The ongoing debate over going it alone

Lorraine Ali:

Sloan found herself single at 41, though she’d always considered herself “definitely the marrying kind.” Determined to become a mother, the Brooklyn-based writer inseminated herself with sperm from an unknown donor she refers to as No. 2, “a tall, handsome green-eyed actor (Favorite color: blue. Favorite pet: dogs)” in the attic of her conservative family’s Kennebunkport, Maine, summer house. Sloan now has a 16-month-old son, and uses her experience—as well as those of almost 50 more unpartnered, educated and financially independent straight and gay females over 30—to propel her humorous “how to” book for aspiring single moms. She offers practical advice on choosing the right donor and informing prospective grandparents in chapters titled “Oops, I Forgot to Have a Baby” and “Trysts With the Turkey Baster.”
Sloan’s amusing take on this provocative subject is already spurring caustic feedback online, though it’s the lightest offering among several recent books that include Rosanna Hertz’s academic account, “Single by Chance, Mothers by Choice,” and Mikki Morrissette’s firsthand account/guide, “Choosing Single Motherhood.” “We’re in a transition period—people are not just getting married because that’s what you do if you want to have kids,” says Sloan. “Women now have careers, are financially independent and waiting until they find the right guy. Most of us want to meet the perfect person and live happily ever after, but sometimes we don’t.”

Seeking Parents’ Help in Saving a Great Elementary School Program

The program is a small, mixed-age classroom for first through third graders at the Montessori Children’s House on Madison’s west side, where my eldest child currently attends preschool. It is in danger of being eliminated because of diminishing enrollment. I think that this would be a horrible loss to many academically talented children who would do so well there. They do so many things right there, such as:

  • Nurturing, home-like environment in which intense curiosity is normal
  • Mixed-age classroom, which encourages children to work at their own pace
  • Elegant learning materials
  • Freedom of movement and plenty of outside time
  • Freedom to follow their own intellectual curiosity
  • No busy work
  • No homework (unless the child chooses to keep working on something after school)
  • Emphasis on peace and global citizenship
  • Healthy snacks provided, healthy lunch to be brought from home
  • Parental involvement welcomed (the school is a parent run co-op)

As a small community, it would only take a few more children to keep the program viable. If you are the parent of a child who would benefit from such an environment, would you please look at the school’s website
and maybe take some time to observe the classroom?
Our family is committed to public schools, and we know that a school district needs talented kids and engaged families to thrive. This program would allow kids to integrate back into the public schools at a fairly young age, while protecting and nurturing them through a critical period of development.
Upon re-reading this message, it sounds like I’m making a blatant marketing pitch (which, frankly, I am). Please forgive me and understand that my only interest in the program is that it survive so that it is an option for my two children, ages 4 and 1, when they are old enough to need it. I hope that there are a few families here who might find a home there. Sincerely, Dawn M. Rappold []

Latest MMSD Today is Online

A few articles:

  • Susie Hobart: “Sa—Wa—Dee—Ka”: Fulbright Hayes Scholar, Summer 2007

  • Anxiety. Excitement. Anticipation. As I stuffed my sweatshirt into my carry-on, I worked up a smile for the immigration camera and customs officer. It was midnight, and he graciously greeted me with my first SA WA DEE KA (“Hello and how are you, ma’am,”) and asked me my business in Thailand.
    I told him I was on an educational exchange. Satisfied, he stamped the king’s logo on my passport.
    I moved past security, sweating in the steamy 98 degree heat, scanning the crowded area. I was finally one of those people met by someone with a sign in the airport! There it was — FULBRIGHT!
    Over the next month and a half, that word would become comfortably familiar as it was flown from every door, meeting hall and school as I traveled with 14 teachers in Thailand and Viet Nam.

  • Principals for a Day
  • What is it like being a Principal?

Free online materials could save schools billions

Greg Toppo:

Since March, Dixon Deutsch and his students have been quietly experimenting with a little website that could one day rock the foundation of how schools do business.
A K-2 teacher at Achievement First Bushwick Elementary Charter School in Brooklyn, N.Y., Deutsch, 28, has been using, a reading instruction program that allows him to download, copy and share lessons with colleagues.
He can visit the website and comment on what works and what doesn’t. He can modify lessons to suit his students’ needs and post the modifications online: Think of a cross between a first-grade reading workbook and Wikipedia, the popular online encyclopedia written and edited by users.
If Deutsch wants to see a lesson taught by someone who already has mastered it, he clicks on a YouTube video linked to the site and sees a short demo. “I find it’s more teacher-friendly than a textbook,” he says.

Related: Open Source Reading Instruction.

Learning Goes Beyond School Hours at Mimosa Elementary

Bill Sanders:

“I didn’t have any of my own children at the time when I started doing this,” Guy said. “The program started through our church and I thought investing time instead of just writing a check would be a great way to give back.”
At many schools, Guy would stand out as a hero for his volunteerism.
Here, he’s a star, but stars don’t stand out. There’s just too many of them.
Mimosa Elementary, a public kindergarten through fifth-grade Fulton County elementary school, bills itself as The Little School That Could.
The school is a throwback of sorts — or maybe it’s a look ahead. Despite its 808 students, it is a place where everyone knows your name. It is the community-gathering place, catering to children and adults, where people look after each other. That’s mostly by design, said Principal Cheryl Williams, who has worked 17 years at the school, the past three as principal. As the community around Mimosa changed, so did the needs of the students and the parents.
The more Mimosa got involved in the community, the more at ease parents became. And with time, the easier it got for Mimosa to apply for, and receive, grant money to offset the costs of some of the before-school and after-school programs.
“Mimosa’s success is because of how the staff here and the teachers support the kids,” Williams said. “There are nights when I have to make teachers leave the building at 8:30 or 9 at because they were still here doing some kind of volunteer work.”

Too Much TV Can Raise Kids’ Blood Pressure

HealthDay News:

Obese kids who develop hypertension may be watching far too much television, a new study suggests.
The finding “illustrates the need for considerable physician and family involvement to decrease TV time among obese children,” study author Dr. Jeffrey B. Schwimmer, associate professor of pediatrics at University of California, San Diego, said in a prepared statement.


Nicholas Meier:

At a party of a friend recently I got into a discussion with someone about education and the use of computer technology. The person I was conversing with suggested that educational software could and should be developed to relieve teachers of the technical aspects of teaching. Why should each teacher have to figure out how to teach reading or arithmetic when the best minds could solve that problem and create a computer program to teach the children these basic skills? Having software relieve teachers of this technical aspect of teaching, he argued, would free teachers to do the work that needed human interaction teaching critical and creative thinking. This suggestion makes me uncomfortable.
We agree that helping students to learn to use their minds well, in critical and creative ways, is given far too little attention in the large majority of classrooms. This is especially true in classrooms serving low-income and minority students. Because these students generally do less well on standardized tests, the schools that serve them are pressured to focus on raising those test scores.

“Blowing the Lid Off Reading Achievement”: Putting All the Pieces Together Audio/Video

Karin Chenoweth

mp3 audio file

Drs. Sally and Bennett Shaywitz

mp3 audio file

October 12/13 Conference Information:

Extraordinary progress in understanding the nature of reading and dyslexia, including their neural underpinnings, have direct implications for the earlier and more accurate identification and more effective treatment of dyslexia. This presentation focuses on these discoveries and their translation into clinical practices for overcoming dyslexia and for appreciating the sea of strengths associated with dyslexia.

Click on the photos to watch the video, or download the mp3 audio files.

Video/Audio: Madison United for Academic Excellence Meeting on Charter Schools 10/29/2007

mp3 audio file

Paula Sween and Dory Witzeling from the Odyssey-Magellan charter school for gifted students in grades 3-8 in Appleton and Senn Brown of the Wisconsin Charter Schools Association participated in a recent Madison United for Academic Excellence event. Ms. Sween was one of the founders of the Odyssey-Magellan program. She is currently the TAG Curriculum Coordinator for the Appleton school district. Ms. Witzeling is a teacher and parent at the school.
Click on the photo to view the video.

Dane County, WI AP High School Course Comparison

A quick summary of Dane County, WI High School 2007-2008 AP Course Offerings (source – AP Course Audit):

  • Abundant Life Christian School (3 Courses)
  • Cambridge (1)
  • DeForest (7)
  • Madison Country Day (International Baccalaureate – IB. However, Madison Country Day is not listed on the approved IB World website.)
  • Madison East (11)
  • Madison Edgewood (11)
  • Madison LaFollette (10)
  • Madison Memorial (17)
  • Madison West (5+1 2nd Year Calculus which “prepares students for the AP BC exam”)
  • Marshall (5)
  • McFarland (6)
  • Middleton – Cross Plains (7)
  • Monona Grove (7)
  • Mount Horeb (5)
  • Oregon (9)
  • Sauk Prairie (10)
  • Stoughton (6)
  • Sun Prairie (13)
  • Verona (10)
  • Waunakee (6)
  • Wisconsin Heights (6)

Links and course details are available here.
Related: Dual Enrollment, Small Learning Communities and Part and Full Time Wisconsin Open Enrollment.
Via a kind reader’s email.

Parents & School District Clash in Galveston

Rhiannon Meyers:

The public school district has officially demanded that parent Sandra Tetley remove what it says is libelous material from her Web site or face a lawsuit for defamation.
Tetley received a letter Monday from the district’s law firm demanding she remove what it termed libelous statements and other “legally offensive” statements posted by her or anonymous users, and refrain from allowing such postings in the future. If she refuses, the district plans to sue her, the demand letter states.
Tetley said she’ll review the postings cited by David Feldman of the district’s firm Feldman and Rogers. She’ll consider the context of the postings and consult attorneys before deciding what to delete.
“If it’s not worth keeping in there, I’ll take it out,” she said. “If in fact it is libelous, I have no problem taking it down.”
Libel Or Opinion?
Feldman said Tetley’s Web site — — contained the most “personal, libelous invective directed toward a school administrator” he’s seen in his 31-year career.

More here.
Galveston Alliance for Neighborhood Schools website.

Open Source Reading Instruction

Free-Reading is an “open source” instructional program that helps teachers teach early reading. Because it’s open source, it represents the collective wisdom of a wide community of teachers and researchers. It’s designed to contain a scope and sequence of activities that can support and supplement a typical “core” or “basal” program.

Via a reader’s email.

Educational Rewards

Paul Peterson & Matthew Chingos:

For-profit management of public schools is still in its infancy, and many wonder whether it can have a positive effect on student learning. In Philadelphia, that idea has been put to the test. The results, as we report in a paper issued last Friday by the Harvard Program on Education Policy and Governance, would not surprise Adam Smith.
The 18th-century economist explained that those who need to make a profit have strong incentives to do well by their customers. But can Smith’s theory actually work when one is talking about educating students in the most challenging of urban schools — at the very heart of a major metropolis? The answer appears to be yes.
When for-profit management of public schools was first proposed in Philadelphia six years ago, many in that city were extremely skeptical, if not aggressively hostile. So the Philadelphia School Reform Commission, the entity responsible for the innovation, gave only the 30 lowest performing schools to for-profit companies, while another 16 were given to nonprofit organizations, including two of the city’s major universities (Temple and the University of Pennsylvania). Others were reorganized by the school district itself.

Impact of For-Profit and Non-Profit Management on Student Achievement: The Philadelphia Experiment 200K PDF.

Is iTunes U for You?

Jeffrey Selingo:

In an empty classroom on the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Walter H.G Lewin, a physics professor, is practicing one of his lectures on the science of everyday phenomena.
Lewin has been teaching at MIT since the 1960s, and his courses are legendary among generations of students there. But he wants to get this lecture — where he dives into the science of rainbows, musical instruments and pacemakers — exactly right. The audience is not just his students at MIT. It could be anyone around the world with access to a computer and Apple’s iTunes store.
MIT is one of 28 colleges that have posted courses, campus speeches and other events on a section of iTunes known as iTunes U. Since the site was launched last spring with 16 institutions, material from it has been downloaded more than 4 million times.
Unlike other offerings from Apple’s music store, where songs cost 99 cents, everything on iTunes U is free. Penn State University offers instruction on information management. Users can download a general chemistry class from Seattle Pacific University, a lecture on the psychosocial aspects of health care from Northeastern University or a class on Ben Franklin from Stanford University. (No universities in the Washington area participate.)

School boundary initiative likely would boost test scores in seven affected buildings

Mike Sherry:

If a school boundary initiative in western Independence and Sugar Creek succeeds, test scores in the seven contested buildings may indeed increase right off the bat.
But that won’t necessarily demonstrate that the Independence School District is superior to the Kansas City School District.
A Kansas City Star analysis of test-score data suggests that Independence would generally inherit more of the higher-performing students from the seven buildings, leaving more of the tougher educational challenges to the Kansas

How Integration Has Increased

Bruce Murphy:

Last week, the Journal Sentinel did a story on the increase in integration in the Brown Deer school system. The story was a classic example of how a newspaper goes from day to day reporting without connecting the dots between different stories. Indeed, in this case, even the dots within that one story weren’t quite connected.
For years, the media has reported gloom-and-doom reports by academics about the “resegregation” of school systems. Gary Orfield, now at UCLA’s Civil Rights Project, has for two decades been telling America – and Milwaukee – how rotten we’re doing.
But here’s a simple question: How could the nation – and Milwaukee – be undergoing a process of becoming more segregated when the percentage of minorities in the country keeps going up? Sheer math tells you more integration would likely be occurring.
And, in many ways, that is exactly what’s happening. From 1994 to 2006, the percent of white students nationally attending schools that were at least 95 percent white dropped from 34 percent to 21 percent. In general, schools are getting more integrated, and Wisconsin had the fifth-largest decline in whites going to nearly all-white schools – a pretty positive trend.

Wendy Warren

Katy Vine:

Warren was born and raised in New York but has lived in Houston for more than twenty years. She is an eleventh-grade U.S. history teacher at Hastings High School, in the Alief Independent School District, which serves one of the state’s most ethnically diverse student populations. More than sixty languages and dialects are spoken by the area’s children.
I was in the corporate world for fifteen years before I made the switch to teaching. I worked in the Texas Medical Center doing professional billing and consulting. My career was going really well; I made good money and all that. But at about year ten, I was feeling that there had to be something more rewarding. So I went back to school, and after getting my teaching certification, I completed a master’s in education. Some people thought I was crazy to work longer hours—and with teenagers!

Bridging Gaps in Colleges Is Goal: Florida’s State University System is part of a plan to help minority and low-income students

Luis Zaragoza:

Florida and 18 other public university systems are pledging to increase the number of minority and low-income students who graduate from college. The initiative responds to a wide gap between the graduation rates for minority and low-income students and those for more affluent white students. Regardless of income, black and Hispanic students obtain bachelor’s degrees at lower rates: 41 percent for both minority groups, compared with 64 percent for white students, 2006 U.S. Department of Education statistics show. Schools across the country plan to beef up remedial education and financial-aid programs to cut that difference in half by 2015, participants said during a Wednesday news conference.

Police Will Be At Barneveld Schools Wednesday

The Barneveld School District said it will continue to have a police presence Wednesday.
Schools officials said they have identified the student they said is responsible for making a threat about a shooting set to occur later this week. District officials said that the graffiti was found on a bathroom wall.
District Superintendent Joe Bertone said that the student has been suspended pending an expulsion hearing from the school board.

Sun Prairie Will Get A New High School


un Prairie School District has spent the past few years warning residents that the schools there are becoming too crowded as the city expands.
This referendum wasn’t the first, but it was the first to pass. The District will get a new High School that will house 10th, 11th and 12th graders. The current High School will be used for 8th and 9th grade.
It’s a $96 million dollar cost for the new school.

Meanwhile, West Bend’s $119M referendum was defeated 62.6% to 37.4%.

If only the good news about Wisconsin education was true

Roger Frank Bass:

Finally, there was some really good news about education. According to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, the percentage of proficient readers in the third grade had increased from 64.8% in 1998 to 87.4% in 2005. And this improvement was broad-based – every minority group advanced substantially.

If only it were true

Deception No. 1: Test questions, their scoring and definitions of “proficiency” changed constantly. The number of test items, the kinds of items (multiple choice vs. short answer) and their content varied every year the test was given. The score needed for proficiency dropped more than 40%, from 50 in 1998 to 29 in 2005.

That sleight of hand entailed complex statistics to estimate how hard the revised test might be for the next crop of third-graders. That estimate, rather than criteria for effective reading, became the cutoff for proficiency. Obviously, even if mathematics could prove that two tests are equally hard, changing the questions every year meant that subsequent tests weren’t assessing the same thing. The tests were apples and oranges, and the mathematics a red herring.

Deception No. 2: Reading skills were less important than student guessing, and the test’s margin of error. Fifty-three of the test’s 58 items were multiple choice with four possible answers. So on average, students guessed 13 answers correctly. In addition, the test’s margin of error was six points.

Now remember, only 29 correct were needed for “proficiency” in 2005. So with 13 for guessing and six for test error, we have 19 of those 29 (65%). And that’s only the beginning. The statistical estimates of proficiency contributed additional error margins that were never added to the students’ scores.

Continue reading If only the good news about Wisconsin education was true

A Long Weekend? How About a Whole Year?

Caren Osten Gerszberg:

WHEN Peter and Jill Feuerstein sit around the dinner table with their teenage children, Betsy and Ben, it’s not unusual for them to have an animated discussion about a remote village in China, India or Zimbabwe. But unlike many people in their hometown of Larchmont, N.Y., the Feuersteins have a personal connection with these places. In June 2002, they embarked on a yearlong journey around the world with their two kids, then ages 14 and 11, in tow.
“The result is that all of these places matter to us now,” Mr. Feuerstein said. “The trip was a watershed experience for all of us.”
They are not alone. A growing number of American families with school-age children are turning their wanderlust into reality, say travel experts. Missions to expose children to cultural diversity and spend quality time together are among the reasons some parents are willing to exchange violin lessons and after-school sports for, say, a chance to dig for sapphires in New Zealand or to learn about land mines in Laos.

Seven Warnings and One Mistake in High School Reform

Jay Matthews:

I receive many reports on how to improve our schools. This is an occupational hazard. Reading them is often confusing, depressing, disorienting and maddening. But there is no help for it. The academic papers, commission recommendations and task force action plans are usually written by some of the smartest experts in the country. They have stuff I need to know, so I plow through them.
It is best that I be vague, however, about what the margins of these reports look like after I have finished with them. I have just gone through, for instance, a paper by two leading experts, W. Norton Grubb of the University of California, Berkeley, and Jeannie Oakes of the University of California, Los Angeles. I looked forward to reading their report, “‘Restoring Value’ to the High School Diploma: The Rhetoric and Practice of Higher Standards. 432K PDF” It was published by the Education and the Public Interest Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder and the Education Policy Research Unit at Arizona State University. They focus on the push for rigor in high schools and argue that the discussion spends too much time on narrow definitions of rigor, based on test scores and demanding courses, and ignores other conceptions, such as more sophisticated levels of understanding and the ability to apply learning in unfamiliar settings.
The authors write well and know their stuff. Nonetheless, here are some of the words I wrote on the margins: “stupid,” “so what?” “no! no!” “recipe for disaster,” “booo!” “who cares?” and a few others I may not quote on a family Web site.
Ordinarily, I would use this column to flay Grubb and Oakes for disagreeing with me on how to fix high schools, my favorite topic. But I am writing this on a lovely Saturday, with the leaves turning and the birds happily washing themselves in the little puddles left by my garden-watering wife. Why don’t I, just this once, write about this report’s good points? They include at least seven astute warnings about sloppy thinking in the high school reform debate. Here they are, plus one mistake in their thinking that I could not resist trashing.


New Study Gives Hovering College Parents Extra Credit

Jay Matthews:

Despite the negative reputation of “helicopter parents,” those moms and dads who hover over children in college and swoop into their academic affairs appear to be doing plenty of good.
That’s the conclusion of one of the nation’s most respected college surveys in a report, to be released today, that experts call the first to examine the effects of helicopter parenting.
Data from 24 colleges and universities gathered for the National Survey of Student Engagement show that students whose parents were very often in contact with them and frequently intervened on their behalf “reported higher levels of engagement and more frequent use of deep learning activities,” such as after-class discussions with professors, intensive writing exercises and independent research, than students with less-involved parents.

The 2007 National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE)

Learning and inequality

The Economist:

Good news: the education gap between men and women is narrowing
FEW things have been more true, and more universally believed, than that women get the rough end of life in poor countries. They bear the burden of child-rearing and a disproportionate share of the work of running the household, and rarely have real equality before the law. Social preferences for boys over girls are deep-seated: in China and north-western India, around 120 baby boys survive to age four for every 100 baby girls.
Yet the sexual balance of power in the world is changing, slowly but surely. New evidence can be found in the 2007 World Development Indicators from the World Bank. It is something to celebrate.

The making of a UPS driver
When big brown found that its twentysomething drivers were flunking out in droves, it had a serious problem on its hands: how to train generation y for a hard blue-collar job.

Nadira Hira:

It’s 9:45 A.M., and at 93 degrees and 1,000% humidity, Saddle Brook, N.J., feels more like the Serengeti than suburbia. I’m in a doorless truck, wearing high-waisted shorts, facing a day full of handcarts and heavy boxes. When I arose at 5:45 this morning – an hour I haven’t seen the daytime side of since … ever – the day had something of the adventurous about it. Like more of my Generation Y peers than one might expect, I’d never worn a uniform, or even properly nine-to-fived it for that matter, and here at last was my chance.
UPS would soon fix me, though. At 8:15, after touring the huge open warehouse of concrete and conveyor belts that is UPS’s Saddle Brook center, I met Vincent “Vinny” Plateroti, a UPS “driver service provider,” or DSP – that’s UPS for driver – of 21 years and my escort for the day. At 8:45, we attended the “pre-work communications meeting,” or PCM – UPS for morning meeting – which included reports from the previous day and a short but detailed lecture on hydration.

Fear and Allergies in the Lunchroom

Claudia Kalb:

About 11 million Americans suffer from food allergies, and their numbers are climbing. Allergists also say they’re seeing more children with multiple allergies. Why do allergies appear to be on the rise? One of the most intriguing theories, dubbed the “hygiene hypothesis,” is that we’ve all become too clean. The immune system is designed to battle dangerous foreign invaders like parasites and viruses and infections. But clean water, antibiotics and vaccines have eliminated some of our most toxic challenges. Research even posits that kids born by Caesarean section, which have risen 40 percent in the last decade, could be at higher risk for allergies, perhaps because they were never exposed to healthy bacteria in their mothers’ birth canals.

Report: Parents Taking a More Active Role in Raising Children


Teachers and politicians have been clamoring for years for parents to get more involved with their children. The message appears to be getting through – at least to some.
Parents are setting greater restrictions on TV watching and are reading more to youngsters than they did a decade ago, the government reported Wednesday.
They are also encouraging more participation in extracurricular activities that focus on education, according to the report.
The findings suggest adults are reacting to a more dangerous world, while parents and students are dealing with increased competition to get into good colleges, experts said.
“Whether it’s a realistic panic or not, things like school shootings or child abductions or pedophile predators, that has a certain group of American parents pretty worried,” said Angela Hattery, a sociology professor at Wake Forest University.

Double Jeopardy: Repeat Births to Teens; One in Five Teens Giving Birth are Already Mothers

David Carrier:

What is worse than having a baby as a teenager? For one in five teens giving birth, it is having another baby as a teen. A new Child Trends research brief reveals that 20 percent of births to female teens between the ages of 15 and 19 in 2004 were to teens who were already mothers.
The brief, Repeat Teen Childbearing: Differences Across States and by Race and Ethnicity, highlights state-level data on second and higher order births. The proportion of teen births that are repeat births in each state tends to mirror overall teen birth rates:

Academic Achievement

By Michael Strand
Critics with a bent for sarcasm, for years, have derided the No Child Left Behind law by giving it what they think is a more descriptive title.
No Child Allowed Ahead, they call it.
And it’s not hard to see why. Newspapers and news magazines across the country have documented state after state and district after district gutting or eliminating millions of dollars in funding for programs for their highest-achieving students, diverting that money into programs for low-achieving students in order to meet the mandates of the law.
“I don’t think we’ve seen a tremendous change in our district, for which I’m grateful,” said Salina School Board president Carol Brandert, who later described the situation as “fortunate.”
If Brandert — a former English teacher well-known for being a stickler for using the right word — is using words that sound oddly passive, there’s a reason.
The question of cutting programs for top students has never come up, she said.
When Kay Scheibler first started heading the gifted program at Salina Central High School, 13 states mandated programs for top students. Today, Kansas is the only state with such a mandate.
“It’s mandated, so we’re not going to see any major changes without some legislative action,” she said.
“We’re unique, one out of 50,” confirmed Kansas Commissioner of Education Alexa Posny.
State law regarding those formally identified by their school as gifted closely parallels that for special education students, even using the same terminology — gifted students have an “Individual Education Plan.”

Challenges welcome at school

Patrick McILheran:

I wrote on Friday that St. Anthony’s, largest elementary school in Milwaukee’s choice program, shows that parents will opt for rigor. It shows, as well, that choice schools can handle difficult cases.
Virtually all of St. Anthony’s students are from low-income families. About 98% come from homes where Spanish is the language, says Principal Ramon Cruz. Many come, he says, because of St. Anthony’s approach to language.
You wouldn’t think that. Classes are not bilingual. The school is an immersion in English from the first day. Parents want this, says Cruz. They can get the alternative, having their children taught for at least a while in Spanish, at the nearby public school.
“The parents come to me and say, ‘We want the kids to learn the English language,’ ” says Cruz, an ex-MPS principal for whom English is a second language.
So tots in 4-year-old kindergarten are working on their English vocabulary. Nearby, another group works with a Spanish-fluent aide, in English, on letter names. They’ll start to read by January, says school president Terry Brown.

Rethinking How to Teach the New Teachers

Denise Caruso:

SCHOOL enrollments are increasing year by year, but qualified teachers are leaving the classroom in droves. More than a million veteran teachers are nearing retirement, and more will follow.
More than two million new teachers will be needed in the next decade alone, according to the National Education Association, and we should hope that they start lining up soon.
Economic research shows that an educated work force is the foundation of a stable economy. A good education does more than just increase a person’s earning potential. Studies find that regions that produce well-educated high school graduates have a higher rate of business start-ups and more economic activity. Graduates also provide communities with a continuing pool of taxpaying labor.
As teacher rosters shrink, the question is this: How long will such regions be able to hold onto those benefits?

Utah: At $8.4M, school voucher fight costlier than last governor’s race

Robert Gehrke:

The campaign clash over education vouchers has run up a tab that easily would fund Utah’s voucher program well into its second year.
The more than $8 million in campaign expenditures, reported to the Lieutenant Governor’s Office on Tuesday, included $2.6 million alone from Utah-based’s Chief Executive Officer Patrick Byrne and family.
The contributions from Byrne and his parents, John and Dorothy, made up three-quarters of the $3.5 million pro-voucher forces raised since September. Earlier in the campaign, Byrne gave $290,000.
“I have been lucky to be the recipient of the American dream,” Byrne said. “Whether you want to become a teacher or artist, an entrepreneur or doctor, having a great education is one of the keys to reaching dreams.”
The voucher program, which narrowly passed in the Legislature, must survive a referendum on Tuesday to be enacted.
Fundraising and spending between Oct. 27 and the election won’t be disclosed until January, under requirements of Utah law.
Most of the spending on both sides went to pay for the relentless campaigns that have targeted residents through TV, radio, newspapers, billboards and direct-mail ads.

Wingra School proves that progressive education works. Could it be a model for a public charter school?

Jason Shephard:

Inside Wingra School, the day is just beginning, and already Lisa Kass is commandeering a discussion about violence sparked by storyboards written by her fourth- and fifth-grade students.
“Why do you play violent videogames?” she asks. “Do you think the violence affects you?” This leads to a 45-minute discussion that temporarily pushes back a math lesson.
“It’s cartoon violence, it’s not real violence,” says one boy. “Well, really the goal is to kill people,” admits another. That, says a third student, is why he plays mostly strategy videogames.
The students at Wingra are articulate, reflective and eager to share their opinions. They refine their thoughts as Kass prods them to be more specific or clearer.
Kass, a 19-year veteran Wingra teacher, says later: “I don’t want to censor them, but I want them to think about what’s appropriate and what effects violence might have on them and others.”


Columbia (Missouri) Parents for Real Math

Math Excellence in Columbia Missouri Public Schools:

To: Columbia Public Schools Board of Education and Superintendent Phyllis Chase
An increasing number of parents and community leaders have expressed concern about the various math curricula currently used in the Columbia Public Schools (CPS). These experimental math programs go by the names of Investigations (TERC), Connected Math (CMP) and Integrated Math (Core Plus) and they emphasize “self-discovery” over mathematical competency. We are concerned because these curricula have been discredited and abandoned in other regions of the country after they failed to deliver demonstrable results. The failed curricula are currently the only method of instruction in the elementary grades and middle schools. At higher grade levels, CPS has actively discouraged students from enrolling in math courses that place more emphasis on widely accepted standard methods. And, while implementing and evaluating these programs, the Columbia School District did not provide open access to meetings or adequately consider the concerns of professional mathematicians, parents and community leaders.
Therefore, we, the undersigned, would like to express our deep concern with the following issues and to propose that the Columbia School District adopt the following goals:
1. Protect the right of students to become computationally fluent in mathematics. We expect students to receive direct instruction in standard algorithms of all mathematical operations and laws of arithmetic so that they can master the skills that allow fast, accurate calculation of basic problems. This goal cannot be met with the current Investigations/TERC math curriculum for lower grade levels.
2. Ensure that math instruction is flexible enough to allow for various learning styles and is age and grade-level appropriate. The elementary level should focus on math standards that will build a solid base of mathematical skills for ALL students. Middle school curricula should build a bridge between the fundamental arithmetic learned in elementary school and the more abstract concepts taught in high school. At both the elementary and middle school levels the curricula should allow teachers the flexibility to meet the needs of all types of learners. This goal cannot be met with the Connected Math program currently used in middle and junior high schools.

Related: Columbia Parents’ blog site, which offers a number of useful posts. [RSS]
Math Forum Audio / Video.
Via a reader.

Running Start gives high-schoolers jump-start on college credit

Amy Rolph:

If those college-prep classes feel a little emptier in high school these days, it’s because they are. About 10 percent of the students aren’t there.
Those 17,000 juniors and seniors aren’t truant. They’re enrolled at the local community college, getting a jump-start on earning college credit before high school graduation even rolls around.
That’s about how many high school students the State Board of Community and Technical Colleges estimates are enrolled in Running Start, the early entrance program that lets qualifying juniors and seniors earn college and high school credit at the same time and without paying anything. Enrollment has grown steadily since the program’s launch in 1990 — so much so that community college officials say it’s costing them almost $35 million a year to educate those extra high school students.
Success has its price, and the community colleges will ask the Legislature for $35 million more over five years — specifically $7 million each year.
“Over time, the Running Start program has grown successfully and the reimbursement the colleges get has stayed the same, while inflation has steadily grown,” said Suzy Ames, spokeswoman for the state community college board.
Community colleges are entitled to 70 percent of the money earmarked for each Running Start student, Ames said. But with more students wanting to start college early, the colleges have to add classes, faculty and staff to accommodate them.

Related: Madison’s Dual Enrollment Climate.
Running Start.
Celeste Flint:

I don’t think Seattle’s coffee addiction is making our students smarter. High schools have lowered the bar too far, and everybody knows it.
At age 10, American students score well above the international average, but by age 15, when American students are tested against those in 40 other countries, they drop to 25th place, according to an ABC report.
Youth literally get dumber the longer they stay in American schools.
With high school teachers so sensitive to self-esteem issues that they make it impossible to fail, it’s only natural that motivated young people want to get out.
Running Start is the fire escape out of the collapsing American education system. But as a result, the 17,000 Washington Running Start students, many who aren’t quite ready for higher education, are taking a toll on college courses.
Many high school students just don’t have the maturity to handle a real workload, and as a result the dumbing-down continues into college.
Being a transfer student from a community college, I witnessed countless high school students regularly skip classes, not do the homework and then complain until the teacher slowed down the course. Inevitably half the material was re-taught.

Autism ‘Epidemic’ Largely Fueled by Special Ed. Funding, Shift in Diagnosing


A few decades ago, people probably would have said kids like Ryan Massey and Eddie Scheuplein were just odd. Or difficult.
Both boys are bright. Ryan, 11, is hyper and prone to angry outbursts, sometimes trying to strangle another kid in his class who annoys him. Eddie, 7, has a strange habit of sticking his shirt in his mouth and sucking on it.
Both were diagnosed with a form of autism. And it’s partly because of children like them that autism appears to be skyrocketing: In the latest estimate, as many as one in 150 children have some form of this disorder. Groups advocating more research money call autism “the fastest-growing developmental disability in the United States.”
Doctors are concerned there are even more cases out there, unrecognized: The American Academy of Pediatrics last week stressed the importance of screening every kid for autism by age 2.

More here.

Milwaukee School’s 9% Property Tax Increase & School Funding Notes

Alan Borsuk:

In his statement, (Milwaukee Mayor Tom) Barrett says, “School Board members must come to grips with the costs of outstanding obligations and annual operations. Tough, fundamental decisions must be made, and must be made soon.”
That is something that was widely acknowledged at the board meeting, even as board members used a way of cutting the levy proposal that did not involve having to decide on cutting any current services in MPS.
The approved budget calls for spending $17.1 million less than Andrekopoulos proposed, but that amount will come from not making some pension and debt service payments that were in the budget for this year. MPS financial chief Michelle Nate said the decision, in itself, will not put pension or debt service funds into difficulty, but it is basically a one-time-only solution. And the overall decisions on the budget and the general forecast for MPS mean major changes will have to be made, she said.
This will be the first time in nine years that MPS will not spend the maximum amount allowed by state law, and board members worried about long-term effects. The less a school district spends, the less it gets in state aid in following years. The $17.1 million cut will mean $6.6 million less in state aid a year from now, Nate said.
That means MPS will start its budget process in spring that much further in trouble. Several board members said painful decisions might have to be made on things such as what level of busing the district can continue to offer.
The board did not debate new spending ideas proposed by Andrekopoulos, including $8 million to reduce high school class sizes and improve programs in areas such as foreign language, music and art; $5 million to improve math achievement; and $300,000 to restore ninth-grade basketball teams at some schools. Those ideas effectively were approved.

Related: “The school district must be more efficient, but political and business leaders must work to fix a flawed state aid formula.”

Revisiting Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health Outcomes At and After Birth

Sai Ma:

Intergroup differences in health can reflect on and result in unequal life opportunities. In particular, racial and ethnic disparities in birth outcomes have long been a concern for both researchers and policy makers. Differences in health at birth are especially critical because they may lead to disparities in health as well as socioeconomic conditions throughout one’s whole life. This dissertation contributes to three aspects of the existing literature regarding race/ethnicity and birth outcomes: First, it uses a propensity scoring estimation method to reassess the differences in birth outcomes across racial/ethnic groups. The result suggests the use of OLS may not be a practical concern, although propensity score estimation shows its own advantages and thus should be used as sensitivity analysis to complement OLS. Second, an examination of biracial infants shows that father’s race and ethnicity are relatively unimportant, but the presence of unreported fathers has a strong association with birth outcomes, which might be a source of bias in existing data, and a significant signal of potential post-birth health problems. Finally, this research investigates the competing power of different birth outcome measures as predictors of infant mortality. The results show that the importance of risk factors and birth outcome measures varies by race/ethnicity, gender, and time, which suggests a need to tailor prevention and education efforts, especially during the postneonatal period. These results, taken in combination, lead to the conclusion that policy makers need to not only continue focusing on closing the recognized gap between black and other racial/ethnic groups in birth outcomes, but also pay more attention to subpopulations that are traditionally not considered as at risk and certain time periods that are previously regarded as less risky.

Parents prove charter schools work

Scott Milfred:

The magic of charter schools isn’t so much the innovation they strive to achieve. The magic is the effect these schools have on parents.
At the Nuestro Mundo charter school on Madison’s East Side, you have to win a lottery to get your child into the program. This is true even for parents like me who live just a few blocks from Allis Elementary School, where Nuestro Mundo (which means “Our World ” in Spanish) is housed.
Imagine that — parents flooding a city school with enrollment applications for their kids. This is the opposite trend that Madison fears and must avoid.
Though rarely discussed in a frank way, Madison is increasingly nervous about middle- to upper-income parents losing faith in city schools and moving to the suburbs. As so many Madison leaders love to say: “As the schools go, so goes the city. ” Madison doesn ‘t want to become Milwaukee.

Related: Where have all the students gone?

Girls outpace boys on Illinois tests

Stephanie Banchero and Darnell Little:

irls in Illinois grade schools outperformed boys on every state achievement exam last school year, according to a Tribune analysis, a twist in performance that has perplexed state officials and educators across the state.
Historically, girls have scored higher than boys in reading and writing, while boys did better on the science and some of the math exams.
But while Illinois’ boys showed modest increases in most subjects and grades in recent years, girls have progressed much more rapidly, according to the 2007 Illinois State Report Card data made public Wednesday.

A new International Baccalaureate program is raising the game in middle school

Jay Matthews:

The letter published in the Reston Connection four years ago said the program at Langston Hughes Middle School promoted “socialism, disarmament, radical environmentalism, and moral relativism, while attempting to undermine Christian religious values and national sovereignty.”
The Middle Years Program, part of the International Baccalaureate system, was just getting started at Langston Hughes, and it wasn’t the first time an IB program had been slapped around in Fairfax County. W.T. Woodson High School had thrown out its IB courses in 1999, in part because some parents and teachers thought they were too global and played down American history. Syndicated columnist Thomas Sowell reported in 2004 that Fairfax parents were in revolt against IB. It was an exaggeration, but there was enough of a fight to raise concern about the program’s future in the Washington area’s biggest school district.
Some parents and teachers at Langston Hughes, and next door at South Lakes High School, where the MYP continued for ninth- and 10th-graders, distrusted a program invented in Switzerland and alien to what they remembered of their own more traditional middle school days. Other parents and teachers thought the MYP was wonderfully rigorous, with its commitment to global awareness, foreign languages and writing. The differences of opinion appeared to reflect tension between Americans who thought the country was too soft and those who thought the country was too dumb.
Who won? A visit to Langston Hughes this fall reveals that the people favoring smarter students have beaten those fearing foreign influence to an apparently invisible pulp. It is hard to find anyone who even remembers when the school’s unusual curriculum was considered a threat to American values. Instead, past and present Langston Hughes parents are greeting an unexpected jump in SAT scores at South Lakes — the biggest this year in Fairfax County — as proof that they were right to go with the MYP, perhaps the most challenging middle school program in America for non-magnet schools.

Kids & Parenting Series: Tutors


Parents face challenges every day. Thats why 27 News created the Parenting Project. Its a resource of information for parents of children of all ages. Each week, the Parenting Project provides useful information from experts, professionals, and other parents. Learn about everything from teething… to teenagers… to recall alerts…to how to find more time in your busy day.

Watch the report: video or listen via this mp3 audio file.

High school dropouts’ price is high

T. Keung Hui:

High school dropouts are costing North Carolina taxpayers millions of dollars each year, according to a new report, but there’s sharp disagreement on what is the best way to solve the problem.
The report released Wednesday by the Milton & Rose D. Friedman Foundation says a single year’s group of dropouts costs the state’s taxpayers $169 million annually in lost sales tax revenue and higher Medicaid and prison costs. It’s the first time a specific dollar figure has been given for the cost of dropouts in this state.
“In additional to the personal consequences it has on dropouts, this has a very real cost for taxpayers,” said Darrell Allison, president of Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina. The group instigated the report as part of its efforts to get public money vouchers for students to attend private schools.
The report’s recommended solution of using taxpayer-funded vouchers to help students pay for private schools has drawn a sharp dividing line between supporters and critics of public schools.

A Taste of College Work Provides Just the Spark

Anita Weier
A class started by a UW-Madison professor four years ago to give disadvantaged people a university experience has blossomed, resulting in about 40 of 100 “graduates” going on to college at the University of Wisconsin and elsewhere.
It’s also inspiring the current Odyssey class of 31, who gather every Wednesday night in a classroom at the Harambee Center in south Madison to stimulate their minds and learn literature and writing techniques, as well as history and philosophy.
“These are people who don’t have money but have extraordinary potential. We give them a chance and it’s amazing what can happen,” literature professor Emily Auerbach said before a recent class began. “This gives them a sense of the riches they can find.”

Read more about The Odyssey Project … and consider making an end-of-year contribution.

Bullying costs school $4M

Colleen Jenkins:

After a bully attacked Danny Heidenberg at Hillel School of Tampa, his parents complained to the principal of the Jewish community day school.
When the bully broke 12-year-old Danny’s arm in January 2004, they sued.
On Monday, a Hillsborough jury ordered the school to pay $4-million for failing to keep Danny safe.
Now 16, he has permanent nerve damage in his left hand and likely won’t be able to follow in his surgeon parents’ footsteps. The verdict sends a strong message to schools, the family’s attorney said.
“Schools have to wake up to the point that bullying is serious and supervision is serious,” said David Tirella, an attorney with Cohen, Jayson & Foster. “They allowed a bully to escalate.”

“Identical Strangers’ Explore Nature vs. Nurture”

Joe Richman:

What is it that makes us who we really are? Our life experiences or our DNA? Paula Bernstein and Elyse Schein were born and raised in New York City. Both women were adopted as infants and raised by loving families. They met for the first time when they were 35 years old and found they were “identical strangers”: they had been separated as infants as part of a secret research study of identical twins designed to examine the question of nature verses nurture. “When the families adopted these children, they were told that their child was already part of an ongoing child study. But of course, they neglected to tell them the key element of the study, which is that it was child development among twins raised in different homes,” Bernstein said. The results of the study, that ended in 1980, have been sealed until 2066 and given to an archive at Yale University. Of the 13 children involved in the study, three sets of twins and one set of triplets have discovered one another. The other four subjects of the study still do not know they have identical twins.

Special ed is drawn into exam debate

Liz Bowie:

With thousands of special-education students in Maryland high schools failing the state’s graduation exams, parents and advocates are deeply divided about whether these students should have to pass the tests.
The discussion is taking place as part of a larger debate by the state school board over whether all students, beginning with the Class of 2009, must pass High School Assessments in English, algebra, biology and American government before they can receive a diploma.
While about two-thirds or more of students are passing the tests, only about one-third of those in special education are doing so. There are about 30,000 special-education students in Maryland high schools.

Board of Education Progress Report — October, 2007

I hope your school year is going well. Below is the October BOE update.
If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact myself at or the entire board at
Arlene Silveira

Superintendent Search: Our consultants presented a summary of the
community input sessions on the desired characteristics for a new
superintendent. Read the entire report at
The desired superintendent characteristics approved by the BOE are
also available at this site. The consultant firm is recruiting and
screening candidates and will bring a slate of candidates back to the
BOE in January.
Fine Arts Task Force (FATF): The FATF is seeking community input on
their goals for Fine Arts education. The survey is available at
Referendum: The District will receive an approximate $5.5M windfall
from the city as a result of closing 2 tax incremental districts (TID).
The BOE voted to use this money to close our projected budget gap for
the ’08/09 school year. Because we will use the money to close the
projected gap, we also made the decision that we will not go to
referendum in the Spring ’08. In the summer of ’08, the BOE will begin
discussions of a possible operating referendum to cover the gap for the
’09/10 school year and beyond.
Performance and Achievement Committee: (Lawrie Kobza, Johnny Winston
Jr., Maya Cole). The committee started discussions on different school
models (charter, magnet, neighborhood, etc.). Discussions will continue
in committee. The committee reviewed a plan/proposal to expand our Play
and Learn program by making the program “mobile”. Further discussion
will continue at full BOE. The committee began the discussion of
updating district performance goals to make them more measurable and
relevant. The first goal being evaluated is focused on improving
student achievement.
Human Resources Committee: (Johnny Winston Jr., Lawrie Kobza, Beth
Moss). The committee reviewed the results of a study that had been
requested by the BOE to determine how the MMSD Administrator pay and
benefits structure and related policies compare to other selected school
districts in Wisconsin. Discussion will continue in committee.
Communications Committee: (Beth Moss, Lawrie Kobza, Carol Carstensen).
WAES (Wisconsin Alliance for Excellent Schools) made a presentation on
state funding. A legislative update on the state budget was also
Finance and Operations Committee: (Lucy Mathiak, Carol Carstensen, Maya
Cole). The committee took the lead at analyzing the TID and referendum
options and making recommendations to the full BOE for vote (above).
Long Range Planning: (Carol Carstensen, Lucy Mathiak, Beth Moss).
There was a presentation on all of the initiatives in the District’s
Energy Management Program. There are many exciting programs in place
across the District. Since our program was put into effect, we have
decreased consumption rates and expenditures. Had we continued to
consume at 1997 consumption rates, our utility expenditures would have
been $4,400,000 more.
Community Partnerships: (Maya Cole, Johnny Winston Jr., Lucy Mathiak).
The committee is in the process of defining “Partnerships”. They are
also reviewing the policy on parent involvement in the schools.

Madison School Board Discussion of School Models, Including Basic and Alternative Approaches

The Madison School Board’s Performance and Achievement Committee recently discussed alternative education models. Watch the video here (or download the mp4 file via a CTRL Click. mp4 files can be played back on many portable media players such as iPods). Listen via this mp3 audio file.

Advertising & Schools

Pat Schneider:

t’s just a logo and a phone number, says Arlene Silveira, president of the Madison School Board.
But to members of TAME, Truth and Alternatives to Militarism in Education, the “Army Strong” ad that has cropped up on scoreboards at stadiums and gymnasiums this fall looks a lot like an endorsement of an Army future for Madison high school students.
“Students are at an age to figure out what to do with their lives,” parent and TAME member Vicki Berenson said Thursday. “When they see ‘Army’ on the field every day, it starts to seem normal.”
TAME is urging parents and others concerned over military recruitment in the high schools to come to the School Board meeting Monday to protest outside school district headquarters at 545 W. Dayton St., then head inside to sign up at 6:50 p.m. to speak out against the ads.

Finding Online Homework Help

Wall Street Journal:

With school in full swing, many kids are shouldering hours of nightly homework. When students are stumped, they can turn to their (sometimes clueless) parents or head to a flurry of online homework help sites.
We looked around for sites appropriate for our sixth-grade tester. And we wanted help solving this geometry problem: what is a better buy? A square pizza measuring 8 inches by 8 inches that costs $10 or a round pizza with a 9-inch diameter that also costs $10?
Our first site was Created by the not-for-profit One Economy Corp. as a tool to help low-income families, the site offers easy access to information on a wide range of topics. By clicking on “school” on the home page (none of the other topics looked at all relevant), we got right to homework help. The section is divided into elementary-, middle- and high-school help.
Our answer was just a few clicks away. “Math” in the high-school section took us to, which offered a coherent explanation of how to do the problem along with a “circle calculator” on which to do the arithmetic. We went to “geometry problem solver,” then to “geometry-circles,” and there was the formula; we plugged in the information we had, the diameter, to get the answer: the square pizza is bigger.

Japanese Lesson: How Do You Say Taken for a Ride?

Yukari Iwatani Kane & Yuka Hayashi:

Fresh out of college, Sam Gordon bought a one-way ticket to Tokyo for a chance to explore Japan’s exotic culture while teaching English at the nation’s largest language school. All it took to get the job was one simple interview.
The adventure, which began five years ago, has abruptly come to an end. His employer, Nova Corp., hasn’t paid him since September. The company closed its operations last week and filed for court protection, following a government crackdown on its business strategy. With $20 left in his bank account, the 28-year-old Mr. Gordon says he is living on his credit card.
“At least I have a big fridge and still have some food in it,” says Mr. Gordon. He doesn’t want to go home to Milford, Del., just yet, he says, because he’d have to borrow money for the plane ticket.


Will Okun:

“C’mon, Nick, it’s nothing bad. I just want to tell your parent what a great job you are doing thus far,” I confided.
“Well, you are going to have to tell me,” Nick asserted. “There is no one here but me. I am my own parent.”
Nicholas Bounds is one of the top students in my Senior English class. He attends school every day, and often arrives to our first period class early. He works dutifully in class and faithfully completes his homework every night. He writes with honesty, intelligence and intensity. He scored a 23 in Math on the ACT. Nicholas is a shining star in the otherwise stormy night of black male education in the West Side of Chicago.
Nicholas Bounds also lives in a homeless shelter for teenagers. Every day, he leaves the shelter at 7 a.m. for school and arrives back at 11 p.m. after his part-time job at U.P.S. He was telling me the truth; he has been his own parent since he was 15 and in the eighth grade.

“Math Power: How to Help Your Child Love Math Even If You Dont’

“Math Power: How to Help Your Child Love Math Even If You Dont’,” the only
book by a mathematician written for parents of children aged 1-10, is
about to go out of print for the second time. Both times the publisher
sold its trade books to another publisher just as it was published, so
none of the four publishers made any effort to publicize it. This time,
however, I have a good offer to buy the remaining copies. I really want
it to get into as many libraries as possible — and many hands. There
are many copies left.
If you can get a library to offer me a thank you note and give me the
address, I will send that library an autographed copy free for the tax
deduction. If you want an autographed copy, I will be glad to send you a
copy for $10. The price on the cover is $19.95, and it’s fine to resell
them at this time. If you can find an outlet or use them yourself, I can
send a box of 18 books for $140. (No autographs on those books because
they will be inside the box.) There are MANY boxes available.
“Math Power” had excellent reviews from both sides of the “Math Wars” when
it first appeared in 1997, and another from “The Library Journal,” but
without some publisher publicity, books don’t sell. It may be that math
is not a popular subject in this culture; there is other evidence.

Continue reading “Math Power: How to Help Your Child Love Math Even If You Dont’

Fashion Bullies Attack — In Middle School

Vanessa O’Connell:

Aryana McPike, a sixth-grader from Springfield, Ill., has a closet full of designer clothes from Dolce & Gabbana, Juicy Couture, True Religion and Seven For All Mankind. But her wardrobe, carefully selected by a fashion-conscious mother, hasn’t won her friends at school.
Kids in her class recently instructed her that she was wearing the wrong brands. She should wear Apple Bottoms jeans by the rapper Nelly, they told her, and designer sneakers, such as Air Force 1 by Nike. She came home complaining to her mother that “all the girls want to know if I will ever come to school without being so dressed up.”
Teen and adolescent girls have long used fashion as a social weapon. In 1944, Eleanor Estes wrote ““>The Hundred Dresses,” a book about a Polish girl who is made fun of for wearing the same shabby dress to school each day. The film “Mean Girls” in 2004 focused on fashion-conscious cliques among high-school teens. But today, guidance counselors and psychologists say, fashion bullying is reaching a new level of intensity as more designers launch collections targeted at kids.

Some Date: How Homecoming is Losing out to Hanging Out

Jeff Zaslow:

Last month, a boy asked my 16-year-old daughter to his school’s homecoming dance. She agreed to go, bought a new dress and made a hairdresser appointment.
The boy never bought tickets to the dance. Neither did his friends. They decided that attending homecoming wouldn’t be cool, and instead planned to just dress up that night, go out for dinner and then hang out with their dates at someone’s house.
My daughter was disappointed, as were her girlfriends. They would have loved to have been taken to the dance, to show off their dresses, to see and be seen.
At 6 p.m. on the night of the boycotted dance, about a dozen of these girls and their dates gathered in one boy’s backyard so a mob of parents could photograph them. I found it dispiriting. My heart went out to those girls — all dressed up with no place to go. Couldn’t we, as parents, have demanded that the boys take our daughters to the dance? Why did we stand there, clicking our digital cameras, saying nothing?
I live in suburban Detroit, but this phenomenon is playing out elsewhere in the country, too — a telling example of the indifference with which young people today view dating, chivalry and romance.

Sham Standards

Joanne Jacobs:

Kate Riley’s 10-year-old son received a letter of congratulations signed by Washington’s governor and state superintendent.

“Congratulations!’ it started. “… We are very proud of you, and you should be very proud of yourself.”
Apparently, my son “achieved the state reading, writing and mathematics learning standards.”

But her autistic son, who spends most of his time in a special-education classroom, is years behind. He “can read some words, can add a little and can barely draw a straight line.”
An editorial writer, Riley has backed high standards since she tutored a 30-year-old high school graduate with a third-grade reading level. But she agreed that students with special needs should have alternative ways to show mastery of the standards, such as providing a portfolio of work.

High rate of violence seen in teens’ lives

Peter Schworm:

More than 40 percent of male high school students in Boston say they have carried a knife and more than 40 percent of all students believe it would be easy to get a gun, according to a new public health survey.
One in five students has witnessed a shooting and does not feel safe in his or her neighborhood, the survey found.
The report, which surveyed more than 1,200 students in 18 Boston public high schools in the spring of 2006, found that two-thirds of students said they had witnessed violence in the year before the survey, and one-third had been involved in a fight themselves. Nearly 40 percent of male students had been assaulted, and 28 percent said they did not feel safe on the bus or train.
The report, which city officials are releasing today to launch a series of community meetings on teenage health, highlights the pervasive exposure to violence among city teenagers and the fear it can generate.
The survey’s finding of widespread fistfights – more than one-third of male and female students reported having hit, punched, kicked, or choked someone in the past month – was also disturbing, Ferrer said. Such violence can easily intensify to weapon use, she said.
“We’re missing the precursor to more serious violence, which is a lot of aggressive behavior,” she said. “We need to give our students some skills on how to resolve conflict before it escalates.”
Marcus Peterson, a member of a youth antiviolence group called Operation Greensboro said public apathy contributes to the persistent violence.
“It’s not really an issue anymore,” he said. “It’s just accepted.”

Education & Regrets

Scott McLemee:

Its topic, in brief, is the relationship between education and regret – how each one creates the conditions for the other. The books you read at a certain age can put you on the wrong path, even though you don’t recognize it at the time. You are too naively ambitious to get much out of them — or too naive, perhaps, not that it makes much difference either way. And by the time you realize what you should have read, it’s too late. You would understand things differently, and probably better, had you made different choices. You would be a different person. Instead, you wasted a lot of time. (I know I did. There are nights when I recall all the time spent on the literary criticism of J. Hillis Miller and weep softly to myself.)
The booklet consists of transcripts of two meetings of N+1 contributors (a mixture of writers and academics, most in their 20’s and 30’s) as they discuss what they regret about their educations. Each contributor also submits a list of eight “Books That Changed My Life.”
The structure here seem to involve a rather intricate bit of irony. There is an explicit address to smart people in their teens, or barely out of them, offering suggestions on what to read, and how. It can be taken as a guide to how to avoid regret. The reflections and checklists are all well-considered. You could do a lot worse for an advice manual.

Leap Of Faith

Chico Harlan, Hector Emanuel, Peter McBride:

NINE TEENAGERS STUFF THE LAST FIVE ROWS OF A BOEING 737, listening to the plane’s mechanical orchestra — the whistle of its warming engines, the hum of its slow taxi — scanning for alerts of doom. Eight of them have never flown before. All of them spend their days behind the barbed-wire fences of Oak Hill, the decaying youth detention center in Laurel reserved for the District’s worst male juvenile offenders.
Yet at 4:30 on this August morning, a white-painted Oak Hill bus with grated windows deposited the teens at Baltimore-Washington Thurgood Marshall International Airport. For the next eight days, freedom will supplant regimen in their lives. No 7 a.m. wake-up calls. No sudden lockdown searches for contraband. No mandatory lights out. The teens will land in Phoenix and begin an adventure both ambitious and risky: In the wilderness of Arizona and Utah, they will pitch tents, hike canyons, leap from cliffs and paddle through rapids. The teens, some of whom can’t swim or have never seen mountains, will enter a different world. And then they’ll return to their own.

How to Educate Yourself Online

John Wesley:

The web is an amazing educational resource. The quantity of information available on any given topic is more than most people will ever need, and probably more than they can handle. This vast amount of information is the web’s greatest strength, but also creates major usability problems. If you try to educate yourself online without a clear strategy, you’ll quickly find yourself frustrated and misinformed.
Effective online education goes beyond finding answers. It requires you to process numerous information sources, evaluate them based on credibility and relevance, and piece together a mosaic-like picture of the truth.