Review of “Designing the New American University”

Robert Kelchen:

Since Michael Crow became the president of Arizona State University in 2002, he has worked to reorganize and grow the institution into his vision of a `New American University.’ ASU has grown to over 80,000 students during his time as president through a commitment to admit all students who meet a relatively modest set of academic qualifications. At the same time, the university has embarked upon a number of significant academic reorganizations that have gotten rid of many traditional academic departments and replacing them with larger interdisciplinary schools. Crow has also attracted his fair share of criticism over the years, including for alleged micromanaging and his willingness to venture into online education. (I’ve previously critiqued ASU Online’s program with Starbucks, although many of my concerns have since been alleviated.)

Crow partnered with William Dabars, an ASU professor, to write Designing the New American University (Johns Hopkins Press, $34.95 hardcover) to more fully explain how the ASU model works. The first several chapters of the book, although rather verbose, focus on the development of the American research university. A key concept that the authors raise is isomorphism—the tendency of organizations to resemble a leading organization in the market. Crow and Dabars contend that research universities have largely followed the lead of elite private universities such as Harvard and the big Midwestern land-grant universities that developed following the Civil War. Much has changed since then, so they argue that a new structure is needed.

Madison Schools’ Discipline Policies

Pat Schneider:

“Usually the first quarter is a honeymoon period when students are excited to be in school and behaviors are good. So when things were already deteriorating rapidly, it was a sign to me that this was not going in a good direction,” said Bush, 50, who has taught at Jefferson Middle School on Madison’s west side her whole career.

It wasn’t a specific incident, but the piling on of several serious incidents so early in the school year that troubled her.

“I’m seeing behaviors on a regular basis that I haven’t seen in 20 years of teaching,” Bush said. Some of this alarming conduct included students swearing at teachers, kicking trash cans, walking out of class, and kids wandering the hallways and in and out of classrooms, she said.

The behavior policy, implemented at the start of this school year, requires teachers to ask for outside help if they can’t control a misbehaving student. But Bush says such calls for help often go unanswered by overwhelmed support staff, who are supposed to walk an out-of-control student out of the classroom and “intervene” to get a sense of the causes of the misbehavior.

Related:

Madison’s disastrous long term reading results.

Deja vu: 2005: Gangs and school violence audio/video. More, here.

Police calls: 1996-2006.

Commentary from David Blaska

A historian sets a personal moratorium on taking on any new doctoral students

Vicki Ruiz:

In a recent article on migratory, temporary employment, Leonard Cassuto, who writes a monthly column on graduate-school issues for The Chronicle, wrote: “The problem is not limited to historians, of course. They just have the best data.” In their 2013 report to the association, called “The Many Careers of History Ph.D.’s,” L. Maren Wood and Robert B. Townsend provided a benchmark survey of the career paths of historians who received their doctorates from 1998 to 2009. Based on a sample of 2,500 out of a universe of almost 11,000, Wood and Townsend found that 51 percent of the respondents had secured tenure-track jobs at four-year institutions with an additional 2 percent on the tenure track at community colleges. To make a finer point, only a sixth of recent Ph.D.’s secured employment at major public and private research universities.

Does the academic job crisis for historians vary according to subfield?

According to Wood and Townsend, only 44 percent of both North American and world historians find tenure-track jobs at four-year institutions, compared with 52 percent of Europeanists and “65 percent or more of specialists in the histories of Africa, Asia, Latin America, or the Middle East and Islamic World.” And time-from-degree does matter when on the job market, with five years as a mark of diminishing marketability.

The Power of Validated Learning pt1

Mark Ponterelli:

Part 1: People not pixels, experiences not exposures

Articulating the value of any new experience through a problem statement is difficult. Potential users often don’t value what they can’t see. And ‘ideating’ use cases was simply not data driven enough to motivate the company to trust the opinions of the venture team. How could we deviate from the company’s traditional sustaining innovation processes (see Clayton M. Christensen’s The Innovator’s Dilemma) to quickly and cheaply test whether people would embrace this technology?

We knew that ‘computational photography’ was a mouthful for most people. We also knew that any discussion of disparity algorithms and depth maps was beyond the target user who just want to focus on people, not pixels and experiences, not exposures. (Having a tagline doesn’t hurt the cause, by the way). We started by using tools like storyboards and animations to test what people might expect from this new camera. You could call this stage exploring the value of “better” – would people value better dynamic range in photos? Would they like better slow motion video? Would they like better sharpness? Of course. But it should not have been a surprise that we had limited success describing the real potential of something disruptive with usages that are much more sustaining in nature. Using these traditional practices, we learned that better was indeed better but better wasn’t ‘Wow!’

Wisconsin Legislature’s High School Civics Requirement

Alan Borsuk:

The content of the 100-question quiz I found on the website of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service is not like a college admission test. Some of the questions were easy.

(Who was the first president? What ocean is on the west coast of the United States?)

Others were not so easy.

(Name the chief justice. What did Susan B. Anthony do? What are the first three words of the Constitution? (“We the people…”) Quite a few involved provisions in the Constitution.

But, hey, you’d only need to get 60 out of 100 correct. And Edming said students could take the test as many times as they needed to.

Is the test so easy as to be no real problem? Or is the lack of civics knowledge so compelling that it calls for a graduation requirement? Advocates seem to argue both.

There is ample evidence of ignorance of civics. The National Assessment of Educational Progress released fresh results a few days ago from testing of samples of eighth-graders nationwide, concluding that only 23% were proficient or better in civics and 18% proficient or better in American history.

Wisconsin now has a set of requirements for graduation from public high schools, mostly relating to what courses are taken and total credits. But there is no requirement that students pass any test to graduate. There was a big controversy over a broader high school graduation test 15 years ago, but the idea died.

As far as private schools, this would be the first time there would be a state-imposed graduation requirement.

As much as any of us would like students to know about American government, would you want to stop someone from going to college or getting a job because they didn’t have a diploma due to a shaky grasp on the Constitution?

Why Not Adjunct Administrators Instead of Adjunct Instructors? It Makes Far More Sense

Scott Rank:

Most of the growth of university costs comes from administrative bloat. Non-faculty staff has grown at more than twice the rate of instructors – you know, the people who are the ostensible reason a university exists. As tenured professors retire, administrators kill those tenure lines and replace them permanently with part timers. Administrators do this so they can gorge on a higher salary while demanding more from the refugee ration-packet salary of academics. Think I am not being generous? Some administrators earn $300,000 a year to fundraise for new football stadium skyboxes. Vice Presidents at the University of Maryland saw their salaries increase by 50 percent between 1998 and 2003, as faculty positions were slashed. All the while adjuncts try to get by with the help of Medicaid or food stamps.

Survey: YouTube Stars More Popular Than Mainstream Celebs Among U.S. Teens

Susanne Ault:

That’s the surprising result of a survey Variety commissioned in July that found the five most influential figures among Americans ages 13-18 are all YouTube faves, eclipsing mainstream celebs including Jennifer Lawrence and Seth Rogen. The highest-ranking figures were Smosh, the online comedy team of Ian Andrew Hecox and Anthony Padilla, both 26.

Despite having minimal exposure in the mainstream media, another comedy duo, known as the Fine Bros., Benny and Rafi, finished a close second, followed by the Swedish videogamer who has the most subscribers on all of YouTube, Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg — otherwise known as PewDiePie. Interestingly, the highest-ranking non-YouTuber is Paul Walker, who tragically died in a car accident late in 2013.

40% of millennials get financial help from their parents

Jillian Berman:

But everywhere I go, I’m followed by a constant reminder that I haven’t completely left the financial nest: My cell phone.

This makes me part of the 40% of millennials who are still getting help from their parents, according to a survey published this week by USA Today and Bank of America Better Money Habits. The survey asked 1,000 adults aged 18-34 whether their parents pitch in on things like rent, credit card and cell phone bills or just regularly send them a check.

The Old Boys: The Decline and Rise of the Public School by David Turner – review

Jenny Turner:

ike contemplating Hamlet without the ghost: that’s what one historian calls anything about education in England that doesn’t mention the Endowed Schools Act of 1869. Before it, England had no such thing as a secondary-education system. If you were rich you might go to Eton or Rugby or Winchester or Harrow; if you were lucky you might live near a city merchant’s charitable foundation. But for most people there was nothing much at all. The 1869 act changed that by seizing the endowments that had been left, over the centuries, to the ancient grammar schools and distributing the money in what was, in some ways, a more sensible fashion: for example, by funding schools for girls. But the act also abolished provisions made for educating poor scholars completely free – this wasn’t the something-for-nothing society, this was Victorian England. And it helped split schools into three basic types, for working-class, middle-class and upper-class children – a divide, buried though governments have tried to make it, that continues to distort and disfigure the education system today.

There’s something else people need to know about the 1869 act. The heads of the endowed schools hated it, and set up a club, the Headmasters’ Conference, to defend themselves against it. It is now called the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference, but it’s still the main body representing the elite education providers in Britain, the schools that, even now, can promise pupils a much better chance than average of gaining wealth, power, Ucas points, and membership of the mysterious old boys’ networks that continue to gird the globe. “More than half of the top medics, civil servants, lawyers, media figures and Conservative MPs” in Britain attended an HMC school, says David Turner, not to mention “pop stars – 22% of them, according to the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission”. Worse, the very fact such privilege exists causes many people to feel that state schools, no matter how good they are, are never good enough. Academies, free schools and grammar schools, and church places, music places and places for whatever else: all spring from a sense of inadequacy that goes back decades.

Texas Sends Poor Teens To Adult Jail For Skipping School

Kendall Taggert & Alex Campbell:

The 11th-grader in the courtroom wore braces, loved Harry Potter movies, and posted Katy Perry lyrics on Facebook. She also had a bad habit of cutting school, and now, a judge informed her, she owed $2,700 in truancy-related fines. But Serena Vela, who lived in a trailer with her unemployed mother, couldn’t afford to pay.

Serena was offered “jail credit” at a rate of $300 per day. She was patted down, touched “everywhere,” and dispatched to adult lockup, where she would stay for nine days, missing a week and a half of classes. The first school day after she was released, administrators kicked her out.

She had gone to jail because of a law intended to keep kids on the path to graduation. Instead, her high school career was over.

Serena is one of more than 1,000 Texas teenagers who have been ordered to jail in the last three years on charges stemming from missing school, a BuzzFeed News investigation has found. The students get locked up with adults, sometimes inmates charged with assault, robbery and other violent crimes.

Higher Ed Lobby Quietly Joins For-Profit Schools to Roll Back Tighter Rules

Alec MacGillis

The Obama administration is set to achieve one of its top domestic policy goals after years of wrangling. For-profit colleges, which absorb tens of billions of dollars in U.S. grants and loans yet often leave their students with little beyond crushing debt, will need to meet new standards or risk losing taxpayer dollars.

But as the July 1 deadline approaches, the troubled industry has been mounting a last-ditch effort to avert or roll back the new rules. And suddenly it’s getting a lift from a set of unlikely allies: traditional colleges and universities.

For years, the higher education establishment has viewed the for-profit education business as both a rival and an unsavory relation — the cousin with the rap sheet who seeks a cut of the family inheritance. Yet in a striking but little-noticed shift, nearly all of the college establishment’s representatives in Washington are siding with for-profit colleges in opposing the government’s crackdown.

Most of the traditional higher education lobbying groups signed onto a recent letter to Congress stating their support for Republican legislation that would block the new restrictions on for-profit colleges, as well as undo or weaken other accountability rules for colleges. And a new report on higher education regulation commissioned by the Senate and overseen by the American Council on Education, the leading lobby group for traditional schools, slammed the rules on for-profit colleges as part of a broader critique of the administration’s approach.

The corrosive cult of compliance in our schools


Kayleb Moon-Robinson is a 12-year-old boy who lives in Virginia. One day at school, he kicked a trash can and was charged with disorderly conduct in juvenile court. A few weeks later, he disobeyed a new rule (made just for him) that he stay behind in the classroom while his peers left. When the school resource officer (SRO) arrived to take him to the principal’s office for disobedience, Kayleb reportedly struggled and swore. The officer allegedly slammed the boy down on a desk and handcuffed him. Kayleb is now being charged with felony assault on a police officer, and his future is very much in doubt.

Kayleb is autistic and African-American. The state of Virginia wants to brand him a criminal. The Center for Public Integrity names it as the state most likely to send students to jail. Virginia was also home to the Reginald “Neil” Latson case, in which a young man with autism encountered a police officer, didn’t comply with orders, started walking away and ended up in a brutal fight. He spent years in solitary confinement as a result before finally being pardoned.

Machine Teaching

Helen Wright:

Machine teaching is machine learning turned upside down: it is about finding the optimal (e.g. the smallest) training set. For example, consider a “student” who runs the Support Vector Machine learning algorithm. Imagine a teacher who wants to teach the student a specific target hyperplane in some feature space (never mind how the teacher got this hyperplane in the first place). The teacher constructs a training set D=(x1,y1) … (xn, yn), where xi is a feature vector and yi a class label, to train the student. What is the smallest training set that will make the student learn the target hyperplane? It is not hard to see that n=2 is sufficient with the two training items straddling the target hyperplane. Machine teaching mathematically formalizes this idea and generalizes it to many kinds of learning algorithms and teaching targets. Solving the machine teaching problem in general can be intricate and is an open mathematical question, though for a large family of learners the resulting bilevel optimization problem can be approximated.

How Not To Drown In Numbers

Alex & Seth

If you’re trying to build a self-driving car or detect whether a picture has a cat in it, big data is amazing. But here’s a secret: If you’re trying to make important decisions about your health, wealth or happiness, big data is not enough.

The problem is this: The things we can measure are never exactly what we care about. Just trying to get a single, easy-to-measure number higher and higher (or lower and lower) doesn’t actually help us make the right choice. For this reason, the key question isn’t “What did I measure?” but “What did I miss?”

To see the dangers of big data untethered to any other kind of analysis, consider the story of Zoë Chance, a marketing professor at Yale. In a TEDx talk that has been watched hundreds of thousands of times on YouTube, she discusses her experience with a pedometer. She became so obsessed with increasing the count of her steps that she lost all proportion, taking walks at all hours and in all places. She told us that she even put the pedometer on her daughter so that her daughter’s steps would contribute to her number. She was able to “detox,” as she put it to us, only after she suffered an injury while walking in the basement, exhausted, in the wee hours of the night.

My Academic Pretension

JBN:

I want to be a computational social scientist. Not all aspects of my work are subject to simplification. In some cases, the right mathematical or computational abstraction expresses an idea perfectly. It’s almost magical. And, some branches of knowledge really are unreachable without abstraction. That is why we painstakingly learn to think with and manipulate these abstractions. It’s not (always) fun. But, it is the price of admission.

In formal academia, writing papers and submitting them to journals is also part of being a scientist (TM).[1] These papers are constraining in many ways, mostly because of how the journals work. Sometimes, constraints are liberating. But, I’ve started to question one particular constraint — the academic style of writing. What happened? When I finished my previous ‘final’ draft proposal, I sent it to my father. A few days later, he told me he couldn’t read it. It was “above his head.” This made me proud.

Love Song for a Neoliberal University: StarbucksU

David Perry:

They are the problem, not a bureaucratizing corporate system that extracts wealth from students in exchange for the lowest possible standard of education that for-profits like ASU Online can provide. Yes, there are lots of problems with our system. Yes, I think the ways in which our prestige economy rewards research over teaching is an issue. But I am quite sure that faculty members pursuing grants is not what’s threatening higher education in America today.

Moreover, the forces driving the kind of quantitative assessment of scholarly productivity, where all that counts is what can be counted, are the same forces that create massive over-bureacratization, the for-profit wings of ASU, drive college costs ever higher, and otherwise contribute to a world in which StarbucksU looks like a solution. It may be, but it’s coming out of the same world that created the problems in the first place.

From braille to iPad: a new app enables the blind to learn online

Carole Beal:

You’ve tried screen reading software but it hasn’t worked very well. Your teacher has tried to help but no one in the school really knows how to set up, maintain and trouble-shoot assistive technologies.

The program isn’t available in braille, so you end up doing some basic worksheets instead of participating with your classmates.

The growth of online learning has thrown up new challenges for those with visual impairment as the learning tools are often not available. It’s also been a challenge for those working on making websites accessible to the visually impaired. It takes extra work and testing.

Release of China’s draft security law sparks fears of further erosion of citizens’ freedoms

Verna Yu:

The newly released draft of China’s national security law, which covers a range of topics including stressing the preservation of the Communist Party’s political regime, has stoked fears citizens’ freedoms will be further eroded under the pretext of state security.

The full text of the sweeping draft law, which underwent its second reading during a session of the National People’s Congress (NPC) Standing Committee last month, was revealed for the first time late Wednesday after being posted on the legislature’s website for public consultation.

The first clause of the law stated that the purpose of the law was to “safeguard national security, defend the people’s democratic dictatorship and the socialist system with Chinese characteristics”, to protect the people’s fundamental interests, the smooth-running of economic reforms, the modernisation of socialism, as well as the “realisation of the great rejuvenation of the nation”.

Green Eggs & Ham In The Video Era

Netflix

Cindy Holland, VP of Original Content for Netflix
threw her quote into the mix:

“We think this will be a hit
Green Eggs and Ham is a perfect fit
for our growing slate of amazing stories
available exclusively in all Netflix territories.

You can stream it on a phone.
You can stream it on your own.
You can stream it on TV.
You can stream it globally.”

On mathematical intelligence and how it grows

Leo Kozachkov

In his three recent and awesome posts on intelligence, Scott Alexander describes what it’s like to grow up intellectually lopsided (high verbal IQ and a low-ish math IQ, in his case). I’ve always been interested in intelligence (who isn’t), and I was struck by how similar Scott’s experience with lopsidedness is to mine. So that’s where this post is coming from. Note: whenever I say “IQ” hereafter I’m referring to math IQ. Let’s get started.

My daughter, who lost her battle with mental illness, is still the bravest person I know

Doris Fuller:

I lost my darling daughter Natalie to mental illness last month. She killed herself a few weeks short of her 29th birthday by stepping in front of a train in Baltimore.

Natalie and I wrote a book together when she was 16: “Promise You Won’t Freak Out: A Teenager Tells Her Mother the Truth About Boys, Booze, Body Piercing, and Other Touchy Topics (and Mom Responds).” The idea of a teenager telling the truth about her secrets was such a startling concept that we were feature-page headliners in the Baltimore Sun and about two dozen other newspapers, went on TV coast to coast, including on one of the morning shows, and got paid to give speeches. “Oprah” called.

In the book, we used a device to signal whenever a wild turn was about to take place: And then . . . . In the introduction, I defined an And then . . . moment as “one of those critical junctures when my cheerful sense that all was right in the world collided with inescapable proof that it wasn’t.”

Teachers’ Unions Fight Standardized Testing, and Find Diverse Allies

Kate Taylor & Motoko Rich :

In Florida, the teachers’ union has lobbied to limit the use of standardized tests, and the governor last week signed a bill that limits the number of hours students can spend taking them.

The union in New Jersey financed an advertising campaign in which a grim-faced father talks about his son crying because of tests.

And in New York, where local unions have worked closely with parent groups that oppose testing, the president of the state union went so far as to urge parents to opt out of the annual tests, which began last week.

Campus Rhetoric: 2015

Kaitlyn Schallhorn:

Feminists at Oberlin College, upset that a student group would bring Christina Hoff Sommers to campus, hung posters that individually declared Republican and Libertarian students as “perpetuating rape culture.”

A photo of the posters was sent by an anonymous student to Reason. The publication did not name the student because the student feared retribution.

Six posters named individual students; Reason blurred the students’ last names in the photo.

“You are part of the problem!” one additional poster read.

Reason reported that approximately 10 student-activists hung the posters.

There’s more to mathematics than rigour and proofs

Terence Tao:

One can roughly divide mathematical education into three stages:

The “pre-rigorous” stage, in which mathematics is taught in an informal, intuitive manner, based on examples, fuzzy notions, and hand-waving. (For instance, calculus is usually first introduced in terms of slopes, areas, rates of change, and so forth.) The emphasis is more on computation than on theory. This stage generally lasts until the early undergraduate years.

The “rigorous” stage, in which one is now taught that in order to do maths “properly”, one needs to work and think in a much more precise and formal manner (e.g. re-doing calculus by using epsilons and deltas all over the place). The emphasis is now primarily on theory; and one is expected to be able to comfortably manipulate abstract mathematical objects without focusing too much on what such objects actually “mean”. This stage usually occupies the later undergraduate and early graduate years.

The “post-rigorous” stage, in which one has grown comfortable with all the rigorous foundations of one’s chosen field, and is now ready to revisit and refine one’s pre-rigorous intuition on the subject, but this time with the intuition solidly buttressed by rigorous theory. (For instance, in this stage one would be able to quickly and accurately perform computations in vector calculus by using analogies with scalar calculus, or informal and semi-rigorous use of infinitesimals, big-O notation, and so forth, and be able to convert all such calculations into a rigorous argument whenever required.) The emphasis is now on applications, intuition, and the “big picture”. This stage usually occupies the late graduate years and beyond.

Data visualization has finally grown up and gotten a job.

Mark Wilson:

A few years ago, the Internet was awash in groundbreaking data visualizations. There was Aaron Koblin’s deeply influential map of flight patterns around the U.S. Periscopic’s exhaustive, haunting portrait of gun violence in the United States. Jer Thorp and John Underkoffler’s Minority Report-like interface for exploring the galaxy.

Today, you’d be lucky to find a cheap knockoff in a world dominated by crappy promotional infographics churned out for viral attention. Nicholas Felton, the data viz guru who once designed Facebook’s Timeline, now builds apps. Jer Thorp is as interested in reverse-engineering algorithms and data art as he is in producing pure data visualization. Even the infographics on the portfolio-sharing site Behance are on the downswing. “Infographic posting generally rose steadily from 2007 to 2012, where it peaked, and has begun to decline since then,” Sarah Rapp, Head of Behance Community Data & Insights, Adobe, writes in an email.

Beijing Police Use Facebook in International School Drug Bust

Beijinger:

Facebook was employed by police in Chaoyang District in a drug investigation that began April 17 and resulted in the detention of five foreign international school students for marijuana use and three foreign drug dealers carrying marijuana, ice, and heroin, The Beijing News reported Friday night

The revelation was part of a bevy of new details that emerged from a police report released Friday detailing an investigation that started when four international school students were caught smoking marijuana in the Beijing Riviera home of two of the suspects April 17.

It is unclear which of the suspects are still in custody, three weeks after the first arrest.

The report indicates police were initially tipped off by an unnamed informant who pointed out the suspects’ Facebook activity to police. Using that as a lead, investigators were able to catch the students in the act at home on the evening of April 17, with a camera crew in tow (video here).

The report names the four students detained in the original raid as being two New Zealanders and two Americans. From previous reports it is known that three of the suspects are 18 years old and the fourth, 17.

Majorities Have Low Levels of Trust in Government

John Horrigan & Lee Rainie:

Only a minority of Americans believe any level of government can be trusted most or just about all the time, though four-in-ten Americans believe this about local government.

Younger Americans are somewhat more likely to trust the federal government most of the time (28% of adults under the age of 30 do), as well as Hispanics and African Americans (33% and 29%, respectively, trust the federal government to do the right thing).

Those who say they trust the government at least most of the time are more likely than those who do not to say open data initiatives could have positive impacts. Those who are likely to trust the federal government most or about all the time are very likely to see positive impacts from government data initiatives.

How 43 Students Disappeared Into The Night

Ryan Devereaux:

HE NIGHTMARE BEGAN just after sundown. At a dimly lit intersection in Iguala, police with automatic weapons surrounded three buses loaded with college students. The police opened fire. Screaming that they were unarmed, the students fled down darkened alleys, pounding on doors, desperate for shelter. Gunmen put the city on lockdown, stalking the streets in a drizzling rain.

By the time the gunfire finally stopped, two dozen people were wounded and six were dead at three locations, the youngest only 15 years old. One student was shot in the head, leaving him brain dead. A bullet ripped through the mouth of another. Two young men bled to death in the streets, left for hours without medical help. First light brought fresh horrors when the mutilated body of one of the students was discovered in the dirt.

Vassar president: Institutions must reallocate for core educational missions

Tara Garcia Mathewson:

Vassar College has proven it is possible to substantially increase the portion of low-income students on a selective campus. And the college did it right through the Great Recession, committing to its income diversity model at a time when finding extra money for financial aid was especially difficult.

The college’s success with low-income students recently earned it the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation’s inaugural $1 million no-strings-attached award.

Vassar President Catharine Bond Hill said increasing the financial aid funding available to students required a number of hard decisions, including shrinking the staff. With two-thirds of the budget consumed by employee compensation, Bond Hill said Vassar had no choice but to cut there. While the campus used to have its own post office, and employees to staff it, Vassar now relies on the local post office. Where it used to allow courses to run with only a handful of students, the college now requires minimums, reducing the costs in faculty compensation of its entire course catalog.

A 26-year-old MIT graduate is turning heads over his theory that income inequality is actually about housing (in 1 graph)

Greg Ferenstein:

Rather than taxing businesses and wealthy investors, “policy-makers should deal with the planning regulations and NIMBYism that inhibit housebuilding and which allow homeowners to capture super-normal returns on their investments.” In other words, the government should focus more on housing policy and less on taxing the wealthy, if it wants to properly deal with the inequality problem.

This is precisely the problem in my home city, San Francisco. The tech-fueled economy has been great for most San Franciscans, where a booming tech sector has increased wages and protected the local economy from the ravages of the recession

Proposed Changes To Wisconsin k-12 Governance & Curricular Requirements

Molly Beck:

The added funding comes from a $250 per student special funding stream for school districts in the second year of the budget, according to the legislation package proposed by Republican co-chairs of the Joint Finance Committee.

At the same time, the 1,000-student cap on the statewide voucher program would be lifted and students with disabilities would be eligible to apply for vouchers for the first time under a separate program. No more than 1 percent of a school district’s enrollment could receive vouchers, however.

The plan assures that private schools receiving school vouchers would receive about $7,200 for each K-8 student and about $7,800 for each high school student, the committee leaders said Tuesday. Walker’s proposed expansion would provide schools considerably less per student.

The voucher expansion would be paid for in a manner similar to the state’s open enrollment program for public schools — tax money would follow a student from the public district to the private voucher school. The plan could ultimately cost school districts about $48 million over the biennium, according to a Legislative Fiscal Bureau memo drafted last week for Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester.

The package also proposes to adopt Walker’s budget language that prohibits the state superintendent from promoting the Common Core State Standards, and from adopting new academic standards created by the Common Core State Standards Initiative, though there are none in the works.

Erin Richards & Jason Stein:

Special-needs vouchers would allow parents of children with special needs to use taxpayer money to send their child to a private school. Standalone bills have been defeated twice in recent years, in large part because every established advocacy organization for those with disabilities have opposed the bills in public hearings.

Their chief concern: Private schools are not obligated to follow federal disability laws. They point to examples in other states where, in their view, under-qualified operators have declared themselves experts and started tapping taxpayer money to serve such students.

Critics also say the proposal would erode taxpayer funding for public schools.

Patrick Marley, Jason Stein & Erin Richards:

The GOP proposal would also phase out the Chapter 220 school integration program, put the Milwaukee County executive in charge of some low-performing Milwaukee Public Schools, create an alternative system for licensing teachers and require that high school students take the civics test given to those applying for U.S. citizenship.

Another provision would allow home-school students, virtual school students and private school students to participate in public schools’ athletic and extracurricular programs.

The plan would also reshape how the Racine Unified School Board is constituted, requiring it to have members representing different regions of the school district. Some of the students in that district are represented by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) and Sen. Van Wanggaard (R-Racine).

Republicans were able to come up with more money for public schools and voucher schools in part by making a $105.6 million payment to public schools in July 2017 — outside of the two-year spending plan they are developing. That means the payment wouldn’t be counted in the budget lawmakers are writing, even though taxpayers would ultimately bear those costs.

Jessie Opoien

The funds will restore a $127 million cut next year that was proposed in Walker’s budget, and will provide an additional $100 per pupil in state aid the following year.

“It was really a challenge, but it was everybody’s first priority, and we made it,” said Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills.

Darling and Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, said Republicans also plan to move forward with a statewide expansion of the voucher program, capped at 1 percent of the students in each district.

The expansion would be modeled after the state’s open enrollment system, and would increase the amount of per-pupil aid for taxpayer-funded voucher schools to $7,200 per K-8 student and $7,800 per high school student.

That expansion will change the amount of funds that public schools receive, but Darling and Nygren declined to say by how much it could be.

“We don’t want the schools to suffer,” Darling said. “What we want to do is have the strongest education system we can for every child.”

The Economy Is Still Terrible for Young People

Derek Thompson:

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking recently about the labor market for a longer forthcoming piece, and one of the mysteries I’ve been grappling with is: How do you describe how this economy is treating young people?

Let’s start by singing the necessary praises. Last year was was the best for job-creation this century. We’re in the middle of the longest uninterrupted stretch of private-sector job creation on record. After creating mostly low-paying service jobs for the first few years of the recovery, the labor market is finally churning out more high-skill jobs. All of these things should be great news for young people.

Equality Of Opportunity Project

Harvard:

Phase 2: Causal Effects of Neighborhoods

The Effects of Neighborhoods on Intergenerational Mobility: Childhood Exposure Effects and County-Level Estimates
Slides [PDF, PPT], Videos [Part 1, Part 2]
Raj Chetty and Nathaniel Hendren

The Effects of Exposure to Better Neighborhoods on Children – New Evidence from the Moving to Opportunity Experiment
Slides [PDF, PPT]
Raj Chetty, Nathaniel Hendren and Lawrence Katz

Kids in the US don’t know much about money

Libby Nelson:

Graduating high school seniors in Oklahoma last year had to meet the strictest financial literacy education requirements in the country. They had to demonstrate their understanding in 14 different areas of personal finance — everything from household budgeting and basic investing to the consequences of gambling and bankruptcy.

It’s an ambitious set of standards that many adults couldn’t meet. But it might not work.

All MOOC MBA

Carl Straumshein:

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has chosen an unusual partner for its online M.B.A. program: massive open online course provider Coursera.

The program, known as iMBA, will deliver most of its course content through Specializations, Coursera’s term for course sequences. Students will be able to take those sequences in four different ways — two that award credit and two that don’t.

As with any MOOC, the content is available for free. Learners who wish to earn a credential but have no need for academic credit can pay a small fee, $79 a course, for an identity-verified certificate. Students can also apply to the College of Business and, if accepted, pursue the full M.B.A. degree. Finally, students can choose to take the courses individually for credit, postponing a decision about whether to go for a degree until they are well into the program.

Student Debt: Who Borrows Most? What Lies Ahead?

Sandy Baum & Martha C. Johnson:

This report describes the levels of cumulative education debt among students with different levels of educational attainment and examines factors associated with high borrowing levels. Those with the most debt tend to be among those who have pursued graduate study. Among undergraduate borrowers, students enrolled in for-profit institutions, those who are independent of their parents, and those who stay in school longer are more likely than others to accumulate large debts. Students from low-income families are not more likely than others to borrow large amounts, at least in part because they tend to stay in school for fewer years.

The tools I use to teach and some remaining niches.

Suraj Rai:

The tools I use to teach and some remaining niches.

Eight current tools and four potential opportunities to benefit schools everywhere.

It’s my first year teaching, so far it’s been challenging and incredibly fun. I teach Biology, Chemistry and Physics in rotation to 136 students. The tools below have been very useful in creating resources, saving time and contributing to the learning of my students.

NJEA Goes Off the Rails: PARCC, Pensions, and Camden School Choice 

Laura Waters:

NJEA is on a roll. Just over the couple of months New Jersey’s primary teacher union leaders have mounted a $15 million campaign (also see here) to urge parents to opt out of PARCC tests in order to sabotage new data-driven teacher evaluations, have decided to hold their breath until their faces turn blue instead of collaborating with Christie’s Pension Reform Commission to find meaningful ways to preserve retirement benefits, pushed for legislation to shut down all charter school expansion, and filed a complaint with the state against Camden City Schools’ lawful strategy to improve student outcomes in N.J.’s worst school district.

One hardly knows where to begin, but let’s look at the last piece. Here’s NJEA’s press release:

The Five C’s of a High Performing Education System

Teach For All:

Teach For All network partners share the longterm goal of developing leaders who will positively impact their countries’ classrooms, schools, and, ultimately, education systems. To inform this work, we look to the world’s highest performing systems to understand what drives their success. Recently, representatives of Teach For All, Teach First, and Teach For America were joined by members of the British Council on a visit to Ontario, Canada, to learn from its education system and consider how to use those lessons to achieve systemic change in countries around the world.

Higher Ed Lobby Quietly Joins For-Profit Schools To Roll Back Tighter Rules

Alec MacGillis:

The Obama administration is set to achieve one of its top domestic policy goals after years of wrangling. For-profit colleges, which absorb tens of billions of dollars in U.S. grants and loans yet often leave their students with little beyond crushing debt, will need to meet new standards or risk losing taxpayer dollars.

But as the July 1 deadline approaches, the troubled industry has been mounting a last-ditch effort to avert or roll back the new rules. And suddenly it’s getting a lift from a set of unlikely allies: traditional colleges and universities.

For years, the higher education establishment has viewed the for-profit education business as both a rival and an unsavory relation — the cousin with the rap sheet who seeks a cut of the family inheritance. Yet in a striking but little-noticed shift, nearly all of the college establishment’s representatives in Washington are siding with for-profit colleges in opposing the government’s crackdown.

Most of the traditional higher education lobbying groups signed onto a recent letter to Congress stating their support for Republican legislation that would block the new restrictions on for-profit colleges, as well as undo or weaken other accountability rules for colleges. And a new report on higher education regulation commissioned by the Senate and overseen by the American Council on Education, the leading lobby group for traditional schools, slammed the rules on for-profit colleges as part of a broader critique of the administration’s approach.

Common Core vs. Common Knowledge

Mike Atonucci:

For those who are in – or, in my case, marginally associated with – the business of public education, it is easy to assume that others share your enthusiasm equally. We are constantly told that education is one of the nation’s top issues, we spend vast amounts of money on it, and we argue about it incessantly.

The delicious irony is that time and again we discover that the general public is paying virtually no attention to any of it. They are highly uneducated about education.

Poll after poll over the years have indicated that Americans don’t know how much we spend on education, don’t know what a charter school is, don’t know what teachers make, and now, don’t know what the Common Core State Standards are.

The Unfortunate Trend Toward Opting Out of Standardized Tests

Ed Hughes:

Ignore this. Parents should not opt their children out of the MAP test. That won’t accomplish anything but frustrate the school district’s assessment of our own performance and blur our vision of where we should be focusing our improvement efforts. There are plenty of ways to support our public schools but this isn’t one of them.

Related: A letter to parents supporting “no teacher left behind”.

College Counsel for the Poor

Josh Mitchell:

Erin Kelley grew up poor with parents who never went to college, but she is about to do something only 11% of Americans like her do: earn a degree.

The Boston College senior is the latest success story of Bottom Line, which counsels disadvantaged youth on how to get into college—and graduate. About 80% of the nonprofit’s clients earn a degree. And in an era of skyrocketing college costs and debate about the value of higher education, they typically leave with relatively little debt and a job waiting for them.

The work of Bottom Line, and other groups that provide intensive counseling, is increasingly being studied by academics seeking to boost the prospects of low-income, first-generation college students.

On Universities

Gülden Özcan and Ersin Vedat Elgür

Gülden Özcan & Ersin Vedat Elgür (GÖ&EVE): Before getting into the details of your work, we would like to discuss with you the university as an institution and the current positions of academics in relation to politics. At the very beginning of your book Imagining the State you mention how the number of polemic style books and articles has been decreased and indeed almost become invisible as a result of academic research and evaluation practices that had been taking away the self-​confidence of academics under capitalism. With your work in general in a sense you re-​claim this right of producing polemical texts in the world of academia which has been dominated by the culture of capitalism. You not only claim but also practice this right by writing polemical books such as Imagining the State, The Fabrication of Social Order, Critique of Security and most recently, perhaps the most controversial of all, your edited book called Anti-​Security. In these works while dealing with the conventional assets of the discipline of political science such as the state, law, fascism and civil society on the one hand, you also introduce new terms, or rather the terms that only certain disciplines take issue with, to the area of political science such as police power, security, monstrous, the dead and pacification on the other hand. Can you tell us the kind of experience you have had while being in academia and producing such work? Also, our journal Kampfplatz, too, aims to offer a space for polemics (as, we hope, its name tells it all) and thus aims to have a kind of publication policy that stays away from academic rituals. Do you think there are ways to stay out of the academia in the act of producing knowledge, or is it possible to institutionalize knowledge-​production besides the academia? What would be the place for such activity: independent journals, independent academy-​like institutes, or perhaps community libraries?

Keeping Great Teachers, With a Personal Touch

Kate McGovern:

Give us the bigger picture here. What’s your philosophy of teacher retention?

The way we approach retention at DCPS is less about general retention and more about trying to make sure we’re keeping the teachers who have the greatest impact on kids. Everything we do at DCPS—the way we recruit and hire teachers, the way we support them and the way we approach retention—is based on teacher effectiveness.

It’s important to note, though, that we don’t necessarily see retention to mean being in front of students all day, every day. That’s not how careers work anymore. Many of our most talented educators aren’t interested in teaching in the same classroom for 30 years. I taught in DCPS for two years, and one of the reasons I left was because the career path seemed so linear. Today, we’ve really tried to layer in opportunities for teachers to grow and evolve their careers in different ways, inside and outside the classroom.

Why American Workers Without Much Education Are Being Hammered

Neil Irwin:

The last couple of decades have been terrible for American workers without much education. New research calculates just how bad, and offers some evidence as to why that is.

In short, they face a double whammy. Less-educated Americans, especially men, are shifting away from manufacturing and other jobs that once offered higher pay, and a higher share are now working in lower-paying food service, cleaning and groundskeeping jobs. Simultaneously, pay levels are declining in almost all of the fields that employ less-educated workers, so even those who have held onto jobs as manufacturers, operators and laborers are making less than they would have a generation ago.

Perhaps the single most shocking number in a new review of employment and earnings data by researchers at the Hamilton Project, a research group within the Brookings Institution, is this one: The median earnings of working men aged 30 to 45 without a high school diploma fell 20 percent from 1990 to 2013 when adjusted for inflation.

Locally, Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results, despite spending double the national average per student.

2/3 of people in the Valley who have completed their college education are foreign born.””

Danny Lin:

From the beginning, Silicon Valley entrepreneurs saw themselves in direct opposition to their East Coast counterparts. The westerners saw themselves as cowboys and pioneers, working on a “new frontier” where people dared greatly and failure was not shameful but just the quickest way to learn a hard lesson. In the 1970s, with the influence of the counterculture’s epicenter at the corner of Haight and Ashbury, only an easy drive up the freeway, Silicon Valley companies also became famous for their laid-back, dressed-down culture, and for their products, such as video games and personal computers, that brought advanced technology to “the rest of us.”

Mobile phone bans improve school exam results, research shows

Richard Adams:

Schools that ban pupils from carrying mobile phones show a sustained improvement in exam results, with the biggest advances coming from struggling students, according to research published by the London School of Economics.

The findings calculated that pupils at mobile-free schools benefitted by the equivalent of an extra hour’s teaching per week, meaning many schools would benefit from taking a tough line on keeping phones out of pupils’ pockets.

The large-scale study found schools in Birmingham, London, Leicester and Manchester that banned mobiles enjoyed a boost in the proportion of pupils getting five good passes at GCSE, compared with schools that allowed pupils to keep their phones, even if switched off.

Punishing parents who deviate from the government-enforced norm

George Will:

Controversies about “free-range parenting” illuminate today’s scarred cultural landscape. Neighbors summon police in response to parenting choices the neighbors disapprove. Government extends its incompetence with an ever-broader mission of “child protection.” And these phenomena are related to campus hysteria about protecting infantilized undergraduates from various menaces, including uncongenial ideas.

The Meitivs live in suburban Montgomery County, which is a bedroom for many Washington bureaucrats who make their living minding other people’s business. The Meitivs, to encourage independence and self-reliance, let their 10- and 6-year-old children walk home alone from a park about a mile from their home. For a second time, their children were picked up by police, this time three blocks from home. After confinement in a squad car for almost three hours, during which the police never called or allowed the children to call the Meitivs, the children were given to social workers who finally allowed the parents to reclaim their children at about 11 p.m. on a school night. The Meitivs’ Kafkaesque experiences concluded with them accused of “unsubstantiated” neglect.

The Facebook “It’s Not Our Fault” Study

Christian Sandvig:

Today in Science, members of the Facebook data science team released a provocative study about adult Facebook users in the US “who volunteer their ideological affiliation in their profile.” The study “quantified the extent to which individuals encounter comparatively more or less diverse” hard news “while interacting via Facebook’s algorithmically ranked News Feed.”*

The research found that the user’s click rate on hard news is affected by the positioning of the content on the page by the filtering algorithm. The same link placed at the top of the feed is about 10-15% more likely to get a click than a link at position #40 (figure S5).

The Facebook news feed curation algorithm, “based on many factors,” removes hard news from diverse sources that you are less likely to agree with but it does not remove the hard news that you are likely to agree with (S7). They call news from a source you are less likely to agree with “cross-cutting.”*

The study then found that the algorithm filters out 1 in 20 cross-cutting hard news stories that a self-identified conservative sees (or 5%) and 1 in 13 cross-cutting hard news stories that a self-identified liberal sees (8%).

Finally, the research then showed that “individuals’ choices about what to consume” further limits their “exposure to cross-cutting content.” Conservatives will click on only 17% a little less than 30% of cross-cutting hard news, while liberals will click 7% a little more than 20% (figure 3).

Starbucks and Arizona State University are collaborating to help cafe workers get college degrees. Is this a model for helping more Americans reach the middle class?


Amanda Ripley:

But those objections missed the purpose of the program, which, admittedly, Schultz had glossed over in his soaring rhetoric about creating “access to the American dream.” The goal was not to print a pile of get-out-of-tuition-free coupons. It was something less expensive and possibly more important: to help more students finish what they’d started.

The most revolutionary part of the program had nothing to do with tuition and got far less media attention. In their announcement, Starbucks and Arizona State also committed themselves to providing all enrolled employees with individualized guidance—the kind of thing affluent American parents and elite universities provide for their students as a matter of course. Starbucks students would each be assigned an enrollment counselor, a financial-aid adviser, an academic adviser, and a “success coach”—a veritable pit crew of helpers. Like a growing number of innovative colleges around the country, Starbucks and Arizona State were promising to prioritize the needs of real-life students over the traditions of academia.

Starbucks and Arizona State granted The Atlantic exclusive access to the first semester’s students, advisers, and detailed results. Despite all the hype, no one at either institution knew how many employees would sign up—or how they would fare once enrolled. Working students attending college online drop out at notoriously high rates, but if the experiment succeeded, it might suggest that college, designed differently, could still become the equalizer it was meant to be. “We’re not trying to save the world,” Arizona State’s president, Michael Crow, told me. “We’re trying to show that the world can be saved.”

Real Finnish Lessons: The true story of an education superpower

Gabriel Heller Sahlgren:

Why did Finland’s pupils do so well? Popular explanations include the country’s focus on equity, the high standard of teacher training, a comparatively low workload, and the lack of market reforms and school accountability. But research does not support any of these conclusions. In fact, Finland’s rise began well before most of these policies were able to take eff ect – and its recent decline started soon after they took hold.

Instead, Finland’s success appears to be the result of deep-rooted historical, socioeconomic and cultural factors, combined with a resistance to the rising global tide of progressive teaching methods. Its current fall can in turn be linked to cultural changes and recent reforms which may have undermined the causes of its achievements. The findings of this monograph shed new light on Finland’s educational performance and provide important lessons for policymakers.

Q: Is there something mysterious about mathematics?

Scott Aaronson:

In one sense, of course, there’s less mystery in math than there is in any other human endeavor. In math we can really understand things, in a deeper way than we ever understand anything else. (When I was younger, I used to reassure myself during suspense movies by silently reciting the proof of some theorem: here, at least, was a certainty that the movie couldn’t touch.) So how is it that many people, including mathematicians, do feel there’s something “mysterious” about this least mysterious of subjects? What do they mean?

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Early & Often Moody’s, citing pension crisis, downgrades Chicago’s debt to junk status

Fran Spielman:

Moody’s Investor’s Service on Tuesday dropped Chicago’s bond rating two more notches — to junk status — turning up the heat on Mayor Rahm Emanuel to raise property taxes and on the Illinois General Assembly to approve a Chicago casino.

“It is irresponsible to play politics with Chicago’s financial future by pushing the city to increase taxes on residents without [pension] reform,” Emanuel was quoted as saying in an emailed statement.

The decision to drop the bond rating that determines city borrowing costs — from Baa2 to Ba1 with a negative outlook — comes just days after the state Supreme Court unanimously overturned state pension reforms and placed Emanuel’s plan to save two of four city employee pension funds in similar jeopardy.

The rating applies to $8.1 billion in general-obligation debt, $542 million in outstanding sales tax revenue debt and $268 million in outstanding and authorized motor fuel tax revenue.

Michigan Lawmaker Proposes State Registry Of Homeschooled Children

CBS Detroit:

A Michigan lawmaker proposed legislation Friday to create a state registry of homeschooled students following the deaths of two Detroit children who were found in a freezer.

The measure from State Rep. Stephanie Chang, a Detroit Democrat, would require visits with children at least twice per year by someone such as a licensed social worker or law enforcement officer. The bill would also require that parents who want to homeschool their children provide their names and ages, along with the name and address of a parent or guardian, to the superintendent of the school district in which they reside.

Chang cited the case of Stoni Ann Blair and Stephen Gage Berry as a reason for planning the legislation. Investigators believe Stephen was 9 when he died in August 2012 and that Stoni was 13 when she died the following May. Their mother, who is accused of torturing and killing them and then stuffing their bodies in the freezer, had said she homeschooled them.

The 1% of scientific publishing

Erik Stokstad:

Publishing is one of the most ballyhooed metrics of scientific careers, and every researcher hates to have a gap in that part of his or her CV. Here’s some consolation: A new study finds that very few scientists—fewer than 1%—manage to publish a paper every year.

But these 150,608 scientists dominate the research journals, having their names on 41% of all papers. Among the most highly cited work, this elite group can be found among the co-authors of 87% of papers.

The new research, published on 9 July in PLOS ONE, was led by epidemiologist John Ioannidis of Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, with analysis of Elsevier’s Scopus database by colleagues Kevin Boyack and Richard Klavans at SciTech Strategies. They looked at papers published between 1996 and 2011 by 15 million scientists worldwide in many disciplines.

Life in the Accelerated Academy: anxiety thrives, demands intensify and metrics hold the tangled web together.

Mark Carrigan:

When questioned by a friend in 1980 as to whether he was happy at Princeton, the philosopher Richard Rorty replied that he was “delighted that I lucked into a university which pays me to make up stories and tell them”. He went on to suggest that “Universities permit one to read books and report what one thinks about them, and get paid for it” and that this is why he saw himself first and foremost as a writer, in spite of his already entrenched antipathy towards the philosophical profession which would grow with time. It’s a lovely idea, isn’t it? This is the thought that keeps coming back to me as I’m preparing to participate in the Time Without Time symposium in Edinburgh later this week.

The problem is that employment in a university no longer requires that one simply reads books and reports what one thinks about them. Was this ever really the case? Either way, it’s a seductive vision. Unfortunately, it is belied by the over one hundred metrics to which each academic working within UK higher education is potentially subject. Contrary to Rorty’s ideal of scholars reading books, writing about them and occasionally deigning to share their reflections with students, we’re instead measured constantly in matters such as workload, teaching and research within institutions that are themselves ranked in a way constituted through the measurement of the individuals within them.

Can there be an excuse to block a Milwaukee ‘no excuses’ school?

Alan Borsuk:

Don’t want excuses about why things aren’t going better on Milwaukee’s education scene? Well, meet the people who don’t want schools that demand no excuses.

A significant number of the latter are on the Milwaukee School Board. How significant the number is will become clear in coming months.

But it looks like they make up a growing force in deciding what kind of change there will be (or not be).

One of the interesting questions raised by School Board actions in the last two weeks is whether resisting a proposal to open a school will have an impact on Republican legislators in Madison who are considering ideas for taking some power, some schools, or both away from the board.

First, let’s describe “no excuses.” That is a label applied, sometimes in praise, sometimes in criticism, to schools nationwide that pursue ambitious goals with highly structured and strong (sometimes very) discipline. They strongly push, even down to kindergarten, a message that every student, most of them low-income minority kids, will get a college degree.

Basically, the schools stand for accepting no excuses for kids not succeeding. That includes downplaying or dismissing poverty as an explanation for low success rates.

In many instances, the “no excuses” schools have had notably higher rates of graduation and better test scores than nearby conventional schools. But in places such as New Orleans, there has been a lot of blowback against schools that are too demanding and too strict on discipline. Some schools have moderated their practices.

Social Networks Affect The Brain Like Falling In Love

Adam Penenberg:

The essence of affection. The cuddle chemical. In other words, oxytocin.

This hormone, produced daily by your brain and mine, is the reason I’m on my back, trying to remain perfectly still inside a magnetic-resonance-imaging machine secreted in the basement of a cheerless building at the California Institute of Technology. Even though I am cocooned by earplugs and noise-cancellation headphones, it’s freakishly loud in here, a mix of jackhammer pulses and a hurricane whoosh of air. In other words, it’s your typical MRI experience — save for the Apple laptop bolted a couple of feet above my head, the mouse on my chest, and the unbearably sad video playing on the MacBook screen.

I have volunteered for this, signing up to be a test subject for Dr. Love, aka Paul J. Zak, a professor at Claremont Graduate University who popularized “neuroeconomics,” an emerging field that combines economics with biology, neuroscience, and psychology. In this first of three experiments, I’m helping Zak’s researchers gauge the relationship between empathy and generosity. While best-selling behavioral economists such as Dan Ariely (Predictably Irrational) and Steven D. Levitt (half of the Freakonomics duo) ponder how we make economic decisions, Zak wants to figure out why we do what we do.

U.S. cracks down on female teachers who sexually abuse students

Richard Goldberg:

A “Saturday Night Live” skit about a male student having sex with his female high school teacher painted the relationship as every teen boy’s dream, but drew a firestorm of criticism on social media.

The reaction to the comedy sketch reflected a growing view among law enforcement and victims’ advocacy groups that it is no laughing matter when a woman educator preys on her male students.

In U.S. schools last year, almost 800 school employees were prosecuted for sexual assault, nearly a third of them women. The proportion of women facing charges seems to be higher than in years past, when female teachers often got a pass, said Terry Abbott, a former chief of staff at the U.S. Department of Education, who tracked the cases.

This year’s numbers are already slightly ahead of last year with 26 cases of female school employees accused of inappropriate relationships with male students in January compared to 19 cases the previous January.

Tough Times Ahead For 16,000 Students Of Disgraced College Chain

Molly Hensley-Clancy:

Don’t tell Natalie Anderson that she is better off without Everest College.

Until Sunday, Anderson was a student in medical assisting at Everest College in Phoenix. That day, she saw a message on Facebook: “This campus has been permanently closed.”

Anderson is unemployed, supporting two children on disability payments, and living in a Budget Suites of America, the only place she could find that came fully furnished. She’s “barely surviving,” she said, but dreams of becoming a nurse: “I want to get my kids off of the system.”

When she saw that Everest had closed, stranding her partway through her nine-month certificate, Anderson said, “I cried. Seriously, I did, because this was my chance.” Her voice broke: “Now I’m going to cry again.”

The saga of America’s largest for-profit college shutdown began last June and ended last week, when Corinthian Colleges abruptly shuttered 28 of its Everest and Heald college campuses. Since the beginning, when Corinthian began to teeter on the verge of collapse, there has been a tug between those who say Corinthian’s students are better off with their campuses closed — eligible to have their students loans forgiven — and those who say students should be allowed to finish their educations.

Creepy Scholarship

Andrew Pilsch:

There is a lot of talk of the “weird” in today’s humanities. From Karen Gregory’s “Weird Solidarities” to Graham Harman’s Weird Realism, we are going through a “weird” moment in humanities (we’re also going through a weird moment, if you catch my drift). “Weird” is, as you probably know, entering our academic lexicon not only through our own perplexity at emerging digital culture but also specifically through an engagement with the horror fiction of H.P. Lovecraft as a possible guide to that perplexed state of affairs.

A term I want to consider in this post, though, is another term in the horror lexicon: “creepy.” “Creepy,” according to the OED, comes from the “chill shuddering feeling caused by horror or repugnance,” a “creeping of the skin.” Recently, I’ve been thinking about creepy scholarship, as a possible related discourse to weird scholarship, sharing some of the same antecedents, though arriving at different results and deploying different methods.

Identifying manuscripts in social media

Michael Schonhardt:

Some days ago a number of articles and blogposts appeared in my twitter timeline criticizing “twitter streams that do nothing more than post ‘old’ pictures and little tidbits of captions for them”1 , e.g. https://twitter.com/medievalreacts

Sarah Werner (whose blogpost I highly recommend!) and others rightly criticized these accounts for using unattributed and unidentified historical pictures for their own commercial purpose, making it impossible to access the underlying historical context of those pictures.

Following the debate on twitter, however, I stumbled across a few tweets (quoted below) that prompted me to scrutinize my own social media practice as a historian, especially the limitations and potential of scientific work using social media, and twitter in particular.

An increasing number of scholars not only employs the microblogging network for channeling private messages, but also to provide glimpses into their professional work and expertise. I have characterized this as a revival of the so called context of discovery (Reichenberg)2 .

Following both the logic of social media and the nature of historical research on the Middle Ages, a good deal of this information shared on twitter consists of digitized images of medieval manuscripts, to which sometimes additional information is added.

The Nation’s First Vegetarian Public School Is Thriving

Fast Company:

A few years before Queens elementary school PS 244 became the first public school in the nation to go vegetarian, it decided to stop serving chocolate milk. That had never been done before in New York City’s school meals program. Robert Groff, the school’s principal, says even that first simple step took a lot of time and effort.

Groff, whose grandfathers both died of heart attacks in their 50s, co-founded PS 244 in 2008 on the premise that health and wellness is closely tied to academic performance. The chocolate milk removal, suggested at first by a third grader who was learning about nutrition labels, was followed by other menu changes that maximized healthy eating.

It soon became apparent that meat-free meals were the way to go, given that the city—which serves 850,000 meals a day—can’t necessarily afford top-of-the-line lean meat. “We had no focus on vegetarianism specifically,” says Groff. “If we were presented with a free-range, organic chicken, that’s something we would talk about.”

What is it like to be poor at an Ivy League school?

Brooke Lea Foster :

WHEN ANA BARROS first stepped into Harvard Yard as a freshman, she felt so out of place she might as well have had the words “low income” written on her forehead. A girl from Newark doesn’t belong in a place like Harvard, she thought, as she marveled at how green the elms were, how quaint the cobblestone streets. Back home, where her family lives in a modest house bought from Habitat for Humanity, there wasn’t always money for groceries, and the world seemed gray, sirens blaring at all hours. Her parents, who immigrated to the New York area from Colombia before she was born, spoke Spanish at home. It was at school that Barros learned English. A petite 5-foot-2 with high cheekbones and a head of model-worthy hair, Barros found out in an e-mail that she’d been accepted to Harvard — a full scholarship would give her the means to attend. “I knew at that moment that I’d never suffer in the way that my parents did,” she says.

Collecting And Measuring Classroom Data

Motoko Rich:

In this small suburb outside Milwaukee, no one in the Menomonee Falls School District escapes the rigorous demands of data.

Custodians monitor dirt under bathroom sinks, while the high school cafeteria supervisor tracks parent and student surveys of lunchroom food preferences. Administrators record monthly tallies of student disciplinary actions, and teachers post scatter plot diagrams of quiz scores on classroom walls. Even kindergartners use brightly colored dots on charts to show how many letters or short words they can recognize.

Data has become a dirty word in some education circles, seen as a proxy for an obsessive focus on tracking standardized test scores. But some school districts, taking a cue from the business world, are fully embracing metrics, recording and analyzing every scrap of information related to school operations. Their goal is to help improve everything from school bus routes and classroom cleanliness to reading comprehension and knowledge of algebraic equations.
On a recent morning at Riverside Elementary School, Alyssa Walter, 7, opened her first-grade “data binder,” in which she recorded progress on reading and math tasks throughout the year. On one page, she showed a visitor six colored circles pasted into a drawing of a gumball machine, each dot representing her successful completion of a three-minute addition quiz.

The fate of Los Angeles Charter Schools

Joshua Enpmerson Smith:

When Highland Park resident Liz Martinez talks about charter schools, she speaks with the same kind of pride she reserves for her children’s accomplishments. Her youngest daughter graduated from PUC Cals Charter Early College High School in 2010 and then Brown University. Her son graduated from another PUC charter school and was accepted to Notre Dame.

“They care about the kids,” Martinez says of the neighborhood charter schools where she opted to send them. “They know the kids by name. They know us by name, too. When you come to the high school, you feel welcome.”

The 46-year-old mother of three wasn’t as pleased with Franklin High School, a traditional LAUSD school her older daughter attended while the other children went to charter schools.

The public school is just five minutes down the street from Cals High School, but Martinez’s assessment of the two couldn’t be further apart.

“There’s a big difference,” she says. “At the charter schools, they told them they had to go to university. In Franklin High School, they don’t even care about the kids

Accessibility & Apple Watch

Molly Watt:

The new setting “Prominent Haptic” is perhaps my favourite in accessibility.

On putting the Apple Watch on my wrist although on my small wrist it appeared large, it felt light and comfortable.
After a little playing I discovered by holding down the face of the watch you can vary how the time is displayed, a standard clock face but typically Apple quirky or large numbers and digital.

Convicted defendants left uninformed of forensic flaws found by Justice Dept.

Spencer Hsu:

Justice Department officials have known for years that flawed forensic work might have led to the convictions of potentially innocent people, but prosecutors failed to notify defendants or their attorneys even in many cases they knew were troubled.

Officials started reviewing the cases in the 1990s after reports that sloppy work by examiners at the FBI lab was producing unreliable forensic evidence in court trials. Instead of releasing those findings, they made them available only to the prosecutors in the affected cases, according to documents and interviews with dozens of officials.

In addition, the Justice Department reviewed only a limited number of cases and focused on the work of one scientist at the FBI lab, despite warnings that problems were far more widespread and could affect potentially thousands of cases in federal, state and local courts.

How the legal system often ignores the constitutional rights of parents

Ilya Somin

By Ilya Somin April 21 at 8:13 PM

In a recent post on the notorious Maryland case where authorities have repeatedly detained two children in order to force the Meitiv family to stop them from walking home alone, I noted that the parents have the Constitution and Supreme Court precedent on their side. At Above the Law, experienced public interest lawyer Sam Wright agrees that the parents have the Constitution on their side, but cautions that bureaucrats and lower court judges routinely ignore such petty issues as constitutional rights when it comes to enforcing the their conceptions of “the best interests of the child”:

Over at the Volokh Conspiracy, law professor Ilya Somin notes that the application of child welfare laws is subject to some (seemingly) robust constitutional constraints: there’s case law providing that the Fourteenth Amendment protects the rights of parents to raise their children as they see fit and that it also, in the words of Justice O’Connor’s plurality opinion in Troxel v. Granville, creates a “presumption that fit parents act in the best interests of their children.”

But the reality facing most parents in court is that that “presumption” isn’t actually a thing. Take the experience documented in a well-publicized essay on Salon last year: the author left her four-year-old unattended in a car for a few minutes on a mild day, the police were called, she found herself charged with a crime…. [Her lawyer] warned her that “juvenile courts are notorious for erring on the side of protecting the child” and suggested that fighting the case might lead her to lose her child. Faced with that possibility she, of course, folded. Anyone would…

And that’s been my experience as an advocate too. When I worked for a legal aid organization, one of my tasks was to represent parents in child welfare proceedings. No one in those sad, sequestered courtrooms cited Supreme Court cases; everyone just argued over what was in the best interest of the child….

So parents, be cautious: yes, there’s Supreme Court precedent on your side, but if you find yourself in court then the system’s conception of the “best interests of the child” will likely overrule yours.

Wright also notes that vaguely worded child welfare statutes give bureaucrats wide discretion that they sometimes exert in ways that punish perfectly reasonable and safe parenting practices, a problem I wrote about in this 2012 post.

Wright’s note of caution is well-taken. When I wrote that the Maryland situation “should be a relatively case,” I meant that applicable precedent clearly supports the parents, and that they should ultimately prevail if the constitutional issue is raised and courts take Supreme Court precedent seriously. However, achieving such a victory against determined bureaucrats could require prolonged and costly litigation. Sometimes, seemingly novel constitutional issues won’t be taken seriously until a case reaches the appellate level, where judges are more used to addressing constitutional questions. Many parents understandably lack the time, resources, and emotional stamina for a lengthy legal battle. And even a small risk of defeat might be unacceptable if it could mean losing custody of your children or suffering continued official harassment. I don’t blame parents who decide that such a fight isn’t worth it. The purpose of my earlier post was to analyze the relevant constitutional issue, not give advice to parents facing a potentially difficult legal battle with child welfare bureaucrats.

At the same time, it is important to recognize that, in the cases Wright cites, the constitutional issue mostly wasn’t even raised, much less decided. Anxious parents generally give in without putting up a fight. If the issue were raised in a sufficiently egregious case, and effectively pursued by determined parents with strong legal representation, the chances of ultimate victory might well be good. And such a victory could create an important precedent that helps deter similar official misconduct in the future, especially if the government agency is forced to pay damages as well as cease its harassment of the parents.

Welcome to the Education-Industrial Complex

socialist worker.org

That night, the Warren school district’s testing coordinator received a call from a state official informing her about the “breach” and requesting that the student be suspended. The next morning, Warren school superintendent Elizabeth Jewett e-mailed her colleagues about the incident:

The DOE informed us that Pearson is monitoring all social media during PARCC testing. I have to say that I find that a bit disturbing–and if our parents were concerned before about a conspiracy with all of the student data, I am sure I will be receiving more letters of refusal once this gets out.

At the time, the Jewett didn’t even know that Pearson was doing far more than “monitoring” social media. Because the student’s Twitter handle didn’t involve her name, Pearson got Twitter to turn over her private personal information, on the grounds that she had violated the testing company’s “intellectual property.”

As Jewett predicted, the spying revelations added fuel to the fire for parents and educators who were already upset at the state’s cozy relationship with Pearson, and their joint agenda to implement a mandatory testing regime in line with the Common Core standards that have reshaped schools across the country with virtually no democratic discussion about their educational merits.

Starving the Beast: The UNC System in 2015

Amanda Ann Klein:

Maybe I’m biased, but I was always under the impression that the most important commodity at a university is the quality of its teaching staff, not the quality of its administrators. When I graduated from college in 1999 I didn’t think back fondly on all the administrators I had encountered along the way. So what explanation could possibly be given for proposing that university administrators deserve “competitive salaries” but the university’s teachers don’t? Why is the Board of Governors only concerned with attracting and retaining top administrative talent, not top teaching or research talent?

What, exactly, is going on? My university, you see, is very slowly being converted from an institution of education into a business. “Can’t it be both?” some of you might be thinking? “Wouldn’t academia, that dying giant, benefit from trimming the fat and keeping an eye towards pleasing the customer?” The answer, as someone who has slowly watched her university transition from a university into a Wal Mart over the last 8 years, is a resounding no.

Nick Timiraos:

Last week’s WSJ/NBC poll found that Americans, by more than two to one, are more worried about their ability to get ahead financially than they are about the widening income gap.

A new book by Robert Putnam, the Harvard University political scientist, delivers some detailed insights into what’s behind those worries. Mr. Putnam joins President Barack Obama and Arthur Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute, for a discussion on poverty at Georgetown University on Tuesday.

Mr. Putnam drew attention to the growing segregation of America along class lines at a conference hosted last month by the Federal Reserve on economic mobility in which he outlined key themes from the book, “Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis.”

Even as Americans have become less segregated across racial and religious lines than they were a generation ago, they have grown more segregated along class lines. Americans are much less likely to go to school, live with, or marry people from different socioeconomic backgrounds, Mr. Putnam said.

China’s social credit system

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The regulations were announced last year, but have attracted almost no attention thus far in China and abroad. This week Rogier Creemers, a Belgian China-specialist at Oxford University, published a comprehensive translation of the regulations regarding the Social Credit System, which clarifies the scope of the system. In an interview with Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant he says: ‘With the help of the latest internet technologies the government wants to exercise individual surveillance’.

In his view this surveillance will have a wider scope than was the case under the former East German system: ‘The German aim was limited to avoiding a revolt against the regime. The Chinese aim is far more ambitious: it is clearly an attempt to create a new citizen.’

The intentions of the new system are not only economical, fighting fraudulent practices, but also moral. ‘This is a deliberate effort by the Chinese government to promote among its citizens “socialist core values” such as patriotism, respecting the elderly, working hard and avoiding extravagant consumption’, says Creemers. A bad ‘credit code’ can result in being not eligible for certain jobs, housing or credit to start a company. ‘On the labour market you might need a certain score to get a specific job.’

Alumni from these colleges (almost) always pay their debts

Brookings:

Every student at Harvey Mudd College who borrowed between 2009 and 2011 was making loan payments three years later, though only 326 borrowed. At Vasser, 99.3 percent of its 923 borrowers were current. Out of non-medical colleges with at least 1,000 borrowers, those attending Notre Dame had the highest repayment rates: Of 4,691 borrowers, just 43 had defaulted within three years.

Brookings’ new report on college quality attempts to evaluate schools based on their contributions to the economic success of alumni. Federal loan repayment is one of the measures, in addition to mid-career salaries and careers in high-paying occupations.

Inventing an algebraic knot theory for eight year olds (III)

Dan Ghica

Unlike previous posts, this one precedes the math club meeting. The reason is that we need to tighten some loose ends in our emerging knot theory notation. The first two meetings (I and II) were all about exploring knots and ways to describe them using notations, and we made some impressive strides. But at this stage I need to exercise some authority and steer them firmly in the right direction:

We are going to use I rather than 0 (zero) to denote the identity of composition. Even though 0 is a neutral element for addition, as correctly spotted by the children, using it as the neutral element for composition is not idiomatic. 1 (one) is more standard, for various reason I will not get into here.

What If Students Could Fire Their Professors?

Anya Kamanetz:

“Welcome to Iowa State University. May I take your paper, please?”

A bill circulating in the Iowa state Senate would rate professors’ performance based on student evaluations. Just student evaluations.

Low-rated professors would be automatically fired — no tenure, no appeals.

The bill’s author, state Sen. Mark Chelgren, a Republican, argues that too many students are taking on student loan debt but not getting their money’s worth in the classroom. “Professors need to understand that their customers are those students,” Chelgren told the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Though the bill appears unlikely to pass, it has made national news because of the broader debate around student debt, the cost of college and what, exactly, students are getting for their money.

Indiana school district bused only black third-graders to tour local colleges

Kaitlyn Schallhorn:

An Indiana public school district segregated elementary field trips last week when administrators included only African-Americans on the college introduction tour.

According to ABC 57, South Bend Community Schools Corporation has planned a series of field trips to three local colleges for black third-graders in seven school districts. The excursions began last week with a trip to Ivy Tech Community College.

“I feel like all kids should be going.” Tweet This

Dr. G. David Moss, the director for the African-American student-parent services with the South Bend Community Schools Corporation, told ABC 57 that he wanted the third-grade students to begin to think of themselves attending college.

“I was hired to look at the issues facing African-American kids in the South Bend Community Schools Corporation and my job specifically says that I need to develop programs and develop strategies to help these kids and their families become more successful academically,” Moss said.

I Will Not Be Lectured To. I’m Too Busy Teaching.

Kevin:

I was having a really good day today; recovering from post-semester burnout, recharging the batteries–all in all, getting to my Happy Place. But then I read Mark Bauerlein’s Op-ed in today’s New York Times, and now I’m all irritated. “What’s the Point of a Professor?” Bauerlein asks; he then goes on to tell us, basically, “not much.” And who’s responsible for this lamentable state of affairs, you might wonder? Well–there’s students, for one. In today’s consumerist and career-over-true-education society, they just don’t engage with professors outside of the classroom transaction. “They have no urge to become disciples,” according to Bauerlein. Why don’t they want to become disciples? Well, colleagues, there’s where it becomes our fault, too:

Sadly, professors pressed for research time don’t want them, either. As a result, most undergraduates never know that stage of development when a learned mind enthralled them and they progressed toward a fuller identity through admiration of and struggle with a role model

Who even realizes they want to become an acolyte of a rock-star professor if they never get to the right “stage of development?” College seems to be reduced, in this view, to a several-year series of rote careerist transactions between infantilized students and disinterested professors. Gone are the halcyon days of yore when professors dispensed wisdom to adoring throngs of geek-groupies, never to return. O THE POOR CHILDREN.

The History of US Public Education

Sam Blumenfeld:

Most Americans assume that we’ve always had public schools, that they came with the Constitution and are an indispensable part of our democratic system. But nothing could be farther from the truth as I discovered when I wrote my book, Is Public Education Necessary?, published in 1981. In writing that book I wanted to find out why the American people put education in the hands of government so early in their history. I was quite surprised to find that it had nothing to do with economics or the lack of literacy. It was the result of a philosophical change in the minds of the academic elite.

The U.S. Constitution does not mention education anywhere. It was left up to the states, parents, religious denominations, and school proprietors to deal with. True, in the early days of New England, towns were required to maintain common schools supported and controlled by the local citizenry. This had been done to make sure that children learned to read so that they could read the Bible and go on to higher education. But there was much homeschooling, private tutoring, private academies, church schools, and dames’ schools for very young children. There were no compulsory school attendance laws, and no centralized state control over the curriculum.

This system, or lack of it, produced a highly literate population that could read the Federalist Papers, the King James Version of the Bible, and everything else that was published. All one has to do is read a Farmer’s Journal of those early days to realize the high level of literacy that was enjoyed by the general population in America prior to the advent of the public schools.

What’s happened to the Small schools Taskforce report and yet more trouble for Small Schools

Not Very Jolley:

The small schools task force promised a more detailed report giving indicative costings and guidance for schools, with the initial hope it would be published some time prior to the implementation of UIFSM in September 2014. This was then delayed and eventually promised in November.

Then it came to light that their flagship school, Peyhembury junior school, despite all the extra advice provided by the small schools task force experts, had been unable to run a universal infant free school meal service. They were forced into asking for an extra £43,217 for new infrastructure. (oddly the SFP video promoting Peyhembury was taken down from youtube at around this time)

The original target of 30 schools in the south west was never met and the project seemed to lurch from one problem to another. To the point the small schools task force has all but disappeared from the school food plan website.

Children use time words like “seconds” and “hours” long before they know what they mean

Resaerch Digest:

For adults, let alone children, time is a tricky concept to comprehend. In our culture, we carve it up into somewhat arbitrary chunks and attribute words to those durations: 60 seconds in a minute, and 60 of those in an hour and so on. We also have a sense of what these durations feel like. Children start using these time-related words at around the age of two or three years, even though they won’t master clocks until eight or nine. This raises the question – what do young children really understand about duration words?

Katharine Tillman and David Barner began by asking dozens of three- to six-year-olds to compare several pairs of durations (e.g. Farmer Brown jumped for a minute. Captain Blue jumped for an hour. Who jumped more?). As well as minutes and hours, other durations used were seconds, days, weeks, months and years. This test showed that by age four, the children were tending to get more of these questions right than would be expected if they were just guessing. With increasing age, the children got better at the task. In other words, from age four and up, children have a sense of the rank order of different duration terms.

What young children don’t have, according to the findings from further experiments, is a sense of the actual lengths of time that these terms refer to. When the comparison test was repeated, but with different amounts of each duration, the children were flummoxed. Take, for example, the question “Farmer Brown jumped for three minutes. Captain Brown jumped for two hours. Who jumped more?”As adults, we aren’t thrown by the minutes outnumbering the hours by three to two, because we know that an hour is 60 times longer than a minute, and that an hour feels much longer than minute. However, even five-year-olds, who know well the principle that an hour is longer than a minute, were thrown by these kinds of comparisons. This suggests they don’t yet have a very good understanding of the formal definitions of duration words, nor what the different durations feel like.

Commentary On Wisconsin’s K-12 Tax & Spending Climate

Todd Milewski:

“There should be some room for inflationary increases, and our schools have been really constrained for several biennia now. So zero is not a win. Certainly, it’s better than what it was but, frankly, nothing has changed over the last six months so maybe the budget should have been put in place as 0 percent to begin with and we could have worked from there. Now we’re working from a place of disadvantage.”

Some school districts have responded to state cuts by asking voters to approve referenda for funding. Last month, Madison voters approved a $41 million referendum that will pay for upgrades and expansions in 16 schools.

Evers said districts have a success rate of 60 to 70 percent when they go to referendum, but that kind of arrangement could lead to legal challenges.

Much more on Wisconsin’s K-12 tax & spending climate, here.

What Chess Means To My Family

Nina Zito:

It’s 10 at night and my husband, Ilya, is breathlessly asking me if he can wake the kids to show them the online chess game he just finished. He’s joking. Mostly. Since it is a scene I witness often in daylight hours, I sense that if I weren’t scowling, he’d romp in and wake our son and daughter — both scholars and chess players at Success Academy Upper West — to show them a tactic he found that lets him win with a forced “mate-in-3 [moves].” Years ago, when we were first dating, he and I played chess all the time, frequently getting in two to three games a day while stretched out on a blanket in Central Park’s Sheep Meadow. He always won graciously, but still I’d be slightly irked and very stubborn, so I would challenge him again – sometimes with thinly veiled aggression. It was interesting, though, because I was learning how he thought. One happy Sunday afternoon when I finally did win, a non-sportsmanlike grin spread over my face as I finally checkmated his king. Victory was sweet. – See more at: http://successacademies.org/education-blog-item/what-chess-means-to-my-family/#sthash.yL1uuHXO.dpuf

School districts grapple with added costs via the “prevailing wage law”

Betsy Thatcher:

@hat a difference a year makes in the world of Wisconsin’s prevailing wage law.

Last year, the Oakfield School District needed a small painting job done as part of a refurbishing project at one of the small district’s two schools. The project fell within the state’s prevailing wage law – which meant the Fond du Lac County District had to pay painters $22.53 per hour in wages and benefits, according to Jackie Hungerford, administrative assistant with the district.

The work won’t take place until this year, but because the district signed the contract with a local painter in 2014, it was able to lock in that year’s rate, Hungerford says. That’s a good thing. This year, she said, the state’s prevailing wage and benefits package

for that painter in Fond du Lac County is $42.35 per hour, nearly double the cost. “You never know from year to year what the dollar amount is,” says Hungerford. “It makes it hard to bid a job.”

While the painting job will be done, other projects affected by the prevailing wage law will not.

The New Bookkeeper Is a Robot

Vipal Monga:

Five years ago, 80 clerks and salespeople at Pilot Travel Centers LLC spent a combined 3,200 hours a week tracking and paying for orders for thousands of goods, ranging from candy bars to diesel fuel.

They typed the orders into an accounts-payable database, and printed out thousands of checks to pay suppliers. After slipping them into envelopes and adding postage, they put the checks in the mail.

“It was just awful,” said David Clothier, treasurer of the Knoxville, Tenn., company, which operates more than 500 Pilot Flying J truck stops nationwide. “There were humans everywhere.”

Today, a computer “robot”—basically software—automates these tasks. Suppliers send their invoices to Pilot Travel electronically. Its software sends out payments and records every transaction. As a result, the company needs just 10 clerks working a weekly total of 400 hours to pay suppliers.

Robots are taking over corporate finance departments, performing work that often required whole teams of people. Big companies such as Pilot Travel, New York-based Verizon Communications Inc. and GameStop Corp., of Grapevine, Texas, are among those using software to automate many corporate bookkeeping and accounting tasks.

The Students Universities ‘Cannot Afford to Fail’

Elizabeth Redden:

A recent investigative news program combined with a report from a governmental anticorruption commission have stirred up a debate in Australia about the prevalence of fraud in international student recruitment and the alleged slippage of academic standards as the country’s universities have grown increasingly dependent on the tuition these students bring. The debate in Australia — where international students account for more than a fifth of university enrollments, compared to just about 4 percent in the U.S. — arguably has implications for American universities as they seek to grow international student enrollments and increasingly embrace the use of commissioned agents in recruiting, a practice widely accepted in Australia.

Commentary On Wisconsin’s K-12 Tax & Spending Climate

Alan Borsuk:

Everyone was awaiting word from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau on revenue projections for the next two years. The hope was that the estimates would be raised from earlier figures, which would allow more money to be put into play and allow Republicans to get out from under some Walker proposals that have been highly unpopular. That included his idea of dropping state aid to schools for 2015-’16 by $127 million.

Public schools leaders around the state knew months ago not to expect much, if any, new money in the state budget, either in terms of state aid or in terms of permission from the state to spend more (using property tax increases, primarily).

In general, school officials wanted a funding increase that would take into account rising costs in some areas, especially given the spending lids schools have lived under and the reductions that have been made in recent years.

The school people were surprised when, instead of staying flat, they found themselves facing cuts under Walker’s proposal. Including in many Republican-oriented communities, a lot of opposition arose to cuts that would result.

In April, a Marquette Law School Poll (disclosure: I do some work on the polling effort) found 78% opposition to the $127 million cut. Other poll results also indicated a shift in sentiment toward supporting spending on public schools. Politicians noticed this.

But when the revenue estimate came out on Wednesday, it didn’t change prior projections. There would be no new money. That means big problems for a variety of parties, including the University of Wisconsin System.

But the main item to get attention was the $127 million K-12 problem. Republican leaders, including the governor himself, said they were not going to make that cut. Some said doing something about kindergarten through 12th-grade funding was their first priority.

Fine, but all that really was done was to go back to a flatline budget for state aid to schools, which was where the conversation stood in January. An inflation adjustment? Not much momentum behind that currently. Money is too tight, and there’s still that UW issue, among other things.

Related: Madison spends 16% of its $413,700,000 budget on healthcare.

Civics Education Primer: FBI admits flaws in hair analysis over decades

Spencer Hsu

The Justice Department and FBI have formally acknowledged that nearly every examiner in an elite FBI forensic unit gave flawed testimony in almost all trials in which they offered evidence against criminal defendants over more than a two-decade period before 2000.

Of 28 examiners with the FBI Laboratory’s microscopic hair comparison unit, 26 overstated forensic matches in ways that favored prosecutors in more than 95 percent of the 268 trials reviewed so far, according to the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) and the Innocence Project, which are assisting the government with the country’s largest post-conviction review of questioned forensic evidence.

Madison Schools’ Advanced Learner Status & Arts Education Update

Madison School District (PDF):

Annual Advanced Learning Department report in the fall

Parent Meeting and Listening sessions are providing valuable

Systematic communication plan is a priority for families and schools

Development of a year-at-a-glance calendar for enrichment opportunities and identification based on testing schedule

Greater focus on systems supporting underrepresented populations

Coaching and professional development for AL-IRTs

Train AL-IRTs to use OASYS and STAT Reports

Work with MTSS and C&I to develop guidance and options for schools within a more comprehensive system

Provide increased online Intervention Resources

Develop and implement Honors Guidance Document

Work collaboratively with Fine Arts and the Arts Rich Schools Blueprint to identify options for Advanced Learners

Arts Rich School Blueprint (Madison)

Madison School District

Why is it important for all of our children in Madison to have equitable access to a comprehensive arts education and to thrive in an arts rich school? Through creating, presenting, responding, and connecting in multiple art forms, students can come to recognize and celebrate their own unique ways of seeing, doing, and communicating. With access to a comprehensive arts education, our students can explore and problem-solve through productivity and teamwork. Skill development through an art form teaches students to describe, analyze, and interpret visual, aural, and kinesthetic images. This strengthens skills in reading, writing, speaking, and listening within text and language of that art form, and contributes to their comprehensive literacy skills.

The arts also impact our local economy by creating a sense of place, developing skilled creative workers for non-arts related careers, helping to revitalize neighborhoods and giving communities a competitive edge in attracting businesses and talent. We believe that arts rich schools are a foundational piece of our community fabric that cultivate the creative thinking, innovation, and attractive community that will fuel our economic future. Students trained in the arts as part of their K-12 education will have the opportunity to contribute to one of our city’s major economic engines. The local abundance of cultural offerings and the arts are cited frequently as attributes that support Madison being listed as a top place to live in the United States.

The Arts Rich Schools Blueprint will also build on a long history of arts education support between the Madison Metropolitan School District and the community.

The Madison School District administration tried, a number of years ago, to kill the popular strings program.

View a longer version of the Arts Rich School Blueprint (PDF).

Arts Rich School Continnum Rubric – 2015-16 (PDF).

Madison Schools’ Employee Handbook Update

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

Work continues on the creation of an Employee Handbook to take effect once the Collective Bargaining Agreements expire in June, 2016. MTI-represented employees continue to be covered by Collective Bargaining Agreements through June 30, 2016. The Board of Education has approved a process for the development of the Employee Handbook which includes a joint Oversight Group composed of five (5) appointees by MTI, two (2) by AFSCME, one (1) by the Building Trades Council, three (3) building principals and up to five (5) other administrators. It was agreed in negotiations for the 2015-16 Contracts that the Collective Bargaining Agreements will serve as the foundation of the Handbook.

Health Insurance premiums account for 16% of the Madison School District budget

Madison School District (PDF):

MMSD will spend $61 million on health insurance this year.

One of Every Six Dollars is Spent on Health Insurance in the MMSD budget.

Health Insurance premiums account for 16% of the MMSD budget.

Over 3,900 employees are enrolled in the MMSD plan

The MMSD plan design lacks common features that promote efficient utilization – the plan has no deductibles, no co-insurance requirements, and no employee premium contribution

Our multi-year claims experience (medical loss ratio) does not suggest that MMSD should expect less-than-market pricing

Medical trend (inflation) continues to grow at 7-8% annual increases (including 3-4% ACA fees)

Health insurance costs have long been an issue in the Madison Schools.

US Ranked 35th In Math Achievement

Drew DeSilver:

Scientists and the general public have markedly different views on any number of topics, from evolution to climate change to genetically modified foods. But one thing both groups agree on is that science and math education in the U.S. leaves much to be desired.

In a new Pew Research Center report, only 29% of Americans rated their country’s K-12 education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (known as STEM) as above average or the best in the world. Scientists were even more critical: A companion survey of members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science found that just 16% called U.S. K-12 STEM education the best or above average; 46%, in contrast, said K-12 STEM in the U.S. was below average.

Standardized test results appear to largely bear out those perceptions. While U.S. students are scoring higher on national math assessments than they did two decades ago (data from science tests are sketchier), they still rank around the middle of the pack in international comparisons, and behind many other advanced industrial nations.

Related: connected math.

Math task force.

What impact do high school mathematics curricula have on college-level mathematics placement

Gendered Language in Teacher Reviews

Ben Schmidt:

This interactive chart lets you explore the words used to describe male and female teachers in about 14 million reviews from RateMyProfessor.com.

You can enter any other word (or two-word phrase) into the box below to see how it is split across gender and discipline: the x-axis gives how many times your term is used per million words of text (normalized against gender and field). You can also limit to just negative or positive reviews (based on the numeric ratings on the site). For some more background, see here.

Not all words have gender splits, but a surprising number do. Even things like pronouns are used quite differently by gender.

In Mathematics, Mistakes Aren’t What They Used To Be

Siobhan Roberts:

Vladimir Voevodsky had no sooner sat himself down at the sparkling table, set for a dinner party at the illustrious Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, than he overturned his empty wine glass, flipping bowl over stem and standing the glass on its rim—a signal to waiters that he would not be imbibing. He is not always so abstemious, but Voevodsky, that fall of 2013, was in the midst of some serious work.

Founded in 1930, the Institute has been called “the earthly temple of mathematical and theoretical physics,” and is a hub for all manner of rigorous intellectual inquiry. Einstein’s old house is around the corner. In the parking lot a car sports a nerdy bumper sticker reading, “Don’t Believe Everything You Think”—which might very well be aimed directly at Voevodsky. Because during the course of some professional soul-searching over the last decade or so, he’d come to the realization that a mathematician’s work is 5 percent creative insight and 95 percent self-verification. And this was only reinforced by a recent discovery around the time of the dinner party: He’d made a big mistake.

Curated Education Information