Decades-Old Graph Problem Yields to Amateur Mathematician

Evelyn Lamb:

In 1950 Edward Nelson, then a student at the University of Chicago, asked the kind of deceptively simple question that can give mathematicians fits for decades. Imagine, he said, a graph — a collection of points connected by lines. Ensure that all of the lines are exactly the same length, and that everything lies on the plane. Now color all the points, ensuring that no two connected points have the same color. Nelson asked: What is the smallest number of colors that you’d need to color any such graph, even one formed by linking an infinite number of vertices?

The problem, now known as the Hadwiger-Nelson problem or the problem of finding the chromatic number of the plane, has piqued the interest of many mathematicians, including the famously prolific Paul Erdős. Researchers quickly narrowed the possibilities down, finding that the infinite graph can be colored by no fewer than four and no more than seven colors. Other researchers went on to prove a few partial results in the decades that followed, but no one was able to change these bounds.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: US Debt

David Harsanyi:

But, of course, it’s somewhat unfair to measure debt in this way. Presidents not only inherit the spending and compounding interest of previous administrations, but they deal with unforeseen circumstances that can lead to debt, like war and recession. Others, on the other hand, benefit from strong economies and a dose of luck. So the better question to ask is, “What situation is responsible for most new long-term spending?” The answer seems pretty obvious: one-party rule.

Presidents don’t pass budgets, Congress does. When the GOP held the majority in the House for most of Obama’s two terms, they mitigated the explosion of debt. If Congress had adopted the contours of Obama’s budgets, as Democrats almost certainly would have if they were in power, the former president’s record on debt would have been far worse. According to the CBO, the 2016 White House proposal would have added $6.6 trillion in deficits over ten years. And who knows what kind of costly programs Democrats would have adopted had they been unopposed.

The same can be said of Bill Clinton, who benefited greatly from a conservative Congress that curbed his worst instincts. Not so much George W. Bush (and, for now, Donald Trump), who rely on a largely pliable GOP.

Moreover, most big-ticket items (before the Obama administration’s norm-busting expansion of government-centered health-care) had some bipartisan buy-in. Other times, as with George W. Bush’s expansion of Medicare, Democrats had argued that it wasn’t generous enough. It’s not as easy to assign blame as we’d like — though, other than military spending bills, I can’t think of any spending Democrats thought was too generous. While there may be fluctuations in how fast debt grows, the broader picture tells us that we are on an ascending — and accelerating — debt trajectory, no matter who’s in charge.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: A debt crisis is on the horizon

Michael J. Boskin, John H. Cochrane, John F. Cogan, George P. Shultz and John B. Taylor:

We live in a time of extraordinary promise. Breakthroughs in artificial intelligence, 3D manufacturing, medical science and other areas have the potential to dramatically raise living standards in coming decades. But a major obstacle stands squarely in the way of this promise: high and sharply rising government debt.

President Trump’s recently released budget is a wake-up call. It projects that this year, a year of relatively strong economic growth, low unemployment and continued historically low interest rates, the deficit will reach $870 billion, 30 percent greater than last year.

For years, economists have warned of major increases in future public debt burdens. That future is on our doorstep. From this point forward, even if economic growth continues uninterrupted, current tax and spending patterns imply that annual deficits will steadily increase, approaching the $1 trillion mark in two years and steadily rising thereafter as far as the eye can see.

Who Has More of Your Personal Data Than Facebook? Try Google

Christopher Mims:

As justifiable as the focus on Facebook has been, though, it isn’t the full picture. If the concern is that companies may be collecting some personal data without our knowledge or explicit consent, Alphabet Inc.’s GOOGL -1.11% Google is a far bigger threat by many measures: the volume of information it gathers, the reach of its tracking and the time people spend on its sites and apps.

New regulations, particularly in Europe, are driving Google and others to disclose more and seek more permissions from users. And given the choice, many people might even be fine with the trade-off of personal data for services. Still, to date few of us realize the extent to which our data is being collected and used.

“There is a systemic problem and it’s not limited to Facebook,” says Arvind Narayanan, a computer scientist and assistant professor at Princeton University. The larger problem, he argues, is that the very business model of these companies is geared to privacy violation. We need to understand Google’s role in this.


Google also is the biggest enabler of data harvesting, through the world’s two billion active Android mobile devices.

Since Google’s Android OS helps companies gather data on us, then Google is also partly to blame when huge troves of that data are later used improperly, says Woodrow Hartzog, a professor of law and computer science at Northeastern University.

A good example of this is the way Facebook has continuously harvested Android users’ call and text history. Facebook never got this level of access from Apple ’s iPhone, whose operating system is designed to permit less under-the-hood data collection. Android OS often allows apps to request rich data from users without accompanying warnings about how the data might be used.

To be listed in Google’s Android app store, developers must agree to request only the information they need. But that doesn’t stop them from using “needed” data for additional purposes.

Designers call the ways marketers and developers cajole and mislead us into giving up our data “dark patterns,” tactics that exploit flaws and limits in our cognition.

February Bar Exam Performance Hits Record Low

Karen Sloan:

A decline in the average MBE score from the February 2018 bar exam does not bode well for pass rates, which are beginning to trickle out.

Performance of law graduates taking the attorney licensing test in February has hit the lowest point in more than a decade, while scores for those taking the exam during the more popular July session have been on the upswing.

According to the National Conference of Bar Examiners, the average score on February’s Multistate Bar Exam—the 200 multiple-choice question portion of the test used by all jurisdictions—fell 1.3 points from the previous year, to 132.8. That’s the lowest average in more than 10 years, and marks the fourth straight year that the February average declined.

Universities and colleges struggle to stem big drops in enrollment

Jon Marcus:

Behind the deceptive quiet of a small college campus in the summer, things are buzzing at Ohio Wesleyan University.

Faculty at the 175-year-old liberal-arts school, which has about 1,700 undergraduates, are preparing new majors in high-demand fields including data analytics and computational neuroscience. Admissions officers are back from scouting out prospective students in China, India and Pakistan. Recruiters have been on the road closer to home, too, in Cleveland and Chicago. In the athletics department, work is under way to add two sports and a marching band.

More money has been put into financial aid, the process of transferring to the college is being streamlined, and the ink is still wet on contracts with Carnegie-Mellon University and a medical school to speed Ohio Wesleyan students more quickly to graduate degrees. The number of internships is being expanded, along with short-term study-abroad opportunities. The university is considering freezing, lowering or slowing the rate of increase of its tuition and fees, which are now $44,690.

The Plight of University Presses

Steven Lubet:

The Kentucky General Assembly recently passed a budget that reduces funding for higher education by 6.25 percent, and will require cuts of as much as $24 million at the two major state universities. Numerous programs may have to be shuttered as a consequence, most likely including the University Press of Kentucky (UPK), which stands to lose its entire state subsidy.

That would be a shame, because UPK is widely admired for its publications in regional, Civil War, and Military history. A relatively small press, with only about 60 books per year, UPK has won twelve Frederick Jackson Turner awards, which speaks to the extremely high quality of its work. UPK is also unique in that it is affiliated with multiple in-state universities and colleges, both public and private, rather than exclusively with the University of Kentucky.

UPK is not the first university press to come under fire. In 2012, the new president of the University of Missouri announced plans to close the University of Missouri Press, which is another high-quality regional press – having published important works on Langston Hughes and Mark Twain. A public uproar saved the press and its $400,000 annual subsidy from the university.

The University Press of Kentucky receives a state subsidy of $672,000, which pays seven employee’s salaries. All other expenses are covered through annual book sales, which include important works on Kentucky and Appalachia.

University presses are often attractive targets for budget hawks, as many of their publications are highly specialized, and often quite esoteric. Scholars, of course, recognize the importance of publishing academic work that is often the product of decades of research. While the more prominent university presses – such as Oxford, Harvard, and Chicago – are not in danger, the smaller presses play an equally important role in disseminating new and meaningful scholarship.

State: Chicago ‘Delayed and Denied’ Special Ed Services For Kids

Sarah Karp:

A state investigation found “systemic problems” with special education in Chicago Public Schools that “delayed and denied” services to children, according to a report released by the Illinois State Board of Education Wednesday.

State board of education members were briefed Wednesday on the report, the culmination of an extensive investigation into Chicago Public Schools’ special education program.

A “public inquiry” team appointed by the state began investigating CPS late last year after a WBEZ series on problems with special education and after advocates demanded action.

Advocates alleged that a recent overhaul of special education by the school district led to delays and cutbacks in services for students. The program serves about 50,000 children and costs the school district about $900 million annually.

Penn State’s 98-Year-Old Outing Club Is No Longer Allowed to Go Outside “Student safety in any activity is our primary focus.”

Lenore Skenazy:

What’s more dangerous: rugby, or a walk in the woods? At Pennsylvania State University, the administrators apparently think it’s the latter.

The student “Outing Club,” which has gone backpacking, kayaking, and hiking in state parks over the course of its 98-year-existence, will no longer be allowed to host outdoor events after administrators conducted a risk assessment, according to The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

“The types of activities in which [Penn State Outing Club] engages are above the university’s threshold of acceptable risk for recognized student organizations,” according to an official announcement.

A key issue for administrators was that the Outing Club frequently visit locations with poor cell phone coverage. This wasn’t an issue during the Coolidge administration, but now that cell phones exist, students are apparently expected to remain glued to them at all times.

“Student safety in any activity is our primary focus,” Lisa Powers, a Penn State spokeswoman, told The Post-Gazette.

Thanks to Beyoncé, All Eyes Are on Black Colleges. A Historian Says They Should Capitalize on the Hype.

Julian Wyllie:

The Chronicle spoke with deGregory on Monday about what the performance means for public perceptions of black colleges. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Q. It’s a media freakout for people reacting to Beyoncé’s use of black imagery. What’s the big deal here?

A. For members of the HBCU community, it is a source of affirmation of all that we know and love about the HBCU experience. It’s a demonstration that popular culture, whether consciously or unconsciously, values the HBCU within a historical framework. It also makes the case for our contemporary relevance and is made easier when popular culture adopts expressions of our campus cultures.

Q. Who is the affirmation for? Is it affirmation for people who don’t know about these colleges, or those who don’t care and ignore HBCUs?

A. These expressions have been a part of HBCU culture for as long as they have existed, but until there’s an event in popular culture that signals some interest, we are not seen as popular culture. I think that is a fair assessment, given that we know Beyoncé grew up in a town [Houston] that is dominated by HBCU band culture. Her father is, of course, a historically black college and university graduate, having graduated from Fisk University, where he sat on the board. So it’s not as though she’s unfamiliar with black colleges.

Civics: Michael Cohen, Attorney-Client Privilege and the Crime-Fraud Exception

Paul Rosenzweig:

The world is awash in “hot takes” on the news that President Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, is under criminal investigation. On Monday, the FBI executed a search warrant at his home, his office and a hotel room that he rented. Claims are already resonating that the search violated Trump’s attorney-client privilege and reflect more excess from Special Counsel Robert Mueller. (Trump himself called the search a “disgrace” and again threatened to fire Mueller.) I want to take a step back and offer a few more thoughts that, perhaps, shed a little light on the attorney-client issue.

(As an aside, before doing so, I want to note the absurdity of Trump blaming Mueller for the search. As many others have pointed out, Mueller referred the matter to the Justice Department, where the investigation was assigned to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. That office (run by a Trump appointee) then procured the warrant—with the approval of a magistrate judge—and worked with the FBI to conduct the search. In this regard, the special counsel’s actions and the Justice Department referral are completely unlike the Starr investigation on which I worked many years ago. There, Attorney General Janet Reno kept expanding the Starr investigation into new areas—mostly, I think, as a matter of convenience. Here, the department seems intent on cabining the Mueller investigation to the scope it was originally initiated for—and to also be willing to spin off unrelated matters to the relevant local U.S. attorney’s office. That’s a good example of the system functioning as it should—and it certainly is no “disgrace.”)

The No. 1 trait highly charismatic people all share

Jonathan Blumberg:

The skills you need for social success

In January, van Hippel gave a talk at the Fred Rhodewalt Social Psychology Winter Conference in Park City, Utah, during which he presented the five distinct yet intertwined elements that he believes “behavioral flexibility” depends on.

“These are the mental skills that we believe underlie socially successful responses in general, and charisma in particular,” says von Hippel. “We already have some evidence for the left two boxes [and top box] … and we’re working on the right two boxes.”

Dem Delegates’ Hypocritical Message on Ed Reform: Toe the Union Line…or Keep Your Mouth Shut

Mike Vaughn:

“Folks are being pushed to the edges on the right and left on politics,” longtime Denver Public Schools Superintendent Tom Boasberg is quoted in Chalkbeat as saying at a Gates Family Foundation event held on Friday to discuss Denver’s successful model of education reform. “Part of what we’ve been able to do in Denver for some time is to reject the orthodoxy of the left and right.”

The next day, the “orthodoxy of the left” had its say.

The Colorado Democratic delegates held their state assembly on Saturday and approved a minority-proposed amendment to their education platform: “We oppose making Colorado’s public schools private or run by private corporations or becoming segregated again through lobbying and campaigning efforts of the organization called Democrats for Education Reform and demand that they immediately stop using the party’s name Democrat in their name.”

That’s one shaky, insecure, and misleading push to the left edge. And it’s a platform that this member of the Democratic Party won’t set foot on.

DFER is firmly against “making Colorado’s public schools private” or “becoming segregated again.” They lobby and campaign forcefully and successfully to make education more equitable: to increase funding, to increase the quality of schools, and to empower all families with the right to choose the best school for their child—especially African-American and Latino families in underserved neighborhoods who have traditionally been denied any educational choices.

Parents in poorer countries devote more time to their kids’ homework

The Economist:

HOMEWORK is the bane of a child’s life. It can also weigh heavily on parents, who either struggle to get their charges to finish it, or even worse, must brush up on their own rusty skills to help out. Parental involvement in education contributes to a child’s eventual success. A new report by the Varkey Foundation, an educational charity, shows how much time parents put in to their children’s education. The survey looked at 29 countries and found that parents in emerging economies spend much more time helping with homework than their counterparts in richer countries.

CDC surveys in the 1990s, never publicly reported, indicate nearly 2.5 million defensive uses of guns a year.

Brian Doherty:

Florida State University criminologist Gary Kleck conducted the most thorough previously known survey data on the question in the 1990s. His study, which has been harshly disputed in pro-gun-control quarters, indicated that there were more than 2.2 million such defensive uses of guns (DGUs) in America a year.

Now Kleck has unearthed some lost CDC survey data on the question. The CDC essentially confirmed Kleck’s results. But Kleck didn’t know about that until now, because the CDC never reported what it found.

Kleck’s new paper—”What Do CDC’s Surveys Say About the Frequency of Defensive Gun Uses?”—finds that the agency had asked about DGUs in its Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System in 1996, 1997, and 1998.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Commentary on Federal Taxpayers Subsidizing some states

Adam Ashton:

They’re the Californians who will lose a collective $12 billion because the new law caps a deduction they have been able to take for paying their state and local taxes, according to a new analysis by the Franchise Tax Board.

Very wealthy Californians earning more than $1 million a year will pay the lion’s share of that money, with 43,000 of them paying a combined $9 billion.

But some middle-class Californians will pay more, too.

What’s a good response to “It’s fine, I’ve got nothing to hide online”?

David Piper:

Whenever I try to explain my concerns about online data privacy to other people (family and friends, mostly), the most common response I get is:
“Oh it’s fine, Facebook/Google/etc can collect whatever they want, I don’t have anything to hide.”

I try to explain that the kind of data collection (and use/sale) we see from these businesses can be a much bigger concern than just “Facebook knows where I work”, but I can never really articulate my thoughts well.

Cornell Law Professors Join Strengthening Push For Due Process On Campus

Ashe Schow:

Colleges and universities typically fall back on the defense that at least they followed their own policies when denying a male student due process rights. But Cornell isn’t even doing that. Professor Sheri Lynn Johnson, who filed the brief, asserts that Cornell didn’t provide an accused student the right “to test his accuser’s account of events and credibility by having a disciplinary hearing panel ask his accuser proper questions that he proposes,” which is granted to students in Cornell policy.

Although the brief specifically addresses this policy in one case, the professors note they are “concerned more generally with whether Cornell respects this and other procedural protections in its Title IX policy going forward and whether courts properly interpret the policy.”

The specific case included in the brief involves the pseudonymous John Doe and his accuser, referred to as Sally Roe. Sally made inconsistent statements throughout the investigation and hearing, and even though John submitted questions to the hearing panel to be asked of her, none of his questions were asked.

Big Data Blacklisting

Margaret Hu:

“Big data blacklisting” is the process of categorizing individuals as administratively “guilty until proven innocent” by virtue of suspicious digital data and database screening results. Database screening and digital watchlisting systems are increasingly used to determine who can work, vote, fly, etc. In a big data world, through the deployment of these big data tools, both substantive and procedural due process protections may be threatened in new and nearly invisible ways. Substantive due process rights safeguard fundamental liberty interests. Procedural due process rights prevent arbitrary deprivations by the government of constitutionally protected interests. This Article frames the increasing digital mediation of rights and privileges through government-led big data programs as a constitutional harm under substantive due process, and identifies the obstruction of core liberties with big data tools as rapidly evolving and systemic.

Civics: Expertise in Journalism: Factors Shaping a Cognitive and Culturally Elite Profession

Jonathan Wai1 and Kaja Perina:

What qualities are important in the development of journalism expertise? And how can the study of elite journalists shed light on our understanding of expertise more broadly? This study examined a sample of 1,979 employees of The New York Times (NYT) and The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), arguably two of the most influential papers in the U.S. and the world. Almost half of the people who reach the pinnacle of the journalism profession attended an elite school and were likely in the top 1% of cognitive ability. This means top 1% people are overrepresented among the NYT and WSJ mastheads by a factor of about 50. Placed in the context of other elite occupations, this provides evidence for the influence of the cognitive elite across a wide variety of expertise, including domains that provide prestige and influence rather than monetary rewards. Roughly 20% attended an Ivy League school. Writers were drawn from higher-ranking schools, reflecting higher cognitive ability than demonstrated by editors’ schools. Almost all elite journalists graduated from college, and the majority did not major in journalism (roughly 80% of typical journalists graduate from college). Only a handful of select schools feed the mastheads of the NYT and the WSJ, suggesting the importance of networks. Data on typical journalists were analyzed to provide characteristics of editors and reporters/correspondents. This approach shows that cognitive ability should be accounted for in more comprehensive theoretical models of expertise and that deliberate practice cannot be the full explanation of success. It also provides a unique test of the generality of expertise models into more nontraditional expertise domains such as journalism and other occupations and ultimately may shed light on the extent to which general cognitive ability, the role of selective institutions, opportunity, and other factors may play in expertise development broadly.

On Civic Apathy

Petula Dvorak:

This is after the revelation earlier this year that more than 900 students — a third of the capital’s entire graduating class — were not eligible for the diplomas they were given.

Add to that the bombshell last week that the school system is full of residency fraud — a good chunk of the kids who come to D.C. schools don’t even live in the city. This is happening at the highest levels, investigations showed. The executive assistant to former schools chancellor Kaya Henderson, Angela Williams-Skelton, hauled her grandkids from their Frederick, Md., home to a D.C. public school every day, right under the chancellor’s nose.

And then we have the resignation of one of Bowser’s most influential and prestigious appointments, the schools chancellor picked to follow Henderson, Antwan Wilson. He resigned because of the way his daughter got to leapfrog hundreds of D.C. students on a waitlist to get into the school she wanted.

Washington, DC is hardly unique.

Madison spends nearly $20,000 per student, yet has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

10 Things Teachers DID NOT Have to Deal With 10 Years Ago

Jeremy Adams:

Something is wrong—very, very wrong. Teachers across the country at all grade levels, in all subjects, teaching a wide variety of student populations, can sense it. There is a pulse of dysfunction, a steady palpitation of doom that the path we are on is not properly oriented.

There is a raw and amorphous anxiety creeping into the psyche of the corps of American teachers.

We may have trouble pinpointing the exact moment when something in our schools and broader culture went wildly astray, leaving in its wake teachers sapped of optimism and weighted with enervate comprehension. The following is a small sampling—this list could easily have been twice as long if my conversations with fellow teachers are any indication—of problems that teachers were not facing ten years ago.

Civics: Forget Comey and McCabe. Support FBI whistleblower Terry Albury

Trevor Timm:

For the past three weeks, two former FBI officials—Andrew McCabe and James Comey—have received wall-to-wall media coverage and substantial monetary support from people across the United States in the form of donations and books sales following their feuds with President Trump. But it’s a third former FBI official, unknown to virtually anyone—Terry Albury—who faces actual jail time from the Trump Justice Department and is far more deserving of the support of journalists everywhere.

A few weeks ago, Albury, a former FBI special agent based out of Minnesota, became the second person the Trump administration—after Reality Winner—prosecuted for allegedly leaking documents to the media. Critically, one of the documents he is assumed to have leaked directly impacts journalists’ rights and press freedom.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Feds Taxed and Borrowed $4.47 Trillion Since Last Tax Day; $13,737 for Every Man, Woman, Child in USA

Terrence Jeffrey:

The federal government has taxed and borrowed $4,474,356,967,081 since Tax Day 2017, according to statements published by the U.S. Treasury.

That $4,474,356,967,081 in taxing and borrowing equals approximately $13,737 for each of the 325,719,178 people living in the United States as of July 2017.

In 2017, the tax filing deadline was April 18. As of that day, according to Table IV in the Daily Treasury Statement, the federal government had brought in $1,668,245,000,000 in tax revenues. For the entire fiscal year, which ended on September 30, 2017, the federal government would collect $3,314,894,000,000 in taxes, according to the Monthly Treasury Statement.

Commentary on Edina’s curriculum and climate


Katherine Kersten is a Senior Fellow at Center of the American Experiment, the think tank that I run. In the Fall 2017 issue of our magazine, Thinking Minnesota, she wrote a long, thoroughly documented expose of leftist political indoctrination and bullying of nonconforming students, teachers and staff in the Edina, Minnesota public school system. She did a follow-up story in the Winter 2018 issue of the magazine. Because of their quality and depth of reporting, these articles (along with an op-ed by Kathy in the Minneapolis Star Tribune on the same subject) triggered a vigorous local debate.

The issue of left-wing indoctrination in the schools is, of course, of national interest, and Kathy’s articles began to attract attention from national news outlets, as well. The Weekly Standard commissioned a piece by Kathy which greatly expanded the national reach of the story. Kathy’s Weekly Standard article was featured on the Drudge Report. Links to the article were tweeted by prominent conservatives like Brit Hume. Fox’s Dana Perino included it in her weekly reading list. Ben Shapiro and Jordan Peterson, the Canadian psychologist whose recent book was the #1 best seller on Amazon for several weeks, discussed it. The piece became one of the Weekly Standard’s most-read articles of 2018.

Many popular web sites linked to, and discussed, Kathy’s various Edina articles, including, of course, Power Line. In addition, national web sites including Real Clear Politics, InstaPundit (three times), Fox News, the Kansas City Star, the Independent Women’s Forum, Intellectual Takeout, Education News, Breitbart, The American Conservative, PJ Media, Erick Erickson in the Macon, Georgia Telegraph, Legal Insurrection, Frontpage Magazine, Hot Air, Alpha News, and many more.

In addition, Kathy appeared on television on Fox & Friends, and on Dennis Prager’s radio show, and was also a guest on a number of local radio programs across the country. Her stories about indoctrination and bullying in the Edina schools truly had gone national.

Thus, I was not surprised to get an email from Solvejg Wastvedt, a reporter for Minnesota Public Radio, on March 5. Ms. Wastvedt said that she wanted to interview me. She wrote:

‘Teaching is bending us out of shape — in a good way’

Lucy Kellaway:

I am now two-thirds of the way through my training year and my report card to myself remains mixed. The good news is that I am surviving. Although I quite often go to bed at 8.30pm feeling half dead, during waking hours I am more alive than I have felt in decades.

The profession is known to be exhausting, but is so in a peculiar way. The hours are no worse than in most professional jobs but every second is at full tilt. In my old life I would waste hours cyber skiving, which left me restive and grumpy. Now I view a spare five minutes before a lesson as an oasis of free time — long enough to do some printing, go to the loo and enter half a dozen behaviour points into the system. The reward for such intensity is that the day appears to be over 20 minutes after it began.

As well as surviving (which I count as a victory) I’m also positively good (or at least improving) at various things. I learn names easily and talk to students nicely. I am making my peace with technology, with the vagaries of the photocopier, the whiteboard and the snipping tool no longer defeating me.

Equally my workings on the board have gone from catastrophic to rather good. The way I lay out a simultaneous equation is a thing of beauty.

Who’s Reading Your Email?

Lindsay McKenzie:

In 2016, two faculty members at the University of Rochester filed a sexual harassment complaint against their colleague T. Florian Jaeger.

The two faculty members, Richard Aslin and Jessica Cantlon, said they were whistle-blowers, acting to protect their students from a potentially predatory professor. They expected support from their institution, but, they said, they didn’t get it.

After insisting that the university’s two internal investigations into Jaeger (which both found no evidence of wrongdoing) had been flawed, Aslin and Cantlon said the university administration turned on them.

Both faculty members had their university email accounts searched by administrators in an apparent attempt to find information that might be used to discredit them, they said.

The searches took place without their knowledge or consent and were likely in violation of the university’s IT privacy policy, said Aslin.

“Of course, the university has the authority to look at emails under appropriate circumstances, such as if there were suspicion of a crime, but we were whistle-blowers,” said Aslin. He described the email search as a “creepy” invasion of privacy with “no good cause.”

Perhaps more troubling than the search was what the institution did with the messages, said Cantlon.

Cantlon only found out that her email had been searched after her department chair, Greg DeAngelis, confronted her with a pile of printouts containing messages between Cantlon and several colleagues that criticized the way DeAngelis had handled Jaeger.

Commentary on CUNY Speech Climate

Greg Piper:

The City University of New York School of Law is blatantly misrepresenting what happened when its students confronted and heckled a visiting law professor, he told the New York Law Journal.

Josh Blackman of the South Texas College of Law said those hecklers did indeed take away both his rights and those of students who came to hear him at the Federalist Society chapter-sponsored event.

It wasn’t just a “reasonable exercise of free speech” that Blackman (below) tolerated by engaging with them for eight minutes, as Dean Mary Lu Bilek put it:

Jeffco Schools Have Massively Betrayed Parents’ Trust

Tom Coyne:

According to a recent report, “86% of Colorado parents surveyed believe their child is on track to meet the goals and expectations for learning at his or her grade level” (“Hearts and Minds of Parents in an Uncertain World” by Learning Heroes).

Most of these parents are dead wrong.

It isn’t hard to see why they are so overconfident. Parent-teacher meetings are usually short, with a brief review of student grades that are usually good. The fact that grade inflation is now rampant in K-12 is never mentioned (e.g., “Measuring Success” by Hurwitz and Lee and “High School Grade Inflation” by Zhang and Sanchez).

So parents remain blissfully ignorant of the true state of student achievement, and the heavy lifetime price their children will pay for school districts’ betrayal of their trust.

Palantir Knows Everything About You Peter Thiel’s data-mining company is using War on Terror tools to track American citizens. The scary thing? Palantir is desperate for new customers.

Peter Waldman, Lizette Chapman, and Jordan Robertson:

It all ended when the bank’s senior executives learned that they, too, were being watched, and what began as a promising marriage of masters of big data and global finance descended into a spying scandal. The misadventure, which has never been reported, also marked an ominous turn for Palantir, one of the most richly valued startups in Silicon Valley. An intelligence platform designed for the global War on Terror was weaponized against ordinary Americans at home.

Founded in 2004 by Peter Thiel and some fellow PayPal alumni, Palantir cut its teeth working for the Pentagon and the CIA in Afghanistan and Iraq. The company’s engineers and products don’t do any spying themselves; they’re more like a spy’s brain, collecting and analyzing information that’s fed in from the hands, eyes, nose, and ears. The software combs through disparate data sources—financial documents, airline reservations, cellphone records, social media postings—and searches for connections that human analysts might miss. It then presents the linkages in colorful, easy-to-interpret graphics that look like spider webs. U.S. spies and special forces loved it immediately; they deployed Palantir to synthesize and sort the blizzard of battlefield intelligence. It helped planners avoid roadside bombs, track insurgents for assassination, even hunt down Osama bin Laden. The military success led to federal contracts on the civilian side. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services uses Palantir to detect Medicare fraud. The FBI uses it in criminal probes. The Department of Homeland Security deploys it to screen air travelers and keep tabs on immigrants.

Police and sheriff’s departments in New York, New Orleans, Chicago, and Los Angeles have also used it, frequently ensnaring in the digital dragnet people who aren’t suspected of committing any crime. People and objects pop up on the Palantir screen inside boxes connected to other boxes by radiating lines labeled with the relationship: “Colleague of,” “Lives with,” “Operator of [cell number],” “Owner of [vehicle],” “Sibling of,” even “Lover of.” If the authorities have a picture, the rest is easy. Tapping databases of driver’s license and ID photos, law enforcement agencies can now identify more than half the population of U.S. adults.

JPMorgan was effectively Palantir’s R&D lab and test bed for a foray into the financial sector, via a product called Metropolis. The two companies made an odd couple. Palantir’s software engineers showed up at the bank on skateboards. Neckties and haircuts were too much to ask, but JPMorgan drew the line at T-shirts. The programmers had to agree to wear shirts with collars, tucked in when possible.

The Future of Elite Schools, Continued

James Fallows:

That being said, my best friend at Harvard is my therapist. Or maybe my psychiatrist, whom I see monthly at student health, and who recently comforted me with an age-old adage: “it’s better to be from Harvard than at Harvard.”

They were surprised I had not heard that saying before. Apparently, I’m not alone in my disdain for the realities of student life in the Ivy League.

I could fill a book with the conversations I’ve had with my mental healthcare providers. A chapter on the social isolation I’ve felt here; on what I should do with my life; on the merits and drawbacks of exclusively affinity group events at an already departmentalized school; on the unhealthy stress of crippling student loans, and my brewing envy (and resentment) of those without them.

* * *

I applied to Harvard seeking academic opportunity, personal validation, and of course, a prestigious pedigree. I was nearing completion of a two-year research fellowship, and, having been painfully pre-med in college, I was finally ready to admit that medicine was not for me (I don’t like hospitals).

I still craved a mission-driven career, and decided the passion for public health I had cultivated as an undergrad warranted further exploration. After informational interviews with numerous public health professionals, who told me the field was dominated by alumni of the highest ranked schools, I made the choice to only apply to top programs for my master’s—a degree required for consideration in most public health doctoral programs.

Denying Genetics Isn’t Shutting Down Racism, It’s Fueling It

Andrew Sullivan:

Last weekend, a rather seismic op-ed appeared in the New York Times, and it was for a while one of the most popular pieces in the newspaper. It’s by David Reich, a professor of genetics at Harvard, who carefully advanced the case that there are genetic variations between subpopulations of humans, that these are caused, as in every other species, by natural selection, and that some of these variations are not entirely superficial and do indeed overlap with our idea of race. This argument should not be so controversial — every species is subject to these variations — and yet it is. For many on the academic and journalistic left, genetics are deemed largely irrelevant when it comes to humans. Our large brains and the societies we have constructed with them, many argue, swamp almost all genetic influences.

Humans, in this view, are the only species on Earth largely unaffected by recent (or ancient) evolution, the only species where, for example, the natural division of labor between male and female has no salience at all, the only species, in fact, where natural variations are almost entirely social constructions, subject to reinvention. We are, in this worldview, alone on the planet, born as blank slates, to be written on solely by culture. All differences between men and women are a function of this social effect; as are all differences between the races. If, in the aggregate, any differences in outcome between groups emerge, it is entirely because of oppression, patriarchy, white supremacy, etc. And it is a matter of great urgency that we use whatever power we have to combat these inequalities.

Campus governance commentary

Kyle Smith:

Except if you tell them they’re jeopardizing their financial aid or their housing. Then they fold immediately.

The extent of student fortitude was mapped out in a natural experiment conducted at New York University last week, when students vowed to occupy a student center around the clock (it normally closes at 11 p.m.) until their demands for a meeting with the board of trustees were met. A photo in the Village Voice showed seated students blocking access by taking up most of the space on a stairway. The underlying ideals appeared to be the usual dog’s breakfast of progressive fancies — something about divesting from fossil fuels, and also allegations of unfair labor practices.

NYU administrators showed little patience for the activists disrupting the proceedings at the Kimmel Center for University Life. But how to dissolve the protest? It turned out that there was no need to bring in the police. Ringing up the students’ parents was all it took. The phone calls advised parents that students who interfered with campus functions could be suspended, and that suspensions can carry penalties of revoked financial aid or housing. The students “initially planned to stay indefinitely,” notes the Voice’s report. “Instead, the students departed within forty hours.”

The Simms principle: Muriel Simms worked to make Lincoln Elementary a better place for kids of color

Lisa Speckhard Pasque:

Muriel Simms had never been a principal before she walked into Lincoln Elementary School in August of 1988. The south Madison school did not have a good reputation.

“I get very angry with the perception that’s out there,” she said in an August 1988 Cap Times article. “I choose to ignore it.”

That story was headlined “Nobody’s more nervous than new principals,” but Simms was quoted as saying, “Really, I think I’m going to be so busy the first day, I won’t have time for the jitters.”

Simms was a little nervous when she returned to Lincoln earlier this month. She hadn’t been back since she left in 1994 to work as an equity coordinator for the district. While leading the school was the highlight of her career, being a principal is tough, and not all the memories waiting for her were good ones.

Are Student Evaluations Really Biased by Gender? Nope, They’re Biased by “Hotness.”

Pascal Wallisch Julie Cachia:

At the end of each semester, college students have a chance to give feedback to their professors in the form of student evaluations, basically “rating” them. On the whole, professors are often not really comfortable with this, which has led to a great deal of research on the topic. Critics of student evaluations tend to point out that they don’t really measure the actual teaching effectiveness of a professor, only perceived teaching effectiveness. They also readily point out that the correlation between student evaluations and future student performance is weak. There are other fundamental concerns: Arguably, student evaluations come at the worst possible time—at the end of the semester, when it is too late for the professor to change anything about the course and usually too early for the students to fully appreciate the utility of what they learned in the class. Finally, there are fundamental conflicts of interest involved, given that professors who grade more harshly tend to receive lower ratings, and students have clear interest in their grades while professors depend on receiving good ratings for promotion, tenure, and so on. We’re both researchers who have taught college students, so we’re quite familiar both with the process and the response from our colleagues.

Campus Free Speech

Scott Jaschik:

The protesters stood all over the room, including at the front, where Blackman was attempting to talk. He said he wouldn’t have been bothered by their standing there — with signs denouncing him — had they remained quiet. But until they all left, they interrupted from all around the room.

The students protesting the event called Blackman a white supremacist and racist, and some shouted, “Fuck the law.” Many said that CUNY should not have permitted Blackman to speak, given the law school’s mission, which focuses on the public interest, public service and diversifying the legal profession.

The video of the incident arrives at a time when many higher education leaders have expressed concern about the impact of such incidents on the image of higher education. Even if the overwhelming majority of campus speakers, including those expressing conservative views, are not heckled, such incidents have attracted widespread attention from political leaders.

Politics, and the Puerto Rico Teachers Union

Elizabeth Harrington:

Teachers’ union president Randi Weingarten is plotting a teachers’ strike to shut down schools in Puerto Rico, according to a conversation overheard Friday in the first-class car of an Acela train heading to New York.

Puerto Rico is in the midst of implementing school-choice reforms, opposed by Weingarten’s American Federation of Teachers. Last month Gov. Ricardo Rosselló signed legislation to increase the number of charter schools and voucher programs.

Weingarten said she does not want to use the word “strike,” but wants to use the strategy of recent teacher walkouts in Oklahoma and West Virginia as a model to fight against school-choice reforms.

“We never use the word strike,” Weingarten was overheard saying on the phone in a first-class car. “We are a human shield for the kids … teachers are doing this in the stead of parents and kids.”

Weingarten said the union’s goal should be “cloaking this in Oklahoma and West Virginia” and asked the unknown person on the other end of the line, “Does that concept work?” Weingarten also mentioned working with the “lobbyists we have” on the plan.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Pensions, Benefits, Teacher Salaries and Politics

Wall Street Journal:

In Kentucky the protests have been about pensions, not pay, but the same Medicaid crowding out is taking place. The Bluegrass State was one of the first Medicaid expansion states under ObamaCare. Some 22% of residents—more than two million people—are enrolled. In 2008 Medicaid spending in Kentucky was $4.9 billion, but by 2017 it was $9.9 billion. The federal government paid $7.7 billion of that sum last year, but the burden has already begun shifting to states.

As for education, Kentucky’s public pension woes place it on par with New Jersey and Illinois, and teachers’ pensions are only 56% funded. Participants can draw full benefits as early as age 49, and some collect longer for more years than they’ve worked.

The Republicans who gained control of the Kentucky government in 2017 have made pension reform a priority. Legislation that passed in March leaves benefits untouched for retirees and current employees.

But it stops teachers from cashing in on accrued sick days at the end of their careers, a common strategy to game the system. And it shifts new hires to a hybrid retirement plan that operates more like a 401(k). The most optimistic estimates have the teachers’ pension running a $14 billion liability, and the changes make a dent of around $500 million to $800 million over 20 years.

Madison spent 25% of its 2014-2015 budget on benefits: “unsustainable”.

Duke student protesters interrupt school president’s speech, get booed off stage

College Fix:

Protesters at Duke University crashed President Vincent Price’s (no, not him) address to alumni earlier today to demand, The Chronicle reports, “institutional change in labor practices and student support, among other areas.”

With shouts of “President Price get off the stage” and “Whose University? Our University,” the demonstrators invoked the school’s 1968 “Silent Vigil” which followed the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

“These events would later be summarized as a turning point for Duke, but 50 years later so much has still remained the same,” junior Trey Walk said. “We are still here.”

Teen charged in Nova Scotia government breach says he had ‘no malicious intent’

Jack Julian:

The 19-year-old facing a criminal charge for downloading files from Nova Scotia’s freedom-of-information portal sits in a sofa in his parent’s living room in Halifax.

His bedroom is upstairs. That’s where police found him sleeping when 15 officers raided the family home last Wednesday morning.

His demeanour is polite, almost meek. When he speaks, his voice is quiet. He could easily pass for younger than 19.

“Computers have been a part of me for a very long time,” he said.

The teen has been charged with “unauthorized use of a computer,” which carries a possible 10-year prison sentence, for downloading approximately 7,000 freedom-of-information releases.

I Disapprove of School Vouchers. Can I Still Apply for Them?

Kwame Anthony Appiah :

My son attends preschool part time at a private Montessori school, which goes up to middle school. I like the school, and he is very happy there, but I can’t afford to keep him there when he starts kindergarten full time.

I believe that free public education is an important aspect of our society. Our local public elementary school is generally considered a decent option, but I worry about how standardized testing has changed the public-school landscape in recent decades. My son is thriving in his current environment, and the approach of traditional public schools is significantly different from Montessori’s. If money were no object, I would strongly consider keeping him at his current school.

Which is the most ideologically diverse American city?

Tyler Cowen:

1. Houston. It still has plenty of Texas conservatives, but enough non-conservatives to elect a lesbian mayor. Mexicans fit along a political spectrum of their own.

2. Washington, D.C. and environs. The intellectual class in this city is about half conservative/Republican/libertarian and always will be — just don’t think too hard about who actually lives here! Most of all, everyone is used to the fact that there are oodles and oodles of forces on the other side of the debate. No one flips out over this. Even the media types have a reasonable amount of non-left representation.

Associations of Thought

Alexandra Mullen:

Even Jane Austen devotees might have reached peak saturation in 2017, the bicentenary of her death, which, since her novels were published late in her life, follows on the bicentenaries of Sense and Sensibility (1811), Pride and Prejudice (1813), Mansfield Park (1814), and Emma (1815). And, since Northanger Abbey and Persuasion were published together posthumously in 1818, there is another bicentenary this year. It would be a shame if some of the critical and popular work on her gets buried, because a remarkable percentage of writers on Austen are terrific: clear, passionate, informative, insightful, and very often good writers to boot.

In the 135 years since the first dissertation on Jane Austen appeared in 1883, scholarship on Austen has grown apace. By around the end of the First World War, large contours of the landscape had been shaped: Austen as moralist and humorist, Austen’s use of contemporary thinkers, Austen as cool-eyed artist. By the Second World War, the territory had expanded to include linguistic issues, such as Austen’s narrative experimentation and use of irony. Starting in the sixties, explorations into her juvenilia, letters, and manuscripts turned scholars back to revisit much of this ground; since the eighties, the application of various theoretical tools—historicist, political, postcolonial, feminist, narrative and so forth—have tested the soil samples with ever increasing intensity. Reception and response studies, like archaeological satellite photographs, spy out the traces of forgotten furrows ploughed by ordinary readers. And all the many Austen-inspired reimaginings—movies, vlogs, reworkings, sequels—are they the fertilizer or the earthworms continually revitalizing this earth? My metaphor and probably your patience are exhausted, but you get the idea: It’s a crowded field.

As Apple and Google fight for edtech dominance, the industry is still failing kids and teachers

Phoebe Braithwaite:

Edtech is big business. Investors staked around $8.15 billion in educational technology in 2017, and Forbes predicts this will expand to $9.5 billion in 2018, with particular growth predicted in China which has the world’s biggest market of school-age children. The industry is estimated to be worth around $130 billion globally, and is growing at a rate of roughly 18 per cent year on year.

Fed up with Google’s dominance in classrooms, Apple has just launched a lower-cost iPad with hopes of muscling its way into more schools. Announcing a new 9.7-inch iPad which will support its Pencil stylus, the iPad comes with its iWork suite and a number of new apps. Apple is also offering 200GB of free iCloud storage for those in the education system. These can be bought by students and teachers for $299 (around £212) or for $329 for the rest.

Nation’s Report Card: Common Core Delivering Education Stagnation

Richard Phelps, via a kind email:

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) boasts a long and proud history. First administered in 1969 to national samples, NAEP typically tests students in 4th, 8th, and an upper high school grade in a variety of subjects. Mathematics and reading are tested most often, but other periodically tested topics include science, history, civics, geography, technology literacy, arts, writing, and economics.

The NAEP is “low stakes,” given that neither students, nor teachers, nor schools face any consequences for test performance. Indeed, given the NAEP’s “matrix” sampling design, where only some individual classrooms within schools are selected to participate and, even then, only to administer one test section—just part of a larger whole—test scores cannot be calculated for individual students, classrooms, or schools.

NAEP had long reported test scores for some of the larger states—where sample sizes were large enough naturally to produce statistically representative results—and for smaller states willing to subsidize sample size increases. Around 1990, however, the federal government instituted a bi-annual “State NAEP” in mathematics and reading (and occasionally science or writing), covering the costs for any state wishing to participate. After the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act in 2002, all states would participate.

Commentary on Wisconsin DPI efforts to water down already thin elementary teacher content knowledge requirements.

Wisconsin Reading Coalition:

Teachers and more than 180,000 non-proficient, struggling readers* in Wisconsin schools need our support

While we appreciate DPI’s concerns with a possible shortage of teacher candidates in some subject and geographical areas, we feel it is important to maintain teacher quality standards while moving to expand pathways to teaching.

Statute section 118.19(14) currently requires new K-5 teachers, reading teachers, reading specialists, and special education teachers to pass the Wisconsin Foundations of Reading Test (WI-FORT) before getting an initial license to teach. The intent of this statute, passed in 2012 on a bipartisan vote following a recommendation of the non-partisan Read to Lead task force, was to enhance teacher quality by encouraging robust reading courses in educator preparation programs, and to ensure that beginning and struggling readers had an effective teacher. The WI-FORT is the same test given in Massachusetts, which has the highest 4th grade reading performance in the country. It covers basic content knowledge and application skills in the five components of foundational reading that are necessary for successfully teaching all students.

The annual state Forward exam and the newly-released results of the 2017 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) highlight the importance of having high-quality teachers in Wisconsin classrooms. 65% of our 4th graders were not proficient in reading on the NAEP. Our national ranking has slipped to 34th, and all sub-groups of students perform below their national averages. Our black students rank 49th among black students in the country, and our white students rank 41st.

The revised teacher licensure rules that DPI has presented to the legislature in the re-written administrative rule PI 34, create a new Tier I license that provides broad exemptions from the WI- FORT.

We encourage the education committees to table the adoption of this permanent rule until it is amended to better support teacher quality standards and align with the intent of statute 118.19(14).

We favor limiting the instances where the WI-FORT is waived to those in which a district proves it cannot find a fully-qualified teacher to hire, and limiting the duration of those licenses to one year, with reading taught under the supervision of an individual who has passed the WI-FORT. Renewals should not be permitted except in case of proven emergency.

We favor having DPI set out standards for reading instruction in educator preparation programs that encompass both the Standards for Reading Professionals (International Literacy Association) and the Knowledge and Practice Standards for Teachers of Reading (International Dyslexia Association). This will enable aspiring teachers to pass the WI-FORT and enter the classroom prepared to teach reading.

We favor having DPI implement a corrective action plan for educator preparation programs where fewer than 85% of students pass the WI-FORT on the first attempt in any year. Students putting in four years of tuition and effort should be able to expect to pass the WI-FORT.

As written, PI 34 provides the following exemptions from the WI-FORT that we find overly-broad:
34.028 (2) (a) and (c) will allow an in-state or out-of-state graduate of an educator preparation program to become a teacher of record, with full responsibility for students, under a Tier I license without passing the WI- FORT. An employing district need not show a lack of fully-qualified applicants for the position. The Tier I license is granted for one year, but then may be renewed indefinitely under 34.028 (4) (a) and (b) through a combination of teacher and district request without the teacher ever passing the WI-FORT.

34.028 (2) (d) will grant a Tier I license to any graduate of an accredited college or university without passing the WI-FORT if an employing school district conducts a search for a full-licensed candidate, but cannot find an acceptable candidate. This is the “emergency” situation of teacher shortage under which a Tier I license might be justified, provided the district conducts a thorough search and explains why any fully-licensed candidates were not acceptable. This Tier I license is also granted for one year, but then may be renewed indefinitely under 34.028 (4) (c) without the teacher passing the WI-FORT and without any further requirement that the district seek a fully-licensed teacher.

34.029 essentially allows districts to train their existing teachers (licensed under Tier I, II, III, or IV) for a new position not covered by their current license. The teacher is granted a Tier I license in the new subject or developmental level, and training consists of whatever professional development and supervision the district deems necessary. These teachers do not need to pass the WI-FORT, either at the beginning or conclusion of their training, even if their new position would otherwise require it. The district need not show that it cannot find a fully-licensed teacher for the position. This license is granted for three years, at which point the district may request a jump-up to a lifetime Tier III license for the teacher in this new position. District training programs may be as effective as traditional preparation programs in teaching reading content, but without the teachers taking the WI-FORT, there is no way to objectively know the level of their expertise.

*There are currently over 358,000 K-5 students in Wisconsin public schools alone. 51.7% of Wisconsin 4th graders were not proficient in reading on the 2016-17 state Forward exam. Non-proficient percentages varied among student sub-groups, as shown below in red and black, and ranged from approximately 70-80% in the lower-performing districts to 20-35% in higher-performing districts.

65% of Wisconsin 4th graders were not proficient on the 2017 National Assessment of Educational Progress. Non- proficient percentages varied among student sub-groups, as shown below in red and black, and all shown sub-groups performed below the national averages for those sub-groups. Black students in Wisconsin were the 3rd lowest-performing African-American cohort in the country (besting only Iowa and Maine), and Wisconsin had the 5th largest black-white performance gap (tied with California and behind Washington, D.C., Iowa, Minnesota, and Illinois).

Foundations of Reading Test.

Wisconsin posts lowest ever NAEP Reading score in 2017.

Long time Wisconsin DPI Superintendent Tony Evers is currently running for Governor.

Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results, despite spending more than most, now nearly $20,000 per student.

A New Tuition-Free Public Charter School, For Greater Madison’s Children

Via a kind email:

What Does One City Offer?

A Tuition-Free Public Charter School

Full Day 4K and Kindergarten w/Joyful Children and Adults

A Deep Commitment to School Readiness and Closing Gaps

Strong Reading, Writing, Math and STEM Program

Project-Based, Student Centered Learning Model

Healthy Meals prepared by our Chef: Breakfast, Lunch and Snack

Beautiful Facility, Playgrounds and Classrooms

Dedicated, Effective and Diverse Teaching and Support Staff

A Community of Support among Children and Families

Wonderful Volunteers and Community Partners

Longer School Day (8:15am – 5pm) with 2-hour Nap Time daily

Longer School Year (234 days vs. 180 days)

Family Perks Discount Program (click here – learn more)

Sports and Fitness Academy (during school day)

Creative and Performing Arts Academy (during school day)

Young Children’s Writing Lab (during school day)

DUE MAY 5, 2018
Preparing Children for School Success, Leadership and Life

Enroll here

Style Is an Algorithm No one is original anymore, not even you.

Kyle Chayka:

The camera is a small, white, curvilinear monolith on a pedestal. Inside its smooth casing are a microphone, a speaker, and an eye-like lens. After I set it up on a shelf, it tells me to look straight at it and to be sure to smile! The light blinks and then the camera flashes. A head-to-toe picture appears on my phone of a view I’m only used to seeing in large mirrors: me, standing awkwardly in my apartment, wearing a very average weekday outfit. The background is blurred like evidence from a crime scene. It is not a flattering image.
 Amazon’s Echo Look, currently available by invitation only but also on eBay, allows you to take hands-free selfies and evaluate your fashion choices. “Now Alexa helps you look your best,” the product description promises. Stand in front of the camera, take photos of two different outfits with the Echo Look, and then select the best ones on your phone’s Echo Look app. Within about a minute, Alexa will tell you which set of clothes looks better, processed by style-analyzing algorithms and some assistance from humans. So I try to find my most stylish outfit, swapping out shirts and pants and then posing stiffly for the camera. I shout, “Alexa, judge me!” but apparently that’s unnecessary.
 What I discover from the Style Check™ function is as follows: All-black is better than all-gray. Rolled-up sleeves are better than buttoned at the wrist. Blue jeans are best. Popping your collar is actually good. Each outfit in the comparison receives a percentage out of 100: black clothes score 73 percent against gray clothes at 27 percent, for example. But the explanations given for the scores are indecipherable. “The way you styled those pieces looks better,” the app tells me. “Sizing is better.” How did I style them? Should they be bigger or smaller?

Stop enrollment fraud? D.C. school officials are often the ones committing it.

Peter Jamison, Emma Brown:

Alarming news reached the upper ranks of D.C. Public Schools in spring 2013. In a city where families from Maryland have been known to illegally send their children to the public schools at the expense of District taxpayers, a new perpetrator had been found.

She sat in the chancellor’s office.

Angela Williams-Skelton, executive assistant to then-schools chancellor Kaya Henderson, was driving her grandchildren from the home they shared in Frederick, Md., to attend Miner Elementary School in Northeast Washington, an internal investigation found. The children’s mother, who also lived with Williams-Skelton, had allegedly evaded more than $130,000 in tuition payments required for students who live outside the District, according to current and former city officials.

Residency fraud is a persistent problem in the District’s traditional and public charter schools, contributing to a severe shortage of seats at desirable campuses. But Henderson did not act for another six months.

Purdue University Just Froze Tuition for the 7th Straight Year. Mitch Daniels Explains How.

Rob Bluey:

Bluey: We’re here at the Reagan Institute Summit on Education. What’s your message to the attendees at this event?

Mitch Daniels: I believe that higher education as we’ve known it is in some jeopardy. A lot of institutions, at least, are going to have difficulty persuading sufficient numbers of students and their families in the future that they’re providing value commensurate with the cost that they’re charging.

I also suggested that there are big opportunities that we need as a society to have addressed. Large numbers of people who could better themselves in life if they were to complete that degree that they started and didn’t finish, or maybe do one from scratch. We’re going to need new ways and means of reaching them, since many of them are well beyond the stage in life where they can engage in old-fashioned residential education.

Bluey: From a policy perspective, what are some reforms that you would like to see for higher education?

Daniels: Government’s not the answer to every question. It’s not the hammer for every nail.

There are just as many ways in which government involvement has been a contributor to this problem than it is its solution. Clearly, it could help if student financial aid programs were much less complex than they are today. If it would simply deregulate many of the requirements that have been piled on to schools. It’s part of the cost problem.

Textbook Racism: How scholars sustained white supremacy

Donald Yacovone:

There it sat on a library cart with 50 other elementary, grammar, and high-school history textbooks, its bright red spine reaching out through time and space. As I opened the book’s crisp white pages, it all came back. My loud gasp startled those near me at the special collections department of Harvard University’s Monroe C. Gutman Library. Exploring the New World — published repeatedly between 1953 and 1965 — had been assigned in my fifth-grade social-studies class in Saratoga, Calif.

As part of a broader study of the legacy of the antislavery movement and the rise of the modern civil-rights era, I wanted to assess how abolitionism had been presented in textbooks. I imagined a quick look. Instead, I found myself immersed in Harvard’s collection of nearly 3,000 U.S. history textbooks, dating from about 1800 to the 1980s. Without intending, I had become engaged in a study of how abolitionism, race, slavery, and the Civil War and Reconstruction have been taught for generations.

Prizes for Everyone: How Colleges Use Scholarships to Lure Students

Melissa Korn:

A multibillion-dollar industry has sprung up to help schools figure out how much to give each student.

“It’s become much more data-driven,” said James Day, vice president and managing director of financial aid optimization services at EAB Global Inc., a consulting firm in Washington, D.C. that works with more than 1,200 schools, including about 140 on financial-aid strategy.

Using econometric modeling, EAB knows that a $23,000 discount on a $50,000 sticker price has a 24% chance of luring a young woman with middle-of-the-road grades to a nearby private college in the Midwest. Bumping the scholarship up to $28,000 yields a 47% likelihood.

The approach can be controversial, especially at schools that don’t meet the full demonstrated financial need for poorer students.

“What we’ve seen is almost a closing of the doors for low-income students” while schools try to entice wealthier families, said Stephen Burd, a senior policy analyst at the New America Foundation who has studied the merit-aid wars.

Sam Hall, a senior at Chugiak High School near Anchorage, Alaska, was accepted to 10 liberal-arts colleges. An Eagle Scout and a strong student, he figured he might get a few merit scholarships. But not like this.

What’s So Dangerous About Jordan Peterson?

Tom Bartlett:

They’re waiting in the cold for Jordan Peterson, hands shoved in jacket pockets, serious books like The Gulag Archipelago and Modern Man in Search of a Soul tucked under arms. The crowd outside the University of Toronto’s Isabel Bader Theatre on a Tuesday evening in November is mostly male and mostly in their 20s. They’ve spent hours watching Peterson on YouTube, where he rails against the enervating evils of postmodernism, dissects the Bible at length, and offers fatherly advice about how to “change the world properly.” They recite his dictums on personal responsibility, like “Clean your room,” “Sort yourself out,” and “Don’t do things that you hate.” They devour the classics he deems must-reads — Nietzsche, Dostoyevsky, Orwell. When asked to describe him, they reach for superlatives: brilliant, breathtaking, wise. When asked to compare him, they turn to historical figures: Plato, Diogenes, Gandhi. They insist he’s changed their lives.

Soon the man himself will arrive and deliver an often dazzling, sometimes puzzling, rarely dull two-hour lecture on the symbolic and psychological underpinnings of the book of Genesis. Afterward he will field knotty questions from the audience on whether originality is really possible, the tension between honor and happiness, and the evolutionary upside of solitude. These questions seem designed to be difficult, as if the audience were engaged in a giant game of Stump the Guru. It’s during such sessions that Peterson is at his improvisational best, sprinkling in ideas from philosophy, fiction, religion, neuroscience, and a disturbing dream his 5-year-old nephew had one time. It’s a hearty intellectual stew ladled up by an intense 55-year-old psychology professor who gives the impression that he’s on the cusp of unraveling the deep secrets of human behavior — and maybe the mystery of God, too, while he’s at it.

Report finds more than half of Android apps for children are in violation of COPPA

Dani Deahl:

A new study titled Proceedings on Privacy Enhancing Technologies has found that more than half of Android apps directed toward children under 13 potentially violate the US Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), as reported by The Guardian. Additionally, the study — led by researchers at the International Computer Science Institute at the University of California, Berkeley — says the apps that are improperly collecting and sharing data are all included in Google’s Designed for Families program.

The study looked at 5,855 child-directed apps, and the researchers said they “Identified several concerning violations and trends.” According to the study, 4.8 percent had clear violations surrounding sharing location or contact information without consent, 18 percent shared identifiers for ad targeting, 40 percent shared personal information without proper security protocols, and 39 percent disregard “contractual obligations aimed at protecting children’s privacy.”

Baby is born in China four years after parents died in car crash

Lily Kuo:

After several court battles, both sets of parents finally won custody of the embryos, and in January of 2017, with the help of an underground surrogacy agency, they drove to Laos to find a mother. Surrogacy is illegal in China.

In December last year, Shen and Liu’s baby, a boy, was born in a hospital in Guangzhou. Liu’s mother gave him the name Tiantian, or “sweet”. Last month, the family celebrated Tiantian’s first 100 days by holding a small party.

Liu’s mother, Hu Xinxian, told Beijing News: “Tiantian’s eyes look like my daughter’s but overall, he looks more like his father.”

After the birth there have still been legal complications. The new grandparents had to carry out DNA tests to prove their relationship to Tiantian and keep custody.

The grandparents have not decided how to tell Tiantian about his background. Shen Xinan, Tiantian’s paternal grandfather, told Beijing News that until Tiantian is older they will tell him his parents are overseas.

WhatsApp photo drug dealer caught by ‘groundbreaking’ work

Chris Wood:

A pioneering fingerprint technique used to convict a drugs gang from a WhatsApp message “is the future” of how police approach evidence to catch criminals.

An image of a man holding ecstasy tablets in his palm was found on the mobile of someone arrested in Bridgend.

It was sent to South Wales Police’s scientific support unit and helped to secure 11 convictions.

These are believed to be the first convictions in Wales from fingerprints taken from a photograph.

The unit’s Dave Thomas described its use as “groundbreaking” and said officers are now looking more closely at photographs on phones seized for potential evidence.

Jupyter, Mathematica, and the Future of the Research Paper

Paul Romer:

The Atlantic has a great article on new ways to share research results. Its three parts make three points:

A graphical user interface (GUI) can facilitate better technical writing.

Wolfram’s proprietary notebook showcased innovative technology, but decades after its introduction, still has few users.

Jupyter is a new open-source alternative that is well on the way to becoming a standard for exchanging research results.

Each is spot on. I had to learn the hard way why so many kept their distance from Mathematica.

Now, I’m much more productive with Jupyter. I’m experimenting with, and excited about, its potential as a way to write up research results.

A new proposal for reforming teacher education

Daniel Willingham:

What Should Teachers Know?

Is my experience representative? Are most teachers unaware of the latest findings from basic science—in particular, psychology—about how children think and learn? Research is limited, but a 2006 study by Arthur Levine indicated that teachers were, for the most part, confident about their knowledge: 81 percent said they understood “moderately well” or “very well” how students learn. But just 54 percent of school principals rated the understanding of their teachers that high. And a more recent study of 598 American educators by Kelly Macdonald and colleagues showed that both assessments may be too optimistic. A majority of the respondents held misconceptions about learning—erroneously believing, for example, that children have learning styles dominated by one of the senses, that short bouts of motor-coordination exercises can improve the integration of the brain’s left and right hemispheres, and that children are less attentive after consuming sugary drinks or snacks.

But perhaps when teachers say they “know how children learn,” they are not talking about learning from a scientific perspective but about craft knowledge. They take the question to mean, “Do you know how to ensure that children in your classroom learn?” which is not the same as understanding the theoretical principles of psychology. In fact, in a 2012 study of 500 new teachers by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), respondents said that their training was too theoretical and didn’t prepare them for teaching “in the real world.” Maybe they have a point. Perhaps teachers don’t need generalized theories and abstractions, but rather ready-to-go strategies—not information about how children learn, but the best way to teach fractions; not how children process negative emotion, but what to say to a 3rd grader who is dejected about his reading.

Related: National Council on Teacher Quality.

More, here.

Comparing Wisconsin Schools

Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty:

On this page, you can search WILL’s Performance Rankings for most Wisconsin schools. The Performance Ranking puts all schools on a level playing field to arrive at an estimate of the effect of that school on student outcomes. You can search for schools by grade level, sector, city, or the specific name of a school. Schools will be ordered based on their WILL Performance Ranking among the criteria you select. You do not have to select an option in every category to conduct the search..

Much more, here.

Wisconsin posts lowest ever NAEP reading score.

Madison’s long term, disastrous reading results.

Apples to Apples

Stretch Targets.

WTAQ interviews Will Flanders.

It Matters a Lot Who Teaches Introductory Courses. Here’s Why.

Beckie Supiano:

Introductory courses can open doors for students, helping them not only discover a love for a subject area that can blossom into their major but also feel more connected to their campus.

But on many campuses, teaching introductory courses typically falls to less-experienced instructors. Sometimes the task is assigned to instructors whose very connection to the college is tenuous. A growing body of evidence suggests that this tension could have negative consequences for students.

Two papers presented at the American Educational Research Association’s annual meeting in New York on Sunday support this idea.

The first finds that community-college students who take a remedial or introductory course with an adjunct instructor are less likely to take the next course in the sequence.

The second finds negative associations between the proportion of a four-year college’s faculty members who are part-time or off the tenure track and outcomes for STEM majors.

Progressive Democrats run California—yet it does more than many states to shield police from scrutiny

Laurel Rosenhall:

Cops have a lot of pull in the California Capitol, and over the decades, that’s added up to this startling reality: The Golden State now goes further than many states in terms of protecting police from public scrutiny.

It’s a stark contrast to the state’s “left coast” image. On abortion rights, gun control and climate change, California has embraced some of the most liberal policies in the nation.

But even with a statehouse controlled entirely by Democrats, California laws are friendlier to law enforcement—and less transparent to the public—than those in Wisconsin and Florida, states with Republican governors and legislatures.

An elegy for handwriting?

David Rundle:

Is it time to compose an elegy for handwriting? Anne Trubek thinks so – indeed, hopes so. She deems the ability to form a cursive script “merely emblematic”, and dreams of a future in which the school curriculum will include it only for art classes. It will remain solely the domain of calligraphers such as Patricia Lovett, who is herself probably Britain’s best-known practitioner, teacher and advocate. Lovett’s latest book is a gorgeously presented survey of the work of masterly scribes from the third century AD to the twenty-first, culminating, appropriately (and with no false modesty), with her own work. Though Lovett would undoubtedly baulk at such a description, her volume constitutes, in Trubek’s logic, an alluring swansong of an “antiquated” skill.

If script is dying, it cannot complain that its day has been short. Its solitary reign may have been ended by the printing press, but it lived on as a citizen in the new republic of letters: official records, account books, botanical drawings, not to mention works for private circulation and personal epistles, continued to be produced by hand for centuries. Then came the typewriter, but even its keys could not strike the death knell of handwriting. Perhaps that machine’s close descendants, the keyboards of our computers and their avatars on our screens, are administering the coup de grâce. Perhaps.

Dreamers in Arizona are no longer eligible for cheaper in-state tuition, court rules

Mercedes Leguizamon and Brandon Griggs:

Arizona students covered under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program can no longer receive breaks on college tuition, the state’s Supreme Court has ruled.
The decision means that tuition costs could almost triple for many of the more than 2,400 DACA recipients attending Arizona colleges and universities, according to university attendance and fee figures obtained by CNN. The higher costs could force some to drop out of school.

“This country has said go and do it the right way, go and get an education (so) you are able to move up … in society and help your community,” said Arizona State University senior Edder Diaz Martinez at a press conference after Monday’s ruling. “But the decision goes completely against that — it says we’re going to put education out of your reach and you’re not going to be able to move up.”

Martinez, who was brought to the US from Mexico when he was 5, told CNN affiliate KPHO that his tuition could double, and “there’s no way I could afford that.”

For mathematicians, = does not mean equality

Jeremy Kun:

Every now and then I hear some ridiculous things about the equals symbol. Some large subset of programmers—perhaps related to functional programmers, perhaps not—seem to think that = should only and ever mean “equality in the mathematical sense.” The argument usually goes,

Functional programming gives us back that inalienable right to analyze things by using mathematics. Never again need we bear the burden of that foul mutant x = x+1! No novice programmer—nay, not even a mathematician!—could comprehend such flabbergastery. Tis a pinnacle of confusion!

It’s ironic that so much of the merits or detriment of the use of = is based on a veiled appeal to the purity of mathematics. Just as often software engineers turn the tables, and any similarity to mathematics is decried as elitist jibber jabber (Such an archaic and abstruse use of symbols! Oh no, big-O!).

The Fear Cycle

Michael Nygard:

Once you begin to fear your technology, you will shortly have cause to fear it even more.

The Fear Cycle goes like this:

Small changes have unpredictable, scary, or costly results.
We begin to fear making changes.
We try to make every change as small and local as possible.
The code base accumulates warts, knobs, and special cases.
Fear intensifies.
Fear starts when an innocuous change goes badly. Maybe a production outage results, or maybe just an embarrassing bug. It may be a bug that gets upper management attention. Nothing instills fear like an executive committee meeting about your code defect!

Students are being prepared for jobs that no longer exist. Here’s how that could change.

Sarah Gonser:

On Sunday, Oct. 1, the first day the application became available online, Ben Lara sat down at the computer in his bedroom to apply for federal student financial aid.

Lara, 18, is a senior at Lowell High School, where almost half the 3,200 students are low-income. He is trim with close-cropped hair and a wide flash of a smile. Along with being a National Honor Society student, squeezing in five business electives into an already packed course load, he works 30 to 35 hours a week at his job sorting in-store advertisements at Target. His main goal: getting out of his hometown and into a top-tier college.

In many ways, the future of Lowell, once the largest textile manufacturing hub in the United States, is tied to the success of students like Ben Lara. Like many cities across America, Lowell is struggling to find its economic footing as millions of blue-collar jobs in manufacturing, construction and transportation disappear, subject to offshoring and automation.

Fighting to stay in the middle class

Kirkus Review:

The middle class is endangered on all sides,” argues journalist Quart (Republic of Outsiders: The Power of Amateurs, Dreamers, and Rebels, 2014, etc.), executive editor of the Economic Hardship Reporting Project, a nonprofit journalism group. In this highly thoughtful and compassionate account, she describes the forces that are making the traditional aspects of the “American Dream” out of reach for many Americans. “It’s not your fault….The problem is systemic,” she writes. She cites the rising costs of education, health care, rent, and day care as well as the negative effects of unstable work hours, declining unionism, the gig and freelance economy, the bias against mothers and older workers, automation, and the political shift to the right. In chapters highlighting the experiences of men and women (especially pregnant and single-parent), Quart demonstrates that the social system has left the middle class “stranded, stagnant, and impotent.” The biggest culprit is “growing income inequality.” Many people who “believed that their training or background would ensure that they would be properly, comfortably middle-class” are now “ ‘fronting’ as bourgeois while standing on a pile of debt.” The author delivers painful portraits of underemployed law school graduates, Uber-driving schoolteachers, and adjunct college professors—the “hyper-educated poor”—who earn less than $20,000 annually and shop exclusively at thrift shops. Often wracked by self-blame, isolated, and ashamed of their lack of money, those interviewed by Quart wonder how they are supposed to survive “doing what we love” in a society that undervalues caring and intellect and lacks subsidized day care and affordable housing. Some readers may balk at Quart’s concern over the “psychological burden” facing upper-middle-class denizens in overpriced cities, but she offers excellent discussions of co-parenting, the problems facing immigrants, and the perils of enrolling in for-profit schools.

Madison’s K-12 District spending has increased significantly over the past few years, and now approaches $20,000 per student.

Civics: Domestic surveillance and Politics

Mark Penn:

Whether you are a Democrat who can’t stand Trump, a Hillary Clinton supporter who feels robbed by Comey, or a Trump supporter, any use of wiretapping and vast prosecutorial machinery against our political campaigns and sitting presidents always has to be viewed skeptically and should meet the highest standards of conduct and impartiality. The post-election actions of these former officials makes suspect their actions as officials.

It was, after all, Comey who went to the president during the transition seeking a one-on-one meeting to tell him about the inflammatory dossier, but who critically omitted telling the president that the dossier was a product of the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee. These facts, he knew, if revealed at that moment in January, would have ended further inquiry. This was no effort to inform the president and douse the fires of unverified and salacious information, but one to inflame the president and spread the stories everywhere.

Unlike a murder or a robbery that has a specific trail of facts that can be investigated, Russia collusion is an allegation that could never be disproved. The accusation allowed special counsel Robert Mueller to investigate the entirety of the Trump campaign, every aspect of the presidential transition, and even interview 27 White House aides.

Hard Questions: What Data Does Facebook Collect When I’m Not Using Facebook, and Why?

David Baser:

Last week, Mark Zuckerberg testified in front of the US Congress. He answered more than 500 questions and promised that we would get back on the 40 or so questions he couldn’t answer at the time. We’re following up with Congress on these directly but we also wanted to take the opportunity to explain more about the information we get from other websites and apps, how we use the data they send to us, and the controls you have. I lead a team focused on privacy and data use, including GDPR compliance and the tools people can use to control and download their information.
 When does Facebook get data about people from other websites and apps?
 Many websites and apps use Facebook services to make their content and ads more engaging and relevant. These services include:
 Social plugins, such as our Like and Share buttons, which make other sites more social and help you share content on Facebook;
 Facebook Login, which lets you use your Facebook account to log into another website or app;
 Facebook Analytics, which helps websites and apps better understand how people use their services; and
 Facebook ads and measurement tools, which enable websites and apps to show ads from Facebook advertisers, to run their own ads on Facebook or elsewhere, and to understand the effectiveness of their ads.
 When you visit a site or app that uses our services, we receive information even if you’re logged out or don’t have a Facebook account. This is because other apps and sites don’t know who is using Facebook.

Why Digital Strategies Fail

Jacques Bughin, Tanguy Catlin, Martin Hirt, and Paul Willmott:

Most digital strategies don’t reflect how digital is changing economic fundamentals, industry dynamics, or what it means to compete. Companies should watch out for five pitfalls.

The processing power of today’s smartphones are several thousand times greater than that of the computers that landed a man on the moon in 1969. These devices connect the majority of the human population, and they’re only ten years old.1

In that short period, smartphones have become intertwined with our lives in countless ways. Few of us get around without the help of ridesharing and navigation apps such as Lyft and Waze. On vacation, novel marine-transport apps enable us to hitch a ride from local boat owners to reach an island. While we’re away, we can also read our email, connect with friends back home, check to make sure we turned the heat down, make some changes to our investment portfolio, and buy travel insurance for the return trip. Maybe we’ll browse the Internet for personalized movie recommendations or for help choosing a birthday gift that we forgot to buy before leaving. We also can create and continually update a vacation photo gallery—and even make a few old-fashioned phone calls.

Digital rewards first movers and some superfast followers

In the past, when companies witnessed rising levels of uncertainty and volatility in their industry, a perfectly rational strategic response was to observe for a little while, letting others incur the costs of experimentation and then moving as the dust settled. Such an approach represented a bet on the company’s ability to “outexecute” competitors. In digital scrums, though, it is first movers and very fast followers that gain a huge advantage over their competitors. We found that the three-year revenue growth (of over 12 percent) for the fleetest was nearly twice that of companies playing it safe with average reactions to digital competition. Our research confirms this.

Incumbents moving boldly command a 20 percent share, on average, of digitizing markets. That compares with only 5 percent for digital natives on the prowl. Using another measure, we found that revved-up incumbents create as much risk to the revenues of traditional players as digital attackers do. And it’s often incumbents’ moves that push an industry to the tipping point. That’s when the ranks of slow movers get exposed to life-threatening competition.

Why digital strategies fail

Jacques Bughin, Tanguy Catlin, Martin Hirt, and Paul Willmott:

Most digital strategies don’t reflect how digital is changing economic fundamentals, industry dynamics, or what it means to compete. Companies should watch out for five pitfalls.

The processing power of today’s smartphones are several thousand times greater than that of the computers that landed a man on the moon in 1969. These devices connect the majority of the human population, and they’re only ten years old.1

In that short period, smartphones have become intertwined with our lives in countless ways. Few of us get around without the help of ridesharing and navigation apps such as Lyft and Waze. On vacation, novel marine-transport apps enable us to hitch a ride from local boat owners to reach an island. While we’re away, we can also read our email, connect with friends back home, check to make sure we turned the heat down, make some changes to our investment portfolio, and buy travel insurance for the return trip. Maybe we’ll browse the Internet for personalized movie recommendations or for help choosing a birthday gift that we forgot to buy before leaving. We also can create and continually update a vacation photo gallery—and even make a few old-fashioned phone calls.

Digital rewards first movers and some superfast followers

In the past, when companies witnessed rising levels of uncertainty and volatility in their industry, a perfectly rational strategic response was to observe for a little while, letting others incur the costs of experimentation and then moving as the dust settled. Such an approach represented a bet on the company’s ability to “outexecute” competitors. In digital scrums, though, it is first movers and very fast followers that gain a huge advantage over their competitors. We found that the three-year revenue growth (of over 12 percent) for the fleetest was nearly twice that of companies playing it safe with average reactions to digital competition. Our research confirms this.

Incumbents moving boldly command a 20 percent share, on average, of digitizing markets. That compares with only 5 percent for digital natives on the prowl. Using another measure, we found that revved-up incumbents create as much risk to the revenues of traditional players as digital attackers do. And it’s often incumbents’ moves that push an industry to the tipping point. That’s when the ranks of slow movers get exposed to life-threatening competition.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Harvey, the first domino in Illinois: Data shows 400 other pension funds could trigger garnishment

Ted Dabrowski and John Klingner:

You’d be mistaken to think Harvey, Illinois has a unique pension crisis. It may be the first, and its problems may be the most severe, but the reality is the mess is everywhere, from East St. Louis to Rockford and from Quincy to Danville. A review of Illinois Department of Insurance pension data shows that Harvey could be just the start of a flood of garnishments across the state (click here to see the list).

Harvey made the news last year when an Illinois court ordered the municipality to hike its property taxes to properly fund the Harvey firefighter pension fund, which is just 22 percent funded.

Now, the state has stepped in on behalf of Harvey’s police pension fund. The state comptroller has begun garnishing the city’s tax revenues to make up what the municipality failed to contribute. In response, the city has announced that 40 public safety employees will be laid off.

Under state law, pensions that don’t receive required funding may demand the Illinois Comptroller intercept their municipality’s tax revenues. More than 400 police and fire pension funds, or 63 percent of Illinois’ 651 total downstate public safety funds, received less funding than what was required from their cities in 2016 – the most recent year for which statewide data is available.

Two-thirds of Illinois’ 355 police pension funds failed to receive their full required contribution in 2016. And 60 percent of Illinois’ 296 firefighter pension funds suffered the same fate.

If those same numbers continue to hold true, all those cities face the risk of having their revenues intercepted by the comptroller.

“Unsustainable”; Madison spent 25% of its K-12 budget on benefits in 2014-2015. Spending has continued to grow since, now approaching $20,000 per student.

Dear Humanities Profs: We Are the Problem

Eric Bennett:

Can the average humanities professor be blamed if she rises in the morning, checks the headlines, shivers, looks in the mirror, and beholds a countenance of righteous and powerless innocence? Whatever has happened politically to the United States, it’s happened in stark opposition to the values so many philosophers and English professors, historians and art historians, creative writers and interdisciplinary scholars of race, class, and gender hold dear.

We are, after all, the ones to include diverse voices on the syllabus, use inclusive language in the classroom, teach stories of minority triumph, and, in our conference papers, articles, and monographs, lay bare the ideological mechanisms that move the cranks and offices of a neoliberal economy. Since the Reagan era our classrooms have mustered their might against thoughtless bigotry, taught critical thinking, framed the plight and extolled the humanity of the disadvantaged, and denounced all patriotism that curdles into chauvinism.

We’ve published books like Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s The Signifying Monkey, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s A Critique of Postcolonial Reason, Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble, and Kwame Anthony Appiah’s The Ethics of Identity — treatises that marshal humane nuance against prejudice, essentialism, propaganda, and demagogic charisma.

Broward School Violence: Cruz’s Massacre Is Far From the Whole Story

Paul Sperry:

Broward County, Fla., school officials portray as a great success their Obama administration-inspired program offering counseling to students who break the law, instead of having them arrested or expelled. They insist that it played no role in February’s school massacre by Nikolas Cruz. They also claim that in fact juvenile recidivism rates are down and school safety is up, thanks to the program.

The evidence tells a far different story.

Broward County juvenile justice division records, federal studies of Broward school district safety and the district’s own internal reporting show that years of “intensive” counseling didn’t just fail to reform repeat offender Cruz, who allegedly went on to shoot and kill 17 people at his high school. Records show such policies have failed to curtail other campus violence and its effects now on the rise in district schools — including fighting, weapons use, bullying and related suicides.

Meanwhile, murders, armed robberies and other violent felonies committed by children outside of schools have hit record levels, and some see a connection with what’s happening on school grounds. Since the relaxing of discipline, Broward youths have not only brazenly punched out their teachers, but terrorized Broward neighborhoods with drive-by shootings, gang rapes, home invasions and carjackings.

Letter to an Aspiring Intellectual

Paul Griffiths:

You’ve asked me how to become an intellectual. You’re young, it seems (only young people ask questions of that kind), and you think you might have an intellectual vocation, but you can’t see what to do about it. What should you do in order to become the kind of person an intellectual is? What kind of life permits doing what intellectuals do? How can you begin to have such a life? This is what you ask, and these are good, if grandiose, questions.

They’re also countercultural questions, at least in America. Here we tend toward contempt for intellectuals, when we think about them at all; our heroes are those who act rather than think, and especially those who find, or at least try for, wealth and fame. Most American parents would welcome their child’s declaration of an intellectual vocation with dismay at the penury, obscurity, and unhappiness likely to follow from heeding that call. And they’re unlikely to be wrong about the penury and the obscurity.

Still. The questions you ask are good ones because it’s clear enough that among the things we humans do is think, and we do it with a remarkable intensity and application and precision and range. We can, and some few of us do, formulate questions and try to answer them, even when neither questions nor answers have immediate or obvious practical application. We develop concepts and distinctions and thought experiments aimed at a deeper, fuller, and more precise understanding. And we argue with those who differ from us, sometimes, it’s true, out of the delight of battle and the urge for victory, but sometimes, too, because we find in argument a powerful device for clarifying a position and seeing how it might be improved.

Pro-life walkout elicits only tepid response from Ivy League

Nikita Vladimirov:

When asked to comment on the slated national pro-life walkout on April 11, for instance, a Yale University official replied with a link to the “FAQ” section of the admissions website, which explains the school’s broader policy on peaceful protests.

“Civic engagement on issues of public concern is consistent with attributes the Office of Undergraduate Admissions seeks in the high school students it admits,” the policy reads.

“Yale considers each disciplinary action reported by a student or a student’s school in the context of the student’s full application, and students who are disciplined for missing school for any reason will certainly have an opportunity to explain the circumstances to the admissions committee,” it adds, stressing that “admission decisions will not be rescinded as a result of an absence to participate in peaceful civic engagement, regardless of the issue or cause.”

In a statement to Campus Reform, Mendlowitz did not indicate whether she will publish a separate public statement encouraging students to participate in the pro-life walkout, linking instead to the same “FAQ” section of the policy as the university official.

Donald Trump Ordered Syria Strike Based on a Secret Legal Justification Even Congress Can’t See

Jon Schwarz:

On Friday night, President Trump ordered the U.S. military to conduct a bombing attack against the government of Syria without congressional authorization. How can this be constitutional, given the fact that Article I, Section 8 of America’s founding document declares that “The Congress shall have Power … To declare War”?

The deeply bizarre and alarming answer is that Trump almost certainly does have some purported legal justification provided to him by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel — but no one else, including Congress, can read it.

The Office of Legal Counsel is often called the Supreme Court of the executive branch, providing opinions on how the president and government agencies should interpret the law.

The long, incredibly tortuous, and fascinating process of creating a Chinese font

Nikhil Sonnad:

The story of Chinese characters begins with, of all things, turtle bellies.

The kings of the Shang Dynasty—which ruled from the 16th to the 11th centuries BC—had questions. Questions about what the king should do, like whether to “perform a ritual for Father Ding and offer to him thirty captives from the Qiang nomad tribe as well as five penned sheep,” according to one translation (pdf, p. 5). As with many ancient human-rights abusers, the king turned to his royal soothsayers to decide the lives of these captives.

The soothsayers etched these pressing questions directly onto the shoulder blades of oxen and the under-shells of turtles, which are also known as plastrons. They then poked the inscribed animal parts with hot metal rods until cracks formed. The shapes of the cracks served as omens, telling the king whether offering captives was a good idea or a very bad one. Often, the answers were etched directly onto the bones and shells, right next to the prophetic cracks.

When algorithms surprise us

Janelle Shane:

Machine learning algorithms are not like other computer programs. In the usual sort of programming, a human programmer tells the computer exactly what to do. In machine learning, the human programmer merely gives the algorithm the problem to be solved, and through trial-and-error the algorithm has to figure out how to solve it.

This often works really well – machine learning algorithms are widely used for facial recognition, language translation, financial modeling, image recognition, and ad delivery. If you’ve been online today, you’ve probably interacted with a machine learning algorithm.

But it doesn’t always work well. Sometimes the programmer will think the algorithm is doing really well, only to look closer and discover it’s solved an entirely different problem from the one the programmer intended. For example, I looked earlier at an image recognition algorithm that was supposed to recognize sheep but learned to recognize grass instead, and kept labeling empty green fields as containing sheep.

How City Year Milwaukee’s Meralis Hood learned ‘the power of not being perfect’

Alan Borsuk:

The roots of Hood’s story lie in the mountains of Puerto Rico, where, in the 1970s, Hood’s mother, Lydia Torres, saw an ad for bilingual teaching jobs in Milwaukee that paid considerably more than what her family was living on. The family moved to Milwaukee and Hood’s mother taught for MPS for three decades. Roberto Torres, Hood’s father, worked in a factory in Milwaukee and was a member of the 440th Airlift Wing of the Air Force Reserve, then based at Mitchell Field.

Hood was born in Milwaukee in 1980. She excelled in school, learning to read early and skipping first grade. She entered Morse Middle School’s gifted and talented program as a 10-year-old sixth-grader. Her family had high expectations and she saw herself as “an achiever personality.”

But she hit a roadblock. Her grades fell sharply. “I remember feeling very frustrated,” she said. She was insecure, depressed. “I was thinking, man, I thought I was smart. . . . It was super excruciating.”

She made it through middle school and ninth grade at Hamilton High. In the summer after ninth grade, she read a magazine story about a woman with attention deficit disorder who struggled in school. It sounded a lot like her own story. The result: Hood went on medication for ADD and her academic performance rose.

She entered Marquette University at 16. She struggled in college early on, and later saw that she was depressed. But she graduated in 4½ years.

Duolingo Suddenly Has Over Twice As Much Language Learning Material

Sean Captain:

The app follows the common structure of teaching ever more advanced skills, starting with basic words and phrases like “Je suis un garçon,” and working up to complex topics like business and religion. In the past, if a skill section had been too long or complex, people would have gotten frustrated and dropped off. The new design gets around the problem by offering five levels for each skill, designated by crown icons. Students have to complete only the first level to move on to new skills; but if they want more practice on, say, the Spanish passive voice, they can now get it.

I tried the system in German, which I know well, and French and Spanish, in which I’m abysmal. Skill Levels solves one of my biggest language-learning problems: I forget stuff. (Perhaps I’m not alone.) Instead of having to go back over old exercises to refresh, say, my knowledge of Spanish food names, I can try a new level in that category, with new exercises and funny phrases, that reenforce the material.

Voters could decide whether to split California into three smaller states

CHS News:

California voters may soon be asked to decide whether their state is too big and should broken into three, separate states. Venture capitalist Tim Draper, who pushed for a six-state proposal, now has a three-state proposal called “CAL3,” according to CBS San Francisco.

Draper did not have enough signatures to get his six-state measure on the California ballot in 2016. For this new proposal, he needs 366,000 signatures. On Thursday, he announced that he has more than 600,000 signatures.

“I’m proud to announce we’ve collected more than enough signatures to qualify for the 2018 ballot,” Draper said.

If the proposal passes, the Bay Area, along with counties north of Merced, would be considered as Northern California. Along the coast, from Monterey to Los Angeles, would be California and the counties to the east would be Southern California.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: US Budget Deficit Hits $600 Billion In 6 Months, As Spending On Interest Explodes

Tyler Durden:

The US is starting to admit that it has a spending problem.

According to the latest Monthly Treasury Statement, in March, the US collected $210.8BN in receipts – consisting of $88BN in individual income tax, $98BN in social security and payroll tax, $5BN in corporate tax and $20BN in other taxes and duties- a drop of 2.7% from the $216.6BN collected last March and a clear reversal from the recent increasing trend…

Madison spends nearly $20,000 per student, far more than most K-12 taxpayer supported Districts.

A school-based obesity prevention programme was ineffective

NIHR Dissemination Centre:

A school-based healthy lifestyle programme delivered to 6-7-year-old children and their parents made no difference to children’s weight, diet or activity levels. Around 1 in 4 remained overweight or obese.

The NIHR-funded year-long programme was delivered in 54 primary schools in one region of England. Teachers were trained to provide an additional 30 minutes of physical activity a day and deliver cookery workshops with parents each term. It also included activities with a local football club, Aston Villa.

Children in schools that took part were no less likely to be overweight or obese after 15 or 30 months, and their diet and exercise levels did not improve. Less than one in six schools managed to deliver the activity sessions as planned.

Why American Students Haven’t Gotten Better at Reading in 20 Years

Natalie Wexler:

Cognitive scientists have known for decades that simply mastering comprehension skills doesn’t ensure a young student will be able to apply them to whatever texts they’re confronted with on standardized tests and in their studies later in life.

One of those cognitive scientists spoke on the Tuesday panel: Daniel Willingham, a psychology professor at the University of Virginia who writes about the science behind reading comprehension. Willingham explained that whether or not readers understand a text depends far more on how much background knowledge and vocabulary they have relating to the topic than on how much they’ve practiced comprehension skills. That’s because writers leave out a lot of information that they assume readers will know. If they put all the information in, their writing would be tedious.

But if readers can’t supply the missing information, they have a hard time making sense of the text. If students arrive at high school without knowing who won the Civil War they’ll have a hard time understanding a textbook passage about Reconstruction.

Students from less educated families are usually the ones who are most handicapped by gaps in knowledge. Another panelist—Ian Rowe, who heads a network of charter schools serving low-income students in New York—provided a real-life example during his remarks. A sixth-grader at one of his schools was frustrated that a passage on a reading test she’d taken kept repeating a word she didn’t understand: roog-bye. The unfamiliar word made it hard for her to understand the passage. When Rowe asked her to spell the word, it turned out to be rugby.

Wisconsin ranked 34th nationally reading, our lowest ranking to date

Wisconsin has just one (!) teacher content knowledge requirement: Foundations of Reading. The Tony Evers lead DPI has been attempting. to weaken this lone requirement.

Compare Massachusett’s MTEL.

Stretch Targets.

Many links on UW-Madison Professor Mark Seidenberg’s new book:

“Too often, according to Mark Seidenberg’s important, alarming new book, “Language at the Speed of Sight,” Johnny can’t read because schools of education didn’t give Johnny’s teachers the proper tools to show him how”

Checking In: Are Math Assignments Measuring Up?

Keith Dysarz:

Nearly every state includes measures of college- and career-readiness in their accountability plans under the Every Student Succeeds Act, and the quality of classroom assignments can help gauge whether students are being prepared for success beyond high school.

What is Equity In Motion?

In this series, we look at how issues or equity are playing out in the daily activities of schools and educators. Specifically, do classroom assignments reflect the more rigorous standards for college- and career-readiness?

Math Forum audio and video.

As dairy crisis crushes farmers, Wisconsin’s rural identity in jeopardy

Rick Barrett:

Entire communities are falling apart as small farms go under, said John Peck, executive director of Family Farm Defenders, a Madison based advocacy group.

Grain mills, car dealerships and hardware stores suffer. The local tax base erodes. Churches and schools struggle or close.

“The multiplier effect on the rural economy is huge. It’s why you are seeing all these boarded-up small towns,” Peck said.

Wisconsin lost 500 dairy farms in 2017, and about 150 have quit milking cows so far this year, putting the total number of milk-cow herds at around 7,600 — down 20% from five years ago.

A $76,000 Monthly Pension: Why States and Cities Are Short on Cash

Mary Williams Walsh:

A public university president in Oregon gives new meaning to the idea of a pensioner.

Joseph Robertson, an eye surgeon who retired as head of the Oregon Health & Science University last fall, receives the state’s largest government pension.

It is $76,111.

Per month.

That is considerably more than the average Oregon family earns in a year.

Oregon — like many other states and cities, including New Jersey, Kentucky and Connecticut — is caught in a fiscal squeeze of its own making. Its economy is growing, but the cost of its state-run pension system is growing faster. More government workers are retiring, including more than 2,000, like Dr. Robertson, who get pensions exceeding $100,000 a year.

The state is not the most profligate pension payer in America, but its spiraling costs are notable in part because Oregon enjoys a reputation for fiscal discipline. Its experience shows how faulty financial decisions by states can eventually swamp local communities.

Reading and Wisconsin Education “Administrative Rules”

Patrick Marley:

A group of teachers and parents sued, arguing the law didn’t apply to Evers because of the powers granted to him by the state constitution. A Dane County judge agreed with them in 2012 and the state Supreme Court upheld that ruling in 2016.

In 2017, Walker signed a new, similar law. Evers did not follow that law in the way that he wrote new rules, saying he didn’t need to because of the past court rulings.

Soon afterward, a group of teachers and local school board members represented by the conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty asked the Supreme Court to take up anew whether Evers had to follow the law on writing state rules.

Under Friday’s ruling, the high court agreed to decide that case.

The 2016 decision was unusual in that two liberals — Shirley Abrahamson and Ann Walsh Bradley — joined with conservatives Michael Gableman and David Prosser to rule on the side of Evers’ allies.

Wisconsin ranked 34th nationally reading, our lowest ranking to date

Wisconsin has just one (!) teacher content knowledge requirement: Foundations of Reading. The Tony Evers lead DPI has been attempting. to weaken this lone requirement.

Compare Massachusett’s MTEL.

Stretch Targets.

Many links on UW-Madison Professor Mark Seidenberg’s new book:

“Too often, according to Mark Seidenberg’s important, alarming new book, “Language at the Speed of Sight,” Johnny can’t read because schools of education didn’t give Johnny’s teachers the proper tools to show him how”

School Rules That Allowed Parkland Shooter To Get Guns Coming Soon To Your District

Inez Feltscher Stepman:

Landers’ first conflict with her public school came when her 17-year-old son witnessed a high school classmate threaten a third student with a knife and reported it to the school authorities under promised anonymity. A week later, the knife-wielding student threatened her son for making the report, and Landers found the school’s response frustrating at every turn. She filed a separate report with the police, who told her that if it happened again, her son should step off campus and call 911.

“We don’t know what happens in the school,” she says the officers told her. Still, the school claimed it couldn’t remove the threatening student from her son’s bus route or classes.

“The other student has rights, too,” she says administrators told her.

Landers didn’t know it at the time, but it was the first of many times she would hear that phrase in place of disciplinary action against students who endangered her children with behavior went far beyond the normal playground spats most of us remember from our own childhoods.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: The Average US State Pension Is 34% Under Funded

Pew Trusts:

The dire financial condition of pension funds across the US has been a frequent topic here at The Sounding Line. At the core of the problem is a simple reality: pension funds have promised to pay out more in retirement benefits than they receive in funding. A new report from the Pew Charitable Trust shines light on the scope and causes of this underfunding problem.

Every year since at least 1999, US state and local pension funds have paid out more in benefits to retirees than they receive in contributions from current workers. The result has been increasingly negative cash flows.

The State Pension Funding Gap (2016).

Madison spent 25% of its budget on benefits in 2014-2015 “unsustainable”.

The Disturbing High Modernism of Silicon Valley

Cal Newport:

Where we’ve gotten in trouble, he notes, is when we “[deny] the existence of human nature, with its messy needs for beauty, nature, tradition and social intimacy” — leading us to believe that we can radically reshape humans through technology and reason alone into a better, more efficient existence.

Political scientist James Scott (the source of Pinker’s comments) calls this movement “High Modernism.” He’s not a fan.

Scott blames the technocratic hubris of High Modernism for some of the great social engineering disasters of the 20th century, from Stalin’s famine-inducing farm collectivization, to our own country’s failed mid-century urban renewal projects, which, to quote Pinker, too often “replaced vibrant neighborhoods with freeways, high-rises, windswept plazas, and brutalist architecture.”

Technology has undoubtedly created massive benefits for humanity. But it can cause problems — shifting into High Modernism territory — when it ignores, or even tries to replace our complex humanity instead of working with it.

REAP food truck rolls into Madison schools with healthy, affordable lunch options for students

Amber Walker:

As the warmer, spring weather bought a much-needed reprieve to James Madison Memorial High School students this week, so did a fresh, fun option for school lunch.

This week, REAP Food Group and the Madison Metropolitan School District launched Uproot by Reap, a food truck that will serve healthy, locally sourced lunch options for Madison high school students. The truck will rotate between Madison’s four comprehensive high schools Tuesday through Friday, spending one day at each campus.

Students who qualify for free and reduced lunch are able to use their status for no-cost or discounted meals from the truck, just like in the school’s cafeteria.

They want to open Kentucky charter schools, but only if the legislature changes its mind

Valarie Honeycutt Spears:

People who want to open public charter schools in Kentucky have written Republican House Speaker David Osborne and Majority Floor Leader Jonathan Shell, urging them to reconsider a decision not to create a funding mechanism for public charter schools.

Time is running out because state legislators return to Frankfort Friday to begin the final two days of the 2018 session.

Since the 2017 General Assembly approved charter schools for the first time in Kentucky, people who want to open the schools have generally been quiet. But this week, Gus LaFontaine, director of a Richmond private school he wants to transition into a tuition-free public charter school, and people who want to open charter schools in Northern Kentucky and in Jefferson County wrote to lawmakers about their need for a funding mechanism. On Wednesday, they talked about their plans for charter schools in a public conference call led by Joel Adams, executive director of the Kentucky Public Charter Schools Association.

California again ranks low in academic testing (Wisconsin/Madison….)

Dan Walters:

There was a bit of good news for California in the federal government’s latest round of academic test results: it’s one of seven states that registered four-point gains in reading comprehension among eighth-graders.

But that positive morsel in the 2017 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) testing of fourth- and eighth-graders released this week was more than offset by stagnation in other overall trends and, even more unfortunately, by continuation of what educators call the “achievement gap.”

That is the yawning differential of academic skills within socioeconomic and ethnic subgroups.

Take, for example, that increase in eighth grade reading, from a 2015 score of 259 on a 500-point scale to 263 in 2017.

That’s still below the designated “proficiency” level for the nation of 280 and while California’s average scores for white and Asian students reach that level, those for black and Latino students are about 30 points lower, a gap that is fundamentally unchanged over the last 10 years of NAEP testing. Not surprisingly, eighth grade “English-learners” in California fall 50 points behind students deemed to be proficient in English.

Wisconsin post lowest ever ranking on 2017 naep reading.

Madison’s long term disastrous reading results.

Unethical growth hacks: A look into the growing Youtube news bot epidemic


In fact, the opposite is happening. Because these are video format, they often get preferred treatment in Google’s search results, as it helps their search results seem more diverse when including video, images, and other non-link content.
 So in a time when countless news publications and blogs are barely scraping by, they now also have this growing obstacle deal with.
 And if you think it’s tough now, just wait a few more years before it gets out of hand as AI inevitably becomes smarter, faster, and more efficient.
 Thanks for reading.

Stanford started a Title IX inquiry into a graduate based on allegations from eight years earlier

Greg Piper:

Law prof leading recall against judge says Stanford can punish alumni with impunity

Think you’ve survived “the campus rape frenzy” just because you’ve graduated? Think again.

Stanford University started a Title IX inquiry into a graduate because his accuser was inspired by #MeToo and decided to right the alleged wrongs against her eight years after they took place.

And one of its law professors, best known for leading a recall attempt for a judge for giving a lenient ruling to a convicted rapist, divines its authority to punish alumni in an ambiguous administrative policy.

The Stanford Daily reports that 2014 graduate Ellery Dake sent letters in January to “seven former Stanford football players, six of whom she said verbally degraded her and one of whom allegedly raped her.”

Curated Education Information