Gesturing like a conductor, the Van Hise Elementary teacher exhorted her third-graders for answers while deftly involving a special-needs youngster.
I was in class as part of the Foundation for Madison’s Public Schools’ “principal for a day” program, and I recall thinking: This would be a really tough job to do well day after day.
Teachers have always impressed me, apparently a lot more than they do Scott Walker.
The Republican governor continues to wage his cynical campaign against labor unions representing teachers and other public employees. The conflict rumbles on, with a judge ruling last week that the legislative vote to extinguish collective bargaining rights violated the state’s open meetings law.
The collateral damage to the morale and reputations of Wisconsin’s 60,000 or so classroom teachers seems of no concern to Walker and his allies inside and outside the state.
In fact, based on recent Walker press releases, teachers and teachers unions remain a prime target. In terms of there being a bulls-eye on teachers’ backs, just consider last week.
Monthly Archives: May 2011
The End of Men
Earlier this year, women became the majority of the workforce for the first time in U.S. history. Most managers are now women too. And for every two men who get a college degree this year, three women will do the same. For years, women’s progress has been cast as a struggle for equality. But what if equality isn’t the end point? What if modern, postindustrial society is simply better suited to women? A report on the unprecedented role reversal now under way– and its vast cultural consequences.
In the 1970s the biologist Ronald Ericsson came up with a way to separate sperm carrying the male-producing Y chromosome from those carrying the X. He sent the two kinds of sperm swimming down a glass tube through ever-thicker albumin barriers. The sperm with the X chromosome had a larger head and a longer tail, and so, he figured, they would get bogged down in the viscous liquid. The sperm with the Y chromosome were leaner and faster and could swim down to the bottom of the tube more efficiently. Ericsson had grown up on a ranch in South Dakota, where he’d developed an Old West, cowboy swagger. The process, he said, was like “cutting out cattle at the gate.” The cattle left flailing behind the gate were of course the X’s, which seemed to please him. He would sometimes demonstrate the process using cartilage from a bull’s penis as a pointer.
In the late 1970s, Ericsson leased the method to clinics around the U.S., calling it the first scientifically proven method for choosing the sex of a child. Instead of a lab coat, he wore cowboy boots and a cowboy hat, and doled out his version of cowboy poetry. (People magazine once suggested a TV miniseries based on his life called Cowboy in the Lab.) The right prescription for life, he would say, was “breakfast at five-thirty, on the saddle by six, no room for Mr. Limp Wrist.” In 1979, he loaned out his ranch as the backdrop for the iconic “Marlboro Country” ads because he believed in the campaign’s central image–“a guy riding on his horse along the river, no bureaucrats, no lawyers,” he recalled when I spoke to him this spring. “He’s the boss.” (The photographers took some 6,500 pictures, a pictorial record of the frontier that Ericsson still takes great pride in.)
The wonders worked by womanhood
When Christine Lagarde launched her bid to be the new head of the IMF last week she declared that she would bring to the job all her “experience as a lawyer, a minister, a manager and a woman”.
The first three strands of her experience are self-explanatory – and formidable. But what did Ms Lagarde mean by the fourth? What exactly is her experience as a woman? And how does it make her a better candidate for a job that involves flying round the world rescuing countries that are going down the financial plughole?
The most obvious thing that sorts out a woman’s experience from a man’s is that women bear children. On two occasions, Ms Lagarde has spent the best part of a year with a growing lump in her abdomen, and then endured the tricky business of getting it out. For most women this is a very big deal, though it’s not obvious how such an experience sets anyone up for running the IMF.
As children grow up, however, a mother (or, in truth, a father) can find herself doling out pocket money. Human nature being what it is, this often gets blown instantly on sweets, leaving nothing to spend on, say, a sibling’s birthday present. The mother then faces the tricky decision of whether to bail the child out, and what conditions to impose on any loan extended. I can see that dealing with such dilemmas could be relevant to a future head of the IMF, the only difference being one of degree: rather more countries requiring rather larger sums.
MIT Supporting High School Science Sims
Stacie Bumgarner is a research scientist in the Biology Department at MIT. She leads school outreach efforts for the Office of Educational Innovation & Technology. She is working with JFY Networks to expand the use of two sophisticated science simulations to high school students in Boston:
GOP looks at N.J. school strategy
ew Jersey Senate Republicans have been asked to consider taking a unified position on public education, including removing the state Supreme Court from school-funding decisions and granting the Legislature the power to determine what it means to provide a “thorough and efficient” education in public schools.
A Republican strategy memo laid out Friday in an e-mail from Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr. to his caucus asked fellow GOP senators for feedback on a three-pronged education plan after Tuesday’s Supreme Court order requiring the state to invest $500 million more in 31 poor school districts.
The plan includes supporting a constitutional amendment that would end judicial involvement in school-funding decisions and give the state wiggle room to reduce funding in lean budget years. The resolution, sponsored by Sen. Steven Oroho (R., Sussex) and cosponsored by the other 15 members of the GOP caucus, was introduced in January but hasn’t gained traction. It would require voter approval.
Letters: Bill Gates and the School Reform Debate
I am a teacher with Teach Plus, which was featured in the opening lines of “Behind Grass-Roots School Advocacy, Bill Gates” (front page, May 22). Our perspectives on what motivated our advocacy were not included in the article.
Thousands of great teachers are being laid off this spring, simply because they lack seniority, and many are seeking opportunities to fight for their jobs and for their students. Depicting us as the pawns of Bill Gates is unjustified, particularly since his foundation, while supporting the national organization Teach Plus, does not finance the work of the Indianapolis chapter.
Only in this era of relentless teacher-bashing by the news media could a story about teachers fighting for their own jobs and the jobs of their colleagues be spun into a conspiracy theory.
Indianapolis, May 24, 2011
Districts Weigh Lightening Workloads
MONTCLAIR, New Jersey (Reuters) – School districts from coast to coast are weighing the elimination of homework on weekends and holidays, part of a move by educators to rein in student workloads.
Officials at public schools in Galloway Township, New Jersey, this week proposed no more homework on weekends and holidays for their 3,500 students, and the Pleasanton Unified School District in northern California suggested drastic changes to homework policy for the 14,500-student district.
The moves come in response to complaints from parents that children spend too many after-school hours buried in work, and concerns from teachers that test preparation trumps learning.
Confessions of a school ranker
If you are a successful actor, businessman or novelist, you are likely to be famous. If you are a successful school, forget about it. That’s why most people have never heard of the two schools at the top of this year’s Washington Post High School Challenge rankings of American high schools.
Two Dallas public magnet schools — the School of Science & Engineering and the Gifted & Talented Magnet — are ranked first and second on the national list, based on participation rates on college-level tests. They share a building with four other small magnets near the middle of the city. They have been at or near the top of the list for several years, but their principals and teachers are rarely if ever seen on national news.
That is probably a good thing. Celebrity gets in the way of serious work. Engineering & Science, Talented & Gifted and the rest of the 1,910 high schools (including more than 140 in the Washington area) recognized on the list have staffs dedicated to raising students to new levels of achievement. At Science & Engineering, 63 percent of students come from families poor enough to qualify for federal lunch subsidies. At Talented & Gifted, the percentage is 33 percent. Most magnets that admit students based on academic credentials have few kids from low-income families, but these two schools work hard to convince disadvantaged students that they will thrive taking Advanced Placement courses as early as ninth grade. Those educators fulfill that promise.
Coaching for Chinese Students Looking to the U.S.
In December 2009, a rejection letter from Columbia University found its way to the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen. It was addressed to Lu Jingyu, a top student and member of her school’s student government. As she read the disheartening words, Ms. Lu immediately began to panic. Where had she gone wrong? How could she fix this?
For answers, she turned to ThinkTank Learning, a college admission consulting company from California that had recently opened an office in Shenzhen, which is next door to Hong Kong.
“I wanted American professionals to look at my application and shed some new light on how I could make it better,” she said.
The price was steep: 100,000 renminbi, or $15,000. But it came with a 100 percent money-back guarantee — if Ms. Lu was rejected from the nine selective U.S. universities to which she applied, her family would get a full refund.
Wolfram Alpha Turns 2: ‘People Just Need What We Are Doing’
Steven Wolfram, the man behind computing-application Mathematica and the search engine Wolfram Alpha, has a short attention span that’s married to a long-term outlook.
Wolfram Alpha is an online service that computes the answers to queries (e.g., age pyramid for the Philippines or glycogen degradation pathway rather than searching for those terms showing up on webpages.
When asked what his favorite query is, the particle physicist and MacArthur “genius” award recipient says he’s enamored that Wolfram Alpha can tell you about the plane you just saw flying over your town — in his case “flights visible from Concord, Massachusetts.”
Revenge of the geeks: What made them outsiders in high school makes them stars in the world
Many popular students approach graduation day with bittersweet nostalgia: excitement for the future is tempered by fear of lost status. But as cap-and-gown season nears, let’s also stop to consider the outcasts, students for whom finishing high school feels like liberation from a state-imposed sentence.
In seven years of reporting from American middle and high schools, I’ve seen repeatedly that the differences that cause a student to be excluded in high school are often the same traits or skills that will serve him or her well after graduation.
Examples abound: Taylor Swift’s classmates left the lunch table as soon as she sat down because they disdained her taste for country music. Last year, the Grammy winner was the nation’s top-selling recording artist.
Students mocked Tim Gunn’s love of making things; now he is a fashion icon with the recognizable catchphrase “Make it work.”
J.K. Rowling, author of the bestselling “Harry Potter” series, has described herself as a bullied child “who lived mostly in books and daydreams.” It’s no wonder she went on to write books populated with kids she describes as “outcasts and comfortable with being so.”
For many, says Sacred Heart University psychology professor Kathryn LaFontana, high school is the “first foray into the adult world where [kids] have to think about their own status.” And for teenagers, says LaFontana, who studies adolescent peer relationships and social status, “the worst thing in the world is to be different from other people; that’s what makes someone unpopular.”
Alexandra Robbins is the author of “The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth: Popularity, Quirk Theory, and Why Outsiders Thrive After High School.”
The Service of Democratic Education
I could not be more honored than to be awarded this recognition from Teachers College, one of the places of all those I know in the world that holds the tightest grip on my heart and best represents my values and beliefs. Thank you for this recognition–and, more important, thank you, Teachers College faculty, trustees, students and graduates, for who and what you are.
My first real glimpse of what Teachers College is and does occurred not in New York City but in a school in Washington, DC, where one of my children had transferred into a first grade classroom to avoid the truly terrible teaching that was literally undermining her health in another school. In her new school, Elena’s teacher, Miss Leslie, had created a wonderland of stimulating opportunities for learning: children experimenting and investigating in the classroom and the community, designing and conducting projects, writing and publishing their own little stories (one that my daughter wrote after the birth of her little brother was entitled “Send Him Back”). This teacher–who was in her very first year of practice–not only had created a classroom that any mother would want to send her child to, but she also had the skillful eye and knowledge base to figure out within weeks that Elena was severely dyslexic, to teach her to read without her ever being labeled or stigmatized, and to instill in my daughter a lifelong love of books and learning that has led to her being a literacy teacher working with special needs students today.
Principles That Don’t Change
I want to tell you what it has been like to spend my life as a professor at Harvard, the most prestigious university in America, perhaps the world. In my time there, Old Harvard, a place of tradition with its prejudices, has become New Harvard, a place of prestige with its prejudices. What’s the difference?
There are two old jokes about Old Harvard: “You can always tell a Harvard man but you can’t tell him much,” and “You will never regret going to Harvard; others may, but you won’t.” These describe arrogance, and of course the arrogance of Harvard men, not the women who are there now in profusion and force. With arrogance went a certain fastidiousness mocked in another joke: “A Yale man washes his hands after he goes to the bathroom–a Harvard man washes them before.” No doubt this one came from Yale, as it makes Yale represent normal male humanity in contrast to a studied, self-conscious few. This Harvard attitude survives today in the act that students call “dropping the H-Bomb”–that is, disclosing that you go to Harvard. Even I never announce that I’m a Harvard professor. I say that I teach. Where? In a college. Yes, but where? Around Boston. Oh, I see: you must be a Harvard professor.
The superagent on upholding great literature in an e-reading world
Literary agent Andrew Wylie is of the old school. His office suite in New York’s Fisk Building feels more like a faculty lounge than a synergistic, new-media conglomerate. But the Wylie Agency, which represents some 750 clients, including a who’s who of the literary establishment–Roth, Updike, Rushdie–has been at the vanguard of changes in the book industry world-wide. With the advent of e-books and the demise of Borders, the publishing establishment may seem to be crumbling. Yet Wylie, renowned for his ability to extract huge advances from tightfisted publishers, doesn’t seem to be much ruffled.
Nicknamed “The Jackal” for his aggressive deal-making, Wylie struck terror into publishers last year by setting up a company, Odyssey Editions, to distribute electronic versions of books he represents through Amazon.com. But don’t mistake him for a pop-culture version of a vulpine 15-percenter. Trim, polite and circumspect, Wylie, 63, is uncaffeinated. A New England WASP, he stands foursquare for literary elitism and good old-fashioned standards. And while he has his share of celebrity and political clients, he insists his work is all about great, lasting literature, not quick-buck synergies, “60 Minutes” tie-ins or Facebook friends.
Catching up on national high school ranks
We did not have room for everything I wanted to include in the big package of lists and stories that make up the new Challenge Index rankings of America’s high schools. I moved the list this year from Newsweek–where we often called it “America’s Best High Schools”– to washingtonpost.com, where its new title is “The High School Challenge.”
My editors were right not to jam in too much material. It is not always easy to find the features that are there. Please consider this a short guide to finding the inside stuff that many readers of this blog crave and that will give them more ammo to fire at me. I also provide below the Catching Up list of local schools with low Advanced Placement passing rates, something my editors and I agreed would work better on my blog.
Use this link to get to the main ranked lists, one for national and one for the Washington area. This link will take you to the Public Elites list, the schools that did not make the main lists because they were too selective. Here is the link to the full unabridged Frequently Asked Questions, which I made into a blog post. And here is the national Catching-up list.
A Deal on Texas School Finance, Dewhurst Says
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said leaders in the House and Senate had agreed on a school finance plan as he left a meeting with education and budget chiefs from both chambers.
As expected, it is the “hybrid of a hybrid” Sen. Florence Shapiro described. All districts would take what will likely be a 6 percent across-the-board reduction in the first year, the approach pushed by the House. In the second year, Shapiro’s SB 22 would take effect: 75 percent of the remaining $2 billion reduction in state funding would come from cutting property wealthy, target revenue districts; all districts would bear cuts to make up the that last 25 percent.
During the 2013 session, Shapiro said lawmakers will adjust the school funding formulas once again based on the money available. The current plan contains a 2018 deadline for the phase out of target revenue, but as Shapiro pointed out, there are three legislative sessions between then and now.
Michigan superintendent has plan to save state’s schools from Gov. Snyder’s ax: Make them prisons
Financially pinched states across the nation are making draconian cuts in spending for social services and public education. But there’s one area that gets gentler treatment under Republican governors and legislators: prisons. In fact, while Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and the GOP-controlled legislature were whacking $300 per student from the state’s K-12 school budget, he was simultaneously moving some of the “savings” over to corrections and prisons.
That prompted Nathan Bootz, superintendent of public schools in the small town of Ithaca in central Michigan, to pen a letter to the local Gratiot County Herald suggesting a modest proposal:
Teaching methods: Applying science to the teaching of science
AS DOES much else in the universe, education moves in cycles. The 1960s and 1970s saw a swell of interest in teaching styles that were less authoritarian and hierarchical than the traditional watching of a teacher scribbling on a blackboard. Today, tastes have swung back, and it is fashionable to denigrate those alternatives as so much hippy nonsense.
But evidence trumps fashion–at least, it ought to. And a paper just published in Science by Louis Deslauriers and his colleagues at the University of British Columbia suggests that at least one of the newfangled styles is indeed superior to the traditional chalk-and-talk approach.
Dr Deslauriers’s lab rats were a group of 850 undergraduate engineering students taking a compulsory physics course. The students were split into groups at the start of their course, and for the first 11 weeks all went to traditionally run lectures given by well-regarded and experienced teachers. In the 12th week, one of the groups was switched to a style of teaching known as deliberate practice, which inverts the traditional university model. Class time is spent on problem-solving, discussion and group work, while the absorption of facts and formulae is left for homework. Students were given reading assignments before classes. Once in the classroom they spent their time in small groups, discussing specific problems, with the teacher roaming between groups to offer advice and respond to questions.
Help students by rejecting the self-interested
With few exceptions, Americans spend more on public education than anyone else in the world, but we get some of the worst results. The reason is that most of our public education systems do not properly teach students what they need to know.
That’s it. There is no magic. And the federal takeovers, the jazzy new technology, Bill Gates’ money, the data-gathering, reform, transformation, national initiatives, removal of teacher seniority, blaming of parents, hand-wringing in the media, and budget shifting won’t change that simple fact.
In all of the local, state and federal plans for reforming and transforming public education, I see the bureaucracy growing, the taxpayer bill exploding, the people’s voice being eliminated, good teachers being threatened with firing or public humiliation, and students not being taught what they need to know.
A May 25 Wall Street Journal article says some schools now charge parents fees for basic academics, as well as for extracurricular activities, graded electives and advanced classes. Those are private-school fees for a public-school education, and that’s just wrong.
Call for revolution in English teaching: Professor says multilingual teachers who grew up speaking Cantonese provide a better model for Hong Kong children than native English speakers
English should be taught in Hong Kong by multilingual teachers, not native English speakers, according to a Hong Kong education professor who is organising an international conference on English as a lingua franca, being held in the city.
“It’s a revolutionary shift that we’re arguing for, and it’s that the multilingual way becomes the linguistic model for teaching kids English here, not that of a native English speaker,” says Andy Kirkpatrick, chair professor of English as a professional language at the Hong Kong Institute of Education.
The poor job prospects of Chinese university graduates must lead students and their parents to rethink their focus on academic qualifications and moderate their expectations
A university degree in China used to be a ticket to instant success in a country where tertiary education was rare and valued. No longer. Likemany things in China, from exporting shoes to building high-speed trains, there has been a Great Leap Forward in advanced education that leads to doubts about its quality and value in real life.
More than seven million Chinese students are expected to graduate from the country’s universities this summer, an astonishing five-fold increase over the number 10 years ago.
China has overtaken the United States as the biggest conferrer of PhDs in the world, with 50,000 new ones in 2009, compared to 10,000 just 10 years earlier. In addition, a total of 1.27 million Chinese are studying abroad, according to the Ministry of Education, the largest number of any country worldwide. Last year alone, 285,000 Chinese went abroad to study, 24 per cent more than in 2009. Most popular is the US, followed by Australia, Japan, Britain, South Korea, Canada and Singapore.
Beyond the School: Exploring a Systemic Approach to School Turnaround
Joel Knudson, Larisa Shambaugh & Jennifer O’Day
Educators have long grappled with the challenge presented by chronically underperforming schools. Environments that consistently fail to prepare students for higher levels of education threaten opportunities for high school graduation, postsecondary education, and career success. The U.S. Department of Education reinforced the urgency of reversing sustained poor performance in early 2009 when it identified intensive supports and effective interventions in our lowest-achieving schools as one of its four pillars of education reform. However, federal and state policies have often situated the cause–and thus the remedies–for persistent low performance at the school level. This brief uses the experience of eight California school districts–all members of the California Collaborative on District Reform–to suggest a more systemic approach to school turnaround.
We explore the district perspective on school turnaround by describing several broad themes that emerged across the eight districts in the California Collaborative on District Reform. We also profile three of these districts to illustrate specific strategies that can create a coherent district-wide approach to turnaround. Building on these district perspectives, we explore considerations for turnaround efforts in the upcoming reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).
Mothers of twins do not just get twice the bundle of joy – they are also healthier than other mothers
THROUGHOUT history, twins have provoked mixed feelings. Sometimes they were seen as a curse–an unwanted burden on a family’s resources. Sometimes they were viewed as a blessing, or even as a sign of their father’s superior virility. But if Shannen Robson and Ken Smith, of the University of Utah, are right, twins have more to do with their mother’s sturdy constitution than their father’s sexual power.
At first blush, this sounds an odd idea. After all, bearing and raising twins is taxing, both for the mother and for the children. Any gains from having more than one offspring at a time might be expected to be outweighed by costs like higher infant and maternal mortality rates. On this view, twins are probably an accidental by-product of a natural insurance policy against the risk of losing an embryo early in gestation. That would explain why many more twins are conceived than born, and why those born are so rare (though more common these days, with the rise of IVF). They account for between six and 40 live births per 1,000, depending on where the mother lives.
Dr Robson and Dr Smith, however, think that this account has got things the wrong way round. Although all women face a trade-off between the resources their bodies allocate to reproduction and those reserved for the maintenance of health, robust women can afford more of both than frail ones. And what surer way to signal robustness than by bearing more than one child at a time? In other words, the two researchers conjectured, the mothers of twins will not only display greater overall reproductive success, they will also be healthier than those who give birth only to singletons.
The study of well-being; Strength in a smile – A new discipline moves to centre-stage
Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being. By Martin Seligman. Free Press; 368 pages; $26. Nicholas Brealey Publishing
The idea that it is the business of governments to cheer up their citizens has moved in recent years to centre-stage. Academics interested in measures of GDH (gross domestic happiness) were once forced to turn to the esoteric example of Bhutan. Now Britain’s Conservative-led government is compiling a national happiness index, and Nicolas Sarkozy, France’s president, wants to replace the traditional GDP count with a measure that takes in subjective happiness levels and environmental sustainability.
Amazon.com Reveals the Most Well-Read Cities in America
Just in time for the summer reading season, Amazon.com announced its list of the Top 20 Most Well-Read Cities in America. After compiling sales data of all book, magazine and newspaper sales in both print and Kindle format since Jan. 1, 2011, on a per capita basis in cities with more than 100,000 residents, the Top 20 Most Well-Read Cities are:
More than 1,700 sign up for Madison schools’ new 4K program
More than 1,700 students are signed up for Madison’s new 4-year-old kindergarten program next fall — many more than the district anticipated.
The district initially projected enrollment at 1,500 students, but so far has enrolled 1,730 students and counting. Parents can enroll their students in the free program at any time.
The higher number is a good thing and likely resulted from an extensive amount of community outreach, according to Deputy Superintendent Sue Abplanalp.
The story behind the Milwaukee school choice study: The results are more complicated than they are sometimes portrayed.
John F. Witte and Patrick J. Wolf:
The past few weeks have seen a lively debate surrounding the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program and Gov. Scott Walker’s various proposals to expand it. It is time for researchers to weigh in.
For the past five years, as mandated by state law, we have led a national team in a comprehensive evaluation of the choice program. Our study has applied social science research methods to carefully matched sets of students in the choice program and in Milwaukee Public Schools. Whenever possible, we have used measures that are applied consistently in the public- and private-school sectors, generating true apples-to-apples comparisons.
This is what we have learned:
Competitive pressure from the voucher program has produced modest achievement gains in MPS.
The three-year achievement gains of choice students have been comparable to those of our matched sample of MPS students. The choice students are not showing achievement benefits beyond those of the students left behind in MPS.
High school students in the choice program both graduate and enroll in four-year colleges at a higher rate than do similar students in MPS. Being in the choice program in ninth grade increases by four to seven percentage points a student’s prospects of both graduating from high school and enrolling in college. Students who remain in the choice program for their entire four years of high school graduate at a rate of 94%, compared with 75% for similar MPS students.
Wisconsin Governor’s Read to Lead Task Force 5/31/2011 Meeting
via a kind reader’s email:
Notice of Commission Meeting
Governor’s Read to Lead Task Force
Governor Scott Walker, Chair
Superintendent Tony Evers, Vice-Chair
Members: Mara Brown, Kathy Champeau, Steve Dykstra, Michele Erikson, Representative Jason Fields, Marcia Henry, Representative Steve Kestell, Rachel Lander, Senator Luther Olsen, Tony Pedriana, Linda Pils, and Mary Read.
Guests: Professors from UW colleges of education
Tuesday, May 31, 2011 1:00pm
Office of the Governor, Governor’s Conference Room 115 East State Capitol Madison, WI 53702
Welcome and opening remarks by Governor Walker and Superintendent Evers.
Introductions from task force members and guest members representing UW colleges of education.
A discussion of teacher training and professional development including current practices and ways to improve.
A discussion of reading interventions including current practices and ways to improve.
A discussion of future topics and future meeting dates.
Governor Scott Walker
Individuals needing assistance, pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act, should contact the Governor’s office at (608) 266-1212, 24 hours before this meeting to make necessary arrangements.
Standing on the Shoulders of Giants: An American Agenda for Education Reform; Advocating Benchmarking
This paper is the answer to a question: What would the education policies and practices of the United States be if they were based on the policies and practices of the countries that now lead the world in student performance? It is adapted from the last two chapters of a book to be published in September 2011 by Harvard Education Press. Other chapters in that book describe the specific strategies pursued by Canada (focusing on Ontario), China (focusing on Shanghai), Finland, Japan and Singapore, all of which are far ahead of the United States. The research on these countries was performed by a team assembled by the National Center on Education and the Economy, at the request of the OECD.
A century ago, the United States was among the most eager benchmarkers in the world. We took the best ideas in steelmaking, industrial chemicals and many other fields from England and Germany and others and put them to work here on a scale that Europe could not match. At the same time, we were borrowing the best ideas in education, mainly from the Germans and the Scots. It was the period of the most rapid growth our economy had ever seen and it was the time in which we designed the education system that we still have today. It is fair to say that, in many important ways, we owe the current shape of our education system to industrial benchmarking.
But, after World War II, the United States appeared to reign supreme in both the industrial and education arenas and we evidently came to the conclusion that we had little to learn from anyone. As the years went by, one by one, country after country caught up to and then surpassed us in several industries and more or less across the board in precollege education. And still we slept.
Well worth reading. I thought about this topic – benchmarking student progress via the oft-criticized WKCE during this past week’s Madison School District Strategic Planning Update. I’ll have more on that next week.
Related: “Schools should not rely on only WKCE data to gauge progress of individual students or to determine effectiveness of programs or curriculum”.
University of Wisconsin Institutions to Receive Talented & Gifted Grants
Modifies the gifted and talented education grant program to allow all UW institutions to receive grants.
Wisconsin Joint Committee On Finance website.
I wonder what this means?
Some states and regions offer extensive higher education opportunities to high school students.
K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: College, There’s an App for That: How USC Built a 21st Century Classroom
“Everything about this program pushes definitions about what is a semester, what is the university, what is a classroom, and where do the faculty belong?”
In the spring of 2008, John Katzman, the founder of the Princeton Review, approached the Masters of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program at at the University of Southern California with a revolutionary idea. USC could increase its graduates by a factor of ten without building another room.
Every year, California adds 10,000 new teachers. And every year until 2008, USC graduated about 100. The school felt “invisible.” How could it build influence without new buildings? Katzman said his new project, 2tor, Inc, an education technology company, promised a solution. Forget the brick and mortar, and go online, he said. USC was skeptical. Surely, no Web program could possibly deliver an in-classroom quality of instruction.
Katzman disagreed. I have something to show you, he said.
I thought about this (the accelerating move away from Frederick Taylor [Blekko | Britannica | Clusty] style 19th Century education that we still seem to spend buckets of money on) while attending this week’s Madison School District Strategic Plan 2 year review. More on that meeting next week.
Shifting Trends in Special Education
Janie Scull, Amber M. Winkler, Ph.D.:
In this new Fordham Institute paper, analysts examine public data and find that the national proportion of students with disabilities peaked in 2004-05 and has been declining since. This overall trend masks interesting variations; for example, proportions of students with specific learning disabilities, mental retardation, and emotional disturbances have declined, while the proportions of students with autism, developmental delays, and other health impairments have increased notably. Meanwhile, at the state level, Rhode Island, New York, and Massachusetts have the highest rates of disability identification, while Texas, Idaho, and Colorado have the lowest. The ratio of special-education teachers and paraprofessionals to special-education students also varies widely from state to state–so much so that our analysts question the accuracy of the data reported by states to the federal government.
So You Say You’re Broke? An Analysis of Educational Costs and Revenues
Hearing that the University of California system had $2.5 billion in “unrestricted net assets” on hand in 2010 could make anyone question the necessity of the 32 percent tuition hike that has been proposed, or the 11 to 26 furlough days that more than 100,000 employees were forced to take in 2009.
Similar skepticism has been expressed in two other states in the last month, as different groups suggested that state universities were, in their view, hoarding funds while simultaneously demanding more money from students, denying pay increases to faculty and staff members, and fighting against cuts in state funding. In Michigan it was a faculty union in the middle of contract negotiations. In Ohio it was the state senate’s finance committee chairman.
The problem with the claim, administrators say, is that unrestricted net assets are not just piles of cash lying around to be used for whatever they want. The accounting term, which they admit is confusing, refers to any money that doesn’t have some specific restriction placed on it by a donor. That includes a whole host of different funds, most of which have been designated for some purpose, they say.
Andrew Gillen, Matthew Denhart and Jonathan Robe:
Using U.S. Department of Education data, this report compares estimates of colleges and universities educational revenues and costs and finds that many colleges and universities are paid more to provide an education than they spend providing one to their students. These findings challenge the conventional wisdom which holds that the education for virtually all students is heavily subsidized. Although total university spending is often in excess of the tuition charges students pay, in reality only a portion of many institutions’ budgets go directly to educational spending, meaning that many schools spend large amounts on things totally unrelated to educating students. Ultimately, many students are left paying the bill through tuition bills which are greater than the costs of their education.
Geometric minds skip school
In a South American jungle, far from traffic circles, city squares and the Pentagon, beats the heart of geometry.
Villagers belonging to an Amazonian group called the Mundurucú intuitively grasp abstract geometric principles despite having no formal math education, say psychologist Véronique Izard of Université Paris Descartes and her colleagues.
Mundurucú adults and 7- to 13-year-olds demonstrate as firm an understanding of the properties of points, lines and surfaces as adults and school-age children in the United States and France, Izard’s team reports online May 23 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
U.S. children between ages 5 and 7 partially understand geometric space, but not to the same extent as older children and adults, the researchers find.
Intervention From On High
When two faculty members disagree about issues related to research, is it right for an administrator to intervene?
A faculty committee at the University of California at San Diego examined that question in a report this week that finds that a dean responded to a dispute between two professors by telling one not to publish or speak out about the other’s research. And that order, the committee concluded, violated basic principles of academic freedom.
“Faculty members’ rights to study, re-analyze, and publish controversial scholarly materials cannot be abridged,” says the report from the UCSD Committee on Academic Freedom. “These rights to academic freedom cannot be administratively revoked to prevent possible future breaching of professional norms. In our view, the campus administration’s fundamental responsibility is precisely to protect the right of faculty members to research and publish scholarly work even when others, on or off campus, find the work or its conclusions controversial or objectionable.”
Wealthy don’t need vouchers for private school
Wisconsin State Journal Editorial:
Giving children in poverty private-school vouchers to escape failing public schools in Milwaukee is one thing.
But Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal to hand vouchers to wealthy families in Milwaukee and other cities isn’t justified or affordable for taxpayers.
This is especially true given the state’s budget problems and cuts in aid to public schools. Walker’s proposal could result in beleaguered taxpayers having to subsidize private school tuition for wealthy families who never intended to send their kids to public schools in the first place.
The Republican-run Legislature should keep Milwaukee’s private school choice program as it is: focused on needy, urban children.
Opposing points of view: For students’ sake, schools should retain best teachers, no matter the years of experience
Michael Lomax & Michelle Rhee:
When times are tough, as they are now, and schools need to reduce their teacher rolls, the importance of teachers in our children’s education demands that we keep the best.
It seems like common sense, Management 101, for any organization, company or agency that wants to do a better job in tough times. Your employees are your most important assets. So if some have to go, which ones do you keep? You save the best.
That commonsense rule of thumb should apply to schools and teachers. Research shows there is not a single school-based factor that has more of an impact on student learning than the quality of a child’s teacher.
Too Young for Kindergarten? Tide Turning Against 4-Year-Olds
Erin Ferrantino rarely has to consult the birthday chart in her kindergarten classroom to pick out the Octobers, Novembers and Decembers. This year, there was the girl who broke down in tears after an hour’s work, and the boy who held a pencil with his fist rather than his fingers.
Those two, along with another of Ms. Ferrantino’s pupils who were 4 when school started, will be repeating kindergarten next year.
“They struggled because they’re not developmentally ready,” said Ms. Ferrantino, 26, who teaches in Hartford. “It is such a long day and so draining, they have a hard time holding it together.”
A Race to the Top Wisconsin could win, if it tries
It will be interesting to see if Gov. Scott Walker’s office, the Department of Public Instruction and the Department of Children and Families join forces to make what could be a very strong Wisconsin proposal for federal funding to help young children get prepared for school and life.
On Wednesday, Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced a $500 million program aimed at improving and coordinating preschool programs around the country.
This new Early Learning Challenge is the third round of the Obama administration’s “Race to the Top” education competition among the states; this time the money is an incentive to encourage states to create or enhance innovative programs that will boost early learning, especially for low-income children.
Is College (Finally) Ready For Its Innovation Revolution?
If a college student today stepped into a time machine and traveled back to Plato’s Academy of ancient Athens, she would recognize quite a bit. Sure, it might take some time to master ancient Greek and the use of stylus on wax, but she would eventually settle into a familiar academic routine. Senior scholars across a range of subjects like astronomy and political theory would lecture, pose questions, and press answers to a small group of attendants. Junior attendants would listen, answer, and defend responses.
That a class in 2011 resembles a lecture from 2,300 years ago suggests that two millennia of technological upheaval have only brushed the world of academics. Some professors use PowerPoint, and many schools manage their classes with online software. But even these changes don’t fully embrace the potential of Web, mobile, and interactive technology.
“The present resistance to innovation [in education] is breathtaking,” Joel Klein writes in The Atlantic this month. The former chancellor of the New York City Department of Education was writing about public high schools, but he might as well have been talking about universities. Despite college costs rising faster in college than any institution in the country including health care, we have the technology to disrupt education, turn brick and mortar lecture halls into global class
Before Their Time: The 1960s saw the first significant presence of black men in Yale College. Forty years later, a disproportionate number have died.
In three decades as a news reporter, I’ve seen hundreds of bullet-riddled bodies in Haiti and in the Middle East, and I’ve had friends and colleagues killed in both of those places. I lost my father to cancer.
But no death transformed me like the death last August of Clyde E. Murphy, my buddy from the Class of ’70, my brother in Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, the best man at my wedding as I was at his. Clyde was the confidant with whom I shared deeply held feelings about life and death and–perhaps most of all–about being a black man in America.
Then, six months later, as I was making peace with the sudden loss of Clyde to a pulmonary embolism, word came that yet another brother who’d pledged Alpha with us, Ron Norwood ’70, had succumbed to cancer. A few weeks after that we learned that Jeff Palmer ’70, another black classmate, had passed, also from cancer.
On China’s Single Child Policy & Coerced Adoption
It was sheer luck that thugs showed up at Yang Libing’s house while he was away. Mr. Yang, if you’ve had a chance to watch our report (below), is the father whose baby daughter was forcefully taken away from him by corrupt officials looking to profit by handing children over to adoption agencies. He was running late that morning, and what ended up happening was a rather awkward uncertainty as our team and these thugs looked at each other. They knew we were from Al Jazeera. I don’t know how they knew that. They had been driving around searching specifically for us. They stood there and sized us up. In the end, the men sauntered away, ambivalent about the situation themselves. Had Mr. Yang been there, I imagine they would have stayed, their very presence meant to unnerve the person we hoped to interview. I must say we are often saved by the fact that many of the “Black Audi” types don’t really understand how television newsgathering is conducted. Perhaps they believed we would also saunter off after a time, given the absence of Mr. Yang. We did not walk away, of course, but waited until he returned to speak to him.
Encouraging young entrepreneurs to leave school $100,000 drop-outs
“WE’RE excited to be working with them, and we hope they will help young people everywhere realise that you don’t need credentials to launch a company that disrupts the status quo,” declared the Thiel Foundation on May 25th as it announced its first batch of “20 Under 20” fellows.
The lucky winners were all under 20 when they applied. There are actually 24 fellows, rather than 20, and each will receive $100,000 over two years, along with mentorship from a network of entrepreneurs and innovators selected by the initiative’s sponsor, Peter Thiel (pictured above). The only condition set by Mr Thiel, who made his billions first by co-founding PayPal then investing early in Facebook, is that they drop out of college (or high school) to focus full-time on building a business. A few of the new fellows appear to have dropped out–or, as the press release quaintly puts it, “stopped out”–before they were chosen, to launch a start-up or even to climb mountains.
Why Privacy Matters Even if You Have ‘Nothing to Hide’
When the government gathers or analyzes personal information, many people say they’re not worried. “I’ve got nothing to hide,” they declare. “Only if you’re doing something wrong should you worry, and then you don’t deserve to keep it private.”
The nothing-to-hide argument pervades discussions about privacy. The data-security expert Bruce Schneier calls it the “most common retort against privacy advocates.” The legal scholar Geoffrey Stone refers to it as an “all-too-common refrain.” In its most compelling form, it is an argument that the privacy interest is generally minimal, thus making the contest with security concerns a foreordained victory for security.
The nothing-to-hide argument is everywhere. In Britain, for example, the government has installed millions of public-surveillance cameras in cities and towns, which are watched by officials via closed-circuit television. In a campaign slogan for the program, the government declares: “If you’ve got nothing to hide, you’ve got nothing to fear.” Variations of nothing-to-hide arguments frequently appear in blogs, letters to the editor, television news interviews, and other forums. One blogger in the United States, in reference to profiling people for national-security purposes, declares: “I don’t mind people wanting to find out things about me, I’ve got nothing to hide! Which is why I support [the government’s] efforts to find terrorists by monitoring our phone calls!”
Madison (OH) teachers wear black to show frustration over negotiations
A group of Madison teachers, dressed in black, shared a message with the district’s school board Wednesday: Let’s get this contract dispute settled.
It’s been 10 months since the bargaining agreement expired for the Madison Local Schools Education Association, a union representing teachers.
The union and the district have locked horns on terms of a new contract. The school board rejected a fact finder’s report in March, which the teachers union voted to accept, and the process continues to stall.
Information About Law Schools, Circa 1960: The Cost of Attending
The Association of American Law Schools (AALS) produced a comprehensive study of law schools in the late 1950s, sending detailed surveys to 129 law schools, with a 90% response rate. Here are a few interesting tidbits about the cost of attending law school:
Median annual tuition and fees at private law schools was $475 (range $50-$1050); adjusted for inflation, that’s $3,419 in 2011 dollars. The median for public law schools was $204 (range $50 – $692), or $1,550 in 2011 dollars. [For comparison, in 2009 the private law school median was $36,000; the public (resident) median was $16,546.]
The report expressed concern about cost: “The cost of attending law school at least doubled in the [past] 16 years…, raising the question whether able, but impecunious, students are being directed away from law study.”
14% of students received scholarship aid; just over half of this aid was for “scholastic performance” (merit scholarships to attract top students) and the remainder for “economic need.”
Public Schools Charge Kids for Basics, Frills
Karen Dombi was thrilled when her three oldest children were picked for student government this year–not because she envisioned careers in politics, but because it was one of the few programs at their public high school that didn’t charge kids to participate.
Budget shortfalls have prompted Medina Senior High to impose fees on students who enroll in many academic classes and extracurricular activities. The Dombis had to pay to register their children for basic courses such as Spanish I and Earth Sciences, to get them into graded electives such as band, and to allow them to run cross-country and track. The family’s total tab for a year of public education: $4,446.50.
“I’m wondering, am I going to be paying for my parking spot at the school? Because you’re making me pay for just about everything else,” says Ms. Dombi, a parent in this middle-class community in northern Ohio.
Public schools across the country, struggling with cuts in state funding, rising personnel costs and lower tax revenues, are shifting costs to students and their parents by imposing or boosting fees for everything from enrolling in honors English to riding the bus.
1.9% Washington teacher pay cut: Lawmakers strike budget deal
Pay for teachers would be cut 1.9 percent and for school administrative staff by 3 percent over the next two years under a budget agreement released by lawmakers on Tuesday.
The pay cuts, worth $179 million, are part of more than $4 billion in cuts lawmakers are proposing as a way to close a roughly $5 billion budget shortfall.
The size of pay reductions for educators was a key area of disagreement during budget negotiations over the past several months.
A briefing on the proposal was scheduled for 10 a.m. The legislation still has to be voted on in the House and Senate.
Close ties color boards’ decisions
Some of Hawaii’s charter school boards are so closely entwined with their school’s leadership that the relationships could limit their ability to exercise independent oversight, a critical component to ensuring success.
Each volunteer board is responsible for governing the school, hiring the principal, setting policy and ensuring financial and academic viability, but a few might simply let the principal call the shots.
Some recent cases that have raised concern:
» Board members of Kula Aupuni Niihau a Kahelelani Aloha, a tiny bilingual school in Kekaha, Kauai, are related to the school’s administrator and defer to her in fiscal matters, according to a recent independent financial audit.
“During our audit, we noted very minimal fiscal oversight by the Board of Directors and no Finance Committee,” auditors concluded. “The fiscal operations and control are left to the Principal and the Accountant. The Local School Board currently does not have a member well versed in fiscal controls or financial statements.”
Oakland school’s lessons in gender diversity
A one-hour elementary school lesson on gender diversity featuring all-girl geckos and transgender clownfish caused a stir in Oakland on Monday, with conservative legal defense organizations questioning the legitimacy of the topic and providing legal counsel to parents who opposed the instruction.
On Monday and today, Redwood Heights Elementary School students at every grade level were being introduced to the topic of gender diversity, with lesson plans tailored to each age group.
The lesson on gender differences was one small part of a much larger effort to offer what parents last year said they wanted at the school: a warm, welcoming, safe and caring environment for all children, said Principal Sara Stone.
The school also teaches students about the variety of families at the school and takes on the issue of bullying.
School voucher advocates gave $3M to state Republican campaigns
A report from Wisconsin Democracy Campaign shows proponents of the school choice program outspent opponents 3-to-1 during the last election season. Nearly $1 million in outside election spending came from state business lobby Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce.
Assembly Republicans approved a bill earlier this month to expand voucher school enrollment in Milwaukee. Democrats call the program a privatization of education.
Opponents of the plan spent about $1 million to help elect mostly Democrats, with $841,000 coming from state teachers union Wisconsin Education Association Council. Sen. Spencer Coggs of Milwaukee received more than $39,000 in direct campaign contributions from opponents, the single largest amount for any Democratic senator.
Top Colleges, Largely for the Elite
The last four presidents of the United States each attended a highly selective college. All nine Supreme Court justices did, too, as did the chief executives of General Electric (Dartmouth), Goldman Sachs (Harvard), Wal-Mart (Georgia Tech), Exxon Mobil (Texas) and Google (Michigan).
Like it or not, these colleges have outsize influence on American society. So their admissions policies don’t matter just to high school seniors; they’re a matter of national interest.
More than seven years ago, a 44-year-old political scientist named Anthony Marx became the president of Amherst College, in western Massachusetts, and set out to change its admissions policies. Mr. Marx argued that elite colleges were neither as good nor as meritocratic as they could be, because they mostly overlooked lower-income students.
After Hartland teachers agree, union blocks insurance switch
Teachers in the Hartland-Lakeside School District have agreed to switch health insurance providers to save the district $690,000, but the executive committee of a union that represents Arrowhead High feeder schools is blocking the change, officials say.
Faced with a $1.2 million reduction in state aid for the 2011-12 school year, the School Board has been looking at ways to reduce costs and avoid program cuts and increases in class sizes, Superintendent Glenn W. Schilling said Tuesday.
The board determined it could achieve some saving by switching teachers’ health insurance from WEA Trust, the nonprofit company started 40 years ago by the state’s largest teachers union, to another provider when the contract expires on June 30.
In the end, the board and teachers – after a series of joint meetings to study the issue – agreed to go with United Healthcare.
Affirming the Goal Is College and Career Readiness an Internationally Competitive Standard?
Every child in the United States deserves a world-class education.
Every child deserves to be educated to high standards that offer opportunities to be successful in an increasingly competitive global economy.
But in a world that is becoming more competitive through increasing international labor markets and rapid technological advances, the US is facing new challenges to its economic competitiveness.
Jobs in a competitive global economy are demanding higher-level skills, higher productivity, and innovation, and other nations are surpassing the US in improving their educational systems to increase achievement, reduce achievement gaps, and elevate the teaching profession.3 In other words, they are educating themselves as a way to a better economy. So must we.
Rewriting the textbooks: When science gets it wrong
THE business of gaining understanding of the world about us rarely follows a simple path from A to B. False starts, dead ends and U-turns are part of the journey. Science’s ability to accept those setbacks with aplomb – to say “we got it wrong”, to modify and abandon cherished notions and find new ideas and explanations that better fit the emerging facts – is what gives it incomparable power to make sense of our surroundings.
It also means we must be constantly on our toes. While revolutionary new ideas such as evolution by natural selection, or quantum physics, are once-in-a-generation occurrences, the sands of science are continually shifting in less dramatic ways. In the following, we focus on nine recent examples – a tweak of a definition here, a breaking or weakening of a once cast-iron concept there – that together form a snapshot of that process in action.
Will our children earn less than we do?
How much did your parents earn when they were your age? Unless you buck the trend, the answer is less than you earn. But now, for the first time in decades, it’s not clear if the same will apply to your children. From the US to Germany, living standards for typical households had stopped rising long before the economic downturn. It is time to step back from the anxieties over cuts to ask: have we stopped getting richer?
Even posing that question may feel counter-cultural. Our expectations have been shaped by the rhythm of late 20th-century capitalism: occasionally there are recessions and incomes fall, but then recovery comes and wages rise. Put simply, it has long been safe to assume that national economic growth leads to widespread personal gain.
But recent economic history complicates that assumption. In the five-year period before the downturn, while the overall British economy grew by 11 per cent, average wages were already flatlining. Disposable income per head fell in every English region outside London from 2003 to 2008. During a supposed national boom time, Britain’s households were drawing a bust. A half-decade trend doesn’t, of course, put us on an ineluctable path towards longer-term stagnation. But it should shake us out of complacency.
Murdoch signals push into education
Rupert Murdoch signalled that News Corp, the media group he heads, is to make a significant new push into the education technology market, in a high-profile speech to the e-G8 conference of internet entrepreneurs and European policymakers in Paris.
Describing education as the “last holdout from the digital revolution”, Mr Murdoch outlined a vision for personalised learning and more engaging lessons delivered by the world’s best teachers to thousands of students via the internet.
“The same technologies that transformed every other aspect of modern life can transform education, provide our businesses with the talent they need to thrive, and give hundreds of millions of young people at the fringes of prosperity the opportunity to make their own mark on this global economy,” he said.
With Joel Klein, the former New York schools chancellor hired by News Corp in November, Mr Murdoch has visited pioneering educational schemes and classrooms worldwide, including South Korea, California and Sweden.
Public Comments and School Board Budgets
Senior editors in our newsroom had an interesting debate after the late afternoon news meeting one day last week: When should the public comment on school budgets?
Two of us believe the commenting should take place throughout the entire budget process and intensify after a tentative budget is presented by the school board. Two others argued that the majority of the public debate should take place just before the tentative budget is approved and made public. They believe that a tentative budget is basically a final budget, and at that point the public has little influence.
We all agreed on the importance of public involvement and commenting, and state law requires that citizens be given the opportunity to address these issues in a public forum.
High schools offer grade boosts to students who improve test scores
High schools are offering a new deal at 39 Los Angeles campuses: Students who raise their scores on the state’s standardized tests will be rewarded with higher grades in their classes.
If it works, schools also will benefit because low scores can lead to teachers and administrators being fired and schools being closed. A proposed teacher evaluation system relies specifically on these tests for part of an instructor’s rating. Even the new superintendent’s salary, and his tenure, are tied to scores on the California Standards Tests, which are administered this month.
Early education lesson Gov. Snyder’s preschool proposals stress lifelong learning; consolidate overlapping programs
Too many young children in Michigan aren’t getting the foundation of learning they need before starting school that would allow them to succeed once their K-12 education begins. Gov. Rick Snyder is on the right track with his proposals for early education, which highlight the importance of lifelong learning.
It’s a fine line for the state to walk. After all, should the state — and taxpayer money — be more wrapped up in making up for the shortcomings of parents? Probably not. But if the Michigan Education Department narrowly targets funding for pre-kindergarten development to the most at-risk youth and families, and offers guidance to other parents in teaching their young children themselves, it could provide a sturdier platform for these kid’s futures.
In his speech on education last month, Snyder gave some startling statistics. Michigan kindergarten teachers say that only 65 percent of children enter their classrooms “ready to learn the curriculum.”
Obama’s desire for data on your kid
The tea partiers are demanding that Congress not raise the debt ceiling but instead avoid default by cutting spending dramatically. Federal spending on education emerges as the discretionary item in the federal budget most available for the knife, and a House bill is being introduced by Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., that lists 43 education programs to be cut.
We’ve spent $2 trillion on education since federal aid began in 1965. The specified goals were to improve student achievement, eliminate or narrow the gap between upper-income and low-income students, and increase graduation rates from high school and college.
We have little or nothing to show for the taxpayers’ generosity. Even Education Secretary Arne Duncan admitted that 82 percent of public schools should be ranked as failing.
So how will the army of educrats, whose jobs depend on billions of dollars of federal handouts, save their jobs? They’ve come up with an audacious plan that pretends to be useful in enabling them to discover what works and what doesn’t, but it is so large and complicated that it would take years and require a huge computer-savvy payroll and billions of taxpayers’ dollars.
And incidentally, it would be illegal because it’s based on using executive branch regulations to override federal statutes.
Compton parents’ charter school petition could fail, judge rules
A judge has tentatively ruled that a petition by a group of Compton parents to force a poorly performing elementary school to convert to a charter school could fail because the signatures on the petition were not dated.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Anthony Mohr called the failure to document the dates when the McKinley Elementary School parents signed the petition “fatal,” according to the Associated Press.
The Compton Unified School District, which governs McKinley, argued that dating each signature was crucial in determining whether a signer’s child was enrolled at the school and had legal rights over the child at the time, the AP reported.
Mohr said in his tentative ruling Friday that he understood the “pain, frustration and perhaps education disadvantages” his 14-page decision might cause but added that he needed to follow the law.
Sword for Peer Grading
As I mentioned, I’m using SWoRD in my writing class for econ majors. SWoRD is a site that not only facilitates peer review, it allows for student grades to actually be determined by their classmates’ reviews. For each assignment, the instructor creates both open-ended comment prompts and a numeric rubric (the SWoRD template requires a 1 to 7 scale, though you can sort of get around that by skipping some of the numbers). Students submit their papers to SWoRD and once the deadline has passed, papers are assigned to peer reviewers (minimum of three, maximum of six; the creators of SWoRD strongly recommend at least five reviews if the scores will be used for grading). Everything is anonymous, as each student creates a pseudonym within the system (you just have to make sure students don’t put their names in the text of their files!). I can either assign specific reviewers or have the system automatically assign them randomly. After the reviews are completed, the authors have the opportunity to ‘back evaluate’ the open-ended comments, indicating how helpful the comments were, or weren’t; this is done before the authors see the numeric scores assigned by reviewers so the back evaluation is based purely on the open-ended comments.
Scaffolded Writing and Reviewing in the Discipline
SWoRD is a web-based reciprocal peer review system. In less fancy terms, students turn their class papers into SWoRD, which then assigns this paper to five or six peers in the class. The peers grade the paper and give advice for how to improve it. Students revise the paper and turn it back in to SWoRD, which distributes the paper to the same peers for final review. SWoRD determines the accuracy of the ratings through a complex process of separating out different kinds of bias in grading. The authors rate the advice given to them in terms of helpfulness. Reviewers get a grade for their work which is one half accuracy and one half helpfulness. In this way, reviewers must work hard and take their task seriously. SWoRD has been used in many different courses (graduate and undergraduate), in many different disciplines and at many different universities. The grades that are produced are just as reliable and accurate as instructor grades, and authors get advice that is possibly more useful than what they would have received from an instructor. Most importantly, SWoRD allows the instructor to assign writing tasks of the most important kind (with feedback and revision) without having to do any grading at all, which means that writing practice can now take place in every class (from small sections of 10 students to large sections of 1000 students). SWoRD is free for use. Instructors create an account and setup a course in SWoRD. Students then create their own accounts on SWoRD and sign-up for the class.
Priority should be kids’ reading, not politics
Since being named to Gov. Scott Walker’s Read to Lead Task Force, I have come under some political scrutiny by those who oppose the governor’s conservative agenda, most notably his attempt to disenfranchise teachers of their right to bargain collectively. Evidently, there are some who feel that it is acceptable to thwart an initiative that seeks to remedy the deplorable state of reading achievement in our state and use it as a weapon to extract some measure of political redress.
I am willing to take political heat for my participation on the panel, but the fact that I must is symptomatic of why we have been stymied in our efforts to address a public health issue of pandemic proportions and leave countless children as collateral damage in the process.
Having been both a teacher and administrator, and having served several stints as my school’s union representative, I am naturally opposed to any action that would reduce teacher benefits and marginalize due process protections. But such issues have no place in any discussion that seeks to address how we set about the task of building competent readers. While we have much to accomplish in that regard, there are those who would claim otherwise even though:
Two-thirds of state fourth-graders cannot demonstrate age-appropriate reading ability.
Wisconsin’s rank for that same cohort has dropped precipitously over the past decade – from 3rd to 30th among all states and the District of Columbia.
K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Nearly Half of Americans Are ‘Financially Fragile’
Nearly half of Americans say that they definitely or probably couldn’t come up with $2,000 in 30 days, according to new research, raising concerns about the financial fragility of many households.
In a paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, Annamaria Lusardi of the George Washington School of Business, Daniel J. Schneider of Princeton University and Peter Tufano of Harvard Business School used data from the 2009 TNS Global Economic Crisis survey to document widespread financial weakness in the U.S. and other countries.
The survey asked a simple question, “If you were to face a $2,000 unexpected expense in the next month, how would you get the funds you need?” In the U.S., 24.9% of respondents reported being certainly able, 25.1% probably able, 22.2% probably unable and 27.9% certainly unable. The $2,000 figure “reflects the order of magnitude of the cost of an unanticipated major car repair, a large copayment on a medical expense, legal expenses, or a home repair,” the authors write. On a more concrete basis, the authors cite $2,000 as the cost of an auto transmission replacement and research that reported low-income families claim to need about $1500 in savings for emergencies.
K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Deal Reached in Albany to Cap Property Taxes
Pledging to provide relief to highly taxed suburban homeowners, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and legislative leaders said Tuesday that they had agreed to place a 2 percent limit on property tax increases in a plan that rivals the toughest such measures in the nation.
The proposed property tax cap, an agreement in principle that must be approved by the Legislature, is aimed at reversing the economic decline in many parts of the state outside of New York City. It also seeks to curb soaring property tax bills in areas like Long Island, Westchester County and pockets of upstate New York, where residents are facing among the highest property taxes in the nation.
Some residents, particularly those who are older and live on fixed incomes, are being forced out of their homes by rising property taxes.
“It is going to be a game changer, and it’s going to change the trajectory of this state,” Mr. Cuomo said.
New York has long had some of the highest property taxes in the nation, and those taxes increased by 5.5 percent, on average, each year from 1999 to 2009, according to statistics provided by the Cuomo administration.
School District, Bank in Swap Clash
State College Area School District in Pennsylvania several years ago abandoned plans to build a new high school. This month, it received a notice that it owes $10 million to Royal Bank of Canada for skipping an interest payment on money it never borrowed for a school it didn’t build.
The notice was the latest step in a legal battle over what the district calls a “naked swap” and what RBC describes as a binding legal agreement. The conflict is an example of how cities, states, schools and other public entities are second-guessing financial deals they made in recent years, pitting them against their own bankers and advisers.
Many of the regrets revolve around interest-rate swaps that became popular as a way for municipal borrowers to guard against jumps in rates. Typically under these contracts, a borrower pays a bank interest with a fixed rate and the bank pays interest with a floating rate in return. When interest rates declined, swaps proved costly to many borrowers.
The Economic Value of College Majors
Anthony P. Carnevale, Jeff Strohl, Michelle Melton:
We’ve always been able to say how much a Bachelor’s degree is worth in general. Now, we show what each Bachelor’s degree major is worth.
The report finds that different undergraduate majors result in very different earnings. At the low end, median earnings for Counseling Psychology majors are $29,000, while Petroleum Engineering majors see median earnings of $120,000.
An old joke in academia gets at the precarious economics of majoring in the humanities.
The scientist asks, “Why does it work?
The engineer asks, “How does it work?”
The English major asks, “Would you like fries with that?”
But exactly what an English major makes in a lifetime has never been clear, and some defenders of the humanities have said that their students are endowed with “critical thinking” and other skills that could enable them to catch up to other students in earnings.
Tuition is rising, the job market is weak, and everyone seems to be debating the value of a college degree. But Anthony P. Carnevale thinks these arguments are missing an important point. Mr. Carnevale, director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, has argued that talking about the bachelor’s degree in general doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, because its financial payoff is heavily affected by what that degree is in and which college it is from.
Now, new data from the U.S. Census Bureau sheds light on one big piece of Mr. Carnevale’s assertion: the importance of the undergraduate major. In 2009, the American Community Survey, the tool the bureau uses to collect annual estimates of population characteristics, included a new question asking respondents with a bachelor’s degree to give their undergraduate major.
After combing through the data, Mr. Carnevale says, it’s clear: “It does matter what you major in.”
Class Warfare Inside the Fight to Fix America’s Schools
A hard-hitting look inside America’s K-12 showing why children are failing, who is standing in their way, who is helping, and what needs to happen.
St. Paul Schools Streamlining Administration
Under the new plan, a chief of staff, chief business officer for the division of finance and operations, a chief of schools, a chief academic officer and a chief of accountability will all report to the superintendent.
The district will bring back the chief of schools position, whose responsibility will include working with principals, evaluating schools and organizing professional development for teachers.
“That’s an enhancement to support implementation of our Strong Schools, Strong Communities vision plan” that realigns school boundaries, Kelly said.
The former secondary schools assistant superintendent position will split into a high school and a middle school assistant superintendent positions.
That will allow for the middle school superintendent to focus on the district’s transition of sixth-graders moving from elementary into middle schools.
“We’re making a major switch by moving our sixth grade into middle school grades,” Kelly said. “We need a lot of leadership and focus to make sure that’s done correctly. We want that to be a seamless transition for our students and staff.”
Reforming French Universities
Q. What were these demonstrations about?
A. About the reform of universities. The L.R.U., the Law on the Responsibilities and Freedom of Universities. That was in 2007. The first demonstrations were autumn 2007. And then in 2009 we had the reform of what we call the status of researchers, which means that they are going to be evaluated — there is going to be flexibility between their research responsibilities and their teaching. Because if you have a boss at the top of a university, the boss has to have a human resource — the right to manage. This was really a big, big issue.
Q. Why make such sweeping changes?
A. First there is a political choice: to give priority to teaching and innovation. But if we wanted to give this priority, then we had to reform the universities. Why? Because we have a very separated system. Nearly everything in France has been built outside the universities. Napoleon created the grandes écoles [a system of elite engineering and professional schools.] General de Gaulle continued that, so we have some of the best pupils trained outside the universities, and not trained to do research.
At the same time we have research institutes — like C.N.R.S. [National Center for Scientific Research], CERN [the European Organization for Nuclear Research] — that do research outside universities. And the problem is that the world model is a university. If you have a ranking, you rank universities.
Experiments in education reap widely varying results
As the number of students in Hawaii’s charter schools grows, so has concern about oversight of these diverse campuses that rely on public money but are exempt from many state regulations.
Designed as laboratories for innovation in public education, charter schools now educate 9,000 children across the state, a nearly 50 percent jump in the past three years. Many of the state’s 31 charter schools are in rural areas, tucked largely out of sight and out of mind. Other than their devotees, few people know much about them. But that might soon change.
The spotlight is shifting to these “schools of choice” that now educate about 5 percent of Hawaii’s public school children under “charters,” or contracts with the state. Sixteen years after Waialae Elementary became Hawaii’s first charter school, the state auditor is conducting a performance audit of the charter school system, due out this summer.
Charter ruling flunks history, ignores roots of segregation
In the first sentences of an opinion issued last week by the state Supreme Court, Chief Justice Carol Hunstein declared without qualification that the Georgia Charter School Commission was illegal because of an “unbroken … constitutional authority” existing since the adoption of the 1877 Constitution giving only “local boards of education” the power to create k-12 public schools. As a result, schools for 15,000 underserved children soon may be forced out of business.
But it’s the next sentence in the 1877 Constitution — left out of the court’s opinion — that reveals the true aim of “local control” in education in that era and punctures the logic of disallowing the charter commission a say in education today.
It reads: “Separate schools shall be provided for the white and colored races.”
Arguing law with the Georgia Supreme Court may be above my pay grade. But I do know something about Georgia history. And it is astonishing that the court’s four-member majority, without the tiniest acknowledgement of Georgia’s history of racially abusive statutes, tainted court rulings and educational malpractice with regard to black children, would unblinkingly rely on one of the bleakest moments in the state’s political and legislative past for the foothold of its ruling.
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Discounting the College Expense Bottom Line
Private colleges and universities discounted tuition at unprecedented levels during the recession in a way that slowed down or reversed the growth in net revenue from tuition, according to a new report from the National Association of College and University Business Officers.
The discount that surveyed colleges and universities offered for full-time, first-year students through grants and other forms of need-based and merit aid hit an all-time high of 42.4 percent in 2010, a jump from about 39 percent in 2007. The report estimates that 88 percent of students at the institutions surveyed received some institutional aid, and those students paid about half of the college or university’s sticker price.
Urban Education Ph.D. Approved for IU School of Education at IUPUI
Indiana University School of Education:
The Indiana Commission for Higher Education has approved a new Urban Education Studies Ph.D. to be offered by the IU School of Education at IUPUI starting in fall 2012. This is the first doctorate degree in education to be offered entirely on the IUPUI campus. The degree will be one of just a handful of urban education doctorates in the country, focused on preparing researchers to study schools in complex urban environments. Faculty and students in the program will conduct community-based research designed in partnership with P-12 schools and community organizations. It will be the only urban education doctoral program in the state of Indiana.
“IUPUI’s Ph.D. in urban education program is a distinctive, research-oriented degree program, and the first of its kind in Indiana,” said IUPUI Chancellor Charles R. Bantz. “The interdisciplinary focus will prepare scholars who are capable of making significant contributions to improve urban education.”
Madison Teachers lobby School Board to keep planning time
Hundreds of teachers packed the Madison School Board meeting Monday night to protest changes in their contract next year related to planning time for elementary school teachers.
Some speakers reminded the board that elementary school planning time was a key issue in the 1976 teachers strike that closed school for two weeks. Tension among teachers is already heightened because of state initiatives to curtail collective bargaining and reduce education funding.
“Compensation has been reduced, morale is low, stress is high,” Lowell Elementary teacher Bob Arnold said. “Respect and support us by preserving our already inadequate planning time.”
Madison West High School Sexual Assault
via a kind reader’s email:
Please read attached letter with information about an assault at West High today. (The body of the letter is below, for anyone unable to open the attachment.)
Dear Students, Parents/Legal Guardians:
We want to make you aware of an alleged serious sexual assault that happened at West High School on Monday, May 16. A female student reported being forcibly sexually assaulted in a stairwell by a student acquaintance. The female student first contacted the Fitchburg Police Department which then notified the school.
West High School administrators and our education resource officer are working with Fitchburg Police on the investigation. An individual has been arrested for 2nd degree sexual assault and has been taken into custody.
As we continually evaluate our safety and security procedures at West High, this incident requires staff and students to be extra vigilant in all areas of the school. West High staff will work with the district’s security coordinator and Building Services staff to examine access to all hallways, corridors, stairwells and elevators. Lighting, security cameras and building supervision are being reviewed and if changes are needed, they will be made.
This incident is deeply disturbing to us. We want to assure you that the staff at West High School will do all they can to make certain the school is safe. We are also prepared to help any student and family needing assistance as a result of this incident. They should contact any administrative staff at West HS.
If you wish to discuss safety at West High in greater detail, please contact the Superintendent.
Analysis finds small number of University of Texas faculty teach most students
Twenty percent of University of Texas at Austin professors instruct most of the school’s students, while the least-productive fifth of the faculty carry only 2 percent of the university’s teaching load, according to an analysis of recently released data by a researcher with ties to an Austin organization promoting controversial changes in how the state runs its higher education system. Meanwhile, 10 percent of the faculty bring in 90 percent of its research grants.
The UT System’s flagship school could save taxpayers millions of dollars by increasing professors’ teaching loads and jettisoning under-performing instructors without jeopardizing the school’s commitment to research, said Richard Vedder, an economics professor and director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity.
The center, “dedicated to researching the rising costs and stagnant efficiency in higher education,” released the report late Friday. UT faculty members quickly took issue with its conclusions.
Districts asked to name teachers who used sick time during protests
School districts across the state are being asked to release the names of teachers who called in sick during protests in February at the Capitol, a move that led to closures for a day or more in many districts.
It’s unclear how many of the state’s 424 districts received requests, but several conservative groups have made public records requests for teacher names. Most districts have released them.
But the Madison School District denied several requests, saying the release could risk the safety of teachers and students, and disrupt morale and the learning environment in schools.
And the s, the state’s largest teachers union, used a similar argument in asking a La Crosse County judge to quash the release of teacher names in the La Crosse and Holmen districts.
The judge recently blocked the release of names in Holmen and may rule soon on the La Crosse case.
Wisconsin DPI Superintendent Evers calls voucher expansion ‘morally wrong’ in memo to legislators; Tony Evers Needs a Reality Check on School Choice
State Superintendent Tony Evers [SIS link] in a memo Monday urged the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee to restore funding for public schools and work collaboratively to improve the quality of all Milwaukee schools before considering any voucher expansion.
“To spend hundreds of millions to expand a 20-year-old program that has not improved overall student achievement, while defunding public education, is morally wrong,” Evers said in the memo.
Gov. Scott Walker has proposed eliminating the income limits on participating in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, eliminating the enrollment cap and has proposed opening up private schools throughout Milwaukee County to accept vouchers from Milwaukee students. Walker has spoken of expanding the voucher program to other urban areas in the state, such as Racine, Green Bay and Beloit.
The Milwaukee Parental Choice Program was created to improve academic performance among low-income students who had limited access to high-performing schools. Low-income students use taxpayer money to attend private schools, including religious schools. Each voucher is worth $6,442. The program now is limited to 22,500 students; 20,189 are in the program this year.
However, after 20 years and spending over $1 billion, academic performance data and the enrollment history of the school choice program point to several “concerning trends,” Evers said in his analysis of voucher student enrollment, achievement, and projected cost for long-term expansion.
Low-income students in Milwaukee Public Schools have higher academic achievement, particularly in math, than their counterparts in choice schools. Evers cited this year’s Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts exams and the legislatively mandated University of Arkansas study, which showed significant numbers of choice students performing below average on reading and math.
At a press conference in Racine, DPI Superintendent Tony Evers gave his harshest criticism of school vouchers yet. Well beyond the typical quibbles over test scores and graduation rates, Evers claimed that school vouchers were de facto “morally wrong.” It’s not every day that a State Superintendent of education accuses an education-reform program of being immoral. In doing so, Tony Evers may have bitten off more than he could chew.
Calling a school voucher program morally wrong inculpates more than just the program, it inculpates parents, teachers, organizations, lawmakers, and a majority of Americans that endorse it. In fact, one could reasonably argue that Evers’ statement makes himself morally culpable since Milwaukee’s voucher program operates out of the Department of Public Instruction of which he is the head. What does it say about the character of a man that knowingly administers an immoral program out of his own department?
In short, Evers’ argument goes something like this: voucher programs drain public schools of their financial resources; drained resources hurt children academically; hurting children academically is morally wrong; ergo, voucher programs are morally wrong.
Breakfast of Champions? Not in These Schools (Chicago)
When Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s new Chicago Board of Education swings into action, it should not mark the occasion with a private dinner.
The members should have breakfast together in any of several thousand elementary school classrooms. There, they will get a glimpse of the mess they have inherited. Bring antacids and a nutritionist.
A Breakfast in the Classroom program approved by their predecessors is completing its mandatory rollout. All that can be said with certitude is that it has shortened instructional time in a system with the shortest school day and year of the nation’s 50 largest districts.
Why Every Student Should Learn Journalism Skills
How do we make schools more relevant to students? Teach them the skills they need in the real world, with tools they use every day. That’s exactly what Esther Wojcicki, a teacher of English and journalism at Palo Alto High School in Palo Alto, Calif., is attempting to do with the recent launch of the website 21STcenturylit. I interviewed Esther about the site, and how she hopes it will serve as a useful tool for both students and educators.
How do you describe the mission for 21STcenturylit?
Wojcicki: The mission of 21STcenturylit.org is threefold: It is to teach students how to be intelligent consumers of digital media, how to be skillful creators of digital media, and to teach students how to search intelligently. We are living in an age when digital media and new digital tools are revolutionizing the world. Schools need to help students learn these skills, not block and censor the Internet.
Educators winning PR battle over K-12 funding, but GOP lawmakers winning the war on changing the status quo
KALAMAZOO — Michigan school officials appear to be winning the public-relations battle over funding cuts in education, but Republicans lawmakers are winning the war on shaking up K-12 financial practices.
The probable implications as the dust settles this summer and fall: School employees will see cuts in benefits and possibly in pay; unions will have less leverage in contract negotiations, and schoolchildren will see larger class sizes and more participation fees for extracurricular activities.
There’s a downside for the GOP, too, in the form of public backlash. A recent statewide poll by Epic MRA indicates two-thirds of Michigan residents, including a majority of Republicans, oppose cutting K-12 education to balance the state budget.
Watson Goes From Jeopardy to Medical School
IBM’s Watson getting ready for his medical boards
‘Watson,’ the IBM super computer system that defeated the best Jeopardy! players on TV, now wants to go to medical school and beat the algorithms off the other medical computers already in the field. When asked if being late to the market was a concern, the big guy said ‘Are you kidding? Once I digest 6 million medical text books and 70 million journal articles, I’ll kick every lit cell in their systems out to algorithm heaven!”
Though very confident, Watson still has two years of schooling before he’s ready to kick butt, but his fans are delighted with his prospects, especially those who are working with him. Recently, Watson gave the Associated Press (AP) a demonstration at IBM’s T.J. Watson’s research center. Columbia University medical school professor, Dr. Herbert Chase, and several students were there training Watson.
Middleton School Board Paying $300K After Porn Firing
The decision to fire a teacher for viewing porn at school has cost the Middleton school board about $300,000 in legal fees.
A teachers’ union filed a grievance after the seventh-grade teacher at Glacier Creek Middle School was dismissed.
Ellen Lindgren, the president of the Middleton-Cross Plains School Board, said the board hates spending its limited cash on lawyers, but it’s doing so because the community supports firing teachers who view porn at school.
Elite South Korean Universities Rattled by Suicides
DAEJEON, South Korea — It has been a sad and gruesome semester at South Korea’s most prestigious university, and with final exams beginning Monday the school is still reeling from the recent suicides of four students and a popular professor.
Academic pressures can be ferocious at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, formally known as Kaist, and anxious school psychologists have expanded their counseling services since the suicides. The school president also rescinded a controversial policy that humiliated many students by charging them extra tuition if their grades dipped.
After the last of the student deaths, on April 7, the Kaist student council issued an impassioned statement that said “a purple gust of wind” had blown through campus.
A Longer School Day, or a Better School Day?
Time is a valuable thing. I often wish I had more of it. I can pretty much say with confidence that you, Reader, probably wish you had some more too.
I don’t like to waste people’s time. I don’t believe that any of us who engage in something we love want to either. When I form my lessons, teach a classroom full of high school students, or present information to my colleagues, I don’t want others to wish they were somewhere else. Learning is at its best when students are engaged. Engagement can look like a variety of things: a student hard at work on his or her own composition, a thoughtful classroom discussion about ethics, participation in the school science fair, or designing an exercise regimen in P.E.
Teachers do not believe that what we teach is a waste of time. We can engage students easily when things are important to us.
How to reform education: The answer song
This week thousands of Arizona high school seniors will don caps and gowns and receive their high school diplomas, while others who successfully completed 12 years of schooling but failed the state’s infamous AIMS test will be left feeling dejected and betrayed by our failing public education system. How can students pass all 12 grades and not pass the high-stakes test? What happens to these students now? These are but a few symptoms of Arizona’s broken educational system.
Perhaps also reflecting on graduation day and the state’s failing school system, the Arizona Republic recently published an editorial on education reform: 5 vital ways to reform K-12 education.
The five suggestions read like a right-wing wish list: 1) competition; 2) high expectations; 3) quality teachers; 4) intelligent use of technology; and 5) private sector involvement. Not surprisingly, the editorial was written by Craig R. Barrett, former CEO of Intel and current president and chairman of BASIS, a system of charter high schools.
Money Lessons for Every High-School Graduate
Zac Bissonnette via a kind reader’s email:
When Felipe Matos enrolled in the New York Institute of Technology to study graphic design, he never thought that degree would be the very thing that prevented him from pursuing his dream career.
But more than $50,000 in student debt later, he has found himself working as an assistant building manager in New York City — with half his salary going toward debt repayment.
“In order to get into my field, I’d have to intern,” says Mr. Matos, adding that his dream job would be at Pixar, the cutting-edge animation studio. But in order to avoid defaulting on his loans, he has had to defer his dreams. “I often get depressed because I always wanted to make cartoons and 3D animations for a living but can’t,” he says. His debt load also is affecting his life plans beyond his career: “I have a very loving and serious girlfriend, but I’m afraid we can’t have kids or get married until we are in our late 30s.”
On the Agenda Madison School District Board of Education, the Week of May 23, 2011
I picked a bad week to start doing “On the Agenda” posts on the Madison Metropolitan School District Board of Education doings. Too much going on. Given the amount to cover, I’m going to try to keep the comments and context minimal. I should also note that I haven’t yet decided how regularly I will do these again.
The details for all of the meetings are here. Here is the rundown.
Protecting Students from Learning
I attended Mumford High School in Detroit, from the fall of 1964 through June of 1967, the end of a period known to some as the golden age of education, and to others as an utter failure.
I attended Mumford High School in Detroit, from the fall of 1964 through June of 1967, the end of a period known to some as the golden age of education, and to others as an utter failure. For the record I am in the former camp, a product of an era which in my opinion well-prepared me to major in mathematics. I am soon retiring from a career in environmental protection and will be entering the teaching profession where I will teach math in a manner that has served many others well over many years and which I hope will be tolerated by the people who hire me.
I was in 10th grade, taking Algebra 2. In the study hall period that followed my algebra class I worked the 20 or so homework problems at a double desk which I shared with Raymond, a black student. He would watch me do the day’s homework problems which I worked with the ease and alacrity of an expert pinball player.
While I worked, he would ask questions about what I was doing, and I would explain as best I could, after which he would always say “Pretty good, pretty good”–which served both as an expression of appreciation and a signal that he didn’t really know much about algebra but wanted to find out more. He said he had taken a class in it. In one assignment the page of my book was open to a diagram entitled “Four ways to express a function”. The first was a box with a statement: “To find average blood pressure, add 10 to your age and divide by 2.” The second was an equation P = (A+10)/2. The third was a table of values, and the last was a graph. Raymond asked me why you needed different ways to say what was in the box. I wasn’t entirely sure myself, but explained that the different ways enabled you to see the how things like blood pressure changed with respect to age. Sometimes a graph was better than a table to see this; sometimes it wasn’t. Not a very good explanation, I realized, and over the years I would come back to that question–and Raymond’s curiosity about it–as I would analyze equations, graphs, and tables of values.
The Math of School Heartbreak in Levittown
WHEN he first introduced cuts at a public meeting last month, Samuel Lee, the superintendent of the Bristol Township School District, was plainspoken and direct. He did not say that everyone would pull together and the children would get the same great education, but, rather, that worthy programs would be dismantled and young teachers would lose jobs. “Everything that is going to be presented tonight is not good for our kids,” he said as about 300 teachers, parents and students looked on. “We are heartbroken.”
I grew up in blue-collar Levittown, and have written about it several times for this newspaper as a window into national sentiment. The community was deeply skeptical of Barack Obama early in 2008, then voted for him in huge numbers in the fall. In 2010, the local Democratic congressman was turned out of office amid a wave of national anger over the economy.
Over the past several weeks, I have watched as local officials and community residents confronted a budget shortfall that threatens to reverse hard-won gains in schools that once performed poorly. But I did not hear much of the polarization, argumentation and point-scoring that the cable news universe reflects as the totality of our civic discourse. In Levittown, this time around, the mood is one of sadness, loss and resignation. “We’re all struggling in this community,” W. Earl Bruck, an electrician, and chairman of the board’s budget committee, told those at the meeting. “I can tell you that I’ve been out of work for 56 weeks.”
Standardized test scores shouldn’t be the only measure of a teacher’s performance. But they should be one of the measures
The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:
Republicans in the state Legislature want to allow school boards in Wisconsin to use teacher evaluations, which are based partly on the results of students’ standardized test scores, as part of the criteria for firing or disciplining educators.
We have some concerns about the details, but it is a good idea to hold teachers accountable for their work and to make state test scores part of that process.
At the moment, student test scores can be used as part of a teacher evaluation but cannot be a basis for dismissal. While poor results on state tests never should be the sole reason for firing or disciplining a teacher, it makes little sense not to consider them as part of a holistic evaluation.
Developing meaningful evaluations is difficult, though, and the Legislature should work with teachers as well as administrators and the state Department of Public Instruction to ensure that this bill considers their perspectives.
Republican Profs Award More High and Low Grades Than Democratic Profs
We study grading outcomes associated with professors in an elite university in the United States who were identified — using voter registration records from the county where the university is located — as either Republicans or Democrats. The evidence suggests that student grades are linked to the political orientation of professors: relative to their Democratic colleagues, Republican professors are associated with a less egalitarian distribution of grades and with lower grades awarded to Black students relative to Whites.
Behind Grass-Roots School Advocacy, Bill Gates
Sam Dillon, via a kind reader’s email:
A handful of outspoken teachers helped persuade state lawmakers this spring to eliminate seniority-based layoff policies. They testified before the legislature, wrote briefing papers and published an op-ed article in The Indianapolis Star.
They described themselves simply as local teachers who favored school reform — one sympathetic state representative, Mary Ann Sullivan, said, “They seemed like genuine, real people versus the teachers’ union lobbyists.” They were, but they were also recruits in a national organization, Teach Plus, financed significantly by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
For years, Bill Gates focused his education philanthropy on overhauling large schools and opening small ones. His new strategy is more ambitious: overhauling the nation’s education policies. To that end, the foundation is financing educators to pose alternatives to union orthodoxies on issues like the seniority system and the use of student test scores to evaluate teachers.
The Gates Foundation has funded many initiatives, including the controversial “small learning community” program.
Stand up for children, education
Gregory Thornton, Milwaukee Schools’ Superintendent:
The Milwaukee School Board and I recently had an unusual conversation. It came at the end of a meeting on our proposed budget. Struck by the sadness of the parents and teachers who had testified on the devastating impacts, and in dismay over the massive cuts to state funding offered by our governor, we came down to a question that summed up the past weeks: What do you do when the facts are not enough?
We have made considerable progress academically and financially. The 2009 McKinsey & Co. report listed potential cost savings for Milwaukee Public Schools in six areas. Efforts to trim costs for textbook purchases, food service, transportation, employee benefits and facilities were already underway when this report was released. Since 2009, the district has addressed each area and, as a result, at least $50 million has been or is scheduled to be saved.
Academic achievement is a priority. Fifty-seven percent of our schools increased their reading scores. Forty-three percent improved in math. Data released by the state Department of Public Instruction this spring shows MPS outperformed Milwaukee voucher schools on the state’s test, even though the district serves a much higher proportion of students with disabilities.
Whose Failing Grade Is It?
Lisa Belkin, via a kind reader’s email:
SINCE the subject today is schooling, let’s start with a quiz:
1. A third grader in Florida is often late for class. She tends to forget her homework and is unprepared for tests. The teacher would like to talk to her parents about this, but they fail to attend parent-teacher conferences. The teacher should:
a) fail the student.
b) fail the parents.
2. A middle-school student in Alaska is regularly absent, and his grades are suffering as a result. The district should:
a) fail the student.
b) fine the parents $500 a day for every day the student is not in school.
K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Top Washington, DC Lobbyist Compensation
WHO YOU WANT TO BE TODAY — CEO Update, a D.C.-based trade publication for association executives (a.k.a., “what we read on Blain’s couch while he’s on conference calls”), finds seven lobbyists who made seven figures in 2009, the latest year with data available: 1) Cary Sherman, Recording Industry Association of America, $3,185,026; 2) Bruce Josten, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, $1,340,455; 3) Todd Hauptli, American Association of Airport Executives, $1,312,350; 4) Alan Roth, USTelecom: The Broadband Association, $1,159,138; 5) Cynthia Fornelli, American Institute of CPAs, $1,154,37; 6) Rick Pollack, American Hospital Association, $1,087,024; and 7) Howard Schloss, Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), $1,065,628. (Fine print: “highest paid non-CEO staffer who is a federally registered lobbyist in a tax-exempt organization. Compensation figures include base pay, bonuses, deferred salary and nontax income on … tax return from years ending in 2009.”)
Time for a lasting, true commitment to Nevada education
Gov. Brian Sandoval’s veto this past week of the Democratic education funding bill marks a disappointing and counterproductive move for a governor who claims — and I want to believe that he genuinely means this — a commitment to improve the quality of education for Nevada’s students.
The governor has proposed some thoughtful and worthwhile initiatives, most notably eliminating the “last in, first out” layoff policy in favor of one that allows principals to decide whom to lay off on the basis of teacher effectiveness. His proposals to reform the tenure system and the teacher evaluation system — so that teachers who improve student achievement are retained and rewarded — also merit support.
So, yes, eliminating the “last in, first out” layoff policy is both logical and useful. What would be more useful is mitigating layoffs altogether.