Certain high schools have a remarkable record of sending their students to elite colleges

Ellen Gamerman:

As college-application season enters its most stressful final stretch, parents want to know if their children’s schools are delivering the goods — consistently getting students into top universities.
It’s a tricky question to answer, but for a snapshot, The Wall Street Journal examined this year’s freshman classes at eight highly selective colleges to find out where they went to high school. New York City private schools and New England prep schools continue to hold sway — Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass., is a virtual factory, sending 19 kids to Harvard this fall — but these institutions are seeing some new competition from schools overseas and public schools that focus on math and science.
The 10 schools that performed best in our survey are all private schools. Two top performers overall are located in South Korea. Daewon Foreign Language High School in Seoul sent 14% of its graduating class to the eight colleges we examined — that’s more than four times the acceptance rate of the prestigious Horace Greeley High School in Chappaqua, N.Y.
No ranking of high schools is perfect, and this one offers a cross-section, rather than an exhaustive appraisal, of college admissions. For our survey, we chose eight colleges with an average admissions selectivity of 18% and whose accepted applicants had reading and math SAT scores in the 1350-1450 range, according to the College Board: Harvard, Princeton, MIT, Williams, Pomona, Swarthmore, the University of Chicago and Johns Hopkins. Some colleges that would otherwise have met our criteria were excluded from our study because information on their students’ high-school alma maters was unavailable. All the colleges in our survey received a record number of applications last year.

Seat belts for all school buses, or just some?


The Bush administration on Monday proposed a new rule to improve the safety of school bus seats and expand the use of shoulder belts, but stopped short of ordering that all new buses include seat belts.
Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters rode a packed school bus to Morrisville Elementary School — among the first schools in the country to equip some of its new buses with shoulder straps — then announced a proposed rule that would:

  • Increase the height of seat backs on all school buses from 20 inches to 24 inches to help protect older children and adults from being thrown over the seats during accidents.
  • Require all new short school buses — the style more prone to rollover accidents than longer buses — to begin using shoulder straps.

The Secret to Raising Smart Kids

Carol Dweck:

Hint: Don’t tell your kids that they are. More than three decades of research shows that a focus on effort—not on intelligence or ability—is key to success in school and in life.
Growing Pains

  • Many people assume that superior intelligence or ability is a key to success. But more than three decades of research shows that an overemphasis on intellect or talent—and the implication that such traits are innate and fixed—leaves people vulnerable to failure, fearful of challenges and unmotivated to learn.
  • Teaching people to have a “growth mind-set,” which encourages a focus on effort rather than on intelligence or talent, produces high achievers in school and in life.
  • Parents and teachers can engender a growth mind-set in children by praising them for their effort or persistence (rather than for their intelligence), by telling success stories that emphasize hard work and love of learning, and by teaching them about the brain as a learning machine.

Update on Credit for non-MMSD Courses, including Youth Options Program:

Madison School Board Performance & Achievement Committee Meeting 11/26/2007At the November 26, 2007 meeting of the MMSD BOE’s Performance and Achievement Committee [18MB mp3 audio], the District’s Attorney handed out a draft of a policy for the District’s Youth Options Program dated November 20, 2007. It is a fine working draft. However, it has been written with rules making it as difficult as possible for students to actually take advantage of this State-mandated program. Thus, I urge all families with children who may be affected by this policy now or in the future to request a copy of this document, read it over carefully, and then write within the next couple of weeks to all BOE members, the District’s Attorney, Pam Nash, and Art Rainwater with suggestions for modifications to the draft text. For example, the current draft states that students are not eligible to take a course under the YOP if a comparable course is offered ANYWHERE in the MMSD (i.e., regardless of whether the student has a reasonable method to physically access the District’s comparable course). It also restricts students to taking courses at institutions “located in this State” (i.e., precluding online courses such as ones offered for academically advanced students via Stanford’s EPGY and Northwestern’s CTD).
The Attorney’s memorandum dated November 21, 2007 to this Committee, the BOE, and the Superintendent outlined a BOE policy chapter entitled “Educational Options” that would include, as well, a policy regarding “Credit for Courses Taken Outside the MMSD”. Unfortunately, this memo stated that this latter policy as one “to be developed”. It has now been almost 6 years (!) since Art Rainwater promised us that the District would develop an official policy regarding credit for courses taken outside the MMSD. A working draft available for public comment and BOE approval has yet to appear. In the interim, the “freeze” the BOE unanimously approved, yet again, last winter has been ignored by administrators, some students are leaving the MMSD because of its absence, and chaos continues to rein because there exists no clearly written policy defining the rules by which non-MMSD courses can be taken for high school credit. Can anyone give us a timetable by which an official BOE-approved policy on this topic will finally be in place?

US Students Post Flat Scores in Global Literacy Study

Nancy Zuckerbrod:

U.S. fourth-graders have lost ground in reading ability compared with kids around the world, according to results of a global reading test.
Test results released Wednesday showed U.S. students, who took the test last year, scored about the same as they did in 2001, the last time the test was given — despite an increased emphasis on reading under the No Child Left Behind law.
Still, the U.S. average score on the Progress in International Reading Literacy test remained above the international average. Ten countries or jurisdictions, including Hong Kong and three Canadian provinces, were ahead of the United States this time. In 2001, only three countries were ahead of the United States.
The 2002 No Child Left Behind law requires schools to test students annually in reading and math, and imposes sanctions on schools that miss testing goals.
The U.S. performance on the international test of 45 nations or jurisdictions differed somewhat from results of a U.S. national reading test, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, known as the nation’s report card. Fourth-grade reading scores rose modestly on the most recent version of that test, taken earlier this year and measuring growth since 2005. During the previous two-year period, scores were flat.
On the latest international exam, U.S. students posted a lower average score than students in Russia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Luxembourg, Hungary, Italy and Sweden, along with the Canadian provinces of Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario.

TIMSS & PIRLS International Study Center Website.

National Math Panel Unveils Draft Report

Sean Cavanagh:

Students’ success in mathematics, and algebra specifically, hinges largely on their mastering a focused, clearly defined set of topics in that subject in early grades, the draft report of a federal panel concludes.
The long-awaited report of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel is still very much in flux. Members of the White House-commissioned group staged their 10th, and what was supposed to be their final, meeting in a hotel here Nov. 28, though they indicated that numerous revisions to the document are yet to come.
The panel spent most of a day debating and rewriting a 68-page draft of the report. The draft makes recommendations and findings on curricular content, learning processes, training and evaluation of teachers, instructional practices, assessment, and research as those topics apply to math in grades pre-K through 8.
“International and domestic comparisons show that American students have not been succeeding in the mathematical part of their education at anything like a leadership level,” the report says. “Particularly disturbing is the consistent finding that American students achieve in mathematics progressively more poorly at higher grades.”
The 19-member panel has reviewed an estimated 18,000 research documents and reports as part of its work, which began in 2006. But its draft document also bemoans the paucity of available research in several areas of math—including instruction and teacher training. Government needs to do more, it says, to support research with “large enough samples of students, classrooms, teachers, and schools to identify reliable effects.”
The draft attempts to define the core features of a legitimate school algebra course as opposed to one, the panelists said, that presents watered-down math under that course title. Topics in an algebra course should include concepts such as symbols and expressions, functions, quadratic relations, and others, it notes.
The working report also spells out specific concepts in math that are too often neglected in pre-K through grade 8 math instruction generally, such as fractions, whole numbers, and particular elements of geometry and measurement.
“We don’t spend enough time on them and we don’t assess them,” panel member Camilla Persson Benbow, an educational psychologist at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., said of fractions. “[They’re] really not well mastered by schoolchildren.”
In arguing in behalf of a more focused curriculum in elementary and middle schools, the panel lists several “benchmarks for critical foundations” in prekindergarten through 8th grade math, leading to algebra. The goal is to develop fluency with fractions, whole numbers, and other topics. The panel drew from a diverse assortment of documents, including the 2006 “Curriculum Focal Points,” published by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, as well as Singapore’s national standards and a number of U.S. state math standards.

National Mathematics Advisory Panel Website

In Praise of “Thought Competition” (Writing, Math and other Academic Competitions)

Rebecca Wallace-Segall:

Monday: After a long day at his New York City private school, Ben, 16, heads to my creative writing lab to work on his heartfelt memoir about his parents’ bitter divorce. Tuesday: Alison, 15, rushes from her elite private school in the Bronx to work on her short screenplay about a gifted, mean and eccentric boy. Lily, 13, pops in whenever she can to polish her hilarious short story narrated by an insomniac owl.
Ben, Alison and Lily, along with another few dozen who attend my afterschool writing program, also attend top-notch New York private schools that cost upwards of $25,000 a year. So why, one might wonder, do these kids need an extracurricular creative writing coach? The answer is simple, though twisted: Their schools — while touting well-known athletic teams — are offshoots of the “progressive education” movement and uphold a categorical belief that “thought competition” is treacherous.
Administrators of these schools will not support their students in literary, science or math competitions, including the most prestigious creative writing event in the country: the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. So we at Writopia Lab help these kids to join the 10,000 young literati from across the country who are hurrying to meet the event’s January deadline, as well as deadlines for other competitions.
For decades now, psychology and pedagogy researchers have been debating the impact of competition on young people’s self-esteem, with those wary of thought competition taking the lead. Most New York parents of public or private school students have felt the awkward reverberations of this trend — which avoids naming winners — when Johnny takes home a certificate for “participation” in the school’s science fair. (Do you hang that one up on the wall?)
But some, and ironically those who attend some of the most desirable schools in the region, feel the reverberations in deeper, more painful ways. “Two years after my son left a school that prohibited him from entering a national math competition,” says one mother, “he still writes angry essays about why the jocks in his former school were allowed to compete throughout the city while he wasn’t allowed to win the same honors for his gifts.” Sam, her son, felt uncool in the eyes of his peers, and undervalued (and sometimes even resented) by the administration.
Mel Levine, a professor at the University of North Carolina and one of the foremost authorities in the country on how children learn, believes the impact of the collaborative education movement has been devastating to an entire generation. When students are rewarded for participation rather than achievement, Dr. Levine suggests, they don’t have a strong sense of what they are good at and what they’re not. Thus older members of Generation Y might be in for quite a shock when they show up for work at their first jobs. “They expect to be immediate heroes and heroines. They expect a lot of feedback on a daily basis. They expect grade inflation, they expect to be told what a wonderful job they’re doing,” says Dr. Levine.


Wisconsin K-12 Tax & Spending Outlook

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel Editorial:

Another year and deeper in debt.
No, that’s not some sad-eyed, old country ballad. It’s the state of Wisconsin’s long-term finances.
To pay for highways, buildings and environmental programs over the past decade, the state has increased long-term debt by 87%, a trend that if left unchecked will surely mean increasingly difficult budget decisions down the road.
The Journal Sentinel’s Steven Walters noted in a recent report that the Legislative Fiscal Bureau says the state had $8.28 billion in such debt in 2006, up from $4.41 billion in 1996 (www.jsonline.com/689757). The period studied covered the leadership of Gov. Jim Doyle, a Democrat, and Republicans Scott McCallum and Tommy G. Thompson.
In effect, the governors, with legislative acquiescence, have made politically advantageous decisions to have their favorite programs and pay for them later. It’s basically credit card budgeting.
But the bill always comes due.
As Todd Berry, president of the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance, told Walters, the growing debt is a risk. Principal and interest payments on general-obligation bonds will exceed $700 million for the first time this year. Payments on transportation bonds will cost $174 million.
While state officials say the debt load is manageable, a major bond agency, Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services, last week changed its rating outlook from “positive” to “stable.”
Other long-term trends make such budget moves all the more troublesome. Per-capita income in Wisconsin is about $4,000 a year less than in Minnesota, for example, a gap that has widened. And the number of elderly is expected to jump 90% from 702,000 in 2000 to near 1.34 million by 2030 while the percentage of working age people is expected to decline from 61% to 57%, meaning fewer taxpayers supporting more people in need of services. Add to that the need to replace aging roads, bridges and sewers.

Clearly, we are unlikely to see significant increases in redistributed state tax dollars to “rich” school districts like Madison [2007-2008 Citizen’s Budget].
Related: K-12 Tax & Spending Climate:

According to the Wisconsin DPI, per student spending in Wisconsin has increased by 5.1% annually, since 1987. The Madison School District increased at a 5.25% rate during that time. Clearly, our public schools are attempting to address more issues than ever, from academics to breakfast, special education and health care.

In school reform, billions of dollars — but not much bang

Sol Stern:

When Mayor Bloomberg took control of the city’s schools, he made a solemn promise to raise student achievement and rein in a notoriously inefficient and money-wasting school system. In fact, in his January 2003 speech unveiling his administration’s Children First reforms, the mayor suggested that the $12 billion then going to the schools was sufficient to bring about academic improvement. That’s because he and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein were now going to “make sure we get the most value for the school system’s dollar.”
Five years later, we have new, unimpeachable data on the schools that allows us to assess whether the mayor’s promise to deliver a much bigger education bang for the taxpayers’ buck has been fulfilled.
The short answer: not by a longshot. First, let’s examine the dollar side of the equation. The 2003 budget for the schools, Bloomberg’s first, was $12.5 billion, including pension costs and debt service. About $1.2 billion of this total came from federal education funds, another $5.6 billion from the state, and $5.6 billion from direct city contributions. The current budget, including pension and debt service, stands at $19.7 billion. This represents an increase of $7 billion – more than 50% – in total education spending in five years.

Wave of the Future: Why charter schools should replace failing urban schools

Andy Smarick:

In a decade and a half, the charter school movement has gone from a glimmer in the eyes of a few Minnesota reformers to a maturing sector of America’s public education system. Now, like all 15-year-olds, chartering must find its own place in the world.
First, advocates must answer a fundamental question: What type of relationship should the nascent charter sector have with the long-dominant district sector? The tension between the two is at the heart of every political, policy, and philosophical tangle faced by the charter movement.
But charter supporters lack a consistent vision. This motley crew includes civil rights activists, free market economists, career public-school educators, and voucher proponents. They have varied aspirations for the movement and feelings toward the traditional system. Such differences are part of the movement’s DNA: a National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS) study found that the nation’s charter laws cite at least 18 different goals, including spurring competition, increasing professional opportunities for teachers, and encouraging greater use of technology.
Because of its uniqueness, chartering is unable to look to previous reform efforts for guidance. No K–12 reform has so fundamentally questioned the basic assumptions—school assignments based on residence, centralized administrative control, schools lasting in perpetuity—underlying the district model of public education. Even the sweeping standards and assessments movement of the last 20 years, culminating in No Child Left Behind, takes for granted and makes use of the district sector.

Rotherham has more.

Using Data to Improve Student Achievement

The Data Quality Campaign and the National Center for Educational Accountability (NCEA):

conducted a survey in September 2007, with the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, about state data systems to determine the number of states that have built the infrastructure to tap into the power of longitudinal data. Similar surveys were conducted by NCEA in 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006. This website provides an overview of the findings of the survey in addition to a state-by-state analysis of the policy implications of each state’s data system.
The Power of Longitudinal Data
Longitudinal data matches individual student records over time, from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade and into post secondary education. States are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to improve student achievement. But without quality data, they are essentially flying blind. Policymakers need to act now to put in place the policies and resources to ensure that each state has a longitudinal data system and the culture and capacity to translate the information into specific action steps to improve student achievement. When states collect the most relevant data and are able to match individual student records over time, they can answer the questions that are at the core of educational effectiveness. Longitudinal data (data gathered on the same student from year to year) makes it possible to:

State specific results.

The Secret Gripes of Professor Klein: An AP-IB Drama

Jay Matthews:

David Klein, a mathematics professor at California State University at Northridge, says he was pleased to review Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate math courses for the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. He respects institute President Chester E. “Checker” Finn Jr., a longtime leader in the movement to improve U.S. schools. Among the views Klein shares with Finn is that overuse of calculators can interfere with students’ mastery of analytical skills.
But their collaboration on Fordham’s analysis of AP and IB did not turn out the way either of them hoped.
On June 4, Klein submitted his report on two courses, AP Calculus AB and IB Mathematics SL. Klein’s analysis of AP and IB math was more negative and his grades lower than what the experts on AP and IB English, history and biology courses submitted to Fordham. He would have given the AP math course a C-plus and the IB math course a C-minus. The other reviewers thought none of the courses they looked at deserved anything less than a B-minus.
Still, Klein says, he got no indication from the Fordham staff of any problems until the edited version of his material came back to him for review on Sept. 28, a week before the deadline for completing the report. Many of what he considered his strongest points, he discovered, had been deleted. He had Fordham remove his name as a co-author of the report, “Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate: Do They Deserve Gold Star Status?” which was released Nov. 14.
After agreeing to the name removal, Finn told Klein in an e-mail: “I imagine we’ll also reduce your overemphasis on calculator use and probably change the grades (upward). Thanks, tho, for your help.” Klein’s grade of C-plus for AP was not changed, but his grade of C-minus for IB got a big jump to a B-minus, meaning the report was saying that IB math was better than AP math, the opposite of what Klein had said.


New York Grades Set Off Debate on Judging Schools

Elissa Gootman & Jennifer Medina:

Not long after Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein announced plans last year to give grades of A through F to schools, principals at some of New York City’s coveted specialized high schools grew concerned. With the city looking to reward gains among the lowest-achieving students, how would the elite schools be judged?
The principals peppered the administration with ideas for extra credits for their schools: perhaps counting how many Advanced Placement tests students pass or the college credits they accumulate. In the end, the city decided to tie bonus points for these schools to high scores on state Regents exams.
That served the gold-standard Stuyvesant High School well, propelling it from a high B to a comfortable A. But the principal of Brooklyn Technical High School, Randy J. Asher, called the decision “ridiculous,” saying it contradicted a core principle of the report cards: the need to gauge how far students have come, rather than simply how they perform.
“I think we all really came to the table saying, let’s find something fair for schools like ours,” Mr. Asher, whose school earned a B, said in a recent interview. “And I don’t think we succeeded.”

Parents of Disabled Students Push for Separate Classes

Robert Tomsho:

Last fall, groups who favor placing disabled students in regular classrooms faced opposition from an unlikely quarter: parents like Norette Travis, whose daughter Valerie has autism.
Valerie had already tried the mainstreaming approach that the disability-advocacy groups were supporting. After attending a preschool program for special-needs students, she was assigned to a regular kindergarten class. But there, her mother says, she disrupted class, ran through the hallways and lashed out at others — at one point giving a teacher a black eye.
“She did not learn anything that year,” Ms. Travis recalls. “She regressed.”
As policy makers push to include more special-education students into general classrooms, factions are increasingly divided. Advocates for the disabled say special-education students benefit both academically and socially by being taught alongside typical students. Legislators often side with them, arguing that mainstreaming is productive for students and cost-effective for taxpayers.
Some teachers and administrators have been less supportive of the practice, saying that they lack the training and resources to handle significantly disabled children. And more parents are joining the dissenters. People like Ms. Travis believe that mainstreaming can actually hinder the students it is intended to help. Waging a battle to preserve older policies, these parents are demanding segregated teaching environments — including separate schools.

More on from the Wall Street Journal on Mainstreaming.
Joanne has more.

Voters support casino tax for schools

Guy Clifton:

A statewide poll shows Nevada voters overwhelmingly favor an initiative to raise the state’s gaming tax in order to fund education.
The Research 2000 poll, conducted for the Reno Gazette-Journal, found 68 percent of voters were in favor of the initiative filed by the Nevada State Education Association, which would raise the gaming tax from 6.75 percent to 9.75 percent at casinos with a total revenue of more than $1 million a month.
“That’s pretty consistent with our findings as well,” said Lynn Warne, president of the 28,000-member NSEA. “The (Las Vegas Review-Journal) did a poll that came in with over three-fourths in favor.”
The Gazette-Journal poll of 600 Nevadans who vote regularly in state elections was conducted Nov. 16-19 and has a margin of error of 4 percent.

Pennsylvania to revamp gifted education

Melania Hughes:

They’re not mentioned under No Child Left Behind. They’re not assisted by federal funding or programs.
Gifted students in Pennsylvania must rely on the state Department of Education to make sure public schools challenge them intellectually.
So with changes proposed to the state’s gifted education regulations, known as Chapter 16, a network of parents and advocates are weighing in.
As they see it, the changes being reviewed in Harrisburg don’t go far enough.
”The state board missed an opportunity so far in making any meaningful difference to help parents and schools avoid conflicts,” said Jay Clark of Lancaster, a parent of two gifted children who has testified before legislative committees about the proposals.

Memory’s Forgotten Daughter

The National Endowment for the Arts has released a new study of studies of the decline of reading in the United States. Some kinds of reading were apparently not considered.
Zeus and Mnemosyne [Memory] were the parents of the nine Muses. Calliope was the muse of epic poetry, Clio was the muse of history, Erato was the muse of love poetry, Euterpe was the muse of music, Melpomene was the muse of tragedy, Polyhymnia was the muse of sacred poetry, Terpsichore was the muse of dance, Thalia was the muse of comedy, and Urania was the muse of astronomy.
Of these nine, two are now off the reservation. Urania has clearly taken Astronomy over to the Science side of the Arts, and Clio has had the misfortune of presiding over history and nonfiction, and so, at least for the National Endowment for the Arts, has evidently lost her status among the Arts.
In 2004, the National Endowment of the Arts conducted a $300,000 study of the reading habits of Americans. It found a significant decline in literary reading for pleasure among just about every group. In The Washington Post, on Friday, July 9, 2004, Jacqueline Trescott wrote that the NEA study found that an industry group “predicts that annual sales for all types of books will top $44 billion by 2008, up 59 percent from last year. Nevertheless, only 46.7 percent of adults say they are reading literature, compared with 56.9 percent two decades ago.”
Their new study of studies continues this limited focus on literary reading for pleasure.


Milwaukee Public School options gain share in education marketplace

Alan Borsuk:

If your definition of “public school” is the regular public school system, you are talking about a slice of Milwaukee’s educational infrastructure in which the student population is getting smaller each year.
But if your definition means any school where public dollars pay for children’s educations, you’re talking about a bigger pie, with more ingredients – a pie unlike anything served elsewhere in the United States.
Voucher schools, charter schools, alternative schools, ways of sending kids to schools in other communities – parents, especially those with low income, continue to have a wide array of choices in Milwaukee, all of them funded by public dollars.
Thousands of parents are taking advantage of that. Enrollment statistics for this year show more than 30% of all Milwaukee kids whose educations are paid for with tax dollars attend schools outside the main roster of Milwaukee Public Schools. That appears to be the highest percentage on record.
While enrollment in MPS elementary, middle and high schools fell almost 4% to 81,681, the number of students using publicly funded vouchers to attend 122 private schools in the city rose 8% to 19,233.

Disability advocates sue to keep kids in school


A plan to educate a handful of developmentally disabled students at the state-run center where they live, rather than in public school classrooms, has drawn a lawsuit from an advocacy group.
Disability Rights Washington contends that the planned change, due to take effect at the end of the month, violates state and federal laws against discrimination.
This year the Bremerton School District apparently decided it no longer had the classroom space to accommodate the students, who range in age from 13 to 20. The district reached agreement with the state Department of Social and Health Services, which runs the Frances Haddon Morgan Center, to open a classroom on the center’s grounds.
“These children are being denied access to school purely because they have disabilities and live at an institution,” said David Carlson, a lawyer for the advocacy group.

Failing Michigan School Hopes in Young Principal

All Things Considered:

At a struggling school in Benton Harbor, Mich., all eyes are on a young, new principal who has brought discipline and excitement about learning. Michigan is one of several states with schools that have failed to meet its No Child Left Behind goals for at least five consecutive years.

America’s Most Obese Cities

Rebecca Ruiz:

To better understand the local and state implications of the obesity epidemic, we ranked the nation’s heaviest cities. In doing so, we discovered states with multiple offenders, metropolitan areas with expanding waistlines and a high representation of Southern cities. Worse yet, after claiming the title of the most sedentary city, Memphis, Tenn., has also ranked first as the country’s most obese.
Behind the Numbers
To determine which cities were the most obese, we looked at 2006 data on body mass index, or BMI, collected by the Centers for Disease Control’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, which conducts phone interviews with residents of metropolitan areas about health issues, including obesity, diabetes and exercise.
In this case, participants report their height and weight, which survey analysts use to calculate a BMI. Those with a BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 are considered at a healthy weight, those with a BMI between 25 and 29.9 are considered overweight, and those with a BMI of 30 or higher are considered obese. About 32% of the nation is obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control; Memphis ranked above the national average at 34%.

‘No Child’ Law May Slight The Gifted, Experts Say

Daniel de Vise:

Some scholars are joining parent advocates in questioning whether the education law No Child Left Behind, with its goal of universal academic proficiency, has had the unintended consequence of diverting resources and attention from the gifted.
Proponents of gifted education have forever complained of institutional neglect. Public schools, they say, pitch lessons to the broad middle group of students at the expense of those working beyond their assigned grade. Now, under the federal mandate, schools are trained on an even narrower group: students on the “bubble” between success and failure on statewide tests.
Teachers struggling to meet the law’s annual proficiency goals have little incentive, critics say, to teach students who will meet those goals however they are taught.
“Because it’s all about bringing people up to that minimum level of performance, we’ve ignored those high-ability learners,” said Nancy Green, executive director of the District-based National Association for Gifted Children. “We don’t even have a test that measures their abilities.”

Falling enrollment, higher poverty rates show up in suburban schools

Dani McClain:

The low test scores and high dropout rates typically associated with southeastern Wisconsin’s largest districts also plague some Milwaukee-area suburban schools and smaller urban districts in Waukesha and Walworth counties, the Public Policy Forum reports in its annual assessment of education in the seven-county area.
Milwaukee, Racine and Kenosha continue to skew comparisons between the region and the rest of the state, but the report shows that the achievement gap is increasingly tied to changing student populations in places such as Cudahy, West Allis, Whitewater and Delavan.
“Some of these smaller districts are getting a critical mass of minority or low-income students, and they’re starting to feel some of the same stressors,” said Anneliese Dickman, research director at the Public Policy Forum, a nonpartisan think tank in Milwaukee.
Smaller cities and older suburbs have started seeing a set of trends that have long challenged Kenosha and Racine, the state’s third- and fourth-largest districts, and Milwaukee: declining enrollment, higher concentrations of poverty and less student engagement, according to the report, released this fall.

John Kao has a plan to help U.S. compete, regain foothold in science and technology

Heidi Benson:

As important, is the state of science and math education, particularly in the early grades, where young students’ abilities have been in a steady decline. The slip results as much from failings in government priorities as from income and class inequities, Kao believes.
“We are allowing the vagaries of income disparity to waste generations of potential innovators,” he says. “In U.S. schools serving low-income students, 30 percent of junior high mathematics teachers majored in math in college.” In China, the majority of math and science teachers at all levels have advanced degrees in their subjects.

Related: Math Forum | Math Task Force.

Thinking About Mistakes

Alina Tugend:

On one hand, as children we’re taught that everyone makes mistakes and that the great thinkers and inventors embraced them. Thomas Edison’s famous quote is often inscribed in schools and children’s museums: “I have not failed. I have just found ten thousand ways that won’t work.”
On the other hand, good grades are usually a reward for doing things right, not making errors. Compliments are given for having the correct answer and, in fact, the wrong one may elicit scorn from classmates.
We grow up with a mixed message: making mistakes is a necessary learning tool, but we should avoid them.
Carol S. Dweck, a psychology professor at Stanford University, has studied this and related issues for decades.
“Studies with children and adults show that a large percentage cannot tolerate mistakes or setbacks,” she said. In particular, those who believe that intelligence is fixed and cannot change tend to avoid taking chances that may lead to errors.
Often parents and teachers unwittingly encourage this mind-set by praising children for being smart rather than for trying hard or struggling with the process.
For example, in a study that Professor Dweck and her researchers did with 400 fifth graders, half were randomly praised as being “really smart” for doing well on a test; the others were praised for their effort.
Then they were given two tasks to choose from: an easy one that they would learn little from but do well, or a more challenging one that might be more interesting but induce more mistakes.
The majority of those praised for being smart chose the simple task, while 90 percent of those commended for trying hard selected the more difficult one.
The difference was surprising, Professor Dweck said, especially because it came from one sentence of praise.

Facing Down the Skeptics in Education

Karin Chenoweth:

Whenever I speak about my book, It’s Being Done: Academic Success in Unexpected Schools, I know I will face at least a few skeptics—and sometimes more than a few. They can easily be identified by their questions and comments. For example, they ask whether the schools I profile in the book are magnet schools or in some way select their students. I patiently explain that they don’t. Or, they will say, “I have unions in my school,” as though that would explain why they can’t make any improvements. Since some of the most impressive schools I profile in the book are in New York, Philadelphia, and St. Paul—all places with very powerful and serious teacher unions—I tell them that unions by themselves don’t seem to be an obstacle. Or, they say, “I have a lot of low-income kids in my district,” allowing that fact to speak for itself as an explanation for why their schools are low-performing.
I always answer as fully as I can, but I know that I probably haven’t convinced them that the schools are as I report them to be—high achieving or rapidly improving with student populations that are mostly either students of poverty or students of color or both. I know many people in my audience simply cannot envision schools that are as good as I say they are or educators who are as uncompromising and frank as I portray them.

Chenoweth recently appeared in Madison.

More students turn to consultants for help applying to college

Any Rolph:

Just leave it to the experts.
The haircut, the brake job and the 1040 were long ago ceded to the pros by most people. And now families are turning to experts to help their teenagers score an acceptance letter from the right college at a time when institutions of higher education are getting choosier about whom they let in.
Private college consultants have been around for decades — most notably in the eastern U.S. — but their numbers and visibility have been growing locally as more families seek a steady hand to guide them through the labyrinth of college admissions.
Most consultants won’t promise they can get a high school student into an Ivy League school, but they will help students keep track of deadlines, groom their extracurricular lineup and devise a list of schools that could be a good fit.

On Plagiarism

Scott Jaschik:

In 2003, the American Historical Association got out of the business of adjudicating complaints of plagiarism, saying that the association could best promote good scholarship by issuing standards and promoting education about them. Journals, other publishers and colleges and universities are better suited than an association to consider plagiarism complaints, the AHA said, and they all have various sanctions they can impose.
The move was controversial within the association, in part because it came at a time of several well publicized incidents of alleged plagiarism in the profession.
The association has just released an analysis on how plagiarism is handled by journals in the discipline and the answer appears to be that editors favor ad hoc approaches over policy.
“Very few journals have written plagiarism policies, and many journals are reluctant to develop them,” said the study, which was published in the AHA’s magazine, Perspectives. At the same time, the study found that 9 of the 35 history journals participating in the survey reported dealing with plagiarism accusations at least once.

Visual Dictionary Online

Merriam Webster:

From the image to the word and its definition, the Visual Dictionary Online is an all-in-one reference. Search the themes to quickly locate words, or find the meaning of a word by viewing the image it represents. What’s more, the Visual Dictionary Online helps you learn English in a visual and accessible way. The Visual Dictionary Online is ideal for teachers, parents, translators and students of all skill levels. Explore the Visual Dictionary Online and enrich your mind. Perfect for home, school or work. Discover a visual world of information!

Scientists Help Teachers With Their Math and Science

Sean Cavanagh:

Imagine a classroom filled with thousands of feet of cable and a pair of microscopes four stories high. Students work alongside top-tier scientists, who use the surrounding instruments to probe nuclear matter in the hope of one day producing breakthroughs in science and technology.
The classroom in this case is known as Hall A, located within the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility. And the students are science teachers, who come to the federal laboratory in Newport News, Va., as part of an unusual professional-development opportunity.
The Academies Creating Teacher Scientists program pairs top federal scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy with middle and high school teachers from around the country who want to improve their classroom skills.
Teachers spend four to eight weeks for three consecutive summers under the tutelage of scientists at federal labs of their choice, crafting activities and lessons they can use in their classrooms.

Happy Thanksgiving!

French President Nicholas Sarkozy recently spoke to a joint session of Congress. Sarokozy’s excellent speech can be heard here [8.5mb mp3 audio file]:

From the very beginning, the American dream meant proving to all mankind that freedom, justice, human rights and democracy were no utopia but were rather the most realistic policy there is and the most likely to improve the fate of each and every person.
America did not tell the millions of men and women who came from every country in the world and who–with their hands, their intelligence and their heart–built the greatest nation in the world: “Come, and everything will be given to you.” She said: “Come, and the only limits to what you’ll be able to achieve will be your own courage and your own talent.” America embodies this extraordinary ability to grant each and every person a second chance.
Here, both the humblest and most illustrious citizens alike know that nothing is owed to them and that everything has to be earned. That’s what constitutes the moral value of America. America did not teach men the idea of freedom; she taught them how to practice it. And she fought for this freedom whenever she felt it to be threatened somewhere in the world. It was by watching America grow that men and women understood that freedom was possible.
What made America great was her ability to transform her own dream into hope for all mankind.

A High School Struggles With Surprise Students

Samuel Freedman:

Several weeks ago, Cristal Urena proposed what should have been the most prosaic of activities. As the student government president at Beach Channel High School in Rockaway Park, Queens, she asked the administration to allow an after-school dance in December to celebrate the coming holidays.
The answer was no. And this no, it appears from Cristal’s account, was not the autocratic no of unreason. It was the reluctant no of a principal, David Morris, whose school has been destabilized this fall by an unannounced influx of students from outside its attendance boundaries.
Some arrived with histories of disciplinary problems or even criminal activity, school records show, while others had been in full-day special education programs. Others brought volatile gang allegiances from their home neighborhoods, according to school personnel. And in no case did Beach Channel receive advance warning.
While Mr. Morris declined to be interviewed for this column, a detailed memo written by two of his assistant principals paints a vivid picture of an improving school rattled by the violent or criminal behavior of several dozen students that the memo says were foisted on Beach Channel.

A building boom at L.A.’s private schools

Carla Rivera:

From Chatsworth to El Segundo, private schools are spending an estimated $600 million in a building boom that reflects the strong demand for their services and the intense competition among their ranks.
Brentwood School is building an aquatics center that looks like a modern equivalent of the Greco-Roman baths of ancient Alexandria. Windward School, also on the Westside, is completing a new library with digital media studios and an indoor-outdoor reading area with a fireplace. Loyola High School near downtown recently opened a new science hall equipped with the most advanced instruments, and, across the new commons, it is restoring its historic brick Jesuit residence hall.
The building frenzy is being driven by aging facilities, new teaching models that call for informal classroom settings, space for group projects and hands-on activities, and the need for new technology. It also is aimed, of course, at keeping these schools competitive.
There is an assumption that private schools — where tuition can top $26,000 annually — can provide the best of everything. School leaders say they increasingly are expected to meet students’ diverse needs, with more specialized staff, multiple counselors, psychologists, deans of students, and parent, alumni and community advisors who all need offices and meeting space.

How to Fix Struggling High Schools

Jay Matthews:

I think the people running our high schools, as well we parents, need to stop making compromises that sustain the cycle of failure. Kind and thoughtful educators and parents, such as the ones in Parker’s articles, are trying to get through each day without hurting too many feelings or forcing too many confrontations. When the choice is between letting standards continue to slip or making a scene, few people want to be drama queens, which is too bad.
The best inner-city educators begin each day knowing they are going to have to confront apathy again and again. They shove it away as if it were a kidnapper trying to steal their children. To succeed, a high school like Coolidge needs a unified team of such people, who follow the same standards of regular attendance, daily preparation for school, high achievement and attention and decorum in the classroom.
It sounds impossible, but it’s not. There are inner-city schools right now, including some charter, religious and private schools that operate that way. It takes strength and intelligence and humor and love for young people, and an abhorrence for the limp compromises that have created such sickly schools as Coolidge.
I asked several expert educators how they would fix schools like that. Michael A. Durso, principal of Springbrook High School in Silver Spring, said: “These problems did not occur overnight and will not be resolved easily or in a short time.” Michael Riley, superintendent of the Bellevue, Wash., schools, said: “Anyone who thinks there is a quick fix, that taking a couple of dramatic steps will make this situation better overnight, is kidding himself.”

Time to think global in testing U.S. students

Raymond Scheppach:

Today, it’s less important how students in Iowa or Oregon compare to those in Alabama or Virginia on a national test. What matters most is how students in North Carolina or Texas compare to those in Denmark or Russia, and so on.
In short, educational protectionism is outdated and ignores the realities of the 21st century global economy.
In the Global Competitiveness Report 2007–2008 released last month by the World Economic Forum, the United States again ranked as the world’s most competitive economy. Yet the 2003 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) study, administered in 46 countries, found that U.S. eighth-graders ranked 14th in mathematics achievement. And on the 2003 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) survey, U.S. students placed below average in math, science and problem-solving among countries belonging to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. This is a major concern because the most important factor in competitiveness is education and training of the labor force. Thus, U.S. education performance today is the best indicator of America’s competitiveness tomorrow.

The rewriting of history

The Economist:

Earlier this year it organised a conference for history teachers at which Mr Putin plugged a new history manual to help sort out what he called “the muddle” in teachers’ heads. “Russian history did contain some problematic pages,” Mr Putin told the teachers. “But so did other states’ histories. We have fewer of them than other countries. And they were less terrible than in some other countries.” His message was that “we can’t allow anyone to impose a sense of guilt on us.”
This is the thrust of the manual, entitled “A Modern History of Russia: 1945-2006: A Manual for History Teachers”. Were it not for the Kremlin’s backing, it would probably be gathering dust on bookshelves. But Mr Putin’s endorsement has made it one of the most discussed books of the year. New textbooks based on it will come into circulation next year. Russian schools are still free to choose which textbook to teach. But the version of history now proposed by the Kremlin suggests that freedom may not last.
The manual’s choice of period is suggestive: from Stalin’s victory in the “great patriotic war” to the victory of Mr Putin’s regime. It celebrates all contributors to Russia’s greatness, and denounces those responsible for the loss of empire, regardless of their politics. The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 is not seen as a watershed from which a new history begins, but as an unfortunate and tragic mistake that hindered Russia’s progress. “The Soviet Union was not a democracy, but it was an example for millions of people around the world of the best and fairest society.”

Near West Side Madison City Bus (Metro) Incident

Via a reader’s email – Madison Police Department:

On November 19th at 2:44 p.m. Madison police responded to 1300 Seminole Highway after a Metro bus driver noticed someone pointing a gun out of a window on the back of his bus. This was a bus with about 50 Cherokee Middle School students on board. They were going home from school. The driver also indicated he had been shot in the back of the head with a BB. This caused no injury. Officers were able to find a Smith & Wesson black plastic BB/pellet gun & a container of BBs in a backpack. The 13 year old listed above admitted the backpack was his and he had fired the weapon. A friend of his was arrested for disorderly conduct after he threatened to harm other students. He believed one of those students had “snitched.”

Madison School District Administration Presentation on High School Redesign

The Madison School viewed a presentation from the Administration Monday evening on their proposed High School redesign. Listen via this mp3 audio file (or watch the MMSDTV Video Archive).
Susan Troller:

“Sometimes institutional history can be a weight around your neck,” Rainwater noted. “This can be an opportunity to bring in new ideas, and new blood,” he added.
Rainwater has said change is necessary because high schools today look and feel much like they have for generations but that students will live and work in a world that has changed dramatically, and which demands new skills and abilities.
He acknowledged that the path was likely to be bumpy, and noted that the plan — which has been developed thus far without public input — recognizes that there are major concerns in the community regarding changes to Madison’s school system.
Some of those concerns include worries about trying to balance resources among students of widely varying abilities, about “dumbing down” the curriculum with inclusive classrooms, the potential for the high schools to lose their unique personalities and concerns that addressing the broad ranges of culture in the district will not serve students well.


Curriculum Acceleration/Middle School Charter Meeting: November 26 at 11:30 a.m.

A group of parents will be gathering to discuss developing a public school charter (or other educational alternatives) for middle schoolers who need an advanced level and faster pace of instruction (curriculum acceleration). Our first meeting will be Monday, November 26 at 11:30 am for lunch at the Sun Print Cafe, 1 South Pinckney Street [Map], in the US Bank building. If interested, please email Bonnie at pbe@terracom.net.

Freaked Out: Teens’ Dance Moves Split a Texas Town

Susan Warren:

Karen Miller, 53 years old, saw her first “freak dance” four years ago when she was chaperoning a high-school dance attended by her freshman daughter.
One boy was up close to a girl’s back, bumping and grinding to the pounding beat of the music.
“I thought, ‘That’s just dadgum nasty,'” Ms. Miller recalls. “It really had me sick to my stomach.”
Ms. Miller took the initiative and broke it up. School employees at the dance seemed oblivious, she says.
They’re oblivious no longer. A new resolve by school officials in this booming Dallas suburb to crack down on sexually suggestive dancing — and skimpy clothing — has sparked a rancorous debate over what boundaries should be set for teenagers’ self-expression. Argyle joins a long list of other schools around the country that have banned the hip-hop inspired dancing known as “grinding” or “freak dancing.”
But in Argyle, a once-sleepy farming community strained by explosive growth from an influx of well-to-do suburbanites, the controversy has gotten vicious. Some parents blame the newly installed school superintendent, Jason Ceyanes, 35, for ruining their children’s October homecoming dance by enforcing a strict dress code and making provocative dancing off-limits. Disgusted, a lot of kids left, and the dance ended early.

English, Algebra, Phys Ed … and Biotech

G. Pascal Zachary:

MORE than a decade ago, after George Cachianes, a former researcher at Genentech, decided to become a teacher, he started a biotechnology course at Lincoln High School in San Francisco. He saw the class as way of marrying basic biotechnology principles with modern lab practices — and insights into how business harvests biotech innovations for profit.
If you’re interested in seeing the future of biotechnology education, you might want to visit one of George Cachianes’s classrooms. “Students are motivated by understanding the relationships between research, creativity and making money,” he says.
Lincoln has five biotech classes, each with about 30 students. Four other public high schools in San Francisco offer the course, drawing on Mr. Cachianes’s syllabus. Mr. Cachianes, who still teaches at Lincoln, divides his classes into teams of five students; each team “adopts” an actual biotech company.
The students write annual reports, correspond with company officials and learn about products in the pipeline. Students also learn the latest lab techniques. They cut DNA. And recombine it. They transfer jellyfish genes into bacteria. They purify proteins. They even sequence their own cheek-cell DNA.

New United Way Program Aims To Level The Playing Field In The Classroom

Doug Erickson:

Some children arrive at kindergarten knowing the whole alphabet. Others have rarely seen a book.
Some can follow a series of instructions. Others can’t concentrate long enough to stand still in a line.
Those differences in school readiness can mean some children have a huge advantage – while others are relegated to a lifetime of playing catch-up, educators say.
United Way of Dane County on Thursday announced a multi-year initiative to improve kindergarten readiness, with the ultimate goal of improving high school graduation rates and job skills.

Seeking a ‘Gold Standard’ in D.C. Charter Education

Jay Matthews:

In the charter school movement’s endless quest to recruit students, some of the best independent public schools support each other by word of mouth. The KIPP DC: KEY Academy, a high-performing middle school, has sent 15 graduates to Washington Mathematics Science Technology, one of the better charter high schools. But KIPP teachers steer their graduates away from some charter schools.
“If I said which they were, the principals would kill me,” said Susan Schaeffler, KIPP DC’s executive director.
Now, some charter leaders in the city that is a national epicenter for their movement are planning to take the next step in this sifting process. They say they want to create a “gold standard designation,” to publicly identify for the first time which charters are doing the most to raise teaching quality and academic achievement for low-income students.
Ramona Edelin, executive director of the D.C. Association of Chartered Public Schools, likened the initiative to a certification system to show “what high quality really means in terms of children of color from impoverished backgrounds, which is the vast majority of the students charter schools educate here.”

Different Notions of Honesty?

Friends from Hanover came into town this weekend and mentioned this story: “A small town in New Hampshire is coming to grips with a scandal at the public high school where nine students face criminal charges for allegedly breaking into a classroom and stealing advance copies of final exams.
The incident at Hanover High School in Hanover, N.H., is sparking debate between those who believe the students are being treated fairly and those who think the charges go too far.”
But what I found most interesting about this story was this:”Teachers also may be sending kids the wrong message about cheating.
Students say they know they won’t get in trouble for things like sharing homework or finding out what’s on a test from kids who’ve already taken it. “That is cheating, and some teachers don’t classify it as cheating,” said Junior Cory Burns. “Or some don’t see it as such a serious issue, ” added Dillon Gregory.
The millennial generation (born between 1980 and 2000) seems to have a different notion about honesty than previous generations.
Aine Donovan, executive director of the Dartmouth College Ethics Institute, said kids today are more apt to rationalize their behavior as a means to an end; and they seem to have invented their own particular code of right and wrong.
“When I ask my students: ‘Is there anything unethical about downloading music?'” Donovan said. “(They answer) ‘Absolutely not.’ They don’t have a problem with it. And yet, those same kids would never in a million years, walk into a K-mart and steal a CD. They just have a different kind of orientation of morality.”


AP virtual labs questioned: Online science courses lack crucial experience, College Board says

Amy Hetzner:

Would poison alter the amount of carbon dioxide in yeast? To answer that question, high school junior Evelyn Libal developed a hypothesis, designed an experiment and studied results from scientists who had conducted such tests.
The only thing missing from the 16-year-old’s work, done for an Advanced Placement biology course offered through one of the state’s virtual schools, was actually conducting the experiment.
And that’s where the College Board, which administers the AP program, could have a problem.
Differences in the kind of lab work done by students enrolled in virtual schools vs. traditional classrooms have become an issue in an ongoing audit of AP courses.
So far, thousands of teachers worldwide have successfully completed audits of their syllabuses to ensure that they are teaching what is expected for the AP label.
But the majority of science courses offered by virtual schools with computerized simulations have been given only provisional permission to continue calling themselves AP classes as they align their lab work with AP standards over the next year.
For many, that means more hands-on experiments.

Madison Teacher Safety: Going to Court

WKOWTVWKOW-TV [Watch Video | mp3 Audio]:

February 13 became a tense day in two, separate Madison schools.
Police reports show a fifteen year old student at Memorial High School became angry with special education teacher Tim Droster. Another staff member told officers the student made motions to mimic the act of shooting Droster. The student was arrested.
At Cherokee Heights Middle School, police reports show a thirteen year old student reacted to being denied laptop computer priveleges by posing this question to special education assistant Becky Buchmann: “Did you want me to gun you down?” Juvenile court records show the student had previously shot an acquaintance with a BB gun, and Madison Teachers Inc. (MTI) information stated the student had also brought a BB gun to school and had gang affiliation.
Buchmann went to court and obtained a restraining order against the student.
Droster worked through school officials and his threatening student was given a different school schedule and new conduct rules.
Attorney Jordan Loeb has represented teachers seeking restraining orders to protect themselves in the classroom. “It’s controversial,” Loeb told 27 News.
But Loeb said teachers are no different than someone from any other walk of life when it comes to needing the authority of a judge to insure a threatening person does not cause harm.
“When it’s your safety on the line, you have to do everything you believe is necessary to keep yourself safe.”
Loeb estimated an average of ten teachers and other school staff members per year over the past decade have obtained restraining orders against threatening students and adults in Dane County courts.
But school district statistics show a more than five fold increase in teacher and staff injuries caused by students in the past three years.
In 2003, of 532 injury reports submitted by teachers and staff members, 29 were the result of student assaults.
In 2006, 540 teacher and staff injury reports involved 153 student assaults.
School district spokesperson Ken Syke said the most recent student assault numbers may be inflated by the inclusion of teacher injuries incidental to fights between students.


High school biowizards break new ground in winning competition

Bernadette Tansey:

When Robert Ovadia got his invitation, he couldn’t believe it.
He and four other students from his biotechnology class at Abraham Lincoln High School not only had an offer of paid summer lab jobs, they also would have a chance to square off against the world’s powerhouse science universities.
In their Sunset District classroom, biotech teacher George Cachianes told the seniors they could be part of a team that would compete at iGEM, the international Genetically Engineered Machine competition. The contest founded at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology focuses on synthetic biology, one of the most far-out of new scientific fields. It treats the building blocks of life – proteins and other molecules created by cells under instructions from DNA – as engineering parts that can be cobbled together to make anything from a new microorganism to a computer component. With luck, the Lincoln kids might help break new ground in science.
“I’m like, ‘It’s too good to be true,’ ” Ovadia remembers thinking.
The invitation came from UCSF Professor Wendell Lim, whose lab explores how cells process information and send signals. Lim knew his teenage proteges would face fierce competition from college teams at Harvard, Princeton and dozens of other elite universities around the globe.

iGEM website.

UK Fuzzy Math Discussion

John Crace:

Soon after the first sudoku puzzles began to appear in newspapers a couple of years ago, there came hurried reassurances from worried editors. Sudoku might be a number grid, they soothed, but don’t let all those nasty ones, twos and threes frighten you, because you don’t need to be any good at maths to do it.
It was a message that summed up the national attitude to maths. Numbers are something inherently difficult, to be feared and mistrusted. The subject carries a lasting memory of childhood shame and frustration from which we never recover. Maths is for geeks, nerds and misfits; the rest of us get by on a wing, a prayer and a calculator.
Andrew Hodges, maths lecturer at Wadham College, Oxford, takes a different view of the addictive puzzle. “Sudoku may not require long multiplication or division,” he says, “but it is a very good puzzle that replicates the pattern of thinking required to solve quite complex logical problems in maths. But no one dares mention the association, for fear of putting off all those who like doing it.”

Joanne has more.

‘No Child’ Data on Violence Skewed: Each State Defines “Dangerous School”

Nelson Hernandez:

A little-publicized provision of the No Child Left Behind Act requiring states to identify “persistently dangerous schools” is hampered by widespread underreporting of violent incidents and by major differences among the states in defining unsafe campuses, several audits say. Out of about 94,000 schools in the United States, only 46 were designated as persistently dangerous in the past school year.
Maryland had six, all in Baltimore; the District and Virginia had none.
At Anacostia Senior High School last school year, private security guards working under D.C. police recorded 61 violent offenses, including three sexual assaults and one assault with a deadly weapon. There were 21 other nonviolent cases in which students were caught bringing knives and guns to school. Anacostia is not considered a persistently dangerous school.
One high school in Los Angeles had 289 cases of battery, two assaults with a deadly weapon, a robbery and two sex offenses in one school year, according to an audit by the U.S. Department of Education’s inspector general. It did not meet the state’s definition of a persistently dangerous school, or PDS. None of California’s roughly 9,000 schools has.
The reason, according to an audit issued by the Department of Education in August: “States fear the political, social, and economic consequences of having schools designated as PDS, and school administrators view the label as detrimental to their careers. Consequently, states set unreasonable definitions for PDS and schools have underreported violent incidents.”
Critics of the law, including lawmakers who hope the policy can be changed as part of the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind, say the low number is a sign the legislation is not working.

Book: Amy’s Game: The Concealed Structure of Education

Amy’s Game: The Concealed Structure of Education :

Amy’s Game is a field manual for parents, teachers, and leaders who want to give our children the education they deserve. The author draws on over 30 years experience and hundreds of studies to expose education’s hidden structure responsible for our schools’ decline. Tactics for reversing that slide are given along with inexpensive, well-researched instructional methods that anyone-parent to professor-can use to improve our children’s education.

Amazon Link. Thanks to Larry Winkler for the link.

Madison School District School Security Discussion

Madison School Board: Monday evening, November 12, 2007: 40MB mp3 audio file. Participants include: Superintendent Art Rainwater, East High Principal Al Harris, Cherokee Middle School Principal Karen Seno, Sennett Middle School Principal Colleen Lodholz and Pam Nash, assistant Superintendent for Secondary Schools.
A few notes:

  • First 30 minutes: The City of Madison has agreed to fund police overtime in the schools. Johnny Winston, Jr. asked about supporting temporary “shows of force” to respond to issues that arise. Maya Cole asked what they (Administrators) do when staff choose not to get involved. East High Principal Al Harris mentioned that his staff conducts hall sweeps hourly. Sennett Principal Colleen Lodholz mentioned that they keep only one entrance open during recess.
  • 52 minutes: Al Harris discussed the importance of consistency for staff, students and parents. He has named an assistant principal to be responsible for security. East now has data for the past year for comparison purposes. Additional assistant principals are responsible for classrooms, transitions and athletics.
  • 55 minutes: Art Rainwater discussed District-wide procedures, a checklist for major incidents and that today parents are often informed before anyone else due to cell phones and text messaging.
  • Recommendations (at 60 minutes):
    • Pam Nash mentioned a strong need for increased communication. She discussed the recent West High School community forums and their new personal safety handbook. This handbook includes an outline of how West is supervised.
    • 68 to 74 minutes: A discussion of the District’s equity policy vis a vis resource allocations for special needs students.
    • 77 minutes – Steve Hartley discusses his experiences with community resources.
    • 81+ minutes: Steve Hartley mentioned the need for improved tracking and Art Rainwater discussed perceptions vs what is actually happening. He also mentioned that the District is looking at alternative programs for some of these children. Student Board Representative Joe Carlsmith mentioned that these issues are not a big part of student life. He had not yet seen the new West High safety handbook. Carol Carstensen discussed (95 minutes) that these issues are not the common day to day experiences of our students and that contacts from the public are sometimes based more on rumor and gossip than actual reality.

I’m glad the Board and Administration had this discussion.

African-American dads and others here size up Bill Cosby’s tough love talk

Pat Schneider:

There’s a crisis among young African-American males in Madison, says Kenneth Black, president of 100 Black Men of Madison.
High school drop-out rates, low employment, a high incidence of jail and prison time — and beneath it all, a growing number of black children growing up without a father.
“It definitely needs to be dealt with,” said Black, a division administrator in the state Department of Veteran Affairs. “There’s a huge void in most of these kids’ lives. They need to see positive African-American role models who are successful in the community. They need to see us,” he said.
100 Black Men of Madison may be best known for its back-to-school backpack giveaway that draws hundreds of children each year, but its bedrock program is mentoring. “Our intent is to get these young men and expose them to the more positive things in life: the Overture, sporting events, UW and places outside our community,” Black said.
Black was among several local African-Americans interviewed for this article who had praise, and some criticism, for the rallying cry to social responsibility raised by comedian Bill Cosby.
“Some people are not happy with Bill Cosby for airing dirty laundry,” said Johnny Winston Jr., a member of the Madison School Board. “But it’s not like he’s saying something we don’t know.”
Barbara Golden, an advocate for children and families in Dane County, said it was good that the discussion opened by Cosby was taking place outside just African-American circles. “We are very much a part of America. What happens to us should be the concern of everybody,” Golden said.
The African-American culture also has a strong influence on mainstream U.S. culture, she noted, noting how white kids’ performances at a recent Madison middle-school talent show borrowed heavily from hip-hop.
“No one can sit and say, ‘This doesn’t affect me,'” she said.
Cosby’s book published last month, “Come On People: On the Path from Victims to Victors” is just the latest round in a years-long confrontation with his fellow African-Americans.

Additional links and notes on Bill Cosby [RSS]

Minnesota’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Forums

John Katsantonis:

In the process of researching where the U.S. ranks internationally in science and math education, I discovered that one of the Democratic presidential candidates (the one who’s governor of a Southwestern state) keeps citing our nation’s current rank as No. 29 (or, on a good day, No. 28) after our having been No. 1 throughout the world.
Apparently neither statistic is true, however, which suggest that it may be Bill Richardson himself who needs a bit of remedial math.
This is not the first time our national educational system has been politicized. Fifty years ago, a global scientific effort called the International Geophysical Year (IGY) encompassed 11 Earth sciences: aurora and airglow, cosmic rays, geomagnetism, gravity, ionospheric physics, longitude and latitude determinations (precision mapping), meteorology, oceanography, seismology and solar activity.
The Soviet Union celebrated IGY by launching the first artificial satellite (Sputnik) one month into the event on Oct. 1, 1957. We countered with the discovery of the Van Allen radiation belts and the discovery of mid-ocean submarine ridges, which was an important confirmation of plate tectonics.
Immediately following the successful orbiting of Sputnik, attendant paranoia regarding U.S. loss of the space race converted our collaboration with the country into a major retooling of the nation’s school curricula. The focus would now be on science and mathematics.
It’s impossible to deny a general decline in these areas nationally versus India and a handful of other countries that emphasize science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education on a cultural level. In recent years, Minnesota has been adamant and resolute about creating and maintaining collaboration between the private and public sectors to improve these areas of learning among K-12 students statewide.

School Math textbooks rife with errors, tentatively approved

Terrence Stutz:

Proposed math books for elementary school children and their teachers have resulted in one computation that publishers would just as soon erase – 109,263.
That’s the number of errors that were uncovered in proposed math textbooks that are under review by the State Board of Education for distribution to schools in the fall of 2008.
The total number of errors was nearly five times the total for last year, thanks to one publisher whose books contained more than 86,000 errors – 79 percent of the total.
Publishers will have until the spring to clean their books up. After that, they can be fined up to $5,000 for every error that makes it into the final editions of books shipped to Texas schools.

Where Should we Get Money for Education

James Wigderson:

The state Senate Education Committee is meeting today to again discuss Senate Joint Resolution 27, a bill that would require the state of Wisconsin to change its school funding formula by July 1, 2009. The bill does not indicate how the school funding formula should be changed, or which communities should benefit from the change.
The bill is the brainchild of state Rep. Sondy Pope-Roberts. When Pope-Roberts last spoke in Waukesha, she told the audience she had a secret plan, like Nixon’s plan to end the Vietnam War, to “fix” the state’s school funding formula, hidden in her desk. The plan has yet to be revealed.
We may get a clue from Democratic activist Ruth Page Jones who is planning on testifying at the hearing. Jones is known to most people in Waukesha as the head of the increasingly irrelevant Project ABC. Project ABC spent much of last spring campaigning to change the state’s funding formula with the promise it would help Waukesha’s schools. Even Pope-Roberts disagreed that any change in the funding formula was likely to be to Waukesha’s benefit.
Jones is now president of Wisconsin Alliance for Excellent Schools, newly independent from the liberal Institute for Wisconsin’s Future. The WAES is committed to the “Wisconsin Adequacy Plan.” Adequacy, as in they define adequacy by their wish list, and then the taxpayers get the bill.

The Power of Birth Order

Jeffrey Kluger:

In 1883, the year Elliott began battling melancholy, Teddy had already published his first book and been elected to the New York State assembly. By 1891—about the time Elliott, still unable to establish a career, had to be institutionalized to deal with his addictions—Teddy was U.S. Civil Service Commissioner and the author of eight books. Three years later, Elliott, 34, died of alcoholism. Seven years after that, Teddy, 42, became President.
Elliott Roosevelt was not the only younger sibling of an eventual President to cause his family heartaches—or at least headaches. There was Donald Nixon and the loans he wangled from billionaire Howard Hughes. There was Billy Carter and his advocacy on behalf of the pariah state Libya. There was Roger Clinton and his year in jail on a cocaine conviction. And there is Neil Bush, younger sib of both a President and a Governor, implicated in the savings-and-loan scandals of the 1980s and recently gossiped about after the release of a 2002 letter in which he lamented to his estranged wife, “I’ve lost patience for being compared to my brothers.”

Breaking the Grass Ceiling
Susan Myers quit her job as an investment banker and became one of the nation’s few female high school football coaches.

Russell Adams:

On a Friday night in late October, the Prince of Peace Eagles are about to lose to Rockwall Christian 49-6. As she paces the sidelines, Susan Myers isn’t thinking about gender roles. She’s a coach for an 0-8 team whose players seem to be losing faith in themselves.
As quarterback Austin Smith shuffles off the field, Ms. Myers grabs his jersey and pulls him close until her nose is just a couple of inches from his facemask. Before the season, the Eagles had pointed to their next opponent, a small Catholic school in Irving, Texas, called The Highlands, as one they should beat. She wanted Mr. Smith to send a message to the team. “That’s the game we’ve got to win,” she shouted. “They’ve got to know that’s the game.”
As the wide receivers coach for Prince of Peace, a private Christian School near Dallas, Ms. Myers, 55 years old, is one of only a few women in the nation coaching high school football. So far as the American Football Coaches Association knows, she’s the only one plying her trade in Texas — a state where the boys who play the game and the men who lead them form a current that powers the egos of entire towns. Women operate on the fringes of the football world, mostly to support and validate. They rarely step on the field without a set of pompons.
Morgan Schwab, a wide receiver, had never heard of a female football coach before Prince of Peace hired Ms. Myers. He says he got over the novelty on the second day of spring practice when, during agility and footwork drills, she took a plastic bat to the legs of any players with poor form.

An excerpt from “The Complete Handbook of Coaching Wide Receivers” PDF.

Report Compares Racine to 9 Other Wisconsin School Districts, Including Madison

Pete Selkowe crunches the findings:

After ten years of exhaustive diagnostics, poking and prodding, the patient — Racine Unified School District — still is quite sick.
The Public Policy Forum’s just released 10th annual comparative analysis of RUSD (paid for by Education Racine, the not-for-profit foundation of RAMAC) — comparing the district to nine peer* districts with similar enrollments — is measured in many places, objectively reporting such things as student achievement, graduation rates, truancy and more.
But the bottom line, stated with ultimate tact — “Our data do not fit with the customer satisfaction objective.” — gives clear warning of what’s to come.
The report’s major findings, released at a Wingspread briefing tonight, conclude:
Diversity: The minority population in RUSD, the state’s fourth largest district with 21,696 students, continues to grow. Racine’s classrooms now are 48.1% minority, up from 36.9% ten years ago, thanks to an influx of Asian and Hispanic students. African-American enrollment has increased “modestly” in recent years and white enrollment has “declined somewhat.”
White students now make up 51.9% of RUSD’s enrollment; African-Americans 26.7% and Hispanics 19.6%. Statewide, 22.1% of students are minority.
Operational Efficiency: State aid to RUSD has increased 40.2% in 10 years, yet we’re now 8th out of 10. (State aid to Kenosha has risen 70.8% in the same period.) Property tax revenue is up 21.4%; Kenosha’s has gone up 41.7%. RUSD falls to 9th in the growth of federal aid: up 87.5% in 10 years, while Kenosha has gone up 146.9% and Appleton 346.9%.
The district ranked 8th out of 10 in property taxes collected per pupil. Racine was third in instructional spending per pupil, sixth in operational spending. RUSD spent $10,169 per pupil, just $119 below the state average, but well below Madison’s $12,163.

Dani McClain:

These findings are part of the Public Policy Forum’s 10th annual report on how Racine Unified stacks up among Wisconsin’s 10 largest districts – excluding Milwaukee – in student achievement, engagement and finances.
“I think you have here the largest, most comprehensive study of any district in the state of Wisconsin, and possibly the country,” Jeff Browne, president of the Milwaukee think tank, said to a gathering of advocates, school officials and business leaders Wednesday.
Racine Unified, the state’s fourth-largest district, faces serious challenges, the report shows.
Its students ranked near the bottom at all grade levels when compared with peer districts on state reading and math tests in the 2006-’07 school year. This is in keeping with recent years’ rankings, though there is some improvement at the elementary level.

Charts comparing the 10 Districts.
Complete Report: 240K PDF
Public Policy Forum Website

Getting schooled

John Smart:

The Wisconsin Association of School Boards (WASB) held a very informative Legislative Issues Conference in Stevens Point on November 3, attended by more than 200 school board members from around the state. The program was focused on the issues of school funding reform and taxation.
An overview of UW-Madison Professor Alan Odden’s two-year study of school funding and achievement, supported by a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation, was presented by two researchers who work with Odden.
The UW’s Consortium for Policy Research in Education also includes participation by the Universities of Michigan and Pennsylvania, Harvard, Columbia, Stanford and Northwestern. Their current printed report is titled “Moving From Good to Great in Wisconsin: Funding Schools Adequately And Doubling Student Performance,” and opens with a telling quotation from Michelangelo: “The greatest danger for most of us is not that we aim too high and fall short, but that we aim too low and achieve our mark.”

“Wisconsin Way” Meeting Notes

The “Wisconsin Way” recently held a forum in Waukesha. The local Taxpayer’s League posted some notes [website].
A schedule of forums appears on their website (Madison is 12/6/2007). More:

Welcome to the Wisconsin Way! You’ve made the first step to helping lower Wisconsin’s property taxes, while protecting our services and maintaining Wisconsin’s quality of life.
A groundswell of public concern about the affordability of property taxes on the one hand and the need to maintain Wisconsin’s critical infrastructure on the other has prompted several statewide leadership groups to join forces in a historic search for solutions called The Wisconsin Way.
In the coming months, the original conveners of the Wisconsin Way—the Wisconsin Counties Association, the Wisconsin Education Association Council, Wisconsin Realtors Association, Wisconsin Transportation Builders Association and Wood Communications Group—will host a series of public gatherings around the state in an effort to engage Wisconsin citizens in a constructive, solution-oriented conversation about what we can do to make Wisconsin taxes fairer and reduce the property tax burden without sacrificing the quality of public services that have made Wisconsin a special place to live and work.

Excuses are not an option

Alan Borsuk:

There are casual days at Milwaukee College Preparatory School when it comes to what students can wear. Polo shirts (red for almost all the students and yellow for standouts who have earned privileges) are the uniform for those days. Other days, students have to wear blazers and ties.
But there are no casual days at the school when it comes to academics, even down to the kindergartners.
“Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go, let’s go,” eighth-grade math teacher Edward Richerson exhorts his students as a half dozen head toward the blackboard to solve some equations. They’re not moving fast enough for him.
A couple of them falter in their explanations. “What I’ve told you not to do is get lazy on these equations, which is what you’ve done,” Richerson says. If you’re not getting them, it’s not because you’re not smart enough, he says. “Since we are overachievers,” he begins as he tells them why they have to be as picky about the details of the answers as he is.
In a 5-year-old kindergarten class, children do an exercise in counting and understanding sequences of shapes. Four-year-olds are expected to be on the verge of reading by Christmas.
In national education circles, phrases such as “no excuses” and names such as “KIPP” have come to stand for a hard-driving approach to educating low-income urban children, and that includes longer days, strict codes of conduct, an emphasis on mastering basics and a dedication among staff members approaching zeal. The Knowledge Is Power Program, or KIPP, operates 57 schools in cities around the country and has a record that is not perfect but is noteworthy for its success.
Milwaukee College Prep, 2449 N. 36th St., is the prime example in Milwaukee of a no-excuses school. The charter school, which is publicly funded and was chartered through the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, is not formally a KIPP school, although it is affiliated with the KIPP movement.

Milwaukee College Preparatory School’s website.

Madison parents can track kids’ grades, records online

Andy Hall:

By Friday, the system, known as Infinite Campus, will be available to all parents of Madison School District middle and high school students. Those students, and parents of elementary students, will be able to tap in sometime after the first of the year.
Parents and students receive individual passwords. Parents can e-mail teachers and see whether their children owe any fees. They also can view, on a single calendar, a summary of important upcoming assignment deadlines and school events for all of their children.
With the arrival of Infinite Campus, Madison becomes the 13th of Dane County’s 16 school districts to offer around-the-clock electronic access to student information.
Officials at the three remaining districts — Marshall, Deerfield and Stoughton — plan to install similar systems soon and Stoughton already permits parents to receive frequent e-mail summaries of their children’s grades. More than 80 percent of Stoughton parents have signed up for the e-mail updates.

The Madison School District should be quite pleased with this effort. Initiatives on this scale are never easy. Certainly, much remains to be done, but lifting off, getting a great deal of staff buy in and opening it up to parents is a significant win.

Middleton environmental studies teacher wins award

Susan Troller:

Add another name to the legendary voices from Wisconsin that have made the world a better place by speaking up for the environment.
On Thursday, local teacher Deb Weitzel will receive the nation’s first Bartlett Award to honor leadership in environmental education at a ceremony in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
Like Aldo Leopold, Gaylord Nelson and John Muir, Weitzel has been an inspiration whose lasting influence goes far beyond her own passionate commitment to the natural world.
A long-time environmental studies and chemistry teacher at Middleton High School, Weitzel has a legion of former students and other fans who say she has thought globally, acted locally and taught countless hundreds of others to do the same.
Janet Kane, a former Middleton school board member and long-term supporter and board member of the Friends of Pheasant Branch nature conservancy, nominated Weitzel for the prestigious national award.
“It’s wonderful news that Deb has won the award and it really is a huge honor,” Kane said. “It’s also amazing that Deb is the first winner. She will set the standard for all those who follow.”

U.S. students ‘middle of the pack’ compared with world

Click for a larger version of this image.

Greg Toppo:

Educators and politicians these days make a point of saying that U.S. schoolchildren aren’t just competing locally for good, high-paying jobs — they’re competing globally.
A detailed study lets them know just how well kids may do if they really compete globally someday — and it’s not exactly pretty.
Crunching the most recent data from a pair of U.S. and international math and science exams for middle-schoolers, Gary Phillips, a researcher at the non-profit American Institutes for Research (AIR), a non-partisan Washington think tank, finds a decidedly mixed picture: Students in most states perform as well as — or better than — peers in most foreign countries.
But he also finds that even those in the highest-scoring states, such as Massachusetts and Minnesota, are significantly below a handful of top-scoring nations such as Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan and Japan.

1.9MB PDF Report:

In mathematics, students in 49 states and the District of Columbia are behind their counterparts in Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan and Japan. Students in Massachusetts are on a par with Japanese students, but trail the other four nations. In science, students in Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont and Wisconsin trail only students in Singapore and Taiwan, while performing equal or better than students in the other 45 countries surveyed.
“More than a century ago Louis Pasteur revealed the secret to invention and innovation when he said ‘chance favors the prepared mind’. The take away message from this report is that the United States is loosing the race to prepare the minds of the future generation,” said Dr. Phillips.
Students in the District of Columbia had the lowest U.S. performance in mathematics (they did not participate in the science test). In math, the average D.C. student is at the Below Basic level, putting them behind students in 29 countries and ahead of those in 14 countries. In science, nine states are at the Below Basic level: Florida, Arizona, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Alabama, Hawaii, California and Mississippi.

Clusty Search: National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) | Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMMS)

Waukesha Schools go to Mediation over teacher contracts: Trading Jobs for Compensation?

Pete Kennedy:

The word “mediation” usually isn’t all that menacing. But these days, and in this district, “mediation” packs plenty of punch.
A few weeks ago the Waukesha School Board announced it had taken its teachers to mediation. That means a neutral party will try to negotiate a settlement between the teachers union (the Education Association of Waukesha) and the board.
What’s most significant about the board’s action is the mediator can declare an impasse and send the proposals to an arbitrator. And that, my friend, is a big deal.
Why? First, because arbitration is the labor-relations version of high-stakes poker. It’s a winner-take-all proposition. Both sides present their proposal to a (supposedly) neutral third party, who picks the plan he or she believes fairest. There is no in-between – you win or you lose.
Arbitration also is a big deal because it’s hardly ever done, at least when state public schools are involved.
“Yes, it’s significant,” said David Schmidt, superintendent of the School District of Waukesha for the past 10 years. “It’s the first time we’ve done it since I’ve been here.”
Schmidt says he is fine with the teachers union, that the real trouble is in Madison. (The EAW is very much in agreement.) But right now, the problem has to be fixed closer to home. “What we can control locally are our expenditures,” Schmidt says.

Links and notes on Madison’s recent teacher’s contract.

Ohio Education Board Proposes New Teacher Discipline System


The State Board of Education voted Tuesday to require the education department to publicly release the reason any teacher is disciplined and to create a policy for the automatic revocation of teacher licenses for convictions of serious crimes.
The policies were among nine recommendations that would tighten a teacher-discipline system that was often shrouded in secrecy.
The Ohio Department of Education will now take the recommendations to the Legislature, where they must be accepted before becoming law.
The board also voted to run the names of those on arrest lists against a database of licensed educators. The matching system is already set up for school bus drivers.
Districts would be required to remove teachers from the classroom if they are arrested for offenses such as murder, kidnapping or rape. Teachers who are arrested or convicted would be required to notify their employer or face penalties.

Comparing Sports, Arts is Dangerous Business

“I’m afraid the game is over. In our American academia, the arts must be satisfied with the leftovers.”
Frank Deford
Morning Edition, NPR
A few weeks ago, I offered up the thoughts of Gary Walters, the distinguished athletic director at Princeton, that sport should be held in the same high regard as art.
I thought it was a rather interesting and cogent opinion for someone to posit, but in the fabled words of the longtime football announcer, Keith Jackson: “Whoa, Nellie!” Never have I suffered such a battering. I think the nicest thing I was called in the responses that poured in, dripping with blood, was “apologist dingbat.”
But then, after I withdrew the slings and arrows from my person and assessed the reaction, I realized how almost all the responses didn’t really bother to address the question posed: Whether, in fact, sport might be an art. No, they were just mad, full of rage and fury. But it did serve to inform me all the more how much antipathy there does exist toward the American system of school sports.
Here are just a few of the more restrained comments:


Sun Prairie Schools Dealing With Bad Bus Behavior


Bus aides will soon be riding on some Sun Prairie school bus routes to keep the peace.
One of those routes is an elementary route from Horizon Elementary, reported WISC-TV.
Horizon principal Kathy Klaas said a letter was sent home to parents of the students who ride that route, to alert them to the fact that an aide would soon begin riding along.
“We’ve had some issues of horsing around,” said deputy district administrator Phil Frei.
“Sometimes that horsing around gets more serious where kids are bringing a paper clip and threatening kids with a paper clip. So, mostly it’s horsing around, but we wouldn’t allow that behavior in a classroom, and we don’t allow that on a bus.”
Frei said most of the 28 bus routes have 70 students on board, which can get loud, noisy, and sometimes out of hand.
If a problem or conflict arises, most drivers write up a report at the end of their shift. After that the school district must investigate the report and take the appropriate action.

Van Zandt rolls out plan for rock in schools

Mary Beth Marklein:

WASHINGTON — Steven Van Zandt says rock ‘n’ roll saved his life. Now he wants to return the favor.
The E Street Band guitarist and Sopranos star began sowing the seeds five years ago with the launch of Little Steven’s Underground Garage, an internationally broadcast weekly radio show that celebrates his favorite genre — garage rock, a sound that evokes images of teens practicing in somebody’s parents’ suburban garage.
Last year, he created the non-profit Rock and Roll Forever Foundation as a vehicle to preserve the music that so shaped his life.
Monday, he will unveil the foundation’s first project: a middle- and high-school curriculum designed to introduce a new generation of teens to the music. He planned to make the announcement in the nation’s capital, where he is playing two concerts with Bruce Springsteen and the other E Streeters.
Anyone attending the sold-out Springsteen shows might question the notion that rock ‘n’ roll is endangered. And never mind that The Sopranos skillfully wove rock music into its story line, right down to the last moments of the final episode.

The Pangloss Index: How States Game the No Child Left Behind Act: Wisconsin Tied for #1

Kevin Carey:

This report includes an updated Pangloss Index, based on a new round of state reports submitted in 2007. As Table 1 shows, many states look about the same Wisconsin and Iowa are tied for first, distinguishing themselves by insisting that their states house a pair of educational utopias along the upper Mississippi River. In contrast, Massachusetts—which is the highest-performing state in the country according to the NAEP—continues to hold itself to far tougher standards than most, showing up at 46th, near the bottom of the list.

Alan Borsuk:

Wisconsin – especially the state Department of Public Instruction – continues to avoid taking steps to increase the success of low-performing children in the state, a national non-profit organization says in a report released today.
For the second year in a row, Education Sector put Wisconsin at the top of its Pangloss Index, a ranking of states based on how much they are overly cheery about how their students are doing. Much of the ranking is based on the author’s assessment of data related to what a state is doing to comply with the federal No Child Left Behind education law.
“Wisconsin policy-makers are fooling parents by pretending that everything is perfect,” said Kevin Carey, research and policy manager for the organization. “As a result, the most vulnerable students aren’t getting the attention they need.”
DPI officials declined to comment on the new report because they had not seen it yet. In 2006, Tony Evers, the deputy state superintendent of public instruction, objected strongly to a nearly identical ranking from Education Sector and said state officials and schools were focused on improving student achievement, especially of low-income and minority students on the short end of achievement gaps in education.
The report is the latest of several over the last two years from several national groups that have said Wisconsin is generally not doing enough to challenge its schools and students to do better. The groups can be described politically as centrist to conservative and broadly supportive of No Child Left Behind. Education Sector’s founders include Andrew Rotherham, a former education adviser to President Bill Clinton, and the group describes itself as non-partisan.
Several of the reports have contrasted Wisconsin and Massachusetts as states with similar histories of offering high-quality education but different approaches toward setting statewide standards now. Massachusetts has drawn praise for action it has taken in areas such as testing the proficiency of teachers, setting the bar high on standardized tests and developing rigorous education standards.
The Education Sector report and Carey did the same. The report rated Massachusetts as 46th in the nation, meaning it is one of the most demanding states when it comes to giving schools high ratings.
Carey said that in 1992, Wisconsin outscored Massachusetts in the nationwide testing program known as NAEP, the National Assessment of Educational Progress. But Wisconsin is now behind that state in every area of NAEP testing, he said.
“Unlike Wisconsin, Massachusetts has really challenged its schools,” Carey said.

Additional commentary from TJ Mertz and Joanne Jacobs. All about Pangloss.

AP vs. IB vs. Neither: A Plea for Peace and Love

Jay Matthews:

Watch out. Tumultuous days are ahead in the war of advocates for college-level high school courses such as Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate, particularly with the rise of some schools that say their teachers can do a better job without AP or IB.
Insults are flying. Good people could get hurt. I have a peace plan, but first let’s inspect the battlefield.
The AP vs. IB topic on my Admissions 101 discussion group at the Web site has 1,233 posts and more are pouring in. At the same time, educators who want to banish AP from their schools just launched a new Web site, ExcellenceWithoutAP. On Wednesday, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute at edexcellence will release one of the most detailed AP vs. IB comparisons ever: “Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate: Do They Deserve Gold Star Status?”
The Fordham report looks like a peace-making gesture, since it concludes that both programs “set high academic standards and goals for learning” and provide exams that allow students to “apply their knowledge in creative and productive ways.” But the AP vs. IB combatants will likely squabble over slight differences in the grades Fordham gave AP and IB courses in biology and math. And the ExcellenceWithoutAP people are going to hate the parts of the Fordham report that warn against attempts, like theirs, to make college-level courses in high school more thematic and deny students — at least in Fordham’s view — the solid facts, such as “the names, dates, events, documents and movements important to our history.”
The College Board still dominates the battlefield, with more than 14,000 high schools using its AP program. IB has only about 500. ExcellenceWithoutAP lists about 50 schools that have dropped or never had AP. This is a big jump from the 12 schools identified in this column two years ago. But even this group is made up of schools so small that they produce less that one-fifth of 1 percent of U.S. high school seniors graduating each year.

Teacher certification is no guarantee

Jennifer Fink:

A piece of paper does not a teacher make.
So while the Milwaukee School Board considers whether teachers in charter schools should be certified in each academic subject they teach, an inconvenient truth remains: A teaching certificate is not a guarantee of teaching competence.
Yes, a teaching certificate proves that certain standards have been met, that the bearer has studied education theory and teaching techniques and demonstrates basic mastery of an area of academic study. But does this translate directly into the ability to help individual students? A roomful of students?
If a teacher is certified to teach English but not science, does that mean science is hopelessly out of his league? Or does it merely mean that the teacher in question has jumped through the hoops required to gain an English certificate?
The teachers union would have you believe that a teaching certificate is akin to a sacred talisman, as if only those who possess the talisman are qualified to share their unique knowledge. Actually, it would be preferable if the union phrased it that way – it would be easier to recognize the union’s specious argument. Instead, the union tries to frame it as a quality-control problem.
“Professional is professional,” said Dennis Oulahan, president of the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association at an October School Board committee meeting, according to an Oct. 12 Journal Sentinel article. “If we’re willing to play with that, how serious are we about moving student achievement forward in this district?”

Report Gives Good Grades to Precollege Courses

Peter Schmidt in The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that “(t)he Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a nonprofit research organization, favorably reviews several Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate programs in a report scheduled to be released this week.
The study evaluated course materials, teacher’s guides, and examinations used in connection with Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate programs in biology, English, history, and mathematics. Based on reviews of the materials conducted by experts in the fields covered, the report concludes that the courses generally merit praise. The biology offerings in particular deserve high marks, it says.
The researchers did not examine how well the courses are actually being taught, and its report warns that “successful implementation of these programs depends on the availability of talented, motivated, and well-educated teachers.”
The institute plans to make the report available online as of Tuesday, although it is not scheduled for release to the public until the following day.”

“Educrats (WEAC, DPI) to parents: Bug off”

Patrick McIlheran:

My daughter asked the other day about why the sky is blue. It turned into a talk about light waves. Sure, it was a teachable moment but my bad; I’m not a licensed teacher.
I now know how wrong I was. I heard it from a state lawyer arguing before an appeals court about the Wisconsin Virtual Academy. Parents are incompetent to recognize such moments – that’s what he actually said – so the public charter school needs to be shut down now.
The lawyer, who represents the Department of Public Instruction, was siding with the big teachers union, the Wisconsin Education Association Council. The union four years ago sued the department to shut down the academy, a public school that offers classes to 850 students statewide. Now, the state has switched sides and says the school is breaking the law, a claim already rejected in court. All the school is breaking is paradigms.
Here’s how it works: Children log on with software made for virtual schooling. They go to a virtual class with a live teacher, or they have lessons assigned by a teacher, or they do one-on-one work with a teacher, or they get their homework evaluated by a teacher, or they talk on a phone or meet face to face with a teacher. Notice who’s involved.
Why, it’s the child’s parent, claim the educrats and the union. The nub of the case is that because parents help when children are stuck or act as an on-hand coach, it means they’re really the teachers. They’re unlicensed; ergo, the school’s illegal. Let this be a warning when your tot asks for homework help.
The state’s lawyer, Paul Barnett, said that when teachable moments come to academy kids, parents can’t recognize them. “This school depends on unlicensed, untrained, unqualified and, um, adults who are not required to prove competence,” he told the court.
He later says that the state wants parents involved in schools. Just wipe your boots first, you peasants.
Aside from what insults the state hurls at the academy’s parents, “it really is almost demeaning to the work our teachers do,” says Principal Kurt Bergland.
“I home-schooled before,” says parent Julie Thompson of Cross Plains. “This is different.”
The academy does mean that Thompson’s seventh-grade daughter learns at home, except when she joins other academy kids for hands-on science. But Thompson doesn’t plan the curriculum, teach the lessons or evaluate progress. The school’s 20 teachers do. Children move on only when those teachers say they’re ready.
The parents’ role adds to this. Some describe it as being a teachers aide, and Bergland, for years a teacher and administrator in a brick-and-mortar public school, says they get training similar to what aides get. “But the thing that they have way beyond most aides I’ve worked with is an understanding of their learner,” he says.
Naturally, the results are good. Even the state’s lawyer said so, only he claims they’re irrelevant.

Experts debate Arizona student testing model

Jonathan Cooper:

Arizona’s student testing model is flawed, and the state’s top education official is exaggerating student success on standardized tests, a conservative researcher charged Thursday.
“It’s a bit like watching Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa beating these baseball records,” said Matthew Ladner, vice president of research at the Goldwater Institute. “It could be that they’re just better baseball players. Or it could be that the ball is juiced or the players are taking steroids.”
Ladner debated Tom Horne, Arizona’s superintendent of public instruction, at an annual meeting of education researchers held at Arizona State University’s Downtown Phoenix Campus.
Horne called Ladner a “demagogue” and said the Goldwater Institute is selective with facts and spreads false information as a scare tactic.
“They can’t stand the idea that there could be anything good in public education,” Horne said.

New Studies on Children with Behavior Challenges

Benedict Carey:

Educators and psychologists have long feared that children entering school with behavior problems were doomed to fall behind in the upper grades. But two new studies suggest that those fears are exaggerated.
One concluded that kindergartners who are identified as troubled do as well academically as their peers in elementary school. The other found that children with attention deficit disorders suffer primarily from a delay in brain development, not from a deficit or flaw.
Experts say the findings of the two studies, being published Tuesday in separate journals, could change the way scientists, teachers and parents understand and manage children who are disruptive or emotionally withdrawn in the early years of school. The studies might even prompt a reassessment of the possible causes of disruptive behavior in some children.
“I think these may become landmark findings, forcing us to ask whether these acting-out kinds of problems are secondary to the inappropriate maturity expectations that some educators place on young children as soon as they enter classrooms,” said Sharon Landesman Ramey, director of the Georgetown University Center on Health and Education, who was not connected with either study.

When a new super arrives #1

Will the board continue to be weak — letting the super set the agenda and following along? Or, will the board exert some leadership?

Math Task Force Working Group Meeting Notice

Notice of Madison School Board Meetings
Week of November 12, 2007

Thursday, November 15
1025 West Johnson Street
Madison, WI 53706
Room 247
Math Task Force – Student Achievement and Data Working Group
9:00 a.m.
1. Introductions and Review of Agenda
2. Main Questions to be Answered by Data for the Mathematics Task Force and the Priority of the Questions
3. Data Sources and Availability
4. Necessary Resources to Produce the Needed Analyses
5. Adjournment Education Sciences Bldg.

Montgomery School’s New Take On Ability Grouping Yields Results

Via a reader email – Daniel de Vise:

In a notebook on her desk at Rock View Elementary School, Principal Patsy Roberson keeps tabs on every student: red for those who have failed to attain proficiency on Maryland’s statewide exam, an asterisk for students learning English and squares for black or Hispanic children whose scores place them “in the gap.”
Roberson and the Rock View faculty are having remarkable success lifting children out of that gap, the achievement gap that separates poor and minority children from other students and represents one of public education’s most intractable problems.
They have done it with an unusual approach. The Kensington school’s 497 students are grouped into classrooms according to reading and math ability for more than half of the instructional day.
The technique, called performance-based grouping, is uncommon in the region. Some educators believe it too closely resembles tracking, the outmoded practice of assigning students to inflexible academic tracks by ability.
Educators say Rock View, however, is using the same basic concept to opposite effect, and the results have been positive. While some other Montgomery County schools serving low-income populations have posted higher test scores, few have shown such improvement or consistency across socioeconomic and racial lines.

Joanne has more.

The No Child Left Behind law is scheduled for reauthorization by the end of this year, but Congress has been slow to make that happen

Eddy Ramirez:

It was expected to be one of the most contentious debates of the political year. President Bush’s landmark No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 is due for reauthorization by the end of 2007. But as the calendar ticks into November, little has been heard since early summer, when U.S. House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller began circulating his proposed changes to the education law designed to combat the “soft bigotry of low expectations.” The Democrat’s proposal—which included allowing schools to measure how much students learn using methods other than the policy’s signature standardized tests—was simultaneously criticized for potentially weakening the law and potentially making it more stringent. By both Democrats and Republicans.

Summit called to address racial disparities in academic performance

Nanette Asimov:

Every time state schools chief Jack O’Connell thought he was doing something to close the achievement gap, a new round of test scores showed that black and Latino students had gained no ground on their white and Asian American peers.
Like many educators, O’Connell assumed the culprit was poverty. Then he noticed an even wider ethnic disparity among students who were not poor.
The realization was a jolt: Being black or Latino – not poor – was what the low-scorers had in common. And it changed everything.
O’Connell now believes that widespread cultural ignorance within the California school system is responsible for the poor academic performance of many black and Latino students in school.
He offered the example of black children who learn at church that it’s good to clap, speak loudly and be a bit raucous. But doing the same thing at school, where 72 percent of teachers are white and may be unfamiliar with such customs, will get them in trouble, he said.

St. Louis Mayor Invites Charter Schools

David Hunn:

Mayor Francis Slay has laid the groundwork for a new system of hand-picked public charter schools, meant to rival the city’s sinking school district and draw families back to the city.
Today, Slay’s office will send roughly 70 letters to local educators, Midwest nonprofit education groups, and big charter school companies across the country.
Those letters will invite each of them to start a school here.
His goal is to open quality schools. How many? Realistically, he thinks two or three a year, adding as many as 30 in the next 10 years.
The schools would steer thousands of kids away from the St. Louis Public Schools.
“Our city is cleaner, safer and more beautiful than it has been in a long time,” Slay wrote in the letter. “In short, St. Louis has it all — except enough quality public schools.”
But some say the plan would create a cycle disastrous to the city school district.
“It sounds like a plan, then, to abandon half the children in St. Louis,” said Peter Downs, president of the elected St. Louis School Board. “It’s like setting up two fire departments, two police departments. If you try to do it at the same cost, you have a lot more impoverished schools.”

Imperfect though it is, New York’s attempt to improve its schools deserves applause

The Economist:

IN THE 1990s New York City’s success in cutting crime became a model for America and the world. Innovative policing methods, guided by the “broken windows” philosophy of cracking down on minor offences to encourage a culture of lawfulness, showed that a seemingly hopeless situation could be turned around. It made the name of the mayor, Rudy Giuliani, now a presidential aspirant.
Hopeless is how many people feel about America’s government-funded public schools, particularly in the dodgier parts of big cities, where graduation rates are shockingly low and many fail to achieve basic levels of literacy and numeracy. As with urban crime, failing urban schools are preoccupying countries the world over. And just as New York pointed the way on fighting crime, under another mayor, Michael Bloomberg, it is now emerging as a model for school reform.
On November 5th Mr Bloomberg announced a new “report card” for the city’s schools, designed to make them accountable for their performance. The highest-graded schools will get an increased budget and perhaps a bonus for the principal (head teacher). Schools that fail will not be tolerated: unless their performance improves, their principals will be fired, and if that does not do the trick, they will be closed. This is the culmination of a series of reforms that began when Mr Bloomberg campaigned for, and won, direct control of the school system after becoming mayor in 2002. Even before the “report cards”, there have been impressive signs of improvement, including higher test scores and better graduation rates.

NYC School Progress Reports:

Progress Reports grade each school with an A, B, C, D, or F. These reports help parents, teachers, principals, and others understand how well schools are doing—and compare them to other, similar schools. Most schools received pilot Progress Reports for the 2005-06 school year in spring 2007. Progress Reports for Early Childhood and Special Education schools will be piloted during the 2007-08 academic year.
To find the Progress Report for your school, go to Find a School and enter the school’s name or number. This will bring you to the school’s Web page. Click on “Statistics,” which is a link on the left side of the page, where various accountability information can be found for each school. You can also ask your parent coordinator for a copy of your school’s Progress Report or e-mail PR_Support@schools.nyc.gov with questions. Click here to view the Progress Report results for all schools Citywide.
Schools that get As and Bs on their Progress Reports will be eligible for rewards. The Department of Education will work with schools that get low grades to help them improve. Schools that get low grades will also face consequences, such as leadership changes or closure. This is an important part of our work to hold children’s schools accountable for living up to the high standards we all expect them to achieve.

The Great Experiment:

Bringing accountability and competition to New York City’s struggling schools.
THE 220 children are called scholars, not students, at the Excellence charter school in Brooklyn‘s impoverished Bedford-Stuyvesant district. To promote the highest expectations, the scholars—who are all boys, mostly black and more than half of whom get free or subsidised school lunches—are encouraged to think beyond school, to university. Outside each classroom is a plaque, with the name of a teacher’s alma mater, and then the year (2024 in the case of the kindergarten), in which the boys will graduate from college.
Like the other charter schools that are fast multiplying across America, Excellence is an independently run public school that has been allowed greater flexibility in its operations in return for greater accountability, though it cannot select its pupils, instead choosing them by lottery. If it fails, the principal (head teacher) will be held accountable, and the school could be closed. Three years old, Excellence is living up to its name: 92% of its third-grade scholars (eight-year-olds, the oldest boys it has, so far) scored “advanced” or “proficient” in New York state English language exams this year, compared to an average (for fourth-graders) across the state of 68% and only 62% in the Big Apple. They did even better in mathematics.

Students in Boston’s Pilot School Outpacing Others

Kathleen Kennedy Manzo:

When Lindsey Jones was deciding which high school to attend in a district that offers nearly three dozen options for secondary education, she was swayed by the Boston Community Leadership Academy’s claims that it would prepare her well for college. She didn’t realize how well until she started classes at the 400-student academy, part of a network of small schools the Boston district established more than a decade ago to provide alternatives outside its traditional system of large, comprehensive high schools and selective exam schools.
A four-year study of that network, released this week, shows that the academy and the nine other “pilot” high schools in the 56,000-student district are seeing more students through to graduation than regular high schools here. They also have significantly higher promotion and graduation rates, fewer dropouts, and fewer disciplinary issues.
Conceived in 1994 as the district’s response to charter schools, pilot schools have won praise from educators, business leaders, and community groups for providing school choice and innovation within the city’s public school system.
Still, some observers say their results are due more to the schools’ ability to choose or remove teachers, lower proportions of high-needs students, and the control they have in selecting students or weeding out those who are not likely to succeed in them.

Strong Results, High Demand, a Four Year Study of Boston’s Pilot High Schools 4.3MB PDF.

Spellings Pushes for Standardized Graduation Data

Nancy Zuckerbrod:

If Congress doesn’t get the job done, Education Secretary Margaret Spellings says she’ll consider using her authority to require states to report high school graduation rates in a more uniform and accurate way.
“I think we need some truth in advertising,” Spellings said in an interview, referring to the hodgepodge of ways states now report graduation data.
States calculate their graduation rates using all sorts of methods, many of which critics say are based on unreliable information about school dropouts.
Republicans and Democrats in Congress have drafted proposals to better gauge how well high schools are doing at getting students diplomas, and doing it on time. The changes are part of a rewrite of the No Child Left Behind education law, but that bill’s progress has stalled amid disputes over unrelated testing and teacher pay issues.

On American School Reform: the pressure for change is coming from parents, which bodes well

The Economist (Los Angeles & New Orleans):

OUTSIDE New York, as usual, it is a different story. Most American mayors look longingly at Michael Bloomberg’s accomplishments and wish they were equally mighty. West of the Mississippi, none has succeeded in seizing control of a school system. Nor are they likely to be able to do so: the early 20th century progressive movement, strongest in the West, severely blunted their powers. “We haven’t had reform from the top here,” says Eli Broad, a Los Angeles philanthropist. “So instead we’re seeing change from the bottom up.”
In the vanguard are charter schools like the Academy of Opportunity [Ask Google Live Yahoo] in south-central Los Angeles. Here 13- and 14-year-olds, almost all of them black or Hispanic, firmly shake your hand and outline their plans to go to Yale and Stanford. They work long hours—from 7.30am to 5pm five days a week, plus four hours every other Saturday. The grind pays off. At the end of their first year in the school just 28% of pupils are proficient or advanced in maths, compared to 48% of pupils elsewhere in California. By the time they leave, three years later, they far outperform their peers.

“Coke, Pepsi agree to new school snack law”


The American Beverage Association is supporting proposed U.S. Farm Bill legislation that would curb the sale of soft drinks in schools.
The proposed legislation would limit the sale of sports drinks to athletic areas in high schools. Only bottled water, milk, juice or other drinks containing no more than 25 calories for every eight ounces would be allowed, the Wall Street Journal said Friday.

Interesting perspective, that perhaps speaks to their market power.

Madison Schools’ Expulsion Data Update

Susan Troller:

A total of 92 students were recommended for expulsion in 2006-07, compared with 105 similar recommendations the previous year. Students are recommended for expulsion for a serious violation of the district’s student conduct and discipline plan.
Following the recommendation, the student may be expelled, or may be diverted or dismissed from the process for special education reasons, or because there is not sufficient proof of the violation.
According to the report, 12 students were expelled for use of force against a staff member, eight were expelled for possession of a weapon with intent to use, and seven were expelled for possessing an illegal drug with intent to deliver.
Other offenses included engaging in physical acts of violence as part of a gang (four students), possession of a bomb or explosive device or making a bomb threat (three students), possession of a pellet or BB gun (three students), and physical attacks, arson, serious threats to students and something called “volatile acts.”
School Board President Arlene Silveira noted that the board will be considering expulsion policies at its meeting on Monday.
“The board has had a series of meetings to ensure that we have a fair, consistent and unbiased process for considering expulsions,” Silveira said. “This is an ongoing process, and we will be taking a look at how we fairly handle the student code of conduct in coming meetings.”


Much more on gangs and school violence.

Adult Supervision

Charles Sykes:

One of the classic books on college pranks is memorably titled, “If At All Possible, Involve a Cow.” These days we probably need to add, “And Bring a Lawyer.”
The Christian Science Monitor reports that colleges across the country now require permits or permission slips for undergraduate pranks. This was perhaps inevitable: First they came for dodgeball. Then tag. How long could something as spontaneous and fun as the prank escape?
Educational administrators justify the new prank rules by invoking 9/11, though most college pranks have as much to do with terrorism as a greased pig in the hallway has to do with the invasion of Poland. But the war on spontaneity continues.
In Cincinnati, the nannies who run the Little League have decided to ban chatter on the diamond. The league president explained: “If you’re saying, ‘Swing, batter,’ and this poor little kid is swinging at everything, he feels bad and maybe he turns to the catcher and gets mad. Honest to gosh, I didn’t have any trouble doing this.”
A Colorado Springs elementary school is one of the latest to ban tag on its playground. Running will still be allowed as long as there is no chasing. The ban wasn’t the idea of overprotective educrats — it was the result rather of children and their parents who “complained that they’d been chased or harassed against their will.” Other schools have already banned swings, merry-go-rounds, teeter-totters, crawl tubes, sandboxes and even hugs.

Waukesha County School Patrols Discussed

Scott Williams:

Some county supervisors are trying to cut the Sheriff’s Department budget next year in hopes of forcing the department to demand more funding from the schools.
Sheriff’s officials contend the school assignments are routine patrol decisions that should be left to law enforcement.
But critics of the program say the schools are getting special treatment and county taxpayers should not have to pay for it.
“There’s something wrong here,” said Supervisor Rodell Singert of Vernon, who is proposing a $200,000 cut in the sheriff’s budget next year.
Some supervisors say they are willing to see no sheriff’s deputies inside Arrowhead High School and others, if the school districts are unwilling to pay the bill.
Singert said having deputies patrol school grounds is “a substitute” for having school administrators capable of maintaining order in the facilities.
“I’d rather put teachers in the classrooms for that kind of money,” he added.

Drama at East and West

Need a Little Drama in Your Life?
Come support the drama communities at East and West!
At West HS [Map] — “I Hate Hamlet”
Friday, November 9, 7:30
Saturday, November 10, 7:30
Tickets $5.00
At East HS [Map] — “The Crucible”
Thursday, November 15, 7:30
Friday, November 16, 7:30
Saturday, November 17, 2:30 and 7:30
Tickets $5.00

Wright Middle School Celebrates 10 years with Give Us 10! Campaign


Students and staff at James C. Wright Middle School will commemorate the tenth anniversary of the charter school through a Give Us 10! campaign. Wright students will read 10 books outside of the classroom curriculum and then create a mural showcasing their hand prints and the book titles they’ve read. This colorful symbol of student achievement will be showcased in the LMC at Wright.
Community members are welcome to join in the celebration by honoring students who reach the ten book goal. They can show their support by contributing $10 to the Wright Middle School Endowment at the Foundation for Madison’s Public Schools, so they too can Give Us 10!


Malcolm Gladwell talks about our working future

Rebecca Dube:

If you feel like work is getting harder, it’s not just your imagination, says Malcolm Gladwell.
The bestselling author of Blink and The Tipping Point says the mental demands of the workplace are steadily growing — and we’re all going to have to smarten up if we want to succeed.
“I’m quite prepared for the possibility that the next revolution is not going to come from a machine,” says Mr. Gladwell, 44, a staff writer for New Yorker magazine, who has carved out his own niche as a business guru. “It’s going to come from creating a more thoughtful work force and giving people the opportunity to be thoughtful.”
Among his recommendations: Business leaders should get more involved in education policy debates, Canada should consider other countries’ models for teaching advanced mathematics, and hiring managers should stop looking for a perfect fit when scouting for employees.
When you say that the cognitive demands of the workplace will be growing, what do you mean?
We will require, from a larger and larger percentage of our work force, the ability to engage in relatively complicated analytical and cognitive tasks. So it’s not that we’re going to need more geniuses, but the 50th percentile is going to have to be better educated than they are now. We’re going to have to graduate more people from high school who’ve done advanced math, is a very simple way of putting it.

Math Forum Audio / Video.