Most Colorado Area schools get rating of ‘high’ or better

Hallie Woods:

Forty of Poudre School District’s 50-plus schools scored “excellent” or “high” for academic performance on the state’s School Accountability Reports released Tuesday.
The reports use scores from the Colorado Student Achievement Program, or CSAP, as well as ACT scores for high schools, to rank schools on their academic growth. The reports also profile school characteristics such as teacher pay, enrollment and other demographic data.
Thirteen schools scored “excellent,” 27 schools scored “high” and 10 schools scored “average.”
One school, Polaris Expeditionary Learning School’s High School, a choice seventh- through 12th-grade school, ranked “low.”
Centennial High School and Poudre Transition Center, two alternative schools, were exempt from the report.

Recommendations of the Washington Basic Education Task Force


Among the recommendations from the state’s Basic Education Task Force to the state Legislature:

  • Paying teachers different amounts, comparable to regional wages paid to nonschool employees in their communities.
  • Defining basic education as the schooling needed to help students meet new high-school-graduation requirements adopted by the state Board of Education, and Washington’s college-admission standards.
  • Increasing instructional time, particularly for high-school students, and therefore paying teachers more.
  • Decreasing class sizes in grades kindergarten through third grade.
  • Paying teachers for a set number of training days outside of the 180 days of instructional time and strictly reserving all instructional days for education.

Scores on Science Test Causing Concern in U.S.

Maria Glod:

U.S. students are doing no better on an international science exam than they were in the mid-1990s, a performance plateau that leaves educators and policymakers worried about how schools are preparing students to compete in an increasingly global economy.
Results of the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), released yesterday, show how fourth- and eighth-graders in the United States measure up to peers around the world. U.S. students showed gains in math in both grades. But average science performance, although still stronger than in many countries, has stagnated since 1995.
Students in Singapore, Taiwan, Japan and Hong Kong outperformed U.S. fourth-graders in science. The U.S. students had an average score of 539 on a 1,000-point scale, higher than their peers in 25 countries.

Dynamo Brought IB and Rigor To All Students

Jay Matthews:

The first story Bernie Glaze ever told me was about Kevin and Duc, two basketball-crazed teens who felt her Theory of Knowledge class at Mount Vernon High School was not their thing. All that talk of Kant and Aristotle and other dead guys with no jump shot made their brains hurt, they told her.
But one day she heard them talking about an NBA playoff game. They were interpreting, predicting, differentiating and synthesizing. Ha! She had them. “Listen to yourselves,” she said. “Your brains know what to do. Just treat Plato as though he were Michael Jordan.”
Bernie died Nov. 20 of complications from lung cancer. She was 62. Some people might remember her as the talkative woman who unaccountably left the faculty of the celebrated Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, with its 7 percent annual bonus for all teachers, to help start an International Baccalaureate program at Mount Vernon High in Fairfax County, then considered one of the worst schools in Northern Virginia. I remember her as the dynamo who helped turn Fairfax, known for gifted education and science prodigies, into a national model for teachers, like her, who preferred to spend their days looking for the hidden potential in C students.

U.S. students’ math, science scores deliver mixed results

Greg Toppo:

If there were a math-and-science Olympics for elementary and middle schoolers, USA students could hold their heads high — they’re consistently better than average. In math, it turns out, they’re improving substantially, even as a few powerhouse nations see their scores drop.
But at the end of the day, the USA never quite makes it to the medal podium, a dilemma that has educators and policymakers divided, with some saying factors outside school play a key role in both achievement and productivity in general.
For the first time since 2003, the results of the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, or TIMSS, a battery of international math and science tests among dozens of nations, are out — and they paint a somewhat mixed picture of achievement: On the one hand, the USA ranks consistently above international averages in both subjects.
On the other hand, several nations consistently outscore our fourth- and eighth-graders, with a few countries turning in eye-popping performances.

Joanne has more along with Gerald Bracey:

First, comparing nations on average scores is a pretty silly idea. It’s like ranking runners based on average shoe size or evaluating the high school football team on the basis of how fast the average senior can run the 40-yard dash. Not much link to reality. What is likely much more important is how many high performers you have. On both TIMSS math and science, the U. S. has a much higher proportion of “advanced” scorers than the international median although the proportion is much smaller than in Asian nations.
Second, test scores, at least average test scores, don’t seem to be related to anything important to a national economy. Japan’s kids have always done well, but the economy sank into the Pacific in 1990 and has never recovered. The two Swiss-based organizations that rank nations on global competitiveness, the Institute for Management Development and the World Economic Forum, both rank the U. S. #1 and have for a number of years. The WEF examines 12 “pillars of competitiveness,” only one of which is education. We do OK there, but we shine on innovation.
Innovation is the only quality of competitiveness that does not show at some point diminishing returns. Building bigger and faster airplanes can only improve productivity so much. Innovation has no such limits. When journalist Fareed Zakaria asked the Singapore Minister of Education why his high-flying students faded in after-school years, the Minister cited creativity, ambition, and a willingness to challenge existing knowledge, all of which he thought Americans excelled in.

Will Fitzhugh Live in Madison

Michael Shaughnessy:

) Will, you recently gave a talk in Madison, Wisconsin, and now, with the miracle of technology, interested others can hear your presentation live at
First of all, were you warned that your speech was going to be taped and secondly, did you think it would be made available to the general population?
I knew it would be videotaped, and now that I am 72, and hear “Time’s winged chariot hurrying near,” I don’t mind who sees it, although it seems likely that few in “the general population” will bother with it.

Advocating for Public Education Reform

Gary Sharrer:

Five Texas education leaders, including former Education Commissioner Mike Moses, are proposing college or workplace readiness as the standard for all high school graduates in their plan to improve public education.
They also advocate a better accountability system, more money to improve student performance and a shared partnership between the state and local school districts.
The education leaders have often disagreed on education ideas but drafted a framework of shared principles they believe can serve as a starting ground for continued debate.
The five are attorney David Thompson, a school finance expert; Sandy Kress, who helped President Bush develop No Child Left Behind; Don McAdams, president of the Center for Reform of School Systems and a former member of the Houston Independent School District board; Jim Windham, former chairman of the Texas Association of Business; and Moses, education commissioner under Gov. George W. Bush.

Up Close, Rhee’s Image Less Clear
Schools Chief’s Media Stardom Hasn’t Dispelled the Misgivings in D.C.

Bill Turque:

The Atlantic Monthly, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times have chronicled her battles with the Washington Teachers’ Union. The PBS “NewsHour” and “60 Minutes” have trailed her up and down school corridors. She can be seen at A-list gatherings, from Herbert Allen’s annual Sun Valley, Idaho, retreat for corporate moguls to education summits hosted by Bill Gates and the Aspen Institute.
Last week, on the cover of Time, D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee cemented her status as the national standard-bearer of tough-minded, no-excuses urban school reform. She is photographed at the front of a classroom, stern-faced and clutching a broom, symbolizing her promise of sweeping change.
For journalists and pundits who follow education, Rhee’s narrative has elements that are irresistible. A slight, young Korean American woman with no big-city school leadership experience is plucked from the nonprofit world by a reform-minded mayor in June 2007 to fire bad teachers, face down their union and take on hidebound bureaucrats, all in the name of turning around a system with a legacy of failure. The stories are not uniformly glowing, but they generally depict Rhee as a gutsy, gritty agent of change driven to turn around the District’s schools.
“Michelle Rhee charged in as chancellor of the Washington, D.C., public schools wielding BlackBerrys and data — and a giant axe,” said the Atlantic’s November issue.
Closer to home, Rhee’s media stardom has inspired a mix of praise, puzzlement and resentment. Boosters say her high profile can only help the District overhaul its schools. Others see her pursuing a national platform for a message that is hostile to older, experienced teachers and partial to younger instructors from nontraditional training programs such as Teach for America, where she started her career.

Student Weeks

The High School Survey of Student Engagement (Indiana University, 2004) found that 55% of the 80,000 students surveyed said they did fewer than three hours of homework each week, and most received As and Bs anyway.
I just received a paper by a HS student from Oregon, and her information sheet
included a listing of the hours per week she spends on activities:
Equestrian Team: 5 hours a week [52 weeks a year]
Theater/Drama: 15 hours a week [13 weeks a year]
Teach Africa: 3 hours a week [40 weeks a year]
Volunteering at the Hunt Club: 1 hour a week [50 weeks a year]
Volunteering for NARAL: 10 hours a week [1 week a year]
Scholars’ Alliance: 3 hours a week [10 weeks a year]
Food Drive: 15 hours a week [2 weeks a year]
Total outside of homework and school: 52 hours a week for one or more weeks.
[To be fair, the “Scholars’ Alliance” is a Saturday seminar taught by the superintendent
of the district on critical thinking skills, metacognition, the Art of War, the Tao, etc.]
Even so, it might be instructive to note this level of commitment (52 hours/week), in addition to any computer games, television, and instant messaging and other social activities during perhaps an average HS student week–the Kaiser Foundation has found that the average American teen spends nearly 45 hours a week on electronic entertainment media–and compare it with the Indiana University finding of half the HS students spending less than three hours a week on homework.
Could this have something to do with current levels of academic achievement? Is the question of the number of hours American HS students spend on non-academic activities during their waking periods each week worthy of a research study? I think so. If this has been done, please refer me to the study.
Will Fitzhugh
The Concord Review

Montgomery County Schools Post All Time High on Advanced Placement Exams

Daniel de Vise:

Superintendent Jerry D. Weast cited competing magazine rankings as evidence Maryland’s largest system, with 139,000 students, now offers arguably the premier AP program in the nation.
Three county high schools appear on a list of the nation’s top 100 from U.S. News & World Report, published online last week and based in part on AP and International Baccalaureate test performance. Weast said only the million-student New York system had more “gold medal” schools.
Six Montgomery schools rank among the top 100 on Newsweek magazine’s 2008 Challenge Index, a measure of AP and IB test participation created by Washington Post education writer Jay Mathews. Weast said no other school system had as many schools at the top of that list.
Speaking at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, Weast said the county’s students “are doing things that are historic, are doing things that, no matter who’s measuring them, are coming out at the top of the chart in the United States.”
Montgomery students took 25,921 AP tests this year, representing a 53 percent increase over six years. Of those tests, 18,306 earned a score of 3 or higher on a 5-point scale, a threshold for college credit.

Scarsdale Adjust to Life Without Advanced Placement Classes

Winnie Hu:

The Advanced Placement English class at Scarsdale High School used to race through four centuries of literature to prepare students for the A.P. exam in May. But in this year’s class, renamed Advanced Topics, students spent a week studying Calder, Pissarro and Monet to digest the meaning of form and digressed to read essays by Virginia Woolf and Francis Bacon — items not covered by the exam.
A similarly slowed-down pace came at a cost for some students in one of Scarsdale’s Advanced Topics classes in United States history; it was still in the 1950s at the time of the exam, whose main essay question was on the Vietnam War.
Sarah Benowich, a senior, said that the A.T. approach had improved her writing but that she would have liked more dates and facts worked in. Despite studying Advanced Placement exam review books on her own, she still felt “shaky on some of the more concrete details,” she said.
A year after Scarsdale became the most prominent school district in the nation to phase out the College Board’s Advanced Placement courses — and make A.P. exams optional — most students and teachers here praise the change for replacing mountains of memorization with more sophisticated and creative curriculums.

Los Angeles Superintendent Takes a Buyout

Howard Blume, Jason Song and Mitchell Landsberg:

Under pressure by civic leaders and members of his own school board, Los Angeles Schools Supt. David L. Brewer announced Monday that he would leave his post rather than drag the district through a racially divisive fight.
The Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education is expected to hash out the final details of an exit package today for Brewer, the retired Navy vice admiral who was supposed to bring military know-how and a deep passion for education to the job of running the nation’s second-largest school district.
“As an African American, I’ve experienced my share of discrimination,” he told reporters, school board members and district employees Monday. “I know what it looks like, smells like, and the consequences.”
“Although this debate is disconcerting and troubling, it must not become an ethnic issue. When adults fight, it can manifest itself in our children,” said Brewer, the district’s second African American superintendent. “This must not become an ethnic or racial battle that infests our schools, our campuses, our playgrounds. This is not about settling an old score; this must be about what is best for every LAUSD student.”

Siemens Competition Winners Announced

Amanda Fairbanks:

Practical advances in medicine ruled the day in the Siemens Competition in Math, Science and Technology, one of the nation’s most coveted student science awards, whose winners were announced Monday morning at New York University.
While highly regarded, a Tamari lattice, a mathematical structure, and Bax and Bak, two proteins, lost out to a project by Wen Chyan, 17, a senior at the Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science in Denton, Tex. Mr. Wen won the top individual prize — a $100,000 scholarship — for research on fighting hospital-related infections with antimicrobial coatings for medical devices.
For genetics research that has the potential to identify new chemotherapeutic drugs and improve existing ones, Sajith M. Wickramasekara and Andrew Y. Guo, both 17 and seniors at the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics in Durham, N.C., took home $50,000 each — the top team prize.
Trailing not far behind, four high school seniors in the New York region won a total of $100,000 in scholarships.

The Age of Mass Intelligence

Intelligent Life:

We’ve all heard about dumbing down. But there is plenty of evidence that the opposite is also true. Is this, in fact, the age of mass intelligence? John Parker reports…
Russell Southwood is queuing outside his local cinema in south London, listening to his iPod. Hip-hop and jazz, as usual. What is less usual is what he is queuing up for: not a film but a live transmission of this season’s opening night from the Royal Opera House. “I like hip-hop and opera,” he says. “Not a big deal.”
That’s increasingly true. Every other Saturday, Darren Henley is at the Priestfield football ground cheering on his beloved Gillingham. In the evening, he goes to a concert by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic or the London Symphony Orchestra, because he is also the boss of Classic FM, a radio station that sponsors those orchestras.
Cultural incongruities are popping up everywhere. When the Guardian, which sponsors the Hay-on-Wye literary festival, picked ten visitors to interview, one turned out to be a check-out clerk at Tesco who saved all his money during the year so he could go to the festival for his holiday. He was far from the most unlikely visitor who might have been found. High-ranking officers from the SAS (Special Air Service), Britain’s crack covert-operations regiment–who have to remain anonymous–have been known to spend their holidays each year travelling from their base at Hereford to Hay for lectures on Wordsworth and Darwin.

A Retired Teacher on Governance, Administrators and Education Flavor of the Month Theories

James Behrend:

Extraordinary times command extraordinary measures and grant extraordinary opportunities. Our state’s budget crisis calls already for kids and schools to sacrifice. It does not have to be. This is Olympia’s chance to substantially improve our entrenched education system and save some money.
Here are three problems Olympia must tackle to make a real difference:
1. Washington taxpayers support 295 independent school districts. Each district is top-heavy with too many administrators: superintendents, assistant superintendents, executive directors, curriculum directors, special ed directors, human resources directors, finance directors, transportation directors, purchasing directors and other nonteaching executives.
2. The second problem is lack of stability. Administrators introduce too often “new” educational theories. With each new administrator come new ideas. What was the silver bullet in education one year ago is toxic with a new principal or new superintendent.
I experienced over a period of 12 years changes from a six periods day to a four periods “block system” (several years in the planning). After starting the block, my school planned for two years to establish five to six autonomous Small Schools, but only one was eventually organized. In the midst of those disruptive changes, Best Practices was contemplated but never enacted; special ed and ESL students were mainstreamed, and NovaNet, a computerized distant learning, was initiated with former Gov. Gary Locke present and praising our vision. Finally, all honors classes were abandoned and differentiated instruction was introduced.
Eventually, all these new methods were delegated to the trash heap of other failed educational experiments. By 2008, the school was where it had been in 1996, minus some very good teachers and more than a few dollars.
3. The third problem is the disconnect between endorsements and competency. A sociology major gets a social sciences endorsement from the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction and may teach history, or math, or Spanish. A PE teacher may instruct students in English literature or history. A German or English teacher may teach U.S. history.

Wide world of greed

by Yvonne Abraham
Globe Columnist / December 7, 2008
The Boston Globe
The Dorchester Eagles, the powerhouse of their Pop Warner football league, had another undefeated season this year.
Their regional championship earned them a spot in the national playoffs in Florida. Oh, and a week of acute anxiety over how to get there.
It’s as messed up as it is predictable. Every year around this time, talented kids and their coaches across the country scramble to raise tens of thousands of dollars so they can compete in the Pop Warner superbowl.
Little Leaguers go to their World Series in Williamsport, Pa., for free. Why do Pop Warner teams have to come up with as much as 45 grand to go to the playoffs they’ve spent an entire season working toward?
One big reason: unlike Little League, Pop Warner doesn’t have its own stadium or dorms. So, for more than a decade now, the Super Bowl has been held at Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando.
And under its contract with Pop Warner, Disney has the whole thing locked down. To compete in Disney’s pristine facilities, players must stay at Disney hotels and buy passes to its theme parks. They eat in Disney restaurants, with nonrefundable Disney dining cards, and they use Disney transportation.

Continue reading Wide world of greed

Milwaukee Voucher Funding: Fairness is in the Eye of the Beholder

Alan Borsuk:

The voucher funding flaw is a bigger problem than ever and is costing Milwaukee property taxpayers millions of dollars a year.
The voucher funding flaw effectively no longer exists, and the publicly funded program that allows children to go to private schools is saving Milwaukeeans property tax dollars.
Can both of those things be true?
Decide for yourself.
When Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and leaders of the Milwaukee Public Schools system look at the issue, one number jumps out: 14.6%. That’s how much the property tax levy to pay for schools in the city is going up this year.
They associate a lot of that increase with the impact on local taxes of the school voucher program, which is allowing 20,000 low-income Milwaukee children to attend private schools this year.
The way vouchers are paid for now, through a combination of money from state government and Milwaukee property taxes, is a major reason why the property tax increase is so large, they say. If the formula were fair, in the eyes of Barrett and the MPS leaders, the school tax increase would be in the neighborhood of 4%, and maybe less. They say changing the voucher funding system is an urgent priority for the Legislature to tackle.
When leaders of School Choice Wisconsin, an influential group of supporters of the voucher program, look at the issue, a different number jumps out: $123. That’s how much more is being spent in property taxes this year on each student in MPS than on each voucher student.

Schools set aside meeting time for teachers to collaborate

Amy Hetzner:

To most of the working world, the business meeting is a usual – if not exactly appreciated – part of professional life.
To Jeanne Paulus, a resource teacher at Roosevelt Elementary School in Wauwatosa, her weekly meetings with fellow teachers are nothing less than earth-shattering.
While conversations between teachers might have been fleeting in years past, conducted quickly during bathroom breaks or brief moments in the day when they found themselves without their students, this year such discussions have become a regular part of the teachers’ week.
“To me, this is a huge, gigantic shift for teachers,” said Paulus, who teaches math and gifted education at Roosevelt.
The reaction is no less fervent at Kettle Moraine High School, which – like the Wauwatosa School District – started setting aside time this year for its teachers to meet after school.
At both places, students are dismissed early once a week to give their teachers time to plan, reflect on their teaching and analyze their students’ performance.
“What happens during this time is our teachers are learners, they’re not just teachers,” said Kettle Moraine High School Principal David Hay.

Safe & Sound: A Parent’s Nightmare

Liz Rappaport:

‘Liz, you have to come to the hospital now,” my husband, David, said in the office voicemail message that late April morning. “We’re in an ambulance. … Something happened to Georgia. She had some kind of seizure. I don’t know. Just come.”
My 3-year-old daughter — who just days earlier was hosting a tea party for me and her dolls — was in trouble. That’s how this mystery begins.
I rushed from the office and grabbed a taxi to our local hospital in Brooklyn. “She’s unresponsive to pain, to everything,” David told me when I called him from the taxi.
Georgia’s breathing had slowed to nearly a full stop, he said. The EMTs had jabbed her heel with a needle to gauge her responsiveness, he said. Nothing. They had then given her a shot of seizure medication. Still nothing.
I arrived through the swinging emergency-room doors to see my daughter’s tiny feet on a gurney through a gap in the white curtains. At least a dozen doctors and nurses huddled around her, working to push a tube down her throat and get her started on a mechanical ventilator.

LAUSD superintendent’s expense account alone could pay a teacher’s salary

Steve Lopez:

I had lunch with Los Angeles Unified School District Supt. David Brewer earlier this year at a restaurant near downtown Los Angeles and almost choked. Not on the food, but the prices.
I wasn’t that hungry, fortunately, so I had the Chinese chicken salad, which cost an eye-popping $28.95. Brewer wasn’t famished either, so he just had an appetizer, the crab cakes, and those ran $16.95.
Over lunch, he defended himself against widespread criticism that he was the wrong man for the job and had been a big disappointment. But instead of talking about students, he went on and on about building a “matrix” system and “vertical” as well as “horizontal articulation.” By the end of it I had an expensive stomachache.
The L.A. Times picked up the tab, but Brewer had chosen the restaurant and he seemed to know his way around there, so I started wondering if his tastes always ran so high-end. To find out, I called the school district and requested all of his expense reports dating back to his hiring in 2006.
When the documents arrived, much of the information had been blacked out. Why? Because several high-level officials use the same credit card account, I was told, and I hadn’t asked for their expenses; only Brewer’s.

Related: What do students mean to LAUSD superintendent? by Sandy Banks

Laugh and the World Laughs With You: How Happiness Spreads

Alice Park:

Ever wonder whether happy people have something you don’t, something that keeps them cheerful, chipper and able to see the good in everything? It turns out they do — they have happy friends.
That’s the conclusion of researchers from Harvard and the University of California at San Diego, who report in the British Medical Journal online that happiness spreads among people like a salubrious disease. Dr. Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler studied nearly 5,000 people and their more than 50,000 social ties to family, friends and co-workers, and found that an individual’s happiness is chiefly a collective affair, depending in large part on his or her friends’ happiness — and the happiness of their friends’ friends, and even the friends of their friends’ friends. The merriment of one person, the researchers found, can ripple out and cause happiness in people up to three degrees away: So, if you’re happy, you increase the chance of joy in your close friend by 25%; a friend of that friend enjoys a 10% increased chance. And that friend’s friend has a 5.6% higher chance.
“This is a very serious piece of research; it’s pioneering,” says Dr. Richard Suzman, director of the division of behavioral and social research at the National Institute on Aging. “We are barely beginning to understand its translational and applied aspects.”
The authors analyzed data from the Framingham Heart Study, an historic study of heart disease among nearly 5,000 people begun in 1948. Because it was designed to follow participants and their offspring over several generations, the study’s creators recorded detailed information about each person’s closest relatives and friends, to better keep tabs on the original participants. That database served as an ideal social laboratory for Christakis and Fowler, who questioned each participant and his or her friends and family about their emotional state three times over 20 years.

Balls & Brains: The quality of a man’s sperm depends on how intelligent he is, and vice versa

The Economist:

THERE are few better ways of upsetting a certain sort of politically correct person than to suggest that intelligence (or, rather, the variation in intelligence between individuals) is under genetic control. That, however, is one implication of a paper about to be published in Intelligence by Rosalind Arden of King’s College, London, and her colleagues. Another is that brainy people are intrinsically healthier than those less intellectually endowed. And the third, a consequence of the second, is that intelligence is sexy. The most surprising thing of all, though, is that these results have emerged from an unrelated study of the quality of men’s sperm.
Ms Arden is one of a group of researchers looking into the connections between intelligence, genetics and health. General intelligence (the extent to which specific, measurable aspects of intelligence, such as linguistic facility, mathematical aptitude and spatial awareness, are correlated in a given individual) is measured by psychologists using a value called Spearman’s g. Recently, it has been discovered that an individual’s g value is correlated with many aspects of his health, up to and including his lifespan. One possible explanation for this is that intelligent people make better choices about how to conduct their lives. They may, for example, be less likely to smoke, more likely to eat healthy foods or to exercise, and so on.
Alternatively (or in addition) it may be that intelligence is one manifestation of an underlying, genetically based healthiness. That is a view held by many evolutionary biologists, and was propounded in its modern form by Geoffrey Miller of the University of New Mexico, who is one of Ms Arden’s co-authors (and, as it happens, her husband). These biologists believe intelligence, as manifested in things like artistic and musical ability, is such a reliable indicator of underlying genetic fitness that it has been chosen by members of the opposite sex over the millennia. In the ensuing arms race to show off and get a mate it has been exaggerated in the way that a peacock’s tail is. This process of sexual selection, Dr Miller and his followers believe, is the reason people have become so brainy.

7 Habits of Highly Ineffective Principals

Jay Matthews:

Joe Nathan, a University of Minnesota school leadership scholar, dropped by recently to tell me about his latest project: the Minnesota Leadership Academy for Charter and Alternative Public Schools. He wants to produce all-star principals for innovative schools, including the charter school movement he has been studying since its beginnings.
Nathan gave me a report he just produced with Carleton College junior Joanna Plotz. Their paper, “Learning to Lead,” reveals the secrets of good management of schools and companies, derived from interviews with 24 business leaders. In the Leadership Academy, which opened this fall in cooperation with the Minnesota Department of Education, each participating educator has two mentors, one a successful business executive and the other a successful school leader.
That sounds peachy, but it doesn’t get to the heart of what many teachers tell me is the key issue in school leadership today: How did we produce so many lousy administrators?

Washington Teacher’s Union Settles Campaign Finance Lawsuit

Amy Rolph:

After eight years and several go-rounds in court, Washington’s teacher and school employee union will pay $975,000 to settle a campaign finance lawsuit.
The Washington Education Association was accused in 2000 of illegally spending nonmember fees on political campaigns. The lawsuit, instigated by a complaint from the Evergreen Freedom Foundation, has bounced through several levels of court — most recently the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled that states can force public-sector unions to get workers’ approval before spending dues on politics.
But the Legislature modified Washington’s law in 2007, effectively reducing the influence of that provision by stating unions can use dues on political spending provided they have sufficient general-treasury funding from other sources.
The WEA reached a settlement with the state Attorney General’s Office on Wednesday, agreeing to pay the state $735,000 and return $240,000 to nonmembers who paid fees from the academic years starting in 2003 and ending in 2007. During that time the WEA’s political action committee spent more than $2.7 million on state political races, with most of the money going to Democratic candidates and causes.

Bill Gates: Invest in Charters

Nelson Smith:

Bill Gates was all over DC yesterday, talking about charter schools at every stop. He told the President-elect that investing in charters is a great example of how to think long-term while trying to rescue the economy, and repeated that thought in chatting with Wolf Blitzer at CNN. Then he stopped by George Washington U to talk to an invited audience about poverty, recession, and education – and delivered some remarkably forceful endorsements of charter schools and the charter model itself. Full text of this important speech here.
Here’s his central economic-strategy point. Note how he prioritizes charters:
“In a crisis, there is always a risk that you take your eyes off the future – and you sacrifice long-term investments for near-term gains…But I want us to have a bigger goal than getting the economy growing again. I want us to expand the number of people who are contributing to the economy and benefiting from it. The young woman who needs help paying for college, the young man whose charter school needs government support, the children whose parents need AIDS drugs, the poor family trying to farm in Ghana–if we don’t make these people part of our investments, when the economy comes back, they won’t be coming back with it.”

The next bailout: Here comes public education

Jim Carlini:

Public schools will be the next institutions to want more money to fix crumbling buildings, patch bloated budgets, buy more buses, and perpetuate stagnated objectives but in reality they need to re-invent education to take wholesale advantage of proven technologies from sophisticated software and broadband connectivity to distance learning and interactive video capabilities.
For the most part, public schools are an anachronism. They were designed in the Industrial Age to assimilate an agrarian society into a workforce for the Industrial Age. The Industrial Age surged into the Information Age a good forty years ago and we did not do much to change the framework of education. If anything, we bloated it with multiple assistant superintendents, curriculum advisors, crisis counselors, and a dozen more positions that were unheard of twenty years ago.
We are now well past the Information Age and are in what some would call a Mobile Internet Age. We need to embrace a whole new set of educational concepts and discard those that include teaching obsolete skills, protecting deadwood teachers and adhering to schedules that reflect the harvesting of crops.

Montgomery County Teachers & Administrators Forego 5% Pay Raise to Help Balance the Budget

Daniel de Vise & Ann Marimow:

Montgomery County teachers and other school employees have agreed to give up a 5 percent pay raise next year, a concession that saves the school system $89 million and allows Superintendent Jerry D. Weast to balance the budget.
The Montgomery County Board of Education, meeting in closed session last night, tentatively accepted the renegotiated labor deals, according to a school official.
Leaders of four employee associations, representing more than 22,000 workers, agreed Tuesday to forgo the raise all workers would have received in the fiscal year that begins in July. Weast said he and other top administrators in Maryland’s largest school system would also lose annual raises.
School officials said it was the first time since the early 1990s that Montgomery school employees had given up a contractual pay raise, a sign of the magnitude of the economic challenge. School board President Nancy Navarro (Northeastern County) credited unions with “tremendous sacrifice during these tough times.”
Budget constraints have prompted Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) to consider requiring unpaid furloughs for more than 67,000 state employees and contractors. And across the region, school officials are wondering whether they can fund cost-of-living raises in the 2009-10 academic year. Loudoun County teachers were forced to go without such raises this school year.

After Quake, Parents In China Start Over

Mei Fong:

Ten days after his daughter died in May’s earthquake, Zhu Jianming thought of having another child. Five weeks later, he had a reverse vasectomy, paying for it in part with money he received from the government.
Now, the lean miner, who is 50 years old, and wife Lu Shuhua, 45, are trying to conceive again. Though still mourning, the aging couple felt they had to move quickly if they wanted to start a new family. “If we don’t try now, we will totally miss the chance,” Mr. Zhu says
Moving fast is something of a specialty for China, a nation that has sprung from the poverty of the Cultural Revolution to being the world’s fourth-largest economy in a single lifetime. So it is with many of the survivors of the Sichuan earthquake, which left nearly 90,000 people dead or missing. The most devastating natural disaster to hit China in three decades, the quake was one of several big challenges to the Chinese leadership in a tumultuous year that included protests in Tibet, the Olympic Games in Beijing and an economic slowdown that is erasing thousands of factory jobs.

Math Task Force Feedback Sessions Slated for January

Last year the MMSD School Board appointed a committee to look at the math curriculum in the district. The task force recently presented their findings to the School Board. We accepted their report and referred it to the Superintendent for recommendations. The next step in the process is a community input session.
Sessions were originally scheduled for December 8 and 9. Those sessions have been postponed until January in order to better publicize the sessions and avoid conflicts with holiday-season events. The dates have not yet been selected, and I will post the dates, places, and times when they have been confirmed.
If you want to comment directly on the math curriculum/task force recommendations, you can send e-mail or post here. I’ll make sure the Superintendent receives your feedback.

Number of MPS students suspended is down 15%

Alan Borsuk:

Suspensions across the Milwaukee Public Schools system are down sharply so far this school year, Superintendent William Andrekopoulos said Monday.
Andrekopoulos released figures that show suspensions in MPS, as of the end of November, down sharply from last year, showing declines of about 15% in the number of students who have been suspended and of more than 20% in the number of days students have spent on suspensions, compared with the same period a year ago.
The new figures come as MPS is under pressure to lower its high suspension rate – Andrekopoulos has called it “appalling” in the past – and improve the overall behavior climate in schools.
The Council of the Great City Schools, an organization of large urban districts, submitted a report to MPS officials last spring that called for an urgent districtwide mobilization over behavior issues, especially related to suspensions. The report says MPS schools used suspensions, often for minor matters, instead of lesser steps that could bring more constructive results. It suggests the MPS suspension rate was among the highest in the country.
Andrekopoulos said data through last week showed that 12.3% of students had been suspended at least once so far this year, compared with 14.4% in the same period last year, and that the number of “suspension days” had declined from 42,994 to 33,846.

The Making of a Rhodes Scholar – Duke University Graduate Earns Coveted Award

Open Education:

Parker Goyer has certainly tasted her share of success even if she is just 23-years-old.
Following her graduation from Duke, Goyer received a fellowship from the Robertson Scholars Program, a merit scholarship program that seeks to encourage social entrepreneurship and to increase collaboration between Duke University and UNC-Chapel Hill. Goyer was the only non-Robertson Scholar to be selected for the one year fellowship.
That same year, the 2007 graduate would go on to see her benchmark concept, the Coach for College Program, come to fruition. Securing nearly half-a-million dollars in funding, Goyer led a group of college student-athletes to Vietnam to deliver the first ever edition of the program to 200 middle school-aged children.
Yet, when it comes to recognition for a job well-done, the first-year student at the Harvard Graduate School of Education recently hit new heights even for her. On Saturday, November 22nd, the Coach for College founder learned she was one of 32 American students chosen to receive a prestigious Rhodes Scholarship.

Going off to College for Less

Tamar Lewin:

St. Andrews has 1,230 Americans among its 7,200 students this year, compared with fewer than 200 a decade ago.
The large American enrollment is no accident. St. Andrews has 10 recruiters making the rounds of American high schools, visiting hundreds of private schools and a smattering of public ones.
With higher education fast becoming a global commodity, universities worldwide — many of them in Canada and England — are competing for the same pool of affluent, well-qualified students, and more American students are heading overseas not just for a semester abroad, but for their full degree program.
Ryan Ross of Annapolis, Md., applied only to St. Andrews; McGill University in Montreal; and Trinity College in Dublin. “I knew I wanted a different experience,” said Mr. Ross, now a freshman studying international relations at St. Andrews.
The international flow has benefits, and tradeoffs, for both sides.
For American students, a university like St. Andrews offers international experience and prestige, at a cost well below the tuition at a top private university in the United States. But it provides a narrower, more specialized course of studies, less individual attention from professors — and not much of an alumni network to smooth entry into the workplace when graduates return to the United States. For overseas universities, international students help diversify campuses in locations as remote as coastal Fife, home of St. Andrews.

Changing the Tuition Discussion

Scott Jaschik:

If tuition policy is a vexed question in normal budget years for public universities, it will be especially challenging to discuss public policy on the subject this year. States are facing record deficits and many public colleges are seeing enrollment and application increases — a formula that could combine to create large, unpopular tuition increases.
In this environment, the leaders of a national association of public universities hope to shift the debate — calling for better information about what really is going on with college costs, and also urging colleges to consider some potentially radical ways to control their costs. “University Tuition, Consumer Choice and College Affordability,” being released today by the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges, both defends public higher education and criticizes it. While suggesting that colleges are more affordable than many people realize today, the report sees a “looming affordability challenge” in which public institutions could move out of the reach of many Americans, a potential shift that the association sees as counter to the values of its institutions.
The beginning of the report — consistent with efforts by others in higher education — tries to shift public attention away from colleges’ sticker prices and broad generalizations about affordability, arguing that sticker prices rarely reflect what students actually pay and that affordability depends both on the charges of a college and the means of a student, and is thus unique for individual circumstances. The report then goes on to suggest that much is unknown about whether colleges can save money through various means — such as providing more instruction online — and suggests that now is the time for serious research on such questions. The report faults universities for not having the data that would allow for better decision making.

Children Offended: Red pen too aggressive, Queensland teachers told

By Gabrielle Dunlevy
December 03, 2008 12:54 pm
* Teachers told to “reconsider pen colour”
* Children might be offended by red
* Pictures: Evil red pens from The Courier-Mail
TEACHERS have been told to stop marking schoolchildren’s work with red pen because it is an “aggressive” colour.
Queensland’s Deputy Opposition Leader Mark McArdle told parliament today that teachers were being advised to reconsider their pen choice because it may offend children.
Mr McArdle tabled a Queensland Health document proposing “strategies for addressing mental health wellbeing in any classroom.”
It says: “Don’t mark in a red pen (which can be seen as aggressive)–use a different colour.”
“Given your 10-year-old Labor government presides over the lowest numeracy and literacy standards of any state in Australia, don’t you think it’s time we focused on classroom outcomes rather than these kooky, loony, loopy, lefty policies?” Mr McArdle asked.
Premier Anna Bligh called the question trivial at a time of “such economic peril.”

SEED School receives $2 million pledge

Milwaukee Business Journal:

The SEED School of Wisconsin said Tuesday that the Elizabeth A. Brinn Foundation is pledging $2 million towards SEED’s campaign to bring a public, urban boarding school to the state.
The boarding school is being proposed by a local coalition of leaders, cooperating with The SEED Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that operates boarding schools in Washington, D.C. and Baltimore. Both schools are publicly funded and educate children who start, on average, with skills two to three years behind grade level. More than 98 percent of SEED school graduates have been accepted at a four-year college, according to The SEED Foundation.
“The children of Milwaukee and other challenged communities around the state will benefit from the Brinn Foundation’s gracious gift,” said Robert Sowinski, president of The SEED School of Wisconsin’s board of directors.

“Rice Paddies and Math Tests”

Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers
New York: Little, Brown, 2008, pp. 247-249
“Rice Paddies and Math Tests”
Every four years, an international group of educators administers a comprehensive mathematics and science test to elementary and junior high students around the world. It’s the TIMSS…and the point of the TIMSS is to compare the educational achievement of one country with another’s.
When students sit down to take the TIMSS exam, they also have to fill out a questionnaire. It asks them all kinds of questions, such as what their parents’ level of education is, and what their views about math are, and what their friends are like. It’s not a trivial exercise. It’s about 120 questions long. In fact, it is so tedious and demanding that many students leave as many as ten or twenty questions blank.
Now, here’s the interesting part. As it turns out, the average number of items answered on that questionnaire varies from country to country. It is possible, in fact, to rank all the participating countries according to how many items their students answer on the questionnaire. Now, what do you think happens if you compare the questionnaire rankings with the math rankings on the TIMSS? They are exactly the same. In other words, countries whose students are willing to concentrate and sit still long enough to focus on answering every single question in an endless questionnaire are the same countries whose students do the best job of solving math problems.
The person who discovered this fact is an educational researcher at the University of Pennsylvania named Erling Boe, and he stumbled across it by accident. “It came out of the blue,” he says. Boe hasn’t even been able to publish his findings in a scientific journal, because, he says, it’s just a bit too weird. Remember, he’s not saying that the ability to finish the questionnaire and the ability to excel on the math test are related. He’s saying that they are the same: if you compare the two rankings, they are identical.
Think about this another way. Imagine that every year, there was a Math Olympics in some fabulous city in the world. And every country in the world sent its own team of one thousand eighth graders. Boe’s point is that we could predict precisely the order in which every country would finish in the Math Olympics without asking a single math question. All we would have to do is give them some task measuring how hard they were willing to work. In fact, we wouldn’t even have to give them a task. We should be able to predict which countries are best at math simply by looking at which national cultures place the highest emphasis on effort and hard work.
So, which places are at the top of both lists? The answer shouldn’t surprise you: Singapore, South Korea, China (Taiwan), Hong Kong, and Japan. [Mainland China doesn’t yet take part in the TIMSS study.] What those five have in common, of course, is that they are all cultures shaped by the tradition of wet-rice agriculture and meaningful work. They are the kind of places where, for hundreds of years, penniless peasants, slaving away in the rice paddies three thousand hours a year, said things to one another like “No one who can rise before dawn three hundred and sixty days a year fails to make his family rich.”

Corcoran builds a ‘Bridge to Literacy’

Greg Toppo:

John Corcoran made a splash in the 1990s with his memoir, The Teacher Who Couldn’t Read. A vivid account of his nearly five-decade struggle to conceal his illiteracy — and of his first successful attempts to read, at age 48 — the book thrust Corcoran into the national spotlight.
He appeared on 20/20, Oprah and Larry King Live, was profiled in Esquire and became the only “adult learner” to serve on the advisory board of the National Institute for Literacy.
Now 70 and president of a charitable foundation bearing his name, Corcoran has a new book, The Bridge to Literacy (Kaplan Publishing, $24.95), which lays out his vision for eliminating illiteracy in the USA.
Corcoran has dubbed the book a “call to action” for literacy efforts and says reading programs need “a bigger, broader and more universal vision.” He says K-12 schools and universities must train principals and teachers — especially new teachers — in the most up-to-date, research-based reading instruction.

Financial Literacy

The Economist:

I SUPPOSE I could be described as financially literate. I have a doctorate in economics; my dissertation focused on financial decision-making. I write about economics and finance, and I’ve worked in the financial industry, designing investment strategies. But, when I look at the balance of my brokerage account (those low-fee global-equity index funds do not seem like such a good idea at the moment) or my credit card statement (peppered with frivolous impulse purchases), I question my financial savvy.
Nonetheless, I have volunteered to provide financial-literacy training to young mothers at a local homeless shelter. This is the first time I have volunteered since school, when my guidance counsellor forced me into it. She thought the experience would look good on my college applications.
I always justified not volunteering by figuring that my actual time was worth less to the charity than the monetary value of my time. But something about this project intrigued me. I thought I’d learn from the experience; it could make me a better economist. I even spent weeks fancying myself the next Suze Orman, empowering the financially downtrodden with my economic knowledge.

Stuck-in-the-Past Va. Physics Texts Getting Online Jolt

Michael Alison Chandler:

The average high school physics class in Virginia traverses 2,000 years of thinking, encompassing the Archimedes principle of buoyancy and Newton’s laws of motion, and stopping abruptly at about the turn of the 20th century. Educators want the course to advance to today’s string theorists and atom-smashing particle physicists.
But before they can modernize physics education, they need a breakthrough in a textbook system that often leaves courses in physics and other subjects decades behind the times.
Rather than waiting two years for the Virginia Board of Education to review its science standards, then another year for publishers to print new physics texts, the state secretaries of education and technology asked a dozen teachers to write their own chapters in biophysics, nanotechnology and other emerging fields and post them online.
By February, physics teachers from Vienna to Tappahanock should be able to rip, mash and burn new chapters in real-time physics, said Secretary of Technology Aneesh P. Chopra. The virtual pages, which cost the state and schools nothing except teacher time, will be an optional, free supplement to hardbound books.

Poor behavioral effects on gifted students due to them sitting bored and stagnant in classes

What Do They See in Me That I Don’t See in Myself?:

Jesse wished he could run away, far away. Someplace where no one knew him. A place where everything wasn’t his fault and nothing was beyond his reach… Jesse Hardaway is used to things being his fault. It’s just him and his mom at home, and she’s always yelling at him. School is like home, only about ten times worse! He’s in fifth grade special education and has to battle ADHD and an anger/behavior disorder every day. If he isn’t in trouble, he’s getting into it. The only thing Jesse is sure of is that the world is against him, and he is ready to give up.
One good thing Jesse has in his life is his best friend Davess, who never stops trying to look out for him. At school, Mrs. Abogar and Ms. Dubose try to look out for him too, though Jesse doesn’t know why and wishes they would stop.
Here it comes, Jesse thought, the thing that drives me nuts. That irritating thing that they are so known for. That thing that makes you wonder whether you should hug them or yell at them. The famous Punishment-with-a-Smile. I hate it… But very soon he is about to discover that these two women not only understand him, for some reason they actually care about him.

via a Nikki Callahan email.

Media Bombardment Is Linked To Ill Effects During Childhood

Donna St. George:

In a detailed look at nearly 30 years of research on how television, music, movies and other media affect the lives of children and adolescents, a new study released today found an array of negative health effects linked to greater use.
The report found strong connections between media exposure and problems of childhood obesity and tobacco use. Nearly as strong was the link to early sexual behavior.
Researchers from the National Institutes of Health and Yale University said they were surprised that so many studies pointed in the same direction. In all, 173 research efforts, going back to 1980, were analyzed, rated and brought together in what the researchers said was the first comprehensive view of the topic. About 80 percent of the studies showed a link between a negative health outcome and media hours or content.
“We need to factor that in as we consider our social policies and as parents think about how they raise their kids,” said lead researcher Ezekiel J. Emanuel, director of the Department of Bioethics at the National Institutes of Health, which took on the project with the nonprofit organization Common Sense Media. “We tend not to think of this as a health issue, and it is a health issue.”
The average modern child spends nearly 45 hours a week with television, movies, magazines, music, the Internet, cellphones and video games, the study reported. By comparison, children spend 17 hours a week with their parents on average and 30 hours a week in school, the study said.
“Our kids are sponges, and we really need to remember they learn from their environment,” said coauthor Cary P. Gross, professor at Yale School of Medicine. He said researchers found it notable how much content mattered; it was not only the sheer number of hours of screen time. Children “pick up character traits and behaviors” from those they watch or hear, he said.

It’s 3 p.m. – do you know where your kids are?

As a child, 9:59 p.m. was a crucial time for me.
The local television news was about to begin. My dad was asleep in his easy chair in the living room. If he woke up, the first words he’d say would be “up to bed,” and then I’d never know what happened in the world outside my Iowa farm. To delay the inevitable I crept over to the TV set (we didn’t have remotes back then) and turned the volume down so the news program’s theme song wouldn’t disturb him.
Standing inches from the television, I heard this public service announcement every night: “It’s 10 p.m.: Do you know where your children are?”
I didn’t understand that. Where else would I be, but home? Even as a teenager I was in my room most nights giving my parents little reason to wonder or worry about my location. They had it too easy.
Many parents today aren’t so lucky.
More moms and dads are working outside the home and their jobs demand more hours than ever before. They’d love to be home when their kids finish school in the afternoon or during winter and summer breaks from school, but many can’t be there.
Continue reading here.

The “Secret to Raising Smart Kids”

Carol Dweck:

Hint: Don’t tell your kids that they are. More than three decades of research shows that a focus on effort–not on intelligence or ability–is key to success in school and in life.
A brilliant student, Jonathan sailed through grade school. He completed his assignments easily and routinely earned As. Jonathan puzzled over why some of his classmates struggled, and his parents told him he had a special gift. In the seventh grade, however, Jonathan suddenly lost interest in school, refusing to do homework or study for tests. As a consequence, his grades plummeted. His parents tried to boost their son’s confidence by assuring him that he was very smart. But their attempts failed to motivate Jonathan (who is a composite drawn from several children). Schoolwork, their son maintained, was boring and pointless.
Our society worships talent, and many people assume that possessing superior intelligence or ability–along with confidence in that ability–is a recipe for success. In fact, however, more than 30 years of scientific investigation suggests that an overemphasis on intellect or talent leaves people vulnerable to failure, fearful of challenges and unwilling to remedy their shortcomings.
The result plays out in children like Jonathan, who coast through the early grades under the dangerous notion that no-effort academic achievement defines them as smart or gifted. Such children hold an implicit belief that intelligence is innate and fixed, making striving to learn seem far less important than being (or looking) smart. This belief also makes them see challenges, mistakes and even the need to exert effort as threats to their ego rather than as opportunities to improve. And it causes them to lose confidence and motivation when the work is no longer easy for them.
Praising children’s innate abilities, as Jonathan’s parents did, reinforces this mind-set, which can also prevent young athletes or people in the workforce and even marriages from living up to their potential. On the other hand, our studies show that teaching people to have a “growth mind-set,” which encourages a focus on effort rather than on intelligence or talent, helps make them into high achievers in school and in life.

Wisconsin School Finance Climate: State Budget Director & WISTAX President at Odds over Deficit


State budget director Dave Schmiedicke and Wisconsin Taxpayer Alliance President Todd Berry have a fundamental difference over the state’s budget deficit.
Schmiedicke says the bulk of the projected $5.4 billion budget shortfall is the result of crashing state revenues. Berry, a former assistant Revenue secretary, says the administration is “double counting” and the deficit is not nearly that large.
Schmiedicke said the difference between a revenue forecast done in June and this month is $3.5 billion. The balance of the $1.9 billion that makes up the rest of the deficit is the result of population growth in state institutions, caseload increases for state services like Medicaid and funding for pay increases already implemented for some state agencies, like the University of Wisconsin System.
“Everything we see is the result of the economy,” he said.
But Berry says the numbers assume an 8 percent spending increase in the first year of the biennium based on state agency budget requests. That is a level that is unlikely to be met in the final budget bill, Berry said.
“State spending growth has averaged 3 to 4 percent since 1998. It’s not going to rise 8 percent, and that’s what this document is saying,” he said.

Milwaukee Special Education Lawsuit

Dani McClain:

When Kina King goes through the classwork her children bring home from school, she has a hard time telling which belongs to 5-year-old Danielle and which belongs to 16-year-old Jamie.
That’s because Jamie, a freshman at Wisconsin Career Academy in Milwaukee, reads at the level of a second-grader. Her writing, with its d’s and b’s reversed and halting attempts at self-expression, is at a third-grade level.
King said she repeatedly had asked Milwaukee Public Schools to evaluate whether Jamie had special needs since the girl was 5. But it wasn’t until Jamie failed first grade for the third time that the district determined that she suffers from cognitive delays and needs additional support.
The question of what MPS should do to compensate the students it has failed to place in special education in a timely manner is at the heart of the third phase in an ongoing class-action suit about how MPS serves special education students. Jamie Stokes is the lead plaintiff in that suit and testified during a weeklong trial that wrapped up in November.
“If they gave her the help she would have been better, not doing coloring books her sister in kindergarten is doing,” King said.

Teacher does the math, and sells ads on test papers

Greg Toppo & Janet Kornblum:

Tom Farber gives a lot of tests. He’s a calculus teacher, after all.
So when administrators at Rancho Bernardo, his suburban San Diego high school, announced the district was cutting spending on supplies by nearly a third, Farber had a problem. At 3 cents a page, his tests would cost more than $500 a year. His copying budget: $316. But he wanted to give students enough practice for the big tests they’ll face in the spring, such as the Advanced Placement exam.
“Tough times call for tough actions,” he says. So he started selling ads on his test papers: $10 for a quiz, $20 for a chapter test, $30 for a semester final.
San Diego magazine and The San Diego Union-Tribune featured his plan just before Thanksgiving, and Farber came home from a few days out of town to 75 e-mail requests for ads. So far, he has collected $350. His semester final is sold out.

MMSD Board of Education Progress Report – November, 2008

The major focus of our meetings in November was on aligning the work of the Board to the district’s mission and research regarding effective school boards. The emerging literature regarding the role of school board governance in improving student achievement suggests that the manner in which the Board does its work can lead to positive student achievement results. Superintendent Nerad has provided us with great amount of research and experience to guide us in our discussions. An overview of some of our major changes is below. There are a lot of details behind each of the items listed below. If you have any questions, please let us know via email:
Arlene Silveira (516-8981)
Committees: We voted to replace the existing committees with the committees listed below in order to create a greater focus on student achievement and the need for improved student achievement and related development outcomes for the district. The committees are structured along key governing lines. Each committee is composed of the board as a whole with co-chairs.
Student Achievement and Performance Monitoring: Focuses on the district’s mission and will consist of matters related to factors leading to the improvement of student learning. Governance function: district’s mission – work and related accountability for student learning. Co-chairs: Johnny Winston Jr., Maya Cole
Planning and Development: Focuses on ensuring effective planning related to the district’s strategic plan, demographic planning, facility planning and budget planning. Governance function: planning for improved results. Co-chairs: Ed Hughes, Marj Passman
Operational Support: Focuses on financial management, building maintenance and operations, land purchase and district administrative operations, retention and hiring of staff and staff equity issues. Governance function: internal functions and ensuring quality business, finance and human resource systems. Co-chairs: Lucy Mathiak, Beth Moss
Engaging/Linking Stakeholders: We are expanding engagement practices with the goals of determining stakeholder perceptions about the district and educating members of the public to build public will and support.
6 Regular board meeting/year will be held in different schools. As part of the agenda, principals and staff will present learning data and their School Improvement Plan.
Each Board member will serve as a liaison to 7 schools to assist the Board in understanding the learning-related work in our schools.
The Board will schedule 4-6 meetings/year within the community to collect input from community stakeholders regarding “big” questions related to the district’s strategic plan and/or educational programs/services.
Ensuring a Focus on Results and Accountability:
Data retreats: As part of the work of the Student Achievement and Performance Monitoring committee, 4 meetings/year will include a data presentation related to specific student achievement and student performance measures.
Program evaluation: As part of the Student Achievement and Performance Monitoring committee, a schedule of program evaluations will be identified and implemented.
Improvement benchmarks: When the district’s strategic plan is completed. District level improvement benchmarks will be identified for each student based strategy within the plan.

Community Forum – Math Task Force Recommendations

There will be 2 forums to receive community feedback on the Math Task Force report/recommendations.
* Monday, December 8 – 6:00-8:00pm at Memorial High School
* Tuesday, December 9 – 6:00-8:00pm at La Follette High School
There will be a brief presentation on the task force recommendations, followed by a break-out session for community feedback and comments.
The Superintendent will use the feedback and comments in developing his recommendations for the Board.
As a reminder, the Math Task Force info can be found at
Thank you.

Murdoch: “Schools a Moral Scandal”

Glynne Sutcliffe Adelaide:

Rupert Murdoch has used his fourth Boyer Lecture to slam Australian schooling. No punches pulled here. “Our public education systems are a disgrace” was almost his opening sentence. And the reason is clear : “despite spending more and more money, our children seem to be learning less and less.”
A residual affection for the land of his birth is probably the main driving force of his critique. His country is going down the gurgler. It is a realistic assessment of the situation we are in. India and China especially are poised to wipe us out. Finland irks. Singapore and Korea also graduate students who both know more and think better than Aussie grads. Intellectual sophistication in Australia is an increasingly rare and obviously endangered phenomenon. Football commands the Aussie imagination. Those who study think of learning as work, from which escape must be regularly programmed in order to maintain sanity.
Explanations for poor results abound. The teaching staffs of our schools manifest a huge compassion for instance, for the children who have a low SES (Socio-Economic Status) rating, and stress that these children don’t/can’t learn because they don’t have space at home to do their homework. Murdoch is properly scathing about this and about all the other various excuses offered to explain why so many children are learning so little:”a whole industry of pedagogues (is) devoted to explaining why some schools and some students are failing. Some say classrooms are too large. Others complain that not enough public funding is devoted to this or that program. Still others will tell you that the students who come from certain backgrounds just can’t learn.”
While George Bush may be reasonably classified as a major disaster, someone seems to have provided him with a memorable, useful and highly pertinent assessment. (The US Dept of Ed has been a good deal more useful to humanity than its Dept Of Defence).His words were resonant. He said we should overthrow “the tyranny of low expectations”.(I have written more extensively on this dereliction of professional duty in a paper that can be read at
Murdoch is of the same view, that all our students need us to have high expectations of them, and”the real answer is to start pursuing success”.

Lessons From 40 Years of Education ‘Reform’
Let’s abolish local school districts and finally adopt national standards.

Louis V. Gerstner, Jr.:

While the economic news has most Americans in a state of near depression, hope abounds today that the country may use the current economic crisis as leverage to address some longstanding problems. Nowhere is that prospect for progress more worthy than the crisis in our public education system.
So, from someone who realized rather glumly last week that he has been working at school reform for 40 years, here is a prescription for leadership from the Obama administration.
We must start with the recognition that, despite decade after decade of reform efforts, our public K-12 schools have not improved. We can point to individual schools and some entire districts that have advanced, but the system as a whole is still failing. High school and college graduation rates, test scores, the number of graduates majoring in science and engineering all are flat or down over the past two decades. Disappointingly, the relative performance of our students has suffered compared to those of other nations. As a former CEO, I am worried about what this will mean for our future workforce.
It is most crucial for our political leaders to ask why we are at this point — why after millions of pages, in thousands of reports, from hundreds of commissions and task forces, financed by billions of dollars, have we failed to achieve any significant progress?
Answering this question correctly is the key to finally remaking our public schools.
This is a complex problem, but countless experiments and analyses have clearly indicated we need to do four straightforward things to bring fundamental changes to K-12 education:

  • Set high academic standards for all of our kids, supported by a rigorous curriculum.
  • Greatly improve the quality of teaching in our classrooms, supported by substantially higher compensation for our best teachers.
  • Measure student and teacher performance on a systematic basis, supported by tests and assessments.
  • Increase “time on task” for all students; this means more time in school each day, and a longer school year.

Everything else either does not matter (e.g., smaller class sizes) or is supportive of these four steps (e.g., vastly improve schools of education).

“The Trouble With Textbooks”

Greg Toppo:

In 2004, the Institute for Jewish and Community Research, a San Francisco think tank, launched an effort to address “anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism” in American education, from K-12 to higher education. Its book, The UnCivil University, focused on the USA’s colleges and universities.But the effort also gave rise to an extensive survey on the political, religious and social beliefs of university faculty — some of whom admitted to holding strong prejudices against evangelical Christians.
The researchers say they found a politically active, vocal minority — especially within Middle East studies departments — that held strong anti-Israel positions. Many of the same professors holding what the researchers found were strong political biases are often tapped to review K-12 social studies, history and geography textbooks, which explain religious history, among other topics, to very young children, the institute says.
So authors Gary Tobin and Dennis Ybarra looked at 28 textbooks over nearly five years — finding what they call “glaring distortions and inaccuracies,” many centered on the books’ treatment of Israel, Judaism and Christianity. Aside from their findings on how religions are treated, their new book, The Trouble With Textbooks (Lexington Books, $21.95), which appeared on shelves this fall, in part explores problems with the textbook approval process.

Survey Finds Growing Deceit Among Teens
64 Percent Admit Cheating on Test In High School

David Crary:

In the past year, 30 percent of U.S. high school students have stolen from a store and 64 percent have cheated on a test, according to a new, large-scale survey suggesting that Americans are apathetic about ethical standards.
Educators reacting to the findings questioned any suggestion that today’s young people are less honest than previous generations, but several agreed that intensified pressures are prompting many students to cut corners.
“The competition is greater, the pressures on kids have increased dramatically,” said Mel Riddle of the National Association of Secondary School Principals. “They have opportunities their predecessors didn’t have [to cheat]. The temptation is greater.”
The Josephson Institute, a Los Angeles-based ethics institute, surveyed 29,760 students at 100 randomly selected high schools nationwide, both public and private. All students in the selected schools were given the survey in class; their anonymity was assured.
Michael Josephson, the institute’s founder and president, said he was most dismayed by the findings about theft. The survey found that 35 percent of boys and 26 percent of girls — 30 percent overall — acknowledged stealing from a store within the past year. One-fifth said they stole something from a friend; 23 percent said they stole something from a parent or other relative.

Why can’t Johnny adapt?

Physician & Author Gabor Mate, via a kind reader’s email:

Among the major challenges we face, as a society, is the widespread lack of resilience of many young people. Resilience is the capacity to overcome adversity, to let go of what doesn’t work, to adapt and to mature. Growing evidence of its absence among the young is as ominous for our future as the threat of climate change or financial crisis.
A disturbing measure is the increasing number of children diagnosed with mental-health conditions characterized by rigid and self-harming attitudes and behaviours, such as bipolar disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, eating disorders and “conduct” disorders. Hundreds of thousands of American children under 12 are being prescribed heavy-duty antipsychotic medications to control behaviours deemed unacceptable and unmanageable.
Canadian statistics are less dire but typically follow that trend. University of British Columbia psychologists have warned that today’s children between 6 and 12 “will be the first generation to have poorer health status as adults than their parents, if measures are not taken now to address their developmental needs.” Their report was presented in Winnipeg at last week’s National Dialogue on Resilience in Youth. The conference itself was a marker of the alarm among those concerned with the well-being of youth – educators, business people, people in government.
Beyond mental pathology, many young people exhibit difficulties adapting, as indicated by burgeoning drug use, aggression, bullying and violence. These tendencies all manifest alienation and frustration – that is, an inability to deal creatively and powerfully with life’s inevitable setbacks. The less resilient we are, the more prone we become to addictions and aggressive behaviours, including self-harm. We also become more attached to objects. A young Ottawa man was recently killed when he refused to surrender his iPod to a knife-wielding assailant. “I’d rather be stabbed than give up my iPod,” a 17-year-old woman told The Globe.

Obama’s Big Test on Education

Jake Tapper:

Interestingly, though Rhee is a Democrat, she almost voted for Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.
“It was a very hard decision,” Rhee says. “I’m somewhat terrified of what the Democrats are going to do on education.”
What does President-elect Obama think? Tough to say. He has supported merit pay for teachers, which teachers’ unions oppose, and heralded Rhee. He has been a strong advocate of charter schools and in 2002 said he was “not closed minded” on the subject of vouchers, though since then he has come out against vouchers. Over the Summer, I asked him why.
“The problem is, is that, you know, although it might benefit some kids at the top, what you’re going to do is leave a lot of kids at the bottom,” he said. “We don’t have enough slots for every child to go into a parochial school or a private school. And what you would see is a huge drain of resources out of the public schools. So what I’ve said is let’s foster competition within the public school system. Let’s make sure that charter schools are up and running. Let’s make sure that kids who are in failing schools, in local school districts, have an option to go to schools that are doing well.
“But what I don’t want to do is to see a diminished commitment to the public schools to the point where all we have are the hardest-to-teach kids with the least involved parents with the most disabilities in the public schools,” Obama continued. “That’s going to make things worse, and we’re going to lose the commitment to public schools that I think have been so important to building this country.”
In March, Josh Patashnik of The New Republic took a closer look at PEBO and education, writing that Obama “has long advocated a reformist agenda that looks favorably upon things like competition between schools, test-based accountability, and performance pay for teachers. But the Obama campaign has hesitated to trumpet its candidate’s maverick credentials. As an increasingly influential chorus of donors and policy wonks pushes an agenda within the Democratic Party that frightens teachers’ unions and their traditional liberal allies, Obama seems unsure how far he can go in reassuring the former group that he’s one of them without alienating the latter. And this is a shame, because Obama may represent the best hope for real reform in decades.”

Internet searching stimulates brain, study says

Heidi Benson:

A new UCLA study, part of the growing research into the effects of technology on the brain, shows that searching the Internet may keep older brains agile – it’s like taking your brain for a walk.
It’s too early to conclude that technology will help vanquish Alzheimer’s disease, but “our study shows that when your brain is on Google, your neural circuitry changes extensively,” said psychiatrist Gary Small, director of UCLA’s Memory & Aging Research Center.
The new study, which will be published next month in the Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, comes at a time when medical experts are forecasting that Alzheimer’s cases will quadruple by 2050. In response to such projections, “brain-gyms” and memory-building computer programs have proliferated.
The subjects in Small’s nine-month study were 24 neurologically normal volunteers ages 55 to 76, with similar education levels. They were assigned two tasks: to read book-like text on computer screens and to perform Internet searches.