D.C. SCHOOLS Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee stands accused, it seems, of trying to manage her budget in a way that will do the least harm to students. Not a crime, you might think — unless, like Ms. Rhee’s accusers on the D.C. Council, you are more interested in scoring political points than in hearing what she is doing for children.
Ms. Rhee was called before the council Thursday to explain the layoffs of 388 employees, including 266 teachers and other educators. She provided convincing evidence of the budget pressures leading to this month’s reduction in force. She offered solid reasons for the hiring of some 900 teachers last spring and summer, and held out an olive branch to the council — saying she never intended to blame it for the layoffs. She made clear that her goal was to save summer school as an option for as many children as possible.
This, by the way, was no secret; we referred to Ms. Rhee’s efforts to save summer school on these pages Sept. 23. It might help, in fact, if council Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D) got on the phone when Ms. Rhee called. It’s also clear, in the opinion of budget experts we consulted, that Ms. Rhee has the authority to cut now, with plans to restore summer school, as long as she submits a reprogramming later. So exclamations of surprise at her plans and accusations of law-breaking have little credibility.
Monthly Archives: October 2009
Madison School District Strategic Plan: Nirvana by 2014/2015?
The Madison School Board recently passed the District’s Strategic Plan. Superintendent Dan Nerad has now published a draft document outlining performance measures for the plan (this is positive). The 600K PDF document is well worth reading. Mr. Nerad’s proposed performance measures rely on the oft criticized – for its lack of rigor – state exam, the WKCE. The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction recently stated that “Schools should not rely on only WKCE data to gauge progress of individual students or to determine effectiveness of programs or curriculum“.
A few highlights from the 600K PDF document:
- By 2014/2015 every Madison School District Student will be 100% proficient on the WKCE. “Flexible Instruction” is referenced for all students.
- The percentage of Madison School District high school students “participating in” advanced courses has declined over the past three years:
Grade 2006/2007 2007/2008 2008/2009 9 0.3% 0.4% 0.2% 10 5.5% 7.3% 1.9% 11 18.0% 18.1% 10.6% 12 34.1% 34.3% 24.3%
Related: WKCE Scores Document Decline in the Percentage of Madison’s Advanced Students.
- The percentage of students scoring “C” or above for all courses will rise from 45 to 64% (6th to 12th grade; 2008/2009 school year) to all students (100%) in 2014-2015.
- Are MMSD Programs Effective, Who Knows?
When all third graders read at grade level or beyond by the end of the year, the achievement gap will be closed…and not before.
- West High Math teachers on curriculum reduction.
Discussing these data is a step in the right direction. Unfortunately, use of the WKCE does not instill much confidence, from my perspective.
via “Some States Drop Testing Bar” by John Hechinger.
Why Public Sector Collective Bargaining Should Be Public
Because during contract negotiations in Stamford, Connecticut, someone might notice that the average teacher salary is about $80,000.
Because in Brevard County, Florida, someone might notice that more than $5 million designated for the employee health care trust fund was spent on an 8.5 percent teacher pay raise.
Because in Hawaii, someone might wonder if getting rid of school on Fridays is really that great of an idea.
Because in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, someone might suggest that the union is filing multiple grievances to get negotiating leverage.
Because across America, someone might actually get to read the New Haven teacher contract before deciding how reformy it is. In the meantime, you can see that the New Haven Federation of Teachers didn’t emphasize the same areas as Randi Weingarten, Arne Duncan and the New York Times when discussing the contract internally.
Federal Researchers Find Lower Standards in Schools
A new federal study shows that nearly a third of the states lowered their academic proficiency standards in recent years, a step that helps schools stay ahead of sanctions under the No Child Left Behind law. But lowering standards also confuses parents about how children’s achievement compares with those in other states and countries.
The study, released Thursday, was the first by the federal Department of Education’s research arm to use a statistical comparison between federal and state tests to analyze whether states had changed their testing standards.
It found that 15 states lowered their proficiency standards in fourth- or eighth-grade reading or math from 2005 to 2007. Three states, Maine, Oklahoma and Wyoming, lowered standards in both subjects at both grade levels, the study said.
Eight states increased the rigor of their standards in one or both subjects and grades. Some states raised standards in one subject but lowered them in another, including New York, which raised the rigor of its fourth-grade-math standard but lowered the standard in eighth-grade reading, the study said.
Wisconsin’s standards fell below the Federal “Basic Achievement Level”. Channel3000 has more.
Should student drama productions be restricted to PG themes?
ou would think people have better things to fight about, but across the nation people are arguing–and even going to court–over high school plays. Yes, the drama productions that high school kids stage for other high school kids.
The latest instance occurred this week at Churchill High School in Potomac, Md., when administrators abruptly cancelled a production of “Chicago” three weeks before it was to be staged because it is too racy, my colleague Nelson Hernandez reported.
Never mind that these same officials had approved the production last spring when students first asked permission.
And never mind that the play is decades old and was turned into an Academy Award-winning movie, making it impossible for anybody at the school to claim they didn’t know it was about murder and sex and other themes, that, come to think of it, run through Shakespeare’s plays too.
But I digress.
The Best Writing in Educational Technology
The single best piece of writing in recent memory on the large scale structural forces shaping higher education and the role of technology in impacting these forces is the first chapter of The Tower and the Cloud, “The Gathering Cloud: Is This the End of the Middle?”
You can read Katz’s chapter here, or better yet go and get the whole volume. I’m focussing on Katz’s introductory chapter, but the whole book contains a series of wonderful essays that flush out the ideas raised by Katz in his chapter and are worth the investment to read.
Rarely does a piece of writing stick with me like Katz’s chapter has, one-year on from when I first picked up the Tower and the Cloud at last year’s EDUCAUSE conference. We live in such a fast world of micro information, tweets, disposable blog posts, quick YouTube videos, online presentations, and RSS feeds. We ed. tech. people like the new new, we like innovation, we are suspicious of the status quo and firmly believe that if technology has changed everything else it should (and can) change the academy as well.
Katz’s writing is an important antidote to the “right now” nature of much of our information consumption, communication and work in learning technology. He takes the time to tell the long story of the development and growth of higher education, and then situates the disruptive innovations slamming into our institutions as part of this larger story.
President Obama’s November 4, 2009 Madison Destination: Wright Middle School?
President Obama’s “education” speech, due to be delivered in Madison on Wednesday, November 4, 2009 may, perhaps be given at Wright Middle School. It is a (rare) charter school located in Madison. Obama and Education Secretary (and former Chicago Superintendent) have been promoting structural change within our public schools. Wright, a Charter School, was birthed via a “Madison Middle School 2000” initiative along with the desire to place a new middle school on Madison’s south side. Local biotech behemoth Promega offered land for the school in Fitchburg, which the District turned down (that land and initiative became Eagle School).
Has Wright been successful? Has it achieved the goals illuminated in the original Madison Middle School 2000 initiative?
There are any number of local issues that could be discussed around the visit, including: the District’s general opposition to charter schools, changes to the teacher contract seniority system and Wisconsin’s controversial and weak state test system (WKCE).
The Wisconsin State Journal has more.
It will be interesting to see what, if any, substantive actions arise from Obama’s visit.
Bad Trip: School Outings Get Downgraded
Eleven-year-old Clayton Lundstrom couldn’t wait for sixth grade, the year he’d get to spend three days hiking, identifying plants and singing songs around a bonfire in the Cascade Mountains with his classmates. The trip to the Cispus Learning Center has been a rite of passage for sixth-graders in his Washington state district for almost 20 years.
But earlier this year, the Tumwater School District yanked funding for it, and unless the Parent Teacher Association can raise enough money, Clayton’s class will stay home. “I’ve been waiting to go to Cispus basically since first grade,” Clayton says.
As schools across the country face massive budget cuts and parents face their own financial shortfalls, field trips are getting canceled in droves. More than one in six schools plans to eliminate trips this year, according to a survey by the American Association of School Administrators. That’s up from 9% last year. By next school year, one in four schools will need to cut field trips, according to the survey.
Even when trips aren’t canceled, there often are downgrades. After budget cuts in Eau Claire, Wisc., the Northstar Middle School couldn’t pay for the eighth-grade trip to Minneapolis to see a performance of “A Christmas Carol” at the landmark Guthrie Theater, designed by French architect Jean Nouvel. Instead, the students will go to the local movie theater to see the Disney 3-D movie version of the Charles Dickens classic.
Public-school education Desert excellence: “horrified by the mediocrity and low expectations at American public schools”
AND what was the Minotaur? The ten-year-olds scribble their answer onto tiny whiteboards and hold them up for the teacher to see. Once each has got a nod, they repeat together: “half-man, half-bull.”
By the time these fifth-graders at the BASIS school in Scottsdale, Arizona, reach 8th grade they will have the option of taking Advanced Placement (AP) exams, standardised nationally to test high-school students at college level. By the 9th grade, they must do so. As a result, says Michael Block, the school’s co-founder, our students are “two years ahead of Arizona and California schools and one year ahead of the east coast.”
But that, he emphasises, is not the yardstick he and his wife Olga use. Instead, their two BASIS schools, one in Tucson and this one in suburban Phoenix, explicitly compete with the best schools in the world–South Korea’s in maths, say, or Finland’s in classics.
They had the idea after Olga Block came to Arizona from her native Czech Republic, looked for a school for her daughter and was horrified by the mediocrity and low expectations at American public schools. So they decided to “establish a world-standard school in the desert,” says Mr Block. They started the Tucson campus in 1998 and added the Scottsdale one recently.
Our Local Schools Should Be Showcases Not Basket Cases – GOOG Ups Its Schools Focus
The promise of distance learning through the Internet has yet to be realized and I’m puzzled why this is the case since it should be possible to collaborate on creating a great online curriculum. Once it is created it can be easily accessed by anyone.
Why don’t we use the social networking and collaborative tools we already have to put together an open-sourced curriculum consisting of text, images, videos, lectures, online volunteers acting as tutors, etc. We have all the technology we need to do all of this today.
I’ve always been amazed that San Francisco/Silicon Valley region public schools are so bad. We are inventing the future here, yet we can’t use our ingenuity, our technologies to improve our local schools? Our public schools should be showcases, not basket cases, we should be ashamed to allow this to happen.
So it’s good to see Google becoming more interested in schools because there is a lot it could do to help, especially in terms of projects like its Google Books. Maybe it could help to provide text books. It’s incredible how expensive textbooks are.
For the past two days Google has hosted a conference on its campus: Breakthrough Learning in a Digital Age. The goal was to “create and act upon a breakthrough strategy for scaling up effective models of teaching and learning for children.” It’s not clear what breakthrough strategy has emerged but at least it’s a start,
New Jersey Governor candidates differ on urban education solutions
It’s an eternally vexing problem in New Jersey: How do you give the children in the state’s largely poor cities as good an education as the kids in middle-class and affluent suburbs?
The three main candidates for governor in Tuesday’s election have different ideas highlighting their plans.
Democratic incumbent Jon Corzine says a major piece of the answer is expanding a program that seems to be working , state-funded preschools for low-income children.
Both his challengers, Republican Chris Christie and Independent Chris Daggett, want to give parents and students more ways out of bad schools, hoping that will pressure them to improve.
By most measures, New Jersey’s school system as a whole is good. On standardized tests that can be used to compare states, students regularly rank consistently at or near the top.
The system is also pricey: Public schools cost more than $16,000 per student in the 2006-07 school year , the last year for which federal data is available. That was the highest price tag in the country, though it also comes in a state where incomes and the cost of living are among the highest.
For all the money, there’s long been a gap between how well students do in the cities and in the suburbs.
West Virginia Charter School Debate Heats Up
Education reformers are intensifying their push to bring charter schools to West Virginia as parents, teachers and lawmakers ready themselves for another round of legislative battles aimed at improving the state’s school system.
Charter schools advocates are stepping up their lobbying efforts by running advertisements and polling West Virginians on their thoughts about charters, which are private-style public schools. The state’s powerful teachers unions helped kill a charter school proposal earlier this year.
“We hope to change that conversation a bit,” said Tim McClung, a member of the group that calls itself West Virginians for Education Reform
To help do that, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools started polling state residents Wednesday night to gauge their reaction to charter schools, McClung said.
Report Questions Duncan’s Policy of Closing Failing Schools
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan presided over the closing of dozens of failing schools when he was chief executive of the Chicago public schools from 2001 until last December. In his new post, he has drawn on those experiences, putting school turnaround efforts at the center of the nation’s education reform agenda.
Now a study by researchers at the University of Chicago concludes that most students in schools that closed in the first five years of Mr. Duncan’s tenure in Chicago saw little benefit.
“Most students who transferred out of closing schools re-enrolled in schools that were academically weak,” says the report, which was done by the university’s Consortium on Chicago School Research.
Furthermore, the disruptions of routines in schools scheduled to be closed appeared to hurt student learning in the months after the closing was announced, the researchers found.
The reading scores of students in schools designated for closing “showed a loss of about six weeks of learning” on standardized tests in the months after the closing announcement, the report said. Math scores declined somewhat less, it said.
Alan Singer has more.
Fluency in English is part of the foundation necessary for a good quality of life in the United States. The school system must be set up so that students who are in an English language learning [ELL] programs are able to master the language and transition out of the program, as soon as possible, to join the rest of the student body to continue their studies.
An analysis by the Tomás Rivera Policy Institute, appropriately entitled “¿Qué Pasa? Are ELL Students Remaining in English Learning Classes Too Long?” points to delays in reclassifying as “fluent English proficient” students who began school as English language learners so that they can transition into regular academic programs. The detailed study shows that 30% of students who started First Grade as English language learners were still in the same classification eight years later. This situation puts students at greater risk of academic failure, as Ninth Grade is seen as critical for success in High School.
The problem is that students who are not reclassified by school authorities as fluent English proficient are at a disadvantage even when they get to the California High School exit exam.
Charter Schools ‘Market Share’ Growing; Exceeds 20% in 14 Communities
Public charter schools’
presence in K-12 schooling continues to grow, according to the latest Top 10 Charter Communities by Market Share report by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. In fact, charters now enroll more than one in five public school students in 14 communities – including major cities like Detroit, St. Louis, and Kansas City.
Demand remains strongest in urban areas – and as a result, charter “market share” is growing rapidly in cities and adjacent suburbs, even while the overall number of students remains a modest portion of nationwide enrollment.
“Charter schools are working at scale in a growing number of American cities,” according to Nelson Smith, President and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. “Chartering is becoming well-established as a key component of the public education delivery system,” he added.
Many L.A. students not moving out of English language classes
Nearly 30% of Los Angeles Unified School District students placed in English language learning classes in early primary grades were still in the program when they started high school, increasing their chances of dropping out, according to a new study released Wednesday.
More than half of those students were born in the United States and three-quarters had been in the school district since first grade, according to the report by the Tomás Rivera Policy Institute at USC.
The findings raise questions about the teaching in the district’s English language classes, whether students are staying in the program too long and what more educators should do for students who start school unable to speak English fluently.
“If you start LAUSD at kindergarten and are still in ELL classes at ninth grade, that’s too long,” said Wendy Chavira, assistant director of the policy institute. “There is something wrong with the curriculum if there are still a very large number of students being stuck in the system.”
Washington, DC Teacher’s Union vs. Michelle Rhee
Everyone is chattering about this full-page ad the AFT took out in this morning’s Washington Post. I work in this space and am quite familiar with all the protagonists and the issues and it took me a minute to make sense of the point of the ad. Maybe I’m stupid or needed more coffee but it was really busy and the punchline is buried in two unchecked boxes on the lower right. So I’m not sure it’s going to move the casual observer to action – or even to an opinion. It needs a clearer message but it’s probably hard to get that message on paper without giving away the game.
Leaving aside technical deficiencies, clearly the strategy is to appear reasonable everywhere else in order to box in Michelle Rhee in D.C. But there are two problems with that strategy. First, at the elite level people get what’s going on (increasingly the press, too) so the whole thing is sort of over before it even started and that plan only works if they can make this stuff real elsewhere and the clock is ticking on that. Meanwhile, even those frustrated with aspects of Rhee’s style and tactics are still sympathetic to what she’s trying to do and the obstacles to that. Second, and more basically, outside of big reform initiatives with lessons I don’t think Michelle Rhee really cares about what’s happening elsewhere and she’ll hold her ground. She responds to different incentives like the rest of us but peer pressure isn’t one of them.
Rhode Island education chief seeks higher standards for prospective teachers
Education Commissioner Deborah A. Gist, who has made teacher quality the cornerstone of her three-month-old administration, is raising the score that aspiring teachers must achieve on a basic skills test required for admission to all of the state’s teacher training programs.
Currently, Rhode Island’s “cut score” ranks among the lowest in the nation, alongside Mississippi and Guam. Gist wants to raise it to the highest.
“Teacher quality is the single most important factor for student success in school,” Gist said. “This is a first step in raising our expectations across the board for our educators and our system.”
Gist says she intends to transform “the entire career span of a teacher,” including who is allowed to train to become a teacher, the rigor of the programs, mentoring of new teachers, support and training for veteran teachers, and the reward of higher pay for high performance.
“We need to look at how we improve at every point along the span,” Gist said. “Looking at teacher cut scores before they ever get accepted to a preparation program is a way to safeguard the early gate.”
Gist and her staff reviewed other states’ cut scores and found Virginia’s to be the highest in reading, math and writing. Gist set Rhode Island’s score one point higher than Virginia’s in each subject, saying she wants to make Rhode Island’s education system the envy of the nation.
“I have the utmost confidence that Rhode Island’s future teachers are capable of this kind of performance,” she said.
Perhaps one day we’ll have such actions in Wisconsin…
E. D. Hirsch’s Curriculum for Democracy
A content-rich pedagogy makes better citizens and smarter kids.
At his Senate confirmation hearing in February, Arne Duncan succinctly summarized the Obama administration’s approach to education reform: “We must build upon what works. We must stop doing what doesn’t work.” Since becoming education secretary, Duncan has launched a $4.3 billion federal “Race to the Top” initiative that encourages states to experiment with various accountability reforms. Yet he has ignored one state reform that has proven to work, as well as the education thinker whose ideas inspired it. The state is Massachusetts, and the education thinker is E. D. Hirsch, Jr.
The “Massachusetts miracle,” in which Bay State students’ soaring test scores broke records, was the direct consequence of the state legislature’s passage of the 1993 Education Reform Act, which established knowledge-based standards for all grades and a rigorous testing system linked to the new standards. And those standards, Massachusetts reformers have acknowledged, are Hirsch’s legacy. If the Obama administration truly wants to have a positive impact on American education, it should embrace Hirsch’s ideas and urge other states to do the same.
Hirsch draws his insights from well outside traditional education scholarship. He started out studying chemistry at Cornell University but, mesmerized by Nabokov’s lectures on Russian literature, switched his major to English. Hirsch did his graduate studies at Yale, one of the citadels in the 1950s of the New Criticism, which argued that the intent of an author, the reader’s subjective response, and the text’s historical background were largely irrelevant to a critical analysis of the text itself. But by the time Hirsch wrote his doctoral dissertation–on Wordsworth–he was already breaking with the New Critics. “I came to see that the text alone is not enough,” Hirsch said to me recently at his Charlottesville, Virginia, home. “The unspoken–that is, relevant background knowledge–is absolutely crucial in reading a text.” Hirsch’s big work of literary theory in his early academic career, Validity in Interpretation, reflected this shift in thinking. After publishing several more well-received scholarly books and articles, he received an endowed professorship and became chairman of the English department at the University of Virginia.
Children’s Educational Records and Privacy
Joel R. Reidenberg, Jamela Debelak and others [Complete Report: 888K PDF]:
A Study of Elementary and Secondary School State Reporting Systems
Following the No Child Left Behind mandate to improve school quality, there has been a growing trend among state departments of education to establish statewide longitudinal databases of personally identifiable information for all K-12 children within a state in order to track progress and change over time. This trend is accompanied by a movement to create uniform data collection systems so that each state’s student data systems are interoperable with one another. This Study examines the privacy concerns implicated by these trends.
The Study reports on the results of a survey of all fifty states and finds that state educational databases across the country ignore key privacy protections for the nation’s K-12 children. The Study finds that large amounts of personally identifiable data and sensitive personal information about children are stored by the state departments of education in electronic warehouses or for the states by third party vendors. These data warehouses typically lack adequate privacy protections, such as clear access and use restrictions and data retention policies, are often not compliant with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, and leave K-12 children unprotected from data misuse, improper data release, and data breaches. The Study provides recommendations for best practices and legislative reform to address these privacy problems.
School board balks as Mayor Doyle controls search for superintendent
Mayor James Doyle has declared he’s in the city’s school superintendent search process, a move that is not sitting well with some School Committee members.
Doyle told members of the School Committee in an Oct. 15 letter, “I have decided to organize a search committee that will represent the entire community.
“The purpose of this search committee is to assist and advise the School Committee in the task of securing the best possible candidate to serve as Pawtucket’s next superintendent.”
Acting School Committee Chairman James Chellel told The Valley Breeze he planned to sit down with Doyle during the early part of this week as he tries to avoid a showdown over whether Doyle’s administration or the School Committee has the authority to set up a search committee.
“I want to show that we’re working together on this, but I do have reservations about the mayor taking this over,” said Chellel.
There’s no question that selecting a new superintendent falls under the purview of the School Committee, said Chellel, but the questions of who should set up the parameters of the search to find outgoing Superintendent Hans Dellith’s replacement are a little more fuzzy.
“I’ve asked our legal counsel for an opinion on it,” he said.
The Ever-Expanding U. of Phoenix
In the world of for-profit higher education, and higher education in general, the University of Phoenix has historically been viewed as the 800-pound gorilla.
As of Tuesday, it may be more like a 1,000-pound gorilla. As Phoenix’s parent company, the Apollo Group, reported its fourth quarter and annual earnings Tuesday, it announced that the university’s enrollment of degree-seeking students grew to 443,000 as of August 2009, up 22 percent from 362,000 in August 2008. The biggest growth in Phoenix’s enrollments, by far, came among students seeking associate degrees, which rose by 37 percent, to 201,200 from 146,500 in 2008.
About two-thirds of the university’s new students as of August are female, 27.7 percent are African-American, and about half are 30 or over.
The university attributed the sizable increases to a range of factors, including increased efforts in retaining students, expanded marketing, and the “current economic downturn, as working learners seek to advance their education to improve their job security or reemployment prospects.” Many community colleges and several of Phoenix’s major peers in for-profit career education, including Kaplan Higher Education (21.9 percent) and Corinthian Colleges, Inc. (24.4 percent), have reported sharp upturns in student enrollments this fall.
Number-Crushing: When Figures Get Personal
Everyone can agree that 1+1=2. But the idea that 7 is greater than 13 — that some numbers are luckier than others — makes no sense to some people. Such numerical biases can cause deep divisions.
And that is what happened earlier this month in Hong Kong. Property developer Henderson Land Development Co. made news for selling a condominium for $56.6 million, a price the developer called a residential record in Asia. But after that sale was announced, the property began making news for other unusual numbers. Henderson is labeling the floors of its property at 39 Conduit Road with numbers that increase, but not in the conventional 1-then-2 way. The floor above 39, for example, is 60. And the top three floors are consecutively labeled 66, 68 and 88.
This offended some people’s sense of order. At a protest Sunday against high housing prices, Hong Kong Democratic Party legislators expressed dissatisfaction with the numbering scheme’s tenuous relationship to reality. “You could call the ground floor the 88th floor, but it’s meaningless,” says Emily Lau. “When you say you live on the 88th floor, people expect you to be on the 88th floor, not the 10th floor or something.”
Wisconsin Governor Doyle: Special session possible to pass education reforms
Gov. Jim Doyle is expressing confidence that key components of a package of education reforms he’s proposed will make it through the Legislature this fall.
On Sunday’s “UpFront with Mike Gousha” Doyle said a number of the proposals, designed to position the state to capture federal “Race to the Top” funds for educational improvement, will be introduced this week.
“We really are focused on getting the job done,” Doyle said.
Doyle held open the possibility of calling a special session if it were needed. The Legislature’s fall floor session ends next week. Senate Majority Leader Russ Decker said in an interview with WisPolitics.com last week that a special session may be possible.
The reforms include allowing student test scores to be used in teacher evaluation, increasing the length of school days or the school year and tracking individual student achievement, among other measures.
Illinois Prosecutors Turn Tables on Student Journalists
For more than a decade, classes of students at Northwestern University’s journalism school have been scrutinizing the work of prosecutors and the police. The investigations into old crimes, as part of the Medill Innocence Project, have helped lead to the release of 11 inmates, the project’s director says, and an Illinois governor once cited those wrongful convictions as he announced he was commuting the sentences of everyone on death row.
But as the Medill Innocence Project is raising concerns about another case, that of a man convicted in a murder 31 years ago, a hearing has been scheduled next month in Cook County Circuit Court on an unusual request: Local prosecutors have subpoenaed the grades, grading criteria, class syllabus, expense reports and e-mail messages of the journalism students themselves.
The prosecutors, it seems, wish to scrutinize the methods of the students this time. The university is fighting the subpoenas.
Parents banned from watching their children in playgrounds… in case they are paedophiles Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1223528/Parents-banned-supervising-children-playgrounds–case-paedophiles.html#ixzz0VI3l2cFH
Parents are being banned from playing with their children in council recreation areas because they have not been vetted by police.
Mothers and fathers are being forced to watch their children from outside perimeter fences because of fears they could be paedophiles.
Watford Council was branded a ‘disgrace’ yesterday after excluding parents from two fenced-off adventure playgrounds unless they first undergo criminal record checks.
Madison Area School Districts Raising Taxes
School districts are trying to find a balance between cuts in state funding and paying the bills, but the state budget crunch is ultimately leading to school districts raising taxes for homeowners.
When the state cut aid to schools, districts got the option of raising property taxes to make up the difference. But while they can raise taxes to make up whatever they’re losing in state aid, not all districts are.
The Sun Prairie School District said it has plenty going for it — a number of new schools in a few years and a new high school coming soon, but that it’s not immune to budget woes.
“We’ve got a reduction in state aid. We’ve got increasing numbers of students and we have the debt the voters approved three years ago to build the new high school,” said Tim Culver, Sun Prairie School District administrator.
Sun Prairie was in a similar situation as many Dane County districts. It could have raised the tax levy there to 14.4 percent, but instead it’s raising it to 7.7 percent, which is a $142 increase for the average $200,000 home.
“What we’re trying to do is balance out that we want the best education possible for kids, but people have to be willing to pay for the education too,” said Culver.
Madison School Board Revises Budget to Reduce the Upcoming Property Tax Increase
WKOW-TV, via a kind reader’s email:
Madison school board leaders are revising a budget plan that lowers their property tax increase but defers millions of dollars in maintenance.
Leaders are looking to lower the previously agreed upon property tax hike by about $50 dollars per homeowner: from $147 on a $250,000 home, to $92.83 on a $250,000 home.
To accomplish that, members took from a few funds, and decided they would not levy the remaining balance on a 2005 maintenance referendum: that equaling out to almost $3 million dollars.
School board members had to compensate for the loss of $12-million dollars in state funding.
The loss of funding for the maintenance referendum didn’t come without discussion. Board member Beth Moss hoped to levy just enough to pay for $1.4 million dollars of roof maintenance.
Moss says, “The maintenance doesn’t go away… You can put it off, but putting it off usually only makes it worse.”
On the list for repairs, a boiler at Marquette Elementary, and more efficient windows at Shorewood Elementary.
Most budget changes passed 7-0, with the exception of the deferred maintenance, which passed 5-2 with Beth Moss and Ed Hughes voting against it. Moss’s school board seat is up for election on April 6, 2010. I emailed Beth last weekend, along with Maya Cole and Johnny Winston, Jr. to see if they plan to run for re-election.
Listen to Monday evening’s Madison School Board discussion via this 1 hour, 50 minute mp3 audio file.
The budget changes were driven by reduced transfers of state tax dollars to school districts and the drop in assessed property values (via an April, 2009 memo). Interestingly, I don’t believe this significant Board (mostly 7 votes, but some big dollar 5-2 as noted above) effort to hold down the local school property tax increase would have occurred with earlier Directors.
Debating the Merits of Leaving High School Early to Go to College
What should you do if you’re a high school junior who feels that spending one more year in high school would be a waste of time?
A thread on College Confidential raises that question, and has generated a lot of interesting responses. Here’s an excerpt from the original post:
I am a junior in high school and because I seem like I am more mature and academically way ahead of my peers (especially in the math and sciences) at the moment, am considering an early leave from high school. But the thing is, I cannot get a graduation degree unless I complete four years of high school. Nevertheless, my desire for early admission into college has never ceased because (a) I know what I want to study and roughly what I want to do in life and (b) I feel like my senior year in high school will be somewhat a waste of my time since I would have practically exhausted all the resources available to me.
In a later post, the student adds: “Every day at school I cannot help but realize that I need so much more than just the classes and activities I have available to me at the moment. I don’t know if I could stand senior year.”
The death of Gerald Bracey is a loss for education
I talk to many education researchers, but none had the passion or conviction of Gerald Bracey, whose e-mails I occasionally shared with you here. He died suddenly in his sleep last week at age 69.
What I admired about Bracey is that he criticized people he once esteemed, including President Obama. His allegiance was not to any political party, but to what he saw as the truth of the matter.
Often, his e-mails to me were stern scoldings about buying the latest “garbage” from Arne Duncan or Kathy Cox. (There would have been a chastising e-mail today from him on my blog entry yesterday on Duncan’s speech here in Atlanta.)
Affable and smart, Bracey was always willing to chat with me and show me the error of my ways.
Paul Solman Answers Students’ Economic Questions
Economics correspondent Paul Solman takes his Business Desk blog inside classrooms across the United States to respond to high school students’ most pressing questions about Wall Street, the recession and unemployment.
Question: How does it happen that the whole world is in a recession? –Kavion, senior, Central High School, Phoenix, Ariz.
Paul Solman: The whole world isn’t in a recession. China is growing; so is India; so is Brazil. Among them, those three countries alone have something like two-thirds our GDP and maybe nine times as many people as we do.
As to the parts of the world that are in recession — largely in Europe — it looks like the reason is because their citizens borrowed and spent “beyond their means.”
Candidates for Charlottesville School Board
Ned Michie, Leah Puryear & Juandiego Wade:
According to the Virginia Department of Education, the drop-out rate for Charlottesville high school students is 13 percent.
How would you address this question? What measures would you recommend, specifically, to lower the rate?
As of last year, the state is calculating the dropout rate in a new, more accurate manner than in prior years, tracking individual students starting in ninth grade. Obviously the factors leading to a student’s high school success or failure start much earlier than ninth grade; therefore it is impossible to defeat the dropout problem even over several years of making all the right moves educationally. Moreover, because the educational needs of all children start at birth, every positive educational change will ultimately increase his or her chances of remaining in school.
As a public school division, we take all comers regardless of aptitude, educational background, grade level, or other circumstance. While every school division has a set of challenges, Charlottesville’s student population presents a particularly unusual array of educational challenges for a small division.
On the one hand, we have a large number of children who will go on to the finest universities and become doctors, lawyers, scientists, entrepreneurs, and captains of industry. We ensure that these students stay challenged by providing an excellent gifted education program, honors classes, and about 20 AP and dual enrollment courses. On the other end of the spectrum, we have many children with great educational needs. For example, about 10 percent of our students use English as a second language (with about 50 different native languages). Half were refugees arriving with little or no knowledge of English; many had no education even in their own countries. Charlottesville also has a large number of group homes and, sadly, still has a significant population of economically disadvantaged families whose children are statistically at risk educationally.
Nebraska Budget Input Website
A state senator from Omaha has created an online site to gives Nebraskans a voice on potential budget cuts.
Sen. Jeremy Nordquist announced the launch of NebraskaBudget.com, a site aimed at making it easier for Nebraskans to contact the governor and Legislature.
The site contains a short online form asking questions about Nebraskans’ budget priorities and their daily challenges.
Educator promoted ‘essential schools’
Theodore R. Sizer, 77, a leading progressive educator who promoted the creation of “essential schools” to improve public education one school at a time and who thought that teachers function best as mentors or coaches to their students, died Oct. 21 at his home in Harvard, Mass. He had colon cancer.
In a career that spanned five decades, Dr. Sizer was dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, headmaster at the private Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass., and chairman of Brown University’s education department.
Dr. Sizer’s view of education reform — with a premium on classroom creativity, bottom-up innovation and multiple measures of student learning — was often at odds with the movement toward state standards, achievement testing and school accountability that culminated in the 2002 No Child Left Behind law.
Dr. Sizer scoffed at public policies that elevated multiple-choice testing to central importance while neglecting the physical and academic environment of schools.
Davenport School Board OKs special education plan
The Davenport School Board approved a state-required special education delivery plan Monday to the disappointment of one member who said it was a missed opportunity.
The board approved the plan 6-1, with Timothy Tupper voting against it.
“We had a real opportunity with this document to really look at our process and procedures, and we didn’t do that,” Tupper said during discussion of the plan. “I hoped we would look at our delivery of services to see how we (could) do it better.”
The plan moves the district away from teaching special needs students in seclusion. Instead, general education teachers will work with special education students in a regular classroom setting. The special education service delivery plan, recently required by the Iowa Department of Education, defines how schools meet the educational needs of students.
About 30 teachers were involved in the delivery plan and public input was sought, Betty Long, director of exceptional education and federal programming, told the board. Most public input was received via e-mail.
Editorial: School reform the Gates way
Memphis City Schools administrators haven’t spent the money, but they’re counting on nearly $100 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to improve the effectiveness of the district’s teachers.
In fact, the district is investing $720,000 for a consultant to help make MCS Gates grant-ready.
U.S. Sen. Bill Frist may also tap the wealth of the Microsoft founder to help put together a statewide reform plan for Tennessee that would address teaching and school governance issues.
Not just at the district and state level, however, is the influence of America’s richest education reformer being felt.
The reform-minded Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who’s preparing to hand out $4.3 billion in stimulus money for public education improvement projects across the country, has two former Gates employees among his inner circle.
In Google we trust? Think again
ow much of your personal information is Google willing to turn over to a third party without a fight? We’ve asked a California federal court to unseal a report that would give customers of the world’s largest Internet company an answer to that question.
Google handed the report in question over to a judge in September to comply with a restraining order requested by Rocky Mountain Bank. The bank requested the order after it mistakenly sent the bank records for more than 1,000 customers to the wrong Gmail account. In the order granted by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in San Francisco, Google was told to deactivate the Gmail account and to provide contact information about the user of the Gmail account and whether he or she had read the e-mail. Google and the Gmail account holder also were told they couldn’t read the email, download the records or forward them to anyone.
A Gmail user who did nothing wrong had his or her account shut down because of the bank’s monumental screw up. And Google, a company that basically prints its own cash, didn’t lift a finger to protect the rights of one of its users. I love my Gmail account but this is a good reminder that there is NO privacy with any e-mail provider when push comes to shove. Public Citizen is representing Media Post Communications in this case. One of their reporters, Wendy Davis, has written extensively about the bank’s bungled email and Google’s lack of intestinal fortitude:
State Board of Education passes Resolution to spark school districts to consolidate, revamp
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Mike Flanagan says our education system needs to look at the new three R’s.
“The solution will be a mix of revenues, reforms and reductions. We need all three,” said Flanagan in a release.
The State Board of Education approved a Resolution calling for Michigan school districts to continue to ReImagine the pre-K-12 educational system and consolidate services.
Group culture protects from depression
Collectivistic cultures, which promote social harmony over individuality, protect people who are genetically predisposed to depression from experiencing the condition. So says a study published today in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, which looks at how genes and environment can evolve together.
People living in individualistic cultures such as Western societies are more likely to suffer from a genetic tendency for depression than people in Eastern cultures, despite fewer people carrying the specific ‘depression gene’ being studied, say psychologists Joan Chiao and Katherine Blizinsky from Northwestern University. The research supports the idea that depression can result from both genes and the environment, and an interaction of the two.
The support offered by a collectivist attitude, “seems to buffer vulnerable individuals from the environmental risks or stressors that serve as triggers to depressive episodes,” argues Chiao.
Girl gang-raped outside high school dance, police say
Onlookers laughed, took pictures and even joined in Saturday night during the two-hour gang rape of a semi-conscious 15-year-old outside her high school homecoming dance, police said Monday.
Teams of detectives and school resource officers spent the rest of the weekend trying to track down those responsible.
“The crimes perpetrated against this 15-year-old are both startling and horrific,” police Chief Chris Magnus said Monday. “We are committed to arresting the perpetrators and to preparing the strongest case possible by aggressively pursuing every lead and utilizing the full resources of the department.”
2nd Annual Wisconsin Charter Schools Awards Gala
Wisconsin Charter Schools Association via a Laurel Cavalluzzo email:
The 2nd Annual WCSA Awards Gala will take place on Friday, November 6th at Turner Hall Ballroom in Milwaukee. You don’t want to miss this special evening!
The Annual Awards Gala honors those individuals and schools that have made an impact on schools, teachers and students in Wisconsin’s charter school community.
The event will start at 6 p.m. with a “red carpet” meet and greet, and will continue with dinner and entertainment, with the exciting presentation of the 2009 Charter Schools Awards of Excellence and the premier of our new Charter School Video.
INTRODUCTION by Theodor Sizer
Volume One, Number One
The Concord Review, Fall 1988
Theodore Sizer: Professor of Education, Brown University Author, Horace’s Compromise, Horace’s School Chairman, Coalition of Essential Schools
Americans shamefully underestimate their adolescents. With often misdirected generosity, we offer them all sorts of opportunities and, at least for middle-class and affluent youths, the time and resources to take advantage of them.
We ask little in return. We expect little, and the young people sense this, and relax. The genially superficial is tolerated, save in areas where the high school students themselves have some control, in inter-scholastic athletics, sometimes in their part-time work, almost always in their socializing.
At least if and when they reflect about it, adolescents have cause to resent us old folks. We do not signal clear standards for many important areas of their lives, and we deny them the respect of high expectations. In a word, we are careless about them, and, not surprisingly, many are thus careless about themselves. “Me take on such a difficult and responsible task?” they query, “I’m just a kid!”
All sorts of young Americans are capable of solid, imaginative scholarship, and they exhibit it for us when we give them both the opportunity and a clear measure of the standard expected. Presented with this opportunity, young folk respond. The Concord Review is such an opportunity, a place for fine scholarship to be exhibited, to be exposed to that most exquisite of scholarly tests, wide publication.
The prospect of “exhibition” is provocative. I must show publicly that I know, that I have ideas, and that I can defend them resourcefully. My competence is not merely an affair between me and a soulless grading machine in Princeton, New Jersey. It is a very public act.
The Concord Review is, for the History-inclined high school student, what the best of secondary school theatre and music performances, athletics, and (in some respects) science fairs are, for their aficionados. It is a testing ground, and one of elegant style, taste and standards. The Review does not undersell students. It respects them. And in such respect is the fuel for excellence.
“Teach by Example”
Will Fitzhugh [founder]
Consortium for Varsity Academics® 
The Concord Review 
Ralph Waldo Emerson Prizes 
National Writing Board 
TCR Institute 
730 Boston Post Road, Suite 24
Sudbury, Massachusetts 01776-3371 USA
Success – Parent’s Advocacy Makes a Difference in Denver, North Carolina
About a month ago, Deidra Hewitt, who lives in Denver, North Carolina, where she has two children in a public elementary school, wrote about how the school required her to sign off on her children’s homework more than 400 times a year. Today, she writes about what happened after she wrote to the school Superintendent to tell him about the policy. Read the background here.
Advocacy Can Make a Difference
by Deidra Hewitt
I emailed a letter to the school Superintendent and the Board of Education, regarding the “sign or your child will be punished” policies, that I find so offensive. The Superintendent contacted me for a meeting. I was really pleased with the outcome of this encounter. The Superintendent of Schools completely agreed with me, about parent signatures being voluntary. He was against children being held accountable for parent behavior. He indicated that changes were in the works. Starting at the county level, he advised me that the “accountability agreements” were being phased out, and that they will be gone next year. He stated that he is actively searching for ways to engage parents of disadvantaged students. He agrees that countless signatures do not accomplish this goal. He is prepared to investigate the objectives of requests for parent signatures, and certify that signatures are voluntary.
Tie teachers to testing in Wisconsin
Wisconsin State Journal Editorial:
Teachers routinely use test scores to help them evaluate their students.
Wisconsin schools should similarly use student test results to help them evaluate teachers.
Every other state except Nevada allows this.
Wisconsin should, too.
And if we don’t, our state won’t be eligible for any of the $4.5 billion in “Race to the Top” grants President Barack Obama plans to award starting next year.
That’s how important this reform is to the Democratic president.
Gov. Jim Doyle announced last week he’ll push to repeal a Wisconsin law preventing schools from using tests to help evaluate teacher performance.
The Legislature needs to move fast to nix this law because Wisconsin has only a few months to submit an application for some of the $4.5 billion in federal innovation grants.
Esther Wojcicki: Thousands of Kids Drop Out of High School Daily – How Are We Going to Solve the Problem?
Esther Wojcicki via a kind reader’s email:
On Tuesday and Wednesday this week, Sesame Workshop with Google and Common Sense Media are sponsoring Breakthrough Learning in a Digital Age, a conference of 200 thought leaders who will come together to discuss solutions to the literacy and dropout problems facing the nation. This blog focuses on the dropout crisis; the one yesterday focused on the literacy problems.
The dropout crisis is bigger than you might have guessed. While in some areas it has improved somewhat in the last year, in the country as a whole the problem is growing. Almost fifty percent of students in the fifty largest American cities drop out of high school. In some cities, there is over a seventy percent drop out rate.
A major consequence of the dropout rate is an increase in crime and and the prison rate. We spend more to keep prisoners in jail than we do to educate our students. Typical per-prisoner expenses run from $20,000-$50,000 per year while typical per pupil expenditures run from $7,000 to $20,000, averaging $9,000. This discrepancy needs to be addressed now and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is trying to promote change through incentives in the $100 billion education stimulus package.
Schools putting the moves on hold
Contracts have helped tone down the hyper-sexed dance floor at some campuses, giving students clear guidelines on what’s acceptable and what’s not.
Downey High School sent its homecoming queen packing, crown and all, after she was seen making sexually suggestive moves on the dance floor a few years back. Aliso Niguel High School Principal Charles Salter made good on a threat to cancel school dances in 2006 as officials there and elsewhere fretted over how to deal with freaking, grinding and other provocative dances.
Their solution: Fight explicit teen dancing with an equal dose of explicitness. Downey and Aliso Niguel are among the first schools to draft “dance contracts,” binding agreements that parents and students must sign before a teenager can step onto the dance floor.
Administrators say the graphic descriptions in the contracts leave little room for arguments over interpretation and put everyone on notice about appropriate behavior.
The prom09contract.pdf, for example, specifies “no touching breasts, buttocks or genitals. No straddling each others’ legs. Both feet on the floor.” Students get two warnings about sexually suggestive behavior before being booted without a refund and barred from other dances.
Indian education system: Crying out for speedy reforms
At a recent India-China book launch, where human resource development minister Kapil Sibal was present, I made it a point to highlight the comparative picture between India and China in the education sector. This is a crucial sector for emerging economies attempting to achieve inclusive and rapid growth. Moreover, as several recent studies have brought out, returns on skill formation and higher education, which are already substantial, continue to rise as the world increasingly takes on the attributes of a knowledge economy. By the way, the book by Mohan Guruswamy and Zorawar Daulet Singh titled Chasing the Dragon is well worth a read for all those interested in finding out the distance we have to cover to catch up with China.
India’s adult literacy is 61 per cent compared with China’s 91 per cent. Expenditure on education as a percentage of total public expenditure is 10.7 per cent and 12.8 per cent, respectively. China has 708 researchers per million population compared with 19 in India. In 1990, publications by Indians in journals were 50 per cent higher but in 2008, Chinese publications outnumbered Indian ones by two to one. In 1985, the number of PhDs in science and engineering in India were 4,007 and 125 in China, but by 2004, China had 14,858 PhDs, while we had increased the number to only 6,318. In 2007, Indians filed 35,000 patents compared with 245,161 in China.
Major changes at 2 troubled D.C. schools
After days of frantic blogging on the latest D.C. schools crisis and trading speculation with interested readers, I find it refreshing to visit three educators who are making major changes in two of the city’s lowest-performing high schools. Unlike me and many of the people I exchange comments with, they know what they are talking about.
George Leonard, 57, chief executive officer of the Friends of Bedford group from New York; Chief Financial Officer Bevon Thompson, 35; and Chief Operating Officer Niaka Gaston, 34, sit around a table in the basement of the District’s Dunbar High School. The school was so dark and filthy when they first saw it that they cringe at the memory.
Dunbar and Coolidge high schools, both educational disaster areas, are under the command of their consulting company. D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee handed them the keys to the two schools because of the rigor and high graduation rates they brought to a small public high school, the Bedford Academy, in a low-income neighborhood of Brooklyn.
Why We’re Failing Math and Science
The problem is well-known: The U.S. lags far behind other developed countries at the K-12 level in terms of measured performance in math and science courses.
What can be done to change that? The Wall Street Journal’s Alan Murray posed that question to three experts: Joel Klein, chancellor of the New York City Department of Education; Amy Gutmann, president of the University of Pennsylvania; and Christopher Edley Jr., dean of the law school at the University of California at Berkeley, who was also a member of the Obama administration transition team working on education issues.
Here are edited excerpts of their discussion:
It’s the Teachers
ALAN MURRAY: What will it take to get the American system up to the level of some of the other developed countries in terms of math and science education?
JOEL KLEIN: The most important thing is to bring to K-12 education college graduates who excel in math and science. Those countries that are doing best are recruiting their K-12 teachers from the top third of their college graduates. America is recruiting our teachers generally from the bottom third, and when you go into our high-needs communities, we’re clearly underserving them.
MR. MURRAY: How do you explain that? It doesn’t seem to be a function of money. We spend more than any of these other countries.
MR. KLEIN: We spend it irrationally. My favorite example is, I pay teachers, basically, based on length of service and a few courses that they take. And I can’t by contract pay math and science teachers more than I would pay other teachers in the system, even though at different price points I could attract very different people. We’ve got to use the money we have much more wisely, attract talent, reward excellence.
THE INFLUENCE GAME: Bill Gates sways govt dollars
Libby Quaid & Donna Blankinship:
The real secretary of education, the joke goes, is Bill Gates.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has been the biggest player by far in the school reform movement, spending around $200 million a year on grants to elementary and secondary education.
Now the foundation is taking unprecedented steps to influence education policy, spending millions to influence how the federal government distributes $5 billion in grants to overhaul public schools.
The federal dollars are unprecedented, too.
President Barack Obama persuaded Congress to give him the money as part of the economic stimulus so he could try new ideas to fix an education system that most agree is failing. The foundation is offering $250,000 apiece to help states apply, so long as they agree with the foundation’s approach.
Obama and the Gates Foundation share some goals that not everyone embraces: paying teachers based on student test scores, among other measures of achievement; charter schools that operate independently of local school boards; and a set of common academic standards adopted by every state.
10/26/2009 =, < or > 4/6/2010 in Madison?
How will tonight’s property tax increase vote play out on April 6, 2010? Three Madison School Board seats will be on the ballot that day. The seats are currently occupied by:
|Beth Moss||Johnny Winston||Maya Cole|
|Regular Board Meetings > 2007 election||28||28||28|
|Absent||4 (14%)||3 (10.7%)||3 (10.7%)|
|Interviews:||2007 Video||2004 Video (Election info)||2007 Video|
I emailed Beth, Johnny and Maya recently to see if they plan to seek re-election in the April 6, 2010 election. I will publish any responses received.
What issues might be on voters minds in five months?:
- The District’s $418,415,780 2009/2010 budget [1.1MB PDF] ($412,219,577 2008/2009 and $399,835,904 in 2007/2008) and recent property tax increases (the decline in Wisconsin K-12 spending growth – after years of substantial increases is a factor), but dealing with less is a reality for many citizens.
- Governance, in terms of
- program effectiveness review,
- 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”
- the math,
- fine arts,
- talented and gifted task forces
- and the full implementation of “infinite campus“, which should reduce costs and improve services
- The term high school redesign appears occasionally along with small learning communities.
- General district and possibly school governance issues may be topical as well.
- National conversations regarding
- Education school rigor (The UW-Madison School of Education has significant influence on our local District),
- teacher tenure
- and Madison’s lack of substantial charter school options
may also be on voter minds.
The Financial-Crisis Lit Cheat Sheet
Too Big To Fail: The Inside Story of How Wall Street and Washington Fought to Save the Financial System from Crisis — and Themselves, by Andrew Ross Sorkin
WHAT: A virtually minute-by-minute account of the scariest hours of the crisis, beginning in the aftermath of the seizures of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and concluding with TARP and the hastily assembled near-afterthought that was the $180 billion AIG bailout.
BEST BIT: On page 120 appears the first print mention of the rumored affair between Joe Gregory, the widely reviled chief operating officer of Lehman Brothers, and Erin Callan, the statuesque, blonde, wholly inexperienced tax attorney promoted to chief financial officer of the firm at the beginning of the year. According to the book, Callan separated from her husband “around the time” of the promotion, after which she and Gregory “became inseparable.”
Parents: Fenger Is No Place for Our Kids
The trouble at Fenger High School seems to never end.
A Far South Side community group is joining some parents in promoting a boycott of the school after several violent incidents among students.
“It’s a shame that a child is not safe inside that school,” parent Cassandra White-Robinson told WGN9 News.
The school was in the national spotlight in September, when 16-year-old honor roll student Derrion Albert was beaten to death just outside the school. A video of the Sept. 24 killing made national headlines and urged both Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Attorney General Eric Holder to address the issue of violence by visiting the Chicago school.
Pervasive PowerPoint Culture: Former Detroit Bailout Czar Looks Back
Everyone knew Detroit’s reputation for insular, slow-moving cultures. Even by that low standard, I was shocked by the stunningly poor management that we found, particularly at GM, where we encountered, among other things, perhaps the weakest finance operation any of us had ever seen in a major company.
For example, under the previous administration’s loan agreements, Treasury was to approve every GM transaction of more than $100 million that was outside of the normal course. From my first day at Treasury, PowerPoint decks would arrive from GM (we quickly concluded that no decision seemed to be made at GM without one) requesting approvals. We were appalled by the absence of sound analysis provided to justify these expenditures.
The cultural deficiencies were equally stunning. At GM’s Renaissance Center headquarters, the top brass were sequestered on the uppermost floor, behind locked and guarded glass doors. Executives housed on that floor had elevator cards that allowed them to descend to their private garage without stopping at any of the intervening floors (no mixing with the drones).
An Earthquake: Rhode Island School Superintendents Told To Abolish Teacher Seniority
Dropping a bombshell on the teachers’ unions, state Education Commissioner Deborah A. Gist ordered school superintendents to abolish the practice of assigning teachers based on how many years they have in the school system.
Gist, who sent a letter to superintendents on Tuesday, is upending tradition and taking on two powerful unions, the National Education Association Rhode Island and the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals (RIFT), who together represent 12,000 public school teachers.
On Friday, the unions said they were blindsided by Gist’s announcement, adding that the commissioner made no attempt to confer with labor before going public with the decision.
“We’re going to court,” said Marcia Reback, president of the Federation of Teachers. “I’m startled that there was no conversation with the unions about this. I’m startled there were no public hearings, and I’m startled at the content. This narrows the scope of collective bargaining.”
Gist says she has the authority to do away with seniority under the new Basic Education Plan, which the Rhode Island Board of Regents approved in June and which takes effect July 1.
NBC10 has more.
Dyslexia Awareness Videos & We can and must help kids with dyslexia
To promote greater knowledge and understanding of dyslexia and related learning disabilities, The International Dyslexia Association (IDA) designated the month of October as National Dyslexia Awareness Month. “Awareness is key with learning disabilities because if identified early enough, their impacts can be minimized through intervention and effective teaching.”
In order to increase awareness of dyslexia, Wisconsin Literacy posted two videos on its website created by Sun Prairie Cable Access. You will need Quicktime installed on your computer to view the video files. Download it for free here: www.apple.com/quicktime/download.
Living and Learning with Dyslexia: Hope and Possibilities
Dr. Julie Gocey leads a panel discussion on dyslexia with Cheryl Ward (Wisconsin Branch of the International Dyslexia Association), Layla Coleman (Wisconsin Literacy, Inc.), Pam Heyde (Dyslexia Reading Therapist) and Margery Katz (Dyslexia Reading Therapist). The program covers a variety of topics including science-based, multisensory instruction for kids and adults; obstacles for identifying individuals with dyslexia; and lack of training of teachers. A college student with dyslexia shares strategies for academic success.
Educators, parents and health professionals must work together to improve literacy for ALL students in Wisconsin. It is well known that early literacy is one of the most powerful predictors of school success, gainful employment and many measures of health.
For that reason, the sincerest expression of child advocacy is to ensure that ALL students in Wisconsin have the opportunity to become proficient readers. In my experience as a pediatrician, co-founder of the Learning Difference Network, and as a parent, current policies and practices do not routinely provide the 10 percent to 17 percent of our students who have some degree of dyslexia with adequate opportunities for literacy.
Dyslexia is a language-based learning problem, or disability if severe. The impact that this neurobiological, highly heritable condition has on learning to read, write and spell cannot be underestimated.
Dyslexia is the best understood and most studied of all learning difficulties. There is clear evidence that the brains of dyslexic readers function differently than the brains of typical readers. But the good news is this: Reading instruction from highly skilled teachers or tutors who use evidence-based techniques can change how the brain processes print and nearly ALL students can become proficient readers.
Early intervention is critical to successful outcomes, but there is a disconnect between research and practice on many levels.
Current obstacles include myths about dyslexia, lack of early identification and a need for educators to be given training in the science of reading and multi-sensory, systematic, language-based instruction. This is critical for students with dyslexia, but can be beneficial to all learners. For those of us who are able to pay for private testing and instruction for our children, the outcomes can be phenomenal. Unfortunately, where poverty and its associated ills make daily life a struggle, this expert instruction is not routinely available.
Families who ask school personnel about dyslexia are often referred to a physician, who in turn sends them back to school for this educational problem. Educational testing is often denied coverage from insurance companies, though the implications for health and wellness are clear. Unfortunately, parents may be left without useful information from anyone, and appropriate treatment – excellent reading instruction – is further delayed.
October is Dyslexia Awareness Month. On Thursday, Oct. 22, there will be a noon rally in the Capitol rotunda to raise awareness about the need to improve reading instruction for students with dyslexia and for all struggling readers in Wisconsin.
State Rep. Keith Ripp, R-Lodi, is introducing bills this week to help identify and help children with dyslexia. One bill calls for screening for specific skills to find kids with a high chance of struggling to learn to read. The other bill aims to improve teacher training to deal with reading problems.
There is too much evidence describing the science of reading, dyslexia and the costs of illiteracy to continue without change. Parents who suspect dyslexia must not be dissuaded from advocating for their children; keep searching until you find help that works.
Health professionals must seek the latest information on this common condition in order to support families and evaluate for related conditions. Educators must seek out training to understand this brain-based condition that requires educational care. The information is solid. We must work together to give ALL our kids the opportunity to read and succeed.
Dr. Julie Gocey is a pediatrician and a clinical assistant professor in the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health and also a co-founder of the Learning Difference Network
via a Margery Katz email.
Are Teacher Colleges Turning out Mediocrity?
There has been a mantra of sorts going around education circles over the past few years: “Nothing matters more to a child’s education than good teachers.” Anyone who’s ever had a Ms. Green or a Mr. Miller whom they remember fondly instinctively knows this to be true. And while “Who’s teaching my kid?” is an important question for parents to ask, there may be an equally essential (and rarely remarked upon) question — “Who’s teaching my kid’s teachers?”
On Thursday, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan went to Columbia University’s Teachers College, the oldest teacher-training school in the nation, and delivered a speech blasting the education schools that have trained the majority of the 3.2 million teachers working in U.S. public schools today. “By almost any standard, many if not most of the nation’s 1,450 schools, colleges and departments of education are doing a mediocre job of preparing teachers for the realities of the 21st century classroom,” he said to an audience of teaching students who listened with more curiosity than ire — this was Columbia University after all, and they knew Duncan wasn’t talking to them. It was a damning, but not unprecedented, assessment of teacher colleges, which have long been the stepchildren of the American university system and a frequent target of education reformers’ scorn over the past quarter-century.
Theodore R. Sizer, Leading Education-Reform Advocate, Dies at 77
Theodore R. Sizer, one of the country’s most prominent education-reform advocates, whose pluralistic vision of the American high school helped shape the national discourse on education and revise decades-old ideas of what a school should be, died on Wednesday at his home in Harvard, Mass. He was 77.
A former dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Professor Sizer was later the headmaster of Phillips Academy, the preparatory school in Andover, Mass., and chairman of the education department at Brown University. He returned to Harvard as a visiting professor in 1997.
Professor Sizer was best known as the father of the Essential Schools movement, which he founded in 1984. The movement’s umbrella organization, the Coalition of Essential Schools, spans a diverse array of public and private schools united by their adherence to a set of common principles.
His progressive ideas about how schools should be organized and what students should learn helped drive the debates that rattled parents, government officials and educators in the 1980s and ’90s.
Ted Sizer, a former prep school headmaster and Harvard University dean who built an education reform movement that has endured for two decades despite its unfashionable opposition to government- imposed standards and emphasis on deep learning over memorization and regurgitation, has died. He was 77.
Sizer died Wednesday at his home in Harvard, Mass., after a long battle with cancer, according to a statement by the Coalition of Essential Schools, the organization of 600 private and public schools he founded at Brown University in 1984 with the goal of restructuring the American high school.
DPI Superintendent as the Wisconsin Education Czar?
An effort has been launched in the state Capitol to give the state schools superintendent broader authority to turn around struggling schools and position Wisconsin to better compete for millions of dollars in federal education grants.
Little fanfare has accompanied potential legislative changes that would allow the superintendent of public instruction to order curriculum and personnel changes in chronically failing schools. It didn’t even make the news release for Gov. Jim Doyle’s three-city announcement on Monday of educational changes he is seeking to help Wisconsin qualify for some of the $4.35 billion in Race to the Top funds from the U.S. Department of Education.
State Sen. John Lehman (D-Racine), chairman of the Senate Education Committee, said the idea of giving the state superintendent “super-duper powers” has attracted support from legislators and educational interest groups since it first surfaced earlier this month.
“There’s getting to be general agreement around these interventions,” he said.
Prior to any expansion of the Wisconsin DPI’s powers, I’d like to see them implement a usable and rigorous assessment system to replace the oft-criticized WKCE.
Perhaps, this is simply politics chasing new federal tax dollars….
Online Education’s Great Unknowns
Distance learning has broken into the mainstream of higher education. But at the campus level, many colleges still know precious little about how best to organize online programs, whether those programs are profitable, and how they compare to face-to-face instruction in terms of quality.
That is what Kenneth C. Green, director of the Campus Computing Project, concludes in a study released today in conjunction with the Western Cooperative for Educational Telecommunications.
The study, based on a survey of senior officials at 182 U.S. public and private nonprofit colleges, found that 45 percent of respondents said their institution did not know whether their online programs were making money. Forty-five percent said they had reorganized the management of their online programs in the last two years, with 52 percent anticipating a reshuffling within the next two years. And while a strong majority of the administrators surveyed said they believed the quality of online education was comparable to classroom learning, about half said that at their colleges the professors are in charge of assessing whether that is true.
A look at Yakima, WA School Board Candidates
Two of the five seats on the Yakima School District Board of Directors are up for grabs this election.
Of the four candidates vying for those spots, three have served — or are serving — on the school board. Two are incumbents. Two are retired. One taught in the district for 30 years. Another taught in the district for just over eight.
All of them identify several key issues — making tough budget decisions, implementing the new Measurements of Student Progress and High School Proficiency exams, and coordinating upcoming construction projects, specifically replacing Eisenhower High School, modernizing Davis High School and renovating six other schools.
The construction will be paid for through a 20-year, $114 million bond measure approved by taxpayers in May.
Ruling on Quebec language law gives hope to immigrant parents
Supreme Court strikes down law that has blocked children from attending English-language schools.
For thousands of francophone and immigrant parents in Quebec who want to send their children to English public schools but are barred from the system, a Supreme Court ruling Thursday seemed to offer hope.
“This is really wonderful news, it’s a great decision,” said Virender Singh Jamwal, one of the 25 parents who fought in court for seven years for the right to send their kids to school in English.
But in its attempt to reach a rare compromise in Quebec’s volatile language politics, the court may have managed to prick nationalist sentiment without doing much to protect Mr. Jamwal’s educational preference.
In a 7-0 decision, the court struck down a law known as Bill 104 that, since 2002, has blocked some 8,000 children in Montreal alone from attending English-language schools.
We don’t need this delay on e-textbooks
The benefits of electronic school textbooks are compelling. They cost half as much as ordinary books, are easy to locate and manage, can be quickly kept up to date, are environmentally responsible and do not risk a child’s physical well-being when carried in number in a backpack. Unsurprisingly, school boards and districts the world over are speedily adopting them. But such attributes are not so impressive to a Hong Kong government working group, which after a year of study, has recommended a cautious, go-slow, approach.
Among the group’s key suggestions are launching a three-year “promoting e-learning” pilot scheme in up to 30 of our city’s 1,060 schools and giving a one-off grant to buy resources. The conclusions are at vast odds with those drawn by the governor of the US state of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who in June launched a digital textbook initiative in the name of cutting costs and keeping learning material fresh and relevant. Students are being given free electronic readers, and publishers pushed to quickly make books available. California is by no means at the cutting edge; there are some Hong Kong schools already using the technology.
Regulating home schooling: An inspector calls
A SCHOOL headmaster once observed that he would regularly consult his prefects on the running of the establishment. When he agreed with them, he would allow their views to prevail. It was only when they disagreed that he had to impose his will. On October 19th the schools secretary, Ed Balls, closed a consultation, the outcome of which he seems to have decided already. Legislation will be introduced to force parents wishing to educate their children at home to register with the state and undergo regular inspections.
Mr Balls says he is worried that children who do not attend school risk being abused by those looking after them. An earlier review by Graham Badman, a former head of children’s services in Kent who is now based at London University’s Institute of Education, found that in some areas a disconcertingly high proportion of home-schooled children were known to social services–ie, cause for concern.
No one is sure how many children in Britain are taught at home. York Consulting, a management outfit, put the figure at 20,000 in 2007. It could actually be more than 50,000, reckons Mike Fortune-Wood, who runs a support service for parents educating their children at home, and the total may be rising by 10% a year.
More Testing, Less Logic?
The Graduate Management Admission Test has for years been the dominant standardized test when it comes to getting into M.B.A. programs.
This week, Business Week reported on an interesting trend: Some employers are starting to ask M.B.A. grads for their GMAT scores, using them as one measure of a job candidate’s potential. In this tight market, business schools are worried about their graduates’ job prospects, so a number of them are now advising — informally or formally — some of their students to retake the GMAT in hopes of a higher score. The article, as one would expect for a business publication, focuses on why some businesses are using the GMAT in this way and other employers are not.
What the article doesn’t address is an educational issue: The employers who are using the GMAT in this way are doing so in direct violation of the guidelines issued by the test’s sponsors. And those sponsors include business schools that are apparently going along with the use of the test scores in this way.
The Graduate Management Admission Council, the association of business schools that runs the GMAT, has never claimed that it is a valid tool for employers. The council says that its research shows the test to have predictive value of first-year grades in an M.B.A. program. The council maintains a list of “inappropriate uses” of the GMAT, including as a requirement for employment.
Based on the Business Week article (and additional reporting by Inside Higher Ed), it appears that there is plenty of inappropriate use going around — and that the council (which benefits financially when people take the GMAT) isn’t objecting.
Schools of Education: Mediocre? Not Us!
All colleges and graduate schools of education must do a better job of preparing future teachers for the classroom, Arne Duncan, secretary of education, said in a speech Thursday. Many leaders of teacher education programs said they agreed with his comments, but it was hard to find any who said they thought his criticisms applied to their institutions.
“By almost any standard, many if not most of the nation’s 1,450 schools, colleges and departments of education are doing a mediocre job of preparing teachers for the realities of the 21st century classroom,” he told an audience of faculty members, students and teachers at Teachers College of Columbia University. “America’s university-based teacher preparation programs need revolutionary change — not evolutionary tinkering.”
Duncan’s speech bore down on the colleges and graduate schools that prepare more than half the teachers in U.S. primary and secondary schools — 60 percent of whom, by one count, entered the classroom feeling unprepared for the challenges that lay ahead — and called on those programs to introduce more in-the-classroom training and better tracking of teacher performance and student outcomes.
Arthur Levine, president of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation and former dean of Teachers College, said the speech “threw a lifeline to university-based teacher education programs” as more states and school districts are turning to other kinds of teacher certification programs to get bodies to the blackboard.
Learn the Law Before Signing NDAs, Filing Class Actions
“I would say more, but I don’t want somebody knocking on my door and asking for $50,000 back. It’s almost like bribery; I felt that I was supposed to sign the agreement, take the money and keep all their secrets.”
-former Freddie Mac employee who worked on internal financial controls.
I find this fascinating: Some people simply do not understand basic contractual freedoms between consenting adults. Others do not understand the concept of ethics. And, they want the free lunch, no personal responsibility, having it both ways. They want the money but not the obligations it comes with.
Sorry, that ain’t how it works.
Here’s the story: Former Freddie Mac employees, who upon departing FMC, were required to sign nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) as part of the severance package. These employees are now being requested to violate those agreements in civil — not criminal — litigation. Under the law, you cannot privately contract not to answer questions from government prosecutors and investigators in any criminal case or in a regulatory proceeding. Really smart class action lawyers try to get a criminal case going simultaneously.
Related: Our Struggling Public Schools “A Critical, but unspoken reason for the Great Recession”.
For Some Parents, Shouting Is the New Spanking
JACKIE KLEIN is a devoted mother of two little boys in the suburbs of Portland, Ore. She spends hours ferrying them to soccer and Cub Scouts. She reads child-development books. She can emulate one of those pitch-perfect calm maternal tones to warn, “You’re making bad choices” when, say, someone doesn’t want to brush his teeth.
That is 90 percent of the time. Then there is the other 10 percent, when, she admits, “I have become totally frustrated and lost control of myself.”
It can happen during weeks and weeks and weeks of no camp in the summer, or at the end of a long day at home — just as adult peace is within her grasp — when the 7- or 9-year-old won’t go to sleep.
And then she yells.
Michigan Governor Reduces Education Spending by $212M
Gov. Jennifer Granholm today ordered a $212 million additional cut from the state’s public schools, citing worsening tax revenues.
That cut of $127 per pupil comes on top of a $165-per-pupil reduction (which was about a 2.3% cut for most districts) they’ll see under a new, 2009-10 budget for K-12 schools Granholm signed Monday.
“This is not someting I want to be doing at all, but I do want to fix the problem,” she said in a news conference. She said she did it today to give schools time to adjust their budgets.
The order, called a proration notice, takes effect in 30 days unless the Legislature puts more money in the pot. Granholm had said earlier this week that another cut was coming, but the suddenness still caught people off guard.
Schools are squeezed by the state’s economic crunch. Sales tax revenue, which continues to come in below the projections of state economists, are a major source of school funding. About 70% of funding for the state’s 552 school districts and 232 public school academies comes from the state in the form of sales and property tax collections with a lesser amount from the state’s general fund.
Seattle School Board candidates talk about equity
This election season, with so much money pouring into the King County executive race and the media attention given to the Seattle mayor’s race, School Board races have received far fewer eyes.
But with a new student assignment plan, Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson’s five-year strategic plan starting to take off and a $34 million budget gap, this election is as important as ever for the board.
In the District 5 race, Seattleites have the choice between Mary Bass, an eight-year board member known as the dissenting voice on the board and Kay Smith-Blum, a businesswoman and fundraiser with big ideas that could be challenging to implement.
Smith-Blum won the primary with 42 percent of the vote; Bass got nearly 36 percent. Smith-Blum has raised five times as much money: $52,000 compared to Bass’ $10,000.
Bass, who unsuccessfully fought the reform math curriculum that was passed 4-3 in this year, said she is “proud of my long track record of fighting failures.” Her battles include the $34 million budget collapse when she recently joined the council in 2002 and fighting the race tiebreaker, she said.
Smith-Blum appears to have energy, a knack for fundraising and passion for both early education and extending the school day with more cultural and arts programs. She said she established the first-ever Annual Fund for Montlake Elementary in 1991, helping raise $300,000 in five years.
Mississippi Task force to take on hot-button school district consolidation issue
A task force formed by the Legislature to improve underperforming schools has decided to take on the touchy subject of school district consolidation.
During a recent hearing of the task force, the story was told of an agency in the 1980s that had advocated Mississippi’s 152 school districts be consolidated into 82, basically along county lines. The task force was told, perhaps jokingly, that the agency was eliminated by the Legislature the next session.
Senate Education Chair Videt Carmichael, R-Meridian, the co-chair of the task force, responded, also perhaps jokingly, “I think I might disappear if consolidation happened in some of my school districts.”
For years, an array of groups has touted the virtue of school consolidation as a way to save money and increase efficiency in the public schools. The only problem has been finding agreement on how to do it.
“It’s been my observation everybody wants to consolidate everybody else’s district, but not their own,” said House Education Committee Chair Cecil Brown, D-Jackson, the other co-chair of the task force.
Community Background as the Madison School District Considers Further Property Tax Increases Monday Evening
The Monday, October 26, 2009 Madison School Board meeting agenda will include a discussion (and presumably a vote) on the upcoming property tax rate increases. The board approved a tax hike earlier this year to make up for a reduction in state income tax and fees redistributed to local school districts due to the “Great Recession”. Reductions in property tax assessments (“Of the 73,024 parcels in the City, 53.6% are being changed (6,438 increases and 32,728 reductions”) may further drive taxes upward, certainly a challenge given current conditions.
Superintendent Dan Nerad proposed – and passed – a three year referendum that authorized spending and tax increases while providing time for the Administration to, as Board member Ed Hughes stated “put into place the process we currently contemplate for reviewing our strategic priorities, establishing strategies and benchmarks, and aligning our resources.” Ed’s “Referendum News” is worth reading.
I’ve summarized a number of links from the 2008 referendum discussion and vote below.
- A transcript of the Madison School Board’s July 28, 2008 referendum discussion. (including an mp3 audio file). The board approved the referendum on August 25, 2008 (minutes, many links)
- Public hearing links.
- The initial, public 2008/2009 budget contemplates a referendum decision.
- A July 25, 2008 Wisconsin State Journal Editorial on the local property tax “bite”.
- August 19, 2008: Superintendent Dan Nerad recommends a three year recurring referendum. That same day, Vicki McKenna and Don Severson discuss the referendum. Many notes and links.
- Two forums set on the fall, 2008 referendum. Notes from those events.
- 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”
It will be interesting to see what, if anything happens with the recent math, fine arts, talented and gifted task forces and the full implementation of “infinite campus“, which should reduce costs and improve services.
Tennessee’s Education Reform Plan
A statewide education reform commission headed by former U.S. Sen. Bill Frist issued its final recommendations today, with a goal of moving Tennessee to the top of the Southern states in K-12 education.
Search report cards
“The very simple goal is to make Tennessee – us, our kids – the best in the South in five years,” Frist said at a State Capitol event unveiling the report. “It’s a challenging, ambitious goal but it can be done.”
The recommendations of the bipartisan “State Collaborative on Reforming Education,” or SCORE, which Frist established early this year, includes 60 specific recommendations that revolve around four key “strategies:”
** Embracing the higher graduation standards that are about to go into effect as part of the Tennessee Diploma Project that aims at both raising standards and graduating more students. There has been some fear that when the impact of the more rigorous standards are felt, there will be political pressure on legislators to scale them back.
** Cultivating stronger school leaders, including superintendents and teachers.
Final Report: 2.4MB PDF.
Annual Report on Violence, Vandalism and Substance Abuse in New Jersey Public Schools
New Jersey Department of Education:
Purpose of the Report
The Commissioner’s annual report provides the Legislature with information reported by school districts concerning incidents of serious student misconduct grouped into the following four major reporting categories: violence, vandalism, weapons, and substance abuse. An analysis of trends yields indications of progress and of ongoing concern, and provides guidance to districts, other agencies, and the department as they endeavor to focus resources on areas of need. In the Programmatic Response section of this report, the department notifies the Legislature and the public of the actions taken by the State Board of Education and the Department of Education to address the problems evident in the data.
The Findings section summarizes the data reported by districts over the Electronic Violence and Vandalism Reporting System (EVVRS). Districts are required to report incidents, as defined in the EVVRS, if they occur on school grounds during school hours, on a school bus, or at a school-sponsored event, using the Violence, Vandalism, and Substance Abuse (VV-SA) Incident Reporting Form in Appendix B. The reporting of this year’s findings is intended to be read in electronic format; the reader can link to figures that depict the findings described in the report. Paper copies of the figures may be found in Appendix C of the print version of this document. More detailed findings, i.e., district and school summary data, may be accessed at http://www.state.nj.us/education/schools/vandv/.
Test scores should be traced to ed schools, Duncan says
Education Secretary Arne Duncan called this morning for states to link student test data not only back to teachers, but also to the programs that trained them. New York State education officials said they are already working on it.
Speaking to a packed auditorium at Columbia University, Duncan criticized education schools for failing to graduate classroom-ready teachers. He said there needs to be a way to determine which programs are working.
“It’s a simple but obvious idea,” Duncan said. “Colleges of education and district officials ought to know which teacher preparation programs are effective and which need fixing. The power of competition and disclosure can be a powerful tonic for programs stuck in the past.”
Duncan said he will use the competitive stimulus package funds known as the “Race to the Top” program to pressure states to use student data to evaluate teacher preparation programs.
US Education Secretary Arne Duncans Education School Accountability Speech
What the coverage leaves out is that Duncan won’t be anywhere near the first to tout the importance of teaching or lament the sad state of teacher prep programs. Or the first to mention Alverno, Emporia State, residency programs, the Levine report.
In addition, there are precious few real details in Duncan’s speech about what if any means the Secretary is going to try and use to make ed schools change their evil ways. He mentions changes will come as part of NCLB reauthorization, but that’s a long way off. He mentions teacher quality partnership grants, but that’s less than $200M. No bold specifics like rating ed schools based on graduates’ performance or longevity, or limiting Pell grant eligibility to ed schools that meet certain performance characteristics.
To Duncan’s credit, he notes that this is a quality problem, not a teacher shortage, and that alt cert programs train fewer than 10K candidates a year (out of 200K overall).But it’s just a speech. A very nice, somewhat long, quote-laden speech that someone finally sent me this morning. In other words, in thiss balloon-boy era, it’s news! The text of the speech is below. See for yourself.
Secretary Duncan singles out Wisconsin-based Alverno College (among other institutions) and the state of Louisiana for praise. I also discuss both Alverno College and Louisiana’s teacher preparation accountability system in my policy brief.
“By almost any standard, many, if not most of the nation’s 1,450 schools, colleges, and departments of education are doing a mediocre job of preparing teachers for the realities of the 21st century classroom,” Duncan said today in a speech at Columbia University in New York.
Duncan said hundreds of teachers have told him their colleges didn’t provide enough hands-on classroom training or instruct them in the use of data to improve student learning. He also cited a 2006 report by Arthur Levine, former president of Columbia’s Teachers College, in which 61 percent of educators surveyed said their colleges didn’t offer enough instruction to prepare them for the classroom.
The nation’s 95,000 public schools will have to hire as many as 1 million educators in the next five years as teachers and principals from the so-called baby-boom generation retire, according to Education Department projections. More than half of the new teachers will have been trained at education colleges, Duncan said.
While Secretary of Education Arne Duncan today called for the reform of college programs that educate
teachers, Center for Education Reform president Jeanne Allen said that Duncan must back up his rhetoric with strong provisions regarding teacher quality at the federal level. Allen recently released guidance to the federal government urging tough regulations on federal funds used for state teacher quality efforts.
In response to Duncan’s speech today at Columbia University’s Teachers College, Allen praised the Education Secretary’s demand for revolutionary changes to the way that colleges of education prepare educators, saying that his remarks should serve as a wake up call to teacher unions, education bureaucrats, and entrenched special interests who would block data-driven performance reviews of teachers in an effort to monitor teacher quality throughout their careers.
Ripon School District Administrator Richard Zimman:
“Beware of legacy practices (most of what we do every day is the maintenance of the status quo), @12:40 minutes into the talk – the very public institutions intended for student learning has become focused instead on adult employment. I say that as an employee. Adult practices and attitudes have become embedded in organizational culture governed by strict regulations and union contracts that dictate most of what occurs inside schools today. Any impetus to change direction or structure is met with swift and stiff resistance. It’s as if we are stuck in a time warp keeping a 19th century school model on life support in an attempt to meet 21st century demands.” Zimman went on to discuss the Wisconsin DPI’s vigorous enforcement of teacher licensing practices and provided some unfortunate math & science teacher examples (including the “impossibility” of meeting the demand for such teachers (about 14 minutes)). He further cited exploding teacher salary, benefit and retiree costs eating instructional dollars (“Similar to GM”; “worry” about the children given this situation).
San Francisco Schools Lunch Money Cut off, Rules Broken
Since April, the school district has had to pony up the $1.5 million monthly cost of the lunch program for low-income students after state inspectors on a surprise visit found violations they deemed so serious and recurring that they cut off the flow of federal reimbursements.
The violations had nothing to do with the quality of food being served, but stem from the school district’s inability to follow bureaucratic rules governing the federally subsidized National School Lunch Program, which is administered by the state.
To ensure no child goes without a lunch, the district, meanwhile, has spent more than $11 million, money it will get back once city schools show they can follow the rules – something district officials have been working on since the inspection.
Laconia: School Board sees itself in budgetary vise
School District administrators estimate that under the provisions of the city’s tax cap, the school district could see as little as $142,000 in additional money for next year’s local budget.
In addition, all three union contracts are up for renegotiation and administrators also learned this week that health insurance rates could rise as much as 26.2 percent — or a maximum increase of $1,064,000.
The provisions of the current tax cap allow next year’s budget to increase by a “capped amount” that is based on the Consumer Price Index-Urban — a standard measure of inflation — and the dollar amount of building permits in a 12-month time period from April 1 to March 31.
For example, the 2009-10 budget was based on a CPI-U of 3.8 percent, meaning that the local portion of the school budget was $20,001,940 and was multiplied by 3.8 percent — giving the district the potential to raise an additional $760,000.
That increase was added to the local school tax rate of $9.32 per $1,000 evaluation multiplied by the dollar amount of building permits as of March 31, 2008 — or new growth — giving the district an additional $242,000.
With adjustments and according to the cap, the school district could have raised an additional $1.1 million for this school year — a number that was reduced by $500,000 in June by the Laconia City Council.
Lengthy pacifier use can lead to speech problems
Questions on whether a baby should be given a pacifier or allowed to thumb-suck have existed for generations. The concerns center on whether sucking habits will impact tooth alignment and speech development. The latest evidence, published today, suggests that long-term pacifier use, thumb-sucking and even early bottle use increases the risk of speech disorders in children.
The study looked at the association between sucking behaviors and speech disorders in 128 children, ages three to five, in Chile. Delaying bottle use until at least 9 months old reduced the risk of developing a speech disorder, researchers found. But children who sucked their thumb, fingers or used a pacifier for more than three years were three times as likely to develop speech impediments. Breastfeeding did not have a detrimental effect on speech development.
Mayor Bing urges Detroiters to support $500M school bond proposal
Mayor Dave Bing called on Detroiters to support Proposal S, the $500 million school bond proposal that he said will bring jobs and life into city neighborhoods.
Flanked by Robert Bobb, the emergency financial manager for Detroit Public Schools, Bing said Detroit children deserve modern school buildings and the city can’t pass by the opportunity to take advantage of one-time federal stimulus dollars to borrow money at zero- and low-interest rates for school construction and renovation.
“This is real shot in the arm for the city of Detroit and for the children of the city of Detroit,” Bing said.
Hawaii schools to move to four-day week in state cost-cutting measure
Thousands of working parents in Hawaii are scrambling to make childcare arrangements ahead of the closure on Friday of all public schools, in a bid by the state’s education authorities to cut costs.
All 256 of Hawaii’s public schools will be closed in the first of 17 “furlough Fridays” that will see a drastic cut in school time for up to 171,000 children. The reduction of the school week from five to four days will last for at least the next two years.
The furloughs are the most draconian measure yet taken in the US, where the recession has forced many states to slash public services. At least 25 states have forced teachers to take unpaid days off, but most of the cuts have fallen on holidays or on preparation days rather than on actual school days.
Education in the Arab world
One reason that too many Arabs are poor is rotten education
A RECENT issue of Science, the weekly journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, was devoted to research into “Ardi” or Ardipithecus ramidus, a 4.4m-year-old hominid species whose discovery deepens the understanding of human evolution. These latest studies suggest, among other things, that rather than descending from a closely related species such as the chimpanzee, the hominid branch parted earlier than previously thought from the common ancestral tree.
In much of the Arab world, coverage of the research took a different spin. “American Scientists Debunk Darwin”, exclaimed the headline in al-Masry al-Youm, Egypt’s leading independent daily. “Ardi Refutes Darwin’s Theory”, chimed the website of al-Jazeera, the region’s most-watched television channel. Scores of comments from readers celebrated this news as a blow to Western materialism and a triumph for Islam. Two or three lonely readers wrote in to complain that the report had inaccurately presented the findings of the research.
Islamic school in Madison eager to grow
Just back from the frenzy of lunchtime recess, third-grader Amena Saleh donned a head scarf Wednesday and dropped to her knees at Madinah Academy of Madison, a full-time Islamic school on the city’s South Side.
Her prayer was one of five that are obligatory every day for Muslims but the only one that fell during school hours.
“We have a God who’s up in the sky and his name is Allah,” said Amena, 8, explaining the focus of her ritual.
At Madinah Academy, the educational program is grounded in Islam and guided by the Quran, the religion’s holy book. Now in its fifth year, the school serves 28 students in grades pre-kindergarten through three and is eager to add grade levels. It is housed in a strip mall at 1325 Greenway Cross, just off Fish Hatchery Road and near Madison’s border with Fitchburg.
Students Aren’t Learning Math. Can NCLB Help?
New statistics show that U.S. students are struggling to learn basic math. The 2009 results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in math, a test given every two years to fourth- and eighth-graders nationwide, were released this week. Although average overall scores have doubled since the NAEP was introduced in 1990, results have completely flat-lined among fourth-graders, and the achievement gap between white and black students isn’t narrowing.
The New York Times notes that such trends could be linked to the enactment of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) in 2002:
Duncan to ed schools: End ‘mediocre’ training
Education Secretary Arne Duncan, in prepared remarks circulating in advance of a speech Thursday, accuses many of the nation’s schools of education of doing “a mediocre job of preparing teachers for the realities of the 21st-century classroom.”
My colleague Nick Anderson, on the national education beat, and I found the advance text a meaty read.
Duncan’s speech, to be delivered at Columbia University, goes further than any other I can remember from an education secretary in ripping into the failure of education schools to ready teachers for the challenges of the day, particularly the demand for academic growth in all students.
Duncan’s speech points out two major deficiencies in education school teaching with which most critics would agree: They do a bad job teaching students how to manage disruptive classrooms, particularly in low-income neighborhoods, and they don’t offer much in the way of training new teachers how to use data to improve their classroom results.
The excerpts of the speech we were given, however, did not appear to address one part of the classroom management problem that is often raised when successful teachers explain how they learned to keep students in order. These teachers often say they learned by doing, by facing a class alone without help, trying one thing after another until something worked for them. Education school deans have been critical of the Teach for America program, which pushes recent college graduates into classrooms with only a few weeks training, but teachers who have survived that toss-them-into-the-water approach say it works better than class management classes at their teacher’s colleges.
Locally, the UW-Madison School of Education has been involved in many Madison School District initiatives.
An Epidemic of Fear: How Panicked Parents Skipping Shots Endangers Us All
To hear his enemies talk, you might think Paul Offit is the most hated man in America. A pediatrician in Philadelphia, he is the coinventor of a rotavirus vaccine that could save tens of thousands of lives every year. Yet environmental activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. slams Offit as a “biostitute” who whores for the pharmaceutical industry. Actor Jim Carrey calls him a profiteer and distills the doctor’s attitude toward childhood vaccination down to this chilling mantra: “Grab ’em and stab ’em.” Recently, Carrey and his girlfriend, Jenny McCarthy, went on CNN’s Larry King Live and singled out Offit’s vaccine, RotaTeq, as one of many unnecessary vaccines, all administered, they said, for just one reason: “Greed.”
Thousands of people revile Offit publicly at rallies, on Web sites, and in books. Type pauloffit.com into your browser and you’ll find not Offit’s official site but an anti-Offit screed “dedicated to exposing the truth about the vaccine industry’s most well-paid spokesperson.” Go to Wikipedia to read his bio and, as often as not, someone will have tampered with the page. The section on Offit’s education was once altered to say that he’d studied on a pig farm in Toad Suck, Arkansas. (He’s a graduate of Tufts University and the University of Maryland School of Medicine).
Fenger Academy: A troubled school before the cameras arrived
A FEW weeks after I visited Fenger Academy, on Chicago’s far south side, television cameras swarmed the school. The incident at Fenger was so alarming that the White House dispatched two cabinet secretaries to quell anxiety. I came for happier reasons. The Fenger was still in the heady first days of school, exciting not only because every new year brings new opportunities, but because this year seemed particularly ripe with them.
Fenger is closer to Indiana’s belching mills than to downtown Chicago. It has struggled for decades. From 2006 to 2008 less than 3% of students met Illinois’s pathetic standards of achievement. But this meagre record had one good outcome: Fenger’s district chose it as a “turnaround” school.
When I arrive in the main office, students are still milling about, a few parents with them, looking for registration or wondering where to pick up their new uniforms–black polo shirts with the school insignia on the breast. Don Fraynd, the turnaround officer, is waiting for me. He is a youngish man whose e-mail signature is punctuated by a proud “PhD”. After a quick tour we sit in the principal’s anteroom. He tells me that reformers have showered Fenger with programmes, to no avail.
Maryland Governor O’Malley urges School Superintendents to cut costs
Nelson Hernandez & John Wagner:
With Maryland facing a $2 billion budget shortfall next year, Gov. Martin O’Malley warned the chiefs of the state’s school systems Tuesday of hard times ahead, and the Senate president told them that they were “going to have to start taking a portion of the hit.”
Speaking in Annapolis to a gathering of the Public School Superintendents Association of Maryland, O’Malley (D) urged the heads of the county’s 24 school jurisdictions to find ways to save money but maintain the quality that earned the state a No. 1 ranking in a national survey by the Education Week trade newspaper.
O’Malley’s cost-saving suggestions included creating a school building design that could be used across the state, buying furniture from the state prison industry and installing solar panels on roofs to generate energy.
But he offered few specifics about what cuts the superintendents might expect in state funding even as he repeatedly stressed the challenge of chopping $2 billion from a $13 billion budget.
Memphis City Schools lines up donations worth $1.4 million for Merit Pay
Memphis City Schools has signed short-term contracts worth $1.4 million with several consultants, including a local public relations agency, as the district moves toward merit pay for teachers and getting rid of those who miss the mark.
Supt. Kriner Cash quickly raised the capital from donors, including the Hyde Family Foundations, so work could begin Oct. 1.
The PR firm CS, on Union Avenue, got a $152,000 contract through June 30. The agency’s main job will be communicating with teachers, making sure the district’s message is clear and consistent, potentially warding off union strife.
The contracts are a prelude to a seven-year teacher improvement plan the district hopes to accomplish with nearly $100 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Gates will announce the winners of its national grants in early November. Memphis is one of five finalists.
Cash does not want to wait, saying Tuesday that “a lull in work like this can become the devil’s playground.
For Decades, Puzzling People With Mathematics
For today’s mathematical puzzle, assume that in the year 1956 there was a children’s magazine in New York named after a giant egg, Humpty Dumpty, who purportedly served as its chief editor.
Mr. Dumpty was assisted by a human editor named Martin Gardner, who prepared “activity features” and wrote a monthly short story about the adventures of the child egg, Humpty Dumpty Jr. Another duty of Mr. Gardner’s was to write a monthly poem of moral advice from Humpty Sr. to Humpty Jr.
At that point, Mr. Gardner was 42 and had never taken a math course beyond high school. He had struggled with calculus and considered himself poor at solving basic mathematical puzzles, let alone creating them. But when the publisher of Scientific American asked him if there might be enough material for a monthly column on “recreational mathematics,” a term that sounded even more oxymoronic in 1956 than it does today, Mr. Gardner took a gamble.
He quit his job with Humpty Dumpty.
A Moo-Moo Here, and Better Test Scores Later
But it soon became clear that this was a field “study”– as the teachers called it — not a field “trip,” and the 75 Harlem kindergartners were going not only for a glimpse of rural life, but to rack up extra points on standardized tests.
“I want to get smarter,” 5-year-old Brandon Neal said.
“I want to do better on homework and tests,” added Julliana Jimenez, one of his classmates.
New York State’s English and math exams include several questions each year about livestock, crops and the other staples of the rural experience that some educators say flummox city children, whose knowledge of nature might begin and end at Central Park. On the state English test this year, for instance, third graders were asked questions relating to chickens and eggs. In math, they had to count sheep and horses.
Americans Flunk News Quiz
Not that the questions were all easy, but a new Pew Research Center poll finds the state of public knownedge about current U.S affairs to be pretty dismal. The news quiz, conducted Oct. 1-4 among 1,002 adults reached on cell phones and landlines, was announced this week.
It asked 12 multiple choice questions about people, events and issues in the news. Respondents answered an average of 5.3 questions correctly. That’s well below a D grade, at 44 percent. But hey, if only Balloon Boy coulda been among the questions.
Here’s one that really challenged people: Only 18 percent could correctly identify Max Baucus as chair of the Senate Finance Committee, which has developed legislation to reform U.S. health care. Fewer than a third knew how many troops we have in Afghanistan.
Teaching for a Living: How Teachers See the Profession Today
Jean Johnson, Andrew Yarrow, Jonathan Rochkind and Amber Ott:
Two out of five of America’s 4 million K-12 teachers appear disheartened and disappointed about their jobs, while others express a variety of reasons for contentment with teaching and their current school environments, new research by Public Agenda and Learning Point Associates shows.
The nationwide study, “Teaching for a Living: How Teachers See the Profession Today,” whose results are being reported here for the first time, offers a comprehensive and nuanced look at how teachers differ in their perspectives on their profession, why they entered teaching, the atmosphere and leadership in their schools, the problems they face, their students and student outcomes, and ideas for reform. Taking a closer look at the nation’s teacher corps based on educators’ attitudes and motivations for teaching provides some notable implications for how to identify, retain, and support the most effective teachers, according to the researchers.
This portrait of American teachers, completed in time for the beginning of the 2009-10 school year, presents a new means for appraising the state of the profession at a time when school reform, approaches to teaching, and student achievement remain high on the nation’s agenda. It also comes as billions of economic-stimulus dollars pour into America’s schools focused on ensuring that effective teachers are distributed among all schools, and Congress will have to consider reauthorization or modification of the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act., the nearly 8-year-old latest version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
Our Struggling Public Schools “A Critical, but unspoken reason for the Great Recession”
Tom Friedman via a kind reader’s email:
Last summer I attended a talk by Michelle Rhee, the dynamic chancellor of public schools in Washington. Just before the session began, a man came up, introduced himself as Todd Martin and whispered to me that what Rhee was about to speak about — our struggling public schools — was actually a critical, but unspoken, reason for the Great Recession.
There’s something to that. While the subprime mortgage mess involved a huge ethical breakdown on Wall Street, it coincided with an education breakdown on Main Street — precisely when technology and open borders were enabling so many more people to compete with Americans for middle-class jobs.
In our subprime era, we thought we could have the American dream — a house and yard — with nothing down. This version of the American dream was delivered not by improving education, productivity and savings, but by Wall Street alchemy and borrowed money from Asia.
A year ago, it all exploded. Now that we are picking up the pieces, we need to understand that it is not only our financial system that needs a reboot and an upgrade, but also our public school system. Otherwise, the jobless recovery won’t be just a passing phase, but our future.
“Our education failure is the largest contributing factor to the decline of the American worker’s global competitiveness, particularly at the middle and bottom ranges,” argued Martin, a former global executive with PepsiCo and Kraft Europe and now an international investor. “This loss of competitiveness has weakened the American worker’s production of wealth, precisely when technology brought global competition much closer to home. So over a decade, American workers have maintained their standard of living by borrowing and overconsuming vis-à-vis their real income. When the Great Recession wiped out all the credit and asset bubbles that made that overconsumption possible, it left too many American workers not only deeper in debt than ever, but out of a job and lacking the skills to compete globally.”
Madison Mayor Cieslewicz Visits Toki Middle School
One of my favorite events of the year is the annual Principal for a Day event organized by the Foundation for Madison’s Public Schools and sponsored by CUNA. For one thing, it’s an opportunity for me to use phrases like, “Hey, hey, no running in the halls!” and, “sure, it’s funny until somebody loses an eye.”
This year I chose to be the shadow principal at Toki Middle School. It’s no secret that Toki is at the center of a neighborhood that has been in the news in recent years in part because of some changing demographics. Those changes are apparent at the school where kids eligible for free and reduced lunches have increased from about a third to about half of the school population in just a few years.
But what I saw on a typical day where most of the kids didn’t know or care much who I was (just like a normal day around City Hall) was a school where a lot of learning was taking place. I visited Rhonda Chalone’s Student Leadership class, Vern Laufenberg’s Technology Class and Scott Mullee’s Science Class. I also spent some time with Principal Nicole Schaefer and her staff. What I witnessed was dedicated teachers and engaged students in a friendly and orderly atmosphere. And the diversity that is there is a big advantage, setting those kids up for success in a world that is, if anything, even more diverse than the student body at Toki.
Every school has some challenges, but anyone that doesn’t think Madison schools are doing a great job teaching our kids, should spend a day in one.
The southwest part of Madison, including Toki Middle School has had its share of challenges over the past few years.
Pedagogy Across Three Continents
Aside from having capital Ps in their names, Pittsburgh, Prague and São Paolo might seem to have little in common.
The first has an industrial heritage as a US steel hub. The second, in central Europe and once part of the Soviet bloc, has an historic district that is a World Heritage Site, and the third, founded by Jesuit priests, is the capital of Brazil’s most populous state and one of the most dynamic cities in Latin America.
What links all three is the global executive MBA delivered by the Joseph M Katz Graduate School of Business at the University of Pittsburgh.
Katz has been running an EMBA programme since 1972, a time when Pittsburgh had one of the US’s highest number of Fortune 500 companies headquartered in the city. In 1990, the school started offering an EMBA programme in the Czech Republic, in Prague and, since 2000, in São Paolo, Brazil.
Until 2003, the three programmes operated as independent entities. Students from the Prague and Brazil campuses would come to Pittsburgh for two-week periods, but because they were at different stages in the curriculum, they did not interact with each other or with the other students from Pittsburgh.
Cooking classes for children
We know that children need to eat more healthily but the message will be useless if they don’t learn to cook – and enjoy doing so. Sadly, a generation has already grown up without learning to cook at school: when the National Curriculum was introduced into UK state schools in 1990, practical cookery was sidelined in favour of “food technology”. Children learned to design logos for pizza boxes, rather than to make a pizza.
This gaping hole in our children’s education is something Katie Caldesi, director of Italian cookery school Cucina Caldesi in Marylebone, London, is keen to correct. She has two sons aged seven and nine, and says: “It’s criminal that we dropped cookery from the curriculum. Italian food lends itself to cookery for children as long as they don’t just have white carbohydrates; in Italy you have pasta first, then meat, vegetables, then fruit.”
To help get children cooking their favourite Italian dishes, Cucina Caldesi runs classes for those aged six and over alongside its adult programme. It also has a holiday workshop for teenagers, “La Cucina dei Ragazzi”, led by Caldesi head chef Stefano Borella. I went to observe, while my 13-year-old son Ben, a keen eater and occasional cook, took part in the class alongside five others.
Borella, whose teaching style is informal but authoritative, won over the young cooks from the start. The aim of the session, he said, was to prepare, cook and eat a three-course meal: gnocchi with walnut pesto, fish skewers with lemon couscous and basil pannacotta served with berries.
Blair Sheppard on the legacy of Kurt Lewin
Though he died in 1947 aged 56, even a cursory review of modern management practices reveals the enduring influence of Kurt Lewin, the German-American psychologist.
The source of his influence can be found in the confluence of three aspects of his personal career.
The first was his early training in mathematically-oriented psychology, focused on the study of human perception. From this he developed a view that it was possible to apply the disciplines of the physical sciences to psychological phenomena.
The second was his rejection of reductionist ideas, which hold that complex phenomena can be explained in terms of simpler building blocks. This formed the tradition of German psychology.
Prof Lewin was much more interested in Gestalt psychology, which implied that psychological phenomena are related to the interaction of the person with their environment and the result of the interplay of many forces within the person.
School District maintains education on a small scale
The proverbial little red schoolhouse survives in the form of a brown brick building on the corner of W. Seven Mile Road and Highway 45 in Racine County.
Here at Drought School – the only school in the Norway School District – items from the eighth-grade bake sale sell for 25 to 75 cents each, the school administrator has been on the job for 20 years and the softball team can include students as young as third-graders.
There are advantages to the small school district in a 4-square-mile farmland oasis sandwiched between the urban Racine Unified School District and suburban Muskego-Norway School District.
But there also are downsides to this slice of rural life, preserved in small kindergarten-through-eighth-grade and high school districts in southeastern Wisconsin.
Last year, Norway’s resident enrollment hit 76, the end of a five-year slide in which it lost more than 40% of its population, according to state records.
Once Convicts’ Last Hope, Now a Students’ Advocate
“Pick your head up, buddy,” Tom Dunn said to Darius Nash, who had fallen asleep during the morning’s reading drills. “Sabrieon, sit down, buddy,” he called to a wandering boy. “Focus.”
Mr. Dunn’s classroom is less than three miles from his old law office, where he struggled to keep death row prisoners from the executioner’s needle. This summer, after serving hundreds of death row clients for 20 grinding, stressful years, he traded the courthouse for Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School.
The turmoil of middle school turns many teachers away, said the school’s principal, Danielle S. Battle. Students’ bodies and minds are changing, and disparities in learning abilities are playing out.
“A lot of people will say, ‘I’ll do anything but middle school,’ ” she said.
But this is precisely where Mr. Dunn chose to be, having seen too many people at the end of lives gone wrong, and wanting to keep these students from ending up like his former clients. He quotes Frederick Douglass: “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”