A Move by Some Districts to Reopen Before Labor Day Is Angering Parents, Students and Businesses

Stephanie Banchero:

Early this month, as her cousins in Michigan spent their summer vacation splashing in area lakes, 11-year-old Ryan Duffin sat learning about the Great Lakes in social-studies class at Richview Middle School in Clarksville, Tenn.
“I could be enjoying my summer, but I’m stuck in class,” Ryan complained. “I hate it.”
Ryan is one of hundreds of thousands of students whose summer breaks ended early this year as schools from Toppenish, Wash., to Kettering, Ohio, to Harrisburg, Pa., have bucked a long–but waning–tradition of starting classes after Labor Day.

US tops China College Rankings

Agence France-Press:

A ranking of the world’s top schools compiled by a Chinese university has put Harvard first for the 10th year, in a list dominated by US institutions.
The rankings of the world’s top 500 universities, released by Shanghai’s Jiaotong University, have provoked controversy for emphasising scientific research.
Harvard has taken top spot every year since the survey started in 2003.
Of the top 20 schools in 2012, only two were outside the US – Britain’s Cambridge in fifth place and Oxford in 10th. The top Asian school was the University of Tokyo in 20th place.
The list uses six indicators, including the number of Nobel prizes and Fields medals won, the number of highly cited researchers on staff and the number of articles by faculty published in Nature and Science magazines.

Teachers on the Defensive

Frank Bruni:

RANDI WEINGARTEN, the powerful president of the American Federation of Teachers, took a rare vacation last week, but tweeting knows no holidays, nor does frustration with what can sometimes seem like constant assaults on the men and women at the nation’s blackboards. So her Twitter account remained active, and on Wednesday it took on a soon-to-open Hollywood movie, “Won’t Back Down.”
In one tweet she expressed her wish that it “didn’t vilify teachers as so uncaring.” In another she noted that the main financing for the movie came from a school-privatization advocate who is no fan of teachers’ unions.
“Won’t Back Down” tells the David-versus-Goliath story of a single mother, played by Maggie Gyllenhaal, who leads a rebellion to wrest control of her daughter’s persistently abysmal public elementary school from local officials. It’s scheduled for release next month, although it was shown to Weingarten a few weeks ago. I saw it on Wednesday.
And it actually takes pains to portray many teachers as impassioned do-gooders who are as exasperated as parents are by the education system’s failures — and by uncaring colleagues in their midst. But I understand Weingarten’s upset. The union that represents one of those do-gooders (Viola Davis) has lost its way, resisting change, resorting to smear tactics and alienating the idealists in its ranks. What’s more, some of the people who are assertively promoting “Won’t Back Down” are those who cast teachers’ unions as a titanic impediment to the improvement of public education. So “Won’t Back Down” is emerging as the latest front in the continuing war between those unions and their legions of critics, and it has become yet another example of how negatively those unions are viewed.

Marketing Pros: Big Brand on Campus

Melissa Korn & Emily Glazer:

Schools are getting the message about messaging.
Elite colleges and universities are still attracting plenty of applicants, but weak job-placement numbers for graduates and heavy student debt loads have put schools on the defensive, forcing them to prove to families and state governments that a degree is worth the investment.
Enter the chief marketing officer. A relatively new academic position, these marketers manage schools’ identities and messaging, a role covering everything from admissions brochures and Twitter feeds to brand management.

Bill Joy coined a very useful phrase years ago: “The quality of a company’s software has an inverse relationship to the amount of money spent on marketing.” I have found this to always be true.

‘I’m a human cyborg – I can hear colour’

Neil Harbisson:

I had cables coming out of my head at first, snaking down into a big backpack with a laptop. It made people a bit uncomfortable. But now the eyeborg translates colour into sound using a chip at the back of my skull. It makes noise by pressing against my head, but from September it will be inserted into the bone. I have to recharge myself at a power socket, but I’m working on ways to use my blood circulation instead.
Thanks to the eyeborg, I’ve made a career by combining music and art. I do concerts where I plug myself into a set of speakers and play the colours of the audience back to them. The good thing is, if it sounds bad, it’s their fault! I also make sound portraits of individuals. Prince Charles sounds surprisingly similar to Nicole Kidman.

Many New York City Teachers Denied Tenure in Policy Shift

Al Baker:

Nearly half of New York City teachers reaching the end of their probations were denied tenure this year, the Education Department said on Friday, marking the culmination of years of efforts toward Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s goal to end “tenure as we know it.”
Only 55 percent of eligible teachers, having worked for at least three years, earned tenure in 2012, compared with 97 percent in 2007.
An additional 42 percent this year were kept on probation for another year, and 3 percent were denied tenure and fired. Of those whose probations were extended last year, fewer than half won tenure this year, a third were given yet another year to prove themselves, and 16 percent were denied tenure or resigned.

Focus on front lines of achievement gap: Questions on Madison Administrative Spending

Adaeze Okoli:

I understand closing the achievement gap is a huge task. But the Madison School District often fails to take the right measures. It is a mistake, for example, to spend more money hiring top-level staff to coordinate meetings and oversee district plans. If we truly want to close the achievement gap, resources need to be on the front lines — at the schools working with kids. This is not the approach the district is choosing.
Recently, the School Board voted to hire a chief of staff for interim Superintendent Jane Belmore. The position will cost $170,000 and last one year. The superintendent said: “We’re about doing everything we can to start to close that achievement gap and in order to do that this position is critical.”
I disagree. I understand the need for staff support and accountability. Overseeing a large school district is a huge undertaking. But hiring more top-level staff who earn six figures will not teach third-graders at Glendale Elementary how to read and write.

Related: 60% to 42%: Madison School District’s Reading Recovery Effectiveness Lags “National Average”: Administration seeks to continue its use.
Budget Cuts: We Won’t Be as Bold and Innovative as Oconomowoc, and That’s Okay.
Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman’s 2009 Madison Rotary Club speech:

“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).

Puzzle Collection

SQL Dennis:

Did you know that we have a nice collection of puzzles here on less than dot? Some are harder than others so there is something for everyone. You can pic any language you want, you will see that there are solutions in Ruby, Python, Visual Basic, SQL, JavaScript, C++ and other.

A-level students must be told the whole truth about the value of a degree

Fraser Nelson:

To listen to ministers talk about university education, it is as if Britain has entered an academic arms race with the rest of the world. China’s universities, we’re told, are spewing out six million graduates a year: we must compete, or we’re doomed. In the Blair years, a national target was set: half of all young people ought to enter higher education. They’d have to get into debt, but they were reassured it would be a worthwhile investment. Having some letters after your name meant going further in your careers and earning far more. Those without a degree, by implication, would enter the workplace at a distinct disadvantage.
It is surprising that David Willetts should continue this line of argument, because he is clever enough to know what simplistic nonsense it is. It is understandable for the Universities Minister to be in favour of studying, but the real picture of education in Britain is far more complex. The idea of a binary divide in the career prospects of graduates and non-graduates is not a picture that would be recognised by employers. In many lines of work, those who did not get the A-levels for university now have a future just as bright (or otherwise) as the graduates.

Emory University misrepresented student data

Laura Diamond:

Emory University intentionally misreported data about its students for at least 12 years to groups that rank colleges, President Jim Wagner said Friday.
The deception meant that U.S. News & World Report, Peterson’s and others that have long ranked Emory as one of the nation’s top colleges did so with inflated data. Students and their families rely heavily on these rankings when deciding where to apply and enroll.
“They cooked the books and lied to students who think the university is better than it is,” said Mark Schneider, vice president for new education initiatives with the American Institutes for Research. “What we are talking about is a violation of consumer choice.”

Justin Pope:

Prestigious Emory University intentionally misreported student data to rankings magazines for more than a decade, the Atlanta school disclosed Friday, adding its high-profile name to a growing list of institutions caught up in scandals over rankings pressure.
As far back as 2000, Emory’s admissions and institutional research offices overstated SAT and ACT scores by reporting the higher average tallies of admitted students, rather than those enrolled, as is required, president Jim Wagner announced in a letter to the university community. Those figures were reported to organizations including college rankers, the most prominent of which is US News & World Report.

To Train Teachers, a New Lesson Plan

Stephanie Banchero:

Standing before a class of 28, Katie Filippini was losing the battle to teach her third-graders that the “er” in “germ” sounds the same as the “ir” in “dirt.” Ten minutes into the lesson, two boys fought over space on the blue carpet, a girl giggled at the commotion and a boy named Dandre stared out the window.
But Ms. Filippini wasn’t alone that winter day at the Morton School of Excellence. Veteran teacher Mauricia Dantes, Ms. Filippini’s yearlong mentor, quietly suggested having students clap out each sound, knowing that some children learn better with physical activity. Ms. Filippini did so, and Dandre and the other students began paying attention.
Now, as Ms. Filippini embarks on a new school year this week, she is drawing on those small victories as a trainee, confident that she is ready to teach on her own. “Last year gave me the confidence and experience to go into the classroom and control it.”

The science and politics of reading instruction

Mark Liberman, via a kind reader’s email:

Just out: Mark Seidenberg, “Politics (of Reading) Makes Strange Bedfellows”, Perspectives on Language and Literacy, Summer 2012. The article’s opening explains the background:
In 2011, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker created the Read to Lead Task Force to develop strategies for improving literacy. Like many states, Wisconsin has a literacy problem: 62% of the eighth grade students scoring at the Basic or Below Basic levels on the 2011 NAEP; large discrepancies between scores on the NAEP and on the state’s homegrown reading assessment; and a failing public school system in the state’s largest city, Milwaukee. The task force was diverse, including Democratic and Republican state legislators, the head of the Department of Public Instruction, classroom teachers, representatives of several advocacy groups, and the governor himself. I was invited to speak at the last of their six meetings. I had serious misgivings about participating. Under the governor’s controversial leadership, collective bargaining rights for teachers and other public service employees were eliminated and massive cuts to public education enacted. As a scientist who has studied reading for many years and followed educational issues closely I decided to use my 10 minutes to speak frankly. What follows is a lightly edited transcript of my remarks.
From the beginning of those remarks:

Much more on Mark Seidenberg, here.

Economic mobility in Chicago’s projects

Sylvester Monroe, via a kind reader’s email:

They’re nearly all gone now. Those towering concrete monuments to a flawed public housing experiment called the “projects.” They had names like Pruitt-Igoe in St. Louis, Fort Greene in Brooklyn, Desire in New Orleans and Cabrini Green in Chicago. The social architects sold them as stepping stones to a better life for the mostly poor black people who inhabited them. But decades after they were built in the years following the Second World War, they’ve been mostly blown up or bulldozed. And many of the people who once lived in high-rise public housing projects, and their children, are no better off than their parents were. Some are even worse off.
When the Robert Taylor Homes opened in 1962, then Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley channeled the high hopes of a new urban generation.
“This project represents the future of a great city, it represents vision,” Daley said at the opening. “We know that this community needs a better environment in which the future generation of a great city will be raised.”

The Case for the Private Sector in School Reform

Joel Klein

Given the costly chasm between the educational performance of U.S. students and those in other countries–and the shameful gap between white students and their black and Latino counterparts here at home–you’d think school improvement would be an all-hands-on-deck imperative in which the best minds in the public, private, and philanthropic sectors came together to lift our children’s prospects.
Yet such pragmatic problem,solving is threatened today by critics who condemn any private involvement in schools as a matter of “privatization,” “profiteering,” or worse. These ideological foes of business’ contribution to the public good ignore history in their attempt to protect a failed status quo. If their campaign to quash educational innovation succeeds, the real losers will be our kids.

The search for a new Madison schools superintendent: Can anyone meet our expectations?

Nayantara Mukherji:

Everyone in Madison seems to have an opinion about who the next superintendent of the school district should be.
Suzanne Swift, president of the Franklin Randall Elementary School PTO, wants a superintendent who can motivate a “demoralized staff,” develop relationships and advocate for the district at the state and national levels.
Education policy expert Sarah Archibald says a future superintendent should be willing to make tough decisions about allocating shrinking resources.
Eugenia Highland, program coordinator at Centro Hispano, wants someone who will focus on reducing the achievement gap.
School board member Ed Hughes says the district needs a leader who can “navigate the political shoals of serving in a place like Madison.”
Outgoing Superintendent Dan Nerad, who began his Madison tenure in 2008, insists his replacement must care about students and the community.

Notes and links on Madison Superintendent hires.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate:

Mike Ivey:

In a disturbing sign the state economy remains in crisis, property values in Wisconsin have fallen for the fourth year in a row and showed the largest one-year drop in decades.
This news accompanies a surprising jump in the state unemployment rate announced on Thursday. The jobless rate rose in July to 7.3 percent, up from 7 percent in June, with the state losing an estimated 6,000 private-sector jobs for the month.
Meanwhile, figures released this week by the Department of Revenue showed total property values in Wisconsin down 3.2 percent for 2012, the largest drop in 50 years. That includes a 4 percent drop in residential property and a 1.5 percent decline in commercial property values.
The roughly $2 billion in new residential construction was more than offset by a $15.3 billion erosion in the value of existing homes. (See attached report.)

Humanities aren’t a science. Stop treating them like one.

Maria Konnikova:

There’s a certain allure to the elegance of mathematics, the precision of the hard sciences. That much is undeniable. But does the appeal mean that quantitative approaches are always germane? Hardly–and I doubt anyone would argue the contrary. Yet, over and over, with alarming frequency, researchers and scholars have felt the need to take clear-cut, scientific-seeming approaches to disciplines that have, until recent memory, been far from any notions of precise quantifiability. And the trend is an alarming one.
Take, for instance, a recent paper that draws conclusions about the relative likelihood that certain stories are originally based in real-world events by looking at the (very complicated) mathematics of social networks. The researchers first model what the properties of real social networks look like. They then apply that model to certain texts (Beowulf, the Iliad, and Táin Bó Cuailnge, on the mythological end, and Les Misérables, Richard III, the Fellowship of the Ring, and Harry Potter on the fictional end) to see how much the internal social networks of the characters resemble those that exist in real life. And then, based on that resemblance, they conclude which narratives are more likely to have originated in actual history: to wit, Beowulf and the Iliad are more likely reality-based than Shakespeare or Tolkien or–gasp–even that most real-life-like of narratives, Harry Potter. (Táin, on the other hand, isn’t very lifelike at all–but if you remove the six central characters, which you can totally do since they are likely amalgams of real ones, it, too, starts looking historical.)

A Tale of Two Districts: A Teacher Reflects on the Disparities Harming WI Schools

Susan Howe:

For some reason, my family seems to have produced more than its share of teachers. I don’t remember anyone encouraging us or discouraging us, but somehow we ended up with nine teachers in our extended family, including my husband and myself.
For many years, we were proud to be in this profession. Then Scott Walker was elected. Up to that point, I had not realized to what extent public schools across the nation were being undermined and that teachers had become targets. Governor Walker’s election opened my eyes and awakened a political activist. The recall election did not go as we planned and hoped. After much disappointment and discussion, my husband and I realized that the most important cause on which to focus our efforts was supporting strong public schools and emphasizing the benefits they give to all people in the state and nation. This led us to the Opportunity To Learn Campaign.
Through the OTL Campaign, I hope to inform others about the plight of public schools and the inequalities between districts. To that end, here are two stories about teachers in my family, the districts that employ them and how the inequalities in those districts have affected their students.

The Friendly, Neighborhood Internet School

David Gelernter, via a kind Rick Kiley email:

We have big problems with our schools–and need new ideas about how to fix them. Deep changes are needed in our attitude toward teaching, leading education scholar Diane Ravitch wrote recently in the New York Review of Books. We need smarter, better-educated recruits to the profession. We need to value a teacher’s experience properly and discard the thought that idealistic college graduates with no experience make brilliant teachers automatically.
Fair enough. But we need other solutions too. We need plans that make direct use of our biggest assets: parental anger, and people’s selfish but reasonable willingness to give some time to improve their own children’s education now, versus someone else’s in 20 years.
Local Internet schools are a promising way to mobilize existing talent. Much infrastructure is required that doesn’t exist. But the parts are all spread out on the table. All we need is to fit them together properly.

Average Is Over, Part II

Tom Friedman via a kind Rick Kiley email:

A big mismatch exists today between how U.S. C.E.O.’s look at the world and how many American politicians and parents look at the world — and it may be preventing us from taking our education challenge as seriously as we must.
For many politicians, “outsourcing” is a four-letter word because it involves jobs leaving “here” and going “there.” But for many C.E.O.’s, outsourcing is over. In today’s seamlessly connected world, there is no “out” and no “in” anymore. There is only the “good,” “better” and “best” places to get work done, and if they don’t tap into the best, most cost-efficient venue wherever that is, their competition will.

Critical reflection needed on national education

C.K. Yeung:

The “brainwashing” tag and the almost sinister overtone that has been attached to national education show just how badly Hong Kong needs a healthy dose of it.
This is particularly so for our young who know so little about China’s past and present, about its unspeakable sufferings and heartbreaking humiliations over the last 150 years, about how it manages to arrive at where it is today, and the price and sacrifices that the people and the country have paid along the road to national success.

School reform gets cool

Naomi Schaefer Riley:

Maggie Gyllenhaal, the ultimate hipster actress, stars in “Won’t Back Down,” an education-reform drama that hits theaters next month. When did school choice became cool?
The film is the tale of two parents (one a teacher) who decide to save their own kids and many others by taking over a failing school in a poor Pittsburgh neighborhood.
This follows “Waiting for ‘Superman,'” the 2010 documentary that depicted the fortunes of those desperately competing for a place at a charter school — from the same progressive filmmaker who gave us “An Inconvenient Truth.”

Rejected for Being In-State

Scott Jaschik:

In state after state, one of the ways public colleges and universities are balancing their budgets is by aiming to admit more students from out of state (who are charged much higher tuition rates). In theory, this means more revenue for the entire university, although critics have warned about weakening the ties between public universities and their own states.
In California, where public higher education has experienced cut after cut, the choices are particularly difficult. For the spring semester of 2013, the California State University has told campus leaders they may not admit any Californian students to graduate programs. Given that tuition covers only a fraction of the costs of these students’ education, the university said it couldn’t afford them.

Hardball School Choice Politics in Milwaukee

John Nichols:

The defeat AFC took was so sweeping that the group had to issue a statement Wednesday in which it “reaffirmed its support for legislators and candidates across Wisconsin who favor expanded educational options for families, following disappointing primary results last night.”
AFC, a group funded by billionaire right-wingers from Michigan (former Michigan Republican Party chairwoman Betsy DeVos and her husband, Amway heir Dick DeVos) and their wealthy allies across the country, poured more than $100,000 (perhaps a lot more) into “independent” campaigns on behalf of supporters of school “choice” and “voucher” schemes, which weaken public schools in Milwaukee and pave the way for privatization.
But the AFC candidates lost. Badly.
State Rep. Jason Fields, the Milwaukee Democrat whose re-election was the chief priority of AFC and its Wisconsin operative, former Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen, was defeated by community activist Mandela Barnes.

Related: 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).

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

Race to the Top Competition Slated to Expand to School Districts


Expanding upon President Obama’s signature education initiative, the U.S. Department of Education announced Sunday that it has finalized the application process for the 2012 Race to the Top-District competition. The school district-specific competitive grant program will provide nearly $400 million to grantees to implement local reforms congruent with Obama administration education goals.
Initially launched in 2009, Race to the Top has spawned dramatic education reform nationwide. Grants have led 45 states and the District of Columbia to pursue state-wide education reform programs, including data-driven decision making, professional development programs for teachers and leaders, and turnaround interventions in chronically low-performing schools. This next phase is designed to build on those principles by offering the grants to school districts instead of entire states. According to administration officials, locally directed improvements in learning and teaching will directly improve student achievement and educator effectiveness by addressing local priorities.

Make us do the Math

Jennifer Ouellette:

There is, indeed, an important conversation to be had about education reform, and I heartily applaud any effort to address different learning styles and methodologies. If nothing else, Hacker’s misguided op-ed has fostered a discussion. And I agree that learning practical math like statistics and probabilities is dead useful for a good social citizen. I just think it should augment, not replace, the traditional curriculum.
Hacker tosses out a lot of statistics on students unable to pass algebra to support his “case,” but I don’t think anyone disagrees that this is a problem. I just can’t see how ditching algebra comprises a sensible solution. Hacker’s thinking seems to be that, because algebra is such a stumbling block for many students, we should throw up our hands and despair of ever teaching it to them. But do we really want to throw in the algebraic towel just because it’s, like, rilly hard?

School Grades For School Grades’ Sake

Matthew DiCarlo:

I have reviewed, albeit superficially, the test-based components of several states’ school rating systems (e.g., OH, FL, NYC, LA, CO), with a particular focus on the degree to which they are actually measuring student performance (how highly students score), rather than school effectiveness per se (whether students are making progress). Both types of measures have a role to play in accountability systems, even if they are often confused or conflated, resulting in widespread misinterpretation of what the final ratings actually mean, and many state systems’ failure to tailor interventions to the indicators being used.
One aspect of these systems that I rarely discuss is the possibility that the ratings systems are an end in themselves. That is, the idea that public ratings, no matter how they are constructed, provide an incentive for schools to get better. From this perspective, even if the ratings are misinterpreted or imprecise, they might still “work.”*

How The American University was Killed, in Five Easy Steps

Junct Rebellion:

A few years back, Paul E. Lingenfelter began his report on the defunding of public education by saying, “In 1920 H.G. Wells wrote, ‘History is becoming more and more a race between education and catastrophe.’ I think he got it right. Nothing is more important to the future of the United States and the world than the breadth and effectiveness of education, especially of higher education. I say especially higher education, but not because pre- school, elementary, and secondary education are less important. Success at every level of education obviously depends on what has gone before. But for better or worse, the quality of postsecondary education and research affects the quality and effectiveness of education at every level.”
In the last few years, conversations have been growing like gathering storm clouds about the ways in which our universities are failing. There is talk about the poor educational outcomes apparent in our graduates, the out-of-control tuitions and crippling student loan debt. Attention is finally being paid to the enormous salaries for presidents and sports coaches, and the migrant worker status of the low-wage majority faculty. There are now movements to control tuition, to forgive student debt, to create more powerful “assessment” tools, to offer “free” university materials online, to combat adjunct faculty exploitation. But each of these movements focuses on a narrow aspect of a much wider problem, and no amount of “fix” for these aspects individually will address the real reason that universities in America are dying.

Wisconsin DPI chief focusing on school funding, assessments, evaluations

Janet Ortegon:

In the state’s ongoing effort to create better ways to evaluate teachers and assess how much students are learning, the biggest question might be how to pay for them.
Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction Superintendent Tony Evers was in Sheboygan on Monday to talk about the DPI’s plan to help better prepare Wisconsin students for the future.
Part of the plan is school finance reform, which Evers said he is not giving up on despite major cuts to state aid that came about as a result of Gov. Scott Walker’s Act 10. In fact, he said, a big part of the battle will be getting state leaders to realize that investment in public education is in the state’s long-term economic best interest.

What our schools need? A few good men

William Gormley:

Yet only a fraction of our teachers are the best and the brightest of their generation. According to a 2010 McKinsey report, nearly half of U.S. teachers come from the bottom third of their class.
Here’s a simple idea that could dramatically improve the teaching quality: Hire a few good men.
Despite some inroads by men, teaching remains a female-dominated profession. This is especially true for younger children. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 2% of pre-K and kindergarten teachers and 18% of elementary and middle-school teachers are men.
The situation is more balanced, but not evenly balanced, in secondary school, where 42% of teachers are men.

How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character

Publisher’s Weekly:

This American Life contributor Tough (Whatever It Takes: Geoffrey Canada’s Quest to Change Harlem and America) tackles new theories on childhood education with a compelling style that weaves in personal details about his own child and childhood. Personal narratives of administrators, teachers, students, single mothers, and scientists lend support to the extensive scientific studies Tough uses to discuss a new, character-based learning approach. While traditional education relies heavily on memorization, new research conducted by James Heckman suggests that the conventional wisdom represented by those third-grade multiplication tables has failed some of our most vulnerable students. Tough takes the reader through experiments that studied childhood nurture, or attachment theory, to report cards that featured character strength assessments (measuring “grit,” gratitude, optimism, curiosity, self-control, zest, and social intelligence). Focused on schools in Chicago and New York, Tough explores the effects of racial and socioeconomic divides through the narratives of survivors of an outdated system. The ultimate lesson of Tough’s quest to explain a new wave of educational theories is that character strengths make up perhaps the single most compelling element of a child’s education, and these traits are rooted deep within the chemistry of the brain. Tough believes that it is society’s responsibility to provide those transformative experiences that will create its most productive future members. Agent: David McCormick, McCormick & Williams. (Sept.)

A High-Tech Fix for Broken Schools

Juan Williams:

Mooresville, N.C., is best known as “Race City, U.S.A.,” home of Nascar. But these days Mooresville is leading the nation in a different way–by using digital technology to improve public education.
“Fixing Our Schools,” a documentary I am hosting for the Fox News Channel this Sunday, looks at how digital learning is being used by schools like those in Mooresville to help fix our broken education system.
Our schools are undoubtedly in crisis. Prize-winning documentaries such as “Waiting for ‘Superman'” have revealed the terrible cost of losing young minds to failing schools. Dropout rates are particularly high among minority children in urban schools. But even parents in the best suburban schools are alarmed by the fact that the U.S. now ranks 30th world-wide in math, 23rd in science, and 17th in literacy.

Madison MAP Testing Shows They are Falling Short Too

Melissa Hammann, via a kind reader’s email:

So, the great and powerful Madison School District has started MAP testing and the results are, well, as they should have expected when viewed as a whole. White kids are above national averages and children of color are below them. MAP testing stands for Measures of Academic Progress. They are taken at the computer by each student and the questions are tailored to the individual student. They keep answering questions until they hit the wall of achievement level and the test is ended. Scores are known immediately and areas of strength and areas that need improvement are highlighted FOR EACH KID. It is supposed to be a tool for teachers to use in order to more adequately provide instruction in their classroom. This is called differentiated instruction, or DI in the education vernacular. MAP results are not really effective for national achievement comparison.
OK, I’m going out on a limb here and going to say to the critics of ECSD that we have been doing MAP testing in our district for 5 years now. My newly minted graduate was in the guinea pig group in 7th grade, so I am keyed in on this topic. We can thank Paula Landers for being ahead of the curve on implementing this tool. What seems to escape the writer of the article as well as our district is this. It’s very nice to know how one’s district stacks up as a whole against the state (WKCE) and nation (MAP, NAEP), but what exactly does this data provide in the way of improving individual student achievement? Exactly squat. In this world of inclusive learning, school districts must have tools to provide DI for all levels of learners. If you insist on teaching to some arbitrary mean that various test data indicates as the level of your class, you’ll lose the top 30 and bottom 30 percent of the curve. That’s 60 percent of the students being lost. Used properly, MAP results could be a very effective tool for the teaching arsenal to solve this problem.
Sadly, it is my experience that my kids’ teachers use it to verify what they already know about my kids, that they are above average, and use their MAP data to rationalize being satisfied with mediocre performance the rest of the year “because they are still above their peer average.” I have no data to indicate it is otherwise with other children. In fact, I have spoken to other parents with similar issues. In addition, over 35 percent of the students in the quadrant report that began the school year above their peer group in reading in our district in 10-11 did not reach the achievement goal the MAP test sets for them. It seems that the district thinks it’s OK that a child does not achieve to their potential. I am not of the same opinion.
Not only did my kid fail to reach his personal achievement goal set for him by the MAP test (gain less than they projected he should), but he ended 5th grade at a lower achievement level in reading than where he started. This loss of achievement happened while he got straight As all year long in language arts. I began a slow burn that has not stopped. I went to the principal, I went to the teacher and I went to the administrator in charge. “He started out so high that it was hard for him to achieve.” This is an unacceptable response. My child deserves to show some damn achievement after a year of instruction. I don’t care if he started out higher than the mediocre goals you set for the masses. This is thievery, plain and simple. That year, as I recall, the entire grade level failed to meet the 50% level, which basically says they have achieved grade level performance. Interpretation of MAP results is a bit confusing, so go with me here. Anything less than 50% for a grade level indicates they have not achieved a years worth of learning. There has been a shake up in the 5th grade teaching team, but I think it goes beyond individual teachers. If there is an endemic attitude that high achieving students are OK to ignore and an insistence on mistakenly using MAP data to compare to national averages (like the article in the Madison paper did) instead of using it for the amazing tool it could be, there will be no dang improvement in overall achievement.

Related: Madison Schools’ Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) Assessment Results Released. Unfortunately, the Madison School District has not published the school by school MAP results, though the information made its way to Matthew DeFour’s Sunday article.

Disrupting Higher Education: Two Views

David Youngberg:

When I decided to become a professor, I was comforted by its employment projections. Professors hired to teach the baby boomers are retiring: It’ll be a seller’s market. Now I’m told Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOC’s, threaten that rosy future. One person can teach the whole world with a cheap Webcam and an Internet connection. Sebastian Thrun, a Stanford University research professor and co-founder of the MOOC provider Udacity, told Wired that in 50 years there will be only 10 institutions in the whole world that deliver higher education.
I was scared. So in early 2012 I joined 90,000 other students who enrolled in one or both of Udacity’s first two courses. I selected CS101: Building a Search Engine. What with video lectures, online discussion boards, and learning from the field’s top minds, it was easy to believe that online education was the beginning of the end for the ivory tower. But I came to realize that MOOC’s have five fundamental problems.

I believe that Youngberg has taken a somewhat rose colored view of the changes at hand.
I see higher ed disruption playing out as follows (I have a $50 wager with a professor friend that in 20 years, the UW-Madison will have fewer on campus undergraduate students than today, God willing that I live long enough to collect!):
Investment groups will form relationships with certain professors and a few name educational institutions around the world. They will also cut bi-directional deals with business, NGO and Governments. These organizations will invest in the emerging, hybrid higher ed concerns AND, crucially, commit to hiring a fixed number of graduates. The big names will attract a good portion of the “best and brightest” students, offering a more wide-ranging experience than traditional bricks and mortar campuses. The hybrid institutions will provide both online and traditional education experiences along with a direct path to employment.
The synthesis between a number of “name” higher ed institutions, capital and employment will be very difficult to beat. Traditional institutions will need to soon rethink their mission and model. This being said, many new opportunities will arise during the transition.
“Lower ed” will not be exempt from such changes.

New WKCE Cut Scores

Wisconsin CESA, via a kind reader’s email:

The Department of Public Instruction has established performance standards (cut scores) for the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam (WKCE) reading and mathematics content areas to more closely align with national and international expectations of what is required to be college and career ready. The higher cut
scores are comparable to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) cut scores. The performance level descriptors that accompany the college and career ready cut scores have been revised to reflect the higher expectations required with these higher performance benchmarks.

Bribing your kids to study: Does it work?


Kai Ryssdal: I had a conversation a month or so ago with Steven Levitt about the Freakonomics of getting kids to get good grades. And how Levitt says we oughta just pay ’em. Fifty bucks for an A was what he got when he was a kid. Me: not one thin dime. But that’s a whole ‘nother story.
Anyway, Geri-Ellen Dow heard the segment and tweeted us a picture of two crisp $20 bills — one labeled “Great Expectations,” the other labeled “The Odyssey” — and a note saying the money was there for the taking by her 14-year-old son if he read the books in question.
So of course we had to call her up to see what happened. Geri, good to talk to you.
Geri-Ellen Dow: Thanks. It’s nice talking with you, Kai.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Social Security not deal it once was for workers

Stephen Ohlemacher:

If you retired in 1960, you could expect to get back seven times more in benefits than you paid in Social Security taxes, and more if you were a low-income worker, as long you made it to age 78 for men and 81 for women.
As recently as 1985, workers at every income level could retire and expect to get more in benefits than they paid in Social Security taxes, though they didn’t do quite as well as their parents and grandparents.
Not anymore.
A married couple retiring last year after both spouses earned average lifetime wages paid about $598,000 in Social Security taxes during their careers. They can expect to collect about $556,000 in benefits, if the man lives to 82 and the woman lives to 85, according to a 2011 study by the Urban Institute, a Washington think tank.
Social Security benefits are progressive, so most low-income workers retiring today still will get slightly more in benefits than they paid in taxes. Most high-income workers started getting less in benefits than they paid in taxes in the 1990s, according to data from the Social Security Administration.

Grade Inflation: 5 States Where College Tuition Is Soaring

AnnaMaria Andriotis:

For parents concerned about the rising cost of college, financial advisers have traditionally recommended public universities. After all, they almost always carry much smaller price tags than private universities. But many of these state schools are now raising tuition at double-digit rates — sometimes with very little advance notice — leaving some students and their families in a tight financial bind.
In some states, recent changes have been particularly dramatic. Average tuition and fees for in-state residents at public four-year colleges soared 16% to 21% last year in Arizona, California, Georgia and Washington, according to a report released last week by the College Board. (The average increase at public colleges over the same period was 8.3%; none of the figures in the report were adjusted for inflation.) What’s more, students in some of those states may see more hikes in the upcoming year: Washington recently approved a tuition increase at several of its public universities, while California students may face another double-digit increase in the second semester of this academic year. “The potential for this to get worse is very real,” says Rich Williams, higher education advocate at U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

A failing grade for Washington’s new teacher-evaluation bill

Liv Finne:

Peter Callaghan of The News Tribune recently reported that federal intervention in the education of Washington students has pushed state lawmakers and top education officials to pass “more reform.” Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn says the intervention of the federal government has been “phenomenal.” “I take my hat off to them.”
My hat is staying on. The new teacher evaluation law, SB 5895, passed by lawmakers last session to exempt the state from No Child Left Behind rules, is not a real reform. The federal government wants a better bill, and is requiring Supt. Dorn and lawmakers to rewrite, or else the feds will not extend the one-year waiver from No Child Left Behind rules.

The Upper-Middle Class Has Itself to Blame for Student Debt

Jordan Weissman:

When it comes to paying for college, upper-middle-class families often get the worst of all possible worlds. They’re not wealthy enough to treat the cost of tuition as an afterthought. They’re not needy enough to qualify for big discounts. But they’re often status conscious enough to pay whatever’s necessary for their kids to attend an elite college.
And so somewhat unsurprisingly, the Wall Street Journal has found that in this age of rising student debt, its risen most of late among the upper-middle class. Between 2007 and 2010, the percentage of households taking out loans to pay for college grew fastest within the group earning between $94,535 and $205,335 a year.

Student performance improves when teachers given incentives upfront

University of Chicago News, via a kind Beth Dorhn email:

A bonus payment to teachers can improve student academic performance — but only when it is given upfront, on the condition that part of the money must be returned if student performance fails to improve, research at the University of Chicago shows.
The study showed that students gained as much as a 10 percentile increase in their scores compared to students with similar backgrounds — if their teacher received a bonus at the beginning of the year, with conditions attached. There was no gain for students when teachers were offered the bonus at the end of the school year, the research found.
“This is the first experimental study to demonstrate that teacher merit pay can have a significant impact on student performance in the U.S.,” said UChicago economist John List, an author of the study.
The study, “Enhancing the Efficacy of Teacher Incentives through Loss Aversion: A Field Experiment,” published by the National Bureau of Economics Research, reflects the findings of other studies in psychology and behavioral economics.

Stop Teaching Calculating; Start Teaching Math

Conrad Wolfram:

I wanted to talk today about math education and then specifically reforming math education in a rather dramatic fashion, so if you’ve got eggs to throw, this is the time to prepare them!
I think we’ve got a real problem with math education, particularly in schools right now. Basically, no one’s very happy. Most of those trying to learn it think it’s boring and irrelevant. Employers think that people don’t know enough.
Governments realize it’s critical for economic development, but don’t know what to do about fixing it, and many teachers are frustrated, too. And yet, without question, math is more important to the world than it ever has been in human history. So at one end we’ve got falling interest in education in math and at the other, a world that’s ever more quantitative, ever more mathematical than it has been. So what’s gone wrong and how do we bridge this chasm? Well, actually I think the answer’s really very simple: use computers. I want to talk through and explain why I think computers really are the silver bullet to making math education work but used dramatically.
To understand what I’m talking about, let’s remind ourselves what math looks like in the real world. It’s got lots of modeling, lots of simulation. It’s not just for mathematicians, but for a huge range of other subjects: medical imaging, electrical engineering, etc. That’s an important thing to understand, of course. And it’s actually very popular. Now, look at math in much of education. It looks very different–lots of calculating, usually by hand or sometimes with a calculator and dumbed down problems.
Why teach math?
So to understand why this is, why these things have got so separated, why a chasm has opened up, let’s first ask the question, why do we teach math? What is math? What do we mean by it? Well, I think there are sort of three reasons why we teach people math, in particular, why we teach it to everyone. Firstly there’s technical jobs. Secondly what I call everyday living. Just being able to survive in a civilized society and prosper in it nowadays requires much more mathematical understanding than it ever did. And thirdly, what one might call logical mind training–being able to reason, whether with math itself or with other things. Math has given society a tremendous ability to go through logical reason.

U.S. Should Adopt Higher Standards for Science Education

Scientific American:

Americans have grown accustomed to bad news about student performance in math and science. On a 2009 study administered by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, 15-year-olds in the U.S. placed 23rd in science and 31st in math out of 65 countries. On last year’s Nation’s Report Card assessments, only one third of eighth graders qualified as proficient in math or science. Those general statistics tell only a piece of the story, however. There are pockets of excellence across the U.S. where student achievement is world-beating. Massachusetts eighth graders outscored their peers from every global region included, except Singapore and Taiwan, on an international science assessment in 2007. Eighth graders from Minnesota, the only other U.S. state tested, did almost as well.
What do Massachusetts and Minnesota have in common? They each have science standards that set a high bar for what students are expected to learn at each grade level. Such standards form the scaffolding on which educators write curricula and teachers plan lessons, and many experts believe them to be closely linked with student achievement.

Related: www.wisconsin2.org

Late bloomers put back on course

Linda Yeung:

Momo Ngan scored only two marks in the now-defunct Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination. But he took the poor result in his stride because he had never been particularly academic. Besides, he found an alternative path that allowed him to tap his other talents.
Ngan enrolled in a three-year fashion design diploma programme at Caritas Bianchi College of Careers, which awards the Business and Technician Education Council (BTEC) qualification. After finishing the programme, he went on to study fashion design at the prestigeous London College of Fashion and two years later left with a degree.

Amazingly easy intervention for STEM participation

Daniel Willingham:

Making a change to education that seems like a clear improvement is never easy. Or almost never.
Judith Harackiewicz and her colleagues have recently reported an intervention that is inexpensive, simple, and leads high school students to take more STEM courses.
The intervention had three parts, administered over 15-months when students were in the 10th and 11th grades. In October of 10th grade researchers mailed a brochure to each household titled Making Connections: Helping Your Teen Find Value in School. It described the connections between math, science, and daily life, and included ideas about how to discuss this topic with students.

Back to school: How to measure a good teacher

Amanda Paulson:

Indeed, when her Hillsborough County, Fla., school district overhauled its teacher evaluation program two years ago, Ms. Newman was no longer considered “perfect.” But, with new specific guidelines and feedback on her teaching technique, Newman explains, she began to push the kids in ways she never would have thought second-graders capable of, and their performance soared. The mean standardized test score for reading in her second-grade class moved from the 41st percentile in 2010 to the 60th this year; in math the mean moved from the 50th to the 69th percentile.
In the past decade of national anxiety over the quality of American public education, no area in education reform has gotten more attention than teacher quality, and few reforms have encountered as much pushback as the efforts to change how to take the measure of a teacher.

Literacy For Life: The Role Of Career And Technical Education In Reading Proficiency

Randall Garton:

It is well established that a student’s reading proficiency level in elementary school is a good predictor of high school graduation success. The lower the reading level, the more likely it is that the student will not graduate on time. Against this background, it is sobering that many U.S. students reach high school without the reading and comprehension skills they need. According to NAEP data, in 2011, more than a third (33 percent) of 4th-graders were reading at a below basic level; among 8th-grade and 12th grade students, the percentage of students who were stuck at the below basic reading level had dropped, but only to about 25 percent. Many of these students drop out; many go on to earn a diploma, but enter the work world singularly unprepared to earn a living.
What is to be done? Certainly, intensive remediation is part of the answer, but so are practice and motivation and interest. The challenge for struggling readers at the high school level is hard to overstate; by the time they enter high school, they often display a negative and despairing attitude toward school that has been hardened by years of failure. Furthermore, most high school teachers are not trained in literacy instruction, a specialized skill which is theoretically the purview of early elementary school. Indeed, for many urban teachers, motivating kids just to come to school is the major challenge.

Math Curriculum & Common Core: Exeter, we have a problem

Glenn Waddell:

As public school math teachers … we are screwed.
Let me explain how I reached this epiphany.
It is impossible to work on the Exeter math problems and not realize how carefully they are constructed and well developed the curriculum. After spending time with an Exeter math teacher and developing a deeper understanding of the Harkness Method they use (never once did this phrase come up, but the methods used by the instructor were clearly modeling the method) a person can’t help but really develop a strong affinity for their curriculum, which they GIVE away for FREE!
Okay, I really like their curriculum. It is rigorous, models real life situations constantly, allows learners to develop strong understandings without memorization, has multiple entry points for learners to develop strengths and and is completely free. Point one to my depression today.
My state, like 44 other states (Utah backed out this week) is adopting the Common Core State Standards. This fact is point two to my depression. You see, when those two points are combined we are in a heap of trouble. Pearson and McDougal-Littel (among others) are developing many programs they are chomping at the bit to sell to our admins, and we all know they have a direct line through media and other means to our principals and curriculum directors.

National classes ‘build values’

Linda Yeung and Ada Lee:

Education minister Eddie Ng Hak-kim has defended the controversial national-education subject for schools, saying it is useful for “values building” despite its overlap with other subjects and the growing pressure to delay its introduction.
Academics, meanwhile, continued to criticise the decision to make it a stand-alone subject, with one saying it would be better as part of the liberal studies curriculum.
The government will launch national education in primary schools next month, and make it compulsory for primary schools in 2015 and in secondary schools the following year.

L.A. Unified settlement bypassing seniority-based layoffs nullified

Stephen Ceaser:

Setting the stage for future legal battles, a state appeals court Friday nullified a settlement that allowed the Los Angeles Unified School District to shield certain schools from teacher layoffs during budget crises.
The decision by the California 2nd District Court of Appeal voided a settlement in Reed vs. L.A. Unified that allowed the district to bypass seniority-based layoffs at 45 schools. Those campuses, the district argued, would be heavily affected because many of their faculty members have taught for relatively fewer years and thus accrued little seniority.
Citing state law, school districts typically dismiss teachers who have less seniority during budgetary shortfalls.
The lawsuit, filed in 2010 on behalf of students at three of the city’s worst-performing middle schools, Samuel Gompers, Edwin Markham and John H. Liechty, claimed that those students were denied their legal right to an education and aimed to prevent L.A. Unified from laying off more teachers there.

Get the market out of Hong Kong’s language policy

Angel Lin and Miguel Perez-Milans:

The latest Secondary One place allocation results showed that 72 per cent of participating pupils were admitted to a school from their top three choices, while some parents and students were seen to “knock on the door” of some secondary schools to beg for a discretionary place. Many of the schools in demand were those that offer classes taught in English. Why is it so? What are these parents and students looking for? What is at stake, and for whom?
Language-in-education policies have been traversed by diverse and often conflicting interests across different contexts in the world. In the case of Hong Kong, public opinion cannot be detached from the historical link of English and the former colonial order in which English speakers occupied the highest social positions within a stratified social structure. However, persistent parental demand for English- medium education is also deeply tied to current trends in economic globalisation that go beyond the local confines of the old colony/metropolis dichotomy in Hong Kong.

School’s $60 million stadium, no bake sale required

Jonathan Anker, via a kind reader’s email:

“Football is a religion.” Or so goes the increasingly overheard statement about our national obsession with the sport. And while tangible verification of this belief can be a bit challenging to come by, a sparkling $60 million temple of sorts offers some very compelling evidence of its accuracy.
This particular shrine is a high school football stadium in, of course, Texas. The good voters (worshippers?) in Allen approved a $119 million bond package three years ago, which included funds for the stadium, a fine arts auditorium and school transportation among other things.
Yes, yes. The other stuff is all well and good. But you know all anyone is looking at is the $60 million voters approved to finance a high school stadium.

Related: U.S. public education rates below sports.

Ex-CNN Anchor Joins Debate vs. Unions Over Teacher Misconduct

Al Baker:

In late July, a Twitter user began to post a flurry of messages on what happens to be one of the Bloomberg administration’s newest education campaigns.
Steven Ostrin, a former New York City school teacher whose disciplinary hearing in relation to a 2005 complaint has been cited by Ms. Brown.
“Teachers union must stop protecting those who commit sexual misconduct with children,” read one post on July 29.
“Unions have to be there to support great hardworking teachers. Not ones who sexually harass and endanger our kids,” said another from Aug. 3.
The posts began to draw the attention of Randi Weingarten, the head of the American Federation of Teachers, who wrote on Twitter, “Union protects against false allegations,” which elicited this comeback:
“Then how do u explain teacher asking child for striptease and not fired?”

A First Course in Linear Algebra

A Free Textbook:

A First Course in Linear Algebra is an introductory textbook designed for university sophomores and juniors. Typically such a student will have taken calculus, but this is not a prerequisite. The book begins with systems of linear equations, then covers matrix algebra, before taking up finite-dimensional vector spaces in full generality. The final chapter covers matrix representations of linear transformations, through diagonalization, change of basis and Jordan canonical form. Along the way, determinants and eigenvalues get fair time. PDF versions are available to download for printing or on-screen viewing, two online versions are available, and physical copies may be purchased from the print-on-demand service at Lulu.com.

For Unpaid College Loans, Feds Dock Social Security

AnnaMaria Andriotis:

It’s no secret that falling behind on student loan payments can squash a borrower’s hopes of building savings, buying a home or even finding work. Now, thousands of retirees are learning that defaulting on student-debt can threaten something that used to be untouchable: their Social Security benefits.
According to government data, compiled by the Treasury Department at the request of SmartMoney.com, the federal government is withholding money from a rapidly growing number of Social Security recipients who have fallen behind on federal student loans. From January through August 6, the government reduced the size of roughly 115,000 retirees’ Social Security checks on those grounds. That’s nearly double the pace of the department’s enforcement in 2011; it’s up from around 60,000 cases in all of 2007 and just 6 cases in 2000.

Potential State Testing Improprieties

U.S. Government Accountability Office, via a kind reader’s email:

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has created this website for the purpose of gathering information on fraudulent behavior in state-administered standardized tests. The information submitted here will be used as part of an ongoing GAO investigation into cheating by school officials nationwide, and will be referred to the appropriate State Educational Agency, the U.S. Department of Education, or other agencies, as appropriate.

Skip the Knowledge!

Poor James Madison, back in the day, spending endless hours reading scores upon scores of books on the history of governments, as he prepared to become the resident historian and intellectual “father” of the United States Constitution in the summer of 1787 in Philadelphia! If he had only known what we know now thanks to the new Common Core, he could have saved the great bulk of that time and effort if he had only acquired some Thinking Skills instead!
Our schools of education have long understood that if a student teacher [sideguider] can acquire enough pedagogicalistical sophistication and the right Thinking Skills, she will be able to teach [sideguide] anything, from Mandarin to European History to Calculus to Home Economics, to classes with any number of students.
The Harvard College faculty wasted many hours in the 1980s trying to derive a Common Core of knowledge which every undergraduate ought to acquire. No one on the faculty wanted to allow any other member of the faculty to tell her/him what knowledge students needed to learn at Harvard, and none wished to give up teaching what he/she was currently studying to devote any time to a survey course in the general knowledge of their field or any other field. So they agreed, thirty-odd years ago, on a Common Core of Thinking Skills instead.(1)
It is not clear whether the knowledge-free curricula of the graduate schools of education, or the Core experiences at Harvard College, in any way guided the authors of our new Common Core in their achievement of the understanding that it is not knowledge of anything that our students require, but Thinking Skills. They took advantage of the perspective and arguments of a famous cognitive psychologist at Stanford in designing the history portion of the Core. Just think how much time they saved by not involving one of those actual historians, who might have bogged down the whole enterprise in claiming that students should have some knowledge of history itself, and that such knowledge might actually be required before any useful Thinking Skills could be either acquired or employed. If we had followed that path, we might actually be asking high school students to read real history books–shades of the James Madison era!!
Just think of all the time and effort that was expended by Professor Hirsch and all those who worked to develop, and are now working to offer, a Core Knowledge curriculum to thousands of our students. If they had only had the benefit of the cognitive psychology undergirding at least the history portion of the new Common Core, they could have skipped all that and gone straight to the Core Thinking Skills now being promoted across the country.
The whole idea that knowledge is so important, or should precede thinking about anything, is so antedeluvian (which means–oh, never mind–just more of that knowledge stuff!). What is the value of being 21st Centurians and right up-to-date, if we can’t ignore the past and skip over its history?
Our advance into the brave new world of thinking skills was anticipated by the Harvard Graduate School of Education, which, as far as I can tell by looking over the research interests of the faculty, long ago left behind such mundane matters as the chemistry, foreign languages, history, literature and mathematics that students used to (and some still do, I suppose) study in our high schools. The Education faculty has moved boldly on beyond all that academic knowledge to, in addition to lots of psychology/diversity/poverty/sociology/disability studies, the new bare essentials of Thinking Skills.
During the discussions over Harvard’s Common Core decades ago, one physics professor pointed out that in order to think like a physicist it is important to know quite a bit of physics, but then, he would say that, wouldn’t he? He had spent his whole career in the pursuit of a knowledge of physics, so naturally he would think that knowledge is more important than Thinking Skills, or, at least, should come first in the study of physics or anything else.
We have finally come to realize that, after all, Google has all the knowledge we will ever need, and so, with keyboarding skills, and some time in Common courses on Thinking Skills, our students will be well prepared to launch their careers as ignoramuses, and make their own unique contributions to the disappearance of knowledge, understanding and wisdom in the United States, and to the decline of our civilization (which means–oh, never mind–just look it up!).
Let those history-minded Asian countries continue to ask their students to acquire lots of knowledge. Our students will have their new Common Core Thinking Skills, and all the pride and self-esteem that the ignorance we have given them can support.
(1) Caleb Nelson, Harvard Class of ’88 (Mathematics) “Harvard’s Hollow Core,” The Atlantic Monthly, September 1990
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Public Education, Part 1

Richard Baird

eginning with the Boston Latin School in 1635, education’s role in a transformation of America has a nebulous foundation. For the privileged few, almost always males in New England, intellectual growth was expected. In 1642, the Massachusetts Bay Colony felt compulsory education for males was a necessity.
Well into the 18th Century, Caucasian males essentially enjoyed the educational domain to themselves. However, as early as 1740 in Philadelphia, women began to “advance” their sensory skills in Arts and Sciences. By 1767, women were educated to read religious pamphlets, without being taught to write.
In the early 1800’s Lydia Maria Francis Child, Lydia Sigourney, others, endeavored to educate children in various subjects. This movement following the Revolutionary War was labeled as the “Republican Motherhood” by writers in the 1980’s.
Thomas Jefferson proposed education for the common good of the government, for the enlightenment of citizens contributing to America’s development; expansion to the west and the expansion of one’s mind.
Jefferson contended, “By teaching correct political principles to the young, they could nurture virtuous citizens; local controls gives adult citizens a chance to exercise self-rule.” John Dewey over one hundred years later believed, “A commitment to education in democracy through an emphasis on political socialization and wise collective choices is a course to adhere to.”
Dewey’s philosophy, regardless of its vitality and viability, informally or formally; unfortunately, because of the political climate did not include women to its fullest extent, nor blacks, nor many dwelling in rural areas, particularly in the south.

As Medi-Cal soars, higher education loses

Maura Casey:

The U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding the Obama administration’s health care law opens the door for millions more to get coverage through the expansion of Medicaid, the public health insurance for the poor. But if history is any guide, college students could feel the pinch as states cut aid to higher education to expand health care.
Why? Now Medicaid is split between states and the federal government. And although the federal government will pay the entire cost of the expansion beginning in 2014, three years later states will have to begin sharing the cost. That might leave less money than ever for higher education. The result: higher tuition and fees as academic institutions scramble for ever-scarcer dollars from state budgets.

The State of Teacher Retention in Urban Schools


Experts agree that teacher retention is one of the biggest challenges facing urban school districts. Everyone knows that an aging teacher workforce will lead to projected shortages in the years to come, but, worse still, some studies estimate that as many as 50% of newer teachers are leaving the classroom after just five years. In light of the crisis, a new study by The New Teacher Project (TNTP) aims to identify the reasons teachers leave and promotes long-term strategies for empowering a successful teacher workforce.
According to TNTP researcher, the best and worst teachers leave urban schools at strikingly similar rates. The nation’s 50 largest districts lose approximately 10,000 effective teachers each year. Meanwhile, about 40% of teachers with more than seven years of experience are considered less effective at advancing academic progress than the average first-year teacher.

The Age of Cheats

Rich Kaarlgard

A new and growing form of cheating is taking place in our high schools. During tests, particularly SATs, kids are popping speed and prescription drugs meant to treat attention-deficit disorder. Anything for an edge.
Make no mistake, our Age of Cheats is a sign of rot. The U.S. government fudges its numbers (by way of the monetary printing press). Our politicians call reduced growth rates “cuts in spending.” Our biggest banks take obscene risks and cry poor when they don’t work out. But we’ve risen above moral rot before. The U.S. has transcended slavery and civil war, as well as periods of rampant corruption and paralyzing resentment.

Highland Park, MI School board activist seeks removal of districts’ emergency financial managers

Chastity Pratt Dawsey:

Highland Park school board member Robert Davis is asking the state attorney general to remove the emergency financial managers running the Highland Park and Detroit public school districts.
Davis, who has successfully sued public bodies for violating legal procedures of the Open Meetings Act, claims that Gov. Rick Snyder skipped several steps when he appointed the managers Wednesday.
Davis expects Attorney General Bill Schuette to deny his argument. Schuette’s office provides legal representation for emergency financial managers.

Wisconsin School District Finance Challenges

Alan Borsuk:

What’s going to happen over the next several years to the fairly normal school district in Wisconsin? I’ve seen a serious and well-based forecast, and it’s not pretty if things go forward by the current rules.
You’re right if you think the changes wrought by Gov. Scott Walker and Republicans in the Legislature sharply trimmed how much schools have available to spend per student but also reduced how much they have to spend on employee benefits – and that, for the 2011-’12 school year, it was a more or less balanced deal from the standpoint of most school districts.
But let’s look down the road for Fairly Normal, which is what Bob Borch calls the middle-of-the-pack, composite school district he uses in making forecasts of what lies ahead financially.
Borch is an old hand at school finances. He worked for several school districts in the Milwaukee area, including 23 years as business manager of Elmbrook Schools. Now he works for PMA Financial as a senior financial adviser. The firm does financial consulting work with, among other clients, 140 school districts in Wisconsin. Borch is apolitical, as is PMA. But Borch knows school spending inside and out and, as Jeff Carew, senior vice president of PMA put it, “Data is data. It doesn’t lie.”

Canadian School Boards & Teacher Unions

Louise Brown and Kristin Rushowy:

In an unusual move that has fuelled tensions between Queen’s Park and school boards, Education Minister Laurel Broten sent a personal email to some 660 school trustees Friday urging them to sign deals with their local unions by Sept. 1 or face paying millions of dollars in extra wages from their boards’ coffers.
The personal pitch also warns trustees that Broten will go ahead with controversial plans regarding in-class testing and the hiring of supply teachers, whether or not boards agree.
“I just think the memo is so inappropriate and so inflammatory,” said Janet McDougald, longtime chair of the Peel District School Board, who said she has not received such correspondence from a minister in her 24 years as a trustee.

Teacher Incentives: F is for Fewer Bucks

The Economist:

iHOW do you improve education? To economists the answer is simple. Pay teachers for performance: if the pupils get good test results, give the teacher a bonus. Attempts to incentivise US teachers to bump up grades have generally proven ineffective, however. The solution, according to a recent research paper finds, is to hand teachers a large sum in advance and dock their pay if students flunk their exams. This gets results.
The authors of the paper divided Chicago teachers into two groups: a “loss” group and a “gain” group. They paid “loss” teachers a bonus of $4,000 at the start of term. If exam results were below average, they took away up to $4,000, depending on performance. If results were above average, teachers could earn an additional sum of up to $4,000. “Gain” teachers were simply paid a bonus of up to $8,000.>

College Debt Hits Well-Off

Ruth Simon and Bob Barry:

Rising college costs and a sagging economy are taking the biggest toll on a surprising group: upper-middle-income families.
According to a Wall Street Journal analysis of recently released Federal Reserve data, households with annual incomes of $94,535 to $205,335 saw the biggest jump in the percentage with student-loan debt from 2007 to 2010, the latest figures available. That group also saw a sharp climb in the amount of debt owed on average.

School bonds could trigger fiscal shock

Gillian Tett:

That has left schools in a bind. So, local financial advisers have offered some “innovative” solutions. Last year, Poway Unified, one San Diego educational district, issued some $105m worth of “capital appreciation” bonds to finance previously planned investment projects.
These are similar to zero-coupon bonds, meaning the district does not need to start repaying interest or capital until 2033.
As a result, Poway’s local authority has been able to promise to keep local taxes unchanged while completing previously promised investments (building projects, computers and so on).
But, there is a big catch: to compensate for this payment deferral, these bonds are paying double-digit interest rates and cannot be redeemed early. When the bond is repaid in 2051, the total bill will be more than 10 times the initial loan.

Spanish parents to be charged three euros for packed lunches

Fiona Govan:

A daily fee of up to €3 (£2.36) will be introduced when the new term begins next month.
The charge — which reflects “the relative cost for the use of the dining room and the supervision that entails” — has been condemned as “barbaric” by parents.
Traditionally, Spanish children have eaten hot meals in the school canteen during a two-hour lunch break for a monthly fee paid by parents that averages about €4.50 (£3.50) a day.
The economic crisis has left Spain with a 25 per cent unemployment rate and many parents have opted to save money and send their children to school with home-made lunches.

Madison Schools’ Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) Assessment Results Released

Interim Madison Superintendent Jane Belmore (175K PDF):

The Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) is a computer adaptive series of assessments from the North West Evaluation Association (NWEA). There are tests in reading, language usage and math.
When taking a MAP test, the difficulty of each question is based on how well a student answers all the previous questions. As the student answers correctly, questions become more difficult. If the student answers incorrectly, the questions become easier. In an optimal test, a student answers approximately half the items correctly and half incorrectly. The final score is an estimate of the student’s achievement level. Each test takes approximately 50 minutes to complete.
MMSD has chosen to administer MAP for the following reasons:

  • It helps ensure technical infrastructure to support implementation of Smarter Balanced Assessment.
  • Rapid turn-around of classroom, school and district level data.
  • Nationally normed results give a more accurate picture of MMSD’s standing.
  • MAP measures student achievement growth in content area and within strands in a content area.
  • Beginning 2012-13, MAP will be aligned with the Common Core State Standards
  • MAP is not high stakes. It is not reported to the state for accountability purposes, but rather for district and school improvement.

In 2011-12, MAP was administered for Grades 3 through 7. In 2012-13, it will be expanded to include Grade 8. The default is to provide the test to all students, but MMSD has the ability to use judgment for students with disabilities. So, not all special education students will take MAP. Also, MAP is not for ELL levels 1 or 2.

I’m glad the Madison Schools published this information, and that they are implementing a much more rigorous assessment than the oft-criticized WKCE. I look forward to seeing the District’s report on the EXPLORE assessment, as well.
Nearby Monona Grove has used the MAP assessment for a number of years. It would be interesting to see how the Districts compare.

Matthew DeFour and TJ Mertz comment.

Interim Principal Named for Stuyvesant High School as Cheating Inquiry Unfolds

Al Baker:

The former head of a specialized high school in Queens was named interim head of Stuyvesant High School on Monday, three days after its principal abruptly announced his retirement amid a continuing cheating inquiry.
The new interim principal, Jie Zhang, has been an educator in the school system for more than two decades, education officials said. From 2006 to 2011, she was principal of Queens High School for the Sciences at York College; it is one of the city’s eight high schools, including Stuyvesant, that use a common achievement test for admission.

Brazil approves affirmative action law for universities


The Brazilian Senate has approved a bill that reserves half the places in the country’s prestigious federal universities to state school students.
African-Brazilian Senator Paulo Paim said most Brazilians would benefit as only 10% of students graduated from private schools.
President Dilma Rousseff is now expected to sign the bill into law.
But the measure has attracted criticism, as it also sets up quotas based on racial background.

Opportunities Suspended: The Disparate Impact of Disciplinary Exclusion from School

Daniel J. Losen, Jonathan Gillespie, Foreword by Gary Orfield:

The Civil Rights Project (CRP) is proud to publish this important report by Daniel Losen and Jon Gillespie. It is the first national study by our Center for Civil Rights Remedies, which is headed by Dan Losen. Since its founding 16 years ago, CRP’s central focus has been on racial and ethnic inequalities in educational opportunities, and on policies that could remedy the resulting inequalities in school outcomes. We have published studies and books on segregation in schools, inequality in choice programs, issues of equity in testing, discrimination in special education placement, the dropout crisis, and the school-to-prison pipeline, as well as many studies on college access. Losen has done pioneering work on issues of unequal treatment within schools, including the widely cited book, Racial Inequity in Special Education (Losen & Orfield, 2002), and on dropouts.
One thing that has become very clear through our work at the Civil Rights Project is that it is critically important to keep students, especially those facing inequality in other parts of their lives, enrolled in school. This relates directly to the common and often highly inappropriate policy of punishing students who are already at risk of dropping out by suspending them from school. Because suspension increases a young person’s probability of both dropping out and becoming involved with the criminal justice system, it is difficult to justify, except in extreme situations where safety or the educational process of the school is directly and seriously threatened. For the vast majority of cases, however, the challenge is to find a way to address the situation with better practices, more alternatives, and more effective training of school personnel.

All systems are go for N.J. teacher tenure reform, now comes the serious work

Laura Waters:

Now that our kumbaya moment is over, the real work begins: implementation of TEACHNJ, Senate Bill 1455. So much depends on the N.J. Department of Education’s ability to oversee the transformation of teacher and principal evaluations. Many people believe that our system for measuring classroom and management effectiveness must evolve beyond the meaningless toggle of satisfactory-unsatisfactory designations towards meaningful assessments, tied to both student growth and best practices.
But starting a year from September? For 591 school districts?

Peter Thiel’s College Dropouts: How’s That Working Out?

Jillian D’Onfro:

Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal and prolific angel investor, sparked controversy last fall when he announced a fellowship giving 24 young adults $100,000 over two years to leave college and pursue entrepreneurship full time.
The mission behind the program: Rattle the default assumption that every young adult needs a college education. Thiel thinks that rather than spend four (or more) years acquiring a crushing debt load, creative talents should instead go directly into enterprise: “an inquisitive mind, rigorously applied to a deep-rooted problem, can change the world as readily as the plushest academic lab.”

How Americans Would Slim Down Public Education

Steve Farkas, Ann Duffett:

Education budgets are tight and state and district leaders must make tough decisions about where and how to save. But is the public willing to accept cuts? Which ones? Where? According to the results of this pathbreaking survey, many Americans support dramatic changes to how school districts do business. From cutting central-office staff to reforming retirement benefits, this report outlines how voters think spending should be reduced–and what programs must be protected. What exactly did the authors find?

More on New Jersey Teacher Tenure Reform

John Mooney:

With the signing yesterday of New Jersey’s new teacher tenure law, there was the expected fanfare about the stakeholders and bipartisan efforts that went into crafting the final bill.
Less attention was given to the two weeks of marathon meetings in early June that finally turned the legislation, the break coming when the governor relented on an issue that was once almost non-negotiable.
A half-dozen key players led by state Sen. Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex), the main crafter of the bill, met for hours at a time in a handful of locations to work out the details, according to several of those who attended.

Matt Katz has more.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Amid the Debate About Whether and How to Reform the Tax Code, a Look at How the Picture Has Changed

David Wessel:

President Barack Obama says someone has to pay more taxes if the U.S. is to tame its budget deficit and provide the government he thinks the nation needs. He proposes that the best-off Americans pay more. It’s only fair, he says.
“There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me because they want to give something back,” he said in a speech in Roanoke, Va., that set off dueling campaign ads. “Look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own.”
His Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, counters that the deficit can be reduced without raising taxes if Washington is tough on spending. He thinks raising taxes on the best-off would be unwise and unfair. “President Obama attacks success, and therefore under President Obama we have less success,” he said.

Aiming at the Suburbs and Hitting Higher Ed

Peter Wood:

Spreading the Wealth, however, bears directly on the economic prospects of higher education. Kurtz’s provocative thesis is that under bland-sounding labels such as “regionalism” and “Building One America,” Obama has laid the regulatory groundwork for curtailing the political autonomy and the economic vitality of the nation’s suburbs. He traces Obama’s animus against the suburbs back to his days as a community organizer and traces the community organizers Obama worked with in the 1980s and 1990s forward to their participation in White House meetings during Obama’s presidency. A principal figure in this is Mike Kruglik, a longtime community organizer who was one of Obama’s first bosses in Chicago in the 1980s, and who remains one of Obama’s close confidants and White House guests.

Q&A with Madison schools’ Belmore: Interim post ‘kind of my style’

Matthew DeFour:

Q: What will the state’s new report cards and individual school ratings this fall mean for Madison schools?
A: We need to work together with our community members and organizations and make sure we understand what the information is going to mean to our different audiences. The conversation that took place in the school district and the community last year laid the foundation for that. People are absolutely focused on the fact that we have to do better with all of our children. It’s really a matter of making sure the strategies that we have are moving forward and are the right ones and we’re checking them along the way and making corrections, and hopefully every child will be better on every measure

Much more on Interim Madison Superintendent Jane Belmore, here.

Teachers put to test by digital cheats

John Keilman:

Heloise Pechan’s heart rose when she read the essay one of her students, a seemingly uninterested high school sophomore, had turned in for a class assignment on “To Kill a Mockingbird.” The paper was clear, logical and well written — a sign, she thought, that she had gotten through to the boy.
Her elation passed quickly. What came next was suspicion.
Pechan, then substitute teaching at a McHenry County high school, went to Google, typed the paper’s first sentence (“Kind and understanding, strict but fair, Atticus Finch embodies everything that a father should be”) and there it was: The entire essay had been lifted from an online paper mill.
“I went from amazement and excitement to ‘Oh my God’ in the space of a half-second,” Pechan recalled.

Amazon launches textbook rental service

Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson and Barney Jopson:

Amazon.com has launched a textbook rental service, allowing US students to borrow print editions for a school term at up to 70 per cent off the price of new titles, but the education industry is expecting the growth of rentals to slow.
Book Industry Study Group research found that textbook rentals rose last year from 8 per cent of the market to 11 per cent, with a corresponding drop in new textbook sales, from 59 to 55 per cent. There is also a sizeable second-hand market in textbooks.
Cengage, one of the largest US college publishers, forecast that rentals could reach 26 per cent of new and used textbook sales by 2015 before flattening out. “I don’t think [Amazon’s entry] changes anything for us,” said Ron Dunn, Cengage’s chief executive.

Raising Successful Children

Madeline Levine:

PHRASES like “tiger mom” and “helicopter parent” have made their way into everyday language. But does overparenting hurt, or help?
While parents who are clearly and embarrassingly inappropriate come in for ridicule, many of us find ourselves drawn to the idea that with just a bit more parental elbow grease, we might turn out children with great talents and assured futures. Is there really anything wrong with a kind of “overparenting lite”?
Parental involvement has a long and rich history of being studied. Decades of studies, many of them by Diana Baumrind, a clinical and developmental psychologist at the University of California, Berkeley, have found that the optimal parent is one who is involved and responsive, who sets high expectations but respects her child’s autonomy. These “authoritative parents” appear to hit the sweet spot of parental involvement and generally raise children who do better academically, psychologically and socially than children whose parents are either permissive and less involved, or controlling and more involved. Why is this particular parenting style so successful, and what does it tell us about overparenting?

High Schools putting kids off IT careers, deepening skills shortage

Simon Sharwood:

High School teaching of IT as a career actually puts kids off pursuing careers in the field, according to John Ridge, Executive Director of the Australian Computer Society Foundation Trust Fund (ACSF).
Ridge says general computer literacy courses in early high school are important and welcome, as employers expect some level of skill with productivity applications when hiring. But once kids start to study IT as a career, he says, they tend to abandon the idea of actually working in the industry.
The reason for the rebound, he says, is that too few teachers have the skills and passion to teach IT well. In New South Wales, Ridge said he feels 100 to 200 IT teachers do well … but with more than 1000 high schools in the State that’s not a great strike rate. Without proper resourcing and relevant curricula – the NSW Higher Schools Certificate’s Software Development and Design course is unchanged since 2009 – Ridge therefore wonders if it is even worth teaching IT as a career in schools.

Brown’s CS1730 Available Online


We will be making this course, Brown’s upper-level programming languages offering, available for free on the Web. People anywhere are welcome to view the lectures, read the materials, and do the assignments.
The on-line version does not offer credit from Brown; but those who successfully complete it can get recognition of this directly from the instructor. In particular, because we anticipate some people following the course will be busy professionals, we will offer three levels of recognition:
You successfully complete a sufficiently high number of the regular quizzes throughout the semester.
In addition to Lite, you also complete the minor project that occupies the first month.
In addition to Mezzanine, you also complete the major project that occupies the remaining two months.

How to help your child overcome the fear of public speaking

Jessica Ogilvy-Stuart:

My son’s school is following the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (HKDSE) curriculum, and I am worried about the speaking element of the English assessment. His written work is good, but he is not a great communicator. How can I help him to develop more confidence in this area?
Public speaking is seen as a challenge by many Hong Kong students. The speaking portion of the HKDSE may be less familiar than other assessment tools. But it can be an area in which students can develop confidence, which will serve them well in their professional lives.
All Form Four to Form Six students taking the HKDSE course through their schools will have to take the school-based assessment (SBA) component of the English language examination. This accounts for 15 per cent of the final grade. Part A of the assessment contributes two-thirds of the grade and requires students to read or view four texts, record their personal views and then either discuss their perspectives with classmates or make individual presentations.

Percentage of College Graduates in Total Population

OECD via Laura Waters:

The OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) has just released data regarding the “tertiary education graduation rates” based on the “percentage of graduates to the population at the typical age of graduation.”
The percentages run from 2000 – 2007. So, for example, in the Czech Republic the percentage of high school graduates as part of the general population was only 13.8% in 2000 but then soared to 34.9% in 2007.
The United States was relatively flat: 34.4% in 2000 with a slight increase to 36.5% by 2007. For comparison’s sake, hallowed Finland moved from 40.8% to 48.5% and Japan started at 29.4% and moved to 38.8%. Among the 25 nations included in the analysis, in 2007 15 countries achieved higher percentages than the U.S. and 9 had percentages below. Outliers were Iceland, with a 63.1% graduation rate in 2007 and Turkey with 15.2% in 2006.

A Review of Sunday is for the Sun; Monday is for the Moon

Sandra Priest Rose and Glen Nelson
New York: Reading Reform Foundation, 2012
There seems to be a growing frustration and concern, among Upper Education professors, and many teachers in Lower Education as well, with the poor reading and writing abilities of our students. If they cannot read, they cannot understand the material being assigned, and their academic writing has discouraged many educators from even trying to assign term papers.
This book, by Sandra Priest Rose and Glen Nelson, explains the thirty-year effort of the Reading Reform Foundation to ensure that at least some students in New York learn to read well early, and so to enjoy the knowledge and understanding they can get from reading with ease. It should be widely read and its programs sought out by educators all over the country who want to do more to introduce their students as soon as possible to such success.
I did not learn to read in the first grade. When I brought home an “F” in reading, it is not too much to say that my mother (Wellesley BA, Radcliffe MA, in English Literature) was not happy. That summer she taught me (unrelentingly) to read phonetically. When my first report card came back from second grade (the school had let me advance) it showed a “D”in reading. My mother went to the school and said “What is this? He is an excellent reader!” The problem, as it turned out was that I “would not stay with the rest of the class”–that is, when the class started a story, I finished it by myself–thus my grade of “D.”
That was probably in 1942, so I am not sure whether I was being offered the “look-say” method in my first school year or not, but my mother’s phonics instruction was very helpful to me in my reading at Harvard and later at Cambridge University, again in English Literature.
This new book about the reading program of the Reading Reform Foundation is not just about the essential value of phonics. It also takes the now unorthodox view that there are obvious connections between reading and knowledge, between knowledge and understanding, and between understanding and writing.
Over the last thirty years, for about 2,000 students a year in New York, the Reading Reform Foundation has offered 160 hours of teacher training, 60 visits a year by a mentor for each participating teacher, and an engaging curriculum to immerse young students in the excitement of sounding out words, and discovering not only their meaning, but very soon the meaning of the reading material in which they appear.
More than 14,000 teachers have attended the annual conferences of the Reading Reform Foundation over the years, and the Program is now at work in 75 New York classrooms each year.
This book includes the results of a study conducted by the City University of New York into the work of the Reading Reform Foundation. They may mean more to those who got a better grade in Statistics in graduate school than I did, but they look very encouraging to anyone concerned over the slow progress in reading of too many of our current youngsters who don’t have explicit phonics instruction on their side.
One of the authors, Sandra Priest Rose, has been a supporter of The Concord Review for years, and is assuredly one of the small group of dedicated people who have enabled the Reading Reform Foundation to serve students and teachers for thirty years with only 20% of their expenses coming from the schools which participate.
For those with an English major Wellesley graduate at home, learning to read phonetically (after school) may not be a problem. For all other elementary students, and especially for their teachers, I recommend the Reading Reform Foundation’s program. Jeanne Chall’s idea that after third grade students will be “reading to learn,” will not come true for too many students if they don’t have the benefit of a vigorous and engaging reading and writing program like the one offered by the Reading Reform Foundation in New York.

New Jersey Passes Teacher Tenure Reform

Heather Haddon:

After signing a bill to overhaul teacher tenure rules Monday, Gov. Chris Christie said the changes represented one of his signature political achievements, ranking only behind a successful effort to limit government employees’ pension and benefit costs.
“It’s right behind pension and benefit reform just because the level of skepticism that we would get anything done,” Mr. Christie said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal following a news conference at a middle school here. “There had been such inertia on this topic. I always enjoy defying expectations.”
The new law doesn’t go as far as tenure bills passed in other states in the past year. But it marks a significant shift in the nation’s oldest teacher job-security law, requiring all teachers to undergo annual performance reviews and making it easier to fire poorly performing educators.

Laura Waters:

For Senator Teresa Ruiz, who tirelessly shepherded NJ’s tenure reform bill through the gauntlet of the Senate, the Assembly, union opposition, aggressive reformers, and countless interest groups.
How collegial was the signing yesterday at a Middlesex middle school? Chris Christie sounded practically conciliatory, telling NJ Spotlight that he signed the bill because “my decision was there was enough really good things in this bill that I was not going to allow it not to become law because it didn’t have everything I wanted” and seating arrangements placed B4K’s Derrell Bradford in between NJEA President Barbara Keshishian and AFT President Joseph Del Grosso.

What I’ve Learned About Learning


I have a rather glaring life-long weakness, a behaviour that has tripped me up many times. You would think that I would have noticed it and corrected my behaviour in my teens or twenties, but no, it has persisted. While I am much better at correcting myself, it is extremely persistent and requires constant vigilance to suppress.
The behaviour in question is this: When I am learning something new, I suffer from laziness, impatience, and hubris. I try to grasp the gist of the thing, the conclusion, and then I stop. I figure I “understand” it, so I must be done learning.
This is wrong for me. I am blessed with a quick mind for certain subjects, so there are times when I am reading something, or someone is explaining something, and I can work out the obvious implications. Someone is telling me about aspect-oriented programming, and I start thinking about cross-cutting concerns like authorization. Or perhaps database access. Then I ask myself whether AOP is related to the “Unobtrusive Javascript” style. Or if it’s really fine-grained dependency injection.

5 Things Young People Don’t Know

Jason Goldberg:

One of the greatest joys of my job is coaching and mentoring super smart and super ambitious young people.
I find myself doing this a lot lately.
Here’s a common pattern we find at Fab (and, I’m sure, at many startups): Young person leverages his or her brain, passion, ambitions and talents to rise up to a senior role very quickly. They take on a ton of responsibility and they kick ass at it. But, then, invariably, the young superstar hits some sort of a wall. Often it’s a burnout wall. Other times it’s a managing-down wall. Other times it’s a managing-up wall. Other times it’s just a bruised ego. Most of the time though it’s just youth. There’s value and maturity that comes from experience and pattern recognition. And, for young people who rise to the top quickly, there’s a natural impatience that flies in the face of waiting for that experience and pattern recognition to guide the way.

N.J. Mom Puts Kids To Bed With Math

Ashley Milne-Tyte:

The U.S. ranks 25th out of 34 countries when it comes to kids’ math proficiency. One New Jersey parent wants to change that by overhauling the culture of math. An astrophysics graduate and mother of three kids, she started a ritual when each child was 2 years old: a little bedtime mathematical problem-solving that soon became a beloved routine. Parent friends began to bug her to send them kid-friendly math problems, too. Now Bedtime Math is gaining fans among children and math-shy parents around the country.

Kindergarten in the Computer

Katherine Mangu-Ward:

The notion of online education for the Crayola set can strike adults as absurd. But for kids, even little ones, it’s the idea ignoring computers all day that sounds crazy. After all, if you ask a third grader to list his favorite things, “doing stuff on the computer” will rank high, probably somewhere between race cars and string cheese.
What most people envision when they think of online education–a college or high school student sitting at a computer all day at home, perhaps with minimal parental guidance–isn’t viable for the vast majority of families with young kids. Warehousing is a dirty word in education circles, but the truth is that it must be part of the package. Kids need somewhere to go during the day, preferably to hang out with other kids. They also need a bunch of adults there to keep them from killing one another and help them learn something.

New Jersey Gov. Christie signs teacher tenure overhaul bill

Melissa Hayes:

Governor Christie today signed a bill that overhauls the state’s teacher tenure system, even though it is missing a key component he fought to include in the measure.
Christie signed the bill, known as the Teacher Effectiveness and Accountability for Children of New Jersey Act, in the media center of the Von E. Mauger Middle School after briefly meeting with children in a summer camp program in the school’s gymnasium.
Christie had wanted the bill to include a provision that would weaken seniority provisions, known as last in first out.
Education Commissioner Chris Cerf praised the law, but said that the “last in, first out” provision must still be addressed.
“Lets celebrate this moment together but lets not pretend the work is done,” he said.

Carrots and Sticks for School Systems

The New York Times:

Education Secretary Arne Duncan has been pushing the states to create rigorous teacher evaluation systems that not only judge teachers by how well their students perform but also — when the results are in — reward good teachers while easing chronic low performers out of the system. More than half the states have agreed to adopt new evaluation systems in exchange for competitive grants from the federal Race to the Top program or greater flexibility under the No Child Left Behind law.
These incentives are long overdue. As things stand now, according to a study by the New Teacher Project, a Brooklyn-based policy group, many school managers make no distinction between high-performing and low-performing teachers. The result is that poor teachers stick around while good teachers go elsewhere or leave the profession, frustrated because they are not promoted, rewarded with better pay, or even simply acknowledged.

HS football players’ cognitive skills tested

Associated Press:

South Florida public high school football players are having their cognitive skills assessed before their season starts.
The Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing is a 20-minute, computerized evaluation often administered by a trainer. It gives doctors a baseline assessment of an athlete’s mental abilities so that after an injury, the test can be retaken for a true measure of recovery.
The Cleveland Clinic agreed last month to underwrite a pilot program testing Palm Beach County football players before their season starts Monday. Miami-Dade County has been using baseline testing for two years, and Broward County began mandatory testing this year.

More education jargon and what it really means

Valerie Strauss:

Here are 10 education terms with definitions that tell you what they really mean to people who use them in our national education conversation.
Yesterday I published the first installment of education jargon, written by Joanne Yatvin, a vet­eran public school educator, author and past president of the National Council of Teachers of English. She is now teaching part-time at Portland State University.
Here’s more jargon from Joanne Yatvin:
School Reform Plans: Untested notions for improving public education, many of which have been tried before with negligible results
School Reformers: People with impressive titles who have had little or no practical experience in schools.
Charter Schools: Semi-private schools supported by public funds deemed superior by parents because they appear more elegant and exclusive than public schools.

Day Dreaming – The Secret Behind Success

Dan Jones:

Research shows daydreaming leads to improved learning; enhanced abilities; greater creativity & increased success I researched how people achieve success. I wanted to find out if there is a pattern that can be replicated and used to help others get the same results. I initially looked at highly successful people in their chosen field from Entrepreneurs like Richard Branson & Peter Jones to Geniuses like Albert Einstein & Leonardo Da Vinci. I also looked at the thinking styles of successful creative people like Beethoven & Walt Disney. What I found was that they all had one thing in common. They all spent time daydreaming about their area of success. “When I get an idea I start at once building it up in my imagination.” Nikola Tesla “When I heard the music it made pictures in my head…here are the pictures.” Walt Disney (Describing the film Fantasia)