 10% of the district’s black students were proficient in reading — that’s lower than the district’s special education students (14%) and students who speak English as a second language (19%). And this is occurring in one of the state’s wealthiest school districts.

Madison’s long term disastrous reading results.

Madison loath to admit that vouchers have an ‘educational purpose’

Chris Rickert:

From the way some of the more enthusiastic public school supporters talk, you’d think alternative forms of public education, such as voucher schools, were making millions on the backs of ill-treated kindergartners.
The vast majority of Wisconsin’s voucher schools are not-for-profit, though, and it seems unlikely that any of them is, say, forcing 8-year-olds into sweatshops or flogging them for chewing gum in class.

But you’d never know that from the Madison School District’s denial of an open records request from a pro-voucher organization on grounds that the request wasn’t education-related.

School Choice Wisconsin president Jim Bender says the “vast majority” of about 30 larger districts complied with the organization’s request for student directory data. It is considering plans to use the information to send out postcards reminding parents of the enrollment period for the statewide voucher program.

Group says Wisconsin open enrollment rules violate ADA

Jill Tatge-Rozell, via a kind reader:

Kenosha parents whose autistic child was not admitted into Paris Consolidated School through open enrollment have joined a lawsuit that claims Wisconsin’s open enrollment rules violate federal disability law.

Specifically, the suit claims open enrollment violates the Americans with Disabilities Act because it denies students with disabilities the benefits of a government program on the basis of disability.

“We view the open enrollment process as a government benefit,” said C.J. Szafir, education policy director for the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty. “Since the program is out there, all children should have equal access.”

Wisconsin law allows a school district to establish how many students with disabilities it will accept through open enrollment. In some cases, such as at Paris, districts do not accept any students with disabilities.

WILL is representing six children with disabilities from five families whose applications to attend schools outside their resident district were denied. The identities of the parents and the children are protected at this point in the proceedings.

However, Szafir said far more children with disabilities have had their open enrollment applications denied since the program started. For the 2013-14 school year alone, he said, more than 1,000 disabled children had their applications for open enrollment rejected solely on the basis of their disability.

Fulfill George Washington’s last wish — a national university

Kevin Carey:

In 1796, in his final annual address to Congress, President George Washington called for the creation of:

“…a National University; and also a Military Academy. The desirableness of both these Institutions, has so constantly increased with every new view I have taken of the subject, that I cannot omit the opportunity of once for all, recalling your attention to them.”

The Military Academy was soon built at West Point. But despite leaving $22,222 for its establishment (a lot of money back then) in his last will and testament, Washington’s National University never came to pass.

Instead, lawmakers chose to rely on state governments and religious denominations to build and finance new colleges and universities.

Today, the American higher education system is in crisis. The price of college has grown astronomically, forcing students and parents to take out loans that now exceed $1.2 trillion in outstanding debt. Many of those loans are falling into default as graduates struggle to find work. The latest research suggests that our vaunted universities are producing graduates who haven’t learned very much.

Private Colleges’ No-Show Business

<A href=”“>The American Interest</a>: <blockquote>This “high tuition, high discount” strategy is common for private schools around the country, and the same problems apply. According to a report from last June, colleges are discounting their rates like never before, earning only 54 cents for every dollar of tuition charged. The National Association of College and University Business Officers records the average discount rate for private colleges as 36.1 percent in 2009 and 40.9 in 2013. Sweet Briar’s rate, clearly, was on the high side all along.

It’s no surprise that this strategy of charging high tuition and then slashing it selectively (whether for merit- or need-based aid) doesn’t always work. Whatever array of prices you charge, you still need enough customers to keep the doors open. We’d be shocked if Sweet Briar is the last school to pack in the show.</blockquote> 

Coding is not the new literacy

Chris Granger:

This is certainly accurate, but defining literacy as interpreting and making marks on a sheet of paper is grossly inadequate. Reading and writing are the physical actions we use to employ something far more important: external, distributable storage for the mind. Being literate isn’t simply a matter of being able to put words on the page, it’s solidifying our thoughts such that they can be written. Interpreting and applying someone else’s thoughts is the equivalent for reading. We call these composition and comprehension. And they are what literacy really is.

Lessons For America: How German Higher Ed Controls Costs

Kirk Carapazza & Mallory Noe-Payne:

The next time you pull out your checkbook to pay that hefty tuition bill or pay down your student loan, consider this: there are countries where students pay nothing to attend university. Denmark, Sweden and Germany, all have tuition-free college.

WGBH Radio’s On Campus team wondered how these countries do it, and if there are things the U.S. can learn from their model. Their search to understand how German universities keep costs down and quality up began in the Rhineland.

University labour strife underscores cost of tenured academics

Simona Chiose:

“With the current funding regime, we cannot afford for the university to have all courses taught by tenure-track appointments, although the research is important,” York University president Mamdouh Shoukri said in an interview.

The shift is changing the undergraduate experience. Most students at large and medium-sized universities will have limited contact with their universities’ top, internationally ranked talent. Instead, they are taught by professors who have more education but less job security than high school teachers. Some observers are beginning to wonder if universities are making the right choice. A report suggested last year that, rather than create a two or three-tiered labour force, universities should encourage tenured professors with middling research output to spend more time teaching.

However, universities are moving in the opposite direction.

For Asian Americans, a changing landscape on college admissions

Frank Shyong:

In a windowless classroom at an Arcadia tutoring center, parents crammed into child-sized desks and dug through their pockets and purses for pens as Ann Lee launches a PowerPoint presentation.

Her primer on college admissions begins with the basics: application deadlines, the relative virtues of the SAT versus the ACT and how many Advanced Placement tests to take.

Then she eases into a potentially incendiary topic — one that many counselors like her have learned they cannot avoid.

“Let’s talk about Asians,” she says.

Lee’s next slide shows three columns of numbers from a Princeton University study that tried to measure how race and ethnicity affect admissions by using SAT scores as a benchmark. It uses the term “bonus” to describe how many extra SAT points an applicant’s race is worth. She points to the first column.

Aren’t these schools a provocation? Kurdish education in 7 Q’s and 1 anecdote

Fréderike Geerdinke:

1. Seems like there’s a lot of confusion even about the question of whether these schools are open or not. Right?

Right. Three schools for education in Kurdish were opened this Monday, on the first day of the new school year in Turkey: one in Yüksekova (the Dayîka Uveyş Primary School, named after the mother of PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan), one in Cizre (Bêrîvan Primary School) and one in the Baglar district of the city of Diyarbakir (the Ferzat Kemanger Primary School, named after an Iranian Kurdish teacher, poet and human rights activist hanged by Iran in 2010). By Monday the police had already come to the school, but were prevented from entering by parents, teachers and their supporters. Only school inspectors were let in. Later the same day, after festivities celebrating the opening of the schools, they were closed down by the regional governors, who sealed the doors.

CPS Finds “Free-Range” Parents Responsible for Unsubstantiated Child Neglect. Now What?

Hannah Rosin:

In December, Danielle and Alexander Meitiv had let their 10-year-old son Rafi and his 6-year-old sister Dvorah walk one mile home through Silver Spring alone. The kids got picked up by the police, who then turned the case over to child protective services. The Meitivs, as it happens, are “free-range parents” who have a very coherent philosophy about giving children more independence. They had let their children walk home alone that day only after practicing, and felt the kids were ready.

The unbelievable things some Chinese students are doing to get into US colleges

Stephanie Yang:

students in U.S. colleges outpaces that of any other country, the journey to get into an elite American university has only gotten more cutthroat and students are rising to the challenge in strange ways.

Think: Scalping tickets for tests, making up exotic adventures, and getting tutored at 1:00 am.

China is already known for one rigorous exam that students spend years preparing for – the gaokao. The determining factor in a high school student’s college placement, the gaokao is the cause of pressure, stress, and occasionally cheating among test takers.

The Rich Man’s Dropout Club Whatever happened to the teenage entrepreneurs whom Peter Thiel paid to forgo college?

Beth McMurtrie:

Mr. Gu is like many other Silicon Valley hopefuls, except in one respect. He is a Thiel fellow, one of a select few who were given $100,000 each to leave college to pursue their start-up dreams. “It has sort of good and bad associated with it,” Mr. Gu says of how people react when they find out that he is a fellow. “It comes with a whole set of assumptions and mixed views. People want to know if you think nobody should go to college.”

In the five years since the billionaire investor Peter Thiel announced his eponymous fellowship, the project has assumed outsize social significance, as Mr. Gu discovered. Mr. Thiel’s outspoken nature and his view that the value of college is oversold have earned him both enemies and accolades.

For some, Mr. Thiel is a dangerous man, seeking to undermine a system that has proved the surest path to economic success for millions of Americans. For others, his ideas represent the future of American education, in which brilliant minds are freed from the convention of college and are encouraged to educate themselves on their own terms.

Higher Ed, Income Inequality & the American Economy (Part 4)


In the first of three parts of this series, I discussed the general topic of what has been called a “jobless recovery,” following the Great Recession of 2008. In parts two and three, I examined at length the culprits that have been implicated as being the cause of our weak economic recovery: an outmoded and, to date, unresponsive system of higher education; and income and wealth inequality.

Analyzing the root causes of this unusually poor economic recovery is important not merely to ensure that blame is correctly assigned. The real importance lies in our efforts to remedy the problem: If we are focused on the wrong cause, not only will our solution fail to revive the economy, but also the potential for harm in repairing something that wasn’t broken could be enormous – and, in the long run, further negatively impact the nation.

And it’s not possible to look at the issue of misdirected blame without asking if the misdirection has been inadvertent or purposeful: Are there people of power and influence who are knowingly misrepresenting the cause of our weak economy in order to protect another possible cause – or their own interests – from closer inspection?

Just how high can college tuition go?

Jeffrey Selingo:

Twenty-one years ago, as I entered my senior year in college, my alma mater reached a significant milestone: the price tag passed the $20,000 mark. Today, tuition, fees, room, and board for a senior at Ithaca College are more than twice that, at about $53,000.

Now, of course, Ithaca and most other private colleges and universities rightfully argue that just a small percentage of students pay those “sticker prices” because schools give out boatloads of financial aid (read: discounts). They’re right. The average discount for first-year students at private colleges is 46 percent.

[See a list of the 57 U.S. colleges and universities that have a “sticker price” of more than $60,000 a year.]

Even in the early 1990s, I received a significant break on my tuition. If I were a student at Ithaca today, for example, I’d pay an average “net price” of $29,000 based on my parent’s income when I was a student, according to the U.S. Education Department. (You can find a college’s net price by income level on the Education Department’s College Navigator).

This is the time of year when private colleges are setting their tuition levels for next year, if they haven’t already. And at most colleges the question that emerges every year is what’s the breaking point? How high can we go with tuition until it’s just too much?

America’s High-Risk, High-Reward Higher Education System

Andrew Kelly:

Last month, the Educational Testing Service (ETS) added to a familiar refrain, releasing a new report on how American Millennials lag behind their peers in other countries on measures of literacy, numeracy, and “problem-solving in technology rich environments.” Using data from the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC), the authors showed that American Millennials ranked at the bottom in both numeracy and problem-solving. Fully 64 percent of Americans scored below the lowest proficiency rating on the numeracy exam, compared to about 1/3 of Millennials in places like Finland, the Netherlands, and Japan.

The picture wasn’t much brighter among young workers with bachelors and graduate degrees. On the numeracy exam, American BA holders outscored their peers in only two countries—Italy and Poland. Those with grad degrees outscored counterparts in Italy, Poland, and Spain.

The authors point out the incongruity: “A nation with some of the most prestigious institutions of higher learning in the world houses a college-educated population that scores among the lowest of the participating OECD nations in literacy and numeracy.” “As a country,” the authors conclude, “simply providing more education may not be the answer. There needs to be a greater focus on skills…”

Cash Today

Andrew McGettigan:

Student loans are in principle a straightforward business. The government lends students money; after they graduate, they begin repaying it. From the perspective of politicians and the Treasury the advantage of loans over grants is clear: the money isn’t simply given away, it comes back over the lifetime of the loan. Even better, in the national accounts the loans are classified as ‘financial transactions’, not ‘expenditure’, and are excluded from calculations of the deficit.​1 When in 2012 the coalition all but ended the direct-grant funding of undergraduate teaching in English universities and colleges, the move could be sold as consistent with fiscal austerity – it had the effect of reducing government spending. But the income of universities and colleges was spared the cuts made elsewhere because the gap was more than filled by higher tuition fees backed by loans.

Since 2012 English higher education institutions have been able to charge new full-time students from the UK and EU up to a maximum of £9000 per year for tuition.​2 Anyone graduating from 2015 onwards is likely to owe £27,000 in tuition fee loans and more for maintenance loans, plus whatever interest accrued on the loans while they were studying. The Institute for Fiscal Studies reckons that on average student borrowers will owe £44,035 at graduation; for those who began their degrees before 2012, the figure was under £25,000.

What 270,000 Books Tell You About China’s Changing Values

Laurie Burkitt:

Chinese values are shifting.
A University of California at Los Angeles study assessed Chinese values by analyzing the words used in more than 270,000 Chinese-language books and found that China’s social core is undergoing a major transformation. The psychology researchers focused on word usage in books published between 1970 and 2008. Among the findings: the word “obedience” was used three times as much as the word “autonomy” in books from 1970, while the ratio flipped in 2008 books, with “autonomy” dominating.

Book authors used words like “choose,” “compete,” “private,” “autonomy” and “innovation” with increasing frequency as the nearly four decades progressed. The usage reflects greater individualism and sharp rises in “urban population, household consumption and education levels,” the study says.

Chinese Officials are trying to stifle independent voices in universities

The Economist:

IN THE first week of March university students in China will return from a break of six weeks or more. They will find a new chill in the air. While they have been away, officials have been speaking stridently—indeed, in the harshest terms heard in years—about the danger of “harmful Western influences” on campuses, and the need to tighten ideological control over students and academic staff.

Universities have always been worrisome to the Communist Party; they have a long history in China as wellsprings of anti-government unrest. The party appoints university presidents. Its committees on campuses vet the appointment of teaching staff. Students are required to study Marxist theory and socialism. They are not allowed to study politically sensitive topics such as the grievances of Tibetans or the army’s crushing of the student-led protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989.

What Is Wrong With Chinese Universities?

Austin Dean:

Although he frequently weighs in on the issues haunting Chinese universities, Zhang gave fullest expression to his views in a 2011 book, Is Chinese Education Sick? The title is actually a misnomer. The book keeps a skeptical eye fixed on colleges and universities, not the entire educational system. The question mark at the end ultimately seems unnecessary; Zhang make it so clear throughout that he sees the answer as an affirmative one, that the book might as well as have been named Chinese Education Is Sick.

Some of his analysis is universal to academics everywhere. Other points, though, have certain “Chinese characteristics.”

Zhang reserves some of his harshest barbs for the bureaucratization of Chinese universities. Interestingly, to make his attack, Zhang leans on the language of Chinese history and the yamen, the name of a local administrative office in imperial China. The lowest level of the administrative hierarchy, yamens were also centers of corruption as different government clerks assisted in carrying out the work of the local magistrate. For Zhang Ming, Chinese universities today don’t resemble institutions of higher learning as people in other countries know them so much as they do yamens. They are not centers of learning but centers of administrators and bureaucrats, who implement a system of rules, regulations, measurements, and assessments. Corruption is everywhere.

Stephen King’s “Everything You Need to Know About Writing Successfully – in Ten Minutes”

Aerogramme Writers Studio:

I. The First Introduction
THAT’S RIGHT. I know it sounds like an ad for some sleazy writers’ school, but I really am going to tell you everything you need to pursue a successful and financially rewarding career writing fiction, and I really am going to do it in ten minutes, which is exactly how long it took me to learn. It will actually take you twenty minutes or so to read this essay, however, because I have to tell you a story, and then I have to write a second introduction. But these, I argue, should not count in the ten minutes.

II. The Story, or, How Stephen King Learned to Write
When I was a sophomore in high school, I did a sophomoric thing which got me in a pot of fairly hot water, as sophomoric didoes often do. I wrote and published a small satiric newspaper called The Village Vomit. In this little paper I lampooned a number of teachers at Lisbon (Maine) High School, where I was under instruction. These were not very gentle lampoons; they ranged from the scatological to the downright cruel.

Schools discover the hidden cost of giving every infant a free hot dinner

Louise Tickle:

It’s six months since headteacher Emma Payne opened a new kitchen to provide hot meals for her pupils. The problems of starting up are in the past. But now there are new issues to deal with. Because the meals are free, fewer parents are claiming free school meals, and that is going to cost the school £9,240 in pupil premium.

“It’s mostly new reception parents who haven’t realised they need to sign up,” says Payne. “We’ve tried really hard to explain why claiming is important.”

The Guardian has been following the progress of her school – St Mary Redcliffe Primary in Bristol – since February last year, as the universal infant free school meal (UIFSM) policy has been rolled out. At this large primary, where some pupils live in one of the 10% most deprived wards in the UK, the January census shows that the number on free school meals (FSM) in reception has gone down by almost 50% in a year.

For a Bigger, Better Mezzanine

Carrie Shanafelt:

It is tempting to chalk the adjunctification of college and university faculty up to money alone. That is, of course, what administrations always offer as the reason, so there can be no more discussion about it. Since that first adjunct position of mine in 2003, I began to feel that something didn’t add up. None of my new colleagues spoke to me as if I were a junior professional working my way through the tough lean days of youth. Most of them spoke to me, if at all, like I was a dog.

It wasn’t true at every college, or in the same amount from every colleague, but the harassment I experienced as an adjunct wouldn’t have been tolerated in any other workplace. I was mocked for my lack of familiarity with upper-class New York life, quizzed about my sexuality, sneered at that I must be wasting my students’ time. I learned to regret reporting academic dishonesty or threats of violence. My students called me “professor” out of habit, though I begged them to call me “Carrie,” because I knew how much it irritated my colleagues to hear that title conferred on someone like me.

The first possibility I considered, in tears on the subway, was that I was obviously and unusually stupid. I asked around, and discovered that other first-year adjuncts at certain schools were enduring similar harassment from senior colleagues. I heard about blatant racism, sexism, and transphobia, but mostly just a fog of contempt that seemed to follow adjuncts everywhere. If we’re so underqualified to participate in this glorious career for elegant intellectuals, I thought, then why did they hire us? You could throw a rock in Park Slope and hit five PhDs with publications. Why hire starving MAs and then mock them for being hungry?

Whenever one encounters a pack of sadists, it’s a good idea to back up and look at the institution that encases them. There they always are, right in the middle, squeezed by increasing demands from above, shoved sweatily down onto an underclass of hopeless, helpless, undignified workers. That underclass is not just the product of administrative corner-cutting or fiscal belt-tightening; it’s a management strategy to keep the faculty divided against one another.

When I was an adjunct, I had to suppress my rage whenever an assistant professor complained about assembling a tenure file, revising an article, or applying for conference reimbursement. I was sick to my stomach to hear associate professors complain about having to serve on curriculum committee or meet with advisees. My academic aspirations were not limited to mere survival. I was desperately jealous of my senior colleagues’ worst problems.

Universities, Mismanagement and the Permanent Crisis

Gerry Canavan:

A multi-generation, multimillion-dollar institution (like a college) that has to administrate by emergency decree has in nearly every case been grotesquely failed by its leadership. And in the US today that describes nearly every college and university, in management rhetorics and policies dating back at least to the mid-2000s (when I first entered the profession as a graduate student).

If your college faced drastic emergency cuts after 2008, it was mismanaged. You expanded on an unsustainable basis, made the wrong commitments, spent too much.

If your college faces drastic emergency cuts now because enrollments will tick (slightly) downward in the 2010s, it was mismanaged. You had 18 years warning that this demographic wave was going to hit, 18 years to plan for what to do when it did.

As every college administration invokes generalized, free-flowing “emergency” as its justification for arbitrary policy after arbitrary policy — all of which need to be implemented now, en toto and without debate, even the ones that contradict the other ones — they are arguing that their management up to now has been so wildly and irredeemably poor that the university has been thrown into total system crisis. And yet the solution to the emergency is, inevitably, always more (and more draconian) administrative control, always centralized under the very same people who took us over the cliff in the first place!

Walton Family Foundation stepping back from Milwaukee education scene

Alan Borsuk:

But it is also important in a broader context. Walton is joining a significant list of national players who in one way or another have entered the Milwaukee scene and then departed or reduced their interest.

I came, I got involved, I got frustrated, I didn’t see much change, I moved on. That has been the summary of a parade of those who have found Milwaukee a difficult environment for change.

And there are others (the large and impressive KIPP network of charter schools comes to my mind first) that have declined even to try Milwaukee for similar reasons.

Fifteen years ago, Milwaukee was called by some “ground zero” for school reform. Now, you rarely see national attention to Milwaukee education, at least not for positive reasons. The Walton decision underscores that.

It’s a curious thing, since you would think the current political dynamics in state government would make this a time for enthusiasm among private school choice, charter schools and innovations in the structure of urban education. In some ways that’s true, but in surprising ways, it is not.

In short, I’d attribute this to the entrenched nature of the way we do things, the continuing strength of those opposed to the things Walton favors and missteps by those who favor what Walton favors.

Milwaukee was among a handful of cities targeted in recent years by Walton. Walton had a fairly short list of Milwaukee grants, but they were generally large — frequently in the mid six figures.

In Debt, Making New Promises

Ry Rivard:

In largely unnoticed side deals with investors, several colleges have promised they will raise prices on students, force students to live in dorms and even increase class sizes as they lay off faculty.

These are not for-profit colleges. Instead, they are nonprofits running into trouble with their debts. Unable to fulfill promises made when the colleges borrowed money years earlier, these colleges have struck deals to head off severe penalties, including foreclosures of campus property.

The debt was borrowed in the form of bonds, usually for campus construction. These bonds come with a host of financial conditions colleges must meet. Colleges agree to make timely payments, of course, and also to set aside a certain amount of money to cover their debts.

But, as colleges struggle to find enough students or run into unexpected market conditions, they may not be able to fulfill all these promises. To avoid penalties, at least a handful of colleges have promised their bondholders they would do things that could substantially affect student life.

Do States Really Need an Education Technology Plan?

Julia Freeland:

As disconcerting as these findings may be, they got me wondering if a technology plan is really the right level of planning to focus on in the first place. Historically, technology planning had to do with wiring schools and making basic hardware and budget decisions. Today, with the rise of K–12 blended learning, technology planning looks more and more like instructional and curriculum planning with technology playing a supporting role in new school and classroom design. States continuing to focus on technology planning—as it’s been done historically—would seem to risk perpetuating the myth that we can cram technology into the existing instructional paradigm and expect new outcomes.

To think through what exactly we mean—or should mean—by a “technology plan,” I reached out to Warren Danforth, a consultant to the education sector in the planning, deployment, and adoption of technology to improve student learning. Danforth has 15 years of experience as a leader in the wireless industry and five years in education implementing longitudinal data systems and instructional improvement systems. He recently developed a guidebook for the United States Department of Education Reform Support Network to assist in the planning and deployment of Instructional Improvement Systems

Public Authority

Michael Meranze & Christopher Newfield:

Though we recognize that Chancellor Blank’s statements deviate from the talking points deployed by previous Chancellors and administration, intolerance for cuts has not been her position, as evidenced by her budget reduction test. By conducting this exercise, Chancellor Blank effectively trained the university’s workers to accept and prepare for cuts. In this sense, Chancellor Blank herself failed to organize campus and the broader UW community to fight back against cuts that are widely acknowledged as “self-inflicted” wounds produced by years of tax breaks for the wealthy. From an employee’s point of view, what exactly is “too much?” The Governor’s eight percent cuts or the ‘necessary’ six percent previously proposed by the administration?

‘We won’t pay': students in debt take on for-profit college institution

Sarah Jaffe:

He never thought he would first be getting national press coverage as part of what may be the first organized student debt strike. But he and 14 other students, with the support of the Occupy Wall Street spinoff group The Debt Collective, are taking a stand and refusing to pay back the student loans they took out to attend the for-profit Corinthian colleges.

Corinthian is being dismantled and its students given debt relief on their private loans – the institution is under federal and state investigations and is the target of multiple lawsuits alleging predatory lending practices. But Hornes and the “Corinthian 15” are demanding relief for their federal student loans, too.

When Hornes moved to LA, he worked at Smashburger and Carl’s Jr to pay the bills while he pursued his dream: performing at the Staples Center, participating in a web series, even releasing two songs on iTunes. But two years in, he says, his mother began to press him to go to college.

What Clever Robots Mean for Jobs

Timothy Aeppel:

Economist Erik Brynjolfsson had long dismissed fears that automation would soon devour jobs that required the uniquely human skills of judgment and dexterity.

Many of his colleagues at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where a big chunk of tomorrow’s technology is conceived and built, have spent their careers trying to prove such machines are within reach.

When Google Inc. announced in 2010 that a specially equipped fleet of driverless Toyota Prius cars had safely traveled more than 1,000 miles of U.S. roads, Mr. Brynjolfsson realized he might be wrong.

Madison Schools’ Bilingual Plans

The Madison School District (PDF):

Provide overview and implications of current bilingual program guidance and implications for MMSD

Provide update on OMGE Cross-Functional team work and key findings

Provide initial data around access to bilingual programming across the district

Share and obtain feedback on recommended shifts and rationale for future bilingual programming in MMSD

Discuss next steps and general timeline

More (PDF):

The Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) has a uniquely rich and diverse student and community population. We promote culturally and linguistically responsive (CLRP) practices that acknowledges the strong cultural heritages of all racial, ethnic and linguistic groups that live in Madison. Our promise is to build on that rich heritage and expand upon it to ensure that all students have the tools they need to achieve their dreams.


The purpose of the bilingual chapter of the overall ELL plan is to provide a clear outline of the suggested changes designed to ensure that consistent, coherent services are provided to every English language learner (ELL) and bilingual learner (BL) in alignment with our vision and goals as well as state and federal mandates. Specifically, this chapter identifies nine shifts in practice as listed below.

If your teacher likes you, you might get better grades

Anya Kamenetz:

Were you ever the teacher’s pet? Or did you just sit behind the teacher’s pet and roll your eyes from time to time?

A newly published paper suggests that personality similarity affects teachers’ estimation of student achievement. That is, how much you are like your teacher contributes to his or her feelings about you — and your abilities.

“Astonishingly, little is known about the formation of teacher judgments and therefore about the biases in judgments,” says Tobias Rausch, an author of the study and a research scientist at the Otto-Friedrich-Universität Bamberg in Germany. “However, research tells us that teacher judgments often are not accurate.”

This study looked at a group of 93 teachers and 294 students in eighth grade in Germany. Everyone took a short test to establish basic features of their personalities: extraversion, agreeableness and the like.

They gave the students reading and math tests too, sharing the test items with the teachers. Then they asked the teachers two questions: How good is this student compared to an average eighth grader? How well will this student do on this test?

Simple, Bedrock Rules on Personal Finance

Brett Arends:

Smart money moves aren’t more complicated than you think. They’re simpler.

Cut through all the jargon and pontificating and technical stuff, and everything you really need to know about personal finance fits into less than 1,000 words—no more than three to four minutes.

Ignore economic and financial forecasts. Their purpose is to keep forecasters employed. Most professional economists were blindsided in 2008 by the biggest financial collapse in 70 years—and by the stock market’s recovery.

How our schools are miserably failing our boys

Jennifer Fink:

Re-entry after winter break has not been easy for him. The rules and restrictions of school — Sit Still. Be Quiet. Do What You Are Told, Nothing More, Nothing Less. — have been grating on him, and it shows. His teacher recently emailed me; she’d noticed a change in his behavior (more belligerent, less likely to cooperate) and wanted to know if there was anything going on at home.
My guess, I said, was that he was upset about having to be back in school after break. I was right.

The lack of movement and rigid restrictions associated with modern schooling are killing my son’s soul.

Building an Accurate Statewide Dropout Early Warning System in Wisconsin

Jared Knowles:

For the past two years I have been working on the Wisconsin Dropout Early Warning System, a predictive model of on time high school graduation for students in grades 6-9 in Wisconsin. The goal of this project is to help schools and educators have an early indication of the likely graduation of each of their students, early enough to allow time for individualized intervention. The result is that nearly 225,000 students receive an individualized prediction at the start and end of the school year. The workflow for the system is mapped out in the diagram below:

The Robots Are Coming

John Lanchester:

So what’s going to happen now? Your preferred answer depends on your view of history, though it also depends on whether you think the lessons of history are useful in economics. The authors of these books are interested in history, but plenty of economists aren’t; a hostility to history is, to an outsider, a peculiarly strong bias in the field. It’s connected, I suspect, to an ambition to be considered a science. If economics is a science, the lessons of history are ‘in the equations’ – they are already incorporated in the mathematical models. I don’t think it’s glib to say that a reluctance to learn from history is one of the reasons economics is so bad at predicting the future.

One historically informed view of the present moment says that the new industrial revolution has already happened. Computers are not a new invention, yet their impact on economic growth has been slow to manifest itself. Bob Solow, another Nobel laureate quoted by Brynjolfsson and McAfee, observed as long ago as 1987 that ‘we see the computer age everywhere, except in the productivity statistics.’ The most thorough and considered version of this argument is in the work of Robert Gordon, an American economist who in 2012 published a provocative and compelling paper called ‘Is US Economic Growth Over?’ in which he contrasted the impact of computing and information technology with the effect of the second industrial revolution, between 1875 and 1900, which brought electric lightbulbs and the electric power station, the internal combustion engine, the telephone, radio, recorded music and cinema.​3 As he points out in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, it also introduced ‘running water and indoor plumbing, the greatest event in the history of female liberation, as women were freed from carrying literally tons of water each year’. (A non-economist might be tempted to ask why it was the women were carrying the water in the first place.) Gordon’s view is that we coasted on the aftermaths and sequelae of these inventions until about 1970, when

The Soviet Science System

Michael Gordon:

Gather a crowd of historians and philosophers of science into a room and ask them to define “science.” On second thought, don’t try this at home, because you’d likely meet with stony-faced refusal on the part of the first and raucous disagreement from the second. Yet isn’t the task rather straightforward? Isn’t this just another classic instance of academics creating mountains out of molehills? Actually, no. The problem is fiendishly frustrating (and likely intractable) simply because of the kind of activity science actually turns out to be in practice.

Consider, for example, what it clearly isn’t. Science cannot be simply a collection of true propositions about nature. Most of what has counted uncontroversially as “science” during the past few centuries—geocentric astronomy, phlogiston chemistry, ether physics, the inheritance of acquired characteristics— is now considered to be false. Even worse, much of what we now consider to be science is doubtless going to be proven false, since nature was unkind enough to deny us the answer key. Science is also not merely the proper execution of method, both because various disciplines display a whole hodgepodge of different methods, and also because one can apply all the accepted methodology and come up with doctrines (parapsychology, eugenics, phrenology) that we would with alacrity exclude. The problem gets worse when you go farther back in time or across cultures. Mayan astronomy, Classical Chinese alchemy, Hippocratic medicine—all these are rather distinct from what we now consider to be “science,” and yet it strikes most scholars as rather churlish to dismiss them. No one has been able to come up with a broadly consensual definition of science, and I am certainly not about to do so here.f

The Black Family in 1965 and Today

Steve Chapman:

The breakdown of the black family is a sensitive topic, though it’s not new and it’s not in dispute. President Barack Obama, who grew up with an absent father, often urges black men to be responsible parents.

Nor is there any doubt that African-American children would be better off living with their married parents. Kids who grow up in households headed by a single mother are far more likely than others to be poor, quit school, get pregnant as teens and end up in jail.

But these facts were once inflammatory. Fifty years ago next month, a Labor Department official named Daniel Patrick Moynihan published a paper titled, “The Negro Family: The Case for National Action,” which argued that “a tangle of pathology” afflicting black communities had emerged because “the Negro family in the urban ghettos is crumbling.” His key fact: Nearly one-fourth of black babies were born to unwed mothers.

Dumping the Evidence: Remind Me Again Why Anti-Testing is “Progressive”?

Lynnell Mickelsen:

Indeed, the school reform movement does fall down without the data. So do the movements around climate change, civil rights, public health, banking reform, industrial safety, economic justice and more.

So it’s odd for a progressive outfit like Alternet (which is run by the former publisher of Mother Jones) and others to be cheering on the loss of data when it comes to the systematic failure of children of color in our traditional public schools.

Lawmaker wants to bill K-12 for college remediation

Alisha Kirby:

(Tenn.) As the cost and challenge of preparing college-ready students escalates and puts new burdens on higher education – one lawmaker is proposing that districts should pay for remedial courses high school graduates must take in college.

Community colleges in Tennessee spent an estimated $18.5 million last year on remedial courses such as reading, writing and math so students could catch up before taking college-level courses.

SB 526, authored by Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, would require districts to reimburse colleges for the catch-up courses for students who graduated within 16 months of taking a remedial course. It excludes those who returned to college after taking time off.

Some experts say it sounds reasonable but in the end it’s more a matter of robbing Peter to pay Paul.

“At face value it’s a logical argument: The high schools are not doing their jobs, so let’s hold them accountable to make sure they do a better job,” said Bruce Vandal, vice president of advocacy group Complete College America. “But it creates a dysfunctional dynamic between K-12 and higher education that I think we’re beginning to realize is really not helpful.

“At the end of the day it doesn’t serve anybody’s purpose,” he continued. “Colleges aren’t really that excited about taking money if it means that they are disinvesting in K-12.”

The Wal-Mart-ization of higher education: How young professors are getting screwed

Keith Hoeller:

In 2009, Money Magazine published a survey titled “The 50 Best Jobs in America.” Their reporters analyzed job data and conducted an online survey of thirty-five thousand people, taking into account such factors as salaries, flexibility, benefit to society, satisfaction, stress, job security, and growth prospects. The proverbial college professor sat high on the list at No. 3, with a median salary of $70,400 for nine months’ work, top pay of $115,000, and a ten-year growth prospect of 23 percent. College teaching earned “A” grades for flexibility, benefit to society, and satisfaction, and a “B” for job stress, with 59 percent of surveyed professors reporting low stress.

While acknowledging that “competition for tenure-track positions at four-year institutions is intense,” Money claimed that graduate students with only a master’s degree could find a part-time teaching job: “You’ll find lots of available positions at community colleges and professional programs, where you can enter the professoriate as an adjunct faculty member or non-tenure-track instructor without a doctorate degree.”

Similarly, the 2000 “American Faculty Poll” conducted by the academic pension giant Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association-College Retirement Equities Fund (TIAA-CREF) seemed to corroborate the high job satisfaction rate for professors. “The poll found that 90 percent of the faculty members surveyed were satisfied with their career choices and would probably make the same decisions again,” reported Courtney Leatherman, in her Chronicle of Higher Education story about the survey.

Education ‘experts’ may lack expertise, study finds

The people most often cited as “education experts” in blogs and news stories may have the backing of influential organizations – but have little background in education and education policy, a new study suggests.

The findings are cause for concern because some prominent interest groups are promoting reform agendas and striving to influence policymakers and public opinion using individuals who have substantial media relations skills but little or no expertise in education research, say the authors of the study, Joel R. Malin and Christopher Lubienski, both at the University of Illinois.

To examine possible links between individuals’ media presence and their levels of expertise, Malin and Lubienski compiled a diverse list of nearly 300 people who appeared on the lists of experts prepared by several major education advocacy and policy organizations, including the conservative American Enterprise Institute and the liberal National Education Policy Center.

Malin and Lubienski also added to their sample a handful of scholars not on those lists but who are prominent and influential in the field of education.

Senate higher ed chair wants to make colleges earn tuition increases

Benjamin Wermund:

Seliger’s bill, filed Wednesday, would allow for tuition increases only if schools meet performance measures like four- and six-year graduation rates, first-to-second year persistence rates, first-generation college graduates, and percent of lower division semester credit hours taught by tenured or tenure-track faculty members.

Institutional targets for each of these metrics are recommended by the institutions, reviewed by the Legislative Budget Board, and approved by the Legislature, under Seliger’s bill.

Seliger’s approach marries the push to regulate tuition with calls from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to create performance hurdles for schools to earn funding.

“This bill ensures that tuition increases are justified by progress and production in rigorous standards and I expect universities to perform in exceptional fashion,” Seliger said in a statement. “Performance Based Tuition reflects the diversity in missions at our colleges and universities.”

Madison’s German School

German School of Madison

The German School of Madison — Deutsche Schule Madison is a parent-founded non-profit organization located in Madison, Wisconsin. We offer affordable, high-quality German language classes for children with and without prior knowledge of German, taught at Neighborhood House Community Center (29. S. Mills Street). Our teachers are native or near-native speakers, with advanced degrees and extensive teaching experience.We also organize preschool classes for small children (“Deutsche Dachse”), social activities for teens, and family-friendly cultural events for German-speaking families in the Madison area.

We are working with the Central Agency for Schools Abroad (Zentralstelle für das Auslandsschulwesen, ZfA) towards being recognized as a member of the PASCH-Network, an initiative of the German Federal Foreign Office, and as a school authorized to administer tests for the German Language Diploma (Deutsches Sprachdiplom, DSD) and comparison exams (Vergleichsarbeiten).

Nice to see.

However, unlike Minneapolis or Milwaukee, Madison students lack full time German language immersion (charter) school options.

Finding cheaters using multiple-choice comparisons

Jonathan Dishoff:

An interesting method by which I found out that people were cheating on my final exam.


I use different versions of midterm examinations to discourage cheating in my population biology class (~200 students). When the course started, I used to do the same thing for the final exam, but it was a little more complicated, because the final exam is administered by the registrar’s office, not by me and my teaching team.

At some point, somebody advised me not to bother with versions: the registrar’s office is supposed to be professional about administration, and they usually mix people who are taking different exams in the same room, so I stopped bothering with different versions for the final exam for a year or two. I do it again now, and you’ll see why.

The incident

In the year in question, my exam was given in two separate medium-sized rooms. My class was alone in these two rooms. I received a report from the invigilators in Room 1 about suspicious behaviour. They had warned a couple of students for acting strangely, and then warned them again. They weren’t prepared to say that they were sure that the students were cheating, but wanted me to compare their answer slates. In retrospect, they should have left the students alone until they were ready to sign a complaint against them (or until they had cheated enough to have it proved against them).

The College of Lost Arts

Amy Crawford:

Every student in the college majors in building arts, but can choose one of six specializations: architectural stone, carpentry, forged architectural iron, masonry, plasterwork, or timber framing. The college seeks to combine a traditional liberal arts curriculum with intensive crafts training, often teaching disciplines like history or math by way of the latter; for example, history is taught with an architectural history focus.

“The graduate here has learned both the art and the science of preservation and new construction,” says Colby M. Broadwater III, a retired Army lieutenant general brought in as president in 2008 to apply some military discipline to the school’s finances. “How to build a business, the drawing and drafting that underlies all of it … the language, the math that supports the building functions, the science of why materials fail—all of those things wrapped into a liberal arts and science education.”

Higher Academic Achievement May Require Higher Standards

Joe Yeado:

While at the gym last week, I overheard two fathers discussing the homework their elementary and middle school children were bringing home. The general feeling was that the homework was too hard and that students were being asked to do complex tasks in earlier grades than when the dads were kids. They lamented about how things are so different today – even teaching math differently!

But with parents, educators and employers saying that students are not academically prepared, there seems to be a disconnect between what people say they want in terms of educational attainment for our schoolchildren in general and what parents want in terms of educational demands on their kids.

Of the 65 developed countries that participate in the PISA international assessment of 15 year-olds, the United States ranked 36th in math, 28th in science and 24th in reading. Making things worse, the scores for U.S. students have actually fallen in each category since the last assessment in 2009. Without changes to our current education system, our students – and our country – will likely find it more challenging to compete.

An astonishingly small number of elite universities produce an overwhelming number of America’s professors.

Joel Warner and Aaron Clauset:

While elite universities, with their deep resources and demanding coursework, surely produce great professors, the data suggest that faculty hiring isn’t a simple meritocracy. The top schools generate far more professors than even just slightly less prestigious schools. For example, in history, the top 10 schools produce three times as many future professors as those ranked 11 through 20.

One explanation for this skewed hiring system is that lower-prestige institutions are trying to emulate their high-prestige brethren. For a university, the easiest way to burnish your reputation is to hire graduates from top schools, thereby importing a bit of what made these institutions elite in the first place, while signaling to prospective students and faculty that you attract top talent.

Another factor could be that it’s not easy for schools to evaluate job applicants on merit alone, because merit can be difficult to define or measure. In the tenure system, a professor might work at the same institution for 40 years. But when hiring for tenure-track positions, schools often have to guess about lifelong productivity based on just a few years of experience. Hiring faculty is therefore a high-stakes decision; while you can always deny someone tenure, doing so means you’ve wasted years nurturing talent that you don’t want to keep. With so much uncertainty involved in the process, it may be natural to go with what seems like a safe choice: an applicant trained at a high-prestige school, even at the expense of exciting candidates from slightly less elite institutions.

Parents: not happy about something at school? Here’s how to complain

Disappointed Idealist:

ne of the best pieces of advice I was ever given was from a friend in the restaurant business. If I were planning to complain about any part of my meal or service, he said, I should wait until I had eaten all I was going to eat that night. He illustrated this warning with examples of what can happen to food prepared for awkward customers, and so I’ve followed this advice ever since. It’s a good principle: don’t complain to people on whom you’re relying – unless there’s no way they can wipe your steak on their bum or drop a bogey in your soup.

As with restaurants, so with schools. The difference with schools is that you’re likely to be stuck with them for a lot longer than one meal. So think carefully before putting on your Mr Angry face and marching into the school for a spot of ranting.

The History of the Future of Education

Doug Holton:

It’s a refrain throughout my work: we are suffering from an amnesia of sorts, whereby we seem to have forgotten much of the history of technology. As such, we now tell these stories about the past, present, and future whereby all innovations emerge from Silicon Valley, all innovations are recent innovations, and there is no force for change other than entrepreneurial genius and/or the inevitability of “disruptive innovation.”

This amnesia seeps from technology into education and education technology. The rich and fascinating past of education is forgotten and erased in an attempt to tell a story about the future of education that emphasizes products not processes, the private not the public, “skills” not inquiry. The future of education technology therefore is the story of Silicon Valley and a handful of elite private universities because the history of education technology has always been the story of Silicon Valley and a handful of elite private universities. Or so the story goes.

I’ve been working on a book for a while now called Teaching Machines that explores the history of education technology in the twentieth century. And this year I’ve started a series on my blog, Hack Education, that also documents some of this lost or forgotten history. (I’ve looked at the origins of multiple choice tests and multiple choice testing machines, the parallels between the “Draw Me” ads and for-profit correspondence schools of the 1920s and today’s MOOCs, and the development of one of my personal favorite pieces of ed-tech, the Speak & Spell.) See, I’m exhausted by the claims by the latest batch of Silicon Valley ed-tech entrepreneurs and their investors that ed-tech is “new” and that education — I’m quoting from the New York Times here — “is one of the last industries to be touched by Internet technology.” Again, this is a powerful and purposeful re-telling and revising of history designed to shape the direction of the future.

The hidden story behind the code that runs our lives

Paul Voosen:

Magic has entered our world. In the pockets of many Americans today are thin black slabs that, somehow, understand and anticipate our desires. Linked to the digital cloud and satellites beyond, churning through personal data, these machines listen and assist, decoding our language, viewing and labeling reality with their cameras. This summer, as I walked to an appointment at the University of Toronto, stepping out of my downtown hotel into brisk hints of fall, my phone already had directions at hand. I asked where to find coffee on the way. It told me. What did the machine know? How did it learn? A gap broader than any we’ve known has opened between our use of technology and our understanding of it. How did the machine work? As I would discover, no one could say for certain. But as I walked with my coffee, I was on the way to meet the man most qualified to bridge the gap between what the machine knows and what you know.

Brand success in an era of Digital Darwinism

Jacques Bughin:

The challenges for brand-marketing executives will probably increase as consumers opt for more complete digital interactions. We found that the likelihood of brand conversion is lower for fully digital consumers than for experimenters. Specifically, when experimenters become aware of a brand, their conversion rate reaches about 40 percent. The conversion rate for fully digital consumers, by contrast, is only 25 percent.

More actively digital consumers are prone to abandon a brand midstream for a number of reasons. They are more likely to have joined Facebook, Twitter, or product-evaluation platforms for conversations about the qualities of products or services. The greater number of touchpoints before purchase increases the odds a consumer will encounter a deal breaker along the digital highway. What’s more, companies have less control over more digitally seasoned consumers, who initiate their prepurchase interactions independently. And since the level and influence of advertising in the social-media space have yet to reach the levels common in offline channels, brand messages are less likely to influence decisions.

Our research indicated, however, that some companies have managed to navigate this competitive turbulence successfully. To understand the differentiating factors for that success, we rated brands across four digital skills: the ability to create brand awareness among an unusually high share of digitally savvy consumers, to serve customers digitally during the purchase processes, to generate an online customer experience deemed at least as good as the offline one, and to track the digital comments of customers about their experience and to use those comments to improve it. We added the scores across these dimensions, compiling a digitization index that represents the weight of satisfactory touchpoints leading to a purchase across decision journeys.3

Many College Freshmen Plan for More than 4 Years of Higher Education

Sam Hayes:

of California, Los Angeles’ Higher Education Research Institute, included 135,000 first-year students from 227 schools and various backgrounds. The survey was given during the fall 2014 semester.

Many students claim that they’ll need more than four years to complete their degree because they’re ambitious or need extra help getting ready for college.

The desire to pursue a double major, take remedial courses or to pursue non-classroom experiences were among the respondents’ reasons for taking more than four years, according to the press release.

One of the most telling factors for whether a student anticipates needing more than four years was the selectivity of the school they enrolled in.

About 30% of students at the most selective public four-year institutions predicted needing more time. However, 36% of freshmen at moderately selective schools and 42% of students at the least selective schools anticipated needing additional time to complete their degrees.

Universities that seek to maximize profits often minimize students’ education


Over the past decade, UMUC has slowly turned into a money-making venture in all but name. It is giving students with few higher education options a low-level college education, all for the sake of maximizing profit. By doing so, it is joining the likes of University of Phoenix and Kaplan University, who are also chasing the bottom-line over student satisfaction. There are other issues of profitability trumping quality education in higher education, including the intense focus on fundraising at institutions as varied as Stanford University and University of Texas-Austin. But with UMUC and perhaps other public institutions, though, this profitability focus has had an impact on the quality of teaching and learning available to students.

Last month, UMUC took its latest step towards redoing its public institution status. On 30 January, the University System of Maryland’s Board of Regents approved their request for semi-autonomy within the university system. This will allow UMUC to benefit from being part of a fully accredited state university system. Those benefits include continued access to federal higher education funds, less scrutiny from college accrediting organizations and remaining a school with a good reputation (as the public often mixes up UMUC with the University of Maryland at College Park, the state flagship campus). At the same time, this semi-autonomic status will allow UMUC administration to hire, fire and address faculty and staff grievances as they please, increase tuition without the need for state approval and exempt important records like retention and graduation rates from public disclosure.

Indiana School Choice Report

Indiana Department of Education (PDF):

This is the 2015 update to the Choice Scholarship Program Annual Report originally released on January 27, 2014. This version of the report includes updates for the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 school years.
The report provides an overview of the Indiana Choice Scholarship Program, which was passed as part of House Enrolled Act 1003-2011(Public Law 92-2011) and provides Choice Scholarships to students in households that meet income and eligibility requirements. The program provides funds to assist with the payment of tuition and fees at a participating Choice School.

For the 2011-2012 school year, Choice Scholarships were limited to 7,500 students. For the 2012-2013 school year, Choice Scholarships were limited to 15,000 students. Beginning with the 2013-2014 school year, the student cap was removed and Choice Scholarships were available to any student that met eligibility and income requirements. During the 2013 Session of the Indiana General Assembly, the program was further expanded to include eligibility components related to special education, siblings, and failing schools.

Information on the School Choice Program may be found in I.C. 20-51, 512 IAC 3, and 512 IAC 4 or by accessing information on the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) website at the following link

Mexican Teachers Resist Their Own Brand of ‘Education Reform’

Jane Slaughter:

Disappointed tourists saw their flights canceled on January 10. “In previous actions, they’d taken the highways leading to the Oaxaca airport,” said teacher-trainer Maria Elena Ramírez Avendaño, “but this time they took the runways for the first time.”

The actions are part of a year-and-a-half-long fight against constitutional amendments that require teachers to take a national competitive exam every four years in order to keep their jobs—among other changes that teachers see as harmful both to their own labor rights and to students.

The Oaxaca teachers called a three-day paro, or work stoppage, of their 80,000 members February 9-11 and mobilized members to travel to Mexico City to demonstrate along with teachers from other states. When police prevented them from reaching the capital city’s main square, they took over a major street, causing big traffic tie-ups and causing two subway stations to close.
– See more at:

The Computer Ate My Homework

Jade Davis:

The family computer recently stopped working. This wouldn’t be the end of the world normally, however, my oldest son’s second-grade classroom implemented a new homework policy. Instead of having homework on paper, all homework is done on the computer across three sites.

This new policy was implemented because it makes the homework “smarter.” The difficulty of the work can automatically adjust as the student improves. A report is sent to the teacher right away, letting her know how long it is taking the student to do the work. She gets a readout that can compare the student’s progress to the rest of the class, as well as a general readout of how the class is doing overall. And, since my oldest son is in a bilingual program, he can do Spanish dictation, record it, and send it to his teacher so she can hear if he is having pronunciation problems. Finally, since the work is algorithmically graded and monitored, the teacher can spend more time planning what to do in class, based on common issues of the students, instead of spending a good portion of time grading homework.

When the computer stopped working, we were suddenly forced to acknowledge some access limits. The first was, when my son comes home, my computer is not there. So, where would he be able to do his homework? We thought of the library, but there isn’t one very close to us, and going to one would add commute time to homework. Additionally, once there, having a young child yelling at the computer in Spanish seemed counter to the culture of the library. Given the added time, and the limits on what he could do, we decided against the library.

Muslim Parents and ‘the Talk’ in the Wake of the Chapel Hill Murders

Banish Ahmed:

After the shootings, Mughal said her parents called her from Arizona to implore her to avoid public transportation, to get home early, and to refuse to open her front door for anyone.

Some Muslims I spoke to for this article described getting some form of that advice from their parents this week, but many more said discussions about avoiding conflict and concealing their religious beliefs were recurring ones in their families. Fourteen of 21 Muslims who responded to an informal survey I sent out to various Muslim listservs had been given a talk on personal safety by their parents and issued some version to their own children.

“I personally have been physically attacked while praying in public,” Mohammad Jehad Ahmad, a student at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, told me.

Conversations on the Rifle Range 26: Moving On and the Sedimentation of Students

Barry Garelick, via a kind email:

I am currently working at a middle school in a neighboring school district. I do not have my own classes; I assist the math teachers there by identifying and working with students who are struggling. Like most schools these days, it has fallen under the spell of Common Core, with a disturbing amount of instruction spent on writing about how they solved a problem, explaining their reasoning and why they think the answer is reasonable. I work there four days a week; I started in August and will continue until school lets out. While I miss having my own classes, I like it for the most part. One key advantage is that it allows me to focus on teaching students the basic skills they are missing rather than on having them explain their reasoning for problems they cannot solve because of procedures they cannot perform.

The district I’m in has recently contracted with SVMI (the Silicon Valley Math Initiative), just like the school district where I was working last year. These are the folks who developed the Problems of the Month to stimulate “algebraic thinking” outside of algebra courses and who also constructed the test that was now being given as an extra barrier to taking algebra 1 in seventh or eighth grade in my old district. There is no word yet on raising the barriers for qualifying for the traditional algebra 1 course in 8th grade. But one never knows.

I have not kept in touch with anyone from my previous school (Lawrence Middle School), though occasionally I look at the website for pictures of the students. I see pictures of some of my seventh graders, now eighth graders. All appear to be doing well. I don’t know how any of my former eighth graders are doing now in high school.

In case you’re curious, my algebra classes managed to do better on the chapter test on quadratics than they had on the quiz. We moved on to algebraic fractions and various word problems had one last test, and that was that.

My prealgebra classes also wrapped things up nicely. I recall with particular fondness my Period 2 class. They were my favorite of all my seventh grade classes; they were generally very sweet, though over the months since I took over they were much more talkative and rambunctious as they proceeded on their relentless path to becoming eighth graders. On the day before the last test, we were reviewing multiplication of binomials and a boy asked “the question”: “Am I ever going to be using polynomials in my life?”

Out In Left Field: Conversations on the Rifle Range 25: Undoing a Conspiracy, and Heading to the End of the School Year.

Meet the New, Self-Appointed MOOC Accreditors: Google and Instagram

Jeffrey Young:

Nineteen colleges now work with Coursera to offer what amount to microdegrees—it calls them Course Specializations—that require students to take a series of short MOOCs and then finish a hands-on capstone project. The serialization approach has proved an effective way to bring in revenue to support the free courses—to get a certificate proving they passed the courses, students each end up paying around $500 in fees.

By helping develop MOOC-certificate programs, companies are giving a seal of approval to those new credentials that may be more important to some students than whether an accredited university or a well-trained professor is involved.

Daphne Koller, a co-founder of Coursera, says that teaming up with companies can “really drive home the value proposition that these courses are giving you a skill that is valuable in the workplace.” She says it also lets Coursera play a role in “bridging the gap” between higher education and industry.

Change is well underway in the K-16 world.

Teachers Can’t Wait to Build a ‘More Perfect Union’

Tom Rademacher:

My local and state unions were often places where I met involved teachers, teachers who cared about the world outside of their room, who cared about how things were going in my room. They were where I debated and discussed things with teachers I disagreed with, and where I learned we were stronger if we set a place for everyone at the table and went and got those who didn’t show up. In many ways, again and again, union work was an expression of my affection for teachers.

But there is another side to the story.

During one of my very first local meetings, a new teacher spoke up, asking for help from his union. He felt like he had to take on everything, say yes to everything, or he would be fired. He asked if more veteran teachers could help lighten the load of those still developing as teachers. He was told, by an executive council member, “That’s what tenure is for. Get through three years, then you never have to do that stuff again.” I don’t think that guy ever came back to a meeting. I don’t know why he would.

When I was secretary, I got a long, angry letter from another member of our executive council. He was upset that I was spending so much time making sure every member of our union voted in elections. It was his opinion that if they didn’t come to meetings, didn’t read union emails, and didn’t know where to vote, then we shouldn’t work to have their voices heard. He was a fan of a small group of people making large decisions on behalf of an unengaged many. He wasn’t alone.

Mr. Rademacher was the 2014 Minnesota Teacher of the Year.

Hacking Oklahoma State University’s Student ID

Sam Snelling:

In 2013 I took an Information Security class at Oklahoma State University. As a final project, we were broken into teams to find a security hole, and have a plan to theoretically exploit it.

I led this project, and in early 2014, gave a presentation to key faculty and IT security on campus. As I understand it, the final solution was to take down the website (, and not worry about the rest. Fair enough.

Here are the contents of my final report.

Is the University of California Spinning out of Control?

In looking at the final product, one can only be shocked and amused. Much of the report is a simple narrative discussion of all that UC does and how it is hard to determine the cost of its many activities. When the UC finally gets to the discussion of the cost differences, the entire new methodology is explained in a single paragraph: “First, graduate students are considered full-time when taking 12 units a term whereas undergraduates are full-time at 15 units per term. This is a standard practice in other institutions and is the basis for the ratio of 1.25 (15/12) used in the NACUBO report. Second, the University collects data on the proportion of student credit hours (SCH) offered by level and that data includes the type of instructor delivering the student credit hours. There is a substantial differential between undergraduate and graduate students in the proportion of SCH taught by ladder faculty. For graduate students, 79% of SCH are taught by ladder faculty compared to 49% for undergraduates. Since expenditures for ladder faculty are higher than for other types of faculty, expenditures by level of faculty can be used to estimate an overall differential between undergraduate and graduate expenditures. The estimate of the differential for 2012-13 is 1.33. Combining these two factors – 1.25 for the FTE calculation times 1.33 for faculty type – results in an estimate that graduate expenditures per FTE for instruction are on average at least 1.7 times greater than undergraduates.” Really?!! How in the world did they come up with such a reductive methodology and why did it take them over a year to produce it?

Can UC Answer These 5 Big Questions About Its Spending?

John Myers:

If there’s one place to watch the really hard choices about what government can afford to spend on higher education and what a college degree should cost, it’s the meat grinder that now faces the University of California in Sacramento.

The stakes are high. The university, led by UC President Janet Napolitano, has insisted it will increase tuition for as long as the next five years if lawmakers don’t pony up enough taxpayer dollars. Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders, on the other hand, have demanded that the university system cut costs and keep tuition levels constant if it wants any additional dollars. You couldn’t ask for a more tense showdown than this one.

(There was a tiny easing of that tension on Wednesday, when Napolitano extended an olive branch by canceling a tuition hike for summer session students.)

College Faculties Have a Serious Diversity Problem

Marcus Woo:

To be a professor is to belong to a select few—an insider’s club of vanishing tenured faculty positions. It’s no secret that a fancy diploma can help grads vying for those coveted spots. But while working on his PhD and contemplating his career prospects, computer scientist Aaron Clauset wanted to know just how much weight a prestigious alma mater—an MIT, a Stanford, a Harvard—carried. So he decided to dive into the data himself.

Clauset and a couple of grad school friends started gathering information about who’s hiring whom. After a break in the project, during which he graduated and landed a faculty position at the University of Colorado at Boulder (yup, he joined the club), Clauset started up again—recruiting his new students for help. They spent three years grabbing and analyzing hiring data from computer science, business, and history departments, collecting info on 19,000 faculty positions across North America.

Will Teachers’ Unions Exit Stage Left?

Mike Antonucci:

Will Teachers’ Unions Exit Stage Left? We established last week that cognitive linguistic analysis would not be the salvation of teachers’ unions. Recent events dictate we revisit the possibility that teachers’ unions will revitalize themselves by moving to the left.

Yes, yes, I know many of you think there cannot possibly be any room remaining to them on that side, but it isn’t true. The officers and executive staff of NEA and AFT are committed liberals, but they are also very wealthy individuals overseeing a billion-dollar private enterprise. No matter what you hear coming out of their mouths, they won’t be leading the revolution, believe me.

But times are bad, and that is leading to upheaval in the ranks. Union activists further to the left than their superiors have been elected to lead large locals and one state affiliate. They believe they are approaching a critical mass to push the teacher union movement as a whole to the left.

Bob Peterson, president of the Milwaukee Teachers Education Association, is a long-time class warrior and recently had a manifesto reprinted in the pages of In These Times. It contains all the rhetoric you would expect, and a few targets you would not. Peterson decries teachers’ unions utilizing “a business model that is so dependent on staff providing services that it disempowers members and concentrates power in the hands of a small group of elected leaders and/or paid staff.”

Teacher prep programs need to be accountable, too

Robert Pianta:

As if on cue, teacher preparation organizations, college and university education schools, and teachers unions are protesting proposed federal regulations for assessing the quality and impact of teacher preparation programs.

Over the past month, my e-mail inbox has been filled with a stream of increasingly dire pleas to join the chorus. Delayed for more than a year by a firestorm of protest, the latest round of proposed regulations is subject to the same criticisms as the previous one. The primary complaints: The regulations are burdensome and would be expensive to implement; they devalue the work of graduates who teach in non-tested grades and subjects such as special education, music or art; and they rely on state test scores that lack validity as measures of a teacher’s impact. The newest critiques also go further, claiming that the regulations would cause teacher education programs to push graduates away from teaching in more challenging schools.

Related: When A stands for average.

To test or not to test, public education’s epic drama

Alan Borsuk:

Not long ago, some people on the left and some on the right hated tests, but they weren’t much of a force. Now, everyone hates tests — there are too many, they waste time, they don’t prove anything, they stress everyone out, they’re of low quality, they distort education, they’re being used for the wrong purposes and so on.

Which brings us to the present. Let us touch on two scenes.

One is in Wisconsin, where a new test for grade school kids, the product of one of the two consortia, will launch in March. The test has problems, by far the biggest being that Gov. Scott Walker wants to kibosh it after this year. Many school people have gone to great lengths to prepare for this test and are wondering why bother to give it if it’s going to be killed. (Good question, I must say.)

The other and actually more important scene is in Washington, where there is new interest in revamping No Child Left Behind. There are a lot of obstacles, the largest of which is intense differences over testing. How much testing, if any, should be federally required? What kinds of tests and what should be done with the results? How do you hold states accountable without (or even with) test results?

The atmosphere is filled with anger and frustration as the mountain grows of test scores that have little prospect of yielding constructive impact.

However and unfortunately, Wisconsin’s DPI has spent many, many millions on the useless WKCE.

Systematic inequality and hierarchy in faculty hiring networks

Aaron Clauset, Samuel Arbesman, Daniel B. Larremore:

The faculty job market plays a fundamental role in shaping research priorities, educational outcomes, and career trajectories among scientists and institutions. However, a quantitative understanding of faculty hiring as a system is lacking. Using a simple technique to extract the institutional prestige ranking that best explains an observed faculty hiring network—who hires whose graduates as faculty—we present and analyze comprehensive placement data on nearly 19,000 regular faculty in three disparate disciplines. Across disciplines, we find that faculty hiring follows a common and steeply hierarchical structure that reflects profound social inequality. Furthermore, doctoral prestige alone better predicts ultimate placement than a U.S. News & World Report rank, women generally place worse than men, and increased institutional prestige leads to increased faculty production, better faculty placement, and a more influential position within the discipline. These results advance our ability to quantify the influence of prestige in academia and shed new light on the academic system.

Teacher Union Lobbying: “We’re saying, ‘OK. We used to have sway top down and the only way we get back there again is to educate people at the local level.’”

Molly Beck:

Either way, membership is down more than 50 percent from the union’s 98,000-member levels before Gov. Scott Walker signed his signature legislation in 2011 that significantly diminished collective bargaining rights for most public employees.

WEAC’s lobbying dollars have dropped dramatically, too.

A decade ago, WEAC spent $1.5 million on lobbying during the 2005-2006 legislative session, state records show. The next session: $1.1 million. During the two sessions leading up to the passage of Act 10, WEAC spent $2.5 million and $2.3 million, respectively.

But during the 2013-14 session, after Walker signed the bill into law, the union spent just $175,540. It was the first time in at least 10 years that the union was not among the state’s top 12 lobbying spenders, according to the Government Accountability Board.

“That has a big effect on the political landscape,” said Mike McCabe, former executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, which tracks political spending. “They often were the No. 1 lobbying spender among interest groups and they obviously don’t have the capacity to do that anymore.”

But Brey said it’s part of a strategy that WEAC was working on before Act 10. She said instead of relying on a lobbyist, the local focus is more effective because legislators have to explain their votes in their communities.
“At some point you have to look someone in the eye and explain just what you’re doing to their neighborhood public school and why,” she said.

Related: $1,570,000 for four Wisconsin Senators.

I’m glad that Ms. Beck included spending data.

ACA challenge for schools: Jefferson, WI School District

Pam Chickering Wilson:

In addition, the ACA requires that the insurance employers offer must be “affordable.” If the cost of insurance rises above 9 1/2 percent of a family’s income, the employer can face a fine of $3,000.

One more measure coming down the pike — to take effect in 2018 — is the so-called “Cadillac tax” for excessively expensive plans. The thresholds for this tax are $10,200 per individual and $27,500 per family.

Kuelz remarked that Jefferson is nowhere near these amounts yet, but these totals bear watching, as health insurance costs for school districts have been rising at around 8 percent a year, far ahead of inflation.

He said that some planning will be required to keep Jefferson insurance costs down so they do not rise over this threshold by 2018. After that year, the Cadillac tax threshold will rise in accordance with the rate of inflation.

“One calculation we have been making for school districts is, they are asking, what if you gave the money directly to the employees and let them go on the exchange?” Kuelz said.

Using current figures, districts would incur more costs by giving the money to the employees directly, he explained. For starters, these districts would lose a tax break. Then they would be subject to penalties. In addition, any money given to employees to cover these costs would then be counted as taxable income, which opens a whole new can of worms for both the employer and the employees.
Right now, such a move would drive a district’s costs up significantly, Kuelz said. But this might change as costs go down on the exchange.

Madison is contemplating changes to their employee benefits approach.

Public Charter School Enrollment Nears 3 Million

National Alliance for Public Charters

Nearly 2.9 million students now attend charter schools, according to a report released today by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools that estimates growth in charter schools and their student enrollment. U.S. charter schools are serving almost 348,000 new students in 2014-15, up from 288,000 the previous school year.

“This has been our highest enrollment figure so far, and we are not surprised parents are choosing charter schools for their child’s education,” said Nina Rees, president and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. “The growth in charter school enrollment shows parents’ demand for high-quality educational options. We are optimistic that the number of public charter schools will continue to grow to serve even more students and families.”

Apart from providing student enrollment estimates, the report also shines a light on estimates of the number of charter schools that opened for the 2014-15 school year and those that have closed during the past year. This year, 500 new public charter schools opened, while more than 200 schools that were open last year are no longer operating. These schools closed for a variety of reasons, including low enrollment, inadequate financial resources, or low academic performance.

“We want to see more high-quality charter schools serve students throughout the country. At the same time we advocate for strong accountability measures to ensure that only the highest-quality charter schools are serving our nation’s students,” said Rees.

Scott Walker, and the problem with valuing credentials over competence

Edward Morrissey:

My father hadn’t followed his own advice. He dropped out of the University of Arizona much like Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker did later at Marquette, closer to a degree than I ever got, for personal reasons unrelated to academic achievement. He went into the aerospace industry and spent 29 years working on the space program, from Gemini to Apollo to the space shuttle. Dad was and still is an auto-didact, a man whose curiosity drove his intellectual growth, and he became a specialist in quality engineering, especially in non-destructive testing.

But the world had changed a bit since he started out in aerospace, and both of us knew it. More people went to college and got degrees, and my father saw how a lack of credentials put people in his industry at a competitive disadvantage. “All that matters is getting that piece of paper,” he’d tell me when my distinct lack of interest in studies manifested itself in academic problems at college. “That’s the ticket that opens doors. Once you’re in you can do whatever you like.”

I never got that ticket — and I paid a price for it, too. After working for a few years in the aerospace industry myself as a technical writer, I found myself out of work when that sector began its shift away from defense to commercial application. Without a degree, work in my field eluded me, and I took a couple of odd jobs — driving a cab for a couple of months in the Los Angeles area, which was interesting in a cold-sweats-and-nightmares kind of way, and picking up a shift as an overnight operator in an alarm call center. That job turned into an interesting and fulfilling career that would put me in middle management for a number of years, before the blogging revolution eliminated the credentialism of the writing and commentary fields and turned them into achievement-oriented environments.

Like any son who locks horns with his old man, I’d like to be able to argue that Dad turned out to be wrong. He wasn’t. Life turned out well for me — I am very blessed to make a living from my passion, writing — but the lack of a degree made it that more difficult to achieve that end. Credentialism became a hurdle to overcome at the start of my professional life, one that took me a decade to overcome in one career and two decades in another.

Remarks on Expository Writing in Mathematics

Robert Ash:

Successful graduate students in mathematics are able to reach an advanced level in one or more areas. Textbooks are an important part of this process. A skilled lecturer is able to illuminate and clarify many ideas, but if the pace of a course is fast enough to allow decent coverage, gaps will inevitably result. Students will depend on the text to fill these gaps, but the experience of most students is that the usual text is difficult for the novice to read. At one extreme, the text is a thousand page, twenty pound encyclopedia which cannot be read linearly in a finite amount of time. At the other extreme, the presentation in the book is essentially a seminar lecture with huge gaps.

So it seems that improvements in readability of textbooks would be highly desirable, and the natural question is “What makes a text readable?” Is it possible to answer such a question concretely? I am going to try.
First, we need to be clear on exactly who is trying to read these books. Textbooks that are opaque for students may turn out to be quite useful to the research specialist. I will assume that the reader of the text is not already an expert in the area.

The path to readability is certainly not unique, but here is some advice that may be useful.

How To Save Our Public Schools

Richard C. Morais:

Democrats and Republicans alike, he says, must first recognize that public education is a “broken, government-run monopoly serving the needs of adults at the expense of the needs of children.” The only way forward, Klein says, is to offer underprivileged families real educational choices, breaking the states’ monopoly on education and the perverse union rules strangling public education all across the nation.

Start by leaving your comfort zone and funneling capital away from your wealthy alma mater and toward the poor neighborhoods, where your generosity is truly needed. “A lot of people say to me, ‘I won’t give to public schools because I don’t think it will do anything,’ ” Klein says. He sends such skeptics to tough neighborhoods where charter schools run by the likes of KIPP, Success Academy, and Achievement First are making a real difference.

Consider a 2006 Robin Hood Foundation fund-raiser evening, where $45 million in donor support for new schools was matched by the charity’s board, raising $90 million in minutes. Klein, as the city’s chancellor, quickly agreed to kick in another $90 million from his $12 billion capital budget, and two architecturally stunning charter schools delivering quality education have since been built in blighted neighborhoods in the Bronx and Brooklyn.

“Imagine what these kids feel like, when they walk into their school and it’s the Taj Mahal? Go talk to those kids if you are looking for impact,” says Klein. That made me press him for practical help, and he promptly offered to try to organize for interested Barron’s Penta subscribers who emailed us they wanted to see such impact up close—a tour of a new charter school making a difference somewhere in the U.S. Subscribers who want a tour need only shoot us an e-mail.

Which gets us to his final point: Spend political capital, as well. Charter schools are great, Klein says, but voucher programs are the only way to quickly scale up high-quality alternatives to the busted and dangerous public schools currently entrapping our kids. Such programs allow a disadvantaged family to apply the tax-dollar equivalent of a public education—almost $20,000 a year in New York City—toward a private education of their choice.

Why schools are failing our boys

Jennifer Fink:

He hasn’t been allowed outside at school all week; it’s too cold. Yet this son has spent happy hours outside at home this week, all bundled up, moving snow with the toy snowplow, creating “snowmobile trails” in our yard with his sled and shoveling both our walk and our neighbors. Because he wants to.

This morning, as always, my son was up and dressed before the rest of the household; he likes time to play Minecraft before school starts. But he also cleaned the dirty glass on the woodstove, started the fire and brought wood into the house. Because he wants to.

And it hit me this morning: He would have done great in Little House on the Prairie time.

We’re reading Laura Ingalls Wilder’s The Long Winter, one of the books in the Little House series, aloud right now. Back then, boys (and girls) primarily learned by doing. Kids between the ages of 5 and 18 weren’t corralled into schools and kept apart from real life; out of necessity, boys worked on the farms and girls helped in the house. Entire families worked together to survive, and along the way, boys and girls learned how to function in the real world.

The progressive ideas behind the lack of free speech on campus

Wendy Kaminer:

Is an academic discussion of free speech potentially traumatic? A recent panel for Smith College alumnae aimed at “challenging the ideological echo chamber” elicited this ominous “trigger/content warning” when a transcript appeared in the campus newspaper: “Racism/racial slurs, ableist slurs, antisemitic language, anti-Muslim/Islamophobic language, anti-immigrant language, sexist/misogynistic slurs, references to race-based violence, references to antisemitic violence.”

No one on this panel, in which I participated, trafficked in slurs. So what prompted the warning?

Smith President Kathleen McCartney had joked, “We’re just wild and crazy, aren’t we?” In the transcript, “crazy” was replaced by the notation: “[ableist slur].”

One of my fellow panelists mentioned that the State Department had for a time banned the words “jihad,” “Islamist” and “caliphate” — which the transcript flagged as “anti-Muslim/Islamophobic language.”

I described the case of a Brandeis professor disciplined for saying “wetback” while explaining its use as a pejorative. The word was replaced in the transcript by “[anti-Latin@/anti-immigrant slur].” Discussing the teaching of “Huckleberry Finn,” I questioned the use of euphemisms such as “the n-word” and, in doing so, uttered that forbidden word. I described what I thought was the obvious difference between quoting a word in the context of discussing language, literature or prejudice and hurling it as an epithet.

Young researchers should take the time to educate themselves on STEM career-related statistics.

Julie Gould:

Like many PhD students in their fourth year, there are two things constantly on my mind: one is my research, and the other is my post-graduation plan. I am currently a graduate student in the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) PhD programme, which is designed to be 4-5 years long. The course puts a strong emphasis on developing post-graduation plans early on, so I started researching career options in my 2nd year.

I came across some statistics from the National Science Foundation (NSF) that painted a dire picture of career prospects in academia. Coincidentally, I joined CSHL’s Bioscience Enterprise Club around the same time to learn about alternative careers, and was taken aback by the abundance of career options available for PhDs: research in industry, publishing, science writing, teaching, public policy, finance, consulting, patent law, biotech startups, and more.

Researching career options early on has given me ample time to identify rewarding career paths, and to get involved in extra-curricular activities. Having done the research, I plan on applying the data science skills that I have developed over the course of my PhD to a career in industry.

As I get closer to graduation, I find myself much more prepared for what’s to come and strongly believe that considering career options early on is crucial for any PhD student. Therefore, I would urge all graduate schools to insist that their students do the same, especially in the current academic climate. For those who haven’t been introduced to the stats, I’ve put together a short summary for you.

Let’s Kill Innovation

Steven Hodas, via a kind Deb Britt email:

In the past couple of years I’ve probably used the word “innovation” thousands of times and read or heard it thousands of times more. Naturally. I worked in an Office of Innovation (inside the Division of Talent, Labor and Innovation) running “Innovate NYC Schools” (Twitter handle @innovatenycedu), which was funded by a grant from the Investing in Innovation program (from the U.S. Department of Education Office of Innovation and Improvement). I’ve written here about “Innovation 1.0,” “Innovation 2.0,” and “failure[s] of innovation.” But it’s a lazy term for a hazy concept and I vote for a moratorium.

First, “innovation” manages to be both too vague (it can be applied to anything, and is) and too narrow (it’s usually just a trendier, TED-ier version of “technology”). Because it’s used so often without referring to anything in particular, it begins to feel like an incantation from the realm of magical thinking. Second, surveys show that outside of Silicon Valley, “innovation” has a terrible brand with most parents and educators. It worries the former and induces eye-rolls from the latter, so invoking it as a goal or a policy is not a great way to make new friends.

Educating school teachers (2006)

Arthur Levine (PDF):

This report, the second in a series of policy reports on the results of a four-year study of America’s education schools, focuses on the education of classroom teachers, the people who have the greatest impact on our children’s learning in school.

Teacher education has taken on a special urgency because the United States needs to raise both the quantity and quality of our teacher force. The country is experiencing an acute shortage of teachers. At the same time, we are asking teachers to increase student achievement to the highest levels in history in a new standards-based, accountability-driven system of education. To address both demands simultaneously is an enormous challenge, made even more difficult because the nation is deeply divided about how to prepare large numbers of high-quality teachers.

We don’t agree about what skills and knowledge teachers need or how and when teachers should learn them. This is the context for the second report. The first report focused on the education of school administrators.

The third report will examine the quality of education research and the preparation of the scholars and researchers who conduct it. The final report will be an overview of America’s schools of educa- tion, where the overwhelming majority of our school leaders, teachers, and scholars are educated.

“We know best”: All over America, people have put small “give one, take one” book exchanges in front of their homes. Then they were told to tear them down.

Conor Friedersdorf:

Last summer in Kansas, a 9-year-old was loving his Little Free Library until at least two residents proved that some people will complain about anything no matter how harmless and city officials pushed the boundaries of literal-mindedness:

The Leawood City Council said it had received a couple of complaints about Spencer Collins’ Little Free Library. They dubbed it an “illegal detached structure” and told the Collins’ they would face a fine if they did not remove the Little Free Library from their yard by June 19.
Scattered stories like these have appeared in various local news outlets. The L.A. Times followed up last week with a trend story that got things just about right. “Crime, homelessness and crumbling infrastructure are still a problem in almost every part of America, but two cities have recently cracked down on one of the country’s biggest problems: small-community libraries where residents can share books,” Michael Schaub wrote. “Officials in Los Angeles and Shreveport, Louisiana, have told the owners of homemade lending libraries that they’re in violation of city codes, and asked them to remove or relocate their small book collections.”

Here in Los Angeles, the weather is so lovely that it’s hard to muster the energy to be upset about anything, and a lot of people don’t even know what municipality they live in, so the defense of Little Free Libraries is mostly being undertaken by people who have them. Steve Lopez, a local columnist, wrote about one such man, an actor who is refusing to move his little library from a parkway. His column captures the absurdity of using city resources to get rid of it:

Economists say millennials should consider careers in trades

Chris Arnold:

As the economy continues to recover, economists are seeing stark differences between people with high school and college degrees. The unemployment rate is nearly twice as high for Americans with a high school diploma as for those with a four-year college degree or more.

But economists say that doesn’t mean everybody needs a four-year degree. In fact, millions of good-paying jobs are opening up in the trades. And some pay better than what the average college graduate makes.

Learning A Trade

When 18-year-old Haley Hughes graduated from high school this past summer, she had good grades; she was on the honor roll every year. So she applied to a bunch of four-year colleges and got accepted to every one of them. But she says, “I wasn’t excited about it really, I guess.”

A quick look at Dane County, WI K-12 Budgets and Redistributed State Tax Dollars


Mahoney, director of business and technology services at the McFarland School District, said in an email to district staff that a budget deficit of between $500,000 and $1 million is likely for the next school year, which includes keeping a 3 percent wage increase and expecting a 7 percent health insurance cost increase.

I appreciate the “total spending” data included with the article, along with McFarland’s healthcare spending increase. Changes over time would be quite useful as well.

Degrees don’t matter anymore, skills do

Miles Kimball:

Too much of our educational system, both at the K-12 level and in higher education, is built around the idea that some students are smart and others are dumb. One shining exception are the “Knowledge is Power Program” or KIPP schools. In my blog post “Magic Ingredient 1: More K-12 School” I gave this simple description of the main strategy behind KIPP schools, which do a brilliant job, even for kids from very poor backgrounds:

They motivate students by convincing them they can succeed and have a better life through working hard in school.

They keep order, so the students are not distracted from learning.

They have the students study hard for many long hours, with a long school day, a long school week (some school on Saturdays), and a long school year (school during the summer).

Meanwhile, one size fits all largely reigns in Madison.

Athletes & Rigor

Jake New:

In an endless cycle of perpetuating stereotypes, college athletes care a great deal about academics, a recent paper suggests, but some purposefully underperform academically in a misguided attempt to fit in with their teammates.

College athletes, especially those involved in big-time college sports like Division I football and basketball, tend to take easier courses and earn lower grades than nonathletes. Previous research has suggested several explanations for their underperformance, including the demanding time requirements of playing a sport, special admissions practices that enroll underprepared students and an apparent lack of motivation from athletes.

The new paper by researchers at the University of California at Los Angeles and Princeton University asserts that there may be an additional explanation: athletes study less and gravitate toward easier courses because they want to better align with what they assume are the views of their peers.

What Does Your MTI Contract Do for You? SENIORITY

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

Rights granted to an employee by the Union’s Contract are among the most important conditions of one’s employment. Those represented by MTI, in each of MTI’s five bargaining units, have numerous SENIORITY protections. Whether it is protection from involuntary transfer, being declared “surplus” (above staff requirements) or layoff, SENIORITY is the factor that limits and controls management’s action. Because of SENIORITY rights guaranteed by the Union’s Contract, for example, the employer cannot pick the junior employee simply because he/she is paid less. Making such judgments based on one’s SENIORITY may seem like common sense and basic human decency, but it is MTI’s Contract that assures it.

One of N.J.’s Top Superintendents Explains What’s Wrong with the Opt-Out Movement

Laura Waters:

Remember, we’re arguing about standards that have been in place for five years and assessments that haven’t even been given yet. Can we wait two weeks before passing judgement?

Also in the comments section, Anne Clark, who never takes fools lightly, has her own responses to anti-testers. She notes that there was plenty of opportunity for public comment during the adoption of Common Core and PARCC, that instructional time devoted to PARCC tests is de minimus compared to traditional testing schedules, and that the movement towards uniform standards and assessments has always been bipartisan. She’s also not afraid to call out Save Our Schools-NJ, one of the primary instigators of N.J.’s hysteria:

Yet, we have no useful method to track academic progress despite the DPI’s decades long WKCE adventure.

The skills Americans say kids need to succeed in life

Sara Goo:

But we also found some interesting differences:

While all Americans were most likely to cite communication and reading skills as most important for today’s kids, women were more likely than men to say this. More women said reading skills (88%) matter compared with men (83%), and there was a similar divide on communication skills (92% vs. 88%). On the other hand, men were more likely than women to say that science and math skills were most important. Among men, 63% said science skills were important – a figure 9 percentage points higher than women who said the same. Men were also more likely than women to say that math skills were important (81% vs. 76%).

College-educated Americans were more likely to point to communication, writing, logic and science skills as important when compared with those with a high school education or less. For example, 63% of those with a college degree said science skills were most important, compared with 51% of those with a high school education or less. Some 81% of college grads said that writing skills were most important, compared with 70% among those with a high school degree or less.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: The Confusing Politics of Pensions and Hedge Funds

Chad Alderman:

Morgan Housel has a fantastic piece in The Motley Fool imagining a conversation between two hedge fund managers. It tells a pretty accurate, and damning, story of hedge funds’ under-performance, high fees, and general lack of transparency.

Most people, and especially most teachers, don’t personally invest in hedge funds. To them, hedge funds may be some sort of a distant and poorly understood creature of Wall Street. But one of Housel’s hedge fund managers says that, “We’re basically a conduit between public pension funds and Greenwich real estate agents.” The other fellow says “Cheers to that.”

Wait, what? Teacher pension plans are heavily invested in hedge funds? Yes, yes they are. Teacher pension plans and other public-sector pension funds have dramatically ramped up their investments in hedge funds and other forms of private equity over the last 30 years. In fact, pension funds in both the public and private sector are becoming some of the hedge fund industry’s most dependable clients!

Court rules against measure letting Scott Walker halt school administrative rules

Patrick Marley:

Parents of students and members of teachers unions sued Walker over the law as it applied to rules put together by the Department of Public Instruction, which is headed by Evers. Walker is a Republican and Evers is aligned with Democrats, though his post is officially nonpartisan.

The state constitution says that “the supervision of public instruction shall be vested in a state superintendent and such other officers as the Legislature shall direct.” In a 1996 case that the appeals court repeatedly cited, the state Supreme Court held that lawmakers and the governor cannot give “equal or superior authority” over public education to any other official.

The Supreme Court’s ruling found that the state constitution prevented then-Gov. Tommy Thompson from transferring powers from the Department of Public Instruction to a new Department of Education overseen by the governor’s administration.

“In sum, the Legislature has the authority to give, to not give, or to take away (the school superintendent’s) supervisory powers, including rule-making power. What the Legislature may not do is give the (superintendent) a supervisory power relating to education and then fail to maintain the (superintendent’s) supremacy with respect to that power,” Appeals Judge Gary Sherman wrote for the court in Thursday’s decision.

Yet, we have no useful method to track academic progress despite the DPI’s decades long WKCE adventure.

Unanswered questions on student debt and emotional well-being

Beth Akers:

Late last year, researchers at the University of South Carolina and the University of California, Los Angeles, published a report[1] on the relationship between student loan debt and psychological well-being. This study comes in the midst of a plethora of new research attempting to quantify causal relationships between student loan debt and personal outcomes (including home ownership,[2] entrepreneurship and the macro economy). Despite the intense interest in this issue among researchers, this is the first paper that attempts to understand the emotional cost of carrying student loan debt. This question is, in fact, more fundamental than the others being posed in this genre of research, since it could help to explain the mechanism through which debt may be affecting other outcomes. Using a strict classical lens to examine this issue might lead one to conclude that the true cost of carrying debt could be measured in strictly financial terms. However, the widespread and growing discontent among households with student debt paired with the evidence that the financial circumstances of borrowers haven’t radically worsened[3] suggests that an alternate lens may be necessary. In particular, a lens that considers the possibility that student loans take an emotional toll on borrowers, even when wealth is held constant.[4

Ending the Sweetheart Deal between Big-Time College Sports and the Tax System

Richard Schmalbeck:

This paper was prepared for the annual conference of the National Center for Philanthropy and Law, held at the NYU Law School, held October 24-25, 2013. The overall topic was “Tax Issues Affecting Colleges and Universities,” and I was asked to address specifically those issues relating to athletics. This paper considers two specific issues that have in common only that they involve college sports, and are plagued by egregiously bad, (in this case, egregiously generous), tax treatment: the failure of the IRS to regard any part of the revenue from college sports as unrelated business income, and the choice by Congress to allow taxpayers to deduct 80% of contributions that they make to colleges or their “booster clubs,” even when those contributions entitle the donors to special privileges in purchasing tickets to college athletic events.

Most readers are probably familiar with the general rules regarding charitable contributions deductions, but a word about the unrelated business income tax may be helpful. An organization may qualify (or continue to qualify) as a tax-exempt organization, eligible to receive tax-deductible contributions, if its activities are primarily charitable. However, if the organization regularly carries on trade or business activities that are unrelated to its exempt purpose, the income from those activities is subject to federal income taxation at the same rates applicable to for-profit corporations. Although those rates are low for small businesses (those earning less than $75,000 per year), corporate earnings in excess of that amount are taxed at a rate of 34% on up to ten million dollars of income, and 35% beyond that amount. The unrelated business income tax raises very little revenue, but is thought to have an in terrorem effect, discouraging nonprofit organizations from engaging in unrelated business activities. While the unrelated business tax exists primarily because of Congressional concerns about unfair competition with for-profit businesses, a better description of its actual effect is that it discourages nonprofit organizations from pursuit of business activities that do not further any exempt purpose.

2,500 teachers punished in 5 years for sexual misconduct

Associated Press:

Those are the findings of an AP investigation in which reporters sought disciplinary records in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The result is an unprecedented national look at the scope of sex offenses by educators – the very definition of breach of trust.

The seven-month investigation found 2,570 educators whose teaching credentials were revoked, denied, surrendered or sanctioned from 2001 through 2005 following allegations of sexual misconduct.

Young people were the victims in at least 1,801 of the cases, and more than 80 percent of those were students. At least half the educators who were punished by their states also were convicted of crimes related to their misconduct.

The findings draw obvious comparisons to sex abuse scandals in other institutions, among them the Roman Catholic Church. A review by America’s Catholic bishops found that about 4,400 of 110,000 priests were accused of molesting minors from 1950 through 2002.

Clergy abuse is part of the national consciousness after a string of highly publicized cases. But until now, there’s been little sense of the extent of educator abuse.

Beyond the horror of individual crimes, the larger shame is that the institutions that govern education have only sporadically addressed a problem that’s been apparent for years.

“From my own experience – this could get me in trouble – I think every single school district in the nation has at least one perpetrator. At least one,” says Mary Jo McGrath, a California lawyer who has spent 30 years investigating abuse and misconduct in schools. “It doesn’t matter if it’s urban or rural or suburban.”

K-16 Governance: An Oxymoron? Wallace Hall Was Right About UT All Along

Jim Schutze:

When Hall was early on the board, the university revealed to regents there were problems with a large private endowment used to provide off-the-books six-figure “forgivable loans” to certain faculty members, out of sight of the university’s formal compensation system.

Hall wanted to know how big the forgivable loans were and who decided who got them. He wanted to know whose money it was. He was concerned there had to be legal issues with payments to public employees that were not visible to the public.

University of Texas President William Powers painted the law school slush fund as a problem only because it had caused “discord” within the faculty. He vowed to have a certain in-house lawyer get it straightened up. Hall, who thought the matter was more serious and called for a more arms-length investigation and analysis, thought Powers’ approach was too defensive. In particular, Hall didn’t want it left to the investigator Powers had assigned.

“I had issues with that,” Hall says. “I felt that was a bad, bad deal. The man’s a lawyer. He lives in Austin. The people in the foundation are his mentors, some of the best lawyers in the state. They’re wealthy. He’s not going to be in the [university] system forever. He’s going to be looking for a job one day.”
But Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa and other members of the board of regents did not share Hall’s concerns. “I was overruled,” Hall says. “That’s when I first felt like, one, there’s a problem at UT, and, two, the system has set up a scheme that gives the opportunity for a less than robust investigation.”

Since then, the university’s own in-house investigation, which cleared the law school of any real wrongdoing, has been discredited and deep-sixed. The in-house lawyer who did it is no longer on the payroll. The matter has been turned over to the Texas attorney general for a fresh investigation.

The head of the law school has resigned. The president of the university has resigned. Cigarroa has resigned.

Next, Hall questioned claims the university was making about how much money it raised every year. He thought the university was puffing its numbers by counting gifts of software for much more than the software really was worth, making it look as if Powers was doing a better job of fundraising than he really was.

When Hall traveled to Washington, D.C., to consult with the national body that sets rules for this sort of thing, he was accused of ratting out the university — a charge that became part of the basis for subsequent impeachment proceedings. But Hall was right. The university had to mark down its endowment by $215 million.

The really big trouble began in 2013 when Hall said he discovered a back-door black market trade in law school admissions, by which people in positions to do favors for the university, especially key legislators, were able to get their own notably unqualified kids and the notably unqualified kids of friends into UT Law School.

Local education issues that merit attention include:

A. The Wisconsin DPI’s decades long WKCE adventure: “Schools should not rely on only WKCE data to gauge progress of individual students or to determine effectiveness of programs or curriculum”… It is astonishing that we, after decades of DPI spending, have nothing useful to evaluate academic progress. A comparison with other states, including Minnesota and Massachusetts would be rather useful.

B. Susan Troller’s 2010 article: Madison school board member may seek an audit of how 2005 maintenance referendum dollars were spent. A look at local K-12 spending (and disclosure) practices may be useful in light of the planned April, 2015 referendum.

C. Madison’s long term disastrous reading results, despite spending double the national average per student.

D. Teacher preparation standards.

Curated Education Information