Washington, DC School Vouchers Have a Brighter Outlook in Congress

Robert Tomsho:

The District of Columbia’s embattled school-voucher program, which lawmakers appeared to have killed earlier this year, looks like it could still survive.
Congress voted in March not to fund the program, which provides certificates to pay for recipients’ private-school tuition, after the current school year. But after months of pro-voucher rallies, a television-advertising campaign and statements of support by local political leaders, backers say they are more confident about its prospects. Even some Democrats, many of whom have opposed voucher efforts, have been supportive.
At a congressional hearing last month, Sen. Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat and vocal critic of the program who heads the subcommittee that controls its funding, said he was open to supporting its continuation if certain changes were made. They include requiring voucher recipients to take the same achievement tests as public-school students.
The senator’s comments were a “really positive sign,” said Jeanne Allen, president of the Center for Education Reform, a group that supports vouchers and charter schools — public schools that can bypass many regulations that govern their traditional counterparts. “It’s clear the momentum is coming our way,” added Kevin Chavous, a former Washington city councilman who has appeared in television ads supporting the voucher plan, known as the Opportunity Scholarship Program.

Task force to develop Kentucky education strategy

Nancy Rodriguez:

In a move he says is meant to re-energize support for public education, Gov. Steve Beshear announced Monday the creation of a task force charged with developing a unified vision of what Kentucky schools need to offer to better prepare students for the 21st century.
“Our world has changed dramatically since the reforms of 1990,” Beshear said, during a press conference at Louisville Male High School, where he discussed the Transforming Education in Kentucky initiative. “We must now turn our focus to the future and again to our schools to ensure that our strategies and programs are designed to meet the challenges of the 21st century.”
Not all embraced Beshear’s task force, which is suppose to spend the next year developing recommendations on how to improve education in the state.
In a letter to the governor, Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, said he believed the task force “is duplicative” of education efforts already underway.
“I respectfully submit that it is past time for your administration to move beyond discussion and to immediate action,” Williams said, noting that topics on the task force’s agenda are already being discussed by legislative committees or have been the subject of legislative bills. “…These issues cannot be put off another year.”

Encouraging kids to read with the author of Horrid Henry. Make stories together….

Sarah Ebner:

There’s more depressing news on the education front today. In The Times, Joanna Sugden reports that children are struggling with language skills in schools and that it’s vital for parents to speak to, and read to, their children. Meanwhile in the Daily Mail, it’s reported that boys are falling ever behind, even at a really young age. Many can’t write their name by the end of Reception year; they’re falling behind girls in vital aspects of the curriculum – and life.
As regular readers of the blog will know, I am convinced that it’s incredibly important to do something about boys and their under-achievement in schools. I am often asked to recommend books for boys (and there are loads), for my views on their disinterest in writing or how they won’t settle at school. I’ve written about this a number of times (please see below) and am saddened not only that it’s still an issue, but that not much seems to be taking place to address it.
There seems little point in my writing about the issues again, so I’m going to mention an initiative which hopes to get children reading again. Innocent and Francesca Simon (author of the Horrid Henry books, which are incredibly popular amongst girls and boys) have teamed up to inspire parents to tell stories.

Technology: Classroom interaction offers best experience

Alan Cane:

Tania Goldhaber, an enthusiastic and personable undergraduate studying mechanical engineering at MIT, lives the Web 2.0 life.
Her laptop is her key to the virtual world, always on, always ready to access Facebook and other social networking sites. For EMBA students at Cambridge University’s Judge Business School she has become the human face of Web 2.0.
Simon Learmount, programme director, says: “We used video to beam her into the classroom for a morning during the orientation week [the first of three separate weeks where the students are physically together]. Her presentation showed how her life is completely structured by Web 2.0. Afterwards, some of the students went off and started blogging immediately.”
These Judge EMBA students are the top brass of the business world in the UK, chief financial officers and the like with a sprinkling of chief executives among them, who, until Ms Goldhaber’s presentation, may not have understood blogging, let alone written an online diary themselves.
It is one of the first results of a risky but potentially hugely productive experiment that the school launched a few weeks ago.

A lesson in school lunch

Susan Troller:

“Eat the taco salad. It’s good.”
The reassuring comment came from a crowd of seventh-grade boys at Velma Hamilton Middle School as I prepared to eat my first school lunch in more than 40 years.
They politely made room for me at the front of a line that circled the cafeteria/multipurpose room, nodding enthusiastically as I took the salad. As a former food writer and restaurant critic newly returned to covering topics about children and education, I wanted to experience firsthand school lunches at Madison’s elementary, middle and high schools. Madison, like communities across the nation, is re-evaluating school meals with an eye toward making them more nutritious and appealing.
The taco salad featured finely shredded lettuce, providing a reasonably crisp bed for a mound of mildly seasoned ground beef; a dab of sour cream, a small plastic container of salsa and a small package of salty, tortilla chips completed the spread. It was the most popular purchased lunch option that day, although a majority of Hamilton’s sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders appeared to have brought their own lunches. With a half-pint of milk, the meal cost $3.30 (adult full-price middle school lunch). I’d probably give it a grade of C+ or B-.

School District Strategic Planning: How the World’s Best Performing School Systems Come Out On Top

Via a kind reader’s email [9.5MB PDF]:

The experiences of these top school systems suggest that three things matter most:

  1. getting the right people to become teachers,
  2. developing them into effective instructors, and
  3. ensuring that the system is able to deliver the best possible education for every child.

Students give math a bit more thought

Michael Alison Chandler:

The teenagers in Stephanie Nichols’s algebra class have nothing on her blank stare. And they can’t even come close to her best confused expression: eyebrows furrowed, mouth frowning, a flash of ditziness framed by a blond bob.
“Sorry if I’m the slow kid,” she said, slowly, during a lesson on slope. “I don’t get it.” As students calculated problems on the board, she interrupted, “I’m really lost. . . . How did you do that?” Occasionally, she was more blunt: “Huh?”
Nichols’s vacant looks and incessant questions put the students at Arlington County’s Washington-Lee High School in the uncomfortable position of being the math teacher, explaining how the numbers on the white board relate to each other, how algebra actually works.

Community meeting to introduce the new Madison School District Talented and Gifted Plan

via a kind reader’s email:

Tuesday, November 17
6:00 – 7:30 p.m. (this is the correct time)
Hamilton Middle School LMC
4801 Waukesha Street
Madison, Wi
The Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) Talented and Gifted Division will host a community forum on November 17, 2009, from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m. Superintendent Dan Nerad and Director of Teaching and Learning Lisa Wachtel will be in attendance.
The focus of the forum will be to provide the Madison community with an overview of the recently Board of Education approved Talented and Gifted Education Plan, followed by an opportunity for discussion.
Link to new MMSD TAG Plan: http://tagweb.madison.k12.wi.us/
More information from MUAE: http://madisonunited.org/TAGplan.html

Love of Teaching Draws Adjuncts to the Classroom Despite Low Pay

Audrey Williams June:

They don’t make much money, they don’t have health benefits, and they don’t have job security. So why do adjuncts keep showing up to teach in college classrooms semester after semester, year after year?
The Chronicle went to Chicago to find that out, and a lot more.
Adjuncts who teach part time are now about half of the professoriate, making them a crucial sector of academe. But information on their daily jobs, their qualifications, and their motivations is sparse. To help fill the gap, we focused, both in a survey and in intensive reporting, on adjuncts in the Chicago metropolitan area. The region’s rich mix of public and private four-year institutions and community colleges provided a lens through which to view the variety of adjunct employment.
Jennifer O’Riordan, an adjunct psychology instructor at Joliet Junior College, listens to colleagues at a union meeting. She has become an advocate for better pay.
Our survey was answered by more than 600 adjuncts who work at 90 institutions. Their responses, though not a random sample, gave us a detailed look at their educations–most do not have doctorates–and their compensation–annual salaries of $20,000 or less are the norm. Students are likely to pay more than that at some of the area’s colleges, like Loyola University Chicago, which charges about $30,000 in tuition alone.

Our education system leaves me baffled

Vicki Woods:

f I had care of a four-year-old right now, I think I’d go and live in France. Even though I’m not that fond of France and I hate speaking the language, I’d be able to pop my four-year-old into the nearest ecole maternelle and relax. He’d stay there until he was six, by which time they’d teach him to read. And then he’d go to primary school and learn to write – with accents on and everything.
Here in England, everything I hear, read or watch on telly about education is too baffling to understand. I say this as a governor of a small village primary school. I’m not being funny, nor boasting about my idleness or lack of care. I’m saying the education of England’s children is too baffling to understand for anyone who is not an educationist.
Nobody could blame me, I hope, for being baffled by news of the Cambridge Primary Review, the biggest and most detailed study of primary education for 40 years. I listened carefully to Jim Naughtie talking to the review’s lead author, Professor Robin Alexander, on the Today programme yesterday. Naughtie said the review found primary education was “in good heart”, but it challenged the Government over the uselessness of its cherished Sats. Also, they want “formal schooling” to begin at six, not five. The Prof did his best to condense 500 or so pages into 12-second sound bites, and I listened in that vague early-morning way, thinking: Goodness, this is dense.

Obama aide defends education stimulus plan

Ben Fischer:

President Barack Obama’s top education aide said Friday that now is educators’ “moment to shine” thanks to an unprecedented federal investment in school reform contained in February’s economic stimulus package.
Speaking to a convention of state school board members from throughout the country at the Hyatt Regency, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said he has more money than all his predecessors combined to encourage fundamental changes to American schools.
“If something’s working at two schools, and they want to take it to 10, this is the opportunity,” Duncan said. “This is the time to think big, and wherever resources have been the constraint, we’re trying to fundamentally break through.”

Washington, DC Unions Want Probe Of Layoffs by Rhee

Bill Turque:

Union leaders asked the D.C. Council on Friday for an investigation into the layoffs of 266 teachers and staff members, including an independent audit of the school system’s decision to hire 934 educators this spring and summer.
Officials of unions representing teachers, principals and other public school personnel assailed the Oct. 2 dismissals as an attempt by Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) and Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee to winnow veteran instructors from the system. They said the 934 hires were far in excess of what was necessary to fill job openings and were used to create a budget crisis to justify the firings.
“There seems to be an attitude in this administration that it doesn’t care about breaking the rules,” said Washington Teachers’ Union President George Parker.
Rhee has said that the layoffs were necessary to help address a $43.9 million shortfall in the 2010 public school budget. The gap was created in part, Rhee has said, by the council’s decision to cut $20.7 million at the end of July because of declining revenue projections.

Teachers’ unions uneasy with Obama

Nia-Malika Henderson:

A skirmish between powerful teachers’ unions and President Barack Obama over nearly $5 billion in education spending is shaping up as a preview of the battle to come over No Child Left Behind in Congress early next year.
But the tables are turned: now the unions are worried that Obama, a Democratic ally, is going to be just as tough on them as President George W. Bush, a longtime foe.
The dispute adds teachers’ unions to a growing list of key Democratic constituencies that have been frustrated by Obama’s lunges toward the political middle, along with gay-rights activists upset Obama won’t lift the ban on gays in the military, and Latino officials who say Obama is slow-walking immigration reform.
So far, both the unions and Education Secretary Arne Duncan have tried to avoid a full-on collision, and the unions are showing new flexibility in accepting previously unheard-of moves like stricter teacher evaluations.
But they’re also making it clear they’ll only go so far with Obama, who was booed at two teachers’ union conventions when he was a candidate.

Stimulus money could open door to keeping kids in school longer, Nerad says

Gayle Worland:

If the State of Wisconsin wins federal stimulus dollars to help local districts lengthen their school days or their school year, Madison could be open to keeping kids in school for more learning time, according to Madison schools superintendent Dan Nerad.
Nerad’s comments followed an announcement Monday by Gov. Jim Doyle, who promoted the idea of longer school days when laying out a plan for the state’s application for a piece of $4.5 billion in federal education stimulus dollars known as “Race to the Top” funds.
Governors and educators across the country are waiting for the U.S. Department of Education to release “Race to the Top” guidelines this fall. States will then be on a fast track to apply for funds, said Doyle, whose other priorities for Wisconsin include overhauling student testing, making student test scores a factor in teacher evaluations, creating new data systems to track student and teacher performance, and changing the state aid funding formula so districts have more flexibility under caps limiting how many tax dollars they can collect.
“What I’m laying out today are the directions we’re taking in this application,” Doyle said. Teams from the governor’s office and the state Department of Instruction are working on the plans, but haven’t yet calculated how many dollars Wisconsin will request, he said.

I hope the local school district does not use these short term, borrowed funds for operating expenses….
Patrick Marley has more:

Gov. Jim Doyle said Monday the state must give control of Milwaukee schools to the mayor to put in a “good faith” application for federal economic stimulus funds.
He and state school Superintendent Tony Evers also said the state should tie teacher pay to student performance and give districts incentives to lengthen the school day or school year, particularly for students who need extra help.
Doyle said the education reforms he and Evers are advocating would require the steady push only a mayor can provide. Otherwise, school policy could “vacillate from year to year” with changes on the School Board, he said.

For these high school students, some real-world business experience

Karen Rivedal:

Students in a La Follette High School business club are finding it a little tougher than they expected to sell special headsets offering real-time game coverage to Badger sports fans.
“Sales are slower than we had hoped,” said June Anderson, adviser to the school’s DECA Club, whose members have been offering the headsets for $20 each as a fundraiser outside Camp Randall before every home football game.
With five home games finished and just two left – on Oct. 31 and Nov. 14 – the students have sold only about 500 of the pre-tuned earpiece radios, or about half the club’s goal.
“(Students) know now that they have to take a lot of no’s before they get a yes,” Anderson said. “They need to know (the radio’s) features and benefits and really be able to relate how they will benefit the customer to make the sale easier. That’s been a good thing for them to learn.”

Madison high school students receive early finance lessons

Pamela Cotant:

In the Madison School District’s four large high schools last week, students were given checkbooks and profiles detailing their life circumstances such as marriage, children, education and employment. Students then visited stations for typical purchases such as housing, utilities, food, transportation, childcare and entertainment as they tried to stay within their budget. To challenge their decision-making, some students also experienced unexpected setbacks such as illness or unemployment.
“It’s really important to know what you are buying and how you are going to buy stuff, especially when the economy is down … and money is tight,” said Andy Yang, a La Follette High School senior.
About 1,400 students participated.
Volunteers from various businesses work at the stations, but bankruptcy trustees were missing this year because they couldn’t get away due to their heavy workloads.

$2.3 million in federal stimulus money is going to pay for Tampa Bay area beauty school tuition

Will Van Sant:

More than $2.3 million in federal economic stimulus grants have gone to eight Tampa Bay area cosmetology and massage schools to pay tuition for the hairdressers, masseuses and nail technicians of tomorrow.
That’s swell news for those who see the beauty trades as a way to gain a firmer footing in the job market. But is there truly demand for more beauty school graduates at bay area salons?
Not really, said Monica Ponce, owner of Muse The Salon in Tampa.
“Instead of encouraging more people to go to beauty schools,” Ponce said, “they should probably help the stylists who are unemployed.”
Some area salons are hiring in this economy, but even industry lobbyists say beauty school is rarely a ticket to a thriving career.
Only 1 to 2 percent of beauty school graduates will be working in the field five years from graduation, said Bonnie Poole, treasurer of the Florida Cosmetology Association.

Arts Education and Graduation Rates

Rachel Lee Harris:

In a report to be released on Monday the nonprofit Center for Arts Education found that New York City high schools with the highest graduation rates also offered students the most access to arts education. The report, which analyzed data collected by the city’s Education Department from more than 200 schools over two years, reported that schools ranked in the top third by graduation rates offered students the most access to arts education and resources, while schools in the bottom third offered the least access and fewest resources. Among other findings, schools in the top third typically hired 40 percent more certified arts teachers and offered 40 percent more classrooms dedicated to coursework in the arts than bottom-ranked schools. They were also more likely to offer students a chance to participate in or attend arts activities and performances. The full report is at caenyc.org.

In some classrooms, books are a thing of the past

Ashley Surdin:

The dread of high school algebra is lost here amid the blue glow of computer screens and the clickety-clack of keyboards.
A fanfare plays from a speaker as a student passes a chapter test. Nearby, a classmate watches a video lecture on ratios. Another works out an equation in her notebook before clicking on a multiple-choice answer on her screen.
Their teacher at Agoura High School, Russell Stephans, sits at the back of the room, watching as scores pop up in real time on his computer grade sheet. One student has passed a level, the data shows; another is retaking a quiz.
“Whoever thought this up makes life so much easier,” Stephans says with a chuckle.

Fairfax County Schools Propoze Second Year Wage Freeze due to Reduced Revenues in its $2,200,000,00 Budget; Where is Madison’s 2009/2010 Final Budget?

Michael Alison Chandler:

The Fairfax County School Board is bracing for the most dramatic reduction in services in more than 20 years as it attempts to bridge a projected $176 million budget shortfall with cuts that could extend to closing schools, increasing class size, ending summer school, discontinuing most full-day kindergarten classes and eliminating foreign language instruction in elementary schools.
Superintendent Jack D. Dale will not present a formal budget proposal until January, but school officials are releasing a list of potential cuts because they want to give the public the earliest possible look at the severity of this year’s deficit. “What we are trying to get people to understand is, you are all at risk this time,” said board member Jane K. Strauss (Dranesville), the budget chairwoman.
Board members say that classrooms are already strained from adjustments made over the past two years, including consecutive increases in class sizes.
The current budget is $18 million less than last year’s, and the school system has grown by about 5,000 students. Federal stimulus money helped offset even deeper cuts, but the school board still eliminated nearly 800 positions and reduced many program budgets.
This year, programs will probably be discontinued, said school board chairman Kathy L. Smith (Sully). “There is no trimming around the edges anymore,” she said.
In Fairfax, the projected $176 million shortfall assumes 2,000 new students, no increase in county funding and no pay increase for teachers or other staff. If approved, it would mean a second year of salary freezes.


It will be interesting to see the Madison School District’s “final” 2009/2010 budget, which will be reviewed and voted on by the local school board soon. The budget has, in the past, increased as the year progresses. The 2007/8 budget was $339,685,844; 2008/9 was $368,012,286, and the 2009/10 preliminary budget was 367,912,077, according to the MMSD “Financials” PDF Document).

Stillwater, MN 9th Grade AP Geology students use new technology to map data

James Warden:

Brady Tynen needed to find out which states have the largest concentrations of people with mixed American Indian-African American ancestry. The Stillwater Junior High ninth-grader could have pored through the U.S. Census database, noted the appropriate percentage, ranked the states in a list and tried to divine some trend.
Then again, his geography class is just 50 minutes long, and Tynen needed to repeat Wednesday’s exercise two more times for different groups.
Thankfully, the Census website can show the information on a map with the press of a few buttons. In mere minutes, Tynen could tell that the group he was looking at is concentrated in the eastern U.S., particularly southern states like Louisiana, Mississippi and Georgia.
“Maps are a good way to find out all sorts of things,” he said. “It’d be kind of hard if you didn’t have a map because maps organize your data.”
The exercise gave students in Sara Damon’s ninth-grade Advanced Placement geography class a taste of a technology called geographic information systems (GIS). GIS is simply technology that merges data with maps. Something as basic as Google Maps can be considered GIS because it links a map to data, in that case street addresses.

Stillwater high school offers 17 Advanced Placement classes, according to the AP Course Audit Website.

Tests don’t always offer right answers

Jay Matthews:

Politicians and pundits are using results from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) tests to say our kids are falling behind the rest of the world, so maybe we should get some PISA practice. Brookings Institution scholar Tom Loveless, a member of the U.S. advisory board to PISA, offered this sample question for 15-year-olds from the mathematics literacy section of the exam:
For a rock concert a rectangular field of size 100m by 50m was reserved for the audience. The concert was completely sold out and the field was full with all the fans standing. Which one of the following is likely to be the best estimate of the total number of people attending the concert?

Class size, student background and schools’ funding appear to be less critical than has long been believed.

Jason Song & Jason Felch:

For years, schools and students have been judged on raw standardized test scores. Experts say this approach is flawed because they tend to reflect socioeconomic levels more than learning.
The “value-added” approach attempts to level the playing field by focusing on growth rather than achievement. Using a statistical analysis of test scores, it tracks an individual student’s improvement year to year, and uses that progress to estimate the effectiveness of teachers, principals and schools.
Academics have also used the approach to test many assumptions about what matters in schools. Scholars are still puzzling over what makes for a great teacher or school, but their results challenge orthodox assumptions like these:
All teachers are equal. For decades, schools have treated teachers like interchangeable parts. Value-added results suggest there are sharp differences in teachers’ effectiveness.

United Teachers Los Angeles: Absent from reform

Los Angeles times Editorial:

t’s easy to see why United Teachers Los Angeles doesn’t like the new Public School Choice policy at L.A. Unified, which allows outside groups to apply to take over about 250 new or underperforming schools. Those groups are likely to include a large number of charter school operators that would hire their own teachers rather than sign a contract with the teachers union.
What’s less understandable is why UTLA would minimize its chances of keeping some of the schools within the district, along with their union jobs. Yet that’s what appears to be happening. A rift has developed within the union’s leadership over whether to allow more so-called pilot schools, and if so, how many and under what conditions. Pilot schools are similar to charter schools, except that they remain within L.A. Unified, staffed by the district’s union employees. The staff is given more independence to make instructional and budgeting decisions in exchange for greater accountability and “thin contracts,” which contain fewer of the prescriptive work rules that can stultify progress.

Related: A Wisconsin State Journal Editorial on Madison’s lack of charter school opportunities.

Pack children off to school as soon as you can

Barbara Ellen:

No one could argue that the Cambridge Primary Review, the biggest report on primary schools for over 40 years, isn’t a weighty-looking document. Six years to complete, 600 pages long, one of its main arguments is that British children are starting school far too early, around the four-year mark.
Terrible, cries the report. In the manner of most European countries, children should be starting school at around six years old, in Finland’s case, seven. Thereby enabling Britain to catch up in terms of child literacy, numeracy, and well-being. All of which sounds extremely exciting for British education. What a shame they forgot to factor in British parents.
Even today, when there is a report like this, we seem automatically to revert to a template of idealised British family life, circa 1955 (Mummy in her pinny, happily baking jam tarts; Daddy arriving home with his brolly) that has no bearing on modern reality.
Exchange the 1950s fantasy for parents who both have to work, and have other children to sort out. Parents, who already have to pick up, clean up, organise, and juggle, to the point where they feel as though they are trapped within a slow-motion nervous breakdown. And this is the middle class, relatively do-able, version. Into this engorged ready-to-blow scenario they want to introduce the concept of up to two to three years less primary schooling? Are they insane?

Harvard admits to $1.8b gaffe in cash holdings

Beth Healy:

Harvard University, one of the world’s richest educational institutions, stumbled into its financial crisis in part by breaking one of the most basic rules of corporate or family finance: Don’t gamble with the money you need to pay the daily bills.
The university disclosed yesterday that it had lost $1.8 billion in cash – money it relies on for the school’s everyday expenses – by investing it with its endowment fund, instead of keeping it in safe, bank-like accounts. The disclosure was made in the school’s annual report for the fiscal year that ended June 30.
Typically, companies and big institutions manage their cash conservatively in order to have it readily available, by keeping the money in such low-risk investments as money-market mutual funds.
But Harvard placed a large portion of its cash with Harvard Management Co., the entity that runs the university’s endowment and invests in stocks, hedge funds, and other risky assets. It has been widely reported that Harvard Management’s endowment investments were battered in the market crash – down 27 percent in its last fiscal year. Not revealed until yesterday was that the school’s basic cash portfolio had also been caught in the undertow.

Schools a battleground over dueling Chinese scripts

Raja Abdulrahim:

For nine years, Sutoyo Lim’s son studied Chinese with private tutors and at language schools. He learned to write in “simplified script,” characters with thinly spread strokes commonly used in mainland China.
But that all changed when Lim’s 15-year-old son began taking Chinese classes at Arcadia High School this year. He was given two months to make the transition from “simplified” to the more intricate “traditional” script used in Taiwan.
Once the grace period is over, homework and exam answers written in simplified script will be disqualified — regardless of accuracy. “To me, it does not seem right,” Lim said. “I’m not happy with being forced to choose the language that’s going to be obsolete.”
When Chinese classes were introduced at Arcadia in the mid-1990s, Taiwanese parents pushed administrators to adopt the use of traditional script used in Taiwan and pre-communist China. The traditional form is distinguished by a series of complex and intersecting strokes.

Football Blowouts: The Art To Winning Big

Mike Pesca:

Every year, one or two high school football games bubble to national attention for the wrong reasons.
This year two Florida teams engaged in a battle — if you can call it that — where the final score was 82 to 0. Then, a few weeks later, the final score in another Florida game was 91 to 0. These are extreme examples, but every week, in nearly every state, teams win by 50 or 60 points.
What does a coach’s halftime speech sound like when his team is losing in a blowout?
What if you were John Petrie, coach of the Plainville High School Cardinals in Plainville, Kan., a couple of seasons back, when, in a game against Smith Center he found his team down 72 to 0 in the first quarter?

Milwaukee Vincent High School to start daily metal detector checks

Tom Tolan:

Students entering Vincent High School will be subjected to a metal detector on a daily basis in the wake of widespread fighting at the school, Milwaukee Public Schools officials said Friday.
Superintendent William Andrekopoulos confirmed Friday that Matthew Boswell, principal of Northwest Secondary School, has been appointed Vincent principal, replacing Alvin Baldwin, who is being reassigned to an elementary school.
Andrekopoulos also said two additional support staff members would be brought to Vincent to aid the administration. Three of the four assistant principals at the school also have been replaced, according to MPS officials.
Andrekopoulos said he was moved to make leadership changes after a visit to Vincent this week. He said he was struck in particular when he observed the presence of 17 adults supervising the cafeteria and not one of them was talking with students.
“I want to make sure we build a positive climate” at the school, he said.
Andrekopoulos spoke at a news conference Friday at district offices, capping off a volatile week at Vincent that began with a spate of fights and ended with some 100 students on suspension. He said eight of those students were suspected of behavior so serious that they’d be given a hearing at MPS’ central office.

Let’s help teachers solve bullying problem at schools

Sue Klang and Fred Evert:

It was three years ago that 15-year-old Eric Hainstock entered Weston High School with a 22-caliber pistol and a 20-gauge shotgun.
Within a few short minutes, Principal John Klang confronted Hainstock, trying to protect his school’s students and staff.
After a brief struggle, Klang was shot three times. He died later that day.
Debate continues on exactly what Hainstock intended to do – get the school’s attention for the help he needed, or execute a fatalistic death wish for himself and his school.
What is clear is Hainstock had been bullied.
He was bullied by his father who, he says, treated him like a slave and refused to let him wash. At school and after school, he claimed he was bullied by as many as 30 of his fellow classmates. He says he snapped.

Continue reading Let’s help teachers solve bullying problem at schools

Dumbing down education weakens U.S.

Joseph Borrajo:

As if NAFTA’s dismantling of America’s manufacturing base and corporate destruction of the middle class isn’t enough to challenge the needs of the country’s national security, now we have a systematic assault on the nation’s educational system.
In Michigan, it is the dumbing down of needed math standards to compete globally; at the national level, it is the drying up of funds used to harness the talent of young people who cannot afford an elitist entitlement system that’s cost-prohibitive for many.
The common thread of lost manufacturing jobs, a dying middle class and an impaired educational system that promotes inferior curriculum and economic exclusion all serve to undermine the well-being and national security of the country in ways that hostile external elements could never match. The hypocrisy of weakening America while extolling patriotism is a calculated deviousness that, for the sake of the country and the working class, must be challenged.

Cross Purposes

Will Fitzhugh
The Concord Review
A recent survey of college professors by the Chronicle of Higher Education found that nearly 90% thought that the students they teach were not very well prepared in reading, doing research and academic writing by their high schools.
At the same time, many college admissions officers ask students for 500-word “personal statements,” which have become known as “college essays,” and many high school English department spend a lot of their writing instruction on this sort of effort.
History departments and English departments are assigning fewer and fewer term papers, so it is not surprising that lots of students are arriving in college not knowing how to do research or write academic papers.
Why is it that college admissions officers and college professors seem to be working at cross purposes when it comes to student writing? College professors want students to be able to write serious research papers when they are assigned in their history, economics, political science, etc., classes, but that is not the message that is going out to high school applicants from the college admissions offices.
Most of the attention, if not all, in the college counseling offices at the secondary level is on what it will take to gain students admission to colleges, not on whether, for example, they have the academic knowledge and skills to graduate from college. That is someone else’s concern. Recently the Gates Foundation has taken up the challenge of trying to find out why students drop out of community colleges in such large numbers.

Continue reading Cross Purposes

Value Added Teacher Assessment

Jason Felch & Jason Song:

Terry Grier, former superintendent of San Diego schools, encountered union opposition when he tried to use the novel method. His fight offers a peek at a brewing national debate.
When Terry Grier was hired to run San Diego Unified School District in January 2008, he hoped to bring with him a revolutionary tool that had never been tried in a large California school system.
Its name — “value-added” — sounded innocuous enough. But this number-crunching approach threatened to upend many traditional notions of what worked and what didn’t in the nation’s classrooms.
It was novel because rather than using tests to take a snapshot of overall student achievement, it used scores to track each pupil’s academic progress from year to year. What made it incendiary, however, was its potential to single out the best and worst teachers in a nation that currently gives virtually all teachers a passing grade.
In previous jobs in the South, Grier had used the method as a basis for removing underperforming principals, denying ineffective teachers tenure and rewarding the best educators with additional pay.
In California, where powerful teachers unions have been especially protective of tenure and resistant to merit pay, Grier had a more modest goal: to find out if students in the San Diego district’s poorest schools had equal access to effective instructors.

Beware The Reverse Brain Drain To India And China

Vivek Wadhwa:

I spent Columbus Day in Sunnyvale, fittingly, meeting with a roomful of new arrivals. Well, relatively new. They were Indians living in Silicon Valley. The event was organized by the Think India Foundation, a think-tank that seeks to solve problems which Indians face. When introducing the topic of skilled immigration, the discussion moderator, Sand Hill Group founder M.R. Rangaswami asked the obvious question. How many planned to return to India? I was shocked to see more than three-quarters of the audience raise their hands.
Even Rangaswami was taken back. He lived in a different Silicon Valley, from a time when Indians flocked to the U.S. and rapidly populated the programming (and later executive) ranks of the top software companies in California. But the generational difference between older Indians who have made it in the Valley and the younger group in the room was striking. The present reality is this. Large numbers of the Valley’s top young guns (and some older bulls, as well) are seeing opportunities in other countries and are returning home. It isn’t just the Indians. Ask any VC who does business in China, and they’ll tell you about the tens of thousands who have already returned to cities like Shanghai and Beijing. The VC’s are following the talent. And this is bringing a new vitality to R&D in China and India.
Why would such talented people voluntarily leave Silicon Valley, a place that remains the hottest hotbed of technology innovation on Earth? Or to leave other promising locales such as New York City, Boston and the Research Triangle area of North Carolina? My team of researchers at Duke, Harvard and Berkeley polled 1203 returnees to India and China during the second half of 2008 to find answers to exactly this question. What we found should concern even the most boisterous Silicon Valley boosters.

New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson proposes 1.5% education cuts; no tax increases

Marjorie Childress:

Gov. Bill Richardson released his budget counterproposal on Saturday afternoon, just as the Senate was discussing the constitutionality of his proclamation convening the special session. Richardson’s proposal contains 1.5 percent cuts to education–as long as those cuts don’t affect classrooms.
Richardson said he wouldn’t consider tax increases during the special session, but that he would consider a tax revenue package during the regular session in January.
“I have made adjustments to my original budget proposal to reflect our new budget realities,” Richardson said in his statement. “… I have made it very clear to legislators that any cuts to education must be minimal and not affect our classrooms, kids and teachers.”

New Orleans educator could force big changes at MPS

Alan Borsuk:

Alan Coulter is working on a short list of goals for students in Milwaukee Public Schools:
A very large majority of them should get good, professional and prompt help learning reading, especially if they’re struggling.
The same with math.
The same with behavior problems – good, professional and prompt responses for those acting out too often, getting suspended too often, disrupting classes and so on.
Think about what the impact would be if those goals were met.
Coulter is holding a lever that may make a lot of that happen in the next several years. A nationally recognized expert in special education and a professor at the Louisiana State University Health Science Center in New Orleans, he now carries the title of “independent expert” for implementation of a court order dealing with special education services in MPS.
That means he’s the lead figure in making MPS change on some crucial fronts because the court order goes well beyond special education to the overall way Milwaukee schools deal with students who aren’t on grade level or who are misbehaving frequently. With the backing of the state Department of Public Instruction and the court, Coulter and Alisia Moutry, a former MPS official who is his on-the-ground staff person in Milwaukee, carry a lot of weight now.

Obama Wins a Battle as the New Haven Teachers’ Union “Shows Flexibility”

Neil King:

A showdown between the White House and the powerful teachers’ unions looks, for the moment, a little less likely.
This week in New Haven, Conn., the local teachers union agreed, in a 21-1 vote, to changes widely resisted by unions elsewhere, including tough performance evaluations and fewer job protections for bad teachers.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan, as well as the unions, said the New Haven contract could be repeated in other school districts.
Kim Torello, left, and Karen Lavorgna, teachers in New Haven, Conn., discuss the contract that was ratified by their union this week. Terms included tough performance evaluations and fewer job protections.
“I rarely say that something is a model or a template for something else, but this is both,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, who helped broker the New Haven deal.
“This shows a willingness to go into areas that used to be seen as untouchable,” Mr. Duncan said.
His cause for optimism is this: If teachers’ unions start showing flexibility in other cities, the administration’s high-stakes push to boost graduation rates and improve test scores at public schools could get a lot easier. That might even spare the administration an unwanted fight with a labor force that gave Mr. Obama a big lift in his election.

Maine’s School District Consolidation Law

Rich Hewitt:

For more than two years, school district consolidation has been a contentious issue in Maine.
Opponents argue that it has been an ill-conceived, hastily put together and poorly implemented law that has not achieved its goals. Proponents maintain that it represents much-needed reform and is an effective step toward reducing the cost of education in Maine. Question 3 on the Nov. 3 ballot gives voters a chance to weigh those opposing views and decide whether to repeal the law. The question asks: “Do you want to repeal the 2007 law on school district consolidation and restore the laws previously in effect?”
The law, enacted in 2007, attempted to reduce the number of school districts in Maine from 290 to 80, but as of July 2009, there were still 218 districts remaining in the state.
Voters in more than 100 districts, largely in rural areas, rejected reorganization plans despite the penalty they faced through the loss of state education subsidies.

Don’t Get Too Excited About Jump in D.C. Test Scores

Jay Matthews:

Admit it. A lot of us are deeply invested in the argument over Michelle A. Rhee’s tenure as chancellor of the D.C. schools. Is she a miracle or a monster? A smart educator or a bad administrator? So when we saw my colleague Nick Anderson’s story Thursday revealing that D.C. students have made significant gains in mathematics since Rhee got here, we probably had a pronounced emotional reaction.
I think we should chill out. It is not a bad thing that D.C. math score increases were well above the national average, and that D.C. showed gains in both fourth and eighth grade math in the National Assessment of Educational Progress. But it doesn’t mean that the city is anywhere near getting out of the deep hole of apathy and dysfunction that has characterized its schools for the last several decades.
One snapshot test result does not make Rhee a genius, as I am sure she would agree. We journalists give big play to such results. That is our job. They are news. People want to read about them. But I don’t think they advance the argument between the anti-Rhee people and pro-Rhee people (I am in the latter camp) in any useful way.

Truancy costs us all

Kamala Harris:

When Michael was in kindergarten, he missed more than 80 days of school. He was not ill and no one from Michael’s family ever called to say why he was not attending school.
When I was elected district attorney, I learned that 5,500 students in San Francisco were habitually truant and – shockingly – 44 percent of the truant students were in elementary school. That is when I partnered with the San Francisco Unified School District to combat school truancy. At the time, many asked why the city’s chief prosecutor was concerned with the problem of school attendance. The answer was simple, and as our partnership now enters its fourth year, the reason remains the same: a child going without an education is tantamount to a crime.
Despite his young age, Michael’s truancy makes him far more likely to be arrested or fall victim to a crime later in life. In San Francisco, over 94 percent of all homicide victims under the age of 25 are high school dropouts. Statewide, two-thirds of prison inmates are high school dropouts.

Study Finds Preschool Use of Educational Video and Games Prepares Low-Income Children for Kindergarten


Low-income children
were better prepared for success in kindergarten when their preschool teachers
incorporated educational video and games from public media, according to a new
study. The study, conducted by Education Development Center, Inc. (EDC) and
SRI International, was commissioned by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting
(CPB) to evaluate video and interactive games from the Ready to Learn
initiative, which creates educational programming and outreach activities for
local public television stations and their communities.
The study examined whether young children’s literacy skills — the ability to
name letters, know the sounds associated with those letters, and understand
basic concepts about stories and printed words — increased when preschool
classrooms incorporated video and games. Children with the most to learn in
the study gained the most, learning an average of 7.5 more letters than
children in a comparison group during the brief, intensive curriculum.

Madison School District must provide education to expelled student, judge rules

Ed Trelevan:

In a ruling that could lead to changes at school districts across Wisconsin, a Dane County judge on Friday ordered the Madison School District to provide educational services to a student who was expelled and is under a juvenile court order to continue his education.
Students who are expelled from the Madison School District and many other districts are given no services unless they are eligible for special education.
But Circuit Judge David Flanagan wrote in an order Friday that Madison remains obligated under state law to formulate an educational plan for a 16-year-old student who was expelled from East High School after his arrest on a misdemeanor drug charge.
Under a juvenile court disposition, the boy, who is not being named because he is a juvenile, must continue his education but hasn’t been able to do so because of his expulsion.

Broward Teachers Union Says School District Officials Kept Scores of Emails From School Board Members

Patricia Mazzei:

The Broward Teachers Union accused the school district Thursday of blocking hundreds of e-mails sent by school employees to School Board members since March — without board members’ knowledge.
The union says e-mails about teacher raises, use of federal stimulus money and employee contract negotiations never made it to board members’ in-boxes — or to their junk e-mail folders. Instead, they were filed away on a server and never read.
BTU lawyers sent Board Chairwoman Maureen Dinnen and board attorney Edward Marko a letter Thursday asking the district to stop blocking e-mails and threatening to sue if they don’t do so by Oct. 26.
The letter argues blocking e-mails violates the sender’s and the receiver’s constitutional rights under U.S. and Florida laws.
Superintendent Jim Notter said district attorneys were reviewing BTU’s letter. He questioned its timing, with the district in the throes of negotiating a contract with the union. BTU has asked for an average 4 percent pay increase. The district isn’t offering any raise, but has offered to pick up the difference in employee health insurance.
“Unfortunately we’re back in a position where it’s adversarial,” Notter said.

Advocating Charter Schools in Madison

Wisconsin State Journal Editorial, via a kind reader:

Charter schools have no bigger fan than President Barack Obama.
The federal government gave Wisconsin $86 million on Thursday to help launch and sustain more charter schools across the state.
State schools chief Tony Evers said $5 million will go to two dozen school districts this year, with the rest of the money distributed over five years.
Madison, to no surprise, wasn’t on Thursday’s winner list. And don’t expect any of the $86 million for planning and implementing new strategies for public education to be heading Madison’s way.
That’s because the Madison School Board continues to resist Obama’s call for more charter schools. The latest evidence is the School Board’s refusal to even mention the words “charter school” in its strategic action plans.
In sharp contrast, Obama can hardly say a word about public education without touting charters as key to sparking innovation and engaging disadvantaged students.
Obama visited a New Orleans charter school Thursday (and raised money that evening in San Francisco at a $34K per couple dinner) and is preparing to shower billions on states to experiment with new educational strategies. But states that limit charter growth will not be eligible for the money.

I am in favor of a diffused governance model here. I think improvement is more likely via smaller organizations (charters, magnets, whatever). The failed Madison Studio School initiative illustrates the challenges that lie ahead.

Merit-Based Pay Cuts for Academics?

Ilya Somin:

George Mason economist Bryan Caplan has an interesting post advocating merit-based pay cuts for academics:

Many universities now have pay freezes or even nominal pay cuts. Under the circumstances, several professors have told me that there’s little point in doing faculty evaluations. If there’s zero – or negative – money for raises, why bother saying who’s doing well and who’s not?
It amazes me how much these remarks take for granted. Suppose a department is 5% over-budget. It may be obvious that it needs to cut total compensation by 5%, but it isn’t obvious that any particular professor’s salary needs to be cut by 5%. If raises can depend on performance, so can cuts! If a chairman normally gives a 0% raise to his worst performer, and a 5% raise to his best performer, why not respond to fiscal austerity by simply changing the range from -7.5% to -.2.5%?

I agree with Bryan’s argument, though I suspect many of my fellow academics won’t. One possible objection is that the criteria for evaluating “merit” in academia are too subjective. But academic departments already have merit criteria for making hiring and promotion decisions. If our criteria are good enough to decide whether or not someone deserves to be hired or offered lifelong employment, they should be good enough to make much less consequential judgments on whether a given scholar should get a 3% pay cut as opposed to 1%. A department that lacks good criteria for evaluating merit ought to get some pronto – whether it intends to base pay cuts on them or not.

Generation of pupils being put off school, report says

Richard Garner, via a kind reader’s email:

A devastating attack on what is taught in primary schools is delivered today by the biggest inquiry into the sector for more than 40 years.
Too much stress is being placed on the three Rs, imposing a curriculum on primary school pupils that is “even narrower than that of the Victorian elementary schools”, it says. The inquiry is recommending sweeping changes to stop children being left disenchanted by schooling at an early age.
Children should not start formal schooling until the age of six – in line with other European countries – the 600-page report on the future of primary education recommends. It was produced by a team directed by Robin Alexander of Cambridge University.
Tests for 11-year-olds and league tables based on them should be scrapped, and instead children should be assessed in every subject they take at 11.
The report is heavily critical of successive Conservative and Labour governments for dictating to teachers how they should do their jobs. Professor Alexander cites “more than one” Labour education secretary saying that primary schools should be teaching children to “read, write and add up properly” – leaving the rest of education to secondary schools. “It is not good enough to say we want high standards in the basics but we just have to take our chance with the rest,” said Professor Alexander.

Homework Day


Meet us here on October 21, 2009, for the first Wolfram|Alpha Homework Day. This groundbreaking, live interactive web event brings together students and educators from across the country to solve your toughest assignments and explore the power of using Wolfram|Alpha for school, college, and beyond.

A few links:

Worth checking out.

The Democrat Party and the Schools

Nicholas Kristof:

The Democratic Party has battled for universal health care this year, and over the decades it has admirably led the fight against poverty — except in the one way that would have the greatest impact.
Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times
Nicholas D. Kristof
On the Ground
Nicholas Kristof addresses reader feedback and posts short takes from his travels.
Good schools constitute a far more potent weapon against poverty than welfare, food stamps or housing subsidies. Yet, cowed by teachers’ unions, Democrats have too often resisted reform and stood by as generations of disadvantaged children have been cemented into an underclass by third-rate schools.
President Obama and his education secretary, Arne Duncan, are trying to change that — and one test for the Democrats will be whether they embrace administration reforms that teachers’ unions are already sniping at.
It’s difficult to improve failing schools when you can’t create alternatives such as charter schools and can’t remove inept or abusive teachers. In New York City, for example, unions ordinarily prevent teachers from being dismissed for incompetence — so the schools must pay failed teachers their full salaries to sit year after year doing nothing in centers called “rubber rooms.”
A devastating article in The New Yorker by Steven Brill examined how New York City tried to dismiss a fifth-grade teacher for failing to correct student work, follow the curriculum, manage the class or even fill out report cards. The teacher claimed that she was being punished for union activity, but an independent observer approved by the union confirmed the allegations and declared the teacher incompetent. The school system’s lawyer put it best: “These children were abused in stealth.”

Pittsburgh’s model of school governance reform

Milwaukee Public Policy Forum:

In the past few weeks Milwaukee has had numerous town hall meetings, panel discussions, and presentations regarding the idea of school district governance reform. At issue is whether the mayor of Milwaukee should be in charge of the Milwaukee Public Schools, rather than an independent board of directors.

At each of these meetings, accountability has been thrown about as both an argument for and against a mayoral take-over of the district. Perhaps a mayor elected in a higher turn-out citywide election would provide more accountability; or maybe losing the opportunity to elect a school board representative would disenfranchise certain voters, diluting accountability.

In Pittsburgh, civic leaders, parents, and citizens decided to stop talking about accountability and actually implement it. A local nonprofit group, A+ Schools: Pittsburgh’s Community Alliance for Public Education, started an initiative called “Board Watch” last winter. The idea is quite simple: send volunteers to attend every board and committee meeting and have them report to the public whether the board is being effective in meeting the district’s strategic goals.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: States’ Tax Revenue Sources

John Gramlich:

Oregon, more than any other state, relies on its residents’ income tax payments for revenue, while its northern neighbor, Washington, depends more heavily than any other state on sales taxes, according to a new 50-state analysis of state finances.
The analysis by the nonpartisan Tax Foundation uses newly released U.S. Census Bureau data about state and local government finances in fiscal year 2007 (the latest year for which statistics are available) to break down each state’s tax revenue sources and group states by which taxes they rely on most. The report combines state and local taxes for the sake of comparison because “what some states accomplish with local taxes is accomplished in other states with state-level taxes.”
States that rely too heavily on one tax are vulnerable to revenue fluctuations that can be especially harmful during recessions. In Oregon, for instance, where individual income taxes account for 44.1 percent of total government tax revenue, lawmakers this year were slammed by a huge revenue decline as employment — and personal income — decreased. That has resulted in major spending cuts and is forcing some school districts to resort to four-day weeks.

When a College’s Reputation Trumps Its Quality

Joel Trachtenberg:

How one values a college education is very different from how one places a monetary value on a college’s prestige, a topic that relies more on the recognition of the school’s brand than it does on the quality of its educational program (although the two are often closely entwined).
Two examples: Schools that routinely play in the NCAA’s Final Four basketball tournament receive large numbers of undergraduate applications not always correlated to the standing of their academic programs.
Name recognition goes hand-in-hand with television coverage of the sports and throughout the seasons of basketball and football, weekly on-air games enhance college’s visibility not for the talents of their professoriate but for the strength of their full backs and power forwards.

California math scores among the lowest

Jill Tucker:

f not for the two southern states, California students would be at the bottom of the national heap in mathematics, according to the 2009 Nation’s Report Card released Wednesday.
The abysmal standing, which reflects in part the state’s diverse population, hasn’t changed much over the years. California consistently has ranked among the lowest-scoring states in the biennial National Assessment of Educational Progress, a federally mandated assessment of a sampling of fourth- and eighth-graders across the country.
On the plus side, state students have made steady progress over the years, generally keeping pace with their national counterparts – albeit from the back of the pack.
California’s fourth-graders outscored their peers in only the two southern states and the District of Columbia, and tied five states. Eighth-graders outscored only Mississippi and the District of Columbia, and tied four states.
Overall, California students performed at or below the national average regardless of income or ethnicity.

Digital reading technology makes its way into UW-Madison classrooms

Kiera Wiatrak:

Alongside music, television and the news media, books are surging into the new technology era with digital reading devices.
UW-Madison Libraries were quick to get on board with the latest in electronic reading.
“The cost and convenience factor is really significant,” says UW-Madison Libraries director Ken Frazier. “There’s an enormous amount of content and book titles that are becoming available.”
Frazier says the library has been monitoring the wireless technology since it first emerged, but when Amazon introduced its new Kindle DX in May, Frazier knew it was time to take paperless reading into the classrooms.

AP Interview: Ed Chief Says Grants Are For Reforms


With states jockeying for extra school dollars from the economic stimulus, Education Secretary Arne Duncan reminded them Tuesday the point is to help kids do better.
Cash-strapped states are competing for $5 billion in grants from the economic stimulus for changes the Obama administration wants, such as charter schools and teacher pay based on student performance.
“It’s really not about the money _ it’s about pushing a strong reform agenda that’s going to improve student achievement,” Duncan said in an interview with The Associated Press.
States can’t even apply for the money yet. Still, nine states have changed their laws or made budget decisions to improve their standing. The latest is California, where a bill was signed Sunday allowing student test scores to be used to evaluate teachers.
Duncan said the moves are encouraging. Still, he said states will have to do more than make promises.
“We’re going to invest in those states that aren’t just talking the talk but that are walking the walk,” he said. “If folks are doing this to chase money, it’s for the wrong reasons.”

Going to school can be a deadly journey

Wendell Hutson:

Community activists said the recent murder of a Fenger High School honor student exposes a problem many teens face every day: safe passage to and from school.
“I wonder how many more teens will be murdered while coming home from school,” said Leonardo D. Gilbert, a Local School Council member in the Roseland community. “All this kid was trying to do was go home and it cost him his life. If we are going to save our children from violence we must make sure children have a safe way home from school.”
According to Chicago police, Derrion Albert, 16, was murdered after school on Sept. 24 while waiting for a bus to go home.
“He was not in a gang but in the wrong place at the wrong time,” said Michael Shields, a retired Chicago police officer who now works as director of security for Chicago Public Schools.

Make Parenting Education Part of Public School Reform

Esther Jantzen:

Mayor Richard Riordan, your disappointment in the progress of educational reform in the Los Angeles Unified School District, after all you’ve done as mayor and secretary of education under Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, was palpable in your Oct. 12 Times Op-Ed article, “Course outline for the LAUSD.” This lack of progress breaks my heart too.
At the risk of seeming presumptuous, may I make a suggestion to you and to educational reformers everywhere — a suggestion that is based on experience, common sense and research?
I was an urban public high school English teacher for many years. I tried hard: I took courses in teaching reading and writing; I prepared for classes; I graded research papers on vacations; I won grants for my schools; I won teacher of the year awards; I got advanced degrees; I supported reform.

D.C.’s Braveheart: Can Michelle Rhee wrest control of the D.C. school system from decades of failure?

June Kronholz:

Michelle Rhee’s senior staff meeting has all the ceremony of lunchtime in the teachers’ lounge. News is exchanged. Ideas tumble around. Rhee sits at the head of the table but doesn’t run the meeting or even take the conversational lead. Staffers talk over her as often as she talks over them. If consensus is the goal, the ball is far upfield.
But then, Rhee wades in with, “Here’s what I think,” or “What I don’t want,” or “This is crap,” or “I want someone to figure this out,” or “I’m gonna tell you what we’re gonna do; we can talk about how we’re gonna do it.” And that is that. Next order of business, please.
Rhee’s style–as steely as the sound of her peekaboo high heels on a linoleum-tile hallway–has angered much of Washington, D.C., and baffled the rest since she arrived as schools chancellor in June 2007. But it is also helping her gain control of a school system that has defied management for decades: that hasn’t kept records, patched windows, met budgets, delivered books, returned phone calls, followed court orders, checked teachers’ credentials, or, for years on end, opened school on schedule in the fall.

Tesco’s Sir Terry Leahy attacks ‘woefully low’ education standards

James Hall:

Sir Terry Leahy, the chief executive of Tesco, the UK’s largest retailer, has slated the UK’s education system, saying “woefully low” standards in too many schools leave private sector companies to “pick up the pieces”.
On an scathing attack, Sir Terry said that Tesco is the largest private employer in the country and therefore depends on high standards in schools.
“Sadly, despite all the money that has been spent, standards are still woefully low in too many schools. Employers like us are often left to pick up the pieces.”
He added that too many educational agencies and bodies hamper the work of teachers in the classroom.
“One thing that government could do is to simplify the structure of our education system. From my perspective there are too many agencies and bodies, often issuing reams of instructions to teachers, who then get distracted from the task at hand: teaching children.
“At Tesco we try to keep paperwork to a minimum; instructions simple; structures flat; and – above all – we trust the people on the ground. I am not saying that retail is like education, merely that my experience tells me that when it comes to the number of people you have in the back office, ‘less is more’,” he said. Sir Terry was speaking at the Institute of Grocery Distribution’s annual conference in London.

Lieve Maria: A SIS Quiz – Translate!

A kind reader forward this Dutch student curriculum statement:

Lievemaria.nl was een initiatief dat begin 2006 opgezet is door alle wiskunde en natuurkunde studieverenigingen van Nederland. Naar aanleiding van deze actie heeft toenmalig minister Maria van der Hoeven op dinsdag 24 januari 2006 haar plannen met betrekking tot aanpassen van de Tweede Fase aangepast
(Bekijk het nieuwste persbericht, de e-mailconversatie met een medewerker van de minister, het tentamen dat de Kamerleden voorgeschoteld kregen, lees de echte brief (pdf) of de korte versie hieronder)
Wij zijn boos. Wij merken dat wij het universitair niveau eigenlijk niet aankunnen. Er treden dagelijks situaties op waarbij we merken dat we te weinig wiskunde op de middelbare school hebben gehad. Daarom moeten wij nu bijspijkercursussen volgen, of zelfs stoppen met onze studie. Wij horen het geklaag van onze docenten, maar wat kunnen wij eraan doen? Wij zouden willen dat we meer wiskunde hadden gehad op de middelbare school.
Nu bent u bezig om het onderwijs te vernieuwen. Goed idee! Maar we hoorden dat u van plan bent om nòg minder wiskunde te geven. Als u dat doorzet, dan kunnen de nieuwe studenten straks helemaal niets meer begrijpen! Het lijkt ons een beter idee om juist méér wiskunde te geven!
We hopen dat u er nog even over nadenkt.
Groetjes, 10.000 studenten (wiskunde, natuurkunde en informatica)

Essay by Klebold’s mother reveals little

Mike Littwin:

The timing could not have been much worse. The 10-year anniversary of Columbine had come and gone. We’d relearned the Columbine lessons we’d nearly forgotten — that the questions are all too big and the answers all too small.
Even worse, all that we don’t know was sadly reinforced by the spate of mass shootings that arrived, as if on some deviant schedule, in the weeks leading up to the anniversary.
And just as we’d put it behind us, Dylan Klebold’s mother, Susan, chose to tell her story — “for the first time ever” — in O, the Oprah magazine.
So it all begins again.
There has been a school of thought — or maybe better called a school of hope — that if the parents of Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris would only talk, they could tell us something essential, that they held family secrets that would allow us to better understand what happened that day.

Open Courses: Free, but Oh, So Costly

Marc Parry:

Steven T. Ziegler leapt to MIT off a mountain.
He was on a hang glider, and he slammed the ground hard on his chin. Recovery from surgery on his broken back left the 39-year-old high-school dropout with time for college courses.
From a recliner, the drugged-up crash victim tried to keep his brain from turning to mush by watching a free introductory-biology course put online by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Hooked, he moved on to lectures about Cormac McCarthy’s novel Blood Meridian from an English course at Yale. Then he bought Paradise Lost.
A success for college-made free online courses–except that Mr. Ziegler, who works for a restaurant-equipment company in Pennsylvania, is on the verge of losing his job. And those classes failed to provide what his résumé real ly needs: a college credential.
“Do I put that I got a 343 out of 350 on my GED test at age 16?” he says, throwing up his hands. “I have nothing else to put.”

Ed chief says grants are for reforms

Libby Quaid:

With states jockeying for extra school dollars from the economic stimulus, Education Secretary Arne Duncan reminded them Tuesday the point is to help kids do better.
Cash-strapped states are competing for $5 billion in grants from the economic stimulus for changes the Obama administration wants, such as charter schools and teacher pay based on student performance.
“It’s really not about the money — it’s about pushing a strong reform agenda that’s going to improve student achievement,” Duncan said in an interview with The Associated Press.
States can’t even apply for the money yet. Still, nine states have changed their laws or made budget decisions to improve their standing. The latest is California, where a bill was signed Sunday allowing student test scores to be used to evaluate teachers.
Duncan said the moves are encouraging. Still, he said states will have to do more than make promises.

Five myths about paying good teachers more

Thomas Toch:

Education Secretary Arne Duncan says paying public school teachers based on their performance is his “highest priority,” and he plans to dole out hundreds of millions of dollars to states and school systems that embrace the idea. In the District of Columbia, Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee has made such reform a cornerstone of her agenda — and a backdrop to her recent move to lay off 229 teachers in response to budget cuts. But school reformers have been trying unsuccessfully to introduce performance pay in public education for decades. If today’s reformers want to break the deadlock, they’re going to have to let go of several myths hanging over the debate:
1. Merit pay has a strong track record.
The logic of performance pay is compelling: Paying teachers based on the college credits they’ve amassed and the years they’ve taught — a practice introduced in the 1920s to counter salary disparities between male and female teachers — means bad teachers draw the same paychecks as good ones. That, in turn, seemingly makes it tougher to recruit and retain talented teachers, meaning students end up with inferior instructors. No surprise, then, that people have been pushing merit pay for a long time: “Every effort must be made to devise ways to reward teachers according to their ability without opening the school door to unfair personnel practices,” a commission urged President Dwight Eisenhower in 1955.

NAEP Math 2009: What it All Means

Kevin Carey:

The 2009 state NAEP math results were released today, and they’re disappointing. Fourth grade scores, which have been a great and under-recognized success story over the last two decades, were flat. Eighth grade scores rose slightly. What to conclude? Most broadly, that most of the claims about national education policy, pro and con, have been overwrought.
Supporters of the No Child Left Behind Act-and I’ve generally been one of them-hoped that the law would catalyze a major upward move in student achievement. That hasn’t happened. Perhaps it’s because every state got to choose its own standards; perhaps it’s because the law did little to get better teachers in classrooms; perhaps it’s because yawning revenue disparities between and within states were largely unaddressed. Whatever was missing, something was missing, probably many things, and the next version of ESEA will need significant changes if we want to achieve more than just more of the same.

University of Michigan reports record enrollment, but minorities decline

Marisa Schultz:

University of Michigan had a record-breaking year for freshman applications and overall enrollment, which topped 41,674 students for this fall, the university announced today.
Though the number of applications and admissions offers for underrepresented minority students topped last year, the freshman enrollment of African-American, Hispanic and Native-American students actually declined by 11.4 percent, or 69 students, to 535. Now underrepresented minorities — the population the university has been trying to cultivate with ramped up outreach efforts since voters passed Proposal 2 in 2006 than bans consideration of race in admissions — comprise 9.1 percent of the freshman class (excluding international students) compared to 10.4 percent last year.
“We work hard every day to build the best possible freshman class each year, and this year is no exception,” said Ted Spencer, U-M associate vice provost and executive director of undergraduate admissions. “Our incoming class is exceptional in all ways, although we have experienced a notable loss in some key elements of diversity.

(Indiana) Education revisions must be well planned

David Dew:

All the people participating already knew that dropping out is a bad idea. He needed to invite those prison inmates, those who are unemployed, and those in poverty for the input about what would have been most helpful to have met their needs when they were in school. That’s where the answers are.
My own middle school once held annual forums with our students who had gone on to high school, and we purposely wanted to talk, not with just the A-students, but with the C students and the D-minus students. We asked them what we as a middle school could have done better in hopes of finding insights for our continual improvement.
A teacher or counselor can make his/her best “argument” to a young person that his/her life will be more successful if he/she stays in school, but that young person may drop out anyway. We need that person’s input by hindsight as to what we all could have done better in the face of what the rest of us see as common sense but, nevertheless, led to a decision for which that dropout was still on his/her own responsibility.
Bennett further cites that Indiana is “raising the bar for every student” through academic standards. While we must always analyze what we expect our students to learn and continuously try to measure their success, raising standards for the sake of raising standards will not save students who are failing in school. That would be akin to requiring students to pass a test on algebra who haven’t learned to multiply and divide or requiring students with limited English or learning disabilities to test at the same standards at a chonological age while saying we need, as Bennett said, “targeted, individualized improvement plans for these students.”
There seems to be a contradiction here. The state has an ISTEP test that it keeps tweaking and changing, giving little comparison to previous results although those comparisons are made anyway and schools are graded in an apples-and-oranges world. Give the test some time.

Indiana Superintendent’s website

Thompson and Bloomberg spar over their education records in first mayoral debate

Anna Phillips:

Nothing the candidates said during tonight’s mayoral debate was more surprising than the Rev. Billy Talen’s spirited heckling, but a few choice comments were made about the city’s schools and mayoral control.
Right out of the gate, Mayor Michael Bloomberg launched into a list of comparisons between the Department of Education during the last eight years and the Board of Education during the time that Comptroller Bill Thompson was president. He recited graduation statistics, said that schools are safer today than they were in the 1990s, and boasted about test scores increases.
Thompson said it was ironic that Bloomberg was holding him accountable for the city’s schools when the mayor has repeatedly said that no one had control over the Board of Education.

“He pointed out, under the old Board of Education, no one was in charge. The mayor, the board, the chancellor, so many people were in charge, no one was in charge, so it’s ironic that he would try and distort facts and information, try and change the past, to say that I was the person who was in charge of the Board of Education. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

Loyola to start school of education

Childs Walker:

Loyola University is launching a new school of education that will focus on solving problems in urban schools and on forging practical relationships between the university and Baltimore’s public school system.
The school, which Loyola will dedicate at a ceremony this evening, will house a research center dedicated to innovation in urban education. University officials hope the center will attract top-notch faculty and students with an interest in making practical improvements to Baltimore schools, said Peter Murrell, dean of the school of education.
“It really fits with the Jesuit philosophy that to do good work in the world, you have to get out there and roll up your sleeves,” Murrell said.
Murrell has focused his research on urban education and came to Loyola last year after directing a similar research center at Northeastern University in Boston.

45% of Wisconsin Fourth Graders and 39% of Wisconsin Eighth Graders Proficient on the Latest “Nation’s Report Card”

Amy Hetzner:

Fourth- and eighth-graders in Wisconsin have improved their scores on a national mathematics test since the early 1990s, but the gap between the performance of the state’s white and black students has not gotten any better, according to test results released Wednesday.
The state’s math results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress showed little change from the last time scores for those age groups were released two years ago. Fourth-graders in Wisconsin posted the same average score – 244 – that they had two years ago, although the percentage of students deemed proficient or higher in math slid to 45% from 47%. The average score for eighth-graders rose slightly to 288 on a 500-point scale, with the proficiency rate rising as well, to 39%.
“Wisconsin has made slow but steady gains in mathematics achievement for both overall achievement and for most subgroups of students,” State Superintendent Tony Evers said in a news release about the results. “However, achievement gaps, in particular for African-American students in Wisconsin, are too large. We must do more.”
The NAEP – also called the nation’s report card – is given to samples of students to monitor progress on a statewide basis. In Wisconsin, questions from the math test were given to 3,830 fourth-graders and 3,474 eighth-graders from January to March this year. The test does not attempt to gauge performance by individual school districts.

Superintendent Governance: Michelle Rhee “Has no Choice but to Play Tough”

Richard Whitmire:

The forces lined up against D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee — angry teachers, grumpy D.C. Council members, the nation’s top teachers’ union leader quarterbacking the opposition — are essentially asking one question: Why can’t you behave more like that nice Arne Duncan?
Indeed, with his aw-shucks humility and his anecdotes about playing b-ball with the president, Duncan has undeniable charm. That charm was honed in Chicago, where he never played in-your-face politics and never publicly suggested there was widespread incompetence among the teaching force, qualities that contributed to President Obama’s tapping him to be U.S. secretary of education.
By contrast, Rhee appeared on the cover of Time wielding a broom to symbolically sweep incompetence out of her public schools. Yikes.
But there’s a reason Rhee plays hardball: She has no choice.

School Choice Even Obama Supports

Rishawn Biddle:

As a presidential aspirant last year, Barack Obama gained the support of the National Education Association — and the scorn of school choice activists — when he declared his skepticism of the school choice and accountability measures in the No Child Left Behind Act. Then in the early months of this year, the newly-elected president further pleased teachers unions when he tacitly allowed congressional Democrats to shutter the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Plan, the school voucher program that helps 1,716 Washington students attend private schools — even though he avoided sending his own children to D.C.’s abysmal public schools.
Declared Cato Institute Director Andrew Coulson this past May in the Washington Post: “[Obama] has sacrificed a program he knows to be efficient and successful in order to appease the public school employee unions.”

Black Male Dropouts Lead Nation in Incarceration


On any given day, nearly 23 percent of all young Black men ages 16 to 24 who have dropped out of high school are in jail, prison, or a juvenile justice institution in America, according to a disturbing new national report released today on the dire economic and social consequences of not graduating from high school.
Dropouts become incarcerated at a shocking rate: 23 of every 100 young Black male dropouts were in jail on any given day in 2006-07 compared to only 6 to 7 of every 100 Asian, Hispanic or White dropouts. While young Black men are disproportionately affected, the report found that this crisis cuts across racial and ethnic lines. Male dropouts of all races were 47 times more likely to be incarcerated than their peers of a similar age who had graduated from a four-year college or university.
“For too long, and in too many ways, young people across the country have been let down by the education system and by the adults responsible for their care and development. Now is the time to increase the investments we make in young people, enhance the content, opportunities and supports we provide, and empower them to make better choices about both their individual future and the future of our nation. This report is another important step towards those ends,” said Marc Morial, President and CEO of the National Urban League.

Jessie Jackson: A State of Emergency in Obama Homeland

Bob Ellis:

n Tuesday morning, Rev. Jackson hopped onboard a bus and took students to the school at 11200 S. Wallace St. He took the ride to draw more attention to school safety in the wake of the beating death of Fenger student Derrion Albert, 16, last month.
Buses left shortly after 7 a.m. Beforehand, Jackson held a news conference on South Ellis Avenue just outside the Altgeld Gardens public housing development.
Jackson blamed the closure of Carver High School, at 13100 S. Doty Ave. close to Altgeld Gardens, for the violence that has erupted at Fenger.
The fight that led to Albert’s death was between Fenger students who lived in the Ville neighborhood around the school, and students form Altgeld Gardens. Critics have complained that these fights began when Carver closed and reopened as a military academy.
“This is a state of emergency given patterns of violence and patterns of killing,” Jackson said in a news conference.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Report: Wisconsin taxes claim 12 percent of income

Scott Bauer:

Wisconsin taxes as a percentage of personal income are 12th highest nationwide and greater than any of its neighbors, according to a new report.
The Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance report was based on U.S. Census Bureau data from 2007, the most recent year available.
While the tax burden has been steady in recent years, the president of the independent Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance said Monday he expects it to get worse given recent tax increases and slowed growth in personal income.
During the earlier part of the decade, personal income in Wisconsin grew faster than the national average while taxes increased less, said Todd Berry, president of the alliance.
However, Wisconsin faced a record state budget shortfall this year as tax revenue took a dive during the recession. That resulted in the Legislature approving about $3 billion in tax increases to be collected by mid-2011. That doesn’t count local property taxes, which also are expected to increase by hundreds of millions of dollars.

Detroit Public Schools to Spend $40,000,000 on Consultants

Rebecca Kelley:

On Friday, Detroit Public School officials said Robert Bobb, 61, the DPS emergency financial manager plans to spend $40 million for consulting fees.
The fees will be spent in an ongoing effort to conduct internal financial audits to root out waste and corruption in Detroit Public Schools.
In March, Gov. Jennifer Granholm appointed Bobb to clean up the district’s deficit estimated to be at $259 million.
However union leaders say they unhappy about the money that is going to spent on advisers since there has been approximately 2,500 layoffs since summer.
Bobb said finding costs savings is critical to improving the district’s finances and said he doesn’t want to lose one cent that should be given to classrooms.

Palo Alto Schools Gifted & Talented Proposed Standards

Palo Alto Unified School District Gifted & Talented Program [219K PDF]:

Palo Alto Unified school district’s Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) provides educational opportunities that recognize the performance capabilities of gifted students as well as addresses the unique needs and differences associated with having these abilities. The goals of Gifted and Talented Education can be defined as follows:

  • To provide students with opportunities for learning that maximize each students’ abilities.
  • To assist and encourage students to acquire skills and understanding at advanced academic and creative levels.
  • To aid students in expanding their abilities to communicate and apply their ideas effectively.
  • To engender an enthusiasm for learning.

Program Model
In elementary and middle school, the program model for GATE is differentiation within the mainstream classroom. In 2001, new legislation called for a change in GATE education. Rather than pull children from class for a different curriculum, all differentiation takes place within the context of standards-based instruction in the regular classroom. Teachers enrich and extend the core curriculum for gifted students by differentiating instruction, content, and process. Through differentiated assignments developed to meet their academic and intellectual needs, GATE students are able to explore and expand to their maximum potential. These differentiated curricular opportunities are available to all students, not just those who are formally identified. In middle school, students also have access to the Renzulli Learning System to allow them to individualize their education based on their needs, interests and creative abilities and to explore the curriculum in greater depth and complexity. Advanced math courses are available for the first time in 7th grade and continue through 12th grade. In high school, gifted students are able to take advanced, honors, and advanced placement courses in a wide variety of subjects.

Palo Alto School District Strategic Plan [780K PDF]
Madison School District’s Gifted & Talented Plan.

Harvard’s Hollow Core

“The philosophy behind the core is that educated people are not those who have read many books and have learned many facts but rather those who could analyze facts if they should ever happen to encounter any, and who could ‘approach’ books if it were ever necessary to do so.”

Caleb Nelson ’88 (Mathematics) writing in The Atlantic Monthly, September 1990:

Even before Harvard’s Core Curriculum made its debut, in 1979, Saturday Review hailed it as “a quiet revolution.” The magazine was wrong on both counts: not only was the core unrevolutionary but it rapidly became one of the loudest curricula in America. Time, Newsweek, and other popular periodicals celebrated the new program, which required undergraduates to take special courses designed to reveal the methods–not the content–of the various academic disciplines. “Not since…1945,” The Washington Post said, “had the academic world dared to devise a new formula for developing ‘the educated man.'” The reform was front-page news for The New York Times, and even network television covered it. Media enthusiasm continues today, with Edward Fiske, the former education editor of The New York Times advising readers of The Fiske Guide to Colleges: “Back in the mid-1970s Harvard helped launch the current curriculum reform movement, and the core curriculum that emerged ranks as perhaps the most exciting collection of academic offerings in all of American higher education.”
The core did indeed start a movement. A 1981 report issued by The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching spoke of “the Harvard lead” and recommended a general-education program that put more emphasis on “the shared relationships common to all people” than on any particular facts. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill soon adopted the Harvard approach, and other schools have instituted programs that stress skills over facts. The structures of these programs vary, but the Harvard core’s singular influence is suggested by Ernest Boyer’s 1987 book College: The Undergraduate Experience in America. Boyer’s survey of academic deans at colleges and universities nationwide found that the Harvard core was the most frequently mentioned example of a successful program of general education.
For their part, Harvard officials seem delighted with the program. A. Michael Spence, who just finished a six-year term as dean of the faculty of arts and sciences, has labeled it “a smash hit”; President Derek Bok has heralded its “enormous success.” Indeed, Bok, who will step down next year after two decades at the helm, said in 1983, when the faculty approved the continuation of the core, that the development of the program had given him more satisfaction than any other project undertaken during his presidency. In 1985 the members of Harvard’s chief governing board showed that they had no complaints either when the elected the core’s architect, Henry Rosovsky, to their number. (Rosovsky, who preceded Spence as dean of the faculty, has now been appointed acting dean while Harvard searches for Spence’s permanent replacement.) The program recently marked its tenth anniversary, and no fundamental changes are on the horizon.
Forty-five years ago Harvard had a clear idea of its mission. In 1945 it published a 267-page book laying out goals for educators, with the hope of giving American colleges and secondary schools a “unifying purpose and idea.” The thrust of this volume, titled General Education in a Free Society but nicknamed “the Redbook,” was that educational institutions should strive to create responsible democratic citizens, well versed in the heritage of the West and endowed with “the common knowledge and the common values on which a free society depends.” As James Bryant Conant, then the president of Harvard, once summed up his goal, “Our purpose is to cultivate in the largest possible number of our future citizens an appreciation of both the responsibilities and the benefits which come to them because they are Americans and are free.”
To accomplish this goal at Harvard, the Redbook recommended that every undergraduate be required to take two full-year survey courses, tentatively called “Great Texts of Literature” and “Western Thought and Institutions,” and a full-year course on the principles of either the physical or the biological sciences. The Harvard faculty balked at this specific program, but it endorsed the Redbook’s essence. In each of three areas–the humanities, the social sciences, and the natural sciences–it established a short list of approved courses. The general education program was first required in the fall of 1949 and was fully phased in two years later, when all entering students were required to do two semesters of approved coursework in each area.

Continue reading Harvard’s Hollow Core

Lesson for teachers union: It takes two to cooperate

Boston Globe Editorial:

AS EDUCATION reform moves forward, Boston Teachers Union president Richard Stutman says he wants an inclusive process. Testifying at a recent State House hearing, Stutman told the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Education that “the solution to better school lies in working with us, not in working against us.” But no collaborative spirit is evident in the union’s resistance to bringing the acclaimed Teach for America program to Boston or creating more pilot schools.
Teach for America trains new college graduates who weren’t education majors to work as teachers in urban and rural districts, generally in hard-to-fill areas such as math, science, and special education. The school system opened itself up to union criticism by signing an agreement with Teach for America that could be construed to give its teachers more job security than union teachers, offering Teach for America recruits two years of employment while regular recruits can be laid off after one. The School Committee has pledged to rectify the discrepancy.
In theory, a quick settlement could be a model for the kind of cooperation Stutman says he wants. But the union has a more basic, and less justifiable, objection: It maintains that laid-off teachers should be retrained for empty positions – even if, in practice, the laid-off teachers aren’t cut out for the vacancies.

California learns to trim the cost of education

Matthew Garrahan:

W hen Mark Yudof addressed the Uni versity of Califor nia’s board of regents recently, what would have normally been a quiet gathering turned into a circus.
Fourteen people were arrested after protesting against cuts in the funding of the UC network, which includes UCLA, Berkeley and San Diego and business schools such as Haas , the Anderson School of Management and the Rady School of Management.
As California grapples with a budget crisis that has affected all public services, the UC system has been asked to absorb a funding shortfall of more than $800m. Student protests on a scale unseen since the anti-war demonstrations of the 1960s have been held at Berkeley, while other protests have been held at UCLA and UC Irvine.
Mr Yudof, the president of the UC system, told the regents that steep tuition fee rises were un-avoidable. “What we cannot do is surrender to the greatest enemy of the University of California, which is mediocrity. We have to stabilise our situation and then we can build [again].”

For now, the test everyone hates (WKCE) is sticking around

Alan Borsuk:

All across Wisconsin, schools received boxes and boxes of stuff they didn’t want last week.
Unfortunately, they were about the most important deliveries they’ll get this year: Hundreds of thousands of test booklets for the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam, the state’s annual standardized test.
The testing window, one of the biggest events in every school year, is about to open. More than 400,000 students in third through eighth grade, as well as in 10th grade, will be tested in either two or five subjects in coming weeks, with a handful of schools starting this week and the large majority doing the testing in November.
It’s the test everyone loves to hate. It takes up large amounts of time and disrupts schedules for days on end. There are widespread complaints about what is actually tested. The test yields almost nothing that is useful to teachers in shaping the way they educate students. It’s often a public relations problem and sometimes a nightmare if a school’s scores are low or sometimes even just not better than the prior year.
Furthermore, the test is dying a slow death, and everyone knows it.
Just to be contrary, let’s say something good about the WKCE. For all its flaws, it’s the only broad scale accountability tool we’ve got in this state. It succeeds in putting a lot of heat on schools across the state, and many of them need it.
And the test scores are actually a pretty good reflection of student achievement in a school – which is to say, I’ve never heard of a school with low scores that could make a convincing case that the kids were actually doing well and the scores were off base.
But the state testing system is moving toward an overhaul, and for good reasons.

The New Federal Education Policies: California’s Challenge

EdSource via email:

Coming on the heels of the state’s unprecedented budget crisis, the federal stimulus–also known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA)–first received attention in California as a source of extra, much needed funding for schools.
In the months since, it has become increasingly clear that the reforms it embodies could have a bigger and more lasting impact than the nearly $8 billion it is providing to public K-12 education in the state.
The education components of the federal stimulus place a strong emphasis on four reform areas:

  • Teacher and administrator effectiveness
  • Data systems
  • Standards
  • Turning around low-performing schools

Youth Prison Model Sets High Bar

Bobby White:

After recent changes to California’s juvenile-prison system brought down recidivism rates and the number of incarcerated youths, and also saved millions of dollars, the state is now aiming to treat its adult prisoners more like youthful offenders.
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Sunday signed into law a bill to overhaul the state’s adult-prison system. Among other things, the legislation will shift more funding and responsibility for paroled offenders to counties from the state. That echoes a key move in the state’s overhaul of juvenile detention — placing more nonviolent inmates in county jails instead of state prisons and helping counties fund rehabilitation services.
“We used the juvenile reforms as a starting point” for the bill, said Democratic Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, who helped to craft the legislation. “We said, ‘What if you take this and expand on it?’ We were attracted to the ideas that worked.”

Did School Change Your Life?


Pupils around the world have been telling BBC News about the battle they face to get an education. But why is school worth the effort?
The BBC’s ‘Hunger To Learn‘ would like you to tell us how your education changed your life. What was the most important lesson you learned at school?
Did your education transform your fortunes? Or do you feel that the things you learned outside school – with your family, your friends and in your working life – had a greater influence on your destiny?

Six-year-old sent to reform school for bringing a “weapon” (Cub Scout camping cutlery) to school

Cory Doctorow:

Zachary Christie is a six-year old student in Newark, Delaware who is facing 45 days in reform school because he brought his new Cub Scout eating utensil to school for lunch. The utensil includes a knife, and this violates the school’s brainlessly, robotically enforced zero-tolerance policy on “weapons on school property.”
Critics contend that zero-tolerance policies like those in the Christina district have led to sharp increases in suspensions and expulsions, often putting children on the streets or in other places where their behavior only worsens, and that the policies undermine the ability of school officials to use common sense in handling minor infractions.
“Something has to change,” said Dodi Herbert, whose 13-year old son, Kyle, was suspended in May and ordered to attend the Christina district’s reform school for 45 days after another student dropped a pocket knife in his lap. School officials declined to comment on the case for reasons of privacy.

Huckleberry Finn good for starting positive discussions about race

Carmen Van Kerckhove:

written by Anti-Racist Parent contributor Deanna Shoss; originally published at Intercultural Talk
My dad and I came to an impasse again recently. It happens whenever we get into a conversation about race. Or more specifically, a conversation about something that happened in the news or real life where people of different races were involved. As in “they believe this way” from him, and “you can’t call an entire group of people they” from me.
It always ends with him thinking that I think he’s racist, and with me thinking that he thinks I’m all about politically correct language with no real depth of meaning. Rather than digging for clarification, we back away from the conversation. The funny part is that this time we were agreeing about the same thing: Huckleberry Finn should not be banned.
This conversation has been lingering for a few months after my father introduced the book to my 8 year old son, who let me know by announcing that he had learned the ‘N’ word. I’ve blogged about it here and here. It reintroduced me to Mark Twain, who really is a brilliant writer, and it created an insight into institutional racism that I hadn’t anticipated, when Dillon said “back then this word was okay to use.”

Via a kind reader’s email.

Seattle Public Schools Boundary/School Assignment Plan Comments

The Seattle Times:

FAMILIES chafe at the Seattle Public Schools‘ wild variability on student assignments. Proposed new school boundaries and a simplified assignment plan offer promising change. [Complete Assignment/Boundary Plan – 358K PDF]
A complex maze that used to determine what school students attended has been streamlined into an uncomplicated rule: students’ addresses determine their school.
Students entering kindergarten, sixth grade and ninth grade in the 2010-11 year will be assigned to a school near their home. Students in other grades will remain at their current schools, an appropriate grandfathering that minimizes disruptions.
Many families won’t notice a difference. For others, this plan is a huge change. Families living on Queen Anne and in Magnolia have long asked for a neighborhood high school so students weren’t bused across the city. They’re being assigned to one of the best: Ballard High School.
This shift is the correct route forward. After the district ended bussing for integration purposes, it veered into an expensive and convoluted open choice system. Families could choose any school they wanted but the result was a lack of predictability and stability. Most troubling, the system weighed heavily against less savvy families who were unable to navigate the application process.

Seattle Schools Strategic Plan

Beefing up: High school football players are bigger but not necessarily healthier

Eric Cexheimer & John Maher:

Last weekend, two football teams faced off in a fierce divisional rivalry. Both boasted intimidating offenses built around sumo-sized linemen; half of the two teams’ centers, guards and tackles tipped the scales above 300 pounds.
The teams aren’t from the NFL. They aren’t big-time colleges, or even Division II or III squads. They are the Central Texas high schools of McNeil and Cedar Park. The largest of their linemen is approaching 350 pounds.
Once a rarity, teenaged mega-players have become a common sight under the Friday night lights. “If you were to weigh the lines of high school football teams, they’re significantly higher in recent years,” said Brian Carr, a physical therapist and trainer at Georgetown High School. “Compared to just 15 years ago, there’s a huge difference.”
Doctors and trainers are reporting increases in certain injuries — stress-related muscle and ligament tears, knee strains and foot fractures — that can be directly attributed to the strains placed on developing bodies by extra bulk. Weight-related medical problems are also beginning to crop up among the giant teenagers.

Schools need overhaul to get students job-ready

San Francisco Chronicle:

These comments are excerpted from a Sept. 16 panel discussion on education and workforce preparation at Santa Clara University. The event, Projections 2010: Leadership California, was hosted by the Silicon Valley Leadership Group.
Moderator, Marshall Kilduff, Chronicle editorial writer: With a lot of bad news in education, including test scores, declining financial support, what would you do?
Mayor Gavin Newsom: I’ll tell you what we’ve done in San Francisco. I believe not just in public-private partnerships. I believe in public-public partnerships. … The City and County of San Francisco does not run its school district … but, nonetheless, we’ve taken some responsibility to addressing the needs of our public-school kids by building a partnership. … We focus on universal preschool. We’ve created a framework, a partnership, that guarantees the opportunity of a four-year college education for every single sixth-grader. It’s those partnerships that I’m arguing for.
Aart J. De Geus, CEO, Synopsys: If I look at it as if I were the CEO of education of California, I would look at a company (in terms of), “What are the resources? What are the results? And what is the management system?” I’d say, “Well, let’s look at the CEO of the educational system.” There is no CEO of the educational system. I know there are commissioners, and whatever they’re called, but, to be a CEO, you need to have both responsibility and power.

Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman made similar, structural points during a recent Madison Rotary club talk.

Did Rhee Overplay Her Hand or Seek A Showdown?

Robert McCartney:

I want to love Michelle Rhee — really, I do — but she makes it so hard sometimes.
The D.C. schools chancellor has made it especially difficult this month with her layoffs of 229 teachers and 159 other staff workers. She picked a spectacularly bad time, just as the school year was shifting into high gear. She also mishandled the theatrics in such a way that she enraged the unions and D.C. Council even more than she usually does.
As a result, labor and political tensions simmering in the city over Rhee’s reforms since she arrived in 2007 boiled over last week. The spillage might jeopardize her whole project and poses a significant challenge for her patron, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D), as he seeks reelection next year.
The uproar is regrettable because the city and the region have a strong interest in seeing Rhee succeed. She is the first leader of the D.C. schools in recent memory who seems sufficiently tough and determined to fix the shockingly poor school performance that we’ve tolerated complacently for decades.

TEEN RANT College hunt: It’s a jungle

Helen Wang:

I spend seven hours each day next to metamorphosed monsters. The stresses of college applications unfortunately transform perfunctory peers into college creatures. They are predatory and are camouflaged as seniors, but with the right tactics, anyone can survive the jungle of college applications. Among the creatures lurking there:
College crabs scuttle about school hoping to undercut any competition. The crab exhibits its aggressive territorial dance to discourage the approach of other UC Berkeley applicants. A stack of books clasped in its claws and a bulging backpack-induced hunch characterize the agitated crab.
Prestige parrots are like ordinary parrots, squawking the same questions day after day. But these pretentious peers are primarily hunting for a name-brand university and will eagerly cannibalize competitors. Their obnoxious calls from afar warn victims: “Squawwwk, what’s your SAT score?”

Chicago teens’ world fraught with violence

Azam Ahmed & Kristen Mack:

His left eye still swollen shut, Vashion Bullock doesn’t deny fighting in the melee that claimed a Chicago high school student’s life last month.
He’s watched the grainy cellphone video and seen himself standing shirtless in the middle of the mob. But to him, the footage is a 2 1/2 -minute clip of his world without context, broadcast endlessly on television and the Web.
This mob included students who made the honor roll, held after-school jobs, played sports and planned for college. But they wake up in worlds frayed by poverty and violence.
For years, Vashion and others bused in from Altgeld Gardens have fought with kids who live closer to Fenger High School and who see them as outsiders, according to interviews with dozens of students and parents. The Fenger senior said he often races to the bus stop to avoid confrontation. But that Thursday, he had been suspended for a school fight. And he’d had enough.

Teacher Union Politics in Washington, DC

Washington Post Editorial:

Let’s review the record to examine the plausibility of those charges.
More than 14 months ago , Ms. Rhee offered a contract to Washington’s teachers that was unprecedented in its largess. The proposal would have provided teachers with, at a minimum, a 28 percent pay raise over five years, plus $10,000 in bonuses. They would have had to give up nothing in the way of job security to obtain the raise. All Ms. Rhee asked in return was the freedom to offer, on a voluntary basis, even more money to a subset of teachers, if they would agree to have their compensation linked to performance. Their evaluation would have been based on a number of factors, including, but not limited to, the improvement their students showed from the beginning of the school year to the end. Ms. Rhee — who has been branded anti-teacher — wanted to make the District’s teachers among the highest paid in America, and she had managed to raise private funds to make it possible.
Washington’s teachers might well have welcomed this generous offer — who wouldn’t? — but we don’t know because Mr. Parker and other union leaders never allowed them to vote on a proposed contract. Labor law barred Ms. Rhee from directly explaining to teachers what she had in mind. At one point, it seemed that Mr. Parker and Ms. Rhee were close to an agreement, but then the national leadership stepped in. Since Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, involved herself, another 10 months have passed, and Washington’s teachers remain without a contract. Talks are said to be continuing.

Madison Property Taxes up more than 4%

Wisconsin State Journal Editorial:

A snowflake is small. But a blizzard of snowflakes can bury a house.
You can view your looming property tax bill in similar ways.
A single tax increase by one local unit of government might seem negligible.
Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk, for example, is proposing a $38 increase on the county’s portion of the average local property tax bill in Madison for 2010. That’s an increase of only a few dollars a month.
But that $38 represents a 6.5 percent increase at a time when most people’s wages are relatively flat or falling. And that $38 pushes the county’s portion of the average property tax bill in Madison to $626.

Madison Country Day School Host Japanese Students

Pamela Cotant:

Fabian Fernandez, a junior at Madison Country Day School, said hosting a student from Japan forces you to look at your own culture, and to consider the differences and similarities.
“You kind of get to re-experience your own culture,” said Fernandez, whose family has hosted a number of students from other countries. “Even the small things.”
Recently, eight Japanese 10th-graders and one teacher were here for nine days and stayed with host families from Madison Country Day School, which they also attended.
Every other year, the students from Hakuoh High School visit Madison Country Day, a private school for pre-kindergarten through 12th-grade students, through a sister-school relationship.
During alternate years, Madison Country Day students visit the school in Ashikaga City, Japan, about 90 miles from Tokyo. This year, five juniors and seniors are considering the trip.

McFarland’s Wisconsin Virtual Academy doing ‘remarkably well’ in year one

Devin Rose:

Q How has the school year been going for students at the Wisconsin Virtual Academy, the online school contracted by the McFarland School District?
A Things have gone “remarkably well” so far for the virtual charter school in its first year of operation, said Leslye Erickson, the head of the school.
The McFarland School District contracted with the nonprofit Wisconsin Virtual Academy and K12 Virtual Schools to run and provide the research-based curriculum for the school, which has 488 students enrolled in kindergarten through high school.
Students come from all over the state, Erickson said, so orientations were held before school began to allow students, parents and teachers to meet face-to-face.

Don’t Leave Gifted Kids Behind

Lisa Virgoe:

Hey, kids, stay in school!
That oft-used refrain soon may have new meaning. Earlier this month, President Barack Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan proposed extending the school day, lengthening the school year and adding Saturday classes. Their laudable goal is to prepare the next generation for adulthood in an increasingly complex world.
Is this the way to do it? For at least one group of students, the answer is no. Based on studies I have read, the dropout rate for gifted students is between 5 and 20 percent.
What scourge is stealing so many of our smartest kids? Extreme debilitating boredom coupled with agile minds that can’t let them patiently wait for the end of class. If we lengthen their classroom hours, how many gifted kids are likely to stay?
To understand how boredom feels to these kids, imagine making a school’s fastest runner sit in a chair next to the track all day, every day, while her teammates are racing past her. Imagine her frustration. Imagine how she’s going to feel about running after a few days of that. Most likely, she’ll walk off the field and never turn back. By dropping out, that’s what these lost gifted children do. Many of the boys leave to get a job. Many of the girls leave pregnant.

Related: Late 1990’s Madison School District Dropout Data and the recent Talented and Gifted Plan.

Support for extending school hours or school year is growing

Eric Adler:

Teacher Kristin Bretch snaps instructions to her young charges, reading words from her teacher’s guide, pacing in front of the white board like a drill sergeant.
“We’re on word three: ‘belt.’ Spell ‘belt,’ everyone.”
The pupils are second- and third-graders, almost all poor and many of whom could barely speak English when they arrived in Kansas City as refugees from countries like Burundi and Sudan, Vietnam and Somalia. They reply, almost shouting, in unison.
B-E-L-T. Belt.
Here, at the Della Lamb Charter Elementary School, these lessons go on for 227 days, compared with the average 180 days of most U.S. school districts.
The reason is clear:
“To make us smarter. To give us better brains,” said Abdirihman Akil, age 9.
Exactly, said President Barack Obama. He and his secretary of education, Arne Duncan, have reiterated support for the idea of adding hours to the school day to boost academic achievement and compete with other nations.

2% State Tax Dollar Increase for Pennsylvania schools

Dan Hardy:

The state budget that Gov. Rendell signed last night ensured that almost all school districts would get funding increases over last year.
The level of spending for education, the largest single item in the overall $27.8 billion budget and more than a third of the total, had been a point of contention between Rendell and many Republicans during the months-long standoff. But in the end, the agreement appeared to provide something for everyone.
“In a year where there is so much pain, with the economy the worst in anybody’s memory, to be anything but happy about this budget would be foolish,” Timothy Allwein, assistant executive director of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association, said yesterday.
All school districts would get a hike of at least 2 percent in basic education funding, Pennsylvania’s main subsidy to schools.
Statewide, the total K-12 increase, including federal funding, would be about $250 million over last year’s level. Much of that would go to less wealthy districts.
“The school districts I’ve talked to are glad that they can now get down to implementing the programs they had planned on,” Allwein said.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: “Killing the Goose – What Were We Thinking?”

John Mauldin:

Peggy Noonan, maybe the most gifted essayist of our time, wrote a few weeks ago about the vague concern that many of us have that the monster looming up ahead of us has the potential (my interpretation) for not just plucking a few feathers from the goose that lays the golden egg (the US free-market economy), or stealing a few more of the valuable eggs, but of actually killing the goose. Today we look at the possibility that the fiscal path of the enormous US government deficits we are on could indeed kill the goose, or harm it so badly it will make the lost decades that Japan has suffered seem like a stroll in the park.
And while I do not think we will get to that point (though I can’t deny the possibility), for reasons I will go into, there is the very real prospect that the upheavals created by not dealing proactively with the problems (or denying they exist) will be as bad as or worse than the credit crisis we have gone through. This is not going to be something that happens overnight, and the seeming return to normalcy that so many predict has the rather alarming aspect of creating a sense of complacency that will only serve to “kick the can” down the road.
This week we look at the problem, and then muse upon what the more likely scenarios are that may play out. This is a longer version of a speech I gave this morning to the New Orleans Conference, where I also offered a path out of the problems. This letter will be a little more controversial than normal, but I hope it makes us all think about the very serious plight we have put ourselves in.
Let’s review a few paragraphs I wrote last month: “I have seven kids. As our family grew, we limited the choices our kids could make; but as they grew into teenagers, they were given more leeway. Not all of their choices were good. How many times did Dad say, ‘What were you thinking?’ and get a mute reply or a mumbled ‘I don’t know.’
“Yet how else do you teach them that bad choices have bad consequences? You can lecture, you can be a role model; but in the end you have to let them make their own choices. And a lot of them make a lot of bad choices. After having raised six, with one more teenage son at home, I have come to the conclusion that you just breathe a sigh of relief if they grow up and have avoided fatal, life-altering choices. I am lucky. So far. Knock on a lot of wood.
“I have watched good kids from good families make bad choices, and kids with no seeming chance make good choices. But one thing I have observed. Very few teenagers make the hard choice without some outside encouragement or help in understanding the known consequences, from some source. They nearly always opt for the choice that involves the most fun and/or the least immediate pain, and then learn later that they now have to make yet another choice as a consequence of the original one. And thus they grow up. So quickly.”