It was a banner September for education philanthropy. Last week Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg appeared on Oprah Winfrey’s TV show to announce his $100 million donation to Newark, New Jersey, public schools. And this Wednesday the Charter School Growth Fund launched a new $160 million fund that will finance the expansion of high-performing charter networks across the U.S.
Since 1970, average per-pupil expenditures after inflation have more than doubled, yet test scores have remained flat. Today the Newark public school system spends some $22,000 per student, or more than twice the U.S. average, and the high school graduation rate is only 50%. Adding private money to this system would be a dreadful waste. So what excites us about these new donations is not the money per se but the reform agenda to which the dollars are tethered.
Mr. Zuckerberg is entrusting his donation to Newark Mayor Cory Booker, a strong advocate of vouchers and school choice, as is New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. The Newark teachers contract expired over the summer, and Mr. Booker has spoken favorably of the recently negotiated teacher contract in Washington, D.C., where schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee used private donations as leverage to enact reforms that tie teacher pay to student progress.
A pay freeze, which retroactively applies to the 2009-’10 school year when teachers were working under the old contract, saves the district from roughly $13.5 million in raises it likely would have paid if the previous contract were renewed. Teachers will be in line for a 3% raise for this school year and 2.5% for 2011-’12. Another 3% raise is set for the 2012-’13 school year. The freeze does not apply to those teachers who were eligible for a step increase, which gives teachers with a certain amount of experience an automatic jump to a higher salary level, union officials said. The average salary of an MPS teacher is $56,000 per year, slightly lower than in districts in outlying areas.
“We didn’t get where we wanted to get, but it’s a step in the right direction,” Superintendent Greg Thornton said, adding that the agreement is still “monumental.”
The contract is the first four-year contract negotiated between the district and MTEA. The previous contract expired July 1, 2009, and teachers had been working under the terms of the expired contract since that time.
The Wisconsin Association of School Boards has recommended that its members not enter into contracts that last for more than two years because of the fiscal uncertainty with the state budget. But Thornton said the longer contract will allow both parties more time to work on reforms in the district.
Contract negotiations stalled repeatedly under the previous administration of Superintendent William Andrekopoulos, with the major sticking point being revisions to the teachers’ health care benefits.
Under the old contract, MPS offered two health care plans – an HMO plan that costs $16,440 a year for a family, offered by United Health Care, and a PPO plan through Aetna that allows a broader range of choices in doctors and costs $23,820 a year for a family.
In May, the district said that unless various unions agreed to take a lower cost health care plan, it would move forward with layoffs. The district laid off more than 400 teachers in June, though about half of them have since been recalled.
The new agreement maintains the choice of PPO and HMO plans, but both will be provided by United Health Care and will have lower premiums than the Aetna plan did. Under both options, teachers will for the first time contribute a portion of their salary – 1% for single coverage, 2% for family coverage – to their health care package starting in August 2011. The specific costs of the two options are unknown.
Many children want to read books on digital devices and would read for fun more frequently if they could obtain e-books. But even if they had that access, two-thirds of them would not want to give up their traditional print books.
These are a few of the findings in a study being released on Wednesday by Scholastic, the American publisher of the Harry Potter books and the “Hunger Games” trilogy.
The report set out to explore the attitudes and behaviors of parents and children toward reading books for fun in a digital age. Scholastic surveyed more than 2,000 children ages 6 to 17, and their parents, in the spring.
General Motors is working with the United Way to explore how best the automaker can contribute to improving K-12 education in Detroit, Mark Reuss, president of North America said today.
In a passionate speech, Reuss said education in Detroit is in a state of emergency.
“We are exploring an idea to take five Detroit schools and essentially divide each school into four academies to train our children to have marketable skills in the city off Detroit,” Reuss during a speech during the 11th Annual Rainbow Push Global Automotive Summit in Detroit.
Reuss said General Motors is working with Detroit Public Schools, the United Way for Southeastern Michigan, charter schools and several other organizations.
Two candidates hope to become California’s next superintendent of public instruction, a position that requires the patience to answer a frequent question from constituents: “So, what exactly do you do?”
The short answer is that the state’s top education official runs California’s 9,500 schools, which educate 6.3 million students.
The long answer is more complicated. The superintendent is a bureaucrat, a politician, an administrator and, in worst-case scenarios, the one who takes over bankrupt school districts.
He is a University of California regent and a California State University trustee, and he controls community college cash.
Lady Liberty Academy Charter School in Newark, a K-8 school with 456 kids (273 are on the waiting list), is the subject of a 4-page story in New Jersey Newsroom today that highlights its dysfunction, poor governance, and the unfair firing of a kindergarten teacher. Only two seats are filled on the 9-member Board of Education (there were four, but two members resigned after the teacher was fired), staffers compare elaborate preparations for DOE visits as “a Potemkin village,” and one of the principal’s criticisms of the fired teacher was that she dresses “‘too professionally,’ complaining that ‘you teachers love those long skirts.'”
How do the kids do? According to 2008-2009 DOE data, 62.5% of 3d graders failed the language arts portion of the NJ ASK 3 and 52.1% failed the math portion. Among 8th graders, 43.1% failed the language arts portion of the ASK 8 and 56.9% failed the math portion. Pretty shabby.
Is this the story of a much-ballyhooed charter school that masks lack of accountability, lack of due process for teachers, and inept management in spite of frequent monitoring by the State DOE, a perfect emblem for charter school foes? Seems likely.
WHEN Ngo Bao Chau won a Fields Medal, the mathematics version of a Nobel prize, it made headline news in his native Vietnam. The president sent a telegram of congratulations. Mr Chau is the first Vietnamese winner. But he does not ply his trade in Vietnam. Mr Chau is a professor at the University of Chicago and a naturalised citizen of France, where he completed his PhD.
Who can blame him? Vietnam’s university system is “archaic”, says Hoang Tuy, another mathematician. Teaching methods are outdated, universities are stuffed with cronies and smothered by Communist orthodoxy. Censorship and interference are pervasive.
For an emerging economy trying to build a technology sector, this is both discouraging and damaging. Top-notch research universities and innovative manufacturing go hand-in-hand. Vietnamese universities do little original research, and are rarely cited by scientific scholars, says a recent UN-financed study. Graduates are poorly prepared: as many as 60% of new hires by foreign companies needed retraining, according to a Dutch report.
From Education Week:
After five years of providing critical reviews of education-related reports by nonacademic think tanks, education professors Alex Molnar and Kevin G. Welner hope to expand their own reach with a new, broader research center.
The new National Education Policy Center, based at Mr. Welner’s academic home, the University of Colorado at Boulder, will consolidate his Education and the Public Interest Center and Mr. Molnar’s Education Policy Research Unit, previously at Arizona State University. It will review existing research, conduct new research, and, for the first time for both groups, make policy recommendations.
The story goes on to print claims from these guys that they are independent from the unions, quotes Little Ramona taking pot shots at think-tanks, etc.
It’s would be easy to cry foul that the NEA is simply renting the credibility of academic institutions to produce propaganda. They gave Molnar’s outfit a quarter of million dollars a year at Arizona State. Overall, however, I don’t really have a problem with them doing so. Think-tanks always face scrutiny when releasing reports, and more scrutiny is better than less. As Rick Hess notes in the story:
Around the country, supporters of education reform — or at least of the test-scores-driven, tenure-busting, results-rewarding sort of reform epitomized by organizations like Teach for America and championed by Education Secretary Arne Duncan — gave a collective gasp of dismay last month when voters in a number of districts handed primary defeats to candidates closely associated with just this type of reform. In New York, three state-senate candidates who ran on pro-charter-school platforms each failed to garner more than 30 percent of the vote. In Washington, voters overwhelmingly rejected Mayor Adrian Fenty in favor of the City Council chairman, Vincent Gray, as the Democratic candidate in this year’s mayoral election. The Fenty defeat worried many people particularly because he was inextricably linked with his crusading, nationally celebrated schools chancellor, Michelle Rhee.
Rhee, who was appointed by Fenty in 2007 and given unprecedented power to shake up the ailing school system, fired hundreds of teachers and dozens of bureaucrats and principals, even removing the popular head of her daughters’ elementary school in the northwest part of the district. She demanded that the city’s tenure system be replaced with one that would reward teachers for producing measurable performance gains in their students. For her efforts, she became a heroine to some — gracing the cover of Time magazine, earning the praise of the Obama administration and an invitation to appear on “Oprah” — but she also received enormous enmity from teachers, their unions and, surprisingly enough to outside observers, many public-school parents, not a few of whom were profoundly offended when, the night after the mayoral primary, Rhee appeared at the Washington premiere of Davis Guggenheim’s much-talked-about education documentary, “Waiting for Superman,” and told an assemblage of prominent Washingtonians that the election results “were devastating, devastating. Not for me, I’ll be fine . . . but devastating for the school children of Washington, D.C.”
By the time they get to kindergarten, children in this well-to-do suburb already know their numbers, so their teachers worried that a new math program was too easy when it covered just 1 and 2 — for a whole week.
“Talk about the number 1 for 45 minutes?” said Chris Covello, who teaches 16 students ages 5 and 6. “I was like, I don’t know. But then I found you really could. Before, we had a lot of ground to cover, and now it’s more open-ended and gets kids thinking.”
The slower pace is a cornerstone of the district’s new approach to teaching math, which is based on the national math system of Singapore and aims to emulate that country’s success by promoting a deeper understanding of numbers and math concepts. Students in Singapore have repeatedly ranked at or near the top on international math exams since the mid-1990s.
Franklin Lakes, about 30 miles northwest of Manhattan, is one of dozens of districts, from Scarsdale, N.Y., to Lexington, Ky., that in recent years have adopted Singapore math, as it is called, amid growing concerns that too many American students lack the higher-order math skills called for in a global economy.
The Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) recently made a request for proposals (RFP) for early childhood care and education (ECE) centers interested in partnering with MMSD to provide four year old kindergarten (4K) programming starting in Fall 2011. In order to be considered for this partnership with the district, ECE centers must be accredited by the City of Madison or the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) to ensure high quality programming for MMSD students. The ECE centers can partner with MMSD to be either a 4K Model II program (in an ECE center with an MMSD teacher) or a Model III program (in an ECE center with the ECE center’s teacher). The budget for 4K will support only 2 Model II programs, which aligns with the proposals submitted. There are 2 ECE centers who applied for Model II participation and 2 that applied to be either Model II or Model III. The ECE center proposals that have been accepted in this first step of the review process for consideration for partnering with the district to provide 4K programming are explained further in the following section.
II. ECE Center Sites
The following ECE center sites met the RFP criteria:
Big Oak Child Care
Creative Learning Preschool
Dane County Parent Council
Goodman Community Center
Kennedy Heights Neighborhood
Meeting House Nursery
Monona Grove Nursery
New Morning Nursery
Orchard Ridge Nursery
Preschool of the Arts
The Learning Gardens
University Avenue Discovery Center
University Houses Preschool
University Preschool-Mineral Point
Waisman EC Program
Of the 35 ECE center sites, 28 met the RFP criteria at this time for partnerships with MMSD for 4 K programming. Seven of the ECE center sites did not meet RFP criteria. However may qualify in the future for partnerships with MMSD. There are 26 qualified sites that would partner with MMSD to provide a Model 111 program, and two sites that will provide a Model 11 program.
At this time, the 4K committee is requesting Board of Education (BOE) approval of the 28 ECE center sites that met RFP criteria. The BOE approval will allow administration to analyze the geographical locations of the each of the ECE center sites in conjunction with the District’s currently available space. The BOE approval will also allow administration to enter into agreements with the ECE center sites at the appropriate time.
The following language is suggested in order to approve the 28 ECE center sites:
It is recommended to approve the 28 Early Childhood Care and Education centers identified above as they have met the criteria of RFP 3168 (Provision of a Four-Year- Old Kindergarten Program) and further allow the District to enter into Agreements with said Early Childhood Care and Education centers.
Much more on Madison’s proposed 4K program here.
I continue to wonder if this is the time to push forward with 4K, given the outstanding K-12 issues, such as reading and the languishing math, fine arts and equity task force reports? Spending money is easier than dealing with these issues…. I also wonder how this will affect the preschool community over the next decade?
Finally, State and Federal spending and debt problems should add a note of caution to funding commitments for such programs. Changes in redistributed state and federal tax dollars may increase annual property tax payments, set to grow over 9% this December.
Indiana taxpayers shelled out nearly $94 million to public schools last year to support “ghost” students no longer attending those schools.
State legislators learned Wednesday that, in 2009, schools got paid for 16,315 students no longer in attendance. How to change the formula to be more fair to all students was at the heart of a Statehouse committee meeting Wednesday.
“That’s just absolutely horrendous that we’re spending $94 million on students that don’t even exist,” said state Rep. Terry Goodin, D-Crothersville.
Indiana spends about $8.5 billion on elementary and secondary education each year.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett told the committee Indiana needs a systemic change in the way it funds schools. The first-term Republican said education money should follow students and each student should be allowed to use those resources at any school in the state — including private schools.
Want your kids to have a plum job after graduation? Send them to a New York City high school currently being planned by the City University of New York and IBM. The school, which will play host to around 600 students, will span grades 9 to 14. Its students will leave with an associate’s degree–and a guaranteed job with IBM. It’s a “a ticket to the middle class, or even beyond,” according to Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
WNYC reports that IBM has offered $250,000 for New York City to create the computer science-focused school, which is set to open next fall. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is throwing in $3 million. It will be the first high school in the U.S. to go through grade 14. No word on how students will be selected to attend, but we do know that they won’t be academically pre-screened.
The IBM-sponsored high school is part of the larger trend of corporate-sponsored education that has popped up over the past few years. This past spring, Microsoft graduated its first class at the School of the Future, a Philadelphia high school that trains students in a “culture of innovation.” And Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg recently announced a $100 million dollar donation to Newark, New Jersey’s public school system.
AT THE end of every academic year, when British school-leavers get their A-level exam results, a chorus rings out about grade inflation and indulgent marking. This year, some 27% of British students who took the exam secured either an A or the new A* grade. Across the channel in France, the worries could scarcely be more different. Some educationalists fret that lycée (upper secondary-school) pupils work too hard, are graded too fiercely and are victims of a system designed to fail them.
A handful of new books are stirring this debate. In one, Richard Descoings, head of SciencesPo, an elite university in Paris, laments that French schools are “training generations of anxious youths, who worry about their future, feel treated like numbers [and] distrust one another and the system”. Last year, Mr Descoings visited 80 schools and met 7,000 pupils as part of a government review of lycées. Pupils told him, he reports, that in school they veered “between boredom and dread”.
The Sept. 1 edition of Education Week had a provocative commentary, “All my favorite students cheat,” by high school teacher Christopher L. Doyle. He and I agree that cheating is rife, but we don’t agree on what causes that.
He thinks students are protecting themselves against widespread insecurity in a declining America. I think the larger problem is that teachers so love and trust their students that the teachers become easy marks.
America used to be tough on cheaters. Before World War II, miscreants could be suspended, expelled or caned. Schools went soft in the 1960s, and although we have little data, cheating probably increased. In a 1995 survey by “Who’s Who Among American High School Students,” 76 percent of high-schoolers with at least B averages said they had cheated at least once. In suburban, upper-middle-class, high-achieving schools, such as the place Doyle still teaches or many Washington area schools, cheating is still common.
FOR America’s children the education system is often literally a lottery. That is the main message of a new documentary about America’s schools, “Waiting for ‘Superman’.” Made by the team that gave us “An Inconvenient Truth”, and supported with the sort of marketing budget that other documentary makers can only dream of, it is intended to create a surge in public support for education reform at least as great as the clamour to do something about climate change generated (for a while) by Al Gore’s eco-disaster flick.
The timing could hardly be better. The “jobless recovery” is finally bringing home to Americans the fact that too many of those who go through its schools are incapable of earning a decent living in an increasingly competitive global economy. The number of jobs advertised but not being filled is increasing even as the unemployment rate stays resolutely high. And despite its depressing enumeration of the failure of so many schools, particularly in poorer urban areas, its miserable ending, and the bleakness of its title, the movie also has a message of hope: there are good schools and teachers in America, whose methods could make its education system as good as any in the world if only they were allowed to.
A Santa Barbara, Calif., start-up is officially launching a social media screening and monitoring service Tuesday that the nation’s 14.9 million unemployed might want to know about before their next job interview.
Social Intelligence Corp. is essentially taking the traditional background checks that are commonly used by corporate human resource departments to look for things like criminal records and moving them online to track social media networks, including Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Youtube, LinkedIn, and individual blogs.
“You cannot believe the things that we see. The amount of references to drugs and alcohol and the amount of provocative photos and the things that people say is jaw dropping,” says Max Drucker, chief executive of Social Intelligence Corp. “People that we see that are applying for jobs that have this kind of really incriminating information out there.”
It has been suggested that education is the civil rights issue of our time, and there is no question that the black community continues to lag behind when it comes to all matters of education. This is especially so here in Milwaukee, where MPS reading scores lag behind those of other major urban school districts, state black reading scores are the worst in the nation, and the percent of blacks with a college education is lower here than it is in most other places. These are crisis-level facts.
This has not completely escaped the community’s notice. Everybody understands the importance of improving Milwaukee Public Schools. And while massive disagreement concerning proposed changes ultimately resulted in the prevailing of the status quo, rather than some sort of meaningful compromise or reform, at least the community showed that it was energized and willing to fight for local education.
But one thing that seems to continue to escape notice, maybe since the time that Chapter 220 was created, is the impact that segregation has on education.
Segregation and 4th Grade Reading Scores