Verona School Board Approves Mandarin Chinese Charter School: 4 to 3

channel3000, via a kind reader:

A new Mandarin Chinese immersion charter school will open this fall in Verona.
The Verona school board voted 4-3 on Monday night to approve the school, making it the first of its kind in the state.
The school will be called the Verona Area International School. It will have two halftime teachers, one who teaches only in English and the other who teaches only in Mandarin. Math, science and some social-science classes would be taught in the Chinese language. Students will spend half the day learning in English and half in Mandarin Chinese.

Smart and timely. Much more, here.

Former Dem lawmaker, DPI superintendent Grover advocates smaller districts within the Milwaukee Public Schools

Neil Shively:

Grover is not real sanguine with current education policy ideas, such as Mayor Tom Barrett’s bid for a takeover of Milwaukee public schools. Fundamentally, smaller school districts (500 kids) should be the goal, and structural changes will never trump upbringing and parental involvement in their children’s education, he said.
“The difference between the kid headed to a Milwaukee school and one in Whitefish Bay is what they bring to the school house door,” he said. “The aspiration level of the parents is key. They want the best for their kids.”
As for the contest to succeed Jim Doyle as governor in 2010, Grover isn’t sure Barrett can be tough enough but suggests he’d be an improvement.
“Jim Doyle started out life at third base and thought he hit a triple,” Grover said, using an aphorism to denote “an elitist west side (Madison) upbringing.”
“Barrett is absolutely a decent human being. I have the feeling he won’t be as aggressive as he will need to be. He’s almost like Barack (Obama) …’Let us reason together.'”

Smaller districts certainly make sense, including places like Madison.

Two New Governors Pick Reform Oriented Education Chiefs

Wall Street Journal:

Kudos to the country’s two newest governors, Republicans Bob McDonnell of Virginia and Chris Christie of New Jersey, who have tapped strong school choice advocates to head their state education departments.
Last week, Mr. McDonnell chose Gerald Robinson to become Virginia’s next Secretary of Education. Mr. Robinson currently heads the Black Alliance for Educational Options, a national nonprofit that backs charter schools and performance pay for teachers. Meanwhile, Mr. Christie has picked former Jersey City Mayor Bret Schundler to serve as his state’s next education commissioner. Mr. Schundler is an unabashed supporter of using education vouchers and charter schools to improve the plight of urban school districts.
This is good news for all school children in both states, but it’s especially auspicious for low-income kids stuck in failing schools who have the most to gain from a state education official who is unafraid to shake up the establishment. Virginia has a grand total of three charter schools, one of the lowest numbers in the nation. New Jersey spends more money per pupil than all but two states, yet test scores in Newark and Jersey City are among the worst in the country.

Mississippi School Panel Hires Consultant for K-12 Consolidation

Molly Parker:

The advisory committee Gov. Haley Barbour appointed to study K-12 school consolidation voted Monday to hire an outside consulting firm, using $72,000 in private funds from unnamed sources.
Bringing on board a Denver-based firm that specializes in public education systems and policies will allow the committee to have data-driven discussions as opposed to ones mired in emotion and politics, said Johnny Franklin, Barbour’s education policy adviser.
Committee Chairman Aubrey Patterson, the CEO of BancorpSouth Inc., said he did not have permission to release the names of the one individual and two organizations that have agreed to pay the contract with Augenblick, Palaich and Associates Inc.
He described the donors as “interested supporters of public education” and would not say where the donors were from.
Monday’s meeting at the Capitol marked the initial gathering for the Commission on Mississippi Education Structure appointed in late December to study the best way to go about consolidating the state’s 152 districts.

Yale: The musical

Jenna Johnson:

A new Yale admissions video released Friday starts as most campus tours do: an uncomfortable question-and-answer session with an over-caffeinated admissions officer. Some kid asks what year the school was founded. A dowdy mom elbows a nerdy dad.
And then a sultry young woman in a red sundress in the back row asks: “Why did you choose Yale?”
There’s a reflective pause. A reflection piano overture. Reflective looks around the room. And then — bam! — the boring admissions video turns into a musical. The admissions officer serenades the no-longer-bored students: When I was a senior in high school, colleges called out my name. Every day I debate where to matriculate, but every place seemed the same. Yet after I went through the options, only one choice remained. I wanted to hail from a college called Yale . . . .
It feels like an episode of Glee, the popular TV show that overnight made it socially acceptable and even sexy to sing in the high school show chorus. Those involved admit they watched the movie “High School Musical” for inspiration. And since the video was posted on YouTube on Friday evening, it has been viewed nearly 50,000 times.

Will China Achieve Science Supremacy?

Room for Debate:

A recent Times article described how China is stepping up efforts to lure home the top Chinese scholars who live and work abroad. The nation is already second only to the United States in the volume of scientific papers published, and it has, as Thomas Friedman pointed out, more students in technical colleges and universities than any other country.

But China’s drive to succeed in the sciences is also subjecting its research establishment to intense pressure and sharper scrutiny. And as the standoff last week between Google and China demonstrated, the government controls the give and take of information.

How likely is it that China will become the world’s leader in science and technology, and what are the impediments to creating a research climate that would allow scientists to thrive?

Every School a Quality School

Charlie Mas:

There is increasing talk these days about making every school in the district a “quality” school. The New Student Assignment Plan has increased the frequency, volume, and urgency for this bumper sticker talk. But despite those increases, there has not been much increase in action or even understanding of the goal.
Everytime I hear someone spout this talk about “every school a quality school” I stop them immediately and ask them what they mean by that. What is a “quality school”? How will we know one? I pretty much tell them that if they cannot accurately define a quality school then they should just shut the hell up about it. I hate it when people use words without knowing what they mean.
So, for the record, I have my own idea about what is a quality school. It is a school where the students are taught – at a minimum – the core set of knowledge and skills that they should be taught at their grade level and they learn it. It’s a school in which students working beyond grade level are appropriately challenged with more rigor, meaning accelerated lessons, more ambiguous ideas, more complex ideas, a wider range of contexts, or a deeper understanding of the ideas. It’s a school were the students who are working below grade level are given the early and effective interventions they need to get to grade level. In short, students are taught at the frontier of the knowledge and skills and are brought at least to grade level. There are plenty of examples of such schools here in Seattle.


Colorado scrambles for dollars with new school reform plan Read more:

Jessica Fender & Jeremy Meyer:

Colorado education officials will unveil a reform proposal today that asks for $380 million in federal Race to the Top funding, but they are missing a key plank regarding teacher evaluations that will likely give other states a leg up in the contest.
Months of work have led to a nearly 150-page plan that touches on nearly everything, including incentives for top teachers, resources focused on failing schools and sharing data across the state.
But while Colorado’s application vows to address such issues as teacher performance, tenure and dismissal through a commission born today of an executive order from Gov. Bill Ritter, other states with more advanced teacher-tracking systems have put their evaluation plans into law.
Colorado began the competition as a front-runner, but analysts say the lack of guidelines for tenure and dismissal will likely hurt the state’s chances at being among the first chosen for a share of the $4.35 billion program. As many as 45 states nationwide are revamping their K-12 systems to compete for hundreds of millions in stimulus dollars that will be granted in two rounds of competition.
Lt. Gov. Barbara O’Brien has spearheaded Colorado’s Race to the Top effort and said she would rather have the support of teachers and their union than forge ahead with a plan that schools are unhappy with.

Colorado’s P-12 academic standards.

The Opening of the Academic MindHow to rescue the professoriate from professionalization.

Gideon Lewis-Kraus:

The state of higher education in America is one of those things, like the airline industry or publishing, that’s always in crisis. The academy is too distant from the concerns of everyday life, or else it’s too politically engaged. The academy has become completely irrelevant, except for the fact that it’s too relevant. We ought to be grateful to our universities for this. Academic wrongheadedness is one of the few things people across the political and cultural spectrum can agree upon.
One popular way of describing the failure of the contemporary academy is to complain that it no longer produces special things called “public intellectuals,” so it is either a great relief or a rule-proving exception to read a blazingly sane take on the academy’s troubles by one of the few professors who pretty safely deserves the term. Louis Menand’s The Marketplace of Ideas manages to do many things in four short essays–describe the changing self-conception of the university, identify the difficulties behind curricular reform, and analyze the anxieties of humanities professors. But the book’s chief accomplishment is its insistence that what we take for academic crises are probably just academic problems, and they are ours to solve.

New York Fights Over Charter Schools

Jacob Gershman & Barbara Martinez:

New York, home of the nation’s largest school district, is on the verge of rejecting key components of the White House’s education effort amid a state fight over charter schools.
The Democratic-led legislature, with heavy backing from teachers’ unions, is behind a law that critics, including New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, say will curb the growth of charter schools.
Tuesday is the deadline for states to submit initial bids for a slice of the $4.35 billion that is up for grabs under the Obama administration’s “Race to the Top” competition, which is intended to coax policy concessions such as opening charter schools and getting approval of merit-pay systems through stubborn legislatures.
Late Monday, New York Governor David A. Paterson and lawmakers were negotiating a compromise to salvage the state’s application for the first phase of the contest. Although it is seen as unlikely that Albany leaders will strike a compromise by the deadline, it is expected that New York will submit a bid either way.
The maximum amount that New York could win is $700 million and it is unclear if program’s financial lure will be enough to forge a breakthrough.

Rigor vs. Relevance

Tom Vander Ark:

We argue about testing in the US, but the focus on and stakes related to testing is much higher in China and India where the tip of the human funnel is the 12th grade exam; to a large life options hang in the balance. In the US, there are lots of options and second chances; not so in India and China. As a result, the singular secondary focus is marks leading to success on the exit exam.
Yesterday, I visited an expensive private school in Hyderabad. The International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program looked familiar and rich. I dropped in on a primary teacher staff meeting that was informed by student work.
However, it was a different picture in the middle grades where the school abandoned IB for the Cambridge curriculum. Students sat in rows quietly plowing through workbooks while teachers sat at their desk. It was among the most stifling middle grade programs I’ve ever seen.

On Firing Bad Teachers

Los Angeles Times:

Anote of gratitude is due Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge David P. Yaffe for ordering the immediate firing of Matthew Kim after a tortuous seven-year saga. This wasn’t the first time that Yaffe tried to inject common sense into the absurdly difficult and expensive task of ridding classrooms of teachers who don’t belong there. His previous decision to allow the Los Angeles Unified School District to fire Kim, issued in July, was ignored by the panel that has authority over contested teacher dismissals.
The Kim fiasco is a reminder of just how many thousands of dollars and costly lawyers and innumerable court appearances are currently required to fire incompetent or otherwise troublesome teachers. And, adding insult to injury, Kim has been paid his full salary and benefits since 2003 while doing no work for the district.
So we find it a heartening coincidence that on the same day Yaffe ordered Kim’s firing, the president of the American Federation of Teachers called for new procedures making it easier to remove bad teachers. Randi Weingarten, who has been one of the more progressive teachers union leaders, said the AFT would develop a proposal, with the project overseen by Kenneth R. Feinberg, the federal government’s “pay czar” on executive compensation.

Just who made the young so doltish?

The Economist:

WHY are the young so disappointing, when it comes to their manners, dress codes, or knowledge of the canon of Western civilisation? Ask a British or American conservative, and he will blame the left: the 1960s vintage teachers who disdain dead white guys like Shakespeare, the college campuses where Derrida and deconstruction have displaced reading actual literature or the egalitarian ethos of “all shall have prizes”.
Ask someone from the left, for example in Britain, and they will trace the rot back to Thatcherism: the hostility to pure research, the focus on commercially-driven vocational education (all those degree courses in golf course management or marketing, elbowing aside history or Ancient Greek), or the dumbing down of examinations by ministers who knew the price of everything and the value of nothing.
Luc Ferry, a prolific French philosopher and former education minister in the conservative government of Jean-Pierre Raffarin, has a new book out, “Face à la crise: Matériaux pour une politique de civilisation”, offering a distinctly Gallic view of the problem: the fault lies with globalisation.

Pay Rises for Leaders of Colleges, Survey Says

Jacques Steinberg:

Many of the nation’s public universities eliminated courses and raised tuition last year, but the salaries and benefits of their presidents continued to rise, though at a slower rate than in years past, a new study has found.
In its ninth annual examination of the pay of 185 public university leaders, The Chronicle of Higher Education reported Monday that the median rose to $436,111 in 2008-9, an increase of 2.3 percent when compared with the year before. (When adjusted for inflation, The Chronicle said, the median increase was 1.1 percent.)
By contrast, in the previous four years, The Chronicle said, public university leaders’ salaries and benefits rose, on average, by at least 7.5 percent each year, and, in 2005, by 19 percent.
Jeffrey J. Selingo, editor of The Chronicle, said in a statement that while the increases of past years had “riled parents, students and politicians,” it was most likely “the bad economy and the fiscal crisis facing many states” that “finally put a halt to these large pay increases.”

Charter schools are separate & uneqeal; serve fewer disadvantaged students

Michael Mulgrew:

As New York finalizes its application for the federal Race to the Top program, a proposal to end the cap on the number of charter schools has been promoted as key to our success in getting these new federal funds. But promoters of this proposal are ignoring two other critical issues: The small role that charter schools play in the Race to the Top application, and the fact that city charters are not serving a representative sample of our neediest students.
Despite the heated rhetoric from charter proponents, the fact is that the charter cap accounts for only eight of the 500 points New York can earn on its Race to the Top application.
What’s more, Race to the Top guidelines state that charter schools should “serve student populations that are similar to local district student populations, especially relative to high-need students.” But the evidence is clear that New York’s charter schools are actually becoming a separate and unequal branch of public education.

Mulgrew is the president of the United Federation of Teachers.

The Four “R’s” – A Charter School That Works

Bruce Fuller:

“Good audience skills are imperative,” Danielle Johnson reminds her restless 10th-graders as one, Raquel, nervously fiddles with her laptop before holding forth on her project portfolio at City Arts and Technology High School (known as CAT), a charter school of 365 students on a green knoll above the blue-collar southern reaches of Mission Street in San Francisco.
“I decided to use the story of my mom getting to this country as an immigrant,” Raquel says, moving into her personal-memoir segment, sniffing back tears as a blurry photo of her mother at age 18 appears on the screen. “I had never asked my mother about how she got here.”
CAT exemplifies President Obama’s push to seed innovative schools that demand much from all students, echoed by Sacramento’s $700 million reform plan that goes to Washington this week. How to bottle the magic of CAT teachers like Johnson – listening carefully to each teen, strengthening each voice with basic skills and motivating ideals – is the challenge facing would-be reformers.

One size does not fit all kids

Capital Times Editorial:

President Obama and his aides, like their predecessors in the administration of George Bush and Dick Cheney, are attempting to force states to comply with rigid federal standards in order to qualify for so-called “Race to the Top” stimulus funds.
During a visit to Madison last November, President Obama outlined the $4.35 billion program in great detail and Gov. Jim Doyle quickly embraced its agenda. The Doyle administration is going after $254 million in Race to the Top money, and Wisconsin schools, which have suffered sharp cuts in promised state funding, could use it.
But the money comes with strings attached. To qualify for the money, states are pressuring school districts to agree to abide by the new standards. Last Monday, the Madison School Board voted 5-1 to do so.
In fairness, many of the requirements are good ones. But tailoring education policy to fit agendas set in Washington is a bad approach. And it is especially bad when school districts with traditions of excellence start trimming their sails and altering their approaches in order to satisfy the whims of distant bureaucrats.

The Problem with Grants Driving Strategy: In Race for U.S. School Grants Is a Fear of Winning

Crystal Yednak & Katie Fretland:

As Illinois jockeys for position as a leader in education reform with a $500 million application for Race to the Top money, the state’s inability to pay current bills makes educators skeptical of Illinois’s capacity to take on such new initiatives.
One major concern is that should Illinois succeed in the national competition for Race to the Top money, it might not have the ability to finance the long-term costs of any new programs once the federal money has been spent.
A $4.35 billion federal grant competition, Race to the Top, intends to reward states that promote innovations in education. While new money would seem to be a boon for Illinois schools, educators who have seen other programs ramp up only to be shut down are concerned about it happening again.
State Representative. Suzanne Bassi, a Republican from suburban Chicago who sits on the House appropriations committee for education, said she feared what would happen to any new Race to the Top programs in a few years.
The federal funds run out, and we all of sudden can’t do anything about it,” Ms. Bassi said. “Then it falls on individual districts, and the taxpayers foot the bill.

Our Opinion: If only wishing could pay the education bills

Tallahassee Democrat:

Perhaps with business organizations behind it, a significant increase in the state’s investment in education from kindergarten through college could gain some traction in the Florida Legislature.
Certainly without it, there is virtually no likelihood that lawmakers in an election year will find the courage to search for ways — not all of them monetary — to improve public education, and therefore our state’s chances for the future.
An educated population and an accomplished work force are the underpinnings of a state where, as the Florida Council of 100 and Florida Chamber of Commerce expressed in a report last week, the American dream can be successfully carried out. Where better, asked Council of 100 Chair Susan Story “than in the state of Florida?”
Both Gov. Charlie Crist and former Gov. Jeb Bush put their stamp of approval on what was described at its unveiling Thursday as the “education wish list” of these two significant Florida business groups. Last year, the two joined with education leaders to get more money for higher education, even though the Legislature went in the opposite direction, cutting $150 million from our universities. Again this year budget committees are asking universities to be prepared for across-the-board cuts as high as 10 percent, in keeping with a budget shortfall of as much as $3 billion.
The recommendations from these groups, which are coincidentally against most tax or fee increases and lifting sales-tax exemptions, include tougher graduation standards at the pre-K-12 level, virtual elimination of teacher tenure and a constitutional amendment legalizing vouchers.

Closing the Talent Gap: A Business Perspective (January 2010) 3MB PDF.
Updates, via a Steven M. Birnholz email:
Press Release.
Political, Business Leaders: Overhaul Education in Fla.” Lakeland Ledger
Business groups propose major changes to education,” Daytona Beach News Journal.

Special Education Stimulus Spending

Chan Stroman:

Last year’s stimulus legislation (American Recovery and Recovery Act of 2009, a/k/a “ARRA”) provides a one-time boost (to be spent for the 2009-10 and 2010-2011 school years) in federal funding for students with disabilities in elementary and secondary schools under IDEA (the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act), Part B.

According to the State of Wisconsin’s stimulus tracker web site, IDEA Special Education Grants to the states under ARRA totaled $11.3 billion (for context, “regular” IDEA Part B appropriations were $11.51 billion in 2009 and in 2010, according to the New America Foundation’s 2010 Education Appropriations Guide). Wisconsin has received ARRA IDEA Part B funding of $208.2 million, with $6.199 million to the Madison Metropolitan School District.

Walking the Walk on School Reform

New York Times Editorial:

The American Federation of Teachers, the second-largest teachers’ union, has been working hard to distance itself from its competitor, the National Education Association, which tends to resist sensible reforms.
The federation’s president, Randi Weingarten, set the contrast quite effectively with a speech last week in Washington, in which she offered a proposal to reform teacher evaluation. She not only echoed Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s call for evaluation systems that take student achievement into account but also expressed support for “a fair, transparent and expedient process to identify and deal with ineffective teachers.”
The shortcomings of evaluations were laid out last year in an eye-opening study by a New York research group, the New Teacher Project. Where they can be said to exist at all, evaluations are typically short, pro forma and almost universally positive. Poorly trained evaluators visit the classroom once or twice for observations that last for a total of an hour or less. Nearly every teacher passes and the overwhelming majority of teachers receive top ratings. Yet more than half the teachers surveyed said they knew a tenured teacher who deserved to be dismissed for poor performance.

Education initiative is not needed

Fred Lebrun:

Just what we need, more charter schools.
oth Gov. David Paterson and the state Legislature need to be shown the woodshed. The so-called Race to the Top federal education initiative that we’re being rushed into accepting by the governor would lift the cap on the number of charter schools in this state and in the process throw teachers under the bus for the failures of inner-city public education. It’s another chuckleheaded set of directives from Washington. The big Bush push, No Child Left Behind, left a lot of kids behind, and school districts and even states that became disenchanted with education policy that never matched funding for the mandates involved. Race to the Top is headed for the same dust heap, but not before we pay through the nose for it.
And once again New York is panting to go along with the feds because of extra stimulus money available, up $700 million possibly, maybe, if we’re one of the winners of the race. On the other hand and by way of perspective, we spend more than $20 billion a year in this state on public education. So essentially we’re giving up our right to set our own policy, as flawed as it is, for a short-term handout. How New York of us.

Market fixes for California’s schools

Bruce Fuller:

Ronald Reagan must be grinning in his grave.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger sends to the White House this week a colorful pastiche of education fixes, hoping to score $700 million in federal dollars. Sacramento’s plan echoes Washington’s own reform strategy – built on President Obama’s surprising faith in market remedies for the ills facing schools.
Oddly mimicking Reagan’s game plan of a generation ago, Sacramento’s agenda relies on market competition by seeding more charter schools, allowing parents to shutter lousy schools and rewarding teachers who boost student performance.
“This is about parental choice in public education,” said state Sen. Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles, a chief architect of the bipartisan plan.

Five Strikes And You’re Out! Plus, Houston We Have A Problem…

Andy Rotherham:

A lot of back and forth in Rhode Island over Race To The Top. The teachers’ union there is not down with the Obama Administration’s requirements around teacher effectiveness. But they apparently also can’t live with the idea that after three years of an unacceptable evaluation a teacher would lose their license. The standard they want is, seriously, five years of poor evaluations. Given what we know about the effects of under-performing teachers – especially on low-income youngsters — this stance is literally pick jaw up off floor time…

Race to the Top’ – the view from Oakland

Betty Olson-Jones:

We applaud Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums for refusing to join the Race to the Top parade by not signing the letter by Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson (“Dellums ducks out of mayors coalition,” Chip Johnson, Jan. 5).
Dellums should not be whipsawed into the frenzy just to run after more federal and state dollars that will do little to address the major issues of educational equity that we need in Oakland.
I was asked for the Oakland Education Association’s opinion on the proposed letter and concurred with others that it would be a mistake to sign it. The lure of a minuscule amount of money is not justification for further decimating a compromised program in Oakland schools, especially when that money comes with serious strings attached.

Why US high school reform efforts aren’t working

Amanda Paulson:

Since it began in 2004, the Baltimore Talent Development High School has posted some impressive graduation rates and achievement scores, among other things.
Even more notable, efforts by educators at nearby Johns Hopkins University to replicate the school’s gains in dozens of other locations have also met with some success. Slowly, the network of Talent Development High Schools is helping student groups that often seem most at risk.
But good news at the high school level is unusual. Despite vigorous calls for change and a host of major reform efforts, encouraging results have been scarce. National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores – considered the “Nation’s Report Card” – tend to be stagnant for high-schoolers, even when they rise for elementary school students.
Only about half of low-income and minority students in US high schools graduate, and many of those who do are unprepared for college. The isolated examples of success often fail when administrators or education reformers try to reproduce them on a large scale.

Consider community college, three-year plan to cut costs

Janet Bodnar:

For years, Kiplinger’s has been advising parents that one way to keep higher-education costs under control is to have their kids attend community college for a year or two and then switch to a four-year school. This year, they finally listened to us — with a vengeance.
Community colleges are packed to the gills, and students are flocking to state institutions across the board. The average annual sticker price for a four-year public school remains a tad over $15,000 — less than half the tab at a private institution. In our exclusive rankings of the 100 best values in public colleges, nearly 40 percent charge in-state students less than the average price, reports Senior Associate Editor Jane Bennett Clark.
There’s nothing like a financial crisis to get families to focus on how much they’re paying for big-ticket items such as college expenses. Surprisingly, they haven’t always done that. In 2008, a survey of parents and students by Sallie Mae found that when deciding whether to borrow for college, a whopping 70 percent said a student’s potential postgraduate income did not factor into the discussion.

What Randi Really Said and Meant

Diane Ravitch:

Last week, the nation’s press reported something that most teachers found unbelievable: Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, said that teachers should be evaluated by their students’ test scores.
Teachers hate this idea because they know that teachers are not solely responsible for their students’ scores. The students bear some responsibility, as do their families, for whether students do well or poorly on tests. District leaders bear some responsibility, depending on the resources they provide to schools. Teachers also are aware that the tests are not the only measure of what happens in their classrooms and that even the Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has said that we need better tests. There is a fairly sizable body of research demonstrating that test scores are affected by many factors beyond the teachers’ control.
I was surprised too when I read the headlines and the press accounts.

Davenport pulls support for Race to the Top funds

Sheena Dooley:

A requirement to negotiate plans to overhaul Iowa’s lowest-performing schools with teacher unions prompted the Davenport School District to abandon its support of state efforts to nab a portion of $4.3 billion in federal funds, its top leader said today.
Julio Almanza, Davenport superintendent, said the Iowa Department of Education went beyond federal rules in its application for up to $175 million of federal Race to the Top dollars by requiring districts with state-identified low-performing schools to agree with teacher unions on plans to overhaul them.
Currently, school boards and administrators have the sole authority to make those decisions.
“What you are going to have is unions determining intervention models for schools,” Almanza said. “If you can’t reach an agreement (with the union), the district loses money for the school. There are no penalties for anyone else, and the kids lose.”
The Iowa Department of Education also excluded parents, students and the community from the decision-making process, which goes against the intent of U.S. Department of Education, Almanza said.

Vice-principal calls the bomb squad over an 11-year-old’s science project, recommends counselling for the student

Cory Doctorow:

A San Diego school vice-principal saw an 11-year-old’s home science project (a motion detector made out of an empty Gatorade bottle and some electronics), decided it was a bomb, wet himself, put the school on lockdown, had the bomb-squad come out to destroy X-ray the student’s invention and search his parents’ home, and then magnanimously decided not to discipline the kid (though he did recommend that the child and his parents get counselling to help them overcome their anti-social science behavior).
When police and the Metro Arson Strike Team responded, they also found electrical components in the student’s backpack, Luque said. After talking to the student, it was decided about 1 p.m. to evacuate the school as a precaution while the item was examined. Students were escorted to a nearby playing field, and parents were called and told they could come pick up their children.

A Gangland Bus Tour, With Lunch and a Waiver

Randal Archibold:

The tour organizer received assurances, he says, from four gangs that they would not harass the bus when it passed through their turf. Paying customers must sign releases warning of potential danger. And after careful consideration, it was decided not to have residents shoot water guns at the bus and sell “I Got Shot in South Central” T-shirts.
Borrowing a bit from the Hollywood star tours, the grit of the streets and a dash of hype, LA Gang Tours is making its debut on Saturday, a 12-stop, two-hour journey through what its organizer calls “the history and origin of high-profile gang areas and the top crime-scene locations” of South Los Angeles. By Friday afternoon, the 56-seat coach was nearly sold out.
On the right, Los Angeles’s biggest jail, “the unofficial home to 20,000 gang members in L.A.,” as the tour Web site puts it. Over there, the police station that in 1965 served as the National Guard’s command post in the Watts riots. Visit the large swath of concrete riverbed taken over by graffiti taggers, and later, drop in at a graffiti workshop where, for the right price, a souvenir T-shirt or painting can be yours.

Finalists for Milwaukee Superintendent outline priorities, qualifications

Erin Richards:

Members of the public got their first chance Thursday to listen to and ask questions of the man likely to become the next superintendent of Milwaukee Public Schools, during back-to-back interviews Thursday at the district office.
The contenders – Robert Alfaro, Stacy Scott and Gregory Thornton – all hail from outside Milwaukee, all have served in a variety of administrative posts in large and smaller districts, and all say that MPS can significantly improve its quality of instruction.
No candidate revealed specific knowledge about Milwaukee’s issues, or specific thoughts on how to solve its challenges, and most of the discussion steered toward generalities: supporting good teachers, making room for the arts, encouraging communication with parents.
A community stakeholder group that included Mayor Tom Barrett interviewed the candidates in closed session Thursday afternoon, and the full School Board was scheduled to interview the candidates again in closed session Thursday night.
Before the end of the month, the School Board will take a final vote so that the new superintendent can be named by Feb. 1, Board President Michael Bonds said.

2010 Madison School Board Election Notes and Links

A number of folks have asked why, like 2009, there are two uncontested seats in this spring’s Madison School Board election. Incumbents Maya Cole and Beth Moss are running unopposed while the open seat, vacated by the retiring Johnny Winston, Jr. is now contested: Tom Farley (TJ Mertz and Robert Godfrey have posted on Farley’s travails, along with Isthmus) after some nomination signature issues and an internal fracas over the School District lawyer’s role in the race, faces James Howard [website].
I think we’ve seen a drop on the ongoing, very small amount of school board activism because:

Finally, with respect to the Howard / Farley contest, I look forward to the race. I had the opportunity to get to know James Howard during the District’s 2009 strategic planning meetings. I support his candidacy.

Writing English as a Second Language

William Zinsser:

Five years ago one of your deans at the journalism school, Elizabeth Fishman, asked me if I would be interested in tutoring international students who might need some extra help with their writing. She knew I had done a lot of traveling in Asia and Africa and other parts of the world where many of you come from.
I knew I would enjoy that, and I have–I’ve been doing it ever since. I’m the doctor that students get sent to see if they have a writing problem that their professor thinks I can fix. As a bonus, I’ve made many friends–from Uganda, Uzbekhistan, India, Ethiopia, Thailand, Iraq, Nigeria, Poland, China, Colombia and many other countries. Several young Asian women, when they went back home, sent me invitations to their weddings. I never made it to Bhutan or Korea, but I did see the wedding pictures. Such beautiful brides!

Best Value Colleges 2010

USA Today:

The Princeton Review’s 100 “Best Value Colleges” list for 2010 is based on data compiled and analyzed by The Princeton Review, the education services and test-prep company known for its annual college listings.
The analysis uses the most recently reported data from each institution for its 2009-10 academic year. The top 10 public and private “Best Values” are ranked; the rest are listed alphabetically.
FULL STORY: Can getting a degree be affordable?
The Princeton Review selected the schools based on surveys of administrators and students at more than 650 public and private college and university campuses.

US Education Chief Criticizes NBA and the NCAA

Katie Thomas:

Education Secretary Arne Duncan entered some of the most contentious debates in college sports on Thursday when, in a speech at the N.C.A.A. convention, he called for stricter consequences for college teams that do not graduate their athletes and said the N.B.A.’s age-minimum policy sets up young athletes for failure.
“Why do we allow the N.C.A.A, why do we allow universities, why do we allow sports to be tainted when the vast majority of coaches and athletic directors are striving to instill the right values?” said Duncan, who was a co-captain of his Harvard basketball team and played in an Australian professional league from 1987 until 1991.
He said his time as a college athlete was one of the most valuable periods of his life, but feared the N.B.A.’s age rule, which requires that a player be at least 19 years old and at least one year removed from high school before entering the league, does a disservice to athletes.

College- and Career-Ready Using Outcomes Data to Hold High Schools Accountable for Student Success

Chad Aldeman:

According to the Florida Department of Education, Manatee High School was not a place parents should have wanted to send their children in 2006. The Bradenton-based school received a “D” rating on the state’s A-F scale of academic performance that year while failing to meet federal No Child Left Behind proficiency standards for the fourth year in a row. At the same time, Boca Raton Community High School was flying high, having just earned its second straight “A” rating and being named among the best high schools in the country by Newsweek magazine.
But while Manatee got dismal marks from state and federal accountability schemes, it was actually quite successful in a number of important ways. It graduated a higher percentage of its students than Boca Raton and sent almost the same percentage of its graduates off to college. Once they arrived on college campuses, Manatee graduates earned higher grades and fewer of them failed remedial, not-for-credit math and English courses than their Boca Raton peers.
In other words, D-rated Manatee was arguably doing a better job at achieving the ultimate goal of high school: preparing students to succeed in college and careers. But because Florida’s accountability systems didn’t measure college and career success in 2006, nobody knew.

Top public universities faulted on financial aid

Jenna Johnson:

Many of the nation’s top public universities are giving millions of dollars in financial aid to students from relatively wealthy families instead of to those who urgently need it, resulting in campuses that are often less diverse than those at elite private schools, a new report says.
From 2003 to 2007, public research universities increased the amount of aid to students whose parents make at least $115,000 a year by 28 percent, to $361.4 million, said the Education Trust, a nonprofit advocacy group.
Those schools routinely award as much in financial aid to students whose parents make more than $80,000 a year as to those whose parents make less than $54,000 a year, according to the report, “Opportunity Adrift.”

Verona, WI School Board Considers Chinese Immersion Charter School

Smart and timely. The Verona School Board will vote on the proposed Chinese immersion charter school Monday evening, 1/18/2010 – via a kind reader.

Wisconsin Assessment Recommendations (To Replace the WKCE)

Wisconsin School Administrators Alliance, via a kind reader’s email [View the 146K PDF]

On August 27, 2009, State Superintendent Tony Evers stated that the State of Wisconsin would eliminate the current WKCE to move to a Balanced System of Assessment. In his statement, the State Superintendent said the following:

New assessments at the elementary and middle school level will likely be computer- based with multiple opportunities to benchmark student progress during the school year. This type of assessment tool allows for immediate and detailed information about student understanding and facilitates the teachers’ ability to re-teach or accelerate classroom instruction. At the high school level, the WKCE will be replaced by assessments that provide more information on college and workforce readiness.

By March 2010, the US Department of Education intends to announce a $350 million grant competition that would support one or more applications from a consortia of states working to develop high quality state assessments. The WI DPI is currently in conversation with other states regarding forming consortia to apply for this federal funding.
In September, 2009, the School Administrators Alliance formed a Project Team to make recommendations regarding the future of state assessment in Wisconsin. The Project Team has met and outlined recommendations what school and district administrators believe can transform Wisconsin’s state assessment system into a powerful tool to support student learning.
Criteria Underlying the Recommendations:

  • Wisconsin’s new assessment system must be one that has the following characteristics:
  • Benchmarked to skills and knowledge for college and career readiness • Measures student achievement and growth of all students
  • Relevant to students, parents, teachers and external stakeholders
  • Provides timely feedback that adds value to the learning process • Efficient to administer
  • Aligned with and supportive of each school district’s teaching and learning
  • Advances the State’s vision of a balanced assessment system

Wisconsin’s Assessment test: The WKCE has been oft criticized for its lack of rigor.
The WKCE serves as the foundation for the Madison School District’s “Value Added Assessment” initiative, via the UW-Madison School of Education.

Exit Interviews

Will Fitzhugh
The Concord Review
14 January 2010
In the early 1960s, I was fortunate enough to work for a while at the Space and Information Systems Division of North American Aviation in Downey, California, which was building the command modules for the Apollo Program. I was quite impressed by the fact that, although I was basically a glorified clerk, when I left the company to work for Pan American World Airways, they invited me in for an exit interview.
The interviewer asked me about the details of my job–what I liked and didn’t like about it. He asked me if the pay and benefits were satisfactory, and whether my immediate boss had done a good job in supervising me or not (he was an Annapolis graduate and had done a first-rate job). The general goal of the interview seemed to be to find out why I was leaving and if there was anything they could do to keep an employee like me in the future. This took place in the middle of a very high-pressure and a multi-billion dollar effort to get to the moon before the end of the decade. North American Aviation also had the contract for the Saturn 5 rocket at their Rocketdyne division. But they made the time to talk to me when I left.
Tony Wagner of Harvard, in his book, The Global Achievement Gap (2008), reports on a focus group he held for recent graduates “of one of the most highly-regarded public high schools,” to ask them about their recollections of their experience of the school. This was a kind of exit interview two or three years later. When he asked them what they wished they had received, but didn’t, in school, they said:

“More time on writing!” came an immediate reply. I asked how many agreed with this, and all twelve hands shot up into the air. And this was a high school nationally known for its excellent writing program! “Research skills,” another student offered and went on to explain: “In high school, I mostly did ‘cut and paste’ for my research projects. When I got to college, I had no idea how to formulate a good research question and then really go through a lot of material.”

This was of particular interest to me, because of my conviction that the majority of U.S. public high school students now graduate without ever having read a complete nonfiction book or written a serious research paper. When I asked Mr. Wagner if he knew of other high schools which conducted focus groups or interviews with recent graduates, he said he only knew of three.
I would suggest that this is a practice which could be of great benefit to all our public high schools. Without too much extra time and effort, they could both interview each Senior, after she/he had finished all their exams, and ask what they thought of their academic experience, their teachers, and so forth. In addition, schools could hold at least one focus group each year with perhaps a dozen recent graduates who could compare their college demands with the preparation they had received in their high schools.
Lack of curiosity inevitably leads to lack of knowledge, and it is to be lamented that our high schools seem, in practice, not to wonder what their graduates actually think of the education they have provided, and to what extent and in what ways their high school academic work prepared or did not prepare them for their work in college. Mr. Wagner points out that:

Forty percent of all students who enter college must take remedial courses…and perhaps one of every two students who start college never complete any kind of postsecondary degree.

The Great Schools Project, in its report Diploma to Nowhere in the Summer of 2008, said that more than one million of our high school graduates are in remedial classes each year when they get to college, and the California State Colleges reported in November of 2009 that 47% of their freshmen are now in remedial English classes.
As national concern slowly grows beyond high school dropouts to include college “flameouts” as well, it might be time to consider the benefits of the ample knowledge available from students if they are allowed to participate in exit interviews and focus groups at the high school which was responsible for getting them ready to succeed academically in college and at work.
“Teach by Example”
Will Fitzhugh [founder]
Consortium for Varsity Academics® [2007]
The Concord Review [1987]
Ralph Waldo Emerson Prizes [1995]
National Writing Board [1998]
TCR Institute [2002]
730 Boston Post Road, Suite 24
Sudbury, Massachusetts 01776-3371 USA
978-443-0022; 800-331-5007;
Varsity Academics®

Head Start Study Finds Brief Learning Gains: No Lasting Benefit for Children….

Mary Ann Zehr, via a kind reader’s email:

Participation in Head Start has positive effects on children’s learning while they are in the program, but most of the advantage they gain disappears by the end of 1st grade, a federal impact study of Head Start programs says.
A large-scale randomized control study of nearly 5,000 children released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services this week shows that a group of children who entered Head Start at age 4 benefited from a year in the program, particularly in learning language and literacy. Benefits included learning vocabulary, letter-word recognition, spelling, color identification, and letter naming, compared with children of the same age in a control group who didn’t attend Head Start.
Benefits for children who entered Head Start at age 3 were even stronger. By the end of Head Start, the group that had entered at age 3 showed gains in most of the language and learning areas that the 4-year-old group had, but also showed benefits in learning math, pre-writing skills, and perceptual motor skills.

Lindsey Burke:

After some prodding, yesterday the Obama administration released the long-overdue first grade evaluation of the federal Head Start program. As expected, the results show that the $7 billion per year program provides little benefit to children – and great expense to taxpayers.

The evaluation, which was mandated by Congress during the 1998 reauthorization of the program, found little impact on student well-being. After collecting data on more than 5,000 three and four-year-old children randomly assigned to either a Head Start or a non Head Start control group, the Department of Health and Human Services found “few sustained benefits”. From the report:

Andrew Coulson:

A day after it was released, here’s a roundup of how the mainstream media are covering the HHS study showing that America’s $100 billion plus investment in Head Start is a failure:


Nada. Zilch. Rien du tout, mes amis.

That’s based on a Google News search for [“Head Start” study]. The only media organs to touch on this topic so far have been blogs: Jay Greene’s, The Heritage Foundation’s, the Independent Women’s Forum, and the one you’re reading right now.

Okay. There was one exception. According to Google News, one non-blog — with a print version no less — covered this story so far. The NY Times? The Washington Post? Nope: The World, a Christian news magazine. And they actually did their homework, linking to this recent and highly relevant review of the research on pre-K program impacts.

Related: 4K and the Madison School District.

Wisconsin schools get above-average grade for Quality, Ranks near the Bottom for Standards & Accountability

Amy Hetzner:

Wisconsin received an above-average grade for overall educational quality, although it ranked toward the bottom of the nation in efforts to improve schools by establishing grade-level academic standards and holding schools accountable, according to a report released Thursday.
The annual “Quality Counts” report, by national trade publication Education Week, gave the Badger state a C-plus for the overall status of its schools and improvement efforts. That was slightly higher than the grade given to the nation – a C – and ranked the state 16th among all the states and the District of Columbia.
Wisconsin fared best in the annual report for its school finance system and in a category the publication calls “chance for success,” which measures factors from employment rates to kindergarten enrollment in states. The state was ranked ninth and 11th, respectively, in those areas, drawing B grades in each.
The state’s lowest ranking came in the area of standards, assessments and accountability, with a C grade placing it 42nd in a category where 20 other states received grades of A or A-minus.

Hundreds of students can’t return to Beverly Hills schools

Carla Rivera:

Hundreds of students attending Beverly Hills schools will have to find new campuses in the fall after a unanimous school board vote late Tuesday ended special permits for many children who live outside the city.
Following more than four hours of debate that lasted until almost midnight, the board agreed to allow all current high school students to continue applying for permits each year, an action that won applause from a packed, emotional but civil crowd at Beverly Hills High.
Seventh graders will be allowed to graduate from middle school next year. But students in elementary school and eighth grade will not be allowed to return to district schools for the 2010-2011 academic year unless their families move into the city.

Texas debates the way history will be taught

April Castro:

Students, parents and lawmakers lobbied Wednesday for more diversity in Texas’ social studies curriculum, before the state board of education adopts new classroom standards that will determine how history is taught for the next decade.
In more than six hours of public testimony, dozens of people took their chance to help shape the way millions of Texas school children learn topics from the Roman Empire to the entrepreneurial success of billionaire Bill Gates.
The public hearing sets up a tentative vote Thursday on the new standards. But, as usual in votes before the conservative-led board, the wide-reaching guidelines are full of potential ideological flashpoints.

L.A. schools paid $200 million more in salaries than budgeted

Howard Blume:

The Los Angeles school district paid $200 million more in salaries than it budgeted last year even as it laid off 2,000 teachers and hundreds of other employees, according to an internal audit.
Auditors so far have unearthed no wrongdoing, but officials are puzzled, concerned and perhaps even a little embarrassed.
“We’ve been in the process of cleaning it up,” said L.A. schools Supt. Ramon C. Cortines, who said his staff is verifying the size of the discrepancy and will, over time, determine how much relates to incomplete accounting and how much to something more serious.
The issue emerged in an audit, completed in December, on the arcane subject of “position control.”

Chicago’s Real Crime Story: Why decades of community organizing haven’t stemmed the city’s youth violence

Heather MacDonald:

Barack Obama has exploited his youthful stint as a Chicago community organizer at every stage of his political career. As someone who had worked for grassroots “change,” he said, he was a different kind of politician, one who could translate people’s hopes into reality. The media lapped up this conceit, presenting Obama’s organizing experience as a meaningful qualification for the Oval Office.
This past September, a cell-phone video of Chicago students beating a fellow teen to death coursed over the airwaves and across the Internet. None of the news outlets that had admiringly reported on Obama’s community-organizing efforts mentioned that the beating involved students from the very South Side neighborhoods where the president had once worked. Obama’s connection to the area was suddenly lost in the mists of time.
Yet a critical blindness links Obama’s activities on the South Side during the 1980s and the murder of Derrion Albert in 2009. Throughout his four years working for “change” in Chicago’s Roseland and Altgeld Gardens neighborhoods, Obama ignored the primary cause of their escalating dysfunction: the disappearance of the black two-parent family. Obama wasn’t the only activist to turn away from the problem of absent fathers, of course; decades of failed social policy, both before and after his time in Chicago, were just as blind. And that myopia continues today, guaranteeing that the current response to Chicago’s youth violence will prove as useless as Obama’s activities were 25 years ago.

Madison Charter “School pitch looks promising”

Wisconsin State Journal Editorial, via a kind reader’s email:

Bold plans for a new kind of middle school in Madison deserve encouragement and strong consideration.
The proposed Badger Rock Middle School on the South Side would run year-round with green-themed lessons in hands-on gardens and orchards.
The unusual school would still teach core subjects such as English and math. But about 120 students would learn amid a working farm, local business and neighborhood sustainability center.
Money is tight in this difficult economy. And the Madison School Board just committed to launching an expensive 4-year-old kindergarten program in 2011.
But organizers say Badger Rock wouldn’t cost the district additional dollars because private donors will pay for the school facility.

Roma children segregated in Czech schools

Jan Cienski:

The Czech Republic is continuing to segregate Roma children into sub-standard schools for the mentally disabled, charged a report released on Wednesday by Amnesty International.
The 80-page report prepared by the London-based human rights group found that discrimination in the school system persists despite a 2007 ruling by the European Court of Human Rights, which found that the Czech Republic was sending gypsy children to special remedial schools.
“What is needed is a very strong approach to discrimination,” said Fotis Filippou, the report’s author, adding that Amnesty was calling for a freeze in placements to schools for mental disabilities for the current school year while the system is reviewed.
According to the report, which studied four schools in the area around Ostrava, in the east of the country, Roma children are often sent to special schools, or sent to mainstream schools where they form the overwhelming bulk of the population, and the standards of education tend to be much lower than for Czech children. Many parents, often with little education themselves, are not equipped to keep their children in the mainstream system.

The zeitgeist of reading instruction

Daniel Willingham:

By Daniel Willingham
I have written (on this blog and elsewhere) about the importance of background knowledge and about the limited value of instructing students in reading comprehension strategies.

To be clear, I don’t think that such instruction is worthless. It has a significant impact, but it seems to be a one-time effect and the strategies are quickly learned. More practice of these strategies pays little or no return. You can read more about that here.

Knowledge of the topic you’re reading about, in contrast, has an enormous impact and more important, there is no ceiling–the more knowledge you gain, the more your reading improves.

In a recent email conversation an experienced educator asked me why, if that’s true, there has been such emphasis on reading strategies and skills in teacher’s professional development.

The Royal Society Turns 350

The Economist:

THE streets surrounding St James’s Palace in London are dotted with gentlemen’s clubs, many of which now also admit women. This year, one such establishment is marking its 350th anniversary. The club in question is not merely a meeting place for like-minded members, however: it is the society that founded modern science.
The first fellows of the Royal Society, as it is now known, were followers of Sir Francis Bacon, a 17th-century statesman and philosopher who argued that knowledge could be gained by testing ideas through experiments. On a damp and murky night in November 1660, a dozen of them met to hear a lecture by a 28-year-old astronomer called Christopher Wren, who would later become the architect who designed St Paul’s Cathedral. Inspired, they determined to meet every week to discuss scientific matters and to witness experiments conducted by different members of the group. In so doing, they invented the processes on which modern science rests, including scientific publishing and peer review, and made English the primary language of scientific discourse.

Race to the Top — Buyers Beware

Chris Prevatt:

Every American leader, from Barack Obama to Arnold Schwarzenegger, would agree that if there’s one lifelong lesson to be learned from the implosion of the housing market, it is that before you sign on the dotted line, you’d better know what you’re getting yourself into. You’d better ask clarifying questions. You’d better read the fine print. And you’d better make absolutely sure that there are no hidden clauses or trap doors that take you and those dependent on you to the dog house.
While our local districts are comprised of well intentioned, highly educated and reflective leaders who are doing their best to find resources to fill the budget shortfall, we are perplexed that some districts agreed to submit a “Memorandum Of Understanding” with the Governor’s Office to participate in California’s application for the federal Race to the Top (RTTT) competitive grant program. Many of our local teachers’ associations hope that since more than half (60%) of school systems in California did not sign on to the State’s MOU, that there is change in the RTTT program language so that district leaders, teachers, parents and stakeholders can work together with their local districts to come up with solutions that are based in research-supported strategies for all.
Earlier this month the governor signed California’s RTTT legislation that includes: promoting national education standards, using test scores to evaluate and compensate teachers and principals, lifting a cap on charter schools, and allowing parents to transfer their children out of the state’s lowest performing schools — while providing no provision for transportation costs — leaving this last piece a true hollow victory for parents.

Texas Governor Perry refuses federal education money: What’s this mean for Frisco?

Jessica Meyers:

Gov. Rick Perry has refused to compete for up to $700 million in federal education money.
He announced today that the state will not try to snag any of the competitive “Race to the Top” funds that many other states have been going after for months.
“Texas is on the right path toward improved education, and we would be foolish and irresponsible to place our children’s future in the hands of unelected bureaucrats and special interest groups thousands of miles away in Washington, virtually eliminating parents’ participation in their children’s education,” Gov. Perry said in a prepared statement.
The Perry camp argues that the grant isn’t enough to implement the kind of reform needed for almost 5 million schoolchildren in the state.

School consolidation, taxes, teacher salaries and district savings are on the minds of readers looking to solve financial issues

Dave Murray:

The state Board of Education today heard from a bipartisan panel of experts as they prepare a series of recommendations to rectify the state’s school funding issues.
I asked Head of the Class readers for suggestions to help solve Michigan’s school funding issues, and folks earned straight A’s.
I’ll round up these suggestions and send them off to my friends at the state Education Department. Meanwhile, I’ll share some of the best here. Not saying I agree with everything readers submitted, but some thoughtful — and thought-provoking — responses.
This came from Lord Nelson:
“The state and schools must get on the same fiscal year calendar. This has been a major problem for years.

Have charter schools become tool for privatizing education?

Maureen Downey:

Morning folks, I am running this op-ed on the Monday education page that I assemble each week for the AJC. Written by UGA professor William G. Wraga, it raises some interesting questions about whether the charter school movement has been co-opted by privatization proponents.
By William G. Wraga

The original intent of charter schools, to increase the professional autonomy of teachers so they could explore innovative ways to educate children and youth, has given way to other agendas that have grafted onto the movement.
Increasingly, charter school policies have been influenced by market ideology that treats the movement as a vehicle for privatizing public schools.

All-Day or Half-Day Kindergarten?

Debra Viadero:

In my Fairfax County neighborhood, there are two elementary schools within half a mile of each other. The school that my children attended has an all-day kindergarten; the other one offers kindergarten half a day. The school with the half-day program, however, has other benefits, though, such as smaller class sizes in the early grade.
So, I’ve often wondered, which students were better off in the long run: the full-day program graduates or the half-day students who got more individual attention from their teachers?
Research, as it turns out, doesn’t offer much guidance on that question. Some studies show that full-day kindergarten programs, used in most school districts to give disadvantaged students a leg up on their better-off peers, do just what they’re intended to do.
Even though the poorer full-day students started out school trailing behind the more advantaged peers in half-day programs, academically speaking, they finished out the year a month ahead. Other studies, however, suggest, disappointingly, that the disadvantaged students lose their edge later on in elementary school.

4K Update: New Questions and Some Answers

At our January 11 monthly board meeting, we made two decisions about how we would proceed on implementing 4-year-old kindergarten. The media of that meeting are available on the School Information System blog, so I won’t repeat them here.
Implement 4K in Fall 2011
The board voted to defer implementation of 4K until fall 2011 due to concerns about whether the district or many of the community providers could be ready to go in less than 7 months (assuming time for registration and orientation in August.
I voted to defer until 2011 for several reasons. I support 4K. I would have liked to be able to implement in Fall 2010. However, I also had to listen when people who had pushed hard to start in 2010 — especially those from the early childhood education community — asked us to wait a year so that there is adequate time to do all of the steps that are necessary to “get it right.”
More on the decision to defer until 2011 and on new questions on 4K financing at

State of the Madison School District Presentation by Superintendent Dan Nerad 1/25/2010

via a kind reader’s email:

A State of the District presentation will be made by Superintendent
Daniel Nerad to the community at a Board of Education meeting on Monday, January 25 at 5:30 p.m. in the library of Wright Middle School, 1717 Fish Hatchery Rd. The presentation will be the meeting’s sole agenda item.
All community members are welcome to attend.
The presentation will provide an overview of important information and data regarding the Madison School District – including student achievement – and future areas of focus.
The visually-supported talk will be followed by a short period for questions from those in attendance.
The speech and Q&A period will be televised live on MMSD-TV Cable Channels 96/993 and streaming live on the web at It will
also be available for replay the following day at the same web site.
For more information, contact:
Ken Syke, 663-1903 or , or
Joe Quick, 663-1902 or
Ken Syke
Public Information
Madison School District
voice 608 663 1903; cell 608 575 6682; fax 608 204 0342

The Weingarten Speech

Andrew Rotherham:

Today at the National Press Club AFT President Randi Weingarten is calling for reforms to due process for teachers. You can’t do much better than Sawchuk’s take on it here, but Washington Post and Jay Mathews, USAT, and Bob Herbert also write on it this morning. And although the text isn’t online yet here’s Weingarten herself over at the Huffpo. Update: Text on the AFT site now (pdf).

First the good: This is an important acknowledgement from Weingarten and one with some big implications. She deserves credit for that. For a long time the union line on all this has been that it’s not hard to rid the field of low-performers, the problem is lousy administrators and a blame the teachers mindset. This isn’t all wrong by the way, administrators are not just chompin’ at the bit to rid schools of under-performing teachers. The problems are systemic ones. But by laying this on the table Weingarten is opening the door on that conversation more than a crack and pulling the rug out from under a lot of folks. That’s important. By calling the process “glacial” the genie is out of the bottle, perhaps more than Weingarten herself may realize.

In addition, bringing in Kenneth Feinberg is important. He demonstrated an ability for reasonableness in thorny situations. And because he has no aspirations within education he has no reason to pull any punches. Perhaps most importantly, with Feinberg you get the sense that if this is all a big ruse, that will become clear. He doesn’t seem like someone with a lot of patience for misdirection plays and so forth. In other words, involving him increases the accountability.

November School Board Elections in New Jersey?

New Jersey Left Behind:

Ray Pinney over at New Jersey School Boards Association predicts that “moving the school board member elections to November, along with eliminating the vote on the school budget (if the budget is at or below cap), will occur in the next legislative session.” The benefits: moving school budgets to the Fall buys times for the Legislature to “find a solution to the budget crisis”; voter turnout will increase; it’s cheaper than holding a separate April election. The deficits: “board members are concerned about the encroachment of party politics in a nonpartisan arena of education.”

The Record also chimes in, listing many of the same benefits as Pinney but painting NJEA as the loser if the bill passes through the Legislature:

Critics, including the New Jersey Education Association and state School Boards Association, worry that it will turn school board elections into partisan affairs. Officially, elected school boards are not affiliated with any political party. School board elections are supposed to focus on educational issues, not party dominance, these critics argue.

Maybe so. But currently, the teachers union appears to have more financial involvement than political parties do in school board elections, according to a report by the state Election Law Enforcement Commission. Statewide, about 9 percent of school board campaign contributions were from political parties, compared to 40 percent from donors with ties to the NJEA, the commission found in 2002.

You know where we stand.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Bankruptcy could be good for America

Gideon Rachman:

In Winnie-the-Pooh, there is a significant moment when the bear is asked whether he wants honey or condensed milk with his bread. He replies “both”. You can get away with this sort of thing if you are a much loved character in children’s literature. But it is more problematic when great nations start behaving in a childish fashion. When Americans are asked what they want – lower taxes, more lavish social spending or the world’s best-funded military machine – their collective answer tends to be “all of the above”.
The result is that the US is piling up debt. A budget deficit of about 12 per cent of gross domestic product is understandable as a short-term reaction to a huge financial crisis. What should worry Americans is that, with entitlement spending set to surge, there is no credible plan to bring the budget deficit under control over the medium term.
The US has formidable strengths that will allow its government to be profligate for far longer than other nations could get away with. But if the US keeps running huge deficits, sooner or later the country will start flirting with bankruptcy. Oddly, it might be best if the crisis came sooner rather than later. For a surprising number of countries, running out of money has been the prelude to national renewal.
The two biggest and most beneficial geopolitical stories of the past 30 years – the spread of democracy and of globalisation – were driven by a succession of states finding their coffers empty.

For An Out-of-the-Box View on RTTT

NJ Left Behind:

Read Educflack’s Patrick Riccards, who has a new post up on why New Jersey should either 1) hold off on applying to Race To the Top til June, or 2)simply not apply at all. Riccards, a native New Jerseyan, explains the benefits of either proposition:
1) While Davy’s proposal is “a good plan,” Christie’s transition team was uninvolved in the details and, in fact, Christie won’t even be able to sign it since the application is due the day he gets sworn in as Governor. The state would be better off waiting until Christie’s new team can reshape it to conform with his vision of education reform.
2) Fuggedaboudit. N.J.’s too screwed up to take on another big initiative. Deciding not to compete in RTTT would be a bolder move: “he [Christie] could decree that his education improvement agenda is focused exclusively on the expansion and support of charter schools, and since charters are but a minor part of Race’s intentions, he’s going to go all-in on charters in his own way, and he’ll find the state and private-sector support to make it happen without the federal oversight.”

Advantages and Drawbacks of Attending a (Mostly) Women’s College (Part the Last)

Susan O’Doherty:

Over the past several weeks, I have discussed the impact of attending a traditionally female college in the early 1970s. I wasn’t there that long — like most students of the time, I got on the train at 18 and disembarked at 22 with a diploma. But those four years were formative, shaping the rest of my personal and professional life in some important ways:
–Valuing female friendships: Most women I know value their friendships with other women, of course. But I was raised in a time and culture that put men first. We were encouraged to break a date with a girl friend, for example, if a boy asked us out. My exposure to the brilliance, fierce loyalty, seriousness and silliness of my classmates put an end to that nonsense. My best friend from college remains one of my two best friends today. She is the person I call when I need to talk through a problem, cry without explaining myself, or share good (or bad) news. There is nothing I wouldn’t do for her.
–Valuing women in the workplace: I have friends, both male and female, who complain about “women bosses”: that they are petty, self-contradictory micromanagers, mostly. For a while I thought I had just been extraordinarily lucky to have a string of extremely competent, visionary, and decisive (not to mention empathetic and fun) female employers. Then I realized that we were sometimes talking about the same people. Women of my generation were trained not to raise our voices; to deliver definite pronouncements as though they were tentative questions; and to mask and deny irritation until it builds up into an explosion. This behavior is so ingrained in many of us that we don’t realize we’re sending out seemingly mixed signals. Working on tech crews, student committees, etc., at college, I got used to decoding “Maybe we should go with the yellow scrim; what do you think?” as “Please get started on the yellow scrim now,” and this assumption that my female bosses a) knew what they wanted and b) were communicating this, if I listened hard enough, saved me many misunderstandings as a young flunky. I also, unlike many of my peers, took women’s competence as a given, and thus avoided the irritating questioning and second-guessing that tends to lead to the aforementioned explosions.

NEA Gave Almost $26 Million to Advocacy Groups

Mike Antonucci:

An Education Intelligence Agency analysis of NEA’s financial disclosure report for the 2008-09 fiscal year reveals the national union contributed almost $26 million to a wide variety of advocacy groups and charities. The total more than doubles the amount disbursed in the previous year.
The expenditures fall into broad categories of community outreach grants, charitable contributions, and payments for services rendered. In this list, EIA has deliberately omitted spending such as media buys, or payments to pollsters or consultants that have no obvious ideological component. The grants range from $3.6 million to Protect Colorado’s Future, a coalition created to defeat three ballot initiatives in 2008, down to smaller grants to organizations such as the Children’s Defense Fund, FairTest, MediaMatters, and People for the American Way.

L.A. school board will weigh new policy to both help and rein in charters

Howard Blume:

The Los Angeles Board of Education Tuesday will consider new policies aimed at both assisting charters and holding them more accountable for their performance. The regulations, about a year in the making, include key provisions on conflicts of interest and services for disabled students that are opposed by the association that represents charter schools.
There are now more charter schools — enrolling more students — in Los Angeles than in any other city in the country. Their effect and performance were the subject of a Los Angeles Times special report on Sunday.
The number of charter schools is expected to increase sharply, partly as a result of a school board strategy that lets charter operators bid to take control of struggling traditional campuses as well as 50 new ones scheduled to open. Charter operators as well as groups of teachers are to submit final bids today for the first group of 30 campuses.

The war at home: the spread of violent gangs

Thomas Ricks:

Here is a report from my CNAS colleague Jennifer Bernal-Garcia, who is working with Bob Killebrew on the merger of drug gangs and terrorism, about a meeting they held recently with law enforcement experts on gang violence:

By Jennifer Bernal
Best Defense Drugs & Crime Correspondent
Cops are the first line of defense against gangs, and they have a pretty good understanding of the issue. Talking with them yields a pretty grim assessment: There is a huge gang problem in the United States. Our cops in attendance estimated that the U.S. might have up to 1 million gang members, although the problem is often underreported both because it is difficult to detect and because of local politicians’ incentives to downplay crime figures in their areas. The gang problem is inherently tied in to broader regional criminal trends. The extensiveness of drug trafficking south of the border and the degree to which cartels violently contest state authority is well acknowledged. There is nonetheless a common misperception that drug networks disintegrate when you cross the border into the U.S. They don’t. Gangs — mostly youth gangs — step in to domestically distribute the drugs that cartels traffic in.

U. Tube: Student Teachers Learn From Video Training

Brenda Iasevoli:

The teacher sits in a large wooden rocking chair. One by one, she invites her third-graders to get up from their desks and take a place in front of her on the rug. “Thank you, Kiara,” she says, complimenting a scrawny child with long black hair for sitting criss-cross-style. As the other students take their places on the rug, the teacher sits on the edge of her chair. Her eyes move from left to right, watchful for misbehavior.
“Look at that teacher scan,” says Jim Lengel with an excited laugh. “It’s like radar.”
The students freeze as Lengel, a visiting professor at Hunter College School of Education, pauses the video he’s been watching them on. Ten of the third-graders are looking directly at the teacher, while two look off toward the camera.

Paradigm Shift in Indian Education

Sify News:

Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal Monday announced that there would be a vast change in education policy making of the government in 2010.
‘You will see a paradigm shift in education policies. It will be an epochal year,’ he said.
Describing the year 2010 as very important for his ministry, Sibal said that researchers and faculty would be given a stake in the system to boost higher education and research which are vital for a nation’s development.
Releasing the book ‘Engineering Education in India’ authored by Prof. Rangan Banerjee and Vinayak P. Muley of IIT-Bombay at Observer Research Foundation, a public policy think tank headquartered in Delhi, the minister noted that while India and China were almost at the same level nearly 15 years back, China has now surged much ahead of India.

As School Exit Tests Prove Tough, States Ease Standards

Ian Urbina:

A law adopting statewide high school exams for graduation took effect in Pennsylvania on Saturday, with the goal of ensuring that students leaving high school are prepared for college and the workplace. But critics say the requirement has been so watered down that it is unlikely to have major impact.
The situation in Pennsylvania mirrors what has happened in many of the 26 states that have adopted high school exit exams. As deadlines approached for schools to start making passage of the exams a requirement for graduation, and practice tests indicated that large numbers of students would fail, many states softened standards, delayed the requirement or added alternative paths to a diploma.
People who have studied the exams, which affect two-thirds of the nation’s public school students, say they often fall short of officials’ ambitious goals.
“The real pattern in states has been that the standards are lowered so much that the exams end up not benefiting students who pass them while still hurting the students who fail them,” said John Robert Warren, an expert on exit exams and a professor of sociology at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities.

County gives Los Angeles International Charter High School a second chance

Mitchell Landsberg:

The first thing a visitor notices about Los Angeles International Charter High School is its campus, a leafy, hilltop aerie that looks like the private school it once was.
Then there are the students, preppy in white shirts and ties, their black sweater vests emblazoned with the school seal.
Appearances aren’t necessarily deceiving: L.A. International does have an exceptional campus, perched on a bluff in the tiny community of Hermon, overlooking Highland Park. It formerly was the campus of the now-defunct Pacific Christian High School. And the students, most of them, aspire to succeed in school and go to college.
But that doesn’t tell the whole story.

Pre-K Can Work: Needy kids could benefit, but only if we use proven pedagogy and hold programs accountable.

Shephard Barbash:

The one approach that Follow Through found had worked, Direct Instruction, was created by Siegfried Engelmann, who has written more than 100 curricula for reading, spelling, math, science, and other subjects. Engelmann dates DI’s inception to an experiment he performed at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana in the summer of 1964. He took two groups of three- to five-year-olds–one white and affluent, one black and poor–and tried to teach them “sophisticated patterns of reasoning. . . . things that Piaget said couldn’t be taught before the age of formal operations–around 11 or 12.” These things included concepts like relative direction (A is north of B but south of C) and the behavior of light entering and leaving a mirror. Both groups learned what Piaget said they couldn’t at their age. But to Engelmann’s consternation, the affluent kids learned faster. He traced the difference to a severe language deficit in the African-American group (the deficit that Hart and Risley later quantified) and resolved to figure out how to overcome it.
Engelmann and two colleagues, Carl Bereiter and Jean Osborn, went on to open a half-day preschool for poor children in Champaign-Urbana that dramatically accelerated learning even in the most verbally deprived four-year-olds. Children who entered the preschool not knowing the meaning of “under,” “over,” or “Stand up!” went into kindergarten reading and doing math at a second-grade level. Engelmann found (and others later confirmed) that the mean IQ for the group jumped from 96 to 121. In effect, the Bereiter-Engelmann preschool proved that efforts to close the achievement gap could begin years earlier than most educators had thought possible. The effects lasted, at a minimum, until second grade–and likely longer, though studies on the longer-term effects weren’t performed.

Public Comments on a Sales Tax Increase For Schools and TAG Problems at the 1/11/2010 Madison School Board Meeting

19MB mp3 audio file. TJ Mertz spoke in favor of a .01 increase in the state sales tax, dedicated to schools. There were also a number of pointed parent comments on the District’s Talented and Gifted program.

4K Inches Forward in Madison, Seeks Funding

Listen to the Madison School Board Discussion via this 32MB mp3 audio file (and via a kind reader’s email).
Financing this initiative remains unsettled.
I recommend getting out of the curriculum creation business via the elimination of Teaching & Learning and using those proceeds to begin 4K – assuming the community and Board are convinced that it will be effective and can be managed successfully by the Administration.
I would also like to see the Administration’s much discussed “program/curricular review” implemented prior to adding 4K.
Finally, I think it is likely that redistributed state tax programs to K-12 will decrease, given the State’s spending growth and deficit problems. The financial crunch is an opportunity to rethink spending and determine where the dollars are best used for our children. I recommend a reduction in money spent for “adults to talk with other adults”.
Board member Beth Moss proposed that 4K begin in 2010. This motion was supported by Marj Passman and Ed Hughes (Ed’s spouse, Ann Brickson is on the Board of the Goodman Center, a possible 4K partner). Maya Cole, Lucy Mathiak and Arlene Silveira voted no on a 2010 start. The Board then voted 5-1 (with Ed Hughes voting no) for a 2011 launch pending further discussions on paying for it. Retiring Board member Johnny Winston, Jr. was absent.
I appreciate the thoughtful discussion on this topic, particularly the concern over how it will be financed. Our Federal Government, and perhaps, the State, would simply plow ahead and let our grandchildren continue to pay the growing bill.

  • Gayle Worland:

    “I’m going to say it’s the hardest decision I’ve made on the board,” said board member Marj Passman, who along with board members Beth Moss and Ed Hughes voted to implement four-year-old kindergarten in 2010. “To me this is extremely difficult. We have to have 4K. I want it. The question is when.”
    But board president Arlene Silveira argued the district’s finances were too unclear to implement four-year-old kindergarten — estimated to serve 1,573 students with a free, half-day educational program — this fall.
    “I’m very supportive of four-year-old kindergarten,” she said. “It’s the financing that gives me the most unrest.”
    Silveira voted against implementation in the fall, as did Lucy Mathiak and Maya Cole. Board member Johnny Winston, Jr. was absent.
    On a second vote the board voted 5-1 to approve 4K for 2011-12. Hughes voted against starting the program in 2011-12, saying it should begin as soon as possible.

  • Channel3000:

    The plan will begin in September 2011. Initially, the board considered a measure to start in 2010, but a vote on that plan was deadlocked 3-3. A second motion to postpone the beginning until the 2011-2012 school year passed by a 5-1 vote.
    The board didn’t outline any of the financing as yet. District spokesman Ken Syke said that they’re working on 2010 budget first before planning for the 2011 one.
    The board’s decision could have a large impact on the district and taxpayers as the new program would bring in federal funds.

  • WKOW-TV:

    This is the first real commitment from MMSD to establish comprehensive early childhood education.
    What they don’t have yet is a plan to pay for it.
    It would’ve cost about $12.2 million to start 4k this fall, according to Eric Kass, assistant superintendent for business services.
    About $4.5 million would come from existing educational service funds, $4.2 million from a loan, and about $3.5 million would be generated thru a property tax increase.
    Some board members said they were uncomfortable approving a funding plan for 4k, because there are still a lot of unanswered questions about the district’s budget as a whole.

  • NBC15:

    Members first deadlocked in a three-to-three tie on whether to start 4-K this fall, then voted five-to-one to implement it the following year.
    The cost this year would have been more than $12 million. The decision to delay implementation is due to serious budget problems facing the Madison District.
    Nearly 1600 4-year-old students are expected to participate in the half-day kindergarten program.

  • Don Severson:

    The Board of Education is urged to vote NO on the proposal to implement 4-year old Kindergarten in the foreseeable future. In behalf of the public, we cite the following support for taking this action of reject the proposal:
    The Board and Administration Has failed to conduct complete due diligence with respect to recognizing the community delivery of programs and services. There are existing bona fide entities, and potential future entities, with capacities to conduct these programs
    Is not recognizing that the Constitution and Statutes of the State of Wisconsin authorizes the provision of public education for grades K-12, not including pre-K or 4-year old kindergarten
    Has not demonstrated the district capacity, or the responsibility, to manage effectively the funding support that it has been getting for existing K-12 programs and services. The district does not meet existing K-12 needs and it cannot get different results by continuing to do business as usual, with the ‘same service’ budget year-after-year-after-year

Behind the Classroom Door: A rare glimpse indicates the extent–and persistence–of variation in teacher practice

Robert Rothman:

In recent years, a raft of research has called attention to the importance of effective teaching in influencing student achievement. Yet federal and state accountability policies continue to focus primarily at the school level: using schools as the unit of performance, identifying “failing schools,” and more recently targeting “turnaround schools” for special intervention. One of the best-kept secrets in educational research, it seems, is the fact that differences in the quality of instruction from classroom to classroom within schools are greater than differences in instructional quality between schools. This finding has been documented in a variety of studies, most of which used indirect measures to evaluate instruction (such as relying on teachers’ perceptions or looking at curriculum materials to determine how much time they spent on particular topics). Despite the limitations of these measures, these studies have suggested that there is considerable variation in practice even among teachers in the same building.
Over the past five years, however, researchers led by Brian Rowan, the Burke A. Hinsdale Collegiate Professor in Education at the University of Michigan, have asked teachers in 112 schools to keep detailed logs of their actual practice. The newly released results of the Study of Instructional Improvement (SII) document dramatic differences in the kinds of skills and content taught from classroom to classroom. For instance, the study showed that a fifth-grade teacher might teach reading comprehension anywhere from 52 days a year to as many as 140 days a year. Similarly, first-grade teachers spent as little as 15 percent to as much as 80 percent of their time on word analysis. Thus, the study found, students in some classrooms may spend the majority of their classroom time on relatively low-level content and skills, while their peers in the class next door are spending much more time on higher-level content.

Jay Matthews has more.

Building on Massachusetts Charter Schools’ Success

Andrew Rotherham:

Massachusetts enjoys a history as an educational leader dating to the early days of our country. The 1993 Education Reform Act positioned Massachusetts at the forefront of school reform and produced gains in student learning that are the envy of every other state. Now, the Obama administration’s Race to the Top program gives Massachusetts another chance to lead, this time by fully integrating public charter schools into the fabric of the commonwealth’s education system.
Charter schools are public schools open to all students. They’re accountable for their performance and overseen by the state, which has closed down lower performing charters even when these schools outperformed nearby traditional public schools. But unlike traditional public schools, charters have autonomy and flexibility. For example, they can reward their best teachers and fire low performers. This autonomy–not the red herring of funding–is why charter schools are so contentious.
Across the country the experience with charter schools is mixed. Charter schooling is producing amazing schools, many among the best in America. At the same time, the openness of the charter sector is also creating some quality problems. Charter quality varies state by state and owes a great deal to different state polices.

The Diary: Barbara Ehrenreich

Barbara Ehrenreich:

In the course of their work my brilliant children – a human rights lawyer and a freelance journalist – travel to places such as Phnom Penh and Dubai. In the course of mine Macomb, Illinois, is a more typical destination, involving five hours of flying, including a layover in Detroit and then two hours of driving through snow-covered fields barely interrupted by a couple of semi-boarded-up “towns”, including the intriguingly named Preemption (population 71).
After all this industrial-agricultural wasteland, Macomb is a veritable hive of human, cultural and commercial activity. There is a branch of the state university system, where I have been invited to speak, and until a few months ago, my hosts inform me, there were a total of two Italian restaurants in town, one famed for its Spam-and-Doritos-topped pizza. I’m staying at the Hampton Inn, a minimalist motel chain located opposite a Farm King, an agricultural supply store. I can’t help asking whether this is where the university puts up a genuine celebrity speaker, such as Bill Cosby. “Oh no,” I am told, “he flew in in his private plane and out the same night.”
Ann, a congenial administrator at Western Illinois University, fills me in on the student body. They are mostly white, first-generation college students and, while about a third of them are studying law enforcement with a view to a career in police work, this does not stop them from illegal under-age drinking or, for that matter, smoking pot. We muse on the problem of binge drinking, endemic to American campuses: why go straight from sobriety to vomiting? Haven’t they ever sampled the pleasures of tipsiness? Then Ann tells me one of the saddest things I’ve heard on the perennial subject of Young People Today: they don’t know how to be “silly”, she says, in the sense of whimsy and absurdity. They are strait-laced and even a little timid, unless, of course, they are utterly wasted.

‘Parent trigger’ shifts balance of power in debate over education reform

San Jose Mercury News:

Much has been written about how two education reform bills signed into law last week might affect California’s chances of qualifying for federal Race to the Top funds.
As important as that funding is, the new laws’ significance goes much deeper. It signals that the balance of power in education is shifting away from teachers unions and toward parents, where it belongs.
The “parent trigger,” a controversial element of the legislation, is the best evidence of this turning point.
The concept was developed by the grass-roots group Parent Revolution in the Los Angeles Unified School District. If a majority of parents in a failing school petitions for an overhaul, the district must do something — replace administrators, convert to a charter school or make other major reforms.
By law, tenured California teachers can convert their school to a charter if a majority of them vote for it, and that has happened dozens of times. But teachers unions and other groups opposed giving parents the same right. One group called it the “lynch mob” provision — an odd choice of words, given that it would empower parents primarily in minority communities where failing schools abound.

The Americanization of “mental illness”

Andrea James:

During my guestblogging stint, I have mentioned a couple of American expats who exported their problematic conceptions of “mental illness” all over the world from their base in Toronto. Ken Zucker and Ray Blanchard are egregious examples of this problem, but they are just the tip of the iceberg. It’s one of the most important political issues of the 21st century, but it is one of the most difficult for both practitioners and the general public to step back and see in its historical and geopolitical context. It involves challenging some of the most deeply held beliefs about how the world works.
Today, the New York Times has an excellent introduction to the concept, by Ethan Watters, author of Therapy’s Delusions. It’s a good overview of his upcoming book. Quoth Ethan:

Revolution in U.S. education is in California

Alain Bonsteel:

The greatest revolution in education in the United States today is taking place in Los Angeles. It is the mandate of the Los Angeles Unified School District School Board to convert almost a third of its schools either to charter schools, the public schools of choice that are the one shining light in an otherwise dysfunctional system, or other alternatives such as magnet schools. The change is not only a mighty one for the state’s largest school district, but in time it could double the number of public schools of choice in California.
What is remarkable is not just the magnitude of this earth-shaking change, but the complete shift of the paradigm about how we think about public education. The driving force behind this revolution is Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who is not only a Democrat but also a former organizer for the United Teachers of Los Angeles, Los Angeles teachers’ union. Villaraigosa took his nontraditional stand because, as he noted, LAUSD was racked with violence and plagued with a dropout rate of 50 percent, and showed no signs of improving.

School contracts and Race to the Top

Jo Egelhoff:

A couple of things – first, the Neenah Schools contract settlement – I read the Post-Crescent account Friday and interpreted the recent deal as a total 4.4% over two years. No.

I talked with Neenah School District HR folks and the increase is an average 4.4% per year. Wow. Where are they going to get that kind of money? (December 29: Teacher cuts, not pay freezes recommended) And as much to the point, how will other districts in the area afford that?

As many of you know, if a school district (or municipality) can’t come to terms with their union(s), they can choose to go to arbitration – where neutral arbitrators decide which party’s last offer is best. That “best” includes which offer may be closest to other settlements in the area. And thanks to your legislators and mine, the state budget passed last June (yup, policy in the budget – imagine) says arbitrators are no longer required (point 3) to take local economic conditions or a district’s ability to pay into consideration.

Do you see a referendum and higher property taxes coming?

Race to the Top Dollars
Several Wisconsin school districts are considering not applying for Race to the Top (RTTT) dollars.

Meet Old School New Teacher’s Union Boss Michael Mulgrew

Thomas Carroll:

With the governor urging action, the New York Legislature is considering lifting the cap on the number of charter schools in the state.
This has presented Michael Mulgrew, the new president of New York City’s teachers union, with a choice: stand with the reformers, straddle the line or go to the mattresses against change.
He has chosen what’s behind door No. 3.
In fact, despite the emergence of a powerful new national reform consensus led by President Obama, Mulgrew is consistently proving himself to be a bare-knuckled trench-fighter – a throwback to the muscle-flexing union leaders of the distant past.
Witness the evolution. In 1998, the UFT was one of the chief opponents of the original charter-school law. But in subsequent years, Mulgrew’s predecessor, Randi Weingarten, repositioned it as a progressive union that did not fear charters and, in fact, embraced them. Weingarten’s boldest move in this regard was her decision to open two UFT charter schools.

Charter tackles middle school challenges with young faculties and a no-nonsense attitude

Howard Blume:

At Lakeview Charter Academy, inexperienced teachers have strong support and high expectations.
Eleazar and Nora Gonzalez decided to send their son Daniel to Lakeview Charter Academy because, they said, large public middle schools have a reputation for gangs and drugs. They also worried about academics.
So they warmed to the no-nonsense welcomings issued at the first monthly parents night.
“It will be a miracle the day I don’t give homework because home is to review,” Alexandra Aceves, 25, announced, in English and Spanish, to the Gonzalez family and others crowded into a second-floor classroom.
The scene exemplified the characteristics of the 10 schools operated by Partnerships to Uplift Communities, a locally based charter management organization that, like others in Los Angeles, has focused on serving low-income minority communities. It has taken on, in particular, the thorny challenge of middle schools, especially in the Latino neighborhoods of the San Fernando Valley and downtown.

Johnny Winston Jr. to stay involved after school board tenure ends

Gayle Worland:

After two terms on the Madison School Board, Johnny Winston Jr. is moving on — but you’ll still see him involved in groups such as 100 Black Men of Madison and his annual Streetball and Block Party at Penn Park. Another goal for the father of three (No. 4 is due in May): Helping out in the classroom of daughter Jasmine, 6.
Why did you decide not to run?
I’ve been there six years. As a School Board member, I feel I’ve done what I can. I feel I still have a lot to contribute to this community, but at this time what I’d like to do is take a step back, focus on my professional career as an employee of the city of Madison Fire Department, and then look at any other political opportunities that might come up in the future.

Benefit Book for Bibi Jann School in Dar Es Salaam

via a Susan Hobart email:

Susan J Hobart
Teacher, Grades 4/5
Lake View Elementary School
1802 Tennyson Lane
Madison, Wisconsin 53704 USA

ACE Urges MMSD Board NO Vote on 4k and RttT

TO: MMSD Board of Education
FROM: Active Citizens for Education
RE: 4-year old Kindergarten
Race to the Top
I am Don Severson representing Active Citizens for Education.
The Board of Education is urged to vote NO on the proposal to implement 4-year old Kindergarten in the foreseeable future. In behalf of the public, we cite the following support for taking this action of reject the proposal:

  • The Board and Administration Has failed to conduct complete due diligence with respect to recognizing the community delivery of programs and services. There are existing bona fide entities, and potential future entities, with capacities to conduct these programs

  • Is not recognizing that the Constitution and Statutes of the State of Wisconsin authorizes the provision of public education for grades K-12, not including pre-K or 4-year old kindergarten
  • Has not demonstrated the district capacity, or the responsibility, to manage effectively the funding support that it has been getting for existing K-12 programs and services. The district does not meet existing K-12 needs and it cannot get different results by continuing to do business as usual, with the ‘same service’ budget year-after-year-after-year
  • Will abrogate your fiduciary responsibility by violating the public trust and promises made to refrain from starting new programs in exchange for support of the “community partnership” urged for passing the recent referendum to raise the revenue caps

To reiterate, vote NO for District implementation of 4-K.
The Board of Education is urged to vote NO to signing the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the State of Wisconsin as part of an application for funding through the U.S. Department of Education ACT “Race to the Top” (RttT).
In behalf of the public we cite the following support for taking this action to reject the signing the RttT MOU: The Board and Administration

  • Does not have complete information as to the requirements, criteria, expectations and definitions of terms of the MOU or its material Exhibits; therefore, there has been serious inhibitors in time, effort and due diligence to examine, understand and discuss the significant implications and consequences of pursuing such funding
  • Does not have an understanding through the conduct of interactive discussions regarding the roles and relationships of the Board of Education, the Administration and the union regarding the requirements of the MOU as well as any subsequent implications for planning, implementation, evaluation and results for receiving the funding
  • Must understand that the Board of Education, and the Board alone by a majority vote, is the only authority which can bind the District in any action regarding the MOU and subsequent work plan. District participation cannot be authorized by the Board if such participation is contingent on actual or implied approval, now or in the future, of any other parties (i.e., District Administration and/or union)
  • Does not have an understanding of its personnel capacity or collective will to establish needs, priorities and accountabilities for undertaking such an enormous and complicated “sea change” in the ways in which the district conducts its business in the delivery of programs and services as appears to be expected for the use any RttT funding authorized for the District
  • Must also understand and be prepared for the penalties and reimbursements due to the state and federal governments for failure to comply with the provisions attached to any authorized funding, including expected results

To reiterate, vote NO for District approval for the MOU and application for funding through the RttT.

Articles and Books on Mathematics Education

The winter 2009-2010 issue of “American Educator”, has a number of interesting articles. Here are two of interest for people interested in mathematics education.
Daniel Willingham “Is It True That Some People Just Can’t Do Math”
Patsy Wang-Iverson, Perla Myers, and Edmund Lim W.K. “Beyond Singapore’s Mathematics Textbooks – Focused and Flexible Supports for Teaching and
The first has a number of useful references as well as comments. Here is one. There have been many papers written in Madison on student’s lack of understanding of the equal sign. I once asked Liping Ma if this was a problem in China. She said that as far as she knew it was not. There is confirmation of this in one of the references.
Four questions asked of sixth grade students in the U.S. and China.

The paper which includes this is “Sources of Differences in Children’s Understanding of Mathematical Equality: Comparative Analysis of Teacher Guides and Student Texts in China and the United States”, by Xiaobao Li, Meixia Ding, Mary Margaret Capraro, Robert M. Capraro. It appeared in Cognition and Instruction, vol. 26, no. 2, pages 195-217, in 2008.
The second article in American Educator has comments on curriculum, teacher induction and education and support while teaching. There is also a one page supplemental article on teacher professional development and evaluation by Susan Sclafani and Edmund Lim W.K.
In addition there have been two very interesting books on school mathematics education written by mathematicians. The first is “Arithmetic for Parents: A Book for Grownups about Children’s Mathematics” by Ron Aharoni, Sumizdat, 2007. An article by Aharoni about his experience teaching mathematics in an elementary school in Israel can be read here. This is a good introduction to his book, and more useful details are in the
The second is “And All the Children Are Above Average: A Review of The End of Ignorance: Multiplying Our Human Potential” by John Mighton, a Canadian mathematician and playwright. The paperback version of this book was published by Vintage Canada. You can read about Mighton here. and there is also information about his math program JUMP here. This program was developed after Mighton learned a number of things while tutoring students who had significant problems in learning elementary mathematics. A review of this book by David Kirshner appeared in the Journal for Research in Mathematics Education in the January, 2010 issue.

Charters generally perform better than traditional schools, not as well as magnets

Howard Blume Mitchell Landsberg and Sandra Poindexter:

Standardized tests show that the highest-performing charters push low-income black and Latino youth to higher levels of achievement.
At their best, charter schools in Los Angeles shatter the conventional wisdom that skin color and family income are the greatest predictors of academic success.
Setting standards high and wringing long hours out of students and teachers, the highest-performing charters push low-income black and Latino youth to levels of achievement, as measured by standardized tests, more typical of affluent, suburban students.
If such schools were the norm, any debate over the value of charters would be moot. But there is no typical charter. They adhere to no single vision and vary widely in quality.
That said, a Times analysis showed that, overall, L.A. charter schools deliver higher test scores than traditional public schools. But charters lag well behind L.A. Unified’s network of magnet schools.

Ohio Charter schools buck enrollment trend

Catherine Candisky & Cindy Kranz:

Although charter schools come under withering criticism from some quarters, Ohio parents apparently aren’t listening.
A new state Department of Education report shows that charter-school enrollment is up 8 percent this year, while the number attending traditional Ohio schools has fallen.
Currently, 89,000 students attend 332 charter schools statewide. At the same time, enrollment in traditional public schools has dropped slightly to 1.75 million students.
In Greater Cincinnati, 32 charter schools enroll more than 9,000 students. Enrollment increases mirror the state trend.
T.C.P. World Academy’s enrollment increased from 389 last year to 410 students this year.
“We always have a waiting list,” said Superintendent/Principal Karen French, who attributed the enrollment increase to performance results and word of mouth.

The Cincinnati College Preparatory Academy
enrollment numbers are at about 700 students now, compared with nearly 650 last year.

What Makes a Great Teacher?

Amanda Ripley:

ON AUGUST 25, 2008, two little boys walked into public elementary schools in Southeast Washington, D.C. Both boys were African American fifth-graders. The previous spring, both had tested below grade level in math.
One walked into Kimball Elementary School and climbed the stairs to Mr. William Taylor’s math classroom, a tidy, powder-blue space in which neither the clocks nor most of the electrical outlets worked.
The other walked into a very similar classroom a mile away at Plummer Elementary School. In both schools, more than 80 percent of the children received free or reduced-price lunches. At night, all the children went home to the same urban ecosystem, a ZIP code in which almost a quarter of the families lived below the poverty line and a police district in which somebody was murdered every week or so.

Big goals drive a little district in heart of Milwaukee

Alan Borsuk:

Semaj Arrington hadn’t missed a day of school in almost four years at Tenor High School, a small charter school downtown. It was a pretty remarkable record, given his background, which was, um, not out of a textbook for school success.
Then one morning last spring, he didn’t show up at school. The principal, Jodi Weber, called his house. Arrington said he’d hurt his ankle and couldn’t walk. He couldn’t catch the bus to school.
Excused absence, right? Wrong. Mark Schneider, the dean of students, drove across town to Arrington’s house, helped him to the car, and brought him to school.
“They have ways of making you be more professional, just have your head on right,” says Arrington, 19, now working on becoming an electrician at Milwaukee Area Technical College.
In 2005, I wrote a story about what I called the Marcia Spector school district, a set of small elementary schools and high schools under the umbrella of Seeds of Health, a nonprofit organization headed by the smart, entrepreneurial and forceful Spector.
There were about 900 students in the schools, all of them funded with public dollars but operating outside the traditional public school system. Each of the schools had high energy, a distinctive and well-executed program, and a record that made them valuable parts of the local school scene.

Multicultural Critical Theory. At B-School?

Lane Wallace:

A DECADE ago, Roger Martin, the new dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, had an epiphany. The leadership at his son’s elementary school had asked him to meet with its retiring principal to figure out how it could replicate her success.
He discovered that the principal thrived by thinking through clashing priorities and potential options, rather than hewing to any pre-planned strategy — the same approach taken by the managing partner of a successful international law firm in town.
“The ‘Eureka’ moment was when I could draw a data point between a hotshot, investment bank-oriented star lawyer and an elementary school principal,” Mr. Martin recalls. “I thought: ‘Holy smokes. In completely different situations, these people are thinking in very similar ways, and there may be something special about this pattern of thinking.’ ”
That insight led Mr. Martin to begin advocating what was then a radical idea in business education: that students needed to learn how to think critically and creatively every bit as much as they needed to learn finance or accounting. More specifically, they needed to learn how to approach problems from many perspectives and to combine various approaches to find innovative solutions.

Getting a Job in College: Second Thoughts

Stephen Krieder Yoder, Isaac Yoder and Levi Yoder:

Isaac: My first semester at college was as fun and stimulating as I had hoped. Several classes already have changed my way of thinking, and I have a group of new friends.
But not everything went according to plan: I went back on one decision I made before going into college — the decision to not work a job during the college year.
Dad and I had agreed before college that if taking my studies seriously was my most important goal, spending time and energy working a job could detract from that goal. My part-time job at a tea shop in high school created many sleep-deprived days at school and made it more difficult to complete all my assignments well. Though I ended up succeeding despite the extra work, I thought that this added stress would be more problematic in college, when I would have more, and harder, schoolwork.
But after only my first semester, I’ve already begun to work a job in student government, in addition to my other extracurriculars.

Make Milwaukee Public Schools discussion about children, not politics

Eugene Kane:

My plan to attend the first public hearing on the controversial mayoral takeover plan for Milwaukee Public Schools was both simple and practical.
Get there late after all the speech-making and political posturing was over.
The hearing at MPS’ central office at 5225 W. Vliet was scheduled to start at 10 a.m. Tuesday. As a veteran of countless public hearings during my career, I knew even if the room was packed with citizens, there would likely be a series of preliminary statements by various politicians and bureaucrats before members of the public got the chance at the microphone.
I figured arriving about an hour after the scheduled start would work just fine.
As it turned out, this was the kind of public hearing where most of the public had to wait for all of the elected officials in the room to have their say first.

The Changing Nature of Employment in the Great Recession

Jay Fenello:

I recently saw the Great Depression film “The Grapes of Wrath,” and while I had seen it before, this time I was reminded of what’s going on in employment today. The movie starts off with Henry Fonda returning to his family farm after having been away for a few years, only to find his home abandoned. He soon learns that his family, as well as all of his Oklahoma neighbors, have been evicted and are leaving for the promise of jobs in California.
We then learn that the families in Oklahoma have been hit with a perfect storm. Drought, low farm prices, and the displacement caused by farm automation had resulted in bankruptcy and foreclosure for millions of farmers. It was reported that one man with a tractor could replace 10-15 family farms, and over 100 farm workers.
Similarities to the Great Recession
Consider the tractor for a moment. The gasoline powered tractor first appeared way back in 1892. However, it didn’t really catch on until the tractor was mass produced in the 1910’s. Then, as tractor prices came down, its use on the farm started to take off. The result was an increase in farm productivity, falling prices for farm products, and a loss of jobs for millions of farmers. This displacement peaked 20 years later, during the Great Depression.

Charters ‘better’ at readin’ & ‘rithmetic

Yoav Gonen:

he city’s charter schools are providing a bigger boost to students’ reading and math performance than are traditional public schools, according to a new study.
The study — by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University — is the second in four months showing positive results for the city’s charter schools. It comes as proponents of the publicly funded, privately run schools are urgently pushing officials to lift the state’s charter school cap above 200.
New York’s application for as much as $700 million in federal aid under a competition known as Race to the Top — which looks favorably on states that support charter school growth — is due by Jan. 19.

Madison Country Day students aim to open eyes to global hunger issues

Pamela Cotant:

When diners arrive at the Food for Thought hunger awareness banquet Friday at Madison Country Day School, they will be assigned a certain income level that will determine their meal.
Those in the lowest income group will be served rice on a banana leaf and at the other end of the spectrum, diners will be able to choose food from a table loaded with choices.
The idea of the hunger awareness event, which starts at 5 p.m. at the school at 5606 River Road on the edge of Waunakee, is to encourage the local community to help address global hunger.
“It’s not supposed to be a depressing event,” junior Fabian Fernandez said. “It’s supposed to be eye opening.”
After a discussion about global hunger issues, which will include talk about how those with enough food could be giving some to those who don’t, the diners will be allowed to share their food. “The goal is to have people (assigned different income levels) eating near each other (to) help people see the difference,” said freshman Imani Lewis-Norelle.

Grant great, but Hillsborough district must find $100 million

Sherri Ackerman:

The Hillsborough County school district is getting $100 million in a private grant over the next seven years to overhaul education.
But the money comes with a catch: The district must come up with $100 million from other sources to finish the job.
Where to get the money in a sparse economy remains a question, leaving some district leaders defensive while others shrug.
“We don’t have $100 million,” acknowledges school board member Dorthea Edgecomb.
One thing is for certain: There is give in a district budget that runs about $3 billion a year, so administrators are confident they can shift money from other programs to initiatives prescribed in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation grant.
Among the possible sources:
•$16 million over three years to create a computer lab to prepare for the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test to move online.

A useful article. Grants should not drive strategy, as we’ve often seen. Rather, they should be considered in light of an organization’s plans. It would also be quite useful to see how effective past initiatives have been.

Los Angeles charter schools flex their educational muscles

Mitchell Landsberg, Doug Smith & Howard Blume:

Enrollment is up, and overall, standardized test scores outshine those at traditional campuses. Even the L.A. Unified board has eased its resistance.
Over the last decade, a quiet revolution took root in the nation’s second-largest school district.
Fueled by money and emboldened by clout from some of the city’s most powerful figures, charter schools began a period of explosive growth that has challenged the status quo in the Los Angeles Unified School District.
Today, Los Angeles is home to more than 160 charter schools, far more than any other U.S. city. Charter enrollment is up nearly 19% this year from last, while enrollment in traditional L.A. public schools is down. And a once-hostile school board has become increasingly charter-friendly, despite resistance from the teachers union. In September, the board agreed to let charters bid on potentially hundreds of existing campuses and on all 50 of its planned new schools.
Charter schools now are challenging L.A. Unified from without and within. Not only are charter school operators such as Green Dot Public Schools and ICEF Public Schools opening new schools that compete head-to-head with L.A. Unified, but the district’s own schools are showing increasing interest in jumping ship by converting to charter status.

My Lazy American Students & The Blowback

Kara Miller:

IT WAS the kind of student conference I hate.
“I’ll do better,” my student told me, leaning forward in his chair. “I know I’ve gotten behind this semester, but I’m going to turn things around. Would it be OK if I finished all my uncompleted work by Monday?”
I sat silent for a moment. “Yes. But it’s important that you catch up completely this weekend, so that you’re not just perpetually behind.”
A few weeks later, I would conduct a nearly identical conversation with two other students. And, again, there would be no tangible result: No make-up papers. No change in effort. No improvement in time management.
By the time students are in college, habits can be tough to change. If you’re used to playing video games like “Modern Warfare” or “Halo” all night, how do you fit in four hours of homework? Or rest up for class?
Teaching in college, especially one with a large international student population, has given me a stark – and unwelcome – illustration of how Americans’ work ethic often pales in comparison with their peers from overseas.
My “C,” “D,” and “F” students this semester are almost exclusively American, while my students from India, China, and Latin America have – despite language barriers – generally written solid papers, excelled on exams, and become valuable class participants.

  • Lauren Garey: Lazy American students? Uninformed professor!
  • Matt Rocheleau:

    Mixed reaction to ‘My lazy American students’ column

  • Jason Woods & Matt Rocheleau: Babson dean provides rebuttal on ‘lazy American students’
  • Kara Miller: Lazy American Students: After the Deluge:

    On Monday, The Boston Globe ran an opinion piece entitled “My Lazy American Students.”
    In it, I wrote about how teaching in college has shown me that international students often work harder than their American counterparts. Though this is emphatically not true across the board, the work ethic and success of Asian, European, and South American students – who have to compete with a classroom of native English speakers – can be astounding.
    I also noted in the column that there’s too much texting in class, too much dozing off, too much e-mail-checking, too much flirting (I didn’t mention flirting in the first piece, but I’ll mention it here). Obviously, international students do all these things, but I have noticed them more amongst American students.
    I worked hard on the column and lay in bed Sunday night hoping that – amidst the flurry of Christmas shopping – someone would read it.
    And that’s when the avalanche started.