Study contends voucher programs save money, benefit public schools

Erin Richards:

Milwaukee’s long-running school voucher program that allows certain children to attend private and religious schools at taxpayer expense has saved Wisconsin more than $238 million since its inception in 1990, according to a new study by a national voucher advocacy group.

The study released Tuesday by the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice said that across the country, publicly funded vouchers to offset tuition for about 70,000 children attending private schools in 10 cities has saved a total of $1.7 billion.

That’s not a surprisingfinding — vouchers are generally lower in cost than public school education.

But the study’s more provocative point is that the savings from those voucher programs in Milwaukee and other cities are passively plowed back into public schools or other public programs.

Author Jeff Spalding, the director of fiscal policy and analysis at the foundation, said he lacks the data to track exactly where those savings went in each state, but said it’s just common sense that government savings from vouchers would naturally flow into other public purposes, such as schools, roads, law enforcement or health care.

Critics pounced on that reasoning, noting that taxpayer dollars to private schools in the form of vouchers siphon resources away from the public schools.

Also, the study predates new rules in Wisconsin that allowed more students to use vouchers, both by expanding the Milwaukee program and establishing the Racine and statewide private-school voucher programs.

The statewide program is now funding vouchers predominantly for students who were already attending those private schools.

Related: Comparing Milwaukee Public and Voucher Schools’ Per Student Spending
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Commission: Evaluate some home-schooled kids for emotional issues (!)

Ken Dixon:

Parents who home-school children with significant emotional, social or behavioral problems would have to file progress reports prepared by special education program teams, under a proposal being considered by the governor’s Sandy Hook Advisory Commission.

Commission members acknowledged Tuesday that the proposal, contained in a tentative section of the panel’s final report, could be controversial and prompt opposition from parents of home-schooled children across the state.

But the commission, which is preparing its final report to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, said tighter scrutiny of home-schoolers may be needed to prevent an incident such as the December 2012 slaughter of 20 first-graders and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown. The murders were carried out by Adam Lanza, a disturbed 20-year-old who had been home-schooled by his mother, Nancy Lanza, whom he also shot to death on the morning of his murder spree.

On Math Education: JFK, the Beatles and Getting Back in the Swing of Things

Barry Garelick, via a kind email:

After my assignment at the high school I took on various short-term sub assignments. These seemed relatively straightforward compared to the difficulties I had been through. In fact, I was reluctant to start subbing at first, but after the first few times, I started to regain my confidence.

I had applied to various full time jobs for teachers and was waiting to hear. As the school year approached November and I was subbing more, the TV and the internet were full of discussions about the JFK assassination, which was approaching its 50 year anniversary. Like most people, I recall what I was doing at the infamous moment: I was taking a Spanish test. I remember girls in the class crying, and later, when passing in the hall, seeing the woodworking/drafting teacher outside his classroom, seemingly distant, whistling “Hail to the Chief ”.

I continued to sub, and by January, TV and the internet were focusing on the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ appearance on Ed Sullivan. While Kennedy’s assassination is irrevocably linked in my mind to a Spanish test, the Beatles’ U.S. debut is linked to Mr. Dombey’s algebra class where I recall many discussions about the Beatles taking place. I can recall both the Kennedy assassination and the Beatles on Ed Sullivan with complete and unrelenting clarity.

By the third week in January, I was eating lunch during a sub assignment, and was at a point where I had accepted that my age was probably preventing me from being hired as a full time teacher. At that moment, my wife called me on the cell phone to tell me that the principal of the Lawrence Middle School was desperately trying to reach me, and that they had a long-term sub assignment for teaching math.

Madison Teachers, Inc. Recertification Campaign

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

As previously reported, Governor Walker’s Act 10 requires public sector unions, except police & fire, to participate in an annual recertification election to enable Union members to retain representation by their Union. The election by all MTI-represented District employees will be conducted between November 5 and November 25, via telephone or on-line balloting (details forthcoming when received from the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission).

MTI Faculty Representatives and EA Building Representatives at every school/work location have been asked to recruit colleagues to assist in building awareness of the importance of the recertification election, and to make sure that staff at their school/work location VOTE in the recertification elections.

These individuals are being referred to as MTI Member Organizers and will be essential to successful recertification elections. The Union needs Member Organizers from every bargaining unit (MTI, SEE-MTI, EA-MTI, SSA-MTI & USO-MTI). Retired union members are also encouraged to assist in organizing. Assuring that each and every person vote is of great importance, because Act 10 requires that to win recertification, the Union must win 51% of all eligible voters.

If you are willing to support your Union by serving as a Member Organizer, or have additional questions about what this entails, see your MTI Faculty Representative/EA-MTI Building Representative, or contact MTI Assistant Director Doug Keillor (keillord@madisonteachers.org; 257-0491). Additional information will also be available at a MTI Member Organizer Q & A Session on Saturday, October 4, from 10:00-11:30 a.m., at MTI Headquarters.

Reasons for Recertification #2: Preserving and Protecting Your Collective Bargaining Agreements – MTI has successfully negotiated Collective Bargaining Agreements which preserve the vast majority of Contract rights and benefits for both the 2014-15 and 2015-16 school years and provide the Union the means to enforce those rights and benefits.

Madison Schools’ Mental Health Programs Cheered

Kelly Meyerhoffer:

Eight years ago, a community health report from the Fox Valley uncovered an alarming trend among local high school students: one in four reported experiencing depression, and more than one in 10 had attempted suicide.

An experiment soon followed that placed licensed therapists with expertise in children’s mental health in elementary, middle and high schools.

“We decided if students had trouble making their appointment (at community clinics), let’s bring the appointment to them,” said Mary Wisnet, one of the program’s officers.

Parenting as a Gen Xer: We’re the first generation of parents in the age of iEverything

Allison Slater Tate:

On the days that I drive the middle school carpool, I purposely choose a route that takes us past a huge river. Some mornings, the water looks like glass; others, it reflects the moody clouds above with choppy waves – either way, it’s gorgeous. Every time we drive past it, I point it out to my car full of 12-year-olds: “Look at the water today. Isn’t it beautiful?” No one in the car looks up. They are all looking down at their phones, playing games with each other, texting a friend or watching a YouTube video. Sometimes, if I am lucky, I will get a mercy grunt out of one or two of them in reply.

It struck me recently, after one of my quiet carpool rides, that my generation of parents – we of the soon-to-be or recently 40 year old Gen X variety, the former latchkey children of the Cold War and an MTV that actually played videos, former Atari-owners who were raised by the the Cosby Show and John Hughes, graduated high school with the kids from 90210, then lumbered through our 20s with Rachel, Ross, Chandler, Monica, Phoebe, and Joey and flip phones – is perhaps the last to straddle a life experience both with and without the Internet and all its social media marvels. After all, I didn’t even learn to use e-mail until I was 19 and a sophomore in college in 1993, and only for a slightly cringe-worthy reason: a cute boy at another college asked me to e-mail him.

How college ed programs try, fail to recruit teachers of color

Andre Perry:

Nationally, black males account for 2 percent of the teacher population. Blacks in total represent 8 percent of all teachers; Latinos, 7 percent; and Asians, 2 percent. My 3-year-old son could have approximately 50 different teachers by the time he graduates from high school. How many times should he expect to see an African American male teacher before graduation? This is a “Common Core” question I struggle with.

In a seminar titled, “How Do We Get More Black Male Teachers in America’s Classrooms?” At the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s 44th Annual Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C., an audience member asked, “Are colleges even recruiting black male teachers?” As someone who is charged with building a teacher prep program, I can say most universities aren’t built to recruit from black communities.

Black and brown people represent 30 percent of the population. But they represent 15 percent of teachers, and that figure is in decline. Woodrow Wilson reports that if current trends hold, the percentage of teachers of color will fall to an all-time low of 5 percent by 2020. But today for the first time in American history, the majority of public school students are of color.

Banking’s future: Goodbye credit cards, hello social media probes

CNBC:

Advancements in technology will make banking very personal within the next decade—it may require your eye or finger to pay for shopping and your social network profile may determine your access to credit, the Daily Mail reports.

Banks may request access to clients’ Facebook account and see whether users have a stable friends network—a sign they may be less of a credit risk than users who change friends frequently, financial technology expert Gi Fernando told the Daily Mail.

Freshman; Here are the Friends We Want You to Have

Adam Kissel:

For years, some colleges assigned new students roommates from different regions, races or classes. The idea, not very controversial, was to broaden the horizons of freshmen.

Now a more intrusive version of that plan has turned up via the University of Denver, where the chancellor believes a bit of social engineering will push students toward a diverse range of friendships. The chancellor, Rebecca Chopp, argued, “I don’t think it is enough to leave new relationships to chance. … Let’s cultivate practices in which students make friends not by chance but because we are cultivating friendships around community values.”

This idea does not always go well. In 2006, the University of Delaware infamously issued before-and-after surveys to find out whether students had become more willing to date people of any gender, race, ethnicity, or religion following the Office of Residence Life’s intervention, which it called a “treatment.”

State, local laws force public employees to pay labor unions

Jason Hart:

Nearly half of all U.S. states allow public-sector union contracts to require mandatory dues as a condition of employment, based on a review of U.S. Department of Labor records, state labor laws and a National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation study from 2012.

Many of these states and local governments automatically deduct union fees from public employees’ pay, funneling taxpayer money directly to labor bosses.

Although Missouri and Kentucky do not explicitly ban public-sector agency fees, DOL reports indicate no major labor union in either state takes such fees from government workers. Among the states where agency fees are permitted, statutes governing the practice are far from uniform.

Wisconsin’s 2011 Act 10 labor reforms ending forced unionism for most government workers exempted public safety unions. Michigan’s 2012 right-to-work law included similar exceptions for public safety unions.

The Manipulators: Facebook’s Social Engineering Project

Nicholas Carr:

SINCE THE LAUNCH of Netscape and Yahoo! 20 years ago, the development of the internet has been a story of new companies and new products, a story shaped largely by the interests of entrepreneurs and venture capitalists. The plot has been linear; the pace, relentless. In 1995 came Amazon and Craigslist; in 1997, Google and Netflix; in 1999, Napster and Blogger; in 2001, iTunes; in 2003, MySpace; in 2004, Facebook; in 2005, YouTube; in 2006, Twitter; in 2007, the iPhone and the Kindle; in 2008, Airbnb; in 2010, Instagram; in 2011, Snapchat; in 2012, Coursera; in 2013, Google Glass. It has been a carnival ride, and we, the public, have been the giddy passengers.

This year something changed. The big news about the net came not in the form of buzzy startups or cool gadgets, but in the shape of two dry, arcane documents. One was a scientific paper describing an experiment in which researchers attempted to alter the moods of Facebook users by secretly manipulating the messages they saw. The other was a ruling by the European Union’s highest court granting citizens the right to have outdated or inaccurate information about them erased from Google and other search engines. Both documents provoked consternation, anger, and argument. Both raised important, complicated issues without resolving them. Arriving in the wake of revelations about the NSA’s online spying operation, both seemed to herald, in very different ways, a new stage in the net’s history — one in which the public will be called upon to guide the technology, rather than the other way around. We may look back on 2014 as the year the internet began to grow up.

Academia or industry

Daniel Lemire:

Tenure is overrated. Most folks in industry that have worked just as hard as tenured professors, have savings, reputation and skills that are in demand. But if you are risk averse, then a government job is also quite safe even if you don’t formally have tenure. And academics with tenure lose their jobs all the time. There is always a clause saying that under “financial hardship” management can dismiss professors. And even with tenure, you still have to justify your job, constantly. If you create trouble, people can make your life hell. If you fail, people can humiliate you publicly. If you get into a fight with a tenured colleague, the fight can last decades and be unpleasant.

It is a lot easier to move back and forth between these occupations that people make it out to be. So while you can’t go back in time per se, professors move to industry all the time, and vice versa. To a point, you can even do both. It is not difficult to get some kind of honorary position with a research institute when you work in industry.

Student Course Evaluations Get An ‘F’

Anya Kamenetz:

At Denny’s, diners are asked to fill out comment cards. How was your meal? Were you satisfied with the quality of service? Were the restrooms clean?

In universities around the world, semesters end with students filling out similar surveys about their experience in the class and the quality of the teacher.

Student ratings are high-stakes. They come up when faculty are being considered for tenure or promotions. In fact, they’re often the only method a university uses to monitor the quality of teaching.

Recently, a number of faculty members have been publishing research showing that the comment-card approach may not be the best way to measure the central function of higher education.

Philip Stark is the chairman of the statistics department at the University of California, Berkeley. “I’ve been teaching at Berkeley since 1988, and the reliance on teaching evaluations has always bothered me,” he says.

Stark is the co-author of “An Evaluation of Course Evaluations,” a new paper that explains some of the reasons why.

Why Academics Stink at Writing

Steven Pinker:

Together with wearing earth tones, driving Priuses, and having a foreign policy, the most conspicuous trait of the American professoriate may be the prose style called academese. An editorial cartoon by Tom Toles shows a bearded academic at his desk offering the following explanation of why SAT verbal scores are at an all-time low: “Incomplete implementation of strategized programmatics designated to maximize acquisition of awareness and utilization of communications skills pursuant to standardized review and assessment of languaginal development.” In a similar vein, Bill Watterson has the 6-year-old Calvin titling his homework assignment “The Dynamics of Inter­being and Monological Imperatives in Dick and Jane: A Study in Psychic Transrelational Gender Modes,” and exclaiming to Hobbes, his tiger companion, “Academia, here I come!”

No honest professor can deny that there’s something to the stereotype. When the late Denis Dutton (founder of the Chronicle-owned Arts & Letters Daily) ran an annual Bad Writing Contest to celebrate “the most stylistically lamentable passages found in scholarly books and articles,” he had no shortage of nominations, and he awarded the prizes to some of academe’s leading lights.

A story about Jessica

Swift in Security

I want you to imagine someone for me. Her name is Jessica and she is 17 years old. She lives in a two bedroom apartment with her mother and uses an old laptop she got from one of her mom’s ex boyfriends. With it, she browses the portals that serve as her connection to the community constructed around attending the same high school. She is concerned with boys and love and the next rent payment keeping her and her mother in the apartment.
She doesn’t have the money for a new laptop. She doesn’t have the money to upgrade it, either. She doesn’t even know how you do that. She has other interests, like biology. She just worries about how she would pay for college, if she can keep her grades up enough to get a scholarship somehow.
The only person she knows in her whole life that’s good with computers is Josh, in English class. She knows she needs an antivirus, so she asks him. He gives her an option that costs $50 a year, but he notices her sudden discomfort and kindly mentions about an antivirus that’s free. When she goes home she downloads and installs it. It took some effort and it seemed complicated and took awhile, but there was now a reassuring new icon in the bottom right of her screen that says “Protected” when she hovers the mouse icon thing over it.

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

Pioneer Institute via a kind Richard Phelps email:

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

Lower standards, alignment of SAT to Common Core likely to hurt low-income students the most

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

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

“The only higher education involvement was from institutions that agreed to place any students who pass Common Core-based tests in high school into credit-bearing college courses,” said Phelps. “The guarantee came in return for states’ hoped-for receipt of federal ‘Race to the Top’ grant funding.” “Many students will fail those courses – until they’re watered down,” he added.

Perhaps the greatest harm to higher education will come from the College Board’s decision to align its SAT tests with Common Core. The SAT has historically been an aptitude test – one designed to predict college success. But the new test would become an achievement test – a retrospective assessment designed to measure mastery of high school material. Many high-achieving countries administer a retrospective test for high school graduation and a predictive college entrance examination.

Much more on the Common Core, here.

Leveled reading: The making of a literacy myth

Robert Pondiscio & Kevin Mahnken, via a kind reader’s email:

Among opponents of the Common Core, one of the more popular targets of vitriol is the standards’ focus on improving literacy by introducing higher levels of textual complexity into the instructional mix. The move to challenge students with more knotty, grade-level reading material represents a shift away from decades of general adherence to so-called “instructional level theory,” which encourages children to read texts pitched at or slightly above the student’s individual reading level. New York public school principal Carol Burris, an outspoken standards critic and defender of leveled reading, recently published an anti-Common Core missive on the Washington Post’s Answer Sheet blog that was fairly typical of the form. Where, she wondered, “is the research to support: close reading, increased Lexile levels, the use of informational texts, and other questionable practices in the primary grades?”

The blog post, which has already been intelligently critiqued by Ann Whalen at Education Post, expanded on remarks delivered by Burris earlier this month at an Intelligence Squared U.S. debate with Fordham president Michael Petrilli and former assistant secretary of education Carmel Martin. There, too, she demanded evidence of literacy improvements arising from the use of complex texts.

A fair request and one that warrants a thorough response. But first, for the benefit of readers who are neither teachers nor literacy specialists, a quick explainer on how these two theories of reading work: In leveled reading, a teacher listens as her student reads a piece of text at a given reading level. If the child makes two-to-five mistakes per one hundred words, that is considered her “instructional” level. Zero or one mistakes means the book is too easy; six or more mistakes and that level is deemed her “frustration” level. Children are then offered lots of books at their “just right” level on the theory that if they read extensively and independently, language growth and reading proficiency will follow, setting the child on a slow and steady climb through higher reading levels. It sounds logical, and, as we will see, there are definite benefits to getting kids to read a lot independently.

By marked contrast, Common Core asks teachers to think carefully about what children read and choose grade-level texts that use sophisticated language or make significant knowledge demands of the reader (teachers should also be prepared, of course, to offer students support as they grapple with challenging books). Instead of asking, “Can the child read this?” the question might be, “Is this worth reading?”

Leveled reading is intuitive and smartly packaged (who wants kids to read “frustration level” books?), but its evidence base is remarkably thin. There is much stronger research support for teaching reading with complex texts.

What’s the source of the blind faith that Burris and others have in leveled reading instruction? “In the decades before Common Core, an enormous amount of the instruction in American elementary and middle schools has been with leveled text,” says David Liben, a veteran teacher and Senior Content Specialist at Student Achievement Partners. “The generally poor performance of our children on international comparisons speaks volumes about its effectiveness. To become proficient, students need to have the opportunity to read, with necessary support, rich complex text. But they also need to read—especially if they are behind—a huge volume and range of text types just as called for in the standards.” Students could read many of these less complex texts independently. “Instruction with complex text at all times is not what is called for, even by Common Core advocates,” Liben takes care to note.

Burris and others, however, offer a reflexive defense of leveled instruction. At the Intelligence Squared event, she claimed that “We know from years of developmental reading research that kids do best when they read independently with leveled readers.” Such surety is belied by a surprising lack of rigorous evidence. Literacy blogger Timothy Shanahan, a Distinguished Professor Emeritus of urban education at the University of Illinois at Chicago, recently detailed his discovery of the inauspicious origins of instructional level theory as a young scholar.

Made famous in Emmett Betts’s influential, now-little-remembered 1946 textbook Foundations of Reading Instruction, leveled reading theory actually emerged from a more obscure study conducted by one of Betts’s doctoral students. “I tracked down that dissertation and to my dismay it was evident that they had just made up those designations without any empirical evidence,” Shanahan wrote. When the study—which had in effect never been conducted—was “replicated,” it yielded wildly different results. In other words, there was no study, and later research failed to show the benefits of leveling. “Basically we have put way too much confidence in an unproven theory,” Shanahan concluded.

A pdf version of the post is available here, via a kind reader.

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

The Source of Bad Writing

Steven Pinker:

Why is so much writing so bad? Why is it so hard to understand a government form, or an academic article or the instructions for setting up a wireless home network?

The most popular explanation is that opaque prose is a deliberate choice. Bureaucrats insist on gibberish to cover their anatomy. Plaid-clad tech writers get their revenge on the jocks who kicked sand in their faces and the girls who turned them down for dates. Pseudo-intellectuals spout obscure verbiage to hide the fact that they have nothing to say, hoping to bamboozle their audiences with highfalutin gobbledygook.

But the bamboozlement theory makes it too easy to demonize other people while letting ourselves off the hook. In explaining any human shortcoming, the first tool I reach for is Hanlon’s Razor: Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity. The kind of stupidity I have in mind has nothing to do with ignorance or low IQ; in fact, it’s often the brightest and best informed who suffer the most from it.

I once attended a lecture on biology addressed to a large general audience at a conference on technology, entertainment and design. The lecture was also being filmed for distribution over the Internet to millions of other laypeople. The speaker was an eminent biologist who had been invited to explain his recent breakthrough in the structure of DNA. He launched into a jargon-packed technical presentation that was geared to his fellow molecular biologists, and it was immediately apparent to everyone in the room that none of them understood a word and he was wasting their time. Apparent to everyone, that is, except the eminent biologist. When the host interrupted and asked him to explain the work more clearly, he seemed genuinely surprised and not a little annoyed. This is the kind of stupidity I am talking about.

Democracy Requires a Patriotic Education The Athenians knew it. Jefferson knew it. Somehow we have forgotten: Civic devotion, instilled at school, is essential to a good society.

Donald Kagan:

What is an education for? It is a question seldom investigated thoroughly. The ancient philosophers had little doubt: They lived in a city-state whose success and very existence depended on the willingness of citizens to overcome the human tendency to seek their individual, self-interested goals and to make the sacrifices needed for the community’s well-being. Their idea of education, therefore, was moral and civic, not merely instrumental. They reasoned that if a state or community is to be good, its citizens must be good, so they aimed at an education that would produce virtuous people and good citizens.

Some two thousand years later, from the 16th through the 18th centuries, a different group of philosophers in Italy, England and France introduced a powerful new idea. Their world was dominated by ambitious princes and kings who were rapidly asserting ever greater authority over the lives of their people and trampling on the traditional expectations of individuals and communities. In the philosophers’ view, every human being was naturally endowed with three essential rights: to defend his life, liberty and lawfully acquired property.

The responsibility of the state, therefore, was limited and largely negative: to protect the people from external enemies and not to interfere with the rights of individual citizens. Suspicious of the claims of church and state to inculcate virtue as mere devices to serve the selfish interests of their rulers, most philosophers of the Enlightenment believed that moral and civic instruction was not the business of the state.

For School Tests, Measures to Detect Cheating Proliferate

Cameron McWhirter & Caroline Porter:

A scandal that has enveloped the public-school system here for years is transforming how educators across the country are approaching test security, giving rise to a burgeoning industry in detecting cheating on standardized exams.

School districts from Delaware to Idaho are employing tactics such as hiring anti-cheating consultants, buying software to spot wrongdoers, and requiring testing companies to offer anti-cheating plans when seeking contracts.

“Nobody wants to be Atlanta,” said Gregory Cizek, a professor at the University of North Carolina’s School of Education and an expert on the prevention of cheating in tests.

Opening arguments have been scheduled to begin next week in the conspiracy trial of former educators in the Atlanta school system, one of the nation’s largest. In 2011, special investigators found widespread cheating on state standardized tests by Atlanta educators. The report said teachers altered students’ answers in response to pressure from then Superintendent Beverly Hall’s administration to show an improvement in the district’s scores, or face discipline or lower pay.

K-12 tax & spending climate: Middle-class families struggling with accelerating costs

Christopher S. Rugaber:

Three years ago, Jason Prosser was stunned to discover the cost of child care for his newborn son — so much so that he and his wife postponed having a second child.

The day care center they found near their Seattle home tops $10,000 a year. Next year, their son, now 3, can attend a Catholic preschool less than half as costly.

“It’ll be nice to have enough relief next year,” Prosser said. “It’s just funny that the relief will be a private school.”

He and his wife are among legions of middle-class families who are straining under the weight of accelerating costs for a range of essential services from day care to health care. And now a study by the Center for American Progress shows just how heavy the burden has grown: For a typical married couple with two children, the combined cost of child care, housing, health care and savings for college and retirement jumped 32% from 2000 to 2012 — and that’s after adjusting for inflation.

Compounding the pain is that average pay for Americans is barely topping inflation.

The figures help explain why many Americans feel stressed even as the economy has strengthened — and why some feel bewildered to hear that overall inflation in the United States is, if anything, too low.

From TVs, computers and cellphones to clothing and cars, many goods have dropped in price in the past decade. Those declining prices have helped keep overall inflation historically low — even lower than the 2% the Federal Reserve thinks is ideal.

Yet when you consider that average health care and college costs rocketed more than 80% from 2000 to 2012, it’s easier to understand why many families feel they are struggling.

Building a Library a Day

Ramesh Menon:

Rural entrepreneur and Pune based activist Pradeep Lokhande is a man in a hurry. In the last 675 days he has set up 1,255 school libraries — almost two every day. He is convinced that education is the key to building a new India and helping millions contribute to the nation’s development in whatever way they can.

With a systematic plan in place, Lokhande has set up libraries in rural schools of Maharashtra, one each day. Till now, he has managed to set up over 1,500 such libraries. Many of these schools did not even have the basic infrastructure to start with. By October 2014, he would have set up over 3,000 libraries in as many rural secondary schools of Maharashtra that will benefit around 850,000 rural secondary school students.

“We will get into the Guinness Book of World Records,” says his daughter Kadambari with a smile, as she actively helps him in this revolutionary effort. Encouraged and fulfilled, Pradeep Lokhande now wants to spread the movement to other parts of India. His near-future plan includes Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, before panning out into nearly 85,000 villages of India in other states.

The genesis

As an entrepreneur working on research for companies wanting to market in rural areas, something like this had never crossed his mind. But in 2009, feeling an urge to give back to society, he travelled around rural areas of Maharashtra with his wife Seemantini to ascertain what they could do to drive change.

Show and Tell on your college applications

Richard Perez-Pena:

Madeline McDonough had a wistful “what if?” moment, pondering the offer that her school, Goucher College, has made to applicants: Instead of showing us your grades, send us a video.

“I really wish there had been options like that when I was applying to college,” said Ms. McDonough, 19, a junior studying sociology. “I didn’t have the best numbers, and I was stressed, worrying about how to show that I deserved the same opportunities as anyone else.”

Under the policy announced this month by Goucher, a 1,400-student liberal arts college near Baltimore, a prospective student may apply by submitting two pieces of work (at least one of them a graded high school writing assignment) and a two-minute video, rather than a high school transcript. José A. Bowen, Goucher’s new president, readily admits that he has no idea how many applicants will go that route, how many will be accepted or whether they will work out

Adult Employment and Empty Milwaukee Public Schools’ Buildings

Erin Richards:

Spurred by a deal gone sour between Milwaukee Public Schools and the developer commissioned to renovate one of its empty buildings — a deal that kept a private school from buying the facility — Common Council President Michael Murphy has introduced an ordinance that would position the city to take charge and sell unused MPS property.

“The state granted us the authority to sell these properties, and I’m going to recommend a process for that to occur,” Murphy said.

The proposed ordinance comes on the heels of the latest twist in the Malcolm X Academy development deal: A School Board decision to cut ties with the developer and renovate part of the building for a new school on its own, but not before paying for work performed so far that the districts pegs at a little under $500,000 — though the developer says it’s owed closer to $1 million for its time and products.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said he’s not pleased with the way the Malcolm X development deal has gone, especially since the city played a significant role in improving the initial proposal from MPS.

“I’m not happy at all that taxpayers are on the hook for these development costs,” Barrett said. “The city has the responsibility to put these buildings to their highest and best use.”

And state lawmakers Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) and Rep. Joe Sanfelippo (R-West Allis) — perennial advocates of selling MPS property to non-district school operators — also weighed in, saying that the Legislature should try again in the next session to pass a law that would more forcefully compel the City of Milwaukee to sell MPS property.

They reiterated their view that the Malcolm X deal was phony from the start, designed by MPS to simply block St. Marcus Lutheran School from buying the building and expanding to serve more students.

Stop running the system for the sake of the system.

A focus on adult employment.

College Enrollment Declines for Second Year in a Row, Census Bureau Reports

United States Census:

College enrollment declined by close to half a million (463,000) between 2012 and 2013, marking the second year in a row that a drop of this magnitude has occurred. The cumulative two-year drop of 930,000 was larger than any college enrollment drop before the recent recession, according to U.S. Census Bureau statistics from the Current Population Survey released today. The Census Bureau began collecting data on college enrollment in this survey in 1966.

As the nation’s students and teachers return to the classroom, the Census Bureau has published School Enrollment in the United States: 2013, detailing national-level statistics on the characteristics of students, from nursery school to graduate school. The data were collected in the October School Enrollment Supplement to the 2013 Current Population Survey.

“The drop-off in total college enrollment the last two years follows a period of expansion: between 2006 and 2011, college enrollment grew by 3.2 million,” said Kurt Bauman, chief of the Census Bureau’s Education and Social Stratification Branch. “This level of growth exceeded the total enrollment increase of the previous 10 years combined (2.0 million from 1996 to 2006).”

As recruiting intensifies, UW-Platteville grows enrollment

Karen Herzog:

The fastest-growing campus in the University of Wisconsin System has set another record for fall enrollment, thanks in large part to an initiative that capitalizes on its proximity to Iowa and Illinois.

UW-Platteville is effectively drawing students from three states with strategic pricing and a smaller campus that appeals to those who don’t want to study engineering or another high-demand field at a big school.

Nestled in southwestern Wisconsin about 20 miles from the Iowa and Illinois borders, the school known for engineering has figured out how to increase both enrollment and revenue while state support for higher education is waning and declining birthrates that began 20 years ago are making the competition for high school graduates stiffer.

Meanwhile, UW-Madison this week reported flat preliminary fall enrollment numbers. Several other UW System campuses saw fall enrollments creep up, and UW-Milwaukee reported it has reversed a seven-year decline in freshmen enrollment with stepped-up recruiting efforts.

How many young women can a school legally punish for dress code violations?

Jessica Valenti:

In the last few weeks, almost 200 students – almost all of them female – at Tottenville High School in Staten Island, New York have been given detention over dress code violations. Many of the young women showed back up to school in crop tops and tank tops, deliberately breaking the code in protest.

But what makes an outfit inappropriate? A peek of shoulder? An inch of midriff? Or maybe it’s just being young and female that school administrators find offensive. Because while these school dress codes are supposed to address both female and male students, it’s predominantly girls who are targeted as “violators” – and that could be a violation of federal law.

In a statement, Tottenville High School Superintendent Aimee Horowitz said in schools that don’t have uniform requirements “students have the right to determine their own dress except where such dress creates a distraction, is dangerous or interferes with the learning and teaching process.”

The Tottenville students’ outrage comes on the heels of a high school girl in Florida being made to wear a “shame suit” for breaking her school’s dress code and a middle schoolers in Illinois protesting their schools ban on leggings.

Success still evasive, but Howard Fuller remains warrior in education

Alan Borsuk:

In his last days as superintendent of Milwaukee Public Schools in 1995, Howard Fuller went to visit an elementary school on the northwest side. He pledged when he became head of the system in 1991 to visit every school in MPS and, after almost four years, this was the only one he hadn’t been to.

It was a nice visit. The staff was welcoming, the kids were cute, the school seemed to be running well.

But achievement wasn’t good and whatever it might take to change that, there was little reason to think it was going to happen at this school.

As we drove away, Fuller was pensive. He wondered out loud what happens that makes eager kids like these turn out so often to have sour conclusions to their education.

I told him my take on what he was thinking was this: Something different needed to happen, he didn’t know what it was, but he knew these kids needed it. So try different things, most anything, to see if they work. Put the desks on the ceiling, see if it improves things, as I put it.

Fuller laughed. Yes, he said. There have to be better ways. But what are they?

Guilty until proven innocent: How letting my kid play alone outside led to a CPS investigation

Kari Ann Roy:

Monday. Late-morning. Hotter than hot.

Not even 24 hours home from vacation, and I was going through the piles of mail. There was a knock at the door, which was weird because no one ever knocks on our door unless it’s the UPS guy, and he doesn’t come until dinnertime. Corralling the crazy barky dog, I looked out the front-door window and saw a woman I did not know — and my 6-year-old.

I whipped the door open, trying to figure out what was happening. The woman smiled. My son frowned. And as soon as the door opened he flew into the house, running as far away from the woman as he could.

Online Learning is Just as Effective as Traditional Education, According to a New MIT Study

Lauren Landry:

More than 7.1 million students are currently taking at least one online course. Despite the apparent popularity, however, educators have given the trend low marks.

But a new study from MIT suggests naysayers should think otherwise. Massive open online courses are not only effective, researchers have discovered, they are as effective as what’s being traditionally taught in the classroom — regardless of how prepared or in the know students are.

Researchers’ findings have been published in the International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, and co-author David Pritchard, MIT’s Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Physics, knows they will be controversial.

“A number of well-known educators have said there isn’t going to be much learning in MOOCs,” said Pritchard to MIT News, “or if there is, it will be for people who are already well-educated.”

The group, comprised of researchers from MIT, Harvard and Tsinghua University, completed a before-and-after test on students taking “Mechanics ReView,” an introductory mechanics course offered on massive open online learning platform edX. Researchers then conducted a similar test on students taking the class residentially, discovering:

Madison School Board Member & Gubernatorial Candidate Mary Burke Apologizes to Neenah’s Superintendent over Act 10 Remarks

The Neenah Superintendent wrote a letter to Madison School Board Member & Gubernatorial Candidate Mary Burke on 19 September.

Ms. Burke recently apologized for her Act 10 remarks:

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke has apologized to the superintendent of the Neenah school district for comments she made on the campaign trail.

Burke had been citing the district as an example of negative effects she says have been caused in Wisconsin schools by the law known as Act 10 that effectively ended collective bargaining for teachers.

District administrator Mary Pfeiffer said Friday that Burke reached out to her on Wednesday and apologized by phone. Pfeiffer says Burke agreed not to use Neenah as an example again.

Neenah Superintendent Dr. Mary Pfeiffer’s letter to Mary Burke, via a kind reader (PDF):

Neenah Joint School District
410 South Commercial Street
Neenah, WI 54956
Tel: (920) 751-6800
Fax: (920) 751-6809

Burke for Wisconsin
PO Box 2479
Madison, WI 53701
September 19, 2014

Dear Ms. Burke,

On behalf of the Neenah Joint School District I would like to express my disappointment regarding your use of our District as an example of your perceived negative impact of Act 10 on education as reported by John McCormack in the Weekly Standard and at least one additional news publication in the Green Bay Press-Gazette.

In your position as a Madison school board member, I’m sure you’ve seen that Act 10 has created a variety of challenges for school districts across Wisconsin, but I’m sure you’ve also seen plenty of positives as well. It is unfair and misleading to claim that Act 10 is the primary reason why one specific candidate chose to accept a position in Minnesota over an opening in the Neenah Joint School District. There are many reasons why candidates choose to work in other districts and certainly some effects of Act 10 may factor into those decisions. However, to make a blanket statement that Act 10 is the reason why teachers are leaving school districts in Wisconsin (in this case the Neenah Joint School District), especially by citing only one candidate’s decision to go elsewhere, is an unfortunate exaggeration at best.

We are extremely proud of our schools in Neenah and incredibly proud of the staff we have assembled both prior to and since the passage of Act 10. We have never settled with an inferior candidate to fill a position and will never do that to our students or families.

Since you have not reached out to me to learn more about our District, I will provide to you some data points that you might find revealing about why we continue to be a high performing District in Wisconsin.

Since Act 10, we have faced, and met, the difficult challenges necessary to support student learning while retaining our excellent staff.

we have significantly reduced an unsustainable $184 million unfunded liability regarding our Other Post Employment Benefits (OPEB). Meanwhile, we still provide all of our most veteran employees a $100,000 retirement benefit. New employees are also provided OPEB benefits and that is something most districts have eliminated. As you are aware, this is in addition to the state retirement benefit.

we have reduced class sizes and increased the number of our certified staff.

we have had no certified staff (teacher) layoffs since Act 10.

our school board has supported pools of dollars for 2% salary increases (above the CPI) and 2% one-time stipend awards every year for all employee groups for a total of4%.

over the past two years, 57 certified staff members have received a $5,000 or more increase in their salary.

more than 33% of certified staff received a 3% or higher salary increase in 2013-14,

with 6% of them receiving a 6% increase or higher.

our insurance costs are the lowest in our area.

we have no long-term debt.

our mill rate remains the lowest in our area at $8.53 and a decrease for the third consecutive year.

I respectfully ask that you stop using Neenah as an example of the negative ramifications of Act 10. This request has nothing to do with my personal feelings or political stance. It is about a dedicated staff that is proud to work in Neenah. I would be p1eased to speak with you further about this issue.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

Dr. Mary Pfeiffer ~
Superintendent of Schools
Neenah Joint School District
Copy: Neenah Joint School District Board of Education Members

Act 10 notes and links.

Neenah plans to spend $80,479,210 for 6,226 students (DPI) during the 2014-2015 school year, or $12,926 per student (PDF Document). Ms. Burke’s Madison School Board plans to spend more than $15,000 per student during the same period, 16% more than Neenah.

Plenty of Resources“.

Pub school teachers earn 21% more than pvt school teachers, on average. Both earn less than other comparable workers

Bureau of Labor Statistics:

A study using Current Population Survey data shows that, from 1996 to 2012, elementary, middle, and high school teachers earned less than other college graduates, but the gap was smaller for public school teachers and smaller still if they had union representation; moreover, the mitigating effects are stronger for female than male teachers, so the within-gender pay gaps are much larger for male teachers.

The current school choice debate has many possible consequences, not just for students, but also for teachers. Broadly speaking, schools are either publicly or privately funded. Public schools are funded by the government through federal, state, and local taxes, and most are part of a larger school system. Elected school board members and education officials implement and oversee strict rules and procedures that public schools must follow. Private schools do not receive government money and thus have to raise their own funds. Private school officials may have more leeway to run schools as they see fit, but funders and others may play a significant administrative role.

Given the proliferation in school privatization, this article analyzes the fundamental differences between the two sectors with regard to teacher staffing and pay disparities. We employ the Current Population Survey (CPS) to document differences between teachers in the two sectors with regard to unionization density, gender and race or ethnicity, educational attainment, and relative pay gaps between public and private sector teachers and between both and other college graduates.

The debate about school privatization and the push toward both publicly and privately funded charter schools should include differences in teacher staffing and relative pay by school ownership. Staffing and pay differences across type of ownership may be due to or may influence factors such as teacher cohesion and student achievement. For example, teachers may trade off between pay and safer schools or smaller class sizes. (The pupil–teacher ratio in 2010 was 16.0 for public schools and 12.2 for private schools.)1 Or it could be that lower paid teachers desire to work at higher paying schools but competition prevents them from finding such employment.

Reframing the Common Core discussion: A battle for our freedom

Laurie Rogers, via a kind email:

“To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize.” – Voltaire
“The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those who speak it.” – George Orwell

If I were to build a list of the worst systemic problems in public education, the Common Core State Standards would not be at the top of the list. The Common Core (CCSS) is a huge problem, to be sure. It’s dictatorial, inadequate, experimental, expensive, developmentally inappropriate, politically infused – it’s nearly everything critics have said it is. But it isn’t the worst problem we face.

That dishonor goes to The Network, a moniker I’ve given to the conglomeration of corporate and government interests (and their allies) that have seized control of America’s classrooms. The Network is huge – containing most of the K-12 education mob, plus its allies in the Department of Education; colleges of education; unions; media; government agencies, associations and legal teams; foundations; corporations; legislatures; fundraising groups; colleges and universities; business; and even the courts.

The Network prefers to operate quietly, promoting supposedly good intentions. Its hallmark phrase: “It’s all about the kids.” But try opposing The Network on behalf of a child – yours or anyone else’s. If you can’t be put off, persuaded, ignored, bullied or bought out, The Network has no problem getting nasty. The more honest and honorable you are, the nastier The Network becomes.

This isn’t about left or right, Democrat or Republican. It’s about “in” and “out”; money and power; agenda and ideology. The Network spends a lot of taxpayer money growing itself, feeding itself and shielding itself from accountability. The bigger it is, the more power it has. The more power it has, the more friends it gains. The more friends it gains, the more money it gets. The more money it gets, the bigger it grows – even as it completely fails our children. Allies of all stripes play along.

In Washington State, legislators and judges now tout the additional billions they’ll rip from taxpayers for failed school districts. They don’t say how much is spent currently or what it buys. They don’t hold districts accountable. Education already is a bottomless pit of wasted dollars; they don’t seem to care.

Did primary school teachers in England game the phonics check?

Richard Adams:

The phonics check, a simple test of reading given to five and six year-olds at the end of year one of primary school in England, comprises words and “pseudo-words” that children are expected to pronounce. In 2012 and 2013, the Department for Education announced in advance what the “pass” mark was to be. Looking at the chart below, with the yellow line for 2012 and blue line for 2013 results, can you guess what the pass mark out of 40 was?

Opponents to N.J.’s Urban Hope Act keep changing their arguments

Laura Waters

Charter school opponents were in mourning this week after they failed to derail a set of amendments to a 2012 bill called the Urban Hope Act that permits the opening of hybrid district/charter schools in Camden, Trenton, and Newark.

Save Our Schools-N.J., Education Law Center, and New Jersey Education Association had mounted a vigorous lobbying campaign against the amendments, citing the “undemocratic transfer of Camden public education to private control.”

But the campaign was fruitless; on Monday the N.J. Senate, by a vote of 32-1, approved several tweaks to Senate Bill 2264. These modest amendments extend the deadline for charter school applications by one year — from January 2015 to January 2016 — and give permission for new charter schools to use abandoned public school space that has “undergone substantial reconstruction,” in lieu of the newly-constructed facilities mandated by the 2012 law. The bill now goes before the N.J. Assembly.

It’s worth noting how the rhetoric of these school choice opponents has changed over the past two years.

More, here.

Related: gubernatorial candidate and Madison school board member Mary Burke speaks out in favor of the status quo and opposes vouchers.
.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: The Great Decoupling The rapid advance of machine learning presents an economic paradox: productivity is rising, but employment may not.

Erik Brynjolfsson:

The Quarterly: Jeremy, how big a deal are machine-learning algorithms for employment and the workforce? And what should we do about it?

Jeremy Howard: I think it is important to think about the policy implications here. Government leaders need to be aware that, right now, computers are as good as or better than humans at most of the tasks people involved in information-processing jobs do. That is 65 percent of the American workforce. So is this wonderful or is this a tragedy? It actually depends entirely on how governments respond. Scenario number one is a disparity in economic power, in which the folks with the data and the algorithms have—and add all of—the economic value, and the rest of the workforce adds little or none.

That scenario could create an awful social disruption. Scenario number two is to accept that in this new world, there’s a large group of people who can’t really add economic value anymore, but that doesn’t mean they don’t get to live a decent human life. So we have to start thinking about the policy implications—like a basic living wage, which Germany will be introducing, or a negative income tax, which has been off the agenda for decades but deserves to be back on it. I think people should start to think about these policy implications because the point at which we need to make decisions will be upon us suddenly.

Florida Virtual School and the evolution of online learning

Thomas Arnett:

When it comes to advancing state policies related to blended learning—such as course access programs or grants for blended learning pilots—public perceptions matter. Citizens and policymakers will not vote for blended learning policies if they are not persuaded that those policies will be good for students.

Recent polling data indicates that blended learning still has a lot of ground to cover in winning support from the public. When respondents to last year’s Education Next poll were asked whether they favor “students spending more of their time at school receiving instruction independently through or on a computer,” only 42 percent indicated their support. On last year’s poll, only 38 percent of respondents thought that, “students learn more in a blended learning classroom,” and only 53 percent agreed that, “high school students [should] be granted the option of taking approved classes either online or in school.” Supporters of blended learning are eager to elaborate on its theoretical potential and to highlight compelling anecdotal stories, but many education thought leaders and members of the public want to see strong data on the efficacy of online and blended learning before they get behind those ideas. Given such skepticism, two weeks ago it was exciting to see a new working paper on the Florida Virtual School (FLVS) published through Harvard’s Program of Education Policy and Governance by Matt Chingos and Guido Schwerdt. The study found that Florida high school students who took Algebra or English through FLVS in the 2008-09 school year performed at least as well as students who took those same courses in traditional classrooms. Their findings provide strong additional evidence to the earlier research on the effectiveness of online learning in Algebra courses.

11 Things Only Parents of Boys Understand

Shannon Ralph:

Years ago, when my children were nothing more than an unsuspecting twinkle in my eye, I had a vision of what parenthood would look like. In my vision, there were tea parties and tutus. There were hours spent quietly reading on the couch together. There were Disney princesses and Dora the Explorer. There were little striped dresses and polka-dotted leggings. There were braids and pigtails. There was shopping and giggling. There was peace and love and joy and… and… peace.

Then, I had boys.

It seems harsh to say that my vision of parenthood went straight to hell, but… well, my vision of parenthood went straight to hell.

What was I to do with these loud, smelly, noisy creatures? These things who were constantly moving. And climbing. And yelling. And body-slamming one another unprovoked. How could I — a woman and a lesbian, to boot — possibly ever understand these wailing little creatures capable of peeing on their own heads?

It seemed an impossible undertaking, but I am here to say that after 11 years of parenting boys, I have learned a few things. I am sure all of you parents of boys can relate.

Gubernatorial Candidate Burke’s Voucher & Status Quo Governance Commentary

Patrick Marley:

Democrat Mary Burke told education officials Friday she would fight as governor to stop the expansion of voucher schools but would leave alone the long-standing program in Milwaukee.

“This is something that may sound like a good political sound bite, but it is bad public policy,” she said of expanding the voucher program.

“I think it is the thing that most threatens a vision of a public school system and an education for students in Wisconsin to be the leaders in our country.”

Her comments drew applause from her audience at a Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators conference at the Concourse Hotel in Madison.

For more than 20 years, the state has run a program in Milwaukee that allows certain students to attend religious schools and other private institutions at taxpayer expense.

In recent years, a similar program was created for eastern Racine County and a more limited one for the rest of the state. Republican Gov. Scott Walker has championed those programs and said he wants to expand the statewide one.

Burke said she would leave alone the Milwaukee program, but indicated she wanted to halt the statewide voucher program.

“For the rest of the state, vouchers have no place and they are a drain on our public school system at a point at which we have very, very limited resources,” she said. “So I do not see the research after 20 years in Milwaukee that says this is a way of improving student learning throughout the state.

Related:

Vouchers

Milwaukee Public Schools Spend More on a Vacant Building.

A focus on adult employment.

Advocating Madison Teachers, Inc. Recertification

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

Governor Walker’s Act 10 requires MTI to engage in a recertification election to retain its status as the representative of those covered by MTI’s collective bargaining units. This year’s election will be conducted between noon November 5 and noon November 25. Voting will be via telephone or on-line (detailed information will follow).

When you vote to recertify MTI, you are voting to “stand together” with your colleagues to support your profession and Union. A YES vote sends a message to policymakers that educators stand together on important issues that affect our profession, schools and students – such as reasonable class size, sufficient planning time, fair compensation and a host of other professional and economic issues.

To make recertification difficult, a union needs 51% of ALL ELIGIBLE VOTERS to win recertification. This election is unique from others in that failure to cast a well-intentioned vote due to busy schedules and personal conflicts constitutes a “no” vote, diminishing members’ efforts to remain united, and to speak with one voice. We urge you to vote YES. Please watch for additional communications on how to cast this very important vote between November 5-25, 2014.

WHY IS RECERTIFICATION IMPORTANT?
Preserving the negotiated Collective Bargaining Agreements – MTI has successfully negotiated Collective Bargaining Agreements which preserve the vast majority of contractual rights and benefits for both the 2014-15 and 2015-16 school years and provide the means to enforce those rights and benefits. The continuation of these contract rights and benefits, as well as the means to enforce them, may be jeopardized by one not voting.
Advocating for the inclusion of such rights and benefits in an Employee Handbook – MTI has gained the District’s agreement to work in a collaborative manner to develop an employee handbook which will guide workplace rights and benefits once the Collective Bargaining Agreements expire. Recertification confirms that employees desire to continue to have MTI as their collective voice in this process.

Standing United – It’s about supporting one another. When you and your colleagues vote to recertify MTI, policymakers know the educators stand together in solidarity on important issues that impact our profession, our schools and our students.

Representation – It’s about fairness and how you are treated. Employees in certified bargaining units have the right to representation – also called Weingarten rights – allowing a member who is being investigated for potential discipline to be accompanied and advised by a union representative.

While MTI will continue to exist whether or not we recertify, a YES vote sends a message to the governor and school administration that MTI members are united – and that MTI is not going away, despite Governor Walker’s attempt to silence our voices.
Your colleagues appreciate your support. Show your support by voting YES to recertify MTI. Thank you

Much more on Wisconsin’s Act 10, here.

Splitting classes by ability undermines efforts to help disadvantaged children, finds research into English primaries

Richards Adams:

Splitting pupils as young as six into classes based on ability – known as streaming – makes the brightest children brighter but does little to help the rest to catch up, according to new research into schools in England.

The analysis of the progress made by 2,500 six and seven-year-olds in state primary schools in England, conducted by academics at the Institute of Education in London, found that the use of streaming appears to entrench educational disadvantage compared with the results of pupils who were taught in all-ability classes.

But, does the other approach make a difference? Madison’s experience with English 10 and small learning communities has not moved the needle.

Commentary on Status Quo K-12 Structures vs. Vouchers

Molly Beck:

im Bender, president of voucher advocacy group School Choice Wisconsin, said Burke’s comments were misleading because funding for the voucher program comes from state general purpose revenue.

“You can’t talk about taking money away from K-12, unless you believe that money belongs to K-12,” Bender said. “It’s not possessive of any one particular place.”

Eskelsen García, who expressed support for Burke, told the audience to look to her home state of Utah, where the Utah Education Association helped trigger a voter referendum in 2007 that successfully overturned a law that had passed in the state legislature that would provide any student with a school voucher.

NEA spokeswoman Staci Maiers said in an emailed invitation to Monday’s event that “Burke is getting ready to release her K-12 education platform, and she wanted to talk with real teachers and other educators — who are actually in the classroom with students — to find out how best to improve education.”

Burke spokesman Joe Zepecki said there are no immediate plans for Burke to release an education plan, however.

Jessie Opoien has more.

6 characteristics of 5 successful Milwaukee schools

Alan Borsuk:

When people talk about how to improve a school, they often focus on things such as reading or math programs.

These can be important. But if you’re looking for the real drivers of quality, look to the people working at the school and the culture they create. That’s the conclusion of a team of veteran educators that looked at five successful schools in Milwaukee over the last couple years.

The five schools have a range of approaches on how and what to teach. With such differences among them, the team, including four University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee education professors and a retired suburban principal, wanted to find out what the schools have in common that underlies their success.

“That’s what the struggle is — trying to find, what is it? What is it?” said Julie Kremer, the retired principal.

So, with underwriting from the Suzanne & Richard Pieper Family Foundation, they immersed themselves in the schools. The five researchers were Robert Kattman, a former North Shore superintendent and retired director of the UWM charter schools office; Paul Haubrich, also a retired head of the charter office; Alfonzo Thurman, former dean of the UWM School of Education; William Kritek, a retired professor; and Kremer.

The five schools they examined were Milwaukee College Prep, Woodlands School, Bruce-Guadalupe Community School, Seeds of Health Elementary School and Young Leaders Academy. As part of the shrinkage of the Milwaukee YMCA, which previously ran Young Leaders, that school is now part of Milwaukee College Prep. At least 90% of the students at all but Woodlands are either African-American or Hispanic.

The report cards for individual schools and districts across Wisconsin, released last week by the state Department of Public Instruction, show why the five deserved attention.

Facebook and OkCupid’s psychological studies were illegal under Maryland law, professor argues

Brian Fung:

“What Facebook and OkCupid did wasn’t just unethical. It was illegal.”

So says James Grimmelmann, a law professor at the University of Maryland who’s taking aim at the social media sites for conducting psychological research on its users without properly informing them. Now Grimmelmann is calling on Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler to force Facebook and OkCupid to stop conducting tests on Maryland residents.

Facebook created a firestorm earlier this year when it acknowledged it had published a scientific paper on mood manipulation based on a secret experiment it did with some users’ newsfeeds. The experiment, conducted in 2012, hid emotionally charged content from nearly 700,000 English-speaking users’ newsfeeds to try to learn whether emotions were contagious on the network. Turns out they are; “sadder” newsfeeds made people more likely to post sad things, and “happier” newsfeeds made people more likely to post happy things.

For High School Football Coaches and Fans, a New Digital Blitz

Quentin Hardy:

Time for some Texas high school football, heavily assisted by modern technology.

On a recent 90-degree Saturday night at Heroes Stadium here, with the lights flickering on at sunset, the Knights of Byron P. Steele II High School opened their season before a crowd of more than 6,500.

“I feel good,” said Scott Lehnhoff, the Knights’ coach. “Everybody feels like they’re in the right place.”

If they weren’t, cameras around the field and stands probably would have caught it. And that footage would be part of about 40 hours of digital action that Mr. Lehnhoff studies, edits or shows his team every week.

Bad behavior is the elephant in the classroom

Tom Bennett:

Finally, Ofsted address one of the most serious impediments to children’s learning in the UK: low-level disruption. It’s amazing how much time and money is invested in poking through the grisly entrails of neuroscience, cognitive psychology and school structures in order to establish how we can squeeze a carat or two more gold out of the school goose’s ileum, when there’s piles of the stuff to be scooped up elsewhere.

Behaviour. It’s always been about behaviour. From the day I stepped into a classroom, the biggest obstacle I faced in getting students from average A to brilliant B was how they behaved, or didn’t. My first day, a student started dealing skunk at the back of the room; by the end of it, someone had told me to f*** Off, twice (and that was just the head, ho ho). But they weren’t the biggest problems for teaching; the Kryptonite for learning was the low-evel stuff – the chatting, the sullen refusals, the phones, the rocking, the headphones, paper-throwing. Everything that doesn’t look like anything special in description, but collectively erodes the lesson like a universal solvent.

I’ve been writing about this since before the first incarnation of Noel Edmonds. I’ve been running the TES behaviour forum for almost six years, and working with hundreds of schools, coaching, training and advising on behaviour. And this report is spot-on.

Michael Tomlinson to oversee ‘Trojan Horse’ schools in Birmingham (UK)

Richards Adams:

Birmingham’s troubled maintained and academy schools are to be overseen by education troubleshooter Sir Michael Tomlinson, the former Ofsted chief inspector, the Department for Education has announced.

Tomlinson, 71, is to take charge of the city’s state schools for a year and attempt to repair the damage done by the so-called Trojan Horse affair that alleged the existence of an attempted takeover of several schools in Birmingham orchestrated by conservative Islamists.

‘Teachers should be given basic training in data handling and statistics to ensure they avoid making poor decisions’

The Royal Society:

The Society is also working hard to improve statistical literacy across the board; it supports the teaching of basic data handling and quantitative skills in all A levels that use data, raising its profile in maths A levels, and ensuring that the new Core Maths qualification teaches appropriate statistical skills. It also calls for politicians, policymakers and other professionals in the public sector be given basic training in data handling and statistics.

Scholars Take Aim at Student Evaluations’ ‘Air of Objectivity’

Dan Berrett:

Student course evaluations are often misused statistically and shed little light on the quality of teaching, two scholars at the University of California at Berkeley argue in the draft of a new paper.

“We’re confusing consumer satisfaction with product value,” Philip B. Stark, a professor of statistics at Berkeley, said in an interview.

“An Evaluation of Course Evaluations,” which he wrote with Richard Freishtat, senior consultant at Berkeley’s Center for Teaching and Learning, lays out a mathematical critique of the evaluations and describes an alternative vision for analyzing and improving teaching.

Even though evaluations have become ubiquitous in academe, they remain controversial because they often assume a high-stakes role in determining tenure and promotion. But they persist because they are easy to produce, administer, and tabulate, Mr. Stark said. And because they are based on Likert scales whose results can be added and averaged, he said, they offer the comfort of a number. But it is a false kind of security. “Averages of numerical student ratings have an air of objectivity,” the authors write, “simply because they are numerical.”

Milwaukee Public Schools Spend More on Vacant Buildings

Erin Richards:

Less than a year after shunning a cash offer from a private school operator for the empty Malcolm X Academy building, MPS is cutting ties with the developer it commissioned to renovate the site — but not before paying at least about $500,000 toward the $1 million worth of work the developer has billed so far.

The split marks the end of a public-private partnership championed by former Milwaukee Public Schools Superintendent Gregory Thornton as “probably the best deal in town” for taxpayers just 11 months ago. The district now says it will proceed independently and hire a new construction manager for the building and sprawling 5-acre parcel at 2760 N. 1st St.

The latest twist was set in motion by a new agreement the Milwaukee School Board approved after meeting in closed session.

At the moment, the district and the developer — 2760 Holdings LLC, formed by Dennis Klein of KBS Construction and James Phelps of JCP Construction — disagree on how much it will cost to settle up on the work done so far. The developers want close to $1 million; MPS says it has determined the cost of the work done to be just under $500,000. The parties are meeting Tuesday to discuss the situation.

The reason for the split depends on whom you talk to.

Erbert Johnson, chief of staff in MPS, said the developer made what the district considered a “questionable request,” prompting the district to seek another partner.

The Four Leadership Lessons Millennials Really Need

Steve Denning:

I wish someone had given me this advice sooner. So much of the advice I did get was impractical or didn’t match my reality. This is why I wanted to bear-hug Shonda Rhimes for bluntly revealing in her commencement speech: “Tomorrow is going to be the worst day ever for you.”

Yes! That’s exactly how I felt the day after I graduated.

We’re let loose into the wilderness, after having spent twenty-two years in a very structured school system, We’re now at the bottom of the working world’s food chain (if you even have a job). We now have to define success on your own terms.

An Interview with Robb Rauh, CEO of Milwaukee College Prep

Alan Borsuk:

Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – what’s more at the core of America’s identity than those words? But what do they mean if you’re living in the central city of Milwaukee?

Robb Rauh, the CEO of Milwaukee College Prep, a set of four high-performing schools with about 1,900 students on the north side, focused on those questions as he set the context for the mission of the schools during an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” session Tuesday in Eckstein Hall.

Life? Infant mortality rates are much higher in Milwaukee than in the nation and even in some third-world countries, Rauh said, and life expectancy is lower than elsewhere. Liberty? Wisconsin has the highest incarceration gaps between white and black people in the nation. The pursuit of happiness? “One of the things that defines happiness is being able to have choices in life,” Rauh said, and without at least a high school degree, a person’s choices are limited. The overall situation of African American children in Wisconsin has been described as the worst or one of the worst in the United States.

“We want to prove that it can be done,” to bring terms like life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to life by increasing the educational success and opening the doors to better futures for children, particularly along the North Avenue corridor where all four Milwaukee College Prep schools are located, Rauh said. Among schools in Milwaukee with high percentages of African American students, all four schools are at or near the top of the list when it comes to scores in the newly-released state report cards.

A New Start on Accountability

Paul Hil, l Robin Lake & Michael Petrilli, via a kind Deb Britt email:

Every child should be in a school where he or she can learn effectively. That’s not a controversial goal in itself, but the methods meant to accomplish it can become hot buttons. That’s the case with No Child Left Behind (NCLB), which made the goal a national policy. It’s also becoming the case with the Common Core, under which states commit to educate children to rigorous standards.

Actions taken in pursuit of the goal are controversial because they are difficult and complicated. There is a lot of work of many kinds to be done: improving teacher training, experimenting with more effective methods, and continuously improving learning opportunities for children. Moreover, none of these tasks are enough by themselves. What ties them together is accountability—the use of standards, measures, judgments, and remedies to ensure that students are making significant progress over time and, if some are not, ensure that they have access to better opportunities.

Cracking the literacy code together

John Fallon:

It’s difficult for me to imagine the frustration of not being able to read a newspaper headline or a note written by my daughter. For 800 million people illiteracy is a sad and limiting reality. Illiteracy impacts both adults and children, and doesn’t discriminate based on geography. One in ten people is illiterate, and yet the ability to communicate in writing is the entry point to education and the most basic building block that’s required for almost every skill needed to thrive in today’s world.

What’s more, most of us are now, to some extent, required to interact with technology in order to complete even the simplest of tasks, such as applying for a job. Digital interaction is no longer optional. Literacy has become something more involved than recognising and forming words on paper. The literacy of today requires a fluency with not only words, but with the very technology that carries and amplifies them.

Related: Madison’s disastrous long term reading results.

Commuter Students Using Technology

Maura Smale and Mariana Regalado

Information and communications technology (ICT) has become indispensable in the twenty-first century and is integral to the undergraduate student experience. From standard productivity software to specialized multimedia applications, from online research to course management systems, undergraduates use technology throughout their academic experience. Despite the persistence of the digital native image in the media, however, not all college students own and use these technologies to the same extent, which can hamper their ability to use ICT effectively for academic purposes. At the same time, budget pressures and restructuring discussions mean that colleges increasingly adopt academic technologies to help address some of the challenges facing higher education. How does this rising use of academic ICT change students’ experiences?

Academic institutions and higher education research organizations use data to make decisions about student services and academic technologies, yet much of the data collected is quantitative. Although surveys can show how many students own a smartphone or how long each student commutes to campus, they tell us little about the lived experiences of our students. In contrast, qualitative research lets us hear student voices and can add valuable detail about the college experience; that, in turn, can inform and guide faculty and administrative decisions about instructional technologies for student use.

This article explores aspects of how students use ICT in college. During a multi-year qualitative study of undergraduates at six colleges at the City University of New York (CUNY), we interviewed students and faculty to learn how, where, and when students accomplished their academic work. Among many findings, our study gave us a glimpse into the student experience of using technology, including its use in visible places such as the classroom, library, and computer lab, as well as in places we rarely see students, such as in the home and on the commute. We learned from students about how their uses of ICT — including cellphones and laptops, printers and computer labs — both enabled and constrained their academic work while on and off campus.

Despite all evidence to the contrary, blaming black culture for racial inequality remains politically dominant. And not only on the Right.

Jonah Birch & Paul Heideman

The only thing more predictable than riots in the United States’ dilapidated cities is the outpouring of moralizing pseudo-explanations that accompany them. In this, as in so much else, Ferguson has been no exception. Between riffs on the venerable trope of “outside agitators,” commentators groping for an explanation of the uprising have seized on another, equally well-established mythology: the idea of a culture of poverty among black Americans.

Racists began blowing on this particular dog-whistle as soon as the murder of Michael Brown began to attract national attention. No doubt in the coming months it will only get louder. As the sheer scale and brutality of racial inequality in the US comes, however hazily, into popular focus, conservatives across the country will, much like Zionists suddenly concerned with the fate of the Syrian uprising, suddenly evince an intense preoccupation with the lives of black Americans. We will hear how welfare has made blacks dependent on the government, has broken up the black family, and has encouraged a culture of criminality and violence (as evidenced by all that rap music).

Why Are Harvard Grads Still Flocking to Wall Street?

Amy Binder:

In 2010, Bastian Nichols moved into his freshman dorm at Harvard without much thought of what he would do after graduation. He felt sure that in time he’d find a career that matched his passions (among them, journalism and travel), but while in college he would experiment at becoming “a more interesting person.”* His concentration in psychology and comparative literature matched his general philosophy. So did his choice of summer jobs, which ranged from leading a bike trip through Austria and working in a theater in Croatia to doing post-production work in an Italian film company.

Yet, as senior year approached, Nichols began to feel anxious about life after Harvard. He described being “scared because I was like, ‘Crap, I’ve got a year left, and I just don’t even know what I could possibly do.’” Feeling he had few choices, in the early weeks of his senior year Nichols began working with Harvard’s Office of Career Services to find a job in management consulting. Much to the dismay of peers who thought that at least he would be a holdout, he will begin his job at one of the country’s top three consulting firms this fall.

How kids compare against their parents’ level of schooling

IMG_7722.JPG

The Economist

SOCIAL mobility, or the lack of it, gnaws at the consciences of governments. Better opportunities for those born without the local equivalent of a silver spoon in the mouth is a common electoral promise. Some recent data suggest it is hard to deliver.

The OECD’s latest “Education at a Glance” report compares how well rich countries are faring in spreading educational opportunity, by ranking countries according to the proportion of 25- to 64-year-olds who are better educated than their parents. A striking feature is a strong correlation of socially mobile countries at the top of the table with excellent test results in secondary schools (as measured by the OECD’s regular PISA tests and others). So South Korea heads the education-mobility league, just ahead of Finland. Both have been consistently high in the rankings for student performance too.

Confuse students to help them learn

Steve Kolowich:

If you had to pick a single word to explain how Derek Muller ended up in a Perth hotel room arguing with an empty chair, it probably would be “confusion.”

About a decade ago, Mr. Muller, then a doctoral candidate at the University of Sydney, wanted to figure how out to make science videos that students would learn from, not just watch. So he did some experiments. He got a handheld camera and rudimentary animation and editing software, and recorded some educational videos aimed at teaching basic physics concepts.

In some videos, he had an actor explain the concepts straightforwardly, with simple drawings and animations. When he showed the videos to a group of undergraduates, the students described them as clear, concise, and easy to understand.

The Adaptive Learning App that John Danner Left Rocketship to Build

Christina Quattrocchi:

Many former teachers leave the classroom to start edtech companies. Just take a look at BetterLesson, eduClipper, and SmarterCookie to, name a few.

What’s rare is when a co-founder and CEO of one of the world’s most well-known charter school organization makes the jump. But that’s what John Danner did in January 2013 when he left Rocketship Education, which currently operates 11 schools in three states.

“At Rocketship I only spent 5% of my day focused on student learning; the other time focused on politics and staffing. Now I get to spend all my time doing learning, figuring out how to do it best,” says Danner.

Wealthy L.A. Schools’ Vaccination Rates Are as Low as South Sudan’s

Olga Khazan:

When actors play doctors on TV, that does not make them actual doctors. And that does not mean they should scour some Internet boards, confront their pediatricians, and demand fewer vaccinations for their children, as some Hollywood parents in Los Angeles have apparently been doing.

The Hollywood Reporter has a great investigation for which it sought the vaccination records of elementary schools all over Los Angeles County. They found that vaccination rates in elite neighborhoods like Santa Monica and Beverly Hills have tanked, and the incidence of whooping cough there has skyrocketed.

Here’s a map of the schools with dangerously low vaccination rates (an interactive version is on their site). Note how the schools cluster together as little red dots all over the wealthy, crazy Westside—not unlike crimson spots on a measles patient:

Vote YES to RECERTIFY MTI – November 5-25, 2014

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

Governor Walker’s Act 10 requires public sector unions, except police & fire, to engage in annual recertification elections, in order to retain their status as the representative of the employees in their bargaining unit. Even though MTI’s certification goes back to 1964, and it has represented MMSD employees and negotiated Contracts for them beginning with the 1964 Collective Bargaining Agreement for teachers, Walker’s signature legislation Act 10 mandates that MTI participate in a recertification election. The election by all MTI represented District employees will be conducted between November 5 and November 25 via telephone or on-line balloting (more detailed information will be forthcoming).

Why is recertification important? The recertification election will determine whether MTI will continue to be the legally recognized “certified representative” for the following year. While there were processes available in prior law for a Union’s certification to be challenged by dissatisfied employees, Walker’s Act 10 forces such elections annually. And to make recertification more difficult, unlike political elections where the candidate with the most votes wins, Act 10 requires that to win recertification, the union must win 51% of all eligible voters. Between now and November 25 we will use this space to highlight a number of reasons why recertification, and your participation in it, is important.

Reason #1- Standing Together – When one votes to recertify MTI, that individual is voting to “stand together” to support one’s profession and colleagues. A YES vote sends a message to policymakers that employee groups stand together on important issues that affect their profession, schools and students – such as reasonable class size, sufficient planning time, effective professional development, fair compensation and a host of other work-related, professional and economic issues. Standing together provides a stronger voice than one has individually.

Deja Vu on Madison Math: Algebra: The most-failed class for Madison freshmen

Molly Beck:

“When you look at the data, there’s something not working, clearly,” she said. “And if you know being on track in ninth grade is key to a student’s success then it’s our obligation to change that.”

She said the district will be strengthening the quality and consistency of algebra instruction across schools so that courses in each school approach the class the same. After the district’s review of high school curriculum is complete, the ninth-grade algebra requirement and graduation requirements could change.

Like Madison, districts across the state are looking at ways to improve rates at which students pass algebra and are also developing new curriculum that includes algebraic concepts as early as kindergarten, said Department of Public Instruction spokesman Tom McCarthy.

Signe Carney, who has taught math at Memorial High School for 18 years, said part of the reason for the algebra failure rate is that “people are OK with saying, ‘I’m bad at math,’ and they will never say they can’t read. People think they can or can’t, and if they think they can’t, they won’t succeed.”

Another factor is that algebraic concepts build on each other, so it’s hard to catch up if students miss days, she said.

Related:

What impact do high school mathematics curricula have on college-level mathematics placement? by James Wollack & Michael Fish @ UW Center for Placement Testing.

Math Forum Audio & Video (2008!).

Connected Math.

Everyday Math

Predicting Where Students Go

Ry Rivard:

A trio of senior college enrollment officials gave a peek into how they decide which students to recruit. The process now involves number-crunching students’ demographic and economic information — not just sending chipper ambassadors to every nearby high school, mailing glossy books to students’ homes and relying on gut instincts.

The discussion, during a session at the annual meeting of the National Association for College Admission Counseling, was one of many to take place here about how to hunt for students. The search for students involves a web of data points, formulas and consulting firms that perhaps few parents and students are aware of.

Don Munce, the president of the National Research Center for College and University Admissions, or NRCCUA, offers a modeling service meant to predict which high school students are most likely to enroll at a particular institution. The center sells data on students to college admissions officials.

Colleges’ Pursuit of Prestige and Revenue Is Hurting Low-Income Students

Stephen Burd:

Fifty years ago, the federal government committed itself to removing the financial barriers that prevent low-income students from enrolling in and completing college. For years, colleges complemented the government’s efforts by using their financial aid resources to open their doors to the neediest students. But a new report from New America suggests those days are in the past, with an increasing number of colleges using their financial resources to fiercely compete for the students they most desire: the “best and brightest” — and the wealthiest.

Along with the report, we’re releasing an interactive web application, presenting the data used in the report on 1,400 private and public colleges across the United States:

School Board Governance Controversy

Ira Glass:

With primary elections in five states this week, the last primary elections this year, we have this not very typical example of majority rule and what a mess it can make. Our story takes place in a suburban school district an hour north of New York City, East Ramapo, New York. Picture yards, strip-mall sprawl, box stores. Super diverse– you’ve got big Latino and Haitian and African American populations, some white enclaves, working-class and poor and well-off areas.

And for a long time now, Hasids have been moving in in large numbers. Hasids are, you know, ultra-religious Jews. You’ve seen the ones in the long black coats and the hats. The men have beards. The women keep their heads covered in public. Like the Amish, they prefer to keep to themselves, so they don’t send their kids to public schools. They send them to religious schools called yeshivas, where Yiddish is spoken as the primary language. And in East Ramapo, mostly the Hasids are poor or lower middle class.

And here is the situation. Because they’re living in the suburbs, they’re paying high property taxes, which, of course, are high because they’re paying for local public schools, which their kids don’t go to. And then they’re also paying for these private schools, these yeshivas. So they’re getting squeezed, right?

Some Implications of the California Regents Proposed UC Ventures

Michael Merenze & Christopher Newfield:

My thinking about the formation of “UC Ventures” is influenced by the fact that today I am flying from London to Berlin to film some thin-film solar photovoltaic researchers and executives who have been living for years in the “valley of death” between important research results and commercial revenues. The photo is of the May, 2011 inauguration of the flagship building for Soltecture, one of the world’s best thin-film PV companies that promised to bring zero-energy capabilities to old and new buildings a few years from then. When I stood in front of the building one year after this photo, it had closed, and the company was gone.

Thus my questions about UC Ventures start with whether it will actually help avoid the collapse–or non-start– of socially valuable technologies for lack of patient, long-term, adequate financial support. Will UC Ventures be a “patient investor” that sides unequivocally with the technology–and with the future public that will use it? Will it offer something special to late-stage technology by entering when others have left? Will it help original, early-stage research with long-term commitments? Is it fish or is it fowl, or some other, political species?

Federal Program Supplies Surplus Military Gear to Schools

Ben Kesling, Miguel Bustillo & Tamara Audi:

A federal program that has drawn criticism in recent weeks for supplying surplus military gear to local police has also provided high-powered rifles, armored vehicles and other equipment to police at public schools, some of whom were unprepared for what they were getting.

In the wake of school shootings in Newtown, Conn., and elsewhere, some school security departments developed SWAT teams, added weapons and called on the federal government to help supply gear. But now, the program is facing renewed scrutiny from both outside observers and schools using it.

The Los Angeles Unified School District stocked up on grenade launchers, M16 rifles and even a multi-ton armored vehicle from the program. But the district is getting rid of the grenade launchers, which it never intended to use to launch grenades or use in a school setting, said Steven Zipperman, chief of the Los Angeles Schools Police Department. The launchers, received in 2001, might have helped other police in the county disperse crowds by shooting rubber munitions, he said.

Where Geniuses Live A look at the highly mobile lives of MacArthur “Genius Grant” winners.

Kristin Capps:

From a 32-year-old neurophysicist to a 71-year-old tech historian, the MacArthur Fellows class of 2014 are a typically diverse lot. Like most of their compatriots, these “Genius Grant” winners were born all over the map. And if they’re anything like their fellow fellows—or creative forces from across history—they’re following a career arc that’s taking them to a few specific city clusters.

Since 1981, the MacArthur Foundation has given millions to artists, scientists, writers, philosophers, and others who have shown some exceptional talent or moved the culture forward in an appreciable way. You may have already met the 2014 Fellows, a group that includes feminist graphic artist Alison Bechdel, Texas housing advocate John Henneberger, and prime-number mathematician Yitang Zhang.

Why Federal College Ratings Won’t Rein In Tuition

Susan Dynarski:

College costs have been rising for decades. Slowing — or even better, reversing — that trend would get more people into college and help reduce student debt. The Obama administration is working on an ambitious plan intended to rein in college costs, and it deserves credit for tackling this tough job.

Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s going to work, at least not in controlling tuition at public colleges, which enroll a vast majority of students. The plan might dampen prices at expensive private colleges, but some of them may close if they can’t survive on lower tuition.

The program is an attempt to rate colleges according to practical measures like dropout rates, earnings of graduates and affordability. The aim is to improve the quality of higher education while also bringing down costs.

Wooing young voters with a $58 billion plan that gives money primarily to college graduates who don’t need it.

Andrew Kelly & Kevin James:

Democrats face an uphill battle in their quest to hold the Senate in November. In their effort to get an edge, they’ve targeted one group in particular: college-educated voters with student-loan debt. Democratic plans to help student-loan borrowers have been a key talking point on the campaign trail this year, and sit at the center of the party’s “Fair Shot” agenda.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren has become the party’s chief evangelist on the issue, thanks to her proposal that would allow borrowers to refinance their student loans at current rates, supposedly paid for with a tax increase on millionaires. After Republicans blocked Sen. Warren’s bill in June, she went straight to Kentucky to campaign against Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and has accused him and fellow Republicans of “choosing to side with billionaires instead of with students.” This week Sen. Warren and her fellow Democrats raised the issue again as the campaigns enter the home stretch.

The lessons of student debt

Gillian Tett:

Now, Warren is not the only person decrying this state of affairs: the spiralling cost of education provokes widespread alarm these days. But what is notable about Warren is that she is one of the few politicians who openly attacks the financial industry, US Treasury and Federal Reserve alike. This, of course, is the key reason she is unlikely to ever become a serious contender for the Democratic Party nomination: Warren’s outspoken comments have created many enemies in Washington and Wall Street. But her willingness to articulate unpleasant facts – such as the shocking explosion in student loans – is also a key reason she commands strong populist support in some quarters. Political giants such as Clinton ignore this at their peril; even (or especially) at a time when America is supposed to be enjoying an economic “recovery”.

Taxpayer subsidized student loans should be the exception rather than the rule.

Juicervose

Radiolab:

3 months later a specialist sat Ron and Cornelia down and said the word that changed everything for them: Autism.

In this episode, the Suskind family finds an unlikely way to access their silent son’s world. We set off to figure out what their story can tell us about Autism, a disorder with a wide spectrum of symptoms and severity. Along the way, we speak to specialists, therapists, and advocates including Simon Baron-Cohen, Barry and Raun Kaufmann, Dave Royko, Geraldine Dawson, Temple Grandin, and Gil Tippy.

The Higher Education Nightmare

Lee Kottner:

A favorite trope of science fiction dystopias is a classroom of students wearing metallic skull caps wired to a blinking, monolithic computer, and staring vacantly into space while the propaganda and “facts” that pass for knowledge and education are downloaded directly into their brains. That scenario may be coming soon to a college campus near you, if in a somewhat more refined manner.

Consider the state of higher education today. Since the late 1970s, the total of poorly paid untenured and contingent faculty has far outstripped the number of tenured faculty on college campuses all over the world and now accounts for roughly 76 % of faculty in U.S. higher education.

The shrinking number of tenured academics has been paralleled by a growing number of very well-paid administration positions, filled by MBAs or Educational Administration doctorates who have spent little or no time in the actual educational trenches. The current corporate administrative pattern emphasizes a profit model of efficiency, cost control, and knowledge delivery, which is fundamentally different from the academic and pedagogical model of knowledge creation, a messy, individualistic but often life-changing process. This new emphasis is evident in the constant rise of tuition (going to grandiose building projects and bloated administrative salaries mirroring the corporate world), increasing demands for the quantification and standardization of instruction, larger class sizes, and the devaluing of educators’ professionalism, expertise, mentoring, innovative pedagogy, and the kind of student-centered, highly personalized learning opportunities I had at my small liberal arts college in the 1980s.

Colleges often rely on data in the hunt for students

Ry Rivard:

A trio of senior college enrollment officials gave a peek into how they decide which students to recruit. The process now involves number-crunching students’ demographic and economic information — not just sending chipper ambassadors to every nearby high school, mailing glossy books to students’ homes and relying on gut instincts.

The discussion, during a session at the annual meeting of the National Association for College Admission Counseling, was one of many to take place here about how to hunt for students. The search for students involves a web of data points, formulas and consulting firms that perhaps few parents and students are aware of.

Don Munce, the president of the National Research Center for College and University Admissions, or NRCCUA, offers a modeling service meant to predict which high school students are most likely to enroll at a particular institution. The center sells data on students to college admissions officials.

Munce moderated the panel of three college admissions officials who use his predictive modeling service. One of the college officials joked he bought so many student names from NRCCUA that he probably paid for Munce’s yacht.

Munce advocates a “smart approach” — which is the brand name of the modeling service he sells — that would help colleges target the students most likely to enroll.

Wonder Boys

Tamsin Shaw:

Anyone who frequents research libraries in Europe or North America will know that it is not unusual to encounter in them individuals who appear to be rather introverted and yet sport oddly ostentatious hairstyles, with unkempt shocks of hair sprouting with peculiar abandon from their pallid male scalps. You can still encounter the odd Yeatsian dandy, but the slightly disheveled Einsteinian archetype seems largely to have prevailed in the academy, just as the Beethovenian archetype has long prevailed in the world of music. This phenomenon alone, the slightly embarrassing aping of the superficial attributes of genius, reveals an ersatz quality to the idea of genius we have inherited; even in the most solemn temples to intellectual achievement the notion is awkwardly associated with a good deal that is theatrical, preposterous, ridiculous.

Darrin McMahon’s Divine Fury does not shy away from the preposterous and the ridiculous, or from the disturbing and dangerous. Many of us now use the term “genius” as a simple expression of wonder, referring to a person or an achievement that we find inexplicably brilliant. But as McMahon’s rich narrative shows, across its long history the term has accrued connotations that go far beyond this commonsense core, leading us into the realms of superstition, bad science, and subservience to questionable forms of authority. And yet his book ends on an unexpected note of regret that “genius” in the most extravagant sense of the term has given way to more trivial uses, to a culture in which everyone has a genius for something and where even infants might be “baby Einsteins.” The cult of the “great exception,” the unfathomably and inimitably great human being, he tells us, has justifiably waned. Nevertheless, McMahon’s closing words are elegiac, hinting that its loss might somehow diminish us.

Following in a Sibling’s Footsteps

Kaitlin Mulhere:

The college enrollment decisions of older siblings could be an important cue to whether and where their younger siblings attend college, according to a new study by researchers from Harvard University and the College Board.

Ultimately, the research aims to determine the power of peers’ decisions on college enrollment, and siblings are the easiest peers to identify in available data.

The study found that 69 percent of younger siblings enrolled in the same type of college as their older sibling (either a two-year or four-year institution), while 31 percent of younger siblings applied to the college their older sibling attended.

Most impressive to the researchers was that about 20 percent of younger siblings actually enrolled at the same college as their older sibling.
The positive relationship between older and younger siblings’ college choices was similar across demographic groups and was stronger between siblings who resemble each other more in academic skills, age or gender. That suggests the relationship between siblings’ college choices may be more than a simple coincidence, said Joshua Goodman, an assistant professor of public policy at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.

A new IOS app for the blind & visually impaired

knfb Reader:

By harnessing the power of digital photography coupled with state of the art Apple hardware, this new app, tailored to the specific needs of people who are blind or visually impaired, makes access to print materials much faster and more efficient than ever. This fabulous, life-changing technology was presented by James Gashel, Vice President of Business Development at K–NFB Reading Technology Inc. and Secretary of the National Federation of the Blind, during the General Session of the Convention, before a presentation of Ray Kurzweil, Director of Engineering at Google Inc. The KNFB Reader for iOS is a joint development effort of Sensotec nv and K–NFB Reading Technology Inc.

Reuters has more.

Delaware attempts to restructure school governance

Matthew Albright:

The Delaware Department of Education says six low-income schools in Wilmington are failing, and the way to fix them is to make the more than 200 teachers reapply for their jobs – and to hire elite principals at each school who won’t have to follow most district rules while earning annual salaries of $160,000.

Mark Murphy, secretary of education, says it’s necessary for teachers to reapply for their jobs to ensure that every educator in the six “priority” schools has the commitment and skill to improve student achievement, as measured by the state’s standardized tests.

Outrage is bubbling among teachers, parents and school administrators in the schools – Bancroft Elementary, Stubbs Elementary and Bayard Middle in the Christina School District and Warner, Shortlidge and Highlands elementary schools in Red Clay School District.

They contend this is a state takeover, not a school turnaround.

The state asks that districts sign a Memorandum of Understanding by month’s end to begin establishing a plan for each school, all of which serve students who come from neighborhoods grappling with poverty.

“Actually, public education is getting better, not worse”

Catherine Rampell:

I suspect other, less nefarious factors affect perceptions more. With college becoming the norm, the types of workers with no more than a high school diploma are more likely to be in the lower part of the talent distribution today than they were a generation ago. Employers might conflate this shifting composition of high-school-educated workers with a diminishing quality of high school education itself.

The truth is, today’s young people do need more, or at least different, kinds of training and education to succeed in the global marketplace for talent. And plenty of policy changes — like making the most challenging school districts more attractive places to work — could help improve outcomes for our most disadvantaged students. But in the meantime, let’s stop denying the measurable, if modest, progress that U.S. schools have made in the last half-century.

The Case for Delayed Adulthood

Laurence Steenburg:

ONE of the most notable demographic trends of the last two decades has been the delayed entry of young people into adulthood. According to a large-scale national study conducted since the late 1970s, it has taken longer for each successive generation to finish school, establish financial independence, marry and have children. Today’s 25-year-olds, compared with their parents’ generation at the same age, are twice as likely to still be students, only half as likely to be married and 50 percent more likely to be receiving financial assistance from their parents.

People tend to react to this trend in one of two ways, either castigating today’s young people for their idleness or acknowledging delayed adulthood as a rational, if regrettable, response to a variety of social changes, like poor job prospects. Either way, postponing the settled, responsible patterns of adulthood is seen as a bad thing.

Rethinking one-size-fits-all teacher compensation models

Chris Rickert:

Or be happy for the co-workers whose good work and unique skills have them moving up in the real world, where, generally speaking, good work and unique skills are and should be well-compensated?

It’s not always about us, in other words, perhaps especially in public education.

Eyster said salary schedules “are not reflective of commitment and productivity” but that the bigger question across the working world is, “can you talk about what you’re paid?”

Hopefully, we can talk about it in public education.

Because whatever the benefits of a one-size-fits-all model of compensation, they are outweighed by the benefits of compensation practices flexible enough to attract the best, most-qualified teachers.

Even better, taxpayers who see districts doing all they can to hire the best will have little excuse for underpaying them.

LA teachers group offers solutions for a post-Vergara world

Craig Clough:

As the key speaker, Villaraigosa threw his support behind the Vergara ruling — and the group’s ideas to accommodate it.

“When you take extreme positions, like tenure, that says you can’t ever fire anybody… that’s extreme,” he said. “The other extreme is that we shouldn’t have teacher unions and due process. But what Vergara said was, this is uber-due process; this is way beyond.”

Teach Plus works to elevate the influence of teachers in policy discussions, and yesterday’s forum “is an example of that,” said John Lee, executive director of Teach Plus Los Angeles, referring to 10 Teach Plus fellows, all of them LA classroom teachers, who spent the summer researching Vergara.

The researchers compiled their findings in a policy brief, “Valuing Performance and Honoring Experience: Teacher Solutions for a Post-Vergara Profession.”

First up was tenure, which currently gives teachers extensive due process rights after 18 months. California is only one of five states that awards tenure within two years, according to the Teach Plus presentation.

Howard Fuller memoir recounts ‘warrior’s life’

Erin Richards:

How long you’ve lived in Milwaukee and Wisconsin likely correlates with how you heard of Howard Fuller.

As director of Marquette University’s Institute for the Transformation of Learning and board chair of charter school Milwaukee Collegiate Academy? Young, or recent transplant.

As the former superintendent of Milwaukee Public Schools and initial champion of the Milwaukee private-school voucher program? You’re older or familiar with education matters.

As the former head of Milwaukee County’s Health and Human Services Department, former dean of general education at the Milwaukee Area Technical College, or former secretary of the department of employment relations under then-Gov. Anthony Earl? You’re a lifer.

In a new book, Fuller discloses details about the rest of his extensive career — graduating from North Division High School, becoming a community activist in the South, founding an all-black university in North Carolina, advocating for African liberation, even briefly selling life insurance before quitting with an outrageous exit speech.

Undoing the ‘Rote Understanding’ Approach to Common Core Math Standards

Barry Garelick, via a kind email:

A video about how the Common Core is teaching young students how to do addition problems is making the rounds on the internet: http://rare.us/story/watch-common-core-take-56-seconds-to-solve-96/

Much ballyhoo is being made of this. Given the prevailing interpretation of Common Core math standards, the furor is understandable. The purveyors of these standards claim that they neither dictate nor prohibit any pedagogical approach, but the wave of videos and articles sweeping the internet like the one above suggest the opposite may be true: that, in fact, the Common Core math standards are dictating how teachers are to teach math.

I believe that CC math, while not dictating particular teaching styles, has given the math reform movement that has been raging for slightly more than two decades in the United States a massive dose of steroids. Reform math has manifested itself in classrooms across the United States mostly in lower grades, in the form of “discovery-oriented” and “student-centered” classes, in which the teacher becomes a facilitator or “guide on the side” rather than the “sage on the stage” and students work so-called “real world” or “authentic problems.” It also has taken the form of de-emphasizing practices and drills, requiring oral or written “explanations” of problems so obvious they need none, finding more than one way to do a problem, and using cumbersome strategies for basic arithmetic functions. The big reason behind all of this is that math reformers believe such practices will result in students understanding how numbers work—as opposed to just “doing” math. In fact, reformers tend to mischaracterize traditionally taught math as teaching only the “doing” and not the understanding; that it is rote memorization of facts and procedures and that students do not learn how to think or problem solve.

Why Girls Get Better Grades Than Boys Do

Enrico Gnaulati:

As the new school year ramps up, teachers and parents need to be reminded of a well-kept secret: Across all grade levels and academic subjects, girls earn higher grades than boys. Not just in the United States, but across the globe, in countries as far afield as Norway and Hong Kong.

This finding is reflected in a recent study by psychology professors Daniel and Susan Voyer at the University of New Brunswick. The Voyers based their results on a meta-analysis of 369 studies involving the academic grades of over one million boys and girls from 30 different nations. The findings are unquestionably robust: Girls earn higher grades in every subject, including the science-related fields where boys are thought to surpass them.

Less of a secret is the gender disparity in college enrollment rates. The latest data from the Pew Research Center uses U.S. Census Bureau data to show that in 2012, 71 percent of female high school graduates went on to college, compared to 61 percent of their male counterparts. In 1994 the figures were 63 and 61 percent, respectively. In other words, college enrollment rates for young women are climbing while those of young men remain flat.

This begs a sensitive question: Are schools set up to favor the way girls learn and trip up boys?

Vaulting to Great Heights in Allentown

Deb Fallows:

The Parkettes. It sounds like a ’60s girl band, but it’s not. If you’ve dipped into the world of gymnastics beyond watching the Olympics every four years, you probably already know that the Parkettes—the name applies to the team, the building, and the program—is a national training center for U.S. gymnasts in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

In many ways, the Parkettes is indeed a product of the ’60s, and the story of their origin is a heartwarming, classic American saga. Donna Strauss, who founded the club with her husband Bill, told me about its early days as we walked around the cavernous 35,000 square foot space that is its home. The floor was bustling with girls flying from one uneven bar to another, muscling through sets of pull-ups, pounding at top speed toward a leaping flip over the vault, and walking on their hands in rows, with precise upside-down posture across the floor. Doing anything they were doing looked impossibly, implausibly difficult.

Deja vu: School report card shows vulnerable students left behind in Madison

Jeff Spitzer-Resnick:

Black, Hispanic and low-income students, as well as students with disabilities and English language learners, show proficiencies well below those of the district as a whole, Jeff Spitzer-Resnick points out on his blog.

“While overall the Department of Public Instruction considered that MMSD ‘meets expectations,’ a closer examination of vulnerable student populations suggests many MMSD students are not receiving an education which will prepare them adequately for adulthood,” writes Spitzer-Resnick, an attorney who has blogged before about school district accountability.

Citing information from the Report Card detail available here on the DPI website, Spitzer-Resnick compares district-wide levels of proficiency in reading and math with consistently lower levels among students of color, low-income students and those with disabilities or limited English language skills.

Hardly a recent issue, unfortunately. Madison’s long term disastrous reading results.

More, here.

Meanwhile, Madison continues to support wide low income variation across its schools.

For the Common Core, A Different Sort of Benchmark

“But we do have an example of the kind of approach to standard-setting I admire that should be getting much more attention than it has yet received: the work of Will Fitzhugh, publisher of The Concord Review”—It was [is] the examples, not the declarative statements of the standards, that really ‘set the standard.’”

Marc Tucker:

Years ago, when we were putting our New Standards project together, Phil Daro, the director of New Standards, and the standards design team, headed by Ann Borthwick, decided to do something very important. They built the standards around examples of student work that met the standards. We had statements of the usual sort—the student should know this and be able to do that—but they felt that these statements were necessarily abstract. To know what they really meant, both student and teacher would need examples of work that actually met the standards. Ann had previously directed the effort to build the famous Victorian Certificate standards in Victoria, Australia, which peppered their standards document with examples, but New Standards was the first to make the examples the very heart of the work.

Our standards consisted mainly of a series of performance tasks given to students and, for each task, an example of exemplary student work (actual student work, in fact). Each piece of student work was annotated to show which piece of the student work illustrated the relevant standard, with a note about why the work met the standard. Any given piece of student work would typically contain sections illustrating several different standards.

Both students and teachers would look at our standards books, and, say, over and over again, “Oh, now I know what they mean. I can do that.” Or, they might say, “I cannot do it yet, but now that I know what is wanted, I know what I have to do to meet the standard.” Teachers would post examples of work that met the standards on classroom walls. Students would critique their own work in relation to the examples. It was the examples, not the declarative statements of the standards, that really “set the standard.”

In a way, there was nothing new in this. For many years prior, most of the top performing countries had issued their standards and then published—nationally, sometimes in the newspapers—both the questions asked—all of them—and the highest scoring responses, often in the form of short essays, because all or most of the questions demanded essays or worked out problems, not checked boxes in multiple choice format. Both teachers and students in those countries routinely pored over the answers with the best marks to understand what the people scoring the tests were looking for. Because of the way the questions were asked and the kind of constructed response that was required, there was no way to “test prep” for these exams. The only way to succeed on them was to demonstrate real command of the material and be able to respond with the kind of analysis, synthesis and just plain good writing that was called for.

I was very disappointed when I saw that the Common Core did not follow the New Standards example. Like the Victorian Certificate, some examples were included, but the standards were not built around them. Most important, I see that, although the two consortia building tests set to the Common Core will be releasing sample questions, most of the prompts will call for choices among multiple choice responses. There will be many fewer performance tasks calling for open-ended responses of the kind just described than they had promised when they began their work. I do not doubt that their tests will be much better than the vast majority of the tests that states have been using for accountability purposes, but they will still, in my opinion, fall well short of what they could and should have been had it not been for federal policy that requires far more testing than will be found in the any of the high performing countries.

But we do have an example of the kind of approach to standard-setting I admire that should be getting much more attention than it has yet received: the work of Will Fitzhugh, publisher of The Concord Review, a journal of high school student history essays refereed by Fitzhugh. I say “refereed” because Fitzhugh’s standards are very high and the quality of the essays is consistently remarkable.

The Concord Review is arguably the world standard for history writing at the high school level, a true benchmark. Fitzhugh has published standards for the essays that appear there, but the published essays themselves really set the standard. Students and teachers know that, and they study the essays hard to understand what it takes to get an essay published in the journal. I might say that the standard is not just a standard for history writing, but, at the same time, a standard for writing.

If you have read what I have written here with a note of skepticism, perhaps you will believe the testimony of a high school history teacher, John Wardle, head of the history department at Northern Secondary School in Toronto, Ontario (I forgot to mention that publication in The Concord Review is open to high school students all over the world, which it why it can reasonably claim to set an international benchmark for the quality of high school history writing). Here’s what Wardle had to say in a letter to Fitzhugh:

“Please find enclosed four essays for your consideration. All of these girls were students in my Modern Western Civilization class here at Northern Secondary School.

I would also like to compliment you on the consistently high standards of The Concord Review. Our collection of them has proven to be a terrific tool for my senior students. For a few, it gives them ideas for topics of their own. For many more, it provides outstanding material for their own research. For all of them it is the benchmark against which they can measure their own writing and historical skills. Since we began setting aside class time for reading them, student essay writing has improved considerably.

From a teacher’s point of view, it is tremendously rewarding to see students get engrossed in topics of their own choosing, enthusiastically pursue them and then produce strong, correct papers. The discussions before, during and especially after this creative process are always memorable. Almost without exception, the students feel that, by the end, they have gained a solid understanding and mastery of a particular aspect of history. By producing first-rate work, they also know they are ready for, and able to handle, post-secondary education.

When I returned their essays this year, for example the first question they posed each other was not ‘What was your mark?’ but rather ‘Can I read your paper?’ They spent the entire 76 minute period sharing essays, exchanging thoughts and genuinely learning from each other. I merely watched and listened. Professionally, it was a wonderful experience. As a catalyst, The Concord Review deserves a great deal of the credit for this kind of academic success.”

For years, Fitzhugh has been trying to find a foundation that would supply him with the modest amount of money needed to find a successor to run The Concord Review when he retires, which will happen rather sooner than later, as Fitzhugh is getting on in years. So far, there have been no takers. Which is deeply puzzling to me. If I were a foundation that had expressed an interest in doing whatever is necessary to bring American education up to a world standard, especially if I were interested in promoting what has come to be called “deeper learning,” I do not think I could find a more productive use of my funds than to invest them in the preservation of this treasure, truly a global benchmark not only in the field of history but in the kind of disciplined inquiry and first class writing that ought to be the hallmark of high standards everywhere.

The Single Best Idea for Reforming K-12 Education; ” Stop Running the system for the sake of the system”

Steve Denning:

I have been asked for my “single best idea for reforming K-12 education”. When you only have one shot, you want to make it count. So I thought I would share my idea here, in case anyone has a brighter insight.

Root cause: factory model of management
To decide what is the single best idea for reforming K-12 education, one needs to figure out what is the biggest problem that the system currently faces. To my mind, the biggest problem is a preoccupation with, and the application of, the factory model of management to education, where everything is arranged for the scalability and efficiency of “the system”, to which the students, the teachers, the parents and the administrators have to adjust. “The system” grinds forward, at ever increasing cost and declining efficiency, dispiriting students, teachers and parents alike.

Given that the factory model of management doesn’t work very well, even in the few factories that still remain in this country, or anywhere else in the workplace for that matter, we should hardly be surprised that it doesn’t work well in education either.

But given that the education system is seen to be in trouble, there is a tendency to think we need “better management” or “stronger management” or “tougher management”, where “management” is assumed to be the factory model of management. It is assumed to mean more top-down management and tighter controls, and more carrots and sticks. It is assumed to mean hammering the teachers who don’t perform and ruthlessly weeding out “the dead wood”. The thinking is embedded in Race to the Top and No Child Left Behind.

These methods are known to be failing in the private sector, because they dispirit the employees and limit their ability to contribute their imagination and creativity; they frustrate customers, and they are killing the very organizations that rely on them. So why should we expect anything different in the education sector?

Much more on a focus on adult employment, here.

The Good in Standardized Testing

Lelac Almagor:

I was still in college the first time someone cried in a parent-teacher conference with me. I had found a summer job at a free enrichment program for public school students. One of our students had just taken her first-ever standardized test, a practice version of the entrance examination for an elite magnet high school. She had scored in something like the fourteenth percentile.

“I don’t understand,” her mother told me. “She does all her work in school. She does her homework. She does extra. I stay on top of her grades from the beginning. Always, she is getting As. Always, I think she is doing well.”

Even then, at the beginning of my teaching career, I could see how this had happened. A quiet, diligent, well-behaved girl who turned in all her assignments—of course her grades were great. But she couldn’t read grade-level texts. Neither could many of her classmates at their majority-minority, wrong-side-of-the-tracks public school.

Our summer program offered open enrollment and free enrichment; it tended to attract motivated students with motivated parents. The kids largely earned decent grades. Still, we took for granted that most would need remediation, extra support in basic skills they should have mastered long before middle school. Our strongest students would have qualified as just barely at grade level relative to national norms. What we called striving for excellence was really a pitched battle to break even.

Only 36 percent of Americans can name the three branches of government

Reid Wilson:

Wednesday marked national Constitution Day, the 227th anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution. But only 36 percent of Americans can actually name the three branches of government the Constitution created.

That’s according to a new survey from the Annenberg Public Policy Center, and it shows a huge percentage of Americans might need to take a civics refresher course.

Only 38 percent of Americans knew the Republican Party controls the U.S. House of Representatives, while 17 percent think Democrats are still in charge. The number of people who knew Republicans were in charge has dropped 17 percent since the last time Annenberg asked, back in 2011, right after Republicans reclaimed control.

An identical number, 38 percent, knows Democrats run the Senate, while 20 percent believe Republicans control the upper chamber. Only 27 percent knew it takes a two-thirds majority of the House and Senate to override a presidential veto.

What U.S. schools can learn from Poland

Hechinger Report

By any measure, Poland has made remarkable education progress since the fall of the Berlin Wall. On the most recent 2012 international tests of 15-year-olds, known as PISA tests, Poland ranked 9th in reading and 14th in math among all 65 countries and sub-regions that took the test. It used to be on par with the United States, a mediocre performer. In math, for example, Poland gained 2.6 points a year between 2003 and 2012 while the rest of the world, on average, remained unchanged.

And on Sept. 9, 2014, when the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) released its annual indicators, “Education at a Glance 2014,” another important indicator appeared: Poland’s college graduation rate is soaring. In 2012, 25 percent of Poland’s adults held a college degree, up from only 11 percent in 2000. At that rate, it could soon eclipse the United States, where more than 40 percent of adults have a college degree (this includes two-year degrees).

“Poland is an interesting case study,” said Andreas Schleicher, director of education at the OECD. “It used to be modest. It is now at the frontier, in little more than a decade.”

Despite proven academic success of NYC’s charter schools, the mayor and unions are waging a war on city’s charter kids

Mark Perry:

The profiles of four Harlem charter schools, operated by Success Academy Charter Schools are displayed above, based on new 2014 data from the SchoolDigger website and national school database. All four Harlem Success Academy charters serve primarily minority student populations (all are 93.5 to 97.1% black and Hispanic) and low-income households (75 to 80% of students at these schools qualify for free or discounted lunch), and yet all are ranked academically higher than about 97% of all schools in New York state based on 2013-2014 standardized test assessments in math and reading.

What a truly amazing academic success story! Harlem Success Academy 3, an elementary school where 95.2% of the students are black or Hispanic and 80% are from poor households who qualify for free or discounted lunch, performed better on standardized reading and math tests than 99.5% of all elementary schools in the state.

Q1: With those kinds of impressive, eye-popping academic results for some of the city’s most at-risk student populations in Harlem, couldn’t that proven record of academic success be replicated in all public schools? Wouldn’t you think that these Harlem charter schools would be recognized as academic models for the rest of the city and the state? After all, the students at all four of the Success Academy charter schools in Harlem are performing at the same or higher level as students in the tony and upscale Scarsdale school district, where about 90% of the students are white or Asian, less than 1% are black, 0% of the students qualify for free/reduced lunch, and the median household income is $221,531.

New Orleans is home to the nation’s first all-charter district. Is this the future of education?

Ana Kamenetz

Bright and early one hot Wednesday morning in July, Nathlynn Dellande went to choose a new school for her grandchildren. Chloe, 7, was heading into the second grade, and her brother, Ashton Jr., 5, was starting kindergarten.

Dellande lives in historically black, middle-class New Orleans East. She at first assumed Chloe and Ashton Jr. would go to Lake Forest Charter Elementary, a well-regarded local school, alongside the neighbors she calls “my kids”: “They play ball outside and I keep freeze pops for them,” she says. “When I go to the grocery, they all run and help me bring everything in.”

It’s what nearly every family looks for: a quality neighborhood school, in a neighborhood that’s worked hard to come back. This area flooded badly during Hurricane Katrina, and there are still abandoned homes on Dellande’s block.

The Economic Price of Colleges’ Failures

Kevin Carey:

Four years ago, the sociologists Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa dropped a bomb on American higher education. Their groundbreaking book, “Academically Adrift,” found that many students experience “limited or no learning” in college. Today, they released a follow-up study, tracking the same students for two years after graduation, into the workplace, adult relationships and civic life. The results suggest that recent college graduates who are struggling to start careers are being hamstrung by their lack of learning.

“Academically Adrift” studied a sample of students who enrolled at four-year colleges and universities in 2005. As freshmen, they took a test of critical thinking, analytic reasoning and communications skills called the Collegiate Learning Assessment (C.L.A.). Colleges promise to teach these broad intellectual skills to all students, regardless of major. The students took the C.L.A. again at the end of their senior year. On average, they improved less than half of one standard deviation. For many, the results were much worse. One-third improved by less than a single point on a 100-point scale during four years of college.

This wasn’t because some colleges simply enrolled smarter students. The nature of the collegiate academic experience mattered, too. Students who spent more time studying alone learned more, even after controlling for their sociodemographic background, high school grades and entrance exam scores. So did students whose teachers enforced high academic expectations. People who studied the traditional liberal arts and sciences learned more than business, education and communications majors.

Wisconsin’s K-12 “Report Cards” Released

Matthew DeFour

The average score for all districts statewide was 72.1, up from 71.5 last year. That translates to a rating near the top of the “meets expectations” scale.

Madison also improved its overall score, from 68.5 to to 69.8. Its score remained among the bottom third of districts statewide, but moved up, from 11th to eighth, among 15 school districts located in cities. It also moved up one spot among Dane County districts from lowest score to second-lowest, ahead of Belleville.

Waunakee scored highest in Dane County and had the 12th-highest score in the state.

Milwaukee Public Schools once again was the only district that received a “fails to meet expectations” rating.

No schools in Madison received the lowest rating, but eight received the second-lowest . That’s an improvement from 11 last year. Four Madison schools received the highest rating: Franklin, Shorewood Hills and Van Hise elementary schools and Hamilton Middle School. Van Hise had the highest score in Dane County and 13th-highest in the state.

Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham said she was pleased with the results, including that the district’s growth score was above the state average. Growth scores tend to correlate less with student poverty levels than the overall scores.

Related: the oft criticized WKCE.

Curated Education Information