Factory for Unhappy People

The Economist:

MORMONS, military and McKinsey are the three Ms said to characterise the student body at Harvard Business School (HBS). Philip Delves Broughton, a British journalist, was none of the above, yet he was prepared to spend $175,000 for a chance to attend this “factory for unhappy people”. He never completely fitted in, perhaps because he largely shunned the prodigious alcohol-driven networking for which MBAs are famous, or perhaps because he did not really want to devote his life to getting rich. Yet his engaging memoir suggests he found it a positive experience.
Mr Delves Broughton did not set out to write a book about the course. Nor is this probably the book that HBS would choose to mark its 100th birthday, which it is celebrating extensively this year. Yet anyone considering enrolling will find this an insightful portrait of HBS life, with detailed accounts of case studies and slightly forced classroom fun, such as the students on the back row–the “skydecks”–who rate the performance of their peers. (“HBS had two modes, deadly serious and frat boy.”)

What They Teach You At Harvard Business School

English Spelling: You write potato, I write ghoughpteighbteau

The Economist:

The rules need updating, not scrapping
GHOTI and tchoghs may not immediately strike readers as staples of the British diet; and even those most enamoured of written English’s idiosyncrasies may wince at this tendentious rendering of “fish and chips”. Yet the spelling, easily derived from other words*, highlights the shortcomings of English orthography. This has long bamboozled foreigners and natives alike, and may underlie the national test results released on August 12th which revealed that almost a third of English 14-year-olds cannot read properly.
One solution, suggested recently by Ken Smith of the Buckinghamshire New University, is to accept the most common misspellings as variants rather than correct them. Mr Smith is too tolerant, but he is right that something needs to change. Due partly to its mixed Germanic and Latin origins, English spelling is strikingly inconsistent.
Three things have exacerbated this confusion. The Great Vowel Shift in the 15th and 16th centuries altered the pronunciation of many words but left their spelling unchanged; and as Masha Bell, an independent literacy researcher, notes, the 15th-century advent of printing presses initially staffed by non-English speakers helped to magnify the muddle. Second, misguided attempts to align English spelling with (often imagined) Latin roots (debt and debitum; island and insula) led to the introduction of superfluous “silent” letters. Third, despite interest in spelling among figures as diverse as Benjamin Franklin, Prince Philip and the Mormons, English has never, unlike Spanish, Italian and French, had a central regulatory authority capable of overseeing standardisation.

Who Will Pay for College?

Jeff Opdyke:

Who pays for college?
With our son in sixth grade and our little girl only 5 years old, Amy and I certainly have many years to contemplate that question. But if I’ve demonstrated any trait in this column through the years, it’s that I’m constantly peering ahead, at future costs, so that Amy and I can prepare for what we know is coming.
Yet, while we’re saving for that day, we’re probably not saving enough. But that’s by design. I think that instead of a free ride through college, a better gift to my kids is a mom and dad financially self-sufficient in their dotage.
But is that a fair approach? Should parents put their future needs above their kids’? Or, should we strive to save every possible dime we can for our kids’ education on the theory that we’re supposed to give them a head start to a better life than we have?

Five Reasons to Warn Your Daughter about Alcohol

Barbara Kantrowitz & Pat Wingert:

In the next few weeks, parents of college freshmen will be helping their kids pack up all those seemingly indispensable items for dorm life. Sending a child off for what is probably his or her first extended period of independence is scary, and many parents try to cram in last-minute bits of advice. Here’s one more: talk about drinking. This is a critical conversation whether you have a son or a daughter, but it’s especially important for young women to understand the ways in which they risk both short-term and lifelong health problems if they abuse alcohol during these years.
First, a reality check. Laws against underage drinking don’t stop kids who really want to drink. Colleges around the country have made efforts to crack down at on-campus functions, but it isn’t easy when fake IDs are just a scanner away. So don’t count on fear of the law to do your work for you.

Early School Start Might Have Academic Advantage

Angela Bettis:

For many students in the area, summer isn’t winding down it’s already over.
Lakeside Lutheran Schools in Lake Mills and Edgewood High School in Madison welcomed students back to campus for the first day of the new school year on Monday.
“There comes a point in time in the summer when, for kids, they say, ‘I’ve gone through my summer camps. I’ve gone through the Little League season, swimming, vacations,’ and they’re ready to see their friends. They’re ready to be around adults that they trust and that they know and start another school year,” said Edgewood High School President Judd Schemmel.
Schemmel said Edgewood High School moved up its start date by one week this year and moved up the time to 7:50 a.m.

Madison Superintendent Recommends Three Year Recurring Spending Increase via a November, 2008 Referendum


Nerad told school board members on Monday night that he’s recommending a three-year recurring referendum.
It’s part of what he called a partnership plan to address the budget shortfall.
The plan would put a referendum on the November ballot for $5 million and would ask voters for $4 million in the two following years.
Nerad said to make up the remaining $3 million gap the district would move $2 million from the district’s fund balance, eliminate $600,000 in unallocated staff, which are positions set aside in case of additional enrollment, and make up the remaining $400,000 through other reductions, which he has not yet named.
“We’re working both sides of this and in the end our kids need things from us, our taxpayers need us to be sensitive and all I can say is we tried every step of putting these recommendations together to be responsive on both fronts,” said Nerad.

Andy Hall:

The measure, a “recurring referendum,” would give the district permission to build on the previous year’s spending limit increase by additional amounts of $4 million in 2010-11 and another $4 million in 2011-12. The measure would permit a total increase of $13 million — a change that would be permanent, unlike the impact of some other referendums that end after a specified period.
Approval of the referendum would cost the owner of a home with an assessed value of $250,000 an estimated $27.50 in additional taxes in the 2009-10 school year. That represents an increase of 1.1 percent of the School District’s portion of the tax bill.
But for at least the next two years, the schools’ portion of that homeowner’s tax bill would decline even if the referendum is approved, under the plan developed by Nerad and Erik Kass, assistant superintendent for business services.
They estimate the tax bill for 2010-11 would be $27.50 lower than it is now, and the bill the following year would be about $100 below its current level if voters back the referendum and the School Board implements proposed changes in accounting measures.

Tamira Madsen:

In the first year, the referendum would add an additional $27.50 onto the tax bill of a $250,000 home. Another initiative in Nerad’s recommendation, drawn up along with Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Erik Kass, is to enact changes to help mitigate the tax impact of the referendum. Nerad and Kass said these changes would decrease taxes for homeowners in the second and third year of the referendum.
One aspect of the proposal would return $2 million of an equity to the taxpayers in the form of a reduced levy in the Community Services Fund (Fund 80) for the 2009-10 school year. The second part of the tax impact referendum would be implementation of a Capital Expansion Fund, called Fund 41, in an effort to levy a property tax under revenue limits to spread the costs of facility maintenance projects over a longer period.
Nerad said the referendum process has been a deliberative process, and he’s been cognizant of weighing board members and community questions.



A Mother on Fire storms into public education

Mary MacVean:

The writer and performer Sandra Tsing Loh chronicles her adventure, as she travels from being a mother who turned the job of finding a school for their daughters over to her husband to being a Mother on Fire, the title of her new book.
Like so many parents who live in large, urban school districts, Loh at first sees maneuvering through Los Angeles Unified as impossible, with options that seem to be restricted to “frightening unknown elementaries no one had ever heard of.”
At one point during the search for a kindergarten, she writes, “Everything I assumed about my life is wrong.” But maneuver through the system — and her midlife crisis — she does, encountering API scores (“1 API point = $1,000 worth of real estate,” she concludes), magnet applications, high-stakes educational activities for children, private school testing. In the end, Loh has become a vocal public school advocate.


Poor planning, complacency, politics sapped campaign to fill neighborhood schools

Dave Umhoefer & Alan Borsuk:

There couldn’t have been a better situation for Milwaukee’s Neighborhood Schools Initiative than Clarke Street School.
It was a superstar – high test scores, a nationally recognized program and a top-notch principal and staff in the heart of the central city.
The elementary school was at capacity, and hundreds more Milwaukee Public Schools students lived nearby.
If the school were expanded, what could go wrong?
A lot of things. And they did.
Despite a $4.1 million middle-school addition to Clarke Street, enrollment has fallen 33%. Programs have been sharply reduced. Test scores have fallen.
Even the addition has problems: A spacious new gym has acoustics so poor, the school sometimes uses its old gym on the third floor so teachers and students can be heard. Several classrooms are unused.

From Crayons to Condoms: The Ugly Truth About America’s Public Schools


The American public school system, once the envy of the world, is now a cesspool of political correctness, ineptitude and violence, yet its administrators demand – and receive – far more funding per child than do higher-performing private and religious schools.
From “teachers” who can barely comprehend English to the elevation of foreign cultures and ideals above our own, from the mainstreaming of violent juvenile felons to demands that “queer studies” be considered as vital as math, our classrooms have become havens for indoctrination, sexual license and failed educational fads.
In From Crayons to Condoms, you’ll experience today’s public schools as never before, through the voices of parents and children left stranded in the system, the same voices that teachers unions and school administrators are determined to stifle. Here’s a “must-read” for every parent concerned about their child’s future, and for every taxpayer sick of being dunned endlessly to prop up a failed system.

via Barnes & Noble. Clusty Search: Steve Baldwin & Karen Holgate.

Denver Teacher Contract Negotiations: Controversey over Incentive Pay and Increased Compensation for Younger Teachers

Stephanie Simon:

National education experts are dismayed. If merit pay can’t work in Denver, “future initiatives are destined to fail,” said Matthew Springer, director of the National Center on Performance Incentives at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee.
The breakdown stems from a philosophical disagreement between the school district and the union.
The district is offering large increases in incentive pay. But the biggest rewards will go to early- and midcareer teachers — and to those willing to take risks by working in impoverished schools or taking jobs few others want, such as teaching middle-school math. Yearly bonuses for such work would nearly triple, to about $3,000.
The union is all for boosting bonuses but also wants an across-the-board pay increase. Most crucially, union leadership objects to proposed changes that would hold down the salaries of veteran teachers to free more money for novices.
Mediation is scheduled to begin Wednesday. If it fails, the union could begin job actions just as the Democratic National Convention comes to town.

Much more on Denver incentive pay here.
It will be interesting if similar issues arise in Madison’s next teacher contract.

Great Little Schools Without a Name

Jay Matthews:

For awhile I figured that didn’t matter. These schools are raising student achievement to new heights without a cool, overarching label. Maybe they don’t need one. But I changed my mind about that after reading David Whitman’s splendid new book about these schools, “Sweating the Small Stuff.”
Whitman is a terrific reporter whose 365-page paperback, published by The Thomas B. Fordham Institute, provides a lively, readable and exhaustive account of this fast-growing phenomenon. Whitman focuses on six schools that represent different forms of this approach–the American Indian Public Charter School in Oakland, the Amistad Academy in New Haven, the Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Chicago, the KIPP Academy in the South Bronx, the SEED public charter school in Washington, D.C. and the University Park Campus School in Worcester, Mass. The profiles of the schools and their founders are well-written. Whitman’s analysis of what has made them work is thoughtful and clear.
My problem is this: I hate his subtitle, “Inner-City Schools and the New Paternalism.” And I like his decision to refer to this group as “the paternalistic schools” even less.

Preschool programs feel kindergarten squeeze
More parents opt for ‘free’ classes for 4-year-olds

Patti Zarling @ Green Bay Press-Gazette:

Kindergarten classes for 4-year-olds through a few area public school systems haven’t started yet, but some local private preschools already are losing students.
Two local programs are ending or on the verge of it, saying they can’t afford to maintain preschools, partly because of the launch of public 4-year-old kindergarten.
A few area school districts, including Ashwaubenon, Green Bay and West De Pere, are starting 4-year-old kindergarten programs this fall.
Advocates say the programs provide education and school-preparation to students regardless of family income. But critics liken the programs to free babysitting and worry that districts will dumb down curriculum.
Green Bay has more than 800 children enrolled so far in its 4-year-old kindergarten program for 2008-2009; Ashwaubenon has more than 100 and West De Pere has 178. State rules require districts to partner with private day cares to receive state grants for the programs.

Recently arrived Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad spent most of his career in the Green Bay Schools.

Advocating a November 4, 2008 Madison School District Referendum

Capital Times Editorial:

But even those who might oppose a referendum should be in favor of board action at this point.
If the board moves now, the referendum question can be on the Nov. 4 ballot.
Because the presidential race between Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain is expected to draw a record voter turnout on that day, there could be no better point at which to assess the level of support for the school district in general and the current board’s strategies in particular.
Wisconsin has a great tradition of involving all taxpayers in the process of setting and supporting education priorities. We keep the decision-making process at the grass roots level. We elect school boards. We put major spending and building questions to the voters in the form of referendums. The system has worked well — even as state meddling in the structures of school financing has made things difficult. And it works best when referendums attract maximum participation.

Transcript & mp3 audio file: 7/28/2008 Madison School Refererendum Discussion.
Referendum climate.
Don Severson: Madison School District’s Financial Situation: Memo to the School Board & Administration.

Given the critical values briefly outlined above, it is premature at this time to make recommendations or decisions on a course or courses of action to seek more spending authority as a solution regarding the financial needs of the district. The groundwork for decision-making and the development of improved levels of public confidence in the Board and administration have to continue to be proactively matured for both short- and long-term successes in the district. We urge you to proceed carefully, firmly and in a strategic and progressive manner.

Why Resist a Successful School Strategy?

Boston Business Journal:

Imagine this scenario: You are the head of a declining business. Without much fanfare, you have developed a new product that is highly effective and wildly popular when test-marketed on a limited basis. What would you do? Most likely, expand the new product as rapidly as possible while you reach out to potential new customers.
This first part of this situation exists in our own city in a key enterprise with great significance for the region: the Boston public school system. The product is the pilot school, which gives autonomy to individual schools, enabling them to control their budgets, staffing, schedule and curriculum. Research has established that Boston school students thrive in pilot schools, outperforming their peers in traditional schools. They test better, accrue fewer suspensions, are less likely to drop out and more likely to further their schooling.

Clusty search: Boston Pilot Schools.

London City academies spell good news for education

Julie Henry:

First it was the Sats fiasco. Then results for 14-year-olds revealed that more than 30 per cent of boys were three years behind in reading. Finally, last week’s A-level data exposed a north/south divide in achievement that shattered Labour’s claims that huge investment was changing the fortunes of children in the poorest communities.
And with GCSE results out this week, which are expected to show a similar disparity, the exam season is making life distinctly uncomfortable for the Department for Children, Schools and Families.
But while Ed Balls, the Education Secretary, and Jim Knight, the schools minister, scramble round trying to distance themselves from the mess, one minister has gone about his business seemingly untouched by the fallout.
Lord Adonis, the architect behind city academies, has – at least for the moment – the plum education job. Late last month, at the height of the general condemnation over the Sats debacle, he emerged heckle-free from a speech he gave at a teachers’ conference. While national newspapers slam the mind-boggling inefficiency of Sats administration, the culpability of the department, and A-level grade inflation, local papers carry positive pieces about schools bidding to become academies.

Homeschool Victory

Wall Street Journal Editorial:

Hold on to your hats. Common sense and constitutionalism have prevailed in the California judiciary. Last week, the Second District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles declared that parents who homeschool don’t need teaching credentials in order to educate their own children.
Amazingly, the three judges were overturning their own February decision. We quote from their recent revelation: “It is important to recognize that it is not for us to consider, as a matter of policy, whether homeschooling should be permitted in California. That job is for the Legislature. It is not the duty of the courts to make the law; we endeavor to interpret it.”
What prompted this fit of judicial restraint?

Milwaukee Public Schools spent $102 million on a building spree meant to reduce busing by convincing parents to enroll students in bigger, better neighborhood schools. Today, many of those new classrooms go unused.

Dave Umhoefer & Alan Borsuk:

A massive building expansion by Milwaukee Public Schools has saddled the district with tens of millions of dollars worth of vacant or severely underused school additions, a Journal Sentinel investigation found.
he $102 million Neighborhood Schools Initiative was supposed to get students off buses and into revamped schools near their homes. Instead, darkened classrooms and half-empty buildings serve as monuments to the program’s failures.
The district spent $30 million on major additions to schools where enrollment has actually declined. An additional $19.5 million went toward construction at schools where enrollment gains have fallen far short of expectations. Construction began in 2001, and almost all additions were completed by 2005.
In the most expensive misfire, MPS spent $7 million upfront to lease new classroom space from an affiliate of Holy Redeemer, a prominent Milwaukee church.
That MPS addition is one of the nicest facilities in a district that still uses century-old buildings. And it’s vacant.

A rare piece of school finance related investigative journalism.

Transcript: Madison School Board 7/28/2008 Referendum Discussion

Meeting Transcript:

We begin the presentation by focusing on why is there a problem. And we wanna first and foremost point out that the issues affecting this school district are issues that are also occurring in other school districts in the state. While there may be some circumstances, and there are circumstances that are unique to one place or another, we know that this funding dilemma and the gap that exists between what the current state funding formula provides and how expenses are being dealt with in school district is not unique to this school district. Although we have our story here that is certainly unique. And again I want to emphasize that it really lies at the heart of it is the constraint between the current formula that was put into place in 1993 which basically asserted that the state provide more resources to schools through the two thirds funding if, in turn, school districts would control their costs in two ways. One was through the revenue cap and the second was through the qualified economic offer. And so that was the kind of exchange or the quid pro quo that was made at that time in public policy; to be able to provide more state funding for schools at the same time to place limitations on how much a school district could spend.
In the document we point out examples of this dilemma as it is affecting some of the top ten school districts in the state. Ranging in, for example Waukesha school district of 2.6 million dollar program and service reduction for the 08/09 school year. The district that I am most recently familiar with, Greenbay with a 6.5 million program and service reduction. And just to point out the difference we mentioned we seen there, we use a wording increase revenue authority that represents their gap but that’s also, its described that way because of having more authority through a successfully passed referendum to exceed the revenue cap within that community. So that is what’s meant by an increase revenue of authority.
Now the funding formula is one that school districts across the state are wrestling with. You know the history that this school district has had in terms of the types of decisions that have been made which we are going to underscore in just a minute to accommodate that funding formula but as I turn this over to Eric for the bulk of the rest of the presentation, I’ll conclude its all with the idea yes there is a need to have school funded but its around the assertion that our kids have to have a high quality education to be successful in the world that they are growing into. And yes we do have a fiscal responsibility to use community resources in the most cost effective manner and the reality of it is there are constraints in meeting that proposition. So with that, and I will return for the conclusion, I’ll turn it to Eric who will provide us with more detail of the nature of the problem.


At School, Technology Starts to Turn a Corner

Steve Lohr:

COUNT me a technological optimist, but I have always thought that the people who advocate putting computers in classrooms as a way to transform education were well intentioned but wide of the mark. It’s not the problem, and it’s not the answer.
Yet as a new school year begins, the time may have come to reconsider how large a role technology can play in changing education. There are promising examples, both in the United States and abroad, and they share some characteristics. The ratio of computers to pupils is one to one. Technology isn’t off in a computer lab. Computing is an integral tool in all disciplines, always at the ready.
Web-based education software has matured in the last few years, so that students, teachers and families can be linked through networks. Until recently, computing in the classroom amounted to students doing Internet searches, sending e-mail and mastering word processing, presentation programs and spreadsheets. That’s useful stuff, to be sure, but not something that alters how schools work.

California’s Algebra Problem

Los Angeles Times Editorial:

Even if there were money to pay for it, the state’s new algebra mandate would still be a bad idea.
ow that the State Board of Education is foolishly requiring every eighth-grader to take algebra, starting in three years, all that remains to be figured out is, how on Earth is this going to happen when so few kids are on track to get there?
The solution, according to state Supt. of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell, is to spend $3.1 billion on a “California Algebra I Success Initiative” that would recruit and train math teachers, lengthen the middle-school day, reduce class sizes in math and so forth.
The ideas are good enough. Essentially, though, they’re a political ball tossed to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who pushed for the eighth-grade requirement. (O’Connell opposed it.) The governor took on the easy part of school reform, in which he got to call for an unrealistic standard and proclaim that California was the first in the land with such high expectations. Will he now refuse to pay for the math requirement that he said was so necessary? That’s a possibility. The algebra funding would add about 5% to the state’s total allocation for public education, money that is not readily available even in a good budget year.

A Teachable Moment: On Changes in Governance and Curriculum in New Orleans Schools

Paul Tough:

But it wasn’t only sympathy for the survivors of Katrina that drew them to New Orleans. The city’s disastrously low-performing school system was almost entirely washed away in the flood — many of the buildings were destroyed, the school board was taken over and all the teachers were fired. What is being built in its place is an educational landscape unlike any other, a radical experiment in reform. More than half of the city’s public-school students are now being educated in charter schools, publicly financed but privately run, and most of the rest are enrolled in schools run by an unusually decentralized and rapidly changing school district. From across the country, and in increasing numbers, hundreds of ambitious, idealistic young educators like Hardrick and Sanders have descended on New Orleans, determined to take advantage of the opportunity not just to innovate and reinvent but also to prove to the rest of the country that an entire city of children in the demographic generally considered the hardest to educate — poor African-American kids — can achieve high levels of academic success.
Katrina struck at a critical moment in the evolution of the contemporary education-reform movement. President Bush’s education initiative, No Child Left Behind, had shined a light on the underperformance of poor minority students across the country by requiring, for the first time, that a school successfully educate not just its best students but its poor and minority students too in order to be counted as successful. Scattered across the country were a growing number of schools, often intensive charter schools, that seemed to be succeeding with disadvantaged students in a consistent and measurable way. But these schools were isolated examples. No one had figured out how to “scale up” those successes to transform an entire urban school district. There were ambitious new superintendents in Philadelphia, New York City, Denver and Chicago, all determined to reform their school systems to better serve poor children, but even those who seemed to be succeeding were doing so in incremental ways, lifting the percentage of students passing statewide or citywide tests to, say, 40 from 30 or to 50 from 40.

Related:Clusty Search:

Fascinating. Innovation occurs at the edges and is more likely to flourish in the absence of traditional monolithic governance, or a “one size fits all” approach to education.
More from Kevin Carey.

Madison School District’s Financial Situation: Memo to the School Board & Administration

Thank you for engaging the community in such a meaningful way with the forums this week. I believe the forums were successful in that the participating citizens had the opportunity to openly ask questions, seek information and give suggestions for consideration. The information provided by Dan and Erik was clear and helpful. We believe, that with the actions of the board and administration in recent weeks, there is a new openness, a willingness for exercising greater due-diligence, and an openness to examine more fully the opportunities and challenges with fresh insights and strategies.
There is a challenging road ahead with very heavy lifting to be done to continue to more fully communicate with and engage the public in the decision-making process regarding the future of the district in the educational, business and financial elements. These processes are absolutely critical to charting the course toward more effectivenss in student achievement results and business management. At this point in time, the plans and communications provide greater hope for more effective decision-making. However, time is critical for these processes to evolve with hard evidence to show the public that serious steps are actually underway and are producing information and results in order to provide for clearer future options and enlightened decision-making.
Given the critical values briefly outlined above, it is premature at this time to make recommendations or decisions on a course or courses of action to seek more spending authority as a solution regarding the financial needs of the district. The groundwork for decision-making and the development of improved levels of public confidence in the Board and administration have to continue to be proactively matured for both short- and long-term successes in the district. We urge you to proceed carefully, firmly and in a strategic and progressive manner.
I am available and willing at any time to engage in discussion regarding these statements and recommendations.
Don Severson
Active Citizens for Education

Colorado Lt. Gov. O’Brien talks education reform

Charlotte Burrous:

Many educators and visitors had an opportunity to learn how Colorado is addressing education reform during the back-to-school kick-off workshop Wednesday at Cañon City High School.
“Gov. Ritter and I are doing (this) all over the state” to kick off the beginning of the school year, Lt. Gov. Barbara O’Brien said prior to her speech. “We want to talk about changes that we’re implementing through the P-20 Education Coordinating Council. P is for preschool and the 20 is to get us all ready for graduate school.”
During her presentation, she explained how several recommendations were passed through the Legislature that took affect July 1.

Texas School District to Let Teachers Carry Guns


A Texas school district will let teachers bring guns to class this fall, the district’s superintendent said on Friday, in what experts said appeared to be a first in the United States.
The board of the small rural Harrold Independent School District unanimously approved the plan and parents have not objected, said the district’s superintendent, David Thweatt.
School experts backed Thweatt’s claim that Harrold, a system of about 110 students 150 miles northwest of Fort Worth, may be the first to let teachers bring guns to the classroom.

Pay to ride the school bus or walk? That’s what Mount Horeb students must decide

Gena Kittner:

About 800 Mount Horeb students should lace up their walking shoes or get ready to pay to take the bus to school this fall.
High diesel costs have prompted the Mount Horeb School District to start charging students $25 per year to ride the bus if they live within two miles of their school. A family would be charged a maximum of $50.
Previously, only students living within a half-mile of school had to find their own way to school, except for kindergartners, who were bused no matter where they lived. Other students who qualified for busing — based on age or whether they lived in a hazardous area — were bused for free.

I can hear my father’s words: “I used to bike 6 miles to my school, in each direction”.

Doyle hires director for Wisconsin Covenant program

Tamira Madsen:

Amy Bechtum has been named the first-ever director of the Wisconsin Covenant, a new program designed by Gov. Jim Doyle to offer eighth-grade students financial incentives for college if they meet certain objectives throughout their high school careers.
Approximately 17,000 students in 72 counties across the state in 2007 signed the covenant, promising to earn a B average in high school, take college preparatory courses, stay out of trouble and perform community service work. If students meet these objectives, they are guaranteed a spot in the University of Wisconsin System, the Wisconsin Technical College System or one of the state’s 20 private, nonprofit and independent colleges. The first group of Wisconsin Covenant scholars will begin college in 2011.
Bechtum, a La Crosse native who currently works as assistant director at Morgridge College of Education at the University of Denver, will begin her job with the Wisconsin Covenant in mid-September with a salary of $89,000.

Much more on the Wisconsin Covenant here.

Creating classroom rosters for Wisconsin schools “an art form”

Andy Hall:

An annual matchmaking ritual is nearly complete in hundreds of elementary schools around Wisconsin.
Next week, elementary students in Madison and most Wisconsin school districts will learn the names of their classroom teachers — a culmination of one of the most important and least-understood processes in education.
Richard Halverson, a UW-Madison education researcher and an expert in school leadership, said his research has found that coming up with those classroom rosters “turns out to be quite an art form.”

Transforming the way to learn through dialogue and participation

Global University Network for Innovation:

Why should issues such as citizenship, sustainable development or multiculturalism be included in higher education curricula?
Because they are really pressing issues, which the world is facing today. If we think about the traditional role of higher education, when it first began, it was very socially engaged. In fact, the early universities really grew from the need from the church to actually engage in society and the role of the universities reflected that. Overtime, I think universities have become more removed from society and gradually have been involved in a production of knowledge, which tends to objectify reality. In fact, the multiple realities of the world are very complex. So it is very hard to see how that kind of learning, based on a belief in an objective truth, really can be maintained within many higher education systems at the moment when we see so many challenges facing people: of living in multicultural contexts or in contexts where there is violence and conflict; where they are trying to understand much better their relationship with wider society and with the state, and are thinking how they can engage in acting on the problems and the challenges that they face on a daily basis, either individually or collectively.
My reason for wanting to see an integration of those ideas in the curricula of universities is to enable people to learn in a way that is different from simply being passive recipients of preformed ideas. For me, education is about learning and learning is about change. So where we see the need for social change, for human and social development, which really is rooted in issues of rights, power and voice of people, then I think it is absolutely necessary for higher education to actually build the curricula upon these issues, not just to add them but actually to integrate them and use them as foundations for learning and teaching.

Wisconsin GED completion lags behind other states

Amy Hetzner:

Pregnant at 18, Telisa Haynes said she cried when she saw her classmates in caps and gowns, knowing she would not be joining them for graduation.
Now, 23 years later, Haynes is on the verge of fulfilling her goal of earning her General Educational Development certificate, commonly called the GED.
It hasn’t been easy.
“What makes it hard is your life,” she said. “When you get ready to do this, you have to be focused. . . . You have to want it. You have to want it badly.”

Judge says UC can deny class credit to Christian school students

Bob Egelko:

A federal judge says the University of California can deny course credit to applicants from Christian high schools whose textbooks declare the Bible infallible and reject evolution.
Rejecting claims of religious discrimination and stifling of free expression, U.S. District Judge James Otero of Los Angeles said UC’s review committees cited legitimate reasons for rejecting the texts – not because they contained religious viewpoints, but because they omitted important topics in science and history and failed to teach critical thinking.
Otero’s ruling Friday, which focused on specific courses and texts, followed his decision in March that found no anti-religious bias in the university’s system of reviewing high school classes. Now that the lawsuit has been dismissed, a group of Christian schools has appealed Otero’s rulings to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

For Most People, College is a Waste of Time

Charles Murray:

Imagine that America had no system of post-secondary education, and you were a member of a task force assigned to create one from scratch. One of your colleagues submits this proposal:
First, we will set up a single goal to represent educational success, which will take four years to achieve no matter what is being taught. We will attach an economic reward to it that seldom has anything to do with what has been learned. We will urge large numbers of people who do not possess adequate ability to try to achieve the goal, wait until they have spent a lot of time and money, and then deny it to them. We will stigmatize everyone who doesn’t meet the goal. We will call the goal a “BA.”
You would conclude that your colleague was cruel, not to say insane. But that’s the system we have in place.

A Taste of Failure Fuels an Appetite for Success at South Korea’s Cram Schools

Choe Sang-Hun:

As the sun was dipping behind the pine hills surrounding this rural campus one recent Monday, Chung Il-wook and his wife drove up with Min-ju, their 18-year-old daughter. They gave her a quick hug and she hurried into the school building, dragging a suitcase behind her.
Inside, a raucous crowd of 300 teenage boys and girls had returned from a two-night leave and were lining up to have their teachers search their bags.
The students here were forsaking all the pleasures of teenage life. No cellphones allowed, no fashion magazines, no television, no Internet. No dating, no concerts, no earrings, no manicures — no acting their age.
All these are mere distractions from an overriding goal. On this regimented campus, miles from the nearest public transportation, Min-ju and her classmates cram from 6:30 a.m. to past midnight, seven days a week, to clear the fearsome hurdle that can decide their future — the national college entrance examination.

Decoding the five stages of the college application process

Risa Nye:

I am a short-term crisis counselor. For more than 15 years, I’ve guided high school seniors through applications, personal statements, deadlines and all the pressure that goes along with the process. As a college counselor in both public and private schools, I have worked with many kids, held a lot of hands and pulled out the tissue box on several occasions. And, I have survived this journey three times with my own children. The first time around, my daughter did all the work, and my husband and I “just” paid the application fees. My older son had a different approach to the process and involved me a bit more, even allowing me to drag him off to look at the college he eventually fell in love with. My younger son danced dangerously close to every deadline and finally pulled the rabbit out of the hat at the last moment. Happily, all three landed where they wanted to be, and we were still speaking to one another when the dust settled.

College Students Behaving Badly

Tara Parker-Pope:

Many people associate property crime and other delinquent behaviors with low social status and a lack of education. But new research has identified a surprising risk factor for bad behavior — college.
Men who attend college are more likely to commit property crimes during their college years than their non-college-attending peers, according to research to be presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association in Boston this weekend.
Sociologists at Bowling Green State University in Ohio examined data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, which tracks education, crime levels, substance abuse and socializing among adolescents and young adults. Beginning with 9,246 students who were seventh through twelfth graders in the 1994-1995 academic year, the survey followed the students again in 1996 and 2001. The study defined “college students” or “college-bound youth” as those who were enrolled full-time in a four-year college for at least 12 months by the third wave of the survey. “Non-college students” were defined as those respondents who either did not attend college through the course of the study or were not enrolled full-time at a four-year university.

2008 ACT State Profile Reports

ACT News:

The ACT High School Profile Report for each state provides information about the performance of 2008 graduating seniors who took the ACT as sophomores, juniors, or seniors. The reports focus on performance, access, course selection, course rigor, college readiness, awareness, and articulation.

Wisconsin’s report can be found here.
Related: Minnesota ranks #1. Jeff Shelman has more:

Minnesota high school students have top scores, but only a third reach the benchmark for college preparedness, and minority students’ scores lag.
Is being the best good enough? When it comes to how Minnesota’s high school graduates fared on the ACT college entrance exam, that’s a question educators are facing.
For the fourth consecutive year, Minnesota’s seniors recorded higher scores than seniors in other states where at least half of the students took the test. But there are significant concerns as well.
Fewer than a third of the 2008 Minnesota high school graduates who took the ACT reached the benchmark for college readiness in all four of the subject areas of English, math, reading and science. Minority students continue to score much lower than white students in the state.

Mike Glover:

Iowa students have ranked second in the nation in the ACT college entrance exam, according to a new report from state education officials.
The average ACT score for Iowa students rose by 0.1 percentage point to an average composite of 22.4 out of a possible total of 36. That ranks Iowa second highest among states testing a majority of graduating high school seniors, the report said.
Minnesota is again first in the nation, with an average score of 22.6. The national average for the college entrance examination is 21.1.

Parents must have choices on their children’s education

Lydia Glaize:

Although it is the first week of school, my husband and I refused to send our twins, Aaron and Abigail, to our local Fulton County high school.
With its low test scores and dangerous incidents on campus, we have been hoping and praying for a miracle to find the money to return them to private school. Over the years, we have depleted our savings, our retirement funds, used our home equity, taken extra jobs and received gifts to send our four older children to private school to escape failing public schools.
But as our two youngest enter ninth grade, we have hit the end of our financial road.
To read the resistance to school vouchers editorialized at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution makes us want to ask opponents if they would like to spend a day in our family’s shoes.

Wisconsin Web Academy Now Open

Wisconsin Department of Public of Instruction:

State Superintendent Elizabeth Burmaster and Cooperative Educational Service Agency (CESA) 9 Administrator Jerome Fiene announced the launch of the Wisconsin Web Academy (WWA), a partnership of the two agencies which makes online courses available to students throughout Wisconsin.
The WWA operates as a supplemental online course provider, which means that students taking courses through the academy remain enrolled in their home districts. They also receive credit for their WWA courses through their home district.
“Virtual education is an innovative reality in the 21st century and an effective educational strategy for some students,” said Burmaster. “The Wisconsin Web Academy will ensure that all children in our state, regardless of where they live, will have access to quality online courses taught by appropriately licensed educators.”

Referendum or no referendum? First school forum draws dozens

Tamira Madsen:

On Aug. 18 Nerad will present his recommendations to the board on whether a referendum is the way to trim an $8.2 million hole in the budget, and the board likely will vote Aug. 25 to formulate referendum questions for the Nov. 4 election. In addition, the gap is expected to be $6 million in the 2010-11 school year and $5.1 million in 2011-12.
Since a state-imposed revenue formula was implemented in 1993 to control property taxes, the district has cut $60 million in programs, staffing and services. The district did not have to make budget reductions during the 2008-09 school year after it benefited from a one-time, $5.7 million tax incremental financing district windfall from the city. The district will spend approximately $367.6 million during the 2008-09 school year, an increase of about 0.75 percent over the 2007-08 school year budget.

Andy Hall:

In addition to exploring reductions, Madison officials are researching how much it would cost to begin offering kindergarten to 4-year-olds in the district — a program offered by two-thirds of the school districts in Wisconsin.
Resident William Rowe, a retired educator, urged school officials to generate excitement by offering 4K, which research has shown can help improve academic achievement.
“I believe this is the time to go for it,” said Rowe, who proposed that a 4K referendum be offered separately from a referendum that would help avert budget cuts.
Don Severson, president of Active Citizens for Education, a district watchdog group, praised district officials for making the process so open to the public. However, he urged officials to provide more information about the costs and benefits of specific programs to help the public understand what’s working and what’s not. He predicted a referendum is “going to be very difficult to pass” but said he still hasn’t decided whether one is needed.

Much more on the budget here.

LA’s $7,000,000,000 School Bond

LA Times:

The Los Angeles Unified School District’s Board of Education voted on Aug. 1 to put a $7 billion school bond on the Nov. 4 ballot. That’s more than twice the amount the school board was mulling just two weeks earlier. The size of the bond may have jumped because polling showed voters would approve it, and because the Community College District trustees voted the previous week to put a $3.2 billion bond on the same ballot.
But the board may have overreached. About $2 billion of the bond is not yet allocated to any particular project. That lack of specificity may run afoul of the California constitutional amendment that allows school bonds to pass with just a 55% vote, rather than the two-thirds needed for other local bonds. The larger number may also be more of a reflection of bargaining with charter schools over funding and backing for the bond, and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s desire to demonstrate progress on improving schools, than actual need.

The demographic inversion of the American city

Alan Ehrenhalt:

Thirty years ago, the mayor of Chicago was unseated by a snowstorm. A blizzard in January of 1979 dumped some 20 inches on the ground, causing, among other problems, a curtailment of transit service. The few available trains coming downtown from the northwest side filled up with middle-class white riders near the far end of the line, leaving no room for poorer people trying to board on inner-city platforms. African Americans and Hispanics blamed this on Mayor Michael Bilandic, and he lost the Democratic primary to Jane Byrne a few weeks later.
Today, this could never happen. Not because of climate change, or because the Chicago Transit Authority now runs flawlessly. It couldn’t happen because the trains would fill up with minorities and immigrants on the outskirts of the city, and the passengers left stranded at the inner-city stations would be members of the affluent professional class.
In the past three decades, Chicago has undergone changes that are routinely described as gentrification, but are in fact more complicated and more profound than the process that term suggests. A better description would be “demographic inversion.” Chicago is gradually coming to resemble a traditional European city–Vienna or Paris in the nineteenth century, or, for that matter, Paris today. The poor and the newcomers are living on the outskirts. The people who live near the center–some of them black or Hispanic but most of them white–are those who can afford to do so.

America’s Fastest-Dying Cities

Joshua Zumbrun:

The turmoil of the mortgage market granted a temporary reprieve from hearing about the woes of America’s Rust Belt. That doesn’t mean things are better. Despite a decade of national prosperity, the former manufacturing backbone of the U.S. is in rougher shape than ever, still searching for some way to replace its long-stilled smokestacks.
Where’s it worst? Ohio, according to our analysis, which racked up four of the 10 cities on our list: Youngstown, Canton, Dayton and Cleveland. The runner-up is Michigan, with two cities–Detroit and Flint–making the ranking.

Give Education a Sporting Chance

Frederic J. Fransen
Center for Excellence in Higher Education
Perhaps it’s time for college fundraisers to come clean about the differences between giving to colleges and universities and giving to their athletic programs.
When donors give to athletics their gifts may produce visible results (a winning season, perhaps, or an NCAA tournament spot), but such gifts do not help colleges achieve their primary mission: the education of tomorrow’s leaders.
Not that there is anything wrong with giving to athletic programs, but a spade needs to be called a spade.
We’ve all heard the rationalizations. College athletic programs — especially big-time football and basketball — boost school spirit and spur alumni giving.
College athletic programs give some students a shot at a college education they wouldn’t get otherwise. And sports competition helps us become well-rounded individuals. None of these points is inherently untrue. They’re just irrelevant.
Americans, through tax dollars, tuition, and philanthropy, support some 2,500 public and private four-year colleges and universities for a reason: to educate those who will lead and sustain us in the future.
As much as I might enjoy the Indiana Pacers and Indianapolis Colts, their services are fundamentally unnecessary for the survival, prosperity, well-being and enlightenment of the country.
Yet, 26 percent of all dollars donated to Division I-A colleges and universities now go to athletics, according to an analysis published in the April 2007 issue of the Journal of Sport Management. In 1998, the comparable figure was 14.7 percent.
The Chronicle of Higher Education reported late last year that overall spending on sports has been growing “at a rate three times faster than that for spending on the rest of the campus.” And for most schools, according to recently released NCAA research, sports program costs exceed revenues. Only the top athletic powerhouses make money — and, frequently, only when they win.
Where’s the money going? Mostly, the money goes to build new stadiums, arenas and practice facilities to showcase the schools’ gladiators.
Schools in the six top college athletic conferences received more than $3.9 billion in donations for athletic facilities from 2002 to 2007 alone, the Chronicle of Higher Education says.
The question that needs to be asked is why are schools spending big bucks on athletic facilities for a relative handful of semi-pro athletes when academics should be their focus?
One reason many philanthropists choose to give to college athletics is because they know what they are getting. Who can blame them?
When you donate a large sum of money to support University of Wisconsin athletic programs, you do so because the Badgers have a winning tradition and you hope your gift will help produce additional championships.
When you write the same check to the English or history department, you may never know where the money went.
If education is to be the primary focus of our colleges and universities, officials involved in the “rainmaking” process need to do a better job of demonstrating to donors what their educational gifts accomplish in an equally transparent and powerful way.
They do higher education a disservice when they spend money excessively on the game, while shortchanging the end game: a highly educated workforce to face the competitive challenges of the 21st century — and a tolerant and enlightened public capable of making intelligent personal and political choices.
That’s what we need. And that’s what a new field house doesn’t buy.

Meeks Solicits Support for Chicago School Boycott Plan

Fran Spielman:

State Sen. James Meeks (D-Chicago) met privately with the City Council’s Black Caucus last week to explain his plan to have hundreds of Chicago Public School students boycott the first four days of classes.
Implied, but not stated, was the fact that Meeks would like aldermanic support for his controversial tactics. Apparently, he’s not going to get it.
On Tuesday, the Black Caucus will hold a news conference to turn up the heat on Gov. Blagojevich and the General Assembly to address the school funding disparity between rich and poor districts.
But, the aldermen will not take a stand on Meeks’ boycott threat.
“We can’t take an official position. We didn’t have a consensus. All of us want our children in school. That’s really the bottom line,” said Ald. Freddrenna Lyle (6th).

Winners Never Quit? Well, Yes, They Do

Alina Tugend:

I’VE been thinking about quitting lately. No, not my job, nor my marriage nor the incredibly long Russian novel I need to read by September for my book group (check back with me on that later).
Rather, I’ve been thinking about the concept in general. Watching the superhuman feats of the Olympic athletes this week, I’ve admired the dedication and single-minded focus they exhibit. I think about how maybe if I had just worked harder — much harder — at gymnastics when I was young, I could have reached that lofty goal (conveniently forgetting how ill-suited I was to the sport because of my great fear of falling on my head).
Olympians embody one of the great clichés about quitting: “Quitters never win and winners never quit.” My athletic career, on the other hand, is summed up by the other platitude about quitting: “You’ve gotta know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em.”

Madison High School “Redesign”: $5.5M Small Learning Community Grant for Teacher Training and Literacy Coordinators

Andy Hall:

A $5.5 million federal grant will boost efforts to shrink the racial achievement gap, raise graduation rates and expand the courses available in the Madison School District’s four major high schools, officials announced Monday.
The five-year U.S. Department of Education grant will help the district build stronger connections to students by creating so-called “small learning communities” that divide each high school population into smaller populations.
Many of those structural changes already have been implemented at two high schools — Memorial and West — and similar redesigns are planned for East and La Follette high schools.
Under that plan, East’s student body will be randomly assigned to four learning communities. La Follette will launch “freshman academies” — smaller class sizes for freshmen in core academic areas, plus advisers and mentors to help them feel connected to the school.

Tamira Madsen:

“The grant centers on things that already are important to the school district: the goals of increasing academic success for all students, strengthening student-student and student-adult relationships and improving post-secondary outlooks,” Nerad said.
Expected plans at Madison East include randomly placing students in one of four learning neighborhoods, while faculty and administrators at La Follette will create “academies” with smaller classes to improve learning for freshmen in core courses. Additional advisors will also be assigned to aid students in academies at La Follette.


The interesting question in all of this is: does the money drive strategy or is it the other way around? In addition, what is the budget impact after 5 years? A friend mentioned several years ago, during the proposed East High School curriculum change controversy, that these initiatives fail to address the real issue: lack of elementary and middle school preparation.
Finally, will this additional $1.1m in annual funds for 5 years reduce the projected budget “gap” that may drive a fall referendum?

Future ‘Top 10’ Hot Careers in 2012: Space Tourism to Genetic Counseling

Rebecca Sato:

In our information-rich society there is an ever increasing demand for workers in the fields of computers, health care, science and space technology—much of it driven by the demands of the retiring baby boomers. If you like to plan ahead, here is sampling of some of the jobs that will be hot in the next several years and beyond.
1) Organic food Industry
By 2010, organic food and beverage will represent about 10 percent of the total market — a tenfold increase from 1998. Bob Scowcroft, executive director of the Organic Farming Research Foundation says the industry will soon need more organic food producers, certification experts, retailers and scientists as organic becomes mainstream.

School Program Puts Focus On Graduation, Not Grades

Ian Shapira:

Bria Heard, 14, a rising sophomore in Prince William County, had a couple of options after she failed world history last year. She could retake the course over six weeks in summer school or during the next school year and try to improve her grade.
Or, she could choose a fairly novel program available in the school system. She could do the course work using a new computer-based program that would not improve her grade, but would allow her to earn the credits needed to stay on track to graduate in four years. To her, the benefits outweighed the cost of not getting a better grade. The program is free and can be completed in days.
“You can go at your own pace and it’s quicker,” Bria said recently while stumbling through questions on Russian history. “I didn’t know if I should do it, but then I realized it was easier than taking the full course.”

Illinois High School Basketball Star Leaves for Prep School

Michael O’Brien & Scott Powers:

It has happened again.
For the second consecutive year, the best basketball player in the state’s senior class is packing up and heading to prep school.
Peoria Central guard and Illinois recruit DJ Richardson announced on Monday that he will spend his senior season at Findlay Prep in Henderson, Nev.
That’s the same school that Washington’s DeAndre Liggins spent his senior year at last season.
“It was my family’s idea,” Richardson said. “It’s because of the ACT. I had a good GPA, just not the ACT. I’m not far off. I just took it two times. I think I could do better. There is no reason to take chances so I’m just going to prep school.”
According to Richardson, the Illinois coaching staff gave him a list of prep schools to choose from.

Businesses Partner in Education with Calcasieu Schools

Amanda Ward:

As we get ready to send our students back to school, two separate businesses are doing their parts to partner in education.
Hundreds of students and their parents packed the Pryce-Miller recreation center in Lake Charles for the Back to School Bash with free school supplies and backpacks from PPG as well as information about healthcare and education support services and loads of fun. The children are excited about going back to school for several different reasons.
Kayman St. Junious said, He loves “going to P.E.”
Austin Delafosse said, Science is his favorite subject, because “you get to make objects.”

Teen Texting Expert Insists on Being Letter-Perfect

Jenna Johnson:

Even though Glass shuns shorthand, he embraces speed. At a pace that veteran secretaries might envy, Glass sends as many as 800 texts a month, his thumbs quickly flying across his phone’s Qwerty, or mini-keyboard.
That speed and respect for the English language landed the St. Mary’s County teenager in the LG National Texting Championship in New York last month.
In June, Glass logged on to the LG Electronics Web site for an online qualifying round. Phrases popped up on the screen, and Glass quickly typed them into his phone and messaged them to the cellphone company.

Winston’s Streetball brings hoops to south side

Dennis Semrau:

Johnny Winston Jr. was wearing a powder blue T-shirt, just like the rest of his numerous volunteers at Penn Park early Saturday afternoon.
The founder and organizer of the eighth annual Streetball and Block Party that bears his name, Winston said most of his work is done in the months leading up to the event, which was held at Penn Park on Madison’s south side.
“The thing pretty much runs itself,” Winston said, “but there is tons of prep work that has to be done to pull it off. That’s what takes the most time.”
However, Winston, who is a city of Madison firefighter, a member of the Madison Metropolitan School District School Board and resident jack-of-all-trades in his community, was ready to make a quick change if necessary.

The 25 Best Boarding School Books

Sarah Ebner:

Books about boarding school have always been popular, but they’ve often been seen – like the schools themselves – as old fashioned and well past their sell-by date. This may no longer be the case – for the school, and their fictional equivalents.
The Boarding Schools Association say that both independent and the 35 state boarding establishments, are in robust health. The numbers of boarders is up for the first time in three years.
Meanwhile Wild Child, a film about an 16-year-old American sent to a British boarding school to be “tamed” is released next week, while School Friends, a new boarding school series aimed at girls of eight and up, is published at the end of August. Its publishers are claiming that it’s “Malory Towers for the new Millennium.” My daughter is already a fan, proclaiming concisely that she “really, really likes them.”

Education spending spree has “failed pupils”

Jack Grimston:

THE literacy and numeracy of new employees have tumbled over the past decade despite Labour’s £28 billion increase in annual education spending, according to research by a leading employers’ organisation.
The Institute of Directors (IoD) found that 71% of its members believe the writing abilities of new employees had worsened, while 60% believed numeracy had also declined; 52% reported a worsening of the basic ability to communicate.
With the exam results season under way, more than 60% of company directors now think GCSEs and A-levels are less demanding than a decade ago. Overall, only 27% believe schools have got better under Labour.
A-level results to be released this Thursday are expected to show the number of passes going above 97% and the proportion of A grades rising slightly from last year’s 25.3%, the 11th successive annual rise.

Keeping Up With Korea
Move over, Andover and Exeter. Two South Korean high schools score high on Ivy League acceptances.

BJ Lee & Adam Kushner:

Even as Visa restrictions have tightened in the United States since September 11, foreign students are still banging down the doors at American universities. They now regularly represent more than 10 percent of students at elite schools, many of which have taken up campaigns to broaden their global appeal. And the overwhelming source of these new students? Not the established European and American boarding schools that have always placed a respectable bloc of graduates into the best colleges. Instead, a new crop of prep schools is rising in other parts of the world, particularly South Korea. In a Wall Street Journal survey last December, only two foreign schools ranked in the top 40 for best admission rates to eight leading American universities, including Harvard, Princeton and MIT. Both are in South Korea.
Minjok Leadership Academy, a 12-year-old high school located in a remote mountain village in South Korea, has a track record comparable to the best American prep schools. Of its 77 graduates who applied to American universities for this year, 25 were accepted into the Ivy League, 19 by UC Berkeley and 10 by New York University. The remainder will attend Stanford and other leading institutions. Daewon Foreign Language High School in Seoul has a similar success rate. In 2000 it began to focus on foreign universities, and by the end of last year had sent 263 graduates to the top 50 U.S. universities. Last year alone, 36 got into Ivy League schools.

The Thinking Behind Critical Thinking Courses

Jay Matthews:

Looking for a way to improve your mind and make some money? Check out the latest “critical thinking” courses. Many come up on a Google search. Many promise better grades and higher test scores. Without much effort, you can create your own course and tap into this hot topic.
The only thing is, it turns out such programs don’t work very well, except as a measure of the gullibility of even smart educators. A remarkable article by Daniel T. Willingham, the University of Virginia cognitive scientist outlines the reasons. Critical thinking, he explains in a summer 2007 American Educator article, overlooked until now by me, is not a skill like riding a bike or diagramming a sentence that, once learned, can be applied in many situations.
Instead, as your most-hated high school teacher often told you, you have to buckle down and learn the content of a subject–facts, concepts and trends–before the maxims of critical thinking taught in these feverishly-marketed courses will do you much good.

School’s Health Reviewed

Jessica Blanchard:

It wasn’t until he hand-delivered bottles of the discolored water to School Board members at a public meeting that the district took action.
That was five years ago, and Seattle Public Schools has addressed those problems and adopted tough water-quality standards since then. But Cooper warns of similar environmental health and safety problems in schools statewide – and that Washington’s code is woefully outdated.
With the state Board of Health on the cusp of revising its rule governing environmental health and safety in schools – the first major changes in nearly four decades – it’s time for the public to take note, Cooper said.
“If you don’t pay attention, and don’t get involved, it will be your own backyard, your own child being affected,” he said.
The proposal under consideration would modernize the rule, adding standards for indoor air and water quality and playground safety.

Education Reform: Still Reaching

Letters to the Denver Post on Still Reaching, 25 years after A Nation at Risk:

Re: “Still reaching’ 25 years after ‘A Nation at Risk,’ education struggling,” Aug. 3 Perspective article.
The ideas expressed by Dick Hilker about the problems with public education are echoed throughout our society. Parents, legislators and school administrators bemoan the fact that many students do not measure up to the proficient level in reading.
Mr. Hilker and the rest of the people who blame schools need to face reality. Scoring “proficient” on the CSAP test in reading, math or any other subject is the equivalent of getting a B on a report cards in years past. Not every kid in class when I was in school scored all B’s and A’s.
Yes, every kid can learn, and it is the school’s job to take every student to their limit. But to expect teachers to get everyone in their class to the proficient level in all classes ignores the fact that not all kids are average or above.

2007 Michigan Merit Exam Results Released

Lori Higgins, Peggy Walsh-Sarnecki & Chastity Pratt Dawsey:

As a whole, the results of the exam — released Thursday by the Michigan Department of Education — illustrate how ill-prepared many Michigan teens are for college. The new exam, which the state debuted in spring 2007, includes the ACT, a college entrance test. The exam is rounded out with a workplace skills test, and tests aligned with the state’s standards in math, science and social studies.
“We have not made any significant improvement,” Sharif Shakrani, codirector of the Education Policy Center at Michigan State University, said of this year’s scores.
The exam, given this spring, was taken by nearly 124,000 students.
The percentage of students scoring at the top two levels on the math exam was 46%, unchanged from last year. In reading, it was 62%, up from 60%. In writing it was 41%, up from 40%. In science it was 57%, up from 56%; and in social studies it was 80%, down from 83%.

Getting Involved With Your Childrens’ Education


Kids all across KELOLAND will be heading back to school in the next few weeks and that means adding a few more things to their calendar. But how about adding a few school-related things to yours? Research shows that when parents are involved in their children’s education, kids do better in school. This week’s Inside KELOLAND shows you how your involvement can help your student achieve and succeed. You’ll find out why it’s important to your child’s development to have you involved in their education. And we show you what rewards there are for those parents who do get involved. Finally, we tell you where to go to find out how you can be more involved in your child’s schooling, whether it’s through volunteering in the classroom, or taking a more active role in their lessons.

If We Lose Our Children We Lose America

Karl Priest:

John Stossel (of television’s “20-20”) produced an outstanding report entitled “Stupid in America” which reported that a South Carolina governor would not send his own children to public schools because—it would “sacrifice their education”. The governor wanted to allow the free market to deliver an alternative to public schools. Teacher unions and politicians (who are controlled by teacher unions) complained. They asked, “How can we spend state money on something that hasn’t been proven?” In other words, it’s better to spend state money on something that is proven NOT to work.
Stossel described how the national School Board’s Association (NSBA) claimed, “America’s Public Schools out perform Private Schools when variables are controlled.” Actually, the Private School students scored higher on the tests, but there were adjustments for race, ethnicity, income, and parent’s education backgrounds. That may be a valid statistical tool, but it’s prone to bias and leads to statistical hocus-pocus.
Many public school teachers are nice people trying to make a living, but the number of good teachers and administrators, whether Christian or not, has been decreasing from retirement. The good teachers that remain are entangled victims of the agenda that controls what they can do. Textbook publishers are puppets of the education establishment thereby making it nearly impossible for well-meaning teachers to avoid participating in the indoctrination.

A Second-Rate Secondary Education
High schools need to start treating their students with the same respect colleges do.

Leon Botstein:

The weakest and most vulnerable element in education, particularly in the developed world, is the education of adolescents in our secondary-school systems. Relative economic prosperity and the extension of leisure time have spawned an inconsistent but prevalent postponement of adulthood. On the one hand, as consumers and future citizens, young people between the ages of 13 and 18 are afforded considerable status and independence. Yet they remain infantilized in terms of their education, despite the earlier onset of maturation. Standards and expectations are too low. Modern democracies are increasingly inclined to ensure rates of close to 100 percent completion of a secondary school that can lead to university education. This has intensified an unresolved struggle between the demands of equity and the requirements of excellence. If we do not address these problems, the quality of university education will be at risk.
To make secondary education meaningful, more intellectual demands of an adult nature should be placed on adolescents. They should be required to use primary materials of learning, not standardized textbooks; original work should be emphasized, not imitative, uniform assignments; and above all, students should undergo inspired teaching by experts. Curricula should be based on current problems and issues, not disciplines defined a century ago. Statistics and probability need to be brought to the forefront, given our need to assess risk and handle data, replacing calculus as the entry-level college requirement. Secondary schools and their programs of study are not only intellectually out of date, but socially obsolete. They were designed decades ago for large children, not today’s young adults.

Raise, not lower standards. Quite a concept. Clusty Search: Leon Botstein.
High School Redesign.

Students turn to co-op for competitive edge

Lisa Cornwell:

Ren Brown is banking on the work experience she gains while at college to give her a competitive edge over other young job seekers — an advantage increasingly sought by students and employers amid a weak economy and a changing workplace.
Schools and education groups are seeing growth in established programs that link students with employers, who also are showing increased interest. Many point to student concerns over job competition in a tight labor market and employer needs to replace retiring baby boomers.
“Historically, interest in cooperative education increases when the economy slumps, especially since it does seem to give people a leg up in the job market,” said Terry Hartle, senior vice president of the American Council on Education.
Employers are looking to cooperative education as a way to observe potential employees over several months to better determine if they fit the company, said Phil Gardner, director of the Collegiate Employment Research Institute at Michigan State University.

Teacher’s Group “Way off Mark in Attack on No Child Left Behind Law”

DeWayne Wickham:

But this time, the group has an unlikely adversary in its long-shot effort to gut NCLB. It’s being opposed by the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights — a coalition of 192 organizations, including the NEA — that supports “the enactment and enforcement of effective civil rights legislation and policy.”
The Leadership Conference says NCLB is civil rights legislation. Given the yawning achievement gap in public schools between whites, blacks and Hispanics, the umbrella group argues that improving public education is a civil rights issue.
“While NCLB is a flawed law — and we have repeatedly called on Congress to make improvements through the reauthorization process — NCLB has been crucial in exposing the extent of the opportunity and achievement gaps plaguing chronically underperforming schools and creating an atmosphere conducive for fundamental education reform,” Wade Henderson, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, said last month.
The bill pending in the House would temporarily exempt states from enforcing some NCLB accountability requirements until fixes are made to the 2002 law. But in an editorial earlier this month, The New York Times called the House bill “a stealth attempt to gut the national school accountability effort.”

Family move reveals differences in early education

Nancy Zuckerbrod:

That’s my girl, I thought, as Olivia tore away from us to join the other 5-year-olds for circle time — legs crossed, hand stick-straight in the air in response to the teacher’s question about how the kids spent Father’s Day.
My husband and I exchanged knowing glances, convinced that she was a shoo-in for admission, and left Olivia with her uniform-clad peers so we could tour the British prep school in the quaint red-brick Victorian building.
The e-mail came a week later. It asked us to please call the head teacher, the equivalent of a school principal in the United States.
We were back at home in Washington D.C., thinking about what to store, ship and toss as we prepared for our family move to London. The change is a big one for all of us, but I didn’t realize quite how different things would be for Olivia until that phone call.
The head teacher and I exchanged pleasantries, and then she laid it out. My daughter, who commonly invokes the Mandarin word for little brother and usually wins at the game hangman, has a significant “learning gap” when compared with her British peers — especially in literacy.

Dreams for school’s accessible playground prove boundless

The Capital Times:

Members of the Elvehjem Elementary School community, including students, teachers, parents and other supporters of a unique idea, watched Friday as groundbreaking occurred for a playground designed to be inclusionary to all.
The new playground is designed for use by all kids, including those with disabilities who could not participate in play with their peers on older models of playgrounds.
Last year members of the Elvehjem community decided to enter a national contest for a Boundless Playground and submitted an essay they hoped would win the day for the east side school. But they fell just short, finishing third out of 900 entries.

Referendum Climate: Stupid Budget Tricks

Michael Granof:

STATE governments across the country are reeling from the effects of the current economic downturn. New York, facing a $26.2 billion deficit over the next three years, is particularly hard hit. Like most other states, it is looking to balance its budget mainly by cutting spending.
But if history is a guide, governors and legislators across the country will seek to avoid the difficult choices that are required. Instead, they will likely pass the costs of the services that we enjoy today on to our children and grandchildren, through creatively deceptive budgeting.
This is a time-honored practice. In 1991, the State of New York sold Attica prison to none other than itself. The buyer was a state agency that financed the $200 million purchase price by issuing bonds. The agency then leased the prison back to the state, with the lease payments being equal to the debt service on the bonds.
In substance, of course, the transaction was nothing more than a borrowing arrangement — the equivalent of borrowing $200 million from the buyers of the bonds. Nevertheless, the state booked the entire sale price as revenue for the year. The previous year, the state sold the Cross Westchester Expressway to the New York Thruway Authority — in other words, to itself.

As Program Moves Poor to Suburbs, Tensions Follow

Solomon Moore:

rom the tough streets of Oakland, where so many of Alice Payne’s relatives and friends had been shot to death, the newspaper advertisement for a federally assisted rental property in this Northern California suburb was like a bridge across the River Jordan.
Ms. Payne, a 42-year-old African-American mother of five, moved to Antioch in 2006. With the local real estate market slowing and a housing voucher covering two-thirds of the rent, she found she could afford a large, new home, with a pool, for $2,200 a month.
But old problems persisted. When her estranged husband was arrested, the local housing authority tried to cut off her subsidy, citing disturbances at her house. Then the police threatened to prosecute her landlord for any criminal activity or public nuisances caused by the family. The landlord forced the Paynes to leave when their lease was up.
Under the Section 8 federal housing voucher program, thousands of poor, urban and often African-American residents have left hardscrabble neighborhoods in the nation’s largest cities and resettled in the suburbs.
Law enforcement experts and housing researchers argue that rising crime rates follow Section 8 recipients to their new homes, while other experts discount any direct link. But there is little doubt that cultural shock waves have followed the migration. Social and racial tensions between newcomers and their neighbors have increased, forcing suburban communities like Antioch to re-evaluate their civic identities along with their methods of dealing with the new residents.

Why is crime rising in so many American cities? The answer implicates one of the most celebrated antipoverty programs of recent decades by Hanna Rosin @ the Atlantic Monthly:

Lately, though, a new and unexpected pattern has emerged, taking criminologists by surprise. While crime rates in large cities stayed flat, homicide rates in many midsize cities (with populations of between 500,000 and 1 million) began increasing, sometimes by as much as 20percent a year. In 2006, the Police Executive Research Forum, a national police group surveying cities from coast to coast, concluded in a report called “A Gathering Storm” that this might represent “the front end … of an epidemic of violence not seen for years.” The leaders of the group, which is made up of police chiefs and sheriffs, theorized about what might be spurring the latest crime wave: the spread of gangs, the masses of offenders coming out of prison, methamphetamines. But mostly they puzzled over the bleak new landscape. According to FBI data, America’s most dangerous spots are now places where Martin Scorsese would never think of staging a shoot-out–Florence, South Carolina; Charlotte-Mecklenburg, North Carolina; Kansas City, Missouri; Reading, Pennsylvania; Orlando, Florida; Memphis, Tennessee.
Memphis has always been associated with some amount of violence. But why has Elvis’s hometown turned into America’s new South Bronx? Barnes thinks he knows one big part of the answer, as does the city’s chief of police. A handful of local criminologists and social scientists think they can explain it, too. But it’s a dismal answer, one that city leaders have made clear they don’t want to hear. It’s an answer that offers up racial stereotypes to fearful whites in a city trying to move beyond racial tensions. Ultimately, it reaches beyond crime and implicates one of the most ambitious antipoverty programs of recent decades.


School Program Puts Focus On Graduation, Not Grades

Ian Shapira:

Bria Heard, 14, a rising sophomore in Prince William County, had a couple of options after she failed world history last year. She could retake the course over six weeks in summer school or during the next school year and try to improve her grade.
Or, she could choose a fairly novel program available in the school system. She could do the course work using a new computer-based program that would not improve her grade, but would allow her to earn the credits needed to stay on track to graduate in four years. To her, the benefits outweighed the cost of not getting a better grade. The program is free and can be completed in days.

Virginia Weighs Wider Index to Certify Schools

Chris Jenkins:

Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) is reviewing a plan that would require all Virginia high schools to meet certain graduation-rate requirements by 2014 to receive accreditation under a new assessment system.
Under the proposal, state officials would use a computer system to track students throughout their academic careers to determine the number of diplomas, GEDs and other certificates that schools award during any given year. Schools would receive accreditation based on those results. Current accreditation standards are based on pass rates on the annual Standards of Learning exams.
As part of the accreditation process, schools would be rated on a points system. For instance, schools would be awarded 100 points for each student who received a diploma; the school would earn 75 points if a student received a general equivalency diploma. If a student earned a certificate of completion, given to those who don’t earn high-school diplomas or their equivalent, the school would receive 60 points.

Referendum Climate: Wisconsin 9th in State / Local Tax “Burden”

Gerald Prante @ Tax Foundation [340K PDF]:

For 18 consecutive years the Tax Foundation has published an estimate of the combined state-local tax burden shouldered by the residents of each of the 50 states. For each state, we calculate the total amount paid by the residents in taxes, and we divide those taxes by the total income in each state to compute a “tax burden” measure.
We make this calculation not only for the most recent year but also for earlier years because tax and income data are revised periodically by government agencies, and in our own methodology to take advantage of new datasets.
The goal is to focus not on the tax collectors but on the taxpayers. That is, we answer the question: What percentage of their income are the residents of this state paying in state and local taxes? We are not trying to answer the question: How much money have state and local governments collected?

Related: Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel Editorial on McCain & Obama’s deficit spending plans.

Where’s the Data on Smaller Class Sizes?

Kevin Carey:

You see it all the time, in the brochures and advertisements from liberal arts colleges and other non-gargantuan institutions. “Small class sizes,” they promise, and for good reason, because everyone knows that small classes are better than large. No cavernous lecture halls where the professor is little more than a distant stick figure, they say — raise your hand here, and someone will stop and listen. Plus, he or she will be a real professor, the genuine tenure-track article, not a part-timer or grad student but someone who really knows his or her stuff. Because everyone knows that real professors are better than the other kind.
Except, they don’t.
Nobody actually knows whether small classes are better than large. Pascarella and Terenzini’s How College Affects Students, the bible of such matters, says “We uncovered 10 studies that focus on the effects of class size on course learning. All of the investigations are quasi-experimental or correlational in design …. Unfortunately, five of the studies used course grade as the measure of learning … the conflicting evidence and continuing methodological problems surrounding this small body of research make it difficult to form a firm conclusion.”

Shakespeare for Gifted Students

Carol Fertig:

Shakespeare never grows old. He was an outstanding observer of life and created many immortal characters that profess human nature. His characters often capture traits that are universal. He used rich literary devices, compelling plots, and had an enduring wisdom and wit. He also wrote many unforgettable lines that are imbedded in our culture. He continues to be the most-quoted author in the English language.
There are many resources available to help teach about Shakespeare. Here are just a few.

Longer Year for Fairfax Teachers, Incentive Programs

Michael Alison Chandler:

Schools nationwide are looking for ways to pay striving or successful teachers more so they can attract and keep talent. The District and Prince George’s County are offering financial incentives for exceptional teachers in challenging schools. Arlington County is enabling qualified teachers to skip a step on the salary schedule.
Fairfax’s move toward a year-round teacher schedule is unusual, said Allan Odden, a University of Wisconsin professor who studies alternative teacher pay and who has advised Dale. But Odden said the notion of giving teachers more responsibilities in exchange for more pay is gaining momentum in public education. He said a “cadre of teacher leaders” in a school has proven to be critical for student achievement.
Fairfax’s “teacher leadership” program began in summer 2006 with extended contracts for about 600 teachers at 24 schools, issued through competitive grants. The contracts add nine, 14 or 24 days to the traditional 194-day schedule. They can increase salaries as much as 12 percent.

Milwaukee-area school districts grapple with sex-ed policies

Erin Richards:

For parents like the Timmermons in Milwaukee, who diligently pre-screen G-rated movies and forbid their daughter from playing with the made-up and mini-skirted Bratz dolls, when and how to start talking about the human body and sex can be a bit of a mystery.
Schools face a similar dilemma. Many districts teach what’s broadly known as human growth and development, but the thoroughness of the information varies widely among districts, schools and classrooms, based on an informal survey of schools by the Journal Sentinel.
Over the summer, Milwaukee Public Schools is addressing the unevenness in its human growth and development curriculum by revamping the entire program from kindergarten through high school, and making a plan to train teachers on how to deliver the information.

The Wisconsin Center for Education Research was founded 44 years ago this month.

via email:

Part of the School of Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the Wisconsin Center for Education Research receives $29 million in current funding from the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Education, and private foundations.
One of WCER’s strengths is the interdisciplinary nature of its work. While most of its researchers make their academic home in the School of Education, one-third come from other fields, including astronomy, business, chemistry, economics, engineering, human ecology, law, mathematics, sociology, and social work. Each discipline brings its own way of learning and thinking. Together these researchers focus on problems of learning, teaching, assessment, and policy in today’s education systems.
In August 1964 then-University president Fred Harvey Harrington signed an agreement with the U.S. Office of Education to establish what was then called the Wisconsin Research and Development Center for Learning and Re-education. “It was an adventure of opportunity that was in line with the University’s traditional commitment to innovation and experimentation in teaching, to the union of basic and applied research, and to outreach tying the Madison campus to progress in the state and beyond,” he writes in the introduction to the book, The Wisconsin Center for Education Research: 25 Years of Knowledge Generation and Educational Improvement” (WCER, 1990).
WCER’s funding sources represent a broad mix of federal, private, state, and district level agencies. Of $29 million in current funding, fees for service account for 44%, while private foundations account for 21%. The U.S. Education Department accounts for 19% of current funding and the National Science Foundation 7%. The State of Wisconsin and school districts including Milwaukee and Chicago account for 9%. This array of sources attests to WCER’s breadth of research across disciplines, and its depth of reach from the federal level to local school districts.
The establishment of the Center, Harrington wrote, was “a part of a major movement of our time—the conscious attempt to enlist higher education in research-and-action efforts to help solve pressing problems and improve the quality of life in the U.S. and abroad.”
A list of 48 education experts and topics of research interest is available. Contact Paul Baker, pbaker@wisc.edu

Given Half A Chance: Black Males in Public Schools are Driven to Drop Out

The Schott Foundation for Public Education:

50+ Years Post Brown v. Board of Education, Schott Foundation Report Reveals that States and Districts Fail to Educate the Majority of Male Black Students
The release of the 2008 Schott Foundation Report entitled “Given Half a Chance: The Schott 50 State Report on Public Education for Black Males,” details the disturbing reality of America’s national racial achievement gap. State-by-state data demonstrate that districts with large Black enrollments educate their White, non-Hispanic peers, but fail to educate the majority of their Black male students.

Individual state reports (Wisconsin):

This section includes United States Department of Education National Center for Education Statistics state and district data for Black and White male students for states in which there are districts listed in the preceding section and for those districts themselves. Data are also included from the United States Department of Education Office of Civil Rights 2004 Elementary and Secondary School Survey concerning Special Education, Gifted and Talented and Discipline reports; National Assessment of Educational Progress; and Advanced Placement.

Tammerlin Drummond has more.

Milwaukee’s Rufus King Out of 2009 Boys Basketball Tournament

Art Kabelowsky:

Altered test scores, illegal recruiting force decision
After a five-month internal investigation by Milwaukee Public Schools officials produced evidence of recruiting and test-score tampering, the Rufus King boys basketball team has been barred from competing in the 2009 state tournament.
Though the tournament ban was an internal sanction, King’s basketball program has also been placed on probation for the next two school years by the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association.
Also, a King assistant boys basketball coach has been fired from his coaching position, although MPS Communications Director Roseann St. Aubin said Wednesday that the former coach was allowed to retain his full-time job at a different MPS facility.
The Journal Sentinel has received a copy of a letter from King principal Marie Newby-Randle that was mailed Wednesday to every family with a student enrolled at King for 2008-’09.

Teacher Lobbying Raises Union’s Ire

Bill Turque:

A community group that supports D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee’s proposed salary and bonus package for teachers has hired a small group of instructors at $1,000 a week to lobby colleagues for the plan, drawing accusations from union leaders of interference with the collective bargaining process.
A spokesman for Strong Schools DC, founded in May by half a dozen local philanthropists with a history of involvement in education issues, said five public school teachers were employed “to spread the word” about Rhee’s plan. A recruiting e-mail, sent by one of the teachers, said the group was prepared to hire as many as 20 “teacher contract outreach coordinators.”
But Todd Lamb, the spokesman, said the group has decided to pull back for the moment, principally because contract talks between Rhee and the Washington Teachers’ Union have not concluded.

Primary schools: the shocking truth

Deborah Orr:

This year’s Sats results suggest, for the third year in a row, that only 67 per cent of pupils are achieving the writing standard required of them. For boys, the figure is worse, with just 60 per cent able to put pencil to paper with any proficiency. I use the word “any” advisedly. I think that many people would be pretty shocked to see the unimpressive level of literacy that is needed for pupils to manage a pass. Yet the numbers achieving even this modest benchmark, teachers themselves say, offer an exaggerated picture of the writing ability of schoolchildren.
Nearly all secondary schools now feel obliged to re-test their intake when they start this new phase of their education. They cannot trust what Sats tell them, and feel obliged to find out for themselves what sort of remedial input a child really needs. Such measures attest that the problem is not marginal. It is not without the bounds of probability to infer that as many as half of all boys are going into secondary education without having mastered the basic skills needed to express their thoughts on paper. How dismal.
This miserable state of affairs gives the lie to the fantasy that has been long promulgated by the Government, which insists that primary education is fine, and all the trouble begins at secondary school. Of course pupils will run into difficulties at secondary school, if the groundwork laid down in their previous six years of education has not been thorough. This has been happening for years.

Two Forums Set on a Potential Madison School Referendum

Tamira Madsen:

At this juncture, several board members won’t say if they favor a referendum, instead choosing to wait to hear what the public has to say and to discover what Nerad’s recommendations are. But it is widely expected that a referendum will be the path they will take in order to close a gaping hole in the budget.
One other topic of discussion that was brought up at Monday’s meeting was Nerad’s stance on implementing 4-year-old kindergarten. Nerad and Eric Kass, the district’s assistant superintendent of business services, are working on a cost analysis of bringing 4K to the district. Fully exploring the options of how the program can be funded until it generates revenue is Nerad’s main concern, and though Kass is gathering the data, the district won’t be ready to present the data in time for a possible fall referendum.
“My preference would be to see if there are any other options short of a referendum to address the first two years of the funding,” Nerad said. “I will also say that I haven’t closed my mind at all because if those other options don’t work, then we need to have the discussion about addressing this in any other way.”


  • Much more on the local referendum climate here.
  • Andy Hall:

    The property tax effect of a potential referendum will be unveiled in two weeks, Madison schools Superintendent Daniel Nerad said Monday.
    At the Madison School Board’s meeting on Aug. 18, Nerad plans to recommend whether the School Board should ask voters for additional money to avoid deep budget cuts.
    The district’s budget shortfall is projected to be $8.2 million in the 2009-10 school year and about $5 million each of the following three years.
    The referendum could appear on the Nov. 4 ballot.

  • TJ Mertz
  • Madison School District: Current Financial Condition.

Exploring the perils of taking grandparental school funding

Carol Lloyd:

There’s a common, often unacknowledged reason private schools host Grandparents Day, at least in the Bay Area: The gray hairs are footing the bills. With yearly tuition ranging from about $6,000 to more than $29,000, and many families mortgaged to the gills, “going private” is often an option only in the most hypothetical sense. The Bank of Grandparents has been doing swift business with Bay Area families for decades. “Historically, grandparents or other relatives often paid tuition,” says Denise McCarthy, who directed Presidio Hill School during the 1970s and is now running for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in District 3. “In the ’70s … private school tuition was expensive, relatively speaking,” she recalled. Even then, she says, her school celebrated a Grandparents Day and hit up the silvering community members for donations.

It’s Never to Late to Educate

Sam Whiting:

We all have the recurring nightmare of sitting in a college exam with two empty blue books and a sheet of essay questions. You are given the option of answering three out of five, but you go down the sheet and can’t answer one. You have nothing to write and three hours to not write it.
Then you wake up in a panic. If in possession of a college diploma, you will look for it in the dead of night. If found, it will provide about 10 minutes of reassurance. There are only two ways to stop the panic, and psychotherapy is more expensive and less fun than going back to school. At the very least, being a student again will supply new fodder for anxiety dreams to replace the ones that are 30 or 40 or 50 years old.
No matter how “too old for school” you think you are, you are not as “too old” as Hazel Soares of San Leandro. At age 93, Soares is entering her junior year (or years) at Mills College in Oakland. An art history major, she’s taking it nice and slow – slow enough to walk across the stage and accept her diploma at age 100.

Texas Teachers group sues to stop plan to help dropouts

Gary Scharrer:

A teachers group asked the courts Tuesday to stop Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott from giving tax dollars to private groups to educate school dropouts.
The Texas Education Agency proposal resembles a school voucher program, which state lawmakers expressly prohibited last year, the Texas State Teachers Association said in its motion for an injunction.
Scott has approved a preliminary plan that would award up to $6 million to 22 school districts, community colleges and private organizations chosen to participate in an experiment to help 1,000 school dropouts achieve a high school diploma.
The Harris County Department of Education and school districts in Pasadena and San Antonio were among 19 school systems, charter schools and community colleges selected to participate.
The inclusion, however, of Community Action Inc. of Hays, Caldwell and Blanco Counties, the Christian Fellowship of San Antonio and the San Antonio-based Healy-Murphy Center triggered the lawsuit.

School needs bold blueprint, not formula fiddling

Jim Wooten:

Governors one after another have tinkered with public education inputs and funding formulas, promising all the while to succeed where their predecessors had failed. Had those approaches worked —- more inputs and revised formulas recommended by blue ribbon commissions —- schools would be fixed by now.
They aren’t.
It’s the model that’s broken, not the funding formulas.
Across the country industries beset by new marketplace dynamics —- industries that include newspapers, health care providers and all others, automobiles among them, that compete globally —- are frantically at work reinventing their business models.
Education’s marketplace changed decades ago. The best hope now is to stop fighting the marketplace and, instead, let competition work. Give parents choice —- and the means to exercise it. Improve public schools, yes. But don’t keep children prisoners until the system is perfected.

5 Ways to Motivate Students

Jay Matthews:

My Post colleague Marc Fisher had a terrific rant on his Raw Fisher blog last week about a story I did on the strange case of Matthew Nuti. Matthew is a bright if somewhat disorganized 16-year-old, recently expelled from the very selective Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology because his grade point average slipped below 3.0.
Marc objected to this new and extraordinary school policy. “Grades are a means of communication and motivation,” he said. They won’t work in that way, Marc said, if you turn “mediocre grades into a death sentence.” You can’t motivate a corpse, just as you can’t urge greater effort out of a student who has been kicked out of your school.
Marc’s reminder of the importance of motivation in education inspired me to resurrect one of the best books I have read on the topic, and add it to the Better Late Than Never Book Club, my official list of works I should have read when they actually arrived in the mail. This latest entry is a particularly hideous example of my slothful tendencies. “Engaging Minds: Motivation and Learning in America’s Schools” by David A. Goslin was published in 2003.

Many tweens watching ‘R’ films despite restriction

Greg Toppo:

Researchers know what your tween saw last summer: savage beatings, severed heads, murder, rape and torture.
In a study released Monday in the journal Pediatrics, researchers from Dartmouth Medical School estimate more than 2.5 million children ages 10 to 14 watch the typical violent, R-rated movie.
A few movies, such as Blade, Hollow Man and Bride of Chucky, claim what researchers say are huge child audiences — as many as 7.8 million, including an estimated 1 million 10-year-olds.
“Ten isn’t far away from believing in Santa Claus,” says researcher Keilah Worth.

Success in education

Arthur Rothkopf:

Jan Morrison of the Gates Foundation recently posed a rhetorical question that perfectly sums up the state of K-12 education: “Do our schools still look like they did in the 1950s – now ask yourself, do our companies still look like they did in the 1950s?”
The answer is quite clear – the world economy has changed dramatically since the 1950s, and any company that refuses to keep up is soon out of business. The same cannot be said of American schools, where the curricula are largely unchanged since the 1950s and classroom technology isn’t much better. Even our school calendar is still based on an agrarian society. How many bushels of corn has your child harvested this summer?
Although our schools are not going out of business, their results are akin to a company ready to file for Chapter 11. While 90 percent of the fastest-growing jobs in America require some postsecondary education, about a third of our nation’s students do not even finish high school in four years. Our highest-performing state, Massachusetts, can only boast that 51 percent of its eighth grade students are proficient in math. There is a growing consensus that education reform is critical to our nation’s competitiveness, and there should be when confronted by statistics like these.

District Wants to Stay on 4 Day Week

Lisa Schencker:

One of Utah’s smallest school districts wants to move to a four-day week permanently, saying the schedule has helped increase instructional time for many students.
Tiny Rich School District in northern Utah asked state education leaders Friday to consider allowing it to continue holding school four days a week in the future. The schedule saves the district about $1,500 a week in transportation costs, said Ralph Johnson, Rich school board president.
Beginning Monday, many state government offices will also be open only four days a week in a move meant to lower energy costs for the state and employees.
But saving energy is not the main reason the district wants to continue the four-day schedule, which started two years ago and is due to continue next year under an agreement approved by the Utah State Board of Education. Rich, which last school year had 436 students attending four schools, conceived the arrangement to deal with sports and activities.

Marking Sats Has Always Been A Total Fiasco

Liz Brocklehurst:

The Sats disaster is depressing, but I’m afraid that as someone who’s marked them for ten years, it’s not altogether surprising. In the early days of the National Curriculum tests — the Sats — I was a Key Stage 2 Science marker, sworn to Masonic-like secrecy about this mysterious testing process. In my innocence I had expected it to be a straightforward procedure, but I hadn’t allowed for the serial incompetence, the human error, the vagaries of postal deliveries, and most important: the political pressure.
Several times my expected parcels of scripts were initially sent to another marker by mistake, and I received scripts for the wrong subject; scripts of pupils would routinely be missing without explanation, requiring query letters and a wait for a response — all of which delayed the process. We markers came to accept such things as the norm, including the frequent change of the official organisation charged with overall responsibility for the marking process (each time with the empty promise that things would be so much more efficient under the new body).

Keeping The Concord Review Afloat

Kathleen Kennedy Manzo:

A year ago, Will Fitzhugh was wondering if the next issue of The Concord Review, the renowned history journal he founded in 1987 to recognize high school students’ outstanding history research papers, would be the last. On a tattered shoestring budget, Fitzhugh has just published the Summer 2008 edition [18/4], and with some support from schools and other fans in the private sector, he has hopes for four more issues over the next year.
But the former high school history teacher is proceeding mostly on a wing and a prayer, and a driving passion for promoting rigorous academic work for teenagers. Last year, the salary for the curmudgeonly 71-year-old was a measly $8,600. This for a scholar who has won widespread praise among education thinkers in the country for demanding, and rewarding, excellence and earnestness in the study of history. Thousands of high school students—mostly from private schools, but many from public schools, including diverse and challenged ones—have responded with work that has impressed some prominent historians and many college-admissions officers.
So how is it that such an undertaking is only scraping by, while other worthy programs, such as the National Writing Project and the Teaching American History Grants, manage to garner millions of dollars each year in federal and foundation support?
Right now, the Review is staying afloat on the commitment of Fitzhugh and some 20 secondary institutions that have ponied up $5,000 each to join a consortium that was created a year ago to cover the costs of publishing the journal. The National Writing Board, also founded by Fitzhugh, brings in some money from students who pay for an evaluation of their research papers that can be sent in with their college applications.
Why is it that some extraordinary efforts in education, which seem to have vision and the right end goal, struggle so?

100 Black Men Back to School Picnic on Saturday August 23rd at Demetral Park at 10:30 a.m.

2008 Back to School Picnic
100 Black Men of Madison 12th Annual Back to School Picnic will be held on Saturday August 23rd, rain or shine at Demetral Park located on Commercial and Packers Avenue at 10:30 am.
Over 1,500 free backpacks filled with school supplies will be distributed to students in kindergarten thru eighth grade.
In addition, free hamburgers, hot dogs and beverages will be served. This event is first come, first served. Students must be in attendance to receive a backpack.
The purpose of this event is to assist students at the beginning the school year with the supplies needed for academic success and to reduce the achievement gap.
For more information please contact, Wayne Canty at 285-6753 or wcanty@kraft.com.

On Washington’s Next State Superintendent

Seattle Times Editorial:

In the race for the Superintendent of Public Instruction, two deserve to move beyond the primary: incumbent Terry Bergeson and Randy Dorn, a former lawmaker and union leader.
Both candidates must spend the time between the primary and the general election engaging the public far more than they have. Both are guilty of too many sound bites and political salvos and few compelling ideas on education funding, graduation requirements and the role of standardized testing.
That’s for starters. The next state schools chief should be able to articulate the complexities of the persistent challenges of the day — a growing special-education population, dropout rates and racial disparities in academic achievement — and then offer cogent solutions to them.

Milwaukee Schools Urged to Revise Discipline Policy

Alan Borsuk:

A team of national experts has urged a major overhaul in the way Milwaukee Public Schools handles behavior issues in schools, saying MPS does not do enough to deal with problems short of suspending students and may have the highest suspension rate of any urban school system in America.
“District staff members need to mobilize to meet this challenge” of dealing with behavior issues in ways that don’t involve suspensions but are more effective in improving both a student’s behavior and academic work, the team said in a report to MPS officials.
Superintendent William Andrekopoulos said in an interview that changes in line with the report’s recommendations are under way, including a new policy in which every parent will be given a written statement this fall on the disciplinary practices that will be used in a child’s classroom.
The report, submitted several months ago, is the second in two years by a team from the Council of Great City Schools that was critical of major aspects of what goes on in MPS classrooms. In both cases, the reports were not made public until a Journal Sentinel reporter asked for them. In 2006, a report from the council criticized academic practices and low achievement by students, called for more direction from the central administration of what was being done in schools, and said people involved in MPS, from the School Board to the classroom, “appear fairly complacent.”

Madison police calls near local high schools 1996-2006.

On Math Curriculum Reduction

Emily Messner:

The students swapped stories of little sisters, brothers and cousins who were taking above-grade-level math and getting good grades, yet did not seem to have a firm grasp of the material. The curriculum is being “narrowed and shallowed,” Walstein said. “The philosophy is that they squeeze you out the top like a tube of toothpaste. That’s what Montgomery County math is.”
Several students nodded their heads. This thesis has become Walstein’s obsession: In its drive to be the best, please affluent parents and close the achievement gap on standardized tests, the county is accelerating too many students in math, at the expense of the curriculum — and the students. The average accelerated math student “thinks he’s fine. His parents think he’s fine. The school system says he’s fine. But he’s not fine!” Walstein declares on one occasion. On another, Walstein is even less diplomatic. ” ‘We have the best courses and there’s no achievement gap and everything is wonderful,’ ” he says, parroting the message he believes county administrators are trying to project.
“The problem is, they’re lying!”

Math Forum audio / video links.

Racine’s Superintendent Candidate Meets the Community

Pete Selkowe:

In Shaw’s educational universe, “It’s the teachers who are important.” His goal — doubling the number of kids in the “advanced:” category in five years — focuses on teachers. “Most of the variable is teachers so you focus on teaching. You try to use techniques that are effective with different kinds of kids.” And he also would use a pay-for-performance plan to reward the best teachers.
Although he’s been a professor at UW-Madison for five years, he had a key criticism: “At the University of Wisconsin, the best teachers get the best kids. That system is not working. We need to share the best teachers with the kids who are struggling.” And he wants to improve teaching at Unified first by speeding up the hiring process, cutting through the delays that let the best new grads commit early to other districts, and by developing our existing teachers through active coaching. “Teachers working with other teachers, not just lectures. Professional development must be embedded in the schedule,” he said.

Madison police calls near local high schools: 1996-2006

Madison School District Safety Coordinator Luis Yudice (Luis is a retired Police Officer and a East High Grad) at a recent West High School neighborhood crime discussion (10/18/2007):

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

Madison Police Chief Noble Wray, via Bill Lueders @ Isthmus (7/30/2008):

He (Wray) began by talking about perceptions of crime, and especially the notion that it’s getting worse in Madison. He stressed that it wasn’t just the media and public who felt this way: “If I would ask the average beat cop, I think they would say it’s gotten worse.” But, he added, “Worse compared to what?”

The absence of local safety data spurred several SIS contributors to obtain and publish the police call data displayed below. Attorney and parent Chan Stroman provided pro bono public records assistance. Chan’s work on this matter extended to the Wisconsin Attorney General’s office.
A few important notes on this data:

  • 13% of the records could not be geocoded and therefore are not included in the summary information. The downloadable 1996-2006 police call data .zip file is comprehensive, however.
  • Clicking on the numbers below takes the reader to a detail page. This page includes all matching police calls and a downloadable .csv file of same. The csv file can be opened in Excel, Numbers and many data management tools.
  • This summary is rather brief, I hope others download the data and have a look.

Police Calls within .25 miles of:
Madison East Area Edgewood Area LaFollette Area Memorial Area West Area
1996 1285 392 324 869 728
1997 1351 455 403 896 750
1998 1340 343 488 875 703
1999 1281 352 477 969 772
2000 1391 300 528 888 933
2001 1476 305 480 769 1034
2002 1470 363 491 886 1019
2003 1362 349 403 865 921
2004 1455 346 449 989 1012
2005 1311 325 465 994 917
2006 1221 330 389 1105 838
Weapons Incident / Offense
Madison East Area Edgewood Area LaFollette Area Memorial Area West Area
1996 5 0 3 4 6
1997 5 0 3 4 0
1998 10 0 5 2 1
1999 10 0 5 4 0
2000 4 0 6 2 5
2001 3 0 3 0 0
2002 11 0 3 5 5
2003 4 1 1 4 5
2004 4 0 9 7 4
2005 9 0 6 6 2
2006 10 1 5 7 3
Drug Incident
Madison East Area Edgewood Area LaFollette Area Memorial Area West Area
1996 10 0 10 9 7
1997 16 0 7 6 4
1998 12 1 8 10 6
1999 18 0 7 18 4
2000 16 2 13 17 12
2001 18 0 10 20 12
2002 22 0 14 16 12
2003 23 2 18 15 8
2004 26 0 20 17 7
2005 19 0 17 20 12
2006 24 2 11 15 8
Arrested Juvenile
Madison East Area Edgewood Area LaFollette Area Memorial Area West Area
1996 59 1 35 28 38
1997 72 0 83 52 29
1998 21 0 34 17 14
1999 16 0 29 24 7
2000 42 0 76 14 15
2001 52 0 66 19 15
2002 51 0 69 13 12
2003 9 0 9 9 3
2004 8 0 8 9 4
2005 11 0 10 7 3
2006 6 0 21 11 4
Bomb Threat
Madison East Area Edgewood Area LaFollette Area Memorial Area West Area
1996 1 0 0 0 1
1997 1 0 1 0 0
1998 4 2 0 0 1
1999 7 0 15 0 1
2000 4 0 17 2 1
2001 1 0 8 10 11
2002 2 0 9 0 4
2003 1 0 2 1 11
2004 6 0 4 0 6
2005 1 0 4 0 0
2006 3 0 0 0 4

Related links:

School Board to Focus on Money

Andy Hall:

In the first major test for newly hired Superintendent Daniel Nerad, Madison school officials this week will begin public discussions of whether to ask voters for additional money to head off a potentially “catastrophic” $8.2 million budget gap for the 2009-10 school year.
The Madison School Board’s meetings in August will be dominated by talk of the possible referendum, which could appear on the Nov. 4 ballot.
The public will be invited to speak out at forums on Aug. 12 and 14.


Props to the District for finding a reduced spending increase of $1,000,000 and looking for more (The same service budget growth, given teacher contract and other increases vs budget growth limits results in the “gap” referred to in Hall’s article above). Happily, Monday evening’s referendum discussion included a brief mention of revisiting the now many years old “same service” budget approach (28mb mp3, about 30 minutes). A question was also raised about attracting students (MMSD enrollment has been flat for years). Student growth means additional tax and spending authority for the school district.
The Madison school board has been far more actively involved in financial issues recently. Matters such as the MMSD’s declining equity (and related structural deficit) have been publicly discussed. A very useful “citizen’s budget” document was created for the 2006-2007 ($333M) and 2007-2008 ($339M) (though the final 2007-2008 number was apparently $365M) budgets. Keeping track of changes year to year is not a small challenge.