K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Indebted and Unrepentant

Fred Siegel

The big news from Tuesday’s elections–the GOP’s gains of 60-plus seats in the House, recapturing the majority that it lost in 2006–naturally makes one wonder about the divisions that the victories are likely to foment. Pundits are speculating on conflicts between the Tea Party and Republican regulars over spending; between the 25 remaining Blue Dog Democrats and the party’s liberal leadership; and of course between the two parties over budgetary matters, which could lead to gridlock.
But another division is likely to compete for center stage in the next two years: the split between, on one side, California and New York–two states, deeply in debt, whose wealthy are beneficiaries of the global economy–and, on the other, the solvent states of the American interior that will be asked to bail them out. This geographic division will also pit the heartland’s middle class and working class against the well-to-do of New York and California and their political allies in the public-sector unions.

International Benchmarking: State Education Performance Standards

Gary W. Phillips, Ph.D., via a Richard Askey email

It is worth looking at the data to see how Wisconsin compares with some other states. Here is the mathematics comparison with Minnesota.
The “state” results are the percent of students ranked as proficient on the state test with the current cut scores being used. The international percent was obtained by using the state results on NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) and this was mapped by comparing levels of problems to the level on TIMSS, (Trends in Mathematics and Science Study).
Grade 4 Mathematics Percent proficient
State International
Wisconsin 74 45
Minnesota 68 55
Massachusetts 49 63
Grade 8 Mathematics
Wisconsin 73 33
Minnesota 56 41
Massachusetts 46 52
No, the Massachusetts scores were not reversed here. Their cut score levels are set higher than the TIMSS levels.
It is time for the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction to redo the cut score levels to make them realistic. Parents in Wisconsin are mature enough to be told the truth about how well their children are doing.

Future teachers must show, not just tell, skills: Teacher Performance Assessment program

Chris Williams

Standing at the edge of a pond surrounded by her class of fourth-graders, Jasmine Zeppa filled a bucket with brown water and lectured her pupils on the science of observing and recording data. Many of the children seemed more interested in nearby geese, a passing jogger and the crunchy leaves underfoot.
Zeppa’s own professor from St. Catherine University stood nearby and recorded video of it all.
“I think it went as well as it possibly could have, given her experience,” the professor, Susan Gibbs Goetz, said. Her snap review: The 25-year-old Zeppa could have done a better job holding the students’ attention, but did well building on past lessons.
Zeppa is among the first class of aspiring teachers who are getting ready for new, more demanding requirements to receive their teacher license. A new licensing system is being tested in 19 states that includes filming student teachers in their classroom and evaluating the video, also candidates must show they can prepare a lesson, tailor it to different levels of students and present it effectively.

Teacher Performance Assessment program

Influence of teachers unions in question

Mitchell Landsberg

The groups have been slow to come to terms with the push for reform. Some see them as obstacles to change, and even union sympathizers agree that their voice in the education debate has been muted.
Teachers unions have a well-deserved reputation for exercising political clout. With a nearly unparalleled ability to raise cash and organize their ranks, they have elected school boards, influenced legislation and helped set the public school agenda in major American cities for decades.
Now, that clout is in question.
A nationwide school reform movement with bipartisan support has collided head-on with unions over three ideas that labor has long resisted: expansion of charter schools, the introduction of merit pay for teachers and the use of student test scores in teacher evaluations.
Even the long-held protections and prerogatives conferred by seniority and tenure no longer seem sacrosanct.

Houston School District to hold meetings on special education program


The Houston Independent School District is holding ten public meetings during two days in November to gather feedback from parents and community members regarding the effectiveness of the district’s special education program.
During the meetings, the public’s input will be gathered on a series of questions which have been developed by the TEA to gather information on the effective operation and performance of special education programs throughout the State. The questions include:
One purpose of the Individuals with Disabilities with Education Act or IDEA is to strengthen the role of parents and ensure family participation in the education of their children. Within the context of the Houston Independent School District, how are parents involved in the educational process for their children?

Highland Park High School uses new app to connect with students, parents

Jana Martin

Students and parents at Highland Park High School want to stay connected to their school’s news, events and numerous activities.
And now they can. Because there’s an app for that.
“[Last year], I was looking for extra things for my kids to do,” said Kelly Snowden, an adviser for the school’s broadcast and newspaper staff. “We started brainstorming ideas, first for a website and then the app.”
In January, the advisers were approached by a media designer, Allan Restrepo, president of YOUniversal Ideas and parent to two students in the district. By fall, the school had introduced its new technology to students and parents.
Since its Sept. 3 kickoff, more than 1,500 people have downloaded the iPhone app, HPHS Media. The app is available to iPhone users, but plans are to expand to other brands of smart phones. The app also can be used with the iPod Touch and iPad.

The Highland Park School District spends $18,472 per student (6,649) via a $122,825,784 2010/2011 budget. Madison will spend $15,485 per student during the 2010-2011 budget year (24,471 students and a $378,948,997)

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels explains his plans for education in Indiana

Mitch Daniels

A wave of change and reform has finally begun moving across American public education. Across the political spectrum from President Obama rightward, people now agree that our children must learn much more than they are learning now, and that major change is necessary to enable them to do so. Only the most selfish special interests still insist on defending the status quo.
Indiana has led the nation in many areas lately. Fiscal responsibility, a pro-growth business climate, property tax reduction and infrastructure are good examples, but we can make no such claim about K-12 education. Only one in three Hoosier eighth-graders is able to pass the national reading and math tests; if we compare their scores to those of children in foreign countries, they look even worse.
It’s not that we have made no headway. We have doubled the number of our 5-year-olds with access to full-day kindergarten, although a quarter still do not have it. We have strengthened the ability of teachers and principals to maintain classroom discipline by immunizing them from lawsuits. We have ended the “social promotion” of third-graders who cannot read to the fourth grade and almost certain failure in high school and life.

Much more on Mitch Daniels here.

Big-ticket International education deals this week

Charu Sudan Kasturi

US President Barack Obama’s visit to India is set to start to an unprecedented wave of back-to-back, big-ticket international education deals over the coming week aimed at making India a global education destination. India will sign key education pacts with Canada on Tuesday and the UK on Thursday after finalising projects with Obama’s delegation on Monday, top government sources confirmed.
“Don’t forget that the US, UK and Canada are countries that Indians have traditionally thronged for education. It is indicative of India’s role in the global education scenario today that they are coming to India virtually in back-to-back trips we have never witnessed before,” a senior government official said. “These countries need us as much as we need them.”

Scenes from the Obama Visit: Holy Name High School

Jonathan Weisman:

The setting: Holy Name High School, a small classroom with a sari-clad teacher, four boys and two girls in jackets and ties in front of environmental dioramas. Two girls presented an extremely well rehearsed rundown on their model of an eco-friendly village with a windmill.
“So let us work today for tomorrow,” the kids all said in unison. A boy talked of forestry and asserted, “The government of India does not allow the felling of trees.”
A paper mache black rock with a crying face was labeled “Black burnt carbon earth.”
“You don’t want to live on that,” Mr. Obama said.
Oversized cigarettes were bound and wired, and marked RDX of Cancer (which is a frighteningly sophisticated way to say dynamite). A blue paper mache globe was sinking into a cardboard sea, with the label “Sinking Earth.”

Systemic changes coming for Wisconsin public school teachers

Alan Borsuk

An educational earthquake aimed at improving the effectiveness of teachers is rumbling across the nation.
So far, the quake is only beginning to affect Wisconsin. But the tremors of change are already being felt here, and more are coming.
In the process, a new world of teaching is being built.
Nationwide, the federal government and giant philanthropies such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are putting hundreds of millions of dollars into underwriting work in dozens of states and cities on better ways to select teachers, monitor their work and pay them.
President Barack Obama has taken on teachers unions – traditionally partisan allies – over teacher improvement issues, while many Republicans, including Wisconsin Governor-elect Scott Walker, say they support reform in teachers’ pay.
National leaders of teachers unions, long opposed to change, are willing to talk about once-taboo subjects such as making it easier to get weak teachers out of classrooms.
Multiple factors have ushered in this new era. First, it is now widely understood that not only are teachers the most important school-related factor in student learning, but that teacher effectiveness varies drastically. Second, the recession – and the resulting stimulus package – gave Obama a chance to launch large programs focused on increasing teacher effectiveness. Third, data about students and teachers has improved greatly, providing better tools for figuring out the success of many teachers on an individual basis.

Obama Pointedly Questioned by Students in India

Sheryl Stolberg:

MUMBAI — When Michelle Obama, the first lady, introduced her husband to a group of college students here Sunday, she urged them to ask him “tough questions.”

They did.

“What is your take or opinion about jihad?” came the first question for President Obama at a town hall-style meeting at St. Xavier’s College. Next up: queries about spirituality, Gandhi, the American midterm elections and his government’s negotiations with the Taliban.

Wanted: Unsung high schools with strong college course programs

Jay Matthews

Other columnists spend the dark winter months reconnecting with their loved ones before a cozy fire or a richly laden holiday feast. I use that time to fill a spreadsheet with the names of high schools and their ratios of college-level tests to graduating seniors.
It doesn’t sound like much fun, but it is to me. Since 1997, when I devised a way to compare all U.S. high schools based how much they encouraged students to take challenging courses and tests, that has been my winter work. I have published the ranked list called America’s Best High Schools, based on my Challenge Index, in the spring.
I am working on a new list now, with a few twists. First, it will no longer be sponsored by Newsweek magazine, but by the Washington Post, and this Web site, washingtonpost.com. The Washington Post Company, my employer for 39 years, just sold Newsweek, so I brought the list over here.
Second, I am going to include in the ranking calculations not only Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and Cambridge tests, which are standardized exams that come at the end of college-level courses given in high school, but also the final exams of what are called dual enrollment or concurrent enrollment courses. These are courses given by local colleges to high school students. The students either come to the college campuses for a part of the day or have college professors or specially trained instructors conduct the courses at their high school.

T.S. Eliot and the Demise of the Literary Culture

Joseph Epstein

No one writing in the English language is likely to establish a reigning authority over poetry and criticism and literature in general as T.S. Eliot did between the early 1930s and his death in 1965 at the age of 77. Understatedly spectacular is the way Eliot’s career strikes one today, at a time when, it is fair to say, poetry, even to bookish people, is of negligible interest and literary criticism chiefly a means to pursue academic tenure. Literary culture itself, if the sad truth be known, seems to be slowly but decisively shutting down.
The fame Eliot achieved in his lifetime is unfathomable for a poet, or indeed any American or English writer, in our day. In 1956, Eliot lectured on “The Function of Criticism” in a gymnasium at the University of Minnesota to a crowd estimated at 15,000 people. “I do not believe,” he remarked afterward, “there are fifteen thousand people in the entire world who are interested in criticism.” Eight years earlier, in 1948, he won the Nobel Prize in literature. In later years, when he went into the hospital, which he did with some frequency, suffering from bronchitis and heart troubles, news of his illnesses appeared in the press or over the radio both in England and America; and so too did news of his second marriage, in 1957, at the age of 69, to his secretary, a Miss Valerie Fletcher, 38 years younger than he. He lectured often and everywhere, so much so that Lyndall Gordon, his most penetrating biographer, wrote that his “face acquired a sort of exposed reticence from the habit of looking down from a lectern into rows upon rows of eyes.” Eliot was the equivalent in literature of Albert Einstein in science in that everyone seemed to know that these men were immensely significant without quite knowing for what.
An immitigable highbrow, Eliot was concerned about the slackening of high culture and the diminishing quality of education–concerns that have proved prophetic. The poetry on which his reputation as a leading figure of the modernist avant-garde was based was not easily comprehended. “Poets, in our civilization, as it exists at present, must be difficult,” he wrote, but he also wrote that “genuinepoetry can communicate before it is understood,” which seems to have been the case with his. His criticism, much of which began as lectures, always came from on high. This was not a man who wrote or spoke down to his audience, ever. Which makes all the more curious his widespread fame.

Wisconsin Public schools likely to face cash drain

Alan Borsuk

So let’s think out loud about what might lie ahead:
State aid to schools. It’s hard to see how Republicans are going to keep their campaign promises and fund the same percentage of statewide costs for kindergarten through 12th grade. The state committed itself to paying two-thirds of those costs in the 1990s (under Republican Gov. Tommy G. Thompson). The current rate is a bit below that. But look for Walker to want to do something about this multibillion dollar annual spending. Reductions in state aid would translate into large increases in property taxes (that hardly seems likely, given the state of public opinion) or large cuts in school spending. That leads us to:
Teacher benefits. Look for a lot of action around this. Teachers are deeply defensive of their benefits, especially health insurance plans that are substantially above what almost anybody else has these days. But WEAC, the state teachers union, was among the biggest losers on Tuesday and has few friends in the Capitol now. There’s been talk about trying to bring teachers into the state employees’ health plan, which costs less than most teacher plans. Now is likely to be the time for doing that. Or maybe other ideas will surface.
Teachers contracts are negotiated locally, so the most powerful thing Republicans can do might be just to give local districts less money and let school officials and local unions figure out what to do about it. My guess is that the Milwaukee teachers union agreed recently to a new contract that goes until 2013, two years longer than the normal agreement, in hope of staving off more concessions at least for that long.

School Brings Farming To Big Apple


No one expects to find beets and carrots in a sliver of the South Bronx wedged between Metro-North Railroad tracks and a busy elevated highway.
But there they are, along with late-season eggplant, tomatoes, basil and habanero peppers, all growing in a pocket-sized farm called La Finca del Sur, Spanish for Farm of the South.
The formerly weed-choked vacant lot will be a classroom for a new venture called Farm School NYC: The New York City School of Urban Agriculture.
Starting in January, the school will offer a two-year course aimed at developing “the next generation of leaders who will work to use urban agriculture to transform their communities into healthy food communities,” said executive director Jacquie Berger.

In School Efforts to End Bullying, Some See Agenda

Erik Eckholm

Alarmed by evidence that gay and lesbian students are common victims of schoolyard bullies, many school districts are bolstering their antiharassment rules with early lessons in tolerance, explaining that some children have “two moms” or will grow up to love members of the same sex.
Enlarge This Image
M. Scott Brauer for The New York Times
Mary Decker, left, Michael Gengler and Tess Dufrechou are members of the Helena High School Gay-Straight Alliance, which supported revisions to the sex education and antibullying curriculum in the school district in Helena, Mont.
The Curriculum
The school district in Helena, Mont., revised its new teaching guidelines on sex education and tolerance, after parents criticized them as being too explicit and an endorsement of homosexuality.
Among the original goals:
Grade 1: “Understand human beings can love people of the same gender and people of another gender.”
Grade 5: “Understand that sexual intercourse includes but is not limited to vaginal, oral or anal penetration.”
The final version eliminated those goals and added a vaguer one:
Grades K to 5: “Recognize that family structures differ.”
The final version also added language emphasizing that same-sex marriage is illegal:
Grade 6: “In Montana, marriage is between a man and woman. Other states allow marriage between adults of the same gender.”
But such efforts to teach acceptance of homosexuality, which have gained urgency after several well-publicized suicides by gay teenagers, are provoking new culture wars in some communities.
Many educators and rights advocates say that official prohibitions of slurs and taunts are most effective when combined with frank discussions, from kindergarten on, about diverse families and sexuality.

NEA’s View of the Near Future

Mike Antonucci

NEA sent out its first post-mortem to its members, staff and activists. It is pretty straightforward.

Education policy/ESEA Reauthorization:
The new Speaker of the House is expected to be Representative John Boehner (R-OH) and Representative John Kline (R-MN) is expected to serve as the Chair of the House Education and Labor Committee. Under their leadership, Republicans are likely to be more focused on local control of school systems and local decision making. This week, Representative Kline outlined broad-based priorities for education and employment policy, including “pursuing education reform that restores local control, empowers parents, lets teachers teach, and protects taxpayers.” Representative Kline has also been a supporter of full funding for special education. Areas that NEA will be watching closely will include proposals for private school vouchers and increased support for charter schools.
Education Funding:
Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI), a rising star in GOP who has burnished his credentials as a fiscal hawk is likely to serve as Chair of the House Budget Committee, while either Representative Hal Rogers (R-KY) or Representative Jerry Lewis (R-CA), past chairman of the Appropriations Committee, could serve as Appropriations Chair. Republicans are expected to push hard on spending and are likely to propose dramatic cuts to education and other domestic priorities. Already, would-be Speaker of the House John Boehner has proposed cutting all non-defense federal spending to FY2008 levels.

Why We Can’t Afford Not to Create a Well-Stocked National Digital Library System

David Rothman

E-book gadgets have finally cracked the mass market here in the United States or at least have come a long way.
Consider a memorable Kindle commercial from Amazon, in which a brunette in a bikini one-ups an oafish man reading off a rival machine. Mr. Beer Belly asks about her e-reader. “It’s a Kindle,” she says by the pool. “$139. I actually paid more for these sunglasses.” Mad Men would be proud. A year or two from now, count on twice as much ballyhoo and on better machines for less than $99.
I myself own both a Kindle 3 and the Brand X iPad and can attest to the improved readability of the latest E Ink from Amazon’s supplier, even indoors, despite lack of built-in illumination. Outside on walks, as with earlier Kindles, I can listen to books from publishing houses savvy enough to allow text to speech. No matter where I am, I can instantly see all occurrences of a character’s name in an engrossing Louis Bayard novel. I can also track down the meanings of archaic words that Bayard’s detective narrator uses in this murder mystery set at West Point and featuring a fictionalized Edgar Allan Poe.

The Rise of the ‘Edupunk’

Jack Stripling

The “Edupunks” will inherit the Earth … or at least some attention.
Those in higher education who continue hand-wringing over the relative merits of online learning and other technology-driven platforms will soon find themselves left in the dust of an up-and-coming generation of students who are seeking knowledge outside academe. Such was an emerging consensus view here Monday, as college leaders gathered for the TIAA-CREF Institute’s 2010 Higher Education Leadership Conference.
“We’re still trying to fit the Web into our educational paradigm…. I just don’t think that’s going to work,” said Mary Spilde, president of Lane Community College, in Eugene, Ore.

Tiptoeing around race issue doesn’t solve anything

Chris Rickert

It was a forum held Wednesday by the Dane County League of Women Voters on “how changing demographics are affecting Dane County schools and human services,” and the speakers — Madison school superintendent Dan Nerad, Sun Prairie district administrator Tim Culver and Dane County director of Human Services Lynn Green — aren’t exactly right wingers.
But it’s odd how the best of intentions can muddle a message, especially when it comes to race, and especially in Madison.
The panel was nothing if not well intentioned, not to mention extremely careful in its language.
Happy- and/or neutral-sounding words like “diversity” and “changing demographics” took the place of the more direct “black” or “Latino” or “poor.” And while it was clear that these changing demographics meant higher rates of poverty and single-parent families, which in turn correlate with more problems in the schools or need for services, the panel chose not to identify them as problems. They were instead “challenges.”
They were also careful to frame their remarks in a spirit of inclusiveness, and Nerad and Culver described efforts to inject “culturally relevant” instruction into their curriculums and to hire more minority teachers.
(I wondered how conservatives would respond to such efforts, widely applauded and rarely questioned in places as liberal as Madison. What does cultural relevancy have to do with learning the three Rs? Do you have to be black to teach a black child?)
The audience was provided with graphics showing student achievement rising during this period of increasing student poverty and diversity, but Nerad and Culver did not make a big deal of that in their remarks. Nerad said after the meeting that too much emphasis on the district’s successes can invite criticism about areas where it isn’t doing so well.

Application Inflation: When Is Enough Enough?

Eric Hoover, via a Rick Kiley email:

THE numbers keep rising, the superlatives keep glowing. Each year, selective colleges promote their application totals, along with the virtues of their applicants.
For this fall’s freshman class, the statistics reached remarkable levels. Stanford received a record 32,022 applications from students it called “simply amazing,” and accepted 7 percent of them. Brown saw an unprecedented 30,135 applicants, who left the admissions staff “deeply impressed and at times awed.” Nine percent were admitted.
The biggest boast came from the University of California, Los Angeles. In a news release, U.C.L.A. said its accepted students had “demonstrated excellence in all aspects of their lives.” Citing its record 57,670 applications, the university proclaimed itself “the most popular campus in the nation.”
Such announcements tell a story in which colleges get better — and students get more amazing — every year. In reality, the narrative is far more complex, and the implications far less sunny for students as well as colleges caught up in the cruel cycle of selectivity.

Christie Hovers Over Teachers Battle With Governor Is on Minds at the Union’s Convention in Atlantic City

Lisa Fleisher

Even when gathering in Atlantic City, New Jersey’s teachers can’t get Gov. Chris Christie out of their minds.
For the past year, their largest union has been the prime target of Mr. Christie’s wrath, a battle that has made him famous and the hero of Republicans across the country.
Mr. Christie extended that fight to the annual convention for the New Jersey Education Association, which represents 200,000 current and retired education workers, through his acting education commissioner, who informed the union this week that she would not attend the event.
The union says the education commissioner has never before failed to address one of its conventions.

A Crack in the Wall

The New York Times

When the Supreme Court took up a case about a school choice program in Arizona this week, Justice Elena Kagan said she had been “puzzling and puzzling” over it. Why, she asked the state’s lawyer, instead of providing families with vouchers, is Arizona’s program “so much more complicated and complex and unusual”?
The short answer is that the state’s Constitution prohibits direct aid to private schools. A more important one is that the convolutions hide a problem we’re not supposed to see. The program appears to be unconstitutional. As the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled, it appears to violate the First Amendment’s establishment clause by disbursing state funds on the basis of religion.
Last year in Arizona, $52.1 million in scholarships helped support more than 27,500 students at private and parochial schools. The money came from letting people who owe state income taxes take a credit, up to $500. They can contribute the amount to 50 or so nonprofit tuition organizations that give money to parents who want to send their children to schools they serve.

Madison High School Reform: Dual Pathways to Post-Secondary Success High School Career and College Readiness

Daniel A. Nerad, Superintendent, Pam Nash, Assistant Superintendent, and Susan Abplanalp, Deputy Superintendent

Enclosed is an update report regarding the High School Career and College Readiness Plan. This plan is written as a complement to the first document entitled “Dual Pathways to Post-Secondary Success”. The original document was intended to outline both a possible structure for organizing accelerated and preparatory courses for high school students. The original document was also intended to serve as an internal document outlining a planning process. Since, the dissemination of the “Dual Pathways to Post-Secondary Success” many questions and concerns have been expressed by a variety of stakeholders. Through feedback and questions brought forth by teachers, students, community members and the Board of Education it is understood that our original plan did not effectively communicate the rationale, scope, scale, and end outcomes as intended. The conversations that occurred as a result of the dissemination of the “Dual Pathways to Post-Secondary Success” have been at times difficult but they have also been the right conversations for us to have in order to move forward as a district. These conversations have highlighted the interconnectedness ofall grade levels, calling on us to proceed with a k-12 district wide curricular alignmentprocessinwhichhighschoolisembedded. hlordertomoreaccuratelycapturetheintentofouroriginal work we have renamed the plan High School Career and College Readiness to accurately reflect the intended goal; for all MMSD graduates will become self-determined learners able to access a wide array ofpost-secondary options. For these reasons, we have not included the original “Dual Pathways to Post-Secondary Success” plan in this report. Rather we have created this document to serve as bridge that more clearly articulates the history, rationale, data, work to date and next steps that are outlined in the original plan. Our Theory of Action, process
and end goals have not changed, but how we articulate this work has become more explicit, transparent and responsive. Weare in process ofcreating a more comprehensive plan to be shared with a broad range ofaudiences. We will share that plan with the Board of Education when finalized. We will also share periodic updates with the Board of Education. ill the meantime, the enclosed report serves to answer questions, concerns received to date and provide more detailed and accurate iuformation. Attached is the original document, unchanged.

Justices Revisit Use of Tax Credits for Religious Schools

The Supreme Court on Wednesday returned to a subject that produced a major and closely divided decision eight years ago: how far may the government go in aiding religious schools?
In 2002, in a 5-to-4 ruling, the court upheld a school voucher system in Cleveland that parents used almost exclusively to pay for religious schools.
Four new justices have joined the court since then, but there was nothing in Wednesday’s arguments to suggest that the issue has become any less polarizing.
The program at issue on Wednesday gives Arizona taxpayers a dollar-for-dollar state tax credit of up to $500 for donations to private “student tuition organizations.” The contributors may not designate their dependents as beneficiaries. The organizations are permitted to limit the scholarships they offer to schools of a given religion, and many do.

Madison’s Fine Arts Task Force Update

Laurie Fellenz, Teacher Leader – Fine Arts

Since the January 2010 Board of Education update, the majority of focus of the Fine Arts Division in Curriculum and Assessment has been on recommendations regarding curriculum revisions, distribution ofequitable essential arts resources, and plans for a proposed fine arts programming financial planning team.
The Fine Arts Task Force Report contains three main areas. This updated report is organized around the recommendations from the Fine Arts Task Force, progress to date, and next steps in these three areas: Curriculum; Equity; and Long-Term Financial Planning.
Creation ofa multi-year funding pIan for arts education will be structured to provide adequate, sustained funding for MMSD students taking k-12 arts education courses, which will offer:
A sequence o f diverse, skill-based classes Expanded, equitable access to co-curricular opportunities Knowledge of and appreciation for world art forms

Asia’s Expanding Middle Class Presents Huge Opportunity for Region, World – Report

Asian Development Bank

Developing Asia’s rapidly expanding middle class is likely to assume the traditional role of the US and Europe as primary global consumers and help rebalance the global economy, says a new report on Asia’s middle class from the Asian Development Bank (ADB).
The report, published in a special chapter of Key Indicators for Asia and the Pacific 2010, the flagship annual statistical publication of the ADB, found that Asia’s consumers spent an estimated $4.3 trillion (in 2005 purchasing power parity dollars), or about one-third of OECD consumption expenditure, in 2008 and by 2030 will likely spend $32 trillion, comprising about 43% of the worldwide consumption.
The special chapter, titled “The Rise of Asia’s Middle Class“, examines the rapid growth of Asia’s middle class, how the poor advance to the middle class, factors that characterize the middle class, and pathways through which they become effective contributors to growth and poverty reduction in the region.

10 Ways Teachers Make a Difference


Education is one of the building blocks of society. Educated individuals tend to be happier and healthier, and study after study has found that an educated populace leads to a stronger economy. So what’s behind all these educational benefits? Teachers. To show our appreciation, we here at Education Portal would like to take a moment to reflect on some of the ways in which teachers make a difference in our world.
1. Inspiring
Maybe your love of poetry was inspired by your first grade teacher reading Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends. Or perhaps you became an engineer because of that cool experiment in your fifth-grade science class. So often it is teachers who provide that initial inspiration that becomes a lifelong passion.
2. Encouraging
As a kid, this blogger never had any trouble with reading but was terrified by math. But with the patient encouragement of my teachers, I learned to like – and excel at – math all the way through calculus. When students say ‘I can’t,’ teachers are always there to say ‘yes you can.’

Tough as Nails, but Always Ready for a Bearhug

Jenny Anderson

It is 8:30 a.m. at De La Salle Academy, a private school in Manhattan for academically talented poor children, and classical music is humming through a boom box that harks back to the 1980s.
Children are streaming up four flights of stairs and surrounding the school’s founder and principal, Brother Brian Carty, like moths fluttering around a light. They want to tell him something. They want one of his bearhugs. They want to be in his orbit for a few minutes.
If the students’ attraction to Brother Carty suggests that he is a teddy bear of an administrator, consider a few of his rules. Gossip is an expellable offense. Makeup — even lip gloss — is prohibited. Dating is outlawed.

Officials limit access to Stoughton High School after gun threat

Officials limit access to Stoughton High School after gun threat
Responding to rumors that a student might bring a gun to Stoughton High School today, Stoughton police officers patrolled the school Thursday and plan to continue patrols today and Monday, district Administrator Tim Onsager said.
Access to the high school was allowed through only one door all day and at a second door before school, during lunch and after school, principal Mike Kruse said in an e-mail. Most extracurricular activities were canceled Thursday and today, as were staff meetings scheduled for today to allow teachers to remain in the classroom with students, Kruse wrote.
The district continues to investigate the origin of the rumors, but has not been able to substantiate any of the various stories circulating among students. No students have been disciplined so far, Onsager said.

B-Schools Redouble Efforts Overseas

Diana Middleton

U.S. business schools, faced with a decline in applications from overseas, are stepping up international recruiting efforts to preserve what they say is an essential component of an institution’s credibility.
Improved schools abroad, tougher employment prospects in the U.S., and the expense of attending an American school have led to fewer foreign applications at many programs, officials at several business schools say.
Overall, international enrollment at U.S. business schools dropped to 24.8% in the 2009-10 school year, down from 26.5% two years prior, according to the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, an accrediting body.
Harder hit are schools that don’t have the global demand of institutions such as Harvard Business School and the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, where international enrollments have generally remained steady or increased.

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Steven Walters

How much do election-year firewalls cost to build? For the state’s largest teachers union, $1.57 million.
That’s how much the Wisconsin Education Association Council said last week it will spend trying to make sure four Democratic state senators are re-elected – enough, WEAC hopes, to keep a Democratic majority in the 33-member state body.
Although there are 15 Democratic candidates running for the state Senate, and 80 Democrats running for the state Assembly, the latest WEAC report shows that the teachers union is placing what amounts to an “all in” bet on saving just four Democratic senators who are finishing their first terms.
In an Oct. 25 report to the Government Accountability Board, the 98,000-member union reported that it will independently:
• Spend the most – $440,044 – to try to re-elect Democratic Sen. Jim Sullivan of Wauwatosa in the 5th district. WEAC’s pro-Sullivan spending will total $327,939; the remaining $112,105 will be used against Sullivan’s Republican challenger, Republican Rep. Leah Vukmir, also from Wauwatosa.

Amazing and something to consider when school spending is discussed.

The Post-Election Education Landscape: Vouchers Up, WEAC Down

Alan Borsuk via a Senn Brown email

Two quick education-related comments on Tuesday’s election outcomes in Wisconsin:
First, this was a banner outcome in the eyes of voucher and charter school leaders. Governor-elect Scott Walker is a long-time ally of those promoting the 20,000-plus-student private school voucher program in the city of Milwaukee, and he is a booster of charter schools both in Milwaukee and statewide. But just as important as Walker’s win was the thumpingly strong victories for Republicans in both the Assembly and State Senate, which will now come under sizable Republican majorities.
What will result?
Let’s assume it’s good-bye to the 22,500-student cap on the voucher enrollment in Milwaukee. Will Walker and the Legislature expand the voucher program beyond the city, perhaps, for openers, to Racine? Will they open the doors wider for charter schools, for national charter-school operators to come into Wisconsin, and for more public bodies to be given the power to authorize charter schools? (Currently, UW-Milwaukee, Milwaukee City Hall, and UW-Parkside are the only ones authorized to do that, other than school boards.) Perhaps most important, what will the Republicans do about the per-student payments to voucher and charter schools? School leaders now are chafing under the impact of receiving less than $6,500 per student for each voucher student and less than $8,000 for each charter student. Will this be one of the very few spots where the Republicans increase the state’s financial involvement? Pretty good chance the answer is yes to all of the above.

Change is certainly in the air.

AP saves money for families, but what about taxpayers?

Jay Matthews

In Advanced Placement Nation, that version of America populated by high school students taking college-level AP courses and tests, Florida covers a huge portion of the map. The St. Petersburg Times points out the state is number one in the percentage of graduating seniors taking AP tests and number five in the percentage of seniors passing them.
So, Times reporter Ron Matus reveals, the newspaper decided to see if Florida was getting its money’s worth for paying its students’ AP testing fees, something only two other states do. The Times analysis concluded that the program was saving college families tens of millions of dollars they don’t have to pay for college courses that AP exempts their students from taking. Whether taxpayers are also saving money is more difficult to determine, Matus said.
“Florida students passed 114,430 AP tests this year,” Matus wrote, “up from 66,511 five years ago. Even assuming a fair chunk of those tests won’t translate into credits, the Times estimates Florida families will save at least $40 million in tuition and fees.”

FoolProof teaches money lessons at Stuart Hall

Julian Guthrie

The question posed to the San Francisco eighth-graders was: “Have you ever been ripped off?”
Hands shot up. Cedrick Mitchell said, “I gave my friend $20 for four new wheels for my skateboard, but I only got two new ones. So I had to roll with two nice wheels and two bad ones.”
Will deHoo, standing before the whiteboard in a classroom at Stuart Hall for Boys, nodded excitedly. “That’s right. You can get ripped off for $20 or $100 or $1,000. Whatever it is, it doesn’t feel good. We are here to help you not get ripped off, and to make smart money decisions.”

AYP report cards irk local administrators

Erin McCarthy

Education officials expressed little surprise, and some frustration, that 11 of 13 area school districts and high schools failed to make Adequate Yearly Progress, according to the newly released Illinois State Report Cards.
“It’s just a matter of time before every school is going to be on it,” said Joel Estes, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction for Galesburg School District 205, in response to his district’s academic warning standing.
Estes said the district has been on the list for “quite some time” due to being a more diverse and larger district.
Adequate Yearly Progress, or AYP, is determined by two standardized tests and is part of the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.

For Exposure, Universities Put Courses on the Web

D D Guttenplan

Until recently, if you wanted to take Professor Rebecca Henderson’s course in advanced strategy to understand the long-term roots of why some companies are unusually successful, you needed to be a student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where Ms. Henderson teaches at the Sloan School of Management. Admission to the Sloan School is extremely selective, and tuition fees are over $50,000 a year.
For the past two years, though, anyone with an Internet connection can follow Ms. Henderson’s lectures online, where the lecture notes and course assignments are available free through M.I.T. OpenCourseWare. Why give away something with such a high market value?
“I put the course up because the president of M.I.T. asked us to,” said Ms. Henderson. “My deep belief is that as academics we have a duty to disperse our ideas as far and as freely as possible.”
Mary Lou Forward, executive director of the OpenCourseWare Consortium, a worldwide organization of about 250 academic institutions around the world, adds that universities get “global engagement” from posting courses online.

How Universities Work, or: What I Wish I’d Known Freshman Year: A Guide to American University Life for the Uninitiated

Jake Seliger

Fellow graduate students sometimes express shock at how little many undergraduates know about the structure and purpose of universities. It’s not astonishing to me: I didn’t understand the basic facts of academic life or the hierarchies and incentives universities present to faculty and students when I walked into Clark University at age 18. I learned most of what’s expressed here through osmosis, implication, inference, discussion with professors, and random reading over seven years. Although most of it seems obvious now, as a freshman I was like a medieval peasant who conceived of the earth as the center of the universe; Copernicus’ heliocentric[1] revolution hadn’t reached me, and the much more accurate view of the universe discovered by later thinkers wasn’t even a glimmer to me. Consequently, I’m writing this document to explain, as clearly and concisely as I can, how universities work and how you, a freshman or sophomore, can thrive in them.
The biggest difference between a university and a high school is that universities are designed to create new knowledge, while high schools are designed to disseminate existing knowledge. That means universities give you far greater autonomy and in turn expect far more from you in terms of intellectual curiosity, personal interest, and maturity.

British Kids Log On and Learn Math — in Punjab

Julia Wedigier

Once a week, year six pupils at Ashmount Primary School in North London settle in front of their computers, put on their headsets and get ready for their math class. A few minutes later, their teachers come online thousands of kilometers away in the Indian state of Punjab.
Ashmount is one of three state schools in Britain that decided to outsource part of their teaching to India via the Internet. The service — the first of its kind in Europe — is offered by BrightSpark Education, a London-based company set up last year. BrightSpark employs and trains 100 teachers in India and puts them in touch with pupils in Britain through an interactive online tutoring program.
The feedback from pupils, the schools and parents is good so far, and BrightSpark said a dozen more schools, a charity and many more parents were interested in signing up for the lessons. The one-on-one sessions not only cost about half of what personal tutors in Britain charge but are also popular with pupils, who enjoy solving equations online, said Rebecca Stacey, an assistant head teacher at Ashmount.

The Education Report: A former teacher’s take on “Superman”

Katy Murphy

Jamal Cooks, a San Francisco State University professor of education and former teacher, wrote the following piece for The Education Report, Katy Murphy’s Oakland schools blog. Read more at www.ibabuzz.com/education. Follow her at Twitter.com/katymurphy.
LAST Monday, I went to a matinee to watch “Waiting for Superman.” As a former teacher, director of after-school programs, coordinator of mentoring programs, and a professor of teacher education, I watched the movie intently and hung on every word. I am a public school educator, a public school product, and a public school advocate. I have spent 20 years working for and with students who have challenging home lives, come from rough neighborhoods, and lack some resources, but who want the same education as the next person.
In fact, my daughter will be starting kindergarten soon, and with the local public school’s API scores under 800, I want public schools to work. However, there are some real facts that must be acknowledged before moving forward for equitable education for all students.
The movie made some interesting points about public schools and their teachers. It is true that some schools have been underpreparing young people for decades. The cursory tenure process for teachers needs to be revamped; it takes a typical university

Madison Edgewood High School’s AP & ACT Results

From 1997 to 2010, Edgewood’s average ACT scores rose by 2.3 points to 25.4 with an average of 95% of EHS students taking the test over that period. During the same time period, state and national averages remained essentially unchanged. The total number of students taking AP courses nearly quadrupled and the average number of tests taken per EHS AP student per year rose from 1.34 to 1.77. In addition, the percentage of passing scores (3,4 or 5) rose from 54% in 1997 to 75% in 2010.
2009-2010 ACT and AP notes:

  • ACT average went up by .1 from 2008 to 2009 with 100% of EHS students taking the test.
  • 43% of juniors and seniors – more than 1/2 of seniors and 1/3 of juniors took at least one AP course and exam in 2009-10. The national figure was 26.5%
  • 37.5% of the EHS graduating class passed (scored 3,4 or 5) at least one AP exam, 2.4 times the national average (15.9%) and 2.2 times the Wisconsin average (17.3%)
  • EHS offers one AP course for every 13-14 seniors

30 Students Earn Advanced Placement Scholar Awards
We received word in September that 30 students at Edgewood High School have earned AP Scholar Awards in recognition of their exceptional achievement on AP Exams. About 18% of the nearly 1.8 million students worldwide who took AP exams performed at a sufficiently high level.
via Edgewood’s October, 2010 newsletter.

SAT Prep on the Web: A) a Game; B) Online Chat; C) All of the Above

Katherine Boehret

This Saturday, high-school students around the country will sit for hours of silent testing that will determine some portion of their future: That’s right, it’s SAT time. For both parents and kids, the preparation for taking the standardized test is stressful and expensive, often involving hours of studying and several hundreds of dollars spent on classes, workbooks and tutors. And many kids will take these tests more than once.
So this week I tried a Web-based form of test prep called Grockit that aims to make studying for the SAT, ACT, GMAT, GRE or LSAT less expensive and more enjoyable. Grockit.com offers lessons, group study and solo practice, and does a nice job of feeling fun and educational, which isn’t an easy combination to pull off.
A free portion of the site includes group study with a variety of questions and a limited number of solo test questions, which are customized to each student’s study needs. The $100 Premium subscription includes full access to the online platform with unlimited solo practice questions and personalized performance analytics that track a student’s progress. A new offering called Grockit TV (grockit.com/tv) offers free eight-week courses if students watch them streaming live twice a week. Otherwise, a course can be downloaded for $100 during the course or $150 afterward. Instructors hailing from the Princeton Review and Kaplan, among other places, teach test preparation for the GMAT business-school admissions test and SAT.

From Inputs to Outputs: The Power of Data and Technology to Close the Achievement Gap

Silicon Valley Education Foundation, via email

On October 19, 2010, over 250 influential educators, policymakers, community, and business leaders from around California gathered in the heart of Silicon Valley to learn more about the innovative work of California’s school districts, charter management organizations and education non-profits in using the power of data and technology to close the achievement gap.
General Sessions
The Power of Data and Technology to Close the Achievement Gap
• Arun Ramanathan, Executive Director, The Education Trust – West
The Power of Data video
Learning from Other States: The Texas Student Data System
• Lori Fey, Policy Initiatives, Michael and Susan Dell Foundation
PPT Presentation

New Jersey Superintendent Salary Cuts

John Mooney

By capping school superintendents’ salaries, the Christie administration maintains it can save $10 million in yearly salaries.
Synopsis: Three months after first proposing them, the Christie administration yesterday released the detailed regulations for capping superintendent salaries to no more than $175,000 for most districts, depending on enrollment.
What it means: The new regulations — now slated to go into effect in February — detail how the salary caps would be applied, as well as merit bonuses, which would be available to administrators who meet local board goals. There are few changes to what was first proposed, and the governor’s office maintains that 70 percent of current superintendents would see their pay cut once current contracts expire, saving districts nearly $10 million in wages.
Interesting new detail: The merit bonuses — which must be approved by the state — lean toward quantitative measures, such as increases in student test scores or graduation rates. School boards could adopt up to three such goals for their superintendents, each worth a bonus equal to 3.3 percent of salary or a total of 10 percent. The boards could adopt no more than two qualitative goals, each equal to 2.5 percent of a superintendent’s salary. In all cases, the bonuses would not be cumulative or applied to a superintendent’s pension.

Sweet drinks widely available in schools: study

Julie Steenhuysen

Despite efforts to limit their availability, public elementary school students in the United States have more outlets to buy unhealthy beverages at school, U.S. researchers said on Monday.
Over a three-year period ending in 2009, more students could buy sweetened beverages like sodas, higher-fat milk and sports beverages from vending machines and school stores, they said. Such drinks are a major source of calories, and removing them from schools could help curb the nation’s obesity epidemic.
“Elementary school students are still surrounded by a variety of unhealthy beverages while at school,” said Lindsey Turner of the University of Illinois at Chicago, whose study appears in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: UC President recommends cutting retirement benefits

Laurel Rosenhall

UC President Mark Yudof has released his recommendations for how he wants the University of California to change its employee retirement plan and eliminate a $12.9 billion unfunded liability.
In a letter to employees sent late Tuesday, Yudof laid out proposals to raise the minimum retirement age for future UC employees and reduce retiree health care benefits for existing employees.
The recommendations make UC’s retirement plan a “more conservative pension plan than the State of California offers its employees,” Yudof wrote in his letter to employees.
Under his proposals, employees hired by UC after July 1, 2013 would be eligible for retirement at age 55 (instead of age 50 for current employees) and could receive their maximum pension benefits at age 65 (instead of age 60 for current employees). Current employees would have less of their health care costs during retirement covered by the university, with costs being set by a graduated scale based on years of service and age at retirement. Current employees could remain on the existing retirement health care plan if on July 1, 2013, they have worked for UC for five years and their age and years of service together equal 50 or greater.

Push for math, science education stumbles amid beleaguered Kansas City districts’ pressures

Joe Robertson

Five years ago, alarms sounded over America’s rapidly falling stature in STEM education.
That’s science, technology, engineering and math — the keys to our nation’s prosperity. But U.S. schools weren’t keeping up in the fast-changing fields.
Governors dispatched task forces. New programs were launched. Foundations poured in funding. And schools started to make gains.
Now, however, signs are emerging that the momentum of the mid-2000s is slipping away, even as students’ needs continue to grow.

An Email to Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad on Math Teacher Hiring Criteria by Janet Mertz.

China bubble erodes preference for sons

Patti Waldmeir

High property prices and economic development have begun to erode China’s traditional preference for sons, leading to a rise in the number of Chinese parents who say they would prefer a daughter.
The centuries-old cultural preference for boys was exacerbated in recent decades by China’s “one child” policy, which led to the abandonment, abortion or infanticide of millions of girls.
But the conventional wisdom – that China is a land of unwanted girls, many of them sent overseas for adoption – is being turned on its head as urbanisation increases the cost of raising male heirs and erodes the advantage of having sons to work the fields and support parents in their dotage.

Teacher evaluations should be made public

New Jersey Star Ledger Editorial Board

First, get the data right. Then, hand it over to parents.
As soon as standardized evaluations become available for teachers in New Jersey, they should be made public — with teacher names attached. That will force districts to make a priority of teacher quality.
Elsewhere, newspapers have filed Freedom of Information requests to get this data released. They’re following in the footsteps of the Los Angeles Times, which recently published the names and “value-added” scores of about 6,000 L.A. teachers.

Facebook Says User Data Sold To Broker

Geoffrey Fowler & Emily Steel

Facebook Inc. said that a data broker has been paying application developers for identifying user information, and that it had placed some developers on a six-month suspension from its site because of the practice.
The announcement, which Facebook made on its developers’ blog Friday, follows an investigation by Facebook into a privacy breach that The Wall Street Journal reported in October.

Upcoming events at the Simpson Street Free Press

The public is warmly invited to the following events at the Simpson Street Free Press:

Science, Math, Women and Career Choices: Community Forum
Date: Thursday November 4th Time: 6 pm
Education, careers and the choice we will make: A community forum. The forum will be hosted by former Free Press editor and columnist Andrea Gilmore. Andrea is now pursuing her PhD in nursing at UW-Madison.

Open House: Meet the Writers

Date: Thursday November 11th Time: 5 -8pm
Meet the writers, reporters, editors and columnists of the Simpson Street Free Press. Our newsroom will be open to the
public and staff will answer questions and provide guided tours.
Simpson Street Free Press
Located at South Towne mall (next to Subway)
2411 W. Broadway
Call (608) 223-0489 for more information.

All-male Madison charter school a tough sell

School District and School Board members expressed interest in the concept, though they’re still waiting for more details, especially a financial plan.
“I don’t want more charter schools simply for the sake of having more charter schools,” board member Ed Hughes said. “It (has to be for) something we would have a hard time achieving or even attempting under a traditional structure.”
Madison hasn’t approved as many charter schools as other parts of the state. Of the 208 public charter schools in Wisconsin, only two are in Madison, though on Nov. 29 the School Board is expected to approve a third – an urban-agriculture-themed middle school south of the Beltline near Rimrock Road.
The biggest hurdle, however, might involve a proposal to use non-union teachers employed by the charter school’s governing board, as opposed to the School District. Only 21 of the state’s public charter schools have a similar setup.
John Matthews, executive director of Madison Teachers Inc., said teachers would oppose a non-union charter school.
“It would be foolish public policy and a foolish commitment of the public’s funds to finance a project over which the elected body committing the public’s money does not have full control over both the expenditures and the policies of the operation,” Matthews wrote in an e-mail.
Caire wants the school year to span 215 days, rather than the standard 180 days, and the school day to run from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m.

Perhaps Kaleem’s initiative will work with a neighborhing school district. Watch an interview with Kaleem Caire here. Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy here.

Schools Working To Increase Parental Involvement

Jennifer Ludden

Research overwhelmingly shows that parental involvement in a child’s education improves academic performance. But there are a lot of reasons why parents keep their distance — including cultural and class divisions. Guests discuss strategies to get parents more involved in their kids’ schooling.
In Detroit, a prosecutor is making headlines for proposing jail time for parents who don’t attend teacher conferences. It’s one of the more drastic efforts to get parents more involved in their kids’ education. More than 20 percent of parents did not attend teacher conferences in 2007, according to the Department of Education. In some districts, the share can be much higher.
Research tells us that children perform better in the classroom if parents are more involved at home and in school. Still, there are lots of reasons why parents keep their distance from the education system. We’ll talk about some of those reasons and what schools are doing to get parents more involved.
If you’re a parent and you don’t attend parent-teacher conferences, tell us why not. What are your schools doing, or what should they do to encourage parents? Give us a call: 800-989-8255. You can send us an email. The address is talk@npr.org. Or you join the conversation at our website. Just go to npr.org and click on TALK OF THE NATION.

A public school discovers the Army

William McGurn

When it comes to our nation’s future, millions of us will be glued to our television screens looking for clues from the election results. Not Roberto Huie. When it comes to America’s future, this high school senior already knows his part: as a member of the West Point Class of 2015.
Mr. Huie may not be the kind of kid you think of when you think of our military academies. Part Latino, part African-American, he lives in a South Bronx neighborhood that belongs to the poorest congressional district in the nation. Nevertheless, he has two big things going for him: a mom raising him to be a man–and an all-boys public school teaching him what it means to be a leader.
All that converged yesterday morning on the second floor of the Eagle Academy for Young Men in the Bronx. There 50 of Mr. Huie’s peers, drawn from the school’s highest-performing students, were seated for what they–and Mr. Huie–all assumed would be another presentation from another college rep. Instead, they watched, captivated, as Army Maj. Michael Burns presented Mr. Huie with a letter from the superintendent of the United States Military Academy congratulating him on his appointment.

Atlanta Public Schools under formal accreditation review

Kristina Torres

Members of the Atlanta school board were told Monday that their capacity to govern is “in serious jeopardy” and that staff from one of the nation’s top accrediting agencies will be in the city school system next month for a formal review.
The decision by Mark Elgart, president and CEO of AdvancED, to send in a team for on-site interviews and investigation essentially formalizes a warning he gave last week that the board’s infighting has put its accreditation at risk.
Three metro school districts — with a combined nearly 200,000 public school students — now are being reviewed by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) and its parent, AdvancED. SACS notified DeKalb County last week that it would conduct an on-site review before Feb. 1 over concerns about its operation. In 2008, SACS revoked Clayton County Schools accreditation, which has since been restored on a probationary basis.

America’s lesson for British classrooms

Alex Spillius

As we all know by now, US President Barack Obama has not had a great first two years. His Republican critics have hammered him at every opportunity as an out-of-touch, anti-business, high-spending liberal. His greatest social mission – healthcare reform – has backfired. Elected on a promise of uniting the country, the divisions between Left and Right – or progressive and conservative, to use the American terminology – have instead solidified.
Education, however, has been an exception to the relentless criticism. Even prominent Right-wingers such as Newt Gingrich, the former Speaker of the House, and Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida, have praised the President’s approach to reforming schools. The Obama administration’s centrepiece initiative has been Race to the Top, which allocated $4.35 billion

Juniors approach ACT with help at their schools

Janice Denham

When their high-school child starts talking about the ACT, parents often equate it as the time for “Almost College Tuition.”
The letters originally were an abbreviation for American College Testing. Colleges use the standardized test, which assesses high school achievement, to evaluate readiness of applicants applying for admission.
High schools vary their approach to prepare students wading into this important ritual. They try to make it a natural progression for parents, too.
“Pressuring the student is never a good idea. My suggestion is to get involved freshman year, from a grades standpoint. Grades can drive this process and overshadow a lower test score,” said Jeff Buckman, college and career specialist in the counseling office at Eureka High School.

A covert war on UK schools

Melissa Benn

Tomorrow’s whirlwind visit to London by Arne Duncan, Barack Obama’s education secretary, could not have come at a better time for Michael Gove. Last week the secretary of state was besieged by discomfiting revelations about £500,000 of public money granted to the New Schools Network, the charity and company set up by one of his former advisers, 25-year-old Rachel Wolf, during which it emerged that no other organisation was asked to tender for the job of advising groups who want to set up new and “free” schools.
This week, then, in place of answering questions about transparency and accountability, Gove will be able to stand shoulder to shoulder with one of Obama’s lieutenants – at Hackney’s Mossbourne Academy in London, no less; the jewel in the crown of New Labour’s education policy – and talk about the need to tackle educational inequalities, root out bad teachers, ill discipline and so on.
In fact the funding of the New Schools Network and the expected razzmatazz around Duncan’s visit are all part of the same strategy: central planks in the frequently disingenuous war now being fought over the future of our school system, in which a seductive language of cultural radicalism and a powerful invective against educational inequality will increasingly be used to promote a further fragmented and multi-tiered system of education. Existing state provision is in effect being undermined by a mix of instant celebrity critics, a growing number of private providers and behind-the-scenes lobbyists, with the full if not always fully publicised support of the government.

Contemplating A State Takeover of Northwest Indiana Schools

Chelsea Schneider Kirk

At the end of this school year, Northwest Indiana schools on their fifth year of academic probation may face state takeover if the schools don’t make gains on standardized test scores.
The Indiana State Board of Education is beginning to detail what a state takeover will look like. The options range from the state appointing a manager for the school to the school merging with a higher performing school. The schools could close, or the Indiana Department of Education could make more recommendations for improving the school.
Northwest Indiana has five schools that stand to be impacted if improvements aren’t made: Gary’s Roosevelt Career and Technical Academy, Hammond and Morton high schools, Calumet High School and East Chicago Central. Lake Station’s Central Elementary also is on its fifth year of probation, but the Lake Station Community School Corp. is closing the school at the end of the year.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: California’s Teacher Pension Fund May Cut Investment Return Forecast

Dave Kasler

The CalSTRS board will consider cutting its investment forecast by a half a percentage point Friday, a move that could put more pressure on the Legislature to raise contributions to the teachers’ pension fund by hundreds of millions of dollars.
The board, which blinked on the question in June, is scheduled to vote Friday on a staff recommendation to lower the forecast to 7.5 percent.
The less money CalSTRS expects to earn on its investments, the more it needs from the state, school districts and teachers to recover from huge losses of 2008.

Teacher Marisa Martinez says music key to learning

Marisa Martinez

Kindergarten teacher Marisa Martinez was tired of political promises, unfulfilled vows to restore California classrooms to their former glory. She despaired as she saw her beloved art and music disappear from the schools as money dried up, leaving teachers scrambling for pencils and paper. To Martinez, 41, paintbrushes and pianos weren’t luxuries; they were necessities.
A professional musician as well as an educator at San Francisco’s El Dorado Elementary School, she decided to take things into her own hands. With her own money, she created a CD of songs she sings to her predominantly low-income students, tunes with a bluegrass, folksy feel that address the basics of life and literacy with humor and joy. It’s called “Chicken & ABC’s.” The project was both a labor of love and an artistic uprising against broken political promises from a frustrated and funny teacher who signs her e-mails, “With Love, chickens, Chihuahuas, children and Peace.”

Black, Hispanic students dwindle at elite Va. public school

Kevin Sieff

When the Black Students Association at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology threw a pizza party in September for new members, every African American freshman on campus showed up.
All four of them.
They amount to less than 1 percent of the Class of 2014 at the selective public school in Fairfax County, regarded as among the nation’s best. “It’s disappointing,” said Andrea Smith, the club’s faculty sponsor. “But you work with what you got.”
The count of Hispanic freshmen is not much higher: 13.
Years of efforts to raise black and Hispanic enrollment at the regional school have failed, officials acknowledge. The number of such students admitted has fallen since 2005.

Thompson gets taste of Milwaukee Public Schools’ food fight

Alan Borsuk

This certainly is an education for me,” Gregory Thornton, superintendent of Milwaukee Public Schools, told School Board members as he watched them chew up the first controversial matter that has come before the board since Thornton took office July 1.
The issue involved was not the biggest one MPS will face. There are lots more difficult decisions coming up as the economic problems of the school system accelerate.
But the way the board majority came down on this issue definitely sent messages.
For some, such as union members, the main message was a reassuring one; for others, such as some MPS administrators and some business and civic leaders, the message was an alarming one.
The issue, in a nutshell: Thornton, who has emphasized the need to make MPS a well-run business, thought the system’s leaders should find out what all the options are for the future of a food service operation that provides about 100,000 meals a day.

How committed to healthy choices is the Madison school district really?

At last month’s Food for Thought Festival in Madison, Martha Pings attended a panel discussion titled “Lunch Lessons: Changing the Way We Feed Our Children.” Among the panelists was Frank Kelly, director of food services for the Madison school district, who spoke of his desire to provide kids with nutritious food.
Two weeks later, Pings’ daughter came home from O’Keeffe Middle School on Madison’s east side with news that the cafeteria had a new a la carte option: a slushie machine.
The machine drew a backlash from Pings and other O’Keeffe parents, and last week was removed from the school at the request of the principal, Kay Enright (see article, 10/21/10). “I wish they would have asked me to begin with,” says Enright, who agrees the slushies were not “a healthy addition to our menu of choices.”
But there are larger issues here, as Pings, a member of Madison Families for Better Nutrition, related in a letter to school officials posted on the group’s website.

We’re sorry, world

John Brummett:

Today’s column begins with a memorandum I presume to send to the world in behalf of Arkansas.
Dear World:
You need to understand that we in Arkansas remain mostly a sparsely populated rural culture. While there are lifestyle advantages to that, we also confront certain stagnant pressures that are matters of politics and heritage. One result is that we maintain too many school districts of small size.
This situation dissipates our already limited talent pool of people to run for and get elected to all these little local school boards.
But be assured that we have a court ruling that says the education of our children is ultimately the state government’s responsibility.
So, speaking as the state, we are sorry about those ghastly and evil ravings of that person who tragically sat on the board of one of our small rural districts. But please understand three things:

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: 17 Reasons to reject Oklahoma SQ 744

1. It won’t work. The measure promises to raise state education funding to the regional average and, presumably, improve public school results. Oklahoma’s school funding and its results as measured in standardized test scores are embarrassingly low. But SQ 744 would increase spending without any attempt at reforming the school system. Spending more money for the same methods is sending good money after bad. Funding without reform is expensive and worthless at the same time.
2. It will raise your taxes, or you better hope it will. The measure’s ballot title is frankly misleading, because it says it won’t raise taxes. While there are no direct tax hikes in the initiative petition, implementing SQ 744 without a tax increase would result in an essential shutdown of all other state government services.
3. Without a tax increase, it will denude the rest of state government. The only alternative to raising taxes – and both may be necessary – would be horrifying cuts in every other function of state government. State prisons, the highway patrol, road maintenance, state health programs for the elderly and indigent, senior food programs and anything else you can think of that involves state government are already skin and bones because of the recession’s impact on state spending. The more than $1 billion needed to fund SQ 744 in its first three years would quite simply destroy fundamental state government services.

A homework assignment for New Jersey Governor Christie

Wally Jeffs

GOVERNOR Christie has formed the Education Effectiveness Task force, a panel to consider using student performance and other factors in assessing teacher performance (“Christie forms panel on teaching,” Page A-3, Oct. 29).
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Christie is currently popular because he offers simple-minded quick fixes. The operative word here is simple. His belief in magical charter schools is simple. Just like “Waiting for Superman,” the recently released documentary movie that has become a promo for charter schools, he thinks schools are factories that can be measured for profit and loss. And he’s fixated on the dollars in teachers’ paychecks.
And like all good neo-cons from the Church of the Divine George W. Bush — lest we forget Christie’s pedigree — he offers government by theory, which always selects only those facts that fit the theory.

Teaching to a different test

Miki Litmanovitz

For years now, a war has been brewing between two sides of the education world.
One side argues that standardized tests are necessary to evaluate teacher performance, and the other argues that these tests are an inadequate measure of the hard work that teachers pour into their classrooms.
With the recent release of the movie “Waiting for ‘Superman,’ ” that war has spilled out of the classrooms and into the mainstream. And at the heart of this war is the commonly heard argument that standardized tests cause teachers to “teach to the test.”