My School District

via a kind reader’s email, who wonders if a student posting on this site violates the Madison School District’s “Code of Conduct“:

The Obama administration has pledged to reform the country’s school system and we want to know: Are there problems in the school district where you live? Education Secretary Arne Duncan will appear on Campbell Brown’s “No Bias, No Bull” Friday, and your stories may be part of the interview.
Whether you’re a dedicated teacher or concerned parent, we want to hear about the issues facing your school district. Express your concerns, questions and suggested solutions on video.

Waunakee School District may break off Spanish as a separate class

Gena Kittner:

Heather Lawnicki — Señora Lawnickci to her students — sweeps into her fourth-grade classroom at Heritage Elementary and immediately leads students in singing “Buenas tardes,” a popular Spanish tune that gets the children primed to think and speak in Spanish.
The clock is ticking and there’s no time to waste: Lawnicki has just 30 minutes to cover lessons in both Spanish and social studies — on this day “los indios” of Wisconsin, the Indians.
While Lawnicki, who is fluent in both Spanish and Portuguese, delivers most of the instruction in Spanish, she often needs to repeat her questions in English. The children, who appear to have a general grasp of the language, sometimes answer in kind until Lawnicki prompts them to respond in Spanish.

An Update on the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction Superintendent Election

John Nichols:

It was not a very big surprise that Gov. Jim Doyle endorsed Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers for the top job at DPI, although the governor’s endorsement is valuable and important for the teachers-union-backed contender.
Most Democrats will back Evers.
Most Republicans who make endorsements will back virtual schools advocate Rose Fernandez, the conservative with whom Evers is contending in the April 7 election.
But Fernandez has one Democratic — or at least sort of Democratic — backer.
Here’s the release from her campaign:
“Veteran Democratic lawmaker Ziegelbauer backs Fernandez
Bipartisan campaign for school superintendent keeps gaining momentum.

Texting: Good for kids after all?

Bill Ray:

study of 88 British kids, aged between 10 and 12, has discovered that those who regularly text have better reading skills despite the use of txt abbreviations.
The increasing use of abbreviations, phonetic spellings and the dropping of vowels is a constant source of irritation to the Daily Mail-reading crowd, who happily quote anecdotal evidence of declining standards. This promoted researchers at Coventry University to take a more scientific approach, and their findings seem to suggest that texting aids literacy rather than damaging it.
The study, published by the British Psychological Society, got 88 children to compose text messages in response to a range of scenarios, then compared the frequency with each child used textisms with tests of their “reading, vocabulary, and phonological awareness”. The results indicated that the increased exposure to print, in any form, led to greater literacy with those using most text’isms being more literate.

College Acceptance Letters Are Glitzier, but Rejections Are Harsher

Kim Clark:

College admissions officers are jazzing up their acceptance notifications–sending out fancy certificates, T-shirts, tubes of confetti, or Internet links to videos of fireworks–in an effort to inspire loyalty and lock in commitments from today’s fickle and worried high school seniors.
While many students enjoy the new twists on what used to be just fat and thin envelopes, others are criticizing some of the changes to admissions notifications. Some students are less wowed by glitz than by old-fashioned personal letters that show an admissions officer actually read the essays. Some high school officials complain about school disruptions caused by midday fateful E-mails or text messages. And some students say the new electronic rejections–some of which are little more than “Admissions decision: Deny”–feel much harsher than the traditional letters enclosed in ominously thin envelopes.
The controversy over the best way to inform students of their fates is likely to heighten in 2009 as a growing number of colleges experiment with:
Text messages. Baylor University is one of a growing number of schools that blast out congratulatory text messages (though it sends rejections via snail mail).

Will Depth Replace Breadth in Schools?

Jay Matthews:

If our nation’s high school teachers had $20 for every time they had to endure the Depth vs. Breadth debate, they all would have retired to mansions in West Palm Beach.
The debate goes like this: Should they focus on a few topics so students have time to absorb and comprehend the inner workings of the subject? Or should they cover every topic so students get a sense of the whole and can later pursue those parts that interest them most?
The truth, of course, is that students need both. Teachers try to mix the two in ways that make sense to them and their students. But a surprising study — certain to be a hot topic in teacher lounges and education schools — is providing new data that suggest educators should spend much more time on a few issues and let some topics slide. Based on a sample of 8,310 undergraduates, the national study says that students who spend at least a month on just one topic in a high school science course get better grades in a freshman college course in that subject than students whose high school courses were more balanced.

Yale’s Shiller Says Education, Risk Management Overhaul Needed

Patrick Rial:

— Financial education for individuals and stricter risk controls at banks are needed to counter the psychological biases that led to the mortgage crisis, said Yale University’s Robert Shiller, a professor of behavioral economics.
“This crisis was the result of psychological contagion and speculative bubbles and also the result of poor risk management,” Shiller, who is also chief economist at MacroMarkets LLC, told reporters in Tokyo. “The real problem is that we weren’t managing risk.”
A variety of biases in human psychology leads people to make decisions that are against their own self interest, behavioral experts including Shiller say. Behavioral economics combines the findings of psychology with economics and evolved as a challenge to the theory that markets are always efficient.

Driver’s Ed: When Kids Start Asking for the Keys

Neal Templin:

Driving is the ultimate mixed blessing.
Cars permit us to zip around most American cities in a way no public transit system ever could. We rely on them to go to work. To do our shopping. To see friends.
But owning a car is also expensive. For most of us, a decent chunk of the money we earn goes to pay for our wheels. Once we start driving, we begin to lock ourselves into a more expensive lifestyle that requires us to earn more money.
These same forces are at play when our kids start driving. It’s a big step toward making them into full-fledged adults early — for better and for worse.
Two of my three children have hit the driving age with very different outcomes. Now, my youngest child is 17, and he’s eager to grab the wheel.
My views on driving were shaped growing up in the 1960s and early 1970s in Southern California. Only a handful of kids at my high school had their own cars. The rest of us walked or rode our bikes to school, or maybe we got a lift with someone when we were seniors.
Still, most of my friends got their license when they were 16 years old. Many of them already knew how to drive years before they got a license. Not me.

What’s Memorial Done Lately?

Madison Memorial has had a pretty good couple of weeks. Last night the boys basketball team won its sixth straight Big Eight conference championship in a rollicking and highly-entertaining showdown with conference runner-up Madison East. Last week, Memorial’s boys swimming team won the state championship. Today’s State Journal reports that Memorial senior Suvai Gunasekaran will be heading off to Washington as one of the 40 finalists in the Intel Science Talent Search. And last week Memorial senior violinist Ben Seeger was the winner of the Steenbock Youth Music Award in the Bolz Young Artist Competition.
It’s also worth pointing out that Suvai will be joined by Gabriela Farfan of West at the Intel Science Talent Search (and so MMSD is supplying 5% of the nation’s finalists), and that Ben was joined in the Bolz Young Artists Competition finals by Alice Huang of West (the overall winner) and Ansel Norris of East (and so MMSD supplied 75% of the finalists in this statewide competition).
Madison schools – a diversity of excellence.

Teachers Are All That, And A Bag Of Chips


Some teachers in Oregon want to do as they do, not as they say. The state has banned the sale of junk food in schools in an effort to protect the health of kids. But under prodding from teachers, the Oregon state House approved an exception. If the measure becomes law, unhealthy snacks would be allowed in teachers’ lounges. The teachers say they’re adults and can decide for themselves whether they should eat chips.

In Md. and Va., Signs Of the Tough Times: A 2.8% Reduction in Spending

Nelson Hernandez & Theresa Vargas:

The Prince George’s County Board of Education last night approved a $1.6 billion budget that eliminates almost 800 jobs, while Arlington County’s schools chief unveiled the first budget of his 12-year tenure with a reduction in total spending.
The actions showed anew how the economic recession is hitting home for Washington area school systems.
The Prince George’s board unanimously endorsed a spending plan for the 128,000-student system that omits cost-of-living raises and some seniority-based salary increases for employees. The budget also rolls back several programs begun during the 2 1/2 year tenure of superintendent John E. Deasy, who left in December for another job.
Among other cuts, the budget developed by Interim Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. eliminates 144 positions for parent liaisons, who act as a bridge between parents and school staff. Two programs to bolster academic performance will be reduced. An initiative to split school administration into nine zones will be modified to five zones, and a program to train 10 resident principals will be eliminated.

Arlington does a nice job of keeping their current and historical budgets on one easy to use page. Madison’s budget information page.

Charter Schools a Vice?

Mary Wiltenburg:

Obama may love charter schools, Georgia may be on the fence, but St. Louis school leaders see charter schools as a vice. While researching our upcoming story about the International Community School and charter school facilities, I learned that last year, as the leaders of St. Louis public schools prepared to sell a bunch of empty school buildings, the district barred certain unwanted buyers: “liquor stores, landfills, distilleries, as well as shops that sell “so-called ‘sexual toys,’ ” writes St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter David Hunn. “They also blackballed charter schools.”
This despite the city’s 17 public charter schools and 9,500 charter students – and eight new charters expected to open by fall 2010 – writes Bill Schulz of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. “Porn shops and liquor stores and charter schools, oh my!” he quipped.
Huhn reports: ” ‘We tried to buy three,’ said Susan Uchitelle, board member at Confluence Academy, a charter school with three campuses and 2,700 students in St. Louis. ‘We finally just gave up…. It was made very clear they weren’t going to sell to us. They’d show them to us. They’d let us walk through them. But then they’d take them off the market.’ “

One Thing You Don’t Need To Be An Entrepreneur: A College Degree

Fred Wilson:

We were in a board meeting today and the founder/CEO made a comment about a deal he’s working on and I said “well you learned that well in school.” He smiled and said, “we didn’t go to school” (meaning college). I didn’t actually know that, but it did not surprise me. I have learned that where someone went to college (or even if they didn’t go to college) has absolutely no correlation to whether they will be a good entrepreneur or not. I don’t pay attention to that part of a resume. I focus on what they’ve done in the work world, what they’ve shown they can do, and most importantly what they’ve done to date on that specific startup.
We chuckled about that exchange and the other VC on the board said “I think twenty percent or more of our portfolio companies are led by entrepreneurs who didn’t graduate from college.

A handwaving approach to arithmetic

The Economist:

HUMAN language is the subject of endless scientific investigation, but the gestures that accompany speech are a surprisingly neglected area. It is sometimes jokingly said that the way to render an Italian speechless is to tie his wrists together, but almost everyone moves their hands in meaningful ways when they talk. Susan Goldin-Meadow of the University of Chicago, however, studies gestures carefully–and not out of idle curiosity. Introspection suggests that gesturing not only helps people communicate but also helps them to think. She set out to test this, and specifically to find out whether gestures might be used as an aid to children’s learning. It turns out, as she told the AAAS, that they can.
The experiment she conducted involved balancing equations. Presented with an equation of the form 2 + 3 + 4 = x + 4, written on a blackboard, a child is asked to calculate the value of x. In the equations Dr Goldin-Meadow always made the last number on the left the same as the last on the right; so x was the sum of the first two numbers. Commonly, however, children who are learning arithmetic will add all three of the numbers on the left to arrive at the value of x.
In her previous work Dr Goldin-Meadow had noted that children often use spontaneous gestures when explaining how they solve mathematical puzzles so, to see if these hand-movements actually help a child to think, or are merely descriptive, she divided a group of children into two and asked them to balance equations. One group was asked to gesture while doing so. A second was asked not to. Both groups were then given a lesson in how to solve problems of this sort.

Laptop for each pupil West Bend among growing number of school districts testing technology-enhanced learning

Amy Hetzner:

If the effectiveness of giving every student a laptop were measured in enthusiasm, the results so far in the West Bend School District would show success.
Just ask some of the students at Silverbrook Middle School who learned late last year they would participate in a 150-student pilot program of one-to-one computing in the district.
“We were all really excited,” said eighth-grader Jaclyn Utrie, 14. “We would ask like every day, ‘When are we going to get them?’ ”
The enthusiasm hasn’t died four weeks after the computers arrived, but now it’s accompanied by responsibility. They have to prove that giving every student a laptop can improve education, not just in West Bend but also to other schools in the area considering a similar step.
Although several schools in the Milwaukee area, mostly small and private, have given laptops to students or required them to bring their own, West Bend could be the first to experiment with a large, multi-school program.
“What I’m hoping is, if this works, then everyone will have the chance to have one,” said Tom Balestrieri, 14, another Silverbrook eighth-grader.
The weight’s not entirely on the shoulders of the West Bend students. Some other school districts in the state also are starting to experiment with universal laptop programs.
The Pewaukee School District plans to start distributing some sort of portable technology – be it laptop, tablet or hand-held device – to its eighth-graders in fall.

Mystery & Birds: 5 Ways to Practice Poetry

Ada Limon:

Joshua Marie Wilkinson is putting together a group of micro-essay for teaching poetry to beginning writers. Though I’m not really a teacher, he asked me nonetheless. And since I have so many dear dear friends beginning their semesters this week, this goes out to them. Thanks JMW for inviting me to participate.
Mystery & Birds: 5 Ways to Practice Poetry
Because I work outside of the academic field, I don’t get the opportunity to teach very often, but when I do, I’m surprised by how many people read poems as if they can have only one meaning. In my own experience, I find it nearly impossible to hear the beauty and
meditative joy of a poem’s lines, or the sensual sounds of a syllable, when I’m reading solely for narrative sense. So, I’ve come to think that one of the first things to learn about poetry is to simply relax in its mystery. We need to learn that a poem can have many meanings and that it can be enjoyed without a complete understanding of the
poet’s intent. On a good day a poem might bring you great joy, on a tough day, the same poem might reveal great agony, but the poem hasn’t changed–it’s what you have brought to the poem that has changed. The more you read a poem, the more time you spend with it, read it out loud to yourself or to others, the more it will open to you–start to wink and flirt and let you in. A poem is a complex living thing, its multiple edges and many colors are what makes this singular art form so difficult to define. There is an ancient Chinese Proverb that says, “A bird sings not because he has an answer, but because he has a
song.” That is how I have come to think about poetry–that a poem isn’t a problem to solve, but rather it’s a singular animal call that contains multiple layers of both mystery and joy.

Killing DC Vouchers

Wall Street Journal:

President Obama made education a big part of his speech Tuesday night, complete with a stirring call for reform. So we’ll be curious to see how he handles the dismaying attempt by Democrats in Congress to crush education choice for 1,700 poor kids in the District of Columbia.
The omnibus spending bill now moving through the House includes language designed to kill the Opportunity Scholarship Program offering vouchers for poor students to opt out of rotten public schools. The legislation says no federal funds can be used on the program beyond 2010 unless Congress and the D.C. City Council reauthorize it. Given that Democrats control both bodies — and that their union backers hate school choice — this amounts to a death sentence.
Republicans passed the program in 2004, with help from Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, and it has been extremely popular. Families receive up to $7,500 a year to attend the school of their choice. That’s a real bargain, given that D.C. public schools spend $14,400 per pupil on average, among the most in the country.
To qualify, a student’s household income must be at or below 185% of the poverty level. Some 99% of the participants are minority, and the average annual income is $23,000 for a family of four. A 2008 Department of Education evaluation found that participants had higher reading scores than their peers who didn’t receive a scholarship, and there are four applicants for each voucher.

Two Madison students in finals of prestigious Intel Science Talent Search

Doug Erickson:

Two Madison teenagers have landed among the 40 finalists in the country’s top science competition for high school students, a rare twofer for a public school district.
West senior Gabriela Farfan and Memorial senior Suvai Gunasekaran will compete next month in Washington, D.C., for hundreds of thousands of dollars in prizes in the Intel Science Talent Search.
“It’s impressive,” said John Kalvin, an Intel manager in Chicago, referring to the double finalists from one district. “It’s a testament to the kind of teaching taking place here — and the talent here.”
Farfan, 18, a mineral and gemstone collector, broke new ground in trying to determine why a type of feldspar known as Oregon sunstone appears red when viewed from one angle and green when viewed from another. Gunasekaran, 18, focused on developing new methods to inhibit bacterial biofilm growth on the surface of implanted medical devices.
Each student already has won $5,000 and a laptop computer as a finalist.

Students Stand When Called Upon, and When Not

Susan Saulny:

From the hallway, Abby Brown’s sixth-grade classroom in a little school here about an hour northeast of Minneapolis has the look of the usual one, with an American flag up front and children’s colorful artwork decorating the walls.
But inside, an experiment is going on that makes it among the more unorthodox public school classrooms in the country, and pupils are being studied as much as they are studying. Unlike children almost everywhere, those in Ms. Brown’s class do not have to sit and be still. Quite the contrary, they may stand and fidget all class long if they want.
And they do.
On one recent morning, while 11-year-old Nick Raboin had his eye on his math problems, Ms. Brown was noticing that he preferred to shift his weight from one foot to the other as he figured out his fractions. She also knew that his classmate Roxy Cotter liked to stand more than sit. And Brett Leick is inclined to lean on a high stool and swing his right foot under a desk that is near chest level. Helps with concentration, he and Ms. Brown say.

Teacher Training, Tailor-Made

Katherine Newman:

One May afternoon in Boston, 85 teachers in training arrived at the bayside campus of the University of Massachusetts for a three-hour class called Family Partnerships for Achievement. The instructors had invited several public school parents to come in and offer the future teachers advice. Take advantage of technology, said one parent. Among mobile families in poverty, home addresses and telephone numbers may be incorrect. Cell phones are a better bet. Text messaging really works. Take a walk around the neighborhood. Another suggestion: find out where your students shop and hang out.
Look parents in the eye, added an instructor. Say, “Hi, It’s great to see you.” It’s difficult to discuss academics or ask parents to do anything for you before you get to know them.
Family Partnerships for Achievement is not a course typical of most master’s programs in education. The course was designed with one overriding goal: to prepare teachers to be effective in the Boston Public Schools (BPS). This goal drives every aspect of the Boston Teacher Residency (BTR), a district-based program for teacher training and certification that recruits highly qualified individuals to take on the unique challenges of teaching in a high-need Boston school and then guides them through a specialized course of preparation.
BTR is one of a new breed of teacher training initiatives that resemble neither traditional nor most alternative certification programs. By rethinking the relationship between training and hiring, these programs have found promising new ways to prepare educators.

The classroom menagerie

Nigel Andrews:

How could anyone not love Laurent Cantet’s The Class ( Entre les murs )? Last year’s Golden Palm winner is the best film about schoolteaching I have seen: a wise, funny cry of helplessness before the tsunami of anarchy that can be school-age adolescence. Adapted from a novel based on his own teaching experiences by François Bégaudeau, it was co-written by Bégaudeau and Cantet. Bégaudeau himself stars as the hapless teacher in a mixed-race school of low attention and high combustibility.
This isn’t the high-school hokum messianic with hope that we get from Hollywood. Don’t expect To Monsieur With Love . These are real people – both the grown-ups and the kids – who spar like dedicated enemies. And they are played by real teachers and schoolchildren, who workshopped the script with the star and director.
At the outset a defensive cynicism arms both sides. A new teacher is introduced by an older to the pupils’ names, on a roster sheet: “Nice. Not nice. Not at all nice.” (“Nice” doesn’t quite get the measure of gentil , with its connotations of decency). The students, in turn, use a class on the subjunctive to try to break down Sir’s resistance. “It’s medieval” . . . “Only snobs use the imperfect subjunctive” . . . “It’s bourgeois”. The free-form fracas finally releases the fatally intended non-sequitur: “People say you like men.”

Experts Wonder How Education Goals Will Be Met

Robert Tomsho, John Hechinger & Laura Meckler:

President Barack Obama laid out new national goals Tuesday aimed at boosting high school and college graduation rates, but left education experts wondering on how he intends to reach his targets, and how much he is prepared to spend on them.
In his address to Congress, the president signaled a shift in federal education policy toward improving the skills of adults and work-force entrants, following an intense focus on boosting younger students’ reading and mathematics attainment under the No Child Left Behind law, the centerpiece of the Bush administration’s schools agenda.
Some observers had believed that education would stay on the back burner early in the Obama administration while the president grappled with the economic crisis. But the subject made it to the top tier of the address to Congress partly because Mr. Obama believes he must send Americans a message about the importance of education.
“Of the many issues, this is one where he feels the bully pulpit needs to be used,” a White House official said Wednesday.
In his speech Tuesday night, Mr. Obama said “dropping out of high school is no longer an option” and set a goal of the U.S. having the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020.
According to the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which tracks college-going among its 30 member countries, the U.S., at 30%, is tied for sixth place in college graduation among those 25 to 34 years of age, 2006 data show, behind such countries as Norway, South Korea and the Netherlands. OECD data suggest that the U.S. was No. 1 until around 2000, but has lost its edge as other countries have stepped up their efforts to promote higher education.
Kevin Carey, policy director of the Education Sector, a nonprofit Washington, D.C., think tank, said the U.S. hasn’t been slipping but other countries have been improving. Regaining our former top position represents “a pretty reasonable goal,” he says. “It’s not moon-shot level.”

Student achievement rising in urban Texas schools

Linda Stewart Ball:

Achievement test scores at big-city school districts in Texas still lag far behind their suburban and rural counterparts but they’re making great strides and narrowing the gap, according to a report by an education think tank released Wednesday.
A study [PDF report] of 37 of the nation’s largest urban school systems by The Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., found that city schools are improving more than other school districts in their respective states.
In Texas, six urban school districts were included in the study: Austin, Dallas, El Paso, Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio.
Three of those — Dallas, Austin and San Antonio — are among the top 10 gainers nationally.
The study examined state test scores and demographic information, including race/ethnicity and the percentage of disadvantaged students (those receiving free or reduced lunch), from 2000 to 2007.
It was designed to determine how big-city school districts fared when compared to their suburban and rural peers. The study was able to standardize scores between states, even those using different tests.
Dallas showed the biggest improvement among the large Texas cities, and was 2nd overall nationally. New Orleans topped the list, while Detroit, one of eight districts whose performance declined during the years studied, was last.
In 2000, Dallas was outscored by 100 percent of the state’s school districts. By 2007, just 90 percent of suburban and rural districts did better than Dallas — a significant improvement given its demographics, the study’s author said.
Dallas school superintendent Michael Hinojosa embraced the latest findings.

Straddling the Democratic Divide

Richard Colvin:

Rift in Democratic Party over the nation’s education reform agenda is growing. One side backs strong accountability through reforms, the other looks to augment the current system with social support programs.
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s Senate confirmation hearing in January was thick with encomiums. He was praised by Democrat Tom Harkin of Iowa for the “fresh thinking” he brought to his post as Chicago schools chief for seven years. Republican Lamar Alexander, education secretary under George H. W. Bush, told Duncan he was the best of President Barack Obama’s cabinet appointments. Ailing Massachusetts senator Ted Kennedy, in written comments entered into the record, praised Duncan for having “championed pragmatic solutions to persistent problems” and for lasting longer in Chicago than most urban superintendents.
The warm greetings given by both Republicans and Democrats on the committee reflect Duncan’s reputation as a centrist in the ideologically fraught battles over education reform. He has received national attention for moves favored by reformers, such as opening 75 new schools operated by outside groups and staffed by non-union teachers; introducing a pay-for-performance plan that will eventually be in 40 Chicago schools; and working with organizations, including The New Teacher Project, Teach For America, and New Leaders for New Schools, that recruit talented educators through alternatives to the traditional education-school route.
At the same time, Duncan maintained at least a cordial working relationship with the Chicago Teachers Union, and both the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) backed his nomination. He supported the No Child Left Behind law (NCLB), but also called for dramatic increases in spending to help schools meet the law’s targets, and additional flexibility for districts like his own. In nominating Duncan, Obama said, “We share a deep pragmatism about how to go about this. If pay-for-performance works and we can work with teachers so it doesn’t feel like it’s being imposed upon them…then that’s something that we should explore. If charter schools work, try that. You know, let’s not be clouded by ideology when it comes to figuring out what helps our kids.”

Charter school opponents, watch out

Mary Wiltenburg:

In his address to Congress last night President Obama promised: “We will expand our commitment to charter schools.” Today, as the blogosphere buzzes over the speech, education watchers and International Community School teachers alike are taking that commitment seriously.
Calling it “one of the most important lines in President Obama’s speech,” Kevin Carey, writing for the Chronicle of Higher Education’s blog Brainstorm, discussed the power presidents have to refocus public education debates. Just as President Bush’s focus on testing and accountability all but killed a debate about vouchers that had raged since the Reagan administration, so, Carey argued, “Obama’s forceful position on charter schools is likely to have the same effect.” Charter school opponents, he wrote: “You’re in for a long eight years.”
At Politico’s blog The Arena, education heavy-hitters weighed in for and against.
“President Obama’s enthusiasm for charter schools is baffling. Doesn’t he realize that they are a deregulation strategy much beloved by Republicans?” wrote NYU education historian Diane Ravitch, “If he thinks that deregulation is the cure for American education, I have some AIG stock I’d like to sell him.”
Steven G. Calabresi, a law professor at Northwestern University, was ready to get down to brass tacks. “[The] key,” he wrote, “is to switch to funding public schools out of statewide collected taxes instead of funding them out of local property taxes and creating many, many more charter school and private schools where students can cash in the education credit or voucher that their stateought to give them.”

‘iTunes university’ better than the real thing

Ewen Callaway:

Students have been handed another excuse to skip class from an unusual quarter. New psychological research suggests that university students who download a podcast lecture achieve substantially higher exam results than those who attend the lecture in person.
Podcasted lectures offer students the chance to replay difficult parts of a lecture and therefore take better notes, says Dani McKinney, a psychologist at the State University of New York in Fredonia, who led the study.
“It isn’t so much that you have a podcast, it’s what you do with it,” she says.
Skipping class
Launched less than two years ago, Apple’s iTunes university offers college lectures on everything from Proust to particle physics to students and the public. Some universities make their lectures available to all, while others restrict access to enrolled students. Some professors even limit downloads to encourage class attendance, McKinney says.
To find out how much students really can learn from podcast lectures alone – mimicking a missed class – McKinney’s team presented 64 students with a single lecture on visual perception, from an introductory psychology course.

A Lesson in Finance After school: debt and default. Who is to blame? What is to be done?

Jacob Sullum:

My wife and I recently made the last payment on her federally backed Stafford loan from graduate school. She had borrowed $21,500, which is slightly more than the average for the two-thirds of four-year college students who take out loans and about half the average for graduate students who borrow. We made modest payments every month for about nine years, and now we’re done. Given the extent to which my wife’s degrees enhanced her earning ability, the loan was a sound investment.
My wife did not feel that her education had done her “far more harm than good,” that it had condemned her to “a lifetime of indentured servitude” or that she was living in “student loan hell.” Neither of us was driven to despair, divorce, suicide or expatriation by the constant pressure of crushing indebtedness and relentless collection agencies. In other words, our experience was very different from the horror stories that Alan Michael Collinge tells in “The Student Loan Scam” to reinforce his argument that student loans are “the most oppressive” type of debt “in our nation’s history.”
Student-loan data suggest that my wife’s case is far more typical than the examples cited by Mr. Collinge, all of which involve people who defaulted on their loans and saw their debt mushroom as a result of penalties, collection fees and compound interest. According to the Education Department, the two-year default rate for federal student loans (both direct government loans and private loans backed by government guarantees and subsidies) is less than 5%. A separate Education Department analysis found that the 10-year default rate for college students who graduated in 1993 was less than 10%.

Letters: ‘A’ Is for Achievement, ‘E’ Is for Effort

Letters to the Editor: NY Times:

Student Expectations Seen as Causing Grade Disputes” (news article, Feb. 18) indicates a rather recent phenomenon among college students.
Students from the earliest grades are encouraged to work hard and told that the rewards will follow. Students must realize that a grade is earned for achievement and not for the effort expended.
Yes, some students can achieve at higher levels with far less effort than others.
This mirrors the world beyond college as well.
In my experience as dean, when students complain about a professor’s grading, they seem to focus more on their “creative” justifications (excuses) rather than on remedies. Most faculty members stress the remedy that leads to achievement of instructional goals.
The time-honored mastery of the material should remain paramount. After all, this is what our society expects!
Alfred S. Posamentier
Dean, School of Education
City College of New York, CUNY
New York, Feb. 18, 2009

To the Editor:
As someone who recently went through the ordeal of contesting a grade, I was quite impassioned on reading your article. I have done this only once in four years, so not all of us take the matter lightly.
I resent the suggestion that students feel “entitled” to “get/receive” good grades.
What is so irrational about believing that hard work should warrant a high grade? I would argue that the very core of the American dream is the sentiment that one can achieve any greatness that he or she aspires to if he or she works hard enough.
When one puts one’s all into a class, it’s not shameful to hope that grades reflect that. The same applies to professionals and their salaries. Instead of psychoanalyzing their students, perhaps these professors should ask themselves this question: If your students are all really this despicable, why are you teaching?
Aimee La Fountain
New York, Feb. 18, 2009
The writer is a senior at Marymount Manhattan College.

Yale Freezes Pay of Faculty Earning > $75k

President Richard C. Levin:

  1. We will reduce 2009‐2010 budgets by an amount equal to 7.5% of the salaries and benefits of all nonfaculty staff, rather than the 5% announced in December. We expect to achieve this reduction largely through attrition in managerial, professional, clerical, technical, service, and maintenance staff, as well as through reduction of casual and temporary employees. To the extent that layoffs are necessary, we will make sure that affected individuals are provided support and guidance.
  2. We will also seek larger reductions in non‐salary expenditures. Instead of a 5% reduction for each of the next two years, we will ask units to budget a 7.5% reduction for 2009‐2010, and continue to plan for an additional 5% reduction the following year.
  3. Faculty, managerial, and professional employees with salaries below $75,000 will continue to be eligible for merit increases of up to 2%. But there will be no increases for those with salaries above $75,000, including all deans, directors, and University officers. Foregoing the increases announced previously will allow us to preserve more staff positions.

Teaching Techno-Writing

A new report calls on English instructors to design a new curriculum and develop new pedagogies — from kindergarten through graduate school — responding to the reality that students mostly “write to the net.”
“Pencils are good; we won’t be abandoning them,” said Kathleen Blake Yancey, author of “Writing in the 21st Century,” a report from the National Council of Teachers of English.”They’re necessary, as a philosopher would put it, but not sufficient to the purpose.”
Yancey, a professor of English at Florida State University and immediate past president of NCTE, described by way of example the case of Tiffany Monk, a Florida teen who, during a flood caused by Tropical Storm Fay, observed that her neighbors were trapped in their homes. She took photos and sent an e-mail to a radio station; help soon arrived.
This was composing in the 21st century. She chose the right technology, she wrote to the right audience,” Yancey said, during a panel presentation at the National Press Club Monday.
Where did Monk learn to do this? Not in school, said Yancey, where “we write on a topic we haven’t necessarily chosen. We write to a teacher; we write for a grade.”
Also on Monday, NCTE announced a National Day of Writing (October 20) and plans to develop a National Gallery of Writing intended to expand conventional notions of composition. Starting this spring, NCTE is inviting anyone and everyone to submit a composition of importance to them, in audio, text or video form; acceptable submissions for the gallery include letters, e-mail or text messages, journal entries, reports, electronic presentations, blog posts, documentary clips, poetry readings, how-to directions, short stories and memos.
Amid all the focus on new platforms for writing, a panelist who made his name as a nonfiction writer in pre-digital days, Gay Talese, made a case for old-fashioned research methods. Research, he said, “means leaving the desk; it means going out and spending lots of time with people [or books? Will F.]…The art of hanging out, I call it.”
“Googling your way through life, acquiring information without getting up, I think that’s dangerous,” Talese said.
“The modality isn’t what’s crucial,” said Kent Williamson, executive director of NCTE. What is, he continued, is “a commitment to the process” and deep engagement with a subject.
— Elizabeth Redden

Complete report [436K PDF]

Lessons in laughter and how to bend the rules at school

Jenny Quinton:

My schooldays were totally great. I went to an all-girls convent and I just remember us all being extremely silly and laughing a lot at the completely stupid things we did.
There were lots of rules so we became extremely creative and were masters at creating totally believable excuses to manoeuvre our way through the system.
Actually, thinking about it I’ve never laughed like we did at school. But it was nice laughter and we never hurt anyone.
My happiest memory was winning a dancing competition.
I’d never won anything in my life before.
My worst memory was sewing the same apron for two years. I had to keep unpicking it and doing it again because it was always so bad. Even today just trying to thread a needle can reduce me to tears.
I went to Lacey Green Primary School in Wilmslow, near Manchester in England.
Well-off children and very poor children were mixed together and I felt very sad for some of them but sometimes made up nasty songs about them with the others.

Home from Home

Yojana Sharma:

It was my son’s decision to board at Eton, even though he already had a scholarship to a prestigious day school,” said Mr Bali, an engineer with his own consultancy firm.
“Our misgivings were emotional rather than academic. We are a close family. We see him every weekend. Pastoral care is an important issue when choosing a boarding school.
“In some schools pastoral care amounts to pampering, which might appeal to mothers but I think it should be balanced. Boys must learn to stand on their own two feet.”
Mr Bali’s son eventually managed to convince him that he should go to Eton but the caring father said parents had to be very careful about which boarding school they picked.
Academic standards had to be on a par with top day schools for boarding to be good value.
He was speaking in the wake of a report that found parents considered boarding schools in Britain to be good value for money despite steep fee rises in recent years.
The first-ever National Parent Survey carried out by Britain’s Boarding Schools Association (BSA) found that almost three quarters of parents who chose boarding education for their children said it was worth it.
But the Good Schools Guide warned that although parents were broadly in favour of boarding, fee levels were now approaching the psychological £10,000 (HK$111,000) a term mark and schools would have to work harder to justify the cost.

Environmentally focused boarding school faces new challenge

Dramatic changes to a 7-year-old environmentally focused North Woods boarding school have alumni up in arms and parents frantic about finding new schools for their children.
Administrators for Conserve School in Land O’Lakes announced in January they were laying off about half the school’s 60-member staff as they begin transitioning to a “semester school” model, where students from other high schools attend for half their junior year.
The blame for the drastic alteration was placed on market conditions that have challenged the future of the young school’s $180 million endowment.
But parents, pointing out that the amount of the endowment puts the 145-student school on a per-pupil par with the likes of prestigious Northeast boarding schools Phillips Exeter Academy and Groton School, question the motives of the Chicago steel executives charged with running Conserve.
“My gut tells me, along with a number of other people, is what they are trying to do is they don’t want to run a school,” said Bill Meier, who has a sophomore son enrolled at Conserve. “It’s a pain in the rear to them.”
Meier and other parents have requested Conserve School trustees and administrators meet with them and a mediator to find a way to continue running it as one of only three boarding schools in the state.
Their efforts might be too late.
Conserve Headmaster Stefan Anderson said the school was not likely to stick with the four-year college preparatory academy model. The school already has contacted 80 other schools about the possibility of taking freshmen and sophomores who cannot stay during Conserve’s transition year, he said.

State by State Summary of Additional Federal Tax Dollar Education Spending

US Department of Education:

These tables (last updated 02/19/2009), in PDF [40KB] and MS Excel [77KB] show preliminary State allocations for Department of Education programs under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Funds under most of these programs can be used over 2 or more fiscal years. Amounts shown on these tables do not include the funds that will be allocated under the annual FY 2009 appropriation.
There are three additional State formula-allocated programs that received funds in the ARRA and will be added to the tables in the near future.
A table estimating State amounts for Federal Pell Grants follows the “Grand Total” table for State allocations from other programs.

Six Reasons You Should Consider Reading Poetry

Ali Hale:

Unless you’re currently in high school or taking an English class in college, chances are that you don’t read much poetry. Maybe you think poetry isn’t for you – it seems boring, unfathomable, too erudite, or pointless.
However, there are loads of great reasons to read poetry. Before you dislike something without trying it, consider some of these:
Poetry is finer and more philosophical than history; for poetry expresses the universal, and history only the particular.
– Aristotle

Beautiful Minds

Joyce Kam:

There is a disconnect between high school and university that often catches out those unprepared for academic rigour. Not any more. Not if you are smart. Hong Kong University of Science and Technology is inviting top high-school students worldwide to spend three weeks on its campus for a crash course interspersed with liberal doses of fun.
Its Talented Youth Summer Program aims to give students a foretaste of university life, cultivating essential university habits such as academic absorption and reflection, as well as insight into what makes the city tick.
“Programs for gifted children are rare in Hong Kong (administrative region, China), so we wanted to launch a pilot scheme since we have the right resources,” said Helen Wong Hom- fong, the program’s associate director. “We welcome students from all disciplines as long as they are willing to be challenged academically.”
The university will, of course, be going all out to make a suitable impression on the bright young minds by relying on its traditional strengths, with Wong saying the program’s main focus will be on the roles of science and technology throughout the history of civilization as they have always been the driving force.
“The curriculum consists of one core course on the main theme and one elective course, in addition to city tours and a talent show,” she said.

The Spiral of Ignorance

The Economist:

Lack of understanding of the credit crunch is magnifying its damage
THE BBC’s “Today” programme is the main current-affairs show on British radio. Last year it recruited a new presenter, Evan Davis, who is also an economist. An amusing pattern has since developed. Quizzed about the credit crunch, a politician delivers some carefully memorised remark about, say, quantitative easing. Then the guest experiences an audible moment of existential horror, as Mr Davis ungallantly presses him for details.
The tide has gone out and, with a very few exceptions, Britain is swimming naked: almost nobody appears to know what he is talking about. The havoc of the financial crisis has stretched and outstripped even most economists. The British political class is befogged. Ordinary people are overwhelmed. And just as the interaction between banking and economic woes is proving poisonous, so the interplay of public and political ignorance is damaging the country’s prospects.
Start with the government, whose ministers are still oscillating between prophesying economic Armageddon and gamely predicting the best of all possible recoveries. Gordon Brown is learned in economic history–indeed, he is at his most animated and endearing when discussing it. But the prime minister’s grip on the history he is living through is less masterful. The government’s implicit strategy is to try something and, when that does not work, try something else: the approach modestly outlined by Barack Obama, but rather less honest.

Class Size in New York City Schools Rises, but the Impact Is Debated

Jennifer Medina:

In many circles, class size is considered as fundamental to education as the three R’s, with numbers watched so carefully that even a tiny increase can provoke outrage among parents, teachers and political leaders. Alarms went off in New York and California last week, as officials on both coasts warned that yawning budget gaps could soon mean more children in each classroom.
But while state legislatures for decades have passed laws — and provided millions of dollars — to cap the size of classes, some academic researchers and education leaders say that small reductions in the number of students in a room often have little effect on their performance.
At recent legislative hearings on whether to renew mayoral control of the New York City schools, lawmakers and parents alike have asked, again and again, why Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Chancellor Joel I. Klein have not done more to reduce class size. On Tuesday, the Education Department issued a report that found the average number of children per class increased in nearly every grade this school year.
“If you’re going to spend an extra dollar, personally, I would always rather spend it on the people that deliver the service,” Mr. Bloomberg said when asked about the report on Thursday, calling class size “an interesting number.”

The Big Test Before College? The Financial Aid Form

Tamar Lewin:

Most everyone agrees that something is very wrong with the six-page federal form for families seeking help with college costs.
Created in 1992 to simplify applying for financial aid, it has become so intimidating — with more than 100 questions — that critics say it scares off the very families most in need, preventing some teenagers from going to college.
Then, too, some families have begun paying for professional help with the form, known as the Fafsa,a situation that experts say indicates just how far awry the whole process has gone.
“We’re getting thousands of calls a day,” said Craig V. Carroll, chief executive of Student Financial Aid Services Inc., whose charges $80 to $100 to fill out the form. “Our calls for the month of January are up about 35 percent from last year. There’s been a huge increase in the desperation of families.”

Kung fu school hopes to boom in tough times

Celine Sun:

A local kung fu school hopes to cash in on the financial crisis, with more people expected to attend courses to tone up their bodies and get rid of negative emotions.
The Hong Kong Shaolin Wushu Culture Centre in Tai O, Lantau Island, has seen a rise in visitor numbers over the past few months, its low season, and has already received bookings for the summer holidays.
Lee Kok-keung, director of the Hong Kong Culture Association, which established the centre in 2006, said the increased interest could have something to do with the economic downturn.
“When the economy is good, people are so busy trading stocks and making money,” he said. “But when the economy is going down, people tend to pay more attention to their health.
“Practising kung fu is not only good for the body, but also an ideal way to cheer you up.”

Former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk says Texas should assess school district governance

Gromer Jeffers, Jr.:

Former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk said today that Texas should take an “honest assessment” on how public schools are governed, even if it means dismantling elected school boards that he says lack financial and technical skills needed to oversee problematic urban districts.
The Dallas Morning News reported Sunday that Leppert has talked to a state senator and business leader about giving the mayor some control — or total control — of the school district.
“Good for the mayor,” Kirk said. “I understand his frustration. A mayor spends half his time talking about the state of public schools. … Whether there’s a legal nexus or not, people look toward the mayor for help.”
In 1999, when Kirk was mayor, he asked the entire DISD Board of Trustees to resign.
That didn’t happen, but the Citizens Council began recruiting young leaders like Rafael Anchia, now a state representative, to serve on the board.

University of Maryland System Tries to Cut Textbook Costs

Susan Kinzie:

As part of an effort to make college more affordable, higher-education leaders in Maryland are trying to keep textbook prices down.
The Board of Regents of the University System of Maryland unanimously approved guidelines Friday to make it easier for students to search for cheaper books.
“This is a real victory for students,” said Josh Michael, a junior at the University of Maryland Baltimore County and a student regent.
When Michael started college, he said, he spent almost $500 on books for his first four courses. He bought everything his professors suggested, then discovered as the semester went on that he didn’t really need extra Spanish workbooks and study guides.
Textbook prices have risen far more quickly than inflation. One reason, according to a U.S. Government Accountability Office study conducted several years ago, is that they often come with lots of extras, such as CDs. Publishers say such features help students learn, but they often go unused.

Madison Kindergarten Registration Begins Monday

The Capital Times:

Parents, it’s time for your pre-schoolers to begin becoming schoolers.
Kindergarten registration is set for Monday, March 2, from 1-6 p.m. at all Madison Metropolitan School District elementary schools.
Parents or guardians should register their child at the school he or she will attend. To be eligible for kindergarten, a child must be five years old by Sept. 1, 2009.
When registering, show proof of age for the child (birth certificate, baptismal record, medical assistance card), proof of residency (utility bill, lease, mortgage) and an immunization record.

Bethel Lutheran Church looks at opening a downtown school

Samara Kalk Derby:

Developer Randy Alexander has been a member of Bethel Lutheran Church [Map] downtown for eight years. He grew up with a strong faith-based culture and says having a moral compass is critical for raising children.
“And where better to do that than in a Christian school?” he asked.
That’s a big part of why Alexander is part of a church committee to study the market feasibility of a kindergarten through fifth-grade school at the downtown church, 312 Wisconsin Ave. [Map] It’s familiar territory for Alexander, whose Alexander Co. specializes in urban infill projects. It recently developed the Capitol West condominiums downtown and is building the Novation Campus business park in Fitchburg.
If Bethel decides to go ahead and start a school, it would become one of about 30 private elementary schools in the Madison area, most of them religiously affiliated.
Matthew Kussow, executive director of the Wisconsin Council of Religious and Independent Schools, said the dismal economy is an obstacle for anyone looking to start a school now. Overall, state private school enrollment for the 2008-09 school year saw a slight decline, he said.
“We are sort of bracing ourselves for a steeper decline for 2009-2010 as the full effects of this economy are being felt,” Kussow said, adding that he won’t know specifically until the spring how many kids are re-enrolling in non-public schools. There are about 900 of them in the state, and they historically enroll about 10 percent of the total student body.
But Kussow also said that in general, private religious schools have a built-in following. So if Bethel identifies a need and believes it can get enough kids to start the school, in the long run, a church school is usually very successful, he said.

More choices are a good thing.

Reforming Primary Education in the UK

The Economist:

IKE buses, not just one but two reviews of primary education in Britain are arriving at the same time. Their titles may be similar but they could hardly differ more.
The Cambridge Primary Review was independently conceived and financed, has been years in the planning and execution, and draws on international evidence and scores of experts. Its final conclusions, due later this year, will synthesise 30 research surveys on all aspects of primary education. The Primary Curriculum Review, by contrast, was commissioned and paid for by the government and is the sole work of a serial government-report writer, Sir Jim Rose. He was asked to look at only the curriculum–not standards, testing or funding–and within that limited remit he was constrained by a tight brief and heavy hints as to the desired conclusions.
On February 20th the Cambridge-led team abandoned their publishing schedule and released the part of their final report that looks at the curriculum. It hopes, somewhat forlornly, to influence government policy. That seems unlikely. The official curriculum agency is already far advanced in creating teaching material along the lines Sir Jim recommends–even though only his interim report has appeared, and that is supposed to be open for consultation until February 28th.

Parents can fight ‘sexting’ stupidity

Laurel Walker:

Is there a difference between a stupid teen trick – passing around a girl’s naked picture she’d earlier provided her now-ex-boyfriend – and child molestation?
Without a doubt.
Is there a difference even between that stupid teen behavior and being a teenager who threatens to use naked pictures obtained under a ruse as ammo for extorting sex?
Of course.
But under state law, all of them could become convicted felons who land on the state’s registry of sex offenders, leaving little distance between them. They would, most likely, be vilified and haunted by the label for decades, if not life, and increasingly told by communities where they can and cannot live.
Dangerous, devious sex offenders who are a risk to public safety deserve it.
Teens with unbelievably cavalier attitudes about sexual limits, to the point of stupidity, do not.
Parents, educators, communities and – we can only hope – kids have had their eyes opened by recent, revolting revelations.
The earlier case, as described in criminal charges, involved since-expelled New Berlin Eisenhower student Anthony Stancl, 18, who, pretending to be a girl on Facebook, got at least 31 boys to send him pictures of themselves naked. Threatening to circulate the pictures to schoolmates, he coerced at least seven of them into sex acts.

Banging on the PK-16 Pipeline

Jay Matthews:

Why am I so ill-tempered when I read a sensible report like “Bridging the Gap: How to Strengthen the Pk-16 Pipeline to Improve College Readiness”?
The authors, Ulrich Boser and Stephen Burd, know their stuff. The sponsoring organization, New America Foundation, has a great reputation. (Bias alert: It also employs one of my sons as a senior fellow, but he does California politics and direct democracy, not national education policy.)
My problem is that smart and industrious experts like Boser and Burd often unearth startling facts but don’t follow through. “Bridging the Gap,” available at, details the large percentage of first-year college students in remedial courses and the duplication in federal college preparation programs. This is interesting information of which few people are aware.
But their recommendations follow the standard line: Let’s have more meetings and spend more money. Example: “We recommend that the federal government provide states with incentives to come together and adopt national college and work-readiness standards in math, science and the language arts.”
Or: “The federal government should work directly with states to foster partnerships between high schools and postsecondary institutions to smooth the transition between high school and college.”
You might think that sounds reasonable. I think it misses an opportunity. Why not harness the energy and ambition of a new president to shake things up?
The Obama administration doesn’t have much money to spend getting more students ready for college. The Education Department’s $100 billion in stimulus funds will mostly go to less sophisticated projects that create jobs fast.

On Changes in the Washington DC School District’s Governance

Bill Turque:

Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee says the District is no longer exploring the idea of seeking federal legislation declaring the school system in a “state of emergency,” a move that would have freed it from the obligation to bargain with the Washington Teachers’ Union.
In a recent radio interview, Rhee said that the initiative, patterned after a state takeover of schools in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, was never seriously considered.
The proposal appeared in a statement drafted for a Sept. 22 news conference at which Rhee and Mayor Adrian M. Fenty were scheduled to present a series of steps to rid the District of teachers deemed ineffective. The steps, dubbed “Plan B,” were based on existing powers the chancellor possessed and fell outside the legal scope of contract negotiations.

Life After Algebra II

Michael Alison Chandler:

As the school year speeds by, rising seniors at Fairfax High are already meeting with their teachers and guidance counselors to decide which classes they should take next year. Up until this point, the math sequence is spelled out — Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II. After this point, there are plenty of options.
Here are the math classes students in a non-honors Algebra II class can choose from:
Trigonometry (Semester Course)
Probability and Statistics (Semester Course)
Discrete Math (Semester Course)
Pre Calculus with Trigonometry
AP Statistics
AP Computer Science
If they are not pursuing an advanced diploma, they can also choose to take no math class their senior year. That’s an option a few students I talked to this week planned to take. Others were aiming for pre-calculus, which will put them on track to take Calculus in college. Others were talking about a combination of the semester-long courses.

Less money, but more student demand, for technical colleges

Deborah Ziff:

State technical college officials say it will be difficult to respond to the heightened needs of laid-off workers given a cut in funding in Gov. Jim Doyle’s proposed budget.
Doyle’s budget would eliminate $4 million from state technical colleges over the next two years and would bump up student financial aid only slightly.
The colleges, a main resource for people seeking new job skills, also likely will need to return at least $1.8 million to the state’s main account this spring under a budget repair bill.
“This is not a pretty picture at a time when the state really needs its technical colleges and we have so much demand,” said Paul Gabriel, executive director of the Wisconsin Technical College District Boards Association.
While University of Wisconsin students would get at least $36 million more in financial aid under Doyle’s budget, the increase in aid to state technical college students would be about $1 million, or less than one percent.
“It’s fair to say we were extremely disappointed that there are significant new financial aid resources in the state budget, but not for the most part targeted at technical college students,” Gabriel said.
Some laid-off workers can get free tuition under federal benefits, and Doyle’s budget includes at least $1 million in grants to help retrain workers.

On the Splurge: Clinton: China Must Continue to Invest in U.S. Bonds

Glenn Kessler:

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Sunday urged China to keep investing its substantial foreign-exchange reserves in U.S. Treasury securities, arguing “we are truly going to rise or fall together.”
China is the biggest foreign holder of U.S. debt, which helped finance the spending binge the United States went on before the current economic crisis. Some experts have expressed concern that China’s substantial holding of U.S. debt gives it increased leverage in dealings with Washington because any halt in Chinese purchases would make it more difficult to finance the government bailout and stimulus packages.
Clinton, in unusually direct comments on an interview with China’s Dragon TV before returning to Washington, said that reality made it an imperative for China to keep purchasing U.S. Treasury bonds, because otherwise the U.S. economy will not recover and China will suffer as well.
“Our economies are so intertwined,” she said. “The Chinese know that in order to start exporting again to its biggest market . . . the United States has to take some drastic measures with the stimulus package. We have to incur more debt.”

It will be interesting to see how splurge/stimulus money is spent by local school districts. Perhaps we should spend more time on Mandarin?

Judy Kujoth: Dual-language middle school needs flexibility of a charter

Judy Kujoth, via a kind reader’s email:

In the spring of 2010, nearly 50 children will comprise the first graduating class of the Nuestro Mundo Community School on Madison’s East Side.
I am the proud parent of a daughter who will be among them.
My husband and I have spent the past five years marveling as she has acquired a second language, conquered challenging curricula and embraced friends from a variety of races and ethnicities. We eagerly anticipate the years to come as her love for languages and diversity continue to blossom.
But like many other parents, we are very worried about what the next stage of her academic journey will look like.
Nuestro Mundo is a charter school that has applied innovative teaching practices within a dual-language immersion framework. It is in its fifth year of offering elementary school students a dual-immersion curriculum in Spanish and English.
Kindergartners enter Nuestro Mundo as either native Spanish or native English speakers. By fifth grade, the goal is for all students to be proficient in both languages and at least on par, academically, with their peers at other schools. The skills they have cultivated need to continue being nurtured.

Unfortunately, charter schools and the Madison School District have mostly been “oil & water”. A few years ago, a group of parents & citizens tried to start an arts oriented charter – The Studio School. Read more here.
Every organization has its challenges and charters are certainly not perfect. However, it is more likely that Madison will see K-12 innovation with a diffused governance model, than if we continue the current very top down approach and move toward one size fits all curriculum. It will be interesting to see what the recent open enrollment numbers look like for Madison. Finally, a Chicago teacher on “magnet schools“.


6,473 Texts a Month, But at What Cost? Constant Cellphone Messaging Keeps Kids Connected, Parents Concerned

Donna St. George:

Julie Zingeser texts at home, at school, in the car while her mother is driving. She texts during homework, after pompon practice and as she walks the family dog. She takes her cellphone with her to bed.
Every so often, the hum of a new message rouses the Rockville teen from sleep. “I would die without it,” Julie, 15, says of her text life.
This does not surprise her mother, Pam, who on one recent afternoon scans the phone bill for the eye-popping number that puts an exclamation point on how growing up has changed in the digital age. In one busy month, Pam finds, her youngest daughter sent and received 6,473 text messages.
For Pam Zingeser, the big issue is not cost — it’s $30 a month for the family’s unlimited texting plan — but the effects of so much messaging. Pam wonders: What will this generation learn and what will they lose in the relentless stream of sentence fragments, abbreviations and emoticons? “Life’s issues are not always settled in sound bites,” Pam says.

Does state ask less of schools? Report says Wisconsin has laxer education standards than other states

Alan Borsuk:

Attention, school officials around the country: If your school is having trouble meeting standards for adequate progress, consider moving the whole operation to Wisconsin.
That was the implication of a study released this week comparing the way 28 states treat the same performance results from schools. More of the 36 schools in the study would be rated as making “adequate yearly progress” in Wisconsin than in any other state. Two schools in the study would be regarded as making adequate progress only in Wisconsin, the report says.
“Although schools are being told that they need to improve student achievement in order to make AYP under the law, the truth is that many would fare better if they just moved across state lines,” the report says.
And Wisconsin would be the place to go.
The report, titled “The Accountability Illusion,” was issued by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, an education think tank generally regarded as right of center. The foundation supports having national standards for accountability that are consistent from state to state and said the results of the study show the wide variation in how demanding states are when it comes to school quality.

A New Day for School Reform

New York Times Editorial:

Congress took a potentially transformative step when it devoted $100 billion in the stimulus package to education. Carefully targeted, this money could revive the reform efforts that began promisingly with President Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act of 2002 — but later languished when his administration buckled under to political pressures from state officials.
Arne Duncan, the new education secretary, will need to resist those pressures. The Bush administration allowed states to phony-up statistics on everything from graduation rates to student achievement to teacher training and state education standards. As a result, the country has yet to reach not only the goals that were clearly laid out in the law but also farsighted education reforms dating to the mid-1990s.
The stimulus package, including a $54 billion “stabilization” fund to protect schools against layoffs and budget cuts, is rightly framed to encourage compliance. States will need to create data collection systems that should ideally show how children perform year to year as well as how teachers affect student performance over time. States will also be required to improve academic standards as well as the notoriously weak tests now used to measure achievement — replacing, for instance, the pervasive fill-in-the-bubble tests with advanced assessments that better measure writing and thinking.

Protecting kids from harassment in cyberspace

The Economist:

THE wireless network at Mayhem Manor spreads from the router in the workroom to the living area of the one-storey hillside dwelling, but not as far as the bedrooms. And that’s important.
Your correspondent has often been tempted to upgrade his WiFi router with the latest 802.11n technology–as much for the increased range as for the four-fold boost in speed. Being eight time-zones behind many of his colleagues, he often checks e-mail in the middle of the night. His trusty little Hewlett-Packard palmtop computer, with its Cisco wireless card, would slip easily under the pillow.
But he’s resisted boosting Mayhem Manor’s wireless signal for several reasons. First, while it would quicken transfers between computers in the house, the internet connection would be no faster. Its speed is governed by the pathetic dribble of a broadband connection that’s 15,000 feet from the nearest telephone exchange in the village below.
The other reason for not upgrading is that he would prefer his tweenage daughter to do all her web surfing, e-mailing, online gaming and social networking not from the privacy of a bedroom, but from a common area of the house where an adult is invariably present.

Two Teachers, 16,000 Students, One Simple Rule

Richard Kahlenberg:

Jay Mathews is a bit of a journalistic oddball. Most reporters see the education beat as a stepping stone to bigger things, but much to his credit Mathews, who writes for The Washington Post, returned to covering schools after an international reporting career. He is best known for his book on Jaime Escalante, who taught low-income children in East Los Angeles to excel in AP calculus and was featured in the film “Stand and Deliver.” Now Mathews is back to profile two young teachers — Mike Feinberg and Dave Levin — who founded the wildly successful Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP), a chain of 66 charter schools now educating 16,000 low-income students in 19 states and the District of Columbia.
While I have some quarrels with the book’s implicit and explicit public-policy conclusions, “Work Hard. Be Nice” provides a fast-paced, engrossing and heartening story of two phenomenally dedicated teachers who demonstrate that low-income students, if given the right environment, can thrive academically. In 52 short and easily digestible chapters, Mathews traces the story of two Ivy League graduates who began teaching in Houston in 1992 as part of the Teach for America program. Both struggle at first but come under the tutelage of an experienced educator, Harriett Ball, who employs chants and songs and tough love to reach students whom lesser teachers might give up on. Levin and Feinberg care deeply: They encourage students to call them in the evening for help with homework, visit student homes to get parents on their side and dig into their own pockets to buy alarm clocks to help students get to school on time. In Mathews’s telling, it’s hard not to love these guys.

Properly Erase Your Physical Media

Jason Fitzpatrick:

A whopping 40% of the used hard drives on eBay contain easily recoverable personal data. Use the following guide to ensure your personal data never makes it out into the wild. Photo by AMagill.
Kessler International, a computer forensics company from New York, conducted a study of used hard drives available on eBay. Almost half of the hundred drives they sampled, purchased in random bulk lots, contained data that was easily recovered. A shocking amount of them required no more recovery effort than plugging them in and powering up. They found personal photos, financial records, emails, personal and corporate correspondence, corporate secrets, and more:

NYU Students Protest, Seek University Financial Transparency

Sean Hennessey:

Dozens of students who barricaded themselves inside a New York University cafeteria have rejected the possibility of leaving the building as negotiations with school officials continue into Friday morning.
Members of the coalition Take Back NYU! have been occupying the cafeteria of the Helen & Martin Kimmel Center for University Life for more than 24 hours.
A spokeswoman for the students said that NYU told them that they could face expulsion or arrest if they didn’t leave the building by 1 a.m. Friday.
A crowd outside the building scuffled with police officers about a half hour after the deadline.
The students are calling for a series of changes, including increased transparency of the school’s finances. They want full budget and endowment disclosure, affordable education, and increased student participation in the university’s operation.

Frist launches K-12 education initiative

Lucas Johnson II:

Former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist today launched a grassroots initiative aimed at reforming K-12 education in Tennessee, saying he hopes to ensure that “every child graduates from high school prepared for college or a career.”
Gov. Phil Bredesen, a Democrat, was among those who joined the Tennessee Republican in announcing the Tennessee State Collaborative on Reforming Education at Fall Hamilton Elementary School in Nashville.
Frist said the “citizen-led” initiative will have three main components, including a steering committee that will hold 10 public meetings and ultimately produce a strategic plan for state education reform.
Frist, who announced last month that he won’t be running for governor in 2010, said the committee will be composed of education, community, political and business leaders from across the state. He said the idea is to find what education practices are effective and build upon them.

What’s the problem at the Milwaukee Public Schools?

Daniel Slapczynski:

I am not a liberal, but I’m starting to think that decades of tinkering with MPS just may be a smokescreen to ignore the real problems with the system: that in the end, our schools do nothing more than reflect the nature of the city itself.
We’ve spent generations pretending that isn’t the case. I graduated from Pulaski High School just in time to have Howard Fuller present me my diploma. You remember Fuller, right? He was the man who was going to reinvigorate the “troubled” school system and bring hope to Milwaukee.
I walked across that stage in 1992. Exactly what has changed since then? Sure, it’s not all bad. Some schools have high attendance, great parental participation and students who perform well.
But that just bolsters my point. If MPS as an entity was the problem, wouldn’t all schools fail? Wouldn’t all students have to exert an incredible amount of self-determination and willpower just to succeed academically?
Some people, such as School Board member Terry Falk, continue to believe that fiddling is best. Falk’s latest theoretical fix? Potentially scrapping K-8 schools – themselves a recent idea – in favor of grades 6-12 facilities.
Enough already. The fault lines seem clear. MPS is operating in a city with dire problems, where some geographic areas continue to prosper while others operate in a climate of poverty and crime. School performance appears often to follow those socioeconomic trends.
For the record, I’m not excusing the poor performance of students who should realize that education is a path to greater prosperity. And I don’t have any bright solutions either. Except one: If we’re going to keep the questionable practice of throwing money at the problem, quit wasting it on the wrong problem.

Get Lit Players bring poetry’s emotions to other L.A. teenagers

Scott Gold:

For as long as he can remember, Dario Serrano’s life was all screeching tires and echoing gunshots, babies’ cries and barking dogs, a symphony, as he puts it, of “hood rats and gangsters,” of “vatos and payasos” — dudes and numskulls, loosely translated.
By high school, he’d pretty much given up on himself. He bounced around between three schools. He started selling pot, though he always seemed to smoke more than he sold. His GPA fell to 0.67, which is about as bad as you can get and still be showing up.
Literature, it is fair to say, was not resonating. “I mean, ‘The Great Gatsby’?” he says incredulously, and when he puts it like that, Lincoln Heights does feel pretty far from Long Island.
When a friend suggested that poetry might be his thing, Serrano scoffed. Grudgingly, he started tagging along to a poetry club, and one day last year he took his lunch break in a classroom where a teen troupe called Get Lit was holding auditions.
Get Lit’s artistic director, an African American artist named Azure Antoinette, performed an original composition called “Box,” a denunciation of anyone who would define her by the color of her skin, who would lump together, thoughtlessly, faces of color:

Omega School offers a chance to earn GED

Pamela Cotant:

When her daughter started talking about not going to college, Maria Victoria Natera knew what she needed to do.
Natera, 40, said she realized not only did she need to earn her general education development credential, or GED, but also go on to college.
“That really bothered me,” Natera said. “I want more for my kids than I had … I need to set an example.”
• School Scrapbook
Natera took the first step when she received the credential — an accomplishment that was acknowledged at the recent winter commencement ceremony held by Omega School. The event recognized the 32 students who earned either a GED or a high school equivalency diploma.
Omega School, 835 W. Badger Road, prepares students for taking the required tests for the two programs. Many students who come to Omega have tried a number of other ways to get a high school diploma. The age of the students at Omega varies and some are high school age but have not earned enough credits to graduate on time.
“Sometimes they have to try things and have them not work for them to have success here,” said Oscar Mireles, Omega executive director. “They have to believe we are in a position to help them.”

Dane County Transition School Pay it Forward Campaign 2/23/2009

via a Judy Reed email:

On behalf of all of us at Dane County Transition School (DCTS), I would like to take this opportunity to personally invite you to attend the launch of the DCTS Pay It Forward campaign on February 23, 2009 at 10am at the Villager Mall, 2234C South Park Street. Steve Goldberg from CUNA Mutual Group, students from DCTS, VISTA’s Dustin Young and Dean Veneman from the Alexander Foundation will each speak at the Pay If Forward launch.
The Pay It Forward Initiative is a national movement with a very simple concept: do one kind deed for three people and ask each of those people to Pay It Forward by doing another kind deed for three other individuals. Simple. DCTS believes we can make the world a better place one kind deed at a time and the more people who believe, the larger difference we can make.
DCTS would like to celebrate with all of the Partners who believe in the concept of Pay It Forward and in promoting this altruistic effort. (See attached banner for detail listing of over 80 Partners) Imagine all those kind acts and smiles that will begin right here in the Villager Mall.
DCTS has always been a school that believes in the promise of each individual and in the power of good deeds, which is why DCTS is formally launching this Pay It Forward campaign. We truly hope that you can join us for this unique event!
Judy Reed, Principal
Dane County Transition School – 2326 South Park Street – Madison, WI
(608) 698-6321 –

Translating eduspeak

The Economist:

IF YOU know what deep learning and functional skills are, then you are already on the way to understanding eduspeak. But there are other terms that must be grasped to attain an A* in the subject.
Satisfactory. One of the four possible judgments of the schools inspectorate (the other three are inadequate, good and outstanding). It means “unsatisfactory”. (“Inadequate” for its part means “dire”.) This explains the chief schools inspector’s pronouncement that satisfactory schools are “not good enough”.
Excellence and enjoyment are mutually exclusive. The first is used for what matters (literacy and numeracy), the second for what does not (everything else). “Enjoying reading” and “excelling in music” are howlers in eduspeak.
Non-statutory depends on context. It can mean “optional”, but in the National Primary Strategy, a set of “guidelines” on teaching literacy and numeracy, it means “obligatory”–unless a school wants to risk being deemed “satisfactory”.
Gifted and talented refer to the top 5-10% in academic and non-academic pursuits respectively, who are to be encouraged in their gifts and talents. The terms are necessary as a sop to middle-class parents concerned that their children are not being stretched enough. To deflect the charge of elitism, levelled by many teachers, the categories have proliferated to include the capacity to “make sound judgments”, to show “great sensitivity or empathy” or to be “fascinated by a particular subject”.

Education commissioner orders Providence schools to end Teacher seniority bumping

Linda Borg:

Education Commissioner Peter McWalters has ordered the city schools to begin filling teacher vacancies based on qualifications rather than seniority, an order that could fly in the face of the teachers’ contract.
McWalters, in a no-nonsense letter yesterday to Supt. Tom Brady, said the district hasn’t been moving fast enough to improve student achievement and that it was time to intervene in a much more aggressive fashion.
The order should come as no surprise to the district. Over the last two years the commissioner has issued a series of “corrective action” orders that spelled out what the district needed to do to improve student performance.
“This is intervention,” McWalters said yesterday. “Every state gets to the point when it’s time to stop suggesting. The district can’t come back and tell me they can’t get it done.”
McWalters said that seniority can no longer be the way that teachers are assigned and vacancies are filled. Starting this fall, teachers at six Providence schools, including the new career and technical high school and the new East Side middle school, will be assigned based on whether they have the skills needed to serve students at those particular schools.

Chamber: Teacher quality key in improving schools

Nashville Business Journal:

The Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce released its 16th annual education report card Thursday, saying teacher quality is one of the most important factors in raising student achievement.
The chamber brings together business people and citizens each year to assess the school system.
Metro schools has missed the required No Child Left Behind benchmarks five times in the past six years. That moved the school system into “restructuring” from “corrective action” under the federal act, one year away from a possible state takeover.
The Education Report Card Committee said it was encouraged to see Metro offering a modest incentive pay plan to help recruit teachers in hard-to-staff subjects, as well as Mayor Karl Dean’s recruitment of two national nonprofits, The New Teacher Project and Teach for America, to bring new talent into the classrooms.
While there were some improvements in 2008, the committee said the city cannot have another year of waiting for a common vision for the standards the schools want to reach.
The chambers recommendations include:

A handwaving approach to arithmetic

The Economist:

HUMAN language is the subject of endless scientific investigation, but the gestures that accompany speech are a surprisingly neglected area. It is sometimes jokingly said that the way to render an Italian speechless is to tie his wrists together, but almost everyone moves their hands in meaningful ways when they talk. Susan Goldin-Meadow of the University of Chicago, however, studies gestures carefully–and not out of idle curiosity. Introspection suggests that gesturing not only helps people communicate but also helps them to think. She set out to test this, and specifically to find out whether gestures might be used as an aid to children’s learning. It turns out, as she told the AAAS, that they can.
The experiment she conducted involved balancing equations. Presented with an equation of the form 2 + 3 + 4 = x + 4, written on a blackboard, a child is asked to calculate the value of x. In the equations Dr Goldin-Meadow always made the last number on the left the same as the last on the right; so x was the sum of the first two numbers. Commonly, however, children who are learning arithmetic will add all three of the numbers on the left to arrive at the value of x.

A Fitness Gap in Austin Schools?

Molly Bloom:

Austin students from poor families tend to be less physically fit than students from wealthier families, an American-Statesman analysis of school district data shows. And Hispanic students tend to be less physically fit than students of other races.
A 2007 state law required all school districts to give students standardized fitness evaluations measuring height-weight proportionality, cardiovascular capacity, strength and flexibility. The first evaluations were given to students in the 2007-08 school year.
Austin’s trend mirrors statewide results and national studies that show higher rates of physical inactivity and obesity among Hispanic and poor adults and children put them at higher risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, joint and bone disease, and other health problems.
Regardless of fitness trends among various demographic groups in Austin, “what’s really striking is the absolute level of poor fitness across the board in general,” said Dr. Aliya Hussaini , a health program grant officer at the Dell Family Foundation, which has invested $85 million in childhood health issues in Texas, including support for health and fitness programs at 97 Travis County public elementary schools.

The Accountability Illusion: No Child Standards Vary Widely From State To State

The Thomas Fordham Institute:

This study examines the No Child Left Behind Act system and Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) rules for 28 states. We selected 36 real schools (half elementary, half middle) that vary by size, achievement, diversity, etc. and determined which of them would or would not make AYP when evaluated under each state’s accountability rules. If a school that made AYP in Washington were relocated to Wisconsin or Ohio, would that same school make AYP there? Based on this analysis, we can see how AYP varies across the country and evaluate the effectiveness of NCLB.

Wisconsin report [259K PDF]:

More schools make AYP in 2008 under Wisconsin’s accountability system than in any other state in our sample. This is likely due to the fact that Wisconsin’s proficiency standards (or cut scores) are relatively easy compared to other states (all of them are below the 30th percentile). Second, Wisconsin’s minimum subgroup size for students with disabilities is 50, which is a bit larger than most other states (the size for their other subgroups is comparable to other states’). This means that Wisconsin schools must have more students with disabilities in order for that group to be held separately accountable. Third, Wisconsin’s 99 percent confidence interval provides schools with greater leniency than the more commonly used 95 percent confidence interval. Last, unlike most states, Wisconsin measures its student performance with a proficiency index, which gives partial credit for students achieving “partial proficiency.” All of these factors work together so that 17 out of 18 elementary schools make AYP in Wisconsin, more than any other state in the study.


Some schools deemed to be failing in one state would get passing grades in another under the No Child Left Behind law, a national study found.
The study underscores wide variation in academic standards from state to state. It was to be issued today by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, which conducted the study with the Kingsbury Center at the Northwest Evaluation Association.
The study comes as the Obama administration indicates it will encourage states to adopt common standards, an often controversial issue on which previous presidents have trod lightly.
“I know that talking about standards can make people nervous,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said recently.
“But the notion that we have 50 different goal posts doesn’t make sense,” Duncan said. “A high school diploma needs to mean something, no matter where it’s from.”
Every state, he said, needs standards that make kids college- and career-ready and are benchmarked against international standards.
The Fordham study measured test scores of 36 elementary and middle schools against accountability rules in 28 states.

You’ve Raised the Children; Time for a Job?

Neal Templin:

I had a working mom, so I assumed my wife would be one, too. Clarissa Acuña, the woman I married, also planned on having a career of her own.
But we were both wrong. Clarissa hasn’t worked since the summer of 1991, shortly before she had delivered our third child.
At the time, it no longer made sense financially for her to work. After paying taxes on her wages and child care for three children, we wouldn’t have come out ahead.
[Cheapskate] Getty Images
But over the years, that fateful decision has locked us into two different roles. I work and earn. She takes care of the kids.
Having a stay-at-home wife has given me enormous career flexibility. Unlike some of my colleagues, I’ve never missed days because of a sick child. I’ve been able to work late when needed, travel whenever I wanted for stories, and move around the country for better jobs.
That’s the upside. There are also big downsides. There’s good reason to believe that Clarissa, who is bilingual and has a marketing degree, would have been successful in a multitude of careers. She never got the chance.
And as the kids grew older, living on one salary was a squeeze financially. I come from a long line of cheapskates. But I’ve been made cheaper because it was tough supporting three kids — particularly putting the eldest two through college — on one salary.
Periodically, I bring up the subject of Clarissa rejoining the work force. It’s not so much the extra money, though I do worry about our household being completely dependent on one wage earner in a contracting economy. Mostly, I just think she’s ready for something new, and she’s very talented.

Notes on the Evers / Fernandez Wisconsin DPI Superintendent Race

John Nichols:

Fernandez cleaned up in traditionally Republican (but trending Democratic) Waukesha County, where she won 52 percent of the vote, to just 23 percent for Evers. It was roughly the same split in Washington County. Fernandez even beat Mobley in the other conservative’s home county of Ozaukee. Even in more Democratic Racine County, Fernandez won 40 percent to just 26 percent for Evers.
Where did Evers do well? Dane County, where the deputy superintendent won more than 50 percent to a mere 20 percent for Fernandez. Of Evers’ 9,905 vote lead statewide, 7,351 votes came from Madison and surrounding communities. Evers won very big in the city of Madison, where Progressive Dane-backed candidate Price actually beat Fernandez (and came close to the frontrunner) in some isthmus wards.
What’s the bottom line: Fernandez has proven herself. She is going to be a serious contender, and if she gets some national conservative money — perhaps shifting from the Supreme Court race — she could beat Evers.
Of course, in a higher-turnout, bigger-spending race, a lot can change. And Evers will have plenty of union backing. But this is going to be a hot contest right up until April 7. And that could have consequences for the court race; if Fernandez turns out conservatives in big numbers, that could help Koschnick.

Readers may find the 2005 DPI race worth revisiting. Audio & video here.

Student Expectations Seen as Causing Grade Disputes

Max Roosevelt:

Prof. Marshall Grossman has come to expect complaints whenever he returns graded papers in his English classes at the University of Maryland.
Prof. Ellen Greenberger studied what she found to be an increased sense of entitlement among college students.
“Many students come in with the conviction that they’ve worked hard and deserve a higher mark,” Professor Grossman said. “Some assert that they have never gotten a grade as low as this before.”
He attributes those complaints to his students’ sense of entitlement.
“I tell my classes that if they just do what they are supposed to do and meet the standard requirements, that they will earn a C,” he said. “That is the default grade. They see the default grade as an A.”
A recent study by researchers at the University of California, Irvine, found that a third of students surveyed said that they expected B’s just for attending lectures, and 40 percent said they deserved a B for completing the required reading.
“I noticed an increased sense of entitlement in my students and wanted to discover what was causing it,” said Ellen Greenberger, the lead author of the study, called “Self-Entitled College Students: Contributions of Personality, Parenting, and Motivational Factors,” which appeared last year in The Journal of Youth and Adolescence.
Professor Greenberger said that the sense of entitlement could be related to increased parental pressure, competition among peers and family members and a heightened sense of achievement anxiety. Gives Everyone a Say About College Picks

Walter Mossberg:

Research on choosing colleges takes many forms, including visiting campuses and studying the schools’ Web sites. But for a lot of high-school students and their parents, finding a centralized resource containing information about numerous schools still means buying one of the thick, costly printed guides to college that have been around for years. The Web versions of these books are surprisingly dry.
But there’s a new, free Web site that, while overseen by paid editors, is built on lively content submitted by current students at the colleges. The information isn’t just words and numbers, but includes numerous photos and videos for most schools. You also can create a small social network of people interested in the same schools or who share other common traits.
In other words, this is a college-information resource built for the age of YouTube and Facebook.
The site,, costs nothing to use and supports itself with ads. Although it’s only a few months old, it already covers about 250 colleges and universities, and claims to average dozens of student-created reviews, photos and videos for each college. Its sophisticated search engine lets applicants comb all this material to find just what applies to them. For example, Unigo would let you see all content relevant to an Asian-American female applicant with conservative political views.

Don’t Show & Don’t Tell

It is an actual true fact that many if not most educators in our high schools do not allow students in general to see the exemplary academic work of their peers in their own school. (Academic work in this case does not include dance, drama, newspaper, music, band, yearbook, etc.).
The feeling seems to be that if students are exposed to this good work they will be surprised, envious, discouraged, intimidated, and more likely just to give up and stop trying to do good academic work themselves.
For these reasons, it is another actual true fact that many history and social studies teachers at the high school level have taken care not to let their students see the exemplary history research papers published in The Concord Review over the last twenty years, for many of the same reasons, including a general desire to protect their students from the dangerous and damaging effects of academic competition, which are believed to have the same risk of producing those feelings of envy, depression, anxiety, and intimidation mentioned above.
Putting aside for the moment those risks seen to be attendant on having students shown and/or told about the exemplary academic work of their high school peers, isn’t it about time that we turned our attention to another potential source of those same harmful feelings we have described?
In fact, many, if not most, high school basketball players are known not only to be exposed to and to watch games played by other students at their own school, but also they may be found, in season, watching college basketball games, and even professional NBA games, with no educator or counselor even monitoring them while they do.
Surely, the chances of the majority of high school basketball players getting a four-year college athletic scholarship are slim, and their chances are vanishingly small of ever playing for an NBA team. And yet, we carelessly allow them to watch these players, whose skill and performance may far exceed their own, even though the chance of their experiencing envy, anxiety, intimidation, and so on, must be as great as they would feel in being exposed to exemplary academic work, which we carefully guard them from!
While there may be nothing we can practically do at present to prevent them from watching school concerts, plays, dance recitals, and band performances, or reading the school newspaper, we must take a firmer line when it comes to allowing them, especially in their own homes, or visiting with their friends, to watch college and professional sports presentations.
We should try to be consistent. If we truly believe that showing students and/or telling them about fine academic work by people their own age is harmful, we must take a firmer stand in blocking their access to games and matches, particularly on national television, which expose them to superior athletic performances.


University of California wants the truth on student applications

Larry Gordon:

he gray-and-green warehouse in suburban Concord seems an unlikely headquarters for a statewide detective operation, and the fact checkers at work there insist they are not mercilessly probing the lives of California’s teenagers.
Still, there is an element of hard-boiled sleuthing in the University of California’s unusual attempt to ensure that its 98,000 freshman applicants tell the truth about themselves and their extracurricular activities. The stakes are high; UC enrollments may be canceled if students are found to be evasive or lying.
Each year, a small number of UC applicants — fewer than 1% — are caught fibbing about such claims as performing a lead role in a school play, volunteering as a tutor for poor children or starring on the soccer field.
But UC officials say there is a broader purpose beyond the relatively few “gotchas”: to scare everyone else straight.
“We take the admissions process very seriously and we want to uphold the integrity of the whole process,” explained Han Mi Yoon-Wu, a coordinator in UC’s central admissions operations.
In an era when tough competition for college entrance may lead some insecure or conniving applicants to hype, or invent, parts of their records, experts say many colleges and universities do some informal checking on students’ extracurricular claims, especially if something seems fishy. But the UC effort appears to be the only formal, systematic program in the nation, they say.
For many years, UC has checked the final high school grade transcript of each admitted student in the summer before enrollment. Failing grades in the last semester of high school can get a student’s admission revoked, as can lies about self-reported grades in previous terms.

A More Joyous Approach: “The War of the Roses”

The Economist:

Queenly Cate Blanchet turns her attention to Richard II
Cate Blanchett is known for the pale beauty of her face and her vivid film performances. Her latest work marks a significant change of pace. As the curtain rises at the Sydney Theatre, she sits centre-stage, a still figure in a white blouse and trousers, blond hair, high cheekbones. A storm of golden petals drifts down from the ceiling, and she wears a crown.
It has become fairly commonplace for film actors to star in London’s West End and on Broadway, but this transposition is different. Miss Blanchett is playing the king in Shakespeare’s Richard II, the first part of a rigorously condensed version of the eight history plays. Miss Blanchett and her husband, Andrew Upton, have become artistic directors of the Sydney Theatre Company, an organisation which already has a fine opinion of itself. “In so far as there is a National Theatre in Australia, the Sydney Theatre Company is it,” says Bob Brookman, the general manager.
Sydney’s “The War of the Roses” ruthlessly cuts the histories down to two evening performances, each lasting a little under four hours, focusing on the death of kings and the hollowness of their crown. If this production, performed as part of the Sydney Festival and now on tour, is a clue to the nature of Miss Blanchetts’ regime, it will be energetic, controversial, ambitious, and, to use one of Miss Blanchett’s favorite adjectives, “noisy.” Casting her as Richard II was the bold idea of the director, the fearless 36-year-old Benedict Andrews. Having an actress play Richard II is not original: Fiona Shaw did it in London in 1995. But casting a woman as Richard III most certainly is. He is played by Pamela Rabe, one of Australia’s most accomplished actors, without a hump and with a heavy sense of irony, which provokes tense laughter in unlikely places.
Miss Rabe is not as self-consciously feminine as Miss Blanchett, who deploys laughter–her own–to dramatise the alienation of the king from his court, and fondly adopts girlish poses during the deposition scene in which Richard passes the crown to Bolingbroke. Shakespearean actors need to drill their vocal cords and Miss Blanchett seemed a little short of training, but she made a likeable, vulnerable, androgynous monarch. Given the extent of the cuts and transpositions, there could be no lingering over the development of character. The playful relationship between Prince Hal (Ewen Leslie) and Falstaff (John Gaden), for example, was speedily established by Hal fellating Falstaff. Sydney was not fazed.
Many of Australia’s best actors have emigrated in search of larger audiences and new writers. Miss Blanchett want to bring in a younger audience to the Sydney Theatre Company’s performances. “We’re hoping to take a more joyous approach,” Mr. Upton said recently. Miss Blanchett and Mr. Upton also want to develop the company’s reputation abroad as well as at home. Later this year their production of A Streetcar Named Desire, directed by Liv Ullman with Miss Blanchett as Blanche Dubois, travels to the Kennedy Centre in Washington, DC, and the Brooklyn Academy of Music. In this case of celebrity culture, the emphasis will be on the culture.

Waukesha parents warned about illicit photos on students’ cell phones

Jacqui Seibe & Erin Richards:

Police and school officials are urging parents to check for naked photos on their children’s cell phones after a 14-year-old girl learned that her nude photo ended up in the hands of hundreds of area high school students.
The Waukesha West High School [Map] student sent the photo to her boyfriend, but when the couple broke up, he forwarded it to other students using his cell phone, Waukesha police Capt. Mark Stigler said Tuesday. Police have talked to the core group responsible and may recommend felony possession of child pornography charges, he said. Police have recovered computers belonging to the teens to investigate whether they also sent the photos over the Internet.
“We know it’s a hard stance, but how else do we deal with this?” Stigler said. “Kids are being immature and doing foolish things.”
An automated phone message from the Waukesha School District went to parents Monday and Tuesday asking them to talk to their children and check the phones for illicit photos.
Police want parents to delete any inappropriate photos because the magnitude of the potential proliferation of photos is too large to investigate, Stigler said.

Related: Textual Misconduct What to do about teens and their dumb naked photos of themselves.

Equity Issues in Science & Mathematics Education

Via a kind reader’s email:

This colloquium series is designed to start a broader conversation about equity in STEM (science, technology, engineering, & mathematics) disciplines. The four brown-bags will feature a keynote speaker whose expertise in a particular area of equity will be used as a lens to look at issues in science and mathematics education. There will be an informal presentation followed by a facilitated discussion.

Commencement Speech Archive

The commencement ceremony affirms each student’s search for knowledge. It often includes a graduation speech which seeks to put their recent hard (or not so hard) work into the context of their future. Many of us hear one or two commencement addresses as graduates or listen to a handful as spectators. Yet — as we graduate from one year to another, one relationship to another, one experience to another — we always are learning.
Though these myriad departures and arrivals of everyday existence are seldom met with ceremony, words traditionally reserved for momentous occasions may ring true and inspirational at any hour. That’s why we created this unique archive of commencement addresses, selecting an eclectic menu of twenty nine extraordinary speeches from the thousands that we have reviewed since beginning work on this initiative in 1989.
Though some of these wonderful remarks were given decades ago, we believe they are as relevant and important, perhaps increasingly so, as the more current speeches. Thus we encourage you to read them all, recognizing and celebrating your own constant commencement into tomorrow, finding ways to place it firmly within the context of progress for all humankind.

Wisconsin DPI Superintendent: It looks like an interesting race

Despite being outspent $96,129 to $10,500 (WisPolitics) by Tony Evers, Rose Fernandez obtained 31% of yesterday’s vote. Tony Evers received 35%. Here’s a roundup of the election and candidates:

  • WisPolitics
  • Amy Hetzner:

    On Tuesday, he finished just ahead of Rose Fernandez, a former pediatric trauma nurse and parent advocate, in a five-person field.
    Although she finished the night in second place, Fernandez, 51, characterized her performance as “a victory for real people over the special interests.”
    In addition to being first to declare his candidacy, Evers also captured endorsements – and contributions – from the Wisconsin Education Association Council as well as other labor and education-based groups. WEAC PAC, the political arm of the state’s largest teachers union, contributed $8,625 to Evers’ campaign, in addition to spending nearly $180,000 on media buys for the candidate, according to campaign filings earlier this month.
    By contrast, the Fernandez campaign spent $20,000. She said that her message of calling for merit pay for teachers and choices for parents had resonated with voters.
    “Tonight, we have all the momentum,” she said. “This is going to be a real choice. It’s going to be a choice between special interests and the status quo, the bureaucracy that is entrenched at the Department of Public Instruction, vs. a focus on the results we are looking for in our investment in education, a push for higher standards instead of higher taxes.”
    Evers, 57, has distanced himself somewhat from the current schools superintendent, Elizabeth Burmaster, saying it’s time to be more aggressive about reforming Milwaukee Public Schools and calling for an increase in the state’s graduation rate.
    On Tuesday, he denied Fernandez’s charge of favoring special interests

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  • John Nichols on the history of the DPI Superintendent.

Free book on Free Range kids

Cory Doctorow:

John Mark sez, “Some past Boing Boing posts have talked about how children’s lives in the UK and North America have become more and more stifled by overprotective adults in the last few decades. This 2007 book by Tim Gill, now free in its entirety online, show how many of these efforts are largely misdirected, and even counterproductive. Focusing on the UK, but also touching on other countries, the book includes accounts and data to show how resources are wasted on dubious and costly playground modifications and ‘stranger danger’ paranoia, when we could instead foster safer and more mature kids by focusing more on independence, social support, and traffic safety.”
No Fear joins the increasingly vigorous debate about the role and nature of childhood in the UK. Over the past 30 years activities that previous generations of children enjoyed without a second thought have been relabelled as troubling or dangerous, and the adults who permit them branded as irresponsible. No Fear argues that childhood is being undermined by the growth of risk aversion and its intrusion into every aspect of children’s lives. This restricts children’s play, limits their freedom of movement, corrodes their relationships with adults and constrains their exploration of physical, social and virtual worlds.

Kids’ Cholesterol Study Is Reassuring, Doctors Say


Fewer than 1% of American teens are likely to need cholesterol drugs, says a new study that offers some reassuring news on the childhood obesity front.
Last year, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued eyebrow-raising new guidelines: Doctors were urged to consider cholesterol drugs for more kids, even as young as 8, if they had high levels of “bad cholesterol,” or LDL, along with other health problems like obesity and high blood pressure.
The academy didn’t address how many children might fall into that category. Now, a new study published online Monday in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation helps allay concerns that “many, many” children might need to be on cholesterol drugs, said Stephen Daniels, lead author of the pediatric guidelines.
“The concern was I think, because there’s an increasing level in obesity, that it would lead to higher and higher cholesterol levels. They don’t seem to be going up,” he said.
The new pediatrics guidance was based on growing evidence that damage leading to heart disease begins early in life. At the same time, recent research has shown that cholesterol-fighting drugs are generally safe for children.

Broad environment for teacher training is best

South China Morning Post Editorial:

For those outside the region, whether a degree-granting institution has to be called a university would seem of little consequence. There are institutions of learning the world over that have high standing and do not feel the need to change their name. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Dartmouth College in the United States, Imperial College in London and Australia’s Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology are among them. In the teacher-training sphere, the Hong Kong Institute of Education’s (HKIEd’s) British and Singaporean counterparts, although affiliated to universities, have retained their separate identities.
In East Asia, particularly in countries steeped in the Confucian tradition, however, institutions are well aware of the added cachet that designation as a university brings. If the name of the Institute of Education in Tai Po was firmly entrenched in the minds of Hongkongers, there might have been less of a problem. But its creation in 1994 from the amalgamation of five colleges of education offering subdegree courses post-dated reforms that put in place the present university system. It has offered full degree courses only since 1998. Although about 77 per cent of its students are studying for degrees, HKIEd is perceived as being inferior to those institutions designated as universities. Because it is not called a university, it has also faced difficulties collaborating with universities overseas.
HKIEd’s demand is to be allowed to “rectify” its name as a university. In rejecting its request, the University Grants Committee is not saying that HKIEd has not lived up to the high standards it has set for itself. Rather, the committee has taken the broader view, formed after a review of international trends, that teacher education should take place in a multidisciplinary environment for the benefit of students, staff and the community. The view deserves support; it is intellectually sound and eminently sensible. Single-discipline institutions are the product of a bygone era. All over the world, the trend has been to merge them into bigger entities or allow them to grow by developing new programmes. The aim is to facilitate the cross-fertilisation of ideas and multidisciplinary collaboration.

End the pretense and let schools have real English

Kent Ewing:

The taxi driver spoke mangled English; I responded in mangled Cantonese. In the end, I got where I wanted to go, and he received his fare.
For both parties, then, the journey was a success. Moreover, in an elementary sort of way, it was an educational, even a cultural, experience.
But is this the future of English- language education in Hong Kong?
Happy as I was to arrive at my destination that day, I hope we can do better in Hong Kong’s schools.
Indeed, in a classroom environment, I would rather lose my linguistic way entirely than find it through the development of a mixed-code patois that, in the end, will get me no farther in the real world than the confines of a Hong Kong taxi or wet market.
There is no question that Hong Kong beyond its small, elite class of political, business and educational leaders is a city that communicates with outsiders in a mixed code that ultimately amounts to really bad English with Cantonese thrown in when that bad English inevitably ends in total collapse.

Suburban districts top Milwaukee-area school salaries

Amy Hetzner:

Professional staff in the Nicolet, Muskego-Norway and Port Washington-Saukville school districts earned more on average than their public school counterparts in the metro Milwaukee area for 2007-’08, according to state data.
The pay figures for the three districts were boosted by large percentages of teachers, counselors, librarians and other school specialists perched at the top of the pay scales for their school systems. They were among six school districts in the region – including the Maple Dale-Indian Hill, Mequon-Thiensville and Waukesha districts – that had more than 30% of their professional staff making at least $70,000 in 2007-’08.
Nicolet had more than 40% of its teachers and other professional staff making above that amount.
In contrast, in the school system with the lowest average salaries paid to professional staff – Dover #1 in Racine County – the highest pay was $51,956.
The 2007-’08 compensation data was reported by the individual districts to the state Department of Public Instruction, which made the information public last month.
Jack Bothwell, executive director of human resources for the Waukesha School District, said retirement postponements are likely the reason for the lopsided payouts in some of the districts.
“Right now, the pension’s such a mess and the economy,” he said. “That is inhibiting a lot of people from retiring.”

Hurdles for a Plan to Turn Catholic Classrooms Into Charter Schools

Javier Hernandez:

To the Roman Catholic bishop of Brooklyn, it seemed like an act of salvation on par with Noah and the ark. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg heralded it as a “win-win situation.”
They had unveiled a plan to convert four Catholic schools scheduled for closing into public charter schools, giving their students and teachers a soft landing and avoiding a crippling infusion of children into crowded neighborhood schools. But despite the celebratory air this month as Mr. Bloomberg and the bishop, Nicholas A. DiMarzio, announced the idea, the plan faces significant legal, political and educational hurdles.
Lawsuits over church-state questions seem inevitable. And with the mayor already locked in a battle to keep control of the city’s public schools, it may be an inopportune time to ask Albany to scrap a law that bars the conversion of private schools into charter schools.
If the proposal is approved, it would allow four charter schools to be created without the perennial problem of finding classroom space. It could also result in a new type of charter school, one led largely by traditional institutions like the Roman Catholic Church, in a movement that has been dominated by out-of-the-box organizations branded as agents of change.

Panelists Skeptical about Milwaukee School District Governance Change

Alan Borsuk:

A group of community leaders who disagree on a lot of other things about education were in general agreement Monday night on one important issue:
They don’t think much of the idea of turning control of Milwaukee Public Schools over to somebody other than the School Board.
From teachers union president Dennis Oulahan to school voucher advocate Howard Fuller, from liberal School Board member Jennifer Morales to business leader Tim Sheehy, it was hard to keep the people involved in a panel at the Marquette University Law School on the topic of whether there should be mayoral control of schools, or something in that vein, as they kept turning to other issues.
None expressed hope that a step of that kind, at least in itself, would change the rate of success in MPS.
“No matter who takes it over . . .  if you don’t change anything that’s going on within the body itself that prevents good practice,” it will be an illusion to think things will get better, Fuller said.
“Any kind of governance can work if it has the right support.”
Oulahan said there was a long history of reforms in MPS, such as the Neighborhood Schools Initiative launched in 2000 and the small high school reform in recent years, that really were about buildings or programs and not about kids. Unless the focus is on teaching children using practices that actually work, nothing will change, he said.

Industry Makes Pitch That Smartphones Belong in Classroom

Matt Richtel & Brad Stone:

he cellphone industry has a suggestion for improving the math skills of American students: spend more time on cellphones in the classroom.
Students at Southwest High School in Jacksonville, N.C., were given cellphones with programs to help with algebra studies.
At a conference this week in Washington called Mobile Learning 09, CTIA, a wireless industry trade group, plans to start making its case for the educational value of cellphones. It will present research — paid for by Qualcomm, a maker of chips for cellphones — that shows so-called smartphones can make students smarter.
Some critics already are denouncing the effort as a blatantly self-serving maneuver to break into the big educational market. But proponents of selling cellphones to schools counter that they are simply making the same kind of pitch that the computer industry has been profitably making to educators since the 1980s.
The only difference now between smartphones and laptops, they say, is that cellphones are smaller, cheaper and more coveted by students.
“This is a device kids have, it’s a device they are familiar with and want to take advantage of,” said Shawn Gross, director of Digital Millennial Consulting, which received a $1 million grant from Qualcomm to conduct the research.

Wisconsin Governor Doyle Proposes 7.4% Spending Increase & $426M More for K-12

Jason Stein:

Boosted by federal stimulus dollars, Doyle’s budget calls for a 7.4 percent increase in total state and federal spending. But the proposed spending from the state’s main account actually drops by 1.7 percent to $27.9 billion over 2010 and 2011. It would leave the state with $270 million in reserves.
The budget includes a host of major proposed changes:
• Cutting $900 million from existing agency budgets, including a 1 percent across-the-board cut, and rejecting $1.8 billion from the amount those agencies sought in new spending. The cuts include closing three dozen Division of Motor Vehicle offices, two state trooper stations and 25 Department of Natural Resources offices and cutting state staff at welcome centers for tourists.
State employees would avoid large layoffs and furloughs but the amount of state jobs would shrink by 209 to 69,038 by June 2011.
• Levying $1.4 billion in new taxes and fees, including a tax on oil companies of $544 million. That includes increasing the income tax rate on spring 2010 returns by 1 percentage point to 7.75 percent for single filers earning more than $225,000 a year and married filers earning more than $300,000. The proposal would also lower the state’s exemption for capital gains taxes from 60 percent to 40 percent, raising up to $95 million.
• Providing $426 million more in mostly federal money for K-12 schools over two years, a move Doyle said was essential to holding down property taxes. The budget would hold funding for the University of Wisconsin System essentially flat, leaving universities to manage rising costs through tuition increases, new efficiencies or service cuts.

Steven Walters, Patrick Marley & Stacy Forster:

For what may be the first time in state government history, general-fund spending will actually drop for the fiscal year that begins July 1, by about 5%. Total state spending – including tuition, fees, licenses and federal aid – will rise, however.
But, Doyle said, he had no choice but to ask the Legislature to approve $1.4 billion in tax increases – the largest reworking of the tax codes in decades.
The tax increases include: $540 million paid from oil company profits; $318 million by creating a new 7.75% tax rate for the richest 1% of taxpayers; $290 million in higher taxes on cigarette smokers; $215 million in higher corporate income taxes; and $85 million paid on capital gains investments.

Fernandez & Evers Advance in the Wisconsin DPI Superintendent Race


Evers won the endorsement of the 98,000-member state teachers union, the Wisconsin Education Association Council, which paid for TV ads on his behalf. Evers was the only one of the five to pay for his own ads.
“I believe that my message of experience has played well so far,”
Evers said. “I won the primary and I anticipate that we’ll just work hard to get the message out. I believe that people do believe experience matters.”
Fernandez, who has often been at odds with the state education department over virtual schools, reveled in the fact that she didn’t get the WEAC endorsement, touting it as another sign of her being outside the state education bureaucracy.
Fernandez was the only one of the five candidates without any professional education experience. A former nurse, she recently stepped down as president of the Wisconsin Coalition of Virtual School Families.
“Some people have dismissed me as just a mom on a mission, but that’s a label I’ll be wearing as a badge of honor,” Fernandez said. She pledged to overcome WEAC’s financial backing of Evers with a broad base of support that taps into teachers, parents and students across the state.
“We’re hearing that there’s a great hunger out there for our message that higher standards without higher taxes is what they want,” she said.
Her campaign called for reforming the state education department, enacting changes to allow for teacher merit pay and protecting alternative education options such as virtual schools, home schooling and Milwaukee’s school choice voucher program.
Evers, the deputy under retiring Superintendent Libby Burmaster for the past eight years, emphasized his 34 years of education experience during the campaign. Opponents criticized him as a status-quo insider candidate, while Evers countered he was the best-grounded to initiate reforms, particularly in the Milwaukee schools.

A Chicago Teacher on Magnet Schools

Victor Harbison:

Given the recent economic news, it seems everyone wants to talk about the long-term impact of short-term thinking. Why not do the same with education and magnet schools? Think of the issues educators faced 30 or 40 years ago: Smart kids not being challenged? Academically under-prepared kids, most of them ethnic minorities, moving in and test scores going down? It’s completely logical that they chose a path to create magnet schools. But it was a short-term solution that has had long-term negative consequences.
I take my students to lots of outside events where they are required to interact with students who come from magnet or high-performing suburban schools. What I see time after time is how my kids rise to the occasion, performing as well (or at least trying to) as those students whose test scores or geographic location landed them in much more demanding academic environments.
On a daily basis, I see the same kids who do amazing things when surrounded by their brightest counterparts from other schools slip into every negative stereotype you can imagine, and worse, when surrounded by their under-performing peers at our “neighborhood” school.
When educational leaders decided to create magnet schools, they didn’t just get it wrong, they got it backwards. They pulled out the best and brightest from our communities and sent them away. The students who are part of the “great middle” now find themselves in an environment where the peers who have the greatest influence in their school are the least positive role models.
Schools adapted, and quickly. We tightened security, installed metal detectors, and adopted ideas like zero-tolerance. And neighborhood schools, without restrictive admission policies based on test scores, quickly spiraled downward — somewhat like an economy. Except in education, we can’t lay off students who have a negative impact on the school culture. That is why adopting such a business model for the educational system has been and always will be a recipe for failure.
What should have been done was to pull out the bottom ten percent. Educational leaders could have greatly expanded the alternative school model and sent struggling students to a place that had been designed to meet their educational needs.

Clusty search: Victor Harbison.