Random drug testing at southern Nevada high school working


A random drug testing program for athletes at the Green Valley High School that began Jan. 28 is working, with students talking about why drugs are bad and about doing the right thing, its principal said.
Athletes who test positive for illegal substances jeopardize their eligibility to play or perform while in Nevada public schools.
“It’s been a great success so far,” said principal Jeff Horn. “We’ve tested over 50 individuals now, and things have gone very smoothly.”
Only one student failed to pass random testing because of prescription medication, he said. The prescription was verified with the parents, and the matter was quickly resolved.

No Child Outside the Classroom

Roxana Popescu:

When No Child Left Behind became law in 2002, teachers suspected there’d be some casualties—they just didn’t think field trips would be one of them. Since the federal government’s landmark overhaul of U.S. schools, class trips have plummeted at some of the country’s traditional hot spots for brown-bag learning. The new emphasis on standardized testing has resulted in “a reluctance to take kids out of the classroom,” says Natalie Bortoli, head of the visual-arts program at the Chicago Children’s Museum, which has lost more than a tenth of its field-trip business since 2005. At Mystic Seaport, a maritime museum on the Connecticut coast, school traffic has slowed more than a quarter since 2005, while Boston’s New England Aquarium has lost nearly the same amount since 2003. Even NASA’s Johnson Space Center has started to see its figures stagnate, says marketing director Roger Bornstein, “and stability is not our goal.”
Teachers blame the bear market in part on No Child Left Behind, which requires schools to get students up to state targets in reading and math by 2014 or face sanctions that could result in school takeovers or closings. “Curriculums are so much tighter than they used to be,” says Susan Lewis, an elementary-school teacher in San Antonio, Texas. Add in rising transportation costs, and field trips are fast becoming history. Compton Avenue Elementary School in Los Angeles has halved its trips in the past three years. “They were all academically based,” says principal Claudia Ross, but they no longer fit a budget focused on test scores, not general enrichment.

Plan Would Nationalize Schools to End Disparities

Scott Simon (NPR):

Matt Miller has a radical but simple proposal to improve the nation’s public schools: federalize funding to eliminate disparities in per-pupil funding between poor and affluent communities. He also proposes a single set of federal standards for math, science and reading, instead of letting each state set its own standards. Scott Simon speaks with Miller, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress.

A reader forwarded Miller’s proposal earlier in the week.

Walbridge School’s Summer Program

Madison’s Walbridge School:

Walbridge School is unique state wide in teaching children with different learning styles to become successful. With a full-day curriculum, Walbridge School teaches grades one through eight with individualized instruction focusing on strengths rathers than weaknesses. Walbridge School will host a summer school program from July 7 through August 1 offering creative courses in reading, writing, and math. Please call for more details at 608.833.1338, email: walbridge2006@yahoo.com.

Teachers reveal bag of tricks to keep students focused on learning

Jacqueline Reis:

Sixteen-year-old Joel Santos recalls a shouting match between a fellow student and a teacher that started with “Shut up!” and escalated. Other students swear at their teachers. And Kim L. Veth, 16, remembers one fourth-grade classmate who got so bored that he started dancing on a table.
When it comes to being heckled, stand-up comedians have nothing on teachers. Comedians know they were hired to entertain, but teachers have to be part motivator, part counselor and part disciplinarian, all as a means to educate.
So how do they deal with the sass? For Chad Malone, an English teacher at Claremont Academy in Worcester, a public school that partners with Clark University, the keys are keeping rules to a minimum and not blowing his top.
“Crazy behavior problems come from being bored in the classroom,” he said. “The kids have to be engaged in what they’re doing, and that, I think, comes from being planned out and ready to go with the day.”
Joel, who is one of his students, agrees. “Students get bored … because teachers just stand up there and talk in a boring way,” he said.

One Dad’s Campaign to Save America

Jay Matthews:

Bob Compton may be wrong about American students losing out to our hard-working Indian and Chinese competitors, but he is astonishingly sincere in his views. Even if his country doesn’t react to the international threat, he will. He has hired special tutors for his daughters, even though they already have top grades at a premier private school.
Compton, 52, is a high-tech entrepreneur and investor based in Memphis. His documentary film, “Two Million Minutes,” has become a key part of a campaign known as ED in ’08, which aims to push the next president toward big changes in U.S. schools. Compton and the ED in ’08 backers, including billionaire Bill Gates, support the growing movement for more instructional and study time. Compton’s message is that American kids are wasting much of their four years of high school–about 2 million minutes–on sports and jobs and television while Chinese and Indians are studying, studying some more and then checking in with their tutors to see what they still need to study.
I am not friendly to Compton’s argument. I think the Chinese and Indian threat to the American economy is a myth. I have been convinced by economists who argue that the more prosperous they are, the more prosperous we are, since they will have more money to buy our stuff. I also believe that prosperity in previously troubled countries such as China and India promotes democracy and peace.
I do, however, like Compton a lot, and agree with him that our high schools need to be much better–not in order to beat the international competition but to end the shame of having millions of low-income students not getting the education they deserve. I admire a dad who applies his arguments to his own life in ways I never would. He is significantly increasing the amount of time his children are devoting to their studies, whether they like it or not.

Why are we so Obsessed by Time?

Charles Handy:

Then I paused. Why was I so obsessed by time? If I was going to London by air, I would consider 11 hours to be normal. Why should it be different because it was San Francisco? Why, I ask myself, are we always in such a hurry? Why do eager parents want to accelerate their children’s education when life is so much longer now? In business we let the short-term pressures obscure the promise of the longer term. We forget that in nature a full ripening takes time. Push it too hard and you lose too much of the flavor.

A Child’s View of Attention Deficit

Tara Parker-Pope:

What does it feel like to have attention deficit disorder?
The answer to that question can be found in a fascinating new report from the Journal of Pediatric Nursing called “I Have Always Felt Different.’’ The article gives a glimpse into the experience of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, or A.D.H.D., from a child’s perspective.
Assistant professors Robin Bartlett and Mona M. Shattell, from the School of Nursing at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, interviewed 16 college students who had been diagnosed with A.D.H.D. as children. The investigators talked to them about how the disorder affected life at home, school and friendships.
Like most kids, the students described a life of both conflict with and support from their parents. But in their case, fighting with parents was often triggered by attention-related problems like failing to complete laundry chores or cleaning their rooms.

Sable Flames Annual Second Alarm Scholarship Benefit on Saturday 2/23

via a Johnny Winston, Jr. email

On Saturday, February 23, 2008 at the Edgewater Hotel at 666 Wisconsin Avenue [Map] in Downtown Madison, The Sable Flames, Inc. (African American firefighters for the City of Madison) will present its Fifteenth Annual “Second Alarm Scholarship Benefit” at 8:00 p.m. until 1 a.m.
Entertainment for this year’s event features a disc jockey (DJ Surprise) and dance music; complimentary hors d’oeuvres, door prizes, music, dancing and a cash bar will be provided. A mature audience and dress attire is requested.
Tickets are available from members of The Sable Flames, Inc. or can be purchased at the door. The cost of the event is $25 in advance and $30 at the door. Tickets are tax-deductible and can be purchased as a donation if you cannot attend the event. The Sable Flames, Inc. is a non-profit, tax-exempt organization.
For tickets and additional information, please contact Mahlon Mitchell at 698-2333 or Johnny Winston, Jr. at 347-9715 or johnnywinstonjr@hotmail.com.
Please feel free to send this message to other interested persons, organizations or parties. My apologies for any duplicate messages or cross-postings.

Parents Feel Betrayed by Millionaire Role Models

George Vecsey:

They will attend the Congressional hearings Wednesday, the husband and wife with the sad eyes. They have become part of the steroid circuit, honored with reserved seats near the front, silent witnesses to the plague of the last generation.
Frank and Brenda Marrero will be listening to what Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte have to say. They want to be in the same room as Brian McNamee and Kirk Radomski, two admitted pushers of illegal bodybuilding drugs. The hearings must now be viewed in a more skeptical vein after lawmakers allowed Clemens to work on them individually late last week, roaming the halls like some supersized K Street lobbyist, explaining that a great man like himself would never do such a thing as take steroids, and doing everything but pass out autographed facsimiles of his rookie chewing-gum card.

The Marreros can only try to understand the whole crazy system of millionaire role-model athletes and local suppliers who provided their son Efrain with steroids, before he obediently went off the stuff and killed himself at 19. It all happened so fast.
Now they gravitate to the hearings, not to disrupt but to distribute fliers about the foundation they have started, about the seminars Frank Marrero gives all over the country, warning youngsters to stay off the stuff, that it isn’t worth it.
Frank and Brenda Marrero were present on March 17, 2005, six months after their son died, when Mark McGwire stammered and turned red and said he didn’t want to talk about the past.

“Rainwater’s reign: Retiring school superintendent has made big impact”

Susan Troller on retiring Madison Superintendent Art Rainwater:

Later this month, a new contract between Dr. Daniel Nerad and the Madison Metropolitan School District will signal the end of an era. For over a decade, Art Rainwater has been at the helm of Madison’s public schools, guiding the district during a period of rapid demographic change and increasingly painful budget cutting. Both admirers and critics believe Rainwater has had a profound impact on the district.
Retiring Madison schools superintendent Art Rainwater may have the name of a poet, but his first ambition was to be a high school football coach.
“I grew up loving football — still do — especially the intellectual challenge of the game. I was obsessed with it,” Rainwater explained in a recent interview.
In fact, during his early years as an educator, Rainwater was so consumed by his football duties for a Catholic high school in Texas he eventually switched from coaching to school administration for the sake of his family.
In some ways, Rainwater has been an unusual person to lead Madison’s school district — an assertive personality in a town notorious for talking issues to death. His management style grows out of his coaching background — he’s been willing to make unpopular decisions, takes personal responsibility for success or failure, puts a premium on loyalty and hard work and is not swayed by armchair quarterbacks.

A few related links:

Much more on Art here. Like or loath him, Art certainly poured a huge amount of his life into what is a very difficult job. I was always amazed at the early morning emails, then, later, seeing him at an evening event. Best wishes to Art as he moves on.

Virtual schools lobby to survive

Amy Hetzner:

Following a December appeals court decision that questioned the legality of about a dozen virtual schools in the state, officials with those schools worked hard to convince their students’ families they would remain open until summer.
Now, amid the three-week application period for participation in the state’s open enrollment program, they are trying to convince both current and prospective families that they will be around for at least another year. And they are doing so through a blitz of online open houses, information sessions and advertising hitting all corners of Wisconsin.
“Some of them (parents) are real concerned and some of them don’t seem concerned at all,” said Kurt Bergland, principal of Wisconsin Virtual Academy, a virtual charter school run by the Northern Ozaukee School District. “I guess the proof will be in the pudding when someone actually puts us down on their open enrollment application.”
WIVA is under perhaps more pressure than other virtual charter schools in the state, as the target of a lawsuit filed by the Wisconsin Education Association Council charging it operated in violation of state laws regarding teacher licensure, charter schools and open enrollment. A three-judge panel of the District 2 Court of Appeals in Waukesha issued a decision with statewide implications that sided with WEAC, the state’s largest teachers union.

Minnesota pays to help high schoolers rack up college credits, but CLEP offer slow to catch on

Paul Tosto:

Pass a free exam. Get college credit.
Seems like a sweet deal for Minnesota high school students looking to save money on college. But after operating for more than a year, state education officials are finding a lot fewer takers than they expected for the College-Level Examination Program.
About 900 tests have been taken since the state began paying the exam fee in 2006 – far fewer than the 5,000 initially projected for last year and 7,500 hoped for this year.
Part of the problem, officials say, is that CLEP toils in the shadows of Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and other better-known options for high school students trying to get a jump on college credit.
Another issue: While the tests are recognized by some 2,900 schools across the country, including the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities grants credit for only a few of the 34 CLEP exams and sets the bar for passing higher than other schools.
Despite low exam participation to date, officials say they’re buoyed by the jump in student interest last year – particularly from schools in greater Minnesota – and are trying to spread the word to high schools and home-schoolers about the opportunity. This school year, students have until June 30 to take as many as six CLEP exams paid for by the state, with the only cost being an administrative fee that runs about $15 to $25 per test.

“Blue Collar Teacher Contracts Work Against the Students”

Julia Steiny:

“I’m probably the only person in the room who was actually at the negotiating table in the mid-1960s when the first collective bargaining laws were being passed.” So said Ray Spear, former superintendent in Coventry and now a member of the Coventry School Committee, addressing the Board of Regents.
Recently, the Regents held a series of public meetings to hear creative ideas about how to prevent teacher strikes in strike-prone Rhode Island. The hearing I attended was packed to the gills with school administrators, school committee members and union officials.
Spear went on to wholeheartedly endorse “the granting of the initial bargaining rights for teachers.” Later, in an interview, he elaborated. “I was sympathetic with teachers because at the time they were not being paid at a scale comparable to other workers. I personally researched what other B.A.-level workers were being paid. Teachers weren’t even close. And they weren’t getting any benefits, no personal leave, maternity leave….”
But now, this elder statesman of the Rhode Island education community told the Regents, “It is my sincere belief that the teacher negotiation process has worn out its welcome and gone far beyond the purpose and intent which it was to serve.”
Currently, Rhode Island’s teachers’ unions are monolithically powerful forces that “fail to regard the needs of students,” according to Spear. These unions protect bad teachers, make a principal’s job nearly impossible, slow or stop educational reforms, and critically, in this fiscal climate, drive the cost of doing business through the roof.
The current problem is the result of flawed thinking back in the 1960s.
Spear was “just a young kid of a superintendent” in Michigan when that state’s collective-bargaining law passed in 1965. “When I sat down at the bargaining table for the first time, their contract proposal looked more like a General Motors contract than an education contract. They’d gone to the automotive industry for advice. Those are the roots of the situation we’re in now.”

Ballard Visits Madison

Robert Ballard spoke at Saturday’s Friends of UW Hospital & Clinic’s dinner. Ballard provided an interesting look at his work over the decades, which included some interesting education related comments:

  • The joint Woods Hole – MIT Program apparently serves mostly foreign PhD. students (“we are educating our competitors”), which lead to
  • The Jason Project,
  • an attempt to create science and engineering interest in middle school students. Ballard said that if we’ve not generated such interest by the 8th grade, it is too late.

College: How to Pay the Tax-Favored Way

Karen Hube:

ENDLESS CHILDHOOD ISN’T GOOD for the psyche — or parents’ pocketbooks. For the second time in two years, the “kiddie tax,” which subjects a portion of children’s investment income to their parents’ rates, has been expanded; it now applies to offspring as old as 23.
The change first goes into effect for 2008 tax returns, so families should vet adaptive strategies now. The greatest impact likely will be felt by wealthy families who’ve transferred assets into their children’s names to take advantage of their kids’ lower tax brackets. But many will get hit simply because they saved diligently in their children’s names for college, says Ed Slott, a tax adviser in Rockville Centre, N.Y.
The kiddie tax doesn’t apply to 529 plans — tax-free investment accounts earmarked for college savings. But it does apply to custodial accounts, which many set up in their children’s names as college-savings vehicles before 529 plans’ creation in the mid-1990s.
Under kiddie-tax rules, a child’s unearned income of more than $1,800 (up from $1,700) is subject to the parents’ tax rates of up to 35% on interest and short-term capital gains, and 15% on long-term capital gains and most dividends. The first $900 of the child’s unearned income is tax-free; the second $900 is taxed at the child’s rates. Most children are in the 10% or 15% income tax bracket, and they would typically be subject to the lowest capital-gains tax rate, which this year has dropped to 0%, from 5%.

More on college expense tax credits here.

City Rainy Day Funds Diverted to San Francisco Schools

Jill Tucker:

With a stormy financial front headed toward San Francisco schools, Mayor Gavin Newsom offered to help the district Friday with $30.6 million from the city’s rainy day fund.
Facing a $40 million shortfall, district officials were preparing for massive layoffs and program cuts – including cutting more than 500 teachers and staff.
“This is perilous,” the mayor said of the potential impact. “This is ominous. This is simply not acceptable.”
Newsom’s proposal must be approved by the Board of Supervisors.
In 2003, city voters passed Proposition G, which required the city save excess revenue during good economic times.
The account now holds about $122 million, with the school district eligible for up to 25 percent of the total if two conditions are met: The school district must be getting less money per pupil from the state when adjusted for inflation, and must be facing significant teacher layoffs.

Catching Up To the Boys, In the Good And the Bad
Teen Girls’ Alcohol, Drug Use on the Rise

Lori Aratani:

She lost count of the vodka shots. It was New Year’s Eve 2005, and for this high school freshman, it was time to party. She figured she’d be able to sleep it off — she’d done it before. But by the time she got home the next day, her head was still pounding, her mouth was dry, and she couldn’t focus. This time, the symptoms were obvious even to her parents.
After that night, she realized the weekend buzzes had gone from being a maybe to a must.
“Before, it was a novelty,” the Silver Spring teen said. “It went from, ‘Well, maybe . . .’ to ‘Oh, I know I’m going to drink this weekend.’ ”
A generation of parents and educators have pushed to ensure that girls have the same opportunities as their male counterparts, with notable results. In 2007, for example, it was girls who dominated the national math and science competition sponsored by Siemens. But a growing number of reports show that the message of equality might have a downside.
Teenage girls now equal or outpace teenage boys in alcohol consumption, drug use and smoking, national surveys show. The number of girls entering the juvenile justice system has risen steadily over the past few years. A 2006 study that examined accident rates among young drivers noted that although boys get into more car accidents, girls are slowly beginning to close the gap.

On Madison’s New Superintendent

Jason Shephard:

After a round of “meet and greets” with the three finalists for the job of Madison schools superintendent, insiders were divided on two favorites. Leaders who’ve pushed for greater educational reforms spoke highly of Miami’s Steve Gallon, while key institutional players favored Green Bay’s Dan Nerad.
Nerad, 56, the most battle-tested of the finalists, delivered a solid introductory speech that struck the right notes. He stressed his consensus-building record, cautioned against embracing reform for its own sake, and drew applause by blasting state revenue controls.
In contrast, Gallon seemed bolder but less experienced. He ventured into dangerous territory by saying inadequate funding shouldn’t be used as an excuse for educational failures. A 38-year-old black single father, Gallon attended the same Miami public school system where he now runs alternative programs, and many saw his potential as a visionary leader.
In the end, picking a replacement for Art Rainwater, who is retiring in June after eight years in the top job, was not hard to do. The night before school board deliberations, Gallon dropped out after finding a job on the East Coast. The Madison board unanimously made an offer to Nerad, Green Bay’s school superintendent since 2001.
Those who lobbied for Gallon behind the scenes say privately they’re over any disappointment they initially felt. And school board members say they’re excited — if not relieved — to find someone like Nerad. “It feels right. It feels good,” says board president Arlene Silveira.

Much more on Dan Nerad here

Analysis of Governor’s 2008-09 California School Budget


Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposed budget for 2008–09 has sent shock waves through the education community. He has recommended a $4.8 billion cut for K-14 education, on top of a $400 million reduction for education in the current year. The net effect is about $750 less per student than K-12 education would normally receive or about $18,750 per classroom.
On Jan. 10, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger released a proposed budget for 2008–09 that includes cuts for most state programs, but hits education particularly hard. His proposal calls for the suspension of Proposition 98—the state’s minimum funding guarantee for public schools and community colleges—in order to help address a $14.5 billion state budget shortfall. The proposed cuts are the largest ever contemplated for public schools in California. Along with the budget release, the governor declared a fiscal emergency that will affect funding in the current year. Consistent with new regulations approved by voters in Proposition 58, the Legislature is required to act quickly to address the current budget problem.
This brief describes the governor’s proposal and outlines the immediate impacts it is expected to have on California school districts as they complete this school year and plan for the next.

The Debate to Lead Los Angeles Teachers

Howard Blume:

It somehow escaped CNN, but United Teachers Los Angeles, the L.A. teachers union, held the second of three candidate forums Thursday night at union headquarters in the Wilshire district.
The election has ramifications far beyond the union because UTLA, with more than 40,000 members, is a major local political player. And its members are inevitably at the center of any school-improvement effort.
Ballots, mailed to teachers, will be retrieved from the postal service on Feb. 21.
Those who can’t get enough can read candidate statements and watch candidate videos at UTLA.net. There’s an election tab in the upper left-hand corner. There’s also another forum on Monday at 6 p.m. at White Middle School in Carson.
So what did the candidates for president have to say?
The incumbent is A.J. Duffy, a longtime union activist who surprised many when he unseated predecessor John Perez.
One challenger is Becki Robinson, a longtime union officer who could be a long shot because of her self-funded, low-budget campaign. She lost a hard-fought campaign for president to Perez. These days, Robinson helps run district programs that take place outside of school hours. And she’s the union rep for UTLA members who work in the district’s downtown headquarters.
Robinson challenged Duffy’s record on some high-profile matters. Her criticisms were frequently echoed by fellow challenger and longtime union officer Linda Guthrie.
Among their issues: Duffy supported school board candidate Christopher Arellano without a complete background check. The media later uncovered that Arellano, a UTLA staff member, had a criminal record and had exaggerated his education credentials. Arellano was trounced on election day after the union had spent more than $200,000 in his behalf.

A School Tax Case To Watch

NY Sun Editorial:

Oh, ye of little faith — and here we are speaking of those who doubt that some day a solution will be found to the problem of school choice — we say behold what is happening among the judges who ride the 9th circuit of the United States Court of Appeals. There, our Josh Gerstein reports from the Coast, three judges are hearing a case that could force the Internal Revenue Service to explain why it has secretly allowed members of the Church of Scientology to take a tax deduction for religious education.
The case was brought by a Jewish couple, Michael and Marla Sklar, who had taken deductions for part of the costs of the tuition for the education of their children for afterschool classes in Judaism. They are seeking to view an agreement the Internal Revenue Service reached with the Church of Scientology in 1993 as part of a settlement in a long-running dispute. The church, Mr. Gerstein reports, paid $12.5 million, while the IRS, as Mr. Gerstein characterizes it in his story on page one, “agreed to drop arguments that Scientology was not a bona fide religion.” And the IRS agreed to allow Scientologists to deduct at least 80% of fees paid for “religious training and services.”

Paul Caron has more.

Plan for Massachusetts Education “Czar” Threatens Reforms

Charles Glenn:

Education reform is often stifled by the vested interests that resist accountability and new models like charter and pilot schools. In Massachusetts, the independence of the state Board of Education provided the continuity that allowed reform to be successfully implemented year after year.
The board was responsible for the initiatives that were the heart and soul of reform, like the MCAS exam, teacher testing, and academically rigorous curriculum frameworks. It was the board that followed a prudent course by creating rigorous charter school approval and closure processes.
Each of these reforms was the target of substantial resistance from a powerful and change-averse education establishment. Only an independent Board of Education, insulated from politics, could have made them a reality.
Despite these unparalleled successes, all we have achieved is now at risk. A proposal to eliminate the Board of Education’s independence seems to be breezing through the Legislature. The proposal would make the board just another part of Governor Patrick’s administration and thus politicize an institution that has been insulated from politics since 1837, when Horace Mann was its first leader.

Miami Expands Magnet Access

Kathleen McGrory:

Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Rudy Crew rolled out a proposal Thursday to provide students throughout the county with greater access to specialty programs such as magnet schools, International Baccalaureate programs and K-8 Centers.
The proposed plan, dubbed the Equity & Access Plan, will create rigorous, specialized academic programs in areas that don’t yet have them, Crew said. It would run for three years, beginning in 2008, and cost about $6 million.
”When you look at the map, what you’ll essentially see is that the distribution [of programs] here has been at best, or possibly at worst, random,” Crew said. “This conversation was based largely on the need to change that map so you have more children having access to high-demand programs.”
Currently, most K-8 centers are clustered in the southern half of the county or near Aventura. Many urban neighborhoods, other than downtown Miami, do not have magnet programs nearby.
And the lone specialty school for math and science, the Maritime and Science Technology Academy, is tucked away on Key Biscayne.
Among Crew’s recommendations:

  • Develop 10 new International Baccalaureate programs, to join the 14 existing programs. Hialeah-Miami Lakes Senior, Miami Carol City Senior, and Miami Beach Senior would be among the host schools.
  • Open two new mathematics and science senior high school programs. One would be a senior high school for medical technologies at the former Homestead Hospital. The other would be in northwest Miami-Dade County.
  • Develop six new magnet programs, four of which would be housed in schools in the southern part of the county.

While Crew said he is prepared to raise money to fund future projects, likely through federal and state grants, he said his initial goal was to take a strategic look at the placement of academic programs.

One of the three finalists for the Madison Superintendent position, Steve Gallon, hailed from Miami-Dade.

In Support of Wisconsin Virtual Schools

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel Editorial:

The future of the state’s 12 virtual schools was unclear after the state Court of Appeals ruled in December that they were not entitled to state aid. This bipartisan bill, which is moving through both houses of the Legislature, would impose new standards and ensure that funding continues.
But with Wisconsin schools knee-deep in the open enrollment process and legislative time at a premium, Senate Majority Leader Russ Decker (D-Weston) and Assembly Speaker Mike Huebsch (R-West Salem) must make this bill a priority.
And the state teachers union, which brought the lawsuit that led to the Court of Appeals decision, should resist the impulse to try to force changes to the legislation or derail it.
The bill has not been scheduled for action yet, but the legislators who negotiated the compromise – state Sen. John Lehman (D-Racine), Rep. Brett Davis (R-Oregon) and Sen. Luther Olsen (R-Ripon) – want the measure to be considered as soon as possible.
Among the bill’s provisions: Virtual schools must have the same number of hours of instruction per year as traditional classrooms; must use only certified, licensed teachers to develop lesson plans and to grade assignments; and must make all records available under the state open records law. In addition, the state Department of Public Instruction, which backs the bill, could operate an online academy to advise districts that want to start their own online schools.

Madison hosts all-city Scrabble tournament

Emily Mills:

Break out the dictionaries and the little wooden squares because it’s time for a Madtown Scrabble smackdown!
A citywide Scrabble tournament, organized by Madison Family Literacy, aims to help raise funds for reading and education programs for adults and children in the city. The tournament runs from February 23-24 at the Hilldale Shopping Center, and kicks off with a challenge game between Mayor Dave and whoever makes the highest bid for the honor of schooling him at wordplay.
Started in 1999 as part of the federal Even Start program, Madison Family Literacy (MFL) grew out of a need to restructure and move ahead when federal funds began to dry up for the various original branches of the organization. The programs provide adult education courses in English literacy, high school equivalency, employment readiness, childhood development and other essential skills to various at-risk and lower income families throughout Madison. They also provide daily early childhood classes for up to 50 children. And though many local and national groups, including Attic Angels, Returned Peace Corps Volunteers and the Barbara Bush Foundation have chipped in to help keep the program afloat, finances remain tight.
Patti La Cross, the current coordinator, explains: “In the past four years, several things have happened: The federal budget for Even Start was reduced by about 70% and in succession the two other Madison Even Start grants were reaching the end of their four-year cycles. So, we voluntarily merged, eventually becoming One Grant — Madison Family Literacy — and serve the city’s least educated, lowest income families on just over 1/3 of the original funds. And our success at meeting or exceeding all our performance indicators still went up!”
In addition to those families it was already serving, the program took on over 30 Hmong refugee families who began moving into subsidized housing in Madison back in July of 2004. Despite less money coming in and being told to cut back, MFL actually added services for these and other ethnic groups in the area.

Parents producing ‘battery-farmed’ children who never play outside, says minister

Laura Clark:

Parents who refuse to let their children out to play are producing a “battery-farmed” generation, says a minister.
Kevin Brennan warned that these youngsters would never become resilient and would be unable to cope with risk.
The Families Minister cited figures showing that more than a third of children are never let out to play.
Launching a child safety action plan, he said that primary pupils should be allowed to walk or cycle to school and the public should accept that young people have a right to gather in groups on the street.
He added: “We can all sometimes as parents get a little bit focused on wrapping our children in cotton wool and it’s not good for them to do that all the time. We have to educate people about the real risks they face.”
He gave the example of a girl he met who cycles to primary school in Battersea, South London, every day.

School boundaries get a second look

Susan Troller:

Madison parents in the Valley Ridge subdivision who objected to seeing their neighborhood split and some of their children moving to Falk Elementary may be pleased with the latest developments in planning for new west side school boundaries.
Likewise, parents who expressed concern about proposed school pairing plans that would join Falk and Stephens, or Falk and Crestwood schools, may also be breathing easier.
Those potential boundary plans might be off the table following the School Board’s long-range planning committee on Monday.
Carol Carstensen, chairwoman of the board’s planning committee, said the administration was asked this week to refine what’s become known as Plan B, which keeps more children in their current schools than previous plans. As part of Plan B, children in areas surrounding Channel 3 on the city’s western fringe may be moved to Falk Elementary, which is in a contiguous neighborhood, Carstensen said.
The boundary changes are necessary because of the need to balance student enrollments at west side elementary schools in anticipation of opening a new far west side elementary school next fall. The new school, located west of Highway M, is now under construction.
School boundary changes try to balance the use and capacity of school buildings with the distance and cost of transporting students. In addition, there is an effort to provide an economic mix of students, Carstensen said.

Background: boundary changes.

ACT required at Monona Grove

Gena Kittner:

College-bound or not, all juniors at Monona Grove High School will spend more than four hours this spring filling in tiny bubbles as part of a mandatory ACT test.
District administrators say the school will be the first in the state to administer the college preparatory test to all juniors, and will foot the $11,000 bill.
Although not a novel idea — five states require the test of all juniors — the idea of using the ACT to better judge proficiency in areas such as reading, math and science appeals to other area districts.
“All students need to have college-readiness skills in areas like reading and math no matter what they plan to do after high school, ” said Bill Breisch, curriculum director for Monona Grove School District. “Graduating with college-readiness skills is no longer just for some of our high school students. ”
By requiring the test of juniors, the district is also offering college-bound students a year to get on track if their scores show them weak in a certain area, Breisch said. That way, seniors aren ‘t blindsided when they take the ACT and find out they have to take remedial math in college, he said.

Case Studies of Higher-Performing Middle Schools


Case studies are produced as part of a larger study of middle schools conducted during the 2006-07 school year. Research teams investigated ten consistently higher-performing and six consistently average-performing middle schools based on student performance on New York State Assessments of 8th-grade English Language Arts and Mathematics.
Research teams used site-based interviews of teachers and administrators, as well as analysis of supportive documentation, to determine differences in practices between higher- and average-performing schools in the sample.

High School Teaches Thoreau in the Woods

Larry Abramson:

Teachers across the country offer to take the class outside when the weather is nice, but one program offered by a high school in northern Vermont holds classes outdoors all year long.
The Walden Project is an alternative program focused on environmental studies and on the teachings of Henry David Thoreau, who did some of his best thinking outdoors at Walden Pond.

Just why do students drop out?

Kelly Grysho:

Thousands of Arizona high-school students drop out of school annually. Many of these children are too old to go to bed early and too young to drive, yet they abandon Arizona schools at the rate of about 28,400 each year.
Faced with the overwhelming task of finding a job in an increasingly complex and challenging society, why would a student leave high school before graduating?
A team of Arizona State University students believes it may have some answers.
The students are Rodel Community Scholars, an elite group of highly motivated undergraduates attending ASU’s West campus and majoring in a variety of disciplines. They work alongside school administrators to identify and address key issues affecting Arizona’s education system.

Tin-eared and Wrong-headed

TJ Mertz:

At the Board of Education meeting Monday (2/4/2008) a proposal was put forth to enact new limits on public testimony. This proposal and the way it was introduced and discussed showed some on the Board at their worst, both tin-eared and wrong-headed. These are overlapping criticisms, because with the interactions between elected officials and the public, perceptions (tin-eared) and realities (wrong-headed) are inseparable.
Before I go further a caveat is in order. I did not attend the meeting on Monday and only watched the last 45 minutes or so at home. Still, I’m pretty confident in what I have to say.

New Thoughts On Language Acquisition: Toddlers As Data Miners

Science Daily:

Indiana University researchers are studying a ground-breaking theory that young children are able to learn large groups of words rapidly by data-mining.
Their theory, which they have explored with 12- and 14-month-olds, takes a radically different approach to the accepted view that young children learn words one at a time — something they do remarkably well by the age of 2 but not so well before that.
Data mining, usually computer-assisted, involves analyzing and sorting through massive amounts of raw data to find relationships, correlations and ultimately useful information. It often is used and thought of in a business context or used by financial analysts, and more recently, a wide range of research fields, such as biology and chemistry. IU cognitive science experts Linda Smith and Chen Yu are investigating whether the human brain accumulates large amounts of data minute by minute, day by day, and handles this data processing automatically. They are studying whether this phenomenon contributes to a “system” approach to language learning that helps explain the ease by which 2- and 3-year-olds can learn one word at a time.
“This new discovery changes completely how we understand children’s word learning,” Smith said. “It’s very exciting.”

The Trans-Classroom Teacher

Susan Lowes:

Online and face-to-face courses are often viewed and studied as two distinct worlds, but the social field of the teacher who teaches them may well include both, and both the teacher and the courses he or she teaches may be transformed by the movement from one environment to the other. Susan Lowes explores this two-way interaction between face-to-face and online teaching, addressing two important questions: Do teachers who move between face-to-face and online classrooms transfer ideas, strategies, and practices from one to the other? If so, which strategies and practices do they transfer? Particularly, Lowes focuses on the constraints and affordances of the online environment itself and how these affect face-to-face classroom practice.

Charters’ competitive edge

Eli Broad:

Charter schools — public schools that have been exempted from selected state and local regulations — are changing the competitive landscape of American elementary, middle and high schools. Some have had a rocky track record; some have been plagued by mismanagement and poor performance. But overall, the exchange of greater autonomy for greater accountability has worked. Those that have failed to perform have been shut down.
In Los Angeles, which has more charter schools than anywhere in the nation, charters are the key to raising the performance of all public schools. And they offer a lesson that can be applied elsewhere.
Consider the stark reality of the Los Angeles Unified School District: Of the more than 700,000 students in the nation’s second-largest district, only 44% graduate in four years. For Latino students, that number drops to 41%.
Now look at the graduation rates of high-performing charter schools, which usually replace lower-performing public ones: Green Dot Public Schools, which operates 12 charter schools in Los Angeles, has an 80% graduation rate. Of those students, nearly all go on to college, and two-thirds attend four-year universities. In the next five years, Green Dot will expand to serve a remarkable 8% of all high school students in Los Angeles.

Md. Moves to Recruit 1,000 Foster Parents by 2010

Ovetta Wiggins:

Maryland has launched an aggressive campaign to increase the number of foster families, aiming to recruit at least 1,000 foster parents by 2010.
More than 10,000 children in Maryland are in out-of-home placements, and about 20 percent are in group homes.
“That’s too many,” said Norris West, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of Human Resources, which places children in foster homes and group homes. “One thousand by 10 is a way to come up with a better balance.”
Maryland has 2,800 foster families, and the campaign seeks to increase that number by 35 percent in two years.
Department Secretary Brenda Donald said Maryland is trying to reverse an alarming trend: One thousand foster parents were lost from 2003 to 2007.

Breaking the Education Truce

Andrew Wolf:

Quite a debate among advocates of school choice has been ignited by Sol Stern’s article on school choice in the current number of City Journal.
Mr. Stern is a longtime advocate of school choice, whose book “Breaking Free: Public School Lessons and the Imperative of School Choice” is a bible to many in the voucher movement.
Now Mr. Stern, in “School Choice Isn’t Enough,” suggests that for choice to work, close attention must be paid to how and what children are taught in the classroom. Without such attention, Mr. Stern argues, the choice movement is doomed and may already be failing, as evidenced by results in Milwaukee, the largest venue where a voucher system exists, and in New York City where a grab-bag of incentivist proposals has been put in place by Mayor Bloomberg.
Mr. Stern contrasts these results with those in Massachusetts, where choice has not taken hold but where a tough curriculum, a testing regimen for both students and teachers, and rigorous academic standards have been put into place.
On the recently released NAEP tests, Massachusetts topped the list on fourth and eighth grade math and fourth and eighth grade reading. This has been peripherally touched on in the presidential campaign, as Mitt Romney raises these impressive results on the campaign trail. Pitted against Mr. Stern and his fellow “instructionists” is another Manhattan Institute heavyweight, Senior Fellow Jay Greene of the University of Arkansas. Mr. Greene, the pure incentivist, has lashed out at Mr. Stern in a reply just posted on the City Journal Web site.

Anxious parents propel boom in tutoring

Julie Henry:

Private tutoring of children has reached “epidemic proportions” as competition intensifies for entry to the best schools, according to a leading education guide.
Parents are paying up to £60 an hour to prepare children for entrance exams to leading independent and grammar schools.
Experts say the trend is being driven by parents who have been priced out of private education for their primary-school-age children and are using a mixture of state schooling and private tutoring to help win a place in an independent school at 11.
Others are paying tutors to help their children with GCSEs and other exams.
The Good Schools Guide, which will be published next week, has for the first time included a chapter on the booming private tuition industry.
Sue Fieldman, the guide’s regional editor, said: “We interview up to 10,000 parents for each edition to ask them about the best schools, and the noticeable trend this year is the use of tutors.
“The traditional route from prep school to senior school is being rejected by an increasing number of families. We cover schools everywhere, from the South of England through to Wales and Scotland, and we have seen this phenomenon throughout the country.”

“Online Gap” Widens Divide Between Parents and Children

Science Daily:

A new Tel Aviv University research study has found that, despite what parents might believe, there is an enormous gap between what they think their children are doing online and what is really happening.
In her study, Prof. Dafna Lemish from the Department of Communication at Tel Aviv University surveyed parents and their children about the children’s activities on the Internet. “The data tell us that parents don’t know what their kids are doing,” says Prof. Lemish. Her study was unique in that parents and children from the same family were surveyed.
Strange Encounters
In one part of the study, Prof. Lemish surveyed over 500 Jewish and Arab children from a variety of ages and socio-economic backgrounds, asking them if they gave out personal information online. Seventy-three percent said that they do. The parents of the same children believed that only 4 percent of their children did so.
The same children were also asked if they had been exposed to pornography while surfing, or if they had made face-to-face contact with strangers that they had met online. Thirty-six percent from the high school group admitted to meeting with a stranger they had met online. Nearly 40% of these children admitted to speaking with strangers regularly (within the past week).

The child-man

Kay Hymowitz:

Today’s single young men hang out in a hormonal limbo between adolescence and adulthood.
It’s 1965, and you’re a 26-year-old white guy. You have a factory job, or maybe you work for an insurance broker. Either way, you’re married, probably have been for a few years now; you met your wife in high school, where she was in your sister’s class. You’ve already got one kid, with another on the way. For now, you’re renting an apartment in your parents’ two-family house, but you’re saving up for a three-bedroom ranch house in the next town. Yup, you’re an adult!
Now meet the 21st-century you, also 26. You’ve finished college and work in a cubicle in a large Chicago financial-services firm. You live in an apartment with a few single guy friends. In your spare time, you play basketball with your buddies, download the latest indie songs from iTunes, have some fun with the Xbox 360, take a leisurely shower, massage some product into your hair and face – and then it’s off to bars and parties, where you meet, and often bed, girls of widely varied hues and sizes. Wife? Kids? House? Are you kidding?
Not so long ago, the average mid-twentysomething had achieved most of adulthood’s milestones – high school degree, financial independence, marriage and children. These days, he lingers – happily – in a new hybrid state of semi-hormonal adolescence and responsible self-reliance. Decades in unfolding, this limbo may not seem like news to many, but in fact it is to the early 21st century what adolescence was to the early 20th: a momentous sociological development of profound economic and cultural import.

Helicopter Parents & Other Exaggerations

Kevin Carey:

In a refreshing anti-bogus trend story, Eric Hoover reports the following($) in The Chronicle of Higher Education about the alleged growth of “helicopter parents” who supposedly can’t let go of their darling children and hover over them in college, thus spoiling them into adulthood and beyond. This meme has grown so prevalent that it was the topic of a week-long series of Tank McNamara, and there is of course no more reliable filter and promoter of bland conventional wisdom than the daily comics.

Proposed bill OKs guns in schools

Matthew Benson:

ndividuals with a concealed-weapons permit would be allowed to bring their guns onto school grounds under a measure introduced Friday at the Arizona Legislature.
The proposal, Senate Bill 1214, would exempt concealed-carry permit holders from a state law that bars individuals from knowingly carrying deadly weapons onto school property. If it becomes law, the measure would allow teachers and anyone else with a valid permit to carry their weapon onto the grounds of any public or private K-12 school, college or university in the state.
Supporters say the measure would provide an additional ring of security on campuses hit with a string of shootings in recent years. The most recent of which was last year’s at Virginia Tech, which left 33 dead. The shootings have come in spite of heightened campus security and policies that are increasingly aimed at scrubbing any and all weapons from school grounds.

Race out as reason to deny Madison school transfers

Susan Troller:

Madison School Board members voted Monday night to halt the practice of using race as a reason to deny transfers by white students to other school districts for the current open enrollment period, which began Monday and continues through Feb. 22. [About open enrollment: Part and Full Time]
The decision was made by unanimous vote during the board’s regular meeting, following a closed-door session with district superintendent Art Rainwater and the district’s legal staff.
Last year, the portion of the district’s open enrollment policy focusing on achieving racial balance in district schools affected about 120 students whose requests for transfer were denied, Rainwater said in a short interview following the meeting.
He said he had no idea how many students might be affected during the current enrollment period.
He also said that the Madison district has been closely following state statute regarding open enrollment, although it is the only district in the state to have denied transfers based on race.
“We take the laws of the state of Wisconsin very seriously,” Rainwater said. “I guess I’d question why in the past the other districts weren’t following the law as it’s written.”

Background: Madison Schools’ Using race to deny white student transfers to be topic for the School Board by Andy Hall

School Programs Hope Babies in the Classroom Will Reduce Bullying

Nick Wingfield:

It’s just Nolan Winecka’s second time teaching a class of fifth graders at Emerald Park Elementary School in this Seattle suburb, and it shows as he stares nervously at the two dozen kids surrounding him.
He burps. And the class erupts in giggles.
Nolan is 6 months old and hasn’t had any formal pedagogical training. But to the group that put him in the classroom, he has everything he needs to help teach children an unconventional subject. A Canadian nonprofit group, Roots of Empathy, is now bringing to the U.S. a decade-old program designed to reduce bullying by exposing classrooms to “empathy babies” for a whole school year.
Nolan is one of 10 babies in a test of this latest education craze in Seattle-area schools. In all, more than 2,000 empathy babies are cooing, crawling and crying in classrooms in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the U.S. The idea is that children — typically from kindergarten to eighth grade — can learn by observing the emotional connection between the babies and their parents, who volunteer for the program and who are with them in the classroom. It’s part of a wave of programs aimed at boosting the “emotional literacy” of youngsters in schools by getting them to recognize and talk about their feelings rather than act out aggressively.

Group to Monitor the Milwaukee Public Schools

Alan Borsuk:

An impressive group of what Sister Joel Read called “good, critical friends” came together Monday to announce that it was launching an effort aimed at providing both support and pressure for Milwaukee Public Schools to meet the ambitious goals of its new strategic plan.
Representatives of the business community, labor, education institutions, community groups and the state and local political worlds took part in the session at the new downtown headquarters of Manpower International, led by Read, the retired president of Alverno College.
“You’ve got a buy-in here,” said Mayor Tom Barrett, who will be a member of the committee, known as the Accountability and Support Group. “We all know what’s at stake here – the future of the city.”
Jeff Joerres, chief executive officer of Manpower, told the group that life needs to be put into the strategic plan because the future of the economy of the city depends on education and commitment to success. There is no option about whether to make sure there is momentum in improving education, he said.
The group will meet quarterly to look at how things are going in MPS, beginning in May, Read said. She said she expected the meetings to be demanding and detailed.
“We’ll do the things that good, critical friends do,” she said.
Circuit Judge Carl Ashley, a member of the group, said this is a time of necessity and opportunity for MPS – necessity because of the importance of improving educational results, and opportunity because “there is a coordinated community response” to what is going on.

Related editorial:

A new citizens’ committee reviewing plans for improving instruction must insist that MPS reach its high goals.

Can Education Research Save Us?

Jay Matthews:

So here comes Columbia University political scientist Jeffrey R. Henig, in a new book, saying I should keep trying but strive to do better. He insists that education researchers, journalists and policy makers can learn to communicate well and that readers will benefit.
Henig is professor of political science and education at Teachers College of Columbia University. He interviewed many education researchers and journalists, including me, for the book, “Spin Cycle: How Research Gets Used in Policy Debates, The Case of Charter Schools,” 288 pages, $21.45 on amazon.com. It is well-written, and makes good use of its central case study–how the educational research community got into a spectacular shouting match over an Aug. 17, 2004, story in The New York Times by Diana Jean Schemo, “Charter Schools Trail in Results, U.S. Data Reveals.”
At the time I thought Schemo’s story was interesting, and the harsh words exchanged by various scholars seemed to be just more of what I had been seeing for years when journalists, myself included, write stories that seem to favor one side over the other. Henig’s account of the controversy brings all that out, but then he points out many new approaches that could have turned the charter school data into something that raised understanding, rather than sowed confusion.
Among his suggestions, five have potential, if you believe that research and journalism operate under Darwinist laws in which the most productive of our practices gradually replace less sensible routines. He thinks we would do better if the federal government gave up on education policy, if researchers were encouraged to focus more on subjects that interested journalists, if scholars stopped wishing for the killer study that changes everything, if we had an education journal with the quality and prestige of the New England Journal of Medicine and if we had more faith in our readers’ interest in research findings without any immediate relevance to the latest hot issues.
Expecting the feds to butt out of education debates, forget about No Child Left Behind and let states carry the load seems somewhat unrealistic, but consider: When is the last time you heard any presidential candidate spend more than a minute discussing education in any debate? Henig notes that once issues like charter schools acquire a state-level focus, they become more concrete and more likely to inspire discussion that actually produces better schools.

Why our kids’ love for reading fades

Betsy Hammond:

When Iris Liu was in elementary school, she’d check out a half-dozen library books at a time and plow through them one after another, like candy. Looking back, it strikes her as nerdy, but at the time, it was pure delight. She’d read 100 or more books a year just for fun.
Flash forward to eighth grade at Lake Oswego Junior High. Halfway through the school year, Iris has finished one book — one — beyond those assigned at school.
She hasn’t lost her love of reading, she says. It’s just that she is so busy — primarily with hours of homework every night, plus daily play rehearsals, family dinner hour and stolen moments spent texting friends.

High school students test their sales skills

Pamela Cotant:

These days, students practicing their selling skills in DECA use merchandise such as cell phones, iPods and digital cameras.
But that ‘s not only change in the organization. DECA, which once stood for Distributive Education Clubs of America but now goes only by the shortened name, has expanded its original retail focus.
“Now it is a focus in marketing of which retail is a part, ” said Marie Burbach, executive director of Professional Partners of Wisconsin DECA in Madison.
At the recent District 3 Career Development Conference at Oregon High School, 15 different careers were represented in areas as diverse as automotive services, apparel and accessories and sports and entertainment.

Sophia counters the downward spiral — one girl at a time

Julia Steiny:

The Sophia Academy intervenes in the lives of low-income girls who are “most at risk of repeating the cycle of poverty,” according to the school’s fact sheet. Not an easy mission.
This private, nonparochial school is housed in the old St. Edward’s School in Providence, almost at the North Providence border. Each grade, 5 through 8, has 15 girls from the greater Providence area, who are being prepared for a future few other local schools make possible.
To give me the unvarnished version of what Sophia is all about, Gigi DiBello, head of school, asked students to volunteer to answer questions. Without staff present, six forthright girls from different grades gathered in a conference room where they told me about their education experience, before Sophia and now.
Bright-eyed Jazlyn, an eighth grader, raised her hand, lurched forward and insisted she tell her story first. “At the school I went to [an urban public school], everybody just didn’t care. If you didn’t do your work, whatever. So I got used to putting my name on the top of a paper and handing it in. The teachers never said anything, so why should I do my work? I just talked with my friends. So when my mother applied to this school, I cried — hard. I was sure the other school was really helping me, you know, socially.”
The other girls laughed. Jazlyn smiled and shrugged.

The Sophia Academy Providence

Wisconsin Charter Schools Qualify for Grants

Amy Hetzner:

Ten new and 40 existing charter schools will share $5.8 million in federal funding awarded by the state Department of Public Instruction after new scrutiny over whether the schools meet federal requirements for what constitutes a charter school.
Omitted from the list of grantees, which the agency plans to release today, is the Waukesha School District’s latest charter school, the Waukesha Engineering Preparatory Academy.
Among those that have received charter school grants are Milwaukee Business High School, Academia de Lenguaje y Bellas Artes (ALBA), Hmong Peace Academy and Humboldt Park Charter School in Milwaukee; Tosa School of Health, Science and Technology in Wauwatosa; and Academy of Learning, 21st Century Skills Model, in West Allis.

Criminals in school? Who knows?

Erin Calandriello:

lgin School District U46 officials say they’re usually in the dark when it comes to students’ criminal backgrounds.
“I don’t know what kids are out there and have what,” said Pat Broncato, Elgin School District U46’s chief legal officer. “They (students) may be under investigation for something, but that may never come to fruition; or they may not have done what they’re under investigation for. So we’re not made aware of who they are.”
Law enforcement and judicial entities across the nation — including the Elgin Police Department, the Kane County and Cook County state’s attorney’s offices and the Kane County Child Advocacy Center — don’t release students’ juvenile records because of stringent laws regarding a minor’s right to privacy, according to Douglas Thomas, a research associate at the National Center for Juvenile Justice.
The nonprofit center acts as the research division of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, based in Pittsburgh, Pa.
“There’s a fairly strict universal code of not sharing juvenile court records, seeing that confidentiality is one of the founding principles of the juvenile justice system,” Thomas said.
An exception is “if a juvenile has been adjudicated and is sentenced; then the sentencing order can be turned over to an education system that has him as a pupil,” said Steve Beckett, a professor and director of trial advocacy at the College of Law at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

Schools embracing powers for police
New law allows districts to authorize officers, set policies and obtain law enforcement training

Andy Gammill:

Half a dozen Indiana school boards are considering whether to take on the new responsibility of authorizing police officers.
The move could create a minefield of issues from issuing badges to setting policies. So far, Pike Township Schools may be the only district to use a new law that allows school boards to appoint officers.
Previously, school districts could not grant police powers, although several have long said they have “police departments” that derive authority from a local sheriff or police chief.
In districts that convert, students will see little difference. A badge or uniform may change, but few officers will change duties.
The change affects school boards, which will have greater responsibility for making police policy regarding training, firearms use, police chases and various protocols.
Any school police policy entrusted to mayors and sheriffs would rest with school boards, too.
Pike Township Schools became the first school district to launch its own police department in July. Brownsburg, Center Grove and Indianapolis Public Schools are among those considering the change.

Related: Gangs & School Violence Forum audio / video.

“Touting an Asset: Voucher Schools”

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Editorial:

The debate on school choice in Milwaukee is often punctuated with a whole lot of fingers poking the air and decibels assaulting the eardrums. The two sides are that far apart on the merits of the program, which allows parents of the city’s low-income students to opt into private education if they believe public schools aren’t serving their children’s needs.
A promotional campaign on television, radio and in print over the next four months will not settle the issue. We hope, however, that it enlightens policy-makers, particularly those in Madison, that this is a program that enjoys broad support locally and contains an abundance of success stories.
Yes, the same can be said of students and schools in the Milwaukee Public Schools system. That’s the point. Both deserve enthusiastic support. This should not be an either/or proposition. We’re way past that.
At least we should be. The fear from those behind this campaign is that the program is still vulnerable – that it might not be some bold legislation that undoes it but a death of a thousand cuts, legislatively speaking.
The fear is not unreasonable. The reaction to a memo sent by Rep. Fred Kessler (D-Milwaukee) to the governor was overblown. The proposals to diminish choice contained therein were meant as starting points for a discussion with the governor. Still, it’s understandable that the choice community would react the way it did given that the discussion even would start at some of those points. And Senate Majority Leader Russ Decker (D-Weston) has been a foe of school choice.

“A Modest Proposal for the Schools:”
Eliminate local control

A provocative title for a must read. It addresses a number of issues, from local outsize influence on school boards to Wisconsin’s low state standards:

Congress erred big-time when NCLB assigned each state to set its own standards and devise and score its own tests … this study underscores the folly of a big modern nation, worried about its global competitiveness, nodding with approval as Wisconsin sets its eighth-grade reading passing level at the 14th percentile while South Carolina sets its at the 71st percentile.

Matt Miller via a kind reader’s email:

It wasn’t just the slate and pencil on every desk, or the absence of daily beatings. As Horace Mann sat in a Leipzig classroom in the summer of 1843, it was the entire Prussian system of schools that impressed him. Mann was six years into the work as Massachusetts secretary of education that would earn him lasting fame as the “father of public education.” He had sailed from Boston to England several weeks earlier with his new wife, combining a European honeymoon with educational fact-finding. In England, the couple had been startled by the luxury and refinement of the upper classes, which exceeded anything they had seen in America and stood in stark contrast to the poverty and ignorance of the masses. If the United States was to avoid this awful chasm and the social upheaval it seemed sure to create, he thought, education was the answer. Now he was seeing firsthand the Prussian schools that were the talk of reformers on both sides of the Atlantic.
In Massachusetts, Mann’s vision of “common schools,” publicly funded and attended by all, represented an inspiring democratic advance over the state’s hodgepodge of privately funded and charity schools. But beyond using the bully pulpit, Mann had little power to make his vision a reality. Prussia, by contrast, had a system designed from the center. School attendance was compulsory. Teachers were trained at national institutes with the same care that went into training military officers. Their enthusiasm for their subjects was contagious, and their devotion to students evoked reciprocal affection and respect, making Boston’s routine resort to classroom whippings seem barbaric.
Mann also admired Prussia’s rigorous national curriculum and tests. The results spoke for themselves: illiteracy had been vanquished. To be sure, Prussian schools sought to create obedient subjects of the kaiser—hardly Mann’s aim. Yet the lessons were undeniable, and Mann returned home determined to share what he had seen. In the seventh of his legendary “Annual Reports” on education to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, he touted the benefits of a national system and cautioned against the “calamities which result … from leaving this most important of all the functions of a government to chance.”
Mann’s epiphany that summer put him on the wrong side of America’s tradition of radical localism when it came to schools. And although his efforts in the years that followed made Massachusetts a model for taxpayer-funded schools and state-sponsored teacher training, the obsession with local control—not incidentally, an almost uniquely American obsession—still dominates U.S. education to this day. For much of the 150 or so years between Mann’s era and now, the system served us adequately: during that time, we extended more schooling to more people than any nation had before and rose to superpower status. But let’s look at what local control gives us today, in the “flat” world in which our students will have to compete.
The United States spends more than nearly every other nation on schools, but out of 29 developed countries in a 2003 assessment, we ranked 24th in math and in problem-solving, 18th in science, and 15th in reading. Half of all black and Latino students in the U.S. don’t graduate on time (or ever) from high school. As of 2005, about 70 percent of eighth-graders were not proficient in reading. By the end of eighth grade, what passes for a math curriculum in America is two years behind that of other countries.
Dismal fact after dismal fact; by now, they are hardly news. But in the 25 years since the landmark report A Nation at Risk sounded the alarm about our educational mediocrity, America’s response has been scattershot and ineffective, orchestrated mainly by some 15,000 school districts acting alone, with help more recently from the states. It’s as if after Pearl Harbor, FDR had suggested we prepare for war through the uncoordinated efforts of thousands of small factories; they’d know what kinds of planes and tanks were needed, right?
When you look at what local control of education has wrought, the conclusion is inescapable: we must carry Mann’s insights to their logical end and nationalize our schools, to some degree. But before delving into the details of why and how, let’s back up for a moment and consider what brought us to this pass.


Districts weighing costs, benefits of Open Enrollment

Lisa Sink:

The state’s open enrollment program has helped many Milwaukee-area school districts shore up their budgets, add diversity and keep neighborhood schools open amid declining residential enrollment. Ten years after the program’s creation, the number of students using it to attend the public school district of their choice – if that district has space – has surged from 2,464 to more than 23,000.
But at least two area districts are asking if there is a tipping point at which districts can accept too many nonresident students. When does it hurt a district financially to fill its schools with open enrollment students? And what is the full impact – good and bad – of the program on district budgets, buildings and programs?
The Wauwatosa School District commissioned what it believes is the area’s first financial model trying to pin down when, if ever, it makes more sense to close schools than increase the percentage of nonresident students to fill classrooms. And now Elmbrook School Board members are pushing for a similar study, as a divided board voted recently to cut nearly in half the number of new open enrollment seats that will be allowed next fall.


Districts in big cities of the Midwest and Northeast undergo the most change.
Amanda Paulson:

t one time, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District in North Carolina was a model of court-ordered integration.
Today, nearly a decade after a court struck down its racial-balancing busing program, the school district is moving in the opposite direction. More than half of its elementary schools are either more than 90 percent black or 90 percent white.
“Charlotte is rapidly resegregating,” says Carol Sawyer, a parent and member of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Equity Committee.
It’s a trend that is occurring around the country and is even more pronounced than expected in the wake of court cases dismantling both mandated and voluntary integration programs, a new report says. The most segregated schools, according to the report, which documents desegregation trends, are in big cities of the Northeast and Midwest. The South and West – and rural areas and small towns generally – offer minority students a bit more diversity.
Suburbs of large cities, meanwhile, are becoming the new frontier: areas to which many minorities are moving.
These places still have a chance to remain diverse communities but are showing signs of replicating the segregation patterns of the cities themselves.
“It’s getting to the point of almost absolute segregation in the worst of the segregated cities – within one or two percentage points of what the Old South used to be like,” says Gary Orfield, codirector of the Civil Rights Project and one of the study’s authors. “The biggest metro areas are the epicenters of segregation. It’s getting worse for both blacks and Latinos, and nothing is being done about it.”

Good grades pay off — literally

Greg Toppo:

Teachers have long said that success is its own reward. But these days, some students are finding that good grades can bring them cash and luxury gifts.
In at least a dozen states this school year, students who bring home top marks can expect more than just gratitude. Examples:
•Baltimore schools chief Andres Alonso last week promised to spend more than $935,000 to give high school students as much as $110 each to improve their scores on state graduation exams.
•In New York City, about 9,000 fourth- and seventh-graders in 60 schools are eligible to win as much as $500 for improving their scores on the city’s English and math tests, given throughout the school year.
•In suburban Atlanta, a pair of schools last week kicked off a program that will pay 8th- and 11th-grade students $8 an hour for a 15-week “Learn & Earn” after-school study program (the federal minimum wage is currently $5.85).

Pangea Day, May 10 2008

Pangea Day taps the power of film to strengthen tolerance and compassion while uniting millions of people to build a better future.
In a world where people are often divided by borders, difference, and conflict, it’s easy to lose sight of what we all have in common. Pangea Day seeks to overcome that – to help people see themselves in others – through the power of film.
On May 10, 2008 – Pangea Day – sites in Cairo, Dharamsala, Kigali, London, New York City, Ramallah, Rio de Janeiro, and Tel Aviv will be videoconferenced live to produce a 4-hour program of powerful films, visionary speakers, and uplifting music.

Madison Schools’ Using race to deny white student transfers to be topic for the School Board

Andy Hall:

As families’ application deadline looms, many are wondering whether the Madison School District will halt its practice of using race as the reason for denying some white students’ requests to transfer to other districts.
The answer could begin to emerge as early as Monday, the first day for Wisconsin families
to request open-enrollment transfers for the coming school year.
Madison Superintendent Art Rainwater and the district’s legal counsel will confer Monday night with the School Board. It’s possible that after the closed-door discussion, the board will take a vote in open session to stop blocking open-enrollment requests on the basis of race, School Board President Arlene Silveira said.
“This is a serious decision for our school district, ” Rainwater said.
“It is our responsibility to take a very careful look at legal issues facing our school district. ”
Last year, Madison was the only of the state’s 426 school districts to deny transfer requests because of race, rejecting 126 white students’ applications to enroll in other districts, including online schools. Many of the affected students live within the district but weren’t enrolled in public schools because they were being home-schooled or attended private schools.

Related articles:

Making Better Use of Limited Resources, Part I

Wisconsin Center for Education Research:

Over the past 15 years, WCER’s Consortium for Policy Research in Education (CPRE) has worked to find better ways to allocate education funds and to link them to powerful school-based strategies to boost student learning. This is the second of a four-part series covering highlights from CPRE research. This article covers reallocating dollars at the school level and by educational strategy; documenting best practices in school finance adequacy; and using resources to double student performance.
Reallocating School-Level Funds
The U.S. education system educates only about one-third of the nation’s students to a rigorous proficiency standard. Improving education productivity must be placed onto the policy agenda and the practice agenda, says UW-Madison education professor and CPRE director Allan Odden. The goal of teaching all, or nearly all, students to high standards will require doubling or tripling student academic achievement.
But it’s unlikely that education funding will correspondingly increase, Odden says. To accomplish this goal, schools will need to adopt more powerful educational strategies and, in the process, reallocate funds. CPRE research found many examples of schools that reallocated their resources to improve student performance. From that research CPRE created a dozen case studies of schools—urban, suburban, and rural—that had reallocated resources to use teachers, time, and funds more productively.
Dissatisfied with their students’ performance, these schools redesigned their entire education programs. By reallocating resources and restructuring they transformed themselves into more productive educational organizations. They tended to spend more time on core academic subjects and they often provided lower class sizes for those subjects. They invested more in teacher professional development and provided more effective help for struggling students, including one-to-one tutoring. Subsequent research showed that many, but not all, designs produced higher levels of student achievement than typical schools.

Ontario Province will Quash black-focused schools if they become a trend: premier

Chinta Puxley:

Ontario “won’t hesitate” to prevent the segregation of kids according to race by quashing a proliferation of black-focused schools across the province if other school boards start following Toronto’s lead, Premier Dalton McGuinty said Friday.
One day after McGuinty said he wouldn’t overrule the Toronto District School Board’s decision to establish one of Canada’s first black-focused schools, McGuinty said he’s not ruling out quashing the idea if Ontario boards start following suit.
“We’ll be watching this very closely,” McGuinty said before attending a Liberal caucus retreat in Kitchener, Ont.
“If I get a proposal next week from Ottawa and the week after that from Windsor and the week after that from Thunder Bay – if something takes hold here that runs clearly contrary to our vision of publicly funded education in the province of Ontario – then we will not hesitate to act.”

93 Milwaukee Rufus King Students Present International Baccalaureate Papers

Alan Borsuk:

Three things to know about Mohammad Mohammad:
He’s a senior at Milwaukee’s Rufus King High School, he’s a good student, and he’s a big sports fan.
You can serve all that on a silver platter.
At least that’s what Mohammad did this week at a program honoring him and 92 fellow students for completing lengthy research papers as part of their work at the school.
The 3,000- to 4,000-word papers – “extended essays” – are required for students who want to receive the International Baccalaureate diploma. For those who complete such a paper – a process that begins in the spring of their junior years – it is a tradition to present the final product on a silver platter to the teacher who advised the student along the way, followed by the student and the teacher each commenting on what was learned.
The silver platter ceremony was held this week, and the 93 who presented their work are the largest group to complete the formidable research project in King’s nearly 30-year history as an IB school.
The topics they researched included matters from the worlds of science, history, art, religion and beyond. Daniel Gatewood, one of the advisers, said as he commented on one of his student’s papers, “I didn’t learn to write like this until graduate school.”
Mohammad said, “Every time I get one of these papers, I try to incorporate sports into it.” He chose as his topic the effects on American and Soviet psyches of the “Miracle on Ice” victory of the U.S. hockey team over the Russians at the 1980 Winter Olympics.

Links: International Baccalaureate website, Milwaukee Rufus King High School and Clusty search on the school.

Milwaukee Hiring 200+ Teachers for Reading & Math

Alan Borsuk:

Milwaukee Public Schools is hiring more than 200 new teachers and undertaking more than $16 million in new spending for the second semester, with the goals of improving students’ reading and math abilities and improving high school programs.
Frequently using the phrase “a sense of urgency,” Superintendent William Andrekopoulos said this week that the unusual midyear shakeup in the status quo in many MPS schools is causing stresses in some parts of the system and on many adults but will benefit children.
Speaking about a new program to teach reading to older students who are reading poorly, he said: “We’ve done something we haven’t done before, create a sense of urgency around improving children’s reading. . . . Sometimes, if that makes people uncomfortable, so be it.”
The initiatives are clearly stretching the capacity of the system, from the central office, which is scrambling to hire teachers, to individual schools, where sometimes major changes in schedules are being made at midyear and with short deadlines for implementation.
In part because of the new programs, MPS has an unusual number of teaching positions available – 397 such openings were listed on the system’s Web site as of Monday, the most recent update. That equals about 7% of all teaching jobs in the district. Andrekopoulos said that without the new jobs included, the total openings would not be so unusual for this time of year.

“Lotteries should be used for school selection”

Andrew Porter:

Lotteries should be used to award pupils places at schools across England under plans that would see the abolition of grammar schools, a Government-backed report has recommended.
Admissions rules should be introduced to make the system fairer to pupils from poor backgrounds, the researchers said.
Lotteries would be unpopular with parents, many of whom have paid large premiums on their homes to make sure they are in the catchment area of a good school.
The report also calls for faith schools to be made to take a quota of children from non-religious backgrounds.
The study – by Sheffield Hallam University and the National Centre for Social Research – was attacked as “nonsensical” and “a waste of money”.

Boston School Superintendent Reorganizes District Administration

Marie Szaniszio:

Five months after taking over as Boston public schools superintendent, Carol R. Johnson last night proposed a shakeup in her administration to close the achievement gap among students and ensure “graduation for all.”
Under her plan, a new office will focus on closing the achievement gap between black and Hispanic students and their white and Asian peers, as well as the performance gaps between rich and poor, between male and female, and between English and non-English speaking students.
The superintendent also announced a reorganization of the district’s administration, including the appointment of a new chief academic officer and five academic superintendents to supervise and support school principals.

James McIntyre, currently Boston’s Chief Operating Officer, was a finalist for the Madison Superintendent position.
The article includes quite a few local comments.

Green Charter Schools Meeting

You’re invited to an important discussion about “green” public schools with environment-focused educational programs and practices.
Date: February 11, 2008 (Monday Afternoon)
Time: 1:30pm to 3:30pm
Site: U.W.- Madison Arboretum
Join this facilitated discussion among educators, students, environmental leaders, policymakers, green charter school friends, news media, school officials, and founding directors of the new Green Charter Schools Network.
Discussion & Reception
Facilitator: Doug Thomas, Director, EdVisions
Share your opinions about:
Green Charter School Choices in Public Education
Student Experiences at Green Charter Schools including River Crossing Charter School Students
What’s It Mean to Be an Educated Person?
Creating the Capacity for Change
Young People and the Environmental Legacies of:
Aldo Leopold
Gaylord Nelson
Sigurd Olson
Innovating with School and Schooling — “Innovating” linked at Education / Evolving
VICTORIA RYDBERG and STUDENTS from River Crossing Charter School will join us at the February 11 discussion along with TIA NELSON, Gaylord Nelson’s daughter; JEFF NANIA, Director, Wisconsin Waterfowl Association; SARA LAIMON, Teacher, Environmental Charter High School, L.A., California; JIM McGRATH, JULIE SPALDING, & JIM TANGEN-FOSTER, Educators & Founders of Green Charter Schools; STEFAN ANDERSON, Headmaster, Conserve School, and many other environmentalists and educators.
Please RSVP to sennb@charter.net or 608 238 7491

Intel Science Contest Finalists: One Student from Wisconsin’s Appleton East

Science Talent Search:

Matthew Michael Wage, 17, of Appleton, submitted an Intel Science Talent Search mathematics project that extended earlier results on arithmetic functions. The starting point for Matt’s project in number theory is Lehmer’s Conjecture, still open, that an arithmetic function defined by Ramanujan, the tau-function, is nonzero at each natural number n. Murty, Murty and Shorey showed that tau takes on any given value only finitely often. Matt extends this result to a wider class of arithmetic functions, sometimes at the cost of adding restrictions to the choice of n. Matt attends Appleton High School East where he is active in varsity football, varsity tennis and the ping pong club. Matt has won regional competitions in math, and his volunteer efforts as a coach helped the school’s math team earn the top rank in the state. He also enjoys playing chess, bridge and guitar. Matt’s quest for understanding the world around him has fueled his passion to learn everything from ideal gas laws to the propaganda genius of Genghis Khan. The son of Michael Wage and Kathy Vogel, Matt plans to study mathematics and medicine and pursue a career as a physician or mathematician.

Amanda Fairbanks has more.

Oregon and Monona Grove Add Elementary Spanish

Gena Kittner:

wo Dane County school districts will be saying “hola ” to new language programs at the elementary level this fall.
In the Oregon School District, Spanish will be taught in kindergarten through fourth grades starting this fall, with fifth and sixth grades added in the fall of 2009, said Courtney Odorico, Oregon School Board member.
Teaching only Spanish is a scaled-down version of what the district originally considered — teaching a different language such as Japanese, Chinese or German — at each of its three elementary schools.
“I think parents were a little worried about not having a choice, ” Odorico said. Also, “there were very few certified teachers in Chinese and some of the other languages we were looking at in the state. ”
The School Board approved the program at a meeting Monday.
Spanish also is the language of choice for elementary students in Monona Grove, where the School Board approved the program earlier this month.
The parent response was overwhelmingly for Spanish, said Bill Breisch, curriculum director for the Monona Grove School District.

Wisconsin Online Schooling Grows, Setting Off Debate

Sam Dillon:

Weekday mornings, three of Tracie Weldie’s children eat breakfast, make beds and trudge off to public school — in their case, downstairs to their basement in a suburb here, where their mother leads them through math and other lessons outlined by an Internet-based charter school.
Half a million American children take classes online, with a significant group, like the Weldies, getting all their schooling from virtual public schools. The rapid growth of these schools has provoked debates in courtrooms and legislatures over money, as the schools compete with local districts for millions in public dollars, and over issues like whether online learning is appropriate for young children.
One of the sharpest debates has concerned the Weldies’ school in Wisconsin, where last week the backers of online education persuaded state lawmakers to keep it and 11 other virtual schools open despite a court ruling against them and the opposition of the teachers union. John Watson, a consultant in Colorado who does an annual survey of education that is based on the Internet, said events in Wisconsin followed the pattern in other states where online schools have proliferated fast.
“Somebody says, ‘What’s going on, does this make sense?’ ” Mr. Watson said. “And after some inquiry most states have said, ‘Yes, we like online learning, but these are such new ways of teaching children that we’ll need to change some regulations and get some more oversight.’ ”
Two models of online schooling predominate. In Florida, Illinois and half a dozen other states, growth has been driven by a state-led, state-financed virtual school that does not give a diploma but offers courses that supplement regular work at a traditional school. Generally, these schools enroll only middle and high school students.

A Look at Kindergarten Reading in Montgomery County, MD

Daniel de Vise:

The share of kindergarten students in the county who can read simple books has risen from 39 to 93 percent in six years, according to school system data culled from reading assessments given each spring. Achievement is so high, and across so many demographic groups, that school officials plan to test future kindergartners on more challenging text.
“This is the collapsing of the gap,” Weast said, speaking to an audience of parents, students and educators at College Gardens Elementary School in Rockville.
The news conference was called partly for the benefit of the County Council, whose members have been examining the superintendent’s record with the achievement gap. Last week, the county Office of Legislative Oversight released a somewhat critical report on the school system’s progress toward erasing performance disparities among students of different demographic groups.
The report found that the gap has narrowed under Weast’s leadership, particularly on tests of reading and math given in the lower grades. Pass rates on the kindergarten assessment ranged from 87 to 97 percent among students of different races. Progress is slower in the middle grades, and the gap has widened on a few high school measures, such as SAT performance and rates of student suspension.

Wisconsin Virtual school decision goes statewide

Amy Hetzner:

The Wisconsin Court of Appeals has given supporters of the state’s virtual charter schools another reason to hope the Legislature is able to alter state law to save online education.
Yesterday, the publication committee for the appeals court approved publishing a decision by a three-judge appellate panel from Waukesha issued last December. The move means that decision – which found that a virtual school operated by the Northern Ozaukee School District violated several statutes – now applies statewide.
The state Department of Public Instruction has said that it would not distribute aid through open enrollment if the opinion were published. That could mean that school districts like Waukesha and Appleton, which like Northern Ozaukee operate virtual schools with large numbers of open-enrollees, lose out on millions of dollars of state aid.

Much more on Wisconsin’s virtual schools controversy here.