Have things (Math Education) really changed that much? A letter to a friend.

Martha McClaren:

You ask whether things have changed — since math wasn’t being taught well 40+ years ago either. You’re absolutely right on that, but I believe it’s only gotten worse over the years, as more and more math phobic people have gone into the field of education. These people never understood math well, so their teaching had to be based on rote following of procedures, etc. Then came “new math”, which was an effort to reinvent math and make it more accessible. That bombed, and the efforts to reinvent continued.
What happened is that eventually those bright, math-phobic folks took over the education establishment. They reinvented math to be gentler, kinder, and more fun. Some of the hallmarks are: Small group problem solving, with students figuring our their own solutions to challenging problems. Visiting many topics for only a few weeks each year and moving on, regardless of whether any real mastery was attained. The thinking was/is that students will revisit the topics again in successive years, and will painlessly absorb the concepts. This turns out to be an extremely inefficient way to teach math, so, in order to have enough time to do all these hands-on projects in groups, the explanation of the underlying structure of math and and practice with standard algorithms have all been chucked.

What’s your experience with the new (Discovery) math textbooks?


Last year Seattle Public Schools selected new, “inquiry-based” math textbooks. Now there’s a lawsuit against the district over the Discovering Mathematics series of textbooks.
Do you have a child in school who is using the new textbooks? What is your experience with inquiry-based math education? KUOW’s Ross Reynolds is planning a show on Wednesday, February 3 in the 12 o’clock hour. We’d like to hear from you by Wednesday morning. Share your experience with KUOW by filling out the form below, or call 206.221.3663.

A Determined Quest to Bring Adoptive Ties to Foster Teenagers

Erik Eckholm:

After a day of knocking on doors chasing fleeting leads, Carlos Lopez and his partner finally heard welcome words: Yes, a resident confirmed, the man they were seeking lived in this house and would be home that evening.
Mr. Lopez, a former police detective, now does gumshoe work for what he calls a more fulfilling cause: tracking down long-lost relatives of teenagers languishing in foster care, in desperate need of family ties and in danger of becoming rootless adults. That recent day, he was hoping to find the father of a boy who had lived in 16 different foster homes since 1995. The boy did not remember his mother, who had long since disappeared.
Finding an adoptive parent for older children with years in foster care is known in child welfare circles as the toughest challenge. Typically, their biological parents abused or neglected them and had parental rights terminated. Relatives may not know where the children are, or even that they exist. And the supply of saints in the general public, willing to adopt teenagers shaken by years of trauma and loss, is limited.

Back to School, as an Adjunct

Phyllis Korkki:

IN this time of job insecurity, the question may have occurred to you: Should you consider part-time teaching as a way to improve your finances and expand your career opportunities?
Becoming a teacher can be rigorous and time-consuming, but at the college level, part-time teaching is a realistic option for some professionals. Postsecondary schools are often willing to be flexible about academic credentials in return for real-world expertise.
The need for part-time professors, known as adjuncts, is high right now. Education is one of the few areas of the economy that has been expanding, partly because so many of the unemployed are returning to school.
You may not want to pursue teaching part time, however, if your motivation is mainly financial. The pay for adjunct professors is usually low, and the work can be challenging. Still, the nonmonetary rewards that come with teaching can be substantial.
Often, people need a minimum of a master’s degree to work as adjunct professors, whether at two- or four-year colleges. But with the equivalent skills and expertise, even someone with only a bachelor’s degree might be hired, said Claire Van Ummersen, vice president for the Center for Effective Leadership at the American Council on Education.

The Economic Benefits From Halving The Dropout Rate: A Boom To Businesses In The Nation’s Largest Metropolitan Areas

Alliance for Excellent Education:

Few people realize the impact that high school dropouts have on a community’s economic, social, and civic health.
Business owners and residents–in particular, those without school-aged children–may not be aware that they have much at stake in the success of their local high schools.
Indeed, everyone–from car dealers and realtors to bank managers and local business owners–benefits when more students graduate from high school.
Nationally, more than seven thousand students become dropouts every school day. That adds up to almost 1.3 million students annually who will not graduate from high school with their peers as scheduled. In addition to the moral imperative to provide every student with an equal opportunity to pursue the American dream, there is also an economic argument for helping more students graduate from high school.
To better understand the various economic benefits that a particular community could expect if it were to reduce its number of high school dropouts, the Alliance for Excellent Education (the Alliance), with the generous support of State Farm®, analyzed the local economies of the nation’s fifty largest cities and their surrounding areas. Using a
sophisticated economic model developed by Economic Modeling Specialists Inc., an Idaho-based economics firm specializing in socioeconomic impact tools, the Alliance calculated economic projections tailored to each of these metro regions.

Advocating a Wisconsin Sales Tax Increase for K-12 Public Schools

Gayle Worland:

Tom Beebe has an idea for raising $850 million a year for Wisconsin schools, easing property taxes for homeowners and buying some time to devise a long-term solution to the state’s Byzantine school funding system — raise the state’s 5 percent sales tax by 1 percentage point.
It might not be politically viable. But supporters say at least it’s an idea.
“The conversation has to start somewhere,” said Dan Nerad, Madison School District superintendent. “There needs to be a public policy discussion about important questions around the school funding formula.”
The executive director of the Wisconsin Alliance for Excellent Schools, Beebe is the driving force — literally — behind the “A Penny for Kids” campaign. Since summer, he has logged nearly a thousand miles a month, he said, in a low-key, grass-roots campaign focused mainly in rural areas of the state. An online petition has garnered about 1,760 signatures.

Wisconsin k-12 redistributed tax dollars grew substantially over the past two decades as the chart below indicates: . More here.

Book shares Chicago recipe for good schools

Alan Borsuk:

I think I have about as good a handle as anyone on the reasons to feel depressed about the Milwaukee school situation. I’ve been giving talks to groups around the city fairly often lately. I jokingly refer to it as my Spreading Gloom tour.
But at heart, I still am optimistic. Why?
Because I’ve had the privilege of visiting some schools lately that offer hope. There are too few of them, but they exist. You find them in the Milwaukee Public Schools system, among the private schools supported by public vouchers, and among the charter schools that operate outside MPS. I expect to feature some of them in upcoming columns.
Because there is ample reason to believe that other urban school systems are doing better than Milwaukee. Every school district that is dominated by children coming from impoverished settings has big struggles. But other cities are showing more success and exhibiting more energy than we are, and I don’t know any convincing reason why Milwaukee needs to be behind the pack so often. Certainly, this could be changed if we did the right things.
Because things have to get better in terms of the educational success of kids for the city, the metropolitan area and even the state to thrive, and I somehow think awareness of that will eventually create enough pressure to bring improvement.
And – my specific subject for today – because of a new book.

Organizing Schools for Improvement: Lessons from Chicago.

Study: Many sex offenders are kids themselves

Wendy Koch:

More than a third of sex crimes against juveniles are committed by juveniles, according to new research commissioned by the Justice Department.
Juveniles are 36% of all sex offenders who victimize children. Seven out of eight are at least 12 years old, and 93% are boys, says the study by the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire.
The report comes as states toughen penalties for adult sex offenders and wrestle with how to handle juveniles.
“They are different from adult sex offenders,” says study co-author David Finkelhor. They are more likely than adults to commit sex offenses in groups, and their victims are younger and more likely to be male.

Should Extra-Curricular Fine Arts Teachers be Paid the Same as Sports Coaches?

Craig Smith:

If you haven’t already, you should take the time to read Susan Troller’s lively profile of Memorial High School drama coach and English teacher Tom Hardin. It’s a great portrait of a man who’s in top form, and he raises a thorny question about equity in extracurricular activities: should the faculty who direct the school plays and coach the forensics teams get as much support and pay as the coaches of the football and basketball teams?
If you read the story, you might be tempted to write Hardin off at first blush, as some commenters do. He’s threatening to step down at the end of the school year leading drama as well as his position overseeing Memorial’s first-rate forensics team. He says it’s not fair that sports get far more attention and outside support, not to mention that their coaches get more money than those leading, say, drama.
It’s not about the amount of money, he says, and in the great scheme of things, the difference in pay really isn’t much — not quite $1,300 a year. In certainly pales in comparison to the difference between what UW football coach Bret Bielema and university faculty members make.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan: Hurricane Katrina helped New Orleans schools

Nick Anderson:

Education Secretary Arne Duncan called Hurricane Katrina “the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans” because it forced the community to take steps to improve low-performing public schools, according to excerpts from the transcript of a television interview made public Friday afternoon.
The excerpts, e-mailed to reporters, quoted Duncan as giving an evaluation of the effect of the 2005 hurricane on the city’s schools.
Martin was quoted as saying to Duncan: “What’s amazing is New Orleans was devastated because of Hurricane Katrina, but because everything was wiped out, in essence, you are building from ground zero to change the dynamics of education in that city.”

Green Bay Schools Advertise to Stem Losses

Matt Smith:

The Green Bay Area Public School District is losing students to open enrollment by a three-to-one ratio. Now, during a pivotal few weeks, it’s launching a major multi-media campaign.
Statewide, applications for open enrollment begin Monday and run through the first part of February.
For school districts everywhere, it’s a critical time to keep — and gain — students.
The Green Bay district is wasting no time in getting its message out. From the classroom to your TV screen, it’s an all-out multi-media blitz to highlight the district during a very vulnerable few weeks.
Beginning Monday, a TV ad hits the airwaves advertising what the Green Bay school district says it can offer current and potential students.

Current Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad formerly served in the same position in Green Bay. Much more on open enrollment here.

Discussing Rigor at Seattle’s Rainier Beach High School

Michael Rice:

I was reading the comments in an earlier post about the new assignment plan and there were many comments about the rigor or lack there of at Rainier Beach High School. I would like to dispel the myth that Rainier Beach does not offer rigor to the high achieving student. If you have a high achieving 8th grader and are in the RBHS attendance area, here is just a sample of what you can expect:
In math as a Freshman, you will start in at least Honors Geometry with Ms. Lessig who is our best math teacher. Once you get through that, you will take Honors Advanced Algebra with me, then Pre Calculus with Mr. Bird (a math major in college) and then as a Senior, you take AP Calculus with Ms. Day, a highly experienced and skilled teacher. As a bonus, in either your Junior or Senior year, you get to take AP Statistics with me. All of these classes are demanding and well taught by teachers who know what they are doing and are passionate about teaching math.

Education does not need giveaways and gimmicks

South China Morning Post:

Few know the consequences of Hong Kong’s rapidly ageing population as well as public schoolteachers. They are in the front line, wondering how to keep the schools they work for open – and their jobs – as student numbers dwindle. Innovation comes to the fore in such situations and competition to maintain enrolments to stave off closure with gifts and gimmicks is keen. But as much as enterprise is to be lauded, efforts should not be about enticing children with giveaways, but better educating them. Education is not the natural first thought for teachers whose jobs are on the line. They know that when student numbers in a form drop below 61, the Education Bureau starts taking action. In the past five years, five public secondary schools and 72 primary ones have been forced to close. A total of 31 secondary classes have been cut this academic year.
Government-subsidised secondary schools have taken a lead in trying to reverse the trend. They cannot conjure more students from the shrinking pool but can lure them away from one another and look to new arrivals. Tactics vary from handing out free notebook computers to recruiting through booths at railway stations to hiring public relations consultants so that images can be overhauled.

New federal budget ups spending on education

Tom Weber:

One area of the federal government that could see more money is education as the president is proposing to spend as much as $4 billion more nationally next year on schools.
With state funding at a standstill and facing possible cuts, the prospect of any new money for schools gives the federal government more power in setting the terms.
Even $4 billion more from the federal government will not change the fact that the nation’s schools get a lion’s share of their money from their states.
But state budgets are pinched — Minnesota’s deficit tops a billion dollars – and that’s just for the remaining five months on this current fiscal year.
The Lakeville district’s budget is 80 percent state money, and Superintendent Gary Amoroso predicts that portion will stay flat for at least four years. Even as costs for things like health care and teacher pay keep increasing.

College Endowments In Jeopardy

David Randall & Asher Hawkins:

College and university endowments in the United States and Canada collectively lost $93 billion during the 2009 fiscal year, according to a study jointly released Thursday by the National Association of College and University Business Officers and the Commonfund, which manages investments for nonprofit institutions. In a sign of how deeply the pain was felt throughout higher education, the study found that the average institution lost 18.7% after fees.
The report’s findings were the grimmest since 1974, when the average college lost 11.4% of its endowment.

Fake News About Milwaukee Mayoral Takeover

Bruce Murphy, via a kind reader’s email:

A story in last week’s Shepherd Express claimed that Wall Street hedge managers are part of a secret conspiracy favoring mayoral takeover of Milwaukee Public Schools in order to privatize the schools. It’s complete nonsense, the sort of fake news that any smart reader will see through.
The key people pushing for mayoral takeover of the schools has been no secret: It includes Gov. Jim Doyle, Mayor Tom Barrett, Common Council President Willie Hines and a
number of Milwaukee-area Democratic legislators, including state Sens. Lena Taylor and Jeff Plale and state Reps. Jason Fields and Rep. Jon Richards. None of them have offered any support for privatization in their statements. Nor does the proposed legislation have any language that would in any way privatize the schools.

POLITICO Interview: Arne Duncan

Mike Allen:

MR. ALLEN: Welcome to POLITICO’s video series: “Inside Obama’s Washington.” I’m Mike Allen, Chief White House Correspondent, and we’re here at the Education Department with its leader, Arne Duncan. Mr. Secretary, thank you for having us in.
SECRETARY DUNCAN: Well, thanks for the opportunity. Good to see you.
MR. ALLEN: The President has announced a freeze for a big slice of spending. How’s that going to affect education?
SECRETARY DUNCAN: Well, education’s always been a priority for the President, so we feel very, very good about where we’re going to net out. We’re always going to make tough choices, and things that aren’t working, we’re going to stop investing in. But things that are working, we want to continue to push very hard.
MR. ALLEN: And what’s an example of something where you believe you can pull back, something that’s not working?
SECRETARY DUNCAN: Well, the budget will be forthcoming next week, but there will be a number of things where if we’re not seeing the results we want for children, we think we have a moral obligation not to just perpetuate the status quo, but to invest scarce, scarce dollars in those priorities that are really making a difference in students’ lives.

L.A. groups bid to run 30 schools

Howard Blume:

So you think you can run a Los Angeles school? Make your case. You’ve got 10 minutes.
Would-be school operators are taking part in a kind of Los Angeles Unified School District reality contest, presenting proposals this month at forums on campuses across the district.
It’s the next step in an unfolding process through which groups inside and outside the system are bidding to operate 12 low-performing schools and 18 new campuses, serving some 40,000 students.
The Board of Education approved the strategy in August, and the winners for each school will be chosen before March.
Amid intense competition, the bidders are determined to add popular support to their portfolios. Parents will vote for their favorite bidders, although their choices won’t be binding on district officials.
At Jefferson High south of downtown, at least 400 people braved last week’s storms to hear staff members offer their plans for revamping the campus. They are competing against L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s team.

Our Flagship Universities Are Straying From Their Public Mission

The Education Trust:

Public flagship universities provide excellence to students who cannot afford high-quality private institutions. Yet many of these universities direct aid to wealthy students who will attend college without it. Meantime, many high-achieving minority and poor students wind up in lesser institutions or do not attend college at all. In fact, some low-income students who literally cannot afford to attend college without a grant must find a way to finance the equivalent of 70 percent of their family’s annual income. Some flagships are stepping up to the challenge and focusing on access and success. An account of their performance and progress appears at the end of this report.

Newcomers Test Schools In Plano, Texas, Population Shift Prompts Rezoning That Angers Many Parents

Ana Campoy:

This Dallas suburb, a wealthy enclave known for its top-notch schools, is struggling to integrate a flood of poor, minority students.
In a battle mirrored in other districts across the U.S., parents here have been fighting for months over which public high school their kids will attend: one under construction in an affluent corner of the Plano Independent School District, or an older school several miles away in the city’s more diverse downtown.
Last month, the district’s school board angered many parents when it created a Pac-Man-shaped zone that placed their children in the downtown school for grades nine and 10 instead of in the newer, closer campus.
The downtown school has the highest proportion of poor students of all high schools in the district; many are Hispanic and African-American.
“We want to go to our neighborhood school,” said Kelly McBrayer, a white, 48-year-old stay-at-home mother of three who lives near the site of the new high school.

Excellent education: a right or a privilege?

Erica Sandberg:

Being deeply entrenched in all things money, I see first-hand the link between quality education and real, lasting economic success. The better schools you attend, the greater the chance you’ll find and prepare for work that will provide satisfaction and financial stability. This is not to say that other factors (such as parent involvement) don’t count or that some people don’t overcome the odds and attain wealth and happiness without attending or graduating from college, but I’m talking the basics here: kindergarten though high school.
The sad fact is that California public schools are in jeopardy. Many are wonderful now, but as the Chron’s Jill Tucker reports, 113 million in funding cuts over two years will change all that. Teachers are facing lay-offs, class size will swell to unmanageable numbers, and programs that make schools appealing to students will be slashed. Want to make kids dislike and devalue formal learning? This will do it. And as a society, we can’t afford to have children reject education. Those who do are more likely to make poor financial and lifestyle choices when they reach adulthood, draining the resources of the population at large.

Response to Danny Westneat 1/27 Math column in Seattle Times

Martha McLaren:

I am one of the three plaintiffs in the math textbook appeal. I am also the white grandmother of an SPS fifth grader, and a retired SPS math teacher.
Mr. Westneat grants that the textbooks we are opposing may be “lousy,” but he faults us for citing their disproportionate effect on ethnic, racial, and other minorities. He states that we can’t prove this claim. I disagree, and West Seattle Dan has posted voluminous statistics in response to the column. They support our claim that inquiry-based texts, which have now accrued a sizable track record, are generally associated with declining achievement among most students and with a widening achievement gap between middle class whites and minorities.
We’ve brought race and ethnicity (as well as economic status) into this appeal because there is ample evidence that it is a factor. True, this is not the 80’s, and true, in my 10 years of experience teaching in Seattle Schools, I found no evidence that people of color are less capable than whites of being outstanding learners. However, in my 30+ years as a parent and grandparent of SPS students and my years as a teacher, I’ve developed deep, broad, awareness of the ways that centuries of societally mandated racism play out in our classrooms, even in this era of Barack Obama’s presidency.

Next Bunch of Obama Education Reforms to Offer More Carrots

Patrice Wingert:

When the Obama administration first proposed having states duke it out for a share of a $4 billion education-reform fund, critics expected the whole enterprise to either be largely ignored or dissolve into political infighting. But instead, the Race to the Top competition has proved so successful in motivating states to accelerate their education-reform efforts that the administration has new plans to offer such competitions on an annual basis. President Obama will also announce tonight that the Department of Education will be offering a new competition to push states to create more and better preschool programs. During a briefing Tuesday, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said that the country doesn’t “need any more studies” to prove that high-quality preschool education can significantly close the achievement gap between rich and poor. Instead, he said, the country just needs to offer such programs to more kids. The president “wants to dramatically increase access and give kids a level playing field,” Duncan said. “If kids don’t come to school ready to learn and ready to read, it’s very tough for even the best kindergarten teachers to close that gap.” During the presidential campaign, Obama repeatedly promised that he would expand early education programs but has focused little attention on the issue during his first year.

Australia’s National School Website a victory for education

Jane Fynes-Clinton:

WHEN the Federal Government’s My School website goes live this morning, I will give a little internal cheer.
It will be a little victory for transparency, a little win for democracy and a little tick in the box that shows the Federal Government is deadly serious about improving education standards.
It will also be a little kick in the shins for those who would rather the mountain of compiled information the Government already has – and has had for some years – remains buried under layers of bureaucracy far from public view.
I will be happy because I want to know about the statistics around the performance of the schools in my area. I want to see the spots that need addressing and the areas where they are leading the way. Like most thinking parents out there, the information made available this morning will not be the sole premise on which I will judge those schools, those teachers or those students. Those who have been bleating about the way in which the students, teachers and schools will be judged must view parents as shallow and mushroom-like.

The Real Issue Behind the Rhee Flap: Why Can’t Schools Fire Bad Teachers?

Patrice Wingert:

Michelle Rhee, the tough-talking D.C. schools chancellor, is used to taking her lumps from the press, the teachers’ unions, and city politicians as she tries to overhaul one of the nation’s worst public-school systems. But this week she’s been under siege after a controversial quote about teachers molesting students made it into print. Rhee is fighting back, but the whole episode highlights a bigger problem in districts all over the country: why can’t a school system fire teachers who abuse kids or don’t bother showing up for work? In D.C., as in many other cities with “progressive” employee discipline procedures, school officials can suspend such teachers but can’t terminate them.
The latest uproar began with the publication of a short “update” item in the Feb. 1 issue of Fast Company, in which Rhee seemed to say that the 266 teachers laid off last fall during the system’s budget crunch had histories of abusing students, corporal punishment, and chronic absenteeism: “I got rid of teachers who had hit children, who had had sex with children, who had missed 78 days of school. Why wouldn’t we take those things into consideration?” Rhee is quoted as saying.

Better system wanted over Teacher sex offenders

South China Morning Post:

Sex offenders who prey on children strike fear into the hearts of parents. That does not make it any easier to find a balance between protecting the community against these heinous crimes and upholding the rights of offenders who have paid their debt to society. One of these rights is privacy, which is key to a fair chance of rehabilitation. Reconciling this conflict is one reason Hong Kong has yet to follow other jurisdictions in maintaining a confidential sex offenders’ register that can be accessed by employers of people who work with children.
Meanwhile, the Education Bureau’s power to deregister teachers provides a degree of protection because no one can teach in our schools without a valid registration certificate or permit. Parents are entitled to assurance that this screens out applicants who pose a known risk. It is disappointing therefore that the bureau has declined an opportunity to give it, without infringing privacy. It has refused our request to simply say how many of at least 31 teachers and classroom assistants known to have committed sexual offences in the past 10 years are still registered and how many are working in schools. As a result, lawmakers, parent and child protection groups have rightly raised concerns about the vetting procedures.

How Michigan education reforms will unfold is unclear

Julie Mack:

How sweeping education reforms signed into law Monday will be implemented in Michigan remains unclear to area school officials.
Gov. Jennifer Granholm on Monday signed reforms that make it easier to close failing schools, link teacher pay to performance and hold school administrators accountable. The bills also raise the dropout age from 16 to 18, starting with the Class of 2016; allow up to 32 more charter schools to open each year; give professionals from areas other than education an alternative way to become teachers, and allow for cyber-schools to educate students who have dropped out online.
State Superintendent Mike Flanagan said up to 200 low-performing schools could end up under state control as a result of the new laws.
The legislation is part of Michigan’s effort to win money from the Obama administration’s Race to the Top competition tied to education reform. Michigan could get up to $400 million if it’s among the winners.
Local school boards and unions now face a Thursday deadline to sign a “Memorandum of Understanding” that indicates their support for the reforms. The memorandums are to be included with the state’s Race to the Top application. School districts where the board and union do not sign an agreement risk losing their share of the money.

On Seattle’s “Discovery Math” Lawsuit: “Textbook argument divides us”

Danny Westneat:

Can an algebra textbook be racist?
That’s what was argued Tuesday in a Seattle courtroom. Not overtly racist in that a book of equations and problem sets contains hatred or intolerance of others. But that its existence — its adoption for use in Seattle classrooms — is keeping some folks down.
“We’re on untested ground here,” admitted Keith Scully.
He’s the attorney who advanced this theory in a lawsuit challenging Seattle Public Schools’ choice of the Discovering series of math textbooks last year.
The appeal was brought by a handful of Seattle residents, including UW atmospheric-sciences professor Cliff Mass. It says Seattle’s new math books — and a “fuzzy” curriculum they represent — are harmful enough to racial and other minorities that they violate the state constitution’s guarantee of an equal education.
It also says the School Board’s choice of the books was arbitrary.
Mostly, Mass just says the new textbooks stink. For everyone. But he believes they will widen the achievement gap between whites and some minority groups, specifically blacks and students with limited English skills.

Study: Online Education Continues Its Meteoric Growth

Jeff Greer:

Online college education is expanding–rapidly. More than 4.6 million college students were taking at least one online course at the start of the 2008-2009 school year. That’s more than 1 in 4 college students, and it’s a 17 percent increase from 2007.
Turns out it’s the economy, stupid.
Two major factors for the soaring numbers in the 2008-2009 school year are the sour economy and the possibility of an H1N1 flu virus outbreak, according to the seventh annual Sloan Survey of Online Learning report, titled “Learning on Demand: Online Education in the United States in 2009.” But, the survey’s authors say, there is a lot more work to be done, and there’s huge potential for online education to expand, especially at larger schools.
“For the past several years, all of the growth–90-plus percent–is coming from existing traditional schools that are growing their current offerings,” says Jeff Seaman, one of the study’s authors and codirector of the Babson Survey Research Group at Babson College. Seaman’s coauthor, Elaine Allen, who is also a codirector of the Babson Survey Research Group, added that community colleges, for-profit schools, and master’s programs have seen significant growth in online offerings.

Georgia Tech president: No guns on campus

Maureen Downey, via email:

G.P. “Bud” Peterson, president of Georgia Tech, sat down with writers at the AJC today and made clear that he did not support the pending legislation in the Georgia General Assembly to allow guns on college campuses. (We talked about other education issues that I will write about later.)
Under a bill in the House, Georgia gun owners with conceal carry permits could bring their guns everywhere except the courthouse and the jailhouse. The restrictions on churches and campuses would be lifted.
Georgia Tech President Bud Peterson says “absolutely not” to guns on his campus in an interview Wednesday with the AJC
“Absolutely not,” said Peterson, who was appointed as the 11th president of Georgia Tech in April after serving as chancellor at the University of Colorado at Boulder and provost at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York. In addition, Peterson has held various positions at Texas A&M University and taught mathematics, physics and chemistry in Kansas.
In other words, this man has been around students and on campuses all his life and he doesn’t believe that guns will better protect students.
But let him do the talking.

Growing Special Education Enrollments in Charter Schools

Michael D. Van Beek:

Although public charter schools are required by law to admit all students who apply, a common criticism is that charters fail to enroll enough special education students. Statistics show that public charter schools have proportionately smaller special education enrollments than conventional public schools, but recent trends suggest the difference will continue to dwindle.
According to the Center for Educational Performance and Information, 13.6 percent of students in conventional schools in the 2008-2009 school year were enrolled in special education programs, compared to 9.6 percent in charter schools. While a difference still exists between charter and conventional schools, special education enrollment is rising quickly in charter schools.
Since the 2000-2001 school year, the proportion of charter school students enrolled in special education programs grew by 76 percent. Charter schools served nearly four times as many special education students at the end of the last decade as they did at the beginning.

Fix schools with ideas, not money

Jay Matthews:

President Obama is apparently about to tell the nation he wants to freeze federal spending for three years in several areas, including education. I like the idea. I would also support cutting back entitlement payments for financially secure geezers like me, and find ways for everyone to make some sacrifices for our country.
I can hear the objections. We can’t fix our economy by shortchanging our kids. They are our future. True, but we don’t have much evidence that spending more money on their schooling has had much effect on what they have learned. The most exciting and productive schools I have studied are driven by ideas, not bucks. If they need money for special projects, they find it. But the power of their teaching comes from the freedom they are allowed to help with their students, as a team, in ways that make the most sense to them.
More money often prevents that from happening. It has strings that force teachers to do stuff, and spend time on paperwork, that doesn’t work for them. The recent history of the stimulus funds used for education makes this clear.

I agree.

What If Our Schools Are Working?

Alan Singer:

Thousands of protesters showed up at New York City’s Brooklyn Technical High School on January 26 to protest against the closing and reorganization of 19 public schools. Three hundred parents, teachers, students, and local politicians testified that the closings were arbitrary and ignored the struggles and successes taking place in these buildings. The hearing went on until after 2:30 in the morning, when the Panel for Educational Policy, whose majority is appointed by Mayor Michael “Money Bags” Bloomberg, did exactly what it planned to do at the start; it voted to rubber stamp the closings.
The panel’s decision will mean phasing out six comprehensive high schools, including Jamaica and Beach Channel in Queens, Paul Robeson and William Maxwell in Brooklyn, and Alfred Smith and Christopher Columbus in the Bronx. This is part of Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein’s campaign to replace the comprehensive high schools with small mini-schools and charters. Since 2002, Bloomberg/Klein has closed, or is in the process of closing, over ninety schools. What the Mayor and Chancellor were unable to explain was why if smaller schools are the panacea for educational problems six of the schools being closed in this round were small high schools created in previous rounds of school reorganization.

Cheat Sheet for New Jersey Governor Christie’s Educational Agenda

New Jersey Left Behind:

Here’s a Spark’s Notes version of Gov. Christie’s Education Subcommittee Report, which constitutes a list of recommendations to improve public education in N.J. Some are considered “early action,” i.e., to be completed within 90 days. The rest have a whopping 6 months for completion. Okay: maybe it’s more of a wish list, but it gives any reader a clear sense of Christie and Schundler’s agenda.
We’ve divided these 17 pages of pre-K through 12th grade recommendations (there’s another 8 on higher education) into 3 basic categories: School Finance, School Reform, and NJ DOE Oversight.
School Finance:

National Australia Schools comparison website going live

Sydny Morning Herald:

The federal government’s controversial website giving information on the performance of all schools will go live from this Thursday.
The site, called My School, will provide profiles for almost 10,000 schools and will allow parents to compare schools in their area as well as statistically-similar schools in other regions.
In navigating the web page, parents will be able to look at the profiles of their child’s school which includes the numbers of students, teachers, attendance rates and the percentage of indigenous students.
Federal Education Minister Julia Gillard made no apology for the introduction of the website.
“I’m passionate about this and I believe this is the right direction for this country,” she told Sky News on Monday.


Criticism of Australia’s National School Comparison Website

Lucy Carter:

Independent policy think-tank the Grattan Institute has added to growing criticism of the Federal Government’s My School website, saying it will not give an adequate assessment of a school’s performance.
My School, scheduled to be launched tomorrow, has already come under heavy criticism.
The Education Union says it will unfairly stigmatise disadvantaged schools, and the Secondary Principals Council says it fails to include crucial data about school funding.
However, several parent groups have supported the proposal to provide information on school performance.
Federal Education Minister Julia Gillard says it will provide parents and the community with accurate information, allowing them to be their own judge.

In Oklahoma, One in Five Children Live in Poverty

Gavin Off:

A year ago, the life Demetria Overstreet and her family knew slowly began to fade.

Her husband, Lenzie, was diagnosed with kidney failure and had to leave his job to begin treatment.

With its main money-maker out of work, mounting medical bills and three children to care for, the family saw its financial problems beginning to build.

At one point, their home’s gas and electricity were turned off. Car payments lagged. And at times, the family survived on eating hotdogs and chips.

“It was depressing, especially when my son would come home and said ‘Momma, nothing comes on,’ ” Overstreet said, referring to the electricity.

Lawsuit Challenging the Seattle School District’s use of “Discovering Mathematics” Goes to Trial

Martha McLaren, DaZanne Porter, and Cliff Mass:

Today Cliff Mass and I, (DaZanne Porter had to be at a training in Yakima) accompanied by Dan Dempsey and Jim W, had our hearing in Judge Julie Spector’s King County Superior Courtroom; the event was everything we hoped for, and more. Judge Spector asked excellent questions and said that she hopes to announce a decision by Friday, February 12th.
The hearing started on time at 8:30 AM with several members of the Press Corps present, including KIRO TV, KPLU radio, Danny Westneat of the Seattle Times, and at least 3 others. I know the number because, at the end, Cliff, our attorney, Keith Scully, and I were interviewed; there were five microphones and three cameras pointed towards us at one point.
The hearing was brief; we were done by 9:15. Keith began by presenting our case very clearly and eloquently. Our two main lines of reasoning are, 1) that the vote to adopt Discovering was arbitrary and capricious because of the board’s failure to take notice of a plethora of testimony, data, and other information which raised red flags about the efficacy of the Discovering series, and 2) the vote violated the equal education rights of the minority groups who have been shown, through WASL scores, to be disadvantaged by inquiry based instruction.
Realistically, both of these arguments are difficult to prove: “arbitrary and capricious” is historically a very, very difficult proof, and while Keith’s civil rights argument was quite compelling, there is no legal precedent for applying the law to this situation.
The School District’s attorney, Shannon McMinimee, did her best, saying that the board followed correct procedure, the content of the books is not relevant to the appeal, the books do not represent inquiry-based learning but a “balanced” approach, textbooks are merely tools, etc., etc. She even denigrated the WASL – a new angle in this case. In rebuttal, Keith was terrific, we all agreed. He quoted the introduction of the three texts, which made it crystal clear that these books are about “exploration.” I’m blanking on other details of his rebuttal, but it was crisp and effective. Keith was extremely effective, IMHO. Hopefully, Dan, James, and Cliff can recall more details of the rebuttal.

Associated Press:

A lawsuit challenging the Seattle School District’s math curriculum went to trial Monday in King County Superior Court.
A group of parents and teachers say the “Discovering Math” series adopted last year does a poor job, especially with minority students who are seeing an achievement gap widen.
A spokeswoman for the Seattle School District, Teresa Wippel, says it has no comment on pending litigation.
KOMO-TV reports the district has already spent $1.2 million on Discovering Math books and teacher training.

Cliff Mass:

On Tuesday, January 26th, at 8:30 AM, King County Superior Court Judge Julie Spector will consider an appeal by a group of Seattle residents (including yours truly) regarding the selection by Seattle Public Schools of the Discovering Math series in their high schools. Although this issue is coming to a head in Seattle it influences all of you in profound ways.
In this appeal we provide clear evidence that the Discovery Math approach worsens the achievement gap between minority/disadvantaged students and their peers. We show that the Board and District failed to consider key evidence and voluminous testimony, and acted arbitrarily and capriciously by choosing a teaching method that was demonstrated to produce a stagnant or increasing achievement gap. We request that the Seattle Schools rescind their decision and re-open the textbook consideration for high school.

A study in intellectual uniformity: The Marketplace of Ideas By Louis Menand

Christopher Caldwell:

As his title hints, Louis Menand has written a business book. This is good, since the crisis in American higher education that the Harvard professor of English addresses is a business crisis. The crisis resembles the more celebrated one in the US medical system. At its best, US education, like US healthcare, is of a quality that no system in the world can match. However, the two industries have developed similar problems in limiting costs and keeping access open. Both industries have thus become a source of worry for public-spirited citizens and a punchbag for political opportunists.
Menand lowers the temperature of this discussion. He neither celebrates nor bemoans the excesses of political correctness – the replacement of Keats by Toni Morrison, or of Thucydides by queer theory. Instead, in four interlocking essays, he examines how university hiring and credentialing systems and an organisational structure based on scholarly disciplines have failed to respond to economic and social change. Menand draws his idea of what an American university education can be from the history of what it has been. This approach illuminates, as polemics cannot, two grave present-day problems: the loss of consensus on what to teach undergraduates and the lack of intellectual diversity among the US professoriate.
Much of today’s system, Menand shows, can be traced to Charles William Eliot, president of Harvard for four decades after 1869. Faced with competition from pre-professional schools, Eliot had the “revolutionary idea” of strictly separating liberal arts education from professional education (law, medicine, etc), and making the former a prerequisite for the latter. Requiring a lawyer to spend four years reading, say, Molière before he can study for the bar has no logic. Such a system would have made it impossible for Abraham Lincoln to enter public life. Funny, too, that the idea of limiting the commanding heights of the professions to young men of relative leisure arose just as the US was filling up with penurious immigrants. Menand grants that the system was a “devil’s bargain”.

Clusty Search: Louis Menand – “The Marketplace of Ideas”.

Opinion: Obama’s Quiet Education Revolution

Kevin Teasley:

A week ago, President Obama announced that he is planning to spend $4.4 billion on his Race to the Top education program. If you missed the news, don’t kick yourself. Obama’s entire education reform plan had been largely overshadowed by the yearlong health care debate, the economy, Afghanistan and other big-ticket news items.
It’s unfortunate, since this may be the most impressive reform his administration has accomplished in the past year.
Obama announced Race to the Top in July. The program awards grant money to states on a competitive basis, based on their implementing education reforms that include assessment standards, turning around worst-performing schools, and recruiting and rewarding quality teachers.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan has met with education leaders throughout the country, working tirelessly to get state education leaders and providers, legislators, reform groups, unions and others to support reforms that will bring true accountability and competition to our nation’s public school systems.

Minnesota withholds payments to schools to pay the bills

Tom Weber:

School districts across Minnesota got word Tuesday that the state will withhold some of their funding in coming months.
Withholding payments will free up some of the state’s cash so it can pay its own bills. Today’s action is in addition to more than $1 billion in delayed payments to schools that were announced last summer.
School districts get their funding from the state in the form of twice-monthly payments.
Today’s move means both payments in March and one in April will be smaller than expected for many districts.
State finance officials predict they won’t have enough money in the bank during those months to meet their cash flow needs. So, the state will hold back a total of $423 million from schools. All of it will be paid back in May.

State of the Union on Education

Joe Williams:

Unfettered by inside-the-beltway partisan politics, President Obama indisputably has affected more change in the nation’s education policies in his first year in office than any President in modern history.
The boost that the Administration’s Race to the Top initiative – which was accompanied by a record $100 billion increase in general federal aid to education – has given state and local education reform efforts is the Administration’s biggest domestic policy success of 2009 – all without yet expending a dime of the $5 billion Race to the Top fund.
What’s more, while not a single Republican Congressman and only 3 Republican Senators voted for the economic and education reform stimulus package last February, the policy initiatives that Obama and Secretary Duncan put forth have since been embraced through both words and action by state and local elected officials in both parties across the ideological and geographical spectrum.
These accomplishments reflect campaign promises kept – in recognition of the relationship between education reform, jobs, and economic growth – to make education one of three key components of a long-term U.S. economic recovery strategy (the other two being energy and health care which obviously, and to say the least, have not fared as well), an augur well for the work on education reform that is yet to come.
Some effects are immediate – for example, more than a hundred thousand slots have already opened to parents across the country who want to choose a high quality public charter school for their children. Others, such as changes in state academic standards to ensure that students are college and career ready, the development of better tests, more rigorous qualification criteria and better pay for teachers, and fundamental overhauls of chronically failing schools, will pay dividends later this year, and over the next several.

Honor student world: Where all the students are above average

Maureen Downey:

Here is an interesting op-ed piece by a tenured professor of biology at Piedmont College, Robert H. Wainberg. He is alarmed because he has been told by former students who are now teachers that some schools no longer hold Honors Day to recognize the accomplishments of above average and exemplary students so they don’t hurt the feelings of kids who don’t earn awards.
This piece will appear in the paper on the education page Monday. Enjoy.
By Robert H.Wainberg:

I have been a professor of Biology and Biochemistry at a regional college for over two decades. Sadly, I have noticed a continual deterioration in the performance of my students during this time. In part I have attributed it to the poor study habits of the last few generations (X, XX and now XXX) who have relied too heavily on technology in lieu of thinking for themselves.
In fact, the basics are no longer taught in our schools because they are considered to be “too hard,” not because they are archaic or antiquated. For example, students are no longer required to learn the multiplication or division tables since they direct access to calculators in their phones.
Handwriting script and calligraphy are now in danger of extinction since computers use printed letters. A report I recently read disturbingly admitted that many of our standardized tests used for college admission or various professional schools (MCAT, LSAT and GRE) have to manipulate their normal bell-shaped curves to obtain the higher averages of decadtudenes ago.
What we fail to realize is that the concept of “survival of the fittest” still applies even within the realm of technology. There will always be those who are more “adapted” to the full potential of its use while others will be stalled at the level of downloading music or playing games.

Ah, yes. One size fits all education uber alles.

Facebook case: Deposition reveals Teacher Barrow didn’t know e-mail source

Maureen Downey, via email:

Many of you have been asking me about the fate of Ashley Payne, the Barrow County high school teacher who lost her job over her Facebook page and whose experience sparked a national debate about Internet privacy, anonymous e-mails and teacher rights.
One of the Facebook photos that a “parent” complained about in an anonymous e-mail
The legal case is proceeding. Ashley Payne’s lawyer just deposed the principal and assistant principal. She is fighting to get her job back.
I asked attorney Richard Storrs if Barrow ever traced the source of the incriminating e-mail that led to Payne being called in by her principal in August and told to consider resigning rather than face losing her teaching license. Under that pressure, the 23-year-old UGA honors graduate says she felt she had no recourse but to resign – a mistake according to veteran teachers.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Federal Budget Freeze in the Works Effort to Curb Deficits Would Affect 17% of Budget; Defense, Medicare Exempt

Laura Meckler & Jonathan Weisman:

President Barack Obama intends to propose a three-year freeze in spending that accounts for one-sixth of the federal budget–a move meant to quell rising voter concern over the deficit but whose practical impact will be muted.
To attack the $1.4 trillion deficit, the White House will propose a three-year freeze on discretionary spending unrelated to the military, veterans, homeland security and international affairs, according to senior administration officials. Also untouched are big entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare.
The freeze would affect $447 billion in spending, or 17% of the total federal budget, and would likely be overtaken by growth in the untouched areas of discretionary spending. It’s designed to save $250 billion over the coming decade, compared to what would have been spent had this area been allowed to rise along with inflation.
The administration officials said the cap won’t be imposed across the board. Some areas would see cuts while others, including education and investments related to job creation, would realize increases.

More Than Academics at Chicago’s Morton Alternative

Giovanna Breu:

A gritty industrial patch of a blue-collar Chicago suburb seems an unlikely setting for the pioneering curriculum at Morton Alternative High School. The program, which combines intensive psychotherapy with conventional studies to help gang members and emotionally troubled teenagers finish school, has reported promising results and has attracted the notice of educators nationwide.
Morton Alternative High School is the last chance for students who are expelled from Morton East High School and Morton West.
Dr. Mark Smaller, a Chicago psychoanalyst, started the program at Morton Alternative three-and-a-half years ago as a contrast to schools that take a strict disciplinary approach to youths with behavioral problems. Dr. Smaller and his team of social workers conduct weekly group and individual therapy sessions to help students deal with emotional problems and social pressures common to life in neighborhoods where families struggle with job losses, crime, violence and immigration issues.
Morton Alternative in Cicero is the last chance for students who are expelled from Morton East and Morton West High Schools. An average of about 100 students are at the school at any one time — those judged to have some chance for improvement — though they come and go throughout the academic year.

‘Inconvenient Truth’ director turns to US education


After his Oscar-winning “An Inconvenient Truth” spotlighted climate change, Davis Guggenheim is hoping to do for the US public education system what he did for the environment.
Guggenheim’s new film, “Waiting for Superman,” is vying for honors in the Sundance Film Festival’s US documentary competition, and offers a searing look at the problems facing schools and colleges in the United States.
Like the Oscar-winning “An Inconvenient Truth,” Guggenheim’s film utilizes graphs and animated charts intercut with interviews with students and educators to illustrate the sector’s woes.

New School Ecosystems

Tom Vander Ark:

There are interesting parallels between charter schools in the US and affordable private school in India. Both focus on the urban poor, promote choice, and often develop within an entrepreneurial ecosystem. Whether it’s New Orleans or Hyderabad, there are a dozen accelerants that promote access and quality:
1. Incubation support for new/existing operators with multi-campus potential. including planning support and seed funding (e.g., New School Venture Fund, Charter School Growth Fund, NY Charter School Center). Mumbai-based Dasra incubates social entrepreneurs but with limited access to seed capital.

New Jersey’s 2010 Race to the Top Application; 11 Wisconsin School Districts Don’t Participate

New Jersey Department of Education, 3MB PDF:

In New Jersey, we are proud to be ranked among the top 5 NAEP performers in reading, writing, and mathematics. We are proud to have invested so successfully in admired and effective early childhood programs, high-quality charter schools, and high school redesign. We are proud to see the success of our efforts.
However, while we are making inroads to close the achievement gap, we also recognize that more work is needed to prepare all of our students for the demands of the global economy. The existing minority achievement gaps and the gaps for economically-disadvantaged and non- disadvantaged students are unacceptable. There is an urgent need for these further reforms.
The landmark Abbot decisions over the last three decades in conjunction with the creation of the new school funding formula in 2008 solidified New Jersey’s commitment to equitable school resources and ensuring that all student sin the State have access to needed resources. Although this has been a significant step, we have not yet achieved outcomes commensurate with the State’s investments in education in all districts. Furthermore, we have not yet solved the problems of how to place great teachers and leaders in struggling schools and districts.

Scott Bauer:

Eleven Wisconsin school districts want nothing to do with a highly touted federal grant program that could direct thousands of dollars to their classrooms.
The districts were the only ones out of 425 that refused to take part in the state’s application to receive money under the nearly $4.5 billion Race to the Top grant program.
That means if Wisconsin is awarded the $254 million it seeks, the 11 districts won’t get a cut, and the money they would have gotten will go to the remaining schools.
That’s just fine with Mary Dean, administrator of the Maple Dale-Indian Hills School District just north of Milwaukee. She said the requirements under the state’s Race to the Top application were too onerous for her 500-student district to comply with, so instead of giving itself the option of declining to take part later, it decided not to participate at all.
“We really had too many questions, too many unknowns,” she said. “We thought the costs would outweigh the benefits.”

Considering Wisconsin Teacher Licensing “Flexibility”

Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction:

In classrooms across Wisconsin, students learn mathematics, reading, social studies, art, science, and other subjects through integrated projects that show great promise for increased academic achievement. The catch: the collaboration between students and teachers often involves multiple academic subjects, which can present licensing issues for school districts.
“There is no question that parents and students want innovative programs,” said State Superintendent Tony Evers. “The reality of some of today’s educational approaches requires that we look at our licensing regulations to increase flexibility and expand routes to certification to ensure that these programs are taught by highly qualified teachers.”

Related, by Janet Mertz: “An Email to Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad on Math Teacher Hiring Criteria

Advanced Pressure

New York Times Video:

The filmmaker Vicki Abeles features the stories of students and teachers of Advanced Placement classes and the pressures they face in our achievement-obsessed culture.

Play, Then Eat: Shift May Bring Gains at School

Tara Parker-Pope
Can something as simple as the timing of recess make a difference in a child’s health and behavior?
Some experts think it can, and now some schools are rescheduling recess — sending students out to play before they sit down for lunch. The switch appears to have led to some surprising changes in both cafeteria and classroom.
Schools that have tried it report that when children play before lunch, there is less food waste and higher consumption of milk, fruit and vegetables. And some teachers say there are fewer behavior problems.
“Kids are calmer after they’ve had recess first,” said Janet Sinkewicz, principal of Sharon Elementary School in Robbinsville, N.J., which made the change last fall. “They feel like they have more time to eat and they don’t have to rush.”

Berkeley High may cut lab classes to fund programs for struggling students

Marie L. La Ganga:

Trying to address a major ethnic and racial achievement gap, the school could divert funds from before- and after-school science labs filled mostly with white students. The plan has sparked debate.
Aaron Glimme’s Advanced Placement chemistry students straggle in, sleepy. It is 7:30 a.m. at Berkeley High School. The day doesn’t officially begin for another hour. They pull on safety goggles, measure out t-butyl alcohol and try to determine the molar mass of an unknown substance by measuring how much its freezing point decreases.
In the last school year, 82% of Berkeley’s AP chemistry students passed the rigorous exam, which gives college credit for high school work. The national passing rate is 55.2%. The school’s AP biology and physics students are even more successful.
Most districts would not argue with such a record, but Berkeley High’s science labs are embroiled in a debate over scarce resources with overtones of race, class and politics.
Campus leadership has proposed cutting before- and after-school labs — decreasing science instruction by 20% to 40% — and using that money to fund “equity” programs for struggling students in an effort to close one of the widest racial and ethnic achievement gaps in the state.

Related: English 10.

Freshmen applications to selective area colleges surge

Daniel de Vise:

High school seniors are applying to selective colleges around Washington in record numbers this year, particularly to schools with reputations for meeting the full financial needs of admitted freshmen. The trend suggests that the weak economy has driven applicants to schools that offer a bigger bang for the tuition buck.
A surge in applications is not what admission deans expected this year, after a fiscal downturn and a flattening population of college-age students.
But applications to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore are up 13 percent over last year, with a projected pool of 18,150 students competing for 1,235 seats in the freshman class. The University of Richmond received 8,500 applications for 805 slots, a 9 percent increase. Applications are up 6 percent at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Va., and 3 percent at George Washington University in the District. The University of Virginia fielded 22,396 applications, an all-time high. The College of William and Mary, too, expects a record number of applicants.
“It shouldn’t be happening, should it?” said Bill Hartog, dean of admissions at Washington and Lee. “My take on it is, financial aid, financial aid, financial aid.”

Five areas where colleges could use some schooling

Jay Matthews:

My family has much experience in higher education, not all of it happy. I spent six years as an often struggling undergraduate and grad student. My journalist wife did ten years in higher ed, including three of what she considered hard labor as a visiting professor. Our kids add another 11 years, with the youngest child about to sign up for three more. Please don’t ask me what that will cost.
American colleges and universities are the great strength of our education system. They are revered around the world. But those schools put heavy stress on our families, since getting into, paying for and graduating from the ones we most want often exceeds our capabilities. We need to know more about what they are doing to us, so I am happy to see washingtonpost.com launch two higher education blogs: College Inc. by Daniel de Vise and Campus Overload by Jenna Johnson. Let me celebrate that event by grumbling about what I consider higher education’s five biggest blind spots:
1. College privacy rules are a mess. They are difficult to understand and infuriating when they exacerbate a family crisis. I have heard many stories about students getting into trouble, and their parents being among the last to know. University officials will sometimes take pity on a frantic dad and reveal important things in the kid’s personal file. But why can’t we have more reasonable procedures? Academics who fear intrusive helicopter parents should read the National Survey of Student Engagement report, which reveals that the children of such people do better in college than kids like mine, who didn’t hear much from us.
2. Professors know too little about what high schools are doing to prepare students for their classes.

Values Statement for Seattle Teacher Contract Negotiations

Melissa Westbrook:

As I mentioned previously, for the past couple of months I have been part of a coalition group to form a joint values statement for parents/community groups to give to the School Board, district and SEA. The groups include Campana Quetzel, Seattle Council PTSA, Successful Schools in Action, CPPS, Stand for Children, the Alliance for Education and others. Organized by the League of Education Voters (our leader is Kelly Munn of LEV), we sought to create a streamlined document that is simple and basic.
Here’s a link to that document, “Give Every Child a Great Education: A Community Value Statement in Support of Public Schools”. We will have, at this writing, shown the document to nearly all the Board members, SEA leaders and school district leaders.
Here is a link to the district’s opening remarks about the negotiations.

The Lottery

Erin O’Connor:

Since we’re talking about school choice–and the role of the teachers’ unions not only in preventing needed reform, but in keeping parents from choosing to place their kids in good schools that are good fits for them–check out the trailer above.
The story of teachers’ union intransigence when it comes to the extremely time-sensitive matter of kids’ futures urgently needs to be told. And finally, with films like this one and like The Cartel (which attracted a nasty, tellingly defensive hit piece from the New Jersey Education Association), that story is beginning to be told.

Water Drop at 2000 frames per Second

via a kind reader’s email:

From Discovery Channel’s series ‘Time Warp’ where MIT scientist and teacher Jeff Lieberman and digital-imaging expert Matt Kearney use the latest in high-speed photography to turn never-before-seen wonders into an experience of beauty and learning.
Definition: coalesce – To come together so as to form one whole; unite (from Latin coalescere com- ‘together’ + alescere ‘to grow up’)

Convicted sex pests may still be teaching in Hong Kong

Liz Heron, Elaine Yau and Fox Yi Hu:

More than 30 teachers and classroom assistants have been convicted of sex offences in the past 10 years – but the Education Bureau will not say if they are still working in the city’s schools.
Since January 1, 2000, at least 31 staff have been convicted of offences ranging from indecent assault of their pupils to secretly filming girls getting undressed for a dance class.
The catalogue of convictions and the names of the offenders was compiled by the Sunday Morning Post (SEHK: 0583, announcements, news) and presented to the Education Bureau, which was asked what action had been taken against the offenders.
But the bureau, responsible for registering teachers and advising schools on vetting prospective staff, refused to say how many of the 31 were still registered as teachers and how many were working in schools.
A spokeswoman also refused to explain why it would not release the information to the public. She did say 13 teachers were deregistered from 2006 to 2008 and seven of these had been convicted of sex offences.

A Few Comments on Monday’s State of the Madison School District Presentation

Madison School District Superintendent Dan Nerad will present the “State of the Madison School District 2010” tomorrow night @ 5:30p.m. CST.
The timing and content are interesting, from my perspective because:

  • The nearby Verona School District just approved a Mandarin immersion charter school on a 4-3 vote. (Watch the discussion here). Madison lags in such expanded “adult to student” learning opportunities. Madison seems to be expanding “adult to adult” spending on “coaches” and “professional development”. I’d rather see an emphasis on hiring great teachers and eliminating the administrative overhead associated with growing “adult to adult” expenditures.
  • I read with interest Alec Russell’s recent lunch with FW de Klerk. de Klerk opened the door to South Africa’s governance revolution by freeing Nelson Mandela in 1990:

    History is moving rather fast in South Africa. In June the country hosts football’s World Cup, as if in ultimate endorsement of its post-apartheid progress. Yet on February 2 1990, when the recently inaugurated state President de Klerk stood up to deliver the annual opening address to the white-dominated parliament, such a prospect was unthinkable. The townships were in ferment; many apartheid laws were still on the books; and expectations of the balding, supposedly cautious Afrikaner were low.
    How wrong conventional wisdom was. De Klerk’s address drew a line under 350 years of white rule in Africa, a narrative that began in the 17th century with the arrival of the first settlers in the Cape. Yet only a handful of senior party members knew of his intentions.

    I sense that the Madison School Board and the Community are ready for new, substantive adult to student initiatives, while eliminating those that simply consume cash in the District’s $418,415,780 2009-2010 budget ($17,222 per student).

  • The “State of the District” document [566K PDF] includes only the “instructional” portion of the District’s budget. There are no references to the $418,415,780 total budget number provided in the October 26, 2009 “Budget Amendment and Tax Levy Adoption document [1.1MB PDF]. Given the organization’s mission and the fact that it is a taxpayer supported and governed entity, the document should include a simple “citizen’s budget” financial summary. The budget numbers remind me of current Madison School Board member Ed Hughes’ very useful 2005 quote:

    This points up one of the frustrating aspects of trying to follow school issues in Madison: the recurring feeling that a quoted speaker – and it can be someone from the administration, or MTI, or the occasional school board member – believes that the audience for an assertion is composed entirely of idiots.

    In my view, while some things within our local public schools have become a bit more transparent (open enrollment, fine arts, math, TAG), others, unfortunately, like the budget, have become much less. This is not good.

  • A new financial reality. I don’t see significant new funds for K-12 given the exploding federal deficit, state spending and debt issues and Madison’s property tax climate. Ideally, the District will operate like many organizations, families and individuals and try to most effectively use the resources it has. The recent Reading Recovery report is informative.

I think Dan Nerad sits on a wonderful opportunity. The community is incredibly supportive of our schools, spending far more per student than most school Districts (quite a bit more than his former Green Bay home) and providing a large base of volunteers. Madison enjoys access to an academic powerhouse: the University of Wisconsin and proximity to MATC and Edgewood College. Yet, District has long been quite insular (see Janet Mertz’s never ending efforts to address this issue), taking a “we know best approach” to many topics via close ties to the UW-Madison School of Education and its own curriculum creation business, the Department of Teaching and Learning.
In summary, I’m hoping for a “de Klerk” moment Monday evening. What are the odds?

A Diverse Milwaukee IB High School with Rigor…. Problem or Opportunity?

Alan Borsuk:

Picture a Milwaukee Public Schools high school that college-bound students are clamoring to attend. The school has grown from 100 to 1,000 in six years. Its program is rigorous, its test scores are strong. Hundreds are on a waiting list for admission for next year.

You might think MPS leaders would look at the meteoric rise of Ronald Wilson Reagan College Preparatory School on the far south side and say, "Terrific! This is an opportunity. What can we do to satisfy the obviously huge appetite for what this program has to offer?"

Or, if you were perhaps a bit more cynical, you might think MPS leaders would look at the Reagan situation and say: "OK, who screwed up? Who allowed this school to grow so fast? Can we get a lot of these parents to switch their kids to other high schools where – for some reason – there is no waiting list?"

Reagan arguably has provided the biggest shot in the arm that MPS has gotten in the last decade or so. It provides a rigorous International Baccalaureate program for all its students – "We have one vision, one mission, one focus – IB," says Julia D’Amato, the principal and chief driver behind Reagan’s success. Reagan is working with other MPS schools to develop a kindergarten through high school IB continuum in MPS.

But in recent months, Reagan has had to fend off an attempt to cap its enrollment and it has been ordered to reduce sharply the number of students next fall who do not fall into the special education category. Reagan leaders clearly feel frustrated by how much work is going into protecting their success from MPS leaders.

"All the buzzwords that are supposed to make a successful school, that’s what we have here," says Mary Ellen McCormick-Mervis, one of the school’s administrators. "If we’re doing everything right, why not help us?"

Parent meeting set

Teaching Without Gimmicks

Diana Senechal:

In discussions of “effective” teaching, we often hear about the “objectives” that teachers should spell out and repeat, the “learning styles” they should target, the “engagement” they should guarantee at every moment, and the constant encouragement and praise they should provide–all in the interest of raising test scores. The D.C. public schools IMPACT (the teacher assessment system for D.C. public schools) awards points to teachers who implement such practices; Teach For America addresses some of them in its forthcoming book.
Except for the misguided notion of targeting learning styles, none of these techniques is wrong in itself. But together they raise a barrier. Instead of bringing the subject closer to the students, this heap of tools proclaims: “No entrance! The subject is too hard without spelled-out skills, too boring without adornment, and too frustrating without pep talks and cheers!”
Worse still, such techniques take precedence over the lesson’s content. A literature teacher is evaluated not for her presentation of specific poems, but for stating the objectives, keeping all students “on task,” reminding them about the relation between hard work and success, using visuals and manipulatives, and, ultimately, raising the scores. It matters little, in such a system, whether the poem is excellent or trivial, what kind of insight the teacher brings, or what the students might take into their lives.

Bill Gates Goes to Sundance, Offers an Education

Bob Tourtellotte:

When Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, the richest man in the United States, came to the Sundance Film Festival here this week, it wasn’t movies on his mind, it was education — your kids’ education.
A new documentary, “Waiting For Superman,” by director Davis Guggenheim (“An Inconvenient Truth”) looks at what Gates and Guggenheim say is a U.S. public school system in shambles.
“The quality of our educational system is what made America great. Now it’s not as good as it was, and it needs to be a lot better,” Gates told Reuters after the film’s premiere on Friday.
“Many of these high schools are terrible, and this film, ‘Waiting for Superman’ by Davis Guggenheim, which I have a very minor part in, tells this story in a brilliant way,” he said.

Milwaukee Custer High School: Our Daughters Fighting, Not Learning

The Milwaukee Drum:

The person who posted this video on YouTube said this fight happened 1/5/10… that’s some way to say Happy New Year.
I know some of you readers cannot stand when I post video of US acting the fool… well that’s life. Here’s some reality for US to look at for the next 30 seconds and do something about OUR kids.
It’s one thing to see these young girls fighting so viciously. It’s a damn shame to see ALL the other kids are cheering on this ish. Where’s the teachers and what took the security so long? I know this isn’t going on everyday, but this ish is getting tired.

Goal for federal stimulus money was to help at-risk students and disabled; is goal realistic?

Gayle Worland:

When Gov. Jim Doyle announced last April that $366 million in federal stimulus money was headed for Wisconsin schools, the stated goal from Washington was to help children with disabilities and at-risk students in poor schools — “while stimulating the economy.”
But it’s unclear if the almost $12 million distributed to the Madison School District, with a third of that going to teacher training and coaching, will accomplish those goals.
“I think at the end of this period we will have spent a lot of money and I don’t know what we’ll have to show for it,” said Lucy Mathiak, vice president of the Madison School Board. “Professional development is a really nice thing, but how do you even measure the in-class result?”
About $1 million of the Madison district’s $11.7 million in stimulus money will buy technology for schools, welcomed by school officials. Programs for students with behavioral and mental health needs will be beefed up as well, and the district estimates about 40 new short-term jobs will be created.

Cheating at a Springfield, MA Charter School to Improve Test Scores

James Vaznis:

One staff member at a Springfield charter school told state education investigators he felt so pressured by his principal last spring to improve MCAS scores that, in order to keep his job, he helped one student write an essay for the test.
Another staff member said he was fired after he accused the principal of encouraging cheating, while another staff member observed a colleague pull some students away from watching a movie so they could fix answers on their tests.
The findings, released yesterday by state education officials, offer the first public glimpse into the specific cheating allegations that have been leveled against Robert M. Hughes Academy, which was ordered last winter to improve its scores on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System tests to avoid being closed.
Previously, Mitchell Chester, commissioner of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, had said only that the cheating, described as pervasive and systemic, was orchestrated by the principal and carried out by several adults at the school, which teaches 180 students in kindergarten through grade 8.

More teens are choosing to wait to get driver’s licenses

Donna St. George:

The quest to get a driver’s license at 16 — long an American rite of passage– is on the wane among the digital generation, which no longer sees the family car as the end-all of social life.
The holdouts include Kat Velkoff, who turned 17 in Chantilly without a license. Focused on tough classes, the debate team, dance and color guard, she turned 18 without taking the wheel. Then 19.
“It just wasn’t a priority,” said Velkoff, who got her license last fall at 20. “It was just never the next thing that needed to get done in my life.”
Federal data released Friday underscore a striking national shift: 30.7 percent of 16-year-olds got their licenses in 2008, compared with 44.7 percent in 1988. The downtrend is even sharper in Virginia and Maryland, state figures show. Numbers from the District, which go back to 2003, show a decline in the past two years.

“People over Programs”: Better School District Administration….

Peter Sobol:

The most interesting session I attended concered Kewaskum schools program they call “People over programs“. I have long noted that compared to the private sector, school district management structures are very weak – the Kewaskum program deals with this problem by focusing on high professional standards for their staff. I was encouraged to see an alternative model that acknowledges this issue and attempts to address the problem directly.
Along similar lines I hear a presentation from the Janesville schools – they are working with a management consulting firm (that is donating their services) to develop standards of professionalism and accountability in management. The Superintendents evaluation is published on the district website with progress toward specific measurable goals.
I also attended a session with ideas about using incentives with HRA’s to reduce health insurance costs, and a session about district consolidation – I think that looking at collaborative or consolidated support services with neighboring district might be a way to save money.

Wisconsin School Open Enrollment Period Begins 2/1, Ends 2/19


Parents wishing to send their children to a different school district next year will be able to participate in the open enrollment program the first three weeks of February.
From Feb. 1 through Feb. 19 parents can apply for their children to attend a public school other than the one in which they live. Last school year, more than 28,000 students participated.
Participation in the program has grown each year since it began in 1998 when just 2,500 were enrolled.

Learn more about full and part time Wisconsin open enrollment here.

A “Fight Club” at Madison West High School

Joe Tarr:

Cassie Frankel seems an unlikely martial arts warrior.
The sophomore at West High heard about the Mixed Martial Arts Club from her chemistry teacher and decided to give it a try. The group meets Thursdays at noon, learning and practicing a variety of fighting styles, including boxing, wrestling, judo and jujutsu.
“I like that it’s an individual sport because I’m not that athletic,” Frankel says during a break in practice. “It’s more about how your body works.” She likes boxing best: “I feel really tough with the boxing gloves, even though they’re pink.”
Frankel acknowledges the controversy over teaching kids to fight. But, she says, “I think it’s a good idea because if you know how to fight you’re less likely to get hurt.”

What Makes a Great Teacher–Not Just for the Gifted, but for All Students

Carol Fertig:

The January/February 2010 issue of The Atlantic features a noteworthy article titled, What Makes a Great Teacher? Although the article does not focus on gifted education per se, it is still worth a close read. The article discusses specific attributes that excellent teachers with exceptional track records tend to display in the classroom. (It is important to note that these attributes are based on research that was conducted by the nonprofit organization, Teach for America, which advocates for teacher reform. It is also important to note that the group’s research focuses solely on teachers who work in underperforming school districts where the primary goal in the general education classroom is to get students to perform at or above grade level.) The article outlines several specific recommendations that the organization makes for recruiting and hiring successful teachers, particularly in underserved communities.
For those of us in the gifted education community, the traits identified in the article may be ones that we should perhaps consider first before we consider any additional teacher characteristics that might be specific to gifted education. (See my previous blog entry titled, Training and Competencies of Teachers of the Gifted.)

Elementary gifted ed made easy

Jay Matthews:

Two weeks ago I explored the possibility that high schools could challenge all students, gifted or otherwise, without having gifted programs. Quaker Valley High School outside of Pittsburgh, for instance, seemed able to create new opportunities for a variety of kids by ignoring standard procedures that had outlived their usefulness, such as homework requirements or rules against taking more than one course in the same period.
One wise reader said, in effect: Yeah, but that will never work in elementary schools.
As if by fate, I received an email shortly after from Susan Ohanian, a delightful teacher, speaker, author and blogger whose work I love, even when she is portraying me as a test-addled idiot. We may disagree on policy issues, but we have shared tastes about what good teaching looks and sounds like. In her email, she described how she brought a free-form gifted non-program to an elementary school in Troy, N.Y.
Here is what she said. Don’t forget to take a look at her blog at susanohanian.org.

Three Quick Steps to Clear Writing

Brian Clark:

“Few appreciate brilliance, but everyone appreciates clarity.”
I came up with that line on Twitter, and thought . . .
Why waste it there?
Here’s the quick and clear guide to clarity in writing:
Short words are the rule that makes your exceptional words sing.
Short sentences make powerful points faster.

The Elements of Style


William Strunk, Jr.
Asserting that one must first know the rules to break them, this classic reference book is a must-have for any student and conscientious writer. Intended for use in which the practice of composition is combined with the study of literature, it gives in brief space the principal requirements of plain English style and concentrates attention on the rules of usage and principles of composition most commonly violated.

South Africa’s education system No one gets prizes Blacks suffer most, as schools remain ill-equipped and children are ill-taught

The Economist:

SOUTH AFRICA spends a bigger share of its GDP on education than any other country on the continent. Yet its results are among the worst. Fifteen years after apartheid was buried, black children continue to receive an education that is vastly inferior to most of their white peers. Instead of ending inequality, as the ruling African National Congress (ANC) promised, the country’s schools are perpetuating it.
For Graeme Bloch, an education expert at the Development Bank of Southern Africa, his country’s education system is a “national disaster”. He says around 80% of schools are “dysfunctional”. Half of all pupils drop out before taking their final “matric” exams. Only 15% get good enough marks to get into university. Of those who do get in, barely half end up with a degree. South Africa regularly comes bottom or near the bottom in international literacy, numeracy and science tests.
University heads increasingly complain about students totally unprepared for higher education. Employers bemoan a dearth of skilled manpower, yet–by some measures–one in three South Africans has no job. A study of first-year students by Higher Education South Africa, the universities’ representative body, found only half the 2009 intake to be proficient in “academic literacy” and barely a quarter in “quantitative literacy”, while no more than 7% were deemed to have the necessary mathematics skills.

Interest up in Students Learning Personal Finance

Christine Armario:

Each day after school, 17-year-old Phyllis Quach goes to a warehouse filled with silk flowers, stuffed animals and other gift items her parents sell through their South Florida wholesale business.
The recession hit the family hard and they can no longer afford the building. Quach helps pack the goods for a move to a cheaper location. On weekends, her mother often goes door to door, hoping to find new retail customers.
“I never want to go through what they go through,” Quach said, tears gathering in her eyes.
So Quach is taking a a personal finance course at her Miami high school — getting early lessons on managing credit, balancing a budget and buying a first home. Experts say the recession’s length and severity means it could affect the students’ lifelong financial behavior, as the Great Depression affected their grandparents’ frugal generation.

The State of the Madison School District, 2010

588K PDF, Dan Nerad, Superintendent:

Dear Members of Our Community, The mission of the Madison Metropolitan School District is as follows:

Our mission is to cultivate the potential in every student to thrive as a global citizen by inspiring a love of learning and civic engagement, by challenging and supporting every student to achieve academic excellence, and by embracing the full richness and diversity of our community.

A year ago, a group of community and school staff members committed time to develop a revised Strategic Plan for the school district. As part of this, our mission statement was revised. This plan was approved by the Board of Education in September 2009 and will be reviewed and updated annually. For the foreseeable future, the plan will serve as our road map to know if we are making a difference relative to important student learning outcomes and to the future of our community. To make the most difference, we must continue to partner with you, our community. We are indeed very fortunate to be able to educate our children in a very supportive, caring community.
As a school district, our highest priority must be on our work related to teaching and learning. For our students and the community’s children to become proficient learners and caring and contributing members of society, we must remain steadfast in this commitment.
Related to our mission, we have also identified the following belief statements as a district:

  1. We believe that excellent public education is necessary for ensuring a democratic society.
  2. Webelieveintheabilitiesofeveryindividualinourcommunityandthevalueof their life experiences.
  3. We believe in an inclusive community in which all have the right to contribute.
  4. Webelievewehaveacollectiveresponsibilitytocreateandsustainasafe environment that is respectful, engaging, vibrant and culturally responsive.
  5. Webelievethateveryindividualcanlearnandwillgrowasalearner.
  6. We believe in continuous improvement in formed by critical evaluation and reflection.
  7. We believe that resources are critical to education and we are responsible for their equitable and effective use.
  8. Webelieveinculturallyrelevanteducationthatprovidestheknowledgeandskills to meet the global challenges and opportunities of the 21st Century.

Purpose of this report
The purpose of this State of the District Report is to provide important information about our District to our community and to share future priorities.

This report will be presented at Monday evening’s Madison School Board meeting.

School Finance 2009-10: Budget Cataclysm and its Aftermath


Trying to make sense of the 2009-10 education budget and a year when everything went topsy turvey?
This 20-page report looks at how California got to this point and leads you through the cuts, funding delays, and policy changes that lawmakers implemented in 2009 to address a state budget crisis that just kept getting worse. It also explains the impact on local education agencies, including the changed rules around many K-12 programs such as Class Size Reduction.
Some key messages from the report:

  • California has struggled with creating sound state budgets since the early 2000s, so the national economic downturn hit the state particularly hard.
  • K-12 spending cuts have been a major part of the budget solutions and were accompanied by substantive changes in how education funds are allocated, including some new flexibility.
  • Local school agencies must absorb funding cuts, address cash flow challenges, and plan carefully in order to avoid insolvency.
  • Going forward, Californians may either have to accept the “new normal” of continued education reductions or push for schools to be exempted from further cuts as another bad year begins.

Chicago Mayor Daley on The Schools

Prescott Carlson:

2010_01_10_daley_photo.jpg CBS 2’s Mike Flannery recently received a little one-on-one time with Mayor Daley when he interviewed the mayor while riding along in his town car. The crux of the interview was about the future of Northerly Island and if a casino would be built there, to which Daley replied, “It’s strictly a park, always will be; because it belongs to the people.” He also reiterated comments from his verbal spat with Han Solo last week, saying that he’s “very proud” of his decision to bulldoze Meigs Field to create Northerly Island and that it was all part of the Burnham Plan. When asked if he felt it was one of his major accomplishments, Daley responded, “No. No, I think the schools are.”

Your school’s AP secrets

Jay Matthews:

Ever seen the Advanced Placement Grade Report for your high school? I thought not. Most people don’t know it exists. That is why I have so much pleasure going over the reports. It is like reading the principal’s e-mails, full of intriguing innuendo and secrets that parents and students aren’t supposed to know.
Although these subject-by-subject reports rarely appear on public Web sites, some schools will show them to me if I ask, for the following reasons: 1. I am very polite; 2. no reporter has ever asked for them before, so there are no rules against it; and 3. they don’t think anyone will care.
They are wrong on that last count. The AP Grade Report allows the public to see which AP courses at a school produce the most high grades, and the most low grades, on AP exams. You can gauge the skill of the teachers and the nature of the students who take various AP subjects.
This region’s schools have made AP (and the similar International Baccalaureate, which provides comparable reports) the most challenging and influential courses they have. On Feb. 1, The Post will publish my annual rankings of Washington area schools based on participation in these tests, written and scored by outside experts. Students who do well on them can earn college credit. Many people would be interested in the actual results (different from the participation figures I use in the rankings) if they were readily available. To my surprise, that is beginning to happen.

Foreign Languages Fade in Class — Except Chinese

Sam Dillon:

Thousands of public schools stopped teaching foreign languages in the last decade, according to a government-financed survey — dismal news for a nation that needs more linguists to conduct its global business and diplomacy.
But another contrary trend has educators and policy makers abuzz: a rush by schools in all parts of America to offer instruction in Chinese.
Some schools are paying for Chinese classes on their own, but hundreds are getting some help. The Chinese government is sending teachers from China to schools all over the world — and paying part of their salaries.
At a time of tight budgets, many American schools are finding that offer too good to refuse.
In Massillon, Ohio, south of Cleveland, Jackson High School started its Chinese program in the fall of 2007 with 20 students and now has 80, said Parthena Draggett, who directs Jackson’s world languages department.

National K-12 Foreign Language Survey. Verona recently approved a Mandarin charter school.

High cholesterol puts 1 of 5 teens at risk of heart disease

Rob Stein:

One out of every five U.S. teenagers has a cholesterol level that increases the risk of heart disease, federal health officials reported Thursday, providing striking new evidence that obesity is making more children prone to illnesses once primarily limited to adults.
A nationally representative survey of blood test results in American teenagers found that more than 20 percent of those ages 12 to 19 had at least one abnormal level of fat. The rate jumped to 43 percent among those adolescents who were obese.
Previous studies had indicated that unhealthy cholesterol levels, once a condition thought isolated to the middle-aged and elderly, were increasingly becoming a problem among the young, but the new data document the scope of the threat on a national level.
“This is the future of America,” said Linda Van Horn, a professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University who heads the American Heart Association’s Nutrition Committee. “These data really confirm the seriousness of our obesity epidemic. This really is an urgent call for health-care providers and families to take this issue seriously.”

Credibility of UW-Madison Voucher polling project questioned

Todd Finkelmeyer:

One Wisconsin Now argues:
** UW-Madison is receiving nearly $18,000 from the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute — which One Wisconsin Now calls a “conservative think tank” — for the polling project to cover a part of Goldstein’s salary.
** Poll results showed a 46.6 percent to 42.4 percent statewide opposition to private school vouchers. However, due to political concerns, it appears WPRI President George Lightbourn was able to keep these numbers from being played up. In the end, references to statewide opposition to private school vouchers were not used in a press release touting the poll. Instead, a press release talking about the poll results put out on the UW-Madison website included only figures from Milwaukee County, where the majority supported vouchers.
“This is a lesson about the credibility and the trustworthiness of materials produced by the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute,” Scot Ross, executive director of One Wisconsin Now, says in the press release. “If polling results don’t fit its pro-voucher agenda, then those polling results are erased from the final analysis. Most unfortunately, the UW is now tied directly to this manipulation to serve the political agenda of WPRI.”

One Wisconsin Now does extensive voter data collection and mining for certain candidates.

Madison School Board Spring, 2010 Election Climate: Tommy Boy (oh boy) Farley, what a candidate!

Bill Lueders:

Tom Farley Jr., the brother of the late comedian Chris Farley, is emerging as perhaps the oddest candidate for local public office since Will Sandstrom.
First there was the confusion he caused in announcing on Twitter last September that he was running for lieutenant governor as a Republican. He later backtracked, saying he was merely considering the idea, a claim undercut by the words he’d used: “I’m in.” (His announcement of candidacy has apparently been unTwittered.)
Farley later announced his candidacy for Madison school board; he’s running for an open seat against James Howard, an economist with the Forest Products Laboratory. Commenting on the Advocating on Madison Public Schools (AMPS) blog, Farley sought to distance himself from the notion that he is a Republican merely because he announced his plans to run for office as one.

Tackling the Term Paper

Kristy (Christiane) Henrich, Marblehead High School Class of 2010
“Civil War Medicine” paper published in the Winter 2009 Issue of The Concord Review

Before crafting my research paper on U.S. Civil War Medicine, I had never composed a piece of non-fiction literature beyond six or seven pages. Twenty pages seemed to be an unconquerable length. I remember the dread that filled me as my A.P. United States History teacher, Mrs. Melissa Humphrey, handed out the assignment for the twenty-page research paper. She also passed around copies of The Concord Review as examples of research papers done well. For us, the first deadline was only a few weeks away. We had to have a thesis. It was then that I truly realized the depth of this academic adventure. My job was not to simply report on some topic in U.S. history; I had to prove something. I had to create an arguable thesis and defend it. I was overwhelmed.
I put the assignment in the back of my mind for about a week. Then, I began to think seriously about what I could possibly want to write about. I brainstormed a list of all times in U.S. history that fascinate me, ranging from World War II to the Civil Rights Movement. Finally, I settled on Civil War medicine because of my plans to pursue a career in medicine. I figured this would be a great opportunity to gather more knowledge on my potential future profession.
Simply choosing a topic was not enough, though. I needed a thesis. So I began to search through books and online databases for any information about Civil War medicine. I gathered so much information that my head was spinning. I realized I had to narrow down my topic, and that this would be done by creating a specific, arguable thesis. Sifting through all the data and historical articles, I noticed that Civil War medicine was not as atrocious as I had always believed it to be. I had my thesis. I wanted to defend Civil War medicine by placing it in its own historical context, something many fail to do when evaluating it with a modern eye.
A few weeks later, approved thesis in hand, I stepped into the Tufts University library, the alma mater of my mother. The battle plan: gather enough materials, particularly primary sources, to prove my thesis. The enemy: the massive amounts of possibly valuable literature. I had never previously encountered the problem of finding books so specialized that they didn’t end up being helpful for my thesis nor had I ever been presented with so many options that I had to narrow down from thirty to a mere fifteen books. Actually, I had never left a library before with so many books.
For the next few months, the books populated the floor of my room. Every weekend, I methodically tackled the volumes, plastering them with Post-it notes. The deadline for the detailed outline and annotated bibliography loomed. I continued reading and researching, fascinated by all I was learning. In fact, I was so fascinated that I felt justified using it as my excuse to delay synthesizing all of my information into an outline. With thousands of pages of reading under my belt, I finally tackled the seven-page map for my twenty-page journey. That was easily the hardest part of the entire process. Once the course was charted, all I had to do was follow it. Of course, it was under construction the entire way, and detours were taken, but the course of the trip turned out much like the map.
I thought printing out the twenty-page academic undertaking, binding it, and handing it in was the greatest feeling I had ever experienced from a scholastic endeavor. I remember being overjoyed that day. I remember sleeping so soundly. I remember the day as sunny. I’m not sure if it actually was…
Clearly, I was thinking small. I had no idea what my grade would be. At that point, I did not even care. I had finished the paper. I considered that a tremendous accomplishment. Eventually, the graded research papers were handed back. What had previously been my greatest academic feeling was surpassed. The grade on my paper was a 99%. I was overjoyed and thrilled that I had not only completed such a tremendous task but had completed it pretty darn well. I thought that was the greatest feeling.
I still needed to think bigger. I submitted my paper to The Concord Review on a whim this summer. I remember Mrs. Humphrey showing us the journals and praising their quality. She is a tough teacher, and I thought since she had liked my paper so much I should give The Concord Review a go. I was not counting on being published. I knew my chances were slim, and I knew I was competing with students from around the world.

This November, I received a letter in the mail from Will Fitzhugh, the founder of The Concord Review. My paper was selected to be published in the Winter 2009 issue. That was the greatest feeling. I am a seventeen-year-old public high school student. I am also a seventeen-year-old published author. People work their whole lives to make it to this point. I feel so honored to have this recognition at my age. My hard work paid off far beyond where I thought it would. Thank you, Mr. Fitzhugh, for recognizing the true value of academic achievement and for reminding me why I love to learn.

Evaluating the Legacy of Civil War Medicine; Amputations, Anesthesia, and Administration

Milwaukee’s Michael Bond’s Letter to Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle on Race to the Top & Governance

Michael Bonds, President, Milwaukee Board of School Directors [1.3MB PDF]:

January 18, 2010
Governor Jim Doyle
Office of the Governor
115 East State Capitol
Madison, WI 53702
Dear Governor Doyle:
As President of the Milwaukee Board of School Directors, I am writing to express my disappointment with your cynical statement regarding Wisconsin’s Race to the Top (RTT) application. In your release, you predict that the application will fail because it does not include mayoral control of the Milwaukee Public Schools District (MPS). You also argue that the Legislature’s refusal to adopt your mayoral control proposal in Milwaukee will cost other school districts millions of dollars.
Since mayoral control is not a requirement for Race To the Top dollars, your statement can only be interpreted as a political attempt to tum the rest of the state against MPS and to intimidate legislators who oppose mayoral control into supporting your proposal.
The facts are as follows:

via The Milwaukee Drum.

Who’s Pulling the Milwaukee Public School Takeover Strings?

Lisa Kaiser:

National pro-privatization organizations led by former Milwaukee Journal Sentinel education reporter Joe Williams and backed by Wall Street hedge fund managers are emerging as a driving force behind the mayoral takeover of the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS).
Williams is the executive director of the affiliated groups named Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) and Education Reform Now (ERN), based in New York City. ERN has a nine-month-old chapter in Wisconsin, and DFER has branches in Wisconsin, Colorado, Michigan, Missouri and New Jersey.
The Wisconsin state director of both groups, Katy Venskus, has been lobbying in support of the pro-mayoral takeover Senate Bill 405, authored by state Sen. Lena Taylor and state Rep. Pedro Colon.
Venskus also has organized a group of Milwaukee business leaders–including Julia Taylor of the Greater Milwaukee Committee, Tim Sheehy of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce and Tim Sullivan of Bucyrus International–to push for a mayor-appointed superintendent of MPS with enhanced executive powers.

More screen time for youth than adults on the job

Cecilia Kang:

Youth are spending more time with nearly every form of media than ever, according to a report released Wednesday by the Kaiser Family Foundation. They spend more hours on the computer, in front of television, playing video games, texting and listening to music than an adult spends full-time at work.
The only media young people aren’t soaking up, the study says, are newspapers, magazines and other print publications.
Youth spend more than 7 1/2 hours a day using electronic media, or more than 53 hours a week, the 10-year study says. “And because they spend so much of that time ‘media multitasking’ (using more than one medium at a time), they actually manage to pack a total of 10 hours and 45 minutes worth of media content into those 7½ hours.”
Affirming parents’ fears, the study showed those habits ripple throughout a youth’s life. Those who were big media consumers were more likely than kids and teens who are only seldom in front of a screen to earn average or poor grades in school. Those who use more electronic media get in more trouble, and say they are often sad.

Education Grant Effort Faces Late Opposition

Sam Dillon:

The Obama administration’s main school improvement initiative has spurred education policy changes in states across the nation, but it is meeting with some last-minute resistance as the first deadline for applications arrives Tuesday.
Thousands of school districts in California, Ohio and other states have declined to participate, and teachers’ unions in Michigan, Minnesota and Florida have recommended that their local units not sign on to their states’ applications. Several rural states, including Montana, have said they will not apply, at least for now, partly because of the emphasis on charter schools, which would draw resources from small country schools.
And Gov. Rick Perry of Texas said last week that his state would not compete for the $700 million that the biggest states are eligible to win in the $4 billion program, known as Race to the Top, calling it an intrusion on states’ rights.
Still, about 40 states were rushing to complete applications for the Tuesday deadline, the first in the two-stage competition. The last-minute opposition is unlikely to derail efforts by most of those states to win some of the federal money.

The Next Liberal Cause: Could It Be Education?

Derek Thompson:

President Obama announced plans yesterday to expand the Race to the Top education program, which invites states to apply for slices of a $4 billion pie of additional school funding. Last year Obama launched the program with two major messages: (1) We need to locate effective teachers by studying student data, and (2) we need better standards to keep some states (ahem, Mississippi) from setting their education bar so low that they gut the word “standard” of all meaning.
In future iterations, Race to the Top will allow not only states, but also individual districts, to apply for additional federal funding. This change makes sense for two reasons. The first is wholly practical. Most school funding comes from local property taxes, and accordingly education policies, and their success, can vary dramatically on a district-by-district basis within a state. The second reason this makes sense for the administration is more political. Appealing to individual districts provides a way to circumvent governors like Texas’s Rick Perry who don’t want to accept additional education funds.

How Charter Schools Can Be Successful

*** Keep School on Dedicated Path in Meeting Goals
*** Get Teachers and Students to Know Each Other
*** Move All Students Toward Success
*** Have Strong School Leaders and Governing Boards
*** Support and Train Good Teachers
*** Create Small School for Connectedness and Community
*** Continually Measure Student Progress
*** Work to Create Parental Involvement
*** Get Around the Obstacles
A lot of the success in a school depends on intangibles, says Marcia Spector who heads Seeds of Health in Milwaukee. Energy, drive, a genuine commitment to high goals, working hard, and a street-smart sense of how to work with kids, how to work the bureaucracy, and how to run the school are all important. Yes, it is hard work, but it’s worth it. In fact, it’s actually fun, says Spector.