Home Labs on the Rise for the Fun of Science

Peter Wayner

One day Kathy Ceceri noticed a tick on her arm and started to worry that it was the kind that carried Lyme disease. So she went to her home lab, put the tiny arachnid under her microscope, which is connected to her computer through a U.S.B. cable, and studied the image.
“It was,” she said. “Then of course I Googled what to do when you’ve been bitten by a deer tick.”
Ms. Ceceri’s microscope, a Digital Blue QX5, is one of several pieces of scientific equipment that make up her home lab, which she has set up on her dining room table in Schuylerville, N.Y. Home labs like hers are becoming more feasible as the scientific devices that stock them become more computerized, cheaper and easier to use.

Rising generation of iKids slipping iPads in school backpacks and heading on home

Bruce Newman:

Before, during and even between classes at Hillbrook School this fall, seventh-graders have been spotted on the Los Gatos campus, sometimes burbling Spanish or Mandarin phrases into the glowing screen in their hands, other times staring into it like a looking glass.
iPads — the Apple of almost every adolescent’s eye — are being provided to students at several Bay Area public and private schools this year, including Hillbrook, which claims to be the only K-8 school in America using tablet computers in class and sending them home. This has led to a lot of 12-year-olds swanning around the wooded hillside campus, talking to their iPads.
Summoning up a virtual keyboard recently, Sophie Greene quickly typed a note to herself in iCal, a calendar program, then played back an audio file in which she was speaking Spanish. “We record a conversation, e-mail it to our teacher, Señorita Kelly,” she explained, “then she critiques the lesson in Spanish and sends that back to us.”

Taxpayer student aid and contingency on success

San Francisco Chronicle:

What standards should career education programs have to qualify for federal student grants and loans? The U.S. Department of Education already has drafted a “gainful employment rule” that could limit the flow of taxpayer-backed student aid to some education and training programs. The for-profit education industry, however, has dug in to oppose the proposed regulation, which is still under review.
The commentaries on these pages offer two views of the controversy.

Measures of Effective Teaching project

Measures of Effective Teaching:

The goal of the Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) project is to help educators and policymakers identify and support good teaching by improving the quality of information available about teacher practice. With funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, independent education researchers, in partnership with school districts, principals, teachers, and unions, will work to develop fair and reliable measures of effective teaching.

A Box? Or a Spaceship? What Makes Kids Creative

Sue Shellenbarger:

When art teacher Kandy Dea recently assigned fourth-graders in her Walnut, Iowa, classroom to create a board game to play with a friend, she was shocked by one little boy’s response: He froze.
While his classmates let their imaginations run wild making up colorful characters and fantasy worlds, the little boy said repeatedly, “I can’t think of anything,” Ms. Dea says. Although she reassured him that nothing he did would be judged “wrong,” he tried to copy another student’s game, then asked if he could make a work sheet instead. She finally gave him permission to make flash cards with right-and-wrong answers.
Americans’ scores on a commonly used creativity test fell steadily from 1990 to 2008, especially in the kindergarten through sixth-grade age group, says Kyung Hee Kim, an assistant professor of educational psychology at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va. The finding is based on a study of 300,000 Americans’ scores from 1966 to 2008 on the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking, a standardized test that’s considered a benchmark for creative thinking. (Dr. Kim’s results are currently undergoing peer review to determine whether they will be published in a scholarly journal.)

Serious Mental Health Needs Seen Growing at Colleges

Trip Gabriel:

Rushing a student to a psychiatric emergency room is never routine, but when Stony Brook University logged three trips in three days, it did not surprise Jenny Hwang, the director of counseling.
It was deep into the fall semester, a time of mounting stress with finals looming and the holiday break not far off, an anxiety all its own.
On a Thursday afternoon, a freshman who had been scraping bottom academically posted thoughts about suicide on Facebook. If I were gone, he wrote, would anybody notice? An alarmed student told staff members in the dorm, who called Dr. Hwang after hours, who contacted the campus police. Officers escorted the student to the county psychiatric hospital.

Dem leader says more South Dakota schools will have to opt out of funding formula

Kayla Gahagan:

Gov. Mike Rounds implied Tuesday that school districts could dig into their reserves to absorb proposed cuts to K-12 education funding.
In his final annual budget address, Rounds said the state faces a $75 million structural deficit and proposed unprecedented cuts to education, including a 5 percent reduction to state aid to school districts.
The education changes would result in $240 less per student to school districts, saving the state about $20 million.
House Minority Leader Bernie Hunhoff of Yankton predicted that the 5 percent cut will be modified by the time the final budget is presented, but any cut will hurt.

Does Charles Dickens Matter?

Wall Street Journal:

Being named to Oprah Winfrey’s book club is a boon to working authors, but this week the talk show host dug into literary history and named as her latest pick two novels by Charles Dickens: “A Tale of Two Cities” and “Great Expectations.”
Setting down our paged-through copy of Jonathan Franzen’s “Freedom” for a bit, Speakeasy has been thinking about Dickens’ legacy. Will modern readers relate to the impoverished 19th century social conditions that are so associated with Dickens’ work — is yesterday’s chimney sweep today’s downsized auto worker? We put the issue to two Dickens scholars: Michael Slater, author of a well-reviewed biography, “Charles Dickens” (Yale University Press) and Lillian Nayder, author of “The Other Dickens: A Life of Catherine Hogarth” (Cornell University Press) about the novelist’s wife.

A Science of Literature? Great Idea, So Long As We Get Actual Scientists Involved

Chris Mooney

Back in 1997, I was an unhealthily driven Yale undergraduate in pleated khakis. An English major–I wanted above all to become a writer–I was rapidly losing my faith. Not only did the theory-laden literary scholarship that I encountered seem little more than jargonish, impenetrable sound and fury, but the sciences appeared to have much more to offer. I followed in real time as Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Dawkins engaged in ferociously exciting debates in places like The New York Review of Books. Here was a clarity, an urgency, and a series of battle cries that I, the grandson of a creationist-despising evolutionary biologist, could relate to.
Those were the days of the “Science Wars” in the academy, a clash between literary post-modernists (“po-mos”) and scientists over whether the scientific process could lay claim to any truly objective means of describing reality. And thanks to people like Gould and Dawkins, I had slowly been turned. I was a mole within the humanities. That’s not to say I’d stopped loving literature, but I felt I had to flee a ship that seemed without a rudder–and in the decade since then, it appears I’m hardly the only one.

The Last Lingua Franca: English Until the Return of Babel

Laura Marsh

While English is the most widely-spoken lingua franca in history, so-called common or working languages can be much less pervasive. Elamite, for example, was the submerged administrative language of the Persian Empire in the sixth century B.C.E. All official documents were written down in Elamite, but they were both composed and read out in Persian, the language of the illiterate ruling class. Then there is Pali, the language of Theravada Buddhism. No longer used in everyday conversation, Pali is written in different scripts in Sri Lanka, Cambodia, and Burma, and sounds different when read aloud by Thai and Burmese speakers. The identity of the language is almost obscured by its profusion of forms.
Pali is a tantalizing case for Nicholas Ostler, because it suggests to him the possibility of a “virtual” language. A “virtual language” would not be read or spoken itself. It would allow the user to understand what is being written or said without learning the original language–in much the same way that “virtual reality” allows the user to have an experience of something without actually doing it. Pali is not “one language” in the concrete sense that it has one set of words, but those who know any of its forms can access exactly the same information. Yet on closer inspection this is not because it is a “virtual language.” It is because the differences between its forms are largely superficial. However the words are pronounced or written down, they mean the same thing. It is one language after all.

Sweating Bullets at the GAO

Frederick M. Hess and Andrew P. Kelly :

The authors of the Government Accountability Office’s for-profit secret shopper investigation pulled off a statistically impressive feat in August. Let’s set aside for the moment that on Nov. 30, the government watchdog quietly revealed that its influential testimony on for-profit colleges was riddled with errors, with 16 of the 28 findings requiring revisions. More interesting is the fact that all 16 of the errors run in the same direction — casting for-profits in the worst possible light. The odds of all 16 pointing in the same direction by chance? A cool 1 in 65,536.
Even the most fastidious make the occasional mistake. But the GAO, the $570 million-a- year organization responsible for ensuring that Congress gets clean audits, unbiased accounting, and avowedly objective policy analysis, is expected to adhere to a more scrupulous standard. This makes such a string of errors particularly disconcerting.
In fact, the GAO is constituted precisely to avoid such miscues. Its report-vetting process entails GAO employees who are not involved with the project conducting a sentence-by-sentence review of the draft report, checking the factual foundation for each claim against the appropriate primary source. While the research is compiled and proofed, legislators who requested the investigation may keep in routine contact with the GAO to stay apprised of the inquiry.

Fingerprinting children at child care centers downright criminal

Eugene Kane

It looks like Big Brother wants to put an end to child care fraud in Wisconsin.
The state has approved a $1 million pilot program to install fingerprint scanners in child care centers to combat fraud in the Wisconsin Shares subsidy program. It’s the kind of cutting-edge technology already in use at airports and some hospitals for security purposes.
Although many Americans are concerned about technology’s encroaching threats to their privacy, that doesn’t seem to apply when it comes to black children in Milwaukee.
The Wisconsin Shares program was ripped off for millions of dollars by some corrupt child care providers who used state funds meant for poor children and families to line their own pockets.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Pulitzer Prize-winning series “Cashing in on Kids” pulled the covers off much of the abuse, including shoddy oversight by state bureaucrats that allowed the scandal to happen.

Cost-Effectiveness, or Cost?

Dean Dad

Friday’s IHE did a story featuring a report by Douglas Harris and Sara Goldrick-Rab that’s well worth reading in its entirety. In a nutshell, it measures the ‘productivity’ of various programs, using what boils down to dollars-per-graduate. Among other things, it suggests that call centers to nudge students into attending class have great bang for the buck, but that Upward Bound and similar programs are wildly expensive for what they achieve.
The goal of the study — which is entirely to the good — is to encourage colleges to base resource allocation decisions on actual effectiveness, rather than on what sounds good or what has usually been done. The authors break out two-year and four-year sectors — thank you — and actually define their variables. (Notably, the productivity decline over the past forty years has been far more dramatic in the four-year sector than in the two-year sector.) Even better, they acknowledge that most of the research done on various programs are done on those programs in isolation, rather than in comparison with each other. If we’re serious about dealing with limited resources, we have to acknowledge that money spent on program A is money not available to be spent on program B. It’s not enough to show that a given program helps; it needs to help more than its alternatives would have.

A baffling illness

Mike Johnson & Kathleen Gallagher:

Desperate for clues to a 4-year-old’s gut-destroying disease, doctors wonder whether a pioneering DNA technique could help.
On a Saturday morning in June, when his children are at piano lessons and the Whitefish Bay house is quiet, pediatrician Alan Mayer composes the e-mail he hopes will persuade a colleague to try a costly new technology. He has been shaping the argument in his mind – the chance to take the first steps into the future of medicine and maybe save the life of a very sick little boy.
“Dear Howard – I hope you are well,” he writes, addressing Howard Jacob, director of the Medical College of Wisconsin’s Human and Molecular Genetics Center. “I’m writing to get your thoughts on a patient of mine . . . ”
Nicholas Volker is a short, blue-eyed4-year-old who loves Batman and squirt gun fights and steak – on the rare occasions when he’s not restricted to a feeding tube.
Food has become his dream – and his curse. Severely underweight, he arrived at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin in 2007 with the bony arms and distended belly of a famine victim. Yet when he ate, unusual holes would open between his intestine and skin, causing feces to leak into a large wound in his abdomen.

Happy Meals lawsuit is beyond stupid

Roland Martin:

As a strong proponent of parental responsibility, it both amuses and angers me to see some parents lining up behind an initiative to sue McDonald’s over the inclusion of toys in their Happy Meals.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest is leading the charge in this case by pushing the state of California to ban the toys. The group suggests that the toys in Happy Meals are inducing children to eat the burger and fries, thus contributing to the obesity epidemic in America.
As I asserted in a past column that supported first lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” initiative, I fully back efforts to end obesity among our children. But at what point do some folks use common sense?

An Unequal Burden

Dan Berrett

Students from families with divorced or remarried parents pay twice the share of their college education as compared to their peers whose parents remain married to each other, according to recent research published online by the Journal of Family Issues.
“Divorced or separated parents contributed significantly less than married parents — in absolute dollars, as a proportion of their income, and as a proportion of their children’s financial need,” Ruth N. López Turley, associate professor of sociology at Rice University, and Matthew Desmond, a junior fellow at Harvard University, say in their article, “Contributions to College Costs by Married, Divorced, and Remarried Parents.”

On School Board Public Engagement

Woodward Family:

This fall, work demands have put a serious crimp in my school meeting schedule — and (to be honest) in my willingness to bang my head against the wall known as “public engagement” at Seattle Public Schools. But last Monday I decided it was time to get back into the ring — or at least into the loop — so after dinner (and a prophylactic rum cocktail) I headed down to South Lake High School to hear what Southeast Director Michael Tolley had to say about the District’s recently released School Reports.
These reports represent the District’s effort to track each school’s progress on a variety of measures, from test scores to student absences to the teachers’ feelings about their school’s leadership. The schools have had annual reports before — they’re available online going back to 1998 — but these new ones go into considerably more detail. They also include a one-page Improvement Plan for each school — goals to raise achievement, or attendance, or whatever — and a description of what the school is doing in order to reach those goals: instructional coaches, individual tutoring, more collaborative staff time, and so on. And every school has now been ranked on a five-point scale based on overall student performance and improvement on standardized tests, and the achievement gap between poor kids (those who qualify for free and reduced-price lunches) and everyone else.

The Great College-Degree Scam

Richard Vedder

With the help of a small army of researchers and associates (most importantly, Chris Matgouranis, Jonathan Robe, and Chris Denhart) and starting with help from Douglas Himes of the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the Center for College Affordability and Productivity (CCAP) has unearthed what I think is the single most scandalous statistic in higher education. It reveals many current problems and ones that will grow enormously as policymakers mindlessly push enrollment expansion amidst what must become greater public-sector resource limits.
Here it is: approximately 60 percent of the increase in the number of college graduates from 1992 to 2008 worked in jobs that the BLS considers relatively low skilled–occupations where many participants have only high school diplomas and often even less. Only a minority of the increment in our nation’s stock of college graduates is filling jobs historically considered as requiring a bachelor’s degree or more. (We are working to integrate some earlier Edwin Rubenstein data on this topic to give us a more complete picture of this trend).

“Education is a powerful weapon”


U.S. Army Capt. David Brown knows education of Afghans is critical to the future of the country.
“We see it as stronger than guns and bombs. Schools and education are the foundation for the future of Afghanistan,” the Connecticut native told a class of 50 Afghan youth at a graduation ceremony after they completed an eight-week course on computer skills and English. “Education is a powerful weapon.”
It’s so powerful that the Taliban have been actively working against it, even spraying acid on school girls that’s blinded at least two girls. The Taliban have forced the closure of 75 out of 228 schools in one province alone after assassinating teachers and students and destroying school buildings. Just last month, they burned a girls’ school in eastern Afghanistan with 850 Qurans inside. CARE International, a non-profit organization working in Afghanistan, documented 670-education related attacks in 2008.

All eyes on Eden Prairie school boundary vote

Kelly Smith:

An Eden Prairie school board vote on attendance zones may have broad impact on desegregation and neighborhood schools.
When Eden Prairie’s seven school board members convene Tuesday night, the controversial decision they are set to make about redrawing school boundary lines will be of keen interest throughout the metro area.
Will they back a plan that will move 1,100 elementary students next fall to new schools, largely to reduce segregation in schools? Or will they scale back in response to a huge parental outcry and make fewer changes or nix the plan altogether?
Bloomington and other metro-area suburban school districts, which also face increasingly diverse student demographics, are watching Eden Prairie’s move. Bloomington’s school board chair attended Eden Prairie meetings to watch how feedback was handled.

Moseley Braun unveils Chicago education plan

Mark Konkol:

Chicago children shouldn’t have to compete for the chance to attend the city’s best performing schools, mayoral candidate Carol Moseley Braun said Thursday.
And if she’s elected, Braun said she plans to focus on improving neighborhood schools so parents won’t have to send their kids to magnet and selective enrollment schools in other parts of town.
“It seems to me the opportunity for a quality education is not something we should have to compete for,” Braun said.
“It ought to be available to every child in every neighborhood.”

Memphis City Schools board’s charter vote on shaky ground

Jane Roberts:

By late Friday, Patrice Robinson’s favorite technology was Caller ID, a thin bit of insulation between her and dozens of arm-twisters wanting her ear.
“I’ve been inundated with e-mail and phone calls from high-ranking people on both sides,” said the Memphis City Schools board member. “I am still deliberating.
“People keep calling with new information, then I’m over here. Then I get another call and I’m over there.”
Robinson is one of three board members who said late last week that she was still undecided on whether to join four others committed to voting tonight for a resolution that would ask city voters if they want to surrender the MCS charter.

At Madison elementary school, Kwanzaa sculpts daily activities

Matthew DeFour:

Kwanzaa comes once a year, but at Falk Elementary School it’s a part of the lesson plan almost every day.
On Friday, the last day of school before the holidays, students in first, second and third grade came together for a weekly morning routine called Harambee, which in Swahili means “all pull together.”
They form a circle as they dance, clap and chant in unison to a song about freedom. When the music ends, the children chatter with fresh energy for a moment, until teacher Kira Fobbs walks slowly to the center, demanding silence with her stare.
“I am somebody,” she calls out.
“I am somebody!” the students respond.

Some see use of ‘smart drug’ Adderall rising at UW-Madison

Adam Riback, Bob Marshall & Alex Morrell

Last school year, two UW-Madison journalism students walked into a campus library with a mission: See how fast they could score some Adderall, a popular prescription “smart drug” that users say improves their ability to study.
They were good to go in 56 seconds.
All it took was a tap on the shoulder of one woman, a stranger at a table of students studying in silence. Asked if she knew where someone could buy some Adderall, the woman offered to call her friend downstairs, who was selling it.
Experts say such easy access and casual acceptance is increasingly common on campuses, including UW-Madison, where students coping with academic demands are turning to illicit use of Adderall and other stimulants. Adderall is prescribed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

High School Dropouts, In Their Own Words

Claudio Sanchez:

We’ve been hearing a lot about high school dropouts because of a flurry of studies and reports that offer dire warnings about the drag dropouts can be on the economy and the nation’s future. But if you want to understand why a million kids drop out of school every year, all you have to do is ask them — which is what NPR’s Claudio Sanchez did as part of a recent reporting assignment to Central Falls Rhode Island.

New York Schools Seek Donors’ Money

Barbara Martinez:

Months after winning $700 million in the federal Race to the Top competition, New York state’s education department says it needs another $18 million, and is turning to foundations, hedge fund managers and other private donors for the money.
The $18 million will pay for systems, technology and research that will help ensure that the state spends the $700 million effectively, education department officials said. As part of its initiative, the state will use the bulk of the money to hire 13 fellows–experts in curriculum, student testing and teacher evaluation–to help implement the projects that were promised in federal application.
The Race to the Top competition was a nationwide contest by the Obama administration that offered states hundreds of millions of dollars in exchange for adopting certain education changes, such as holding teachers more accountable for student progress. New York made promises about tying teacher evaluations to student test scores, overhauling a lackluster statewide curriculum and developing a reliable state-test system.

Oakland & San Francisco Schools

Chip Johnson

When it comes to the public schools, Bay Area parents rarely illustrate the strident, progressive beliefs they apply to most political and social issues.
The phrase limousine liberal is not complimentary, but on this issue, it’s a glove that fits a little too well.
Because whether it’s fueled by economic privilege or simply a matter of choice, the rate at which Bay Area parents, regardless of ethnicity, send their children to private schools has historically been higher than most other places in the country, say researchers who have studied the issue.
And at inner-city schools, that migration has translated into an exodus of white students from the public school systems in both Oakland and San Francisco.

In Africa, the Laureate’s Curse

Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani:

THE Nobel Prize in Literature was presented to Mario Vargas Llosa at an awards ceremony on Friday in Oslo. This reawakened the disappointment felt by many fans of African literature, who had hoped that this would be the year for the Kenyan writer Ngugi wa Thiong’o. But there’s actually reason to celebrate Mr. Ngugi’s loss. African literature is better off without another Nobel … at least for now.
A Nigerian publisher once told me that of the manuscripts she reads from aspiring writers, half echo Chinua Achebe and half try to adopt Wole Soyinka’s style. Mr. Achebe and Mr. Soyinka, who won the continent’s first Nobel in literature in 1986, are arguably the most celebrated black African writers, especially in terms of Western accolades. But their dominance causes problems in a region where the common attitude is, “If it already works, why bother to improve on it?”

Expecting a Baby, But Not the Pain

Anne Marie Chaker:

When she gave birth to her daughter last July, Cassie Friesen, of Broomfield, Colo., imagined she was inside a bubble and repeated the word “peace” with each contraction.
The 25-year-old former nanny learned these relaxation and visualization techniques in a hypnotherapy course she took in hopes of minimizing the pain of childbirth. “It’s so corny-sounding,” she says, and yet it worked. She describes her daughter Aster’s July 7 arrival as “fun–even enjoyable,” words not many other mothers use when describing the experience.

Empathy a solution for bad youth behavior

Sam Witthuhn:

It comes as no surprise that Madison school districts are suffering. Public schools throughout the city struggle with a severe lack of state funding that only adds to the lack of authority figures–fueling the ideology of students who just don’t give a shit. And when you combine this lack of resources and educational programs with a student attitude that cares little about achievement, you get the perfect recipe for a continual decrease in graduation rates.
After all, students who fail to complete their homework or who show respect for their teachers can reasonably argue that if the state doesn’t show its support for education through monetary aid, why should they be expected to put in the extra effort? And while this argument lacks concrete support, a recent rise in poor behavior among middle school and high school students shows that they lust for learning and respect for fellow classmates is plummeting.
To be honest, kids just don’t care anymore.

The Authors of the Interesting Stuff in my Third Grader’s Textbook

No One of Any Import:

A company called Pearson publishes the Scott Foresman textbook used in my third-grader’s class, “Communities.”

I posted about this textbook recently, and I mentioned research on the authors of this book. Here are the results of this research:

Valerie Ooka Pang has written a book about the unmet needs of Asian Pacific American children. She teach courses in multicultural education, social studies methods, curriculum & instruction, and social foundations. She is interested in culturally meaningful teaching.

Pentagon Says No To Acronyms

Ken Layne

The use of acronyms by the Department of Defense is extensive. Many acronyms have multiple meanings and are not always well known outside a particular organization. Although using acronyms in written material is intended to make writing clearer, their misuse or abuse does the exact opposite.
Effective immediately, all written correspondence prepared for the Secretary or Deputy Secretary of Defense will minimize the use of acronyms or include a comprehensive glossary as the last tab of the package. Particular attention should be given to Read-Aheads and slide presentations, which can contain a large number of acronyms.
Michael L Bruhn
Executive Secretary

American Education, Curbing Excellence

Steve Chapman
America’s primary and secondary schools have many problems, but an excess of excellence is not one of them. Not only do our weak students fare poorly in international comparisons, so do our strong ones. Mediocrity is the national norm. The very best students are the ones most likely to do things of great benefit to the rest of us — cure malaria, devise revolutionary inventions, start the next Apple or plumb the secrets of the universe. But we don’t always put much importance on helping them realize their full potential.
A case in point is Evanston Township High School in Evanston, Ill., a racially and economically mixed suburb of Chicago that is home to Northwestern University. It recently decided to eliminate a high honors freshman English course aimed at challenging the top students. Henceforth, these youngsters will be grouped with everyone else in a regular “honors” class in humanities. Next year, the same may be done with biology. Your kid is an honor student at ETHS? Heck, everyone is an honors student at ETHS. It’s hardly the only school in America where grouping students according to their ability is in disrepute. There is a widespread impulse to treat all kids as equally able and willing to learn. But the results often fall dismally short of the hopes.
When the Chicago public schools scrapped remedial classes for ninth graders and put everyone in college-prep courses, “failure rates increased, grades declined slightly, test scores did not improve and students were no more likely to enter college,” according to a study by the Consortium on Chicago School Research at the University of Chicago. Among average and above-average students, absenteeism rose. The danger in putting the brightest kids in general classes is that they will be bored by instruction geared to the middle. But their troubles don’t elicit much sympathy. Brookings Institution scholar Tom Loveless told The Atlantic magazine, “The United States does not do a good job of educating kids at the top. There’s a long-standing attitude that, ‘Well, smart kids can make it on their own.'”
But can they? Only 6 percent of American kids achieve advanced proficiency in math — lower than in 30 other countries. In Taiwan, the figure is 28 percent.
School administrators in Evanston insist the change is aimed at making the curriculum more demanding, even as they make it less demanding for some students. Thanks to the abolition of this elite course, we are told, “high-achieving students” will profit from “experiencing multiple perspectives and diversity in their classes to gain cultural capital.”
In other words, racial balance will take priority over academic rigor. Blacks and Hispanics make up nearly half of all students but only 19 percent of those in advanced placement courses and 29 percent of those in honors courses. This is because minority students at Evanston, which has an enrollment of nearly 3,000, generally score lower on achievement tests. Putting all students together is supposed to give everyone an equal opportunity.
But if you have a fever, you don’t bring it down by breaking the thermometer. The low numbers of black and Hispanic students are a symptom of a deeper problem, namely the failure of elementary and middle schools to prepare them for the most challenging course work. Evanston has had a big racial gap in academic performance for decades, and there is nothing to gain from pretending it doesn’t exist. Schools that group (or “track”) kids by ability generally get better overall results. Chester Finn Jr., president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, notes in a recent report, “Middle schools with more tracks have significantly more math pupils performing at the advanced and proficient levels and fewer students at the needs improvement and failing levels.”
Why would that be? Teaching is not easy, and teaching kids with a wide range of aptitude and interest is even harder. Grouping students by ability allows the tailoring of lessons to match the needs of each group. Putting them all together is bound to fail one group or another. Shortchanging gifted teens creates the risk of another unwanted effect: inducing their parents to leave. Families in Evanston can always move to neighboring suburbs with good schools, or they can opt for several fine private and parochial alternatives. Average students don’t gain from being in the same classes as exceptional ones if the exceptional ones are not there.
We as a society have not been very successful at turning average students into high achievers. Maybe we’ll have better luck doing the opposite.

Milwaukee’s Bradley Tech principal takes TEAM approach to improving staff

Alan Borsuk:

Ed Kupka is taking a strong stand. As principal of Milwaukee’s Bradley Tech High School, he wants to encourage the good ones, do something about the bad ones and make the school more successful.
I’m not talking about students, although that’s been a hot subject. A recent gang fight at the school drew a massive police response, negative attention from Ald. Robert Donovan and new steps aimed at removing troublemakers from the school.
I’m talking about teachers. Kupka has taken a strong stand on removing teachers who he says are not succeeding in the classroom, so they can be replaced with teachers who can do better.
“I’m addicted to getting the best person in front of the students,” he said. “It’s the only way to get achievement up.”
In an interview shortly before the fight, Kupka said that addressing ineffective performers on the staff was taking up much of his time. He thinks the school is making progress on that score, but setbacks last spring and summer were so serious that he considered quitting.

Some side benefits of learning both a foreign language and a foreign culture

Mark Jacobsen:

A few months ago I wrote up a list of secondary benefits that come with learning a foreign language, based on my own experience learning Arabic. It’s a bit long, but I hope it will be of interest.
How to listen to other people’s stories and perspectives. Being able to shut up and really listen to different opinions is a rare skill. If we want to make informed policy in cross-cultural contexts, we need to humanize and understand the “other” — which includes both our allies and our enemies. We do not have to agree with each other, but we need to listen long enough to genuinely understand each other’s narratives. Being in a foreign language environment forces you to concentrate and listen, especially because you probably lack the language skill to respond as you wish.
How to operate in an environment of constant uncertainty. When you arrive in a foreign culture, everything is uncertain. You feel a constant tightness in your chest because you don’t know the rules for even the most trivial day-to-day tasks. Even something as simple as buying hummus and falafel or riding in a taxicab involves new processes, rituals, and vocabulary — especially if you want to do it like the natives. You can’t be a perfectionist, because you’ll never get anything done otherwise. You learn to control negative emotional responses like fear, anger, or frustration. Fortunately, you do acclimate to this uncertainty. You learn to be patient, cool, and observant.

What Happens When College Is Oversold

Richard Vedder:

As I wrote here last week, newly compiled data shows that a great many college graduates have been settling into jobs that do not require higher education. The data, prepared and released by the Center for College Affordability and Productivity (CCAP), show that a majority of the increased number of college grads since 1992—some 60 percent– are “underemployed” or “overqualified” for the jobs they hold. Thus we have one-third of a million waiters and waitresses with college degrees. Some 17 percent of the nation’s bellhops ands porters are college graduates. A new CCAP study From Wall Street to Wal-Mart: Why College Graduates Are Not Getting Good Jobs, released today along with this essay, carries even worse news: the proportion of college-educated Americans in lower-skilled jobs has more than tripled since the 1960s, going from 11 percent in 1967 to 34 percent today.
Why are more and more college graduates not entering the class of professional, technical and managerial workers that has been considered the main avenue of employment? Anyone who has read Charles Murray’s great book Real Education (New York: Crown Forum, 2008) has good insights into why this problem has arisen. Truly, Murray argues, only a modest proportion of the population has the cognitive skills (not to mention work discipline, drive, maturity, integrity, etc.) to master truly higher education, an education that goes well beyond the secondary schooling experience in terms of rigor of presentation. Reading and comprehending 200- to 400-year-old literature is useful for advanced leadership -but difficult. Educated persons should read and understand Locke’s “On Human Understanding” or Shakespeare’s King Lear -they are insightful in many ways, but the typical person of average intelligence typically lacks both the motivation and ability to do so. Mastering complex forms of mathematics is hard -but necessary to function in some areas of science and engineering.

State Test Score Trends through 2008-09, Part 2: Slow and Uneven Progress in Narrowing Gaps

Nancy Kober, Naomi Chudowsky, Victor Chudowsky

This report provides a detailed look at student performance on state tests and examines whether state-level results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) confirm the trends found on state tests. The report tracks data for all states and the District of Columbia in math and reading for grades 4, 8, and high school by student race, ethnicity, income, and gender from as early as 2002 through 2009, where three or more years of comparable data are available. Also available are 50 state profiles with detailed student achievement data and tables showing the performance of various student groups on 2009 state tests. Finally, also posted here are short video clips of CEP’s President and CEO Jack Jennings explaining the main findings of this study.

Value-Added Data Adds Value

Tom Vander Ark

We should offer every American family the good school promise-access to at least one effective school where most students are on grade level and make at least a year of progress. We should offer every American student best efforts at giving them a teacher that gives them a shot at making at least a one year gain.
In an EdWeek OpEd, The Brookings Brown Center Task Group on Teacher Quality makes the case:

Half of Fox Valley school districts tax to the limit; less state aid further shifts load to taxpayers

Michael Louis Vinson

A dip in state education aid will force many taxpayers to reach deeper into their pockets this year to help fund schools.
School districts across the Fox Cities raised property taxes by an average of 3.8 percent compared with last year, slightly higher than the 3.4 percent statewide average.
“Districts are kind of in a no-win situation,” said Dale Knapp, a spokesman for Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance, a government watchdog group that crunched the tax numbers and released them this week. “The tax levy is a function of what happens with state aid.”
When aid drops, schools turn to the taxpayers to make up the difference.

This Loved One Will Explode in Five, Four …

Elizabeth Bernstein:

Melissa Hoistion was enjoying dinner with her husband and their three children at a restaurant in Freehold, N.J., recently–until the waiter disappeared for 20 minutes.
Her husband, Tim, began muttering. Ms. Hoistion braced herself. “Uh-oh, here it comes,” she remembers thinking.
“EXCUSE ME!” he screamed across the room to another waiter, then stormed off to complain to the manager. When the original server finally returned to the table, her husband yelled, “Where the hell have you been for the last 45 minutes?” and continued berating him until the man walked away.

The Tax-Exempt Status of the NCAA: Has the IRS Fumbled the Ball?

Brett Smith

Maybe the IRS actually knows what it is doing. With any luck, they can look at the overwhelming number of athletic departments that are not earning a profit and realize that removing the NCAA’s tax-exempt status would only have a nominal return. Perhaps the IRS realizes that the nominal return that such a tax would generate would have such a sweeping effect on collegiate athletics that it may actually hurt schools more than it would help. Whether they realize this or do not want to overturn a long-lived precedent, the IRS has not fumbled its duty concerning the tax-exempt status of the NCAA. At this point, there is no reason to disrupt the current tax-exempt status of the NCAA, and there is no evidence that points to a change being necessary in the near future.

Digital Learning, Now!

Bob Wise & Jeb Bush:

JEB BUSH and BOB WISE, a Democrat who was West Virginia governor from 2001-2005, unveil the “10 Elements of High Quality Digital Learning,” a “roadmap for local, state and federal officials to integrate digital learning in education. … Technology has the power and scalability to customize education so each and every student learns in their own style at their own pace.”

Which States Manage Household Finances Best?

Now you can go to a new website, and see just how good or bad citizens in your state are at managing household finances.
Here’s a small spoiler: if you aren’t a citizen of New York, New Jersey or New Hampshire, you are less likely to be among the most financially adept individuals. Those three states were among the top five in at least three of five measures of financial capability, according to a survey of more than 28,000 people.
The interactive, clickable map of the U.S. is based on the State-by-State Financial Capability Survey released Wednesday that was developed in consultation with the Treasury Department and the President’s Advisory Council on Financial Literacy. Find the full data here.

Regents adopt plan to push most adults through college by 2020

Brian Maffly:

During a 40-year career in higher education, Stan Albrecht has seen his share of strategic plans emerge after interminable meetings and lots of sweat only to gather dust on the shelf.
The Utah State University president cautioned the Utah Board of Regents that its new 10-year road map — hoped to pave Utah’s way to a much more educated workforce — might be destined for such a fate if the scope of its 52 recommendations is not narrowed.
On Thursday, the Regents approved the 100-page Higher Ed Utah 2020 Plan, crafted at the request of Gov. Gary Herbert, after months of meetings and consultations. The plan seeks to get more students into college and earning degrees — currently less than 50 percent graduate — while promoting the role of higher education in economic innovation and workforce development.
How? By expanding need-based aid, embracing instructional technology and conducting classes online, shoring up the community college mission at the state’s regional universities, and subsidizing associate degree-seeking students, among dozens of other recommendations.

Why Narcissism Defines Our Time

Elizabeth Currid-Halkett:

Last week it was announced that the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders removed 50% of the personality disorders currently on its list. However none of the excluded disorders have gotten as much attention as the removal of “narcissistic personality disorder,” or NPD.
The uproar is unsurprising. Narcissism is one of the most obvious examples of a personality disorder. We see it everywhere in our culture. Narcissism can explain part of the motivation for participating in reality TV show antics, and Hollywood has always seemed a refuge for beautiful people who need to be the center of attention. We know that not much will change in Hollywood with this announcement. But will it change any other parts of our culture?

Save the Children Breaks With Soda Tax Effort

William Neuman:

Over the last year, Save the Children emerged as a leader in the push to tax sweetened soft drinks as a way to combat childhood obesity. The nonprofit group supported soda tax campaigns in Mississippi, New Mexico, Washington State, Philadelphia and the District of Columbia.
At the same time, executives at Save the Children were seeking a major grant from Coca-Cola to help finance the health and education programs that the charity conducts here and abroad, including its work on childhood obesity.
The talks with Coke are still going on. But the soda tax work has been stopped. In October, Save the Children surprised activists around the country with an e-mail message announcing that it would no longer support efforts to tax soft drinks.
In interviews this month, Carolyn Miles, chief operating officer of Save the Children, said there was no connection between the group’s about-face on soda taxes and the discussions with Coke. A $5 million grant from PepsiCo also had no influence on the decision, she said. Both companies fiercely oppose soda taxes.

8th Grade 1895 Test from Salina, Kansas

The Salina Journal:

8th Grade Final Exam: Salina, KS – 1895
Grammar (Time, one hour)
1. Give nine rules for the use of Capital Letters.
2. Name the Parts of Speech and define those that have no modifications.
3. Define Verse, Stanza and Paragraph.
4. What are the Principal Parts of a verb? Give Principal Parts of do, lie, lay and run.
5. Define Case, Illustrate each Case.
6. What is Punctuation? Give rules for principal marks of Punctuation.
7 – 10. Write a composition of about 150 words and show therein that you understand the practical use of the rules of grammar.
Arithmetic (Time, 1.25 hours)
1. Name and define the Fundamental Rules of Arithmetic.
2. A wagon box is 2 ft. deep, 10 feet long, and 3 ft. wide. How many bushels of wheat will it hold?
3. If a load of wheat weighs 3942 lbs., what is it worth at 50 cts. per bu., deducting 1050 lbs. for tare?
4. District No. 33 has a valuation of $35,000. What is the necessary levy to carry on a school seven months at $50 per month, and have $104 for incidentals?
5. Find cost of 6720 lbs. coal at $6.00 per ton.
6. Find the interest of $512.60 for 8 months and 18 days at 7 percent.
7. What is the cost of 40 boards 12 inches wide and 16 ft. long at $20 per m?
8. Find bank discount on $300 for 90 days (no grace) at 10 percent.
9. What is the cost of a square farm at $15 per are, the distance around which is 640 rods?
10. Write a Bank Check, a Promissory Note, and a Receipt.

New Jersey Governor Christie in Clinton: Education reform a key part of agenda

Walter O’Brien:

Some of Chris Christie’s reform agenda has become law, but more work is left to be done — including education reform, which the governor says is at the top of his agenda for 2011.
Christie discussed that and other topics Tuesday during his 17th town hall meeting at the Clinton Community Center on Halstead Street.
The governor said New Jerseyans are beginning to feel pride again in their state, and that there are some positive discussion topics for the public.
New Jersey has the highest tax burden in the nation, many anti-business regulations and an atmosphere where private-sector jobs are treated like the enemy, Christie said. But, he said, the Legislature is getting serious about passing his many reform initiatives, including property tax reform, education reform and the municipal tool kit.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie Taps New Education Chief

Lisa Fleisher:

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has selected former New York City schools official Christopher Cerf to be his next commissioner of education, two sources close to the administration said.
Cerf will be nominated to lead a department that has been adrift since the sacking of its former commissioner, Bret Schundler, in the wake of the state’s loss in a federal education grant. A spokeswoman for the governor would not confirm the selection.
Christie has spent the past year cutting school funding, tangling with teachers and superintendents, and trying to make New Jersey’s schools do more with less. He has pointed to Newark and other cities as examples of school systems where more money has not led to education gains, leaving children “trapped” in failing schools.
Joel Klein, the outgoing chancellor of New York City schools, where Cerf served as a deputy chancellor until 2009, called Cerf “a man of enormous intellect, talent and deep understanding of K-12 education and would be a terrific leader.”

Room to improve at Wisconsin’s two medical schools

John Fauber

Wisconsin two medical schools failed to improve their conflict of interest policies – one actually dropped a grade – according to the latest rankings by the American Medical Student Association.
The University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health dropped from a B to a C, while the Medical College of Wisconsin maintained a B grade.
The association’s PharmFree Scorecard is a national report on 152 medical schools, looking at a variety of measures, including gifts and meals from industry to doctors, paid promotional speaking for drug and device companies, acceptance of free drug samples, interaction with sales reps and drug company-funded education.
This is what AMSA said about UW:

L.A. teachers union won’t accept pay cuts, ‘value-added’ evaluations

Howard Blume

UTLA leaders dispute criticisms from the mayor and others, but reiterate their firm opposition to furloughs, larger classes and use of students’ test scores to evaluate teachers’ performance.
The state’s largest teachers union Wednesday fired an early salvo in contract negotiations, serving notice that it wouldn’t accept pay cuts easily and that it won’t consider linking teacher evaluations to student test scores in the Los Angeles Unified School District.
The afternoon news conference, at union headquarters in Koreatown, was a familiar exercise in rallying the rank and file. But it also marked a renewed effort to lead the public debate over school reform, coming shortly after L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa labeled United Teachers Los Angeles the primary obstacle to improving schools.

Who is Teaching in India’s Universities?

Philip G. Altbach:

India faces a severe shortage of teaching staff as it rapidly expands it higher education system. At such top institutions as the Indian Institutes of Technology and the Indian Institutes of Management, the generation of academics who matured with these schools is now retiring and there isn’t another cohort in the pipeline to take their places. Similarly, there are shortages of well-qualified staff in departments as most Indian universities responsible for graduate (post-graduate) degrees. The undergraduate colleges face fewer problems although they too have problems finding highly qualified teachers.
The pace of expansion at the top of the higher education sector has been remarkable–eight new IITs, 7 new IIMs, and 12 new central universities established in the past two years. It is not clear how these new institutions are being staffed–or for that matter paid for. Although the national government has increased its investment in higher education by 40 percent, to US$3.1 billion, this is nonetheless a modest amount given the degree of expansion taking place. While most of Indian higher education is the responsibility of state governments or the private sector, the institutions above are supported by the central government and although US$3 billion is a significant amount, it is not sufficient against the need resulting from the combined challenges of expansion and retirements.

Patronage as a U.S. force multiplier

Rahul Bedi:

From scholarships and training programmes for officers to promises of Green Cards and jobs for family members, America is doing whatever it takes to build a lobby for itself in India.
The loquacious charm employed by United States President Barack Obama during his India trip is merely one of the many force multipliers exercised by an economically beleaguered Washington seeking to sell New Delhi varied military equipment for billions of dollars, and affirming bilateral strategic ties as a hedge against a resurgent China.
The other more protracted and consequently effective inducements are the raft of scholarships to American universities handed out to the offspring of top Indian politicians, civil servants and defence and intelligence officers, and the patronage extended to Service officers under the long established Military Education and Training (IMET) programme.
So blatant, widespread and generous is Washington’s largesse to the students — facilitating and financing, as it does, their pursuit of eclectic disciplines like the liberal arts, English literature and, even, art and history in leading U.S. institutions — that it is worth asking to what extent Indian policy on a range of issues of interest to America remains ‘hostage’ to the children of a growing number of Delhi’s powerful decision-makers. The scholarship recipients’ list is embarrassingly revelatory.

Jerry Brown: ‘Fasten your seat belt’ for California school spending cuts

David Siders:

Gov.-elect Jerry Brown told education leaders in Los Angeles on Tuesday to “fasten your seat belt” for dramatic spending cuts to schools, while not rejecting their appeals for tax-revenue relief.
“This is really a huge challenge, unprecedented in my lifetime,” the 72-year-old former governor said at UCLA, where he appeared with financial officials for his second budget forum in a week.
After speaking in generalities about California’s budget crisis for months, Brown must make major decisions this week about the budget bill he will propose by the Jan. 10 constitutional deadline. He has estimated the deficit at as much as $28 billion over the next 18 months.
Brown has declined to say whether he plans ask voters to authorize a tax package, though many observers believe he will push for a special election to maintain higher vehicle, sales and income tax rates set to expire next year. He is also expected to propose shifting responsibility for some services to local governments.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: California Budget Gap May Reach $28.1 Billion Over 18 Months, Brown Says

Michael Marois

California’s budget gap may widen to $28.1 billion over 18 months, according to Governor-elect Jerry Brown, who takes charge of the most-populous U.S. state next month. A cash shortage may force the use of IOUs by July, Controller John Chiang said.
The deficit estimate takes into account a $2.7 billion drop in projected estate-tax receipts, and compares with the most recent forecast of a $25 billion gap for the period, Brown said today at a public meeting of state officials. The cash accounts may be short by $2.3 billion within eight months, Chiang said at the meeting in Sacramento.
“I don’t want to say it, but this could mean IOUs and more tax-refund deferrals,” Chiang said.

Marin’s high school dropout rates among state’s lowest

Rob Rogers

Marin County continues to have one of the lowest high school dropout rates in California and that rate fell in the past year, even as the state’s overall dropout rate is on the rise.
The county’s rate of 1.4 percent for 2008-09 — the most recent year for which data are available — fell from the previous year’s rate of 1.8 percent, and is well below the state average of 4.5 percent, released Tuesday by the California Department of Education.
Marin school officials say they plan to continue working to eliminate the county’s dropout rate altogether.
“One student who drops out of school is one too many,” said Marin County Superintendent of Schools Mary Jane Burke. “The loss of any young person before their education is completed means a more difficult life for that student, and too often a loss of productivity and civic participation in our community.”

Education in Wisconsin

Bob and Jean Dohnal

Our family is very proud of the fact that five of the seven of us has graduated from the University of Wisconsin System and the other two attended for some time. We all attended public schools in our youth. We are very pro-education. Jean was a teacher for many years.
But, times have changed in the last 20 years or so. Spending on education has skyrocketed. Quality has gone down. Kids are forced to mortgage half of their lives to graduate from college and it takes five years. MPS is a total disaster with only a small number of kids being able to read in the 10th grade. Many businessmen consider high school degrees worthless.
School budgets are bloated with administrators as salaries and benefits far exceed what the average taxpayer makes. The unions have little interest beyond themselves. If left to their own, kids would continue to come out dumber per national average than when they went into the system. All of the advertising during Green Bay Packer games will not change that.

Illinois: Highest Paid High School Teachers vs. Professors

Mark Perry

A recent post featured the highest-paid high school teachers in Illinois. Here’s an update, with a chart above that compares the highest paid high school teachers in Illinois to their highest paid Ph.D. counterparts in the same academic field at the main campus of the University of Illinois (salary database here).

The Value of Higher Education Made Literal

Stanley Fish:

A few weeks ago at a conference, I listened to a distinguished political philosopher tell those in attendance that he would not be speaking before them had he not been the beneficiary, as a working-class youth in England, of a government policy to provide a free university education to the children of British citizens. He walked into the university with little knowledge of the great texts that inform modern democracy and he walked out an expert in those very same texts.
It goes without saying that he did not know what he was doing at the outset; he did not, that is, think to himself, I would like to be come a scholar of Locke, Hobbes and Mill. But that’s what he became, not by choice (at least in the beginning) but by opportunity.

A Box? Or a Spaceship? What Makes Kids Creative

Sue Shellenbarger:

When art teacher Kandy Dea recently assigned fourth-graders in her Walnut, Iowa, classroom to create a board game to play with a friend, she was shocked by one little boy’s response: He froze.
While his classmates let their imaginations run wild making up colorful characters and fantasy worlds, the little boy said repeatedly, “I can’t think of anything,” Ms. Dea says. Although she reassured him that nothing he did would be judged “wrong,” he tried to copy another student’s game, then asked if he could make a work sheet instead. She finally gave him permission to make flash cards with right-and-wrong answers.
Americans’ scores on a commonly used creativity test fell steadily from 1990 to 2008, especially in the kindergarten through sixth-grade age group, says Kyung Hee Kim, an assistant professor of educational psychology at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va. The finding is based on a study of 300,000 Americans’ scores from 1966 to 2008 on the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking, a standardized test that’s considered a benchmark for creative thinking. (Dr. Kim’s results are currently undergoing peer review to determine whether they will be published in a scholarly journal.)

Judge leaning toward approving changes in teacher seniority rules in L.A. Unified

Howard Blume

A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge on Tuesday stuck to a tentative ruling that would change the “last hired, first fired” rules that control which teachers get laid off during budget cutbacks in the L.A. Unified School District.
For the most part, Judge William F. Highberger continued to side with parties on a settlement meant to protect schools from suffering high teacher turnover during layoffs. Under the tentative agreement, reached in October, the district would apply seniority rules campus by campus to distribute layoffs more evenly across the nation’s second-largest school system. That way, schools that depended heavily on inexperienced teachers would not be decimated. In addition, up to 45 at-risk schools could be protected completely from layoffs, as part of a plan that links this protection to academic improvement.

New program gives Madison students a chance to avoid expulsion

In past years the Madison School District might have expelled more than a dozen students in the first quarter.
This year the number of expulsions in the first quarter — zero.
The sharp reduction is the result of the district’s new Phoenix program, an alternative to expulsion that district officials hope will allow students to focus on academics and improved behavior, rather than spend as long as a year-and-a-half falling behind their peers while disconnected from school services.
As of last week, 17 students who have committed expellable offenses were enrolled in the program. Rather than face an expulsion hearing, each has been given a second chance to continue learning in a classroom away from their peers. The district has expelled between 33 and 64 students a year in the last decade.

Watch a Madison School Board discussion of the Phoenix program, here (begins about 10 minutes into the video).

Study finds little difference in achievement between independent charters and Milwaukee Public Schools

Becky Vevea:

The test scores of students at independent charter schools in Milwaukee and those of MPS students are relatively equal in the areas of reading and math, a study released Thursday says.
The report, released by the School Choice Demonstration Project conducted by researchers at the University of Wisconsin and the University of Arkansas, compared the 2006-2007 reading and math scores of 2,295 students attending 10 of the 14 independent charter schools in grades 3-8 to a carefully matched sample of 2,295 students from MPS.
When controlling for factors such as switching schools, the scores from students at independent charter schools score the same in reading and math as their counterparts in MPS.

Los Angeles Schools to Seek Sponsors

Jennifer Medina:

The football field at a public school here, in the second largest school district in the country, soon may be brought to students by Nike.
Facing another potential round of huge budget cuts, the Los Angeles school board unanimously approved a plan on Tuesday night to allow the district to seek corporate sponsorships as a way to get money to the schools.
The district is not the first to look for private dollars as a way to close public budget gaps — districts in Sheboygan, Wis., and Midland, Tex., for example, have offered up naming rights for their stadiums for years. But the Los Angeles school district is by far the largest to do so, and officials say the plan could generate as much as $18 million for the schools.

Jerry Brown: Cuts To Education Will Continue

Paresh Dave

Cuts to spending on education are likely to continue, Governor-elect Jerry Brown said Tuesday as he searches for ways to increase California’s revenues to match its spending.
Faced with a $28.1 billion deficit for the next fiscal year, Brown is trying to give a crash-course to California voters about how disastrous that figure really is.
The self-described “happy warrior” appears headed down a path of asking voters to extend a handful of temporary tax increases, to raise other taxes and to accept more control over local affairs because cutting 20 to 25 percent from the budgets of state agencies won’t alone solve the mess.

It Isn’t the Culture, Stupid

Barry Garelick, via email:

The news last week that Shanghai students achieved the top scores in math on the international PISA exam was for some of us not exactly a wake-up call (as Secretary of Education Arne Duncan characterized it) or a Sputnik moment (as President Obama called it).
We’ve seen this result before. We’ve seen the reactions and the theories and the excuses that purport to explain why the US does so poorly in math. In fact, there are three main variations used to explain why Chinese/Asian students do so well in international exams:

  • Version 1: They are taught using rote learning and then regurgitate the results on exams that test how well they memorize the procedures of how to solve specific problems.
  • Version 2: They are taught using the reform methods of a “problem based approach” that doesn’t rely on drills, and instills critical thinking and higher order thinking skills
  • Version 3: The teacher or the culture produces the proper conditions for learning.

Meeks wants vouchers for 50,000 Chicago students

Fran Spielman:

Arguing that Chicago Public Schools are “broken” and that parents deserve a “choice,” mayoral challenger James Meeks said Wednesday he would offer $4,500-a-year vouchers to 50,000 low-and-middle-income Chicago families to use toward private school tuition.
If he is elected mayor, Meeks said he would also offer full-day kindergarten and character education in all Chicago Public Schools and double the time spent on reading and math in first through third grades. Full-day kindergarten would be financed in part by cutting bonus pay for teachers with master’s degrees.
The 90 minutes of daily reading time — up from 45 minutes currently — is designed to make certain that students read at a third-grade level by the time they finish third-grade.

Cell phones to be banned from Milwaukee’s Bradley Tech

Cell phones will be banned from Bradley Tech High School when students return Jan. 3 in the aftermath of problems last month that resulted in the arrest of 18 people following a fight, Principal Edward M. Kupka said Wednesday.
At the second meeting of community leaders in two weeks to discuss how to improve conditions in and around the school, which sits in the heart of the Walker’s Point community, Milwaukee Public Schools Superintendent Gregory Thornton reported that between four to six disruptive students have been reassigned to other educational facilities.
A second wave of students “who aren’t focused around the theme of the school” also will be moved to other educational programs, he said.
And students who have to leave school early for a legitimate purpose will receive county bus passes instead of waiting for a yellow school bus, he said.

Florida School Voucher Plan Threatens the Viability of Public Education

Dennis Maley:

On Rick Scott’s recent pre-take-office tour, Floridians got a peek at what issues his administration’s agenda will be likely to favor. The results ranged from confusing to frightening, especially since the opposition party will be virtually powerless to stop him. Provided Scott’s initiatives are supported by the Republican majority in the legislature, he will have the opportunity to make broad and sweeping changes and seems intent to do just that.
Among Scott’s most troubling assertions was an idea he floated about giving school vouchers to practically any student that wanted one. No governor has ever publicly contemplated such widespread use of vouchers and such a move would be a change to the very foundation of how we view and deliver public education.
As with any political movement, I tend to look at who is pushing it, how it fits into their core ideology and what stands to be gained. In this spirit, the most troubling part about vouchers is that they seem to be most strongly favored by those who do not really believe in government funding of education in the first place. That’s not to say that all supporters of such programs wish to abolish public education. Nonetheless, I still think that it is instructive to examine why those who do wish public education to suffer such a fate view vouchers as a vehicle toward that end.

Pell Grant Program Faces $5.7 Billion Gap

Mary Pilon:

Add this to Congress’s year-end to-do list: Dealing with a potential $5.7 billion gap in grants for low-income students.
Federal Pell grants are a form of need-based aid typically given to low-income students. As part of student loan legislation passed in March, the amount of money that students can receive from a Pell grant maxes out at $5,550 for the 2010-2011 school year, and was scheduled to be the same amount for 2011-2012.
There’s usually little political wrangling around funding for the Pell grant, but this year, lawmakers underestimated the surge in students going to college — and their financial need — helping to create the gap. Congress would need to authorize the additional billions to fully fund the program for all students who qualify for the aid. They’ve done so in the past, but the gap hasn’t ever been this large and comes in the midst of a tense political climate.
“When need-based aid like Pell grants doesn’t increase,” says Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of FinAid.org, “the gap between low income students and everyone else increases faster. It has a big impact.”

ACLU Wisconsin Opposed to Single Sex Charter School (Proposed IB Madison Preparatory Academy)

Chris Ahmuty 220K PDF:

Superintendent Daniel Nerad School Board President Maya Cole School Board Members Ed Hughes, James Howard, Lucy Matthiak,
Beth Moss, Marjorie Passman & Arlene Silveira, and
Student Representative Wyeth Jackson
Madison Metropolitan School District
545 W Dayton St
Madison WI 53703-1967
RE: Opposition to Single Sex Charter School
Dear Superintendent Nerad, President Cole, and School Board Members:
We are writing on behalf of the ACLU of Wisconsin to oppose the proposal for an all-male charter school in Madison. Single sex education is inadvisable as a policy matter, and it also raises significant legal concerns.
The performance problems for children of color in Madison public schools cross gender lines: it is not only African-American and Latino boys who are being failed by the system. Many students of color and low income students – girls as well as boys – are losing out. Further, there is no proof that separating girls from boys results in better-educated children. What’s more, perpetuating gender stereotypes can do nothing more than short-change our children, limiting options for boys and girls alike. For these reasons, the ACLU of Wisconsin opposes the effort to open a single-sex, publicly-funded charter school in Madison.
To be clear: the ACLU does not oppose the idea of providing a public charter school with a rigorous academic program and supplemental resources as an alternative to existing school programs in the Madison district. And we strongly encourage efforts to ensure that programming is available to children in underserved communities. Were this an effort to provide an International Baccalaureate program to both boys and girls in Madison – such as the highly- rated, coeducational Rufus King High School in Milwaukee, whose students are predominantly low-income children of color – we would likely be applauding it.

Clusty Search: Chris Ahmuty.
Much more on the proposed IB Charter School Madison Preparatory Academy, here.

$500,000 Earmark for the Madison School District via Senator Herb Kohl

US Senate 700K .XLS file:

The end-of-the-year Omnibus Appropriations bill includes approximately $8.3 billion and 6,714 earmarks.
Click here for a working database of all the earmarks included in the Omnibus Appropriations bill. It’s important to note that the database only refers to disclosed earmarks, not the billions in undisclosed earmarks.

The Madison School District $500,000 earmark is in row 4380 of the .xls file. The description: Madison Metropolitan School District, Madison, WI, for educational programming and Elementary & Secondary Education (includes FIE) via the US Department of Education. Senator Kohl also supports a $20,000,000 Teach for America earmark (row 5497).
I wonder what the $500,000 earmark, if it is realized, will be used for and how it ended up in the $1,100,000,000,000 spending bill?
Clusty search: earmark.
Update: Senator Kohl’s office provided this link and description:

Recipient: Madison Metropolitan School District
Location: Madison
Amount Requested: $500,000
The AVID (Advancement via Individual Determination) [SIS Links] program supports high school students who complete a college preparatory path and enroll in college. The program uses “small learning communities” and a rigorous curriculum to prepare students for college. The program places particular priority on serving students in the “academic middle,” who are capable of success in college with some additional supports. AVID currently serves 240 students and will use this federal funding to expand access to the program to 800 students in all four Madison Metropolitan School District high schools.

Reaching out to gifted students

Kelly Smith, Star Tribune
More Minnesota schools are turning to specialized programs to better address the needs of a small but struggling set of students — the highly gifted — and to bring new kids in their doors.
Eleven-year-old Benjamin Ogilvie reads a biology textbook for fun. But it wasn’t long ago that he found school boring. “It just wasn’t challenging,” said the fast-talking fifth-grader. “If you can imagine a third-grader in a first-grade classroom, that’s what it was like.” That’s why his Minnetonka school and others across Minnesota are focusing more on a unique group of struggling students: the highly gifted.
Despite shrinking budgets, a dozen Minnesota schools in the past eight years have started specialized programs for highly gifted elementary students who are often in the top 1 or 2 percentile for achievement. The state designated funding for gifted education for the first time in 2005. And just this year, the state launched an informal network to support these programs.
“It’s really about the realization that one size doesn’t fit all and for a highly gifted student, a specialized environment is the best,” said Wendy Behrens, the state’s gifted and talented education specialist. “We have made some amazing progress in our state.” Increasingly tight school budgets may have actually spurred an increase in programs as districts fight harder than ever to attract and retain students — and the state aid that comes with them.

Continue reading Reaching out to gifted students

Cutting the Houston School District Budget

Ericka Mellon:

ouston ISD employees have lots of ideas for trimming the district’s $1.6 billion budget, including requiring employees to share rooms when traveling, making school administrators teach one course per semester, eliminating extra pay for master’s degrees and moving to a four-day work week.
The district has been soliciting cost-cutting ideas from employees in anticipation of the state Legislature making deep cuts to public education funding over the next two years. Just how deep? That’s the billion-dollar question.
HISD’s chief financial officer, Melinda Garrett, said the state budget shortfall is expected to be between $11 billion and $25 billion, but no one will know for sure until Texas Comptroller Susan Combs releases revenue numbers. That’s expected to happen in January.

Report: Strong link between test scores and teachers

Lisa Gartner:

A new report from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation says students’ gains in test scores is one of the strongest predictors of teacher effectiveness, apparently validating D.C.’s controversial teacher evaluation tool and drawing fire from union critics.
The preliminary findings of the Measures of Effective Teaching Project say that teachers’ past ability to raise student performance on state exams is one of the biggest predictors that the teacher would continue to oversee big test gains, and is “among the strongest predictors of his or her students’ achievement growth in other classes and academic years.”
Teachers with these high “value-added scores” — named for increasing a student’s achievement level
— were also more likely to increase students’ grasp of math concepts and reading comprehension through writing practices.

Report: Only 1 percent of ‘bad’ schools turn around

Amanda Paulson:

A lot of attention is being given to the idea of school “turnarounds” lately – the concept of taking a poorly performing school and drastically changing the staff, curricula, or other elements in an effort to make it much better.
But a study out Tuesday underlines just how hard it is to actually turn around a failing school.
The study, “Are Bad Schools Immortal?,” examined more than 2,000 of the worst-performing district and charter schools in 10 states over five years. It found that very few of them closed, and even fewer – about 1 percent – truly “turned around.”

‘Outsiders’ who teach in Seattle fly under the radar to find success with kids

Craig Parsley

One teacher learned in the Peace Corps how to sidestep bureaucrats to get things done, and he says educators with the most unconventional career tracks often make the best innovators.
Thirty years ago I was a Peace Corps volunteer drilling water wells in Liberia, West Africa. It was rough, dirty, sweaty work fraught with all the hazards and obstacles associated with operating dangerous machines in jungle environments. My overseers were generally low-level operatives working for USAID (and the CIA) or corrupt local politicians looking to maximize their status (or fill their pockets) through the successes of others.
As a young idealist, the Peace Corps taught me much about the strategies necessary to navigate past government bureaucrats to get a job done. My job was saving children’s lives from the multitude of waterborne diseases prevalent in Africa.

New No. 2 at New York City Schools Believes in More Testing

Fernando Santos

He stood out at Community High School in Ann Arbor, Mich., an experimental school light on structure that was mockingly called “Commie High,” and at Brown, the Ivy League university known for giving students free rein, and where one of his inspirations was an education dean who espoused flexibility in teaching.
Today, Shael Polakow-Suransky is the chief accountability officer of the New York City Department of Education, a job that is as institutional as they come. He traffics in hard numbers, overseeing a system that assigns grades to schools based on complex and fixed formulas, in which success depends largely on how students score on a single test.

The Magical Populism of Michelle Rhee

Jose Vilson:

Black Friday set off the sale of trinkets, capes, and magic wands, and Michelle Rhee bought a few of the latter. Before Thanksgiving, I would have pegged her for a neoliberal overbearing contessa. After the edu-world lauded Washington, DC’s unseating of Mayor Adrian Fenty, and in turn Ms. Rhee, even those who didn’t follow education news the way DC residents and interested thought leaders did got a glance at the former chancellor for what she really was. After essentially negotiating away DC teachers’ due process or equity in their latest ratified contract, we knew she’d still find a job to do. Little did I know it’d be as the 21st century Mr. Mistoffelees.
How she’s been promoted as a students first education reform is definitely a work of prestidigitation and legerdemain. She’ll defy examination and deceive you again.

Colorado School district rankings point out strengths, weaknesses

Carol McGraw:

Three area school districts were among only 14 statewide that received the highest marks under the Colorado Department of Education’s new accreditation system, which places emphasis on academic growth and preparing students for college and careers.
The districts, Cheyenne Mountain School District 12, Academy School District 20 and Lewis-Palmer School District 38, were deemed “accredited with distinction.”
Nine other districts in the Pikes Peak region, including and Falcon School District 49 and Woodland Park RE-2, received the second highest ranking of “accredited.” Five area districts received the mid-level “accredited with improvement plan” designation: Colorado Springs School District 11, Fountain-Fort Carson School District 8, Widefield School District 3, Harrison School District 2 and Cripple Creek-Victor School District RE-1.

Hyman’s Anecdotal Healings: Now The Autism

Kim Wombles:

Mark Hyman loves the case study; when one of his posts at Huffington Post deals with an almost magical healing he’s engendered, well, chances are, there’s gonna be a kid involved. This time up, it’s Hyman curing autism cuz he’s teh man.
Let’s look at his first paragraph: “Imagine being the parent of a young child who is not acting normally and being told by your doctor that your child has autism, that there is no known cause, and there is no known treatment except, perhaps, some behavioral therapy.”
Fortunately, I don’t have to imagine this scenario; I can and do speak from experience. The whole assessment thing for Bobby was hell on wheels from 1994 when we first began the process through 1998 when we got a thorough assessment. We were never told there were no known causes. Even in the mid 90s there were known causes and tests to run, like Fragile X, so that right there is BS on Hyman’s part. We were also, despite the crap we were told, never told there was no known treatment. Speech, OT, PT and therapy were begun in 1994, even as we went through a string of inaccurate diagnoses.

Raising school achievement isn’t enough – D.C. principals must also keep order

Jay Matthews

Dunbar High School Principal Stephen Jackson was fired at the end of the last school year by the private management group in charge of the school but put back in the job last week by interim D.C. Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson at the urging of parents, community leaders and teachers. Jackson seemed an unusually lively and energetic educator when I met him at the long-troubled Northwest Washington school a year ago. He may be the person who can finally straighten Dunbar out.
But the odds are against him because of the ingrown nature of the school’s problems and the dispiriting message Henderson’s decision sends to him and any other school leader she assigns to a low-performing school after this.

The Achievement Recession

Tom Vander Ark

Given middle of the pack reading levels on PISA results, the National Journal asked the rediculous question, “what’s so awful about being average?” They seem to ignore that US math and science results are much worse and lag most of the developed world. As dumb as the prompt was, it got a few of us to write a response. Here’s mine.

Twenty years of prompting, investing, threatening and reforming have largely failed to dramatically improve education in American. There are pockets of excellence, but results from American schools are flatlined. While unions and school boards argue about contract minutes, the rest of the developed world passed us by in achievement, high school graduation and college completion rates.

Money Matters

Andy Rotherham:

Last week’s TIME column about the prospects for school spending occasioned some interesting responses. A common one, though, was the idea that the public is just clamoring to spend more on schools. You hear this a lot. Unfortunately, there are three problems with this argument:

Structural: The money just isn’t there (and annual increases are largely spoken for). The current trajectory of spending is simply not sustainable unless we’re prepared to made radical changes in policies, for example, affecting health care, senior citizens, or prisons. Whether or not we should make those changes is debatable. In many states all senior citizens get a break on property taxes, which are a key revenue source for schools. As the population ages this will ripple through public education budgets. Should these measures be means-tested for ability to pay? Perhaps. Given how politics works are they likely to be? Doubtful. Likewise, our correctional policies are a mess but most politicians are not lining up to fix them. So sure, today’s fiscal choices are just that, choices, but the implications of those decisions and prospects for change must be considered with an eye toward political and other realities realities. A second, related, structural constraint is how little discretionary money there is annually because of how much is tacked down for ongoing obligations. In practice this means that there are annual increases (excepting the last few years where in some places you’ve seen genuine reductions), which consume new money.

Shanghai PISA scores

Steve Hsu:

The Shanghai math (+1 SD) and science (+.75 SD) scores are almost a full SD above the OECD average of 500 (SD = 100). The top 10 percent of Shanghai math students are all above the 99th percentile for the US. See earlier post for links to Rindermann’s work relating school achievement tests like TIMSS and PISA to national IQ estimates, and see here for earlier SD estimates using 2006 PISA data. (Finland has an anomalously low SD in the earlier data. A quick look at the 2009 data shows the following math SDs: Finland 82, USA 91, Korea 89, Japan 94, Germany 98, Shanghai 103, Singapore 104.)

Although Shanghai and Beijing are the richest cities in China, incomes are still quite low compared to the US. Average income in Shanghai is about $10k USD per annum, even PPP adjusted this is about $20k. People live very modestly by the standards of developed countries.

As noted in the comments, there are other places in China that score *higher* than Shanghai on college entrance exams or in math and science competitions. So while Shanghai is probably above the average in China, it isn’t as exceptional as is perhaps implied in the Times article.

Taiwan has been moving to an American-style, less test-centric, educational system in the last decade. Educators and government officials (according to local media reports in the last 12 hours) are very concerned about the “low scores” achieved in the most recent PISA 🙂

To see how individual states or ethnicities in the US score on PISA, see here and here.

NYTimes: … PISA scores are on a scale, with 500 as the average. Two-thirds of students in participating countries score between 400 and 600. On the math test last year, students in Shanghai scored 600, in Singapore 562, in Germany 513, and in the United States 487.

In reading, Shanghai students scored 556, ahead of second-place Korea with 539. The United States scored 500 and came in 17th, putting it on par with students in the Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, Germany, France, the United Kingdom and several other countries.

In science, Shanghai students scored 575. In second place was Finland, where the average score was 554. The United States scored 502 — in 23rd place — with a performance indistinguishable from Poland, Ireland, Norway, France and several other countries.

The testing in Shanghai was carried out by an international contractor, working with Chinese authorities, and overseen by the Australian Council for Educational Research, a nonprofit testing group, said Andreas Schleicher, who directs the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s international educational testing program.

Mark Schneider, a commissioner of the Department of Education’s research arm in the George W. Bush administration, who returned from an educational research visit to China on Friday, said he had been skeptical about some PISA results in the past. But Mr. Schneider said he considered the accuracy of these results to be unassailable.

Education fills big space on Brown’s chalkboard

Seema Mehta:

As the governor-elect prepares to take office, California’s schools are confronted by a lack of funding that threatens to further harm pupils and a controversial reform movement that could dramatically reshape how classrooms are run.
As Gov.-elect Jerry Brown prepares to take office, major headwinds are buffeting the biggest component of his upcoming budget: California’s schools. They are being confronted by a lack of funding that threatens to further harm pupils and a controversial reform movement that could dramatically reshape how classrooms are run.
Most immediate and pressing is the state’s fiscal crisis — a $28-billion gap is forecast for the next 18 months. How that will affect school districts already reeling from years of multibillion-dollar cuts will be the subject of Brown’s second budget forum, which is scheduled for Tuesday in Los Angeles.
“Jerry Brown is entering office at a moment when the capacity of the system is weaker than any time in recent memory,” said John Rogers, director of the Institute for Democracy, Education and Access at UCLA. “I worry we may be reaching a breaking point.”

Confronting the Myths About Tenure and Teachers’ Unions

Ellen Dannin

Current American education policy is built on these assumptions: The quality of American education has plummeted because our schools are filled with teachers who can’t teach. Teachers’ unions and contracts tie the hands of school administrators. And teachers’ unions protect bad teachers. Here are a few reasons why these conclusions are leading our educational system in a bad direction.
First, these policies ignore the effects of poverty on educational outcomes. Given the increasing number of children growing up in poverty, we ignore its effects at our peril.
I know something about poverty and its effects because I grew up in an impoverished, single-parent home and attended a low-quality school through eighth grade. Despite those beginnings, I graduated from one of the top US law schools and am now a law professor. If I could make it, then poverty must not matter, right?

St. Andrew’s School Blazing iPad Tablet Trail in the U.S.

Eric Lai:

I only know of two K-12 schools that have come close to doing full 1-1 rollouts of iPads to their students. One is the Cedars School of Excellence outside of Glasgow, Scotland, whose 105-student deployment has captured most of the publicity due to the eloquence of its head of IT, Fraser Speirs. The one that gets less publicity is actually much more ambitious in many ways.
Saint Andrews School is a private school in Savannah, Georgia. It has deployed a total of 480 iPads to students, including one to all 440 students in the grades 1-12, and classroom sets for kindergarten and pre-kindergarten (so technically not 1:1, but pretty close).

Everett School District ‘Outside review’ was hardly independent

Jessica Olson:

The Everett School District recently invited a “Management and Operations Review” by an outside organization. The entity that performed the assessment, WASA, is the Washington Association of School Administrators. It is an organization of, by and for school administrators; an organization to which all higher level administrators in Everett (including Everett Superintendent Gary Cohn) belong and pay dues.
Having this organization assess the source of their income and calling it objective is akin to hiring the teachers’ union to review the effectiveness of teachers for the district, or hiring a textbook publishing company to rate the effectiveness of the district’s curricula. While this arrangement struck one board member as preposterous, four members of the board felt it made perfect sense.

NEA’s Independent Teaching Commission Not So Independent

Mike Antonucci

At the union’s convention last July in New Orleans, NEA President Dennis Van Roekel announced the creation of a Commission on Effective Teachers and Teaching, which would study teacher effectiveness and report its findings to the delegates of the 2011 convention.
“Let’s demand to be the ones in charge,” Van Roekel said, adding, “Imagine going beyond ‘being at the table’ to running the meeting.”
He asked, rhetorically, “What would the profession look like if we – the union of practitioners – actually controlled teacher training, induction and licensure, evaluation and professional development?”
Today, NEA announced the 21 members of that commission, and while the press release described them as “diverse” and “independent,” they seem committed to Van Roekel’s goals – union control of teacher training, induction, licensure, evaluation and professional development.

Rash of upcoming superintendent retirements raises questions on Gov. Christie’s pay cap

Jessica Calefati:

Leonia School District Superintendent Bernard Josefsberg determines spending plans and decides when schools are closed for snow. He translates complex education jargon for parents and visits classrooms to read with elementary students, many of whom he knows by name in a district of about 1,800 students.
In June, Josefsberg is retiring, in part because of a pay cap imposed by Gov. Chris Christie that is set to take effect in February after the current required period of public comment ends.
The cap links a superintendent’s salary to the size of a district, limiting pay for the largest school systems to a maximum $175,000, the governor’s salary.

Hero Teacher Kept Kids Calm During School Siege in France

Mara Gay:

A French nursery school teacher who kept kids calm while a sword-wielding teenager took their classroom hostage is being hailed as a hero today.
French authorities say Nathalie Roffet kept the 17-year-old hostage-taker talking for hours so he didn’t threaten the children and reasoned with him to secure their release from the school in Besancon, a small city near the Swiss border.
Roffet, who has been teaching at the Charles-Fourier school for five years, showed “remarkable sangfroid,” Besancon Mayor Jean-Louis Fousseret told reporters today, according to The Telegraph. The four-hour standoff ended this morning when the teen released the final six children and the teacher. Then, GIGN, an elite French police force, stormed the building, shot him with a stun gun and arrested him.

Rahm Emanuel Announces Education Plans, Gery Chico Responds

Fox Chicago News

In the race to replace Mayor Daley, Rahm Emanuel would like voters to be thinking about something other than those challenges to his residency, and he’s talking about schools.
Sunday, he unveiled his plans for improving education in Chicago, includind giving principals more power over their individual schools, doubling the number of teacher training academies and getting parents more involved.
Emanuel wants parents to sign a contract with their child’s teacher pledging to encourage learning at home.
“Our teachers simply cannot succeed without parents as partners. While government must do its part, it’s no substitute for a committed parent,” Emanuel said.
Monday, it’s back to the residency challenge, when Emanuel and other witnesses will be called to testify at a Board of Elections hearing.

Proposed Single sex charter school (Madison Prep) funding doesn’t add up

Susan Troller:

There’s been plenty of buzz — much of it positive — surrounding a proposed single sex charter school aimed at improving the academic performance of Madison minority students. Yet a closer look at the financing projections for the Madison Preparatory Academy, starting with the $300,000 the proposal notes is coming from the Madison Community Foundation, raises some questions,
“I have no idea where they got that figure,” says Kathleen Woit, president of the foundation, when asked about the funding. “No, we have not committed to that. We’ll have to get this straightened out.”
The preliminary proposal, presented to the Madison School Board’s Planning and Development Committee Dec. 6, also notes that $1.35 million would be available in six grants of $225,000 through the state Department of Public Instruction’s charter school federal start-up fund. That’s more than twice what is allowable for a school of Madison Prep’s size, and suggests the school would be receiving both implementation and planning grants in two of the four years the school is eligible for start-up money.
“It looks like they are double counting,” says Robert Soldner, director of School Management Services for the Department of Public Instruction. Soldner says that DPI typically helps charters get up and running with several years of funding, starting with a planning grant the first year, an implementation grant the second year and extensions of the implementation grants possible in the next couple of years of operation. Charter schools are not eligible for planning and implementation grants at the same time.

Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy, here.

Oakland’s middle school “brain drain”

Katy Murphy:

The Chronicle had an interesting story in yesterday’s paper (print-only until Tuesday) about the brain drain in the Oakland school district after the fifth grade.
According to this analysis by the Oakland school district, 28 percent of all fifth-graders — and 40 percent of those who scored “advanced” on this year’s reading test — dispersed to non-OUSD middle schools this year.
At Lincoln Elementary School in Chinatown, the city’s first public, non-charter school to win a National Blue Ribbon Award from the U.S. Department of Education, a staggering 77 percent of last year’s fifth-graders left the district, up from 57 percent a few years ago.
Superintendent Tony Smith told Chronicle reporter Jill Tucker, whose son goes to Peralta Elementary in Rockridge (a school with the fifth-highest “leaving rate” in OUSD – 44 percent), that the loss of top students was one explanation for the drop-off in district test scores at the middle and high school level.

Private school finds answers in Singapore method

Jason Wermers:

Educators at a small private Christian school in Olde Town Augusta are seeing results with a math curriculum imported from halfway around the world.
For the past three years, Heritage Academy has used Singapore Math as its basal math curriculum for kindergarten through sixth grade.
In the first year the school adopted Singapore Math, all of its kindergarten and first-grade pupils met or exceeded proficiency standards on the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills, as did 80 percent of second-graders.
Why use math from Singapore?

Related: Math Forum Audio/Video.

Middleton Cross Plains Professional Development Plan

Middleton Cross Plains School District 60K PDF, via a kind reader:

In a more concerted effort to enhance the manner in which our students are taught to become contributing members of a global society, we would like our schools to emphasize:

  • The interconnectedness of the world’s cultures, politics, and economics.
  • Recognizing, analyzing, and evaluating trends in global relationships.
  • Creative problem solving, critical thinking, and innovative thought processes.
  • Understanding issues from cultural perspectives other than our own.
  • Encouraging study and travel abroad.
  • Technical competence and the critical impact that technology has had in our world.
  • Technological innovation that can expand curriculum, opportunity, and our students’ world view.
  • Outreach to the community for resources and expertise to further global awareness.
  • The role of world languages in preparing students for an international environment. Consideration of Chinese as a new curricular offering.

It is our hope that all students are touched by this initiative, in all courses and at all levels of our curriculum. We appreciate any innovation that can be brought to our students to achieve this goal.