The Three Laws of Future Employment

Daniel Jelski:

As a college educator I am tasked with preparing today’s students for their future careers.
Implicit is that I should know more about the future than most people. I do not – at least not in the sense of specific predictions. But I can suggest some boundaries on the path forward.
Let’s start with the three Laws of Future Employment. Law #1: People will get jobs doing things that computers can’t do. Law #2: A global market place will result in lower pay and fewer opportunities for many careers. (But also in cheaper and better products and a higher standard of living for American consumers.) Law #3: Professional people will more likely be freelancers and less likely to have a steady job.
Usually taken for granted is that future jobs depend on STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering, and math). This view is eloquently expounded by Thomas Friedman, who argues that the US is falling behind China and India in educating for STEM careers.

A Look Inside Principals’ Decisions To Dismiss Teachers

Matthew Di Carlo:

Despite all the heated talk about how to identify and dismiss low-performing teachers, there’s relatively little research on how administrators choose whom to dismiss, whether various dismissal options might actually serve to improve performance, and other aspects in this area. A paper by economist Brian Jacob, released as working paper in 2010 and published late last year in the journal Education Evaluation and Policy Analysis, helps address at least one of these voids, by providing one of the few recent glimpses into administrators’ actual dismissal decisions.
Jacob exploits a change in Chicago Public Schools (CPS) personnel policy that took effect for the 2004-05 school year, one which strengthened principals’ ability to dismiss probationary teachers, allowing non-renewal for any reason, with minimal documentation. He was able to link these personnel records to student test scores, teacher and school characteristics and other variables, in order to examine the characteristics that principals might be considering, directly or indirectly, in deciding who would and would not be dismissed.
Jacob’s findings are intriguing, suggesting a more complicated situation than is sometimes acknowledged in the ongoing debate over teacher dismissal policy.

We must unite to help (Madison) schools

Michael Flores:

As a parent of three children in the Madison public school system, I am deeply invested in ensuring that our city provides an excellent quality of education — not only for my own children, but also for thousands of their peers in this district.
Growing up poor in Madison, I can personally identify with many of the issues that an ever-increasing number of children in our city face, including a lack of parental involvement at home and in their educational experience. Understanding the struggles of these children, often without high educational expectations placed on them and a painful awareness of being in poverty, I can see why many resign to academic failure.
Recently the Madison School District and School Board have been under scrutiny regarding the racial academic achievement gap. Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet to close this gap that is caused by poverty, a lack of education and dysfunctional family situations. Any attempt to close it will require a variety of interventions, the most important being parental and community involvement, sometimes on behalf of children that are not our own.

2012 Madison School Board Elections:
Seat 1 Candidates:
Nichelle Nichols (SIS Search)
Arlene Silveira (incumbent) (SIS Search) 2006 election notes, links and video
Seat 2 Candidates:
Mary Burke (SIS Search)
Michael Flores (SIS Search)

Madison Prep Rhetoric Continues: Guilt by association is political cheap trick

Chris Rickert:

They came, as such things usually do, via that great information dumping ground known as the Internet.
“The Ideological Lineage of Madison Prep: If you haven’t seen this, you really should: History, Not ‘Conspiracy,'” read the Feb. 1 tweet.
Included was a link to a Jan. 27 blog post that in 1,776 words has Kaleem Caire – head of the Urban League of Greater Madison and the main backer of controversial Madison charter school Madison Preparatory Academy — connected to more than a dozen conservative causes or leaders, including such bogeymen of the left as the American Legislative Exchange Council and the Charles G. Koch Foundation.
Similarly, a 1,357-word, Dec. 22 essay published on the website of a local liberal magazine points to Caire’s work with “right-wing organizations” such as the Black Alliance for Educational Options and describes the people behind charters like Madison Prep as being about the “business” of “obtaining a secure stream of public funding to attract more private investment in what are essentially private ventures outside of the scrutiny or accountability systems of democratically elected school boards.”
Well, OK …

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

Madison Schools Governance & Madison Teachers

Tweet, in reply to this, via a kind reader.
Related: Arlene Silveira & Michael Flores Madison Teachers, Inc. Candidate Q & A

Question 23 has implications for the future of our public schools, along with the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB charter school:

Given Act 10’s negative Impact on Collective Bargaining Agreements, will you introduce and vote for a motion to adopt the Collective Bargaining Agreements (182 page PDF Document) negotiated between MTI and The Madison Metropolitan School District as MMSD policy?

Much more on More on Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad’s Achievement Gap Presentation: $105,600,000 over 5 Years.

UW-Madison on the Value of AP Courses; AP Report to the Nation

UW News:

The College Board AP Report to the Nation shows that students who earn advanced placement credit in high school typically experience greater academic success in college, are better prepared for coursework, and are more likely to earn a college degree than their peers.
In 2011, 903,630 seniors took an AP exam before leaving high school with 540,619 scoring a three or higher. That doubles the 431,573 who took the exam in 2001 when only 277,507 scored a three or higher. In all, 62,068 students across Wisconsin took AP exams in 2011.
Joanne Berg, University of Wisconsin-Madison vice provost for enrollment management, says that “students who took AP credits were able to graduate sooner than other students, were able to start advanced courses sooner, and actually free up courses for other students who weren’t able to take AP credits.”
Along with the release of the report, representatives from the UW-Madison are also featured in several videos speaking to the value of the AP program. The videos can be viewed here.

View and download the 2011 AP Report to the Nation, here:

The 8th Annual AP Report to the Nation (.pdf/1.7MB) reports on each state’s efforts to improve high school achievement by involving greater segments of the student population — and traditionally underserved minority students in particular — in rigorous AP courses.

The state supplements can be viewed here.

Q&A with Deborah Gist: Involving teachers in evaluation policy

Nick Pandolfo:

Deborah Gist, Rhode Island’s Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education, has implemented some major reforms since assuming her role in 2009. She has raised the score required to pass teacher-certification tests and allowed a superintendent to fire all of the teachers at a school that was resisting reforms. Perhaps most notably, she has overseen the implementation of a new teacher-evaluation system. The Hechinger Report recently interviewed Gist about her state’s new approach to evaluating teachers.
Since changing your teacher-evaluation process in 2009 to include students’ standardized test-scores and yearly evaluations of teachers and administrators, what has the feedback been? Where are you at as far as implementing the changes, how is it going, and what have you learned?

Apps for Kids interview

Mark Frauenfelder:

I started Apps for Kids because my 8-year-old daughter Jane and I like to play games on the iPhone and iPad together. We have a lot of fun checking out new apps, and then seeing if we can beat each other’s high scores. My friends who have kids of their own were always asking Jane and me what apps they should download, and so I thought maybe we should share that advice to a larger audience. So we started Apps for Kids, and people seem to really like it

Report cards for schools? Only if done thoughtfully

The Sacramento Bee:

California voters made a pact in 1988 when they approved Proposition 98.
The state would provide a guaranteed minimum level of funding for public schools. In exchange, schools would be held “accountable for the job they do and the tax dollars they spend.” Every year each school would publish a School Accountability Report Card – the SARC.
A generation later, that report card still is not very readable and has little role in driving school improvement. A 2004 UCLA report concluded, “Running the school system without a useful and understandable SARC is like driving a $100,000 sports car with a broken speedometer, temperature gauge and gas gauge.”
Unfortunately, political leaders faced with the overly complex, confusing system seem to lunge in opposite directions.

Detroit Schools’ No. 1 Mission: Getting Kids To Class

Larry Abramson:

Ask Detroit teachers about their biggest challenge, and many will say, “You can’t teach kids who don’t come to class.” Last year, the average Detroit public high school student missed at least 28 days of school.
Now, as part of its effort to get parents more involved, the district has launched a major initiative to improve attendance. The effort includes parent workshops and attendance agents charged with pushing parents to send their kids to school every day.
George Eason is one of Detroit’s 51 attendance agents. He’s staring at a printout that says a lot about the city’s attendance problems. He flips the pages, counting the absences that one student has racked up only midway through the school year.

Connecticut Governor Malloy pushes education spending

Ben Prawdzik, via a kind reader’s email:

Gov. Dannel Malloy has indicated that he plans to make good on his promise to enact education reform — he has announced a series of legislative proposals over the past week aimed at improving and expanding schooling opportunities in Connecticut.
Malloy’s proposals, if enacted by the state’s General Assembly convening for its legislative session today, would affect students in levels ranging from preschool to professional job training programs. Last Thursday, Malloy proposed allocating an additional $12 million of the state budget to boost the quality and accessibility preschool education in the state. The next day, the governor announced that he will propose legislation to change the Connecticut Technical High School (CTHSS) system to tailor its curricula to the needs of the state’s employers so that students will be better prepared for employment upon graduation. On Monday, Malloy put forth a legislative proposal to improve low-achieving schools and increase charter and magnate school funding.
“We made a promise to our kids that education will prepare them for college or the workforce,” Malloy said in a Feb. 6 press release. “Transforming our educational system — fixing the schools that are falling short and learning from the ones that are graduating high-achievers — will help us develop the skilled workforce that will strengthen our state and our economy.”

Judge sets trial date in Loudoun school-tardiness case

Emma Brown:

Amy and Mark Denicore are headed to a full-blown trial to defend themselves against charges that they violated Virginia law by making their kids late to elementary school too often.
The Loudoun County couple was arraigned Monday morning in juvenile and domestic relations court. Judge Pamela L. Brooks set a trial date of March 14.
The Denicores are each charged with three Class 3 misdemeanors, each of which carries a maximum fine of $500. Their three children, ages 6, 7 and 9, have been late to school almost 30 times since September. Most of their tardies were three minutes or less.

Unions ask Democrats in Walker recall to make veto pledge

Jason Stein:

Union leaders are asking Democratic candidates for governor to veto the next state budget if it doesn’t restore collective bargaining for public workers and one leading candidate – Kathleen Falk – has agreed, participants in the private meetings say.
The plan, which could lead to shortages or even layoffs in government if it doesn’t succeed, is a key strategy that union leaders are considering for undoing Gov. Scott Walker’s repeal last year of most collective bargaining for public employees. Falk, the former Dane County executive, has committed to restoring collective bargaining in the next state budget and vetoing the budget if those provisions come out, while at least three other candidates including Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said they wouldn’t commit to any one strategy to accomplish that.
“The governor’s job is to veto budget items that don’t reflect citizens’ values. That’s why a million people signed recall petitions – because Scott Walker’s budgets didn’t reflect citizens’ values,” Falk spokesman Scot Ross said. “All the support she’ll receive is because she the best candidate to take on Gov. Walker’s divisive, extreme, national tea party agenda and bring Wisconsin back together.”
Unions helped launch the recall effort against Walker in November in response to Walker’s labor legislation, and the state teachers union on Wednesday endorsed Falk in that looming contest. All the potential Democratic challengers to Walker support restoring collective bargaining, but they don’t all agree on how to make that happen.

Madison Prep, unions overshadow School Board races

Jack Craver:

Two seats on the eight-member board are opening up. In both races, opponents of the proposed charter school, which is being championed by the Urban League of Madison as a way to target the long-standing achievement gap between white and minority students, are pitted against supporters of the plan.
Arlene Silveira, an incumbent who voted against Madison Prep, is being challenged by Nichelle Nichols, the vice president of learning for the Urban League. Similarly, in an open seat that Madison Prep supporter Lucy Mathiak is vacating, Mary Burke, a wealthy philanthropist (and former state secretary of Commerce) who pledged $2.5 million to the Madison Prep project, is running against Michael Flores, a firefighter with union backing.
John Matthews, president of Madison Teachers Inc, says his union is planning to be very active in support of Silveira and Flores. In not-so-subtle terms, he challenged Burke’s ability to understand the challenges that the Madison middle class and poor face in the school system.
“She’s a one percenter,” he said, invoking the language of the Occupy Wall Street movement. “She’s a very nice person, a very well-intentioned person but you want somebody who understands what it’s like to be a parent and understands the needs of parents to be involved.”

Related: 1.25.2012 Madison School Board Candidate DCCPA Event Audio.
Seat 1 Candidates:
Nichele Nichols
Arlene Silveira (incumbent)
Seat 2 Candidates:
Mary Burke
Michael Flores
Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school, here.
Arlene Silveira & Michael Flores Madison Teachers, Inc. Candidate Q & A.

We’re ripe for a great disruption in higher education

Margaret Wente:

How would you like to go to MIT – for free? You can now. Starting this spring, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology will be offering free online courses to anyone, anywhere in the world, through its new digital arm, MITx. These courses will be much more than lectures on videotape. Students will be able to interact with other students online and have access to online labs and self-assessment tools. And here’s the really revolutionary part: If you can show you’ve learned the material, for a small fee, MITx will give you a credential to prove it. No, it’s not a full-blown MIT degree. But employers will probably be impressed.

Bill aims to give home-schooled students access to public high school sports

Anita Kumar:

Seventeen-year-old Katie Wormald has more than a passing interest in soccer. She’s been playing since she was 5, plans to compete in college — and maybe earn a business degree to start a soccer-related company.
But because Wormald attends classes in her living room instead of a classroom, she lost a chance to play on a more competitive public high school team. Instead, she plays in recreational leagues, on travel teams and at a small, local private school.

The sound of a word tells us something about how it is used, Cornell study shows

Franklin Crawford:

For more than 100 years the standard view among traditional language theorists was that, with the exception of onomatopoeia like “fizz” and “beep,” the sound of a word tells us nothing about how it is used. This seemingly arbitrary relationship between words and their meaning in human language is hailed as singular to our species.
definition or risk to illustrate noun-verb connection
A new Cornell study takes that view to task.
“What we have shown is that the sound of a word can tell us something about how it is used,” said Morten Christiansen, associate professor of psychology at Cornell. “Specifically, it tells us whether the word is used as a noun or as a verb, and this relationship affects how we process such words.”
Christiansen, along with Thomas Farmer, a Cornell psychology graduate student, are co-authors of a paper about how the sounds of words contain information about their syntactic role. Their work will be published in the Aug. 8 print issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: The Heartland Tax Rebellion

The Wall Street Journal:

Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin is starting to feel surrounded. On her state’s southern border, Texas has no income tax. Now two of its other neighbors, Missouri and Kansas, are considering plans to cut and eventually abolish their income taxes. “Oklahoma doesn’t want to end up an income-tax sandwich,” she quips.
On Monday she announced her new tax plan, which calls for lowering the state income-tax rate to 3.5% next year from 5.25%, and an ambition to phase out the income tax over 10 years. “We’re going to have the most pro-growth tax system in the region,” she says.

10 Tips on Writing Well from David Ogilvy

Maria Popova:

How is your new year’s resolution to read more and write better holding up? After tracing the fascinating story of the most influential writing style guide of all time and absorbing advice on writing from some of modern history’s most legendary writers, here comes some priceless and pricelessly uncompromising wisdom from a very different kind of cultural legend: iconic businessman and original “Mad Man” David Ogilvy. On September 7th, 1982, Ogilvy sent the following internal memo to all agency employees, titled “How to Write”:

Why Pay for Intro Textbooks?

Mitch Smith:

If ramen noodle sales spike at the start of every semester, here’s one possible reason: textbooks can cost as much as a class itself; materials for an introductory physics course can easily top $300.
Cost-conscious students can of course save money with used or online books and recoup some of their cash come buyback time. Still, it’s a steep price for most 18-year-olds.
But soon, introductory physics texts will have a new competitor, developed at Rice University. A free online physics book, peer-reviewed and designed to compete with major publishers’ offerings, will debut next month through the non-profit publisher OpenStax College.

The GAAP in Wisconsin state finances

Steve Prestegard:

The Wisconsin Policy Research Institute’s George Lightbourn on the correct way to assess state finances (which is not now being done by the Walker administration, nor was it done by the Doyle, McCallum, Thompson, Earl, Dreyfus, Schreiber or Lucey administrations, and so on, and so on, and so on):

Sheila Weinberg from the Institute for Truth in Accounting coined the term, “political math.” When politicians delay a payment and refer to the delay as a “savings,” they’re using political math. Or when no money is set aside for a bill they know is coming due, practitioners of political call the IOU a “savings.” It’s political math that allows state government to meet the balanced budget requirement while state accountants show it to be running a $3 billion deficit (according to the official tally released over the Christmas holiday).
Both Republicans and Democrats have used political math to make budgets balance over the years. Political math allowed my former boss Scott McCallum to balance the budget using one-time tobacco money and it was political math that green lighted Jim Doyle to “borrow” over $1 billion from the transportation fund. Thanks to political math, Governors and legislatures of all political stripe have been able to buy more government than they could really afford.

Digital Exams on the iPad

Fraser Speirs:

It’s prelim week at Cedars. In Scotland, pupils with additional needs can use a “Digital Question Paper” to complete their exam.
A DQP is a PDF with embedded forms. The pupil sits at a computer and fills in the form to answer the questions. For exams involving graphs, equations or other hard-to-do-on-the-computer things, they can also switch to working on paper. At the end of the exam, the PDF is printed out and the exam goes away on paper with the rest to be marked.
So this week it’s been my job to get this going. I thought it would be useful to write down the process and considerations for doing this on our computer infrastructure.

Orchestras (and audiences) get more Asian-American every year. Will it be enough?

Michael Ahn Paarlberg:

What do symphony orchestras and cigarette companies have in common? It’s the age problem. How do you stay in business when your customers keep dying?
For orchestras, at least it’s not their product that’s lethal, though it might as well be. With the median age of concertgoers rising, fewer than one in 10 adults reported attending a classical concert in 2008, according to a periodic survey conducted by the National Endowment for the Arts, a 28 percent drop since 1982. The financial state of orchestras today is roughly comparable to that of Blockbuster Video post-Netflix. Ticket sales are dropping; layoffs and bankruptcies abound. In the past two years, the Honolulu, Syracuse, and New Mexico orchestras closed up shop entirely; the Philadelphia Orchestra, long revered as one of the five best in the country, filed for Chapter 11 protection in April.

More on Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad’s Achievement Gap Presentation: $105,600,000 over 5 Years

Pat Schneider:

Madison Schools Superintendent Dan Nerad packed the house Monday night for what he termed “a call to action” to the community to join his administration in a strategy to close the racial achievement gap that has haunted the school district for decades.
His blueprint for change, “Building our Future,” weighs in at 100 pages and took an hour to outline with a Power Point presentation to an audience of about 200 at the Fitchburg Community Center. The proposal will be digested, dissected and debated in the weeks to come, including at a series of community meetings hosted by the school district.
But one thing is clear: from Nerad’s point of view, the future of children of color in our city lies not only in the hands of the teachers and administrators who shape their lives at school, but also in the hands of their families, their neighbors, and members of the community who live and work all around town.
“It can’t be the schools alone; it has to be the schools working with the community if we’re going to have outcomes,” he said.

Tepid response to Nerad’s plan to close achievement gap in Madison school district; $105,600,000 over 5 Years.

Tepid response to Nerad’s plan to close achievement gap in Madison school district; $105,600,000 over 5 Years

Nathan Comp:

Madison school superintendent Dan Nerad unveiled his long awaited, and much anticipated plan (mp3 audio) to close the district’s more than 40-year-old racial achievement gap Monday night before the full school board and around 75 citizens who packed into a room inside the Fitchburg library.
The 109-page plan, titled “Building Our Future: The Preliminary Plan for Eliminating Gaps in MMSD Student Achievement,” makes about 40 recommendations at a cost of $60.3 million over the next five years.
Several recommendations called for building on existing programs, like AVID/TOPS, an acclaimed program that focuses on students in the academic middle.
Others, like a “parent university,” a model school for culturally relevant teaching, career academies within the high schools and a student-run youth court, would be new to the district.

Ideally, substantive program review in necessities such as reading and math would occur prior to the addition of new spending.
Matthew DeFour helpfully puts dollars ($105,600,000 over 5 years, about 5.6% of the roughly $1,860,000,000 that the District will spend over the same period) to the proposal. How does that compare with current programs and the proposed the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school?

Union Upset by Comments From Emanuel on Schools

Hunter Clauss:

As the Chicago Public Schools begin what are certain to be contentious contract talks with the Chicago Teachers Union, Mayor Rahm Emanuel emerged as the star of a new online video criticizing the union and promoting charter schools, whose teachers mostly are not unionized.
An interview with Mr. Emanuel is a highlight of the 35-minute video, produced by the Michigan-based Education Action Group Foundation and the Fox News political analyst Juan Williams. Mr. Williams narrates the video, saying the union is “radically politicized” and is “repeatedly providing terrible examples for Chicago’s schoolchildren.”
A spokeswoman for Mr. Emanuel said last week that the mayor did not share those views of the union, and his comments in the video were more measured, but union officials were still upset. The mayor discussed how he faced union opposition to some of his education proposals, such as extending the length of the school day this year.

I Hate Homework. But I assign it anyway.

Jessica Lahey:

I hated homework when I was a student, I hate the battle of wills I have with my second-grader and I hate seeing my middle-school-age son miss out on the afternoons of his childhood.
But most of all, I hate being a hypocrite. So it’s time to come clean: I am a teacher, and I assign homework.
I have always assigned homework because that is what teachers do; if I didn’t, word would get around that I am a pushover, or don’t care enough about my students to engage their every waking moment with academics. When I first started teaching, I assigned homework liberally and without question, and scoffed at my students’ complaints about their workload. I expected them to keep quiet, buck up and let me do my job.

Ten Thoughts on the Preliminary MMSD Budget Figures for 2012-13

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes:

It’s a little early for budget season, but Sunday’s State Journal included an article by Matt DeFour that kicks off discussion of the school district’s finances for 2012-13. According to the article, preliminary numbers indicate about a $12.4 million budget gap for the district.
Here are ten quick thoughts on these preliminary figures.
1. To make sense of budget gap talk, it’s helpful to understand the assumptions behind the concept. Budget gaps are traditionally calculated within the context of a school district’s state-imposed revenue limit authority. (For the sake of clarity, it’s helpful to think of revenue limits as spending limits.). Costs are projected to go up by X millions, the school district is constrained by revenue limits to increase its spending by no more than Y millions, and the difference between X and Y is the measure of the gap that traditionally has to be bridged through painful budget cuts.

Wisconsin Property Tax Growth: 1984-2012 (!)

Madison Read Your Heart Out Day set for Feb. 10

A. David Dahmer:

Research supports parental involvement as a viable means of enhancing children’s academic success. Once again, Michelle Belnavis, a cultural relevance instructional resource teacher (K-5) for MMSD, has organized an event that brings African American community leaders, families, staff, students, and neighborhood organizations together to provide inspiration and information to schools and neighborhoods in honor of National African American Parent Involvement Day.
“We have been doing a lot of research in looking at the effect of having parents’ actively involved in their children’s education and a big part is that relationship-building,” Belnavis tells The Madison Times. “This gives an opportunity for teachers and families and parents to come together for the purpose of celebrating unity. I think a lot of times when parents come into school there’s a feeling like, ‘I don’t really belong here’ or ‘My children go to school here but I don’t really have a connection with the teacher.’

Turning the Tables: VAM (Value Added Models) on Trial

David Cohen:

Los Angeles Unified School District is embroiled in negotiations over teacher evaluations, and will now face pressure from outside the district intended to force counter-productive teacher evaluation methods into use. Yesterday, I read this Los Angeles Times article about a lawsuit to be filed by an unnamed “group of parents and education advocates.” The article notes that, “The lawsuit was drafted in consultation with EdVoice, a Sacramento-based group. Its board includes arts and education philanthropist Eli Broad, former ambassador Frank Baxter and healthcare company executive Richard Merkin.” While the defendant in the suit is technically LAUSD, the real reason a lawsuit is necessary according to the article is that “United Teachers Los Angeles leaders say tests scores are too unreliable and narrowly focused to use for high-stakes personnel decisions.” Note that, once again, we see a journalist telling us what the unions say and think, without ever, ever bothering to mention why, offering no acknowledgment that the bulk of the research and the three leading organizations for education research and measurement (AERA, NCME, and APA) say the same thing as the union (or rather, the union is saying the same thing as the testing expert). Upon what research does the other side base arguments in favor of using test scores and “value-added” measurement (VAM) as a legitimate measurement of teacher effectiveness? They never answer, but the debate somehow continues ad nauseum.
It’s not that the plaintiffs in this case are wrong about the need to improve teacher evaluations. Accomplished California Teachers has published a teacher evaluation report that has concrete suggestions for improving evaluations as well, and we are similarly disappointed in the implementation of the Stull Act, which has been allowed to become an empty exercise in too many schools and districts.

Much more on “value added assessment”, here.

Annual “Souper Bowl” Attracts Hundreds to Madison West High School

A day before the Super Bowl, hundreds of people lined up for an altogether different, though similarly named, event.
The annual “Souper Bowl” event is now in its 16th year raising money for Habitat for Humanity.
This year’s “Souper Bowl” was held at Madison West High School where attendees bought bowls made by members of the community.

Outsider’s wild teacher-evaluation idea

Jay Matthews:

Luke Chung, president and founder of a software development company in Tysons Corner, volunteered many times to help the Fairfax County school system with computer and business issues. He was a nice guy, so when the county needed to fill two slots reserved for outsiders (what educators often call non-educators) on the Teacher Performance Evaluation Task Force, he was appointed.
He might have seemed to some a genial innocent who would not get in the way of the teachers, principals and administrators who were the majority. But Chung was an experienced manager motivated to nudge the task force in new directions. He revealed in his company blog his astonished reaction to the key issue:
“As an outsider who has never been evaluated as a teacher, you can imagine my surprise to discover that although principals were judged by their school’s student performance, student performance is not part of a teacher’s performance evaluation in our county,” he wrote. “Are you kidding me?” Chung’s italics, not mine.
He got the basics. “Not all students are equal, and we don’t want to have a system where teachers are evaluated solely on student performance because the incentive would be to only want to teach good students,” he wrote. He saw some sense in value-added measurements, rating teachers on how much their students improved. But there were practical problems, he said, “such as kids moving in and out of classes within the year, impacts on kids outside teacher control, whether the test is a good measurement, multiple teacher collaborative environments, etc.”

Pennsylvania Schools’ Financing Fight Pits District Against ‘Charter on Steroids’

Sabrina Tavernise:

The Chester Upland School District is more than $20 million in debt, its bank account is almost empty and it cannot afford to pay teachers past the end of this month.
To make matters worse, the local charter school, with which the district must divide its financing, is suing the district over unpaid bills.
The district’s fiscal woes are the product of a toxic brew of budget cuts, mismanagement and the area’s poverty. Its problems are compounded by the Chester Community Charter School, a nonprofit institution that is managed by a for-profit company and that now educates nearly half of the district’s students.
The district sees the charter as a vampire, sucking up more than its fair share of scarce resources. The state, it says, is giving the charter priority over the district.
“It’s not competition, it’s just draining resources from the district,” said Catherine Smith, a principal at Columbus Elementary, a district school. “It’s a charter school on steroids.”

University has become an unaffordable luxury

The Investor:

I think going to university is now too expensive, time consuming, restrictive and potentially soul-destroying for people with talent to bother with anymore.
University has become a terrible deal, and most ambitious people shouldn’t go.
There, I said it.
I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to admit to myself that tuition fees, student loans, and the fact that any muppet who can write his or her own name now goes to university means it’s a waste of time to do so.

More time for open enrollment

Matthew DeFour:

Wisconsin’s public school open enrollment period begins Monday, and for the first time, families will have three months to decide whether and where to enroll their students outside of their home school district.
For the Madison School District, the extra time could mean more families choosing to leave for other districts or virtual schools, though Superintendent Dan Nerad said it’s too early to know what the affect will be.
“By the nature that there’s an open window, that’s likely to happen for us as well as other districts around the state,” Nerad said.
Gov. Scott Walker signed legislation last week extending the official open enrollment period from three weeks in February to three months. Applications must be completed by April 30.
Proponents of the change, including school choice advocates and the virtual school industry, tout open enrollment as giving parents and students more control of their educational options.

Related: Madison School District Outbound Open Enrollment Applications 2010-2011 School Year; As of 3/18/2010.

Madison Schools Superintendent Nerad unveils $12.4 million plan to close school achievement gap

Matthew DeFour:

Altogether, Nerad makes about 40 recommendations in six categories — instruction, college and career readiness, culturally relevant practices, school environment, family engagement and staff diversity.
“The plan is based on the view that there isn’t one thing alone the school district can do to eliminate achievement gaps,” Nerad said. “We’re attempting to be comprehensive with the proposal.”
The plan’s projected cost for next year is $12.4 million, which Nerad is recommending come from the district’s untapped property taxing authority under state-imposed limits. The amount includes adding about 67.5 positions, including behavioral support staff, reading specialists and parent liaisons.
Some recommendations wouldn’t take effect until future years. The district estimates they will cost $20.9 million in 2013-14 and $26.6 million by 2016-17. The district doesn’t have the authority to raise property taxes by that amount, though Nerad said part of the discussion in coming months will involve whether the private and nonprofit sectors can help fund the strategies.
“We’re going to have to struggle through the conversation of how to get it done,” Nerad said.


Listen to most of the speech via this 25mb .mp3 file.

Evaluating the Madison Metropolitan School District’s 2012 Plan to Eliminate the Racial Achievement Gap

Kaleem Caire, via email:

February 6, 2011
Greetings Community Member.
This evening, at 6pm at the Fitchburg Library, Madison Metropolitan School District Superintendent Daniel Nerad will present his plan for eliminating the racial achievement gap in our public schools to the Board of Education. We anticipate there will be many citizens in the audience listening in.
While we are pleased that our advocacy over the last 19 months has resulted in the District developing a plan to address the gap, we are also mindful of history. Our organization has pushed hard for our public school system to embrace change, address the gap and expand educational opportunity many times before.
In the 1960s, Madison learned that a wide gap existed between black and white students in reading, math and high school completion in Madison’s public schools. In the 1970s, the Urban League of Greater Madison reported that just 60% of black students were graduating from the city’s public high schools. In the 1980s, ULGM released a widely reported study that found the average GPA for a black high school student attending the city’s public high schools was 1.58 on a 4.00 scale, with 61% scoring below a 2.0 GPA. It also found that a disproportionate number of black students were enrolled in remedial math and science classes, and that black students were significantly over-represented in special education and school suspensions. Then, in the 1990s, the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute issued a report that stated there were two school districts in MMSD, one that poorly served black children and one that served everyone else.
Today, just 48% of black and 56% of Latino students are graduating from high school. Just 1% of black and 7% of Latino high school seniors are academically ready for college. Nearly 40% of all black boys in middle school are enrolled in special education, and more than 60% of black and 50% of Latino high school students earn below a 2.0 GPA.
Over the years, several district-wide efforts have been tried. Unfortunately, many of these efforts have either been discontinued, unevenly implemented, ineffective, lacked the support of parents/community/teachers, or failed to go far enough to address the myriad needs of students, families, teachers and schools. Madison also has a well-documented history of not heeding the advice of leaders and educators of color or educational experts, and not investing in efforts to codify and replicate successful strategies employed by its most effective educators. MMSD also has not acted fast enough to address its challenges and rarely looks beyond its borders for strategies that have proven effective elsewhere in the country.
The stakes are higher now; too high to continue on our present course of incrementalism rooted in our fear of the unknown, fear of significant change, and fear of admitting that our view of Madison being the utopic experience of the Midwest and #1 city in the U.S. doesn’t apply to everyone who lives here. We no longer have the luxury of time to figure out how to address the gap. We cannot afford to lose nearly 300 black, 200 Latino and an untold number of Southeast Asian and underprivileged white students each year from our public schools. And we cannot afford to see hundreds of students leave our school system each year for public and private schools outside of the Madison Metropolitan School District.
We must embrace strategies that work. We must also behave differently than we have in the past, and can no longer afford to be afraid of addressing intersection or race and poverty, and how they are playing out in our schools, social relationships and community, and impacting the educational success of our kids.
Furthermore, we need all hands on deck. Everyone in our community must play a role in shaping the self-image, expectations and outcomes of our children – in school, in the community and at home. Some children have parents who spend more quality time with their career and coworkers than with their family. Some children have a parent or relative who struggles to raise them alone. Some have parents who are out of work, under stress and struggling to find a job to provide for their family. And unfortunately, some children have parents who make bad decisions and/or don’t care about their well-being. Regardless of the situation, we cannot allow the lack of quality parenting to be the excuse why we don’t reach, teach, or hold children accountable and prepare them for the future.
As we prepare to review the Superintendent’s plan, we have developed a rubric that will allow for an objective review of his proposal(s). The attached rubric, which you can access by clicking here, was developed and informed by members of the staff and Board of Director of ULGM, business and community leaders, and teachers and leading experts in the field of K-12 and higher education. The tool will be used by an independent Community Review Panel, organized by the Urban League. pver the next several weeks to vet the plan. The intent of this review is to ensure MMSD has an optimal plan for ensuring that all of the children it serves succeed academically and graduate from high school prepared for college and work.
Specifically, our reasons for establishing this rubric and a Community Review Panel are four-fold:

  • Develop an objective and comprehensive understanding of the plan and its many elements;
  • Objectively review the efficacy of the plan, its goals and objectives, and desired outcomes;
  • Formally communicate thoughts, concerns and ideas for supporting and/or improving the plan; and
  • Effectively engage the Madison community in supporting and strengthening its public schools.

We have high expectations of the Superintendent’s plan. We hope for a bold, transformational, aggressive and concise plan, and stand ready to assist the Superintendent and his team in any way we can. We hope you will be standing their with us, with your arms outstretched and ready to uplift or babies – the next generation.
All Hands on Deck!
Team Urban League of Greater Madison
Phone: 608-729-1200
Fax: 608-729-1205
Urban League of Greater Madison 2012 Agenda

Why French Parents Are Superior

Pamela Druckerman:

When my daughter was 18 months old, my husband and I decided to take her on a little summer holiday. We picked a coastal town that’s a few hours by train from Paris, where we were living (I’m American, he’s British), and booked a hotel room with a crib. Bean, as we call her, was our only child at this point, so forgive us for thinking: How hard could it be?
We ate breakfast at the hotel, but we had to eat lunch and dinner at the little seafood restaurants around the old port. We quickly discovered that having two restaurant meals a day with a toddler deserved to be its own circle of hell.
Bean would take a brief interest in the food, but within a few minutes she was spilling salt shakers and tearing apart sugar packets. Then she demanded to be sprung from her high chair so she could dash around the restaurant and bolt dangerously toward the docks.

No Money Down

Kevin Kiley:

With public university administrators continually arguing for tuition increases to counter state appropriations cuts, it seems far-fetched that their budget problems could be solved by eliminating student tuition and fees altogether.
But that’s the idea put forth by a group of students from the University of California at Riverside, who in January proposed a new funding model for the University of California system that seeks to solve two of the system’s biggest problems: unpredictable and large decreases in state appropriations, and the steady increase in tuition costs.
Under the students’ plan, called the UC Student Investment Proposal, students in the system would pay no upfront costs for their education but would agree to pay 5 percent of their income to the system for 20 years after graduating and entering the workforce

Successful schools get high marks for culture

Alan Borsuk:

Here are things that impressed Desiree Pointer Mace when she and her husband were considering where to send their first child for school: The seventh and eighth graders at Woodlands School, 5510 W. Blue Mound Road, held the door for guests, said hello and shook hands. And you could ask a student in any class what he or she was working on and get a good answer.
Pointer Mace is not your typical parent. She is associate dean for graduate programs in education at Alverno College.
But if her credentials are distinctive, the goals she has for school for her children are not unusual: A place where they thrive and develop, both in academics and in personal traits.
Only some of the things she – or any good parent – want can be reduced to numbers or grades. A lot of important aspects of a school involve quality, not quantity. They can be put under the broad label of “school culture.”
Show me a good school and I’ll show you a place where kids not only get good grades and scores, but a place where relationships of all kinds matter and are healthy.

‘Lunch Scholars’ Video Reveals American Teens Can’t Answer Basic Trivia (VIDEO)

Laura Hibbard:

If there was ever a movie to make you laugh to keep from crying, it’s this one.
Austin, an intrepid young student-reporter, embarks on the noble mission of answering the question, “How much basic knowledge do American high school students really have?” The answer, however, may not be exactly what you want to hear.
“Do you know the vice president of The United States?” Austin asks.
“I don’t know who it it’s, it’s, it’s somebody….Bin Ladin,” one student responds.
The video continues in similar fashion, asking everything from, “In what war did America gain independence?” (which no one answered correctly without a hint) to “What countries border America?”

What would Sharon do?


This is my third and (I hope) last column in a series on education. If things work as planned this is where I’ll make some broad generalizations that piss-off a lot of people, incite a small riot in the comments section, after which we’ll all feel better and switch to discussing the Facebook IPO. So let’s get to it. I believe that education is broken in the U.S. and probably everywhere else, that it is incapable of fixing itself, and our only significant hope is to be found in the wisdom of Sharon Osbourne.
These conclusions are based on my experiences as a teacher, a parent, on the content of those two previous columns, one visit to OzzFest, and on my having this week read a couple books:
The Learning Edge: what technology can do to educate all children, by Alan Bain and Mark E. Weston.
Teaching Minds: How Cognitive Science Can Save Our Schools, by Roger Schank.

Research about the (Achievement) Gap

Mary Battaglia kindly forwarded this email sent to the Madison School Board:

The high school graduation racial gap has been in the Madison news as though it only affects our fair city. It does not require much research, something the local media has failed to do, to see this is a national concern. According to an analysis called “Schott 50 State Report on Black Males in Public Education,” nationally only 47% of black males graduated from high school in 2007. (1) It has been reported that Madison’s graduation rate for black males is 50%. Obviously a pathetic rate compared to the 87% for whites, but what has not been a part of the local conversation is how Madison compares in relationship to the rest of the nation, and perhaps figure out where black males are graduating at a higher rate, and why. The Schott’s report, revealed two communities with large minority populations with much better graduation outcomes than the rest of the nation, Baltimore and Fort Bend, Texas. What MMSD should be looking into is what are these cities doing, and what curricula or community effort has made them successful? One interesting part of the gap for Madison and the state of Wisconsin is the high rate of whites graduating. While Wisconsin is the worst defender in the racial gap, the states total graduation rate is one the highest in the nation.
When you read various assessments of the “reason” for the gap nationally, the theories include the lack of financial investment, lack of good teachers, and the lack of community structure. While I find these proposals reasonable, I fail to understand how in this community they are relevant. MMSD spends well over $13,000 per student, lack the overwhelming urban problems of Milwaukee and Chicago, and have many fine teachers that somehow get non-minority students educated. These excuses ring hallow as to why MMSD has such a poor rate. What does ring true is we are not educating the population as it exist today. In the last 25 years the MMSD’s minority rate has increased from 20% to one closer to 48%. (2) In the last 25 years MMSD has changed from a district of less than 25% free and reduced lunch to one that is closer to 50%. (3)Madison is still teaching to the population of 25 years ago, the students have changed, but the curriculum has not.
Perhaps, MMSD could improve the graduation rate for all students, with a significant change of focus. For example, MMSD’s high school’s emphasize 4 year college candidates when many of the students would do better in a 2 year or technology school focus. There has been an increased coordination with MATC, but what would be beneficial is to offer a dual graduation for students, so as they graduate from MMSD, they also have a 2 year degree or a certificate from MATC. This is a system that has been successful in a high school in North Carolina. (4) A student that wants to head to college still has that opportunity and perhaps a chance to make some money to support the effort. Perhaps, another way to improve graduation outcomes would include an overhaul of the summer school program. Currently, MMSD summer school staff are paid poorly, the programs focus is mostly on students that have flunked their classes and need a recovery grade, and the programs poor reputation have lead many staff to discourage students from participating. (5) Why not invest in a comprehensive retooling of the summer program that provides a better salary for staff, and includes enrichment, regular classes, as well as recovery options. Let’s find a creative summer program with smaller class sizes and build a program that is the envy of the country and one that works. If summer school is going to be provided, then make it an awesome program, not just a warehouse for failing kids. Perhaps, as most research reveals, early education is a key component to better graduation outcomes, and the district finally is getting a 4K program up and running after a decade long battle with the union.
Madison Prep was an idea, but it is a unique group of students that would select to participate in such a rigorous program, which means an already motivated student or parents with very high expectations, both factors that frequently mean a student would do well anyway. MMSD needs to look at students that may not be that motivated or academically talented and assess what works to keep them engaged. The one thing MMSD has no control over is probably the most important issue for a students outcome. Research concludes the number one predictor of a students academic success is parental expectations. (6) Our schools cannot change parental expectations, however, they can change what a student expects. MMSD students need to expect a positive future, a purpose and a reason to stay in school. Not all kids will succeed but more than half of the black male students should. Let’s develop a district that gives all the students the opportunity to succeed. Public school data

This statement is based on personal experience of having many staff, from middle school up to high school, discourage my daughter who struggles in math from attending summer school. I have also spoke to many parents with the same experience.
*** Of note the data of graduation rate is debated in academic circles as the data is not always standardized. Some data includes GED and 5 year rates others include only 4 year rates.
Mary Kay Battaglia

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

Metro Denver Promotion of Letters

Metro Denver Promotion of Letters:

We envision a writing community for students in Denver where they can enjoy writing. More often than not, schools cannot provide a place in which creativity and discovery receive one-on-one attention. Students too often view writing as yet another task for which they will be assessed and graded. We hope to help them understand that writing is a vehicle for expression and communication, for publication and storytelling.


In Texas, a Backlash Against Student Testing

Morgan Smith:

When Christopher Chamness entered the third grade last year, he began to get stomach aches before school. His mother, Edy, said the fire had gone out of a child who she said had previously gone joyfully to his classes.
One day, when he was bored in class, Christopher broke a pencil eraser off in his ear canal. It was the tipping point for Ms. Chamness, a former teacher, and she asked to observe his Austin elementary school classroom. What she saw was a “work sheet distribution center” aimed at preparing students for the yearly assessments that they begin in third grade and that school districts depend upon for their accountability ratings.

Parents hold keys to setting higher education expectations

Pearl Chang Esau:

Arizonans cannot afford to wait for better education. Although Arizona is one of the fastest improving states in education, at the current rate, it would take decades for our students to catch up with those in the number one state in the country, Massachusetts.
Arizona students continue to lag their national and international peers in academic performance, high school graduation rates and degree attainment. With 74 percent of Arizona fourth graders below proficient in reading and 69 percent of our eighth graders below proficient in math, the gap is only widening between the preparedness of our graduates and the skills and knowledge Arizona employers require.
Fortunately, Tucson has many examples of bright spots that show all of us the potential for Arizona education. Tucson Unified School District’s University High School was recently named a 2011 Higher Performing School by the National Center for Education Achievement; Vail Unified School District is nationally recognized for its use of technology to engage students and raise student achievement; BASIS Charter School, which started in Tucson and has grown to other parts of the state, was named a top high school by Newsweek and U.S. News & World Report; and the University of Arizona is ranked among the top public research universities in the nation. All of them embrace a culture of high expectations and are working to ensure all students graduate ready to compete and succeed in the 21st century global economy.

Pearl Chang Esau is President/CEO of Expect More Arizona.

Scientific publishing: The price of information

The Economist:

SOMETIMES it takes but a single pebble to start an avalanche. On January 21st Timothy Gowers, a mathematician at Cambridge University, wrote a blog post outlining the reasons for his longstanding boycott of research journals published by Elsevier. This firm, which is based in the Netherlands, owns more than 2,000 journals, including such top-ranking titles as Cell and the Lancet. However Dr Gowers, who won the Fields medal, mathematics’s equivalent of a Nobel prize, in 1998, is not happy with it, and he hoped his post might embolden others to do something similar.
It did. More than 2,700 researchers from around the world have so far signed an online pledge set up by Tyler Neylon, a fellow-mathematician who was inspired by Dr Gowers’s post, promising not to submit their work to Elsevier’s journals, or to referee or edit papers appearing in them. That number seems, to borrow a mathematical term, to be growing exponentially. If it really takes off, established academic publishers might find they have a revolution on their hands.

School expulsion law challenged as unconstitutional

Matthew DeFour:

A state law that allows school districts to deny enrollment to students expelled by other districts is unconstitutional, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday in Dane County Circuit Court.
The suit was filed against the Oregon School District, which denied enrollment to a middle school student after the Janesville School District expelled him in November.
The student was expelled after serving suspensions last October for an alleged sexual assault and possession of tobacco on campus, according to the complaint. The student denied both charges, the complaint states.
Jeffrey Spitzer-Resnick, an attorney with Disability Rights Wisconsin. said his organization disapproves of the expulsion law, which has been on the books since 1997. The state constitution guarantees a free education to all students between the ages of 4 and 20.

Erin School to kids: BYO gadgets

Erin Richards:

The eighth-graders sat hunched over photos of European art, looking for a single painting to emulate for a class project.
But only one student cracked open an actual art history book; the rest slid their thumbs across vivid photos on iPod Touches, or clicked through Google image files on laptops or netbooks they’d brought from home.
In an attempt to bring more technology into the classroom without investing in school-funded 1-to-1 laptop initiatives, more school districts like Erin are experimenting with “bring your own device” opportunities, in which teachers adjust curriculum to leverage whatever hand-held or portable computing device children’s parents allow them to bring to school.
The first “BYOD” day at Erin School was an experiment undertaken in honor of Wisconsin’s Digital Learning Day, part of a national initiative Wednesday spearheaded by the nonprofit Alliance for Excellent Education marked by real-life activities in 39 states and virtual participation in online forums.

More on the economic benefits of universities

Andrew Gelman, via a kind reader’s email:

Last year my commenters and I discussed Ed Glaeser’s claim that the way to create a great city is to “create a great university and wait 200 years.”
I passed this on to urbanist Richard Florida and received the following response:

This is a tough one with lots of causality issues. Generally speaking universities make places stronger. But this is mainly the case for smaller, college towws. Boulder, Ann Arbor and so on, which also have very high human capital levels and high levels of creative, knowledge and professional workers.
For big cities the issue is mixed. Take Pittsburgh with CMU and Pitt or Baltimore with Hopkins, or St Louis. The list goes on and on.
Kevin Stolarick and I framed this very crudely as a transmitter reciever issue. The university in a city like this can generate a lot of signal, in terms of innovation or even human capital and the city may not receive it or push it away. A long ago paper by Mike Fogarty showed how innovations in Pittsburgh and Cleveland, by universities in these communities, tended to be picked up in Silicon Valley or even Tokyo.

I responded: Another factor in the interaction is: how good does the university have to be? Glaeser cited UW and Seattle, but that’s kind of a funny example, because I don’t think UW was such a great university 30 years ago. On the other hand, given the existence of Boeing and Microsoft, UW is good enough to do the job of providing a center for the creative class. Perhaps Ohio State (another good but not great university) has played a similar role in Columbus.

Imbalance of power in education

The Guardian:

The dangers which Peter Wilby points out (Does Gove realise he is empowering future dictators?, 31 January) were recognised 70 years ago. Unfortunately secretaries of state know very little history. The Oxford historian Dr Marjorie Reeves, when invited to be on the Central Advisory Council For Education (England) in 1946, was told by the permanent secretary, John Redcliffe-Maud, that the main duty of council members was “to be prepared to die at the first ditch as soon as politicians try to get their hands on education”.
A war had been fought to prevent the consequences of such concentrated power. The 1944 Education Act, hammered out during the war years, created a “maintained system” of education as a balance of power between central government, local government responsibility, the voluntary bodies (mainly the churches) and the teachers. That balance is now disappearing fast, without the public debate it needs and with hardly a squeak from Labour. The existing education legislation refers to the fast-disappearing “maintained schools”, leaving academies and free schools exposed, without the protection of the law, to whatever whimsical ideas are dreamt up by the present or future secretaries of state, to whom they are contracted with minimal accountability to parliament.
Professor Richard Pring
Green Templeton College, Oxford
• The removal of 3,100 vocational subjects from the school performance tables from 2014 (Report, 31 January) has major implications. It is certainly the case that “perverse incentives” were created by the league tables to use soft options to boost school league table positions – the phenomenon known as gaming. However, the cull to 70 accepted vocational subjects, with 55 allowed on the margins, essentially destroys vocational and technical education. Given that the old basis is the one for the current (2012 and 2013) tables, a whole raft of students are on worthless courses.

The Perilous Conflation Of Student And School Performance

Matthew Di Carlo:

Unlike many of my colleagues and friends, I personally support the use of standardized testing results in education policy, even, with caution and in a limited role, in high-stakes decisions. That said, I also think that the focus on test scores has gone way too far and their use is being implemented unwisely, in many cases to a degree at which I believe the policies will not only fail to generate improvement, but may even risk harm.
In addition, of course, tests have a very productive low-stakes role to play on the ground – for example, when teachers and administrators use the results for diagnosis and to inform instruction.
Frankly, I would be a lot more comfortable with the role of testing data – whether in policy, on the ground, or in our public discourse – but for the relentless flow of misinterpretation from both supporters and opponents. In my experience (which I acknowledge may not be representative of reality), by far the most common mistake is the conflation of student and school performance, as measured by testing results.

‘Business as usual’ isn’t working for Madison schools

Nichelle Nichols:

I am running for the Madison School Board because I care about the state of our public schools and this community.
The facts are: I am employed at the Urban League of Greater Madison and spoke in support of Madison Prep as a parent and citizen. Am I running because Madison Prep was voted down? No. My focus is broader than the charter school proposal, but the Madison Prep vote was a defining moment in my decision to declare candidacy.
It became apparent to me as I sat in the auditorium that night that we can no longer afford to wait for our district to take the casual approach to the urgent matter of minority under-achievement. Our entire community is affected by the failure to do so.
Every child in this district — from the at-risk, the middle-of-the-road student, to the most academically talented — should have an equal opportunity to thrive in our school system. And here’s the reality, Madison — we are not delivering.
It’s been hard for us to accept that we are a different community than we were 10 years ago, but we are. If we move beyond politically correct conversations about race and poverty, we’d readily realize that we cannot go about “business as usual.”

The 2012 Madison School Board Contest:

Seat 1 Candidates:

Nichele Nichols

Arlene Silveira (incumbent)

Seat 2 Candidates:

Mary Burke

Michael Flores

Listen to the recent DCCPA candidate forum via this 75MB mp3 audio file.

Challenge to schools: Embracing digital textbooks

Kimberly Hefling:

Are hardbound textbooks going the way of slide rules and typewriters in schools?
Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Federal Communications Commission chairman Julius Genachowski on Wednesday challenged schools and companies to get digital textbooks in students’ hands within five years. The Obama administration’s push comes two weeks after Apple Inc. announced it would start to sell electronic versions of a few standard high-school books for use on its iPad tablet.
Digital books are viewed as a way to provide interactive learning, potentially save money and get updated material faster to students.

US university endowments post 19% return

Anji Raval:

The performance of US university endowments has continued to improve, with an average return of 19.2 per cent posted in the year to June 30, according to a new study.
The financial crisis and accompanying slide in equity markets negatively affected educational endowments, putting further stress on a sector that has been reeling from a decline in government funding. Public universities have been pushed in recent years to fill budget gaps through investments and donations as the cost of education has increased, a problem highlighted in last week’s state of the union address by President Barack Obama.
In spite of the upturn in returns from the 11.9 per cent reported for 2010, the first positive returns since 2007, educational endowments were unlikely to recover to pre-crisis levels for several years yet, said John Walda, president and chief executive of the National Association of College and University Business Officers (Nacubo), which represents more than 2,500 US higher education institutions.

Milwaukee Schools prevail in special education lawsuit

Erin Richards:

An 11-year-old class-action lawsuit that has seen Milwaukee Public Schools battle a disability rights group, the state and the courts over how it finds and serves children with special needs came to a dramatic climax Friday when a federal appeals court ruled in favor of the district.
The decision, outlined in a dense 51-page ruling by a three-judge panel at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago, upholds all four areas of appeal the state’s largest school district had sought – incuding the certification of the class itself.
By throwing out the class-certification order from a lower court, the judges subsequently vacated the liability and remedial orders the school district was under obligation to follow as well.

My Evening With Diane Ravitch and a Couple Thousand of Her Closest Friends


On Friday night, January 20th, my friend and fellow conservative blogger Mr. Chandler of Buckhorn Road zipped down to the Sacramento Convention Center to hear a talk by noted “education historian” Diane Ravitch. I didn’t realize it was sponsored by a bunch of teachers unions; I thought it was going to be an intellectual talk by someone who used to agree with me but now has switched sides. I thought I was going to get some really good information that would “challenge my assumptions” and make me think. Instead, what I got was, if you’ll pardon the mixed metaphor, a liberal red-meat bacchanalia. As Mr. Chandler described it, we were “pilgrims in an unholy land”.

Remove troublemakers from Milwaukee classrooms

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Milwaukee Public Schools Superintendent Gregory Thornton believes the best way to deal with youth violence, at least in the short term, is to take troublemakers out of regular schools and place them into alternative schools.
We agree. But there are not enough seats for the growing number of chronically disruptive youth, which is why the School Board should grant Thornton’s request, coming in April, to fund more of those seats.
During the past two weeks, more than 20 students were arrested for fighting and disorderly conduct at Washington and Madison High Schools. Several Milwaukee police officers were injured during the incidents, including one officer who was kicked in the face by an 18-year-old.
Over the years, MPS has limited the number of violent incidents. But Thornton said MPS has been limited to Band-Aid approaches, and the recent uptick in violence is ominous.
Last year alone, the district spent about $10 million on safety measures, which included having additional security guards and metal detectors on every door at some schools. For a cash-strapped school district, that money would be better used on instruction.

Teaching With Authenticity & Authority

Eugene Wallingford:

What is this?
A new teaching with authority.
— Mark 1:27
Over the last few weeks, we’ve been processing student assessments from fall semester. Reading student comments about my course and other profs’ courses has me thinking about the different ways in which students “see” their instructors. Two profs can be equally knowledgable in an area yet give off very different vibes to their class. The vibe has a lot to do with how students interpret the instructor’s behavior. It also affects student motivation and, ultimately, student learning.
Daniel Lemire recently offered two rules for teaching in the 21st century, one of which was to be an authentic role model. If students know that “someone ordinary” like a professor was able to master the course material, then they will have reason to believe that they can do the same. Authenticity is invaluable if we hope to model the mindset of a learner for our students.
It is also a huge factor in the classroom in another way as well. Students are also sensitive to whether we are authentic users of knowledge. If I am teaching agile approaches to software development but students perceive that I am not an agile developer when writing my own code outside the course, then they are less likely to take the agile approaches seriously. If I am teaching the use of some theoretical technique for solving a problem, say, nondeterministic finite state machines, but my students perceive that I do something else when I’m not teaching the course, then their motivation to master the technique wanes.

Madison Preparatory IB Charter school deserves city support

Matt Beaty:

It is easy to look at the upcoming Spring elections and focus solely on the potential recall of Gov. Scott Walker. It has become a national issue, and millions of dollars from both Wisconsin and out-of-state are being thrown into the election. But there is another important choice to make on the ballot: two candidates for Madison school board representatives.
While most school district elections are fairly boring and forgettable, this year’s vote could help seal the fate of Madison Preparatory Academy. The proposed charter school is aimed at helping lower-income students gain access to college-prep courses. It is championed by Urban League of Greater Madison President Kaleem Caire, but has not gained his level of enthusiasm in the rest of the city. Voters should support Mary Burke and Nichelle Nichols who have pledged support for the school.

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

An Open Letter to Urban Superintendents in the United States of America

Neerav Kingsland:

You work immense hours and subject yourself to scathing criticism all in the pursuit of better serving children. I know a few of you–and without fail you are all passionate about your work. In short, I’m a fan. So know that I’m not writing this letter to attack anyone–rather, I aim to offer advice, which I hope some of you accept.
In the following letter I aim to convince you of this: the single most important reform strategy you can undertake is to increase charter school quality and market share in your city–with the ultimate aim of turning your district into a charter school district.
In other words: rid yourself of the notion that your current opinions on curriculum, teacher evaluation, technology, or anything else will be the foundation for dramatic gains in student achievement. If history tells us anything, they will not be:

Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V

Dancing Around the Numbers

We all want our Navy SEALS to be the best, but that means that a lot of people who might want to be SEALS don’t get to be. We want our NFL quarterbacks and other players to be the best, but that means that a lot of player wannabes either don’t get drafted or get cut along the way.
We want the best teachers for our students, but in the Quality Counts report on international benchmarking to find the best in educational practice in other countries, we dance around the fact that in Finland, Singapore and elsewhere, nine out of ten who want to be teachers are not accepted into training.
We seem to have conflicting goals in the United States. We want the best teachers, but we apparently also want just about everyone who wants to be a teacher to get to be one. So our schoolteachers, instead of coming from the top ten percent of their college classes academically, come, in most cases, from the bottom third of their classes, and half of them quit after five years.
If we want equality of educational opportunity for all our students, we may have to begin rejecting ninety percent of those who apply to be trained as teachers. That is what our more successful international peers are doing. They have larger classes as one result sometimes, but their students have a much better chance of being in those classes with a top-drawer teacher.
All those who continue to argue that the most important variable in student academic achievement is teacher quality should be willing to consider that in order to ensure teacher quality here it may be necessary to make it much harder to become a teacher for our students.
Of course all the vested interests in United States educational enterprises will resist this idea, but at least we should not be afraid to look at what our competitors are doing with it, and perhaps a few of us will be able to wonder how we can have the first-rate teachers we want for our students without selecting one out of ten candidates instead of seven or eight out of ten, or whatever our current rate is.
Education Week, in examining international practices among our competitors in the most recent Quality Counts report, seems to have danced away from those questions completely. And if in fact teacher quality is what makes the most difference for our students, dancing around the selection issue will not help to make that difference work for our students.
“Teach by Example”
Will Fitzhugh [founder]
The Concord Review [1987]
Ralph Waldo Emerson Prizes [1995]
National Writing Board [1998]
TCR Institute [2002]
730 Boston Post Road, Suite 24
Sudbury, Massachusetts 01776-3371 USA
978-443-0022; 800-331-5007;
Varsity Academics®

Harvard Targeted in U.S. Asian-American Discrimination Probe

Daniel Golden:

The U.S. Education Department is probing complaints that Harvard University and Princeton University discriminate against Asian-Americans in undergraduate admissions.
The department’s Office for Civil Rights is investigating a complaint it received in August that Harvard rejected an Asian- American candidate for the current freshman class based on race or national origin, a department spokesman said. The agency is looking into a similar August 2011 allegation against Princeton as part of a review begun in 2008 of that school’s handling of Asian-American candidates, said the spokesman, who declined to be identified, citing department policy.
Both complaints involve the same applicant, who was among the top students in his California high school class and whose family originally came from India, according to the applicant’s father, who declined to be identified.

Steve Hsu on Transparency in college admissions:

Today we learned from Bloomberg that the U.S. Education Department is investigating complaints that Harvard University and Princeton University discriminate against Asian-Americans in undergraduate admissions. It is a common belief among Asian-American families that their children are held to higher academic standards than applicants from other ethnic groups, including whites. Such practices were openly acknowledged as a result of internal investigations at universities like Berkeley and Stanford in the 1980s and 1990s. Have they now been corrected?
Statistics seem to support a claim of widespread discrimination across most of elite higher education. For example, in comprehensive statistics compiled as part of Duke University’s Campus Life and Learning project (as reported in a recent analysis by Duke economist Peter Arcidiacono and collaborators), 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 nearly all elite universities in America, with some notable exceptions such as Caltech. In fact, Duke may be one of the mildest offenders when it comes to Asian-American admissions: with the goal of increasing its overall student quality, Duke has reportedly been more friendly recently to Asian-American applicants than traditional powers such as Harvard and Princeton.

Why Urban, Educated Parents Are Turning to DIY Education

Linda Perlstein:

They raise chickens. They grow vegetables. They knit. Now a new generation of urban parents is even teaching their own kids.
In the beginning, your kids need you–a lot. They’re attached to your hip, all the time. It might be a month. It might be five years. Then suddenly you are expected to send them off to school for seven hours a day, where they’ll have to cope with life in ways they never had to before. You no longer control what they learn, or how, or with whom.
Unless you decide, like an emerging population of parents in cities across the country, to forgo that age-old rite of passage entirely.
When Tera and Eric Schreiber’s oldest child was about to start kindergarten, the couple toured the high-achieving public elementary school a block away from their home in an affluent Seattle neighborhood near the University of Washington. It was “a great neighborhood school,” Tera says. They also applied to a private school, and Daisy was accepted. But in the end they chose a third path: no school at all.

Inflated SAT Scores Reveal ‘Elasticity of Admissions Data’

Eric Hoover:

In the Wild West of college admissions, there is no Data Sheriff.
The latest reminder arrived on Monday when Claremont McKenna College announced that a senior administrator had resigned after admitting to falsely reporting SAT statistics since 2005. In an e-mail to the campus, Pamela B. Gann, the college’s president, said an internal review found that scores for each fall’s freshman class had been “generally inflated by an average of 10-20 points each.” The apparent perpetrator was Richard C. Vos, long the college’s dean of admissions and financial aid, who has resigned from the college.
The announcement has shaken those who work on both sides of the admissions process. In the span of 24 hours, Mr. Vos, described by several colleagues as an engaging and thoughtful dean, has become a symbol of the pressures that come with top-level admissions jobs. As one mid-career dean said on Tuesday, “I just keep thinking about how much pressure an experienced and mature admissions professional must be under to do whatever he did.”

Reversal of the Trend: Income Inequality Now Lower than It Was under Clinton

William McBride:

Numerous academic studies have shown that income inequality in the U.S. over the 20th century exhibits a U-shape. After reaching a peak in the 1920s, it fell during the Great Depression and World War II and rebounded mainly in the 1980s and 1990s.1 The rebound has been attributed to various economic factors, such as globalization, immigration, the growth of super-star salaries, and the computer revolution. However, these factors might better be described as the normal outcomes of a growing economy, according to Adam Smith’s idea that the division of labor is limited by the extent of the market. The resurgence of inequality has also been attributed to tax policy, particularly the reduction of top marginal rates on personal income from 94 percent in 1945 to 28 percent in 1988.2
The first decade of the 21st century does not exhibit the same trend. Based on the most recent IRS data, from 2009, income inequality has fluctuated considerably since 2000 but is now at about the level it was in 1997. Thus, the Bush-era tax cuts (which had provisions benefitting both high- and low-income taxpayers) did not lead to increased income inequality. By contrast, inequality rose 12 percent between 1993 and 2000, following two tax rate increases on high-income earners. Thus, changes in inequality over the last two decades appear to be driven more by the business cycle than by tax policy.

Transitional kindergarten, California confusion

Katy Murphy:

The parents of 4-year-olds with fall birthdays — not yet in the public school system — have already come face to face with the topsy-turvy ways of Sacramento.
Take the parents of kids born in November 2007. Since 2010, they’ve been told their children will be too young for kindergarten in 2012 under the new cutoff date, but that they will be entitled to a spot in a new grade-level, transitional kindergarten.
Now, about seven months before the first day of school, they learn that the governor is proposing to cut the program to save $223 million.
The final decision is up to the state Legislature, but — as we all know — that’s likely months away. So, depending on where the families live, their school district might enroll them in transitional kinder anyway, hoping for the best, or inform them the class is being canceled. My colleague at the Mercury News, Sharon Noguchi, wrote about it this week.

India’s schools fail to keep pace with growth

James Lamont

In a dim, windowless classroom at GMS Moradbas school in rural Haryana state in north India, 40 young girls in their dark blue uniforms crouch on the floor in four straight lines.
Each is following a monotone reading by one of their classmates from a history book about one of India’s liberation heroes. Not a computer, let alone a desk is in sight. Outside, beyond a field of yellow mustard seed and sparring goats, a new high-rise medical college rises above the mist on the edge of the town of Nuh, an hour’s drive from Gurgaon, a new city born out of India’s IT outsourcing boom.

English Is Global, So Why Learn Arabic?

Room for Debate:

In a recent essay in The Times, Lawrence Summers, the former president of Harvard University, wrote about preparing American students for the future. In the essay, he said that international experience was essential, arguing that English’s emergence as the global language makes the investment in other languages less essential.

Madison Public Schools’ Superintendent Nerad’s request community input into his plan to eliminate the long-standing Racial Achievement Gap

via email:

Below is a letter from Dr. Daniel Nerad, Superintendent of the Madison Metropolitan School District. Please show up on Monday, February 6 to learn about his plan and register to participate in an input session. We need you to exercise your voice, share your view and speak to our children’s needs. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:
We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.
— “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” April 16, 1963
February 2, 2012
RE: Invitation to attend Board of Education meeting on Monday, February 6, 2012
Dear Community Leader:
As you may know, this Monday, February 6, 2012, we are poised to present to the Board of Education a significant and system-wide plan to close the achievement gaps in the Madison Metropolitan School District.
Building Our Future: A Plan for Eliminating Gaps in MMSD Student Achievement
We invite you to attend Monday’s Board of Education workshop at the Fitchburg Public Library, 5530 Lacy Road in Fitchburg beginning at 6:00 p.m. This workshop is for presentation purposes only. Members of the public will not have the opportunity to speak. However, Monday’s workshop marks the beginning of a two-month, community-wide engagement process. We invite parents, students, and residents concerned about the future of our children to join one or more of the many sessions held throughout Madison to learn about the achievement gaps in the MMSD and discuss and provide input into the plan.
I have greatly appreciated your concern, commitment, and willingness to challenge us to provide the kind of education that every child deserves and is due. Together, we must eliminate our achievement gaps.
The Board of Education workshop on Monday, February 6th is just the beginning. Please consider participating in one of the upcoming information and input sessions. To register for a session, go to:
Beginning Tuesday, February 7, go to: to read more about the Plan.
Daniel A. Nerad
Superintendent of Schools
Reprinted from a letter sent to community leaders today by Superintendent Nerad. We are sharing this to inform you and help the Madison Metropolitan School District get the word out. We have not yet seen the plan and therefore, this email should not viewed as an endorsement of it. We will reserve judgment until after the plan is released, we have had a chance to review it, and the public has responded.

Arlene Silveira & Michael Flores Madison Teachers, Inc. Candidate Q & A

Michael Flores
Arlene Silveira
Question 23 has implications for the future of our public schools, along with the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB charter school:

Given Act 10’s negative Impact on Collective Bargaining Agreements, will you introduce and vote for a motion to adopt the Collective Bargaining Agreements (182 page PDF Document) negotiated between MTI and The Madison Metropolitan School District as MMSD policy?

Both Silveira and Flores answered Yes.

Seat 1 Candidates:

Nichele Nichols

Arlene Silveira (incumbent)

Seat 2 Candidates:

Mary Burke

Michael Flores

1.25.2012 Madison School Board Candidate DCCPA Event Photos & Audio
Listen to the event via this 77MB mp3 audio file.
I suspect that at least 60% of Wisconsn school districts will adopt their current teacher contracts as “handbooks”. The remainder will try different approaches. Some will likely offer a very different environment for teachers.

Stakes high for Nerad on achievement gap proposal, including his contract which currently expires June, 2013

Matthew DeFour:

lot is riding on Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad’s upcoming plan for improving low-income, minority student achievement.
The plan is billed as a blueprint for addressing an intractable, divisive issue in Madison, and it could also factor into the upcoming School Board discussion of Nerad’s future in Madison.
The United Way of Dane County has made closing the achievement gap one of its primary issues for more than 15 years through the Schools of Hope tutoring program. But president Leslie Howard said the recent debate over the proposed Madison Prepatory Academy charter school has drawn more public attention to the issue than ever before.
“I don’t want to say something so grandiose that everything’s at stake, but in some ways it feels like that,” Howard said.

Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school, here.
Related links:
When all third graders read at grade level or beyond by the end of the year, the achievement gap will be closed…and not before
“They’re all rich, white kids and they’ll do just fine” — NOT!
Acting White
Event (2.16.2012) The Quest for Educational Opportunity: The History of Madison’s Response to the Academic Achievement Gap (1960-2011)

Wisconsin Schools “Among the Best”, Financial Literacy

Tony Evers & Peter Bildsten:

Wisconsin is fortunate to have many fine K-12 schools educating our young people. The quality of this state’s educational system is among the best in the United States, and the same can be said for Wisconsin teachers.
Those accolades notwithstanding, there is one area in which Wisconsin schools should consider focusing some of their educational muscle: personal financial literacy.
More than ever before, our children — by the time they graduate from high school — need to be able to cope in the increasingly fast-paced world of financial services.
Today, many young people rarely handle cash, opting instead for the use of debit cards, credit cards and smartphones to make purchases. Those who have jobs probably never see a paycheck because most employers use direct deposit for their payrolls. And, most teens probably have never read the fine print of the contract for their mobile telecommunications devices.

Wisconsin 25th in 2011 NAEP Reading, Comparing Rhetoric Regarding Texas (10th) & Wisconsin NAEP Scores: Texas Hispanic and African-American students rank second on eighth-grade NAEP math test.
Fascinating. Tony Evers is Superintendent of the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. Much more at

Getting Ready For The Common Core

Susan B. Neuman:

States are now working intently on developing plans that will make new, common standards a reality. A recent report from Education First and the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center concludes that that all but one of the 47 states adopting the Common Core State Standards is now in the implementation phase. Seven states have fully upgraded professional development, curriculum materials, and evaluation systems in preparation for the 2014-2015 school year.
Nary a word has been spoken about how to prepare teachers to implement common standards appropriately in the early childhood years. Although the emphasis on content-rich instruction in ways that builds knowledge is an important one, standards groups have virtually ignored the early years when these critical skills first begin to develop.
Young children are eager to learn about the sciences, arts, and the world around them. And, as many early childhood teachers recognize, we need to provide content-rich instruction that is both developmentally appropriate and highly engaging to support students’ learning.

Why You Should Postpone College

Brett Nelson:

Very soon, millions of high-schoolers will run a nerve-rattling gauntlet, perhaps for weeks: They will yank open their mailboxes and flip through the envelopes like one of those rapid-fire, dollar-bill sorting machines in all the gangster movies. Girth–that’s what they’re after. Because the plumper the package, the better the odds it contains that which matters most: a college acceptance letter!
Before triumph and tragedy ensue, I have a modest proposal for the future class of 2016. No matter what happens in the coming weeks, grab some solitude and contemplate one very important question: Am I really ready for college?

Can Obama Really Lower the Cost of College?

Andrew Rotherham:

Let’s cut right to the chase — I have about the same chance of being picked up by the Boston Red Sox as a utility player as President Obama does of having his proposals to control college costs get through Congress this year. But looking at what the President proposed on Friday (in a raucous speech at the University of Michigan) through the lens of short-term Capitol Hill feasibility misses the significance of what Obama is up to. Just a few years ago, the ideas the President hinted at in last week’s State of the Union and is now describing in more depth were considered fringe topics, basically the province of a few wonks and reform-minded policymakers. Talk of improving productivity in higher education bordered on blasphemy. Now the President of the United States is on board.
Obama wants to provide more data to parents and students about what colleges cost and how their students do after graduation. He also wants to change how federal aid works in order to create incentives for schools to keep costs down and keep interest on federal student loans low. Most noteworthy is his attempt to catalyze innovations at colleges and universities to improve productivity and encourage states to reform higher education through a grant competition similar to his Race to the Top program that has led many states to adopt K-12 reforms in order to win federal dollars. More specifics on the higher-ed competition will accompany the President’s budget request in February.

Media, district levy advocacy not appropriate, not leadership

Laurie Rogers

“And I tell you this: you do not lead by hitting people over the head. Any damn fool can do that, but it’s usually called ‘assault’ – not ‘leadership’.”
— Dwight D. Eisenhower, as told to Emmet John Hughes, for “Re-Viewing the Cold War: Domestic Factors and Foreign Policy in the East-West Confrontation”
Last year, someone said to me: “Laurie, I heard you’re a nut job. So tell me, who are you, really?” I said: “You’ve heard me talk. What do you think?” The person chuckled and said: “I kind of like you. I think you care.”
I do care. I have a fierce protective instinct toward the community, the country, and the children. I’m a patriot, but no politician. I’m not interested in making money or gaining political allies through District 81, the union or the media. I was trained as an old-style reporter, with an eye to supportable facts and a determination to know and report the truth. I’m not a natural extrovert, but five years of dealing with administrators and board directors have turned me into a fighter. I’m not a liar, and I’m no quitter, and I don’t know how to do just the bare minimum of anything (except dusting).

Gentle approach is the best way to combat a shouty teacher

Julie McGuire:

My son says his teacher shouts a lot, especially at the naughty members of the class. Although this does not include him, he is quite sensitive and does not like this type of discipline. It is putting him off going to school. Can I broach this with the teacher, or should I just accept that this is her style of teaching?
Different teachers have different teaching styles. Some like to use a loud voice for effect or to make a particular impact. They may actually need to raise their voices on some occasions, depending on the classroom location and the environment. But if this style of interaction or discipline with the children is constant and consistent, it is usually not appropriate.

Worried parents are increasingly turning to surveillance software to monitor their children’s online activities

Elaine Yau:

Sales manager Eric Wong Yiu-wai began to monitor the online activities of his younger son two years ago. The software he installed on his computer tracks the websites his son visits, instant messaging between him and his buddies, and the updates he posts on social networks. His phone will get instant alerts if his son uses offensive language in his posts or visits an unsavoury website. Wong says rising online perils make electronic surveillance of his 15-year-old son necessary.
“He spends a lot of time online every day. As I am working most of the time, I don’t know what he is doing on the computer.”

How to grade a teacher: United Teachers Los Angeles and the school district should get behind a teacher-led evaluation system.

James Encinas, Kyle Hunsberger and Michael Stryer:

We’re teachers who believe that teacher evaluation, including the use of reliable test data, can be good for students and for teachers. Yes, yes, we know we’re not supposed to exist. But we do, and there are a lot more of us.
In February the membership of United Teachers Los Angeles will vote on a teacher-led initiative urging union leaders to negotiate a new teacher evaluation system for L.A. Unified. The vote will allow teachers’ voices to be heard above the din of warring political figures.
Although LAUSD and UTLA reached a contract agreement in December that embraced important school reforms, they haven’t yet addressed teacher evaluation. Good teaching is enormously complex, and no evaluation system will capture it perfectly. But a substantive teacher-led evaluation system will be far better for students and teachers than what we have now, a system in which virtually all teachers receive merely “satisfactory” ratings from administrators.

You Got Rejected from Your First Choice College. So What?

Robert Kelchen:

The Washington Post’s Campus Overload blog recently featured a guest post, “Getting Rejected from Your Dream School(s) isn’t a Bad Thing” by Eric Harris, a junior who attended the University of Maryland after being deferred by his first choice (Duke) and rejected by six of the other eight colleges to which he applied. (He was also accepted by Emory.) Eric’s story is hardly unique, as numerous blogs and websites feature stories of students who were rejected by their first choice college. Most of the popular media accounts of students rejected by their first choice college are from students like Eric–those who applied to a large number of highly selective (and very expensive) colleges and universities and still attended a prestigious institution.
The kinds of students who are typically featured in the media are very likely to enjoy college and graduate in a timely manner, no matter where they end up attending. But the students who should be prominently featured instead are those whose first choice colleges are very different than their other options (much less selective four-year colleges, community colleges, or no college at all). Just-released data from the Cooperative Institutional Research Program at UCLA shows that only 58 percent of students attending four-year universities were attending their first choice college in fall 2011; nearly one-fourth of students were rejected by their first choice. This suggests that a fair number of students fall into this category, but little is known about their college outcomes.

Stanford Professors Daphne Koller & Andrew Ng Also Launching a Massive Online Learning Startup

Audrey Watters:

These are interesting times to be a Stanford professor. Or to stop being a Stanford professor, as the case may be…
Last week, news broke that Professor Sebastian Thrun would be stepping down from teaching at Stanford to launch an online learning company called Udacity. Udacity is an outgrowth of his incredibly popular Artificial Intelligence class offered through Stanford last fall.
Now it appears that two other Stanford professors Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng (Ng taught last term’s massive Machine Learning class) have started their own company, Coursera, one that offers a very similar service as Thrun’s.
According to the startup’s jobs page, the two are “following up on the success of these courses to scale up online education efforts to provide a high quality education to the world. Out platform delivers complete courses where students are not only watching web-based lectures, but also actively participating, doing exercises, and deeply learning the material.”

Education is undergoing a revolution (curricular deliver, opportunities for students, high and low cost delivery). Will Madison be part of it? We certainly have the resources and infrastructure. Will intransigence reign?

Jindal’s Education Moon Shot

Wall Street Journal:

Newt Gingrich wants the U.S. to return to the moon, but as challenges go he has nothing on Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s school reform plans.
Mr. Jindal wants to create America’s largest school voucher program, broadest parental choice system, and toughest teacher accountability regime–all in one legislative session. Any one of those would be a big win, but all three could make the state the first to effectively dismantle a public education monopoly.
Louisiana is already one of 12 states (including Washington, D.C.) that offer school vouchers, but its program benefits fewer than 2,000 students in New Orleans. Governor Jindal would extend eligibility to any low-income student whose school gets a C, D or F grade from state administrators. That’s almost 400,000 students–a bit more than half the statewide population–who could escape failing schools for private or virtual schools, career-based programs or institutions of higher education.

The Liberal Arts as Guideposts in the 21st Century

Nannerl Keohane:

The very broad, capacious form of education that we call the liberal arts is rooted in a specific curriculum in classical and medieval times. But it would be wrong to assume that because it has such ancient roots, this kind of education is outdated, stale, fusty, or irrelevant. In fact, quite the contrary. A liberal-arts education, which Louis Menand defined in The Marketplace of Ideas as “a background mentality, a way of thinking, a kind of intellectual DNA that informs work in every specialized area of inquiry,” lends itself particularly well to contemporary high-tech methods of imparting knowledge.

Event (2.16.2012) The Quest for Educational Opportunity: The History of Madison’s Response to the Academic Achievement Gap (1960-2011)

Kaleem Caire, via email

In 2011 Kaleem Caire, President and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Madison, reintroduced the topic of the Academic Achievement Gap that exists in theMadison Metropolitan School District (MMSD). As reported, just 48% of African American students and 56% of Latino students graduated on time from MMSD in 2010.
Just as staggering as these statistics is the fact that until the conversation was reintroduced, a large majority of our community was not aware that the academic achievement gap even existed. Why is that? Four more important questions may be: How did we get here?What have we proposed before? Why has this problem persisted? AND – What should we do now? To answer these questions, and many more, the Urban League of Greater Madison would like to invite you to participate in a community forum moderated by Derrell Connor.
6:00 Welcome Derrell Connor
6:05 Introduction of Panel
Milele Chikasa Anana
Dr. Richard Harris
Joseph Hill
Dr. John Odom
Alfonso Studesville
6:15 History of Madison’s Academic Achievement Gap
6:30 Panel
6:45 Q&A from Audience Members

Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school, here. Academic Writing is Really Academic Reading–Blogs Vs. Term Papers

Is a writing a blog as valuable a writing experience as writing an academic term paper? Can the writing of a blog be made academically more rigorous in order to compete with the more traditional term paper? Or does the blog vs. term paper argument cloud a more critical academic problem… that our students do not read well enough to write in either format?
Matt Richtel, a reporter who writes about technology in education in the New York Times, recently published a piece, Blogs vs. Term Papers (1/20/12) regarding Duke University’s English professor Cathy N. Davidson’s embrace of the blog in place of the traditional term paper. He writes that, “Professor Davidson makes heavy use of the blog and the ethos it represents of public, interactive discourse. Instead of writing a quarterly term paper, students now regularly publish 500- to 1,500-word entries on an internal class blog about the issues and readings they are studying in class, along with essays for public consumption.”
The traditional term paper in any number of disciplines of prescribed lengths of 5, 7, 10 or more pages has been centered for decades on a standard formula incorporating thesis, evidence, argument and conclusion. In the article, Davidson expresses her dislike for formula writing, including the five paragraph essay taught in middle and high schools and claims that, “This mechanistic writing is a real disincentive to creative but untrained writers.” She notes that, “It’s a formula, but good writing plays with formulas, and changes formulas.”
Davidson is not alone. Ritchel claims that “across the country, blog writing has become a basic requirement in everything from M.B.A. to literature courses.” This movement from term paper to blog has many academics up in arms.
Running parallel to this argument of academic writing was the position offered by William H. Fitzhugh, author and founder of The Concord Review, a journal that publishes high school students’ research papers. In the NY Times article, Fitzhugh discussed how high school educators “shy away from rigorous academic writing, giving students the relative ease of writing short essays.” Fitzhugh makes the argument that students are required to read less which directly impacts their ability to write well.
Fitzhugh wrote about academic writing in Meaningful Work for American Educator (Winter 2011-2012) taking the position that reading is at the core of good academic student writing; “To really teach students how to write, educators must give them examples of good writing found in nonfiction books and require students to read them, not skim them, cover to cover.” Good writing reflects knowledge and understanding that comes from reading, not skimming. Fitzhugh recommends that, “Reading nonfiction contributes powerfully to the knowledge that students need in order to read more difficult material–the kind they will surely face in college. But more importantly, the work of writing a research paper will lead students to read more and become more knowledgeable in the process. As any good writer knows, the best writing emerges from a rich store of knowledge that the author is trying to pass on. Without that knowledge and the motivation to share it, all the literacy strategies in the world will not make much difference.”

From my experiences in the classroom, I see the veracity of both Davidson and Fitzhugh’s positions. I believe that the form of student writing is not the problem, and the blog vs. term paper debate, at least at the high school level where I teach, is not as controversial as at the college level. My job is to teach students to write well, and a great deal of my average school day is currently given to encouraging students to write in these multiple formats in order to prepare them for the real world. I know that students can be taught to write well in term papers, blogs, essays, letters or any other format. However, the students need to read well in order to write well about a topic. The conundrum is that unless today’s high school students are provided time in class, they do not read the material.
A student’s inability to read independently for homework results in a reduction in both the amount of reading assigned and the class time to process the reading. Students who do not read well at the high school level are unprepared for the rigors of college curriculum which requires much more independent reading in non-fiction. Ultimately, the problem for teachers in high school is not the form in which students write. The problem is getting students to both read and understand assigned readings that come from many disciplines-fiction and non-fiction. Only then can the blog vs. term paper debate be addressed as a measure of academic writing.

Mathematics Education: Being Outwitted by Stupidity

Barry Garelick:

In a well-publicized paper that addressed why some students were not learning to read, Reid Lyon (2001) concluded that children from disadvantaged backgrounds where early childhood education was not available failed to read because they did not receive effective instruction in the early grades. Many of these children then required special education services to make up for this early failure in reading instruction, which were by and large instruction in phonics as the means of decoding. Some of these students had no specific learning disability other than lack of access to effective instruction. These findings are significant because a similar dynamic is at play in math education: the effective treatment for many students who would otherwise be labeled learning disabled is also the effective preventative measure.
In 2010 approximately 2.4 million students were identified with learning disabilities — about three times as many as were identified in 1976-1977. (See and This increase raises the question of whether the shift in instructional emphasis over the past several decades has increased the number of low achieving children because of poor or ineffective instruction who would have swum with the rest of the pack when traditional math teaching prevailed. I believe that what is offered as treatment for math learning disabilities is what we could have done–and need to be doing–in the first place. While there has been a good amount of research and effort into early interventions in reading and decoding instruction, extremely little research of equivalent quality on the learning of mathematics exists. Given the education establishment’s resistance to the idea that traditional math teaching methods are effective, this research is very much needed to draw such a definitive conclusion about the effect of instruction on the diagnosis of learning disabilities.1

Milwaukee School Board majority chooses jobs over saving money

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

The Milwaukee School Board is once again ignoring Superintendent Gregory Thornton’s request to explore privatizing a portion of the school lunch program. And that’s just another sign that the board is more concerned with saving union food service jobs than with saving money that could be better spent on educating kids.
The board and Thornton have been down this road before. In his latest proposal, Thornton asked the board to approve the establishment of a leased commissary. The board voted down the proposal, 5-4, in favor of a central kitchen run by district staff. They would not even consider the possibility of looking at other options to see if those would be more cost effective.
In a cash-strapped district, this makes absolutely no sense.
“I was just talking about privatizing a piece of it,” a frustrated Thornton said. “I was not talking about how to transport the food or service the food.”
The board appears to be against exploring any food service options that would eliminate union jobs. Currently, the food service workforce includes 48 temporary employees and more than 100 part-time employees. Administrators say they have had a hard time filling food service jobs.

The Perils of ‘Bite Size’ Science

Marco Bertamini & Marcus Munafo:

IN recent years, a trend has emerged in the behavioral sciences toward shorter and more rapidly published journal articles. These articles are often only a third the length of a standard paper, often describe only a single study and tend to include smaller data sets. Shorter formats are promoted by many journals, and limits on article length are stringent — in many cases as low as 2,000 words.
This shift is partly a result of the pressure that academics now feel to generate measurable output. According to the cold calculus of “publish or perish,” in which success is often gauged by counting citations, three short articles can be preferable to a single longer one.
But some researchers contend that the trend toward short articles is also better for science. Such “bite size” science, they argue, encourages results to be communicated faster, written more concisely and read by editors and researchers more easily, leading to a more lively exchange of ideas.

Lifting bans on parents in classrooms

Jay Matthews:

Patrick A. Hope, a 39-year-old health-care attorney and member of the Virginia House of Delegates, recently observed his daughter learning to read at Barrett Elementary School in Arlington County.
It was just an hour, he said, but “I found it incredibly rewarding to watch my child in this environment, and it gave me ideas and techniques to continue advancement at home.”
So when he saw my columns about school districts discouraging such observations, he decided to do something. He added this sentence to his House Bill No. 400 on education:
“Local school boards shall adopt and implement policies to ensure that the parent or legal guardian of a student or prospective student enrolled in the school division may, subject to reasonable notice and with minimized disruption, act as an observer in the child’s classroom.”

Can computers teach writing?

Jay Matthews:

Like many people, I am appalled at how little writing American students are asked to do. But when we crotchety advocates complain about this to teachers, we have to shut up when they point to a seemingly insoluble problem.
If we required students to write a lot, teachers would have to do many extra hours reading and commenting on that work. They would have no lives and would have to quit. If we could cut ­English class sizes in half, the teachers might be able to handle the load, but that won’t happen unless oil is discovered under the football field.
A 21st-century solution, proposed by former Gates Foundation education executive director Tom Vander Ark, is to let computers read and grade the ­bumper crop of essays. Assessment software, already used to grade essays on the GMAT business school entrance test and other standardized exams, doesn’t need a life and doesn’t cost as much as breathing, pencil-wielding English teachers.

2011 Annual Florida School District Rankings

Gerard Robinson Video.
Florida Department of Education:

The Florida Department of Education today released a numerical ranking of the state’s 3,078 public and charter schools, grouped by elementary, middle, high and combination schools. This ranking coupled with the district rankings, makes it easier for parents and taxpayers to view information about Florida’s education system.

Sustained Positive Effects on Graduation Rates Produced by New York City’s Small Public High Schools of Choice

Howard S. Bloom and Rebecca Unterman:

During the past decade, New York City undertook a district-wide high school reform that is perhaps unprecedented in its scope, scale, and pace. Between fall 2002 and fall 2008, the school district closed 23 large failing high schools (with graduation rates below 45 percent), opened 216 new small high schools (with different missions, structures, and student selection criteria), and implemented a centralized high school admissions process that assigns over 90 percent of the roughly 80,000 incoming ninth-graders each year based on their school preferences.
At the heart of this reform are 123 small, academically nonselective, public high schools. Each with approximately 100 students per grade in grades 9 through 12, these schools were created to serve some of the district’s most disadvantaged students and are located mainly in neighborhoods where large failing high schools had been closed. MDRC researchers call them “small schools of choice” (SSCs) because of their small size and the fact that they do not screen students based on their academic backgrounds.

Ritalin Gone Wrong

L. Alan Sroufe:

THREE million children in this country take drugs for problems in focusing. Toward the end of last year, many of their parents were deeply alarmed because there was a shortage of drugs like Ritalin and Adderall that they considered absolutely essential to their children’s functioning.
But are these drugs really helping children? Should we really keep expanding the number of prescriptions filled?
In 30 years there has been a twentyfold increase in the consumption of drugs for attention-deficit disorder.
As a psychologist who has been studying the development of troubled children for more than 40 years, I believe we should be asking why we rely so heavily on these drugs.