III. The Sleeper Issue: A Collective Bargaining Agreement that Cannot Be Amended Even a Teeny, Tiny Bit
If this weren’t enough, there seems to be another legal issue. This is one that has not attracted much attention, but it seems to me to be a serious problem, at least over the short term.
The school district and Madison Teachers Inc (MTI) have a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) that governs terms and conditions of employment for teachers and other represented staff. The plans for Madison Prep calls for working conditions and terms of employment for the school’s teachers that differ in significant ways from what the CBA calls for. For example, Madison Prep plans to offer an extended school day and school year and plans to structure its pay for teachers in a different way.
In more normal times, it would be theoretically possible for the school district and MTI to enter into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) by which the parties agree to modify the terms of the CBA in some regards in order to accommodate Madison Prep’s plans.
Some people give back to their community. Then there’s Fresno County School Superintendent Larry Powell, who’s really giving back. As in $800,000 – what would have been his compensation for the next three years.
Until his term expires in 2015, Powell will run 325 schools and 35 school districts with 195,000 students, all for less than a starting California teacher earns.
“How much do we need to keep accumulating?” asks Powell, 63. “There’s no reason for me to keep stockpiling money.”
Powell’s generosity is more than just a gesture in a region with some of the nation’s highest rates of unemployment. As he prepares for retirement, he wants to ensure that his pet projects survive California budget cuts. And the man who started his career as a high school civics teacher, who has made anti-bullying his mission, hopes his act of generosity will help restore faith in the government he once taught students to respect.
Such gloom must be placed in context. Doubts about the humanities have been around at least since Aristophanes wrote The Clouds. The playwright claimed that if a man engaged in the “new” Socratic form of teaching and questioning, he could wind up with big genitals (apparently seen as a negative side effect) due to a loss of self-control. But the Socratic humanities survived, in spite of the execution of their founder, through the schools of his intellectual son and grandson — the Academy of Plato and the Lyceum of Aristotle.
I don’t think that the humanities are really in a crisis, though perhaps they have a chronic illness. Bachelor’s degrees in the humanities have held relatively steady since 1994 at roughly 12-13 percent of all majors. Such figures demonstrate that the health of the humanities is not robust, as measured in terms of student preferences. In contrast, the number of undergraduate business majors is steadily and constantly increasing.
As Zack Zbar gets ready to apply to colleges this fall, his parents have established one important ground rule. Jeff, a Florida writer, and his wife Robbie, a nurse practitioner, would like to send their son to the best college he can get into, but they don’t intend to go into debt to make that happen. They’ll look for grants and scholarships, or they’ll turn to an in-state option. “If we can’t afford it, then we have some reckoning to do,” says Jeff, 47.
A growing number of parents are rethinking how much they’re willing to spend on a child’s college tuition. According to a report released last week by student lender Sallie Mae, about 51% of parents “strongly agreed” that they would stretch financially to to send their children to college, down from 64% of parents last year; about the same number said they would go into debt to do so, down from 59%. It marks the first time those numbers have dropped since the firm began the survey in 2007.
The Indiana Department of Education released a new report card this week on all Hoosier public schools that boils school improvement on test scores and other federal academic standards into letter grades of A to F.
The new grading system received mixed review from educators, who wonder whether the new accountability system provides an accurate snapshot of their performance.
“The grading system as far as I’m concerned is about politics,” said Mary Mathes, a retired teacher who is a board member in the South Harrison school district.
Delivering courses in cyberclassrooms has gained broad acceptance among top college leaders, but the general public is far less convinced of online education’s quality, according to new survey data released this week by the Pew Research Center, in association with The Chronicle.
Just over half of the 1,055 college presidents queried believe that online courses offer a value to students that equals a traditional classroom’s. By contrast, only 29 percent of 2,142 adult Americans thought online education measured up to traditional teaching. The presidents’ survey included leaders of two-year and four-year private, public, and for-profit colleges and was conducted online. The public survey was conducted by telephone.
The gauge of differing perceptions comes at a critical moment for online education. Just 10 years ago, few colleges took teaching onto the Internet, and skepticism about the practice was the norm among professors and university leaders.
Drawn by the desire to stay on the road and lower auto insurance costs, a growing number of older Americans are signing up for driving school. But some of the fastest-growing classes aren’t behind the wheel. They’re behind a keyboard.
That’s right: Adults can now take driver’s ed without ever sitting in a car labeled “student driver” or making a single three-point turn. Instead, online classes — typically four to eight hours in total screen time — have become the fastest way for adults to brush up before a driving test or secure a discount on auto insurance. The AARP’s online driver safety course had more than 60,000 students nationwide in 2010, up 30% from a year earlier. By July of this year, another 40,000 had already enrolled. Participation in the American Automobile Association’s national online senior driving course has also increased an average of 20% per year over the last three years. “There’s been an increasing level of interest from seniors,” says Wade Mezey, president of Professional Driving Associates, which runs an online defensive driving course.
But when it comes to actually being a better driver, experts and driving instructors say online courses might not help. “Research shows that classroom programs don’t really impact positively on driving performance,” says Normand Teasdale, a professor at the University Laval in Quebec, who studies driving patterns among seniors. “You need to practice and get feedback over and over again to improve performance.”
I finished my schooling back in 2010. As norms have it, I was supposed to join a college. But I didn’t.
My question: Why the____?
Hell broke loose! Relatives were all restless, self-righteous were giving lectures, concerned were trying to explain and dad nagged me day-and-night. But even after seeking advice of respected ones; there was little logic anywhere.
I didn’t think I could learn anything valuable in a college. So why go? Just because everyone does? It’s funny how “education” (I call it literacy) is not good enough for the real world. And still they are the standard. Irony!
So I took a gap year, to figure out my life and what next. During my gap year, I failed a startup, helped people, failed people, lost things, gained things, travelled, met people and did things I always wanted to do.
Weeks after Indiana began the nation’s broadest school voucher program, thousands of students have transferred from public to private schools, causing a spike in enrollment at some Catholic institutions that were only recently on the brink of closing for lack of pupils.
It’s a scenario public school advocates have long feared: Students fleeing local districts in large numbers, taking with them vital tax dollars that often end up at parochial schools. Opponents say the practice violates the separation of church and state.
In at least one district, public school principals have been pleading with parents not to move their children.
“The bottom line from our perspective is, when you cut through all the chaff, nobody can deny that public money is going to be taken from public schools, and they’re going to end up in private, mostly religious schools,” said Nate Schnellenberger, president of the Indiana State Teachers Association.
Today’s map comes a day late – we’ve been hard at work getting the data ready. We’ve updated our interactive State Migration Calculator with the latest IRS data, and it now includes migration in 2008-09. I’ve used the new data to create a map of interstate movement of income over the past decade. Florida is the big winner – migrants bought a net $70 billion dollars in annual income into the state between 1999 and 2009. New York, on the other hand, lost the most income: $45 billion.
In overwhelming numbers, Minnesota superintendents say the state education funding formula is broken and without changes education quality will diminish, according to Minnesota 2020’s latest survey of school administrators.
Download full report (pdf)
View online at Scribd
“To maintain a high level of academic achievement in a time of shrinking state funding, school districts have cut around the edges, but after nearly a decade of underfunding and recent delayed state payments, it’s getting difficult to keep cuts out of classrooms,” superintendents report in the survey sent to them at the end of the 2010-11 school year.
If you saw Waiting for “Superman,” Steven Brill’s tale in Class Warfare will be familiar. The founder of Court TV offers another polemic against teacher unions and a paean to self-styled “education reformers.” But even for those who follow education policy, he offers an eye-opening read that should not be missed. Where the movie evoked valiant underdogs waging an uphill battle against an ossified behemoth, Brill’s briskly written book exposes what critics of the reformers have long suspected but could never before prove: just how insular, coordinated, well-connected, and well-financed the reformers are. Class Warfare reveals their single-minded efforts to suppress any evidence that might challenge their mission to undermine the esteem in which most Americans held their public schools and teachers. These crusaders now are the establishment, as arrogant as any that preceded them.
Brill’s heroes make a high-profile gallery. They are public-school critics like former New York and Washington, D.C. schools chancellors Joel Klein and Michelle Rhee. They also include charter school operators David Levin (KIPP) and Eva Moskowitz (Harlem Success Academies), as well as alternative teacher and principal recruiters Wendy Kopp (Teach for America) and Jon Schnur (New Leaders for New Schools). Their ranks boast billionaires Bill Gates and Eli Broad, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and President Obama himself. And they don’t lack for savvy, richly endowed representation. Democrats for Education Reform, a lobbying, political action, and communications campaign rolled into one, has brought them all together. Lavishly supported by the newfound wealth of young Wall Street hedge fund managers answerable to no one, DFER’s troops have been working overtime to radically transform American public education.
At first glance, the ongoing lawsuit between the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association and Gannett Newspapers might seem like the Iran-Iraq War, or a Bears-Vikings game — fans of neither side might wonder if both could lose.
The WIAA, the sanctioning body for Wisconsin high school athletics, sued Gannett after The Post~Crescent live-streamed several football playoff games in 2008. If a media organization wants to broadcast or stream postseason games, it must get the WIAA’s permission, pay a fee, and adhere to various other rules:
Internet blogs, forums, tweets and other text depictions or references are permitted and are not subject to rights fees unless they qualify as play-by-play (see definition below) or are not in compliance with the media policies of the WIAA. Play-by-play accounts of WIAA Tournament Series events via text are subject to text transmission rights fees.
Like many North American college students, I am an experienced binge drinker. Most weekend nights during my undergraduate years, I would “pregame” with my dorm mates, before moving to local bars, and then one of my college town’s crappy dance clubs, before staggering home, and, often, ending up with my head perched above the toilet. As part of my college’s crew team, I would celebrate our victories (and losses) by drinking half-liters of vodka straight out of the bottle. And I would often make my way to my morning classes feeling like one of the worms from “Tremors” had just tried to wedge itself into my forehead.
In retrospect, all of this sounds both obnoxious and exhausting, but when I was 18 years old, drinking held a real, magical appeal. When drunk, I would feel socially skilled, and wonderfully impulsive, and far more fun than I’d ever been before. I was drawn to alcohol because it allowed me to escape my natural shyness and bond with people I barely even knew.
Throughout his career as a psychology scholar, Robert Sternberg has critiqued the limitations of standardized testing and looked for ways that colleges might identify valuable qualities that have little chance of showing up in an SAT or ACT score. He has argued that the right kind of essay prompts or project-oriented questions can reveal creativity, commitment to community and other qualities that might well merit admission to college — even for applicants whose test scores might be a bit lower than those of others.
When Sternberg was a dean at Tufts University, he worked with admissions officials there to create such a system, and the university has found that applicants who submitted these (optional) questions were in many cases ideal candidates for admission whose best qualities might not have been visible. Last year, Sternberg became provost of Oklahoma State University. Perhaps it is not surprising, then, that his new university has just launched an experiment to apply his ideas to admissions there. Oklahoma State is currently doing a pilot test of a “Panorama” approach to admissions. (Sternberg’s original project was called Rainbow, and the Tufts program is known as Kaleidoscope.)
But when it comes to sick time for teachers who work around lots of kids known for having lots of germs, Forbes has cautioned districts to tread lightly and not make big changes if it’s not necessary to balance the budget.
The school districts of Hamilton and Elmbrook in Waukesha County both have modified their sick-time policies. Hamilton educators used to have about 20 sick days per year, and the new policy cuts that approximately in half, said Denise Dorn Lindberg, spokeswoman for the district.
Hamilton’s teaching staff members used to be able to accrue a maximum of 75 sick days over the course of their career; the new maximum is 30 days – time that can be used to cover extended recovery from illness or injury. But while the bank of days went down, it’s also been restructured to act more like a portable benefit, Lindberg said. For example, any unused leave acquired beyond 30 days can be converted to $125 per day and deposited in a teacher’s retirement account.
While most adults agree with President Obama that a world-class education is the most important factor in the success of America’s children and status in the world, most don’t think U.S. public schools provide that level of education.
The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey of American Adults shows that 61% agree with President Obama when he says “a world-class education is the single most important factor in determining not just whether our kids can compete for the best jobs but whether America can out-compete countries around the world.” Twenty-five percent (25%) disagree with that statement, while another 14% are undecided. (To see survey question wording, click here.)
However, only 26% believe U.S. public schools provide a world-class education. A majority (62%) does not think American public schooling provides that level of education, while another 12% are not sure.
The survey of 1,000 Adults was conducted on August 20-21, 2011 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.
It’s rare to hear the word “education” from Tennessee’s leaders without “reform” coming after it.
Three years ago, the state began rewriting its curriculum and rethinking the way it dealt with educators. The resulting changes won Tennessee a half-billion-dollar federal grant to attempt to move students from among the lowest-achieving in the nation to the top of the pack.
The state is birthing charter schools at a brisk pace, from none seven years ago to 40 today and, some estimate, up to 20 per year moving forward.
Teachers will be judged routinely on their classroom performance and their students’ test scores. Individual districts are rolling out their own reforms, such as Williamson County’s invitation for students to bring their own technology and Metro Nashville’s dividing of high school students into specific areas of study called academies.
Earlier this year, I shared my disappointment with Fast Company’s compilation of “13 Radical Ideas for Spending $100 Million to Overhaul Schools” The problem was that these ideas really just weren’t all that radical. Even Will Richardson, who was featured in the article, commented on my blog that he agreed (see comment here). Richardson did feature a radical idea in his own blog a few years back in his post, One Town’s Reform…Close the Schools. The article explains how a UK community shut down its 11 schools replacing them with dynamic learning centers that looked very different than traditional compulsory schools. According to their site, they are still going strong.
The learning center idea has certainly taken off as more and more people are realizing that the compulsory, oppressive, disconnected, test-driven schools that exist today are not the best option when it comes to preparing children for success in the world.
The 2010 elections had many obvious effects, but one of the lesser-known is that they revived the school-choice movement in a big way. Although many education writers had assumed the movement was dead, there have been far more efforts to pass school-choice programs this year than ever and, more importantly, the success rate has gone up too.
This reflects the political nature of school choice, which has in modern times been promoted primarily by Republicans. Increasingly, however, Democrats, particularly minority Democrats, have begun bucking the wishes of the national teachers unions, which oppose school choice in any form.
School choice has even broken into the national consciousness with the success of such documentaries as “The Lottery” and “Waiting for ‘Superman.'” These focused on parents’ efforts to get their children into charter schools, which are public schools operated independently of their local school districts–and, not coincidentally, without teacher union involvement.
From the perspective of status quo supporters, charter schools are the least threatening form of school choice, because they remain public schools, meaning they cannot charge tuition and their admissions practices typically are controlled by lottery. This year has seen dramatic increases in interest in charter schools, as an alternative to regular public schools. Even the Obama administration got into the act, by making the removal of existing caps on the number of charter schools a component of states’ applications for federal “Race to the Top” funds.
Fifteen years ago, Wisconsin fourth-graders placed third in the country in state rankings of reading ability known as the National Assessment of Educational Progress. By 2009, our fourth-graders’ scores plunged to 30th, with a third of the students reading below basic levels. The scores of minority youth were even bleaker, with 65% of African-American and 50% of Hispanic students scoring in the below-basic range.
As a member of Gov. Scott Walker’s blue ribbon reading task force, I am one of 14 people charged with reversing that drop. And, as a 50-year veteran educator, I have a partial solution. Let me spell it out for you: We need better teacher preparation.
How many of you remember your very best teachers? I remember Miss Hickey at Lincoln School and Miss Brauer at Folwell School in Rochester, Minn. They taught me to read.
I travel throughout the country consulting and providing staff development for school districts and literacy organizations. I’ve met thousands of dedicated teachers who tell me they are unprepared to teach struggling readers.
This situation is not the teachers’ fault. Some teachers in Wisconsin had only one course in reading instruction. Most were never exposed to the latest research regarding early reading acquisition and instruction. In contrast, several states require three or four classes in courses that contain the latest in science-based reading instruction.
The number of arrests and citations for incidents at Madison’s four main high schools dropped last year to the lowest level in more than a decade, according to police data.
But arrests and citations at West and Memorial were twice the number at East and La Follette — a reversal of the situation 10 years earlier when there were more than twice as many at the city’s East Side high schools.
West was the only school with an increase from the previous year.
The Wisconsin State Journal obtained the data from the Madison Police Department amid a debate over whether the Madison School District should use drug-sniffing police dogs in random sweeps of high schools. The School Board was to consider the issue Monday but delayed a vote until late September — in part to review the arrest and citation data.
District officials say an increase in drug-related disciplinary referrals in recent years, and the use of drug dogs in area school districts, support the use of police dogs. Community surveys also have showed strong support.
Luis Yudice, the School District’s security coordinator, who introduced the drug-sniffing dog proposal with the support of Madison police, is concerned drugs in schools can lead to more gang activity, fights and weapons in schools as students arm themselves in self-defense. He views the police dog policy as a possible deterrent that could prevent a crisis.
Just a day after a New York court found that value-added ratings for public school teachers should be revealed and reported publicly — something that Joel Klein’s DOE succeeded in encouraging the press corps to ask for — TFA founder Wendy Kopp shot back at the notion that her organization should reveal the value-added ratings for its teachers — and in particular the charge of being “hilariously hypocritical” in Steve Brill’s book. Brill claimed that, because it promotes accountability so fiercely, TFA should reveal its teachers’ performance ratings. Kopp claims to have been outraged at the LA Times’ decision to name names last year and she writes, “Is it really naive to think that we should not be printing the names of teachers and the results they get on standardized tests in newspapers? Or is the naivete the notion that this might be a good path forward?” I wish Kopp had been so clear back a year ago when this was all first being debated — it would have been brave and right of her — and I love to poke TFA in the eye for, well, whatever I can think of (it’s not hard to find things). But she’s right that publishing the names and ratings is dumb, that the LA Times shouldn’t have done it, that there’s nothing necessarily hypocritical about TFA’s decision to use the scores internally, and that Brill was amusing but incorrect to slam TFA in his book. Full Kopp statement below.
Jeni Callan sits near the front of the school bus, listening and taking tidy notes on a legal pad.
It’s new teacher orientation day in the Hamilton School District, and the yellow bus carrying nearly 30 new hires for the 2011-’12 school year is winding through Waukesha County as the district’s spokeswoman shouts out the history of each passing school.
Callan, 26, is about to start her dream job as a language arts teacher at Templeton Middle School and knows that her good fortune is partially attributable to an unusually high number of retirements in Hamilton at the end of the school year.
But the job market has not been so kind to other young educators hunting for work, especially those lacking credentials to teach in specialty fields such as special education, math or physics.
“This is maybe the most unusual hiring climate for teachers that I’ve ever seen,” said Bill Henk, dean of Marquette University’s College of Education.
Spurred by a “Why are you in college?” discussion I held with my Penn State composition students one day late last semester when rumors swirled of potential state education funding cuts and tuition hikes, an enthusiastic freshman journalism/English major from outside of Pittsburgh came to my office to “talk about her future.” She’s a good writer, works hard, talks a few times per class. She got right to the point: “Can I get a job with an English degree?”
I wanted to tell her not to worry about the college-to-job equation, that she’s in college to broaden her mind, to question, to grow intellectually — all the learning clichés that hold true. And anyway, what gets a person a job? Solely a degree typed on a resume? The direct skills learned within the major? The subtle, everyday-acquired social and organizational and problem-solving skills? But it is pompous and insular for me to expect my students — most 18 or 19 years old — to consider scoffing at this simplified college-to-job equation and just learn for learning’s sake — meaning, maybe, that hard learning now should lead to a solid, dare I say, happy, future. Be it as it may.
For a while now, I’ve had to get accustomed to the characterization of my 25-year teaching career with the Los Angeles Unified School District as a series of reprehensible acts on my part. As a teacher, I’ve been the bad guy.
First, over the 16 years I taught elementary, I wanted to teach immigrant children how to speak, read and write in English. Prior to 1997 when the passage of Propostion 227 mandated that immigrant children in California should learn English, my views were considered reactionary and contrary to the best interests of Hispanic children. I was told bluntly that by refusing to teach exclusively in Spanish I was destroying the children’s chances of success. One coordinator told me I was perpetuating “English as King.” “No,” I countered, “English is the common language of most of the world,” but this was a non-starter in such circles.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry has been a presidential candidate for barely two weeks, but already polls indicate he’s even with President Barack Obama. So the administration trotted out Education Secretary Arne Duncan to knock him down a peg.
Texas schools have “really struggled” under Gov. Perry, Mr. Duncan told Bloomberg’s Al Hunt Aug. 18. “Far too few of their high school graduates are actually prepared to go on to college … I feel really badly for the children there.”
It’s cheesy for a Cabinet officer to be so political. But that’s not why Mr. Obama shouldn’t have used the former Chicago superintendent of schools as his attack dog.
According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, fourth- and eighth-graders in Texas score substantially better in reading and math than do their counterparts in Chicago. The high school graduation rate in Texas (73 percent) is much better than Chicago’s (56 percent). Mr. Duncan’s charges were recycled. “In low-tax, low-spending Texas, the kids are not all right,” New York Times columnist Paul Krugman wrote in March.
For years, researchers have published papers that associate chronic stress with chromosomal damage.
Now researchers at Duke University Medical Center have discovered a mechanism that helps to explain the stress response in terms of DNA damage.
“We believe this paper is the first to propose a specific mechanism through which a hallmark of chronic stress, elevated adrenaline, could eventually cause DNA damage that is detectable,” said senior author Robert J. Lefkowitz, MD, James B. Duke Professor of Medicine and Biochemistry and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) investigator at Duke University Medical Center.
The paper was published in the August 21 online issue of Nature.
You may have read some news stories lately about how some school districts are doing quite well under Gov. Scott Walker’s budget, despite a drastic decline in school aid.
Monona Grove is not one of them.
“We’re not great,” said MGHS Superintendent Craig Gerlach of the district’s financial situation.
Districts that have prospered under the Walker budget constraints “may have been in a better situation than we were beforehand,” he said.
The Walker budget is slightly more rewarding to school districts that have growing student populations, he said, “but we’re more in the ‘slightly declining’ enrollment situation.”
The district spends about $13,000 per student, Gerlach said, but will receive about $600 less per pupil this year than last.
MGSD will also lose about $1.2 million in other state money.
The budget is “relatively balanced” this year, partly because the district received $850,000 in federal job stimulus funds, but that is one-time money that won’t be around next year.
MGSD did save some money because teachers are now being forced to contribute to their own health insurance and retirement funds.
Total Wi school funding in 1998 was $7,527, not the $4,956 reported by Sunny in her recent column. Corrected for inflation that’s $9899. In 2008 average spending was (correctly reported) $10,791. In real dollars that’s an 8% increase, less than 1% per year, not the whopping 64% increase reported by Sunny.
So were did that 1%/year go? Not into the pockets of teachers, who have been losing ground to inflation in the last decade, and not into smaller class sizes (average class size has been creeping up in Wisconsin.) No, any employer will tell you that health care costs have been increased by more than 50% over this period – and school districts feel the same effects. The fact that cost increases are slowly squeezing the life out of our schools is another reason we need to fix the broken health care system in this country.
I just checked the definition of syllabus in the Oxford English Dictionary. It states what I used to assume it meant: “a statement of the subjects covered by a course of instruction or by an examination, in a school, college, etc.; a programme of study.” The oldest quotation using the word is from 1656, when it meant something more along the lines of a table of contents or concordance. The best quote, though, is from 1939 and is taken from W. H. Auden’s “Commentary” in Journey to War:
“… the young emerging from the closed parental circle, to whose uncertainty the certain years present their syllabus of limitless anxiety and labour.”
But I think we may be a little too fond of limiting and certainty. These days syllabi are looking more and more like those Terms of Service that pop up when we use software. You know, the long documents in fine print with a scrollbar that we click through so we can move on. I thought nobody read them, but it turns out the excellent people at the Electronic Frontier Foundation actually track changes to them for us. (The EFF points out that these documents have a sinister side. They are contracts that we can’t negotiate, and they contain provisions we might not agree to, if we understood what they actually meant.) But the most striking thing about TOS is that they are full of rules – and very few people read them. So maybe they’re not the best model for the syllabus.
For many students and their families, scraping together the money to pay for college is a big enough hurdle on its own. But a new survey has found that, once on a campus, many students are unwilling or unable to come up with more money to buy books–one of the very things that helps turn tuition dollars into academic success.
In the survey, released on Tuesday by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, a nonprofit consumer-advocacy organization, seven in 10 college students said they had not purchased a textbook at least once because they had found the price too high. Many more respondents said they had purchased a book whose price was driven up by common textbook-publishing practices, such as frequent new editions or bundling with other products.
“Students recognize that textbooks are essential to their education but have been pushed to the breaking point by skyrocketing costs,” said Rich Williams, a higher-education advocate with the group, known as U.S. PIRG. “The alarming result of this survey underscores the urgent need for affordable solutions.”
Recent controversy over one state’s use of the funds in its college savings plans has raised new concerns for parents and students across the country with money in 529 plans.
In a game of fiscal hot potato, the Nevada legislature re-allocated money from a state scholarship fund to the state’s budget gap last year; the state later took $4.2 million worth of accumulated fees from 529 plan reserves to cover the shortfall in the scholarship fund, according to a recent report from the Nevada Policy Research Institute, a conservative think tank. The plans’ overseers had other intentions — traditionally, those monies have been used to support the plans — and critics now say the result could be higher fees and a weaker prepaid tuition plan.
After the earthquake in Haiti destroyed much of the country’s higher-education infrastructure, the University of the People decided to set up three computer centers there, inviting English-speaking students from nearby tent cities to come and work for four hours a day.
“They don’t have electricity, they don’t have computers, there are university students who have to carry water on their head from another mountain,” said Shai Reshef, the Israeli entrepreneur who spent $1 million to create the free university two years ago. “They come in two shifts, for four hours a day, to study. Their need was to the point that we began a feeding program.”
Mr. Reshef sees his project as a way to use the Internet to bring higher education to poor students around the world. It uses free software and has enlisted hundreds of volunteer professors — more, he said, than he has been able to use — to teach 10-week online courses to 1,000 students from more than 100 countries. Starting this fall, students will have to pay $10 to $50 for admission.
The National Education Association has always been an outlier in the world of organized labor. A member of neither the AFL-CIO nor Change to Win, the union experienced consistent and substantial growth during the same decades industrial union membership was disintegrating.
The last couple of years have provided the first opportunity to observe NEA’s actions during a period of declining membership. It appears the teachers’ union is following the AFL-CIO model for remaining relevant despite dwindling numbers – accelerated political action.
One of the constant internal battles in the labor movement has been over organizing vs. political action. Do you devote resources to growing membership in order to increase political clout, or do you increase political contributions in order to establish a friendly organizing environment? Although there have been fits and starts in both directions, overall the latter choice prevailed.
The start of the school year isn’t normally the time for issuing report cards. But it’s been an unusual and momentous year, so as the first day of classes approaches for almost every school in the state, here’s a report card on what I’ll call the war against the triangle.
Last winter, before Scott Walker was sworn in as governor, a leading Republican told a group of people (according to a reliable person who was present) that there was a triangle that was blocking the path to educational improvement in Wisconsin and his party was going to take out each leg of the triangle.
What were the legs?
Teachers unions, particularly the Wisconsin Education Association Council. WEAC spent hugely on political campaigns and was pro-Democratic. It also was the largest lobbying force in the Capitol. WEAC represented the unwillingness of teachers organizations to change and the need to get rid of most collective bargaining matters.
The state Department of Public Instruction, which represented the status quo, overregulation of schools and how things couldn’t change if they were in the hands of government bureaucrats.
Milwaukee Public Schools, which represented – well, which represented Milwaukee Public Schools. Or, to put it another way, a money pit where there was never any positive change.
Most parents can safely assume that if their kids are at large, they’re also online. What they’re doing in cyberspace is another matter. With sexting and cyber-bullying in the headlines, a new set of programs is promising to help parents keep track.
Already some 50% of parents have installed software or another monitoring program to keep tabs on their kids’ online activities, more than double the parents who had three years ago, according to software company Symantec. But unlike the old offerings, which typically monitor only the home computer, the new programs are specifically aimed at today’s hyper-mobile, socially-networked teens. For up to $100 per month, they promise to keep track of online posts and communiqu s that show up on your kid’s social networking accounts from wherever a teen sends them — via a laptop, smartphone or even a friend’s iPad. “Parents feel overwhelmed and out-gunned with the level of social media their kids are using,” says Caroline Knorr, a spokeswoman for advocacy group Common Sense Media. “These programs can offer a measure of control and supervision.”
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday Russia should urgently modernize its higher education system so that it conforms to today’s demands.
Russia allocated nine billion rubles (over $300 million) to create an innovative educational infrastructure in Russian universities in 2010-2012. Higher education budget expenditures more than doubled since 2005 and stood at 390 billion rubles (almost $14.5 billion) in 2011.
“Now that we’ve laid the foundation, our next steps should be aimed at modernizing the entire network of higher education institutions in Russia, to make it so that the honorable title of university, academy or institute indeed mean in practice modern quality and ample education, contemporary education,” Putin said at a meeting with the heads of Russian universities.
The work toward attaining “artificial intelligence” is the center of considerable computer research, design, and application. The
field is in its starting transient, characterized by many varied and independent efforts. Marvin Minsky has been requested to draw this work together into a coherent summary, supplement it with appropriate explanatory or theoretical noncomputer information, and introduce his assessment of the state of the art. This paper emphasizes the class of activities in which a general-purpose computer, complete with a library of basic programs, is further programmed to perform operations leading to ever higher-level information processing functions such as learning and problem solving. This informative article will be of real interest to both the general Proceedings reader and the computer specialist. — The Guest Editor.
Summary: The problems of heuristic programming–of making computers solve really difficult problems–are divided into five main areas: Search, Pattern-Recognition, Learning, Planning, and Induction. Wherever appropriate, the discussion is supported by extensive citation of the literature and by descriptions of a few of the most successful heuristic (problem-solving) programs constructed to date.
For some students with autism, the idea of operating in the social environment of a college classroom can be so debilitating as to derail the pursuit of higher education at all. For those who do enroll, their condition can make it difficult to succeed in a traditional classroom setting.
But Dana Reinecke, in the department of applied behavior analysis at the Sage Colleges in Albany, N.Y., said she realized that through online learning, students with autism can overcome those barriers. “It allows them to learn from their most comfortable environment, whether it’s home, a library, a friend’s house, a treatment center, their psychiatrist’s office,” she said. “It takes away that need to be in a room full of people that they might be uncomfortable with.”
Recently Peter Norvig and Stebastian Thrun combined to publicize a course on Artificial Intelligence with the help of Stanford School of Engineering. Within days of its announcement, the course went viral over Reddit, Hacker News and other social networking sites like Quora, FB and Twitter. At the moment, 127663 people have signed and this number is only set to increase phenomenally in the coming days. This trend has been described around as “coming of age for the way education is taught in the internet age; the future of education is here; demise of the universities” etc. Subsequently other Stanford professors pitched in with Machine Learning and Databases courses.
Even prior to these amazing initiatives – discussions, talks and debates on various topics have been going on around and the videos are subsequently being uploaded to the web in increasing regularity. TED talks eventually started featuring videos with captions. TED’s methodology and processes for captioning were simple as outlined here. Google houses some in-house guest lectures and makes it a point to upload manual based captions for some of the videos. Google eventually introduced automatic captioning via Youtube in 2009.
Never have there been so many choices in the field of international Higher Education than at present. One is faced with questions of affordability and language, both of which can be tackled with guidance in the right direction. To my mind, USA provides the best all round education I can think of. Buckminster Fuller, one of the best known academic personalities of this time said that in his study of many scientists he found most of them had their first Degrees from a Liberal Arts College. “The Liberal Education offered by the Americans is truly a gift to mankind.” A Sri Lankan Professor when speaking in the USA last year at one of the better known Liberal Arts colleges said pretty much the same thing namely that the American Universities offer the finest education in the many disciplines students choose today.
The generosity of the American world of Higher Education cannot be bettered. From Ivy League Universities down to the simple Community Colleges, offers of financial aid ranges from 100% downwards depending on the financial standing of the University. Hundres of Sri Lankans have benefitted by this generosity and continue to do so thanks to good advisors like Principals of International schools, alumni from USA and those who work closely with the Admission offices of American Colleges like Mr. and Mrs. P Dissanayake of Scholarships for USA (PVT) Ltd who have partnered Asian International School in many placements.
The president of the College Board, the nonprofit owner of the SAT entrance exam, has seen his compensation triple since 1999 and now gets more than the head of the American Red Cross, which has more than five times the revenue.
The value of Gaston Caperton’s compensation was $1.3 million including deferred compensation in 2009, according to tax filings, also surpassing that of the president of Harvard University. Richard Ferguson, the now-retired chief executive officer of rival testing company ACT Inc., got compensation valued at $1.1 million. Nineteen executives at the New York- based College Board got more than $300,000.
To enhance the quality of early childhood education, and provide better economic opportunities to early childhood educators themselves, states should create Charter Colleges of Early Childhood Education. These research-driven, flexible, and accountable institutions would help increase the supply of high-quality early childhood educators, provide those workers and their families with stable, well-paying jobs, and create a new model of higher education and credentialing that can be applied to other fields.
A growing body of research demonstrates that high-quality early childhood education has tremendous potential to improve children’s and families’ lives. Spurred by this research, as well as growing demand for childcare to enable parents to work, policymakers have seized on early childhood education as a strategy to improve student achievement and break the cycle of intergenerational poverty. Yet despite increasing public investment, only one-third of American preschoolers have access to publicly funded pre-K or the federal Head Start program, and preschool quality is often low.
Because of space, some stuff couldn’t make it into the Arne Duncan School of Thought interview in TIME, here’s one answer I thought was pretty interesting though:
How should Americans think about the consequences of failing to address our educational problems?
Our ability to provide a great education and to have a strong country and a strong country are inextricably linked. The jobs of the future are going to require some sort of college-level experience whether it’s two-year, four-year, trade or technical but the world has changed. When I was growing up on the south side of Chicago thirty years ago in high school my friends could drop out and still get a decent job in the stockyards and steel mills and own their own homes, support a family, and do OK. Those jobs are a distant memory of a bygone era. The jobs today are going to go to countries that are producing knowledge workers. And many countries are out-educating us.
Yep – it’s the “A” word again. “Assessment.” And in higher education, that word is just about everywhere we turn. I suspect that when you saw that word, you likely got a chill up your spine – oh no! Not assessment. Not again! Yep – assessment. Again. But I have developed a take on assessment that might help us see it differently. I believe that doing assessment is not about pleasing accreditors or other external stakeholders (what Peter Ewell, in a 2009 occasional paper for NILOA, identifies as the “Accountability Paradigm”), nor is its strength in supporting continuous quality improvement (what Ewell identifies as the “Improvement Paradigm”). Though these are perfectly legitimate reasons for attending to the work of assessment, to be honest, neither truly fuels my intrinsic desire to engage in the hard work of it all. Instead, I believe that assessment is really an act of care.
I care about my students; therefore, I assess. Let me explain.
If you’re looking for a textbook example of technology obstruction by the media industry, look no further than e-textbooks.
“About 90 percent of the time, the cheapest option is still to buy a used book and then resell that book,” says Jonathan Robinson, founder of FreeTextbooks.com, an online retailer of discount books. “That is really an obstacle for widespread adoption [of e-textbooks], because smarter consumers realize that and are not going to leap into the digital movement until the pricing evens out.”
That’s sad news for students headed back to college this fall. IPads, Kindles and even HP’s doomed TouchPad tablet are literally flying off the shelves, and many students wouldn’t be caught dead on campus without one.
Meanwhile, e-textbook sales at the nation’s universities are stuck in single digits, with little hope of escape before 2013. According to Simba Information , in the next two years e-textbook revenue will reach just $585.4 million and account for just over 11 percent of all higher education and career-oriented textbook sales — a notable but not yet predominant force in the marketplace.
Related: e-textbook readers compared.
Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis Thursday rejected an offer of a 2 percent raise for working a 90-minute-longer school day, saying teachers would not be “bullied” by public attempts to push through a slapdash plan.
Lewis refused a proposal involving elementary-school teachers only that was aired in the media Tuesday evening by Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard and later amplified in writing to the union Wednesday morning.
“We fully support a better, smarter school day for our children but teachers are now being asked to work 29 percent longer for only a 2 percent pay increase,” Lewis said in a written statement. “To that we say thanks but no thanks.”
Lewis left the door open to further talks on the issue, however. She told the Chicago Sun-Times the union is crafting ways to add 15 to 60 more minutes to the elementary school day.
A proposal to raise taxes by $3 billion over five years to help fund Colorado’s education system will be on the November ballot, Secretary of State Scott Gessler said Wednesday.
The idea from Democratic state Sen. Rollie Heath would raise the sales and use tax rate to 3 percent, up from 2.9 percent, and raise the state’s individual and corporate tax rates to 5 percent, up from 4.63 percent. The increases would be in effect from 2012 to 2017.
“I think we got a real shot at getting this done,” said Heath, a Boulder senator. He said he decided to ask for the tax increases because of repeated cuts to the state’s education budget in recent years.
In 2010-11, 40 percent of public school students (enrolled in both district and charter schools) in Ohio’s eight major urban areas attended a school rated D or F by the state. This is an improvement from the previous year, when 47 percent of students attended such schools.
The percent of students attending schools rated A or B has remained roughly the same. However, the percent of students in these cities attending a school that has met or exceeded “expected growth” (according to Ohio’s value-added metric) has risen significantly, from 67 percent in 2009-10 to 78 percent in 2010-11.
This month, 500,000 hopeful substitute teachers are queuing up for work in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, and countless small-town schools across the nation. I know from first-hand experience that the extra income and flexibility are big draws, especially if one is unemployed.
But I also know that the job can be demanding, low paying, and conducted without supervision or assistance. Who, I wondered, could do this work coolly and expertly and be willing to accept per diems that start at $45 and average $105?
The answers — from the United States, the UK, and Japan — may surprise you.
TEACHERS NOT ENOUGH? WHO KNEW?
This situation will persist as long as those funding programs and projects for reform in education pay no attention to the actual academic work of our students…
It is settled wisdom among Funderpundits and those to whom they give their grants that the most important variable in student academic achievement is teacher quality.
However, a small number of dissenting voices have begun to speak. Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa, in Academically Adrift have suggested that (p. 131) “Studying is crucial for strong academic performance…” and “Scholarship on teaching and learning has burgeoned over the past several decades and has emphasized the importance of shifting attention from faculty teaching to student learning…”
This may seem unacceptably heterodox to those in government and the private sector who have committed billions of dollars to focusing on the selection, training, supervision, and control of K-12 teachers, while giving no thought to whether K-12 students are actually doing the academic work which they are assigned.
In 2004, Paul A. Zoch, a teacher from Texas, wrote in Domed to Fail (p. 150) that: “Let there be no doubt about it: the United States looks to its teachers and their efforts, but not to its students and their efforts, for success in education.” More recently, and less on the fringe of this new concern, Diane Ravitch wrote in Death and Life of the Great American School System (2010) (p. 162) that “One problem with test-based accountability, as currently defined and used, is that it removes all responsibility from students and their families for the students’ academic performance. NCLB neglected to acknowledge that students share in the responsibility for their academic performance and that they are not merely passive recipients of their teachers’ influence.”
There are necessarily problems in turning attention toward the work of students in judging the effectiveness of schools. First, all the present attention is on teachers, and it is not easy to turn that around. Second, teachers are employees and can be fired, while students can not. It could not be comfortable for the Funderpundits and their beneficiaries to realize that they may have been overlooking the most important variable in student academic achievement all this time.
In February, when the Associated Press reported that Natalie Monroe, a high school English teacher in Pennsylvania, had called her students, on a blog, “disengaged, lazy whiners,” and “noisy, crazy, sloppy, lazy LOAFERS,” the response of the school system was not to look more closely at the academic efforts of the students, but to suspend the teacher. As one of her students explained, “As far as motivated high school students, she’s completely correct. High school kids don’t want to do anything…(but) It’s a teacher’s job…to give students the motivation to learn.”
It would seem that no matter who points out that “You can lead a student to learning, but you can’t make him drink,” our system of schools and Funderpundits sticks with its wisdom that teachers alone are responsible for student academic achievement.
While that is wrong, it is also stupid. Alfred North Whitehead (or someone else) once wrote that; “For education, a man’s books and teachers are but a help, the real work is his.”
As in the old story about the drunk searching under the lamppost for his keys, those who control funds for education believe that as long as all their money goes to paying attention to what teachers are doing, who they are, how they are trained, and so on, they can’t see the point of looking in the darkness at those who have the complete and ultimate control over how much academic achievement there will be–namely the students.
Apart from scores on math and reading tests after all, student academic work is ignored by all those interested in paying to change the schools. What students do in literature, Latin, chemistry, history, and Asian history classes is of no interest to them. Liberal education is not only on the back burner for those focused on basic skills and job readiness as they define them, but that burner is also turned off at present.
This situation will persist as long as those funding programs and projects for reform in education pay no attention to the actual academic work of our students. And students, who see little or no pressure to be other than “disengaged lazy whiners” will continue to pay the price for their lack of education, both in college and at work, and we will continue to draw behind in comparison with those countries who realize that student academic achievement has always been, and will always be, mainly dependent on diligent student academic work.
“Teach by Example”
Will Fitzhugh [founder]
The Concord Review 
Ralph Waldo Emerson Prizes 
National Writing Board 
TCR Institute 
730 Boston Post Road, Suite 24
Sudbury, Massachusetts 01776-3371 USA
It was the end of term at Kirkkojarvi Comprehensive School in Espoo, a sprawling suburb west of Helsinki, when Kari Louhivuori, a veteran teacher and the school’s principal, decided to try something extreme–by Finnish standards. One of his sixth-grade students, a Kosovo-Albanian boy, had drifted far off the learning grid, resisting his teacher’s best efforts. The school’s team of special educators–including a social worker, a nurse and a psychologist–convinced Louhivuori that laziness was not to blame. So he decided to hold the boy back a year, a measure so rare in Finland it’s practically obsolete.
Finland has vastly improved in reading, math and science literacy over the past decade in large part because its teachers are trusted to do whatever it takes to turn young lives around. This 13-year-old, Besart Kabashi, received something akin to royal tutoring.
“I took Besart on that year as my private student,” Louhivuori told me in his office, which boasted a Beatles “Yellow Submarine” poster on the wall and an electric guitar in the closet. When Besart was not studying science, geography and math, he was parked next to Louhivuori’s desk at the front of his class of 9- and 10-year- olds, cracking open books from a tall stack, slowly reading one, then another, then devouring them by the dozens. By the end of the year, the son of Kosovo war refugees had conquered his adopted country’s vowel-rich language and arrived at the realization that he could, in fact, learn.
Ok, I recognize that my previous post on this is pretty long, so here’s a quick and dirty about what you need to know. In order to compete for an Early Learning Challenge Grant, states will have to:
- Commit to and set targets for improving school readiness of high-need children in their state.
- Demonstrate that they have in place a solid strategy and plans to improve early learning outcomes in the state, that they have a track record of progress on and investment in improving early childhood quality and access, and and that they have established coordination and alignment across state agencies to support early learning outcomes.
- Have a plan to develop and implement a statewide Quality Rating and Improvement System that includes all publicly funded early childhood programs/providers in the state, and have plans to increase the percentage of early childhood programs earning top ratings in the QRIS, and of high-need children attending high-quality programs.
States will also have to address criteria related to promoting early learning and development outcomes, improving the quality of the early childhood workforce, and measuring early learning outcomes and programs–but they will have some flexibility and options in the specific activities/strategies they use/prioritize in these areas (a big change from draft criteria released earlier this summer).
Textbook pirates have struck again. Nearly three years after publishers shut down a large Web site devoted to illegally trading e-textbooks, a copycat site has sprung up–with its leaders arguing that it is operating overseas in a way that will be more difficult to stop.
The new site, LibraryPirate, quietly started operating last year, but it began a public-relations blitz last week, sending letters to the editor to several news sites, including The Chronicle, in which it called on students to make digital scans of their printed textbooks and post them to the site for free online.
Such online trading violates copyright law, but some people have apparently been adding pirated versions of e-textbooks to the site’s directory. The site now boasts 1,700 textbooks, organized and searchable. Downloading the textbooks requires a peer-to-peer system called BitTorrent, and the LibraryPirate site hosts a step-by-step guide to using it.
School districts in they future won’t just receive report card ratings from the state, they will be ranked from best to worst in a new system.
The mandate in Gov. Kasich’s $112 billion executive budget was handed to the Ohio Department of Education to devise the ranking procedure.
The listing may be ready for the beginning of the 2012-2013 school year, according to ODE spokesperson Patrick Gallaway.
The ODE is now required to rank schools within comparable groupings on the basis of student results and cost effectiveness, according to the fifth book of the governor’s budget containing selected reforms.
Kids will be heading back to school soon and that means colds, flu and other easily shared infections are bound to pick up. But illness and school absenteeism can be significantly reduced through a program of mandatory hand hygiene, according to a recently published study in the American Journal of Infection Control.
For three months in 2007, 290 Danish schoolchildren age 5 to 15 were asked to disinfect their hands with ethanol-based gel three times a day. The children also were taught proper hand-washing techniques.
By contrast, at a nearby school, which served as a control group, parents of 362 pupils in the same age range received written information about a study of hand hygiene and absenteeism, but the kids weren’t required to alter their habits.
A new alternative middle school for students with behavior problems and learning disabilities is set to open this September.
School officials last night briefed the Trenton board of education on the district’s newest school.
Some, like board member T. Missy Balmir, called the concept “long, long overdue.”
Others, like board president Rev. Toby Sanders and vice president Sasa Olessi Montaño asked for strict monitoring of the program’s success and use of district dollars.
“This is a huge undertaking, a new school in our district, a district facing the financial situation that we’re facing,” said Olessi Montaño.
UW-Madison Professor Mark Seidenberg and I had an informative conversation with two elected officials at the Capitol recently.
I am thankful for Mark’s time and the fact that both Luther Olsen and Steve Kestell along with staff members took the time to meet. I also met recently with Brett Hulsey and hope to meet with more elected officials, from both parties.
The topic du jour was education, specifically the Governor’s Read to Lead task force.
Mark kindly shared this handout:
My name is Mark Seidenberg, Hilldale Professor and Donald O. Hebb Professor, Department of Psychology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, firstname.lastname@example.org, http://lcnl.wisc.edu. I have studied how reading works, how children learn to read, reading disabilities, and the brain bases of reading for over 30 years. I am a co-author of a forthcoming report from the National Research Council (National Academy of Sciences) on low literacy among older adolescents and adults. I’m writing a general audience book about reading research and educational practices.
We have a literacy problem: about 30% of the US (and WI) population reads at a “basic” or “below basic” level. Literacy levels are particularly low among poor and minority individuals. The identification of this problem does not rest on any single test (e.g., NAEP, WKCE, OECD). Our literacy problem arises from many causes, some of which are not easy to address by legislative fiat. However, far more could be done in several important areas.
1. How teachers are taught. In Wisconsin as in much of the US, prospective teachers are not exposed to modern research on how children develop, learn, and think. Instead, they are immersed in the views of educational theorists such as Lev Vygotsky (d. 1934) and John Dewey (d. 1952). Talented, highly motivated prospective teachers are socialized into beliefs about children that are not informed by the past 50 years of basic research in cognitive science and cognitive neuroscience.
A vast amount is known about reading in particular, ranging from what your eyes do while reading to how people comprehend documents to what causes reading disabilities. However, there is a gulf between Education and Science, and so this research is largely ignored in teacher training and curriculum development.
2. How children are taught. There continue to be fruitless battles over how beginning readers should be taught, and how to insure that comprehension skills continue to develop through middle and high school. Teachers rely on outdated beliefs about how children learn, and how reading works. As a result, for many children, learning to read is harder than it should be. We lose many children because of how they are taught. This problem does NOT arise from “bad teachers”; there is a general, systematic problem related to teacher education and training in the US.
3. Identification of children at risk for reading failures. Some children are at risk for reading and school failure because of developmental conditions that interfere with learning to read. Such children can be identified at young ages (preschool, kindergarten) using relatively simple behavioral measures. They can also be helped by effective early interventions that target basic components of reading such as vocabulary and letter-sound knowledge. The 30% of the US population that cannot read adequately includes a large number of individuals whose reading/learning impairments were undiagnosed and untreated.
Recommendations: Improve teacher education. Mechanism: change the certification requirements for new teachers, as has been done in several other states. Certification exams must reflect the kinds of knowledge that teachers need, including relevant research findings from cognitive science and neuroscience. Instruction in these areas would then need to be provided by schools of education or via other channels. In-service training courses could be provided for current teachers (e.g., as on-line courses).
Children who are at risk for reading and schooling failures must be identified and supported at young ages. Although it is difficult to definitively confirm a reading/learning disability in children at young ages (e.g., 4-6) using behavioral, neuroimaging, or genetic measures, it is possible to identify children at risk, most of whom will develop reading difficulties unless intervention occurs, via screening that involves simple tests of pre-reading skills and spoken language plus other indicators. Few children just “grow out of” reading impairments; active intervention is required.
I am cautiously optimistic that we may see an improvement in Wisconsin’s K-12 curricular standards.
Related: Excellence in Education explains Florida’s reading reforms and compares Florida’s NAEP progress with Wisconsin’s at the July 29th Read to Lead task force meeting and www.wisconsin2.org.
Kaleem Caire, via email
Dear Friends & Colleagues,
In the last 48 hours, local media has been abuzz about the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction’s decision to put a hold on our charter school planning grant. The grant application was formally endorsed in March 2011 by the Board of Education of the Madison Metropolitan School District.
Last week, DPI officials contacted us to request that our team and the leadership of the Madison Metropolitan School District meet with them to discuss how we intend to address issues related to (a) the 1972 Title IX Education Amendments to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and (b) new federal Title IX regulations on the establishment of single sex classes, extracurricular activities and schools that took effect in 2006. This meeting has been scheduled.
DPI has publicly stated that it is not uncommon for grant awards to be delayed for various reasons. In our case, DPI wants to ensure that all parties – MMSD, DPI and the Urban League of Greater Madison – are on the same page with regard to how Madison Prep will comply with federal and state statutes relative to single sex public schools. We welcome this conversation. MMSD and the Urban League have been working together on this issue since June.
Single Sex Public Schools are Growing in the U.S.
According to the National Association for Single Sex Public Education, there are presently 116 single sex public schools in the United States. The number of single sex public schools continues to grow each year. For example, the Houston (Texas) Independent School District’s Board of Education recently approved an all boys and later an all girls college preparatory academy for students in grades 6 – 12. Both campuses opened this week.
There are also public charter schools such as Bluford Drew Jemison S.T.E.M Academy for boys in Baltimore, Maryland that was approved by the Board of Education of Baltimore City Public Schools without approving a similar school for girls at the same time. Bluford Drew Jameson is part of BCPS’ bold and aggressive Charter, Innovative and Transformation Schools Plan to revitalize public education in the city. BCPS’ efforts are being heralded nationally as they are seeing clear signs of turning around.
With Confidence, Precedent and Support, We Will Succeed
Given the successful growth of single sex public/charter schools across the country, along with our plans to comply with the new Title IX regulations and our publicly stated commitment to establish the 6-12 grade Madison Preparatory Academy for Young Women, we are confident that the issues raised by DPI will be resolved.
With your support and that of DPI and MMSD, Madison Prep will soon provide a long overdue solution to a deeply rooted pattern of academic failure and under-performance, particularly among African American and Latino boys in our community. It will also serve as a learning laboratory that informs the programs, strategies and practices of schools and educators across Greater Madison and the State of Wisconsin.
We look forward to Madison Prep producing hundreds of confident, excited and future-focused young men who are ready for college and committed to promoting the schools values – leadership, excellence, pride and service – in their community, homes, peer groups and daily lives.
Visit the website and sign our petition below.
Madison Prep 2012: Empowering Young Men for Life!
There are two different types of charter schools in the City of Milwaukee, and by at least one measure, those not chartered by the Milwaukee Public Schools are performing better.
Milwaukee’s ACT scores rose in 2011, but they still weren’t able to match the production of the city’s non-union charter schools. In the end, the non-district charter schools left their instrumentality counterparts in the dust when it came to college readiness.
The city’s non-instrumentality charter schools outperformed the MPS average when it came to the ACT, a selective college readiness test, in the past school year. These schools aren’t operated or authorized by local school boards, and have been more successful in preparing students when weighed against the city’s average. In the four qualifying high schools, students averaged a score of 18.8.
Protesters have barricaded streets and burned tires in Chile’s capital, Santiago, amid a 48-hour strike to press for education reform.
Police and protesters clashed Wednesday, as the government tried to shut down demonstrations in some parts of the city.
Reports from Santiago say business in most parts of the city was un-interrupted, with public transportation continuing to function and traffic flowing through most streets.
The strike was called by Chile’s main labor union, CUT, in support of students who have been protesting for weeks for education reform and an overhaul of educational funding. In addition, strike organizers have called for tax reform and constitutional change.
Even The New York Times is now questioning the massive spending increases on education that have occurred over the last generation in a discussion entitled “Spending Too Much Time and Money on Education?”:
Americans are spending more and more on education, but the resulting credentials — a high-school diploma and college degrees — seem to be losing value in the labor market.
Americans who go to college are triply hurt by this. First, as taxpayers: state and federal education budgets have ballooned since the 1950s. Second, as consumers: the average college student spends $17,000 a year on school, and those with loans graduate more than $23,000 in debt. And third, as a worker: in 1970, an applicant with a college degree was among an elite 11 percent, but now almost 3 in 10 adults have a degree.
Given that a high school diploma, a bachelor’s degree and even graduate school are no longer a ticket to middle-class life, and all these years of education delay the start of a career, does our society devote too much time and money to education?
Now that Gov. Scott Walker’s major cuts for public schools have been enacted, my question for my fellow educators is: What do we do next? I am sick and tired of constantly reacting to bad news and bad policy and always being in the position of having to play defense. Educators and school districts should organize to go on the offensive.
Walker’s budget has significantly damaged one of the best public education systems in the country. He turned half of our community members against us using false information, and now we will be fighting a public relations battle while also working harder to educate students with fewer resources.
Through all of this, we Wisconsin educators will still stand tall and deliver a top-notch education for the children of this state, regardless of what Walker has done, because that is what Wisconsin professional educators do.
My fear is that after we deliver, Walker and his minions will use the media and their bully pulpit to take all the credit for the successes that we will achieve in our classrooms. I can see the headlines now of Walker proclaiming how well his budget cuts worked because schools are performing well under his budget.
So what do we do? What should our strategy be? Here are some suggestions:
Eight more former students joined a $25.5 million lawsuit Wednesday against a “tough love” boarding school in Central Oregon that was shut down by the state in 2009 over allegations it mistreated troubled teens in its care.
The new plaintiffs bring to 17 the number of people saying they were abused at the former Mount Bachelor Academy outside Prineville.
Attorney Kelly Clark said the growing number of plaintiffs will make it harder for the school’s owners to deny they mistreated students in the name of rehabilitation.
“One of the initial reactions when we filed the case from Mount Bachelor lawyers was basically that this was just a couple disgruntled former students and none of this ever happened,” Clark said from Portland. “The breadth of the class of plaintiffs makes it less likely and more difficult for Mount Bachelor Academy to simply dismiss this as none of it happened.”
There’s just so much science, nature, music, arts, technology, storytelling and assorted good stuff out there that my kids (and maybe your kids) haven’t seen. It’s most likely not stuff that was made for them…
But we don’t underestimate kids around here.
The Neshaminy School District, mired in a contract impasse with its teachers for more than three-and-a-half years, will host a state hearing Thursday on a bill that would make teacher strikes and school lockouts illegal.
The Pennsylvania House Education Committee, chaired by Rep. Paul Clymer, R-Bucks, will discuss House Bill 1369 at Neshaminy High School starting at 10 a.m. The hearing is open to the public.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Todd Rock, R-Franklin, contains financial penalties, including a $5,000 individual fine, per incident, for inciting a strike; striking teachers losing two days of pay for each day of an illegal strike; and the striking union forfeiting its dues check-off privilege for one year.
THERE is widespread alarm in the United States about the state of our math education. The anxiety can be traced to the poor performance of American students on various international tests, and it is now embodied in George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind law, which requires public school students to pass standardized math tests by the year 2014 and punishes their schools or their teachers if they do not.
All this worry, however, is based on the assumption that there is a single established body of mathematical skills that everyone needs to know to be prepared for 21st-century careers. This assumption is wrong. The truth is that different sets of math skills are useful for different careers, and our math education should be changed to reflect this fact.
Today, American high schools offer a sequence of algebra, geometry, more algebra, pre-calculus and calculus (or a “reform” version in which these topics are interwoven). This has been codified by the Common Core State Standards, recently adopted by more than 40 states. This highly abstract curriculum is simply not the best way to prepare a vast majority of high school students for life.
I was reminded of this story after reading about the lobbying some parents of Madison elementary school children do to get their kids assigned to teachers who match their “learning styles.”
What a contrast between a parent who’s more or less OK with a school official delivering not only a beating, but an undeserved beating, and parents who seek to intervene in the basic decisions of professional educators.
Such lobbying and the district’s willingness to hear it have “been a common thing as long as I can remember,” said district public information officer Marcia Standiford, a former teacher and audio/visual specialist who has been with the district for 15 years. Parents of Madison elementary students have long been asked to fill out questionnaires about their kids to help in assigning them to teachers.
In his rural district, which serves 249 students, the 2011-13 state budget has been nothing to celebrate. In fact, it has accelerated a difficult process of belt-tightening that’s been going on for almost 20 years due to revenue controls that have limited the amount districts can increase taxes to keep up with rising costs. The revenue controls hit some schools especially hard, especially those with declining enrollment, high-needs students or high property values. The new state budget’s huge reduction in overall aid for schools — $793 million over the biennium — accompanied by new limits on how much money districts can raise in property taxes to offset those losses — has, for many school districts, made a bad situation worse.
According to Quinton, Pepin parents are supportive of education, and he credits his School Board and staff for helping run “a tight financial ship.” Nonetheless, many of the district’s programs and services have been trimmed once again, from transportation to teaching staff, athletics to academic assistance for at-risk students. Paring back has been a way of life in Pepin for many years, Quinton says, but the newest round of losses caused by this budget cut to the bone.
Wisconsin State Tax Based K-12 Spending Growth Far Exceeds University Funding and K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Wisconsin State and Local Debt Rose Faster Than Federal Debt During 1990-2009 Average Annual Increase in State Debt, 7.8%; Local Debt, 7.3%
Wisconsin’s essential challenge is to grow the economy. We’ve been falling behind Minnesota for decades.
The U.S. economy will have another big budget deficit in fiscal 2011 and faces at least a couple more years of sluggish growth, as the effects of the recent recession persist, government forecasters said Wednesday.
The Congressional Budget Office projected a deficit of almost $1.3 trillion for fiscal 2011. Though that will mark the third straight year of deficits above $1 trillion, the deficit forecast was a slight improvement from the almost $1.4 trillion estimated in an April analysis and reflected higher-than-anticipated revenue from individual income taxes.
The outlook for the U.S. economy also remains challenging, with growth expected to remain too slow this year and next year to make a big dent in the unemployment rate. The jobless rate will fall to 8.9% by the end of calendar 2011 and 8.5% by the end of 2012, the forecast said, as the economy grows by 2.3% this year and 2.7% next year, measured from fourth quarter to fourth quarter.
Students who take education classes at universities receive significantly higher grades than students who take classes in every other academic discipline. The higher grades cannot be explained by observable differences in student quality between education majors and other students, nor can they be explained by the fact that education classes are typically smaller than classes in other academic departments. The remaining reasonable explanation is that the higher grades in education classes are the result of low grading standards. These low grading standards likely will negatively affect the accumulation of skills for prospective teachers during university training. More generally, they contribute to a larger culture of low standards for educators.
Key points in this Outlook:
Grades awarded in university education departments are consistently higher than grades in other disciplines.
Similarly, teachers in K-12 schools receive overwhelmingly positive evaluations.
Grade inflation in education departments should be addressed through administrative directives or external accountability in K-12 schools.
When A Stands for Average: Students at the UW-Madison School of Education Receive Sky-High Grades. How Smart is That?
Could you give our readers a short crash course to the main ideas of your book?
“The Innovative University” makes the case that a “disruptive” technology, online learning, is bringing fundamental change to higher education. Traditional universities and colleges are vulnerable because their model of education was already becoming too expensive for many students. Most young students will continue to want the campus-based learning experience, but they will expect to pay less and to enjoy a combination of face-to-face and online instruction. Institutions that don’t provide a hybrid will see declining enrollments. Most institutions will also have to focus more narrowly on student instruction, rather than emulating the large research universities, such as Harvard. Making these changes will be hard, given the strength of higher education tradition and the autonomy of faculty members. However, we believe that it can be done.
AFTER a summer of budget cuts in Washington and state capitals, we have only to look to our schools, when classes begin in the next few weeks, to see who will pay the price.
The minimum required school day in West Virginia is already about the length of a “Harry Potter” double feature. In Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Milwaukee, summer school programs are being slashed or eliminated. In Oregon and California this year, students will spend fewer days in the classroom; in rural communities from New Mexico to Idaho, some students will be in school only four days a week.
For all the talk about balancing the budget for the sake of our children, keeping classrooms closed is a perverse way of giving them a brighter future.
This year’s entering college class of 2015 was born just as the Internet took everyone onto the information highway and as Amazon began its relentless flow of books and everything else into their lives. Members of this year’s freshman class, most of them born in 1993, are the first generation to grow up taking the word “online” for granted and for whom crossing the digital divide has redefined research, original sources and access to information, changing the central experiences and methods in their lives. They have come of age as women assumed command of U.S. Navy ships, altar girls served routinely at Catholic Mass, and when everything from parents analyzing childhood maladies to their breaking up with boyfriends and girlfriends, sometimes quite publicly, have been accomplished on the Internet.
Each August since 1998, Beloit College has released the Beloit College Mindset List, providing a look at the cultural touchstones that shape the lives of students entering college this fall. The creation of Beloit’s former Public Affairs Director Ron Nief and Keefer Professor of the Humanities Tom McBride, it was originally created as a reminder to faculty to be aware of dated references, and quickly became a catalog of the rapidly changing worldview of each new generation. Mindset List websites at Beloit College and at mindsetmoment.com, the media site webcast and their Facebook page receive more than a million hits annually.
Nief and McBride recently applied their popular format to 10 generations of Americans over 150 years in their new book, The Mindset Lists of American History: From Typewriters to Text Messages, What Ten Generations of Americans Think Is Normal (Wiley and Sons.).
Five years ago, Sparks Middle School hit bottom. Its test scores were some of the worst in the district. A chain-link fence was locked after hours to prevent gangs from tagging the open-air hallways. Between classes, members of rival tagging crews would fight.
Word came down to the La Puente, Calif., school from the Los Angeles County Office of Education: We may shut you down if you don’t come up with a plan.
Sparks embarked on a makeover. Sherri Franson, the school’s new principal, took down the chain-link fence because she thought it made the school look like a jail. She lengthened the school day by 20 minutes, increased the number of periods from six to seven and hired two literacy coaches. Low-scoring students were required to take double periods of math or English. Every student received a “glory binder” and was taught how to take notes.
Chicago Public Schools today launched their plans to extend students’ time in the classroom by 90 minutes each and by two weeks each year and set up an advisory committee to figure out how it’ll be done.
However, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis said she would decline an invitation to serve on the committee, saying in a written statement that, “this news has nothing do with helping our children and everything to do with politicizing a real serious problem.”
Mayor Rahm Emanuel began pushing for a longer school day while he was on the campaign trail, saying Chicago’s school day is the shortest in the nation when compared to public school systems in nine other large cities. School reform legislation passed in June allows the district to implement a longer school day in the fall of 2012 with or without the union’s agreement, and CPS officials have said they would do that.
When it comes to applying to private schools, New Yorkers often have to learn to live with rejection. Some who were accepted early at Avenues, the new for-profit school set to open in Chelsea in 2012, face a different problem: They are being actively pursued.
In a letter to one family whose children were accepted but declined to enroll, the school’s president, Alan Greenberg, explained in great detail — three single-spaced pages — why they were making a big mistake.
“This is going to be the most important new school ever opened,” Mr. Greenberg wrote, “anywhere in the world.” He called the administration of the school, to serve kindergarten to grade 12, “the most talented leadership team ever,” and said there was little comparison between Avenues and the schools the children were currently attending, which he described as “fine.”
“I don’t in any way mean this to be demeaning,” he wrote. “But I would not be forthcoming or truthful if I did not say there is absolutely no comparison.”
The founder of The American Lawyer magazine and Court TV tells the story of a coalition of unlikely allies in the fight to change a school system that many parents believe is failing the nation’s children. He debated education solutions with former Assistant Secretary of Education Diane Ravitch.
So far, this has been the summer of education task forces in Wisconsin.
There’s one addressing school accountability, another tackling how to help school districts implement new academic standards and a third devoted to improving third-grade reading proficiency. That doesn’t even count other groups already in existence that are looking at reforming statewide tests or increasing teacher effectiveness.
“There’s so many work groups and task forces operating right now, it’s hard to keep track of them,” said state Rep. Steve Kestell (R-Elkhart Lake), chairman of the Assembly Education Committee and a member of some of those task forces.
Keeping all of the task forces on track may also prove difficult.
Earlier this month, a member of the group charged with helping school districts implement new reading standards sent an open letter to members of the governor’s Read to Lead Task Force expressing concerns about the approach that the state Department of Public Instruction was taking in developing a model reading curriculum. That letter was followed by another that recommended specific approaches that the task force should take. Dan Gustafson, a Madison-based pediatric neuropsychologist, said he wrote the letters because he was concerned that the DPI was moving ahead with a model reading curriculum without input from differing viewpoints on reading instruction.
You think the housing bubble was enormous? Meet the education bubble. On Wednesday, an article here by Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus explained the debt crisis at American colleges. But some startling statistics will help to make their analysis a little more tangible. The growth in student loans over the past decade has been truly staggering.
Here’s a chart based on New York Federal Reserve data for household debt. The red line shows the cumulative growth in student loans since 1999. The blue line shows the growth of all other household debt except for student loans over the same period.
Are there hidden messages in your emails? Yes, and in everything you write or say, according to James Pennebaker, chair of the department of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin. Pennebaker has been a leader in the computer analysis of texts for their psychological content. And in his new book, “The Secret Life of Pronouns,” he argues that how we use words like “I,” “she,” and “who” reveal secrets of our psychology. He spoke recently with Mind Matters editor Gareth Cook.
COOK: How did you become interested in pronouns?
PENNEBAKER: A complete and total accident. Until recently, I never thought about parts of speech. However, about ten years ago I stumbled on some findings that caught my attention. In the 1980s, my students and I discovered that if people were asked to write about emotional upheavals, their physical health improved. Apparently, putting emotional experiences into language changed the ways people thought about their upheavals. In an attempt to better understand the power of writing, we developed a computerized text analysis program to determine how language use might predict later health improvements. In other words, I wanted to find if there was a healthy way to write.
Cohen particularly focuses on UCLA and UC Berkeley as examples of the new trend in college admissions:
Even colleges that shunned out-of-state students for years are showing a marked receptivity. The University of California’s top campuses–Berkeley and UCLA–have doubled and even tripled their rosters of out-of-state kids. At UCLA, the total percentage of out-of-state kids is still relatively low: only about 7 percent of last year’s entering class. But at Berkeley, it was a whopping 19 percent and will grow to 20 percent this year, according to Janet Gilmore, a university spokesperson. Five years ago, the percentage of out-of-state students at Berkeley was a mere 5 percent.
At most of these world-class universities, admission is still very selective. The acceptance rate for out-of-state students at UCLA was only 30 percent last year. But that was still better than what California residents experienced, which was a 21 percent acceptance rate. And it even got a tad easier for out-of-staters compared with previous years. Five years ago, out-of-staters applying to UCLA were admitted only 21 percent of the time, compared with their California counterparts, who saw a 23 percent admit rate.
My daughter was a beneficiary of this; she was accepted to both. I would not have thought she was competitive for either place as a pure out-of-stater even a few years ago. (It probably helps that very few private school kids in DC seem to apply to either UCLA or Cal; my daughter’s friends at Sidwell Friends, National Cathedral School, and St. Albans, where my wife teaches, went en masse to Michigan, but very few of them apply to the University of California.) When we visited the two UC schools, the admissions people were explicit in saying they were looking for out-of-state and international admissions, partly to keep their reputations up but mostly for the money.
Since the early 1990s, more young women than young men have been completing college. The survey attempted to gauge the public’s reaction to this educational trend. Respondents were asked whether the fact that women are now more likely than men to get a college degree is a good thing for society, a bad thing or if it doesn’t make much difference. Slightly over half of the public (52%) say this is a good thing for society, 39% say that it doesn’t make much difference, and only 7% view this as a bad thing.
A similar share of men and women (50% and 55%, respectively) view the female advantage in college education as a good thing for society. Men are somewhat more likely than women to view this as neutral for society (45% vs. 34%), while women are nearly twice as likely as men to say it is a bad thing for society (9% vs. 5%).
Gov. Rick Scott is exploring dramatic higher-education reforms that are similar to those already under way in Florida’s public school districts.
Patterned after reforms being championed by Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who recently announced he’s running for president, Scott is looking at changing the way professors are paid and moving toward a merit-pay system with limits on tenure.
Texas has been debating such changes to save money and bolster professor productivity — going so far as to consider tying professor pay to how many students they teach and how much research money they bring in.
Instructors would get annual bonuses as high as $10,000 a class if they rated highly on student satisfaction surveys. Even the assignment of faculty offices and parking spaces would be based on their performance.
Every year I tell students in a journalism seminar I teach about the junior reporter for The American Lawyer – the magazine I founded and edited -who committed a classic error when he submitted a draft of a profile about some lawyer in the news who had made it big. Midway through the article, the young reporter described a showcase this lawyer had in his office that displayed a bunch of combat medals. The reporter declared, matter-of-factly, that our legal hero had won the medals for his heroics in Vietnam, which was relevant, he added, because the lawyer made his war record and his lock-n-load approach to his work part of his pitch to potential clients.
In the margin next to the statement about the lawyer having won the medals I wrote, “Who says?” When the reporter came to ask me what I had meant, I told him to check with the Pentagon about the supposed medals. Which the reporter did, and which caused a mini-scandal after we reported in our otherwise positive profile that our hero hadn’t won them.
The story has three points. First, that reporters should believe nothing told to them by a biased source, especially when what they are being told is a checkable fact. Second, that while opinions deserve balanced reporting of both sides’ views, facts are facts. They are knowable. The guy either got medals or he didn’t. Third, the best way to test facts that you think you know is to put them in front of the person with the greatest stake in refuting them. In this case when we confronted the lawyer with the Pentagon’s records that he had not won any medals, he produced no evidence to the contrary and, in fact, ultimately confessed his deception. Case closed.
A municipal vote in Seoul on Wednesday over free school lunches is shaping up as a test of South Koreans’ sentiment on government welfare spending, and the outcome is expected to influence races in parliamentary and presidential elections next year.
Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon, a member of the conservative Grand National Party that controls the Parliament and presidency, pushed for the referendum as a challenge to the city council’s decision to expand a free-lunch program.
The council, which is controlled by the opposition Democratic Party, earlier this year voted to provide free school lunches to all of Seoul’s 850,000 elementary and middle-school students, at a cost of about $378 million a year. Supporters of the free-lunches-for-all policy say it removes the stigma that recipients of free lunches face.
The Chronicle of Higher Education:A reasonable question for postdocs looking to enter the faculty ranks in 2011 and midcareer administrators eyeing the college presidency might have been, Are you sure you want the job?
Professors and presidents alike found themselves in the thick of political battles that questioned their productivity, their pay, and their rights to collectively bargain. Their campuses encountered rising demands for accountability and brutal assessments of their rigor. At the same time, resources diminished, particularly at public universities reliant on state dollars, leading to cuts in programs and positions and increases in class sizes and tuition.
Groups planning new charter schools and established charter schools that want to replicate their success are sharing $6 million in federal charter school grants.
Planning grants total $4.5 million and will go for planning activities in 23 charter schools that have already been approved by their local school board or authorizing authority. Five of those grants are going to districts that do not currently have charter schools. Five grants, totaling $625,000, will support the expansion of successful charter school models. Another seven grants, totaling $875,000, will help charter schools that are in the second year dissemination activities.
“Planning grant proposals in this round of funding are for a mix of innovative charter schools,” said State Superintendent Tony Evers. “This is just what the charter school law promotes: local solutions to serve students and their families.”
But it is a lesser-known and never-enforced section of the act that has become the center of the education debate in Missouri.
This section, a consumer protection law of sorts, states:
“The board of education of each district in this state that does not maintain an accredited school pursuant to the authority of the state board of education … shall pay the tuition of and provide transportation … for each pupil resident therein who attends an accredited school in another district of the same or an adjoining county.”
The act provides important relief under law for children living in unaccredited school districts by providing them with a mechanism for escaping their failing schools and enrolling in successful ones.
There currently are two unaccredited districts in Missouri, Riverview Gardens and St. Louis City.
After years of frustration with its own teacher-evaluation system, the second-largest school district in the country is pilot-testing a new idea against the wishes of its union.
With the Obama administration offering incentives for school systems to revamp how they evaluate teachers’ effectiveness, the episode with the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) carries important lessons nationwide, analysts say.
The fresh approach in Los Angeles meshes with the Obama administration’s efforts to use more systematic and data-driven approaches to evaluate teachers. It includes parent and student feedback, students’ standardized test scores, and more detailed observations given by peers – who watch teachers and then type their observations and questions into laptop computers, then discuss their impressions the next day.
State-budget cuts forced many colleges and universities to make huge tuition hikes. Job losses siphoned money for college savings accounts.
When home values nose-dived during the housing bust, students and parents lost the ability to tap home-equity lines for extra cash. The Dow’s wild swings have chewed up balances in 529 college-saving accounts, which often include stocks.
“Parents are desperate,” said April Osborn, executive director of the Arizona Commission for Postsecondary Education, which administers several federal and state grants that go to Arizona college students.
While college costs rise, there is less grant money to go around. Three state grants that awarded up to $2,000 to college students were suspended last year.
Two federal grants, including one that provided up to $3,000 for awardees, were eliminated and won’t be available starting this fall, she said.
Mary Bell, president of the Wisconsin Education Association Council, is quiet and thoughtful in one-on-one conversations. She’s a middle-aged, cheery, bespectacled woman whose dimpled face is surrounded by a thick corona of whitish-gray hair.
But when fighting for her members, Bell forcefully projects her belief in teachers’ right to respect, decent pay and union representation. At a rally with tens of thousands at the Capitol on a snowy, bitter Feb. 26, Bell expressed outrage at Gov. Scott Walker’s proposals for the near-total stripping of union rights for teachers, librarians, highway workers, prison guards and other public workers across the state. Yet her anger was tempered by her humor and her belief in Wisconsinites’ fundamental commitment to fairness and public education.
The rhetoric Mary Bell used that day about “Wisconsin values” was no stretch for her, because she perceives herself as a typical Wisconsinite, sharply different from the image of the insular Madison insider, as Walker likes to portray his enemies.
Like so many debates in America today, the fight over public education is as polarized as it is consequential. There appears to be a general sense of agreement that the results we are getting are woefully inadequate, especially given the demands that a high-tech, global economy will place on our future work force. Nevertheless, there’s a sharp disagreement over exactly what to do.
Spending more money is of course a perennial demand. Since 1970 America has more than doubled the real dollars spent on K-12 education. We have increased the number of teachers by more than a third, created legions of nonteaching staff, and raised salaries and benefits across the board. Yet fewer than 40% of the students who graduate from high school are ready for college. At the same time, students in other countries are moving ahead of us, scoring higher–often much higher–on international tests of reading, math and science skills.
In 2009 three professors published a Harvard Business School working paper about a Germany-based technology multinational that had adopted English as its official language. The policy requiring English for all work-related communication among employees was intended to improve efficiency and collaboration, but Tsedal Neeley, Pamela J. Hinds, and Catherine Durnell Cramton found that it created anxiety and resentment instead. Some of the Germans at headquarters felt awkward communicating in English. They avoided speaking in meetings, left native English-speakers out of discussions, and sometimes “code-switched”–drifted back into speaking German–during a conversation or an e-mail thread to more efficiently make a point. Meanwhile, native English-speakers (along with Indian employees who’d achieved near-native fluency in English) interpreted their German colleagues’ avoidance of English as rude and exclusionary. This led to extra tension on teams and less-effective problem solving.
It is August, and the Census Bureau is counting things again. This time it was items associated with school, which is just around the corner for children across the country.
Ever wondered, for example, how much people spend on back-to-school clothes? About $7 billion, according to figures released Friday by the bureau, judging from sales at family clothing stores in August 2010, the last back-to-school shopping month for which it has data. That is about the size of the Los Angeles city budget. It represents a small increase from 2009.
The bureau estimated that 55 million students would be enrolled in pre-kindergarten through high school this fall, and that 11 percent would be in private schools. That total is up by about 16 percent from 20 years ago.
One way REL Northwest connects practitioners with research is by posting responses to inquiries made to the Ask A REL Reference Desk. The free Reference Desk service provides educators, policymakers, and community members with prompt, authoritative resources on topical issues, customized to their local needs. Recent responses point to research on topics such as mathematics interventions, data-driven decision making, and the impact of early childhood education programs.
The latest inquiry is on a topic that’s receiving increased national attention due to budget challenges: whether consolidating school districts might result in lower overall costs for education. Unfortunately, research on consolidation does not offer definitive guidance for making such decisions. There are several reasons for this: empirical studies of consolidation employ different analytical approaches to data; older data in some studies yield results that may not be representative of current district conditions; studies do not uniformly separate costs related to merging only a narrow range of district services from costs related to merging entire districts or combining schools; different studies focus on different costs or estimate costs in different ways; and much of the literature consists of advocacy.
So taking half of the yearly income from every person making between one and ten million dollars would only decrease the nation’s debt by 1%. Even taking every last penny from every individual making more than $10 million per year would only reduce the nation’s deficit by 12 percent and the debt by 2 percent. There’s simply not enough wealth in the community of the rich to erase this country’s problems by waving some magic tax wand.
Finally, to put everything in perspective, think about what would need to be done to erase the federal deficit this year: After everyone making more than $200,000/year has paid taxes, the IRS would need to take every single penny of disposable income they have left. Such an act would raise approximately $1.53 trillion. It may be economically ruinous, but at least this proposal would actually solve the problem.
By putting RFIDs on children and monitoring their interactions over a single day, researchers have produced one of the most detailed analyses ever of the roiling, boiling social free-for-all that is school.
The findings, published August 16 in Public Library of Science One, document the minute-by-minute interactions and locations of 232 children aged 6 to 12 and 10 teachers.
Reconfigured as pulsing network maps and flows of color are the universal experiences of middle school: the between-class rush, playground cliques, snatched hallway conversation and the fifth-graders who are too cool for everyone else.
“We can compare different types of assumptions or modeling with a model that takes into account all interactions,” said Alain Barrat, who studies complex networks at the Institute of Scientific Interchange in Turin, Italy.
As Education Week has reported today, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan clarified that states will not have to endorse the Common Core State Standards in order to successfully obtain a waiver from portions of No Child Left Behind. While the full details of Duncan’s all-or-nothing waiver proposal have not been released, most (including Education Sector’s Kevin Carey) speculated that states would have to demonstrate they embraced high academic content standards – i.e. Common Core – in order to be let off the hook for meeting the 100% proficiency by 2014 deadline.
While taping C-SPAN’s Newsmakers program, Duncan assured states who have not yet adopted Common Core that the Department is “happy to work with them” as long as they verify their own standards are rigorous. Duncan also noted that this process would likely involve states having their standards approved by their state’s postsecondary institutions – supposedly to certify that they are “college and career ready” standards.
Most of us take it for granted that math works–that scientists can devise formulas to describe subatomic events or that engineers can calculate paths for spacecraft. We accept the view, initially espoused by Galileo, that mathematics is the language of science and expect that its grammar explains experimental results and even predicts novel phenomena.
The power of mathematics, though, is nothing short of astonishing. Consider, for example, Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell’s famed equations: not only do these four expressions summarize all that was known of electromagnetism in the 1860s, they also anticipated the existence of radio waves two decades before German physicist Heinrich Hertz detected them. Very few languages are as effective, able to articulate volumes’ worth of material so succinctly and with such precision. Albert Einstein pondered, “How is it possible that mathematics, a product of human thought that is independent of experience, fits so excellently the objects of physical reality?”
This site is dedicated to informing people about words that are not verbs, even though people misuse them that way. You have to pick one of the non-verbs about which this site knows: