America’s Outmoded Approach to Education Credentials

Andrew  Rotherham:

What kind of credentials do you need to run a school district? Especially a really big one? Is a degree in education a better predictor of a superintendent’s success than, say, a track record of turning around distressed companies? These are hot questions in the education world right now. Last week, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg surprised everyone (and that includes the senior leaders of his city’s school system) by tapping publishing executive Cathleen Black to be the city’s new school chancellor. By doing so, Bloomberg set in motion an arcane deliberation process. Because Black has not spent three years working in public schools — in fact, her only education leadership experience consists of serving on an advisory board for a charter school in Harlem — and because she also lacks the requisite 60 hours of graduate-school credits, she will need a waiver from the state in order to take charge of the city’s 1,700 schools, 80,000 teachers and more than a million students.
It’s understandable why some teachers and education advocates are objecting so vociferously to an outsider coming in to run such a massive system (though it should be noted that if the new chancellor pledged to undo the current reform efforts, many of these same people wouldn’t care if Bloomberg had just hired Carrot Top as his new schools chief). If you’ve never worked in a school before, critics wonder, how can you oversee so many of them? But precisely because the New York district is so gargantuan, its chancellor needs a skill set far different from your average principal or teacher; the school system’s annual budget of more than $21 billion exceeds the gross domestic product of nearly half the world’s countries. Let me be clear, however, on two things: at this point, there’s no way to tell if Black will be an effective leader of New York’s mega-district. But what is lost in all the speculation about her is how outmoded — and counterproductive — American education’s approach to credentials is in the first place.

Seattle School Board considers request to pull ‘Brave New World’ from curriculum

Sean Collins Walsh

A request by a Seattle parent to have the 1931 novel “Brave New World” removed from Seattle Public Schools’ literature curricula will be considered — and possibly decided — at a Seattle School Board meeting Wednesday evening.
Parent Sarah Sense-Wilson has persuaded Nathan Hale High School administrators to drop the distopian Aldous Huxley novel from its Language Arts class, which her daughter took last year. But she has not been as successful in her attempts to have the book removed from literature curricula districtwide.
Having been denied by Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson, Sense-Wilson will make her case this evening to the board, the final appeal under district rules.
Sense-Wilson, a Native American, said she and her daughter found the book offensive for its numerous uses of the word “savages.”

UW-Madison Education school hosts ceremony to celebrate building renovations

Jennifer Zettell

Everyday masses of students march up and down Bascom Hill at the University of Wisconsin and on their way, pass a piece of history.
Many students headed to class or exams Monday however, passed festivities taking place inside the more than 100-year-old Education Building.
To kick-off American Education Week, UW’s School of Education planned a two-day event to showcase the renovation of the building, Dean Julie Underwood said.
In particular, the re-dedication of the building Monday morning brought together students, faculty, staff and alumni not only to celebrate the building, but those who made it possible.
UW alumni John and Tashia Morgridge donated $34 million to renovate the building, and those in attendance treated them to many standing ovations as well as thanks.

Private-College Chiefs See Rise in Pay

Tamar Lewin

Thirty presidents of private colleges each earned more than $1 million in total compensation in 2008, up from 23 the previous year, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education’s annual salary report.
Over all, though, 78 percent of presidents of private colleges had total compensation packages of less than $600,000 in 2008, and half earned less than $400,000. A year earlier, 82 percent earned less than $600,000, and 58 percent less than $400,000.
“As usual, there are a few outliers,” said Jeffrey Selingo, editor of The Chronicle, which compiled compensation data from the tax filings of 448 private colleges with expenditures of more than $50 million. “When looking at the very big numbers, there’s always a lot of reasons why those people got such high compensation packages.”

This Raging Fire

Bob Hebert

When I was a kid my Uncle Robert, for whom I was named, used to say that blacks needed to “fight on all fronts, at home and abroad.”
By that he meant that while it was critically important to fight against racial injustice and oppression, it was just as important to support, nurture and fight on behalf of one’s family and community.
Uncle Robert (my father always called him Jim — don’t ask) died many years ago, but he came to mind as I was going over the dismal information in a new report about the tragic conditions confronting a large portion of America’s black population, especially black males.
We know by now, of course, that the situation is grave. We know that more than a third of black children live in poverty; that more than 70 percent are born to unwed mothers; that by the time they reach their mid-30s, a majority of black men without a high school diploma has spent time in prison. We know all this, but no one seems to know how to turn things around. No one has been able to stop this steady plunge of young black Americans into a socioeconomic abyss.

How to deal with unruly students?

Caryl Davis:

MPS is in the throes of an alternative to suspensions – Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, or PBIS.
According to the Milwaukee Public Schools, the goal of PBIS is to “reduce classroom disruptions and student suspensions through a schoolwide systematic three-tiered response-to-intervention (RTI) approach.” PBIS looks like adults in the school community offering positive verbal redirection and modeling positive conduct. The point: to teach students about positive behavior.
Some of the nearly 100 MPS schools that use the PBIS system this academic year have reported successes. Fewer suspensions are being reported. That’s good news, right? Superintendent Gregory Thornton believes that “Finding ways to keep students in school instead of suspending them improves their chances of learning and improving academically,” which minimizes disruptions and keeps kids in class.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: N.J. school districts hit brick wall on raising superintendent salaries

Tracy Ness

A showdown is developing between some local Boards of Education and Gov. Chris Christie, whose latest move to control school spending by capping superintendents’ salaries is rankling some school board members.
Several local school boards — still reeling from slashed state aid, staff layoffs and the pending 2% tax cap — are considering striking back by amending or renegotiating their superintendents’ contracts before an anticipated Feb. 7 deadline to get around the cap and keep their superintendents in place.
But the situation keeps changing.
On Monday, acting Education Commissioner Rochelle Hendricks warned the executive county superintendents — who have the final say on any renegotiated contracts — not to approve any new contracts before the Feb. 7 deadline and directed them to inventory all superintendent contracts in their counties. And the Morris County Executive Superintendent Kathleen Serafino followed suit, asking the Parsippany Board of Education to rescind its recently approved five-year contract extension for its superintendent. What will happen next is anyone’s guess.

A School Fights for Life in Battered Haiti

Deborah Sontag

In mid-October, when fresh-faced girls in starched uniforms skipped through the gates of the Collège Classique Féminin to start the first post-earthquake school year, their desire to seek sanctuary inside was palpable.
Dashing off a street clogged with vendors hawking car mats and phone chargers, they reconnected with hugs and squeals. They cheered the absence of the stifling tents in which they studied last spring. And they all but embraced an administrator’s warning that strict discipline would be reinstated after a lax period when “we all were traumatized.”
Still, nothing felt normal. The school’s door bore a frightening scarlet stamp, slapped there by government engineers who consider it unsafe. The semi-collapsed central building loomed menacingly over eight portable classrooms that clearly would not fit 13 grades. And the all-girl student body had dwindled to almost half its pre-disaster enrollment.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: US muni bonds see biggest drop since 2008

Nicole Bullock

Municipal bonds had their biggest one-day sell-off yesterday since the height of the financial crisis, prompting some borrowers to delay financing plans.
The yields on triple A 10-year bonds rose 18 bps to 2.93 per cent, the largest one-day rise since October of 2008, according the MMD index, which is owned by Thomson Reuters.
Absolute yields, however, remain well below crisis-era levels.
The $2,800bn “muni” bond market where states and municipalities raise money has been under pressure over the past week amid a rise in the yields of benchmark US Treasury bonds, heavy bond sales and uncertainty about federal support for the market.
The market declines have made investors, who are mostly wealthy individuals benefiting from tax breaks on muni debt, nervous about an uptick in defaults. Munis historically have been a relatively safe place to invest, but budget deficits and underfunded public pensions have created widespread concern that local entities could struggle to pay their debts.

13 communication and life tips that children teach us

Garr Reynolds

We can learn a lot from a child. Plenty of adults engage in childish behavior, but not enough adults allow themselves to truly become childlike and exhibit an approach and display behaviors that exemplify the very best of what being a child is all about. Obviously, the point is not that we should become literally like children in every way–a group of 4-year olds is not going to build the next space shuttle or find a cure for an infectious disease this year. But as an exercise in personal growth, looking at the innocent nature of a small child offers illuminating and practical suggestions for changing our approach to life and work as “serious adults,” including the work of presenting, facilitating, and teaching. You could probably come up with 100 things children do that you’d like to be able to still do today–here are just 13.
(1) Be completely present in the moment. In the words of David M. Bader: “Be here now. Be someplace else later. Is that so complicated?” We adults are often living in the past (or have our heads in the future). Many adults carry around preconceptions, prejudices, and even anger about something that happened years ago–even hundreds of years ago before anyone they even know was born. And yet, very young children do not worry and fret about the past or the future. What matters most is this moment. “The most precious gift we can offer others is our presence,” says Thich Nhat Hanh.

New Teacher Education Program Headed to Eight States

Associated Press:

ALBANY, N.Y. — Eight states are beginning a national pilot program to transform teacher education and preparation to emphasize far more infield, intensive training as is common practice in medical schools.
“Teaching, like medicine, is a profession of practice,” said State University of New York Chancellor Nancy Zimpher, who is co-chairwomam of the expert panel that released a report on the recommended changes Tuesday in Washington. “Making clinical preparation the centerpiece of teacher education will transform the way we prepare teachers.”
The pilot program developed by school and higher education officials with teachers unions to improve instruction is being done in California, Colorado, Louisiana, Maryland, Ohio, Oregon and Tennessee as well as New York. The states agreed to implement the recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Panel on Clinical Preparation and Partnerships for Improved Student Learning created by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education.

There Is No College Cost Crisis

Stanley Fish

There is no college cost crisis. That at least is the conclusion reached by the economists Robert B. Archibald and David H. Feldman in their new book, “Why Does College Cost So Much?” The title question is a teaser, for the book’s message is that it doesn’t. In fact, say the authors, “for most families higher education is more affordable than it was in the past.”
Archibald and Feldman build their analysis of college costs in opposition to what they call the “new orthodoxy” or the “dysfunctionality narrative.” In that narrative, repeated almost religiously by critics and politicians, colleges and universities have “drifted away from their social mission,” surrendered to the false god of research, and engaged in an “arms race” for more prestigious scholars and ever-glitzier student unions. As a result, “their costs have sprawled out of control” and “the college degree, an essential entry ticket to the modern economy” has become “increasingly out of reach for families with middle-class incomes.”
In short the conditions everyone ritually complains about have an internal cause: if colleges and universities find themselves in a bad financial place, they have only themselves and their irresponsible practices to blame.

Parental responsibility touches nerve

Eugene Kane

The panel discussion at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee was timely.
The topic: Failing black males in the public schools.
On Saturday, educators, community leaders, students and one journalist gathered for a screening of a documentary, “Beyond the Bricks.” The film, directed by Derek Koen, covers the academic struggles and dreams of two Newark, N.J., high school students trying to stay on the right track.
One is a bright young black male frustrated that his peers don’t seem to appreciate doing well in school; the other is a disenchanted black student struggling to continue an education offering little stimulation.
It is a timely subject for a documentary, seeing how failing black students are in the news a lot these days due to a rash of reports that suggest black males are doing even worse than previously thought.
My appearance on the panel came before publication of my Sunday column, which also looked at the issue of failing black males and the parents who failed them.

The Freshman 15

The Washington Post:

For everyday snacking, Oz and Jakubczak suggest these treats, which, eaten in moderation, don’t add too many calories to the day’s total:
3 Reduced-fat microwave popcorn. When you’re studying, you munch unconsciously, Jakubczak says. Microwave popcorn is low enough in calories (about 20 per cup) that you can eat a lot. Bonus: Popcorn counts as a whole grain.

Compensation of 30 Private-College Presidents Topped $1-Million in 2008

Andrea Fuller

Nearly four decades after Bernard Lander founded Touro College with a class of 35 students, the trustees decided that he had been underpaid during his tenure as president. To make up for the difference, they awarded him more than $4-million in deferred compensation in 2008.
Mr. Lander, who died in February at age 94, received a total compensation package of $4,786,830, making him the highest-earning private-college president, according to The Chronicle’s review of federal tax documents from the 2008-9 fiscal year. The review, which included 448 chief executives, found 30 private college leaders who received more than $1-million in total compensation. In the previous year’s report, 23 chief executives earned over $1-million.
The Internal Revenue Service overhauled the way it instructed colleges to report compensation for 2008. Colleges were asked to report salaries according to the calendar year, not the fiscal year, as in years past, meaning that some dollar amounts overlap with what was reported the previous year.

Latino kids now majority in California’s public schools

Will Kane

Latinos now make up a majority of California’s public school students, cracking the 50 percent barrier for the first time in the state’s history, according to data released Friday by the state Department of Education.
Almost 50.4 percent of the state’s students in the 2009-10 school year identified themselves as Hispanic or Latino, up 1.36 percent from the previous year.
In comparison, 27 percent of California’s 6.2 million students identified themselves as white, 9 percent as Asian and 7 percent as black. Students calling themselves Filipino, Pacific Islander, Native American or other total almost 7 percent.
While the result was no surprise to educators, experts say the shift underscores the huge impact Latinos already have on California’s politics, economy and school system.

Many Colleges Spend Big to Keep Former Campus Officials on Payrolls

Paul Fain and Emma L. Carew

Private-college presidents often have company at the top of the pay scale, including law-school deans, coaches, and medical-center staff. But another group of employees may also join them among the highest-paid on campus: former officials.
A Chronicle analysis found that 85 of the 419 private colleges included in this year’s review of federal tax forms were paying at least one former official or key employee more than $200,000 in compensation in 2007-8.

Illegal Immigrants Win Ruling on College Fees

Stu Woo

Illegal immigrants in California may continue to pay the lower in-state fees at public colleges and universities, the state’s top court ruled Monday, a decision that saves them as much as $23,000 year.
The case was closely watched by several other states, including New York and Texas, which have similar laws that allow illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition. California residents technically pay no tuition to attend public colleges and universities, but instead pay fees that are the equivalent of tuition.
California’s legislature in 2001 passed a law that let nonresidents attend state colleges at the in-state rate if they, among other things, attended a California high school for at least three years.
At University of California institutions the in-state fee is about $12,000 a year, and the out-of-state rate is $35,000. Students at California State University schools pay an in-state fee of about $5,000 a year, compared an out-of-state rate of roughly $13,000.

You’re Leaving? Sustainability and Succession in Charter Schools

Christine Campbell, via a Deb Britt email:

Seventy-one percent of charter school leaders surveyed for this study say they expect to leave their schools within five years. For the nation’s 5,000 charter schools, this raises important questions. Who will be ready to take over? How will the school maintain its instructional program and culture from leader to leader? How does a school survive founder transitions? Where will new leaders come from and how can they be ready to lead existing schools?
The Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) at the University of Washington spent four years studying charter school teachers and leaders: CRPE’s survey of 400 charter school leader respondents and fieldwork in 24 charter schools in California, Hawaii, and Texas has yielded important insights into these questions and the future of maturing charter schools.
CRPE’s research finds that many charter schools are unprepared when it comes to leadership turnover. Only half of the charter school leaders surveyed for this study reported having succession plans in place, and many of those plans are weak. Though most school leaders affiliated with charter management organizations (CMOs) reported that their school had a succession plan, there was some confusion as to who would make final decisions–school leaders or CMO leaders. For the few schools with strong plans, two elements were common: the school leaders (all with prior business experience) had taken charge of future plans, and these schools were not in the midst of crisis.

Duncan: Education System Must Reward Excellence

Sudeep Ready:

Education Secretary Arne Duncan asked business executives to pressure policymakers at every level of government to improve an education system that is falling behind the rest of the world.
The U.S., in a single generation, fell from first in the world in college graduates to ninth, Duncan told The Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council. Too many students are dropping out of high school, he said. And in math and science education, at least 20 countries beat the U.S.
“We’re simply not producing the citizens, the workers, that you guys need,” Duncan said. “We have not had enough passion, enough push from the business community, and your collective voice is extraordinarily powerful.”

MacIver’s Analysis of Superintendent Evers’ School Funding Reform Plan

Christian D’Andrea

This would ensure that areas with greater concentrations of low-income families receive more funding in their classrooms.
However, history shows that this isn’t a winning formula. While students from poorer family backgrounds present challenges in the classroom, greater financial support hasn’t led to better results in Wisconsin. Milwaukee has the highest concentration of free and reduced-price lunch students in the state, as well as one of the highest per-pupil expenditure figures, spending an average of $16,730 per child according to DPI data. Madison, a city with similar low-income population issues, spent $16,393 on each student in 2009.
Conversely, other areas dealing with diverse student populations have shown better returns on their educational investments with less expenditure. Wauwatosa and Green Bay have produced more positive results in the classroom despite spending less. The districts spent just $12,098 and $13,041, respectively, per student in 2009.

Much more on the proposed changes to State of Wisconsin tax dollars for K-12 Districts, here.

Higher Standards + More Practice for Teacher Training

Stephanie Banchero

A panel of education experts has called for an overhaul of U.S. teacher-preparation programs, including a greater emphasis on classroom training as well as tougher admission and graduation standards for those hoping to teach in elementary and secondary classrooms.
The panel’s sweeping recommendations, released Tuesday, urge teacher-training programs to operate more like medical schools, which rely heavily on clinical experience.
Teacher candidates should spend more time in classrooms learning to teach–and proving that they can boost student achievement–before they earn a license to teach kindergarten through twelfth grade, the panel said.
“We need large, bold, systemic changes,” said James Cibulka, president of the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education, the group that convened the expert panel. “As a nation, we are expecting all of our students to perform at high levels, so it follows that we need to expect more of our teachers as they enter the classroom.”


There are many suggestions that the best teachers have an obligation to teach in the worst schools. Perhaps they would be more likely to do so if they were granted a few privileges, such as the peremptory challenge available to lawyers in court trials….
Will Fitzhugh, The Concord Review
15 November 2010
The conductor pauses, waiting for the coughing to die down before he raises his baton. The surgeon looks over her team, making sure all are in place and ready to work, before she makes the first incision. The prosecuting attorney pauses to study the jury for a little while before making his opening statement.
All these highly trained people need certain conditions to be met before they can begin their vital work with the necessary confidence that it can be carried out well. If the audience is too noisy, the conductor must wait. If the team is not in their places, the surgeon will not begin. If the members of the jury have not been examined, the attorney will not have to present his case before them.
Only schoolteachers must start their classes in the absence of the calm and attention which are essential to the careful exchange of information and ideas. Only the schoolteacher must attempt the delicate surgery of attaching knowledge and removing ignorance, with no team to help. Only schoolteachers must accept all who are assigned to the class, without the benefit of the peremptory challenges the attorney may use to shape his audience, and give his case the benefit of the doubt.
The Sanskrit word for a teaching, sutra, is the source of the English word, suture, and indeed the stitching of learning to the understanding in young minds is a particularly delicate form of surgery. The teacher does not deal with meat, but with ideas and knowledge, attempting to remove misconceptions and provide truth. The teacher has to do this, not with one anaesthetized patient, and a team of five, but with twenty-five or thirty students and no help.
Those who attend concerts want to be quiet, so that they and their fellows can hear and appreciate the music. Those who come in for surgery want the doctor to have all the help she needs and to have her work under the very best possible conditions, because the outcome of the operation is vital to their interests. The legal system tries to weed out jurors with evident biases, and works in many ways to protect the process which allows both the prosecution and the defense to do their best within the law. The jury members have been made aware of the importance of their mission, and of their duty to attend and to decide with care.
Students, on the other hand, are constantly exposed to a fabulously rich popular culture which assures them that teachers are losers and so is anyone who takes the work of learning in school seriously. Too many single parents feel they have lost the power to influence their offspring, especially as they become adolescents, and many are in any case more concerned that their youngsters be happy and make friends, than that they respect and listen to their teachers, bring home a lot of homework, and do it in preparation for the serious academic work that awaits them the next day.
Students are led to believe that to reject authority and to neglect academic work are evidence of their independence, their rebellion against the dead hand of the older generation. We must of course make an exception here for those fortunate children, many but not all Asian, who reject this foolish idea, and instead apply themselves diligently to their studies, grateful for the effort of their teachers and for the magical opportunity of 12 years of free education.
But what they see as a privilege worthy of their very best efforts, many other students see as a burden, an wanted intrusion on their social and digital time of entertainment. A study of the Kaiser Foundation last year found that the average U.S. student spends more than six hours each day with some form, or combination of forms, of electronic entertainment, and the Indiana Study of High School Student Engagement studied 80,000 teenagers and found that 55% spent three hours or less each week on their homework and still managed to get As and Bs.
We hear stories about the seriousness of students in China and India, but we are inclined to ignore them, perhaps as the Romans discounted rumors about the Goths and the Visigoths until it was too late. We hear about our students doing more poorly in international academic competitions the longer they stay in school, but we prefer to think that our American character and our creativity will carry us through somehow, even as we can see with our own eyes how many of the things we use every day are “Made in China.”
Part of the responsibility lies with our teachers in the schools, overburdened and unappreciated as they are. Their unions fight for better pay and working conditions, but say nothing about their academic work. Teachers, too, like lawyers, should demand peremptory challenges, so that they can say they will not be able to teach this one and that one, without damaging the work of the whole class. They, as much as the surgeons who are cutting meat, must be able to enforce close attention to the serious work of suturing learning in their classes. And like the conductor, they must be given the attention that is essential if the music of their teaching is to be heard and appreciated. Teachers who do not demand these conditions are simply saying that their academic work is not important enough to deserve such protections and conditions, and as a result, parents and students are encouraged to see it in the same light.
“Teach by Example”
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The Concord Review [1987]
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TCR Institute [2002]
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The Shadow Scholar: The man who writes your students’ papers tells his story

Editor’s note: Ed Dante is a pseudonym for a writer who lives on the East Coast. Through a literary agent, he approached The Chronicle wanting to tell the story of how he makes a living writing papers for a custom-essay company and to describe the extent of student cheating he has observed. In the course of editing his article, The Chronicle reviewed correspondence Dante had with clients and some of the papers he had been paid to write. In the article published here, some details of the assignment he describes have been altered to protect the identity of the student.
The request came in by e-mail around 2 in the afternoon. It was from a previous customer, and she had urgent business. I quote her message here verbatim (if I had to put up with it, so should you): “You did me business ethics propsal for me I need propsal got approved pls can you will write me paper?”
I’ve gotten pretty good at interpreting this kind of correspondence. The client had attached a document from her professor with details about the paper. She needed the first section in a week. Seventy-five pages.

Charters vs. Non-Charters in Newark

New Jersey Left Behind

Bruce Baker. Associate Professor in the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers and blogger at SchoolFinance101, looks at performance in 4th and 8th grade math of charter schools versus traditional public schools in NJ. In “Searching for Superguy in Jersey” he’s created a statistical model for schools within urban centers and weighted achievement for free and reduced lunch rates, homelessness, rates, and student racial composition. His conclusion is fair and reasonable:

As you can see, there are plenty of charters and traditional public schools above the line, and below the line. The point here is by no means to bash charters. Rather, this is about being realistic about charters and more importantly realistic about the difficulty of truly overcoming the odds. It’s not easy and any respectable charter school leader or teacher and any respectable traditional public school leader or teacher will likely confirm that. It’s not about superguy. It’s about hard work and sustained support; be it for charters or for traditional public schools.

Dr. Baker’s scattergrams place both charters and non-charters at the high end of performance (“Beating the Odds”) and low end (“Underperforming”). He also features Newark-specific scattergrams.

Harvard Study Measures Wisconsin Student Performance in a Global Context

Christian D’Andrea

What do to 8th grade students in Wisconsin have in common with 8th grade students in Russia and Lithuania? They’re just as likely to post advanced scores in math testing as their Eurasian counterparts.
A new study released by Harvard University measured how America’s students stack up across the world in advanced knowledge of math and other school subjects. Not surprisingly, the results didn’t weren’t exactly encouraging for us Yankees. The United States ranked 31st out of 57 participating countries when it came to the percentage of students testing at an advanced level or better in 8th grade math. In all, 16 of those countries had at least twice as many advanced students than America, according to recent test data.
The report, authored by education policy stalwarts Eric Hanushek, Paul Peterson, and Ludger Woessman, dug even deeper to America’s lag. The trio produced specific results for readers to compare individual states against the rest of the world. Wisconsin, despite ranking 11th in the country, fails to match up favorably against other developed countries.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: The big givers: Teacher Unions, tribes, and real estate agents

Ben Smith

A readers sends on a link to’s novel compilation of the top political donors of the 2007-8 cycle, novel in that it combines state and federal spending.
The results are striking: The biggest spender over all was the National Education Association, the bigger national teachers union, with nearly all of its $53.6 million spent on the state level. Six more of the top ten were gambling interests, at least five of them backing Indian casinos, again mostly at the state level.
SEIU comes in fifth, the National Association of Realtors comes in sixth.

Verona’s Badger Ridge students get lesson in new perspectives

Pamela Cotant

Oil pastels drawings now hanging in the Verona Public Library offer a new perspective on the city’s landscape.
The artwork was created by eighth grade students in a drawing and painting class at Badger Ridge Middle School after being asked to choose an atypical point of view. Then they walked down Main Street armed with digital camera and took pictures of familiar sites.
In some cases, the students took a “worm’s eye view.”
“I was laying on the ground and I took the picture (shooting up),” said Sarah Guy, 14, who drew Park Bank.
While the photos were being developed, the class discussed how artists use colors expressively. This was the first introduction of oil pastels in the class and students were asked to choose a color scheme that diverted from the actual subjects.

More students leaving failing schools

Associated Press

More parents in Southwest Washington are taking advantage of a federal law that allows them to transfer their kids out of failing schools.
The federal No Child Left Behind Act allows parents to bus their children from a “failing” school to another school at district expense.
More than 160 elementary students in the Longview and Kelso school districts are using the school choice provision of the law this year, The Daily News reported.
That’s still a small percentage of the 5,510 students eligible to transfer in both school districts. But it’s up sharply from the 24 Longview students who switched out of failing schools last year.

Summary of the possible Forgery in Seattle Schools $800,000 New Tech contract approval

Dan Dempsey, via email

ssential background:
On 1-29-2010 the Superintendent received two memos from Eric M. Anderson, a Gates Data Fellow, in the Seattle Schools’ Research, Evaluation, and Assessment division. Dr. Anderson is a real statistician and knows statistics well.
One of his two memos was more complete than the other. It analyzed 8 schools that someone else had given him to analyze. This memo was forwarded to the School Board on 2-02-2010. I shall refer to it as the Authentic Memo.
The other memo was not sent to the School Board. I refer to it as the Draft Memo, as it was less complete and was not sent to the school board.
The Superintendent claimed to have written the Action Report of 3-12-2010 using the Authentic Memo but this was untrue. She used the Draft Memo and thus deceived the Public and perhaps the Board as well.

Wisconsin Education Superintendent Seeks 2-4% annual increases in redistributed state tax dollars, introduction of a poverty formula and a shift in Property Tax Credits

Many links as the school finance jockeying begins, prior to Governor Scott Walker’s January, 2011 inauguration. Wisconsin’s $3,000,000,000 deficit (and top 10 debt position) makes it unlikely that the K-12 world will see any funding growth.
Matthew DeFour

Evers plan relies on a 2 percent increase in school aid funding next year and a 4 percent increase the following year, a tough sell given the state’s $3 billion deficit and the takeover of state government by Republicans, who have pledged budget cuts.
One major change calls for the transfer of about $900 million in property tax credits to general aid, which Evers said would make the system more transparent while having a negligible impact on property taxes. That’s because the state imposes a limit on how much a district can raise its total revenue. An increase in state aid revenue would in most cases be offset by a decrease in the other primary revenue — property taxes.
Thus the switch would mean school districts wouldn’t have such large annual property tax increases compared to counties, cities and other municipalities, even though tax bills would remain virtually the same, said Todd Berry, executive director of the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance.
“Distributing the money through the school aid formula, from a pure policy sense, is probably more equitable than distributing it in its current tax credit form,” Berry said. “The money will tend to help districts that tend to be poorer or middle-of-the-road.”

Susan Troller

Inequities in the current system tend to punish public schools in areas like Madison and Wisconsin’s northern lake districts because they have high property values combined with high poverty and special needs in their school populations. The current system doesn’t account for differences in kids’ needs when it doles out state aid.
Education policy makers as well as politicians on both sides of the aisle have talked school funding reform for over a dozen years but it’s been a tough sell because most plans have created a system of winners and losers, pitting legislator against legislator, district against district.
Evers’ plan, which calls for a 2 percent increase in school aid funding next year and a 4 percent increase the following year, as well as a transfer of about $900 million in property tax credits to general aid, addresses that issue of winners and losers. Over 90 percent of districts are receiving more funding under his proposal. But there aren’t any district losers in Evers’ plan, either, thanks to a provision that requests a tenth of a percent of the total state K-12 schools budget — $7 million — to apply to districts facing a revenue decline.


Wisconsin State and Local Debt Rose Faster Than Federal Debt During 1990-2009 Average Annual Increase in State Debt, 7.8%; Local Debt, 7.3%

Scott Bauer

Rewrite of Wisconsin school aid formula has cost

Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction:

The following printout provides school district level information related to the impact of State Superintendent Evers’ Fair Funding proposal.
Specifically, the attachment to this document shows what each school district is receiving from the state for the following programs: (1) 2010-11 Certified General Aid; (2) 2009-10 School Levy Tax Credit; and (3) 2010-11 High Poverty Aid.
This information is compared to the potential impact of the State Superintendent’s Fair Funding proposal, which is proposed to be effective in 2012-13, as if it had applied to 2010-11.
Specifically, the Fair Funding Proposal contains the following provisions:

Amy Hetzner

But the plan also asks for $420 million more over the next two years – a 2% increase in funding from the state for the 2011-’12 school year and 4% more for the following year – making it a tough sell in the Legislature.
State Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills), who will co-chair the powerful Joint Finance Committee, said she considered the proposal pretty much dead on arrival in the state Legislature, which will be under Republican control next year, without further changes.
“I think those goals are very admirable,” said Darling, who has been briefed on the plan. “But, you know, it’s a $6 billion budget just for education alone and we don’t have the new money. I think we have to do better with less. That’s just where we are.”
On Friday, Governor-elect Scott Walker said his office had only recently received the proposal from the DPI and he had not had time to delve into its details or to speak with Evers. He said he hoped to use his budget to introduce proposals that would help school districts to control their costs, such as freeing them from state mandates and allowing school boards to switch their employees to the state health plan.

Shakedown: The Current Conspiracy against the American Public School Parent, Student, and Teacher.

Dan Dempsey, via email

he above shakedown is similar to but not the same as
Shakedown: The Continuing Conspiracy Against the American Taxpayer (Hardcover)
by Steven Malanga.
In his book Mr. Malanga speaks of how the Government has financed an entire “Cottage Industry of Activists” for causes that advocate for what he sees as the Shakedown of the American taxpayer. I see that he makes a strong case and do not disagree with him.
I think a similar case can be built around
Shakedown: The Current Conspiracy against the American Public School Parent, Student, and Teacher.
This shakedown is financed by foundations and other forces (often business related) that finance the faux grassroots organizations that pose as pushing for Better Public Schools, while neglecting the significant data that shows what they advocate for is very ill advised.
The Obama/Duncan “Race to the Top” is a perfect example of this Shakedown. It is founded on attempting to define problems and then mandate particular actions as the solutions to these problems. The real problem with “RttT” is that while the problems defined may in fact be real, unfortunately the changes advocated are NOT solutions.

No more waiting for (Wisconsin) school reform

Wisconsin State Journal

Wisconsin Gov.-elect Scott Walker hasn’t seen the film “Waiting for Superman” yet, about America’s struggling public school system. The demands of campaigning and now preparing to take office don’t allow much time for movies.
But Walker did have “a good chat” with U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan last week. “In many ways,” Walker told the State Journal, “our ideas on reform follow a similar path.”
That’s encouraging because Walker has a huge opportunity to reshape our state’s schools. The incoming GOP governor needs to think big and act boldly, just as the Democratic president’s impressive education secretary has.
Duncan last month called the release of “Waiting for Superman,” by director Davis Guggenheim, “a Rosa Parks moment.” Duncan hopes the vital film — now playing at Sundance Cinemas in Madison — will spark discussion and action aimed at the incredibly serious challenges facing public education.

How Cities Pick School Chiefs, for All to See

Anemona Hartocollis

It is not always pretty. It may resemble a beauty pageant or a paintball contest more than a government exercise to determine how to go about educating a generation of children. But despite the unusual secrecy surrounding New York City’s recent search for a convention-defying schools chancellor, other cities have managed to get unorthodox results through more orthodox means.
San Diego chose a retired Navy admiral to head its schools after putting him and two other finalists on television to talk about their vision. Pittsburgh picked a former Massachusetts legislator, and Denver selected a former telecommunications executive and political adviser in Hong Kong — after putting them through a very public hazing.
“Going through a process like this did not create any major concerns for me,” Bill Kowba, the retired Navy admiral, said Friday. “As we came up through the ranks in the Navy, there was a very strong embedded tradition of leadership and accountability and the public calling for responsibility for your actions.”

Palo Alto school board mulls next step for Chinese immersion program

Jesse Dungan

Palo Alto Unified School District trustees are weighing the future of the Chinese immersion program at Ohlone Elementary School and will soon decide whether to make the pilot program a permanent fixture.
The school board considered changing the program’s status to “ongoing” at its meeting Tuesday and is now scheduled to vote on the matter Dec. 7. Before the program was approved in 2007, it sparked controversy with opponents arguing the district should offer foreign language classes to all elementary school students, not just some.
“There obviously was a lot of controversy when this program was adopted,” Superintendent Kevin Skelly acknowledged Tuesday.
But district staff, program consultants, Ohlone Principal Bill Overton and others told the board the program has been largely successful, both with students’ progress and the incorporation of the program into the Ohlone community. Skelly is recommending trustees change the program’s status to “ongoing.”

San Francisco School Administrators Schemed to Take Money, Documents Say

Trey Bundy

A group of San Francisco Unified School District administrators, including an associate superintendent, engaged in a long-running scheme to funnel district money into their personal bank accounts via nonprofit community organizations, according to internal documents.
The administrators worked out of the Student Support Services Department, which partners with community organizations to provide thousands of San Francisco students with health education, substance abuse counseling, violence prevention, after-school activities and other services.
The scandal has stunned San Francisco educators and thrown Student Support Services into turmoil at a time when the district faces a $113 million deficit. Some vital student services have been threatened as investigators comb through millions of dollars of transactions dating back at least four years.

Talking Numbers Counts For Kids’ Math Skills


In almost every home and pre-school in America, young children are being taught how to recite the alphabet and how to say their numbers.
A new study by University of Chicago psychology professor Susan Levine finds that simply repeating the numbers isn’t as good as helping kids understand what they mean.
According to her study, for children to develop the math skills they’ll need later on in school, it is essential that parents spend time teaching their children the value of numbers by using concrete examples — instead of just repeating them out loud.
“Just about all 2-year-olds can rattle off the sequence from one to 10,” Levine tells Weekend All Things Considered host Guy Raz. “But then, if you ask them to give you three objects … they’ll just grab a handful.”

National formula ‘to fund England’s state schools’


The government is looking to centralise the way in which funding for England’s 20,000 state schools is allocated.
Officials said this did not mean local authorities, now responsible for deciding funds, would be sidelined.
But the Department for Education is considering a “national funding formula” that could scale back their influence.
A White Paper will propose giving head teachers more freedom to decide priorities.
Ministers are planning to consult councils about the level of their involvement in the construction and operation of the formula and officials stressed the government wanted to work closely with them.

Grading teachers is no easy assignment

Erin Richards

Norma Mortimer moves about her high school classroom with confidence born of 41 years’ experience.
Directions to students are clear; she knows when to push for an answer and when to let a question hang.
The English teacher formerly taught music, composed and arranged marching band music, and performed at the Bristol Renaissance Faire.
“It all adds into what I bring to the classroom,” she said.
Once every three years as a tenured teacher, performance evaluations provide her with feedback, something she looks forward to even though she knows she’s not slipping.
Still, evaluations never flag what she considers her weakest area – teaching effectively when the class is in small groups. Last year, she never received her post-evaluation conference with the principal.
In the growing national debate on how to raise the quality of public school teaching in America, performance evaluations have become both a lightning rod and a sticking point.
Most evaluation systems in public schools provide little information to properly assess teachers’ strengths and weaknesses. And because teachers are rarely dismissed over their performance, formal evaluations seldom carry much weight.

Walker, GOP pledge to reform Wisconsin’s approach to school funding

Matthew DeFour

Wisconsin’s next governor has promised big changes for schools and taxpayers – from tying teacher pay raises to performance and giving each school a letter grade to expanding alternatives to public schools and helping school districts cut costs.
But the first challenge facing Republican Scott Walker and the GOP-controlled Legislature next year is closing a $3 billion deficit in the state’s general fund, 44 percent of which covers K-12 education.
“I don’t think anybody is going to, in the short run, be able to solve the budget problems without cutting state funding for K-12,” said Andrew Reschovsky, a UW-Madison economics professor. “The current situation is unsustainable in the long run. There really is a crisis in how we fund schools.”
State Superintendent Tony Evers this week is expected to kick-start the school spending debate by announcing the details of his plan to reform the state’s complex education funding formula. In June, he said his proposal would move away from distributing aid based on property values and take into account factors such as student poverty – a move that could help districts such as Madison with high property wealth but also a lot of poor students.
The state cut $284 million, or 2.6 percent, from school aid in the current budget, resulting in an 8 percent reduction for Madison. The state also reduced the amount districts could increase revenues from $275 per pupil to $200 per pupil, which helped keep a lid on property taxes but forced districts to make budget cuts.

The Radical School Reform You’ve Never Heard Of With ‘parent trigger,’ families can forcibly change failing schools.

David Feith

Debates about education these days tend to center on familiar terms like charter schools and merit pay. Now a new fault line is emerging: “parent trigger.”
Like many radical ideas, parent trigger originated in California, as an innovation of a liberal activist group called Parent Revolution. The average student in Los Angeles has only a 50% chance of graduating high school and a 10% chance of attending college. It’s a crisis, says Parent Revolution leader Ben Austin, that calls for “an unabashed and unapologetic transfer of raw power from the defenders of the status quo”–education officials and teachers unions–“to the parents.”
Parent trigger, which became California law in January, is meant to facilitate that transfer of power through community organizing. Under the law, if 51% of parents in a failing school sign a petition, they can trigger a forcible transformation of the school–either by inviting a charter operator to take it over, by forcing certain administrative changes, or by shutting it down outright.
Schools are eligible for triggering if they have failed to make “adequate yearly progress,” according to state standards, for four consecutive years. Today 1,300 of California’s 10,000 schools qualify.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Teachers’ $500 Billion (and Growing) Pension Problem

Andrew Rotherham

Teacher pensions may not sound like a sexy or even high-profile issue, but keep reading: they’re threatening the fiscal health of many states and could cost you — yes, you — thousands of dollars. And, like the savings-and-loan crisis at the end of the 1980s or the current housing-market mess, insiders see big trouble ahead in the next few years and are starting to sound warnings.
Today there is an almost $500 billion shortfall for funding teacher pensions, and that gap is growing. Why should you care? Because ultimately taxpayers are on the hook for that money. But the problem doesn’t just end there. The way teacher pensions operate is badly suited to today’s teacher workforce, where 30-year careers are no longer the norm. The current setup penalizes teachers who move between states, switch to private or public-charter schools that do not participate in the pension system or leave teaching altogether. Meanwhile, it becomes financial suicide for teachers to change careers after a certain point, even if they no longer want to teach or are not good at it.
(See 10 smarter ways to reach your retirement goals.)
But first, let’s talk about the money. Teacher pensions are part of a larger set of benefits that states and cities offer public employees, including health care and pension programs for cops, garbage men and other public employees. The Pew Center on the States puts the total shortfall for these benefits at $1 trillion. You read that right: trillion with a t. Obviously, these are important benefits to offer, but the costs are out of hand.

One-time funds to train 153 Oshkosh teachers to help students with math

Adam Rodewald

New spending approved by the Oshkosh school board would cover a gap in math tutoring services that has left four schools with inadequate help for struggling students since last year.
About 13 percent of Oshkosh elementary school students perform below grade level in math, said Director of Curriculum Shelly Muza.
That’s better than the average Wisconsin district, which has about 25 percent of elementary students performing below grade level. But budget cuts in the 2009-10 academic year stripped Oakwood, Carl Traeger, Lakeside and Green Meadow schools of math support services after the board decided to fund the $295,000 program with federal Title I dollars – money given only to schools with higher rates of poverty – instead of general fund dollars.
The remaining math intervention teachers who work one-on-one with struggling students can barely keep up. The equivalent of 4.25 full-time teachers are split between about 570 students in 12 elementary schools, said Muza.

Two relate links: Math Forum Audio, Video & Links; Math Task Force.

Madison schools have the chance to be bold in helping Spanish-speaking students

For most people, including me and probably much of the education establishment, this child’s future would not appear particularly bright.
But for those willing to peek through the other end of the looking glass, he’s ripe for a talented and gifted program that values advanced, often in-born academic gifts, but might do a better job respecting the advanced, real-world skills of its poorer, less-stereotypically successful students.
Elias is bilingual, after all, which by itself would go a long way toward qualifying him for jobs the rest of us English-only Americans could never hope to get in our rapidly diversifying society: urban newspaper reporter, Spanish-language television executive, United Nations translator.

Feds Seek Education Transformation Through Technology

Elizabeth Montalbano

The Department of Education this week laid out a technology strategy to improve the U.S. educational system.
U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan released the National Education Technology Plan (NETP), which sets goals to achieve by 2015 for how technology can transform the way students learn.
Specifically, the plan — titled “Transforming American Education: Learning Powered by Technology” — outlines a blueprint for changing five aspects of education with technology: learning, assessment, teaching, infrastructure and productivity.

The keys to New York City Schools’ Chancellor Black’s success

Joe Williams

New York City’s public schools are dramatically better today than they were eight years ago, in large part thanks to the tireless work of Chancellor Joel Klein. But there’s still a long way to go, and the city needs its next chancellor, Cathie Black, to chart a clear path forward, and quickly.
If Black wants to finish what Chancellor Klein started, she must work to make parents, teachers and the public feel invested in the process.
Chicago’s Renaissance 2010 plan is an excellent example of this: It let the city’s leaders explain to Chicogoans exactly what they hoped to accomplish, and then frame each reform, like closing schools, in the broader effort to improve the system. Mayor Cory Booker is starting a similar process in Newark.
But the key to Black’s success — and to school reform — is how she addresses the five major challenges facing New York City’s schools:

Brains Like To Keep It Real

Catherine Clabby

Text and images may be king on the Internet, but people in a position to buy seem to prefer the real thing
In this age of fierce competition between Internet marketing and traditional retail, merchants want to know: Which approach stirs potential customers most?
Experiments by neuroeconomist Antonio Rangel and his colleagues suggest that the old pop song chorus–“Ain’t nothing like the real thing, baby”–might have it right.
The findings could be relevant to more than shopping, however. They may give insight into the ways our brains assign value in the computational activity that is human choice.
“Whether the stimuli are physically present or not really affects the values you assign and the choices you make,” says Rangel, a California Institute of Technology researcher who published the research results with his colleagues in the American Economic Review in September.

Hartland Arrowhead High School responds to Title IX complaint

Arrowhead High School will pay for girls lacrosse and alpine skiing programs following an investigation by the U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights, according to documents provided to the Journal Sentinel.
It was the second such major investigation into how the Waukesha County high school treats the athletic interests of boys and girls, protected under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, in the last four years.
According to an Oct. 29 letter from Jeffrey Turnbull with the OCR’s Chicago office, the federal government concluded “that the District is not currently fully and effectively accommodating the interests and abilities of its girls.”

School Board Governance: Surrendor Dorothy, or Who Does the Superintendent Work For?

Charlie Mas

What would it be like if we just gave up? I suggest that it would essentially the same as it would be if we continued the struggle.
What would it be like if the superintendent didn’t get any pushback on any of her initiatives? Despite all of the pushback, she has been able to move forward with just about everything that she has wanted to do, starting with the decision to co-locate Sealth and Denny. Elementary and middle school APP were split. Schools were closed. Schools were re-opened. Discover Math was adopted. Millions were spent on STEM, including $800,000 going to NTN. The District bought MAP. The District has paid through the nose for consultants including consultants for high school LA curriculum alignment, consultants for performance management, and consultants for a whole list of strategic plan initiatives.
What would it be like if no one followed up on unfilled promises? Not much different that it has been because she hasn’t fulfilled many – if any – promises. The promises around the Denny/Sealth co-location have been broken. The promises around the Southeast Initiative were broken. The promises around the APP splits were broken. The promises around the school closures were broken. The promises around the school openings were broken. The promises around the math adoption were broken. The promises around curricular alignment were broken. The promises around the new student assignment plan were broken. The promises around capacity management were broken. The promises around the strategic plan were broken. All of the promises were broken and she has successfully evaded any kind of authentic community engagement.

More on “who does the Superintendent work for”, here.

Real ways to improve ‘teacher effectiveness’

Sandra Dean,Valerie Ziegler

The Los Angeles Times decided in August to publish “teacher effectiveness” ratings using “value-added” test scores, an action that not only did a disservice to teachers but also to the children of California. The Times reduced the definition of quality teaching to a simplistic equation: Good teachers produce good test scores.
There is a simple, intuitive appeal to that formulation, but study after study demonstrates that scores on state tests, even using value-added measurement, are affected by too many factors to support simplistic conclusions about individual teachers.
That is not simply our opinion. Every major professional association of education researchers has said so. The National Academies and the Economics Policy Institute have said so as well.

The Original Inhabitants of Crazy Town: Eliminating the Department of Education

Mike Antonucci

It’s with some amusement that I read the overheated debate about abolishing the U.S. Department of Education. For one thing, there is a vast difference between those who want to eliminate the federal role in education, and those who want to return ED to its former home in the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. But since neither of those things is going to happen, I guess it doesn’t matter if they are lumped together.
On the other hand, there are those who think getting rid of ED would “destroy public education as we know it,” and that those abolitionists are “strange bedfellows in Crazy Town.” This attitude only demonstrates the hopelessness of the task. If talk of eliminating or downgrading a Cabinet department is beyond the pale, maybe the Postmaster General should should be returned to his spot.

Less federalism in education would certainly be welcome, from my perspective.

Houston’s special ed program draws scrutiny

The Texas Education Agency has sent a conservator to the Houston school district to make sure it fixes problems in serving a group of students with disabilities.
The school district has come under state oversight after failing to correct multiple violations, such as not providing students with the instruction they were promised and giving too many children modified state exams.
The problems highlighted by the TEA focus only on the district’s program for students with disabilities who are in the custody of residential facilities. Children who live in these private or state-run facilities — which include group homes and residential treatment centers — are away from their families. A 2005 court order requires the TEA to monitor how districts educate these children.
“Often times, these kids are so far away from their families that there’s really no oversight if TEA isn’t doing the job,” said Maureen O’Connell, an attorney with the Southern Disability Law Center. O’Connell represented the children in the lawsuit brought against the TEA that led to the mandatory monitoring.

Obama’s New Digital Learning Plan: A Killer App

Fred Belmont

Education Secretary Arne Duncan unveiled the final version of the National Education Technology Plan on Tuesday — proposals to use social networking, data collection and multi-media to get U.S. kids to learn more. According to Duncan, the plan — almost two years in the making — will help American education “transition to digital classrooms and transform learning” for the Facebook and IPhone generation and beyond.
As a middle school math teacher and a long-time union member, I had heard it all before. Dozens of “solutions du jour” have come and gone — with little if any measurable improvement. I figured that this was one more attempt that was destined to fail.
As I read Duncan’s speech about the plan, my skepticism evaporated. Not only could this plan prompt Democrats and Republicans in the incoming Congress to cross the aisle to focus on a crucial learning roadmap, but the plan — and each of its five very specific goals — makes sense!

Busting a language barrier Some schools succeed with ESL students where others fail

Jennifer Anderson

When it’s time to read at Whitman Elementary School, kids don’t get to pick their favorite SpongeBob or Scooby Doo book from the rack.
Reading time here at this quiet little school in outer Southeast Portland is serious business, and for good reason: there are benchmarks to meet, levels to advance.
With one out of three students learning English as a second language at Whitman, Principal Lori Clark makes it a priority to boost literacy not just for those students, but also for every child, through intensive two-hour blocks of reading time each day. The blocks are staggered, to make the most of the school’s two-and-a-half ESL teaching positions and one bilingual assistant.

A Quality Teacher in Every Classroom: An Evaluation System that Works for California

National Board Resource Center

We are pleased to share our first report, A Quality Teacher in Every Classroom: An Evaluation System that Works for California.
This report, one in a series to be released by ACT, examines teacher evaluation. We chose to begin here because we believe that without a common understanding of what constitutes teaching quality and how teachers should be evaluated, any further conversation about improving teaching will be inconsequential. The recommendations in this report are drawn from research, analysis of existing policies, input from academic experts, and our own experiences as promoters of quality teaching. This report offers our recommendations on making teacher evaluation a more useful tool to advance the quality of teaching across California.
If you want to leave a comment or ask a question about the report, please visit our InterACT blog.

The Six Major Components of the MMSD High School Plan

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes

In an earlier post, I provided my understanding of the background of the protest at West High about the proposal for changes in the District’s high school curriculum. I explained how the proposal was an outgrowth of the work that has gone on at the high schools for the last few years under the auspices of a federal grant, known as the REaL grant (for Relationships, Engagement and Learning).
That proposal, which will affect all four of the District’s comprehensive high schools and is now known as the High School Career and College Readiness Plan, has since evolved somewhat, partially in response to the feedback that has been received and partially as a consequence of thinking the proposals through a bit more.
Here is where things currently stand.
The high school proposal should start a conversation that could last for a few years regarding a long-term, systematic review of our curriculum and the way it is delivered to serve the interests of all learners. What’s currently on the table is more limited in scope, though it is intended to serve as the foundation for later work.
The principal problem the proposal is meant to address is that we currently don’t have any district-defined academic standards at the high school level. There is no established set of expectations for what skills students should be learning in each subject area each year. Since we don’t have any basic expectations, we also don’t have any specific and consistent goals for accelerated learning. A corollary of this is that we really don’t have many ways to hold a teacher accountable for the level of learning that goes on in his or her classroom. Also, we lack a system of assessments that would let us know how our students are progressing through high school.

Lots of related links:

Q&A with Kaleem Caire: Why Madison needs a charter school aimed at African-American boys

Susan Troller:

CT: How will you bring boys who are already behind a couple of years or more up to grade level so they are fully prepared for college?
KC: One, we will have a longer school day, a longer school year. They will start about 7:30 and end about 5 o’clock. Tutoring will be built into our school program. It will be built into each schedule based on your academic performance. We’re going to use ability grouping to tackle kids who are severely behind, who need more education. We’ll do that if we can afford it by requiring Saturday school for young people who really need even additional enrichment and so we’re going to do whatever it takes so we make sure they get what they need.
CT: What kind of commitment will Madison Prep require of parents or guardians?
KC: They have to sign a participation contract. These are non-binding contracts but it will clearly spell out what their expectations are of us and our expectations are of them. Parents will be given a grade for participation on the child’s report card. There are ways for ALL parents to be involved. You know, some people have asked, ‘What will you do if parents won’t show up to a child’s performance review?’ Literally, we’ll go set up our tables outside their houses and it will be kind of embarrassing but we’ll do it because we won’t allow our kids to be left behind.
CT: You’ve said you’d like to see more flexibility and innovation. Does that mean you’d like to run this school without a union contract?

Watch an interview with Kaleem here. Much more on Kaleem via this link.

Encouraging Deep Learning

David Moltz

Many community college students do not engage in enough classroom activities that enhance their “broadly applicable thinking, reasoning and judgment skills,” according to the latest Community College Survey of Student Engagement released today.
This year’s release of the survey, now in its 10th year, draws from the responses of more than 400,000 community college students in 47 states, the Marshall Islands and the Canadian provinces of Nova Scotia and Ontario. In addition to the annual set of questions about their classroom and campus experiences, this year’s respondents were asked specific questions about “deep learning” techniques — defined as those “abilities that allow individuals to apply information, develop a coherent world view and interact in more meaningful ways.”
The authors of this year’s survey argue that the percentages of students who reported that they engaged “often or very often” in “deep learning” activities indicate that community colleges must do a better job of promoting them in the classroom if they hope to boost student performance.

Is this the solution to the population crisis afflicting Hong Kong schools?

Elaine Yau and He Huifeng

Much has been written about mainland mothers giving birth in Hong Kong, yet little is known about what happens to the children once their parents take them home.
The number of babies born in Hong Kong to mainland parents surged from 2,070 in 2003 to 16,044 in 2006. The figure reached 29,766 last year – representing 45.5 per cent of all births in the city.
Despite such a sharp rise, the Census and Statistics Department has conducted just one rudimentary survey into the phenomenon.
Some 11,643 parents were polled between 2007 and 2009 at Immigration Department birth registries. They were asked whether and when their children would return to Hong Kong. A majority said their children would come back between the ages of three and 11.

Gov. Christie slams Parsippany school board for approving superintendent salary above planned cap

Matt Friedman

Gov. Chris Christie today slammed Parsippany’s school board for approving a salary for Superintendent LeRoy Seitz that is well above a cap set to take effect in a few months. But Christie was not sure if he could do anything to reverse the decision.
Christie, who was at a town hall meeting in Clifton, said the school board “cares more about whether a superintendent will take them out to lunch than protecting the taxpayers they were elected to serve,” and that they ignore voters at their “political peril.”
At a standing-room-only meeting Tuesday night, the board voted 6-2 to extend Seitz’s contract by five years, with an average annual salary of $225,064. The contract was set to expire on July 1.


Joel Klein, the New York City schools chancellor, is not a popular man among those who have spent their careers working in the school system–but, to judge by the reaction in the edu-blogosphere, any joy engendered by the announcement of his resignation was quickly extinguished when the identity of his successor became known. She is Cathie Black, a career magazine-industry executive with no work experience in education; in appointing her, Mayor Michael Bloomberg is showing that he doesn’t trust educators, even those with reformist reputations, to run the school system. So the toxicity surrounding school reform isn’t likely to disappear.
How Mayor Bloomberg feels about the school system isn’t news anymore. What’s most interesting about yesterday’s announcement was not that Klein is leaving or that Black is replacing him, but that Klein is going to work for Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. to explore possibilities in education. Recently, two famous Wall Street short sellers, James Chanos and Steve Eisman, announced that they see a crash coming in the for-profit education sector, which is heavily dependent on online degrees paid for through federally guaranteed student loans. (For details, see the very viral PowerPoint and speech that Eisman delivered at an investment conference last May, called “Subprime Goes to College.”) The shorts, and the Obama Administration, which is tightening student-loan eligibility, have driven down the prices of education stocks–including that of the Washington Post Company, which depends economically on Kaplan Inc., one of the leading for-profit education companies (and until recently the employer of Joel Klein’s predecessor as New York schools chancellor, Harold Levy).

Joel Klein’s Report Card

The Wall Street Journal

Education reformers tend to react to the ferocious opposition of the status quo in one of two ways: Either they fade away in resignation, or they become even more radical. Joel Klein did the latter, which is why he leaves New York City’s 1,600 public schools and 1.1 million students better than he found them.
A Democrat without education experience when he became schools chancellor in 2002, Mr. Klein began as a mainstream reformer. Raise standards, end social promotion, hire better teachers, promote charter schools. But as he was mugged by the reality of the K-12 public school establishment, he began to appreciate that real improvement requires more than change at the margin.
Thus he led the fight for far more school choice by creating charter school clusters, as in Harlem, that are changing the local culture of failure. Kids from as far away as Buffalo will benefit from his fight to lift the state charter cap, which increased to 460 schools from 200. Mr. Klein helped to expose the “rubber rooms” that let bad teachers live for years on the taxpayer dime while doing no work. He gave schools grades from A to F and pushed to close the bad ones, and he fought for merit pay in return for ending teacher tenure.

Minneapolis Schools budget deficit could be double original estimate

Minneapolis school officials are warning of an even larger budget deficit next year than first expected.
District leaders had said next year’s budget gap would exceed $20 million, but they now estimate it will be between $30 million and $45 million.
Peggy Ingison, the district’s chief financial officer, said the deficits are the result of federal stimulus money that is running out, along with uncertain and likely less funding from the state and cuts are certain to affect classroom instruction and teaching jobs.
“We wouldn’t be able to probably continue to totally protect the classroom with this level of cuts,” Ingison said. “Neither will we be able to avoid, with such a significant portion of our budget related to wages and benefits, any staff reductions.”

College Board to revive its AP test in Italian

Daniel de Vise

The College Board announced on Wednesday the revival of the Advanced Placement test in Italian, setting the stage for a renaissance in the study of the language of Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci in U.S. high schools.
Italian teachers had feared nothing less than the demise of their discipline when the college-preparatory nonprofit organization eliminated AP Italian last year, saying the program was underfunded.
Wednesday’s announcement signaled the success of a two-year lobbying campaign by advocates of Italian language and culture in U.S. schools. The turning point came when the Cuomo family, cast in the role of cultural ambassadors, secured a financial commitment from the Italian government.
“These things don’t happen without that level of support. And we are very grateful to Prime Minister [Silvio] Berlusconi for that,” said Margaret Cuomo, daughter of former New York governor Mario Cuomo and sister of Gov.-elect Andrew Cuomo.

Schools Wary of Prep Powerhouses in Football

Harvey Araton

The fans in the home team rooting section were stunned when visiting Don Bosco Prep called a timeout with about two minutes remaining in the first half in an attempt to regain possession of the football.
Their version of “Friday Night Lights” was devolving into Friday Night Spite, a rerun of the 71-0 shellacking they had witnessed the year before. And when Bosco quarterback Gary Nova hit a receiver over the middle, in full stride, for an 80-yard touchdown with no time on the clock, the Clifton High School fans responded in full-throated frustration.
The booing started and someone yelled, “bush league,” and another fan sarcastically encouraged Bosco to go for a 2-point conversion.
Instead, Bosco kicked the extra point and settled for a 48-0 halftime lead.

I Really Did Think It Was the Right Time,’ Klein Says

Javier Hernandez

During his eight years at the helm of New York City public schools, Joel I. Klein emerged as one of the city’s most divisive figures. On Tuesday, he announced that he would step out of the limelight to become an executive vice president responsible for education and technology at Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation.
In a telephone interview shortly after announcing his resignation, Mr. Klein reflected on his time leading the country’s largest school system and the frustrations and triumphs of his tenure.
Here is a transcript of the interview, condensed and edited for space.

Committee vote may endanger Md. Race to Top grant

Michael Birnbaum

A Maryland legislative committee voted Monday to reject a new regulation requiring that half of teachers’ evaluations be based on student progress, calling into question the future of a $250 million federal Race to the Top grant.
The move is a challenge to a core component of the education plan proposed by Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) and State Schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick in the spring. The federal money was awarded in part because Maryland promised that student progress would be such a large component of the evaluations, and President Obama has encouraged such changes.
But opponents of the policy, including the state’s teachers unions, say that standardized tests are not designed to give information about teachers and that teachers should not be held responsible for outside factors that affect achievement.

LA schools move toward evaluating teachers based on student performance

Connie Llanos

Los Angeles Unified officials took a big step forward Tuesday toward launching a new controversial method to evaluate teachers based on the performance of their students.
The school board approved two consultant contracts to study and develop the new teacher evaluation method, with a combined cost of up to $4.5 million.
One consultant will develop ways to evaluate teachers based on the test performance of their students over time, called the “value-added” method. The other will help develop new guidelines and “best practices” for teachers.
The value-added method compares student performance from one year to the next to evaluate a teacher’s abilities. It has been sharply criticized by some union leaders and experts as flawed and unfair, but applauded by others, including President Barack Obama.

A Girl, a School and Hope

Nicholas Kristof

Given today’s economic difficulties, I thought I’d come to Pakistan to find Osama bin Laden, lug him back home in my duffel bag and declare him at American customs to pick up the $27 million reward.
More on that mission in a moment. First, another conundrum here in Pakistan:
The United States has provided $18 billion to Pakistan in aid since 9/11, yet Pakistan’s government shelters the Afghan Taliban as it kills American soldiers and drains the American Treasury. Meanwhile, only 8 percent of Pakistanis have confidence in President Obama, according to the Pew Research Center. That’s not even half as many as express confidence in bin Laden.
Meanwhile, Pakistan seeks postflood aid from Western taxpayers, yet barely taxes its own affluent citizens at home. And its feudal landholders have historically opposed good schools, for fear that poor Pakistanis — if educated — would object to oppression.

Teaching Math to the Talented

Eric Hanushek, Paul E. Peterson and Ludger Woessmann

In Vancouver last winter, the United States proved its competitive spirit by winning more medals–gold, silver, and bronze–at the Winter Olympic Games than any other country, although the German member of our research team insists on pointing out that Canada and Germany both won more gold medals than the United States. But if there is some dispute about which Olympic medals to count, there is no question about American math performance: the United States does not deserve even a paper medal.
Maintaining our productivity as a nation depends importantly on developing a highly qualified cadre of scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, and other professionals. To realize that objective requires a system of schooling that produces students with advanced math and science skills. To see how well schools in the United States do at producing high-achieving math students, we compared the percentage of U.S. students in the high-school graduating Class of 2009 with advanced skills in mathematics to percentages of similarly high achievers in other countries.

“We need entirely different schools to fit the needs of students, not the teachers and administrators,” – Kaleem Caire

David Blaska on the recent Community Conversation on Education:

Caire was one of four main presenters, the others being Madison schools superintendent Dan Nerad, the dean of the UW-Madison School of Education, and — sure enough — Madison Teachers Inc. union president Mike Lipp.
Nerad was o.k. He got off a good line: “Children are the future but we are our children’s future.” He even quoted Sitting Bull but on first reference made certain to use his actual Native American name. This IS Madison, after all.
UW Education Dean Julie Underwood was atrocious — a firm defender of the status quo denouncing the “slashing” of school budgets, “negative ads,” and demanding that the community become “public school advocates.” I.E., the whole liberal litany.
Say, Dean Julie, how about the community become advocates for teaching children — in other words, the goal — instead of a one-size-fits-all, government-ordained delivery mechanism? Isn’t competition the American way?
Union apologist Mike Lipp reminded me of Welcome Back Kotter — looks and mien. He could be humorous (I am certain he is a good teacher) but he spent his allotted time on the glories of that holy grail of education: the union’s collective bargaining agreement. I expected an ethereal light beam to shine down on this holy writ, which Lipp lamented that he did not bring with him. His other purpose was to defuse the powerhouse documentary, “Waiting for Superman.”
Indeed, it was that indictment of public education’s “failure factories” and the hidebound me-first teachers unions that prompted Tuesday evening’s “conversation.” I wrote about it, and Kaleem Caire, here.
When Lipp was finished he returned to his table next to union hired gun John Matthews. No sense in sitting with parents and taxpayers.
When it came time for the participants to respond, one parent said of the four presenters that only Kaleem Caire took to heart the evening’s admonition to “keep students as the focus.” I think that was a little unfair to Nerad, who deserves credit for opening this can of worms, but otherwise right on target.
Caire reported that only 7% of African-American students tested as college-ready on the ACT test. For Latinos, the percentage is 14. Those are 2010 statistics — for Madison schools. In these schools, 2,800 suspensions were handed down to black students — of a total black enrollment of 5,300 students!

Related links: The Madison School District = General Motors; Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman:

“Beware of legacy practices (most of what we do every day is the maintenance of the status quo), @12:40 minutes into the talk – the very public institutions intended for student learning has become focused instead on adult employment. I say that as an employee. Adult practices and attitudes have become embedded in organizational culture governed by strict regulations and union contracts that dictate most of what occurs inside schools today. Any impetus to change direction or structure is met with swift and stiff resistance. It’s as if we are stuck in a time warp keeping a 19th century school model on life support in an attempt to meet 21st century demands.” Zimman went on to discuss the Wisconsin DPI’s vigorous enforcement of teacher licensing practices and provided some unfortunate math & science teacher examples (including the “impossibility” of meeting the demand for such teachers (about 14 minutes)). He further cited exploding teacher salary, benefit and retiree costs eating instructional dollars (“Similar to GM”; “worry” about the children given this situation).

An interview with Kaleem Caire.

How NOT to vote for school board & Who Does the Superintendent Report to

Last week, I voted for several people on the Montgomery County school board, one of the few times I ever thought about that body.
As an education writer, I try to stay away from school boards. I know that sounds odd, but over the years, I have found school board meetings to be as interesting, newsworthy and uplifting as visits to the dentist. I avoid them. I talk to teachers, principals, students and parents instead.
I feel guilty about that. School boards have a vital role in a democratic society. They are the link between us and our schools. If you have a complaint that the school system is not addressing, the school board is pretty much the only place to go. So why don’t I make more of an effort to get to know its members?
The recent election reminded me of one reason. The public sources of information about school board members, such as news articles, voters guides and school district Web sites, rarely tell me the most important things to know about those being elected.
The most important decision school board members make is whom to hire as superintendent. Whether they vote for or against the superintendent’s plans for improving schools is also crucial. Cities, including the District, have transferred that power over superintendents to mayors or city councils because their school boards were too distracted by political or personal feuds and failed to support even effective superintendents.

The Madison School District discussed Superintendent Nerad’s review during their 11/8/2010 meeting. Watch the quite interesting discussion here, starting at about 83 minutes..

Report: “Competency” Should Advance Students

Young people should be assessed and moved through K-12 education at their own pace, after evaluations have determined competencies, rather than the current policy of advancing learners based primarily on seat time, according to a new report published yesterday.
The report, When Failure is Not an Option: Designing Competency-Based Pathways for Next Generation Learners was released today by the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL). Support for the report was provided by the Nellie Mae Education Foundation.
The paper explores competency-based pathways, a necessary condition to realizing the potential of next generation learning. The report promotes a deeper understanding of K-12 education policies and practices for implementing student-centered learning through competency-based pathways through a scan of exemplars across the United States. Also touched on in the paper are the many explorations into next generation learning that are sweeping across the country, as well as the technological advancements that are opening up new student-centered, performance-based, “anytime, anywhere” educational opportunities.

Washington Post’s Kaplan Faces Growing Scrutiny

Stanley H. Kaplan started his tutoring business in the basement of his parents’ Brooklyn home in 1938. As standardized tests became a bigger fixture of American education, his company became a national operation, preparing millions of students for the SAT, LSAT, MCATs and other tests.
Kaplan was still a test-prep company when the Washington Post Company bought it in 1984, after Richard D. Simmons, the president, convinced Katharine Graham of its potential for expansion and profits.
Over the last decade, Kaplan has moved aggressively into for-profit higher education, acquiring 75 small colleges and starting the huge online Kaplan University. Now, Kaplan higher education revenues eclipse not only the test-prep operations, but all the rest of the Washington Post Company’s operations. And Kaplan’s revenue grew 9 percent during the last quarter to $743.3 million — with higher education revenues more than four times greater than those from test-prep — helping its parent company more than triple its profits.
But over the last few months, Kaplan and other for-profit education companies have come under intense scrutiny from Congress, amid growing concerns that the industry leaves too many students mired in debt, and with credentials that provide little help in finding jobs.

Young, Educated, and Unemployed: A New Generation of Kids Search for Work in their 20s

Amanda Fairbanks

The Lost Generation: What it’s like for 20-somethings to go in search of meaningful work–and not find it.
Since January, for 35 hours a week, at a rate of $10 an hour, Luke Stacks has been working for a home-electronics chain. He answers the phone and attempts to coax callers into buying more stuff. This is not how he imagined he would be spending his late 20s.
Like a lot of us, Stacks was given a fairly straightforward version of how his life would unfold: He would go to college and study something he found interesting, graduate, and get a decent job. For a while, things went pretty much according to plan. Stacks, who now is 27, went to the University of Virginia, not far from where he grew up, majoring in American Studies. He later enrolled in a Ph.D. program at the University of Iowa, with the eventual goal of becoming a professor.

Chicago Public Schools sees $700 mil. deficit next year

Rosalind Rossi

Two months into the school year, Chicago Board of Education officials Tuesday were already estimating next school year’s deficit at $700 million.
Plus, the State of Illinois now owes the Chicago Public Schools more money than it did in August, when CPS officials scraped together enough cost savings, last-minute revenues and rainy-day reserve fund-raiding to balance the system’s budget.

Segregating the smart from the not-as-smart helps nobody

Chris Rickert

I’ve never been accused of having any talent worth nurturing in an Advanced Placement class, although I’m sure there are some who would say I have a gift for irritating people. (Unfortunately, they don’t give out Rhodes Scholarships for that.)
So feel free to take what I’m about to say with a grain of salt, or a healthy dose of sour grapes on my part, but I question the utility of the way we challenge the young brainiacs among us.
Diving deeply into physics or fine arts might make for good rocket scientists and concert pianists, but it would also seem inevitably to exclude a certain less intense, yet broader range of experiences and the people they include.
My new Facebook friends and perhaps the most courteous political insurgents ever, Madison West seniors Joaquin Selva and Jacob Fiksel, admitted to something along those lines when I ran into them Wednesday at the school district’s Community Conversation on Education.

Lots of related links:

Response to WSJ Article: More Background, Additional Information, Long History of Advocacy

Lorie Raihala, via email

On Sunday, November 7, the Wisconsin State Journal featured a front-page article about the Madison School District’s Talented and Gifted education services: “TAG, they’re it.” The story describes parents’ frustration with the pace of reform since the Board of Education approved the new TAG Plan in August, 2009. It paints the TAG Plan as very ambitious and the parents as impatient-perhaps unreasonable-to expect such quick implementation.
The article includes a “Complaint Timeline” that starts with the approval of the TAG Plan, skips to the filing of the complaint on September 20, and proceeds from there to list the steps of the DPI audit.
Unfortunately, neither this timeline nor the WSJ article conveys the long history leading up to the parents’ complaint. This story did not start with the 2009 TAG Plan. Rather, the 2009 TAG Plan came after almost two decades of the District violating State law for gifted education.
To provide better background, we would like to add more information and several key dates to the “Complaint Timeline.”
November 2005: West High School administrators roll out their plan for English 10 at a PTSO meeting. Most of the 70 parents in attendance object to the school eliminating English electives and imposing a one-size-for-all curriculum on all students. Parents ask administrators to provide honors sections of English 10. They refuse. Parents ask administrators to evaluate and fix the problems with English 9 before implementing the same approach in 10th grade. They refuse. Parents appeal to the BOE to intervene; they remain silent. Meanwhile, parents have already been advocating for years to save the lone section of Accelerated Biology at West.

Brainstorming session to improve Madison public education yields lots of ideas

Devin Rose

Hundreds of teachers, parents and students came together Tuesday night to discuss strategies — which the Madison School District hopes to eventually act on — to ensure quality education for all students.
Key ideas included hiring top teachers, encouraging parent involvement and meeting the needs of an increasingly diverse classroom.
“We are our children’s future,” said Superintendent Dan Nerad, adding strong children are essential for a strong community.
School officials who organized the event hoped the release of “Waiting for Superman,” a documentary that examines the state of U.S. public education, would help spark conversation about improving the way students learn in Madison. Attendees were seated in small groups to brainstorm the successes and challenges of public education as well as improvements that need to be made.

Should We Teach Kids to Play to Win?

Ilya Somin

Political scientist Barry Rubin has an interesting column criticizing the modern tendency to teach kids that playing to win is bad:

My son is playing on a local soccer team which has lost every one of its games, often by humiliating scores. The coach is a nice guy, but seems an archetype of contemporary thinking: he tells the kids not to care about whether they win, puts players at any positions they want, and doesn’t listen to their suggestions.
He never criticizes a player or suggests how a player could do better. My son, bless him, once remarked to me: “How are you going to play better if nobody tells you what you’re doing wrong?” The coach just tells them how well they are playing. Even after an 8-0 defeat, he told them they’d played a great game.
And of course, the league gives trophies to everyone, whether their team finishes in first or last place…..
[A]m I right in thinking that sports should prepare children for life, competition, the desire to win, and an understanding that not every individual has the same level of skills? A central element in that world is rewarding those who do better, which also offers an incentive for them and others to strive….

Teacher’s ed…

The Chicago Tribune

The most critical factor in a child’s education outside the home is the quality of the teacher at the front of his or her classroom. A great teacher can lift a struggling student. A mediocre teacher can set a child back months if not years.
So which Illinois education schools are producing great teachers? And which aren’t?
On Tuesday, the Washington-based National Council on Teacher Quality unveiled a no-punches-pulled report that evaluated 111 undergraduate and graduate programs in 53 education schools across Illinois.
The most disturbing finding: The state’s largest producers of teachers — Illinois State University and Northern Illinois University, — earned poor marks. Illinois State, the report said, merited “exceptionally low grades in its undergraduate elementary and special education programs.” Northern Illinois “did only slightly better, with weak grades in its undergraduate elementary and both its undergraduate and graduate special education program.”

Shocking School Achievement Gap for Black Males

Bill Whataker

The California Academy of Mathematics and Science in south Los Angeles is one of the top high schools in the country, and senior Danial Ceasar is one of its top students, reports CBS News correspondent Bill Whitaker. He’s got an A average, and he’s ambitious – he wants to be a psychiatrist.
“I’m looking at Berkeley and Stanford as my top schools,” Danial said.
But here’s a troubling sign of the times: achieving, black, male students like Danial are increasingly rare in America’s schools.
“The overall academic achievement of African American males was appallingly low, not only in cities, but nationwide,” said Michael Casserly, the executive director of the Council of the Great City Schools.
According to a new study released Tuesday by the Council of the Great City Schools, by fourth grade only 12 percent of black male students read at or above grade level, while 38 percent of white males do. By eighth grade it falls to just 9 percent for black males, 33 percent for whites. Black male students are almost twice as likely as white males to drop out of school. And in some big American cities the dropout rate is around 50 percent.

Palo Alto board to vote on earlier school year start

Jesse Dugan

High school students in Palo Alto will take their winter break next month knowing they’ll have final exams waiting for them when they return, but a school board vote tonight may change that practice for future classes.
Palo Alto Unified School District trustees will decide whether to start the 2011-12 and 2012-13 school years three days earlier than years past, allowing teachers to schedule exams before winter break instead of in mid-January. Students would start classes on Aug. 18 next year and Aug. 16 the following year.
“I think that high school students have for years expressed an interest in having finals before winter break,” Superintendent Kevin Skelly said. “Many, if not most of the schools in our area, are having finals before winter break.”
The proposal has split parents into different camps. The district had received nearly 430 e-mails on the controversial idea as of Oct. 26, the last time it discussed changing the school calendar.

Seattle Schools’ Strategic Plan & School Report Card

Seattle Public Schools:

t Seattle Public Schools, we truly believe in excellence for all. It’s more than a saying; it’s our commitment to this community and the name of our five-year strategic plan to ensure every child graduates ready for college, career and life.
Seattle Public Schools is providing detailed information on how each school, and the district overall, is performing. These reports also explain what we are doing to increase academic achievement and close the achievement gap in each school and across the district.
The second annual District Scorecard shows how our students are
performing across the district – from test scores to graduation rates. The Scorecard also shows how the district is performing operationally, in areas such as facilities, transportation and family satisfaction. District Scorecard
For the first time, we are issuing individual School Reports. We want to give parents, students and the community important information so we can all learn from and act on the data.
You can read about your school’s academic growth, student climate, accountability, family and staff engagement, and overall school performance. We hope you also take time to read the narrative page,

Linda Shaw:

On Tuesday morning, Seattle Public Schools will unveil detailed new reports on 82 of its schools, and a new ranking system that rates each school on a scale of 1-5 based largely on test scores and whether those scores are moving up or down.
The reports, which will be posted on the school district’s website about 10 a.m., will give parents and the public more information than ever before on the city’s public schools.
In addition to test scores, each school’s report includes data about attendance rates, average class size, percent of high-school students taking college classes and much more. The schools also outline their goals for the year and how they plan to achieve them.

Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle says 10 percent of public school teachers would have lost their jobs without federal stimulus aid

The Truth-O-Meter

Lame-duck governor Jim Doyle’s low popularity rating among Wisconsin voters guaranteed he would keep a low profile while Tom Barrett fought — unsuccessfully — to keep a Democrat in charge in Madison.
But that doesn’t mean Doyle was silent.
In mid-October, Doyle was showcased on a BBC NewsHour radio feature that asked whether the United States needed a second shot of stimulus money from Washington.
Not surprisingly, Doyle defended President Barack Obama and blamed Republicans for creating an enormous fiscal mess that demanded an unpopular but necessary response — the giant stimulus bill OK’d in early in 2009.
Doyle said stimulus grants helped keep schools functioning well, boosted road projects and showered funds on University of Wisconsin medical researchers. And he talked of how he has tried to sell the public on the measure’s positive impact:

India, US to hold annual education summit

Indian Express

Begining 2011, India and the US will hold annual summits to enhance collaboration in higher education. The first such summit, it will be headed by HRD Minister Kapil Sibal and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
The summit will see members of the academia, industry, government and other stakeholders from the two nations discuss a range issues related to education, sources said, adding the details are yet to be worked out.
“We have decided to hold a Higher Education Summit next year. Cooperation in the education sector holds a great promise because no two other countries are better equipped to be partners in building the knowledge economy of the future,” Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told his joint press conference with US President Barack Obama.

Early thoughts on Joel Klein, Cathie Black and education reform in New York Yor

New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein stepped down today after eight years on the job and will be replaced by Hearst chairwoman Cathie Black. In the coming days, we’ll see many assessments of Klein’s legacy; what’s clear is that he succeeded in projecting an image of order, organization and improvement in the nation’s largest public school system, which educates 1 million children and employs 80,000 teachers. Klein oversaw the establishment of about 100 new charter schools; broke up large comprehensive high schools into smaller, themed schools; and raised the on-time high school graduation rate to 60 percent from about 44 percent in the class of 2004.
What’s less clear is how well-prepared the typical New York City public school grad is for higher education or the workplace; much of the district’s proudly touted gains on state tests disappeared earlier this year when New York declared the tests too easy and recalibrated proficiency rates. On NAEP, the only national test of students’ skills, New York City fourth-graders have improved modestly, but eighth-graders are stagnant.a

Taste of things to come: Do more with less, Gov.-elect Walker tells University of Wisconsin regents

Todd Finkelmeyer

Two days after the election, Gov.-elect Scott Walker was greeted with wide smiles, warm handshakes and a standing ovation during a short stop at the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents meeting.
Walker returned the love by telling the regents gathered at UW-Madison that “this is truly one of the greatest university systems in the world, not just the country. It’s an honor to be here today.”
But he soon got down to business, making it clear that with the state’s massive budget hole, university leaders would be asked to do more with less.
“It isn’t just always about more money,” Walker said, noting that leaders would need to be flexible, innovative and creative to get the most out of limited resources.
Some believe any more cuts in state funding to the UW System will do significant harm to its 13 universities and 13 two-year colleges, but UW System leaders would be wise to start preparing for the worst, says Noel Radomski.

N.J. activists, parents warn against promoting charter schools as fix for education system

Bob Braun

From Washington to Trenton to Newark, political leaders from both parties – including President Barack Obama and Gov. Chris Christie — are promoting charter schools as an answer to perceived public school failure. And the privately run but publicly funded schools receive support from some of the wealthiest and most famous people on the planet.
But a few activists based in Princeton — some charter school parents — and a Rutgers researcher want their voices heard above the cheerleading. They warn charters are not panaceas.

Russia – Prime Minister Vladimir Putin meets with Minister of Education and Science Andrei Fursenko


Vladimir Putin: Mr Fursenko, the programme for advancing education will expire this year, and the ministry has drafted a new document on this issue. Today, I would like to discuss some aspects of the newly drafted programme. First of all, this concerns the general school education system, as well as vocational education and specific criteria for evaluating the performance of educational establishments.
Andrei Fursenko: Mr Putin, first of all, the principles behind the new programme hinge on the part of the national education project that deals with the comprehensive development of education in the regions. I have told you why this project has turned out well. Therefore the new federal targeted programme stipulates the very same idea, namely, helping to establish regional centres of excellence, centres providing the best early childhood education and the best school education and training centres in the field of primary and secondary vocational education, including the retraining of adults.
The idea of the new programme is to encourage the regions to develop independently. This approach has already been tested, and we believe that assistance through a federal targeted programme will be most effective. In about a year we should switch over to national programmes that will encompass the entire educational system. But these specific guidelines may yield substantial results in the next 12 months.

Madison grapples with how to serve ‘Talented and Gifted’

Gayle Worland, via a kind reader’s email:

Three times a week, Van Hise Elementary fifth-grader Eve Sidikman and two fellow students from her school board a bus bound for GEMS, the Madison school district’s “Growing Elementary Math Students” program for students whose math abilities are so high they aren’t challenged in a standard classroom.
Eve’s bus also makes the rounds to Randall and Thoreau before pulling up to the curb at Shorewood Elementary, where Eve and her GEMS classmates have a two-hour math session taught by a member of the district’s Talented and Gifted staff.
“She teaches it in a creative and fun way,” Eve, who was placed in GEMS after her mother sought out and paid for a national test that proved Eve was capable of acing eighth-grade math, said of her teacher. “I think she’s preparing us for our middle school years well.”
The Madison School district is grappling with how best to serve students deemed “Talented and Gifted,” or TAG in district shorthand — partly to stem a talent drain through open enrollment, partly to satisfy a vocal group of dissatisfied parents, and partly to find more Eves who don’t necessarily have a family with the financial means, determination and know-how to capitalize on their student’s untapped talents.
District critics say change is happening too slowly — something Superintendent Dan Nerad admits — and programs like GEMS are few and far between. Advocates also acknowledge, however, there is skepticism of gifted services among both the public and educators at a time when so many students fail to meet even minimal standards.

Lots of related links:

Watch, listen or read an interview with UW-Madison Education Professor Adam Gamoran. Gamoran was interviewed in Gayle Worland’s article.

Well Worth Reading: Wisconsin needs two big goals

Dave Baskerville

Having worked some 40 years in the business world, mostly abroad, with many leaders in business, politics and religion, I believe the most important ingredient for success is setting one or two ambitious, long-term goals that are routinely and publicly measured against the best in the world.
For Wisconsin, we only need two:
Raise our state’s per capita income to 10 percent above Minnesota’s by 2030.
In job and business creation over the next decade, Wisconsin is often predicted to be among the lowest 10 states. When I was a kid growing up in Madison, income in Wisconsin was some 10 percent higher than in Minnesota. Minnesota caught up to us in 1967, and now the average Minnesotan makes $4,500 more than the average Wisconsinite.
Lift the math, science and reading scores of all K-12, non-special education students in Wisconsin above world-class standards by 2030. (emphasis added)
Wisconsinites often believe we lose jobs because of lower wages elsewhere. In fact, it is often the abundance of skills (and subsidies and effort) that bring huge Intel research and development labs to Bangalore, Microsoft research centers to Beijing, and Advanced Micro Devices chip factories to Dresden.
Our educational standards are based relative to the United States. So even if we “successfully” accomplish all of our state educational goals, our kids would still be in the global minor leagues. How about targeting Finland and Singapore in math, South Korea and Japan in science, Canada in reading?
As the saying goes: “When one does not know where one is going, any road will do” (or not do).
Without clear scorecards, we citizens will have little ability to coerce and evaluate politicians and their excuses, rhetoric and laws from the right and left. If JFK had not set a “man on the moon” stretch target, would we have landed there? Do the Green Bay Packers have a chance at winning another Super Bowl if they never tack that goal to the locker room walls?

Clusty Search: Dave Baskerville.

Lying to HS Students

Junia Yearwood

Failure to educate
The Boston school system is churning out illiterate students whose only skills are to pass predictable standard tests

I DID not attend a graduation ceremony in 25 years as a Boston public high school teacher. This was my silent protest against a skillfully choreographed mockery of an authentic education – a charade by adults who, knowingly or unwittingly, played games with other people’s children.
I knew that most of my students who walked across the stage, amidst the cheers, whistles, camera flashes, and shout-outs from parents, family, and friends, were not functionally literate. They were unable to perform the minimum skills necessary to negotiate society: reading the local newspapers, filling out a job application, or following basic written instructions; even fewer had achieved empowering literacy enabling them to closely read, analyze, synthesize, and evaluate text.
However, they were all college bound – the ultimate goal of our school’s vision statement– clutching knapsacks stuffed with our symbols of academic success: multiple college acceptances, a high school diploma; an official transcript indicating they had passed the MCAS test and had met all graduation requirements; several glowing letters of recommendation from teachers and guidance counselors; and one compelling personal statement, their college essay.
They walked across the stage into a world that was unaware of the truth that scorched my soul –the truth that became clear the first day I entered West Roxbury High School in 1979 (my first assignment as a provisional 12th grade English teacher): the young men and women I was responsible for coaching the last leg of their academic journey could not write a complete sentence, a cohesive paragraph, or a well-developed essay on a given topic. I remember my pain and anger at this revelation and my struggle to reconcile the reality before me with my own high school experience, which had enabled me to negotiate the world of words–oral and written–independently, with relative ease and confidence.
For the ensuing 30-plus years, I witnessed how the system churned out academically unprepared students who lacked the skills needed to negotiate the rigors of serious scholarship, or those skills necessary to move in and up the corporate world.
We instituted tests and assessments, such as the MCAS, that required little exercise in critical thinking, for which most of the students were carefully coached to “pass.” Teachers, instructors, and administrators made the test the curriculum, taught to the test, drilled for the test, coached for the test, taught strategies to take the test, and gave generous rewards (pizza parties) for passing the test. Students practiced, studied for, and passed the test–but remained illiterate.
I also bear witness to my students’ ability to acquire a passing grade for mediocre work. A’s and B’s were given simply for passing in assignments (quality not a factor), for behaving well in class, for regular attendance, for completing homework assignments that were given a check mark but never read.
In addition, I have been a victim of the subtle and overt pressure exerted by students, parents, administrators, guidance counselors, coaches, and colleagues to give undeserving students passing grades, especially at graduation time, when the “walk across the stage” frenzy is at its peak.
When all else failed, there were strategies for churning out seemingly academically prepared students. These were the ways around the official requirements: loopholes such as MCAS waivers; returning or deftly transferring students to Special Needs Programs–a practice usually initiated by concerned parents who wanted to avoid meeting the regular education requirements or to gain access to “testing accommodations”; and, Credit Recovery, the computer program that enabled the stragglers, those who were left behind, to catch up to the frontrunners in the Race to the Stage. Students were allowed to take Credit Recovery as a substitute for the course they failed, and by passing with a C, recover their credits.
Nevertheless, this past June, in the final year of my teaching career, I chose to attend my first graduation at the urgings of my students–the ones whose desire to learn, to become better readers and writers, and whose unrelenting hard work earned them a spot on the graduation list–and the admonition of a close friend who warned that my refusal to attend was an act of selfishness, of not thinking about my students who deserved the honor and respect signified by my presence.
At the ceremony I chose to be happy, in spite of the gnawing realization that nothing had changed in 32 years. We had continued playing games with other people’s children.
Junia Yearwood, a guest columnist, is a retired Boston Public Schools teacher who taught at English High for 25 years.
© Copyright 2010 Globe Newspaper Company.

The New Mexico PreK Evaluation: Impacts From the Fourth Year (2008-2009) of New Mexico’s State-Funded PreK Program

Jason T. Hustedt, W. Steven Barnett, Kwanghee Jung, and Allison H. Friedman

The New Mexico PreK evaluation, from the 2008-2009 school year, finds positive impacts from the state-funded prekindergarten program for young children, consistent with previous findings. With statistically significant increases observed in vocabulary, math, and literacy scores for children participating in New Mexico PreK, the authors find New Mexico PreK is helping prepare young children for later school success. The New Mexico PreK initiative began in 2005 and has expanded rapidly. From the beginning, the National Institute for Early Education Research has been evaluating the program using the regression-discontinuity approach.

Related: Madison’s planned 4K program.

Financial Literacy – A Topic Every Parent Must Teach their Child


New site provides financial literacy curricula for parents, students, and educators.
Our sister site GoCollege has given a great deal of attention to the current student loan crisis. The problem is actually a very simple one, easy access to loans has led naïve students to borrow significant sums of money as they pursue their college degree.
The problem is that too many students are borrowing far too much and thus are literally mortgaging their entire future. I recently highlighted my concerns with what is happening in my own state where students are leaving the state university with some of the highest average debt levels in the country.
Unfortunately, financial literacy is not a typical topic generally taught in public schools. Thus, educating children about money and the concept of using credit in a healthy manner still falls upon parents. In essence, this is a subject where every family must employ the home-schooling concept.

Schools — The Ultimate Agents of Social Change

Meredith Ely

People get seriously defensive — with good reason — at blanket statements about teaching and curriculum standards, accountability in schools, and teacher union authority. When discussing reform, subtle nuances get lost in politicized rhetoric and very personal experiences. Reform is framed almost as a holy war against a lethargic, failing school system, and as a result we see an insurgency among educators who are working to the bone and given minimal resources.
We do not have a failing school system. We have a system that fails poor children. I am sure every district, wealthy or not, has a set of very legitimate obstacles, but in terms of reform, this is not about a flawed school system generally. Reform must be about the achievement gap.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: California’s Budget Agreement May Hurt School Credit Most, Moody’s Says

Michael B. Marois

The budget agreement California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and lawmakers reached last month will have a “negative influence” on the credit of school districts more than on other parts of local government, Moody’s Investors Service said.
School districts will face cash-flow problems because the state delayed or deferred subsidies they are owed, Moody’s Senior Vice President Eric Hoffmann said in a report today. Counties and cities should be at less risk, he said.
Schwarzenegger signed the $86.6 billion budget Oct. 8 after lawmakers wrestled over an agreement for 100 days into the fiscal year, the longest the most populous U.S. state has ever gone without a spending plan. It eliminated a $19 billion deficit by cutting spending almost $8 billion, half of that from health and welfare programs administered by local governments. It also delayed paying more than $5 billion in subsidies to schools and community colleges.
“These new cross-fiscal year deferrals could particularly pose a challenge for school districts with narrow liquidity and outstanding tax and revenue anticipation notes due on June 30, the last day of their current fiscal year,” Hoffman said in the report.

Our View: Maine Governor Elect LePage will get a shot at reforming education

Maine Sunday Telegram

A lot of harsh words are thrown around during a campaign, and Gov.-elect Paul LePage was on the receiving end of many of them, particularly regarding his positions on education.
But now that the votes have been cast the rhetoric can die away. Although there is still considerable flesh that has to be added to the policy bones that LePage campaigned on, we like much of what he proposed in regards to education reform, which includes ideas that we have been championing for some time.
LePage supports public charter schools, funded from the same sources as traditional schools. Charter schools have a mixed track record, but the best ones serve as innovative laboratories for new approaches to teaching and learning.
They also offer school districts a way to pilot alternative programs, like schools that meet at night, during the weekend or combine with a vocational focus, which could bring dropouts back into education.

Schools that go it alone do best – report

Jeevan Vasagar:

The most successful schools ignore government advice and set their own standards for effective teaching, according to a thinktank report published today.
The best schools have an “open culture”, in which heads regularly pop into classrooms informally, the thinktank Reform says.
“The teachers view this as supportive rather than threatening … the best schools foster an expectation and culture of perpetual improvement.”
This change in culture leads to failing teachers either improving or leaving, the report says.
Being taught by a good teacher rather than a poor one improves a student’s results by half a GCSE grade a subject, according to academic research quoted in the report.
By contrast, class size makes little difference.
Korea and Japan, which have bigger class sizes, do better at maths than pupils in England, according to Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) figures.

Will Jerry Brown Rescue Public Education?

NBC Bay Area

The election is over, and yes, California has a new governor–well, actually a previous governor back for another turn.
Jerry Brown will return to the state’s highest office but in a radically different political setting. Term limits, federal mandates, and tough requirements for raising taxes have created a political environment that makes it almost impossible for any governor to govern, yet that is what Brown must do.
Brown re-enters the office under conditions similar to those encountered by his predecessor, Arnold Schwarzenegger: fiscal crisis. To some, this almost sounds like the boy who cried wolf–surely we must have solved the revenue and spending problem
by now.
But we haven’t. Current projections show California about $15 billion in the red for the new fiscal year, perhaps more. This after several years of draconian cutbacks.