Is College a Rotten Investment?

Annie Lowrey:

Here’s a familiar story. Americans had a near-religious belief in the soundness of this investment. Uncle Sam encouraged it with tax breaks and subsidized it with government-backed loans. But then, in the 1990s and especially the 2000s, easy money perverted the market. Prices detached from reality. Suddenly, millions of Americans found themselves holding wildly overvalued assets. They also found themselves without the salaries or jobs necessary to pay off the huge loans they took out to buy the assets.
This is not just the story of American real estate. It is also the story of higher education, at least if you believe the dozens of different thinkers and publications that have come to this conclusion in the past few months. They say that higher education is a bubble, just like housing was a bubble, and that it is getting ready to burst. Famed entrepreneur Peter Thiel, for instance, insists that just about every degree is worth little more than the paper it is printed on: Schooling is not education, he says, and ambitious kids should drop out and skip forward to the workplace. New York magazine calls it one of “this year’s most fashionable ideas.” But is it really true?

Bias against rigor in urban schools

Jay Matthews:

Former chancellor Michelle A. Rhee was often denounced as a hard case who used her maniacal emphasis on rigor to beat up D.C. teachers and students. I think that was a misreading of what she actually did.
Often the principals she hired were more concerned with creating an atmosphere where teachers connected with kids. Making students work hard was not a priority. Instead, the idea was to convince them to love learning and get those who were way behind up to grade level. Rhee and the principals and teachers she brought into the system talked about raising the ceiling on achievement and bringing more Advanced Placement and other college-level programs into D.C. high schools, but they didn’t do much. My records of AP test participation in the city show no significant gains after Rhee arrived.
I think this is because there is a reluctance, even among the most energetic and reform-minded educators, to push low-income kids too hard. I think many well-meaning and hard-working people in the D.C. school system are biased against rigor. A glaring example of this was unearthed by my colleague Bill Turque in his article about the D.C. Public Charter School Board’s decision to approve the opening of BASIS DC, designed to be the most demanding school ever seen in the District.

Depressed students in South Korea We don’t need quite so much education

The Economist:

A WEEK ago South Korea observed “Children’s Day“, an occasion when every school and office is closed, and the nation’s families march off in unison to chaebol-owned theme parks like Lotte World or Everland. Cynical expat residents are fond of asking “isn’t every day Children’s Day?” They mean it sarcastically but their sarcasm is itself ironic. In reality the other 364 days of the year are very tough for Korean youngsters.
Results of a survey released last week by the Institute for Social Development Studies at Seoul’s Yonsei University show that Korean teenagers are by far the unhappiest in the OECD. This is the result of society’s relentless focus on education–or rather, exam results. The average child attends not only regular school, but also a series of hagwons, private after-school “academies” that cram English, maths, and proficiency in the “respectable” musical instruments, ie piano and violin, into tired children’s heads. Almost 9% of children are forced to attend such places even later than 11pm, despite tuitions between 10pm and 5am being illegal.
Psychologists blame this culture for all manner of ills, from poor social skills to the nation’s unacceptably high rate of youth suicide, which is now the leading cause of death among those aged 15-24. Recently, a spate of suicides at KAIST, a technology-focused university, has drawn national attention. For most students the pinnacle of stress is reached somewhat earlier, in the third year of high school. This is the year in which the suneung (university entrance exam) is taken. Tragic reactions to the stress it creates are all too common.

Wisconsin Bill OKs teacher discipline for bad school test scores

Matthew DeFour:

School districts would be able to use standardized test scores as a factor in disciplining or firing teachers under a Republican bill made public Thursday and scheduled for a public hearing Monday.
Currently, districts can use the scores to evaluate teachers, with certain limitations, but not to discipline or fire them.
The bill comes after the state lost out on federal education funding in part due to limitations in how districts can judge teaching performance, and as a state task force develops a plan to better evaluate teachers.
In addition to the teacher evaluation changes, the bill sponsored by the chairmen of the Senate and Assembly education committees also would allow students to receive physical education credit for playing after-school sports, allow athletics suspensions based on police records and alter funding rules for certain programs, among other things.

TJ Mertz has more.

Wisconsin school districts rank low on transparency

Kevin O’Reilly:

When it comes to transparency, Wisconsin school districts are like the kids who spent all night playing video games and the next morning pray that their teachers won’t call on them in class. They are falling behind, offering few of the answers that parents and taxpayers deserve.
Wisconsin’s 442 school districts have earned an overall grade of D on disclosure, according to an analysis conducted by Sunshine Review. The analysis tests the information publicly available on district websites against a 10-point transparency checklist in areas ranging from budgets to criminal background checks on employees.
The Madison Metropolitan School District – one of the state’s largest – did a little better, earning a C-minus.
Want to know basic information, such as what taxes are levied by your school district or how much money it receives from the state and the federal government? Sorry, but chances are you live in a district that does not list tax data on its website – 73% fail to do so.
Nearly two-thirds of school districts neglect to post their current budget along with budgets from previous years so taxpayers can compare spending from year to year. Less than 2% of districts post audits of their finances and performance online or disclose a schedule of upcoming audits.

Higher-education bubble Blowing up grad school

The Economist:

THERE’S a debate going on (Sarah Lacy on Peter Thiel, William Deresiewicz, Annie Lowrey, Matthew Yglesias and even our own Schumpeter and Lexington) about whether the American higher-education market is failing, perhaps in the way the housing market failed (leaving average people with huge overhangs of debt for assets that turn out not to be worth what they thought they were worth), or perhaps in the way the health-care system is failing (sucking up an ever-bigger slice of the national income for services that don’t seem to be providing significantly higher value). Brad DeLong writes that he doesn’t understand why competition in higher education doesn’t seem to work to keep prices down: why doesn’t Yale cut tuition by $5,000 per year to suck top students away from Harvard, or why doesn’t Berkeley offer an out-of-state programme for an extra $3,000 per year to suck top students away from the Ivies? And then he makes this very interesting point:

Town Torn by Tsunami Sees Reopened School as a Therapeutic Step

Martin Fackler:

The week before classes resumed, the middle school’s gymnasium was still a makeshift morgue. But the bodies were removed and the floor disinfected, so Kirikiri Middle School could welcome back students for the first time since the tsunami swept away much of this port town.
“In this disaster, we lost many precious things,” said Nagayoshi Ono, the principal of one of the two schools that have shared the building since Kirikiri reopened two weeks ago, because it is Otsuchi’s sole surviving middle school. “We face a test like a nation at war, and how we respond to this test is up to us.”
Two months after an earthquake and tsunami ravaged Japan’s northern coastline, survivors are moving to pick up the pieces. As in many hard-hit areas, teachers and students at this tiny middle school seem to share a conviction that by seeking to resume pre-disaster routines, they can move their devastated communities a step closer toward healing.

Some in D.C. wonder if rigorous charter school can meet poor students’ needs

Bill Turque:

The Washington region is a hot zone of student achievement, with leading high schools offering a plethora of Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate classes to prove that theirs is a rigorous path to college.
But next year, a public charter school will open in the nation’s capital that raises the concept of academic rigor to a new level. Seventh-graders will take Algebra I and Latin. AP courses will not be an option for high school students — they’ll be the heart of the curriculum.
To graduate, students will be required to complete at least eight AP courses and pass six exams.
The school, to be known as Basis DC, replicates a model developed in Arizona and represents a potential turning point for a charter sector in the District that has grown explosively in the past decade but yielded uneven results.

Class Size: What Research Says and What it Means for State Policy

Grover J. “Russ” Whitehurst & Matthew M. Chingos:

Class size is one of the small number of variables in American K-12 education that are both thought to influence student learning and are subject to legislative action. Legislative mandates on maximum class size have been very popular at the state level. In recent decades, at least 24 states have mandated or incentivized class-size reduction (CSR).
The current fiscal environment has forced states and districts to rethink their CSR policies given the high cost of maintaining small classes. For example, increasing the pupil/teacher ratio in the U.S. by one student would save at least $12 billion per year in teacher salary costs alone, which is roughly equivalent to the outlays of Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the federal government’s largest single K-12 education program.
The substantial expenditures required to sustain smaller classes are justified by the belief that smaller classes increase student learning. We examine “what the research says” about whether class-size reduction has a positive impact on student learning and, if it does, by how much, for whom, and under what circumstances. Despite there being a large literature on class-size effects on academic achievement, only a few studies are of high enough quality and sufficiently relevant to be given credence as a basis for legislative action.

NEA Leaders Propose Teacher-Evaluation Shift

Stephen Sawchuck:

National Education Association officials announced Wednesday that they would put a “policy statement” before the union’s governing body for approval that, among other changes, would open the door to the use of “valid, reliable, high-quality standardized tests,” in combination with multiple other measures, for evaluating teachers.
The statement, passed by the NEA’s board of directors May 7, wouldn’t take effect unless the 9,000-delegate Representative Assembly signs on to it at its meeting over the Fourth of July weekend in Chicago. Those delegates could significantly modify the policy statement before approval, and it is likely to be a topic of lively debate.
Still, the announcement comes as a major entry by the NEA in discussions about teacher evaluation, tenure, and due process. To date, the national union has remained silent on most of those issues, even while the president of the American Federation of Teachers, the other national teachers’ union, has put forth various proposals. (“NEA, AFT Choose Divergent Paths on Obama Goals,” Aug. 25, 2010.)

Public Education and Gene Testing to Improve Medication Adherence

Katherine Hobson:

There are tons of reasons why people don’t take the medications they’ve been prescribed, including side effects, cost and complicated drug regimens.
A couple of different approaches to improving adherence are in the news today. The first is Script Your Future, a multi-year public-education campaign spearheaded by the National Consumers League and supported by health-industry companies, government agencies, nonprofits and others.
It’s aimed chiefly at patients with diabetes, respiratory diseases including asthma and cardiovascular disease, all of which affect big swaths of the U.S. population and can be particularly troublesome when not treated correctly. The campaign emphasizes the consequences — such as poor health and quality of life — that can spring from skipping meds.

Joel Klein Turns a Blind Eye to His Own Data on Charters and Test Scores

Christina Collins:

The Atlantic just published a long opinion piece by Joel Klein, including a repetition of his long-standing argument that New York City’s charters perform miracles with “students who are demographically almost identical to those attending nearby community and charter schools,” and that anyone who claims differently is a blind supporter of the “status quo.” A closer look at Klein’s own numbers, however, tells a very different story. According to the progress reports released by his Department of Education just last year, New York City’s charter sector did not outperform similar district public schools. And the Harlem Success Academy — the school which he specifically holds up as “almost identical” to neighboring district schools — actually serves dramatically lower proportions of the city’s neediest students and of English Language Learners than other Harlem schools.
As most observers of the city’s schools know, each year the Department of Education releases progress reports with “grades” for each of its district and charter schools, which take into account the progress that students at each school made when compared to students at “peer schools” (those with similar student bodies in terms of poverty, Special Education status, and the proportion of English Language Learners, as well as other factors.) On the newest school Progress Reports, which were released by Klein’s office in 2010, 58% of district schools got an A or a B in 2010, compared to only 34% of charters. In Districts 4 and 5 in Harlem, more than half of district schools got either an A or B (27 out of 53), compared to only 8 out of the 21 charters in those neighborhoods.

Illinois Overhaul of Schools Gains, Despite Turmoil

Stephanie Banchero:

Legislation that would make it easier to dismiss ineffective teachers statewide and allow mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel to lengthen the Chicago school day unanimously passed an Illinois House committee Wednesday, despite objections by the Chicago Teachers Union.
The measure, passed unanimously by the state Senate in April, now goes before the full House.
Lawmakers are pursuing passage of a separate “trailer” bill intended to help defuse a dispute that erupted last week when union officials charged the legislation was changed at the last minute without their knowledge.
Chicago Teachers Union officials object to passages in the legislation that would curb their bargaining rights and limit their ability to strike.

‘Most Likely to Succeed’ Burden

Sue Shellenbarger:

Charlene Dupray was voted “Most Likely to Succeed” by her classmates at New Hanover High School in Wilmington, N.C., in 1990. That honor has been hanging over her ever since.
Even though she went on to graduate from the University of Chicago, travel throughout southern Europe, the Middle East and the Caribbean as a cruise-line tour director and pull down a six-figure salary in executive recruiting, Ms. Dupray, now 38 years old, says, “I have been constantly evaluating my success and using that silly award as a benchmark.”
More high schools are eliminating senior-class polls, a long-standing tradition for graduating classes, in part out of concern for their effect on recipients. Research suggests most winners of the most-likely-to-succeed label will do well later in life, based on their academic ability, social skills and motivation. Less is known about the psychological impact. Some former winners of the title say what seemed like a nice vote of confidence from their classmates actually created a sense of pressure or self-doubt.

The Surprising Number of Milwaukee Public Schools “Administration” Staff Who Make More Than $100,000 a Year

Dan Cody:

As the debate continues over the anticipated funding cuts coming to the Milwaukee Public School system, a lot of the blame for funding shortfalls has been placed squarely on the shoulders of public school teachers.
To be sure the compensation packages for teachers – especially those who’ve worked in the district for a long time – do play a part in the discussion. But for the focus and blame to be solely on how much teachers in MPS make is unfair and unproductive. I’ve made a fair amount of noise over the past several years about an issue no one else seems to want to discuss when it comes to cuts within MPS: administrative staff in central office.
I live a half block north of MPS central office and it’s always surprised me how many people actually work there. When my wife Jenny started working within MPS I learned a lot more about the infrastructure that runs MPS and I’ve come to see it for what a bureaucratic nightmare it is.
It’s been frustrating for me to see the “boots on the ground” teachers and others who work in the classrooms across Milwaukee to be vilified while central office staff always seem to escape the budget cuts. While we’ve been happy to cut 1000’s of teachers over the past few years, the staff within central office has remained largely untouched. They’re not part of the “evil teachers union” after all.

40 literary terms you should know

The Centered Librarian:

Aphorism: Short, sweet little sayings expressing an idea or opinion are familiar to everyone — they just don’t always know the technical term for them. Dorothy Parker was a particularly adroit user of aphorisms.
Apostrophe: Beyond a term for daily punctuation, apostrophe also pulls audiences aside to address a person, place or thing currently not present. O, Shakespeare! Such a sterling example of apostrophe use!
Applicability: The venerable Lord of the Rings author J.R.R. Tolkien coined this term when badgered one too many times about whether or not his beloved fantasy series was supposed to be a World War II allegory. It wasn’t, but he thought readers could easily apply such an interpretation to the text without losing anything.

Education Bill Fight Puts Spotlight on Chicago Schools Union Chief

Rebecca Vevea

As legislators prepared to move a sweeping overhaul of state education law through the Illinois House this week, the Chicago Teachers Union’s sudden turnabout on the bill is raising questions about the union’s role in negotiations and the leadership ability of its untested leader, Karen Lewis.
When the education bill passed the Illinois Senate unanimously last month, the support of the states’ teachers unions seemed to signal an unprecedented, collaborative effort to reform education policy. Lewis and the leaders of the state’s other two major teachers’ unions had agreed to substantial changes on tenure, evaluations and bargaining procedures. But last Wednesday the Chicago Teachers Union membership voted to consider pulling its support, claiming that language curbing collective bargaining rights was inserted into the bill without its knowledge and amounted to an “atomic bomb.”
“The recent steps they’ve taken have certainly concerned a number of the entities they’ve dealt with in Springfield,” said Darren Reisberg, deputy superintendent for the Illinois State Board of Education, who participated in the bill’s negotiations.

Shutting Out the Kids From the Family Fortune

Robert Frank:

Want to avoid raising spoiled kids?
Consider the Wellington Burt School of Wealthy Parenting.
Wellington R. Burt was a rich timber baron from Saginaw, MI. He died in 1919 with a multi-million-dollar fortune – one of America’s largest at the time.
Yet rather than risk messing up his kids lives with a huge inheritance, he created an unusual will.
He stated that his fortune would be distributed to the family – but only 21 years after his grand-children’s death.
His children and grandchildren weren’t entirely deprived. Burt gave his “favorite son” $30,000 a year but the rest of his children got allowances roughly equal to those he gave his cook and chauffeur, according to the Saginaw News.

Admissions Deans Feel Crunched by the Numbers

Eric Hoover:

Once upon a time, May was not so manic. Although admissions officers have long fretted about enrollment outcomes, they used to fret under fewer microscopes. Application totals were more predictable. Enrollment projections were more reliable. And newspapers had yet to turn the admissions cycle into an annual tally of percentages and prestige.
These days, “yield” is a familiar term. The proportion of accepted applicants who enroll is a crucial number, wa

2010 Wisconsin State Salaries

Wisconsin Open Government:

The MacIver Institute’s new Open Government site provides you with one location for data on Wisconsin public employee salaries, benefits and labor contracts. We have worked hard to not just allow “access” the way many government information sites do, but to give you all of the data in a format that allows you to select and sort the information as you see fit.
Most areas of our site are available to anyone, including some basic tabular information, but our more extensive analysis and graphics pages require an initial sign-in as users of the Open Government site – but the good news is that sign-in is free and easy! All we need is your name, email, city, and state. We will use your email address to let you know when we add more data sets to the website.
The first time you click on a link to our analysis and graphics pages you will be routed to the sign-in page. Then, if you use the same computer and the same internet browser in the future, you should not have to enter your sign-in information again.

Do teens of the Facebook generation value privacy?

Nick Eaton:

For years now, adults have been grumbling about kids these days and how they have no sense of privacy. Always posting everything to Facebook, sharing their lives on Twitter, bantering with friends on MySpace … where’s their good-ol’ sense of self-respect and privacy?
If you feel this way … well, how do I put this gently? You’re wrong.
A new study, based on interviews with more than 160 teenagers, found that the young and the restless indeed have a marked sense of privacy. It’s just that with the medium – Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, whatever – come different assumptions and expectations of what is public and what is private.

Wisconsin Voucher plan for other cities creates fears, cheers

Erin Richards:

Gov. Scott Walker didn’t offer details about how private school voucher programs could work in Green Bay, Racine and Beloit, but on Tuesday, advocates in those cities said they envisioned systems similar to the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program.
Or, perhaps, similar to Walker’s future vision for the Milwaukee program, which Walker has pushed to modify by lifting the cap on enrollment, phasing out income limits for participants and expanding the program to Milwaukee County so suburban private schools can accept publicly funded voucher students from the city.
“Why reinvent the wheel all over again when we can learn from the benefits and mistakes of the Milwaukee program?” asked Laura Sumner Coon, the head of a nonprofit in Racine that currently provides scholarships for 13 area low-income students to attend private schools.
Public-school leaders in all three cities Tuesday vehemently opposed the idea of channeling taxpayer money out of their systems and into private schools.
Green Bay Superintendent Greg Maass said he hadn’t read any research that showed vouchers benefited kids more than maintaining or improving the education they receive in traditional public schools. And research on academic achievement showed voucher-school students haven’t performed at much higher levels than their public-school counterparts, he said.

The 10 Techiest Colleges in the US

Best Colleges Online:

Lots of colleges and universities offer quality programs in engineering, the sciences and technology. But there are some schools that offer students of all kinds a completely technologically holistic experience, offering proximity to major techie corporations and internships, a huge range of courses and degrees devoted to different niches, and a world-renowned reputation for being all hopped up on techie genius. Here are the 10 techiest colleges in the U.S.
MIT: While some colleges and universities — even big, research-oriented ones — have single departments that incorporate many different fields in engineering, the sciences or computer tech, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has 19 separate departments and programs in those fields, ranging from Biological Engineering to Mathematics to Nuclear Science and Engineering and more. Research institutes support scientists, students and faculty in astronomy, aeronautics, physics, neuroscience, nanoscience, and a lot more. MIT’s also known around the world as one of the most prestigious tech universities, and its MIT Regional Optical Network provides fast Internet connectivity and support over a 2,500 radius including Boston and New York City.

Learning Today: the Lasting Value of Place

Joseph E. Aoun:

At a conference last summer, Bill Gates predicted that “place-based activity in college will be five times less important than it is today.” Noting the ever-growing popularity of online learning, he predicted that “five years from now, on the Web­–for free–you’ll be able to find the best lectures in the world. It will be better than any single university.”
“College, except for the parties,” Gates concluded, “needs to be less place-based.”
Although it’s bold and thought-provoking, Gates’s prediction is oversimplified. As we can already see, something more complex is happening. Across the United States and the world, colleges and universities, historically defined by their physical campuses, are diversifying their delivery systems. They’re expanding them to provide higher education not only online, but also in new physical locations, both domestically and worldwide. Online education may be on the rise, but place-based education is, too.

The New Normal of Teacher Education

Arthur Levine:

Between 1900 and 1940, America’s normal schools, noncollegiate teacher-training institutions with an emphasis on practical education, gave way to university-based teacher education. Today the nation is moving in the opposite direction.
The first of the public normal schools, educating primary-school teachers, was established in 1839. By 1900 there were more than 330 normals, public and private, enrolling over 115,000 students. Their programs, originally a year long and later longer, included academic subjects but emphasized pedagogy and in-school training.
The rise of the high school and the advent of accreditation and education-professional associations in the late 19th century brought the normal-school era to a close. Higher education determined that the preparation of secondary-school teachers, which required mastery of subject matter, should preferably occur on campus, and so colleges and universities began to create their own teacher-education programs.

Ill. lawmaker says raising obese kids should cost parents at tax time

Hannah Hess:

An Illinois lawmaker says parents who have obese children should lose their state tax deduction.
“It’s the parents’ responsibility that have obese kids,” said state Sen. Shane Cultra, R-Onarga. “Take the tax deduction away for parents that have obese kids.”
Cultra has not introduced legislation to deny parents the $2,000 standard tax deduction, but he floated the idea Tuesday, when lawmakers took a shot at solving the state’s obesity epidemic.
With one in five Illinois children classified as obese and 62 percent of the state’s adults considered overweight, health advocates are pushing a platter of diet solutions including trans fat bans and restricting junk food purchases on food stamps.
Today, the Senate Public Health Committee considered taxing sugary beverages at a penny-per-ounce, in effect applying the same theory to soda, juices and energy drinks that governs to liquor sales. Health advocates say a sin tax could discourage consumption, but lawmakers are reluctant to target an industry supports the jobs of more than 40,000 Illinoisans.
“It seems like we just, we go after the low-hanging fruit, where its easy to get,” said state Sen. Dave Syverson, R-Rockford. He said the state needs to form a comprehensive plan to address physical fitness and disease prevention, rather than taking aim at sugary drinks.

The Humanities, Done Digitally

Kathleen Fitzpatrick:

A few months back, I gave a lunchtime talk called “Digital Humanities: Singular or Plural?” My title was in part a weak joke driven primarily by brain exhaustion. As I sat at the computer putting together my remarks, which were intended to introduce the field, I’d initially decided to title them “What Is Digital Humanities?” But then I thought “What Is the Digital Humanities?” sounded better, and then I stared at the screen for a minute trying to decide if it should be “What Are the Digital Humanities?” And in my pre-coffee, underslept haze, I honestly couldn’t tell which one was correct.
At first this was just a grammatical mixup, but at some point it occurred to me that it was actually a useful metaphor for something that’s been going on in the field of late. Digital humanities has gained prominence in the last couple of years, in part because of the visibility given the field by the use of social media, particularly Twitter, at the Modern Language Association convention and other large scholarly meetings. But that prominence and visibility have also produced a fair bit of tension within the field–every “What is Digital Humanities?” panel aimed at explaining the field to other scholars winds up uncovering more differences of opinion among its practitioners. Sometimes those differences develop into tense debates about the borders of the field, and about who’s in and who’s out.

A second language for every high school student, Stanford’s Russell Berman says

Cynthia Haven:

All high school students should be fluent in a language other than English, and it’s a matter of national urgency. So says Russell Berman – and as president of the Modern Language Association (MLA), his opinion carries some clout.
“To worry about globalization without supporting a big increase in language learning is laughable,” the Stanford humanities professor wrote in this summer’s MLA newsletter, in an article outlining the agenda for his presidency.
In conversation, he is just as emphatic, calling for “a national commitment to ramping up the quality of education.”
“Budget attacks on language programs from the Republicans and Democrats are just the contemporary form of a xenophobia that suggests we don’t need languages – and it’s deeply, deeply misguided.”

Dual-language immersion programs growing in popularity

Teresa Watanabe:

Dual-language immersion programs are the new face of bilingual education — without the stigma. They offer the chance to learn a second language not just to immigrant children, but to native-born American students as well.
In a Glendale public school classroom, the immigrant’s daughter uses no English as she conjugates verbs and writes sentences about cats.
More than a decade after California voters eliminated most bilingual programs, first-grader Sofia Checchi is taught in Italian nearly all day — as she and her 20 classmates at Franklin Elementary School have been since kindergarten.
Yet in just a year, Sofia has jumped a grade level in reading English. In the view of her mother — an Italian immigrant — Sofia’s achievement validates a growing body of research indicating that learning to read in students’ primary languages helps them become more fluent in English.

The Madison School District has launched several dual language programs recently.

Conservative manifesto opposes “one-size-fits-all, centrally controlled curriculum.”

Maureen Downey:

Today 100 conservative education, business and political leaders issued a strong rebuke to a recent call for a national curriculum and national tests.

The manifesto counters the Albert Shanker Institute campaign for a common curriculum and criticizes the federal embrace of common assessments and the funding of two state partnerships to develop them. (Georgia is among the states involved in developing assessments for the Common Core State Standards.)

A local signatory is Kelly McCutchen of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation.

I know I risk the wrath of many, but as a parent I have no problem with a national curriculum and national tests.

Chocolate Milk on School Menus Under Scrutiny

Raven Clabough:

Does the Nanny State have no bounds? Apparently not, as even beverages are at risk. The newest example of “government knows best” can be found in public schools, where chocolate milk is soon to be banned in an effort to target childhood obesity.
MSNBC reports, “With schools under increasing pressure to offer healthier food, the staple on children’s cafeteria trays has come under attack over the very ingredient that made it so popular-sugar.”
Some school districts have already moved towards removing flavored milk from the menu. Others have sought milk products that are flavored with sugar, a healthier alternative to high-fructose corn syrup.
In the state of Florida, the Board of Education is currently considering a statewide ban of chocolate milk in schools. School boards in Washington, D.C., and Berkeley, California, have already done so. Similarly, Los Angeles Unified’s Superintendent John Deasy has announced plans to push for the removal of chocolate and strawberry milk from school menus.

Despite insurgent threats, hundreds of boys at school in Salavat, Afghanistan

Colin Perkel:

Not a single kid or teacher showed up when the unadorned eight-room school in Salavat opened to much fanfare barely a month ago.
It was a heart-breaking moment for the Canadian military and civilian sponsors for whom education of children in the Panjwaii district of Kandahar province has long been a top, if frustrating, priority
“The insurgents told us, ‘Don’t go to the school. If you guys go, we will cut off your ears,'” says one boy, who looks about 12.
Still, here they are now, neatly paired — sometimes in threes — quietly seated in their wooden desks, attentively reciting a lesson or reading from the chalkboard.
Weeks after that inauspicious start, the raucous chatter of scores of kids sporting baby blue UNICEF backpacks echoes across the dusty soccer pitch at the start of the school day.

New to Teaching, Idealistic, at Risk for Layoff

Fernanda Santos::

Samantha Sherwood had lofty aspirations when she settled on a family-studies major at the University of Connecticut, like redrawing welfare rules or weaving together a sturdier safety net for people in need. She figured that she could change the world in big, broad strokes, and that she might pick up a fancy title and ample salary along the way.
Instead, Ms. Sherwood, 25, joined up with Teach for America, the program that puts top college graduates into the nation’s most poverty-stricken schools, deciding that the best way to make a difference would be, as she put it on Monday, “to be there, where the rubber meets the road.”
The world she is poised to change is a science classroom at a middle school in the South Bronx filled with sixth graders who seem as eager to hear her tell them about the whims of the weather as she is to listen to their tales of teenage crushes and broken hearts.
Now in her third year of teaching, earning about $45,000, Ms. Sherwood has come face to face with another place where rubber and road meet: she is most likely among the 4,100 New York City teachers scheduled to be laid off under the budget Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg unveiled on Friday.

Wisconsin Governor Walker: Budget could expand school choice to other cities

Patrick Marley and Jason Stein:

Gov. Scott Walker wants to bring voucher schools to urban areas beyond Milwaukee, and predicts lawmakers will approve that expansion by the end of June.
“I think one of the things between now and the time we finish this (state) budget off at the end of June, we’re going to be able to add and go beyond the boundaries of the city of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County. We’re actually going to be able to add communities like Racine and Beloit and even Green Bay . . . because every one of those communities deserves a choice as well, and with this budget that’s exactly what they’re going to get,” Walker said in a Monday speech to school choice advocates in Washington, D.C.
The proposal comes at a time when Walker is proposing cutting public schools by $841 million over two years and injects a new campaign issue into attempts to recall nine state senators.
A day after Walker made his comments, the Assembly planned to eliminate the cap on the number of children who can participate in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program. The 20-year-old system allows low-income children to use taxpayer-funded vouchers worth $6,442 each to attend private schools in Milwaukee, including religious schools.

Change in education certain, but outcome is not Let’s hope education reform does better than last Daniels reform

The Tribune Star:

No truer statement was made about the education reforms enacted in the 2011 Indiana General Assembly than the one uttered Thursday by Gov. Mitch Daniels.
“If we’ve learned anything in Indiana, we’ve learned change can happen, but change is hard,” Daniels said at a bill-signing ceremony. “Change always brings uncertainty.”
“Uncertain” sums up the future awaiting Indiana’s public schools and the teachers who work in those facilities.
Change indeed came during the thorny legislative session. Republicans seized their sudden super majorities in the Indiana Senate and House, ramming through almost every “change” dreamed of by the governor and his superintendent of public instruction, Tony Bennett.

In an improbable corner of China, young scientists are rewriting the book on genome research.

Lone Frank:

Lab technicians at the Beijing Genomics Institute in Shenzhen, China. Clockwise from upper left: Zhi Wei Luo; Wan Ling Li; Zi Long Zhang; and Yu Zhu Xu.
The world’s largest genome-mapping facility is in an unlikely corner of China. Hidden away in a gritty neighborhood in Shenzhen’s Yantian district, surrounded by truck-repair shops and scrap yards prowled by chickens, Beijing’s most ambitious biomedical project is housed in a former shoe factory.
But the modest gray exterior belies the state-of-the-art research inside. In immaculate, glass-walled and neon-lit rooms resembling intensive care units, rows of identical machines emit a busy hum. The Illumina HiSeq 2000 is a top-of-the-line genome-sequencing machine that carries a price tag of $500,000. There are 128 of them here, flanked by rows of similar high-tech equipment, making it possible for the Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI) to churn out more high quality DNA-sequence data than all U.S. academic facilities put together.
“Genes build the future,” announces a poster on the wall, and there is no doubt that China has set its eye on that future. This year, Forbes magazine estimated that the genomics market will reach $100 billion over the next decade, with scientists analyzing vast quantities of data to offer new ways to fight disease, feed the world, and harness microbes for industrial purposes. “The situation in genomics resembles the early days of the Internet,” says Harvard geneticist George Church, who advises BGI and a number of American genomics companies. “No one knows what will turn out to be the killer apps.” Companies such as Microsoft, Google, IBM, and Intel have already invested in genomics, seeing the field as an extension of their own businesses–data handling and management. “The big realization is that biology has become an information science,” says Dr. Yang Huanming, cofounder and president of BGI. “If we accept that [genomics] builds on the digitalization of life, then all kinds of genetic information potentially holds value.”

Online education growing as colleges offer more classes to meet student demand

Karen Farkas:

Joshua Falso made his first visit to Bowling Green State University on Saturday.
He toured the campus, donned a cap and gown, and graduated.
Falso, 25, of Cleveland, earned his bachelor of science degree in technology by taking classes online while he served in the Air Force, including a stint in Iraq.
Online education has ballooned in the past 10 years as millions of students of all ages earn certificates, licenses and degrees — from associate through doctorate — from any location where they can use a computer.

Autism Prevalence May Be Far Higher Than Believed, Study Finds

Betty Ann Bowser:

For the first time, researchers have studied an entire population sample and found that one in 38 children exhibited symptoms of autism. The study was published Monday in the American Journal of Psychiatry.
“These numbers are really startling” said Geraldine Dawson, chief science officer for Autism Speaks, one of the three organizations that funded the project. Most previous researchers have found that about one in 110 children is autistic.
The NewsHour explored the puzzling condition of autism in the recent Autism Now series, anchored by Robert MacNeil.

Few takers for technical schools in Vietnam

VietNamNet Bridge:

Technical universities in South Vietnam are on the look out for students as they are increasingly finding it difficult to motivate students to study for any major in their university.
Departments of education and training in the country will complete receiving university application forms for universities by tomorrow and will transfer these forms to universities for the upcoming entrance examinations.
Of the 29,000 applicants in the South representative office of the Ministry of Education and Training, 20,300 students (70 percent) prefer to study economics and technological subjects in universities, while only 3 per cent wish to follow technical programs.
From the 16,000 applicants for the Ho Chi Minh City University of Industry received so far, 20 preferred to study Mechanical Engineering, 35 preferred Heat Engineering and Refrigeration and 30 preferred Garment and Fashion Design while around 500 preferred Accounting and Business Administration.

Toronto secondary schools lag behind provincial average: report

Irene Preklet:

Most parents would certainly agree that ensuring their children get a good education is a top priority.
However, recent findings from the Fraser Institute suggest that not all schools are created equally – not even close.
The Fraser Institute, one of Canada’s leading public policy think-thanks, released their annual school rankings on May 8, which examine the performance of Ontario high schools over the past five years.
“Our report card is the number one source for objective, reliable information about how Ontario secondary schools stack up in terms of academics,” said Michael Thomas, the co-author of the Report Card on Ontario’s Secondary Schools 2011.

Students use Tasers at school to defend themselves against bullies

STUDENTS are using stun guns in schools to protect themselves against bullies and to threaten fellow classmates.
At least one schoolboy has been hospitalised as a result of being attacked with one of the electro-shock weapons, arising from a confrontation in the playground, according to reports obtained under freedom of information laws by The Daily Telegraph.
Serious incident reports show stun guns have been used on three occasions as a weapon against students or as a threat.In the most serious case a Year 10 boy who challenged a boy to a fight at school in southwestern Sydney accosted his victim after school, pulling up in a silver car driven by a stun gun-wielding male of an unknown age.
The driver got out of the car, “pulled a Taser-like device from his pocket” and stabbed a schoolboy with it, the incident report said.

Journal News 2011 Board of Education Q&A: Robert Cox

Robert Cox:

Civic and school board experience:
I have attended over 100 school board meetings. Since 2008, I have often been the only person at the school board meetings not on the board or employed by the district.
I have relentlessly pushed for greater transparency of board meetings: airing meetings on TV, publishing agendas and orders of business on the web, as well as school budgets, audited financials, powerpoint presentations and video on the web. I researched and recommended digital recording technology to record meetings and make podcasts of meetings which was later purchased and adopted by the school board.
I not only attend the meetings but publish reports about them on the web. I also publish articles and opinion pieces by other members of the community.
To mark the 49th Anniversary of the Lincoln School desegregation case, I edited and published an 8-part series on the history of the Lincoln School case, one year before the 50th Anniversary of the Kaufman decision. I met with the leadership of the association of black churches in New Rochelle, the President of the N.A.A.C.P. and other leaders in the African-American community. I appeared before the school board to inform them of the upcoming event, of which they were unaware, and urged them to properly mark the occasion of the 50th Anniversary on January 24, 1961. These efforts initiated the year-long celebration of the 50th Anniversary in our schools.

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has big plans to reform education, but there are no quick fixes

Susan Demas:

I don’t have a magic bullet to fixing education Michigan.
And the truth is, no politician does, either. The vast majority come up with some sound bites and maybe a bill or two that simply validate their ideology and pay back their favorite interest groups. The goal is to help out the teachers’ unions or pump up private schools.
Few of them are really trying to improve how kids learn.
Like many governors before him, Gov. Rick Snyder is trying to leave his mark on the state’s educational system and I wish him the best of luck. The only hope for this generation of kids is to get a top-notch education from preschool to postgrad — and the governor is dead-on to take that kind of holistic approach.
Snyder is a great role model, having earned three degrees from the University of Michigan by the age of 23.
As for the governor’s education doctrine, it’s a pretty standard reform agenda that includes revamping tenure, holding teachers accountable for student performance, computerized learning, more options for high schoolers to earn college credit and degrees and an emphasis on early childhood education.

The Failure of American Schools

Joel Klein, via a Rick Kiley email:

THREE YEARS AGO, in a New York Times article detailing her bid to become head of the American Federation of Teachers union, Randi Weingarten boasted that despite my calls for “radical reform” to New York City’s school system, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and I had achieved only “incremental” change. It seemed like a strange thing to crow about, but she did have something of a point. New York over the past nine years has experienced what Robert Schwartz, the dean of Harvard’s education school, has described as “the most dramatic and thoughtful set of large-scale reforms going on anywhere in the country,” resulting in gains such as a nearly 20-point jump in graduation rates. But the city’s school system is still not remotely where it needs to be.
That story holds more than true for the country at large. Nearly three decades after A Nation at Risk, the groundbreaking report by the National Commission on Excellence in Education, warned of “a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a Nation and a people,” the gains we have made in improving our schools are negligible–even though we have doubled our spending (in inflation-adjusted dollars) on K-12 public education. On America’s latest exams (the National Assessment of Educational Progress), one-third or fewer of eighth-grade students were proficient in math, science, or reading. Our high-school graduation rate continues to hover just shy of 70 percent, according to a 2010 report by the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center, and many of those students who do graduate aren’t prepared for college. ACT, the respected national organization that administers college-admissions tests, recently found that 76 percent of our high-school graduates “were not adequately prepared academically for first-year college courses.”
While America’s students are stuck in a ditch, the rest of the world is moving ahead. The World Economic Forum ranks us 48th in math and science education. On international math tests, the United States is near the bottom of industrialized countries (the 34 members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development), and we’re in the middle in science and reading. Similarly, although we used to have one of the top percentages of high-school and college graduates among the OECD countries, we’re now in the basement for high-school and the middle for college graduates. And these figures don’t take into account the leaps in educational attainment in China, Singapore, and many developing countries.

Madison school officials want new standardized tests

Matthew DeFour:

Madison students are slated to get a double dose of standardized tests in the coming years as the state redesigns its annual series of exams while school districts seek better ways to measure learning.
For years, district students in grades three through eight and grade 10 have taken the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination (WKCE), a series of state-mandated tests that measure school accountability.
Last month, in addition to the state tests, eighth- and ninth-graders took one of three different tests the district plans to introduce in grades three through 10. Compared with the WKCE, the tests are supposed to more accurately assess whether students are learning at, above or below grade level. Teachers also will get the results more quickly.
“Right now we have a vacuum of appropriate assessment tools,” said Tim Peterson, Madison’s assistant director of curriculum and assessment. “The standards have changed, but the measurement tool that we’re required by law to use — the WKCE — is not connected.”

Related Links:

I’m glad that the District is planning alternatives to the WKCE.

Wisconsin Gov. Walker takes fight to privatize education to D.C.

John Nichols:

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker continues to court national support for an extreme agenda of attacking public employees and public services while diminishing local democracy and shifting public money to private political allies. Despite the fact that Walker’s moves have been widely condemned in his home state, the hyper-ambitious career politician has repeatedly suggested that he will not moderate his positions because he wants to shift the tenor of politics and policymaking far beyond Wisconsin.
Walker’s stance has earned him talk as a possible dark-horse contender for a chance at the 2012 Republican nod, and the governor has not discouraged it.
To that end, Walker was in Washington Monday night to deliver a keynote address at the innocuously named American Federation for Children’s “School Choice Now: Empowering America’s Children” policy summit. It’s actually a key annual gathering of advocates for privatizing public education, and of some of the biggest funders of right-wing political projects nationally.
The appearance comes at a time when education cuts are becoming a front-and-center issue, as New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has stirred an outcry in the nation’s largest city by proposing to lay off thousands of teachers.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s school choice bills face some hurdles

Susan Troller:

Republican Gov. Scott Walker will be on a national education stage tonight to tout his efforts to expand charter school and voucher programs, but he is running into obstacles back home, and not just from those you might expect.
At an Assembly Education Committee hearing last week, for example, a bill Walker backs that would allow parents of special education students to use state tax dollars to pay for private school tuition hit significant roadblocks. In fact, the Republican chair of the committee, Rep. Steve Kestell of Elkhart Lake, called the funding mechanism for the legislation in its current form a “fatal flaw” in a telephone interview Friday.
“The bill is an intriguing proposal,” Kestell says. “Where we have a big challenge is how to pay for it.”
Kestell and other representatives grilled the authors of the bill during committee testimony. The language of the proposal appears to be taken fairly literally from generic legislation used in other states that have passed special education voucher programs. Kestell says the legislation would have to be “Wisconsinized” to be acceptable.
The bill was also sharply criticized by disability rights groups, who say it would strip hard-won legal rights from families with special-needs children, and by the state Department of Public Instruction, which faults the bill for demanding no accountability from private schools for actually providing the special education services that would be the basis for the vouchers.

Budget Mix-Up Provides Nation’s Schools With Enough Money To Properly Educate Students

The Onion:

According to bewildered and contrite legislators, a major budgetary mix-up this week inadvertently provided the nation’s public schools with enough funding and resources to properly educate students.
Sources in the Congressional Budget Office reported that as a result of a clerical error, $80 billion earmarked for national defense was accidentally sent to the Department of Education, furnishing schools with the necessary funds to buy new textbooks, offer more academic resources, hire better teachers, promote student achievement, and foster educational excellence–an oversight that apologetic officials called a “huge mistake.”
“Obviously, we did not intend for this to happen, and we are doing everything in our power to right the situation and discipline whoever is responsible,” said House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI), expressing remorse for the error. “I want to apologize to the American people. The last thing we wanted was for schools to upgrade their technology and lower student-to-teacher ratios in hopes of raising a generation of well-educated, ambitious, and skilled young Americans.”

g and genomics

Steve Hsu:

I begin with a brief review of psychometric results concerning intelligence (sometimes referred to as the g factor, or IQ). The main results concern the stability, validity (predictive power) and heritability of adult IQ. Next, I discuss ongoing Genome Wide Association Studies which investigate the genetic basis of intelligence. Due mainly to the rapidly decreasing cost of sequencing (currently below $5k per genome), it is likely that within the next 5-10 years we will identify genes which account for a significant fraction of total IQ variation. Finally, I end with an analysis of possible near term genetic engineering for intelligence.
This talk is aimed at physicists and should be accessible even to those with no specialized background in psychology or biology.

The slides can be viewed here.

Football coaches get big bucks, as states cut education budgets

Carol Forsloff:

Wisconsin union protests may not be national front page news, but as its model is picked up nationwide, educators worry as childrens programs are cut while football coaches continue to earn big bucks.
In Wisconsin, educators worry about children’s programs like Headstart being trimmed, and feared cut, as well the breakfast programs for hungry children being eliminated, as football coaches get first rank in the hiring and firing parades.
The FASEB Journal examines the problems of education, as the editor wonders, as educators do, what has happened to education and the value placed on it in the decisions made by politicians. He uses some of what happened in Wisconsin as a model to look at this issue. The Journal points out the United States will continue to pedal backwards in relationship to the accomplishments of other countries, as children fall further and further behind youngsters of comparable ages in other countries. Right now only Luxembourg , among the developed countries, is the only one that pays less per child on education than the United States.

Top teachers, not money, ‘the key to good schools’

Anna Patty:

AUSTRALIA’S top public servant says the key to improving education standards is not in spreading more money on schools ”like Vegemite”. Rather, a targeted investment in teacher quality and innovative school leadership is needed.
The secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Terry Moran, said the focus should be on recruiting and investing in bright school graduates to become teachers and future school leaders.
An advocate of decentralising bureaucratic control of education and health services, Mr Moran said principals and teachers should be given greater autonomy to be more creative in the way they engaged students.

Wisconsin schools feel pinch of proposed state budget

Steve Contorno:

State school spending has increased dramatically in the last two decades.
Following the Wisconsin Legislature’s commitment in 1996 to fund two-thirds of education expenses, the average cost of state aid for each of the 800,000-plus pupils in the public school system has grown from $3,188 to $5,028 in 2010-11.
But that’s just on the surface, and in reality, dollars allocated for schools often don’t make it to the classroom and are based on a complex formula focused as much on providing property tax relief as educating children.

Mothers of young black men try to protect sons from becoming statistics

Avis Thomas-Lester:

Sylvia Holloman’s busy world went like this on Friday afternoon: Get off work, drive home, gather up her three youngest sons, haul them and the family’s dirty laundry to the laundromat, wash clothes for 90 minutes, drive back home, prepare pork chops and peas — boys still at her side in the kitchen.
For Holloman, a D.C. police officer, it is the best strategy she’s found for keeping Rahim, 15, Raphael, 11, and Ryan, 5, out of harm’s way in a country where young black men often face peril — never let them out of her sight.
“I constantly worry,” said Holloman, 48, of District Heights.
“I worry because of the way the world is today for young black men,” said the mother of six, including a fourth son, Ronnie, 26. “It seems like there are so many ways they can get caught up: discrimination, drugs, not being able to find a job, going to jail, violence. You have to be on the lookout constantly to make sure they are safe.”

Times updates and expands value-added ratings for Los Angeles elementary school teachers

Jason Song and Jason Felch:

New data include ratings for about 11,500 teachers, nearly double the number covered last August. School and civic leaders had sought to halt release of the data.
The Los Angeles Times on Sunday is releasing a major update to its elementary school teacher ratings, underscoring the large disparities throughout the nation’s second-largest school district in instructors’ abilities to raise student test scores.
The posting — the only publication of such teacher performance data in the nation — contains value-added ratings for about 11,500 third- through fifth-grade teachers, nearly double the number released last August. It also reflects changes in the way the scores were calculated and displayed.
Overall ratings for about 470 schools also are included in the release, which is based on student standardized test scores from the academic years 2003-04 through 2009-10. To obtain the rating of a teacher or school, go to and enter the teacher’s or the school’s name.
The initial release of teacher ratings last summer generated intense controversy — and some praise — across the country, and this round has already met with some opposition.

Commencement Cash Cow

Pablo Eisenberg:

For years many colleges and universities have been paying speaker fees — some quite substantial — to celebrities, prominent academics and other well-known personalities to deliver commencement addresses or to give speeches during the academic year on campus and at student meetings.
It has been one of the best kept secrets of academic life, until the newspapers recently reported that Rutgers University had invited Toni Morrison, Nobel laureate in literature, to deliver this year’s commencement address for $30,000. It was then reported that Rutgers students had upped the ante by inviting Snooki, of “Jersey Shore” fame, to the campus to talk about partying and having fun for the tidy sum of $32,000.
That Snooki should command more money than Morrison was somewhat surprising, but even more shocking was the willingness of Rutgers to spend a large amount of money on a commencement speech at a time when the university has experienced financial difficulties, cancelled pay raises and last June froze the salaries of 13,000 employees.

Wisc., Pa. governors to address pro-school voucher nonprofit; union leaders plan protest

Associated Press

Two Republican governors are scheduled to speak at a Washington conference hosted by a nonprofit that pushes for private school vouchers and charter schools.
Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Gov. Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania will address the American Federation for Children’s second annual policy summit Monday.
Both are expected to talk about school choice. Walker has proposed expanding a school voucher program in Milwaukee. Corbett is proposing cutting $1.6 billion from public education while also pushing for vouchers, which would allow students in poor-performing public schools to transfer to private schools.
Union leaders and other activists are planning a rally outside the summit, which will also feature former District of Columbia schools chancellor Michelle Rhee. Opponents say the federation is trying to “dismantle public education.”

More, here.

Ivy League education pays off

Matthew Ondesko:

They are some of most prestigious and toughest schools to get into – and they only take the best of the best.
They also are schools that have long, successful, athletic traditions.
For some getting into the prestigious institutions might mean being set for life when getting out into the real world.
The Ivy Eight, Cornell, Princeton, Harvard, Columbia, Penn, Yale, Dartmouth and Brown, are some of the top schools in the country – and some of the toughest schools to crack.
So, when a student-athlete gets a shot to attend one of these fine institutions they usually don’t turn them down – even if it means going into debt for a very long time.
You have to remember for presidents, top executives of Fortune 500 companies and others have all roamed the hallow halls.
But, what does it take to get notice or get into these schools?

Amy Chua on Being a Mother

Eve Gerber :

Mother’s Day is upon us. I’m wondering how it’s observed in the Chua-Rubenfeld household and what you think of this Western invention.
I always send flowers and a card for my own mother. But it’s harder for me to get the same amount of attention from my two daughters. Everyone is so busy. We’ll probably go to see a movie and to a Chinese restaurant. In my household, that’s the tradition.
The topic is mothering, but you’ve chosen an illustrated children’s classic about a duck, a memoir and three novels. What do you have against parenting manuals?
I have nothing against parenting manuals, although I have been disappointed that people who haven’t read my book have portrayed it as a parenting manual. When my daughters were infants, I think I did have the “What to Expect” series. But once my daughters grew out of toddlerhood, I thought I’d just do what my parents did. I learned the hard way that what they did wasn’t so easy.
My parents were extremely strict, but also extremely loving, Chinese immigrant parents. While I wasn’t always so happy about how strict they were when I was growing up, as an adult I adore my parents. I feel I owe all that I am to my parents and I don’t think I turned out that badly.

Schools and educators deserve support, not disparagement

George Russell:

These are difficult times for public education. As school districts struggle to choose where to whittle and whack next, it’s easy to suggest that there are simple ways to achieve savings and reduce costs.
What’s troubling, however, is the misleading and sometimes inaccurate information that some folks are using to disparage our schools and educators.
Public schools’ mission is teaching and learning. Our success is measured by the opportunities that we create for our students, both in our classrooms today and later in life.
Throughout these lean economic times brought on by the Great Recession, the Eugene School District has worked steadily to keep cuts away from the classroom as much as possible. Now, facing a $21.7 million budget shortfall, we can no longer avoid further reductions to our teaching staff and the resulting increase in class sizes.
We continue to put the needs of students first and to maintain high academic expectations. We are focused and clear about our priorities. We have made hard decisions to let go of valued programs so that all students have the educational opportunities that they need to be successful. This is not, and will not be, easy for students, parents, staff or our community.

The Rise of Teaching Machines

Josh Fischman:

At Arizona State University, a high-tech teaching tool with roots in the pre-Internet 1950s has created a bit of a buzz. “I think it’s going to be quite good,” says Philip Regier, dean of ASU Online. “Looking forward to it,” says Arthur Blakemore, senior vice provost of the university. “I’m excited,” says Irene Bloom, a senior lecturer in mathematics at the downtown campus.
All are anticipating this summer’s debut of Knewton, a new computerized-learning program that features immediate feedback and adaptation to students’ learning curves. The concept can be traced back a half-century or so to a “teaching machine” invented by the psychologist B.F. Skinner, then a professor at Harvard University. Based on principles of learning he developed working with pigeons, Skinner came up with a boxlike mechanical device that fed questions to students, rewarding correct answers with fresh academic material; wrong answers simply got them a repeat of the old question. “The student quickly learns to be right,” Skinner said.

What’s Bugging Madison Teachers, Inc. Executive Director John Matthews?

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes:

In an article about teacher retirements in the State Journal a couple of weeks ago, Madison Teachers Inc. Executive Director John Matthews had some harsh comments about the Madison school district and school board. Referring to the Teacher Emeritus Retirement Program, or TERP, Matthews said, “The evidence of the ill will of the board of education and superintendent speaks for itself as to why we have grave concern over the benefit continuing. . . . They tore things from the MTI contract, which they and their predecessors had agreed for years were in the best interest of the district and its employees.”
In an article in Isthmus last week, Lynn Welch followed up with Matthews. Matthews comes out swinging against the school district in this article as well, asserting, “The bargaining didn’t have to [involve] so much animosity. . . . If they wanted to make revisions, all they had to do is talk with us and we could have worked through something that would be acceptable to both sides. But they didn’t bother to talk about it. You don’t buy good will this way.” While the contract includes very significant economic concessions on the part of the teachers, Matthews expressed unhappiness with the non-economic changes as well, labeling them “inhumane.”
In the Isthmus article, Matthews asserts that the changes in the collective bargaining agreement “show how Walker’s proposed legislation (still tied up in court) has already produced an imbalance of power forcing unions to make concessions they don’t want to achieve a contract deal.”
The collective bargaining process is useful because it provides an established framework for hammering out issues of mutual concern between the school district and its employees and for conflict resolution. However, if the collective bargaining agreement were to disappear, the school district wouldn’t immediately resort to a management equivalent of pillaging the countryside. Instead, the district would seek out alternative ways of achieving the ends currently served by the collective bargaining process, because the district, like nearly all employers, values its employees and understands the benefits of being perceived as a good place to work.
But when employers aren’t interested in running sweat-shops, organizations set up to prevent sweat-shop conditions aren’t all that necessary. It may be that John Matthews’ ramped-up rhetoric is best understood not as a protest against school district over-reaching in bargaining, since that did not happen, but as a cry against the possibility of his own impending irrelevance.

Education reform: Shorter week, more learning More than 120 school districts across the U.S. are finding that less can be more — less being fewer days spent in school.

Los Angeles Times:

The general assumption is that when it comes to educating American kids, more is more. Longer school hours. Saturday school. Summer school. Yet more than 120 school districts across the nation are finding that less can also be more — less being fewer days spent in school.
The four-day school week has been around for decades, according to the National Council of State Legislatures, but it’s quietly spreading as a money-saving tactic, especially after several states — including Montana, Georgia, Missouri and Washington — passed legislation allowing school districts to make the switch as long as they lengthened each school day so that there was no reduction in instructional hours. Teachers work just as much under the four-day plan, so there are no cost reductions there, but schools have saved from 2% to 9%, according to a 2009 report by the Center for Education Policy at the University of Southern Maine. Utility and transportation costs are lower; there’s no need to serve a fifth lunch each week; even the reduced wear and tear on buildings has helped.

The Future of Learning

Tom Vander Ark:

KnowledgeWorks, led for a decade by Chad Wick, a former bank CEO passionate about connecting urban kids to the idea economy, developed a 2020 forecast that outlines five learning priorities:
1. Students need the ability to sort, verify, synthesize, and use information to make judgments and take action. These skills have always been important but now that we’re all drinking from a fire hose of information they are essential.
2. Students need a working knowledge of market economics and personal finance–most students still leave high school without them. Students will be navigating an increasingly dynamic economy in which technologies will improve and change at exponential rates and market opportunities will be big but competitive. Students need the ability to sell–themselves and an idea. They need to experience and give candid performance feedback and gain appreciation for a quality work product.
Curtis Carlson, the chief executive of SRI International, an independent research institute, told Tom Friedman, “Fortunately, this is the best time ever for innovation,” said Carlson, for three reasons: “First, although competition is increasingly intense, our global economy opens up huge new market opportunities. Second, most technologies–since they are increasingly based on ideas and bits and not on atoms and muscle–are improving at rapid, exponential rates. And third, these two forces–huge, competitive markets and rapid technological change–are opening up one major new opportunity after another.”

Choice plan isn’t about the wealthy

Patrick McIlheran:

Millionaires do screw up everything, don’t they? They’re hovering even now, ghostlike, haunting the working class amid the talk of expanding Milwaukee’s school choice program.
Right now, if you’re poor in Milwaukee – earning $39,000 or less for a family of four – you can take your state aid to any of a selection of superb private schools. Earn any more, as your typical machinist or firefighter would, and it’s either endure the Milwaukee Public Schools, see if you can get into a charter school or pay thousands in tuition.
Gov. Scott Walker proposes lifting the income limit, and letting machinists and firefighters in on the deal. Critics are aghast with the thought that millionaires might benefit, too. Your tax dollars, they gasp, could pick up the $6,442 tab for some millionaire’s son at some private school.
The horror. Not that a $6,442 voucher will take even a millionaire’s kid very far at, say, the University School of Milwaukee, where tuition is $20K a year, should University School decide to take part. Nor will it suddenly relieve any millionaire of the tuition he’s now paying at the more humble St. Parsimonious. Walker’s reform phases in, and parents currently paying tuition can’t get the state aid.

Expert to help Ball State better train teachers to educate autistic kids

Dan McFeely:

Among the questions facing parents raising children with autism is this: Could easing the symptoms be as simple as taking away grains and dairy products?
Many parents swear the popular gluten-free, casein-free diets being promoted by celebrities help their children be more social and less prone to problematic behaviors such as loud outbursts.
But Lee Anne Owens, a Brownsburg mother of two boys with autism, isn’t sure.
“I have a girlfriend who has tried it for her autistic child, and she has seen remarkable improvement,” Owens said. “But I just don’t see it.”

What’s High School For?

Seth Godin:

What’s high school for?
Perhaps we could endeavor to teach our future the following:
How to focus intently on a problem until it’s solved.
The benefit of postponing short-term satisfaction in exchange for long-term success.
How to read critically.
The power of being able to lead groups of peers without receiving clear delegated authority.
An understanding of the extraordinary power of the scientific method, in just about any situation or endeavor.

Critic William Deresiewicz undertakes ‘A Jane Austen Education’ and becomes a convert

Nancy Connors:

When I was college student and for a few years afterward, there were certain books — often books I picked up by accident or for which I had low expectations — that were so revelatory, so eye-opening, that after finishing them I walked around feeling at if I’d just landed on Earth. Everything looked new and strange, and every incident in the book felt as if it related directly to my own life.
It was a giddy sensation, and one that, sadly, comes much less frequently now. Reading William Deresiewicz’s “A Jane Austen Education” brought me back to those heady days, when I believed that nothing could possibly be more important than literature.
Deresiewicz, a former English professor at Yale University and now a book critic, is an accidental Austen enthusiast. As a New Yorker and a graduate student at Columbia during the 1990s, he resisted Austen, preferring “modernism, the literature that had formed my identity as a reader and, in many ways, as a person. Joyce, Conrad, Faulkner, Nabokov: complex, difficult, sophisticated works.”

Brainwashing fears far-fetched

Mary Ma:

Schoolchildren in Canada sing the national anthem in class everyday. It’s also common for US students to recite a pledge of allegiance to their country.
In Hong Kong, most schoolchildren started to learn singing China’s national anthem only after Britain returned its most famous colony to Beijing’s sovereignty in 1997. Now, the SAR government wants to carry national education further, but is ironically chided for political brainwashing.
The criticism is simply strange. During the colonial era, students never had the opportunity to study modern Chinese history. Crucial chapters differentiating between the Republic of China – now Taiwan – and the People’s Republic of China were nowhere to be found in textbooks. It was deliberate as this served the colonial regime’s interest better for locals not to be identified with China.
Last week, the SAR launched a four- month consultation on moral and national education, proposing that primary and secondary schools devote 50 hours per year, or two lessons a week, for students to learn the national anthem, attend national flag-raising ceremonies, understand the Basic Law, support national sports teams, and appreciate Chinese culture and the development of China via current affairs. Teachers would have a large freedom in teaching. This is overdue. After all, it has been nearly 14 years since the handover.

Why America’s best school may be no better than yours

Jay Matthews:

I have written many columns about the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Fairfax County. Some readers have suggested I stop. They ask: Why is one school so important?
Here’s the situation. I am an education writer who focuses on the best teachers and best schools, as measured by how much value they add to students’ educations and lives. Jefferson is the most selective high school in the country. By many benchmarks — faculty quality, course level, equipment — it has to be considered among the best.
That is irresistible to me. Now I have found a Jefferson graduate, Chelsea Slade, who has given me a way to drag into my Jefferson obsession everyone who didn’t go to Jefferson, which includes me and almost all of mankind.

Money is the Talk of York Suburban School Board Race

Angie Mason:

Candidates for York Suburban School Board are all focused on one thing: finances.
The district started with a more than $3 million deficit and has spent months whittling down expenses. A proposed budget for next year includes a 1.4 percent tax increase. Here’s a look at what the 10 candidates, vying for 5 spots, had to say about the district’s budget picture:
Jennifer Clancy, a current board member, said the funding formula needs to be addressed at the state level, and state mandates need to be addressed, too. Locally, she said, the board has invested a lot of time in trimming expenses.
“If there was anything called fat, we’ve eliminated that,” she said, noting the next step should be to look at the largest spending area — salaries and benefits — and work on that.
Ellen Freireich, also running for re-election, said the board needs to continue monitoring revenues and expenses to be fiscally responsible. Board members and taxpayers need to contact state legislators and express the urgency of the financial crisis, she said.

It takes a Village: Education system faces constant challenges

Andy Shapiro:

There is no doubt that recruiting and retaining excellent teachers in our nation’s schools are central components of improving our education system. But it is equally important to acknowledge that a wide range of factors beyond how a teacher conducts his or her classroom significantly affects the success of our students and teachers.
Poverty, hunger, homelessness, health issues, exposure to violence and reduced investment in our schools are just a few of the many societal issues that influence the effectiveness of even the most talented teachers.
When a child comes to school hungry or poorly nourished, the student is not as likely to grasp even the most intricately planned and masterfully executed lessons.
When a student is stressed and sleep-deprived due to the foreclosure of his parents’ home, the student will not be as capable of thinking critically and reflectively about even the most engaging of classroom activities.

Chicago Study Finds Mixed Results for AVID Program

Sarah D. Sparks, via a kind reader’s email:

Individual interventions intended to improve academic skills, such as the popular Advancement Via Individual Determination, or AVID, program, may not secure a student’s path to graduation and college without a schoolwide structure to support it, according to a study from the Consortium on Chicago School Research.
In a report set for release in the fall and previewed at the American Educational Research Association convention in New Orleans in April, researchers analyzed how AVID, a study-skills intervention for middle-achieving students, played out in 14 Chicago high schools. They found AVID participants in 9th grade gained little advantage that year over peers not taking part in the program, and remained off track for graduation and college.
The study highlights a potential pitfall for the dozens of student-based interventions aiming to scale up nationwide through private support and programs like the federal Investing in Innovation, or i3, program: As programs move out of the schools for which they were originally developed, their success becomes increasingly dependent on individual schools’ context and capacity.

Madison School District AVID information.

Failing Our Children: Wisconsin’s Deficit in Teaching Personal Finance and Economics

Scott Niederjohn:

Given the importance of economic and financial education, one might expect to find these subjects emphasized in Wisconsin’s K-12 schools. Other states are ahead of Wisconsin. Twenty-one states now require high school students to take an economics course; thirteen states require students to take a personal finance course. In Wisconsin, neither is required, so few Wisconsin high school students take a course in economics or personal finance, and few teachers are qualified to teach one.
This widespread disregard has real consequences. The financial crisis from which our nation is currently recovering illustrates some of these, having arisen in part from ill-considered decisions by financially illiterate consumers of credit. For American workers, moreover, the trend away from defined-benefit pensions toward defined-contribution pensions places increasing investment responsibilities in the hands of individuals.
Evidence suggests that improvement will be a challenge. Surveys and assessments of economic and financial education generally yield dismal results. Americans are neither confident in their skills in these areas nor do they perform well on tests of knowledge. Their lack of economic and financial savvy plays out variously — for example, in the lives of large numbers of Americans who find themselves “unbanked” and reliant on dubious sources of financial services such as payday-loan stores and check-cashing outlets. College students, meanwhile, rack up record levels of credit-card and student-loan debt.

Preschool funding: Toddle to the top

The Economist:

LILY, who is three-and-a-half, loves her nursery school in Queens. Her mother calls her “the sponge” because every day she comes home with new nuggets of knowledge. But not every child is as lucky as Lily. A new report by the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) shows that states’ preschool funding is declining, which means fewer children will have access to early education, which most agree is essential especially for children living in low-income households. The study looked at the 40 states which fund programmes for three- or four-year-olds. “State cuts to preschool funding transformed the recession into a depression for many young children,” says Steven Barnett, author of the NIEER report.
State preschool spending per child decreased by $114 to $4,028 last year. This is almost $700 less than in 2001-2002. Were it not for the additional funding provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, it would be much less. Worryingly, the funding situation may get worse. The stimulus money helped keep many states afloat, a cushion that no longer exists. Only three states (Connecticut, Maine and Vermont) increased spending per child by more than 10%. Nine (Alabama, Arizona, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Ohio, and South Carolina) cut spending by at least 10%. Ohio, once a leader in early education, now has one of the lowest percentages of youngsters enrolled. It cut funding more than any other state.

An Open Letter to Arne Duncan

Randy Turner:

Dear Secretary Duncan:
When I first heard that you had written an open letter to the teachers of America, I was afraid to open the envelope.
Considering that it was just last year that you said Rhode Island school board members were “showing courage and doing the right thing for kids” when they fired the entire faculty at a high school, I thought your latest letter might contain a pink slip or at least some sort of reprimand to place in my permanent record.
Instead, I was told just how much you respect me and the hundreds of thousands of teachers in this great country.
Among the things you wrote:

Madison Preparatory Academy Finance Discussion with the Madison School Board

Madison School District 60K PDF:

The review of resources moving forward to be allocated for Madison Prep need further conversation for Administration to gain further direction. At the February 28, 2011 meeting dealing with Madison Prep differing ideas were talked about by various individuals as to the best way to deal with Madison Prep. In order to better understand the direction the board would like administration to head financially with this school, an understanding of what has been done in the past is necessary.
When the finances were completed for Badger Rock, they were put together with the express direction of the majority of the Board that they should break even and not cause reductions in other areas of the district budget. This was accomplished by transferring resources from Sennett Middle School specifically as those kids were moved from Sennett to Badger Rock. This worked for Badger Rock because they defined an attendance area, and agreed that 80% or 40 kids would be from the Sennett attendance area.
For Madison Prep, the issue of transfer becomes more difficult as they will technically pull students from all of our Middle School attendance areas. The amount of funds we are able to segregate for transfer with this model are much less if we are under the same circumstances where we should have a program that breaks even or doesn’t cause reductions in other areas of the budget.

Comments on the Madison School District’s Literacy Initiative and Budget Proposal

First of all, our thanks and compliments to you and the administration for undertaking the assessment of literacy in the District. Thanks also to staff and outside advisors for their contributions to making the Report and Recommendations the most meaningful and significant direction for systemic change toward achieving measurable results in student achievement and staff performance in the District’s recent history.
We urge the Board of Education support of the Literacy Report AND adoption of the recommendations for implementation of the initiatives and for the budget proposed in the Superintendent’s Preliminary Budget for 2011-12. It is vital for the Board to support the direction of the initiatives for balanced literacy with integrity at all grades levels of the District. It is deplorable that heretofore there has been no systematic plan to address the reading and writing shortcomings of the District that are the most fundamental causative factor contributing to the “achievement gap”. Finally, we have pro-active leadership from Dr. Sue Abplanalp, who has a full grasp of the organizational development and change processes critical and significant to the implementation and sustainability of difference- making strategies. The proposed design of systemic changes to the curriculum, instructional strategies, engagement of teachers, support staff, students and parents/other adults and the realignment of financial and other resources will result in measurable student growth. Board adoption of the $650,000.00 2011-12 budget considerations is an absolute necessity of the very highest priority. We urge you to get on with it. Thank you.
For further information contact: Don Severson, 577-0851
Print version: 222K PDF

Community colleges wasting student time and money

Jay Matthews:

As I learn more about community colleges, one of the most surprising lessons has been the sloppy and deceptive ways that students are introduced to courses. Placement tests are not well explained to students. Whether you have a passing score or not can depend on which college you attend.
At least as unsettling are studies showing that dual enrollment courses — community college courses given to high school students — often bar applicants who have less than a B average or fail a placement test, even though they need that taste of college-level work to prepare for the real thing.
Now a troubling new research paper says that the remedial courses given to community college students who do not score high enough on placement tests often do no good. Colleges still swear by the courses, however. Students are further deceived by upbeat guidance to a community college placement test owned by the College Board that tells students, wrongly, that they can’t really fail a placement test.

Teachers, MTI head should offer apologies

Tom Consigny:

The April 28 State Journal editorial urged punishment of sick note scammers (some teachers and doctors during the recent protests), and included a column by Chris Rickert titled “Don’t cry for teachers who choose early retirement.” Many taxpayers in Madison and Wisconsin would say “amen.”
It’s ironic and hypocritical that a national radio ad expresses support for Teacher Appreciation Week and touts teachers so soon after over 1,700 Madison teachers didn’t show up for work — 84 of them turning in fraudulent sick notes. The teachers used students as pawns at protest marches and contributed to protester damage at our Capitol.
In the minds of many property taxpayers and even some students, teachers have lost much respect and trust. This could be reversed if teachers and their arrogant union boss John Matthews would express in a public statement regret for their selfish and illegal actions.

DonorsChoose: Connecting you to the Classroom, via a kind reader’s email:

Here’s how it works: public school teachers from every corner of America post classroom project requests on Requests range from pencils for a poetry writing unit, to violins for a school recital, to microscope slides for a biology class.
Then, you can browse project requests and give any amount to the one that inspires you. Once a project reaches its funding goal, we deliver the materials to the school.
You’ll get photos of your project taking place, a thank-you letter from the teacher, and a cost report showing how each dollar was spent. If you give over $100, you’ll also receive hand-written thank-you letters from the students.
At, you can give as little as $1 and get the same level of choice, transparency, and feedback that is traditionally reserved for someone who gives millions. We call it citizen philanthropy.

Questions & Suggestions for the Madison School District’s Innovation & Alternative Programs

225K PDF: As a result of the presentations and discussion at the first Committee meeting I have some questions and suggestions I want to share with you.
1. Regarding the “Charge” for the Committee: Is the identification and planning for expansion limited to “programs and educational options”?
Recommended suggestions: Think beyond programs, services and projects for processes to affect ‘systemic’ changes.
Much more on the Madison School District’s Innovation & Alternative Programs Initiative, here.

Questions and Concerns Regarding the “Findings and Recommendations” of the MMSD K-12 Literacy Program Evaluation report

The following questions and concerns are submitted to you for your consideration regarding the “findings and recommendations” of the MMSD K-12 Literacy Program Evaluation report:
1. What findings and recommendations are there for ‘year-around’ literacy experiences to help mitigate ‘losses’ over the summer months in achievement gains during the traditional academic year?
Although “summer loss” was not a particular focus of discussion during the evaluation process, there are several ways in which the recommendations address reducing the impact of summer reading loss. These include:
Recommendation I – curricular consistency will provide for a more seamless connection with content and instruction in summer school, Saturday school (pending funding) and after school supports.
Recommendation II – more explicit instruction focused in early grades will allow students to read for enjoyment at earlier ages.
Recommendation III – a well-developed intervention plan will follow a student through summer school and into the following academic year

2. What are the findings and recommendations regarding parental (significant adults in student’s life) participation, training, evaluation and accountability in the literacy learning process?
Parental participation opportunities to support their children’s enjoyment and achievement in literacy include:
Family Literacy Nights at various elementary schools and in collaboration with Madison School and Community Recreation. Town Hall Meetings that provide opportunities for families to share pros and cons of literacy practices at school and home.
Literacy 24-7: Parent training for Spanish speaking families on how to promote literacy learning. Read Your Heart Out Day: This event builds positive family, community and school relationships with a literacy focus and supports both the family involvement and cultural relevance components of the Madison Metropolitan School District Strategic Plan.
Tera Fortune: Professional development for parents about the Dual Language Immersion Program with a focus on bi-literacy throughout the content areas. MALDEF Curriculum Training: Nine-week training covering a variety of topics to assist parents in sharing the responsibility of student success and how to communicate effectively in schools.
Regular column in Umoja Magazine: Forum to inform families and community members about educational issues through African American educators’ expertise. Several columns have focused on literacy learning at home.
Training is provided for parents on how to choose literature that:
Has positive images that leave lasting impressions
Has accurate, factual information that is enjoyable to read
Contains meaningful stories that reflect a range of cultural values and lifestyles
Has clear and positive perspective for people of color in the 21st century
Contains material that is self affirming Promotes positive literacy learning at home
Evaluations of the Read Your Heart Out and Family Literacy Night were conducted by requesting that participating parents, staff, students and community members complete a survey about the success of the event and the effects on student achievement.

3. What are the consequential and remediation strategies for non-performance in meeting established achievement/teaching/support standards for students, staff and parents? What are the accompanying evaluation/assessment criteria?
A District Framework is nearing completion. This Framework will provide clear and consistent expectations and rubrics for all instructional staff and administrators. Improvement will be addressed through processes that include the School Improvement Plans and staff and administrator evaluations processes.
4. Please clarify the future of the Reading Recovery program.
MMSD proposes to maintain Reading Recovery teachers and teacher leaders as an intervention at grade 1. There are currently two Reading Recovery teacher leaders participating in a two-year professional development required to become Reading Recovery teacher leaders. One of these positions will be certified to support English Language Learners. The modifications proposed include: 1) targeting these highly skilled Reading Recovery teachers to specific students across schools based on district-wide data for 2011-12 and 2) integrating the skills of Reading Recovery staff into a comprehensive intervention plan along with skilled interventionists resulting in all elementary schools benefiting from grade 1 reading intervention.
5. How will the literacy learning process be integrated with the identification and development of Talented and Gifted (TAG) students?
The development of a balanced, comprehensive assessment system will result in teachers having more frequent and accurate student data available to tailor instruction. K-12 alignment uses tools such as Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) and Educational Planning and Assessment System (EPAS) are being implemented in Spring, 2011.
The Response to Intervention model is based on evidence-based instruction and responds to students who need additional challenge and/or support.

6. What will be the 2010-2011 budgetary priorities and strategies for undertaking the literacy program and resources recommendations outlined in the report?
PreK-12 literacy will be a priority for the 2011-12 budget process. In addition to the prioritization of funding within our budget parameters, MMSD is in the process of writing a major grant (Investing in Innovation – i3) to support the recommendations of the literacy evaluation as a key strategy to close achievement gaps and improve literacy for all students to be ready for college and/or careers.

Gov. Walker’s plan: ‘a slew of absurdities’

WEAC President Mary Bell:

For generations, Wisconsin has taken pride in the opportunities we offer children through our public schools. When students or schools are struggling, we work together to find solutions.
Wisconsin is at the top when it comes to ACT and Advanced Placement scores and graduation rates, and just last month, significant gains on test scores were reported along with a narrowing of achievement gaps between minority groups. That’s a foundation that should be built upon, not dismantled.
Gov. Scott Walker’s education plan included in his state budget proposal will move our students and state backward. Whether you have children in a public school or not, whether you are Democrat, Republican or somewhere in between, children are counting on the state to do what’s right. Public education must remain a top priority.
For months, Wisconsinites have been telling their legislators that we believe there is a better way – a balanced way – to respond to tough fiscal times without throwing away our tradition of high-quality public education. Linda Copas of Plainfield pointed out to the Joint Finance Committee that in her small school district, the number of students who live in poverty has more than doubled, but the governor’s education plan ignores that. Kim Schroeder, a Milwaukee teacher, said his students are losing opportunities such as gym, art and music.

Allocating funding per student entails thoughtful discussion

Alan Borsuk:

How much would we spend per student if we wanted to give every child in Milwaukee a real opportunity to get a good education?
I’m sure $6,442 is too low. That’s the amount paid in public money for each student in the private school voucher program. Ask anyone involved in operating such a school, especially when it comes to providing a quality program for older students. Show me a good voucher school, and I’ll show you a good private fundraising operation.
I’m almost as sure it’s not $7,775, the amount provided for students in the charter schools that operate independent of Milwaukee Public Schools. Same reason.
In some cases, it might be in the neighborhood of $9,091, the amount expected to be provided by MPS next year for students in “partnership” schools, generally alternative schools for kids who haven’t thrived in conventional settings. But that’s too low in many cases, also.
How about $13,200? That’s one estimate of what spending per student in MPS is going to work out to be next year. That’s down from around $15,000 this year, by some calculations, largely because of the end of the federal economic stimulus program that brought a short-term surge of money to MPS. Ask most parents in MPS, and they’ll tell you that’s not enough because they are looking toward service cuts and larger classes next year.

We must put kids before adults

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker

I’ve read Dr. Seuss’ “Oh, the Places You’ll Go” quite a bit over the past few weeks as I visited schools in Milwaukee, Green Bay and Stevens Point to read to second- and third-graders and meet with teachers and school officials. I’ve been visiting schools to promote our Read to Lead Task Force, which is finding ways to make sure all Wisconsin students can read before they complete the third grade.
As a parent with two boys in public schools, it has been great to see the passion our teachers have for showing children how education can take them to amazing places. Like the teachers I met, I believe strongly in the power of education to open new worlds of opportunity, break the cycle of poverty and empower those searching for hope with a sense of purpose and self-determination.
All too often, people focus on the negatives in our education system. We are trying to focus on our strengths – particularly in reading – and then replicate that success in every classroom across our state.

Related: Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman:

“Beware of legacy practices (most of what we do every day is the maintenance of the status quo), @12:40 minutes into the talk – the very public institutions intended for student learning has become focused instead on adult employment. I say that as an employee. Adult practices and attitudes have become embedded in organizational culture governed by strict regulations and union contracts that dictate most of what occurs inside schools today. Any impetus to change direction or structure is met with swift and stiff resistance. It’s as if we are stuck in a time warp keeping a 19th century school model on life support in an attempt to meet 21st century demands.” Zimman went on to discuss the Wisconsin DPI’s vigorous enforcement of teacher licensing practices and provided some unfortunate math & science teacher examples (including the “impossibility” of meeting the demand for such teachers (about 14 minutes)). He further cited exploding teacher salary, benefit and retiree costs eating instructional dollars (“Similar to GM”; “worry” about the children given this situation).

Reality Check: Milwaukee Exceed’s Madison’s Black Not Hispanic 4 Year High School Graduation Rate: 59.5% to 48.3%

Andrew Shilcher, via email:

In response to the press release that the DPI put out today, I did some digging to see where Madison and Milwaukee stacked up. You can check out how each district breaks down for yourself by following the links at the bottom, but here are some of the highlights (if you want to call them that)
According to WINSS
The 4 year graduation rate for Black Not Hispanic students in MMSD for the 2009-2010 school year was 48.3%.
The 4 year graduation rate for Black Not Hispanic students in MPS for the 2009-2010 school year was 59.5%.
The 4 year graduation rates for Hispanic students in MMSD and MPS for the 2009-2010 school year are comparable at 56.7% in MMSD and 59% in MPS.
The statewide average 4 year graduation rate for Black Not Hispanic students for the 2009-2010 school year was 60.5%.
The statewide average 4 year graduation rate for Hispanic students for the 2009-2010 school year was 69%.
I won’t go into the difference between the 4 year rates and Legacy rates, but you can check those out at the links below too. 4 year rates place students in a cohort beginning in their first year of high school and see where things stand within that cohort 4 years later. Legacy rates are a yearly snapshot of the number of graduates for a year compared to the number of students expected to graduate high school for that given year. For a further explanation of this refer to
Here is the link to the press release:
Here is the link to MMSD WINSS statistics:““&SN=None+Chosen&DN=Madison+Metropolitan&OrgLevel=di&Qquad=performance.aspx&Group=RaceEthnicity
Here is the link to MPS WINSS statistics:““&SN=None+Chosen&DN=Milwaukee&OrgLevel=di&Qquad=performance.aspx&Group=RaceEthnicity

Schools and parental choice: Admission impossible

The Economist:

IS YOUR son an accomplished violinist? Buy a house near one of the many state-funded schools that can now prefer pupils with musical talents, and he will sail to the front of the queue for a place. Is little Johnny a whizz at maths? Alas, only a few scattered patches of England now have academically selective “grammar” schools that can legally admit him ahead of his innumerate friends. Piety might help: have him baptised and attend services regularly and he could win a place at one of the many high-performing church schools.
England’s state schools have an absurdly complex rule book for how they may and may not choose their pupils. (The rest of Britain goes its own way in education policy.) This infuriates conscientious parents and forces them to resort to all sorts of tricks to get their offspring a decent, publicly-funded education. Michael Gove, the education secretary, is bent on overhauling the rules. But it will not be easy.

Mitch Daniels’ Ambitious Education Reforms

Conor Friedersdorf:

Is the school voucher plan just signed into law by Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels going to improve education in his state? It’s an ambitious experiment:

The plan is based on a sliding income scale, with families of four making more than $60,000 qualifying for some level of scholarship if they switch from public to private schools… Other voucher systems across the country are limited to lower-income households, children with special needs or those in failing schools. Indiana’s program would be open to a much larger pool of students, including those already in excellent schools… within three years, there will be no limit on the number of children who could enroll.

I have no idea whether or not this is going to work. But I am thrilled that Indiana is trying it. Nationwide, 40 percent of registered voters and almost half of parents with school-aged children favor this policy, and it is one of the few education reform ideas consistently advanced by one of our two political parties. More importantly, two-thirds of Hoosiers supported the idea in a January poll.
This is as good as it gets if you believe that states should sometimes function as laboratories of democracy. Indiana voters get what they want, and the rest of us benefit from seeing how it works out on a larger scale than has ever been tried before. It’s also heartening that Gov. Daniels is hedging his bets by trying to improve the public school system. His broader education agenda is outlined in this presentation, given at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday.

Christie refuses to talk about flouting N.J. Supreme Court if it orders more school funding

Gov. Chris Christie flashed with anger today when pressed on his recent remark that he could defy the state’s highest court if it orders him to send more money to public schools.
“No comment,” he said at a press conference to name a Newark school superintendent, visibly bristling when asked how seriously he is considering ignoring the state Supreme Court.
“I heard the question very clearly, and I don’t have any comment,” Christie repeated minutes later when pressed by a second reporter. “If you just want to follow up on why I ‘no commented’ that, then my answer to you is no comment.”

Half Of Adults In Detroit Are Functionally Illiterate

Matthew Yglesias:

Something that I think drives at least some of my disagreements with other liberals about education policy is that I think a lot of middle class liberals implicitly underestimate the extent of really bad learning outcomes. Take this report (PDF) from the Detroit Regional Workforce Fund which notes “that 47% of adults (more than 200,000 individuals) in the City of Detroit are functionally illiterate, referring to the inability of an individual to use reading, speaking, writing, and computational skills in everyday life situations” and also that “within the tricounty region, there are a number of municipalities with illiteracy rates rivaling Detroit: Southfield at 24%, Warren at 17%, Inkster at 34%, Pontiac at 34%.”

Do Poor Kids Need A Different Pedagogy Than Wealthy Kids?

New Jersey Left Behind:

Alfie Kohn has really pushed the buttons of ed reformers in his Education Week commentary, “How Education Reform Traps Poor Children.” He bemoans the educational techniques of charter school teachers whom, he says, perseverate on mechanical drills and rote learning. This results in a pedagogy that is “noticeably different from the questioning, discovering, arguing, and collaborating that is more common (though by no means universal) among students in suburban and private schools.” In low-income schools, he charges, “not only is the teaching scripted, but a system of almost militaristic behavior control is common, with public humiliation for noncompliance and an array of rewards for obedience that calls to mind the token-economy programs developed in prisons and psychiatric hospitals.”
Phew. Strong stuff. This “pedagogy of poverty” (the phrase comes from a 1991 paper by Wisconsin professor Martin Haberman) is racist, charges Kohn, stemming from an over-emphasis on standardized tests. In the end it “serves to simultaneously narrow the test-score gap and widen the learning gap.”

Lotus founder Mitch Kapor sets his sights on fixing education

Mike Cassidy:

Mitch Kapor knows something about reaching full potential.
When the IBM PC came out in the early 1980s, it was fabulous in concept. A computer that fit on a desk! But available programs were clunky and sales were slow. Kapor went about developing Lotus 1-2-3, a spreadsheet designed for the computer that turned the early PC into a bona fide business machine.
It’s no different with students who are potentially brilliant at science and math, but are hamstrung by poor schools that are not equipped to prepare them for the 21st century. “It is possible to take a population of students who are failing and whose schools are failing them, who are being written off as not being college material,” Kapor says, “and if they have the right support, they can all go to college and succeed.”
Kapor is a tech icon, for starting Lotus, for cofounding the Electronic Frontier Foundation, for being the first chairman of the Mozilla Foundation, which supports Firefox and other open source projects. He’s a San Francisco-based venture capitalist now and he’s done well for himself.
But he has always had a wide progressive advocacy streak. Born in Brooklyn, he worked as a rock disc jockey, taught Transcendental Meditation and worked as a mental health counselor before making his name in the tech field.

Debate over future of Texas public higher education keeps raging

Holly Hacker:

The University of Texas at Austin should boost enrollment by 10 percent a year and cut tuition at UT System campuses in half, the chairman of the system’s board of regents suggests.
That’s according to this story in today’s Austin American-Statesman. The Statesman obtained a draft memo written by Gene Powell, chairman of the nine-member board, in early April. The memo outlines several goals, including:

  • Make UT-Austin the number 1 public university in the country
  • Increase undergraduate enrollment at UT-Austin by 10 percent a year for four years starting in 2013
  • Determine the percentage increase for the other UT System campuses, including UT-Arlington and UT-Dallas

Postpartum Depression Highest in Fall, Winter

Ann Lukits:

Women who give birth during the fall and winter are twice as likely to suffer from postpartum depression than if they deliver in the spring, according to a study in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology. Seasonal variations in mental disorders are well documented, but few studies have examined seasonal births and postpartum depression. From 2006 to 2007, 2,318 new Swedish mothers, 76% of whom had no previous psychiatric history, completed questionnaires containing a post-natal depression scale five days, six weeks and six months after giving birth. Results showed that women who gave birth from October to December were twice as likely to develop postpartum depression at six weeks and six months than women who delivered from April to June. The risk of postpartum depression was 43% higher for women who gave birth from July to September and 22% higher from January to March. There was no risk associated with deliveries from April to June. Researchers said reduced exposure to daylight may alter the activity of serotonin, causing mood disorders. Mothers giving birth in the fall might benefit from closer postpartum support and follow-up from doctors, they said.

Who stole the appreciation in Teacher Appreciation Week?

Katie Klein:

This week is Teacher Appreciation Week, and I cannot think of a more appropriate way to express my deep-rooted and sincere gratitude for educators, than using this very public forum.
And to call out the jackasses who seem to neglect the word “appreciation” that educators are so deserving of. Every day.
I have the distinct honor and privilege of knowing a few upper-echelon educators within the area. I also follow a few teachers on Twitter. They are nothing short of amazing.
I’ve witnessed them instruct in front of diverse classrooms full of students, draw up lesson plans over endless cups of coffee and methodically pour their hearts and souls into each day’s activities. They are full of hope. They’re focused on injecting children’s lives with knowledge that will one day mold them into future leaders – future pillars of a community – and adults that will one day change the world. These teachers are selfless.

Kicking around in South Waziristan

Syed Saleem Shahzad:

“We have 1,800 girl students of whom 800 are from far-flung villages in South Waziristan. They live in hostels. We provide them with Islamic education as well as mainstream [secular] education. This year, 231 girls appeared for the Matriculation Board of Education examination,” said Haqqani.
“Not only am I supportive of women’s education, I want each one of my students to open up schools in their villages,” said Haqqani, who showed me around his seminary, computer laboratory and a modern library. The doctor, in his late 40s, seems ready to take more progressive steps, but because of social taboos he will not take any radical measures – only small steps to guarantee success.
Haqqani is the son of a former Pakistani parliamentarian and cleric, Maulana Noor Muhammad, who was killed by al-Qaeda in a suicide attack last year as he was considered a supportive force of the status quo, that is, the military establishment.
“My father was a symbol of stability in South Waziristan. In his presence, nobody could easily disturb the peace of the area. Therefore, he was assassinated,” Haqqani said with sadness.

Would improved TAG program hurt other Madison School District Programs?

Chris Rickert:

Just when you thought the Madison School District had enough on its plate — perennially tight budgets, teachers incensed at Gov. Scott Walker’s union-busting, minority achievement gaps — it’s under a gun of a different sort:
Get your program for talented and gifted, or TAG, students in order, the state told the district in March, after a group of parents complained their kids were not being sufficiently challenged in the classroom.
I am dubious of efforts to devote additional time and money to students who already have the advantage of being smart — and often white and upper-middle class — and who have similarly situated parents adept at lobbying school officials.
Money, time and effort generally not being unlimited commodities in public school districts, the question over what is to be done about Madison’s TAG program strikes me as one of priorities.
Improving TAG offerings would seem to require an equal reduction in something else. And maybe that something else is more important to more students.
Not that it’s likely anyone on the School Board would ever acknowledge any trade-offs.
It’s a “false dichotomy,” said School Board member Ed Hughes, and “not an either/or situation.” Can the district be all things to all people? I asked. “Sure,” he said. “Why not?”

Much more on the Talented & Gifted Wisconsin DPI complaint, here.

John Matthews rips MTI contract concessions to the Madison School District

Lynn Welch:

A dispute has developed between Madison teachers and the school district over changes to contracts secured during quickie negotiations in March. John Matthews, executive director of Madison Teachers Inc., is upset about what he calls an “unfair and unreasonable” process.
“The bargaining didn’t have to [involve] so much animosity,” says Matthews. “If they wanted to make revisions, all they had to do is talk with us and we could have worked through something that would be acceptable to both sides. But they didn’t bother to talk about it. You don’t buy good will this way.”
Elsewhere, in an interview with the Wisconsin State Journal, Matthews referred darkly to “the ill will of the board of education and superintendent” toward his members, as shown in these contract talks.
But school board members and district administrators take a different view, saying Matthews and his staff were at the bargaining table and agreed to all changes made to the contracts during an all-night negotiation that ended March 12; MTI members ratified the deal the next day. School Board President Maya Cole suggests that Matthews now has “buyer’s remorse.”

The Tectonic Shift in Education

Jon Rappoport:

During the 1960s, the whole society caved in and gave up the ghost. The education system, such as it was, crashed. I was there, as a teacher, part of that time, and I saw it happen. It foundered on just this point. Repetition. It was as if minds had gone soft and couldn’t perform.
Broadly speaking, the basics of arithmetic went out the window. So did spelling, grammar, and the ability to write coherent sentences. Poof. The amount of scut work it took to build a basic education became unacceptable.
When I read tracts about the intentional undermining of the American educational system, I sense truth in them, but to me the real crash was all about what I’m discussing here.
You can bring up drugs, horrible junk food, the influence of TV and the Internet, large classes, and so on. You can say they all make education a tougher job. Sure, I don’t deny any of that, but the rubber meets the road in REPETITION. The grind. You can either do it or you can’t. If you can’t, everything you learn is faked. It SEEMS to be real, but it isn’t.