Common Core research is “just another piece of misleading advocacy”

Ze’ev Wurman:

Last week Bill Schmidt, of Michigan State University, rolled out in a highly publicized national press event the “key conclusions” from his recent research. We can’t see any of the underlying research, as Schmidt did not publish it. Its supposed findings, however, already got so much uncritical exposure and praise from the usual suspects that it is important to put Schmidt’s words in their proper context. And that context seems more problematic than organizations like Achieve, or Chiefs for Change, who sponsored this research, would like us to believe.
I have reviewed Schmidt’s presentation, and these are some of my observations.
1) First, we should note how carefully Schmidt hedges his bets. His first (and last) slide says that the Common Core Standards for Mathematics “[c]an potentially elevate the academic performance of America’s students” (with the emphasis on the “potentially” in the original).
It is hard to imagine a more sweeping disclaimer–almost anything can “potentially” elevate academic performance. More money; more professional development; more unionization; more school choice; more selectivity in choosing teachers; better textbooks; better parent education via public campaigns; better movies from Hollywood that will improve character education and discipline of youth; and so on.
2) Schmidt repeats in multiple slides that parents and teachers support the Common Core Standards and claim to be familiar with them. A large fraction of teachers even supposedly believes it is prepared to teach them.
I can believe that teachers heard about them, but I doubt many have any real basis for liking them, or for claiming to be prepared to teach them. Other surveys found that most teachers and parents don’t really know or understand the actual content of the standards and the implications of teaching them. After teachers actually try teaching them in the classroom and we see the assessments, maybe we could put more trust in these surveys.

The Campus Tsunami

David Brooks:

Online education is not new. The University of Phoenix started its online degree program in 1989. Four million college students took at least one online class during the fall of 2007.
But, over the past few months, something has changed. The elite, pace-setting universities have embraced the Internet. Not long ago, online courses were interesting experiments. Now online activity is at the core of how these schools envision their futures.
This week, Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology committed $60 million to offer free online courses from both universities. Two Stanford professors, Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller, have formed a company, Coursera, which offers interactive courses in the humanities, social sciences, mathematics and engineering. Their partners include Stanford, Michigan, Penn and Princeton. Many other elite universities, including Yale and Carnegie Mellon, are moving aggressively online. President John Hennessy of Stanford summed up the emerging view in an article by Ken Auletta in The New Yorker, “There’s a tsunami coming.”

College Credit Without College

Paul Fain:

The Internet takes college courses out of the classroom. But prior learning assessment takes college outside of college.
The practice of granting college credit for learning and knowledge gained outside the traditional academic setting goes back decades, with roots in the G.I. Bill and World War II veterans who earned credits for military training.
But prior learning assessment mostly occurs behind the scenes, partially because colleges avoid loudly advertising that they believe college-level learning can occur before a student ever interacts with faculty members.
That low profile is ending, however, as prior learning is poised to break into the mainstream in a big way. The national college completion push and the expanding adult student market are driving the growth. And ramping up to meet this demand are two of the field’s early adopters — the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning and the American Council of Education — which may soon be even bigger players in determining what counts for college credit.

Has Grading For Learning Squelched Grade Inflation?


We have posted numerous times about grade inflation in the school district, which is great on the ego, but has a nasty after-bite if one opts to go on to college.
Looking back over the years we documented the following for middle school kids and grade inflation, using the honor roll as our data:
2008 3rd Quarter: 55% of all middle schools made the honor roll; 18% scored perfect 4.0’s

Fixing Education: The Solutions

Philip K. Howard:

Bureaucracy is crushing America’s schools. That’s the inescapable conclusion of virtually every essay from America the Fixable’s April education series — by experts from the right and left, by union leader Randi Weingarten and charter school innovator David Feinberg. Mere reform won’t work. The existing legal structure needs to be dismantled. Polling shows that’s what the American people want as well.
Solving the nation’s most entrenched problems See full coverage
Inspired by the bold views of the essays from the series, and also by readers’ comments, I’ve come up with a proposed presidential platform for overhauling America’s public schools. It calls for a radical change in approach, replacing bureaucracy with individual responsibility and accountability.

At one school district, the motto is BYOT – Bring Your Own Technology

Craig Stanley:

iPhones, Nintendos and Kindles — devices synonymous with “fun” — are taking a new role in the classroom, thanks to a new trend in education called Bring Your Own Technology – or BYOT.
BYOT programs — like the one at Georgia’s Coal Mountain Elementary School — encourage students to bring in their own personal mobile technology — including iPads, Kindle Fires, netbooks — even gaming devices — to use during class.
“It’s really a simple thing,” says Tim Clark, District Technology Specialist for Forsyth County School District. “Kids have technology in their pockets and [are] taking them to school, but trying to hide them from teachers and from their parents. What we’re trying to do is have the kids take them out of their pockets and use [them] for instruction.”

Black and Puerto Rican Connecticut Caucus Members Speak Out On Education Reform

Kathleen Megan:

The leaders of the legislature’s Black and Puerto Rican Caucus spoke out Thursday about education reform, calling for legislation that gives the education commissioner a strong hand and ample flexibility to turn around low-performing schools.
Rep. Gary Holder-Winfield, D-New Haven, chairman of the caucus, said the group supports giving the commissioner broad authority to reconstitute a low-achieving school. The group also wants the commissioner to be able to convert a troubled school into a state or local charter school and to be able to put the school under the control of a non-profit entity. Gov.Dannel P. Malloy originally proposed similar measures, but subsequent working versions of the legislation have reined in the commissioner’s power.
The 22-member caucus detailed its position as members of Malloy’s administration and Democratic legislative leaders continue to negotiate to reach an agreement on a reform bill before the session ends May 9.

Mark Pazniokas and Jacqueline Rabe Thomas: Minority legislators back Malloy — to a point.

In praise of a programme that encourages students to think

Anjali Hazari:

The International Baccalaureate (IB) encompasses programmes in primary, middle and diploma years for students aged from three to 19. While many schools in Hong Kong now offer different curriculums leading to the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme, they may not adopt all of the IB programmes from the primary level.
Those that do offer them award diplomas after students finish their middle years programmes.
Some schools offer diploma programmes in conjunction with the International General Certificate of Secondary Education or the General Certificate of Secondary Education. As a parent, it is important to consider which high school credential your child will present for admission to university. Is it more suitable for your child to have an A-level, the American High School Diploma, or an IB?

Chicago Teachers Union

via a kind reader:

The Sun-Times says “CTU’s reckless strike talk is bad for Chicago’s kids”:
But MTI has a different view:
“If one teacher union goes on strike we ALL should in #solidarity!!! Change will come from the teachers.”!/MtiMadison/status/198900868572127233
“#edchat- Would YOU go on strike in #solidarity with Chicago teachers? Would you go on strike to make a statement and fight for #publiced?”!/MtiMadison/status/198901424854269953
“Re-asking question from yesterday: Educators, would you strike in #solidarity with Chicago teachers? In support of REAL #publiced change?”!/MtiMadison/status/199191706296516609

US textbooks will be the new digital battlefield

Richard Blackden:

It was immediately christened a win-win deal. Win-win is one of corporate America’s less irritating phrases and, in this case, an accurate description of Microsoft’s $300m (£186m) tie-up with US bookseller Barnes & Noble.
If you missed it, the deal will see the two companies create a new venture that will own the Nook, the digital reading device that Barnes & Noble introduced in 2009 to compete with Amazon’s Kindle. Coming a year after Microsoft paid an eye-watering $8.5bn for the online video chat service Skype, this week’s piece of business is the latest attempt by the world’s largest software maker to secure a foothold in the rapidly-changing market for e-readers and tablet computers.
The agreement gives Microsoft an 18pc stake in the Nook. Unknown in Britain, the ereader has amassed a 30pc stake in the US market with far less financial muscle than Amazon. It is no surprise the tie-up has produced fevered speculation that the best engineering and design brains at Microsoft and Barnes & Noble will now combine to produce a brand new tablet to take on Amazon and Apple.

Are Educators Showing a ‘Positive Bias’ to Minority Students?

Carla Capizzi:

Remember that teacher you grumbled about back in your school days, the really tough one who made you work so hard, insisted you could do better, and made you sweat for your A’s? The one you didn’t appreciate until after you graduated and realized how much you had learned?
Minority students in the U.S. might have fewer of those teachers, at least compared to white students, and as a result they might be at a significant learning disadvantage.
A major study, led by Rutgers-Newark psychology professor Kent D. Harber, indicates that public school teachers under-challenge minority students by providing them more positive feedback than they give to white students, for work of equal merit. The study, which is currently available online in the Journal of Educational Psychology (JEP), involved 113 white middle school and high school teachers in two public school districts located in the New York/New Jersey/Connecticut tri-state area, one middle class and white, and the other more working class and racially mixed.

Madison Teachers, Inc. Executive Director John Matthews on the achievement gap, Act 10 and Scott Walker

Pat Schneider:

CT: What about the training and capabilities of Madison school teachers and how they deliver in the classroom day to day — is there room for improvement there?
JM: Well, there’s always room for improvement — there’s room for improvement in what I do. I can only say that the Madison School District has invested all kinds of things in professional development. One thing teachers tell us if they have time to work together, they can make strides. I found early in my career if I’m having a teacher identified as having a performance problem, ask the principal who is the best at doing what they want this teacher to do. Then you go to that teacher and say: “You have a colleague who needs help, will you take them under your wing?” I don’t have access to any of what they talk about, management doesn’t have access to that — it’s been a remarkably successful venture.
CT: In discussion of the achievement gap in Madison I’ve heard from African-American parents up and down the economic spectrum who say that their children are met at school with low expectations that really hamper their performance.
JM: I’ve heard that too. The Madison School District has an agreed-upon mandatory cultural course that people have to take. But there are people in society who don’t like to be around other races. I don’t see that when teachers are together. And we have a variety of people who are leaders in MTI — either Asian or Indian or black — but there are people who have different expectations from people who are different from them.
CT: Does the union have a role in dealing with teachers whose lowered expectations of students of color might contribute to the achievement gap?
JM: The only time MTI would get involved is if somebody was being criticized for that, we’d likely be involved with that; if someone were being disciplined for that, we would be involved. We’ve not seen that.

Democracy and Education

Richard Wolin:

America’s four-year liberal arts colleges are–in a good sense–a peculiar institution. Since their inauspicious origins in the seventeenth century as, in essence, gentlemen’s clubs with a profoundly Protestant mission, they have undergone a number of significant and far-reaching metamorphoses. For a long time it was a cultural commonplace that the doctrines of Protestant humanism provided the essential elements for higher learning and that moral education, grounded in the study of Scripture, was one of higher education’s central goals, uniquely useful for shaping character, training ministers and producing upstanding civic leaders. But when the modern research university emerged in the United States during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the college system struggled to preserve its mission. Of what merit was general education amid a pulsating scientific-industrial civilization that increasingly prized the values of professionalism and narrow expertise?

7 New Educational Startups Founded By Minorities in Tech

Wayne Sutton:

Editor’s note: Wayne Sutton is an Entrepreneur, Advisor and Partner of NewMe Accelerator, a residential technology start-up accelerator/incubator for businesses that are led by under-represented minorities in the technology industry.
One of today’s most challenging yet promising markets is the educational system. If you want to see startups hungry to disrupt an industry, look no further. Founders are trying to solve the problems plaguing our education system: including reconciling student debt, providing students with the skills required to land a job both before and after graduation, and offering the best course material online regardless of age, location and educational level.
Millions of people are headed to the Internet to learn. And now everyone, from professors to entrepreneurs, are looking to launch a platform to solve the problem of a broken traditional educational system – And many believe that Silicon Valley will have the answers.
If you look at the demographics (high school dropout rates, high unemployment and the number of people taking online courses) you’ll find a common denominator; minorities are leading in three categories. In 2011, only 57 percent of blacks and Latinos graduated from high school, compared to 80 percent of Asians and 78 percent of whites. While data reports that only 1% of tech startups are founded by African Americans, you’ll find a significant number of educational startups founded by minorities (women, Hispanics and African Americans) in the now-increasing 1% of minority tech startups.

Report finds academic fraud evidence in UNC department

Dan Kane:

An internal investigation into UNC-Chapel Hill’s Department of African and Afro-American Studies has found evidence of academic fraud involving more than 50 classes that range from no-show professors to unauthorized grade changes for students.
One of the no-show classes is the Swahili course taken by former football player Michael McAdoo that prompted NCAA findings of impermissible tutoring, and drew more controversy when the final paper he submitted was found to have been heavily plagiarized.
The investigation found many of the suspect classes were taught in the summer by former department chairman Julius Nyang’oro, who resigned from that post in September. The university now says Nyang’oro, 57, who was the department’s first-ever chairman, is retiring July 1.

‘Investing’ in College? It Pays to Think Like an Investor

Jack Hough:

College is the best investment you can make, President Obama told students last month at the University of Colorado.
As a metaphor for the benefits of education, that statement is fine. But taken as a claim about the financial returns of a college degree, it poses two problems.
The first is that students and their families still lack sufficient data to estimate long-term returns for specific college degrees the way investors do with stocks and bonds.
The second problem is one of investment risk. Stock investors can manage risk by buying a diverse basket of shares, but a college student bets on a single asset: himself.

Volunteers play vital roles in education

Alan Borsuk:

Dejuan McGowan was trying to figure out how he was going to budget the money he was making. He thought about getting a one-bedroom house, but decided that, in case he and his wife have a child, they should go for two bedrooms. It would cost $855 a month, plus $200 for utilities.
“That puts me at $1,055 and I only have a house and some light,” he said. “That’s going to cut down on cable, health care and furnishing.” And there won’t be much money for entertainment, once you add in food, a car, telephone, and a few other things.
This wasn’t real life for McGowan, an 11th-grader at Holy Redeemer Christian Academy. It was a morning in the JA Finance Park, a spacious, Main Street-like setting where about 9,000 students from throughout the region have come in the course of this school year to get a dose of the realities they will face when they reach (dare they think about it) adulthood. They are assigned an income and personal circumstances, given information on needs and costs, given coaching from both Junior Achievement staff and volunteers from businesses. The goal: a plan for how to spend their money.

Most Dane County school districts avoid teacher layoffs

Matthew DeFour:

Most Dane County school districts expect to balance their 2012-13 budgets without teacher layoffs, superintendents said Tuesday.
Instead, to offset stricter-than-usual funding limits set by the state, districts are cutting positions through attrition, reducing benefits and tapping reserves.
Some are also working with employees to identify savings through new work rules being developed to replace collective bargaining agreements, most of which expire June 30.
The layoff issue is being closely watched statewide as state budget cuts to education play a role in Gov. Scott Walker’s upcoming recall election.
In a State Journal survey of Dane County’s 16 main school districts, Monona Grove reported issuing notices to one full-time and seven part-time employees, and Mount Horeb said it issued one layoff notice.

Related: Real Data: How Act 10 Affected the Sun Prairie Area School District by sp-eye:

Act 10 was designed to provide school district and municipalities with “tools”….tools which could be used to lower property taxes and get a handle on exploding costs.
How did it work?
Well…we look at DPT salary and fringe benefit data available from DPI and compared apples to apples. We looked at actual employees in both administration and teaching (support staff salary data is not available). We looked at employees that were on staff both in 2010-11 and this year (2011-12).
We broke teachers down in to 3 classes: the top shelf (most highly paid), those with salaries right in the middle, and those on the bottom rung. Further, we initially obtained data on 32 individuals in each class, to make for a representative statistical sampling.

Diversity Training Doesn’t Work

Peter Bregman:

“We’ve got another lawsuit,” my friend and client Lana* told me over the phone.
“Really?” I was honestly surprised. “What about all that diversity training everyone went through?”
“Well, apparently we need to do it again.”
Lana was the head of Human Resources for Bedia, a company in the media industry that felt, at times, like an old boy’s network. Diversity wasn’t just a professional issue for her; she cared about it personally.
Over the years, there had been a number of incidents at Bedia in which individuals had felt misunderstood, mistreated, or disrespected. Eventually, someone sued.
In the most recent situation, someone used a word in a letter that felt derogatory to a number of African Americans. Before that, someone sent a sexist joke around the office and a female co-worker was offended. There were other incidents too.

Related: Why you should stop attending diversity training by Suzanne Lucas and Diversity Training Ineffective by Phil Bowermaster.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Americans Paying More in Taxes than for Food, Clothing, and Shelter

Kevin Duncan:

In 2012, Americans will pay approximately $4.041 trillion in taxes, which is $152 billion, or 3.9 percent, more than they will spend on housing, food, and clothing.[1] Through looking at contemporary data and examining the trend of tax collections and expenditures on housing, food, and clothing, we can compare the costs of government with the necessary costs individuals incur every year. Relative to the basic cost of living, taxes have increased considerably in recent decades. In turn, a greater share of essential private expenditures are now funded through government outlays.
Historical Perspective: Tax Growth Exceeds Spending Growth
Between 1929 and the early 1980s, aggregate tax collections were less than total expenditures on housing, food, and clothing (see chart). From 1929 to 1980, tax liabilities grew from $10 billion to $751 billion, while expenditures on housing, food, and clothing grew from $41.6 billion to $775.7 billion. In 1982, total tax collections exceeded expenditures on those items. The gap between tax collections and expenditures on essential goods reached a maximum in 2000, when Americans gave 19 percent more to the government than they spent on these items. The growth in tax collections has halted due to economic contractions, such as the collapse of the “dot-com bubble” in 2001 and the 2007-2009 financial crisis.[2]

What Right Do Schools Have to Discipline Students for What They Say Off Campus?

Wendy Kaminer:

Griffith Middle School in Indiana aims to transform “learners today” into “leaders tomorrow.” Leaders of which country, I wonder, after reading the Griffith Middle School Handbook. North Korea? The U.S. Constitution appears to have no standing in Griffith.
Students who have the misfortune to attend school here have virtually no speech rights, pursuant to vague, arbitrary anti-bullying and intimidation rules that include such cryptic provisions as a ban on “innuendos,” for which they may be suspended or expelled. They are subject to rules against using or possessing profanity, pornography or obscenity that include a breathtakingly vague prohibition of “other inappropriate materials” and a ban on “using or writing derogatory written materials.” I suppose they could be disciplined for reading this post, which intentionally derogates Griffith School administrators.
Griffith students should perhaps learn to behave like obedient little automatons: They may be expelled for displaying “disrespect” toward staff or other students or for “disruptive behavior,” including “chronic lack of supplies” and “arguing;” (so much for the spirit of free inquiry). They may be suspended for “hall misconduct,” which includes “boisterous behavior” as well as failure to walk on the right.

Why We Can’t Farm Out the Teaching of Writing

Rachel Toor:

An assistant professor recently wrote to me with an interesting request: “I would like you to suggest a software package or other applications that could more critically assess formal writing than the grammar kernel in Microsoft Office. I am disappointed in my students’ writing yet don’t really have the time to fully evaluate writing assignments.”
Well, then.
I found the question to be strange, and his tone more than a little demanding, but I did a bit of checking. Microsoft’s spell checker is a great tool against typos, but, as we all know, it often makes nonsense out of students’ prose by suggesting correct spellings of completely different and inappropriate words, which they accept without thinking. Its grammar function drives me nuts, but I suppose for some it can provide a prompt to look more closely at sentences.

Parent trigger founder: school reform changed ‘we the people to we the parents’

Ron Matus:

As is routine with school choice proposals, the parent trigger bill in Florida – defeated in March after a dramatic 20-20 vote in the state Senate – was portrayed by critics as another front in a systematic campaign to privatize public schools. So it was fascinating today to hear more detail about the history and motivations behind the bill from Gloria Romero, the former California state senator – and Democrat – who sponsored the original trigger bill in that state.
“This is a law that’s so simple, it’s revolutionary,” Romero told participants at the American Federation for Children summit in Newark. “This law has the power to really shift paradigms, to give true power – not just lip service, no longer window dressing – to parents who are sick and tired of failing schools.”

Clark County School District to ask voters to OK six-year property tax increase for repairs and renovations

Paul Takahashi:

The Clark County School Board unanimously voted Wednesday to pursue a ballot question seeking voter approval for a six-year property tax increase to renovate and replace aging schools.
Although the exact wording of the question has yet to be determined, voters will be asked in November to allow the School District to launch a capital levy program that funds school maintenance on what the district is calling a pay-as-you-go basis.
Under the proposal, property taxes would increase about $74 annually on a house valued at $100,000 to begin funding high-priority school construction and rehabilitation projects.
The tax increase would generate $669 million over the six-year period, district officials said, assuming there are no further declines in property values past 2013. The property tax rate would return to its current rate after the six years.

College Space Availability Survey Results 2012

National Association of College Admission Counseling:

Openings for Qualified Students
Search by state/country for NACAC-member colleges and universities that are still accepting applications for Fall 2012 freshman and/or transfer admission. Then click on the “Contact Info” link if you would like more information from the college/university about how to apply. Many colleges are added to the list after the initial May 2 deadline, so be sure the check back.
Colleges and Universities: Participation in the survey is limited to NACAC-member Principal Representatives. If you would like to add your college to the listing or update your current listing, please click on the link below. You will be prompted to log-in to the site.

What Would the End of Football Look Like?

Tyler Cowen and Kevin Grier:

The NFL is done for the year, but it is not pure fantasy to suggest that it may be done for good in the not-too-distant future. How might such a doomsday scenario play out and what would be the economic and social consequences?
By now we’re all familiar with the growing phenomenon of head injuries and cognitive problems among football players, even at the high school level. In 2009, Malcolm Gladwell asked whether football might someday come to an end, a concern seconded recently by Jonah Lehrer.
Before you say that football is far too big to ever disappear, consider the history: If you look at the stocks in the Fortune 500 from 1983, for example, 40 percent of those companies no longer exist. The original version of Napster no longer exists, largely because of lawsuits. No matter how well a business matches economic conditions at one point in time, it’s not a lock to be a leader in the future, and that is true for the NFL too. Sports are not immune to these pressures. In the first half of the 20th century, the three big sports were baseball, boxing, and horse racing, and today only one of those is still a marquee attraction.

Sure, introduce more rigor into the professional military education system — but not by imitating civilian schools

Robert Goldich:

I’d suggest that letter grading is inappropriate for institutions like the war colleges, but that more systematic evaluation is not.
Letter grades were not given at the interwar Command and General Staff School, but class rankings based on percentages were, and I think something like that might be more appropriate. I do know that there was a distinct but very visible minority of students, military and civilian, at the National War College when I was a student who just skated by, including contributing nothing to group projects and letting others take up the slack. Some sort of more rigorous evaluation seems to me to be indicated.
One thing I think that any war college evaluation system needs to be very careful about is the application of civilian academic standards and concepts to military students. There is a fundamental and decisive difference between mid-career military officers in a military institution and civilian graduate students. While I am a big proponent of more civilian graduate education for military officers, there are also a fair number of officers who might not excel in a formal educational milieu who are nonetheless consummate military professionals.

Why College Football Should Be Banned

Buzz Bissinger:

In more than 20 years I’ve spent studying the issue, I have yet to hear a convincing argument that college football has anything do with what is presumably the primary purpose of higher education: academics.
That’s because college football has no academic purpose. Which is why it needs to be banned. A radical solution, yes. But necessary in today’s times.
Football only provides the thickest layer of distraction in an atmosphere in which colleges and universities these days are all about distraction, nursing an obsession with the social well-being of students as opposed to the obsession that they are there for the vital and single purpose of learning as much as they can to compete in the brutal realities of the global economy.

Mr. Bissinger is the author of “Friday Night Lights.” He will participate in a debate Tuesday evening at New York University, sponsored by Intelligence Squared, in which he and Malcolm Gladwell will argue that college football should be banned

In Florida, school choice verges on mainstream

Ron Matus:

The numbers (carefully compiled by Jon East, vice president for policy & public affairs at Step Up) are from 2010-11 and we know in many cases the current figures are even higher. Charter school enrollment, for example, topped 175,000 this year, and the tax credit scholarship program serves more than 39,000 students. Altogether, the numbers underscore two things we emphasize at redefinED: School choice – the kind that allows parents to go beyond their neighborhood school – is becoming mainstream in Florida. And the lines between “public” and “private” are more blurred here than in any other state.
The AFC conference agenda includes Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Newark Mayor Cory Booker and an all-star line up of choice experts and advocates. We’re hoping to have a little time to update you on what’s going on with blog posts and tweets. For the latter, follow us at @redefinEDonline.

History is a story with no ending. You read it from the past to the present. Then you make history.

Kirk Tuck:

Funny thing happened on the way to educating our country. We lost track of how important history is and we lost sight of what it really means to be educated. Somewhere along the line we decided, as a culture, that the only really important thing was to have a career and get a job and make money and be comfortable. In order to do this most efficiently we took our universities, which previously had subscribed to a mandate that good education meant well rounded education, and turned them into big trade schools. Mostly for the benefit of big business.
Each “discipline” narrowed down its focus to transmit only the rawest and coarsest base competencies. Engineering students learned their math and physical sciences but lost the institutional mandate that required what used to be considered basics. Things like literature and a foreign language became roadkill for the sciences. Business majors never see the inside of a philosophy or art history classroom on their rush to riches. Our forefathers knew that it was in our society’s best interest that people understand the value of good novels and poems, become civilized by appreciating important and time tested music and also to understand the arc of art history and art in general.
It has been said that “Art tells us what it is to be human.” And I would say that any society that doesn’t value it’s art will soon cease to be creative, cease to produce truly creative products and will live a meaner existence. To not know history is to be doomed to endlessly repeat it.

Construction Grammar

There is a rapidly growing international community of scholars who have been pursuing the Construction Grammar and Frame Semantics approach to linguistic analysis, which has its historical roots in Berkeley and particularly in the work of Charles Fillmore. The purpose of this website is to provide an information resource that will keep track of new developments in constructional research and also promote discussion and collaboration among linguists interested in applying and further extending the constructional approach.

The Relatively Unexplored Frontier Of Charter School Finance

Matthew DiCarlo:

Do charter schools do more – get better results – with less? If you ask this question, you’ll probably get very strong answers, ranging from the affirmative to the negative, often depending on the person’s overall view of charter schools. The reality, however, is that we really don’t know.
Actually, despite uninformed coverage of insufficient evidence, researchers don’t even have a good handle on how much charter schools spend, to say nothing of whether how and how much they spend leads to better outcomes. Reporting of charter financial data is incomplete, imprecise and inconsistent. It is difficult to disentangle the financial relationships between charter management organizations (CMOs) and the schools they run, as well as that between charter schools and their “host” districts.
A new report published by the National Education Policy Center, with support from the Shanker Institute and the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice, examines spending between 2008 and 2010 among charter schools run by major CMOs in three states – New York, Texas and Ohio. The results suggest that relative charter spending in these states, like test-based charter performance overall, varies widely. In addition, perhaps more importantly, the findings make it clear that there remain significant barriers to accurate spending comparisons between charter and regular public schools, which severely hinder rigorous efforts to examine the cost-effectiveness of these schools.

The Decline and Fall of the Library Empire

Steve Coffman:

The past 30 years of library history is littered with projects and plans and sometimes just dreams of ways the library might play a more pivotal role in the digital revolution that continues to transform the information landscape around us. Some of those projects never really got off the ground.
Web Directories
Remember those heady early days when we thought we were going to catalog the web? OCLC even set up a whole project for this task back around the turn of the century (sounds like a long time ago, doesn’t it?). It was called CORC, or Collaborative Online Resource Catalog. Librarians around the world were supposed to select and catalog “good, librarian-certified” web resources. There was even talk of assigning Dewey numbers to websites — an idea which I’m sure would have brought tears to the eyes of many, especially our patrons. Today, the only evidence you can find of CORC is a few sentences in a list of abandoned research projects on the OCLC website and some links to PowerPoints and articles saluting it — most now more than 10 years old.

Lewis Carroll logic puzzles

Terence Tao:

I had another long plane flight recently, so I decided to try making another game, to explore exactly what types of mathematical reasoning might be amenable to gamification. I decided to start with one of the simplest types of logical argument (and one of the few that avoids the disjunction problem mentioned in the previous post), namely the Aristotelian logic of syllogistic reasoning, most famously exemplified by the classic syllogism:
Major premise: All men are mortal.
Minor premise: Socrates is a man.
Conclusion: Socrates is a mortal.
There is a classic collection of logic puzzles of Lewis Carroll (from his book on symbolic logic), in which he presents a set of premises and asks to derive a conclusion using all of the premises. Here are four examples of such sets:

On Tiger Moms

Julie Park:

When Amy Chua published an article in the Wall Street Journal last January entitled “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior,” people were offended. The article–an excerpt from her memoir, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother–makes the case for a “Chinese” style of parenting in brutally honest terms. Chua, a professor of law at Yale and mother of two daughters, observes that “Chinese” parents produce many more “math whizzes and music prodigies” than “Western” parents. This, she claims, is the fruit of a style of parenting that values academic excellence, musical genius and, above all, success, and which does not shy away from imposing strict rules and restrictions, hard work that verges on torture, and despotic punishments. The Western style–with its emphasis on playing sports, having fun and building self-esteem–is by contrast woefully flaccid.
To illustrate her point, Chua describes her own parenting techniques: she never allowed her daughters to earn less than perfect grades (an A- or second place was unacceptable); even on vacation she forced them to endure three-hour piano and violin practice sessions without food or bathroom breaks (once, when her then three-year old daughter disobeyed, she made her stand outside in freezing weather); she used threats and extortion to force them to excel (when her younger daughter resisted learning a piano piece, Chua “threatened her with no lunch, no dinner, no Christmas or Hanukkah presents, no birthday parties for two, three, four years”). The only extracurricular activities she allowed her daughters were those in which they could win a medal (and that medal had to be gold)–“loser” activities like crafts, theater, television, sleepovers and dating were forbidden. Chua never mentions corporal punishment, but she does think it perfectly acceptable to call one’s children fat, lazy, stupid or worthless–so long as it is done out of love and for the children’s own good. She once told her older daughter she was “garbage.”

Higher education as investment opportunity

Konstantin Ryabitsev:

It strikes me that most people in favour of tuition hikes view higher education as a net loss paid by their taxes, rather than as an investment that will bring high dividends in the future. It is my wish that more people approached higher education funding like venture capitalists approach startups — as an investment rather than as a cost. Let me explain what I mean.
Statistically, 9 8 out of 10 startups will fail, costing venture capitalists millions. However, the 2 that succeed will more than cover the losses on the other 8, with lots of extra profit on top, which is why the VCs continue to do it.
Opponents to free higher education tend to point out how many students have trouble finding jobs after they graduate, especially those who chose to major in humanities. However, if we look at it from the same perspective as venture capitalists, it doesn’t matter that many students who receive higher education end up working minimal-wage jobs. We as a society reap our monetary and cultural benefits from those few who do succeed.

The Role of Congress in Education Policy

Charles Barone & Elizabeth DeBray:

A practical look at the education laws established by Congress over the past half-century shows three things that Congress is uniquely positioned to do well: promote equal educational opportunity, set goals and keep score, and invest in research and development. Further historical reflection also shows that Congress has two significant limitations: an inability to respond quickly and a limited capacity to monitor and enforce.
Over the past 50 years, Congress has enacted sweeping changes to federal law when a segment of U.S. society was judged as having been denied equal educational opportunity, and when states and municipalities were unable or unwilling to remedy those inequities.
Title I of the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act was intended to equalize the educational opportunities available to poor and minority children. Title IX of the 1965 Civil Rights Act, as amended in 1972, banned sexual discrimination in federally funded education programs. The 1975 Education for All Handicapped Children Act, known today as the Individuals with Disabilities Act, or IDEA, granted the right to a free and appropriate public education for students with disabilities. Pell Grants, established in 1965, expanded access to postsecondary education for millions of low-income students.

Family is 2-for-2 on Presidential Scholars

Jeff Glaze:

It’s all in the family for a Madison Memorial High School senior.
On Wednesday, Sundaram Gunasekaran and his wife, Sujatha, were notified their second child, Suman, 17, was selected as a Presidential Scholar by the U.S. Department of Education
In 2009, the couple’s daughter Suvai received the honor and now is at Harvard University where Suman will join her in the fall.
Staff with the Presidential Scholars Program said having two students from the same family receive the honor is a rare occurrence but were unable to confirm whether it’s happened before.
Suman, one of 141 selected for the honor out of more than 3,300 candidates, said he was proud to be the second in his family to receive the honor and credited his parents’ encouragement

Social trends and baby names

The Economist:

THE range of names parents choose to give their offspring has increased dramatically in recent decades. While many countries seek to ban some of the most exotic appellations (see article), the quest for originality continues. To help parents, and inspired by America’s Baby Name Voyager, Anna Powell-Smith has created a neat visualisation of baby-naming patterns in England and Wales using 15 years of data from the Office of National Statistics. It reveals some interesting social trends. There has been a move towards more flowery, old-fashioned names for girls, and away from Biblical names for boys. Chloe, Lauren, Daniel and James are out. Lily, Grace, Oliver and Ethan are in. Films such as “The Matrix” and “Amélie” have had significant influences; and the proportion of eastern European names jumped in 2005 following the expansion of the European Union. The biggest proportional fallers were Brittany for girls, Macaulay for boys, and Jordan for both.

Real ‘Beautiful Mind’: College Dropout Became Mathematical Genius After Mugging

Neal Karlinsky & Meredith Frost:

Working behind the counter at a futon store in Tacoma, Wash., is not the place you would expect to find a man some call a mathematical genius of unprecedented proportions.
Jason Padgett, 41, sees complex mathematical formulas everywhere he looks and turns them into stunning, intricate diagrams he can draw by hand. He’s the only person in the world known to have this incredible skill, which he obtained by sheer accident just a decade ago.
“I’m obsessed with numbers, geometry specifically,” Padgett said. “I literally dream about it. There’s not a moment that I can’t see it, and it just doesn’t turn off.”

Goal of Gallup poll: Improve environment in Madison schools

Matthew DeFour:

While reviewing the results of a new student survey this year, the Sennett Middle School student council was surprised to learn about safety concerns.
After further investigation, council members discovered some students didn’t feel comfortable in a certain hallway, so Principal Colleen Lodholz ensured a security guard monitored the hallway between class periods.
Lodholz said the Gallup Student Poll, administered in grades 5-12 for the first time in the fall, was more effective than past school climate surveys because the results were available sooner.
“Typically when we did the climate surveys, you wouldn’t get the results until summer,” Lodholz said. “You could choose to use it the following year, but the kids had moved on.”
The Gallup poll asks students to rate 20 statements such as “I know I will graduate from high school” and “I feel safe in this school.” The statements correspond to the categories “hope,” “engagement” and “well-being.”

Is the Primary Purpose of Schools to Educate Students or Anchor Communities?

Mike Ford:

Kathleen Falk today used a closed school as a backdrop for a campaign speech touting her plans to restore school aid cuts if elected governor. The school, Phillis Wheatley Elementary, was recently shut down by the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS). Last month a candidate running against Milwaukee representative Jason Fields in the 11th Assembly District Democratic primary, Mandela Barnes, kicked off his campaign in front of MPS’ closed Daniel Webster Middle School. Barnes too spoke of restoring funding to public education, arguing that a closed school reflects poorly on a neighborhood:

“We chose this location because this closed school building represents the loss of hope and opportunity. Who would bring jobs to an area that closes schools?

Falk’s appearance and Barnes’ statement highlight a serious byproduct of Milwaukee’s culture of school choice. Schools close frequently in Milwaukee. They do by design.
The final set of reports from the School Choice Demonstration Project found that during the course of their five-year evaluation 36 private Milwaukee Parental Choice Program schools and 40 MPS schools closed their doors. There is evidence those schools were performing lower than schools that remain open, which on its face is a good thing for students.

Budget Cuts: We Won’t Be as Bold and Innovative as Oconomowoc, and That’s Okay.

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes:

Another approach might be eliminating programs or initiatives that are more closely aligned to student learning. Possibilities here could include reducing our school staff who are not classroom teachers, like Reading Interventionists, Instructional Resource Teachers, and Positive Behavior Coaches. We could also eliminate special interventions for struggling readers. The reading recovery program is the best-known example. While reading recovery is backed by research that supports its effectiveness, it’s an expensive program and, at least as of a couple of years ago, we hadn’t seen in Madison the level of successful outcomes in terms of students’ reading progress that had typically been achieved elsewhere with the program.
My view is that we should have in place an established schedule for evaluating the effectiveness of our intervention programs, like Reading Recovery, and we should be willing to make difficult decisions based on what the evaluations tell us. But that evaluation and review process should be separate from our budgeting process. We shouldn’t look at cutting programs like Reading Recovery strictly as a cost-saving measure. I doubt that we’re willing to eliminate all intensive interventions for struggling readers – I don’t even know if we could do so legally – and it’s far from obvious that substituting one intensive reading intervention program for another would end up saving us all that much money.

Related: 60% to 42%: Madison School District’s Reading Recovery Effectiveness Lags “National Average”: Administration seeks to continue its use.
Much more on the Oconomowoc School District’s high school staffing an compensation plan, here.

Harvard and M.I.T. Team Up to Offer Free Online Courses

Tamar Lewin, via a kind Rick Kiley email:

In what is shaping up as an academic Battle of the Titans — one that offers vast new learning opportunities for students around the world — Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on Wednesday announced a new nonprofit partnership, known as edX, to offer free online courses from both universities.
Harvard’s involvement follows M.I.T.’s announcement in December that it was starting an open online learning project, MITx. Its first course, Circuits and Electronics, began in March, enrolling about 120,000 students, some 10,000 of whom made it through the recent midterm exam. Those who complete the course will get a certificate of mastery and a grade, but no official credit. Similarly, edX courses will offer a certificate but not credit.

Madison School District Must Pay $31K for Refusing to Turn Over Employee Sick Notes

Eugene Volokh:

The lawsuit was filed under state public records law, in the wake of the controversy over whether the sick notes were based on honest claims of sickness; the newspaper agreed to have the employee names blacked out to preserve employee privacy.
Speaking of Madison, this James Madison quote — made about support for education funding, but often also used by supporters of public access to government records — might be relevant:

A popular government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy, or perhaps both. Knowledge will ever govern ignorance; and a people, who mean to be their own governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.

More, here.

Speed Kills

Modern man (and woman?) is very interested in speed, on land and sea and in the air, but also in “scoring” student writing, it appears. Educational Testing Service recently praised its computer program’s ability to score 16,000 samples of writing in 20 seconds.
I should probably explain my bias against too much speed, and not just where it helps to kill thousands of people on the highway. Several decades ago, I took a speed reading course from Xerox Learning Systems. They gave a pre-test on reading and comprehension, and the tests after the course showed that I had doubled my reading speed and cut my comprehension in half.
The arguments in favor of grading student writing by computer program are that it saves money and time and allows huge volumes of student responses-to-a-prompt to be “addressed,” as they would say.
I am not sure whether Abraham Lincoln wrote The Gettysburg Address on the back of an envelope on the train to Pennsylvania or not, but if he had taken one of the new bullet trains, no doubt the speech would have been shorter and quite possibly less immortal.
Other writers have found inspiration watching the land pass by their train windows, but that again has become less common, no doubt, as the speed of travel has increased. The Dreamliner may make it easier to sleep during the flight, but there is not much to see out the window.
E.T.S. may be able to make some serious money in “assessing” student writing at 21st century speeds, but the comprehension of that work will have been cut to zero, I am quite sure, because, as you understand, the computer program, and perhaps some of those who are promoting this scoring by machine, have no idea what the student is saying in any case.
Assessing short writing samples at blinded speeds may lead to encouraging more teachers to assign such brief pieces to their students, thus saving them from having to take the time in coaching and evaluating writing that could be spent on watching videos and talking about the Twilight series or The Hunger Games in class. Thus, students’ greatest writing efforts in high school could be devoted to their 500-word “college essay,” instead of, for example, a 4,000-word Extended Essay such as they would need to do for the International Baccalaureate Diploma.
It should be noted that the College Board has recently announced a new Capstone Writing Initiative, by which they plan to introduce academic expository writing, over a three-year Pilot program into a select few of our high schools. At first, papers will be produced by groups on limited topics, but perhaps in a few more years, students of this new AP program will be allowed to attempt the sort of serious history research paper that The Concord Review has published by more than 1,000 secondary students from 39 countries over the last 25 years.
I would caution the AP, however, that if they are going to ask teachers and students to work on serious academic papers, they may very well have to slow down the assessments, unless, of course, computers have advanced enough in the next three or four years so that they can not only “evaluate” such papers at a rapid pace, but also begin the understand the very first thing of what the students are writing about (i.e. the subject matter). After all, Deep Blue did well at Jeopardy, didn’t it? So a future program, with hundreds of thousands of history books in its memory banks, may be able to make connections to allow it to at least seem to understand some of the history that the student has derived from their own reading and thinking.
These advances could make it easier at last to assign and assess serious student academic expository writing at the secondary level, at least enough to satisfy the College Board and those who buy the Capstone Project, but I am sorry to say that, for the student, the process of reading history and writing about it will be just as slow, and just as valuable, as it was for Thucydides and Tacitus and Edward Gibbon back in the day, and for David McCullough in our own day.
At a recent conference, David McCullough, who spent 10 years writing Truman, said that he is often asked how he divides his time between research and writing. He said no one every asks him how much time he spends thinking. The new computer scoring programs don’t waste any time thinking about the content of the work they are evaluating, and, in their rush to do a lot of writing “assessments” real fast and very cheaply, perhaps those promoting those programs don’t spend a lot of time on that part either.
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Teachers And Their Unions: A Conceptual Border Dispute

Matthew Di Carlo:

One of the segments from “Waiting for Superman” that stuck in my head is the following statement by Newsweek reporter Jonathan Alter:
It’s very, very important to hold two contradictory ideas in your head at the same time. Teachers are great, a national treasure. Teachers’ unions are, generally speaking, a menace and an impediment to reform.
The distinction between teachers and their unions (as well as those of other workers) has been a matter of political and conceptual contention for long time. On one “side,” the common viewpoint, as characterized by Alter’s slightly hyperbolic line, is “love teachers, don’t like their unions.” On the other “side,” criticism of teachers’ unions is often called “teacher bashing.”
So, is there any distinction between teachers and teachers’ unions? Of course there is.

Next Generation of Online-Learning Systems Faces Barriers to Adoption

Nick DeSantis:

More colleges are experimenting with online-learning platforms to meet the growing demand for higher education and to increase revenue in the face of budget cuts. But the next generation of online-learning systems faces several barriers to adoption, according to a new report.
Chief among them are professors’ desires to customize what they teach and their reluctance to use prepackaged course material. The most sophisticated of today’s online-learning systems rely on machine-guided instruction to adapt lessons to the needs of individual students. But most of those systems do not yet allow instructors to deeply tailor the material to meet their course needs. And highly-interactive systems are often too complex for pioneering professors to adopt and sustain on their own.

A week of a student’s electrodermal activity

Joi Ito:

Obviously, this is just one student and doesn’t necessarily generalize, but I love that the electrodermal activity is nearly flatlined during classes. 😉 (Note that the activity is higher during sleep than during class…)
“Changes in skin conductance at the surface, referred to as electrodermal activity (EDA), reflect activity within the sympathetic axis of the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) and provide a sensitive and convenient measure of assessing alterations in sympathetic arousal associated with emotion, cognition, and attention.”

Inside Ethiopia’s Adoption Boom

Miriam Jordan:

Seated in plastic chairs in a grade-school cafeteria in Minnesota, Sandra and Alan Roth admired their 7-year-old daughter, Melesech, making her stage debut last month in “Peter Pan” as one of the “lost kids”–the children who find themselves spirited away to a magical place called Neverland. Four years earlier, to the day, the Roths had brought Mel home from Ethiopia, where they had adopted her.
“Oh, Wendy, we thought you were going to be our mother!” said Mel on stage, speaking her only line and wearing a rust-colored tunic and fuzzy Ugg-style boots.
“She is very special,” said Mrs. Roth, 49 years old. For children like her in Ethiopia, she added, “There is no future.”

Mexican migrant town is left on its knees

Adam Thomson:

Altar (map), a rough and airless town lost in Mexico’s wild northern desert, used to provide a thriving trade for its 8,000 permanent residents. Seared by merciless summer heat, and just 60 miles from the Arizona border, it has served as the last and most important watering hole for thousands of undocumented Mexicans headed for the US.
Juan Ramírez, who sells last-minute supplies for migrants – miniature bars of soap, woollen blankets to protect against the freezing nights and carpet-bottomed moccasins to avoid leaving footprints on the perilous journey north – remembers the good times well. “There were people from all over,” he says. “There were times when the main square looked like a stadium just before a big game.”
Today, it looks like one long after the final whistle has blown. Since the US recession bit in 2008, Washington beefed up security along the border and Arizona passed a zero-tolerance anti-immigration law, the human river that once flowed north, much of it through Altar, has become almost as dry as the desert itself.

redefinED roundup: Voucher politics in Wisconsin, Jeb Bush in S.C., school choice defense in Florida and more


Florida: State Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson responds to newspaper questions about charter schools and vouchers. (Tampa Bay Times Gradebook blog) He suggest school choice critics have a double standard. (redefinED)
Wisconsin: Vouchers have become an issue in the Democratic primary for governor between candidates Tom Barrett and Kathleen Falk. (
South Carolina: Jeb Bush talks education reform and school choice at a summit for educators, lawmakers and business leaders. (Associated Press) Parents rally for choice as Legislature considers several proposals. (The State)

Open Negotiations with the Douglas County (Colorado) Federation of Teachers

Douglas County Board of Education:

In a bold move toward increased transparency, the Douglas County Board of Education adopted a resolution on March 20 to open labor negotiations with the Douglas County Federation of Teachers (DCFT) to the public.
On April 11, those negotiations commenced with presentations by representatives of Douglas County School District (DCSD) and the DCFT about their collective bargaining agreement proposals. The next session is scheduled for May 9 at the Cantril Building.
The sessions are open to the public and the media.

The Douglas County schools spend $8,112.40/student. The 2011 budget spends $481,066,888 for 59,300 students, according to this document. Madison spends 14,858.40 per student (2011-2012 budget).
Census data comparison: Dane (WI-USA 45.4% Bachelors Degree or higher; per capita money income: $32,392) vs. Douglas County (CO-USA 54.4% Bachelors Degree or higher; per capita money income: $42,418). It appears we spend far more on K-12 education from a much lower economic base.

International Education in Seattle

Melissa Westbrook:

John Stanford advanced the idea of a foreign language immersion school before his death in 1998. He thought that a district with many students speaking many languages could be an asset and had put forth the idea of a foreign language immersion school. Backed by the School Board and under the leadership of principal Karen Kodama, the John Stanford International School opened in the Latona building in the fall of 2000.
When it started it was dual language immersion for either Spanish or Japanese (these languages were chosen in a survey of parents and business leaders). Additionally, it was one of the elementary Bilingual Orientation Centers for elementary students. That was primarily where the native speakers came from who became part of the two-way learning for other students.
In 1999, JSIS was one of five of the University of Washington’s K-12 initiatives. The goals* were:

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: U.S. Debt Culture and the Dollar’s Fate

Christopher Whalen:

IN OUR common narrative, the modern era of global finance–what we call the Old Order–begins with the Great Depression and New Deal of the 1930s. The economic model put in place by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and others at the end of World War II is seen as a political as well as economic break point. But arbitrarily selected demarcation points in any human timeline can be misleading. The purpose of narrative, after all, is to simplify the complex and, over time, to remake the past in today’s terms. As we approach any discussion of the Old Order, we must acknowledge that the image of intelligent design in public policy is largely an illusion.
There is no question that the world after 1950 was a reflection of the wants and needs of the United States, the victor in war and thus the designer of the peacetime system of commerce and finance that followed. Just as the Roman, Mongol and British empires did centuries earlier, America made the post-World War II peace in its own image. The U.S.-centric model enjoyed enormous success due to factors such as relatively low inflation, financial transactions that respect anonymity, an open court system and a relatively enlightened foreign policy–all unique attributes of the American system.

America’s under-appreciated community colleges hold promise

The Economist:

COMPARED with its world-famous universities, America’s community colleges are virtually anonymous. But over half of the nation’s 20m undergraduates attend them, and the number is growing fast. Poor, minority and first-generation-immigrant students are far more likely to get their tertiary education from community colleges–where two-year courses offer a cheap route to a degree–than from universities. And, increasingly, many policymakers are wondering whether more attention to the colleges might be a low-cost way of resolving the nation’s shortage of skilled workers.
America’s problem with training was laid bare in a report published last year by Deloitte, a consultancy firm, and the Manufacturing Institute. It identified 600,000 positions that were going unfilled because there were too few qualified skilled workers. Too many colleges, it seems, still fail to align themselves with the needs of local employers, a mismatch that is bad both for the employers and for potential employees, though arguably universities are even worse at doing this.

Trying to Shed Student Debt

Josh Mitchell:

The growth of student debt is stirring debate about whether the government should step in to ease the burden by rewriting the bankruptcy laws–again.
In 2005, Congress prohibited student debt from being discharged through bankruptcy, except in rare cases, because of concerns that many young graduates–who often have no major assets such as a house or a car–would be tempted to walk away from loan obligations.
Some lawmakers now want to temper that position, pointing to concerns that a significant number of Americans could be buried under education loans for decades. Their efforts, however, would apply only to private loans–a fraction of the market.

No Easy Cure for Diabetic Children

Ron Winslow:

The only pill approved in the U.S. for treatment of children with type 2 diabetes is proving surprisingly ineffective, according to a new study, heightening worries about the fast-growing and largely preventable disease.
The research, reported Sunday, is one of the first long-term studies to test the effectiveness of drugs for diabetic children–estimated in the U.S. to number in the tens of thousands. It tested three different drug-based regimens aimed at controlling the disease and found that only about half the participants successfully controlled their blood sugar–despite relatively good compliance.
Researchers said the findings suggested a majority of youth with the disease may require more than one oral medication–or resort to insulin injections–within a few years of diagnosis.
The disappointing results, some of which caught researchers by surprise, underscore the daunting challenges in treating the condition, which had been viewed as an adult disease until it emerged among adolescents in the past 15 to 20 years alongside rising rates of obesity.

Laptops replace lectures in some area schools

Erin Richards:

Last year, Kim Crosby spent about 80% of her class time teaching math concepts at Waukesha STEM Academy. For the other 20%, she helped students individually.
This year that time is reversed: 80% of her class time is spent moving from student to student; about one-fifth continues to be a standard lecture format. The rest of the direct-instruction materials she wants students to see, she assigns to watch or read at home.
“To me, this makes more sense,” Crosby said.
When it comes to challenging traditional ideas about how schools should operate, this 2-year-old charter school in Waukesha is building a reputation with a curriculum that focuses on science, technology, engineering and math, and where student schedules can change every day.
Students choose when they want to eat and when they want to work during a 60-minute lunch, and can randomly be found working in groups behind the reception desk. Or in the teachers lounge.

Nutella must pay parents who thought chocolate spread was a healthy choice

Tralee Pearce:

Do you remember the first time you sampled Nutella as a breakfast food? Maybe smeared on a French baguette? You probably felt like you were getting away with something with every chocolate-hazelnut bite.
Well, it turns out not everyone knows that the chocolately treat is basically a candy bar in a creamy form.
Do you remember the first time you sampled Nutella as a breakfast food? Maybe smeared on a French baguette? You probably felt like you were getting away with something with every chocolate-hazelnut bite.
Well, it turns out not everyone knows that the chocolately treat is basically a candy bar in a creamy form.

Stephens Elementary (Madison) school parents concerned after high schooler found asleep with pot pipe

Dan Simmons:

After a high school student was found unresponsive in a West Side elementary school bathroom with a marijuana pipe in his backpack, parents are questioning why an alternative school program for academically at-risk high school students is in the same building as the elementary school.
“It does raise concerns,” said Becky Ketarkus, who has six children enrolled at Stephens Elementary, 120 S. Rosa Road. “I’d love to know what the plan is for the future to make sure the school is safe.”
Superintendent Dan Nerad answered that the program is not unique — two other elementary schools house alternative programs for high schoolers — and the district has had relatively few problems similar to the incident on Monday. He stressed that, unlike some other alternative programs, those in elementary schools are targeted to academically at-risk students, not those with behavior issues.

Christie wants to retire high school grad exam

Geoff Mulvihill:

Gov. Chris Christie announced Monday that he wants to retire New Jersey’s maligned high school graduation exam and instead give students a series of tougher tests at the end of required courses.
Christie said Monday that moving away from the High School Proficiency Assessment, or HSPA, would produce graduates more prepared for college or careers.
The current exit exam is considered weak. It requires juniors to be tested on knowledge that they should learn by early in their high school careers. Critics also say that, despite tightening standards, it’s too easy for students to take and pass a less rigorous alternative exam.
The change is the latest initiative from Christie aimed at trying to raise the standards in the state’s public schools. While on average, New Jersey students are among the nation’s highest performing, those in the state’s cities tend to fare much worse.

Education Is the Key to a Healthy Economy: If we fail to reform K-12 schools, we’ll have slow growth and more income inequality.

George P. Schultz & Eric A. Hanushek, via several kind readers:

In addressing our current fiscal and economic woes, too often we neglect a key ingredient of our nation’s economic future–the human capital produced by our K-12 school system. An improved education system would lead to a dramatically different future for the U.S., because educational outcomes strongly affect economic growth and the distribution of income.
Over the past half century, countries with higher math and science skills have grown faster than those with lower-skilled populations. In the chart nearby, we compare GDP-per-capita growth rates between 1960 and 2000 with achievement results on international math assessment tests. The countries include almost all of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries plus a number of developing countries. What stands out is that all the countries follow a nearly straight line that slopes upward–as scores rise, so does economic growth. Peru, South Africa and the Philippines are at the bottom; Singapore and Taiwan, the top.

The Big Easy’s school revolution; Test-Based Evidence on New Orleans Charter Schools

Jo-Ann Armao:

Neerav Kingsland lives and breathes numbers. But when you ask the chief strategy officer of New Schools for New Orleans about this city’s remarkable efforts to rebuild its schools in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, he starts not with statistics but with the story of Bridget Green.
A young woman whose grades earned her the distinction of valedictorian of her 2003 high school class, Green never gave the commencement speech or walked across the stage with her classmates. Despite five tries, she was unable to pass the math-competency exit exam required for graduation.
Green’s story is emblematic of the hopelessness that used to mark New Orleans’s schools. No matter how smart or hardworking or well-meaning the system’s leaders, there was no chance for sustainable improvement, given the enormity of its dysfunction. Then the levees broke and the city was devastated, and out of that destruction came the need to build a new system, one that today is accompanied by buoyant optimism. Since 2006, New Orleans students have halved the achievement gap with their state counterparts. They are on track to, in the next five years, make this the first urban city in the country to exceed its state’s average test scores. The share of students proficient on state tests rose from 35 percent in 2005 to 56 percent in 2011; 40 percent of students attended schools identified by the state as “academically unacceptable” in 2011, down from 78 percent in 2005.

Matthew DiCarlo:

Charter schools in New Orleans (NOLA) now serve over four out of five students in the city – the largest market share of any big city in the nation. As of the 2011-12 school year, most of the city’s schools (around 80 percent), charter and regular public, are overseen by the Recovery School District (RSD), a statewide agency created in 2003 to take over low-performing schools, which assumed control of most NOLA schools in Katrina’s aftermath.
Around three-quarters of these RSD schools (50 out of 66) are charters. The remainder of NOLA’s schools are overseen either by the Orleans Parish School Board (which is responsible for 11 charters and six regular public schools, and taxing authority for all parish schools) or by the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (which is directly responsible for three charters, and also supervises the RSD).
New Orleans is often held up as a model for the rapid expansion of charter schools in other urban districts, based on the argument that charter proliferation since 2005-06 has generated rapid improvements in student outcomes. There are two separate claims potentially embedded in this argument. The first is that the city’s schools perform better that they did pre-Katrina. The second is that NOLA’s charters have outperformed the city’s dwindling supply of traditional public schools since the hurricane.

Granny army helps India’s school children via the cloud

Jane Wakefield:

Jackie Barrow explains how she teaches children thousands of miles away
No-one does love and encouragement better than a granny. Now that love is being spread across continents, as UK-based grandmothers extend their embrace to school children thousands of miles away in India.
Jackie Barrow isn’t a granny yet but as a retired teacher she felt she might qualify for an advert in The Guardian newspaper calling for volunteers to help teach children in India.
She did and today, three years on, she is reading “Not Now Bernard” via Skype to a small group of children in the Indian city of Pune.
They love it and are engaged in the experience as she holds up an Easter egg to show them how children in the UK celebrated the recent holiday.

MacIver Large Wisconsin School District Report Card

MacIver Institute:

The MacIver Institute District Report Card takes an innovative look at the Wisconsin’s fifty largest public school districts and offers a vigorous analysis and traditional letter grading system in this unique analysis. It rates districts across several different measures to create a comprehensive look at how teachers and administrators are performing in their schools. The Report Card goes beyond the typical parochial comparison of neighboring communities to also focus on how children compete on a global level. With a dynamic global economy perpetually in front of us, a broader focus was needed to better understand how our districts stack up across many metrics.
The Report Card takes into account not only how a student is testing, but also how likely a district is to push their students to achieve more. The state has recently increased graduation requirements to include more coursework and more challenging classes. This metric works to gauge the progress that has been made in those departments. Finally, the MI District Report Card factors in a student’s basic background to better understand the challenges that a school district may face and their effectiveness as a result. Educating students from low-income families, as well as other students that have traditionally been difficult to teach, is critically important to the future of Wisconsin.
These rankings go beyond what standardized testing tells us. They take a closer look inside the classroom and assign grades based on achievement, attainment, and student population. Districts that have higher percentages of low-income and limited English proficiency (LEP) students, two factors that are traditionally linked to lower scores on state testing measures, earn extra points to address this greater degree of difficulty for their teachers.

Madison ranked 42nd out of 50 in academic achievement, 40th in student attainment, B- overall.

California fact of the day

Tyler Cowen:

Data available from the UC Office of the President shows that there were 2.5 faculty members for each senior manager in the UC system in 1993. Now there are as many senior managers as faculty. Just think: Each professor could have his or her personal senior manager.
A report on administrative growth by the UCLA Faculty Associationestimated that UC would have $800 million more each year if senior management had grown at the same rate as the rest of the university since 1997, instead of four times faster.

Can We Correlate WKCE Scores to Anything?


It’s time somebody looked (at least in the public eye) at some of the demographics and policy/practices and how they may or may not relate to achievement (in terms of WKCE scores).
First a very brief less in the art of correlation. We can take any two pieces of information and mathematically determine whether or not there is a pattern…a correlation. The mathematical tool is the correlation coefficient. It provides a number ranging from -1 (perfect inverse correlation, as X increases, Y decreases) to +1 (perfect correlation, as X increases/decreases, so does Y). Then, all we need to do is apply some statistics based on the size of our data set to determine whether or not the correlation is significant (statistically speaking). For this exercise we looked at the 95% level of confidence, which means that there would be 5% or less chance that the correlation observed resulted from chance alone.

Much more on the oft-criticized WKCE, here.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: How Retirement Benefits May Sink the States

Steven Malanga:

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel recently offered a stark assessment of the threat to his state’s future that is posed by mounting pension and retiree health-care bills for government workers. Unless Illinois enacts reform quickly, he said, the costs of these programs will force taxes so high that, “You won’t recruit a business, you won’t recruit a family to live here.”
We’re likely to hear more such worries in coming years. That’s because state and local governments across the country have accumulated several trillion dollars in unfunded retirement promises to public-sector workers, the costs of which will increasingly force taxes higher and crowd out other spending. Already businesses and residents are slowly starting to sit up and notice.
“Companies don’t want to buy shares in a phenomenal tax burden that will unfold over the decades,” the Chicago Tribune observed after Mr. Emanuel issued his warning on April 4. And neither will citizens.

Florida education commissioner suggests critics have double standard with charter schools, vouchers

Ron Matus:

Do critics have a double standard when it comes to scrutinizing school choice options like charter schools and vouchers? Florida Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson suggested as much in an interview published today by the Tampa Bay Times’ Gradebook education blog.
In response to a question from the Times editorial board, Robinson noted that charter schools that struggle academically and/or financially can be shut down (in Florida, that has happened many times) but that same ultimate penalty is rarely leveled at traditional public schools (off hand, we can’t think of any examples in Florida). “For the bad charter schools that aren’t working, they should close,” Robinson said. “But for the traditional schools that have also failed a number of our kids, we don’t see the same level of righteous indignation.”
Robinson has deep roots in the school choice movement, having once served as president of the Black Alliance for Educational Options. And interestingly enough, the editorial board’s questions focused mostly on choice options. Here are some other excerpts:

The Subliminal Self

On Point:

A fresh take on the uncanny, unnerving power of the unconscious mind.
We think we’re thinking our way through life. Well, yes and no. We’re thinking, but our unconscious minds are enormously powerful drivers. We think, but they can decide – often before we’ve even asked the question. For decades, we’ve understood we’re open to “subliminal seduction.” Our unconscious mind can be wooed.
Freud called it a beast. New science is showing just how powerful the mind beneath can be, and – often – how helpful. It’s us. And it’s way ahead of us.

Bo’s son is the poster boy for a private school system gone mad

Stephen Robinson:

Anyone who has been to an expensive private school with an energetic “alumni outreach officer” will know the deal. The letters and the glossy brochures come regularly – one of them dropped on my door mat only the other day. Nick Clegg will have got the same letter and so will Chris Huhne, or Christopher Paul-Huhne, as he was known as a boy at Westminster School. So, too, will the singer Dido, the actress Imogen Stubbs and Martha Lane Fox.
All of these distinguished people will have benefited enormously from their great good fortune to have been educated at one of the finest schools in the country. The attraction of our private schools has traditionally been in the excellence of the teaching, but no more, it seems. For the past 20 years or so, the great private schools of Britain, and some of the not so great ones, have been engaged in a demented arms race to outdo each other in facilities.
In 1984, average yearly boarding fees in private schools were about £4,000. Today, many of them charge more than £30,000, roughly a threefold increase in real terms according to the Bank of England’s inflation calculator. Private schools once offered a slightly superior version of a grammar school education. Many of them occupied lovely sites, but there was no special emphasis on lavish facilities.

Teach black and Hispanic students differently

Richard Whitmire:

In late March, a panel of 10 education experts gathered in Washington to nominate four most-improved urban school districts for a national education prize. What should have been a routine review of student data, however, suddenly took a new direction.
First one member on the review panel for the annual Broad Prize for Urban Education then another noticed the same thing: Plenty of large urban school districts nationwide were making solid progress with Hispanic students closing achievement gaps with white students. But African-American students continued to lag.
In theory, the experts should not have been seeing what they were seeing. The federal data tracking Hispanic and black students show that they are making roughly the same progress (not much) in closing learning gaps. That left the review panel members puzzled. Was this an illusion?


More Intelligent Life, via Brian S. Hall:

A fundamental paradox of human psychology is that thinking can be bad for us. When we follow our own thoughts too closely, we can lose our bearings, as our inner chatter drowns out common sense. A study of shopping behaviour found that the less information people were given about a brand of jam, the better the choice they made. When offered details of ingredients, they got befuddled by their options and ended up choosing a jam they didn’t like.
If a rat is faced with a puzzle in which food is placed on its left 60% of the time and on the right 40% of the time, it will quickly deduce that the left side is more rewarding, and head there every time, thus achieving a 60% success rate. Young children adopt the same strategy. When Yale undergraduates play the game, they try to figure out some underlying pattern, and end up doing worse than the rat or the child. We really can be too clever for our own good.
By allowing ourselves to listen to our (better) instincts, we can tap into a kind of compressed wisdom. The psychologist Gerd Gigerenzer argues that much of our behaviour is based on deceptively sophisticated rules-of-thumb, or “heuristics”. A robot programmed to chase and catch a ball would need to compute a series of complex differential equations to track the ball’s trajectory. But baseball players do so by instinctively following simple rules: run in the right general direction, and adjust your speed to keep a constant angle between eye and ball.

The Longform Guide to Autism

Elon Green:

Some people with autism have dynamic jobs that take advantage of their innate skills, and are acquainted with life’s pleasures, including love, hacking and golf. Many, however, live terrifically difficult lives, and are brutally stigmatized.