The 10 Commandments of Bad Parenting

Linda Thomas:

Ever have a moment when you realize the thing you always thought you were the best at, is suddenly the thing you’re least skilled at doing?
I’m there with parenting, and that’s why my friend Margit Crane’s “10 Commandments of Bad Parenting” strikes me:
I. Be sarcastic
Don’t let it bother you at all that the word means “to tear flesh.” Kids are plenty sophisticated enough to understand that when you say, “Yes, of course I think you’re stupid,” you don’t in any way mean it. Plus! You’ll love it when they reach their teens and start dishing it back to you. Nothing is more lovable than a sarcastic teen!
II. Lecture, yell, nag, and be smug
Dude. Who doesn’t love to cuddle up for a good lecture? And yelling just makes it that much easier to be heard. Of course, if you’re one of those who (cough) doesn’t believe in yelling, acting smug works great too. Saying to your kids “I’m sorry I ever birthed a sinner like you” in a calm voice is totally different than saying it in a loud voice. Besides, listening is so last century.

Should School Superintendents’ Salaries be Capped?

Megan Trent:

An Indiana Education Committee met for the fist time in Indianapolis Thursday to evaluate whether the state should cap school superintendent salaries and benefits.
Indiana’s 2011 Interim Study Committee on Education Issues is being co-chaired by State Senator Dennis Kruse. Kruse says the committee decided superintendent compensation was an issue for local school boards, not legislators.
“School board members need the flexibility to be able to choose the best person, and they need that negotiation to be able to offer a package deal that’s better than what they might be getting in another state as well as another community. Each individual school corporation has different needs and they have different budgets.”
The disparities in pay from district to district are significant. There are 291 school districts in Indiana, and according the Indiana Department of Education, superintendents earn a collective $33 million each year. That’s an average of more than $113,000.

Bill Gates Urges Focus On Teachers To Fight Achievement Gap

Bianca Vazquez Toness:

Among the many prominent thinkers attending the Urban League’s annual conference Thursday, Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates made his case for focusing on teachers.
One of the nation’s oldest civil rights groups, the Urban League, is holding its annual conference in Boston this week.
Much of the conference focused on education Thursday — specifically, the persistent achievement gap between black and Latino students and their white counterparts.
Gates has been in the education reform game for a while, pouring billions of dollars into scholarships, research and trying to improve public schools. Gates said there have been advances on most other civil rights issues, but not much progress on education.

Autism Risks: Genes May Not Play Biggest Role


Up to now, genetics were thought to account for 90 percent of a child’s risk for autism, but a new Stanford University School of Medicine study suggests environmental factors could play a much larger role than previously thought.
The largest study of its kind, the research focused on autism in 192 pairs of twins — 54 identical, 138 fraternal. The surprise came when Stanford researchers found a greater number of fraternal twins shared autism than identical twins. Fraternal twins share only half their genes with each other, thus, when both fraternal twins are autistic, it suggests factors other than genetics are at work.
In fact, “About half of what we see is due to environmental factors, and half of what we see is due to genetic factors,” Dr. Joachim Hallmayer tells Guy Raz, host of weekends on All Things Considered. Hallmayer is the lead author of the study.

Schools, financiers in talks for failed investments

Erin Richards:

Five Wisconsin school districts that invested in $200 million worth of risky financial instruments that deflated in the economic collapse are engaged this month in settlement talks with the financial institutions they claim led them astray, according to court documents.
The legal counsel for the school districts – Waukesha, West Allis-West Milwaukee, Whitefish Bay, Kenosha and Kimberly – and for Stifel Financial Corp. and the Royal Bank of Canada met in New York this month and asked a Milwaukee County circuit judge for time to continue those talks.
“The schools are actively engaged in the mediation process, which we are hoping will produce a settlement,” said Stephen Kravit, one of the attorneys representing the districts.
Kravit and other attorneys for the school districts and financial institutions met in court Thursday for a status hearing. The next major hearing, which is likely to discuss amendments to a cross-claim that Stifel filed against the Royal Bank of Canada last month, is scheduled for Aug. 30.

Block Scheduling in Milwaukee Schools

Alan Borsuk:

The seasons, they go ’round and ’round, and the painted ponies go up and down.
No, I’m not just having a Joni Mitchell musical flashback. The painted ponies on my mind are block scheduling and the way school systems – Milwaukee Public Schools particularly – make and unmake decisions, over and over.
Block scheduling of high schools and middle schools is an idea that seems to come around, pass by, then come around again. In fact, at the moment, it is both coming and going in the Milwaukee area.
Under a block plan, the traditional daily schedule of seven classes of 45 or 50 minutes is replaced with four classes of 80 to 90 minutes. Commonly, courses are completed in a quarter, rather than a semester, and then new classes start. Some argue that longer class periods allow different learning styles and more depth. Others argue block schedules mean more wasted time. I’ve seen evidence of both in classes I’ve observed. Research nationally doesn’t reach a strong overall verdict.
Brookfield East and Brookfield Central high schools in the Elmbrook district will switch to blocks for the coming school year. And Homestead High School in Mequon is going to a relatively rare trimester program, in which the school year will be broken into three sections. As part of that, there will be fewer, but longer, classes each day.

What is the Point of a School Board?

Laurie Rogers:

  • Is the role of a board director accountability and responsiveness to the district — or to voters?
  • Should directors work to support the superintendent and staff? Or, should they work to hold the district accountable for fiscal responsibility and academic outcomes?
  • If the district and the voters disagree on what should happen with taxpayer money and our children, to whom should the board listen?

Your views on this will guide you as you vote. As the only elected officials in our school district, board directors should be accountable and transparent to the people. They approve expenditures of taxpayer dollars, and they oversee the education of our children. There should be very little about their work that’s closed to public view. When the district pushes something the community doesn’t want, the board should pay attention and be inclined to support the electorate.

That’s why, on July 27, I asked Spokane board directors to allow the people to vote on whether the district should spend several million tax dollars on a proposed new data system, and on the new federal vision for public education. As directors contemplate these multi-million-dollar expenditures on (unproved) products – they’re also contemplating cutting people and programs that parents actually want. So, at the July 27 board meeting, I asked the directors to put the proposed expenditures on a ballot. They were silent. They looked at each other. Then, they went on with their meeting.

Exploring Arizona School District Consolidations

Hayley Ringle:

State-mandated unification and consolidation of school districts in the past has not fared well with wary Arizona voters.
School districts have been concerned about losing local control, teachers and their identities if merged with each other.
A committee of school officials, board members and politicians are tackling the issue again, this time with the goal of offering Arizona’s 227 school districts options to explore.

Lessons from the Iowa Education summit

Margaret Crocco:

This is an important moment in the history of education in the state of Iowa.
Earlier this week, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, Iowa Education Director Jason Glass and an array of educational experts offered a set of challenges to educators at the two-day Education Summit in Des Moines.
The message was simple: Things need to change if Iowa is to regain its status as one of the strongest educational systems in the nation.
Although the statistics about Iowa students’ performances on the National Assessment of Educational Progress can be used to support diverse narratives about how students are performing compared with their peers across the nation, international comparisons tell an unambiguous story: American schools will need to do better if the United States is going to produce a globally competitive work force for the 21st century.

Margaret Crocco: Clusty Search argaret Crocco

Failing New Jersey Schools Told to Stop Teacher Swaps

Barbara Martinez:

When Newark’s public school system accepted $5 million from the federal government last year to turn around the poorly performing Malcolm X. Shabazz High School, it agreed to replace at least half of the school’s teachers, under the belief that principals could then hire better ones.
Instead, Shabazz swapped teachers with two other failing schools.
Some 68 teachers were shuffled among Shabazz, Central High School and Barringer High School, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis.
Shabazz, which had 90 teachers, sent 21 of them to Barringer. And Barringer sent 21 of its teachers to Shabazz, according to teacher transfer records obtained through an open records request.
“Federal money may have unintentionally funded the infamous ‘dance of the lemons’ that has been a harmful practice in districts for decades,” said Tim Daly, president of the New Teacher Project, a nonprofit group that helps school districts recruit teachers.

New Jersey Left Behind:

So Newark officials elected to use the “replace 50% of the staff” form of intervention for Shabazz High School. But, remember, teacher tenure is inviolable. Therefore, what happened to the 45 teachers who were removed to improve student achievement? According to the Journal, 21 of them went to Barringer High School, which is also a chronically failing school. And what happened to the 21 Barringer teachers who were supplanted by the exodus from Shabazz? Simple. They went to Shabazz. Actually, 68 teachers were rearranged among three of Newark’s high schools.

Detroit school teachers to take 10 percent wage cut

Roy Roberts:

Detroit public school teachers will take a 10 percent wage cut and pay more for health care in what the school system’s manager on Friday said were “extreme measures” needed to address a financial emergency.
The measures are designed to save nearly $82 million as part of the Detroit Public Schools’ effort to address a $327 million deficit.
“These wage concessions and health care cost-sharing plans are being implemented because we are in an extremely difficult financial period for Detroit Public Schools,” Roy Roberts, the emergency manager for the school system, said in a statement.

The New Chinese Exclusion Act

Charles Johnson:

With Washington focused on a last-minute debt deal, one California congresswoman wants her colleagues to turn their attention to an anti-immigration law that’s been off the books for 70 years. Democrat Judy Chu of the 32nd District in Los Angeles County has called on fellow members to join her in a “Resolution of Regret” over the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882–a bill that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi endorsed on Wednesday.
Setting aside Ms. Chu’s sense of priorities, there’s a deep irony in her resolution. Even as she calls public attention to sins committed while Chester A. Arthur was president, Ms. Chu staunchly supports the most harmful form of anti-Asian discrimination in the U.S. today: racial preferences in hiring and university admissions.
Ms. Chu’s resolution rightly notes that the Chinese Exclusion Act was “incompatible with the basic founding principles of equality recognized in the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.” It goes on to call on Congress to “reaffirm its commitment to preserving the same civil rights and constitutional protections for people of Chinese or other Asian descent in the United States accorded to all others.” Yet “the same” rights aren’t what Ms. Chu wants for Asians today.

Is Going Back to School Over 50 Worth It?

Catey Hill:

With unemployment high and retirement savings low, hundreds of thousands of people over 50 are turning to college programs to boost their job skills. But given the rising costs of tuition, is it worth the money?
Drawn by a growing number of college programs targeted at boomers and spurred by the lousy job market, the number of students ages 50 to 64 increased 17% between fall 2007 and fall 2009, according to the latest data available from the National Center for Education Statistics. And colleges have welcomed them with programs specifically designed for older students: In 2008, the American Association of Community Colleges launched its “Plus 50 Initiative” on 15 campuses and has since expanded to 21. And individual schools, including University of California schools in Los Angeles and Riverside, have recently launched boomer-specific programs.

Keeping Informed about School Vouchers

Center on Education Policy 555K PDF:

With Republicans controlling a majority of state houses and the U.S. House of Representatives, interest in school vouchers has spiked during the past year at the federal, state, and local levels. Vouchers are payments that parents use to finance private school tuition for their children. Although vouchers can be privately funded, the programs that attract the most attention and controversy provide vouchers paid for with public tax dollars.
In the deal that ended the stalemate over the federal fiscal year 2011 budget, Congress restored funding for the District of Columbia voucher program, which had been discontinued in 2009 by the Obama Administration and the previous Democratic- controlled Congress. Vouchers are also likely to be a hot-button issue during the upcoming reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and the 2012 national elections. Indiana recently enacted a statewide voucher program, and other states are actively considering voucher proposals with strong support from key legislators and governors. The school board in Douglas County, Colorado, adopted a local private school voucher program this spring.
In 2000, the Center on Education Policy (CEP), an independent nonprofit organization, reviewed and summarized the major research on school vouchers in the report School Vouchers: What We Know and Don’t Know and How We Could Learn More, available at Since 2000, much has changed in the voucher landscape. On the legislative front, new voucher programs have been established during the past decade in D.C., Ohio, and New Orleans, in addition to the recently adopted programs in Douglas County and Indiana. Citizens’ referenda on vouchers in California, Michigan, and Utah were defeated by sizeable margins. On the judicial front, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the longstanding Cleveland voucher program was constitutional, but state Supreme Courts struck down an established voucher program in Florida and a new statewide program in Colorado. On the research front, numerous studies have added to the knowledge base about vouchers, including comprehensive studies examining the longer-term effects of vouchers in Milwaukee, Cleveland, and D.C.
This CEP report provides updated information for policymakers and others about the status of publicly funded voucher programs and the findings of major voucher studies published since 2000. Other types of programs also subsidize private school tuition including tuition tax credits, specialized vouchers for students with disabilities, town tuition programs for remote rural students, and privately funded vouchers but in order to produce a succinct report focusing on the most controversial form of subsidy, we limited our review to publicly funded voucher programs for general education students.

More, here.

As incumbent state Senate Republicans and their Democratic challengers flood TV airwaves and stuff mailboxes in the run up to the Aug. 9 recall elections, they are largely sidestepping the issue that spurred tens of thousands of Wisconsinites to sign reca


As incumbent state Senate Republicans and their Democratic challengers flood TV airwaves and stuff mailboxes in the run up to the Aug. 9 recall elections, they are largely sidestepping the issue that spurred tens of thousands of Wisconsinites to sign recall petitions this spring — the elimination of many collective bargaining powers for most public-sector workers.
“I don’t think I’ve seen a single ad that’s directly about union representation issues,” said Charles Franklin, a political science professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

This Is Your Brain on Summer

Jeff Smink:

THE American ideal of lazy summers filled with fun has an unintended consequence: If students are not engaged in learning over the summer, they lose skills in math and reading. Summers off are one of the most important, yet least acknowledged, causes of underachievement in our schools.
Decades of research confirm that summer learning loss is real. According to a report released last month by the RAND Corporation, the average summer learning loss in math and reading for American students amounts to one month per year. More troubling is that it disproportionately affects low-income students: they lose two months of reading skills, while their higher-income peers — whose parents can send them to enriching camps, take them on educational vacations and surround them with books during the summer — make slight gains. A study from Johns Hopkins University of students in Baltimore found that about two-thirds of the achievement gap between lower- and higher-income ninth graders could be explained by summer learning loss during the elementary school years.

Will de-funding unravel the academic integrity of universities?

Monica Bulger:

Last week, the New York Times reported that in 2007, Deutsche Bank entered into an agreement with two German universities, Humboldt University and the Technical University of Berlin, to fund a mathematical laboratory. The problematic parts were the ‘secret’ terms: according to the article, the Deutsche Bank could not only influence the hiring process, but bank employees could serve as adjunct professors. Perhaps the most disturbing aspects of the agreement were that the bank had veto power over the laboratory’s research agenda and, more importantly, “was given the right to review any research produced by members of the Quantitative Products Laboratory 60 days before it was published and could withhold permission for publication for as long as two years.”

In close vote, Milwaukee Teachers Union declines additional concessions

Jay Bullock:

In a letter emailed to teachers today (which you can read here), MTEA president Bob Peterson gave the results of the survey:

The survey showed that 52.4% of the membership opposed additional concessions and 47.5% favored them. Based on the results and the many thoughtful comments, the Executive Board decided to not pursue any additional concessions.

Considering that last fall’s vote, which involved far larger concessions than those considered this time around, was overwhelming in favor, I think it’s clear that Milwaukee teachers feel first, that we’re not opposed to giving back, but we also recognize that we have given quite a lot.
But the closeness of this week’s vote suggests that there is still room for compromise in the future, if we ever get the right to bargain collectively back. Currently, you might recall, it’s against the law for the union and the district to meet and mutually discuss the employment conditions of Milwaukee’s teachers.

Erin Richards has more.

Can unions reboot for the 21st century?

Marc Eisen:

One can only marvel at how masterfully Gov. Scott Walker gutted Wisconsin’s public employee unions. This was deft work, surgically precise in its neutering of 50 years of collective bargaining rights.
Walker tightly limited bargainable items, made union dues voluntary, ended the lifeblood of payroll deductions for dues collection and mandated yearly certification votes for unions trying to represent public workers.
The last item is particularly devilish. To be certified, the union must receive not just a simple majority of the votes, but 51% of the entire workforce, including those who don’t bother to vote at all.
Reality check: Walker himself wouldn’t be governor today if he had to meet that threshold. Candidate Walker won 52.3% of the vote last November, but that was just 25.8% of the voting-age electorate. David Ahrens, a labor activist, studied the legislative numbers and found that only two of 132 lawmakers reached the 51% threshold and just one in a contested election.
For a lot of people, the Republican crackdown reeked of unfairness. This is a major reason Walker and the GOP legislative majority are nervously playing defense today: They seemed downright thuggish, to use a favorite conservative pejorative, in beating down the unions.

Iowa’s Pre-K Program Continues for 2 More Years

Mike Wiser:

Gov. Terry Branstad will not seek changes to the state’s universal preschool program for at least the next two years as the state moves forward with its education reform package.
The commitment is a change from Tuesday when Branstad sidestepped several questions about the future of the state’s preschool program during a news conference immediately following the Iowa Education Summit.
Pre-K education found wide support among the summit’s speakers and audience members, who frequently applauded when a panelist or presenter indicated their support for such programs.
Earlier this year, Branstad pushed a proposal that would have every parent pay something – based on a sliding income scale – for their child to attend a preschool program. The plan didn’t make it through the Legislature, and the governor ultimately backed off, although he indicated he issue wasn’t settled.

Best thing to happen to Wisconsin schools? Repealing of collective bargaining

Wisconsin Senator Glenn Grothman:

The repeal of much of Wisconsin’s collective-bargaining law with regard to many of Wisconsin’s public employees has not been adequately explained. This repeal will do more to improve the quality and lower the cost of Wisconsin government than anything else we’ve done. There are approximately 275,000 government employees in the state of Wisconsin. About 72,000 work for the state, 38,000 for cities and villages, 48,000 for counties, 10,500 (full time equivalent) for technical colleges, and 105,229 for schools. Only half of state employees are unionized, but almost all school employees are.
As you can see, the biggest impact will be on Wisconsin’s schools. Since my office has received the most complaints from school teachers, let’s look at how collective bargaining affects both the cost and quality of our schools.
Under current law, virtually all conditions of employment have to be spelled out in a collectively bargained agreement. Consequently, it is very difficult to remove underperforming school teachers. It may take years of documentation and thousands of dollars in attorney fees to fire a bad teacher. Is it right that two or three classes of second-graders must endure a bad teacher while waiting for documentation to be collected? Just as damaging is the inability to motivate or change the mediocre teacher who isn’t bad enough to fire. Good superintendents are stymied when they try to improve a teacher who is doing just enough to get by.

Controversy @ The Madison School Board over Discipline Policy: “Featuring the Administration as Sisyphus” (Now with Video!)

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes:

As is becoming increasingly common these days however, mine turned out to be a minority view. Other Board members took turns identifying parts of the revision that they did not like, raising some concerns that they had previously expressed and some that were new. The general tenor of the comments was that the current format of the Code was fine but that Code should be stricter and that more violations should lead to mandatory recommendations for expulsion.
About an hour into the meeting, I expressed some frustration with the proceedings (since I’m just figuring this stuff out, this video starts with eight seconds of black) :
Eventually Board members settled on deep-sixing the Work Group’s proposal but adopting some (but not all) of the substantive changes reflected in the revision. For example, the aggravated theft offense was added. The change to the unintentional use of force against a staff member violation was adopted (a very good move, btw), but the change to the possession and distribution of drugs or alcohol violation was not (I think). Another change boosted the potential consequences imposed for non-physical acts of bullying or harassment.
Also on our agenda Monday night was the creation of a new Board Ad Hoc Committee on Student Discipline, Conduct and Intervention, to be chaired by Lucy Mathiak. Some Board members suggested that the revisions recommended by the Work Group and rejected by the Board might be re-considered by the members of this committee in some fashion.
I found the Board’s rejection of the proposed revisions and ad hoc amending of the existing Code an unfortunate turn of events and criticized what I described as our legislating on the fly right before the vote:

Will the new teacher evaluation system Improve Instruction

Jim Stergios:

In Monday’s post, I went through the DC teacher evaluation system, IMPACT, which weights value-added improvements in student scores at 50 percent of the teacher’s evaluation, with the remaining half of the evaluation covering 22 areas (fit into 9 categories). Five classroom observations are held,
three times by a building administrator and twice by an outside “master evaluator” who is a subject-matter expert and does not report to the building administrator.
Teachers in tested subjects are evaluated by standards different from those used for paraprofessionals, counselors, special education teachers and others in the system, with teachers in non-tested subjects having only 10 percent of their evaluation based on student scores.

Some truths about teachers

Anurag Behar:

In many a twilight have I sat with government schoolteachers, discussing education. Discussion over, they gather their bags and lunch boxes, having come straight from school, and head home. Some ride back on two-wheelers, some take the bus. Their homes are often 10-20km away, not an easy commute in rural and small-town India. Next morning they will open their schools, often another 10-20km from their homes, and get back to work: teaching with passion, managing with care and dealing with the vagaries of life, with determination.
These are teachers doing a good job, within every constraint that our government school system has. We have found these good teachers in every block (a typical district has three-six “blocks”) that we have worked in, across 17 states. Many of them are not just good, they are exceptional.

Sen. Shelby questions education grant competition


The “Race to the Top” program extends the reach of the federal government too far into states’ public schools operations, a leading Republican senator said on Wednesday.
The Obama administration also risks neglecting poorer states by moving toward competitive education funding, Sen. Richard Shelby, the most powerful Republican on the Banking Committee, said at a hearing on education spending.

Monitor Kids on Facebook Without Being Their ‘Friend’

Walt Mossberg:

Parents fret all the time about protecting their kids on Facebook, but many of the products and services I’ve seen that aim to help are intrusive, and inject the parents into the child’s normal, healthy online social life in a way that’s awkward for both.
You could co-manage your child’s account, or “friend” them on the service, which technically has a minimum age of 13. But those are time-consuming and embarrassing practices, especially when the offspring are teenagers, who generally crave some degree of privacy, even if they don’t merit full treatment as adults.
So I’ve been testing a service called ZoneAlarm SocialGuard that I think strikes a good balance between safety and privacy, between a parent’s peace of mind and a teen’s sense of freedom. Every five minutes, it monitors kids’ Facebook accounts for approaches by potential predators and strangers, cyber-bullying, age fraud, account hacking, and links to inappropriate or malicious websites. It uses algorithms that look for certain types of language, profile data, or other clues that unwanted activity may be under way.

Education is Roy Roberts’ secret to success

Jennifer Chambers:

Roy S. Roberts’ path to the top job at Detroit Public Schools began long before he made headlines as General Motors Corp.’s highest-ranking African-American executive.
It began before he stepped into the White House Rose Garden to receive the American Success Award from President George H.W. Bush in 1989.
That path began near a cotton farm in rural Texas in the late 1930s, before Roberts was even born.
“The big white guy in town had a cotton farm. He came down and talked to my father and said: ‘You have seven kids that are old enough to pick cotton. I want them down there Monday morning,'” Roberts, 72, said in his office in Detroit’s Fisher Building, where he serves as emergency manager for DPS.

Open Source E-Reader

Akademos, Inc.:

Akademos, Inc., a leading provider of integrated online bookstores and marketplaces to educational institutions, announced today that it has launched a digital reader that will allow its member institutions to access electronic content from traditional publishers and from open resources, such as the Connexions Consortium, World Public Library, the Guttenberg Project, and many others.
The company also announced its first major Open Educational Resources (OER) partnership with publisher Flat World Knowledge, which is providing the company with its full catalog of over 40 high-quality textbooks covering major subject areas for introductory general education colleges courses.

Charters Are Not Taking Over Public Education

Richard Lee Colvin:

If you monitor education topics on Twitter you will quickly get the impression that huge numbers of American public schools are being replaced with charter schools. And you will also pick up lot of antipathy toward the schools from some of the most visible promoters of this week’s SOS Marches.
But the numbers show that, in most places, charter schools are insignificant.
Charters are not allowed in nine states (Alabama, Kentucky, Montana, North Dakota, Nebraska, South Dakota, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia) and they make up fewer than 3 percent of all schools in 12 other states. More than 10 percent of schools are charters in only three states–Arizona, Florida, Hawaii. Charters in Washington, D.C. get a lot of attention, as they should, because they constitute 45 percent of the schools. New Orleans, where 70 percent of students attend charters, is another hot spot. The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools has a handy map that profiles the charter school situation in each state, going back to 1999.

Palm Beach County School Board tentatively passes $2.3B 2011-12 budget

Marc Freeman:

The new Palm Beach County public schools budget comes with a slight property tax increase, a $500 raise for all teachers, less than 100 employee layoffs, compliance with state class-size limits, and no major school construction projects.
Following a 20-minute hearing, the School Board on Wednesday voted 5-1 to tentatively approve a $2.3 billion spending plan for the 2011-12 school year. Major changes are not anticipated before the board’s final hearing and vote on Sept. 14.
“I’m not going to support it because we are giving some people raises while laying off others,” said board Vice Chairwoman Debra Robinson. Board member Monroe Benaim was absent, and no one from the public commented before the vote.

The Palm Beach County School District supports 172,664 students and spends $13,320 each, based on a $2,300,000,000 budget. Locally, Madison budget plans to spend about $362,000,000 for 25,000 students; $14,480 per student..

If students fail history, does it matter?


If there’s a student anywhere who would be able to answer a trivia question about President Abraham Lincoln, it would be on the marble steps of his memorial in the nation’s capital.
But a summertime visit there backed up recent test results that showed the majority of U.S. students don’t know the most basic facts about the country’s history — Lincoln and all.
Test results released in June showed that fewer than one quarter of all students are “proficient” in American history.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Popping the Public-Pension Bubble

Ed Ring:

With the day of reckoning approaching for California’s lavish but disastrously underfunded public-employee pensions, union partisans have tried to persuade the public that reformers are engaged in “pension busting.” But to believe that reformers are waging a partisan vendetta against state workers’ pensions would require ignoring a mountain of data. The fact is, only by skewing the averages can the unions maintain that they’re victims of a campaign against their “modest” pensions.
The union arguments are deceptively straightforward, rehearsed constantly by their talking heads and, unfortunately, repeated by a sympathetic and innumerate media. A master practitioner is Art Pulaski, chief officer of the AFL-CIO’s California Labor Federation. In an online debate at the Sacramento Bee in March (which also included City Journal associate editor Ben Boychuk and frequent City Journal contributor Steven Greenhut), Pulaski claimed that the average pension that California’s retired state workers collect is not much more than what they would receive under Social Security. “The average state worker gets a pension of $24,000 and often without Social Security,” Pulaski said. “Not lavish by any means.” More recently, the Bee published a column by Martha Penry headlined PENSION ‘REFORMERS’ DISTORT FACTS ON BENEFITS. The paper identified Penry as “a special education teacher’s assistant in the Twin Rivers school district,” but it didn’t disclose that she’s also a high-ranking union official who serves on the board of directors of the California School Employees Association. Penry accused “pension busters” of overstating the cost of pensions and the amount of the average pension. “Three quarters of CalPERS retirees collect yearly pensions of $36,000 or less,” she claimed.

Educators Worry Teachers Are Not Getting Adequate Training, Evaluation

Tyler Kingkade:

Education leaders told a House committee Wednesday to focus on crafting comprehensive blueprint for teacher evaluations as Congress moves ahead in overhauling No Child Left Behind.
The four witnesses called before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce agreed educators have not come up with an ideal framework to evaluate teachers. They also expressed concern over whether teachers are being prepared for the classroom, and said the right people might not be going into education in the first place.
Witnesses questioned whether the higher education institutions were actively recruiting people who had a true interest or in being educators.
Kate Walsh, president of the National Council on Teacher Quality, said half the people that graduate from an education program don’t wind up getting teaching jobs.

Technology and Teaching

Steven Corbett:

Is it a given that technology enhances the acts of writing, as it does the arts and sciences of film-making, design, engineering, data collection and analyses, and so forth? What about the teaching and learning of writing?
In a flurry of recent exchanges (subject “Writing horse-shoe-of-horse-heading-east Technology”) on the Writing Program Administration (WPA) listserv, scholars in writing studies have argued these points in some theoretical and practical depth. Maja Wilson, from the University of Maine, sums up the argument nicely: “Steve [Krause, of Eastern Michigan University], and others were arguing that to teach writing, you need to teach the tools available now and not teach or allow the tools on their way out (pen, pencil), because if you aren’t teaching the tools, you aren’t teaching writing. Rich [Haswell, professor emeritus from Texas A&M University], and others argued that, while teaching the use of all those tools can be a good thing, it isn’t necessary to teach writing: writing itself transcends the particular tools, so while teaching the tools can be involved in teaching writing, it isn’t necessarily the same thing.”

Teen Fights To Succeed In Rural S.C. Community

Claudio Sanchez:

A fifth of the nation’s public school students attend rural schools, but nearly a third of those kids don’t graduate. In fact, many schools that researchers have labeled “dropout factories” are in rural communities. No state has more than South Carolina, which has 50. In this state, lots of teenagers just don’t think they need a high school diploma.
Oconee County, S.C., sits on the far west fringes of the state, just a few miles from the Georgia border. This is where Nick Dunn was born, and where his father died in a car accident a day before Christmas. Nick was 11.

KUOW Interviews with Position 6 Seattle School Board Candidates

Melissa Westbrook:

Not a complete bust but not a great interview with these candidates on The Conversation this afternoon.
First, KUOW should make up its mind on the format. For District 2, the candidates were interviewed individually and for a longer period of time. (There were three of them.) For District 6, they had them all in the studio and interviewed each for a much shorter period of time but did allow them to interact. I think it would be better to have the interaction among candidates AFTER the primary and allow people more time to get to know these candidates now.

Searching For Consistency in the Charter School Wars

New Jersey Left Behind:

Both NJ Spotlight and PolitickerNJ are reporting on Gov. Christie’s speech at the Iowa Education Summit hosted by Republican Gov. Terry Branstad. According to Spotlight,

[Christie] promoted the idea of charter schools, but added they may not be the answer in all school districts, a clear response to the suburban backlash that has been felt in New Jersey.”They are not needed in every district in New Jersey and wouldn’t add much to the education offered there,” he said.

The “suburban backlash” alluded to is spearheaded by the group Save Our Schools-NJ, which is lobbying for a set of charter school bills that would subject any new charter to a community vote, require every child in surrounding districts to be entered into a lottery, regardless of interest, and severely curtail the growth of new charters. SOS-NJ makes a number of fair points: some charter schools tend to accept fewer kids with disabilities and fewer kids who are English Language Learners. They “cream off” high-achieving students and are a money suck for local districts who pay tuition and must educate anyone who walks in the door.

From Drug Dealing To Diploma, A Teen’s Struggle

Claudio Sanchez:

No statistic in education is more damning than the nation’s dropout rate. Almost 4 million students start ninth grade every year. One in four won’t graduate.
About half of those who drop out every year are black. Most will end up unemployed, and by their mid-30s, six out of 10 will have spent time in prison. In Chicago, one young man dropped out, spent time in jail and is now getting a second chance.
For a kid who’s been hustling and gang-banging on the streets of South Chicago for much of his life, 19-year-old Patrick Lundvick doesn’t look menacing at all.

Corruption and Blaming the Test

Kevin Carey:

180 countries on a corruption index that ranges from “Very Clean” (New Zealand) to “Highly Corrupt” (Somalia). The World Bank gauges control of corruption using a detailed list of measures and sources. By the same token, various municipalities in America have different levels of corruption. The Illinois Department of Corrections budgets for prison construction costs based on demographic projections of the number of future governors. The Sopranos was set in New Jersey for a reason.

Tennessee Virtual Academy Draws Interest & Concern


A Tennessee statewide virtual school received some love from the Knoxville News Sentinel editorial board

Tennessee has been in the online education world for some time, but the new Tennessee Virtual Academy based in Union County promises to kick the process up a couple of notches. Indeed, it might well figure into serious education reform. The academy will open next month and serve students from across the state in kindergarten through the eighth grade. The academy will use the curriculum of K12 Inc., a provider of online school programs claiming to have enrolled about 70,000 students in 21 states.

But Commercial Appeal took the ‘stealing money from districts’ approach. The business news website is apparently outraged that TVA was advertising and even had a facebook page. The pile-on comments are mostly inaccurate or just snarky.

Union County Public Schools, the TVA host, will receive $5,387 from the state for each student and a portion of that will go to K12. That’s a bargain and a lot less than the state pays for kids in traditional schools. The school will need limited facilities and no meals or transportation, so some savings are being realized.

However, the school will have a full complement of teachers with staffing patterns not dissimilar to traditional schools. Many online students note even more personal attention learning online compared to traditional schools.

Chicago Schools Chief Reorganizes District

Rebecca Vevea

New Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard unveiled a major reorganization of the district’s management structure Wednesday, overhauling how schools are divided regionally and creating new upper management positions.
Brizard created four new cabinet-level positions: Chief Community and Family Engagement Officer and Chief Portfolio Officer, who will report to Brizard, and Chief of Leadership Development and Chief of Instruction, who will be under Chief Education Officer Noemi Donoso. District spokeswoman Becky Carroll said the new positions will not increase the size of the central office staff.
Brizard said the Chief Portfolio Officer will face a “monumental task” to develop the district’s strategy for increasing high-quality school options, especially in high-need neighborhoods on the South and West Sides. The portfolio officer will be charged with helping to decide when to open new schools and close existing ones, Brizard said, and may also work to attract outside school operators, such as the College Board, to run schools in Chicago.

At Sleepaway Camp, Math Is Main Sport

Rachel Cromidas

As camps go, the Summer Program in Mathematical Problem Solving might
sound like a recipe for misery: six hours of head-scratching math
instruction each day and nights in a college dorm far from home.But Mattie Williams, 13, who attends Middle School 343 in the Bronx, was
happy to attend, giving up summer barbecues with her parents and
afternoons in the park with her Chihuahua, Pepsi. She and 16 other
adolescents are spending three weeks at Bard College here in a free, new camp for low-income students who are gifted in mathematics.

All are entering eighth grade at New York City public middle schools
where at least 75 percent of the student body is eligible for free
lunches. And all love math. At this camp, asking “What kind of math do
you like, algebra or geometry?” is considered an appropriate icebreaker,
and invoking the newly learned term “the multiplication principle”
elicits whoops and high-fives.

In a Bard classroom one afternoon, it seemed for a moment that Arturo
Portnoy had stumped everyone. Dr. Portnoy, a math professor visiting
from the University of Puerto Rico, posed this question: “The length of a
rectangle is increased by 10 percent and the width is decreased by 10
percent. What percentage of the old area is the new area?” The 17 campers whispered and scribbled. One crumpled his paper into a
ball. Mattie Williams may have looked as if she was doodling as she drew
dozens of tiny rectangles in her notebook, but she was hard at work on
the problem, which was taken from the American Mathematics Competitions,
a contest series known for its difficulty. In less than 10 minutes, she had the answer — 99 percent — and was ready for the next question.

For some schoolchildren, mathematics is a competitive sport, and summer
is the time for training — poring over test-prep books, taking practice
exams and attending selective math camps. But for students who cannot
afford such programs, or have not been exposed to many advanced math
concepts, the avenues to new skills are limited.

Daniel Zaharopol, the director of the camp at Bard,
is trying to change that. He has brought four math educators to the
Bard campus to teach the middle school students concepts as varied as
number theory and cryptography. Among the instructors is Mr. Portnoy, a
director of the Puerto Rico Mathematical Olympiads. The camp is financed by the Art of Problem Solving Foundation, the
nonprofit arm of an online school that promotes math education for gifted students. Classes meet in two-hour sessions and cover topics including voting theory, graph theory, and math and the arts.


Controversy over Teaching the Deaf

Monica Davey:

Scores of deaf and hard-of-hearing children and their families assembled to complain in American Sign Language. Parents also have confronted new board members of the state’s school for the deaf in pointed, awkward exchanges. And more objections are expected when the board convenes next month for what had, until now, been ordinary meetings on routine school matters.

At the root of the tension is a debate that stretches well beyond Indiana: Will sign language and the nation’s separate schools for the deaf be abandoned as more of the deaf turn to communicating, with help from fast-evolving technology, through amplified sounds and speech?

And in the struggle to balance depleted budgets, Indiana and other states, like Kansas, North Carolina, Oregon, South Dakota and West Virginia have called for cuts on many fronts in recent years, including for state schools for the deaf — a group of institutions with long, rich traditions.

How to Save the Traditional University, From the Inside Out

Clayton Christensen and Henry Eyring:

A survey of media reports on higher education might easily lead those of us working in the field to wonder: When did students and their parents start seeing college as a gantlet rather than as an exciting pathway to opportunity? When did policy makers stop seeing higher education as a valuable public investment? When did tenure become a guarantee only of a declining real wage? When did I start playing for a losing team?
We believe that the answer to these questions is “never,” or at least “not yet.” Traditional colleges and universities continue to play an invaluable role in our society, all the more so as the world changes. Three of their functions are, for now, irreplaceable.
One is the discovery of knowledge. Though the proportion of basic research performed by businesses continues to grow, university-based research remains powerfully innovative. That was true when the first computers and the Internet were pioneered, and it remains true in the age of Google and Facebook, both spawned in universities.

Teachers are most important part of education system

Iowa State Daily:

Gov. Terry Branstad’s “education summit” highlights this state’s deficiency in education. In an increasingly competitive national and global economy, students need an education to face any challenge they — and this country — encounter.
We’ve made many attempts over the years to fix education. But we’ve all seen the No Child Left Behind Act’s overemphasis on test scores, and we haven’t really had time to measure how well the Iowa Core Curriculum delivers its “challenging and meaningful content to students that prepares them for success in life.”
The most important thing in education is employing teachers who want to teach. One way to attract good teachers whose work is worth paying for, of course, is to raise salaries above the statewide average of $41,970.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Declining Home Values Reduce Tax Base in California

Justin Scheck:

Declining home prices are starting to slam California harder than the rest of the nation, in part due to a state law that sets a ceiling–but no floor–on property taxes.
The toll is evident here in Calaveras County, a largely rural area about 100 miles east of San Francisco. Over the past three years, it has seen among the biggest property-tax roll declines of any California county, with the total value of taxable properties down about 5% from last year–and 18% over the past three years–to $5.67 billion. Statewide, assessed values declined 1.8% last year from a year earlier, according to state data.
Calaveras’s shrinking property taxes have resulted in cuts to the sheriff’s department and public-health services, as well as an effort to cut 10% of the county’s budget for the coming year. The tax drop also has pitted the county assessor, who has lowered taxes by re-evaluating home prices, against the head of the county board of supervisors, who said the reassessments have been too aggressive.

At least $1.5M paid out secretly by Elizabeth schools, a fraction of workers’ settlements

Ted Sherman:

When Luis Mario Rojas was fired from the Elizabeth Board of Education in 2006, he claimed he had been the victim of a political purge.
In a federal lawsuit, Rojas said that while district officials cited a poor work record and budget cutbacks, the real reason for his termination after nearly 20 years on the job was that he became viewed as a disloyal soldier. His sister, former board member Oneida Duran, had a falling out with those in control of the school district.
Earlier this year, board members agreed to resolve the matter. They gave Rojas $68,997 to settle his complaint. In addition, they paid out another $24,652 to settle a separate workers’ compensation case. Then they put him back on the payroll — paying him $60,064 annually until he becomes eligible for retirement in two years.
As part of the agreement, he promised never to say a word about it.

WEAC wrong to pass on panel

Wisconsin State Journal Editorial:

It’s hard to frame the decision by the state’s largest teachers union to not participate in a unique task force to improve our schools as anything other than disappointing.
Sure, leaders of the Wisconsin Education Association Council are angry and frustrated to the extreme with Gov. Scott Walker and Republican lawmakers for requiring more financial contributions from all public sector employees – including teachers – while strictly limiting collective bargaining.
Go ahead – be angry and frustrated. But don’t just withdraw from a great opportunity to improve our schools

Chicago needs school vouchers. And Rahm needs to meditate.

John Kass:

Mayor Rahm Emanuel certainly made news over his angry, finger-wagging scolding of NBC Chicago TV reporter Mary Ann Ahern the other day.
Ahern dared ask the Rahmfather whether he’d send his kids to the public schools he controls. He reportedly became indignant, took off his microphone and ended the interview.
Later, and with great courtesy, Emanuel revisited the topic with a rival station — which then reported the big exclusive that the mayor was sending his children to a private school.
Emanuel runs Chicago Public Schools. He’s shown grit to stand publicly and admonish the teachers union to improve the product. But he decided his children will not attend the public schools.

Where private foundations award education cash

Valerie Strauss:

Public school systems around the country may have spent the past several years starving for cash in this financially troubled era, but a new report shows that philanthropists doled out $684 million in private grants from 2000-08 to organizations involved in reforming the teaching profession.
The analysis, the first comprehensive examination of philanthropy activity in this area, showed that the biggest chunk of the money — 38 percent — went to teacher recruitment, while 22 percent was spent on professional development, 14 percent on teacher preparation and less than 10 percent for everything else.
One organization was the big winner in the money giveaway, according to the University of Georgia researchers who did the analysis, and given all the attention it has received from school reformers, including Education Secretary Arne Duncan, it should come as no surprise.

Reforming Iowa Education

Ben Jacobson:

The stagnation of Iowa’s educational system will impact the region negatively in more than just rankings, according to the United States Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan. The status quo has potential to cripple Iowans entering a globally competitive job market.
“The countries out there that out-educate us, they out-compete us,” Duncan said. “The sad truth is that Iowa has started slowly slouching toward mediocrity.”
The Keynote speaker of Gov. Terry Branstad’s much publicized Education Summit, said that reform will be tough, possibly unpopular, but absolutely necessary to remain relevant in a “knowledge economy.”

If dogs became kings And the Pope chewed gum

Sara Mead:

The so-called Save Our Schools march scheduled for this weekend is getting a fair amount of traffic on my twitter feed, so I clicked on a link that brought me to this list of “Guiding Principles” from the events organizers. And all I could think was:
….and a pony!
To put it more directly: This is not an agenda for accomplishing anything. It’s just a wish list. Half of it is a wishlist of things the organizers don’t want (performance-based pay, school closures). Half of it is a wishlist for things someone might want, without any clear theory of how to operationalize them or what that might actually look like in practice in the real world. (I, too, would like to see “Well-rounded education that develops every student’s intellectual, creative, and physical potential”-but in the absence of clear prescriptions and mechanisms about how to make that a reality, well, you might as well wish for a pony, too.) The really weird thing is that a lot of the “wishlist” items aren’t even outcomes for educators or students, but process items, like “Educator and civic community leadership in drafting new ESEA legislation.” I don’t know how you’d intend to operationalize that or what the desired ends would be!

White-Minority Wealth Gulf Widens

Miriam Jordan:

The wealth gap between whites and each of the nation’s two largest minorities–Hispanics and blacks–has widened to unprecedented levels amid the housing crisis and the recession, according to new research.
The median net worth of white households is 20 times greater than that of black households and 18 times greater than that of Hispanic households, according to an analysis of newly available 2009 government data by the Pew Research Center, an independent think tank.
The disparities are the greatest since the government began tracking such data a quarter-century ago, with the gulf separating whites from other groups twice as wide as it was in the two decades prior to the recession and 2008 financial crisis, according to the study.

McDonald’s to Make Nutrition Push

Melodie Warner:

McDonald’s Corp. plans to promote more nutritional options, such as automatically including fruit or a low-fat dairy option in every Happy Meal.
The fast-food giant said the new Happy Meal, being rolled out in September, will have about 20% fewer calories and less fat.
The company also will promote nutrition in its national kids’ advertising and Happy Meal packaging.
Childhood obesity is a growing concern in the U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama has made it her mission to promote environments that support healthy choices through her “Let’s Move” initiative.

New Tests for Newborns, And Dilemmas for Parents

Amy Dockser Marcus:

The familiar heel prick that newborns receive is revealing more about a baby’s health than ever before. But, as technology opens the possibility of screening newborns for hundreds of diseases, there is controversy over how much parents need to know.
Within days of an infant being born, a few drops of blood are taken from the baby’s heel and tested for signs of more than two dozen different conditions, including congenital hypothyroidism and sickle-cell diseases. In many places, babies also are given tests to identify the likelihood of hearing or vision disorders.
Some states have expanded their checks, including testing for amino-acid and metabolism disorders. Many of the new conditions being looked at have no definitive treatment or it isn’t clear whether immediate intervention is necessary. That can present an emotional dilemma for parents who may want to know if anything is wrong with their baby but in many cases have no therapy to pursue.

“Diversity” in Ed Schools: A View from the Right in a Left-Leaning Tower

Robert Kelchen:

My name is Robert Kelchen, but many students and faculty who know me at the University of Wisconsin-Madison often introduce me as “the conservative guy” or “my Republican friend.” I am used to this sort of introduction after being in Madison for four years; after all, I can count the number of conservative or libertarian doctoral students who I know on two hands. I have been told several times in the past by fellow students that I am the first right-leaning person with whom they have ever interacted on a regular basis. Prior to the passage of Act 10 (the law that restricted collective bargaining), I was one of the few students at the university to request a refund of the portion of the Teaching Assistants’ Association dues that went toward political or ideological activities. This also meant that I had to give up my right to vote on issues germane to collective bargaining (the primary purpose of the union), but it was a sacrifice that I was willing to make. During the protests at the Capitol throughout the spring semester, I did my best to stay out of the fray and keep very quiet about my personal opinions.
Sara asked me for my thoughts on the recent New York Times article about why there are so few conservative students in graduate school. I had to consider the offer for a while, as making this post would make my political leanings more publicly known and could potentially affect my chances of getting a job in two years. However, I just could not pass up the opportunity to comment on this article in the newspaper of record for American liberals–and the same paper that ran a front-page article about Sara being one of a new generation of less politically-oriented professors.

A Young Mom Resists A Cycle Of Failure

Claudio Sanchez:

Of the million or so kids who drop out of school every year, nearly half are girls. They drop out for the same reasons boys do: they skip school, fall behind academically and they’re bored. But the single biggest reason girls drop out is because they get pregnant.
Not a day goes by that Lauren Ortega doesn’t regret quitting high school. When she turned 15, she got pregnant with her son.
Her pregnancy cut short so many things, Ortega says. A job, a car, her own apartment, college, and just being independent.
Now, at 20 years old, she complains about gaining weight and feeling a little lost. She’s studying to get her GED at a school for adults in San Bernardino, Calif.
Ortega remembers she was starved for affection when she met Joseph, her boyfriend. She was only 14.

7/28 Madison Conference to examine Wisconsin educational accountability

La Follette School of Public Affairs, via a kind Chan Stroman email:

The La Follette School of Public Affairs outreach office is helping to organize a conference on educational accountability. The conference, Moving Beyond NCLB to College and Career Readiness: Building a New School Accountability System for Wisconsin, will be Thursday, July 28, from 1 to 5 p.m. in the Pyle Center.
Professor Douglas N. Harris of the La Follette School will speak on building a new accountability system for Wisconsin. “The conference is intended to set the stage for Gov. Walker’s attempts to establish clear, plentiful and sophisticated information for judging the quality of almost every school in Wisconsin,” says La Follette School outreach director Terry Shelton.

Julie Underwood: Starving Public Schools; a look at School Spending

UW-Madison School of Education Dean Julie Underwood, via a kind reader’s email:

Public schools,” ALEC wrote in its 1985 Education Source Book, “meet all of the needs of all of the people without pleasing anyone.” A better system, the organization argued, would “foster educational freedom and quality” through various forms of privatization: vouchers, tax incentives for sending children to private schools and unregulated private charter schools. Today ALEC calls this “choice”– and vouchers “scholarships”–but it amounts to an ideological mission to defund and redesign public schools.
The first large-scale voucher program, the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, was enacted in 1990 following the rubric ALEC provided in 1985. It was championed by then-Governor Tommy Thompson, an early ALEC member, who once said he “loved” ALEC meetings, “because I always found new ideas, and then I’d take them back to Wisconsin, disguise them a little bit, and declare [they were] mine.”
ALEC’s most ambitious and strategic push toward privatizing education came in 2007, through a publication called School Choice and State Constitutions, which proposed a list of programs tailored to each state.


An Open Letter to the Wisconsin Read To Lead Task Force on Implementing Common Core Academic Standards; DPI: “Leading Us Backwards”

Dan Gustafson, PhD 133K PDF, via a kind email from the Wisconsin Reading Coalition:

WRC recommends reading the following open letter from Madison neuropsychologist Dan Gustafson to the Governor’s Read to Lead task force. It reflects many of our concerns about the state of reading instruction in Wisconsin and the lack of an effective response from the Department of Public Instruction.
An Open Letter to the Read-To-Lead Task Force
From Dan Gustafson, PhD
State Superintendent Evers, you appointed me to the Common Core Leadership Group. You charged that the Leadership Group would guide Wisconsin’s implementation of new reading instruction standards developed by the National Governors’ Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO).
It is my understanding that I was asked to join the group with the express purpose of bringing different voices to the table. If anything, my experience with the group illustrates how very far we need to go in achieving a transparent and reasoned discussion about the reading crisis in Wisconsin.
DPI Secretly Endorses Plan Created by Poor Performing CESA-7
I have grave concerns about DPI’s recent announcement that Wisconsin will follow CESA-7’s approach to implementing the Common Core reading standards. DPI is proposing this will be the state’s new model reading curriculum.
I can attest that there was absolutely no consensus reached in the Common Core group in support of CESA-7’s approach. In point of fact, at the 27th of June Common Core meeting, CESA-7 representative Claire Wick refused to respond to even general questions about her program.
I pointed out that our group, the Common Core Leadership Group, had a right to know about how CESA-7 intended to implement the Common Core Standards. She denied this was the case, citing a “non-disclosure agreement.”
The moderator of the discussion, DPI’s Emilie Amundson, concurred that Claire didn’t need to discuss the program further on the grounds that it was only a CESA-7 program. Our Common Core meeting occurred on the 27th of June. Only two weeks later, on July 14th, DPI released the following statement:
State Superintendent Evers formally adopted the Common Core State Standards in June 2010, making Wisconsin the first state in the country to adopt these rigorous, internationally benchmarked set of expectations for what students should know and are expected to do in English Language Arts and Mathematics. These standards guide both curriculum and assessment development at the state level. Significant work is now underway to determine how training will be advanced for these new standards, and DPI is currently working with CESA 7 to develop a model curriculum aligned to the new standards.
In glaring contrast to the deliberative process that went into creating the Common Core goals, Wisconsin is rushing to implement the goals without being willing to even show their program to their own panel of experts.
What Do We Know About Wisconsin/CESA-7’s Model Curriculum?
As an outsider to DPI, I was only able to locate one piece of data regarding CESA-7’s elementary school reading performance:
What Claire did say about her philosophy and the CESA-7 program, before she decided to refuse further comment, was that she did not think significant changes were needed in reading instruction in Wisconsin, as “only three-percent” of children were struggling to read in the state. This is a strikingly low number, one that reflects an arbitrary cutoff for special education. Her view does not reflect the painful experience of the 67% of Wisconsin 4th graders who scored below proficient on the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress.
As people in attendance at the meeting can attest, Claire also said that her approach was “not curriculum neutral” and she was taking a “strong stand” on how to teach reading. Again, when I pressed her on what these statements meant, she would only reference oblique whole language jargon, such as a belief in the principal of release from instruction. When I later asked her about finding a balance that included more phonics instruction, she said “too much emphasis” had been given to balanced literacy. After making her brief statements to the Common Core group, she said she had already disclosed too much, and refused to provide more details about the CESA-7 program.
Disregarding Research and Enormous Gains Made by other States, Wisconsin Continues to Stridently Support Whole Language
During the remainder of the day-long meeting on the 27th, I pressed the group to decide about a mechanism to achieve an expert consensus grounded in research. I suggested ways we could move beyond the clear differences that existed among us regarding how to assess and teach reading.
The end product of the meeting, however, was just a list of aspirational goals. We were told this would likely be the last meeting of the group. There was no substantive discussion about implementation of the goals–even though this had been Superintendent Evers’ primary mandate for the group.
I can better understand now why Emilie kept steering the discussion back to aspirational goals. The backroom deal had already been made with Claire and other leaders of the Wisconsin State Reading Association (WSRA). It would have been inconvenient to tell me the truth.
WSRA continues to unapologetically champion a remarkably strident version of whole-language reading instruction. Please take a look at the advocacy section of their website. Their model of reading instruction has been abandoned through most the United States due to lack of research support. It is still alive and well in CESA-7, however.
Our State Motto is “Forward”
After years of failing to identify and recommend model curriculum by passing it off as an issue of local control, the DPI now purports to lead. Unfortunately, Superintendent Evers, you are now leading us backward.
Making CESA-7 your model curriculum is going to cause real harm. DPI is not only rashly and secretly endorsing what appears to be a radical version of whole language, but now school districts who have adopted research validated procedures, such as the Monroe School District, will feel themselves under pressure to fall in line with your recommended curriculum.
By all appearances, CESA-7’s program is absolutely out of keeping with new Federal laws addressing Response to Intervention and Wisconsin’s own Specific Learning Disability Rule. CESA-7’s program will not earn us Race to the Top funding. Most significantly, CESA-7’s approach is going to harm children.
In medicine we would call this malpractice. There is clear and compelling data supporting one set of interventions (Monroe), and another set of intervention that are counter-indicated (CESA-7). This is not a matter of opinion, or people taking sides. This is an empirical question. If you don’t have them already, I hope you will find trusted advisors who will rise above the WSRA obfuscation and just look at the data. It is my impression that you are moving fast and receiving poor advice.
I am mystified as to why, after years of making little headway on topics related to reading, DPI is now making major decisions at a breakneck pace. Is this an effort to circumvent the Read-To-Lead Task Force by instituting new policies before the group has finished its scheduled meetings? Superintendent Evers, why haven’t you shared anything about the CESA-7 curriculum with them? Have you already made your decision, or are you prepared to show the Read-To-Lead that there is a deliberative process underway to find a true model curriculum?
There are senior leaders at DPI who recognize that the reading-related input DPI has received has been substantially unbalanced. For example, there were about five senior WSRA members present at the Common Core meetings, meaning that I was substantially outnumbered. While ultimately unsuccessful due to logistics, an 11th hour effort was made to add researchers and leadership members from the Wisconsin Reading Coalition to the Common Core group.
The Leadership Group could achieve what you asked of it, which is to thoughtfully guide implementation of the Common Core. I am still willing to work with you on this goal.
State Superintendent Evers, I assume that you asked me to be a member of the Leadership Group in good faith, and will be disappointed to learn of what actually transpired with the group. You may have the false impression that CESA-7’s approach was vetted at your Common Core Leadership Group. Lastly, and most importantly, I trust you have every desire to see beyond destructive politics and find a way to protect the welfare of the children of Wisconsin.
Dan Gustafson, PhD, EdM
Neuropsychologist, Dean Clinic

View a 133K PDF or Google Docs version.
How does Wisconsin Compare: 2 Big Goals.
Wisconsin Academic Standards

Wisconsin Teacher Content Knowledge Requirement Comparison

US Education Perspective from a Tech CEO

The Financial Times:

Kevin Johnson, chief executive of Juniper Networks, one of the biggest network equipment makers, talks to the FT’s Paul Taylor about cloud computing, innovation, video and his worries about the failure of the US education system to produce home-grown talent

Iowa’s Education Summit

Mike Wiser:

Iowa school reform legislation doesn’t need consensus as much as it needs follow-through and buy-in from the top.
Teachers need to be evaluated by their peers and paid according to how well they perform in the classroom and on the test.
Principals need more training, and school districts need to be more selective in whom they hire for a building’s top job. Tenure has to be earned, not once, but several times during an educator’s career.
Those were just a few of the opinions aired at the Iowa Education Summit during the first day of the two-day Iowa Education Summit that brought teachers, principals, business leaders, college professors, politicians, nonprofit representatives and the nation’s top educational authority, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, to Des Moines. The summit is expected to be the catalyst for a wide-reaching education reform package Gov. Terry Branstad will introduce next legislative session.

Chesterton on Dickens on education

Chan Stroman:

It is singular that Dickens, who was not only a radical and a social reformer, but one who would have been particularly concerned to maintain the principle of modern popular education, should nevertheless have seen so clearly this potential evil in the mere educationalism of our time — the fact that merely educating the democracy may easily mean setting to work to despoil it of all the democratic virtues. It is better to be Lizzie Hexam and not know how to read and write than to be Charlie Hexam and not know how to appreciate Lizzie Hexam. It is not only necessary that the democracy should be taught; it is also necessary that the democracy should be taught democracy. Otherwise it will certainly fall a victim to that snobbishness and system of worldly standards which is the most natural and easy of all the forms of human corruption. This is one of the many dangers which Dickens saw before it existed. Dickens was really a prophet; far more of a prophet than Carlyle.

Indiana private schools open their doors


They’re out to show private colleges can be affordable.
Weighing the costs of education (iStockPhoto)
KAI RYSSDAL: Here’s something to interrupt the relaxing summer of a lot of high schoolers out there. It’s usually fall of senior year or so that the college search begins in earnest. But really, why wait?
This week, all 31 private colleges in the state of Indiana are opening their doors to prospective students. A lot of states, in fact, now have some kind of private college week.
From the Marketplace Education Desk at WYPR in Baltimore, Amy Scott explains it’s all about perceptions.

Wisconsin Education Association Trust defends its actions as insurer

Karen Herzog and Erin Richards:

A health insurance company affiliated with the state’s largest teachers union is caught in the cross-fire of Wisconsin school reform politics, the company’s CEO told the Journal Sentinel editorial board Monday.
“We haven’t really wanted to be the story,” said Mark Moody, president and CEO of WEA Trust. “We’ve become the lightning rod for debate.”
Moody said WEA Trust has lost about 17% of its subscribers as a number of school districts have switched insurance providers in the wake of deep state budget cuts. WEA Trust at the start of the year insured two-thirds of Wisconsin’s 424 school districts, but only 35% of the state’s teachers, since many of the insured districts are small, he said.
One renewal sweetener WEA Trust offered to districts – which the provider said was done in accordance with federal rules – may prompt legal action.

Top teacher: An Honor for Worcester South High’s Joseph Nystrom

James Niedzinski:

If you are passing through the halls of South High Community School in Worcester, you can always catch Joseph N. Nystrom as he high-fives students, cracks a joke and picks up crumpled pieces of paper in the hallway.
A teacher at South High for about 10 years, Mr. Nystrom is well-known for actions that grab students’ attention in an effort to focus them on learning and achievement. He started out as a substitute teacher and ended up making it his career.
He is the recent recipient of the All American Teacher of the Year Award, in the Massachusetts math division. He is one of 23 U.S. teachers honored by the National Math and Science Initiative. The awards recognize outstanding math, science and English teachers in NMSI’s Advanced Placement training and incentive program.

In defence of the maligned PowerPoint

Tim Harford:

I am about to do something rash, which is to disagree with Lucy Kellaway. Last week, the fearless observer of business follies went too far: she called for PowerPoint to be banned.
The prosecution’s argument is simple: many PowerPoint presentations are very bad. This is true but it hardly makes the case for a ban. Serviceable tools can produce awful results in the wrong hands, as anyone who has seen me put up shelves can attest. Banning the screwdriver is not the answer.

Christie calls for unity in reforming education for sake of kids’ futures

Rod Boshart:

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie told an Iowa education summit Monday that Americans need to set aside political differences that divide them and unite behind reforms that will provide the educational excellence that children need to pursue their dreams in a competitive global economy.
However, Christie did not duck controversy either by calling for an overhaul of the current tenure system for teachers, saying children should not be the victims of a failing system that does not reward excellence or enforce consequences for failure.
“You have to draw some lines in the sand, but you also have to leave some room for compromise,” he told reporters after delivering a half-hour address to about 1,700 participants in a summit called by Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad to brainstorm on ways to rekindle the state’s once-proud tradition of educational excellence that U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said was “at the top of the mountain” in 1992.

Michigan: 53% More Administrators Than Faculty

Mark Perry:

The Chronicle of Higher Education released a report today “Great Colleges to Work for 2011” based on responses from nearly 44,000 people at 310 institutions. The University of Michigan-Ann Arbor made the list, and its profile included the institutional details displayed in the chart above: 9,652 full-time administrators and professionals vs. 6,305 full-time faculty and 1,260 part-time faculty. In other words, there are 53% more full-time administrators than full-time faculty. Is this evidence of “administrative blight.”

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: GE Healthcare to move X-ray team from Waukesha to China

Don Walker:

GE Healthcare, based in Waukesha, announced Monday that it was moving its X-ray business to Beijing, China.
Anne LeGrand, vice president and general manager of X-ray for GE Healthcare, told Bloomberg news that “a handful” of top managers would move to Beijing. She said there would not be any job cuts.
The move of the unit to China will help “make the business more nimble and responsive while continuing to strengthen our local focus and grow our global footprint,” she said.

Laurie Burkitt:

General Electric Co. said it is moving its X-ray business headquarters to China to accelerate sales in the country’s fast-growing health-care market, the latest sign of China’s growing importance to the giant U.S. conglomerate.
The X-ray unit will be the company’s first business to be based in China.
The business has already begun the move–which includes the unit’s chief executive and three other members of its executive team–and expects to complete the process by year end, said Anne LeGrand, vice president and general manager of GE Healthcare Global X-Ray. The senior leadership team’s move to Beijing is aimed in part at helping develop more medical equipment specifically for the Chinese market, Ms. LeGrand told a news briefing Monday.
GE said it doesn’t expect the move to result in any job losses in the U.S., where the unit has been based in Waukesha, Wis. The Wisconsin X-ray division has 120 employees. The company also said it is too early to say how many employees it will hire for the unit’s new Beijing headquarters.

Series Overview: The Cost Of Dropping Out

Cindy Johnston:

Of all the problems this country faces in education, one of the most complicated, heart-wrenching and urgent is the dropout crisis. Nearly 1 million teenagers stop going to school every year.
The impact of that decision is lifelong. And the statistics are stark:
The unemployment rate for people without a high school diploma is nearly twice that of the general population.
Over a lifetime, a high school dropout will earn $200,000 less than a high school graduate and almost $1 million less than a college graduate.
Dropouts are more likely to commit crimes, abuse drugs and alcohol, become teenage parents, live in poverty and commit suicide.
Dropouts cost federal and state governments hundreds of billions of dollars in lost earnings, welfare and medical costs, and billions more for dropouts who end up in prison.
NPR is looking at the dropout crisis through the stories of five people. Three dropped out of school years ago. They talk about why they left school, the forces in their lives that contributed to that decision and its impact in the years since.

Wisconsin Public School Advocates to Rally at the Capitol, Saturday July 30, 3:00 PM

99K PDF, via a TJ Mertz email:

As hundreds of thousands of public school supporters gather in Washington DC the weekend of July 28 to 30, 2011, Wisconsin advocates will hold a rally in support of the Save Our Schools agenda at 3:00 PM on Saturday July 30, near the State St. entrance to the Capitol.
“Public schools are under attack. There is a need for national, state, and local action in support of our schools. Wisconsin has been ground zero in this; the Save Our Schools demands from the Guiding Principles provide a great framework to build our state movement and work to expand opportunities to learn” said education activist Thomas J. Mertz.
The Save Our Schools demands are:

  • Equitable funding for all public school communities
  • An end to high stakes testing used for the purpose of student, teacher, and school evaluation
  • Teacher, family and community leadership in forming public education policies
  • Curriculum developed for and by local school communities

Doing more with less doesn’t work. “The time to act is now. While phony debates revolve around debt ceilings, students and teachers across the country are shortchanged. We need real reform, starting with finally fixing the school funding formula, and putting families and communities first. What child and what teacher don’t deserve an excellent school?” said rally organizer Todd Price, former Green Party Candidate for Department of Public Instruction and Professor of Teacher Education National Louis University.
The event will feature speeches from educators, students, parents and officials, as well as opportunities for school advocates from throughout Wisconsin to connect and organize around issues of importance in their communities.

For more information, visit: and

New Study: RI’s Suburban Schools Trail Nation In Advanced Programs

Dan McGowan:

A new analysis of the nation’s schools found that Rhode Island falls below the national average for offering high-level curriculum such as Advanced Placement or talented and gifted programs, particularly in the more suburban districts in the state.
The report, which seeks to showcase what is known as the “opportunity gap” between wealthy and high-poverty school districts, actually suggests that Rhode Island offers similar chances to be involved in specialty programs in urban schools as it does in suburban schools. In fact, in some cases, the high-level programs are more available in cities like Providence than they are in Barrington.
But the reality is the state offers very little advance programming overall, meaning that while there may not be a significant gap between the city schools and the ones from more rural areas, Rhode Island schools are still being outpaced by the rest of New England and most cases, the country.
The Numbers
The study, which was conducted by ProPublica, found that Rhode Island falls well-behind the rest of the country when it comes to offering AP tests, advanced mathematics courses and talented and gifted programming.
More students, however, are taking chemistry and physics than in other parts of the country.

Compare Wisconsin’s results, here.

To Train a Teacher

The New York Times:

This summer, the Relay Graduate School of Education will open as New York’s first standalone college of teacher preparation in nearly a century. Relay is being created out of Teacher U, a program within Hunter College and one of the many new models that have gained traction around the country. Relay preaches the practical over the theoretical — and will have no traditional courses, no campus, no lectures — all with the end goal of changing the way teachers in this country are taught.

How Khan Academy Is Changing the Rules of Education

Clive Thompson:

“This,” says Matthew Carpenter, “is my favorite exercise.” I peer over his shoulder at his laptop screen to see the math problem the fifth grader is pondering. It’s an inverse trigonometric function: cos-1(1) = ?
Carpenter, a serious-faced 10-year-old wearing a gray T-shirt and an impressive black digital watch, pauses for a second, fidgets, then clicks on “0 degrees.” Presto: The computer tells him that he’s correct. The software then generates another problem, followed by another, and yet another, until he’s nailed 10 in a row in just a few minutes. All told, he’s done an insane 642 inverse trig problems. “It took a while for me to get it,” he admits sheepishly.
Carpenter, who attends Santa Rita Elementary, a public school in Los Altos, California, shouldn’t be doing work anywhere near this advanced. In fact, when I visited his class this spring–in a sun-drenched room festooned with a papercraft X-wing fighter and student paintings of trees–the kids were supposed to be learning basic fractions, decimals, and percentages. As his teacher, Kami Thordarson, explains, students don’t normally tackle inverse trig until high school, and sometimes not even then.

Iowa’s task: Bet on right school reforms

As Iowa political and education leaders prepare to make sweeping changes in the state’s schools, experts monitoring similar efforts across the country caution that much of what is being tried is still controversial and uncharted territory.
For example:
– A growing body of anecdotal evidence and research supports the push toward longer school days and years to benefit students’ academic achievement, especially among low-income or disadvantaged children. But the cost-benefit ratio of such moves remains fiercely debated and some experiments have had mixed results.

No excuse for sucky items

Tom Vander Ark:

John Behrens directs Cisco’s Networking Academy. They partner with 10,000 schools in 160 countries and provide free online courses on computer networking. In addition to being an important workforce development strategy, they wanted the Academy to be an important demonstration project for eLearning.
Prior to joining Cisco in 2000, John was a professor of education at ASU. John directs curriculum, assessment, and technology associated with the Academies, so he has the opportunity to create a fully aligned instructional system with an integrated data architecture behind it.
The Academy serves high school and post secondary students interested in careers in networking and IT as well as students that just want broader job skills. They serve 1 million students annually and deliver 40,000 exams most weekdays.

Caring for the Me Generation

Dr. Sara Goldrick-Rab

During the past semester, a time where I constantly felt split between my academic life and my civic life, I became acutely aware of an attitude among undergraduates that perplexed me. I tried writing about it , describing what readers pointed out (in a far more articulate manner than I’d managed) was a notable lack of empathy among some students.
Since I’ve spent the last 10 years trying to make convince higher education institutions to prioritize their students’ needs and desires, these realizations about who some of the students seemed to be and especially what they seemed to believe, made me pretty depressed. Don’t get me wrong: it’s not that I expect students to speak and act in one voice–far from it, given how much I value the democratic process. I don’t want them to share my opinions or perspectives, but rather simply want them to formulate opinions and perspectives after asking good questions and gathering and evaluating information. But what I hope for, most of all, is their recognition that they are part of a worldwide community of students, and their strength lies in that community. I hope that such a larger sense of the world will guide them to think of more than themselves, and to act for the greater good.

The upside and downside of Wisconsin Governor Walker’s education vision

Alan Borsuk:

A heat dome has settled over much of American education. Is Gov. Scott Walker just going to add to the stifling atmosphere? Or is Walker right that there are cool breezes in his ideas for how to increase school quality overall?
First, the national perspective: You would think by now, the heat would have been drained from some of the debate about what works in education, especially when it comes to serving urban kids. People have been working on this for decades. Haven’t we figured out answers yet?
In most ways, no. Even a lot of things that seem like answers haven’t been brought successfully to wide use. Things that look good on paper (or in a political speech) have often accomplished little in reality. The profoundly troubling march to perpetuating educational failure, for the most part, continues.
As disappointment grows, the debates between “education reformers” and those who think the “reformers” are going in the wrong directions often have been contentious. If you follow the tweets and postings and such, you’ll find occasional light but a lot of heated rhetoric. Add in this year’s wars over the pay, benefits and unions of public employees, combined with the hyperpartisan nature of the times, and you have an atmosphere that should carry health warnings.

Plenty of policy in new Minnesota education package

Beth Hawkins:

For a measure that was supposed to have been stripped of all policy measures, the 148-page K-12 education bill lawmakers approved early Wednesday morning, scarcely an hour after it was released, contains an awful lot of specific, prescriptive language laying out how Minnesota school districts and their staffs are to go about their business.
As expected, the hydrogen bomb at the center of it is the nonpolicy decision to balance the budget by allowing the state to withhold 40 percent of education funding for a year after it’s due, and nothing even approximating a roadmap for paying it back.
And the devastation the shift will cause is where most of the educators canvassed on Wednesday would like the public’s attention to stay, given that the cumulative deficit it has caused is about an eye-popping $3 billion. That’s some $3,000 per pupil, or more than half the annual general fund appropriation.

Debunking myths about teacher education curricula

Dr. Terry Simpson:

Recently, the Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR) announced a redesign of all education programs within its six universities and 13 community colleges called “Ready2Teach.” The TBR is initiating change in the process of preparing new teachers for public school classrooms.
Although as a private college, Maryville College is not governed by the TBR, our goal in the teacher education program is to equip our teacher licensure students with research-based knowledge and skills that will facilitate the learning for all children. My concern about the June 13 Associated Press story about Ready2Teach that ran in the News Sentinel, and across the state, was the inaccuracies about how we currently prepare new public school teachers. Here are a few misconceptions:
n Education majors spend most of their time in college listening to lectures about teaching methods or education theory.

When teachers weren’t maligned

Craig Barbian:

When I was growing up, there was a special mystique about teachers. They were looked up to and respected. No matter if you liked a teacher or not, you appreciated his or her efforts to educate children and prepare them for their future, no matter what that future would be.
Today, teachers are being portrayed as self-centered union lackeys who feel entitled to extraordinary benefits provided by taxpayers. Teachers appear to have suddenly morphed from members of a noble profession to members of the world’s oldest profession. What a turnaround.
My teachers over the years left an indelible mark on me and the person I became. They helped shape me, gave me encouragement and taught me to think for myself and question the status quo.
My first-grade teacher was Miss Darling (honestly). She was a sweet lady who I remember for her kindness and her patience as I struggled to master the simple act of tying my shoes. It has been almost 50 years since then, but I remember her clearly, drying my tears of frustration and embarrassment and helping me practice until I could finally tie my shoes.

Trenton Schools & Teacher Tenure

New Jersey Left Behind:

There’s lots of discussion regarding the pros and cons of tenure. The Trenton Times describes an instance that highlights the difficulties school districts face in dismissing tenured employees. Rayshaun Davis, a member of one of the Trenton Public Schools unions, the Business-Technical Employees Association, was assigned as a Youth Development Liaison at Trenton Central High in a program designed to “help students avoid teen pregnancy, substance abuse and other pitfalls of at-risk youth.”
Here’s the current contract for the union.

A Study Looks at Massachusetts’ Suburban Busing Program

Susan Eaton and Gina Chirichigno:

Massachusetts’ METCO program (Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity) enables about 3,300 students who live in Boston and Springfield to attend opportunity-rich suburban schools. Since the vast majority of the students in METCO are either African American or Latino and most suburban districts remain overwhelmingly white, METCO fulfills two goals: it creates a degree of racial and ethnic diversity and provides students who’d otherwise attend challenged school districts the opportunity to attend schools with reputations for rigor and excellence.
METCO is one of eight voluntary interdistrict school desegregation programs in the United States and the second longest-running program of its kind. This paper describes the structure and history of METCO and summarizes what is known about the academic achievement and experiences of students who participate in the program. We argue that given METCO’s generally positive track record, its enduring popularity and the well-established benefits of racial and ethnic diversity in schools, educational leaders should seriously consider expanding METCO, should provide more incentives to suburban districts to participate and should conduct more rigorous, transparent analyses of the program.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Wisconsin Ranks #4 in Tax Burden

Tax Foundation

For nearly two decades the Tax Foundation has published an estimate of the combined state-local tax burden shouldered by the residents of each of the 50 states. For each state, we calcu­late the total amount paid by the residents in taxes, then divide those taxes by the state’s total income to compute a “tax burden.” We make this calculation not only for the most recent year but also for earlier years because tax and income data are revised periodically by govern­ment agencies.
The goal is to focus not on the tax collec­tors but on the taxpayers. That is, we answer the question: What percentage of their income are the residents of this state paying in state and local taxes? We are not trying to answer the question: How much money have state and local governments collected?

The Master’s as the New Bachelor’s

Laura Pappano:

William Klein’a story may sound familiar to his fellow graduates. After earning his bachelor’s in history from the College at Brockport, he found himself living in his parents’ Buffalo home, working the same $7.25-an-hour waiter job he had in high school.
It wasn’t that there weren’t other jobs out there. It’s that they all seemed to want more education. Even tutoring at a for-profit learning center or leading tours at a historic site required a master’s. “It’s pretty apparent that with the degree I have right now, there are not too many jobs I would want to commit to,” Mr. Klein says.
So this fall, he will sharpen his marketability at Rutgers’ new master’s program in Jewish studies (think teaching, museums and fund-raising in the Jewish community). Jewish studies may not be the first thing that comes to mind as being the road to career advancement, and Mr. Klein is not sure exactly where the degree will lead him (he’d like to work for the Central Intelligence Agency in the Middle East). But he is sure of this: he needs a master’s. Browse professional job listings and it’s “bachelor’s required, master’s preferred.”

On Their Childrens’ Schools, Politicians Should Save the Outrage

Matt Bai:

If you’re a politician who has all kinds of things to say about public education, do voters have the right to know where you send your children to school?
That’s a question that seems to be surfacing a lot lately. A few weeks ago, on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, as vicious a critic of teachers unions as exists among American politicians today, repeated his assertion that where he chooses as a parent to educate his four children (Catholic schools, as it turns out) is nobody’s business.
This week, Rahm Emanuel, the newly installed mayor of Chicago, stormed out of an interview when asked the same question, which he apparently considered a violation of his privacy. Mr. Emanuel, who has also called for school reforms, is sending his children to the same private school the Obama girls once attended.
“My children are not in a public position,” Mr. Emanuel testily told the local NBC reporter who asked the question. “The mayor is.”

Programs in Conn., nation spur teens to teaching

Stephanie Rietz:

While many of their friends are hanging out at the mall or beach, about 20 Connecticut high school students are spending much of their summer vacation in the classroom.
It’s an increasingly common scene nationwide as educators, seeking new ways to recruit teachers in critical shortage areas, are embracing a “grow your own” approach by introducing the profession to teens as early as middle school.
And while many of the programs are too new to determine how many of the teens eventually enter the field, the longest-running initiatives — such as Eastern Connecticut State University’s program — have tracked many of their alumni through college and into jobs as teachers, guidance counselors and school social workers.

Was the $5 Billion Worth It? A decade into his record-breaking education philanthropy, Bill Gates talks teachers, charters–and regrets, Mea Culpa on Small Learning Communities; Does More Money Matter?

Jason Riley:

One of the foundation’s main initial interests was schools with fewer students. In 2004 it announced that it would spend $100 million to open 20 small high schools in San Diego, Denver, New York City and elsewhere. Such schools, says Mr. Gates, were designed to–and did–promote less acting up in the classroom, better attendance and closer interaction with adults.
“But the overall impact of the intervention, particularly the measure we care most about–whether you go to college–it didn’t move the needle much,” he says. “Maybe 10% more kids, but it wasn’t dramatic. . . . We didn’t see a path to having a big impact, so we did a mea culpa on that.” Still, he adds, “we think small schools were a better deal for the kids who went to them.”
The reality is that the Gates Foundation met the same resistance that other sizeable philanthropic efforts have encountered while trying to transform dysfunctional urban school systems run by powerful labor unions and a top-down government monopoly provider.
In the 1970s, the Ford, Carnegie and Rockefeller foundations, among others, pushed education “equity” lawsuits in California, New Jersey, Texas and elsewhere that led to enormous increases in state expenditures for low-income students. In 1993, the publishing mogul Walter Annenberg, hoping to “startle” educators and policy makers into action, gave a record $500 million to nine large city school systems. Such efforts made headlines but not much of a difference in closing the achievement gap.
Asked to critique these endeavors, Mr. Gates demurs: “I applaud people for coming into this space, but unfortunately it hasn’t led to significant improvements.” He also warns against overestimating the potential power of philanthropy. “It’s worth remembering that $600 billion a year is spent by various government entities on education, and all the philanthropy that’s ever been spent on this space is not going to add up to $10 billion. So it’s truly a rounding error.”

Much more on Small Learning Communities, here.

The life and death of a Washington teenager in state care

Linda Thomas:

A new report from the Department of Social and Health Services summarizes a teenager’s life and death in eight pages. After bouncing him through 22 foster homes, it concludes that caseworkers and foster parents should have had more information about the boy’s history so they could have helped him.
Roger Eugene Benson was in state care when he left a group home in January, walked to a freeway overpass, jumped to I-5 below and died after being struck by a van. People who witnessed the suicide were horrified. People who didn’t know what was going were angry by the traffic delays caused when the Interstate was shut down during the afternoon commute.
In calling the State Patrol that day, I found out the victim was 15 years old. That struck me because I have a 15-year-old daughter. This kid, the boy who killed himself on I-5 , was somebody’s son.
What went wrong in his life?
Benson was born in December of 1995. His history with the state began when he was a toddler. His mother was investigated for abuse or neglect of her children, including Benson, six times. The last time CPS was called, in May of 1998, Benson was placed in protective custody. The boy and his siblings were placed in four foster homes within three years. The longest he was in any one home was two years.

Conversation: Imagination in Education

PBS NewsHour:

JEFFREY BROWN: Welcome once again to Art Beat. I’m Jeffrey Brown. This week the Lincoln Center Institute, which is the education arm of Lincoln Center in New York, is holding what it bills as the first national conference focused on making imagination an integral part of American education. Scott Noppe-Brandon is the executive director of the institute, and he joins us now from New York. Welcome to you.
SCOTT NOPPE-BRANDON: Thanks, Jeff. Great to be with you again.
JEFFREY BROWN: What do you mean by imagination and why a conference?
SCOTT NOPPE-BRANDON: First, imagination for us is the capacity or ability to think of things as if they could be otherwise, to ask the ‘what if’ question. Creativity, by the way, for us is imagination enacted, using the formal language of a discipline to enact that imagination. And we take it to innovation, which for us is a new outcome pushing the forum in some way. The question of why a summit or why a discussion around it — the answer or the reason is that we believe if we can bring together influencers from commerce, culture and education, including science and business, we can have a discussion of why imagination and creativity in relationship to standards and accountability is an important statement for education in the United States today.
JEFFREY BROWN: The argument, if I get from reading the literature, is that imagination is a skill that can and should be taught in the schools.

NAEP Geography Report Card

Winnie Hu:

Even as schools aim to better prepare students for a global work force, fewer than one in three American students are proficient in geography, with most eighth graders unable to explain what causes earthquakes or accurately describe the American Southwest, according to a report released Tuesday morning.
Over all, high school seniors demonstrated the least proficiency on a 2010 test, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, also known as the nation’s geography report card, with 20 percent found to be proficient or better, compared with 27 percent of eighth graders and 21 percent of fourth graders.
The average test score for 12th graders declined to 282 (on a scale of 500) from 284 in 2001 when the test was last given. It remained essentially unchanged for eighth graders during that period, though there were gains among the lowest-performing students. Fourth graders had the largest gains, with the average score rising to 213, up five points from 2001.

Will College Bubble Burst From Public Subsidies?

Michael Barone:

When governments want to encourage what they believe is beneficial behavior, they subsidize it. Sounds like good public policy.
But there can be problems. Behavior that is beneficial for most people may not be so for everybody. And government subsidies can go too far.
Subsidies create incentives for what economists call rent-seeking behavior. Providers of supposedly beneficial goods or services try to sop up as much of the subsidy money as they can by raising prices. After all, their customers are paying with money supplied by the government.
Bubble money, as it turns out. And sooner or later, bubbles burst.

Iowa Governor Branstad hosts talk on education: “An alarming slide toward mediocrity”

Andrew Nelson:

Gov. Terry Branstad appeared in the gym at Corning Elementary this morning for an town hall meeting on education, a day after his administration released a school report card that found “an alarming slide toward mediocrity.”
The purpose of the meeting was to get ideas on how to improve Iowa schools. Branstad asserts that Iowa’s school performance has stagnated while other states have jumped ahead.
“We’ve been complacent too long,” Branstad said.
Branstad told the Associated Press that education reform would be central to the next legislative session, which begins in January, and he argued that it was vital to change how teachers are paid. In addition to linking increased pay to classroom performance, Branstad said the state should consider increasing starting salaries.

Newton Daily News:

Iowa’s education system may be in need of a major remodel. Students are missing the mark in math and reading competency while their counterparts in other states have made significant gains, according to a new report released today by the Iowa Department of Education.
Achievement trends show stagnant scores across the board, from disadvantaged and minority students to white, relatively affluent students. The results document Iowa’s slide from a national leader in education to a national average, or sometimes below average, performer over the past 20 years.
“There are many good schools across the state, but given the global nature of the economy, we need them to be great,” said Jason Glass, director of the Iowa Department of Education. “We must have a world-class education system to have a world-class workforce.”


Iowa: Schools slip to “mediocrity”

Joe Dejka:

Iowa has slid from a national leader in elementary and secondary education to an average performer over the past 20 years as other states accelerated past it, according to a state report released today.
The Iowa report card — the first released under Republican Gov. Terry Branstad — provides an unvarnished assessment of the state’s academic performance and sounds a clarion call to improve. The report, “Rising to Greatness: An Imperative for Improving Iowa’s Schools,” says performance on various national and state tests show “an alarming slide toward mediocrity.”
In some ways, Iowa public schools have improved over years past, but other states have surged ahead, said Jason Glass, director of the Iowa Department of Education, which produced the report.
Restoring the greatness of Iowa schools will require more than “tinkering around the edges,” he said.

Wisconsin has slid, as well.

Wisconsin Teachers Union won’t participate in statewide task force on school accountability reform

Matthew DeFour:

The state’s largest teachers union will not participate in discussions led by Gov. Scott Walker and State Superintendent Tony Evers to develop a new statewide school accountability system.
Instead, starting in September, the Wisconsin Education Association Council will collect input from teachers and communities around the state about their priorities related to school accountability, WEAC president Mary Bell said in a conference call Friday.
Bell said her organization supports Evers, but doesn’t trust Walker or Republican legislators on the task force.
“How can we trust the governor to be a credible partner on education issues when they just passed laws to make massive cuts to school funding and silence our voices in schools?” Bell said.
Bryan Kennedy, president of AFT-Wisconsin, said he also declined an invitation to participate.

CNN Feature on US History in Schools 7.26.2011 @ 8:00a.m. EST

I understand that CNN plans to broadcast a feature on U.S. History in the schools at 8am EST on Tuesday, July 26, 2011.
This will include interviews with some of the high school authors whose history research papers were published by The Concord Review in recent issues.
“Teach by Example”
Will Fitzhugh [founder]
The Concord Review [1987]
Ralph Waldo Emerson Prizes [1995]
National Writing Board [1998]
TCR Institute [2002]
730 Boston Post Road, Suite 24
Sudbury, Massachusetts 01776 USA
978-443-0022; 800-331-5007;
Varsity Academics®

Student Teaching in the United States

National Council on Teacher Quality:

Though few would dispute its value, the job of providing apprenticeships for some 200,000 teacher candidates each year in real classrooms is a massive and complex undertaking. About 1,400 higher education institutions work with many thousands of school districts across the United States to place, mentor and supervise teacher candidates in what is popularly known as “student teaching.”1
Even as the profession pushes for more and earlier field work opportunities, student teaching is the final clinical experience.2 During the typical semester-long experience, student teaching candidates must synthesize everything they have learned about planning instruction: collecting or developing instructional materials, teaching lessons, guiding small group activities, and establishing and maintaining order–not to mention meetings with faculty and parents and, in some districts still, taking on lunchroom and playground duties. Passing (or failing) student teaching determines whether an individual will be recommended for certification as a licensed teacher.
Because few dispute the tremendous potential value of student teaching, even alternate pathways to profession, often criticized for taking too many shortcuts, generally try to provide their teaching candidates with some kind of student teaching experience, however abbreviated. Surveys of new teachers suggest that student teaching is the most important part of their teaching training experience.3

Related: Teacher colleges balk at being rated Wisconsin schools say quality survey from national nonprofit and magazine won’t be fair.
National Council on Teacher Quality website.

The Cost-Comparability Conundrum

Tom Vander Ark:

We’re stuck and $365 million may not help. The United States places an unusual degree of importance on the reliability of yearend standardized tests. These tests have been around for 15 years and, because we have so little performance data, we try to use them for a variety of purposes. For many reasons, the tests haven’t improved much. The new barrier is the dual fixation on cost and comparability.
Innovation occurs when markets are efficient–where supply meets demand, where consumers quickly (and often ruthlessly) express preferences, where risk is rewarded with return. Blockages can occur either on the buy or the sell side, but they often slump into complacency together.
In the case of educational testing, we have a set of complicated political problems resulting in weak demand for assessment innovation. The next generation of artificial intelligence will help make better test items faster and cheaper to score. But this is more a political problem than a technical problem.

Ivy League to Limit Full-Contact Football Practices

Ken Belson:

The Ivy League will announce on Wednesday that, in an effort to minimize head injuries among its football players, it will sharply reduce the number of allowable full-contact practices teams can hold.
The changes, to be implemented this season, go well beyond the rules set by the N.C.A.A. and are believed to be more stringent than those of any other conference. The league will also review the rules governing men’s and women’s hockey, lacrosse and soccer to determine if there are ways to reduce hits to the head and concussions in those sports.
The new rules will be introduced as a growing amount of research suggests that limiting full-contact practices may be among the most practical ways of reducing brain trauma among football players. According to a study of three Division I college teams published last year in the Journal of Athletic Training, college players sustain more total hits to the head in practices than in games.