A Boom Time for Education Start-Ups

Nick DeSantis:

Harsh economic realities mean trouble for college leaders. But where administrators perceive an impending crisis, investors increasingly see opportunity.
In recent years, venture capitalists have poured millions into education-technology start-ups, trying to cash in on a market they see as ripe for a digital makeover. And lately, those wagers have been getting bigger.
Investments in education-technology companies nationwide tripled in the last decade, shooting up to $429-million in 2011 from $146-million in 2002, according to the Na­tional Venture Capital Association. The boom really took off in 2009, when venture capitalists pushed $150-million more into education-technology firms than they did in the previous year, even as the economy sank into recession.
“The investing community believes that the Internet is hitting edu­cation, that education is having its Internet moment,” said Jose Ferreira, founder of the interactive-learning company Knewton. Last year Mr. Ferreira’s company scored a $33-million investment of its own in one of the biggest deals of the year.

Bruno: The *Real* Causes Of “Teaching To The Test”

Alexander Russo:

He doesn’t frame them exactly this way, but Daniel Willingham’s recent posts on the lack of elementary-level science instruction shed more light on a point I’ve made previously: that many concerns about “teaching to the test” are at least partially misguided.
As he points out, much of the marginalization of science in elementary schools predates NCLB, which suggests that curriculum narrowing can’t be entirely explained by high-stakes testing. (A more likely culprit? Only 1/3 of elementary school teachers feel prepared to teach science in the first place.)
Additionally, Willingham elaborates on the importance of teaching content to promote reading comprehension. Even as late as 3rd grade elementary students are spending nearly half of their school time on English Language Arts, which leaves little time for the numerous other subjects – like science and history – that are so important to building students’ content knowledge and, in turn, their ability to understand what they read.

L.A. Unified haunted by an old deal

Sandy Banks:

Today’s lesson, boys and girls, is to be careful what deals you make when your back is against the wall.
Let’s open our history book to 1992, when California was mired in a recession and the Los Angeles Unified School District was forced to cut its budget by $400 million.
Teachers had walked off the job three years earlier and were threatening to strike again if the district followed through on its plan to cut their pay by 12%. So political kingpin Willie Brown brokered a deal that reduced the pay cut to 10% and expanded teachers’ campus rights.
Most of the perks seemed pretty mundane:
Teachers would be allowed to park in the principal’s parking space and use the principal’s private bathroom. They would no longer have to perform “yard duty” when their students were on the playground.

Survey: Teachers work 53 hours per week on average

Francie Alexander:

Teaching is a much talked about yet often misunderstood profession. Educators frequently hear well-meaning comments from parents and friends like “It must be so sweet to spend your days with children” or “How wonderful to be done for the day by three o’clock.” Are they serious?
Teaching is joyous, but it is also hard work! It is fast-paced, multi-faceted, and complex. I should know. I spent many years as a teacher and it is the hardest and most satisfying work I’ve ever done.
A new report from Scholastic and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, called Primary Sources: America’s Teachers on the Teaching Profession, finally quantifies just how hard teachers work: 10 hours and 40 minutes a day on average. That’s a 53-hour work week!
These numbers are indicative of teachers’ dedication to the profession and their willingness to go above and beyond to meet students’ needs. It never was, and certainly isn’t now, a bell-to-bell job.

Union Activism Is Not for the Young

Mike Antonucci:

Back in January we noted that, according to the annual report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the age of union members was increasingly skewing older relative to the entire workforce. If the trend continues, unions will correspondingly suffer from member attrition – in addition to all the other challenges they face.
This will be less of an issue in states where collective bargaining laws essentially mandate union membership (or fee-paying). New, young employees will become union members and replace their older, retiring counterparts. But in NEA, at least, there is another problem that legislation can’t address – activism.
The union is launching a major effort to engage younger members to become more active in NEA’s mission, because its internal research shows that while the average age of an NEA member is 46, the average age of an NEA activist is 57.

Minnesota House OKs plan to pay back schools part of $2.4 billion

Megan Boldt:

The Minnesota House on Thursday, March 15, approved a plan that would start paying back the $2.4 billion owed to public schools by using the state’s budget reserve.
The legislation, which passed 74-59, would shift $430 million from rainy-day funds to repay K-12 schools. It also includes ending the practice of laying off teachers based on seniority rather than performance, a measure that already has passed the House and Senate.
“There’s a message today. This is what people have to know. Republicans have a plan. Republicans have a plan to reduce the debt we owe to schools,” Rep. Pat Garofalo, chair of the House Education Finance Committee, said Thursday.

Sex education in schools? Auburn Report finds most parents favor it.

Casandra Andrews:

Among the nation’s young people, those in the South suffer the worst rates of sexually transmitted infections such as HIV, according to a new study that finds little resistance among parents in the region for age-appropriate sex education in schools.
The report “Sexual Health of Young People in the U.S. South: Challenges and Opportunities” was released by Auburn University at Montgomery’s Center for Demographic Research. It focused on 10 Southern states including Alabama and Mississippi.
Issues such as high teen pregnancy rates can place heavy burdens on government and taxpayers. According to the study, for example, teen-childbearing expenses in the South cost local, state and federal governments an estimated $2.3 billion in 2008.

Condoms For 12-Year-Olds: Springfield Massachusetts School Committee Approves Contraceptive Policy

Huffington Post:

A Massachusetts school has taken its first step toward giving students as young as 12 free access to condoms at school.
The Springfield School Committee voted 5-1 Thursday in favor of the “Comprehensive Reproductive Health Policy,” which aims to promote safe sex, prevent sexually transmitted diseases and teen pregnancy.
Under the proposed program, students would be able to acquire condoms from school nurses and high-school based clinics, according to The Republican. Those who receive the contraceptive would be counseled on abstinence and proper storage and use.

WORT-FM Radio Interview with the 2012 Madison School Board Candidates

wort-fm.org 43MB mp3 audio file, via a kind reader’s email.
Seat 1 Candidates:
Nichelle Nichols
email: nnichols4mmsd@gmail.com
Arlene Silveira (incumbent)
email: arlene_Silveira@yahoo.com
Seat 2 Candidates:
Mary Burke
email: maryburkewi@gmail.com
Michael Flores
email: floresm1977@gmail.com
Arlene Silveira & Michael Flores Madison Teachers, Inc. Candidate Q & A

Madison school board candidates Mary Burke and Michael Flores 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 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. 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
email: nnichols4mmsd@gmail.com
Arlene Silveira (incumbent)
email: arlene_Silveira@yahoo.com
Seat 2 Candidates:
Mary Burke
email: maryburkewi@gmail.com
Michael Flores
email: floresm1977@gmail.com
Arlene Silveira & Michael Flores Madison Teachers, Inc. Candidate Q & A

Percentages of poor students keep rising

The percentage of low-income students in Wisconsin and Madison schools continues to grow.
Madison’s percentage of students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch reached 56.5 percent this year, up from 51 percent last year, according to the state Department of Public Instruction. That’s up from 44 percent five years ago and 31 percent a decade ago. Wisconsin’s rate reached 42.5 percent, up from 41.5 percent last year and 29.5 percent in the 2003-04 school year. More than 100 of the state’s 424 school districts have a majority of students who qualify as low-income.
Children from households with annual incomes at or below 130 percent of the federal poverty rate, or $29,055 for a family of four, qualify for a free lunch. Children from households with annual incomes under 185 percent of the federal poverty rate, or between $29,055 and $41,348 for a family of four, qualify for a reduced-price lunch.
Wisconsin State Journal
March 20, 2012

College Presidents Say $10,000 Degrees Available Now

Reeve Hamilton:

Speaking today on a SXSWEdu panel in Austin, officials from a few Texas community colleges and universities said that $10,000 bachelor’s degrees are available now — and more will be within the year.
Gov. Rick Perry famously called on the development of a $10,000 degree in his State of the State address in 2011. The proposal met with criticism at the time, but Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board Chairman Fred Heldenfels said it was misunderstood. “It’s not intended to be a bargain degree,” he said, offering the metaphor of a no-frills, rapid-rail route rather than an ocean-going cruise.
Called “The Evolving Role of University Systems in Higher Education,” today’s panel mostly focused on efforts to lower the cost of college. It was moderated by Texas A&M System Chancellor John Sharp and featured Heldenfels, Texas Higher Education Commissioner Raymund Paredes, and two pairs of university and community college leaders actively collaborating: Texas A&M-San Antonio President Maria Ferrier and Alamo Colleges Chancellor Bruce Leslie, and Texas A&M-Commerce President Dan Jones and South Texas College’s Chief Academic Officer Juan Mejia.

Anatomy of a Troubled School District: Picturesque Bayfield has it all: dreadful student performance, community infighting, a powerful teachers union, outlandish spending. What can be done?

Mike Nichols:

Over 300 miles from the never-ending debates in Madison over how to help struggling schools, in a small, largely impoverished district along the edge of Lake Superior, Liz Woodworth ran unopposed for a spot on the Bayfield School Board this spring.
Woodworth isn’t just another parent. She and her husband, Jeff Kriner, are both teachers; she in nearby Ashland and he in the same district that Woodworth will help run. Kriner, in fact, has served as everything from a co-president of the local Bayfield Education Association to a teachers union negotiator and spokesman who appears before the School Board.
In states such as Arizona and Mississippi, conflict-of-interest laws would bar Woodworth from serving. Not here, where the state has long left local schools to sort out their own problems and conflicts. With Woodworth slated to begin a three-year term in late April, critics fear she will help preserve the status quo in schools that desperately need outside intervention.

School Reform’s Establishment Turn

The Wall Street Journal:

The Council on Foreign Relations is the clubhouse of America’s establishment, a land of pinstripe suits and typically polite, status-quo thinking. Yet today CFR will publish a report that examines the national-security impact of America’s broken education system–and prescribes school choice as a primary antidote. Do you believe in miracles?
American schools have several national-security duties, the report notes. First is educating workers who can keep the U.S. economy strong and innovative amid global competition, which requires skills in reading, math and science, as well as foreign languages and cultures. The U.S. also needs to produce sharp intelligence officers, soldiers and diplomats, as well as techies who can guard corporate and governmental cyber networks. And don’t forget a citizenry that understands how democracy works.
Performance on all these fronts is grim. Only a third of elementary and middle-school students are competent in reading, math and science. Compared to peers in industrial countries, American 15-year-olds rank 14th in reading, 25th in math and 17th in science. Fewer than 5% of college students graduate with engineering degrees (in China it’s 33%), and a third of science and engineering grad students in the U.S. are foreign nationals, most of whom are ultimately denied visas to stay.

MMSD School Board Elections: The Future of Our Public Schools

Madison Teacher Karen Vieth:

Times are rough for public education; there is no contesting that fact. The Madison media is full of talk about charter schools and anti-union sentiment. Next year’s allocations are forcing teachers to face the abysmal reality of our declining budget. Sitting in staff meetings, hearing numbers being crunched, it is difficult to look around and wonder whose job will be cut and what that will mean to our students. Yet, in a recent Wisconsin State Journal article the focus is somehow on a false choice between supporting our teachers or caring for our students. The author neglects the simple fact that teachers exist for the children and the families they serve.
To make matters worse, the author inserts this quote from a school board candidate, “One of the most important needed changes is the use of student learning as a component of a teacher’s evaluation.” This statement discounts the damage that could be caused by this type of assessment. The author doesn’t analyze the perils of making it a more attractive position to teach the students already experiencing success. He also chooses to ignore the many factors of society that cannot be controlled by a teacher or that cannot be evaluated in a test. Student mobility, homelessness and truancy are not mentioned. Nowhere is it referenced that there is cultural bias in our standardized testing or that these tests occur at the end of October, just shortly after students enter a teacher’s classroom for the first time. Unfortunately, these types of simplified solutions have become common place in the mainstream media, where apparently everyone is an expert on the teaching profession. It is another effort to blame the teachers and take the emphasis off of recent budget cuts and a community where poverty is becoming more and more prevalent.

Seat 1 Candidates:
Nichelle Nichols
email: nnichols4mmsd@gmail.com
Arlene Silveira (incumbent)
email: arlene_Silveira@yahoo.com
Seat 2 Candidates:
Mary Burke
email: maryburkewi@gmail.com
Michael Flores
email: floresm1977@gmail.com
new Arlene Silveira & Michael Flores Madison Teachers, Inc. Candidate Q & A

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Rift grows between old and young

Chris Giles and Sarah Neville:  

For the first time in 50 years, young Britons embarking on their careers cannot expect to be any better off than their parents while those approaching retirement have never had it so good.
The stark generational rift emerging in Britain is highlighted by a Financial Times analysis showing that the real disposable household incomes of people in their 20s have stagnated over the past 10 years just as older households are capturing a much greater share of the nation’s income and wealth.
In spite of this financial squeeze on the young, George Osborne, the chancellor, who presents his third budget on Wednesday, continues to shelter older people from his austerity measures regardless of their income.

Learning From Teach For America

Matthew Di Carlo:

There is a small but growing body of evidence about the (usually test-based) effectiveness of teachers from Teach for America (TFA), an extremely selective program that trains and places new teachers in mostly higher needs schools and districts. Rather than review this literature paper-by-paper, which has already been done by others (see here and here), I’ll just give you the super-short summary of the higher-quality analyses, and quickly discuss what I think it means.*
The evidence on TFA teachers focuses mostly on comparing their effect on test score growth vis-à-vis other groups of teachers who entered the profession via traditional certification (or through other alternative routes). This is no easy task, and the findings do vary quite a bit by study, as well as by the group to which TFA corps members are compared (e.g., new or more experienced teachers). One can quibble endlessly over the methodological details (and I’m all for that), and this area is still underdeveloped, but a fair summary of these papers is that TFA teachers are no more or less effective than comparable peers in terms of reading tests, and sometimes but not always more effective in math (the differences, whether positive or negative, tend to be small and/or only surface after 2-3 years). Overall, the evidence thus far suggests that TFA teachers perform comparably, at least in terms of test-based outcomes.

Democrats see defections on education reform

Valerie Bauman:

Lisa Macfarlane used to be a reliable ally for Washington’s Democratic Party leaders.
Now she’s part of a growing band of rebels — including one of the Democrats’ biggest donors from the business world — questioning the party line on education reform.
These critics say 2012 could be the year that public opinion has shifted enough to change course on schools.They argue Democratic lawmakers have deprived Washington children of needed innovations such as charter schools and teacher promotions tied to performance.

Nuestro Mundo May Move to Monona

Matthew DeFour:

Madison’s Nuestro Mundo charter school would move into its own building in Monona next fall, under terms of a six-year lease being finalized by Madison and Monona Grove School District officials.
The move to the vacant Maywood School building in Monona would alleviate crowding at Allis Elementary, where Nuestro Mundo opened in 2004. It also could help Monona Grove pay for building upkeep and close its $1.2 million budget deficit, Monona Grove Superintendent Craig Gerlach said.
The lease agreement, which both boards are expected to vote on later this month, calls for Madison to pay $165,750 next year with the rate escalating annually based on inflation, Gerlach said. The amount was determined by an agreed-upon appraiser.

DFER backs two crucial teacher effectiveness bills in MD


Democrats for Education Reform is backing two crucial teacher effectiveness bills in Maryland. Last week, Joe Williams, DFER’s Executive Director, sent two letters to the Maryland Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee in support of SB 364, a bill introduced by former DFER Reformer of the Month Sen. Ferguson, and HB 613, the House version of the bill introduced by Rep. Rosenberg.
The legislation would offer student loan repayment to the highest performing teachers — not just for those who attended college in-state, but also to those who attended out-of-state colleges. It would also establish a separate grant available primarily for new teachers who receive the highest performance ratings, as determined by Maryland’s teacher evaluation system.
In addition to SB 364/HB 613, DFER is backing SB 876, also introduced by Sen. Ferguson, and the House version of the bill, HB 1210, introduced by Reps. Rosenberg and Hucker, that would end the harmful practice known as Last In, First Out (LIFO). As we’ve seen across the country, LIFO — which requires teacher layoffs to be based strictly on seniority rather than performance — can lead to a decrease in the number of excellent teachers in the classroom. DFER’s own Jocelyn Huber, Director of Teacher Advocacy, submitted testimony in support of both SB 876 and HB 1210.

Teachers Union & (Madison) School Board Elections

Matthew DeFour:

A Madison Teachers Inc. endorsement hasn’t always guaranteed victory for Madison School Board candidates.
But this year, with union members mobilized by Gov. Scott Walker’s collective bargaining changes, the upcoming recall elections, a divisive debate over a charter school proposal the union opposed and a looming rewrite of employee work rules, the endorsement could be influential.
“It will be very hard for someone not endorsed by the teachers union to win,” said former School Board member Ruth Robarts, who won re-election in 2004 despite MTI labeling her “Public Enemy No. 1.”
Robarts is one of four candidates in 13 contested races over the past decade who defeated MTI-backed candidates.
This year the union endorsed incumbent Arlene Silveira over Nichelle Nichols, an executive at the Urban League of Greater Madison, which proposed the charter school plan.
The union also endorsed Michael Flores, who gained attention during Capitol protests last year, over Mary Burke for an open seat being vacated by Lucy Mathiak.

Teacher union influence can extend far beyond local school board elections. The influence process can be quite sophisticated and encompasses local and state elections along with the legal system. Teachers are certainly not the only groups to pull different levers, but a complete understanding of the K-12 governance model requires an awareness of the players (it is also useful to consider the “schw­er­punkt“, that is “creating a result around a central theme”). The following links are well worth reading:

  • WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators
  • Arbitrator Rules in Favor of MTI vs WEAC over legal fees
  • Sparks fly over Wisconsin budget’s labor-related provisions:

    To make matters more dire, the long-term legislative proposal specifically exempts school district arbitrations from the requirement that arbitrators consider and give the greatest weight to revenue limits and local economic conditions. While arbitrators would continue to give these two factors paramount consideration when deciding cases for all other local governments, the importance of fiscal limits and local economic conditions would be specifically diminished for school district arbitration.

  • Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman in a 2009 speech to the Madison Rotary Club:

    “Beware of legacy practices (most of what we do every day is the maintenance of the status quo), @12:40 minutes into the talk – the very public institutions intended for student learning has become focused instead on adult employment. I say that as an employee. Adult practices and attitudes have become embedded in organizational culture governed by strict regulations and union contracts that dictate most of what occurs inside schools today. Any impetus to change direction or structure is met with swift and stiff resistance. It’s as if we are stuck in a time warp keeping a 19th century school model on life support in an attempt to meet 21st century demands.” Zimman went on to discuss the Wisconsin DPI’s vigorous enforcement of teacher licensing practices and provided some unfortunate math & science teacher examples (including the “impossibility” of meeting the demand for such teachers (about 14 minutes)). He further cited exploding teacher salary, benefit and retiree costs eating instructional dollars (“Similar to GM”; “worry” about the children given this situation).

Matt DeFour’s article failed to include a critical quote: “The school district election is just one piece in the larger chess match”.

At the PTA, Clashes Over Cupcakes and Culture

Kyle Spencer
The Cupcake Wars came to Public School 295 in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, in October. The Parent-Teacher Association’s decision to raise the price of a cupcake at its monthly bake sale — to $1, from 50 cents — was supposed to be a simple way to raise extra money in the face of city budget cuts. Instead, in a neighborhood whose median household income leaped to $60,184 in 2010 from $34,878 a decade before, the change generated unexpected ire, pitting cash-short parents against volunteer bakers, and dividing a flummoxed PTA executive board, where wealthier newcomers to the school serve alongside poorer immigrants who have called the area home for years.
“A lot of people felt like they really needed to be heard on this,” recalled Dan Janzen, a mild-mannered freelance copywriter with children in first and third grades who leads the school’s development committee and devised the price increase. One mother expressed dismay at being blindsided, while others said they were worried about those at the school without a dollar to spare. Ultimately, the PTA meeting at which the issue came to a head was adjourned without a resolution.
Such fracases are increasingly common at schools like P.S. 295, where changing demographics can cause culture clashes. PTA leaders are often caught between trying to get as much as possible from parents of means without alienating lower-income families. Sometimes, the battles are over who should lead the PTA itself: many of the gentrifiers bring professional skills and different ideas of how to get things done, while those who improved the school enough to attract them become guardians of its traditions.
So along with cross-cultural exchanges, international festivals and smorgasbords, school diversity can mean raw feelings about race and class bubbling to the surface. “It’s never just about the cupcake,” said Jeffrey Henig, a professor of political science and education at Teachers College, who has written extensively about this topic. “The cupcake is the spark.”

Imagining the Future of the University

Prof Hacker:

I sometimes hear that the classroom of today looks and functions much like the classroom of the 19th century–desks lined up in neat rows, facing the central authority of the teacher and a chalkboard (or, for a contemporary twist, a whiteboard or screen.) Is this model, born of the industrial age, the best way to meet the educational challenges of the future? What do we see as the college classroom of the future: a studio? a reconfigurable space with flexible seating and no center stage? virtual collaborative spaces, with learners connected via their own devices?
As Rice University celebrates its centennial and looks forward to its next 100 years, it hosted a dialogue on ” The Future of the Research University in a Global Age” at the De Lange Conference on February 27-28. The conference featured presentations by current and former university presidents such as James Duderstadt of the University of Michigan, Amy Gutmann of the University of Pennsylvania, and Charles Vest of MIT, as well as by Burton McMurtry, former chairman of the board at Stanford and Rice trustee emeritus; leading thinkers on higher education and learning such as John Seely Brown, Cathy Davidson and Robert Zemsky; and current and former leaders of organizations promoting research and education, such as Rita Colwell, former director of the NSF, and Hunter Rawlings of the Association of American Universities (also former president of Cornell and the University of Iowa). While the speakers discussed many challenges facing higher education, they also articulated strategies for shaping twenty-first century learning and pointed to some innovative models.

The Student Loan Debacle–What a Mess; 61% Not Paying

Andrew Gillen:  

Until recently, much talk about student loans was fact-free: There simply weren’t publicly available figures worth paying attention to.
The official balance of student loans from the NY Fed were unreliable:
There was a bucket of random obligations called “Miscellaneous”, which included things like utility bills, child support, and alimony. And it turns out that if you went burrowing in that miscellaneous debt, there was actually a pile of weirdly-categorized student loans in there. [AG: And these mis-categorized student loans were not included.]
Meanwhile, the official cohort default rates from the Department of Education were even more useless. Until recently, only the two-year rate was reported. Moreover, those in forbearance or deferment were counted as repaying their loans, and it took 270-360 days of not making payments to be classified as in default. When combined with the grace period, this means that to a first approximation, the “cohort default rate” was not a default rate in any meaningful sense of the term, but rather a measure of how many students never made any payment at all.

Nerad’s leadership being judged unfairly

Joann Elder

As a former School Board member and an active member of the Superintendents Human Relations Advisory Committee, I have been very impressed with Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad ever since he arrived in Madison.
I invited him to an outreach dinner shortly after he arrived, and he and his wife attended. At every meeting he was able to attend, he reviewed some program to strengthen minority programs. Informally I talked with him about the terrible cuts in funding for our public schools, and his coping solutions were admirable.
He is criticized for not having more minority teaching hires. Hiring minority teachers has always been a problem in Madison, in large part because good minority teachers can command higher salaries in larger urban centers, and they have a larger support community.
I’ve been impressed with Nerad’s leadership in these difficult times and find the “barely proficient” rating unfair and short-sighted.
Joann Elder, Madison

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

Nonfiction Curriculum Enhanced Reading Skills, Study Finds

Anna Phillips:

Children in New York City who learned to read using an experimental curriculum that emphasized nonfiction texts outperformed those at other schools that used methods that have been encouraged since the Bloomberg administration’s early days, according to a new study to be released Monday.
For three years, a pilot program tracked the reading ability of approximately 1,000 students at 20 New York City schools, following them from kindergarten through second grade. Half of the schools adopted a curriculum designed by the education theorist E. D. Hirsch Jr.’s Core Knowledge Foundation. The other 10 used a variety of methods, but most fell under the definition of “balanced literacy,” an approach that was spread citywide by former Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein, beginning in 2003.
The study found that second graders who were taught to read using the Core Knowledge program scored significantly higher on reading comprehension tests than did those in the comparison schools.
It also tested children on their social studies and science knowledge, and again found that the Core Knowledge pupils came out ahead. Citywide, budget cuts and the drive to increase scores on the state reading and math exams have led many elementary and middle schools to whittle down their social studies and science instruction.

Madison School Board to review athletic code in light of retail theft controversy

Matthew DeFour:

The Madison School Board will review the district’s athletic code in the wake of controversy over the discipline handed down to Madison Memorial varsity basketball players for an incident in which they were later charged with crimes.
School Board President James Howard said the board needs to review the district’s athletic code to see if it was followed in the cases involving the four players — including starters Albert “Junior” Lomomba Jr., 19; Jamar Morris, 18; and Brendan Ortiz, 17.
The three were suspended for a single game, which prompted anger from coaches and fans from other teams who said the discipline was not severe enough. The fourth player has played sparingly during the season.
Lomomba and Morris were charged last month with misdemeanor retail theft in connection with a Jan. 21 incident at Boston Store at West Towne Mall. Charges against Ortiz were added to the complaint last week over a similar incident that took place Jan. 13.
All three were allowed to play in the WIAA tournament.

How do children learn to read when you have no books?

Tomi Ahonen:

Rather than a laptop for every child – a noble cause but faced with overwhelming infrastructure problems – Worldreader have given Kindles to school children in Africa that can now harness the wealth of knowledge that exists easily for many of us at a cost which means; access is no longer a barrier to learning. The significance is explained by Brookings:

Being able to read and write is the most basic foundation of knowledge accumulation and further skill development. Without literacy, there can be no quality education. Presently, 1 in 5 adults is illiterate, two-thirds of whom are women. At the current pace, over 700 million adults worldwide will still not be able to read in 2015. [1] In global education discussions, literacy rates are most often reported for adolescents and adults, an ex post facto measure of the failure of primary school systems to impart basic skills in the most formative schooling years. It is clear that much needs to be done to provide these adolescents and adults with access to successful literacy programs. But we must also ensure that children with access to schooling are not growing up to be illiterate.

They cite the enormous potential of the Worldreader initiative

Madison school board showdown: Four candidates face off in the most hotly contested election in years

Nathan Comp:

During a March 1 candidate forum, four candidates vying for two seats on the Madison school board explained their positions to a large audience at the Warner Park Recreation Center.
It was the sixth forum since January, and, for 90 minutes, the audience listened intently, though a lot of them were supporters, campaign volunteers, district watchdogs and union reps who likely already knew whom they would be voting for on April 3.
For many, the battle lines were drawn near the end of last year’s debate over Madison Preparatory Academy, the charter school proposed by the Urban League of Greater Madison that the board rejected on Dec. 19, largely because the teachers union opposed it. Accordingly, two candidates who opposed Madison Prep shored up early union endorsements, including from Madison Teachers Inc.
One of them, two-term incumbent Arlene Silveira, 53, is fighting to retain her seat against Nichelle Nichols, 43, who entered the Seat 1 race in response to the board’s rejection of Madison Prep. Nichols says the race is a choice between new leadership and the status quo. Silveira, on the other hand, says the district needs a board member “who can hit the ground running.”
The Seat 2 race to replace outgoing board member Lucy Mathiak pits firefighter Michael Flores, 34, against philanthropist Mary Burke, 52, in a contest couched in the language of the Occupy movement. Flores, a member of Fire Fighters Local 311, has gained union support in part because of his opposition to Madison Prep, while Burke had donated $2.5 million to the effort. Flores’ most vocal supporters have tried to obscure Burke’s extensive experience by assailing her as an out-of-touch 1 percenter.
Madison Prep engaged the community more than any other educational issue in years, sparking an outsized interest in the schools that shows little sign of waning. Candidates this year will have taken part in an unprecedented 12 candidate forums, among dozens of smaller events and listening sessions. (Candidates in seven of the last nine elections ran unopposed.)

Seat 1 Candidates:
Nichelle Nichols
email: nnichols4mmsd@gmail.com
Arlene Silveira (incumbent)
email: arlene_Silveira@yahoo.com
Seat 2 Candidates:
Mary Burke
email: maryburkewi@gmail.com
Michael Flores
email: floresm1977@gmail.com
new Arlene Silveira & Michael Flores Madison Teachers, Inc. Candidate Q & A
Is $14,858.40 Per Student, Per Year Effective? On Madison Superintendent & School Board Accountability…

Data shows Madison’s 4K program is reaching low-income families

Matthew DeFour:

When Madison’s 4-year-old kindergarten program began there were concerns about its accessibility to low-income families, but data from the first class suggest the program has been successful in serving low-income students.
Data collected last fall found 52 percent of students who participated in the 4K program this year are low-income students, either because they qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, or participate in the Head Start program. That’s slightly higher than the district average of 48 percent.
Some families, however, still weren’t able to access the program.

Half-Crazy, Half-True: Alfie Kohn’s startling message on schools may be hurting Wisconsin’s poorest students

Michael J. Petrilli:

One hundred years ago, a progressive populist barnstormed the country, delivering fiery speeches and railing against the gold standard. Today another progressive populist barnstorms the country, delivering fiery speeches and railing against academic standards. Meet Alfie Kohn, the William Jennings Bryan of our age.
The Badger State has always been friendly territory for progressive populists; Kohn is a perfect fit. He’s been an influential voice in Wisconsin education discussions for nearly 20 years.
Kohn is a frequent guest on Wisconsin Public Radio, and his speeches have carried the imprimatur of everyone from the Wisconsin Association of School Boards to the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Education to the Wisconsin Education Association Council to the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce. Last November, his talk on the UW-Madison campus drew more than 700 people.
Like most demagogues, Kohn knows how to tap into his audience’s raw emotions — anger, feelings of powerlessness and resentment of a ruling elite. In his case, he puts voice to what many educators already believe: That school reform is a corporate plot to turn young people into docile employees; that an obsession with standardized testing is crowding out any real intellectual engagement in our schools; and that teachers have no say over what happens inside their own classrooms.

The Myth of the ‘Student-Athlete’

Gary Gutting
People often dismiss philosophical disputes as mere quibbles about words. But shifts in terminology can turn the tide in public debates. Think of the advantage Republicans gained when discussion of the Affordable Health Care Act became discussion of “Obamacare.” (Conversely, suppose we talked about “Bush-ed” instead of “No Child Left Behind”). Or consider how much thinking about feminism has changed with the demise of “men” as a term for people in general.
These thoughts about philosophy and language occur to me as a significant portion of our nation takes part in the mounting frenzy of “March Madness,” the national college basketball championship. Throughout the tournament, announcers and commentators careful enough to heed the insistence of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, will refer to the players as “student-athletes.”
But is this term accurate? Or should we perhaps leave it behind for a more honest and precise name?
The term “student-athletes” implies that all enrolled students who play college sports are engaged in secondary (“extra-curricular”) activities that enhance their education. Their status, the term suggests, is essentially the same as members of the debate team or the band. As the N.C.A.A. puts it, “Student-athletes must, therefore, be students first.”
There are, of course, many cases of athletes who are primarily students, particularly in “minor” (i.e., non-revenue producing) sports. But what about Division I football and men’s basketball, the big-time programs with revenues in the tens of millions of dollars that are a major source of their schools’ national reputation? Are the members of these teams typically students first?
The N.C.A.A.’s own 2011 survey showed that by a wide variety of measures the answer is no. For example, football and men’s basketball players (who are my primary focus here) identify themselves more strongly as athletes than as students, gave more weight in choosing their college to athletics than to academics, and, at least in season, spend more time on athletics than on their studies (and a large majority say they spend as much or more time on sports during the off-season).

Madison Teachers’ Solidarity: What Does Your MTI Contract Do For You? School Calendar

MTI Solidarity, via a kind Jeanie Bettner email:

Does it matter to you when school begins in the fall? How about when and how long winter or spring break is? When school ends for the year? Or, does it matter to you how many days you work for your annual salary, or how many hours make up the school day? In members’ responses to MTI’s Bargaining Survey, all of these factors are “very important” to those in MTI’s teacher bargaining unit.
It was MTI’s case in 1966 which gave teacher unions an equal voice on all of the above topics. Ruling for MTI, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that the school calendar is a mandatory subject of bargaining, meaning that a school district in Wisconsin must negotiate with the Union to determine each of the factors described above. Governor Walker’s Act 10 in effect overturned the Supreme Court’s ruling because Act 10 removed workers’ rights to collectively bargain.
Impact? Act 10 enables a school board without a good conscience, to engage in mischief or abuse of all MTI represented staff especially teachers because they are paid an annual salary not on an hourly basis.
MTI is fighting to overturn Act 10 and to restore the Union’s right to negotiate over the school calendar.

A great leveller

Tsung-Mei Cheng:  

Tsung-Mei Cheng outlines China’s policy challenges in providing the type of education for the increasing number of urban residents that both meets market needs and increases, rather than decreases, social mobility
Employment was one of the major issues addressed by this year’s National People’s Congress and Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference in Beijing. A well-functioning system of tertiary education will be the key to job creation and economic growth.
It is an important topic; failure on this front could lead not only to popular disappointment, but to social unrest.
This was one of the major conclusions of this year’s Emerging Markets Symposium, an annual meeting at Oxford University, which this year focused on tertiary education. An earlier symposium focused on health care and there are, in fact, striking parallels in polices on both health and education. The same concerns abound over equal access and the burden of financing; there are similar problems in measuring quality; and they share issues about the mismatch of supply and demand.

Public meetings continue on school district’s plan to close achievement gap

Anna Asendorf:

Closing the achievement gap in Madison schools takes commitment, courage, collaboration and unity, according to community members present at Wednesday night’s Madison Metropolitan School District input session at CUNA Mutual Group.
About 150 attendees jotted down these key words, along with others, on a small notecard in response to a question posed by Deputy Superintendent, Sue Abplanalp.
“Using one word, what do you think it will take to build and sustain a community-wide movement in Madison to close the achievement gaps in the Madison schools?”
The notecards were then collected and compiled into a word cloud, pictured left, shared at the meeting’s close. Popular words were displayed in a bold, prominent font with less popular words surrounding them.

Much more on the proposed “achievement gap plan”, here.
Comments on the District’s plan are worth reading.

Hong Kong English tests for trainee teachers

Dennis Chong:  

The Institute of Education, which specialises in training teachers, is fighting back against the declining level of English literacy by making all students take an internationally recognised examination.
Students will not be prevented from graduating if they fail to achieve a 6.0 grade (on a 9-point scale) in the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) exam – equivalent to the level most universities in the English-speaking world require of new undergraduates.

See Milwaukee Public Schools Beyond the Negative headlines

Andrew Hinkfuss:

How can an entire state seemingly hate one school system so much? In the midst of the worst cuts to education our state has ever seen, Milwaukee Public Schools is often portrayed as a failed system filled with lazy teachers, violent classrooms and hopeless students. These misinformed views appear to be widely held beliefs.
The comments on a March 3 JSOnline article about the King/Riverside high school basketball game are just one recent example. One commenter lamented that Germantown would have to beat “teams of thugs and criminals” to win the state tournament.
These views do not reflect the MPS I know. This is not the system that delivered me to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, my sisters to Harvard and Macalaster College and thousands of others to great universities and productive careers.

Seattle’s Teacher Union Opposes Teach for America

Seattle Education Association:

The Seattle Education Association Stands For A Stronger System of Universal, High-Quality Public Education in Seattle Public Schools!
Bringing Teach For America (TFA) to Seattle Does Not Make Public Education Stronger!
Commit to at least two of the following action items:

  • Use the following points to craft your own letter to school board members. Click here to get contact information.
  • Sign up to speak at the school board meeting on November 17, 2010. Information on what to do Monday, November 15 at 8:00 AM to get on the agenda is here.
  • Attend the school board meeting with signs expressing your opinion about the TFA agreement that will be voted upon. To read the introduction and the agreement, click here.

Read up on Teach For America, inform yourself!

The Higher Education Monopoly is Crumbling As We Speak

Kevin Carey:

In the last years of the nineteenth century, Charles Dow created an index of 12 leading industrial companies. Almost none of them exist today. While General Electric remains an industrial giant, the U.S. Leather Company, American Cotton Oil, and others have long since disappeared into bankruptcy or consolidation. Today, the Dow Jones includes giant corporations that hadn’t even been created when Ronald Reagan first sat in the Oval Office. That transition is generally understood as the natural consequence of innovation and competition in a changing world.
Four years after Dow invented his average, a group of 14 leading research institutions created the Association of American Universities. All of them exist today. While a few have faded from prominence, most of the original members–including Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, Berkeley, and Yale–are now, as they were then, the most sought-after and well-regarded American universities.
The historic stability of higher education is remarkable. As former University of California President Clark Kerr once observed, the 85 human institutions that have survived in recognizable form for the last 500 years include the Catholic Church, a few Swiss cantons, the Parliaments of Iceland and the Isle of Man, and about 70 universities. The occasional small liberal arts school goes under, and many public universities are suffering budget cuts, but as a rule, colleges are forever.

Recruiting New Teachers With Loan Repayments

Lisa Fleisher:

New York City schools are recruiting teachers by dangling $25,000 to pay off student loans, even though the teachers union hasn’t agreed to the program yet.
In an online job posting, the city’s Department of Education is touting the new incentive, emphasis included in original:

As a New York City teacher, you may be eligible for additional income through a wide array of incentives and school positions that will stretch and challenge you as an educator as well as offer additional compensation. For example, Mayor Bloomberg recently announced that top tier graduates may be eligible for a total of $25,000 toward student loan repayment.

The ad refers to a proposal made by Mayor Michael Bloomberg in January during his State of the City speech to repay student loans for the top quartile of college graduates who become teachers and remain on the job for five years.

New York State to Target Cheating by Teachers

Lisa Fleisher:

As the stakes grow higher for standardized tests in New York, state education officials said Thursday they will create an investigative unit to combat cheating by aiding local districts and probing the most egregious cases.
The announcement came the day after state lawmakers approved a measure under which student scores on state tests will count for up to 40% of teachers’ annual evaluations. Officials said faith in the tests is crucial for the new policy to work.

Census Data Shows Inequality Linked to Education, Not Taxes

Scott Hodge:

There have been a number of reports published recently that purport to show a link between rising inequality and changes in tax policy – especially tax cuts for the so-called rich. The latest installment comes from Berkeley professor Emmanuel Saez, Striking it Richer: The Evolution of Top Incomes in the United States.
Saez and others who write on this issue seem so intent on proving a link between tax policy and inequality that they overlook the major demographic changes that are occurring in America that can contribute to – or at least give the appearance of – rising inequality; a few of these being, differences in education, the rise of dual-earner couples, the aging of our workforce, and increased entrepreneurship.
Today, we will look at the link between education and income. Recent Census data comparing the educational attainment of householders and income shows about as clearly as you can that America’s income gap is really an education gap and not the result of tax cuts for the rich.

Related: Dumbing down of state education has made Britain more unequal than 25 years ago; In the name of equality, anti-elitist teachers are betraying the hopes of the young.

Teacher Compensation Based on Effectiveness: The Harrison (CO) School District’s Pay-for-Performance Plan

F. Mike Miles:

A teacher’s effectiveness has a tremendous impact on a child’s learning and academic trajectory. Yet knowing that, and being able to create teacher evaluation systems that successfully measure and document teacher effectiveness, are two very different things. In fact, for as long as anyone can remember, a public school teacher’s effectiveness and performance in Ohio classrooms-as in the rest of America- haven’t been measured much at all. These critical factors have had little impact on decisions about whether she is retained by her district or laid off, how she is compensated or assigned to a district’s school, or how her professional development is crafted. This report, authored by Harrison (CO) Superintendent Mike Miles, takes a detailed look at the district’s Pay-for-Performance Plan. The Harrison Plan confronted the dual challenges of defining an effective teacher then identifying all the things that demonstrate her effectiveness. This how-to guide is meant to serve as a tool and model for Ohio’s school districts.

Rethinking School

Stacy Childress:

In 2008 the Stanford economist Eric Hanushek developed a new way to examine the link between a country’s GDP and the academic test scores of its children. He found that if one country’s scores were only half a standard deviation higher than another’s in 1960, its GDP grew a full percentage point faster in every subsequent year through 2000.
Using Hanushek’s methods, McKinsey & Company has estimated that if the U.S. had closed the education achievement gap with better-performing nations, GDP in 2010 could have been 8% to 14%–$1.2 trillion to $2.1 trillion–higher. The report’s authors called this gap “the economic equivalent of a permanent national recession.”
The implications could not be clearer: The United States must recognize that its long-term growth depends on dramatically increasing the quality of its K-12 public education system.

Parent trigger founder: What happened in Florida ‘only a temporary setback’

Gloria Romero:

When Florida’s parent trigger bill sadly failed on a 20-20 vote in the Senate last Friday, parents in the state’s worst performing schools lost an opportunity to change their schools, their lives, and their children’s lives for the better.
The debate seemed to turn mysteriously on fears of privatization through charter schools, even though converting the school to a charter was only one of four options parents could have elected under the legislation. Given that Florida already has many charter schools, I find it baffling why allowing parents access to this option was so threatening to the education establishment.
Fortunately, Florida still has options for parents who want to leave a failing school, but the demand for options such as a tax credit scholarship or a charter school exceeds the supply. To a large degree, though, these kinds of options are not really the point of parent trigger legislation. For most families, the ideal situation is a high-quality neighborhood school. This is particularly true for low-income families that struggle with juggling multiple jobs, child care and transportation.

How Khan Academy Is Changing the Rules of Education

Clive Thompson:

“This,” says Matthew Carpenter, “is my favorite exercise.” I peer over his shoulder at his laptop screen to see the math problem the fifth grader is pondering. It’s an inverse trigonometric function: cos-1(1) = ?
Carpenter, a serious-faced 10-year-old wearing a gray T-shirt and an impressive black digital watch, pauses for a second, fidgets, then clicks on “0 degrees.” Presto: The computer tells him that he’s correct. The software then generates another problem, followed by another, and yet another, until he’s nailed 10 in a row in just a few minutes. All told, he’s done an insane 642 inverse trig problems. “It took a while for me to get it,” he admits sheepishly.
Carpenter, who attends Santa Rita Elementary, a public school in Los Altos, California, shouldn’t be doing work anywhere near this advanced. In fact, when I visited his class this spring–in a sun-drenched room festooned with a papercraft X-wing fighter and student paintings of trees–the kids were supposed to be learning basic fractions, decimals, and percentages. As his teacher, Kami Thordarson, explains, students don’t normally tackle inverse trig until high school, and sometimes not even then.


Students Demand Right to Technology in Schools

Tina Barseghian:

I’ve heard arguments from ed tech experts about how using technology for learning may in fact deepen the divide between wealthy and low-income kids. Students who have access to technology and are encouraged by teachers and parents to leverage it for new ways of learning, the argument goes, will leap even further ahead than low-income students who are forbidden to use it in public schools.
Those arguments were personified early this month in the collective voices of students from Morningside, Crenshaw, Roosevelt, Locke, and Manual Arts high schools, who presented their case at the Digital Media and Learning conference in San Francisco.
Holding up cell phones, tablets, and video cameras, students spelled out to listeners in the packed conference room a message loud and clear: We demand access to the same technology that privileged students have in order to survive in the working world, to compete in any meaningful way, and to amplify our voices.

Passionate rally for education program an encouraging sign

Alan Borsuk:

Shiloh Baptist Church was packed. More than 250 people were primed for action last Monday night inside the church at N. 48th St. and W. Capitol Drive. They knew what they wanted: A more effective and accountable Supplemental Education Services program.
A passionate rally to improve SES?
For a decade, SES has been one of the sleepiest corners of federal education funding.
A big reason the program has been so ineffective is that so few people care about the way many millions of dollars have been spent on outside-the-school-day services (generally, tutoring programs) for students who are not doing well in school.
Since when did anybody but some vendors and their employees and a few policy wonks get revved up about SES?
Since Common Ground latched onto it.

State students demand better education

Diana L. Fuentes

Under Gov. Scott Walker, public education has been the target of dramatic budget cuts that affect directly the quality of education received by Wisconsin’s youth. Our education is decaying. Our governor is not only making budget cuts to public education but is also limiting the futures of tens of thousands of young people. Over 1,000 students across Wisconsin have come together to fight back and demand a high-quality education through passing the Student Bill of Rights.
Walker and his administration have made it clear: They do not care about the education of Wisconsin’s youth. For the past year, we have watched our school and our resources crumble around us. We are seeing class sizes grow to 50 students with just one teacher, a lack of Advanced Placement and advanced classes and elimination of arts, business and other areas.
Education cuts are targeting low-income students of color, particularly students from Milwaukee and Racine’s rapidly growing Latino community. My school, ALAS High School, is the only completely bilingual school within the whole state. As our resources continue to be cut, we are constantly fighting just to keep our school open.

THE BAD OLD DAYS OF COLLECTIVE BARGAINING: Why Act 10 Was Necessary for Wisconsin Public Schools

Steve Gunn, Victor Skinner:

Not so long ago, the Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC), the state’s largest teachers union, sported the motto, “Every child deserves a great school.”
The irony of that motto was not lost on school administrators, particularly in more recent years, as they struggled to balance budgets while local WEAC unions refused to accept financial concessions that would have helped maintain quality programming for students.
In school district after school district, layoffs have occurred, class sizes have increased and student programs have been cut, partially because many
unions refused to accept temporary pay freezes, or pay a bit more toward their own health insurance or pension costs.
This was happening all over the state, even before Gov. Scott Walker was elected and his biannual budget slowed the rate of state aid to schools.
The problem is not difficult to understand. Most public school administrators tell us they spend between 75-85 percent of their total budgets on labor costs, mostly for salaries and benefits for union teachers. If a budget crisis hits and spending cuts are needed, school boards will logically look at the biggest part of the budget.
But under the old collective bargaining system, local teachers unions had broad legal power to reject cuts in labor costs, and frequently did so. With 80 percent of the budget often untouchable, school boards had little choice but to cut from the 20 percent that has the most profound effect on students.
Something is definitely wrong with that picture, if you believe that schools exist primarily to benefit children.

AP takes step toward International Baccalaureate-like credential

Jay Matthews:

In the last few years AP has been changing its focus and exams, particularly in the sciences, to become deeper and more flexible, like International Baccalaureate. AP exams have demanded that students answer every essay question. IB exams allow students to choose which essay questions to answer, so that IB teachers can go more deeply into some topics without penalizing students at exam time. AP has moved to adopt that same exam question choice system.
On Monday, AP announced another big change, adding a project component that sounds very much like the IB extended essay required of all students who want to get an IB diploma. But in some ways it goes even further.
The College Board, owner of AP, said it was joining with the University of Cambridge International Examinations to offer an “AP/Cambridge Capstone Program and Credential.” This will be piloted in 15 to 18 schools around the world, including four in the Miami-Dade County school system.

Five ways school reform is hurting teacher quality

Brett Rosenthal:

1. Teacher evaluation systems — Teacher evaluation systems are changing to include as a major factor how well students do on standardized tests. Teachers in New York State have a terrible new evaluation system known as APPR. It is highly inaccurate, meaning that truly good teachers can be deemed ineffective or developing, or truly bad teachers to be classified as highly effective. Forty percent of a teacher’s evaluation is now based on student achievement, which is measured by the student standardized test scores.
But what if a student knows he/she is going to fail a class and decides not to put in effort on the exam or not take it ? This is not unusual. How about seniors who famously put in minimum effort during the second half of their school year since they know they’re going to college? I wouldn’t want to teach them if I knew that my job depended on their scores. Or how about the 11th grade class that contains students from other countries where they were under educated, barely literate, here for a year and are now supposed to show growth on Regents exams?

California’s Endangered Charter Schools

Larry Sand:

Try as the California Teachers Association might, the powerful union cannot realistically organize all of California’s 900-plus charter schools, only about 15 percent of which are currently unionized. Instead, the union is taking an indirect approach, sponsoring legislation that, if enacted, could over time greatly diminish the number of charters in the state–and thus reduce what little school choice Californians have. While other states have readily embraced school choice, including vouchers, Californian’s only real alternative to traditional public schools is charter schools. Charters are, in fact, public schools, but they aren’t bound by the intrusive union contracts that stifle so many traditional public schools. The flexibility that non-unionization offers is a key attraction for teachers and parents. And so the CTA’s long war against the charter option continues.
In 1992, California became the second state in the U.S. to pass a charter school law. Today, about 400,000 students in California are enrolled in charter schools. That might sound like a lot, but charters represent only around 10 percent of the state’s 9,000 public schools. Their record is impressive: the California Charter School Association’s second annual “Report on Charter School Performance and Accountability,” published late last month, shows that charters are more likely than non-charters to have both above-average academic performance and above-average growth on standardized test scores. The CCSA report reinforces the findings of previous studies, including a 2010 Duke University investigation of Boston’s charter schools and a 2009 study of New York City charter schools by Caroline Hoxby that showed how, on the whole, students enrolled in charter schools show large and significant test-score gains, especially in middle school and high school. Of course, not all charter schools perform adequately. But if a school isn’t academically successful, the charter authorizer–usually the local school district–can close it after the initial five-year authorization period is up.

Indianapolis Mayor Ballard names Teach For America veteran as education deputy

J K Wall:

Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard has appointed Jason Kloth as deputy mayor of education, a new cabinet-level position that reflects Ballard’s recent shift toward taking a more active role in education, even though his office gives him little direct influence over schools.
Kloth, whose appointment still requires approval of the City-County Council, is a veteran of Teach For America, the New York-based not-for-profit that puts recent college graduates through two-year teaching stints in urban and rural districts around the country.
Kloth taught sixth-grade language arts in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley for two years and was named teacher of the year by his colleagues.
He later became executive director of Teach For American when the program first came to Indianapolis in 2008. Most recently, Kloth has been Teach For America’s senior vice president of public affairs, overseeing the group’s federal government affairs, media and communications, federal policy, research and evaluations, and community relations.

Scott Elliot has more.

Teacher Union Conflict: Do what’s best for Milwaukee

Wisconsin State Journal:

The Milwaukee teachers union just helped Gov. Scott Walker score “a major victory” heading into his recall election.
Or so says John Matthews, head of the Madison teachers union.
Actually, the real winners were Milwaukee teachers, other school employees and students who now may be able to avoid further cuts in school staff and programming.
The Milwaukee Teachers Education Association, School Board and administration just convinced the Republican-run Legislature to quickly approve a bill during this final week of regular session. It permits Milwaukee teachers to reopen their contract without nullifying it.

WisPolitics has more as does MacIver.

Course Recommendation Engine

Steve Kolowich:

Completing assignments and sitting through exams can be stressful. But when it comes to being graded the waiting is often the hardest part. This is perhaps most true at the end of a semester, as students wait for their instructors to reduce months of work into a series of letter grades that will stay on the books forever.
But at Austin Peay State University, students do not have to wait for the end of a semester to learn their grade averages. Thanks to a new technology, pioneered by the university’s provost, they do not even have to wait for the semester to start.
Tristan Denley, the provost, has built software, called Degree Compass, that analyzes an individual student’s academic record, along with the past grades of hundreds of Austin Peay State students in various courses, and predicts how well a particular student is likely to do in a particular course long before the first day of class. (That includes first-year students; the software draws on their high school transcripts and standardized test scores.)


What happened on the Ides of March? Oh, something historical, I suppose–it doesn’t matter. But I want to take note of the huge breakthrough that is the introduction of nonfiction informational texts into American high school classrooms.
According to Education Week this week, “employers and college instructors found students weak at comprehending technical manuals, scientific and historical journals, and other texts pivotal to their work in those arenas.” So the decision was made to break the fiction monopoly in American high school classrooms, so that our high school graduates might have some knowledge of something or other when they move on to work or college.
To help me envision this huge change, I have tried to imagine a parallel educational universe, where, for example, high school students might read two or three complete history books each year, write a 5,000-word history research paper each year, and do their reading of novels on their own outside of school. But a problem in this universe would arise if college instructors and employers discovered that they knew nothing about science and/or technology.
So, perhaps like ours, their mammoth Educational Leviathan would move into action in that “dull, heavy, busy, bold and blind” way that ours does, to introduce those subjects into the schools. Of course they couldn’t jump right into math, chemistry and physics, any more than ours could jump into actual history books when considering nonfiction informational texts.
So they would have to start at the beginning, perhaps with curriculum development, assessment strategies, and teacher professional development programs to prepare for a unit in, perhaps, “small drying earth mounds.” This could introduce students to the ideas of water and earth and the processes of wetting and drying, and later perhaps the flaking of dried earth under pressure (aka “The Mudpie Curriculum”).
After a number of innovative units like this one, the curriculum could gradually venture into the ideas of preparing meals as a kind of chemistry, the bouncing of balls as a start on the idea of quantum physics, and of course the introduction of counting on fingers and toes as a start on advanced calculus.
As with our parallel ventures into nonfiction informational texts, the progress of students in science and math would be slow, easily blamed on demographics and insufficient funding for education, and students would graduate with only a smattering, if that is not too strong a word, of the rudiments, if that is not too strong a word, of math and the physical sciences. But the educational establishment in that other universe could honestly claim to have started to remedy the problems caused by the absence of science and math in the schools, and student ignorance in those areas.
Back in our universe, the nonfiction informational texts are planned to include, in addition to the all-important bus schedules, “brochures, catalogs, menus, and other text types” so that students and their parents can not, in all fairness, say that they had never seen any nonfiction offered in our schools.
Nevertheless, our nonfiction equivalent of that parallel universe’s breakthrough Mudpie Curriculum would leave our students in the future in the same spot they are in now, never having read a single nonfiction book in high school, knowing no more history than they did in the second grade, and completely unprepared for college nonfiction book reading lists, not to mention college term papers (also nonfiction).
But we would have been true to our anti-academic, anti-knowledge, anti-intellectual educational traditions, and we would once again have successfully defeated an attempt to introduce significant amounts of knowledge for our students into the schools and once again prevented them from acquiring any worthwhile degree of academic competence.
We will be criticized of course, but that will be, as usual, water off a duck’s back, and after all, it cannot be denied that we were asked to provide nonfiction informational texts and we provided them. Perhaps bus schedules, brochures and menus are not everyone’s idea of worthwhile nonfiction informational texts, but we made a start, and no doubt succeeded in blocking the introduction of complete history books into our nation’s public high schools for perhaps another generation. So don’t say we did nothing for all that extra money!
Will Fitzhugh
The Concord Review
March 15, 2012

US needs to take concrete steps to halt our slide in math, sciences

Elliott Cheu, via a kind reader’s email:

Students in the 21st century face an array of difficult problems ranging from our reliance upon nonrenewable fuel sources to the demands of an ever increasing population.
While education alone is not a panacea to these issues, without a strong educational background, our citizenry will be unable to tackle these problems head-on. The STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), in particular, will serve to guide us in achieving a more sustainable and prosperous future.
In spite of the fact that our world is becoming increasing dependent upon knowledge, and its creation, only 4 percent of the U.S. workforce is composed of engineers and scientists, according to the 2010 report “Science and Engineering Indicators.”

School reform free-for-all has the cash flying

Eric Wieffering:

Education reform has all the hallmarks of a parent-led, grass-roots movement to fix failing public schools.
But it’s become a big business, too. Nonprofits and interests from both ends of the political spectrum are pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into reform initiatives, and hundreds of companies — for profit and nonprofit alike — are scrambling for a share of the hundreds of billions spent annually educating students in kindergarten through grade 12.
The Walton Family Foundation, named after Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton, gave more than $159 million to education reform initiatives in 2011. The New York Times reported that Microsoft founder Bill Gates’ foundation spent more than $370 million on education reform efforts in 2009, and expects to spend an additional $3 billion over the coming five or six years.

Mapping the College Culture Gap

Matthew Stevenson:

Although the television series “Mad Men” has yet to take up the subject of college applications, I could well imagine an episode in which ad man Don Draper spends his day consuming vast quantities of Scotch and cigarettes, only to come home and have his wife say (while ignoring the lipstick on his collar): “I spoke to Millie today, and she had some good things to say about Williams.”
When Britain still had an Empire, what mattered most was to get your daughters married and your sons into a good regiment. In Homeland America, all that matters to middle-class and affluent parents is getting their children into the best colleges that money can buy or that the Standardized Aptitude Test will allow.
Friends of mine who have college-bound children talk only about test schedules, AP credits, summer programs for gifted children, sports highlight reels, and the easiest routes to Duke or Pomona.

Wisconsin Teacher Union Conflict: Milwaukee vs. Madison, Green Bay, Racine & Kenosha

Leaders of the Madison Teachers Inc. union were among those who signed a letter dated Tuesday telling Milwaukee union officials that the legislation would harm public employees and the recall effort.
“Such legislation will enable Governor Walker to claim victory of his policy to (rein) in public employee wages and benefits,” said the letter, signed by MTI executive director John Matthews and president Peggy Coyne, along with their counterparts in Green Bay, Racine and Kenosha. “Allowing Governor Walker to make such a claim just before the recall election will prove detrimental to recalling him and, therefore, will only enhance his ability to further harm all Wisconsin public employees.”
Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie said that without the concessions, members of the Milwaukee union may lose their jobs.
“The latest letter from public sector union bosses shows clearly that Democrats and their allies put their politics before everything else, even their own members’ jobs,” Werwie said in a statement.

Erin Richards:

Milwaukee Public Schools and the Milwaukee teachers union would get 30 days to negotiate salary or fringe-benefit concessions from employees, under a bill the Legislature sent to Gov. Scott Walker on Wednesday.
After a lightning-fast circuit through the Legislature on Tuesday and Wednesday, the bill cleared both houses on a voice vote with no debate. Walker favors it, but leaders of several other teachers unions in large cities criticized the move because they say the action initiated by MPS and the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association could undermine the Walker recall effort. Because the bill was passed on voice votes in both houses, there was no roll call that would identify which lawmakers supported the bill or opposed it.
The bill is intended to allow the state’s largest district and its teachers union to open up the teachers’ contract for 30 days to discuss potential economic concessions because of an extra $10 million payment the district needs to make to the City of Milwaukee’s pension system. The city informed the district in January that it needed the payment because of a downturn in the stock market.

Madison School Board Candidates Face Tough Questions At Forum


In a room filled with rough drywall and lives that took left turns when most would have gone right, four energetic school board candidates and students who said they feel failed by Madison’s schools gathered on Wednesday night for a forum featuring Madison school board candidates.
Participants in Operation Fresh Start, a program that helps Dane County youth get back on a path to success, hosted Wednesday’s forum at the program office.
At the front were three newcomers: Mary Burke and Michael Flores are vying for the Board of Education seat being vacated by Lucy Mathiak. Then, there’s Nichelle Nichols, who is challenging incumbent board member Arlene Silveira, who is working to show she hasn’t always sided with the superintendent.
Some attendees asked the candidates pointed questions: “Do you support the current superintendent?” was one question.

School Standards Wade into Climate Debate

Tennille Tracy:

After many years in which evolution was the most contentious issue in science education, climate change is now the battle du jour in school districts across the country.
The fight could heat up further in April, when several national bodies are set to release a draft of new science standards that include detailed instruction on climate change.
The groups preparing the standards include the National Research Council, which is part of the congressionally chartered National Academies. They are working from a document they drew up last year that says climate change is caused in part by manmade events, such as the burning of fossil fuels. The document says rising temperatures could have “large consequences” for the planet.

Oakland’s new high school teaching positions

Katy Murphy:

OUSD is hiring an unspecified number of teachers (a.k.a. “teacher leaders” or “Acceleration High School: Teachers On Special Assignment”) to work an 11-month year at Castlemont, Fremont and McClymonds high school campuses. The jobs, which were posted on EdJoin.org late this afternoon, are open to candidates at other schools and even those outside of OUSD.
As most of you know, teachers already at the three high schools need to apply as well, if they wish to stay at their schools. (Unlike other candidates, they don’t need to submit letters of recommendation or resume — just the Ed Join form and a letter of introduction — and they will be guaranteed an interview, district staffers told teachers at Castlemont this week.)
The application window starts today and ends on March 30. Teachers will be hired on a rolling basis, said Brigitte Marshall, OUSD’s HR director.

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

Oh, the places we go.
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:

  1. Despite spending nearly $15,000 per student annually, our Reading Results, the District’s job number one, need reform. 60% to 42%: Madison School District’s Reading Recovery Effectiveness Lags “National Average”: Administration seeks to continue its use. This is not a new topic.
  2. The District’s math program has been an issue for some time, as well (Math Forum).
  3. How does Madison compare to the World, or other US cities? We can and should do much better.
  4. What is happening with Madison’s multi-million dollar investment (waste?) in Infinite Campus? Other Districts have been far more successful implementing this important tool.
  5. Are the District’s tax expenditures well managed?

With respect to the current Superintendent Review, the job pays quite well (IRS income distribution data: table 7), so I believe the position should be fully accountable to parents and taxpayers. Matthew DeFour:

In 2014, Madison superintendent Dan Nerad qualifies for a $37,500 payment for six years of service, which like Gorrell’s would be paid into a retirement account. Nerad already receives an annual $10,000 payment into his retirement account, which is separate from his state pension and in addition to a $201,000 yearly salary.

More, here.
The current rhetoric is quite a change in just 8 years. (Why did things change? A number of citizens care, decided to run for school board – won – and made a difference…) I certainly hope that the Board and community do not revert to past practice where “we know best” – the status quo – prevailed, as the Obama Administration recently asserted in a vital constitutional matter:

Holder made clear that decisions about which citizens the government can kill are the exclusive province of the executive branch, because only the executive branch possess the “expertise and immediate access to information” to make these life-and-death judgments.
Holder argues that “robust oversight” is provided by Congress, but that “oversight” actually amounts to members of the relevant congressional committees being briefed. Press reports suggest this can simply amount to a curt fax to intelligence committees notifying them after the fact that an American has been added to a “kill list.” It also seems like it would be difficult for Congress to provide “robust oversight” of the targeted killing program when intelligence committee members like Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) are still demanding to see the actual legal memo justifying the policy.

More, here on the political class and the legal system.
The choice is ours. Use our rights locally/nationally, or lose them.
A look back at previous Madison Superintendents.
High expectations surely begin at the top.

Higher Education: Save the males?

Times Dispatch:

Should colleges and universities adopt affirmative action for men? By their own standards, the answer appears to be yes. Economist Mark Perry calls attention to a recent report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It shows that for every hundred men who have a bachelor’s degree by age 24, a whopping 148 women of the same age do.
In every other academic realm, the existence of a statistical disparity — such as the fact that fewer men than women pursue advanced degrees in certain science and technology fields — is taken as definitive proof of gender discrimination.

I dare you to measure the “value” I add


(When i wrote this, I had no idea just how deeply this would speak to people and how widely it would spread. So, I think a better title is I Dare You to Measure the Value WE Add, and I invite you to share below your value as you see it.)
Tell me how you determine the value I add to my class.
Tell me about the algorithms you applied when you took data from 16 students over a course of nearly five years of teaching and somehow used it to judge me as “below average” and “average”.
Tell me how you can examine my skills and talents and attribute worth to them without knowing me, my class, or my curriculum requirements.
Tell me how and I will tell you:

Much more on “value added assessment“, here.

Heads I Lobby, Tails You Are Lobbied

Mike Antonucci:

The New Jersey Education Association blamed its record $11.3 million in lobbying expenditures on its evil Republican governor:

“It’s been 2½ years that the governor’s been in office, essentially beating the daylights out of us. Our members rose up and said we cannot be his punching bag, and we agree. They agreed to appropriate money for this ad campaign.”

OK, I’ll buy that. But over on this coast, the California Teachers Association blames its nearly $6.6 million in lobbying expenditures on “the economy and a new Democratic governor after seven years of a business-friendly Republican”:
“[Our members] are really demanding we speak out against cuts.”

Middleton-Cross Plains School Board to appeal ruling on teacher fired for viewing porn at work

Jeff Glaze

The Middleton-Cross Plains School Board will appeal an arbitrator’s ruling that the district should not have fired a teacher who viewed pornographic images at work.
The board voted 8-1 to appeal the decision, which requires the district to pay more than $195,000 to the teacher, Andrew Harris, in back pay and benefits.
“I think that the board and the community feels that this is public policy that needs to be affirmed — that this behavior is not acceptable in schools. This is not a case just about Middleton-Cross Plains School District. It’s a bigger case than that. The board is committed at this point to going forward to make sure that this is changed,” said School Board President Ellen Lindgren.
Between 30 and 40 people showed up for Monday’s meeting.

It’s Now a Grind For 2-Year-Olds

Rachel Louise Ensign:

For some well-heeled New York City parents, preschool starts far too late.
Parents looking to jump-start their children’s formal education are fueling the demand for–and filling the waiting lists at–a new wave of early childhood learning centers where toddlers and infants are cared for by trained teachers.
To be sure, most affluent parents still opt for a full-time nanny instead of an early childhood care center. And many lower-income parents rely on government subsidies to pay for day care. But some are looking for an alternative–one that can come with the same high prices and limited spaces as the city’s top private schools.

Can Lure of Driver’s License Keep Kids in School?

Mike Fritz & April Brown:

For many teenagers, getting behind the wheel is a rite of passage. It’s a step into adulthood that brings new freedoms and responsibilities.
For a growing number of state legislatures, however, the driver’s license is being used as an incentive to keep students from dropping out of high school. The laws vary from state to state, but the general premise is the same: If a student wants to stay on the road, he or she must stay in school.
In West Virginia — the first state to adopt a so-called attend-and-drive law in 1988 — students become ineligible for a driver’s license if they are not on a path to graduate from high school within five years or by the age of 19.

Burke, Nichols best for Madison schools; “More Independence & a Fresh Perspective”

Wisconsin State Journal

A sense of urgency distinguishes Mary Burke and Nichelle Nichols in the spring election for Madison School Board.
Madison “can’t accept another 20 years of snail’s pace” on narrowing the achievement gap, says Nichols, a mother of four African-American boys and vice president of education and learning for the Urban League of Greater Madison.
Burke, a longtime child advocate in Madison who served as state Commerce secretary and a Trek bicycle executive, says: “I want to be part of that positive change” that’s so critical in the Madison district.
The State Journal endorses Nichols in Seat 1 and Burke in Seat 2 on the April 3 ballot.
All of the candidates for the Madison School Board offer passion for public education. All are impressive individuals committed to helping more young people succeed.
Yet Burke and Nichols are more convincing when they say they will always prioritize the needs of students above all else.

Seat 1 Candidates:
Nichelle Nichols
email: nnichols4mmsd@gmail.com
Arlene Silveira (incumbent)
email: arlene_Silveira@yahoo.com
Seat 2 Candidates:
Mary Burke
email: maryburkewi@gmail.com
Michael Flores
email: floresm1977@gmail.com
new Arlene Silveira & Michael Flores Madison Teachers, Inc. Candidate Q & A

Khan Academy Enters Next Era With iPad App

Gregory Ferenstein:

Khan Academy, the wildly popular YouTube lecture series, has launched its free, new iPad app in Apple’s store. The enhanced version of Khan Academy includes time-syncing between devices–no Internet connection required–an interactive transcript of the lectures for easy searching, and a handy scrubber for moving between parts of the lectures. Perhaps more importantly, now that more schools have begun adopting Khan’s lectures for their own classrooms, the iPad app could possibly replace or supplement textbooks, saving cash-strapped schools and students a lot of money.
The major benefit of the app is offline learning. “If you’re going on a road trip or if you’re taking mass transit and you don’t have cell service, or whatever, you can get the content,” says Khan Academy Lead Designer Jason Rosoff. The iPad frees Khan Academy from the constraints of a laptop and Internet connection. Rosoff says the app will remember where users left off viewing and sync progress between devices (though, for the initial version, both devices will need to connect to the Internet before going offline to sync).

Who graduates from college, who doesn’t, and why it matters.

college completion:

College Completion is a microsite produced by The Chronicle of Higher Education with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Its goal is to share data on completion rates in American higher education in a visually stimulating way. Our hope is that, as you browse around the site, you will find your own stories in the statistics and use the tools we provide to download data files; share charts through your own presentations; and comment, start conversations, or provide tips about this important topic.
This microsite is a tool to help you navigate a complex subject: which colleges do the best job of graduating their students. You can also benchmark institutions against their peers and find all the numbers you need to figure out why some colleges succeed while others fail. The site also offers plenty of links to resources for more information, as well as past and current news coverage of this topic.

A Field Guide to the Middle-Class U.S. Family

Shirley Wang:

Anthropologist Elinor Ochs and her colleagues at the University of California, Los Angeles have studied family life as far away as Samoa and the Peruvian Amazon region, but for the last decade they have focused on a society closer to home: the American middle class.
Why do American children depend on their parents to do things for them that they are capable of doing for themselves? How do U.S. working parents’ views of “family time” affect their stress levels? These are just two of the questions that researchers at UCLA’s Center on Everyday Lives of Families, or CELF, are trying to answer in their work.
By studying families at home–or, as the scientists say, “in vivo”–rather than in a lab, they hope to better grasp how families with two working parents balance child care, household duties and career, and how this balance affects their health and well-being.

Ted-Ed Launch

Chris Anderson:

Today marks a big new chapter in the TED story, as we unveil the first part of our TED-Ed initiative. Announcement. YouTube channel.
Viewed one way, it’s just the release on YouTube of a dozen short videos created for high school students and life-long learners. But we’re committed to growing this archive to hundreds of videos within a year, and I thought it would be helpful to jot down a few personal notes on why we’re doing this… …because there’s a right and a wrong way to interpret today’s launch.
The wrong way is to imagine that we believe this to be some kind of grand solution. “TED claims its new TED-Ed videos will transform education”! Er, no. We don’t.

The Reproduction of Privilege

Thomas Edsall via a kind Steve Rankin email

Instead of serving as a springboard to social mobility as it did for the first decades after World War II, college education today is reinforcing class stratification, with a huge majority of the 24 percent of Americans aged 25 to 29 currently holding a bachelor’s degree coming from families with earnings above the median income.
Seventy-four percent of those now attending colleges that are classified as “most competitive,” a group that includes schools like Harvard, Emory, Stanford and Notre Dame, come from families with earnings in the top income quartile, while only three percent come from families in the bottom quartile.
Anthony Carnevale, director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce and co-author of “How Increasing College Access Is Increasing Inequality, and What to Do about It,” puts it succinctly: “The education system is an increasingly powerful mechanism for the intergenerational reproduction of privilege.”
These anti-democratic trends are driven in part by a supposedly meritocratic selection process with high school students from the upper strata of the middle class performing better on SAT and ACT tests than those from poor and working class families.

Quality teachers count in the classroom

Esther Cepeda:

Every few months, a handful of education reform advocates push the idea that the public education system’s woes could be fixed if only there were more black or Hispanic teachers in classrooms.
You’ll surely hear this in the wake of the U.S. Department of Education’s alarming data, published last week by the Office of Civil Rights, showing that though Hispanic and black students represent 45 percent of public school populations, they account for 56 percent of students expelled under zero-tolerance school discipline policies.
Worse, black students are three and a half times more likely to be suspended or expelled than white peers, and more than 70 percent of students involved in school-related arrests or referred to law enforcement are Hispanic or African-American.

Nichols, Burke will put new energy into schools

Joann Pritchett:

Regarding the upcoming Madison School Board election, it’s time to stop hiding the achievement gap and its associated ills under the umbrella of collective bargaining. The gap and other stated concerns existed long before this governor’s assault on collective bargaining.
Instead of addressing these problems head on, Arlene Silveira attempts to curry favor by campaigning on a slogan of how many times she walked around the Capitol demonstrating against the governor and the Legislature. There were countless others (myself included) exhorting those same sentiments.
Her accomplishments during the last three years as a general board member and three years as board chairwoman haven’t addressed the achievement gap. Where was that “leadership and experience” that she now hails as her trademark? Our children cannot be held hostage while Silveira works on an employee handbook (her first priority).
Nichelle Nichols and Mary Burke will provide desperately needed new voices, perspectives and strategies to the board. These include criteria and measurable outcomes that lead to the behavioral changes and best practices that we expect and that are worthy of our investment as we prepare the next generation.

Seat 1 Candidates:
Nichele Nichols
email: nnichols4mmsd@gmail.com
Arlene Silveira (incumbent)
email: arlene_Silveira@yahoo.com
Seat 2 Candidates:
Mary Burke
email: maryburkewi@gmail.com
Michael Flores
email: floresm1977@gmail.com
new Arlene Silveira & Michael Flores Madison Teachers, Inc. Candidate Q & A

Silveira’s commitment merits another term

Amy Noble:

Challenges coming before the Madison School Board in the next two years include changing the way we educate students of color, working with a staff no longer represented by a contract and approving a budget.
As a taxpayer, a parent and a Madison School District employee, I need a School Board member I can really trust to listen, think and then listen some more during these challenging times. I can trust Arlene Silveira.
I first encountered her in 2004 when she ran a meeting about proposed redistricting to relieve crowding at some of our elementary schools. Silveira was PTO president for Leopold Elementary at that time.
She has made a life commitment to learn about the work of educating children and make quality education happen in Madison. She has courage and a just and kind heart.
She will fight for public education with her actions, not just her words. How many School Board members did you see at the recall training? Arlene was at the one I attended.
I appreciate the hard choice she made when she decided to stick it out and run again. I have complete trust and confidence in her. I celebrate her courage to run again and I will stay with her. Vote for Silveira on April 3.

Seat 1 Candidates:
Nichele Nichols
email: nnichols4mmsd@gmail.com
Arlene Silveira (incumbent)
email: arlene_Silveira@yahoo.com
Seat 2 Candidates:
Mary Burke
email: maryburkewi@gmail.com
Michael Flores
email: floresm1977@gmail.com
new Arlene Silveira & Michael Flores Madison Teachers, Inc. Candidate Q & A

Budgets & Collective Bargaining: Madison School Board Candidates Q & A

Michael Flores and Mary Burke @ Isthmus
Nichelle Nichols & Arlene Silveira @ Isthmus Seat 1 Candidates:
Nichele Nichols
email: nnichols4mmsd@gmail.com
Arlene Silveira (incumbent)
email: arlene_Silveira@yahoo.com
Seat 2 Candidates:
Mary Burke
email: maryburkewi@gmail.com
Michael Flores
email: floresm1977@gmail.com
new Arlene Silveira & Michael Flores Madison Teachers, Inc. Candidate Q & A

Madison School Board rates Superintendent Nerad barely ‘proficient’;

Matthew DeFour:

If Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad’s job performance were judged like a student taking the state achievement test, he would score barely proficient, according to the Madison School Board’s most recent evaluation.
The evaluation, completed last month and released to the State Journal under the state’s Open Records Law, reveals the School Board’s divided view of Nerad’s performance.
School Board President James Howard said he expects the board to vote later this month on whether to extend Nerad’s contract beyond June 2013. The decision has been delayed as Nerad’s achievement gap plan is reviewed by the public, Howard said.
Soon after that plan was proposed last month, Howard said he would support extending Nerad’s contract. Now, Howard says he is uncertain how he’ll vote.
“It’s probably a toss-up,” he said. “There’s a lot of issues on the table in Madison. It’s time to resolve them. All this kicking-the-can-down-the-road stuff has to stop.”
Nerad said he has always welcomed feedback on how he can improve as a leader.

Related: Notes and links on Madison Superintendent hires since 1992.

Madison Superintendent Art Rainwater’s recent public announcement that he plans to retire in 2008 presents an opportunity to look back at previous searches as well as the K-12 climate during those events. Fortunately, thanks to Tim Berners-Lee’s World Wide Web, we can quickly lookup information from the recent past.
The Madison School District’s two most recent Superintendent hires were Cheryl Wilhoyte [Clusty] and Art Rainwater [Clusty]. Art came to Madison from Kansas City, a district which, under court order, dramatically increased spending by “throwing money at their schools”, according to Paul Ciotti:

2008 Madison Superintendent candidate public appearances:

The Madison Superintendent position’s success is subject to a number of factors, including: the 182 page Madison Teachers, Inc. contract, which may become the District’s handbook (Seniority notes and links)…, state and federal laws, hiring practices, teacher content knowledge, the School Board, lobbying and community economic conditions (tax increase environment) among others.
Superintendent Nerad’s reign has certainly been far more open about critical issues such as reading, math and open enrollment than his predecessor (some board members have certainly been active with respect to improvement and accountability). The strings program has also not been under an annual assault, lately. That said, changing anything in a large organization, not to mention a school district spending nearly $15,000 per student is difficult, as Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman pointed out in 2009.
Would things improve if a new Superintendent enters the scene? Well, in this case, it is useful to take a look at the District’s recent history. In my view, diffused governance in the form of more independent charter schools and perhaps a series of smaller Districts, possibly organized around the high schools might make a difference. I also think the District must focus on just a few things, namely reading/writing, math and science. Change is coming to our agrarian era school model (or, perhaps the Frederick Taylor manufacturing model is more appropriate). Ideally, Madison, given its unparalleled tax and intellectual base should lead the way.
Perhaps we might even see the local Teachers union authorize charters as they are doing in Minneapolis.

Is University of Wisconsin Education Becoming More Elite? A Partial Answer

John Witte & Barbara Wolfe, via a kind Richard Askey email:

There is considerable concern in Wisconsin and other states that accessibility to colleges and universities is becoming more elite; that due to rising costs of education and rising standards for admission universities are increasingly serving only those from higher income families. For example an article in the Christian Sciences Monitor in August of this year entitled “Too Few low income students?” stated that “about 50 percent of low-income students enroll in college right after high school, compared with 80 percent of high income students” and go on to state that the rate of high achieving low income students is about that of high income students that have far lower achievement scores1. William Bowen, Martin Kurzwell and Eugene Tobin note in their book that students in the bottom quartile of family income make up only 11 percent of elite college enrollment and receive no advantage from college admission programs; they call for an affirmative action program directed at low income applicants to promote equal opportunity and increase economic growth2. In this paper we use family income of University of Wisconsin- Madison applicants and those admitted over more than three decades to shed light on whether there has been a decline of opportunity to attend elite institutions among those with limited family incomes. As the premier public university in the state, this profile can serve more generally to provide insight on the issue of increasing elitism of premier public universities.
How accessible are the best public institutions to students from different socioeconomic groups? And, given the debates about financial aid that have been occurring at both the national and state, it is important to know: (a) How has access to the University of Wisconsin-Madison changed in terms of family income during the last three decades? (b) Are the patterns different for those within the state compared to those from outside the state? (c) Is there an income difference between those admitted and rejected for admission? And (d) What is the trend in the rate of applicants being admitted? This study addresses these questions.
Data on family income of applicants to specific colleges and universities are difficult to acquire. The most common sources are the income questions that students answer when completing ACT or SAT examinations. For a number of reasons these responses are probably woefully inaccurate. There is evidence from other studies that students simply do not have accurate information on family income. Universities could include income information on application forms, but most do not (including UW-Madison). Detailed income and asset data are included on the federal financial aid application form (FAFSA), but only students applying for financial aid complete those forms.

Many high schools still not offering rigorous enough curriculum, report says

Crystal Bonvillian:

Though high school students benefit from a rigorous high school curriculum, equal access to advanced programs still plague many schools across the country, a report released Wednesday shows.
The report, “Is High School Tough Enough,” was released by the National School Boards Association’s Center for Public Education. The center is a national resource for information about public schools, providing research, data and analysis on current education issues.
The report indicates that more than 3,000 high schools in the United States fail to offer classes in Algebra II, a basic component of rigorous curriculum, a news release from the center said.
It also found that two-fifths of high school graduates “are not adequately prepared” by their high school education for entry-level jobs or college-level courses, according to a survey of college instructors and employers.

A report excerpt: Is high school tough enough: Full report:

A closer look at “a rigorous curriculum”
While many decry the lack of rigor in the high school curriculum, it is difficult to find consensus about what rigor is. Dictionary definitions of the word refer to strictness and severity, but when referring to academic rigor, many educators use phrases such as “challenging content” and “competitive curriculum.” Educators, researchers and organizations have defined academic rigor in a number of ways:

  • Rigor is “the need for high school core courses to focus on the essential knowledge and skills needed for success in postsecondary education.” (ACT, 2007)
  • Rigor is “a demanding yet accessible curriculum that engenders critical-thinking skills as well as content knowledge.” (social research group MDRC as quoted in Hechinger Institute, 2009)
  • Rigor means that students should “raise questions, think, reason, solve problems and reflect.” (former Atlanta Superintendent Beverly L. Hall as quoted in Hechinger Institute, 2009)
  • A rigorous curriculum is “focused, coherent, and appropriately challenging.” (Michigan State Professor William Schmidt as quoted in Hechinger Institute, 2009)

State and local education agencies also worked to define rigor, most notably through the Common Core State Standards Initiative, a state-led effort coordinated by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). After a lengthy development process, a set of standards were released in June 2010, and the vast majority of states have now adopted the standards, which “provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn” in grades kindergarten through 12. According to the Common Core Standards Web site, the standards are aligned with “college and work expectations,” and “include rigorous content and application of knowledge through high-order skills.” At this writing, 46 states and the District of Columbia have adopted the common core standards (For more information, see http://www.corestandards.org).

SEVENTY per cent of beef contains ‘pink slime’… and 7million pounds of it is set to go into school meals

Daily Mail Reporter:

After an outcry over the use of ‘pink slime’ in restaurants, leading fast-food chains promised to stop using the chemically treated meat.
But the ammonia-infused beef is not yet off American dinner tables, as it has been revealed that 70 per cent of supermarket mince contains the substance.
And the use of pink slime is also set to extend to children’s meals, as the federal government plans to buy 7million pounds of the meat to serve in U.S. schools.

Rochester Student: Frederick Douglass essay led to ostracism

Tiffany Lankes:

When school officials handed out copies of The Narrative Life of Frederick Douglass, they said they hoped students would connect with the abolitionist’s struggle learning to read at a time when African-Americans were largely prohibited from becoming literate.
That’s exactly what 13-year-old Jada Williams did, drawing a parallel between Douglass’ experience and those of many of her classmates in the City School District. And in an essay that she turned in at School 3, she compared illiteracy among city school students — about 75 percent cannot read at a level appropriate for their age — to a modern day form of slavery.
“When I find myself sitting in a crowded classroom where no real instruction is taking place I can say history does repeat itself,” Jada recently read from her essay. “The reality of this is that most of my peers can not read, and therefore comprehend the materials that have been provided. So I feel like not much has changed. Just different people. Different era. The same old discrimination still resides in the hearts of the white man.”

Labor unions rethinking their role in politics: The influential AFL-CIO almost certainly will endorse Obama for reelection, but many unions are increasingly financing their own efforts instead of writing large checks to the Dem. Party and its candidates

Matea Gold and Melanie Mason:

As top union leaders gather in Florida on Tuesday to determine labor’s political strategy this year, the influential AFL-CIO appears poised to endorse President Obama’s reelection — despite some lingering dissatisfaction with his record.
But the way in which unions back him and other Democrats this year is likely to take a very different form than in past campaigns.
Concluding they need to be more independent of the Democratic Party, many unions are increasingly financing their own efforts instead of writing large checks to candidates and the party.
The shift in tactics is already apparent in this election season: Labor political action committees gave federal Democratic candidates and committees $21 million last year, a drop of 20% from the same period in the 2008 election, according to data provided by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. Several major unions, as well as the AFL-CIO itself, now have their own “super PACs,” independent political organizations that can raise unlimited funds.

X Prize Founder, at SXSW, Seeks Ideas to Fix Education

George Anders:

Peter Diamandis wants help. The man whose X Prizes have spurred breakthrough ideas in areas such as space travel and oil-spill cleanup aims to launch a similar initiative to help fix the U.S. educational system. But as he told an audience this past weekend at the SXSW Interactive festival, he isn’t sure how to do it.
Diamandis is best-known for creating the Asari X prize in 1996. That award dangled a $10 million payoff to whoever could build a vehicle capable of taking off from earth, flying a three-person crew 100 kilometers above the planet’s surface, returning to ground — and then repeating the mission within two weeks. Some 26 teams competed to win that award, spending more than $100 million in total. A winner emerged in 2004.
Since then, Diamandis hasn’t encountered much trouble coming up with other tech-centered prize ideas — or companies to sponsor those quests. His X Prize Foundation lists 26 employees on its Web site. It currently is overseeing contests centered on goals such as sending an unmanned rover to the moon.

Slashdot discussion.

Educator upbeat about big changes at Milwaukee Public Schools

Alan Borsuk:

Alan Coulter says he’ll miss Milwaukee.
“I have a deep affection for the city of Milwaukee that I did not have when this began,” he said on the phone. “I talk up Milwaukee whenever I can.”
And he talks up what is going on in Milwaukee Public Schools and the work of its leadership, starting with Superintendent Gregory Thornton.
The generally upbeat tone of Coulter in our conversation last week was not something I forecast at the beginning Coulter referred to – when the Louisiana State University professor arrived in 2009 as the “special expert” appointed by a federal judge to oversee implementation of major changes in Milwaukee Public Schools resulting from a lawsuit over special education that became known as the Jamie S. case.
The scope of the suit grew to cover a wide swatch of what MPS does. Coulter was in a position of such weight that I sometimes semi-jokingly referred to him as the shadow superintendent of MPS.

Madison Teachers’, Inc President Coyne and MTI Activist Kathryn Burns take Political Experience to Japan

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

The Osaka Social Forum (OSF) is “a coalition of citizens’ groups, trade unions and other issue-oriented groups” in the Osaka and Kansai region, which includes Kyoto and Kobe, in Japan. A four day Pre Forum planning session was held February 24-27 and, at the request of OSF, MTI President Peg Coyne (Black Hawk) and MTI activist Kathryn Burns (Shorewood) were guest speakers and participants in the forum, sharing the stories of the “Wisconsin Uprising”. The Japanese organizers wanted to benefit from MTI’s leadership in fighting Governor Walker’s anti-public worker legislation. As Mr. Yoshihide Kitahata, a forum organizer, OSF host and translator, explained, “It is very difficult to bring the many groups together in Japan, and we want to hear about the struggles against harsh attacks on public education and trade union rights in Wisconsin.”
A series of meetings held in Osaka and Kyoto featured a video produced by Labor Beat and Osamu Kimura, a former Japanese high school teacher and current documentarian; and speeches with question and answer sessions by Coyne and Burns. Many observed that current mayor and former governor of the Osaka Prefecture, Toru Hashimoto, seems to be “taking pages out of Wisconsin Governor Walker’s play book.” Mayor Hashimoto and his backers are proposing 40% pay cuts for city bus drivers, threatening to throw the office of the city workers’ union out of city hall and has introduced an ordinance requiring teachers to stand and sing the national anthem at all school functions. The Mayor’s proposed ordinance “proposes to choose principals by open recruitment and incorporates a clause to dismiss teachers who refuse to stand while singing the Kimigayo national anthem at school functions.”
Coyne and Burns heard stories of teachers fired over the national anthem issue. Ms. Msako Iwashita, a retired high school social studies teacher, said that 200 of her students followed her lead and refused to stand as the flag was raised and the anthem played at a high school graduation. Ms. Iwashita, whose business card displays the words, “Hope, Peace and Article 9” explains that many citizens and older teachers, in particular, are distressed that the government did not replace the rising sun flag and Kimigayo after World War II. It is felt that these two symbols of Japan’s aggression against neighboring Asian countries and the United States are an embarrassment and too militaristic for a modern country that espouses peace. (Article 9 is a Constitutional Agreement that declares Japan’s commitment to peace and refusal to engage in weapons build up.)

Writing Tips for the Gifted Student

Perhaps the first caution to note on this subject is that when giving advice to the gifted, it is wise to remember that they are gifted, and should not be loaded up with unnecessary advice. In fact, my own first preference in encouraging gifted students to do academic expository writing (e.g. history research papers) is to give them the papers of other gifted students to read. This way the goal becomes clear in a way that it often does not when one starts with buckets and bags of technical advice on “How To Write a Paper.”
One problem is that by the time one has gone through all the advice about footnotes, endnotes, bibliography, plagiarism, etc., any motivation to write a paper will very sensibly have evaporated, in all likelihood.
Like other people, gifted students like to see if there is any point in doing something, in this case, writing a long serious academic research paper. I believe that the point is best illustrated by showing them what the finished product looks like, and, by having them read some exemplary papers by their peers, showing them how very interesting serious history can be, even to people their age.

To follow my own advice, and to do unto you as I would have you do unto gifted students, allow me to place a sample of such writing here (from a 6,904-word paper written by a New York ninth-grader who later graduated from Harvard):

“Within this nineteenth-century intellectual context, Cesare Lombroso’s work greatly influenced how Europe’s criminologists and jurists perceived criminals. L’Uomo Delinquente (“The Criminal Man”), published in 1876, was the most influential of his many publications. It was so popular and well regarded that it grew from two hundred pages in its first edition to over three thousand in its fifth. A later work, Le Crime, Causes et Rémédies, ‘Crime, Its Causes and Remedies,’ published in 1899, was also highly influential. By the 1880s he had gained world renown through his studies and theories in the field of characterology, the relation between mental and physical characteristics, criminal psychopathy, the innate tendency of individuals toward sociopathy and criminal behavior. Lombroso’s conclusions stimulated debate among academics, lawyers, judges, prison directors, all those interested in public policy, as well as the general public. In fact, criminal anthropology, the field Lombroso created, received such attention that it was the focus of an international conference every four years for over three decades before World War I.
Extraordinary amounts of documentation in the form of pages of statistics and illustrations strongly influenced readers to believe “that many of the characteristics found in savages and among the coloured races are also to be found in habitual delinquents.” Lombroso used statistics so well that many scientists accepted his conclusion that criminality is biological. Although Lombroso’s theories have now been discredited, they had mass appeal at the turn of the century.
While his ideas were widely popular, Lombroso’s many credentials helped to establish his influence with professional colleagues. Cesare Lombroso, born on November 6, 1835, in Verona, Italy, studied at the universities of Padua, Vienna, and Paris (1862-1876). In 1876 he became a professor of psychiatry, forensic medicine, and hygiene at the University of Pavia. Moving to the University of Turin, he held professorships in psychiatry from 1896 and in criminal anthropology from 1906. He also directed a mental asylum in Pesaro, Italy. Lombroso died on October 19, 1909, in Turin, Italy.
Originally, Lombroso became involved with the classification of criminals after being assigned to do a post-mortem on a criminal named Vilella, who had died in the insane asylum in Pavia. While examining Vilella’s skull, Lombroso discovered an abnormality common to lower apes, rodents, and birds. Lombroso named this abnormality the “median occipital fossa.” Later, Lombroso recognized the importance of his discovery…”

And for those of you who got interested in the story, as I did when I was publishing this paper, here is the conclusion:

“Lombroso may have been refuted by science, but his influence on popular culture remains.
Why does this pseudo-science from the nineteenth century remain so powerful at the end of the twentieth century? Lombroso gave society a visual key for identifying people it feared. It is likely that Lombroso’s descriptions caused “nice people” to avoid tattoos, gentlemen to be either clean-shaven or to have well-kept beards, and good citizens to avoid obviously excessive drinking. Perhaps part of the 1960s antagonism to the hippie movement came from Lombrosian antagonism to unkempt hair and tattoos, especially on women. These were also easy visual signals to identify “bad” people. Even today, people want easy visual keys to identify villains. For instance, after Littleton, many school districts have banned the wearing of black trenchcoats, as if trenchcoats have anything to do with murder. Lombroso’s influence remains because people look for easy answers to complex problems.
Darwin’s The Origin of Species had an extraordinary effect on nineteenth-century attitudes toward man, society, and science. His empirical model required observations over many examples to test hypotheses and to come to validated conclusions that support overall theoretical claims. While Darwin’s work has become influential for many modern sciences from biology to geology to physics, Lombroso’s is no longer considered valid. On the other hand, the questions Lombroso sought to answer–and those which arose from his studies–remain very modern concerns. As Tolstoy wrote in Resurrection in 1899:
‘He also came across a tramp and a woman, both of whom repelled him by their half-witted insensibility and seeming cruelty, but even in them he failed to see the criminal type as described by the Italian school of criminology….’
He bought the works of Lombroso, Garofalo, Ferri, Liszt, Maudsley, and Tarde, and read them carefully. But as he read, he became more and more disappointed…He was asking a very simple thing: Why and by what right does one class of people lock up, torture, exile, flog, and kill other people when they themselves are no better than those whom they torture, flog, and kill? And for answer he got arguments as to whether human beings were possessed of free will or not. Could criminal propensities be detected by measuring the skull, and so on? What part does heredity play in crime? Is there such a thing as congenital depravity?
It is a hundred years since Tolstoy’s hero posed these questions, a hundred years in which we have sought ways to use science to identify criminals and prevent crime. Our understanding of science has dramatically increased and Lombroso’s fame has largely died, but answers to these questions remain just as pressing.”
(endnote citations removed–Ed.)

In my view, the chances of getting a student to write to a history/story/analysis like this, by starting with the mechanics of the well-written essay, are slim to less than slim. I can’t see any historian beginning any history with a study or review of the techniques of the properly-constructed history book.

This is not to throw out those babies of some instructional value with all the bathwater of pedagogical technique. Of course it is important for students to have an outline, take notes in their readings, construct their endnotes and bibliographies in the accepted (Chicago) manner, and so on.
It is my contention that, in order to inspire students to do the hard work of research and writing necessary to produce a good, scholarly, readable history paper, one should start by encouraging them to read history, perhaps starting with some of the better work of others their age who have written successful history papers already.

Too often, it seems to me, the step of having students read history to find out how interesting it can be, and the next step of having them read about a topic in history on which they think they might want to write a paper are the most important ones.

After the motivation to read and report on some historical topic is in place, and a strong first draft is written, then the gods of Rhetorical Correctness can descend and do their duties. But it is not possible to repair a paper written with little research and no enthusiasm, using writing pedagogy alone.
I once talked to a Teachers College expert on reading and writing about the importance of content (knowledge, subject matter, et al) in writing, and she, who had been called, in a national publication, “The Queen of Reading and Writing,” said to me: “I teach writing, I don’t get into content that much.” Here beginneth the death of academic expository writing in the schools.
Educators in the United States talk a lot about “critical thinking,” but I, along with others, believe it is easier to learn and practice thinking of any sort if there is something to think about. If the student has almost no knowledge, then they have almost nothing to think about. When it comes to writing a research paper, if the students has learned a lot about their subject, then when they see whether they have done a good job of presenting what they have learned, that will inspire them to think more about it, and to re-write their paper so it does the job they wanted to do better.
Another difficulty in the United States is that reading and writing in the schools is almost universally in the hands of the English Department, and that means the reading will be fiction and the writing will be personal, creative, or the five-paragraph essay. This set of practices tends to shrink the educators’ vision of the capacities of high school students, so when they see the sort of writing in the following excerpt (from a 7,900-word paper by a New York tenth-grader who later graduated from Harvard and Cambridge), they regard it as the work of some freak and decide it surely has no bearing on the level of expectations in writing they have for their own students:

“Keynes also discusses in The General Theory the danger of excessive saving (which he had emphasized earlier in his Treatise on Money). If an individual saves a greater amount than can be invested by businesses, he or she is failing to return income to the community and the result will be a contraction of the incomes even further. Because of the marginal propensity to consume, everyone else’s savings will also contract. The result will not even be a gain in total savings. Because savings and investment are carried out by different groups in our society, it is often possible that individuals will save more than can be invested. Therefore, thriftiness could lead to a decline in total savings.
The discussions in The General Theory of the marginal propensity to consume, the multiplier, and savings all point to the fact that investment must be increased to increase income and employment. According to Keynes, investment is determined by two considerations–the expected yield of the investment and the rate of interest on the money borrowed for the investment. Economists before Keynes (and also Keynes in his Treatise on Money) believed that excess savings will bring down interest and encourage investment. But Keynes makes the crucial observation that a shortage in investment will cause a decrease in income and, because of marginal propensity to consume, a decrease in savings, which will raise interest rates and further discourage investment. If there is insufficient investment, people will not be able to save as much as they had in the past; in fact, they will begin to use up their past savings. Because of this, even before The General Theory, Keynes advocated the reduction of interest rates by the government to both reduce savings and raise investment. But for Keynes, in The General Theory, even that reduction of interest rates would not be enough to reduce savings or stimulate investment sufficiently. According to Keynes, if certain conditions exist, especially in a depression, a reduction in interest will have little effect on savings. If there was a rise in liquidity preference (people’s desire for cash), such as might be brought about by falling prices, savings would not be reduced no matter how low the interest was. And decreased interest rates would not have a great effect on investment because of the second consideration that affects investment–expectation. The expected yield of the investment is extremely unpredictable. Keynes said of the factors that influence output and employment, “of these several factors it is those which determine the rate of investment which are most unreliable, since it is they which are influenced by our views of the future about which we know so little.” Keynes’s conclusions that neither interest rates nor expected proceeds could sufficiently encourage investment led him to his final conclusion that unemployment could exist at equilibrium–unemployment would not fix itself, and government intervention was necessary to increase employment.
In The General Theory, Keynes contrasts his main arguments with the traditionally held “classical” beliefs. The General Theory is filled with passages in which Keynes shows the inadequacies of what he calls the “postulates of the classical theory.” According to Keynes, “the classical economists” is a name traditionally given to Ricardo, James Mill, and economists before them. Keynes, however, says that he has also come to call more recent economists who “adopted and perfected the theory of Ricardian economics” classical. These economists include John Stuart Mill, and closer to Keynes’s time, Alfred Marshall and Arthur Pigou. Unlike some heretical economists of the past, Keynes had been brought up on classical ideas and had, in fact, remained consistent with them in most of his writings before The General Theory. Keynes’s father, John Neville Keynes, was a noted economist at Cambridge University. And when Keynes attended King’s College at Cambridge, he was a student of Marshall and Pigou, whom Keynes included in his definition of classical economists. Thus Keynes was doubtless taught classical theory from his childhood through the time that he was a student…” (endnote citations removed–Ed.)

It should be said again that these are quite brief excerpts from history papers of 6,000 to almost 8,000 words by students in the ninth and tenth grades. I have published 791 (1,000) such papers by high school students from 35 (39) countries in the last 20 (25) years, and these students have greatly exceeded the expectations I started with in 1987. However, if I had decided to publish the standard five-paragraph essays or the short little “college essays” required by college admissions officers, naturally I would never have discovered what high school students could do.
Which leads me to state another caution when dealing with gifted students. It is important not to try to decide in advance what they are capable of doing. If, in the case of history research papers at the high school level, the choice of topic is left up to the student and there is no specified length, the result will be, in my experience, a huge variety of interesting and serious historical topics, and the longest paper I have published, by a twelfth-grader in this case, was a bit over 22,000 words.
Educators who are accustomed to defining assignments in advance might want to consider my experience, especially when suggesting work for gifted students. Of course, 22,000-word papers take much longer for the teacher to read and comment on, but we might want to make assignments that test the academic efforts and capacities of students rather than choosing them for their demands on us.
Another thing to keep in mind about these gifted students, while we wonder how much to teach them about outlining, note-taking, endnotes and bibliography, is that these are the same students who are taking honors physics and chemistry and preparing for Calculus BC exams. They are not stupid, and they can pick up what they need to know about endnotes et al, in a few moments, especially if they have models in front of them.
They do not need a semester of Writing Techniques Instruction before they pick a topic and start reading about it. We must remind ourselves not to load them up with our own limitations. In addition, they are quite capable of asking questions to find out what they need to do when presenting a research paper. They have been doing that (asking questions), often to the irritation of the adults around them, since they were little kids, after all.
It is also important, at least when working with gifted high school students doing history research papers, to stay out of their way.
“Teach by Example”
Will Fitzhugh [founder]
Consortium for Varsity Academics® [2007]
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National Writing Board [1998]
TCR Institute [2002]
730 Boston Post Road, Suite 24
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Lunch with Charles Murray

Edward Luce:

At the same time, the elites in America have become so tolerant – afflicted with such “ecumenical niceness”, as Murray calls it – that they cannot bring themselves to “preach what they practise”. Partly because of their moral squeamishness, they tend to shield their children against even the tiniest risks in life, Murray says, including mixing with Americans from less fortunate backgrounds.
“There’s a big difference between being good and being nice,” Murray says as he works on his gin martini. “Being good involves tough choices – tough love. Ecumenical niceness is just pabulum. It’s as if, in all our interactions, parents are trying to stop our kids eating food off the floor, when that is what would inoculate them against far costlier things later on in life.”
Because of all this risk-aversion, he continues, the elites are more cut-off from mainstream American culture than ever before. In the 1960s, America’s wealthy brought Buicks rather than Cadillacs, which were then the flashiest cars on the market. They may have been rich but their tastes were still middle-class. Today, they have abandoned such “seemliness”. There is no pretence of sharing a culture with fellow Americans.

Narrowing the New Class Divide

Charles Murray:

THERE’S been a lot of commentary from all sides about my recently published book, “Coming Apart,” which deals with the divergence between the professional and working classes in white America over the last half century.
Some of the critiques are fair, some are frivolous. But there’s one — “He doesn’t offer any solutions!” — that I can’t refute. The reason is simple: Solutions that are remotely practicable right now would not do much good.
The solution I hear proposed most often, a national service program that would bring young people of all classes together, is a case in point. The precedent, I am told, is the military draft, which ended in the early 1970s. But the draft was able to shape unwilling draftees into competent soldiers because Army officers had the Uniform Code of Military Justice to make their orders stick.

Students on course with technical skills

Erin Richards:

On a morning that would otherwise be spent in class at Bradley Tech High School, nine teens were sanding, grinding, measuring and painting this week aboard the Great Lakes schooner the S/V Denis Sullivan, docked off Canal St. on the Menomonee River.
When times were good and grants were more generous, the tall ship wintered in southern Florida, but it’s stayed in Milwaukee for the past three years.
A new program called Schooner Boatworks, supported by several grants and Discovery World at Pier Wisconsin, has made the most of that situation for the past two years by allowing about 20 Bradley Tech students to work on the ship for 2 1/2 hours each Tuesday for 12 weeks during their second semester.
Students learn technical skills and collaborate on projects under the guidance of the ship’s full-time captain and engineer, and they do weekly writing assignments about their experiences. A proper sail on the Sullivan at the end of the school year tops off the experience. Participants have to maintain at least a C average and good attendance.

Insight: Public schools sell empty classroom seats abroad

Stephanie Simon:

There are just seven pairs of boots lined up outside the kindergarten classroom in this fading farm town. Just eight crayon drawings are taped to the wall outside second grade.
Enrollment is dropping at the Grant-Deuel School, as at so many rural schools. Fewer students means less state funding and a slow extinction.
But Superintendent Grant Vander Vorst has an improbable plan to save his little school on the prairie – by turning it into a magnet for wealthy foreign students. This year, 11 students from China, Thailand, Germany and elsewhere account for nearly 20% of high school enrollment, bringing cash and a welcome splash of diversity to an isolated patch of the Great Plains.
Grant-Deuel is not alone. Across the United States, public high schools in struggling small towns are putting their empty classroom seats up for sale.

Student loan debt soaring, UW regents told

Karen Herzog:

Average student loan debt at graduation from Wisconsin’s public universities is now more than five times what it was 30 years ago, rising from just less than $5,000 in 1982 to $27,000 in 2011, officials said Thursday.
Tuition at state universities is dramatically outpacing inflation, while state aid to students is dropping and parents are struggling in a tough economy to pay their share of the bills, Mark Nook, senior vice president of academic affairs for the University of Wisconsin System, told the UW Board of Regents at a meeting in Madison.
Seventy-one percent of students attending Wisconsin public universities now take out loans to help pay for college, compared with a low of 50% in 1992-’93, Nook said.
Taking longer to finish a college degree doesn’t explain the increased debt, Nook said. Graduates with $50,000 or more debt typically are finishing their degrees within five years, he said.

Senate rejects Virginia teacher-contract bill backed by McDonnell

Olympia Meola & Jim Nolan:

For a second time, the Virginia Senate has rejected Gov. Bob McDonnell’s proposed overhaul of public school teacher and principal contracts, sending it back to committee and likely dealing a fatal blow to a key piece of his K-12 education agenda for the session.
With two days left before Saturday’s scheduled adjournment, senators voted 23-17 on a motion by Sen. Emmett W. Hanger Jr., R-Augusta, to send House Bill 576 back to the Education and Health Committee for consideration next year.
Three Republicans joined 20 Democrats in the vote. In February, senators had voted 20-18 to scuttle the Senate version of the plan.
The proposal would have phased out a tenure-like contract system in favor of a three-year term contract process under which it would be easier to dismiss teachers.