Preteens Trading Fairy Wands for Fishnets

Brigid Schulte:

Gabby Cirenza wanted to be a referee for Halloween. The outfit she liked had a micro-mini black skirt and a form-fitting black and white-striped spandex top held together with black laces running up the flesh-exposing sides. She looked admiringly at the thigh-high black go-go boots that could be…

Student beaten at Hayward High can sue district, appeals court says

Bob Egelko:

A man who says he was badly injured by gang members on his second day at Hayward High School while campus safety supervisors sat in their offices nearby, oblivious to the attack, has won the right to a trial in his lawsuit against the school district.
The plaintiff, identified by a state appeals court as Luis M., suffered a ruptured spleen and other injuries in the February 2003 attack, his lawyer, Robert Abel, said Monday. The state First District Court of Appeal ruled Friday that he can go to trial on his negligence claim against the Hayward Unified School District.
Abel said Luis M. was a 15-year-old sophomore and unaffiliated with any gang when the attack happened. He had just transferred from San Francisco to Hayward, where his mother thought the environment would be better for him, Abel said.
Luis M. transferred to another school after the attack and graduated but still suffers from his injuries, the lawyer said.

The Science Education Myth

Vivek Wadhwa:

Political leaders, tech executives, and academics often claim that the U.S. is falling behind in math and science education. They cite poor test results, declining international rankings, and decreasing enrollment in the hard sciences. They urge us to improve our education system and to graduate more engineers and scientists to keep pace with countries such as India and China.
Yet a new report by the Urban Institute, a nonpartisan think tank, tells a different story. The report disproves many confident pronouncements about the alleged weaknesses and failures of the U.S. education system. This data will certainly be examined by both sides in the debate over highly skilled workers and immigration (, 10/10/07). The argument by Microsoft (MSFT), Google (GOOG), Intel (INTC), and others is that there are not enough tech workers in the U.S.

The Scandal of College Tuition

Bruce Murphy:

Given the soaring increases in tuition, students will look for the best deal, and it’s not in Wisconsin. One way to measure that is to look at Pell Grants, which go to low-income students. Wisconsin has a net outflow of Pell recipients, meaning we lose more student grantees than we gain. Meanwhile, the percentage of students from low-income families attending UW-Madison has been dropping for two decades.
In the last decade, as the JS story noted, tuition rose from $2,860 to $6,330 at UW-Madison and from $2, 847 to $6,191 at UW-Milwaukee.
The main reason for the increase is declining state support, which must be made up by hiking tuition. Tuition is the fastest-rising of all taxes and fees in Wisconsin. Though Democrats have been somewhat resistant at times, the bipartisan approach to budget control for at least the last 15 years has been to stiff the students, passing on the highest fee increases to them. Students, you see, are less likely to vote.

The Educational Octopus

Mark Perry:

Every politically controlled educational system will inculcate the doctrine of state supremacy sooner or later. . . . Once that doctrine has been accepted, it becomes an almost superhuman task to break the stranglehold of the political power over the life of the citizen. It has had his body, property and mind in its clutches from infancy. An octopus would sooner release its prey. A tax-supported, compulsory educational system is the complete model of the totalitarian state.
–Isabel Paterson, The God of the Machine (1943)

Schools Raise Bar for Classes for the Gifted

Elissa Gootman:

In an effort to transform the city’s gifted and talented programs, which he has long derided as a hodgepodge of offerings that have favored children in certain neighborhoods and with well-connected parents, Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein announced a plan yesterday to limit the programs to students who score in the top 5 percent on admissions tests.
At a news conference yesterday announcing his plan, the chancellor estimated that roughly half the children in gifted programs now might not meet the new standards because they did not score in the 95th percentile or above on admissions tests. There have been no standard citywide cutoffs on admissions exams; last year, available slots in gifted programs were filled by the top scorers in each school district, and before that the admissions process varied throughout the city.
“In some districts you’ll find that half the kids that got in wouldn’t have met the 95th percentile threshold, and in other districts you’ll find a much different number,” Mr. Klein said. “The number is significant, and if you talk citywide, about half, that could be certainly in the ballpark.”

Denver Schools: Offer Birth Control

John Ensslin:

Denver Public Schools high school health clinics should be allowed to dispense contraceptives if the individual schools approve, a report on the system recommended Monday.
Birth-control options would include condoms, the morning-after pill and contraceptive pills. They would be dispensed with a parent’s approval.
A 21-page report by a task force studying Denver’s school- based health clinics makes several recommendations on expanding services provided by the 20- year-old system run with Denver Health. They include:
• Hiring more school nurses and part-time case managers.

Mom101: Mom, why’d a teacher get kicked in the head?

Bessie Cherry:

Above is a direct quote from the most recent edition of my daughter’s school newsletter, the Lapham Elementary Lookout. Parts of Madison’s Affiliated Alternatives program were moved into her K-2 school this year as a budget Band-Aid that kept Marquette and Lapham from consolidating into one large kid factory. At the time, the decision was steeped in controversy, politics, and emotion. I defaulted to the “for Affiliated Alternatives moving in” side as I vehemently opposed the consolidation option.
I like to think I’m an open-minded person, not the type of mom who’d get all freaked out about some alternative teens under the same roof as my young ‘un. I recall actually being intrigued by the idea that high school students would be attending school just one floor above my six-year-old. I know there was a moment in which I wondered why, exactly, these students needed an alternative to traditional high school, so I looked it up online. It seemed like a great program with educational options for every type of student, those who’d fallen behind in coursework, were pregnant, those who needed vocational skill training in addition to regular schoolwork, the inevitable et ceteras of adolescence. When I read the Lookout, I thought, smoking on school grounds! Tsk, tsk. Ah, well, nothing a kid couldn’t run into walking down the street. Could be worse.

If You Want Good High School Grades, Move to Texas

Jay Matthews:

Ten years ago, I had the good fortune to win the confidence of two energetic teachers, Cliff Gill and Don Phillips at Mamaroneck High School in Westchester County, N.Y. They told me exactly how they assessed their students.
Gill, a math teacher, was tough. If a student missed two homework assignments, five points were subtracted from the student’s 100-point report card grade. A third missed assignment meant another five points off. Everyone at that school knew how hard it was to get an A in Mr. Gill’s class.
Phillips, a social studies teacher, was easy. He called himself the Great Grade Inflator. If a student with poor writing skills did his best on a paper, Phillips was inclined to give the student just as high a grade as a top student who turned in college-quality work. About 90 percent of the grades in Phillips’s history courses were 90 or above on that 100-point scale.
No one asked Phillips to raise his standards. No one asked Gill to ease up. Grading at Mamaroneck High, as at most of the public high schools I have visited, is considered the teacher’s prerogative, a matter of academic freedom. A teacher who gives many F’s may be pressured to raise some of those grades to keep parents happy, but that is about as far as principals will go in interfering with teachers’ assessment decisions.
Robert M. Hartranft, a retired nuclear engineer in Simsbury, Conn., does not like this at all. He cannot understand why public school administrators, who so often declare their commitment to equal treatment of every student, put up with such outrageous and inexplicable variation in what remains the most important assessments their students get–grades on report cards.

Report Card for Parents

Catherine Donaldson-Evans:

Parents in Connecticut might be the ones getting the report cards if a proposed plan makes the grade at a Manchester public school district.
Steven Edwards, a Republican member of the Manchester Board of Education who’s up for re-election Nov. 6, wants parents to be evaluated on a handful of what he says are objective measures — including whether their children have done the homework and eaten a good breakfast.
“I tried to design something modest [measuring] things that virtually everybody would agree parents should do to help their kids,” Edwards said. “We don’t have our staff making any subjective evaluations.”
The idea has angered parents, and the local PTA vows to fight the plan.

A Principal Who Cracks Down on Stress

Sara Rimer:

It was 6:30 p.m. The lights were still on at Needham High School, here in the affluent Boston suburbs. Paul Richards, the principal, was meeting with the Stress Reduction Committee.
On the agenda: finding the right time to bring in experts to train students in relaxation techniques.
Don’t try to have them teach relaxation in study hall, said Olivia Boyd, a senior. Students, she explained, won’t want to interrupt their work. They were already too busy before or after school for the training.
No one is busier than Josh Goldman. Captain of varsity tennis, president of the Spanish club and a member of the student council and the Stress Reduction Committee, Josh was not able to squeeze in the meeting at all.
Mr. Richards noted his absence wryly. “Josh is a perfect example,” he said. “He’s got a hundred things going on.”

“School Choice: The Findings”

Tyler Cowen:

This new Cato book is a good introduction to the empirical literature on vouchers and charter schools. For my taste it places too much weight on standardized tests, but admittedly that is the main way to compare educational results over time or across countries. I believe the lax nature of government schooling in the U.S. often leaves the upper tail of the distribution free to dream and create, but I would not wish to push that as an argument against vouchers. If you’re interested in bad arguments against vouchers, and their rebuttals, Megan McArdle offers a long post.

Gains Seen in Retooled Teacher Education

Vaishali Honawar:

A study that scrutinizes 22 teacher-preparation programs in Louisiana says that it is possible to prepare new teachers who are as effective as, or sometimes more effective than, their experienced colleagues.
Experts say the study, the first of its kind to come out of a state that has implemented a multi-pronged approach to improving its teacher training, shows that it is possible for states and universities to work hand in hand with teacher-educators to produce higher-quality teachers and consequently raise the bar for the profession.
Louisiana required all its teacher programs, public and private, to undergo a major redesign between 2000 and 2003. While the state-mandated study released last week, the first of what are to be yearly reports on their effectiveness, had data for only three of the redesigned programs—all of them alternative-certification courses—the results were encouraging. The three produced 155 new teachers in math, science, and social studies in 2005-06 who performed as well as, or in some cases outperformed, experienced teachers and entered teaching in public schools.

Complete Study: 327K PDF.

Madison’s charter schools offer unique options

Andy Hall:

n its fourth year, the Madison school district’s Spanish-English charter school is so popular that the parents who helped found the East Side school are having trouble getting their children in and there’s talk of expanding the program.
The district’s other charter school, Wright Middle, is one student above capacity and this year has a waiting list for the first time.
A growing number of residents say Madison needs more places, like charter schools Nuestro Mundo and Wright, that offer unique options to students. In response, the School Board has begun probing possibilities.
“The critical issue is, ‘What do we need to do to engage a broader range of students in what’s happening in school?'” board member Carol Carstensen said at an Oct. 22 Performance and Achievement Committee meeting that examined ways the district could create programs or schools.
In Dane County, charter schools operate in the Madison, Verona, Middleton-Cross Plains, Monona, Marshall and Deerfield districts.

Madison United for Academic Excellence Meeting on Charter Schools

Please join us at the next Madison United for Academic Excellence meeting on Monday, October 29, at 7:00 p.m. in the Wright Middle School LMC, 1717 Fish Hatchery Road. Our guests will be Paula Sween and Dory Witzeling from the Odyssey-Magellan charter school for gifted students in grades 3-8 in Appleton and Senn Brown of the Wisconsin Charter Schools Association. Ms. Sween was one of the founders of the Odyssey-Magellan program. She is currently the TAG Curriculum Coordinator for the Appleton school district. Ms. Witzeling is a teacher and parent at the school.
All are welcome!

Five minutes of glory

Virginia Heffernan:

Typically parents justify the price of these videos, which range from $300 to $5,000, as an investment against a scholarship, one that might save a kid tens of thousands on annual tuition. Student-Athlete Showcase, which was founded in 2003 by Rex Grayner, a former college baseball player, also offers clients a full-dress press package — a so-called E-Profile that includes a résumé, a highlight reel, stats and a selective bio that looks suspiciously like a pedigree (the athletic achievements of a student’s dame and sire are underscored). As a sports matchmaker, Student-Athlete Showcase now boasts of winning clients an average of $12,000 in scholarship money, or a total of $1.7 million since the site’s introduction.

Few Wisconsin Schools Receive Federal Charter Aid

Amy Hetzner:

In a move applauded by some charter school advocates, the state Department of Public Instruction has approved only 10 of 50 applications so far this year for federal funding aimed at expanding independent public schools.
Triggering the new scrutiny was a reminder this year from the U.S. Department of Education about requirements for the grants. That included ensuring Wisconsin applicants met the federal definitions for such terms as “eligible applicant” and “charter school,” according to Education Department spokeswoman Elaine Quesinberry.
The 20% approval rate contrasts to previous years, when state administration of charter school grants helped fuel a boom of such schools. In 2006 alone, the DPI approved 100 of 121 applications, an 83% acceptance rate.
The federal intervention addresses concerns about the degree to which entities using the charter school title are autonomous and accountable, said Todd Ziebarth, a policy analyst with the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

Police calls and discipline rates – middle schools

Madison Parent:

Following on our previous post, we’ve taken a look at the same categories of data, but this time for MMSD middle schools. The same data notes from the previous post apply here, with a couple of additional notes: the police call data for Toki includes police calls for Orchard Ridge Elementary School, if any, since those schools share the same block; and enrollment dropped in many of the middle schools between the comparison years (enrollment declined about ten percent in the aggregate for MMSD middle schools; school-specific enrollment information is available at the DPI web site).

Real Public School Spending vs. Real Oil Prices 1929-2007


Mark Perry:

Using these data from the U.S. Department of Education and oil prices from Global Financial Data, the graph above (click to enlarge) shows expenditures per pupil in public elementary and secondary schools from 1929-2007, adjusted for inflation, and oil prices during the same period, also adjusted for inflation. Both series are price indexes set to equal 100 in 1929.
The data for public school spending are only available through the 2001-2002 school year from the Department of Education, and I was unable to find a comparable series through 2007, but I extended the series from 2002 through 2007 by assuming that the trend in spending for education would continue (about a 3% per year real growth rate).

Online Education: Tailoring, Measuring and ‘Bridging’

Andy Guess:

As information technology leaders convened for the Educause meetings Thursday in Seattle, they talked about some of the same issues that are attracting attention in higher ed outside of technology circles: links to K-12, making courses more engaging and measuring what students learn.
Looming over the proceedings was the stepped-up pressure from state governments, accreditors and the Department of Education that has led in recent years to a greater focus on assessment and learning outcomes. The implication of the accountability movement on information technology is clear in an example offered by Blackboard’s Peter Segall, the company’s president for higher education in North America: The two-year public colleges in Mississippi have adopted the company’s outcome system to track student progress against specific goals, he said. The reason? To “demonstrate accountability” to the citizens of the state.

New Media Literacy And Education: What To Teach? Public Voice – Part 2

Robin Good:

New media literacy is the key missing component from our schools curricula. If you are to provide to your kids the mental tools and the manual skills required by today society you must help your sons master early in their teenage years how to express and communicate in person as well as through analog and digital media.
The teachers your government pays for are often the least media literate people you can find around, while leaving this key education component to the self-learning opportunities that the online world offers without any preparation, is akin to trying to learn singing from soccer stadium fans.
But the heart of the matter is not just the training of young mind in the skilled use of new media technologies, but rather the development of their critical thinking skills, their research and analysis methods, as well as their own individual and very personal voice: their public voice.

Audio: Madison School Board 2007-2008 Final $349M Budget Discussion

Listen to the Madison School Board discuss the District Administration’s proposed final 2007-2008 budget: $349M, up $10M from the previously approved $339M last spring. The Board had an interesting discussion regarding the use of these new funds. Final approval is scheduled for Monday evening, 10/29/2007 @ 5:45p.m.:

Approval of Finalized 2007-08 Budget Adjustments and Adoption of the Tax Levy.

19MB mp3 audio
It will be interesting to see where these additional funds are spent, particularly in light of the annual spring ritual of reducing the budget increases. Send your thoughts to the Madison School Board:

Teacher Credentials and Student Achievement in High School: A Cross-Subject Analysis with Student Fixed Effects

Charles T. Clotfeler, Helen F. Ladd and Jacob L. Vigdor [488K PDF]:

We use data on statewide end-of-course tests in North Carolina to examine the relationship between teacher credentials and student achievement at the high school level. The availability of test scores in multiple subjects for each student permits us to estimate a model with student fixed effects, which helps minimize any bias associated with the non-random distribution of teachers and students among classrooms within schools. We find compelling evidence that teacher credentials affect student achievement in systematic ways and that the magnitudes are large enough to be policy relevant. As a result, the uneven distribution of teacher credentials by race and socio-economic status of high school students – a pattern we also document – contributes to achievement gaps in high school.

Teach Program


Intel Teach uses a “Train the trainer” model to provide both face-to-face and online instruction to help teachers around the world integrate technology into their classrooms. Teachers create lesson plans that can be immediately implemented and that meet local and national education goals and standards.
Working with governments – national, regional or local – worldwide, Intel introduces the program in interested countries and communities, which are selected based on strength of their commitment to the program. Intel then works with an initial group of teachers to help them become Intel Teach trainers themselves. These trainers in turn are responsible for sharing their new skills with other teachers in their region.
To ensure that program curriculum maintains relevancy and reflects lessons learned from feedback and research, Intel regularly provides updated material to the Intel Teach trainers.

Parent and Teen Internet Use

Alexandra Rankin Macgill:

Parents today are less likely to say that the internet has been a good thing for their children than they were in 2004. However, this does not mean there was a corresponding increase in the amount of parents who think the internet has been harmful to their children. Instead, the biggest increase has been in the amount of parents who do not think the internet has had an effect on their children one way or the other. Fully, 87% of parents of teenagers are online — at least 17% more than average adults.
Parents check up on and regulate their teens’ media use, not just in terms of the internet, but with television and video games as well. However, those rules lean slightly more towards the content of the media rather than the time spent with the media device.

Iowa Governor says every district should use tougher curriculum in next two years

Pat Curtis:

Culver say nearly 50 percent of American high school graduates that want to pursue higher education, have to take a remedial course when they get to college. “In Iowa, we’re much better than that,” Culver said, “we do very well in terms of preparedness, but I want to be the best. One way I think to get there is to encourage districts across the state to adopt the core curriculum standards.”

Madison School Board Fine Arts Task Force Seeks Input From the Community

Dear Community Members,
The Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) values the arts as an integral component of a quality education for all students. Research has shown that involvement in the arts teaches children many important academic skills as well as enriches personal growth and development. Tight budgets, however, have increasingly affected the arts education we offer our children. Further, the District has monitored a downward trend in participation in arts offerings among low-income students and students of color for a number of years.
The Madison Board of Education formed the Community Fine Arts Task Force to gather information from the community and provide recommendations to the Board on MMSD’s arts education program. Specifically, the Board asked the Task Force to:

  1. Identify community goals for MMSD K-12 arts education including curricular, co-curricular and extracurricular;
  2. Recommend approaches for increasing participation in arts education for low-income students and
    students of color; and

  3. Recommend priorities for District funding of fine arts education.

October through December, the Task Force will be distributing surveys and conducting community conversations to gather information from the community on its goals for fine arts education. Your input is very important and will help inform and strengthen the Task Force’s work. The result of this work will be completed and presented to the School Board next spring.
We appreciate your participation in this important effort. To take the online survey and to learn more about the Community Fine Arts Task Force, go to .
Arlene M. Silveira, President

The Narrowing Gap in Teacher Qualifications and its Implications for Student Achievement in High Poverty Schools

Donald Boyd, Hamilton Lankford, Susanna Loeb, Jonah Rockoff and James Wyckoff: 227K PDF

No Child Left Behind, state assessment-based accountability policies and new routes into teaching have all had profound effects on the labor market for teachers. In this research we explore the how the distribution of teacher qualifications and student achievement in New York City have changed from 2000 through 2005 using data on teachers and students. We find: the gap between the qualifications of New York City teachers in high-poverty schools and low-poverty schools has narrowed substantially over this period, the gap-narrowing associated with new hires has been driven almost entirely by the substitution of teachers entering through alternative certification routes, for uncertified teachers in high-poverty schools, these changes resulted from a direct policy intervention eliminating unlicensed teachers, and perhaps most intriguing, much larger gains could result if teachers with strong teacher qualifications could be recruited.


Steven Berlin Johnson:

But the two stats that I found totally fascinating were “Average Words Per Sentence” and “% Complex Words,” the latter defined as words with three or more syllables — words like “ameliorate”, “protoplasm” or “motherf***er.” I’ve always thought that sentence length is a hugely determining factor in a reader’s perception of a given work’s complexity, and I spent quite a bit of time in my twenties actively teaching myself to write shorter sentences. So this kind of material is fascinating to me, partially because it lets me see something statistically that I’ve thought a great deal about intuitively as a writer, and partially because I can compare my own stats to other writers’ and see how I fare. (Perhaps there’s a literary Rotisserie league lurking somewhere on those Text Stats pages.)

Giving India’s Slum Children A New Sense of Class

Rama Lakshmi:

Neelamdevi Thakur lives in a working-class slum and earns a living washing dishes in middle-class homes twice a day. In the past year, two of her five children, who attend an affluent private school, have returned home speaking words that she had never heard from her other children, who study in government schools.
They have begun speaking English.
They point to the vegetables in their meal and say “turnip,” “cauliflower” and “radish” in English, a language that for many Indians denotes social status and opportunity. They sing nursery rhymes in English and refuse to take the tortilla-like Indian bread called roti to school for lunch, instead demanding sandwiches and noodles. The children, ages 5 and 7, now want to cut a cake on their birthday, like the other children in their classes.
“I don’t understand what they say, but my chest swells with pride every time they speak English. Their life will be far superior to mine,” Thakur said, wiping her moist eyes with the edge of her blue floral sari. She compares the two with her 12-year-old son, who attends a government-run school in the neighborhood. “He comes home with bruises, scars and broken teeth. His teachers are either absent or sit in class knitting sweaters,” she said.

iTunes U Welcomes Off-Campus Content

The Chronicle of Higher Education:

On its iTunes U portal, Apple’s digital-music store has already built up an impressive empire of recorded college lectures and events, all available for downloading. Now iTunes U is casting its gaze outside the ivory tower.
The portal has unveiled a new section, “Beyond Campus,” which collects educational material from museums, radio stations, and other public institutions. iTunes users can still watch lectures from Berkeley and guest speeches from Duke, but they can now also view live music performances from the Smithsonian Institution’s Global Sound Live series and take video walkthroughs of Richard Serra’s sculptures the Museum of Modern Art.

ars technica has more.

Law Punishes Truancy by Taking Away Teens’ Car Keys

Susan DeFord:

At schools across Maryland, educators and motor vehicle officials have teamed up to enforce a new state law that is the latest strategy to deter habitual truancy.
The measure, which took effect Oct. 1, denies a learner’s permit to students younger than 16 who have more than 10 unexcused absences during the prior school semester.
Whether they are in public or private school or are home-schooled, teens must submit a certified, sealed school attendance form as part of their application. The Motor Vehicle Administration will not accept forms from students if there is evidence of tampering or alteration, agency spokesman Buel Young said. The law probably will affect thousands of teenagers: In the last budget year, more than 14,500 16-year-olds earned provisional driver’s licenses.
A teenager must be at least 15 years, 9 months old before applying for a Maryland learner’s permit, and the driver must hold that learner’s permit for at least six months, Young said.

Bridging the gaps by banding together

Tracy Jan:

Jairon Arias missed more than 40 days of school in the third grade, and when he did show up, he arrived one or two hours late. His classmate Cristian Posada was a recent immigrant from El Salvador and spoke limited English. Joel Ramos, the son of Salvadoran immigrants, also struggled with reading and writing because of his limited vocabulary.
All three were chosen at the beginning of the last school year as they entered the fourth grade to participate in a school system experiment to boost state test scores among Latino and African-American boys, the lowest achieving groups in the Boston public schools. Principals at 44 elementary, middle, and high schools chose 10 academically struggling boys to keep close tabs on through the school year.
The students in the so-called “10 Boys” clubs received extra tutoring, attended group lunches, and went on outings with their principals, with the goal of creating camaraderie and a support network that would help them score at the highest levels on the MCAS tests.
The program appears to have helped to bridge a persistent achievement gap between white and Asian students and their black and Latino peers, according to tests results released yesterday by the state Department of Education.

Clusty Search: 10 Boys Boston.

Schools take hard line against public displays of affection

Stella Chavez:

A 7-year-old boy in Duncanville gets in trouble for telling a classmate to wear a darker shirt because he can see her bra strap. The school suspends him and labels the incident as sexual harassment.
In Keller ISD, school officials catch an eighth-grade girl holding hands with a friend and tell her to stop.
From bans on hugging to labeling comments as sexual harassment, schools are cracking down on anything that smacks of sex. Critics say teachers and administrators have become too fearful of lawsuits and have stopped letting kids be kids.
Recent precedent-setting lawsuits have made it clear that school officials must respond to complaints of student-on-student sexual harassment or face possible court action.
“I think it’s the kind of world we live in today, but you would hope that common sense would prevail,” said Jeff Horner, a Houston attorney who represents school districts.

Harvest Time for Hawthorne Elementary

Susan Troller:

First grade teacher Amy Covey loves the outdoors and wants to share that passion with students.
On Wednesday morning there was a definite autumn chill in the wind as students from all grades at Hawthorne Elementary School picked up trowels, shovels, rakes and hoes to clean out the garden space Covey helped establish at the school located near Gardner Baking Company off of East Washington Avenue.
The students were delighted to pull carrots and beets from the ground, searched for a few last beans, and even sampled the leaves of nasturtiums as they pulled the plants from the garden in preparation for winter.
Some wrinkled their noses as they bit into the scalloped, edible leaves. Others grinned while they chewed, describing them as “peppery” and “spicy.”
Students have been gardening at Hawthorne since 2003 when Covey and her students wrote plans and grants to establish what has become an outdoor classroom for the entire school.

Master of Science in Biotechnology Open House


The Master of Science in Biotechnology is an ideal solution for professionals in the biotechnology industry seeking to move into positions of greater responsibility or leadership.
Practical and results oriented, this two-year program provides the scientific, legal and business foundation necessary for succeeding and advancing in one of the fastest growing and most complex industries in the world.
Market research shows that professionals holding an advanced degree in biotechnology can earn up to 30% more annually than those with B.S. degrees. Furthermore, 90% of our graduates cite a significant or considerable impact on their careers pre-graduation.
Our unique program combines the most current scientific coursework and practical business practices for a productive career in biotechnology.

Learn more about Fall 2008 admission.
Informational Open House for Prospective Students
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
5:30 p.m.
MG&E Innovation Center
Conference Room 50
University Research Park
510 Charmany Drive

Madison High School Police Calls & Discipline Rates:
Comparing 2001/2002 and 2005/2006

Madison Parent’s School Safety Site:

When there’s violence at school, parents want answers to their questions about school safety. If parents are told “our school is safer than other schools”, where’s the data that supports that vague reassurance? Police call-for-service data (as posted on this site from time to time) is one indicator of school crime, but it’s only part of the picture, and may not be a reliable basis of comparing school to school – or even comparing whether the safety situation in one particular school is improving or deteriorating.
We looked at police call data for East, LaFollette, Memorial and West High Schools in 2001-02, and in 2005-06. (Data notes: This data was obtained by public records request to the Madison Police Department. Due to the format in which the data was provided, the call totals for each school are for calls made to the block in which each school is located, rather than the specific street address of the school. Calls for each year were tallied over a July 1 through June 30 period in order to track the corresponding school years used for comparison below. Variations in school enrollment between the comparison years aren’t reported here since they don’t appear to affect the analysis or conclusions, but that information is readily accessible on the DPI web site. The DPI web site is also the source of the discipline data presented below.)

Wisconsin Budget Delay Favors Rich Schools

Amy Hetzner:

The delay in approving a budget in Wisconsin could end up benefiting residents in the state’s wealthiest communities.
Legislators were unable to meet a Sept. 28 deadline set by the state Department of Public Instruction that would have allowed them to increase general aid to school districts by $79.3 million in the 2007-’08 school year in time to reduce next year’s tax bills.
So on Tuesday, when they approved the second-latest budget in state history, they did what some called the next best thing by putting the same amount into the school tax levy credit. The credit increase is expected to be signed into law by Gov. Jim Doyle.
That would be a boon to residents in districts such as Elmbrook and Mequon-Thiensville, where taxpayers have long complained that their money is siphoned off to support schools in other parts of the state. But it would mean less money for school systems such as Milwaukee and Racine, where the argument is that residents with less wealth need more help to ensure their children get a chance at an education on par with those in richer communities.
The reason for the difference is that, unlike general school aid, the state’s school levy tax credit is distributed based on the school property tax burden in individual municipalities. That largely means the credit goes to residents in the wealthiest areas.

Too Graphic: Sex, Literature, and Our Schools

Britannica Blog:

Nate Fisher isn’t teaching English any more at Guildford High in Guildford, Connecticut. The untenured teacher resigned under pressure after being accused by a ninth-grade girl’s parents of giving her a graphic novel, Eightball #22, by Daniel Clowes, an acclaimed artist who recently drew a cartoon series for the New York Times. The book, also known as Ice Haven, depicts or discusses sex, partial nudity, and a man watching a woman in the shower.

Tension Tied to Race Percolates in Ithaca

David Staba:

Nestled in the hills near Cayuga Lake’s southern tip, surrounded by creeks, waterfalls and two of the Northeast’s more prestigious colleges, this city of about 30,000 has long prided itself on its cultural diversity.
In 1997, the Utne Reader put Ithaca — where students from Cornell University and Ithaca College boost the population to about 50,000 — atop its list of “America’s Most Enlightened Towns,” trumpeting an environment-friendly business community and a local currency system intended to support city merchants.
A popular bumper sticker here reads, “Ithaca: 10 square miles surrounded by reality.”
But as reality encroaches, residents and community leaders now concede that racial tensions have long simmered at Ithaca High School, a volatile mix of blue-collar youths from the city, children of the farms in the surrounding countryside and the sons and daughters of professors.
“This community is at the boiling point, because not only students are frustrated, so are parents,” said James Turner, founder of the Africana Studies and Research Center at Cornell. “There’s a broad-based lack of confidence in the leadership of the district. I’m watching this go from bad to worse.”

In Shift, 40% of Immigrants Move Directly to Suburbs

Sam Roberts:

About 4 in 10 immigrants are moving directly from abroad to the nation’s suburbs, which are growing increasingly diverse, according to census figures released yesterday.
The Census Bureau’s annual survey of residential mobility also found that after steadily declining for more than a half-century, the proportion of Americans who move in any given year appears to have leveled off at about one in seven.
“For blacks, especially, it mimics the 50s-style suburban movement, most pronounced for married couples with children, owners and the upwardly mobile,” said William H. Frey, a Brookings Institution demographer.
Dr. Frey’s analysis of mobility patterns found that while Hispanic and Asian immigrants were more likely to settle first in the nation’s cities, “after they get settled, they follow the train to the suburbs.”

Portsmouth School Board’s ADHD flier draws fire

Cheryl Ross:

Last month, the School Board sent a warning to parents about the “harmful effects” of drugs used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Much of the flier’s information was taken from the Internet, including from a Web site run by a group founded by the Church of Scientology.
This week, six national organizations and eight local groups sent a letter requesting that the School Board retract the flier and send a new one stating that ADHD is a disease that requires treatment.
Should the Portsmouth School Board have sent a controversial flier on Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder to parents?
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The groups include the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, the Virginia chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Tidewater chapter of Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.
The flier was sent “to instill fear in parents,” said E. Clarke Ross, CEO of the Landover, Md.-based national office of CHADD. “It’s not based on published science, but on propaganda.
“This is the first time I’ve heard of this kind of propaganda being officially disseminated from a school system to its pupils,” Ross said.

Fixing the Milwaukee Public Schools: The Limits of Parent-Driven Reform

David Dodenhoff, PhD.:

The Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) district, like many of its big-city counterparts in other states, continues to suffer from poor student performance. Student test scores and dropout rates are at deplorable levels, both in absolute terms and in comparison with the rest of Wisconsin. This fact has led to a veritable cottage industry dedicated to improving educational outcomes in Milwaukee. The district itself has embraced two reforms in particular: public school choice and parental involvement.
Advocates of public school choice claim that by permitting parents to choose among a variety of public school options within the district, competition for students will ensue. This should improve school effectiveness and efficiency, and ultimately lead to better student outcomes.
Proponents of parental involvement argue that even first-rate schools are limited in their effectiveness unless parents are also committed to their children’s education. Thus, the parental involvement movement seeks to engage parents as partners in learning activities, both on-site and at home. Research has shown that such engagement can produce higher levels of student performance, other things being equal.
Research has also shown, however, that both reforms can be stifled in districts like MPS, with relatively large percentages of poor, minority, single-parent families, and families of otherwise low socioeconomic status. With regard to public school choice, many of these families:

  • may fail to exercise choice altogether;
  • or
    may exercise choice, but do so with inadequate or inaccurate information;

  • and/or
    may choose schools largely on the basis of non-academic criteria.

As for parental involvement, disadvantaged parents may withdraw from participation in their child’s education because of lack of time, energy, understanding, or confidence.
This study offers estimates of the extent and nature of public school choice and parental involvement within the MPS district. The basic approach is to identify the frequency and determinants of parental choice and parental involvement using a national data set, and extrapolate those results to Milwaukee, relying on the particular demographics of the MPS district.

Alan Borsuk has more along with John McAdams:

Rick Esenberg has beat us to the punch in critiquing the methodology of this particular study. As he points out, it’s not a study of private school choice, only a study of choice within the public sector.

George Lightburn:

ecently, the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute (WPRI) released a report entitled, Fixing Milwaukee Public Schools: The Limits of Parent-Driven Reform. Unfortunately, the headline in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel read, “Choice May Not Improve Schools.” That headline not only misrepresented the study, it energized those who are dying to go back to the days when parents were forced to send their children to whichever MPS school the educrats thought best.
So that there is no misunderstanding, WPRI is unhesitant in supporting school choice. School choice is working and should be improved and expanded. School choice is good for Milwaukee’s children.
Here are the simple facts about the WPRI study:
1. The study addressed only public school choice; the ability of parents to choose from among schools within MPS. The author did not address private school choice.

A Capitol Times Editorial:

Credit is due the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute for releasing a study that confirms what the rest of us have known for some time: So-called “school choice” programs have failed to improve education in Milwaukee.
The conservative think tank funded by the Bradley Foundation has long been a proponent of the school choice fantasy, which encourages parents to “shop” for schools rather than to demand that neighborhood schools be improved — and which, ultimately, encourages parents to take publicly funded vouchers and to use the money to pay for places in private institutions that operate with inadequate oversight and low standards for progress and achievement.

Violence at Lapham

Police were called to the alternative program at Lapham Elementary after a teacher tried to break up a fight on Tuesday. She fell, was kicked in the head, and taken away in an ambulance.
The Madison police Web site includes no incident report on the event.

Dual Enrollment Courses — Up From Obscurity

Jay Matthews:

Dual enrollment courses are usually community college or four-year college courses taken by high school students, either at the college or at their high schools with instructors paid by, or at least supervised by, the college. Looking at the records of 299,685 dual enrollment students in Florida, the researchers found that taking dual enrollment courses correlated to higher rates of high school graduation, enrollment in two-year and four-year colleges and academic performance in college. Students who took dual enrollment courses while enrolled in Florida high schools had higher college grade point averages and more college credits three years after high school graduation than similar students who had not done dual enrollment.
A review of the records of 2,303 New York students found those in the “College Now” dual enrollment program were more likely to pursue a bachelor’s degree and have better college grades their first semester than students of similar backgrounds who did not do dual enrollment.
Despite the evidence that these college courses — like AP and IB — give high school students a taste of college rigor that can bring college success, the researchers reported that many students are being denied a chance to take them. The ill-considered limits on high schoolers who want to take college-level courses is also a big problem for AP, and suggests that most of our high school administrators and many state education officials are in dire need of an attitude adjustment.

Related from Janet Mertz:

Nash’s “Guidelines” state that no credit will be permitted for non-MMSD courses whenever THEY deem they offer a comparable course (i.e., regardless of format) ANYWHERE in the MMSD. Even when the MMSD doesn’t offer a comparable course, they will permit a maximum of TWO ELECTIVE credits, i.e., they can not be used to fulfill specific requirements for graduation. Thus, if these Guidelines are allowed to stand, no credit whatsoever will be permitted for any high school or college course the district offers that a student takes, instead, via WCATY, EPGY, UW-Extension, online, correspondence, etc., regardless of the student’s ability to access the District’s comparable course.

A Little Help Can Go a Long Way for Schools

Anjuman Ali:

Madison’s schools are doing a remarkable job of educating children despite challenges posed by changing demographics and shrinking budgets.
But schools need our help to keep giving kids the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in life.
I learned this by being principal for a day at Wright Middle School on the city’s South Side. The program, organized by the Foundation for Madison’s Public Schools, allows business and community leaders to walk a day in the shoes of principals in Madison’s public schools.
At Wright, I interacted with an extraordinary group of educators and staff, including Principal Nancy Evans, observed classes and met students whose enthusiasm, creativity and challenges provided a glimpse into this city and this state’s future.
A majority of children at Wright live in poverty and a majority needs help in reading and math. And their numbers are growing not just at this charter school, but also in other Madison public schools.

Texas parents, schools spar over special needs

Sarah Viren:

At age 9, Jodie threw tantrums so violent his elementary school threatened to call the police. The next year, the special education student tried to strangle an aide on the school bus, his mom said.
Diagnosed first with bipolar disorder and more recently as having Asperger syndrome, the bespectacled Kingwood boy has a history of biting, kicking, swearing and soiling himself to get attention.
Since he was in third grade, Humble Independent School District administrators have moved Jodie to at least three different schools. At one of the latest, the district’s center for children with emotional disturbances, Carol Allred found her son in a timeout room covered in his own waste.
She pushed then, as before, for taxpayer-funded private schooling.
But only this year, after Jodie had fallen behind two grades in reading and spent countless hours isolated from other students because of his outbursts, did school officials agree.

“Colleges Bring in More Money, But Tuition Isn’t Going Down: Senators question why cost of education is still increasing”

Justin Pope:

Colleges and universities raked in money by the billions last year. But their investing success now has a price — a movement in Congress to force the wealthiest schools to spend more of their money to keep down tuition.
In recent weeks, a string of colleges and universities have announced enviable investment results. Leading the way was Yale, which earned 28 percent over the year ending June 30, increasing the school’s endowment to $22.5 billion overall.
Harvard, the world’s wealthiest university with $34.9 billion, beat the market again with a 23 percent return. There also were good returns for smaller schools such as Bowdoin (24.4 percent) and William & Mary (19.2 percent).

Wisconsin Teacher Misconduct Revocations Below National Average

Todd Richmond:

In Wisconsin, the review found the licenses of 251 teachers were revoked during that five-year period for offenses ranging from overdue taxes to sex with students to drunken driving. The 44 sexual misconduct revocations represent 18% of those revocations and only a fraction of the 100,000 or so licensed educators who worked in Wisconsin classrooms each of those years.
By comparison, 26% of the nearly 10,000 teacher license revocations the review identified nationwide during that span were for sexual misconduct.

Online IPS classes help teens catch up, get ahead

Andy Gammill:

Andrea Martin needed high school credits in biology and health, but the alternative school in Indianapolis Public Schools she attends doesn’t offer those classes.
Instead of forgoing the credits, Martin enrolled in IPS’ new virtual school, which offers basic courses for students like her, remedial courses for those who have fallen behind, and advanced courses.
Each evening after her shift at a KFC restaurant, Martin goes home and logs on to her classes for up to five hours a night. She likes that she can go as fast or slow as she wants but sometimes wishes a teacher were there to help answer a question or clarify a point.
“It’s good, but sometimes it’s a little hard because you’re teaching yourself, and it’s hard to find the answers,” she said. “It’s kind of hard where you can’t ask but have to do it on your own.”
A teacher is available to consult with students, but the online classes are much more self-directed than a typical high school classroom. So far the costs have been small but will increase as staff and courses are added.


Is That 4-Year-Old Really a Sex Offender?

Yvonne Bynoe:

Could my son be accused of sexual harassment? He’s a good boy. He likes watching “Thomas the Tank Engine” on television and playing “Simon Says.” Like many 3-year-olds, he’s very affectionate. Unfortunately, hugging his teacher may get him suspended from nursery school.
I doubt that it will happen to my son. But the frightening fact is that it could. I recently learned that children nationwide, some of preschool age, have been suspended from school or taken to jail after being accused of sexual harassment. In their zeal to avoid lawsuits, educators seem to be ignoring important information, such as whether the accused child intended to commit a crime or even knows how to pronounce the word “harassment.”
Sex education tends to be controversial, partly because parents have such varying and often strongly held beliefs about how, when and even if the topic should be introduced to their children. But if schools have the authority to brand a 3-year-old a sex offender, they also have the responsibility to provide parents with clear guidelines about appropriate physical conduct.
It’s great that we are more aware than ever about sexual harassment in schools. But it is a terrible mistake to permanently label children who are barely out of diapers.

Madison School District Proposed Final 2007-2008 Budget: $349M

The Madison School District’s Administration proposed a $349,562,776 final 2007-2008 budget last night [$14,404.26/student (24,268)]. This represents an increase of $10,136,058 from the adopted current year budget ($339,427,718). It also represents a $16,460,911 increase (4.94%) over the 2006-2007 revised budget. [Citizen’s Budget]
MMSD Budget Amendments and Tax Levy Adoption for 2007-2008 11.6MB PDF
It will be interesting to see where these additional funds are spent. Send your thoughts to the Madison School Board:
Superintendent Rainwater mentioned last night that 55 additional students “open enrolled” out of the MMSD this year, taking their spending authority with them. The numbers are evidently “trending up”.

Smaller gangs proving deadly

Laura Maggi:

Cities across the country are facing a new kind of gang problem, involving loosely affiliated, but heavily armed, neighborhood organizations that deal drugs and ferociously defend their small turf, acting Deputy Attorney General Craig Morford said Monday.
Federal and local law enforcement officials have long identified such gangs as major factors in New Orleans’ violent street culture. But Morford said that in recent years officials across the country are also starting to focus on these organizations, finding that they are often more violent than established groups such as the Bloods or the Crips.
“They are shooting at each other with a complete wantonness that is different than before,” said Morford, who is the second-in-command at the U.S. Department of Justice. Morford, who is scheduled to give a speech today at the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference, met with attorneys at U.S. Attorney Jim Letten’s office on Monday.
These proto-gangs don’t have the hierarchical structure of a traditional gang. Instead, they tend to be named after a street that the members hail from. The members are often young, sometimes juveniles, Morford said.
Because of the lack of deeply ingrained organization, law enforcement didn’t always pay attention to these groups. But that has begun to change, with U.S. attorney offices leading task forces that bring local and federal law enforcement together to tackle such groups, Morford said.

UK secondary school tests RFID embedded uniforms

Conrad Quilty-Harper:

Hungerhill School, a secondary school in Doncaster, South Yorkshire is running a trial that involves tagging the uniforms of pupils with RFID tags. The tags pull up data including academic performance, the child’s current location, and can even deny access to certain restricted areas — behind the bike shed, perhaps?

The Readers Speak: Too Much Homework!

Jeff Opdyke:

It’s official: Parents hated homework as kids, and now they hate their kids’ homework.
A few weeks ago I wrote about the ridiculous amount of homework my son has these days — and the toll it is taking on our family time.
My inbox has since filled up with more than 1,000 emails from parents, teachers, principals and guidance counselors who unleashed a cumulative “thank you.”

When applying to college, it pays to sweat the small stuff.

Joanne Levy-Prewitt:

Most colleges require that applicants write a long essay or write an open-ended personal statement revealing unique experiences or characteristics.
But many also request short essays asking applicants to tell more about why they are applying, or about favorite activities that might not be obvious on the general application.
So while it may be tempting to shut down the word processor after the long essays are finished, remember that short essays are a crucial piece of the college application and should not be taken lightly.
The Common Application, used by more than 300 colleges nationwide (www.commonapp. org), requires a short essay that asks students to elaborate on a favorite activity. Because the essay allows only 150 words (more a paragraph than an essay), students should use only a sentence or two to identify the activity.

An all-boys school with an unusual Latin focus

Mensah Dean:

AT A BRAND-NEW boys school in the Cobbs Creek section of West Philadelphia, students are saying things they’ve never said before.
Words such as agricola (farmer), femina (woman), patria (fatherland), puella (girl), terra (earth) and silva (woods).
They are inside a classroom where the walls are decorated with maps of ancient Rome, Egypt, Greece and Mesopotamia, and where there’s a poster proclaiming, “Latin didn’t fall with Rome.”
The boys, all African-American, repeat Latin words and phrases after their teacher, Sara Flounders.
During class last week she asked them to copy this, from Ovid, the poet: Saepe creat mollis aspera spina rosas.

“Reach Out and Read” Founder to Visit Madison

Reach Out and Read” (ROR) is a national non-profit organization that promotes early literacy by giving new books to children and advice to parents about the importance of reading aloud in pediatric exam rooms across the nation. ROR founder Dr. Perri Klass will be in Madison this week to celebrate the arrival of the program here in Madison. Dr. Klass will be giving a public talk on Thursday, October 25, at 7:00 p.m. at the Harambee Center, 2202 South Park Street. All are welcome!

I Just Couldn’t Sacrifice My Son

David Nicholson:

When a high school friend told me several years ago that he and his wife were leaving Washington’s Mount Pleasant neighborhood for Montgomery County, I snickered and murmured something about white flight. Progressives who traveled regularly to Cuba and Brazil, they wanted better schools for their children. I saw their decision as one more example of liberal hypocrisy.
I was childless then, but I have a 6-year-old now. And I know better. So to all the friends — most but not all of them white — whom I’ve chastised over the years for abandoning the District once their children reached school age:
I’m sorry. You were right. I was wrong.
After nearly 20 years in the city’s Takoma neighborhood, the last six in a century-old house that my wife and I thought we’d grow old in, we have forsaken the city for the suburbs.


Megan McArdle has more.

Middleton Elementary School Lockdown?

The Daily Page Forum:

Hows this for Bureaucratic horse ____.
I got a call on Friday from my wife telling me that our daughters school, Sunset Ridge Elementary in Middleton, was on lock down. I asked her if she knew what was going on, but she said they couldn’t tell her, so I left work and picked up my daughter as quickly as possible.
When I got to the school the doors were locked, and I had to show an ID to get in. (I’m fine with that part) So I got my daughter, who’s 7 and has no clue why the school had to close, and I asked the after school teacher why the school was on lock down.
His reply was “I’m not really sure on the specifics”
I replied with ” OK, how about what’s going on minus the specifics”
Other teacher buds in “They’ll be sending a note home for it.”
so the weekend goes by, nothing posted on their website, or the school districts website. I take my daughter into school today instead of letting her take the bus as I wanted to find out what was going on.
So I drop my daughter off, and head to the office.

New Push for Language Skills

Encarnacion Pyle:

If Ohio wants to jump-start its sputtering economy, it should start teaching Arabic, Chinese and Spanish to children as young as preschoolers and encourage more foreign trade, according to a new blueprint created by business, education and government leaders.
Federal officials have put $333,333 behind the effort in the hope that Ohio will set a national example of the benefits of having residents interested in other languages and cultures. Oregon and Texas also were selected for the effort, backed by the U.S. departments of Commerce, Defense and Labor.
The plan, called the “Ohio Language Roadmap for the 21st Century,” lists five things the state can do to better compete globally, more warmly welcome foreigners with limited English skills and strengthen state and national security. It will be formally released Thursday.
“Just think of the possibilities if more people in Ohio spoke another language,” said Deborah Scherer, director of international trade for the state Department of Development.

Geography is a lost art — really lost

Mike Nichols:

It’s been reported that almost 40% of Americans can’t locate Iraq – where (hint) we’ve been fighting a war for four years.
Half of Americans between 18 and 24 can’t even point out the state of New York.
The state of bewilderment? That’s easy to find.
Many of us aren’t just unable to point out other people’s hometowns. Many of us can’t name our own.
This is not sarcasm. There are 1,259 towns, 402 villages, 190 cities, 72 counties and countless unincorporated waysides (including one actually called Wayside) in Wisconsin.
We either need more maps, more Red Bull to keep everybody up during geography class or more consolidation.
Probably all of the above because, evidence increasingly shows, we Wisconsinites are even more confused about where we sit ourselves down than Sen. Larry Craig.
Earlier this month, the Northern Ozaukee School Board was all set to appoint an applicant to its Town of Saukville seat – a woman Superintendent Bill Harbron says was an “outstanding candidate.”
The only problem: A current board member had to point out that she didn’t actually live in the Town of Saukville.
Although she has a Town of Saukville mailing address, she actually lives just across the border in the Town of Fredonia.

Knowing State Tests’ ‘Cut’ Scores

Ian Shapira:

Charonda Godette and her mother are staring at a sheaf of black-and-white test reports in their kitchen, frustrated by a blunt indictment repeated over and over: “Fail/Does Not Meet.” In her first three years at Potomac Senior High School in Prince William County, the 17-year-old has flunked a slew of Virginia Standards of Learning exams: Earth science. Algebra II. And geometry — three times.
What also confounds Charonda and Carole Godette is something the reports omit. They do not show the number of correct answers required to pass the exams.
“If I know how many questions I need to get right, I can push myself more,” Charonda said. “You have to have a good plant in your mind that you have to do this to pass.”
With more students taking more achievement tests than ever, one of the most influential but cryptic factors driving results used to rate schools for the federal No Child Left Behind law and enforce state graduation standards is the passing, or “cut,” score. Numerous Washington area students and parents said in interviews that they do not know the cut scores, information they say would help them understand the test more and help them do better. Often, the benchmarks turn out to be lower than they might have guessed.
It also turns out that Virginia publishes and explains its cut scores on a Web site of which the Godettes were unaware. Virginia officials acknowledged that the information can be hard to find but said it is useful to parents who might be confused about the exams.

A new pathway out of homelessness
Denver’s mentorship program introduces struggling families to volunteers who can model another way of life.

Stephanie Simon:

Arms folded, his chair jammed against the wall, Joe Maestas glowered at the men who could help his family out of homelessness. His wife, Christina, sat at his side, pale and tense.
This meeting was their best chance to escape the filthy motel where they and their four children had lived for two years. A novel city program had offered them $1,200 to move into a decent rental.
But the money came with a catch: For six months, Joe and Christina would have to open their lives to two men assigned to coach the family out of poverty.
The Maestas children warmed to the mentors at once as they all gathered in the break room of Christina’s workplace in mid-March. Corie, 9, drew them a smiling kitty. Domonic, 13, shyly asked for help with his literature homework.
Their father tugged his worn baseball cap down low, so his eyes were nearly hidden. Joe didn’t like anyone presuming to help his family, no matter how good their intentions. “They tell you how to live,” he said.

When getting all the attention is not the intention

Laura Shumaker:

“I’m ready now.”
I turned to look at my son Matthew, who is 21 and autistic. He stood in the doorway of the kitchen looking pleased with himself, wearing grass-stained socks and sandals and a clean striped shirt tucked into shorts cinched up high with a belt. His handsome face was clean, but there were several spots he had missed while shaving that morning. His sandy blond hair was combed straight forward in a most unflattering “Dumb and Dumber” sort of way.
“All right,” I said, “just comb your hair to the side and do a quick shave and we’ll be on our way.”
If I could just dress Matthew myself, he would look great, but I had to respect his desire to be treated like a regular 21-year-old.

Lesson of shootings: Schools act too late

Emily Bazaar & Marisol Bello:

As school officials in Cleveland revise their security plans after a shooting rampage by a 14-year-old gunman, professionals who study youth violence said the solution is simple: Pay attention to threatening behavior and talk.
A week before Asa Coon wounded four people and fatally shot himself at SuccessTech Academy in downtown Cleveland on Wednesday, he had threatened to blow up the school and stab students, said Doneisha LeVert, 14.
Fortifying schools with metal detectors, security guards and surveillance cameras doesn’t guarantee that a gunman will be kept out, criminologists and educators said. There were no metal detectors at SuccessTech on Wednesday.
The experts said educators should learn a key lesson from the more than two dozen school shootings since Columbine in 1999: Troubled teens who plan attacks often warn of their intentions. Schools should teach staff and students to recognize and report threats, and require they be investigated, they said.

“Speaking Up for Teens”

Rahul Parikh, MD:

One afternoon I was seeing a 16-year-old boy with his mom for a check-up. As with all teenagers, during the middle of our appointment, I asked his mother to leave so he and I could talk privately. After she stepped out, I asked him, as I do just about anybody older than 12, if he ever drank, smoked, used drugs or had ever had sex.
He had smoked five to seven cigarettes a day for three years, and used marijuana twice a month. He drank at least twice a month. When he did, he would have four to five beers and/or shots of hard liquor. He had been sexually active for two years, having had four partners. He used condoms, but he had never requested testing for sexually transmitted diseases.
I counseled him about his habits (assessing how well he understood the risks of what he was doing, educating him and encouraging abstinence). I offered him testing for HIV, chlamydia and gonorrhea and gave him condoms. I encouraged him to come back if he had more questions or wanted further counseling. I thanked him for his honesty and he went home.

Study: Bullies and bullied more likely hit by crime

Wendy Koch:

As a growing number of states pass laws against bullying, new research finds that bullies and their victims are more likely than other children to be victims of crime outside of school.
“They’re often victimized in the community,” says Melissa Holt, research professor at the University of New Hampshire’s Crimes Against Children Research Center, co-author of a new study on bullying.
The kids in the study at greatest risk are those who are both bullies and victims of bullies, Holt says. Of those, 84% had been victims of a crime, including burglary and assault, and 32% had been sexually abused. The study was based on interviews with 689 fifth-graders in 2005 in an unidentified urban, low-income school district in Massachusetts. Holt says the area’s overall crime rate is higher than average, but she believes that the pattern of victimization would hold in most places.
The study found that 70% of bullies and 66% of bullying victims were crime victims, compared with 43% of kids who were neither bullies nor victims.
Holt says bullies may be less apt to walk away from fights, and therefore more likely to be assaulted, and more likely to associate with aggressive kids who would commit crimes against them. A shy or insecure child is vulnerable in and out of school, she says.

Cleveland School Gets $2.5M for Security

Joe Milicia:

The state will provide $2.5 million to Cleveland schools to upgrade security after a student gunman shot and wounded two teachers and two students before he killed himself, the governor’s office said Friday.
The money would be available for security upgrades selected by the district, which has identified installing metal detectors in all of the district’s 110 schools as a top priority, Keith Dailey, spokesman for Gov. Ted Strickland said Friday.

Madison School Board Forum – Today

Madison School Board:

The Members of the Madison School Board have agreed to attend and participate in the Northside Planning Council and the East Attendance Area Parent/Teacher Organization Coalition (NPC/EAAPTO) Forum to be held on Sunday, October 21, 2007 (3:00p.m. at the UW Memorial Union’s Tripp Commons). This joint meeting of the NPC/EAAPTO Coalition and the members of the School Board constitutes an open meeting of the members of the Madison School Board for which public notice must be given pursuant to Wisconsin Statute § 19.82 through § 19.84.

Map & Directions to the UW Memorial Union. Maya Cole has more.
Andy Hall:

But do small, neighborhood schools really lead to higher achievement levels for students?
“I don ‘t think there ‘s any hard-core answer to that, ” said Allan Odden, a UW-Madison education professor and nationally recognized expert in education policy and reform.
Research so far, Odden said, fails to show a clear link between achievement and school size, particularly within the range of sizes in Madison.
The district ‘s smallest elementary school is Nuestro Mundo, with 181 students, and largest is Leopold, with 718.
Odden does offer an opinion, though, of Madison ‘s turmoil over neighborhood schools.
“What I would say is the city has too many schools in some neighborhoods and it costs too much to keep some of them open, ” Odden said. “The issue to me here is not effectiveness (of small schools compared to larger schools). The issue to me is budget and politics. ”
The other trade-off, in some neighborhood schools, is that students may be packed into classrooms or have inferior bathrooms or gyms, compared to their peers in larger, newer buildings.

This is an issue. The classroom fixtures in new school structures (far west elementary building) are quite different than those found in most facilities.

All Students Feel the Effects of Trying to Meet a Higher Standard

Jay Matthews:

What that advice overlooks is that when a school is in danger of not meeting the AYP standards, all students in the school are affected, not just those who are in danger of failing the test. Last year at our neighborhood elementary school in Silver Spring, the principal said there was a real chance the school would not meet the standard. Consequently, the entire focus of the school was on the Maryland School Assessment tests. For example:
All the students at the school, even kindergartners, were drilled on how to answer “brief constructed responses” (short written answers to essay questions), because they are an important part of the MSA. My son was in second grade last year and did not even take the assessment tests, but BCRs came home regularly in his backpack.
The focus of the leadership meetings in the school is on the MSA. I’m active in the school and attended one of those leadership meetings last year, and know from other parents who attended other meetings that most of the discussion at those meetings is on the MSA and what the school needs do to ensure it will make AYP.

What works in education: the lessons according to McKinsey

The Economist:

THE British government, says Sir Michael Barber, once an adviser to the former prime minister, Tony Blair, has changed pretty much every aspect of education policy in England and Wales, often more than once. “The funding of schools, the governance of schools, curriculum standards, assessment and testing, the role of local government, the role of national government, the range and nature of national agencies, schools admissions”—you name it, it’s been changed and sometimes changed back. The only thing that hasn’t changed has been the outcome. According to the National Foundation for Education Research, there had been (until recently) no measurable improvement in the standards of literacy and numeracy in primary schools for 50 years.
England and Wales are not alone. Australia has almost tripled education spending per student since 1970. No improvement. American spending has almost doubled since 1980 and class sizes are the lowest ever. Again, nothing. No matter what you do, it seems, standards refuse to budge (see chart). To misquote Woody Allen, those who can’t do, teach; those who can’t teach, run the schools.
Why bother, you might wonder. Nothing seems to matter. Yet something must. There are big variations in educational standards between countries. These have been measured and re-measured by the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) which has established, first, that the best performing countries do much better than the worst and, second, that the same countries head such league tables again and again: Canada, Finland, Japan, Singapore, South Korea.

Men in elementary classrooms scarce

Susan Troller:

It takes a big man to teach small children.
At 6 feet 5 inches tall, Josh Reineking towers over his kindergarten students at Stephens Elementary School, but it’s actually his large heart and patient, steady manner that keep his lively charges learning, and in line.
It doesn’t hurt that he finds it easy to laugh, and thinks on his feet. Oh, and he also doesn’t mind folding up like a Swiss Army knife to fit in a kindergarten-size chair.
“My friends, my friends. Hands up for a message,” Reineking says quietly and firmly as his class of 5-year-olds begin squirming and shoving shortly before recess.
Fourteen pairs of arms shoot up, and hands are folded above little heads. The early symptoms of an imminent scuffle disappear as all eyes are on Mr. Reineking, waiting for instructions.

4GW at work in a community near you

Fabius Maximus:

Part V of this series provoked many emails requesting more symptoms showing the decline of the State (DOTS) in America. I wish all the questions I received were so easy to answer. This essay will give some general background and a specific example.
The ur-text for DOTS is Martin van Creveld’s The Rise and Decline of the State. [DNI Editor’s note: See also van Creveld’s “The Fate of the State”] He gives vast evidence of DOTS in America, such as the shifting of core functions like primary education and security from public to private entities – either for profit companies or non-government organizations (NGO’s).
The privatization of education is a major media story, especially efforts by the government to resist the rise of home teaching and for-profit schools. The privatization of security has occurred more quietly and is perhaps more significant. Private security detectives/guards outnumber police in America by approximately 1.1 million to 800 thousand, and their numbers are growing faster. The total number of private guards does not even include in-house guards, such as for companies and schools – nor mercs, such as those Blackwater brought in to guard the mansions of New Orleans following Katrina.

Clusty search on Fabius Maximus.

ADHD Guide for Parents

Amanda Gardner:

Two leading U.S. psychiatric organizations on Tuesday released a guide intended to help parents deal with the torrent of often confusing and frightening information on treatments for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
In addition to providing information on medications, the ADHD Parents Medication Guide, co-sponsored by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the American Psychiatric Association, also offers insights into non-drug treatment options such as behavioral therapies and school services.
“When I needed information, few people had heard of ADHD and little information was available to help parents,” Soleil Gregg, a parent of two children who grew up with ADHD in the 1970s and ’80s, said during a teleconference to unveil the guide. “Now families are faced with just the opposite problem. There’s an overwhelming and confusing array of information and misinformation on the Internet, on television and in the print media.”
Experts estimate that almost 2 million children in the United States — or about 3 percent to 5 percent of young children in the country — have ADHD.

Site Posts Videos of Autistic Behaviors


What’s so unusual about a baby fascinated with spinning a cup, or a toddler flapping his hands, or a preschooler walking on her toes?
Parents and even doctors sometimes miss these red flags for autism, but a new online video “glossary” makes them startlingly clear.
A new Web site offers dozens of video clips of autistic kids contrasted with unaffected children’s behavior. Some of the side-by-side differences can make you gasp. Others are more subtle.
The free site, which makes its debut Monday, also defines and depicts “stimming,” “echolalia” and other confusing-sounding terms that describe autistic behavior. Stimming refers to repetitive, self-stimulating or soothing behavior including hand-flapping and rocking that autistic children sometimes do in reaction to light, sounds or excitement. Echolalia is echoing or repeating someone else’s words or phrases, sometimes out of context.

Principal for a Day Notes

Dave Zweifel:

My assignment earlier this week was to “help” Marquette Elementary School Principal Andrea Kreft run her school.
No doubt I got in the way more than I helped, but for me it was an eye-opening experience that I highly recommend to others. The occasion was the Foundation for Madison Schools’ fourth annual “principal for a day” event. Dozens of local business, media and government people spent a morning with a Madison elementary, middle or high school principal to get a firsthand look at what goes on in their schools.
The experience demonstrated just how little so many of us really know about today’s schools and the challenges their students and staffs face.

“Reprehensible – Rejection of school-board candidate is a shameful moment for Democrats, union”

Columbus Dispatch:

tephanie Groce was not the loser on Tuesday when the Franklin County Democratic Party kowtowed to the local teachers union and withdrew its endorsement of her for the Columbus Board of Education.
The biggest loser was the county party and its top officeholders, who had a chance to demonstrate leadership by standing on principle for an independent-minded and highly qualified candidate. Instead those leaders caved cravenly.
The other loser was the Columbus Education Association, which nakedly illustrated that the union’s top priority is not the welfare of students but the protection of its members against any demand for accountability and fiscal responsibility within the Columbus City Schools.
As the district contemplates asking voters next year to approve an operating levy and, possibly, a bond issue for building new schools, this is a terrible message for teachers to send to taxpayers.

Panel to Consider Restrictions on Youth Cold Medicines

Rob Stein:

A special panel of federal advisers today is considering whether the government should restrict the use of over-the-counter cough and cold medicines in children because of doubts about the effectiveness of the popular products and rising concerns about their safety.
The 22-member joint committee is debating whether to recommend a number of steps to the Food and Drug Administration, including banning some of the remedies, issuing strong new warnings about their use or more specific guidance about how to use them safely. The FDA is not bound by the committee’s recommendations, which will be made later today, but the agency usually follows the advice of its advisory panels.

Madison School tax increase lower than expected

Jason Stein:

Madison homeowners received some good news Thursday — a continued state budget impasse wouldn ‘t affect their property taxes as much as expected.
Figures released by the Madison School District show that a failure to pass a state budget for 2007-09 — and provide more aid for schools — could drive up property taxes by as much $12 on the average home. That ‘s just a fraction of an August estimate by Gov. Jim Doyle ‘s budget office that suggested property taxes from schools would rise by up to $48 on that same Madison home if the Legislature fails to pass a new two-year budget.
The state budget is now 110 days late.

Posing questions a start to fixing education woes

Jim Wooten:

“Systems, I am convinced, are not afraid of accountability,” he said. How much control the local boards exercise depends on how much responsibility for doing their jobs they’re willing to take. If they fail, they risk losing authority over nonperforming schools. My preference, but not a part of the commission’s expected recommendations, would be that parents be given the full state funding share to buy the services their children need from any competent and willing provider of education services.
Alford’s panel is also attempting to determine precisely how much a quality education should cost and what portion should be borne by locals and by the state. Now it’s about 55-45, state-local.
The public education and funding model does need to change. As Alford noted, the current system was designed for a homogenous world that no longer exists. Georgia has 180 school systems and three times that many critical problems with them. The solution is statewide standards and local control, with accountability and consequences, even down to the individual school level.

The Need for Better PR & Madison High School Redesign Notes

Jason Shephard:

Beebe made his pitch at a meeting of the school board’s communications committee chaired by Beth Moss, who says one of her top priorities this year is developing strategies to more aggressively seek changes in state funding.
“We’re going to have to continue to cut the budget annually, and it’s going to be worse and worse,” laments Moss, a school board newcomer elected in April. She fears the district will have no choice but to begin “dismantling programs.
As for the perennial issue of school funding, Moss and others are gearing up for a Nov. 15 state Senate education committee hearing. Tom Beebe’s group supports a proposal to hike state funding for K-12 education by $2.6 billion a year, based on a model developed by UW-Madison professor Allan Odden.
But as Beebe was asking the Madison district to join his group as a paying member, Rainwater expressed “serious doubts” about the plan and questioned whether Madison schools would benefit. The funding scheme, Beebe admitted, could potentially lead to an initial decrease in state funding to Madison.
“In the first year, Madison gets screwed for political reasons,” Beebe told the committee — hardly the best message to send when seeking money from a cash-strapped district.
Beebe might benefit from a lesson in better communication. Or maybe he believes that sometimes, the best PR strategy is telling it like it really is.

I continue to believe that the odds of successfully influencing the State Legislature – in Madison’s favor – are long. Better to spend the effort locally on community partnerships and substantively addressing the many issues facing our public schools (such as academic preparation in elementary and middle schools so that students are prepared for high school, rather than watering down high school curriculum). Madison spends more per student (about $13,997) than the average Wisconsin School District (11,085).
Tom Beebe Audio / Video.

LaFollette High School Weapons Violation

Madison Police Department:

On October 18th around 9:05 Madison police arrested a Lafollette High School student on the above tenative charges. The student is accused of pulling a small knife from her purse and threatening another student with the knife. This happened in a math class following an argument between the two students. A teacher was able to help diffuse the situation peacefully and get the knife away from the suspect. There were no injuries

West High / Regent Neighborhood Crime Discussion

Parents, staff and community officials met Wednesday night to discuss a number of recent violent incidents at and near Madison West High School [map]
I took a few notes during the first 60 minutes:
Madison Alders Robbie Webber and Brian Solomon along with James Wheeler (Captain of Police – South District), Luis Yudice (Madison School District The Coordinator of Safety And Security), Randy Boyd (Madison Metro Security) and West Principal Ed Holmes started the meeting with a brief summary of the recent incidents along with a brief school climate discussion:
James Wheeler:

Police beat officer and Educational Resource Office (ERO) patrol during West’s lunch period.
“There have been complaints from the houses around the school” so MPD increased patrols to “make a statement last week”.
Still a relatively safe neighborhood.
3 arrests at Homecoming.
Made a drug dealing arrest recently.
People do see drug dealing going on and have reported it.
There have been additional violent incidents, especially at the Madison Metro transfer points

Ed Holmes

Behavior is atypical of what we have seen on the past . Perpetrators are new to West.
Emphasized the importance of a safe learning environment.
Make sure there are police and school consequences and that they are severe. These crimes are unacceptable and should not be tolerated.

Randy Boyd (Madison Metro)

60+ bus runs daily for the school system.
There have been some serious fights at the transfer points. Cameras are in place there.
Main problem is confidentiality due to the students age. Can track them via bus passes.
Adding DSL so that the police precinct can monitor the transfer points. Incidents are about the same as last year but the numbers are going up.
Baptist church elders have helped patrol the South Transfer Point. We are looking for more community help.

Luis Yudice

Big picture perspective:
Our community really has changed a lot within the past five years. I sense a great deal of stress within the police department.
Citywide issues
Increasing violence involving girls. He has looked at a lot of data with the District Attorney’s office. Girls are extremely angry.
Angry parents are coming into the schools.
Increasing issues in the neighborhood that end up in the schools. Mentioned South Transfer Point beating and that Principal Ed Holmes mediated the situation at an early stage.
Growing gang violence issue particularly in the east side schools. We do have gang activity at Memorial and West but most of the issues are at Lafollete and East. Dealing with this via training and building relationships
What the school are experiencing is a reflection of what is going on in the community.


Parent asked about weapons in school, metal detectors and k9 units.

Do we have weapons in school? Yes we find knives in all the schools. No guns. Unfortunate fact is that if a kid wants to get their hand on a gun, they can. They are available.

Ed Holmes:

“We took away a gun once in my 18 years”.
I want to get across to the students – if they see something they have to report it. We have 2100 students and 250 staff members.


Kids are afraid of the bathrooms
Another lunch assault that has not been reported.
Incidents are much higher than we know because many incidents are not reported.

A parent asked why the District/Police did not use school ID photos to help victims find the perpetrators? Ed Holmes mentioned that District has had problems with their photo ID vendor.

Madison School Board member (and West area parent) Maya Cole also attended this event.

Ten Stupid Ways to Ruin Your College Application

Jay Matthews:

Remember, these are things you should NOT do.
1. Rack up as many extra points as you can for “expressed interest” in your favorite colleges. This particular obsession was new to me. Connolly has encountered applicants who have inundated admissions offices with voicemails, e-mails and snail mail because they have heard that colleges want concrete indications of interest and don’t think you can overdo it. Believe me, you can. “There is a fine line between showing adequate interest in the school and stalking,” Connolly said. “Unsolicited cakes, pies, cookies, sneakers (the old ‘one foot in the door’ trick), a life-sized statue of you holding an acceptance letter, or a painstakingly detailed scale model of the campus clock tower will not make up for a lackluster academic record.” When colleges look for “expressed interest,” that means they hope that you will show up when their college reps visit your school, that you will visit their campuses and sign the visitor logs in their admissions offices and that you will get your application in on time with no loose ends. If you have a legitimate question, they are happy to receive your e-mail or telephone call. Doing more than that just makes you look desperate, and a little scary.
2. Don’t worry about your postings on social networking sites — college admissions officers understand your need for individual expression and will probably never look at them. I know, I know. What you put on Facebook or Myspace is your private business. College officials appear to share that view. They say they do not make a habit of looking up their applicants. But there are enough exceptions to make me think care should be taken when posting photos from your last rollicking beach party. Not everybody loves you. Those who don’t could send anonymous notes to your first-choice school suggesting it inspect a certain Web site. There are no rules that say they can’t.

Gaps broaden the mind

Sebastian Morton-Clark:

If, after leaving school in the early 1990s, you announced to your parents that you were taking some time out from the daily grind and leaving hearth and home to explore the world and broaden your mind, you would most likely have received a pair of horrified stares. This might be followed by a barrage of expletives regarding an expensive education being flushed away, and a stream of invective on a presumed new life of drug taking and trafficking.
A lot has changed in 15 years. Nowadays it is practically taboo to deride the idea of a gap year – to ban your children from taking one is close to abuse. For the majority of 18 to 24-year-olds, a year away from the pressures of the library has become a rite of passage. And whether it be spent conserving watering holes in Tanzania or drinking from them in Australia, the general consensus of clichés is that a break from education provides an opportunity to find oneself and form a wider perspective on life.
But what about taking time off after university before embarking on a career? How do would-be employers feel about all of this time out of the workplace? Are they as keen for their future workforce to be gallivanting around the world, or are those who head straight into the workplace displaying a greater work ethic and therefore more likely to land that top graduate position?

Almost a Third of U.S. Kids Use Supplements

HealthDay News:

More than 30 percent of American children take some kind of dietary supplement, mostly multivitamins and multiminerals, a U.S. National Institutes of Health study finds.
The study analyzed data on more than 10,000 youngsters from the 1999 to 2002 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.
The study found that 31.8 percent of children 18 and younger had used dietary supplements in the previous 30 days. This included 11.9 percent of those younger than 1 year, 38.4 percent of those ages 1-3, 40.6 percent of those ages 4-8, 28.9 percent of those ages 9-13, and 25.7 percent of those ages 14-18.
Among American adults, 57 percent of women and 47 percent of men take dietary supplements.

Local districts considering future of race-based school integration program

Amy Hetzner:

The Menomonee Falls School Board held a closed-door session Monday to talk about the impact that decision might have on its continued involvement in the Chapter 220 integration program. The board met with attorney Steven Rynecki to talk about the potential risks for the program, board Vice President Anne Weiland said. As part of the 31-year-old Chapter 220 program, racial minorities living in Milwaukee can attend 23 suburban school districts and white students from those districts attend Milwaukee Public Schools.
“Our goal really was for him to give us his legal opinion as to how that case might or might not affect our own program, who potential litigants might be against our school district, what the likelihood of success might be if we were sued,” said Weiland, who also is an attorney. “Those were kind of classic legal opinions.”

In a Competitive Middle School, Triage for Aches and Anxieties

Jan Hoffman:

Sorting fact from fiction, tragedy from comedy, fever from fevered performances is the venerable part of a school nurse’s job. But as childhood and adolescence have become increasingly medicalized, and schools have been mandated to accommodate students with an array of physical and psychological challenges, the school nurse’s role has expanded exponentially.
Now in her seventh year in this affluent suburb 20 miles west of Manhattan, Mrs. Palmieri regularly confers with the school’s social worker, guidance counselors, psychologist. A registered nurse with certification in school nursing, she is a front-line medical manager, first responder, diagnostician, confessor, shrink. She coordinates tutors for the housebound and leads Lunch Bunch sessions for girls to discuss puberty. Every year, she checks all students for height, weight, vision and scoliosis. Upon request, she checks for lice.
The lone nurse for 1,100 sixth, seventh and eighth graders, Mrs. Palmieri is also a comfort zone. At 52, this mother of four adult children has a plain-spoken, savvy warmth that calms these awkward, goofy fawns.

Statement by Madison Board of Education President Arlene Silveira on the state budget

“I am disappointed that the members of the Wisconsin Legislature are unable to do the job they were elected to do: pass a state budget. As an elected
official, I take my duties and responsibilities seriously.
“In September, school started on the day it was scheduled to begin, teaching and learning is taking place in our classrooms and our school district is operating the way we planned for it to operate.
“Earlier this year, the Madison School board approved a tentative budget for the 2007-08 school year, anticipating that by October, when the Board usually sets the tax levy, we would have all the final information to finish our job. After months of partisan wrangling, our state legislators have failed to uphold their end of the partnership.
“It’s unfortunate that our local property taxpayers will suffer the consequences of the Legislature’s inability to pass the only bill required in a two-year session: the biennial budget.”
Madison Metropolitan School District
Public Information Office
545 W. Dayton St.
Madison, WI 53703

Keep up with the latest state budget information via the WisPolitics Budget Blog.

The Once and Future University

Jon Udell:

Mike Caulfield points to this video which, he says, “does a nice job of showing what a museum a university education has become.” The large lecture hall shown in that video certainly reinforces the point. Seeing it reminds me of a telling episode this past April. I was writing about Darwin and I recalled something I’d heard in a biology lecture I’d heard the previous spring on one of the Berkeley podcasts.
I went back to the site and wound up referring to the current year’s version of that lecture in video form. As I scrubbed back and forth on the timeline looking for the part I remembered, my daughter — who was then between high school and college — watched over my shoulder. Eventually she said: “So, the students just sit there?”
That was the first of three revelations. The second was my realization that I’d certainly absorbed those lectures more fully on a series of bike rides, breathing fresh air and soaking up sunshine, than had the students sitting in the lecture hall.
The third revelation came when I found the part I was looking for, and realized that it wasn’t as good as last year’s version, which had been overwritten by the current version.

John Schwartz:

WHEN NONENGINEERS THINK ABOUT ENGINEERING, it’s usually because something has gone wrong: collapsing levees in New Orleans, the loss of the space shuttle Columbia in 2003. In the follow-up investigations, it comes out that some of the engineers involved knew something was wrong. But too few spoke up or pushed back — and those who did were ignored. This professional deficiency is something the new, tuition-free Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering wants to fix. At its tiny campus in Needham, Mass., outside Boston, Olin is trying to design a new kind of engineer. Most engineering schools stress subjects like differential calculus and physics, and their graduates tend to end up narrowly focused and likely to fit the stereotype of a socially awkward clock-puncher. Richard K. Miller, the president of the school, likes to share a professional joke: “How can you tell an extroverted engineer? He’s the one who looks at your shoes when he talks to you.” Olin came into being, Miller told me last spring in his office on campus, to make engineers “comfortable as citizens and not just calculating machines.” Olin is stressing creativity, teamwork and entrepreneurship — and, in no small part, courage. “I don’t see how you can make a positive difference in the world,” he emphasized, “if you’re not motivated to take a tough stand and do the right thing.”

Rick Perlstein:

Now, as then, everyone says higher education is more important than ever to America’s future. But interesting enough to become a topic of national obsession? Controversial enough to fight a gubernatorial campaign over? Hardly. The kids do have their own war now, but not much of an antiwar movement, much less building takeovers. College campuses seem to have lost their centrality. Why do college and college students no longer lead the culture? Why does student life no longer seem all that important?
Here’s one answer: College as America used to understand it is coming to an end.
For nine years I’ve lived in the shadow of the University of Chicago — as an undergraduate between 1988 and 1992 and again since 2002. After growing up in a suburb that felt like a jail to me, I found my undergraduate years delightfully noisy and dissident. I got involved with The Baffler, the journal of social criticism edited by Thomas Frank, who went on to write “What’s the Matter With Kansas?”; every Sunday, I trekked down to the neighborhood jazz jam session, where ’60s continuities were direct. The bass player was a former Maoist, the drummer a former beatnik.
Early in May of this year I had lunch with the beatnik, Doug Mitchell, who received his undergraduate degree in 1965 and then went to graduate school here and is now an editor at the University of Chicago Press. “I suspect I got in this university primarily because I had a high-school friend who got a pirated copy of Henry Miller’s ‘Tropic of Capricorn,’ ” he said. “I put that on my reading list. And the admissions counselor was utterly astonished: ‘How did you get this?’ It was truly banned in 1960.” He settled into an alienated suburban kid’s paradise. “We had a social life that kind of revolved around the dorm lounge, because that’s where everybody hung out after midnight. And some people got way into it and didn’t survive. They would never go to class. They would argue night and day in the lounge!”

Tough, Sad and Smart

Bob Herbert:

They are a longtime odd couple, Bill Cosby and Harvard’s Dr. Alvin Poussaint, and their latest campaign is nothing less than an effort to save the soul of black America.
Mr. Cosby, of course, is the boisterous veteran comedian who has spent the last few years hammering home some brutal truths about self-destructive behavior within the African-American community.
“A word to the wise ain’t necessary,” Mr. Cosby likes to say. “It’s the stupid ones who need the advice.”
Dr. Poussaint is a quiet, elegant professor of psychiatry who, in public at least, is in no way funny. He teaches at the Harvard Medical School and is a staff member at the Judge Baker Children’s Center in Boston, where he sees kids struggling in some of the toughest circumstances imaginable.

Come On People: On the Path from Victims to Victors – Amazon, Tattered Cover.

To Catch a Cheat
The pressure is on for schools to raise test scores. Some, it seems, are willing to resort to anything.

Peg Tyre:

For a while it seemed as though Forest Brook High School in Houston was a shining example of school reform. In 2005, after years of rock-bottom test scores, results shot up: 95 percent of eleventh graders passed the state science test. Administrators praised the hard work of the teachers. The governor awarded the school a $165,000 grant. But that same year, the Texas Education Agency hired a company called Caveon Test Security to ensure that the state’s standardized-test results were valid. Caveon—along with an investigative series by The Dallas Morning News—found a host of irregularities at Forest Brook. The state eventually cleared the school’s administrators but made sure last year’s testing was monitored by an outside agency. The scores at Forest Brook plunged Last year, only 39 percent passed science.
It’s a jarring but common story. While there have always been students who crib an answer or two, lately teachers, principals and school administrators are being snared for gaming—and sometimes outright cheating on—standardized tests. Under the six-year-old federal education-reform law No Child Left Behind, scores on statewide exams have become the single yardstick by which school success is measured. Struggling schools are being penalized—and some are even slated to be taken over if tests scores fail to rise. Teachers are under pressure to show that kids are learning more, and if they do that, even by fudging the results they can help their borderline school survive. Nowhere is that pressure more intense than Texas, the state that was the incubator for the federal law. In 2005, Caveon found that 700 public schools had suspicious test scores—and though all but a few schools were cleared, the state education commissioner resigned amid the controversy and new testing regulations were put in place.

Ed Hughes and Marj Passman on Madison’s Small Learning Community Climate and Grant Application

I sent an email to Ed and Marj, both of whom have announced their plans to run for Madison School Board next spring, asking the following:

I’m writing to see what your thoughts are on the mmsd’s high school “reform” initiative, particularly in light of two things:

  1. The decision to re-apply for the US Dept of Education Grant next month
  2. The lack of any public (any?) evaluation of the results at West and Memorial in light of their stated SLC goals?

In other words, how do you feel about accountability? 🙂

They replied:
Marj Passman:

I am generally supportive of small learning communities and the decision to reapply for a Federal grant. Our high schools continue to provide a rich education for most students — especially the college bound – but there is a significant and maybe growing number of students who are not being engaged. They need our attention. The best evidence is that well implemented small learning communities show promise as part of the solution to increasing the engagement and achievement of those who are not being well served, do no harm and may help others also. My experience as a teacher backs up the research because I found that the caring relationships between staff and students so crucial to reaching those students falling between the cracks on any level of achievement are more likely to develop in smaller settings. Some form of small learning communities are almost a given as part of any reform of our high schools and if we can get financial help from the Federal government with this part of the work, I’m all for it.
I think it is important not to overestimate either the problems or the promise of the proposed solutions. The first step in things like this is to ask what is good that we want to preserve. Our best graduates are competitive with any students anywhere. The majority of our graduates are well prepared for their next academic or vocational endeavors. We need to keep doing the good things we do well. If done successfully, SLCs offer as much for the top achieving students as for any group – individual attention, focus on working with others of their ability, close connection to staff, and consistent evaluation.
You also asked about “accountability” and the evaluations of the existing SLCs. Both evaluations are generally positive, show some progress in important areas and point to places where improvements still need to be made. Neither contains any alarming information that would suggest the SLCs should be abandoned. The data from these limited studies should be looked at with similar research elsewhere that supports SLC as part of the solution to persistent (and in Madison) growing issues.
Like many I applauded when all the Board members asked for a public process for the High Schools of the Future project and like many I have been woefully disappointed with what I’ve seen so far. Because of this and the coming changes in district leadership I’d like to see the redesign time line extended (the final report is due in April) to allow for more input from both the public and the new superintendent.
Thanks for this opportunity
Marjorie Passman

Ed Hughes:

From what I know, I am not opposed to MMSD re-applying for the U.S. Dept. of Education grant next month. From my review of the grant application, it did not seem to lock the high schools into new and significant changes. Perhaps that is a weakness of the application. But if the federal government is willing to provide funds to our high schools to do what they are likely to do anyway, I’m all for it.
Like you, I am troubled with the apparent lack of evaluation of results at West and Memorial attributable to their small learning communities initiatives. This may seem inconsistent with my view on applying for the grant, but I do not think we should proceed further down an SLC path without having a better sense of whether in fact it is working at the two schools that have tried it. It seems to me that this should be a major focus of the high school redesign study, but who knows what is going on with that. I asked recently and was told that the study kind of went dormant for awhile after the grant application was submitted.
My own thoughts about high school are pointing in what may be the opposite direction – bigger learning communities rather than smaller. I am concerned about our high schools being able to provide a sufficiently rich range of courses to prepare our students for post-high school life and to retain our students whose families have educational options. The challenges the schools face in this regard were underscored last spring when East eliminated German classes, and now offers only Spanish and French as world language options.
It seems to me that one way to approach this issue is to move toward thinking of the four comprehensive high schools as separate campuses of a single, unified, city-wide high school in some respects. We need to do a lot more to install sufficient teleconferencing equipment to allow the four schools to be linked – so that a teacher in a classroom at Memorial, say, can be seen on a screen in classrooms in the other three schools. In fact, views of all four linked classrooms should simultaneously be seen on the screen. With this kind of linkage, we could take advantage of economies of scale and have enough student interest to justify offering classes in a rich selection of languages to students in all four high schools. I’m sure there are other types of classes where linked classrooms would also make sense.
This kind of approach raises issues. For example, LaFollette’s four block system would be incompatible with this approach. There would also be a question of whether there would need to be a teacher or educational assistant in every classroom, even if the students in the classroom are receiving instruction over the teleconferencing system from another teacher in another school. I would hope that these are the kinds of issues the high school re-design group would be wrestling with. Perhaps they are, or will, but at this point there seems to be no way to know.
There are some off-the-top-of-my-head thoughts prompted by your question and by Maya Cole’s post about the high school re-design study. Feel free to do what you want with this response.

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Thanks to Ed and Marj for taking the time to share their thoughts on this important matter.

Notes on “Principal for a Day”

WISC-TV sports anchor George Johnson was principal for a day at East High School.
Johnson said playing principal was a unique and eye-opening experience.
Johnson said that he was surprised to see that when the national anthem was played, none of the students stood up during it.

The Changing Milwaukee Public Schools

Alan Borsuk:

Before your very eyes, ladies and gentleman, see the Incredible Shrinking School System.
Well, maybe it’s not incredible. But it is certainly shrinking.
It also continues, bit by bit, to become a district where the faces of the students are those of minority children.
Official attendance figures for this fall, released by Milwaukee Public Schools officials, show that the enrollment in the traditional MPS schools is down for at least the ninth year in a row.
Since 1998, the number of students in elementary, middle and high schools has declined from 96,942 to 81,381, a 16% drop.
Between a year ago and now, the drop was 3,522, or more than 4%.
Even the alternative and “partnership” schools that contract to educate MPS children – generally run by nonprofit organizations – have had declining enrollment over the past nine years.
Notably, one area showing increases is charter schools not staffed by MPS employees but authorized to operate by the Milwaukee School Board. They had 68 children in 1998 and 3,090 this fall.