Is this Education Reform?

Phyllis Tashlik

“The Fight Over Education in Washington” (editorial, July 31) says “teachers unions and other forces of the status quo” are trying to discredit the Obama education initiative, Race to the Top.
There is nothing “retrograde” about objecting to the pernicious effect standardized assessment has had on our children, schools and a generation of teachers. And there is nothing “reform”-minded about a policy — begun under President George W. Bush and adapted by the current administration — that reinforces those negative consequences.

Elia rated ‘above satisfactory’ by Hillsborough, FL school board

Sherri Ackerman:

Hillsborough School Board members rated superintendent MaryEllen Elia’s overall performance this past school year as “above satisfactory.”
In their annual review of the district leader, board members gave Elia high marks for her leadership, policy-making, organization, management, values and ethics.
Her total score was 282, just two points shy of outstanding and the same score as the previous school year.
Board members applauded Elia’s efforts in landing a $100 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Board members also said Elia was “much more open minded to suggestions … ” while adding, “she needs to listen more.”

Outsource the Bad, Focus on the Core

Rafael Corrales

The future of education technology is one where schools continually outsource the activities they’re not as good at to focus on their specialty, educating the leaders of tomorrow. At its core, this is simply the law of comparative advantage: the ability of a party (individual or firm) to produce a particular good or service at a lower opportunity cost than another party (per Wikipedia). Basically, if someone does something better than you can, you should allow them to do it for you so you can focus on your specialty. This results in “gains from trade”.
The future of education technology will benefit from such gains. The internet enables schools to gain efficiencies by outsourcing what they can’t do as well to dedicated technologists, allowing more innovative education technology to flow into schools at a lower cost.
We’re already seeing this take place. While developing the LearnBoost Gradebook, we spoke to numerous schools (public and charter) about their technology needs. These were the most common situations we found:
Schools are loyal to their current technology provider despite expensive and inadequate software solutions. Legacy systems and entrenched interests generate steep switching costs and make it difficult to reach a consensus among stakeholders.
Schools are spending too much money outsourcing their data management to a Student Information System (SIS) provider.

For Only Child Families, New Thinking Pushes Kid-Time, Sharing and Squabbling

Andrea Petersen:

Every Friday night, 8-year-old Maeve Morgan Phoa gets together with three other children for dinner, movies and general kid mayhem. The purpose isn’t just fun. At the “Friday Night Club” the parents created, Maeve, an only child, is forced to learn to take turns riding a coveted scooter, negotiate who gets which super powers in make-believe games, and accept that squabbles are a natural part of life.
Creating this kind of close relationship is one of many strategies parents of only children are employing in their attempts to raise happy, social kids. Others are purposefully spending less time with their child to better mimic what happens in a family with siblings. And some are policing gift-proffering grandparents to fight that old stereotype that an only child is a spoiled child.

The Missing Mandate: Financial Literacy

Brooke Stephens

As legislators and lobbyists congratulate themselves on the 2300 pages of legalese drafted to reform Wall Street banks and the financial services industry, not one paragraph addresses a major reason why the meltdown occurred: how American consumers learn to manage money. According to several mortgage banking studies, nearly 70 percent of the victims of foreclosure admit they did not understand the terms of the deal they signed or the long-term impact on their lives.
Congress had plenty of chances to address this problem. More than 30 bills focused on financial literacy have been introduced since 2006. All of them died in Senate or House committees. None were included in this recent reform bill.
Money, like sex, is supposed to be taught at home but in a 2008 Charles Schwab study, 69% of parents interviewed reported they were more prepared to discuss sex than money with their children.

Arguing the Merits

Greg Forster

Last week I noted that Fordham had offered up the Gadfly as a platform for an argument, made by guest columnist Eugenia Kemble, that the next logical step after establishing national standards is a single national curriculum.
Well, my post has drawn a sharp response from Kemble. Of course, she disagrees with me on the substance (the merits of a national curriculum and the badness of teachers’ unions) but that goes without saying. More interestingly, she accuses me of not addressing her argument on the merits, but only being concerned with the significance of her piece having appeared in the Gadfly. The indictment has two counts. First, she accuses me of not offering an argument for my position that “common” standards adopted by the states are really “federal” standards (i.e. controlled by the federal government.) Second, she accuses me of practicing “guilt by association” by insinuating that if Checker publishes a union piece, he must embrace the entire union agenda.
To the second count I plead not guilty. I didn’t insinuate that Checker agrees with the unions about everything. I insinuated that his position in favor of national standards was having the effect – whether intended or not – of advancing the unions’ agenda in one respect. And that the appearance of Kemble’s piece in the Gadfly clearly demonstrates that those of us who have been saying this all along were right. And I stand by that insinuation.

Ed Balls and Education ‘Apartheid’

Jamie Whyte:

The shadow schools secretary and his ilk think of themselves as opponents of fascism in its various forms. They are mistaken.
The British parliament last month passed the Academies Act, allowing parents to start tax-funded schools free from local-authority control. Ed Balls, the shadow education secretary, does not like the act. He fears it will create “social apartheid” in education.
Most people agree that South Africa’s apartheid laws were abominable. But, after Mr. Balls’s remark, I am not sure we all agree on what was wrong with them. My objection, which I had thought to be universal, is that apartheid limited people’s freedom of association. To take but one outrageous example, it was illegal for a black and a white to marry each other.
But this cannot be what Mr. Balls thinks was wrong with South Africa’s racial apartheid because the social separation that might result from parent-run schools would be voluntary. The Academies Act does not force parents to start schools, it allows them to. Unlike South Africa’s apartheid laws, it does not limit freedom of association but expands it.

61 special ed school heads make more than NJ gov

Beth DeFalco

It’s not clear whether salary caps that Gov. Chris Christie wants for New Jersey’s school superintendents would apply to private schools funded with tax dollars.
An analysis by The Record newspaper found more than 60 administrators for the state’s 171 private special education schools earn more than the $175,000 cap.
None of the state’s special education private schools had more than 460 students last year.
Education Department spokesman Alan Guenther said the rules still are being drafted and will be presented in September, but the governor’s spokesman indicated that the cap should be consistent for all state-paid school administrator salaries.
Pay levels at special private schools are controlled by the state because most of the money the schools make is from tuition paid by the public schools that send students.
For the 2009-10 school year, the state Education Department capped compensation for administrators at private special education schools at $215,000 no matter how many students there were.

US road painters write ‘SHCOOL’ outside North Carolina high school

The Telegraph

The road outside the Guilford county school had recently been re-paved, and road crews were ordered to mark the school zones last week.
A spokesman for Traffic Markings, the contractor that painted the faulty sign, admitted that workers had “made a mistake” and said the sign would be fixed.
Another employee, who did not wish to be named, told the US news station KSBW that the error had caused amusement within the company.
“We’re trying to find someone who can spell and get them out there to fix that ASAP,” he said.
The error was not the first misspelling in the area; just last month, a resident posted a photo on Facebook showing that the town’s name had been misspelled as “Guiliford” on a detour sign printed by the state’s department of transport.

Student-Loan Debt Surpasses Credit Cards

Mary Pilon:

Consumers now owe more on their student loans than their credit cards.
Americans owe some $826.5 billion in revolving credit, according to June 2010 figures from the Federal Reserve. (Most of revolving credit is credit-card debt.) Student loans outstanding today — both federal and private — total some $829.785 billion, according to Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of and
“The growth in education debt outstanding is like cooking a lobster,” Mr. Kantrowitz says. “The increase in total student debt occurs slowly but steadily, so by the time you notice that the water is boiling, you’re already cooked.”
By his math, there is $605.6 billion in federal student loans outstanding and $167.8 billion in private student loans outstanding. He estimates that $300 billion in federal student loan debts have been incurred in the last four years.

Houston School District Board Agenda

Houston School District PDF:

WHEREAS, the Houston Independent School District (HISD) has worked to develop a long-term strategic plan for the district that will build upon the Declaration of Beliefs and Visions, will provide a road map for our future, and will transform our district into the top public school system in the nation; and
WHEREAS, the purpose of this long-term Strategic Direction is to provide clarity around our priorities of Placing an Effective Teacher in Every Classroom, Having an Effective Principal in Every School, Instituting Rigorous Instructional Standards, Ensuring Data-Driven Decisions and Accountability, and a Culture of Trust through Action; and
WHEREAS, the development of our long-term strategic plan, which began in February 2010, included diagnostic research to understand the current state of the district across various critical areas such as student achievement and organizational effectiveness to ensure the best ideas were being considered in the planning process. That process helped define the core initiatives for HISD’s transformation; and
WHEREAS, several months of community stakeholder engagement was included in the research process, including input from parents, teachers, principals, students, the business community, nonprofit partners, and the broader community. The feedback derived from the community-engagement process has guided the design of the overall Strategic Direction.
NOW THEREFORE, be it resolved that HISD and the Board of Education believe the key overarching strategies indicated above will help HISD achieve its goals set forth in the long-term Strategic Direction to become the best school district in America.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Property Taxes Emerge as Latest Front in Housing Crisis

Lee Banville:

Foreclosures make headlines. They are a big focus of the media’s attention as the troubled economy continues to dominate the news. But even where banks aren’t taking over properties, the collapse of the real estate market is having profound effects on local politics and county and city policymaking.
Here in Northwestern Montana, one needs only look at the situation happening on the shores of stunning Flathead Lake to see the housing crisis will continue to haunt communities for years to come. Residents along the largest natural freshwater lake west of the Mississippi had watched as property values climb throughout the 1990s and early 2000s.
Fueled by many out-of-staters looking for a second home with views of the glacier-carved Mission Mountains and only miles from Glacier National Park, property reappraisals including land and home soared to as much as $10,000 per foot of shoreline along the lake.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Public & Private Sector Employment Changes

Donald J. Boyd and Lucy Dadayan

Earlier this week, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released state-by-state employment data for the month of June. While national totals had already been released for June, this is the first look at June data for individual states. The national data had shown a very slight increase in private sector employment, compared with May, and slight continued declines in state and local government employment (see Figure 1). This is broadly consistent with past recessions, in which state and local government employment has been far more stable than private sector employment, and in fact rarely declined at all. As in past recessions, state and local government employment changes tend to lag responses in the private sector.

The Golden State’s War on Itself

Joel Kotkin:

California has long been a destination for those seeking a better place to live. For most of its history, the state enacted sensible policies that created one of the wealthiest and most innovative economies in human history. California realized the American dream but better, fostering a huge middle class that, for the most part, owned their homes, sent their kids to public schools, and found meaningful work connected to the state’s amazingly diverse, innovative economy.
Recently, though, the dream has been evaporating. Between 2003 and 2007, California state and local government spending grew 31 percent, even as the state’s population grew just 5 percent. The overall tax burden as a percentage of state income, once middling among the states, has risen to the sixth-highest in the nation, says the Tax Foundation. Since 1990, according to an analysis by California Lutheran University, the state’s share of overall U.S. employment has dropped a remarkable 10 percent. When the state economy has done well, it has usually been the result of asset inflation–first during the dot-com bubble of the late 1990s, and then during the housing boom, which was responsible for nearly half of all jobs created earlier in this decade.

India’s Higher Education Quality Deficit

Philip Altbach:

A constant theme in discussions with Indian academics, government officials, and business people concerns the low quality of the country’s rapidly expanding higher education system. India now ranks third in size, after China and the United States. The current cumbersome, and ineffective accrediting system is being dismantled. The government is proposing a new system — how it may work is as yet unclear.
India’s undergraduates attend more than 20,000 colleges, some quite small and of varying quality. It has been impossible to ensure the quality of these colleges. Private institutions are particularly problematical. They receive no government funding and, as a result, are entirely tuition dependent.
India’s burgeoning high tech and software industries complain that as many as 80 percent of engineering graduates are so poorly trained that they are not qualified for available jobs. Some are hired and then provided with additional training by their employer, while others are simply not hired. At least one of the software giants, Wipro, invests a major amount of money providing remedial training, and is also working with engineering colleges to improve teaching methods and standards.

The Decline in Student Study Time

Philip Babcok & Mindy:

In 1961, the average full-time student at a four-year college in the United States studied about twenty-four hours per week, while his modern counterpart puts in only fourteen hours per week. Students now study less than half as much as universities claim to require. This dramatic decline in study time occurred for students from all demographic subgroups, for students who worked and those who did not, within every major, and at four-year colleges of every type, degree structure, and level of selectivity. Most of the decline predates the innovations in technology that are most relevant to education and thus was not driven by such changes. The most plausible explanation for these findings, we conclude, is that standards have fallen at postsecondary institutions in the United States.
Key points in this Outlook:

  • Study time for full-time students at four-year colleges in the United States fell from twenty-four hours per week in 1961 to fourteen hours per week in 2003, and the decline is not explained by changes over time in student work status, parental education, major choice, or the type of institution students attended.
  • Evidence that declines in study time result from improvements in education technology is slim. A more plausible explanation is that achievement standards have fallen.
  • Longitudinal data indicate that students who study more in college earn more in the long run.

Fairbanks School report fails to deliver complete picture, but stats help

Dermot Cole:

Twenty of our public schools in the Fairbanks area made “Adequate Yearly Progress” in the past year, while 15 did not.
But as in previous years, it is impossible to say exactly what this means about the quality of education in any of those schools. The state education department released the details last week.
Statewide, 203 schools failed to make adequate progress, while 302 made the mark.
As a means of judging educational achievement, the process used to determined AYP in Alaska has always been inadequate. For some of our schools, there is real significance in either a positive or a negative rating. For others, there is not.

Children of Illegal Immigrants Caught in Education Politics Crossfire

Peggy Orchowski:

The DREAM Act is back in the news. President Obama referred to it in his immigration speech at the American University on July 1. Groups of high school and college students have been marching and getting arrested for it all summer. Sen. Dick Durbin supported a Capitol Hill demonstration on it on July 20. Pollster Celinda Lake said at a Brookings Institute immigration panel in May: “How can anyone be against it?” [See who supports Durbin.]
So do you know what the DREAM Act is exactly?
Durbin describes it as “a narrowly tailored, bipartisan bill that would provide immigration relief to a select group of students who grew up in the United States but are prevented from pursuing their dreams by current immigration law”.
President Obama said he supports it because it would “stop punishing innocent young people for the actions of their parents by denying them the chance to stay here and earn an education and contribute their talents to build the country where they’ve grown up.”

Notes on Teacher Merit Pay

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes:

Susan Troller had a typically good and very substantive article in the Capital Times this week about merit pay for teachers and other dimensions of teacher evaluations.
Merit pay is an issue that highlights the culture clash between the new breed of educational reformers and the traditional education establishment that finds its foundation in teachers and their unions.
Educational reformers nowadays frequently come to education as an avocation after successful business careers. These reformers, like Bill Gates and Eli Broad, believe that our approach to education can be improved if we import the sort of approaches to quality and innovation that have proved effective in the business world.
So, for example, let’s figure out what’s the single most important school-based variable in determining student achievement. Research indicates that it’s the quality of the teacher. Well then, let’s evaluate teachers in a way that lets us assess that quality, let’s put in place professional development that will allow our teachers to enhance that quality, and let’s have compensation systems that allow us to reward that quality.

Classes on the go: Distance education becoming more popularClasses on the go: Distance education becoming more popular

Todd Finkelmeyer


Unlike many who take courses during UW-Madison’s summer session, Peter Owen hasn’t spent any hot evenings catching up on his studies while sipping a cold beer on the Memorial Union Terrace.

Owen is a 24-year-old first lieutenant stationed in Iraq with the 724th Engineer Battalion of the Wisconsin Army National Guard. So instead of sitting near the shore of Lake Mendota while finishing coursework, he’s knocked off some required readings and listened to recorded lectures on an MP3 player while seated in the back of a military transport aircraft waiting to take off on another mission.

“I have really enjoyed the opportunity to keep working toward my degree while deployed,” Owen, who is taking a foreign policy history course from UW-Madison professor Jeremi Suri, says in an e-mail interview. Owen was a graduate student at Valparaiso University pursuing a masters in International Commerce and Policy prior to being deployed.

Welcome to the modern world of “distance education,” a field that incorporates various styles of teaching and a range of technologies to deliver education to students who aren’t sitting in a traditional classroom. While evolving technology continues to drastically change how people communicate, get their news and make purchases, it’s generally having a less dramatic impact on how higher education is delivered — at least at a place like UW-Madison, where just 2.5 percent of all credit hours are taken through distance education courses.

Houston’s New Math Tutoring Program: Seeking Math Fellows

Houston School District:

The Apollo 20 Math Fellows Program is a one-year Urban Education Fellowship Program located in Houston, Texas.
The Houston Independent School District (HISD) is looking for dynamic college graduates to commit one year to improving the academic achievement of inner-city students. You will tutor five pairs of middle- or high-school students in math, every day, for the whole school year. You will have the opportunity to build close relationships with each of your students, and the chance to make a significant impact on their lives. This program is unique in that it is the first large-scale tutoring program integrated into the students’ school day that has ever been launched in an urban public school district. With your help, Houston can become a leading innovator in the urban education field.

Bill Gates: In Five Years The Best Education Will Come From The Web

MG Siegler:

Bill Gates thinks something is going to die too.
No, it’s not physical books like Nicholas Negroponte — instead, Gates thinks the idea of young adults having to go to universities in order to get an education is going to go away relatively soon. Well, provided they’re self-motivated learners.
“Five years from now on the web for free you’ll be able to find the best lectures in the world,” Gates said at the Techonomy conference in Lake Tahoe, CA today. “It will be better than any single university,” he continued.
He believes that no matter how you came about your knowledge, you should get credit for it. Whether it’s an MIT degree or if you got everything you know from lectures on the web, there needs to be a way to highlight that.
He made sure to say that educational institutions are still vital for children, K-12. He spoke glowingly about charter schools, where kids can spend up to 80% of their time deeply engaged with learning.
But college needs to be less “place-based,” according to Gates. Well, except for the parties, he joked.

Andrew Coulson wonders why Gatest distinguished between College and K-12? That’s a good question. There are many, many online resources that provide an excellent learning experience.

A Look at Wisconsin Teacher Compensation Increases

Matthew DeFour:

Statewide increases in teacher compensation contracts are on track to be the lowest in more than a decade following last year’s changes in state school district financing.
Based on 160 settled contracts out of 425 school districts, the average increase in compensation packages — including salary and benefits — is 3.75 percent, according to the Wisconsin Association of School Boards.
Annual increases last dipped below 4 percent in 1999 and have averaged 4.13 percent since 1993, when the state first imposed revenue limits and introduced the so-called qualified economic offer (QEO) provision, which allowed districts to offer a 3.8 percent package increase instead of going to arbitration. The QEO was repealed in the state biennial budget approved last year, though revenue limits remain in place to keep property tax increases in check.
By another measure, the Wisconsin Educators Association Council, the state’s largest teachers union, reported teacher salaries are on pace to increase about 2 percent. That doesn’t include benefits and certain assumptions about longevity raises. The increase is slightly less than the 2.3 percent annual average since 1993 and would be the lowest since 2003.

Related: Madison School District & Madison Teachers Union Reach Tentative Agreement: 3.93% Increase Year 1, 3.99% Year 2; Base Rate $33,242 Year 1, $33,575 Year 2: Requires 50% MTI 4K Members and will “Review the content and frequency of report cards”. A searchable database of Wisconsin Teacher Salaries is available here.

Education is key difference in Iowa gov race

Mike Glover:

As the Iowa governor’s race takes shape, some of the sharpest differences have been about the state’s education system, which accounts for roughly 60 percent of Iowa’s $5.3 billion budget.
Both Democratic Gov. Chet Culver and Republican Terry Branstad said education will be a priority, but they have made it clear that they favor different approaches for the state’s elementary and secondary schools. In fact, a key difference relates to children who haven’t even started kindergarten.
Culver speaks repeatedly about his success in making state-paid preschool available to nearly every 4-year-old in the state.

Schools Learn to Survive Those That Play Stabilizing Roles in Communities Escape Detroit Budget Cuts

Alex Kellog:

Based on the numbers, Carstens Elementary School on Detroit’s East Side should have closed by now. The building is 95 years old, and its enrollment last year fell to 234 from 719 a decade earlier, making it one of the fastest-shrinking schools in district history.
In the spring, Carstens was on a preliminary list of 45 schools targeted for closure by Robert C. Bobb, the state-appointed executive in charge of stabilizing the finances of Detroit Public Schools, and his team of accountants, planners and demographers.
But a deeper dive into the neighborhood changed their minds. Carstens, they discovered, was one of the few public institutions within miles. It also served as a health clinic, a seven-day-a-week recreation center and a food pantry. Closing Carstens, they concluded, would effectively turn off the lights on the whole neighborhood.

Irving school district to appeal ‘academically acceptable’ rating

Katherine Leal Unmuth:

The Irving school district missed achieving a “recognized” rating in the recently released state accountability ratings because the completion rates for black students fell 1 percentage point short of the standard.
The ratings showed an 84 percent completion rate for black students, short of the required 85 percent. Completion rates represent students who graduated or continued high school rather than dropping out. The district kept the “academically acceptable” rating it has maintained since 2004.

Lesson Plan in Boston Schools: Don’t Go It Alone

Mike Winerip:

Earlier this year Massachusetts enacted a law that allowed districts to remove at least half the teachers and the principal at their lowest-performing schools. The school turnaround legislation aligned the state with the Obama administration’s Race to the Top program incentives and a chance to collect a piece of the $3.4 billion in federal grant money.
From Washington this makes abundant good sense, a way to galvanize rapid and substantial change in schools for children who need it most.
In practice, on the ground, it is messy for the people most necessary for turning a school around — the teachers — and not always fair.
Often the decisions about which teachers will stay and which will go are made by new principals who may be very good, but don’t know the old staff. “We had several good teachers asked to leave,” said Heather Gorman, a fourth-grade teacher who will be staying at Blackstone Elementary here, where 38 of 50 teachers were removed. “Including my sister who’s been a special-ed teacher 22 years.”

Teachers unions improve schools

Karen Aronowitz:

It is with dismay that I listen to the relentless attacks against public school teachers and their unions. Let’s set the record straight. Teachers’ unions lead the way in educational reform initiatives, fighting for our teachers to have the resources, materials and support necessary to deliver high quality instruction to America’s students.
I am proud of the work United Teachers of Dade has done to mobilize the public to vote for and support Florida’s Class Size Amendment. Charter and private schools brag about their small class sizes because of the individualized attention their students receive. We are forced to fight for appropriate class sizes for the students in our public schools.
I am proud of our members who organized with parents to insist that our schools maintain physical education, the arts, music, world languages and bilingual education. I am proud that our School Board took a position opposing Senate Bill 6 after the members of United Teachers of Dade made them aware of the destructive measures of this piece of legislation, an assault against the teachers and students in our public schools.

Tracking Is an Assault on Liberty, With Real Dangers

Nicholas Carr:

In a 1963 Supreme Court opinion, Chief Justice Earl Warren observed that “the fantastic advances in the field of electronic communication constitute a great danger to the privacy of the individual.” The advances have only accelerated since then, along with the dangers. Today, as companies strive to personalize the services and advertisements they provide over the Internet, the surreptitious collection of personal information is rampant. The very idea of privacy is under threat.
Most of us view personalization and privacy as desirable things, and we understand that enjoying more of one means giving up some of the other. To have goods, services and promotions tailored to our personal circumstances and desires, we need to divulge information about ourselves to corporations, governments or other outsiders.
This tradeoff has always been part of our lives as consumers and citizens. But now, thanks to the Net, we’re losing our ability to understand and control those tradeoffs–to choose, consciously and with awareness of the consequences, what information about ourselves we disclose and what we don’t. Incredibly detailed data about our lives are being harvested from online databases without our awareness, much less our approval.

St. Cloud school board elections feature Somali candidates

Ambar Espinoza:

St. Cloud residents will vote in two elections Tuesday to narrow down candidates for school board seats.
For the first time in St. Cloud history, two of the candidates are Somali. One is running in a primary election that will narrow down the candidates from seven to six to get in the general election in November, while the other is running in a special election (that will narrow the candidates from three to two to replace a resigning school board member.
Hassan Yussuf has been living in St. Cloud since 2001. He has been closely following the problems that the St. Cloud school district has faced in recent months. The U.S. Department of Education is investigating allegations that school administrators ignored complaints of racial harassment. And in June, the superintendent resigned with one year remaining on his contract. The superintendent said he couldn’t deal with the school district politics anymore. Yussuf said he’s concerned about what he sees in the district.

Inexperienced Companies Chase U.S. School Funds

Sam Dillon:

With the Obama administration pouring billions into its nationwide campaign to overhaul failing schools, dozens of companies with little or no experience are portraying themselves as school turnaround experts as they compete for the money.
A husband-and-wife team that has specialized in teaching communication skills but never led a single school overhaul is seeking contracts in Ohio and Virginia. A corporation that has run into trouble with parents or authorities in several states in its charter school management business has now opened a school turnaround subsidiary. Other companies seeking federal money include offshoots of textbook conglomerates and classroom technology vendors.
Many of the new companies seem unprepared for the challenge of making over a public school, yet neither federal nor many state governments are organized to offer effective oversight, said Jack Jennings, president of the Center on Education Policy, a nonprofit group in Washington. “Many of these companies clearly just smell the money,” Mr. Jennings said.

Badger Rock Middle School Proposal

Badger Rock Middle School Planning Committee 1.8mb PDF:

Superintendent Nerad, President Cole and Members of the Board,
Please accept this detailed proposal for Badger Rock Middle School, a project based charter school proposed for South Madison, which focuses on cultural and environmental sustainability. As you know, our charter school concept is part of the larger Resilience Research Center project spearheaded by the Madison based Center for Resilient Cities (CRC), bringing urban agriculture, community wellness,sustainability and alternative energy education to South Madison and the MMSD community.
We are proud of the work we have been able to accomplish to date and the extraordinary encouragement and support we have gotten from the neighborhood, business and non-profit community, local and national funders, and MMSD staff and Board. We are confident that Badger Rock Middle School, with its small class size, collaborative approach, stewardship and civic engagement model, will increase student achievement, strengthen relationships and learning outcomes for all students who attend, while also offering unparalleled opportunities for all MMSD students and faculty to make use of the resources, curriculum and facility.
Our stellar team of educators, community supporters, funders and business leaders continues to expand. Our curriculum team has created models for best practices with new templates for core curriculum areas. Our building and design team has been working collaboratively with architects Hoffman LLC, the Center for Resilient Cities and MMSD staff on building and site plans. In addition, outreach teams have been working with neighborhood leaders and community members, and our governance team has been actively recruiting a terrific team for the governing board and our fundraising team has been working hard to bring local and national donors to the project. In short, we’ve got great momentum and have only begun to scratch the surface of what this school and project could become.
We are submitting the proposal with a budget neutral scenario for MMSD and also want to assure you that we are raising funds to cover any contingencies that might arise so that additional monies from MMSD will not be needed. Our planning grant from DP! has recently been approved, seeding the school $175,000 in planning grant monies immediately, with another $175, 000 to arrive before the school opens in August 2011.
We ask for your full support of this proposal and the creation of Badger Rock Middle School. BRMS will surely be a centerpiece and shining star of MMSD for years to come.
Thanks for your consideration.
Badger Rock Middle School Planning Committee

Madison Metropolitan School District Annual Equity Report 2010

Madison School District 4.8MB PDF:

The Board of Education adopted Equity Policy 9001 on June 2, 2008 ( The policy incorporates recommendations from the Equity Task Force and charges MMSD administration with developing an annual report of the extent to which progress is being made towards eliminating gaps in access, opportunities and achievement for all students. The Equity Task Force recommendations also requested annual data on the distribution of resources (budget, staff, programs, and facilities) by school.
On September 29, 2009, the Board of Education adopted a new strategic plan which established strategic priorities and objectives for the Madison Metropolitan School District. The Equity Task Force report and resulting Equity Policy 9001 were considered in the development of the strategic plan. This Annual Equity Report aligns the equity policy with priorities established in the strategic plan and reports equity progress using the same benchmarks as those used in the strategic plan.

UW program offers students a ‘test run’ at studying the sciences

Pamela Cotant:

Eboni Turner, a high school student from Chicago, will never forget the six weeks she spent in Madison for the Summer Science Institute.
She was doing field research in Lake Wingra when she got stuck in the decomposing material at the bottom.
“It smells really, really bad,” said Turner, who will be a senior this fall. “While I was scared, this was so cool. I was stuck in stuff and I had to get out.”
Turner was one of 16 students who participated in the recent Summer Science Institute, a six-week residential program through the Center for Biology Education at UW-Madison.
The program gives high school students an understanding of biological and physical research while learning about college life. The students work in groups with mentors on a specific research project. Then they write a research report and present their project and findings at a symposium at the end of the program.

Schools paying for tutors with mixed track record

Ericka Mellon:

School districts across Texas are paying tens of millions of taxpayer dollars for private tutoring that has a mixed track record of improving student test scores.

Even districts that want to stop footing the bill to ineffective providers are not allowed. The No Child Left Behind law guarantees free tutoring to low-income students who attend schools that repeatedly miss federal academic targets. Parents get to pick the tutoring provider from a state-approved list that has grown to more than 200 for-profit and nonprofit entities.

Since the law went into effect in 2002, Texas has never removed a provider from its list despite complaints from school districts and the state’s own evaluation that found seven of the eight tutoring companies studied had no significant impact on student achievement.

With the latest federal school ratings released last week, districts are preparing to send letters to parents from about 140 under-performing schools about the tutoring options. At the same time, officials with some of the state’s largest urban districts, including Houston, San Antonio and Fort Worth, are calling for tougher standards for the tutoring providers.

Obama to Tout Education Efforts

Janet Adamy:

The White House, concerned about the country’s lagging college-graduation rates, is pushing a plan aimed at helping an additional eight million young adults earn college degrees in the next decade.
In a speech at the University of Texas at Austin on Monday, President Barack Obama will tout a series of measures, many implemented over the past year, designed to put more Americans through college, according to White House officials.

Duty bound to help those left behind

George Kaiser:

I suppose I arrived at my charitable commitment largely through guilt. I recognized early on that my good fortune was not due to superior personal character or initiative so much as it was to dumb luck.
I was blessed to be born in an advanced society with caring parents. So, I had the advantage of both genetics (winning the “ovarian lottery”) and upbringing. As I looked around at those who did not have these advantages, it became clear to me that I had a moral obligation to direct my resources to help right that balance.
America’s “social contract” is equal opportunity. It is the most fundamental principle in our founding documents and it is what originally distinguished us from the old Europe. Yet, we have failed in achieving that seminal goal; in fact, we have lost ground in recent years.
Another distinctly American principle is a shared partnership between the public and private sectors to foster the public good. So, if the democratically directed public sector is shirking, to some degree, its responsibility to level the playing field, more of that role must shift to the private sector.
As I addressed my charitable purposes, all of this seemed pretty clear: I was only peripherally responsible for my own good fortune; I was morally duty bound to help those left behind by the accident of birth; America’s root principle was equal opportunity but we were far from achieving it. Then I had to drill down to identify the charitable purposes most likely to right that wrong.

Self-serving white guilt

Eric Kaufman:

Guilt, stirred up by leftist thinkers, is now de rigueur in the west. But Pascal Bruckner believes our soul-searching is both hypocritical and injurious.
According to Pascal Bruckner, we in the west suffer from neurotic guilt, a condition imposed upon us by the high priests of the left. This secular clerisy are heirs to the Christian tradition of original sin, which universalised guilt by claiming that humans are fallen and must redeem themselves. Nietzsche denounced Christian guilt as a psychic evil which forces man’s will to power in on himself. Pascal Bruckner is a latter-day Nietzschean who gives no quarter when it comes to excoriating our new moral elite.
Bruckner represents a distinct species of French intellectual. Born in 1948 and coming of age in the upheavals of 1968, he initially indulged the revolutionary fervour sweeping Paris but soon became affiliated with the nouveaux philosophes, a group of anti-Marxist intellectuals. Consisting of figures like Andre Glucksmann, Alain Finkielkraut, Bernard-Henri Levy and Jean-Marie Benoist, this cenacle may be considered France’s second generation of anti-communist thinkers.
Bruckner’s day job is that of novelist–one item in his bulging portfolio, Bitter Moon, even received film treatment at the hands of Roman Polanski. As a result of his literary background and immersion in the fiery French essayist tradition, he writes in a sparkling prose, captured well here by his translator, Steven Rendall. The resulting tone is redolent for Anglo-Saxon readers of an earlier era, when social critics like Marx or Nietzsche conveyed their ideas with combative gravitas.
Beneath Bruckner’s eloquence is a serious message: we remain prisoners of a white guilt whose victim is its supposed beneficiary. Our guilt, he writes, is actually a means for us to retain our superiority over the non-white world, our masochism a form of sadism. After all, if everything is the fault of the west then the power to change the world lies squarely in the hands of westerners.

Shaping Up PE: The rise in childhood obesity prompts a gym class makeover

Daniele Seiss:

Teacher Donald Hawkins shouts enthusiastically to his 3- and 4-year-old students: “Can you name any animals that hop?”
The answers trickle in from the sleepy but smiling youngsters: a kangaroo, a frog, a rabbit. They decide to mimic the frog. It’s 9:30ish in the morning inside Browne Education Campus’s comfortably warm gymnasium in Northeast Washington. Fast-tempoed music gets the kids in the mood to hop, and off they go, rhythmically squatting and bouncing across the room. When the music stops, the children rise, a little more awake.
“Are you ready?” Hawkins yells. “I can’t hear you!”
“Ready!” they reply.

National Cholesterol Education Program might update treatment recommendations

Melissa Healy:

In the next year or so, the market for statins may get a further boost.
The National Cholesterol Education Program, the group that drafted the 2001 and 2004 guidelines on statin use, is expected to update its treatment recommendations. In doing so, the group will decide whether to suggest the broad use of statins for healthy patients with high readings of a marker for inflammation called C-reactive protein.
If the group does urge statins for these healthy individuals, at least 6.5 million new patients could sign up for long-term statin use.

Senate Passes Child Nutrition Act

Andrew Martin:

The Senate on Thursday approved a long-awaited child nutrition act that intends to feed more hungry kids and make school food more nutritious, and it provides for $4.5 billion over the next decade to make that happen.
Called the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, it passed the Senate unanimously and now moves on to the House, where passage is also expected. National child nutrition programs are set to expire Sept. 30.
The legislation will expand the number of low-income children who are eligible for free or reduced-price school meals, largely by streamlining the paperwork required to receive the meals. And it will expand a program to provide after-school meals to at-risk children.

When Student Loans Live On After Death

Mary Pilon:

In July 2006, 25-year-old Christopher Bryski died.
His private student loans didn’t. Mr. Bryski’s family in Marlton, N.J., continues to make monthly payments on his loans–the result of a potentially costly loophole in the rules governing student lending.
As the college season nears, throngs of parents and students still are applying for private student loans, long used by students as an alternative to federal loans. But they may be unaware that in cases where the student dies, the co-signers often are obliged to pay off the balance of the loan themselves–a requirement typically not found in federal loans.

More choices alter college textbook landscape

Eric Gorski:

On Friday afternoons between work and rugby practice, Brittany Wolfe would rush to the campus library hoping copies of her advanced algebra textbook had not all been checked out by like-minded classmates.
It was part of the math major’s routine last quarter at the University of California, Los Angeles: Stand in line at the reserve desk in the library’s closing hours with the goal of borrowing a copy for the weekend.
The alternative was to buy a $120 book and sell it back for far less. If she could sell it back at all.
“It’s like this terrible game of catch your books when you can,” said Wolfe, a new graduate who estimates she saved $800 a year using books on reserve and who now shares textbook tips as a counselor to incoming UCLA students. “It’s frustrating when you’re already stressed about school. Being stressed about textbooks doesn’t seem right.”

Separate but equal: More schools are dividing classes by gender

Karen Houppert:

On a Tuesday morning in February, Soheila Ahmad’s first-grade class at Imagine Southeast Public Charter School has just finished language arts. The 12 children — all boys, all African American — are tidying up their desks.
There are no windows in this basement room, but one wall, the backdrop for posters, is painted sky blue.
“I need the cleanup crew here,” shouts Ahmad, a 23-year-old first-time teacher, sweeping her arm around the central area of the class, where a few books lie scattered on the blue rug, and six blue beanbag chairs are arranged in a reading circle. Three boys hop to it, hoisting and heaving the beanbags into a pile against the far wall. A fourth boy collects the books and reshelves them. It is 10:30 a.m. and time for math.
“Let’s practice counting by 10s to 100,” Ahmad says.

Gates’s Millions: Can Big Bucks Turn Students Into Graduates?

Elyse Ashburn:

In the last year, advocacy groups have churned out reports on how all kinds of students–those who work, are minorities, attend less-selective colleges, or come from low-income families–struggle in higher education. They have talked about the needs of the modern work force, and how the United States is falling behind.
All together, the groups’ findings have been picked up by USA Today, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, NPR, and so

Should I Make My 13-Year-Old Get a Job?

Jeff Opdyke:

It’s time for my son to get a job.
Technically, he’s still too young to flip burgers or bag groceries, as I once did. He’s only 13 years old, and federal law tends to frown on child labor.
But his money needs are increasing, especially when it comes to electronics. And his mom and I refuse to feed that habit. We’ve told him he has to earn the money if he really wants all this stuff.
Thus, the need for some kind of job.
The problem: We can’t seem to motivate him to see the value in earning what you spend. And part of that, I fear, is my fault.

Report: Unions favored in Ohio school construction

Julie Carr Smyth:

An official who oversees school building projects in Ohio abused his authority in handing out construction contracts, the state watchdog said in a Thursday report.
Ohio School Facilities Commission chief Richard Murray gave unions favored status and joined labor representatives in “arm-twisting sessions” with local school districts, according to the report by Inspector General Tom Charles.
The report also says Murray backed a union-friendly project-labor agreement worth $37 million that would result in payments to a union to which Murray still belongs and to his former union employer, Laborers-Employers Cooperation and Education Trust, known as LECET. The work would take place at the Ohio Schools for the Deaf and Blind, which are under the direct control of Murray’s commission.

Putting Our Brains on Hold

Bob Herbert, via a kind reader:

The world leadership qualities of the United States, once so prevalent, are fading faster than the polar ice caps.
We once set the standard for industrial might, for the advanced state of our physical infrastructure, and for the quality of our citizens’ lives. All are experiencing significant decline.
The latest dismal news on the leadership front comes from the College Board, which tells us that the U.S., once the world’s leader in the percentage of young people with college degrees, has fallen to 12th among 36 developed nations.
At a time when a college education is needed more than ever to establish and maintain a middle-class standard of living, America’s young people are moving in exactly the wrong direction. A well-educated population also is crucially important if the U.S. is to succeed in an increasingly competitive global environment.

German Schools to Teach Online Privacy

Jessica Donath:

Internet companies such as Facebook and Google have come in for repeated criticism in Germany, where the government has concerns about what they do with users’ data. Now one state, worried about the amount of information young people reveal online, plans to teach school pupils how to keep a low profile on the web.
Many of Facebook’s 2 million users in Germany are young people who might not give a second thought to posting pictures of themselves and their friends skinny-dipping or passed out at parties. Unfortunately, being casual with one’s data also has its risks. After all, potential employers also know how to use social networking tools.
Now the government of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, recognizing that young people are not always aware of the dangers of revealing personal information on the Internet, is planning to teach school students how to deal with the Internet and social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
“Our goal is to convey that the Internet doesn’t only offer chances and opportunities, but also has risks that students should understand in order to exercise autonomy with regards to digital media,” said North Rhine-Westphalia’s media minister, Angelica Schwall-Düren, in an interview with the Thursday edition of the regional newspaper WAZ.

Scandal Haunts Atlanta’s School Chief

Shaila Dewan:

Early on in Beverly L. Hall’s 11-year tenure as superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools, she figured that the academic gains she intended to make with the city’s mostly poor, black students would face skepticism.
“I knew the day would come when people would question, was the progress real?” she said in an interview last week.
So Dr. Hall took a risk, signing up for a trial program to track and compare urban school districts. Since then, Atlanta has made the highest gains in the program in reading and among the highest in math, making it a national model and Dr. Hall a star in the education field.
But that has not insulated her from a cheating scandal that initially threatened to engulf two-thirds of the district’s 84 schools. Even after an independent investigation recently found that the problem was much less widespread, critics have called for her resignation and attacked the investigation’s credibility.

How to Tame College Costs–It’s Not Just Tuition

Anna Prior:

The start of the school year is right around the corner, and for parents of college-age children that means it’s time to open up the wallet.
In addition to tuition, there are “lab fees, recreation fees, computer fees, materials fees, and then a bus pass! We didn’t realize nearly every class would have fees associated with it,” says Judy McNary, a financial adviser in Broomfield, Colo., who has three children attending the University of Colorado. “When one of my children adds a class,” Ms. McNary says, “it seems like there is some sort of fee that gets added as well to the tuition.”

DeKalb, Georgia school board: We will save accreditation

Megan Matteucci:

DeKalb County school board members insist they are not heading down the same path as Clayton County and will salvage the district’s accreditation.
“I’m not concerned about us losing accreditation,” board chairman Tom Bowen said Friday. “There will have to be a lot of back and forth with [the accrediting agency] and non-compliance on our part. I don’t see that happening.”
But many of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools’ concerns about DeKalb mirror the questions the agency had about Clayton two years ago, which led to its losing accreditation.
On Friday, the DeKalb board announced that it received an extension to answer SACS questions about hiring practices, training, conflict of interest, nepotism, procurement policies, the superintendent search and other areas.

You Just Can’t Make This Stuff Up

Jay Greene:

So much for my austerity idea, where real reform can only happen once the gusher of new money runs dry. The spigot is going to stay fully open for the foreseeable future, which will kill this opportunity for states and localities to restructure our education system and lower costs while improving outcomes.

The fact that the feds are bailing out schools and preventing reform doesn’t come as much of a surprise. But what is shocking is how the Senate bill proposes to pay for this extra $26 billion — cuts in food stamps. That’s right, we are literally going to take food out of the mouths of hungry people in order to keep upper-middle class teachers fully employed with their gold-plated pensions and health benefits.

And if that wasn’t outrageous enough, look at what the Milwaukee teachers union would like to do with their gold-plated health benefit. They want to restore a prescription benefit for Viagra, which had been cut in 2005 to save some money.

Great Oakland Public Schools??

Hae Sin Thomas:

I have been an educator and education advocate in Oakland, California for almost two decades, and I have spent those decades working towards the achievement of those four words. In California, an Academic Performance Index of 800 is the minimum score for a school to be considered good. In 1999, Oakland operated 42 “red” schools, schools with API scores of less than 500. 38 of those “red” schools sat firmly in what we call the “flatlands” of Oakland, the area occupied by predominantly low-income communities of color. At that time, there was only one charter public school, struggling as well. In 1999, Oakland Unified was widely considered one of the worst school districts in the country.
In response to this crisis, families across the flatlands mobilized to demand reforms that supported small, autonomous, new schools and more rigorous curriculum in all schools. New and bold leadership responded to this call and brought school and principal accountability, greater autonomy over school budgets and programs, student-based budgeting, an options policy for ALL families, and a policy to close failing schools and replace them with new schools.
In 2010, the Oakland public school landscape has been dramatically altered. From 2003 to 2007, Oakland Unified closed 18 failing schools and replaced them with 26 new schools, most with carefully-selected staffs, new program designs, and greater autonomies. The district created a culture of accountability and performance, used data strategically, and focused on rigorous standards-aligned instruction. Oakland Unified has been the most improved urban school district in California for five consecutive years, and today, there are only 5 “red” schools.

A Study of M.C. Escher for Gifted Students


M.C. Escher was a Dutch graphic artist known for his mathematically inspired constructions that seem impossible. His artwork represents explorations of infinity, architecture, fractals, and tessellations. Gifted students find his work fascinating and love studying his prints, which are readily available in books and on the Internet. Young people also appreciate learning about the theories behind Escher’s artwork and trying to replicate his techniques.

Leaked advice deals Michael Gove new blow in UK schools row

Patrick Hennessy:

The advice, leaked to The Sunday Telegraph, is the latest blow for Mr Gove as he battles against the fallout from his botched announcement last month in which he axed more than 700 projects.
At least two local authorities – Sandwell and Nottingham City Council – are known to be preparing possible legal challenges, and several other councils may follow in moves which could see the taxpayer facing payouts totalling hundreds of millions of pounds.

Wisconsin 77th Assembly Candidate Interviews: K-12 Tax, Spending and Governance from a State Perspective

I asked the candidates about their views on the role of state government in K-12 public school districts, local control, the current legislature’s vote to eliminate the consideration of economic conditions in school district/teacher union arbitration proceedings and their views on state tax & spending priorities.

Video Link, including iPhone, iPad and iPod users mp3 audio; Doug Zwank’s website, financial disclosure filing; www search: Bing, Clusty, Google, Yahoo.
View a transcript here.

Video link, including iPhone, iPad and iPod users, mp3 audio Brett Hulsey’s website, financial disclosure filing; www search: Bing, Clusty, Google, Yahoo

Thanks to Ed Blume for arranging these interviews and the candidates for making the time to share their views. We will post more candidate interviews as they become available. More information on the September 14, 2010 primary election can be found here.
Candidate financial disclosures.

View a transcript here.

More Than a Paycheck

Mike Rose:

“Welcome to college, ” the director is saying, “I congratulate you.” She then asks them, one by one, to talk about what motivates them and why they’re here. There is some scraping of chairs, shifting of bodies, and the still life animates.
The economic motive does loom large. One guy laughs, “I don’t want to work a crappy job all my life.” A woman in the back announces that she wants to get her GED “to get some money to take care of myself.” What is interesting, though — and I wish the president and his secretary could hear it — are all the other reasons people give for being here: to “learn more,” to be a “role model for my kids,” to get “a career to support my daughter,” to “have a better life.” The director gets to the older man. “I’m illiterate,” he says in a halting voice, “and I want to learn to read and write.”
The semester before, students also wrote out their reasons for attending the program — as this current cohort will soon have to do — and their range of responses was even wider. Again, the economic motive was key, but consider these comments, some written in neat cursive, some in scratchy uneven (and sometimes error-ridden) print: “learning new things I never thought about before”; “I want my kids too know that I can write and read”; “Hope Fully with this program I could turn my life around”; “to develope better social skills and better speech”; “I want to be somebody in this world”; “I like to do test and essay like it is part of my life.”

The Ascent of America’s Choice and the Continuing Descent of America’s High Schools

Sandra Stotsky:

With an additional $30,000,000 to come to Marc Tucker’s NCEE from the USED’s “competition” for assessment consortia grants, his hare-brained scheme for enticing high school sophomores or juniors deemed “college-ready” by the results of the Cambridge University-adapted “Board” exams that he plans to pilot in 10 states (including Massachusetts now) comes closer to reality. The problems are not only with this scheme (and the exams NCEE will use to determine “college-readiness”) but also with the coursework NCEE’s America’s Choice is busy preparing to sell to our high schools to prepare students for these “Board” exams. (Try to find some good examples of the reading and math items and figure out their academic level.)

First, some background. NCEE’s scheme was originally financed by a $1,500,000 pilot grant from the Gates Foundation. It will now benefit from a sweetheart deal of $30,000,000–all taxpayers’ money. Having Gates pay for both NCEE’s start-up and the development of Common Core standards certainly helped America’s Choice to put its key people on Common Core’s ELA and mathematics standards development and draft-writing committees to ensure that they came up with the readiness standards Gates had paid for and wanted NCEE to use. NCEE has a completely free hand to “align” its “Board” exams exactly how it pleases with Common Core’s “college-readiness” level and to set passing scores exactly where it wants, since the passing score must be consistent across piloting states.

Program rooted in civil rights movement

Erin Richards:

The children crouched like bushes rooted in the church’s sanctuary and waited for the music.
Then they rose alongside their instructors, lifted their arms and sang Labi Siffre’s 1980s anti-apartheid anthem as it boomed through the stereo system:
“The higher you build your barriers, the taller I become
The farther you take my rights away, the faster I will run…”
It’s the last week of Wisconsin’s only Freedom School, but the morning group exercise of singing, clapping, stomping, hugging and chanting is the same as it’s been every day for the past several weeks at All Peoples Church, 2600 N. 2nd St. It’s also the same way Freedom School has begun this summer at 145 other sites around the country.
Administered nationally by the Children’s Defense Fund nonprofit advocacy group in Washington, D.C., Freedom Schools aim to teach kids from first grade through high school to fall in love with reading. The six-week summer program is rooted in the civil rights movement of the 1960s, so reading is seen more broadly as a way to empower low-income and minority youth, to instill them with the education, confidence and tolerance necessary to succeed and help others.

When Tough, Unpopular Decisions Are Best for Kids

Becca Bracy Knight:

When was the last time you spoke to a student about his or her experiences at school? I don’t think anyone working in education reform can have these conversations often enough. I was fortunate to hear from a group of high school students last week at one of The Broad Center’s professional development sessions.
To help make our discussions about the current state of education a little more real, we invited a group of students and teachers from local schools to talk about their views on education today. It was a powerful, stark reminder that our young people are amazingly resilient, but also keenly aware that we as adults are, in general, letting them down.
One high school student had this to say about the current budget crisis in her local school district: “I don’t understand why we have to suffer because adults don’t know how to manage their money. It’s not right. If we are the country’s future, you are cutting off the tree at the root.”

We’ll only listen to you if you’ve been peer-reviewed

Brendan O’Neill:

Since it was published last year, The Spirit Level – Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson’s book on why equal societies do better than unequal ones – has become a sparkplug for heated, testy debate. Not one, not two, but three pamphlet-length critiques of it have been published, while others have rushed to man the book’s intellectual barricades (‘This book’s inconvenient truths must be faced’, said a Guardian editorial).
Yet now Pickett and Wilkinson have imposed an extraordinary condition on future debate about their book. Because much of the criticism of The Spirit Level has consisted of ‘unsubstantiated claims made for political purposes’ (in their view), ‘all future debate should take place in peer-reviewed journals’, they decree.
Wow. In one fell swoop they have painted any criticism of their book that appears in non-peer-reviewed journals as somehow illegitimate. They snootily say that ‘none of [the] critiques are peer-reviewed’ and announce that from now on they’ll only engage in discussions that ‘take place in peer-reviewed journals’. So any peep of a critique that appears in a newspaper, a book published by a publishing house that doesn’t do peer review, a non-academic magazine, an online magazine, a blog or a radio show – never mind those criticisms aired in sweaty seminar rooms, bars or on park benches – is unworthy because it hasn’t been stamped with that modern-day mark of decency, that indicator of seriousness, that licence which proves you’re a Person Worth Listening To: the two magic words ‘Peer Reviewed.’

Serious Math

Katy Murphy:

Over the years, I feel like I’ve come to know you — your political leanings and life experiences, your writing style, sense of humor and average snark level. But what about your math skills?
For example: Can you (or any high school student you know) do this?
Show that there are only finitely many triples (x, y, z) of positive integers satisfying the equation abc = 2009(a + b + c).
Or this?
Let n be an integer greater than 3. Points V1, V2, …, Vn, with no three collinear, lie on a plane. Some of the segments ViVj , with 1 *< i < j < n, are constructed. Points Vi and Vj are neighbors if ViVj is constructed. Initially, chess pieces C1,C2, ...,Cn are placed at points V1, V2, ..., Vn (not necessarily in that order) with exactly one piece at each point. In a move, one can choose some of the n chess pieces, and simultaneously relocate each of the chosen piece from its current position to one of its neighboring positions such that after the move, exactly one chess piece is at each point and no two chess pieces have exchanged their positions. A set of constructed segments is called harmonic if for any initial positions of the chess pieces, each chess piece Ci(1< i < n) is at the point Vi after a finite number of moves. Determine the minimum number of segments in a harmonic set. (*Note: This sign (<) should read "less than or equal to," but I have some keyboard limitations.)

Detroit’s class act

Steven Gray:

Can a cause seem so lost that not even many philanthropists feel charitable toward it? Detroit’s schools have been that kind of hard case. In recent years public schools in such cities as New York, Chicago, and New Orleans have enjoyed major infusions of cash from charities like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. But that never happened in Detroit, whose school system is so far gone that barely 3% of its fourth-graders meet national math standards. “Between the destruction of the auto and manufacturing industries, massive blight, and political problems, the philanthropic view is that there’s been no basement to build on in Detroit,” says Rick Hess, director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, the conservative think tank.
If Detroit schools have a last best friend, it’s Carol Goss. The charity she heads, Detroit’s Skillman Foundation, a $457 million fund based on the fortune of 3M adhesives pioneer Robert Skillman and his wife, Rose, devotes the majority of its giving to one cause: the children of Detroit. And Goss, 62, realized they were suffering because of infighting among the grownups: teachers resistant to change, politicians battling over conventional vs. charter schools, parents protesting the closing of failed programs. The dysfunction became so bad that a few years ago Detroit refused a rare offer from a philanthropist to donate $200 million to build charter schools across the city.

Pacific Rim views on global education: Hong Kong+Seattle

Gary Kochhar-Lindgren:

Having spent September 2009-June 2010 serving as a Fulbright Scholar in General Education in Hong Kong , I have now returned to my responsibilities at the University of Washington, Bothell, as a Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies and the Director of the academic side of our First Year Experience. All the universities in Hong Kong are moving from three to four year degrees and UW Bothell started first and second year programs in 2006 and is now rapidly expanding its degree options. On both sides of the Pacific, curricular and administrative structural reform are moving forward at a sometimes dizzying, but always invigorating, pace. What are the connections and asymmetries involved in such an effort?
As in other parts of the world, a very similar language is emerging in both Seattle and Hong Kong around curricular reform, including the familiar rhetoric of student-centeredness; outcomes-based assessment; interdisciplinarity; writing, quantitative, and IT literacies; cross-cultural competencies; interactive pedagogies; and the development of new administrative structures that can serve the university as a whole instead of reproducing only department or College level concerns.

Islesboro students get eye-opening results from deer study

Sandy Oliver:

A recent and startling increase in tick-borne Lyme disease among Islesboro residents gave nine students in Islesboro Central School’s ninth grade, and two of their teachers, science teacher Heather Sinclair and business and computer education teacher Vicki Conover, a unique and perfect opportunity to combine classroom and experiential learning. To examine the connection between the island’s deer population and the increase of Lyme disease, students in Ms. Sinclair’s biology class conducted primary scientific research to determine the island’s deer herd size, then with Ms. Conover’s guidance used GIS and computer applications to analyze and present the data to propose one possible cause of the disease’s increase.
As a Health Center Advisory Board (HCAB) member, Ms. Sinclair heard concerns about the deer herd’s possible relationship to the spread of Lyme disease on island. The HCAB decided to conduct a deer count and hired a consulting firm, Stantec, to design a survey. The students and twenty community volunteers did the on-the-ground research, following the procedure recommended by Stantec. To establish a sample, Stantec identified thirty-three random transects, lines across the island, that included representative terrain and habitat. The students and Stantec both analyzed the data that volunteers gathered.

Top scorers in HKCEE again from elite schools

Elaine Yu & Joyce Man:

Traditional elite schools continued their dominance of the fifth-form public exam to the last, with their pupils filling most of the top-scoring slots.
In the last Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination (HKCEE), 16 pupils scored 10 distinctions, compared to 13 last year, results released yesterday show.
St Joseph’s College did best, with four straight-A stars. Diocesan Girls’ School and Queen’s College each produced three top scorers, La Salle College two and three other elite schools – St Paul’s Co-educational College, King’s College and Kwun Tong Maryknoll College – one each.
The only one among the 16 from a New Territories school has a special distinction – she racked up her perfect result despite suffering from a rare blood disease that requires frequent medial check-ups and occasional spells in hospital.
“I feel pain in the stomach and vomit when I am under pressure,” said Yiu Sze-wan, 17 – only the second straight-A pupil in the history of the SKH Lam Woo Memorial Secondary School in Kwai Hing.

Exotic Deals Put Denver Schools Deeper in Debt

Gretchen Morgenson:

In the spring of 2008, the Denver public school system needed to plug a $400 million hole in its pension fund. Bankers at JPMorgan Chase offered what seemed to be a perfect solution.
The bankers said that the school system could raise $750 million in an exotic transaction that would eliminate the pension gap and save tens of millions of dollars annually in debt costs — money that could be plowed back into Denver’s classrooms, starved in recent years for funds.
To members of the Denver Board of Education, it sounded ideal. It was complex, involving several different financial institutions and transactions. But Michael F. Bennet, now a United States senator from Colorado who was superintendent of the school system at the time, and Thomas Boasberg, then the system’s chief operating officer, persuaded the seven-person board of the deal’s advantages, according to interviews with its members.

The Waukesha School District’s exotic investments also did not work out well.

D.C. teachers union accuses Rhee of ‘playing loose’ with numbers on firings

Bill Turque:

D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee garnered big local headlines and national attention July 23 when she announced that she had fired 241 teachers, including 165 who received poor evaluations under a tough new assessment system that for the first time held some educators accountable for student test scores.
It turns out that the story is a bit more complicated, and Rhee is facing accusations from the Washington Teachers’ Union that she inflated the figures to burnish her image as a take-no-prisoners schools leader.
The number of teachers fired for scores in the “ineffective” range on the IMPACT evaluation system is 76, or fewer than half of the 165 originally cited, according to data presented by the District to the union last week. The rest of the 165, school officials acknowledge, were educators judged “minimally effective” who had lost their positions in the school system because of enrollment declines or program changes at their schools mandated by the federal No Child Left Behind law.

Racine’s Mitchell Middle School

Dustin Block, via email:

Greetings from Racine! I’m writing because I need your help. A public school in Racine is in the running for $500,000 through a “Kohl’s Care” contest on Facebook. Kohls is giving away a half-million dollars to the 20 schools who collect the most votes by Sept. 4. Right now Mitchell Middle School in Racine is in 20th place and could really use your votes to move up the standings and secure the money.
Here’s the link:
It’d really mean a lot to Racine and the Mitchell Middle-schoolers if you could take the five minutes to vote. Mitchell was built in 1937 and has only had one renovation in 73 years. Racine Unified doesn’t have much money for repairs, so this is a great way you can help out a poor school system in desperate need of money.
You really can make a difference! Just follow the link above and vote!
Thanks much!

Tension grows over Seattle teacher evaluations

Amy Rolph:

Seattle Public Schools wants teacher evaluations and student performance joined at the hip, but the teachers’ union is taking issue with how the district plans to fuse those two factors.
A proposal that would tie teacher evaluations to student growth prompted a 2,000-word refutation e-mail from the Seattle Education Association earlier this week, a sign of friction in ongoing contract negotiations.
“Their mechanized system is one of minimal rewards and automated punishments,” union leaders wrote to members Wednesday.
That statement was sent in response to an e-mail teachers received this week from public schools Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson. She detailed how the school plans to roll out parts of its bargaining proposal — specifically factors related to how teachers’ performances are evaluated.
The district is proposing an four-tier evaluation system that would roll out over two years. Teachers who chose to be evaluated base on to “student growth outcomes and peer and student feedback” would be eligible for perks, including an immediate 1 percent pay increase, eligibility for stipends and other forms of “targeted support.”

I was impressed with Susan Troller’s recent article on Teacher Accountability and the Madison School District, particularly her inquiry to Lisa Wachtel:

The district’s recent decision to provide professional development time for middle and high school teachers through an early release time for students on Wednesdays is part of this focus, according to Wachtel. The district has sponsored an early release time for elementary school teachers since 1976.
She admits there isn’t any data yet to prove whether coaching is a good use of resources when it comes to improving student achievement.
“Anecdotally we’re hearing good things from a number of our schools, but it’s still pretty early to see many specific changes,” she says. “It takes consistency, and practice, to change the way you teach. It’s not easy for anyone; I think it has to be an ongoing effort.”

This is certainly not the only example of such spending initiatives. Jeff Henriques has thoughtfully posted a number of very useful articles over the years, including: Where does MMSD get its numbers from? and District SLC Grant – Examining the Data From Earlier Grants, pt. 3. It appears that these spending items simply reflect growing adult to adult programs within the K-12 world, or a way to channel more funds into the system.
I believe it is inevitable that we will see more “teacher evaluation” programs. What they actually do and whether they are used is of course, another question.
Ideally, every school’s website should include a teacher’s profile page, with their CV, blog and social network links, course syllabus and curriculum notes. Active use of a student information system such as PowerSchool, or Infinite Campus, among others, including all assignments, feedback, periodic communication, syllabus, tests and notes would further provide useful information to parents and students.

Fractures among high school athletes have serious implications, study finds

Jeannine Stein:

High school sports are becoming increasingly popular with teens, and with that comes injuries. A new study reveals that fractures are not to be taken lightly. They are they fourth-most-common injury and can cause players to drop out of competition and rack up medical procedures.
The study, published recently in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine, looked at fractures that occurred among high school athletes at 100 randomly selected high schools around the country from 2005 to 2009. The injuries were categorized to determine who gets them, what causes them and what effect they may have.
Fractures were the fourth-most-common injury after ligament sprains, muscle strains and bruises. Football had the highest fracture rate, and volleyball had the lowest. Fractures happened more often during competition than in practice for every sport except volleyball.

Scholars to resurrect ancient Indian university

James LaMont:

One of the world’s oldest universities – Nalanda, in the impoverished Indian state of Bihar – is to be refounded more than 800 years after it was destroyed, fulfilling the dreams of scholars from India, Singapore, China, and Japan.
India’s parliament will this week consider legislation allowing foreign partners to help recreate the ancient Buddhist centre of learning close to the red-brick ruins of the original university, 55 miles from Patna, Bihar’s capital.
The initiative has been championed by Amartya Sen, the world-renowned scholar and Nobel laureate for economics, who described Nalanda as “one of the highest intellectual achievements in the history of the world”. Prof Sen said Nalanda’s recreation would lead to a renaissance of Indian learning that would draw students from all over the region.

Congress Set to Boost Federal Tax Dollar Aid to States

Naftali Bendavid:

Congress took a decisive step Wednesday toward finalizing a $26 billion bill offering aid to states, a surprise win for Democrats keen to demonstrate they’re taking action on an economy showing signs of weakness.
The bill, designed to prevent teacher layoffs and help states with their Medicaid payments, comes after months of foot dragging by Congress. Lawmakers have proven reluctant to spend money on everything from stimulus projects to additional unemployment insurance, amid increasing voter concern about the size of the U.S. budget deficit.
But Wednesday’s action, which won the support of two Republicans, suggests members of Congress are sufficiently concerned about the mixed signals from the economy that they’re willing to approve narrow spending bills, particularly those with political resonance ahead of this year’s midterm elections.
Wednesday’s 61-38 vote in the Senate overcame a filibuster and made final passage in the Senate likely as soon as Thursday. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) responded by taking the rare move of calling House members back from their summer recess next week to pass the bill and send it to the desk of President Barack Obama.

Related: Forget Your Vacation, Come Bail Out Public Education, EduJobs Clears Senate While Schools Are Rehiring and the spotlight on city pay widens in California.

Round Two RTT Finalists: Some Cliff Notes from DE

Paul Herdman of the Rodel Foundation of Delaware

Right now, 18 “round-two” states and DC are prepping for their high stakes interviews. They’re probably also breathing a collective sigh of relief that their applications are out the door, attending to fires left burning while they were working on their proposals, and catching up on sleep. Yet, with all this, there are other things that the finalists might want to add to their to-do lists prior to the RTTT announcement in a few weeks.
While the Rodel Foundation of Delaware is not directly engaged in the implementation of the state’s RTTT work, we are endeavoring to be as helpful as possible in our state. I’m looking for your input, and offering a few observations from the sidelines that I hope will be helpful as other states think about what they should be doing before September. I’ve captured them under the headings of Capacity, Communications, and Courage.

Commentary on Madison’s Middle & High School Teacher Planning Time

Wisconsin State Journal:

It may sound reasonable enough.
Madison schools plan to give middle and high school teachers an hour of “professional collaboration time” on Wednesday afternoons starting this fall. The goal is to let teachers meet in groups to share ideas and improve their instruction.
We’re all for boosting performance and results.
But the logistics of this new policy, announced just weeks before the start of school, are troubling.
For starters, Madison elementary schools already release their students early on Mondays to give teachers time to collaborate. That means a lot of parents will now have to juggle two early release days rather than one.

Rating America’s Greenest Colleges

Ariel Schwartz:

What makes a college sustainable? Does it need scores of rooftop solar panels and LEED-certified buildings or will a PETA-approved cafeteria menu suffice? The Princeton Review waded into that debate by releasing its 2011 Green Rating Honor Roll. Out of 703 schools that submitted environmental information, the Review gave just 18 schools spots on the list. The lucky recipients, which include Yale, Harvard, Northeastern, University of California, Berkeley, and West Virginia University, have three qualities in common: an overall commitment to environmental issues, a sustainability-minded curriculum, and students that are dedicated to all things green.
Beyond those basics, the programs on the list vary widely. Arizona State University at Tempe has the School of Sustainability, the first transdisciplinary sustainability degree program in the U.S. Harvard has 62 building projects working towards LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification, along with a 55% recycling rate. Meanwhile the University of Maine provides free bikes for faculty, staff, and student use.

Matching Up College Roommates: Students Turn To Online Roommate Matching Services to Avoid Getting Paired With a Stranger

Isaac Arnsdorf:

As soon as he received his roommate assignment in the mail, Sam Brown did what any 17-year-old about to enter college would do: He looked him up on Facebook.
When Sam, who will be attending the University of Colorado at Boulder, couldn’t find him, he turned to Google Earth. By searching the address the college provided, Sam could see aerial photos of his future roommate’s house in Encino, Calif.–his lawn, his basketball hoop, the cars in his driveway, his pool.

A Madison Look at Teacher Accountability, Testing and the Education Reform Climate

Susan Troller:

The district’s recent decision to provide professional development time for middle and high school teachers through an early release time for students on Wednesdays is part of this focus, according to Wachtel. The district has sponsored an early release time for elementary school teachers since 1976.
She admits there isn’t any data yet to prove whether coaching is a good use of resources when it comes to improving student achievement.
“Anecdotally we’re hearing good things from a number of our schools, but it’s still pretty early to see many specific changes,” she says. “It takes consistency, and practice, to change the way you teach. It’s not easy for anyone; I think it has to be an ongoing effort.”

Susan did a nice job digging into the many issues around the “education reform” movement, as it were. Related topics: adult to adult spending and Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman’s recent speech on the adult employment emphasis of school districts.

When/why progress in closing achievement gap stalled

Valerie Strauss:

Progress seen over several decades in narrowing the educational achievement gap between black and white students has remained stalled for 20 years, according to data analyzed in a new report.

Called “The Black-White Achievement Gap: When Progress Stopped,” the report by the Educational Testing Service examines periods of progress and stagnation since 1910 in closing the achievement gap.

Anybody who thinks that the achievement gap will be closed by throwing more standardized test scores at kids and without addressing health and social issues should read the report and think again.

The report, written by Paul E. Barton and Richard J. Coley of ETS’s Policy Information Center, uses data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress to show that there was a steady narrowing of the achievement gap from the 1970s until the late 1980s. Scores essentially remained the same since then.

Venture Philanthropy gives $5.5 million for expansion of KIPP DC charter schools

Susan Kinzie:

It’s another sign of private money shaking up public education in the District: A $5.5 million gift will dramatically help expand a network of high-performing charter schools in the city, with a goal of more than doubling the number of students enrolled by 2015.
The grant by Venture Philanthropy Partners, a nonprofit organization using the principles of venture-capital investment to help children from low-income families in the Washington region, will fund Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP) schools. The grant is to be announced Monday.
“VPP recognized our ability to impact not just the students we have, but the students throughout D.C.,” said Allison Fansler, president and chief operating officer of KIPP DC. “We want to set a high bar for what’s possible.”

Plugging the school funding leak

Jay Bullock:

Stop me if you’ve heard this one: How is the MPS budget situation like the BP oil spill?
In the same way that BP has needed both to place a temporary cap on the well and drill a relief well to shut down the leak permanently, MPS–and Wisconsin’s public schools generally–needs immediate help as well as a significant revision to the school funding formula that can provide long-term stability and relief.
The immediate help can come in a couple of different ways. One is through work by some members of Congress to get additional emergency funds to states to address school budget shortfalls and rehire laid-off teachers. (Wisconsin, you are probably are not surprised to learn, is hardly alone in having a school funding crisis.) This one-time payment would offset some of the disappearing stimulus funds and hold back the flood of the estimated 300,000 teacher layoffs expected for the fall nationwide.
The amendment’s prognosis is poor, with a deficit-conscious Congress anxious about too much more spending.

New Questions on Test Bias

Scott Jaschik

For many years, critics of the SAT have cited a verbal question involving the word “regatta” as an example of how the test may favor wealthier test-takers, who also are more likely to be white. It’s been a long time since the regatta question was used — and the College Board now has in place a detailed process for testing all questions and potential questions, designed to weed out questions that may favor one group of students over another.
But a major new research project — led by a scholar who favors standardized testing — has just concluded that the methods used by the College Board (and just about every other testing entity for either admissions or employment testing) are seriously flawed. While the new research doesn’t conclude that the tests are biased, it says that they could be — and that the existing methods of detection wouldn’t reveal that.

How to Talk About Education Reform

Charlie Mas

There appears to be a lot of support, right now, among politicians, the media, and rest of the “opinion-making” class, for Education Reform.
I understand that. The Education Reform movement has a lot of very attractive bumper-sticker type slogans that appear to make a lot of very good sense. Who wouldn’t be in favor of firing bad teachers? We’ve all had a bad teacher who should be fired – haven’t we? Even if you haven’t had a bad teacher, you’ve heard the horror stories about them. Who doesn’t think accountability is a good thing? Who wouldn’t support innovation and choice? It all sounds really good and worthy of our support. Morover, anyone who opposes it, such as teachers’ unions, must be doing so for their own selfish purposes.
It’s only when people go past the bumper-stick slogans, get past the anectdotes and myths, and begin to consider the realities that the elements of this vaunted Education Reform start to break down.

Op-Ed: ‘Higher Education’ Is A Waste Of Money

Talk of the Nation:

Professor Andrew Hacker says that higher education in the U.S. is broken.
He argues that too many undergraduate courses are taught by graduate assistants or professors who have no interest in teaching.
Hacker proposes numerous changes, including an end to the tenure system, in his book, Higher Education?
“Tenure is lifetime employment security, in fact, into the grave” Hacker tells NPR’s Tony Cox. The problem, as he sees it, is that the system “works havoc on young people,” who must be incredibly cautious throughout their years in school as graduate students and young professors, “if they hope to get that gold ring.”
That’s too high a cost, Hacker and his co-author, Claudia Dreifus, conclude. “Regretfully,” Hacker says, “tenure is more of a liability than an asset.”

Best blog by far on D.C. test scores

Jay Matthews:

Reading the blog of the mildly mysterious G.F. Brandenburg, I gathered a clue to why the reports there are so easy to read for geezers like me who squint a lot at computer screens. Brandenburg reveals in passing that he retired as a D.C. teacher recently, so he is likely not too far from my age cohort, and understands us deeply.
Bless him, and not just for the amazing clarity of his written words. He is savage toward D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee, whom I highly regard. But there is no substitute for his analysis of what is happening with D.C. achievement scores, and the ways they are being used for various political purposes.
Here is his deft analysis of what has happened to elementary scores, which have gone up, and then down, in the Rhee era:
Contrary to the spin put on things by [D.C. Mayor Adrian] Fenty and Rhee, at the elementary level, virtually all of the increases on DC-CAS scores over the past 4 years happened during the period ’07 to ’08. And it so happens that 2006 was the first year that DCPS switched to using the DC-CAS as its major standardized test, instead of using the Stanford-9 (also known as the SAT-9). That was under superintendent Janey.

Teachers and teachers unions: Get on board or get out of the way

Leonard Pitts:

A year or two ago, I received this e-mail. The writer was upset with me for arguing that school principals should have the power to fire teachers who do not perform. As numerous educators have told me, union protections being what they are, dumping a teacher — even a bad one — is an almost impossible task.
My correspondent, a teacher, took issue with my desire to see that changed, noting that without those protections, she’d be at the mercy of some boss who decided one day to fire her.
In other words, she’d be just like the rest of us. The lady’s detachment from the reality most workers live with struck me as a telling clue as to why our education system frequently fails to educate. When you can’t get fired for doing bad work, what’s your impetus for doing good?
Many of us seem to be wondering the same thing.

MSU-Mankato lays off 12 faculty members

Tim Post:

Twelve faculty members have received layoff notices at Minnesota State University-Mankato as part of an effort to trim the school’s budget.
Most of the lay off notices went out in May, but one more was issued last week to beat an Aug. 1 union deadline for layoffs coming at the end of the next academic year.
Four tenured professors received notices, eight went out to tenure-track faculty.
Warren Sandman, associate vice president of academic affairs at MSU-Mankato, says the layoffs come as the school fears millions of dollars in cuts in state funding next legislative session.
“We are planning to make the cuts now because we can’t wait until the legislature acts next year,” Sandman said.

Appeals court rules in favor of Marshall School District in case of special-needs student

Doug Erickson:

Educators in the Marshall School District properly determined that a student with a genetic disease was no longer eligible for special education and related services, a federal appeals court has ruled.
The decision by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, released Monday, reversed a lower court’s ruling that relied heavily on a doctor’s opinion and discounted the testimony of the student’s special education gym teacher.
Barbara Sramek, Marshall superintendent, said the ruling’s implications extend far beyond one school district.
“This was not about money, it was about principle,” she said. “Ultimately, it reinforces the value of educators and professional development.”

Ignorance By Degrees Colleges serve the people who work there more than the students who desperately need to learn something.

Mark Bauerlein:

Higher education may be heading for a reckoning. For a long time, despite the occasional charge of liberal dogma on campus or of a watered-down curriculum, people tended to think the best of the college and university they attended. Perhaps they attributed their career success or that of their friends to a diploma. Or they felt moved by a particular professor or class. Or they received treatment at a university hospital or otherwise profited from university-based scientific research. Or they just loved March Madness.
Recently, though, a new public skepticism has surfaced, with galling facts to back it up. Over the past 30 years, the average cost of college tuition and fees has risen 250% for private schools and nearly 300% for public schools (in constant dollars). The salaries of professors have also risen much faster than those of other occupations. At Stanford, to take but one example, the salaries of full professors have leapt 58% in constant dollars since the mid-1980s. College presidents do even better. From 1992 to 2008, NYU’s presidential salary climbed to $1.27 million from $443,000. By 2008, a dozen presidents had passed the million-dollar mark.
Meanwhile, tenured and tenure-track professors spend ever less time with students. In 1975, 43% of college teachers were classified as “contingent”–that is, they were temporary instructors and graduate students; today that rate is 70%. Colleges boast of high faculty-to-student ratios, but in practice most courses have a part-timer at the podium.

Related: Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman:

“Beware of legacy practices (most of what we do every day is the maintenance of the status quo), @12:40 minutes into the talk – the very public institutions intended for student learning has become focused instead on adult employment. I say that as an employee. Adult practices and attitudes have become embedded in organizational culture governed by strict regulations and union contracts that dictate most of what occurs inside schools today. Any impetus to change direction or structure is met with swift and stiff resistance. It’s as if we are stuck in a time warp keeping a 19th century school model on life support in an attempt to meet 21st century demands.” Zimman went on to discuss the Wisconsin DPI’s vigorous enforcement of teacher licensing practices and provided some unfortunate math & science teacher examples (including the “impossibility” of meeting the demand for such teachers (about 14 minutes)). He further cited exploding teacher salary, benefit and retiree costs eating instructional dollars (“Similar to GM”; “worry” about the children given this situation).
Zimman noted that the most recent State of Wisconsin Budget removed the requirement that arbitrators take into consideration revenue limits (a district’s financial condition @17:30) when considering a District’s ability to afford union negotiated compensation packages. The budget also added the amount of teacher preparation time to the list of items that must be negotiated….. “we need to breakthrough the concept that public schools are an expense, not an investment” and at the same time, we must stop looking at schools as a place for adults to work and start treating schools as a place for children to learn.”

Plagiarism Lines Blur for Students in Digital Age

Trip Gabriel:

At Rhode Island College, a freshman copied and pasted from a Web site’s frequently asked questions page about homelessness — and did not think he needed to credit a source in his assignment because the page did not include author information.
At DePaul University, the tip-off to one student’s copying was the purple shade of several paragraphs he had lifted from the Web; when confronted by a writing tutor his professor had sent him to, he was not defensive — he just wanted to know how to change purple text to black.
And at the University of Maryland, a student reprimanded for copying from Wikipedia in a paper on the Great Depression said he thought its entries — unsigned and collectively written — did not need to be credited since they counted, essentially, as common knowledge.
Professors used to deal with plagiarism by admonishing students to give credit to others and to follow the style guide for citations, and pretty much left it at that.

S.F. State students learn how to teach

Sam Whiting:

The beginning of the school year is a time of optimism, and nobody in the wide world of education is more optimistic than the 168 people holding freshly certified teaching credentials from San Francisco State University.
There are no jobs, and as soon as the credential was in hand, in May, the clock started ticking in two ways. The big hand shows that they have five years to convert their preliminary credential into a permanent one. To do so, they must take part in a two-year development program that requires work experience. You have to be a public school teacher to become a public school teacher.
The little hand on the clock, meanwhile, shows that they have six months before the first payment on their student loans comes due.

African-Americans for Charter Schools New survey data show black support on the rise. So why is the NAACP opposed?

Paul Peterson & Martin West:

This past week the NAACP, the National Urban League and other civil-rights groups collectively condemned charter schools. Claiming to speak for minority Americans, the organizations expressed “reservations” about the Obama administration’s “extensive reliance on charter schools.” They specifically voiced concern about “the overrepresentation of charter schools in low-income and predominantly minority communities.”
Someone should remind these leaders who they represent. The truth is that support for charters among ordinary African-Americans and Hispanics is strong and has only increased dramatically in the past two years. Opposition along the lines expressed by the NAACP and the Urban League is articulated by a small minority.
We know this because we’ve asked. For the past four years, Harvard’s Program on Education Policy and Governance, together with the journal Education Next, has surveyed a nationally representative cross-section of some 3,000 Americans about a variety of education policy issues. In 2010, we included extra samples of public-school teachers and all those living in zip codes where a charter school is located.

Obama Defends Teacher Policy

Laura Meckler:

President Barack Obama on Thursday delivered a fresh call to hold teachers accountable for student achievement, defending his administration against complaints from unions, civil rights groups and Democratic lawmakers.
These groups, usually backers of the president, have objected to the administration’s Race to the Top program, which seeks to drive change at the local level through a competition for $4.3 billion in federal grants.
To qualify for funding, states are encouraged to promote charter schools and tie teacher pay to performance. Unions have questioned both goals.
Mr. Obama, defending his administration’s approach in a speech before the National Urban League, said teachers should be well paid, supported and treated like professionals but those who fail should be replaced.

Madison East High School: Students learn and grow, grow and learn

Pamela Cotant:

Talandra Jennings and Infinity Gamble couldn’t contain their excitement as the 11-year-olds showed off the zucchini picked from the East High Youth Farm on a recent morning.
It was the first vegetable harvested from their section of the farm, which consists of a number of gardens in an area next to Kennedy Elementary School. The two girls, who will be sixth graders at O’Keeffe Middle School, are working at the East High Youth Farm, which is a hands-on science and vocational program focused on sustainable agriculture and service learning.
“We help plant. We help wood chip and sometimes we trellis tomatoes and we harvest,” Talandra said. “I’m out here doing something instead of being a couch potato.”

How a national standard will affect the education industry

Kai Ryssdal:

Kai Ryssdal: State education officials around the country are having a busy day. Today’s a key deadline in the Obama Administration’s Race to the Top. That’s the $4 billion pot of federal money that states can get — get, if they agree to certain policy changes. One of those changes — and this is today’s deadline — is to sign on to a national set of common curriculum standards. That could bring the education marketplace from widely fractured and segmented with dozens of different standardsinto something resembling coherent.
Christopher Swanson is the vice president for research and development at Education Week. Welcome to the program.
Christopher Swanson: Glad to be here.
Ryssdal: It’s a mistake to talk about a national education market, I suppose, but this drive to get some uniform core curriculum standards does kind of change the market dynamic for things like testing and textbooks, doesn’t it?

The promise and peril of Race to the Top

Los Angeles Times:

As encouraging as it is to see California in the running to win a Race to the Top grant for its schools, we can’t help wondering how great a price the state will pay for the possibility of receiving as much as $700 million.
The U.S. Department of Education announced last week that California is one of 19 finalists in the second round of grant applications. Should it succeed — and the odds are decent, because officials say that more than half the finalists will receive grants — many of California’s neediest schools will receive infusions of new money. Even so, we see this potential win as mixed news.