Getting It Wrong On School Choice

George Mitchell:

During the last year, three different reports have claimed to compare the academic achievement of students in the Milwaukee Public Schools with students in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program.
Two conclude, erroneously, that MPS students outperform students in the choice program.
The third reaches far different conclusions.
The difference?
Two of the three, from Wisconsin’s Department of Public Instruction (DPI) and the Milwaukee-based Public Policy Forum (PPF), used deeply flawed methods to conclude that MPS students outperform those in the choice program. Page one stories in the Journal Sentinel validated these erroneous reports. The paper compounded the errors by wrongly suggesting that the DPI and PPF data allow individual schools to be evaluated.
The third report comes from the School Choice Demonstration Project (SCDP) at the University of Arkansas and is based on rigorous methods. Its reports, including several issued today, draw starkly different conclusions from those advanced by DPI, PPF, and Journal Sentinel news stories.
Responding to widespread attention generated by the DPI and PPF reports, the experts at the University of Arkansas refute the validity of those reports and demonstrate why they provide neither a basis for comparing MPS and Milwaukee’s school choice programs nor for evaluating individual schools.

Candidates for open Madison School Board seat bring different backgrounds to race

Matthew DeFour:

Both races for Madison School Board feature matchups between a candidate with strong business acumen and boardroom experience versus a minority candidate with experience more representative of the district’s growing student population.
That contrast is especially pronounced in the contest between former Commerce Secretary and Trek Bicycle executive Mary Burke and firefighter Michael Flores.
Madison Teachers Inc. executive director John Matthews even characterizes Burke as a “1 percenter” who doesn’t know “what it is like for a child to go to bed or go to school hungry.”
Burke, a Democrat who was endorsed by former Gov. Jim Doyle, whose wife was a teacher and whose mother served as School Board president, objects to that description.
“People who know me sort of laugh, because I don’t fit the profile of what (Matthews) is saying,” Burke said, adding she supports Occupy Wall Street values such as progressive taxation and reducing the influence of corporations in government.

Seat 1 Candidates:
Nichele Nichols
Arlene Silveira (incumbent)
Seat 2 Candidates:
Mary Burke
Michael Flores
Arlene Silveira & Michael Flores Madison Teachers, Inc. Candidate Q & A
1.25.2012 Madison School Board Candidate DCCPA Event Photos & Audio

How Udacity’s Greatest Effect will be in the Developing World

Nicolas Pottier:

This brings us to Udacity, which takes all the best parts of the above approaches and marries them into an incredible teaching tool.  Audacity combines the personal, approachable first person teaching style of Kahn Academy, but then backs it up with interactive programming in Python, all right in the browser.  
The teachers are ex-Stanford professors, so they have decades of experience teaching this material, which really shows in how they present it. So far in the first week of class, they have done a great job of covering fundamentals without getting bogged down in details, getting students to start learning intuitively, by doing, while still giving them the founding blocks to know why things work the way they do.
Perhaps most importantly, Udacity has structured their CS101 course around a brilliant concept, building a search engine in eight weeks. That single act makes the course not about learning, but about doing. The class never has to answer the question ‘why are we doing this?’, because each topic is directly tied to the overall goal of building your own little Google, every piece is practical.

U (of Minnesota) execs are paid handsomely on their way out

Tony Kennedy & Jenna Ross:

Since retiring 18 months ago as chancellor at the University of Minnesota Duluth, Kathryn Martin has collected more money from the U than she did in her last two years on the job.
One of nearly a dozen university executives to step down in the past two years, Martin was granted a two-month sabbatical, a 15-month “administrative transitional leave,” a final deposit to her retirement fund, and a severance check. Total: $535,700.
Hers was the biggest in a series of compensation packages signed by former university President Robert Bruininks worth more than $2.8 million. The deals routinely granted top administrators lengthy paid leaves, then allowed them to return to faculty positions or depart the U’s payroll.
A Star Tribune review of university documents shows that seven of 10 high-ranking officials in the Bruininks administration, including the former president himself, received at least a year off with pay at their executive salaries, as well as retirement and health insurance contributions. The deals often were vague about what the administrators would do on leave. Bruininks also repeatedly waived a university policy that executives repay their stipends in the event they left the U while on leave.

After a couple dozen successes, Howard Tullman is building Flashpoint Academy, which he calls the front seat of the world stage

Leigh Buchanan:

That genre–or rather, that industry (clarity trumps metaphor, as the storytelling-obsessed Tullman would tell you)–is vocational education. “It’s a shame that the United States is the only country in the world where it’s considered downscale and horrible to go to any kind of vocational school,” says Tullman, pecking at his computer, which is wired to a large screen that barrages visitors to his office with wow-inducing videos and applications created by Flashpoint students and faculty. “Everyplace else, there are apprenticeships, vocational training, all kinds of paths to be successful. We need that here.”
Tullman believes training young people to fill tomorrow’s jobs is this country’s best shot at reducing unemployment and staying globally competitive. Tomorrow’s jobs, of course, is code for technology, a subject, Tullman argues, traditional four-year colleges teach poorly because faculty aren’t in the field keeping current and students don’t work across departments in interdisciplinary teams, as happens in the real world. “Part One was that every other school was teaching in these silos with tenured faculty who weren’t learning new technologies,” says Tullman, explaining what attracted him to the idea for Flashpoint, which was brought to him in 2007 by Ric Landry, the company’s co-founder. “Part Two was you had a group of kids that were only interested in digital and were not going to go to a four-year liberal-arts school and end up with their futures in hock.”

Finding the Right College for the 99% Can Be Complex

Letters to the Wall Street Journal:

Regarding Robin Mamlet and Christine Vandevelde’s “Should Colleges Be Factories for the 1%?” (op-ed, Feb. 21): When I went to college (for an engineering degree quite some time ago), the costs were so affordable that I paid all of them from summer earnings, a little savings and an occasional part-time job while in school. I lived at home and commuted, but my parents never had to pay a tuition bill. By the time my children went to college, earning enough to pay just the tuition for a state school was impossible. Now, it’s totally out of the question; students regularly graduate with tens of thousands of dollars in debt. In some cases, repayment is impossible from earnings based on their major.
It is a shame for parents to go into debt, give up vacations and other niceties, take on additional part-time work and endanger their retirement so that their children can go to college, but who then must move back in with their parents because they cannot find a job. Having a good idea of the likelihood of gainful employment should be part of the decision-making process, especially for those parents not in the “1%.”
Walter Ciciora

The Effect of Admissions Test Preparation: Evidence from NELS:88

D.C. Briggs:

For students planning to apply to a four year college, scores on standardized admissions tests–the SAT I or ACT–take on a great deal of importance. It may be the quality and quantity of an applicant’s high school coursework that receives the closest scrutiny at the more prestigious institutions, but these are cumulative indicators of performance. Standardized admissions tests, by contrast, are more of a one shot deal. Such tests are blind to a student’s high school record–instead, they are intended as an independent, objective measure of college “readiness”. For students with a strong high school record, admissions tests provide a way to confirm their standing. For students with a weaker high school record, admissions tests provide a way to raise their standing. A principal justification for the use of the SAT I and ACT in the admissions process is that such tests are designed to be insensitive to the high school curriculum and to short- term test preparation. If short term preparatory activities prior to taking the SAT I or ACT can have the effect of significantly boosting the scores of students above those they would have received without the preparation, both the validity and reliability of the tests as indicators of college readiness might be called into question.

High-stakes tests can be educational barrier

Bill Tomison:

High-stakes testing — forcing Rhode Island students to pass particular, certain tests to get a diploma — like the NECAP test, is going to have a devastating impact on every student in Rhode Island, according to a group of local organizations led by the ACLU.
Some local students also echoed the protest at a news conference Thursday morning.
The use of high-stakes testing is scheduled to be put into effect in 2014, under legislation proposed by Rhode Island Rep. Eileen Naughton and state Sen. Harold Metts. State assessments would be used to ultimately determine if students are eligible for graduation at the end of the school year.
“There is no data and no evidence anywhere that suggests that putting this test in place is going to stop the travesty of our young people not having the skills they need,” Ex. Dir. of Young Voices Karen Feldman said.

Student’s lofty fundraising goal is $30,000 in 30 days

Samara Kalk Derby:

Madison has had valuable sister city relationships with cities such as Camaguey, Cuba; Freiburg, Germany; and Arcatao, El Salvador — some stretching back almost 30 years.
Now, a 29-year-old Madison native is forging a sister community center for the Meadowood Neighborhood Center with a planned neighborhood center in Camarones, Ecuador, about three hours northwest of Quito, the country’s capital.
To that end, Emily Kalnicky, who spent three months volunteering in Camarones last year, co-founded the nonprofit Camarones Community Coalition, and recently kicked off a unique fundraising push.
Her goal is to raise $30,000 in the 30 days leading up to her 30th birthday, March 19. So far she has raised about $2,000.

Nichols seeks to unseat Silveira on School Board

Matthew DeFour:

When Arlene Silveira first ran for School Board in 2006, there was community dissatisfaction with the “status quo.” In one race, a four-term incumbent was unseated. Silveira ran for an open seat and won, but only after a recount.
There hasn’t been as much interest in a School Board election until this year, when once again the election features a closely contested open seat and an incumbent facing a spirited challenge.
However, Silveira’s opponent, Nichelle Nichols, vice president of education and learning at the Urban League of Greater Madison, acknowledged she faces an uphill battle.
Silveira wrapped up numerous early endorsements, including Madison Teachers Inc., the local teachers union. Moreover, when asked to make an argument for why voters shouldn’t re-elect her opponent to a third term, Nichols treads lightly, crediting Silveira for shepherding the district through a strategic planning process and the hiring of Superintendent Dan Nerad.
“She hasn’t ruffled any feathers,” Nichols said. “No one can point out any specific flaws.”

012 Madison School Board Candidates:
Seat 1 Candidates:
Nichele Nichols
Arlene Silveira (incumbent)
Seat 2 Candidates:
Mary Burke
Michael Flores
Arlene Silveira & Michael Flores Madison Teachers, Inc. Candidate Q & A
1.25.2012 Madison School Board Candidate DCCPA Event Photos & Audio

Edgewood’s Fine Arts Festival

Pamela Cotant:

The Fine Arts Festival at Edgewood High School goes beyond showcasing student talent by bringing in a variety of guest artists who have furthered their crafts.
The first day of the recent festival was Guest Artist Day, and students had a choice of artists to visit at each of the nine sessions held throughout the day. The 28 artists were chosen to represent different cultures, historical periods and genres.
“You just get involved and you get to see things you’ve never seen before,” said junior Maura Drabik, 16.
She was one of the students who got moved by the performance of the Latin band Grupo Candela and danced at the front of the auditorium.

Poverty and Food: Why do so many people in poor countries eat so badly–and what can be done about it?

The Economist:

IN ELDORADO, one of São Paulo’s poorest and most misleadingly named favelas, some eight-year-old boys are playing football on a patch of ground once better known for drug gangs and hunger. Although they look the picture of health, they are not. After the match they gather around a sack of bananas beside the pitch.
“At school, the kids get a full meal every day,” explains Jonathan Hannay, the secretary-general of Children at Risk Foundation, a local charity. “But in the holidays they come to us without breakfast or lunch so we give them bananas. They are filling, cheap, and they stimulate the brain.” Malnutrition used to be pervasive and invisible in Eldorado. Now there is less of it and, equally important, it is no longer hidden. “It has become more visible–so people are doing something about it.”

Driving the Classroom with iTunes U

Frasier Speirs:

There was a time when iTunes U was just a section of the iTunes store where you could download audio and videos. Since Apple’s recent education event, that’s all changed. iTunes U is still a part of the iTunes Store but there’s now a dedicated iTunes U app for iOS devices.
The other major change to iTunes U was a policy change. iTunes U was previously only available to universities. At the January education event Eddy Cue stated that “starting today K-12 schools can sign up” to iTunes U. We didn’t get pre-announcement access but I signed up as soon as I could and Cedars has been accepted to iTunes U.

How We Will Read

Maud Newton & Laura Miller:

Welcome to the second installment of “How We Will Read,” a series exploring the future of reading from the perspectives of publishers, writers, and intellectuals. This week, we talked to Laura Miller and Maud Newton, founders of The Chimerist, a new blog dedicated to exploring the imaginative potential of the iPad.
In addition to ruminating on the experience of using the iPad, Maud and Laura discussed the future of narrative forms, interactive storytelling, and their hopes for the evolution of publishing. What resulted was two poetic and nuanced views of what digital reading means to people who love books. Their work at The Chimerist had already distinguished Laura and Maud as thoughtful writers at the intersection of media and technology. It was incredible to hear what else they were thinking about as they navigate this new and rapidly changing space. Check out their interview below, and be sure to check out The Chimerist, too.

Gist: Early Teacher Layoff Notices Is ‘Ridiculous Exercise’

Deborah Gist:

The requirement that school committees must provide educators with layoff notices by a March 1 deadline is a ridiculous exercise that has to be stopped. This arbitrary deadline serves no purpose except to add to the stress of teachers who are working hard every day to provide our students with a world-class education.
I do believe that when school committees face difficult decisions about laying off teachers and other educators, teachers deserve to receive timely notice of these pending layoffs that may affect their livelihoods and their careers.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: To close tax loopholes, Obama would open new ones to benefit some companies over others

Christopher s. Rugaber

President Barack Obama wants to close dozens of loopholes that let some companies pay little or nothing in taxes. But he also wants to open new ones for manufacturers and companies that invest in clean energy.
To some analysts, the new loopholes risk upending the level playing field Obama says he wants to create.
Some also fear that companies could game the system to grab the new tax breaks.
“The administration is not making sense,” says Martin Sullivan, contributing editor at publisher Tax Analysts. “The whole idea of corporate tax reform is to get rid of loopholes, and this plan is adding loopholes back in.”
Economists across the political spectrum support a kind of grand bargain: cut corporate tax rates while deleting tax breaks that benefit a favored few.

Try Singapore Math Textbooks: Your students will learn Math

Jerome Dancis, Ph.D. (math):

Many Math professors, who have looked at the Singapore K-6 Math Books, are strong advocates of them because these books
1. Do an especially good job in training students in Basic Skills and
2. Do an especially good job in providing students with Conceptual Understanding and
3. Provide an especially good background in Arithmetic and Arithmetic word problems, for the learning of Algebraic calculations and for learning how to solve Algebraic word problems.
4. Do an especially good job in training students in non-trivial Arithmetic word problems; while American texts largely avoid non-trivial Arithmetic word problems.

Dishonest Discussion

Charlie Mas:

The Seattle School Board will soon consider terminating the District’s contract with Teach for America. There is disagreement about this on the School Board, so we are likely to hear a discussion of the question with Board directors advocating for each side. This is good and healthy. This is what democracy looks like. I welcome a full discussion regardless of the eventual conclusion. I will, however, be deeply disappointed if the discussion is not honest. We have already seen the start of a dishonest discussion. This dishonest discussion needs to be stopped and it is the other Board directors who need to stop it. They need to stop it by exposing the dishonesty the moment it appears.
When the Curriculum and Instruction Policy Committee met and decided to advance this motion to the full board, one of the Board directors, Harium Martin-Morris, spoke against the termination of the Teach for America contract. Mr. Martin-Morris made one of the most loathsome and dishonest statements I have ever heard from a school board director. He said that the Board should make data-based decisions and that it was pre-mature to terminate the contract with Teach for America because they did not yet have the results of this experiment. There are so many lies packed into that statement that I’m going to need some time and space to unpack them all.

Mind your language: How linguistic software helps companies catch crooks

The Economist:

IN THE film “Superman 3”, a lowly computer programmer (played by Richard Pryor, pictured) embezzles a fat wad of money from his employer. The boss laments that it will be hard to catch the thief, because “he won’t do a thing to call attention to himself. Unless, of course, he is a complete and utter moron.” Just then the thief screeches into the car park in a brand new red sports car, radio blaring.
In the real world, embezzlers are seldom so obvious. The traditional way to snare them is to hire an accountant to scrutinise accounts for anomalies. But this is like looking for a contact lens in a snowdrift. So firms are turning to linguistic software to narrow the search.

New York Considers Shielding Teacher Evaluations

Lisa Fleishder & Jacob Gershman:

As New York City parents and teachers struggled Monday to make sense of recently published schoolteacher rankings, education officials considered whether future releases should be illegal to protect a fragile truce on a new statewide system.
Legal experts said a series of court rulings have made it increasingly clear that statistics-based portions of teacher evaluations are public information, unlike those of police officers, firefighters and other public workers specifically protected under state law.
Only a change in law, experts said, would change that. Shielding teacher rankings from public view is likely to become a new pressure point in the debate over how to measure the effectiveness of teachers, lawmakers and officials said Monday.

The burden of student debt

Mary Ellen Bell:

At the height of the Occupy protests last fall, young people held signs announcing how much they owed in student loans. While the pundits were asking each other what, exactly, the protesters wanted, a big part of the answer was on those signs: Students are leaving colleges and universities with a staggering financial burden and bleak job prospects.
“When you get out of college at 21 with a 30-year loan, it’s soul crushing,” says Scot Ross, executive director of One Wisconsin Now, a progressive organization that is launching an advocacy campaign on the issue. Ross is on leave to serve as communications director for gubernatorial candidate Kathleen Falk.
The student loan landscape has shifted dramatically since the parents of current students and recent graduates left college. In 2006, the U.S. Education Department’s National Center for Education Statistics reported that most borrowers who finished college in the early 1990s were able to manage their student loan burden. Most paid the loans back in 10 years. Today, many students face 20 to 25 years of making payments. In the early ’90s, about half of students borrowed; in 2006, two-thirds had to borrow. And their loans are much bigger.

Internet On, Inhibitions Off: Why We Tell All

Matt Ridley:

It is now well known that people are generally accurate and (sometimes embarrassingly) honest about their personalities when profiling themselves on social-networking sites. Patients are willing to be more open about psychiatric symptoms to an automated online doctor than a real one. Pollsters find that people give more honest answers to an online survey than to one conducted by phone.
But online honesty cuts both ways. Bloggers find that readers who comment on their posts are often harshly frank but that these same rude critics become polite if contacted directly. There’s a curious pattern here that goes against old concerns over the threat of online dissembling. In fact, the mechanized medium of the Internet causes not concealment but disinhibition, giving us both confessional behavior and ugly brusqueness. When the medium is impersonal, people are prepared to be personal.

Voucher students improve on reading, study finds

Erin Richards:

A sample of students in Milwaukee’s private voucher schools made gains in reading in 2010-’11 that were significantly higher than those of a matched sample of peers in Milwaukee Public Schools, but math achievement remained the same last school year, according to the results of a multiyear study tracking students in both sectors.
The results of the study are being released Monday in Milwaukee as the final installment of an examination of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, or voucher program.
The longitudinal study – meaning it tracked the same set of students over the testing period – was conducted by the School Choice Demonstration Project, a nonpartisan research center at the University of Arkansas. The group was selected by the state to conduct a long-term study of the voucher program and its impact on Milwaukee.
Rather than looking at scores of all students, the study matched a sample of 2,727 voucher students in third through ninth grades in 2006 with an equal number of similar MPS students. The study used a complex statistical methodology based on growth models.

Mike Ford and Christian D’Andrea have more.

MTI Solidarity: Leadership In Demand

Madison Teachers, Inc., via a kind Jeanie Bettner email:

Given MTI’s leadership during last year’s protests over Governor Walker stealing public employees’ rights and negating 46 years of MTI’s gains through collective bargaining, and because of MTI members’ leadership in the recall campaigns of anti-public employee Senators and the Governor, the Union has received and continues to receive requests for guidance.
Currently MTI President Peggy Coyne (Black Hawk) and MTI Faculty Representative & Recall Committee member Kathryn Burns (Shorewood) are in Osaka, Japan, where they will be presenters at a meeting of 200 to prepare for the Osaka Social Forum to be held in September. The public employees in Osaka City advise that they are facing the same kind of attacks by the new Mayor of Osaka City, who was formerly the Governor of Osaka Prefecture. The theme of this fall’s conference is how to organize resistence to the harsh attacks on union rights and public education.
In April, MTI Board of Directors’ Secretary Liz Wingert (Elvehjem) will travel to Edmonton, Alberta, where she will engage in a very similar meeting to that described above in Osaka, Japan. Similar to Wisconsin, Koch Industries registered last spring as lobbyists in Alberta. Their subsidiary, Flint Hills Resources, is among Canada’s largest crude oil purchasers, shippers and exporters. Koch Industries‘ [open secrets 2008 Senate Democrat contributions, including Obama, 2008 Republicans] Flint Hills Resources operates a crude oil terminal in Hardisty, and has offices in Calgary. Charles and David Koch are reportedly the 24th richest people in the world, with holdings worth $17.5 billion. It was David Koch who Governor Walker thought he was talking with last spring, only to have the caller being an impersonator. The New York Times reported that the Koch brothers were among Walker’s largest contributors. The Capital Times reported last Monday that David Koch said, “What Scott Walker is doing with public employee unions in Wisconsin is critically important.” The Koch brothers “Americans for Prosperity” has bought about $700,000 in TV ads in support of Governor Walker.
In Alberta, like Wisconsin, conservative legislators argue that public sector collective bargaining should be curtailed and that alternate means of delivering public services should be enabled. Alberta conservatives call it “privatization” and “managed competition”, where the lowest price gets the contract.

How Education Layoffs Are Like Pizza

Will Carless:

For the last few years, the San Diego Unified School District has announced that it will have to lay hundreds of teachers off. But each year, the total number of teachers actually laid off has ended up just a slice of that worst-case-scenario.
This pattern happens because every January, the district has to project how it will balance its budget the following year. In lean times, it does that by projecting how many people it will have to lay off.
But, in January, the district doesn’t know how much money it will have to work with the following year. It doesn’t know that until the state comes out with its budget in the summer. A lot often changes in the few months between the district making its projections and the state’s final budget. The result: The district’s projections end up way off, as hundreds of layoff notices are cancelled.
The teachers union derides this pattern as “crying wolf” and says it brings about unnecessary distress at schools. Recently, the union called on the district to stop playing the budget game. In response, the district says it’s mandated by law to project and account for the worst possible situation for its budget, and said it’s happy to work to change a union-supported law that requires it to issue layoff notices before March 15 each year.

Requiem for GSM

Future of Communications:

One of these slow alpha-waves of change in the telecosm is the upcoming decline and death of the GSM ecosystem. As the biggest and baddest technology ecosystem in the world, this is very significant. Let me point out how it might gradually corrode and collapse – albeit over a long period – and what might grow in its place.

We come to celebrate GSM

GSM is arguably the single most impactful technology on everyday human existence since the wheel. (OK, since the axle and second wheel – the first wheel was a confusing novelty.) Superlatives like “astonishing” are appropriate. In a mere two decades GSM has created a connected planetary populace. The spread and impact of even the printing press cannot compare. The core offer is a perfect packaging of human voice and simple text into GSM’s mobile telephony and SMS standards. A $20 GSM phone with a $3 service plan is near-miraculous source of value. The world’s richest man is an emerging-market GSM entrepreneur, not a software mogul or energy tsar. This is a technology that has outpaced even the spread of clean water and mains electricity.

This achievement cannot be understated, and should not be diminished. Too many Web-heads dismiss the benefits that GSM has brought. It wasn’t the Internet that connected billions, it was GSM.

Thanks to Brian S. Hall for the pointer.
Well worth Reading.

A Simple Spreadsheet Strikes a Nerve Among Adjuncts

Michael Stratford:

Energized by his fellow adjunct professors who had gathered for a national meeting last month in Washington, D.C., Joshua A. Boldt flew home to Athens, Ga., opened his laptop, and created a Google document.
On his personal blog, the 32-year-old writing instructor implored colleagues to contribute to the publicly editable spreadsheet, detailing their pay per course and other working conditions, noting their institutions and departments. The goal of the crowdsourcing project, Mr. Boldt said, was to praise universities that treat adjunct professors well and “out” those institutions that do not.
“Let’s combine forces,” he wrote. “Fill in as much information as you feel comfortable doing, and be sure to tweet this document and share it. … “

Andrew Cuomo’s Teacher Evaluation Overhaul Meets Diane Ravitch’s Maudlin Mind

RiShawn Biddle:

One would think education traditionalists would be as slightly relieved by the deal New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo forced the state’s education department to strike with the American Federation of Teachers’ state affiliate as school reformers are (slightly irrationally) exuberant. While Value-Added analysis of student test score growth over time culled from the state’s standardized tests would account for at least a fifth — and as much as 40 percent — of the overall evaluation, the overall evaluation will still be largely based on classroom observations that are generally less accurate in reflecting their performance than student surveys. Considering that districts can still base half of the test portion of evaluations from third-party instruments (instead of from state tests, as Cuomo had wanted), teacher evaluations will still remain less useful than they could be in rewarding high-quality teaching and helping teachers improve performance. From where your editor sits, the deal is just a slight change for the better, either for good-to-great teachers or for our children. For reformers, it’s a cosmetic victory, and for education traditionalists, it’s far less of a defeat than they could have otherwise expected.

More action needed to bolster good behavior

Alan Borsuk:

I don’t know exactly what happened during a funeral at a church at N. 53rd and W. Burleigh streets last Tuesday, but I know it was bad.
I know a lot more about what happened in the library at Bradley Tech High School the next morning, and I know it was good.
I took rather personally the debacle at the church, where the funeral of a teenage murder victim attracted a large crowd of youths and a ruckus among them brought police rushing to the scene. I live nearby. My synagogue is about 50 yards from the church. My neighbors and my family don’t like visitors like these kids in our still-pretty-solid neighborhood.
The next morning, I was in the library at Bradley Tech as about 20 students from Tech and Vincent High School demonstrated the “restorative justice” program that helps them deal with problems and resolve disputes constructively. They were celebrating a $90,000 grant from AT&T to support that program and a program aimed at boosting math success.

Why College Aid Makes College More Expensive

Jack Hough:

Federal aid for students has increased 164% over the past decade, adjusted for inflation, according to the College Board. Yet three-quarters of Americans and even a majority of college presidents see college as unaffordable for most, and that sentiment has been steadily spreading, the Pew Research Center reports.
Two new studies offer clues on why. One measures the degree to which some colleges reduce their own aid in response to increased federal aid. The other suggests federal aid is helping to push college costs higher.

Madison School District Open Enrollment Enterers & Leavers

Superintendent Dan Nerad:

Under Open Enrollment, students may transfer into an MMSD school from another district or transfer out to another district – “enterers” versus “leavers.” This report focuses primarily on Open Enrollment leavers. There is also some discussion of the net effect of Open Enrollment, which is the number of leavers minus the number of enterers. This report does not discuss students attending private/parochial schools or home schooled students.
For the 2011-12 school year, MMSD has 913 leavers and 213 enterers for a
net effect of 700 students choosing to attend a district other than MMSD.
Of the 913 leavers for 2011-12, 580 were “continuing leavers” meaning they open enrolled outside of the District in previous years. That leaves 333 first time leavers for the current school year.
The growing number of leavers in recent years is the result of a cumulative increase over several years – those who are continuing leavers are still included in our counts in the following years. Because of this, it will take time to reverse the net number of leavers and first time leavers are of particular interest.
First time leavers increased only slightly from 2010-11 to 2011-12. If we discount the one-time bump for the first class of 4K, the number of first time leavers went down for the first time since at least 2005-06.
It is also important to note that nearly half of the students that are leavers never attended MMSD and could be considered “stayers” for other districts.
In terms of why people leave the district, we rely on a 2009 survey of leavers.

Charts (10MB PDF).

Supersizing: Obama’s Higher Educational Strategy

Peter Wood:

The most conspicuous part of President Obama’s agenda for higher education is his plan for gigantic increases in enrollment. Obama announced this goal very early in his term. In February 2009, in a speech to a joint session of Congress he declared, “by 2020, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.” Translated into actual enrollments, that would mean more than doubling the number of domestic students attending the nation’s colleges and universities.
Last week in Obama’s Higher-Education Agenda I said I would in a series of posts examine the eight majors components of that agenda, and then try to put them together as a whole. His dream of gargantuan expansion comes first both as first-announced and as the foundation for everything else.
The idea of gargantuan expansion did not pop out of the blue. Rather it popped out of the College Board in a report released just before Obama’s inauguration, and it also popped out of a two-page ad that appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Boston Globe in December 2008. The College Board report, Coming to Our Senses: Education and the American Future, called for granting college degrees to at least 55 percent of “young Americans” by 2025. The “young Americans” qualifier is important. This was a summons not for more more adult and continuing post-secondary education, but for a radical increase in college education for those under age 35. And it wasn’t just a call for increased enrollments, but for actual graduates.
The proposal was–there is no finer word for it–nuts.
As I pointed out at the time, in Cold Brine and The Battle of Bunker Hill, if you sat down and did the calculations on the basis of census data and actual enrollments, to grant 55 percent of young Americans college degrees by 2025 would mean awarding 129 million college degrees between 2009 and 2025–57 million more than would have been awarded at 2008 rates. Even if you think that is a good idea, American colleges and universities had then and still do not have anything like the capacity to accomplish it. To get there, colleges would need to more than double their enrollments and sustain them at that higher level. How many colleges and universities could have done that starting in 2009?

Triggering School Reform–and Union Dirty Tricks: In California, parent power brings out the worst in the education establishment.

David Feith:

Where’s the toughest battlefield in American education these days? Certainly New Orleans and Harlem host controversially high concentrations of charter schools, while New Jersey and Louisiana boast governors who challenge teachers unions with verve. But for downright nastiness, Southern California is ground zero.
SoCal earns this dubious distinction largely because of the educational establishment’s rage over “parent trigger,” a reform that’s been on California’s books since January 2010. It’s a “lynch mob provision,” declared Marty Hittelman, president of the powerful California Federation of Teachers. Why? Because it gives unprecedented rights to parents whose children are stuck in failing public schools. If more than 50% sign a petition, they can force a school closed, shake up its administration, or turn it into a charter.
The first parent trigger was pulled in December 2010 at Compton’s McKinley Elementary School. Immediately, McKinley teachers began leaning on parents to rescind their signatures–first at a PTA meeting, then by pressuring their kids during school. Soon the school district insisted that parents validate their signatures by appearing at McKinley with official photo identification–naked intimidation of those who were undocumented immigrants and a violation of the First Amendment, said Los Angeles Superior Court. Yet the district persisted, soon rejecting every parent’s signature on technicalities that are still tied up in court a year later.

Enlightenment for Sale

Chris Patten:

Tutorial: Dr Pangloss instructs his young charge in this illustration by Quentin Blake for the Folio Society’s 2011 edition of Voltaire’s ‘Candide’
What Are Universities For?, by Stefan Collini, Penguin, RRP£9.99, 240 pages
In recent years publishers have taken increasingly to decorating their covers with endorsements. Had I been asked to contribute some such remark on this book, I would have proffered (borrowing from Evelyn Waugh), “Up to a point, Lord Copper.”
Professor Stefan Collini, who holds a chair in intellectual history and English literature at Cambridge University, appears to come from what we might describe as the unregenerate, conservative left. Old Tories may have a little sympathy for his approach, particularly his refusal (at the very least) to make an idol of the market and his passionate defence of autonomous institutions. He does not go as far as that other, alas now dead, Cambridge man of the left, Tony Judt, in denouncing the “system of enforced downward uniformity” that has clipped and confined meritocracy over the past 40 years. But you feel that he would have quite liked to go that far, if only he had dared challenge the phony egalitarianism that has played such havoc with our education system.

To Be Black at Stuyvesant High

Fernanda Santos:

LIKE a city unto itself, Stuyvesant High School, in Lower Manhattan, is broken into neighborhoods, official and otherwise. The math department is on the 4th of its 10 floors; biology is on the 7th. Seniors congregate by the curved mint wall off the second-floor atrium, next to lockers that are such prime real estate that students trade them for $100 or more. Sophomores are relegated to the sixth floor.
In Stuyvesant slang, the hangouts are known as “bars.” Some years ago, the black students took over the radiators outside the fifth-floor cafeteria, and the place soon came to be known as the “chocolate bar,” lending it an air of legitimacy in the school’s labyrinth of cliques and turfs.
It did not last long. This year, Asian freshmen displaced the black students in a strength-in-numbers coup in which whispers of indignation were the sole expression of resistance. There was no point arguing, said Rudi-Ann Miller, a 17-year-old senior who came to New York from Jamaica and likes to style her hair in a bun, slick and straight, like the ballerina she once dreamed of becoming.

Best Student Cities in the World 2012

QS Top Universities:

QS is proud to announce the first ever QS Best Student Cities ranking. Based on a complex set of measures taken from public information, surveys and data submitted as part of the QS World University Rankings, the results provide a new way of comparing the best cities around the world in which to be a student.
Click the city name in the table below in order to view the full details and profile for that city, including a list of all of the qualifying educational institutions, population size, quality of living, affordability and student mix.

Introduce a girl to engineering

Julie Ledger:

Today, in honor of the 11th annual “Introduce a Girl to Engineering Week,” I encourage you to do just that. Our country faces a critical need to increase the number of students entering engineering programs and professions if we are to continue to be a global leader in economic output, innovation and technology.
A recent study, performed by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, reported a staggering statistic: Only 11% of practicing engineers are women. The clear answer to this chronic shortage lies in encouraging more women to enter a profession in which they are currently outnumbered nearly nine to one.
And what better city to lead this effort than Milwaukee? Here, we have some of the best resources in the nation, including Marquette University’s state-of-the-art new facility for its College of Engineering, UWM’s anticipated construction of an engineering and research facility and, of course, the renowned Milwaukee School of Engineering, which boasts an impressive 95% placement rate for its graduates.
To effectively reach young women, we need to paint a more accurate picture of the rich professional life of an engineer and the many paths one can take with an engineering degree. Too often, people picture a career spent mulling over mathematical and scientific equations and a vast array of technical jargon. Yes, these are critical components of the profession, but it isn’t the end-all and be-all of a profession related to engineering – and it might not be the most appealing selling point to women.

Intergenerational Mobility

Steve Hsu:

I went back to Bowles and Gintis to compare their results to those of Greg Clark that I posted about recently. The largest correlation reported by Bowles and Gintis for intergenerational earnings is 0.65, obtained when fathers’ and sons’ earnings are averaged over multiyear periods, whereas Clark finds a (roughly) 0.7 — 0.8 correlation between parental and children’s social and economic status. Clark was studying the past 200 years, using rare surnames, whereas Bowles and Gintis concentrated on the modern era. Even the lower value of 0.42 (more typical of results cited by Bowles and Gintis) implies some persistent stratification, as shown in the figure below.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: San Jose Confronts Pension Burden

Bobby White:

The Bay Area’s biggest city next week is expected to issue a five-year forecast that will likely become part of a rancorous debate over how to overhaul municipal pensions and ease their growing burden on San Jose.
With costs outpacing revenue, the city has laid off or cut the positions of more than 20% of its work force in the past three years.
The forecast, which is issued every year by the Office of Management and Budget, will be used by the City Council and mayor to decide what cuts need to be made to reach a balanced budget.
San Jose officials and unions disagree over the size of the city’s projected pension burden, but the city’s actual costs have been rising for years as returns on pension-fund investments haven’t kept pace with retiree payouts, which were negotiated during better economic times.
About 25% of San Jose’s police and fire retirees receive pensions of $100,000 or greater, according to city records.

UW-Madison student seeks details about how fees are spent

Todd Finkelmeyer:

How much say should students have in how their mandatory fees are used?
It’s a topic UW-Madison sophomore Sarah Neibart is attempting to bring some attention to by contacting reporters and writing letters to the editor.
Here are some basics: A full-time student attending UW-Madison pays about $540 in mandatory segregated fees each semester (a figure that’s on top of tuition, which is $4,835 per semester for an in-state undergrad). Over the course of an entire academic year, this means students across campus contribute a combined $42 million in segregated fees.
When a unit on campus utilizes these dollars, it must submit an annual budget proposal outlining how they’re spent.

Union rights a campaign hot potato

Jack Craver:

Labor was even overshadowed by a multitude of non-policy-related issues Democrats launched at Republicans, such as (ultimately recalled) Sen. Randy Hopper’s extra-marital affair and a conservative group’s use of a narrator whose voice is strikingly similar to that of actor Morgan Freeman. (Incredibly, it’s not the first time somebody has accused Republicans of mimicking the star’s patented Delta drawl in TV ads)
“I think that the terminology of collective bargaining is not one that if you did a poll resonates because of the way the right-wing has killed private sector unions,” says John Matthews, executive director of Madison Teachers Inc., the local teachers union.
Jim Palmer, the head of the Wisconsin Professional Police Association, agrees, and says unions should take some of the blame for the public’s lack of understanding of labor rights.
No matter what candidates are saying, however, Matthews makes one point clear:
“Any Democrat would be better than Walker.”

Middleton school leader to run for Assembly

Jessica Vanegeren:

Middleton-Cross Plains School Board President Ellen Lindgren plans to run for the Assembly, making her the first candidate to enter the race for the redrawn 79th District.
Lindgren, who announced her candidacy earlier this week after filing in November, has served for 17 years on the Middleton-Cross Plains Area Board of Education, the last six as its president.
She says if elected she would continue to serve as president of the School Board.
Lindgren, 62, frequented the Capitol during the height of the protests. She says she went to protest Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s $1.6 billion cut in state aid to education to “show solidarity with teachers” and to oppose what she described as a time when “our democracy was being shredded” by politicians.

The Disadvantages of an Elite Education

William Deresiewicz:

It didn’t dawn on me that there might be a few holes in my education until I was about 35. I’d just bought a house, the pipes needed fixing, and the plumber was standing in my kitchen. There he was, a short, beefy guy with a goatee and a Red Sox cap and a thick Boston accent, and I suddenly learned that I didn’t have the slightest idea what to say to someone like him. So alien was his experience to me, so unguessable his values, so mysterious his very language, that I couldn’t succeed in engaging him in a few minutes of small talk before he got down to work. Fourteen years of higher education and a handful of Ivy League degrees, and there I was, stiff and stupid, struck dumb by my own dumbness. “Ivy retardation,” a friend of mine calls this. I could carry on conversations with people from other countries, in other languages, but I couldn’t talk to the man who was standing in my own house.
It’s not surprising that it took me so long to discover the extent of my miseducation, because the last thing an elite education will teach you is its own inadequacy. As two dozen years at Yale and Columbia have shown me, elite colleges relentlessly encourage their students to flatter themselves for being there, and for what being there can do for them. The advantages of an elite education are indeed undeniable. You learn to think, at least in certain ways, and you make the contacts needed to launch yourself into a life rich in all of society’s most cherished rewards. To consider that while some opportunities are being created, others are being cancelled and that while some abilities are being developed, others are being crippled is, within this context, not only outrageous, but inconceivable.

U.S. Bachelor Degree Rate Passes Milestone

Richard Perez-Pena:

More than 30 percent of American adults hold bachelor’s degrees, a first in the nation’s history, and women are on the brink of surpassing men in educational attainment, the Census Bureau reported on Thursday.
The figures reflect an increase in the share of the population going to college that began in the mid-1990s, after a relatively stagnant period that began in the 1970s. They show significant gains in all demographic groups, but blacks and Latinos not only continue to trail far behind whites, the gap has also widened in the last decade.q

UW profs shed light on ALEC’s threat to public education

Todd Finkelmeyer:

University of Wisconsin-Madison professors Julie Underwood and Julie Mead are expressing concern over the growing corporate influence on public education in an article published Monday.
In particular, they are highly critical of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which connects conservative state legislators with like-minded think tanks, corporations and foundations to develop “model legislation” that can be enacted at the state level.
Underwood is the dean of UW-Madison’s School of Education, while Mead chairs the ed school’s department of educational leadership and policy analysis. The two make their opinions known in an article they co-authored for the March issue of Phi Delta Kappan magazine, which serves members of the PDK professional organization for educators.
Underwood says much of the information in the article is an outgrowth of research she conducted while helping get the website up and running last summer.


The Way We Plagiarise Now

The Syllabi:

Quentin Rowan published a novel, called Assassin of Secrets, under a pseudonym last year. It had been on sale for 5 days before anyone noticed that almost every word of it was plagiarised. Half of the novel alone is made up of various extracts from Charles McCarry’s writing, and the other half stitches bits and pieces of Robert Ludlum, John Gardner, Adam Hall, and a couple of others together. As is inevitable in these cases, it soon came out that much of Rowan’s past work was plagiarised too, but Assassins of Secrets makes for an interesting case study in modern plagiarism.

Public Schools Create Citizens In A Democratic Society

Jeffrey Mirel:

How do you get people who hate each other learn to resolve their differences democratically? How do you get them to believe in ballots not bullets?
What if the answer is “public schools” and the evidence for it is in our own history during the first half of the twentieth century?
In the years spanning about 1890-1930, two institutions–public schools and the foreign language press–helped generate this trust among the massive wave of eastern and southern European immigrants who came to the U.S. during that time. This is not a traditional “melting pot” story but rather an examination of a dynamic educational process.
The majority of these immigrants were dramatically different from the native born Americans they encountered here. Most immigrants knew no English, worshipped at synagogues or Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox churches, and had little knowledge of democracy. Many native born Americans viewed this “invasion of immigrants” as akin to the onslaught of the barbarians who destroyed Rome. Indeed, some argued that these newcomers were genetically incapable of becoming Americans.

Madison School chief Nerad weighs in on relationships

Paul Fanlund:

Well, that covers everyone who appeared in my column. One might see all of this as damage control, but I didn’t think the column was all that damaging. Anyway, here is Nerad’s text:

Dear friends,
Community input on our preliminary plan to close the achievement gap is off to a good start. We held our first input session this week at West High School and had 50 participants who spent two hours learning more about the preliminary plan and providing us input on how to make it better.
I couldn’t be more pleased with the start of this conversation, and I look forward to it continuing in the coming weeks. We are holding 12 more sessions between now and the end of March — from our larger community conversation to smaller neighborhood-based sessions.
You can read more about the sessions in WISC’s editorial, “closing the gap together.” I agree that this is the most important issue we face as a community

Which is the Best Language to Learn?

Intelligent Life:

For language lovers, the facts are grim: Anglophones simply aren’t learning them any more. In Britain, despite four decades in the European Union, the number of A-levels taken in French and German has fallen by half in the past 20 years, while what was a growing trend of Spanish-learning has stalled. In America, the numbers are equally sorry. One factor behind the 9/11 attacks was the fact that the CIA lacked the Arabic-speakers who might have translated available intelligence. But ten years on, “English only” campaigns appeal more successfully to American patriotism than campaigns that try to promote language-learning, as if the most successful language in history were threatened.
Why learn a foreign language? After all, the one you already speak if you read this magazine is the world’s most useful and important language. English is not only the first language of the obvious countries, it is now the rest of the world’s second language: a Japanese tourist in Sweden or a Turk landing a plane in Spain will almost always speak English.

Analysis of Census Finds 4.9% in 2010, Down From 5.3% a Decade Earlier; Decline Is First Recorded in Labor Force Since 1950

Connor Dougherty & Rob Barry:

The share of American workers in the science and engineering professions fell slightly in the past decade, ending what had been a steady upward trend in the proportion of workers in fields associated with technological innovation and economic growth.
Workers in technical fields ranging from architecture to software design accounted for 4.9% of the labor force in 2010, according to a new analysis of Census data being released on Friday, down from a peak of 5.3% in 2000.
Before 2000, the share of these knowledge workers had increased in every 10-year Census since 1950, according to the Population Reference Bureau, a nonprofit demographic research group in Washington that conducted the study. While the total number of workers in these fields continued to grow in the 2000s, along with the rise in total population, they now account for a relatively smaller slice of the work force.

Class acts: how top teachers get results

Linda Yeung:

Professor Chung Yue-ping of Chinese University smiles a lot. It’s not because he is one of eight recipients of the university’s latest Outstanding Teacher Award, though. That’s just the way he is.
Since working as a primary school teacher in the early 1970s, he has made a point of focusing on his students’ strengths rather than their weaknesses, so he is not easily frustrated in his work. His open, non-judgmental style made him popular with students of all ages, some of whom are now school principals and even professors.

AVID/TOPS: Program making a difference for Madison’s East student, community

A. David Dahmer:

“AVID/TOPS has been an awesome experience for me,” says Alexis Tecuatl, a senior at Madison East High who has been in the AVID/TOPS program for about two and a half years and will be attending the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh next fall.
“I found out about UW-Oshkosh through AVID/TOPS. We did college visits and we went to a lot of different universities around Wisconsin and Oshkosh really stood out to me,” Alexis remembers. “I’m going to be kinda nervous because I’m the first one [in my family] going to college. But I am excited.”
AVID is college readiness system that includes an elective course focused on organizational strategies, study skills, critical thinking, tutorial support and career and college awareness. In addition, the Boys & Girls Club through TOPS provides full-time student coordinators in each of the four high schools, summer internships, after-school mentors, and provides funding for more than 40 tutors during the elective course and a variety of college and career field trips.

Madison East auditorium may get boost from public-private matching funds

Matthew DeFour:

Madison East High School senior Delia Ross remembers her freshman year band teacher telling students in her class they would be performing in a renovated auditorium before they graduated.
But despite a fundraising effort launched two years ago with the goal of raising $3.5 million by East’s 90th anniversary this year, the auditorium remains an ugly, acoustically dysfunctional lecture hall full of uncomfortable burnt orange bowling alley chairs.
“It’s really disappointing,” said Ross, who is performing in an upcoming production of Macbeth. “My brother will be a freshman next year, so maybe in his time they’ll get a new theater.”
The chances of that and other district building improvements happening are getting a boost from an administration proposal to create a program to match private donations for building projects with public funds.

New York Releases Teacher Rankings

Lisa Fleisher:

New York City on Friday released internal rankings of about 18,000 public schoolteachers who were measured over three years on their ability to affect student test scores.
The release of teacher’s job-performance data follows a yearlong legal battle with the United Federation of Teachers, which sued to block the release and protect teachers’ privacy. News organizations, including The Wall Street Journal, had requested the data in 2010 under the state Freedom of Information Law.
Friday’s release covers math and English teachers active between 2007 and 2010 in fourth- through eighth-grade classrooms. It does not include charter school teachers in those grades.
Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott, who has pushed for accountability based on test scores, cautioned that the data were old and represented just one way to look at teacher performance.
“I don’t want our teachers disparaged in any way and I don’t want our teachers denigrated based on this information,” Mr. Walcott said Friday while briefing reporters on the Teacher Data Reports. “This is very rich data that has evolved over the years. … It’s old data and it’s just one piece of information.”


NCLB Waiver Undermines Charter School Accountability

Mike Ford:

A tweet today by State Superintendent Tony Evers on the Department of Public Instruction’s (DPI) desire for authority to intervene in charter schools caught my eye. Evers, who was responding to a New York Times editorial, wrote:

“if weak charters stay open, students are deprived & public $ wasted. Our ESEA waiver will help us take action.”

Indeed, the state’s federal No Child Left Behind waiver will give DPI the ability to intervene in and eventually close charter schools it deems low performing. The waiver, if granted, will undermine the very idea of charter schools.
The charter school concept is simple:

Oral Online Dictionaries Help Preserve Languages, Cultures Muted by Modernity

Robert Lee Hotz:

In 2009, linguist David Harrison first encountered the speakers of Matukar Panau, a language common to about 600 people in two small villages in the hills of Papua New Guinea.
The villagers had no written alphabet, no electricity and no computers. But they had heard of the Internet and believed that if their language were to survive, they would have to put it on the Web.
Now they can. At a science conference here Friday, Mr. Harrison, of Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, and his colleagues at National Geographic’s Enduring Voices project unveiled a set of online talking dictionaries that for the first time document the sound, syntax and structure of Matukar Panau and record seven other unusual, vanishing languages, including Tuvan in Mongolia, Chamacoco in Paraguay and Ho, Sora and Remo in India.

Rely on Merit, Not Race

Steve Hsu:

In considering Fisher v. University of Texas, let’s acknowledge a key factual point about affirmative action: We have good tools for predicting college success, and those tools work about equally well across all ethnic groups and even for rich legacy candidates.
Race-based preference produces a population of students whose intellectual strength varies strongly according to race.
In comprehensive statistics compiled as part of Duke University’s Campus Life and Learning project, Asian-American students averaged 1457 out of 1600 on the math and reading portion of the SAT, compared to 1416 for whites, 1347 for Hispanics and 1275 for blacks. There is every reason to believe that a similar pattern holds at almost every elite university in America, with some notable exceptions like Caltech. Is this pattern justifiable, or even beneficial to the students with the lowest scores?
The data show that SAT score and high school grade point average are good predictors of success at Duke for all ethnic groups, as well as for wealthy legacy students. Those students admitted with weaker SAT scores and high school grades are more likely to drop out of challenging majors like science and engineering, and less likely to earn good grades in any major.

Lecture of Interest on March 20t: Carl Wieman, Assoc. Director for Science, Office of Science and Technology, US White House

Via a kind reader’s email:

I am pleased to ask you to help me spread the word about a public lecture by Carl Wieman, who directs the Science office of the White House Office of Science and Technology. As the attached flyer indicates, he will present a public lecture (topic: taking a scientific approach to science teaching) on:
Tuesday, MARCH 20, at 2 pm
in the DeLuca Forum of the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery
(tasty reception to follow)
I believe many on campus who care about STEM teaching and learning would want to know about this lecture; thank you very much for helping by sending the attached flyer to your various relevant mailing lists, and asking folks to post copies of the poster.
Thank you!
Susan B. Millar, PhD
Founding Director Emeritus, Education Research Integration Area
Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery
Senior Scientist, Wisconsin Center for Education Research
University of Wisconsin-Madison
608-332-8496 (c)

Let’s invest in immersion schools

Alex Runner:

People talk a lot about China. It seems as though its economy has been steadily gaining steam longer than Justin Bieber has been alive. But here’s something else that is increasing significantly in China: widespread interest in the French language and culture.
“Chinese students’ interest in France is growing dramatically,” Anthony Chaumuzeau, cultural counselor of the French embassy in China, told Beijing Today last year. “They go there to study not only history and language but also for an understanding of what’s happening economically and politically.” Chaumuzeau estimated that the number of Chinese students in France would likely exceed 50,000 by 2015.
Chinese students aren’t just learning French. The number who are coming to the United States and gaining fluency in English is also skyrocketing. (Nearly 160,000 Chinese students enrolled in U.S. colleges in 2010, an all-time high, up 23% from the year before.)

Chicago Shake-Up Targets 17 Schools

Stephanie Banchero:

This city’s school board voted Wednesday to shake up the teaching staffs at 17 low-performing public schools, handing Mayor Rahm Emanuel a victory in his battle with the teachers union and highlighting an increasingly aggressive stance on education overhauls by a number of Democratic mayors nationwide.
The Chicago Board of Education voted to close five elementary schools, phase out one high school and “turn around” 10 schools by firing all the teachers and making them reapply for jobs. One other high school will convert to a new school with a health-science focus.
Six of the schools would be given over to the Academy for Urban School Leadership, a non-profit organization with a record of student achievement and close political ties to Mr. Emanuel.

A handful of schools and community groups are sweeping aside old taboos and finding creative ways to teach children about sex and responsibility

Elaine Yau:

How do you teach children about the birds and the bees in the digital age? Touchscreens mounted on the walls of the Family Planning Association’s mobile classroom point to changing approaches. Housed in a converted truck, the facility is now equipped with tablet PCs and gaming devices instead of shelves of books and videos.
“Turgid texts are being replaced by interactive video games and animation about how babies are conceived in the womb,” says the FPA’s education manager, Grace Lee Ming-ying.

Know Your Madisonian: Barbara Bitters tries to get more girls involved in math and science

Matthew DeFour:

Though schools no longer separate boys into shop class and girls into home economics, girls continue to be under-represented in math and science fields, something Barbara Bitters has spent much of her career trying to change.
Bitters, 62, recently retired as assistant director for the career and technical education team at the Department of Public Instruction where she spent 37 years.
Bitters helped establish the women’s studies program at UW-Madison while a graduate student from 1972 to 1975. That led to a job at DPI helping the state figure out the implications of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the law that prohibits gender discrimination in schools.
In December, the White House honored Bitters as one of 12 “Champions of Change” for leading the effort to recruit and retain girls and women in what are referred to as the STEM fields.

Discrete Math Lectures

In a World of Ideas:

basic set theory,
countability and counting arguments,
proof techniques,
mathematical induction,
graph theory,
discrete probability,
recurrence relations,
and number theory.
Emphasis is placed on providing a context for the application of the mathematics within computer science.

Parents Feeling Ignored in School Reforms

Rebecca Vevea:

Chicago Public School officials are making big changes during their first year in office, but there’s a group of people feeling shut out once again — parents.
Despite a well-publicized commitment to involve parents in the city’s public education system, some of them are not happy with how Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his school team are following through. And some say they are still not familiar with the new Office of Community and Family Engagement.
“I’ve heard of the new department, but I quite honestly have no idea what they do,” said Jonathan Goldman, a parent and Local School Council member at Drummond Montessori School, a sought-after magnet program.
The district has long been accused of excluding parents from its decision-making process. “To be fair, C.P.S. has never, under any recent administration, been a bastion of parent engagement,” Goldman said.
To address that reputation, Jean-Claude Brizard, C.P.S. chief executive, created the office last July and said it would focus solely on parents and school communities. He said the new office would concentrate the responsibilities of several former departments — the Office of Local School Council relations, the Office of External Affairs and other now-defunct departments — into one unit that would report directly to him.

Democrat Hanauer: On Education, “McKenna Is On the Right Track, We Are Not.”


Major Democratic Party donor and education reform advocate Nick Hanauer has responded to Washington Education Association president Mary Lindquist. Lindquist wrote an open letter to PubliCola yesterday criticizing Hanauer for denouncing the Democrats’ position on ed reform and announcing that he planned to meet with Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna.
Here’s Hanauer’s response to teachers’ union president Lindquist.

Dear Mary,
Thank you for your recent open letter to me and PubliCola. It will not surprise you to hear that I disagreed with some of it.
Can you seriously argue that the kids and families in South Seattle don’t deserve better educational opportunities?
As a lifelong Democrat and committed progressive, I too believe that McKenna’s reflexive Republican positions on social issues, taxation, and the role of government are deeply misguided.
But if McKenna and Republicans are wrong in some areas, it hardly excuses us Democrats from being wrong on school reform. Here at least, McKenna is on the right track, and we are not.

Locally, I’ve heard a number of Democrats express similar frustration with the Party’s intransigence on education issues.

Why They Seem to Rise Together: Federal Aid and College Tuition

minding the campus:

It’s called “the Bennett Hypothesis,” and it explains–or tries to explain–why the cost of college lies so tantalizingly out of reach for so many. In 1987, then Secretary of Education William J. Bennett launched a quarter century of debate by saying, in effect, “Federal aid doesn’t help; colleges and universities just cream off the extra money by raising tuition.” Now Andrew Gillen, research director of CCAP–the Center for College Affordability and Productivity–has tweaked the data and produced a sophisticated “2.0” version of the hypothesis. It’s filled with heavy math, game theory and terms like “inelastic fairly vertical curves.” You probably won’t read it. We know. But it’s important. So here are some smart people who have read it, and have something to say: Peter Wood, Hans Bader, Richard Vedder, George Leef and Herbert London.

The French are right to resist Global English

Christopher Caldwell:

One of the odd stories to come out of the French-speaking province of Quebec last year was the announcement that intensive English courses would be offered to students in state schools. Odd, because in the past half-century, much of the Quebecois identity has been built on resisting English. Authorities throw the book at people for doing things that would be normal elsewhere in Canada. Last autumn, the Montreal newspaper La Presse revealed that two real estate executives had made presentations in English to a Montreal-based pension fund, violating the province’s language laws, which give workers the right to a French-speaking environment.
Now, school authorities in Quebec City are questioning whether the time is ripe for introducing those English classes after all. Their hesitation has left French-speaking parents angry. On one hand, those parents want their children to cherish their own community and its language. On the other hand, English is the international language of business, and their children will have a hard time climbing the social ladder without it.

Don’t toy with education

Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim:

English must be accorded a higher stature in schools, be given greater emphasis and longer exposure hours, coupled with the appropriate teacher training.
A CHANCE meeting with a distinguished member of the Education Review Panel at the 2011 Mahathir Science Award presentation recently revealed to me that the panel sees a definitive future in the learning of Science and Mathematics in English.
We sincerely hope that this decision by the panel is conveyed to the Prime Minister and his Government in an honest, pure and unadulterated manner.
This brings to mind the roundtable sessions in 2008 of which I attended three of five. While the contention was whether to stick to using English in primary schools or revert to mother tongue, there was hardly mention of any change at the secondary level.

Teacher seniority rights remain intact in Oakland’s public schools

Katy Murphy:

Seniority rules and teacher transfer rights will remain intact in Oakland Unified this year, despite the superintendent’s call for a change.
The recent debate in Oakland has centered on the transfer of displaced teachers — those whose schools have closed, whose positions have been cut, or who are returning from leave. Traditionally, those teachers have chosen their new job from a list of openings for which they are eligible, with the most senior employee having the first pick and principals having little to no say.
Superintendent Tony Smith had hoped to work out a different arrangement in Oakland, in an initiative called “mutual matching,” arguing it would lead to better placements and, ultimately, higher student achievement. Teachers would visit prospective schools and list their top choices; school principals would do the same, and the district would make the final placements based on both sets of preferences.
Some teachers welcomed the idea. Others expressed strong objections, or felt the process would be too rushed to put in place for the fall. This week, without the union support it needed, the district acknowledged that it had run out of time.

Wisconsin Youth Risk Behavior Survey

Wisconsin DPI:

The Wisconsin Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) is conducted as part of a national effort by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to monitor health-risk behaviors of the nation’s high school students. These behaviors, in turn, result in the most significant causes of both mortality and morbidity during youth and adulthood. The behaviors monitored by the Wisconsin YRBS include traffic safety; weapons and violence; suicide; tobacco use; alcohol and other drug use; sexual behavior; and diet, nutrition and exercise.
The Department of Public Instruction (DPI) has administered the YRBS every two years beginning with 1993. The YRBS is administered to students in Wisconsin’s public high schools. Survey procedures were designed to protect the privacy of students by allowing anonymous and voluntary participation. Local parent permission procedures were followed before administration, including informing parents that their child’s participation was voluntary.

Study of the Day: On Detecting Dyslexia Before Starting School

Hans Villarica:

PROBLEM: Developmental dyslexia affects about half of children with a family history of this disorder and five to 17 percent of all kids. Since it responds to early intervention, is there a way to diagnose children who are at risk before or during kindergarten to head off academic and social difficulties?
METHODOLOGY: Children’s Hospital Boston researchers led by Nora Raschle performed functional MRI imaging in 36 preschool-age children who were about five years old while they performed phonological tasks requiring them to decide whether two words started with the same speech sound. Half of the the kids came from families with a history of dyslexia.
RESULTS: Children with a familial risk for dyslexia tended to have less metabolic activity in brain regions tied to processing language sounds than kids in the control groups. Those with high activation in these areas generally had better pre-reading skills, such as rhyming, knowing letters and letter sounds, knowing when two words start with the same sound, and being able to separate sounds within a word (like saying “cowboy” without the “cow”).

Origami unwraps a world of creativity

Vanessa Yung:

Like many youngsters, Kade Chan Pak-hei was a keen gamer when he was in primary school. When he entered secondary school, however, his interest waned.
“My main reason for not playing with electronic gaming consoles when I got older was that I found a new hobby – origami,” Kade, 17, says. He says he first became interested in the Japanese paper-folding craft after encountering it on the internet and being fascinated by the creative possibilities it offered.
“I started to try my hand at it when I was in Form One, and since then I’ve been addicted.”

Dates for MMSD Achievement Gap Input Sessions

Article on first Input Session (held at West last night) in Feb. 22 Wisconsin State Journal.
Whatever your position/perspective may be, please participate in these important discussions that will have a significant impact on the future of MMSD schools and the students that they serve.
Feb. 28 (Tuesday), Urban League of Greater Madison, 2222 S. Park St.
Feb. 29 (Wednesday), La Follette High School, 702 Pflaum Road.
March 1 (Thursday), Memorial High School, 201 S. Gammon Road.
March 6 (Tuesday), East High School, 2222 E. Washington Ave.
March 7 (Wednesday), Bridge Lakepoint Waunona Neighborhood Center (in Spanish), 1917 Lake Point Drive.
March 8 (Thursday), Lussier Education Center, 55 S. Gammon Road.
March 10 (Saturday), Vera Court Neighborhood Center, (10 a.m. to noon), 614 Vera Court.
March 14(Wednesday), CUNA Mutual, 5910 Mineral Point Road.
March 17 (Saturday), Centro Hispano (in Spanish) (10 a.m. to noon), 810 W. Badger Road.
March 22 (Thursday), Allied Family Center, 4619 Jenewein Road. [Time not listed in paper]
March 27, East Madison Community Center, 8 Straubel Court. [Time not listed in paper]

Chicago’s Democratically-Led Elementary Schools Far Out-Perform Chicago’s “Turnaround Schools”

Designs for Change (PDF):

Chicago has 210 neighborhood elementary schools that serve 95% or more low-income students (largely grades prekindergarten to eight in Chicago). Chart 1 depicts the distribution of schools in the state in terms of the numbers of percent low-income schools and shows that a very high percentage of schools that are 95% or more low-income are located in the Chicago Public Schools. The two major focuses of this study are:
To compare the impact in these very high-poverty neighborhood schools of two fundamentally different strategiesfor improving them.
To assess the potential of each of these two strategies for radically improving the quality of education and fostering fundamental improvement in hundreds of very high-poverty elementary schools in Chicago and other major cities.
The two reform strategies being compared are:


Education system ‘failing business and workforce’

Brian Groom:

Britain’s education system is failing both business and the workforce, a group of leading employers including Adecco, the recruiter, Deloitte, the professional services firm, and Cisco, the network equipment company, has warned.
The companies say the gulf between what employers need and the skills of students emerging from schools and colleges is widening. They call for an urgent effort by government, educators and businesses to equip prospective employees with the interpersonal skills as well as the qualifications they say are lacking.

Borrowing wise words from those truly market-based, Private Independent schools…

Bruce Baker:

Lately it seems that public policy and the reformy rhetoric that drives it are hardly influenced by the vast body of empirical work and insights from leading academic scholars which suggests that such practices as using value-added metrics to rate teacher quality, or dramatically increasing test-based accountability and pushing for common core standards and tests to go with them are unlikely to lead to substantial improvements in education quality, or equity.
Rather than review relevant empirical evidence or provide new empirical illustrations in this post, I’ll do as I’ve done before on this blog and refer to the wisdom and practices of private independent schools – perhaps the most market driven segment and most elite segment of elementary and secondary schooling in the United States.
Really… if running a school like a ‘business’ (or more precisely running a school as we like to pretend that ‘businesses’ are run… even though ‘most’ businesses aren’t really run the way we pretend they are) was such an awesome idea for elementary and secondary schools, wouldn’t we expect to see that our most elite, market oriented schools would be the ones pushing the envelope on such strategies?

Fighting over school fad with meager results

Jay Matthews:

Fads rule much of American education. A good example is block scheduling. In most high schools in the Washington area — and much of the rest of the country — that innovation has replaced the traditional 45-minute daily class periods with classes that meet every other day for as long as 90 minutes each.
The block approach, influenced by the work of University of Virginia school administration expert Robert Lynn Canady, swept through this area in the 1990s. I had to explain it in several stories then. It was not easy. The array of colors and numbers used to distinguish each class was bewildering.
Still, about three-quarters of this region’s high schools, and many middle schools, have stuck with block schedules, even though many educators have a difficult time explaining why. Studies say neither block Arlington County schools Superintendent Patrick K. Murphy (Arlington County schools) nor regular schedules make much of a difference.

Nerad’s plan just throws more money at problem

Bob Hartwig:

After reading the highlights of Dan Nerad’s proposal to close the student achievement gap, I see the same liberal method of looking for solutions by throwing more money at the problem.
His proposal will cost the district a projected $100 million-plus over five years. This is an average of $800 per year across the 25,000 student body. Madison is already 13 percent higher in cost per student, now $13,493 versus the state average of $11,894 per student per year, according to the Madison School District website.

‘Parent trigger’ campaign divides families at troubled Adelanto elementary school

Teresa Watanabe:

Julie Rodriguez wanted improvement — but not a wholesale change of staff — at her children’s school in the High Desert community of Adelanto. So late last year she signed what she thought was a petition, circulated by parents she considered friends, for more programs and better teachers.
But she learned that what she actually signed was a petition to convert Desert Trails Elementary School into a charter campus, a change she says she had specifically told organizers she didn’t want. Furious, Rodriguez has rescinded her signature and is working to help other parents do the same before the Adelanto school board votes Tuesday on whether to accept the petition.
“They lied to me,” Rodriguez said of supporters, “and now it’s a big old mess.”

Madison School District begins public hearings for achievement gap plan

Matthew DeFour:

About 50 people attended the first public input session for the Madison School District’s plan to close the achievement gap.
Superintendent Dan Nerad said during a brief overview of the issue that he couldn’t promise every idea would be included in the final plan. But he did promise that every idea would be looked at.
“Whether it is this plan or another plan, if we are to make things right for our children and eliminate achievement gaps, we must invest,”
Nerad’s plan for closing the School District’s persistent racial and socioeconomic achievement gaps calls for spending an estimated $105.6 million over the next five years on a mix of new and existing strategies.

I have to agree with Steve Prestegard’s concern regarding the use of the term “investment” and education:

Nearly every politician or candidate speaks of education spending as an “investment.” Some claim any kind of government spending is an “investment,” but education is always so termed, particularly by teacher unions, as if the more spending on schools, the better schools will be, and the better our country will be.
Anecdotally, this doesn’t make sense, at least in Wisconsin. The state has spent more than nearly every other state for decades for our alleged ‘great schools.” Based on education “investment,” Wisconsin should have the number one state economy in the U.S. And yet, in such measures of economic health as per capita personal income growth, business start-ups and incorporations, Wisconsin has trailed the nation since the late 1970s.

Ideally, the local District would critically evaluate current programs and initiatives prior to significantly increasing spending.

We Need Transformational Change, and We Can Do it!

Kaleem Caire, via email:

Kaleem Caire, President/CEO
February 21, 2012
Dear Friends & Colleagues.
I read yesterday’s article by Paul Fanlund of the Capital Times titled, “On School Gap Issue, there’s also a Gap between Leaders.” In his article, he addresses the perception of a gap that exist between Madison School’s superintendent, Dr. Daniel Nerad, and myself.
Is there a gap?
Yes. So far as our proposal for Madison Preparatory Academy is concerned, there is a gap. Dr. Nerad did not support the proposal. I do. I still believe, as thousands of others do, that Madison Prep would benefit children and our public schools, and should be supported.
However, beyond Madison Prep, the only gaps that may exist between Dr. Nerad and me are our different personal and professional backgrounds and experiences; his full silver top and my emerging grey hairs; my love for old school hip hop, break dancing and the cupid shuffle, and his love for disco, the mashed potato and the electric slide; and perhaps our respective views about how innovative and aggressive we should be in pursuing change in public education. Although, I did see Dr. Nerad bobbing his head to some Jay-Z, Nas and Kanye West tunes while driving down Park Street last week. We actually might not be that far apart after all (smile).
But these are authentic differences that can be mitigated and parlayed into a powerful and effective partnership, which is something that I am very interested in. More importantly, our mutual concerns outweigh our differences, and that is where we, the media and the public need to focus our attention.
What’s immediately concerning is that this summer, we will learn that another 350 Black, 200 Latino and 50 Southeast Asian teenagers stopped attending school this year. Our children cannot wait any longer. They need transformation change in our schools and community right now. They need Madison to empower them, their families and embrace their cultural differences. They need Madisonians to support and inspire them, not quietly complain about which neighborhood in Chicago they might come from.
Can Dr. Nerad and I work together?
Of course we can; and, we do. This week, we will announce that our organization has secured private funding to partner with MMSD to operate 14 College Readiness Academies between March and December 2012. These academies will provide four-weeks of free ACT prep classes, test preparation and academic skills development to 200 MMSD high school juniors and seniors.
We will also announce the hiring of the Project Director for the South Madison Promise Zone Initiative that we are spearheading. This initiative will address the need for a comprehensive and collaborative approach to addressing the multifaceted needs of children and their families within a specific geographic region of South Madison, with the ultimate goal being the creation of an environment where all children are ready for college. MMSD is a partner in this initiative, too.
Additionally, our agency operates the Schools of Hope Initiative, serving more than 1,300 students in several MMSD middle and high schools in partnership with the United Way of Dane County and other agencies and community partners. We have also worked over the last 2 years to identify federal and national funding to support the work of MMSD and its students, and have helped the District think through some its diversity hiring strategies.
Beyond these things, we are exploring partnerships to expand our children’s involvement in recreational sports and the arts; to give them opportunities to have fun and be kids. We are also planning a new, major annual fall event aimed at building broad community support for our children and schools and restoring fun and inspiration in public education. “School Night” will be an entertaining celebration that recognizes the unsung heroes in our schools, classrooms and community who are going above and beyond the call of duty to provide quality educational experiences for kids.
What About Dr. Nerad’s Plan?
We look forward to sharing our thoughts and suggestions in the coming weeks. However, don’t expect a thoughtless or categorical critique of Dr. Nerad’s plan. Instead of adding more divisive discourse to public education and highlighting where we disagree with Dr. Nerad’s plan, our proposal will flesh out “how” MMSD could, in a cost effective manner, identify and manifest the level of system-wide changes and improvements that we believe are needed in order to eliminate the achievement gap and stop the flow middle class families out of our community and public schools.
Yes, Madison Prep will be included as one valuable strategy, but only because we believe there is much to be gained from what the school can accomplish.
In the end, regardless of our differences, I believe Dr. Nerad and I want the same thing. We want our children and schools to succeed, and we want to keep dancing and having fun for as long as our knees will allow. I remain ready and willing to do whatever it takes to ensure that we achieve these aims.
Kaleem Caire
President & CEO
Urban League of Greater Madison
Phone: 608-729-1200
Fax: 608-729-1205

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

German Dialects

The Economist:

THIRTEEN languages in Germany are on UNESCO’s endangered list. Kiezdeutsch, the argot of inner-city teenagers, is not one. “Morgen ich geh Kino,” meaning “Tomorrow I’m going to the cinema,” a young Kreuzberger may say. In standard German that would be “Morgen gehe ich ins Kino”, with the verb restored to second place and a missing “to the” added. Words borrowed from Turkish (lan, meaning dude) and Arabic (yalla!, or come on!) might also intrude.
You will hear such language in Berlin and other big cities. Most Germans assume that the speakers are immigrants or their children. Not necessarily, says Heike Wiese, a linguist at the University of Potsdam who has written a new book on the topic. “All types of kids in multilingual areas,” including those with German roots, speak Kiezdeutsch. There are foreign analogues: straattaal (street language) in the Netherlands; Rinkeby-svenska, named for a multi-ethnic Stockholm neighbourhood in Sweden.

Ontario’s Education Spending Growth

Moira MacDonald:

So economist Don Drummond says Ontario’s education spending should be cut back? Quel surprise.
The Sun has questioned school spending right back to the Dalton McGuinty Liberal government’s first budget in 2004.
A government graph I wrote about then showed student enrollment dropping by 80,000 over the next four years, but spending growing by $2.1 billion.
We pointed this out not because we hate kids, but because McGuinty’s spending on education has never matched reality, nor has there been any solid plan for how to pay for it.
Let’s go through what Drummond had to say:
Drop education spending to 1% annual growth: It didn’t have to be this bad, but since the Liberals jacked up spending to 4.6% annual increases, even though enrolment has dropped by 120,000 kids in the last decade, that’s what it will take to right the ship. This is partly delayed pain — with enrolment dropping, jobs should have been scaled back years ago, but instead, the Liberals preserved them through new programs such as smaller primary class sizes — then added to the costs by doling out healthy raises.
Restrain teacher compensation: Good luck. Drummond suggests keeping this in line with what other public sector workers have received, which still means an increase, but more modest than the 11.4% to 12.55% teachers got in their last four-year contract.

Giving and Getting Constructive Criticism

Marybeth Gasman:

I’ve been thinking about constructive criticism-the kind we give to graduate students or mentees-and how they receive it. Over the past few years I’ve noticed a bit of push back from students and mentees. My faculty friends and colleagues have told me they get the same kind of push back. Now, don’t misunderstand me, there is nothing wrong with push back-you have to stand up for what you believe. However, I’ve watched individuals struggle and have difficulty with their job search while neglecting to follow any of the advice their mentors have given them. Sometimes these students are headstrong. Other times they are convinced that they know what is best and that they know how to build a faculty career. Here are a few examples:
I have had students and mentees who present at academic conferences on a regular basis but they don’t publish the resulting papers. Many times, I’ve attended their conference presentations and have been thoroughly impressed with their ideas and skill. I always follow up, asking them to revise the paper and send it to a journal. However, unlike their counterparts who follow my advice, these students put the paper away for months, sometimes years, and it is no longer relevant or others have already published similar work. When they receive feedback from prospective employers that questions their lack of publications, they are frustrated.

Comments on the Growth in Milwaukee’s School Choice Program

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

More than 2,000 new students entered the school voucher program this year after the Legislature relaxed requirements. That’s the good news. The bad news? Much of that growth came from kids whose parents already were paying out-of-pocket for their children to attend private or religious schools, according to a new study by the Public Policy Forum. The trend is the result of a misguided shift in philosophy that we warned against when lawmakers were considering these changes last year.
The 12% growth in students using taxpayer-funded vouchers is due in part to the elimination of the voucher enrollment cap and the relaxation of income eligibility limits. These changes have muddied the playing field for families who would not be able to send their children to private or religious schools if not for the choice program.

George Mitchell:

Milwaukee has no viable future without a base of middle-class families. The alternative? Detroit, where municipal bankruptcy looms and large, once-thriving swaths of the community are deserted. If that becomes Milwaukee’s fate, the biggest losers clearly would be low-income families struggling to get ahead.
The unsuccessful effort to lure Kohl’s Corp. to the Park East corridor vividly illustrates this issue. Local officials were prepared to commit more than $100 million in taxpayer funds to bring jobs, families and the resulting economic boost to Milwaukee. Had Kohl’s said yes, the Journal Sentinel would have generated stories and editorials explaining the potent ripple effect on Milwaukee’s tax base, its housing market and the retail community at large.
Contrast that reaction with the Journal Sentinel Editorial Board’s concern, spurred by a flawed Public Policy Forum analysis, that some Milwaukee families who previously paid private school tuition are now eligible for the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program. The board wants to roll back an expansion of the program so only low-income families can benefit, a retreat that ultimately would hurt those families the most.

Building Self-Control, the American Way

Sandra Aamodt & Sam Wang:

EACH year, it seems, a new book emerges to capitalize on the parental insecurities of Americans. Last year it was Amy Chua’s “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.” This time it’s Pamela Druckerman’s “Bringing Up Bébé.”
But rather than trying to emulate the strict discipline supposedly instilled by child-rearing techniques in other countries, it may be more useful to consider the science of successful parenting in general. Like their Chinese and French counterparts, American parents can make a child’s mind strong — by enlisting the child as an ally.
In any culture, the development of self-control is crucial. This ability, which depends on the prefrontal cortex, provides the basis for mental flexibility, social skills and discipline. It predicts success in education, career and marriage. Indeed, childhood self-control is twice as important as intelligence in predicting academic achievement. Conversely, poor self-control in elementary school increases the risk of adult financial difficulties, criminal behavior, single parenthood and drug dependence.

Free-Range Parenting: You’re Going to Go to Jail. Maybe.

Katherine Mangu-Ward:

Hey look, here’s a big omnibus article by David Pimentel of the Florida Costal School of Law on all the ways you are potentially legally screwed if you let your kid do stuff that was considered normal at some point in the less intensively parented past.
Choice tidbits:
Even one generation ago, the norms were different for determining the age at which a child no longer needed a babysitter. The expected minimum age for babysitters has gone up as well, although in the few states that have legislated specific ages, the thresholds vary widely. In Illinois, it is illegal to leave a child under 14 unsupervised for  an “unreasonable period of time”; in Maryland, in contrast, a 13-year-old is considered old enough not only to care for himself, but to babysit infants. The days when 11- and 12-year-old neighborhood kids were considered competent babysitters appear to be long gone. This development is all the more marked considering that mobile phones have created a virtually instant line of communication between the sitter and the parents, something unheard of in earlier eras, when younger sitters were considered acceptable.

What’s New at the PTA, Dad?

Kyle Spencer:

AT Public School 11 in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, the senior president of the Parent Teacher Association is a vivacious chatterbox who ascended the school’s executive board the way many do: forging bonds with parents and teachers, doing an impressive stint as treasurer and finally being drafted for the top slot by a growing fan base.
The one thing this executive officer did not do is man the cupcake table.
“I’m not into the baking,” said Juan Brea, an admission that once would have been unheard-of in the PTA.
Mr. Brea, a 43-year-old who favors football, blue blazers, Polo cologne and chopping wood in his Catskills backyard on weekends, is part of the changing face of the PTA. What was once an easygoing volunteer group made up mostly of stay-at-home moms has begun to give way to male leadership.

Comments on Wisconsin’s New State Assessments

Wisconsin DPI, via email:

Work progresses toward new state assessments, through the multi-state Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium [Blekko / Clusty], in which Wisconsin has played an active role.
Smarter Balanced recently unveiled a new website which includes several features for keeping tabs on the assessment project and accessing resources related to assessment development and Common Core State Standards [Blekko / Clusty] implementation.
An interactive timeline shows when specific steps were, or will be, completed. (Some recent developments were the completion of content specifications in mathematics and English language arts/literacy, and IT architecture specifications to guide the eventual system.)
Other pages targeted toward teachers, administrators, higher education, parents, and other stakeholders also provide useful updates.
For example, the consortium intends to work with groups of teachers from each participating state to develop test items, pilot the new assessments, and ensure a successful transition to the tests, beginning in 2012-13 and continuing through 2013-14.
The website also includes ways to stay up to date on the group’s work through email or social media.

Madison 360: On school ‘gap’ issue, there’s also a gap between leaders

I am quoted in the article. This is the full response that I made to the proposition that it would be terribly “hard to confront achievement gap issues head on without potentially fueling feelings that regular or high-achieving kids are not front and center in Madison, perhaps even increasing white flight. It must be a very hard balancing act.”
That may be the case, but to divert attention from a very real crisis rooted in over 50 years of failed effort to focus attention on achievement and opportunity for African American students, is something that I cannot accept. It has taken a lot of work and controversy to get the issue of the achievement gap (no, it is not a “gap”) on the table. How ironic (and morally reprehensible) it would be to refocus on white flight while letting the opportunity to unite around racial achievement slip through our fingers.
Dear Paul,
I realize that my answer is blunt and edgy. I was going to apologize but I really cannot. How long must this community live with its head in the sand when it comes to racial justice? And how long must families of color hear words of concern followed with “but we are worried about our white middle class families leaving?” Please watch the video taped testimony from December 19, and then think about what it is that you really want to write. If you do not want to watch 5.5 hours of painful commentary, then please watch (separate video) James Howard’s statement during the board comments on how and why we each voted the way that we did.
To be honest, I would find the column that you propose to write to be offensive at best. Especially to the families who provided over 10 hours of testimony at 3 minutes per person, with very few repeat testifiers, over the course of the Madison Prep debate. Some of those families have waited over 40 years for someone to take their aspirations and their children’s achievement seriously. And as thanks for raising the issue, parents of African American students are being told that the problem is really broken homes, lack of value for education, poor parenting, addiction, and poverty. Well, I AM one of “those parents.” James Howard, the president of the school board, is one of “those parents.” As are [names redacted], and many many other parents.
I wonder if you and others are aware that not all middle, upper middle class, and/or affluent people are are white. Or the number of African American kids who can achieve but are sent direct and indirect messages that they really aren’t “high achiever” material. Or that many white middle class families are every bit as unhappy and uncomfortable with the racism that they see in our schools and in the people who wish to cater to it in order to prevent the white flight of privilege. The “real” problem is not white flight. It is the failure to take achievement seriously, particularly when it comes to students of color.
There is a very real reason why many UW African American faculty, and African American religious and business leaders who have school age children will not live in the Madison district. There is a very real reason why many African American graduates of our schools will not send their children to Madison schools. There is a very real reason why families who can afford to send their kids to Edgewood, St. James, and other schools are doing so. It boils down to where they think their kids will have the best chance of being seen and nurtured as achievers, and that is not the Madison Metropolitan School District.
I am sorry to say this, but I find it repulsive that, particularly during black history month, you are interested in writing a pity piece for the people who are always at the forefront of our concerns, while ignoring the very real, raw, and painful experience of the people who cannot get any acknowledgment of their conditions. And, frankly, if that is what you got out of your conversation with Dan Nerad, I would respectfully suggest that the ability of this district and this leader to address achievement need no further explanation.
Full article at

Costs drop 5 percent for Nashua School District’s special education out-of-district placements; District spends $7,854/student, or $12,145/student

Cameron Kittle & Maryalice Gill:

While the overall cost of out-of-district placements for special education students is expected to drop next year, some individual placements continue to run the district $100,000 and beyond.
The most expensive placement this year is for a student at the Austine School for the Deaf in Brattleboro, Vt. The estimated tuition cost for this year is $158,096.
There are also two other placements costing upward of $100,000 this year, including one student at Crotched Mountain in Greenfield for $136,934 and another student at the Nashoba Learning Group in Bedford, Mass., for $104,570.

Nashua School District’s 2011 budget is $93,425,591 for 11,895 students ($7,854 per student).
TJ Mertz sent a kind email noting that another Nashua document describes spending as follows: FY 2012 operating budget: $144,475,503 for 11,895 students = $12,145/student.
Locally, Madison will spend $14,858.40 per student this year, nearly double Nashua’s spending based on this document, or perhaps 18% more based on the 2012 document noted above
Global Report Card comparison:

Oregon schools seek $33 million in referendum Tuesday

Barry Adams:

The owner of a $235,000 home would see an average increase in their taxes of $95 a year for the next five years. Starting in 2017, property taxes would decrease because other debt will be retired, according to district officials.
The referendum, one of just three in the state on Tuesday, includes a second question asking for $150,000 a year for operating costs. The primary question asks for a long list of improvements, including $25.3 million for work at the high school and $3.2 million at the middle school.
A new fieldhouse at the high school, including new locker rooms and a fitness center, would provide space for gym classes and practices, and more seating for sporting events and graduation.
When the main gymnasium was built more than three decades ago, there were 600 students at the high school compared to 1,150 today. The project would bring the school in line with other Badger Conference facilities in Waunakee, DeForest and Stoughton.
“Parents interview us now. They just don’t move to the district,” Superintendent Brian Busler said. “This is all part of the entire puzzle that parents are looking for.”

Oregon’s current budget spends $48,672,281 for its 3604 students in the 2011 budget. ($13,505/student). Madison’s current budget spends $14,858.40 per student.

Round 2 of improving education coming amid less fanfare

Alan Borsuk:

Schools: States such as Florida have been using systems of giving every school a grade, A to F.
Gov. Scott Walker and others like that system, but a state task force favored – and the waiver request proposes – a system in which all schools will be rated on a scale of 1 to 100, based on such things as student scores and educational growth and progress in closing gaps between student groups.
Parents will know how their kid’s school rates – with the idea that they will make decisions based on putting their children in high-rated schools. The schools themselves can be rewarded or forced to make major changes based on their ratings.
Consider this system likely to happen.
Principals and teachers: For the first time, if the waiver request is approved, there will be a statewide system for rating principals and teachers – and half of the rating will be based on student performance, including (but not limited to) test scores.
In other words, they will be rated in large part on whether their students are learning. A lot of this remains to be worked out.
Individual ratings will not be made public, but, without the union protections that died in last year’s earthquake, the ratings could be used in decisions on pay, assignments, promotions or firings.
Consider this likely to happen.

Related: Wisconsin’s Read to Lead Task Force.

Liberals, Don’t Homeschool Your Kids: Why teaching children at home violates progressive values

Dana Goldstein:

s a child growing up in Arizona and Georgia college towns during the 1980s and 1990s, the filmmaker Astra Taylor was “unschooled” by her lefty, countercultural parents. “My siblings and I slept late and never knew what day of the week it was,” Taylor writes in a new essay in the literary journal N+1. “We were never tested, graded, or told to memorize dates, facts, or figures. … Some days we read books, made music, painted, or drew. Other days we argued and fought over the computer. Endless hours were spent watching reruns of ‘The Simpsons’ on videotape, though we had every episode memorized. When we weren’t inspired–which was often–we simply did nothing at all.”


Esther Cepeda: Parents shouldn’t shoot the ‘messenger’

Esther Cepeda:

When last I checked, Tommy Jordan’s video “Facebook Parenting: For the troubled teen,” where he shoots up his daughter’s laptop, had been viewed more than 25 million times on YouTube.
Jordan had previously clashed with his 15-year-old daughter about appropriate behavior on her social media networks. Then, after spending more than $100 and several hours upgrading her laptop, he ran across a complaint letter she wrote and posted on her Facebook wall that put him over the edge.
The next day he filmed his video. It shows a frustrated man so disappointed by his daughter’s expletive-laced digital diatribe that he feels the best course of action is to publicly castigate her by shooting a clip of exploding-tip bullets into her laptop and posting it online.