Tech Education Doesn’t Happen in the Classroom

Tyler Menezes:

The field of technology is the odd kid in its class.
From its outset it’s been an outlier. Modern computing sprung rather quickly out of nowhere late into our history as a species. However few things [1] before or since have had such a profound impact on the world as the development of computing and circuits. It’s clear to see that no other field of study can hope to compete – they’ve all been revolutionized by (and in many cases started or brought to prominence because of) technology.
But unfortunately, technology is an outlier for another reason: technology education is severely underfunded. Demand for computer scientists, for example, is exceeded by the supply at a ratio of more than 2:1 [2].
Computer science education is also vastly under-researched. Even using a CS degree as a filter [3], the difficulty finding graduates who actually know a programming language or have any critical thinking skills is an extremely common complaint I’ve heard from those in charge of hiring at larger firms. It’s clear that technology is an extremely easy space to understand, but requires a lot of hands-on experience to master.

How Your High School English Class is Ruining Your Proposals (Don’t get me started on MBAs)


Ah, high school english class. A time to read classic literature, build your vocabulary and learn to write proper essays. Reading great literature is wonderful, but the latter 2 goals were often in conflict. Because the way teachers measure your essays was in part based on how many fancy vocabulary words to you could cram into them. Using big words not only improved your grade, it also took up space, getting you closer to the critical 5 page minimum. However, this push to utilize advanced diction, albeit to the detriment of semantic transfer, makes for awful writing.
I don’t remember many of the books I read in high school, but one that sticks in my mind, ironically, is an essay by George Orwell, called Politics and the English Language. (Also note Orwell’s 5 Rules for Effective Writing.) You may wonder what this has to do with sales, but remember politics is simply sales of a different sort.
Orwell noted how vague language made it easier to describe, and therefore commit, political atrocities. I wasn’t committing any atrocities, except perhaps against the English language. I took a writing course my first semester in college and got quite a rude awakening. Pages came back redder than a murder victim in a Law and Order episode. Whole paragraphs were called “unnecessary garbage”, superfluous words and clauses, which my high school teachers seemed to reward, came back with red lines through them. It was great. For a brief time, I learned to write clean, crisp, compelling papers. I focused on clarity of thought, transmitted through the proper words, to the reader.

Some states will soon call the roll on school reform

Stephanie Simon:

Voters in several states will weigh in next month on some of the most contentious issues in public education, including teacher tenure, charter schools and merit pay for teachers, as a national fight over education reform hits the ballot box.
The campaigns have been fierce and often nasty.
In one corner: proponents of dramatically overhauling public education, including several of America’s wealthiest families, led by Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Wal-Mart heir Alice Walton. They seek to inject more free-market forces into the education system by requiring schools to compete for students and teachers to compete for pay raises.
In the opposite corner: Teachers unions and their allies, on the left, who say the reformers’ proposals would strip resources from the public schools without boosting student achievement.

Urban middle class boosts school diversity

Greg Toppo:

As taped piano music plays, Ashley Brown issues a stream of commands. Firm and insistent, she strides around the tiny studio and puts her third-period ballet students through their steady, rhythmic paces.
What her eighth- and ninth-grade dancers may not notice is the larger ballet they’re part of: the fraught, decades-old dance â?? one step forward, two steps back â?? of who goes to school where, and with whom.
They’re doing nothing less than integrating a city.

Teaching thousands of students to program on Udacity

Steve Huffman:

This past spring I had the pleasure of teaching a course for Udacity, an online education company putting high quality college level courses online for free. I was recruited to Udacity by a former college professor and friend of mine, Dave Evans, Udacity’s VP of Education.
When I was a Computer Science student at the University of Virginia, I was fortunate to take a cryptology course taught by Professor Evans. He presented us two ways to get an A in this course. We could either do it the old fashioned way–do well on tests and homeworks as well as completing a course-long project of our choosing; or, we could break into his computer and set our grade to an A. Naturally, we pretended to do the former, while spending our evenings huddled outside Professor Evans’ house working on the latter. My team received A’s.
It was one of the first times where I felt I was not just completing course objectives as a student, but thinking about real-world problems as a computer scientist. When Professor Evans emailed me early this year inquiring whether I’d be interested in teaching a course on Web Developement, I said, “Yes!” long before my brain had a chance to remind me that I already had a full-time job.

Rise of the Tiger Nation: Asian-Americans are now the country’s best-educated, highest-earning and fastest-growing racial group. They share with American Jews both the distinction and the occasional burden of immigrant success.

Lee Siegel:

Last March, an interviewer archly asked President Barack Obama whether he was aware that he had been “surpassed” by basketball phenomenon Jeremy Lin “as the most famous Harvard graduate.” The question was misformulated. If there was any surpassing going on, it was that Mr. Lin had become, briefly, more famous than Mr. Obama as the country’s most exemplary figure from a hitherto marginalized minority.
Mr. Lin’s triumph on the basketball court is a living metaphor for the social group he comes from. No one would dispute the opening paragraph of the Pew Research Center’s massive study of Asian-Americans, released over the summer: “Asian-Americans are the highest-income, best-educated and fastest-growing racial group in the United States. They are more satisfied than the general public with their lives, finances and the direction of the country, and they place more value than other Americans do on marriage, parenthood, hard work and career success.” Or as Mr. Lin put it in a video of congratulation he made last spring for the overwhelmingly Asian-American graduates of New York City’s famed Stuyvesant High School: “Never let anyone tell you what you can’t do.”

A letter from a disgusted teacher: I Quit

Kris L. Nielsen:

To All it May Concern:
I’m doing something I thought I would never do–something that will make me a statistic and a caricature of the times. Some will support me, some will shake their heads and smirk condescendingly–and others will try to convince me that I’m part of the problem. Perhaps they’re right, but I don’t think so. All I know is that I’ve hit a wall, and in order to preserve my sanity, my family, and the forward movement of our lives, I have no other choice.
Before I go too much into my choice, I must say that I have the advantages and disadvantages of differentiated experience under my belt. I have seen the other side, where the grass was greener, and I unknowingly jumped the fence to where the foliage is either so tangled and dense that I can’t make sense of it, or the grass is wilted and dying (with no true custodian of its health). Are you lost? I’m talking about public K-12 education in North Carolina. I’m talking about my history as a successful teacher and leader in two states before moving here out of desperation.
In New Mexico, I led a team of underpaid teachers who were passionate about their jobs and who did amazing things. We were happy because our students were well-behaved, our community was supportive, and our jobs afforded us the luxuries of time, respect, and visionary leadership. Our district was huge, but we got things done because we were a team. I moved to Oregon because I was offered a fantastic job with a higher salary, a great math program, and superior benefits for my family. Again, I was given the autonomy I dreamed of, and I used it to find new and risky ways to introduce technology into the math curriculum. My peers looked forward to learning from me, the community gave me a lot of money to get my projects off the ground, and my students were amazing.

Why aren’t we doing the maths?

Tim Harford:

The practical implications of misplaced confidence when dealing with statistical evidence are obvious and worrying
A little two-part test for you. Imagine you’re a doctor, considering whether to recommend a particular kind of cancer screening, “A”. You discover that this form of screening improves five-year survival rates from 68 per cent to 99 per cent. (The five-year survival rate is the proportion of patients alive five years after the cancer was discovered.) The question is: does the screening test “A” save lives?
Part two: now you consider an alternative screening test, “B”. You discover that test “B” reduces cancer deaths from two per 1,000 people to 1.6 per 1,000 people. So: does screening test “B” save lives?

Massachusetts schools report thousands of head injuries in sports

Lisa Kocian:

Nearly 3,000 Massachusetts students suffered a concussion or other head injury while playing sports during the last school year, according to the results of a first-of-its-kind survey completed by 164 schools.
The reports from middle and high schools across Massachusetts, collected under a state law passed in 2010, highlight the extent of the problem at a time when medical experts and sports leagues, from Pop Warner to the NFL, are increasingly worried about the long-term effects of head injuries.
Boston College High School, an all-boys private school in Dorchester with grades 7 through 12, reported the highest number, with 76 head injuries sustained last school year during “extracurricular athletic activities,” according to reports released to the Globe by the state Department of Public Health under a public records request. Lexington High School followed with 69 reported head injuries or concussions.

“TEACHED” Documentaries Offer Glossy Propaganda

David Cohen:

I recently attended a screening of “TEACHED,” a trio of short films marketed as documentaries but in truth, rather superficial looks at three important topics in education. The screening was organized by some graduate student groups at Stanford, open to the public but mostly attended by grad students in education, law, and business. According to a brochure I picked up at the screening, TEACHED has as part of its mission to “Analyze the causes and the consequences of the ‘achievement gap’ between students of color and their peers,” but I’m sorry to say that these films offered very little analysis, certainly nothing that would advance a serious policy discussion or aid the work of graduate students.
The first short was called “The Path to Prison” and it tackled the links among illiteracy, dropping out of school, crime and incarceration. Highlighting statistics about the rate of incarceration in the United States, especially for youth who drop out of high school, and especially for young African-American males, the film used the story of one young man, Jerone, to illustrate the issues. Jerone was moved from grade to grade without learning enough to succeed, and looking back, identifies a number of problems in his schooling, including disaffected, alcoholic, and racist teachers. He relates that his needs “went unrecognized, my issues went unchecked.” Jerone was a gang member at age thirteen, and locked up by age seventeen. Finally, in prison, Jerone seems to have developed some skills and discipline, and at the time he’s talking to the filmmakers, he’s describing how hard it is to find a decent job now that he has a record. At the end of the film, text on the screen informs us that Jerone is now back in prison, serving a term of forty-to-life.

Comments on Wisconsin’s New School Report Cards

A Wisconsin Teacher:

Thrown under the school bus this week by the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) were 76 Wisconsin schools, which “Failed to Meet Expectations” as calculated under the state’s new-fangled school accountability system.
DPI’s new school report card system is pay off to Arne Duncan’s Department of Education so most Wisconsin schools can avoid federal sanctions imposed by the poorly-designed No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation.

India Teacher education system to usher in sweeping reforms

Vishwas Kothari:

PUNE: The Central Advisory Board on Education (CABE) will meet on November 1 to take a final call on a slew of proposed reforms in the teacher education system. The sweeping reforms were recommended by a Supreme Court-appointed high-powered commission under former Chief Justice of India J S Verma.
Bringing teacher education under the higher education system, a policy framework for in-service teacher educators, enhancing duration of teacher education programmes, a teacher education assessment and accreditation centre and an organisational restructuring of the National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE) are some of the key reforms. The NCTE is the regulatory body for teacher education in the country.

MIT has plan for Boston school assignments

James Vaznis:

A new proposal for Boston school assignments presented Saturday by a Massachusetts Institute of Technology doctoral student was essentially pushed to front-runner status by an advisory committee, as five other proposals began to fall off the table, just one month after they were unveiled.
The External Advisory Committee, appointed by the mayor, heard a presentation on the MIT proposal for the first time during a meeting Saturday morning at City Hall. Several members said it showed the greatest potential of providing equitable access to the city’s limited number of quality schools, as the panel seeks to create a student-assignment system that allows more students to attend schools closer to their homes.
A key challenge in overhauling the current system, which provides students a wide range of school choices, has been a troubling reality: Long after Boston’s period of busing students, the system continues to be unfair, with many students attending schools that are lackluster or failing, typically located in impoverished areas, while others go to better ones.

New State Report Cards Offer a Look at Statewide High Schools


Wisconsin high schools look pretty good…right? Only 17 of over 400 high schools “Fail to Meet Expectations”. Over 86% of all WI public high schools meet or exceed expectations. Life is good…yes?
And it looks like a good plan to evaluate districts/schools on more than just test scores….right?
One think to keep in mind that 40 high schools received overall scores of “Not Rated” due to either suspected errors, or insufficient data.

What Books Should Everyone Read?

Sadec Dousti:

This question has the same spirit of what papers should everyone read and what videos should everybody watch. It asks for remarkable books in different areas of theoretical computer science.
The books can be math-oriented, yet you may find it great for a computer scientist. Examples:
Graph Theory
Design & Analysis of Algorithm
Theory of Computation / Computational Complexity Theory

A lot is new under the hood in high school auto shop classes

Tony Perry & Howard Blume

The days when auto shop was a major part of the high school curriculum have long since been consigned to revivals and reruns of the musical “Grease.”
But auto shop’s long skid in the face of budget cuts and a shift toward college-prep classes may be reversing.
Nowhere is that more apparent than in the San Diego Unified School District, where officials have built automotive program facilities at three high schools and hope to upgrade shops at two other schools if voters approve a bond issue next month.
John Abad, who is 17 and studying auto body repair at a $3.7-million facility opened last month at Morse High, knows why this is being done.

Grad school, a leg up — in debt

Michelle Singletary:

It’s fitting that the College Board released its trends in college pricing just before Halloween. It’s frightening what many families are paying to help their children realize the American dream of a middle-income-or-better lifestyle.
The average annual sticker price for tuition and fees at public four-year colleges and universities increased 4.8 percent, to $8,655 over the past year. Prices increased 4.2 percent, to $29,056, at private nonprofit four-year schools. That’s not including room and board.

Highly Educated Have Biggest Debt Problems

Dan Kadlec:

It’s widely accepted that unscrupulous bankers tricked unknowing consumers into loans they could not afford, leading to the financial crisis. No doubt, plenty of that occurred–underscored Wednesday with a $1 billion federal suit against Bank of America’s mortgage arm Countrywide Financial.
But it turns out the “victoms” were not, by and large, unsophisticated rubes. A new study finds that highly educated Americans were most likely to take on unmanageable debt in the pre-crisis years. What’s more, gross personal financial mismanagement occurred across the population and not just in the mortgage market and not just among the unsophisticated.
The study draws a line at the point where monthly payment on household debt equals 40% of income. That’s where default or bankruptcy becomes most likely should the household experience a decline in income, say researchers led by Sherman Hanna, professor of consumer sciences at Ohio State University.

Analysis finds limitations of new Wisconsin public school report cards

Matthew DeFour

The Department of Public Instruction expects many districts to initially address the three categories that can result in severe point reductions — test participation, absenteeism and dropout rates.
About 9 percent of schools that received ratings, including Madison West and East High School, lost points in those areas.
West would have had the highest score among the city’s high schools if one additional student with a disability had taken the state reading test last year.
Instead, the school received a five-point deduction and a score of 68.8, good enough to “meet expectations” but below average compared with other schools around the state.
Prospect Street Elementary in the Lake Mills School District, another school with high test scores, received a below-average score because it received a low “closing achievement gaps” score.

The Wisconsin DPI’s school report cards can be found here.

Ole Miss sets early ed focus

Marquita Brown

The University of Mississippi’s School of Education is developing a curriculum that could impact early education across the state.
Starting next fall, undergraduates who complete the required classes can earn an emphasis in early education along with their bachelor’s degree in education. The school also will offer a graduate degree in early childhood education. That endorsement or degree would qualify them to work with elementary school-aged children, as well as children ages 3, 4 and 5, said David Rock, dean of the Ole Miss School of Education.
That effort is being funded with a $1.1 million grant from the Jackson-based Robert M. Hearin Support Foundation. In all, the foundation has awarded the university five different grants totalling $5.7 million to support different programs that aim to improve education in Mississippi.

From Master Plan to No Plan: The Slow Death of Public Higher Education

Aaron Bady and Mike Konczal:

The California student movement has a slogan that goes, “Behind every fee hike, a line of riot cops.” And no one embodies that connection more than the Ronald Reagan of the 1960s. Elected governor of California in 1966 after running a scorched-earth campaign against the University of California, Reagan vowed to “clean up that mess in Berkeley,” warned audiences of “sexual orgies so vile that I cannot describe them to you,” complained that outside agitators were bringing left-wing subversion into the university, and railed against spoiled children of privilege skipping their classes to go to protests. He also ran on an anti-tax platform and promised to put the state’s finances in order by “throw[ing] the bums off welfare.” But it was the University of California at Berkeley that provided the most useful political foil, crystallizing all of his ideological themes into a single figure for disorder, a subversive menace of sexual, social, generational, and even communist deviance.
When Reagan assumed office, he immediately set about doing exactly what he had promised. He cut state funding for higher education, laid the foundations for a shift to a tuition-based funding model, and called in the National Guard to crush student protest, which it did with unprecedented severity. But he was only able to do this because he had already successfully shifted the political debate over the meaning and purpose of public higher education in America. The first “bums” he threw off welfare were California university students. Instead of seeing the education of the state’s youth as a patriotic duty and a vital weapon in the Cold War, he cast universities as a problem in and of themselves–both an expensive welfare program and dangerously close to socialism. He even argued for the importance of tuition-based funding by suggesting that if students had to pay, they’d value their education too much to protest.

Is There an Echo in Here? The Making of a Relic

In the March 14, 2001, issue of Education Week, Victor Henningsen, director of the history department at Phillips Academy in Andover, had this to say about term papers: “There’s no substitute for the thrill that comes from choosing a topic of your own and wrestling with a mass of evidence to answer a question that you have posed, to craft your own narrative and your own analysis. We’ve been teaching kids to write research papers here for a long time. Kids don’t remember the advanced placement exam, but they do remember the papers they have written, and so do I.”
Teacher Magazine
March 1, 2002
It seems likely that the history research paper at the high school level is now an endangered species. Focus on creative writing, fear of plagiarism, fascination with PowerPoint presentations, and lack of planning time have been joined by a notable absence of concern about term papers in virtually all of the work on state standards. As a result, far too many American high school students never get the chance to do the reading and writing that a serious history paper requires. They then enter college with no experience in writing papers, to the continual frustration of their professors, and of the employers who later hire them. The Ford Motor Co., for example, had to institute writing classes to ensure that their people are able to produce readable reports, memos, and the like.
A few years ago, a survey of English and social studies standards by the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation showed that term papers are, indeed, ignored. The Pew Charitable Trust’s Standards for Success program, with its focus on high school and college articulation of standards and expectations, likewise includes no term papers. Neither has the American Diploma Project in Washington, D.C., working to define the expectations of high schools, colleges, and employers, yet found a place in its deliberations for history research papers. One problem for these groups and others, of course, is that serious term papers cannot be assessed in a one-hour objective test. But their impact on students and the consequences of never having done one can be incalculable.
In the early 1980s, while I was teaching American history to high school sophomores in Concord, Massachusetts, each of my students had to write a biographical paper on a U.S. president. One student chose John F. Kennedy, and I lent him a copy of Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.’s A Thousand Days. The boy took a look at the rather large book, and told me, “I can’t read this.” I said, “Yes, you can,” and eventually, he was able to finish it. Five or six years later, out of the blue, I got a letter from the student. He was now a Junior at Yale, and he wanted to thank me for making him read Schlesinger’s book. It was the first serious work of nonfiction he had ever read, and being able to get through it had done something for his self-confidence. Of course, he was the one who had forced himself to read the book, but the anecdote points up one of the great advantages of working on a history term paper. The experience often will mark the first time a high school student discovers that he or she is capable of reading a book on an important topic.
When I was an alumni interviewer for Harvard College, I asked one high school boy what he thought he might major in. History, he replied. I had said nothing about my own interest in the subject, and all he knew about me was that I was an alum. But after he gave me his answer, I naturally asked what his favorite history book was. Before long, it became clear that, while this student had achieved good grades and advanced placement scores, he had studied only textbooks. No one had ever handed him a good history book and encouraged him to read it, apparently. More than likely, he had never had to write a serious history paper either. If he had, he might have been forced to read a book or two in the field.
In the March 14, 2001, issue of Education Week, Victor Henningsen, director of the history department at Phillips Academy in Andover, had this to say about term papers; “There’s no substitute for the thrill that comes from choosing a topic of your own and wrestling with a mass of evidence to answer a question that you have posed, to craft your own narrative and your own analysis. We’ve been teaching kids to write research papers here for a long time. Kids don’t remember the advanced placement exam, but they do remember the papers they have written, and so do I.”
Since 1987, I have been the editor of The Concord Review, a quarterly journal of history research papers written by high school students. We’ve published 528 [1,044] papers (averaging 5,000 words, including endnotes and bibliography) by students from 42 [46] states and 33 [38] foreign countries. Out of some 22,000 public and private high schools in the United States, we receive about 600 essays a year, from which we publish 11 in each issue. If you do the calculation, that means that more than 21,000 high schools do not even submit one history essay for consideration in a given year. While this may not prove that exceptional history essays are not being written at those schools, it is not an encouraging sign.
As for what teachers expect in their high school history classes in lieu of research papers, I have only anecdotal evidence. I met with the head of the history department at a public high school in New Jersey once, a man very active in the National Council for History Education, and asked him why he never sent papers from his best students to The Concord Review. He said he didn’t have his students do research papers anymore; they make PowerPoint presentations and write historical fiction instead. When I asked the now-retired head of history at Scarsdale High School in New York, why, even though he subscribed to The Concord Review, he never submitted student papers for consideration, he too said he no longer assigned papers. After the AP exam, he would hold what he called the Trial of James Buchanan for his role in helping to precipitate the Civil War. His students would then write responses on that subject instead.
After I published her paper on the Women’s Temperance Union, the class valedictorian at a public high school on Staten Island wrote me to say she felt weak in expository writing and offered some reasons. Here are her words: “I attend a school where students are given few opportunities to develop their talents in this field. It is assumed students will learn how to write in college.” I feel confident in saying that, on the college side, there is the expectation that students will learn at least the rudiments of putting together a research paper while they are still in high school. College humanities professors, slow to learn perhaps, are routinely surprised when they find that this is not the case. And rightly so. What is at work here?
For one thing, creative writing often rules at the high school level (and earlier in many cases). Even the director of Harvard’s Expository Writing program for undergraduates has said she thinks that teenagers don’t get enough chances to write about their feelings, anxieties, hopes, and dreams, and that they shouldn’t be pushed to work on research papers until college. The National Writing Project in Berkeley, California, a program that reaches hundreds of teachers each year, takes a postmodern approach to what it calls “Literatures,” and never comes within a mile of considering that students could use some work on research skills and expository writing.
I have actually seen what teenagers can do, and it is more like the following, an excerpt from an essay published a few years back in The Concord Review. (more examples at This passage concludes an essay by a high school Junior who went on to major in civil engineering at Princeton, get a Ph.D. in earthquake engineering at Stanford, and she is now an assistant professor of engineering at Cornell.
As is usually the case with extended, deeply-held disagreements, no one person or group was the cause of the split in the woman suffrage movement. On both sides, a stubborn eagerness to enfranchise women hindered the effort to do so. Abolitionists and Republicans refused to unite equally with woman suffragists. Stanton and Anthony, blinded for a while by their desperation to succeed, turned to racism, putting blacks and women against each other at a time when each needed the other’s support most. The one thing that remains clear is that, while in some ways it helped women discover their own power, the division of forces weakened the overall strength of the movement. As a result of the disagreements within the woman suffrage movement, the 1860s turned out to be a missed opportunity for woman suffragists, just as Stanton had predicted. After the passage of the 15th Amendment, they were forced to wait another 50 years for the fulfillment of their dream.
High school kids are fully capable of writing long, serious history papers. And they will get a lot out of doing so, not only in terms of reading nonfiction, but also in learning to write nonfiction themselves. These days, too many of our students are not given that chance to grow. Colleges may continue doing what they can to help teenagers master the rudiments of expository writing, but much of what these high school students have lost can never be recouped in remedial coursework.
“Teach by Example”
Will Fitzhugh [founder]
Consortium for Varsity Academics® [2007]
The Concord Review [1987]
Ralph Waldo Emerson Prizes [1995]
National Writing Board [1998]
TCR Institute [2002]
730 Boston Post Road, Suite 24
Sudbury, Massachusetts 01776-3371 USA
978-443-0022; 800-331-5007;
Varsity Academics™

On Wisconsin’s New School Report Cards

Alan Borsuk

For the first time, there is a substantial effort to show how much progress students in a school are making from year to year. The reports also go much deeper than before into how schools are doing on closing gaps between student groups. And they measure performance by the tougher standards coming into use pretty much from coast to coast – which means that the percentage of students rated as proficient is down sharply everywhere.
There’s information that should give every school community reasons to feel challenged and, in many cases, chastened. The day after the release, the principal of one of the best schools in Milwaukee told me he took the report on his school as a wake-up call that they weren’t doing as well as they thought. That’s good.
But this is just the start of a process of building better report cards. A big limitation is the current WKCE testing system. Only so much can be done with a test that is not really state-of-the-art and that is given once a year. (I say this as this year’s round gets under way.)

Student loans threaten a generation with ‘debtors’ prison,’ some say

Paul Barton:

Kourtnee Brooks, a 21-year-old Middle Tennessee State University student, welcomes the help that federal student loans provide, but also fears them.
“Without the loans, I wouldn’t be able to attend school,” said the nursing student.
But then she added, “I know I am borrowing too much.”
Brooks, a junior from Jackson, has been borrowing about $5,000 a year, which she combines with federal grants, some scholarship funds and money she earns working as a waitress three times a week, to make ends meet.

Why IQs Rise

Meehan Crist and Tim Requarth

Are We Getting Smarter?: Rising IQ in the Twenty-First Century
by James R. Flynn
Cambridge University Press, 310 pp., $22
IN THE MID-’80s, the political philosopher James Flynn noticed a remarkable but puzzling trend: for the past century, average IQ scores in every industrialized nation have been steadily rising. And not just a little: nearly three points every decade. Every several years, IQ tests test have to be “re-normed” so that the average remains 100. This means that a person who scored 100 a century ago would score 70 today; a person who tested as average a century ago would today be declared mentally retarded.
This bizarre finding–christened the “Flynn effect” by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray in The Bell Curve–has since snowballed so much supporting evidence that in 2007 Malcolm Gladwell declared in The New Yorker that “the Flynn effect has moved from theory to fact.” But researchers still cannot agree on why scores are going up. Are we are simply getting better at taking tests? Are the tests themselves a poor measure of intelligence? Or do rising IQ scores really mean we are getting smarter?

For Asians, School Tests Are Vital Steppingstones

Kyle Spencer:

Ting Shi said his first two years in the United States were wretched. He slept in a bunk bed in the same room with his grandparents and a cousin in Chinatown, while his parents lived on East 89th Street, near a laundromat where they endured 12-hour shifts. He saw them only on Sundays.
Even after they found an apartment together, his father often talked about taking the family back to China. So, following the advice of friends and relatives from Fuzhou, where he is from, Ting spent more than two years poring over dog-eared test prep books, attending summer and after-school classes, even going over math formulas on the walk home from school.

If Smart Is the Norm, Stupidity Gets More Interesting

David Dobbs:

Few of us are as smart as we’d like to be. You’re sharper than Jim (maybe) but dull next to Jane. Human intelligence varies. And this matters, because smarter people generally earn more money, enjoy better health, raise smarter children, feel happier and, just to rub it in, live longer as well.
But where does intelligence come from? How is it built? Researchers have tried hard to find the answer in our genes. With the rise of inexpensive genome sequencing, they’ve analyzed the genomes of thousands of people, looking for gene variants that clearly affect intelligence, and have found a grand total of two.
One determines the risk of Alzheimer’s and affects I.Q. only late in life; the other seems to build a bigger brain, but on average it raises I.Q. by all of 1.29 points.
Other genetic factors may be at work: A report last year concluded that several hundred gene variants taken together seemed to account for 40 to 50 percent of the differences in intelligence among the 3,500 subjects in the study. But the authors couldn’t tell which of these genes created any significant effect. And when they tried to use the genes to predict differences in intelligence, they could account for only 1 percent of the differences in I.Q.

Reflecting on Teaching & Learning: Designing & Running A MOOC

Professor Baker:

I participated in CCK 11 and the facilitators were Stephen Downes and George Siemens. The course was unlike any learning experience I had ever had before. Here’s why:
1. Changed relationship between teacher & learner
Teacher, as the term is usually understood, is someone who teaches. In CCK 11, that definition gave way to a multiplicity of understandings, articulated by Stephen Downes here:
Stephen Downes: (Long Quote) “We don’t need no educator: The role of the teacher in today’s online education

How the Colleges Skew U.S. History

KC Johnson:

American history has been radically transformed on our campuses. Traditional topics are now not only marginalized but “re-visioned” to become more compatible with the dominant race/class/gender paradigm.
In two posts last fall, I took a look at U.S. history offerings at Bowdoin College. The liberal arts college, one of the nation’s finest, long enjoyed a reputation as a training ground of Maine politicians, at both the state and federal level. The staffing of its History Department suggests that the college has abandoned that mission, with the intent to exclude significant portions of the American past. (Two of the department’s five Americanists specialize in U.S. environmental history; the department’s only non-environmental 20th century U.S. historian has a Ph.D. in the history of science.)
The department’s own U.S. offerings featured a heavy course emphasis on Western U.S. history, including a history of California, seemingly odd choices for a school in Maine but a subfield that heavily stresses such trendy themes as environmental degradation, exploitation of Native Americans, and discrimination against Hispanics and Asians. In the previous semester, the department’s token “traditional” course topic, a class on the Cold War, was taught by the school’s historian of science and featured heavy use of film.
What about the situation at a larger–and more nationally renowned–History Department? To find out, I turned to the fall 2012 offerings at UCLA.

Bursting the administrative bubble

Mary McConnell:

Several blog readers have responded grumpily to my posts suggesting that states might be better off investing incremental education dollars in raising teacher salaries rather than hiring more teachers. Fair enough. But one point many of us have agreed on is that too much of the education budget has gone to hiring more and more administrators. I’ve linked to at least one study that supports this point. Now I’ve got much better ammunition!
According to today’s edition of the Education Gadfly Weekly (published by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute), a new study has found that:

Between 1950 and 2009, the number of K-12 public school students increased by 96 percent. During that same period, the number of full-time equivalent (FTE) school employees grew by 386 percent. Of those personnel, the number of teachers increased by 252 percent, while the ranks of administrators and other staff grew by 702 percent–more than 7 times the increase in students.
To put that in perspective, the same article notes that:

if student growth had matched that of non-teaching personnel from 1992 to 2009 and if the teaching force had only grown 1.5 times faster than the pupil enrollment, American public schools would have an additional $37.2 billion to spend per year–the equivalent of an $11,700 a year increase in salary for every American public school teacher.

Neighborhood effects on student achievemenment

Constance Clark:

Location, location, location–it matters in real estate, and the harsh reality is, it matters in student achievement, too. While wealthy Americans can pay for private school or move to a top-ranked district in suburbia, countless other parents are left with their neighborhood public school default. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, of course. But what if the choice is not good enough?
Montgomery County, Maryland, one of the nation’s top 20 wealthiest school districts, has one answer. Federally subsidized homes have been purchased by the government and used to offer safe rental housing for eligible low-income families. This arrangement sometimes referred to as “inclusionary zoning” or “policy-induced integration,” means that families whose incomes fall below the poverty line can relocate to homes in more affluent areas with better schools. A 2010 Century Foundation report by Heather Schwartz finds that students in public housing who were randomly assigned to low-poverty elementary schools outperformed their peers who were assigned to moderate-poverty schools in math and reading.

‘Value Added’ Measures at Secondary Level Questioned

Stephanie Sawchuck:

Academic tracking in secondary education appears to confound an increasingly common method for gauging differences in teacher quality, according to two recently released studies.
Failing to account for how students are sorted into more- or less-rigorous classes–as well as the effect different tracks have on student learning–can lead to biased “value added” estimates of middle and high school teachers’ ability to boost their students’ standardized-test scores, the papers conclude.
“I think it suggests that we’re making even more errors than we need to–and probably pretty large errors–when we’re applying value-added to the middle school level,” said Douglas N. Harris, an associate professor of economics at Tulane University in New Orleans, whose study examines the application of a value-added approach to middle school math scores.

Gifted 5-year-old’s family moves from Oahu to East Coast for new school

Keoki Kerr:

The parents of a Kalama Valley kindergartner said they reluctantly sold their house, are looking for new jobs and moving to the East Coast to enroll their gifted son in a special school. And they fault the state for not offering enough support for extraordinarily talented students in Hawaii public schools.
Parents who believe they have a gifted child should seek help from school officials, conduct plenty of online research and get deeply involved in their child’s education inside and outside of the classroom, according to a local expert and the parents of a gifted Oahu boy whose family moved to the East Coast to go to a special school for gifted students.
“Work with the principal to see what can be done at the school that your student attends,” said Anna Viggiano, the educational specialist in charge of gifted and talented programs for the state of Hawaii Department of Education.
Most public schools have a period during which you can nominate your child to be designated gifted, she said. Parents can nominate their children for screening and testing by school officials who will evaluate the students to see if they are eligible for special classes.
“As a parent, you can’t depend totally on the school,” Viggiano said. The DOE does not have the money for any statewide initiatives for gifted students, she said. The state gives each public school $914 per gifted student, money that every principal decides how to use.
Viggiano said parents should ask, “What can I do on my parent time to make my child love learning and feel happy?”


The changing face of US education: introducing a three-part series

Jeevan Vasagar:

Education is crucial to the future of the US, both as a gateway to the middle class and to secure a competitive edge in the global talent pool. Both Democrats and Republicans are concerned that rising tuition is putting college out of reach for too many people – potentially blighting the country’s future prosperity as higher education expands rapidly around the world. Both parties are concerned by international comparisons that show the academic performance of US high school students is relatively mediocre. But when it comes to solving these problems, there are marked differences between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.
In schools, the president has pushed for increased accountability for teachers, by tying teacher evaluations to students’ results in standardized tests. He has promoted charter schools, which are state-funded but independently run, giving parents an alternative to traditional public schools.
Romney supports both these goals, but is also keen to provide federal cash for school vouchers that would educate children in private or religious schools at public expense.

Expanding Student and Teacher Global education can have a profound impact on students and teachers alike

Dr. Alfred S. Posamentier (PDF), via a kind Richard Askey email:

We have come a long way since the 1960s, when a plane ride to Europe from the United States required a fueling stop in Gander, Newfoundland. Today we can reach airports in far-off Asia in a single flight. Combine this ease of travel with the technology-facilitated communication afforded us through e-mail and the Internet, and clearly the world has shrunk in the past few decades. Correspondingly, at all levels of education it is our responsibility to help our students appreciate their place as citizens of the world by giving them the most enriched view of the global environ- ment in which we study, work and live.

The Ivory Tower’s resistance to meaningful change is its greatest danger

Jay Schalin:

The growing chorus of higher education critics calling for change is eliciting some public resistance by the academic establishment. But if the reasoning in a recent rebuttal to such criticism by John Tierney, a former Georgetown University and Boston College political science professor, is representative of how the Ivory Tower thinks, the need for reform is even more urgent than previously imagined. Educators need to be clear-thinking to train the young, not muddled and illogical.
In an article in the Atlantic, “Let’s Calm Down About Higher Education,” Tierney took issue with critics who question higher education’s utility, citing articles entitled “How Liberal Arts Colleges Are Failing America” and “Is College a Lousy Investment?” He wrote that higher education is doing just fine financially and intellectually.
He offers two explanations why higher education criticism is proliferating. One is that calls for reform are merely incessant clatter; Tierney considers such critiques to be little more than background noise as it has been for centuries. The other is that critics of academia are often driven by political agendas. He even suggests that there is something nefarious and inappropriate about reformers’ objections: they are “meant to scare, not to inform; to back agendas, not to enlighten or improve.”

Timeline for implementing New Jersey’s teacher tenure reform law

Laura Waters:

Late October in Atlantic City? It must be time for N.J. School Boards Association’s Annual Workshop and Exhibition. Picture it: school board members and administrators in grey blazers and sensible shoes roaming Atlantic City’s cavernous Convention Center, attending sessions like “Energy Improvement Program (ESIP): How to Implement Energy Facilities Projects Without Spending More Money” and “Voluntary Model Curricula and Assessments Aligned with the Common Core Standards,” indulging in that perennially favorite activity of snatching up free candy and pens from vendors in the Exhibition Hall. Can anyone say “PAR-TAY!”
(Actually, yes. Your staid school board members might surprise you.)
So, what’s the vibe here? I hear none of last year’s inflamed political rhetoric about tenure and teacher evaluation reform and nary a debate about the wisdom or idiocy of N.J.’s pending shift from binary (satisfactory/unsatisfactory) and superficial teacher and principal annual reviews to granular evaluations infused with meaningful direction and longitudinal data. I see no rending of garments over the unreliability of measuring student growth through standardized tests or the subjectivity of classroom observations.

MOOC Brigade: What I Learned From Learning Online

Harry McCracken:

TIME’s cover package this week is on reinventing college in general and specifically on whether a new breed of online megacourses can finally offer higher education to more people for less money. That story dives deep into Udacity, which was co-f0unded by a former Stanford professor. I’ve been looking into rival Coursera, which has partnered with dozens of prestigious schools, including Princeton, Duke and the University of Virginia. After six weeks of participating in Coursera’s massive open online course (MOOC) on gamification, conducted by Kevin Werbach of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, I’ve successfully completed my studies and earned a certificate. Or at least I’m pretty sure I have.
Actually, Coursera hasn’t told me what my final grade is–it’ll show up within a few weeks, the site says–but I followed the calculations provided by a fellow student in the class forums, and I think I got an 83. That’s more than good enough to receive the certificate, but not enough to brag about.

Adults Only

I may be one of a tiny minority who think that schools are for student academic work.
Of course, sports, concerts, social programs, dances, and all sorts of other youth activities are important, but students don’t need schools to do them in.
My view is that without student academic work, all the buildings, bond issues, budgets, school boards, teacher unions, superintendent and teacher training programs, Broad/Gates/WalMart grants, local-state-federal education departments, NCLB, RTT, CC, CCSSO, Schools of Education, standards projects, legislation, regulations, and all the rest of the Adults Only paraphernalia surrounding education in this country these days are just a waste of money and time.
The Education Punditocracy, including blogs, magazines, newspapers, foundations, Finn/Hess/Petrilli, etc., and even my friend and inspiration, Diane Ravitch, among hundreds and hundreds of others, are completely preoccupied with and absorbed in their consideration of what Adults are doing in education. The actual academic work of students takes place at much too low a level to attract their notice. They seem to be making the assumption that if they can just fix all the Adults Only stuff, then somehow student academic work will take care of itself. But they don’t pay any attention in the meantime to whether students are actually doing any academic work or not. And they have not learned that the students, and the students alone, have the power to determine whether they will do any academic work, and also what its quality will be.
To reiterate: without student academic work, all the rest of the bustle, noise, commentary, and the hundreds of billions of dollars spent will amount to nothing, so it should be important to pay attention to student academic work, should it not?
I came to understand this because for the last 25 years in particular, and for about 10 years before that, I have been fully engaged in efforts that completely depend upon good student academic work, and I have been fascinated to discover how few Education people seem to be involved with that, and that just about every one of them, though laboring away quite seriously and conscientiously, seems to spend all their time on the Adults Only matters, and to have almost no interest, other than to give it lip service and quickly move on, in the serious academic work of students.
If that should somehow change, and if student academic work were to become the central focus of what we pay attention to in education, there is a chance we might see more of it, and that its quality might improve too. But if we continue to ignore it and focus on Adults Only, that most assuredly is not going to happen. As the Hindus say: “Whatever you give your Attention to grows in your life,” and we have been giving, IMHO, far too much attention (almost all of it) to the Adults Only aspects of education and far too little to student academic work.
To test what I am saying, if a kind Reader would go back over articles, books, blogs, and speeches on education in recent years, please do let me know if you find any that talk about student science projects, the complete nonfiction books they are reading, or the serious history research papers they are writing. I believe if you look closely, almost all that you find will show people caught up in what Adults Only are doing, should do, will do, must do, or might do, and there will be little to no attention to the actual academic work of students in our schools. But please prove me mistaken, with evidence, if you would be so kind.
“Teach by Example”
Will Fitzhugh [founder]
Consortium for Varsity Academics® [2007]
The Concord Review [1987]
Ralph Waldo Emerson Prizes [1995]
National Writing Board [1998]
TCR Institute [2002]
730 Boston Post Road, Suite 24
Sudbury, Massachusetts 01776-3371 USA
978-443-0022; 800-331-5007;
Varsity Academics™

“Farewell to algebra” . . . for minority kids?

Mary McConnell:

I seem to have touched a raw nerve with my posts about (government-approved) lower educational standards for minority kids. Is it possible that the common core standards will similarly lower the bar, this time for math performance?
Common core critics have noted that California’s new law on math standards will roll back California’s decade long effort to move as many eighth graders as possible into Algebra. As Bill Evers and Ze’ev Wurman (both former Department of Education officials) note, the algebra reform dramatically increased the number of minority kids who took Algebra 1 and beyond . . . and raised their test scores.

The results are a rarely-told story of stunning success in public education. In 1998, only 17 percent, just 70,000 of our students, took Algebra by grade eight. But this year, 68 percent, or more than 324,000 did.This translates to almost quarter of a million more students taking Algebra by grade eight. Not only had we successfully quadrupled the fraction of Algebra-taking by grade eight — which is a major accomplishment for those students and their teachers — but an ever larger percentage of students have over time scored “proficient” and above.
The success of minorities and students in poverty increasing their Algebra 1 proficiency was the most significant achievement. In 2003, fewer than 1,700 African-Americans successfully took Algebra by grade 8. By 2012, more than 6,900 did; that was more than a four-fold increase.

Who Has Confidence In U.S. Schools?

Matthew DiCarlo:

For many years, national survey and polling data have shown that Americans tend to like their own local schools, but are considerably less sanguine about the nation’s education system as a whole. This somewhat paradoxical finding – in which most people seem to think the problem is with “other people’s schools” – is difficult to interpret, especially since it seems to vary a bit when people are given basic information about schools, such as funding levels.
In any case, I couldn’t resist taking a very quick, superficial look at how people’s views of education vary by important characteristics, such as age and education. I used the General Social Survey (pooled 2006-2010), which queries respondents about their confidence in education, asking them to specify whether they have “hardly any,” “only some” or “a great deal” of confidence in the system.*

Commentary on Wisconsin K-12 Tax & Spending Policies

Dave Zweifel

According to the Department of Public Instruction, 272 of the state’s 424 public school districts will receive less aid for the 2012-2013 school year than they did last year. Although there was a slight increase in general school aid overall, public schools are receiving less because Gov. Scott Walker and the GOP Legislature not only trimmed a good billion dollars from public school spending, but expanded school choice vouchers and other goodies for private institutions at the expense of public schools.
All told, the state has taken away $900 from each of its public school students in the past five years, the bulk of which has come during Walker’s two years as governor. Much of that $900 decrease has been on the backs of public school teachers, who were stripped of their union representation and forced to pay more for their health insurance and pensions. In addition, some 2,300 teacher positions were eliminated in the 2011-2012 school year.

Related: Wisconsin State Tax Based K-12 Spending Growth Far Exceeds University Funding.

5 Myths about Education

Robert Maranto & Michael McShane:

MARK TWAIN observed that “it’s not what you don’t know that kills you, it’s what you know for sure that ain’t true.” After 15 years doing fieldwork in more than 100 public schools and interviewing more than 1,000 students, parents, and educators, we’re convinced that no area is more fraught with myths and misconceptions than education policy, especially during election seasons like this one. Indeed our friend Jay Greene wrote a whole book, “Education Myths,” devoted to debunking them.
With apologies to Jay here are our own favorite myths about public education.

A 5-Concussion Pee Wee Game Leads to Penalties for the Adults

Ken Belson:

It took just one play on Sept. 15 to suggest the game between the Southbridge Pop Warner pee wees and their rivals, the Tantasqua Braves, could mean trouble. Two Tantasqua players were hit so hard that their coach pulled them off the field. An emergency medical technician on the sidelines evaluated the boys, grew worried that they might have concussions, and had them take their pads off.
The boys on the teams were as young as 10, and, because of rules about safety, none could weigh more than 120 pounds. Shortly after 3 p.m. at McMahon Field in Southbridge, though, things quickly became worse. Six plays into the game, another Brave was removed after a hard hit. An official with the Tantasqua team said the eyes of one of the boys were rolling back in his head.
But the game, an obvious mismatch between teams from neighboring towns in central Massachusetts, went on, with Southbridge building a 28-0 lead in the first quarter. The game went on without the officials intervening. It went on despite the fact that the Braves, with three of their players already knocked out of the game, no longer had the required number of players to participate.

Miami school district win prestigious urban prize

Christine Armario:

MIAMI (AP) — One of the country’s most prestigious education prizes was awarded Tuesday to the Miami-Dade County Public Schools for improving student achievement, raising the graduation rates of minority students, and increasing the percentage of minorities reaching advanced levels on state exams.
Miami-Dade, the country’s fourth-largest school district, had been a finalist for the Broad Prize for Urban Education five times before winning the honor this year. National education officials announced the award at The Museum of Modern Art in New York.
“To give every child a fair shot at the American dream, big-city school systems must deliver an education that prepares young people for college and careers,” U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said. “I commend the entire Miami-Dade community for establishing a district-wide culture of results that empowers teachers and students, puts more resources into helping children in the lowest-performing schools, and is helping narrow the achievement gap.

In defense of the number line: Reform methods of teaching negatives fail on decimals, fractions … and negatives

Laurie Rogers:

It’s simple to teach mathematical positives and negatives to a child. It’s been done successfully with the number line around the world, in private schools, homes, tutoring businesses and online. Unfortunately, many schools in America no longer teach the number line, don’t teach it to mastery, or they cloud any fledgling understanding of it by emphasizing other, less-effective methods.
First, I’ll explain the number line. Then I’ll show you what’s being emphasized in its place.
Traditional Math Method Used to Teach Negatives
The Number Line
A number line is a straight line with numbers listed at intervals. Typically, “zero” is a point in the middle, negative numbers are listed to the left of zero, and positive numbers are listed to the right of zero. Arrowheads are placed at each end to show that the line and numbers continue to infinity. Each point is assumed to correspond to a real number, and each real number corresponds to a point. Like this:

Learnable Programming

Bret Victor:

Here’s a trick question: How do we get people to understand programming?
Khan Academy recently launched an online environment for learning to program. It offers a set of tutorials based on the JavaScript and Processing languages, and features a “live coding” environment, where the program’s output updates as the programmer types.
Because my work was cited as an inspiration for the Khan system, I felt I should respond with two thoughts about learning:

Merck grant enables OLOL to become GLOBE school

Our Lady of Lourdes Regional School has received a Merck “Neighbor of Choice” community grant for the purpose of designing and implementing a Lourdes GLOBE Imagination Station.
The station will feature the Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) program, a worldwide hands-on, primary and secondary school-based science and education program.
Funding from the “Neighbor of Choice Community Grants Program” will assist in establishing training, materials and implementation of the Lourdes “GLOBE Imagination Station” to promote students’ scientific critical thinking and verbal skills while exposing them to a full range of opportunities to further their understanding of earth sciences.

College Is Dead. Long Live College!

Amanda Ripley:

On Sept. 17, the Pakistani government shut down access to YouTube. The purported reason was to block the anti-Muslim film trailer that was inciting protests around the world.
One little-noticed consequence of this decision was that 215 people in Pakistan suddenly lost their seats in a massive, open online physics course. The free college-level class, created by a Silicon Valley start-up called Udacity, included hundreds of short YouTube videos embedded on its website. Some 23,000 students worldwide had enrolled, including Khadijah Niazi, a pigtailed 11-year-old in Lahore. She was on question six of the final exam when she encountered a curt message saying “this site is unavailable.”

WEAC & Wisconsin AFT discuss a Merge, MTI News

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

Act 10 & WEAC Reorganization
Governor Walker’s Act 10 was intended to kill public sector unions and it has caused a significant negative impact on them. Other than the urban unions, WEAC’s membership is about one-half of that prior to the enactment of Act 10. This has caused WEAC and the Wisconsin American Federation of Teachers to discuss merger. And, that is the subject of a Special WEAC Representative Assembly to be held December 1.
If you are interested in serving as an MTI Delegate contact Vicky Bernards at MTI Headquarters (608-257-0491 or by October 24.
At its October 16 meeting, the MTI Faculty Representative Council re-elected Greg Vallee (Thoreau) to one of the at-large positions on the MTI Board of Directors. For the other position, the vote was tied between Pete Smith (Lowell) and Lauren Mikol (Lincoln). They will meet at MTI Headquarters today to participate in a drawing to determine the winner. The Board consists of the MTI President, President-Elect, Vice-President, Past-President, Secretary, Treasurer and four at-large positions. Officers are elected by the general membership each April, and two at-large positions by the MTI Faculty Representative Council each October.
In other elections, the Council re-elected Nancy Roth (West) and elected Susie Hobart (Lake View) to the MTI Cabinet on Personnel. The Cabinet, which oversees MTI’s employment relationship with its staff, consists of four at-large positions elected by the Council, the MTI President and Treasurer, and the Presidents (or his/her designee) from MTI’s educational assistant, school security assistant, substitute teacher, and clerical/technical bargaining units.
For the MTI Finance Committee, the Council re-elected Bruce Bobb (Shabazz/Cluster) and Andrew Waity (Crestwood) and elected Karen Lee-Wahl (Huegel). The Finance Committee oversees the development of the Union’s budget for presentation to and action by the MTI Joint Fiscal Group. The Committee consists of the MTI President and Treasurer, three at-large positions elected annually by the Council, and the Presidents (or his/her designee) from MTI’s educational assistant, school security assistant, substitute teacher, and clerical/technical bargaining units.
The Council also re-elected to MTI’s Political Action Committee (MTI-VOTERS) Andy Mayhall (Thoreau), Karen Vieth (Sennett), Kathryn Burns (Shorewood), and Liz Wingert (Elvehjem). The Committee consists of the MTI President, Treasurer, the Presidents (or his/her designee) from MTI’s educational assistant, school security assistant, substitute teacher, and clerical/technical bargaining units, and nine members elected by the MTI Faculty Representative Council, one of whom is a member of MTI’s retired teacher organization.
Due to a retirement, a vacancy existed as MTI Delegate to the South Central Federation of Labor. The Council elected David Fawcett (Allis) to fill the remainder of the term.
In addition, due to retirements and a person taking a position out of the bargaining unit, four vacancies existed on the MTI Bargaining Committee. The Council elected Laurie Solchenberger (Lincoln) for Elementary School Representative; Gabe Chavez (Jefferson) for Middle School Representative; Peggy Ellerkamp (La Follette) for High School Representative; and Matt Gray (Jefferson) for At-Large Representative.

How will the candidates tackle schools and colleges?

The Economist:

EARLIER this year a Gallup poll found that confidence in America’s public schools was at an all-time low. Its data go back to 1973. Few politicians who speak about education these days forget to lament the country’s poor rankings in international league tables, or the urgent need to produce more college graduates. Poor schools, increased student debt, higher tuition fees and lower pay for the middle classes are causing, if this is possible, more angst than ever about education. Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are doing their best to tap into this vein of concern.
Both candidates begin at roughly similar places in the debate–recognising the problem and proposing some of the same remedies, such as more charter schools, teacher evaluations and pay related to merit. Both also have to bear in mind that education is an area presidents cannot do much to change. But a second-term Mr Obama is likely to have education reform higher on his agenda than a first-term Mr Romney. Mr Obama’s priorities on entering office in 2009–the economy and health care–were just what Mr Romney’s will be if he arrives in 2013.

Popular Kids in High School Earn More Later in Life

Michael Derby:

High school popularity may pay off.
A study released Monday argues those in the top fifth of the high school popularity pyramid garnered a 10% wage premium nearly 40 years after graduation, compared to those in the bottom fifth.
The study was published by the National Bureau of Economic Research. Its authors say they don’t view popularity as an “innate personality trait.” Instead, popularity pays because those who learn to play the game in high school are figuring out what they need to know to succeed when they enter the workplace. The report suggests schools may want to join their academic mission with one that helps students build their social skills.

The price of admission

Gillian Tett:

Almost three decades ago, I applied to Cambridge university in England for an undergraduate degree. Just before my interview, a schoolteacher proffered some advice: “Don’t mention that your father went to Cambridge – or not unless you are asked!”
The reason? Back then in 1980s Britain, there was an aversion to the idea that family connections could help students get an elite university place. Indeed, the only thing considered more taboo by admissions officers was the idea that somebody could “buy” their way into a university with charitable donations, coupled with family ties.
How times change. Or, more accurately, how perceptions vary according to geography and social customs. This autumn, the children of several American friends entered a clutch of elite US colleges, such as Brown, Harvard and Princeton. Most of these kids have earned their places, in the sense of having high-performing SAT tests and a curriculum vitae packed with accolades. And yet these intelligent teenagers had another advantage: connections. More specifically, their parents and relatives are usually alumni of those elite universities, visibly involved in the alumni network and have often made philanthropic donations.

How to Use Gapminder to Teach Statistics in Algebra 1

Algebra 1 Teachers:

If you have not seen GapMinder yet, it is a must from every math and history teacher!
I was introduced to this amazing graphing software about a year ago at a conference, and I was so excited to play with it and use it in my classroom. But the how was a bit vague… Unfortunately the craziness of getting back to my classroom after three days out distracted me from the goal of figuring it out.
Well, the Common Core placing statistics back into Algebra 1 pushed me forward. I am so grateful. I want my students to understand numbers in the context of the larger world around them. And this is the perfect tool!

A High School With a New Approach to Vocational Education

Al Baker:

Flakes of green paint are peeling from the third-floor windowsills. Some desks are patched with tape, others etched with graffiti. The view across the street is of a row of boarded-up brownstones.
The building and its surroundings in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, may look run-down, but inside 150 Albany Avenue may sit the future of the country’s vocational education: The first 230 pupils of a new style of school that weaves high school and college curriculums into a six-year program tailored for a job in the technology industry.
By 2017, the first wave of students of P-Tech — Pathways in Technology Early College High School — are expected to emerge with an associate degree in applied science in computer information systems or electromechanical engineering technology, following a course of studies developed in consultation with I.B.M.

Martin to discuss 90-year study on longevity

Chuck Hagan:

Want to live a long, healthy and happy life?
It’s not all about broccoli or jogging or vitamins, says a noted researcher, who re-examined and updated results of a famous longevity study that started in the 1920s to determine that much of contemporary advice on aging well is wrong.
Wearing your seat belt, watching stress, being cheerful and optimistic — all may be factors in making one’s life more enjoyable,Leslie Martin and co-author Howard Friedman wrote in “The Longevity Project.”
But their study findings “clearly revealed that the best childhood personality predictor of longevity was conscientiousness,” they wrote. People who had aged well tended to have shown — already as children and consistently through life — the qualities of prudence, persistence and organization.

1 in 8 Wisconsin public schools not meeting expectations, DPI says

Matthew DeFour:

Update: One in eight public schools in Wisconsin aren’t meeting expectations set out by the state’s new accountability system, the Department of Public Instruction announced Monday.
Three in four schools are either meeting expectations or exceeding expectations, while about 10 percent of the state’s 2,118 public schools did not receive a rating.
No Madison schools failed to meet expectations, though 10 Madison schools received ratings in the second-lowest “meets few expectations” category. The Madison school with the lowest rating was East High School with a score of 55.6 on a scale of 0 to 100.
Seven Madison schools “significantly exceed expectations,” a designation assigned to only 3 percent of schools in the state. They were Van Hise, Randall, Shorewood Hills, Marquette, Franklin and Lapham elementaries and Hamilton Middle School.
The Department of Public Instruction on Monday released report cards for more than 2,000 public schools in Wisconsin. They can be accessed here.

The Unreasonable Ineffectiveness of Mathematics Education

Alex Reinhart:

In American schools, mathematics is taught as a dark art. Learn these sacred methods and you will become master of the ancient symbols. You must memorize the techniques to our satisfaction or your performance on the state standardized exams will be so poor that they will be forced to lower the passing grades. Never mind the foundational principles, proofs, or derivations – you’ll learn those in due course.
Why? Why do math? Because you’ll need it, that’s why. You’ll use it in your physics classes. And I’m sure I can think of examples of how you’ll use math in real life, whatever your chosen career may be. Right? Right. I hear engineers have to know how to solve differential equations, for example, and before you can do differential equations you need to learn logarithms. So get back to chapter 14 and get working.
This is the message we’re giving our children, and it’s no wonder so few students develop an interest in mathematics. Ask any math major: Math isn’t about memorizing some formulas and learning how to factor polynomials. It’s… well, it’s something much deeper. It’s fascinating. But what is it exactly?

A Critical View on Coursera’s Peer Review Process

Gregor Ulm:

Coursera certainly deserves praise for opening access to higher education, especially since they also offer courses in the humanities, unlike competitors like Udacity or EdX. Solutions to exercises in mathematics or computer science can easily be graded because there is an expected correct answer at undergraduate level courses, but assessing the relative merits of an essay in, say, literary studies isn’t quite so straightforward. Coursera attempts to solve this problem by letting students grade the essays of their peers.
I do see some issues with automated grading even in code submissions, but that’s a topic for another article. Right now I am more concerned with the peer review system Coursera has implemented. I am sure they will attempt to modify their system eventually, but at the moment there are some serious issues. Please note that I am not speaking as an observer on the sidelines. I have sampled numerous courses, and finished finished three so far. Especially in more technical courses, the content seems to be very good, and for a motivated self-learner you could easily substitute a course at a brick-and-mortar university by one of Coursera’s, if you are more concerned about learning something new and care little about getting a paper.

When A Daughter Dies

Steven Levitt:

Not too long ago, I wrote about my sister Linda, who passed away this summer.
Nobody could love a daughter more than my father Michael loved Linda.
My father (who is a doctor) was realistic from the start about what modern medicine might be able to do to save his precious daughter from cancer. Even with those low expectations, he was shocked at how impotent — and actually counterproductive — her interactions with the medical system turned out to be.
Here, in his own words, is my father’s poignant account of my sister’s experience with medical care.


Boys Hitting Puberty Sooner, Just Like Girls

Daniel Politi:

Boys in the United States are beginning to see the first signs of puberty from six months to two years earlier than previously observed, according to a new study published Saturday in Pediatrics. The study is the first to look at the onset of puberty for U.S. boys in 25 years and seems to mirror similar findings that have already been well documented in girls, points out the Wall Street Journal. The difference appears most pronounced in African-American boys, who are starting to see the first signs of puberty at 9.1 years. The average for Hispanic boys is 10 and 10.1 years for white boys, compared with the average age of 11.5 in previous studies.
The study has been a long time coming and is widely considered to be the most comprehensive attempt to measure puberty in U.S. boys. Still, experts cautioned that since previous studies were smaller or approached the issue through a different light, it might not be so easy to pinpoint how much earlier boys are developing, points out the New York Times.

Wisconsin School Report Cards Out Monday


The Department of Public Instruction is busy putting those report cards together. So busy that today they declined our request for an interview.
However on DPI’s website they break down how to read the new report cards.
The more in depth progress reports will give faculty, staff and you the parent a better idea of the strengths and weaknesses of your child’s school.
Madison Metropolitan School District’s Interim Superintendent Jane Belmore says, ” This is just a new way to put it together so that it can be communicated, we hope, in a stronger way. ”
Schools are graded on a scale from 0-to-100. Accoridng to Jane Belmore a failing school will not neccasarily face disciplinary action from the district.

Teachers: Louisiana Reviews threaten their jobs

Will Sentell:

An increasing number of educators say Louisiana’s new evaluations make it more likely that teachers at high-achieving public schools will get poor reviews, which would threaten their job security.
“You are looking at trouble,” said Norma Church, principal of Westdale Heights Academic Magnet School in Baton Rouge, one of the top-rated schools in the state.
But state Superintendent of Education John White said data show the concerns are mostly misplaced and that teachers in the state’s best schools are better positioned to get good reviews than most of their colleagues.
“And I have the statistics that show that,” White said.

Young, Gifted & Black Series

Taki S. Raton:

He is young, gifted, and Black and a senior at Madison West High School in Madison, Wisconsin. David Pontes is an exemplar model of a student scholar. His current overall 3.30 GPA and 24 cum ACT average for example earned him an invitation to the highly selective 100 Black Men Chicago Chapter sponsored Honor Student Reception (HSR) held at the UIC Forum on the campus of the University of Illinois Chicago Circle Campus.
The HSR is an annual event for upwards of 200 Chicago area African American seniors to interface with representative from top colleges and universities from around the country to explore admissions and scholarship opportunities. This is the fourth year since 2009 that Milwaukee has been granted the opportunity to attend and the third consecutive occasion since 2010 that African American seniors from Madison, Beloit, and Kenosha have been included on this roster.
David joined fifteen other seniors from the greater Milwaukee and Wisconsin school districts who met the minimum 3.3 GPA and 23 cum or above score on the ACT to qualify for invitational selection to the HSR gathering held Friday, October 12, 2012.

Union blasts New York city on rising class sizes

Micah Landau:

Roughly 225,000 — or nearly a quarter of the New York City school system’s students — spent part or all of their first days in school in overcrowded classes, according to a UFT survey released on Sept. 25.
Dino Sferazza, the chapter leader at Queens’ Cardozo HS, which had 266 oversize classes, the most of any school in the city, described the situation at his school as “absurd.” One teacher had 58 students in a class, Sferazza said; another had five classes, none of which had fewer than 43 students.
“Kids are standing in the hallway, sitting on the floor, sitting on windowsills,” Sferazza said. “There’s not enough anxiety in these kids’ lives already? And now they have to worry about getting a seat in class?”

What will it take to improve Bay View High School’s reputation?

Alan Borsuk

If you drive south on the Hoan Bridge and the Lake Parkway, you can see Bay View High School rising over the surrounding neighborhood, massive and prominent on the landscape.
That symbolized the role of Bay View High School for decades, a pillar of the close-knit Bay View area, the place where thousands of neighborhood kids got diplomas that showed they were on good paths, often toward becoming part of working-class Milwaukee.
It’s been a long time since Bay View High was so connected to the social fabric of the community around it. The high school became the place kids from Bay View don’t go. Name a long list of other schools in the city and suburbs and Bay View kids are enrolled in all of them.
Bay View High stands now as a symbol of the problems facing large high schools in Milwaukee. When 30 teens were arrested at the school on Thursday because of a large outbreak of fights – and all of it before breakfast was over – Bay View became the hot spot for worry about schools in the city.
We could discuss for a long time the changes in the school, talking about race, racism, family breakdown, class, culture, changing times and more. The realities are that Bay View has become a school where large numbers of students come from homes shaped by social dysfunctions and poverty, where seven out of eight students in the formerly 100% white school are from minority groups, where a large portion of the school is bused from elsewhere, where academic performance is not strong and the culture that supports academic excellence is limited to small groups of kids, where safety and behavior are big concerns, and where unhappiness about student-related problems is high among neighbors.

Private colleges boom as Calif universities falter

Christina Hoag:

California’s public higher education crisis has a flip side: swelling enrollment, expanding faculty, and state-of-the-art construction at the state’s private colleges and universities.
With five years of funding cuts causing stumbles in the state’s public higher education systems, California students are increasingly turning to private institutions, as well as out-of-state schools, to get their degrees.
California independent colleges report big upticks in enrollment of both freshmen and transferring students disillusioned with spiraling tuition for fewer classes at California State University, University of California, and community colleges.
Universities in neighboring states also say they’re seeing more interest from California students than ever before.

Admitted, but Left Out

Jenny Anderson:

WHEN Ayinde Alleyne arrived at the Trinity School, an elite independent school on the Upper West Side in Manhattan, he was eager to make new friends. A brainy 14-year-old, he was the son of immigrants from Trinidad and Tobago, a teacher and an auto-body repairman, in the South Bronx. He was soon overwhelmed by the privilege he saw. Talk of fancy vacations and weekends in the Hamptons rankled — “I couldn’t handle that at that stage of my life,” said Mr. Alleyne, now a sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania — and he eventually found comfort in the school’s “minority corner,” where other minority students, of lesser means, hung out.
In 2011, when Mr. Alleyne was preparing to graduate, seniors were buzzing about the $1,300-per-student class trip to the Bahamas.
He recalls feeling stunned when some of his classmates, with whom he had spent the last four years at the school, asked him if he planned to go along.

Another Charter School Test Passed

Eva Moskovitz:

New York City recently released official progress reports for the city’s 1,230 schools, including measures of how each school compares with other schools that have similar students. The reports provide yet more proof that charter schools–which outperformed traditional public schools by a wide margin–are working. Eight of the top 11 elementary and middle schools by student performance are charters, and four of those charters are in Harlem.
What might be most notable about the city’s findings, however, is that Harlem’s experiment with school choice has improved educational outcomes not just for the select few (some 10,500 currently) who win lotteries to attend charter schools. Although critics claim that charter schools succeed at the expense of district-run schools–because, the argument goes, charters “cherry pick” students, leaving behind those who are hardest to educate–Harlem’s results prove otherwise.
Of New York City’s 32 school districts, three serve students in Harlem. Suppose we treat all of Harlem’s charter and district schools as a single district (while separating out the Upper West Side, which shares a district with Harlem). In 2006, the third-graders in this Harlem district were near the bottom of the citywide heap–28th in math and 26th in English. Today, this overall group of Harlem students ranks 16th in math and 18th in English.

Would a homework ban raise test scores?


This week, French President François Hollande suggested something that many American children could only dream about: banning homework forever. Some educational pros say he may on to something. Students are better off without homework, studies stretching back over the last 20 years around the world show. It disrupts family life and overburdens children, says Etta Kralovec, co-author of “The End of Homework .” The most recent major study, “Trends In International Mathematics and Science Study,” which compared 425,000 students in 59 countries, found that in nations where students are required to do excessive amounts of homework (four hours or more) performance on math tests is often below average. But “Hollande is making a serious mistake if he is seriously considering banning homework for all students,” says Gerald Le Tendre, head of Education Policy Studies at Pennsylvania State University. Here’s how 12 nations scored (ranked from heaviest homework load to lightest):

Taking College Courses in High School: A Strategy for College Readiness

Ben Struhl & Joel Vargas:

A growing body of research suggests that allowing students in high school to complete even a single college class could significantly increase their chances of attending college and eventually graduating. After studying tens of thousands of Texas students who completed college courses in high school, this report found that these students attended and completed college within the state at much higher rates than students with similar backgrounds who did not take college courses in high school.
States and school districts have been searching for ways to raise rates of college readiness and success among students, and particularly among groups that are underrepresented in college. Providing students with the opportunity to take college courses in high school, known as dual enrollment, is one promising strategy.

Democracy Needs “Stupidity”

Mike Antonucci:

If you were to ask me what has been the biggest change in the education climate over the last 15 years, I would have to say that the two sides battling over education reform no longer coincide with the two political parties. In 1997 it was rare to find a Democrat who would publicly say an unkind word about teachers’ unions and the rest of the education establishment. Today you could argue that those Democrats are the party’s mainstream and reach all the way into the White House.
This is causing a lot of agony on the left, where in many places you can find Arne Duncan, Rahm Emanuel and even President Obama placed in the Axis of Evil hosted by the Koch Brothers and Scott Walker. The consternation over this turn of events prompted In These Times to seek out the latest savior of old-timey unionism, Karen Lewis of the Chicago Teachers Union, and ask her such penetrating questions as “Why do people seem to have so much trouble with democracy?”
Still, Lewis’s answers are worth paying attention to, because they reveal that everyone is having trouble with democracy. Democracy requires accommodating, in some way, people whose opinions differ from your own. Lewis states that even CTU wasn’t democratic – that is, of course, until her slate was elected.

Teaching the ABCs of College Costs

Matthew Dolan:

University of Michigan students upset by the cost of a college degree have a new outlet for their frustration: a one-credit course that delves into the university’s own finances.
Fifty-six students are registered this semester for “The Challenge of College Affordability: Financing the University,” a series of seven two-hour lectures taught by top administrators at the public university. The course, geared toward sophomores, is designed to explain where the school gets revenue, what drives its costs and how that translates into tuition rates and financial-aid packages.
“We were interested in elevating the thinking about the topic,” said Phil Hanlon, the university provost who co-teaches the course. “It is often the case that it’s controlled by sound bites.”

Innovation has been made illegal in Minnesota

Katherine Mangan:

Coursera offers free, online courses to people around the world, but if you live in Minnesota, company officials are urging you to log off or head for the border.
The state’s Office of Higher Education has informed the popular provider of massive open online courses, or MOOC’s, that Coursera is unwelcome in the state because it never got permission to operate there. It’s unclear how the law could be enforced when the content is freely available on the Web, but Coursera updated its Terms of Service to include the following caution:

Common Core: Fiction vs. nonfiction smackdown

Jay Matthews:

There is no more troubling fact about U.S. education than this: The reading scores of 17-year-olds have shown no significant improvement since 1980.
The new Common Core State Standards in 46 states and the District are designed to solve that problem. Among other things, students are being asked to read more nonfiction, considered by many experts to be the key to success in college or the workplace.
The Common Core standards are one of our hottest trends. Virginia declined to participate but was ignored in the rush of good feeling about the new reform. Now, the period of happy news conferences is over, and teachers have to make big changes. That never goes well. Expect battles, particularly in this educationally hypersensitive region.
Teaching more nonfiction will be a key issue. Many English teachers don’t think it will do any good. Even if it were a good idea, they say, those who have to make the change have not had enough training to succeed — an old story in school reform.
The clash of views is well described by two prominent scholars for the Pioneer Institute, a Boston-based public policy group, in a new paper. Sandra Stotsky of the University of Arkansas and Mark Bauerlein of Emory University say the reformers who wrote the Common Core standards have no data to support their argument that kids have been hurt by reading too much fiction. They say analyzing great literature would give students all the critical thinking skills they need. The problem, they say, is not the lack of nonfiction but the dumbed-down fiction that has been assigned in recent decades.

Report: Student debt up five percent

Amy Scott:

Two-thirds of college seniors graduated with debt last year, according to the Institute for College Access and Success.
How much they owe depends a lot on the college. Average debt loads at four-year public and nonprofit colleges ranged from $3,000 to more than $55,000.
The advocacy group’s president Lauren Asher says a tough job market has made it harder for recent grads to pay down their loans.
“Young college graduates are having a harder time finding jobs than they might have expected, and those that do find jobs may be under-employed-working part-time when they’d rather be working full-time, or working in jobs that don’t require a degree.”

Newark Tries Merit Payouts For Teachers

Lisa Fleisher:

Newark and its teachers union on Thursday are expected to sign a tentative contract deal blessed by Gov. Chris Christie that would overhaul teacher pay, introducing lucrative merit bonuses and giving teachers a role in grading each other.
The contract, fueled by about $50 million from the foundation started by Facebook Inc. FB -4.55% founder Mark Zuckerberg, covers the next three years and would offer a compensation system that removes lifetime pay increases for those who earn advanced degrees and blocks poorly rated teachers from receiving automatic pay raises for years of experience, officials said.
Teachers could, however, choose to stick with the current pay scheme, which offers small, annual pay bumps for years served and for advanced degrees earned, officials said. They wouldn’t be eligible for some bonuses.

Recent lawsuit against Camden schools may really be about school vouchers

Laura Waters:

This past Monday, parents of three young Camden City Public Schools students filed a class action complaint with N.J. Education Commissioner Chris Cerf. The parents contend that enrollment in Camden’s bleak public school system constitutes a breach of their children’s constitutional right to a “thorough and efficient public education system.”
Are the parents’ children being denied their constitutional rights? Sure. Twenty-three of Camden’s 26 schools are on the State’s list of our worst schools (the bottom 5 percent). Based on SAT scores, less than 1 percent of Camden High School’s graduates are ready for college. One plaintiff has a twelve-year-old son, Keanu Vargas, who attends 7th grade at Pyne Point Family School. The most recent data from the N.J. DOE (2010-2011) shows that hardly any kids at Pyne Point pass the state standardized tests in language arts and math. Forty-two percent of the student body was suspended during the year.
Not so hard to make an argument that Keanu doesn’t have access to a decent education system. By way of contrast, at Cherry Hill Public Schools, a mere seven miles away, just about all kids achieve proficiency on state tests.

Related Homeless and hungry: Sobering images of Camden, New Jersey, expose the poverty plaguing the United States’ most destitute city.

Recent lawsuit against Camden schools may really be about school vouchers

Laura Waters:

This past Monday, parents of three young Camden City Public Schools students filed a class action complaint with N.J. Education Commissioner Chris Cerf. The parents contend that enrollment in Camden’s bleak public school system constitutes a breach of their children’s constitutional right to a “thorough and efficient public education system.”
Are the parents’ children being denied their constitutional rights? Sure. Twenty-three of Camden’s 26 schools are on the State’s list of our worst schools (the bottom 5 percent). Based on SAT scores, less than 1 percent of Camden High School’s graduates are ready for college. One plaintiff has a twelve-year-old son, Keanu Vargas, who attends 7th grade at Pyne Point Family School. The most recent data from the N.J. DOE (2010-2011) shows that hardly any kids at Pyne Point pass the state standardized tests in language arts and math. Forty-two percent of the student body was suspended during the year.

How Financial Aid Letters Often Leave Students Confused and Misinformed

Marian Wang:

The financial aid award letters that colleges send to prospective students can be confusing: Many mix grants, scholarships and loans all under the heading of “Award,” “Financial Assistance,” or “Offered Financial Aid.” Some schools also suggest loans in amounts that families can’t afford.
Take Parent Plus loans, a federal program that allows families to take out as much as they need, after other aid is applied, to pay for their children’s college costs. As we recently reported with the Chronicle of Higher Education, Plus loans are remarkably easy to get. With minimal underwriting and no assessment of whether parents can actually afford the loans, families can end up overburdened by debt.

Scholars or Customers?

Diane Senechal, Ph.D., has written a book (The Republic of Noise–2012) about the virtues of solitude for young people living in our mad, mad, Wired World.
I fear she may be insufficiently aware that every moment one of our high school students spends in reflection, musing, thinking, contemplation, meditation or indeed in solitude, unless those moments are product-focused, can grow, over time, into a huge barrier to sales of computers, software, games, and other products of our marketing efforts in technology. After all, the business of education is business, right?
To put it plainly, thinking, and other sorts of reflection, constitute a serious threat to all efforts to meet hardware/software sales quotas, especially in the huge and growingly lucrative education market.
This should make it clearer why the companies which are the commercial engines of our economy, especially the technology companies which are concentrating on education for a large portion of their consumer marketing and sales, are so opposed to having students read actual nonfiction books or spend time working on history research papers while they are in high school.
While it may be true that having students read one or more complete history books while they are still in high school may not only teach them some history, but will also help them to get ready for the nonfiction books they will be asked to read in the college, and that any work they do in high school on serious history research papers will better
prepare them for college writing tasks, it must be borne in mind that both of those activities can seriously cut into their use of social media and associated products, and limit the time they will spend buying and using video games and other important products!
We have to decide if we want our high school students to be scholars or customers! Apple Computer did not spend $650 million or thereabouts to persuade our students to read books and write papers to further their education, but instead to buy iPhones and iMacs to help distract them from homework and other obstacles to buying products. As Mark Bauerlein noted in The Dumbest Generation, one sign in an Apple store promised that the MacBook would be “the only book you will ever need.”
There has been attention recently given to the disadvantages of colleges inflating grades and doing other things in their attempts to attract paying customers, because treating students as customers interferes with the essential responsibility of Upper Education to serve and challenge them as students.
But even in Lower Education, the multi-multi-billion market in digital equipment and software has employed major efforts to induce students to spend 53 hours a week with electronic entertainment media, according to the Kaiser Foundation, while most of them spend no more than 3 or 4 hours a week on homework.
There are always a few people who don’t get the Word of course. Since 1968, the International Baccalaureate Program has required a 4,000-word (16-page) Extended Essay for candidates for the Diploma, and that may very well have resulted in some students reading nonfiction books.
In addition, the Advanced Placement Program of the College Board, while it has not yet managed to include a serious term papers (a small pilot experiment is now underway), nevertheless has not exiled some teachers who go ahead and assign them anyway, a good number of which have been published in The Concord Review since 1987. In fact a special issue of AP history essays was published by The Concord Review in 1995, and this issue is available on the the website at But those teachers (and students) have always been outside the mainstream with their efforts.
A few high school students, in some cases inspired by the exemplary work of their peers published in The Concord Review have worked to read for and write their serious history term papers as independent studies, some ranging from 8,000 words (24 pages) up to 15,000 words (60 pages), but without any encouragement from the electronic entertainment, computer/software and STEM communities, these scholarly “mountaineers” have not been numerous over the years.
If we continue to value sales over education for our students, we will sell a lot of products, but we will also naturally continue to have students in need of extensive remediation and to produce unemployable graduates. However, if we decide to relax our visa barriers for skilled immigrants, we can continue to count on them to carry our civilization forward or at least keep it going by making use of the benefits they bring with them from the non-commercial educations still available in other countries in South and East Asia and elsewhere.
“Teach by Example”
Will Fitzhugh [founder]
The Concord Review [1987]
Ralph Waldo Emerson Prizes [1995]
National Writing Board [1998]
TCR Institute [2002]
730 Boston Post Road, Suite 24
Sudbury, Massachusetts 01776-3371 USA
978-443-0022; 800-331-5007;
Varsity Academics®

Dazed & Gifted: At the most elite public high schools, students have access to scientific gear more common at private research universities.

Naomi Schaefer Riley:

As we try to make sure that no child gets left behind, are we keeping others from getting ahead? Or, as Chester Finn and Jessica Hockett put it in “Exam Schools”: “As the country strives to . . . close its wide achievement gaps [and] repair its bad schools . . . is it also challenging its high achieving and highly motivated students?”
This isn’t an easy question to answer. Most high-achieving students are educated in ordinary public schools, often taking the more challenging courses in an honors-track curriculum or Advanced Placement classes. But some are educated in academically selective high schools that require students to score well on tough exams just to get in. According to the criteria chosen by Mr. Finn and Ms. Hockett–principally, that schools be publicly funded and admission competitive–there are 165 such high schools in the U.S., out of 22,568.
These days, when parents seem ever more eager to get their children into Ivy League colleges, competitive high schools may seem uncontroversial–merely an early version of the selectivity that universities routinely practice in their own admissions practices. But during the 1960s and 1970s, exam schools came under attack for their elitism. When the country was trying to desegregate schools and provide more money to low-income districts, schools for the gifted were countercultural–out of step with the egalitarian spirit of the times.

My son is schizophrenic. The ‘reforms’ that I worked for have worsened his life.

Paul Gionfriddo:

If you were to encounter my son, Tim, a tall, gaunt man in ragged clothes, on a San Francisco street, you might step away from him. His clothes, his dark unshaven face and his wild curly hair stamp him as the stereotype of the chronically mentally ill street person.
People are afraid of what they see when they glance at Tim. Policymakers pass ordinances to keep people who look like him at arm’s length. But when you look just a little more closely, what you find is a young man with a sly smile, quick wit and an inquisitive mind who — when he’s healthy — bears a striking resemblance to the youthful Muhammad Ali.
Tim is homeless. But when he was a toddler, my colleagues in the Connecticut state legislature couldn’t get enough of cuddling him. Yet it’s the policies of my generation of policymakers that put that formerly adorable toddler — now a troubled 6-foot-5 adult — on the street. And unless something changes, the policies of today’s generation of policymakers will keep him there.

Advocates of limited government can turn pending changes in higher education to their advantage

George Leef:

Last week, the Atlas Economic Research Foundation held its annual Liberty Forum in New York City. The foundation’s mission is to strengthen freedom around the globe by sponsoring institutes that promote limited government. Among the panel discussions at the two-day program was one entitled “Disruptions in Higher Education: An Opportunity for the Freedom Movement?”
I spoke on that panel, along with Professor Tyler Cowen of George Mason University and Ines Calzada Alvarez, Secretary General of Online de Madrid Manuel Ayau, an organization that provides online economics education in the free-market tradition of Manuel Ayau. (Ayau founded the University Francisco Marroquin in Guatemala.)
The consensus was that the impending disruption in higher education–the bursting of the bubble and subsequent changes in the way students learn–should indeed create opportunities for education to advance liberty.

1.45M Education Blogs Pulled Offline After DMCA Takedown Notice from Pearson

Chloe Albanesius:

A DMCA takedown noticed issued by publishing house Pearson resulted in approximately 1.45 million education blogs being taken offline without notice, according to the service that runs them.
James Farmer, founder and CEO of Edublogs, penned a blog post last week that said its hosting company, ServerBeach, “turned off our webservers, without notice, less than 12 hours after issuing us with a DMCA email.”
At issue was an Edublogs teacher who in 2007 shared a copy of Beck’s Hopelessness Scale, a 20-question list intended to measure aspects of hopelessness. Pearson sells access to this list for $120, Farmer said, and objected to it being posted freely online.

Guerrilla War Over Merit Pay in Michigan

Mike Antonucci:

A 2010 Michigan law requires that public schools “shall implement and maintain a method of compensation for its teachers and school administrators that includes job performance and job accomplishments as a significant factor in determining compensation and additional compensation.” But Michigan Capitol Confidential learned that some districts are showing contempt for the law by awarding their highly effective teachers a bonus of $1 to $3.
The problem is that the districts and their unions couldn’t come to an agreement on a system to implement the law’s provisions, so this is what they dreamed up.

My son’s flashcard routine

Random Observations:

My 7 year old son is in grade 2. In the previous grade, despite his intelligence, he was significantly behind his class in handwriting, letter reversals, and spelling. He was getting extra help from his teacher, but he still had an uphill battle. So I decided to start a flashcard routine to assist. This solved the original problem. Here is a description of the current routine, and how it has evolved to this point.
It will surprise nobody who has read Teaching Linear Algebra that I started with the thought of some sort of spaced repetition system to maximize his long-term retention with a minimum of effort. I needed to help him with around handwriting, so I wanted to be personally evaluating how he was doing. This seemed simplest with a manual system. I therefore settled on a variation of the Leitner system because that is easy to keep track of by hand.
To make things simple for me to track, I am doing things by powers of 2. Every day we do the whole first pile. Half of the second. A quarter of the third. And so on. (Currently we top out at a 1/256th pile, but are not yet doing any cards from it.) Cards that are done correctly move into the next pile. Those that he get wrong fall into the bad pile, which is the next day’s every day pile.

An invitation to join the Madison Metropolitan School District for a special presentation from Dr. Sharroky Hollie on Oct. 26, 2012 from 12:30-3:30PM.

Via a kind reader’s email:

To: Community Leaders and Parents
From: Shahanna Baldon, Chief Diversity Officer, MMSD
This year, the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) is working to scale-up the foundational work on transforming student outcomes that has been done through our CPR (Cultural Practices that are Relevant) initiative and other programming aimed at closing gaps in student achievement by working for equity and access at all levels of the organization-the classroom level, the managerial level, and the institutional level.
The kickoff event for this scale-up is a district-wide introductory training for all instructional staff on Culturally and Linguistically Repsonsive Pedagogy, led by Dr. Sharroky Hollie of the Culture and Language Academy of Success. Dr. Hollie has been central to our District’s work in this area over the past few years.
We now have the opportunity to open one of the sessions to community members. We hope you may be able to attend on Friday, October 26, from 12:30 to 3:30, at the Alliant Energy Center.
I look forward to seeing you at what will be a groundbreaking learning experience for our community.
Join us!
Dr. Sharroky Hollie
on Culturally and Linguistically Responsive Teaching
Oct. 26, 2012
Alliant Energy Center
off the Beltline Hwy. at John Nolen Drive in Madison
For Information:
(608) 663-5977

More on the math wars

Scott Jaschick:

The Milgram/Bishop essay that Boaler said has unfairly damaged her reputation is called “A Close Examination of Jo Boaler’s Railside Report,” and appears on Milgram’s Stanford website. (“Railside” refers to one of the schools Boaler studied.) The piece says that Boaler’s claims are “grossly exaggerated,” and yet expresses fear that they could be influential and so need to be rebutted. Under federal privacy protection requirements for work involving schoolchildren, Boaler agreed to keep confidential the schools she studied and, by extension, information about teachers and students. The Milgram/Bishop essay claims to have identified some of those schools and says this is why they were able to challenge her data.
Boaler said — in her essay and in an interview — that this puts her in a bind. She cannot reveal more about the schools without violating confidentiality pledges, even though she is being accused of distorting data. While the essay by Milgram and Bishop looks like a journal article, Boaler notes that it has in fact never been published, in contrast to her work, which has been subjected to peer review in multiple journals and by various funding agencies.
Further, she notes that Milgram’s and Bishop’s accusations were investigated by Stanford when Milgram in 2006 made a formal charge of research misconduct against her, questioning the validity of her data collection. She notes in her new essay that the charges “could have destroyed my career.” Boaler said that her final copy of the initial investigation was deemed confidential by the university, but she provided a copy of the conclusions, which rejected the idea that there had been any misconduct.

Seven Years Later, UFT Charter School Proves a Point

Mike Antonucci:

The invaluable Gotham Schools brings us the news of the possible closure of the United Federation of Teachers Charter School in New York, which was opened with much fanfare back in 2005. There is no mystery about the reason:
“But seven years into its existence, the nation’s first union-run school is one of the lowest-performing schools in the city. Fewer than a third of students are reading on grade level, and the math proficiency rate among eighth-graders is less than half the city average.”
I have a few thoughts:
1) The Gotham Schools headline strikes directly to the heart of the matter – “Opened to prove a point, UFT’s charter school could be closed.” Proving a point is not a firm foundation to build a successful school, particularly a point that is only indirectly connected to student learning. In 2005, the UFT committee tasked to evaluate the charter idea expected the school to “demonstrate to other charter schools the value of organizing” and to “serve as part of the fight against privatization and union-busting.” At the time I remarked, “Now there’s a mission statement designed to appeal to parents and students!”

Randi Weingarten and Friends Respond to My WSJ Piece

Jay Greene:

I’ve long argued that the teacher unions are hardly better at running their political interests than they are at running schools. They compensate for lousy ideas and poorly made arguments with the brute force of mountains of cash and an army of angry teachers.
My view of the teacher unions was confirmed by their mangled reaction to my piece in the Wall Street Journal noting the trade-offs between the number of teachers we hire and their quality. The boss of the American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten, tweeted her response: “They don’t want to pay teachers comp salaries…”

Florida Scott: Department of Education should change strategic plan

Florida News Service:

Gov. Rick Scott called Tuesday for the State Board of Education to overhaul its strategic plan, inserting himself into the racially-charged debate over how much should be expected of students from different groups.
“The actions taken last week by the State Board of Education in adopting their strategic plan did not clearly articulate our shared commitment to fully close that achievement gap for all students, regardless of race, geography, gender or other circumstance,” Scott said in a statement issued by his office late Tuesday.
Scott contended that all students can perform at grade level, and the state should strive to get rid of the achievement gap between students of different ethnic and racial groups.

Creativity ‘closely entwined with mental illness’

Michelle Roberts:

Creativity is often part of a mental illness, with writers particularly susceptible, according to a study of more than a million people.
Writers had a higher risk of anxiety and bipolar disorders, schizophrenia, unipolar depression, and substance abuse, the Swedish researchers at the Karolinska Institute found.
They were almost twice as likely as the general population to kill themselves.
The dancers and photographers were also more likely to have bipolar disorder.
It is important that we do not romanticise people with mental health problems, who are too often portrayed as struggling creative geniuses”
The mental health charity Mind
As a group, those in the creative professions were no more likely to suffer from psychiatric disorders than other people.

Charter School Flap Escalates

Stephanie Banchero:

Tennessee education officials withheld $3.4 million from Nashville’s school district after the city barred a charter school from opening in an affluent neighborhood, in a fight that highlights the growing tension over the expansion of such schools.
The Tennessee Department of Education’s unusual move came after it told Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools in July that its school board had violated state law by not allowing Great Hearts Academies to open a charter school, a public school run by an outside entity. The Arizona-based nonprofit wanted to open a school in 2014 in West Nashville, and four more in later years.
The Nashville tussle reflects a broader controversy over a recent push into middle-class and suburban communities by operators of charter schools, which typically have been seen as an alternative for low-income and minority students in underperforming urban schools.

A Right to Choose Single-Sex Education

Kay Bailey Hutchison & Barbara Mikulski:

For some children, learning in girls-only or boys-only classes pays off. Opponents of the idea are irresponsible.
Education proponents across the political spectrum were dismayed by recent attempts to eradicate the single-gender options in public schools in Virginia, West Virginia, Alabama, Mississippi, Maine and Florida. We were particularly troubled at efforts to thwart education choice for American students and their families because it is a cause we have worked hard to advance.
Studies have shown that some students learn better in a single-gender environment, particularly in math and science. But federal regulations used to prevent public schools from offering that option. So in 2001 we joined with then-Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Susan Collins to author legislation that allowed public schools to offer single-sex education. It was an epic bipartisan battle against entrenched bureaucracy, but well worth the fight.
Since our amendment passed, thousands of American children have benefited. Now, though, some civil libertarians are claiming that single-sex public-school programs are discriminatory and thus illegal.