The great schools revolution Education remains the trickiest part of attempts to reform the public sector. But as ever more countries embark on it, some vital lessons are beginning to be learned

The Economist via a kind Mary Battaglia email

FROM Toronto to Wroclaw, London to Rome, pupils and teachers have been returning to the classroom after their summer break. But this September schools themselves are caught up in a global battle of ideas. In many countries education is at the forefront of political debate, and reformers desperate to improve their national performance are drawing examples of good practice from all over the world.
Why now? One answer is the sheer amount of data available on performance, not just within countries but between them. In 2000 the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) at the OECD, a rich-country club, began tracking academic attainment by the age of 15 in 32 countries. Many were shocked by where they came in the rankings. (PISA’s latest figures appear in table 1.) Other outfits, too, have been measuring how good or bad schools are. McKinsey, a consultancy, has monitored which education systems have improved most in recent years.


Kaleem Caire draws on personal experience to support school alternatives for blacks

Dan Simmons:

“Come on Madison, we can do better than this!”
That’s Kaleem Caire. He said it not recently but in 1998 in an op-ed questioning why his hometown wasn’t paying more attention to the poor educational outcomes and high incarceration rates of black males.
“I’m asking Madison to be your best self and get this done!”
That’s also Caire, in an interview this week about his proposal for a publicly funded charter school designed to improve educational outcomes of low-income minority students.
What hasn’t changed, then to now, is Caire’s conviction that Madison’s public schools are failing minority students and his willingness to force issues that cause some distress to the city’s white liberal establishment.
What has changed is Caire’s clout. He returned to his hometown in 2010 after a decade long detour with his family to the East Coast. As president and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Madison, and public face for the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy, his profile has skyrocketed. But with it has come criticism and skepticism over a plan that challenges Madison’s longstanding commitment to inclusive learning.

Madison ACT Results vs. Milwaukee; “All Wisconsin Juniors Should Take the ACT”

Michael Ford:

As others have pointed out before me, the way ACT results are reported now paints a misleading portrait of the college-readiness of students, particularly in districts with significant minority populations. One clear example is the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD).
The district bragged in an August 17th press release that “[c]ompared to their state peers, MMSD ethnic and racial subgroups scored 3.5% to 18% higher on the ACT.” Technically true, but only 31.1% of African-Americans and 36.7% of Hispanics in MMSD actually took the test. Compare this to 76.5% and 70.8% respectively in MPS. The disparity makes an accurate comparison of MMSD with MPS, or the rest of state considering that over half of the state’s African-American and Hispanic students who took the test are in MPS, impossible.
The more interesting question spurred by ACT results in Madison and elsewhere is why do so few minority students take a test that is a prerequisite for admittance to a four-year college? Take away Milwaukee and only 38% of Wisconsin African-American and Hispanic high school students took the ACT this year.

The great schools revolution

The Economist:

Education remains the trickiest part of attempts to reform the public sector. But as ever more countries embark on it, some vital lessons are beginning to be learned
FROM Toronto to Wroclaw, London to Rome, pupils and teachers have been returning to the classroom after their summer break. But this September schools themselves are caught up in a global battle of ideas. In many countries education is at the forefront of political debate, and reformers desperate to improve their national performance are drawing examples of good practice from all over the world.
Why now? One answer is the sheer amount of data available on performance, not just within countries but between them. In 2000 the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) at the OECD, a rich-country club, began tracking academic attainment by the age of 15 in 32 countries. Many were shocked by where they came in the rankings. (PISA’s latest figures appear in table 1.) Other outfits, too, have been measuring how good or bad schools are. McKinsey, a consultancy, has monitored which education systems have improved most in recent years.


Rapid Improvments in K-12 Math Education Are Possible

Cliff Mass:

One of the most frustrating aspects of working on the improvement of math education is dealing with an educational establishment that makes decisions based on fads and opinions rather than empirical facts.
Now, let us accept that there are different approaches to teaching mathematics, with a major divide between the “reform, discovery approaches” and the more “traditional, direct instruction” approaches. Reform/discovery approaches became the rage among the educational community in the 1990s and I believe it is a major, but not sole, reason that math performance has lagged.
As a scientist, it would seem to me that the next step is clear: test a variety of curriculum approaches in the classroom, insuring the class demographics are similar, and find out what works best. In short, do a carefully controlled experiment with proper statistics and find the truth in an empirical way. But what frustrates me is that such experimentation is virtually never done by the educational bureaucracy. They seem to go from fad to fad and student progress suffers. Reform math, Integrated Math, Teach for America, Whole Language, and many more.

“1493” and How We Teach History

Joshua Kim:

Before I jump into an argument about how we teach history, I want to make we don’t lose the point that Charles Mann’s 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created is a wonderful book.
A modern updating of Crosby’s classic The Columbian Exchange, Mann traces the biological, epidemiological, and agricultural impact of trade between Europe, Asia and the America’s after 1493.
1493 is a book for fans of Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma and Morris’ Why the West Rules — for Now.
If you like your history to be big, the scope to be wide, but to be tied into how you eat and pay your way in the world, then 1493 is probably perfect.

Alabama public schools turn to Wii to help fight childhood obesity

Marie Leech:

Ask most third-graders whether they’d rather run laps in hundred-degree temperatures or play a video game, and it doesn’t take a genius to correctly predict their answer.
What did take some brainpower, however, was figuring out how use that fondness for electronic games to get some of the same benefits as running.
Wee Can Fight Obesity is a fitness program for third-graders in Alabama public schools, and uses the Wii Fit Plus Bundle and EA Sports Active video games to improve physical fitness three days a week during P.E. class.
The one-year program is in 30 schools this year, and was in 30 different schools last year. The goal is to eventually offer the program to every elementary school.

Strike Hits Madrid’s High Schools

Jonathan House:

High-school teachers in the Spanish capital started a two-day strike Tuesday, disrupting the school days of hundreds of thousands of youths as opposition to sweeping austerity measures starts to harden ahead of general elections this November in the euro zone’s fourth-largest economy.
The Madrid protests were echoed by demonstrations across the country against spending cuts on education. Teachers in Galicia, in northwest Spain, have called a strike for later this month. The protests follow close on the heels of a series of rallies called by unions against new constitutional budget controls they say will undermine the social welfare state.
The cuts in education are part of a new round of austerity from regional governments as Spain aims to narrow its budget deficit to 6% of gross domestic product this year, from just over 9% in 2010. Most of the country’s 17 regions are now in the hands of the conservative Popular Party. Currently in the opposition at the national level, the Popular Party is widely tipped by opinion polls to win the Nov. 20 elections and oust the incumbent Socialists. If he becomes prime minister, party leader Mariano Rajoy has pledged to follow the example of austerity set by the regions, regardless of any public backlash.

NewSchools CEO Ted Mitchell: My Best Idea For K-12 Education

Nicole Perloth:

America’s school system is broken. On that the Forbes 400 can agree. America’s richest give more to education-related causes than to any other issue. But in terms of how best to reform education, there is little consensus.
Education-related causes that have materially benefited from Forbes 400 wealth vary from Michael Moritz’s $50 million check to his alma-mater Christ Church to Mark Zuckerberg’s $100 million donation to Newark’s public schools. Bill and Melinda Gates have focused their efforts on reorganizing high school curriculum, while Eli Broad believes our educators would benefit from managerial expertise. Their ideas are so divergent that this year, my colleagues and I reached out to a few billionaires, as well as a few recipients of their charity, to solicit their best ideas for K-12 education reform.

Unvaccinated Students Denied School Attendance, California

The State Column:

Middle school and high school students who have not received the required whooping cough vaccine are denied attendance at some California schools. This comes as a result of a law passed last year, after a spike in potentially fatal diseases swept through schools. Last year, there were 70 reported cases for whooping cough.
This law, passed in September 2010, required all students entering grades seventh through twelfth grade to be vaccinated by the start of 2011-2012 school year. Even after a 30 day extension period before the law went into effect, students were still unable to meet the deadline for the vaccination.

Putting our minds to helping immigrants learn English

Steve Lopez:

In my back-to-school column two weeks ago, I wrote that parents ought to look in the mirror before pinning all the blame for the state of education on schools and teachers.
Readers were with me on the idea that parents ought to be more engaged in their children’s education, whether they do so at home, on campus or by marching on Sacramento. But reactions split over my suggestion that parents who make no effort to learn English aren’t helping their kids or themselves.
As promised, here’s the follow-up.
And let me begin by saying that lack of parental involvement is a problem regardless of income or race. Are any parents more annoying than those who impose no discipline at home, then blame their child’s disruptive antics or lousy grades on the school, the curriculum or the teacher’s inability to recognize what a genius the child is?

Online education offers as much (if not more)

David Bornus:

Larry J. Crockett’s nostalgic commentary (“Online education doesn’t measure up,” Aug. 23) reminded me of a critique that might have been made by medieval apprenticeship guilds about the emergence of renaissance universities.
The world is changing; we no longer live in a prewired society where colleges act as “finishing schools” teaching table manners and deportment to impressionable youths. The modern world has become heavily virtualized, and education is no exception. The online medium actually enhances education in a number of ways:
1) No one can hide in a virtual classroom — all have opportunity to participate and are expected to do so, and everyone has ample time to make contributions to class discussions, to look up citations and compose their arguments.
Class discussion occurs in threaded discussion posts, meaning everyone participates and has time to read and respond to others, cite what others have said, look up reference material, and proofread their statements, all of which generally enhances the quality of class interaction.

Little Rock desegregation plans go back to court

Associated Press:

The state wants to end its long-running payments for desegregation programs, but three school districts that receive the money say they need it to continue key programs. And a federal judge has accused the schools of delaying desegregation so they can keep receiving an annual infusion of $70 million.
A federal appeals court will hear arguments Monday from both sides. The judges are expected to decide eventually whether Arkansas still has to make the payments and whether two of the districts should remain under court supervision.
The schools, which serve about 50,000 students, have come a long way since 1957, when the governor and hundreds of protesters famously tried to stop the Little Rock Nine from entering Central High School. But thousands of white and black children still have to be bused to different neighborhoods every day under one of the nation’s largest remaining court-ordered desegregation systems.
Now parents are worried about the schools’ future, and some are considering enrolling their children elsewhere.

Racine Unified union head may leave

Racine Journal Times:

The entity that oversees Racine Unified’s teachers’ and educational assistants’ unions is looking for a new executive director.
The job of executive director for the Racine Education Uniserv Council – which includes the Racine Education Association teachers’ union and the Racine Educational Assistants Association union – was posted online Sept. 1.
The executive director is involved in long-range planning, membership programs, contract negotiations, employment recommendations and accounting, among other duties, according to the job posting.

Putting Parents in Charge

Peg Tyre:

Peg Tyre is the author of “The Good School: How Smart Parents Get Their Kids the Education They Deserve.”
THE school year is in full swing and, if you are the parent of a school-age child, you’ve probably figured out how to get your children up each weekday morning, dressed and out the door — toast in hand — in order to catch the school bus. Good for you.
If you’ve met and exchanged contact information with your child’s homeroom teacher or gone the extra step and volunteered to become the class parent, give yourself a pat on the back. You’re on your way to becoming an engaged parent — the kind of adult, education researchers say, who helps children to be the best they can be in school.
Now, steady yourself. New legislation, called the parent trigger, which is being proposed in more than 20 states, including New York, is about to make your role as an engaged parent a lot more complicated.

Infographic: Student loan defaults rise as job prospects dim

Mary Mahling, Carla Uriona and Ben Wieder:

Student loan defaults are rising fast, according to figures released this week by the U.S. Department of Education. While much of the press coverage focused on defaults by students attending for-profit schools, defaults at state colleges and universities went up, too. The bad job market is a big factor: Unemployment in 2010 was 10.1 percent for people between the age of 25 to 34, and those numbers are even higher when you remove people above the age of 30. At the same time, state budget cuts to higher education have led to big tuition hikes at many public colleges. California students graduated from public colleges with the least debt in the country in 2009, but tuition jumped 18 percent last year for in-state students in California and double-digit increases are projected for the next several years, as well.

Starting College Later

Phil Bowermaster:

Some interesting comments from reader John Kennedy (no relation, as far as I know) on the recent poll about people’s reasons for going to college. He writes:

There’s another question in this discussion that I didn’t address in previous comment. Apparently, kids going to college with no clear goal is somehow thought stupid (that’s the implication). But I would ask, how many 17- or 18-year-olds have any idea about the real working world or about their own strengths and limitations? How many can think? What about having a chance to grow up a bit? This is also what college provides. OK, expensive? Do the first two years of general education at a community college, not perhaps a fine intellectual atmosphere, but possible to live at home, listen to the instructors, maybe get a clearer idea about personal and vocational possibilities.

In California, More Cuts Are in the Cards

Vauhini Vara:

California Gov. Jerry Brown already anticipates relying on spending cuts and forgoing higher taxes to balance his state’s budget next year, sobered by his deadlock with Republicans over revenue issues this year.
“There will be no taxes, as far as I know, by the legislature,” he said in an interview this week.
The Democrat also said he hasn’t decided whether to seek a ballot measure next year that would allow him to bypass the legislature and ask voters to boost taxes–apparently backing off earlier plans to do so. “I’m talking to groups…but we don’t have a clear path forward,” he said.
On Sept. 9, the last day of the legislature’s eight-month session, Mr. Brown failed to pass a plan to rework state tax breaks after GOP senators balked. It was the 73-year-old’s latest letdown after he unsuccessfully tried to pass a budget pairing deep cuts with the extension of some expiring tax increases. Those higher taxes would have been subject to voter approval.

Caps and gowns behind locked gates

Carla Rivera:

Friday was graduation day for Brian Steven Hernandez, a goal that was never a sure thing growing up in his tough North Hollywood neighborhood.
At Jack B. Clarke High School, within the locked gates of a state youth correctional facility in Norwalk, Hernandez realized he could turn his life around.
But Hernandez and his 22 classmates, proudly wearing maroon caps and gowns, are the last graduates to receive diplomas at Clarke, which is closing at year’s end due to state budget cuts.
“This is the place where I learned I could change if I wanted to,” said Hernandez, 20, who has been in juvenile detention for 5 years after being convicted of assault with a deadly weapon. “It sucks for the other kids that have to go to other places that are much harder places to be in to learn.”
Operated by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, the Southern Youth Correctional Reception Center and Clinic will be the third such facility to close since 2009. Shuttering the facility will save the state about $44 million annually, officials said.

Networked schools outperform independent schools in world’s largest school choice market

Anneliese Dickman:

Milwaukee’s private school voucher program, now in its twelfth year, is dwarfed by the 30-year-old voucher program in Chile, where almost half of all students attend private voucher schools. The Chilean program is therefore of significant interest to school reformers and researchers looking to make voucher and charter schools a success in the US.

The most recent research, published by the Cato Institute, finds that when the Chilean public school test scores are compared with those of independent private schools and with those of private schools that are part of multi-school networks or franchises, the students in the franchised private schools perform best. (The independent, mom-and-pop private schools do about the same as the public schools.) In addition, the Chilean research indicates the more schools there are in the franchised networks, the better they outperform the others.

The researchers note that in Chile, “The private voucher school sector is essentially a cottage industry. More than 70 percent of private voucher schools are independent schools that do not belong to a franchise.” The franchised schools are either owned by for-profit school management companies; affiliated with non-profit, secular organizations; or part of the Catholic or Protestant school systems.

Do these findings reflect what we know about Milwaukee’s program? Its hard to say, since only one year of comparative data on student performance in voucher schools is available and it does not differentiate between the various types of private schools. However, those data do indicate considerable variability in performance across Milwaukee’s voucher schools–some are producing high scoring students and some are no better than the worst public schools. It would be nice to know if all the high performing private schools had something in common besides the fact they participate in the voucher program.

Family Pioneers in Exploration of the Genome

Amy Dockser Marcus:

A group of researchers said that by examining the whole genome of a family of four, they were able to make unusually specific findings, including the daughter’s risk of blood clots, and suggestions for preventive care.
The study, published Thursday in the journal PLoS Genetics, was led by researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine in Palo Alto, Calif., but also listed as co-authors John and Anne West, a father and daughter who were researching their own genetic make-up at home in Silicon Valley and met the Stanford team in the process. The research is part of scientists’ continuing quest to extract truly useful information from the genome, a person’s complete genetic code.
This is the second time a paper has been published about a family’s whole genome. In the earlier paper, published last year in Science Express by a different group of researchers, the two children in the family had rare genetic conditions, and researchers were searching for the genes that caused them. The goal in the current study was to better predict the disease risk of a family and how family members might respond to medications.

For Nashville Schools, Homework Will Now Include Country, Rock and Rap

John Jurgenson:

Nashville bills itself as Music City-now it’s trying to lock in the future of that status. The city is overhauling its music education program across all 144 public schools, Mayor Karl Dean announced today at a press conference at the Ryman Auditorium, downtown Nashville’s temple of country music.
Classes in country, rock and rap will supplement the traditional curriculum of orchestra, choir and band. Instruction in songwriting, production and other skills such as DJ-ing will also be added to music theory and other existing offerings. The new program, dubbed Music Makes Us, will be funded through a mix of public and private funds, primarily commitments from Nashville’s deeply embedded music industry, which includes hundreds of record labels, publishers and venues, plus countless professional musicians.
“The music industry has picked this as their cause,” Mr. Dean said yesterday in an interview. “It just makes sense to take advantage of this asset we have here.”

A Digital Promise to Our Nation’s Children

Arne Duncan And Reed Hastings:

Student achievement and educational attainment have stagnated in the U.S., and a host of our leading economic competitors are now out-educating us. In a knowledge economy, such stagnation is a slow-acting recipe for obsolescence.
Imagine, though, an online high-school physics course that uses videogame graphics power to teach atomic interactions, or a second-grade online math curriculum that automatically adapts to individual students’ levels of knowledge. All of this will happen. The only question is: Will the U.S. lead the effort or will we follow other countries?
In the past two decades, technology has revolutionized the way Americans communicate, get news, socialize and conduct business. But technology has yet to transform our classrooms. At its full potential, technology could personalize and accelerate instruction for students of all educational levels. And it could provide equitable access to a world-class education for millions of students stuck attending substandard schools in cities, remote rural regions, and tribal reservations.
Other countries are far ahead of us in creating 21st-century classrooms. South Korea, which has the highest college attainment rate in the world, will phase out textbooks and replace them with digital products by 2015. Even Uruguay, a small country not known for leadership in technology, provides a computer for every student.

A better way for Madison Prep

Jack Craver:

If people want a charter school to be an inspiration to other youngsters in the community, here’s a better way to do it. Instead of building an entirely new school, which costs a ton and isolates the kids from the rest of their peers, why not go with the school within a school model, in which a charter is operated within an existing public school?
That’s the only original idea I have. Now here is my two cents on the rest of the plan.
I believe Kaleem Caire knows what he is talking about though. It’s frustrating to see a debate on the crisis facing minority students as polarized between the know-nothings on the right who believe the only issues facing blacks are self-inflicted cultural ones and the lefties who refuse to accept that anything besides racism and poverty are responsible for the poor performance of black males in America.
I saw the intersection of both the cultural and economic aspects that bring black guys down. At my high school, in Montclair, NJ, which was slightly majority-minority, blacks were not only much more likely to come from poor or uneducated backgrounds, but many black kids from well-to-do or educated families felt pressure to conform to the mainstream image of black Americans. To not be “oreos.” This, according to friends who spent their whole lives in Montclair, was one of the reasons why groups of friends were generally more integrated in grade school and middle school than in high school.

Comparing Wisconsin & Illinois Education “Reform”

Alan Borsuk:

Whoever thought before this year that Illinois would be held up as a model over Wisconsin of people – politicians, specifically – playing nicely together and making forward-thinking change?
But you hear that fairly often when it comes to education policy. It’s one of the things U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in Milwaukee on Sept. 9.
He criticized the way Gov. Scott Walker and legislative Republicans kiboshed teachers union rights and said Illinois did much better by coming up with bold changes that were passed by the legislature with support from both political parties, business and civic leaders, education activists and many (but not all) union leaders.
What Illinois did is noteworthy, especially if you consider what would have seemed doable anywhere in the United States five years ago.
Beginning with steps taken in 2010, Illinois’ Democratically controlled legislature is now mandating that a teacher’s actual performance be a key in assignments, tenure decisions, firing decisions, and, when necessary, layoffs. How students are progressing will be central to determining a teacher’s rating.
All these actions received broad support.

Pay for Only 4 Years of College. Guaranteed.

Alan Schwarz:

Each incoming freshman at Randolph-Macon College this year was eligible to take part in a brief signing ceremony.
The new student, along with a parent and the college president, could sign a special agreement that is emerging at some colleges and universities: As long as the student keeps up with academic work and meets regularly with advisers, the college guarantees that earning a degree there will take no more than four years.
If it fails to hold up its end of the bargain — if required classes are not available, or if advisers give poor counsel — the college promises to cover the cost of additional tuition until the degree is completed.
Four-year degree guarantees, as they have become known, are being offered at a growing number of smaller private colleges. They work as a marketing tool, giving colleges a way to ease parents’ fears that their children might enjoy college enough to stick around for five or six costly years. And they help to focus attention on the task at hand: graduating in four years.

Video games go viral at UW educational research lab

Ron Seely:

Upstairs in the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery, scientists toil away in their labs researching everything from stem cells to viruses.
Downstairs, you’ll find a very different kind of laboratory. In cubicles and makeshift computer labs, a number of people sit behind their screens — playing games. They’re not nerds, they’re researchers.
OK, they are a bit nerdy and seem as glued to their screens as any game-crazed teenager. But there is science being done here, too. This is Susan Millar’s computer lab, the Educational Research Integration Area in the Morgridge Institute for Research, where researchers design and build games that help teach and communicate science — everything from the formation and perils of blue-green algae to the workings of viruses.
On a recent afternoon, in a darkened conference area, several programmers, designers and artists worked in the reflected blue light from their machines, racing to finish the newest version of one of the lab’s most successful and popular efforts, a game called Virulent that can be found in the iTunes store and boasts 2,000 downloads.
And it’s a game that doesn’t involve guns or race cars or football players. It’s about viruses.

For Student Borrowers, a Hard Truth

Annamaria Andriotis:

As many students and parents struggle to make payments on their student loans, many are finding this debt comes with some serious strings attached.
After years of economic difficulty and rising college tuition, the recent news that the default rate on federal student loans has risen came as little surprise to many. Nearly one in ten federal student-loan borrowers defaulted during the two years ended Sept. 30, 2010, meaning they failed to make a payment on their loans for more than 270 days, according to the Department of Education. That’s up from 7% in 2008. Much of that increase came from for-profit colleges, whose students’ default rate jumped to 15% from 11.6%, but the default rate among students at public and private, four-year universities also increased.
What many people may not realize, however, when taking out a student loan is just how different it is from other kinds of debt. Credit-card debt, for example, can be wiped out in bankruptcy. Mortgages can be discharged through foreclosure. For borrowers with crippling student loan debt, financial failure offers no such fresh start. The loan still must be paid off, and often with new collection costs tacked on, making it much more expensive than before. On top of that, up to 25% of a person’s wages can be deducted until the loan is paid back in full. (Private lenders must get court approval for wage garnishment and the amount they can take varies.) With federal loans, the government can also keep your federal and state income tax refunds, intercept future lottery winnings and withhold part of your Social Security payments. “Defaulting can be completely devastating to a family’s finances and sense of well being,” says Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of and

The Case for Paying College Athletes

Ben Cohen:

Somebody will win Saturday’s football game between Ohio State and Miami, which has been jokingly dubbed “the IneligiBowl.” But no matter the outcome, neither team can fairly consider itself a winner.
Both of these football powerhouses are under NCAA investigation for alleged rules violations in which athletes were given cash, gifts and services ranging from tattoos to wild parties on a private yacht. The NCAA, which is rightly determined to make sure its championships can’t be bought, forbids athletes from taking anything from supporters beyond the benefits in their scholarships.
As the muck thickens, the narrative that has taken hold is that the lucrative end of college sports–particularly football–is a fetid swamp that needs to be drained and disinfected. But amid all the righteous indignation, there’s a small but incongruous fact lurking just outside the picture: In most cases where college athletes take money, the sums are pretty small.

The Shame of College Sports

Taylor Branch:

A litany of scandals in recent years have made the corruption of college sports constant front-page news. We profess outrage each time we learn that yet another student-athlete has been taking money under the table. But the real scandal is the very structure of college sports, wherein student-athletes generate billions of dollars for universities and private companies while earning nothing for themselves. Here, a leading civil-rights historian makes the case for paying college athletes–and reveals how a spate of lawsuits working their way through the courts could destroy the NCAA.
“I’m not hiding,” Sonny Vaccaro told a closed hearing at the Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C., in 2001. “We want to put our materials on the bodies of your athletes, and the best way to do that is buy your school. Or buy your coach.”
How to Fix College Sports Vaccaro’s audience, the members of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, bristled. These were eminent reformers–among them the president of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, two former heads of the U.S. Olympic Committee, and several university presidents and chancellors. The Knight Foundation, a nonprofit that takes an interest in college athletics as part of its concern with civic life, had tasked them with saving college sports from runaway commercialism as embodied by the likes of Vaccaro, who, since signing his pioneering shoe contract with Michael Jordan in 1984, had built sponsorship empires successively at Nike, Adidas, and Reebok. Not all the members could hide their scorn for the “sneaker pimp” of schoolyard hustle, who boasted of writing checks for millions to everybody in higher education.

Taking the Dread Out of Phys Ed

Sue Shellenbarger:

For many middle school students, the words “Phys Ed” are enough to provoke fear–fear of getting dressed in the locker room, of wearing a nerdy uniform, of looking clumsy, of being picked last.
Tammy Brant, a gym teacher at Selma Middle School, in Selma, Ind., is rethinking the way schools have taught girls and boys about fitness. Instead of group calisthenics and contests that favor the most athletic kids, Ms. Brant, like many other teachers nationwide, devotes class time to fitness instruction and to games structured so that more kids can play and enjoy.
Instead of pushing everyone to hit specific performance targets, she urges them to progress toward individualized “fitness zones.” She teaches the stages of a workout–warm-up, training, cool-down–and straps a heart monitor on each child. The goal is to instill healthy habits for life.

Can you name successful parent coup?

Jay Matthews:

Joseph Hawkins, senior study director at the Rockville.-based research group Westat, read my recent attack on the Parent Trigger Law in California and issued a challenge:
“If we put 10 hot-shot education reporters together in a room and asked this question I think the answer would be zero: ‘In the past 10 years of school reform, can you list any schools where a parent revolution took place?'”
Hawkins said he is talking about a successful parent rebellion– “meaning that the parents were fed up with low performance and they literally took over the school and improved it–demanded that it become better.”
He said “I don’t think such parent ‘revolutions’ ever take place at all. We probably could find some schools where a group of fed-up parents started their own charter, but I’m talking about something totally different. I’m pretty sure that both us have been in those low performing schools where many parents when quizzed in depth about their school confessed their frustrations. But mounting a coup d’état? Out of the question.”

My Family’s Experiment in Extreme Schooling

Clifford Levy:

The phone rang, and my stomach clenched when I heard her voice. “Daddy? I want to go home,” said my 8-year-old daughter, Arden. Two hours earlier, I dropped Arden and her two siblings off at their new school in a squat building in a forest of Soviet-era apartment blocks on Krasnoarmeyskaya (Red Army) Street in Moscow. They hugged me goodbye, clinging a little too long, and as I rode the metro to my office, I said a kind of silent prayer to myself that they would get through the day without falling apart.
But Arden had just spent the minutes between class periods hiding in the bathroom so no one would see her crying. Finally, she composed herself, found her teacher and pantomimed that she needed to talk to me. “I don’t understand . . . anything,” she told me. I tried to respond with soothing words, but I had no idea what to do. You can tell your kid to tough it out when she transfers from one school to another in your hometown. This was different.

MBA applications: How to beat the drop

The Economist:

The Graduate Management Admission Council’s latest report on business-school applications makes for grim reading. According to its 2011 Application Trends Survey (PDF) over two-thirds of schools worldwide say that they have seen applications to their two-year full-time MBA programmes fall over the last year. Meanwhile, 57% also reported a drop in applications to one-year full-time programmes.
There may be several contributing factors. With applications at an all time high the year before (generally applications to business schools rise in tough economic times) there is an element of a return to normality. Still, this doesn’t account for all of the collapse.
Dave Wilson, GMAC’s president, says it may not be that there has been a shocking drop in the number of applicants, rather that each candidate is applying to fewer schools. This is interesting because one explanation could be that more students are only applying for local programmes, where there is a limited choice. If true, this fits neatly with the projections of many of those predicting tough times ahead for business schools.

New Haven’s School Effort Hits Hurdles

Shelly Banjo:

A dozen students in uniforms of white-collared shirts and blue slacks looked up attentively at their sixth-grade teachers at the Brennan Rogers School on the first day of school this year.
“We will never make you do something that doesn’t guide you to a purpose, we’re not here to waste your time,” said second-year teacher Kimberlee Henry. Her students nodded. “Everything you will do this year will prepare you for something else, giving you the skills you need to go on to high school, college, and excel at life.”
The school’s focus wasn’t always as sharp. Brennan Rogers, which has about 360 kindergarten through eighth-graders, spent decades failing its students. Parents commonly campaigned for transfers to other schools that weren’t plagued with violence and lagging from inattention.
Now, the school serves as the centerpiece of a sweeping reform effort launched three years ago by New Haven Mayor John DeStefano to turn around this inner-city district, where one in four children drops out every year and test scores have languished for decades.

THE DARK SIDE: Religion has no place in public schools

David Ziemer:

Many years ago, I attended a public high school student’s graduation ceremony out in what I consider the sticks.
I was amazed at the overt Christianity. There was a prayer at the beginning, and again at the end. The commencement speeches were full of references to God.
My own public high school was roughly one-third Jewish, so this wouldn’t have flown. Someone would have sued, and rightfully so. A Jewish student should be able to go to his own public high school graduation without being told he needs to pray to Jesus Christ.
But out in the sticks, I guess, that sort of thing was okay.
Being a lawyer, I approached the father of the graduate, knowing he was not religious, and asked if he would like to bring a lawsuit against the school district. He said he found the ceremony offensive, but that he owns a business in that town, and he was certainly not going to bring a lawsuit just because they turned his son’s graduation ceremony into a revival meeting. Fair enough. I let the matter drop.

Only 20 states check test-tampering

Jay Matthews:

USA Today, in the persons of reporters Marisol Bello and Greg Toppo, has a new ground-breaking report on the feeble response to standardized test-tampering in America.
Bello and former USA Today reporter Jack Gillum exposed test security problems in the D.C. schools. Now, we learn that most states are even worse than D.C. because they don’t bother even to look for evidence of unusual numbers of wrong-to-right erasures.
USA Today reports that only 20 states and the District do any erasure analysis. Four others give tests online (a good way to prevent principals from changing answers after the kids go home) and so don’t have erasures to check. It said five other states, including Maryland, plan to check erasures next year because of the outbreak of cheating scandals in Atlanta, Baltimore, Philadelphia and the District. New York may do the same.

SAT Reading, Writing Scores Hit Low

Stephanie Banchero:

SAT scores for the high-school graduating class of 2011 fell in all three subject areas, and the average reading and writing scores were the lowest ever recorded, according to data released on Wednesday.
The results from the college-entrance exam, taken by about 1.6 million students, also revealed that only 43% of students posted a score high enough to indicate they were ready to succeed in college, according to the College Board, the nonprofit that administers the exam. Students had to score a 1550 out of a possible 2400 to meet that benchmark, which would indicate a 65% chance of getting at least a B-minus average in the first year of college, the Board calculated.
The report on the SAT, long known as the Scholastic Aptitude Test, comes on the heels of results from the ACT college-entrance exam that suggested only 25% of high-school graduates who took that exam were ready for college. And results from national high-school math and reading exams show only modest progress over the past five years. The data highlight the difficult task faced by the Obama administration in pursuing education policies to help Americans remain globally competitive.

Michael Alison Chandler:

SAT reading scores for graduating high school seniors this year reached the lowest point in nearly four decades, reflecting a steady decline in performance in that subject on the college admissions test, the College Board reported Wednesday.
In the Washington area, one of the nation’s leading producers of college-bound students, educators were scrambling to understand double-digit drops in test scores in Montgomery and Prince William counties and elsewhere.

Fight about affirmative action in school admissions all about context

Chris Rickert:

The most striking thing about Tuesday’s press conference on UW-Madison’s alleged affirmative-action-driven bias against white and Asian applicants was not the loud, mildly violent protest that overran it.
It was the university professor who publicly touted the rising admission rate for white students and the declining rate for blacks. This from an institution that only 11 years ago was so worried about its less-than-diverse image that it Photoshopped a black student onto an admissions catalog.
That aside, nothing about the presser/protest was all that ground-breaking, and Roger Clegg, president of the conservative outfit that did the study showing UW’s bias, got to the nut of the whole affair in only about 35 minutes.
“I view discrimination as something that happens to individuals, rather than something that happens to aggregate groups,” he said.
Read more:

why do people still buy books?

jared tame:

there’s been a lot going on recently with books. i’ve been watching eric ries and i’m blown away by how successful he’s been at promoting his book the lean startup. i saw that @dharmesh wrote about it at, and tweeting out small agreeable little tidbits from the book is genius–i don’t know whether this was intentional or not, but that’s an awesome idea.
i met noah kagan last friday to catch up over drinks at showdown in sf, and i met someone interesting there: laura roeder. i usually meet people who claim to be “social media experts” (as every hacker reading this rolls their eyes) but this woman actually had a significant following and presence on twitter and facebook, and not one of those fake “follow me and i’ll auto-follow you back” type of things. i dropped in on a small video conference she was doing today corresponding to her book launch, which i had not realized she was working on (for some reason, she didn’t mention it when we met, even though i had mentioned startups open sourced was paying my rent at this point).

Visualizing the uneven geographies of knowledge production and circulation

Kris Olds & Susan Robertson:

As noted in a previous entry (‘Visualizing the globalization of higher education and research‘), we’ve been keen to both develop and promote high quality visualizations associated with the globalization of higher education and research. On this note, the wonderful Floating Sheep collective recently informed me about some new graphics that will be published in:
Graham, M., Hale, S. A., and Stephens, M. (2011) Geographies of the World’s Knowledge, London, Convoco! Edition.

Judging schools by advanced scores

Jay Matthews:

Journalists like me get into ruts. We pick one way of describing data and stick with it. I tell myself that I would confuse readers if I made changes. That might be an excuse for laziness and lack of imagination.
A habit I share with many education writers is presenting school test results one way: the percentage of students who score proficient or above. I ignore a subset of that proficient group, the percentage who achieve at the higher, advanced level.
The advanced percentages are impressive in the Washington suburbs, because they have some of the highest average family incomes in the country. The District is different. Most of its public school students are from low-income families. But I have been noticing some D.C. schools with impressive percentages of students scoring not just proficient but advanced. What would those schools look like if we reported that higher order of achievement? In the long term, don’t we want as many students as possible to be learning at the advanced level?

The Dark Side of the Placebo Effect: When Intense Belief Kills

Alexis Madrigal:

They died in their sleep one by one, thousands of miles from home. Their median age was 33. All but one — 116 of the 117 — were healthy men. Immigrants from southeast Asia, you could count the time most had spent on American soil in just months. At the peak of the deaths in the early 1980s, the death rate from this mysterious problem among the Hmong ethnic group was equivalent to the top five natural causes of death for other American men in their age group.
Something was killing Hmong men in their sleep, and no one could figure out what it was. There was no obvious cause of death. None of them had been sick, physically. The men weren’t clustered all that tightly, geographically speaking. They were united by dislocation from Laos and a shared culture, but little else. Even House would have been stumped.
Doctors gave the problem a name, the kind that reeks of defeat, a dragon label on the edge of the known medical world: Sudden Unexpected Nocturnal Death Syndrome. SUNDS. It didn’t do much in terms of diagnosis or treatment, but it was easier to track the periodic conferences dedicated to understanding the problem.

50 Years of Stupid Grammar Advice

Geoffrey K. Pullum

April 16 is the 50th anniversary of the publication of a little book that is loved and admired throughout American academe. Celebrations, readings, and toasts are being held, and a commemorative edition has been released.
I won’t be celebrating.
The Elements of Style does not deserve the enormous esteem in which it is held by American college graduates. Its advice ranges from limp platitudes to inconsistent nonsense. Its enormous influence has not improved American students’ grasp of English grammar; it has significantly degraded it.
The authors won’t be hurt by these critical remarks. They are long dead. William Strunk was a professor of English at Cornell about a hundred years ago, and E.B. White, later the much-admired author of Charlotte’s Web, took English with him in 1919, purchasing as a required text the first edition, which Strunk had published privately. After Strunk’s death, White published a New Yorker article reminiscing about him and was asked by Macmillan to revise and expand Elements for commercial publication. It took off like a rocket (in 1959) and has sold millions.

Study: College graduates driving increase in bankruptcy filings

Ylan Mui:

College graduates are the fastest-growing group of consumers who have filed for bankruptcy protection in the past five years, according to a new study by a financial nonprofit, which underscores the broad reach of the Great Recession.
The survey by the Institute for Financial Literacy, slated for release Tuesday, found that the percentage of debtors with a bachelor’s degree rose from 11.2 percent in 2006 to 13.6 percent in 2010. The group tracked similar but smaller increases in consumers with two-year associate and graduate degrees. Meanwhile, the percentage of debtors with a high school diploma or who did not finish college declined.

SpongeBob Found to Impair Preschoolers’ Thinking — Should You Be Worried?

Matt Blum:

Who lives in a pineapple under the sea?
SpongeBob SquarePants!
Rot your kids’ brains right there in their heads will he.
SpongeBob SquarePants!
There’s a lot of hullabaloo on the web today about a newly-published study out of the University of Virginia that shows that preschoolers who watched SpongeBob SquarePants had increased difficulty performing tasks requiring focus and self-control. The study draws the conclusion that watching a fast-paced TV show negatively affects kids’ cognitive functioning for a short time after watching it.
The scientists conducting the study, which was published in the journal Pediatrics, took a group of 60 four-year-olds, mostly from white, middle-class families, and randomly separated the kids into three groups: one which watched a part of a SpongeBob episode, one which watched a similar amount of a Caillou episode, and one which simply did some free-drawing and watched no TV. After that phase was over, they gave the children a set of tasks to do which required what’s called “executive function,” a term which refers to a set of skills related to goal-directed behavior — including attention, self-regulation, problem-solving, and ability to deal with delayed gratification. They consistently found that the kids who had watched SpongeBob did significantly worse at the tasks than the kids in either of the other groups.

More Arkansas students taking AP classes, passing, education officials say

Rob Moritz:

The number of Arkansas students taking Advance Placements tests in math, science and English has risen 32 percent in the past five years and there has been a nearly 50 percent rise in the number of students receiving qualifying scores, state education officials heard today.
Also, the state Board of Education learned of an academic turnaround for a Fort Smith elementary which last year ranked among the lowest performing school in the state.
Tommie Sue Anthony, president of the Arkansas Advanced Initiative for Math and Sciences, which is funded primarily through a grant from the national Math and Science Initiative, told board members that the number of students achieving scores of 3 or better on AP math, science and English scores — the highest possible score is 5 — increased in Arkansas by 46 percent from 2007 to 2011.

Unions Lead In Wisconin Lobbying In First Half Of 2011

Wisconsin Governmant Accountability Board:

Four labor unions spent $4.2 million in the first half of 2011 lobbying state lawmakers, according to a report from the Government Accountability Board.
Overall, lobbying organizations reported spending $23.9 million, a 15 percent increase over the first six months of the 2009-2010 legislative session.
The first-half 2011 report analyzes the activities of 707 lobbying principals and 725 registered lobbyists.
“Wisconsin has a strong lobby law which requires that the public has ready access to information on the amount and sources of money used to influence legislation,” said Kevin J. Kennedy, director and general counsel of the Government Accountability Board. “The Board’s Eye on Lobbying online database allows the public to keep track of lobbying activities at the Capitol without leaving home.”

The Importance of Geographic Literacy in Liberal Arts Education

Tim Flower:

Last Thursday, Dr. Christopher Sutton, professor of geography at Western Illinois University, delivered the ninth annual John Hallwas Liberal Arts Lecture, entitled “Geography Matters! The Importance of Geographic Literacy in Liberal Arts Education.”
“Everybody views the world in a geographical context,” he said. “We do it all the time in our everyday pursuits.”
Sutton believes that geography has escaped public interest due to a lack of mainstream understanding.
“We seem to not have a good sense of what it is, who does it, and why in the world we actually do it,” he said.
At its simplest, he explained, the study of geography is devoted to further understanding the connections between humans and the world around them.
“We’re interested in understanding the links between humans and their natural environment,” he said. “We’re interested in the linkages that exist between people, and how our connections that exist between people and cultures and governments and the economies affect one another.”

What if the Secret to School Success Is Failure?

Paul Tough, via a kind reader’s email:

Dominic Randolph can seem a little out of place at Riverdale Country School — which is odd, because he’s the headmaster. Riverdale is one of New York City’s most prestigious private schools, with a 104-year-old campus that looks down grandly on Van Cortlandt Park from the top of a steep hill in the richest part of the Bronx. On the discussion boards of, worked-up moms from the Upper East Side argue over whether Riverdale sends enough seniors to Harvard, Yale and Princeton to be considered truly “TT” (top-tier, in UrbanBabyese), or whether it is more accurately labeled “2T” (second-tier), but it is, certainly, part of the city’s private-school elite, a place members of the establishment send their kids to learn to be members of the establishment. Tuition starts at $38,500 a year, and that’s for prekindergarten.
Randolph, by contrast, comes across as an iconoclast, a disrupter, even a bit of an eccentric. He dresses for work every day in a black suit with a narrow tie, and the outfit, plus his cool demeanor and sweep of graying hair, makes you wonder, when you first meet him, if he might have played sax in a ska band in the ’80s. (The English accent helps.) He is a big thinker, always chasing new ideas, and a conversation with him can feel like a one-man TED conference, dotted with references to the latest work by behavioral psychologists and management gurus and design theorists. When he became headmaster in 2007, he swapped offices with his secretary, giving her the reclusive inner sanctum where previous headmasters sat and remodeling the small outer reception area into his own open-concept work space, its walls covered with whiteboard paint on which he sketches ideas and slogans. One day when I visited, one wall was bare except for a white sheet of paper. On it was printed a single black question mark.
For the headmaster of an intensely competitive school, Randolph, who is 49, is surprisingly skeptical about many of the basic elements of a contemporary high-stakes American education. He did away with Advanced Placement classes in the high school soon after he arrived at Riverdale; he encourages his teachers to limit the homework they assign; and he says that the standardized tests that Riverdale and other private schools require for admission to kindergarten and to middle school are “a patently unfair system” because they evaluate students almost entirely by I.Q. “This push on tests,” he told me, “is missing out on some serious parts of what it means to be a successful human.”

Education: crisis reinforces importance of a good education, says OECD


People with university degrees have suffered far fewer job losses during the global economic crisis than those who left school without qualifications, according to the latest edition of the OECD’s annual Education at a Glance. Good education and skills are crucial to improving a person’s economic and social prospects.
Unemployment rates among university graduates stood at 4.4% on average across OECD countries in 2009. But people who did not complete high school faced unemployment rates of 11.5%, up from 8.7% the year before. This adds to the huge problem of youth unemployment that today exceeds 17% in the OECD area.
“The cost to individuals and society of young people leaving school without a qualification keeps rising,” said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría. “We must avoid the risk of a lost generation by all means. Despite strained public budgets, governments must keep up their investment to maintain quality in education, especially for those most at risk.”

Why you need to become an Expert

Conditioned for Accomplishments:

Recently I interviewed many experts to find out how they got to where they are. They ranged from world champion arm wrestlers to New York Times bestselling authors. I wanted to know what made them tick and if they were really any different from you and I.
The first thing I did was to redefine what an expert is. Often we hear the word expert and we think of one person who is unique above any other person. He or she has developed qualities and skill that surpass the average person, but that is not what it means to be an expert.
An expert is someone who has tested or tried, a person who is wise through experience.

One of the world’s oldest publishing companies brought in a ringer to revolutionize the way the company does business. The result? The first fully-interactive textbook

Eric Markowitz:

Nature Publishing Group, which publishes several highly regarded scientific journals and textbooks, was founded in England in 1869, eight years before electric lights illuminated the streets of London. Now, 140 years later, with the help of Harvard Classics scholar Vikram Savkar, the company is beginning to disrupt the traditional textbook model that it helped to create. This month at California State University, the company released Principles of Biology, an interactive, constantly updating biology textbook that retails for less than $50. Like most digital textbooks, the software is accessible on laptops and tablets, but unlike most digital textbooks, it’s not just a scan of a .pdf. The company calls it a “digital reinvention of the textbook,” meaning that students can interact with the material; they can literally match amino acids and corresponding DNA with their fingers.’s Eric Markowitz spoke with Vikram Savkar about what it takes to create a culture of innovation in an old-school company.

26 National Merit Semifinalists from Madison West High School

Susan Troller:

It’s not supposed to be a competition among schools or states, or anything beyond the recognition of individual academic excellence. But the numbers of students from West High School ranking as semifinalists in the annual National Merit Scholarship Program are always impressive, and this year is no exception.
Twenty-six West students are on the list, announced Wednesday. Other Madison students who will be now eligible to continue in the quest for some 8,300 National Merit Scholarships, worth more than $34 million, include 10 students from Memorial, six from Edgewood, five from East, one from St. Ambrose Academy and one home-schooled student. Winning National Merit scholars will be announced in the spring of 2012.
Other area semifinalists include 20 additional students from around Dane County, including seven students from Middleton High School, four from Stoughton High School, three from Mount Horeb High School and one student each from Belleville High School, DeForest High School, Monona Grove High School, Sun Prairie High School, Waunakee High School and a Verona student who is home-schooled.

Much more on national merit scholars, here.
A Deeper Look at Madison’s National Merit Scholar Results.
Madison School Board member Ed Hughes’ recent blog post:

We brag about how well Wisconsin students do on the ACT, and this is certainly good. But about 30 states have higher cut scores than Wisconsin when it comes to identifying National Merit Scholars, which means that their top 1% of students taking the test score higher than our top 1% do. (We in the MMSD are justly proud of our inordinate number of National Merit semi-finalists, but if – heaven forbid – MMSD were to be plopped down in the middle of Illinois, our number of semi-finalists would go down, perhaps significantly so. Illinois students need a higher score on the PSAT to be designated a National Merit semi-finalist than Wisconsin students do.)

Qualifying Scores for the Class of 2011 National Merit Semifinalists:

Illinois 214
Minnesota 213
Iowa 209
Massachusetts 223
Michigan 209
Texas 215
Wisconsin 209

Chicago Teachers union: Pattern longer CPS day after Emanuel kids’ school

Rosalind Rossi:

Using the elite private school where Mayor Rahm Emanuel now sends his kids as a starting point, Chicago Teachers Union officials have crafted a proposed schedule that adds 75 minutes to the typical public elementary school student’s day.
The union’s latest salvo in the battle over a longer school day uses as a comparison point the schedule of one third-grade classroom at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, union officials said Tuesday.
Just like at what U of C kids often call “the Lab School,” the CTU proposal offers a well-rounded curriculum featuring far more art, music, physical education and other extras than most CPS kids now get and even includes the study of a second language.
Ultimately, the proposed CTU schedule would provide an even longer school day than the Lab School , where a third-grader’s tuition is $21,876. And it does so without requiring Chicago Public School teachers to add any minutes to their work day.

R.I. union leaders says national study shows 20 percent of charter schools perform better than traditional public schools and 40 percent perform worse

James Parisi:

During a recent discussion on Channel 10’s “News Conference” about efforts to expand charter schools in Rhode Island, James Parisi, field representative and lobbyist for the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals, challenged the notion that charter schools improve student performance.
“I think one of the studies that I pay most attention to,” Parisi said, “indicated, on a nationwide basis, looking at two and a half thousand charter schools around the country, maybe 20 percent do better than the community public schools, 40 percent or so do worse and the rest are not having any significant difference.”
Rhode Island has 16 charter schools, including a new one opening Sept. 7, and more are expected to open soon. The state has a three-year, $9.4-million federal grant to expand existing charter schools, open additional ones and build partnerships between charter and traditional public schools.

Reinventing California’s higher education system

John Aubrey Douglass:

For most of the 20th century, California led the nation — and the world — in the number of high school graduates who went on to college and earned degrees. Its famed public higher education system profoundly shaped the aspirations of the state’s citizens and, ultimately, their views on what it meant to be a Californian. That system also attracted talent from throughout the nation and the world, and it helped build and sustain an entrepreneurial spirit that shaped new sectors of the state’s economy — from microchips to biotechnology.
California’s higher education system will help define the state’s future too. However, the next chapter may be much less positive. The danger signs are numerous: falling public funding on a per-student basis, unprecedented limits on new enrollments, cuts in faculty positions and relatively low degree-production rates compared with economic competitors in Europe, Asia and other parts of the world. Whereas California was always among the top states in degree-completion rates, it now ranks among the bottom 10. And yet educational attainment levels are exactly what predicts the overall economic performance of states and nations.

Panel: Strict school discipline should be scrapped

Ivan Moreno:

Colorado lawmakers and police said Monday that strict disciplinary policies at schools created after the Columbine High School shootings should be scaled back or scrapped and that administrators should have more control over student punishment.
The state laws put in place after high-profile cases of youth violence have tied the hands of school administrators with zero-policy standard, said members of a panel looking at school discipline trends. In turn, the officials are left with no choice but to refer a high number of students to law enforcement for minor offenses that pose no threat to school safety, they said.
“Zero tolerance has outlived its shelf life and is often inappropriately and inconsistently applied,” John Jackson, the police chief for Greenwood Village, wrote in a memo by the panel. He suggested that officials come up with a better definition for what’s considered a “dangerous weapon” on school grounds.

Madison Preparatory Academy today announced its inaugural Board of Directors

Laura DeRoche-Perez, via email:

Media Release
Madison Preparatory Academy today announced its inaugural Board of Directors. Board members represent a diverse cross-section of corporate and community leaders from the Greater Madison area who are all passionate about and dedicated to ensuring Madison Prep becomes a reality for young men and women. They are:
Tyler Beck, Undergraduate Student, UW-Madison
Dave Boyer, CEO, MCD, Inc.
David Cagigal, Vice Chair, Urban League of Greater Madison
Elizabeth Donley, CEO, Stemina Corporation
Rosa Frazier, Clinical Professor/Immigration Law, UW-Madison Law School
Dennis Haefer, Vice President of Commercial Banking, Johnson Bank
Donna Hurd, Executive Director, Boardman Law Firm
Torrey Jaeckle, Vice President, Jaeckle Distributors
Rev. Richard Jones, Pastor, Mount Zion Baptist Church
Gloria Ladson-Billings, Chair of Urban Education and Professor of Curriculum & Instruction and Education Policy Studies, UW-Madison
Maddy Niebauer, Managing Director of Strategy & Human Assets, Teach for America
J. Marshall Osborn, Retired Math Professor, UW-Madison
Fran Petonic, President, Meriter Foundation
John Roach, Owner & CEO, John Roach Projects
Mario Garcia Sierra, Director of Programs, Centro Hispano
Derrick Smith, Area Manager, Thermo Fisher Scientific Corporation
Terrence Wall, President, T. Wall Properties
About Madison Preparatory Academy:
Madison Preparatory Academy (Madison Prep) is a tuition-free public charter school that will serve as a catalyst for change and opportunity, particularly for young people of color. Its mission is to prepare students for success at a four year college or university by instilling excellence, pride, leadership, and service. The school will open in the Fall of 2012 to students in the Madison Metropolitan School District, pending approval from the Board of Education in the Fall of 2011.
For more information, contact Laura DeRoche-Perez at 608-729-1230 or

Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter school, here.

Caire, supporters have steep uphill battle

Chris Rickert:

It’s no surprise Kaleem Caire, a black man and head of the Urban League of Greater Madison, took a lot of guff from pundits last week after he banned the media from a forum for parents of black school children.
Strike at our bread and butter — access — and we shall strike back.
I wrote Thursday that closing a meeting on a topic already so fraught with sidestepping — race — doesn’t really move us toward honest talk.
After speaking with Caire on Friday, I still think that’s true. But it also might be beside the point.
Caire and his proposed Madison Prep charter school are conundrums for those who control the city’s levers of power, who are overwhelmingly liberal, middle class and white.

The 1979 6-Year-Old: Less Reading, More Range

KJ Dell Antonia:

Is your child ready for first grade? Earlier this month, Chicago Now blogger Christine Whitley reprinted a checklist from a 1979 child-rearing series designed to help a parent figure that one out. Ten out of 12 meant readiness. Can your child “draw and color and stay within the lines of the design being colored?” Of course. Can she count “eight to ten pennies correctly?” Heck, yeah, I say for parents of kindergarteners everywhere. “Does your child try to write or copy letters or numbers?” Isn’t that what preschool is for?
“Can he travel alone in the neighborhood (four to eight blocks) to store, school, playground, or to a friend’s home?”
It’s amazing what a difference 30 years have made. Academically, that 1979 first grader (who also needed to be “six years, six months” old and “have two to five permanent or second teeth”) would have been considered right on target to start preschool. In terms of life skills, she’s heading for middle school, riding her two-wheeled bike and finding her own way home. It’s not surprising that I came to this link via Lenore Skenazy’s Free-Range Kids blog. What is surprising is just how shocking a jolt it is to realize how stark the difference is between then and now.

WEAC has its own union troubles

Daniel Bice:

Wisconsin’s largest teachers union has a problem.
A union problem.
This week, National Support Organization, which bills itself as the world’s largest union of union staffers, posted an online notice discouraging its members from seeking work with the Wisconsin Education Association Council.
“Don’t apply for WEAC vacancies!” screams the headline.
The reason for the boycott?
Chuck Agerstrand, president of the National Support Organization, is accusing WEAC officials of “breaching staff contracts and destroying any working relationship with its employees.”
“WEAC management is taking a page out of Gov. (Scott) Walker’s playbook and making up new employment rules not in the (United Staff Union) contract,” Agerstrand said on the labor group’s website. “They should be looking to the 42 employees they laid off to fill vacancies before they go outside the state.”

Student-Loan Default Rate Rises

Kevin Hilliker:

The percentage of federal student-loan borrowers who defaulted during the two years ended last Sept. 30 rose to 8.8% from 7%, according to figures that the U.S. Department of Education released Monday.
That increase reflects the difficulty graduates are facing finding jobs amid a weak economy, particularly those who attended for-profit schools. The default rate for for-profit schools rose to 15% from 11.6%, compared with a rise to 7.2% from 6% at public institutions and a jump to 4.6% from 4% at private institutions.

New Jersey school accountability task force report

New Jersey, via a kind Chan Stroman-Roll email:

To be sure, the Task Force recognizes, these are not always easy lines to draw. How do we define the level of school failure that is sufficiently injurious to children that we can no longer afford to “empower” districts with the authority to be the primary decision-maker? In addition to the core duty of setting goals and enforcing a schedule of consequences for failure, are there other areas that are so central to success that a state should continue to hold them “tight” rather than devolve them to local control?
(Examples might include teacher certification and evaluation criteria, requirements that schools have systems and processes in place to enable data driven decision-making to adjust instruction and address deficiencies, or matters related to health and safety.) As the entity ultimately responsible for the fiscal health of the State and the legal distribution of hundreds of millions of dollars of federal funds, should state authorities reserve a larger measure of involvement to assure that districts are responsible wards
of taxpayers’ money?
These are difficult questions, which the Task Force will continue to wrestle with throughout its tenure.Whatever the answer in these more nuanced areas however, the Task Force believes that there is much that can and should be accomplished as quickly as possible with respect to the two inextricably connected elements of the Governor’s charge: 1) an evaluation and redesign of the State’s accountability system, and 2) reduction of “empowerment – restricting” red tape.
With respect to the first, the Task force has concluded that the State’s accountability system warrants significant revision. More likely to frustrate than positively affect behavior, the system is a patchwork of essentially unconnected, sometimes contradictory, federal (No Child Left Behind) and State (QSAC, etc.)mandates.

Scottish teachers in strike ballot over pensions


Members of Scotland’s largest teaching union are to be balloted on strike action over proposed changes to teachers’ pensions.
The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) is to recommend that its members vote in favour of a strike, with action set to begin in November.
Its executive committee agreed to send out ballot papers later this month.
EIS general secretary Ronnie Smith claimed teachers had already taken their fair share of pain.
The decision comes after an EIS sub-committee recommended balloting its members over UK government proposals to increase pension contributions while reducing the amount teachers will receive in retirement.

Brainwave controllers: Put your thinking cap on

The Economist:

THE idea of moving objects with the power of the mind has fascinated mankind for millennia. At first it was the province of gods, then sorcerers and witches. In the late 19th century psychokinesis, as the trick then came to be known, became a legitimate object of study, as part of the nascent field of parapsychology, before falling into disrepute in the arch-rationalist 20th century. Since the 1990s, however, it has seen something of a revival, under a more scientifically acceptable guise.
There is nothing particularly magical about moving things with thoughts. Human beings perform the feat every time they move a limb, or breathe, by sending electrical impulses to appropriate muscles. If these electrical signals could be detected and interpreted, the argument goes, there is in principle no reason why they could not be used to steer objects other than the thinker’s own body. Indeed, over the past two decades brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) which use electrodes implanted in the skull have enabled paralysed patients to control computer cursors, robotic arms and wheelchairs.

Arkansas Education Opinion

Roby Brock:

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel (D) released a much-anticipated opinion about the director’s position of the Arkansas Department of Higher Education.
The opinion was requested after GOP lawmakers questioned the legality of Gov. Mike Beebe’s recommendation that former State Sen. Shane Broadway (D) be appointed by the higher education board to the post. Broadway removed himself from consideration for the position on Friday (Sept. 9) citing his wife’s health and the stress of travel related to the job.
McDaniel said in his opinion, “I cannot resolve the group of questions asking me to specifically decide the case of the proposed appointment of Shane Broadway.” McDaniel cited the office’s long-standing policy of not addressing hypothetical situations in opinion decisions.

K-12 Tax and Spending Climate: Household Income Falls, Poverty Rate Rises

Conor Dougherty:

The typical American household saw its income fall for the third straight year in 2010 and the poverty rate clicked up to its highest level since 1993 as the aftermath of the latest recession continued to take a toll.

The median household income—what the statistical middle earns in a year—fell 2.3% to $49,445 in 2010, adjusted for inflation, according to the Census Bureau’s annual snapshot on living standards released Tuesday. This comes on the heels of a so-called lost decade for earnings: Inflation-adjusted household income is down 7.1% from its 1999 peak, and 2010 was the first time since 1997 that American households made less than a median of $50,000.

The official poverty rate—defined as a family of four earning less than $22,314—was at 15.1% in 2010, up from 14.3% last year and up from 12.5% in 2007, before the recession was in full force. The official poverty rate has been criticized by economists and researchers because it doesn’t take into account many of the programs the government uses to aid the poor, such as subsidized housing and the Earned Income Tax Credit.

New Studies Show Severe Racial Discrimination at University of Wisconsin

Center for Equal Opportunity:

Two studies released today by the Center for Equal Opportunity reveal severe discrimination based on race and ethnicity in undergraduate and law school admissions at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, with African Americans and Latinos given preference over whites and Asians.
The studies are based on data supplied by the schools themselves, some of which the university had refused to turn over until a lawsuit was filed by CEO and successfully taken all the way to the state supreme court. The studies were prepared by Dr. Althea Nagai, a research fellow at CEO, and can be viewed on the organization’s website,
CEO president Roger Clegg will answer questions about the studies when they are formally released at a press conference today at 11:00 a.m. at the DoubleTree hotel in Madison–525 W. Johnson St.
The odds ratio favoring African Americans and Hispanics over whites was 576-to-1 and 504-to-1, respectively, using the SAT and class rank while controlling for other factors. Thus, the median composite SAT score for black admittees was 150 points lower than for whites and Asians, and the Latino median SAT score was 100 points lower. Using the ACT, the odds ratios climbed to 1330-to-1 and 1494-to-1, respectively, for African Americans and Hispanics over whites.

Adelaide Blanchard:

Two reports released today allege the University of Wisconsin discriminates against whites and Asian applicants and have electrified both UW administration and some student leaders.
A crowd of more than 150 students filled the Multicultural Student Center in the Red Gym on Monday after an ominous message from UW Vice Provost for Diversity and Climate Damon Williams claimed a threat had been made against the diversity efforts in the campus community.
The reports were released at midnight on Tuesday from the Center for Equal Opportunity in conjunction with a press conference CEO President Roger Clegg will hold at the Double Tree Inn at 11 a.m. today. Clegg will also be at a debate on the future of Affirmative Action at the UW Law School at 7 p.m. this evening.
Williams said the timing of the events is no coincidence.
In an interview with The Badger Herald, Clegg said the reports show how a heavy preference is given to blacks and Latinos over whites and Asians in the admissions process for undergraduate programs and in the law school.

Todd Finkelmeyer:

Whites and Asians aren’t getting a fair crack at being admitted to the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
That’s what two studies released late Monday night by the Center for Equal Opportunity indicate. The organization states in a press release accompanying the studies that there is “severe discrimination based on race and ethnicity in undergraduate and law school admissions” at Wisconsin’s flagship institution of higher education.
The CEO — a conservative think tank based out of Sterling, Va., that pushes “colorblind public policies” and backs the elimination or curtailment of existing racial preference and affirmative action programs — reports that UW-Madison gives “African Americans and Latinos preference over whites and Asians” in admissions. The studies, which initially were embargoed until Tuesday morning, were released late Monday on the CEO website.
According to the executive summary of the report examining undergraduate admissions at UW-Madison: “In 2007 and 2008, UW admitted more than 7 out of every 10 black applicants, and more than 8 out of 10 Hispanics, versus roughly 6 in 10 Asians and whites.”

Dr. Sara Goldrick-Rab:

The Center for Equal Opportunity and its president and general counsel, Roger Clegg, claim to advance educational opportunity by punishing colleges and universities for attempting to level a highly unequal playing field.
The CEO’s name is laughable. It is the exact opposite of what the organization does. The misnomer is a deliberate deception. It is a lie so blatant that it would be considered a joke in very poor taste were it not so outrageously fallacious.
The record of CEO’s lawsuits has never been in support of equality–it has always been to preserve and protect educational opportunity for those most fortunate social classes and racial/ethnic groups. There is no no record of this organization filing a lawsuit on behalf of newly emerging and underrepresented populations in higher education–it always and only files lawsuits on behalf of the already-advantaged.

Teachers Are Put to the Test More States Tie Tenure, Bonuses to New Formulas for Measuring Test Scores

Stephanie Banchero & David Kesmodel:

Teacher evaluations for years were based on brief classroom observations by the principal. But now, prodded by President Barack Obama’s $4.35 billion Race to the Top program, at least 26 states have agreed to judge teachers based, in part, on results from their students’ performance on standardized tests.
So with millions of teachers back in the classroom, many are finding their careers increasingly hinge on obscure formulas like the one that fills a whiteboard in an economist’s office here.
The metric created by Value-Added Research Center, a nonprofit housed at the University of Wisconsin’s education department, is a new kind of report card that attempts to gauge how much of students’ growth on tests is attributable to the teacher.
For the first time this year, teachers in Rhode Island and Florida will see their evaluations linked to the complex metric. Louisiana and New Jersey will pilot the formulas this year and roll them out next school year. At least a dozen other states and school districts will spend the year finalizing their teacher-rating formulas.
“We have to deliver quality and speed, because [schools] need the data now,” said Rob Meyer, the bowtie-wearing economist who runs the Value-Added Research Center, known as VARC, and calls his statistical model a “well-crafted recipe.”

Much more on value added assessment, here.

Who Are You and What Are You Doing Here?

Mark Edmundson:

Welcome and congratulations: Getting to the first day of college is a major achievement. You’re to be commended, and not just you, but the parents, grandparents, uncles, and aunts who helped get you here.
It’s been said that raising a child effectively takes a village: Well, as you may have noticed, our American village is not in very good shape. We’ve got guns, drugs, two wars, fanatical religions, a slime-based popular culture, and some politicians who–a little restraint here–aren’t what they might be. To merely survive in this American village and to win a place in the entering class has taken a lot of grit on your part. So, yes, congratulations to all.
You now may think that you’ve about got it made. Amidst the impressive college buildings, in company with a high-powered faculty, surrounded by the best of your generation, all you need is to keep doing what you’ve done before: Work hard, get good grades, listen to your teachers, get along with the people around you, and you’ll emerge in four years as an educated young man or woman. Ready for life.

Incomplete: How Middle Class Schools Aren’t Making the Grade

Tess Stovall and Deirdre Dolan:

f you discovered that only one in four graduates from your neighborhood high school would earn a college degree, would you be alarmed?
For decades, there has been a laser-like focus in education reform on the lowest-performing students and schools. This focus continues to be critical for maintaining America’s social fabric and ensuring that all children have an opportunity to succeed, but it is not enough. In this paper, we urge that America must embark upon a second phase of education reform that squarely focuses on dramatically improving achievement in the middle-class schools that the majority of children attend.
Our findings show that middle-class schools seem to be forgotten in the education debate. There is a paucity of academic literature on their performance, expectations, and on ideas for reform. Yet, they produce the students who are the backbone of the U.S. economy. Among parents of school-aged kids in middle-class jurisdictions, there is a strong belief that these schools are educating students at the highest levels. More than seven of ten parents with children in the public schools grade their kids’ schools as either an A or a B,1 and nine of ten parents of school-age children expect their kids to go to college.2 But that is far from the reality. Middle-class schools are falling short on their most basic 21st century mission: to prepare kids to get a college degree.
In order to maintain a prosperous middle class, grow our economy, and foster a public education system that taxpayers deserve, it is necessary to shine a light on the experience of middle-class students. These are students that don’t attend America’s best schools but also don’t attend the worst. They attend the schools that are in every city, town, and suburb. For our nation to succeed, their schools must be college factories–graduating high school students who are prepared to get to and through college.

Never a better time for Seattle Schools?

Linda Thomas:

The new school year begins in Seattle today, with the superintendent feeling “excited and hopeful that anything is possible” in the year ahead.
I’m not as confident, yet.
My daughter starts her junior year of high school. She’s enthusiastic, optimistic and one of those students who always gets a “she’s a delight to have in class” comment on her report cards. She has the school system figured out. Today she’s on the team who will help incoming, possibly nervous, freshmen. Have a great day sweetie; I know you will.
This is not a routine day for my son. He’s making the transition from elementary to middle school. No more bubbly fish tank in the school lobby, little kids’ artwork on the walls and shock absorbing wood chips on the playground. Instead, he’ll be surrounded by the echoing thud of steel locker doors slamming, the shuffle of grown up-sized tennis shoes tromping through the halls and concrete sidewalks with weeds growing through the gaps. Have a great day son; I don’t know how your day will go. I can’t wait to find out this afternoon.

Milwaukee Public Schools’ fast-tracks proposal to make ‘voucher tax’ transparent

Karen Herzog:

A proposal that Milwaukee taxpayers be told on tax bills exactly how much of their money is going to private schools through the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program is on the fast track for school board consideration.
During a special MPS board meeting Saturday morning to discuss the district’s long-range master plan for buildings, board member Larry Miller asked that his “voucher tax” transparency proposal be discussed at a school board committee meeting Tuesday, rather than wait to be introduced at the board’s next regular meeting Sept. 22, and then be referred to committee for discussion at a later date.
“The urgency of this is there’s a huge tax burden on the community and it’s important for the community to be educated on this burden,” Miller told the board Saturday morning.
The tax that MPS must levy under state law to support low-income Milwaukee students enrolled in private schools under the choice program would have ranked just behind Milwaukee Area Technical College and ahead of the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District if it had been broken out, ranked, and displayed under the “Levy by Unit of Government” section of tax information sent to taxpayers in 2010, Miller said.

What College Can Mean to the Other America

Mike Rose:

It has been nearly 50 years since Michael Harrington wrote The Other America, pulling the curtain back on invisible poverty within the United States. If he were writing today, Harrington would find the same populations he described then: young, marginally educated people who drift in and out of low-pay, dead-end jobs, and older displaced workers, unable to find work as industries transform and shops close. But he would find more of them, especially the young, their situation worsened by further economic restructuring and globalization. And while the poor he wrote about were invisible in a time of abundance, ours are visible in a terrible recession, although invisible in most public policy. In fact, the poor are drifting further into the dark underbelly of American capitalism.
One of the Obama administration’s mantras is that we need to “out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build” our competition in order to achieve fuller prosperity. The solution to our social and economic woes lies in new technologies, in the cutting edge. This is our “Sputnik moment,” a very American way to frame our problems. However, the editors of The Economist wrote a few months back that this explanation of our economic situation is “mostly nonsense.”

Teachers union president says Mayor Emanuel ‘exploded’ at her

Rosalind Rossi:

The president of the Chicago Teachers Union says Mayor Rahm Emanuel “exploded” at her during a debate over a longer school day, pointing his finger in her face and cursing.
CTU President made the allegations in a Friday morning press release detailing a complaint filed by the union to the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board over the ongoing battle between the union and City Hall.
“A couple of weeks ago I sat down with the mayor in his office to talk about how to roll out a longer school year and what components would go into making it a better school year for our students but he did not want to have that conversation,” said Lewis. “When I explained to him that a longer school day should not be used for warehousing or babysitting our youth he exploded, used profanity, pointed his finger in my face and yelled. At that point the conversation was over — soon thereafter we found ourselves subject to a full-scale propaganda war over a moot point.”

Kenya Teachers strike called off ‎

Lordrick Mayabi:

Learning in public schools is set to resume on Monday after striking teachers accepted on Sunday a Government offer to hire more tutors in phases.
The Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) officially called off the four-day strike on Sunday and urged teachers to ignore the Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) which has defied a call by the Government to end the industrial action.
KNUT’s Secretary General David Okuta told journalists in Nairobi that the resolution to call off the strike was reached by KNUT National Executive Council following a commitment by Government to meet most of their demands.

Value Added Report for the Madison School District

Full Report 1.1MB PDF

Value added is the use of statistical technique to isolate the contributions of schools to measured student knowledge from other influences such as prior student knowledge and demographics. In practice, value added focuses on the improvement of students from one year to the next on an annual state examination or other periodic assessment. The Value-Added Research Center (VARC) of the Wisconsin Center for Education Research produces value-added measures for schools in Madison using the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination (WKCE) as an outcome. The model controls for prior-year WKCE scores, gender, ethnicity, disability, English language learner, low-income status, parent education, and full academic year enrollment to capture the effects of schools on student performance on the WKCE. This model yields measures of student growth in schools in Madison relative to each other. VARC also produces value-added measures using the entire state of Wisconsin as a data set, which yields measures of student growth in Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) relative to the rest of the state.
Some of the most notable results are:
1. Value added for the entire district of Madison relative to the rest of the state is generally positive, but it differs by subject and grade. In both 2008-09 and 2009-10, and in both math and reading, the value added of Madison Metropolitan School District was positive in more grades than it was negative, and the average value added across grades was positive in both subjects in both years. There are variations across grades and subjects, however. In grade 4, value-added is significantly positive in both years in reading and significantly negative in both years in math. In contrast, value-added in math is significantly positive–to a very substantial extent–in grade 7. Some of these variations may be the result of the extent to which instruction in those grades facilitate student learning on tested material relative to non-tested material. Overall, between November 2009 and November 2010, value-added for MMSD as a whole relative to the state was very slightly above average in math and substantially above average in reading. The section “Results from the Wisconsin Value-Added Model” present these results in detail.
2. The variance of value added across schools is generally smaller in Madison than in the state of Wisconsin as a whole, specifically in math. In other words, at least in terms of what is measured by value added, the extent to which schools differ from each other in Madison is smaller than the extent to which schools differ from each other elsewhere in Wisconsin. This appears to be more strongly the case in the middle school grades than in the elementary grades. Some of this result may be an artifact of schools in Madison being relatively large; when schools are large, they encompass more classrooms per grade, leading to more across-classroom variance being within-school rather than across-school. More of this result may be that while the variance across schools in Madison is entirely within one district, the variance across schools for the rest of the state is across many districts, and so differences in district policies will likely generate more variance across the entire state. The section “Results from the Wisconsin Value-Added Model” present results on the variance of value added from the statewide value-added model. This result is also evident in the charts in the “School Value-Added Charts from the MMSD Value-Added Model” section: one can see that the majority of schools’ confidence intervals cross (1) the district average, which means that we cannot reject the hypothesis that these schools’ values added are not different from the district average.
Even with a relatively small variance across schools in the district in general, several individual schools have values added that are statistically significantly greater or less than the district average. At the elementary level, both Lake View and Randall have values added in both reading and math that are significantly greater than the district average. In math, Marquette, Nuestro Mundo, Shorewood Hills, and Van Hise also have values added that are significantly greater than the district average. Values added are lower than the district average in math at Crestwood, Hawthorne, Kennedy, and Stephens, and in reading at Allis. At the middle school level, value added in reading is greater than the district average at Toki and lower than the district average at Black Hawk and Sennett. Value added in math is lower than the district average at Toki and Whitehorse.
3. Gaps in student improvement persist across subgroups of students. The value-added model measures gaps in student growth over time by race, gender, English language learner, and several other subgroups. The gaps are overall gaps, not gaps relative to the rest of the state. These gaps are especially informative because they are partial coefficients. These measure the black/white, ELL/non-ELL, or high-school/college-graduate-parent gaps, controlling for all variables available, including both demographic variables and schools attended. If one wanted to measure the combined effect of being both ELL and Hispanic relative to non-ELL and white, one would add the ELL/non-ELL gap to the Hispanic/white gap to find the combined effect. The gaps are within-school gaps, based on comparison of students in different subgroups who are in the same schools; consequently, these gaps do not include any effects of students of different subgroups sorting into different schools, and reflect within-school differences only. There does not appear to be an evident trend over time in gaps by race, low-income status, and parent education measured by the value-added model. The section “Coefficients from the MMSD Value-Added Model” present these results.
4. The gap in student improvement by English language learner, race, or low-income status usually does not differ substantively across schools; that between students with disabilities and students without disabilities sometimes does differ across schools. This can be seen in the subgroup value-added results across schools, which appear in the Appendix. There are some schools where value-added for students with disabilities differs substantively from overall value- added. Some of these differences may be due to differences in the composition of students with disabilities across schools, although the model already controls for overall differences between students with learning disabilities, students with speech disabilities, and students with all other disabilities. In contrast, value-added for black, Hispanic, ELL, or economically disadvantaged students is usually very close to overall value added.
Value added for students with disabilities is greater than the school’s overall value added in math at Falk and Whitehorse and in reading at Marquette; it is lower than the school’s overall value added in math at O’Keefe and Sennett and in reading at Allis, Schenk, and Thoreau. Value added in math for Hispanic students is lower than the school’s overall value added at Lincoln, and greater than the school’s overall value added at Nuestro Mundo. Value added in math is also higher for ELL and low-income students than it is for the school overall at Nuestro Mundo.

Much more on “value added assessment”, here.

Madison School District High School REaL Grant Updates

Madison School District Superintendent Dan Nerad:

Year four of the five-year REaL Grant has several key areas of focus to support our three grant goals:
Increase student achievement for all students
Strengthen student-student and student-staff relationships
Increase post-secondary outcomes for all students
Following the completion of the K-12 Literacy Evaluation during the 2010-2011 school year there is a renewed commitment and expectations to develop core practices in literacy across the content areas. Professional development around literacy has been scheduled for the 2011-2012 school year and includes: instructional resource teachers, reading interventionists, learning coordinators, literacy coaches. Data from WKCE and EXPLORE indicate the need to improve core practices in literacy.
The division of Curriculum and Assessment has structured the entire 2011-2012 school year with high school department chairperson meetings across the district. The central purpose of this important dialogue is to build consensus around a curriculum scope and sequence that is aligned to both the ACT Career and College Readiness Standards and the Common Core State Standards. Much progress has been made with the adoption of common course names and numbers throughout our high schools.
AVID/TOPS has increased in capacity throughout the high schools and preliminary data indicates continued significant differences in the success of our AVID/TOPS students and their comparison group counterparts. Several teachers and departments outside of our AVID/TOPS classrooms have adopted the AVID/TOPS strategies and we look forward to supporting this demand helping our schools develop consistent systems of support and shared high expectations for all students.
Several professional development opportunities over the summer were supported by the REaL grant. Examples include: Critical Friends, Adaptive Schools, AVID Institute, and Align by Design. Additionally, school leadership teams under the direction of principals, REaL grant coordinators and literacy coaches met to create the Welcome Back Conference sessions for their respective schools.
Principals and teacher leaders continue to increase their capacities as instructional leaders. This year we also have in place a coordinated plan to help assistant principals progress their roles as instructional leaders. This has been an area clearly lacking in the first three years of the grant. Principals and all assistant principals will receive the same professional development each month.
The four high schools received a significant grant from the DPI to support safe schools. These added resources and action plans will compliment the REaL grant goals of improved relationships. High schools continue to address critical student behavior issues with a greater systematic approach. Two areas identified district wide based on the success in one school are: Youth Court and Restorative Justice classes.

SpongeBob In Hot Water From Study Of 4-Year-Olds

The cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants is in hot water from a study suggesting that watching just nine minutes of that program can cause short-term attention and learning problems in 4-year-olds.
The problems were seen in a study of 60 children randomly assigned to either watch “SpongeBob,” or the slower-paced PBS cartoon “Caillou” or assigned to draw pictures. Immediately after these nine-minute assignments, the kids took mental function tests; those who had watched “SpongeBob” did measurably worse than the others. Previous research has linked TV-watching with long-term attention problems in children, but the new study suggests more immediate problems can occur after very little exposure — results that parents of young kids should be alert to, the study authors said.
Kids’ cartoon shows typically feature about 22 minutes of action, so watching a full program “could be more detrimental,” the researchers speculated, But they said more evidence is needed to confirm that.
The results should be interpreted cautiously because of the study’s small size, but the data seem robust and bolster the idea that media exposure is a public health issue, said Dr. Dimitri Christakis. He is a child development specialist at Seattle Children’s Hospital who wrote an editorial accompanying the study published online Monday in the journal Pediatrics.
Christakis said parents need to realize that fast-paced programming may not be appropriate for very young children. “What kids watch matters, it’s not just how much they watch,” he said.
University of Virginia psychology professor Angeline Lillard, the lead author, said Nickelodeon’s “SpongeBob” shouldn’t be singled out. She found similar problems in kids who watched other fast-paced cartoon programming. She said parents should realize that young children are compromised in their ability to learn and use self-control immediately after watching such shows. “I wouldn’t advise watching such shows on the way to school or any time they’re expected to pay attention and learn,” she said.
Nickelodeon spokesman David Bittler disputed the findings and said “SpongeBob SquarePants” is aimed at kids aged 6-11, not 4-year-olds. “Having 60 non-diverse kids, who are not part of the show’s targeted (audience), watch nine minutes of programming is questionable methodology and could not possibly provide the basis for any valid findings that parents could trust,” he said.
Lillard said 4-year-olds were chosen because that age “is the heart of the period during which you see the most development” in certain self-control abilities. Whether children of other ages would be similarly affected can’t be determined from this study. Most kids were white and from middle-class or wealthy families. They were given common mental function tests after watching cartoons or drawing. The SpongeBob kids scored on average 12 points lower than the other two groups, whose scores were nearly identical.
In another test, measuring self-control and impulsiveness, kids were rated on how long they could wait before eating snacks presented when the researcher left the room. “SpongeBob” kids waited about 2 1/2 minutes on average, versus at least four minutes for the other two groups. The study has several limitations. For one thing, the kids weren’t tested before they watched TV. But Lillard said none of the children had diagnosed attention problems and all got similar scores on parent evaluations of their behavior.
Online: Pediatrics:

Badge of Shame and Bigger Paychecks: Arne Duncan’s Mixed Bag Comments for Teachers

Josh Mogerman:

Arne Duncan ended a week-long education and jobs stump speech bus tour in Chicago this week. And he had plenty to say about what is going on in his old stomping grounds at CPS. Some of what he had to say was undoubtedly music to the ears of the Chicago Teachers Union, given the weird and ugly battle brewing with the Emanuel administration (complete with a curious mix of F-bombs and hugs). Friday, he called for a doubling of teacher salaries nationally:

An Open Letter to a College Freshman

Timothy Dairymple:

At last your time has come. Leaving behind the old world and the deep ruts you carved in the corner of that world that belonged to you, you’re off to explore undiscovered countries, to join a new and ever-replenishing society of fascinating people and learned scholars and impassioned artists and driven achievers, off to a place where the world is new and so are you. Whether or not your college years will be “the best years of your life,” they will almost certainly be among the most transformative.
The question is whether that transformation will be for the better. Unmoored from the people and places that once defined you, you’ll feel a fluidity in your identity that’s both thrilling and frightening. You may feel as though you can be anyone and become anything. I pray that you will become who you are — the individual you most truly and deeply are, the one God dreamt of when he made you — and not the person that you or your parents or your friends think you should be. In service to that end, I thought I would offer seven pieces of advice. Though it feels churlish to say so, I offer this advice on the basis of some personal experience — more than many and less than some, with four undergraduate years at Stanford, three at Princeton Seminary and seven at Harvard for my Ph.D. I did a fair amount of teaching, came to know many professors well, and spent time too at universities overseas. So, on the basis of those experiences, here are my thoughts:

The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle applied to schools

Anneliese Dickman:

Werner Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle states that one cannot simultaneously measure the location of a particle while also measuring the momentum of that particle. When you apply this principle to schools, it’s a little disheartening–if we attempt to measure where we are now, we are no longer certain how fast we’re improving. If the environment in which the measurement is taking place is also moving (think of the vast legal and budgetary changes at the state level), the uncertainty is all but overwhelming.
Thus, this year’s analysis of public school data in southeast Wisconsin heeds Heisenberg and emphasizes the use of the 2010-11 data as a baseline. Knowing that all Wisconsin school districts will be in a state of flux over the next few years due to changes in contractual bargaining legislation, the state budget, a slow economic recovery, a new standardized testing system, and new standards for curriculum, in the future we hope to measure their improvements over time as these various “new normals” kick in. For now, we emphasize where they’ve been and where they are currently.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: The Geography of Jobs

TIP Strategies:

Map Highlights
This animated map provides a striking visual of employment trends over the last business cycle using net change in jobs from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics on a rolling 12-month basis. We used this approach to provide the smoothest possible visual depiction of ongoing employment dynamics at the MSA level. By animating the data, the map highlights a number of concurrent trends leading up to the nation’s present economic crisis. The graphic highlights the 100 largest metropolitan areas so that regional trends can be more easily identified.
The timeline begins in 2004 as the country starts its recovery from the 2001 recession, following the bursting of the dot-com bubble. At first, broad economic growth was apparent across most of the country. Two notable exceptions are the Bay Area — the hub of the tech boom that drove job growth during the prior decade — and several metropolitan areas within the Midwest. The map reveals that much of the industrial Midwest never fully recovered from the previous recession, as manufacturers continue to shed jobs while other parts of the country were adding them in large number.

A rather spirited discussion of Madison school finances and spending priorities occurred during the recent last minute Board Meeting on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB Charter school.

Study: Atlanta education gap grows, could hurt employment

David Markiewicz:

Employment in metro Atlanta has been hurt in recent years by the area’s dependence on troubled job sectors, including administrative and support services, and specialty trade contracting. One thing that’s helped the employment rate has been a relatively strong supply of educated workers.
But a new report from the Brookings Institution says the area’s “education gap” is growing and could become a problem if the trend is not reversed. The education gap refers to the difference between local employer demand for educated workers and a community’s ability to provide enough of them.
Metro Atlanta had the nation’s fifth-largest increase in education gap from 2005-2009, the study found. No market of comparable size was in the top 10.

The Chicago Forward: Education essay winners are …

Trib Nation:

For our Sept. 13 public affairs forum with Chicago schools chief Jean-Claude Brizard and teachers union leader Karen Lewis, we asked Trib Nation to write an essay on what makes public education succeed or fail.
Here are the contributions from winners Ray Salazar, G. A. Finch, Trevon Martin, Eva Delgado, Cassandra Eddings and Devyn Rigsby, along with two other noteworthy essays from Gary Lawson and Ron Barker:
G. A. Finch, parent:
I chair the LSC at Decatur Classical, an obscure selective enrollment school that the Tribune, Sun-Times, and Chicago Magazine have ranked the highest performing elementary school in Illinois. Despite its diversity in income, ethnicity, race and religion, it consistently exceeds state testing standards.

Academic publishers make Murdoch look like a socialist

George Monbiot:

Who are the most ruthless capitalists in the western world? Whose monopolistic practices make Walmart look like a corner shop and Rupert Murdoch a socialist? You won’t guess the answer in a month of Sundays. While there are plenty of candidates, my vote goes not to the banks, the oil companies or the health insurers, but – wait for it – to academic publishers. Theirs might sound like a fusty and insignificant sector. It is anything but. Of all corporate scams, the racket they run is most urgently in need of referral to the competition authorities.
Everyone claims to agree that people should be encouraged to understand science and other academic research. Without current knowledge, we cannot make coherent democratic decisions. But the publishers have slapped a padlock and a “keep out” sign on the gates.
You might resent Murdoch’s paywall policy, in which he charges £1 for 24 hours of access to the Times and Sunday Times. But at least in that period you can read and download as many articles as you like. Reading a single article published by one of Elsevier’s journals will cost you $31.50. Springer charges €34.95, Wiley-Blackwell, $42. Read 10 and you pay 10 times. And the journals retain perpetual copyright. You want to read a letter printed in 1981? That’ll be $31.50.

Concern rising about quality of education

Wannapa Khaopa:

Although, the majority of Thai children have access to basic education, as net enrolment for primary and secondary schoolage children increases, people still question the quality of education being provided as international learning assessments show Thai students’ performances lag behind most Asian countries.
So, the Office of the Education Council (OEC) is preparing to propose government strategies to enhance the teaching levels and ensure quality education for all children in collaboration with the United Nations Country Team (UNCT).
The net enrolment for primary schoolage children in Thailand increased from 81 per cent in 2000 to 90 per cent in 2009. And, net enrolment for secondary schoolage children increased from 55 per cent in 2000 to 72 per cent in 2009, according to UN Data Online and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation Education for All Monitoring Report.

Mount Horeb School Gets 21st Century Makeover

Jeff Glaze:

Ten months after Mount Horeb area voters approved $10.5 million in renovations to the village’s first- and second-grade building, a walk through the Primary Center reveals little resemblance to the building’s previous 93 years of life. Classroom walls and staircases have been removed, and a gaping hole allows workers to see the basement from the second floor.
The construction is part of a year-long project that Mount Horeb Area School District Superintendent Wayne Anderson said “will bring the school into the 21st century.”
The Primary Center, constructed in 1918, provided a challenging place for teachers to hold class, with inconsistently sized rooms, split levels and distractions including a bug infestation, said Vicky Rosenbaum, a first- and second-grade teacher at the school. The school was without air conditioning and operated its heating system on the original 1918 boilers, which made the building prone to extreme and fluctuating temperatures. The Primary Center also had a mysterious problem with bees, she said.

Lies, damn lies and the myth of “standardized” tests

Marda Kirkwood:

[Note from Laurie Rogers: Recently, results from the 2011 state standardized test scores came out, and the general impression given to the public — for example from the state education agency (OSPI) and from media in Seattle and in Spokane — was that improvements had been made. It’s all in the definitions: How do you define “improvement”? Did some of the numbers go up? Assuredly. Did that mean that real improvments in real academic knowledge had been made? It’s best to remain skeptical.
Most students in Spokane are as weak in math skill this year as they were last year. Given a proper math test that assesses for basic skills, many high schoolers still test into 4th or 5th-grade math. College remedial rates are still high. Parents are still frantic, and students are still stressed out about math. So … what do those higher scores actually mean? I’ve been trying to find out. It’s hard to say.

Building the largest Chess AI ever

Sylvain Zimmer:

Many people are familiar with the SETI@home project: a very large scale effort to search for patterns from alien civilizations in the ocean of data we receive from the sky, using the computing power of millions of computers around the globe (“the grid”).
SETI@home has been a success, obviously not in finding aliens, but in demonstrating the potential of large-scale distributed computing. Projects like BOINC have been expanding this effort to other fields like biology, medicine and physics.
Last weekend, a team at Joshfire (Thomas, Nathan, Mickael and myself) participated in a 48-hour coding contest called Node Knockout. Rules were simple: code the most amazing thing you can in the weekend, as long as it uses server-side JavaScript.

Administrators Ate My Tuition Want to get college costs in line? Start by cutting the overgrown management ranks.

Benjamin Ginsberg:

No statistic about higher education commands more attention–and anxiety–among members of the public than the rising price of admission. Since 1980, inflation- adjusted tuition at public universities has tripled; at private universities it has more than doubled. Compared to all other goods and services in the American economy, including medical care, only “cigarettes and other tobacco products” have seen prices rise faster than the cost of going to college. And for all that, parents who sign away ever-larger tuition checks can be forgiven for doubting whether universities are spending those additional funds in ways that make their kids’ educations better–to say nothing of three times better.
Between 1975 and 2005, total spending by American higher educational institutions, stated in constant dollars, tripled, to more than $325 billion per year. Over the same period, the faculty-to-student ratio has remained fairly constant, at approximately fifteen or sixteen students per instructor. One thing that has changed, dramatically, is the administrator-per-student ratio. In 1975, colleges employed one administrator for every eighty-four students and one professional staffer–admissions officers, information technology specialists, and the like–for every fifty students. By 2005, the administrator-to-student ratio had dropped to one administrator for every sixty-eight students while the ratio of professional staffers had dropped to one for every twenty-one students.

City, Union Stories on Votes Conflict

Hunter Clauss:

In an attempt to counter Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s relentless campaign for a longer school day, the Chicago Teachers Union claimed Friday that 30 elementary schools have voted to reject the city’s offer to extend the school day in exchange for financial incentives.
Emanuel and the Chicago Public Schools have offered up to $150,000 in discretionary funds and a roughly 2 percent raise for teachers at city elementary schools that elect to waive a portion of the union contract and add 90 minutes to the day. CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll told the Chicago News Cooperative that the union’s list is not accurate. She said the only schools that have voted are the four elementary schools that have accepted the district’s deal.
“Not a single school voted down waivers. Not true,” Carroll said in an email. “Only four have voted on waivers and they all supported them.”

The typewriter lives on in India

Mark Magnier:

It’s a stultifying afternoon outside the Delhi District Court as Arun Yadav slides a sheet of paper into his decades-old Remington and revs up his daily 30-word-a-minute tap dance.
Nearby, hundreds of other workers clatter away on manual typewriters amid a sea of broken chairs and wobbly tables as the occasional wildlife thumps on the leaky tin roof above.
“Sometimes the monkeys steal the affidavits,” Yadav said. “That can be a real nuisance.”
The factories that make the machines may be going silent, but India’s typewriter culture remains defiantly alive, fighting on bravely against that omnipresent upstart, the computer. (In fact, if India had its own version of “Mad Men,” with its perfumed typing pools and swaggering execs, it might not be set in the 1960s but the early 1990s, India’s peak typewriter years, when 150,000 machines were sold annually.)

Duncan energizing U.S. education scene

Alan Borsuk:

rne Duncan has the across-the-spectrum appeal to make just about everybody on the Wisconsin education scene eager to be in the room with him, and the political guts to tell Gov. Scott Walker face-to-face and in front of all those folks that he was wrong to kibosh collective bargaining in Wisconsin.
In short, he is about as interesting and significant a person as anyone in American education.
The U.S. secretary of education stopped by the Milwaukee School of Career and Technical Education (that’s the new version of Custer High School) for an hour and a half Friday, enough time for several hundred people, from big shots to students, to get a dose of the highly demanding form of optimism that is a key to Duncan.
You want to get some positive re-enforcement for the things you’re doing, Duncan is your guy. You want to hear how what you’re doing isn’t anywhere near enough, Duncan is your guy.

California’s Math Pipeline: The Grade 7 Pivot Point


For students to be career- and college-ready when they complete high school, they must build a strong base of mathematics knowledge. The end of 7th grade provides an important moment to assess how prepared California’s students are to succeed in the more advanced math curriculum that starts with algebra.
California’s 1997 academic content standards in mathematics outline the stepping stones to algebra, and the Grade 7 Mathematics California Standards Test (CST) provides a benchmark measure of students’ readiness.
In addition, 7th grade is the point where students’ math course-taking paths clearly begin to diverge:

The Great Candy Debate


“Motivation is part of education and classroom teachers should have input because they are the ones doing the work. ”
“Not all candy purchases are used for motivation.”
“The question becomes do we want to be the food police in the schools. ”
“Teachers and principals might not understand why this issue is being pushed so hard. ”
—Administration Response to “Candy Purchases” issue (Minutes of the Finance Committee meeting 8-22-11)