Best (and most unsettling) college admissions book ever

Jay Matthews

My relationship with journalist Zac Bissonnette began on the wrong foot. He told me a high school from his part of Massachusetts was misrepresenting itself on my annual high schools list for Newsweek. I checked and decided he was wrong, which he found hard to accept. I assumed someone so certain of his conclusions had to be an experienced reporter. In fact, he was only 18.
That was just the first of the surprises he had in store for me. He turned out to be an entrepreneurial prodigy who had grown up in a family that did not have much money. He started his first business in the second grade, built his brokerage account to five figures by the ninth grade, and moved on to help run a personal finance site,, for AOL.
Having developed a sharp sense of the real world unusual for his age, Bissonnette commenced the college admissions process. If the National Association for College Admissions Counseling had anticipated the dire consequences of one of the smartest teenagers in America encountering the ill-examined assumptions of their profession, they might have found some way to buy him off, maybe a full ride scholarship to Harvard.

Oregon Board of Education tackles parent choice and virtual schools

Kimberly Melton

Fewer than one percent of Oregon students are enrolled in online public schools. But for nearly five years, the funding, quality and financial management of these virtual schools have been dominating conversation in State Capitol hearing rooms and school district board rooms.
In Oregon, education dollars follow the students. And this issue pits parent choice against school district stability.
Initially, each of six members of the state board suggested slightly different solutions. After nearly three hours of discussion, however, most board members said they would support parent choice but only if there was a cap on how many students could leave an individual school district.
“Parents should have the option to transfer,” said board chairwoman Brenda Frank. “I don’t believe the district has all the answers. But I think there just needs to be a gate.”

Georgia’s Per Pupil Spending ($8,908) and a Virtual School Battle ($3,200 per student); Madison Spends $15,241 per student

Georgia Families for Public Virtual Education

It has been said that victory is sweetest when you’ve known defeat. Yesterday’s Commission ruling sure felt sweet! Thanks to the energized efforts of Georgia parents, school choice reigns supreme for our 9th grade students. The state school board ruled 8-2 in favor of adding ninth grade to the Georgia Cyber Academy. This decision allowed 660 GCA ninth graders to begin classes on September 7.
The Atlanta Journal Constitution’s Aileen Dodd was there to cover the story live. She writes, “After the outcries of parents and the embarrassment of having two approved cyber schools call off August openings, leaders of the Georgia Charter Schools Commission admitted that they may have low-balled the cost of virtual public education. The board has agreed to rethink its figures.”

Related: Madison’s 2009-2010 budget was $370,287,471, according to the Citizen’s Budget, spending $15,241 per student (24,295 students)..

Integrating Differentiated Instruction and Understanding by Design

by Carol Ann Tomlinson and Jay McTighe, Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2006; Reviewed by Barry Garelick, via email:

The premise of this book is enticingly simple . It presents two solutions to two prevalent problems in education . The first is the vast amount of content required to be taught because of various state standards, and how one can thread that maze and “teach for understanding .” That is, how can educators get students to apply what they’ve learned to new and unfamiliar problems? The second is the diverse nature of today’s classrooms, the result of heterogeneous grouping of students of different abilities . How does an educator differentiate instruction to accommodate such diversity in a single classroom?
I read this book in a math teaching methods class a few years ago . One event in that class stands out regarding this textbook . In a chapter on assessing understanding, a chart presents examples of “Inauthentic versus Authentic Work” (p . 68) . For example, “Solve contrived problems” is listed as inauthentic; “Solve ‘real world’ prob- lems” is listed as authentic . The black-and-white nature of the dis- tinctions on the chart bothered me, so when the teacher asked if we had any comments, I said that calling certain practices “inauthentic” is not only pejorative but misleading . Since the chart listed “Practice decontextualized skills” as inauthentic and “Interpret literature” as authentic, I asked the teacher, “Do you really think that learning to read is an inauthentic skill?”
She replied that she didn’t really know about issues related to reading . Keeping it on the math level, I then asked why the authors automatically assumed that a word problem that might be contrived didn’t involve “authentic” mathematical concepts . She answered with a blank stare and the words “Let’s move on .”
That incident remains in my mind because it is emblematic of the educational doctrine that pervades schools of education as well as this book . The doctrine holds that mastery of facts and attaining procedural fluency in subjects like mathematics amounts to mind- numbing “drill and kill” exercises that ultimately stifle creativity and critical thinking . It also embodies the belief that critical thinking skills can be taught .
In a discussion of what constitutes “understanding,” the authors state that a student’s ability to apply what he or she has learned does not necessarily represent understanding . “When we call for an appli- cation we do not mean a mechanical response or mindless ‘plug-in’ of a memorized formula . Rather, we ask students to transfer–to use what they know in a new situation” (p . 67) . In terms of math and other subjects that involve attaining procedural fluency, employing worked examples as scaffolding for tackling more-complex prob- lems is not something that these authors see as leading to any kind of understanding . That a mastery of fundamentals provides the foun- dation for the creativity they seek is lost in their quest to get stu- dents performing authentic work from the start

Suffer the little children Time and again, studies have determined that parents hate parenting. So why do so many of us do it?

Jennifer Senior

Recently, I found my 2-1/2-year-old son sitting on our building doorstep, waiting for me to come home. He spotted me as I was rounding the corner and the scene that followed was one of inexpressible loveliness, right out of the film I’d played to myself before having a child, with him popping out of his babysitter’s arms and barrelling down the street to greet me. This happy moment, though, was about to be cut short and, in retrospect, felt more like a tranquil lull in a slasher film.
When I opened our apartment door, I discovered my son had broken part of the toy wooden garage I’d spent an hour assembling that morning. This wouldn’t have been a problem, except that as I attempted to fix it, he grew impatient and began throwing its various parts at the walls, with one plank narrowly missing my eye. I recited the rules of the house (no throwing, no hitting). He picked up another large wooden plank. I ducked. He reached for the screwdriver. The scene ended with a time-out in his cot.

L.A. Unified presses union on test scores The district wants new labor contracts to include ‘value-added’ data as part of teacher evaluations.

Jason Song

The Los Angeles Unified School District will ask labor unions to adopt a new approach to teacher evaluations that would judge instructors partly by their ability to raise students’ test scores — a sudden and fundamental change in how the nation’s second-largest district assesses its educators.
The teachers union has for years staunchly resisted using student test data in instructors’ reviews.
The district’s actions come in response to a Times article on teacher effectiveness. The article was based on an analysis, called “value-added,” which measures teachers by analyzing their students’ performance on standardized tests. The approach has been embraced by education reformers as a way to bring objectivity to teacher evaluations.

What some teachers don’t want you to learn

John Diaz

Knowledge is power, but it is not always welcome. The Los Angeles Times just completed an extensive study of how individual teachers have fared at raising their students’ math and English test scores in the state’s most populous city. The raw data have been available to the L.A. Unified School District for years, but it never bothered to crunch those numbers, let alone share them with parents. The Times has pledged to publish its ratings of 6,000 elementary school instructors.
Reaction of the local teachers union? It has called for a “massive boycott” of the Times.

Needs Improvement: Where Teacher Report Cards Fall Short

Carl Bialik:

Local school districts have started to grade teachers based on student test scores, but the early results suggest the effort deserves an incomplete.
The new type of teacher evaluations make use of the standardized tests that have become an annual rite for American public-school students. The tests mainly have been used to measure the progress of students and schools, but with some statistical finesse they can be transformed into a lens for identifying which teachers are producing the best test results.
At least, that’s the hope among some education experts. But the performance numbers that have emerged from these studies rely on a flawed statistical approach.
One perplexing finding: A large proportion of teachers who rate highly one year fall to the bottom of the charts the next year. For example, in a group of elementary-school math teachers who ranked in the top 20% in five Florida counties early last decade, more than three in five didn’t stay in the top quintile the following year, according to a study published last year in the journal Education Finance and Policy.

Related: Standards Based Report Cards and Value Added Assessment.

Too Long Ignored

Bob Herbert:

A tragic crisis of enormous magnitude is facing black boys and men in America.
Parental neglect, racial discrimination and an orgy of self-destructive behavior have left an extraordinary portion of the black male population in an ever-deepening pit of social and economic degradation.
The Schott Foundation for Public Education tells us in a new report that the on-time high school graduation rate for black males in 2008 was an abysmal 47 percent, and even worse in several major urban areas — for example, 28 percent in New York City.
The astronomical jobless rates for black men in inner-city neighborhoods are both mind-boggling and heartbreaking. There are many areas where virtually no one has a legitimate job.

The complete PDF report can viewed here.
Related: They’re all rich, white kids and they’ll do just fine.

Madison Public High School students well above state and national ACT averages

The Madison School District, PDF:

Madison Metropolitan School District students received an average composite score on the ACT of 24.2, up slightly from the previous year’s composite of 24.0. The scores were in line with a 16-year history of the district where results have ranged from 23.5 to 24.6 and average 24.2 in that period (see Table 1 below).
As in previous years, MMSD students outperformed their peers in the state and the nation on the 2010 ACT. District students outscored their state peers by 2.1 points and their national peers by 3.2 points, scoring 10% higher and 15% higher respectively. The average ACT score for Wisconsin and the nation were 22.1, and 21.0, respectively.

Madison Edgewood High Schools’ Composite ACT score was 25.4 (100% of Edgewood seniors took the ACT).

But how well do they teach red-haired kids?

The Economist

WRITING about the same analysis of Los Angeles public school teachers my colleague referenced yesterday, Matthew Yglesias points to the NAEP mathematics 8th-grade test rankings of different major-city public-school systems, which shows Los Angeles performing below average for black, hispanic, and Asian/Pacific Islander students, as well as for low-income students. Los Angeles did okay with middle-class white students. This reminded me of something I learned a couple of months ago: there are other, perhaps better ways of categorising students than race and income, for the purpose of deciding whether they are being well served by their schools. Specifically, parents’ educational attainment. Taking parents’ educational attainment as a baseline is a very effective way to measure whether a “good” school is really doing a standout job of educating its kids, or whether it’s simply benefiting from a student population that has a head start.

This is largely how the Netherlands’ educational inspectorate (Onderwijsinspectie) has been measuring student baselines for the purposes of evaluating schools since 2006. How they got to this measurement is an interesting story, as Helen Ladd and Edward Fiske of Duke University explain in this paper. First, starting 25 years ago the Dutch instituted a system of funding schools based on “weighting” students: students who came from backgrounds presumed to be educationally disadvantaged got more funding, and schools with large populations of “weighted” students ended up with more resources to try and make up the disparities. Initially, the high weights were given to children from immigrant backgrounds, or to children of poor native Dutch parents with very low educational attainment. But as Dutch politics became more right-wing in the 2000s, the idea of giving more funding to children of immigrants than to children of native Dutch parents became unpopular. Hence the idea of weighting children chiefly according to parents’ educational attainment, which was amenable to both right- and left-wing parties: it still tends to weight children from immigrant backgrounds more heavily, unless their parents are wealthy, highly-educated immigrants, in which case they probably didn’t need the extra help anyway. It also directs more resources to children of native Dutch parents from underprivileged backgrounds, and it defuses some of the racial tensions over school funding.

Textbooks Up Their Game Inkling Adapting College Best Sellers for iPad, Capitalizing on Interactive Features

Jeffrey Trachtenberg

The four digital titles– McGraw-Hill Cos. best sellers in biology, economics, marketing, psychology–are expected to become available via the iTunes App Store beginning Friday. Prices will start at $2.99 per chapter and $69.99 for entire books, for a limited time. Thereafter, chapters will be $3.99 and books will start at $84.99.
The Inkling-based e-books make full use of the iPad’s color, video and touch screen. A biology text, for example, offers 3-D views of molecules such as DNA, video lectures, and interactive quizzes. Users can highlight text, take notes and share them in real time with other users, such as fellow students. Along the way, students can jump outside the text to Google or Wikipedia.
Inkling has struck deals with other large publishers, including John Wiley & Sons Inc. and Cengage Learning, to launch future titles.

Administrative Bloat at American Universities: The Real Reason for High Costs in Higher Education

Jay P. Greene

Enrollment at America’s leading universities has been increasing dramatically, rising nearly 15 percent between 1993 and 2007. But unlike almost every other growing industry, higher education has not become more efficient. Instead, universities now have more administrative employees and spend more on administration to educate each student. In short, universities are suffering from “administrative bloat,” expanding the resources devoted to administration significantly faster than spending on instruction, research and service.
Between 1993 and 2007, the number of full-time administrators per 100 students at America’s leading universities grew by 39 percent, while the number of employees engaged in teaching, research or service only grew by 18 percent. Inflation-adjusted spending on administration per student increased by 61 percent during the same period, while instructional spending per student rose 39 percent. Arizona State University, for example, increased the number of administrators per 100 students by 94 percent during this period while actually reducing the number of employees engaged in instruction, research and service by 2 percent. Nearly half of all full-time employees at Arizona State University are administrators.
A significant reason for the administrative bloat is that students pay only a small portion of administrative costs. The lion’s share of university resources comes from the federal and state governments, as well as private gifts and fees for non-educational services. The large and increasing rate of government subsidy for higher education facilitates administrative bloat by insulating students from the costs. Reducing government subsidies would do much to make universities more efficient.

New Jersey Charged with Fraud by SEC Over Underfunded Teacher Pensions

Mark Robyn

New Jersey has become the first state to ever be charged with civil fraud by the Securities and Exchange Commission. The SEC on Wednesday charged that in the course of selling municipal bonds to investors “the State misrepresented and failed to disclose material information regarding its under funding of New Jersey’s two largest pension plans, the Teachers’ Pension and Annuity Fund (“TPAF”) and the Public Employees’ Retirement System (“PERS”).”
State governments usually sell bonds as a way to raise money to fund specific projects. They borrow from investors with the promise to repay the debt later, plus interest. As a protection to investors, all bond issuers, state governments included, are required to provide investors with the information necessary for investors to make an informed decision regarding the level of risk associated with the investment.
New Jersey sold over $26 billion in bonds between 2001 and 2007, but the SEC charged that the state failed to inform investors that the state has not been fully funding its pension funds and cannot fully fund them in the future without raising taxes or cutting spending, which could impact the state’s ability to repay these bonds. According to the SEC, New Jersey’s

Study: NJ and Newark lead nation in black male graduation rates

Jay Matthews

It is always news to me when I hear or read something good about the Newark school system, so I took notice when the Schott Foundation for Public Education released a new study saying that both that city, and the state of New Jersey, lead the nation in the percent of black male students graduating from high school.
Schott’s report focused on the abysmal national graduation rate for black males, only 47 percent in the 2007-08 school year, but it heralded the New Jersey results, and gave credit to that state’s heavy spending and innovative measures to raise graduation rates for everyone.
It said New Jersey had a graduation rate for black males of 69 percent in 2007-08, with the next closest states being Maryland (55 percent), California (54 percent) and Pennsylvania (53 percent). In Newark, the graduation rate for black males was 76 percent. The other school districts nearest that level were Fort Bend, Tex. (68 percent), Baltimore County, Md. (67 percent) and Montgomery County, Md. (65 percent). The list only included states with more than 100,000 black male students and districts with more than 10,000 black male students.

Union leader says parents should know teachers’ ratings

Mitchell Landsberg:

But Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, urges the L.A. Times not to publish a database showing how teachers may have influenced students’ standardized test scores.
The head of the American Federation of Teachers said Wednesday that she believed parents have a right to know how well their children’s teachers are rated on employee evaluations, but strongly disagreed with The Times’ decision to publish data showing how individual teachers may have influenced the standardized test scores of students.
Such data should be considered only as part of a well-rounded evaluation of a teacher’s performance, Randi Weingarten said, and then should be available only to the teacher, his or her principal, and individual parents. It is wrong, she said, to make such information widely available to the public.

Where’s the rigor in U.S. schools?

Justin Snider

A quarter-century ago, the nation was transfixed by this question: ” Where’s the beef?”
Now, the question we should be asking ourselves about our nation’s schools is this: ” Where’s the rigor?” Or, “Where’s the academic beef?”
Concerns about the lack of rigor in U.S. schools were renewed recently, when new data were published on how prepared – or not – U.S. high school students are for college. Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Stephanie Banchero said, “New data show that fewer than 25% of 2010 graduates who took the ACT college-entrance exam possessed the academic skills necessary to pass entry-level [college] courses.”
The story, as reported by many outlets, was that the average ACT score has fallen slightly since 2007. But the real story – and the one that Banchero focused on – is that the vast majority of our high school graduates aren’t ready for college or a career. And this holds true even when they follow a supposedly “rigorous” course of study, taking four years of English and three years each of math, science and social studies.
It turns out that much of what U.S. schools offer is “rigorous” in name only. Said differently, a distinct lack of academic rigor is de rigueur.

Related: A deeper look at local National Merit Scholar Results.

Looking at Tutors as an Investment

Paul Sullivan:

WITH only a few weeks left until school starts, the tutoring business is gearing up. And it is one industry in America that seems immune to recession. More parents are paying for tutors for their children.
Spending on tutors is growing at more than 5 percent a year, said Steve Pines, executive director of the Education Industry Association. This is down from yearly growth of 8 to 10 percent in 2007, when the education research firm EduVentures estimated the size of the tutoring industry at $5 billion to $7 billion a year. But it is still strong, given the state of most people’s personal finances. And Sandi Ayaz, executive director of the National Tutoring Association, said the number of tutors her organization had certified had grown 18 percent in each of the last five years.
While tutors once focused on helping children who were falling behind in particular subjects or had a learning disability, they are now being used far more to guide students through particularly tough courses, insure their grades are equal to or above their peers’ and, in the end, polish a child’s college application. This costs parents a lot of money, and the question is, What returns should they expect for their investment? And how does that desire mesh with what is right?

Math, science teachers get paid less, report says

Donna Gordon Blankinship

UW researchers have found that despite the spoken commitment of state officials and lawmakers, teachers in math and science earn less than other high-school instructors.
Researchers at the University of Washington have found that despite the spoken commitment of state officials and lawmakers, math and science teachers earn less than other high-school instructors.
In a report released Wednesday, the Center on Reinventing Public Education found that 19 of the state’s 30 largest school districts pay math or science teachers less than they spend on teachers in other subjects.
The way Washington and many other states pay teachers — with more money going to those with more years of experience and graduate degrees — has led to the uneven salaries.
Jobs that pay better at nearby high-tech companies may also be a contributing factor, because math and science teachers may be recruited away before they have a chance to reach the higher rungs on the pay ladder, said Jim Simpkins, a researcher on the report, with Marguerite Roza and Cristina Sepe.

Jim Simpkins, Marguerite Roza, Cristina Sepe

Washington State recently passed a law (House Bill 2621) intending to accelerate the teaching and learning of math and science. However, in the two subject areas the state seeks to prioritize, this analysis finds that nineteen of the thirty largest districts in the state spend less per math or science teacher than for teachers in other subjects.
Existing salary schedules are part of the problem. By not allowing any differential compensation for math and science teachers, and instead basing compensation only on longevity and graduate credits, the wage system works to create the uneven salaries.
The analysis finds that in twenty-five of the thirty largest districts, math and science teachers had fewer years of teaching experience due to higher turnover–an indication that labor market forces do indeed vary with subject matter expertise. The subject-neutral salary schedule works to ignore these differences.

Parents’ role as education partners growing as school year begins in D.C.

Timothy Wilson

As summer vacation comes to an end, District students are not alone in their transition from leisure to learning. Parents must also prepare to be involved for another year of academic growth.
According to the Harvard Family Research Project, parental involvement is key to student achievement. Public, private and charter schools are becoming more insistent that parents get involved with their children’s education inside and outside the classroom.
“We need to be encouraging them to participate in their child’s education,” said Kaye E. Savage, founder and chief executive of Excel Academy Public Charter School, an all-girls school in Southeast.
Savage said each parent at her school must sign a “covenant of excellence” to ensure their involvement.

Everyone Wins in the Postcode Lottery

Tim Harford

Life expectancy at birth ranges from 80 years in Hawaii to 72 in Washington, DC; and from 83 in Japan to 40 in Swaziland. In vitro fertilisation is available in some regions of the UK within months; in others it takes years. Fill in your own example here, because it is now a commonplace that the price, availability and quality of anything from a nursing home to a good education will vary depending on where you live.
I am not sure whether the British complain more about this than anyone else, but we have developed our own term to describe it: the “postcode lottery”. For community-minded gamblers there is actually a real postcode lottery, in which prizes are shared between winning ticket-holders and those fortunate enough to have homes on the same street. But for most Britons, the term is a lazy shorthand for the fact that where you live affects what you get.
There is a glaring problem with this phrase: while the ticket that gets pulled out of the tombola is chosen at random, the postcodes where you and I live are not. We aren’t serfs. If we want to move and we can afford to move, we can move.
I live in Hackney, a London borough where crime is high and the schools are poor. If I had a few spare million, perhaps I would move to Hampstead or Chelsea. I do not. People who shop at Harrods expect better food than those who shop at Tesco. Ferraris are faster and sexier than Fords. There are many words to describe this state of affairs, but “lottery” is not the one I would choose.

Harford makes an excellent point. It is clearly futile to impose one size fits all approaches, particularly in education. We, as a society are far better off with a diverse governance (many smaller schools/districts/charters/vouchers) and curricular environment.

Seattle opens next front in education reform effort

Seattle Public Schools administrators are fighting a battle for schoolchildren across the state.
The district has decided to go to the mat over teacher performance evaluations. District officials want teachers to be judged based in part on their students’ academic growth.
The union says the proposal is a no-go. With the school year fast approaching, a strike could be in the offing.
The Seattle Education Association would rather stick to a previous compromise: an evaluation system that would put teachers who rate “basic” or “unsatisfactory” at risk of dismissal.
What a radical notion – that teacher performance should dictate a teacher’s career prospects. Such is what qualifies as “historic change” – union officials’ words – in public education.
The district’s proposal is also rather modest contrary to the union’s characterizations.

Verona Abandons Student ID Card Display Requirement

Chris Rickert

Students of Verona High School, cast aside your name tags; you are no longer subject to the tyranny of instant identification.
Conceding defeat after only a year, school officials have abandoned a requirement that students wear their ID cards. Compliance with the rule had never reached more than 85 percent.
Eighty-five percent is pretty good in most things, but we’re dealing with identity here. Would you trust an online retailer that could protect your credit card number only 85 percent of the time? Airport screening that stopped 85 percent of the people on the terrorist watch list?
Of course, forcing students to wear their IDs isn’t meant to thwart a terrorist plot, and while the IDs are used to check out books at the library and get on the bus, adorning yourselves with them is not necessary to do either of those things.

The New Orleans School Voucher Program

Reason TV:

Before Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans in 2005, Orleans Parish public schools were failing miserably. After the storm shut down the public school system completely, there was little reason to be optimistic.
But then something amazing happened.
The state of Louisiana took control over most of the schools in the district and has been chartering those schools ever since. This fall, more than 70 percent of the students in New Orleans will attend charter schools. (Check out’s Katrina’s Silver Lining to learn more about the New Orleans charter school revolution.)
And then in 2008, Louisiana enacted the Student Scholarship for Educational Excellence Program, a pilot voucher program designed to allow students in failing schools to attend private schools in the area.

UW pushes for $76.8 million athletic center: Football uber alles

Colin Fly:

University of Wisconsin athletic officials are asking for a $76.8 million athletic performance center in the next two-year state budget, just five years after a $109.5-million expansion of Camp Randall Stadium.
The UW System Board of Regents will review the request, which does not involve any tax dollars, Thursday.
The proposal includes a new multistory building used primarily for football with new locker rooms and weight training facilities. The Regents agreed to a similar $67.2 million plan in the last budget cycle two years ago, but it was spiked by state officials in the approval process.
The proposal includes money to update the sound system and scoreboards at Camp Randall, add new locker rooms for other athletic teams and replace the FieldTurf installed six seasons ago.
The McClain Center, where several teams now practice, also would be updated.
The new facility would be located north of Camp Randall between the Lot 17 parking ramp and the adjacent complex for the UW School of Engineering.
“A whole new facility would really bring this program to a top-notch level where you could say it’s second to none,” quarterback Scott Tolzien said. “We’d have the locker room right there, the stadium right here and all those facilities literally just footsteps away. I think that would be huge with recruiting and with trying to raise this program to the next level.”

Prepping for the Playdate Test

Shelly Banjo:

Good eye contact, a firm handshake and self confidence can pave the way to a good interview. Turns out, that’s the case even if the applicant is 4 or 5 years old.
In the frenzy to get kindergarteners into the top private schools, parents are now hiring consultants to coach their children on the art of the interview.
For years, such preparations have been the norm for the standardized tests children must take to get into private schools, the so-called ERBs, which measure IQ and are administered by the Educational Records Bureau. But after a cottage industry devoted to test-prep materials and classes developed, parents say scoring in the top percentile or two became the norm rather than the exception; schools such as Horace Mann, Dalton and Collegiate began placing more emphasis on the interview and getting more granular in their assessments.
Since New York parents have a tendency to exaggerate their sons’ and daughters’ piano or French skills, admissions directors say they like to see any special talents with their own eyes.

Wager 101: Students Bet on Their Grades

Stephanie Banchero

Two New York entrepreneurs are offering college students the chance to put their money where their grades are.
Their website lets college students place wagers on their own academic performance, betting they will earn, say, an A in biology or a B in calculus. Students with low grade point averages are considered long shots, so they have the opportunity to win more money for high grades than classmates with a better GPA.
The pair of recent college graduates who founded say they hope to turn a profit and inspire students to work harder. “It would be great if everyone was intrinsically motivated to get good grades, but that’s, like, not reality,” said Jeremy Gelbart, a 23-year-old co-founder of the site.

Race, Wrongs, and Remedies: Group Justice in the 21st Century

John McWhorter

This book is depressing because it is so persuasive. There is a school of thought in America which argues that the government must be the main force that provides help to the black community. This shibboleth is predicated upon another one: that such government efforts will make a serious difference in disparities between blacks and whites. Amy Wax not only argues that such efforts have failed, she also suggests that such efforts cannot bring equality, and therefore must be abandoned. Wax identifies the illusion that mars American thinking on this subject as the myth of reverse causation–that if racism was the cause of a problem, then eliminating racism will solve it. If only this were true. But it isn’t true: racism can set in motion cultural patterns that take on a life of their own.
Wax appeals to a parable in which a pedestrian is run over by a truck and must learn to walk again. The truck driver pays the pedestrian’s medical bills, but the only way the pedestrian will walk again is through his own efforts. The pedestrian may insist that the driver do more, that justice has not occurred until the driver has himself made the pedestrian learn to walk again. But the sad fact is that justice, under this analysis, is impossible. The legal theory about remedies, Wax points out, grapples with this inconvenience–and the history of the descendants of African slaves, no matter how horrific, cannot upend its implacable logic. As she puts it, “That blacks did not, in an important sense, cause their current predicament does not preclude charging them with alleviating it if nothing else will work.”

Charter Proponents Flex Political Muscle

Jacob Gershman

The charter-school movement appears to be catching up to the teachers union in political giving to Albany.
With the help of hedge-fund managers and other Wall Street financiers, charter-school advocates gave more than $600,000 to Albany political candidates and party committees since January, according to the latest campaign filings. That’s more than twice as much as in prior reporting periods, according to allies of charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately run.
Pro-charter donations appear to have surpassed the $500,000 or so that candidates raised from teachers unions during the six-month period.

Looking for Baby Sitters: Foreign Language a Must

Jenny Anderson:

When Maureen Mazumder enrolled her daughter, Sabrina, in a Spanish singalong class a year ago, she hoped it would be the first step in helping her learn a second language. But the class did not seem to do the trick, so Ms. Mazumder decided to hire a baby sitter, one who would not only care for her daughter but also speak to her exclusively in Spanish.
“It was a must that she speak Spanish,” said Ms. Mazumder, who said neither she nor her husband was fluent in the language. “We feel so strongly that our daughter hear another language.”
Ms. Mazumder, whose daughter is nearly 3, has company. Although a majority of parents seeking caretakers for their children still seek ones who will speak to their children in English, popular parenting blogs and Web sites indicate that a noticeable number of New York City parents are looking for baby sitters and nannies to help their children learn a second language, one they may not speak themselves.

Feds say school that “accidentally” took 56,000 remote photos of students committed no crime


School officials in Pennsylvania’s Lower Merion School District will not face criminal charges for activating a tracking feature on school-issued webcams that allowed them to capture about 56,000 images of unsuspecting students and their families at home.
Federal prosecutors said today that they will not file charges against the district or its employees, according to an Associated Press report. Investigators found no evidence of criminal intent by those who activated the feature and/or reviewed the images.
Also today, the district announced new policies for its One-to-One laptop program. In a statement, the district explained the new policies and emphasized how it would be allowed to activate the tracking feature in the future. The district wrote:


Scores Stagnate at US High Schools

Staphanie Banchero:

New data show that fewer than 25% of 2010 graduates who took the ACT college-entrance exam possessed the academic skills necessary to pass entry-level courses, despite modest gains in college-readiness among U.S high-school students in the last few years.
The results raise questions about how well the nation’s high schools are preparing students for college, and show the challenge facing the Obama administration in its effort to raise educational standards. The administration won bipartisan support for its education policies early on, but faces a tough fight in the fall over the rewrite and reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind program.
While elementary schools have shown progress on national achievement exams, high-school results have stayed perniciously low. Some experts say the lack of rigor in high-school courses is partly to blame.
“High schools are the downfall of American school reform,” said Jack Jennings, president of the Center on Education Policy, a nonpartisan research organization in Washington. “We haven’t figured out how to improve them on a broad scope and if our kids aren’t dropping out physically, they are dropping out mentally.”

40 to 49% of Wisconsin High School Graduates who took the ACT met at least three of the four college readiness benchmarks. 50 to 54% of Minnesota’s students met three out of four while 30-39% of Illinois students achieved that standard. Iowa’s percentage was the same as Wisconsin’s.

Wealthy Seek Special-Ed Cash

Barbara Martinez:

Families in the most affluent New York City school districts, including the Upper East and Upper West sides, file more claims than other parts of the city seeking reimbursement of their children’s private-school tuition, according to Department of Education data.
The department last year spent $116 million in tuition and legal expenses to cover special-education students whose parents sued the DOE alleging that their public-school options were not appropriate. The number is more than double three years ago, and the costs are expected to continue to rise.
Parents have been helped by a series of U.S. Supreme Court decisions that strengthened their legal position to sue school districts. The most recent case was last summer.
“No one begrudges parents the right to send their children to private school,” said Michael Best, general counsel at the DOE. “But this system was not intended as a way for private school parents to get the taxpayers to fund their children’s tuition.”

Teachers, by the numbers A team of Times reporters is giving the public its first glimpse of some surprising findings on teachers and their performance in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Los Angeles Times:

The Los Angeles Unified School District has done an admirable job of collecting useful data about its teachers — which ones have the classroom magic that makes students learn and which ones annually let their students down. Yet it has never used that valuable information to analyze what successful teachers have in common, so that others can learn from them, or to let less effective teachers know how they’re doing.
For the record: This editorial says the federal Race to the Top grant program pushed states to make students’ test scores count for half or more of a teacher’s performance evaluation. Although the program has encouraged this by awarding its first grants to states that promised to do so, it has not formally required it.
If it weren’t for the work of a team of Times reporters, this information might have remained uselessly locked away. Now that the paper is reporting on the wide disparities among teachers, the public is getting its first glimpse of some surprising findings.

Marketplace has more as does Daniel Willingham.

U.S. schools chief endorses release of teacher data

Jason Felch & Jason Song:

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said Monday that parents have a right to know if their children’s teachers are effective, endorsing the public release of information about how well individual teachers fare at raising their students’ test scores.
“What’s there to hide?” Duncan said in an interview one day after The Times published an analysis of teacher effectiveness in the Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation’s second largest school system. “In education, we’ve been scared to talk about success.”
Duncan’s comments mark the first time the Obama administration has expressed support for a public airing of information about teacher performance — a move that is sure to fan the already fierce debate over how to better evaluate teachers.
Spurred by the administration, school districts around the country have moved to adopt “value added” measures, a statistical approach that relies on standardized test scores to measure student learning. Critics, including many teachers unions and some policy experts, say the method is based on flawed tests that don’t measure the more intangible benefits of good teaching and lead to a narrow curriculum. In Los Angeles, the teachers union has called public disclosure of the results “dangerous” and “irresponsible.”

My Thoughts on Test Scores

John Ciani:

With less than a week before school starts, the California Department of Education released the results of the 2010 Standardized Testing and Reporting Program tests.
As I looked at the numbers, I was encouraged as well as concerned.
There was growth in students scoring proficient or above in some grades and declines in others. Looking at the Sierra Sands Unified School District results, I was really tickled to see across-the-board growth at the high-school level. While gains were not overly dramatic, the results show movement in the right direction.
I was also pleased to see growth in the Trona Joint Unified School District elementary grades. This is a good sign, because the elementary school is in program improvement under the federal No Child Left Behind. I hope this growth is a sign of things to come.

Given Money for Rehiring, Schools Wait and See

Motoko Rich:

With the economic outlook weakening, they argue that big deficits are looming for the next academic year and that they need to preserve the funds to prevent future layoffs. Los Angeles, for example, is projecting a $280 million budget shortfall next year that could threaten more jobs.
“You’ve got this herculean task to deal with next year’s deficit,” said Lydia L. Ramos, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation’s second-largest after New York City. “So if there’s a way that you can lessen the blow for next year,” she said, “we feel like it would be responsible to try to do that.”
The district laid off 682 teachers and counselors and about 2,000 support workers this spring and was not sure it would be able to hire any of them back with the stimulus money. The district says it could be forced to cut 4,500 more people next year.

Birth Order Affects Child’s Intelligence and Personality

Rachael Rettner:

Birth order within families has long sparked sibling rivalry, but it might also impact the child’s personality and intelligence, a new study suggests. First-borns are typically smarter, while younger siblings get better grades and are more outgoing, the researchers say.
The findings weigh in on a long-standing debate: What effect if any does birth order have on a person’s life? While numerous studies have been conducted, researchers have yet to draw any definitive conclusions.
The results lend support to some previous hypotheses — for instance, that the eldest sibling tends to have higher aptitude. But the study also contradicts other proposed ideas, for example, that first-borns tend to be more extroverted.

Growing Power’s National-International Urban & Small Farm Conference

via a kind reader’s email:

Come to Milwaukee and help grow the good food revolution. Hosted by Growing Power–a national organization headed by the sustainable urban farmer and MacArthur Fellow Will Allen–this international conference will teach the participant how to plan, develop and grow small farms in urban and rural areas. Learn how you can grow food year-round, no matter what the climate, and how you can build markets for small farms. See how you can play a part in creating a new food system that fosters better health and more closely-knit communities.

America: Land of Loners?

Daniel Akst

Science-fiction writers make the best seers. In the late 1950s far-sighted Isaac Asimov imagined a sunny planet called Solaria, on which a scant 20,000 humans dwelt on far-flung estates and visited one another only virtually, by materializing as “trimensional images”–avatars, in other words. “They live completely apart,” a helpful robot explained to a visiting earthling, “and never see one another except under the most extraordinary circumstances.”
We have not, of course, turned into Solarians here on earth, strictly limiting our numbers and shunning our fellow humans in revulsion. Yet it’s hard not to see some Solarian parallels in modern life. Since Asimov wrote The Naked Sun, Americans have been engaged in wholesale flight from one another, decamping for suburbs and Sunbelt, splintering into ever smaller households, and conducting more and more of their relationships online, where avatars flourish. The churn rate of domestic relations is especially remarkable, and has rendered family life in the United States uniquely unstable. “No other comparable nation,” the sociologist Andrew J. Cherlin observes, “has such a high level of multiple marital and cohabiting unions.”

Competition and Education

Matthew Yglesias:

After all, as Brad DeLong likes to point out the “get a bunch of people in a room to listen to some guy talk” model of education was an organizational response to the high price of books. In principle, it would seem to have been made obsolete by the printing press and the public library. Yet obviously that didn’t happen. Colleges and universities managed to make themselves indispensable sources of credentials and social prestige. And though they’ve of course incorporated information technology innovations into their work, they still engage in an incredible quantity of pre-Gutenberg educating.

The Value Added by LA Teachers

Elena Silva

There’s already plenty of chatter about Sunday’s LA Times article on the value-added scores of LAUSD teachers, and certainly more to come (comments blowing up here). With access to seven years of math and English scores for hundreds of thousands of 3rd through 5th grade students (under California Public Records Act), the Times hired RAND researcher Richard Buddin to conduct a value-added analysis on LAUSD teachers. Over the next few weeks, and likely beyond that, the Times promises to publish the findings of this analysis in articles and via a full database. For thousands of LAUSD teachers, this means they should expect to see their names and scores in their morning paper. For parents and the rest of the public, it means they will have more information about public school teachers’ performance than ever before.

Seattle’s Dysfunctional School Board

Charlie Mas:

The Board of Directors of Seattle Public Schools has four primary functions… and they fail to fulfill each of them.
The Board, first and foremost, are the elected representatives of the public, but this Board doesn’t represent the public at all. This Board doesn’t raise the public’s concerns, doesn’t relay the public’s wishes, and doesn’t voice the public perspective. I almost never hear the Board members talk about the public or their constituents saying “People are concerned about..” or “People want…” or “People see it this way…”.
The Board doesn’t voice the public perspective and certainly doesn’t advocate for it. Worse, the Board doesn’t advocate for the public to have a voice for themselves. The Board is no champion of community engagement. The Board regularly approves motions with inadequate community engagement and regularly approves motions with NO community engagement. The Board hasn’t demanded improved engagement from anyone and hasn’t even demanded that the staff provide the community engagement that they promised to do. The Board’s own community engagement is just about the worst of any workgroup in the District. Their primary community engagement practice is testimony at Board meetings and they never respond to the people who come and speak to them there.

Outdoors and Out of Reach, Studying the Brain

Matt Richtel

Todd Braver emerges from a tent nestled against the canyon wall. He has a slight tan, except for a slim pale band around his wrist.
For the first time in three days in the wilderness, Mr. Braver is not wearing his watch. “I forgot,” he says.
It is a small thing, the kind of change many vacationers notice in themselves as they unwind and lose track of time. But for Mr. Braver and his companions, these moments lead to a question: What is happening to our brains?
Mr. Braver, a psychology professor at Washington University in St. Louis, was one of five neuroscientists on an unusual journey. They spent a week in late May in this remote area of southern Utah, rafting the San Juan River, camping on the soft banks and hiking the tributary canyons.

New Scottish Curriculum for Excellence takes effect


A controversial overhaul of classroom teaching in Scotland will take effect as secondary pupils begin returning to school after the summer break.
The Curriculum for Excellence, which has been four years in the making, aims to give teachers more freedom and make lessons less prescriptive.
Some teachers, unions and opposition parties have expressed concern the curriculum is not ready.
But Scottish ministers have given assurances it will improve standards.
And Education Secretary Mike Russell said the current system was not being largely re-written.

‘Free’ Iowa preschool will cost some kids

Staci Hupp:

Iowa parents who thought a shift to public preschool meant less money out of their pockets are in for a surprise.
Parents of 4-year-old students in some Iowa school districts will be charged tuition, despite the nearly $65 million Iowa taxpayers will pump this year into a statewide preschool expansion led by Gov. Chet Culver.
The practice could fuel an election-year debate about whether taxpayers should foot the bill for preschool. Terry Branstad, Culver’s Republican opponent, said he will scrap universal preschool if he wins the Nov. 2 election.

Book Learning vs. Wisdom – Where to Place One’s Emphasis


I have never let my schooling interfere with my education – Mark Twain.
Our new, wired world has brought forth many positives. One of the simplest, yet powerful, of the new tools available is the ability to bookmark worthy Internet materials for future use.
Even more powerful is the ability to share those materials indirectly through the use of sites like Delicious. We subscribe so as to have the most popular education bookmarks forwarded to us on a daily basis.

On State Standards, National Merit Semifinalists & Local Media

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes:

I’m not so sure we have all that much to brag about in terms of our statewide educational standards or achievement. The Milwaukee public schools are extremely challenged, to put it mildly. The state has one of the worst achievement gaps in the nation. The WKCE is widely acknowledged as a poor system for statewide assessment of student progress. Just last week our state academic standards were labeled among the worst in the country in a national study.
We brag about how well Wisconsin students do on the ACT, and this is certainly good. But about 30 states have higher cut scores than Wisconsin when it comes to identifying National Merit Scholars, which means that their top 1% of students taking the test score higher than our top 1% do. (We in the MMSD are justly proud of our inordinate number of National Merit semi-finalists, but if – heaven forbid – MMSD were to be plopped down in the middle of Illinois, our number of semi-finalists would go down, perhaps significantly so. Illinois students need a higher score on the PSAT to be designated a National Merit semi-finalist than Wisconsin students do.)

There is generally no small amount of bragging on Madison National Merit Semi-finalists. It would be interesting to compare cut scores around the country.

More university students taking advantage of cheaper community college courses

Daniel de Vise

But Daly returned home from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles and headed straight to the local community college for more classes.
Community colleges in the Washington region are doing brisk business this summer with students from four-year universities. The students are taking advantage of increasingly flexible transfer policies to load up on cheap, convenient credits that will help them graduate more quickly and at a lower expense.
Prince George’s Community College enrolled 136 students from four-year colleges this summer, nearly double last year’s number. Tidewater Community College in Virginia has 2,150 four-year college students, up 14 percent. Montgomery College has 3,100 four-year college students, about one-quarter of its summer enrollment. No comparison with last year’s enrollment was available.

UK school leavers scramble for best jobs

Chris Cook

British Telecom has received more than 100 applications for each of its apprenticeships this year, as school leavers scramble to find places at university or jobs with prospects amid the worst youth unemployment since the early 1990s.
British Telecom had almost 24,000 applications for its 221 apprenticeship positions – up from 9,000 last year. More people applied for those few positions – seen as the route to a job for life – than applied to Oxford University, which attracted 17,144 candidates for its 3,000 undergraduate places.
BT apprentices start on a salary between £11,000 and £14,000 per annum. Successful apprentices specialise in either IT, telecoms, electrical systems or customer service and study for a BTEC (a vocational qualification) or a foundation degree.
A mini baby boom that peaked in the early 1990s and high youth unemployment are combining to make this year particularly tough for school leavers. Over the past three years, the unemployment rate among the UK’s 6m 18-24 year olds has climbed by five percentage points to 17.5 per cent. More young people than ever are now applying for places in education.

The Great Brain Race

Michael Alison Chandler

How Global Universities Are Reshaping the World
By Ben Wildavsky. Princeton Univ. 240 pp. $26.95
Globalization is changing the food we eat, the way we communicate and, increasingly, the way we go to college. Nearly 3 million students were enrolled in universities outside their borders in 2009, a 57 percent increase over the previous decade, according to the Institute of International Education, which facilitates exchange programs.
“The Great Brain Race,” by Ben Wildavsky, takes a comprehensive look at today’s worldwide marketplace for college students — with stops in such places as Singapore, South Korea and Saudi Arabia, where western schools, including the University of Chicago and potentially George Mason University, are opening satellite campuses or where local governments are making heavy investments in American-style research universities. The author, a former education editor at U.S. News & World Report, also explores the latest attempts to rate the world’s top colleges now that more students are degree-shopping across borders.

The Old College Try A flood of new entrepreneurs find it often pays to go back to school

Laura Lober

Jordan Holt needed a business plan. So he went back to school.
A technician for a military contractor in Yuma, Ariz., Mr. Holt launched a side business last year, servicing and repairing generators–and quickly realized he would need to write up a formal plan if he ever wanted to borrow money for equipment. But after doing some online research, putting together a plan “looked complicated and overwhelming,” he says.
He decided to get the help he needed from a business-plan development course at Arizona Western College in Yuma. “I was able to take everything in my head and put it down on paper,” says Mr. Holt, a 29-year-old ex-Marine. “I truly think it could work.”

A Deeper Look at Madison’s National Merit Scholar Results

Madison and nearby school districts annually publicize their National Merit Scholar counts.
Consequently, I read with interest Madison School Board member Ed Hughes’ recent blog post:

We brag about how well Wisconsin students do on the ACT, and this is certainly good. But about 30 states have higher cut scores than Wisconsin when it comes to identifying National Merit Scholars, which means that their top 1% of students taking the test score higher than our top 1% do. (We in the MMSD are justly proud of our inordinate number of National Merit semi-finalists, but if – heaven forbid – MMSD were to be plopped down in the middle of Illinois, our number of semi-finalists would go down, perhaps significantly so. Illinois students need a higher score on the PSAT to be designated a National Merit semi-finalist than Wisconsin students do.)

I asked a few people who know about such things and received this response:

The critical cut score for identifying National Merit Semifinalist varies from state to state depending on the number of students who took the test and how well those students did on the test. In 2009, a score of 207 would put a student amongst the top 1% of test takers in Wisconsin and qualify them as a National Merit Semifinalist. However this score would not be high enough to qualify the student as a semifinalist in 36 other states or the District of Columbia.

View individual state cut scores, by year here. In 2010, Minnesota’s cut score was 215, Illinois’ 214, Iowa 209 and Michigan 209. Wisconsin’s was 207.

Taking Schools Into Their Own Hands: More Mayors Seek Control as Washington Presses for Action on Failing Institutions; Setting an Example in Rochester

Joy Resmovits

During the last weeks of the term, third graders at School 58-World of Inquiry School created an oil spill in a bowl. Under the guidance of teacher Alyson Ricci, they tried to clean it up. Cotton swabs worked.
The school last year won the national Excellence in Urban Education Award, with all students meeting state proficiency rates in science and social studies. It’s an exception, though, in a Rochester system where fewer than half of the 32,000 public-school students graduate on time.
Rochester Mayor Robert Duffy wants to set up more schools that produce results like World of Inquiry’s. But he says the superintendent’s efforts to close failing schools and open new ones have been hobbled by a school board mired in minutia. He is pushing to dissolve the elected board in favor of one appointed by the mayor and city council for a five-year test period. New York’s state legislature is considering the bid.
As cities come under increasing pressure to fix failing schools, more are, like Rochester, trying to take matters into their own hands–or at least those of their mayors.

New Jersey Charter School Faces Hurdle


The September opening of New Jersey’s first Hebrew-language charter school is being challenged over claims it hasn’t met enrollment requirements.
The East Brunswick school board this week asked an appeals court to temporarily block Hatikvah International Academy Charter School’s final charter, saying the school’s enrollment doesn’t meet charter-school regulations and that Hatikvah’s failure to provide enrollment information makes it difficult for the district to plan for the school year. The motion follows an earlier complaint by the school board to the state’s education commissioner, Bret Schundler.
State officials declined to comment on the pending case. “The charter school met requirements when its application was approved,” said a Department of Education spokesman, Alan Guenther. Hatikvah received its final charter from the education commissioner on July 6. New Jersey code requires charter schools to verify 90% of enrollment by June 30; in the case of Hatikvah, that would have been 97 of its 108-student capacity.

Video Résumés Reveal Too Much, Too Soon

Anne Kadet

If you want a little entertainment, you could check out a movie or head to the bookstore. But you might have better luck firing up YouTube to watch the latest crop of video résumés. Since the start of the recession, thousands of unemployed hopefuls have posted clips of themselves wooing imaginary recruiters, and many seem to have gone mad in their quest for a job. They look tired, they look bored, they look angry. They talk about themselves in the third person. And they don’t mind making their private ambitions public. As one candidate told the camera, “I just want to commit my life to, you know, a job that, you know, my life can be committed to.”
Video résumés aren’t new, but as high unemployment drags on, they’re increasingly pitched to job hunters looking to stand out. Colleen Aylward, CEO of video service, says she sees a new competitor launch just about every week. The services are popular with career counselors as well. Todd Lempicke, founder of, says more than 260 colleges, libraries and job centers will be offering his video services to their constituents, double the number in 2009.
A video résumé can run you anywhere from $7,000 (for “executive Web portfolio” packages) to $50 (for guided tutorials that have candidates recording presentations with a webcam). And, of course, many folks take the DIY route. When done right, the results can be impressive: It’s a chance to flaunt engaging qualities that a paper CV can’t capture. But more often, the effort goes horribly wrong.

Scissors, Glue, Pencils? Check. Cleaning Spray?

When Emily Cooper headed off to first grade in Moody, Ala., last week, she was prepared with all the stuff on her elementary school’s must-bring list: two double rolls of paper towels, three packages of Clorox wipes, three boxes of baby wipes, two boxes of garbage bags, liquid soap, Kleenex and Ziplocs.
“The first time I saw it, my mouth hit the floor,” Emily’s mother, Kristin Cooper, said of the list, which also included perennials like glue sticks, scissors and crayons.
Schools across the country are beginning the new school year with shrinking budgets and outsize demands for basic supplies. And while many parents are wincing at picking up the bill, retailers are rushing to cash in by expanding the back-to-school category like never before.

on The Chicago Manual of Style

Mary Laur

One of the most useful traits an editor can possess is an openness to surprises, and no book I’ve ever worked on has surprised me more than The Chicago Manual of Style. Little did I suspect back in 1992, when I first read the Manual paragraph by paragraph for a basic manuscript editing class, that I would eventually join the team responsible for keeping this classic, century-old publication current. Nor would I have guessed in 1998, when I helped create the first manuscript for the 15th edition by slicing apart a bound copy of the 14th, that nine years later we would initiate the 16th edition by extracting the XML files used for the full-text HTML version of the 15th. And yes, a late adopter of technology like me may never have learned to fling around such terminology of the digital age if not for my work on the 16th edition, which will be published this summer. Go figure.
Still, the biggest surprises I’ve encountered in connection with the Manual have come in the responses of those who use the book, or at least understand its place in the canon. More often than not, people who hear that I work on the Manual–even those from outside the worlds of academia and publishing–instantly recognize the title, a rare treat for an editor in scholarly publishing. Sometimes they tell me stories of college days spent wrestling with proper footnote format or of interoffice battles over comma use, both of which likely involved recourse to the Manual. Inevitably, they ask me questions. Their curiosity increasingly centers on the broad issues that preoccupy those of us on the revision team, such as how changes wrought by technology affect everything from editing processes to citation style. But the question I still field most frequently concerns a matter of much smaller scale:

UC Berkeley will not send students DNA results

Victoria Colliver

Under pressure from state public health officials, the professors behind UC Berkeley’s controversial plan to genetically test incoming freshmen and transfer students said Thursday they will scale back the program so that participants will not receive personal results from their DNA samples.
The university raised the ire of genetic watchdog and privacy groups in May when it first launched “Bring Your Genes to Cal.” The voluntary program is believed to be the largest genetic testing project at a U.S. university.
The 5,500 incoming freshman and transfer students for the fall semester received testing kits in the mail and were asked to submit cheek swabs of their DNA to kick off a yearly exercise to involve the new students in a common educational experience centered on a theme. This year’s theme is personalized medicine.
Students were to receive personal information about three of their genes – those related to the ability to break down lactose, metabolize alcohol and absorb folates. This information was to be the basis of lectures and discussions on such topics as the ethical, social and legal interpretations of genetic testing.
But what was meant to be a group educational exercise turned into a lesson for the university on the politics and policy of medical testing.
Assembly hearing
The program was the subject of a state Assembly committee hearing on Tuesday in Sacramento. On Wednesday, officials from the state Department of Public Health said the university must use certified laboratories that meet specific standards, rather than the campus labs, if the school planned to release individualized test results, identified only by barcodes, to students.
“The California Department of Public Health made the determination that what we’re doing isn’t really actual research or education; that what we’re doing is providing medical information, conducting a test,” said Dr. Mark Schlissel, dean of biological sciences at UC Berkeley’s College of Letters & Science and a professor of molecular and cell biology.
Schlissel said he disagreed with that assessment, but said the university will comply with state regulators. UC officials have asked the Department of Public Health to provide legal authority for its interpretation.
The university still plans to analyze the DNA samples in a campus research lab, but students will not have access to their personal results. Instead, the test results will be presented in aggregate to students during lectures and panel discussions this fall.
Schlissel said the controversy and intervention by state regulators has raised interesting questions for the discussions. “Who has authority to tell an individual what they’re allowed to know about themselves?” he said. “I don’t know the answer to that.”
About 700 students have already submitted their samples.
Critics’ concerns
Critics had raised questions about how the genetic information, even seemingly innocuous, could be misinterpreted or misused. For example, students who learn they metabolize alcohol well may mistakenly think they can overindulge without consequence.
Jeremy Gruber, who testified at Tuesday’s hearing before the Assembly Committee on Higher Education in his role as president of the Council for Responsible Genetics, still has lingering concerns about how the samples will be handled and whether students had the proper amount of information before offering consent to provide them.
“The fact it required the intervention of the Department of Public Health before they would act in the best interest of their students is absolutely appalling,” he said.
UC Berkeley officials have said the university will incinerate the samples after they are tested in the next few weeks. Jesse Reynolds, policy analyst at the Center for Genetics and Society in Berkeley, had opposed the university’s program primarily over privacy concerns and what he considered the lack of research into the implications of such a mass experiment.
He said restricting students from receiving information about their personal genetics essentially cancels the “personalized medicine” aspect of the program. He said that although students signed consent forms to participate as part of submitting their DNA samples, he is concerned they have now signed consent forms for what is to be a different program.
“Genetic testing in general and personalized medicine specifically are likely to be an increasing part of our lives,” Reynolds said. “More education is certainly needed, but this was not the way to go about it.”

Packing for College, 2010 Style

Karen Blumenthal

As you help pack up the minifridge, laptop and extra-long twin sheets for your college freshman, you might consider a few other last-minute chores:
• Scour your health-insurance coverage for loopholes.
• Reread your homeowner’s insurance policy.
• Call your lawyer.
Sending a child off to college for the first time is wrenching enough, but a slew of conflicting rules and changing banking and health-care laws are making this year’s move-in season more confusing than ever.
And with college costs and student debt at record levels, it is all the more important for students–and their parents–to avoid the new financial traps cropping up on campuses these days, from debit cards to health insurance.

Packing for College, 2010 Style Hidden financial traps are snaring even the best and brightest on campus–and their parents. Here is how to make sure you don’t flunk Money 101.

Karen Blumenthal

As you help pack up the minifridge, laptop and extra-long twin sheets for your college freshman, you might consider a few other last-minute chores:
• Scour your health-insurance coverage for loopholes.
• Reread your homeowner’s insurance policy.
• Call your lawyer.
Sending a child off to college for the first time is wrenching enough, but a slew of conflicting rules and changing banking and health-care laws are making this year’s move-in season more confusing than ever.
And with college costs and student debt at record levels, it is all the more important for students–and their parents–to avoid the new financial traps cropping up on campuses these days, from debit cards to health insurance.
Overlooking small details now, in the frenzied rush to campus, can invite much stress later on.

Politics steers K-12 stimulus off course

Wisconsin State Journal Editorial:

President Barack Obama and Congress rescued the nation’s financially-strapped schools last week with a new stimulus bill that includes $10 billion in emergency aid for education.
At least that’s the simple, heroic story the president and fellow Democrats tried to tell.
The truth, however, is far more complex and far less heroic. Consider:
While schools will benefit from the additional money, many school districts, including Madison’s, are concerned about the requirements for how the money can be spent. The bill’s lack of flexibility may penalize schools that made tough budget decisions and reward schools that took the easiest way out of fiscal problems.

Managing education in America

Ray Fisman

In 1983, a presidential commission issued the landmark report “A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform.” The report warned that despite an increase in spending, the U.S. public education system was at risk of failure “If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today,” the report declared, “we might well have viewed it as an act of war.”
New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein often quotes the commission before discussing how U.S. schools have fared since it issued its report. Despite nearly doubling per capita spending on education over the past few decades, American 15-year olds fared dismally in standardized math tests given in 2000, placing 18th out of 27 member countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. Six years later, the U.S. had slipped to 25th out of 30. If Americans have been fighting against mediocrity in education since 1983, they are losing the battle.
What could turn things around? At a recent event that I organized at the Columbia Business School, Klein opened with his harsh assessment of the situation, and researchers offered some stark options for getting American education back on track. We could find drastically better ways of training teachers or improve our hiring practices so we’re bringing aboard better teachers in the first place. Barring these improvements, the only option left is firing low-performing teachers–who have traditionally had lifetime tenure–en masse.

More college students mentally ill, study shows

Shari Roan

The number of college students who are afflicted with a serious mental illness is rising, according to data presented Thursday at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association in San Diego.
The findings came from an analysis of 3,265 college students who used campus counseling services between September 1997 and August 2009. The students were screened for mental disorders, suicidal thoughts and self-injurious behavior.
In 1998, 93 percent of the students seeking counseling were diagnosed with one mental disorder, compared to 96 percent of students in 2009. The percentage of students with moderate to severe depression rose from 34 percent to 41 percent while the number of students on psychiatric medications increased from 11 percent to 24 percent.

Hong Kong pupils head north for a new class system

Elaine Yau

Fion Chan Chui-tung could barely utter a complete sentence in Putonghua or English a year ago.
Now, after 12 months at Utahloy International School, a sprawling and pristine international school in Guangzhou, the Hong Kong teen converses effortlessly with her ethnically diverse schoolmates.
Fion, 18, is one of a growing number of pupils who have upped sticks and headed north to study. Enrollment of Hongkongers in international schools in Guangzhou and Shenzhen is rising by 5 to 10 per cent a year.
Parents who spurn prestigious international schools in Hong Kong in favour of mainland ones cite a list of factors: lower tuition fees, low living costs, a strict teaching regimen and bucolic campuses where not a word of Cantonese is spoken.
Fion’s mother, Luk Yim-fong, a businesswoman, transferred her daughter from Heung To Secondary School in Tseung Kwan O to Utahloy so that she would not be surrounded by Cantonese speakers. “Although Heung To offers Putonghua classes, all the students speak Cantonese after class,” she says. “From my business dealings with multinational corporations like Samsung, even Korean businessmen speak fluent Putonghua. Mandarin is a language my daughter must master in order to thrive in future.”

Why Does College Cost So Much?

Stephen Spruiell

One of the most popular articles on Digg yesterday was titled, “Why Does College Cost So Much?” — I guess it’s that time of year. The article was written by a pair of economics professors who have written a forthcoming book on the subject. The authors argue that the primary factors driving college-tuition inflation are:
1. The labor-hours needed to provide this “artisanal” service have not declined;
2. The cost of employing the highly educated workers needed to provide the service has gone up; and
3. The cost of the technologies employed in higher education has risen faster than the cost of other technologies.
I’m interested to see what kind of evidence the authors provide for this thesis in their book, because I’m not at all persuaded by this article. The authors don’t bother to mention the argument, even for the purpose of dismissing it, that the primary factor driving college-tuition inflation is actually ballooning federal tuition support: Tuition keeps going up because the federal government ensures that students can afford to pay it.

Pay raises for new N.J. teachers contracts are smallest in at least 30 years

Lisa Fleisher

As Gov. Chris Christie campaigned against teacher raises during his first six months in office, unions and school districts agreed to the lowest pay hikes in more than three decades, according to a survey released Thursday by the New Jersey School Boards Association.
Teachers in 75 districts who settled contracts in the first half of the year will see an average raise of 2.03 percent for the 2010-11 school year, the association said. That’s the lowest pay increase in the more than 30 years the group has kept track — and doesn’t include an additional 18 districts that broke into contracts to freeze salaries.
Association spokesman Frank Belluscio said the chief factor was the $1.3 billion in state education aid cut since January, leaving many districts faced with a choice: cut pay or see colleagues fired and positions frozen.

N.J. Education Commissioner Bret Schundler to tell Senate panel of his priorities

Tom Hester, Sr.

The state Senate Education Committee will meet on Monday to discuss a measure that would revamp New Jersey’s charter school regulation system.
State Education Commissioner Bret D. Schundler, who supports the expansion of charter schools, is scheduled to attend the hearing to outline the Christie administration’s priorities regarding education in New Jersey.
The meeting will also focus on bill S-2198, a measure sponsored by Senate Education Committee Chairwoman Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex) and Senator Sandra Bolden Cunningham (D-Hudson), which would enable Rutgers University to authorize charter schools. The bill is designed to expedite the approval of charter school applications, and permit the authorization of special purpose charter schools.

Who’s teaching L.A.’s kids? A Times “Value Added” analysis, using data largely ignored by LAUSD, looks at which educators help students learn, and which hold them back.

Jason Felch, Jason Song and Doug Smith

The fifth-graders at Broadous Elementary School come from the same world — the poorest corner of the San Fernando Valley, a Pacoima neighborhood framed by two freeways where some have lost friends to the stray bullets of rival gangs.
Many are the sons and daughters of Latino immigrants who never finished high school, hard-working parents who keep a respectful distance and trust educators to do what’s best.
The students study the same lessons. They are often on the same chapter of the same book.
Yet year after year, one fifth-grade class learns far more than the other down the hall. The difference has almost nothing to do with the size of the class, the students or their parents.
It’s their teachers.
With Miguel Aguilar, students consistently have made striking gains on state standardized tests, many of them vaulting from the bottom third of students in Los Angeles schools to well above average, according to a Times analysis. John Smith’s pupils next door have started out slightly ahead of Aguilar’s but by the end of the year have been far behind.

Much more on “Value Added Assessment” and teacher evaluations here. Locally, Madison’s Value Added Assessment evaluations are based on the oft criticized WKCE.

Classroom Wars in South Korea: An education paradox

Aidan Foster-Carter

Education in South Korea is a paradox, where two big truths clash. Koreans are incredibly keen, and on many measures do very well. Yet nobody – students, parents, teachers or the authorities – is happy. And now battles are raging, on everything from testing and elitism to teachers’ politics, free school meals and corporal punishment.
Let’s start with the positive. I’m a bit skeptical when Koreans tell you how their Confucian heritage values learning. In theory yes, yet for centuries hardly anyone got to study except a tiny male scholar elite. Modern education – girls not excluded – only arrived with Christian missionaries in the late 19th century. Mass schooling for all is newer still. As recently as 1945, when Japan’s harsh 40-year rule ended, less than a quarter of Korean adults (22%) were literate.
They’ve certainly made up for lost time since. South Korea’s first rulers were no democrats, but they knew that so resource-poor a country needed human capital to develop. Hence even after a terrible war in 1950-53 and despite being poorer than much of Africa – yes, really – at that stage, under Syngman Rhee (1948-1960) primary education was vastly expanded. General Park Chung-hee (1961-1979) extended this to secondary and vocational schooling. By 1987, when South Koreans wrested back democracy from another general (Chun Doo-hwan), one third of high school-leavers went on to higher education: more than in the UK at that time.

The Case For Getting Rid of Tenure

Christopher Beam:

Imagine you ran a restaurant. A very prestigious, exclusive restaurant. To attract top talent, you guarantee all cooks and waiters job security for life. Not only that, because you value honesty and candor, you allow them to say anything they want about you and your cuisine, publicly and without fear of retribution. The only catch is that all cooks or waiters would have to start out as dishwashers or busboys, for at least 10 years, when none of these protections would apply.
It sounds absurd in the context of the food-service industry–for both you and your staff. But this system has governed academia for decades. Tenure–the ability to teach and conduct research without fear of being fired–is still the holy grail of higher education, to which all junior professors aspire. Yet fewer and fewer professors are attaining it. The proportion of full-time college professors with tenure has fallen from 57 percent in 1975 to 31 percent in 2007. The numbers for 2009, soon to be released by the Department of Education, are expected to dip even lower.

High school football still feeling effects of economy

Michael Carvell:

If you received a scouting report from high school football coaches on the economy and its impact on their sport, it would read a little like this: It’s about the same as last year, but we seem to be making wiser spending decisions.
Things don’t seem to be as gloomy as months ago, when head coaches were being released because of layoffs. Then again, no one is quite ready to claim victory and predict an economic turnaround.
“It’s too early to see what the impact of all these things is going to be,” said Ralph Swearngin, executive director of the Georgia High School Association.

New Jersey Teacher Salary Settlements Drop

New Jersey Left Behind

New Jersey School Boards Association is reporting that recent teacher contract settlements have dropped sharply since January, with annual salary increases averaging 2.03% since January and 1.58% from April to June.
The latter figure includes, according to the press release,

23 districts where teachers have agreed to a wage freeze for the 2010-2011 school year. Overall, since January, 42 teachers’ groups have agreed to a one-year pay freeze for the 2010-2011 school year, and an additional 43 districts have agreed to other givebacks and concessions.

Learning by doing How schools are trying to inculcate intelligent giving in their pupils

The Economist

CHILDREN can be tender souls. Pitch them a sob story and they often swallow it whole. Reflect the harsh reality outside the school gates, however, and they develop sophisticated strategies for making hard choices. That, at least, is the early experience of an initiative to teach philanthropy to young teenagers.
Two years ago the Big Give, an organisation which collates information about 6,000 charities worldwide in an attempt to foster philanthropy, asked the fee-paying Dragon School in Oxford to run a pilot programme. It gave the school £1,250 to donate to charity and asked 13-year-old pupils to decide where the money should go.

Two students write about their futures

Jay Matthews

I have two guest columnists today, Patricia and Luis. Their teacher, Michael L. Conners, introduced me to their work. They cannot use their last names here because both are in the United States illegally.
Conners was an English as a Second Language teacher at the Columbia Heights Education Center in the District, a public secondary school previously known as Bell Multicultural High School, when he taught these students. In 2008, his class submitted essays to NPR’s “This I Believe” radio program. None were selected for broadcast, but Conners thought they represented good examples of student writing and sent them to me.
Both of these essays were influenced by the students’ research into the laws that restrict their access to college financial aid. Both are entering their senior year, and college is on their minds.
I thought this would be an opportunity to show the level of writing for students at an urban high school whose Advanced Placement English program I have often praised. I don’t take sides on the issue they raise, but I am interested in how well they raise it. Conners will be teaching at the E.L. Haynes Public Charter School in the District this year. He can be reached at

Excellent Resources for Teaching Shakespeare to Gifted Students

Carol Fertig

The study of Shakespeare never grows old. His plays are counted among the greatest works in English literature. He was an outstanding observer and communicator of human character. He expressed enduring wisdom and wit. Presented appropriately, students–especially gifted students–are fascinated by Shakespeare and appreciate the opportunity to study and perform his plays. There are a number of excellent resources available to help teachers and parents expose their children to this icon of literature.
The Folger Shakespeare Library is located on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. It is home to the world’s largest collection of Shakespeare materials. On its Web site, there is a Teach and Learn section that contains a wealth of information. Teaching resources for K-12 provide Shakespeare lesson plans and other materials for teachers, including audio and video podcasts, a blog, a Teachers’ Lounge forum, and an expanding list of web features. The Shakespeare for Kids section of the site offers games, activities, and creative fun. Folger is a strong advocate of performance-based teaching, which is reflected in the resources at their Web site.
The University of Texas at Austin created Shakespeare Kids. It is designed for young people and also for teachers, parents, and administrators who work with students in grades K-8. The resource page contains an excellent list of Internet sites, books, and films.

Muslim world turns to Turkish model of education

Nichole Sobecki

Children crowd into a large, open room an hour drive from Peshawar, Pakistan, their young bodies packed together despite the lingering heat. A small boy with a serious face sits in the back, a copy of the Quran on the cement floor beside him.
Madrasas like this have come to dominate much of rural education in countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan, where the state has forgotten its children and the mullahs have room to step in.
But with the Taliban insurgency going strong and a rising Islamic militancy in Pakistan, experts worry that such schools — which often push a more fundamentalist brand of Islam than is traditional in these countries — have become fertile recruiting grounds for the Taliban.
With their own public education systems in shambles, however, Afghanistan and Pakistan are beginning to look to Turkey’s brand of Islamic education as a potential antidote to madrasas where there is often little offered beyond rote memorization of the Quran.

Group forms to promote Philadelphia charter schools

Martha Woodall

Noting that far more students attend charter schools in Philadelphia than are enrolled in the state’s second-largest school district, a group has formed to represent city charters.
Founders of Philadelphia Charters for Excellence say they want to publicize the successes of charter schools and reassure the public that most of the 74 charters are not being investigated for possible corruption.
The organization requires member schools to meet strict ethical standards and plans to create a website to help parents compare the performance of charter schools.
The nonprofit organization was scheduled to be announced Friday.
“There are 74 of us, and in a typical school district with 74 schools, there would be a public-relations representative,” said Jurate Krokys, chief executive officer of Independence Charter School in Center City and the group’s vice president. “The idea is to be a resource about charter schools in Philadelphia.”
The group’s mission statement calls it “an alliance of high-performing public charter schools committed to creating a path toward academic and personal excellence for all students.”

For this Madison student, overseas trip was a first-hand lesson in Mideast relations

Samara Kalk Dalby:

Michelle Yang, an incoming senior at Memorial High School, traveled to Jordan for 10 days last month to debate Middle East peace with 23 other U.S. students and 24 Jordanian students.
Each American student was paired with a Jordanian debate partner at King’s Academy in Madaba, Jordan, and each team debated both sides of one question: Should the United States support a comprehensive peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians?
“We debated whether or not the two-state solution will work,” said Yang, 16. “Within that topic we talked about economic liberalization, minority right protections and cessation of violence.”
Personally, Yang favors a two-state solution, or separate lands for the Jews and the Palestinians. “It’s just better if we have two sovereign states and economic liberalization,” she said.

Proposed Madison Charter School Receives Major Grant

Channel3000, via a kind reader:

Minutes before the Badger Rock Middle School planning team presented its final proposal to the Madison Metropolitan School District Board of Education Thursday, supporters received news that they had been awarded a planning grant from the Department of Public Instruction in the amount of $200,000.
The proposed Badger Rock Middle School, which would open in the fall of 2011 on Madison’s south side, would be a year-round charter school and be part of a larger Resilience Research Center project spearheaded by the Madison-based Center for Resilient Cities.
The Resilience Research Center project is designed to be a four-acre campus with a working farm, a neighborhood center, café, adjacent city park and the proposed school.

iHelp for Autism For autistic children, the new iPad is an effective, portable device for teaching communication and social skills. It’s also way cool.

Ashley Harrell:

Three weeks had passed since Shannon Rosa had glanced over the numbers on her tiny blue raffle ticket. Like many other parents, she had agreed to cough up $5 not because she thought she had any real chance of winning, but to support the school.
Now, as she sat in her Honda Odyssey in a Redwood City parking lot, about to pick up some tacos for the family, her cellphone rang. It was the school secretary. Rosa had won the raffle.
Alone in her van, she screamed. Then she drove straight to Clifford School to claim her prize: a glistening new iPad.
Although Rosa already owned an iPod Touch, she had purposely held off on the iPad. She isn’t an early adopter; she likes to wait until the kinks are worked out. But for $5, she didn’t mind taking the iPad home one bit. Maybe Leo would like it.

What Can Parents Expect To See in English Language Arts Classrooms After Common Core’s Standards Begin To Be Implemented? A Worst Case Scenario–But Probably Not Far from Reality

Sandra Stotsky:

In June 2010, the Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI) offered the nation two sets of English language arts standards: one set called “college and career readiness anchor standards,” and the other, grade-level standards that build towards these anchor standards. With few exceptions, both sets of standards consist of content-empty and culture-free generic skills. Why are they so bereft of substantive content? In large part because they reflect a faulty diagnosis of why many American students are unprepared for authentic college-level work. The misdiagnosis comes from CCSSI’s reliance on the results of ACT surveys to guide the development of its standards.
Several years ago, ACT surveyed thousands of post-secondary instructors to find out what they saw as the chief problems in their freshman students. Not surprisingly, the chief complaint was that high school graduates cannot understand the college texts they are assigned to read. Without an explanation for its reasoning, ACT leaped to two conclusions: (1) college students are not expected to read enough complex texts when they are in high school; and (2) they are not given enough instruction in strategies or skills for reading complex texts in high school.

Seattle Public Schools wrong to tie teacher evaluation to high-stakes tests

Patricia Bailey and Robert Femiano

The Seattle Public Schools administration is proposing to tie teacher evaluations and employment to student test scores — a bone of contention in current negotiations with the Seattle Education Association. Guest columnists Pat Bailey and Robert Femiano, past union board members, argue that the district’s approach is wrong.
The Seattle school district is proposing to tie teacher evaluations and employment to student test scores.
The current teacher evaluation includes student growth as a factor but the district wants an easier path and quicker time frames for teacher dismissals. The district officials’ plan is to use test scores to fire those teachers they claim are responsible for the poverty and racial academic gaps and reward those with high improvements in scores. History shows this carrot-and-stick approach not only fails to reduce the achievement gap but is ultimately unhealthy for good teaching.
One result of high-stakes testing is clear: The inordinate focus on test scores narrows what is taught. Diane Ravitch’s “The death and life of the great American school system” documents this and other unintended consequences. In order to keep their jobs, teachers will teach and re-teach to the test. Lost are the arts, music, PE, civics, science and even recess. Early-childhood experts point to rich school environments as crucial to healthy development, so who wants to cause the opposite?

Clusty search: Robert Femiano and Patricia Bailey.

Education Reform and Civil Rights

New Jersey Left Behind:

Here’s Sandra Alberti, Director of Math and Science Education at the NJ DOE. in NJ Spotlight:

We have this thing called Algebra I that exists in very different forms, even within the same school.

That’s her admirably candid response to the results of pilot tests of Algebra I and Biology, which demonstrates the gap in proficiency between poor and wealthy students. “On the biology test, just a quarter of the students in the poorest districts were proficient, compared with more than 80 percent in the wealthiest.” For Algebra I, “75 percent of students in the poorest districts were deemed “below basic,” while that number was 11 percent in the richest districts.”
In other words, 75% of NJ’s poor students failed both the biology test and the algebra test while only 20% of NJ’s wealthy students failed biology and 11% failed algebra. Odds are high, based on Alberti’s comment, that the vast majority of the poor students passed their coursework in spite of lack of proficiency.

Private School Regroups After Leader’s Departure

Jim Carlton

With fall classes around the corner, San Francisco’s Marin Preparatory School has had a bigger challenge than most grammar institutions: coping with its headmaster’s abrupt departure and losing half the incoming first-grade class to his new rival school.
So far, the resignation of Ed Walters in May appears to have had a galvanizing effect on Marin Prep. All three of the school’s kindergarten teachers stayed, and the four incoming first-graders remaining from a class of a dozen have been joined by at least three new classmates. In addition to the six students who went to the rival school, two of last year’s kindergarteners moved this year to schools elsewhere.
Meanwhile, Marin Prep–which started as just a single kindergarten class in 2009–now has four classes including kindergarten, “junior” kindergarten–which acts as a bridge between preschool and kindergarten in some schools–and first grade, totaling 33 students. Eventually, the school in San Francisco’s Castro district plans to grow to a K-8 campus with as many as 250 students.
“The reality is a school is much more than one person,” says Melinda Kanter-Levy, co-founder of the Marin Day Schools system, a company that runs preschools and child-care centers and that established Marin Prep.

Can’t Part With the Pediatrician

Melinda Beck:

At 6-foot-2 and 240 pounds, Stephen Kemp, had to move his size-14 feet to avoid tripping toddlers at his pediatrician’s office in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. “It was kind of awkward, but I love my pediatrician. We’re really good friends,” says Mr. Kemp. Now 19 years old and a student at Butler University, he’s still looking for another doctor he likes as much and still consults his pediatrician occasionally.
Every kid outgrows the pediatrician at some point–but when that point comes can vary. Some can’t wait to escape the Highlights magazines and Barbie Band-Aids. Others never want to leave–finding it just as awkward to be the youngest patient in a grown-up internist’s waiting room by four or five decades.
These days, more young adults are staying with their pediatricians at least through their college years, says David Tayloe, a past president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, who still practices in Goldsboro, N.C.
Even though most colleges have health services on campus, when students are home for weekends and holidays and need a doctor, the pediatrician’s office may be staffed when the adult-oriented internist’s office isn’t.

Many Chicago Charter Schools Run Deficits, Data Shows

Sarah Karp

Even as the Obama administration promotes charter schools as a way to help raise the academic performance of the nation’s students, half of Chicago’s charter schools have been running deficits in recent years, an analysis of financial and budget documents shows, calling into question their financial viability.
On Monday, Chicago Public Schools released a bare-bones budget that included a cut of about 6 percent in per-pupil financing for charter schools — to $5,771 from $6,117 per pupil for elementary school students and to $7,213 from $7,647 per pupil for high school students. The cuts are a result of shrinking tax revenue and lagging support from the strapped state government. The city’s 71 charter schools, which enrolled 33,000 students last year and expect to enroll another 10,000 in the 2010-11 school year, stand to lose $15 million under the cuts.
It is difficult to compare the cuts with those that are being made at traditional schools because those schools do not receive money on a per-pupil basis, but district officials said they tried to make the amount of cuts comparable to those being made at traditional schools.

Chicago wants all schools year-round

Wendell Hutson:

On Monday 100,000 students started school as Chicago Public Schools moves toward a year-round schedule for all its schools.
“Ultimately, we want all our schools to become year-round and we welcome more schools to do so,” Ron Huberman, chief executive officer for CPS, told the Defender. “We do not mandate that schools operate year round. It is voluntary and up to the principals, parents and community.”
Year-round public schools are classified as Track E schools and students who attend these schools generally have better attendance and perform better on standardize tests, Huberman added.
“We will continue to push for more Track E schools,” explained Huberman. “Track E schools offer a safer environment and reduces the amount of time teachers have to spend reviewing work with students to get them caught up after the summer break.”

Schools Are Given a Grade on How Graduates Do

Jennifer Medina:

Hunching over her notebook at Borough of Manhattan Community College, Sharasha Croslen struggled to figure out what to do with the algebra problem in front of her: x2 + 2x – 8 = 0.
It was a question every ninth grader is expected to be able to answer. (For those who have erased the ninth grade from memory, the answer is at the end of the article.) But even though Ms. Croslen managed to complete three years of math and graduate from high school, she did not know how to solve for x.
“It’s incredibly frustrating,” she said during a break from her remedial math course, where she has spent the last several weeks reviewing arithmetic and algebra. “I know this is stuff I should know, but either I didn’t learn it or I forgot it all already.”

Does spending more money per student make a school better?

Tawnell Hobbs

So do school districts that spend more money per pupil perform better? I checked out the financial figures for the 2007-08* school year in Texas and found that more money per pupil doesn’t necessarily make a school better. Of the top 10 school districts and charter schools that spent more money in operating expenses per student, one held the state’s highest rating, “exemplary;” three were “recognized;” and the remaining six were “academically acceptable.” (Go to the jump for a list of these schools).
Carroll ISD, an exemplary school district, spent $8,301 per student, compared to $9,446 per student in the academically-acceptable Dallas ISD.

Related: The report mentions that California’s average per student expenditure is just under $10,000 annually. Madison’s 2009/2010 per student spending was $15,241 ($370,287,471 budget / 24,295 students).

Why Common Standards Won’t Work

P.L. Thomas:

In 2010, with the blessing and encouragement of the nation’s president and secretary of education, we are establishing “common-core standards” to address the historical claim that our public schools are failures. In the 1890s, a similar lament was voiced by the group known as the Committee of Ten:
“When college professors endeavor to teach chemistry, physics, botany, zoology, meteorology, or geology to persons of 18 or 20 years of age, they discover that in most instances new habits of observing, reflecting, and recording have to be painfully acquired by the students–habits which they should have acquired in early childhood.”

UW Schools Fair Poorly in White/Black Graduation Rates

Christian Scheider:

According to a new study by the Education Trust, three University of Wisconsin schools rank in the top 25 public colleges and universities with the largest white-black graduation-rate gaps.
The UW-Milwaukee is 6th highest in the nation, with a 28.2% gap between white and black degree earners. The UW-Whitewater ranks 9th, with a gap of 27.3%. And the UW-Madison, which has implemented several high-profile diversity plans over the past decade, ranks 19th with a 23.3% graduation difference between white and black students.
The UW-Milwaukee also makes the list of top 25 schools with large gaps between white and Hispanic students as well. UW-Milwaukee is 6th on the list with a white-Hispanic graduation disparity of 20%.

AP Eliminates Guessing Penalty

Scott Jaschik:

The College Board is about to announce a change in the Advanced Placement program that will end the penalty for wrong answers.
So after decades in which test takers were warned against random guessing, they may now do so without fear of hurting their scores. The shift is notable because the SAT continues to penalize wrong answers, such that those who cannot eliminate any of the answers are discouraged from guessing. The ACT, which has gained market share against the SAT in recent years, does not have such a penalty. At this point, the College Board is changing its policy only for the AP exams.
Under College Board policy to date, AP scores have been based on the total number of correct answers minus a fraction for every incorrect answer — one-fourth of a point for questions with five possible answers and one-third of a point for questions with four possible answers. The idea is that no one should engage in “random guessing.” The odds shift, of course, if a test taker can eliminate one or more possible answers, and the College Board’s advice to test takers acknowledges this, saying that “if you have SOME knowledge of the question, and can eliminate one or more answer choices, informed guessing from among the remaining choices is usually to your advantage.”

New Report Misses the Mark on Higher Education

James Hohman:

A new report by the Michigan League for Human Services bemoans the lack of tax money going to higher education. But the authors give a skewed view of appropriations, get some facts wrong, and completely miss the 800-pound gorilla of higher education: that increasing costs drive tuition increases.
The bottom line in Michigan is that state appropriations for higher education have been essentially unchanged since fiscal 2004, though there was a decrease prior to that. When MLHS authors complain of falling appropriations, they’re crying over milk spilled six years ago.
The authors also fault the state for the loss of financial aid programs, but the level of assistance offered by state universities has never been higher. While some state government programs were put on the chopping block, it’s a pretty standard practice among universities to subsidize desirable candidates, and these amounts grew substantially. The level of financial aid offered by universities increased from $288 million in 2005 to $456 million in 2009, according to a report from the House Fiscal Agency. Perhaps that is one reason why gifted and motivated students tend to get scholarships.

Illegals Estimated to Account for 1 in 12 U.S. Births

Miriam Jordan:

One in 12 babies born in the U.S. in 2008 were offspring of illegal immigrants, according to a new study, an estimate that could inflame the debate over birthright citizenship.
Undocumented immigrants make up slightly more than 4% of the U.S. adult population. However, their babies represented twice that share, or 8%, of all births on U.S. soil in 2008, according to the nonpartisan Pew Hispanic Center’s report.
“Unauthorized immigrants are younger than the rest of the population, are more likely to be married and have higher fertility rates than the rest of the population,” said Jeffrey Passel, a senior demographer at Pew in Washington, D.C.
The report, based on Pew’s analysis of the Census Bureau’s March 2009 Current Population Survey, also found that the lion’s share, or 79%, of the 5.1 million children of illegal immigrants residing in the U.S. in 2009 were born in the country and are therefore citizens.