A Little More on MPS’ Fiscal Situation

Mike Ford:

I was a little surprised by the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS)’ response to my recent Wisconsin Interest piece on the district’s long-term fiscal challenges. Specifically, I was confused by the following two paragraphs in a blog item posted yesterday by Milwaukee Journal Sentinel education reporter Erin Richards:

MPS officials on Wednesday objected to the assertion that the district is headed toward financial insolvency. They reiterated that they have raised the minimum retirement age, raised the number of years needed to reach retirement, and increased future retiree contributions, all of which should make a significant impact on legacy costs.

MPS Spokesman Tony Tagliavia reported there is a report coming out in the coming months that will reflect the impact of the changes made.
First off, my article makes clear that I took MPS’ aggressive actions to address their legacy costs into account (Incidentally I have also blogged about these actions and applauded MPS as they have been taken). In the article I write:

LAUSD board approves $6.3B budget; after-school program saved

Barbara Jones:

After scrounging up $6.7 million to preserve free after-school care, the Los Angeles Unified board on Thursday approved a $6.3 billion budget that shortens the 2012-13 school year, eliminates thousands of jobs and reshapes some of the district’s most iconic programs.
The board’s 6-1 vote, with South Bay representative Richard Vladovic dissenting, capped an 11th-hour scramble to salvage the Beyond the Bell after-school program. It operates from 3-6 p.m. weekdays at every elementary and middle school in the district.
About $4 million will come from money the district had set aside to put a parcel tax on the 2013 ballot — although district officials are still considering that plan — and the balance from an unexpected surplus in preschool revenue in the state budget that Gov. Jerry Brown signed on Wednesday.

The Los Angeles School District’s 2011-2012 enrollment was 677,538 ($9,298.37/student spending). Madison spent $14,858/student during the 2011-2012 fiscal year, 40% more than Los Angeles.

Teach for America Alums Take Aim at State Office

Ben Wieder:

When Teach for America alumnus Bill Ferguson took on six-term incumbent George Della for a Maryland Senate seat two years ago, he benefited from the energetic support of his fellow Teach for America alumni–but he had to overcome the strident opposition of the teachers’ unions.
Ferguson upset Della in the Democratic primary and went on to win the general election, making him only the second Teach for America alumnus to secure a seat in a state legislature–following Mike Johnston, who joined the Colorado Senate in 2009.
Johnston and Ferguson aren’t likely to be alone for long: At least six TFA alumni are running for state legislatures this year, and many others are running for boards of education. Like Ferguson and Johnston, most of these former teachers likely will have to overcome union opposition to win.

In America and abroad, no reason to fear faith-based schools

Charles Glenn:

Editor’s note: America isn’t the only place where school choice raises questions about not only education, but pluralism, citizenship and social integration. Noted school choice expert Charles Glenn, a Boston University professor and American Center for School Choice associate, writes that European countries with far more evolved choice systems continue to wrestle with these issues – but have no reason to fear faith-based schools.
Early in June I was one of the speakers at a conference on educational freedom in The Netherlands and Flanders (the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium). It is no exaggeration to say these are the poster children of “school choice,” the two areas where its implications have been worked out most fully over the past two centuries (see my Contrasting Models of State and School, Continuum, 2011). Today, upwards of two-thirds of pupils in this area of some 23 million inhabitants attend non-government schools with full public funding.
Much of the discussion among the participants was about the details of how schools have been able – or not – to preserve their independence in the face of government regulation. I will not try to summarize that discussion here, except to note that as always the devil is in the details and we can learn a great deal from the experience over many decades of the interaction between schools seeking to maintain a distinctive religious or pedagogical character and government officials seeking to impose common standards. (The updated 2012 edition of Balancing Freedom, Autonomy, and Accountability in Education will include, in four volumes, detailed descriptions of how this relationship plays out in nearly 60 countries, most of them written by leading education law experts from each country, including these two.)

“Unexpected” $12,000,000 2012-2013 Increase in Madison’s Redistributed State of Wisconsin Tax Dollars

Matthew DeFour:

The 25.4 percent increase — from $43.3 million to $54.3 million — is the fifth-largest percent increase among the state’s 424 districts and by far the largest dollar amount increase.
Madison’s increase accounts for more than half of the $21.1 million increase in state aid for districts next school year.
School Board President James Howard said the development was good news, though he wouldn’t speculate whether the board would keep current spending levels or increase the preliminary $376.2 million budget when it takes up final approval of the tax levy in October.
…..
Howard, who was the only board member who voted against the preliminary budget, said he questions why the district was so far off in its state aid estimate, adding “there has always been discussion about why do we need to approve budgets so early.”

Related: Notes and links on Madison’s 2012-2013 $374,700,000 budget.

New report finds many academic trend lines rising in Florida’s public schools

Ron Matus:

Florida’s public schools were handed another solid but overlooked report card this week from another respected, independent source.
The 27-page, data-stuffed, “Decade of Progress” progress report from the Southern Regional Education Board is yet more evidence that Florida’s public schools are making steady progress despite the claims of some critics. The trend lines are often especially strong for low-income and minority students.
For example, between 2003 and 2011, the percentage of low-income eighth-graders scoring at the basic level or above on the reading portion of the National Assessment of Educational Progress rose from 55 to 65 percent in Florida – a 10-point gain. Over the same period, the percentage of more affluent eighth-graders who reached the bar rose 5 percentage points, from 78 to 83 percent.
For each of its 16 member states, the SREB looked at a wide array of academic indicators to see how much the needle moved over the past decade, and how those gains or losses compared nationally and regionally. Besides commonly cited indicators like NAEP scores, graduation rates and AP results, the board looked at less-publicized statistics like college enrollment rates, ninth-grade “enrollment bulges” and grade-level progression in high school.

Related: Excellence in Education explains Florida’s reading reforms and compares Florida’s NAEP progress with Wisconsin’s at the July 29th Read to Lead task force meeting.

Why Johnny Can’t Add Without a Calculator

Konstantin Kakaes:

When Longfellow Middle School in Falls Church, Va., recently renovated its classrooms, Vern Williams, who might be the best math teacher in the country, had to fight to keep his blackboard. The school was putting in new “interactive whiteboards” in every room, part of a broader effort to increase the use of technology in education. That might sound like a welcome change. But this effort, part of a nationwide trend, is undermining American education, particularly in mathematics and the sciences. It is beginning to do to our educational system what the transformation to industrial agriculture has done to our food system over the past half century: efficiently produce a deluge of cheap, empty calories.
I went to see Williams because he was famous when I was in middle school 20 years ago, at a different school in the same county. Longfellow’s teams have been state champions for 24 of the last 29 years in MathCounts, a competition for middle schoolers. Williams was the only actual teacher on a 17-member National Mathematics Advisory Panel that reported to President Bush in 2008.
Williams doesn’t just prefer his old chalkboard to the high-tech version. His kids learn from textbooks that are decades old–not because they can’t afford new ones, but because Williams and a handful of his like-minded colleagues know the old ones are better. The school’s parent-teacher association buys them from used bookstores because the county won’t pay for them (despite the plentiful money for technology). His preferred algebra book, he says, is “in-your-face algebra. They give amazing outstanding examples. They teach the lessons.”

The Evolution of School Support Networks in New York City

Eric Nadelstern, via a kind Deb Britt email:

A growing number of districts have begun to understand that changing the role of the central office and giving principals more control over their schools’ money can yield dividends in improving student achievement. These districts don’t think the central office or any single organization can meet the needs of a diverse set of schools. They therefore allow schools to use their money to buy services from any vendor they choose, and encourage formation of a rich supply of independent support providers.
This paper is a personal account by Eric Nadelstern, a co-architect and collaborator to then-chancellor Joel Klein, about the effort in New York City to change the central office and create a system of support organizations to oversee networks of autonomous schools. The story of New York City shows how early investments in local outside organizations can lay the groundwork for this evolution, as well as how strongly political and community interests may resist this effort.

Cover local scholars, not just student athletes

Steve Rankin, via a kind reader’s email:

The State Journal demonstrates once again that it values students primarily as athletes. If your gifts lie elsewhere, look for validation elsewhere.
Sunday’s paper devoted pages to the area “athletes of the year” — and that was only to cover spring sports. Every week includes “prep profiles,” again glorifying athletes.
Once a year the paper used to run a feature section on the top 4 percent of Dane County graduating seniors as scholars, but that section has been discontinued.
This year’s National Merit scholars, most of whom were announced to the press in April, are still a secret here. Music and theater are nowhere to be found, even though Madison is home to an entirely student-run orchestra. So kids, be a jock or get out of town!

The Sonnets by William Shakespeare App

Touch Press:

The Sonnets presents William Shakespeare’s immortal collection of love poems in an interactive digital edition that allows you to explore, appreciate and understand this great work of literature as never before. All 154 sonnets are performed to camera by a star-studded cast including Sir Patrick Stewart (Star Trek, X-Men, Royal Shakespeare Company), David Tennant (Dr Who, Hamlet), Kim Cattrall (Sex and the City), Fiona Shaw (The Waste Land, Harry Potter), Stephen Fry (The Hobbit) and Dominic West (The Wire). These performances – all specially filmed for the app – are synchronised to the text, which highlights line by line as each sonnet is spoken.

Touch Press does beautiful work.

Non-Chinese are enrolling their children in Cantonese and Putonghua-speaking schools

Nora Tong:

There are times when Hayley Goldberg wishes she knew Chinese and could offer more help to her daughter Ativa. A Primary Two pupil, Ativa attends a local school in Ma On Shan, where every subject apart from English is taught and assessed in Chinese.
“At the beginning there were six notices from the school every second day. I didn’t know what was going on,” says Goldberg, a South African who teaches at an international school. “I have to get everything translated by my students. It’s crazy that I can’t be a part of my child’s life.”

How foreign students with lower grades jump the UK university queue

Holly Watt and Claire Newell:

The official agent in Beijing for universities in the elite Russell Group claimed that it could secure over-subscribed places for a Chinese student purporting to have scored three C grades in their A-levels – when British students are required to have at least A, A and B.
Undercover reporters were also told to tell the UK authorities that the student would be returning home immediately after graduation – even if that was not their intention – in order to secure a visa.
Universities were accused of profiteering by rejecting tens of thousands of British teenagers, currently sitting A-levels, so they can fill places with more profitable foreign students.

Virtual charter school in Cabarrus County presents concrete challenge

Anne Blythe:

A virtual charter school with the potential to siphon millions of dollars from traditional public schools will pit school-choice advocates against the state’s education establishment at a Monday court hearing.
A Wake County Superior Court judge is scheduled to hear arguments on whether an online charter school program that would be run by a for-profit company should be allowed to open in North Carolina in August, as a state administrative law judge ruled in May.
The state Board of Education hopes to persuade the Superior Court judge that proper procedures were not followed for a new program that represents one of the more overt commercial aspects of the school-choice movement.

The Milwaukee Public Schools’ Looming Fiscal Crackup



Mike Ford:

Mavis Roesch began teaching in the St. Louis Public Schools in 1967. Soon after, she moved to Milwaukee, teaching first at a private high school and then in the Milwaukee Public Schools. For the past 15 years, Roesch has taught at Rufus King High School, recently ranked by U.S. News and World Report as one of the top 200 high schools in the country.
“I care about young people and their future and the future of our city,” Roesch says with passion. “I believe that I make a difference in my students’ lives. I work to inspire them to do things they thought they couldn’t do. I believe that all children can learn — maybe in different ways and on different days, but I want to be there when it happens.”
And then Roesch, who runs King’s International Baccalaureate program, adds something that is already evident in her self-declared mission: “I do not work for a paycheck or benefits.”
Clearly, teachers like Roesch are not what ails MPS. Dedicated professionals like her are the reasons for academic success stories like Rufus King. Yet, paradoxically, she is soon to join the ranks of those who are at the root of MPS’ looming fiscal crack-up: Retirees.
By 2022, the cost of MPS pensions and health benefits will absorb just more than 50 percent of the district’s state aid and property tax, up from one-third in 2012. More to the point, less than half of MPS’ state aid and local tax revenue will be available for teacher salaries, classroom materials, new technology and other educational needs. There is little MPS can do to stem this decline in discretionary spending. As shown on the following chart, it could be a death knell for the district.

Long Beach City College tries an alternative to placement tests

Carla Rivera:

Edward Yacuta felt rushed and nervous when he took a test to determine whether he was ready for college-level English classes at Long Beach City College.
The 18-year-old did poorly on the exam, even though he was getting good grades in an Advanced Placement English class at Long Beach’s Robert A. Millikan High School.
Most community colleges would assign students like Yacuta to a remedial class, but he will avoid that fate at Long Beach. The two-year school is trying out a new system this fall that will place students who graduated from the city’s high schools in courses based on their grades rather than their scores on the standardized placement tests.

Khan Academy reinvents distance education

BBC:

Your child’s education is a universal cause of anxiety for almost every parent.
In many countries, school systems are underfunded and over-enrolled while teachers have too much material to cover in too little time.
But one Silicon Valley entrepreneur has developed a teaching method that completely rewrites the basic principles as Sumi Das finds out.

Reflections on Foundations, ALEC and Higher Ed Reform in Wisconsin

Sara Goldrick-Rab:

Since I have established relationships with both Lumina and HCM Strategists, the consulting group in question, and have blogged (and hosted guest blogs) before on the large role that foundations are playing in pushing the higher ed reform agenda, I want to fully disclose as much as possible my role and assessment of this situation.
First, readers of this blog know my work as an expert on college student success, and as an outspoken champion for expanding college access to underserved populations. I am proud of the major role I played in the fight against the New Badger Partnership and other local efforts to prioritize institutional prestige over the needs of Wisconsin residents. I am constantly engaged in the struggle to ensure that public institutions of all types survive and thrive. At this point I have been active in Wisconsin research, policy, and activism circles for more than eight years.
In my work I spending a lot of time interacting with the higher education reform movements nationally. It is for this reason, over the last decade I have engaged with both Lumina and HCM many times. I am also very well-acquainted with the Gates education initiatives, having been both a grantee (to the tune of $1.2 million for the Wisconsin Scholars Longitudinal Study) and a consultant. Moreover, I participant frequently in the bipartisan higher education working group hosted by the American Enterprise Institute and funded by Gates.
Why do I do these things, despite recent evidence that these places have ties to ALEC and others?

Fascinating….

Colorado’s Questionable Use Of The Colorado Growth Model

Matthew DiCarlo:

I have been writing critically about states’ school rating systems (e.g., Ohio, Florida, Louisiana), and I thought I would find one that is, at least in my (admittedly value-laden) opinion, more defensibly designed. It didn’t quite turn out as I had hoped.
One big starting point in my assessment is how heavily the systems weight absolute performance (how highly students score) versus growth (how quickly students improve). As I’ve argued many times, the former (absolute level) is a poor measure of school performance in a high-stakes accountability system. It does not address the fact that some schools, particularly those in more affluent areas, serve students who, on average, enter the system at a higher-performing level. This amounts to holding schools accountable for outcomes they largely cannot control (see Doug Harris’ excellent book for more on this in the teacher context). Thus, to whatever degree testing results can be used to judge actual school effectiveness, growth measures, while themselves highly imperfect, are to be preferred in a high-stakes context.

Sun Prairie School Board Puts Cart Squarely Before the Horse

sp-eye:

On Monday June 25, 2012, the School Board will be going into closed session to “develop negotiations parameters” with SPEA and Local 60. We have a teensy weensy couple of issues with that.
First–and foremost– why on earth would the Board be discussing raises before the Board has seen even a peek at the budget? (Raises, of course, is what “negotiations parameters” means, since under Act 10, the only thing which CAN be negotiated is wage increases)

School District Leases iPads

Kathie Bassett:

The East Alton Elementary School Board moved forward with the plan to implement a One to One iPad initiative and approved a lease-to-purchase agreement at Tuesday night’s meeting.
“We’ll be leasing them directly from Apple,” Superintendent Virgil Moore said. “At the end of the four-year lease, we will be able to buy the iPads for $1 apiece.”
Required by the agreement to lease in bundles of 10 machines, the district plans to order 650 iPads for student use. An additional 70 Mac Book Air laptops will be ordered for teachers to be able to write lessons that can be transferred to the students’ iPads.
The cost of the lease payment will be $129,000 per year, Moore said.
“We went through our current budget line by line and decided we could fund the leases ourselves,” Moore said. “When we looked at areas that we could reallocate funds from items we wouldn’t need to purchase once we have the devices, we were able to find $130,000.”

Online education startups: a field guide

Ki Mae Heussner:

Online education is on a tear. Every few weeks or so, it seems like yet another startup offering online classes announces a multimillion dollar funding round. This week, San Francisco-based UniversityNow, which provides affordable higher education degrees online, said it raised $17.3 million. In the past three months, at least seven online course startups have launched or announced funding.
“I think we’re hitting a tipping point where online education is accepted,” said Gene Wade, CEO and co-founder of UniversityNow. “There’s enormous demand for education around the world.”
In the past decade, he said, more than a billion people have joined the middle class, creating new demand for educational opportunities. Globally, 150 million people will seek higher education in the next eight years and, domestically, 2 million will pursue higher ed over the next ten years.

The Education System That Pulled China Up May Now Be Holding It Back

Helen Gao:

On the morning of June 7 every year, Beijing’s normally chaotic streets fall silent. Police patrol the main roads on motorcycles, as construction workers put down their hammers and power down their cranes, and rowdy taxi drivers finally take their hands off the horn. It is the first day of gaokao, the annual, nationwide college entrance exam, which will decide the college matriculation of the nine million or so students who take it. Sitting for nine hours over two days, students are tested on everything from Chinese and math to geography and government. The intense, memorization-heavy, and notoriously difficult gaokao can make the SAT look like a game of Scrabble. How they do on the test will play a big role in determining not just where they go to college but, because Chinese colleges often feed directly into certain industries and fields, what they do for the rest of their life. It’s an enormously important moment in any Chinese student’s life, which is part of why high schools here dedicate months or even years to preparing for the test.
In many ways, the gaokao is symbolic of China’s rise, with millions of Chinese striving and competing to pull up themselves and their nation. But it’s also symptomatic of how far China still has to go, as the country tries to shift its economy from exports to domestic consumption, from assembling products to designing them. China’s gaokao-style education system has been great at imparting math and engineering, as well as the rigorous work ethic that has been so integral to China’s rise so far. But if the country wants to keep growing, its state economists know they need to encourage entrepreneurship and creativity, neither of which is tested for on this life-determining exam.

For City Parents, Frustration Over Rising Cost of Public School

Kyle Spencer:

Ellen Goldstein, the mother of first-grade twins at Public School 130 in Brooklyn, recalls with a twinge of nostalgia certain items that came home from school this year. There was the all-about-fish book, the Popsicle picture frames and two tissue-paper roses for Mother’s Day — all made by her sons.
What Ms. Goldstein, 46, will not miss plucking from her children’s backpacks are the seemingly endless requests for money and supplies that also came home from their small school on the border of Kensington and Windsor Terrace.
It began in September, Ms. Goldstein said, when she and her 6-year-olds lugged in $300 worth of construction paper, index cards, markers and crayons requested by their teachers. Soon, she was regularly receiving Scholastic booklets and permission slips for trips to bowling alleys and pizza parlors that required $5, $6 and $7 to be stuffed into envelopes. The school also organized two photo drives, including one in which she was sent key chains and bookmarks with images of her children on them.

In North Korea, learning to hate U.S. starts early

Associated Press:

For North Koreans, the systematic indoctrination of anti-Americanism starts as early as kindergarten and is as much a part of the curriculum as learning to count. Toy pistols, rifles and tanks sit lined up in neat rows on shelves. The school principal pulls out a dummy of an American soldier with a beaked nose and straw-coloured hair and explains that the students beat him with batons or pelt him with stones – a favourite schoolyard game, she says.
“Our children learn from an early age about the American bastards,” Yun Song-sil says, tossing off a phrase so common here it is considered an acceptable way to refer to Americans.

Fixing College

Jeff Selingo, via a kind Rick Kiley email:

NO matter what the University of Virginia’s governing board decides today, when it is scheduled to determine the fate of the university’s ousted president, Teresa A. Sullivan, the intense interest in the case shows how much anxiety surrounds the future of higher education — especially the question of whether university leaders are moving too slowly to position their schools for a rapidly changing world (as some of Ms. Sullivan’s critics have suggested of her).
There is good reason for the anxiety. Setting aside the specifics of the Virginia drama, university leaders desperately need to transform how colleges do business. Higher education must make up for the mistakes it made in what I call the industry’s “lost decade,” from 1999 to 2009. Those years saw a surge in students pursuing higher education, driven partly by the colleges, which advertised heavily and created enticing new academic programs, services and fancy facilities.

I suggest the following if a goal of the VASD is to improve overall public confidence

Dr. Catherine Decker, via email:

1. Significantly improve the math department’s instruction to include completion of the entire Algebra I textbook in one school year, so that students are prepared to enter directly into geometry no matter what High School they attend. Teachers should ensure that the students completing Algebra I in middle school understand all of the materials on the high school placement exam to directly enter geometry in high school. Students who are strong in their baseline math skills simply have not had further challenging math instruction in VASD.
2. Discontinue the practice of using class time to have middle and high school students complete a 160+ question survey regarding their sexual & substance use practices (just to bring in more $ to the school district). Instead, if this is a desire of the Verona Area Superintendent, than he should ask parents to bring their children into the schools to participate in this ridiculous survey after class/instructional time. Really, what is the Superintendent thinking?

Massachusetts Unions won’t oppose teacher-seniority measure

Jamie Vaznis:

The Massachusetts association considered the ballot question long and confusing and worried that passage would take away even more job security rights of teachers than the compromise legislation.
Richard Stutman, president of the Boston Teachers Union, which belongs to the teachers federation, said in an interview Wednesday night that it made no sense to wage a battle over legislation that already had garnered the support of the highest-ranking officials on Beacon Hill: Governor Deval Patrick, Senate President Therese Murray, and House Speaker Robert DeLeo. It is expected to land on the governor’s desk by July 3.
“We are not fighting it, because it’s a done deal,” Stutman said.
Jason Williams, executive director of Stand for Children Massachusetts, was pleased the two union organizations have decided not to fight the legislation. “It’s a positive step,” Williams said. “I feel there is strong momentum toward passage.”
Locally, support for the legislation appears to be is growing. The Boston City Council voted 8-5 Wednesday for a resolution supporting the measure. The vote was symbolic and does not directly impact the pending legislation.

Little Johnny wants a job (work optional)

Tyler Brule::

So far I’ve received a couple of these letters (from acquaintances and close associates) and had to restrain myself from firing back a frank response. While it’s generally recognised in the global workplace that there’s a serious issue with Generation Y and their neediness, lack of general knowledge (I’ll just Google that … ) and understanding of authority, it’s hard to write off a whole generation when their parents (and teachers) are largely responsible for creating such a culture of entitlement.
It’s increasingly rare that people applying for internships in my field (publishing and branding) have spent time stocking shelves, scooping ice cream, waiting tables or scrubbing floors. Sometimes I wonder if part-time jobs are left off CVs because they might say too much about a potential candidate, or whether many simply can’t be bothered to hold down a job between terms. Sadly, I suspect it’s more of the latter.

Why Charter Schools Work: Accountability for results and freedom from union rules attract the best teachers into the profession

Deborah Kenny, via a kind Rick Kiley email:

Twenty years ago, the country’s first charter school opened in Minnesota. This is a momentous anniversary not just for the two million families who now send their children to public charter schools, but for all Americans. The charter movement is not only about opening charter schools–its goal has always been to fundamentally transform public education in this country.
Critics claim that charter schools are successful only because they cherry-pick students, because they have smaller class sizes, or because motivated parents apply for charter lotteries and non-motivated parents do not. And even if charters are successful, they argue, there is no way to scale that success to reform a large district.
None of that is true. Charters succeed because of their two defining characteristics–accountability and freedom. In exchange for being held accountable for student achievement results, charter schools are generally free from bureaucratic and union rules that prevent principals from hiring, firing or evaluating their own teams.

Is IQ in the Genes? Twins Give Us Two Answers

Matt Ridley:

These days the heritability of intelligence is not in doubt: Bright adults are more likely to have bright kids. The debate was not always this calm. In the 1970s, suggesting that IQ could be inherited at all was a heresy in academia, punishable by the equivalent of burning at the stake.
More than any other evidence, it was the study of twins that brought about this change. “Born Together–Reared Apart,” a new book by Nancy L. Segal about the Minnesota study of Twins Reared Apart (Mistra), narrates the history of the shift. In 1979, Thomas Bouchard of the University of Minnesota came across a newspaper report about a set of Ohio twins, separated at birth, who had been reunited and proved to possess uncannily similar habits. Dr. Bouchard began to collect case histories of twins raised apart and to invite them to Minneapolis for study.
By 1990, he, Dr. Segal and other colleagues were ready to publish their results in Science magazine. By then they had measured the IQ of 48 pairs of monozygotic, or identical, twins, raised apart (MZA) and 40 pairs of such twins raised together (MZT). The MZA twins were 69% similar in IQ, compared with 88% for MZT twins, both far greater resemblances than for any other pairs of individuals, even siblings. Other variables than genetics, such as material possessions in the home, had little influence, nor was the degree of social contact between the twins in each pair associated with their similarity in IQ.

Marginalism and the Higher Ed Paradox

Steve Postrel:

By now, you may be getting sick of reading articles and blog posts about the crisis in higher education. This post is different. It proposes an explanation of why students have been willing to pay more and more for undergraduate and professional degrees at the same time that these degrees are becoming both less scarce and more dumbed down. And that explanation rests on a simple and plausible economic hypothesis.
First, let me dispose of the idea that “college (and business school) is all about signaling.” The explanation I present allows signaling to represent a major part of the value of higher education, but it says that the historical increase in willingness to pay for education is not caused by an increase in its signaling value. (And the evidence for signaling or screening education premia, as opposed to human capital accumulation, is pretty thin anyway.) I’m certain signaling plays a role in creating value for certain degrees from certain institutions for certain people in certain situations. That it dominates the value proposition for college seems like a stretch.
My hypothesis is that it is precisely the dumbing down of U.S. education over the last decades that explains the increase in willingness to pay for education. The mechanism is diminishing marginal returns to education.

‘We’re mortgaging the future of the younger generation’

Niall Ferguson:

Critics of Western democracy are right to discern that something is amiss with our political institutions. The most obvious symptom of the malaise is the huge debts we have managed to accumulate in recent decades, which (unlike in the past) cannot largely be blamed on wars.

According to the International Monetary Fund, the gross government debt of Greece this year will reach 153 per cent of GDP. For Italy the figure is 123, for Ireland 113, for Portugal 112 and for the United States 107.

Britain’s debt is approaching 88 per cent. Japan – a special case as the first non-Western country to adopt Western institutions – is the world leader, with a mountain of government debt approaching 236 per cent of GDP, more than triple what it was 20 years ago.

Should Tenure for College Professors Be Abolished?

The Wall Street Journal:

At some point, discussions about the quality of higher education in the U.S. come around to the subject of tenure. And the disagreement could hardly be more stark.
Critics of tenure for college professors say it is ruining the education of millions of students. In pursuit of tenure, they say, professors have become experts at churning out research of questionable value while neglecting their teaching duties.
On top of that, critics say, tenure has become the tool of a stifling orthodoxy in academia, rewarding only those whose views on curriculums, administration and finances are in line with the status quo.
Proponents of tenure say it’s the only way to preserve the quality of higher education in this country. It sets the bar high for professors, supporters say, ensuring that only the very best are retained.

Level of Expectations

It has become an educational cliché to say that “students will rise to the level of expectations.” But how do we explain the students whose work rises well above our level of expectations? Mostly, we just ignore them. In the local media, coverage of high school sports “blanks” any and all accounts of exemplary academic work by high school students.
In the mid-1980s, when I was teaching (as I thought) United States History to Sophomores at the high school in Concord, Massachusetts, I assigned, following the advice of my colleagues, history papers of just 5-7 pages, but I did tell the students that the title page did not count as one of the pages.
One quiet student, who I did not know at all, turned in a 28-page paper on the current balance of nuclear/thermonuclear weapons between the United States and the USSR. He later graduated summa cum laude from Tufts in economics. Why did he do that paper? He didn’t need to, and he didn’t do it for me. He was “rising” to the level of his own expectations. As Laurence Steinberg wrote in Beyond the Classroom: “Within a system that fails (flunks) very few students, then, only those students who have high standards of their own–who have more stringent criteria for success and failure–will strive to do better than merely to pass and graduate.”
In the last 25 years I have published more than 1,000 history research papers by crazy motivated secondary students like that from 46 states and 38 other countries. (I am happy to provide pdfs of some of these exemplary history research papers on request to fitzhugh@tcr.org).
Since the 1960s, the International Baccalaureate has been expecting students to complete a 4,000-word Extended Essay to qualify for the Diploma. In 2011, I published an 11,000-word (Emerson Prize) paper on the stagnation in science and technology in China for five centuries after 1500, and the student had to cut it down to 4,000 words to meet the expectations for the Extended Essay and the IB Diploma. ACT and the College Board have not yet included an expectation for that sort of academic expository writing.
Often we work to limit what students do academically. Several years ago, when The Concord Review was receiving submissions of high school history research papers of 6,000, 8,000, and 10,000 words, I asked the Executive Director of National History Day, which has as one option for competitors a 2,500-word history paper, if they had considered accepting essays that were longer. She said that no, they didn’t want any paper that took more than 10 minutes to read.
Recently when I published a 108-page (Emerson Prize) paper on the War of Regulation in North Carolina in the 18th century by a student from an independent school west of the Mississippi, I found out that she had to reduce it to 9 pages, without endnotes, to enable her to win first place nationally in the National History Day competition.
One student whose (Emerson Prize) work I published went to her teacher and said: “My paper is going to be 57 pages, is that all right?” And the teacher (may his tribe increase) said, “Yes.”
Five or six years ago I received a paper (Emerson Prize) on the history of economic reform in China in recent years from a student at a public high school in Ohio. Like high schools generally, hers expected her to complete their requirements in four years. Instead she did it in two and spent the next two years as a full-time student at The Ohio State University before applying to Harvard as a freshman. She recently graduated from there with high honors in mathematics, with an economics minor.
I should say that, even though Asian students have the highest academic achievement of any group in the United States, not all of the students I have published have been Asian, nor did the high level of expectations for their own academic work all come from the Confucian influence of their parents.
When it comes to academics, we seem to give the vast majority of our attention to, and spend the bulk of our efforts on, students whose efforts fall far below our expectations, those who, if not among the 25-30% who fail to finish high school, may enter community college reading at the fifth-grade level, and more than half of whom will drop out from there. Naturally we want to help those who are doing poorly in school. Still, we do want our most brilliant students to start companies, become scientists, be our judges, diplomats, and elected officials, teach history, write good books, and otherwise work to sustain and advance our civilization. But our basic attitude is–let them manage on their own.
How different it is for our promising young athletes, for whom we have the highest expectations, on whom we keep the most elaborate statistics, and to whom we dedicate the most voluminous local media coverage, as well as nationally-televised high school football and basketball games.
If we matched for them the expectations we have for our students’ academic work, we might be asking them to run just one lap, do two pushups, and spend most of their time helping out in gym classes, or playing video games, instead of practicing their sport. But our young people, being the way they are, would no doubt “cheat,” as some do in academics, by deriving higher standards from their own ambition and from seeing the achievements of their peers, and the athletes for whom we might try to set such low expectations, like the young scholars for whom we do, would continue to rise above them, and to astonish us with their accomplishments. Dumb Lucky us.
Will Fitzhugh
The Concord Review
25 June 2012

“Good Thing We Have Some Time”; on Madison’s Next Superintendent Hire….

Paul Fanlund:

As for superintendent candidates, someone with the pugnacious edge of our 67-year-old mayor might serve the city well.
In a recent interview, Paul Soglin told me he’s believed for 40 years that the quality of a school system is the “number one driver” for a city’s success.
Soglin said Madison’s schools are excellent, and, yes, the achievement gap needs attention. But Soglin said it’s unfair to expect schools here to shoulder blame for children who arrived only recently. The school district “has not done a good enough job explaining itself,” Soglin said.
It is hard to disagree.
So, in sum, our next school chief should have Soglin-like skills at the big vision and respond to sniping at public schools, be able to boost the morale of embattled teachers and staff, collaborate effectively with a disparate set of civic partners, and bring experience and keen judgment to tackling the achievement gap.
Good thing we have some time.

I’m glad that Paul has written on this topic. I disagree, however, regarding “time”. The District’s singular administrative focus must be on the basics: reading and math.
Those behind the rejected Madison Preparatory IB charter school may have a different view, as well.

Interview: Henry Tyson, Superintendent of Milwaukee’s St. Marcus Elementary School

Henry Tyson, Superintendent of Milwaukee’s St. Marcus school recently talked with me [Transcript | mp3 audio] about his fascinating personal and professional education experience. St. Marcus is one of, if not the most successful voucher school in Milwaukee.
Henry discussed student, parent and teacher expectations, including an interesting program to educate and involve parents known as “Thankful Thursdays”. He further described their growth plans, specifically, the methods they are following to replicate the organization. In addition, I learned that St. Marcus tracks their students for 8 years after 8th grade graduation.
Finally, Henry discussed special education and their financial model, roughly $7,800/student annually of which $6,400 arrives from State of Wisconsin taxpayers in the form of a voucher. The remainder via local fundraising and church support.
He is quite bullish on the future of education in Milwaukee. I agree that in 15 to 20 years, Milwaukee’s education environment will be much, much improved. High expectations are of course critical to these improvements.
I appreciate the time Henry took to visit.
Related:

University looks like a bubble that is about to burst

Christopher Caldwell:

There was confusion at the University of Virginia two weeks ago when the board forced the resignation of Teresa Sullivan, the sociologist who has served as president for the past two years. Ms Sullivan was popular among the faculty staff. There was no warning that anyone had it in for her. But the affair was not as mysterious as it looked. Helen Dragas, the rector, said UVa needed more reforms “in financial resource development and in resource prioritisation and allocation”. Translated, this means the university’s accounts are a mess. The confusing bit concerns whether this is Ms Sullivan’s fault. (Her supporters hope to get her reinstated next week.)
It sounds like a familiar episode in the American culture wars. On one side are woolly headed academics unwilling to reform hidebound institutions. On the other is a board, in this case made up of politically connected venture capitalists and property developers, who think every human activity, from an assembly line to a church picnic, ought to turn a profit. Ms Dragas was nominated by Virginia’s former Democratic governor, Tim Kaine, who was considered as a running-mate for Barack Obama in 2008. Her vice-rector, Mark Kington, is a former business partner of Virginia’s Democratic senator Mark Warner. Academia is not their natural home. The Washington Post reported that Ms Sullivan had been blamed for her unwillingness “to trim or shut down programmes that couldn’t sustain themselves financially, such as obscure academic departments in classics and German”.

Notes on Milwaukee Public Schools’ Fiscal Challenges

Mike Ford:

The Wisconsin Policy Research Institute today released a new article by me, titled “MPS’ Looming Fiscal Crack-Up.” The basic point is that the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) face a near impossible fiscal challenge over the next ten years. The problem is that retiree health benefits costs are growing at a faster rate than the district’s capacity to raise revenue through state aid and property tax.
In English, this means MPS as an entity will be receiving more public support, but will have less money to spend in the classroom. The scariest aspect of this situation is that there is little MPS can do to fix the problem. A few points:
First, this article is not meant to be anti-MPS by any means. In fact, today’s quote from MPS superintendent Greg Thornton shows he gets the problem. From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

“The cost of doing business for Milwaukee Public Schools and Wisconsin is relatively high,” Superintendent Gregory Thornton said. “But because of legacy and structural costs, we were not geared toward driving those dollars back into the classroom.”

Much more, here.

The Mixed Bag of Driver Education

Tanya Mohn:

THERE is no debate about this fact: The first year that American teenagers have their driver’s licenses will be among the most dangerous of their lives. Nothing kills more of them than car crashes.
There is a debate over this carnage, but it is over the effectiveness of driver education courses. Do they save lives, as most everyone thinks, or weaken safeguards that have been in place for years?
It at first sounds like an argument not worth having, but over the last 15 years every state has passed graduated licensing laws, which grant driving privileges for young drivers in stages. Among other restrictions, inexperienced drivers can be barred from driving at night or having young, nonfamily passengers.

One district’s tough road toward equity for all kids

Valerie Strauss:

Unless our children begin to learn together there is little hope that our people will ever learn to live together. — Justice Thurgood Marshall
I agree more than ever with these wise words and yet my recent experiences as superintendent make me wonder whether we are any closer today to achieving this vision than we were in 1974, when Justice Marshall wrote them as part of a dissenting opinion over a school integration plan for Detroit.
I say this because even when efforts to increase the achievement of all students are effective and working, it’s simply too easy for school boards and other community leaders to work against the notion of all children learning together. I lived through such an experience and it has led me to support positions I would have dismissed a decade ago.

UW flex degree plan may be key to boosting college grads

Karen Herzog & Jason Stein:

Ray Cross readily admits that for-profit online colleges grew rapidly because traditional universities missed the boat. They weren’t flexible and affordable enough for adults who wanted to earn a degree, but couldn’t sit in a classroom while juggling a full-time job, family or military duty.
For-profit colleges now enroll about 17,000 students in Wisconsin, according to Cross, chancellor for the University of Wisconsin Colleges and UW Extension.
“That would be our third largest campus” if all 17,000 could be captured by the UW System, said Cross, who is leading two new state initiatives to make earning a college degree more flexible and affordable. An online degree program announced last week is expected to offer courses by this fall.
Nationwide, more than 6 million students take at least one college course online, according to the 2011 Survey of Online Learning published by the Babson Survey Research Group with data from the College Board.

Extra Credit: Madison ‘focus’ schools get more detailed explanation

Matthew DeFour:

A few weeks ago, 10 Madison schools learned they have been labeled “focus” schools under a new accountability system expected to replace No Child Left Behind.
More recently the School District has received more detailed explanations from the Department of Public Instruction for why each school received the label.
The schools are among the 10 percent of the state’s Title I schools demonstrating the largest achievement gaps or lowest performance in reading, math or graduation rates among low-income and minority groups. Title I schools receive federal funding targeted at low-income student populations.
The “focus” status replaces the old “schools identified for improvement” or SIFI status (pronounced like the cable channel that plays Battlestar Galactica reruns).

Open enrollment is a game changer, but not for everyone

Alan Borsuk:

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said in his education plan, unveiled recently, that if he is elected, he will push for policies that will allow low-income and special-needs students “to attend public schools outside of their school district that have the capacity to serve them.”
This is part of a broader Romney plan to expand school choice, including promoting charter schools, voucher programs for private schools and virtual schools.
The idea caught my eye because we already have open enrollment, as we call it around here, on a large scale. And not much attention has been paid to its impact.
Milwaukee has gotten a lot of attention since the early 1990s for its private school voucher program, arguably the most important and far-reaching such effort in the country, at least until now. But the Milwaukee area can also been seen as an important laboratory for open enrollment.

Notes and links: Open Enrollment & Madison School District: Private/Parochial, Open Enrollment Leave, Open Enrollment Enter, Home Based Parent Surveys.

Grammar Gaffes Invade the Office in an Age of Informal Email, Texting and Twitter

Sue Shellenbarger:

When Caren Berg told colleagues at a recent staff meeting, “There’s new people you should meet,” her boss Don Silver broke in, says Ms. Berg, a senior vice president at a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., marketing and crisis-communications company.
“I cringe every time I hear” people misuse “is” for “are,” Mr. Silver says. The company’s chief operations officer, Mr. Silver also hammers interns to stop peppering sentences with “like.” For years, he imposed a 25-cent fine on new hires for each offense. “I am losing the battle,” he says.

Don’t just get rid of West Point as a 4-year college, get rid of ROTC, too

Best Defense guest provocateur, via Thomas Ricks:

Three years ago, Tom proposed shuttering West Point as an expensive anachronism. At the time I thought he was barking up the wrong tree, but after reflection upon my own career as an army officer, I think he is on to something. It is not just West Point that should be done away with, it is also ROTC that should go.
Before anyone get’s their panties all knotted and wadded up, let me be up front: I am a product of ROTC, and I attended one of the “senior military colleges” — the Virginia Military Institute. What I am proposing will have an impact on my alma mater, as well as the other “senior military colleges.”
I think that America’s fiscal resources could be better utilized in the following manner:

Predatory Scholarly Publishing

Moshe Y. Vardi:

Scholarly publishing is a very unique business. In a typical business, you have two parties: sellers and buyers. In scholarly publishing you also have sellers and buyers, these are the publishers and the research libraries. However, you have two additional parties. On one side, you have authors, who freely and eagerly provide content (“publish or perish”). On the other side, there are editors and reviewers, who act as gatekeepers. They do so for a variety of reasons: sometimes for financial remuneration, but mostly out of civic duty and to gain scholarly prestige.
For scholarly publishing to be successful as a business, publishers must convince libraries to subscribe to their publications. Because budgets have become tighter over the last few years, librarians are quite resistant to increase their subscription inventory. The trend, in fact, is to prune, prune, and prune. Librarians, therefore, must be convinced of a journal’s high quality before adding it to their subscription inventory. This resistance by libraries has been an important force for maintaining quality in scholarly publishing.

NJ Tenure Reform Update

Laura Waters:

No doubt this is old news to many of you, but yesterday, in a vote of 40-0, the Senate approved Sen. Teresa Ruiz’s tenure reform bill. Here’s coverage from NJ Spotlight, Star-Ledger, and Courier Post; also see NJ School Boards Association’s overview (infused with some grumpiness about the retention of seniority-based lay-offs) and NJEA’s discussion. which makes an admirable attempt to resist gloating and largely succeeds. Here’s my big-picture take.
The current version of the bill, which deleted the sections on ending seniority-based lay-offs and mutual consent, was endorsed by NJEA. A key moment in negotiations over the bill was Gov. Christie’s decision to step back on an ultimatum that the bill must eliminate LIFO.
There’s something in the complex bill to make everyone unhappy – which most likely means that it’s a very good bill.

John Mooney:

Many of the last hurdles were removed yesterday from what now seems like all-but-certain passage of a tenure reform law for New Jersey that would make it harder for teachers to gain tenure and easier to lose it.
The Senate passed the bill sponsored by state Sen. Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex) with a remarkable 39-0 vote, the Republicans’ unanimous support virtually assuring that Gov. Chris Christie will support it as well.
There remains a different Assembly version, but Ruiz met yesterday for a half-hour with state Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan Jr. (D-Middlesex), the Assembly’s education chairman and sponsor of that bill, to work out differences.

U.Va. research: Arguing kids could have benefits

Samantha Koon:

Though parents have been teaching their children not to argue with adults for generations, new research from the University of Virginia shows that young teenagers who are taught to argue effectively are more likely to resist peer pressure to use drugs or alcohol later in adolescence.
“It turns out that what goes on in the family is actually a training ground for teens in terms of how to negotiate with other people,” said Joseph Allen, a U.Va. psychology professor and the lead author of the study, results of which were published in a recent edition of the journal Child Development.
Allen said that parents are often “scared to death about peer pressure,” but also frustrated by argumentative children.
“What we’re finding is there’s a surprising connection between the two,” he said. Allen noted that teens “learn they can be taken seriously” through interactions with their parents.

Bullying of teachers, school staff more damaging in online era

Christine Armario:

The bullying that bus monitor Karen Klein endured on a ride home from an upstate New York school was painful and egregious, but also shows how student harassment of teachers and administrators has become more spiteful and damaging in the online era.
Much attention has been paid to students who bully students in class, after school and on the Internet. Less has been given to equally disturbing behavior by students who harass instructors, principals and other adults.
It’s something that’s long existed; think ganging up on the substitute teacher. But it has become increasingly cruel and even dangerous as students get access to advanced technology at earlier ages.

Thai Education: Spending More and Getting Less

The Economist:

The chief problem is that children’s educational attainments are falling, even as more money is being lavished on the schools. Thailand now spends about 20% of the national budget on education, more than it devotes to any other sector. The budget has doubled over a decade. Yet results are getting worse, both in absolute terms and relative to other countries in South-East Asia.
Thailand’s own ombudsman reported earlier this year that, despite the extra cash, the national standardised examination results show that students’ scores in the core subjects of English, maths and science have been largely falling. The most recent Global Competitiveness Report from the World Economic Forum ranked Thailand a dismal 83rd in terms of its “health and primary education”, one of four basic indicators. This is below others in the region such as Vietnam and Indonesia; only impoverished Cambodia performs worse.

Michelle Rhee’s Group Asks Teachers Unions To Promote Reform Policies At State Level

Joy Resmovits:

The day after Michelle Rhee’s education lobbying group, StudentsFirst, got dumped by progressive petition site Change.org because of intense pressure from teachers’ unions, StudentsFirst waved a thorny olive branch of sorts at the nation’s two largest such unions.
On Wednesday afternoon, StudentsFirst, along with other education groups such as Democrats for Education Reform, Students for Education Reform and Hispanic CREO, wrote a letter to Dennis Van Roekel and Randi Weingarten, presidents of the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, asking for a “new opportunity to collaborate to improve public education for kids.”
The letter, provided to The Huffington Post by StudentsFirst, points to recent education legislation in Connecticut that ultimately created a teacher evaluation system that grades teachers in part on their students’ standardized test scores; a “commissioner’s network” that allows the state to take over some failing schools; and increased funds for charter schools. Despite the attack ads that appeared during the legislative process, StudentsFirst’s letter to the unions acknowledges that both groups have claimed victory in establishing these policies — in some cases even going as far as to call them a “national model.”

It matters that Obama is wrong on school vouchers

Doug Tuthill:

The Washington Post’s Jay Mathews mused last month about the similarities between the education platforms of President Obama and Mitt Romney, but he was also a little too eager to dismiss their differences on school vouchers as irrelevant. The issue of equal access to private schools speaks to the core values of each party, but the topic is particularly important to Democrats who were deeply divided on the issue in the 1970s, and are so again today.
Let’s start with some history. In 1922, the Ku Klux Klan pushed a referendum in Oregon, which the voters passed, making it illegal for children to attend private schools. The Klan thought outlawing private schooling, especially Catholic schools, would help reduce cultural pluralism in the United States. The Society of Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, which ran a Catholic girls school in Oregon, sued, and the law was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1925 (Pierce v. Society of Sisters).

The disadvantage of smarts

The Economist interviews Satoshi Kanazawa:

So intelligent people do not behave better than less intelligent people?
No, sometimes they do stupid things. What intelligent people prefer is not good or bad, right or wrong, but it is always evolutionarily novel. More intelligent boys (but not more intelligent girls) are more likely to grow up to value sexual exclusivity. This is because humans are naturally polygynous. Sexual exclusivity is evolutionarily novel for men but not for women, so more intelligent men are more likely to value sexual exclusivity than less intelligent men. There is also some evidence that intelligent people are more likely to be vegetarians, because humans are evolutionarily designed to be omnivorous.
Criminals on average have lower intelligence than law-abiding citizens. Firstly, most behaviours designated as crimes are just natural means of competition that men have engaged in throughout evolutionary history. Secondly, institutions and technologies that control criminal behaviour today–CCTV cameras, police, court, prison–are all evolutionarily novel, so less intelligent men are less likely truly to comprehend such entities.

Do Charter Schools Serve Fewer Special Education Students?

Matthew Di Carlo:

A new report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) provides one of the first large-scale comparisons of special education enrollment between charter and regular public schools. The report’s primary finding, which, predictably, received a fair amount of attention, is that roughly 11 percent of students enrolled in regular public schools were on special education plans in 2009-10, compared with just 8 percent of charter school students.
The GAO report’s authors are very careful to note that their findings merely describe what you might call the “service gap” – i.e., the proportion of special education students served by charters versus regular public schools – but that they do not indicate the reasons for this disparity.
This is an important point, but I would take the warning a step further: The national- and state-level gaps themselves should be interpreted with the most extreme caution.

More from Andrew Rotherham.

An Oakland parent on OUSD’s special education proposal

Stacey Smith is an Oakland school district parent and volunteer who has served on the District GATE Advisory Committee, the school board’s Special Committee on School Based Management, and the Community Advisory Committee for Special Education. I invited her to contribute periodically to The Education Report; any topic she writes about — including the below piece – does not reflect the view of any group. — Katy
I’m trying to understand the June 12 memo from outgoing Special Education Director Sharon Casanares to Oakland school district program specialists that eliminates their jobs as of June 29 and lays out over $4 million dollars of staffing and program cuts for special education in Oakland — cuts that may severely impact the support special education teachers and over 5,000 special education students receive.
According to the memo, personnel costs make up the bulk of the department’s budget so the majority of reductions are in that area. The number one criterion used to make cuts was to “make changes that will have the least impact on students in classrooms.” Substantial cuts are proposed in several key areas:

A Landmark Monograph in Gifted Education, and Why I Disagree with Its Major Conclusion

James Borland:

A Landmark Monograph in Gifted Education, and Why I Disagree with Its Major Conclusion
In 2011, Subotnik, Olszewski-Kubilius, and Worrell published a landmark monograph that should be read by anyone interested in gifted education. However, I find their belief that the field ought to be devoted to encouraging eminence troubling.
Last year saw the publication of one of the most important pieces of scholarship in the field of gifted education of recent times, a monograph entitled “Rethinking Giftedness and Gifted Education: A Proposed Direction Forward Based on Psychological Science.” The authors are Rena F. Subotnik, of the American Psychological Association; Paula Olszewski-Kubilius, of Northwestern University; and Frank C. Worrell, of the University of California, Berkeley. The monograph can be found at http://www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/publications /journals/pspi/rethinking-giftedness-and-gifted-education.html, as can a brief video in which the authors set forth some of their ideas.
Anybody with a serious interest in gifted education should read, and reread, this monograph. The authors have produced some of the best, and freshest, thinking about giftedness that is likely to emerge from this field in this or any year. Fourteen pages of single-spaced references attest to the sheer amount of material they have read, digested, synthesized, and critiqued. The authors masterfully summarize much of the major work on giftedness and gifted education and then add to it with compelling ideas of their own. These include a definition of giftedness, rather too long to quote here, that earns its length by virtue of its breadth and depth. We spend quite a bit of time in my classes at Teachers College analyzing definitions of giftedness, and this one, newly added to the curriculum, gives my students quite a bit of intellectual meat to chew on.

4 Professors Discuss Teaching Free Online Courses for Thousands of Students

Jeffrey Young:

What is it like to teach a free online course to tens of thousands of students? Dozens of professors are doing just that, experimenting with a format known as Massive Open Online Courses. And there are more providers than ever, some working with elite universities, and others that allow any professor to join in.
The Chronicle asked four professors, teaching on different platforms, to share their thoughts on the experience so far. The responses are based on e-mail interviews, which have been condensed and edited for publication.

‘What My Dad Taught Me About Money’

Simon Constable:

Listen up. It’s Father’s Day, and, believe it or not, the old man still knows his way around the block. He still has a few lessons worth learning.
So The Wall Street Journal Sunday asked some really, really smart people in the business and financial world what they learned at home.
The question: What did you learn from Dad about money and finance?
The answers (in a nutshell): Work hard, save your money and diversify your investments.
There. And what dad would disagree?

Madison School District Science Program Review

Lisa Wachtel & Tim Peterson [153 page PDF]:

Data Analysis and Synthesis
The analysis of the data highlighted 5 key elements: time for science, an unacceptable failure rate, teacher preparation, science in high schools, and the process for implementing the Next Generation Science Standards.

  • Time for science: in trying to balance the need to close the achievement gap with regards to Literacy and Mathematics, the committee believes that science provides a context for the use of these two content areas.
  • Unacceptable failure rate: too many students are failing at key transition points in their academic careers.
  • Teacher professional development: where professional development has occurred, student achievement has improved. There is a lack of professional development for teachers at elementary and high school.
  • Science in secondary schools: consistent 9th grade courses, improved communication with guidance, and opportunities for middle school and high school teachers to plan need to be implemented in order to respond to the new standards, focus on student achievement, and connect students to science career pathways.
  • Process for implementing the Next Generation Science Standards: the new standards will require significant work in order provide the educational program envisioned by the standards.

Recommendations
The recommendations were categorized similar to the Literacy Program Evaluation from 2010-11. There are seven broad recommendations, each with several specific action steps to support the recommendation. The recommendations are below, as well as 1-2 significant action steps.
1. Consistent, culturally relevant and aligned K-12 curriculum
a. Scope and Sequence development along with core practices
b. 9th grade course development
2. Align program with the 8 Scientific and Engineering Practices of the Next Generation Science Standards; increase the use of data within the district program
a. Increase science credit graduation requirement to 3 credits
b. Ensure minutes of instruction in science are met
3. Implement science interventions and assessments that support the Response to Intervention and
Instruction
process within the district
a. Implement science specific programming options available to all students
b. Implement interventions and progress monitoring to support science instruction for all
students
4. Review and purchase science program materials to achieve consistency and equity district-wide
a. Identify material that supports implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards
b. Phased implementation with strong professional development
5. Implement science assessments which provide data to drive program improvement
a. Implement a comprehensive science assessment system to include common summative assessments
b. Implement a process to ensure that data helps inform classroom instruction and overall program improvement
6. Work collaboratively to provide a culturally diverse science teaching staff across the district a. With HR, work to increase hiring highly effective, culturally aware science teachers b. Work to develop building level science expertise through teacher leadership
7. Establish a comprehensive and flexible science professional development plan
a. Develop and provide strong on-line professional development for every grade level
b. Improve classroom safety through a district-wide safety professional development program

Should All U.S. Students Meet a Single Set of National Proficiency Standards?

The Wall Street Journal:

The U.S. has a problem: Today’s young Americans are falling behind their peers in other countries when it comes to academic performance. What makes the situation particularly concerning is research showing a close link between economic competitiveness and the knowledge and skills of a nation’s workforce.
What’s the solution?
One school of thought says the U.S. needs to set clear standards about what schools should teach and students should learn–and make it uniform throughout the country. These advocates say our decentralized approach to education isn’t preparing students for the demanding challenges they will face in a global economy.
The Wall Street Journal
Others say be careful what you wish for. Proposing that all children meet the same academic standards, they say, is essentially proposing a nationalized system of education, where everyone is taught the same thing at the same time and in the same way. The best way to improve student performance, they argue, is to give schools the ability to experiment with different standards, assessments and curricula to see what does and doesn’t work.

Madison’s Hamilton Middle School students win history challenge

Wisconsin State Journal:

A team of Madison students from Hamilton Middle School has won the junior division National African American History Challenge in Atlanta.
Hamilton students Jada Dayne, Nanceny Fanny and Avion Silas competed against 17 other teams from around the country.
Awards include savings bonds and scholarships. The Madison team won the junior championship twice before in 1996 and 2008.

Congratulations!

MMSD Literacy Program Review; “Instruction in Phonics Evident”, “Coloring, cutting/pasting and copying of other printed work would not be considered quality independent literacy work and this was seen in many classrooms”. Remarkable. Reading is job #1.

Lisa Wachtel, Executive Director of Curriculum & Assessment [104 Page PDF]:

Grades K-2 Literacy Walkthroughs
Background: Observations of literacy classes, or, walkthroughs, were scheduled for seventeen of MMSD’ s highest poverty elementary schools during the months of April and May. Three administrators visited each school for a half-day for a minimum of 12 hours of observation per school. All K-2 classrooms are observed for at least an hour by one of the three administrators. Second/third grade classrooms were observed in schools with multi-aged instructional designs. When substitute teachers are present, follow-up observations were attempted.
The purpose of the walk throughs was to provide schools with a baseline of literacy practices and to communicate a district snapshot of K-2 observable literacy practices when student routines and independence are well established. Although not a complete picture, the walkthroughs provided evidence of teaching emphasis, expectations, school/district implementation efforts and additional anecdotal information that might suggest potential areas for consideration.
Timeline: April16- May 25, 2012 Observations
May 30-31,2012 Meet with principals to discuss results of the observations
Observation Tool: Please see the attached document. This is an observation protocol merging documents developed by Fountas and Pinnell and Dom. This observation tool was selected because it captured the general categories of literacy instruction that would be included in a 90-120 minute literacy lesson. Observers could capture any of the elements observed during the 60 observations. An additional section, classroom environment provides a way to document materials and classroom structures.
Preliminary Findings:
1. The majority of primary literacy environments were organized around a Balanced Literacy Model. However, within that model, there was significant variation in what the model looked like. This lack of consistency was seen both within and across all 17 schools.
2. Most classrooms were organized in a planned and thoughtful manner. Attention was given to the development and use of a classroom library, individual book boxes and areas where students could work in pairs or small groups.
3. Although classrooms in most schools were thoughtfully organized, some classrooms were cluttered and there were not optimal environments for learning. It is recommended that IRTs work with teachers to create good physical environments in all classrooms.
4. Although the majority of classrooms had at least a 90 minute literacy block, some did not. Attention to direct instruction for at least 90 minutes is crucial for the success of all learners. Principals must make this a clear expectation. The literacy block must also be implemented with fidelity.
5. There was a lack of consistency both within and across grade levels based on common core standards and best teaching practices. This should be an area of emphasis for all schools. IRTs and principals will need to develop a tight structure of accountability that supports the Common Core State Standards and the Curriculum Companion tool.
6. In most cases, instruction in phonics and phonemic awareness was clearly evident. This instruction reflected the professional development both at the district and school level around phonics instruction, phonemic awareness and word work. Instruction appeared to be more systematic, targeted and focused than in previous years.
7. Guided Reading Instruction was observed in the many of the classrooms. It should be noted that in several schools guided reading did not occur five days a week. A wide range of practices were observed during guided reading. Teaching points were often unclear. Observers noted few teachers administering running records or maintaining other types of formative assessments.
8. Targeted, focused instruction around a precise teaching point is a critical component of quality literacy instruction. Focused feedback emphasizing areas of student mastery was also inconsistent. Again, consistency related to core practices as well as ongoing specific assessment practices should be apparent within and across elementary grades.
9. Professional development work should continue around the use of assessment tools. Principals must require the practice of ongoing assessment in all classrooms.
10. The development and use of anchor charts and mini lessons are critical pieces of strong core instruction. Anchor charts and mini lessons were seen in some classrooms and not in others. Professional development should address these ideas so that there is consistency across the district.
11. In many classrooms, the quality of independent student work was of concern. Teachers in all classrooms must pay careful attention to independent student work. This work must support the structure of the literacy block, be consistent with the focus of guided reading and be at each student’s independent level. Emphasis must consistently be on authentic reading and writing tasks. Work should be differentiated. Coloring, cutting/pasting and copying of other printed work would not be considered quality independent literacy work and this was seen in many classrooms (bold added).
12. Teachers were inconsistent in giving feedback to students related to specific learning. Clear, corrective feedback and/or affirmation of solid understandings will accelerate individual student learning and help learners tie the known to the new.
13. All students should also be receiving ongoing, focused feedback related to independent work and independent reading. Regular conferencing and assessment of independent reading and writing is a crucial component of a rigorous literacy curriculum.

Related: 60% to 42%: Madison School District’s Reading Recovery Effectiveness Lags “National Average”: Administration seeks to continue its use.

Madison School District Literacy Program Review’

Lisa Wachtel, Executive Director of Curriculum & Assessment [104 Page PDF]:

Grades K-2 Literacy Walkthroughs
Background: Observations of literacy classes, or, walkthroughs, were scheduled for seventeen of MMSD’ s highest poverty elementary schools during the months of April and May. Three administrators visited each school for a half-day for a minimum of 12 hours of observation per school. All K-2 classrooms are observed for at least an hour by one of the three administrators. Second/third grade classrooms were observed in schools with multi-aged instructional designs. When substitute teachers are present, follow-up observations were attempted.
The purpose of the walk throughs was to provide schools with a baseline of literacy practices and to communicate a district snapshot of K-2 observable literacy practices when student routines and independence are well established. Although not a complete picture, the walkthroughs provided evidence of teaching emphasis, expectations, school/district implementation efforts and additional anecdotal information that might suggest potential areas for consideration.
Timeline: April16- May 25, 2012 Observations
May 30-31,2012 Meet with principals to discuss results of the observations
Observation Tool: Please see the attached document. This is an observation protocol merging documents developed by Fountas and Pinnell and Dom. This observation tool was selected because it captured the general categories of literacy instruction that would be included in a 90-120 minute literacy lesson. Observers could capture any of the elements observed during the 60 observations. An additional section, classroom environment provides a way to document materials and classroom structures.
Preliminary Findings:
1. The majority of primary literacy environments were organized around a Balanced Literacy Model. However, within that model, there was significant variation in what the model looked like. This lack of consistency was seen both within and across all 17 schools.
2. Most classrooms were organized in a planned and thoughtful manner. Attention was given to the development and use of a classroom library, individual book boxes and areas where students could work in pairs or small groups.
3. Although classrooms in most schools were thoughtfully organized, some classrooms were cluttered and there were not optimal environments for learning. It is recommended that IRTs work with teachers to create good physical environments in all classrooms.
4. Although the majority of classrooms had at least a 90 minute literacy block, some did not. Attention to direct instruction for at least 90 minutes is crucial for the success of all learners. Principals must make this a clear expectation. The literacy block must also be implemented with fidelity.
5. There was a lack of consistency both within and across grade levels based on common core standards and best teaching practices. This should be an area of emphasis for all schools. IRTs and principals will need to develop a tight structure of accountability that supports the Common Core State Standards and the Curriculum Companion tool.
6. In most cases, instruction in phonics and phonemic awareness was clearly evident. This instruction reflected the professional development both at the district and school level around phonics instruction, phonemic awareness and word work. Instruction appeared to be more systematic, targeted and focused than in previous years.
7. Guided Reading Instruction was observed in the many of the classrooms. It should be noted that in several schools guided reading did not occur five days a week. A wide range of practices were observed during guided reading. Teaching points were often unclear. Observers noted few teachers administering running records or maintaining other types of formative assessments.
8. Targeted, focused instruction around a precise teaching point is a critical component of quality literacy instruction. Focused feedback emphasizing areas of student mastery was also inconsistent. Again, consistency related to core practices as well as ongoing specific assessment practices should be apparent within and across elementary grades.
9. Professional development work should continue around the use of assessment tools. Principals must require the practice of ongoing assessment in all classrooms.
10. The development and use of anchor charts and mini lessons are critical pieces of strong core instruction. Anchor charts and mini lessons were seen in some classrooms and not in others. Professional development should address these ideas so that there is consistency across the district.
11. In many classrooms, the quality of independent student work was of concern. Teachers in all classrooms must pay careful attention to independent student work. This work must support the structure of the literacy block, be consistent with the focus of guided reading and be at each student’s independent level. Emphasis must consistently be on authentic reading and writing tasks. Work should be differentiated. Coloring, cutting/pasting and copying of other printed work would not be considered quality independent literacy work and this was seen in many classrooms (bold added).
12. Teachers were inconsistent in giving feedback to students related to specific learning. Clear, corrective feedback and/or affirmation of solid understandings will accelerate individual student learning and help learners tie the known to the new.
13. All students should also be receiving ongoing, focused feedback related to independent work and independent reading. Regular conferencing and assessment of independent reading and writing is a crucial component of a rigorous literacy curriculum.

Related: 60% to 42%: Madison School District’s Reading Recovery Effectiveness Lags “National Average”: Administration seeks to continue its use.

Milwaukee per-pupil spending fourth highest among 50 largest districts in nation, Madison spent 8% more; “Not geared toward driving those dollars back to the classroom” Well worth reading.

Erin Richards:

Of the 50 largest school districts by enrollment in the United States, Milwaukee Public Schools spent more per pupil than all but three East Coast districts in the 2009-’10 school year, according to public-school finance figures released by the Census Bureau on Thursday.
MPS ranked near the top among large districts by spending $14,038 per pupil in the 2010 fiscal year. It was outspent by the New York City School District, with the highest per-pupil spending among large districts – $19,597 – followed by Montgomery County Public Schools near Washington, D.C., and Baltimore City Public Schools in Maryland, which spent $15,582 and $14,711, respectively, per pupil that year.
MPS officials on Thursday acknowledged Milwaukee’s high per-pupil costs in comparison with other large districts, but they also pointed to unique local factors that drive up the cost, particularly the city’s high rate of poverty, the district’s high rate of students with special needs and other long-term costs, such as aging buildings and historically high benefit rates for MPS employees that the district is working to lower.
“The cost of doing business for Milwaukee Public Schools and Wisconsin is relatively high,” Superintendent Gregory Thornton said. “But because of legacy and structural costs, we were not geared toward driving those dollars back into the classroom.”
“What we have to be is more effective and efficient,” he said.

Madison’s 2009-2010 budget was $370,287,471, according to the now defunct Citizen’s Budget, $15,241 per student (24,295 students).
Why Milwaukee Public Schools’ per student spending is high by Mike Ford:

To the point, why is MPS per-pupil spending so high? There are two simple explanations.
First, as articulated by Dale Knapp of the Wisconsin Taxpayer’s Alliance in today’s story, MPS per-pupil spending is high because it has always been high. Since Wisconsin instituted revenue limits in the early 90s the amount of state aid and local tax revenue a district can raise (and correspondingly spend) per-pupil has been indexed to what a district raised in the prior year. In every state budget legislators specify the statewide allowable per-pupil revenue limit increase amount. Because MPS had a high base to begin with, the amount of revenue the district raises and spends per-pupil is always on the high side. Further, because annual increases are indexed off of what a district raised in the prior year, there is a built-in incentive for districts to raise and spend as much as allowed under revenue limits.
Second, categorical funding to MPS has increased dramatically since 2001. Categorical funds are program specific funds that exist outside of the state aid formula and hence are not capped by revenue limits. In 2001 MPS received $1,468 in categorical funding per-pupil, in 2012 it received $2,318 per-pupil (A 58% increase).
State and local categorical funding to MPS has gone up since 2001, but the bulk of the increase in per-pupil categorical funding is federal. Federal categorical funds per-pupil increased 73% since 2001. Included in this pot of federal money is title funding for low-income pupils, and funding for special needs pupils. The focal year of the study that spurred the Journal Sentinel article, 2010, also is important because of the impact of federal stimulus funding.

Comparing Milwaukee Public and Voucher Schools’ Per Student Spending

Note I am not trying to calculate per-pupil education funding or suggest that this is the amount of money that actually reaches a school or classroom; it is a simple global picture of how much public revenue exists per-pupil in MPS. Below are the relevant numbers for 2012, from MPS documents:
…….
Though not perfect, I think $13,063 (MPS) and $7,126 (MPCP) are reasonably comparative per-pupil public support numbers for MPS and the MPCP.

Spending more is easy if you can simply vote for tax increases, or spread spending growth across a large rate base, as a utility or healthcare provider might do. Over time, however, tax & spending growth becomes a substantial burden, one that changes economic decision making. I often point out per student spending differences in an effort to consider what drives these decisions. Austin, TX, a city often mentioned by Madison residents in a positive way spends 45% less per student.
Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman’s 2009 speech to the Madison Rotary Club:

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

Finally, there’s this: Paul Geitner:

The Court of Justice had previously ruled that a person who gets sick before going on vacation is entitled to reschedule the vacation, and on Thursday it said that right extended into the vacation itself.

Better Schools, Fewer Dollars We can improve education without busting the budget

Marcus Winters via a kind Rick Kiley email:

Here’s what looks like a policy dilemma. To attain the economic growth that it desperately needs, the United States must improve its schools and train a workforce capable of competing in the global economy. Economists Eric Hanushek, Dean Jamison, Eliot Jamison, and Ludger Woessmann estimate that improving student achievement by half of one standard deviation–roughly the current difference between the United States and Finland–would increase U.S. GDP growth by about a full percentage point annually. Yet states and the federal government face severe budgetary constraints these days; how are policymakers supposed to improve student achievement while reducing school funding?
In reality, that task is far from impossible. The story of American education over the last three decades is one not of insufficient funds but of inefficient schools. Billions of new dollars have gone into the system, to little effect. Luckily, Americans are starting to recognize that we can improve schooling without paying an additional dime. In fact, by unleashing the power of educational choice, we might even save money while getting better results and helping the economy’s long-term prospects.

Related: State Income Tax Collections Per Capita, Madison’s 4.95% Property Tax Increase, http://www.schoolinfosystem.org/archives/2012/05/madison_schools_79.php and 60% to 42%: Madison School District’s Reading Recovery Effectiveness Lags “National Average”: Administration seeks to continue its use.

A Professor’s Cry on Administration, Program Explosion and Teaching Focus Issues

Scott Jaschik:

On Thursday David Dudley did something that surprised his colleagues at Georgia Southern University. He sent all of them an open letter [300K PDF] in which he described — in detail — the extent of dysfunction he sees at the university.
He described an administration disconnected from the faculty, with oversized ambitions that could move the institution away from its teaching mission. He described a faculty governance system willing to adopt the wrong resolutions just to make the administration pay attention. And he described professors who have spent their careers at the university (in November he’ll have been there 23 years; he currently serves as chair of literature and philosophy) who feel besieged by one idea after another from administrators destined to be short-termers.
While his colleagues were a little stunned when they opened their e-mail, it wasn’t because they disagreed. “I was so happy because someone stood up and said this out loud,” said Eric Nelson, one professor. “We all have these sentiments, but no one has said so like this.”

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

The 12 Reasons College Costs Keep Rising

Richard Vedder:

When asked the question, “Why do colleges keep raising tuition fees?” I give answers ranging from three words (“because they can”), to 85,000 (my book, Going Broke By Degree). Avoiding both extremes, let’s evaluate two rival explanations for the college cost explosion, followed by 12 key expressions that add more detail.
University presidents and some economists (e.g., David Feldman and Robert Archibald) often cite the Baumol Effect (named after a Princeton economist), arguing that higher education is a service industry where it is inherently difficult to raise productivity by substituting machines for humans. Teaching is like theater: it takes as many actors today to produce King Lear as it did when Shakespeare wrote it 400 years ago. While there is some truth to the argument, in reality technology does allow a single teacher to reach ever bigger audiences (using everything from microphones to streaming video). Moreover, in reality a majority of college costs today are not for instruction–the number of administrators, broadly defined, often exceeds the number of faculty.
The second explanation comes from former Education Secretary Bill Bennett: rapidly expanding federal student financial assistance programs have pushed up college prices, so the gains from student aid accrue less to students than to the colleges themselves, financing an academic arms race. Recent studies (by Stephanie Rieg Cellini and Claudia Goldin, Andrew Gillen, and Nicholas Turner) support the Bennett Hypothesis. Student aid has fueled the demand for higher education. In the market economy, increased demand for a product made by one company (say the iPhone) quickly spurs competition (other smart phones), so prices do not rise. That fails to happen in higher education, as many providers restrict supply to enhance prestige. Harvard has an Admissions Committee, McDonald’s does not.

Do Too Many Young People Go to College?

Lauren Weber:

WSJ: Dr. Vedder, you’ve written that we currently have a glut of college graduates. Why do you think college is no longer the valuable investment it once was?
DR. VEDDER: First, the proportion of society’s resources going to fund higher education has tripled over the past half-century, and tuition costs are rising significantly faster than inflation.
Second, the reality is that at least 40% of full-time students entering four-year programs fail to have their degree in six years, and the dropout rate is even greater among lower-income students. There are vast numbers of universities where the four-year college graduation rate is less than 30%.
Third, the biggest problem is that we are turning out vastly more college graduates than there are jobs in the relatively high-paying managerial, technical and professional occupations to which most college graduates traditionally have gravitated. Do you really need a chemistry degree to make a good martini? Roughly one of three college graduates is in jobs the Labor Department says require less than a bachelor’s degree.

Should Colleges Consider Legacies in the Admissions Process?

The Wall Street Journal:

Many colleges ask applicants if they have a parent or grandparent who went to the school. The student’s answer is often the difference between acceptance or rejection.
At some of the country’s most selective colleges, one study has shown, having an alum parent boosts the applicant’s probability of acceptance by 45 percentage points. That is, if one candidate has a 30% chance of admission, an applicant with the exact same academic record and extracurricular activities but also a parent who attended the school as an undergraduate would have a 75% chance.

MPS partnership cements scholarships to Morehouse College

Erin Richards

A new partnership between Milwaukee Public Schools and a prominent all-male Southern college has attracted enough local business dollars to support near full-ride academic scholarships for 10 Milwaukee-area graduates.
MPS Superintendent Gregory Thornton on Tuesday announced the partnership with Morehouse College, a 147-year-old historically black institution for men in Atlanta. The kicker: $800,000 has been provided by local businesses to help pay for the 10 teenagers to attend Morehouse for four years.
The recipients included seven MPS students, one from Homestead High School in Mequon, one from Shorewood High School and one from Madison La Follette High School in Madison.
All 10 sat in Rufus King International High School’s library Tuesday morning during the announcement and subsequent ceremonial signing of letters of intent to attend the school. They all wore crisp button-down shirts and matching maroon-and-white striped ties.

Raising Taxes & Cutting the School Budget in Dekalb, GA

Ty Tagami:

DeKalb County property owners will pay more in school taxes next year while class sizes rise under an austerity budget approved by the school board Thursday.
The board voted to raise taxes. It also increased class sizes, even for special education students, while adding two furlough days for teachers and cutting the number of their aides.
The Fernbank Science Center suffered, too, but not as badly as previously proposed. The board cut $1.9 million — about 40 percent — from the center’s $4.7 million budget; Superintendent Cheryl Atkinson had recommended a $3.2 million cut.

Dekalb County schools will spend $774,600,000 to support approximately 95,958 students ($8,072/student). Madison plans to spend about $15,132 / student during the 2012-2013 budget cycle, about 46% greater than DeKalb schools.

Chicago South Loop battles over who will get a new school

Greg Hinz:

Nothing unites a community and makes people want to live there like a good school for the kids, particularly a high school. But in these days of very tight finances, what you want and what you can get often are two different things.
Add in some stark socioeconomic differences plus a dash of good ol’ Chicago politics and you get an idea of what’s at stake in a revealing dispute over what kind of public schooling to offer in the fast-growing South Loop.
On one side are Ald. Bob Fioretti, 2nd, and a group of constituents who want Chicago Public Schools to convert the old Jones College Prep high school on South State Street to a neighborhood school when the new controlled-enrollment Jones opens in the fall of 2014.
On the other side is the Board of Education, which insists that there just aren’t enough students in the South Loop and adjoining areas to warrant the expenditure. The board now plans to demolish the old Jones.

Nerds of the World, Unite! iTunes U Just Got Interactive

Megan Garber:

If you are a nerd, or just an aspiring one, there are few things more fantastic on the Internet than iTunes U. One of the earliest online education initiatives, the feature — a little corner of the broader iTunes content environment — brings together video- and audio-recorded lectures from colleges and universities around the world. Want to learn philosophy from Oxford? Download the 41 lectures from the university’s eight-week-long General Philosophy course. Curious about the history of ancient Greece? Turn Yale’s lectures on that subject into podcasts that you listen to as you’re doing your dishes. iTunes’ education initiative is an occasionally overwhelming and often enlightening smorgasbord of digitized, customized learning.
And! The whole thing is free for users. Which means that you — the nerd, whether current or aspiring — can recreate the university lecture experience for pretty much any subject, for pretty much nothing save your time.

Asians Top Immigration Class

Miriam Jordan:

Asians are the fastest-growing, most educated and highest-earning population in the U.S., according to a new report that paints the majority-immigrant group as a boon to an economy that has come to rely increasingly on skilled workers.
The number of Asians in the U.S. quadrupled between 1980 and 2010 to about 18 million, or 6% of the total population, according to “The Rise of Asian Americans,” a study released Tuesday by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center. The bulk of Asians in the U.S. trace their roots to six countries: China, India, Japan, Korea, the Philippines and Vietnam.
As a group, Asians place more value than Americans overall on marriage, parenting, hard work and careers, according to the report. Irrespective of their country of origin, Asians overall believe that American parents are too soft on their children.

Confidence in U.S. Public Schools at New Low



Jeffrey Jones:

Americans’ confidence in public schools is down five percentage points from last year, with 29% expressing “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in them. That establishes a new low in public school confidence from the 33% measured in Gallup’s 2007 and 2008 Confidence in Institutions polls. The high was 58% the first time Gallup included public schools, in 1973.

A ‘radical’ reform goes mainstream, but New York State retreats.

The Wall Street Journal, via a kind Rick Kiley email:

The U.S. is stress-testing Herbert Stein’s law like never before, but maybe the economist’s famous dictum–trends that can’t continue won’t–is being vindicated in education. Witness the support of America’s mayors for “parent trigger,” the public school reform that was denounced as radical only a few years ago but now is spreading across the country.
Over the weekend in Orlando, the U.S. Conference of Mayors unanimously approved a resolution endorsing new rules that give parents the running room to turn around rotten schools. At “persistently failing” institutions, a majority of parents can sign a petition that turns out the administrators and teachers in favor of more competent hires, or dissolves the school, or converts it to a charter. Teachers unions loathe this form of local accountability.

On The Collapse of the National Defense University

Best Defense

I read your piece on the resignation of Hans Binnendijk, the head research guru of the National Defense University and one of America’s leading strategic thinkers. It comes amidst much turmoil imposed on the university from the top. It isn’t pretty, and it will surely not serve the national interest. I am not directly involved in it, but this is what I have been told by many who are.
The new uniformed leadership of the Armed Forces, i.e., General Dempsey and his staff, apparently intend to prune NDU back to where it was a few decades ago. There will be some modest resource savings, but since the entire university budget doesn’t amount to the cost of a single joint strike fighter, one has to wonder what is motivating all of what is happening here. In the cuts that have been discussed, Dempsey’s deputy, Marine Lt. Gen. George J. Flynn has wielded the meat axe, often with the aid of micromanaging action officers. No one here in the rank-and-file is sure if the urbane chairman is on board with the details of all of this. (Ironically, both the chairman and J-7 are NDU graduates with advanced degrees.)

Stanford’s Coding Together Class

piazza.com:

Stanford’s iPhone and iPad Development class has had over 10 million downloads on iTunes U, making it one of the most popular online courses on earth. And it’s about to get better, because now you can do it with friends.
For the first time, Stanford’s most celebrated iTunes U course includes peer collaboration, so you can learn alongside fellow mobile developers from around the world. If you’ve tried it alone and gotten stuck, now there will be people to help. If you’ve taken it before and aced it, now you can sharpen your knowledge by helping others. And if you’ve been meaning to learn Apps for iPhone & iPad, there may never be a better time.

Storycloud

www.storycloud.co.uk:

StoryCloud is a collection of 12 online stories that you can read, listen to and download. Click on icons to see a story and choose to read or listen. Then go and find the surprises in the pictures and see the challenges and tasks for you to write a story of your own.

Students should invest in themselves

Christian Schneider:

As modern government has become a framework for ameliorating grievances, I have a proposition: Let’s construct a hierarchy of gripes, beginning with those who deserve the most sympathy at the top. The highest spots would be populated by, for instance, women who have been abandoned by their children’s fathers, men in their 50s who are let go from their jobs after 20 years, and Native Americans.
Nowhere on this list would be America’s latest theatrically aggrieved group: people who don’t want to pay back their student loans.
It is true, student loan debt has risen rapidly over the past several decades. The average college graduate in 2011 finished school with $24,000 in debt, while tuition and fees have increased by 440% in 30 years. Last year, total student loan debt in America outpaced credit card debt for the first time in history.
Thus, while the Occupy movement struggled to find a common issue upon which to coalesce, student loan debt forgiveness seemed to tie them together. Yet one Occupier in New York City’s Zuccotti Park, wielding a sign that read “Throw me a bone, pay my tuition,” made national news when he failed to articulate a single reason the government should bail him out. Asked by National Review reporter Charles C.W. Cooke to explain his sign’s meaning, the young man simply said, “just because it’s what I want.”

Wait, Did This 15-Year-Old From Maryland Just Change Cancer Treatment?

Bruce Upbin:

If you’re feeling anxious about how U.S. kids lag the world in science and math, or just in a funk about politics or the mess in Europe, take in this story of a high school freshman from Crownsville, Md. who came up with a prize-winning breakthrough that could change how cancer and other fatal diseases are diagnosed and treated.
His name is Jack Andraka, and he loves science and engineering with every inch of his 15-year-old soul. Just spend a minute or so watching this video. Seriously, do it now before you read more. Nothing from the Oscars or Grammys comes close to the unabashed excitement and joy of Andraka charging up to the stage to accept his $75,000 grand prize at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in May. This is the Olympics of youth science, with more than 1,500 entries from 70 countries competing, each of which already won their national competitions.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Fiscal Indulgences

Mike Ford:

Young men and women used to dream about starting a business in their garage, or discovering a way to make a living while doodling on the back of a napkin in an all-important moment of inspiration. Today, they’re more apt to dream about finding a taxpayer subsidy or low-interest, government business loan.
Subsidies are easy to find. Wisconsin’s Legislative Audit Bureau published a review of the state’s economic development programs the other day, and found that since 2007 there have been 196 of them that dispersed up to $1 billion in financial assistance.
No one, I suspect, has any real idea just what these programs accomplish.
There’s a small problem. Many of the recipients, the audit discovered, don’t always submit the reports that are supposed to help taxpayers determine whether the loans and grants and tax credits are a good investment. But there’s also a much larger problem the audit ignored. The case of Mercury Marine, the Fond du Lac engine and boat manufacturer, shows why.
In March of 2010, the Wisconsin Department of Commerce gave Brunswick Corp., the parent company of Mercury Marine, a $10 million grant. The cash, federal stimulus money actually, was funneled through the State Energy Program and was spent on new windows, HVAC improvements and energy-efficient lighting at the Mercury Marine plant, among other things.

Disrupting education

Dave Winer:

Jeff Jarvis wrote provocatively about disrupting journalism education.
Pretty sure he would agree with this, but I’d like to add my own two items.
1. Every j-school student operates their own server. A requirement. Installs software to run a linkblog, river of news, and whatever else they want.
2. Every undergrad, no matter what their major, is required to take a semester of journalism. Today’s students are going into a world where blogging is something many if not all educated people will be doing, for a lifetime. Prepare them to do it well.
Write a story that grabs the readers’ attention and holds it. Learn how to interview someone. Learn how to listen (that is actually a skill that can be taught, btw). The importance of multiple sources. How to care for the Internet (especially important for future VCs).

Dinner for Outgoing Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad, Birmingham 7.1.2012 start official

Rafael Gomez, viaa kind email: If you are interested to have a dinner for Dr. Nared contact Rafael Gomez at filosistema@yahoo.com
Laura Houser:

It’s official: the Birmingham Board of Education passed a resolution Tuesday night officially hiring Daniel Nerad at the district’s next superintendent.
School Board President Susan Hill said Nerad — the current superintendent of the Madison (WI) Metropolitan School District — signed a contract with the district earlier Tuesday, with an official start date of July 1.
The school board selected Nerad, 60, as the next superintendent on June 11 after a two-month search process. Nerad was one of two finalists after five semifinalists interviewed in late May and early June.

Much more on departing Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad, here.

The Most Important Challenge For Colleges Isn’t Price–It’s Attention

Kara Miller:

This is one of my favorite anecdotes: Last year, the University of Phoenix enlisted renowned Harvard Business School Professor Clayton Christensen to record a lecture. The university reserved a harbor-view room for Christensen and populated it with young people, so that the camera operators could record their reactions.
Before he began to speak, Christensen noticed that the audience appeared unusually engaged and attractive.
“What school do you guys go to?” he asked.
“We’re not students,” a young man told him. “We’re models.”
When Christensen told me this story, I laughed. (Hear the whole interview here.) But the University of Phoenix is serious — and smart. Putting a Harvard professor in front of a lecture hall filled with models is an acknowledgment that, in a Web-recorded lecture, appearance counts — even the few seconds of cutaways to reactions from gorgeous, engaged “students.”

It’s OK to eat alone: Q&A with Susan Cain

TEDTalk:

What was it like giving a TEDTalk, as opposed to some of the other talks you’ve given?
It was a lot scarier, for one thing.
So how did you get through that?
Well, there was “How did I prepare for it?” and then “How did I get through it when it was really happening?” One of the things I did, which I wouldn’t usually do, is I worked with a coach for the week beforehand. Partly just for the moral support of preparing when somebody is there. But also, the coach did this really smart thing: I had told him at the beginning that I’m comfortable talking with people one-on-one, but the whole thing of performance on a stage, a red-carpeted stage, freaks me out a little bit. And he said, “You’re going to go through your TEDTalk as if it were a regular conversation.” And that’s what we did. It really, really helped, because it got me more emotionally comfortable with the words. It felt more like it was me, as opposed to this other creature who was supposed to be the performer.
I tried to bring that with me, even when I was standing under those lights. I was also trying to talk as if it were just me talking. But it’s funny, if you ask me, “What was it like to be actually standing up there and delivering it?” I don’t know, because it was such an otherworldly experience that I can’t remember it exactly. I know I was there. I know that much. But the details kind of escape me.
The best part of the experience was not the moment of being up on stage — it was the aftermath. I was lucky to be one of the earlier speakers. That meant that all week long I got to talk to people one-on-one about how they had reacted to what I’d been saying. And that was really, really special.

From the SAT to the NFL, the problem with short-term tests

Jonah Lehrer:

In the early 1980s, Paul Sackett, a psychologist at the University of Minnesota, began measuring the speed of cashiers at supermarkets. Workers were told to scan a few dozen items as quickly as possible while a scientist timed them. Not surprisingly, some cashiers were much faster than others.
But Mr. Sackett realized that this assessment, which lasted just a few minutes, wasn’t the only way to measure cashier performance. Electronic scanners, then new in supermarkets, could automatically record the pace of cashiers for long stretches of time. After analyzing this data, it once again became clear that levels of productivity varied greatly.

Try parent visits, not parent takeovers of schools

Jay Matthews:

A modest program in Missouri — similar to one in the District — has found a way to help parents improve their children’s education. But nobody is paying much attention.
Instead, something called the parent trigger, the hottest parent program going, has gotten laws passed in four states even though it has had zero effect on achievement.
The Missouri program, the Teacher Home Visit Program or HOME WORKS!, trains and organizes teachers to visit parents in their homes. It is quiet, steady, small and non-political.
The parent trigger, begun in California by a well-meaning group called Parent Revolution, is also authorized in Mississippi, Texas and Louisiana and is deep into electoral politics. Both the Obama and Romney presidential campaigns have embraced it.

Reading program aims to halt ‘summer slide’

Noelle McGee:

School’s out, but that’s no excuse to stop reading, according to a local educator and avid reader.
“We’re really trying to encourage students to read over the summer, so they won’t lose any of the skills that they gained last year,” said Louis K. Morris, the East Park Elementary School librarian.
Morris is encouraging Danville schools K-5 students — and their parents — to participate in the district’s Summer Accelerated Reading Program at the Danville Public Library.
“Last year, our main focus was to get more kids involved. This year, it’s to get more parents involved,” said Morris, the program coordinator. “When a parent shows enthusiasm for something, the child will, too.”
“When parents read with their children, it shows the kids that reading is important, and it’s a lifelong skill,” added Julie Cox, a Title 1 coordinator for the school district.

Diane Ravitch’s Verdict on NJ’s Proposed Tenure Reform Bill:

Laura Waters:

“New Jersey Has a Bad Idea.” She pontificates further on Sen. Ruiz’s tenure reform bill,

It is part of the rightwing assault on the teaching profession. The state gets to define “effective,” then can take the right to due process away from those who don’t meet the benchmarks arbitrarily created by the state, which is eager to fire teachers and make room for teaching temps. I have said it before and I’ll say it again. Teachers without the right to due process may be fired for any reason or for no reason. Teachers without the right to due process will never teach anything controversial. Teachers without due process rights will never disagree with their principal. Teachers without due process rights have no academic freedom.

Walker, UW System announce online degree model

ibmadison.com

In an announcement that could have implications for the affordability of education and professional development, and possibly help address the skills gap, Gov. Scott Walker, University of Wisconsin System President Kevin P. Reilly, and UW Colleges and UW-Extension Chancellor Ray Cross have announced a competency-based degree model that they claim will transform higher education in Wisconsin.
Under the self-paced, competency-based model, students will be allowed to start classes anytime and earn credit for what they already know. Students will be able to demonstrate college-level competencies based on material they already learned in school, on the job, or on their own.

State Income Tax Collections Per Capita, Madison’s 4.95% Property Tax Increase




via Taxprof.
Meanwhile, the Madison School Board approved a 4.95% property tax increase Monday evening. Channel3000.com:

The Madison Metropolitan School District’s Board of Education passed a budget on Monday night for the 2012-2013 school year.
The $376.2 million budget passed late Monday increases overall spending by 0.8 percent, and the levy by 4.95 percent.
Taxes on the average Madison home are expected to increase by approximately $85 a year. The board also decided to dip into its “rainy day” fund to cover additional expenses.

The $376,200,000 2012-2013 Madison School District budget spends $15,132 for each of its 24,861 students. Madison’s per student spending is about 45% higher than the Austin, TX school district.
Related: Madison’s property taxes flat in 2011 after a 9% increase in 2010.

Austin school board sets hearing on $724.2 million budget, vote on spending, 43% less per student than Madison

Melissa B. Taboada:

Residents will get a chance to voice their thoughts on the Austin school district’s $724.2 million operating budget for 2012-13 at a public hearing tonight.
The school board then will vote on the district’s spending, though it will not approve the final budget, which includes district revenue, until August.
Board members originally considered voting on the entire budget tonight but put off the decision because they haven’t decided whether to move forward with a tax rate election in November.
The spending plan includes using $14.2 million from the district’s reserves to give employees a one-time payment equivalent to a 3 percent raise. That bump in pay could become permanent if the board moves forward with, and voters approve, a tax rate increase.
School trustees have said they want to wait on the tax decision until they know what other jurisdictions are doing.

Austin will spend $724,200,000 for 86,697 students ($8,353/student). The 2011-2012 Madison school district budget spent roughly $369,394,753 for 24,861 students ($14,858.40 / student), or 43% more than Austin.

High School Challenge: Hiding private school data not so popular

Jay Matthews:

When I trashed private schools in a recent column because they hid their data to avoid comparison with other schools, I expected criticism. But the reaction was surprisingly friendly. I am apparently not the only past or present private school parent who rejects the widespread view among headmasters that we cannot intelligently assess comparative statistics.
The one complaint was from Washington International School head of school Clayton W. Lewis, after I ranked his school very high on my latest High School Challenge list. He sent this message to his school community:
“By their nature, ranking systems are based on minimal and inconclusive data and highlight only a small window of what a school has to offer, leaving out the particular strengths that are quite often the final determination in finding the best fit for an individual student. Because we realize choosing a school is a significant, very personal experience, we prefer individuals to develop their own ‘ranking’ based on informed research, including visits to the school.”