4-year-old kindergarten could be money-loser for Madison preschools

Gayle Worland

As the director of a Madison pre-school, Sarah Dill believes all four-year-olds should have a chance for an education at that age.
But if the Madison School District launches a free pre-kindergarten program for four-year-olds as anticipated next fall, it could cost Dill’s Meeting House Nursery School $50,000 a year.
That’s because the district may not pay the nonprofit pre-school — one of dozens being considered for participation in the new program — its full cost of offering the education, which is now borne by parents. To close the gap, Meeting House might have to hike tuition costs for its younger students.
“It’s a huge chunk of money,” said Dill. “Fifty-thousand may not sound like a lot to some corporations, but for us, that’s big. And we’re now going to have to sell it to our families that, ‘If you’re willing to pay a little bit more when they’re two and three, hang in there with us and when they’re four, it will be free for you.'”
It’s one of the financial tradeoffs of a public/private 4K program that has been in the works off and on for nearly a decade. There’s a good chance the district will have to ask property taxpayers to help foot the start-up costs of 4K. Parents are still unsure about how it will all work — and some preschool providers are unsure of 4K’s effect on the bottom line.

An Emphasis on Adult Employment

Andrew Coulson:

This week, President Obama called for the hiring of 10,000 new teachers to beef up math and science achievement. Meanwhile, in America, Earth, Sol-System, public school employment has grown 10 times faster than enrollment for 40 years (see chart), while achievement at the end of high school has stagnated in math and declined in science (see other chart).
Either the president is badly misinformed about our education system or he thinks that promising to hire another 10,000 teachers union members is politically advantageous-in which case he would seem to be badly misinformed about the present political climate. Or he lives in an alternate universe in which Kirk and Spock have facial hair and government monopolies are efficient. It’s hard to say.

Related: Madison School District 2010-2011 Budget Update: $5,100,000 Fund Balance Increase since June, 2009; Property Taxes to Increase 9+%, and 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).

Janet Mertz:

Thanks much for taking the time from your busy schedule to respond to our letter below. I am delighted to note your serious interest in the topic of how to obtain middle school teachers who are highly qualified to teach mathematics to the MMSD’s students so that all might succeed. We are all in agreement with the District’s laudable goal of having all students complete algebra I/geometry or integrated algebra I/geometry by the end of 10th grade. One essential component necessary for achieving this goal is having teachers who are highly competent to teach 6th- through 8th-grade mathematics to our students so they will be well prepared for high school-level mathematics when they arrive in high school.
The primary point on which we seem to disagree is how best to obtain such highly qualified middle school math teachers. It is my strong belief that the MMSD will never succeed in fully staffing all of our middle schools with excellent math teachers, especially in a timely manner, if the primary mechanism for doing so is to provide additional, voluntary math ed opportunities to the District’s K-8 generalists who are currently teaching mathematics in our middle schools. The District currently has a small number of math-certified middle school teachers. It undoubtedly has some additional K-8 generalists who already are or could readily become terrific middle school math teachers with a couple of hundred hours of additional math ed training. However, I sincerely doubt we could ever train dozens of additional K-8 generalists to the level of content knowledge necessary to be outstanding middle school math teachers so that ALL of our middle school students could be taught mathematics by such teachers.

South Carolina College Tuition Summit

Josh Dawsey

College tuition in South Carolina has skyrocketed in recent years, rising to troublesome rates that place financial hardship on many South Carolina families.
In fact, tuition rates have increased by 143 percent since 1999. Compare that to income growth of 50 percent and an inflation rate of 29 percent. They’re the highest in the Southeast.
Simply put, there are problems that need solutions.
On those facts, all parties agreed during Tuesday’s higher education summit at Midlands Technical College.
But how do you fix it?
That’s the question Gov. Mark Sanford, college leaders and others in a packed auditorium debated for more than two hours. There was no shortage of opinions.
And there was certainly no shortage of tension and numbers discrepancies as leaders readily admitted they were dealing with complex issues without a foolproof solution.

Education Reform Goes Mainstream

Jay Green:

I have no idea why a bunch of ed reformers are so gloomy.  Matt has already observed how Rick Hess and Mike Petrilli can’t seem to enjoy the moment when ed reform ideas go mainstream.  Now Liam Julian is joining the poopy parade, lamenting that the new crop of naive reformers are doomed to fail just as past ones have, and “it never works out.” And continuing the gloomy theme, Rick is worrying that school choice (in the form of vouchers) over-promised and under-delivered, losing the support of people like Sol Stern.  That may be, but as a graduate student observed to me today, choice (in the form of vouchers) may have lost Sol Stern, but choice (in the form of charters) just gained Oprah, the Today Show, and the Democratic Party platform.    Overall, he thought that was a pretty good trade, especially since he had to look up who Sol Stern was.
Let’s review.  It is now commonly accepted among mainstream elites — from Oprah to Matt Lauer to Arne Duncan — that simply pouring more money into the public school system will not produce the results we want.  It is now commonly accepted that the teacher unions have been a significant barrier to school improvement by protecting ineffective teachers and opposing meaningful reforms.  It is now commonly accepted that parents should have a say in where their children go to school and this choice will push traditional public schools to improve.  It is now commonly accepted that we have to address the incentives in the school system to recruit, retain, and motivate the best educators.

Congress in the Classroom

The Dirksen Center’s monthly enewsletter, via a Cindy Koeppel email:

Sketches of famous and not-so-famous Senators and Representatives
Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives
Ichord, Richard II (1926-1992), a Representative from Missouri; born in Licking, Texas County, Mo., June 27, 1926; B.S., University of Missouri, 1949; J.D., University of Missouri, 1952; United States Navy, 1944-1946; lawyer, private practice; member of the Missouri state house of representatives, 1952-1960, speaker pro tempore, 1957, speaker, 1959; elected as a Democrat to the Eighty-seventh and to the nine succeeding Congresses (January 3, 1961-January 3, 1981); chair, Committee on Un-American Activities (Ninety-first Congress); chair, Committee on Internal Security, formerly Committee on Un-American Activities (Ninety-first through Ninety-third Congresses); was not a candidate for reelection to the Ninety-seventh Congress in 1980; professional advocate; died on December 25, 1992, in Nevada, Mo.; interment in Pinelawn Cemetery, Houston, Mo.

Will Anyone at NBC Ask About the 216?

Conn Carroll

There are plenty of issues the journalists at NBC could be asking about but aren’t: the silent push toward national standards, the assault on for-profit learning, the waste in education spending. But most galling is NBC’s continued refusal to ask about the Obama administration’s war on school choice. The closest accountability moment came when an audience member asked President Obama a question on the Today Show:

Viewer: “As a father of two very delightful and seemingly very bright daughters, I wanted to know whether or not you think that Malia and Sasha would get the same high-quality, rigorous education in a D.C. public school, as compared to their very elite private academy that they’re attending now?”Obama: “I’ll be blunt with you. The answer’s ‘no’ right now. The D.C. public school systems are struggling. Now, they have made some important strides over the years to move in the direction of reform; there are some terrific individual schools in the D.C. system. And that’s true by the way in every city across the country. In my hometown of Chicago there are some great public schools that are on par with any private school in the country. But it goes to the point Matt and I were talking about earlier. A lot of times you’ve got to test in, or it’s a lottery pick for you to be able to get into those schools and so those options are not available for enough children. I’ll be very honest with you. Given my position, if I wanted to find a great public school for Malia and Sasha to be in, we could probably maneuver to do it. But the broader problem is: For a mom or a dad who are working hard but don’t have a bunch of connections, don’t have a choice in terms of where they live, they should be getting the same quality education as anybody else, and they don’t have that yet.”

This would have been a great opportunity for Matt Lauer to ask about the 216. Who are the 216? Like each of the families in Waiting for Superman, thousands of parents in Washington, D.C., are dying to get their children out of violent and non-functioning local public schools and into alternatives like the Sidwell School that President Obama chooses to send his kids too. One-thousand-seven-hundred low-income D.C. school children have attended private schools with the help of the $7,500 scholarships awarded through this D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program.

Neal McCluskey:

But the reforms don’t seem promising. Sure, RTTT got some states to lift caps on charter schools and eliminate some barriers to evaluating teachers using student test scores. For the most part, though, RTTT just prodded states to promise to plan to make reforms, and even things like lifting charter caps do little good when the problems go much deeper. Indeed, the only thing of real substance RTTT has done is coerce states into adopting national curriculum standards, pushing us a big step closer to complete federal domination of our schools. That’s especially problematic because special interests like teacher unions love nothing more than one-stop shopping.
But isn’t the President taking on the unions?
Hardly. While he has lightly scolded unions for protecting bad teachers, he has given them huge money-hugs to sooth their hurt feelings. Moreover, perhaps to further heal their emotional ouchies, on Today he offered union-hack rhetoric about teachers, going on about how they should be “honored” above almost all other professions, and how selfless and hard working they are.
Now, lots of teachers work hard and care very much about kids, but shouldn’t individual Americans get to decide how much they want to honor a profession, and how much they are willing to pay for the services of a given professional? Of course they should — who’s to say definitively whether a good teacher is more valuable than, say, a good architect? – but when government controls education, it decides what teachers “should” get paid.
Unfortunately, the President chose to seriously inflate how long and intensively teachers work, saying they work so hard they are downright “heroic.” No doubt many do work very long hours, but research shows that the average teacher does not. A recent “time diary” study found that during the school year teachers work only only about 7.3 hours on weekdays- including work on and off campus — and 2 hours on weekends. That’s 18 fewer minutes per day than the average person in a less “heroic” professional job. Oh, and on an hourly basis teachers get paid more than accountants, nurses, and insurance unerwriters.

UK Med School Students Get a New Prescription: iPhones

Christina Warren

The University of Leeds announced it will be issuing iPhones to all fourth and fifth-year medical students. The always-connected nature of smartphones coupled with the burgeoning app marketplace has made smartphones an increasingly attractive learning tool.
According to the university, this is the first time a UK medical school has issued smartphones to its students. The 520 students in the medical program will each be loaned a 16GB iPhone 3GS for the remainder of their education.
The phones will be preloaded with apps and textbooks designed to keep students informed, help them take notes and test their knowledge. Students will also be able to download any other apps from the App Store.

Education Reform a Risky Business: Fenty


Leaders must be willing to take political risks in order to improve schools, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty said at an NBC “Education Nation” panel discussion in New York Tuesday.
Fenty’s choice of tough reformer Michelle Rhee as chancellor of D.C. schools wound up being a main issue, along with his personality, in his bid for a second term, which he lost.

Cal Thomas: Politicians allow public education to fail kids

Cal Thomas:

“Waiting for Superman” is the new film by documentary filmmaker Davis Guggenheim, director of “An Inconvenient Truth,” and it should be mandatory viewing for every member of Congress.
As a synopsis on the Fandango movie site says, this film “explores the tragic ways in which the American public education system is failing our nation’s children. …”
Not only do we see children and their parents on the edge of their seats during a lottery that will determine who gets the educational equivalent of a “get out of jail free” card, we also watch the crestfallen faces of those who don’t draw the magic numbers for decent schools, a better education and, thus, a hope for the future. Is this how a poor child’s destiny should be decided, by lottery?

Signal on D.C. education reform from Gray’s camp

Jay Matthews

On Sunday, the All Opinions Are Local page of washingtonpost.com ran a commentary by former D.C. Council member Kevin P. Chavous. I am rerunning it because I think it has unusual importance as we look toward the future of D.C. schools under Vincent Gray. The piece doesn’t indicate ties to Gray. Nor does the identification of Chavous that ran with the piece. But Chavous is close to the presumptive mayor and the commentary provides many clues to what Gray might try to do.
I realize this is a throwback to my China-watching days, reading more into an editorial than it seems to say. But Gray has expressed his support for charters, a theme of Chavous’s piece, so there are clear links between Gray and this line of thought. Chavous is worth reading in any case, and it is important to note that he is probably the best-informed and best-connected person in the Gray camp on educational innovation and education policy issues.

Parental Reform

Michael Jensen

There’s a lot of buzz about education this week. Most of it coinciding with a new documentary that explores the failures of the American public education system. But as a classic cynic, I also suspect the education discussion is a well-timed diversion from the economy — just before the November elections.
Regardless of the motive, there is ample reason to discuss education in America and our slide from education excellence as measured against other nations. The new documentary “Waiting For Superman” has created a stir primarily because it calls into account the teachers’ unions for resisting changes in education reform while protecting their union membership.
President Obama, who depends on union donations for his political survival, even weighed in on the teachers’ unions by saying they too must be accountable if reform is to occur. Those words from this President are both shocking and appropriate.
The Obama administration has touted their Race to the Top initiative for education with mixed results in the early going. That program most certainly cannot match the No Child Left Behind program for ineptitude.

Booker hopes Newark can be a national laboratory for education reform

Patricia Alex

Failing schools in Newark may be shuttered, charter schools expanded and private money used to boost salaries and provide merit bonuses to teachers, Mayor Cory Booker said Tuesday.
The city can be a national laboratory for education reform thanks in part to an unprecedented $100 million pledge from the founder of Facebook, Booker said. The mayor provided broad outlines of the reform plan during a meeting with The Record’s editorial board.
And he signaled a willingness to take on the city teachers union and what he called a “clogged” and bloated bureaucracy in the state’s largest school district.
“If you’re failing my children, get out of the way,” Booker said.

Viva La Rhee-volución

Elizabeth Bloom

There was a significant election on September 14. No, it wasn’t the primary for a senate seat, or even for a governorship. It did, however, have ramifications for Washington, D.C. and for the nation.
I’m talking about the Democratic primary for the office of mayor of the District of Columbia. Council Chairman Vince C. Gray defeated incumbent Mayor Adrian Fenty in convincing fashion. This election was significant because it could mean the forced or voluntary departure of the D.C. Public School system’s controversial chancellor, Michelle A. Rhee.
Rhee, a former Teach for America corps member and founder of a non-profit that recruits teachers for public schools, took over the school system after Fenty became mayor in 2007. Fenty had written legislation giving him mayoral control over the schools and asked Rhee to run the system. She became chancellor on the condition that Fenty would give her the political cover necessary to make unpopular reforms in the country’s worst school system.

Best Value Law Schools

National Jurist:

With tuitions up, and lawyer salaries stagnant, its more important than ever for law schools to deliver a good value. We crunched the numbers to identify the best value law schools for 2010.
Even though Jennifer Keegan had gone to Florida State as an undergraduate, she wasn’t ready to enter law school at the same university without looking around at other places.
“I had a long list of 15 schools including private schools and schools outside the state, because I like trying new things,” she said. “But when I looked at all the factors – actual cost, the amount of career placement, the bar passage rate — I crossed many of the places off my list. FSU had all the things I wanted at an incredibly good cost.”
She’s now a first-year law student at Florida State.

Governor Seeks Pay and Tenure Changes in New Jersey Education Overhaul

Terrence Dopp

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said he wants to link public school teachers’ pay and tenure to their students’ performance, and to make it easier for districts to fire their worst educators.
“Pay should go to the people who have earned it,” he said today in a town hall meeting in Old Bridge Township. Tenure has become “a sclerosis that coats the veins of our school system.”
Christie, a Republican who has said the state’s education system is costly and failing many children, plans to administratively overhaul the process of teacher performance evaluations and to spend $20 million during the next two years improving a database that tracks them. He also proposed expanding teacher training and “alternative routes” to becoming a principal.

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

The irony behind Obama’s Sidwell/D.C. schools remarks

Valerie Strauss:

There is some irony behind President Obama’s comment that his daughters could not get as fine an academic experience in a D.C. public school as they do at private Sidwell Friends School: His education policies promote some practices that Sidwell wouldn’t dream of adopting.
Obama sparked a heated debate when he said during an interview with NBC’s Matt Lauer that schools in the D.C. public system were making progress but were not as good as Sidwell.
My colleague, Jay Mathews, wrote on his Class Struggle blog that Obama was wrong. Jay said that there are some D.C. schools that are “just as good in every important way,” and the important ways he cites are setting high standards and having excellent teachers.
There are indeed teachers in the city schools that are as fine as any teachers at Sidwell, and some D.C. schools set extremely high standards for kids. But high standards and fine teachers do not alone make a great school, not if the fine teachers aren’t given the support and resources they need to help the kids meet the high standards. And, some of these fine teachers have told me, they aren’t.

“In bigger cities, youth sport is overorganized and overcoached,” Dr. Côté says.

Austin Kelley, via a Diane Harrington email

Growing up among the 1,341 people in Taylorsville, Miss., Oakland Raiders quarterback Jason Campbell probably didn’t encounter the best coaches or the greatest competition. Which probably helped him reach the NFL. Studies show that small towns are better breeding grounds for athletes than cities, and sports psychologists are using these data to question our ideas about talent development.
Only one-in-four Americans come from towns of fewer than 50,000 people, but nearly half of NFL players and PGA golfers do, according to two recent studies. The small-town figures for golf and baseball are just under 40%. The studies use 1980 Census figures because they most closely represented the birth year of pro athletes.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Household income plunged in 2009

Carol Morello and Dan Keating:

Three out of 10 children in the nation’s capital were living in poverty last year, with the number of poor African American children rising at a breathtaking rate, according to census statistics released Tuesday.
Among black children in the city, childhood poverty shot up to 43 percent, from 36 percent in 2008 and 31 percent in 2007. That was a much sharper increase than the two percentage-point jump, to 36 percent, among poor black children nationwide last year.
The number of poor minority children also rose in many parts of the Washington suburbs, including Montgomery , Alexandria, Arlington and the northern half of Fairfax County.
But the District, where unemployment has risen to nearly 30 percent in Ward 8, had the most sobering rise. Last year, there were more than 30,000 black children living in poverty in the city, almost 7,000 more than two years before, according to Census Bureau data.

Baltimore Ends Linking Pay to Years of Employment (Tenure)

Liz Bowie & Erica Green

The Baltimore school district and its teachers union have struck a landmark agreement that would end the longtime practice of linking pay to years of employment and place the city at the forefront of a national reform effort, according to sources familiar with the pact.
The two sides have discussed a pay system that would reward skills and effectiveness and are expected to announce the details of the agreement Wednesday.
Experts in teacher compensation said Baltimore was poised to become one of only a handful of places in the country, including Washington, D.C., New Haven, Conn., and Pittsburgh, that have moved toward paying teachers for performance as a way to improve the quality of education in their schools. The Obama administration has been pressing for such changes.

Rick Scott’s education plan would cut taxes, increase private school vouchers

Marc Caputo and Sergio Bustos:

Pledging to cut taxes and increase school choice for parents, Republican Rick Scott rolled out his education plan Tuesday in what could presage a long fight with the state’s teachers union.
“Parents ought to have a right to choose a school for their kids,” said Scott. ”Competition is good.”
To accomplish his education plan, Scott wants to increase taxpayer-backed private school scholarships, charter schools, home schooling and virtual, online education. At the same time, Scott wants to trim $1.4 billion in property taxes for schools and cut up to $700 million more in corporate income taxes — a main vehicle to fund a state educational voucher program.

How High Schools Become Exemplary: Ways That Leadership Raises Achievement and Narrows Gaps by Improving Instruction in 15 Public High Schools

The Achievement Gap Initiative at Harvard University, via a kind reader:

In early 2009, the Achievement Gap Initiative (AGI) at Harvard University identified fifteen high schools with unusually strong evidence of student learning as measured by gains on standardized state exams. The schools had improved over a period of years. Most were racially and socioeconomically diverse. The AGI invited leaders of the identified schools to a two-day conference in June of 2009 to explain how their schools achieved such outstanding results.1 This report, How High Schools Become Exemplary, reviews and summarizes the presentations. The featured schools come from Massachusetts, Ohio, Illinois, Maryland, Texas, and Washington, DC. Each chapter here details how leaders engaged other adults in successful efforts to improve learning outcomes. The central theme is that schools improved performance by striving relentlessly to improve instruction.
Located at the boundary between adolescence and adulthood, high schools are critically important institutions. Unfortunately, they are the most stubborn part of the K-12 system to reform–the most impervious to change.2 In his recent book, So Much Reform, So Little Change, Charles Payne discusses the difficulty of reforming elementary schools and then comments that “The problems of elementary schools are exacerbated in high schools.”3 High schools tend to be fragmented organizations in which order is sometimes challenging to maintain and where responsibility for improving instruction resides mainly in isolated academic departments and classrooms. Principals are often distracted by crises. Many defer routinely to the subject-matter expertise of department leaders, seldom interfering with how departments monitor, evaluate, or attempt to improve teaching and learning.

How parents ruin sports for kids

Linda  Thomas:

Listen to this report
Did you watch kids play football or soccer this weekend? You might be ruining sports for your kids without even realizing it. A lot of their attitudes toward the game depends on what you say to the them, on the car ride home.
“You should have done this. You should have done that. Next time do this. Hey, let’s work on this. Hey, when we get home let’s work on that,” says Mike Bergstrom. “My child could have had the greatest game of their life, and what they really wanted to do was hear dad say, ‘I’m so proud of you. There’s nothing I like more than watching you play. I’m so proud of you.’ And I didn’t say that enough.

4,100 Students Prove ‘Small Is Better’ Rule Wrong

Sam Dillon

A decade ago, Brockton High School was a case study in failure. Teachers and administrators often voiced the unofficial school motto in hallway chitchat: students have a right to fail if they want. And many of them did — only a quarter of the students passed statewide exams. One in three dropped out.
Then Susan Szachowicz and a handful of fellow teachers decided to take action. They persuaded administrators to let them organize a schoolwide campaign that involved reading and writing lessons into every class in all subjects, including gym.
Their efforts paid off quickly. In 2001 testing, more students passed the state tests after failing the year before than at any other school in Massachusetts. The gains continued. This year and last, Brockton outperformed 90 percent of Massachusetts high schools. And its turnaround is getting new attention in a report, “How High Schools Become Exemplary,” published last month by Ronald F. Ferguson, an economist at Harvard who researches the minority achievement gap.

Related: Small Learning Communities and English 10.

An Interview with Christopher Woodhead: About Ofsted

Michael F. Shaughnessy, via email

5) What are the main problems that the educational system in Britain currently faces?
Again, see above. It isn’t inadequate funding that ultimately explains poor standards in our schools. It is the progressive, child centred, ideas which are peddled by teacher trainers and administrators. The educational enterprise should initiate the young into the best that has been thought and written. At present we are far from this ideal in the UK. The great and the good who pontificate about education seem to believe that the curriculum can be personalised and that the subjective and ill-informed views of pupils matter more than the authority of the teacher and, beyond the teacher, of the disciplines into which the young should be initiated
6) Let’s talk about children with special needs- How well prepared is the average teacher in England to provide quality instruction for these students?
It depends what you mean by special educational needs. For the last thirty years it has been assumed that one in five children will have a special educational need at some point in their school career. I think this is nonsense. Properly taught, most children can cope, up to a point, with a basic curriculum and most teachers, properly trained, can teach such children. There are, of course, children who have real needs, physical, emotional and/or intellectual. I do not think that mainstream teachers can reasonably be expected to deal with the problems such children experience. The last Government shut down many of the special schools which used to exist for these children. This was a tragedy.

An analysis of Colorado’s failed Race to the Top application

Nancy Mitchell:

Colorado’s failed bid for $175 million in federal Race to the Top funding was hampered by concern about the state’s flat achievement data and fear that union opposition would prevent the spread of reform.
Evaluators also docked points for what they describe as the state’s vague plans to ensure effective teachers and principals are in the neediest schools.
U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan on Tuesday announced winners of the federal grant competition, awarding nearly $3.4 billion to nine states and the District of Columbia. Colorado placed 17th out of 19 applicants for Round 2 of the Race to the Top; the state also was a finalist, but not a winner, in Round 1 of the contest earlier this year.

An Interview with Richard D. Kahlenberg: College and Other Issues

Michael F. Shaughnessy, via email

3) Why, in your mind is the book important, and why are the issues important?
There have been dozens of books written about racial affirmative action, but this is the first full-length book devoted to a larger affirmative action program based on lineage. The first part of the book includes chapters on the history of legacy preferences, their current use, whether they in fact help in fundraising (as supporters claim), and their impact on students of color. The second part of the book looks at legal theories and political reforms to curtail legacy preferences.
I think the issue is important because our public and private colleges and universities, which are heavily supported with taxpayer subsidies, are supposed to be serving the public interest. Instead, thousands of hard working students are bumped aside every year at selective institutions because of a system that discriminates based on ancestry. This practice is fundamentally unAmerican in my view.
4) How exactly do you define ” legacy ” and are there any specific colleges or universities that seem to hold ” legacy ” as a variable of importance?
Legacy preferences provide an admissions advantage to the children (and sometimes the grandchildren and siblings) of alumni. They are used at roughly 3/4 of selective national universities and virtually all selective liberal arts colleges. Among highly selective universities, controlling for grades and test scores, a given student’s chances of being admitted are 20 percentage points higher if they are legacies. We have a list of those national universities that use and do not use legacy preferences in a chapter by Chad Coffman that is available on our website. http://tcf.org/list.asp?type=PB&pubid=723

The iPad Project: How It’s Going

Frasier Speirs:

So many people have asked me to explain the educational impact of the iPad. I simply can’t yet get to grips with everything that’s happening. Put simply, the iPad deployment has transformed our school. Not evenly and not everywhere yet, but it’s coming.
There are stages to technology adoption. Two important stages are ‘replacement’ and ‘transformation’. With replacement, you take an existing resource and replace it with an essentially identical digital resource. Think of a paper textbook replaced by the same textbook in PDF form. That’s not to be sniffed at – there are big advantages to that.
What we’re reaching in some classes is the transformation stage. We’re seeing the iPad completely change the way that certain subjects are taught. Our best example so far is Art. I will write and share more about what we’re doing in Art over time but it’s fair to say that it is already far beyond anything I expected in the first year, let alone the first month.
At this point, all I can give you are some practical anecdotes which, I hope, will give you a flavour of the change.

Jane Austen Manuscripts

Oxford and King’s College:

Jane Austen’s Fiction Manuscripts is a three-year AHRC-funded research project. It is a joint project of the University of Oxford and King’s College London.
Aims and Objectives
To create a digital resource reuniting all the known holograph surviving manuscripts of Austen’s fiction in an unprecedented virtual collection.
To provide for the first time full descriptions of, transcriptions of, analysis of, and commentary on the manuscripts in the archive, including details of erasures, handwriting, paper quality, watermarks, ink, binding structures, and any ancillary materials held with the holographs as aspects of their physical integrity or provenance.
To develop complex interlinking of the virtual collection to allow systematic comparison of the manuscripts under a number of headings representing both their intellectual and physical states.

Time for Seattle Public Schools and teachers to partner in steps toward reform

Seattle Times:

SEATTLE Public Schools is right to push for a better, more honest way of evaluating teachers, even at the risk of a strike.
Tense contract negotiations between the district and the Seattle Education Association underscore the enormous opportunity at stake. Both sides agree the current system used to judge teachers is weak and unreliable. Ineffective teachers are ignored or shuffled to other schools to become other parents’ nightmare. Excellent teachers languish in a system that has no means to recognize or reward them.
The union leadership called for a few tweaks. But the district proposed a revamped system using student growth, as measured by test scores. Supporters of the status quo have tried to downplay the other forms of appraisal that would be used. They include student growth measurements selected by the teacher, principal observations of instruction and peer reviews. Also, student input at the high-school level.

Much more an value added assessment, here.

Meeting of the Minds

William Howell, Martin West and Paul Peterson:

Democrats and Republicans in Washington, D.C., are more polarized today than they have been in nearly a century. And among the general public, party identification remains the single most powerful predictor of people’s opinions about a wide range of policy issues. Given this environment, reaching consensus on almost any issue of consequence would appear difficult. And when it comes to education policy, which does a particularly good job of stirring people’s passions, opportunities for advancing meaningful policy reform would appear entirely fleeting.
Against this backdrop, the results of the 2010 Education Next-Program on Education Policy and Governance (PEPG) Survey are encouraging. With the exceptions of school spending and teacher tenure, the divisions between ordinary Democrats and Republicans on education policy matters are quite minor. To be sure, disagreements among Americans continue to linger. Indeed, with the exception of student and school accountability measures, Americans as a whole do not stand steadfastly behind any single reform proposal. Yet the most salient divisions appear to be within, not between, the political parties. And we find growing support for several strategies put forward in recent years by leaders of both political parties–most notably online education and merit pay.
Nearly 2,800 respondents participated in the 2010 Education Next-PEPG Survey, which was administered in May and June of 2010 (see sidebar for survey methodology). In addition to a nationally representative sample of American adults, the survey included representative samples of two populations of special interest: 1) public school teachers and 2) adults living in neighborhoods in which one or more charter schools are located. With a large number of respondents, we were able, in many cases, to pose differently worded questions to two or more randomly chosen groups. So doing, we were able to evaluate the extent to which expressed opinions change when a person is informed of certain facts, told about the president’s position on an issue, or simply asked about a topic in a different way.

Wisconsin Education: Sounding the Alarm: A Wakeup Call With Directions

Frederick Hess & Oliva Meeks

There was a time when Wisconsin was a leader in school reform, and it wasn’t that long ago. All you have to do is go two decades back, and the state’s performance on reading and math assessments put its students in the nation’s upper tier. The 1990 Milwaukee Parental Choice Program was heralded as a watershed for school choice, and today, it is the nation’s largest school voucher program. Wisconsin was also an early adopter of charter schooling, and its SAGE class-size-reduction program gained national attention in the 1990s.
In the current education landscape, those days of innovation seem a long way off.
Wisconsin is no longer mentioned as an education innovator in the same breath as states like Louisiana, Tennessee, or Colorado. Wisconsin has also seen a tremendous erosion of its once-impressive math and reading performance. In 1990, Wisconsin outperformed 76% of the states in eighth-grade math scores. Today, Wisconsin has fallen to the middle of the pack. In reading, the decline has been even more precipitous.1 And all of this has happened in spite of the fact that statewide per-pupil spending has risen from $7,749 per student in 1990 to $10,041 in 2007 (in constant 2007 dollars), proving that just throwing money at a problem will not solve it.2
Perhaps the most vexing statistic is the racial divide – 93% of white students graduated high school in 2009 statewide, compared to only 66% of African-American students.3 This is a divide that no state or country can tolerate if it intends to remain functioning, let alone successful. The situation is most grim in Milwaukee, where only one-third of African-American tenth-graders–34%–are proficient in reading compared to 67% among their white classmates; in math, 19% of African-American students are proficient compared to 56% of white students.4

A Reluctant No Vote on the Edgewater TID; Madison School Board Votes No on the Edgewater TIF

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes:

That brings us to Edgewater.  In brief, my position is that I respect the decisions the City makes with respect to the use of a TID, but just don’t ask the School District to subsidize a project.  To my mind, the School District would be subsidizing a project if, using appropriate valuation techniques, we conclude that the value of potential property tax revenue foregone as a result of investment in a project exceeds the value of potential additional property tax revenue the project is expected to generate.
In other words, for a project like Edgewater, there is a City investment.  This investment can be measured in terms of property tax revenues foregone.  Using an appropriate discount rate, we can place a present value on that stream of foregone property tax revenues.  Let’s call that present value X.
A project like Edgewater will result in increased property values and so in increased future property tax revenues.  We can also place a present value on the projected future stream of increased property tax revenues the project generates.  Let’s call that present value Y.
If Y > X, then the project makes financial sense and, generally, there is no reason for the School District to complain about it.   However, if X > Y, then the deal is a financial loser, and the School District would in effect be called upon to subsidize the shortfall in revenues.
So, for Edgewater, is X > Y, or Y > X?  Fortunately, City Comptroller Dean Brasser and his staff have provided helpful data that allow us to address that question.
The City says that without the Edgewater amendment, TID #32 is projected to close in 2017.  With the closure, the increment in value in the properties included within the TID would be restored to the property tax rolls.  This addition would result in a broader base of property value from which to collect property taxes, and so would result in a property tax decrease for all other property owners, all else equal.  The City calculates that, in the absence of the Edgewater amendment, the closure of TID # 32 in 2017 would result in a property tax savings on the average Madison home of about $35, beginning in 2018.

Gayle Worland:

The Madison School Board voted unanimously Monday against supporting an expansion of the State Street tax incremental financing (TIF) district that would deliver $16 million in public assistance to the proposed $98 million Edgewater hotel redevelopment.
School board member Lucy Mathiak, the school district’s representative to the city’s TIF Review Board, cast doubt on school board approval last month, when she said that taking more properties off the tax rolls for the Edgewater project would be difficult for local taxing entities, such as Madison public schools, to bear.

Lessons from the Chessboard

Stephanie Banchero

At a school for troubled kids on this city’s tough North Side, life’s lessons are learned on a chessboard.
In Room 103, Marqwon, 16 years old, kicked out of his regular school for bringing in a nail-studded piece of wood, tapped his forefinger in the air as he mapped out his next six moves.
Across the board, 15-year-old Joann, sent here after throwing a punch at a classmate, was losing the match and wasn’t happy about it.
“You’re just embarrassing me,” she said, toppling her king with a smack. “You know it’s over.”
Her action coaxed chess instructor Bill Thompson to the table. “Let’s not give up,” he said. “Let’s think of a way to get out of this.”
Chess has been a part of after-school programs for at least 40 years, but mainly in the suburbs. In the last decade, it has exploded in popularity in urban areas as research showed that students who play chess do better on achievement exams, especially math.
But few schools offer chess as an academic subject–and fewer still require it, especially for students already labeled as troublemakers, like the ones here.

Make Way for Merit Pay

Wisconsin State Journal

Deborah Kenny, CEO of the successful and innovative Harlem Village Academies charter schools in one of the poorest parts of New York City, summed up the need for change in a Wall Street Journal guest column last week:
“We need to stop treating teachers like industrial-era workers and start treating them like professionals,” she wrote.
Kenny lets her teachers choose their own textbooks and design their own courses. But they are then held accountable for how their students perform. So far, the results are promising, with test scores among the best in the nation for math, science and social studies.
Many teachers mistakenly fear that test scores will be the sole determinant of merit. Under most systems being proposed, gains in test scores would be one of several factors. A teacher might get a bonus, for example, for taking on a leadership role in mentoring beginning teachers.
In Washington, D.C., the most effective teachers are now eligible to earn almost twice what they used to make, thanks to merit pay.

Madison water experts downplay manganese/intelligence report

Ron Seely:

The author of a new Canadian study linking manganese in drinking water to lower intelligence levels in children said the research should prompt tougher regulation of the metal, which has been a concern in Madison’s public water supply.
Drinking water experts in Madison said the study is one of the first important scientific looks at connections between manganese and human health. But water officials also said the report should be viewed in the context of extensive efforts by the utility the last four years to reduce the city’s manganese levels.
“I think that here, when we talk about manganese, we’re seeing levels that are more appropriately an aesthetic concern,” said Joseph Grande, water quality manager for the Madison Water Utility. “We’re seeing tremendously lower levels of manganese.”

Why do schools use 2-D teaching in a 3-D world?

Peter Halacsy:

American schools are using two-dimensional communication in a 3-D world. All one needs to do is view the YouTube video of a toddler quickly mastering an iPad to understand the problem, and the solution.
American education is linear, but the rest of a student’s world isn’t. Watch young people hunting knowledge at a computer, and you won’t see them moving along a straight line (as textbooks or slide presentations do). You’ll see them zooming in and out, leaping from hyperlink to hyperlink, remixing knowledge on the fly. This type of learning is brain candy to young people, and they don’t get enough in school. As one T-shirt recently seen in a New York City school says, “It’s Not ADD – I’m Just Not Listening.”

San Francisco’s New Student Assignment Plan

Jill Tucker:

The new plan (PDF), a more nuanced approach that’s been in the works for more than four years, hopes to balance the needs of struggling students and the desire for proximity.
Like the old system, the version the school board will take up Tuesday will give parents a choice of schools and rank families based on established priorities whenever demand for a school is greater than the space available.
The assignment scheme varies depending on whether a child is in elementary, middle or high school.
The board established the school assignment process in March. Since then, the district has been hammering out the details, such as the attendance areas for each school.
If those details are approved Tuesday, district officials will use the new system beginning in the 2011-12 school year for kindergarten, sixth- and ninth-grade school assignments.

Harry Potter and the Future of Textbooks

Ben Betts:

The Daily Prophet is the newspaper of choice for the discerning witch or wizard, this much we all know. With moving pictures and articles on every topic of interest, the Prophet is a fine advance on the offerings afforded to us muggles.
Or is it? You see I’m increasingly of the opinion that JK Rowling aimed too low with her imagination on this part. She couldn’t foresee the way in which things like newspapers and textbooks would really be consumed if the magic (read: technology) was widely available.
To take you further in to the future of textbooks, I first have to take you back, way back…

Putting Newark Mayor Booker in charge of city schools will incite legal action, experts say

Jessica Calefati:

If Cory Booker even thinks of making a decision affecting Newark schools, he and Gov. Chris Christie will find themselves in a lawsuit faster than you can say Facebook, the head of the Education Law Center said yesterday.
David Sciarra, a veteran of numerous court battles involving public education, said it would be “improper and illegal” for Christie to formally offer Booker any authority to make decisions about the Newark Public Schools. Sciarra was lead counsel on the historic — and successful — Abbott suit filed in 1997 against the state to provide more funding for its neediest schools.
“I have no doubt appropriate legal action would be taken on behalf of the residents of Newark to challenge such a move in court,” Sciarra said.

This is a lot of talk about Eric Bledsoe’s grades

I wonder if, when he was sitting in that fateful Algebra3 class in high school, Eric Bledsoe ever imagined this equation: u + A = UK2K.
Something feels wrong when so much time, interest and intensity is focused on one kid’s grade in a math class. I know people who spent more time lately thinking about the former University of Kentucky basketball player’s Algebra3 grade than they did their own kids’ grades. Come to think of it, I was probably one of them.
Today, UK’s victories (including No.2,000) that were earned last season with Eric Bledsoe’s help look safe.
Though an independent legal investigation found it was “not credible” for a teacher to have changed Eric Bledsoe’s senior year grade in Algebra3 from a C to an A, the teacher told investigators that Eric Bledsoe did makeup work to raise his grade, and Birmingham superintendent Craig Witherspoon said he hadn’t seen anything to suggest the transcript should be changed now.

How to Raise Boys Who Read

When I was a young boy, America’s elite schools and universities were almost entirely reserved for males. That seems incredible now, in an era when headlines suggest that boys are largely unfit for the classroom. In particular, they can’t read.
According to a recent report from the Center on Education Policy, for example, substantially more boys than girls score below the proficiency level on the annual National Assessment of Educational Progress reading test. This disparity goes back to 1992, and in some states the percentage of boys proficient in reading is now more than ten points below that of girls. The male-female reading gap is found in every socio-economic and ethnic category, including the children of white, college-educated parents.
The good news is that influential people have noticed this problem. The bad news is that many of them have perfectly awful ideas for solving it.

There’s room to improve Wisconsin students’ college readiness

Alan Borsuk:

(I can’t resist digressing to recount how I was in a math class for high-performing seniors at a major Milwaukee high school several years ago. Let’s do some warm-up questions, the teacher said. One of them was: One-third rounds off to what percentage and what decimal value? Yes, 33% and .33. A good question for, maybe, sixth-graders, in my opinion. And these were kids taking Advanced Placement courses in other subjects! Perhaps I should point out that 31% is less than a third.)
Here’s another fact: Wisconsin law requires only 13 credits to get a high school diploma, the lowest total in the country, according to the state Department of Public Instruction. Permit me to repeat that: The lowest total in the country. True, probably every school district in the state requires more than, oh, about three courses a year in high school, and no teen with hopes for university admission or for success in pursuing a wide array of other options would take such a light load. Nonetheless, this does say something about where the bar is set by the state.
All of which is to say, college readiness is a serious concern nationwide, and don’t think Wisconsin is not part of that picture. It’s not enough to graduate from high school or even to get into college. How are students going to do when they get there?

Thank you from Singapore

From: Oliver Kim
Date: September 26, 2010 5:17:44 AM EDT
To: fitzhugh@tcr.org
Subject: Thank you from Singapore
Dear Mr. Fitzhugh,
Thank you for publishing my essay on the Maginot Line in this year’s fall issue of The Concord Review. Receiving your letter was at once joyous and humbling.
From the rise of the standardized test as a measure of academic success, to the subordination and disappearance of the long-form essay in the high school curriculum, the humanities appear to be losing ground in education. In light of the numerous competitions and accolades available to students of math and the hard sciences, options for students of the humanities, especially history, are comparatively few. The Concord Review stands alone as an exemplar for quality writing by lovers of history.
Thanks to your hard work, my school has all freshman students write a long-form historical essay based on the model of the essays that appear in The Concord Review. All students of AP European History are required to do the same, and, even in those classes that do not require long-form essays, The Concord Review is employed as a standard of quality and academic rigor. Though I cannot speak for my whole school, I can say that, anecdotally, this project has sparked historical curiosity and illuminated unexplored talents in my classmates.
Again, thank you for publishing my essay. I hope that the Review will find a solution to its financial woes and continue inspiring future generations of historians.
Warm regards,
Oliver Kim
Singapore American School [Class of 2011]
The Concord Review.

We can measure teacher effectiveness, objectively and transparently Read more: Richmond County Daily Journal – We can measure teacher effectiveness objectively and transparently

Terry Stoops

Is it possible to measure teacher effectiveness? For decades, public school principals have subjected teachers to a battery of observations and evaluations purportedly designed to assess the quality of classroom instruction. Rather than yield appreciable information, however, these kinds of teacher assessments merely served as one of the few formal requirements needed to attain lifetime job security, also known as tenure.
On the other hand, the “value-added” method of teacher evaluation continues to show promise as an objective and reliable assessment of teacher quality. Value-added analysis uses standardized tests to estimate teacher effectiveness. This powerful evaluation method employs advanced statistical techniques to project the future performance of individual students based on their past performance. The difference between the projected and actual performance of students determines the value added or subtracted by the teacher.
Value-added analysis has upended the conventional wisdom on teacher quality. For years, public school advocacy groups complained that the most talented teachers snub minority and low-income schools by migrating to less challenging and higher paying schools in culturally and economically homogeneous suburbs.

Terry Stoops is director of education studies at The John Locke Foundation.

The List: Five of the best campus novels

David Lodge

The campus novel emerged as higher education expanded and novelists increasingly took day jobs in universities. Inherently comic and satirical, it is focused on the lives of academic staff rather than their students, and explores the gap between the high ideals of the institution and the human weaknesses of its members. As the new academic year begins, here are five of the best.
1. The Groves of Academe (1952) by Mary McCarthy
Can claim to be the first campus novel. The plot, like that of many of its successors, turns on the question of whether the central character will keep his job. Henry Mulcahy, an idle, irresponsible, middle-aged Irish-American instructor at a small liberal arts college, is deservedly denied tenure but manages to exploit the weakness and vanity of his colleagues so that they defend his cause. McCarthy’s mordant wit is a joy throughout.

Jefferson County, Colorado schools to increase some teachers’ pay to more than $100,000 Read more: Jeffco schools to increase some teachers’ pay to more than $100,000

Jeremy Meyer

Top-level teachers in select Jefferson County schools could be paid more than $100,000 a year under a pilot program funded by a new $32.8 million federal grant.
The program would make some educators working in a handful of high-poverty schools the highest-paid public school teachers in Colorado.
Jefferson County’s pilot pay system will roll out in the 2011-12 academic year in a few schools — changing the base pay of all teachers, providing up to $10,000 in annual performance bonuses and creating “master teachers.”
“We’re changing the norms,” said Superintendent Cindy Stevenson. “The profession has to change. If we don’t do it, someone else will do it to us.”
Jefferson County and Colorado Springs District 11 learned Thursday that they were among 62 winners in 27 states of the federal Teacher Incentive Fund grants, which support performance-pay plans in high-need schools.

Changes to the Madison School District Student Conduct and Discipline Plan

16 Page PDF:

Attached please find a proposed DRAFT of the Student Conduct and Discipline Plan, The revisions noted in the DRAFT are for the following purposes:
1) Correct a reference to Madison City Ordinance 39,03(2)(t) 2) Add a reference to the Phoenix Program as an alternative to proceeding to an expulsion hearing
Specifically, on page 1 please note that the reference to fornler Madison City Ordinance 3,23(2)(t) has been amended to Madison City Ordinance 39.03(2)(t), This was necessitated by alterations in the numbering associated with Madison City Ordinances,
On pages 4-5 please note that language was added in order to allow the Superintendent or appropriate instructional Assistant Superintendent to consider and implement an “abeyance option” as an approved method of modifying a recommendation ‘for possible expulsion,
Also on page 5 please note that language has been added detailing specific violations of the code of conduct which, if committed, would preclude a pupil from being eligible to participate in the abeyance option. The added language also indicates that a student’s participation in an abeyance option is not a guaranteed right and is within the discretion of the Superintendent or instructional Assistant Superintendent. Finally, the added language also provides a brief explanation of the “abeyance program,”


Nicholas Lehman

A hundred years ago, eight and a half per cent of American seventeen-year-olds had a high-school degree, and two per cent of twenty-three-year-olds had a college degree. Now, on any given weekday morning, you will find something like fifty million Americans, about a sixth of the population, sitting under the roof of a public-school building, and twenty million more are students or on the faculty or the staff of an institution of higher learning. Education is nowhere mentioned in the Constitution; the creation of the world’s first system of universal public education–from kindergarten through high school–and of mass higher education is one of the great achievements of American democracy. It embodies a faith in the capabilities of ordinary people that the Founders simply didn’t have.
It is also, like democracy itself, loose, shaggy, and inefficient, full of redundancies and conflicting goals. It serves many constituencies and interest groups, each of which, in the manner of the parable of the blind men and the elephant, sees its purpose differently. But, by the fundamental test of attractiveness to students and their families, the system–which is one of the world’s most ethnically diverse and decentralized–is, as a whole, succeeding. Enrollment in charter schools is growing rapidly, but so is enrollment in old-fashioned public schools, and enrollments are rising at all levels. Those who complete a higher education still do better economically. Measures of how much American students are learning–compared to the past, and compared to students in other countries–are holding steady, for the most part, even as more people are going to school.

Audit: San Francisco schools outdated on special ed

Jill Tucker

The $122 million San Francisco schools spend on its 6,300 special education students fails to consistently address the needs of those children, too often needlessly segregating them in special classrooms and disproportionately diagnosing disabilities based on race, an independent audit found.
The auditors called the district’s services outdated and counterproductive to the belief that all students can and should succeed in school and called for a massive rethinking of how disabled students are assigned to schools and how they are served when they get there.
Currently, many special education students are clustered in schools designated for specific disabilities, the auditors noted.

Four Kids, Four Languages, One World

Patchworks Films:

At a time when 31 states have passed “English Only” laws, four pioneering families put their children in public schools where, from the first day of kindergarten, their teachers speak mostly Chinese or Spanish.
Speaking in Tongues follows four diverse kids on a journey to become bilingual. This charming story will challenge you to rethink the skills that Americans need in the 21st century.

The Problem With Kaleem Caire’s (Madison Preparatory IB Charter School) Plan

Forward Lookout:

Before I get into this, Kaleem Caire, who is going to be on Oprah later today, does have a point in that the minority achievement gap in Madison and in Wisconsin is very troubling. Madison and Wisconsin need to do a lot better job making sure all students have opportunities to excel…
But I don’t think his solution is going to do much good:

a male-only charter school using a rigorous curriculum geared toward boys of color in grades 6 through 12

There are two issues I have with this proposal:
1. A segregated school? Really? Seriously? Yeah, okay it’s only targeted towards boys of color and not strictly segregated, but really….it’s not a good idea. It doesn’t matter what the motivations are, segregating by race is unwise…and is race even the right way to look at this? What about economics?

Much more on the Madison Preparatory Academy here.
The Forward Lookout writer(s) appear to suggest that Caire work within the current system to address the achievement gap. An optimist all around, I believe that to be a challenging strategy, for any large organization.

Homeschooling: Achieving Techno-Literacy

Kevin Kelly

This past year my wife and I home-schooled our eighth-grade son. One school day, he and I decided we would make fire the old way — out of nothing but plant materials and our own hustle. Our son watched a seemingly endless series of instructional survival videos on YouTube as part of his research. He chose the bow method based on our physics class about friction. He then constructed a bow from a branch in the woods, carved a stick for the spindle and added a fiber string. It was mighty tough going. We spent hours refining the apparatus. He was surprised by the enormous amount of bodily energy required to focus onto a very small spot, and how a minuscule, nearly invisible bit of fuel, once sparked, can quickly amplify into a flame and then a fire. Chemistry, physics, history and gym all in one lesson. And, man, when you are 13 years old and Prometheus, it’s exhilarating!
Now that the year is done, I am struck that the fancy technology supposedly crucial to an up-to-the-minute education was not a major factor in its success.

Technology will change faster than we can teach it. My son studied the popular programming language C++ in his home-school year; that knowledge could be economically useless soon. The accelerating pace of technology means his eventual adult career does not exist yet. Of course it won’t be taught in school. But technological smartness can be. Here is the kind of literacy that we tried to impart:
• Every new technology will bite back. The more powerful its gifts, the more powerfully it can be abused. Look for its costs.
• Technologies improve so fast you should postpone getting anything you need until the last second. Get comfortable with the fact that anything you buy is already obsolete.
• Before you can master a device, program or invention, it will be superseded; you will always be a beginner. Get good at it.
• Be suspicious of any technology that requires walls. If you can fix it, modify it or hack it yourself, that is a good sign.
• The proper response to a stupid technology is to make a better one, just as the proper response to a stupid idea is not to outlaw it but to replace it with a better idea.
• Every technology is biased by its embedded defaults: what does it assume?
• Nobody has any idea of what a new invention will really be good for. The crucial question is, what happens when everyone has one?
• The older the technology, the more likely it will continue to be useful.
• Find the minimum amount of technology that will maximize your options.

Kevin Kelly’s blog.

Correlating Federal Spending and College Tuition

Political Calculations

When we discovered that the average cost of tuition at four-year higher education institutions was largely pacing the growth of total federal government spending in the United States, that was a very surprising result. The reason why that’s surprising is because of how most universities are funded.
According to Table 5 of the Digest of Education Statistics 2009, as of the 2007-08 school year, there were 2,675 Title IV degree-granting institutions (aka “colleges and universities”) in the U.S. Of these, 653 were public institutions (mainly state universities) and the remaining 2,022 were private institutions.
But it is the size of the institutions that matters, not their numbers. In the U.S., 92 of the top 100 universities by enrollment are public, state-supported universities and 77% of all college students attend state-supported institutions. As a result, we would then expect the average tuition figures for four-year public institutions to closely follow state-level government spending and not the federal government’s total level spending from year-to-year.

The School of Hard Drives

Deborah Solomon:

This interview is for a special issue on education and technology, so let me start by asking you about computers in classrooms. As the secretary of education, do you think every kid in America needs a computer?
I think every student needs access to technology, and I think technology can be a hugely important vehicle to help level the playing field. Whether it’s in an inner-city school or a rural community, I want those students to have a chance to take A.P. biology and A.P. physics and marine biology.
What does that have to do with having a computer?
We have thousands of students today taking online classes. We actually have virtual schools today.

Superintendent gets major money from Lee Schools to leave for new job

WINK news

New fallout after word that Lee County School Superintendent Dr. James Browder will get more than $300,000 for leaving the district.
Dr. Browder’s contract with the School Board was re-negotiated in 2008 to include a severance package if either party cut ties in the four-year deal. Now, as he’s looking to end things early, we’re learning he’ll get paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to pack up.
The latest contract states Browder’s entitled to two years pay if either the School Board, or he, ends his superintendent run.

Milwaukee Public Schools get $10 million to try bonuses

The U.S. Department of Education on Thursday awarded Milwaukee Public Schools a $10 million grant to experiment with allowing teachers and principals in 16 city schools to earn bonus pay based on their performance, a progressive but controversial practice that’s gained traction in other districts around the country.
The award gives a nod to Wisconsin in the aftermath of several failed local and state applications for other federal education grant competitions, such as Race to the Top and the Promise Neighborhood initiative.
Performance-based pay, which creates financial incentives in a salary schedule traditionally determined by years of experience and level of education, aims to reward and retain high-performing staff.
But the practice receives a cool reception from many teachers’ unions because it’s difficult to isolate and accurately assess teachers and administrators’ performance, especially when it comes to how much of that performance influenced student achievement.

State study suggests Georgia teachers are not fleeing classroom. Stability highest in rural areas.

Maureen Downey

The Governor’s Office of Student Achievement released interesting data on teacher retention in Georgia, showing the exodus out of the classroom is not that great.
The GOSA report includes teachers who leave the profession but return to the classroom later or take other education jobs. That broader view shows many more teachers staying in the field than had been assumed.
“This analysis is important because its findings clearly refute the long-held notion that half of Georgia’s teachers leave the profession within five years,” said GOSA executive director Kathleen Mathers. “Instead, by appropriately broadening the definition of retention, we’ve learned that nearly 75 percent of Georgia’s new teachers remain in public education after five years.”

Me, Myself and My Stranger: Understanding the Neuroscience of Selfhood

Ferris Jabr

Where are you right now? Maybe you are at home, the office or a coffee shop–but such responses provide only a partial answer to the question at hand. Asked another way, what is the location of your “self” as you read this sentence? Like most people, you probably have a strong sense that your conscious self is housed within your physical body, regardless of your surroundings.
But sometimes this spatial self-location goes awry. During a so-called out-of-body experience, for example, one’s self seems to be transported outside the physical body into a surreal perspective–some people even believe they are viewing their bodies from above, as though their true selves were floating. In a related experience, people with a delusion known as somatoparaphrenia disown one of their limbs or confuse another person’s limb for their own. Such warped perceptions help researchers understand the neuroscience of selfhood.

Atlanta school board minority fires back: “Join us in saying yes to the rule of law and no to an illegal coup d’état.”

Maureen Downey

he 5-4 split on the Atlanta Board of Education is getting wider with this letter to the community by the four-member faction opposed to the change in leadership:
Dear Concerned Atlanta Citizen:
Atlanta’s native son, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (Nobel Peace Prize Winner and graduate of tlanta Public School’s Booker T. Washington High School) said, “I am not interested in power for power’s sake, but I’m interested in power that is moral, that is right and that is good.”
We four stand united in our opposition to the September 13 purported election of Khaatim Sheerer El as Chair and Yolanda Johnson as Vice Chair of the Atlanta School Board, not because we are interested in power for power’s sake, but because we believe the election violated the law and is detrimental to the well-being of Atlanta’s students. Moreover, we believe that this election and the behaviors linked with it, place student achievement secondary to personal agendas. We are concerned that this action will trigger an investigation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) of its accreditation of the Atlanta Public School System. Finally, we believe that even the perception of a dysfunctional Board will hinder the system’s ability to attract and retain a quality Superintendent. That should be of utmost concern to all those who value the welfare of this city and its students.

Report: Poor science education impairs U.S. economy

Dan Vergano

Stagnant scientific education imperils U.S. economic leadership, says a report by leading business and science figures.
Released Thursday at a congressional briefing attended by senators and congressmen of both parties, the report updates a 2005 science education report that led to moves to double federal research funding.
Nevertheless, the “Rising Above the Gathering Storm” review finds little improvement in U.S. elementary and secondary technical education since then.
“Our nation’s outlook has worsened,” concludes the report panel headed by former Lockheed Martin chief Norman Augustine. The report “paints a daunting outlook for America if it were to continue on the perilous path it has been following”:

Affirmative Action for the Rich

Richard D. Kahlenberg

The use of race-based affirmative action in higher education has given rise to hundreds of books and law review articles, numerous court decisions, and several state initiatives to ban the practice. However, surprisingly little has been said or written or done to challenge a larger, longstanding “affirmative action” program that tends to benefit wealthy whites: legacy preferences for the children of alumni.
Affirmative Action for the Rich sketches the origins of legacy preferences, examines the philosophical issues they raise, outlines the extent of their use today, studies their impact on university fundraising, and reviews their implications for civil rights. In addition, the book outlines two new theories challenging the legality of legacy preferences, examines how a judge might review those claims, and assesses public policy options for curtailing alumni preferences.

2010 United States Blue Ribbon Schools

US Department of Education:

Blue Ribbon Schools must meet either of two criteria:
High performing schools: Regardless of the school’s demographics or percentage of students from disadvantaged backgrounds, the school is high performing. These are schools that are ranked among a state’s highest performing schools as measured by state assessments in both reading (English language arts) and mathematics or that score at the highest performance level on tests referenced by national norms in at least the most recent year tested.

Madison School District 2010-2011 Budget Update: $5,100,000 Fund Balance Increase since June, 2009; Property Taxes to Increase 9+%

685K PDF: Fall Budget Assumption Update.

The district received $51,169,349 in Equalization Aid in 2009-10. The 2010-11 Spring Amended Preliminary budget projected the district’s Equalization Aid to be $43,761,095. On July 1 the district received an Equalization Aid projection from the Department ofPublic Instruction for $45,330,641. This equates to a projected increase in aid o f $1,569,546 from the 2010-11 Spring Amended Preliminary budget.
On October 15 the district will receive an updated and certified Equalization Aid calculation for the current fiscal year from the Department o f Public Instruction.
An adequate Fund Balance is necessary for the successful fiscal operation ofthe district. Maintaining a sufficient operating reserve allows the district to minimize short-term borrowing, reduce financing costs, and safeguard against unanticipated and unrealized revenues. The District’s financial condition remains strong and maintains a MIG I rating by Moody’s Investor Service.
On June 30, 2009 the District General Fund Balance was $35.3 million (6/30/2010 Fund Balance was $44,490,453.59, page 13). The 2009-10 was projected to utilize $2.6 million ofthe District’s General Fund Balance, but due to revenues exceeding expenditures in 2009-10 an additional un-audited $5.1 million will be added to the District’s General Fund Balance. The major areas making up this $5.1 million are as follows:

Page 19 discusses the property tax rate (9+%) and levy (5+%) increases.
I did not immediately see a revised 2010-2011 2010-2011 total revenue forecast in this document.

Comments on Zuckerberg’s $100M for Newark Schools

New Jersey Left Behind

Everyone’s abuzz over Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s donation of $100 million to Newark Public Schools on the condition that the State turn over control to Mayor Cory Booker. Here’s some choice quotes:
From detractors of the donation:
Joseph Del Grosso, president of the Newark Teachers Union, (fresh from his guest appearance on Jersey Shore [JK!]): “Vouchers is not going to happen.”
David Sciarra, Executive Director of Education Law Center: “It would be improper under the law for the governor to try to delegate authority to the mayor.”

Related: Number of Kids on Waiting Lists for Newark Charter Schools and

Waiting for the Teacher’s Union

Joel Klein

If you do one thing this weekend, go see Davis Guggenheim’s latest documentary, Waiting for Superman, which opens in theaters across the country today. The film, which has been met with well-deserved critical acclaim, paints a blunt and at times heartbreaking picture of the state of public education in America, told through the stories of families fighting to get their children into safe, high-performing schools.
First, it’s a terrific film. But more importantly, it has helped catapult the debate on education reform to the national stage.
It’s not surprising that the film is making many people uncomfortable. The truth is harsh. It’s easier to turn away than to watch a crying mom clutch a losing lottery ticket that just cost her child a spot at a top-performing charter school.
What is surprising is that some–including the teachers’ unions–are railing against the film, dismissing it as anti-teacher and pro-charter school propaganda.

Waiting for Solutions

Ruth Starkman

“He’s a rockstar,” says documentary director Davis Guggenheim of Geoffrey Canada, president and CEO of the Harlem Children’s Zone in Harlem, New York, an organization that endeavors to increase high school and college graduation rates among students in Harlem. Mr. Canada appears as one of the few catalysts of educational reform in Guggenheim’s provocative new documentary Waiting for Superman about America’s notoriously crisis-ridden public school system.
According to Guggenheim, America’s public schools are in desperate need of rockstar teachers and administrators visionaries like Geoffrey Canada. No one watching the charismatic Mr. Canada or hearing about his accomplishments would disagree, as the documentary records Canada’s successes and follows the lives of several talented American children, whose education and future lives hang in balance.
Guggenheim invites viewers’ outrage as he presents the shocking statistics that most Americans already know: our once great public schools are failing our young people and no one seems prepared to take bold steps toward change. Waiting for Superman is also a character-driven tear-jerker, elaborating the desperation of several American children, Anthony, Francisco, Bianca, Daisy, and Emily, from a variety of backgrounds, both middle class and disadvantaged, African American, Latino, white in California, New York and Washington. These children occupy the center of the story, but nothing about their fate gives cause for cheer. Instead, the documentary devotes most of its energy to what it sees as the cause for their troubles, the political impasse of American education.

New Jersey districts to post teacher evaluations online

A report card on local teachers will soon be posted on school district websites around the state.
The information will not identify specific teachers but will give parents and taxpayers a basic overview of how many teachers in their schools are effectively teaching their students, based on standards set by the local districts.
The teacher and principal evaluation reports are a requirement of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Then-Gov. Jon S. Corzine allocated $1 billion of the state’s stimulus money to school districts. One of the strings attached to that aid was that districts would have to post on their school websites the results of local teacher evaluations.
The U.S. Department of Education is scheduled to do an audit of New Jersey’s compliance with the law Oct. 19, state DOE officials said. Districts have been asked to have their data posted online by Oct. 15.

Books and Papers

Office of Admissions and Financial Aid
September 15, 2010
Mr. Will Fitzhugh
The Concord Review
730 Boston Post Road, Suite 24
Sudbury, Massachusetts 01776 USA
Dear Will,
We agree with your argument that high school students who have read a complete nonfiction book or two, and written a serious research paper or two, will be better prepared for college academic work than those who have not.
The Concord Review, founded in 1987, remains the only journal in the world for the academic papers of secondary students, and we in the Admissions Office here are always glad to see reprints of papers which students have had published in the Review and which they send to us as part of their application materials. Over the years, more than 10% (103) of these authors have come to college at Harvard.
Since 1998, when it started, we have been supporters of your National Writing Board, which is still unique in supplying independent three-page assessments of the research papers of secondary students. The NWB reports also provide a useful addition to the college application materials of high school students who are seeking admission to selective colleges.
For all our undergraduates, even those in the sciences, such competence, both in reading nonfiction books and in the writing of serious research papers, is essential for academic success. Some of our high schools now place too little emphasis on this, but The Concord Review and the National Writing Board are doing a national service in encouraging our secondary students, and their teachers, to spend more time and effort on developing these abilities.
William R. Fitzsimmons
Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid
Administrative Office: 86 Brattle Street • Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138
“Teach by Example”
Will Fitzhugh [founder]
The Concord Review [1987]
Ralph Waldo Emerson Prizes [1995]
National Writing Board [1998]
TCR Institute [2002]
730 Boston Post Road, Suite 24
Sudbury, Massachusetts 01776-3371 USA
978-443-0022; 800-331-5007
www.tcr.org; fitzhugh@tcr.org
Varsity Academics®

Is College Worth It?

Laura McKenna:

The College Board hits back against critics who complain about the rising costs of higher education with a report that shows the economic benefits of college. Here are a couple of the charts that are being widely distributed.
What is missing from the analysis is the breakdown by private and public college. Does a $50,000 tuition education at Sarah Lawrence give you a better return than a state college?

America’s inclusive model

David Jones

IT is widely acknowledged that expanding Australian higher education means increasing diversity. But how, why and by how much?
A focused look at the most diverse higher education system in the world may suggest some answers.
Diversity was and is the key to the early and extraordinary growth of mass, then universal, higher education in the US, a nation that continues to provide higher education for an extraordinary proportion of its population.
Insistent demand for higher education has been felt for a half century. Australian higher education, based on British precedents and practices, responded as Britain did: by expanding the size and number of capital-intensive, high teaching and research cost universities. Attempts to create another tier of institutions, polytechnics or colleges of advanced education, in which less noble subjects and students would be served at lower cost, were defeated by academic drift. All are universities now. Unit costs are high, funding sources limited, unconventional subjects, students and institutions still suspect.

The Face of Private-School Growth, Familiar-Looking but Profit-Making

Jenny Anderson

The British International School of New York offers spacious waterfront classrooms, small computers encased in rubber for small people who tend to drop them, and a pool for the once-a-week swimming classes required for all students.
But there is nothing within its halls or on its Web site that indicates what differentiates British International from the teeming masses of expensive private schools in New York: It is run for profit.
It is one of a small number of large for-profit schools that have opened recently or plan to open in New York City next year. While they are a speck on the city’s private-school landscape, for-profit schools are practically the only significant primary and secondary institutions to have started up in the last decade, and may represent the future of private-school growth.

June Jordan high school: success or failure?

Jill Tucker:

June Jordan School for Equity has been touted as a shining star of San Francisco public high schools and a national example of how limiting enrollment and tailoring instruction to the needs of individuals can push struggling students into college.
The school, which opened seven years ago, boasts small class sizes and an adviser for every 16 students, plus a college counselor. June Jordan’s funding of more than $11,000 for each of the 241 students, which comes from public and private sources, exceeds what most other district students get.
The school board loves it. So do many parents and students.

Rand Paul’s idea to kill education agency would affect poor most

Halimah Abdullah

Students from poor families would feel the most pain if calls by Kentucky Republican U.S. Senate candidate Rand Paul and fellow Tea Party movement conservatives to abolish the U.S. Department of Education are successful, officials and policy experts say.
“Although federal funding makes up a comparatively small portion of the total funding for public (preschool-12th grade) education in Kentucky, many of our schools rely heavily on these monies to serve their most at-risk students,” said Lisa Gross, spokeswoman with the Kentucky Department of Education.
States traditionally get 10 percent of their education dollars from the federal government — $429 million in Kentucky, according to the state.
In Fayette County, that translates to $25 million, nearly 65 percent of which is used to help level the academic playing field for disadvantaged and challenged students through smaller class sizes, reading and math enrichment programs, and classroom assistants.

Do Students Listen to Others’ Views?

Allie Grasgreen

The world of academe is generally considered a marketplace of ideas. But its customers may do more one-stop shopping than browsing the aisles.
Campus constituencies across the country are skeptical of their institutions’ emphasis on — and consideration of — diverse viewpoints both in the classroom and on campus generally, according to a report released Thursday by the Association of American Colleges and Universities.
The surveyed groups — students, faculty, academic administrators and student affairs professionals — reported a need for more institutional focus on taking other people’s perspectives seriously. There was also a general consensus that for the most part, individuals do not strive to encourage, and sometimes do not even consider, listening to diverse perspectives. (The groups were generally more forgiving to themselves than to each other, however.)

Mandarin Immersion gives Verona kids an ear for Chinese

Seth Jovaag:

Before kids arrived for their first day at Verona’s newest charter school two weeks ago, their parents got a couple warnings.
First, your kids will be tired after school. And second, they can’t learn Chinese in a day.
The Verona Area International School, located within a single classroom at Stoner Prairie Elementary School, is the first public school in Wisconsin to teach kids in both English and Chinese. Twenty-two students in grades K-1 spend the first half of each day together hearing nothing but Mandarin before switching back to English for afternoon lessons.
The prospect of getting 5- and 6-year-olds to listen to a foreign language for hours at a time might sound daunting, but the school’s part-time director, Sally Parks, said Monday that so far, kids don’t seem discouraged.
“They are so adaptable,” Parks said. “They seem to pick it up so quickly.

Does Merit Pay Work (Redux)?

Yet another study, this one from Vanderbilt University’s National Center on Performance Incentives (boy that’s specific) in the Times.
The study released Tuesday by Vanderbilt University’s National Center on Performance Incentives researchers found that students in classrooms where teachers received bonuses saw the same gains as the classes where educators got no incentive.
“I think most people agree today that the current way in which we compensate teachers is broken,” said Matthew Springer, executive director of the Vanderbilt center and lead researcher on the study. “But we don’t know what the better way is yet.
They state that 5-8th grade teachers in Nashville public schools over 3 years from 2007-2009 could make between $5k-$15K annually, depending on how their students tested.
A bit issue here as in a study in Florida is that you are talking about individual bonuses which tend to pit teachers against each other. Maybe merit pay would be better for team-based teaching or school-wide merit pay. Does merit pay make a mediocre teacher try harder? Can money alone do that or would a school/district need to add more professional development to kick it up?

One way to fix U.S. schools

Laurene Powell Jobs & Carlos Watson:

Anyone who thinks America has academic talent to spare isn’t paying attention.
We used to lead the world in the percentage of our population with college degrees. Now we’re No. 14. Global competition is getting tougher, and having an educated work force is vital to our long-term prospects. To keep up, we’re importing highly skilled immigrants from around the world. At the same time, however, we make it difficult for thousands of young people who grow up here to attend college and illegal for them to get jobs.
This status quo appears designed to create a permanent underclass and set back our nation’s competitiveness.
Congress can fix this problem — and enrich America’s human capital — by passing the DREAM Act. This legislation, which the Senate is due to consider Tuesday, would provide temporary residence for many undocumented kids brought to the United States as small children who have completed high school. It then offers a path to legal permanent status if they attend college or serve in the military.

Mind the Gaps: How College Readiness Narrows Achievement Gaps in College Success


ACT is committed to college and career readiness and success for all students and our latest research report, Mind the Gaps: How College Readiness Narrows Achievement Gaps in College Success, looks at the steps that can be taken to improve college and career readiness and success among underserved populations. As a nation we must close the achievement gap across racial/ethnic and family income groups. The data in this report shows the types of policies that work to improve college and career readiness and success.

More here.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Local Debts Defy Easy Solution; Madison Debt Triples in the Past Decade

David Wessel:

Bankruptcy has become an acceptable and, in many cases, successful way for debt-burdened companies and consumers to get a fresh start. Airlines do it. Auto companies do it. Retailers do it. More than 1.6 million American households are expected to do it this year.
Buckling under crippling debts, state and local governments are unlikely to file for bankruptcy, but the alternatives could be worse, says WSJ’s David Wessel.
But reneging on debts remains a rarity among U.S. state and municipal governments. Fewer than 250 of the nation’s 89,000 local governmental units have filed for bankruptcy since 1980.
Recent close calls in Harrisburg, Pa., and Central Falls, R.I., spark predictions that the next phase of the financial crisis will be a tsunami of municipal bankruptcies and defaults. Muni-bond experts at rating agencies and bankruptcy lawyers assure us that isn’t likely.
We’ve learned in the past few years to be skeptical of such assurances, but the experts probably are right on this one. Not because state and local finances are in good shape–they aren’t–but because Chapter 9 of the bankruptcy code, the one that applies to local governments, is so unwieldy.

Dean Mosiman: City government borrowing triple 10 years ago.

I missed a mutiny at APS. But is a “public engagement task force” a bold change of course or a sign of a sinking ship?

Maureen Downey

In my week in New Hampshire, I missed a mutiny on the Atlanta Board of Education that resulted in a new chair, Khaatim Sherrer El, and vice chair, Yolanda Johnson.The pair replaces former leaders LaChandra Butler Burks and Cecily Harsch-Kinnane. (The takeover and a change in policy to make it easier to oust leadership are now under legal challenge so consider this the opening act to a long-running drama.)
I still wonder about the worth of school boards, created at a time when schools were smaller, more local and less important to the nation’s viability. The APS board members behind the coup d’état contend that the move was necessary to restore public accountability, but I think it simply reflects a power scramble, as is the case with most of these fissures.
In my first jobs, I covered local government in several towns, including city councils, planning and zoning boards and school boards. Zoning boards were the most efficient. City councils were the most dramatic. School boards were the most divisive.

Connecting schoolchildren to healthier food

Nancy Ettenheim

One of the many outrages perpetrated under the Reagan administration was the proposal to classify ketchup as a vegetable for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s subsidized school lunch program. If it weren’t so sad for the kids who depended on school lunches for an integral part of their daily meals, it would have been funny.
The truth is, school-provided lunches have never been great. Who can forget overcooked canned vegetables and gray mystery meat?
As pendulums swing, that stuff was supplanted by fried and greasy hamburgers, pizza and tons of fattening junk food for our already overweight kids to consume. Well, there’s a movement afoot to change all of that, and one of the epicenters of that movement is here in Wisconsin, in the small, southwestern city of Viroqua. A consortium of farmers, educators and high school kids is out to change the way students connect to food and the sourcing of food.

Education Reform Urgent, Evers’ Ability to Advance Changes Uncertain

Christian D’Andrea

Change in education is coming, says State Superintendent Tony Evers – but we can’t tell you exactly what that change will be until after November’s elections.
Evers, speaking at his second annual State of Education address last week, discussed the work he’s done in the past year as well as his intentions for the 2010-2011 school year. The address laid out the state’s goals in areas like funding, graduation requirements, teacher certification, and standardized testing.
The speech expressed the superintendent’s pride in Wisconsin’s public schools, but also discussed his plans to improve education in the next year. These plans included:

Marketing vs Substantive Change in the Madison School District

Madison School Board Member Lucy Mathiak, via email:

These are just some of the issues that I believe can and must be addressed, not by more study, not by review, not by task forces, but by changes in our daily practice as a district. There are other areas that need similar focus, too. The above issues are used to illustrate the seriousness and depth of the issues that cannot be explained away as simple differences of perception. These issues, and the others like them, require thought, a desire to change, and a willingness to get over our dwindling reputation as a strong district to get to the work that must take place if we are to guarantee our strength into the future.

A Teacher Quality Manifesto: What happens to bright teachers stuck in schools that don’t have the right to hire by performance and build a culture of excellence? They quit.

Deborah Kenny

The documentary “Waiting for ‘Superman‘” (hitting theaters this Friday) and President Obama’s Race to the Top competition have focused the national education debate on one question: How can we ensure a quality teacher in every classroom?
So far the answer has centered on accountability: standards, testing, data and evaluations. Accountability is critical. Without it, children’s lives are ruined, and as educators we should not be allowed to keep our jobs if students aren’t learning.
But accountability alone misses a more fundamental issue. If we want to elevate teacher quality in our country, we need to stop treating teachers like industrial-era workers and start treating them like professionals.
For the last seven years at Harlem Village Academies, we’ve been obsessed with teacher quality. Our strategy from the start was to attract talented people, create an environment where they could develop into great teachers, and hold them accountable. We were confident the results would follow.

The Amazing College Debt Bubble Teaching One Student Costs Only $1,456 A Year?

Andrew Gillen

News that student loan debt, at $830 billion, exceeded credit card debt for the first time has sparked renewed interest in the financing of college and its implications for students. Largely ignored in the discussion, however, is the shadow debt, which consists of unorthodox methods of borrowing for college, including home equity loans and lines of credit, retirement account loans, credit card debt, and run-of-the-mill bank loans. Because these borrowing instruments often have many alternative uses, we have to rely on surveys to determine how much of the total amount borrowed in each category is devoted to paying for college. The most comprehensive such survey is conducted by Sallie Mae and Gallup. Their findings indicate that shadow debt adds just under $30 billion to the annual borrowing for higher education (see this link for more details on the calculation). As shown in the table below, when this is added to the $96 billion in college specific loans, we can conclude that Americans borrow roughly $126 billion a year to pay for college.
CAU_table.gifOf course, there are a number of caveats to this number. To begin with, this is at best a back of the envelope calculation, and better data would allow for a more accurate picture to be painted. In addition, some of this may not be borrowing in the normal sense of the term. For instance, some well off families may pay for tuition on a credit card to receive the rewards associated with their card, and then pay off the balance immediately. There is also the fact that some of the education borrowing is not used solely for education. I knew people who used student loan money to purchase a car, or a big screen TV, and even breast implants. At the same time, not counted are informal loans from family and friends. Thus, $126 billion is the best estimate we have for the amount of money that Americans borrow for college.

An Even More Inconvenient Truth Al Gore’s movie director takes on the public schools.

William McGurn

In 111 piercing minutes of film, Davis Guggenheim offers something that reams of foundation reports, endless pieces of bipartisan legislation and oceans of newspaper ink never have: a stunning liberal exposé of a system that consigns American children who most need a decent education to our most destructive public schools.
Nor does he exempt himself from this corrupt bargain. The man who produced both the Barack Obama short for the 2008 Democratic Convention and Al Gore’s Academy Award-winning documentary about global warming offers an inconvenient truth of his own. Each morning, Mr. Guggenheim shows, he drives by three public schools until he gets to the nice private school where he deposits his own children. In so doing, he accuses himself of “betraying the ideals I thought I lived by.”
His new film, “Waiting for ‘Superman,'” is his own attempt to right that balance with a focus on those he calls “other people’s children.” At the Washington, D.C., premiere last Wednesday, Education Secretary Arne Duncan called it “a Rosa Parks moment.” New York Magazine suggests it might be “the Inconvenient Truth of education, an eye-opening, debate-defining, socially catalytic cultural artifact.”

PA school board pays $33K settlement for searching kid’s phone and referring seminude self-portraits to DA for criminal prosecution

Cory Doctorow

Pennsylvania’s Tunkhannock Area School District has settled a lawsuit brought by the ACLU on behalf of NN, a student whose mobile phone was searched by her principal. The principal dug through several screens’ worth of menus to discover some partial nude photos of NN, as well as a blurry full nude that NN had intended for her long-term boyfriend. This may or may not have been advisable, but I’m with NN and the ACLU: it wasn’t the principal’s place to go digging through her phone for the pix. And the principal certainly shouldn’t have done what he did next: turn the photos over to the DA’s office for criminal prosecution (you see, the principal believed that in taking pictures of herself, a minor, NN became a child pornographer).
The school district settled for $33K (which sounds like the ACLU’s legal fees), and another suit against the DA remains ongoing. As a result of the settlement, the Pennsylvania School Boards Association is developing guidelines for searching students’ phones.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Leaving the Middle Behind

John Gurda:

Twenty-five years is not a particularly long time, even by American standards. A quarter-century is barely enough for a single generation to grow from infancy to adulthood–hardly an epoch in the annals of the republic. And yet in that blink of an eye, that snap of the fingers, the world can change on a multitude of levels.
Consider the shifts of the most recent quarter-century. In 1985, unless you were in the military, there were no cell phones, much less cell phones that took pictures. There were no iPods, no DVDs, and the first minivans were still under warranty. Some fixtures of American life have slipped beneath the waves since 1985–typewriters, card catalogs, long-distance bills–and we have grown accustomed to such new features as Google, bar codes, and Viagra.
From the technological to the pharmaceutical, these innovations are global in nature, but there have been equally impressive developments on the state level. Wisconsin has experienced transformative changes in the last quarter-century, tectonic shifts that have moved the state materially from its traditional base. Even 25 or 30 years ago, it was possible, if you didn’t look too closely, to maintain an image of Wisconsin rooted in the 19th century. For decades there were nearly as many cows as people in the state, and the standard postcard of America’s Dairyland was a bucolic scene of contented Holsteins grazing in spring-fed pastures under a clear blue sky.

Virtual classmates forge real friendships

Becky Vevea:

They are classmates – and strangers.
And they are standing attentively in the lobby of the Mitchell Park Domes.
“What makes these buildings so unique?” asked Paula Zamiatowski, education coordinator at the Domes.
“The nature inside,” one girl said.
“Their shape,” said another boy.
The students Zamiatowski led through the three beehive-shaped glass buildings that sit just south of I-94 were from an equally unique place – a virtual school.
Students from Wisconsin Connections Academy, a kindergarten through eighth-grade public school that operates almost entirely over the Internet and is chartered through the Appleton School District, took a field trip to learn about the world’s ecosystems and interact with the classmates they may have never met. About 400 students are enrolled at WCA, and roughly 100 of those are from southeastern Wisconsin, said school spokeswoman Lauren Olstad.

What Americans really think about public schools

Valerie Strauss

Though it has become something of a sport to bash public education, a new poll shows that most Americans actually think highly of their neighborhood public schools and have trust in teachers.
The Obama administration’s education agenda gets mixed reviews in the 2010 poll by the Gallup organization and Phi Delta Kappa, a global association of education professionals. The PDK/Gallup poll has been conducted with Gallup annually since 1969.
Here are highlights of the poll, published by Kappan Magazine and available here:

  • Americans believe the most important national education program should be improving the quality of teaching. Developing demanding standards, creating better tests, and improving the nation’s lowest-performing schools were rated significantly lower.
  • Seventy-one percent of Americans say they have trust and confidence in teachers, with a greater percentage (78 percent) of public school parents registering confidence. Two out of three Americans would support their child’s decision to teach in the public schools for a career.

Going Back To the Old School

Steve Tuttle:

It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. And along with memories, venerable buildings must be saved.
When my kids started complaining recently about having to go back to school, I told them the same thing my parents used to tell me: “You’re going to look back on these days as the best of your lives.” Sometimes I find my mouth saying other shockingly unhip dad stuff like, “Are you trying to heat the whole outdoors!?” when they leave the door open, or “If your friend jumped off a bridge, would you jump off a bridge?” (I say that whenever they’re thinking about jumping off a bridge somewhere.) Anyway, I was reminded of my sage advice this week when I got the rare chance to walk inside my old elementary school in rural Virginia for the first time in decades. The original building was built in 1916, and the whole place closed down in 1989. But on this day, part of the Millboro School was open for just a few hours during a fundraiser to help transform the complex into a community center and perhaps an old folks’ home.

Urban League of Greater Madison CEO invited to Oprah Winfrey Show

Kaleem Caire, via email:

September 21, 2010
Dear Friends & Colleagues,
Today, our President & CEO, Kaleem Caire, was invited to participate in a taping of the Oprah Winfrey Show as a member of the studio audience for a town hall discussion Ms. Winfrey is having on education reform as a follow-up to her show yesterday on the critically acclaimed documentary, “Waiting for Superman.” The film is directed by award winning filmmaker, David Guggenheim, the creative genius behind AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH.
Ms. Winfrey has invited leaders in education, along with parents, community, business leaders, and students to discuss what needs to be done to fix America’s public schools. The full format has not yet been shared but guests have also been invited to view a showing of Waiting for Superman Thursday evening at her studio. The show will air this Friday afternoon. If anything should change, we will let you know.
Considering just 7 percent of Madison’s African American graduating seniors in the class of 2010 who completed the ACT college entrance exam were considered “college ready” by the test-maker (93 percent were deemed “not ready”), it is more important now than ever that the Urban League, our local school districts, local leaders, and other organizations move swiftly and deliberately to implement solutions that can move our children from low performance to high performance. It is even more important that we provide our children with schools that will prepare them to succeed in the economy of the future . With the right approaches, we believe our education community can get the job done!
We look forward to working with our partners at the United Way of Dane County, Madison Metropolitan School District, Boys & Girls Clubs of Dane County, YMCA of Dane County, Madison Community Foundation, Great Lakes Higher Education, and many others to get our youth on the right track.
Madison Prep 2012
Whatever it Takes!

Much more on the proposed Charter IB Madison Preparatory Academy here.

On Waiting for Superman

Sarah Lacy:

Whether it’s this post or Oprah, today may be the first time you hear of the movie “Waiting for Superman” but it won’t be the last. A flood of pissed-off parents, Charter Schools and reformers and deep-pocketed billionaires and millionaires will make sure of that.
But the other reason you’ll keep hearing about this documentary on the state of America’s public education system is that it’s just a really great documentary.
I’ve never quite understood how the public school system of the wealthiest country in the world-one where every President pledges to “fix” education and one where education spending continually goes up-could be so intractably horrible. The problem seems too big, bloated, complex and confusing to even have a smart debate around, much less try to fix. Fortunately, since I’m not a parent, it’s an issue where I can just throw up my hands, assume any politician saying they’ll fix it is lying, and start saving for the private school I’ll one day need when I do have kids.

‘I Hate School’ Extreme Edition What ‘School Refusal’ Means and How to Fix It

Andrea Petersen:

What child hasn’t dreaded September, the end of summer and the return to school. But for some kids, the prospect of school produces a level of fear so intense that it is immobilizing, resulting in what’s known as school-refusal behavior.
These are the kids who may be absent for weeks or months. Some may cry or scream for hours every morning in an effort to resist leaving home. Others may hide out in the nurse’s office. Some kids who miss school are simply truant–they’d just rather be doing something else. But in about two-thirds of cases, a psychiatric problem, most commonly an anxiety disorder, is the cause, according to research led by Christopher A. Kearney, professor and director of clinical training at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
Anywhere from 5% to 28% of children will exhibit some degree of school-refusal behavior at some point, including truancy, according to Dr. Kearney, a leading authority on the behavior, and other experts. For kids with anxiety-fueled school refusal, the fear is real and can take time to overcome. Families may struggle for months to help a child get back into the classroom. Ignoring the problem, or failing to deal with it completely, can lead to more-serious problems later on.

Attracting and retaining top talent in US teaching: Only 23 percent of entering teachers come from the top third of their graduating class. What would it take to do better?


Helping teachers to lift student achievement more effectively has become a major theme in US education. Most efforts that are now in their early stages or being planned focus either on building the skills of teachers already in the classroom or on retaining the best and dismissing the least effective performers. The question of who should actually teach and how the nation’s schools might attract more young people from the top tier of college graduates, as part of a systematic effort to improve teaching in the United States, has received comparatively little attention.
McKinsey’s experience with school systems in more than 50 countries suggests that this is an important gap in the US debate. In a new report, Closing the talent gap: Attracting and retaining top-third graduates to careers in teaching, we review the experiences of the world’s top-performing systems, in Finland, Singapore, and South Korea. These countries recruit 100 percent of their teacher corps from the top third of the academic cohort. Along with strong training and good working conditions, this extraordinary selectivity is part of an integrated system that promotes the prestige of teaching–and has achieved extraordinary results. In the United States, by contrast, only 23 percent of new teachers come from the top third, and just 14 percent of new teachers who come from the top third work in high-poverty schools, where attracting and retaining talented people is particularly difficult. The report asks what it would take to emulate nations that systematically recruit top students to teaching if the United States decided that it was worthwhile to do so.

Can Big City Superintendents Fix Troubled Schools?

Jim Stergios:

When Adrian Fenty was elected as the mayor of Washington DC, he worked relentlessly to gain control of the DC school board. After all, the DC public schools cost so much more than your average public school and they were among the nation’s worst performers. In 2007 he appointed Michelle Rhee as the Public School Chancellor, who immediately took some of the toughest actions one could imagine to turn around the schools, including mass principal and teacher firings, numerous school closures, strict accountability measures, and strong outreach to recruit new energetic teachers and lots more foundation funding for her school (and really district) “turnaround” efforts.
Above are just some of the magazine cover and lead article pictures of Michelle Rhee. These images speak volumes about attitudes on education reform, and perhaps some of the motivations of education reformers. Not all of it is pretty. They speak to the excitement about the possibilities for change–that’s good. They say something about the urgency for reform–that is, too. But they also point to the view that kids are waiting for a “Superman” (as Geoffrey Canada has put). Some people are motivated by the need to be a warrior or savior of kids, and specially of kids who are disadvantaged. That can be good, but it can also be really self-righteous, easily pigeon-holed and needlessly divisive. It can also lead to a fawning view among fellow-travelers (see this Charlie Rose interview from 2008 and note Rose’s questions and attitude).

Great Schools? Not Without Great Teachers

Sarah Archibald:

ere is one of the great disconnects of our time: 60 percent of Wisconsin citizens rated the public schools in the state, with the exception of Milwaukee, as excellent or good. Two years ago, that number was even higher–just under 70 percent. People don’t seem to believe anything is holding education back in Wisconsin. But there are times when fact interferes with perception and–bad news here–this is one of those times. When compared to 17 other large urban districts including Chicago and New York City, Milwaukee’s students are in the back of the pack–only Detroit’s students score lower in math and reading in fourth and eighth grades. Largely driven by the abysmal performance of many of Milwaukee’s public schools, our state has the most persistent gap in achievement between black and white students in the country.
This isn’t just a Milwaukee problem; it’s a state problem. And the problems don’t end there.
Wisconsin employs more than 50,000 teachers, at an annual cost of approximately $3.65 billion,1 and yet it has no common means of measuring teacher effectiveness. The majority of these teachers have a continuing contract, which is another word for tenure — meaning, with few exceptions, they have that job for life if they want it. This might not be such a bad thing if teachers had to demonstrate their effectiveness in the classroom to get this lifelong contract–but they don’t. To put this in context, is your job guaranteed for life? And if it is, did you have to prove your ability in your job to get it?
Somehow, it has come to pass that most teachers are immune from the realities of the workplace that every other citizen faces. Can you imagine another profession in which it is against the law to fire someone from their job because they are not achieving the desired outcome?

Do jobs fuel education, or does education fuel jobs?

Jim Galloway:

Tomorrow’s taping of Georgia Public Broadcasting’s “Prime Time Politics” focuses on education – which required a review of last week’s joint appearance by two candidates for governor at an event sponsored by the Professional Association of Georgia Educators.
One thing the session made obvious: Public education may present the deepest philosophical difference between Democrat Roy Barnes and Republican Nathan Deal. It is a chicken-and-egg gap. They disagree on what comes first.
At last Thursday’s forum, Barnes was very clear – and passionate – in his timeline. Education begets economic development, which begets jobs, he declared.