Higher Education Bubble Update; New York Daily News Calls It a “Government-Sanctioned Racket”

The College Board released new data this week on “Trends in College Pricing” for 2010, and reported that four-year public universities raised tuition this year by 8%, almost twice the 4.5% average increase for tuition at America’s private universities. That differential follows a well-established pattern over the last decade of higher tuition increases at America’s public universities than at private schools (see the chart above). Public university tuition has increased faster than private tuition in each of the last four years, and in eight out of the last nine years, by an average of 3% per year. As the chart above shows, the trajectory of college tuition in the U.S. is on a path that makes the recent housing bubble seem like a minor historical footnote by comparison.
In assessing the College Board data, a NY Times article “As College Fees Climb, Aid Does Too” finds some “good news,” but only by reversing cause and effect:

Rating America’s Smartest and Dumbest Cities

The Daily Beast:

For the second year in a row, The Daily Beast crunches the numbers for America’s 55 largest cities, ranking their brainpower from first-to-worst. How does your hometown fare?
The continuing economic malaise just reinforces a perennial fact: A city’s potential lies mostly with the ingenuity and brainpower of its citizens. Regions with intellectual vigor are more likely to bounce back; those without risk a stupor. As The Daily Beast again plays scorekeeper on which cities have what it takes, intellectually speaking, and which fall short, that chasm can be seen in stark relief when comparing the prospects at the top and bottom of our list.

More tuition hikes sought for California state universities

Nanette Asimov

Yet again, the California State University trustees are poised to raise tuition – this time by 15.5 percent – when they meet in Long Beach two weeks from now.
Chancellor Charles Reed is recommending a midyear tuition increase of 5 percent for undergraduates, credential candidates and graduate students, and another 10 percent increase on top of that for fall 2011.
If approved, the current annual tuition of $4,230 for undergraduates would rise by $654 next fall to $4,884 – not including mandatory campus fees, which are $950 this year, or the cost of housing, books and meals.
The midyear hike would raise the spring semester price tag to $2,220 for undergraduates, up from $2,115.

Outside help for education raises hackles

Jason Thomas:

The superintendent of Indianapolis Public Schools on Friday outlined with passion how he thinks the state could improve chronically low-performing schools: Let the district create and implement its own improvement plan.
In particular, he and others at a state school board meeting said Friday, don’t immediately hand management of those schools over to outside individuals or organizations — one of five options the state has proposed.
“Across the country, these outside companies have taken over school districts to great fanfare,” IPS Superintendent Eugene White said. “They fail, and they silently go out of town without an explanation.”
Friday’s hearing was part of a 1999 state law requiring the board to gather input on its proposed rule for intervening in the state’s 23 chronically lowest-performing schools. It is expected to vote on the rule at its Dec. 1 meeting.

Stakes and mistakes in assessing teacher effectiveness

Robert C. Pianta

Teacher evaluation is emerging as the central flash point in education policy debates. The recent controversy in Los Angeles over publication of teachers’ student test score gains illustrates this. So does D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty’s reelection loss following his school chancellor’s firing of 173 teachers who were rated “ineffective.”
Both incidents drew national attention because they exemplify an approach to teacher effectiveness aggressively promoted by President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan — both rhetorically and in the Race to the Top and I-3 grant programs. Teacher evaluation was the main focus of NBC’s “Education Nation” coverage; one segment featured New Jersey Governor Chris Christie ranting over teacher unions’ defensive stance on evaluation.
Teacher evaluation is controversial because it combines two elements new to education professionals and the public – quantifiable measurement of performance, and stakes like firing or public exposure. Teachers matter. But the core problem in public education is not identifying effective teachers. It’s that our existing system does not produce effective teaching in sufficient scope, scale, regularity, or intensity.

ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2010

Shannon D. Smith and Judith Caruso; Introduction by: Joshua Kim:

Since 2004, the annual ECAR study of undergraduate students and information technology has sought to shed light on how information technology affects the college experience. We ask students about the technology they own and how they use it in and out of their academic world. We gather information about how skilled students believe they are with technologies; how they perceive technology is affecting their learning experience; and their preferences for IT in courses. The ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2010 is a longitudinal extension of the annual 2004 through 2009 studies. It is based on quantitative data from a spring 2010 survey of 36,950 freshmen and seniors at 100 four-year institutions and students at 27 two-year institutions; student focus groups that included input from 84 students at 4 institutions; and review of qualitative data from written responses to open-ended questions. In addition to exploring student ownership, experience, behaviors, preferences, and skills with respect to information technologies, including ownership and use of Internet-capable handheld devices, the 2010 study also includes a special focus on student use of social networking websites and web-based applications.

2 Ivy League Drives Shame Seniors Who Don’t Give

Rachel Louise Ensign

Positive recognition has long been a trusted way of raising money on college campuses, where buildings, benches, and even the insides of library books bear the names of donors.
But in an effort to spur gifts among young soon-to-be alumni, students at two Ivy League institutions are trying a different approach: publicizing the names of seniors who don’t contribute to their class gift.
With lists supplied by college administrators, student volunteers at Dartmouth College and Cornell University circulated the names of students who had not donated to senior-gift drives. The programs relied on students to single out their peers to meet high participation goals.
Not everyone participated happily. The single student from Dartmouth’s 1,123-student Class of 2010 who did not contribute this year was criticized in a column in the college newspaper and on a popular blog, which posted her name and photograph. The student e-mailed a testy response to fellow classmates describing her position.

Rural Minnesota districts struggle to find school board candidates

Tom Weber

Megan Morrison of Atwater has three kids and thinks a mom’s perspective would fit well on her local school board in west-central Minnesota, so she’s running. But she has no yard signs or that much of a campaign plan.
“I wrote one write-up about myself for one local paper that asked for it, and I went to one meet-the-candidate [event] in a small town next to us, so that’s the amount of campaigning I’ve done,” Morrison said.
Still, that should be plenty to guarantee a win Tuesday. Morrison’s is the only name that will appear on ballots in the race for the Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City, or A.C.G.C., school board.
Voters across Minnesota will select school board members on Tuesday, but in some districts, there aren’t enough candidates on the ballot to fill all the seats up for election.

Getting a Kid From Newark to Oberlin: A pioneer in the charter-school movement on what the best teachers are doing now

Norman Atkins

When I tell people that I’m the founder of Uncommon Schools, a network of high-performing charter schools for low-income children, started in 1997, I often hear a skeptical response: “Admirable what you’re trying, but you’re cherry-picking your students. The average poor kid is doomed, right?”
I know a second grader–let’s call him Hosea–who would seem to have drawn a doomed hand, born into the wrong ZIP Code in Newark, N.J., to a teen mom and an absent father. When his grandmother attended public school here in the 1970s, the district was dysfunctional and corrupt; by the 1990s, when his mom was in school, the state had “taken over,” but the result was the same: abysmal test scores and sad outcomes. According to skeptics, Hosea has about a 1% chance of graduating from college.
But please don’t tell any of this to Hosea! At 7:45 on a recent morning, he started the day singing the Oberlin College cheer. At North Star Academy’s elementary school (which opened four years ago as part of our network), he sat with 225 other first, second and third graders in a giant circle, hands folded, backs straight, focused laser-like on their teacher, Julie Jackson.

Reminder from 1996: “Beyond the Classroom

Will Fitzhugh, via email:

“…Within a system that fails very few students, then, only those student who have high standards of their own–who have more stringent criteria for success and failure–will strive to do better than merely to pass their courses and graduate.”
“…Third, there are important differences in how students view the causes of their successes and failures, and these differences in students’ beliefs have important implications for how they actually perform in school. Successful students believe that their accomplishments are the result of hard work, and their failures the consequence of insufficient effort.”
“Beyond the Classroom,” Laurence Steinberg
Beyond the Classroom, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996, pp. 183-187
For nearly fifteen years now, educators and policy-makers have been engaged in a nationwide effort to solve the problem of low student achievement in America. In one blue-ribbon bipartisan commission report after another, the American public has been told that if we change how we organize our schools, how and what we teach in the classrooms, and how we select, train, and compensate our teachers, we will see improvements in our children’s educational performance. In response to these reports, government agencies and private foundations have spent massive amounts of money on research designed to transform America’s schools. Although we hear occasional success stories about a school here or a program there that has turned students’ performance around, the competence of American students has not improved.
It is time we faced the music: fifteen years of school reform has not really accomplished anything. Today’s students know less, and can do less, than their counterparts could twenty-five years ago. Our high school graduates are among the least intellectually competent in the industrialized world. Contrary to widespread claims that the low achievement of American students is not real–that it is merely a “statistical artifact”–systematic scientific evidence indicates quite compellingly that the problem of poor student achievement is genuine, substantial, and pervasive across ethnic, socioeconomic, and age groups.
The achievement problem we face in this country is due not to a drop in the intelligence or basic intellectual capability of our children, but to a widespread decline in children’s interest in education and in their motivation to achieve in the classroom; it is a problem of attitude and effort, not ability. Two decades ago, a teacher in an average high school in this country could expect to have three or four “difficult” students in a class of thirty. Today, teachers in these same schools are expected to teach to classrooms in which nearly half of the students are uninterested. And only a very small proportion of the remaining half strives for excellence.
Given the findings of our study, it is not difficult to understand why so many students coast through school without devoting very much energy to schoolwork. As things stand, there is little reason for the majority of students to exert themselves any more than is necessary to avoid failing, being held back, or not graduating. Within an educational system in which all that counts is promotion to the next level–in which earning good grades is seen as equivalent to earning mediocre ones, and worse yet, in which actually learning something from school is seen as equivalent to not learning anything at all–students choose the path of least resistance. Getting by, rather than striving to succeed, has become the organizing principle behind student behavior in our schools. It is easy to point the finger at schools for creating this situation, but parents, employers, and the mass media have been significant participants in this process as well.
Our findings suggest that the sorry state of American student achievement is due more to the conditions of students’ lives outside of school than it is to what takes place within school walls. In my view, the failure of the school reform movement to reverse the decline in achievement is due to its emphasis on reforming schools and classrooms, and its general disregard of the contributing factors that, while outside the boundaries of the school, are probably more influential. In this final chapter, I want to go beyond the findings of our study and discuss a series of steps America needs to take if we are to successfully address [solve] the problem of declining student achievement.
Although we did not intend our study to be a study of ethnicity and achievement, the striking and consistent ethnic differences in performance and behavior that we observed demand careful consideration, if only because they demonstrate that some students are able to achieve at high levels within American schools, whatever our schools’ shortcomings may be. This does not mean, of course that our schools are free of problems, or that all students would be performing at high levels “if only” they behaved like their successful counterparts from other ethnic groups. Nevertheless, our findings do suggest that there may be something important to be learned by examining the behaviors and attitudes of students who are able to succeed within American schools as they currently exist, and that something other than deficiencies in our schools is contributing to America’s achievement problem.
By identifying some of the factors that appear to contribute to the remarkable success of Asian students (and Asian immigrants in particular), or that impede success among African-American and Latino students (and especially among Latinos whose families have been living in the United States for some time), we were able to ask whether these same factors contribute to student achievement in all groups. That is, we asked whether the factors that seem to give an advantage to Asian students as a group are the same factors that facilitate student achievement in general, regardless of a youngster’s ethnic background. The answer, for the most part, is yes.
Across all ethnic groups, working hard in school is a strong predictor of academic accomplishment. One clear reason for the relative levels of performance of the various ethnic groups is that Asian students devote relatively more effort to their studies, and Black and Latino youngsters relatively less. Compared with their peers, Asian youngsters spend twice as much time each week on homework and are significantly more engaged in the classroom. Students from other ethnic groups are more likely to cut class, less likely to pay attention, and less likely to value doing well in school. Black and Latino students are less likely to do the homework they are assigned than are White or Asian students.
Second, successful students are more likely than their peers to worry about the potential negative consequences of not getting a good education. Students need to believe that their performance in school genuinely matters in order to do well in the classroom, but students appear to be more strongly motivated by the desire to avoid failure than by actually striving for success. Because schools expect so little from students, however, it is easy for most of them to avoid failing without exerting much effort or expending much energy. Within a system that fails very few students, then, only those student who have high standards of their own–who have more stringent criteria for success and failure–will strive to do better than merely to pass their courses and graduate.
Asian students are far more likely to be worried about the possibility of not doing well in school and the implications of this for their future; this, then, is the second reason for their superior performance relative to other youngsters. Contrary to popular stereotype, African-American and Latino students are not especially pessimistic or cynical about the value of schooling, but, rather are unwisely optimistic about the repercussions of doing poorly in school. Either these students believe they can succeed without getting a good education or they have adopted this view as a way of compensating psychologically for their relatively weaker performance. In either case, though, their cavalier appraisal of the consequences of doing poorly in school is a serious liability.
Third, there are important differences in how students view the causes of their successes and failures, and these differences in students’ beliefs have important implications for how they actually perform in school. Successful students believe that their accomplishments are the result of hard work, and their failures the consequence of insufficient effort. Unsuccessful students, in contrast, attribute success and failure to factors outside their own control, such as luck, innate ability, or the biases of teachers. The greater prevalence of the healthful attributional style we see among Asian students in this country is consistent with what other researchers have found in cross-cultural comparisons of individuals’ beliefs about the origins of success. Americans, in general, place too much emphasis on the importance of native ability, and too little emphasis on the necessity of hard work. This set of views is hurting our children’s achievement in school.
Regardless of ethnic background, success in school is highly correlated with being strongly engaged in school emotionally. The factors that contribute to the relative success of Asian students–hard work, high personal standards, anxiety about doing poorly, and the belief that success and failure are closely linked to the amount of effort one exerts–are keys to academic success in all groups of students. The superior performance of Asian students in American schools, then, is not mysterious, but explainable on the basis of their attitudes, values, and behavior.

Why Students Don’t Write Research Papers in High School

Catherine Gewertz via Will Fitzhugh:

Those of you who lament the state of high school students’ research and writing skills will be interested in a discussion that’s been unfolding at the National Association of Scholars. It began a couple weeks ago with the publication of a previously undisclosed report on why students are not learning–let alone mastering– the skills of crafting substantial research papers.
The report is here, and the explanation of its origins and disclosure is described in the press release here. A response from a frustrated high school English teacher is here.
The report found that most social studies/history teachers never assign moderately long research papers. Most of the teachers–whose student loads often surpass 150–said they can’t afford the time necessary to grade such papers.
This is hardly a new conversation. Consider the work done by Achieve and ACT on this issue, and the look Cincinnati took at it last year. And Will Fitzhugh, who was the driving force behind the recently disclosed paper, has been tirelessly advocating for rigorous high school research papers for years. A retired history teacher, he runs the Concord Review, the only journal that publishes high school students’ history research papers, and blogs as well. (He sums up his views on the importance of research papers in this EdWeek commentary, from a few years ago, and more recently on The Washington Post’s Answer Sheet blog.)
On a related note, another recent paper pinpointed a fragmented high school English curriculum and a neglect of close-reading skills as key explanations for teenagers’ poor reading skills. That paper was written by one of the architects of Massachusetts’ academic standards, former state board member Sandra Stotsky, and published by the Association of Literary Scholars, Critics, and Writers (ALSCW).
While the reflections on students’ mastery of reading, writing and research skills are hardly new, they take on an interesting dimension (and more urgency, perhaps?) with the widespread adoption of common standards that envision a significant shift in how literacy skills are taught.

2002 History Research Paper Study:

Among those teachers who do not assign research papers, the predominant factor is time. Namely, the time it takes to correct and grade the assigned papers and the time research papers can take away from other curriculum priorities.
The majority (82%) of teachers say it is difficult to find adequate time to devote to reading and grading the research papers they assign. Almost half (49%) of teachers say that is very difficult to find the time, one third (33%) say that it is somewhat difficult.
Underscoring that difficulty is that grading papers cuts into teacher’s personal time–more than six in ten specify non-school time, or personal time, as the place where they grade papers. Specifically, one in five (20%) grades papers at home or outside of school, 10% do so on weekends and 15% on their own time, 8% say they use evenings or late nights, 3% use time in the early morning and 1% assign papers over a holiday or break.
Since time is such an important consideration, it is not surprising that teachers value the timeliness of paper submission. On a scale of one to ten, 70% ranked submitting the paper on time as a “9” or a “10.” In terms of grading importance, timeliness is followed by the quality of written expression and a well-defined, important thesis or hypothesis.

“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®

The Education Manifesto Michelle Rhee and Adrian Fenty on what they learned while pushing to reform D.C.’s failing public schools.

Michelle Rhee & Adrian Fenty

Our time in office and in charge of the school system of Washington, D.C., is quickly drawing to an end. Monday is Michelle’s last day as schools chancellor, and Mayor Fenty failed to win the Democratic primary last month. A new mayor will be elected next week.
During our nearly four years in office we pressed forward an aggressive educational reform agenda. We were determined to turn around D.C.’s public schools and to put children above the political fray, no matter what the ramifications might be for ourselves or other public officials. As both of us embark on the next stages of our careers, we believe it is important to explain what we did in Washington, to share the lessons of our experience, and to offer some thoughts on what the rest of the country might learn from our successes and our mistakes.
Public education in America, particularly in our most troubled urban neighborhoods, has been broken for a long time, and nowhere more so than in our nation’s capital. When we took control of the public schools in 2007, the D.C. system was widely considered the lowest-performing and most dysfunctional in the country. Schools regularly failed to open on time for the new school year, due to leaking roofs and broken plumbing. Textbooks and supplies arrived months after classes began–if at all. In the 10 years before we came into office, the district had gone through six schools chiefs.

Madison Community Conversation on Education Nov 9

Ken Syke, via email:

All community members are invited to participate in a Community Conversation on Education during which attendees can share – in small group discussions – their hopes and concerns for public education in Madison.
Join the Community Conversation on Education
Share your concerns and hopes for public education in Madison. Sponsors United Way of Dane County, Urban League of Greater Madison, Madison Teachers, Inc., Madison Metropolitan School District and UW-Madison School of Education have organized an evening of focus questions and small group discussion intended to elicit ideas for action.
When: Tuesday, November 9 • 6:30 – 8:30 PM
Where: CUNA Mutual Group Building • 5910 Mineral Point Road
Who: Parents/Guardians, Educators, High School Students, Community Members
To register, go to www.Madison4Education.org or call 663-1879.
Seating capacity is 200 so please register soon. It is not necessary to have seen the movie Waiting for Superman.
Transportation from a few specific sites will be available to registrants, as will be childcare and language interpretation. However, it’s important to register to obtain these supports.

Pushing back on mediocre professors

Seth Godin

College costs a fortune. It takes a lot of time and it takes a lot of money.
When a professor assigns you to send a blogger a list of vague and inane interview questions (“1. How did you get started in this field? 2. What type of training (education) does this field require? 3. What do you like best about your job? 4. what do you like least about your job?”) I think you have an obligation to say, “Sir, I’m going to be in debt for ten years because of this degree. Perhaps you could give us an assignment that actually pushes us to solve interesting problems, overcome our fear or learn something that I could learn in no other way…”
When a professor spends hours in class going over concepts that are clearly covered in the textbook, I think you have an obligation to repeat the part about the debt and say, “perhaps you could assign this as homework and we could have an actual conversation in class…”

Congress for Kids

Cindy Koeppel, via email:

ntroducing the Congressional Timeline 1.0 — http://www.congressionaltimeline.org/ — from The Dirksen Congressional Center
Now at your fingertips . . .
Major laws-more than 200 examples-passed by Congress from 1933 to the present
The partisan composition of each Congress, along with the presidential administration and the congressional leaders
The session dates of each Congress
Measures of legislative productivity, such as the number of bills introduced and passed
Information about women and African-Americans serving in Congress
Examples of documents and audiovisual materials related to legislation
The ability to add information to the timeline by using the “wiki” feature
Here’s how it works.
Go to the CTL index page at http://www.congressionaltimeline.org/
Select the 88th Congress from the drop-down menu on the right.
Click the “expand” button under 1963 to see general information about the 88th.
To experience the multimedia potential for the site, click the “collapse” button for 1963 and the “expand” button for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 at July 2, 1964.
Check out the rotating cube! You will see additional content-documents, photos, even a video of the presidential signing ceremony.
If you would like to contribute to the timeline, use the wiki component-just click on “wiki” on the rotating cube.
We know this first version of the Congressional Timeline will have some bugs to work out.
If you have suggestions, please contact me at fmackaman@dirksencenter.org. We’ll do our best to respond and improve the timeline.

Madison Schools delay changes to High School curriculum after backlash

Matthew DeFour

But for West High School teachers and students the “dual pathways” label sounded like the tracking model the school abandoned 15 years ago that created a lot of “low-level, non-rigorous classes with a lot of segregation by socio-economic status, which is pretty much racially,” science department chairman Steve Pike said.
“If they had this document beforehand” Pike said of the document unveiled Friday, “it would have at least shown that there’s a lot of questions and a lot of work that needed to be done.”
West teachers aren’t the only ones with concerns.
Peggy Ellerkamp, a librarian at LaFollette High School, said teachers there wonder how students in regular classes will be able to move into advanced classes, especially if regular courses become “more like a one-room schoolhouse” with embedded honors, regular, special education and English language learner students.
“I have a lot of questions about a lot of the details,” Ellerkamp said. “I’m very pleased that there’s more time for this to be worked through.”
Jessica Hotz, a social studies teacher at East High School, is concerned that gearing classes to the Advanced Placement test could result in a “dumbing down of the curriculum.” One proposed change in social studies would cram U.S. history into one year instead of the two years that East offers now, Hotz said.

Many links:

Michelle Rhee outspoken to the end of her tenure as D.C. schools chancellor

Bill Turque

She is D.C. schools chancellor for just one more day, but that didn’t stop Michelle A. Rhee from issuing one last warning Thursday, this one to ineffective teachers and the undergraduate education programs that granted them degrees.
“Now we have a new teacher evaluation system where we know who’s ineffective, minimally effective and highly effective,” she told a hotel ballroom filled with educators attending a College Board forum. “We’re going to back-map where they came from, which schools produced these people. And if you are producing ineffective or minimally effective teachers, we’re going to send them back to you.”

Parents tell Atlanta Public Schools board to get act together

Steve Visser & Leon Stafford

Parents fear the Atlanta school board fight is jeopardizing their children’s future by putting the accreditation at risk, which could cost students access to the HOPE Scholarship and admission to college.
“There is a lot at stake here. These kids are working around the clock to better themselves and make the school shine,” said Nancy Habif, who has five children in Atlanta public schools. “In the worse case scenario the kids who are busting their butts are not even going to have the HOPE Scholarship.”
The school board fight over who should be in charge makes the schools look bad to college admission offices and blocks good news such as Grady High School’s mock trial team winning the Empire International contest last weekend, Habif said “I don’t think a lot of people out there understand that its not all bad,” she said Thursday.

What Credit Hours Teach Us About Accountability

Ben Miller

It’s been out for a little over a week, but the Chronicle of Higher Education’s package on academic credit is an absolute must read. Chad blogged about one piece of it already, but the longer articles about a general discussion of credit issues (here) and how the effect of course values on financial aid at for-profits (here) are well worth the time.
The articles give much-needed insight to something that is the fundamental building block in a host of higher education problems related to quality, transfer, and other areas. But the plight of college credits-particularly current federal regulations aimed at changing its definition-is also an important cautionary tale about accountability.

Rise in college costs hits public schools hardest

Blake Ellis

While heading to a private college is still more expensive than going to a state school, tuition and fees are climbing at a faster pace at public schools than at their private brethren.
For the school year 2010-11, in-state tuition and fees at public four-year colleges and universities rose to $7,605, up 7.9% from a year ago, the College Board reported Thursday. At private four-year institutions, the average cost rose 4.5% to $27,293.

Boston school card program raises privacy concerns

Boston Globe

Civil libertarians are raising privacy concerns about a plan by Boston public schools to issue cards to students that could be used for a variety of services from riding the bus, to borrowing library books, to accessing meal programs.
Carol Rose, executive director of the state American Civil Liberties Union, says she’s concerned that information from the cards’ use could be used to track students, given to law enforcement agencies, or even for commercial purposes.

National study: Half of high schoolers admit bullying in last year; nearly half were victims

Andrew Dalton

Half of high school students say they’ve bullied someone in the past year, and nearly half say they’ve been the victim of bullying, according to a national study.
The survey released Tuesday by the Los Angeles-based Josephson Institute of Ethics asked more than 43,000 high school students whether they’d been physically abused, teased or taunted in a way that seriously upset them. Forty-three per cent said yes, and 50 per cent admitted to being the bully.
The institute’s president, Michael Josephson, said the study shows more bullying goes on at later ages than previously thought, and remains extremely prevalent through high school.
“Previous to this, the evidence was bullying really peaks in middle school,” Josephson told The Associated Press.

For Some Youngsters, a Second Chance at an Exclusive School

Sarah Maslin Nir

Parents of preschoolers who are applying to New York’s top private schools are now coming face to face with the test universally known as the E.R.B., a nerve-racking intelligence exam made more so because there is no do-over if the child has a bad day.
But for a select few students who do not score well, there is something of a second chance. Admissions consultants, preschools and some private schools acknowledge that a small number of children every year are permitted to undergo another round of intelligence testing to supplement their results on the E.R.B., which stands for the Educational Records Bureau, the organization that administers the test.
The practice is not publicized on schools’ Web sites, and the psychologists who offer the service do not openly advertise it. Nor is it entirely clear what qualifies a child for another test, although those who are children of alumni or have a sibling already at a school are most frequently granted the option, according to consultants and schools.

Watertown School board OKs plan for spending federal tax dollar jobs funds

Teresa Stowell

The Watertown Unified School District Board of Education approved a plan to spend a portion of federal funds given to the district this fall through the JOBS Bill during a regular monthly meeting Monday night at the Educational Service Center.
In August Congress passed the Education Jobs Funding Bill, which gave Wisconsin just under $180 million to be used in school districts across the state. The Watertown school district received $895,000 in federal money that is available to the district to spend over the next two years. These funds come with specific mandates on how and when it can be used. It cannot be used to supplement the district’s budget and is specifically meant to employ people. Administrators have spent the past couple months deciding how to address key needs in the district while staying within the parameters of the funding regulations. The board approved the first phase of the funds totaling $408,130 during Monday night’s meeting.

The end of the public university in England

James Vernon

I graduated from the University of Manchester in 1987 with no debt. I paid no fees and received a maintenance grant to earn a degree in Politics and Modern History. If my seventeen year old son were to follow in my footsteps he would graduate with debts of at least £50,000 and were he to study in London that could rise to £90,000. In the space of a generation we have witnessed the destruction of the public university.
The Browne Report released on 12 October, and effectively rubber stamped in the savage public sector cuts announced yesterday, was simply the final nail in the coffin. Under the beguiling but misleading title Securing a Sustainable Future for Higher Education it effectively announced that university degrees are no longer considered a public good but a private investment. Accordingly, it is the individual student, not the public, who will pay its cost. Tuition fees will rise from £3,225 to a minimum of £6,000 rising to a potential ceiling of £12,000. State funding will fall from £3.5bn to just £700m – a total of 80% but a 100% cut in areas like the arts, humanities and social sciences that apparently have no public utility.

Rhee Got Results, but Will They Last?

Mimi Carter

I started working in city-subsidized, Washington, DC child care centers in 1995 and I couldn’t believe how depressing they were. Located in decrepit strip malls, strewn with broken glass outside, parents walked their toddlers into these small, overheated spaces. Television blaring, children sitting on the floor, staring blankly at Elmo, they looked abandoned. Teachers sat in the back on break, the smell of microwave popcorn choking the room. Children were crying from their cribs, others wandered aimlessly around the room, with little to do. There were few books, and the toys were old, many broken leftovers. I was appalled. I wasn’t sure I could keep going back. But this was my job.
For nine years I ran an early learning arts and literacy program called Inner City-Inner Child, which took new books, artist teachers and professional development programs to the city’s poorest child care centers. Washington’s elite has never seen these parts of DC.

Small colleges find that adding football pays off in a lot of green, and more

Daniel de Vise

Then came football.
Stevenson spent $500,000 this year to create an intercollegiate team from scratch, largely as a means to fill the campus with tuition-paying men. The program has drawn 130 players, raising the male share of the freshman class from 34 to 39 percent in a single year at the 3,075-student university.
The suburban Baltimore school is one of at least a dozen small, private colleges in the United States that have added or rebuilt football programs in the past three years, usually with the dual purpose of feeding the bottom line and narrowing the gender gap.
For many small, regional colleges facing a bleak admissions landscape, the gridiron is a beacon of hope. The college-age population is leveling off. The economy is sluggish. Private colleges must offer ever-larger tuition discounts to fill the freshman class.

Arming Your Kid With BB Gun, Knife To Fight School Bullies

Hilda Munoz

When the principal told Sylvia Mojica that her 12-year-old son had brought a weapon with him to the Latino Studies Academy at Burns Elementary School on Friday, she became nervous and reacted, she said, as any mother would.
Mojica told the principal she had given the BB gun to her son — even though it wasn’t true, she said.
“I took the blame so that my son would not get arrested,” she said. “I know I made a mistake, but I believe any parent would have done the same thing.”

School Sees Salvation in Recruiting Chinese

Abby Goodnough

Faced with dropping enrollment and revenue, the high school in this remote Maine town has fixed on an unlikely source of salvation: Chinese teenagers.
Never mind that Millinocket is an hour’s drive from the nearest mall or movie theater, or that it gets an average 93 inches of snow a year. Kenneth Smith, the schools superintendent, is so certain that Chinese students will eventually arrive by the dozen — paying $27,000 a year in tuition, room and board — that he is scouting vacant properties to convert to dormitories.
“We are going full-bore,” Dr. Smith said last week in his office at the school, Stearns High, where the Chinese words for “hello” and “welcome” were displayed on the dry-erase board and a Lonely Planet China travel guide sat on the conference table. “You’ve got to move if you’ve got something you believe is the right thing to do.”

Why Standardize When We Should Personalize?

Tom Vander Ark

Great questions from Chad and quick airport answers:
1. How do you reconcile individualized and adaptive curriculum with a blanket dismissal of “let everyone do what they want?” Where should individualization and adaptation end? At standards?
Yes, do what you please ends at standards. As we pivot to personal digital learning, all students will have a unique/customized pathway but toward common ends. The Core is higher, but I wish it were even ‘fewer and clearer.’
Could “the land of learn as you please” be a compromise between “the land of do as you please” and “the land of do what we tell you?”
I hope we can increasingly separate ends & means-tight on ends, loose on means. Digital learning is opening up a world of opportunity but it is currently bounded by the Bismarckian conception of factory schooling. Read more on 10 shifts that change everything.

Hybrid Schooling

Catherine Field

Religion usually makes news in France when the state invokes its stern policy of “laïcité.”
This is the country, as we read again and again, with laws that ban crucifixes and Islamic headscarves in state schools and outlaw the full-face Muslim veil in public streets.
Yet here I am sitting in the front row at a Catholic lycée surrounded by Muslims, Christians and non-believers, as the bishop of Versailles blesses the pupils and the building and reads to the new pupils from the gospel of Matthew: “You are the light of the world. …”

The Real Effect of Teachers’ Union Contracts

Mike Antonucci

It’s going to be difficult for some to resist the temptation to argue about what effect, if any, teacher contracts have on student test scores from state to state, but it entirely misses the salient point that the purpose of teacher contracts is not, and never has been, to increase student test scores. In states with collective bargaining, contracts define the salaries, benefits and working conditions of public education employees. Since compensation accounts for upwards of 80% of all public school expenditures, we might learn something about the “real effect of teachers’ union contracts” if we compare per-pupil spending in states with binding teacher contracts to states without. Here, I use U.S. Census Bureau figures for 2007-08:

Average per-pupil spending in AL, AR, AZ, GA, LA, MS, NC, SC, TX, and VA – $8,904
Average per-pupil spending in the other 40 states and DC – $10,745

Stating there is no significant difference between bargaining and non-bargaining states when it comes to student achievement is not a winning argument for unions. We pay a 20.7% premium to have unions. Isn’t the onus on them to demonstrate their worth to students, parents and taxpayers?

2 schools’ students ‘integrated’ after 50 years

It’s been 50 years since Peggy Robinson Roberts and her classmates in Leesburg graduated from segregated high schools, in separate ceremonies. Back then, teens at all-black Douglass High knew little about their counterparts at all-white Loudoun County. They didn’t sit in the same classes, play on the same football fields or sing in the same glee clubs.
Now, after almost a lifetime apart, their shared history of racial segregation has taken an unexpected turn. They have met, traded memories and struck up the kind of friendships they might’ve enjoyed five decades ago had America been a different place.

Is multi-kulti dead?

The Economist

A FEW months ago Germans were basking in the positive glow cast by their multicultural football team. They did not quite win the World Cup but did pretty well with a part-Ghanaian defender, a midfielder with Turkish roots and a striker from Poland. What a great advertisement for a Germany “open to the world”. Now suddenly the talk is of an immigrant-bashing, Islam-hating Germany nostalgic for the firm leadership of the 1940s. Why? And which is the real Germany?
The person responsible for spoiling the mood is Thilo Sarrazin, an obscure member of the Bundesbank’s board, who in August published a controversial book, Deutschland schafft sich ab (“Germany does away with itself”). The dour economist reached this conclusion–surprising in light of Germany’s splendid economic performance–from his reading of the demographic future: with the country’s population shrinking overall, immigrants and the underclass are having too many children, well-educated native Germans too few. Biologically, culturally and professionally Germany is dumbing down, Mr Sarrazin argued (and was then forced out of his job).

Is the best way to fix the American classroom to improve the furniture?

Linda Perlstein

Where, and how, are you sitting as you read this article? Are you in a chair that is not so hard as to dig into your butt? Are you at a desk or table that you can reach without slouching down or scooting to the edge of your seat? Are you comfortable? If so, chances are you are not an American schoolchild.
For Slate’s latest Hive project, we have asked readers to reimagine the 21st-century classroom, and your entries are impressing us with their creativity and variety. There are pleas for classrooms that are ovals or hexagons, or traditional rectangles carved up in interesting ways. Some entries focus on one simple idea, such as a microphone for the teacher, while others reinvent the total environment. More technology is the answer, or perhaps less is. Classrooms have been moved outside the building to the schoolyard, the school bus, the mall–or altogether virtualized.

NAACP Schools & Politics

Jason Riley

The nation’s unemployment rate is 9.6%, but it is 16.1% for blacks and an unconscionable 41% for black teens. Politicians continue to promote minimum-wage hikes that harm the job prospects of younger and less-skilled individuals, a disproportionate number of whom are black. Wal-Mart’s attempts to open a store that would bring jobs and low-price goods to a depressed neighborhood in Brooklyn, N.Y., have been thwarted repeatedly by labor unions. And the NAACP is issuing studies on the tea party movement?
Black children are funneled into the nation’s worst public schools, where they underperform and often don’t graduate. Black boys in eighth grade read at about the same level as white girls in fourth grade. The achievement gap persists through high school, where the average black student is graduating with an eighth-grade education–if the student graduates at all.
The situation has remained essentially unchanged for three decades. President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan have noted that just 2,000 of the nation’s 20,000 high schools produce half of all dropouts, and nearly 50% of black kids attend one of these “dropout factories.” But that hasn’t stopped the Obama administration from phasing out a Washington, D.C., voucher program for low-income students that improved graduation rates. Still, the NAACP is worried about the tea party?

Joel Klein To NYC Public School Teachers: My Word Is Worthless

Leo Casey

As part of an agreement between the NYC DoE and the UFT on the then new Teacher Data Initiative [TDI], a “Dear Colleague” letter was sent by Chancellor Klein to all New York City public school teachers in October 2008. According to the letter, the TDI was to be:

…a new tool to help teachers learn about their own strengths and opportunities for development …The teacher Data Reports are not to be used for evaluation purposes. That is, they won’t be used in tenure determinations or the annual rating process.

Madison High School Redesign: 2006 Presentation & Links

via a kind reader’s email:

Four citizens spoke at Monday evening’s school board meeting regarding the proposed “high school redesign”.
Superintendent Art Rainwater’s powerpoint presentation and followup board discussion

There are many links in that post.

Making something hard to read means it is more likely to be remembered

The Economist

A PARADOX of education is that presenting information in a way that looks easy to learn often has the opposite effect. Numerous studies have demonstrated that when people are forced to think hard about what they are shown they remember it better, so it is worth looking at ways this can be done. And a piece of research about to be published in Cognition, by Daniel Oppenheimer, a psychologist at Princeton University, and his colleagues, suggests a simple one: make the text conveying the information harder to read.
Dr Oppenheimer recruited 28 volunteers aged between 18 and 40 and asked them to learn, from written descriptions, about three “species” of extraterrestrial alien, each of which had seven features. This task was meant to be similar to learning about animal species in a biology lesson. It used aliens in place of actual species to be certain that the participants could not draw on prior knowledge.
Half of the volunteers were presented with the information in difficult-to-read fonts (12-point Comic Sans MS 75% greyscale and 12-point Bodoni MT 75% greyscale). The other half saw it in 16-point Arial pure-black font, which tests have shown is one of the easiest to read.

Vail Valley Voices: How do we improve American education?

Sal Bommarito

The simple truth is that many families in this country don’t put a high priority on education. After all, it takes 13 years to finish high school and another four years to earn a college degree. That’s 17 years that parents must regularly cajole their children, and 17 years that they must feed, clothe and provide shelter without any return on their investment.
The problem with education in this country lies not with the children, but with the parents. If parents don’t continually emphasize the importance of education, only the most self-motivated students will ultimately become independent of their families and the state.
Currently, the vast majority of funds allocated to education are for tuition, scholarships, lunches and books. Only a miniscule amount of money is being used to help parents become better parents.

The main winner from a controversial new set of university reforms will probably be the taxpayer

The Economist

UNIVERSITY tuition fees are political dynamite. Tony Blair’s government first introduced upfront charges for students in Britain in 1998; they were replaced in England in 2004 with a scheme under which fees rose, but students could borrow the cost from the state and repay it once they were earning. That move proved even more contentious in Parliament than Mr Blair’s decision to wage war on Iraq. A new proposal for graduates to pay even more for the education they have enjoyed could open a rift in the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government.
Demand for higher education is booming around the world; to help increase the supply, many countries, including Germany, Ireland and Spain, have begun charging students, as America has long done. In England (Scotland and Wales have separate regimes) a student beginning his studies this year must contribute £3,290 ($5,200) towards the annual cost of his education. The actual average cost is around £7,000: the state partially plugs the gap, and also lends students the money to pay their fees and living expenses. These loans currently carry no interest in real terms, and graduates do not begin repaying them until they are earning £15,000 a year or more.

Saving public education: the ‘Dolly Solution’

Richard Slettvet

I am proposing the Dolly Solution as an alternative to Charter Schools Secretary Arne Duncan’s “Race to the Top” (AKA, Grovel for Lucre) reform initiative, which, if other federal education programs are any guide, is destined to end in a muddle of red tape, unfunded mandates, and unintended consequences.
The Dolly Solution refers to Dolly the Sheep, country-music superstar Dolly Parton’s namesake, not to Ms. Parton’s 2002 cover of Led Zepplin’s “Stairway to Heaven.” Dolly the Sheep, you may recall, emerged in 1996 from a surrogate ewe to become the first-ever cloned mammal.
What does cloning have to do with saving public education? Well, in three easy steps, it’s the surest route for upgrading the quality of public education from a “C” average to “A+”:

As San Francisco schools struggle, board raises its budget

Jill Tucker

While San Francisco schools have been squeezing every dime out of their dwindling budgets, the city’s school board has increased its own budget each of the past four years, spending more on travel to conferences, taking taxis around the city and paying for a board member’s babysitter.
All told, the board has increased spending by 28 percent over the past four years, which includes the added cost of televising board meetings as well as increases in staff salaries and benefits, according to 600 pages of public records obtained by The Chronicle.
In each of those years, the board failed to stay within a set budget and dipped into the district’s primary spending account to cover the difference.

Norton warns teachers not to ‘friend’ students

Peter Schworm

Worried about the potential risks of online interactions, the school board in Norton last week urged teachers not to become friends with their students on Facebook and other social media sites and advised them to avoid friendships with former students as well.
Tom Golota, a school board member, said the ban is designed to maintain a divide between teachers’ professional and private lives and send a message that becoming too friendly with students is not acceptable.
“We want to head it off at the pass,” Golata said. “Teachers know this already, but we wanted to have something official on the books.”

On Wisconsin: Mount Horeb school referendums aim to preserve history, serve current students

Barry Adams

A glimpse of how students were educated here in the late 1800s is located under the downtown water tower, just a half block off Main Street.
But there is another historic school in this village of 6,500 people that’s getting more attention than the cream-colored brick District 1 School built between 1884 and 1889.
On Nov. 2, Mount Horeb School District voters will decide whether to spend $9.9 million to remodel the Primary Center, a three-level school building opened in 1918 with a maze of steps and two gigantic boilers. A second referendum question asks for $600,000 for a geothermal heating system.
The building has served generations of students and all grade levels. It was the high school before the current one was built in the 1960s and where Kurt Nowka, a 1977 Mount Horeb High School graduate, went to middle school. The brick building, which looks similar to West and East high schools in Madison, now is used by second- and third-grade students.

School Referendum On Ballot For Waunakee Voters

Voters in Waunakee have some decisions to make on Nov. 2 about space in the community’s schools.
For the second time, Waunakee Community School District is sending a referendum to the community to build a new elementary school and add on to a current one.
Waunakee voters rejected a referendum in April to build the new school and spend the money to operate it. Next week, they’ll be asked again for $23.5 million, but the district said the need for the space is clear.
Waunakee’s Intermediate School has eight lunch hours moving 558 students through one lunch room. The cafeteria also doubles as a classroom in off-hours, just like the hallways, conference rooms and even some closets.

High School Credit for Middle School classes

Charlie Mas

Once again I hear people asking “Why would a student want to get high school credit for classes taken in middle school?”
This may not surprise you, but you’re not going to get a good answer to this question from someone who isn’t interested in it or who thinks it ranges from pointless to being a bad idea. Yet that’s who have been answering that question of late.
So, rather than their explanation, to graduate high school early, let me instead offer some better reasons.
1) Lighter course load when taking challenging classes. A high performing student might take as many as three or four AP classes as a senior. These classes are challenging and demanding classes. Wouldn’t it be nice to have the option to not take two other classes at the same time so the student can devote more time to the AP classes?

9 to 5 New Jersey schools?

Alan Sadovnik

SHOULD WE increase the number of hours and days students attend school each year?
The proposal has recently gained traction as educators, celebrities and a movie have embraced the concept.
Before his departure last month, former state Education Commissioner Bret Schundler expressed support for extended time, saying it has the potential to increase student achievement, especially in low-income districts. He made his comments at the Robert Treat Academy, one of the most successful charter schools in the state, with both an extended school day and year. And noted Washington, D.C., Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee recently called extended school days and years vital to improving urban student achievement.

Give Florida schools flexibility to meet student needs

Candace Lankford

It seemed like a terrific idea in 2002, when the Classroom Size Reduction Amendment (CSR) was adopted by the voters mandating a specific number of students — caps — in every “core” classroom at every grade level: in grades pre-kindergarten through third, the cap was 18 students; in grades 4-8 22 students; and grades 9-12 25 students. Core classes included math, science, social studies, language arts and foreign languages. However, the unintended consequence of this inflexible constitutional amendment has wreaked havoc with many students’ schedules, frustrated families and drained much needed resources from our schools. At the end of the day, it is not in the best interest of our students’ education and more flexibility is needed — here’s why.
University High, a school of approximately 1,900 students, made more than 700 schedule changes in one week alone in order to maintain compliance. Spruce Creek High, three weeks before the CSR’s arbitrary compliance date, had 100 sections with only one or two students more than the cap. Not too bad for a high school with more than 2,800 students — until you hear that those 100 sections encompassed 32 different subject areas. Southwestern Middle School admitted a new student last week, and in order to maintain CSR compliance the school had to modify many other students’ schedules. This was done during the last week of the first nine-week grading period. Does the word “nuts” come to mind?

Outdoor education programs in San Mateo County, CA get funding boost

Neil Gonzales

utdoor education programs in San Mateo County have earned a boost from the Save the Redwoods League, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting ancient redwood forests
The league has awarded a $2,500 grant to Vida Verde Nature Education, which provides overnight camping experiences for underprivileged youth.
The league also awarded $3,000 to YMCA Camp Jones Gulch, which serves 17,000 people annually through various programs.
In addition, the league gave $3,000 to Exploring New Horizons Outdoor Schools, which provides financial support to low-income students so they can travel to and learn about the forests.
The funding was part of more than $100,000 in grants awarded by the league to 37 schools, park interpretive associations and nonprofit groups statewide.
These grants allow children and adults to study and experience redwood forests in ways otherwise not possible, the league said.

Florida Class-size limits again up for vote

Linda Trimble

Linda White and Amy Nowell both voted in 2002 to amend the Florida Constitution to limit the size of classes in the state’s public schools.
The two now are on opposite sides when it comes to redefining those limits — an issue that will be decided by Florida voters in the Nov. 2 general election. Their views mirror a statewide debate about whether to keep the class-size rules as they are or give school officials more flexibility to comply with them.
School officials say they desperately need the flexibility Amendment 8 would provide as students move in and out of classes during the year. Other Amendment 8 supporters say the original limits — which they estimate will cost $350 million to $1 billion annually going forward — are simply too expensive for the state to afford.
Critics, like the state teachers union and Florida PTA, say the smaller classes approved in 2002 are best for students and are workable if the Florida Legislature would only fund them properly as required by the original constitutional amendment.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: French schoolgirl asks: what’s trashing my school got to do with retirement?

Eve Zuckerman 17, in final year at the Lycée Edouard Branly

France has seen the spectacle of school age protesters creating mayhem over pension reform. In her diary, a Paris schoolgirl recounts an extraordinary 10 days in her education.
Thursday Oct 14
Today 60 students from two nearby schools massed in front of my lycée, Edouard Branly, in Nogent-Sur-Marne in the east of Paris, shouting, dancing, and throwing stones. They pushed against the glass door until the bulky repair man keeping them shut could hold out no longer.
Then they stampeded in, throwing chairs and rubbish bins around, breaking a window and shoving a female English teacher, while yelling the names of their schools.
Finally they rushed towards a courtyard used by younger pupils – who were terrified by the mob, sobbing and shaking with fear. It took a long time to calm them down.
As I watched kids my own age, who I didn’t know, trash my school I wondered what this had to do with retirement reform?
After a few minutes the horde left, thankfully ignoring me and my friends, and we slowly picked the chairs back up, hardly taking in what had just happened. Every year, there are blockades and there is trouble, but never as bad as this.
Monday, Oct 18

Do schools exist for adult employment or student education?

Governor Christie’s Ultimate Test

Monica Langley

He says she’s a “greedy thug” who uses children as “drug mules.” She says he’s a “bully” and a “liar” who’s “obsessed with a vendetta.”
Chris Christie, the Republican governor of New Jersey, and Barbara Keshishian, president of the state’s teachers union, say they want to improve public schools. That’s where agreement ends. In speeches, mailings and multi-million dollar TV ads, they’ve battled over teacher salaries, property taxes and federal education grants. They have met once, an encounter that ended when Mr. Christie threw Ms. Keshishian out of his office.
For Mr. Christie, 48 years old, the fight is part policy, part personality. He quickly has positioned himself as a politician in tune with an angry and impatient electorate, and he’s already mentioned as a 2012 presidential candidate. He’s well aware that the fate of his fight with the teachers union could determine his own. “If I wanted to be sure I’d be re-elected, I’d cozy up with the teachers union,” he says in his ornate state office, decorated with Mets memorabilia and a signed guitar from Bruce Springsteen. “But I want far-reaching, not incremental, change.”
The governor already has persuaded many voters on a fundamental point: New Jersey pays way too much for education. Mr. Christie’s poll numbers dipped earlier after the teachers union began running TV commercials critical of him. But his numbers have rebounded in recent polls. Frederick Hess, education-policy director at the American Enterprise Institute, a think thank that pushes for market-oriented solutions, says a likely new crop of Republican governors who have promised to slash budgets and reform schools will be watching to see how Mr. Christie fares. “New Jersey is the canary in the coal mine,” he says.

Education issue looms large in Wisconsin governor’s race

Amy Hertzner

Education may not be the first thing that comes to voters’ minds this year when they think of the Wisconsin governor’s race, but maybe it should be.
After all, soon after the next governor raises his hand to take the oath of office, he is likely to immediately be confronted with the state’s 2011-’13 biennial budget and a shortfall of about $3 billion.
Education now consumes more than half of the spending by the State of Wisconsin – school aid for kindergarten through 12th grades alone cost about $5 billion this year – even though the state’s portion of education funding has fallen in the last two years and has needed help from federal stimulus dollars.
So, whoever voters select for the state’s top spot could have a big effect on their neighborhood schools as well as on state taxing and spending.
“It’s huge,” Todd Berry, president of the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance, said about the school funding issue. “By mathematical definition, if the state has big financial problems, it has real implications for education.”

Madison 4K Funding Options

Superintendent Daniel A. Nerad

It has been requested of Administration to put together possible scenarios for funding four year old kindergarten (4-k) through the use of Education Jobs Bill funding, Equity Reserves, Property Taxes, and any other sources of funding.
What you will find below are three distinct scenarios looking at how we may fund 4-k over the first 4 years. The focus is on the first 4 years, because the original projections put together by administration and subsequently by PMA through the forecasting model looked at the program beginning in the 2010-11 school year as year one, so we consequently only have projections going through the 2014-15 school year.
These projections will be updated as part of our work with the 5 year budget model ad hoc committee of the Board in the coming months.
All of the following scenarios we believe to be very conservative in terms of the number of students to be enrolled, and especially on projections for funding from the State of Wisconsin. These original projections from earlier this year, assumed MMSD would be losing 15% funding from the State of Wisconsin for the 2010-11, 2011-12, and 2012-13 budget years. As we have seen recently, we have lost less than the maximum state law allows (2010-11 reduction of approximately 8.4%). The funding scenarios are as follows:

Much more on Madison’s planned 4K program here.

Who Gets To Write Public-School History Textbooks?

A new fourth-grade Virginia history textbook was found to contain the dubious assertion that battalions of African-American soldiers fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War. The textbook’s author, who has written other textbooks and children’s books like Oh Yuck!: The Encyclopedia of Everything Nasty, says she found the information in question on the Internet. Can just anyone write a school history textbook?
Sort of. Anyone can write and publish a textbook, but before it gets handed out to public-school students, the book’s content would have to be approved by several review committees. As long as the textbook is deemed to meet state-specified guidelines and cover the subject matter with accuracy and coherence, the author’s pedigree can be of secondary importance. Textbook publishing is typically a collective endeavor, anyway. Publishers often contract with a handful of freelancers who have knowledge about specific subject areas. There’s no particular qualification required for these freelancers: Anyone with a Ph.D. in a relevant field might be acceptable, for example, but so would a high-school teacher with a decent writing sample. In general, the publisher hires a more distinguished scholar as the main editor, who oversees the project and has final say over the content.

Now What? Imperatives and Options for Common Core Implementation and Governance

Chester Finn & Michael Petrelli:

This Fordham Institute publication–co-authored by President Chester E. Finn Jr. and VP Michael J. Petrilli–pushes folks to think about what comes next in the journey to common education standards and tests. Most states have adopted the “Common Core” English language arts and math standards, and most are also working on common assessments. But…now what? The standards won’t implement themselves, but unless they are adopted in the classroom, nothing much will change. What implementation tasks are most urgent? What should be done across state lines? What should be left to individual states, districts, and private markets? Perhaps most perplexing, who will govern and “own” these standards and tests ten or twenty years from now?
Finn and Petrilli probe these issues in “Now What?” After collecting feedback on some tough questions from two-dozen education leaders (e.g. Jeb Bush, David Driscoll, Rod Paige, Andy Rotherham, Eric Smith), they frame three possible models for governing this implementation process. In the end, as you’ll see, they recommend a step-by-step approach to coordinate implementation of the Common Core. Read on to find out more.

Language Log: Liu Xiaobo

Victor Mair:

Before closing, it is my duty to explain how to pronounce Liu Xiaobo’s name, since I’ve heard it mangled by most spokesmen and commentators in recent days.  Here is the “textbook” IPA transcription for the Modern Standard Mandarin pronunciation of the three syllables of Liu Xiaobo’s name:
/ljou/  (tone 2, “35″)
/ɕjɑu/ (tone 3, “214″ or “21″)
/pɔ/ (tone 1, “55″)
If you don’t know how to read off IPA, then here are “spellers” for the three syllables:

Madison School District 2010-2011 Budget Update; Administration Proposes Spending $378,948,997, an increase of $4,702,967

The Madison School District 2.2MB PDF. The document proposes an 8.8% increase in this winter’s property taxes.
Another document references the Administration’s proposed use of increased State of Wisconsin tax dollars, despite growth in the Badger State’s deficit.
Finally, the document includes a statement on “fund equity”, or the District’s reserves (39,163,174.09 on June 30, 2010):

Statement on Fund Equity
In 1993 when the revenue cap law was enacted, the District budgeted funding to continue to increase the District’s equity (fund balance) at the same proportion as the budget increase. The actual budget was constructed based on worst case assumptions for many of the non-controllable expenses. Using worst case budget assumptions allowed some room for unexpected increased expenditures above those projected without causing the expenditures to exceed revenues. Before the enactment of revenue caps this approach did not affect the District’s ability to cpntinue to provide programming at the same levels as before. This was very sound budget practice and placed the District in an outstanding fiscal position.
After the revenue cap was enacted and until 1998 the District continued the same budgeting strategy. During these early years, continuing the increase in equity and using worse case budget assumptions was possible. It did not jeopardize the District’s instructional programs because sufficient budget reductions were possible through increased operating efficiencies.
In 1998 it became clear that to continue to budget using the same assumptions would necessitate even larger budget cuts to programs than would be necessary if a more narrow approach to budgeting was used. The effect of using a realistic but best case set of budget assumptions for non-controllable expenses was to delay making reductions of critical District educational support programs for several years. However, it also placed the District in a position to have expenditures exceed revenues if the assumptions proved to be inaccurate and the projections were exceeded.
The District’s SUbstantial equity made this approach possible without endangering the District’s excellent fiscal position. The viability of the strategy has been borne out by our Aa1 bond rating from Moody’s Rating Service and the continued excellence of our educational program.
As indicated in the annual audited financial report provided each year to the Board of Education, the District’s expenditures exceeded revenue during the fiscal years 2002 through 2006. Our desire is always to balance the revenues and expenditures on a yearly basis. However, the excess expenses over revenues in those five years resulted solely from specific budgeted expenditures and revenues not meeting assumptions and projections used at the time of budget preparation. We did not add expenditures or staff. The district maintained its fiscal health. The equity was used as it was intended – to maintain the District’s quality through difficult financial times.
We reached the point where the district’s equity position could no longer support the aggressive approach. We rnanaged the 2008-09 and 2009-10 budget more aggressively, which resulted in an increase in equity. We also prepared the 2010-11 budget more conservatively, which will result in a positive affect to the District’s equity at the end of this year.
Donna Williams Director of Budget, Planning & Accounting Services

Much more on the 2010-2011 budget here.

Is it realistic for schools to remove failure as an option?

Alan Borsuk

What if failure really were not an option?
Geoffrey Canada is adamant in his answer: People would succeed. They wouldn’t give up, they would work harder, and, when it comes to schools, they wouldn’t keep doing the same unsuccessful things over and over.
“When it’s clear that failure won’t be tolerated or accepted, you know what happens? People stop failing,” Canada told more than 500 people Friday at the Hyatt Regency Milwaukee. He was the keynote speaker at a national conference of the Alliance for Children and Families, a Milwaukee-based organization for human services organizations.
Canada is the founder and CEO of the Harlem Children’s Zone, a birth-through-college set of programs focused on getting children in a 97-block area of New York’s Harlem to earn college diplomas. He has become a national celebrity as a crusader for such efforts. He is featured in the new, controversial movie, “Waiting for ‘Superman.’ ”
Canada said things Friday that would leave people from most anywhere on the political spectrum saying, no way, can’t be done, he’s crazy. Teachers, major politicians, rich people, low-income people – he said things all would dislike.

Madison School District: High School Career and College Readiness Plan

via a kind reader’s email:

We have received a significant volume of questions and feedback regarding the plan for High School College and Career Readiness. We are in the process of reviewing and reflecting upon questions and feedback submitted to date. We are using this information to revise our original timeline. We will provide additional information as we move forward.
We will have an electronic format for gathering additional feedback in the near future.
High School Career And College Readiness Plan is a comprehensive plan outlining curricular reform for MMSD comprehensive high schools and a district-wide process that will end in significant curriculum reform. The rationale for developing this plan is based on five points:

  1. Need for greater consistency across our comprehensive high schools.
  2. Need to align our work to the ACT career and college readiness standards and common core standards.
  3. Need to address our achievement gaps and to do so with a focus on rigor and acceleration of instruction.
  4. Need to address loss of students through open enrollment.
  5. Need to respond to issues regarding unequal access to accelerated courses in grades 9 and 10.

The plan is based on the following theory of action:

Lots of related links:

Putting a Price on Professors A battle in Texas over whether academic value can be measured in dollars and cents.

Carol Johnson took the podium of a lecture hall one recent morning to walk 79 students enrolled in an introductory biology course through diffusion, osmosis and the phospholipid bilayer of cell membranes.
A senior lecturer, Ms. Johnson has taught this class for years. Only recently, though, have administrators sought to quantify whether she is giving the taxpayers of Texas their money’s worth.
A 265-page spreadsheet, released last month by the chancellor of the Texas A&M University system, amounted to a profit-and-loss statement for each faculty member, weighing annual salary against students taught, tuition generated, and research grants obtained.
Ms. Johnson came out very much in the black; in the period analyzed–fiscal year 2009–she netted the public university $279,617. Some of her colleagues weren’t nearly so profitable. Newly hired assistant professor Charles Criscione, for instance, spent much of the year setting up a lab to research parasite genetics and ended up $45,305 in the red.

Head teacher says schoolchildren do not need books and recommends Wikipedia

Jon Swaine

The head teacher of a school in New York is facing calls to resign after he sent out an error-strewn letter claiming that children did not need books, while he also recommended Wikipedia.
Andrew Buck, the principal of The Middle School for Art and Philosophy, Brooklyn, wrote to his teachers to defend the school’s policy of not providing textbooks, which had been criticised by some parents.
His memo contained so many spelling mistakes, grammatical errors and non-sequiturs that a concerned member of staff passed it on to parents, who began handing out copies at the school gates.
Mr Buck, who is paid $130,000 (£83,000) a year, wrote: “Text books are the soup de jour, the *sine qua non*, the nut and bolts of teaching and learning in high school and college so to speak.” However, he added, “just because student have a text book, doesn’t mean she or she will be able to read it Additionally students can’t use a text book to learn how to learn from a textbook.
“Are text books necessary? No. Are text books important? Yes. Can a teacher sufficiently teach a course without them? Yes, but conditionally.”

Michelle Rhee: Education Revolutionary

Mario Carter

As someone who enthusiastically supported Vince Gray during his successful primary bid to unseat incumbent Mayor Adrian Fenty this year, I can say that I joined many of my fellow Washingtonians in breathing a sigh of relief.
We would no longer have a Mayor who, when asked when the snow would be cleared from the streets earlier this year, gave the most tone-deaf answer imaginable by saying it would be gone when, ” the temperature gets warm enough.” A Mayor that when challenged by Gray to account for his failure in spending the $4.6 million authorized by the City Council to tackle D.C.’s 9.8 unemployment rate, lazily responded with, “the reality is, D.C. has always had higher unemployment rates than nationally.” A Mayor that could not be bothered to attend a meeting on the city’s lack of enforcement of its Living Wage Law. A Mayor that callously closed down homeless shelters and seemed intent on gentrifying the city to a point where D.C. would no longer look like D.C. We now have a Mayor that shows a genuine concern for the needs of the people especially its most vulnerable, as opposed to one that treats the common folk like plebeians for not recognizing what a brilliant Mayor they were so blessed to have. But the one decision that Fenty made during his four years in office of which I have come to now appreciate was his selection of Michelle Rhee as the Chancellor of D.C. schools.

Commissioner: Teachers will be tested for English fluency

Katie Davis

Rhode Island’s education commissioner said she’s promising new checks on educators to determine if they can speak, write and read fluent English, however union leaders say the problem is being blown out of proportion.
The issue came to light this week after a Board of Regents meeting. Commissioner Deborah Gist said she learned about it when parents came to her with concerns.
“I think any Rhode Islander would have the same reaction I would have, which is to be truly stunned about this,” Gist said.

Oklahoma board doesn’t act against school districts ignoring law

Megan Rolland

The Oklahoma State Board of Education voted to wait on more information from the attorney general on what they can do to force districts to follow a law about scholarships for special needs children.
The Oklahoma State Board of Education took no action after spending more than a half-hour Thursday discussing four Tulsa-area school boards that have voted not to enforce a new state law.
House Bill 3393, also known as the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship program, allows the parents of special education students to receive scholarships from their public school to enroll their student in private school. The bill was signed into law during the last session and took effect Aug. 27.
The Union, Bixby, Broken Arrow and Jenks school districts have voted not to give scholarships to parents who have requested them, stating the law is in direct conflict with the Oklahoma Constitution.

Now that’s dancing: Parents group boots DDR video game for ballet class at elementary school

Gayle Worland:

When June Burch Heffernan’s kindergarten-age son began his first physical education unit on dance last year at Franklin Elementary School, his mother was appalled.
The school, like more than two dozen elementary schools across the Madison district, got students to move in part by plugging in “DanceDanceRevolution,” an electronic dance game set to a techno-pop beat, where students stomp on interactive pads and get feedback from a TV screen.
“Dance is a creative, human form. ‘DanceDanceRevolution’ is a video game,” said Burch Heffernan.
“It scores you. You’re facing a screen, not another human. And you’re not getting the inspiration to move from your own brain — it’s telling you via a screen in front of you where to stick your foot.”
So Heffernan, who has a background in theater and serves as the arts and culture chair for the Franklin Parent-Teacher Organization, decided to take action: She called in the ballerinas.

What do the best classrooms in the world look like?

Amanda Ripley:

magine if we designed the 21st-century American classroom to be a place where our kids could learn to think, calculate, and invent as well as the students in the top-performing countries around the world.
What would those spaces look like? Would students plug into mini-MRI machines to record the real-time development of their brains’ executive functions? Would teachers be Nobel Prize winners, broadcasting through screens installed in the foreheads of robots that don’t have tenure?
To find out, we don’t have to travel through time. We could just travel through space. At the moment, there are thousands of schools around the world that work better than our own. They don’t have many things in common. But they do seem to share a surprising aesthetic.
Classrooms in countries with the highest-performing students contain very little tech wizardry, generally speaking. They look, in fact, a lot like American ones–circa 1989 or 1959. Children sit at rows of desks, staring up at a teacher who stands in front of a well-worn chalkboard.
“In most of the highest-performing systems, technology is remarkably absent from classrooms,” says Andreas Schleicher, a veteran education analyst for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development who spends much of his time visiting schools around the world to find out what they are doing right (or wrong). “I have no explanation why that is the case, but it does seem that those systems place their efforts primarily on pedagogical practice rather than digital gadgets.”

Teachers’ Pest

Investors Business Daily

The man likely to be Washington’s next mayor doesn’t want a school chief who won’t cater to the teachers union. So Michelle Rhee resigned. But her loss to D.C. kids is a gain for students somewhere else.
That “somewhere else” might be New Jersey. Gov. Chris Christie has reportedly offered Washington school chancellor Rhee the job of state education commissioner.
Christie could do much worse. Rhee was hired in 2007 by current Washington Mayor Adrian Fenty, who lost to Vincent Gray in last month’s Democratic mayoral primary. Her job was to reform the district’s schools, where the per-pupil expenditure is near the top — more than $20,000 a year — while test scores are consistently among the lowest in the country, and she took it seriously.

Location, Location, Location

Rosemarie Emanuele

tatistical measures such as “mean”, “median” and “mode” are measures that give us a sense of where data are located on a number line. They are therefore, sometimes, called “measures of location”. I had to think of them this past week as Ursuline College prepares to host the meeting of the Ohio Division of the Mathematical Association of America, which, for the first time in its history, will be located at our small college campus. A group of math professors from throughout Ohio will be descending on our campus this weekend, and my colleague in the math department is responsible for not only arranging to have the conference come to our campus, but also is responsible for taking care of many of the details that go with planning a conference. Always more of a “big picture” person than one who can deal with minutia, I am in awe of the job she is doing. Her involvement ranges from finding work study students to handle registration to arranging to make coffee and hot chocolate herself rather than pay a high price to have it made for the conference. I certainly could never have done such a good job, and I look forward to watching the conference unfold on our campus that is temporarily missing students, who are on a “fall break.”
When my colleague joined us at Ursuline almost ten years ago, she immediately signed up to have her membership in the Mathematical Association of America transferred to her new Ursuline College address. However, when she filled out the form to do so, she was unable to find Ursulline College on the list of Ohio campuses from which to choose. She found herself checking “other”, and then writing in the name of “Ursuline College.” That would have to change, she recalls thinking!

Chinese crammer schools cash in

Kathrin Hille

Chinese “crammer” school operators are cashing in on investors’ enthusiasm for the country’s $85bn-plus private education market with a series of public offerings in the US.
Xueda Education Group, which runs a nationwide network of coaching centres for students facing entrance exams, this week filed for a $124m listing on the New York Stock Exchange.
This came as shares of rival TAL Education jumped 50 per cent in their trading debut on Wednesday after raising $120m in New York. Two others, Global Education & Technology Group and Ambow Education, listed on Nasdaq recently.
Many of these companies are backed by private equity and venture capital – both from China and abroad. They have generally found the US markets receptive, ever since veteran outfit New Oriental listed there as early as 2006.
But the latest rush is driven by ever-higher expectations of the amounts of money Chinese parents will pay to educate their children.

The Economy and College Admissions

Becky Supiano:

Widespread predictions that students would approach the college decision differently in an economic downturn, and that colleges would plan conservatively to make their new classes, appear to have come true. A report from the National Association for College Admission Counseling, released on Wednesday, documents changes in student and college behavior in the 2009 admissions cycle.
The report, “The State of College Admission 2010,” uses data from the association’s surveys of colleges and schools, the College Board’s annual survey of colleges, and the federal government.
During the 2009 cycle, the number of students graduating from high school in the United States reached a peak of 3.33 million; the number of high-school graduates is projected to decline through 2014-15.

Virtual makeover: Open enrollment, online schools alter education landscape

Susan Troller

Eighth-grader James Roll enjoys learning math, science, English and social studies through an online school that lets him learn at his own pace using a computer at home. But he says he likes the art and music classes at what he calls “real school” — Kromrey Middle School in Middleton — even more.
James is a pioneer of sorts, and so is the Middleton-Cross Plains School District, when it comes to computer-based, or virtual, learning.
This year, Middleton launched its 21st Century eSchool. It’s one of just a dozen virtual schools in Wisconsin, and the second in Dane County; last year the McFarland School District became the sponsoring district for the Wisconsin Virtual Academy (WIVA), which opened for the 2009-2010 school year with about 400 students and this year counts twice that many.
The two schools share several key elements: They offer a broad range of online courses, beginning at the kindergarten level and continuing all the way through high school, employ licensed Wisconsin teachers to oversee online learning, and require that students participate in mandatory testing each year.
Hughes’ obvious irritation was fueled by recent open enrollment figures showing that Madison has lost more than 150 students to McFarland, both to the Wisconsin Virtual Academy and to McFarland bricks-and-mortar schools.
Hughes expanded on his frustration in a recent piece he wrote for his Ed Hughes School Blog: “Since we have to send about $6,800 per student to districts that receive our open enrollers, this means that we’ll be cutting a (perhaps figurative) check in excess of $1,000,000 to the McFarland School District.”
But McFarland Superintendent Scott Brown says his district is only getting $300 to $350 per student per year from the online school and says the Wisconsin Virtual Academy is not necessarily poaching students from the traditional classroom. “Schools like WIVA have brought a lot of students who may not have been under the tent of public education into school districts like ours.

More options for our children is great for them, parents, business, our communities and taxpayers.
With respect to Ed’s post, providing alternative models at what appears to be substantially lower cost than Madison’s annual $15K per student expenditures is good for all of us, particularly the students.
The financial aspects of the open enrollment and alternative education models gets to the heart of whether traditional districts exist to promote adult employment or student education.
The Khan Academy is worth a visit.. Standing in front of new education models and more choices for our children is a losing proposition. Just yesterday, Apple, Inc. announced the end of hard drives for volume computers with the introduction of a flash memory based notebook. Certainly, hard drive manufacturers will be fighting over a smaller market, but, new opportunities are emerging. Some will take advantage of them, others won’t. Education is no different.

What makes a great teacher?

Gretchen Cochran

What makes a great teacher? These days, one has to wonder.
As the pressure builds for public schools to perform better, teachers can seem the scapegoat, perceived as over the hill, out of touch with current subject matter, disinterested and weary.
So it was heartening to catch an invigorated teacher, Linda Mondel, 47, telling Lansing Sunrise Rotarians about her Fulbright scholarship to India. The Lansing School District teacher was vibrant, dynamic and imbued with enthusiasm. She had spent five weeks touring schools throughout the Asian country and would now, with the 14 others from across the U.S., prepare a teaching unit for American schools.
This woman was no slug. But there is more.
Last year she was the first teacher in the Lansing School District to earn national certification for rigorous testing and screening similar to programs for doctors and accountants. Now she is the media specialist at Pattengill Middle School.

What Will Become of Public Education in Detroit?

Darreoom Dawsey

OK, I’m pretty sure that it’s safe to say that Detroit Public Schools emergency financial manager Robert Bobb has been a failure. He’s screwed up the DPS transportation system, with results ranging from comical to pathetic. He’s exacerbated problems among special-needs students. He’s slashed school resources while spending on pricey consultants. He convinced voters to approve a $500-million construction bond even as his own demographers argued that enrollment would continue to plummet. And, of course, he’s ballooned the very budget deficit that he was hired to eliminate. And yes, there was his yadayadayada about going to lame-duck politicians to get the state to absolve the DPS debt or else…but even that seems like so much of the same brand of smoke he’s been blowing.
Sure, he’s done all of this with an undeniable air of professionalism and charm — but by every available measure, the man’s tenure has been a flop. Meanwhile, come March, when his contract expires, it’ll all be water under the Belle Isle Bridge. He’s likely out of here, joining the lame duck governor who appointed him, and the district won’t have a single gain to show for it.

Tibetan schools stage protest

Malcolm Moore

At least a thousand Tibetan high-school students have protested against the increasing use of Mandarin in their lessons, at the expense of their Tibetan.
Between 1,000 and 7,000 students in the town of Tongren, in Qinghai province, took to the streets on Tuesday, chanting slogans against the replacement of Tibetan with Mandarin Chinese.
According to Radio Free Asia, which obtained fuzzy video images of the protest, marchers from six schools in the area took part. Many of them were wearing their blue-and-white school tracksuits.

Florida’s lesson: School choice builds success

Vicki E. Murray,Matthew Ladner

Assemblyman Tom Torlakson, D-Antioch, and retired administrator Larry Aceves want to be California’s superintendent of public instruction. Voters should ask the candidates why Florida, though demographically similar to California, continues to trounce the Golden State in student achievement.
Two years ago, significant numbers of Florida’s low-income and minority fourth-graders outscored all California fourth-graders in reading on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as the Nation’s Report Card. The latest results confirm that Florida’s success is no fluke.
Low-income and minority students continue to propel Florida’s gains while California student performance lags near the bottom. The latest fourth-grade NAEP reading results reveal how California’s failure to reform its public schools is putting students at an alarming disadvantage.

Threats to school reform … are within school reform

Mike Rose

Here’s an all-too-familiar storyline about reform, from education to agricultural development: The reform has run its course, has not achieved its goals, and the reformers and other analysts speculate in policy briefs or opinion pages about what went wrong. The interesting thing is that the reform’s flaws were usually evident from the beginning.
As someone who has lived through several periods of educational reform and has studied schools and taught for a long time, I see characteristics of the current reform movement, as powerful as it is, that could lead to unintended and undesirable consequences. But when reform is going strong it can become a closed ideological system, deaf to the cautionary tale.
I have six areas of concern:

New York to release teachers’ ratings

Jason Song and Jason Felch

The New York City school system announced Wednesday that it will release ratings for nearly 12,000 teachers based on student test scores, potentially giving the public an unprecedented window into the effectiveness of instructors at the nation’s largest school district.
The move, which the city’s teachers union said it would fight, is certain to escalate a national debate over how teachers should be evaluated and what role test scores should play in the process.
The release, planned for Friday, was prompted by requests from several news organizations and follows a series of Los Angeles Times stories in August that analyzed 6,000 elementary school teachers’ effectiveness in raising students’ math and English scores. It was the first time such data had been made public.

Union Plans to Try to Block Release of Teacher Ratings

The city’s teachers’ union said on Wednesday that it would request a restraining order to prevent education officials from releasing reports that rate thousands of city teachers based on how much progress students made on state standardized tests.
The release of the reports, if a judge does not block it, would propel New York City to the center of a national debate about how student test scores should be used to evaluate teachers and whether news media organizations should release the ratings of teachers to the public as a measure of their performance. The reports include the names of teachers and their schools.
The city’s public school principals have received the reports for the past two years, and last year, they were instructed to use them in teacher evaluations and tenure decisions. But education officials have repeatedly refused to make the reports public because of an agreement with the teachers’ union and because of concerns that their release could compromise student privacy. Several news media organizations, including The New York Times, requested their release.

Small doses of education can make a big difference for parents with sick children

Molly Hennessy-Fiske

Spanish-speaking parents filled the cafeteria at Moffett Elementary School in Lennox earlier this month to watch Lorena Marin, a parent coordinator and literacy coach, demonstrate how to use a digital thermometer and liquid-medicine dispenser.
“What do you do when your child is choking?” Marin asked the crowd of about 50, some toting babies.
Get them to hold their arms up or look at a bird in the sky, parents said. Marin pointed to a section in a simply worded medical reference book that each had received that morning as part of the program. The book explained in Spanish about choking hazards and resuscitation.

Cal State Bans Students from Using Online Note-Selling Service

Audrey Watters

As an undergraduate at Sacramento State, Ryan Stevens founded NoteUtopia in order to provide a mechanism for students to buy, sell, and share their university course notes. Stevens graduated last spring and NoteUtopia officially launched in August. But less than six weeks into the startup’s history, NoteUtopia has received a cease-and-desist letter from the California State University system, charging that the company violates a provision of the state education code.
The provision in question dates back a decade and reads “no business, agency, or person, including, but not necessarily limited to, an enrolled student, shall prepare, cause to be prepared, give, sell, transfer, or otherwise distribute or publish, for any commercial purpose, any contemporaneous recording of an academic presentation in a classroom or equivalent site of instruction by an instructor of record. This prohibition applies to a recording made in any medium, including, but not necessarily limited to, handwritten or typewritten class notes.”
Following the cease-and-desist letter, officials also emailed the students at all 23 universities in the Cal State system, warning them that selling their class notes online “including on the NoteUtopia website, is subject to discipline, up through and including expulsion from the university.”

Evaluating teacher effectiveness is evolving

Jessica Meyers

How good is your child’s teacher?
For years, principals answered that question by visiting a classroom, taking down observations and handing the teacher an annual review.
Now with millions in federal money aimed at rewarding the nation’s best teachers, school districts are looking for ways to identify them. Recent studies also point to teacher quality as a key to solving lagging student performance.
But who deserves rewards? Who should get fired? And most perplexing: What makes good teachers and how do we know it?
“That is the $64 million question,” said Linda Bridges, president of the American Federation of Teachers’ Texas chapter. “It’s not just a snapshot in time via a standardized test or a classroom observation in 45 minutes.”

An education reporter’s thoughts on ‘Waiting for Superman’

Jason Wermers:

Like many people who follow education issues closely, I was curious to see Waiting for Superman, the limited-release documentary film that follows five students and their families in their quest to get the best education.
I finally had the chance this past weekend.
What I came away with was probably what Davis Googenheim, who directed this movie as well as An Inconvenient Truth back in 2004, intended: A sense of injustice at what these children are stuck with through no fault of their own, or their parents, other than the neighborhood in which they live.
We meet Anthony, a fifth-grader in Washington, D.C., who is being raised by his grandmother; Bianca, a kindergartner in Harlem, N.Y., being raised by her mother; Francisco, a first-grader in the Bronx, N.Y., being raised by his mother; Daisy, a fourth-grader in Los Angeles being raised by both parents; and Emily, an eighth-grader in the affluent Silicon Valley, Calif., also being raised by both parents.

Raising the bar for student achievement

Johnny Chandler

There has been a lot of talk recently about education reform and the need to improve public education in America. The buzz words have been; Race To The Top, First to the Top, The Tennessee Diploma Project, the five day News Story on Channel 4 “Education Nation,” and the movie “Waiting for Superman.”
When I started to school 55 years ago in one-room Porter School, things were a lot different than today. We did not have running water, indoor plumbing and certainly not a computer. Also, all 20 of us (grades 1-8) were taught by one teacher.
During the time I grew up, the United States was the dominant nation in the world. We were viewed as world leaders in technology, medicine, industry and education. In 2010, the United States ranked ninth in college graduates. When I received a toy during my childhood and it was labeled “Made in Japan,” I immediately thought it was an item of inferior quality. Today almost everything we purchase is made in Asia or Mexico.

DeKalb County School Board elections. Dist. 1, Dist 7: A district in deep disarray

Atlanta Journal Constitution

With its accreditation under review, its former superintendent under indictment and many of its schools underperforming, DeKalb County is at a crossroads. The school board will face many challenges next year, including hiring a new superintendent to lead the system back to stability. School board candidates in the Nov. 2 general election tell us how they would deal with these challenges.
1. What qualities should the next superintendent of schools have?
2. How would you involve the communities in the school redistricting and closings process?
3. With the indictments of two top school officials and the current questions from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools about leadership of the district, what will you do to help restore credibility and confidence?

Baltimore Contract Grants “Achievement Units” for Union Work

Mike Antonucci

Here’s a provision of the proposed Baltimore Teachers Union contract that escaped my notice but caught the eye of the editors of the Washington Post. The tentative agreement – voted down by the BTU rank-and-file – proposes a system by which teachers would be paid not strictly according to years and college credits, but by “achievement units” accumulated.
A teacher would receive 12 AUs for the highest grade on an evaluation and 1 AU for each college credit. But work your way to page 9 of the tentative agreement and you find a teacher is to be awarded 3 AUs annually for being a union building representative.

How billionaire donors harm public education

Valerie Strauss

Today the foundation set up by billionaires Eli and Edythe Broad is giving away $2 million to urban school districts that have pursued education reform that they like. On Friday a Florida teacher is running 50 miles to raise money so that he and his fellow teachers don’t have to spend their own money to buy paper and pencils, binders (1- and 2-inch), spiral notebooks, composition books and printer ink.
Together the two events show the perverted way schools are funded in 2010.
Very wealthy people are donating big private money to their own pet projects: charter schools, charter school management companies, teacher assessment systems. (The latest example is Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s $100 million donation to the Newark public schools, given with the provision that Zuckerberg, apparently an education reform expert, play a big role in determining success.)
What this means is that these philanthropists — and not local communities — are determining the course of the country’s school reform efforts and which education research projects get funded. As Buffalo Public Schools Superintendent James A. Williams said in an interview: “They should come out and tell the truth. If they want to privatize public education, they should say so.”

Many aspects of education are driven by the pursuit of money, not just billionaire’s sprinkling it around.

Conflict question in Georgia school suit

D. Aileen Dodd and Bill Rankin

The state’s highest court will rule in coming months on the tug-of-war over power and money that pits seven school districts against the state in a fight over local control. The case has already raised a question about fair play.
Ties between Supreme Court Justice David Nahmias and Mike Bowers, attorney for Gwinnett County Public Schools, the lead district in the case, have some in education circles asking about a possible conflict of interest. Bowers, a former Georgia attorney general, is Nahmias’ election campaign committee’s co-chairman and contributed $1,000 to his election bid on Aug. 1, finance disclosures show.
A committee Bowers chaired in 2009 recommended Nahmias, 46, the former U.S. attorney in Atlanta, for his seat on the state Supreme Court. Nahmias appeared on the short list of candidates the Judicial Nominating Commission sent to the governor when former Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears stepped down.

“Students and Their Needs Come First” – Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes

via greatmadisonschools.org:

One in particular — the addition of more AP classes will certainly not be a detriment in the college application process. However, the most selective colleges generally expect applicants to have taken the AP classes at their high school if they are available.
The idea that this new plan will promote segregation is particularly pernicious and about 180 degrees off the mark as far as the intent of the program goes.
Finally, the point of choosing a curriculum for our schools is to determine the best courses for our students to take, not the courses that teachers most want to teach. Students and their needs come first.
Thanks a lot for taking the time to write.
Ed Hughes, Madison School Board

More on honors classes and racism

Posted on 10/18 to the East High Community list serv, in response to a description of the MMSD high school reform proposal. Posted here with the author’s permission.
Dear East Community:
I contribute to this discussion group only once in a blue moon, but this issue is near and dear to my heart and I am compelled to comment. I cannot think of a more important issue than that of race and racism in our educational institutions.
I speak as a lifelong political progressive who has been active in community issues relating to racism and economic and social disparities for thirty years, from Cleveland to Chicago’s south side to Madison. More important, I speak as an adult basic instructor in mathematics at MATC who teaches many of the students that have been failed by their experience in the Madison schools, most of them students of color or students mired in the low margins of the socioeconomic system.
With that said, it frustrates and saddens me see how many well-meaning people have this issue exactly backward. It is not racist school policy to offer multiple tracks, specifically honors or AP TAG classes. Rather, racist school policy – of the most insidious nature imaginable – is failing to offer those classes because students of color aren’t in them. That argument implicitly says that students of color cannot achieve, and that message speaks volumes about the difference between looking fair in some lowest-common-denominator way versus fighting for the hard and true and noble path in student achievement.
Simply put, we should have TAG classes and they should be filled with students of every class, race and color. That they have historically not been filled with students of every class, race and color is the real issue. It tells us that our methods for evaluating students are abysmal, even abusive (how many of you have enjoyed watching your 4th grader take class time to learn to use a squeeze ball to reduce stress on standardized tests?). It tells us that we are not successfully seeking out students of tremendous potential because we don’t understand them or don’t know how to relate to them or reach them. It also says that we fail to properly appreciate what a culture of demanding expectations of achievement can do for every student in a classroom, especially when we demand of ourselves to understand and embrace each of our students as strikingly unique individuals and not achievers based upon highly overrated and dubious “educational standards,” standardized test scores or other unhelpful common denominators.
The progress of my classes at MATC this semester is typical and no surprise to me. I have two algebra classes. One, downtown, is mostly white and/or middle class. The other, in South Madison, is almost entirely students of color, most with difficult personal circumstances, most of whom have always failed at math. One class is achieving well enough. The other class is over-achieving, pushed hard, pushing me back, engaged, holding an average grade of AB. Any guesses which is which?
As educators and supporters of our schools we can do so much better than we do. But we cannot do better by pretending that differentiation in a classroom can accomplish the same thing as a motivated rainbow of a class with a class-wide ethic to achieve deep understanding and a drive to overcome commonplace expectations.
I say that we need both TAG classes and the recruiting methods and policies to make sure that they reflect every kind of brilliance in our community.
Pete Nelson

As they say, “Friend speaks my mind.”

If it’s a pretend administrator, is it a real observation?

Ms. Cornelius

We have the most wonderfullest idea that has been created by our district administration this year, and it has had amusingly unforeseen consequences for Ms. Cornelius.
Here’s the deal: the Powers That Be have revived the farcical “Leadership Cadre.” What might this be, you ask? Well, remember that our district has an absolutely stellar record of hiring district employees for administration jobs– and by stellar I imply events so rare as to be separated by light-years.
But wait! Let’s get some teachers who have administrative certification– and frankly, no hope in hell of actually being hired– fill in when one of our peripatetic assistant principals gets to go jaunting off to a conference in Orlando or Bimini or Noo Yawk. Boom! Voila! “Leadership Cadre!” These chumps members of the Leadership Cadre will then garner administrative experience. Forget that whilst these ersatz nabobs are substitute nabobing, they will not be fulfilling the function for which they were hired and for which a school district exists: namely, teaching students. No; let the students eat substitutes!
Now, there is one particular dewy-eyed dreamer who leapt at this chance– whom I will call “Bob,” since “Sawed-Off Runt” seems far too brutal, if apropos. I can see the attraction of administration for Bob. He only puts eight grades in the gradebook per semester as it is, but if he becomes an AP he has figured out that that number will drop to zero. And that’s less, right? (Did I mention Bob teaches math?)

Daring goal on Virginia higher education

The Virginian – Pilot

Del. Kirk Cox and Gov. Bob McDonnell were a study in contrasts last week as they spoke to a commission tasked with recommending higher education reforms.
Cox, the second-ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee, repeatedly warned his audience that money is scarce, and increased spending on public universities is a worthy goal when prosperity returns to the commonwealth.
McDonnell promised greater investment in the near term and rewards for universities that increase graduation rates and beef up science, engineering, math and technology majors. He later estimated new state aid could total between $30 million and $100 million next year. He was vague about the source.

Ten seek five-at large seats on Rockingham County Board of Education

Mary Dolan

On the 11-seat Rockinghom County Board of Education five seats are at-large spots, meaning residents of any part of the county can seek to fill them. This year, 10 people, including three incumbents, have filed for those five seats.
The incumbents:
Lorie McKinney
What sets you apart/qualifies you?
I feel that having children in our school system makes a big difference on how you look at things. I have a child in middle school and a child in elementary school. Plus I have family members in our system that range from kindergarten through 12th grade. I work with the public and receive a lot of information across the county on what is happening in our schools. I will always put the best interest of our children first.
How would you deal with an ever-tightening budget?
The current school board, along with our superintendent, has been looking at this for two years now. We have only hired when we could, due to state funding and the increase in classroom size from fourth to 12th grade due to new state standards. We are looking at every possible thing we can to keep from letting people go.
What’s the No. 1 problem/priority in your mind for the schools right now?
Our budget; we can only hope and pray that our state does not take any more money from our schools.

Whither Michelle Rhee? Lessons Learned

National Journal

It came as no surprise to District of Columbia residents when Michelle Rhee announced her resignation this week as chancellor of D.C. Public Schools. That her resignation (and tenure) made national news illustrates the depth of the education debates that she sparked. She leaves as her legacy the mass firings of teachers rated as minimally effective, increased emphasis on charter schools, and expanded use of standardized tests. Unafraid to publicly speak her mind, she has been alternately applauded or scorned by educators, depending on their views and positions in the broader educational system.
For education policymakers, how significant is Rhee’s very public struggle with a major city’s public school system? Does it help or hurt the debate to have a face and a name attached to it? Can educators take policy cues from her experience, or are the lessons to be learned largely about politics?

Portland schools: Time to translate reforms into better student results

Carole Smith

It hasn’t been an easy week at Portland Public Schools. For the first time in nearly 30 years, the Portland School Board voted to close a high school campus. The school board also endorsed bringing needed changes to all our high schools, which will increase graduation rates, close the achievement gap and guarantee every Portland student a well-rounded education at any of our neighborhood schools.
This past week I heard from hundreds of people upset about the loss of their school. For me, proposing to close Marshall was a heart-wrenching decision, but a necessary one. A decade-long enrollment decline — driven by Portland’s changing demographics — has drained more than 2,500 students from our high schools. Coupled with a shrinking state investment in education, we simply do not have the dollars to provide a rich, well-rounded high school education to students on all our current campuses.

Higher percentage of Pr. George’s seniors taking – and passing – AP tests

Michael Birnbaum

The percentage of Prince George’s County high school seniors taking at least one Advanced Placement exam is rising, as is the percentage of those achieving passing grades.
For the Class of 2010, the percentage taking an AP test rose to 35 percent, up from 27 percent for the Class of 2009, according to data released by the school system. Of the tests they took, 26.3 percent received passing grades of 3, 4 or 5 in 2010, up from 24.6 percent in 2009.

Maury County schools to open Monday as budget impasse continues

Nicole Young:

Schools will be open in Maury County on Monday, but the system’s future is uncertain as the school board and county commission continue to disagree on a budget.
School Board Chairman Shay Daniels and Director of Schools Eddie Hickman met with the county mayor and chairman of the Maury County Commission for about two hours Friday afternoon to discuss options for the district, Daniels said.
“We knew the commission was meeting on Monday so it makes sense for schools to be in session that day,” Daniels said. “We hope the outcome of the commission meeting will allow us to use reserve fund money to balance our budget and move forward.”
The Monday meeting, scheduled for 9 a.m., will mark the fifth time the Maury County Commission has seen the schools budget. The school board has submitted three different budgets at past meetings. The current budget proposal has been shot down twice.