Lunchbox Mix-up Leads to Charges for Sanford, NC Teen


An athletic and academic standout in Lee County said a lunchbox mix-up has cut short her senior year of high school and might hurt her college opportunities.
Ashley Smithwick, 17, of Sanford, was suspended from Southern Lee High School in October after school personnel found a small paring knife in her lunchbox.
Smithwick said personnel found the knife while searching the belongings of several students, possibly looking for drugs.
“She got pulled into it. She doesn’t have to be a bad person to be searched,” Smithwick’s father, Joe Smithwick, said.
The lunchbox really belonged to Joe Smithwick, who packs a paring knife to slice his apple. He and his daughter have matching lunchboxes.
“It’s just an honest mistake. That was supposed to be my lunch because it was a whole apple,” he said.

Teen kicked off campus after lunch box mix-up


A 17-year-old honor student says she has been kicked off campus for the rest of the school year, because of a mix-up with her lunch box.
In October, senior Ashley Smithwick says she got in trouble at school for the first time in her life after she mistakenly took her father’s lunch container — that’s identical to hers — to Southern Lee High School.
Her dad’s container had a three-inch paring knife inside.
“And I had just grabbed my dad’s lunch box,” Smithwick said. “I didn’t mean to. I really didn’t. I just grabbed it and went out the door.”
School leaders say during that day a faculty member discovered a student with marijuana on campus and Smithwick’s paring knife was found during a random search.
According to a written statement received by ABC11 from Lee County Schools Superintendent Jeff Moss on Wednesday, the knife was found in Smithwick’s purse, not her lunchbox.

K-12 Spending Per Student in the OECD

Veronique de Rugy

This chart by Mercatus Center Senior Research Fellow Veronique de Rugy compares K-12 education expenditures per pupil in each of the world’s major industrial powers. As we can see, with the exception of Switzerland, the United States spends more than any other country on education, an average of $91,700 per student between the ages of six and fifteen.
That’s not only more than other countries spend but it is also more than better achieving countries spend – the United States spends a third more than Finland, a country that consistently ranks near the top in science, reading, and math testing.

Maternal Mystery: Babies Bring Joy, and Questions, in Hong Kong

Cathy Yan:

The photos of triplets born into a billionaire family that were splashed across the front pages of local papers in October made for a great story.
Their proud grandfather, Lee Shau-kee, the 82-year-old chairman of property developer Henderson Land Development Ltd. and one of the richest men in Asia, held up the three baby boys swathed in blue. Next to him stood the father, Peter Lee, the bachelor vice chairman and heir apparent to the Henderson empire.
There was only one thing missing: their mother.

Power to the People: Britains Big Experiment

Iam Birrell:

For those wanting a less colloquial explanation, the Big Society is an attempt to transform the relationship between the state and its citizens. Using the weapons of devolution and transparency, it seeks to empower individuals, improve public services that fail the most disadvantaged and reconnect the civic institutions that lie between the people and the state.
So why is the Big Society such a radical idea? As one of its leading proponents in government admits, it is a massive social experiment – stripping power from the state in the expectation that individuals, communities and enterprises will pick up the reins. “As in most such experiments, it is based upon instincts and understanding rather than empirical data,” he says. “It will be two to three years before we begin to see if it is playing itself out properly. But the direction of change will be remorseless and I’m confident it will transform Britain.”
This tussle between the responsibilities of state and citizens is at the centre of political struggles across the west, from France’s battles over pensions to the backlash against Washington in the US. Unsurprisingly, the Big Society ideas – far removed from the rampant individualism of the Tea Party – are being watched with growing interest by moderate Republicans.
In Britain, they fit comfortably with a nation fed up with over-bearing statism and corporate irresponsibility. The latest British Social Attitudes survey revealed growing distrust of both state and big business, combined with a desire for smaller, more local institutions.

Showdown in the Offing

Doug Lederman

Three years ago, Congress stopped then-Education Secretary Margaret Spellings dead in her tracks. Cheered on by college leaders, Senator Lamar Alexander and other lawmakers — irked by the Education Department’s aggressive attempts to regulate higher education accreditation and by what they perceived to be the executive branch’s encroachment on their turf — took several legislative steps that effectively blocked the department from issuing new rules on student learning outcomes.
The players and the issues have changed, but signs are emerging that a similar showdown could unfold early next year over the Obama administration’s plan to require for-profit colleges and other vocational programs to prove that they prepare their graduates for “gainful employment.” Exactly how such a showdown would shake out is hard to predict, but the likelihood of it taking place grew significantly in recent days.

Chinese Students: Great Thinkers or Great Memorizers?

Melissa Westbrook:

I had wanted to put this quote in from the governor of Pennsylvania, Ed Rendell, because it made me laugh. He made this remark after the NFL postponed the Sunday football game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Minnesota Vikings (which was played last night and the Vikings won). The NFL called the game off because of the danger of fans getting safely to and from the stadium because of a huge snowstorm.
“We’ve become a nation of wusses. The Chinese are kicking our butt in everything,” Rendell added. “If this was in China do you think the Chinese would have called off the game? People would have been marching down to the stadium, they would have walked and they would have been doing calculus on the way down.”
The “doing calculus on the way down” made me laugh. But then there was this interesting piece on NPR today about Chinese education. Basically, the point is that they are great at learning and memorizing facts but not very good at analytic, problem-solving thinking. Even their principals admit this but like many bureaucratic issues, it’s recognized but no one knows what to do.

State Schools Rethink Fees

Clare Ansberry:

Public universities across the U.S. are arguing for freedom to reap more revenue and create more efficiencies to offset dwindling state dollars.
One way, they say, is to raise tuition. At California University of Pennsylvania, a 158-year-old state school serving 9,400 students, enrollment is rising for all but the poorest students, which, in part, has led to a novel idea: replace the “low tuition for all” policy with a market-rate policy.
University officials say students from wealthier families could afford to pay more than the average $5,804 annual tuition at the state’s 14 universities. Fresh revenue from the higher tuition, they say, could be used to offer more scholarships to help the neediest students.

Indiana Governor Daniels will offer private school voucher plan

Lesley Stedman Weidenbener

Gov. Mitch Daniels said Wednesday he will ask lawmakers to approve an education voucher system that would let low-income students use state money to help pay for private school tuition.
aniels provided few details about his proposal – including income levels at which families would qualify or the amount they could receive – but said it will be part of his larger education agenda for the 2011 session.
The governor and Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett presented part of that agenda on Wednesday to the Indiana Education Roundtable, a group of education, business and labor leaders who advise the state on school issues.
But Daniels never mentioned the voucher program there. Instead, he and Bennett focused on only a few areas: Freeing schools of regulation, recognizing and rewarding high-quality teachers and limiting the issues for collective bargaining to teacher pay and benefits.

NBER Report: Great Teachers Are Worth $400,000 A Year

Huffington Post
How much is a good teacher worth? Some would say they’re priceless, but recent findings in the National Bureau of Economic Research’s The Economic Value of Higher Teacher Quality, is a bit more exact. The report, written by Eric A. Hanushek, suggests that quality teachers with 20 students are worth $400,000 more in the future earnings of their students than an average teacher, annually.
Hanushek examines how the quality and effectiveness of a good teacher can impact a student’s future success and how this achievement can effect future economic outcomes for the country as a whole.
According to his calculations, it isn’t just that good teachers are worth a lot when considering our economic future as a country; alternatively, bad teachers are costing us trillions. Hanushek says that by exchanging the bottom 5-8 percent of crummy teachers with average teachers, the United States, as a country, could jump up the ranks to top in math and science, generating an astounding $100 trillion in present-day value.
The full report can be found at the NBER website.

Advocating Dave Blaska for Madison School Board

Capital Times Editorial:

Supporters of the proposal to develop charter schools in the Madison Metropolitan School District — including “academies” segregated along lines of gender — have made a lot of noise in recent weeks about how the School Board should radically rewrite rules, contracts and objectives.
Fair enough. Let’s have a debate.
Two School Board seats will be filled in the coming spring election — those of incumbents Marj Passman and Ed Hughes.
Hughes and Passman have both commented thoughtfully on the Urban League’s Madison Prep boys-only charter school proposal.
Hughes, in particular, has written extensively and relatively sympathetically about the plan on his blog.
Passman has also been sympathetic, while raising smart questions about the high costs of staffing the school as outlined.
But neither has offered the full embrace that advocates such as the Madison Urban League’s Kaleem Caire and former Dane County Board member Dave Blaska — now an enthusiastic conservative blogger — are looking for.

Our community is certainly better off with competitive school board races.

Some Va. history texts filled with errors, review finds

Kevin Sieff, via a James Dias email:

In the version of history being taught in some Virginia classrooms, New Orleans began the 1800s as a bustling U.S. harbor (instead of as a Spanish colonial one). The Confederacy included 12 states (instead of 11). And the United States entered World War I in 1916 (instead of in 1917).
These are among the dozens of errors historians have found since Virginia officials ordered a review of textbooks by Five Ponds Press, the publisher responsible for a controversial claim that African American soldiers fought for the South in large numbers during the Civil War.
“Our Virginia: Past and Present,” the textbook including that claim, has many other inaccuracies, according to historians who reviewed it. Similar problems, historians said, were found in another book by Five Ponds Press, “Our America: To 1865.” A reviewer has found errors in social studies textbooks by other publishers as well, underscoring the limits of a textbook-approval process once regarded as among the nation’s most stringent.

Delayed Child Rearing, More Stressful Lives

Steven Greenhouse:

A new study finds that delayed marriage and childbearing are leading to increased stress for American men and women in balancing work and family obligations.
Noting that the median age for first marriage is 28 for men and 26 for women, the study, “Family Change and Time Allocation in American Families,” says, “Delayed marriage and childbearing heighten the likelihood that the greatest child rearing demands come at the same time that job and career demands are great – particularly among the well-educated.”
The study adds, “Delayed childbearing also increases the likelihood that one’s parents may begin to suffer ill health and need assistance before one’s children are fully launched.” In other words, many men and women feel hugely stretched and stressed trying to help out their not fully independent 20-something children at the same time the health of their octogenarian parents is failing.

Post-Union Disunion

Jack Stripling:

Bowling Green State University trustees justified recent sweeping changes to a key governing document as a necessary response to faculty unionization, but some professors there say the board is engaged in a retaliatory power grab.
Faculty voted in October to grant collective bargaining powers to the university’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), and the board responded Dec. 10 with changes to the Academic Charter that eliminated numerous faculty committees and stripped professors of their existing roles in the evaluations of deans, directors and chairs.
“This set of changes is allegedly done in response to collective bargaining, but there are so many changes that go beyond that, that clearly something else is afoot,” said David Jackson, president of Bowling Green State University’s Faculty Association, the AAUP union. “It certainly appears, to us anyway, that the administration is using the collective bargaining election and the need to negotiate salaries and benefits to justify wholesale changes.”
Also of concern to Jackson and others is the elimination of the faculty’s role in determining financial exigency, which universities can invoke to dismiss tenured professors. Removing even the faculty’s advisory function in this area, as the trustees have done, constitutes “a clear taking of power,” Jackson said.

Too dumb? Too fat? Too bad

Mark Brunswick:

It’s been well-documented that many high school grads are now too fat to meet the U.S. military’s physical requirements. Now it turns out that many of those same kids may be too dumb.
The nonprofit Education Trust released a first-ever report this week showing that more than one in five young people don’t meet the minimum standard required for Army enlistment. Among minority candidates the ineligibility rates are higher: 29 percent. In Minnesota, the disparity for black applicants was even more startling: 40 percent were found to be ineligible. Among Hispanics in Minnesota the rate was 20 percent, but among whites, it was 14.1 percent.
This is more a distressing indictment of the U.S. education system than it is a testament to today’s Cheeto-eating, Xbox-playing youth, say the authors of the report. It strips away that illusion that the military can be an easy landing ground for those not bound for college, and it suggests that national security is at stake.

So Young and So Many Pills More than 25% of Kids and Teens in the U.S. Take Prescriptions on a Regular Basis

Anna Wilde Matthews:

Gage Martindale, who is 8 years old, has been taking a blood-pressure drug since he was a toddler. “I want to be healthy, and I don’t want things in my heart to go wrong,” he says.
And, of course, his mom is always there to check Gage’s blood pressure regularly with a home monitor, and to make sure the second-grader doesn’t skip a dose of his once-a-day enalapril.
These days, the medicine cabinet is truly a family affair. More than a quarter of U.S. kids and teens are taking a medication on a chronic basis, according to Medco Health Solutions Inc., the biggest U.S. pharmacy-benefit manager with around 65 million members. Nearly 7% are on two or more such drugs, based on the company’s database figures for 2009.
Doctors and parents warn that prescribing medications to children can be problematic. There is limited research available about many drugs’ effects in kids. And health-care providers and families need to be vigilant to assess the medicines’ impact, both intended and not. Although the effects of some medications, like cholesterol-lowering statins, have been extensively researched in adults, the consequences of using such drugs for the bulk of a patient’s lifespan are little understood.

Blackboard creatives Teachers are the key to providing quality mainstream education in Hong Kong

Anthony Cheung

While pointing to some school governance problems that certainly need addressing, the recent Audit Commission report on Direct Subsidy Scheme (DSS) schools has triggered public condemnation of these schools in the absence of proper examination of the quality of education they provide. This risks throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
DSS schools stand somewhere between the traditional public sector and the private sector, and were part of education reform to create a more diverse schools landscape. They are subject to less government regulation and free to set their curriculum, fees and entrance requirements. Many middle-class parents unhappy with local schools find DSS an affordable substitute. They regard it as part of their taxpayer’s right under the free education policy to attract some government subsidy for their children attending schools outside the government and aided sector.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: The West and the Tyranny of Public Debt


The history of public debt is the very history of national power: how it has been won and how it has been lost. Dreams and impatience have always driven men in power to draw on the resources of others–be it slaves, the inhabitants of occupied lands, or their own children yet to be born–in order to carry out their schemes, to consolidate power, to grow their own fortunes. But never, outside periods of total war, has the debt of the world’s most powerful states grown so immense. Never has it so heavily threatened their political systems and standards of living. Public debt cannot keep growing without unleashing terrible catastrophes.
Anyone saying this today is accused of pessimism. The first signs of economic recovery, harbingers of a supposedly falling debt, are held up to contradict him. Yet we wouldn’t be the first to think ourselves uniquely able to escape the fate of other states felled by their debt, such as the Republic of Venice, Renaissance Genoa, or the Empire of Spain.

Wisconsin State Senator Seeks to Stop 4K Funding Growth, Including Madison’s Planned Program

Matthew DeFour:

A Republican lawmaker wants to kill Madison’s fledgling 4-year-old kindergarten program before it even begins.
Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend, said Wednesday the state shouldn’t encourage new 4K programs — now in 85 percent of the state’s school districts and with three times as many students as a decade ago — because taxpayers can’t afford them.
“We have a very difficult budget here,” Grothman said in an interview. “Some of it is going to have to be solved by saying some of these massive expansions of government in the last 10 years cannot stand.”
Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad called Grothman’s proposal “very troubling.”
“I don’t know what the 4-year-olds in Madison did to offend the senator,” Nerad said. “There are plenty of studies that have indicated that it’s a good idea to invest as early as possible.”
Last month the Madison School Board approved a $12.2 million 4K program for next fall with registration beginning Feb. 7. Madison’s program is projected to draw $10 million in extra state aid in 2014 when the state’s funding formula accounts for the additional students. Overall this year, school districts are projected to collect $223 million in state aid and property taxes for 4K programs, according to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau.

Much more on Madison’s planned 4K program, here.
It appears that redistributed state tax dollars for K-12 are destined to change due to a significant budget deficit, not to mention the significant growth in spending over the past two decades.

The recent 9% increase in Madison property taxes is due in part to changes in redistributed state tax funds.
I spoke with a person active in State politics recently about 4K funding. Evidently, some lawmakers view this program as a method to push more tax dollars to the Districts.

Taking a Gap Year Before College

Sue Shellenbarger:

Eighteen-year-old Monika Lutz had dreams of a career helping solve economic and social problems in poor nations. So after high school, she took a year off before college to work with a company, suggested by family friends, that is trying to bring solar power to a remote village in India.
A few weeks of living in a mud hut changed her mind. Exhausted by the obstacles, she says, she told herself, “I’m not ready. I can’t dedicate my life to this yet.”
When Ms. Lutz starts college in the fall, she plans to explore other careers. “If I hadn’t gone on a gap year, I might have spent four years and $200,000 on tuition to end up in that same country and find out the same thing,” says Ms. Lutz, of Boulder, Colo.
College-admission letters are starting to roll in, but a growing number of students will decide instead to take a year off to try out potential careers or broaden their horizons. Gap-year activities range from doing volunteer work or taking classes, to working for pay, traveling or tackling outdoor adventures.

Some Data-Miners Ready to Reveal What They Know

Emily Steel

Seeking to head off escalating scrutiny over Internet privacy, a group of online tracking rivals are building a service that lets consumers see what information those companies know about them.
The project is the first of its kind in the fast-growing business of tracking Internet users and selling personal details about their lives. Called the Open Data Partnership, it will allow consumers to edit the interests, demographics and other profile information collected about them. It also will allow people to choose to not be tracked at all.
When the service launches in January, users will be able to see information about them from eight data and tracking firms, including BlueKai Inc., Lotame Solutions Inc. and eXelate Inc.
Additional tracking firms are expected to join once the system is live, but more than a hundred tracking firms and big Internet companies including Google Inc. and Yahoo Inc. are not involved.

Time for Big Cuts in Education Spending?

Hans Bader:

America spends far more on education than countries like Germany, Japan, Australia, Ireland, and Italy, both as a percentage of its economy, and in absolute terms. Yet despite this lavish government support for education, college tuition in the U.S. is skyrocketing, reaching levels of $50,000 or more a year at some colleges, and colleges are effectively rewarded for increasing tuition by mushrooming federal financial-aid spending. Americans can’t read or do math as well as the Japanese, even though America spends way more (half again more) on education than Japan does, as a percentage of income, according to the CIA World Fact Book.
In light of this, it is easy to see why some education experts like Neal McCluskey are floating the idea of “draconian education cuts” to shake up a rotten educational establishment.

These green thumbs sprout early

Carla Rivera:

Children in an outdoor classroom at an East L.A. preschool use natural materials and the environment as a learning laboratory. It’s part of a national campaign to connect youngsters to the outdoors.
On a visit to a Home Depot one day, Cynthia Munoz was surprised when her 4-year-old son began clamoring to plant flowers, trees and a strawberry patch at their La Puente home. She was taken aback again when he knew exactly what tools to use in their backyard garden.
But he’d already had plenty of practice at his preschool, the Brooklyn Early Education Center in East Los Angeles. The school has an outdoor classroom, part of a growing trend in California and other states of using natural materials and the environment as a learning laboratory.

Student Loans: Legislation to Clarify Co-signer Obligations

Mary Pilon

When a student dies, the bill for his student loans often lives on – to the painful surprise and dismay of his co-signers. New Senate legislation seeks to change that, by requiring lenders to make clear the obligations of co-signers in the event of death.
Introduced yesterday, the “Christopher Bryski Student Loan Protection Act,” sponsored by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D., N.J.), is the culmination of a multi-year battle fought by the Bryski family, profiled by the Journal in August. In July 2006, Christopher Bryski died at the age of 25, after an accident left him with a brain injury that put him in a persistent vegetative state for two years. Today, his parents continue to make monthly payments on the $44,500 in private student loans that Mr. Bryski took out to attend Rutgers University. The legislation introduced yesterday would require lenders to provide students and parents with more information about what happens to loans in the event of death.
A first round of student loan and financial reform legislation already passed this year but did not address what happens to private student loans in the event of a student death. Federal student loans can generally be discharged if a student dies or becomes permanently disabled. But private student lenders, such as Sallie Mae, Citibank and Wells Fargo, are not required to discharge loans in the event of death or disability, leaving co-signers, typically parents, on the hook for the balance. Two years ago, Christopher’s brother, Ryan Bryski, began talking to lawmakers about a bill. It’s an amendment to the Truth in Lending Act and the Higher Education Act of 1965.

Refusing to Play ‘Whipping Boy’

David Moltz

The American Academy for Liberal Education has withdrawn its petition for renewal of recognition by the U.S. Education Department’s advisory panel on accreditation, which, after having been dismantled and reconfigured, held its first meeting in over two years Wednesday.
The accreditor’s decision came as a surprise to many in attendance at the first day of meetings held by the new-look National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity. Earlier this week, AALE officials had vowed to fight the Education Department staff’s recommendation that NACIQI urge Education Secretary Arne Duncan to deny recognition for their accreditation body because of its “continued noncompliance.”
Ralph A. Rossum, chairman of the AALE board and Salvatori Professor of American Constitutionalism at Claremont McKenna College, told Inside Higher Ed that the agency decided to withdraw from the process of seeking renewed recognition because of the lack of time his agency was given by the Education Department to defend itself. He noted that AALE received the final report of Education Department staff members — which contained 45 citations of noncompliance — the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.

Are Single-Sex Schools Legal in Wisconsin?

I am not a lawyer, but I can read policy documents. WI statutes were revised to permit single-sex schools and courses. DPI has a very good question and answer page about the law and how DPI is interpreting it, at:
The page begins:
On April 14, 2006, the Governor approved Act 346, which allows school boards and charter schools to establish single-sex schools and courses. Act 346 amended §§ 118.13(1), 118.40(4)(b)2, 119.04(1), and 119.22, Wisconsin Statutes, and created §§ 118.40(4)(c) and 120.13(38), Wisconsin Statutes. You can access Act 346 online at

Oklahoma’s new education chief says classes are too easy

Megan Rolland:

When state schools Superintendent-elect Janet Barresi takes office, her first priority is going to be stepping up the difficulty and rigor in schools so that more kids are ready for college when they graduate.
Only 2.4 percent of students in Oklahoma’s graduating class of 2009 scored in the upper tiers of national math exams, a ratio that places the state among recently industrialized nations such as Bulgaria, Uruguay and Serbia, according to a study released this month.
State schools Superintendent-elect Janet Barresi said the study, which also ranks Oklahoma among the worst 10 states in producing top-achieving math students, should be a wake-up call against the status quo.
“Let’s quit making excuses,” she said. “Let’s accept it, and use it as a challenge, Oklahoma.”

2010 Saw A Children’s App Tsunami

Children’s Technology Review:

Call it the chicken/egg effect, but Apple’s iPad, which has now sold over 1 million and is listed as this years most desired gift by kids (aka the chicken) has resulted in a dramatic demand for children’s apps (aka the eggs). While this new iTunes-based $.99 per app publishing model has been a shock to publishers, it’s great news for a curious child stuck in the back seat on a long trip. This year saw the release of zinc roe’s Tickle Tap Apps (like Sound Shaker), and several new titles from Duck Duck Moose, like Park Math, with adjustable age levels. If you’re interested in ebooks, have a look at two of our favorites: Bartleby’s Book of Buttons and Nash Smasher! And any doubts about the validity of the iPad in the classroom have evaporated thanks to apps like Symmetry Shuffle, Cut the Rope and Motion Math. For dessert, save some room for Smule’s Magic Piano.

Obese German children ‘should face’ classroom weigh-ins

Alan Hall:

Germany’s main school teaching body has called for classroom weigh-ins and the enforced removal of ultra-overweight pupils to combat rising obesity in society.
Josef Kraus, the DL teaching federation president, said: “When parents don’t make sure their children eat healthily and get enough exercise, then it can be the beginning of child abuse in extreme cases.” He said school doctors should take a more active role and conduct regular consultations and weight measurements of students. The should also report problem cases to authorities.
“When parental notices about overweight children are thrown to the wind, then youth services must be contacted and as a last resort there should be cuts to their parental benefits or welfare,” Mr Kraus said.
His remarks follow the release of official figures which showed that 51 per cent of Germans are considered overweight. Sixty per cent of men and 43 per cent of women have a Body Mass Index (BMI) – a measure calculated by body weight and height – of more than 25, up from 56 per cent and 40 per cent respectively in 1999.

Green Bay educators worry changes to political landscape could affect local school funding

Patty Zarling:

Local educators say purse strings could tighten at both the state and federal levels when new Republican lawmakers take office in January.
And that has some school officials concerned about funding and revenue limits.
Mike Blecha, who sits on the Green Bay School Board and serves as its legislative liaison, noted that state rules limit school revenue increases to $200 per student, down from $275 in 2008-09. That means a school board’s ability to raise property taxes becomes limited.
Blecha said he’s heard the limit could be reduced to as little as $100 per student. Small, rural districts or districts with declining enrollment could be forced to shut down if levy limits fall that low, he said.

Brave new world: Teachers find benefits of digital technology

Susan Troller:

The sign on the classroom wall prohibits the use of handheld communication devices, yet on this December morning all 28 students in Lori Hunt’s algebra II class are texting on their cell phones. But these Middleton High School students are not a defiant bunch of teens.
With Hunt’s blessing, they’re using their cell phones to text answers to math problems. Every answer appears, anonymously, on a wall-mounted, interactive, electronic whiteboard all students can see.
For Hunt, it provides an instant way of knowing how many students understand the problem and can calculate the answer. For the students, it allows them to use a familiar technology to explore challenging new concepts.

Cheaters Find an Adversary in Technology

Trip Gabriel:

Mississippi had a problem born of the age of soaring student testing and digital technology. High school students taking the state’s end-of-year exams were using cellphones to text one another the answers.
With more than 100,000 students tested, proctors could not watch everyone — not when some teenagers can text with their phones in their pockets.
So the state called in a company that turns technology against the cheats: it analyzes answer sheets by computer and flags those with so many of the same questions wrong or right that the chances of random agreement are astronomical. Copying is the almost certain explanation.
Since the company, Caveon Test Security, began working for Mississippi in 2006, cheating has declined about 70 percent, said James Mason, director of the State Department of Education’s Office of Student Assessment. “People know that if you cheat there is an extremely high chance you’re going to get caught,” Mr. Mason said.

Some places’ integration seats vanish: Aid formula makes big players prefer open enrollment to 220

Amy Hetzner:

Some of the biggest players in the Chapter 220 program will not accept new minority students for the coming school year, a move likely to continue the trend of declining participation in the school integration program.
School boards for Elmbrook, Menomonee Falls and Wauwatosa, which collectively enrolled more than a quarter of all Chapter 220 students last school year, have voted to not open up any new seats to the program in the 2011-’12 school year.
The action comes as districts have increasingly favored the state’s open enrollment public school choice program as a way to attract out-of-district students – and increased state aid – to their schools.
“The reason is largely financially related,” Elmbrook School District Superintendent Matt Gibson said.
While the money that districts collect for open enrollment students comes on top of the revenue limits allowed by the state, Chapter 220 aid does not raise extra revenue for school districts. Instead, the state aid that districts receive through Chapter 220 goes toward lowering district property taxes.

Proposed bill: Make colleges’ spending public

Wayne Washington:

Want to know how much the University of South Carolina spends to mow the grass on the Horseshoe? What about how much Clemson University doles out to clean the carpet in its board room?
If legislation expected to be prefiled in the state House of Representatives passes, the answer to those questions and many, many others will be a few mouse clicks away for South Carolinians. The legislation, which will be called The Higher Education Transparency Act of 2011 and which was backed by House Speaker Bobby Harrell at a press conference Wednesday, will require that public colleges and universities post every penny of their expenditures online.
Much of the schools’ spending is already posted on the Web, but Republican legislators have leaned on school officials to go further.

Wanted: Candidates for Madison school board

The Capital Times

The spring election of 2011 is shaping up as one of the most exciting in years, with impressive fields of candidates for state Supreme Court, Dane County executive and mayor of Madison.
But that does not mean that there are enough candidates. Plenty of races for circuit judge, school board, city council and village and town government posts have attracted only incumbents. These positions form the fabric of local government. At a time when tough decisions have to be made about the scope and character of the operations these elected officials oversee, it’s important that the best and brightest contenders step forward.
Luckily, Wisconsin maintains a low bar for getting on the ballot in local races.

Tracking Students to 200 Percent of Normal Time: Effect on Institutional Graduation Rates

Laura Horn:

This Issue Brief examines institutional graduation rates reported at 200 percent of normal time, a time frame that corresponds to completing a bachelor’s degree in 8 years and an associate’s degree in 4 years. The report compares these rates with those reported at 150 percent and 100 percent of normal time for all nine institutional sectors. The purpose is to determine whether the longer time frame results in higher institutional graduation rates.

College Students on the Web

Jakob Nielsen:

Students are multitaskers who move through websites rapidly, often missing the item they come to find. They’re enraptured by social media but reserve it for private conversations and thus visit company sites from search engines.
College students are an important target audience for many websites. They’re young, they’re about town, they spend whatever money they have (often online), and they frequently look for many different types of information. For sure, they’re an online generation spending — or squandering — large amounts of time on the Web.
User Research
To learn how students use websites, we conducted observational research with 43 students in 4 countries (Australia, Germany, the UK, and the USA). Participants ranged in age from 18 to 24 years and included 18 men and 25 women. Our test participants attended the following educational institutions:

Charter Schools and Equal Opportunity

Nelson Smith:

Remember Norman Rockwell’s stark painting of the little African-American girl being escorted into a New Orleans schoolhouse by two deputy U.S. marshals? Today that little girl, Ruby Bridges, is working to open a public charter school in that same school building, which will house a civil rights museum as well.
Wouldn’t it be strange for a civil rights figure like Bridges to join a movement that was “accelerating re-segregation by race,” as charter schools were characterized in a recent article? Yet that’s what some critics would have us believe, though more than a million black and Latino parents have chosen charters as a way of opening doors for their own children.

Majority of U.S. Family Physicians Prescribe Placebos

David Liu:

Ted Kaptchuk at Harvard Medical School and colleagues at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center conducted a clinical trial and found a placebo pill without any active ingredient was better than no treatment at helping patients with irritable bowel syndrome.
The therapeutic effect observed in the IBS patients who received the placebo treatment was not the common placebo effect, which is something observed in patients who do not know they are taking a dummy pill in the first place.
In this study, the researchers actually told those on the placebo treatment that they were using a placebo pill, but not a medicine.
The study published on December 22 in PLoS ONE suggests that any placebo treatment (which at least won’t cause adverse or side effect) can be better than no treatment.

What Are Taxes For? Should the primary purpose of taxation be to support the government or maximize economic growth?

Daniel Henninger:

Sarah, Mitt and several tea party groups say the tax compromise with Barack Obama is a bad idea, sells out the GOP’s anti-spending promises and, worst of all, helps you-know-who’s re-election chances. But Newt, Mike and Tim think it’s a decent deal. Far be it from me to interrupt the GOP’s holiday spirit. Let us stipulate, however, that the furtive, ragged tax bill being let out the back door of a lame duck Congress proves–officially and conclusively–that tax policy in the United States has hit the wall.
A compelling, even frightening article in Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal about a tax system that is a morass of extenders, extrusions, loopholes, credits and bubble-gum fixes ended with the story of a grievously ill cancer patient balancing the benefits of taking an experimental drug against the estate-tax benefits to his family of an early death.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Taxes and the Top Percentile Myth A 2008 OECD study of leading economies found that ‘taxation is most progressively distributed in the United States.’ More so than Sweden or France.

Alan Reynolds

When President Obama announced a two-year stay of execution for taxpayers on Dec. 7, he made it clear that he intends to spend those two years campaigning for higher marginal tax rates on dividends, capital gains and salaries for couples earning more than $250,000. “I don’t see how the Republicans win that argument,” said the president.
Despite the deficit commission’s call for tax reform with fewer tax credits and lower marginal tax rates, the left wing of the Democratic Party remains passionate about making the U.S. tax system more and more progressive. They claim this is all about payback–that raising the highest tax rates is the fair thing to do because top income groups supposedly received huge windfalls from the Bush tax cuts. As the headline of a Robert Creamer column in the Huffington Post put it: “The Crowd that Had the Party Should Pick up the Tab.”
Arguments for these retaliatory tax penalties invariably begin with estimates by economists Thomas Piketty of the Paris School of Economics and Emmanuel Saez of U.C. Berkeley that the wealthiest 1% of U.S. households now take home more than 20% of all household income.


Jason Fertig

From, courtesy of Hans Bader, counsel at the Competitive Enterprise Institute:

Much of college “education” is a waste of time. I learned more practical law in six weeks of studying for the bar exam and a couple summers of working for law firms than I did in three years of law school. I spent much of my time at Harvard Law School watching “Married With Children” or arguing with classmates about politics, rather than studying (much of what I did study was useless). Even students who were high on drugs had no difficulty graduating.
(Higher education is no guarantee of even basic literacy. When I worked at the Department of Education handling administrative appeals, I was dismayed by the poor writing skills of the graduate students who lodged complaints against their universities).

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Walker, Barrett seek checks on unions

Larry Sandler:

They didn’t seem to agree on anything during the gubernatorial election, but Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett is hoping he and Governor-elect Scott Walker can find common ground on at least one issue in 2011.
Both leaders want to rein in public employee unions – just not the same ones.
Walker, who has tangled with Milwaukee County unions as county executive, is gearing up for a clash with state workers, seeking wage and benefit cuts and threatening legislation to weaken or eliminate state unions’ bargaining rights if they won’t agree to concessions.
Barrett, meanwhile, wants Walker’s help to change another law that gives Milwaukee police unions extra bargaining leverage. The mayor also wants to block the police and firefighters’ unions from winning one of their top legislative priorities: abolishing residency requirements.
While most public employee unions backed Barrett, the Democratic nominee for governor, the Milwaukee Police Association and the Milwaukee Professional Firefighters Association endorsed Walker, the Republican. Now both unions’ presidents accuse Barrett of seeking retribution for those endorsements, a charge he denies.

The Police and the Schools

The New York Times:

School officials across the country are revisiting “zero-tolerance” disciplinary policies under which children are sometimes arrested for profanity, talking back to teachers or adolescent behavior that once would have been resolved in meetings with parents. The reappraisals are all to the good given that those who get suspended or arrested are more likely to drop out and become entangled in the criminal justice system permanently.
The New York City Council clearly had this link in mind when it passed a new law earlier this week that will bring long overdue transparency to the school disciplinary process. Under the Student Safety Act, which takes effect in 90 days, the New York Police Department’s school security division will be required to provide clear and comprehensive data that show how many students are arrested or issued summonses at school and why. School officials will also have to provide similarly detailed information on suspensions.

Readers, Writers, and the Digital Revolution

Brian Hayes:

The world’s first technology for writing was invented not by poets or prophets or the chroniclers of kings; it came from bean counters. The Sumerian cuneiform script–made up of symbols incised on soft clay–grew out of a scheme for keeping accounts and inventories. Curiously, this story of borrowing arithmetical apparatus for literary purposes has been repeated in recent times. The prevailing modern instrument for writing–the computer–also began as (and remains) a device for number crunching.
Dennis Baron’s extended essay A Better Pencil looks back over the entire history of writing technologies (clay tablets, pens, pencils, typewriters), but the focus is on the recent transition to digital devices. His title implies a question. Is the computer really a better pencil? Will it lead to better writing? There is a faction that thinks otherwise:

What’s High School For?

Glenn Sharfman:

We all want more young people to attend college. Who would argue with that? Politicians and educators at all levels extol the obvious virtues, from enhanced earning potential to a greater satisfaction in life. One increasingly popular way to encourage college attendance is through dual enrollment, in which students take courses in high school for both high school and college credit.
In theory, dual enrollment enables high school students to accrue college credits for very little cost and imbues them with a sense of confidence that they can complete college work. If students can succeed in college classes while still in high school, conventional wisdom holds, they will be more likely to matriculate at the postsecondary level.
In Indiana, dual enrollment is encouraged at the highest levels, with state Education Secretary Tony Bennett maintaining that at least 25 percent of high school graduates should pass at least one Advanced Placement exam or International Baccalaureate exam, or earn at least three semester hours of college credit during high school.
In reality, though, dual enrollment may do more harm than good.

Related: Credit for non-Madison School District Courses.

An Interview with Kaleem Caire

Maggie Ginsberg-Schutz:

Caire believes the Madison community must first address its at-risk population in a radically different way to level the playing field before fundamental change can come.
“Madison schools don’t know how to educate African Americans,” says Caire. “It’s not that they can’t. Most of the teachers could, and some do, valiantly. But the system is not designed for that to happen.”
The system is also not designed for the 215 annual school days and 5 p.m. end times that Madison Prep proposes. That, and the fact that he wants the school to choose teachers based on their specific skill sets and cultural backgrounds, is why Caire is seeking to proceed without teachers union involvement.
“Ultimately,” he says, “the collective bargaining agreement dictates the operations of schools and teaching and learning in [the Madison school district]. Madison Prep will require much more autonomy.”
Many aspects of Caire’s proposed school seem rooted in his own life experience. Small class sizes, just like at St. James. Uniforms, just like the Navy. Majority African American and Latino kids, eliminating the isolation he grew up with. Meals at school and co-curricular activities rather than extracurricular, so that poor students are not singled out or left out.
Teachers the students can identify with. Boys only, in the hopes of fostering the sensitive, supportive male peer groups so critical to Caire’s evolving sense of self over the years.

Much more on Kaleem, here.

The Art of Childraising

Guy Kawasaki:

John Medina, a developmental molecular biologist, has a lifelong fascination with how the mind reacts to and organizes information. He is the author of the New York Times bestseller Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School–a provocative book that takes on the way our schools and work environments are designed. His latest book is a must-read for parents and early-childhood educators: Brain Rules for Baby: How to Raise a Smart and Happy Child From Zero to Five You might ask, “What does this topic have to do with small business? Well, if you’re having issues with your kids, you’re not going to be on top of your game at the office.
Q: What’s the gist of what one should do to foster emotionally health and intellectually successful kids?

Wisconsin School choice could expand

Patrick Marley:

Walker said an expansion of school choice likely would be included in the budget he introduces early next year. Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills), co-chairwoman of the budget-writing Joint Finance Committee, said she would be interested in considering bills on choice even before that.
The other co-chairman, Rep. Robin Vos (R-Rochester), said he would leave it to Walker to decide whether to include it in the budget, but he wants to address school choice at some point in the two-year legislative session.
Both legislators said they initially favored expanding the program to select areas before making it available statewide. They named Beloit, Racine and Green Bay as possibilities.
“I absolutely do not think we have the ability to expand across the state all at once,” Vos said.
Vos in 2007 wrote a budget provision that would have expanded school choice to Racine County. The Assembly, then controlled by Republicans, approved a version of the budget with that provision but it was taken out in a deal reached with Democrats who ran the Senate.

Book: A Revolutionary Adventure

Join Mattie and Josh, the sister-brother team who discover the mysterious Chaos Cave. Ghostly breezes chill their spines as they try to interpret strange petro glyphs and a note of warning. The kids stumble upon a skeleton whose bones rest around an ancient Chinese Puzzle Box. Inside the box they find a ring–a ring that will change their lives forever.
Chaos Cave transports Mattie and Josh on A Revolutionary Adventure as the kids travel through time to Boston, 1775. They encounter the evil Archie, who murdered his own brother and now seeks the ring for all the power it holds. While they desperately try to evade Archie, they must also find a way to return safely to their own time without altering the course of important historic events.

What some call cheating can help learning

Jay Matthews:

My daughter is with us for the holidays, having survived her first barrage of law school exams in California. The exams were longer and more difficult than anything I ever had as a graduate student in Chinese studies. But her professors allowed students to have notes with them. This got my attention because her boyfriend at a neighboring law school was forbidden to have notes in two of his exams.
At these two institutions dedicated to equality under the law, what my daughter did during exams at one could have been considered cheating if she attended the other. What are we to make of the uneven nature of such rules, just as unpredictable as those found in our public K-12 schools? Open-book exams are okay some places, not in others. Cooperating with friends on homework is encouraged by some teachers, denounced elsewhere as a sign of declining American moral fiber.

School in patriotic storm after principal allows students to opt out of the Pledge of Allegiance

David Gardner:

A school was at the centre of a patriotism row after the principal sent home permission slips allowing students to opt out of saying the Pledge of Allegiance.
The letter home sparked an outcry in Brookline, Massachusetts. Parents were asked to tick off whether or not they wanted their children to participate when the principal started reciting the pledge weekly over the school’s public address system.
‘It’s PC ridiculousness,’ said parent Sean Bielat. ‘Remember when the presumption was that we were all good Americans and we all loved the country and we had no problem saying, “Yes, I pledge allegiance”?’

The Education Revolution: A Town Hall Meeting In Pewaukee with Dick Morris

via a Brenda Baas email:

American 15-year-olds rank 35th out of 57 countries in math and literacy, behind almost all industrialized nations!
America shouldn’t be 35th in anything. It’s time to restore America’s exceptionalism!
Americans for Prosperity Wisconsin will host an exciting town hall with Fox News Commentator Dick Morris.
Monday, January 31, 2011
Country Springs Hotel
2810 Golf Road
Pewaukee, WI 53072
7:00 pm – 8:30 pm
You can register for this free-ticketed event under Milwaukee:
Be a part of the revolution to restore America’s exceptionalism! Dick Morris will be taking your town hall questions at The Education Revolution – Restoring American Exceptionalism Town Hall!


Wisconsin’s academic luster fading

Amy Hetzner & Erin Richards:

They called it the “Canada effect” – the phenomenon in which students from a string of states along the country’s northern border regularly beat the rest of the nation on academic tests.
As recently as 1992, only three states – all from northern climates – had significantly higher average scores than Wisconsin in fourth-grade reading and eighth-grade math. No states scored significantly better than Wisconsin in fourth-grade math national assessments.
By 2009, this effect was wiped out for Wisconsin’s students. The state’s fourth grade reading scores placed statistically ahead of only 12 states and the District of Columbia. On the fourth- and eighth-grade math tests, the state’s students beat 26 states and the District of Columbia, results that could be considered slightly above average.
“We have lulled ourselves into thinking we’re really, really good,” said state Sen. Luther Olsen (R-Ripon), who will become chairman of the Senate Education Committee. “We’re OK, but we need to get better because other states are doing more at improving.”
With research showing the most important school factor in student performance is the effectiveness of classroom teachers, Wisconsin’s political and education leaders have called louder than ever for improving the quality of the state’s educators.

A few awards to mark the good and bad this year in education

Alan Borsuk:

The last Sunday of the year and time for our first, perhaps annual, awards for noteworthy things that hapened in education around here in 2010.
Unsung Hero of the Year Award: Robert Kattman, director of the Office of Charter Schools at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. The soft spoken former North Shore superintendent has been both supportive and demanding in building a roster of a dozen charter schools authorized by the UW Board of Regents. The list includes some of the best schools in Milwaukee, such as Milwaukee College Prep, Bruce Guadalupe, Seeds of Health Elementary, Woodlands School, Veritas High School. If the charter movement was like this nationwide, there would be far less controversy about these independent, publicly funded schools. Kattman is retiring at the end of the school year. Thanks for all your efforts.
The High Standards Start Here Award: State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers. Evers quickly signed up Wisconsin to be part of the “core standards” effort to bring coherence to the mish mash of what different states want students to learn. If the follow-through is good, it will raise Wisconsin’s expectations and, one hopes, student performance in years to come.
Most Important Data of the Year Award: The urban school district results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). This was the first time MPS took part and its students could be compared directly to those in 17 other central city school systems. The results were generally pretty distressing. Do we want our local education motto to be: “Thank God for Detroit – at least someone is worse than us”? The data should remain chastening and motivating to everyone involved in local education.

Memphis suburbs consider creating independent school systems

Sherri Drake Silence:

Shelby County suburban mayors are exploring options to escape the prospect of Memphis City and Shelby County schools consolidation.
“People are very clearly concerned about the integrity of the public schools that their children attend in Germantown,” said Mayor Sharon Goldsworthy.
She and a few other mayors are considering creating independent school systems in their cities. Goldsworthy said they’d have to overcome a state prohibition on Tennessee municipalities starting school systems.
“Everything needs to be examined,” Goldsworthy said. “… There are an enormous number of questions and very few answers at the moment about any of this. Our responsibility as elected officials is to get those answers as quickly as possible so we can identify the best course of action for our community.”

iTunes is Taking the Education World by Storm

Katherine Vander Ark

Is your library out of your favorite book? Would you like to take your book home for break? Want to read your favorite book on a plane ride or road trip? University of South Florida is making this very easy now. iTunes and USF have started Lit2Go:

a collaboration between the Florida Department of Education and the University of South Florida College of Education — supports literacy by providing access to recordings of historically and culturally significant literature. The extensive collection of hundreds of audiobooks, stories, and poems, including classics such as Alice in Wonderland, Aesop’s Fables, and A Tale of Two Cities — all for free on iTunes.

Now there is no reason for not finishing your book report! Schools are making it increasingly easy to access information from several sources. It is a more efficient, a green way of teaching and learning, not to mention for free. The iTunes U world instantly expands your reach to knowledge and information. There are options to research by subject, school, and company, all at the tip of your fingers!

Florida Governor Elect Scott’s schools vision: Power to the parents

Ron Matus & Jeffrey Solochek:

Gov.-elect Rick Scott’s education team laid out reform ideas that would give parents state money to pick schools for their children and authority to remove them from a subpar teacher’s class.
That theme echoes throughout the 20 sprawling pages of reform ideas that Gov.-elect Rick Scott’s education team unveiled this week.
Parents should get state money to pick their own schools, public or private. Parents should decide what reform model is best to jump-start their children’s school. Parents should be able to remove their child from an underperforming teacher’s class.
“The parent is the ultimate accountability,” said Patricia Levesque, a close advisor to former Gov. Jeb Bush and a leader of Scott’s education transition team. “They know what’s best for their child. To substitute someone else’s judgment . . . is wrong.”

How many minorities rejected by most selective high school?

Jay Matthews:

It has been exactly a month since Jeanie Meikle, a frequent reader of this blog, asked me this good question:
“In all the articles I have read about TJ [the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, the most selective secondary school in the country] and its failures of inclusiveness, I have never seen the statistics as to how many (and %) of applicants were African American or Hispanic or what the acceptance rate of those applicants was. … So do you by any chance know what the numbers are?”
I didn’t, but I asked Fairfax County schools spokesman Paul Regnier and he got them for me. The delay in posting them is entirely my fault. All of the sports teams in Washington have been collapsing into shapeless mediocrity, and worse. I needed time to reflect on that.
The admissions statistics for the Jefferson class of 2014, this year’s ninth-graders, show there were 3,119 applicants, of which 480, or 15.4 percent, were admitted. This included 272 boys (16.4 percent of those that applied) and 208 girls (14.2 percent of applicants.)

Ending deception in school safety reports

Jay Matthews:

There was something strange in The Washington Post a week ago. A chart on page A16, using data provided by the D.C. public school system, showed that in late summer and fall 2009, Spingarn High School had by far the lowest number of assaults, thefts, threats and other crimes. There were just six incidents in four months compared with an average of 31 in the other eight high schools assessed.
At that time, teachers at this allegedly safest of all regular D.C. high schools were reporting a rash of crimes and classroom intrusions. The situation became so intolerable that by January they had persuaded D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee to replace the Spingarn principal.
How could the incidents being reported by security guards under school district rules be so different from what people at the school were experiencing? Why did Rhee ignore the data in changing the school’s leadership and yet her successor, Kaya Henderson, used data from similar security incident reports last week to replace the principal at Dunbar High?

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Pensions Push Taxes Higher Cities Tap Homeowners for Revenue as Workers’ Retirement, Health Costs Rise

Jeannette Neuman:

Cities across the nation are raising property taxes, largely citing rising pension and health-care costs for their employees and retirees.
In Pennsylvania, the township of Upper Moreland is bumping up property taxes for residents by 13.6% in 2011. Next door the city of Philadelphia this year increased the tax 9.9%. In New York, Saratoga Springs will collect 4.4% more in property taxes in 2011; Troy will increase taxes by 1.9%.
Property-tax increases aren’t unusual, in part because the taxes are among the main sources of local revenue. But officials say more and larger increases are taking hold. “This year we have seen a dramatic increase in our cities and towns having to increase property taxes” for pensions and other expenses, said Jack Garner, executive director of the Pennsylvania League of Cities and Municipalities.

Flu Spreads Easily in High Schools, Study Suggests

Jenifer Goodwin:

By outfitting students and teachers with wireless sensors, researchers simulated how the flu might spread through a typical American high school and found more than three-quarters of a million opportunities for infection daily.
Over the course of a single school day, students, teachers and staff came into close proximity of one another 762,868 times — each a potential occasion to spread illness.
The flu, like the common cold and whooping cough, spreads through tiny droplets that contain the virus, said lead study author Marcel Salathe, an assistant professor of biology at Pennsylvania State University.

Education Secretary Sees Little Difference in Teachers with Master’s Degrees

News 8

There is a major budget crunch for schools around southern Nevada. That is why some people are questioning whether teachers should be getting a bigger salary simply because they have a master’s degree.
The U.S. Secretary of Education says there’s little evidence students are getting any better education from teachers who have advanced degrees. Secretary Arne Duncan delivered a speech recently on how financially challenged districts could do more with less.
Teachers who have masters degrees typically earn $5,000 more in annual salary.

How the world’s most improved school systems keep getting better

Mona Mourshed, Chinezi Chijioke, Michael Barber, via several kind readers:

“We analyzed 20 systems from around the world all with improving but differing levels of performance and examined how each has achieved significant, sustained, and widespread gains in student outcomes, as measured by international and national assessments. The report was based on more than 200 interviews with stakeholders in school systems and an analysis of some 600 interventions they carried out two strands of research comprising what we believe is the most comprehensive database of global school system reform ever assembled. It identifies the reform elements replicable for school systems elsewhere, as well as those elements that are context specific, as they move from poor to fair to good to great to excellent performance.
Among other findings, the report shows that a school system can improve from any starting point and can become significantly more effective within six years. The research suggests that all improving systems implement similar sets of interventions to move from one particular performance level to the next, irrespective of culture, geography, politics, or history. A consistent cluster of interventions moves systems from poor to fair performance, a second cluster from fair to good performance, a third from good to great performance, and yet another from great to excellent performance. Although reaching each performance stage involves a common set of interventions, systems may sequence, time, and roll them out quite differently.

The Real War on Christmas: No Teaching of Religion

Andy Rotherham:

It’s a holiday ritual as predictable as Santa showing up at your local mall: overheated rhetoric about the “War on Christmas.” A lowlight this year was a feature on The O’Reilly Factor about a letter from the Tennessee chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union urging school districts to make holiday celebrations inclusive. Through O’Reilly’s prism, the letter — quoted selectively — was an attempt to squelch Christmas. In reality, the letter just asked school districts to avoid celebrations focusing exclusively on a single religion. It was more common sense than state-coerced atheism.
Unfortunately, once you cut through the blather on cable news, there is a real, if much less discussed, problem in that public schools are skittish about teaching much about religion. Although there is little hard data, the consensus among those who study the issue is that to the extent world religions are taught, they are treated superficially, usually with the help of just a few textbook pages that have been heavily sanitized to avoid even the hint of controversy. And that’s not good news if you believe a working knowledge of the world’s religions and their history is an important aspect of a well-rounded education.

The Case for Adoption The story of the baby boy who was floated into the bulrushes along the Nile reminds us that the instinct to care for castaway children is ancient and inborn.

Scott Simon:

This is a season that begins with the story of a couple that wanted a family. Mary and Joseph had some high-profile intervention, of course. But when modern couples who want children find themselves frustrated, their first reaction these days is often to get to a fertility clinic.
Many couples pay tens of thousands of dollars for rounds of medical wizardry instead of adopting children who are already among us, crying for our love and support. I think some of the people who choose assisted fertility may be missing out on a miracle.
I know that the impulse to bear children is deep. My wife and I tried, in the time honored way, for many years, and then with the assistance and injections of fertility experts. But at some point, the costs began to match those of an adoption and prompted us to ask, “Why are we doing this? There are already so many millions of children out there.”
Adoption is as old as Abraham-and-Sarah-style begetting. To sit at a Seder dinner holding daughters in your lap (our two girls were left along roadsides in China) and hear the story of a baby boy who was floated into the bulrushes along the Nile, reminds you that the instinct to care for castaway children is ancient and inborn. When disease, slaughter or smiting felled or scattered families, friends and even enemies took in and loved the children left behind.

The most-read man in the world

The Economist

MATTHEW CARTER, a type designer and the recipient of a MacArthur genius grant, was recently approached in the street near his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts. A woman greeted him by name. “Have we met?” Mr Carter asked. No, she said, her daughter had pointed him out when they were driving down the street a few days before. “Is your daughter a graphic designer?” he inquired. “She’s in sixth grade,” came the reply.
Mr Carter sits near the pinnacle of an elite profession. No more than several thousand type designers ply the trade worldwide, only a few hundred earn their keep by it, and only several dozens–most of them dead–have their names on the lips of discerning aficionados. Then, there is Mr Carter. He has never sought recognition, but it found him, and his underappreciated craft, in part thanks to a “New Yorker” profile in 2005. Now, even schoolchildren (albeit discerning ones) seem to know who he is and what he does. However, the reason is probably not so much the beauty and utility of his faces, both of which are almost universally acknowledged. Rather, it is Georgia and Verdana. Mr Carter conjured up both fonts in the 1990s for Microsoft, which released them with its Internet Explorer in the late 1990s and bundled them into Windows, before disseminating them as a free download.

Why top students don’t want to teach

MckInsey Quarterly, via a Rick Kiley email:

Efforts to help US schools become more effective generally focus on improving the skills of current teachers or keeping the best and ejecting the least effective ones. The issue of who should actually become teachers has received comparatively little attention. Yet the world’s top-performing systems–in Finland, Singapore, and South Korea–recruit 100 percent of their teaching corps from students in the top third of their classes.
A McKinsey survey of nearly 1,500 top-third US college students confirms that a major effort would be needed to attract them to teaching. Among top-third students not planning to enter the profession, for example, only 33 percent believe that they would be able to support a family if they did. The stakes are high: recent McKinsey research found that an ongoing achievement gap between US students and those in academically top-performing countries imposes the economic equivalent of a permanent national recession. To learn more, read “Attracting and retaining top talent in US teaching” (September 2010).

On “Small Schools” in New York City

PBS NewsHour:

MARGARET WARNER: Now: making schools smaller, yet another plan to deliver better educations to urban schoolchildren.
Special correspondent John Tulenko reports from New York City, where the outgoing schools chancellor is a big supporter of the idea.
JOHN TULENKO: Two years ago, when Justin Martinez started ninth grade, he was one of 2,000 students at Bayard Rustin High School in New York City.
JUSTIN MARTINEZ, student: When you walk the halls, it’s, like, so packed. And then, when you’re in the classrooms, some kids don’t even have a seat. So, it’s like you’re standing up, you’re sitting on the floor, you’re sitting on the teacher’s desk. There are so many kids in the room that the teacher thinks you’re doing good, and you may not even understand what’s going on. That’s how bad it was.
JOHN TULENKO: Justin’s high school had a 50 percent graduation rate, but the problems there went deeper.
JUSTIN MARTINEZ: I almost got shot. I was going to my eighth period classroom, going up the stairs, and a gang came up to me, approached me, and asked me questions. And, at the end, he pointed put a gun in my face.
JOHN TULENKO: So, what did you do?

Test-driven education won’t generate future leaders

Anita Lie:

In a report based on the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), a test of half a million 15-year-old students in 65 countries, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) warned Western countries of the prospect of losing their knowledge and skill base.
In contrast, several Asian countries such as South Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore outperformed most other countries. China’s Shanghai took the PISA test for the first time and ranked first in all three areas: reading, mathematics and science (The Jakarta Post, Dec. 9, 2010). The Chinese government has been lauded for its investment in human capital.
It is ironic that just as PISA is highly regarded as a prestigious measure and the world is impressed by Shanghai’s achievement, insiders’ perspectives reveal skeptical and critical thoughts of the results.
One critical response came from Jiang Xueqin, a deputy principal of Peking University High School and director of the International Division. Mr. Jiang is concerned that the “high scores of Shanghai’s students are actually a sign of weakness”.

Schools Still Facing Tough Budget Questions

Vermont Public Radio:

In recent weeks, Vermont School boards have been putting together the budgets they’ll submit to voters next year. This time around, though they were asked by the state to cut spending by an average of more than 2 percent. The cuts were needed to save $23 million as part of the Challenges for Change effort to close the overall state budget gap. But the results fell far short. Statewide, schools appeared to have made just over $4 million in cuts – far short of the $23 million.
Now the schools have a reprieve. Yesterday, Governor elect Peter Shumlin announced $19 million in federal stimulus money will go to the schools – which basically zeros out the needed cuts. But Vermont Education Commissioner Armando Vilaseca says school districts will still face difficult budget decisions next year. And he suggests that, with student enrollment decreasing by 1 1/2% to 2% each year, districts should look at Act 153, the voluntary merger bill.

Google’s Book Trove Yields Cultural Clues

Robert Lee Hotz

Language analysts, sifting through two centuries of words in the millions of books in Google Inc.’s growing digital library, found a new way to track the arc of fame, the effect of censorship, the spread of inventions and the explosive growth of new terms in the English-speaking world.
In research reported Thursday in the journal Science, the scientists at Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Google and the Encyclopedia Britannica unveiled a database of two billion words and phrases drawn from 5.2 million books in Google’s digital library published during the past 200 years. With this tool, researchers can measure trends through the language authors used and the names of people they mentioned.
It’s the first time scholars have used Google’s controversial trove of digital books for academic research, and the result was opened to the public online Thursday.

Two more groups win approval to sponsor Minn. charter schools

Tom Weber:

Two more groups have won state approval to sponsor charter schools in Minnesota.
Authorizers don’t actually run charters but a new law requires them to be more involved in the fiscal and academic oversight of the schools they sponsor. It also requires every current authorizer to re-apply to maintain their status.
The two newly-approved groups are the Northfield School District and Audubon Center of the North Woods. Northfield currently sponsors two charter schools, while Audubon is the state’s largest authorizer with 23.

The Best iPhone Apps for Kids, 2010

Michael Agger:

Fa la la la! Tis’ the season. The kids are out of school, the days are cold, the museums are packed, the Legos are scattered under the couch, and Toy Story 3 has been memorized. It’s time to refresh that most valuable tool in the modern parent’s arsenal: the iPhone. Last year, I wrote about how the iPhone is a Swiss Army knife of digital parenting and asked for your best iPhone apps for kids. Let’s do the same thing this year.
A lot has changed; a lot has not. On the scene there’s now what my 5-year-old son calls a “big iPhone”–a.k.a. the iPad, which promises a larger, richer, smudged-screen experience. In general, I’ve found iPad apps for kids either disappointing or merely blown-up versions of already excellent iPhone apps. The iPhone itself has taken on a more social aspect, asking my 2-year-old-son to post his Fruit Ninja scores to Facebook. Another generalization: All of the GameCenter stuff just creates needless complication for a youngster looking to samurai chop some pineapple.

Winter break student enrichment made easy

When I think of the holidays, I envision seeing the latest films with my wife, gorging on sweets and contemplating the wonder of the schlocky ceramic village I have set up on top of the piano, the result of many visits to Christmas shops.
You’ll notice there aren’t any children in this scenario. Nobody steals my chocolates or smashes the Sweet Shop from the Snow Village series. That is because only adults live in my house. Grandson No. 2 arrives next month, but he and his brother are stuck in L.A. because their very pregnant mother can’t fly.
Local Living editor Liz Seymour, with two children at home, realized I was out of touch with her kind of winter vacation, so she more or less ordered me to gather expert advice on what parents can do during those daunting two weeks without school. Educators have fabulous ideas that I can put to use with my grandsons before long.

Montgomery schools’ decision to slow pace of math courses divides parents

Michael Birnbaum

One recent night, Mackenzie Stassel was cramming for a quiz in her advanced math course in Montgomery County. Her review of the complicated topics followed hours of other homework. Eventually she started to nod off at the table.
It was 11:15 p.m. Mackenzie is a sixth-grader.
There will be fewer such nights in the future for many Montgomery students.
Last month, Maryland’s largest school system announced that it would significantly curtail its practice of pushing large numbers of elementary and middle school students to skip grade levels in math. Parents had questioned the payoff of acceleration; teachers had said students in even the most advanced classes were missing some basics.

Related: Math Forum and Madison’s Math Task Force.

English as she was spoke The days of English as the world’s second language may (slowly) be ending

The Last Lingua Franca: English Until the Return of Babel. By Nicholas Ostler – The Economist:

ENGLISH is the most successful language in the history of the world. It is spoken on every continent, is learnt as a second language by schoolchildren and is the vehicle of science, global business and popular culture. Many think it will spread without end. But Nicholas Ostler, a scholar of the rise and fall of languages, makes a surprising prediction in his latest book: the days of English as the world’s lingua-franca may be numbered.
Conquest, trade and religion were the biggest forces behind the spread of earlier lingua-francas (the author uses a hyphen to distinguish the phrase from Lingua Franca, an Italian-based trade language used during the Renaissance). A linguist of astonishing voracity, Mr Ostler plunges happily into his tales from ancient history.

The Last Lingua Franca: English Until the Return of Babel

Education Spending Myths


Reason economics columnist and Mercatus Center economist Veronique de Rugy appeared on Bloomberg TV last week to talk about education myths. We’re spending ever-greater sums of money on historically high numbers of teachers per students, notes de Rugy, yet our high school graduates’ test results have been absolutely flat. What can be done to help students, especially those trapped in the worst-performing schools?

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Government liabilities rose $2 trillion in FY 2010: Treasury

David Lawder:

The U.S. government fell deeper into the red in fiscal 2010 with net liabilities swelling more than $2 trillion as commitments on government debt and federal benefits rose, a U.S. Treasury report showed on Tuesday.
The Financial Report of the United States, which applies corporate-style accrual accounting methods to Washington, showed the government’s liabilities exceeded assets by $13.473 trillion. That compared with a $11.456 trillion gap a year earlier.

Christmas Sweater Club Punished At Local High School

They call themselves the “Christmas Sweater Club” because they wear the craziest ones they can find. They also sing Christmas songs at school and try their best to spread Christmas cheer.
Now all 10 of them are in trouble because of what they did at their school.
“They said, ‘maliciously maim students with the intent to injure.’ And I don’t think any of us here intentionally meant to injure anyone, or did,” said Zakk Rhine, a junior at Battlefield High School.
The boys say they were just tossing small two-inch candy canes to fellow students as they entered school. The ones in plastic wrap that are so small they often break apart.

Digital Keys for Unlocking the Humanities’ Riches

Patricia Cohen:

A history of the humanities in the 20th century could be chronicled in “isms” — formalism, Freudianism, structuralism, postcolonialism — grand intellectual cathedrals from which assorted interpretations of literature, politics and culture spread.
The next big idea in language, history and the arts? Data.
Members of a new generation of digitally savvy humanists argue it is time to stop looking for inspiration in the next political or philosophical “ism” and start exploring how technology is changing our understanding of the liberal arts. This latest frontier is about method, they say, using powerful technologies and vast stores of digitized materials that previous humanities scholars did not have.
These researchers are digitally mapping Civil War battlefields to understand what role topography played in victory, using databases of thousands of jam sessions to track how musical collaborations influenced jazz, searching through large numbers of scientific texts and books to track where concepts first appeared and how they spread, and combining animation, charts and primary documents about Thomas Jefferson’s travels to create new ways to teach history.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: 2010 US Census – Fastest Growth in States Without an Income Tax

Wall Street Journal:

The Census is in. There are now 308.74 million Americans, an increase of 27 million, or 9.7%, since 2000. Americans are still multiplying, one of the best indicators that the country’s prospects remain strong.
About 13 million of that increase were new immigrants. These newcomers brought energy, talent, entrepreneurial skills and a work ethic. Their continued arrival in such large numbers validates that the rest of the world continues to view the U.S. as a land of freedom and opportunity.
The Census figures also confirm that America is a nation in constant motion, with tens of millions hopping across state lines and changing residence since 2000. And more of them are moving into conservative, market-friendly red states than into progressive, public-sector heavy blue states.
In order the 10 states with the greatest population gains were Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Idaho, Texas, North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Colorado and South Carolina. Their average population gain was 21%. In the fast-growing states, the average income tax rate is 4% versus 6.9% in the slowest growing states.

Professor has seen Madison’s image problem first-hand

Paul Fanlund:

Hi, I’m Kathy. I’m from UW-Madison. Do you mind if I join you?”
Those words, or some variation, provided an introduction at gas stations, coffee shops, cafes and churches across small-town Wisconsin.
While those of us ensconced in Madison scratch our heads about why so many in Wisconsin appear to dislike or distrust us, associate professor Katherine Cramer Walsh ventured out to hear it first-hand. So how did people respond? They were uniformly friendly, she says, but bewildered as to why she was there. “You should have seen their faces,” she says, smiling.
What she found is a big disconnect. For example: “When you ask, ‘What does hard work mean to you? Who does hard work?’ I would give examples like a waitress or someone who works in the lumber industry. Then I would say ‘professor’ and people would just laugh. Like, ‘give me a break.'”

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Many Dane County property owners face higher tax bills

Gena Kittner:

Many Dane County residents are facing higher property tax bills this month as the growth of new property hasn’t kept up with higher government spending.
“We’re in a falling value market,” said David Worzala, Dane County treasurer. Taxpayers experienced similar conditions last year, but in this tax cycle “it’s more pronounced,” he said.
Before 2009, new construction and a growing tax base helped reduce the tax hit resulting from spending by schools, local governments and other taxing authorities.
The deadline for residents to pay at least half of their property taxes is Jan. 31.
In Dane County, bills cover municipal and county government, K-12 schools and Madison Area Technical College. Some municipalities add special charges for trash collection or recycling, improvements to streets or sidewalks, or unpaid bills.

Michael Louis Vinson:

School districts across the Green Bay and Appleton areas raised property taxes an average of 3.8 percent compared with last year, slightly higher than the 3.4 percent statewide average.
In Brown County school districts, increases range from 2.9 percent in De Pere and Pulaski to 12.3 percent in West De Pere, according to the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance, a government watchdog group that crunched the tax numbers and released them this week. Only the Ashwaubenon district didn’t increase its tax levy.
Each of the six districts based in Brown County is taxing to the limit allowed by the state this year.

Memories on trial: Parents say therapists gave daughter false memories of abuse

In 1991, Charlotte Johnson dropped a bomb on her parents. She accused her father, Charles Johnson, of sexually abusing her. Two years later she accused her mother, Karen Johnson, of being complicit in the sexual abuse and of being physically abusive to her. The abuse, she believes to this day, happened when she was a young child.
The painful memories, buried deep in Johnson’s subconscious, surfaced in adulthood.
Charles and Karen Johnson, of St. Louis, say the abuse never happened and that mental health treatment providers encouraged and fostered false memories of abuse.
In 1996 the Johnsons sued Rogers Memorial Hospital, where their daughter was admitted for treatment. They also sued Heartland Counseling Services in Madison, Madison therapist Kay Phillips, Oconomowoc therapists Jeff Hollowell and Tim Reisenauer, and the defendants’ insurers. The lawsuit has crept through the legal system for more than 14 years, including two trips to the state Supreme Court.

High Expectations: Eight-year-old children publish bee study in Royal Society journal

Ed Yong:

“We also discovered that science is cool and fun because you get to do stuff that no one has ever done before.”

This is the conclusion of a new paper published in Biology Letters, a high-powered journal from the UK’s prestigious Royal Society. If its tone seems unusual, that’s because its authors are children from Blackawton Primary School in Devon, England. Aged between 8 and 10, the 25 children have just become the youngest scientists to ever be published in a Royal Society journal.

Their paper, based on fieldwork carried out in a local churchyard, describes how bumblebees can learn which flowers to forage from with more flexibility than anyone had thought. It’s the culmination of a project called ‘i, scientist‘, designed to get students to actually carry out scientific research themselves. The kids received some support from Beau Lotto, a neuroscientist at UCL, and David Strudwick, Blackawton’s head teacher. But the work is all their own.

The paper can be found here.

Ich Hasse Hausaufgaben (I Hate Homework)


My son Channing, the grinning eight year-old to the left, has too much homework. He attends one of the best schools in the state and they send him home every night with what the teachers say is one hour of homework but it looks like two hours to me. And since Channing would really rather be fishing or terrorizing his little brothers those two hours regularly turn into three hours or more. This is not only too much homework, it hurts rather than helps. It seems indicative of an educational system that’s out of control.
Several years ago I gave a speech about technology to the Texas Library Association’s big annual meeting. After the speech I was talking with a pair of elementary school librarians. Channing was back then just going off to pre-school so homework was the last thing on my mind but they brought it up. “The best thing you can do for your kids,” they said, “is to not allow them to do homework until the third grade.”

Saudi Arabia girls’ schools investigated over ‘illegal’ sports day

London Telegraph:

The Dec 8 event involving 200 females from six Jeddah private high schools broke ministry rules against girls’ sports in schools, a ministry official said.
“We don’t have any regulations that say that it’s OK for girls’ schools to hold sports classes or training,” said Ahmed Al-Zahrani, director of girls’ education in Jeddah.
“This tournament was held by these schools, something that has now led us to know about their illegal activities,” he said.

Washington’s faulty thinking about education rules

Harris Miller:

America won the moon race. Can it win the higher education race?
A smart and innovative strategy will make this goal attainable, but too many in Washington fail to recognize that private-sector colleges and universities – sometimes referred to as career colleges – are an essential part of the answer. Now educating 12 percent of higher education students, these schools are the game-changer when a game-changer is badly needed.
In California, private-sector colleges and universities play crucial roles in educating students. More than 340,000 students in the state, 9 percent overall, attend career colleges. Two-thirds of these students are minorities, and almost 80 percent receive financial aid. These students are being armed with the skills needed to meet the demands of the 21st century economy.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Drama needed to jolt Americans into tackling debt

Gillian Tett:

Why has Britain managed to boldly go into fiscal territory which the US has hitherto ducked? That is the $800bn question hanging in the air in New York this weekend, after George Osborne, chancellor, visited the city.
During his whistle-stop tour, Mr Osborne met a host of Wall Street and New York luminaries, at a breakfast hosted by Tina Brown, the media icon, and a dinner arranged by Michael Bloomberg, the mayor. As he schmoozed he was greeted with emotions ranging from respect to rapturous applause.
What provokes respect is the way London has not only created a multi-year fiscal reform plan, entailing a striking £110bn worth of adjustment – but, more importantly, started to implement it.

Financial Times:

In technology and science, more is better. Prefixes such as mega, tera, peta and yotta (1 followed by 24 zeros) come into use because technology gets better or scientists think bigger (the sun’s luminosity is 385 yottawatts).
Numbers are also expanding in finance and economics. Trillions (1,000bn) are now unavoidable: Belgian banks have €1.3 trillion of assets and the 12 largest economies each have more than of $1 trillion of gross domestic product. The quadrillion (1,000,000bn) lurks: you need it to measure annual global volumes in the foreign exchange market.

More cyber schools on way after funding increase

D. Aileen Dodd

Georgia took steps to become a national leader in cyber education Thursday with the approval of new charter schools and funding that could bring the possibility of online school to the home of every student.
The Georgia Charter Schools Commission authorized a new class of charter schools to open this fall, including a K-12 “virtual campus,” two K-8 schools and a middle school. Its decision to free up funding will enable two other cyber schools to start up as well.
After months of research, the commission agreed to increase funding for cyber schools from $3,400 to $5,800 per pupil – a figure below the national average of $6,500, but one that operators say they can live with.

UC regents seek to cut retirees’ pension eligibility and health benefits

Larry Gordon:

University of California regents approved controversial rollbacks in pension and retiree health benefits Monday, including raising the earliest retirement age for future employees to 55, to help plug huge financial gaps in the university’s plans.
The changes now face tough bargaining with the unions that represent about half of UC’s 115,000 employees. Labor leaders said they are most upset about UC creating a two-tier workforce and contend that the changes would disproportionately affect blue-collar laborers who tend to retire earlier and with more health problems than faculty.
Under the proposals, employees hired after July 2013 would see the minimum age for early retirement rise from 50 to 55 and the age to receive maximum benefits increase from 60 to 65. In addition, all employees would pay higher premiums for post-retirement health plans.

There’s more to education than tests

Autumn R. Campau:

In response to a recent letter received by the parents of the Rome School District, the New York State Education Department notified the district that Rome Free Academy has recently received the status of “in need of improvement” for the academic year 2010-2011. The improvement derives from the assessment results of the 2009-1010 academic year. While the district met the requirements for all students, those students with disabilities did not meet graduation requirements. This forced the group to lose Safe Harbor status, which has ultimately caused the improvement status for Rome Free Academy.
Within this letter, the district stated that due to the No Child Left Behind guidelines within the current status, parents may request their child to be transferred to another high school within the district — yet for these parents, there is no other option.
While currently administrators and teachers are receiving collaborative instructional practice from trained literacy coaches, the graduation rate has not been positively affected by the curriculum. So the question is what is the district really trying to work on?

The Fairy Tale of School Reform

Brock Cohen:

Struggling to drum up dissipating ad revenue and to stay afloat in the sea of cable news slime, most media organizations have resorted to sloshing around in the infotainment gutter for shock and schlock. No surprise then that the issue of school reform has played out with all the depth and journalistic standards of an Ali G. interview. And while it’s had innumerable opportunities to unravel the eternal conundrum of public education through exhaustive research and nuanced reporting, the press has all but ignored its obligation to offer the public a sober, informed, balanced discourse on a topic with such critical short- and long-term import.
Instead, the school reform debate screeches to its ignoble crescendo. The media has gone all STORM WATCH on us, opting for a sensational script over substance, and emphasizing the fear factor by manufacturing predictable boogie men. For the most part, the American public has jumped onboard for yet another ride on the self-righteous victimhood express.

Teen Football Player died from subdural hematoma

Wayne Drehs

A Kansas coroner confirmed Thursday that the brain injury that killed Spring Hill High School football player Nathan Stiles on Oct. 29 came from a part of the 17-year-old’s brain that had bled earlier this year.
Michael Handler, the Johnson County corner and a neuropathologist, informed the Stiles family Thursday that the exact cause of death was a subdural hematoma, which Nathan Stiles likely suffered Oct. 1 during Spring Hill’s game against Ottawa.
“[Handler] said it was a perfect example of a subdural hematoma,” Connie Stiles said. “You could see where his brain had been healing. You could see where it was starting to get better. It seems like everything can be traced back to that first hit. That’s what he thinks.”
The morning after the Ottawa game is when Stiles, Spring Hill’s homecoming king and team captain, first began complaining of headaches. Five days later Connie Stiles took her son to Olathe Medical Center, where he underwent a CT scan and was diagnosed with a concussion.

1/6/2011 Madison School Board Meeting on the Administration’s proposed Hogh School Plans

Madison School Board Member Arlene Silviera, via email:

The Board meeting to discuss the high school plan been set. Information is below.

Thursday, January 6
McDaniels Auditorium
Doyle Administration Building

All are welcome to attend but there will not be public speaking.

The intent of the meeting is to provide the Board with a better understanding of the plan, process, timelines, budget, goals, etc. We will receive a presentation followed by Q&A.

Please let me know if you have any questions.

Arlene Silveira

Location:1/6/2011 Madison School Board Meeting on the Administration’s High School Plans

Confusing Jargon

Charlie Mas:

There sure are a lot of words used at Seattle Public Schools that have a special or specific meaning within the context of public K-12 education. The jargon of education. The professionals often use this jargon among themselves to speak precisely. At Seattle Public Schools the professionals often use this jargon to confuse or intimidate the public. The staff of Seattle Public Schools particularly like to MIS-use this jargon to confuse the public, or to tempt the public into mis-using the jargon to make them appear ignorant.
Of late, this trick has been practiced more by Dr. Cathy Thompson and Kathleen Vasquez than any other member of the staff.

Private-school vouchers return to education agenda

David Harrison:

A decade ago, almost any discussion about reforming the nation’s public schools included vouchers. The idea of letting students use taxpayer dollars to attend private schools appealed to conservatives, who liked the notion of subjecting public schools to competition. Some Democratic mayors, frustrated with the slow pace of school improvement, also rallied behind vouchers.
Then, vouchers got overtaken by other ideas about how to shake up public schools. Unions vehemently opposed vouchers, arguing they would starve public schools of funding. Vouchers were left out of the 2002 federal No Child Left Behind law, making it difficult for programs to gain a foothold in school districts. More recently, the Obama administration left vouchers out of its Race to the Top grant program, even as it endorsed other reforms such as charter schools and pay-for-performance plans for teachers.