Madison School District Strategic Plan Update

Madison School District 600K PDF:.
I recently attended the third annual update to the 2009 Madison School District Strategic Plan. You can follow the process via these notes and links.
I thought it might be useful to share a few observations on our local public schools during this process:

  • General public interest in the schools continues to be the exception, rather than the norm.
  • I sense that the District is more open to discussing substantive issues such as reading, math and overall achievement during the past few years. However, it does not appear to have translated into the required tough decision making regarding non-performing programs and curriculum.
  • MTI President Kerry Motoviloff recent statement that the District administration has “introduced more than 18 programs and initiatives for elementary teachers since 2009”.
  • Full teacher Infinite Campus use remains a goal, despite spending millions of dollars, money which could have gone elsewhere given the limited implementation. Unfortunately, this is a huge missed opportunity. Complete course syllabus, assignment and gradebook information would be a powerful tool when evaluating achievement issues.
  • The implementation of “standards based report cards” further derailed the Infinite Campus spending/implementation. This is an example of spending money (and time – consider the opportunity cost) on programs that are actually in conflict.
  • The District continues to use the oft criticized and very low benchmark WKCE as their measure. This, despite starting to use the MAP exam this year. Nearby Monona Grove has been using MAP for some time.
  • Three Madison School Board members attended: Mary Burke, James Howard and Ed Hughes.
  • UW-Madison school of Education dean Julie Underwood attended and asked, to my astonishment, (paraphrased) how the District’s various diversity programs were benefiting kids (and achievement)?

The only effective way forward, in my view, is to simplify the District’s core mission to reading, english and math. This means eliminating programs and focusing on the essentials. That will be a difficult change for the organization, but I don’t see how adding programs to the current pile benefits anyone. It will cost more and do less.
Less than 24 hours after I attended the MMSD’s Strategic Plan update, I, through a variety of circumstances, visited one of Milwaukee’s highest performing private/voucher schools, a school with more than 90% low income students. The petri dish that is Milwaukee will produce a far more robust and effective set of schools over the next few decades than the present monolithic approach favored here. More about that visit, soon.

Higher Education’s Online Revolution

John Chubb & Terry Moe:

The substitution of technology (which is cheap) for labor (which is expensive) can vastly increase access to an elite-caliber education.
At the recent news conference announcing edX, a $60 million Harvard-MIT partnership in online education, university leaders spoke of reaching millions of new students in India, China and around the globe. They talked of the “revolutionary” potential of online learning, hailing it as the “single biggest change in education since the printing press.”
Heady talk indeed, but they are right. The nation, and the world, are in the early stages of a historic transformation in how students learn, teachers teach, and schools and school systems are organized.
These same university leaders mentioned the limits of edX itself. Its online courses would not lead to Harvard or MIT degrees, they noted, and were no substitute for the centuries-old residential education of their hallowed institutions. They also acknowledged that the initiative, which offers free online courses prepared by some of the nation’s top professors, is paid for by university funds–and that there is no revenue stream and no business plan to sustain it.

We Should Only Hold Schools Accountable For Outcomes They Can Control

Matthew DiCarlo:

Let’s say we were trying to evaluate a teacher’s performance for this academic year, and part of that evaluation would use students’ test scores (if you object to using test scores this way, put that aside for a moment). We checked the data and reached two conclusions. First, we found that her students made fantastic progress this year. Second, we also saw that the students’ scores were still quite a bit lower than their peers’ in the district. Which measure should we use to evaluate this teacher?
Would we consider judging her even partially based on the latter – students’ average scores? Of course not. Those students made huge progress, and the only reason their absolute performance levels are relatively low is because they were low at the beginning of the year. This teacher could not control the fact that she was assigned lower-scoring students. All she can do is make sure that they improve. That’s why no teacher evaluation system places any importance on students’ absolute performance, instead focusing on growth (and, of course, non-test measures). In fact, growth models control for absolute performance (prior year’s test scores) so it doesn’t bias the results.
If we would never judge teachers based on absolute performance, why are we judging schools that way? Why does virtually every school/district rating system place some emphasis – often the primary emphasis – on absolute performance?

What Happens When Toddlers Zone Out With an iPad

Ben Worthen:

More than half of the young children in the U.S. now have access to an iPad, iPhone or similar touch-screen device. For parents, their children’s love of these devices raises a lot of questions.
Kids for years have sat too close to the television for too long or played hours of Madden on family room game players. But pediatric neuroscientists and researchers who have studied the effects of screen-time on children suggest the iPad is a different beast.
A young child will look away from a TV screen 150 times an hour, says Daniel Anderson, a professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Massachusetts. His studies over the past 30 years also showed children have trouble knowing where on a TV screen to look.

A different class: the UK expansion of Steiner schools

Jeevan Vasgar:

The number of Steiner schools is set to expand, thanks to state funding via the coalition’s ‘free schools’ policy. Their alternative approach is appealing, but do they offer a rounded education?
The school run resembles the exodus from a festival. There are vans with hippyish bumper stickers – Homeopathy Heals, says one – bouncing down a track to the sprawling car park, where women in ponchos hug their babies and chat.
Inside the Steiner Academy Hereford, which occupies a renovated Victorian school and converted farm buildings in the village of Much Dewchurch, it’s a picture of pastoral charm. There’s a babbling water feature in a courtyard lined with potted shrubs, and a pleasingly old-fashioned wooden staircase leading up to classrooms.
The kindergarten is just that – a triangular garden fringed with pine, apple and cherry trees laden with blossom where children in woolly hats sit on the ground making mud pies.

Wisconsin DPI Mathematics Education Videos

Wisconsin DPI Connected email:

Wisconsin’s alignment of Teaching Channel videos to new mathematics standards is so useful it’s being recommended on the national level.
For each of the eight skills of the Common Core State Standards for Mathematical Practice, the creators of DPI’s Mathematical Literacy website found at least one video to help teachers visualize how to address it in their classrooms.
Wisconsin’s site was created by Diana Kasbaum, the DPI’s mathematics education consultant, along with Jackie Herrmann and Becky Walker of the Appleton Area School District and Jeff Ziegler of the Madison Metropolitan School District. The Council for Chief State School Officers recommended the site in a nationwide email to help educators implement the Common Core.
The website simultaneously addresses the Common Core State Standards requirement of Disciplinary Literacy—the idea that students need subject area educators to teach them ways to read, write, think, listen, and speak that are specific to those fields. In mathematics, a team of Wisconsin educators found that the Mathematical Practice standards effectively address disciplinary literacy as well.

For our schools, is blame the only certain outcome?

Paul Fanlund:

But both are deeply concerned about what the school district’s ability to serve children, and the achievement gap is on the front burner. In the wake of a bitter fight over Madison Preparatory Academy — a proposed but ultimately rejected charter school aimed at fighting that gap — Nerad proposed a detailed achievement gap plan of his own. Even after scaling it back recently, it would still cost an additional $5.8 million next year.
And then there are the maintenance needs. “It’s HVAC systems, it’s roofs, it’s asphalt on parking lots,” Nerad says. “It’s all those things that don’t necessarily lead to a better educational outcome for young people, but it ensures that our buildings look good and people feel good about our buildings, they’re safe for children.”
He pauses, and adds, “My point is that we have a complex set of issues on the table right now.”
Madison teachers made about $20 million in voluntary pay and benefit concessions before the anti-collective bargaining law was enacted, according to district figures. But Nerad says state school support has been in relative decline for more than a decade, long before Walker’s campaign against teacher rights.


California vs. Other States

California Budget Challenge:

How does California’s budget compare to other states? California represents the ninth-largest economy in the world and its 38 million residents give it the largest population in the United States. California is not alone in its fiscal challenges.It was reported that for the 2012 fiscal year, 42 states and the District of Columbia will have a combined $103 billion shortfall. States that do not anticipate a budget shortfall include Alaska, Arkansas, Delaware, Indiana, Montana, North Dakota, West Virginia, and Wyoming (according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities). California’s projected deficit of $9.2 billion represents 10 percent of its total General Fund budget of $92.6 billion.
According to the Tax Foundation, California’s total state and local tax burden in 2009 ranks 6th, at a rate of 10.6% of per capita income compared to the national average of 9.8%. According to the California Budget Project, we ranked 10th in 2007-08 for total state and local taxes. According to the California Department of Finance, the state ranks 19th in state and local taxes and fees, at $16.42 per $100 of personal income.

Using Value-Added Analysis to Raise Student Achievement in Wisconsin

Sarah Archibald & Mike Ford:

Past attempts to improve student assessment in Wisconsin provide reasons to view current efforts with caution. The promise of additional funds, the political cover of broad committees, and the satisfaction of setting less-than ambitious goals have too often led to student assessment policies that provide little meaningful information to parents, teachers, schools and taxpayers. A state assessment system should provide meaningful information to all of these groups.
Data on student progress can make the work of teachers, students, parents, administrators and policymakers more effective. It can ensure that during the course of the school year, students make progress toward their own growth targets and those who do not are flagged and interventions are done to get those students back on track. It should not come as a surprise that to have meaningful, timely data, one must administer meaningful, timely tests, and Wisconsin is falling short in this department in a number of ways.
School-level value-added analyses of student test scores are already being calculated for all schools with third- to eighth-graders statewide by a respected institution right here in Wisconsin. This information should be used by schools and districts to raise school and teacher productivity. We should continue to explore the use of value-added at the classroom level, a necessary step to implementing the new teacher-evaluation system proposed by the DPI that is statutorily required for implementation in 2014-’15.


Wasting Time Is New Divide in Digital Era

Matt Richtel, New York Times
In the 1990s, the term “digital divide” emerged to describe technology’s haves and have-nots. It inspired many efforts to get the latest computing tools into the hands of all Americans, particularly low-income families. Those efforts have indeed shrunk the divide. But they have created an unintended side effect, one that is surprising and troubling to researchers and policy makers and that the government now wants to fix.
As access to devices has spread, children in poorer families are spending considerably more time than children from more well-off families using their television and gadgets to watch shows and videos, play games and connect on social networking sites, studies show. This growing time-wasting gap, policy makers and researchers say, is more a reflection of the ability of parents to monitor and limit how children use technology than of access to it.
“I’m not antitechnology at home, but it’s not a savior,” said Laura Robell, the principal at Elmhurst Community Prep, a public middle school in East Oakland, Calif., who has long doubted the value of putting a computer in every home without proper oversight. “So often we have parents come up to us and say, ‘I have no idea how to monitor Facebook,’ ” she said.
The new divide is such a cause of concern for the Federal Communications Commission that it is considering a proposal to spend $200 million to create a digital literacy corps. This group of hundreds, even thousands, of trainers would fan out to schools and libraries to teach productive uses of computers for parents, students and job seekers. Separately, the commission will help send digital literacy trainers this fall to organizations like the Boys and Girls Club, the League of United Latin American Citizens, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Some of the financial support for this program, part of a broader initiative called Connect2Compete, comes from private companies like Best Buy and Microsoft.
These efforts complement a handful of private and state projects aimed at paying for digital trainers to teach everything from basic keyboard use and word processing to how to apply for jobs online or use filters to block children from seeing online pornography. “Digital literacy is so important,” said Julius Genachowski, chairman of the commission, adding that bridging the digital divide now also means “giving parents and students the tools and know-how to use technology for education and job-skills training.”
F.C.C. officials and other policy makers say they still want to get computing devices into the hands of every American. That gaps remains wide — according to the commission, about 65 percent of all Americans have broadband access at home, but that figure is 40 percent in households with less than $20,000 in annual income. Half of all Hispanics and 41 percent of African-American homes lack broadband.
But “access is not a panacea,” said Danah Boyd, a senior researcher at Microsoft. “Not only does it not solve problems, it mirrors and magnifies existing problems we’ve been ignoring.” Like other researchers and policy makers, Ms. Boyd said the initial push to close the digital divide did not anticipate how computers would be used for entertainment. “We failed to account for this ahead of the curve,” she said.
A study published in 2010 by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that children and teenagers whose parents do not have a college degree spent 90 minutes more per day exposed to media than children from higher socioeconomic families. In 1999, the difference was just 16 minutes.

Continue reading Wasting Time Is New Divide in Digital Era

Schoolboy ‘genius’ solves puzzles posed by Sir Isaac Newton that have baffled mathematicians for 350 years

Jill Reilly:

A 16-year-old has managed to crack puzzles which have baffled the world of maths for more than 350 years.
Shouryya Ray has been hailed a genius after working out the problems set by Sir Isaac Newton.
The schoolboy, from Dresden, Germany, solved two fundamental particle dynamics theories which physicists have previously been able to calculate only by using powerful computers.
His solutions mean that scientists can now calculate the flight path of a thrown ball and then predict how it will hit and bounce off a wall.
Shouryya only came across the problems during a school trip to Dresden University where professors claimed they were uncrackable.
‘I just asked myself, ‘Why not?’,’ explained Shouryya.

Schools with many APs but few passing

Jay Matthews:

In the 30 years I have been studying the growth of Advanced Placement and other college-level courses in American high schools, no development has been more surprising or controversial than what I call the “Catching Up Schools.”
That is my label for about three dozen schools across the country in low-income neighborhoods that offer an unusual number of AP classes despite the fact that very few of their students are able to pass the difficult three-hour final exams.
Each year, I rate local and national high schools based on AP test participation. My latest rankings appeared this week. In 2008, I removed schools from the main lists of what we call the “High School Challenge” if their passing rates were below 10 percent. I put them on a separate “Catching Up” list. I calculated that once a school with high participation rates reached a 10 percent passing rate, it was producing as many successful AP students as a school with average participation and passing rates.

On School Choice

Jeanne Allen:

Public Money Finds Back Door to Private Schools” (front page, May 22) doesn’t mention facts and data showing that more choices in education lead to increased student achievement without doing harm to traditional public schools.
School choice programs increase student achievement and graduation rates, while costing only one-quarter of the money per child that conventional public schools do. Scholarships and tax-credit programs stimulate healthy competition that yields dramatic improvement in achievement among students of every income level.
Contrary to the article, choice programs are embraced by the largest and most diverse coalition in recent history — a coalition that includes Republican and Democratic legislators, civil rights leaders, business leaders, local officials and educators. Most important, it includes parents who want and deserve the power to choose the best school for their child.
Center for Education Reform
Washington, May 24, 2012

For-Profit Private School Is Calling Its Own Shots

Jenny Anderson:

Here are a few of the ways that Ronald P. Stewart, co-founder and headmaster of the York Preparatory School, thinks his school is different from other New York City private schools:
It has no board of directors (“why would I hire someone who could fire me?”). It accepts more than half the students who apply (“we do not seek to be the most exclusive school in Manhattan”). And after York takes $36,000 or more from parents each year, Mr. Stewart has no qualms about telling them to back off. “The student is our client,” he says.
Even the school’s origin is evidence that it is a different species. While many schools have century-old histories that began with educational or religious visionaries, Mr. Stewart, a British barrister who once defended Charles Kray, an infamous London mobster, founded the school with his wife because they wanted to work together and have their summers free to spend at a camp in Maine.

Houston Community College Helps Expand Educational Options in Qatar

Reeve Hamilton:

Ahmed Mohamed al-Hassan hit an educational glass ceiling. He needed a higher-education degree to move up the ladder at Aspire Logistics, the company that manages Doha’s massive sports complex. Although he had graduated from high school a decade before, his grade-point average was too low to enroll at Qatar University.
“There were no options,” said Mr. Hassan, 31. “If I wanted to study, I would have to leave my job.”
That changed in September 2010, however, when Qatar partnered with Houston Community College and opened the Community College of Qatar, the country’s first such college. Now, Mr. Hassan is the first in his family to go to college, mostly taking night classes as he continues to work full time.

How to count student ‘leavers’ troubles state, school districts

Jennifer Radcliffe and Silvia Struthers:

Officially, 817 Hispanic students in HISD’s class of 2010 dropped out of high school.
That’s one in every nine Hispanic students in the Houston Independent School District, but it’s a figure experts say doesn’t begin to shed light on the actual number of Latinos who fail to graduate, often hampering their futures and burdening the city.
More than 1,400 other Hispanic students disappeared from class under the auspice of enrolling in private school, starting home school or leaving the state or country.
A stunning 8 percent of all Hispanic students in the class are listed as having returned to their “home country,” according to state records.

Madison Schools Administration has “introduced more than 18 programs and initiatives for elementary teachers since 2009”

Solidarity Newsletter by Madison Teachers, Inc. (PDF):

MTI President Kerry Motoviloff addressed the Board of Education at its May 21 general meeting. At issue is the District’s plan to introduce more new programs into elementary teachers’ literacy curriculum, including Mondo and 3 new assessments. At the same time, elementary teachers are being told that they will be losing release days for the administration of K-2 testing.
Motoviloff listed more than 13 current K-5 assessments, explaining to Board members that each assessment comes with a set of non-comparable data or scores. She noted that the District has introduced more than 18 programs and initiatives for elementary teachers since 2009.
Motoviloff stressed that all teachers are concerned about the achievement gap, and that the District needs to walk its own talk relative to ensuring fidelity in the curriculum process. She challenged the District to prioritize essentials, instead of swamping teachers with initiatives while reducing teachers’ time to implement the curriculum with fidelity, and emphasized the need to include time not only for assessments, but also time for teachers to analyze and plan. She also urged the District to stop pitting professional development against planning/prep time.


I’ve long suggested that the District should get out of the curriculum/program creation business and focus on hiring the best teachers. Like it or not, Oconomowoc is changing the game by focusing efforts and increasing teacher pay. Madison, given our high per student spending and incredible community and academic resources, should be delivering world class results for all students.
I don’t see how more than 18 programs and initiatives can be implemented successfully in just a few years. I’m glad MTI President Kerry Motoviloff raised this important issue. Will the proposed “achievement gap plan” add, replace or eliminate programs and spending?
Meanwhile, Superintendent Dan Nerad’s Madison tenure, which began in 2008, appears to be quickly coming to an end.

US High School Challenge Rankings, Some Private Schools Included

Jay Matthews:

I always say “please” and “thank you.” I tip at least 20 percent. I never abuse editors or waiters. Many people have told me that I am a nice guy.
So why do so many private schools these days treat me like a loathsome intruder? They don’t actually say they wish I would drop dead, but it is clear that they don’t want to hear from me. I am asking them for information — how many graduates and Advanced Placement tests they had last year — that they consider none of my business. Thousands of public schools have provided the same data to me for the past 14 years.
For the first time, I am including a sampling of private schools in my annual high school rankings, just posted. Most people think the main difference between public and private schools is that the latter charge tuition, sometimes exceeding $30,000 a year. That’s true, but there is also a great gap in accountability to the public — particularly for parents trying to find the best school for their children — because most private schools withhold vital data about their academic programs.

Wisconsin Schools that were included on the list can be found here.
Middleton (1285) and Memorial (1385) were the only two Madison area high schools to make the list. Both were far, far down the roster.

Education Lite

When I read about education in Finland, where they accept only one of every ten applicants for teacher training, require those to earn a master’s degree in a (content) subject area, and then support them and trust them to do professional work, I have to agree with Diane Ravitch that our practices–of accepting anyone into teacher training, putting them through several years of edubabble on pedagogicalisticalism, and then treat them like untrustworthy assembly line workers whose jobs hang on each year’s student scores on bad tests–are mistaken.
We do mistrust and mistreat the teachers we have, and we have lost sight, in the race to the bottom of “objective” tests, of some very simple facts, such as that classes usually differ in their performance from year to year, even with the same teacher, and that students bear the main responsibility for their own learning.
Our teachers have responded to this dismal situation, on many occasions, by saying that the current punch-card, standardized regimens for curriculum and “assessment” (if you want to dignify it with that label) are limiting the time and opportunity for them to exercise their creativity in teaching.
Now, who, other than Samuel Johnson, who wrote that “The irregular combinations of fanciful invention may delight a-while, by that novelty of which the common satiety of life sends us all in quest, but the pleasures of sudden wonder are soon exhausted…,” could be against creativity in teaching?
The question for me, however, is how do so many seem to want to apply that creativity? Too often, in my view, it is in the service of FUN, and “hands-on” (and brains-off?) activities to entertain students in an age-appropriate and “relevant” way, to make everyone feel good about themselves, no matter how little they know and how little academic competence they have achieved.
The Chief Academic Officer of a major educational publisher recently spoke in an interview about all the Summer reading activities that could help students lose less knowledge and skill in that gap. But the emphasis, along with using a stopwatch to keep track of “reading minutes” (shades of industrial management practice), was on digital games to provide FUN. has a regular feature of suggested activities for high school students, and for some reason, they never suggest that students read a complete nonfiction book or work on a long serious history research paper, as some of their more diligent peers are doing. Instead, they recommend group games which they hope will provide, above all, relevance to teen lives, and, of course, FUN.
For comparison, think about the approach taken by high school coaches with their athletes. It is true that sometimes they urge their athletes to “have fun out there,” but it is always after hundreds of hours of grueling and un-fun training and practices. They may want their players to be “loose” and upbeat, but they mostly want them to know what they are doing and to be as competent as possible at doing it. One local sports shop where I live sells sweatshirts for high school athletes, which say “Work all Summer, Win all Fall!” And it means training work-outs, not summer employment.
I am not sure where our educators’ obsession with FUN comes from. Where went the old view that “hard work never hurt anyone”? Is it the result of laying aside the time-honored authority and role of “The Old Battleaxe,” who represented to students the goals and hopes of the community, and whose academic expectations and standards were not only high, but remembered for years after graduation, usually with profound gratitude? Perhaps too many now seek to be a good friend to students instead? They should try to remember that friends don’t let friends drive drunk, and they don’t put FUN before a teacher’s job to take academic work seriously practically all the time.
The sad thing is that usually Education Lite, with its digital games, etc. turns out not to be much FUN, and, in the end, students really do want to grow up and gain a good deal of knowledge and competence, in academics as well as in sports.
If educators labor to keep it Lite, they will rightfully earn, not the friendship of their students, but their contempt, for laying down their responsibilities, and they lose the respect of the community, as well. In Finland, a Lower Education teacher is held in high regard by the society, just a bit behind that for doctors. In the United States, it is otherwise. Where I taught, in Concord, Massachusetts, it was quite clear that while parents and others in the town thought “the world” of their teachers, they would definitely not want their son or daughter to be one, or to marry one.
Keep in mind the Disney version of Pinocchio, where he is led off to a place where he could have nothing but FUN, and was turned into a jackass. It would be nice if our teachers used their creativity on serious academic work with students, and let somebody else do the “friendly and FUN” work of turning our students into jackasses.

Are charter schools bad at special ed?

Jay Matthews:

Critics say public charter schools have an unfair advantage over regular public schools because they are less likely to have students with learning disabilities. That is not always true. Consider one D.C. charter management organization, DC Prep, with more than 1,000 students.
Its Edgewood Middle Campus, a fourth-through-eighth-grade middle school, has a larger portion of special education students than the District’s average. Seventeen percent receive services and are showing progress.
I do not mean to disparage regular D.C. schoolteachers who are doing special education work. I have seen enough programs for students with learning disabilities to know that fine work can be found at schools otherwise labeled as failing because of their low test averages.
Emily Lawson, founder and chief executive officer of DC Prep, describes her school’s methods this way:

Hard Lessons Follow Rocky Start For Chicago Teacher


Tyrese Graham is a second-year science teacher at John Marshall Metropolitan High School on the West Side of Chicago. When he started teaching there, Marshall was among the worst public schools in the city.
When Graham walked into his first class, he could hardly speak over the noise of the students. He tried to make a point by not talking.
“I’ll let you finish, but realize, every moment that I’m not talking and providing you instruction, you guys will be giving that back to me,” he told them.

College Goes to High School

Donna St. George:

They reflect a growing interest in many areas of the country to go beyond work that is college-level and try college itself.
At their school, Gaithersburg High, that’s easier to do than at most places, with eight courses taught this spring by professors in the same classrooms where students take high school English and algebra. More than a third of the class of 2012 has taken at least one college course. “It’s a boost of confidence when they say, ‘Oh, I can do this,’ ” said Principal Christine Handy-Collins.
Early college opportunities are often overshadowed by the immense popularity of Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate courses, which teach college-level material and can lead to college credit when students test well on exams. But college courses in high school are on the rise in many states, said Adam Lowe of the National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships.

Calif. schools expand lessons via computer

Christina Hoag:

Math is so popular at Ritter Elementary School in Watts that kids arrive before the morning bell and line up to do extra work before class, but it’s not the subject that’s the real attraction as much as the method–computers.
“It’s a lot more fun this way,” said 8-year-old Erica Quezada, fitting colorful cubes into a shape on her screen as another third-grader leans over to point out another way she can solve the problem.
Stand-and-deliver is increasingly giving way to point-and-click in schools across California and elsewhere as computers are being used to supplement, and in some approaches, supplant textbooks and teachers.
Known as “blended learning,” the concept has been particularly embraced by charter and independently run schools as a way to boost student achievement quickly at time when dwindling state dollars are resulting in larger class sizes and fewer programs. But it’s also generated some controversy as critics see it as a ploy to reduce teachers.

Grade Inflation at American Colleges and Universities

The figure above shows the average undergraduate GPAs for American colleges and universities from 1991-2006 based on data from: Alabama, Appalachian State, Auburn, Brown, Bucknell, Carleton, Central Florida, Central Michigan, Centre, Colorado, Colorado State, Columbia, Cornell, CSU-Fullerton, CSU-Sacramento, CSU-San Bernardino, Dartmouth, Duke, Elon, Florida, Furman, Georgia Tech, Georgetown, Georgia, Hampden-Sydney, Harvard, Harvey Mudd, Hope, Houston, Indiana, Kansas, Kent State, Kenyon, Knox, Messiah, Michigan, Middlebury, Nebraska-Kearney, North Carolina State, North Carolina-Asheville, North Carolina-Chapel Hill, North Carolina-Greensboro, Northern Iowa, Northern Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State, Pomona, Princeton, Purdue, Roanoke, Rutgers, Southern Illinois, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas State, UC-Berkeley, UC-Irvine, UCLA, UC-Santa Barbara, Utah, UW-Oshkosh, Virginia, Washington State, Washington-Seattle, Western Washington, Wheaton (IL), William & Mary, Winthrop, Wisconsin-La Crosse, and Wisconsin-Madison. Note that inclusion in the average does not imply that an institution has significant inflation. Data on the GPAs for each institution can be found at the bottom of this web page. Institutions comprising this average were chosen strictly because they have either published their data or have sent their data to the author on GPA trends over the last 11-16 years.

Mark Perry has more.

Retiring Madison Principal Colleen Lodholz says schools can’t do it alone

Todd Finkelmeyer:

After spending more than three decades working within the Madison Metropolitan School District, Colleen Lodholz is retiring next month.
Lodholz, who came to Madison 31 years ago and started her career as a speech and language clinician in special education, has served as principal of Sennett Middle School for the past nine years. In between she worked as a program support teacher in special education, picked up a second master’s degree and was an assistant principal at La Follette High School.
Before Lodholz, who is a native of Antigo, Wis., wraps up her career, she sat down with the Cap Times to share her thoughts on Madison schools, the achievement gap and political upheaval in the state, among other topics. Following is an edited transcript:
The Capital Times: What’s the biggest change you’ve noticed in the Madison schools over the past 30 years?

Washington Charter School “Plan A”

Charlie Mas:

Okay, let’s suppose – for the moment – that the money behind the charter school initiative is successful at both getting it on the ballot and getting it passed. So now Washington State has a charter school law as outlined in this document. I really encourage folks to read this document and learn what the new rules may soon be. You’d be surprised what strategies present themselves once you know the rules. If you know how to look for them, you’ll see some holes in this proposal that create opportunities to subvert the whole deal.
I don’t know if the Washington State Charter School Initiative provides much accountability, but it sure does have a lot of process. First there are authorizers. The Authorizers are the folks who can review and approve applications for the creation of charter schools and then must provide those schools with oversight. They get 4% of the school’s operating budget for these services. The law creates a new state commission which will be an authorizer. School districts, if they want to participate in their own destruction, can apply to the commission to also be authorizers.

Paul Vallas Madison Talk Notes

About 100 parents of Madison schoolchildren looked toward a longtime superintendent on Saturday for answers on how to fix the achievement gap plaguing the district.
Paul Vallas, the superintendent of the Bridgeport, Conn., school district, previously led New Orleans schools during the recovery after Hurricane Katrina. The Boys and Girls Club of Dane County brought him to La Follette High School to help answer questions about the shortcomings of Madison schools.
Parents asked questions on several topics, but mostly focused on the minority achievement gap.
“They want perfection, and the achievement gap is that one big hurdle that they’re struggling to get over,” Vallas said in an interview after the two-and-a-half hour town hall. “This is a community that cares and sometimes when people care strong enough and have different viewpoints they have a tendency to shout at each other.”

High Ed Opportunity is Bigger Than Facebook

Robert Tracinski:

That’s what is just beginning to happen. It all became official when the Massachusetts Institute of Technology appointed as its new president the guy who is responsible for MITx, the school’s free online education program.
What makes MITx so interesting is that it isn’t just a bunch of lectures posted online. It also includes discussion groups and coursework and a certification program for completion of the work. My first thought when they launched MITx was that it’s a little unclear how such a “certificate” differs from a “degree.” In turn, that raises questions about how universities are going to be able to keep on jacking up their tuition every year and expecting that students go $100,000 in debt, when so much top-quality education is becoming available for free.
The article notes that the new president’s main job will be to raise money: “Left unspoken were the unquestionable expectations for Mr. Reif as a powerhouse fund raiser. MIT raised $3 billion over the course of Ms. Hockfield’s presidency, and the university is preparing to embark on a new capital campaign.” Well, that’s one potentially viable new business model: raise billions in donations so that you can use the Internet to offer a top-quality education to a huge number of people for free.

Students scrambling to enter the world’s elite universities are turning to coaching centres for extra help, but some educators question the tactic

Elaine Yau:

Many parents hope to give their children Ivy League or Oxbridge educations. For some, such as Karen Leung, nothing else would do. A chartered accountant, Leung was far more upset than her son was when his teachers at Island School said that his academic record didn’t look strong enough to get him admitted into the law faculty at Oxford. Her son’s grades were just above average, and they had to be top-notch to get him in.
“I lost 5kg,” she says.
However, Leung refused to give up and enrolled her son in Arch Academy, a coaching centre that helps students get into top colleges in the US and Britain. She paid HK$15,000 to enrol him in a 10-session programme covering topics such as how to write a personal statement to go with his university application. It was money well spent: last year her son won a full scholarship to study law at Oxford.

Schools may be killing dialect

Simon Parry:

Education officials have been urged to review their policy of using Putonghua to teach Chinese language and literacy in Hong Kong, amid fears that Cantonese is becoming marginalised and is at risk of dying out within generations.
More than 160 of the city’s 1,025 government primary and secondary schools are using Putonghua in Chinese language lessons after a government policy encouraging a switch was introduced in 2003. Before that Cantonese had been used.

Are we asking the right questions?

Leon Neyfakh, via a kind reader’s email:

On a recent Friday morning, a classroom of teenagers at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School broke up into small groups and spent an hour not answering questions about Albert Camus’s “The Plague.” It wasn’t that the students were shy, or bored, or that they hadn’t done the reading. They were following instructions: Ask as many questions as they could, and answer none of them.
The kids wrote in rapid fire on sheets of butcher paper. “Why is everyone acting normal when people are dropping dead?” “Are the doctors aware of this great danger?” “Is there any benefit from the plague? Will it help anyone change or grow?” By the end of the exercise, the class had generated more than 100 questions and exactly zero answers.

For Would-Be Cougars, the Prom Is a Good Start

Jennifer Conlin:

RECENTLY, as I heard my daughter, a junior in high school, and her friends discuss their plans for the prom, I had a vaguely troubling thought: can a 16-year-old be a cougar?
Her best friends wanted to take boys younger than themselves (much younger … two entire grades younger) to the prom. And one of those boys just happened to be my ninth-grade son.
Back in my prom days (when the big slow dance was still “Stairway to Heaven”), I went with a boy who was not just taller than me, but older as well. O.K., I was only a few months younger than him, but that still mattered to my friends and me. We would never have even considered venturing out to the prom, let alone the school parking lot, with a boy in a lower grade, unless we were baby-sitting him.

Ending Tenure Could Alter Education Landscape in California

Stephen Frank:

What is the lawsuit filed by students against LAUSD and its policy to fire based on seniority, not quality is won?
“According to Troy Senik in the Los Angeles Times,
… teachers in California — even terrible ones — are virtually never fired. A tiny 0.03% of California teachers are dismissed after three or more years on the job. In the last decade, the L.A. Unified School District, home to 33,000 teachers, has fired only four. Even when teachers are fired, it’s seldom because of their classroom performance: A 2009 expose by this newspaper found that only 20% of successful dismissals in the state had anything to do with teaching ability. Most involved teachers behaving either obscenely or criminally.”
In LAUSD it will cost up to a million dollars to fire a teacher charged with being a pervert. Dozens of teacher for years sit in a “rubber room” at district HQ reading newspapers, playing computer games and getting full pay and benefits.

Candidate Should Get Out and Stay Out, Democratic Official Says – No Room for Dissent on Charter Schools

Erik Smith:

Apparently not even President Barack Obama could run as a Democrat in Washington’s 1st Legislative District. In a blistering email to a candidate who filed as a Democrat in a suburban King County district, Nicholas Carlson, chairman of the 1st District Democrats, says no one who supports charter schools can ever consider himself a true Democrat. And he tells candidate Guy Palumbo to get out and stay out.
“I demand you cease campaigning as a Democrat immediately,” he says.
It’s the kind of email that might make you wonder how much room there is for dissent within Democratic party ranks – at least in the area surrounding Seattle, where the party is strongest. A copy of the email, obtained by Washington State Wire, is presented in full below.

Teacher unions fight to keep clout with Democrats

Stephanie Simon:

“Education reform is really a fight for the heart and soul of the Democratic Party,” said Derrell Bradford, who runs a political group in New Jersey that recently helped elect two union-defying Democrats to the state legislature.
The reform movement’s goals include shutting down low-performing public schools; weakening or eliminating teacher tenure; and expanding charter schools, which are publicly funded but often run by private-sector managers, some of them for-profit companies.
Wealthy Democrats have joined Republicans in pouring millions into political campaigns, lobbying and community organizing to try to advance these goals nationwide. They can count on their side several influential Democratic mayors, including Newark’s Cory Booker and Chicago’s Rahm Emanuel.

The Worst Union in America: How the California Teachers Association betrayed the schools and crippled the state

Troy Senik, via a kind reader’s email:

In 1962, as tensions ran high between school districts and unions across the country, members of the National Education Association gathered in Denver for the organization’s 100th annual convention. Among the speakers was Arthur F. Corey, executive director of the California Teachers Association (CTA). “The strike as a weapon for teachers is inappropriate, unprofessional, illegal, outmoded, and ineffective,” Corey told the crowd. “You can’t go out on an illegal strike one day and expect to go back to your classroom and teach good citizenship the next.”
Fast-forward nearly 50 years to May 2011, when the CTA–now the single most powerful special interest in California–organized a “State of Emergency” week to agitate for higher taxes in one of the most overtaxed states in the nation. A CTA document suggested dozens of ways for teachers to protest, including following state legislators incessantly, attempting to close major transportation arteries, and boycotting companies, such as Microsoft, that backed education reform. The week’s centerpiece was an occupation of the state capitol by hundreds of teachers and student sympathizers from the Cal State University system, who clogged the building’s hallways and refused to leave. Police arrested nearly 100 demonstrators for trespassing, including then-CTA president David Sanchez. The protesting teachers had left their jobs behind, even though their students were undergoing important statewide tests that week. With the passage of 50 years, the CTA’s notions of “good citizenship” had vanished.

Dedication to educational opportunity is Marty Stein’s legacy

Alan Borsuk:

There is a parable about a rich man who was asked how much money he had. He answered with a large amount. But, the questioner said, you have more than that.
The rich man said the amount was how much he had given away to others. That money never will be taken away from him, he said. It was his real wealth. Everything else he had he could lose in an instant. He didn’t count money as his until he donated it.
It’s been six years since Marty Stein died, and I’m sitting in a Boys & Girls Club meeting room with nine students who are part of the Stein Scholars program that the club has been running for five years. Two of them graduated from Marquette University a week ago. The seven others are graduating from high school this spring and heading to college. There are more than 100 others in the program who have completed high school and gone on to higher education.
They are an important part of Marty Stein’s real wealth.

Time to start the conversation over charter schools in Washington state. Sign the initiative to start the conversation.

The Seattle Times:

THE charter schools ballot initiative proposed for the November election was born out of parental frustration with the Legislature’s failure to move on a key education reform.
The effort is not a Democratic strategy, although many in the party support it, but an educational strategy acknowledging that our schools aren’t working for all students. Let lawmakers and the state teachers union argue about money and control. The bottom line: Our schools need new and creative approaches.
You may soon be stopped while shopping and asked to sign the charter-schools petition. Whether you agree or disagree, help start the conversation by adding your name. Nearly 250,000 valid signatures must be collected by July 6.

Are advocacy organizations changing the politics of education?

Patrick McGuinn:

Every few weeks, a group of education reform advocacy organizations (ERAOs) gathers in Washington, D.C., to compare notes and plot strategy in what is (half in jest) referred to as “fight club.” Like the subject of the 1999 David Fincher movie, this fight club sees itself as the underdog in an epic struggle for freedom and equality. While the target of the film’s ire is consumerism, these national ERAOs and their counterparts at the state level are focused on enacting sweeping education policy changes to increase accountability for student achievement, improve teacher quality, turn around failing schools, and expand school choice. As Terry Moe documents in his recent book, Special Interest, for decades the politics of school reform have been dominated by the education establishment, the collection of teachers unions and other school employee associations derisively called the “blob” by reformers. But the past two years have witnessed an unprecedented wave of state education reforms, much of it fiercely opposed by the unions. The ERAOs played an active role in pushing for these changes, and it is clear that they are reshaping the politics of school reform in the United States in important ways. But does the reform blob really stand a chance of defeating the education blob?

School choice movement can’t give grenades to opponents

John Kirtley:

First, I want to thank Adam Schaeffer of the Cato Institute for his engaged dialogue on the vital subject of tax credit scholarship program design. I also want to say that I have been an admirer of Cato for over a decade, and even attended its wonderful “Cato University” in the late 1990’s.
The main point of my response is this: as someone who is trying to pass, grow and protect parental choice laws in Florida and across the country, I live in the real world of legislation and politics. We are trying to change something that has been the same for 150 years. Those who don’t want change are extremely powerful, well-funded, and have willing allies in the press. We have to fight hand-to-hand legislative and political combat state by state. And we can’t hand our opponents grenades with which to blow us up.
Adam is absolutely correct that you can only drive so much excellence through top-down accountability. Our scholarship organization’s president, Doug Tuthill, and I constantly talk about the “new definition” of public education we would love to see — a transformation from “East Germany” (pre-Berlin Wall fall) to “West Germany.” We see a system where end users allocate resources and choose among many providers and delivery methods – public or private. Of course I understand, as Adam asserts, that such a system will produce better results. I’m a businessman! Or at least I used to be, before this movement took most of my time. But we can’t wave a magic wand and create that transformation overnight. And as in any free market system, there is a role — though many will argue over the extent – to be played by government.

Students Complain about New Dress Code at Stuyvesant


The dress code is meant to protect students and to preserve the academic atmosphere of Stuyvesant- or so it seems. Ever since the beginning of the school year, countless students, both male and female, have clashed with the administration regarding these requirements. The conflicts have not been a result of a conscious student rebellion against the code. Rather they were an expected outcome of the administration’s faulty, subjective enforcement of the policy. Here are the experiences of a few students:

Number of the Week: Student Loan Bubble

Phil Izzo:

368%: The jump since 2007 in the measure of consumer credit held by the government comprised primarily of student loans.
If a student loan bubble were to pop, the government, not private banks, would be the one standing around with gum in its hair.
Issuance of student loans has soared in recent years, hitting $867 billion at the end of 2011, according to an analysis from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, more than credit cards or auto loans. The jump has led some to classify the student-lending market as a bubble, comparing it with the housing mess that nearly brought down the banking system in 2008.
But there are some big differences between student loans and housing. For starters, mortgage credit absolutely dwarfs lending for higher education — by nearly a 10-to-1 ratio. Troubles in an $8 trillion market pose a much higher systemic risk.

Does Tom Barrett Still Support a Milwaukee Public Schools Governance Change?

Mike Ford:

Barrett first floated the idea of a mayoral-appointed MPS school board in 2003, and actually took a serious crack at making it happen in 2009 and 2010. That effort, which was well chronicled by Alan Borsuk, could politely be described as a political train-wreck. Despite the support of Barrett, Governor Doyle, the two most powerful Democrats in the Milwaukee legislative delegation, and the editorial page of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the proposal never made it to the floor of the legislature.
At the time I failed to see much point in a governance change. Predictors of the success of such reforms, such as unity of purpose among relevant actors, were absent in Milwaukee. More troubling to me was the failure of anyone to articulate what a mayoral-appointed board could do differently than an elected one. No matter how board members came to serve, they were severely constricted by state and federal mandates as well a union contracts.

Intel Science Fair winner detects pancreatic cancer early, cheaply


Kai Ryssdal: Ahhh, the high school science fair. For most of us, it was no more than your baking soda volcano.
But for the big one — the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair — the competition is fierce. And the prizes are big: $75,000 in scholarship money to the winner and about $12,000 in cash.
The grand prize this year went to Jack Andraka, high school freshman from Crownsville, Md. It’s only a little bit of a stretch to say he’s trying to cure cancer by finding it early.
Hey Jack, how are you?
Jack Andraka: Great, how about you?

Field Guide to Connecticut Education – 2012


66% of students attending Connecticut State Universities and 73% of students attending community colleges require remedial math and/or English.
Dropouts of the Connecticut high school class of 2011 will lose more than $1.4 BILLION in lifetime earnings because they lack a high school diploma.
Related: 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.”

How did this parent end up in jail?

Julianne Hing:

Kelley Williams-Bolar is giving a speech in the dark. The Ohio mom is rattling off the standard remarks she’s delivered in public appearances since being catapulted onto the national stage last year. It’s an unseasonably warm day and the lights in the room are off, her face lit only by the glow of the computer screen in her father’s home. The address on the door outside is the one she used on her now-famous falsified documents–the ones that landed her in jail for nine days for illegally enrolling her daughters in a neighboring public school district.
“First, I talk about how I received my indictments, and then I give the laundry list of stipulations for my probation,” says Williams-Bolar, who is halfway through her two-year sentence. The 42-year-old single mother, with an otherwise spotless criminal record, is not allowed to drink, must submit to drug tests and reports monthly to a probation officer. She had to perform 80 hours of community service and pay $800 in restitution, as well as the cost of Summit County’s prosecution against her.

Appreciating the value of differentiated instruction

Stephanie Kindistin:

As teachers of the 21st century, we are all familiar with the buzzword “differentiation,” but is it just “buzz” ? I regularly hear teachers ponder the effectiveness of differentiated instruction. They raise questions such as, “Are we setting them up for success in the real world?” and “Is it worth the extra time spent to create the differentiated lesson?” These are both valid questions that could open up a lengthy debate in any crowd of teachers. My answer to both of these questions is YES!
Preparing students for success in college and the real world is a consistent focus in our field. When we think about other accomplishments in our lives that we prepared for, there was always a learning curve or ramp-up, if you will. For example, when we learned to ride a bicycle, we started with a tricycle, then went to a bike with training wheels, then a bike with an adult holding the back steady … then, voila, we were riding a bicycle.
A similar learning path should be considered when acquiring knowledge in the classroom. We all need “training wheels” to some degree when learning a new skill or idea. These training wheels can translate in the classroom to something that makes the information more accessible to us. This can be through entry points, modified tasks, mini-lessons or scaffolding.

Democrat party is deeply divided on the question of how best to improve schools.

Jim Newton:

Gloria Romero is a Democrat. She was elected to the California Assembly as a Democrat and later to the state Senate. She served as Democratic leader of the Senate, the first woman to do so. Ben Austin is a Democrat too. He worked in the White House under President Clinton and was an ardent supporter of Barack Obama. Both Austin and Romero support reform of the nation’s education system, and when Romero helped found an organization to push that effort, she and her co-founders (fellow Democrats) called it Democrats for Education Reform.
Eric Bauman chairs the Los Angeles County Democratic Party, and he takes offense at that name. It creates confusion, he says, especially when the group supports a candidate. Specifically, he cites the group’s endorsement of Brian Johnson, who is running as a Democrat (though not the only Democrat) in the June primary for the Assembly in the 46th District. Bauman says the endorsement by a group with the word “Democrats” in its name suggests that the party itself is behind Johnson, whereas it hasn’t endorsed any candidate.

The Answer to High Student Debt: Quality is the Next Great Frontier

Bill Henderson:

My own belief is that educational quality is the next great frontier. If we can put a man on the moon in the 1960s, surely with four years and $120K we can turn a reasonably able and motivated 22 year old into a critical thinker who can reliably communicate, collaborate, gather facts, assess data, lead, follow, and approach problems with both empathy and objectivity. Further, improving quality changes the debate from “how much does higher education cost?” to “how much is higher education worth?” And if the worth is sufficiently high, both public and private employers would be willing to subsidize it in exchange for preferred access to graduates.
The only barrier is institutional focus. To make this happen, a university has to take an “Apollo Project” approach that focuses purely on education. After figuring out the “how high” and “how fast” possibilities, an institution could then focus on controlling costs through process improvements and building modules. First quality (worth), then cost. This is not trade school education; this is about fully exploring human potential.

Who is Paul Vallas and why is he coming to Madison?

TJ Mertz

As Jim Anchower says, “I know it’s been a long time since I rapped at ya…” Sometimes you need a break; expect more soon.
Paul Vallas will be featured at a “school reform town hall meeting” this Saturday, May 26, 1:00 PM at LaFollette High School. The announcements feature “Madison Metropolitan School District, Verona Area School District, United Way of Dane County, Urban League of Greater Madison & Boys & Girls Clubs of Dane County” as “collaborating” hosts, but as reported by Matt DeFour the United Way “has requested that our name be removed from all upcoming communications related to the event, but will attend to hear the conversation from all those involved.”
Attempts to clarify MMSD’s role have not yielded a response. You can try yourself: Board of Education:, Supt. Dan Nerad: I’ve been told unofficially that MMSD is donating the space, which would mean that your tax dollars and mine are being used (see the district facilities rental policy here). It would really be a shame if our district collaborated in bringing Vallas here, there is very little in his version of school reform that our community, or any community will benefit from.

Much more on Paul Vallas’s visit, here.
ACLU on freedom of speech.
Related: 60% to 42%: Madison School District’s Reading Recovery Effectiveness Lags “National Average”: Administration seeks to continue its use?
and: When all third graders read at grade level or beyond by the end of the year, the achievement gap will be closed…and not before
How long will our community tolerate its reading problem? Bread and circuses.

On Charter, Virtual & Traditional School Governance: Identical or ?

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes:

I know how the issue would appear to me if I were on the McFarland school board and I were considering whether to revoke the school’s charter or decline to renew it on the basis of the school’s abysmal graduation rates.
On the one hand, continuation of the arrangement and hence of the income stream from K12 would mean that the district could spend at least $150 more per student on the education of the kids who actually live in McFarland, which is a not insignificant sum. On the other hand, revocation of the charter would mean that K12 would shop around for some other relatively small school district in the state that would be willing to host the virtual school, cash K12’s checks and provide even less oversight. K12 wouldn’t miss a beat and nothing would be accomplished. On top of this, as the McFarland superintendent pointed out, no one’s complaining. I suspect that I wouldn’t be leading the charge to revoke the charter and kiss away that very handy K12 money.

Are traditional public schools, budgets and staff held to the same standards?
Much more the rejected Madison Preparatory IB charter school, here.

School Goes International With Boarding

Sophia Hollander:

A relative newcomer on New York City’s private-school scene will open the city’s first international high-school boarding program as it looks to boost enrollment and its reputation among elite competitors.
About 40 students from at least three continents will enroll in Léman Manhattan Preparatory School this autumn, officials said. They will share studio apartments at 37 Wall Street, a luxury building several blocks from the high school building.
“Certainly, the time has come–probably it’s past due,” said Drew Alexander, the head of school at Léman Manhattan Preparatory School. “New York City is such a tremendous destination, has such an international flavor and is such a highly sought-after location.”

Nimble Minds

Nancy Connor:

The mantra of “graduating our students ready for college and the workplace” is so ubiquitous these days that people have begun to forget the underlying question: What do we really want our students to know and be able to do when they graduate from high school? We hear a lot of talk about a 21st century education. What does that mean? How is a 21st century education related to our college preparation? What sort of workforce do they need to be ready for?
I went to a presentation by the chief economist of a major bank last week. It was interesting to hear him talk about understanding changes in sectors such as manufacturing when making investment decisions. He talked about more and more manufacturing in the U.S., but with robots, not people. And the fact that many companies currently making big profits have a large global presence or put a sexy spin on ordinary items. Housing was mentioned, as well as the emerging trend for young families to move back to the city for shorter commutes and smaller lawns. He called it the “new realities,” a seismic shift in priorities.

Fixing the War College System

Gary Schaub Jr.:

What sort of senior military officers are the U.S. military creating with its system of professional military education (PME)?
If one were to examine the curricula of the war colleges, one would likely discover three types of military professionals that they are attempting to develop: service professionals, joint professionals, and national security professionals. Unfortunately, the difference between these three types of professionals is vast and expecting an officer to master all three in 10 months is a tall order. The faculties and services ought to recognize this and use it as an opportunity to revamp the war college system, re-instituting the differentiated missions that Admirals Leahy and King and Generals Marshall and Arnold envisioned in the aftermath of the Second World War.
A military professional is an officer who is an expert in the management of violence. This is not the same as being an expert in the application of violence. Although many war college students have been “operators” and “trigger-pullers” for substantial portions of their careers, and have achieved their current rank by demonstrating their mastery of tactical engagement and command of those immediately engaged in tactical applications of force, this is not what their service expects of them once they reach the rank of lieutenant colonel or colonel.

The Decline and Fall (in the U.S.) of the Public Intellectual

John MacArthur:

Last week I spoke at my alma mater’s Class Day ceremony, which at Columbia College serves as the central event for seniors, even though Columbia University, of which it’s a part, conducts the formal commencement and awarding of degrees on the next day. I won’t reprise my speech since I’m reluctant to promote a contribution to a genre of public speaking that many people equate with sedatives. (It is available on As my fellow Columbia graduate Tom Vinciguerra wrote in Newsday, “The days of memorable, even historic, end-of-academic-year speeches are long gone,” replaced mainly by “throwaway sentiments equally trite and hortatory–e.g., ‘seize the day,’ ‘don’t forget to give back,’ ‘dare to be different.’ “

Oakland’s black male students: school-by-school data

Katy Murphy:

This morning, Urban Strategies Council released a series of reports about the experience of black boys in the Oakland school district: one on out-of-school suspensions, one on chronic absenteeism, and lastly, an analysis of numerous factors to estimate how many children are on track to graduate high school — beginning in elementary.
There is so much data here that the short story in today’s Tribune (which is long by today’s standards) and blog post can’t do it justice. Each school will receive a data profile to further the district’s African American Male Achievement initiative. These reports were produced in partnership with OUSD as part of the initiative.

Mitt Romney Wades Into The Education Debate – There Is A Political Logic To His Proposals, But A Net Win For President Obama

Andrew Rotherham:

The long rumored Mitt Romney education doomsday weapon was revealed today. And it’s basically President George W. Bush’s education policy – but without the accountability.
Let’s take the major parts quickly. The emphasis on school choice is politically smart but unlikely to have a big impact given how much it is fundamentally a state by state issue. Mostly, this will help Romney draw contrasts with the President, which will help at the margins with independents and certainly help with his base. In the early 1980s when Nation At Risk was being published someone told President Reagan that the report would outrage the teachers union and other vested interests. Another presidential aide apparently responded something to the effect of ‘that’s fine, the Democrats can have them, we’ll take the parents.’ This is an extension of the logic of those politics, leave Democrats with the stakeholder adults, take everyone else.

Behind the Rhetoric: Wisconsin School budgets in the years ahead

Dave Umhoefer:

Districts already have some picture of what will happen in terms of cuts and layoffs. When we did an in-depth look at 17 Milwaukee-area districts about the impact of the budget and its many changes, we also asked about how they are situated for the future.
It is one of many issues that are at the center of the debate between Walker and his June 5, 2012, recall opponent, Democrat Tom Barrett.
A PolitiFact Wisconsin survey of 17 school districts found some officials have deep concerns about how state funding cuts past and future will affect education long-term.
But officials don’t see fiscal calamity in their 2012-’13 budgets and say the freedom provided by Walker’s union limits will provide new or continued chances to trim back employee costs from school ledgers.
Those controversial changes were a result of Walker and Republican legislators curtailing collective bargaining for most public employees in the budget, allowing districts to force employees to pay more for pensions and health care. The limits will extend to additional districts in 2012-’13, as more labor contracts expire.
But some aren’t eager to push for deeper compensation cuts after many got significant budget relief already.

In Rhode Island, an Unusual Marriage of Engineering and Languages Lures Students

Karin Fisher:

The University of Rhode Island colleagues each had a problem.
Hermann Viets, then dean of engineering, felt strongly that his students needed international experience to be competitive in a globalizing job market–and, like many engineering majors, they weren’t getting it. His fellow administrator and next-door neighbor, John M. Grandin, associate dean of arts and sciences at the time, saw the writing on the wall with declining numbers in his German language and literature

Teaching kids real math with computers

TED Talks:

From rockets to stock markets, many of humanity’s most thrilling creations are powered by math. So why do kids lose interest in it? Conrad Wolfram says the part of math we teach — calculation by hand — isn’t just tedious, it’s mostly irrelevant to real mathematics and the real world. He presents his radical idea: teaching kids math through computer programming.

School about-turn angers parents

Bangkok Post:

Parents are furious after a Bangkok high school at the centre of bribery claims overturned its earlier agreement to accept all the 57 students it had previously rejected.
Office of the Basic Education Commission (Obec) secretary-general Chinnapat Bhumirat said Bodindecha (Sing Singhaseni) School has admission regulations and education management standards to uphold and cannot accept as many students as it had agreed.
The move reversed an agreement between Pornpichit Sukannan, an adviser to Education Minister Suchart Thada-Thamrongvech, and parents on Monday that the school would enrol all 57.
Obec’s decision follows a meeting yesterday between parents, Obec representatives and the education minister.
The decision sparked uproar from parents. One left a note in the meeting room accusing the Education Ministry of leaving the children scarred.
“Obec has more than 2,000 schools under its supervision.

Vote for education board members who will put kids ahead of ideology

Jack Christie & Jim Nelson:

Contests for the presidential and U.S. Senate nominations are at the top of primary ballots, but it’s important that voters pay attention to races down the ballot this year especially those for the State Board of Education.
Because of redistricting last year, all 15 seats on the board are now up for grabs in the May 29 Republican and Democratic primaries and the November general election.
That means voters this year have a unique opportunity to shape public education policy in Texas for a generation.
By approving curriculum standards and textbooks, the board determines what millions of students learn in Texas public schools.
In fact, candidates elected to the state board this year will decide in 2013 and 2014 which science, social studies and math textbooks will be used in most public schools for perhaps the next decade. Additionally, recent changes in law have given districts much more control over the instructional materials, both hardbound and technology-based, than before.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Email More Sharing ServicesShare | Share on facebook Share on twitter Print Text Size Lon Morris College President resigns


As you know, the College has experienced significant financial and liquidity difficulties and has missed its last 3 payrolls. The Board and a special Restructuring Committee of the Board has retained Bridgepoint Consulting as a restructuring advisor and appointed Dawn Ragan as Chief Restructuring Officer (“CRO”). The CRO is responsible for the day to day operation of the college and for making decisions relative to continued operations and exploring various potential restructuring alternatives. Given insufficient cash flow, the college cannot continue to employ personnel and further cannot allow employees to continue to work even on a “volunteer” or unpaid basis. Your loyalty to the College, and especially to the Mission, is very much appreciated, but unfortunately due to the current circumstances all employment by the College is hereby terminated on the earlier to occur of either immediately as of 5.22.12 or the last day worked prior to 5.22.12, subject to confirmation where appropriate, excluding a minimal core group. Vacation accruals, pursuant to company policy, are extinguished upon termination of employment.
In any case where an employee or other representative may have been extended campus housing or other room/board type benefits, those benefits are also hereby terminated, and the employee/tenant will be provided 10 (ten) days to vacate.

Flyer targets Janesville teachers


School officials are outraged by a flyer that’s calling some of its teachers “radical” and suggesting they’re bringing their politics into the classroom.
“I was flabbergasted. I was outraged that they would have that flyer. I was really surprised,” said Dr. Karen Schulte, the Janesville School District superintendent.
About 2,500 copies of the flyer went out to people in Janesville over the weekend.
It asks how much WEAC teachers make in the Janesville School District, then lists the names of more than 300 teachers and their salaries, ranging from $59,000 to $75,000.
“It does affect teachers’ morale. I think it affects all of our morale when educators are being vilified in this manner,” Dr. Schulte said.

Matthew DeFour:

Janesville teachers and their supporters expressed outrage this week after an anonymous group distributed fliers listing their salaries and urging parents to request their child be assigned to a “non-radical teacher” next year.
The fliers, which included the names, titles and salaries of the 321 highest-paid Janesville teachers, also urged readers to go to to determine if the teachers signed the petition to recall Gov. Scott Walker.
Orville Seymer, an open records specialist with the conservative Milwaukee-based activist organization Citizens for Responsible Government, said the group responsible for the flier has asked to remain anonymous “for obvious reasons.”
On behalf of the anonymous group, Citizens for Responsible Government filed an open records request with the Janesville School District seeking teacher names, salaries and titles. Seymer provided the information to the anonymous group, but was not involved in drafting or distributing the fliers, he said. No other requests of a similar nature have been filed with other districts, Seymer added.

Madison West High activists form Students for Wisconsin political action committee to take on Walker; Paul Vallas Visit

Dean Robbins

We’ve heard pundits and politicians weigh in on Gov. Scott Walker’s nearly $1 billion cuts to Wisconsin schools. But what do Walker’s policies look like to the people most affected by them — the kids sitting at their desks with No. 2 pencils and hope for the future?
Now we know. A group of precocious students at Madison’s West High School have created a political action committee called Students for Wisconsin and duly registered it with the state’s Government Accountability Board. They have an impressive website that lays out issues and goals and encourages visitors to get involved (extra credit for the Lyndon Johnson quote about the vital importance of education).

Matthew DeFour:

United Way president Leslie Howard said the talk was initially billed as “a very informal event.” But when it learned of the public policy issues that would be raised, Howard said, the charity determined it didn’t have time to put the the matter before its board to review, so it backed out.
Howard stressed that the United Way was not taking a position on Vallas’ views, pro or con.
“We take very seriously and are extremely judicious on taking a position on any public policy issue related to the issues we’re concerned about,” Howard said. “We just weren’t in a position to go through the process.”
T.J. Mertz, a local education blogger and liberal activist, contacted the United Way last week with concerns about the organization’s involvement.

Translation is an art beset with linguistic pitfalls

Sam Taylor:

When I first moved to France 11 years ago, intending to make my career as a novelist, I spoke barely a word of French. And, though my wife was French, I never made any particular effort to remedy that. Apart from attending one five-week intensive course, understanding and fluency came to me through a process of osmosis: family mealtimes or post-football conversations as important as reading Proust and Camus. So it was not until I discovered, as many authors had before me, that novels alone are rarely a sufficient source of income, that I began to consider translation as an option.
There is no set way to become a literary translator. I was lucky: I contacted my publishers Faber to say I would be interested in providing readers’ reports on French novels, and was given a “rush job” to do – Laurent Binet’s HHhH had won a Prix Goncourt and my editor needed a report within 48 hours because various publishers were about to bid for it. I read the book in a frenzy and loved it – more than I had loved any novel for years. I wrote an ecstatic report and, though the rights were bought not by Faber but by Farrar, Straus & Giroux in the US and by Harvill Secker in the UK, I emailed those editors to say I was interested in translating the book. I was told that more than a dozen translators had said the same thing, and was asked to send in a sample translation of about 30 pages. I did so, and was thrilled to be given the job. My trans­lation, the result of six months’ labour, was published last week.

Where the school choice movement should go from here

Matthew Ladner:

My friends Howard Fuller and Andrew Coulson started a needed discussion regarding the direction of the parental choice movement. Dr. Fuller has been quite outspoken in his opposition to universal choice programs in recent years, and Coulson raised a number of interesting and valid points in his redefinED piece. The parental choice movement has suffered from a nagging need to address third-party payer issues squarely. It’s a discussion that we should no longer put off. The example of American colleges and universities continues to scream a warning into our deaf ear regarding the danger of run-away cost inflation associated with education and third-party payers.
Howard Fuller and Andrew Coulson also indirectly raise a more fundamental question: where are we ultimately going with this whole private school choice movement? Dr. Fuller supports private choice for the poor and opposes it for others. He has concerns that the interests of the poor will be lost in a universal system. I’m sympathetic to Howard’s point of view. I view the public school system as profoundly tilted towards the interests of the wealthy and extraordinarily indifferent to those of the poor. We should have no desire to recreate such inequities in a choice system.

How to Reconcile Education Reform and the Democratic Party Base?

Laura Waters:

Patrick McQuinn of Drew University has an important article in EducationNext that asks, “are advocacy organizations” – like Democrats for Education Reform, 50Can, Students First, Foundation for Excellence in Education – “changing the politics of education?” The short answer, is “yes,” in spite of historical and overwhelming opposition from teacher unions and other organizations committed to maintaining the education establishment.
McQuinn notes that the ERAO’s (education reform advocacy organizations) tend to be bipartisan, but integration with the Democratic Party is particularly complicated.

Another Race to the top Begins

Amy Scott @Marketplace:

Kai Ryssdal: The Obama administration’s signature education program Race to the Top added another leg today. The Education Department actually calls it the third heat of the competition for federal school funding. The first two were for the states; this one will let individual school districts compete for a share of $400 million in grants.
From the Marketplace Education Desk at WYPR in Baltimore, Amy Scott reports.
Amy Scott: The latest contest will reward districts that move away from teaching everybody the same thing at the same time, so students can learn in their own way at their own pace. Here’s Education Secretary Arne Duncan at an event announcing the details today.

Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad says that the District may apply for these funds.

Institute sensible grading guideposts for FCAT

The Miami Herald:

On Monday, just days after the FCAT writing fiasco that forced state education officials to grade the test on a curve so that almost three-fourths of students who took the exam wouldn’t flunk it, Tallahassee launched a public relations extravaganza.
The Florida Department of Education rolled out the FCAT 2.0 Call Center for parents to call with questions. (The toll-free line is 866-507-1109). It also created an email address for parents to contact state education officials, along with a “Path to Success” website.
“The purpose of this effort is to help parents understand Florida’s assessment and accountability system, increased standards, and how these changes will help prepare our K-12 students for college, career and life,” the DOE said.
About time.

Education in America Serves No Purpose Today

William E. White:

Americans have forgotten the reason why we educate children in America. As a result our children, schools, communities, and the nation are suffering.
It’s the season of commencement speeches and interviews with beaming young graduates. High schools will graduate 2.7 million students this year, and colleges and universities will confer 3.4 million degrees. We are inundated with messages declaring that the purpose of education is to get a great job, make lots of money, and become personally independent. “Fulfill your dreams,” is the oft-echoed refrain. Why aren’t we exhorting graduates to be responsible citizens?
We have forgotten that there is only one purpose for an education system in a republic: to educate citizens. Anything that distracts us from that singular objective is destructive to our children and the nation. What passes for civic education (if our children actually get any civic education — many don’t) is an overview of process. Textbooks describe federalism and the differences between local, state, and national governments. Students read chapters about the checks and balances of the separate branches of government. “Process” is not responsible citizenship, nor is it exciting teaching.

Why School Integration Is So Hard

Laura McKenna

Kirp calls for a return to integration. “If we’re serious about improving educational opportunities, we need to revisit the abandoned policy of school integration.”
I haven’t seen those studies. I would like to see how they controlled for certain factors. Was there something different about the parents of African-American children who got their kids into those integrated schools? Did white students maintain their education advantage, because their parents put them in private schools or relocated to another town? Still, I’m pretty sure that their findings are accurate. Many other studies have shown the importance of peer group influences and the impact of wealth of a community on education outcomes.
Kirp is right in some ways. Creating larger, more diverse schools would definitely improve outcomes of more children. However, he has little sympathy or understanding for the forces that stymie the efforts of reformers.

Carol Bartz urges UW-Madison grads to take the long view

Samara Kalk Derby:

The former chief executive of Yahoo, a UW-Madison alum, advised new graduates Sunday to look past the headlines that warn about the lackluster economy and the bleak jobs picture.
“Don’t believe that the events of today are the only ones that are going to shape your future,” Carol Bartz, 63, said in one of the university’s four graduation ceremonies at the Kohl Center.
“Your work life is very long. In fact, you are the first generation that’s preparing for a 50-year career,” she said to nervous laughter from graduates and their family members.
“That sounds like an eternity, but you have to work for 50 years, because everybody else in the audience needs Social Security,” Bartz said to loud applause.

Watch Bartz’s address via this video.

Score One for the Robo-Tutors

Steve Kolowich:

Without diminishing learning outcomes, automated teaching software can reduce the amount of time professors spend with students and could substantially reduce the cost of instruction, according to new research.
In experiments at six public universities, students assigned randomly to statistics courses that relied heavily on “machine-guided learning” software — with reduced face time with instructors — did just as well, in less time, as their counterparts in traditional, instructor-centric versions of the courses. This largely held true regardless of the race, gender, age, enrollment status and family background of the students.
The study comes at a time when “smart” teaching software is being increasingly included in conversations about redrawing the economics of higher education. Recent investments by high-profile universities in “massively open online courses,” or MOOCs, has elevated the notion that technology has reached a tipping point: with the right design, an online education platform, under the direction of a single professor, might be capable of delivering meaningful education to hundreds of thousands of students at once.

Is College’s Stone Age About to End?

Mark Taylor:

Excessive specialization has created a culture of expertise that has distorted higher education and had a negative impact on faculty members, students and the broader society.
While global transportation, communications and information technologies have created interconnection, academic disciplines and fields have, paradoxically, become more fragmented and isolated. Universities boast of their global expansion and vision, but they are mostly siloed institutions ill-adapted to a networked world.
While academic specialization has long been decried and ridiculed, insufficient attention has been paid to the influence that narrowly defined research has had on undergraduate teaching and the structure of colleges and universities. With online education taking off at traditional institutions, the hope is that learning breaks out of these cocoons. But as we have already discovered in the political arena, increased connectivity can create new divisions that deepen social discord. The rise of online learning may create more rifts in fields and curricula, or it may reorganize higher education for the better.

On How to Write a Sentence and How to Read One, by Stanley Fish.

Joseph Epstein:

After thirty years of teaching a university course in something called advanced prose style, my accumulated wisdom on the subject, inspissated into a single thought, is that writing cannot be taught, though it can be learned–and that, friends, is the sound of one hand clapping. A. J. Liebling offers a complementary view, more concise and stripped of paradox, which runs: “The only way to write is well, and how you do it is your own damn business.”
Learning to write sound, interesting, sometimes elegant prose is the work of a lifetime. The only way I know to do it is to read a vast deal of the best writing available, prose and poetry, with keen attention, and find a way to make use of this reading in one’s own writing. The first step is to become a slow reader. No good writer is a fast reader, at least not of work with the standing of literature. Writers perforce read differently from everyone else. Most people ask three questions of what they read: (1) What is being said? (2) Does it interest me? (3) Is it well constructed? Writers also ask these questions, but two others along with them: (4) How did the author achieve the effects he has? And (5) What can I steal, properly camouflaged of course, from the best of what I am reading for my own writing? This can slow things down a good bit.

Gates Puts the Focus on Teaching

Joe Nocera:

A few months ago, Bill Gates wrote an Op-Ed article in this newspaper objecting to New York City’s plan to make public the performance rankings of its teachers. His central point was that this kind of public shaming was hardly going to bring about better teaching.
In the course of the article, Gates mentioned that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which spends around $450 million a year on education programs, had begun working with school districts to help design evaluation systems that would, in his words, “improve the overall quality of teaching.”
That caught my attention. Wanting to learn more, I went to Seattle two weeks ago to talk to Bill Gates about evaluating teachers.
Although the Gates Foundation is perhaps best-known for its health initiatives in Africa, it has long played an important role in the educational reform movement here at home. It was an early, enthusiastic backer of charter schools. Around the year 2000, it also became enamored with the idea that students would do better in smaller schools than bigger ones.

Student Loan Bubble Putting Hundreds of Colleges at Risk

Business Insider:

The size, scope, and impact of this problem is an enormous anchor weighing down our next generation and our nation’s economy.
Make no mistake, this anchor is not only impacting thousands of students and families but is also having an equally burdensome impact on colleges and universities nationwide.
Embedded within a very recently released Bloomberg commentary is a study by Richard Kneedler, President Emeritus of Franklin & Marshall College. In light of the economic crisis that hit our shores and continues to envelop our nation, in early 2009 Kneedler released a very granular review of the economic condition of close to 700 private colleges and universities. For anybody with even a passing interest in this issue, Kneedler’s work, is a MUST read. What do we learn?

Thoreau students develop appreciation for cameras

Pamela Cotant:

A photography darkroom with trays of chemicals is a strange concept to most youth today who are familiar with digital photos.
So fifth-grader Wilson Kilmer was excited to get the chance to see photos, captured with pinhole cameras, developed in a makeshift darkroom at Thoreau Elementary School.
“We had not used any electricity and nothing mechanical,” said Wilson, 11. “It’s by far the coolest thing we’ve done in school.”
Fifth-grader Sam Schumann, 11, also liked seeing the film develop.
“It was just really neat seeing it going from really fade to really good detail,” he said.

A split among Democrats

Jim Newton:

Gloria Romero is a Democrat. She was elected to the California Assembly as a Democrat and later to the state Senate. She served as Democratic leader of the Senate, the first woman to do so. Ben Austin is a Democrat too. He worked in the White House under President Clinton and was an ardent supporter of Barack Obama. Both Austin and Romero support reform of the nation’s education system, and when Romero helped found an organization to push that effort, she and her co-founders (fellow Democrats) called it Democrats for Education Reform.
Eric Bauman chairs the Los Angeles County Democratic Party, and he takes offense at that name. It creates confusion, he says, especially when the group supports a candidate. Specifically, he cites the group’s endorsement of Brian Johnson, who is running as a Democrat (though not the only Democrat) in the June primary for the Assembly in the 46th District. Bauman says the endorsement by a group with the word “Democrats” in its name suggests that the party itself is behind Johnson, whereas it hasn’t endorsed any candidate.

Behind the rhetoric: How Walker’s union limits affected school budgets

Dave Umhoefer:

Gov. Scott Walker and his recall critics may as well be on different planets when it comes to describing how local schools fared under his budget.
Walker tells audiences that most schools got far more savings from his controversial collective bargaining limits — money-saving “tools” in Walker’s phrasing — than they suffered in cuts from his budget.
Democratic Party officials and their allies say schools all over the state suffered “devastating” aid cuts, and Walker recall opponent Tom Barrett says education was “gutted.”
After examining the issue and doing extensive interviews with 17 Milwaukee-area school districts, it’s clear both sides are exaggerating.
But answering the bottom line question of whether the “tools” outweighed the cuts is elusive

Why We Need Tenure Reform

Laura Waters:

New Jersey Administrative Law Judge Jeff Masin has ruled that even though a special education teacher mocked one of his students, called him a “‘tard,” and told him that he will “kick your ass from here to kingdom come,” that’s not enough to revoke tenure. According to the Star-Ledger, the Bankbridge Regional Board of Ed “voted to certify tenure charges against [Steven] Roth in December, and in March he appeared before Masin. The charges included unbecoming conduct, neglect of duty and verbal abuse in violation of the Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying Policy of the board.” Judge Masin ruled that Roth is “not a person who cannot be expected to provide special education students with much important instruction and guidance in the future while learning from his mistakes and avoiding such improper conduct.”The Board released the following statement:

Number of the Week: Student Loan Bubble

Phil Izzo:

368%: The jump since 2007 in the measure of consumer credit held by the government comprised primarily of student loans.
If a student loan bubble were to pop, the government, not private banks, would be the one standing around with gum in its hair.
Issuance of student loans has soared in recent years, hitting $867 billion at the end of 2011, according to an analysis from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, more than credit cards or auto loans. The jump has led some to classify the student-lending market as a bubble, comparing it with the housing mess that nearly brought down the banking system in 2008.

Jamie Oliver urges MPs to end academy junk food exemption

Toby Helm and Denis Campbell:

An exasperated Jamie Oliver has written to every MP demanding a U-turn over nutrition rules in schools after education secretary Michael Gove refused to act on a report that found nine out of 10 academies were selling junk food.
Announcing the move on his website, the TV chef, whose campaign for better food in state schools has lifted standards for millions of pupils, told voters that if their MPs did not act “you can safely assume that they don’t care about the wellbeing of our children and the future of our country”.
Oliver’s move came as public health officials and doctors joined a growing number of education and food organisations in criticising the education secretary. In a move that astonished experts, Gove insisted that he would not apply the nutrition standards that cover all other state schools to academies and free schools – even after a report by the School Food Trust charity found last week that many were selling sub-standard products.

Brit Lit Map

Frank Jacobs:

Maps usually display only one layer of information. In most cases, they’re limited to the topography, place names and traffic infrastructure of a certain region. True, this is very useful, and in all fairness quite often it’s all we ask for. But to reduce cartography to a schematic of accessibility is to exclude the poetry of place.
Or in this case, the poetry and prose of place. This literary map of Britain is composed of the names of 181 British writers, each positioned in parts of the country with which they are associated.

Dropping out: Is college worth the cost?

Morley Safer:

One of the wealthiest, best-educated American entrepreneurs, Peter Thiel, isn’t convinced college is worth the cost. With only half of recent U.S. college graduates in full-time jobs, and student loans now at $1 trillion, Thiel has come up with his own small-scale solution: pay a couple dozen of the nation’s most promising students $100,000 to walk away from college and pursue their passions. Morley Safer takes a look at Thiel’s critique of college.
The following script is from “Dropping Out” which originally aired on May 20, 2012. Morley Safer is the correspondent. Katy Textor, producer.
These are the days in May, when young men and women are capped and gowned — their hands clutching diplomas, their ears tuned to some wise person telling them, “You are the future.” For many, deep in debt with few prospects, that future looks pretty bleak.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: One man stands between California and a bleak future

Christopher Caldwell:

When somebody asked California’s governor Jerry Brown at a conference in Silicon Valley a couple of weeks ago what he would do to promote innovation, Mr Brown reminded his questioner that “innovation” in government is seldom prized. “Government is a collection of catchphrases, banalities and conventional wisdom,” Mr Brown said, “and, to the extent you depart from that, you are stigmatised and reviled.” Mr Brown should know. He has been innovating fast and he has been reviled. He may nonetheless be the only politician with the forthrightness to stand between California and a Greek-style debt spiral.
In the four months between January and last week, the state’s budget deficit rose dramatically – from $9.2bn to $15.7bn, on a $91bn budget that must be balanced by law. These things happen in California. The political system has been ingeniously rigged. It is easy for citizens to vote themselves vast benefits by referendum but nearly impossible for the legislature to pass the taxes to pay for them. Until recently it required a two-thirds majority to pass a budget. Last year, when Mr Brown reached the end of his ability to compromise, he did what California governors often do: he made an overly rosy estimate of how much the state would get in tax revenues.

Italian university switches to English for success

Stephen Jewkes:

– Italians do it better. At least that’s what the T-shirts say. The problem is in what language?
Politecnico di Milano, one of Italy’s leading universities, thinks it should be English.
The 149-year-old university, located in Italy’s business capital Milan, is set to become the first Italian place of higher learning to teach all its graduate courses in English when it kicks off its academic year in 2014.
The aim is to kit out its students with the right stuff to gain access to the global jobs market. It’s also meant to attract top-class international students at a time when competition among universities worldwide is hotting up.

The Unsustainable Higher Education Bubble; It’s Showing Signs Of Stress, Has The Deflation Started?

Mark Perry:

It’s been widely reported now that the U.S. has a serious and unsustainable “higher education bubble,” not unlike the unsustainable housing bubble in the U.S. that eventually crashed and resulted in a housing meltdown, mortgage tsunami, a wave of foreclosures, and a global financial crisis. The chart above illustrates that the ever-inflating higher education bubble with ever-increasing costs for college tuition and education supplies is starting to make the housing bubble look almost inconsequential by comparison.
The CPI for college tuition has increased almost 12 times since 1978, compared to the 3.5 time increase in overall consumer prices, and the 4.4 time increase in home prices at their “bubble peak.” What the two bubbles have in common is that they have both been fueled by political obsessions: one with homeownership and another with college education. And with those political obsessions comes the government-sponsored coerced taxpayer funded assistance that creates the “politically-motivated air” to inflate the bubbles to unsustainable levels: government taxpayer- subsidized or government taxpayer-provided credit at below market rates to borrowers who wouldn’t qualify for credit from private borrowers.

McFarland-based online charter school growing fast

Matthew DeFour:

Business is booming at Wisconsin Virtual Academy after two of the state’s biggest virtual schools split from the country’s largest online K-12 education service provider.
The online charter school based in the McFarland School District, which next year will be the only virtual school in Wisconsin run by Virginia-based K12 Inc., saw a 50 percent increase in open enrollment applications this year, up from 2,402 to 3,586.
The increase comes as McFarland Superintendent Scott Brown prepares to report to his school board next month about whether WIVA is meeting performance benchmarks in the five-year charter contract that runs through mid-2014.
In an interview last week, Brown said WIVA’s state test scores are not meeting the contractual benchmarks, though he said the report isn’t finalized. He added the district may need more time to track how students improve over multiple years.

Paul Vallas visits Madison; Enrollment Growth: Suburban Districts vs. Madison 1995-2012


Paul Vallas will be speaking at Madison LaFollette high school on Saturday, May 26, 2012 at 1:00p.m. More information, here.
Much more on Paul Vallas, here.
Per Student Spending:
I don’t believe spending is the issue. Madison spends $14,858.40/student (2011-2012 budget)
Middleton’s 2011-2012 budget: $87,676,611 for 6,421 students = $13,654.67/student, about 8% less than Madison.
Waunakee spends $12,953.81/student about 13% less than Madison.
A few useful links over the past decade:

Bill Cosby to USF grads: Make no excuses, have no fear

Nanette Asimov:

Those forced to graduate from college and enter the cold and competitive Real World could do worse than have comedian Bill Cosby nudge them from their ivy-covered nest.
“You have this education. There are parents waiting for you to move out. They’ve been waiting for this day, and they don’t want you to back out,” Cosby told a church-full of graduating students and their families on Friday at the University of San Francisco’s commencement ceremony for the College of Arts and Sciences.
Laughter and applause pulsed through the Jesuit university’s grand St. Ignatius Church on Fulton Street, its stained-glass saints no doubt accustomed to more contemplative conventions.
Cosby’s larger message to graduates did not carry the controversial punch of his now famous speech in 2004, when he told the NAACP that “we cannot blame the white people anymore” for the troubles of the black community.

Hispanic, STEM charters approved Montessori proposal denied by Delaware Board of Education

James Fisher:

The state board of education voted Thursday to approve charter schools in Wilmington and Dover, but a proposal to start a new Montessori school under the charter system failed to gain approval.
The board unanimously approved charters for:

  • Academia Antonia Alonso, for students in kindergarten through fifth grade in Wilmington. The school would focus on Hispanic English-language learners. The founding board is a partnership between Innovative Schools, a Wilmington nonprofit that aids districts and charter schools, and the Latin American Community Center, a nonprofit in Wilmington.
  • Early College High School at Delaware State University, a high school embedded in the DSU campus in Dover. The curriculum would focus on science, technology, engineering and math, and is based on an early-college high school model to serve first-generation college students. State Board President Teri Quinn Gray calling the charter proposal “one of the strongest I’ve seen in awhile.”

The First State Montessori Academy needed four votes for approval, but it received favorable votes from only three of the five board members present. Under the proposal, the school would have served kindergarten through sixth grade based on the Montessori education model. The school’s planners don’t yet have a location secured for the school, and they have said it may share a campus with a private Montessori school.

Related: Madison recently rejected a proposed IB Charter school. Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school, here.

High school rankings do have meaning

Peter Blewett:  

Which Wisconsin high school is best: Rufus King, Brookfield Central or Whitefish Bay? It depends on who you ask. According to U.S. News & World Report, King is the best; Newsweek recently ranked Brookfield Central at the top of its list, and Milwaukee Magazine has listed Whitefish Bay High School as its top choice.
The latest poll, published by U.S. News, has driven Alan J. Borsuk, a fellow in public policy at Marquette University and who writes an education column published in the Journal Sentinel, to question for the first time the validity of these polls.
Why? Because the U.S. News poll has the audacity to rank three MPS high schools – King, Ronald Reagan and Milwaukee School of Languages – among the state’s top 10 high schools while omitting Whitefish Bay and other suburban schools “known for high success and high average college entrance scores.”
What’s a parent to do? Depending on the ranking they read, parents might well choose one school over another or decide to opt out of public schools altogether. If the variation in rankings weren’t enough to confuse the issue, some in the media are here to tell us that the variation signifies the worthlessness of the rankings. As Borsuk writes, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen one (poll) that convinced me that it really pinned things down.”

Foiled Again: An Inside Look At Joel Klein’s War Against Public Schools And Teacher Unions

Leo Casey:

Over a year ago, the UFT submitted a Freedom of Information request for emails between Joel Klein and other top DoE brass, on the one hand, and the leaders of the New York City Charter School Center, the New York Charter School Association, Democrats for Education Reform and other leading supporters of corporate education reform. As it does with FOIL requests that do not suit their purposes, the DoE stonewalled the request. (Take note of the contrast with the DoE’s eagerness to release the Teacher Data Reports.) Last month, the UFT went to court, arguing that the DoE’s continual delays amounted to constructive denial of the FOIL law. Facing the inevitable, last Friday the DoE began to release the emails, sending several hundred to the UFT and the news media. Another 15,000 emails are still to come, so keep your eyes peeled on this one.
Here are some of the highlights of the emails just released.


Michael Johnson, via a kind email:

Madison Metropolitan School District, Verona Area School District, United Way of Dane County, Urban League of Greater Madison & Boys & Girls Clubs of Dane County is collaborating to host a town hall meeting with one of the most respected urban school superintendents in the nation at Lafollette High School on May 26th at 1pm. Paul Vallas has raised hundreds of millions of dollars to support academic achievement, he has raised test scores in urban communities, built hundreds of schools while maintaining great working relationships with community leaders, teachers and unions. His efforts has been featured in Education Week, New York Times and hundreds of other articles profiling his work in urban school districts.
Arne Duncan the current US Secretary of Education served as his Deputy Chief of Staff and the current Superintendent of Schools in Milwaukee was his former Chief Academic Officer. During Vallas time in other cities he has led the effort to build over 175 new school buildings and renovated more than 1,000 existing buildings. According to several news outlets Paul Vallas managed consecutive years of improved reading and math scores in every school district he led. During his time in Chicago he organized the largest after school and summer programs in the nation. His education reforms produced double digit increases in test scores which was some of the highest in the nation among the 50th largest school districts in the United States. His leadership efforts was cited in two presidential state of the union addresses and CBS News highlighted that he is one of the most sought out school superintendents in the country. Recently he was invited by the Government of Chile to assume responsibility of turning around and improving test scores in 1,100 of Chile’s lowest performing schools. He was invited by the Government of Haiti to advise their Prime Minister and education team. He also served as an education adviser to London- Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Paul Vallas will share best practices, talk about school reform and take questions on how we can improve academic achievement for our kids. I hope you can join us on Saturday, May 26th at 1pm for this important discussion at LaFollette High School, 702 Pflaum Rd. Madison in the auditorium. To confirm your attendance please email Sigal Lazimy at Thanks in advance and we look forward to seeing you! Below is a documentary of his work in New Orleans.