Oconomowoc Must Pay for Disabled Student

Amy Hetzner:

The Oconomowoc Area School District must pay the educational costs of a disabled man placed by Winnebago County court order in a residential treatment center within district boundaries, an appeals court has decided.
Officials involved in the case say it could affect other school districts that host residential care and education centers, which often serve the most drastically disabled and costly students.
“Special education tuitions can run thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Oconomowoc Superintendent Patricia Neudecker said.
The ruling affirms a decision by the state Department of Public Instruction that transferred the financial burden of the man’s education at the Oconomowoc Developmental Training Center to the Oconomowoc district once he reached 18 and moved to an adult residential facility located in the district.
The DPI had argued that while state law exempts local school districts from paying the costs of students placed by court order in residential care centers such as the one in Oconomowoc, that exemption does not apply to adult students living in community facilities.
Neudecker said her district challenged the state’s decision to assign to it the educational costs of a person who had never been enrolled in the school system or lived there before his court-ordered placement, not only because of the financial burden but also because of the larger implications.


Northwestern News:

A Northwestern University study investigating the effects of class size on the achievement gap between high and low academic achievers suggests that high achievers benefit more from small classes than low achievers, especially at the kindergarten and first grade levels.
“While decreasing class size may increase achievement on average for all types of students, it does not appear to reduce the achievement gap within a class,” said Spyros Konstantopoulos, assistant professor at Northwestern’s School of Education and Social Policy.
Konstantopoulos’ study, which appears in the March issue of Elementary School Journal, questions commonly held assumptions about class size and the academic achievement gap — one of the most debated and perplexing issues in education today.
The Northwestern professor worked with data from Project STAR, a landmark longitudinal study launched in 1985 by the State of Tennessee to determine whether small classes positively impacted the academic achievement of students.
Considered one of the most important investigations in education, STAR made it abundantly clear that on average small classes had a positive impact on the academic performance of all students.

Autism Breakthrough: Girl’s Writings Explain Her Behavior and Feelings

John McKenzie:

Autism Breakthrough: Girl’s Writings Explain Her Behavior and Feelings
Two years ago, working with pictures and symbols on a computer keyboard, she started typing and spelling out words. The computer became her voice.
“All of a sudden these words started to pour out of her, and it was an exciting moment because we didn’t realize she had all these words,” said speech pathologist Barbara Nash. “It was one of those moments in my career that I’ll never forget.”
Then Carly began opening up, describing what it was like to have autism and why she makes odd noises or why she hits herself.
“It feels like my legs are on first and a million ants are crawling up my arms,” Carly said through the computer.

Do little ones need formal lessons?

Hilary Wilce:

War has broken out over the under-fives. As the Government moves to bring in a compulsory “nappy curriculum” for pre-schoolers, thousands of protesters are lobbying to keep children’s early years out of the hands of Whitehall bureaucrats. Their case is being brought before Parliament, and early-childhood experts from around the world are backing their cause.
The latest of these is educational psychologist Aric Sigman, who, in a research paper commissioned by the campaigners, sets out the evidence that early computer-based learning, which the new curriculum explicitly encourages, has a negative effect on language, maths, reading and brain development.
“Parents and the educational establishment should, in effect, ‘cordon-off’ the early years of education,” he concludes, “providing a buffer zone where a child’s cognitive and social skills can develop without the distortion that may occur through the premature use of ICT.”
The cause of the furore is the Government’s early years foundation stage, which sets out a detailed learning framework for the under-fives. Everyone who works with young children, be they childminders, play assistants or nursery teachers, will be required to use it from this September. The framework stresses that although children develop at different rates and young children learn by play and exploration, it lists 69 goals that most children should attain by the age of five, and outlines how children must be assessed against them.

Let Them Drop Out, Then Get Them Back

Jay Matthews:

Every time I hear from a teacher, I learn something. It may be a new reading report, a promising homework technique, a story of a student’s success. And sometimes it is a taboo-busting, eye-widening, troublemaking idea. Consider the e-mail that Michael Goldstein, founder of the MATCH Charter Public High School in Boston, sent, saying that if a kid wants to drop out, let him.
I would usually hit the delete button on something that impolitic. But Goldstein has created one of the most successful inner-city high schools in the country. He has proven to me time and again that he knows what he is talking about.
I think our awful dropout rate — only half of urban low-income students complete high school — is the most difficult educational problem in the country. It may require much more than our usual buzzword solutions such as “engaging lessons,” “personal contact” or “individualized instruction.” What Goldstein wants to do is sort of educational jujitsu: Let the force of the kid’s rush out of school bring him back, somewhat later, with enough money to get the learning he finally realizes he needs.
I am going to quote Goldstein’s e-mail in full, because anyone who is willing to risk his splendid reputation to this degree should have a chance to explain all the details. He wrote in response to my request for solutions to the hopelessness found in many of our urban high schools, exemplified by Washington Post Staff Writer Lonnae O’Neal Parker’s two-part series in November on Calvin Coolidge Senior High School senior Jonathan Lewis, a potential dropout if there ever was one.

Special ed’s costs endanger other programs

Kathleen Carroll:

The Demarest school district eliminated health insurance for teacher’s aides.
Becton Regional High School canceled the school play.
Ramsey postponed repairs to an athletic field so dangerous that the track team hosted meets in nearby towns.
The reason: skyrocketing special-education bills.
“It’s uncomfortable,” said Ramsey Superintendent Roy Montesano. “You don’t ever want to have it appear that we’re taking away, because we don’t want it to be a fight between general education and special education.”
Districts are under intense financial pressure after five years of flat state funding, rising health-care costs, public despair over sky-high tax bills and a law capping tax increases. At the same time, costs for New Jersey’s neediest special-education students have tripled to $595 million.

Parents “Ready for Monday’s Boundary Battle”


A ciritical meeting on Monday night could decide the fate of where some Madison students will go to school.
VIDEO: Watch The Report
On Sunday, some West Side parents prepared for battle, concerned that they are becoming a swing neighborhood, WISC-TV reported.
The area at issue is located near the WISC-TV studios and is referred to as the “Channel 3 Area” by the Madison Metropolitan School District. If the current recommended plan is passed, their neighborhood children would be moved to the fourth elementary school in 15 years.
“It was Huegel, Orchard Ridge, Chavez, Mold, then new school,” said one concerned parent.
Parents in the neighborhood gathered together on Sunday night to share their talking points and prepare to fight for their neighborhood school.

Susan Troller has more here.

The Truth About Autism: Scientists Reconsider What They Think They Know

David Wolman:

The YouTube clip opens with a woman facing away from the camera, rocking back and forth, flapping her hands awkwardly, and emitting an eerie hum. She then performs strange repetitive behaviors: slapping a piece of paper against a window, running a hand lengthwise over a computer keyboard, twisting the knob of a drawer. She bats a necklace with her hand and nuzzles her face against the pages of a book. And you find yourself thinking: Who’s shooting this footage of the handicapped lady, and why do I always get sucked into watching the latest viral video?
But then the words “A Translation” appear on a black screen, and for the next five minutes, 27-year-old Amanda Baggs — who is autistic and doesn’t speak — describes in vivid and articulate terms what’s going on inside her head as she carries out these seemingly bizarre actions. In a synthesized voice generated by a software application, she explains that touching, tasting, and smelling allow her to have a “constant conversation” with her surroundings. These forms of nonverbal stimuli constitute her “native language,” Baggs explains, and are no better or worse than spoken language. Yet her failure to speak is seen as a deficit, she says, while other people’s failure to learn her language is seen as natural and acceptable.
And you find yourself thinking: She might have a point.

Cheating Scandals Rock Three Top-Tier High Schools

Susan Donaldson James:

Sam is a top student in a high-pressure high school just outside New York City who openly admits he “cheats along the way” to academic success.
The 16-year-old sees nothing wrong with looking at another student’s paper during a quiz or borrowing a classmate’s ideas.
He insists “90 percent or higher” of the students at his school engage in cheating — from tucking vocabulary crib sheets under their hats to stealing math exams.
But Sam insists he has a moral conscience — he won’t use his last name for this article — and he swears he will never cheat in college. But he justifies his cheating.
“My parents would consider this cheating, but I don’t have any major problems with it,” Sam told ABCNEWS.com. “It’s school, and you’re cheating your way through the system.”
Sam is typical of most American students. An estimated two-thirds of all high school students admit to “serious” academic cheating, according to a national survey by Rutgers’ Management Education Center in New Jersey.

Many college students found to be unprepared

Rodrique Ngowi:

Massachusetts may have one of the highest rates of students going to college, but the first statewide school-to-college report shows that 37 percent of public high school graduates who enter public higher education may not be ready.
The joint report released Thursday by the Massachusetts Department of Education and the Board of Higher Education analyzed the performance of the class of 2005 and indicated that students lagging behind needed remedial courses in college.
State education officials say about 80 percent of Massachusetts high school students go to college. The report found that more students from low-income families, some racial and ethnic minorities, those who do not speak English as their first language, and those who receive special education services in high school go to community colleges, where most of them need remedial academic help.
Higher education officials were not surprised by the finding, saying they hope the report leads to new efforts to help students.

Final Meeting of the National Math Panel


March 13, 2008
Longfellow Middle School
Fairfax, VA
Registration (first-come, first-served basis)
We are now taking registrations for guests who would like to attend the final meeting of the National Math Panel.
Please note: There will be no public comments session at this meeting as the Panel will be adopting and releasing its Final Report.
Longfellow Middle School, 2000 Westmoreland Street, Falls Church, Virginia 22043
OnThursday, March 13 the Panel will complete its work by adopting and releasing the Final Report.

Education Revolt in Watts

Drew Carey video:

Vikki Reyes has had it with Locke High, the school her daughters attend in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles. She walked in on class one day and recalls “the place was just like a zoo!” Students had taken control, while the teacher sat quietly with a book.
Frank Wells has also had it with Locke High. When he became principal he says gangs ruled the campus. He tried to turn things around but ran into a “brick wall” of resistance from the school district and teachers union.

Obama cracks a ruler, and the crowd goes wild

Mark Barabak:

They came to cheer. They got a lecture. The crowd went wild.
During a Barack Obama town-hall meeting on the economy, the topic turned to education, which, the Illinois senator said, could not be remedied by spending alone. “It doesn’t matter how much money we put in if parents don’t parent,” he scolded.
The line is one the Democrat delivers often, but on Thursday in Beaumont, Texas, he struck a remarkable chord with his mostly African American audience.
“It’s not good enough for you to say to your child, ‘Do good in school,’ and then when that child comes home, you’ve got the TV set on,” Obama lectured. “You’ve got the radio on. You don’t check their homework. There’s not a book in the house. You’ve got the video game playing.”
Each line was punctuated by a roar, and Obama began to shout, falling into a preacher’s rhythm. “Am I right?”
“So turn off the TV set. Put the video game away. Buy a little desk. Or put that child at the kitchen table. Watch them do their homework. If they don’t know how to do it, give ’em help. If you don’t know how to do it, call the teacher.”
By now, the crowd of nearly 2,000 was lifted from the red velveteen seats of the Julie Rogers Theatre, hands raised to the gilded ceiling. “Make ’em go to bed at a reasonable time! Keep ’em off the streets! Give ’em some breakfast! Come on! Can I get an amen here?”

Madison School Board Detailed Agenda Posted Online – Including a Proposed Wisconsin Center for Education Research Contract

A reader’s email mentioned that the Madison School Board has begun posting more detailed agenda items on their meeting web page. Monday, March 3’s full agenda includes Superintedent Art Rainwater’s discussion of the proposed Middle School report card changes along with a recommendation to approve an agreement with the Wisconsin Center for Education Research (1.5MB PDF):

The focus of this project is to develop a value-added system for the Madison Metropolitan School District and produce value-added reports using assessment data from November 2005 to November 2007. Since the data from the November 2007 assessment will not be available until March 2008, WCER will first develop a value-added system based on two years of state assessment data (November 2005 and November 2006). After the 2007 data becomes available (about Ma r c h 1 2008), WCER will extend the value-added system so that it incorporates all three years of data. Below, we list the tasks for this project and a project timeline.
Task 1. Specify features o f MMSD value-added model
Task 2. Develop value-added model using 2005 and 2006 assessment dat a
Task 3. Produce value-added reports using 2005 and 2006 assessment data
Task 4. Develop value-added model using 2005, 2006, and 2007 assessment
Task 5. Produce value-added reports using 2005-2007 assessment data

August, 2007 presentation to the Madison School Board’s Performance & Achievement Committee on “Value Added Assessment”.

Immersion Presents: Monterey Bay Live Broadcasts

Location: Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary
Dates: Sunday, March 2 – Friday, March 7
Times (EST): 11 am, 12 am, 1 pm, 2 pm, 3 pm
Program Length: 30 minutes
Immersion Presents:

How do you get kids to say “I want to be a scientist when I grow up?” Dr. Robert Ballard, known for discovering the Titanic among other scientific breakthroughs, may have the answer. The renowned oceanographer’s latest quest is not to discover underwater secrets, but to inspire the next generation of ocean explorers by introducing kids to the thrill of discovery and encouraging them to pursue the science and environmental careers so critical for the health of the planet.
From March 2–7, 2008, Immersion Presents Monterey Bay, a cutting-edge, interactive educational program led by Dr. Ballard and a team of scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and other institutions, will use telepresence technology – a combination of satellite and Internet connections – to transport young people live to a scientific expedition in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.
Students will explore in real-time one of the planet’s most spectacular and most important biodiversity hotspots where they will experience majestic 100-foot-tall kelp forests, take a day trip out to the deep sea in NOAA’s research vessel R/V Fulmar, and study endangered marine mammals like the grey or blue whale and the threatened California sea otter.
“When kids see scientists in action, whether diving a kelp forest, exploring with an ROV, or getting up close to a whale, they immediately discover that being a scientist means much more than wearing a white coat in a lab,” said Dr. Ballard, founder of Immersion Presents. “With everyone talking about ‘going green,’ now more than ever we need kids to get excited about the environmentally focused careers that will help protect the planet. Immersion expeditions show kids that science is not only far from boring or nerdy, it is absolutely essential to preserve one of our most threatened resources, the oceans.”
“Many of our kids only know what a jellyfish is from watching Sponge Bob on television,” said Hector Perez, club director of the Chicago’s Union League Boys & Girls Club, which participates in the program. “It’s hard for kids to imagine being part of something that they’ve never seen before. Immersion Presents’ virtual science expeditions open their minds, transporting them to a whole new world of ocean discoveries, new technology, and exciting career opportunities.”

Judge orders homeschoolers into government education

Bob Unruh:

A California court has ruled that several children in one homeschool family must be enrolled in a public school or “legally qualified” private school, and must attend, sending ripples of shock into the nation’s homeschooling advocates as the family reviews its options for appeal.
The ruling came in a case brought against Phillip and Mary Long over the education being provided to two of their eight children. They are considering an appeal to the state Supreme Court, because they have homeschooled all of their children, the oldest now 29, because of various anti-Christian influences in California’s public schools.
The decision from the 2nd Appellate Court in Los Angeles granted a special petition brought by lawyers appointed to represent the two youngest children after the family’s homeschooling was brought to the attention of child advocates.

Wisconsin Legislature Still Split on Virtual Schools, Autism

Patrick Marley:

As the Legislature heads into the last days of its session, Democrats and Republicans remain far apart on bills that would protect virtual schools and expand health coverage for children with autism.
With the clock running out, nothing may happen this year on those issues. Then again, in the final frantic moments of legislative sessions, surprise compromises can arise, just as one did Thursday on ending the pay of fired Milwaukee police officers charged with serious crimes. Now, those officers continue to receive pay until they exhaust their appeals, which can take years.
The legislative session ends March 13, but lawmakers have not announced any meetings past next week.
The Assembly’s latest meeting – which adjourned just before 5 a.m. Friday – bogged down over the autism bill. Democrats delayed a vote on the bill until Wednesday after Republicans who control the house rewrote it.
The version Senate Democrats passed Tuesday would require insurance companies to cover treatment for autism. Assembly Republicans changed the bill Friday to drop the insurance mandate and instead plow $6 million in state taxpayer money into a state autism program.

Another kind of teaching

Andy Hall:

In the Lone Rock classroom of elementary teacher Lisa Bowen, hand puppets were all the rage last week. Study them. Borrow six from a library. Write a play. Perform.
The scene was quite different in another elementary classroom in the River Valley School District, where teacher Mike McDermott placed homemade yellow Post-it checklists on students ‘ assignments to help them assess the fluency of their writing. Oh, and the room in Plain Elementary contained a lean-to of 12-foot trees — a representation of a scene in a novel being read by students.
In River Valley High School in Spring Green, echoes of the Holocaust and warnings that it could happen again filled a line of display cases — a project that brought together regular and special education students from several classes throughout the school.
“Overall, we ‘re just really lucky, ” sophomore Rakelle Noble said as she and five classmates reflected upon recent examinations of the Holocaust and teenage health issues such as eating disorders and self-cutting.
“We have a lot of things other kids don ‘t get to experience. “

Suggested Characteristics of a New Waukesha Superintendent

Waukesha Taxpayer’s League:

The WTL was asked by the Waukesha School District what three criteria we would be looking for in a new superintendent. Here is our response.
1. Strong fiscally conservative background with a desire to be creative in finding solutions to budget woes other than referendums and new fees. Stability is a must to protect the children and deliver a high quality of education.
2. Knowledge and belief in charter and virtual schools including but not limited to “IQ academies”. These are great tools to address different learning styles, abilities and interests of children so they can succeed.
3. Belief in high academic standards in the core subjects to be competitive not only locally but worldwide. We have a worldwide economy and thus must deliver an education that will allow our children to compete worldwide.

Virginia considers leaving federal education act (NCLB) behind

Richard Quinn:

The General Assembly is flirting with abandoning a landmark federal law that governs schools in the United States.
The decision could make Virginia the first state to set a deadline – summer 2009 – for planning a pullout from the No Child Left Behind Act, which ties billions of dollars to federally mandated testing standards in public schools.
State politicians have balked at some of those standards in the past few years. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine has signed bills asking the U.S. Department of Education to waive parts of the federal law.
Most of those exemptions were granted, but the notable ones that have not been approved frustrate educators and annoy legislators.
This year, some politicians want to up the ante.
Both the Senate and the House of Delegates are working with bills that say that if the state’s waiver requests aren’t granted, Virginia’s Board of Education would develop a plan to withdraw from NCLB by July 2009. Delegates have approved the bills, even adding language to one seeking to recoup federal tax money if the state withdraws.

Clusty Search: No Child Left Behind.

LVM Dreams Big

Susan Troller:

First it was the doors to the classroom that swung open for kids in wheelchairs. Now it’s access to the playground, especially at Elvehjem Elementary School, where there’s boundless enthusiasm for the Boundless Playground project.
The project aims to get students with disabilities playing side by side with the rest of the kids, Shelly Trowbridge, one of the parent organizers of LVM Dreams Big said in a recent interview.
On Friday, local supporters of the project held a chili dinner at the school. It included ceramic bowls made by students and a silent auction with artwork by students and community members. It was the latest in an ambitious series of family-oriented fundraisers that are aimed at building a community as well as a playground.
The nonprofit group (www.playgroundsupport.com) has raised over $81,000 in cash and in-kind contributions toward a goal of $200,000 to build the state’s first barrier-free Boundless Playground next summer on the Elvehjem School grounds. There are about 100 such play structures nationwide, but none in Wisconsin.


Does Curriculum Constrain Teachers?

Diane Ravitch:

Words are slippery things.
Take the idea of “constructivism.” Yes, I agree with you that we all “construct” knowledge as we encounter new ideas. We try to make sense of new ideas by fitting them to what we already know, using the vocabulary and experiences that we have already accumulated. If we have a meager vocabulary—or none at all, as when we visit a foreign country and are unfamiliar with the language—and if we have no experiences that are connected to the new ideas, then we will not be able to do much constructing of knowledge.
So the job of the school becomes one of conscientiously, purposefully building the vocabulary and background knowledge of students so that they can use them dynamically to understand new ideas and enlarge their knowledge.
There is another sort of constructivism in which students are busily discovering whatever they want to discover or trying to figure out through inquiry what the teacher knows but refuses to teach them or sitting around idly because they don’t know what they feel like discovering today. This is not the sort of classroom I admire. I have never much cottoned to the idea of the teacher as a “guide on the side, rather than a sage on the stage.” I tend to like the happy medium: the teacher who has clear aims, who knows what knowledge he or she is trying to convey, and who figures out imaginative, creative, innovative ways to teach it.

Teachers strike back at students’ online pranks

Patrik Jonsson:

Tech-savvy teenagers are increasingly paying a heavy price – including criminal arrest – for parodying their teachers on the Internet.
Tired of fat jokes and false accusations of teacher-lounge partying or worse, teachers and principals are fighting back against digital ridicule and slander by their students – often with civil lawsuits and long-term suspensions or permanent expulsions.
A National School Boards Association (NSBA) study says that as many as one-third of American teens regularly post inappropriate language or manipulated images on the Web. Most online pranks deride other students. But a NSBA November 2006 survey reported 26 percent of teachers and principals being targeted.
“Kids have been pulling pranks on teachers and principals since there have been schools in the US, but now there’s an edge to it – the tone and tenor of some of these attacks cross the line,” says Nora Carr, a spokeswoman for Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools in North Carolina.
In the growing backlash against these cybergoofs, however, real-world norms of propriety are being pitted against the uncertain jurisdictions of the Digital Age. A new test may be emerging on how far online lampooning can go, say First Amendment experts – and to what extent schools can control off-campus pranks.