Vote for candidates who will help our hurting children

Fabu, Madison’s former poet laureate:

I’ve listened carefully to all of the School Board candidates — Nichelle Nichols and Arlene Silveira in one race, Mary Burke and Michael Flores in the other. After a panel in the Atrium of the Park Village, I wanted Silveira to look in my face and hear me say as a mother, a tax-paying citizen, educator and poet that I believe she has not done enough to support the success of African-American students in her time on the School Board. I moved on to Flores and we had a lively conversation. Flores said that he supports all children in Madison. I told him that when you have several children, and one is sick, you help the sickest one first even though you love all of your children. Flores told me that “first you have to determine who hurts the most.” Well, I know that African-American children, regardless of economic status, hurt the most in the current school district and we need new board members who will immediately address that pain, as well as to choose a new superintendent to begin the healing process.
After considering the positions of all of the candidates, I believe that Nichelle Nichols and Mary Burke are the candidates who will work urgently to help hurting children.

Seat 1 Candidates:
Nichelle Nichols
Arlene Silveira (incumbent)
Seat 2 Candidates:
Mary Burke
Michael Flores
Arlene Silveira & Michael Flores Madison Teachers, Inc. Candidate Q & A

Misplaced Optimism and Weighted K-12 Funding

Eric Hanushek:

Liberals and conservatives alike have made “weighted student funding” a core idea of their reform prescriptions. Both groups see such weighted funding as providing more dollars to the specific schools they tend to focus upon, and both see it as inspiring improved achievement through newfound political pressures. Unfortunately, both groups are very likely wrong.
The overall idea of weighted student funding–that some students require more resources than others because they require extra educational services–makes sense intuitively and provides a sensible way for states to think about pieces of their school finance systems. The usual categories of students requiring “weights” are those in special education, disadvantaged students as generally defined by family income, and English-language learners.
Indeed, every state in the union currently uses some version of weighted funding, either through explicit inclusion in its funding formula or through allocations using “weighted students” instead of actual students. The federal government’s most significant K-12 spending programs target disadvantaged students (through Title I) and students with disabilities (via the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act).

What Madison can learn from Nerad’s exit

Those who approve of Nerad’s performance and those who disapprove could agree that he seemed to be exiting in a responsible manner.
And there was not much objection to the $37,500 retirement payout that it was announced he would receive. It sounded, after all, like he was retiring. Or so Madisonians thought.
On Tuesday, however, the news arrived that Nerad was a finalist for a job as superintendent of the public schools in Omaha, Neb.
Madison School Board members confirmed that Nerad had not informed them when he was preparing for his “retirement” announcement that he was in the late stages of pursuing another job.
School Board President James Howard even had to field questions about whether he and other board members were “duped” by the superintendent.

I have received a number of emails inquiring about the $37,500 payout…

Seat 1 Candidates:
Nichelle Nichols
Arlene Silveira (incumbent)
Seat 2 Candidates:
Mary Burke
Michael Flores
Arlene Silveira & Michael Flores Madison Teachers, Inc. Candidate Q & A

Rhetoric on the Burke – Flores Madison School Board Race

Lukas Diaz:

So a Forward Lookout spy has forwarded me a scan of a Mary Burke attack mailer…If it’s too small to see, you can click on it to make it big.
The interesting thing about this piece is that it simply takes Mary Burke’s person experience and then says Michael Flores doesn’t have the same experience. If you’ll note the section where Mary Burke touts her Budget Experience, she notes her work in the Wisconsin Department of Commerce…I mean, most people have not worked in the Wisconsin Department of Commerce. That hardly makes them unqualified for the school board.

Seat 1 Candidates:
Nichelle Nichols
Arlene Silveira (incumbent)
Seat 2 Candidates:
Mary Burke
Michael Flores
Arlene Silveira & Michael Flores Madison Teachers, Inc. Candidate Q & A

Universities and the Price of Ignorance

Richard Vedder:

My friend and American Enterprise Institute colleague Alex Pollack had a brilliant column in the Wall Street Journal on March 14 that unintentionally speaks importantly to one of the many scandals surrounding higher education: our students are weak in core knowledge about the development of our civilization.
More specifically, Pollack said an even cursory glance through history would tell you that the recent European financial crisis and threatened Greek debt default are hardly surprising–history is replete with scores if not hundreds of other examples. Governments use their sovereign and coercive powers to pressure people to buy their bonds. For example, our system of national banks created in the National Banking Act of 1863 resulted in considerable part because of Treasury Secretary Salmon Chase’s desire to peddle bonds to finance the North’s effort in the Civil War. Banks were coerced to keep U.S. bonds as part of their reserves. Political leaders love bond financing because it is less of an overt form of taxing the people than explicit direct taxation, and thus sometimes imposes a lower political cost.

Parent trigger founder: Teachers unions launched “sweep and destroy” mission to deny parents

redefined staff:

wo weeks ago, Gloria Romero, the former California state senator who wrote the original parent trigger law, wrote in this redefinED piece that the “status quo” killed the parent trigger bill in Florida. Today in this op-ed for the Los Angeles Times, Romero uses much tougher language – and singles out a specific foe – to describe the parent trigger battle in two California locales. Some excerpts:

In both Adelanto and Compton, parents trying to exercise their rights felt the full onslaught of a “sweep and destroy” mission launched by the California Teachers Assn. and its affiliates. What had taken weeks to build was destroyed in a few days of heavy-handed lobbying. Parents have reported being told outright lies about charter law and about their rights. Some parents reported that they were even threatened with deportation if they didn’t rescind their signatures …

Will Teaching Kids How to Write Software Help Fix Young America?

Alex Fitzpatrick:

New York City is a hotbed of technological innovation, but many of its public school students aren’t graduating with the skills needed to be a part of “Silicon Alley,” as it’s known. Scott Schwaitzberg, vice president of Activate, is planning to fix that problem by helping to build a public high school designed to teach the city’s youth everything they need to know about writing software and the tech industry.
Schwaitzberg is part of a team that’s creating a revolutionary public high school for software engineering in the heart of New York City. Named “The Academy for Software Engineering,” the school will admit 500 students in grades 9 through 12 when it opens in the fall of this year. There’s a limited screening process: Prospective students attend an information session and sit down with an advisor to be considered for the admissions lottery.

The 12 Worst Colleges for Free Speech: FIRE’s 2nd Annual List

Greg Lukianoff:

Free exchange of ideas is the lifeblood of any university, and for the second year in a row my organization, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), presents its list of the worst colleges and universities for freedom of speech.
Many of the 12 are repeat offenders for refusing to undo serious punishments of what should be clearly protected speech on campus, while others are new additions that have shown particular hostility to student criticism and, in one case, limiting free speech to a tiny zone on campus. Also bound to raise a buzz, Yale and Harvard, two of the most iconic colleges in the country, top the list for disappointing but ongoing retrenchment against the principles that are supposed to animate higher education. Also, check out our short video below about the list.

Corporations, Governments, Public Schools, Unions are People

Imagine Wisconsin:

With the Republican/Tea Party presidential campaigns pandering to conservatives in Wisconsin this week, it is a tough time to try to shake loose from the entanglements of Governor Scott Walker’s dichotomous design. Nonetheless, the beautiful spring weather continues to soften my soul. Light and dark converge, once again, landing me in the twilight zone.
To the chagrin of my progressive friends–who continue to dog the dark-side’s presidential frontrunner for his most famous campaign comment–I concur with Mitt Romney’s remark that “corporations are people.” However, as another Steve logically explains, if corporations are people, then “governments are people, too.” In the same vein, public schools are people, too.

Sibling Rivalry Grows Up: Adult Brothers and Sisters Are Masters at Digs; Finding a Way to a Truce

Elizabeth Bernstein:

Marianne Walsh and her sister, Megan Putman, keep track of whose kids their mother babysits more. They also compete with each other over parenting styles (Ms. Walsh is strict, Ms. Putman is laid back) and their weight.
“My kids play more instruments, so I am winning in piano,” says Ms. Walsh, 38, the younger of the two by 13 months. “But she won the skinny Olympics.”
Adult sibling rivalry. Experts say it remains one of the most harmful and least addressed issues in a family. We know it when we see it. Often, we deeply regret it. But we have no idea what to do about it.

Madison School Board responsible, too

Wisconsin State Journal:

Superintendent Dan Nerad’s departure is probably for the best.
The Madison School Board was split on Nerad’s performance, rating him as barely proficient in an evaluation completed last month.
Among other challenges, Madison is struggling to improve its atrocious graduation rates for black and Latino students.
Yet board members can’t dodge their own responsibility for better results. More than half of the School Board — Arlene Silveira, Beth Moss, Maya Cole and Lucy Mathiak — hired Nerad for the district’s top job just four years ago. And, ultimately, the superintendent’s role is to carry out the board’s vision, which hasn’t always been clear.
Nerad has been a measured and thoughtful leader. What he lacked in charm he sometimes made up for in knowledge and diplomacy.

Seat 1 Candidates:
Nichelle Nichols
Arlene Silveira (incumbent)
Seat 2 Candidates:
Mary Burke
Michael Flores
Arlene Silveira & Michael Flores Madison Teachers, Inc. Candidate Q & A

Do we really give introverts a hard time?

Vanessa Barford:

It is often assumed extroverts do best in life, but according to a new best-selling book, introverts are just as high achievers. It claims there is a bias towards extroverts in Western society. So do we discriminate against introverts?
Barack Obama, JK Rowling and Steve Wozniak.
They might not immediately stand out as introverts, but according to Susan Cain, American author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts In a World That Can’t Stop Talking, they are.
That is because she says, contrary to popular opinion, introverts are not necessarily shy or anti-social, they just prefer environments that are not over-stimulating and get their energy from quiet time and reflection.
Conversely, extroverts need to be around other people to recharge their batteries.

Turkish protesters denounce education reform bill

Associated Press:

Thousands of people have joined a Turkish opposition rally denouncing a government education reform bill they say is designed to boost the influence of Islamic schools.
The protest was staged Tuesday hours before parliament began debate on the proposal. The bill would extend compulsory education from the current eight years to 12 and pave the way for middle school students to attend Islamic schools.

Where Could The Next Outbreak Of Measles Be?

Valerie Bauerlein & Betsy McKay:

Even as more American children are getting immunized against measles, diphtheria and other diseases, public-health officials are increasingly worried about potential outbreaks of these illnesses in certain pockets of the country where vaccination rates are dangerously low.
Parts of Oregon, Washington state, Idaho, Montana and a few other states have some of the lowest rates of compliance with vaccination guidelines–and the problem is growing, health officials say. Overall vaccination rates in some of these communities are under 80%, far below the threshold that is needed to prevent an outbreak for certain diseases. Exemptions in many states for philosophical or religious reasons allow parents to opt out of requirements for children to be vaccinated before entering school. Other parents delay immunizations for their young children, leaving them exposed to possible infections for a longer time.

Don’t insult (outgoing Madison Superintendent) Nerad’s social work background

Chris Rickert:

A comment in Tuesday’s story about the resignation of Madison schools Superintendent Dan Nerad caught me short.
“You can’t behave as a social worker and run a massive complex organization,” said Don Severson, head of the conservative watchdog group Active Citizens for Education.
Nerad is a former social worker and, apparently, Severson didn’t think his background did him much good.
I’m bothered by this on two levels.
First, Severson’s comment speaks to a long-standing disrespect for the profession and what Kristen Slack, director of the UW-Madison School of Social Work, called an occasional “misunderstanding.”

Former Bucyrus CEO calls for reform of employment programs

John Schmid:

Taking advantage of what he calls a climate that’s conducive to reorganizing state government, one of Gov. Scott Walker’s top economic advisers said he’s drafting set of recommendations that will change how Wisconsin allocates hundreds of millions of dollars each year in federal job training funds and simultaneously reform the state’s education system.
The goal is to repair an “antiquated state workforce” and education system that fails to provide employers with workers, which in turn leaves openings unfilled and hundreds of thousands of working-age Wisconsinites lacking employable skills, said Tim Sullivan, former chief executive officer of Bucyrus International Inc. and chairman of the Governor’s Council on Workforce Investment, a state advisory panel.

Tinkering Toward Transformation: A Look at Federal School Improvement Grant Implementation

Sarah Yatsko, Robin Lake, Elizabeth Cooley Nelson, Melissa Bowen, via a kind Deb Britt email:

In 2009, the federal government committed over $3 billion nationwide to help states and districts turn around their worst-performing schools. The U.S. Department of Education intended for the School Improvement Grants (SIGs) to spur dramatic change.
This report looks at the results of a field study of the first-year implementation of those grants in Washington State, which will receive $50 million in SIG funding over three years. CRPE researchers wanted to see what kinds of school-level changes are underway, how they compare to the intent of the grants, and the role that district play in SIG implementation.
Researchers provide findings from the state, district, and school level. They found that, with some exceptions, districts and schools in Washington state are approaching the turnaround work in ways only marginally different from past school improvement efforts. Despite the hard work of administrators, principals, and especially teachers, the majority of schools studied show little evidence of the type of bold and transformative changes the SIGs were intended to produce.

Teachers’ Support For Reform Depends In Part On Experience — Gates/Scholastic Survey

Joy Resmovits:

Revamping the makeup of the teaching profession through tweaks such as altering tenure and teacher evaluations has become a policy debate du jour, one that has riled many a state house in recent years. As it turns out, teachers themselves support that overhaul, according to recent survey data.
But that support may depend on a factor central to many of these teacher reforms: experience.
A survey released recently by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, in collaboration with Scholastic Education, asked 10,000 pre-K-12 public-school teachers questions about their satisfaction, environment and views on school policies. The metric of teacher support for certain policies is increasingly important as a chorus of voices claims educators have been excluded from the biggest debates over laws affecting America’s classrooms. An actual metric of teacher support is also crucial as education-reform groups trot out their policies to statehouses, claiming a such a groundswell of educator support.

New Report Shows the Power of Early Childhood Education

Mike Ford:

A report released today by WPRI details the strong connection between early childhood education and economic development. The authors, Minneapolis Federal Reserve economist Rob Grunewald and former Wisconsin Legislative Audit Bureau analyst Don Bezruki, use existing economic research on early childhood education programs to inform a series of recommendations for increasing the economic development power of early childhood education in Wisconsin.
The authors review four key longitudinal studies on early childhood education and conclude that the return on investment in such programs can be “as high as $16 for every $1” spent. Looking specifically at Wisconsin’s YoungStar system, it is possible to estimate that the additional $20 million in incentive payments required from moving about 10,000 children into higher quality education centers would generate $60 million in future economic benefit.

Recall WEAC “When School Children Start Paying Union Dues, I’ll Start Representing Schoolchildren” – Al Shanker

the Recall WEAC website is live, via a kind reader’s email:

Reforming Education And Demanding Exceptional Results in Wisconsin (READER-WI) is a non-partisan organization devoted to reforming and improving the education system in Wisconsin.
We are facing a critical time here in Wisconsin. Where is education going in the 21st century? Will we have an educational system designed to improve educational outcomes for all children in all income brackets and of all ethnicities? Or will we have an educational system designed to maximize Big Labor revenues, and designed to protect the worst teachers while driving out the best?
Click on the tabs at the top of this page to learn more about the crisis we are in. Then, join us in our fight to reform education. Children can no longer be used as political pawns. Let’s make a real, positive difference.

More, here, including the beltline billboard due tomorrow.
Al Shanker: Blekko or Clusty.
Related: WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators, Sparks fly over Wisconsin budget’s labor-related provisions and Teachers Union & (Madison) School Board Elections.
Joe Tarr:

The quote has been repeated many times, often by conservatives attacking unions as the bane of public education. Joe Klein used it in a June 2011 article in The Atlantic.
However, the Albert Shanker Institute made an extensive effort to find the source of the quote but failed. In a blog post, the Institute concluded: “It is very difficult — sometimes impossible — to prove a negative, especially when it is something like a verbal quotation…. So, we cannot demonstrate conclusively that Albert Shanker never made this particular statement. He was a forthright guy who was known for saying all manner of interesting and provocative things, both on and off the record. But we believe the quote is fiction.”
The Institute speculates that the quote might be a distortion of a speech Shanker gave in the 1970s at Oberlin College, where he said, “I don’t represent children. I represent teachers… But, generally, what’s in the interest of teachers is also in the interest of students.”
The Wikipedia entry lists other quotations from Shanker that are not disputed, including some that would fit perfectly with the stated goals of READER-WI.
Such as this one: “A lot of people who have been hired as teachers are basically not competent.”
And this one: “It is as much the duty of the union to preserve public education as it is to negotiate a good contract.”

The Bigger Picture on MMSD School Board Conflicts of Interest

I found the recent Wisconsin State Journal article on the school board elections and Nichelle Nichols’ Urban League employment odd and at the same time interesting. When I was elected in 2006, there was a well established practice that board members would abstain from both discussion and voting if there was a conflict of interest OR the APPEARANCE of a conflict of interest. I distinctly remember leaving the room, and watching other board members leave the room when discussions involved employment, financial interests, leadership positions in nonprofits, and other factors involving the board member or a close member of their family. This practice is less codified than it was in 2006, and perhaps should be revisited when the new board member(s) take(s) office.
In tapping members of the community, there are few board members who have zero conflicts of interest. I have stepped out of participation when the discussion involved agreements with my employer, or decisions that would possibly affect the value of property owned by my husband. Arlene has stepped out of discussions involving Promega, her employer. As a retired teacher with related MMSD benefits, Marj has stepped out of negotiations and bargaining. Ed has, in the past, stepped out of decisions involving the Goodman Center where his wife is a board member. More than one of us has stepped out of disciplinary decisions that have affected the children of colleagues or friends of the family.
I believe that this high standard of conduct has been good practice for the district. People openly acknowledge that they oughtn’t discuss or vote on a matter because they may not be entirely neutral or lacking in interests other than the best interest of the district. Which is what board members are elected to consider first and foremost.
Nichelle Nichols has acknowledged the issues throughout her campaign and has indicated that she would step out where discussions and decisions overlap with her ULGM responsibilities. Mary Burke, if elected, will need to do her own soul searching about whether it is appropriate to vote on matters related to AVID, Boys and Girls Club, Dane County United Way, and perhaps other organizations where she plays a significant philanthropy and/or leadership role. If re-elected, I expect that Arlene will continue to take the high road as she has done in the past. The candidate who appears to carry the least conflict of interest baggage is Michael Flores, and I would expect that other board members and district counsel would play a role in helping him to decide how to handle conflicts if they arise.
What concerns me at this time is a subtle shift that has de-emphasized the higher standard to which board members once held themselves. The GAB response to DeFour appears to narrowly focus on whether there is an employment relationship between a board member and an organization that may benefit from a board vote, ignoring other types of relationships that would make impartiality challenging to exercise or demonstrate.
In addition, the post-election orientations for board members that were formerly in place have fallen by the wayside in recent years. As a result, people elected in recent years did not receive the printed copies of board policies and discussion of how they worked – including conflicts of interest – that helped to train and inform myself and other longer-serving board members.
In addition, Board Policy 1540 – School Board Ethics that addresses ethics was rewritten in recent years. That rewrite added a good deal of language about board behavior, but the relevant language on conflicts of interest is relegated to the MMSD “Code of Conduct” Board Policy 9000A, in which the following sections are overshadowed by concern about decisions made to enter into contracts or purchase services:

3 No employee or member of the Board of Education shall participate in or attempt to influence any District decision-making process in which s/he has a substantial personal or financial interest.
4 No employee or member of the Board of Education may use her/his employment or position with the District in a way that produces or assists in the production of a substantial benefit for the employee.
“Substantial personal interest” or “substantial benefit” to the employee or member of the Board of Education includes, but is not limited to, such interest or benefit that an immediate family member has, as well as an interest in an organization with which the employee or member of the Board of Education is associated.

It is my hope that as the newly configured board takes shape in a few weeks, it will use the orientation and settling period to review and reflecting on the above sections of board policy and procedure. My personal perspective is that such an effort would be time well spent, if only to collectively remember and affirm the fundamental and primary responsibility of elected board members to serving the best interests of the district and its students. There is no question that individual board members ‘get it,’ but there also is something very powerful about making a group commitment to these values at the beginning of the annual school policy cycle.

The New Science of the Birth and Death of Words Have physicists discovered the evolutionary laws of language in Google’s library?

Christopher Shea:

Can physicists produce insights about language that have eluded linguists and English professors? That possibility was put to the test this week when a team of physicists published a paper drawing on Google’s massive collection of scanned books. They claim to have identified universal laws governing the birth, life course and death of words.
The paper marks an advance in a new field dubbed “Culturomics”: the application of data-crunching to subjects typically considered part of the humanities. Last year a group of social scientists and evolutionary theorists, plus the Google Books team, showed off the kinds of things that could be done with Google’s data, which include the contents of five-million-plus books, dating back to 1800.

How One Stathead Is Carving Out a New Market: High-School Coaches

Matthew Futterman:

Head coach Keith Guy and the Muskegon Heights Tigers headed into Tuesday night’s quarterfinals of the Michigan high-school basketball playoffs armed with a secret weapon.
On the coach’s iPad, there was a series of charts and diagrams that plotted almost everything that’s plottable about his team and its opponents, Cadillac High School. This included their shot locations and scoring pace, the offensive and defensive potency of every five-man unit they’d put on the floor this season and how effective their star players have been when they’ve received the ball at any spot on the court.

The 1% of the Student Debt Crisis: Owing $150,000 in Loans

Jordan Weissmann:

Meet Kelli Space. She went to Northeastern University to get a degree in sociology. And she graduated in $200,000 of student loan debt. In the economy’s newest trillion-dollar crisis, she is the 1 percent.
Kelli is not the face of America’s student debt problem. Among the 37 million people in this country with student loans to pay off, the median balance is $12,800. A whole 72 percent of borrowers have less than $25,000 left in debt, according to data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

SAT and ACT to Tighten Rules After Cheating Scandal

Jenny Anderson:

Stung by a cheating scandal involving dozens of Long Island high school students, the SAT and ACT college entrance exams will now require students to provide a photograph when they sign up for the exams, and officials will check those images against the identification the students present when they take the test.
The new rules were part of a broad set of changes announced on Tuesday in the aftermath of the cheating cases, in which high-scoring students used fake IDs to take the SAT or ACT for other students. The revelations had proved embarrassing for the testing services, on which virtually every American college relies in making admissions decisions.

Thoreau enrichment program brings ‘community closer together’

Pamela Cotant:

When Rosita Gonzalez proposed an after-school enrichment program for Thoreau Elementary School students this year, she wanted to make sure anyone could participate.
So one of the key components was arranging van rides with parents for students who normally have to leave right away to take the bus.
“It’s done really well and I think it’s really nice that kids get to stay,” said Gonzalez, president of the Parent-Teacher Organization. “We’re a community so we shouldn’t be separating ourselves when the school bell rings.”
While Gonzalez initiated the idea for the volunteer-run program, parent Jill McNaughton also helped organize it and a number of parents and staff members helped by donating their time and offering rides.

Vote for Mary Burke for School Board

The Capital Times

The contest between Mary Burke and Michael Flores presents a tough choice. Both candidates are outspoken critics of Gov. Scott Walker’s assault on public education, and defenders of the unions that represent educators. Both have genuine stakes in the Madison public schools — Flores as a parent and volunteer, Burke as a tutor, mentor and co-founder of AVID/TOPS, an innovative program for closing the racial achievement gap in Madison public schools.
We would be satisfied with either of these fine candidates, but our endorsement goes to Burke. She has a remarkable long-term record of engagement with public education at every level in Madison — as the co-founder of AVID/TOPS, board member of the Foundation for Madison Public Schools, a 13-year veteran of the Schools of Hope tutoring program at Allis Elementary School, a mentor at East High, a volunteer and board member for the Boys & Girls Club. She also knows the broader issues when it comes to state policy on education and achievement gap issues, as a former commerce secretary, Trek Bicycle executive, and active player in an initiative relating to the Milwaukee schools.

Seat 1 Candidates:
Nichelle Nichols
Arlene Silveira (incumbent)
Seat 2 Candidates:
Mary Burke
Michael Flores
Arlene Silveira & Michael Flores Madison Teachers, Inc. Candidate Q & A

Madison East High School Team Competes in Euro Challenge 2011 National Finals!

Euro Challenge:

A team of sophomore high school students from Madison East went to the Federal Reserve Bank in New York City on April 27 to compete in the final rounds of the annual 2011 Euro Challenge Competition. They advanced to the finals after winning the Midwest preliminary round in March at the Federal Reserve Bank in Chicago, where they competed against high school teams from Indiana, Iowa, and Illinois. For an update on the Euro Challenge winner, please visit the featured news update on the Euro Challenge website here.


The Economic Power of Early Childhood Education

Rob Grunewald and Don Bezruki:

Early childhood education is one of the most cost-effective and potent economic development tools available. Investment in young children supports economic development by boosting the long-run productivity of the labor force and reducing public costs. In the cold calculus of economic analysis, repeated studies have not only confirmed the long-term value of early childhood education, but its economic payback has been estimated as high as $16 for every $1. Early childhood education programs can provide high rates of return when:
They are of proven high quality.
They reach children in greatest need, such as children in poverty.
They reach children well before they start kindergarten.
The YoungStar program, launched in 2010, is Wisconsin’s attempt to leverage existing state and federal funding for childcare subsidies for low-income families to improve the quality of the state’s thousands of child care providers and to help parents make better-informed, quality-based decisions when they select a child care provider for their children.
In 2010, Wisconsin paid over $293 million to child care providers that enrolled children from low-income families through the Wisconsin Shares program. The Wisconsin Shares subsidies program began during Wisconsin’s welfare reform in the 1990s to help parents on public assistance afford child care and join the work force.

We can work it out: What can you do when the kids are driving you crazy?

Tara Jenkins and Karen Pittar:

Parents’ biggest battles with their children are often over the smallest things: refusing to share a favourite toy with a sibling, leaving a supermarket without buying that special snack, saying goodbye at the end of a play date. For Kendra Moran and her eight-year-old daughter, Keira, the flashpoint was clothes.
“We fought endlessly over what she would wear; she wanted flip-flops and shorts when it was cold outside; I wanted her to wear a pretty dress I’d bought for church,” says Moran, a mother of three. “She’s always been eloquent beyond her years and after one of our shouting arguments, Keira said, ‘Mummy, you need to let me make some of my own decisions sometimes’. I realised I needed to change my parenting strategy.”

Union poll gives Gist dismal approval rating from RI teachers

Ted Nesi:

Education Commissioner Deborah Gist has plenty of fans in Rhode Island, but few rank-and-file teachers are among if a new poll commissioned by the state’s teachers unions is accurate.
Just 16% of public school teachers in Rhode Island had a favorable view of Gist’s job performance in January while 82% had a negative view, according to a survey of 401 teachers conducted by Fleming & Associates for the National Education Association Rhode Island and the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals.
The commission was particularly unpopular with long-tenured teachers. Those with 20 years or more experience in the classroom gave Gist a favorable rating of only 9%, significantly below the 23% favorable rating she received from teachers with less than 10 years of experience. (Fleming also conducts polling for WPRI 12.) on the 2012 Madison School Board Candidates

Nichols Sees Need For Change On MMSD School Board
Silveira Seeks Third Term On MMSD School Board
Achievement Gap Top Focus For Flores’ School Board Run
Burke Says She’s Ready To Take On Issues On MMSD School Board
Seat 1 Candidates:
Nichelle Nichols
Arlene Silveira (incumbent)
Seat 2 Candidates:
Mary Burke
Michael Flores
Arlene Silveira & Michael Flores Madison Teachers, Inc. Candidate Q & A

Burke spends big, Silveira rakes it in

Matthew DeFour, a local newspaper writer:

Madison School Board candidate Mary Burke reported spending six times as much as her opponent Michael Flores between Jan. 1 and March 19, according to campaign finance reports filed Monday with the Madison City Clerk’s Office.
And two-term School Board incumbent Arlene Silveira collected twice as much in campaign contributions as challenger Nichelle Nichols during the same period.
Burke has already spent $27,554 — all of it her own money in keeping with a pledge not to accept contributions — on her campaign so far. She reported contributing a total of $30,025 to her own campaign.
Flores reported contributions of $7,175.34 in the first three months of the year. That includes $1,560 from the teachers union’s political action committee, MTI Voters. He reported spending $4,448.21.
MTI Voters reported spending $4,272 on independent radio, online and print ads for Flores and the same amount for Silveira. That amount is on top of the money the candidates reported spending on the campaign so far.

Nerad resignation adds new wrinkle to School Board races

Matthew DeFour, a local education reporter:

Nichols said declining test scores and low graduation rates for minority students over the past six years have been a reflection of the board and superintendent not having shared priorities. She said a change in board leadership is necessary “because we can’t afford to lose more precious time.”
Silveira did not respond Wednesday to a request to discuss Nerad’s departure.
Burke said she would have liked to see Nerad stay and worries his departure could expend the momentum for addressing the achievement gap that has built up over the last year.
Hiring Nerad’s replacement, she said, is “probably the most important issue now facing the board.”
Flores said he has mixed feeling about Nerad’s departure. On one hand, the district now has a new issue to address on top of the achievement gap and the budget. At the same time, there arises the potential for finding a leader who the community embraces and will make difficult decisions.


Seat 1 Candidates:
Nichelle Nichols
Arlene Silveira (incumbent)
Seat 2 Candidates:
Mary Burke
Michael Flores
Arlene Silveira & Michael Flores Madison Teachers, Inc. Candidate Q & A

Omaha Superintendent Search: Wisconsin educator dealt with unions, protesting teachers

Joe Dejka:

When Wisconsin labor unions swarmed their State Capitol last year in a dispute with the governor, Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad found himself in the thick of it.
The Madison Metropolitan School District offices were about a mile from the Capitol, where unions gathered to protest Gov. Scott Walker’s effort to curb collective bargaining.
A representative of the district’s teachers union called to inform him that they would be joining the protest the next day and that he had better prepare to close the schools.
“It was like hitting him between the eyes with a hammer,” said John Matthews, executive director of Madison Teachers Inc.
Nerad’s handling of the situation was praised Tuesday by Matthews and Madison’s school board vice president, Marj Passman, and board president, James Howard.

Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad’s Omaha job application (450K PDF).

Nichols’ job may prevent participation

Bill Keys, Madison, former member Madison School Board

Thursday’s State Journal reported on the Government Accountability Board’s warning of potential conflict of interest should Nichelle Nichols serve on the Madison School Board.
Nichols will be unable to work fully with her colleagues, because her election may affect her employer, the Urban League of Greater Madison, should the Madison Preparatory Academy proposal return to board agendas or other items dealing with funds received by the Urban League, such as the Schools of Hope project.
When I served on the board, our attorney instructed me to avoid Madison Teachers Inc. negotiations and not even be in the room during discussions. As a retired teacher, I benefited only from the life insurance policy provided by the district. Even so, discussions or votes on MTI benefits would violate state law.
I had to avoid any discussion or votes taken regarding the district’s appropriations to Kajsiab House, which received a district grant to work with Hmong families. I volunteered there, but it was one of the programs in the Mental Health Center of Dane County, my wife’s employer.
Nichols, whose integrity is intact, will find herself more restricted than I was, and will be excluded from significant board work that may be construed as benefiting her or her employer.
Arlene Silveira will not be affected by such potential conflicts, another reason she will be a more effective board member.

Much more on Bill Keys, here.
Seat 1 Candidates:
Nichelle Nichols
Arlene Silveira (incumbent)
Seat 2 Candidates:
Mary Burke
Michael Flores
Arlene Silveira & Michael Flores Madison Teachers, Inc. Candidate Q & A

Madison School board candidates face off in key 2012 election

A. David Dahmer:

“We’re at a critical junction right now. We’re not trending positive,” says MMSD school board seat 2 candidate Mary Burke. “We have to turn the ship around. But I see opportunity. There aren’t any challenges that scare me or that we can’t do something about, but we need a sense of urgency.
“I really believe that if we’re going to make substantial progress, it has to be a collective effort and the school board will have to play a very important part,” she adds. “We need to make it a top priority.”
The achievement gap is a community issue, not just a schools issue, Burke tells The Madison Times in an interview outside of Jade Mountain Cafe on Madison’s near east side. The MMSD’s dismal four-year graduation rate of just 48 percent for Black students and 57 percent for Latinos has been well documented.
“It’s the most critical and pressing issue facing the district. I think we’ve progressed a huge amount just in the last six months in terms of awareness,” Burke says. “I’ve been working on educational and achievement gap and educational issues on a full-time basis for the past five years.”

Seat 1 Candidates:
Nichelle Nichols
Arlene Silveira (incumbent)
Seat 2 Candidates:
Mary Burke
Michael Flores
Arlene Silveira & Michael Flores Madison Teachers, Inc. Candidate Q & A

Oh, the Places We Go, Madison Superintendents…


Assistant superintendent Art Rainwater was elevated (no one else applied) to Superintendent when Cheryl Wilhoyte was pushed out. Perhaps Madison will think different this time and look outside the traditional, credentialed Superintendent candidates. The District has much work to do – quickly – on the basics, reading/writing, math and science. A steady diet of reading recovery and connected math along with above average spending of nearly $15k/student per year has not changed student achievement.

Hired Guns on Astroturf: How to Buy and Sell School Reform

Joanne Barkan, via a kind email:

If you want to change government policy, change the politicians who make it. The implications of this truism have now taken hold in the market-modeled “education reform movement.” As a result, the private funders and nonprofit groups that run the movement have overhauled their strategy. They’ve gone political as never before–like the National Rifle Association or Big Pharma or (ed reformers emphasize) the teachers’ unions.
Devolution of a Movement
For the last decade or so, this generation of ed reformers has been setting up programs to show the power of competition and market-style accountability to transform inner-city public schools: establishing nonprofit and for-profit charter schools, hiring business executives to run school districts, and calculating a teacher’s worth based on student test scores. Along the way, the reformers recognized the value of public promotion and persuasion (called “advocacy”) for their agenda, and they started pouring more money into media outlets, friendly think tanks, and the work of well-disposed researchers. By 2010 critics of the movement saw “reform-think” dominating national discourse about education, but key reform players judged the pace of change too slow.

I’m glad Joanne mentioned teachers’ unions among the other lobbyists. There are a number of useful notes and links on this topic, here and here.

Student test scores show Madison lags state in cutting achievement gap

Matthew DeFour:

Madison and Wisconsin are moving in opposite directions in raising achievement levels of black students, according to state test scores released Tuesday by the Department of Public Instruction.
The percentage of black Madison students scoring proficient or better on the state reading test dropped to the lowest level in six years, while statewide black student reading scores continued to improve.
“The results affirm the work that we need to be doing and are doing to close our unacceptable gaps in achievement,” Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad said.
Overall student performance improved in math and dipped slightly in reading across Wisconsin compared with last year, while in Madison scores declined in all tested subjects.
Madison’s strongest gains were among eighth grade math scores, with the percentage of black students scoring proficient gaining 8 percentage points, Hispanic students gaining 16 percentage points and low-income students gaining 6.5 percentage points over last year.
Overall 77 percent of eighth-graders scored advanced or proficient on math, up from 76 percent last year. In all other grade levels the math scores were down in Madison from last year, whereas statewide the scores were up or the same in each grade level.


Internal Connecticut Education Assocation Memo: No Deal Could be Better

Rick Green:

The Connecticut Education Association- under pressure from the governor, legislators and even the rival American Federation of Teachers – apparently believes that blocking any education reform could be better than what Gov. Dannel Malloy is proposing.
UPDATE: Take a look at the email sent out today from CEA President Phil Apruzzese and Executive Director Mary Loftus Levine. The union says that the email was “not directed at CEA members.” My earlier posts today suggested that was the case.
The email sends a pretty clear message to all concerned, particularly about blocking a deal and about what the CEA thinks about the AFT’s efforts to forge a compromise:

Mike Antonucci has more.

India’s ‘tiger mothers’ prove themselves the equal of China’s

Mark Magnier:

Stay-at-home mother Swati Rastogi watches her daughter Krisha play with plastic monkeys as Dhruva, her son, lines up model cars in their two-bedroom apartment, the walls of which are festooned with Hindi and English alphabet posters.
Three-year-old Dhruva asks whether Pakistan is part of India. He is told it is not. “I don’t know where that comes from,” his mother says, watching attentively.

UK School house price premium revealed


Parents face a “premium” of around £91,000 to buy a house near a top state primary school, a new study suggests.
Property website looked at asking prices in the surrounding areas of the top 100 state primary schools across England, using official education figures.
It found that homes in top primary school areas command an average price of £309,732, which is £91,618 or 42% higher than the typical price of £218,114.
Nigel Lewis, a property analyst at, said: “Analysis conducted by in September 2011 revealed that living near one of the 50 best secondary schools in the UK adds an extra £77,000 to the value of a home – £14,000 less than living near one of the nation’s top primary schools.”
Primary schools in the East Midlands were found to command the biggest premiums in percentage terms, with asking prices £82,000, or 48% higher than the regional average of £171,135.

All boys charter school in Fort Wayne gets green light

The Smith Academy for Excellence (SAFE) has been approved to operate as a new charter school on the southeast side of Fort Wayne.
A representative for the school said the Grace College Board of Trustees gave the approval with a unanimous vote on Friday.
SAFE will be one of the first all boys charter schools in Indiana. The school will focus on college preparation, character education and service learning. The academy will also offer extracurricular activities including interscholastic sports.

Why I Decided To Go To College

Nick Jacob:

I’m not writing this as an attack. In fact, I don’t think everyone should go to college. It’s an individual’s choice, and I don’t think it’s ‘necessary.’
But I want to address what I see as a growing belief among the startup community: the notion that, for a certain class of 18 year-olds, college is a waste of time, four years of debt and debauchery. College has been depicted as a limbo, a beaurocratic nightmare that a truly motivated individual could not only circumvent, but improve on. You could learn “everything you needed to know to do.. x” in 2 years, or 1 year, or 10 months. Because, ultimately, experience is the best education.
I agree. If you’re going to college to learn how to start a company, you should drop out tomorrow. If you want to learn how to code so you can build the next X, drop out now.
If that’s your objective, then yes, college is a waste of time. But that’s not college. Before I continue my rant, I want to issue a disclaimer: I’m 20 years old, my perspective on this subject is stricly limited to my own experience. I’ve only ever attended one institution of higher education.

Singapore passes student test

Hong Kong Standard:

The Hong Kong public is concerned about mainlanders competing with locals for facilities ranging from hospital maternity services to school places.
Even expensive international schools are over-enrolled, with expatriate English teachers complaining about being unable to get their own children school places.
Many mainland students also study in Singapore, but that country seems to be faring better in this regard.
Perhaps the government there is more effective, or its people don’t complain as much – or maybe it’s a bit of both.
Singapore’s population grew rapidly over the past decade – from three million to more than five million – partly due to an immigration policy that drew many elites, including mainlanders.
But the city-state isn’t immune from controversies involving foreign students. Recently, a mainland student created a storm by writing on a blog that there are “more dogs than people” in Singapore.

Notes and Links on Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad’s Looming Departure

Jonathon Braden:

The Omaha school board on Tuesday narrowed its list of candidates to replace retiring Superintendent John Mackiel to three finalists.
They are:
ReNae Kehrberg, assistant superintendent for curriculum and learning for the Omaha Public Schools.
Nancy Sebring, superintendent of the Des Moines Public Schools.
Dan Nerad, superintendent of the Madison Metropolitan School District in Madison, Wis.
Mackiel, 62, is retiring after this school year. He has been the OPS leader since 1997.

Dave Cieslewicz:

When I first started running for mayor back in 2002, an elder statesman of Madison politics told me, “I don’t know why you want to do this, they’ll chew you up.”
Well, I don’t really feel chewed up. I had a great time as mayor, but I do understand now what he was talking about.
Leading this city in any capacity is tough. Whether it’s as mayor, head of the Chamber of Commerce, editor of a newspaper, schools superintendent, or president of your neighborhood association, working a top job in a city like ours is a challenge.
Face it: we’re a city of kibitzers, back seat drivers, and Monday morning quarterbacks. Our very educated town is full of people who are sure that, whatever it is, they could do it better.

Test scores improve for Milwaukee voucher schools (spending about 45% less per student), but still lag public schools;

Carrie Antlfinger:

Students who received vouchers to attend private or religious schools in Milwaukee improved their performance in mathematics and reading last year but still lagged behind public school students, according to a report released Tuesday.
The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction found that in the second year of testing last fall, about 40 percent of Milwaukee voucher students showed they were proficient or advanced in math, up nearly 6 percent from last year. Nearly 49 percent of local public school students and 78 percent of public school students statewide reached that mark.

Related: Comparing Milwaukee Public and Voucher Schools’ Per Student Spending: Though not perfect, I think $13,063 (MPS) and $7,126 (MPCP) are reasonably comparative per-pupil public support numbers for MPS and the MPCP.

Madison school board candidates Arlene Silveira and Nichelle Nichols discuss tests, teacher evaluation, and No Child Left Behind


School board elections are usually sleepy affairs.
But the proposal this year for Madison Prep, a single-gender charter school, has sparked a lively, and sometimes controversial, conversation about one of the most pressing problems facing Madison schools: the achievement gap between students of color and their white peers. The debate has, in turn, sparked interest in the school board.
In the race for Seat 1, two-term incumbent Arlene Silveira is being challenged by Nichelle Nichols, who works at the Urban League of Greater Madison, the main sponsor of Madison Prep.
While there are an unprecedented number of candidate forums and listening sessions under way, we thought we’d pose our own questions to candidates. We focus on evaluation this week, of students, teachers, schools, and the district. What is the importance of student test scores, and how do they reflect upon teachers? What is the impact of No Child Left Behind on Madison schools?

Seat 1 Candidates:
Nichelle Nichols
Arlene Silveira (incumbent)
Seat 2 Candidates:
Mary Burke
Michael Flores
Arlene Silveira & Michael Flores Madison Teachers, Inc. Candidate Q & A

Madison school board candidates Michael Flores and Mary Burke discuss tests, teacher evaluation, and No Child Left Behind


School board elections are usually sleepy affairs.
But the proposal this year for Madison Prep, a single-gender charter school, has sparked a lively, and sometimes controversial, conversation about one of the most pressing problems facing Madison schools: the achievement gap between students of color and their white peers. The debate has, in turn, sparked interest in the school board.
In the race for Seat 2, which is being vacated by retiring board member Lucy Mathiak, philanthropist Mary Burke is running against firefighter Michael Flores.
While there are an unprecedented number of candidate forums and listening sessions under way, we thought we’d pose our own questions to candidates. We focus on evaluation this week, of students, teachers, schools, and the district. What is the importance of student test scores, and how do they reflect upon teachers? What is the impact of No Child Left Behind on Madison schools?

Seat 1 Candidates:
Nichelle Nichols
Arlene Silveira (incumbent)
Seat 2 Candidates:
Mary Burke
Michael Flores
Arlene Silveira & Michael Flores Madison Teachers, Inc. Candidate Q & A

Learning from Charter School Management Organizations: Strategies for Student Behavior and Teacher Coaching

Robin Lake, Melissa Bowen, Allison Demeritt, Moira McCullough, Joshua Haimson, Brian Gill: via a kind Deb Britt email

This is the final report from The National Study of CMO Effectiveness, a four-year study designed to assess the impact of CMOs on student achievement and identify CMO structures and practices that are most effective in raising achievement. This report provides an in-depth look at two promising practices that exhibit a strong association with impacts: high expectations for student behavior and intensive teacher coaching.
Researchers from CRPE and Mathematica identified CMOs that have above-average impacts and tend to emphasize teacher coaching or schoolwide behavior programs (or both) more than other CMOs. Five CMOs meet these criteria: Aspire Public Schools, Inner City Education Foundation, KIPP DC, Uncommon Schools, and YES Prep Public Schools. This report delves into how these CMOs put their approaches into practice. The descriptions and examples in the report are based on interviews with CMO central office and school staff, along with data from surveys of CMO staff, principals, and teachers.

How Charter Schools Can Hurt

Lucinda Rosenfeld, via a kind Steve Rankin email:

MY daughter is a kindergarten pupil at P.S. 261 in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn. She started there in September, and she loves everything about it: her friends, her teachers and her school-related activities, like Girl Scouts. Intense excitement accompanied both the post office project earlier this year and the Halloween Day Characters Parade, in which her class dressed up as the Three Little Pigs.
A few weeks ago, for three days in a row starting at 3 p.m., a representative from the Success Academy charter school that is scheduled to open this fall in adjacent Cobble Hill stood outside the doors of P.S. 261, handing out fliers and attempting to recruit its students. On day two, outraged teachers asked the man to leave. He refused. On day three, a loose group of teachers, parents and students occupied the sidewalk next to him. Heated words were exchanged. It wasn’t until the next day, when a schoolwide rally unfolded in the front yard — and cameras from NY1 arrived — that the representative vanished. I can’t help wondering if this is the educational future that Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg had in mind when, in his State of the City address earlier this year, he called for 50 new charter schools to open in the next two years.

Madison Urban League to Provide ACT Test Prep Classes & College Readiness Workshops

Madison Urban League, via a kind email:

Madison, WI (March 15, 2012) – The Urban League of Greater Madison is one of 26 state-wide recipients of the Wisconsin Educational Grant awarded by Great Lakes Higher Education Guaranty Corporation. Education Growth Grants are working to help students enter higher education more academically prepared so they are more likely to graduate.
The Urban League will operate 14 ACT preparation academies serving 200 students in the Madison area during 2012. A Partnership between Madison Metropolitan School District and the Urban League, as well as surrounding local high schools will provide access to students with test-taking strategies, practice tests, college advising workshops and individualized coaching. ACT Prep classes are offered at no-cost for families who qualify for free or reduced lunch and on a sliding scale basis for all others.
For information on enrollment, please contact the program director, Stephen Perez, at 608-729-1209 or

Angry Words: Will one researcher’s discovery deep in the Amazon destroy the foundation of modern linguistics?

Tom Bartlett:

A Christian missionary sets out to convert a remote Amazonian tribe. He lives with them for years in primitive conditions, learns their extremely difficult language, risks his life battling malaria, giant anacondas, and sometimes the tribe itself. In a plot twist, instead of converting them he loses his faith, morphing from an evangelist trying to translate the Bible into an academic determined to understand the people he’s come to respect and love.
Along the way, the former missionary discovers that the language these people speak doesn’t follow one of the fundamental tenets of linguistics, a finding that would seem to turn the field on its head, undermine basic assumptions about how children learn to communicate, and dethrone the discipline’s long-reigning king, who also happens to be among the most well-known and influential intellectuals of the 20th century.

Bernanke Lecture One

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke: (PDF)

These lectures review some of the causes of and policy responses to the recent financial crisis, focusing on the role of the Federal Reserve.
Understanding the role of the Federal Reserve in the recent financial crisis requires an understanding of
the origins and mission of central banks
the lessons of previous financial crises and how they informed the Fed’s decisions in the recent one

Education reformer Michelle Rhee tells her side

Jill Tucker:

Michelle Rhee, the former Washington, D.C., schools chancellor, might very well be the most controversial figure in public education these days.
She runs the national nonprofit she started in 2010 called Students First, which advocates for increased parent choice, fiscal accountability at all levels of public education and weeding out ineffective teachers and, last year, Time magazine named her among the world’s 100 most influential people.
But she is vilified by the teachers unions for her support of charter schools and vouchers and her efforts to rid schools of ineffective teachers regardless of their seniority. Her organization has gained national recognition among education-minded reformers and even Oprah.

Cheating our children: AJC’s testing investigation spurs action

Craig Schneider:

A U.S. senator from Georgia and a national teacher union leader on Sunday called for investigations into possible cheating in school districts cited in an investigation into suspicious test scores by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The newspaper reported Sunday that 196 of the nation’s 3,125 largest school districts had a high degree of suspicious results on standardized test scores, which could point to instances of cheating.
The results of the AJC’s analysis of test scores from all 50 states do not prove cheating. But several officials said these school districts must now take the AJC’s statistical analysis and find out whether cheating is occurring in their schools. Extreme swings in test scores occurred in several major urban school systems, including Baltimore, Dallas, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles and Mobile County, Alabama. Suspicious scores were most likely to appear in urban and rural school districts that served mostly poor children.

Should Homeschoolers Play Public School Sports?

Andrew Rotherham:

Nick Faulconer isn’t simply homeschooled. He’s also “road-schooled,” as his mother puts it, by audiobooks she plays as she drives the mop-haired 14-year-old 90 miles each way from their home in rural Virginia to twice-a-week soccer practices in an elite private league in Richmond. Other guys on the team know Nick doesn’t attend a traditional school, but it’s not a source of friction, he says, because most of them have friends who are also being taught at home. “It’s pretty normal,” he says. But next year he will be forced to part ways with many of his teammates when they quit…

On Sun Prairie’s 2012-2013 Proposed School Budget


The School Board’s Finance Committee will finally offer a glimpse of the 2012-13 budget this Monday (March 26). Catch it now, because it because the Committee wont discuss the complete budget until July and the first public hearing will not be until July 30th. Don’t get all hopped up on goofballs, though, because–as usual–what is NOT discussed is that of greatest interest…and concern.

UW-Madison Chancellor vetoes student government budget rulings

Anna Duffin:

UW-Madison Chancellor David Ward overruled several of the Student Services Finance Committee’s rulings from this fiscal year Tuesday in a memo sent to committee Chair Sarah Neibart.
While the committee ruled in February not to increase the Wisconsin Union and Recreational Sports budgets as the groups had requested, Ward overruled the committee’s recommendation and opted to fund the groups’ requested budgets.
Neibart said her committee denied the groups’ requests because they did not provide all the information SSFC requested regarding how segregated fees are spent.
Neibart said since students pay for these programs, they should know exactly where their money is going.

Elections & Influence: School Board Races are One Piece of the Chess Match, Continued

Daniel Bice:

Almost out of nowhere, a group called Wisconsin for Falk blitzed the local airwaves this month by buying $1.6 million worth of TV time to run ads statewide promoting former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk in an all-but-certain recall contest for governor.
But the highly visible TV rollout left people in the dark on one basic issue:
Who exactly is this political newcomer trying to tip the upcoming election?
In short, Wisconsin for Falk is a union front group that wants Falk as the Democratic challenger to Gov. Scott Walker.
It’s receiving money and support from the Wisconsin Education Association Council, the state’s largest teachers union, and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the main public employee union. Both have endorsed Falk, who has pledged to veto the next state budget if it doesn’t restore collective bargaining for public workers.
“Not sure why it’s shocking to anyone that they are supportive of this coalition,” said Michael Vaughn, a spokesman for Wisconsin for Falk.
Despite the group’s local name, those running Wisconsin for Falk’s field offices have come from all corners.

Much more, here.

Wisconsin Education Legislation Awaits Governor’s Signature

Wisconsin DPI Superintendent’s enewsletter:

The education bill with provisions related to Educator Effectiveness and Early Literacy is now waiting the governor’s signature.
State Superintendent Tony Evers applauded aspects of the bill this week, while acknowledging “difficult” moments during the Legislature’s just-ended session.
One provision of the education bill “incorporates the on-going work of my Educator Effectiveness Design Team,” Evers said.
That group is working to pilot “an educator evaluation system that is centered on student learning, and is fair, valid, and reliable. This legislation will allow our performance-based evaluation system to move forward, supporting teachers and principals in their job of educating students and helping our educators improve throughout their careers.”
Evers said other provisions “are based on a path forward that was agreed to by the members of the Governor’s Read to Lead Task Force.” He said those provisions “will help Wisconsin better prepare educators to teach reading. It will also help us to better identify kindergarteners who are struggling with the components of early literacy, and help us improve reading results for all children.”
“I look forward to the Governor signing this important bill into law,” Evers concluded.

Much more on the Read to Lead initiative, here.

This photo recently appeared on the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions’ website.
The 2012 Wisconsin Read To Lead Task Force report can be viewed, here. The report mentions a number of recommendations regarding teacher preparation, including:

The current Wisconsin teacher licensure exam has few questions on reading instruction, and many of those questions are lacking in rigor. Reading should be emphasized specifically; however, the state should also take this opportunity to strengthen licensure requirements overall. Specifically, the Task Force recommends the well-­‐regarded Massachusetts Test for Education Licensure (MTEL) “Foundations of Reading” to be the required state exam by 2013 to raise the bar. The exam should be incorporated within the current Wisconsin exam to reduce costs in the short term. In the long term, the state should explore adopting MTEL exams across all subject areas.
As part of the process of adopting a new exam, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) will inform institutions of higher education on what will be covered on the MTEL, thereby igniting a much-­‐needed conversation to ensure the theoretical and technical knowledge needed to teach students to read is effectively and sufficiently taught to prospective reading teachers.

Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad to Leave when Contract Expires in 2013

Madison Metropolitan School District Superintendent Dan Nerad announced on Monday that he will retire and not seek a contract extension.
Nerad made the announcement at a press conference on Monday afternoon. Nerad’s contract runs through June 2013 and he said he will remain through then.
He said calling this announcement a “resignation” would be accurate.
Nerad said that decision came to a culmination in the last 10 days and that he has been in the process of deciding on retirement for several months.
He cited his reason for retiring for a variety of factors.He said that controversy over achievement gap was “a factor.”
“I wish I could’ve done more to develop a consensus on how to move forward on issues, including (the) achievement gap,” he said.
Nerad said that a new leader could provide a spark on the achievement gap that he could no longer provide.

Wisconsin State Journal:

Madison schools superintendent Dan Nerad will leave the job when his contract expires in the summer of 2013.
Nerad, 60, made the announcement Monday hours before the Madison School Board was scheduled to vote on whether to extend the contract.
School board president James Howard didn’t offer a timeline for hiring a replacement.
Nerad said he had been thinking about leaving the Madison district for several months, and made a decision within the last 10 days.

Madison School District Press Release 52K PDF.
Pat Schneider:

A community leader who has had a ringside seat to the struggles to forge a plan to end the academic achievement gap in the Madison schools thinks Superintendent Dan Nerad’s announcement Monday of his planned departure next year just might be the break needed to make real progress.
This view isn’t universally shared, but Steve Goldberg, executive director of the CUNA Mutual Foundation who has worked closely with the Madison Metropolitan School District, its teachers union and community leaders, says Nerad’s announcement could put him in a position to have a greater influence over acceptance of a plan he recently put forward to close the race-based achievement gap.
With any inkling that Nerad is working to preserve his job removed from the equation, the likely efficacy of his proposals might become a tighter focus of discussion, Goldberg said.
“This might change the way he is perceived,” Goldberg told me. “Since he no longer has ‘an axe to grind,’ he may be viewed as more objective.”

Matthew DeFour:

Nerad, 60, said he had been thinking about leaving the job for several months, and made a decision within the last 10 days.
He said there were multiple factors that contributed to his decision. When pressed to identify examples, he said division on the board over his performance and division in the community about how to address the district’s persistent achievement gap between minority and white students were factors, though not primary ones.
“I wish I could have done more to try to develop a broader base of consensus around how we best serve children,” Nerad said.
Nerad, a former social worker, came to Madison after six years as superintendent in Green Bay, where he had been credited for his work on addressing the community’s achievement gap.
Soon after taking the reins in Madison, Nerad oversaw the passage of a $13 million operating referendum. He launched 4-year-old kindergarten, developed a five-year strategic plan, expanded the dual-language immersion and summer school programs, reorganized central office staff, introduced curricular alignment among all schools and restored the district’s AAA bond rating.
Don Severson, president of a conservative watchdog group, said he wasn’t surprised by the announcement given the lack of overwhelming support for Nerad’s leadership.
“You can’t behave as a social worker and run a massive complex organization,” Severson said. “He had to be much more proactive and take some risks, make some decisions, go in some direction where he knows he won’t have unanimity.”

Related: Is $14,858.40 Per Student, Per Year Effective? On Madison Superintendent & School Board Accountability…

I’m glad Matt DeFour and the Wisconsin State Journal obtained the most recent Superintendent Review via open records. We, as a community have come a long way in just a few short years. The lack of Board oversight was a big issue in mid-2000’s competitive school board races. Former Superintendent Art Rainwater had not been reviewed for some time. These links are well worth reading and considering in light of the recent Superintendent review articles, including Chris Rickert’s latest. Rickert mentions a number of local statistics. However, he fails to mention:

What Does Your MTI Contract Do for You? Health Insurance

Madison Teachers, Inc. Solidarity Newsletter (63K PDF), via a kind Jeanie Bettner email:

Since the late 1960’s, MTI members have had the benefit of the best health insurance available. Stressing the importance of quality health insurance in providing economic security, members have made health insurance their #1 priority via their responses to the Union’s Bargaining Survey. And, the Union not only was able to bargain specific benefits, such as acupuncture and extended mental health coverage, as demanded by MTI members, but due to a 1983 MTI victory in the Wisconsin Supreme Court, MTI was able to have an equal voice in which insurance company would provide the plan. This is important because different insurance companies have different interpretations of the same insurance provisions.
Unfortunately, the District Administration took advantage of the increased leverage in negotiations enabled by Governor Walker’s Act 10 forcing concessions in health insurance and other Contract provisions in exchange for them agreeing to extend MTI’s five Collective Bargaining Agreements through June 2013.
Members of MTI’s teacher bargaining unit, who elected WPS health insurance under old Contract terms, will now lose that coverage June 30, 2012. The District is in the process of distributing materials by which members of the teacher bargaining unit can become familiar with the options available for coverage commencing July 1. They are Dean Health Plan, Physicians Plus and Group Health Cooperative. Each offers an HMO and a Point of Service Plan. The latter carries a higher premium, but enables broader choices for services.
The District has scheduled five sessions for those with questions to seek answers from the above-referenced plans.
April 9 – Doyle Auditorium -1:00-3:00 p.m.
April 11- La Follette C17 – 4:00-6:00 p.m.
April 17 – Memorial Wisconsin Center – 4:00-6:00 p.m.
April 19 -West LMC – 4:00-6:00 p.m.
April 23 – East LMC – 4:00-6:00 p.m.

The Madison School District’s support of the costly WPS health insurance option has been quite controversial over the years.

Hegemonic Personality

Rafael Gomez, via a kind email:

I am nervous as I stand in front of you
I just get the feelling that “I don’t belong here”.
It is nothing that you have done or said…..
It is just how I feel in my school,
I hear you say: “You should feel that way”.
It is your home.
It is the same for your parents.
This feeling of alienation must be absent in your heart.
The plan would help us to do changes to decrease the gap.
But, Sir.
She said “There are no different than changes done in Model Cities Time“.
The public should know that there is no different from the past.
A program with no pedagogy is just like a human without soul.
You know what I mean to say.
I also know what you mean to say.
Politics should be absent a glimpse of empathy now days.
The fool appears to say: “Give me a break”.

Blekko on Model Cities and pedagogy.

Why I decided to skip college and how I’ve fared

Josh Lewis:  

It’s been almost a year since I graduated high school.  I am not enrolled in any higher level institution.  Now, if you were an average American you might think, well he’s screwed up.  He has to go to college to be anything.  Hasn’t he seen this video?  He wants to make 25k more a year right? He’s practically thrown his life away.  
And I have heard this.  About others and even pointed at me.  A lot of people have told me it’s been a huge mistake not going to college.  But you know what?  I actually disagree.  And it’s not about what you or you or you over there think.  I’m not an idiot.  I’ve done my research.  I’ve done my due diligence.  Damn it.  Do you think I live under a rock and am lazy?  No.  I work hard and try to make good decisions, especially ones that impact my future.
Within the 10 months it’s been a crazy adventure.  What have I done if I haven’t gone to college?

In parent trigger debate, teachers unions sounded an awful lot like management

Doug Tuthill:

I started teaching in the fall of 1977, and by the winter of 1978 I had become a union organizer. A law authorizing public employees to participate in collective bargaining had passed a few years earlier in the Florida legislature, and public educators were actively organizing themselves into unions.
Management was hostile toward our efforts. They asserted that unions would pit teacher against teacher, and teachers against management. They said collaboration was the key to improving our working conditions – not the adversarial relationships that are inherent in unions. They set up teacher advisory councils and said we didn’t need unions. They said we had input through the councils.
Management always uses these arguments to fight union organizers, which is why I wasn’t surprised they surfaced during the recent parent trigger debate in Florida. The parent trigger legislation is part of an effort by progressive Democrats to begin unionizing parents in school districts, and management is opposing their efforts. But it’s ironic that teachers unions are also opposing parent unions and using the same arguments management used against them in the 1970s.

The Stanford Education Experiment Could Change Higher Learning Forever

Steven Leckart:

Stanford doesn’t want me. I can say that because it’s a documented fact: I was once denied admission in writing. I took my last math class back in high school. Which probably explains why this quiz on how to get a computer to calculate an ideal itinerary is making my brain hurt. I’m staring at a crude map of Romania on my MacBook. Twenty cities are connected in a network of straight black lines. My goal is to determine the best route from Arad to Bucharest. A handful of search algorithms with names like breadth-first, depth-first, uniform-cost, and A* can be used. Each employs a different strategy for scanning the map and considering various paths. I’ve never heard of these algorithms or considered how a computer determines a route. But I’ll learn, because despite the utter lack of qualifications I just mentioned, I’m enrolled in CS221: Introduction to Artificial Intelligence, a graduate- level course taught by Stanford professors Sebastian Thrun and Peter Norvig.

35-Year-Old Man Retakes The SAT?

Drew Magary:

I took the SAT a grand total of one time when I was in dipshit prep school. This was 1993. Like any other kid, I wanted to do well on the test, primarily so that I would NEVER have to take it again, but also because kids at my school were real dicks about their SAT scores. You’d hear through the grapevine about other kids who aced the test, and all that test gossip resulted in an great deal of fear and paranoia about your own performance. It was horrible. If you can, avoid going to high school altogether.
They administered the test at a nearby public high school and herded us into the classrooms. Every classroom had a test monitor, a stack of test booklets, and a large box of sharpened No. 2 pencils. My friend Darren sat in front of me. Thirty minutes into the test, he had to go pee. The monitor denied him a trip to the bathroom. Darren ended up getting a 900 out of 1600. That monitor was a dick.

Why Have Public Universities at All?

Megan McArdle at the Atlantic:

Noah Millman — blogger for The American Conservative
As long as I’m arguing with Matt Yglesias, he wrote something last week about higher education with which I have a bone to pick. His post was an argument with Mike Konczal over whether we should shift from our current system of subsidizing tuition for poor students to a system where we more heavily subsidize tuition for all students at state schools.
Here’s Konczal:

What vision should we advance in response? . . . [O]ne where college is free and grants and loans cover supplemental expenses for the poor. Higher ed would be broadly accessible, with a variety of options ranging from elite schools to community colleges.
Beyond ensuring equality of opportunity, another advantage of this approach is that it would help stop cost inflation. Free public universities would function like the proposed “public option” of healthcare reform. If increased demand for higher education is causing cost inflation, then spending money to reduce tuition at public universities will reduce tuition at private universities by causing them to hold down tuition to compete. This public option would reduce informational problems by creating a baseline of quality that new institutions have to compete with, allowing for a smoother transition to new competitors. And it allows for democratic control over one of the basic elements of human existence–how we gather information and share it among ourselves.

Here’s Yglesias in response:

The Struggle to Save Adult Education in Los Angeles

Robert Skeels:

Using State of California budget shortfalls as an excuse, Los Angeles Unified School District’s (LAUSD) Superintendent John Deasy presented the LAUSD Board of Education (BOE) with a draconian budget that effectively cut some of the most crucial programs in the District. With enthusiastic collaboration from LAUSD BOE President Monica Garcia, Deasy’s chopping block included the District’s Student Readiness Language Development Program (SRLDP), Early Education Programs, District-wide Elementary School Arts Programs, and the entire Division of Adult and Career Education (DACE). Deasy, a former executive of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and a graduate of the [Eli] Broad Superintendent Academy, was brought into LAUSD to implement a stark program of neoliberalism. The Superintendent’s proposed cuts are intended to hasten the privatization of the school district, much like his fellow Broad Academy Graduates (or Broadytes), Deborah Gist, Michelle Rhee, and Jean-Claude Brizard have in other cities.

Hopes and Fears for Parent Trigger Laws

Room for Debate:

As many as 20 states have considered enacting parent trigger laws, which would let parents who are dissatisfied with the way a school is being run, turn it into a charter, replace the staff, or even shut it down, if 51 percent of the school’s families agree. The laws — which have been passed in various forms in California, Connecticut, Mississippi and Texas — have generated controversy and even inspired a movie to be released this fall. Do these laws give parents the first real power over their children’s education? Or do they put public schools in private hands and impede real improvements?

Rigorous college prep program (International Baccalaureate) helps CPS students get into selective colleges

Lauren Chooljian, via a kind Chan Stroman-Roll email:

New research shows Chicago Public Schools students enrolled in a rigorous college prep program, known as the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme, are much more likely to get into good colleges.
The IB programs are located in neighborhood high schools around the city. Launched in 1997, the college prep programs were inspired by a long-running IB program in Lincoln Park High School. According to the study, released Wednesday, the programs have increasingly been used by the school district as a to provide a “high-quality education to high-achieving students, regardless of their mobility.”
The study was completed by the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research. Their research found that students in the IB programs have a greater chance of not only getting into selective four-year colleges, but also staying there.

THe the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school featured an International Baccalaureate curriculum.

Cheating our children: Suspicious school test scores across the nation

Heather Vogell, John Perry and Alan Judd and M.B. Pell:

Suspicious test scores in roughly 200 school districts resemble those that entangled Atlanta in the biggest cheating scandal in American history, an investigation by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution shows.
The newspaper analyzed test results for 69,000 public schools and found high concentrations of suspect math or reading scores in school systems from coast to coast. The findings represent an unprecedented examination of the integrity of school testing.
The analysis doesn’t prove cheating. But it reveals that test scores in hundreds of cities followed a pattern that, in Atlanta, indicated cheating in multiple schools.
A tainted and largely unpoliced universe of untrustworthy test results underlies bold changes in education policy, the findings show. The tougher teacher evaluations many states are rolling out, for instance, place more weight than ever on tests.

The Headless Horseman (Teacher-Proof Rides Again)

Jeremiah Chafee via Will Fitzhugh:

The high school English department in which I work recently spent a day looking at what is called an “exemplar” from the new Common Core State Standards, and then working together to create our own lessons linked to that curriculum. An exemplar is a prepackaged lesson which is supposed to align with the standards of the Common Core. The one we looked at was a lesson on “The Gettysburg Address.”
The process of implementing the Common Core Standards is under way in districts across the country as almost every state has now signed onto the Common Core, (some of them agreeing to do in hopes of winning Race to the Top money from Washington D.C.). The initiative is intended to ensure that students in all parts of the country are learning from the same supposedly high standards.
As we looked through the exemplar, examined a lesson previously created by some of our colleagues, and then began working on our own Core-related lessons, I was struck by how out of sync the Common Core is with what I consider to be good teaching. I have not yet gotten to the “core” of the Core, but I have scratched the surface, and I am not encouraged.
Here are some of the problems that the group of veteran teachers with whom I was with at the workshop encountered using the exemplar unit on “The Gettysburg Address.”

Each teacher read individually through the exemplar lesson on Lincoln’s speech. When we began discussing it, we all expressed the same conclusion: Most of it was too scripted. It spelled out what types of questions to ask, what types of questions not to ask, and essentially narrowed any discussion to obvious facts and ideas from the speech.
In some schools, mostly in large urban districts, teachers are forced by school policy to read from scripted lessons, every day in every class. For example, all third-grade teachers do the same exact lessons on the same day and say exactly the same things. (These districts often purchase these curriculum packages from the same companies who make the standardized tests given to students.)
Scripting lessons is based on several false assumptions about teaching. They include:

  • That anyone who can read a lesson aloud to a class can teach just as well as experienced teachers;
  • That teaching is simply the transference of information from one person to another;
  • That students should not be trusted to direct any of their own learning;
  • That testing is the best measure of learning.

Put together, this presents a narrow and shallow view of teaching and learning.
Most teachers will tell you that there is a difference between having a plan and having a script. Teachers know that in any lesson there needs to be some wiggle room, some space for discovery and spontaneity. But scripted cookie-cutter lessons aren’t interested in that; the idea is that they will help students learn enough to raise their standardized test scores.
Yet study after study has shown that even intense test preparation does not significantly raise test scores, and often causes stress and boredom in students. Studies have also shown that after a period of time, test scores plateau, and it is useless, even counter-productive educationally, to try to raise test scores beyond that plateau.

Another problem we found relates to the pedagogical method used in the Gettysburg Address exemplar that the Common Core calls “cold reading.”
This gives students a text they have never seen and asks them to read it with no preliminary introduction. This mimics the conditions of a standardized test on which students are asked to read material they have never seen and answer multiple choice questions about the passage.
Such pedagogy makes school wildly boring. Students are not asked to connect what they read yesterday to what they are reading today, or what they read in English to what they read in science.
The exemplar, in fact, forbids teachers from asking students if they have ever been to a funeral because such questions rely “on individual experience and opinion,” and answering them “will not move students closer to understanding the Gettysburg Address.”
(This is baffling, as if Lincoln delivered the speech in an intellectual vacuum; as if the speech wasn’t delivered at a funeral and meant to be heard in the context of a funeral; as if we must not think about memorials when we read words that memorialize. Rather, it is impossible to have any deep understanding of Lincoln’s speech without thinking about the context of the speech: a memorial service.)
The exemplar instructs teachers to “avoid giving any background context” because the Common Core’s close reading strategy “forces students to rely exclusively on the text instead of privileging background knowledge, and levels the playing field for all.” What sense does this make?
Teachers cannot create such a “level playing field” because we cannot rob any of the students of the background knowledge they already possess. Nor can we force students who have background knowledge not to think about that while they read. A student who has read a biography of Lincoln, or watched documentaries about the Civil War on PBS or the History Channel, will have the “privilege” of background knowledge beyond the control of the teacher. Attempting to create a shallow and false “equality” between students will in no way help any of them understand Lincoln’s speech.
(As a side note, the exemplar does encourage teachers to have students “do the math:” subtract four score and seven from 1863 to arrive at 1776. What is that if not asking them to access background knowledge?)
Asking questions about, for example, the causes of the Civil War, are also forbidden. Why? These questions go “outside the text,” a cardinal sin in Common Core-land.
According to the exemplar, the text of the speech is about equality and self-government, and not about picking sides. It is true that Lincoln did not want to dishonor the memory of the Southern soldiers who fought and died valiantly. But does any rational person read “The Gettysburg Address” and not know that Lincoln desperately believed that the North must win the war? Does anyone think that he could speak about equality without everyone in his audience knowing he was talking about slavery and the causes of the war? How can anyone try to disconnect this profoundly meaningful speech from its historical context and hope to “deeply” understand it in any way, shape, or form?

Here’s another problem we found with the exemplar: The teacher is instructed in the exemplar to read the speech aloud after the students have read it to themselves; but, it says, “Do not attempt to ‘deliver’ Lincoln’s text as if giving the speech yourself but rather carefully speak Lincoln’s words clearly to the class.”
English teachers love Shakespeare; when we read to our classes from his plays, we do not do so in a dry monotone. I doubt Lincoln delivered his address in as boring a manner as the Common Core exemplar asks. In fact, when I read this instruction, I thought that an interesting lesson could be developed by asking students to deliver the speech themselves and compare different deliveries in terms of emphasis, tone, etc.
The exemplar says, “Listening to the Gettysburg Address is another way to initially acquaint students with Lincoln’s powerful and stirring words.” How, then, if the teacher is not to read it in a powerful and stirring way? The most passionate speech in Romeo and Juliet, delivered poorly by a bad actor, will fall flat despite the author’s skill.

Several years ago, our district, at the demand of our state education department, hired a consultant to train teachers to develop literacy skills in students. This consultant and his team spent three years conducting workshops and visiting the district. Much of this work was very fruitful, but it does not “align” well with the Common Core.
The consultant encouraged us to help students make connections between what they were reading and their own experience, but as you’ve seen, the Common Core exemplar we studied says not to.
Was all that work with the consultant wasted?
At one point during the workshop, we worked with a lesson previously created by some teachers. It had all the hallmarks of what I consider good teaching, including allowing students to make connections beyond the text.
And when it came time to create our own lessons around the exemplar, three colleagues and I found ourselves using techniques that we know have worked to engage students — not what the exemplar puts forth.
The bottom line: The Common Core exemplar we worked with was intellectually limiting, shallow in scope, and uninteresting. I don’t want my lessons to be any of those things.

Teacher Performance Data Should Be a Tool to Raise Achievement Levels

Mike Ford:  

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan yesterday spoke out against the recent trend of publishing K-12 public school teacher rankings in major city newspapers.  Duncan told Education Week:

“There’s not much of an upside there, and there’s a tremendous downside for teachers. We’re at a time where morale is at a record low. … We need to be sort of strengthening teachers, and elevating and supporting them.”Unfortunately, the debate over whether to publicize the performance levels of pupils by teacher has become a bit of a distraction from the very real need to better measure the impact schools and individual teachers have on academic achievement.  While it is of course true that test scores are not the only way to measure academic success, they can yield powerful information.  Crucial to their value is collecting and measuring scores in a manner which makes them useful to those best positioned to impact student performance.

Seattle’s Superintendent Search

Seattle Public Schools:

The Board of Directors of the Seattle Public Schools, which serves a diverse population of 48,000+ students, is seeking a new superintendent to lead this dynamic urban school district. Seattle, an international city at the center of the high-tech Northwest economy, has shown strong support for innovative public education for many years. Comprised of 8,000 staff members working in 91 schools, Seattle has been recognized as a leading urban district that outperforms the state average in test scores and graduation rates continue to rise.
To read the March 23, 2012 letter from Board President Michael DeBell to the community about the search process, click here.

Good teachers key ingredient for good schools

Eau Claire Leader-Telegram:

The issue: The debate over public education in Wisconsin.
Our view: Funding is a crucial issue, but we can’t lose sight of the fact Wisconsin has great teachers who often bring us great results.
Like most in her profession, Deb Tackmann doesn’t have a household name – although maybe she should.
Tackmann isn’t a famous actress, reality-show contestant or elite athlete – but she’s a star.
Tackmann is a teacher.

A reprieve for Catholic education

Christopher Reichardt:

“Today I would like to announce that those four schools will remain open.”
That simple sentence uttered by Archbishop Charles J. Chaput was enough to send a swell of happiness and relief to students at four Philadelphia archdiocesan high schools that were set to close in June.
A commission had recommended in early January that dozens of elementary schools and four Catholic high schools should be shut down.
The commission had cited a 35 percent drop in enrollment over the last decade. With the high cost of maintaining the facilities, it concluded, closures and mergers would be the best solution.

If Your Evidence Is Changes In Proficiency Rates, You Probably Don’t Have Much Evidence

Matthew DiCarlo:

Education policymaking and debates are under constant threat from an improbable assailant: Short-term changes in cross-sectional proficiency rates.
The use of rate changes is still proliferating rapidly at all levels of our education system. These measures, which play an important role in the provisions of No Child Left Behind, are already prominent components of many states’ core accountability systems (e..g, California), while several others will be using some version of them in their new, high-stakes school/district “grading systems.” New York State is awarding millions in competitive grants, with almost half the criteria based on rate changes. District consultants issue reports recommending widespread school closures and reconstitutions based on these measures. And, most recently, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan used proficiency rate increases as “preliminary evidence” supporting the School Improvement Grants program.
Meanwhile, on the public discourse front, district officials and other national leaders use rate changes to “prove” that their preferred reforms are working (or are needed), while their critics argue the opposite. Similarly, entire charter school sectors are judged, up or down, by whether their raw, unadjusted rates increase or decrease.

How Do K-12 Budget Cuts Keep Resulting in More Spending?

Mike Antonucci:

I had occasion yesterday to peruse the latest edition of NEA’s Rankings & Estimates. It’s always an ediying experience and this time was no exception. There is no denying that teacher layoffs have occurred over the past three years – although not to the extent many believe. But the constant cries of education spending being cut to the bone are difficult to square with the figures on per-pupil spending, which show uninterrupted increases.
Let’s look at the last 10 years for convenience, and the last three to examine the effects of national recession. In 2001-02, there were 2,991,724 K-12 classroom teachers and 47,360,963 K-12 students. K-12 per-pupil spending was $7,676.

Gove tells head teachers school reforms need to be accelerated

Judith Burns:

Education Secretary Michael Gove has told head teachers the pace of school reform in England needs to accelerate.
Speaking to the Association of School and College Leaders, Mr Gove said: “Over the next ten years the world we inhabit will change massively.”
He said education would need to keep pace as technology changed “how we teach and how students learn”.
But ASCL general secretary, Brian Lightman, said he feared schools could not take an accelerated pace of change.

Education in Brazil: A huge scholarship programme could boost economic growth

The Economist:

SELLING her country’s technological prowess and booming IT market was the main order of business for Dilma Rousseff at a big trade fair in Hanover on March 5th. But Brazil’s president made sure to pose for photographs with young compatriots who last month began to study at German universities under her government’s new scholarship programme, Science Without Borders.
By the end of 2015 more than 100,000 Brazilians–half of them undergraduates, half doctoral students–will have spent a year or so abroad at the best universities around the world studying subjects such as biotechnology, ocean science and petroleum engineering which the government regards as essential for the nation’s future. That will cost 3 billion reais ($1.65 billion), a quarter of which will come from businesses and the rest from the Brazilian taxpayer.

A closer look at non-instructional expenditures in suburban school districts

The Public Policy Forum:

The Forum released a new report this morning that examines out-of-classroom expenditures in Milwaukee County’s suburban school districts. The examination was prompted by the increased pressure faced by most districts to identify operational cost savings while also maintaining or enhancing academic performance. Given the apparent conflict between the two imperatives, non-instructional areas of spending are likely to receive increased focus for possible cost-saving opportunities, including possible service sharing with other districts or local governments.
The report focuses on the dollars spent on non-instructional support services, including administrative, “back office” functions (e.g. payroll, accounting, information technology); administration of ongoing operations and school buildings; non-instructional pupil services, such as social work and guidance; and instructional staff services, such as curriculum development and staff training.

Hard Lessons in Academic Freedom

Linda Yeung:

Hong Kong’s universities may have risen in the esteem around the world, but local academics believe this hard-won status is being challenged by a growing threat to academic freedom.
Their fears were spelled out forcefully at a meeting of the Legislative Council’s educational panel on March 12, when more than 30 rights activists, university staff and students told lawmakers of what they saw as mounting pressure for curbs on one of the city’s most hallowed rights.

Private Schools for The Poor: Bad state education means more fee-paying schools in poor countries

The Economist:

IT IS Republic Day in Mumbai, and an elderly nun addresses 1,000 silent schoolgirls gathered in the playground of Mary Immaculate Girls’ School. If the writers of India’s constitution could see the state of the country today they would weep, she cries, but this school offers hope. Local parents in the tatty surrounding district agree. They will do almost anything to get their children into the oversubscribed school, even though it charges its primary pupils $180 a year when the state school across the road is free. From the Mumbai slums to Nigerian shanty towns and Kenyan mountain villages, tens of millions of poor children are opting out of the state sector, and their number is burgeoning.
Despite a rapid rise in attendance since 2000, 72m school-age children across the world are still not in school, half of them in sub-Saharan Africa and a quarter in South and West Asia. The United Nations reckons it would cost $16 billion a year to get the remaining stragglers into class by 2015–one of its big development goals. Yet a free education is something that many parents will pay to avoid.

Who Speaks for the 90%?

Mike Antonucci:

In the 2010-11 school year, the San Diego Unified School District employed 7,095 teachers. The best information I can find suggests that about 450 were laid off for the 2011-12 school year and not recalled. That left 6,645 potential teacher members for the San Diego Education Association, the 26th largest teacher union local in the nation. We can only guess at how many are fee-payers and non-members, but historical data in California would put the figure at about 5 percent – or 332 teachers. That leaves 6,313 SDEA members eligible to vote in internal union elections.
That electorate has spoken – sort of. SDEA members re-elected Bill Freeman as president (he ran unopposed), but challenger Lindsay Burningham defeated incumbent vice president Camille Zombro. SDEA’s incumbent secretary and treasurer were also unopposed.
Zombro was a former SDEA president, and was considered to be philosophically aligned with executive director Craig Leedham, who was placed on administrative leave by the union for undisclosed reasons earlier this month. Zombro reportedly won’t be returning to the classroom, but will retain her full-time release position for SDEA in charge of organizing charter schools.

Should low-achieving kids be promoted or held back?

Daniel Willingham:

etention of low-achieving kids. It doesn’t seem sensible to promote the child to the next grade if he’s terribly far behind. But if he is asked to repeat a grade, isn’t there are high likelihood that he will conclude he’s not cut out for school?
Until recently, comparisons of kids who were promoted and kids who were retained indicated that retention didn’t seem to help academic achievement, and in fact likely hurt. So the best practice seemed to be to promote kids to the next grade, but to try to provide extra academic support for them to handle the work.
But new studies indicate that academic outcomes for kids who are retained may be better than was previously thought, although still not what we would hope.

Madison Superintendent Nerad faces student critiques at Centro Hispano

Mario Koran:

At the March 17 meeting on the school district’s plan to eliminate the achievement gap, Superintendent Dan Nerad opened the discussion on a familiar note, laying out the statistics that underline Madison’s achievement gap problem and outlining strategies to bridge the gap.
Describing the situation as “a tale of two school districts,” Nerad said that recent data shows MMSD graduates 87 percent of its white students in four years, compared to 56 percent of its black students and 48 percent of its Hispanic students. An interpreter conveyed his message to the largely Spanish-speaking audience.
But unlike the nine public meetings before, Nerad was confronted by a different set of stakeholders–students. While attendees at earlier discussions have largely been parents and other adults, at Centro Hispano, students took the floor.

The case against tenure in public schools

The New Republic:

Yet there was another noteworthy bill on an entirely different subject circulating in Richmond in recent weeks; and, with the spotlight focusing so squarely on the state’s approach to reproductive rights, it was perhaps no surprise that this measure didn’t attract much attention from the national press. Like the abortion measures, this bill was also pushed by Republicans–but here’s the strange part: It was actually a halfway decent idea. The subject of the bill was an important one: tenure for public school teachers. And, while the proposal wasn’t perfect, it was at least an attempt to rectify what is perhaps the least sane element of our country’s approach to education.

Madison school board candidates address sustainability at Isthmus/Sustain Dane forum

Nathan Comp:

What a difference a few months have made for the four Madison school board candidates, each of whom gave polished A-game performances during Monday night’s game show-style forum that drew around 100 spectators.
Isthmus and Sustain Dane sponsored the four round, 90-minute event, held at the First Unitarian Society, and featuring a three-person panel that asked a variety of questions centering on the role sustainability principles might play in district decision-making.
Panelists included Isthmus editor Dean Robbins, Sustain Dane executive director Kristen Joiner and East High School Junior Erin Barry.
Sustain Dane communications director and Isthmus contributor Phil Busse moderated the event, which featured four rounds of questions in five categories: curriculum, facilities management, community collaboration, leadership development and student health.
During Round 1, candidates made their introductory statements, followed by a 20-question Round 2.

Seat 1 Candidates:
Nichelle Nichols
Arlene Silveira (incumbent)
Seat 2 Candidates:
Mary Burke
Michael Flores
Arlene Silveira & Michael Flores Madison Teachers, Inc. Candidate Q & A

Guru in School Row

The Telegraph:

A comment attributed to Sri Sri Ravi Shankar that government schools breed Naxalites has sparked a furore, forcing the spiritual guru to issue a clarification today.
Speaking at the 25th anniversary of a private school in Jaipur yesterday, Ravi Shankar had said: “Government ko koi school nahi chalana chahiye. Aksar paya jata hai ki government school se padhe hue bacche hi is tarha naxalvad me hinsa ke marg me chale jate hain. (The government should not run any schools. It is often found that students from government school go into Naxalism and take up violence.)”
He was quoted as saying this does not happen in private schools where students are taught discipline and are focused on certain goals to be achieved in life.
The statement triggered an uproar, with some activists demanding legal action against Ravi Shankar.

Food Trucks: The Hot School Sports Fund Raiser

Bob Cook:

The Los Angeles Times, in its Varsity Times Insider high school sports blog, noted that “food truck mania” is coming to a local school for a football fund-raiser.

Sports programs are always coming up with fundraising ideas, and Los Altos High’s football program is teaming up with 11 food trucks that will be coming to the campus on [March 24] in Hacienda Heights to raise funds.

As it turns out, many schools around southern California have had similar events, not only for sports, but also to raise money for the school bands. These events are popping up elsewhere, including at my old high school, Carmel, outside Indianapolis. It had afood-truck fundraiser to send the marching band to New York for the 2011 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Missouri fails to check for standardized test cheating

Elisa Crouch:

One case accuses a teacher of filling in bubble sheets of her students who should have been taking state exams. Another says administrators called pupils into the office so they could have a second chance at questions they missed.
All told, more than 100 reports of standardized testing irregularities, including cheating, poured into the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education in 2010 and 2011, according to documentation obtained by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Thirty-two of those were from the St. Louis area.
And yet, the Missouri education department does nothing on its own to seek out cases of test fraud, despite the availability of effective statistical tools that could weed out potential abuses. Of the $8.4 million the state spends to administer the Missouri Assessment Program, nothing is spent on test fraud detection services.

Charles Murray on Downton Abbey, Smoking During Pregnancy

Paul Solman and Elizabeth Shell:

Recently, the Making Sen$e team traveled to tiny and picturesque Burkittsville, Md., to interview author Charles Murray at home about why he thinks America is coming apart. We interviewed him for hours in the book-lined office shack behind his house before heading to a cash-only diner one town over to finish the conversation.
Though the NewsHour is known for longer-than-normal soundbites and segments, it couldn’t very well air the full interview, or in fact even much of it. But given that more than 70,000 people have already taken Murray’s “How Thick is Your Bubble?” online quiz and our segment with him Wednesday night was among the most watched in recent memory, we thought we’d share more of the interview here, and especially some of the more provocative things Murray had to say.
We’ll follow up with more over the next few days. Here, we start with the basics: why Charles Murray decided on this topic in the first place.

One-Size-Fits-All Legislation Won’t Solve Separate But Unequal

Laura Waters:

Over the past few months, the Christie Administration has intensified its focus on New Jersey’s failure to provide educational equity. While our wealthier kids score top marks on assessments of national achievement, many poor students attend schools where most kids don’t meet basic levels of proficiency in reading and math. In some of our neediest schools over 40 percent of third graders can’t read at grade level.
This disparity in achievement is old news, inflated by our rampant home-rule ethic, which segregates schoolchildren into 590 economically disparate school districts, and by New Jersey’s relatively high test scores, which statistically compound achievement gaps.
But here’s what’s new: New Jersey seems poised to formally acknowledge this bifurcation of our K-12 public education system by forging ahead with a reform-oriented agenda mostly oriented towards failing schools

Madison school board candidates Nichelle Nichols and Arlene Silveira discuss the achievement gap and Madison Prep


School board elections are usually sleepy affairs.
But the proposal this year for Madison Prep, a single-gender charter school, has sparked a lively, and sometimes controversial, conversation about one of the most pressing problems facing Madison schools: the achievement gap between students of color and their white peers. The debate has, in turn, sparked interest in the school board.
In the race for Seat 1, two-term incumbent Arlene Silveira is being challenged by Nichelle Nichols, who works at the Urban League of Greater Madison, the main sponsor of Madison Prep.
While there are an unprecedented number of candidate forums and listening sessions under way, we thought we’d pose our own questions to candidates. This week we ask the candidates how they would address what might be the primary issue of the election: the achievement gap. What would they do to address this gap, and balance the needs of both high and low achieving students? More specifically, we ask about their view of Madison Prep, and whether they would vote for or against it in the future.

Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school, here.
Seat 1 Candidates:
Nichelle Nichols
Arlene Silveira (incumbent)
Seat 2 Candidates:
Mary Burke
Michael Flores
Arlene Silveira & Michael Flores Madison Teachers, Inc. Candidate Q & A

Wisconsin Education K-12 Jobs Fund Spending Increased 10.6% from 2006-2011; Higher Ed: 14.1%

Jennifer Cohen, via a kind reader’s email

Despite the revenue drops these state reported, their MOE submissions show that they increased education spending significantly from 2006 to 2011, particularly for K-12 education. For example, Utah’s submission shows a 28.4 percent increase in funding for K-12 education from $1.8 billion to $2.3 billion. Oregon shows an increase of 19.2 percent and Illinois shows an increase of 19.8 percent. Increases in Indiana and Nevada are both over 65 percent. Only three states – Arizona, Minnesota, and Mississippi – showed increases below 3.0 percent.
Of course, it wouldn’t be unusual for states to increase K-12 education spending over a 5-year period under more normal budget circumstances due to increasing enrollment and costs. What the MOE data could be telling us is that many states protected K-12 spending during the economic downturn that began in 2007.
But these numbers are also curious, if not dubious. Large contractions in state tax revenues and repeated media reports of states cutting education spending make some of these data difficult to believe.
The MOE data for the 31 states also show growth in higher education spending, though not at as high of rates as K-12 spending. New York State showed an increase of 22.3 percent from $3.3 billion to $4.0 billion from 2006 to 2011 and Connecticut showed an increase of 17.6 percent. But many states showed increases below 3.0 percent – 13, including Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. Low growth for higher education in many states is not surprising. States often make cuts (or delay increases) to higher education before K-12 education because it has a smaller constituency and they can rely on tuition increases to make up the difference. However, many public higher education systems have faced dramatic increases in enrollment as a result of the economic downturn, placing greater pressure on their strapped systems.

Fascinating rhetoric: the numbers tell us spending is up, but the writer mentions “data difficult to believe”. In my brief 8+ years observing the K-12 world, spending always goes up. Some want it to increase more than others, which is where the “schwerpunkt” can be found.
View a chart of US State tax collections and Education (K-12 and Higher Ed) spending from 2006 to 2011.
Related: Wisconsin State Tax Based K-12 Spending Growth Far Exceeds University Funding

Politics: Urban League ties would create conflict of interest if Nichols elected to School Board, GAB says

Matthew DeFour, via a kind reader’s email:

“She would definitely have to abstain,” GAB spokesman Reid Magney said. “You shouldn’t be accepting anything from anyone that could influence your decision.”
Madison Prep supporters have vowed to continue pressing their case for the charter school. The election could influence the charter school’s chances of future approval as Nichols, who has backed the charter school, is running against incumbent Arlene Silveira, who voted along with four other board members against Madison Prep.
Nichols, the Urban League’s vice president of learning, acknowledged there could be a conflict of interest that would prevent her from voting on the issue. But she said if the Madison Prep board proposes and runs the school as a separate nonprofit entity, she would be able to vote. That’s consistent with state law, according to the GAB.
“If the proposal included any contractual services from the Urban League or shared leadership between the Urban League and the Madison Prep Board, … I believe there would still be a conflict of interest and I would therefore follow all ethical and conflict of interest policies,” Nichols said.

“You shouldn’t be accepting anything from anyone that could influence your decision.” Is the Urban League the only candidate supporter in this position?
Seat 1 Candidates:
Nichelle Nichols
Arlene Silveira (incumbent)
Seat 2 Candidates:
Mary Burke
Michael Flores
Arlene Silveira & Michael Flores Madison Teachers, Inc. Candidate Q & A

A broken system: Former Indianapolis School board president says school district needs dramatic overhaul

Kelly Bentley:

The Indianapolis Public Schools district is broken.
I don’t say this because I’m anti-public education. I don’t say this to score political points. I don’t say this to hurt anyone’s feelings or to be disrespectful. I say this because it’s true.
I am a strong supporter of public education. I served on the IPS School Board from 1998 to 2010. My father is a graduate of Arsenal Technical High School. All three of my step-brothers graduated from Tech, my sister and I graduated from Broad Ripple, and my own children attended school in IPS — at Montessori School 91, Shortridge Middle School and Broad Ripple High School, where my youngest child graduated in 2007. My niece and nephew now attend Center For Inquiry School 2.

Related: Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman 2009 speech to the Madison Rotary Club.