The Macro : The Detroit Water Project has helped more than 950 families keep access to running water since it was founded just 16 months ago. Can you take us back to the beginning? How did this start?
Tiffani Ashley Bell : Last summer in 2014, I was a Code for America fellow, working on software with the City of Atlanta. With government stuff, when you’re working on projects at that level, there is often a lot of downtime as you wait for things to go through.
Before I get up in the morning, I usually scroll through Twitter on my phone. One morning in July of last year I read an article in the Atlantic about how there were 100,000 people in Detroit who were about to have their water shut off for owing money to the water company. The article said that something like 50 percent of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department’s customers were behind on their bills. If you were $150 behind for at least 2 months, you were eligible for shut off.
This story really bothered me. It just really bothered me. This was a city-run water company having this issue. I thought it was shady that this was the city’s solution. How is turning off a household’s access to clean water helping people who are already hurting, who are already behind on their bills?
Madison’s government schools have long tolerated disastrous reading results.
A Supreme Court decision coming by the end of June could be devastating for organized labor. The case, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association (CTA), challenges a 1977 ruling allowing public-sector unions to charge nonmembers covered by union contracts mandatory fees to pay for the costs of collective bargaining. The lead plaintiff, Rebecca Friedrichs, is an elementary school teacher. She claims that being forced to pay money to California’s politically powerful and overwhelmingly Democratic teachers’ union as a condition of her employment violates her First Amendment rights.
Related: an emphasis on adult employment.
There is much truth in this diagnosis. But it does not explain the plight of Liz Kelley, a Missouri high school teacher and mother of four who made a series of unremarkable decisions about college and borrowing. She now owes the federal government $410,000, and counting.
This is a staggering and unusual sum. The average undergraduate who borrows leaves school with about $30,000 in debt. But Ms. Kelley’s circumstances are not unique. Of the 43.3 million borrowers with outstanding federal student loans, 1.8 percent, or 779,000 people, owe $150,000 or more. And 346,000 owe more than $200,000.
The Obama has largely federalized student loans, placing the burden on all Americans.
Our debt, via the handy US Debt Clock app:
connecting dots together:
I often think back to the times when I was in school and to which of the kids, who are adults now, really did turn out to be someone really successful or someone I admire for what they have done with their lives.
Very often, the people I find myself admiring were the weird kids in school. They were the kids that dressed funny, spoke funny or had really odd hobbies. They were the kids that simply did whatever they wanted to do, without letting the negative comments of others make them conform to societal norms. They knew from very young ages what they wanted to do, and they just did it. They never appeared to be affected by the need to fit in or to be a part of a group; they seemed to be just fine on their own, or at least fine enough so they wouldn’t try as hard as others to fit in.
Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta:
The United States has used many types of currency, and each piece has a story behind it. Below are eight bills that are or were once legal tender. Using drag and drop, match the currency with the fact associated with it.
The financial ramifications are significant. A school district gaining a student receives a share of the student’s home district’s state aid to help pay for educating that student. The Madison School District will lose about $6.5 million in state aid this school year because of open enrollment, the report said.
“Obviously, I am not pleased,” said Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham. “I want Madison to be the first choice for families. That’s what we’re working on.”
She said that while the report is disappointing, it will motivate her and others to work harder.
Overall, the district’s enrollment this school year is 25,231 in grades K-12, down 0.3 percent, or 74 students. There are an additional 1,778 students enrolled in 4-year-old kindergarten.
Much more on Madison’s $454,414,941.93 2015-2016 budget and open enrollment, (about $17K per student!).
Despite spending far more than most K-12 government schools, Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results.
Twenty out of 29 of the district’s K-8s have too few students in the middle grades, making it challenging to offer the same level of programming middle schools can, the district found. The district also has 11 schools that are over-crowded and nine that are under-enrolled.
The district developed performance indicators to show the impact of each proposal. Both would drop the number of over-crowded and under-enrolled schools to one. The percentage of students attending over-crowded schools would decline from 20 percent to 1 percent.
Madison is currently expanding one of its least diverse schools – Hamilton Middle School.
Mary Ryerse and Tyler Nakatsu:
While it’s pretty intuitive to know our expressions of gratitude might benefit another person (and that’s enough motivation!), there are also many scientifically proven benefits of gratitude, including:
Gratitude opens the door to more relationships
Gratitude improves physical health
Gratitude improves psychological health
Gratitude enhances empathy and reduces aggression
Grateful people sleep better
Gratitude improves self-esteem
Gratitude increases mental strength
Of the 2,838 Madison School District teachers eligible to vote, 86 percent cast a ballot to recertify the Madison Teachers Inc. union, according to the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission, the state agency responsible for administering collective bargaining laws. The 20-day voting period ended at noon Tuesday.
Much more on Madison Teachers, Inc. and Act 10, here.
In a city with the greatest economic inequity in the country and with a rapidly expanding charter school now serving nearly half of the city’s students, D.C. is one of the few traditional public school districts in the country with enrollment gains and is on track to exceed 50,000 students by 2017. Much of the credit goes to Henderson’s leadership.
Henderson’s relentless energy and boundless public praise in support of her teachers and principals has created positive morale and considerable buy-in among classroom educators to what is one of the most ambitious reform agendas in the country.
She has also maintained labor peace even while driving an aggressive teacher quality agenda that links evaluation and compensation in part to student growth, something few other urban superintendents can claim.
Madison rejected a proposed IB charter school several years ago.
“An emphasis on adult employment“.
The case heard by the state Supreme Court on Tuesday pits Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s administration against Evers and public education backers who object to the 2011 Act 21. That law gave the governor power to approve or reject the administrative rules state agencies create to implement statutes.
A court blocked the law from applying to Evers’ Department of Public Instruction in 2012, ruling that it unconstitutionally elevated the governor’s authority over the state superintendent’s. An appeals court agreed in February. Lawmakers continue to review rules as they did before the law was signed, but they have not had the power to reject them without passing a law to that effect.
As you might imagine, administrative rule-making doesn’t usually come with the high political drama that lawmaking does.
The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction brought us decades of low academic standards via the oft-criticized WKCE.
Giovanni Tiso and Hilary Stace (PDF):
When meeting with the parents of a prospective student with a learning disability or other impairments, a school principal has a range of options. If the child comes from outside the school’s zone, they can refuse admission outright, or make it subject to the school’s special enrolment conditions. Otherwise, the Education Act 1989 gives disabled children the same access to compulsory education as others. The question then becomes: how inclusive should the school be? A school not wishing to burden itself with children with disabilities can adopt a soft approach. The principal can, for instance, be less than totally welcoming at the pre-enrolment interview, or complain about the lack of funding, or praise the great work that the school down the road does in this area, or point to a drab, uninviting special room. Parents of children with special needs are quick to pick up on these signals and will look elsewhere.
The tables below show a three-year history of kindergarten attendance and chronic absenteeism (attendance less than 90%) across the seven HERE! Schools together (Allis, Falk, Lapham, Leopold, Mendota, Midvale, and Orchard Ridge).
NPR (November 12, 2015), Getting kids to show up.
Molly Beck on MMSD Attendance Report for 2013-14 (WSJ) (August, 2014)
MMSD 2013-14 Attendance Report.
Via a kind reader.
Randall Munroe, via a kind Richard Askey email:
There once was a doctor with cool white hair. He was well known because he came up with some important ideas. He didn’t grow the cool hair until after he was done figuring that stuff out, but by the time everyone realized how good his ideas were, he had grown the hair, so that’s how everyone pictures him. He was so good at coming up with ideas that we use his name to mean “someone who’s good at thinking.”
Two of his biggest ideas were about how space and time work. This thing you’re reading right now explains those ideas using only the ten hundred words people use the most often.1 The doctor figured out the first idea while he was working in an office, and he figured out the second one ten years later, while he was working at a school. That second idea was a hundred years ago this year. (He also had a few other ideas that were just as important. People have spent a lot of time trying to figure out how he was so good at thinking.)
The first idea is called the special idea, because it covers only a few special parts of space and time. The other one—the big idea—covers all the stuff that is left out by the special idea. The big idea is a lot harder to understand than the special one. People who are good at numbers can use the special idea to answer questions pretty easily, but you have to know a lot about numbers to do anything with the big idea. To understand the big idea—the hard one—it helps to understand the special idea first.
Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes:
Is it misguided, inefficient and wasteful to compel school districts to resort to referenda for authority to meet the rising costs of school operations? Not everyone thinks so. For example, Republican Jeremy Thiesfeldt, chair of the Assembly Committee on Education, does not see a problem with government by referendum. “A school district, if they decide that they need additional money to provide a quality education, what is wrong with them having to sell this to the providers of the tax dollars, the voters?” Thiesfeldt says.
We shouldn’t require our school boards to win voter approval for their annual budgets any more than we should hold a statewide referendum every other year so voters can weigh in on the biennial budget. Representative Thiesfeldt voted in favor of requiring a civics test for high school graduation so he should know that our government does not operate by plebiscite. We have a representative democracy and elect office holders to make decisions so that the voters don’t have to.
Voters become understandably irritated if they are called to the polls every year for a referendum on school district spending. There are dedicated volunteers in every school district, but other community members have other priorities and would not welcome the obligation to educate themselves every year on school district finances in order to cast an informed vote on a referendum. That’s the kind of thing they elect school board members to take care of.
Madison spends $16,700 per student, substantially more than the national average. This, despite long standing, disastrous reading results.
Much more on Ed Hughes, here.
Graphical Linear Algebra:
We are on the home stretch. In this episode we complete the set of equations of Interacting Hopf monoids, the technical name for the equational theory behind graphical linear algebra. Afterwards, we will not see any new equations for some time. Instead, we will explore what this equational theory is good for. In the next few episodes I hope to convince you that I haven’t been wasting your time with all of this!
On The Lens today, Paul Hill and Ashley Jochim write: Creating and transforming schools is the core work of education reform. But educational change is inevitably political. It requires adults to work differently, threatens some jobs, empowers parents with new choices, and makes schools’ existence depend on enrollment and academic performance. As education reform efforts in some cities have shown, bypassing local politics is not a sustainable solution.
Madison Teachers, Inc (PDF), via a kind Jeanie Kamholtz email:
“Beyond Measure” a film, sponsored by MTI & WEAC, paints a positive picture of what is possible in American Education. Ruth Conniff, Editor of The Progressive magazine, will facilitate a discussion following the film. The film begins at 7:00 p.m., at the Barrymore Theater. There is no charge to attend. Tickets are going fast, but can be reserved via: http://www.madisonteachers.org/beyondmeasure/
Brad Wolverton, Ben Hallman, Shane Shifflett and Sandhya Kambhampati:
A river of cash is flowing into college sports, financing a spending spree among elite universities that has sent coaches’ salaries soaring and spurred new discussions about whether athletes should be paid. But most of that revenue is going to a handful of elite sports programs, leaving colleges like Georgia State to rely heavily on students to finance their athletic ambitions.
In the past five years, public universities pumped more than $10.3 billion in mandatory student fees and other subsidies into their sports programs, according to an examination by The Chronicle of Higher Education and The Huffington Post. The review included an inflation-adjusted analysis of financial reports provided to the NCAA by 201 public universities competing in Division I, information that was obtained through public-records requests.
Kate Manne and Jason Stanley:
Students at the University of Missouri recently succeeded in pressuring the institution’s president and chancellor to step down. At other campuses across the country, we are witnessing a wave of similar protests. Frequently, however, the students protesting are being misrepresented and belittled in the news media as childish and coddled. More worryingly still, they are held to be attacking freedom of speech rather than exercising it to call for institutional reform — political action of the very kind this freedom aims at protecting.
What explains this apparent paradox? In a word, propaganda. The notion of freedom of speech is being co-opted by dominant social groups, distorted to serve their interests, and used to silence those who are oppressed and marginalized. All too often, when people depict others as threats to freedom of speech, what they really mean is, “Quiet!”
By Hannah Oh, Steven Glick and Taylor Schmitt:
The student protests that have swept through Claremont McKenna College (CMC) over the past few days—and the ensuing fallout—have made us disappointed in many of those involved.
First, former Dean Mary Spellman. We are sorry that your career had to end this way, as the email in contention was a clear case of good intentions being overlooked because of poor phrasing. However, we are disappointed in you as well.
We are disappointed that you allowed a group of angry students to bully you into resignation.
We are disappointed that you taught Claremont students that reacting with emotion and anger will force the administration to act.
Silpa Kovvali Silpa Kovvali:
In December of 2012, many Harvard students woke to an unpleasant surprise that had been slid under their doors. A flyer, circulated by anonymous parties, was seemingly a parodic invitation to a final club. “Inclusion. Diversity. Love.” it read, with footnotes clarifying “Jews need not apply. Seriously, no fucking Jews. Coloreds okay. Rophynol.” (Final clubs are Harvard’s version of fraternities: they are very wealthy, very old, and bear a long tradition of elitism and sexism.)
In response, the (now former) Dean of the College, Evelynn M. Hammonds issued a statement. “I find these flyers offensive,” it said. “Even if intended as satirical in nature, they are hurtful and offensive … and do not demonstrate the level of thoughtfulness and respect we expect at Harvard when engaging difficult issues within our community.” That week, two Harvard House Masters, Nicholas A. and Erika Christakis, wrote a histrionic Time op-ed in which they described the school as a “a free-speech surveillance state.” Their sole evidence was the administration’s response to the anonymous gesture: Hammonds’s declaration that she, for one, did not care for it.
Julie F. Mead & Preston C. Green III
This policy brief addresses the challenge of using charter school policy to enhance equal educational opportunity. Three overriding assumptions guide the brief’s recommendations: (1) charter schools will be part of our public educational system for the foreseeable future; (2) charter schools are neither inherently good, nor inherently bad; and (3) charter schools should be employed to further goals of equal educational opportunity, including racial diversity and school success. The creation of charter schools is just one among a variety of policy tools at the disposal of local, state, and national policymakers. As with all educational policy tools, one challenge is to wield the tool in a manner that will enhance equity and opportunity. Part I of this brief provides an overview of equal educational opportunity and its legal foundations and offers a review of prior research documenting issues concerning charter schools and their impact on equity and diversity. Part II presents detailed recommendations for charter school authorizers, as well as state and federal policymakers for using charter schools to advance equal educational opportunity. Separately, we are publishing a companion document based on these detailed recommendations, providing model statutory code language that can be employed by state policymakers to ensure that charter schools attend to long-established policy goals.
Madison Schools’ charter policy (pdf).
A majority of the Madison School Board rejected the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School several years ago, despite long term disastrous reading results.
Fostering Innovation in the Madison Government Schools.
Wisconsin Reading Coalition, via a kind email:
Dr. Louisa Moats defends the use of the word “dyslexia” in this article: Defending the “D” Word.
Two resources are available for teaching bi-dialectal fluency for African American English speakers: Toggle Talk for kindergartners and Code Switching Lessons: Grammar Strategies of Linguistically Diverse Writers for older students. These programs are linguistically and culturally responsive practices designed to boost literacy outcomes for African American students.
Katherine Beals & Barry Garelick:
“In general, there is no more evidence of “understanding” in the explained solution, even with pictures, than there would be in mathematical solutions presented in a clear and organized way. How do we know, for example, that a student isn’t simply repeating an explanation provided by the teacher or the textbook, thus exhibiting mere “rote learning” rather than “true understanding” of a problem-solving procedure?
“Math learning is a progression from concrete to abstract. The advantage to the abstract is that the various mathematical operations can be performed without the cumbersome attachments of concrete entities—entities like dollars, percentages, groupings of pencils. Once a particular word problem has been translated into a mathematical representation, the entirety of its mathematically relevant content is condensed onto abstract symbols, freeing working memory and unleashing the power of pure mathematics. That is, information and procedures that have been become automatic frees up working memory. With working memory less burdened, the student can focus on solving the problem at hand. Thus, requiring explanations beyond the mathematics itself distracts and diverts students away from the convenience and power of abstraction. Mandatory demonstrations of “mathematical understanding,” in other words, can impede the “doing” of actual mathematics.”
Related: Math Forum: audio/video.
Sahil Chinoy and Chloee Weiner:
In 1960, California passed the Master Plan for Higher Education, which established a framework for public higher education in the state. It envisioned a University of California without tuition that guaranteed access for the top one-eighth of the state’s high school graduates, funded by taxpayers who believed in the university as a source of economic and social mobility.
UC Berkeley, in particular, as an elite public school, has aimed to reconcile its responsibility to the state’s people with its status as a highly selective academic institution — a challenge faced by few others.
Today, state disinvestment, rising tuition costs, more out-of-state students, increased private research funding and a greater emphasis on alumni giving have left some questioning whether UC Berkeley is drifting farther from the public ideal of the Master Plan and closer to the private universities with which it has always competed.
2016 Cut-Off Scores (PDF). Wisconsin is 208, Minnesota 214, Illinois 215, Massachusetts is 223, Texas 220 (!) and Alabama is 209 (!)
Revisit College Station, TX, vs Madison. One spends substantially more per student than the other…
Madison Teachers, Inc. Newsletter, via a kind Jeanie Kamholtz email (PDF):
The present condition of politics in education is gloomy. School workers report high levels of stress, health problems, and thoughts of abandoning their career. Numerous teachers in Wisconsin already have, and it’s caused a teacher shortage nationwide. Many pinpoint the source – a lack of respect for the professional by far-right legislators and governors, and that has become the new normal. However, a ray of hope broke its way through the malaise, with the announcement this fall of what has been accomplished with the Madison Metropolitan School District Employee Handbook. It is evidence of what the Right couldn’t take. While Act 10 destroyed a 50 year history of collective bargaining for Wisconsin’s public employees, save police and firefighters, it couldn’t take away the voice or the spirit of MTI’s collaborative ability. There is still power in Union.
The Employee Handbook was a result of the Union and District management working together to map out a path for the future of our students, our schools, and workers. One of the most powerful aspects of this Handbook is that it continues a grievance procedure which provides for a mutually-selected independent hearing examiner.
Also, within the Handbook is a process for its modification. Any modification will be the result of a joint employer/employee committee coming together to make a recommendation to the Board of Education. This follows a procedure similar to the process used to create the original Handbook. It honors collaboration and emphasizes the importance of workers’ voices in the workplace.