California can’t improve college completions without rethinking developmental education at its community colleges

California educates about one-quarter of all community college students in the nation, but large portions of community college students enter unprepared for college-level work. As a result, policy discussions in California and nationally are focusing increasingly on ways to improve student success in developmental or basic skills programs at community colleges.
State policymakers, community college system leaders, and local campus leaders and faculty all have a part to play in making this happen. Much of the work toward these objectives necessarily involves K-12 education as well.
This report sets out the issues involved, drawing heavily from a recent EdSource study that was commissioned by the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office to provide a deeper understanding of the system’s challenges and opportunities related to developmental education. It also highlights recent state policy actions and the broader context within which those actions were taken.

Teaching teachers: As educators struggle with the issue of teacher improvement, a program in Tennessee shows that struggling teachers can gain a lot from watching great teachers in action.

Emily Hanford

Teachers are at the center of the great debate over how to fix American education. We’re told the bad ones need to be fired; the good ones, rewarded. But what about the rest? Most teachers are in the middle — not terrible, but they could be better. If every student is going to have a good teacher, then the question of how to help teachers in the middle must be part of the debate.
One reason “teacher improvement” doesn’t get more attention is because researchers don’t know that much about how teachers get better. Typical professional development programs, in which teachers go to a workshop for a day or two, aren’t effective. Even programs that provide longer-term training don’t seem to work very well. Two experimental studies by the U.S. Department of Education showed that yearlong institutes to improve teacher knowledge and practice did not result in significantly better student test scores.

Madison Memorial High students get lesson in immigration

Pamela Cotant

When Memorial High School opened its doors last year for the immigration/migration project — which helped students learn about their backgrounds — officials were astonished when more than 400 people showed up.
So the school decided to do it again, and the recent open house for the event drew 677 people.
Besides the numbers and the interaction of the families at the night of the event, social studies teacher Kristin Voss likes the idea that students are sitting down to talk to family members and are learning something about their classmates as well.
The project has revealed “a handful of immigrants in classrooms” or the children of immigrants, Voss said.
The students discover information they never knew about family members, and a couple of students learned they had a common relative from the 1860s.

Santa Cruz Education Foundation hosts ‘Waiting for Superman’ screening, discussion

Kimberly White:

A packed audience watched failure after failure by generations of politicians, federal and state officials and public school teachers Saturday during a screening of “Waiting for Superman,” a documentary film that won the Audience Award for Best Documentary at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival.
The screening, hosted by the Santa Cruz Education Foundation at the Nickelodeon Theatre, was followed by a short discussion by local educators.
“It’s a powerful movie,” former Assemblyman John Laird said after film concluded. “The issues are more complex than in some ways they were represented in the movie, but I’m hoping that it focuses everybody on this issue and brings people together toward improvements.”

Students caught in middle of Monona Grove contract dispute


Monona Grove teachers receive the best post-retirement benefit package in Dane County, according to the Wisconsin Association of School Boards. Qualifying teachers may retire at 55 and receive district-covered health and dental insurance until age 70. They also receive a payout over three years based on their Social Security allowance.
Depending on projected health care costs, a 2009 retiree earning the maximum benefit would receive $281,000 to $421,000 in benefits, school boards association attorney Bob Butler said.
To retain those benefits over the years, the union has conceded short-term compensation increases, putting their salaries in the middle-to-bottom range compared with neighboring districts, Wollerman said. Gerlach said the healthy benefit package was put in place years ago to encourage retirements and attract new teachers.
The School District’s contentious proposal breaks teachers into three groups: those 10 years away from retirement, new hires and everyone in between. The first group wouldn’t be affected by the major changes. New teachers would receive $1,300 a year while employed toward a Health Reimbursement Account and no post-retirement payout. Teachers in the district that are more than 10 years from retirement would have their district health and dental benefits capped at retirement levels, lose coverage once eligible for Medicare and have their stipend capped at $50,000 total.

A Reformer Departs: Michelle Rhee

Paul Gigot:

Gigot: So you said when you resigned this week that for reform to continue, the reformer had to leave. With respect, that seems a bit contradictory. Why did you feel you had to go?
Rhee: Well, the new presumptive mayor-elect in Washington, D.C., Vincent Gray, and I decided that the best thing to do for the city would be for me to step aside, because we really want to make sure that the entire city now can embrace the reform efforts. And certainly for some members of the community, to have me continue to be associated with the reforms was not going to allow them to do that. I asked my deputy chancellor to step in in my place. I asked my entire management team to stay in place through the end of the school year. And to be honest, I mean, those folks are the brains and the talent behind the reforms, and so I feel like, by doing this, it would allow the reforms to continue on, and they could do it in a way where the entire city could get behind it.
Gigot: OK, when you came to see us a few months ago, you had said that one of the secrets of your success was the support you had had from Mayor Adrian Fenty–that when you got into trouble, he always backed you up. Do you think the new mayor is going to back up your successor?
Rhee: Well, I think he has to. His commitment is not to roll back the clock and to continue the reforms as aggressive as we’ve been doing them over the last 3½ years. And in order to do that, you have to give your unequivocal support. My deputy has been working with me since day one. She knows what the political support looks like to get this work accomplished, and I don’t think she’s going to settle for anything less.

Complex Wisconsin aid formula means some school districts get more, many get less

Amy Hetzner:

he majority of school districts in the Milwaukee area will get more money this school year from the state’s largest pot for education but not enough to make up for losses they suffered last school year, according to data released Friday.
Thirty-seven of the 50 school districts in Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Washington and Waukesha counties will receive less state general aid in 2010-’11 than they did in the 2008-’09 school year, information from the state Department of Public Instruction shows. For seven of those districts, aid fell by at least one-fifth over that two-year period.
“We’ve been hit pretty hard the last couple of years,” said Keith Marty, superintendent of the Menomonee Falls School District, where general aid from the state is expected to decline to $10.85 million for the current school year, about 27% less than what the school system received two years ago.
Under state-imposed revenue limits, school districts can make up aid losses by increasing their property tax levies. Some districts with large aid losses last year ended up with double-digit percentage levy increases to make up the difference. At least part of those increases can be offset by school levy credits that are sent to municipalities to help reduce residents’ overall tax bills.

2010 Wisconsin Charter School Awards

151K PDF, via a Laurel Cavalluzzo email:

On Friday night, October 15th at Discovery World in Milwaukee, The Wisconsin Charter Schools Association (WCSA) announced the winners of annual awards in four categories, as well as two career achievement honorees:
Charter School Teacher of the Year: First Place: Lyndee Belanger, Milwaukee Academy of Science (Milwaukee) Second Place: Jim Johnson, Elementary School for Arts and Academics (Sheboygan) Third Place: Sarah Brown, Veritas High School (Milwaukee)
Charter School Innovator of the Year: First Place: Marcia Spector, Exec. Director, Seeds of Health (Milwaukee) Second Place: Tedd Hamm, Coordinator of Educational Development, Director/Principal, Sheboygan Area School District Third Place: Parents of Highland Community School (Milwaukee)
Charter Schools of the Year:
First Place: Bruce Guadalupe (Milwaukee) Second Place: Seeds of Health Elementary School (Milwaukee) Third Place: Highlands Community School (Milwaukee)
The two Career Achievement Award went to: Jeff Nania, Executive Director of Wisconsin Waterfowl Association (Portage) Patricia Jones, Founder and former Director of The Brompton School (Kenosha)

High schoolers barred from college-level courses

Jay Matthews:

Each year when I ask high schools around the country to fill out the form for my annual America’s Best High Schools list, I try to add a question to illumine an issue on which there is little research. This was my extra question for 2010:
“May any student at your school enroll in AP American History or AP English Literature if they want to? (If not, we would like to know what qualifications they must have — a certain GPA? a teacher’s recommendation?)”
I just calculated the results. They suggest the widespread habit of restricting access to AP may be losing strength, although not fast enough to suit me or the AP teachers who have influenced me on this issue.
I am beginning to contact schools for the 2011 list. Any that haven’t heard from me by Thanksgiving and think they qualify — a school needs to have given as many AP, International Baccalaureate or Cambridge tests as it had graduating seniors — should e-mail me at

End our ‘multiuniversities’

David Warren:

Before leaving the topic of, “Education, Need to get government out of,” in my naive Sunday series on “What is to be done,” let me touch specifically on the topic of our universities.
I wrote, recently, a rather facetious piece on this topic for a Catholic website in the United States, in which I asked whether universities were ever a good idea, in the face of the modern assumption that such questions need never be asked. I alluded to evidence that, back in the 13th century, when Europe’s oldest universities were new, the same sort of nonsense prevailed on campus as today: kids suddenly “empowered” by freedom without adequate discipline; professors with a little too much tenure for anyone’s well-being.

Supt. Ackerman’s critique of the “Reform Manifesto”

Arlene Ackerman:

This was written by Philadelphia Schools Supt. Arlene Ackerman. She was one of 16 big-city school district chiefs who signed onto a reform “manifesto” published in the Washington Post this week that was long on rhetoric and short on substance. It was initiated by New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein and signed by D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, who has since resigned, and 14 others.
Yesterday Ackerman told me that she had not seen the final version of the manifesto — which views charter schools as a big answer to urban school failure, bashes teachers unions and supports market-driven “fixes” to schools — and though an aide gave permission for her name to be added to it, she does not agree with it. Here is her statement.
By Arlene Ackerman
Some may feverishly await the arrival of Superman to resolve the problems that overwhelm our public education system, while others prefer to enlist with the personality of the day or prescribe to the scripted agenda of the hour. However, my preference, which remains unchanged for the past 42 years, has been to tackle school reform through collaborative efforts, with the start and end goal of providing quality educational opportunities for all children who attend public schools. Period.

Liberal Arts, Post-Recession

Scott Jaschik:

Augustana College has never been a pure liberal arts institution.
The Illinois college has long had programs like education and business amid the traditional liberal arts disciplines. But those programs have been relatively few in number and, faculty members say, have never defined the institution’s ethos, which is solidly in the liberal arts tradition. The college is proud of its general education program, of its study abroad offerings, and of its emphasis on critical thinking and building of community, not just on job preparation.
Now, in the face of the economic downturn, the college is making some adjustments — which Steven C. Bahls, its president, calls the “post-recession strategic plan” for a liberal arts college. That means several new majors focused on pre-professional interests. With new majors, Bahls says the college may need, over time, to move away from a tradition (rare among American colleges) of paying faculty members equivalent salaries across disciplines; the plan also means symbolic and real steps to be sure that the college can attract diverse students, beyond its historic (and shrinking) base of Swedish Lutheran families.

Discipline rate of black students in Del., elsewhere is probed

Nichole Dobo:

The U.S. Department of Education’s office of civil rights is investigating whether black male students are punished disproportionately in the Christina School District in Wilmington and Newark, one of five districts nationwide under scrutiny for its discipline record.
Federal investigators are in the process of visiting all of Christina’s schools and have requested detailed discipline data for at least the last two academic years.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan first mentioned districts were being investigated at a conference in late September hosted by the Department of Education’s civil rights office and the Department of Justice’s civil rights division. Besides Delaware, the school districts under review are in New York, North Carolina, Utah and Minnesota.

The Topography Of Language

Mark Changizi:

Reading pervades every aspect of our daily lives, so much so that one would be hardpressed to find a room in a modern house without words written somewhere inside. Many of us now read more sentences in a day than we listen to. Not only are we highly competent readers, but our brains even appear to have regions devoted to recognizing words. A Martian just beginning to study us humans might be excused for concluding that we had evolved to read.
But, of course, we haven’t. Reading and writing is a recent human invention, going back only several thousand years, and much more recently for many parts of the world. We are reading using the eyes and brains of our illiterate ancestors. Why are we so good at such an unnatural act?

Teach for America infuses charter schools

Alan Borsuk:

A funny thing happened on the way to Teach for America trying to give Milwaukee Public Schools an infusion of idealism and energy from some of the best and brightest of America’s college graduates:
MPS ran out of jobs for them and for a lot of other young, promising teachers.
So instead, Teach for America’s Milwaukee work this year involves infusing itself mostly into charter schools and private schools in the publicly funded voucher program.
In the big picture, you can argue this doesn’t make much difference: The corps members, as TFA teachers are called, are still working with thousands of the city’s students who need good teachers.
In terms of the individual teachers involved, it doesn’t make too much difference either, at least in many ways. What they are doing is ultimately much the same: Giving at least their first two years out of college to teaching low-income kids. Whatever you call the schools they’re in, the work has similar demands, joys, frustrations and challenges.
But there are two ways it does make a difference.

What I Might Hope To See in High School Reform

Right now I am struggling to get my head around what the proposed high school reforms are or are not, what problems they are intended to address (TAG? achievement gap? readiness for life after high school? other?), the many interpretations of what is proposed, and whether the proposed reforms would be effective in achieving any of the stated purposes.
In an interesting twist, this process has brought me back to my own personal wish list of what I would like to see in comprehensive high school reform. I believe that any one of the items on the list would make a real difference and in ways that are compatible with DPI requirements and national standards.
My thinking is informed by sources that are predictable and others that may not be obvious but are equally important: personal observation, years of listening at parent meetings and testimony to the school board, numerous national studies and commentaries, and what I have learned from my highly skilled colleagues who work with undergraduate programs at UW-Madison.
In some ways, the debates over the proposed two-strand system, the fate of electives (which I want to keep), consistency across the four high schools, college preparation, national standards, etc., are less important to me than the basic expectations and requirements for the students who enter and graduate from our schools. Without changing those things, I believe that we will be confined to tinkering around the edges without touching some of the fundamental expectations that students will confront after graduation.
I believe that we could make a serious dent in the achievement gap, address long standing dissatisfaction with academic opportunities and challenges, and move toward rebuilding Madison’s reputation for schools that draw people to invest in homes in our metro area and neighborhoods by truly making the changes – vs. planning to study and eventually implement changes – to address the items that are on this list:
1. Increase opportunities for advanced study at all grade levels, whether it is part of an AP curriculum or other courses developed and taught at a higher level with or without special labels. Then remove the unmovable obstacles that keep students from participating.
2. Restore West’s 9th and 10th grade honors courses.
3. Conform MMSD policy and practice to meet or exceed DPI standards at all grade levels, and particularly in regard to graduation requirements.
4. Guaranty that ALL middle school math teachers are proficient in algebraic reasoning and other skills necessary to prepare students to master the high school math and science curriculum.
5. Teach students to write using complete sentences, correct spelling and standard grammatical conventions.
6. Make a compelling case for consistency and then truly implement consistency across the board if that is going to be a rationale for homogenizing the curriculum in our high schools.
For the entire post, go to:

The Backstory on the Madison West High Protest

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes:

IV. The Rollout of the Plan: The Plotlines Converge
I first heard indirectly about this new high school plan in the works sometime around the start of the school year in September. While the work on the development of the plan continued, the District’s responses to the various sides interested in the issue of accelerated classes for 9th and 10th grade students at West was pretty much put on hold.
This was frustrating for everyone. The West parents decided they had waited long enough for a definitive response from the District and filed a complaint with DPI, charging that the lack of 9th and 10th grade accelerated classes at West violated state educational standards. I imagine the teachers at West most interested in this issue were frustrated as well. An additional complication was that West’s Small Learning Communities grant coordinator, Heather Lott, moved from West to an administrative position in the Doyle building, which couldn’t have helped communication with the West teachers.
The administration finally decided they had developed the Dual Pathways plan sufficiently that they could share it publicly. (Individual School Board members were provided an opportunity to meet individually with Dan Nerad and Pam Nash for a preview of the plan before it was publicly announced, and most of us took advantage of the opportunity.) Last Wednesday, October 13, the administration presented the plan at a meeting of high school department chairs, and described it later in the day at a meeting of the TAG Advisory Committee. On the administration side, the sense was that those meetings went pretty well.
Then came Thursday, and the issue blew up at West. I don’t know how it happened, but some number of teachers were very upset about what they heard about the plan, and somehow or another they started telling students about how awful it was. I would like to learn of a reason why I shouldn’t think that this was appallingly unprofessional behavior on the part of whatever West teachers took it upon themselves to stir up their students on the basis of erroneous and inflammatory information, but I haven’t found such a reason yet.

Lots of related links:

School Board member Marj Passmon on the Proposed Madison High School Changes

via email:

It was the intention of the Administration to first introduce the plan to HS staff and administrators and get some input from them. If you read the Plan then you know that it never discusses anything relating to current electives or student options and, I, personally, would never vote for any plan that does.
Although I admire the students for their leadership and support of their school, both they and their teachers seem to have leaped to certain conclusions. I am not saying that this is a perfect plan and yes, there are elements that may need to be worked on but to immediately jump on it without asking any questions or presenting suggestions for improvement does not speak well of those who helped to spread rumors.
It is now up to MMSD Administrators to explain to the staff and students what this Plan is actually about and, perhaps then, the West Staff can have a more objective discussion with their classes.
Marjorie Passman
Madison Board of Education

Lots of related links:

Oppressive debt forces governments – and West Bend schools – to make tough choices

John Schmid:

After living beyond its means for decades and shifting its debt onto future generations, an entire society is seeing the bills come due earlier than expected. And Kelly Egan’s students are about to pay the price.
Egan teaches high achievers in math and reading, a job that barely survived budget cuts last year – but the reprieve was short-lived. At the end of this school year, the position is almost certain to disappear along with dozens more in West Bend, adding to the hundreds of thousands of public employees nationwide whose employment has been cut short by the meanest economic downturn since the 1930s.
“Parents ask, ‘What should we do with our children as the West Bend School District continues to cut and cut and cut programs,’ ” said Egan, a 20-year veteran who is likely to be reassigned to teach the regular curriculum.
For the first time since the Depression, virtually every strata of American government is caught in the same viselike squeeze: Cities, counties and states find themselves deep in debt and lacking rainy day reserves to tide them over in hard times. Even with federal stimulus funds, local governments are laying off police officers and teachers, closing firehouses and selling public assets. During the past two years, state and local governments nationwide have cut 242,000 jobs, and public schools have shed an additional 200,700, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.


Will Fitzhugh, via email:

The consensus among Edupundits is that teacher quality is the most important variable in student academic achievement.
I argue that the most important variable in student academic achievement is student academic work.
Edupundits have chosen very complex subject matter for their investigations and reports. They study and write about dropouts, vouchers, textbooks, teacher selection and training, school governance, budgets, curricula in all subjects, union contracts, school management issues, and many many more.
Meanwhile, practically all of them fail to give any attention to the basic purpose of schools, which is to have students do academic work. Almost none of them seems inclined to look past the teacher to see if the students are, for instance, reading any nonfiction books or writing any term papers.
Of course all of the things they do pay attention to are vitally important, but without student academic work they mean very little. Now, I realize there are state standards in math and reading, and some states test for writing after a fashion, but no state standards ask if students have read a history book while they were in school or written a substantial research paper, and neither do the SAT, ACT, or NAEP tests.

Using Financial Derivatives to Deflate the Higher Ed Bubble

Michael C. Macchiarola & Arun Abraham:

After the bursting of the housing bubble and the Great Recession that followed, there has been an increasing focus on improving market transparency and recognizing other potential bubbles. The higher education and student loan markets are under new levels of scrutiny because they display many of the hallmarks of a bubble. The American government’s model of freely extending federal loans to students, while improving lower- and middle-class access to higher education, has enabled the formation of detrimental distortions in the higher education market. At the same time, the soaring cost of higher education has saddled a generation of young Americans with unmanageable student loan debt. Evidence is beginning to mount that, for too many, their debt-financed higher education represents a stifling encumbrance instead of the great investment that society’s collective commonsense has long suggested.
This Article explores the factors that contribute to the distortions in the higher education market, including (1) the informational asymmetries that exist between the various parties to a typical debt-financed purchase of an education, (2) accreditation rules, (3) the peculiar incentives of school faculties, and (4) widely followed school rankings. Due to nuances between different segments of the higher education market, this Article focuses on one segment for the sake of brevity: law schools. However, the analysis and prescription have more general applicability to all segments of the higher education market.

Why Etiquette Schools Are Thriving

Teddy Wayne:

The fact is, today’s young professionals need to be told how to dress and act
A few summers ago, Google (GOOG) intern Gregory Duncan was receiving instruction at his workstation in the company’s New York office when a visitor swung by for a chat. Duncan remembers that his engineer-supervisor wasn’t very gracious about the social call. “Just a minute,” he hissed at the visitor, holding up an index finger in the universal signal for ‘I have way more important things to deal with.’ The visitor? Sergey Brin.
Civility in the workplace has been on the decline since Emily Post published her primer on the topic, Etiquette in Society, in Business, in Politics and at Home, in 1922. Even books about etiquette–like the current best-seller The No Asshole Rule–lack a certain polish. Yet as hoodie-wearing, emoticon-tweeting millennials graduate college and prepare for the workforce, the low point may just be arriving. In other words, it’s a great time to be a professional etiquette coach.

Where others fear to tread The decision by a Chinese business school to set up in Africa highlights Western schools’ reluctance to engage with the continent

The Economist:

FOR anyone seeking proof of the extent of China’s reach into Africa, this year’s graduation ceremony for executive MBA students at the partly state-run China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) in Shanghai would have been a good place to start. Alongside the predominantly Asian faces delightedly collecting their degrees were 30 Ghanaians and 12 Nigerians–the inaugural cohort on CEIBS’s Africa programme.
The programme, which kicked off in Accra, the capital of Ghana, in early 2009, is one of the first offered by a renowned international school in sub-Saharan Africa. Alongside the executives from both local and international companies were a smattering of governmental types, including a Ghanaian MP and a high court judge. Virtually all had met the programme’s $30,000 cost from their own pockets.
Although it currently only offers the part-time executive MBA in Ghana, which is taught mainly by Shanghai-based professors and uses rented premises, China’s largest business school has grand ambitions for Africa. It hopes to open a campus in Accra and to launch a full-time MBA. Pedro Nueno, CEIBS’s president and the Africa programme’s pioneer, calls Africa “the last big opportunity on the planet” for business schools.

K-12 Literacy Alignment Related to Equity

Superintendent Daniel Nerad:

As part of the curriculum review cycle to provide a systematic, ongoing method for the MMSD to update its curricular materials in each of the content areas, base line data is currently being acquired from each school, K-12in literacy. An additional goal ofthis review cycle is to provide all students with equitable access to research-and standards-based curricular materials and programs district wide.
Attached are matrixes that went to all schools seeking information about the Core Practices, Interventions, Assessments, and Resources in each ofthe buildings. Please note: these documents are a tool to gather information. It is NOT to evaluate buildings or individual teachers. Curriculum and Assessment will use the information provided to determine ways to better support the schools and more equitable ways.
This questionnaire is being distributed to the Instructional Resource Teachers at the elementary level, the Learning Coordinators at the middle level, and the Literacy Coaches at the high school leveL The intention is to gather information from a literacy expert who serves the entire school as the focus oftheirjob. We have also asked these staffmembers to confer with other literacy experts who work in their building: Read 180 teachers or six grade Literacy Coaches, for example. Once the information is shared with principals it will be returned day on Wednesday, October 27, 2010.
This gathering of information serves several initiatives within the strategic plan including better support the schools and more equitable ways.

Madison School District’s Proposed 5 Year Budget Planning Parameters

Superintendent Dan Nerad:

Attached you will find the PMAIClient Checklist completed for your consideration as the Administrations recommendation for the parameters that will make up the 5 year budget projection. The major areas and comments about those areas are as follows:
Projected %Salary Increase
These have been intentionally left blank, as the committee will need to have a conversation about how to handle these going forward. This section, along with the next section (Projected Benefits) comprise approximately 85% of the entire model projection. We will need to address the issue of how these line item projections could impact future negotiations with all employee groups.
Projected Benefits
We have worked with our Human Resources Department to provide the best possible projections at this point in time.
We have assumed an increase in WRS over the next 3 years of .6% and the assumed this would flatten out.
For Health Insurance, we have used a weighted average based upon the number of plans we have with each separate health plan, along with a projected increase for each plan.
General Fund Assumptions
Historically Administration has tied this increase to the annualized Consumer Pricing Index (CPI-U), which hovered around approximately 2%.
Currently through the month of August, 2010 the annualized CPI-U is at 1.1%. We are recommending that all consumable budgets be increased by 2% in order to allow schools and departments the ability to meet the increasing needs and price increases.
Utilities Assumptions
Administration has worked with Madison Gas and Electrict (MG&E), the City of Madison, and our independent natural gas consultant Select Energy to prepare the recommended rates of utility increase.

Related: Madison School District Chart of Accounts.

A comparison of Madison Schools Staff Education, Years of Experience and Turnover

Andreal Davis, Assistant Director of Equity & Family Involvement:

The Board of Education information requests from the August 9, 2010 Board meeting are listed in the attached document (Attachment A). The following are the information requests that have been addressed in the attached documents:
Staff age and experience – rationale and implications for these data. We do not have staff age by school yet, but we have staff experience by school.
Staff Experience by School – Elementary School (Attachment B-1)
Staff Experience by School – Middle School (Attachment B-2)
Staff Experience by School – High School (Attachment B-3)
Staff Experience by School – Other (Attachment B-4)
Average experience of teachers by school (Attachment C)
Teacher turnover by school and include all staff categories not just instructional and administrative; Le., custodial, clerical, technical. food service
September 30, 2010 Memo to Board of Education regarding Turnover Data (Attachment D-1) School Turnover Summary – Annual Report by Employee Group (Attachment D-2) School Turnover Summary – Annual Report by Location (Attachment D-3)
A final report will be completed by November 11 as part of a discussion at the regular Board of Education meeting on November 29.

On Outcomes: Community Colleges and Top Universities

Casey Brienza:

I am both delighted and honored to receive Dr. Hacker’s correspondence–as well as the generous message of thanks left publicly by co-author Claudia Dreifus in the comments of the post itself–and given the opportunity, I composed a reply to them which clarifies and expands my earlier comments. What follows is a slightly altered version of these additional thoughts.
Firstly, I did not mean to argue that because many less prestigious colleges provide a great undergraduate education that therefore prestigious places which employ graduate teaching assistants do not. The PhD students in the United States I’ve met are brilliant, enthusiastic, generous people, and I feel fortunate to know them. Their undergraduates are likewise fortunate. So while I believe it is accurate to suggest that undergraduate education in the Ivy League schools is no better than it is in many other (occasionally unlikely) places, on the other hand I would be hesitant to argue that it is necessarily worse. Obviously, you do not need a research superstar to teach Sociology 101 — nor do you need an instructor with thirty years of experience. Some of the most dedicated and effective teachers I’ve ever met are current PhD students.
Nevertheless, that fact does not justify the wholesale casualization of the academic workforce. My experience at Raritan Valley Community College was perhaps atypical. Like most community colleges, RVCC relies heavily upon poorly-paid adjuncts (some of whom are also graduate students in the region), but because I was taking upper-level courses as a student there I was fortunate to have taken classes taught primarily by full-time tenured and tenure-track faculty. I believe that this was an invaluable part of my experience. These professors provided not just expertise but also continuity to the educational experience. For students such as me, knowing that the professors would be there semester after semester, year after year, fosters attachment to the college and confidence in its mission. Thus the faculty was key to RVCC’s strength. A strong community requires social stability.

Browne review: Universities must set their own tuition fees

Jeevan Vasagar & Jessica Shepherd:

Universities should be allowed to decide what they charge students under a radical shakeup of higher education which would see the existing cap on tuition fees lifted.
A new system of financing universities will allow for a 10% increase in student places to meet rising demand for a degree-level education, the Browne review proposes.
Lord Browne, the former chief executive of BP, said universities that charged the highest fees would have to demonstrate they are widening access to students from poorer homes.
“There are a variety of things they can do in that area, including offering scholarships for living expenses,” he told the Guardian.
Graduates will start repaying the cost of their degrees when they start earning £21,000 a year, up from £15,000 under the current system, the review recommends.

An Update on Madison’s Proposed 4K Program

Superintendent Dan Nerad:

Purpose: The purpose of this Data Retreat is to provide all BOE members with an update on the progress of 4K planning and the work of subcommittees with a recommendation to start 4K September, 2011.
Research Providing four year old kindergarten (4K) may be the district’s next best tool to continue the trend of improving academic achievement for all students and continuing to close the achievement gap.
The quality of care and education that children receive in the early years of their lives is one of the most critical factors in their development. Empirical and anecdotal evidence clearly shows that nurturing environments with appropriate challenging activities have large and lasting effects on our children’s school success, ability to get along with others, and emotional health. Such evidence also indicates that inadequate early childhoOd care and education increases the danger that at-risk children will grow up with problem behaviors that can lead to later crime and violence.
The primary reason for the Madison Metropolitan School District’s implementation of four year old kindergarten (4K) is to better prepare all students for educational success. Similarly, the community and society as a whole receive many positive benefits when students are well prepared for learning at a young age. The Economic Promise of Investing in High-Quality Preschool: Using Early Education to Improve Economic Growth and the Fiscal Sustainability of States and the Nation by The Committee for Economic Development states the following about the importance of early learning.

Improving Financial Education in America

Michael Barr:

Empowering Americans to make good financial decisions for themselves and their families is necessary to building a financially stronger America. To meet this goal, we must improve Americans’ understanding of financial products and terms, expand financial access, and provide appropriate and robust consumer protection. President Obama is committed to building a country in which more families have the knowledge, skills, and financial access to make good financial choices and to establishing the consumer protections that enable and encourage them to do so.
As part of this commitment, President Obama issued an Executive Order establishing the President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability (“Council”) and appointed a highly qualified group of men and women from the private and non-profit sectors to advise him on these critical issues. The Council, which will work at the direction of Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, will advise the President on how to maximize the effectiveness of existing private and public sector financial education efforts and identify new approaches to increase financial capability for all Americans.
Making sure Americans have the information they need to make smart financial choices is a cornerstone of a number of Administration efforts. One of the central aspects of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which President Obama signed in to law on July 21, 2010, is the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, whose sole mission is to look out for American consumers and empower them with the clear and concise information they need to make the financial decisions that are best for them and their families. The Bureau will create a level playing field for all providers of consumer financial products and services, regardless of their charter or corporate form and will ensure high and uniform standards across the market. It will rein in misleading sales pitches and hidden traps, and foster competition on the basis of price and quality. In addition, it will help lead efforts to increase financial capability by establishing an Office of Financial Education.

AP component of MMSD high school plan is about access and equity, not “TAG”

One of the many pieces of the MMSD administration’s just-introduced high school proposal that has not been made clear is where the prominent AP component comes from. The answer is that it comes largely from a three-year federal grant, a $2.2 Advanced Placement Incentive Program grant that was awarded to the DPI in 2009.
As some of you surely know, there is currently a national trend (supported by significant grant dollars) to increase access to AP courses. The DPI’s “Blended Learning Innovations: Building a Pipeline for Equity and Access” is part of that trend.
The purpose of the grant is to close the race and SES based achievement gaps by increasing the number of AP courses in schools with high levels of poverty and by increasing the participation and success of poor and minority students in AP courses and testing. The MMSD is a partner in the grant.
Please note that both nationally (NAGC) and locally, AP has never been a focus of the “TAG” community. (On the contrary, those of us who worked on the MMSD TAG Plan advocated for consideration of an IB curriculum … which is what’s been proposed for the Madison Preparatory Academy.)
I imagine I am not the only one who would appreciate it if the District (and the press) would be clearer with the community about these points:
1) This high school proposal has been in the works for a long time. (Importantly, it has been in the works since well before the West DPI petition and complaint. The complaint may have sped up the rolling out of the plan, for better and worse, but it did not impact the content of the plan. As evidence, consider the second paragraph of the October 14 letter sent out to the West community: there is no mention whatsoever of 9th and 10th grade honors classes, which is the sole focus and request of the DPI complaint.)
2) The extent to which the DPI’s “equity and access” AP grant is driving the content of the MMSD’s high school proposal.

Poverty in the Suburbs: The poverty gap is closing between suburbs and inner cities

The Economist:

FOR more than half a century, Americans have fled the cities in their millions, heading away from crime and poverty towards better schools and safer neighbourhoods in the suburbs. Now poverty is catching up with them. According to two new reports from the Brookings Institution, over the past decade the number of poor people in the suburbs has jumped by a whopping 37.4% to 13.7m, compared with some 12.1m people below the poverty line in cities. Although poverty rates remain higher in the inner cities, the gap is narrowing.
Suburban areas largely escaped during earlier downturns, but not this time. Support groups say people are using safety-net programmes, such as food stamps or unemployment insurance, who have never applied for them before. They are often making tough choices. “It’s mortgage or food,” observes Paule Pachter of Long Island Cares, a non-profit group on Long Island, one of the first destinations to be populated by escapees from the city.

Protecting School Reform in D.C.

The New York TImes:

It was inevitable that Michelle Rhee, the District of Columbia’s hard-driving schools chancellor, would resign after her boss, Mayor Adrian Fenty, lost last month’s Democratic primary. It was no secret that Ms. Rhee had a strained relationship with Vincent Gray, the presumptive mayor and chairman of the City Council.
Still, Ms. Rhee’s departure is a loss for the nation’s capital. It has unsettled middle-class parents who valued the strong, reform-minded leadership that was setting Washington’s schools on the path back from failure. And it sent a tremor through the private foundations that provisionally committed nearly $80 million to support the school reforms that were started during Ms. Rhee’s tenure.
After Mr. Gray’s clashes with Ms. Rhee, it was good news that he said the right things after her resignation. He pledged to move ahead with the reform agenda, which has strengthened the city’s teacher corps, remade a patronage-ridden central bureaucracy and raised math and reading scores. He said he would keep Ms. Rhee’s senior staff on for the remainder of the school year and named her deputy and longtime associate, Kaya Henderson, the interim chancellor.

New York’s School Climate

Buffalo News:

They agree on the need for more charter schools and see a property tax cap as an important tool to rein in school spending.
They part ways on consolidating school districts and differ greatly on how to reform public education.
Yes, Andrew M. Cuomo and Carl P. Paladino disagree as much as they agree, but, in the eyes of educators, what’s more important is the candidates’ lack of attention to education as a campaign issue.
“It doesn’t seem a priority for either candidate,” said Grand Island Superintendent Robert W. Christmann, who also heads the State Council of School Superintendents. “It seems to be getting short shrift.”

Learning Tools: A Look Inside Austin Polytechnical Academy

Jim Kirk:

In 2005 Dan Swinney, chairman of the Chicago Manufacturing Renaissance Council, approached the Chicago Public Schools for help reviving manufacturing in Chicago. The result was Austin Polytechnical Academy, whose mission is to redefine vocational education in Chicago and beyond, and revive the city’s manufacturing industry by educating the next generation of advanced manufacturers–part engineer and part machinist. Through a diverse curriculum, Polytech aims to prepare students for college but also encourages them to pursue careers in advanced manufacturing that do not require a four-year degree.
This year the school will be graduating its first senior class and Chicago News Cooperative reporter Meribah Knight is following three students, Deandre Joyce, Stran’ja Burge and Marquiese Travae Booker, as they navigate the academic year and carve out their future. Facing a school record of poor academic performance and a community rife with violence, poverty and unemployment, these honor students are determined to stay on track and come out on top. Her first story will be posted on our Web site tonight.

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.

No Superman, nor much more waiting, for school choice

Kyle Wingfield

There are no superheroes coming to save the day for students in America’s failing schools, cautions the heart-wrenching new documentary, “Waiting for ‘Superman.’ ”
No superheroes, but students who want choices do face enemies. In fact, they — well, their lawyers — appeared before the state Supreme Court Tuesday.
I’m not talking about teachers unions, whom “Waiting” largely fingers as the obstacles to education reform. They are a huge impediment in some places but the situation’s different in Georgia, and in any case the problem is much broader than that. It covers all those in the education establishment who put preserving their fiefdoms above giving students their best chance at a good education.
And if that doesn’t sum up the school systems suing to overturn the law creating Georgia’s Charter School Commission, I don’t know what does.

Notes and Links on the Madison West High School Student Sit-in

Gayle Worland:

Sitting cross-legged on the ground or perched high on stone sculptures outside the school, about a quarter of West High’s 2,086 students staged a silent 37-minute sit-in Friday morning outside their building to protest a district proposal to revamp curriculum at the city’s high schools.
The plan, unveiled to Madison School District teachers and parents this week, would offer students in each high school the chance to pick from advanced or regular classes in the core subjects of math, science, English and social studies. Students in the regular classes could also do additional work for honors credit.
Designed to help the district comply with new national academic standards, the proposal comes in the wake of a complaint filed against the district by parents in the West attendance area arguing the district fails to offer adequate programs for “talented and gifted” ninth and 10th grade students at West. The complaint has prompted an audit by the state Department of Public Instruction.

Susan Troller:

Okay, everyone, remember to breathe, and don’t forget to read.
A draft copy of possible high school curriculum changes got what could be gently characterized as a turbulent response from staff and students at West High School. Within hours of the release of a proposal that would offer more advanced placement options in core level courses at local high schools, there was a furious reaction from staff and students at West, with rumors flying, petitions signed and social media organizing for a protest. All in all, the coordination and passion was pretty amazing and would have done a well-financed political campaign proud.
Wednesday and Thursday there was talk of a protest walk-out at West that generated interest from over 600 students. By Friday morning, the march had morphed into a silent sitdown on the school steps with what looked like 200 to 300 students at about 10:50 a.m. when I attended. There were also adult supporters on the street, a media presence and quite a few police cars, although the demonstration was quiet and respectful. (Somehow, I don’t think the students I saw walking towards the Regent Market or sitting, smoking, on a stone wall several blocks from school, were part of the protest).

TJ Mertz has more as does Lucy Mathiak.
Lots of related links:

Madison West Students To Protest Proposed School Changes, via a kind reader’s email:

Lots of related links:

NAS Unearths Censored Study on High School Research Papers

The National Association of Scholars (NAS) has published a long-buried study on the state of the history research paper in American high schools. The 2002 study sponsored by The Concord Review (TCR) went unpublished when its benefactor, the Albert Shanker Institute, found the results unflattering to high school teachers.
In commissioning the study, TCR founder Will Fitzhugh sought to find out why American high schools aren’t doing a better job of teaching students to write–specifically, why so few teachers assign major research papers. 95 percent of teachers surveyed believed that research papers are important, but 62 percent never assigned extended-length essays.
According to the report, the biggest barriers to teachers are time and class size. Most teachers said that grading papers took too much personal time, and that not enough time was provided for this in the school day. Teachers surveyed taught an average of 80 students each. Assigning a 20-page paper then means having 1,600 pages to grade. The Concord Review urged high schools to support teachers by providing more time for them to grade papers.
Fitzhugh considered what may be lost if most high school history teachers never assign a long research paper:

It may very well mean that a majority of our high school students never read a complete nonfiction book on any subject before they graduate. They may also miss the experience of knowing a fair amount about some important topic–more, for instance, than anyone else in their class. They may also miss a fundamental step in their preparation for demanding college work.

“This is an important study, even eight years later,” said Peter Wood, NAS president. “It sheds light on a problem that keeps getting worse and reverberates through college and employment. American high schools should take heed from this study to change their ways and make research paper-writing a priority.” In an introduction to the study, Wood wrote, “[NAS’s] interest in this is part of our broader goal of rebuilding the basis for genuine liberal arts education in the United States.”
The National Association of Scholars advocates for higher education reform. To learn more about NAS, visit

Meet the Malibu Board of Education Candidates

The Malibue Times

The Malibu Times sent a questionnaire to eight candidates running for four seats on the Board of Education for the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District. They were given the same time frame to respond and were limited to 150 words per answer.
There is a feeling by many in Malibu that this city is an afterthought for school district officials. Why does this sentiment exist? What can be done to change this feeling?
This feeling is understandable. Although Santa Monica and Malibu are part of a unified school district, the vast majority of district students and voters come from Santa Monica. All current school board members are from Santa Monica, the central office is in Santa Monica and our two cities are 15 miles apart. If I am elected, I will work hard to change the feeling that Malibu is an “afterthought” and to ensure that Malibu families are heard and feel an integral part of the district.
As a school board member, I will meet regularly with Malibu parents and staff to listen and learn, and address the specific concerns of Malibu schools. I will also develop opportunities for district-wide shared educational and social experiences. Whether we live in Santa Monica or Malibu, we all share the same aspirations for our children and our schools.

Learning to Deal with a Difficult Class

Ms. Socrates:

Overall, my second year as a teacher has been ten times easier than my first year — I am feeling confident and in control, even when I allow the students to take the wheel for a bit. It feels great! But there is one class that I’m still having trouble with.
My largest class happens to also contain about 15 of the most difficult students in the grade. While this means that my other classes are wonderful, devoid of any trouble-makers, this class reduced me to tears yesterday for the first time this year (although I would never actually cry in front of them, I saved it for later). Standing in that room, watching every single student talk without giving me a second thought, I felt like a newbie all over again. What if, I thought, this is how it’s always going to be.
Today, I got back out there and managed to get them somewhat under control. Here’s how.
1. I let my feelings out the night before.

How Handwriting Trains the Brain

Gwendolyn Bounds:

Ask preschooler Zane Pike to write his name or the alphabet, then watch this 4-year-old’s stubborn side kick in. He spurns practice at school and tosses aside workbooks at home. But Angie Pike, Zane’s mom, persists, believing that handwriting is a building block to learning.
She’s right. Using advanced tools such as magnetic resonance imaging, researchers are finding that writing by hand is more than just a way to communicate. The practice helps with learning letters and shapes, can improve idea composition and expression, and may aid fine motor-skill development.
It’s not just children who benefit. Adults studying new symbols, such as Chinese characters, might enhance recognition by writing the characters by hand, researchers say. Some physicians say handwriting could be a good cognitive exercise for baby boomers working to keep their minds sharp as they age.

Long Beach schoolchildren are a model for healthy eating

Mary MacVean

The mayor, a congresswoman, a county supervisor and U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius were on hand Tuesday for the unveiling of a new salad bar at Fremont Elementary School and to see the organic garden.
At least for one day, the students at Fremont Elementary School in Long Beach could be heard chanting, “Salad! Salad! Salad!” before lunch Tuesday.
Maybe it helped that they had an audience, including their principal, the Long Beach mayor, a congresswoman, a county supervisor and U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
And maybe it helps that teachers and food services staff, parents and a volunteer chef had all worked to put the salad bar in place and will help keep it going.

West Virginia Education audit scope concerns teacher group

Associated Press:

Gov. Joe Manchin is open to suggestions about an upcoming audit of public school spending.
That’s the response Thursday from spokesman Melvin Smith, after the West Virginia Education Association called for a wider scope to that review.
The teacher’s group wants other issues considered such as school bus travel times and special needs students.

Charter Schools: The Good Ones Aren’t Flukes

Andrew Rotherham:

Charter schools are all the rage these days. The public is increasingly smitten with them — in this year’s Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup education poll, 68% of respondents said they support charter schools, up from 42% in 2000 — but few people know what charters are. When the education journal Education Next asked Americans some basic questions this summer about charter schools, such as whether they can charge tuition or hold religious services, fewer than 1 in 5 respondents knew the correct answer (which was no in both cases). The confusion is so pervasive that more than half of the teachers surveyed couldn’t answer the questions correctly either.
Quick primer: Charters are public schools that generally operate independently of traditional school districts. Since 1992, they have grown in number from one in Minnesota to about 5,000 in 40 states and the District of Columbia. (Ten states don’t have laws allowing charter schools.) Collectively, they serve about 1.6 million students, and an estimated 420,000 kids are on various waiting lists to get into them. By law, when more students apply to a charter than there are seats available, the school has to hold a lottery to determine who gets in.

Madison West High’s (alcohol) test success: Attending dances there means submitting to random screening

Bill Lueders:

Tanya Lawler was taken aback. Her daughter, returning from West High’s homecoming dance on Sept. 25, mentioned that students were randomly selected to take a breath test as they arrived, to see if they’d been drinking.
While her daughter was not tested, Lawler considers this a “violation of Fourth Amendment rights” because officials lacked probable cause to suspect the people being tested. Her son attended La Follette’s homecoming dance, held the same night, and reported that no testing was done there.
In fact, West is the only high school in Madison that has a formal written policy (PDF) regarding student dances, and the only one that randomly tests students as they enter using “a passive alcohol detection device.” Students and a parent must sign a form agreeing to these rules.
Lawler, who doesn’t remember this form, advised her daughter to refuse this test. “I would rather forfeit the price of the ticket and have her call me. I’d say, ‘No, they’re not going to violate your rights.'”

Oklahoma education needs vibrant oil, natural gas sector

Mike McDonald

Approval of State Question 744 would be a debilitating blow to businesses and industry in Oklahoma.
With no dedicated funding mechanism to support an increase in education spending, state leaders would be forced to increase taxes and fees on businesses and industry working in Oklahoma in order to meet the estimated $1 billion in new spending needed to reach the regional average for common education funding. Doing so would hamper our state’s ability to grow existing business and recruit new companies and more jobs to our state.
At risk are long-standing tax provisions for the oil and natural gas industries that are designed to encourage investment in our state’s vibrant oil and natural gas fields. Losing those provisions, which are similar to tax provisions in place in neighboring states, would send Oklahoma drilling rigs and the jobs that support them into Texas, New Mexico, Colorado and Kansas — the same states SQ 744 wants to base our education spending on.

Philadelphia Free School aims for democratic education model

Liz Gormisky

Maddy Winters knows what she wants. Yes to ballet, no to soccer, yes to astronomy, and definitely yes to hanging out with the older crowd of third and fourth graders on her block.
Just 3 years old, she begged to go to school, but the local public school just won’t do for her parents, Mark Filippone and Marie Winters. In September, Maddy will be enrolled at the Philadelphia Free School, where she will continue to decide what she wants to do all day long.
The Free School, which plans to launch a pilot program in January in South Philadelphia for students ages 4 to 18, follows a democratic model of education, meaning no tests, no curriculum, no bells every 45 minutes, no separation into grades, and no teachers. The adults at the school will be called “staff” and be elected by the students each year. The students will also vote on the school’s budget and serve on a judicial committee that deliberates on misbehaving peers.

Michelle Rhee’s Last Battle

Dana Goldstein

The high-profile head of DC’s schools exits, leaving an uncertain legacy. Will her successor follow through on her reforms–or forfeit millions in federal funds?
As expected, D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee will announce Wednesday that she will step down after three years on the job.
Rhee’s tenure was defined by school closings, teacher dismissals, and incremental student test score gains in one of the poorest-performing and most racially segregated school districts in the nation. A Teach for America veteran who had never before run a school district, Rhee became a national spokesperson for aggressive school reform, unafraid to voice her disdain–often in the media–for teachers unions and for concepts such as cooperation and community buy-in.

Waiting For Superman director Davis Guggenheim

Nathan Rabin

Few documentaries have had as profound an impact as 2006’s An Inconvenient Truth. Davis Guggenheim’s film about Al Gore’s crusade to educate the public about global warming won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, helped Gore snag a Nobel Prize, and incited a culture-wide debate about the film’s subject.
Guggenheim has worked extensively in television and narrative films. He worked as a producer and director on Deadwood and helmed the pilot for the recent Melrose Place remake, in addition to directing films like Gossip and Gracie, a docudrama based on the teenage years of Guggenheim’s wife, actor Elisabeth Shue. But Guggenheim is best known as a muckraking documentarian whose ambitious, zeitgeist-capturing epics forthrightly address major social issues. Guggenheim has made headlines for his latest documentary, Waiting For Superman, an impassioned exploration of the failure of the American public-school system that has incited heated debate and attracted vitriolic attacks from teachers’ unions for its less-than-flattering depiction of them and its evangelizing on behalf of charter schools. The A.V. Club recently spoke with the idealistic filmmaker about making movies about quagmires, being hated on by teachers, and whether President Obama is a cactus.
The A.V. Club: What’s the relationship between your documentary about first-year teachers, The First Year, and Waiting For Superman?

The president of the Minneapolis NAACP branch objects to the superintendent’s call to close North High School.

Corey Mitchell:

The Minneapolis branch of the NAACP on Wednesday urged parents to consider pulling their children out of the Minneapolis School District in response to Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson’s recommendation to close North High School.
Citing multiple school closures on the city’s North Side and low test scores in those that remain, Minneapolis NAACP President Booker Hodges accused Johnson and school board members of failing to educate north Minneapolis’ children, most of whom are black.
Hodges issued a statement calling for parents “who value their children’s education or future [to] seriously consider other options for educating their children.”

More local high schools allowing use of cell phones by students

Gena Kittner:

Verona High School students have been given the green light to text on their cell phones, groove to songs on their mp3 players and update their Facebook pages while strolling between classes, eating lunch and hanging out before and after school.
The school is the latest in Dane County to relax the rules and allow students to use personal electronic devices outside of the classroom. They join an increasing number of area high schools, including Belleville, DeForest, McFarland, Middleton, Oregon Sun Prairie and Stoughton, that have adopted similar policies.
“If you need to get your mom to bring something to school from home you don’t have to hide in the bathroom (to make the call),” Maddie Hankard, a freshman at Verona High School, said in explaining the change.

Redefining School Reform

New Jersey Left Behind

Let’s start with something we can all agree with: some of NJ’s public schools are great and some stink. The worst schools are usually in the most impoverished urban areas. This disparity has remained unchanged through many different education commissioners and both Democratic and Republican administrations.
Another truism: we’ve recognized this fact for decades and have tried mightily to alleviate disparities through additional funding to impoverished districts. This has worked well in a few places and less well in many others.
And another: NJ is broke. We’re spending as much as (or more than) residents can bear for public education. Increased state funding in our neediest districts is not an option.
Let’s continue the truisms: New Jerseyans love their home rule. A Garden State school board and administration in a well-performing district is insular, circumscribed, a world unto itself. Our bulimic state government – scarfing down money and vomiting out regulations and mandates – merely increases a functional district’s isolation and lack of shared responsibility to poor kids outside its wrought iron gates.

Pursue more Madison school alternatives

Wisconsin State Journal:

We sure hope the Madison School District is serious about pursuing more charter and specialty schools.
Superintendent Dan Nerad told the State Journal editorial board on Tuesday he plans to appoint a committee next month to study alternatives to traditional schools.
Giving parents and students more options and innovations will help keep more middle class families in the Madison district. At the same time, charter schools and their spin-offs in Madison have catered to a higher percentage of low-income and minority students. So they’re not elitist.
Teaching students in new ways can boost student interest and effort while getting more parents involved in their children’s educations — a key ingredient for success. And if new approaches don’t work, they can be shut down.

Letter to Madison West High School Families, Staff and Students

Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad, Assistant Superintendent Pam Nash and West High Principal Ed Holmes, via a kind reader’s email:

October 14, 2010
West Families, West Students, and West Staff;
We are writing today to clarify the proposal for high school course offerings in the Madison Metropolitan School District. While discussion and questioning should be part of any change process, the discussion needs to center on factual information.
We have proposed that Advanced Placement offerings be increased in all of our high schools. We have also focused on making an embedded honors option available in 9th and 10th grade English and Social Studies next year and Math and Science the following year at all four high schools. We have also proposed increasing support to students who may not traditionally have participated in an honors or AP course so that rigorous opportunities can become part of every high school student’s transcript.
What we have NOT proposed is the elimination of any electives at any of the high schools. Our current high school offerings vary quite widely across the district and we are striving to make good things available across all attendance areas. Nothing in the proposal prohibits a dynamite elective course from being shared and adopted across the city, in fact, some consistency of elective offerings would be welcomed.
The two pathways are groupings of courses. They are NOT a way to group students. Student and family choice is wide open. We are also proposing a set of assessments that will start in middle school to help inform families, students, and teachers about skills that students have that are strong and skills that need to be supported and improved. Those assessments will be given every year and are meant to be used to inform students and families about student progress and growth and to allow students and families to make informed decisions about future courses.
Please understand that students will still have choices. If they chose not to take an Advanced Placement course and wish to take an elective instead, that option remains.
We regret that incomplete information was used to make students and families upset. The proposal had, and still has the word “draft” on it. We look forward to productive conversations with all of you about ways in which we can now move forward.

The Mess with Madison West (Updated)

TJ Mertz, via email:

[Update: I just got emailed this letter as West parent. Crisis communication is happening. Not much new here, but some clarity}

The first steps with the “High School Curricular Reform, Dual Pathways to Post-Secondary Success” are a mess, a big mess of the administration’s own making.

Before I delve into the mess and the proposal, I think it is important to say that despite huge and inexcusable problems with the process, many unanswered questions and some real things of concern; there are some good things in the proposal. One part near the heart of the plan in particular is something I’ve been pushing for years: open access to advanced classes and programs with supports. In the language of the proposal:

Pathways open to all students. Students are originally identified by Advanced Placement requirements and other suggested guidelines such as EXPLORE /PLAN scores, GPA, past MS/HS performance and MS/HS Recommendation. however, all students would be able to enroll. Students not meeting suggested guidelines but wanting to enroll would receive additional supports (tutoring, skill development classes, AVID, etc.) to ensure success. (emphasis added and I would like to see it added in the implementation).

Right now there are great and at times irrational barriers in place. These need to go. I hope this does not get lost as the mess is cleaned up.

This is in four sections: The Mess; What Next?; The Plan: Unanswered Questions and Causes for Concern; and Final Thought.

Lots of related links:

What’s a 4-Year-Old Doing in Kindergarten?

Tamara Fisher

arent of an early-entrance child: We live in a town where many parents, school board members, and teachers hold their kids back a grade in school so they can excel in sports. When such a choice appears to be an accepted norm, accelerating a young boy into school goes against the local culture. Some parents and teachers have tried to politely ask me if I’ve considered the implications of my son “always being the youngest.” At first, I felt like I had to defend my son and our decision to them. Now, I simply state that “parents try to do what they feel is best for their child. We looked at the research and our child’s readiness and made the decision. He’s thriving in school and sports, too.” If the well-meaning continue to inquire, I share my unique sports perspective: I went to college on a sports scholarship. Were sports important to me? Yes. However, being challenged in school to be a whole person was – and is – more important.
Early entrance to Kindergarten is one excellent option for some highly advanced children. It is the process by which a child enters Kindergarten earlier than he or she otherwise would have according to school or state decreed “cut-off dates.” In Montana, our magical date is September 10th. If the child is five years old on or before September 10th of that year, he gets to go to Kindergarten. If he turns five on September 11th or later, he goes the next year.
To some degree, yes, this system creates a tidy little package whereby decisions are made without, frankly, much thought put into them. It’s cut and dried and easy – and it works for the majority of kids. But readers of this blog know that when one was born does not necessarily determine what one is ready and able to learn. Enter Early Entrance.

U.S., China online education firms to merge

Online education companies Eleutian Technology and Idapted Ltd said on Wednesday that they will merge, bringing together the U.S. and Chinese companies in the fast-growing $100 billion market for online English instruction.
Backers of the new company, which will retain Eleutian’s name, include Cheyenne Capital and Gobi Partners, as well as former Kleiner, Perkins partner Russell Siegelman and Xu Xiaoping, co-founder of New York-listed Chinese education company New Oriental Education & Technology Group Inc (EDU.N), Eleutian said in a statement.
The terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Under the merger, Kent Holiday will remain as president and CEO, while Idapted Cjief Executive Adrian Li will become general manager for China.

Investing in Young Children: New Directions in Federal Preschool and Early Childhood Policy

Ron Haskins & W. Steven Barnett

The introduction of this volume details government spending on three early childhood programs – Early Head Start, Head Start, and home-visiting programs. Co-editors Ron Haskins and Steve Barnett also review enrollment in each type of program, review the contrasting papers presented on each program, and recommend policies designed to increase the returns on investment produced by these early childhood programs.

Washington, D.C. shows its maverick schools chancellor the door.

The Wall Street Journal

Michelle Rhee described her decision yesterday to step down as Washington, D.C., schools chancellor after 3½ years as “heartbreaking.” We share the sentiment. That one of the nation’s most talented school reformers was forced out does not bode well for students, or speak well of the man likely to become D.C.’s next mayor.
Ms. Rhee’s patron was Mayor Adrian Fenty, who lost his bid for a second term to City Council Chairman Vincent Gray in a Democratic primary last month. In Washington, the Democratic primary winner is presumed to be the next mayor, and few believed that Mr. Gray would retain Ms. Rhee’s services, especially since the teacher unions spent more than $1 million to elect Mr. Gray so that he would replace the chancellor.
The Washington Post reports that Ms. Rhee’s resignation “won immediate support from the Washington Teachers’ Union,” a strong signal that her departure is a victory for the adults who run public education, not the kids in failing schools. Ms. Rhee’s tenure was marked by improved test scores and putting the interests of students first. She closed underperforming schools, fired bad instructors, supported school vouchers for low-income families and opened charter schools. She also negotiated a new teachers contract that included merit pay and has become a model for other reform-minded educators and politicians in urban districts across the country.

An academic question

Jean Seaton:

We once cherished our universities–but now feel that there are too many of them and they hand out worthless degrees. Why have our highest seats of learning become so unloved?
The streets of London will soon be bustling with architecture students starting their first year at UCL’s Bartlett faculty. Armed with illuminating quotations from great authorities they will inspect, for example, the Nelson staircase at Somerset House, marvel at its elegant, soaring wit, discover for themselves its moral purpose, and never take staircases for granted again. At the same time, University of Westminster architecture undergraduates will seethe under and over the city, mapping where global warming will flood it and creating apocalyptic, realistic flood defences. Last year a similar project won every prize going. The head of the English department at Roehampton, Jenny Hartley, (the author of a highly praised book on Dickens’s house for fallen women) will organise reading groups in prisons. War studies students at King’s College, London will spend their second year gaming every battle in the second world war from both sides to see if they can get them to come out differently, while history undergraduates at Queen Mary prepare questions to put to the cabinet secretary when they meet him. The dentistry department at King’s has invented an online course that is managed in the developing world by students and teachers–and is changing the subject. Meanwhile, politics undergraduates at Hull prepare for placements with local politicians.

A New National Report Highlights the Unfair Distribution of School Aid in Many States

Bruce Baker, David Sciarra, Danielle Farrie

Are school finance systems in the 50 states fair? Simply comparing overall funding levels won’t answer that question, according to a groundbreaking report released today.
“Is School Funding Fair? A National Report Card” posits that fairness depends not only on a sufficient level of funding for all students, but also the provision of additional resources to districts where there are more students with greater needs.
The National Report Card rates the 50 states on the basis of four separate, but interrelated, “fairness indicators” – funding level, funding distribution, state fiscal effort, and public school coverage. Using a more thorough statistical analysis, the report provides the most in-depth analysis to date of state education finance systems and school funding fairness across the nation.

Without Assessment, Great Teaching Stays Secret

Kevin Carey:

A few weeks ago, I spent a day at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County. The first thing you see on the drive into the campus is a six-foot-tall sign, stuck in the grassy median of the entrance road, that says, “WE’RE NUMBER 1” and “Top Up-and-Coming National University AGAIN!” It sets a tone: UMBC is on the move. How far it will be allowed to go is less certain.
The No. 1 designation was courtesy of U.S. News & World Report, which conducts an “up and coming” survey along with its regular annual ranking of which colleges are sitting atop the biggest piles of money and fame. The campus itself is fairly standard, with clusters of dorms encircling a compact group of grassy lawns and academic buildings. Throngs of students were out that day, lounging in the kind of late-summer sunlight that keeps brochure photographers in business. Everyone was fiddling with cellphones, and there was nowhere to park.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Global Debt Clock

The Economist

The clock is ticking. Every second, it seems, someone in the world takes on more debt. The idea of a debt clock for an individual nation is familiar to anyone who has been to Times Square in New York, where the American public shortfall is revealed. Our clock shows the global figure for all (or almost all) government debts in dollar terms.
Does it matter? After all, world governments owe the money to their own citizens, not to the Martians. But the rising total is important for two reasons. First, when debt rises faster than economic output (as it has been doing in recent years), higher government debt implies more state interference in the economy and higher taxes in the future. Second, debt must be rolled over at regular intervals. This creates a recurring popularity test for individual governments, rather as reality TV show contestants face a public phone vote every week. Fail that vote, as the Greek government did in early 2010, and the country can be plunged into imminent crisis. So the higher the global government debt total, the greater the risk of fiscal crisis, and the bigger the economic impact such crises will have.

Wyoming Education candidates debate over teachers

Michelle Dynes:

Candidates for superintendent discussed charter schools and bad teachers at a candidate forum.
LARAMIE — Candidates for state superintendent discussed how they’d address standardized testing and bad teachers during a debate Tuesday at the University of Wyoming.
Former Cheyenne junior high assistant principal and Republican candidate Cindy Hill said Wyoming teachers need measures they can trust and academic leaders. State Senator and Democratic candidate Mike Massie said he believes that struggling teachers should get a year’s worth of additional training and mentoring to get back on track. And if the plan isn’t working, teachers should be fired no matter how long they’ve previously held their position.

Education, local control and taxes

Richard Sibley Lenfest

Anytime the Maine media rains terms such as “taxes,” “economy,” “business climate” and “jobs,” among others, upon the voters and taxpayers of Maine, Libby Mitchell runs for cover under her education umbrella. The fact, and it is fact, is that Maine is already among the nation’s leaders in education spending.
Maine’s population of approximately 1.5 million residents, like that of neighboring New Hampshire, is among the smallest in the nation, yet Maine’s education spending ranks among the highest, ahead of many much larger states, and in the vicinity of the top 20 to 25 percent. Exact position may change incrementally from year to year; nevertheless, Maine is right up there. Do not take my word; go online, visit the Web and check it out yourself.
Maine’s economy is just about non-existent. Five years ago, after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the states of Louisiana and Mississippi, it was Maine that had the worst economy in the U.S. During the 2010 primary season, the figure that was popular and which met no argument from any other politician was that Maine had gained just 65 jobs in the past decade.
Yes, the Maine economy is shedding jobs as fast as it is creating them. While the Maine economy may be somewhat better off at this time, it is in no position to foot Libby’s brand of education spending.

West: TAG Complaint and Proposed High School Redesign Create Perfect Storm

The parent complaint to DPI over MMSD’s failure to comply with WI laws on Talented and Gifted education have combined with administration’s recent proposal to create more consistency across the four major high schools, to create a perfect storm of controversy at Madison West. Within the past 24 hours, allegations that the proposal eliminates all electives have spawned a number of calls and e-mails to the Board of Education, a FB page (Walk-out Against MMSD School Reform) promoting a student walk out on Friday, and a YouTube video created to protest the elimination of electives.
As a board member, I have a somewhat different take largely because I know that allegations that the proposal to standardize core high school curriculum is not a product of the DPI complaint. Anyone who has watched MMSD operate, would probably agree that nothing is put together that quickly (the complaint is less than a month old), especially when it involves a proposal.
I also just received the proposal a day or so ago. In full disclosure, I did not take advantage of the briefings conducted for board members who met with the superintendent and assistant superintendent individually or in pairs. I’m a certifiable pain in the neck and thought that any presentations should be made to the board as a whole in an open board or committee meeting, but that is just my issue.) I am just beginning to read and think through what is being proposed, so have no firm opinion yet.
More at

Uproar at West High over Madison School District’s Curricular Reform Proposal

Lorie Raihala:

There’s been a great deal of misinformation and angry speculation flying around West High regarding the District’s High School Curricular Reform proposal.
On Tuesday, District administrators unveiled their plan for high school curricular reform at meeting with nearly 200 educators from all four high schools. Several parents attended the subsequent TAG Advisory Committee meeting, during which they also revealed an overview of the plan to this group.
I attended the TAG Advisory meeting. As I understand it, this plan involves increasing the number of accelerated and AP courses and expanding access to these options.
When teachers at West got news of this plan, many were enraged at not being included in its development. Further, many concluded that the District plans to replace West’s electives with AP courses. They’ve expressed their concerns to students in their classes, and kids are riled up. Students plan to stage a walk-out on Friday, during which they will walk down to the Doyle Building and deliver a petition to Superintendent Nerad protesting the proposed reforms.

Lots of related links:

$12 an Hour for Teachers, $1.7 Million a Year for the Teachers’ Boss: Your Property Tax Dollars at Work in McFarland

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes

We received the Open Enrollment numbers for this year and they provide much grist for thought. My first reaction is prompted by the fact that 158 MMSD students have open enrolled in the McFarland School District. 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.
Since last year, McFarland has operated a virtual school. This year, according to Gayle Worland’s article in last Sunday’s State Journal, the virtual school has enrolled 813 students, and a grand total of 5 of them live in McFarland.
Actually, it is overly generous to say that McFarland “operates” the virtual school, known as Wisconsin Virtual Academy. More accurately, McFarland has contracted with a publicly-traded corporation, K12, Inc., to operate the charter school, through another organization called Four Lakes Education.

Lauded Harlem Schools Have Their Own Problems

Sharon Otterman

President Obama created a grant program to copy his block-by-block approach to ending poverty. The British government praised his charter schools as a model. And a new documentary opening across the country revolves around him: Geoffrey Canada, the magnetic Harlem Children’s Zone leader with strong ideas about how American education should be fixed.
Last week, Mr. Canada was in Birmingham, England, addressing Prime Minister David Cameron and members of his Conservative Party about improving schools.
But back home and out of the spotlight, Mr. Canada and his charter schools have struggled with the same difficulties faced by other urban schools, even as they outspend them. After a rocky start several years ago typical of many new schools, Mr. Canada’s two charter schools, featured as unqualified successes in “Waiting for ‘Superman,’ ” the new documentary, again hit choppy waters this summer, when New York State made its exams harder to pass.
A drop-off occurred, in spite of private donations that keep class sizes small, allow for an extended school day and an 11-month school year, and offer students incentives for good performance like trips to the Galápagos Islands or Disney World.
The parent organization of the schools, the Harlem Children’s Zone, enjoys substantial largess, much of it from Wall Street. While its cradle-to-college approach, which seeks to break the cycle of poverty for all 10,000 children in a 97-block zone of Harlem, may be breathtaking in scope, the jury is still out on its overall impact. And its cost — around $16,000 per student in the classroom each year, as well as thousands of dollars in out-of-class spending — has raised questions about its utility as a nationwide model.

$16,000 per student is close to Madison’s roughly $15K / student annual spending.

Brave Thinkers: Deborah Gist

Rachael Brown

In your first year as the commissioner of education in Rhode Island, you earned headlines for backing a plan to fire all the high-school teachers in the poorly performing district of Central Falls. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and even President Obama chimed in with support. Did the attention surprise you?
I think that just the visual for people was noticeable, and I think what exactly was happening was misunderstood. I think people seemed to feel that teachers were being blamed for the performance of the school, which was not the way we understood what was happening.
Perhaps overshadowed by the Central Falls controversy, you’ve put forth a dramatic reform agenda aimed at improving teacher quality. To help, you created a new evaluation system that requires an annual review of all teachers.
I think most professionals would be surprised to know [that annual reviews] weren’t already in place. Professionalism is about being respected for the work that you do, being acknowledged for the work that you do, and being accountable for the work that you do. I meet teachers in our state all the time who are more than ready to be held accountable for their work and are very proud of the results that they’re able to see with their students.
What’s gotten the most attention is that evaluations will be primarily based on measures of student growth and achievement.

Why aren’t our teachers the best and the brightest?

Paul Kihn & Matt Miller

Why don’t more of our smartest, most accomplished college graduates want to become teachers?
People trying to improve education in this country have been talking a lot lately about boosting “teacher effectiveness.” But nearly all such efforts focus on the teachers who are already in the classroom, instead of seeking to change the caliber of the people who enter teaching in the first place.
Three of the top-performing school systems in the world — those in Finland, Singapore and South Korea — take a different approach, recruiting 100 percent of their teachers from the top third of their high school and college students. Simply put, they don’t take middling students and make them teachers. They tap their best people for the job.
Of course, academic achievement isn’t the whole story in these countries. They screen would-be teachers for other important qualities, and they invest heavily in training teachers and in retaining them for their entire careers. But scholastic prowess comes first: You don’t get through the classroom door in Finland, Singapore or South Korea without having distinguished yourself academically. In the United States, by contrast, only 23 percent of new teachers scored among the top third of SAT and ACT test-takers back in high school. In high-poverty schools, that figure is just 14 percent.

Too Young for School, but Ready for Irony

Nicholas Bakalar:

When a 12-year-old’s mother asks him “How many times do I have to tell you to stop?” he will understand that the answer, if any is required, had better not include a number.
But that insight requires a sophisticated understanding of ironic language that develops long after fluent speech. At what age do children begin to sense the meaning of such a question, and to what degree can they respond appropriately to other kinds of irony?
In laboratory research on the subject, children demonstrate almost no comprehension of ironic speech before they are 6 years old, and little before they are 10 or 11. When asked, younger children generally interpret rhetorical questions as literal, deliberate exaggeration as a mistake and sarcasm as a lie.

How To Fix Our Schools? Really?

Judy Molland

How to fix our schools” is the title of a manifesto published on Sunday, October 10, in The Washington Post by Joel Klein, chancellor of the New York City Department of Education, Michelle Rhee, chancellor of the District of Columbia Public Schools, and fourteen other school superintendents across the country.
The Future Of Our Children
The piece starts off well enough:
“It’s time for all of the adults – superintendents, educators, elected officials, labor unions and parents alike – to start acting like we are responsible for the future of our children. Because right now, across the country, kids are stuck in failing schools, just waiting for us to do something.”
Who can disagree with that? The writers continue: “As President Obama has emphasized, the single most important factor determining whether students succeed in school is not the color of their skin or their zip code or even their parents’ income – it is the quality of their teacher.”

Maine Governors 2010: On education

Steve Mistler

When Gov. John Baldacci last year cut $38 million in local education aid to help with a $400 million state budget shortfall, local school districts took it on the chin.
The move forced school districts to consider staff layoffs and program reductions. Later, with less state aid expected and the threat of another cut looming in fiscal year 2011, school districts were forced to consider more layoffs, reduced programing or both.
Education funding was spared in Baldacci’s latest budget adjustment, but the governor warned that the budget he will recommend to the next governor will be well short of the education funding required by state law.
Currently, the state funds just over 42 percent. State law mandates 55 percent, although it hasn’t met the requirement since the law was enacted in 2004. About half of the state’s biennial $5.5 billion budget goes to education.

Parents Turn to iPad for Speech Therapy


The rise of mainstream tablet computers is proving to have unforeseen benefits for children with speech and communication problems–and such use has the potential to disrupt a business where specialized devices can cost thousands of dollars.
Before she got an iPad at age two, Caleigh Gray couldn’t respond to yes-or-no questions. Now Caleigh, who has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy, uses a $190 software application that speaks the words associated with pictures she touches on Apple Inc.’s device.
“We’re not having to fight to prove to people that she is a smart little girl anymore, because it’s there once they see her using the iPad,” said Caleigh’s mother, Holly Gray, who said her daughter can use the tablet to identify colors or ask to go outside.

iOS speech and translation tools are quite remarkable.

Oprah Winfrey says she’s disappointed by school abuse case verdict


Talk show host Oprah Winfrey on Monday said she was not satisfied with the acquittal of a woman accused of abusing students at the her South African girls school.
Tiny Virginia Makopo, 30, was found not guilty of allegations that she improperly touched several teenage girls when she was a matron at the campus near Johannesburg soon after it opened in 2007, the South African Press Association reported Monday.
“We began this child molestation trial in July 2008,” Winfrey said in a written statement. “More than two years later, I am profoundly disappointed at the outcome of the trial.”
Winfrey — who has spoken publicly about abuse she suffered as a child — became personally involved in the abuse investigation after a student reported the alleged abuse in October 2007.

Farm to School Week will promote N.J. agriculture

New Jersey Sunbeam

Legislation co-sponsored by Deputy Assembly Speaker John Burzichelli would declare the last week of September as “Jersey Fresh Farm to School Week” to promote the importance of supporting New Jersey’s agricultural business and the value of healthy eating for children.
“Our state is bursting with locally grown produce, from blueberries, cranberries, peaches, to tomatoes, New Jersey grows it,” said Burzichelli, D-3rd Dist.
“Teaching children about the importance of Jersey Fresh produce can help them understand what farming is about and that fresh vegetables are good for them and their health.”
The legislation calls on the New Jersey Department of Agriculture to design a bidding guide that allows for school purchases of locally-grown food and would establish a website to provide information for farmers, distributors, and schools to create purchasing networks.

Ohio Online Charter Schools Draw More Students

The Associated Press

As more students choose web-based learning for reasons that can include bullying or health issues, enrollment at the state’s publicly funded online charter schools has risen by nearly half within five years, according to data from the Ohio Department of Education.
Department figures show that the state’s 27 free e-schools had more than 29,000 students taking classes by computer during the last school year, up from about 20,000 in 2005. The enrollment numbers were first reported Monday by The Columbus Dispatch, which also noted that the increase came during a period when no new online charters opened in Ohio. The state imposed a moratorium before the 2005-06 school year.
The e-charters are drawing more students because they fill a need and provide families with options, school officials and parents said.
Online schools can be attractive to students who feel they’re being bullied at a traditional school and need a refuge, said Nick Wilson, a spokesman for the Columbus-based Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow. ECOT is the state’s oldest and largest Internet charter school.

Technology = Salvation

Holman Jenkins, Jr.

The housing bubble blew up so catastrophically because science and technology let us down. It blew up because our technocratic elite told us to expect an ever-wealthier future, and science hasn’t delivered. Except for computers and the Internet, the idea that we’re experiencing rapid technological progress is a myth.
Such is the claim of Peter Thiel, who has either blundered into enough money that his crackpot ideas are taken seriously, or who is actually on to something. A cofounder of PayPal and an early investor in Facebook (his stake was recently reported to be around 3%), Mr. Thiel is the unofficial leader of a group known as the “PayPal mafia,” perhaps the most fecund informal network of entrepreneurs in the world, behind companies as diverse as Tesla (electric cars) and YouTube.
Mr. Thiel, whose family moved from Germany when he was a toddler, studied at Stanford and became a securities lawyer. After PayPal, he imparted a second twist to his career by launching a global macro hedge fund, Clarium Capital. He now matches wits with some of the great macro investors, such as George Soros and Stanley Druckenmiller, by betting on the direction of world markets.
Those two realms of investing–narrow technology and broad macro–are behind his singular diagnosis of our economic crisis. “All sorts of things are possible in a world where you have massive progress in technology and related gains in productivity,” he says. “In a world where wealth is growing, you can get away with printing money. Doubling the debt over the next 20 years is not a problem.”

How Come? A Look at School Administrator Governance

Charlie Mas

If Education Reformers, like our own Superintendent Dr. Maria Goodloe-Johnson, believe that the most critical step we can take to improve our schools and improve outcomes for students is to identify and dismiss all of the bad teachers, then why don’t we see them making a real effort to do that?
Why don’t we see our superintendent speaking to principals regularly and emphatically about following the process to dismiss all of the teachers in their schools that everyone knows are ineffective? If this is so important then why isn’t the superintendent following up with principals about how they are following up on the process to dismiss poor performing teachers? Why don’t we hear about all of the pressure she is putting on principals to cull the staff?
Hey, if this were the primary determinant of student performance – as they claim to believe – then they need to start treating it that way. Even if it takes two years to dismiss a poor performing teacher, I would expect them all to be gone after three years – certainly after four. Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson has had three years and is now in her fourth. Why do we still have this problem – if not for her failure to address it?

Grading School Choice

Ross Douthat

In this fall’s must-see documentary, “Waiting for ‘Superman,’ ” Davis Guggenheim offers a critique of America’s public school bureaucracy that’s manipulative, simplistic and more than a little bit utopian.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Guggenheim’s cause, the plight of children trapped in failing schools with lousy, union-protected teachers, is important enough to make his overzealousness forgivable. And his prescription — more accountability for teachers and bureaucrats, and more choices for parents and kids — deserves all the support his film promises to win for it.
But if propaganda has its virtues, it also has its limits. Guggenheim’s movie, which follows five families through the brutal charter school lotteries that determine whether their kids will escape from public “dropout factories,” stirs an entirely justified outrage at the system’s unfairnesses and cruelties. This outrage needs to be supplemented, though, with a dose of realism about what education reformers can reasonably hope to accomplish, and what real choice and competition would ultimately involve.

Madison school district to consider alternatives to traditional public schools

Gayle Worland, via a kind reader’s email:

The Madison School District will explore creating more charter schools, magnet schools, and schools-within-schools — in part to help keep middle-class families in the district.
Superintendent Dan Nerad said Tuesday he plans to appoint a committee next month to study alternatives to the traditional public school.
The group will include district staff as well as members from the community and will work on the project for about a year, Nerad said Tuesday in a meeting with the State Journal editorial board.
“I don’t know what they’ll come back with, but it’s something that I think is certainly worth investigating, and worth discussion,” School Board member Arlene Silveira said of the committee. “It’s kind of exciting — there’s so many ways to deliver education now.”


220K Draft copy of the Madison School District’s “High School Curricular Reform”.
Promising. We’ll see how it plays out.

Michelle Rhee to announce resignation as D.C. schools chancellor on Wednesday

Tim Craig & Bill Turque

D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee will announce Wednesday that she is resigning at the end of this month, bringing an abrupt end to a tenure that drew national acclaim but that also became a central issue in an election that sent her patron, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, to defeat.
Rhee survived three contentious years that made her a superstar of the education reform movement and one of the longest-serving school leaders in the city in two decades. Student test scores rose, and the teachers union accepted a contract that gave the chancellor sweeping powers to fire the lowest-performing among them.
But Rhee will leave with considerable unfinished business in her quest to improve teaching, close the worst schools and infuse a culture of excellence in a system that has been one of the nation’s least effective at educating students.

I Teach (Not)

Rosalie Arcala Hall

The academic calendar is symbolic of how an institution values time. It pegs the community to set dates like enrollment and graduations; exam periods and study periods; and holidays and vacations. In my university’s case, what is not contained in the calendar is more instructive than what it actually says. Like many non-modern societies, we take a more malleable approach to time and along with it, a less strict teaching regimen.
My University’s academic calendar is a historical artifact from a former agrarian society that was dependent upon the young’s labor for planting and harvesting. It begins in June and ends in March. Book-ending the semesters are Christian holidays (All Saints/Souls Day in November 1; and Lent in late March/early April). Apart from the requisite two-week holiday for Christmas and New Year (December), we also give way to numerous “public” holidays celebrating heroes and heroic events (about 7 national and 3 local), which under former President Arroyo’s holiday economics scheme invariably were moved to Mondays (and inconveniently announced the week before the holiday!).

Longer school year idea doomed from the start

Matt Pommer

President Barack Obama says America must improve its education system to retain its world economic leadership. Among the ideas he floated in a September talk was extending the school year.
Sound familiar? It should because former Gov. Tommy Thompson sounded the same theme some 18 years ago. Better education would help Wisconsin young people get jobs in the 21st century, Thompson suggested.
A longer school year is unpopular in Wisconsin’s important tourism industry, which has long held clout in the Legislature. That’s why public schools in Wisconsin can’t start in August as they do in some other states.
The tourism industry initially fought to delay any school start until after Labor Day. But that would mean in some years that schools couldn’t open until Sept. 8. The University of Wisconsin, which also is affected by the state law, argued that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to get a full semester completed before the Christmas break.

Why Do Unions Oppose Merit Pay?

Bryan Caplan

Gary Becker off-handedly remarks:

Not surprisingly, teachers unions fight hardest against reforms that change the way teachers are paid, especially when they introduce incentives for teachers to perform more effectively.

I don’t doubt that unions tend to oppose merit pay, but the reasons are unclear. Profit-maximizing monopolists still suffer financially if they cut quality; the same should hold for unionized workers. Why not simply jack average wages 15% above the competitive level, and leave relative wages unchanged?

Tyler Cowen has more.

Smartphones dial up learning experience

Tim Devaney

Caleb Carr was excited to return to classes this fall so he could use a school-issued cell phone — not just to talk, but to learn.
Carr and his classmates at Lutheran High School South in Newport are taking advantage of a $42,000 program from GoKnow, a Dallas-based mobile education company founded in Ann Arbor that equips students with cell phones.
The phones rely on mobile applications that let students — many of whom text faster than they write — take notes, complete assignments and watch presentations from the palms of their hands.
“Homework’s more fun with the phone,” said Carr, a junior at the private school who was part of a student group that tested the phones this summer. “For a teenager to have a phone, it’s a great privilege.”
GoKnow is one of several mobile applications companies with Michigan connections trying to cash in on the mobile technology revolution, encouraging students and teachers to trade notebooks for smartphones they say help pupils learn better.

California spent nearly half a billion on college freshmen who later dropped out, study finds

Carla Rivera

At a time when California’s public colleges are battling to maintain state funding, a report says that over a five-year period, the state spent nearly half a billion dollars to educate first-year college students who dropped out before their sophomore year.
The report found that California ranked first in the nation in the amount of taxpayer funds — $467 million — spent on students at four-year colleges who failed to return for a second year. Texas, with $441 million, and New York, with $403 million, ranked second and third.
The study, prepared by the Washington-based American Institutes for Research, analyzed federal data on retention rates at hundreds of four-year colleges and universities and states’ education funding between 2003 and 2008.

What the LA Seniority Settlement Does and Doesn’t Do

There has been much concern that somehow the proposed LA Seniority Settlement is eliminating seniority. Lets be clear here – this settlement does not eliminate seniority either at the protected school sites or in the district. This settlement simply means that some schools would be protected from experiencing the mass layoff when budget cuts are required. These schools will not even be protected from cuts. When the district has a cut, say 5 percent of staff in the district, this settlement will mean that only 5 percent of teachers at a protected site can be cut. And, those teachers would be selected based on seniority. What will this mean for other schools at the district? It will mean that more senior teachers will be laid off in the wealthier parts of the district, but isn’t that fair? And how will those layoff decisions be made? That’s right, based on seniority. So, this settlement simply spreads the pain a little more evenly across the district, but still bases decisions on seniority. When there are budget cuts shouldn’t all the schools in the district feel some impact on their teaching staff?
Now on the point of should their be broader reforms to teacher seniority policies. I think the answer is yes. But first, districts must have much better teacher evaluation systems in place. For example, I am a fan of the TAP model in which the teacher evaluation system includes at least 6 classroom observations a year by a combination of administrators and master teachers using an agreed upon evaluation rubric. These measures are combined with value-added assessments and other outcome based measures. Once there are more rigorous teacher evaluation systems, then that system can protect from arbitrary feelings of a principal.

Why is atheist Nick Clegg considering sending his son to the same exclusive Catholic school as the Blairs?

Ian Gallagher

Nick Clegg is considering sending his eldest son to one of Britain’s leading Catholic state schools – despite both his atheism and his party’s opposition to faith schools.
The Deputy Prime Minister faces accusations of hypocrisy after he and his Catholic wife Miriam were given a private tour of the London Oratory, where Tony Blair controversially sent his sons.
Headmaster David McFadden told The Mail on Sunday that he believed his school would be a ‘natural choice’ for the couple, who were ‘happy with what they saw’ during their tour last week.

Teacher connects jazz history to experience

David Wiegand

Kwami Coleman, the new kid on the block at the Jazzschool, is a graduate student in musicology at Stanford who grew up in New York, where his dad was a pianist.
He got his job through inadvertent networking when, at a musicological conference in Quebec, he asked author Scott DeVeaux (“The Birth of Bebop”) about the importance of Igor Stravinsky hearing Charlie Parker play live at Birdland.
Flash forward a couple of years and Susan Muscarella is looking for someone to teach the history of jazz from 1920 to the present at the Jazzschool. She contacts DeVeaux, who says he doesn’t know of anyone, except for this young guy at Stanford who impressed him at the musicology conference.

Public input sought tonight on $244M Green Bay school budget

Patti Zarling

The Green Bay School Board hopes to hear from the public this evening about a proposed $244.2 million spending plan for this school year.
A proposed 2010-11 budget for the Green Bay School District includes more money for capital improvements but reduces the number of teaching positions and scales back spending on technology.
Those cuts come despite a surplus of $5.8 million from last year.
Under the proposed $244.2 million budget for 2010-11, the district estimates the owner of a home valued at $100,000 would see about a $30 increase in the school portion of their property taxes, said Alan Wagner, assistant superintendent of business and finances.
The equalized property tax rate for school taxes would be $9.70 per $1,000 of equalized land value. That’s up 63 cents — or 6.9 percent — from $9.07 per $1,000 of property value for 2009-10 under the budget proposal.

Advanced Placement, Gifted Education & A Hometown Debate

Anna Peterson, via a kind reader’s email:

This afternoon, I received an outraged phone call from my sister. “A bunch of obnoxious and pushy parents are demanding West High offer more AP classes. They say West needs to improve talented and gifted classes. Can you believe it? I knew this would happen someday.” Although my sister’s characterization of these parents’ complaints was less than completely accurate, her impressions and outrage will be shared with many members of my high school’s community. This makes me both frustrated and concerned for my former school.
Madison West High School prides itself on its diversity, fine arts programs, and impressive academic achievements, and West prepared most of my classmates well for our college careers. The preparation, however, did not involve many AP classes. Some of my classmates took AP exams for subjects in which they had not had official AP classes, and they often scored well. But many of us took only an AP language exam or maybe an AP calculus test. Historically, West’s teachers have resisted forgoing their own curricula in favor of those dictated by the College Board. And with instructional minutes treated like a precious commodity, I can see why many teachers don’t want to sacrifice the six weeks of school after the AP exams to the severe senioritis that overcame my classmates and myself in the few AP classes I did take. I have great respect for my teachers’ anti-AP position, and I think West is a better school for it. So whether or not these “obnoxious and pushy parents” are demanding AP classes for their gifted children, I share my sister’s skepticism of changing West’s curriculum to fit with that of the College Board.

Complaint Filed Against Madison Schools.

Georgia School Board Report Card

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

DaShonna Taylor, parent
Grade: B –
“I’m grateful to the school board and transportation department who came together to reinstate the bus routes for my corridor. There’s always room for improvement and it’s early in the (school) year. I just moved to the county and I’m still trying to evaluate some things with the board.”
Kenny Ruffin, Riverdale councilman
Grade: A-
“They’ve pretty much met most of the goals set for them by SACS. They’re the board I would credit with helping restore Clayton County’s school accreditation. The only thing that keeps me from giving them an A is that there’s still a couple of members who still need to work toward working together cohesively for the benefit of the community.”

Madison residents will have an opportunity to evaluate two school board seats in the April, 2011 election. Marj Passman and Ed Hughes currently occupy those positions. The City of Madison Clerk has posted candidate information here.