Latest issue of MMSD Today: Madison School District teachers experts in system of math instruction

Dawn Stiegert @ The Madison Metropolitan School District:

The national mathematics conference on Cognitively Guided Instruction (CGI) had a strong Madison School District presence, with teachers there as presenters and attendees.
MMSD teachers involved with the Expanding Math Knowledge grant had the opportunity to attend the conference this summer in San Diego. EMK was a two-year grant funded by the WI Dept. of Public Instruction. The MMSD Dept. of Teaching and Learning collaborated with the UW-Madison College of Education to provide continued and expanded math education for approximately 40 teachers in grades 3-5.

Learning About Learning Design

Joshua Kim:

Most everything I know about learning design I learned from my former colleague Frances Rowe, Director of Instructional Design at Quinnipiac University Online. The QUOnline team has launched a new blog called Digital Pedagog.
Digital Pedagog is a gorgeous group blog. A great example of the power of team blogging. All the contributors to Digital Pedagog are experts within different domains of learning design and online/hybrid learning.
Beyond getting you to look at Digital Pedagog, my goal is start a conversation about the composition of your learning technology team. Does your team include a combination of professionals with formal training in learning design working in conjunction with people with higher ed. teaching experience?
Academic technology groups benefit having teams made up of people with wonderfully diverse backgrounds. Many of us come from the teaching side, while others come from media production, programming, or design. This diversity is terrific. But our teams need to include members who have received graduate level academic training in learning design, pedagogy, and learning theory.

Massachusetts Charter Decisions Made to Rescue Governor from “Political Cul de Sac”

Mike Antonucci:

t’s a complex story out of Massachusetts with a simple payoff: The state secretary of education wants charter school authorizations to be based on political considerations, and not on their educational merits.
It begins with reporter Patrick Anderson of the Gloucester Daily Times using a public records request to find a February 5 e-mail from Secretary of Education Paul Reville, Gov. Deval Patrick’s school adviser, to Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester. Gov. Patrick, like many other governors, found religion in charter schools soon after the Obama administration made them a centerpiece of Race to the Top funding. But which charter school applications would be approved, and which rejected, seems to be less of an academic concern and more of a matter of political pressure. Here’s the full text of the e-mail:

Hope all’s well and warm in AZ. I appreciated our talk today and your openness and flexibility. This situation presents one of those painful dilemmas. In addition to being a no-win situation, it forces us into a political cul de sac where we could be permanently trapped. Our reality is that we have to show some sympathy in this group of charters or we’ll get permanently labeled as hostile and they will cripple us with a number of key moderate allies like the Globe and the Boston Foundation. Frankly, I’d rather fight for the kids in the Waltham situation, but it sounds like you can’t find a solid basis for standing behind that one. I’m not inclined to push Worcester, so that leaves Gloucester. My inclination is to think that you, I and the Governor all need to send at least one positive signal in this batch, and I gather that you think the best candidate is Gloucester. Can you see your way clear to supporting it? Would you want to do the financial trigger even in light of likely stimulus aid?

Schools Push Hits the Road

Neil King:

Education Secretary Arne Duncan invited an odd pair of allies to classrooms in this city to help tout his multibillion-dollar bid to shake up the country’s education system: the liberal Rev. Al Sharpton and the conservative former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
“These two guys don’t agree on 96% of everything else, but they do agree on the need for dramatic educational reform,” Mr. Duncan said.
As the Obama administration forges ahead with the most ambitious federal intervention in education in decades, Mr. Duncan, the former Chicago schools superintendent, needs whatever political support he can get.
The administration plans in just months to distribute $4.3 billion under its new Race to the Top program to help states set new testing standards, boost teacher quality and help rescue or close thousands of the country’s worst-performing schools.
The plan has come under fire from powerful teachers unions, which were big backers of President Barack Obama during last year’s campaign but are resistant to altering rules for hiring and firing teachers. Some conservatives, meanwhile, are wary of expanding Washington’s grip on local school systems.

An Internship From Your Couch

Jonnelle Marte:

Natalie Ann Roig completed a marketing internship last spring–while riding the bus, sitting on her parents’ couch and lounging at home in pajamas.
The internship, in which she worked 15 hours a week researching and blogging about corporate workplace benefits, was virtual–she needed only a computer and Internet access. Ms. Roig, a senior at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, never even met her boss, in Atlanta.
“I didn’t have to dress up. I didn’t have to sit at a cubicle for hours,” says Ms. Roig, a senior studying graphic design. “It was more like work at your own pace and get the work done.”
Virtual internships, while relatively rare, are becoming more common, career experts say, fueled by improving technology and the growth of social media. They are most popular among small to midsize companies and online businesses. More than one-fourth of 150 internships posted on, a site that connects small businesses with part-time workers, are labeled virtual, where the work typically involves researching, sales, marketing and social-media development.

EPA Tells Schools To Test Aging Caulk


Hundreds of school buildings across the U.S. have caulk around windows and doors containing potentially cancer-causing PCBs, the Environmental Protection Agency said.
The danger to students is uncertain, and EPA doesn’t know for sure how many schools could be affected. But the agency is telling schools that they should test old caulk and remove it if PCBs turn up in significant amounts.
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said PCBs remain in schools and many other buildings built before the chemicals were banned in the late 1970s.
“We’re concerned about the potential risks associated with exposure to these PCBs, and we’re recommending practical, common-sense steps to reduce this exposure as we improve our understanding of the science,” Ms. Jackson said in a news release.

Stubborn charter school critics can’t handle the truth

Thomas Carroll:

“Facts are stubborn things,” John Adams advised.
With the release of a study showing New York’s charter schools are a big success – a study chock-full of stubborn facts – critics of charter schools in New York ought to be learning a lesson.
That’s wishful thinking; the critics are simply adjusting their talking points to ignore a reckoning with the increasingly persuasive reality that charter schools are good for kids.
The most important finding of the new study – led by Prof. Caroline Hoxby of Stanford University, in collaboration with colleagues from the Wharton School and the National Bureau of Economic Research – is that “a student who attended a charter school for all of grades kindergarten through eight would close about 86% of the ‘Scarsdale-Harlem achievement gap’ in math and 66% of the achievement gap in English,” with students attending for shorter periods of time realizing “commensurately smaller” gains.

Getting dads more involved in education

Concord Monitor:

Why are dads taking on more household chores and child-rearing duties than ever before? The first and best answer is necessity. More moms are working outside the home than in generations past, in turn nudging men into roles their fathers and grandfathers had little need to contemplate.
But this new household order was not constructed on the stench of dirty diapers alone. Changes in attitudes and priorities have strongly contributed to the revolution.
Similar changes will be needed to bring about the kind of change championed by Education Secretary Arne Duncan at a “Conversation on Fatherhood” forum in Manchester last week. Duncan and others involved with the initiative kicked off by President Obama in June are doing a good job of stressing the need for fathers to be involved in their kids’ education. Now educators and those who benefit from a well-educated populace (in short, everyone) need to help turn schools into an environment where fathers feel welcome and competent.

Wisconsin Open Enrollment Study

Amy Hetzner:

Spending more, adding extracurricular activities and increasing the percentage of students deemed advanced on state tests could help Wisconsin school districts that want to attract more students through the state’s open enrollment program.
Those are some of the main conclusions of a new study examining student transfers between 2003 and 2007 under the state’s public school choice program. [Open Enrollment SIS links.]
“There’s a lot of surveys saying parents want this or they want that, but when they actually have to take their kid and drive them to school, that reveals what they really want in a school district,” said David Welsch, an assistant professor of economics at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and lead author of the study, which is slated for publication in the Economics of Education Review.
Under the state’s open enrollment program, which has been in effect for more than a decade and now serves more than 28,000 students, students can attend any public school district in Wisconsin so long as there is room and they provide their own transportation. State aid – nearly $6,500 this school year – accompanies each open enrollment transfer.
One of the most striking findings in the recent study was that students were more likely to transfer from districts with higher property values and lower tax rates to districts that spend more per pupil. For every $100 difference in spending per student, a higher-spending district could expect about 1.7% more incoming transfers.

Wisconsin Open Enrollment: Part Time / Full Time.

Measuring Progress At Shaw With More Than Numbers

Jay Matthews:

On July 11, Brian Betts, principal of the District’s Shaw Middle School at Garnet-Patterson, was at Dulles International Airport about to leave for a vacation in Spain. He was feeling good. His first year running a school whose students struggle with poverty and neighborhood strife had gone well, he thought. Quarterly test results were encouraging. Attendance was up. Parents were happy. Some of his staff had gone so far as to enroll their children at Shaw.
His cellphone rang. “Principal Betts? This is Chancellor Rhee.”
“Hi, chancellor,” he said.
“I wanted you to know that I am looking at the DC-CAS scores,” the D.C. schools chancellor said, “and you’re not going to be happy.”
“Okay,” Betts said. Uh-oh, he thought.

Reading Incomprehension

Todd Farley:

LAST week, Education Secretary Arne Duncan acknowledged standardized tests are flawed measures of student progress. But the problem is not so much the tests themselves — it’s the people scoring them.
Many people remember those tests as lots of multiple-choice questions answered by marking bubbles with a No. 2 pencil, but today’s exams nearly always include the sort of “open ended” items where students fill up the blank pages of a test booklet with their own thoughts and words. On many tests today, a good number of points come from such open-ended items, and that’s where the real trouble begins.
Multiple-choice items are scored by machines, but open-ended items are scored by subjective humans who are prone to errors. I know because I was one of them. In 1994, I was a graduate student looking for part-time work. After a five-minute interview I got the job of scoring fourth-grade, state-wide reading comprehension tests. The for-profit testing company that hired me paid almost $8 an hour, not bad money for me at the time.
One of the tests I scored had students read a passage about bicycle safety. They were then instructed to draw a poster that illustrated a rule that was indicated in the text. We would award one point for a poster that included a correct rule and zero for a drawing that did not.

Milwaukee Public Schools needs to pick up the pace in reading

Alan Borsuk:

Maybe this is the biggest problem facing Milwaukee Public Schools: A panel of national experts ripped reading programs overall in the city, saying they were ineffective, out of date, uncoordinated, led by teachers who were inadequately prepared and who were really doing nothing much to help struggling readers.
Maybe this is the biggest problem facing MPS: That report came nine months ago and the in-the-classroom response so far has been to set four priorities for this school year of breathtaking modesty. Maybe a year from now, there will be big changes, officials say.
We’re talking about reading. Reading. The core skill for success in just about any part of education and in life beyond school. A sore point for MPS for at least a couple decades. Last year, 40% of MPS 10th-graders rated as proficient in reading in state tests, a number in line with a string of prior years.
“The status quo will need to be changed – sometimes dramatically,” said the report from a three-person review team brought in by the state Department of Public Instruction as part of its efforts under federal law to push change in MPS. The report was issued last December, calling for an overhaul of the way reading is taught in MPS – the curriculum used, the way teachers are trained, the way the whole subject is handled from top to bottom.
Since then, an MPS work group was named. The work group got an extension on the time it had to give a draft plan to the DPI. The draft plan was submitted. DPI officials gave some feedback. MPS officials revised their plan. DPI officials took awhile to respond with requests for more changes. It’s late September now. A plan has not been approved. There’s a meeting scheduled in early October.


Mr. Duncan and That $4.3 Billion

New York Times Editorial:

With sound ideas and a commitment to rigorously monitor the states’ progress, Education Secretary Arne Duncan has revitalized the school-reform effort that had lost most of its momentum by the closing days of the Bush administration.
His power to press for reforms was dramatically enhanced earlier this year when Congress gave him control of $4.3 billion in grant money — the Race to the Top fund — that is to be disbursed to the states on a competitive basis. Mr. Duncan will need to resist political pressure and special pleadings and reward only the states that are committed to effective and clearly measurable reform.
Mr. Duncan’s exhortations, and the promise of so much cash, have already persuaded eight states to adopt measures favorable to charter schools, which Mr. Duncan rightly sees as crucial in the fight to turn around failing schools.
To be eligible for the money, every state must also show how student performance will be factored into their systems for evaluating teachers. And Mr. Duncan has asked the states to come up with plausible plans to turn around failing schools — so-called dropout factories — and to better serve minority students.

Charter Success Poor children learn. Teachers unions are not pleased.

Washington Post Editorial:

OPPONENTS OF charter schools are going to have to come up with a new excuse: They can’t claim any longer that these non-traditional public schools don’t succeed. A rigorous new study of charter schools in New York City demolishes the argument that charter schools outperform traditional public schools only because they get the “best students.” This evidence should spur states to change policies that inhibit charter-school growth. It also should cause traditional schools to emulate practices that produce these remarkable results.
The study, led by Stanford University economics professor Caroline M. Hoxby, compared the progress of students who won a lottery to enroll in a charter school against those who lost and ended up in traditional schools. The study found that charter school students scored higher on state math and reading tests. The longer they stayed in charters, the likelier they were to earn New York state’s Regents diploma for high-achieving students.
Most stunning was the impact that the charters had on shrinking the achievement gap between minority and white students. “On average,” the study found, “a student who attended a charter school for all of grades kindergarten through eight would close about 86 percent of the ‘Scarsdale-Harlem achievement gap’ in math and 66 percent of the achievement gap in English.” Researchers were careful not to draw conclusions, but they highlighted a correlation to practices such as a longer school day, performance pay for teachers, more time spent on English and effective discipline policies.

Testing times for students

Rebecca Knight:

H arvard Business School is doing it. So is Stern . Sloan and Stanford have been doing it for several years and next year, Wharton will do it, too.
A growing number of business schools are giving applicants the option of taking the GRE (Graduate Record Exam), a standardised test used by a wide range of graduate schools, as an alternative to the GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test) – the prevailing standardised exam used for admission to MBA programmes.
Schools want to attract a more diverse applicant pool, including dual-degree students, younger applicants, women, international students and applicants who were not previously laser-focused on business studies.
“It’s driven by business schools trying to expand their market of good students, not a defect with the GMAT,” says John Fernandes, president and chief executive of the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business , the industry body.
The GREmeasures verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, critical thinking and analytical writing skills. It is used by a variety of advanced education programmes and markets itself to students considering a range of professional options. The GMAT, also measures basic verbal, mathematical and analytical writing skills and is billed as a tool that “helps business schools assess the qualifications of applicants for advanced study in business and management”.

Dan Nerad gets creative on Madison schools budget

Lynn Welch:

It’s easy to feel a bit sorry for Madison school officials as they grapple with ways to close a $12 million gap in state funding.
“It sounds like this came out of left field, so I don’t think anyone can be faulted for not imagining that something like this could happen,” says Chan Stroman, a Madison parent with one child attending elementary school and two at a virtual school.
But feelings may change in December, school watchers say, when tax bills land in mailboxes and everyone starts to feel the pain.
The district proposes hiking property taxes — $82.50 for owners of $250,000 homes. This and other solutions stress a school-community partnership, a balance between educational responsibility and fiscal fitness that has become the hallmark of superintendent Dan Nerad’s administration.
Indeed, it’s hard to talk about the current financial situation facing Madison’s schools without hearing an opinion on how Nerad, who began his tenure in July 2008, is managing the situation.

Madison spends about 10% more per student than Dan Nerad’s former District – Green Bay. Madison’s student / staff ratio is about 7, while Green Bay’s is 8. It will be interesting to see what, if any substantive program reviews occur locally, something that the New Superintendent and Board have promised to do. Details here.

Property taxes, education rank high in New Jersey

Kevin Post:

The property tax burden falls on area homeowners more heavily than almost anywhere else in the nation.
In fewer than 2 percent of counties in the U.S. do property taxes take a bigger bite out of homeowners’ incomes than they do in Atlantic County.
The chief reason is that, as reported earlier this week, New Jersey has the highest property taxes in the nation, according to the Tax Foundation in Washington, D.C. And in southern New Jersey, incomes are significantly lower than in the northern part of the state.
So while area residents can at least be glad that their taxes are not as high as in northern New Jersey – which has six counties among the top 10 most taxed in the nation – relatively high property taxes locally consume a big share of income.
Atlantic County, for example, has the 15th highest property tax burden out of 776 U.S. counties with populations of at least 65,000, according to the Tax Foundation. The median county homeowner must pay 6.8 percent of annual income to cover property tax.
All of the region’s counties are in the top 15 percent – and most much higher – for property taxes paid and percentage of income required to pay the taxes.


2009 Dates: October 16 (Friday Afternoon Pre-Conference) and October 17 (Saturday Conference)
CONFERENCE PROGRAM & REGISTRATION: Go to Green Charter School Conference Program & Registration Links at Northland College.
Connections Human & Natural: What Does It Mean To Be An Educated Person? by William Cronon, Professor of History, Geography, & Environmental Studies, U.W. – Madison
Revitalizing Public Education: Let Teachers Lead the Learning by Joe Graba, Founding Partner, Education / Evolving, forty year professional career in public education most recently as Dean of Hamline University’s Graduate School of Education
SMART By NATURE: Schooling for Sustainability is a new book from the Center for Ecoliteracy . It describes the significance of the emerging green schools sector across the country.
“Smart by Nature is must reading for teachers, school administrators, parents, and the concerned public,” writes leading environmental educator David W. Orr. “It is an encyclopedia of good ideas, principles, and case studies of some of the most exciting developments in education.”
The Green Charter Schools Network and River Crossing Environmental Charter School are featured in Smart By Nature. “We’re all concerned about the environment and sustainability,” says Jim McGrath, GCSNet President. “That’s why we’re doing it — because, really, what could be more important than preparing young people for a sustainable future.”
The book documents with firsthand accounts the success stories of green PK-12 schools in preparing students for future environmental challenges. Smart By Nature is 184 pages with 70 photos, charts and illustrations for $24.95 paper from UCPress.

Oakland campus caters to refugees, immigrants The international high school provides an alternative to newcomers, some of whom have never been in a classroom

Anna Gorman:

Samuel Kanwea showed up for what should have been his freshman year in high school illiterate, malnourished and exhausted from years of living in a refugee camp in Ivory Coast. His family had never been able to afford the luxury of education, so he spent his early teenage years collecting firewood and selling fish.
When the Liberian refugee started school in Oakland at the age of 17, it was the first time he had set foot in a classroom.
“Everyone was speaking English and it confused me,” said Kanwea, a lanky student with a wide smile. “And I felt scared because I think that I was the only one who didn’t know how to read.”
New immigrants and refugees have long posed challenges for educators in the United States, but Kanwea and others like him present unique problems because they are often strangers to traditional schools. Academic issues are only one facet of their adjustment. Not only must educators teach them English and move them toward graduation, but they also must counsel many students grappling with the trauma of wars, persecution or poverty.
While most school districts in California place newcomers directly into traditional campuses or short-term English-language programs, Oakland Unified School District offers them an alternative campus — and the option to stay there until graduation. The Oakland International High School opened in 2007 to educate the city’s recent refugees and immigrants, and now enrolls about 220 students from around the world, including from Yemen, Mongolia, Russia, Ghana and Honduras.

Schools becoming more ‘tolerant’ as ‘zero tolerance’ rules end

Matt Peterson:

School officials don’t take it lightly when a student brings a knife to campus.
But when they draw no distinction between a Bowie and a bread knife, discipline can go awry.
This year, schools throughout North Texas are implementing a new state law that ends such “zero tolerance” policies. Under House Bill 171, administrators now must consider mitigating factors such as intent and self-defense when doling out punishment.
That’s welcome news for Robert Hess, whose son Taylor was briefly expelled from L.D. Bell High School in Hurst after a bread knife fell out of a 20-year-old cutlery set bound for Goodwill, and was found in his truck bed on campus.
“That certainly would have saved us an awful lot of trouble,” said Hess, who holds no ill will toward school administrators over the 2002 incident. “They were bound by their own rules that they had written to dole out this ridiculous punishment, which was one year in alternative education.”

New York City Charter School Study

Jonathan Gyurko:

Stanford University economist Caroline Hoxby released yesterday an update to her 2007 study of charter schools in New York City.1 In the study, she compares the state examination results of students enrolled in the City’s charter schools (i.e. those students “lotteried-in”) to the results for those students who applied to a charter but were not selected for admission (i.e. the “lotteried-out”). In many respects, this is a good approach as it aims to account for the possibility that charters enroll more motivated families and that it is this motivation, rather than any particular charter school effect, that is the cause of stronger student achievement.
Hoxby’s findings are encouraging: by the third grade, the average charter school student was 5.8 points ahead of the lotteried-out counterpart in math and was 5.3 points ahead in English Language Arts.2 As Hoxby follows students’ achievement from 2001 to 2008, she also finds that the average charter school student gained 3.6 more points each year in math and 2.4 more points each year in ELA. For an average charter student continuously enrolled in grades four through eight, the effect is larger with annual gains of 5.0 points in math and 3.6 in ELA above the performance of the lotteried-out student. (Last year, nine charters enrolled students across all of these grades.)
To put this in some context, Hoxby explains that the difference between a student not meeting standard and meeting standard is about 31 points in math and 44 points in ELA. She also points out that, on average, students in neighboring and affluent Scarsdale typically out-perform students in New York City by 35 to 40 points. In this context, Hoxby claims that the compounded gains for an average student continuously enrolled in third to eighth grade in a charter nearly closes the “Harlem-to-Scarsdale” achievement gap and implies — going outside of her dataset — that the trend will continue.

When the Cool Get Hazed

Tina Kelley:

Girl-on-girl bullying or hazing is old news by now, for anyone who has seen “Mean Girls” or “Heathers” or “Gossip Girl”: popular girls organize a perfectly-coiffed and designer-clothed gang; fringe girl is targeted; bullies use their meanness and power to further marginalize fringe girl and reassert their status.
But news of a “slut list” at a top-ranked New Jersey high school last week highlighted two disturbing points: the increasingly explicit and sexual nature of the taunts, magnified by the Internet. And, in another twist, the perception that allegations of promiscuity — however fictional — are a badge of honor, a way into the cool group, and not a cause for shame.
The result is a 180-degree reversal of what a “slut list” might have meant, especially when the parents of these girls were growing up.
That the list and other hazing went on for more than 10 years at Millburn High School in New Jersey was only half the shock to parents and the national news media who set up cameras outside the school, which includes students from the affluent Essex County towns of Millburn and Short Hills. The repercussions to officials for allowing it to go on, only lightly checked over that time, are still playing out.

Disruptive Innovation: Nature’s Scitable Replaces Life Sciences Textbooks

Patty Seybold:

Just over a year ago, Nature Publishing Group’s new Education Division quietly launched the Beta of a revolutionary idea: Replace expensive textbooks with a free collaborative learning space for science. went live in January, 2008 and has quickly become a magnet for serious students of genetics (the first field that Nature is addressing).
Now, a year after its beta, is alive and well. Students and faculty from all over the world are actively using Scitable’s resources to teach and learn about genetics.
What can you do on Scitable?

Books that introduce kids to art and artists

Susan Faust:

How wild and wonderful imaginings are realized in architecture is the subject of Building on Nature: The Life of Antoni Gaudí, written by San Francisco author Rachel Rodríguez and illustrated by Julie Paschkis (Holt; 32 pages; $16.99; ages 5-8). Curvy structures such as the Sagrada Familia Cathedral in Barcelona “sparkle and glitter and whisper with joy,” according to this charming portrait of their Catalonian designer.

Stylized gouache art pays playful homage to Gaudí, his work and the natural world that taught him about light and form. And in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when “green” was just a color, he practices recycling. Broken dishes and tiles morph into fantastic surfaces that embody the value-added confluence of imagination and innovation.

How To Remake Education

New York Times Magazine:

Beyond Testing
The single biggest problem in American education is that no one agrees on why we educate. Faced with this lack of consensus, policy makers define good education as higher test scores. But higher test scores are not a definition of good education. Students can get higher scores in reading and mathematics yet remain completely ignorant of science, the arts, civics, history, literature and foreign languages.
Why do we educate? We educate because we want citizens who are capable of taking responsibility for their lives and for our democracy. We want citizens who understand how their government works, who are knowledgeable about the history of their nation and other nations. We need citizens who are thoroughly educated in science. We need people who can communicate in other languages. We must ensure that every young person has the chance to engage in the arts.
But because of our narrow-minded utilitarianism, we have forgotten what good education is.
Ravitch is a historian. Her book ”The Death and Life of the Great American School System” will be published in February.
Do Away With B.A.
Discredit the bachelor’s degree as a job credential. It does not signify the acquisition of a liberal education. It does not even tell an employer that the graduate can put together a logical and syntactically correct argument. It serves as rough and unreliable evidence of a degree of intelligence and perseverance — that’s it. Yet across much of the job market, young people can’t get their foot in the door without that magic piece of paper.
As President Obama promotes community colleges, he could transform the national conversation about higher education if he acknowledges the B.A. has become meaningless. Then perhaps three reforms can begin: community colleges and their online counterparts will become places to teach and learn without any reference to the bachelor’s degree; the status associated with the bachelor’s degree will be lessened; and colleges will be forced to demonstrate just what their expensive four-year undergraduate programs do better, not in theory but in practice.
Murray is the W. H. Brady scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and the author of ”Real Education: Four Simple Truths for Bringing America’s Schools Back to Reality.”

Burlington Township School Superintendent on Elementary Students Singing About President Obama

Christopher Manno:

By now, we’re sure that you are aware of a video placed on the Internet that has been reported heavily by the media. The video is of a class of students singing a song about President Obama.
Over the past two days we have been able to learn more about this situation and would like to provide you with some additional information. The song was one of eight skits performed during a February 2009 program that included second grade classes. Parents attended the program which took place on February 27, 2009. The other skits in the program included Groundhog Day, Chinese New Year, Abraham Lincoln, Valentine’s Day, George Washington, Mardi Gras, and Dental Health Month. The song about President Obama was in recognition of Black History Month. We have been informed that the lyrics of the song were sent home with the children in advance of the assembly, which was the teacher’s normal procedure. There were no concerns or complaints prior to, during, or after the program.
On March 23, 2009, an author visited the Young School as part of the school’s Women’s History Month recognition. As is usual procedure, parents were notified prior to the visit and invited to attend. The author presented two assemblies during which she read from two of her books. She also met with the Teen Book Club at our high school and did an evening book signing for parents and children. The author was accompanied by two individuals. After the first assembly on March 23rd, the class that performed the song at the February assembly about President Obama provided a special performance for the author, since one of the books she wrote was about Barack Obama. We were informed by a representative of the author that one of the individuals who accompanied the author video recorded the performance. School staff had no knowledge of the recording.

The charter school problem: Results are much less positive than a new study suggests

Diane Ravitch:

Charter schools are not a panacea for our education problems. The recent study by Caroline Hoxby of Stanford University concludes that disadvantaged students who attended charter schools in New York City for nine years, from kindergarten through eighth grade, can close most of what she calls the “Scarsdale-Harlem achievement gap.” Hoxby does not say how many students completed nine years in a charter school – a key detail, as the city had only about a dozen small charters in 2000.
The results are impressive, but they are not typical of charter schools across the nation.
Nationally there are about 4,600 charter schools enrolling 1.4 million students. They run the gamut from excellent to abysmal. Even their most ardent supporters recognize that they vary widely in quality. Chester Finn, whose Thomas B. Fordham Institute sponsors charter schools in Ohio, wrote, “Some of the best schools I’ve ever been in are charter schools, some of which are blowing the lid off test scores in such vexed communities as Boston, New York and Chicago. And some of the worst – and flakiest – schools I’ve ever been in are charter schools.”

Much more on Diane Ravitch here.

Adopted Chinese daughters seek their roots

Patti Waldmeir:

We have all seen them: adorable Chinese girls holding the hands of their (usually elderly, often overweight, but definitely doting) Caucasian parents, strolling the streets from New York to New South Wales, growing up in a white, white world, far away from the land and culture where they were born.
In some ways, they are a permanent blot on the image of China: surplus daughters the country couldn’t care for, unintended consequences of the 30-year-old “one-child” policy that led to the abandonment of hundreds of thousands if not millions of female infants at birth. But now, as the balance of global economic and political power shifts subtly in favour of China, Beijing is reaching out to all these lost daughters – and welcoming them back home.
China has invited thousands of foundlings back to their birthplaces for government-sponsored “homeland tours” which, like last year’s Beijing Olympics or next year’s Shanghai World Expo, give the country a chance to show off to the world. On one level, what the Chinese adoption authorities call “root seeking tours” – filled with extravagant expressions of love and kinship and lavish gifts for the returning orphans – are a transparent public relations exercise aimed at raising money for Chinese orphanages, justifying the decision to export surplus children and countering decades of unfair international criticism that Chinese people “hate girls”.

Public Sector Reform: Detroit Mayor’s Tough Love Poses Risks in Election

Monica Davey:

Gone are the cheery promises of earlier city leaders about how Detroit is on the way back. How some new project downtown is surely just the first sign of a renaissance afoot. How things are not so bad.
Instead, Dave Bing, Detroit’s mayor of five months, delivers grim news by the day.
Detroit’s bus service will be cut, he said, and 230 city workers will be laid off next week. Those layoffs are among more than 400 since he took office, and more are possible.
Within a week, he is expected to announce how he will — through elimination, consolidation, outsourcing — shrink a city bureaucracy built for an earlier, booming Motor City.
“We’ve got to focus on being the best 900,000 populated city that we can be and stop thinking about ‘We can turn the clock back to the 1950s and ’60s,’ ” he said, referring to a time when the city, still the 11th most populous in the nation, was nearly twice as big. “That era is gone.”

The Challenge of High School to College Transition

Dean Hubbard:

There is a dichotomy between the aspirations of high school students to attend college and their success once in college. Annually, over 90 percent of the nation’s 2.5 million high school graduates indicate a desire to go to college, and 72 percent of them actually enroll in some form of postsecondary education within two years after graduation. Despite such high levels of aspiration and motivation, once on campus over half of those who matriculate require remedial work. Worse yet, a staggering 41 percent never complete either a two- or four-year degree (Kirst and Venezia, From High School to College). But these data understate the problem because only 68 percent of high school freshmen complete high school on time. Thus, the other 32 percent are not in the pool from which the 90 percent number is calculated (Kuh and McCarthy “Are Students Ready for College? What Student Engagement Data Say.” Phi Delta Kappan Vol. 87 No 09). Moreover, other data show that 10 years after their freshmen year in high school, only 18 percent of students have completed a baccalaureate degree (Gorden “Accommodating Student Swirl”, Change Magazine Vol. 36 Issue 2). Together, these figures reveal a growing personal and national tragedy that challenges educators at all levels.

West Portal immersion program still thriving

Jill Tucker:

It was 1984 when a handful of San Francisco parents embarked on a controversial education experiment to open the first Chinese immersion public school program in the nation.
The idea was to immerse the students in Cantonese from the first day of school, teaching them math, science and other subjects in Chinese and gradually increasing English skills along the way. Success would mean that by the time the children finished elementary school, they would be grade-level literate in both languages.
The pioneering venture, which operates at West Portal Elementary’s kindergarten through fifth grades, was launched as U.S.-China relations were just warming. Today, it has become one of the school district’s shining stars, gaining steady popularity among families and setting an example for similar programs in San Francisco and across the country.
This year, there were 34 spots for incoming kindergarteners and 446 families trying to get one in the first round of applications, according to district officials.

Generous bequest has Pasadena magnet school asking: Who?

Seema Mehta:

Joyce Stallfort Davis leaves $440,011 for scholarships at Blair International Baccalaureate School. Officials don’t remember her but learn she worked at the school in the 1960s.
The mystery began in July when an attorney called Blair International Baccalaureate School and told it to be on the lookout for a large check. Two weeks ago, officials at the Pasadena magnet school opened a letter that contained a bequest of $440,011 from a woman named Joyce Stallfort Davis, who died last year at age 81.
Officials were thrilled, but there was one problem: No one knew who Davis was.
“I’ve worked at Blair for 34 years and had never heard of her,” said Dianne Moore, secretary of student services and counseling at Blair.

Madison Homeschool families replicate space station

Amelia Vorpahl:

A group of 13 Madison-area kids and their families replicated the International Space Station at Elver Park Friday, using over a mile of plastic tape, and spanning nearly two soccer fields.
The six families who participated in constructing the two-dimensional model are part of a network of homeschooled children and their parents in the Madison area. Each family chose sections of the space station to research and construct, and then made signs explaining their parts’ size and function.
David Dexheimer, activity organizer and parent of one of the children participating, said the goal of the project was to teach the kids about how the space station works. He said he came up with the idea a few weeks ago by looking at a NASA educational website.
“I’ve always been into space stuff and so is my daughter,” Dexheimer said. “This just worked into our curriculum well, in terms of all the math and science you need.”
The families arrived at the park around 8:30 a.m. and started constructing the model with plastic barricade tape, secured to the ground with golf tees.

UK Schools waste millions – report


Millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money is being wasted in the Department for Children, Schools and Families, an internal government report suggests.
The report, by former WH Smith chief executive Richard Handover, has been seen by BBC One’s Politics Show.
It claims civil servants and head teachers appear to have no idea what value for money means and calls for 40,000 teaching assistant jobs to go.
Schools Secretary Ed Balls has said £2bn could be cut from his department.
However, last week, he appeared to rule out the sort of job losses proposed by Mr Handover.

In Search of The Real Michelle Rhee

Marc Fisher:

W hen Michelle Rhee was a teenager — long before anyone imagined she would ever spend her career trying to turn America’s inner-city public schools into something more like the elite private school she attended back in Ohio — she was a stellar student, a good field hockey player and a kind, caring friend. But she already had the mouth for which she has become infamous. She said what was on her mind, even if it stung. Finally, one day, her mother had just had it with her daughter’s blunt, even brusque, manner. Inza Rhee said to Michelle, “What is wrong with you? You just don’t care what people think of you!”

10 Ways to Pick The Right District

Jay Matthews:

We say we are buying a house. But for most of us parents, the house is not the whole story. It is the local public school we are investing in, and sometimes it can be a very daunting financial and personal decision.
In the early 1990s, when my journalist wife was making what seemed to me big bucks as a television producer, we could afford to live in Scarsdale, N.Y. That village’s public schools cost us about as much in real estate taxes as the tuition at the private schools our kids had attended in Pasadena, Calif. Fortunately, we got what we paid for in Scarsdale. That is not always the case.
How do parents evaluate the schools their children may attend and escape the heartbreak of buying a great house that turns out to be in the attendance zone of a flawed school? Here are 10 ways to make the right choice, in descending importance. Feel free to re-prioritize them based on your personal tendencies:
1. Go with your gut. This sounds unscientific, but I don’t care. After you have analyzed all the data and had the conversations outlined below, you still have to make a decision. Consider how you react emotionally to a school. Consult your viscera. If you’re not feeling it, don’t send your kids there. They will sense you have doubts at a time when they need to believe that this is the place for them.

Turning grand education plans into reality will take preparation, speed and ruthlessness

The Economist:

SINCE Labour came to power in 1997 proclaiming education its priority, one grand policy after another has foundered. Schools were told to run themselves–but forbidden to do the things that matter most, such as paying good teachers more. Parents were encouraged to choose schools–but with too few attractive ones to choose from, many were rejected by the schools they selected. They were urged to lobby local government for new schools–but were largely ignored when they did so. A total of two “parent-promoted” schools actually opened.
The opposition Conservatives, who are on course to form the next government, will be making much of their own grand plans for schools at their party conference beginning on October 4th. Citing Sweden’s “free-school” reforms of the 1990s as their model, they say they will smash the state’s monopoly by funding new schools, to be run by charities or groups of parents, as generously as state ones. Michael Gove, their schools spokesman, reckons that 220,000 new places–as many as 500 schools–might be made available during their first term in office. The policy could see new suppliers responding to demand, innovating and competing to drive up standards. It could be a revolution.
Or it could be another almighty flop. Among the pessimists is Anders Hultin, an architect of Sweden’s reforms and co-founder of Kunskapsskolan, the country’s largest chain of free schools. He now works for GEMS, a Dubai-based chain of commercial schools operating in nine countries, including Britain. Of Sweden’s 1,000-odd free schools, three-quarters are run for profit, he points out–but the Tories, afraid of the charge that they plan to hand little children over to big business, would ban schools from making profits. “I think it is a tactical decision,” says Mr Hultin. “But it will surely mean fewer schools opening.”

Hungry for China business, Singapore is busily making Mandarin its first language

Nopporn Wong-Anan:

A cacophony of Mandarin and English echoes through the streets of Singapore’s Chinatown as crowds of shoppers buy mooncakes and other seasonal delicacies to mark the Mid-Autumn Festival.
English has long united the ethnically diverse city state, but Singapore’s leaders now foresee a time when Mandarin will be its dominant language and they are aggressively encouraging their citizens to become fluent in Chinese.
“Both English and Mandarin are important because in different situations you use either language. But Mandarin has become more important,” says Chinatown shopkeeper Eng Yee Lay.
Hit hard by the global slowdown, Singapore is seeking to leverage the language skills of its ethnic Chinese majority to secure a larger slice of the mainland’s rapidly expanding economic pie.

The Power of Good Schools: For Many Buyers, Education Rules — And It Shows in Area Home Prices

Barbara Ruben:

In their quest to move out of their rented Rockville townhouse and buy a single-family home, Lisa Hollaender and her husband, Laurent, first considered the Carderock Springs neighborhood of Bethesda, then moved on to Potomac and later explored Olney. They also ventured across the Potomac to Vienna. But they haven’t been to a single open house, let alone made an offer.
Hollaender is first finding the school she considers best suited for her son, who is both very bright and physically challenged.
“Ultimately school fit is number one, house location a far second,” said Hollaender, whose son recently started kindergarten. The family has decided to stay put in Rockville this year and send him to a private school, but that’s a temporary solution. “We cannot continue to pay for private school, plus buy our ‘dream home,’ ” Hollaender said.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Attack high tax burden on Wisconsin homes

Wisconsin State Journal Editorial:

If you own a home or business in Wisconsin, you already know your property taxes are high.
But now it’s official.
So let’s keep the pressure on government at all levels to try to ease the burden.
Wisconsin has the ninth highest property tax in the nation, a nonprofit research group reported this week. The Tax Foundation, based in Washington, D.C., used new Census Bureau data to rank the best and worst real estate tax burdens across the country.
Wisconsin’s median property tax last year was $2,963, compared to the national median of $1,897, the group reported.
When home values are factored in, Wisconsin moves up the list to fourth highest among the 50 states. By this measure, our burden is almost twice as heavy as the national median.

Notes and links from former Madison Mayor Paul Soglin along with Paul Caron. WISTAX:

Wisconsin’s two largest taxes, the income tax and property tax, generate more than $15 billion for state and local governments.
In 2008, income tax collections totalled $6.71 billion. At 3.3% of personal income, Wisconsin’s income tax collections ranked 10th highest nationally. On a per capita basis ($1,137), the Badger state was 13th.
Recent income tax law changes reduced the capital gains exclusion from 60% in 2008 to 30% in 2009 and added a fifth tax bracket (7.75%). In 2008, the top tax rate was 6.75%

Ted Kolderie urges “dramatic change” in the public sector.

Needlessly expensive school clothes are trying parents’ patience

The Economist:

ASDA offers one for £55 ($90), Matalan for £49, and British Home Stores for £69 (including a shirt, tie and leather shoes). For a teenager needing to look smart, high-street retailers provide suits at a reasonable price. But not all pupils are allowed to shop around.
Johnny, aged 16, was told to return to his private school this autumn in a “charcoal wool two-piece with a fine blue pinstripe”. It is available only from the school outfitters, and costs a cool £210. His father, Edward, a writer for The Economist, spent the summer arguing with the school about the uniform. “I don’t object to his being nicer and more intelligent than I am,” he says. “But I draw the line at his being more expensively dressed.”
Parents and teachers usually like uniforms: they stop rich children from showing off, in theory inspire a proud work ethic and in practice keep gang colours outside the gates. But state schools that ape ancient private ones by adopting fancy uniforms have had a mixed reception. It is not the clothes that raise hackles, but specifying their source.

I’ll Make My Reading Logs Optional Says Virginia Teacher

Sara Bennett:

The post that has generated the most Comments ever is I Hate Reading Logs by FedUp Mom. If you scroll through, you’ll notice that teachers have chimed in, some rethinking their own homework practice, others defending it. I was particularly struck by the openness of a teacher from Virginia, who found the post while looking for a reading log, and ended up rethinking logs altogether.
I also thought the teacher made a very good point about the importance of keeping all discussions between teacher and parent as cordial and as respectful as possible.

Madison School District & Madison Teachers Union Reach Tentative Agreement: 3.93% Increase Year 1, 3.99% Year 2; Base Rate $33,242 Year 1, $33,575 Year 2: Requires 50% MTI 4K Members and will “Review the content and frequency of report cards”

via a kind reader’s email (200K PDF):

The Madison Metropolitan School District and Madison Teachers Inc. reached a tentative agreement Tuesday evening on the terms and conditions of a new two-year Collective Bargaining Agreement for MTI’s 2,600 member teacher bargaining unit. Negotiations began April 15.
The Contract, for July 1, 2009 to June 30, 2011, needs ratification from both the Board of Education and MTI. The Union will hold its ratification meeting on Wednesday, October 14, beginning at 7:00 p.m. at the Alliant Energy Center, Dane County Forum. The Board of Education will tentatively take up the proposal in a special meeting on October 19 at 5:00 p.m.
Terms of the Contract include:
2009-2010 2010-11
Base Salary Raise – 1.00% Base Salary Raise – 1.00%
Total Increase Including Benefits – 3.93% Total Increase Including Benefits – 3.99%
Bachelor’s Degree Base Rate $33,242 Bachelor’s Degree Base Rate $33,575
A key part of this bargain involved working with the providers of long term disability insurance and health insurance. Meetings between MTI Executive Director John Matthews and District Superintendent Dan Nerad and representatives of WPS and GHC, the insurance carriers agreed to a rate increase for the second year of the Contract not to exceed that of the first year. In return, the District and MTI agreed to add to the plans a voluntary health risk assessment for teachers. The long term disability insurance provider reduced its rates by nearly 25%. The insurance cost reductions over the two years of the contract term amount to roughly $1.88 million, were then applied to increase wages, thus reducing new funds to accomplish this.
The new salary schedule increase at 1% per cell, inclusive of Social Security and WRS, amount to roughly $3.04 million. Roughly 62% of the salary increase, including Social Security and WRS, was made possible by the referenced insurance savings.
Key contract provisions include:

    Inclusion in the Contract of criteria to enable salary schedule progression by one working toward the newly created State teacher licensure, PI 34. Under the new Contract provision, one can earn professional advancement credits for work required by PI 34.

  • Additive pay regarding National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, i.e. an alternative for bargaining unit professionals who are not teachers (nurses, social workers, psychologists, et al) by achieving the newly created Master Educator’s License.
  • Continuance of the Teacher Emeritus Retirement Program (TERP).
  • The ability after retirement for one to use their Retirement Insurance Account for insurance plans other than those specified in the Collective Bargaining Agreement. This will enable one to purchase coverage specific to a geographic area, if they so choose, or they may continue coverage with GHC or WPS – the current health insurance providers.
    For elementary teachers, the frequency and duration of meetings has been clarified, as have several issues involving planning time. All elementary teachers and all elementary principals will receive a joint letter from Matthews and Nerad explaining these Contract provisions.
  • For high school teachers who volunteer for building supervision, there is now an option to enable one to receive compensation, rather than compensatory time for the service. And there is a definition of what “class period” is for determining compensation or compensatory time.
  • For elementary and middle school teachers, MTI and the District will appoint a joint committee for each to study and recommend the content and frequency of report cards.
    For elementary specials (e.g. art, music) teachers, the parties agreed to end the class and a half, which will mean that class sizes for specials will be similar to the class size for elementary classroom teachers.
  • For coaches, and all others compensated on the extra duty compensation schedule, the additive percentage paid, which was frozen due to the State imposed revenue controls, will be restored.
  • School year calendars were agreed to through 2012-2013.
  • Also, MTI and the District agreed to a definite five-year exemption to the Contract work assignment clause to enable the District to assist with funding of a community-based 4-year-old kindergarten programs, provided the number of said 4-K teachers is no greater than the number of District employed 4-K teachers, and provided such does not cause bargaining unit members to be affected by adverse actions such as lay off, surplus and reduction of hours/contract percentage, due to the District’s establishment of, and continuance of, community based [Model III] 4-K programs. (See note below.)


Bad Title, Mind-Changing Book

Jay Matthews:

We education writers receive many books in the mail with terrible titles, real slumber-time stuff. Here are some on my bookshelf: “Learning and Understanding: Improving Advanced Study of Mathematics and Science in U.S. High Schools”;| “Rethinking High School Graduation Rates & Trends”; and “SREB Fact Book on Higher Education.”
Those volumes proved to be pretty good, as evidenced by the fact that I didn’t throw them out. I mention this because on top of that stack is a new book that sets the record for largest gap between quality of work and liveliness of title.
It is “Schoolhouses, Courthouses, and Statehouses: Solving the Funding-Achievement Puzzle in America’s Public Schools” by Eric A. Hanushek and Alfred A. Lindseth| I forced myself to read it because it was on the agenda of a conference I was attending.
I’m glad I did. It is enlightening, maddening, hopeful, frustrating and amazingly informative, all in just 411 pages. I don’t like admitting this, but it even changed my mind on a hot issue, the connection between U.S. schools and U.S. economic success.
I probably would have read “Schoolhouses, Courthouses, and Statehouses” cq that serial comma eventually, because Hanushek is one of the bad boy economists who have been providing some of the most provocative education research. I don’t know Lindseth, an attorney and national expert on school finance law, but the chapters on that subject were very good, and comprehensible, so he also deserves some credit.

Unions Criticize Obama’s School Proposals as ‘Bush III’

Nick Anderson:

To the surprise of many educators who campaigned last year for change in the White House, the Obama administration’s first recipe for school reform relies heavily on Bush-era ingredients and adds others that make unions gag.
Standardized testing, school accountability, performance pay, charter schools — all are integral to President Obama’s $4.35 billion “Race to the Top” grant competition to spur innovation. None is a typical Democratic crowd-pleaser.
Labor leaders, parsing the Education Department’s fine print, call the proposal little more than a dressed-up version of the No Child Left Behind law enacted seven years ago under Obama’s Republican predecessor.
“It looks like the only strategies they have are charter schools and measurement,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. “That’s Bush III.” Weingarten, who praises Obama for massive federal aid to help schools through the recession, said her 1.4 million-member union is engaged in “a constructive but tart dialogue” with the administration about reform.

Alameda School District Master Plan

Alameda, California:

At the March 24th Board of Education meeting, Superintendent Vital proposed to the Board that together they begin a Master Plan process, to be completed by December. The result of the process will be a detailed plan that will provide the district a clear road map for decision-making over the next several years.
Our school district faces many challenges ahead, and important and difficult decisions about facilities, programs and staffing will have to be made. These decisions will impact all of our community so it is imperative that students, families, and staff – as well as the overall Alameda community – participate in the Master Plan process and face these challenges together.

Related: The Madison School District’s Strategic Planning Process.

The pedagogy of the privileged

The Economist

Business schools have done too little to reform themselves in the light of the credit crunch.
THIS has been a year of sackcloth and ashes for the world’s business schools. Critics have accused them of churning out jargon-spewing economic vandals. Many professors have accepted at least some of the blame for the global catastrophe. Deans have drawn up blueprints for reform.
The result? Precious little. Business schools have introduced a few new courses. Students at Harvard Business School (HBS) have introduced a voluntary pledge “to serve the greater good” among other worthy goals, which about half of this year’s graduates embraced. But for the most part it is business schooling as usual.

“Dramatic Change in the Public Sector”

Ted Kolderie:

The Route Out of Minnesota’s Fiscal Crisis: “We Can Change ‘the Way We Do Things'”
A response limited to cutting-and-taxing would destroy Minnesota. To offset the disadvantages of our cold, remote location we sell a quality state at a high but reasonable price. This is a fragile balance. We could easily lose what attracts people to come here and to stay. And the fight would poison our politics; tear the state apart.
We do a pretty good job upgrading our physical infrastructure. And we do think about productivity in the private economy. But we lack a program for productivity in the public sector.

Much more on Ted Kolderie here.

How Safe Is Your College?

The Daily Beast:

The Yale murder has heightened concerns about campus security. The Daily Beast crunches the numbers and ranks the 25 schools with the biggest crime problems.
The shocking murder of Yale doctoral student Annie Le had virtually every parent of a college student asking themselves the same question this week: Will my child be safe on campus?
Almost universally, that answer is yes. Statistics for campus crime–80 percent of which involve students both as perpetrator and victim–generally pale when compared to the general population, and university safety has been improving as parental pressure and federal laws have increased transparency.

Considering e-Book Formats

Peter Wayner:

Steve Jordan, a self-published science fiction novelist, has to make lots of decisions. Although most of them involve plot points, narrative arcs and character development, Mr. Jordan has the added burden of deciding how to deliver the stories he creates to his online audience.
Some of those readers own dedicated devices like’s Kindle, some plow through his books on smartphones, some use laptops and maybe a few even employ desktop PCs left over from the last century. (In true sci-fi fashion, Mr. Jordan doesn’t publish his novels on paper.)
The options are proliferating quickly for readers and the authors they love. While devices like the Kindle, the Apple iPhone and the Sony Reader get much of the attention, practically any electronic device capable of displaying a few lines of text can be adapted as a reader. The result has been a glut of hardware, software and e-book file formats for readers to sift through in searching for the right combination.

Revised Madison School District Strategic Plan Posted

via a kind reader’s email:
September 21, 2009 Revision: 900K PDF.
Comments on the District’s website.
Madison School Board President Arlene Silveira’s email on the latest version and upcoming board discussions:

Good afternoon everyone,
The proposed action plans for the strategic plan are now on the district web site.
Please go to the home page (, click on bullet for Strategic Planning;
click on “Read and comment on the proposed Strategic Plan – Sept. 21, 2009
Click on “Strategic Plan (proposed) Sept. 21, 2009”
The action plans start on page 30. The Board had requested additional support information. The Administration has added performance measures for each of the strategies. In addition, the plans are cross-referenced to the top critical issues that you identified as a group in your strategic planning meetings. The Board had also asked for a review of the wording for clarity and to lessen the use of educational jargon; a review of priorites to lessen the number of priorities one in the first year; and identification of the connections between various action items as well as connections to oterh plans presented to and/or approved by the Board.
The Board has a meeting scheduled for September 29 at 6:00pm to review/discuss the action plans. If you have any comments prior to that meeting, you can reply on the web or send me an email. I will ensure the Board sees your comments.
Please let me know if you have any questions.
Best regards,

Letter from Madison School Board members Ed Hughes and Marj Passman on the revised Strategic Plan:

This Tuesday evening, September 29, the School Board will be having a last and, hopefully, final discussion on the Strategic Plan.
Even though the plan has evolved somewhat since our initial meetings, we think that you will find that it represents the spirit and essence of all your efforts.
You may share your views with the Board, Tuesday at 6:00 P.M., in the Doyle Auditorium.
If you would like to read the plan, please go to
and click on the bullet for Strategic Planning.
It will be good to see you again.
Ed Hughes and Marj Passman
Committee Chairs
MMSD Planning and Development Committee

Much more on the Madison School District’s Strategic Planning process here.

Do Charters ‘Cream’ the Best?

Wall Street Journal:

‘Creaming” is the word critics of charter schools think ends the debate over education choice. The charge has long been that charters get better results by cherry-picking the best students from standard public schools. Caroline Hoxby, a Stanford economist, found a way to reliably examine this alleged bias, and the results are breakthrough news for charter advocates.
Her new study, “How New York City’s Charter Schools Affect Achievement,” shows that charter students, typically from more disadvantaged families in places like Harlem, perform almost as well as students in affluent suburbs like Scarsdale. Because there are more applicants than spaces, New York admits charter students with a lottery system. The study nullifies any self-selection bias by comparing students who attend charters only with those who applied for admission through the lottery, but did not get in. “Lottery-based studies,” notes Ms. Hoxby, “are scientific and more reliable.”
According to the study, the most comprehensive of its kind to date, New York charter applicants are more likely than the average New York family to be black, poor and living in homes with adults who possess fewer education credentials. But positive results already begin to emerge by the third grade: The average charter student is scoring 5.8 points higher than his lotteried-out peers in math and 5.3 points higher in English. In grades four through eight, the charter student jumps ahead by 5 more points each year in math and 3.6 points each year in English.

Online High Schools Test Students’ Social Skills

Paul Glader:

Tatyana Ray has more than 1,200 Facebook friends, sends 600 texts a month and participated in four student clubs during the year and a half she attended high school online, through a program affiliated with Stanford University.
Although top public and private high schools abound in her affluent area of Palo Alto, the 17-year-old originally applied to the online school because she and her parents thought it looked both interesting and challenging. She enjoyed the academics but eventually found she was lonely. She missed the human connection of proms, football games and in-person, rather than online, gossip. The digital clubs for fashion, books and cooking involved Web cams and blogs and felt more like work than fun. Last winter, Ms. Ray left the online school and enrolled at a local community college for a semester.
As online high schools spread, educators are ramping up efforts to counter the social isolation that some students experience. At the same time, sociologists and child psychologists are examining how online schooling might hinder, or help, the development of social skills.

Performing Arts Center at Menlo-Atherton High School – opening soon

Linda Hubbard Gulker:

Finishing touches are underway in advance of the opening of the new Performing Arts Center at Menlo-Atherton High School the second weekend in October, highlighted by a performance by Music@Menlo’s Artistic Directors, cellist David Finckel and pianist Wu Han, and special guest Anthony McGill, principal clarinetist of New York’s Metropolitan Opera. The center – built in collaboration with the City of Menlo Park – includes a 492-seat theater, lobby, box office, rehearsal and practice rooms, and stagecraft workshop for production of scenery and props.
According to Sequoia Union High School District spokesperson Bettylu Smith, the 31,000-square-foot, 65-foot-high building is inspired by the beauty of the historical grove of Valley Oak trees on campus and has been carefully designed and landscaped to create a tree house-like environment and the impression it is following the contours of an already existing hillside.

Judgement Day for Universities?

The Economist:

IN YESTERDAY’S Link exchange, I linked to a Henry Farrell post on the economics of 3D-movies, in which Mr Farrell quoted an old piece of his:

Perhaps the most interesting part of the book [Tyler Cowen’s ““>Good and Plenty“] is one that goes on a tangent from Cowen’s main argument – his discussion of how changes in the ability of producers to enforce copyright are likely to affect cultural production. Here, he argues that the likely consequences will differ dramatically from art form to art form. Simplifying a little, he adapts Walter Benjamin to argue that there is likely to be a big difference between art forms that rely heavily on their “aura,” and art forms that can be transformed into information without losing much of their cultural content. The former are likely to continue to do well – they aren’t fundamentally challenged by the Internet. In contrast, forms of art which can be translated into information without losing much of their content are likely to see substantial changes, thanks to competition from file sharing services. Over time, we may see “the symbolic and informational” functions of art [becoming] increasingly separate,” as the Internet offers pure information, and other outlets invest more heavily in providing an “aura” and accompanying benefits of status that will make consumers more willing to pay for art (because it is being produced in a prestigious concert hall, exhibited in a museum etc).

I think this is a very nice insight that is likely to prove true. It’s not always so easy to determine what kinds of what forms of expression fall into which category, however. I believe that many newspaper producers long believed that the “aura” of reading the newspaper–having the physical item in one’s hands–was an important part of news consumption. This may have been true to some extent, but the advantages of information digitisation overwhelmed the aura, with obvious consequences.

National Academic Standards: The First Test

New York Times:

The first official draft of proposed national educational standards was released on Monday, a joint project of the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. The curriculum guidelines detail math and English skills that all students should have by the end of high school. Forty-eight states (Texas and Alaska are the holdouts) have signed on to the effort, called the Common Core Standards Initiative, to write the standards. This is one step on a long road: there is a 30-day comment period, and then the panel convened by the governors association will work on grade-by-grade standards from kindergarten onward.
What are some strengths and weaknesses of the new proposal? What are the obstacles to adopting common curriculum standards? Should this be a national goal, or should education reform efforts be directed elsewhere?

The Decline of the English Department

William Chace:

During the last four decades, a well-publicized shift in what undergraduate students prefer to study has taken place in American higher education. The number of young men and women majoring in English has dropped dramatically; the same is true of philosophy, foreign languages, art history, and kindred fields, including history. As someone who has taught in four university English departments over the last 40 years, I am dismayed by this shift, as are my colleagues here and there across the land. And because it is probably irreversible, it is important to attempt to sort out the reasons–the many reasons–for what has happened.
First the facts: while the study of English has become less popular among undergraduates, the study of business has risen to become the most popular major in the nation’s colleges and universities. With more than twice the majors of any other course of study, business has become the concentration of more than one in five American undergraduates. Here is how the numbers have changed from 1970/71 to 2003/04 (the last academic year with available figures):

Lies My Parents Told Me

Science Blog:

Parents say that honesty is the best policy, but they regularly lie to their children as a way of influencing their behavior and emotions, finds new research from the University of Toronto and the University of California, San Diego.
Surprisingly little scholarship has been published on the subject of parental lying, so Gail Heyman, professor of psychology at UC San Diego, Diem Luu, a former UCSD student, and Kang Lee, professor at the University of Toronto and director of the Institute of Child Study, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, set out to explore the under-researched phenomenon. They asked U.S. participants in two related studies about parents lying to their children — either for the purpose of promoting appropriate behavior or to make them happy.

Read the Whole Book

The Concord Review
22 September 2009
For the last seven or eight years, I have been trying to get funding for a study of the assignment of complete nonfiction (i.e. history) books in U.S. public high schools. No one seems to be interested in such a study, but I have come to believe, from anecdotes and interviews, that the majority of our public high school students now graduate without ever having read a single complete nonfiction book, which would seem to be a handicap for them as they encounter college reading lists in subjects other than literature.
I am told that students in history classes do read excerpts, but those are a pale shadow of the complete work, and they do not discover, unless they read on their own, the difference between an excerpt and the sweep of an entire book.
For example, if high school students hear anything about Harry Truman, they are usually asked to decide whether his decision to drop the atomic bomb was right or wrong.
They miss anything about what he did when he was their age or younger. David McCullough worked on his Pulitzer-Prize-winning Truman for ten years, and here is an excerpt about HST when he was ten:
“For his tenth birthday, in the spring of 1894, his mother presented him with a set of large illustrated volumes grandly titled in gold leaf Great Men and Famous Women. He would later count the moment as one of life’s turning points.” p. 43
and in high school: “He grew dutifully, conspicuously studious, spending long afternoons in the town library, watched over by a white plaster bust of Ben Franklin. Housed in two rooms adjacent to the high school, the library contained perhaps two thousand volumes. Harry and Charlie Ross vowed to read all of them, encyclopedias included, and both later claimed to have succeeded…History became a passion, as he worked his way through a shelf of standard works on ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome…’Reading history, to me, was far more than a romantic adventure. It was solid instruction and wise teaching which I somehow felt I wanted and needed.’ He decided, he said, that men make history, otherwise there would be no history. History did not make the man, he was quite certain.” p. 58
Most of our high school students would have no idea that Harry Truman worked on the small family farm from 1906 to 1914:
“Harry learned to drive an Emerson gang plow, two plows on a three-wheeled frame pulled by four horses. The trick was to see that each horse pulled his part of the load. With an early start, he found, he could do five acres in a ten-hour day”….”Every day was work, never-ending work, and Harry did ‘everything there was to do’–hoeing corn and potatoes in the burning heat of summer, haying, doctoring horses, repairing equipment, sharpening hoes and scythes, mending fences…Harry’s ‘real love’ was the hogs, which he gave such names as ‘Mud,’ ‘Rats,’ and ‘Carrie Nation.’ Harry also kept the books….” pp. 74, 75
Perhaps this time on the farm toughed him for his job as commander of artillery Battery ‘D’ in World War I: “Harry called in the other noncommissioned officers and told them it was up to them to straighten things out. ‘I didn’t come here to get along with you,’ he said. ‘You’ve got to get along with me. And if there of you who can’t, speak up right now, and I’ll bust you right back now.’ There was no mistaking his tone. No one doubted he meant exactly what he said. After that, as Harry remembered, ‘We got along.’ But a private named Floyd Ricketts also remembered the food improving noticeably and that Captain Truman took a personal interest in the men and would talk to them in a way most officers wouldn’t.” pp. 117-118
And in the United States Senate, investigating waste, fraud and abuse: “Its formal title was the Senate Special Committee to Investigate the National Defense Program, but from the start it was spoken of almost exclusively as the Truman Committee…’Looks like I’ll get something done,’ Harry wrote to Bess.”…”His proposal, as even his critics acknowledged, was a masterstroke. He had set himself a task fraught with risk–since inevitably it would lead to conflict with some of the most powerful, willful people in the capital, including the President–but again as in France, as so often in his life, the great thing was to prove equal to the task.” p. 259
All of these quotes are from David McCullough’s Truman, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992. The book is 992 pages long and there are some other great ‘excerpts’ in it, of course. My point is to show a bit of how much our high school students might miss in trying to understand the man who made the decision to drop the atomic bomb if they don’t read the whole book. Some will say 992 pages is too much for high school students, who have work and sports and extracurricular activities as well as 5-6 hours a day of electronic entertainment already. I would just argue that if students now can take calculus and chemistry, and in some cases, even Chinese, they ought to be able to spend as much time on a complete nonfiction book as they do at football or basketball practice, even if their reading of a complete book is spread out over several weeks. Reading a complete nonfiction (history) book will not only help to prepare them for college (nonfiction) reading lists, it will also give them a more complete glimpse into one of our Presidents, and after reading, for example, Truman, they should have a better understanding of why someone like David McCullough thought writing it was worth ten years of his life, and why the Pulitzer committee thought it should receive their prize.
“Teach by Example”
Will Fitzhugh [founder]
Consortium for Varsity Academics® [2007]
The Concord Review [1987]
Ralph Waldo Emerson Prizes [1995]
National Writing Board [1998]
TCR Institute [2002]
730 Boston Post Road, Suite 24
Sudbury, Massachusetts 01776 USA
978-443-0022; 800-331-5007;
Varsity Academics®

When Less Is More

Scott Jaschik:

For years now, applicants to highly competitive colleges have complained that they feel that they must do more and more to demonstrate why they should be admitted.
This year, following a pattern that had already taken hold among less competitive institutions (for different reasons), some institutions are asking a little less of applicants, at least when it comes to how much they have to write. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is replacing a longer essay (500 words) with several short questions of about 200 words. The University of Pennsylvania has decided to combine two essay questions about the student’s fit into the institution into one, saving students maybe 200 words.
For book-writing academics, 200 words here or there may seem irrelevant. But the admissions officers behind the decisions say that they are asking for less out of the view that they may learn more about applicants by not overwhelming them with so many questions. They also said that it may be time for admissions deans to balance more carefully what they would like to know about applicants — and the demands on applicants’ time.

Brutality on the Bus

Mrs. Cornelius:

I imagine you’ve probably heard about this by now:

The [Belleville, Illinois] School Board on Monday handed out the harshest punishment allowed to two students accused of violent attacks on another boy on a school bus last week, saying it was sending a message by expelling the two boys for the rest of this year and all of next.
Board President Curt Highsmith said the kind of violence caught on the school bus’ surveillance camera and shown widely on TV and the Internet has “never been tolerated and never will be tolerated” in the Belleville Township High School District.
The video taken a week earlier by a camera on the bus showed a 17-year-old Belleville West High School student get on the bus and look for an open seat. He took a seat next to another teen, who after a few moments attacked the victim, punching him in the head several times. At one point, the attacker held the victim by the neck with one hand while he punched his face with the other.
A few minutes after that beating ended, another student argued with the victim and then punched him in the face several times. Each time, other students intervened in an effort to stop the attacks.

New US education standards proposed

Nick Anderson:

n advisory panel unveiled a proposal yesterday that details the math and English skills every student ought to have by the end of high school, the first step toward what advocates hope will become common standards that help the United States regain world academic leadership.
In math, for example, students would be able to solve systems of equations; find and interpret rates of change; and adapt probability models to solve real-world problems.
In English language arts, they would be able to analyze how specific word choices shape the meaning and tone of a text; develop a style and tone of writing appropriate to a task, purpose and audience; and respond constructively to advance a discussion and build on the input of others.
The proposal, posted at, was drafted over the summer by a group that included specialists affiliated with organizations that oversee the SAT and ACT college admissions tests, as well as Achieve Inc., a nonprofit standards advocacy group based in Washington.

Charter Schools Pass Key Test in Study

John Hechinger & Ianthe Jeanne Dugan:

New York City students who win a lottery to enroll in charter schools outperform those who don’t win spots and go on to attend traditional schools, according to new research to be released Tuesday.
The study, led by Stanford University economics Prof. Caroline Hoxby, is likely to fire up the movement to push states and school districts to expand charter schools — one of the centerpieces of President Barack Obama’s education strategy.
Among students who had spent their academic careers in charter schools, the average eighth grader in Ms. Hoxby’s study had a state mathematics test score of 680, compared with 650 for those in traditional schools. The tests are generally scored on a roughly 500 to 800 scale, with 650 representing proficiency.
Ms. Hoxby’s study found that the charter-school students, who tend to come from poor and disadvantaged families, scored almost as well as students in the affluent Scarsdale school district in the suburbs north of the city. The English test results showed a similar pattern. The study also found students were more likely to earn a state Regents diploma, given to higher-achieving students, the longer they attended charter schools.

Jennifer Medina, via a kind reader’s email:

Students who entered lotteries and won spots in New York City charter schools performed better on state exams than students who entered the same lotteries but did not secure charter school seats, according to a study by a Stanford University economist being released Tuesday.
Charter schools, which are privately run but publicly financed, have been faring well on standardized tests in recent years. But skeptics have discounted their success by accusing them of “creaming” the best students, saying that the most motivated students and engaged parents are the ones who apply for the spots.
The study’s methodology addresses that issue by comparing charter school students with students of traditional schools who applied for charter spots but did not get them. Most of the city’s 99 charter schools admit students by lottery.
The report is part of a multiyear study examining the performance of charter schools in New York City by Caroline M. Hoxby, a Stanford economist who has written extensively about her research on charter schools and vouchers.

Complete 2MB PDF report, via Rick Kiley.

Skills Set Proposed For Students Nationwide

Nick Anderson:

Experts convened by the nation’s governors and state schools chiefs on Monday proposed a set of math and English skills students should master before high school graduation, the first step toward what advocates hope will become common standards driving instruction in classrooms from coast to coast.
The proposal aims to lift expectations for students beyond current standards, which vary widely from state to state, and establish for the first time an effective national consensus on core academic goals to help the United States keep pace with global competitors. Such agreement has proven elusive in the past because of a long tradition of local control over standards, testing and curriculum.
In math, the proposal envisions that students would be able to solve systems of equations; find and interpret rates of change; and adapt probability models to solve real-world problems. In English language arts, they would be able to analyze how word choices shape the meaning and tone of a text; develop a style and tone of writing appropriate to a task and audience; and respond constructively to advance a discussion and build on the input of others.

Resist the Pedagagogical Far Right

Robert Nash:

This fall I will be starting my 41st year as a professor at a so co-called “Public Ivy” institution. Some of my colleagues ask me if I’ll ever retire. Whenever I give my stock response — “They’ll have to carry me out of here in a box, and bury me on the main university green before I retire” — my colleagues look at me as if I’m crazy. Perhaps from their perspective I am, but from my own view, I’m very sane. I love the life of academe, in spite of its irritating intellectual rigidities, its sometimes lethal, passive-aggressive competitiveness, its deeply entrenched resistance to change, and, worst of all, its over-the-top superiority complex. Still, I’m here to shout to the world that academe has been good to me, and I consider myself lucky to be a professor. But it is my teaching that fills me up the most, and it is my teaching that has provided the lasting memories.
The past few years I’ve been reading a lot about teaching and learning as preparation for writing a book on how to help students create meaning both inside and outside the classroom. Most of the work I’ve read, with a few remarkable exceptions, resounds with critique, regrets, complaints, settling old scores with some perceived enemy, and, worst of all, with belligerent put-downs of millennial and quarterlife students. For many of these authors, today’s college students are lazy, preoccupied, unmotivated, poorly prepared, distracted, politically correct, and, above all, “entitled.” In a word, students today are “unteachable.”
These scholars go on to say that if the academy is to save itself, it must return to the older ideals of a reduced elective curriculum, a stringent, no-prisoners-taken grading policy, an uncompromising commitment to the tried-and-true academic research methodologies, and, most of all, a no-nonsense, lecture-only, close-textual-analysis, stick-to-the-facts/research approach to reading and writing. “Rigor” is the catchword for these writers. Sadly, in the aftermath, “rigor mortis” could very well become, if it hasn’t already, the catchword for students.

Norman, OK School District Gifted Education Plan

Norman Public Schools:

The District shall provide appropriate educational services for “gifted and talented children” who give evidence of high performance capability in areas such as intellectual, creative, artistic, musical, or leadership capacity, or in specific academic areas, and who require learning opportunities or experiences not ordinarily provided by the school in order to fully develop such capabilities. These educational experiences will be provided at each school through site-developed programs, which are in alignment with the mission of the District’s Gifted Education Plan and goals of that plan.

Related: The Madison School District’s new Talented & Gifted Plan.

State politics could block Detroit’s chance for educational progress

Amber Arellano:

magine if, in a strange twist, Michigan was holding up the city of Detroit’s progress.
It would be a shocking, right? After all, for decades the state’s business and civic establishments and chattering classes (myself included) have blathered on about how Detroit and its schools and its dysfunctional leadership have dragged down the economic growth of the state and metropolitan region and harmed their social viability and global reputation. It’s a painfully true statement, except now there’s an exception to that rule.
To the surprise of many, Detroit could be held back by the state when it comes to educational progress, or at least the strategic policymaking needed to make that happen.
While the Detroit Public Schools’ emergency financial manager Robert Bobb and his impressive administration appear to be well-prepared to compete for President Barack Obama’s Race to the Top competitive education stimulus money, Lansing is stuck in an ideological battle, threatening to risk Michigan’s application to win hundreds of millions for Michigan schools. Just six months ago, the opposite seemed to be true. Detroit was mired in a self-created swamp of corruption and low performance. Michigan, meanwhile, led by progressive state Superintendent Mike Flanagan, was putting itself in position to woo U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who has more money at his disposal to transform American education than any other education secretary has in decades, if ever.

US Drops Case Against Vang Pao; Madison Elementary School Was, At One Time Name for the Exiled Hmong Leader

Jesse McKinley:

he federal government said Friday that it had dropped all charges against the exiled Hmong military leader Gen. Vang Pao, who had been accused of plotting to overthrow the Communist government in his native Laos.
The announcement came after a grand jury in Sacramento issued a new indictment on Thursday against a dozen men accused of conspiring to give money, arms and other support to insurgents in Laos, and violations of the Neutrality Act.
Ten of the 12 defendants, all of whom live in California, had been charged in a 2007 indictment that named Gen. Vang Pao, as a ringleader in the plot. The new indictment replaces the previous one.

Much more on Vang Pao and the Madison School District here.

Defining ‘College Ready,’ Nationally

Doug Lederman:

That too many young people come out of high school ill-prepared for college or the work force is little disputed. The questions of why that’s so and how to fix the situation, however, have too often resulted in finger pointing, with many college faculty members complaining that high schools are asking too little of their students and high school officials saying that colleges send mixed signals about what they want students to be able to do.
The stagnation and even deterioration created by that logjam has contributed to the situation in which the United States now finds itself: sliding down the list of countries in the proportion of young adults with college credentials, prompting President Obama and others to propose investing tens of billions of dollars to get more people into and out of college. But despite a lot of talk, the “holy grail” solution to the preparation problem — better aligning high school and college curriculums so that more students leave K-12 ready to do college work or with work-ready skills — has often seemed out of reach.
Today represents a milestone, though, for a potential breakthrough that could have major implications for higher education. The Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association have released common standards for core curriculums in mathematics and reading and writing that, because of a confluence of events, could create a set of widely embraced national (but not federal) standards for what high school students need to know to be “college ready” or to have the skills to enter the work force. (Comments are invited through October 21.)

New Life Where Towns and Teams Are Dying

Jere Longman:

Last Friday, as on all football Fridays at state champion Canadian High School, a black-and-gold flag flew along Main Street outside the City Drug Soda Fountain. A painted sign spelled out Wildcats on the window at Treasure’s Beauty Salon. Up the street, at the Hemphill County Courthouse, Sally Henderson showed off the paw-print design on her black-and-gold fingernails.
Until a nail salon opened over the summer in this tiny, wealthy and ambitious Panhandle town, Henderson drove 45 miles to Pampa or 100 miles to Amarillo to have her nails done for football games and holidays.
“My husband is so glad I don’t have to drive anymore,” said Henderson, 52, a cheery administrative assistant to the county judge and the wife of the county sheriff. “I’d stop and do Wal-Mart, and every time I got my nails done, I’d spend $300.”

Live Blogging from the Millburn Schools Meeting

Tina Kelley:

“I keep hearing about how administrators and teachers and everybody to blame, but I’m not hearing a word about parents in the community.” There was applause from the back of the room.
She spoke about her experience when her son was bullied, and administrators did their best, but when she approached parents about their children’s behavior, she was immediately ostracized. “I was shunned from their circle, the PTO, everything else, and I felt that message loud and clear,” she said. She spoke of a woman she had heard of who was happy that her daughter made the slut list, because it ensured that she was popular, and other parents complaining about having to shop for camouflage one weekend, the clothes certain freshman girls had been instructed to wear. “Where are your brains?” Ms. Pasternak asked.
“I’m really speaking to you guys as a community, yes you should put together a task force,” she said. “But why do let these people dominate our community? We shouldn’t. We should say you’re wrong, your kids are not the popular ones and you are definitely not popular.” (People laughed at that.)

Millburn Schools.

British Employers Say University Students Should Pay More


University students should pay higher interest rates on their government-backed support loans and expect higher tuition fees in future in order to plug a gap in higher education funding, employers said on Monday.
The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) said the government should save 1.4 billion pounds a year by removing its interest rate subsidy from student loans and reinvest the money in university teaching and research.
Maintenance grants should be restricted to the poorest students while a rise in the 3,200-pound-a-year cap on tuition fees looked “inevitable.”
It noted that universities believed an increase to 5,000 pounds a year would not lead to a decline in student demand while raising an extra 1.25 billion pounds in annual income.

Madison schools’ new rules for ‘backpack mail’ shut out some

Gayle Worland:

The Madison School Board has clamped down on just who can and cannot advertise through the school district’s backpack mail system, a change that has some parents feeling relieved – less “junk mail” for the recycling bin – and others worried they’re missing out.
Tucked in a folder, backpack mail, which regularly heads home with Madison’s elementary school students, still includes school announcements, notes from the teacher, field-trip permission slips and perhaps bills for unpaid lunch accounts. And plenty of ads for nonprofits such as the YMCA, Children’s Theater of Madison and Madison Youth Choirs remain.
But gone are the fliers touting for-profit offerings, such as private tutoring, after-school care, music lessons, karate classes, ballet lessons and kid-friendly commercial gyms.
The policy change adopted last month stems from concerns that a growing amount of backpack mail was taking too much staff time, said School Board president Arlene Silveira.

Business can play a role in education, says World Bank boss

Harry Patrinos:

Whether education is best provided by the public or private sector should cease to be an ideological issue, with decisions made purely on the basis of which is the best quality and most cost-effective option, says the World Bank’s lead education economist.
In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Harry Patrinos, co-author of The Role and Impact of Public-Private Partnerships in Education, a report published by the World Bank, said that he believes there is a much greater role for business in education generally, subject to strict conditions.
Mr Patrinos said that, despite Britain pioneering public-private partnerships (PPPs) to build new school infrastructure under schemes such as the Private Finance Initiative over the past decade, real progress will only be made when private suppliers are allowed to hire and fire teachers and manage schools themselves.
“Education is a social investment, as well as a private investment. There is and will always be a government responsibility, but that doesn’t have to mean ownership of schools,” he said.

Wauwatosa, WI trade school works on employability skills

Amy Hetzner:

Two by two, the students sit at tables in what once was a medical clinic. Next door to the single classroom is their break room. Down the hall, a conference room awaits more permanent furniture.
Much about the Tosa School of the Trades says “work” – not just the building, but the charter school’s curriculum as well.
“We want to be kind of almost like a job, because what we’re working on is employability skills as well as 21st century skills,” said Principal Jason Zurawik, who doubles as an associate principal at Wauwatosa East High School.
The Wauwatosa School District’s newest school, which opened this year to 14 students in the basement of a district building on W. North Ave., represents a resurgence of the idea of the vocational high school. Like those schools of old, its students learn trade skills alongside core subjects such as English, math, social studies and science.
But Zurawik also sees the school as training students in what educators refer to as 21st century skills – problem solving, critical thinking, teamwork, self-direction – that will allow them to adapt to different jobs later on.
And as a result, its teachers see the school as the way education should be heading.

Parents say Mass. puts low priority on education for gifted children

Taryn Plumb:

At age 3, Aurora Ghere began to read. Now 6, she delves into books that are usually fifth-grade fare, recently finishing “The Call of the Wild” and “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”
She can also, her mother boasts, count to 1,000.
When the Gheres lived in Maryland, a screening in her school district identified Aurora as a gifted child.
But Green Meadow School in Maynard, where Aurora is in first grade, lacks programs geared toward gifted children. Though administrators have been supportive of Aurora’s needs, her mother thinks schools in her town and elsewhere should do more.
“We could care less if our children got into Harvard or MIT,” said Ghere. “We just want them to love school. School should be a joy.”

Elite Schools Don’t Make Elite People

Jay Matthews:

I promised a high school counselor in California I would update a very old online column whose printout on her wall is too faded to read. It asked a question I think students immersed in college visiting and application writing should consider: Where did your heroes go to college?
Most of us want our lives to have meaning. We want to add value, at least in some small way. We want to be admired.
What college do you go to for that? Where did the people we look up to get their degrees? Often it’s not the best-known schools.
Let’s look at government and business leaders. (I know. They have their flaws. But we are just getting started.) The past four presidents graduated from Columbia, Yale, Georgetown and Yale. But the four before them attended somewhat more modest institutions: Eureka, the U.S. Naval Academy, Michigan and Whittier.

Proposed Madison Superintendent Review Guidelines

Madison School District [284K PDF]:

The annual Superintendent evaluation should serve as a positive, objective process for promoting the goals, values, and progress of the district. It is based on the Superintendent’s job description and is one tool used by the Superintendent/Board Leadership Team for informed change and continued improvement of the district.
The Board will identify and approve a timeline for the formal evaluation to review the performance of the Superintendent and the Board/Superintendent Leadership Team on an annual basis. The Board will identify the following under the timeline: a date for the formal evaluation meeting, a date for the end-of-year progress report meeting, a due date for the interim progress report from the Superintendent, a date for a Board/Superintendent Leadership and a date for the end-of-year progress meeting.

A difficult lesson in tough love

Mrs. Moneypenny:

Do you keep phone numbers? I meticulously store contact details for everyone I meet, however random, and make notes of what they do and where I met them. My other modus operandi when meeting people is always to try to be as polite and helpful as possible (within reason).
Hence, I found myself giving up an hour or so earlier this year to cast an eye over the business strategy of a small enterprise. On meeting the people behind the business, I discovered that it was a rehabilitation clinic, and one of the people presenting to me was a very impressive addiction counsellor, and herself a recovering alcoholic.
And that is where I sat up and took notice, because I have a close relative who is alcohol-dependent. It is not Mr M or any of the cost centres, but it is someone very dear to me. Those of you who have someone in their family who is alcohol- or drug-dependent will know how emotionally scarring this is. You love them, you want to help, you try to help, but they are living in another world. In their world, they are not addicts; they believe that they could give up at any time. They always have an excuse. Something is always just around the corner that will fix their problems – if only they could meet the right person/get the right job/have the right amount of money, everything would be fine. Nothing and no one ever prepared me for the self-delusion of the alcoholic. Every time they say they are going to get help, your hopes rise; and invariably they end up being crushed again

Real Governance Change in the Milwaukee Public Schools?

Alan Borsuk:

WTMJ-TV (Channel 4) led its 10 p.m. news one night a few weeks ago with a story that the Milwaukee School Board had voted to spend up to $250,000 to fight the idea of giving control of the school system to Mayor Tom Barrett.
In the report, board member Tim Petersons told people who support the idea, “You’re calling people who voted for us incapable of making the right decisions.” And board member Larry Miller said, “We will resist the anti-democratic nature of this declaration.”
But democracy is an interesting subject when it comes to the School Board. In reality, Petersons won his first race for the board in 2007 as the only person on the ballot from a district covering the northwest side. Miller was the only person on the ballot when he won his first bid in April in a district covering much of the east side and near south side.
Voter turnout in the election in April, which included hotly contested races for the state superintendent of public instruction and a seat on the state Supreme Court, was just less than 10% citywide. In the February primary election, which included two contested School Board primaries, turnout was 4.3%.

Cursive writing may be fading skill, but so what?

Tom Breen:

Charleston resident Kelli Davis was in for a surprise when her daughter brought home some routine paperwork at the start of school this fall. Davis signed the form and then handed it to her daughter for the eighth-grader’s signature.
“I just assumed she knew how to do it, but I have a piece of paper with her signature on it and it looks like a little kid’s signature,” Davis said.
Her daughter was apologetic, but explained that she hadn’t been required to make the graceful loops and joined letters of cursive writing in years. That prompted a call to the school and another surprise.
West Virginia’s largest school system teaches cursive, but only in the 3rd grade.
“It doesn’t get quite the emphasis it did years ago, primarily because of all the technology skills we now teach,” said Jane Roberts, assistant superintendent for elementary education in Kanawha County schools.

Teachers find Obama not the friend they had expected

Rob Hotakainen:

When Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed merit pay for teachers and lifting the cap on charter schools, the head of the California NAACP stood by his side.
And when the Los Angeles school board voted to approve a plan that could turn over a third of its schools to private operators, Latino members and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa led the charge.
The nation’s public school teachers are feeling the squeeze from all sides these days, and some of the heat is coming from unlikely sources: minorities and longtime Democratic allies.
One of them is President Barack Obama, who is irking teachers by suggesting that student test scores be used to judge the success of educators.
The pressure is particularly intense in California, where U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan says the state has “lost its way” with public schools.
In an attempt to improve California’s schools, the Obama administration is threatening to withhold federal stimulus money if the Golden State does not rescind a state law that prevents the state from tying test scores to teacher performance.

Initiative Focuses on Early Learning Programs

Sam Dillon:

Tucked away in an $87 billion higher education bill that passed the House last week was a broad new federal initiative aimed not at benefiting college students, but at raising quality in the early learning and care programs that serve children from birth through age 5.
The initiative, the Early Learning Challenge Fund, would channel $8 billion over eight years to states with plans to improve standards, training and oversight of programs serving infants, toddlers and preschoolers.
The Senate is expected to pass similar legislation this fall, giving President Obama, who proposed the Challenge Fund during the presidential campaign, a bill to sign in December.
Experts describe the current array of programs serving young children and their families nationwide as a hodgepodge of efforts with little coordination or coherence. Financing comes from a shifting mix of private, local, state and federal money. Programs are run out of storefronts and churches, homes and Head Start centers, public schools and other facilities. Quality is uneven, with some offering stimulating activities, play and instruction but others providing little more than a room and a television.

A Look at Teacher Compensation in Oshkosh

Adam Rodewald:

Oshkosh teachers received annual salary raises that averaged more than 3 percent per school year over the past five years, according to an analysis by The Northwestern.
The analysis examined the salaries of 420 full-time teachers who were continuously employed by the Oshkosh Area School District from 2004 to 2008 and did not have significant changes in duties, which would skew salary increases.
The results show those teachers received raises averaging 4.4 percent in 2008 for an average salary of $52,171. That doesn’t account for the value of their benefits, which average another $35,800.
In the past five years, the teachers’ average pay, excluding benefits, increased 16 percent, from $44,884 to $52,171 due to “step” increases in pay that are given based on experience and professional development. That represents an average annual raise of 3.06 percent at a time when teachers’ unions argued that state bargaining rules stagnated salary increases.
Teacher pay and benefits are likely to come under more scrutiny as Wisconsin struggles with a growing $6.6 billion budget deficit, which could force the state to further cut aids to local schools, forcing more of the funding burden to local property tax payers. Gov. Jim Doyle’s budget also contains a provision to repeal the state’s Qualified Economic Offer rule, which allows school boards to avoid contract arbitration by offering a 3.8 percent salary and benefit increase.

A day at the museum – how much do children actually remember?

Julien Gross:

Museum corridors are often populated by clipboard-bearing school children enjoying a day away from the classroom. These museum trips seem like a good idea, but how much do children really learn from their day out? According to Julien Gross and colleagues, young children actually remember a great deal, especially if they are given the chance to draw as they recount their museum experience.
Fifty-eight lucky New Zealand school children, aged approximately six years, were taken for a day visit to the Royal Albatross Centre and Historic Fort in Dunedin. One to two days later, the amount of information recalled by the children depended to a large degree on how they were tested. Asked to freely recall the visit, the children remembered a significant amount of factual and trivial, “narrative” information, uttering an average of ten factual clauses. Crucially, this amount of factual recall doubled when they were allowed to draw at the same time as they recounted the day’s events. By contrast, the children performed relatively poorly when given a traditional comprehension test in the form of 12 questions.
A second study largely replicated these findings with a second group of children who were tested on their memory for the museum visit after seven months. The amount of information they recalled remained substantial but was reduced, as you’d expect after a longer delay. Also, the benefit of drawing now only affected recall of narrative information, not facts.

Remedial burden falls on community colleges

Robert Channick:

In Illinois’ community colleges, fewer students finish two-year programs in two years, while many flounder in remedial classes before dropping out.
Drawn by low tuition and open admissions, a growing number of students headed back to school at Chicago-area community colleges. For Kyle Perez and thousands of entering freshmen, it may be a little further back than planned.
Coming up short on a standardized math placement exam before beginning classes at Harper College in Palatine, the 18-year-old football player was disappointed to learn he would have to take a full year of remedial algebra and geometry.
“I’m going to be in a high school class, paying the same amount as I would for college,” said Perez, a 2009 Rolling Meadows High School graduate. “I’m not going to be getting any college credits for this. It’s going to slow me down a little.”
An estimated 20 percent of the record number of full-time students enrolled in the state’s 48 community colleges in the spring semester were forced to take remedial courses, officials said.
As a result, students are taking longer to earn two-year degrees and more are getting discouraged and dropping out, prompting efforts in Illinois and around the country to better align the curricula of high schools and community colleges.

Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction statewide value added project results (Including the Madison & Milwaukee Public Schools)

Kurt Kiefer, Madison School District Chief Information Officer [150K PDF]:

Attached is a summary of the results form a recently completed research project conducted by The Value Added Research center (VARC) within the UW-Madison Wisconsin Center for Educational Research (WCER). Dr. Rob Meyer and Dr. Mike Christian will be on hand at the September 14 Board of Education meeting to review these findings.
The study was commissioned by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI). Both the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) and Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) were district participants. The purpose of the study was to determine the feasibility of a statewide value added statistical model and the development of state reporting and analysis prototypes. We are pleased with the results in that this creates yet one more vehicle through which we may benchmark our district and school performance.
At the September 14, 2009 Board meeting we will also share plans for continued professional development with our principals and staff around value added during the upcoming school year.
In November we plan to return to the Board with another presentation on the 2008-09 results that are to include additional methods of reporting data developed by VARC in conjunction with MPS and the DPI. We will also share progress with the professional development efforts.


Fixing the Teacher Certification Mess

Jay Matthews:

I have no doubt our system for certifying teachers is broken. On Aug. 24, I wrote|| about a first-rate Prince George’s County teacher who was nearly fired because of official confusion over his certification credits. These are courses he must take to keep his job, but the people in charge had given him conflicting information about how many, and which, courses he needed. Since then, scores of educators have sent me their own horror stories—some of which I collected in another column on Sept. 7.
What do we do about this? Many readers have sent their ideas. But it’s not going to be easy. Injecting common sense into the process threatens the way our education schools teach and the way our school districts hire. Those powerful interest groups show little willingness to change. But the acidic frustrations expressed by people who contacted me are, thankfully, corroding the resistance to innovation.

New School Uses Games As Teaching Tools

Alex Wawro:

The first school in America with a teaching philosophy based on game design opens in downtown Manhattan next month, and the mission statement promises to employ the “design principles of games to create highly immersive, game-like learning experiences for students.”
Quest to Learn is the brainchild of NYC non-profit Institute of Play, and with funding from the Parson’s School of Design and a number of independent donors like the Gates Foundation the school promises to instruct students “through an innovative pedagogy that immerses students in differentiated, challenge-based contexts,” acknowledging that “game design and systems thinking [are] key literacies of the 21st century.”
What that means in common English is that students will ditch chalkboards and class periods in favor of a laptop in every classroom and four 90-minute “domain” blocks centered around the study of a new concept or idea. Some examples cited in a recent Economist article include “Sports for the Mind” (game vernacular and design,) “The Way Things Work” (basic science) and “Codeworlds” (a fusion of English and math.)

Gray Claims Fenty Just Wants to Fire Unionized Teachers

Bill Turque:

D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray angrily accused the Fenty administration Thursday of seeking to “scapegoat” the council for impending public school budget cuts announced this week and called the reductions a pretext for firing unionized teachers.
Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) and Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee announced late Wednesday that the District would be forced to lay off teachers as part of an estimated $30 million to $40 million cut in the $770 million public school budget for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. They said the reductions are needed to close a spending gap created when the council approved a round of cuts to the city budget July 31.
Gray (D), who has left open the possibility of an election challenge to Fenty next year, said the mayor and chancellor were attempting to deflect responsibility for cuts in a budget that the mayor signed last month without any mention of possible teacher layoffs.


Don Regina, via hard copy (The text is “OCR‘d):

Good evening, everyone. I did not mean to burden you with more paper; after all, in life there is so much paperwork, but my administrators urged all teachers to present such a document to you. In my career I have observed that teachers feel somewhat anxious about tonight, but I don’t know why.
Tonight we are together for the first of three meetings, the other two being parent-teacher conferences. It seems we are here for different purposes. You care enough to hurry from work, forego a leisurely dinner, and spend a few hours here. Perhaps you are curious about what I look like, or how I dress (by the way, I am out of uniform-I rarely wear a coat and only don a tie once a week), the way I have decorated my room, what this course is about, and if I am knowledgeable, intelligent, and articulate enough to teach effectively. In other words, is it safe for you to turn your child over to me for forty-five minutes every day. But in Twenty-first Century America two lesser but very powerful gods, named “Things to Do” and “Hurry Up” harry us mercilessly, so you must base your first impressions on these brief encounters. Wouldn’t it be more relaxing if we could sit around a table over coffee and share ideas and concerns? I am here to tell you who I am and my teaching goals and philosophy. In short, I want not to make myself look good but to speak truly and simply, not to put my best foot forward but my real foot forward. Despite our seemingly different purposes, you and I are here for the same reason: we are involved in the education and development of your child and my student. Whether we agree or disagree and regardless of your reactions to what I do or don’t do, let us always remember we are the most influential allies in that essential and crucial process, and permit our alliance to set the tone for our relationship.
My name is Don Regina, and I am ( ) years old. I, and my son . . attended this school, so like you I believe in a private, values oriented education. I hold a Bachelor of Arts degree from St. Michael’s College in Vermont, a Masters Degree in British and American literature from the UW-Madison, and a Lifetime License from the Department of Public Instruction. Yes, I am a lifer. I have taught English here at Edgewood High School for ( ) years-this is my only post-and advise the school newspaper and coach the boys cross country team.
My profession has changed somewhat in the last thirty years. When you and I were in high school, we read and wrote about the classics-A Tale of Two Cities, Crime and Punishment, and Silas Marner. During the Seventies in college I argued with my fellow student teachers about the relative or apparent merits of something called independent study. And now my subject is called Language Arts. Despite all the superficial changes and glitsy gimmicks, and the history of education is loaded with gimmicks, we are and always will be studying the two Rs-reading and writing. So, unlike math or foreign language teachers, we English teachers must fight on two fronts.
It is not surprising, then, that I have two major goals. First, I must teach students to read carefully and perceptively. They must know what happened and what the author said in the text, and use that knowledge to understand characters such as Macbeth, John Proctor from The Crucible, or Elizabeth Bennett from Pride and Prejudice. They should interpret symbols such as Robinson Crusoe’s island, James Joyce’s Dublin, or Mark Twain’s river town, Dawson’s Landing, in Puddn Head Wilson. And, most importantly, they should understand the theme or message the author is conveying. What is Jonathan Swift saying about humanity in Gulliver’s Travels? How is F. Scott Fitzgerald portraying his generation in The Great Gatsby? What is Alice Walker expressing about the plight of women in The Color Purple?
My second goal is multi-faceted: to teach students to write competently. They should organize and clearly express their ideas in fully developed paragraphs and complete sentences using appropriate words. And they should 3 master writing’s nuts and bolts: correct spelling, grammar, usage, and punctuation. As you can see, this is a daunting task.


Literacy in Schools: Writing in Trouble

Surely if we can raise our academic standards for math and science, then, with a little attention and effort, we can restore the importance of literacy in our public high schools. Reading is the path to knowledge and writing is the way to make knowledge one’s own.
17 September 2009
by Will Fitzhugh
Source: Member Contribution
Topics: Writing Conventions
[originally published in the New Mexico Journal of Reading, Spring 2009]
For many years, Lucy Calkins, described once in Education Week as “the Moses of reading and writing in American education” has made her major contributions to the dumbing down of writing in our schools. She once wrote to me that: “I teach writing, I don’t get into content that much.” This dedication to contentless writing has spread, in part through her influence, into thousands and thousands of classrooms, where “personal” writing has been blended with images, photos, and emails to become one of the very most anti-academic and anti-intellectual elements of the education we now offer our children, K-12.
In 2004, the College Board’s National Commission on Writing in the Schools issued a call for more attention to writing in the schools, and it offered an example of the sort of high school writing “that shows how powerfully our students can express their emotions”:
“The time has come to fight back and we are. By supporting our leaders and each other, we are stronger than ever. We will never forget those who died, nor will we forgive those who took them from us.”
Or look at the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the supposed gold standard for evaluating academic achievement in U.S. schools, as measured and reported by the National Center for Education Statistics. In its 2002 writing assessment, in which 77 percent of 12th graders scored “Basic” or “Below Basic,” NAEP scored the following student response “Excellent.” The prompt called for a brief review of a book worth preserving. In a discussion of Herman Hesse’s Demian, in which the main character grows up, the student wrote,

“High school is a wonderful time of self-discovery, where teens bond with several groups of friends, try different foods, fashions, classes and experiences, both good and bad. The end result in May of senior year is a mature and confident adult, ready to enter the next stage of life.”

It is obvious that this “Excellent” high school writer is expressing more of his views on his own high school experience than on anything Herman Hesse might have had in mind, but that still allows this American student writer to score very high on the NAEP assessment of writing.
This year, the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) has released a breakthrough report on writing called “Writing in the 21st Century,” which informs us, among other things, that:


Threatening School Reform Which D.C. Council members want to go back to the bad old days?

Washington Post Editorial:

IN UNDERTAKING reform of D.C. schools, officials two years ago wisely prescribed a limited role for the school board. Sentimentality about the city’s first elected body protected it from elimination, but officials recognized its absolute failure in serving the interests of children. Yet already the D.C. Council seems to want to give the board more prominence.
The council, returning from summer break next week, will try to override Mayor Adrian M. Fenty’s Aug. 26 veto of budget language appropriating nearly $1 million to the State Board of Education. It was the second time the mayor vetoed the measure because of fears that increased autonomy could lead to the board meddling in school operations. Five votes are needed to sustain the mayor’s veto, and unfortunately, it appears that some council members are buying the notion that this is a minor matter that won’t threaten Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee’s reforms. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D), proponent of the change who is also mulling a challenge to Mr. Fenty next year, argues that the board’s role in setting citywide educational standards and policy is not being enlarged.

21st Century Skills – Critical thinking? You need knowledge

Diane Ravitch:

THE LATEST fad to sweep K-12 education is called “21st-Century Skills.” States – including Massachusetts – are adding them to their learning standards, with the expectation that students will master skills such as cooperative learning and critical thinking and therefore be better able to compete for jobs in the global economy. Inevitably, putting a priority on skills pushes other subjects, including history, literature, and the arts, to the margins. But skill-centered, knowledge-free education has never worked.
The same ideas proposed today by the 21st-Century Skills movement were iterated and reiterated by pedagogues across the 20th century. In 1911, the dean of the education school at Stanford called on his fellow educators to abandon their antiquated academic ideals and adapt education to the real life and real needs of students.
In 1916, a federal government report scoffed at academic education as lacking relevance. The report’s author said black children should “learn to do by doing,” which he considered to be the modern, scientific approach to education.


Don Tapscott:

In the industrial model of student mass production, the teacher is the broadcaster. A broadcast is by definition the transmission of information from transmitter to receiver in a one-way, linear fashion. The teacher is the transmitter and student is a receptor in the learning process. The formula goes like this: “I’m a professor and I have knowledge. You’re a student, you’re an empty vessel and you don’t. Get ready, here it comes. Your goal is to take this data into your short-term memory and through practice and repetition build deeper cognitive structures so you can recall it to me when I test you.”… The definition of a lecture has become the process in which the notes of the teacher go to the notes of the student without going through the brains of either.
In his Edge feature “Gin, Television, and Cognitive Surplus“, Clay Shirky noted that after WWII we were faced with something new: “free time. Lots and lots of free time. The amount of unstructured time among the educated population ballooned, accounting for billions of hours a year. And what did we do with that time? Mostly, we watched TV.”
In “The End of Universal Rationality“, Yochai Benkler explored the social implications of the Internet and network societies since the early 90s. Benkler has been looking at the social implications of the Internet and network societies since the early 90s. He saw the end of an era:

‘Bonus culture’ entering schools


An unwelcome bonus culture is creeping into head teachers’ pay, diverting funds from the classroom, a teachers’ leader is warning.
Head of the ATL union Dr. Mary Bousted is critical of what she says are highly paid school leadership roles which have little to do with children’s education.
Every pound of bonus paid above school leadership pay scale was a pound less for books and equipment, she says.
The government said the level of pay should reflect heads’ responsibilities.
‘Super duper heads’
Some school governing bodies have advertised six figure salaries to attract good candidates to run schools and others are reported to have offered golden hellos.
Speaking at the Association of Teachers and Lecturers fringe at the TUC Congress in Liverpool, Dr Bousted said her union did not object to heads being paid a fair wage for a demanding and increasingly insecure job.

Beyond Textbooks – Andy Chlup Discusses Digital Learning Models


There was a large touch of irony in an August NY Times post discussing the demise of a fixture in the world of education, the school textbook. The article, In a Digital Future, Textbooks Are History, predicts the death of an industry that is becoming “antiquated” with each passing tech innovation.
Though always considered exceedingly expensive, textbooks were once considered as fundamental to the classroom learning experience as the teacher. These tombs were the source of knowledge, the drivers of curriculum, and the teacher’s most important resource.
But all that has changed in the digital world. According to experts, there are two critical factors.
First, there is the assessment of the value (learning produced per dollar) of these texts:

75 Percent of Oklahoma High School Students Can’t Name the First President of the U.S.


Only one in four Oklahoma public high school students can name the first President of the United States, according to a survey released today.
The survey was commissioned by the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs in observance of Constitution Day on Thursday.
Brandon Dutcher is with the conservative think tank and said the group wanted to find out how much civic knowledge Oklahoma high school students know.
The Oklahoma City-based think tank enlisted national research firm, Strategic Vision, to access students’ basic civic knowledge.
“They’re questions taken from the actual exam that you have to take to become a U.S. citizen,” Dutcher said.

That, my friends, is what totalitarianism is all about: Education in Venezuela

Thomas P.M. Barnett:

Last time Hugo started screwing with the schools, he got himself a coup attempt in response. Since then he’s spent a ton of time and money and police effort to try and eliminate all such enemies.
A new August law shoved through the rubber-stamp Parliament “already has the opposition talking of civil disobedience.”
Naturally, this will be an American plot, because any such spontaneous popular civil disobedience could ONLY come as a result of American meddling, and not the bad actions of dictators nor their fed-up and brutalized citizens.
Teaching will be structured now according to “Bolivarian doctrine.” Hmm, sounds promising all right. The ruling socialist party will run all the schools through their community store fronts known as “communal councils.” The central gov will directly determine who gets into college and will take control of the training of teachers.