UW-Madison’s Average Family Income is $90,000?

Dr. Sara Goldrick-Rab:

Based on the tweets from today’s student conversation with Chancellor Martin, there’s a big myth running around campus:
No, the average family income of UW-Madison students isn’t $90,000.
That number came from reports like these that were discontinued back in 2008. Why were they discontinued? Because the data they are based on is a train wreck. The information comes from students’ self-reporting of their parents’ income when they were in high school (reporting is done on the ACT questionnaire) and according to UW-Madison’s office of academic planning and analysis 30% of UW-Madison students left the question blank (and that percent has been rising over time).
Is it a high estimate? A low one? Well, what we know is that a study done by two La Follette professors using Census blocks to estimate income (better than student self-report most likely) finds that family income at UW-Madison for Wisconsin residents isn’t very out-of-whack with Wisconsin family incomes as a whole. For example, families of Wisconsin applicants to Madison have incomes that are 1.2 to 1.3% higher than the state average.

Ohio Districts best able to afford local taxes face biggest cuts

Jim Siegel:

As legislators look for ways to take some of the sting out of Gov. John Kasich’s school-funding plan, a Dispatch analysis finds that the districts that would feel the deepest cuts are generally those where taxpayers are making the least effort to fund their schools.
Using Department of Education data that attempt to measure how much taxpayers give to their schools compared with their ability to pay, the computer analysis suggests that, on average, districts facing the biggest percentage cuts are also those where residents could most afford to pay more in local taxes.
Kasich’s school-funding plan, which would cut $852million from schools over two years, leaves no district unscathed. But it is designed to protect poorer districts that rely more heavily on state funding to run their schools.

Seattle Schools Students Steal Teacher Passwords, Alter Grades

Riya Bhattacharjee:

We just received a tip that Seattle Public School students are using high-tech to steal teacher passwords, hack systems, and alter grades. I am waiting for SPS to confirm this.
According to an email sent by the district’s Chief Informational Officer Jim Ratchford at 11:15 a.m. today to SPS employees, including Interim Superintendent Susan Enfield, Department of Technology Services has determined that network log-in credentials “are being stolen and used to inappropriately access district systems.”
The email, whose subject line reads “Unauthorized Access Warning,” says that the incident “appears to have been going on for the last few weeks, possibly longer.” “At this point, we are aware of this happening at these schools: Ballard, Ingraham, and Sealth. However, all schools and teachers are at risk,” Ratchford says in his email.

Two-thirds of Madison teachers joined protests, district says

Matthew DeFour:

Two-thirds of Madison teachers participated in at least one day of a coordinated four-day absence in February to protest Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal to curb collective bargaining, according to information released by the school district Friday.
According to the district, 1,769 out of 2,655 teachers took time off during the four days without a legitimate excuse. The records also show 84 teachers submitted fraudulent sick notes; 38 received suspensions for failing to rescind the notes by April 15, a deadline set by the district.
The exact number of teachers who caused school to shut down on Feb. 16-18 and 21 was unknown until now. The numbers “validate our decision to close our schools,” Superintendent Dan Nerad said in a statement.
“We realize the challenges that our students’ families experienced as a result of these school closings,” Nerad said. “So we appreciate that we have been able to return since then to normal school schedules and that students have returned to advancing their learning through the work of our excellent staff members.”
Madison Teachers Inc. Executive Director John Matthews acknowledged Feb. 15 that the union was encouraging members to call in sick to attend protests at the Capitol. It was the union’s first coordinated work stoppage since 1,900 out of 2,300 teachers called in sick to protest contract negotiations in September 1997.
On Friday, Matthews emphasized that teachers accepted the consequences of their actions by agreeing to docked pay for the days missed. He called the suspension letters “a badge of honor for standing up for workplace justice.”

Gates to help schools adopt common core standards

Associated Press:

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced Wednesday it would be investing $20 million to bring new national education standards into the classroom using game-based learning, social-networking and other approaches to capture the imagination of bored or unmotivated students.
The Seattle-based foundation is partnering with the nonprofit arm of one of the largest textbook publishers in the United States to create the new learning tools and offer some of the materials for teachers and school districts to use for free. It is also working with education game developers and an online public school in Florida for this project.
Judy Codding, the Pearson Foundation executive leading the course development team, said during a news conference that her organization already planned to be involved in developing new ways to help teachers adopt the new national education standards that will replace local learning goals in more than 40 states.
The partnership with the Gates Foundation offers the philanthropic side of the textbook company the money it needs to really innovate and try out new ideas that catch kids’ attention, said Codding, former president and CEO of America’s Choice, an education reform company acquired last year by Pearson.

Teachers and the future

Rachel Ida Buff:

On Easter weekend, I went to a wedding in Michigan. The occasion featured a radiant young couple who are expecting their first child in June, amidst a loving community of family and friends. As it happened, many of the people assembled were teachers. And so, on this April weekend, with the countryside greening around us and signs of new life everywhere, I found myself engaged in many conversations about teachers and schooling.
I was struck by the optimism and ambition of many of these young people embarking on careers in education. With their talent and accomplishments, they could select careers that are much more financially rewarding than teaching. But instead, they have chosen the classroom as a site to try to make the world better. They see education as a place to help train young minds and create engaged communities.
One young man, a second-generation teacher, told me that he thinks he affects many more lives as a teacher than he did in his prior work as a student leader and activist. Teaching seventh- and eighth-graders on the south side of Chicago, he explained, forces him to keep learning with his students, to keep their interest and to motivate them.

High school physics teacher perfects the formula for inspiring students

Steve Chawkins:

It was lunch hour and hundreds of Dos Pueblos High School students surged onto the bleachers at the school’s outdoor Greek Theater. The crowd was cheering, the music was thumping and a student-built robot named Penguinbot IV was wheeling and pivoting, sucking up dozens of lightweight balls and shooting them at the young athletes who had ventured onstage.
From a console to one side, teenagers in black, NASA-style jumpsuits guided the 150-pound machine as it weaved and dodged. When the robot and star basketball player Jay Larinan began pelting each other, a girl in the stands screamed, “I believe in you, Jay!” The crowd went wild.
It was the kind of free-spirited scene that gladdens the heart of Amir Abo-Shaeer, the 39-year-old physics teacher who each year leads the school’s robotics team into a rigorous national competition that requires months of preparation and a season’s worth of intense face-offs.

New evidence that IQ is not set in stone

Ed Yong:

Ever since there have been IQ tests, people have debated what they actually measure. Is it “intelligence”, is it an abstract combination of mental abilities, or is it, as Edwin Boring said, “the capacity to do well in an intelligence test”? Regardless of the answer, studies have repeatedly shown that people who achieve higher scores in IQ tests are more likely to do well in school, perform well in their jobs, earn more money, avoid criminal convictions, and even live longer. Say what you like about the tests, but they have predictive power.
However, Angela Lee Duckworth from the University of Pennsylvania has found that this power is overrated. The link between our IQs and our fates becomes muddier when we consider motivation – an aspect of test-taking that is often ignored. Simply put, some people try harder in IQ tests than others. If you take this into account, the association between your IQ and your success in life becomes considerably weaker. The tests are not measuring intelligence alone, but also the desire to prove it.

Raymund Paredes: $10,000 Degrees “Entirely Feasible”

Reeve Hamilton:

At a board meeting of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board on Wednesday, Higher Education Commissioner Raymund Paredes said that $10,000 bachelor’s degrees — books included — as proposed by Gov. Rick Perry are “entirely feasible.”
He hopes to have concrete proposals and coursework in place to meet the challenge before the start of the next legislative session in 2013.
A repeated theme in the board’s discussion about the governor’s cost-cutting proposal was that they were not seeking to replace existing degrees or artificially push the costs of those down, but were rather seeking to provide alternative options for low-income students. “We’re not talking about every field,” Paredes said. “We’re not talking about every baccalaureate degree. We’re not talking about every student.”

Michigan Gov. Snyder targets teacher performance in sweeping plan

Paul Egan:

Gov. Rick Snyder said today he wants to retool Michigan’s school system so it demands and rewards performance in terms of student achievement.
He detailed changes to merit pay and the teacher tenure system; approval for more charter schools; a new state office devoted to early childhood education; tough anti-bullying measures; a greater emphasis on online education; and a more flexible system in which state funding would follow students wherever they go, rather than being assigned to a particular school district.
Further, the governor announced as many as 23 financially distressed school districts could be placed under emergency managers who have beefed-up powers to scrap collective bargaining agreements under controversial legislation he recently signed into law.
Snyder also expanded “Schools of Choice” plans and said residents of a local district will have the first opportunity to enroll there, but schools will no longer be able to refuse out-of-district students. And he called for consolidation and competitive bidding of school district business and administrative functions.

LAUSD to remove chocolate, strawberry milk from schools, superintendent says

Howard Blume:

Los Angeles schools will remove high-sugar chocolate- and strawberry-flavored milk from their lunch and breakfast menus after food activists campaigned for the change, L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy announced this week.
Deasy revealed his intent, which will require approval by the Los Angeles Unified Board of Education, during an appearance with celebrity chef Jamie Oliver on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” Tuesday night.
The policy change is part of a carefully negotiated happy ending between the Los Angeles Unified School District and Oliver. The chef’s confrontations with the school system became a main theme in the current season of the TV reality show “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution.”
The timing of the flavored-milk ban, which had been under consideration for some time, gave Oliver a positive outcome and allowed the nation’s second-largest school system to escape the villain’s role. Deasy quickly alerted the school board to the deal before going on television.

Catching signs of autism early: The 1-year well-baby check-up approach

Science Codex:

A novel strategy developed by autism researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, called “The One-Year Well-Baby Check Up Approach,” shows promise as a simple way for physicians to detect cases of Autism Syndrome Disorder (ASD), language or developmental delays in babies at an early age.
Led by Karen Pierce, PhD, assistant professor in the UC San Diego Department of Neurosciences, researchers at the UC San Diego Autism Center of Excellence (ACE) assembled a network of 137 pediatricians in the San Diego region and initiated a systematic screen program for all infants at their one-year check up. Their study will be published in the April 28 online edition of the Journal of Pediatrics.
“There is extensive evidence that early therapy can have a positive impact on the developing brain,” said Pierce. “The opportunity to diagnose and thus begin treatment for autism around a child’s first birthday has enormous potential to change outcomes for children affected with the disorder.”

“Transparency Central” National Review of Education Schools

The National Council on Teacher Qualty:

Higher education institutions, whether they are private or public, have an obligation to be transparent about the design and operations of their teacher preparation programs. After all, these institutions have all been publicly approved to prepare public school teachers.
Here at Transparency Central, you can keep track of whether colleges and universities are living up to their obligation to be open. Just click on a state to learn more about the transparency of individual institutions there.
NCTQ is asking institutions to provide documents that describe the fundamental aspects of their teacher preparation programs: the subject matter teachers are supposed to know, the real-world classroom practice they are supposed to get, the outcomes that they achieve once they enter the classroom. Taken together, the evidence we gathering will answer a key question: Are individual programs setting high expectations for what new teachers should know and be able to do for their students?
A number of institutions have let us know that they do not intend to cooperate with our review, some even before we formally asked them for documents. As a result, we have begun to make open records requests using state “sunshine” (or “freedom of information act”) laws.
We’ll be regularly updating our progress, so come back soon to learn more about our efforts to bring transparency to teacher prep.


72% Say Taxpayers Not Getting Their Money’s Worth from Public Schools

Rasmussen Reports, via a kind reader’s email:

Voters overwhelmingly believe that taxpayers are not getting a good return on what they spend on public education, and just one-in-three voters think spending more will make a difference.
Nationally, the United States spends an average of about $9,000 per student per year. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that only 11% of voters think the taxpayers are getting a good return on that investment. Seventy-two percent (72%) disagree and say taxpayers are not getting their money’s worth. Sixteen percent (16%) are undecided. (To see survey question wording, click here.)
Thirty-four percent (34%) voters believe student performance will improve if more money is spent on funding for schools and educations programs. A plurality (41%) disagrees and thinks that increased spending will not lead to improve student performance. Twenty-five percent (25%) aren’t sure.
The survey also found that voters tend to underestimate how much is spent on education. Thirty-nine percent (39%) say the average per student expenditure is less than $9,000 per year while only 12% think it’s higher than that. Nine percent (9%) estimate the right amount but a plurality of 40% is not sure. There is a wide range of expenditure on education depending upon the state and region.

Wisconsin School districts’ health plans cost more than businesses’ plans

Rick Rommell:

School districts in southeastern Wisconsin pay significantly more for health insurance than do private businesses – as much as 76% more – and their employees bear much less of the overall cost, an analysis released Wednesday shows.
The relatively small contribution teachers in general make to their insurance coverage drew considerable attention during the superheated debate over Gov. Scott Walker’s budget-repair bill and his bid to sharply limit collective bargaining by most government employees.
Less discussed has been the cost of the insurance plans, which significantly outweigh those offered by private-sector employers, according to an analysis by HCTrends, which describes itself as “a market-oriented forum” on health care issues.
For single coverage, southeastern Wisconsin school districts paid 76% more than private businesses in 2009-’10, according to HCTrends.

MacIver Institute:

School districts in southeastern Wisconsin are paying twice as much for health insurance as private sector companies in Milwaukee, according to a new study by HCTrends. That’s just the beginning of what the group found in its study of school district health insurance expenses in 2010.
“Health plan costs for the region’s teachers are 63 percent higher, on average, than the plans offered at private-sector companies with some union representation, and 80 percent higher than the average single-coverage cost for all private-sector plans,” according to the study.
“This combination of above-average plan costs and below-average employee contributions significantly increases the school district’s health care costs. While the average teachers’ plan costs 80 percent more than the average private-sector plan, the per-employee cost borne by the school district is twice as much as the cost borne by the average employer.”

Report calls for reform of Ph.D.s

Elizabeth Weise
Gannett :

The system of awarding science Ph.D.s needs to be reformed or shut down, given the tough competition for limited jobs in academia, a provocative series of pieces in one of the world’s pre-eminent scientific journals said this week.
According to the multipart series in the journal Nature, the world is awash in Ph.D.s, most of them being awarded to scholars who will never find work in academia, the traditional goal of those holding a doctorate.
“In some countries, including the United States and Japan, people who have trained at great length and expense to be researchers confront a dwindling number of academic jobs and an industrial sector unable to take up the slack,” the cover article said.
Of people who received Ph.D.s in the biological sciences five to six years ago, 13 percent have tenure-track positions leading to a professorship, said Paula Stephan, who studies the economics of science at Georgia State University in Atlanta. For the rest, 10 percent work part time or not at all; 33 percent are in academic positions that don’t lead to a professorship; 22 percent are in industry; and 20 percent are at community colleges or in government or non-profit jobs, she said.

Out Front in the Fight on Fat

Betsy McKay:

How Portland, Maine Took a Stand Against Childhood Obesity. It Spent $3.7 Million to Rally Schools and Other Sites in the State. More Families Adopted 5-2-1-0 a Day: At Least 5 Servings of Fruits and Vegetables , 2 Hours or Less of Screen Time, at Least 1 Hour of Exercise, and 0 Sugary Drinks. After All That, the Childhood Overweight-and-Obesity Rate for Southern Maine Dipped 1.5 Percentage Points to 31.3%.
At first, it seems obvious: Recess and fruit keep kids trimmer and healthier than videogames and cookies. But there isn’t much that’s obvious about moving the needle on childhood obesity rates in the U.S.
Nine year-old Ayub Mohamud was gaining weight rapidly when he went to see his doctor at a pediatric clinic here in September. At home, Ayub and his four siblings snacked regularly on candy, chips and soda; a younger brother also was overweight. Ayub ate two breakfasts, one at home and one at school, and got little exercise during the long Maine winters. He had a dark skin coloring on the back of his neck called “acanthosis nigricans,” which can be a sign of being prediabetic.
By the end of January, after implementing some of Portland’s 5-2-1-0 principles, Ayub had lost three pounds. His mother stopped buying a lot of candy, soda, and chips, and Ayub started eating carrots and broccoli. He and his 7-year-old brother were competing to do push-ups and sit-ups or try new foods. “I like it,” Ayub says of his healthier new life.

Philadelphia Deputy superintendent attended King High School private meeting

.com/philly/news/120557249.html”>Martha Woodall:

hiladelphia Deputy School Superintendent Leroy Nunery has found himself involved in a power struggle over control of Martin Luther King High School.
Nunery was at the closed-door meeting of State Rep. Dwight Evans, School Reform Commission Chairman Robert L. Archie Jr., and an official from Mosaica Turnaround Partners that prompted the Atlanta company to drop its plans to convert King into a charter school.
District spokeswoman Jamilah Fraser on Saturday confirmed information The Inquirer had obtained from sources inside and outside the district that Nunery was the unidentified “district representative” mentioned in a statement about the meeting March 16. The session took place right after the SRC voted, 3-0, to select Mosaica to run King in the fall.
The next day, Mosaica backed out of its plans to run the East Germantown school.
Nunery, Fraser said, did not speak at the private meeting and had no advance notice of it.

Foundations Join to Offer Online Courses for Schools

Sam Dillon:

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the world’s largest philanthropy, and the foundation associated with Pearson, the giant textbook and school technology company, announced a partnership on Wednesday to create online reading and math courses aligned with the new academic standards that some 40 states have adopted in recent months.
The 24 new courses will use video, interactive software, games, social media and other digital materials to present math lessons for kindergarten through 10th grade and English lessons for kindergarten through 12th grade, Pearson and Gates officials said.
Widespread adoption of the new standards, known as the common core, has provoked a race among textbook publishers to revise their current classroom offerings so they align with the standards, and to produce new materials. The Gates-Pearson initiative appears to be the most ambitious such effort so far.

The Whiff of Plagiarism Again Hits German Elite

Christopher Schuetze:

Weeks after Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, Germany’s defense minister, was forced to resign in a plagiarism scandal, three German universities say they are investigating similar complaints about the academic work of three figures from the country’s political sphere.
The theses of all three have been posted for public scrutiny on VroniPlag , a site run by the same people who posted the Guttenberg work online.
Two of the three — Silvana Koch-Mehrin, a member of the European Parliament; and Veronica Sass, a daughter of former state leader — have declined to comment on the accusations that their theses are suspect. The third, Matthias Pröfrock, a new state lawmaker, conceded that he might have committed unintentional errors and has called on his university to recheck his thesis.

Don’t Discount Charter School Model

Fresh Air:

The best schools — whether they’re charter schools, public schools or private schools — are intentional about everything they do, says educational analyst Andrew Rotherham.
“They are intentional about who is in the building, who is teaching, how they use data, what’s happening for students, the support for students, the curriculum, how progress is assessed,” he says. “Everything is intentional and nothing is left to chance.”
On Thursday’s Fresh Air, Rotherham explains why he supports strategies that will redesign American public education with the help of charter schools, public sector choices and teacher accountability.
Rotherham is a partner at Bellwether Education, a nonprofit organization working to improve educational outcomes for low-income students. Bellwether advises grant-making organizations like The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, educational nonprofits and charter school networks on their operational and public policy issues.
Rotherham, who served in the Clinton administration as a special assistant of domestic policy, now spends his days thinking about how to make public and charter schools work for more kids. The public school system worked for him, he says, but only because he grew up in a nice suburb outside Washington, D.C.

Ravitch: Standardized Testing Undermines Teaching

Fresh Air:

Former Assistant Secretary of Education Diane Ravitch was once an early advocate of No Child Left Behind, school vouchers and charter schools.
In 2005, she wrote, “We should thank President George W. Bush and Congress for passing the No Child Left Behind Act. … All this attention and focus is paying off for younger students, who are reading and solving mathematics problems better than their parents’ generation.”
But four years later, Ravitch changed her mind.
“I came to the conclusion … that No Child Left Behind has turned into a timetable for the destruction of American public education,” she tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross. “I had never imagined that the test would someday be turned into a blunt instrument to close schools — or to say whether teachers are good teachers or not — because I always knew children’s test scores are far more complicated than the way they’re being received today.”

Many factors affect states’ ACT scores

Sunny Schubert:

The achievement gap between white and minority students has nothing to do with aptitude but correlates to socioeconomic factors such as poverty, racism and family structure. Still, it stands to reason that states with higher percentages of lower-performing students will perform lower in the aggregate than states with higher percentages of better performing students.
Results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress test are broken down for ethnicity. The scores show white students in Texas consistently score higher than white students in Wisconsin, and black and Hispanic students in Texas also outscore their Wisconsin counterparts.
As for the writer’s statement that Texas licenses mere four-year college graduates rather than school of education graduates, I say “good for Texas!” It’s ironic that the most engaging teachers at our colleges and universities, such as UW-Madison’s famous chemistry professor Bassam Shakhashiri, would not be allowed to teach in a Wisconsin public school because most have no degrees in education.

Don’t cry for teachers who choose early retirement

Chris Rickert:

One indication of how disingenuous the world of public education has become is the sympathy some of us apparently feel for veteran Madison teachers who feel compelled to retire early.
As this newspaper detailed Sunday, early retirements have spiked over concerns about what Gov. Scott Walker’s bid to curtail public sector collective bargaining rights will mean for teachers’ retirements.
It’s clear teachers beginning their careers today could be subjected to lots of things the private sector has had to endure for a long time (e.g., merit evaluations, higher health care costs). What puzzles me is what veteran teachers risk by working a few more years — especially given the love they express for the job.
Take, for example, teachers’ ability to parlay unused sick days into health insurance coverage or other benefits after they retire.
District spokesman Ken Syke said the district’s legal team has not produced an opinion on this. But teachers union president John Matthews was certain it was a benefit long-time teachers would retain.

Madison Schools Found Non-Compliant on Wisconsin DPI Talented & Gifted Complaint

Madison School District 450K PDF and the DPI Preliminary Audit, via a kind reader’s email:

I. Introduction A.Title/topic-Talented and Gifted Compliance
B. Presenter/contact person -Sue Abplanalp, Jennifer Allen, Pam Nash and Dylan Pauly
Background information- On March 24,2011, MMSD received DPI’s initial findings in the matter ofthe TAG complaint. DPI found MMSD to be noncompliant on all four counts. The Board has forty-five days from the date of receipt ofthe initial findings to petition the state superintendent for a public hearing. If the Board does not request such a hearing, the findings will become final. Once the findings are final, regardless of whether a hearing is held, if there is a finding of noncompliance, the state superintendent may develop with the Board a plan for compliance. The plan must contain a time line for achievement of compliance that cannot exceed ninety days. An extension of the time period may be requested if extenuating or mitigating circumstances exist.
II. Summary of Current Information:
Current Status: Currently, DPI has made an initial finding of noncompliance against MMSD. While the Board is entitled to request a public hearing on the issue of compliance, the administration does not recommend this course of action. Consequently, at this time, the administration is working toward the development ofa response to DPI’s findings, which will focus on remedial steps to insure compliance.
Proposal: Staff are working on a response to the preliminary findings which we will present to the Board when completed. It is the administration’s hope that this response will serve as the foundation to the compliance plan that will be developed once the DPI findings are final. The response will include input from the TAG Advisory Committee, the District’s TAG professionals — our Coordinator and staff. A meeting to begin work one the proposed response is currently scheduled for April28, 2011 from 4:00 p.m.-5:00pm. Subsequent meetings will follow.

Much more on the Wisconsin DPI Parent Talented & Gifted complaint.
Watch Monday evening’s Madison School Board discussion of the DPI Talented & Gifted complaint, here (starts at 128:37). and here.

Madison Schools: Alternative School Redesign (Hoyt, Whitehorse & Cherokee “Mental Health Hubs”) to Address Mental Health Concerns: Phase 1

80K PDF, via a kind reader’s email:

I. Introduction A. Title/topic -Alternative Redesign to Address Mental Health Concerns B. Presenter/contact person- Sue Abplanalp, John Harper, Pam Nash and Nancy Yoder
Background information -The Purpose of this Proposal: Research shows that half of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14.1 Scientists are discovering that changes in the body leading to mental illness may start much earlier, before any symptoms appear.
Helping young children and their parents manage difficulties early in life may prevent the development of disorders. Once mental illness develops, it becomes a regular part of a child’s behavior and more difficult to treat. Even though doctors know how to treat (though not yet cure) many disorders, a majority of children with mental illnesses are not getting treatment (National Institute of Mental Health).
II. Summary of Current Information: Success is defined as the achievement ofsomething desired and planned. As a steering committee, our desire and plan is to promote a strategic hub in three sites (Hoyt, Whitehorse and Cherokee) that connect, support and sustain students with mental health issues in a more inclusive environment with appropriate professionals, in order to maximize students’ success in middle school and help them achieve their aspirations in a setting that is appropriate for their needs. The new site will also offer mini clinics from a community provider
Current Status: Currently, there is one program housed at Hoyt that serves 28-30 students in self contained settings. There is currently a ratio of 1:4 with 4 staff and 4 special educational assistants assigned to the program. In addition, there is a Cluster Program housed at Sherman with 2 adults and 6-7 students in the program.
Proposal: This proposal leaves approximately half of the students and staff at the current Hoyt site (those students who pose more of a danger to self or others) and removes all of the students and staff from Sherman (no program at Sherman) to the new sites. Students will attend either Whitehorse or Cherokee Middle Schools with a program that provides ongoing professional help and is more inclusive as students will be assigned to homerooms and classes, with alternative settings in the school to support them when they need a more restrictive environment with support from a smaller student ratio and a psychologist or social worker that is assigned to the team.

This initiative was discussed during Monday evening’s Madison School Board meeting. Watch the discussion here (beginning at 180 minutes).

The Limits of School Reform

Joe Nocera:

I find myself haunted by a 13-year-old boy named Saquan Townsend. It’s been more than two weeks since he was featured in The New York Times Magazine, yet I can’t get him out of my mind.
The article, by Jonathan Mahler, was about the heroic efforts of Ramón González, the principal of M.S. 223, a public middle school in the South Bronx, to make his school a place where his young charges can get a decent education and thus, perhaps, a better life. Surprisingly, though, González is not aligned with the public school reform movement, even though one of the movement’s leading lights, Joel Klein, was until fairly recently his boss as the head of the New York City school system.
Instead, González comes across as a skeptic, wary of the enthusiasm for, as the article puts it, “all of the educational experimentation” that took place on Klein’s watch. At its core, the reform movement believes that great teachers and improved teaching methods are all that’s required to improve student performance, so that’s all the reformers focus on. But it takes a lot more than that. Which is where Saquan comes in. His part of the story represents difficult truths that the reform movement has yet to face squarely — and needs to.

Chicago Teacher’s Union Head Endorses Anti-Labor Bill: A Crisis for Teachers’ Union Reformers?

Lee Sustar:

Teachers’ union activists in Chicago are contending with their union president’s decision to back legislation that all but bans them from striking and makes major concessions to the corporate education “reform” agenda.
Reform groups that lead teachers unions are also having debates in Los Angeles, where the election for the union presidency was recently won by a challenger to the incumbent reform caucus, and in Washington, D.C., where a newly elected officers offered to take a pay freeze to save jobs.
But the biggest controversy is in Chicago, where Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) President Karen Lewis shocked members of the Caucus of Rank-and-File Educators (CORE), a reform group that was the backbone of her candidacy last year, by personally giving the union’s endorsement for sweeping legislation that, among other things, severely restricts teachers’ right to strike, undermines seniority protections for Illinois teachers outside Chicago, and increases the school day without a guaranteed increase in pay.
To make matters worse, Lewis, a founding member of CORE, failed to report that she had already signed off on the legislation when she spoke to union delegates in a videoconference April 13, the day after she agreed to the legislation.

Amazon to launch library service for Kindle

Barney Jopson and David Gelles:

Amazon will let users of its Kindle e-reader borrow electronic books from two-thirds of US libraries as it seeks to broaden the device’s appeal in the face of competition from Apple’s iPad and rival tablets.
The world’s largest online retailer said that from later this year, customers would be able to borrow e-books from libraries and read – and annotate – them on a Kindle or any other device to which users have downloaded a Kindle app.
Amazon’s move intensifies questions about the commercial threat the growing popularity of e-readers poses to traditional book publishers, which have acknowledged a concern that e-book lending might cannibalise sales of books. US public libraries have spent several years building up their e-book collections, which have been accessible to users of Barnes & Noble’s Nook and Sony’s Reader device. But until now they have not worked with the Kindle.

NY court upholds ruling in Connecticut school case

Associated Press:

Connecticut school officials cannot be held liable for their decision to discipline a student for an Internet posting she wrote off school grounds, a federal appeals court ruled Monday as it defended the leeway given school administrators who act reasonably when confronted with dilemmas that test the boundaries of what is Constitutionally protected.
The 2nd U.S. Court of Appeals in Manhattan sided with Burlington, Conn., school officials after they punished Avery Doninger by preventing her from serving as class secretary as a senior.
Doninger sued the administrators at Lewis B. Mills High School, saying her free speech and equal protection rights were violated after she distributed the 2007 posting criticizing administrators for canceling a popular school activity. A lower judge had twice ruled school officials were entitled to immunity.
A three-judge panel of the 2nd Circuit agreed.

Must We Protect Our Schoolkids from Bunnies?

Sunny Schubert & Jack Craver:

It’s not that I don’t care about K-12 education in Wisconsin. I DO care, very much.
But I have a hard time getting my undies in a bundle over Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed education spending reductions because I have this fantasy that maybe if school administrators have less money, they’ll have less time to come up with dumb stuff in the name of political correctness.
Take the Seattle public school administrators who decided that the term “Easter egg” is culturally offensive,” and substituted the term “spring spheres” instead.
How much do I hate this? Let’s start with the fact that eggs – at least the ones used in conjunction with Easter — are NOT spheres: They’re ovoids. I learned that in eighth-grade geometry. I object most strenuously to people who should know better teaching children something that simply is not true.

Jack Craver has more.

How to Blend Math

Tom Vander Ark

Most schools are looking for ways to boost achievement and save money. Blended learning is part of the solution. Blended learning is an intentional shift to an online environment for at least a portion of the student day to boost learning and operating productivity. Math is a great place for a school or district to introduce blended learning because it:
facilitates individualized progress
leverages great math teachers
takes advantage of quality math content (open & proprietary)
can be augmented by games and tutorials
School of One, a pilot middle grade math program in New York City, is a good example of multiple modes of instruction aligned with an assessment framework. An early example of a smart recommendation engine creates a unique schedule for each student every day. This important pilot project introduced the idea of a customized learning playlist, but it has not attempted to improve operating productivity.

Bad Education: Student Debt

Malcolm Harris

The Project On Student Debt estimates that the average college senior in 2009 graduated with $24,000 in outstanding loans. Last August, student loans surpassed credit cards as the nation’s largest single largest source of debt, edging ever closer to $1 trillion. Yet for all the moralizing about American consumer debt by both parties, no one dares call higher education a bad investment. The nearly axiomatic good of a university degree in American society has allowed a higher education bubble to expand to the point of bursting.
Since 1978, the price of tuition at US colleges has increased over 900 percent, 650 points above inflation. To put that in number in perspective, housing prices, the bubble that nearly burst the US economy, then the global one, increased only fifty points above the Consumer Price Index during those years. But while college applicants’ faith in the value of higher education has only increased, employers’ has declined. According to Richard Rothstein at The Economic Policy Institute, wages for college-educated workers outside of the inflated finance industry have stagnated or diminished. Unemployment has hit recent graduates especially hard, nearly doubling in the post-2007 recession. The result is that the most indebted generation in history is without the dependable jobs it needs to escape debt.
What kind of incentives motivate lenders to continue awarding six-figure sums to teenagers facing both the worst youth unemployment rate in decades and an increasingly competitive global workforce?

“Let’s Make A Deal on Bargaining” ShareThis (A Legislator’s Perspective – Pro Reform Does Not Mean Anti-Union)

Rep. Mary Ann Sullivan, D – Indianapolis, IN:

Indiana is on the verge of enacting major education reform legislation that will establish a new teacher evaluation system, will be tied to changes in teacher tenure, eliminate “Last in First Out (LIFO),” link teacher compensation to performance measures, and limit some aspects of what can be collectively bargained. Rep. Mary Ann Sullivan (D – Indianapolis) is the co-sponsor of the teacher evaluation bill as well as a companion bill containing the collective bargaining provisions (she is also the co-author of a bill to expand charter schools in Indiana). As a founding member of DFER-Indiana, she has faced incredible hostility from her Democrat colleagues in the House, along with being chastised by the unions especially for her votes and leadership on changing collective bargaining practices. In this post she shares some of her thoughts and beliefs on why she refuses to lose her focus on education reform, and why her commitment to those reforms does not make her anti-union:
For too many Democrats, being pro-labor has been an all or nothing proposition. As a pro-labor Democrat myself, I’ve been criticized when I mention the need for changes and limits to collective bargaining. Seeking change from unions, and teachers’ unions in particular, doesn’t mean I don’t believe in them. Nothing could be further from the truth. I firmly believe unions must step up to the plate and meet the public demand for changes or they run the risk of being left out of the process or worse yet, losing the right to collectively bargain at all. Our teachers need this powerful collective voice and unions must rise to meet the demand for change, one prescribed by many of their members.

Creepy crawlies: The internet allows the malicious to menace their victims

The Economist:

LEANDRA RAMM (pictured) is a mezzo-soprano with more on her mind than music. Someone–a deranged Singaporean cyber-stalker, she claims–has posted around 4,000 internet messages in the past five years, depicting her as a talentless, sex-crazed swindler. He has also created a blog under her name and has left obscene messages on her own website.
Ms Ramm, who lives in New York, has had scant help from the American police, who say the offence is committed in Singapore. But she says the police in Singapore have shown no interest. Ms Ramm says her career, social life and emotional well-being have all suffered. Not only does she get daily death threats, but so do all those associated with her: friends, family, colleagues and boss. She says she feels “humiliated, helpless and abused”.

Nevada Teachers skeptical of plan to end bonus for degree

Associated Press:

Among the drastic changes planned for Nevada’s K-12 education system — ranked at the bottom of the nation for high school graduation — few strike a nerve like a plan to stop paying higher salaries to teachers with advanced degrees and switch to a pay-for-performance model.
The bill reflects a growing nationwide movement toward performance pay; it’s based on research that shows an advanced degree seldom leads to increased student achievement at the elementary school level, and only sometimes increases it in high school classrooms.
“We’re 50th in the nation,” said Assemblyman Ira Hansen, R-Sparks. “We need radical surgery.”

UK Students Often Unprepared for University Academic Writing

Louise Tickle:

The Guardian highlights a serious problem both in the United Kingdom and the United States: students aren’t comfortable with and sometimes aren’t prepared for academic writing.
Whether the cause is an unsatisfactory education prior to enrollment or a long layoff since a student last studied formally, writing improvement is a priority.
Daphne Elliston cried the first time she had to write an assignment. She put it bluntly:

“I just didn’t know what I was doing.”
The Guardian highlights a serious problem both in the United Kingdom and the United States: students aren’t comfortable with and sometimes aren’t prepared for academic writing.
Hurdles include understanding content and vocabulary unique to academic writing, which can be a stumbling block to understanding the assignment itself. Research, too, is difficult when a student is having trouble with language.
And then they must analyze it, process it and put it into their own words to write the paper. It can be a daunting combination, but colleges and universities are trying to rectify it.
Daphne Ellison said she thought a gap in her education was the reason for her trouble with writing–she continued higher education after many years out of school–but Margi Rawlinson, an academic coordinator at Edge Hill University, says it’s an epidemic not confined to non-traditional students:
“We have people with A-levels who are arriving poorly equipped for academic writing,” she says.
“I think one of the issues at A-level is that they’re not being taught to research independently, and [with essays] it’s not just the writing–that’s only part of it.”

Rawlinson isn’t alone in her assessment. Helena Attlee, a writer in residence at Worcester University and a fellow of the Royal Literary Fund echoes Rawlinson’s diagnoses:
“It seems to me there’s a lack of interface between A-levels and degrees, so the thing that people are required to do to get very good A-levels isn’t equipping them to do what is required to get a degree.”
A variety of support systems are in place for struggling writers, from one-on-one instruction to more detailed irection on particular assignments from professors themselves. School officials are hopeful that increased attention and support can improve an adult student’s poor writing skills. Professor Wayne Martin, when askked whether students can really improve, sums it up:
“Yes, incredibly. And the biggest improvement is generally in the first five weeks,” he says.
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Test, Lies & Race to the Top

Shashi Parulekar:

Obama had his “Sputnik Moment,” when standardized test scores around the world pointed to the mediocrity of American students in reading, math and sciences. There is now a major mantra coming from Washington to all state capitals: the “race to the top” is on, and it doesn’t include a continuation of the downward spiral of test scores. The new modus operandi: Leave aside achievement throughout the years in high school, the stream of G.P.As., the difficulty of courses taken during the years in 9 to 12, and any creative projects done by students. Base everything on standardized tests.
When career prospects, prestige, and job security are connected to one and only one criteria — score on a standardized test — human nature is bound to creep in. Baseball players start taking steroids; Olympic athletes try every means to beat the system. Will it happen to dedicated teachers who are working hard to educate our next generation? Will temptation overtake honesty, integrity and ethical behavior?

Drop tedious ICT lessons, says Intellect Time for education to grow up and start teaching kids the meaning of computing…

Natasha Lomas, via a James Dias email:

There have been fresh calls for schools to dump the dull ICT lessons that are turning kids off IT and failing to create the type of IT-savvy employees that UK businesses need.
Earlier this year, a discussion forum on digital skills heard from a BCS member and IT teacher that pupils and teachers are “bored rigid” by ICT lessons in their present form.
Intellect, the trade body for the UK’s tech sector, has now called on the government to drop ICT lessons in their current form from the national curriculum and replace them with ones that focus on higher-value computer science skills. The organisation was submitting its response to a Department of Education review of the National Curriculum in England, launched in January this year.
ICT should also be taught by embedding interactive and multimedia technology across every subject, according to Intellect – which believes technology businesses could play a role here to help teachers make the best use of relevant equipment by supporting training.
Intellect reckons the ICT curriculum is too focused on teaching pupils how to use a limited number of software packages and is therefore failing to inspire students to develop more advanced computer skills.

The Future: Education Reform Version

Charlie Mas:

It seems to me that the goals of Education Reform are primarily to bring the increases in productivity (and cost reductions) seen in other industries to the education industry. The greatest obstacle to the effort to cut the cost of education is teacher salaries. The cost of education cannot be cut until the cost of teaching is cut. The Education Reform movement seeks paths to cutting the cost of teaching.
While technology has allowed for amazing radical increases in productivity in nearly every other industry, teaching is still, for the most part, done exactly as it was done in pre-industrial times: face-to-face with a personal relationship between a professional teacher and a limited number of students. For there to be any improvement in productivity (and reduction in cost), this model must be broken.
Education Reform is pursuing four paths to increase productivity (and thereby reduce costs).
1. The de-professionalization of teaching. Teachers are professionals. They are expected to work with minimal supervision and direction. They are expected to use their expertise, judgement, and talent to respond improvisationally to student needs. In the Education Reform model, however, teachers are expected to deliver standardized lessons prepared centrally. They can make some small prescribed variations within a prescribed range. The best model for this is how professional bankers have been replaced by non-professionals, sitting in cube farms, wearing headsets, and completing loan application forms by working through a script on a computer screen. The script includes what to say if the customer says this or if the customer says that. Based on this model it isn’t hard to imagine non-professionals in front of a classroom delivering a scripted lesson with scripted responses to expected student questions.

Baltimore makes the grade with school incentives

Matt Kennard:

Nathan Carlberg, 27, is exactly the type of teacher Barack Obama, US president, wants to keep in the system. Fresh-faced and passionate, he troops around room 207 at Commodore John Rogers Elementary School in Baltimore dispensing superlatives to students who get the answers right to his spelling quiz.
“Bingo,” yelps one of the second-graders and jumps up with his paper. Mr Carlberg ambles over. “Let me check,” he says and the class is silent. “He got it right,” shouts Mr Carlberg. The kids erupt, eager to win the next round.
Even a year ago this scene would have been unthinkable at CJR. It ranked as one of the worst five elementary schools in Maryland in 2010 but has since managed to pull itself around. Last year it became a “turnaround school”, which meant every teacher had to reapply for his or her job. Only three were retained.
The turnaround process is one of the signature strategies of Mr Obama’s new school agenda and its flagship Race to the Top programme. It revolves around a simple but controversial notion: giving incentives for innovation. Race to the Top awards money to school districts that can prove they have new strategies for improving teaching and results.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder to call for overhaul of outdated public school system in speech Wednesday

Chris Christoff:

Michigan’s public schools need to more rigorously measure students’ academic growth, but with fewer state rules to make that happen, Gov. Rick Snyder said today.
That means more autonomy for individual schools and teachers, and a system to financially reward outstanding teachers who can mentor others.
Also, state schools superintendent Michael Flanagan called for a virtual deregulation of schools, such as eliminating minimum number of hours or days students must attend each year.
That’s a change Snyder hinted he’ll include in his special message on education Wednesday. He said the state should give teachers and schools and the state more flexibility to teach and to lift all students to higher academic standards.

SMS education in Pakistan

Michael Trucano:

Two to three years ago, I found very little traction when trying to initiate discussions around the potential use of mobile phones in education with many counterparts in education ministries around the world. (And when this *was* discussed, talk usually centered on how to ban them from schools.)
This is now changing very quickly! Many factors appear to be behind this change — including, it is probably worth noting, the strong apparent interest by many companies to get in on the ground floor of what they feel will be very large markets related to ‘m-learning’ in developing countries in the coming years. (I now get so many cold calls from vendors every week wanting to share information about their ‘m-learning solutions’ that I let all phone calls ring into voicemail by default.)
With momentum building around 1-to-1 computing initiatives (where every student receives her own laptop) in many countries, many governments are embarking on large-scale roll outs of educational technologies as never before. However one feels about the potential relevance of mobile phones in education (and reasonable people can certainly disagree about this), it appears to me to be a topic that at a minimum merits some discussion in many education systems, given that small, connected computing devices known today as mobile phones are increasingly to be found in the pockets and pocketbook of teachers, and even students, at rates perhaps unimagined only a decade ago. It is worth noting that this large scale roll-out of computing devices in the hands of teachers and students has largely happened without any government subsidy at all. Given this fact, is it worthwhile for governments to consider taking some of the monies dedicated for the purchase of ICT hardware and use it instead for other purposes (more/better education content? more training? better connectivity? something not at all ICT-related?)? Even if you feel that mobile phones are not relevant to discussions of technology use in education, perhaps it is worth considering these sorts of questions before dismissing such use out of hand.

Do We Really Need To Change Michigan Education? Absolutely!

Rod Meloni:

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s budget plan, a serious and shocking change to the status quo, so stoked the flames of union passion there’s a protest just about every other day in Lansing.
This may explain why the governor spread out his controversial announcements by a month or two. At noontime Wednesday, he will drop another bomb on the state: serious and shocking education system change. Expect more protest and outrage.
Now, the governor on Monday reminded the teachers and school administrators at the 16th annual Governor’s Education Summit that he ran on a platform of reinventing Michigan. He also admitted everyone agrees with change until it affects them. He fully expects the protest express to continue muddying the Capitol lawn.

What a brush with death taught David Eagleman about the mysteries of time and the brain

Burkhard Bilger:

WWhen David Eagleman was eight years old, he fell off a roof and kept on falling. Or so it seemed at the time. His family was living outside Albuquerque, in the foothills of the Sandia Mountains. There were only a few other houses around, scattered among the bunchgrass and the cholla cactus, and a new construction site was the Eagleman boys’ idea of a perfect playground. David and his older brother, Joel, had ridden their dirt bikes to a half-finished adobe house about a quarter of a mile away. When they’d explored the rooms below, David scrambled up a wooden ladder to the roof. He stood there for a few minutes taking in the view–west across desert and subdivision to the city rising in the distance–then walked over the newly laid tar paper to a ledge above the living room. “It looked stiff,” he told me recently. “So I stepped onto the edge of it.”
In the years since, Eagleman has collected hundreds of stories like his, and they almost all share the same quality: in life-threatening situations, time seems to slow down. He remembers the feeling clearly, he says. His body stumbles forward as the tar paper tears free at his feet. His hands stretch toward the ledge, but it’s out of reach. The brick floor floats upward–some shiny nails are scattered across it–as his body rotates weightlessly above the ground. It’s a moment of absolute calm and eerie mental acuity. But the thing he remembers best is the thought that struck him in midair: this must be how Alice felt when she was tumbling down the rabbit hole.

A Trial Run for School Standards That Encourage Deeper Thought

Fernanda Santos:

Until this year, Ena Baxter, an English teacher at Hillcrest High School in Queens, would often have her 10th graders compose papers by summarizing a single piece of reading material.
Last month, for a paper on the influence of media on teenagers, she had them read a survey on the effects of cellphones and computers on young people’s lives, a newspaper column on the role of social media in the Tunisian uprising and a 4,200-word magazine article titled “Is Google Making Us Stupid?”
A math teacher, José Rios, used to take a day or two on probabilities, drawing bell-shaped curves on the blackboard to illustrate the pattern known as normal distribution. This year, he stretched the lesson by a day and had students work in groups to try to draw the same type of graphic using the heights of the 15 boys in the class.

Massachusetts House votes to restrict unions; Measure would curb bargaining on health care

Michael Levenson:

House lawmakers voted overwhelmingly last night to strip police officers, teachers, and other municipal employees of most of their rights to bargain over health care, saying the change would save millions of dollars for financially strapped cities and towns.
The 111-to-42 vote followed tougher measures to broadly eliminate collective bargaining rights for public employees in Ohio, Wisconsin, and other states. But unlike those efforts, the push in Massachusetts was led by Democrats who have traditionally stood with labor to oppose any reduction in workers’ rights.
Unions fought hard to stop the bill, launching a radio ad that assailed the plan and warning legislators that if they voted for the measure, they could lose their union backing in the next election. After the vote, labor leaders accused House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo and other Democrats of turning their backs on public employees.

New England public education: Walking wounded

Carolyn Morwick:

Here’s a status report on the region’s public education from the New England Board of Higher Education.
Gov. Dannel Malloy’s two-year plan to deal with a $3.2 billion deficit (in the first year alone) relies on significant concessions from labor to the tune of $1.5 billion. Unions gave Malloy strong support in his race for governor. The remaining portion of the deficit would be addressed through $750 million in program cuts and $1.5 billion in tax increases.
The General Assembly’s Finance and Appropriations Committees met with Malloy and reached agreement on the budget for FY12-FY13. Following the meeting, the Joint Appropriations Committee released its budget, which will be debated in the House in the coming week. The governor and legislative leaders still must finalize an agreement with labor. Malloy has said he expects to see a budget on May 6.
Higher Education
Malloy has proposed a two-year $144-million cut to public higher education. Also included in his budget is a plan to restructure the system, which features the following:

Acronyms and plain language Cutting out the capital letters

The Economist:

OVER at Language Log is a discussion of a new directive that is intended to get executive agencies to cut the jargon and acronyms in writing intended for the public. Johnson certainly applauds that effort. But Mark Liberman and other commentators note a few ironies. One is that the guidance itself is pretty confusingly worded, as is the underlying statute (like many other statutes). Mr Liberman’s peeve is the confusing scope of conjunctions in acts of Congress: how to interpret simple ands, ors and buts ends up taking up a lot of appellate courts’ time.
The second irony, noted by Matt Negrin at Politico, is the name of the set of rules designed to cut masses of capital letters. It is the Plain Language Action and Information Network. (Update: see correction below.) Get it? PLAIN? Ugh. This from the sausage factory that brought you the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001. As David Rees wrote in his comic “Get Your War On”, “I still can’t believe they named that thing the fuckin’ USA-PATRIOT Act. Grown-ups did that. Never forget that.” If I were in Congress I’d sponsor a Prohibiting Naming Laws With Cute Titles Act, or the PNLWCT Act, avoiding initial vowels just to make sure that it’s unpronounceable.

Why edReform isn’t in trouble

Tom Vander Ark:

Richard Whitmire’s latest blog (via Whitney Tilson) suggests that edreform is in trouble “My sense is that the school reform movement — roughly defined as those who believe that schools alone can make a dent in the seemingly intractable problems arising from the confluence of race and poverty — is headed toward a major beat-down.”
Here’s what he’s missing:
1.The Race: A half a dozen examples of the new employment bargain, data systems, and choice landscapes are sufficient to tip a lot of states.
2. The Khan-a-bes: the explosion of informal learning like Khan Academy is enveloping the formal system. It’s now possible for anyone to learn anything anywhere.
3. Online learning. We finally have a massively scalable quality capability. The top half a dozen providers (both nonprofit and for-profit) could provision summer school for any interested student in America.

Robert Cox Announces Run for New Rochelle Board of Education

Robert Cox:

I announced on my radio show on WVOX last Friday my intention to file papers this week to run for school board in New Rochelle. Over the weekend I began obtaining the required signatures and getting the necessary paperwork in order. The papers are due Wednesday at 5:00 p.m. but I will likely file sooner than that.
Once I file, I will explain more fully how it came to be that the most vocal critic of the New Rochelle Board of Education and the current administration opted to become a candidate for one of the two open seats but for now let me say that it had been my hope to find a candidate that was not selected by “insiders” and would advance my goals of increased transparency, accountability, equity, and excellence in the New Rochelle system. After looking long and hard and talking to over a dozen prospective candidates, all of whom ultimately opted not to run, it became clear that if no one stepped forward the available board seats would filled by two candidates hand-picked by current board members with the goal of maintaining the status quo on the board. If all was well in the New Rochelle schools that might be acceptable but all is not well, as has been documented amply on Talk of the Sound over the past several years, and so more of the same is not only not acceptable but intolerable. I came to realize that I had no choice but to step forward to present New Rochelle residents with a clear alternative to more of the same.

High School Classes May Be Advanced in Name Only

Sam Dillon:

More students are taking ambitious courses. According to a recent Department of Education study, the percentage of high school graduates who signed up for rigorous-sounding classes nearly tripled over the past two decades.
But other studies point to a disconnect: Even though students are getting more credits in more advanced courses, they are not scoring any higher on standardized tests.
The reason, according to a growing body of research, is that the content of these courses is not as high-achieving as their names — the course-title equivalent of grade inflation. Algebra II is sometimes just Algebra I. And College Preparatory Biology can be just Biology.
Lynn T. Mellor, a researcher in Austin, Tex., who has studied the phenomenon in the state, compares it to a food marketer labeling an orange soda as healthier orange juice.
“Like the misleading drink labels, course titles may bear little relationship to what students have actually learned,” said Dr. Mellor, who has analyzed course completion, test records and other student data in Texas. “We see students taking more and more advanced courses, but still not performing well on end-of-course exams.”

California voters want public employees to help ease state’s financial troubles; York Citizens for Responsible Government

Shane Goldmacher:

California voters want government employees to give up some retirement benefits to help ease the state’s financial problems, favoring a cap on pensions and a later age for collecting them, according to a new poll.
Voter support for rolling back benefits available to few outside the public sector comes as Gov. Jerry Brown and Republicans in the Legislature haggle over changes to the pension system as part of state budget negotiations. Such benefits have been a flashpoint of national debate this year, and the poll shows that Californians are among those who perceive public retirement plans to be too costly.
Voters appear ready to embrace changes not just for future hires but also for current employees who have been promised the benefits under contract.
Seventy percent of respondents said they supported a cap on pensions for current and future public employees. Nearly as many, 68%, approved of raising the amount of money government workers should be required to contribute to their retirement. Increasing the age at which government employees may collect pensions was favored by 52%.

Jennfer Levitz: Tea Party Heads to School
Activists Fight Property-Tax Increases in Bid to Curb Education Spend

Trying to plug a $3.8 million budget gap, the York Suburban School District, in the rolling hills of southern Pennsylvania, is seeking to raise property taxes by 1.4%.
No way, says Nick Pandelidis, founder of the York Suburban Citizens for Responsible Government, a tea-party offshoot, of the plan that would boost the tax on a median-priced home of $157,685 by $44 a year to $3,225.
“No more property-tax increases!” the 52-year-old orthopedic surgeon implored as the group met recently at a local hospital’s community room. “If you don’t starve the system, you won’t make it change.”
Fresh from victories on the national stage last year, many local tea-party activist groups took their passion for limited government and less spending back to their hometowns, and to showdowns with teacher unions over pay in some cases. Now, amid school-board elections and local budgeting, they are starting to see results–and resistance.

From the York Suburban Citizens for Responsible Government website:

Higher Spending and Lower Scores: From 2000 to 2009, spending per student (in constant dollars) increased from $11,413 to $15,291 – a 34% increase. Meanwhile 11th grade PSSA reading proficiency remained steady at 71% while math fell from 69% to 62%. This means 29% of students are below acceptable reading levels and 38% are not proficient in math! The York Suburban experience mirrors the national trend where increased spending in the public education system has not resulted in improved student outcomes.

Poor white UK pupils lag behind black peers

Chris Cook:

White schoolchildren in Britain’s poorest communities lag behind peers who are black or of Pakistani or Bangladeshi origin, a Financial Times analysis of more than 3m sets of exam results reveals.
Poor white children even achieve worse average results than deprived pupils for whom English is a second language.
The average black pupil from among the poorest fifth of children, identified by postcode analysis, gains the equivalent of one more GCSE pass at A*, the highest grade, than the average white child from a similar background.
The figures highlight the challenge facing the coalition, which has identified social mobility as one of its top concerns. Earlier this month, the government published a “social mobility strategy”, which stated that “tackling the opportunity deficit…is our guiding purpose”.
Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Sutton Trust and Britain’s leading educational philanthropist, said the FT results showed that “if the coalition is really serious about raising social mobility, it will need to find a way to crack the problems of the English white working class”.

State Life Insurance Examinations May Be Too Hard

Leslie Scism:

Primerica Inc., which has the country’s largest life-insurance sales force, had another strong recruiting year in 2010: About 230,000 people signed up to become agents.
Another number also stayed strong: the drop-out rate
About 80% of Primerica recruits don’t actually become insurance agents, often because they flunk state licensing exams, according to filings and interviews. That’s a problem for the company, which, more than any other insurer of its size, depends on agents to sell policies. As the number of Primerica agents has declined over the past four years, so, too, have sales of life insurance.
So Primerica recently came up with a novel solution: Make the tests easier. It asserted to state regulators that the exams aren’t only too hard in some places, but might also be racially biased, putting African-Americans and other minorities at a disadvantage.

Changes to the Excel Data Table for the NRC Data-Based Assessment of Research-Doctorate Programs

Board on Higher Education & Workforce:

A revised Excel Data Table for the NRC Data-Based Assessment of Research-Doctorate Programs in the United States is now available. A summary of changes for each program can be found here. Those who wish to compare the September 28, 2010 version of the Data Table to the revised rankings, may find the old rankings here.
The revisions are in response to communications and queries received by the NRC since the first Data Table was released on September 28, 2010. At that time, the NRC agreed to follow up on queries about the data and these were received from approximately 450 doctoral programs from 34 institutions. Ten of these institutions had queries for 10 or more of their programs.
The most common questions centered around faculty lists and related characteristics: publications per allocated faculty member, citations per publication, the allocation of faculty, and the measure of interdisciplinarity that used this measure. The NRC was not able to permit changes in faculty lists from what universities had originally submitted. That would have required enormous expense to completely redo the study with the 2005/6 data.

Rahm Emanuel: Not Yet Mayor and Already Got Chicago Schools in a Fine Mess

Michael Klonsky:

“I wanted an entire new board, an entire new corporate suite because what’s happening today both on the finances and the educational scores — needs to be shaken up. And what I know in my heart [is that] the people of the city do not think we’re doing what we need to do for our children.” — Rahm Emanuel
Rahm Emanuel isn’t even officially mayor yet and he’s already got the city and its schools in a fine mess. His appointment of the embattled J.C. Brizard as schools CEO (that’s what we call school superintendents here in Chicago) rivals only Bloomberg’s pick of Cathie Black in New York as most embarrassing of the year. Black lasted a mere three months before high-tailing it back to the sanctity of the corporate world, where failure is more often than not rewarded with super bonuses and not just a kick in the ass and a golden parachute a la urban school bosses.
Bloomberg’s choice of the eminently unqualified Black reset the I-don’t-give-a-damn-what-anybody-else-thinks standard previously set by former D.C. mayor, Adrian Fenty, whose pick of the also unqualified Michelle Rhee earned him the total disdain of D.C. voters who ultimately booted both Fenty and Rhee out of town.

Rep. Sondy Pope-Roberts: Walker’s budget numbers for schools flawed

Sondy Pope-Roberts:

In the weeks ahead the biennial budget will be the dominant focus of the Legislature. Gov. Scott Walker has introduced his budget plan for Wisconsin, and while there are a number of troubling provisions, perhaps one of the most troubling is the drastic changes to public education that he proposes.
According to the Department of Public Instruction, school districts are expected to lose $1.68 billion in revenue authority and $835 million in state school aids over the next biennium. The governor has repeatedly touted the savings, tools and other reform measures that he says would soften the blow and even enhance education.
However, reducing the levy authority of school districts mandates a reduction in total spending, and changes to health insurance and pension contributions alone won’t suffice to cover the difference. That means layoffs, a decision made by Walker and not by local school districts.
The governor recently went to great lengths to highlight projected savings and other ways school districts would benefit under his budget. My office compiled a spreadsheet that outlines the inaccuracies in the governor’s projections. To outline the serious budgeting flaws, we relied on numbers from the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau and the governor himself.

When Does a Parent Know His Child Is Gifted?

Carol Fertig:

So often I’m asked, “When does a parent know if his child is gifted?” I think they are surprised when I respond by saying, “I don’t know. What does it mean to be gifted?”
After all, I am supposed to be the expert. I am expected to have the answers. But I can’t provided any definitive reply.
First of all, what does it mean to be gifted? There are many definitions and many ways of assessing a child’s ability. Is one more correct than another? Who should make that determination? You may want to look at some of the previous posts on this blog about this subject, including
Conflicts in the Definition and Identification of Giftedness
What Does It Mean to Be Gifted?
Even if there is some consensus about the definition of giftedness, I think most people would agree that students fall somewhere on an extended continuum. There are children who have strong interests or abilities in just one area, which may or may not be a traditional academic subject. There are students who are more globally endowed and may finish high school before they are teenagers and receive graduate degrees by the time others finish high school. Some young people who are very bright have learning disabilities or physical disabilities or emotional problems. Some fit into a traditional school environment and some could care less about school.

Proposition 13: A case study in unintended consequences

The Economist:

DURING JERRY BROWN’S first term in the 1970s his hair was still full and dark. His voice was not yet gravelly. Unlike his back-slapping father, he still bore traces of the Jesuit seminary where he had once studied to become a priest. He meditated on Zen koans. He declined the governor’s mansion and slept on a mattress in a rented flat. He dreamed of large things whose time had not yet come, such as green energy. And yet, or perhaps because of all this, Jerry Brown failed to notice the anger boiling over in his state.
Californians were angry about property taxes. These local taxes were the main revenue source for school districts, cities, counties and California’s many specialised municipal jurisdictions. And they had been rising. A homeowner’s property tax was determined by two factors. One was the tax rate, the other the assessed value of the house to which the rate was applied. These assessments were soaring: between 1972 and 1977 home prices in southern California more than doubled, thus doubling homeowners’ tax bills. Mr Brown and the legislature fiddled with relief measures, but their bills were half-hearted and the taxpayers were angry.

Important voice missing in blue ribbon reading discussion

Susan Troller

While working on another story this morning, I kept checking Wisconsin Eye’s live coverage of the first meeting of Gov. Scott Walker’s blue ribbon task force on reading.
Sitting next to the Governor at the head of the table was State Superintendent Tony Evers, flanked by Sen. Luther Olsen, chair of the Education Committee and Rep. Steve Kestell. Also on hand were representatives from organizations like the Wisconsin State Reading Association (Kathy Champeau), teachers and various other reading experts, including a former Milwaukee area principal, Anthony Pedriana, who has written an influential book on reading and student achievement called “Leaving Johnny Behind.” Also on hand was Steven Dykstra of the Wisconsin Reading Coalition.
Dykstra, in particular, had a lot to say, but the discussion of how well Wisconsin kids are learning to read — a subject that gets heated among education experts as well as parents and teachers — struck me as quite engaging and generally cordial.
There seemed to be consensus surrounding the notion that it’s vitally important for students to become successful readers in the early grades, and that goal should be an urgent priority in Wisconsin.
But how the state is currently measuring up to its own past performance, and to other states, is subject to some debate. Furthermore, there isn’t a single answer or widespread agreement on precisely how to make kids into better readers.


In Kansas City, tackling education’s status quo “We’re not an Employment Agency, We’re a School District”

George Will:

John Covington hesitated before becoming this city’s 26th school superintendent in 40 years. A blunt-talking African American from Alabama, he attended the Broad Superintendents Academy in Los Angeles, which prepares leaders for urban school districts, and when he asked people there if he should come here, their response, he says, was: “Not ‘no,’ but ‘Hell, no!’ ” He says they suggested that when flying across the country he should take a flight that does not pass through this city’s airspace.
How did this pleasant place become so problematic? Remember the destination of the road paved with good intentions.
This city is just 65 miles down the road from Topeka, Kan., from whence came Brown v. Board of Education , the fuse that lit many ongoing struggles over schools and race. Kansas City has had its share of those struggles, one of which occurred last year when Covington took office with a big bang: He closed 26 of the district’s 61 schools. Kansas City had fewer students but twice as many schools as Pueblo, Colo., where Covington had been superintendent.
Thirty-five years ago, Kansas City’s district had 54,000 students. Today it has fewer than 17,000. Between then and now there was a spectacular confirmation of the axiom that education cannot be improved by simply throwing money at it.
In the 1980s, after a court held that the city was operating a segregated school system, judicial Caesarism appeared. A judge vowed to improve the district’s racial balance by luring white students to lavish “magnet schools” offering “suburban comparability” and “desegregative attractiveness.” And he ordered tax increases to pay the almost $2 billion bill for, among other things, an Olympic-size swimming pool, a planetarium, vivariums, greenhouses, a model United Nations wired for language translation, radio and television studios, an animation and editing lab, movie editing and screening rooms, a temperature-controlled art gallery, a 25-acre farm, a 25-acre wildlife area, instruction in cosmetology and robotics, field trips to Mexico and Senegal, and more.

Related: Money And School Performance:
Lessons from the Kansas City Desegregation Experiment

For decades critics of the public schools have been saying, “You can’t solve educational problems by throwing money at them.” The education establishment and its supporters have replied, “No one’s ever tried.” In Kansas City they did try. To improve the education of black students and encourage desegregation, a federal judge invited the Kansas City, Missouri, School District to come up with a cost-is-no-object educational plan and ordered local and state taxpayers to find the money to pay for it.
Kansas City spent as much as $11,700 per pupil–more money per pupil, on a cost of living adjusted basis, than any other of the 280 largest districts in the country. The money bought higher teachers’ salaries, 15 new schools, and such amenities as an Olympic-sized swimming pool with an underwater viewing room, television and animation studios, a robotics lab, a 25-acre wildlife sanctuary, a zoo, a model United Nations with simultaneous translation capability, and field trips to Mexico and Senegal. The student-teacher ratio was 12 or 13 to 1, the lowest of any major school district in the country.
The results were dismal. Test scores did not rise; the black-white gap did not diminish; and there was less, not greater, integration.
The Kansas City experiment suggests that, indeed, educational problems can’t be solved by throwing money at them, that the structural problems of our current educational system are far more important than a lack of material resources, and that the focus on desegregation diverted attention from the real problem, low achievement.

Former Madison Superintendent Art Rainwater served in Kansas City prior to taking a position with the local schools.

Preserving the bargain on Milwaukee School Choice

Patrick McIlheran:

State taxpayers are getting a fantastic bargain this year on the education of about one in six Milwaukee children. But how long will they go on getting it?
The bargain is what we spend when a family takes its school aid in the form of a voucher to a private school in Milwaukee’s choice program. Taxpayers shell out $6,442 per child, about 45% as much as the $14,183 per-child cost in the Milwaukee Public Schools, by the latest state figures.
The question is how much longer that can go on. Choice schools cannot charge poor families any more than the voucher, but researchers with the five-year study of school choice report that 82% of such schools have higher per-pupil costs. In the most recent figures, the average choice school spent $7,692 per child.
The voucher just isn’t enough to run a school, said the University of Arkansas’ Brian Kisida, one of the researchers: “How can you hire the best people on half the money?” He said that if he had Gov. Scott Walker’s ear, he’d tell him to keep the rule requiring state tests, flawed as they are, and to raise the grant.
That isn’t happening. Walker’s two-year budget through 2013 freezes the voucher at $6,442, since the state is $3.5 billion in the hole. Walker also cuts how much public schools have, reducing their per-child revenue limit, their most fundamental number, by 5.5% in the first year and freezing it in the second.

Hawaii Fires 10 Teachers for Misconduct in 2 Years

Katherine Poythress:

Only 10 teachers in the entire Hawaii Department of Education have been fired for misconduct in the last two years. That’s 10 out of about 12,000 teachers, or less than one-tenth of 1 percent. The Department also suspended 37 teachers for misconduct over the same period.
Teacher performance and accountability are central to most education reform discussions, and both play a key role in negotiations with the teachers union this year.
A Civil Beat investigation found that over the past two years the district disciplined teachers for misconduct in 42 of its 257 schools, or 16 percent. No teachers were fired on Kauai or the Big Island. Teachers were disciplined on all the islands, with 35 of the cases on Oahu, three on Maui, three on Kauai and six on the Big Island.

Big Cuts for Magnet Schools in Dallas Stir Conflict Over Spending on Education

Morgan Smith:

On a muggy afternoon in mid-April, Mary Ruiz, an animated 18-year-old, bounced through the air-conditioned corridors of her South Dallas high school.
“Excuse the mess,” she said, brushing away a small scrap of paper in an otherwise spotless stairwell, giggling as she added, “I’m acting like this is my house.”
Ms. Ruiz is a senior at the Yvonne A. Ewell Townview Center’s School of Health Professions, a magnet in the Dallas Independent School District. The Townview Center, named for the panorama of the downtown Dallas skyline visible from its north windows, houses six magnets, including programs for law, business and science.

In calculating Wisconsin school aid, count all the kids

Tom Barrett:

The Wisconsin Assembly recently held a hearing on Assembly Bill 92, which would eliminate the enrollment cap for the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program and extend the program to permit private schools located in Milwaukee County to participate.
Before any expansion of the program is considered, the funding mechanism for the choice program must be fixed. Choice students do not attend public schools, but Milwaukee property taxpayers still support their costs. In fact, until recently, Milwaukee property taxpayers actually paid more for students attending choice schools than they paid for students attending traditional Milwaukee Public Schools.
Over the past few years, I’ve worked with the state to correct this inequity. We have made a significant improvement from where we stood in the 2006-07 school year and Milwaukee taxpayers have benefited greatly.

Doctor warns of complacency in face of autism danger

Vanessa Ko:

Hong Kong has escaped the anti-MMR childhood vaccine movement – linking the jab to autism – which spread across many English-speaking countries in the past decade.
But despite the overseas movement’s dangers and the fraudulent study that inspired it, a prominent paediatrician has nevertheless warned that local parents are too complacent about potential environmental factors that could trigger the onslaught of autism among some young children.
“They just don’t know about it. They are just ignorant about it,” said Dr Wilson Fung Yee-leung, who is a council member of the Hong Kong Medical Association.
He said it was dangerous not to be concerned about autism and its potential environmental causes.

Inside the Chicago Public School Probation Maze

Meribah Knight:

Austin Polytechnical Academy, a school established in 2007 to help broaden the West Side community’s academic opportunities and retool perceptions of vocational education, is facing harsh realities as it prepares to graduate its first senior class: lagging test scores, diminishing attendance and dismal reading levels.
Last October, Polytech joined the ranks of the 67 percent of Chicago’s public neighborhood high schools when it was placed on academic probation. That same week, state-issued report cards showed that the school was not making sufficient yearly progress under the federal No Child Left Behind law.
Having both local and federal education officials label the school as failing is a bitter pill for parents, teachers and students. Yet people with a stake in Austin Polytech have always known they would need to struggle against long odds.
Administrators and teachers at Austin Polytech, which occupies two floors of a massive concrete building that once housed the failed Austin Community High School, have been working for four years to undo decades of neglect and failure.

Interactive Map: Where Chicago Schools are on Probation.

Milwaukee Public Schools: Open For Business?

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

With a proposed $74 million in cuts expected for Milwaukee Public Schools next school year, district officials are going to need help in filling some gaps. That’s where the business community should step up, both with money and other support.
Businesses generally have been strong supporters of MPS, but at this critical time, MPS needs more of that. If nothing else, naked self-interest should compel businesses to pitch in.
Gov. Scott Walker’s budget calls for $74 million in cuts for the district. This will have a huge impact, especially with no new federal educational dollars coming in next school year.
There are a number of ways businesses can help.
The GE Foundation stepped up in January when it announced that it would give MPS $20.4 million over five years to help the school system develop a rigorous math and science curriculum and provide professional development to teachers.
This is an investment in future MPS graduates, who GE hopes will be a part of Milwaukee’s workforce. GE says it will be very visible in MPS. This is important because children need to see business leaders involved in education. Children need good role models.

Three who are politically ‘all in’

Steven Walters:

In poker, there are gasps when players go “all in,” pushing all their chips forward to bet on the next card. By the end of that hand, they either bust and leave the table broke or sit there much richer.
This season, at least three Wisconsin leaders are “all in”: Republican U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, Republican Gov. Scott Walker and UW-Madison Chancellor Carolyn “Biddy” Martin.
Ryan: When he developed and got his fellow House Republicans to back his version of a federal budget, Ryan became Washington’s flavor of the month.
It’s the biggest risk of his career, however, because it would privatize and defund Medicare for anyone under 55; turn states’ Medicaid programs that help the elderly, poor and disabled into a block grant program; cut corporate tax rates; and continue tax cuts on the wealthiest Americans.
“It’s my obligation to offer an alternative” to the debt-and-spending cycle that threatens to choke America’s future, Ryan told constituents at a Wisconsin listening session last week.
But, with his plan, the seven-term Republican from southeastern Wisconsin became target practice for Democrats, starting with President Barack Obama, and pundits.

Teaching reforms get lost in Wisconsin budget tumult

Amy Hetzner:

Early in February, leaders of the state’s largest teachers union took what was for them a major step – endorsing a series of reforms they had previously resisted, including performance pay, dividing up Milwaukee Public Schools and tying teacher evaluations to student test scores.
Within a week, however, Gov. Scott Walker released a plan to sharply curb the collective bargaining rights of most public-sector workers, and little more was heard from the Wisconsin Education Association Council about its reform initiatives.
Amid the debate over public workers’ rights in Wisconsin, school reform has gotten lost in recent months, especially changes related to one of the most promising ways to improve academic achievement: focusing on teacher effectiveness.
Walker and his supporters have said that by prohibiting teachers unions from bargaining for anything other than inflation-tied wage increases, school boards are free to implement reforms that WEAC has been unwilling to embrace in the past.

Teacher colleges balk at being rated Wisconsin schools say quality survey from national nonprofit and magazine won’t be fair

Erin Richards:

A controversial review of America’s teacher colleges has met resistance in Wisconsin, where education school leaders in the public and private sector say they will not voluntarily participate.
The National Council on Teacher Quality, a nonprofit advocacy group, and U.S. News & World Report, known for its annual rankings of colleges, announced in January they would launch a first-ever review of the nation’s roughly 1,400 colleges of education. The recruitment and training of teachers have become a hot-button issue tied to education reform, but university system presidents in Wisconsin as well as New York, Georgia, Oregon and Kentucky have expressed misgivings about the process of assessing and ranking their education schools.
“While we welcome fair assessment and encourage public sharing of our strengths and weaknesses, we believe your survey will not accomplish these goals. We therefore wish to notify you that our entire membership has decided to stand united and not participate further in the survey process,” says an April 7 letter by Katy Heyning, president of the Wisconsin Association of Colleges of Teacher Education, and addressed to the National Council on Teacher Quality and U.S. News. Heyning also is the dean of the College of Education at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.
The council, meanwhile, is filing open-records requests to get information about the public education schools in states that won’t provide it voluntarily. Arthur McKee, manager of teacher preparation programs at the NCTQ, said the council had not received the letter from Heyning. But it had received a letter from UW System President Kevin Reilly.
That letter from March 28 says that UW’s 13 teacher colleges declined to participate because of “serious concerns” about the survey’s methods of data collection, analysis and reporting.

Much more, here.

Advocating a “Classical Approach to Education”


A few months ago, we moved out of Washington, D.C., to be closer to where we’ll be sending our children to school. That decision wasn’t just made because it’s our parish school or because many DC public schools have serious problems. Prior to getting married, my husband and I separately served on the school board that oversaw the change in our parish school’s curriculum to a Classical approach. It was a large undertaking but we couldn’t be more pleased with the results.
From my experience, I know that the Classical movement is sizable and under-covered by major media. So I was completely delighted to read about a new Classical school in the area in a recent Washington Post. Written by Julia Duin, it begins with an anecdote that shows how Classical education works:

It’s 1 p.m. and time for Amy Clayton’s fifth grade to show off their memorization skills.
Decked out in blue long-sleeved shirts and dark pants for boys and bright yellow blouses and plaid jumpers for girls, the students begin with the words of Patrick Henry’s immortal “Give me liberty or give me death” speech first delivered on March 23, 1775, in Richmond. That recitation merges into verses from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “Paul Revere’s Ride.” That morphs into a few phrases from the Declaration of Independence, the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution and finally to fragments of speeches by Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln.
“Beautifully done,” Clayton says at the conclusion. “We just encapsulated 80 years of American history in our recitation.” She is engaged, dramatic, and students are nearly jumping out of their seats trying to answer her questions about the beginnings of the Civil War. To her right is a banner containing a quote from Aesop: “No act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted.” Near that hangs a crucifix.

The Army should fix the geographical narrowness of its ROTC programs

Stephen Trynosky:

I don’t know your Year Group cohort, but I think you may not realize how narrow the ROTC’s geographic/outreach footprint has become since 1989 (e.g. closure of 4 of New Jersey’s 7 Army ROTC programs). Sadly, I have been taking on the “if they want it bad enough they will low crawl to ROTC” argument for almost two decades. I didn’t buy that argument as a first year ROTC cadet in 1994 and I buy it even less now.
The Army has allocated only a single Army ROTC instructor battalion to the entire state of Connecticut–which has one of the highest educational attainment levels in the United States and an enormous per capita student population. It is also noteworthy that Connecticut’s population is LARGER than Mississippi’s, over half the size of Alabama’s and FOUR TIMES LARGER than South Dakota’s. Despite its size and student population, Connecticut has just one Army ROTC battalion, while Mississippi has 5, Alabama has 10 and South Dakota has 3. It is misplaced to blame the Yale students for not seeking out Army ROTC — particularly when the program HQ and the Professor of Military Science (PMS) sit 70 miles away in Storrs. Sure, there is some instruction available in New Haven, but the core of the ROTC’s administrative, logistical and outreach capabilities in the state are 70 miles away from New Haven. This reality can not be discounted.
I challenge anyone to find a university comparable to Yale’s size south of the Mason-Dixon line that is 70 miles away from an Army ROTC host institution.

Great colleges, ignorant policies

Jay Matthews:

Our nation’s finest universities and colleges say they want our teenagers to be ready for college. They say they will do whatever they can to make that happen.
I would like to believe them, but in one small but revealing way, many of them — including the University of Virginia, the College of William and Mary, Howard University, Johns Hopkins University and Washington College — have been doing the opposite. They have failed to correct a discriminatory credit policy that is hurting the high school students trying hardest to prepare for their rich and rigorous programs.
Check the Web sites or rule books of most American universities, including the ones above, and you will discover that they offer college credit to students who get good grades on Advanced Placement exams in high school but that they refuse to give the same credit to students who do well on similar International Baccalaureate Standard Level exams. They offer credit to students who get good grades on exams taken after two-year Higher Level IB courses, but those are different. Tests for one-year IB courses don’t get credit; tests for similar one-year AP courses do.

Ace the School Reunion

Ray Smith:

School reunion time is here and it is all too easy to slip back into a high-school state of mind. The desire to impress mixed with feelings of insecurity can serve up a bad emotional cocktail.
Like it or not, clothing is a visual gauge of who has soared and who has stumbled. Pulling together an outfit that sends the message you desire–cool confidence or affluence or even Look-At-Me-Now Revenge on The One Who Dumped You or The Mean Girls Who Made School a Daily Nightmare–has become more daunting. Many high school and college reunions now stretch from an evening of dinner and dancing into rigorously scheduled all-weekend affairs.
“There’s usually a Friday evening cocktail event, then a Saturday daytime something where you may bring your children, maybe to a park, a baseball field or a pool, then a Saturday evening gala and then a Sunday farewell brunch,” says Mary Fanizzi Krystoff, a Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based events producer who has put together school reunions for more than 20 years.

Zhu Rongji resurfaces to criticise Chinese education reforms

Shi Jiangtao:

Former premier Zhu Rongji made a rare public appearance yesterday, delivering a scathing criticism of the mainland’s education system and other policies during a visit to his alma mater, Tsinghua University.
Zhu (pictured) lashed out at the much-criticised reform of tertiary education and urged mainland officials and scholars to speak the truth.
He said a newly published directive on trial reforms of the education system was “full of empty talk and nonsense”, according to excerpts of his remarks posted on the popular microblog platform Sina Weibo.

Virginia rolls out teacher merit-pay plan

Zinie Chen Sampson:

Gov. Bob McDonnell on Tuesday rolled out Virginia’s teacher merit-pay plan, inviting 57 districts that have struggling schools to apply for $3 million in total state funding for the 2011-12 school year.
At least 40 percent of a teacher’s performance evaluation will be tied to student academic performance — including improvements in standardized test scores. Schools that receive grants must adopt teacher-appraisal systems aligned with state-approved evaluation methods and performance metrics.
The General Assembly approved the pilot performance-pay initiative as part of McDonnell’s amendments to the state budget. A key component of the Republican governor’s education agenda, the initiative is aimed at attracting good teachers to so-called hard-to-staff schools. Such schools include those at risk of losing state accreditation and those that have a high percentage of English learners or special-needs students.

Customized Learning Fuels Rocketship


Great post by John Danner, Rocketship CEO today on their efforts to customize learning. Rocketship is a network of high performing elementary schools in San Jose California. Students spend about a fifth of their day in a learning lab. Here’s the guts of John’s post:
We’ve put a ton of work into figuring out how to go from student assessments to individualized learning plans. When a learning plan accurately captures the next 6-8 objectives a student needs at a fine grain (i.e. this student needs to work on short a sounds), then you set yourself up to deliver the right lesson at the right time. This process of figuring out exactly what a student needs to learn is the key. From that, the potential upside for the right lesson to each child at the right developmental level probably has the potential to be 10x more effective for the student than a classroom lesson targeted at what a child that age should be learning, or some scope and sequence that has been defined. For students who are the farthest behind, classroom lessons are almost never relevant, they just aren’t there developmentally. So this 10x potential increase in learning is what our model plays on.

Looking At College Application Inflation

Robert Siegel:

It’s a time of high anxiety for high school seniors. Students across the country have been finding out where they got in to college and where they didn’t. For many applying to the most selective schools, the news is not good. While the number of applications has shot up, acceptance rates have hit historic lows. It’s been called, “application inflation.” Michele Norris talks with Bloomberg News’ higher education reporter Janet Lorin about college admissions and “application inflation.”

The PhD factory The world is producing more PhDs than ever before. Is it time to stop?

David Cyranoski , Natasha Gilbert , Heidi Ledford , Anjali Nayar & Mohammed Yahia:

Scientists who attain a PhD are rightly proud — they have gained entry to an academic elite. But it is not as elite as it once was. The number of science doctorates earned each year grew by nearly 40% between 1998 and 2008, to some 34,000, in countries that are members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The growth shows no sign of slowing: most countries are building up their higher-education systems because they see educated workers as a key to economic growth (see ‘The rise of doctorates’). But in much of the world, science PhD graduates may never get a chance to take full advantage of their qualifications.
In some countries, including the United States and Japan, people who have trained at great length and expense to be researchers confront a dwindling number of academic jobs, and an industrial sector unable to take up the slack. Supply has outstripped demand and, although few PhD holders end up unemployed, it is not clear that spending years securing this high-level qualification is worth it for a job as, for example, a high-school teacher. In other countries, such as China and India, the economies are developing fast enough to use all the PhDs they can crank out, and more — but the quality of the graduates is not consistent. Only a few nations, including Germany, are successfully tackling the problem by redefining the PhD as training for high-level positions in careers outside academia. Here, Nature examines graduate-education systems in various states of health.

Steve Hsu has more.

Shutter Fraternities for Young Women’s Good

Caitlin Flanagan:

In the fall of 1984, a 17-year-old freshman at the University of Virginia named Liz Securro was invited to a fraternity party. While there, she was given a tour of the historic house and offered a cup of the dark green cocktail that was its specialty. Within minutes she was incapacitated. She was carried into a bedroom and raped. She woke up wrapped in a bloody sheet (she had been a virgin) and watched as the rapist coldly packed his backpack and told her, “You ought to get out of here before someone sees you.”
Alone, bruised and bleeding, she walked to the emergency room, waited for hours, was sent to Student Health and began a weeks-long ordeal. One school official suggested she take some time off or perhaps transfer. Many doubted her story. She realized she had no real hope for justice, and so she gave up trying to find it.
But 20 years later, something remarkable happened: Her rapist, who had joined Alcoholics Anonymous, sent her a letter of apology–or, as Liz came to see it, a handwritten confession. The story of his prosecution and ultimate imprisonment is detailed in her riveting new book, “Crash Into Me,” which includes a horrifying revelation. She learned during the discovery process of the trial that she had been gang raped.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Public-sector pay Too modest or too much?

The Economist:

AMY GARDNER writes in the Washington Post of the emotional injury suffered by government employees when a goodly portion of the public begins to malign them as members of a parasite class who enjoy the ample fruits of less privileged and secure workers’ labour. Efforts in Wisconsin, Ohio and elsewhere to rein in the growth of public-sector salaries, pensions and health benefits have, Ms Gardner reports, “ripped apart how many public workers think of themselves and their role in society.” She considers the case of Judy and Jim Embree “an operating room nurse and paramedic and firefighter” from Ohio, who have been taken aback by increasingly negative attitudes toward public-sector workers. “The divide between those who back union workers and those who don’t comes down to a matter of perception over what qualifies as modest and what is too much,” Ms Gardner writes. Would you say this modest or too much?

Judy Embree earns $63,000. Under current rules, she is eligible to retire in five years, at age 54, after 30 years on the job. Upon retirement, she will be paid about 66 percent of her wages.Jim Embree earns $70,700. He is eligible to retire in two years, at age 50, after 25 years on the job. He will take home 60 percent of his retiring salary.Both Embrees could continue to work and improve their pensions; Judy Embree would qualify for 100 percent of her wages after 44 years of service (at age 68), and Jim would max out after 33 years (at age 58) with 72 percent of his final pay.

Not surprisingly, the Embrees think this just about right. The article concludes with this reflection from Mr Embree:

Students map the wild treasures of Warner Park

Susan Troller

Madison’s Warner Park may be best known as home of the Madison Mallards baseball team, but it’s also home to real mallards and at least 99 other species of wild birds.
Thanks to a group of outdoor-loving Sherman Middle School students working with University of Wisconsin-Madison student mentors, the list of wild birds that make the almost 200 acre urban park their home, or their temporary home as they migrate north and south, now stands at 100.
The first week in April the Sherman birding club, which includes sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students partnered with UW students, discovered the landmark 100th species in the park. It’s a yellow-bellied sapsucker, a type of woodpecker, sighted with the help of nationally renowned ornithologist and author John C. Robinson.
Robinson was visiting Madison to give a talk at the UW on conservation and outdoor recreation.

Teachers retiring at high rate, many because of collective bargaining changes

Matthew DeFour:

More than 130 Madison teachers — many of them worried that Gov. Scott Walker’s collective bargaining law could lead to changes in post-retirement benefits — are retiring in June, a big increase over recent years.
As of the April 15 deadline, 138 Madison teachers have decided to retire, Superintendent Dan Nerad said. That’s a 62 percent increase over the average number of retirements over the previous five years.
The district plans to fill all of the positions, Nerad said, though the loss of so many more veteran teachers than usual could have a more noticeable effect on students and novice teachers.
“A lot of these people have been working with generations of students and influencing people for a long, long time,” Nerad said. “Our intention is to replace them with knowledgeable people, but as a rule they will be less experienced.”
More than 60 teachers indicated they were retiring earlier than anticipated because of concerns about the collective bargaining changes, said John Matthews, executive director of Madison Teachers Inc.

Keep intact the mission of choice program

Howard Fuller:

It was not easy for me to stand before the state Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee and threaten to withdraw my support from the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, which I have supported for more than 20 years. But if lawmakers approve Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal to lift the income requirement that has maintained the program for children from low-income families, that is exactly what I will do.
The governor’s plan would dramatically change the program’s social justice mission and destroy its trailblazing legacy as the first and still one of the few in the nation that uses public dollars to help equalize the academic options for children from low-income and working-class families. I did not join this movement to subsidize families like mine, which may not be rich but have resources and, thus, options.
When I got into this battle in 1989, standardized test scores showed Milwaukee was failing to educate poor black children. That’s when state Rep. Annette Polly Williams courageously stepped forth to make sure that poor families were afforded some opportunity to choose schools in the private sector for their children. She shepherded the pioneering voucher program through the Legislature.

Trading the corporate world for the classroom

Susan Troller:

Physicist, neuroscience entrepreneur and businessman, Jon Joseph traded the money and prestige of a flourishing career in corporate America for the opportunity to teach high level calculus, computer science and physics to high school kids. He’s doing his thing in the northern Green County community of New Glarus, teaching at a high school where there were exactly zero Advanced Placement courses less than 15 years ago.
A shortened version of his professional resume includes a Ph.D. in physics with a focus on neuroscience from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. While an assistant professor at UW, he founded the Biomagnetic Research Laboratory for brain research. He left academia for the corporate world in 1989, doing brain research for Nicolet Biomedical and later moving to the NeuroCare Division of VIASYS Healthcare, where he was chief technology officer and VP of engineering and new technology. Most recently, he was part of a startup company called Cyberkinetics, where he was vice president of research and development. He got his teaching certificate in 2006, and previously taught in Madison and Middleton. In New Glarus, he heads up the math and computer science department.
Capital Times: Describe the work you did before you became a teacher.
Jon Joseph: I spent a lot of time b

Somewhat related, from a financial and curricular perspective: The Khan Academy.

Madison Teachers’ Union Gets Death Threat

Matthew Rothschild:

Republican legislators in Wisconsin aren’t the only ones getting violent threats. On Thursday, Katherine Windels pleaded not guilty to making death threats to Republican state lawmakers. Her crazed threats have gotten a lot of media attention.
But what hasn’t gotten attention is the ugliness directed against labor.
“We’ve gotten a lot of threats,” says John Matthews, executive director of Madison Teachers Inc (MTI).
MTI received a death threat on April 15.
“You’re all going to die. I’m going to kill you. I’m going to kill you,” said a man’s voice calling from the (252) area code, which MTI saw on caller ID. That area code is in North Carolina.

Duncan Issues Far More NCLB Waivers Than Predecessors

Michele McNeil:

With Secretary Arne Duncan at the helm, the U.S. Department of Education is gradually–and sometimes quietly–chipping away at key parts of the No Child Left Behind Act as states and districts demand more relief from the elusive goal that all students be what the law terms “proficient” in reading and math by 2014.
The pressure on Mr. Duncan to waive substantial parts of the 9-year-old federal school-accountability law is only growing as Congress continues to drag its feet on reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, of which NCLB is the latest version.
Although President Barack Obama and Mr. Duncan have called for revision of the law by the start of the next school year, draft legislation has yet to be introduced, and school leaders anxious about rapidly approaching deadlines are clamoring for leeway in the meantime.

Carolina’s Students Get Educated The School’s Elite Men’s Basketball Team Hits the Dormitory Courts to Play Classmates–Just for Fun

Ben Cohen:

College basketball doesn’t get any more glamorous than it does at North Carolina, a school that boasts one of the sport’s most prestigious programs. On this campus, the basketball players are lords of the manor.
But this spring, Carolina’s men’s team has started a new tradition, one that stands in sharp contrast to the booming prominence of the sport.
Since they bowed out of the NCAA’s Elite Eight last month, members of North Carolina’s Tar Heels have been showing up a campus dormitory courts to play five-on-five pickup basketball games with students. We caught up with some of the players at a recent session.
Since they bowed out in the NCAA Tournament’s Elite Eight last month, the players have been killing time before finals exams by showing up at outdoor courts at campus dormitories to play five-on-five pick-up games with students–just for fun. To make sure they draw a crowd, the players announce their plans beforehand on Twitter.
On a cloudless afternoon last week, five Carolina players showed up to the outdoor court at Granville Towers. As spectators in sunglasses and sundresses dangled their legs over the brick walls, a pack of would-be student challengers in sneakers and t-shirts made a beeline to the free-throw line, where the first five to sink shots would earn the right to play.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: As its power declines, the U.S. pays the price

Chrystia Freeland:

Economic policy isn’t just a domestic issue anymore. That is the conclusion we should draw from the market volatility this week, including the shift by Standard & Poor’s to a negative outlook for U.S. government debt, and the meeting last weekend of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.
This is a familiar fact for smaller countries. The emerging market nations have long understood that judgments made on Wall Street or at the IMF headquarters in Washington often had more power to shape their economic policy than the proposals of their own ministers of finance and central bankers. More recently, that is a lesson that fiscally weak Western countries like Greece, Ireland and Portugal have been learning, too.
Now, as the relative power of the United States in the global economy declines, it is a fact of life that Americans need to get used to, too. That is one of the important messages of the S&P decision at the beginning of this week to put the United States on a negative outlook – essentially a warning that the ratings agency is no longer certain the United States will maintain its AAA rating.
There are a lot of reasons the S&P call should be taken with a grain of salt. For one thing, the ratings agencies hardly covered themselves with glory in the run-up to the financial crisis, and surely no longer deserve oracular status – if they ever did.

Autism’s Causes: How Close Are We to Solving the Puzzle?

PBS NewsHour:

ROBERT MACNEIL: As we’ve reported, autism now affects one American child in a 110. Last month, a committee convened by public health officials in Washington called it a national health emergency. The dramatic rise in official figures over the last decade has generated a surge of scientific research to find what is causing autism.
Among the centers for such research is here, the University of California, Davis MIND Institute in Sacramento. Here and around the country, we’ve talked to leading researchers about where that effort now stands. Among them is the director of research at the MIND Institute, Dr. David Amaral.
DR. DAVID AMARAL, MIND Institute: Well, I think we’re close to finding several causes for autism. But there’s — I don’t think there’s going to be a single cause.
ROBERT MACNEIL: The science director of the Simons Foundation in New York, Dr. Gerald Fishbach; Dr. Martha Herbert, professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School; and Dr. Craig Newschaffer, professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at Drexel University in Philadelphia. First, I asked, how close are we to discovering the cause of autism?

Writing Teachers: Still Crazy After All These Years

Mary Grabar:

After spending four depressing days this month at a meeting of 3,000 writing teachers in Atlanta, I can tell you that their parent group, the Conference on College Composition and Communication, is not really interested in teaching students to write and communicate clearly. The group’s agenda, clear to me after sampling as many of the meeting’s 500 panels as I could, is devoted to disparaging grammar, logic, reason, evidence and fairness as instruments of white oppression. They believe rules of grammar discriminate against “marginalized” groups and restrict self-expression.
Even noted composition scholar Peter Elbow, in his address, claimed that the grammar that we internalize at the age of four is “good enough.” The Internet, thankfully, has freed us from our previous duties as “grammar police,” and Elbow heralded the day when the white spoken English that has now become the acceptable standard, will be joined by other forms, like those of non-native and ghetto speakers.
Freed from standards of truth claims and grammatical construction, rhetoric is now redefined as “performance,” as in street protests, often by students demonstrating their “agency.” Expressions are made through “the body,” images, and song–sometimes a burst of spontaneous reflection on the Internet. Clothes are rhetorically important as “instruments of grander performance.”

Wis. teachers respond to challenges of budget repair bill

Taylor Nye:

The big news back in my small, rural southeast Wisconsin hometown is that the high school and middle school have a few new teachers. Every time I run into someone from back home, they have to tell me, “Did you hear about the new science/math/Spanish teacher?” Unfortunately, teachers in my hometown and around Wisconsin are not retiring because it’s their time. What we are seeing are effects from Gov. Scott Walker’s Budget Tyranny Bill, and small and large school districts alike will continue to face large turnover in the foreseeable future.
When Walker tried to slash union’s bargaining rights, he opened a legal can of worms. With all the actions that are being brought against his administration over the legality of his moves, it’s difficult to remember that Wisconsin’s teachers are left between a rock and a hard place as long as his measures stand. The educators who are now retiring likely didn’t consider leaving their school systems until it became clear that he was going to put his bill into effect. They have two choices: Take whatever they can get out of early retirement now, or stay on and wait to see what retirement benefits, if any, the unions will be able to bargain for in the future. In addition, there is another worry about continuing to teach — no one knows how expansive future layoffs will be.

New Study Confirms UFT Report’s Findings on ELLs in Charters

Christina Collins:

The Journal of School Choice recently published an article in which researchers Jack Buckley and Carolyn Sattin-Bajaj confirmed the UFT’s findings in 2010 that charter schools in New York City enrolled a lower proportion of limited English proficient (LEP) students than the average district school in 2007-08. Overall, they find that among the city’s charters from 2006-2008, “in the case of the LEP proportions, there is a large group of schools with very few, a handful with a larger proportion, and perhaps 1-3 schools, depending on the year, with a large share of LEP students.”
This report provides a valuable complement to our findings in “Separate and Unequal,” both in its examination of two additional years of data and in its use of sophisticated statistical formulas to account for possible errors in the numbers of LEP students that charters report to the state each year. As this chart from the article shows, even when the researchers controlled for that possibility, the proportion of LEP students in most charters in the city fell well below the district average (represented by the solid line on the graph).

Teachers ‘bully other teachers’


Bullying in school is a problem for many staff as well as pupils, according to a teachers’ union survey.
The bullies are often other teachers who pick on their staffroom colleagues – with heads and senior staff alleged to be among the worst culprits.
The survey, from the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, says about a quarter of teachers have been bullied by another member of staff.
The union is calling for “robust” policies to tackle such instances.
Teachers report being “driven from their jobs” by bullying head teachers.

A lesson in mediocrity California’s schools show how direct democracy can destroy accountability

The Economist:

EVERYTHING ABOUT CALIFORNIA’S school system is complicated, starting with the question of how bad its public schools are. Comparisons show that students in California fare worse than the national average in mathematics, reading, science and writing. But the numbers are unfair, says John Mockler, an expert in Californian education who has been following its fortunes since the 1960s. For instance, half of California’s pupils are Hispanic, and 40% of those hardly speak English. Most other states don’t face this problem.
Nonetheless, there is a broad consensus that California’s public schools are not what they could be, nor what they used to be. California ranks 47th among the 50 states and the District of Columbia in spending per pupil ($7,886, against an average of $11,397). It ranks last in the number of students per teacher: California’s legislative analyst estimates that most classes have 28-31 pupils. And it ranks 42nd in the proportion of pupils who graduate (63%, against a national average of 69%).

ACLU seeks federal probe of truants lockup

Lynn Arditi:

The American Civil Liberties Union and its Rhode Island affiliate are urging federal justice officials in Washington to investigate the lockup of truants at the state Training School.
The ACLU has asked officials in the U.S. Justice Department — who are scheduled to arrive in Rhode Island Tuesday — to investigate “documented evidence” published in a December 2010 Providence Journal article that showed, since 2005, at least 28 youths from the state Family Court’s truancy program had been detained overnight.
The Journal article described how juveniles who attended weekly truancy hearings in classrooms, cafeterias and school offices around the state were declared in criminal contempt of court and sent to the Training School. Their offenses included not answering a magistrate’s questions, swearing or otherwise acting disrespectful. In one case, a 12-year-old girl was ordered held for two nights for slamming a door on her way out of the room. At the time, the girl had no parent or lawyer present.