Can Rocketship Launch a Fleet of Successful, Mass-Produced Schools? (Opening in Milwaukee later in 2013)

PBS NewsHour:

JEFFREY BROWN: Now we look to a California education experiment called the Rocketship Model that involves teachers, kids and parents and aims to expand one day to serve a million students.
NewsHour’s special correspondent for education, John Merrow, has our report.
JOHN MERROW: The Model T was the first, the first innovative and affordable car available to the masses. Others had built good cars, but Henry Ford figured out how to build a lot of them. He and his moving assembly line proved that quality can be mass-produced.
Mass production is a problem the auto industry solved over 100 years ago, but it’s an issue our education system has yet to figure out. America has lots of terrific schools. People open great schools every year, but typically open just one. Nobody has figured out how to mass-produce high-quality, cost-effective schools.
John Danner is the latest to give it a shot. He created an innovative charter school model with replication in mind. Charter schools receive public funding, but are privately managed and operate outside of the traditional public system.
JOHN MERROW: New Orleans, Nashville, Indianapolis, and Memphis have all approved charters for Rocketship schools to be built in their cities. Next year, two new schools will open in San Jose and one in Milwaukee. Danner plans to have 46 schools up and running in five years, with a vision of someday serving 50 cities and a million students. If he succeeds, Rocketship could become the Model T of education.

Notes and links on Rocketship’s arrival in Milwaukee.

The author of “Alex’s Adventures in Numberland” tells us about popular attempts to explain the history of counting and numbers

Malba Tahan

Your first choice is in Portuguese.
A fascinating property of maths is that it is totally international and never goes out of date. So if you write a maths classic it is a classic for ever, everywhere. This Brazilian book links my past life in Brazil with maths. The literal translation of the Portuguese title is ‘The Man Who Calculated’ but the English version is called The Man Who Counted. There are editions in many other languages too.
The author Malba Tahan is a fictional character, the pen name of Júlio César de Mello e Sousa, and the book is set in Arabia as a mixture of One Thousand and One Nights and a maths book – it’s coming out of the most populous Catholic country in the world and yet it’s as much a love story to Arab culture as to maths itself. There were lots of Arab immigrants in Brazil and they love Arab culture – one of the most popular fast food chains is called Habib’s. The story here is presented as if the author, who I believe only went to Lisbon once and virtually never left Brazil, has just stumbled upon or discovered this Arab text.

A free school under a bridge in India

NBC News:

Founder of a free school for slum children Rajesh Kumar Sharma, second from right, and Laxmi Chandra, right, write on black boards, painted on a building wall, at a free school run under a metro bridge in New Delhi, India. At least 30 children living in the nearby slums have been receiving free education from this school for the last three years.

How I learned a language in 22 hours

Joshua Foer:

“What do you know about where I come from?” That was one of the first questions I ever asked Bosco Mongousso, an Mbendjele pygmy who lives in the sparsely populated Ndoki forest at the far northern tip of the Republic of Congo. We were sitting on logs around a fire one evening four years ago, eating a dinner of smoked river fish and koko, a vitamin-rich wild green harvested from the forest. I’d come to this hard-to-reach corner of the Congo basin – a spot at least 50km from the nearest village – to report a story for National Geographic magazine about a population of chimpanzees who display the most sophisticated tool-use ever observed among non-humans.
Mongousso, who makes his living, for the most part, by hunting wildlife and gathering forest produce such as nuts, fruits, mushrooms and leaves, had teeth that had been chiselled to sharp points as a child. He stood about 1.4m (4ft 7in) tall and had a wide, wonderful grin that he exercised prolifically. He considered my question carefully.

The Mind of Students

What is on the minds of our students? We mostly have no idea. The Edupundits all seem to agree that the most important variable in student academic achievement is teacher quality. But isn’t the most important variable in student academic achievement really student academic work in the end?
The teacher can know a lot about her subject, can speak well, tell wonderful stories, have good control over the class, and so on, but if the student is thinking about something else, what is the result?
I have known first-rate teachers whose students didn’t do any work academically and mediocre teachers who had some students who achieved a lot academically.
All those hundreds of people spending many millions of dollars and countless months of effort on teacher assessment never seem to wonder what is going on in the minds of our students in a given class. How many times has an evaluator, visiting a class to judge the work of a teacher, ever thought to ask a few students, in those moments, what they know about the current subject, or even what they are thinking about at the time?
The Hindus say the mind is like a drunken monkey, and even a sober mind is pulled in many directions at once, by memories, worries, ideas, desires, impressions of all kinds, and even, occasionally, by the subject matter of the class the student is sitting in. But the point is that while we are teaching, even though we may get a student question from time to time, or we may ask a student for a comment from time to time, during the vast majority of the time we spend teaching, we have not the slightest insight into what is occupying the minds of almost all of our students while we are teaching our brains out.
A recent study found (mirabile dictu) that students who don’t come to class learn less than students who do. But the fact is that even when students do come to class, their attention and their minds may very well be absent from class. There are countless objects of interest to distract the minds of students from the current work of any class as presented by the teacher.
This is not to say that wonderful teachers cannot draw and hold the attention of almost all the students in their class for amazingly long stretches. But students have many concerns, both personal and academic. Not only the next athletic event, or personal relationship, but even the subject matter of the next class or the last class may occupy the minds of some or many of our students while we teach.
Teaching and learning are at least as subtle and complex as brain surgery, and the surgeon has one single anaesthetized patient, and the help of four or five other professionals, while the teacher may have thirty conscious high school students and no one to watch for signs of student distraction, if any…As every teacher knows it is ridiculously easy for a student to show every sign of serious attention while their mind is actually kilometers away on some other matter entirely.
Stitching knowledge and ideas into the existing mental and memory frameworks of students is a lot more difficult and intricate an undertaking than most of those designing teacher assessment projects even want to think about, but it is the actual daily venture of our teachers.
My main interest and experience are with history at the high school level, so I am not sure what bearing my suggestions would have for calculus, chemistry, or Chinese language courses. But I believe that the attention of our history students can be captured and rewarded by asking them to read at least one good complete history book each year, and to write one serious Extended Essay-type history research paper each year while they are in high school.
If they read and report on a good history book, the chances are that they will have given it their attention, and learned some history from it. If they write a 6,000-word history research paper (and I am regularly publishing 8,000-15,000-word papers by secondary students from 46 states and beyond), they will clearly have had to give the historical subject of their research their attention, and they will have learned some history (see: student academic achievement) in the process.
Of course, we should continue to try to recruit and retain the top 5% of college graduates as our school teachers, and we should encourage them to teach their hearts out. But unless we begin to look more closely in an effort to discover what, academically, is going on in the minds of students, we will continue to ignore the main engines of academic work in our schools. I hope one or two of our more elite and well-funded Edupundits may give this idea a passing thought or two.
“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®

What grade would you give public schools?

James Causey:

Fact: There are some really good Milwaukee Public Schools. Another fact: There are some that even the district’s superintendent says need improvement. To be fair, the same facts also apply to voucher schools.
There are a number of factors that contribute to a school’s success. Successful schools have engaged parents along with an equally motivated student body and teachers. Struggling schools often lack parental support and more often than not have behavioral problems that impede learning.
If I were to ask you to assign a letter grade to public schools in Milwaukee, what grade would you give them?
A survey asked 1,200 city residents that question, and 70% gave the public schools a “C” or worse.
And when asked who is responsible for a child’s failure, 64% of respondents said it was the parents and the students. Only 10% said it was the teachers’ fault and only 5% blame the school as a whole.
I’m not surprised by the study’s findings because the struggling schools in the district usually receive the most press while, unfortunately, the best schools fail to receive the recognition they deserve.

Knowledge is less a canon than a consensus

David Shaywitz:

In 1870, German chemist Erich von Wolf analyzed the iron content of green vegetables and accidentally misplaced a decimal point when transcribing data from his notebook. As a result, spinach was reported to contain a tremendous amount of iron–35 milligrams per serving, not 3.5 milligrams (the true measured value). While the error was eventually corrected in 1937, the legend of spinach’s nutritional power had already taken hold, one reason that studio executives chose it as the source of Popeye’s vaunted strength.
The point, according to Samuel Arbesman, an applied mathematician and the author of the delightfully nerdy “The Half-Life of Facts,” is that knowledge–the collection of “accepted facts”–is far less fixed than we assume. In every discipline, facts change in predictable, quantifiable ways, Mr. Arbesman contends, and understanding these changes isn’t just interesting but also useful. For Mr. Arbesman, Wolf’s copying mistake says less about spinach than about the way scientific knowledge propagates.

USC doctoral student unravels ‘tin whisker’ mystery

Jeff Stensland:

Americans love their electronics, and millions will undoubtedly receive everything from flat-screen TVs and e-readers to video games and coffee makers this holiday season. Over time, even the best of these devices inexplicably stop working. Often it’s not worth the time and money to have them repaired, but the nagging question of “why” still lingers long after they’re thrown in the trash.
Yong Sun, a mechanical engineering doctoral student at the University of South Carolina’s College of Engineering and Computing, has solved part of the puzzle.
Little-known culprits of this electronic destruction, tiny killers that leave no evidence the human eye can detect, are microscopic strands known as “whiskers.” These hair-like fibers of metal grow out of the tin used as solder and coating on many electronic circuits. The presence of these whiskers can cause short-circuits since they act as bridges to conduct electricity to closely-spaced parts, a problem expected to become more prevalent as devices are designed smaller and smaller.

Kyle Neddenriep rates his favorite 10 Indiana high school sports venues

Cody Zeller:

Indianapolis Star high school insider Kyle Neddenriep has traveled the state to cover his beat. From Muncie to Evansville, here are his 10 favorite venues:
The Reitz Bowl, Evansville: When it comes to high school football, there’s no better place to watch a playoff game on a chilly fall evening. Originally built in 1921 with seating for 10,000 fans, the Reitz Bowl is nestled next to the Ohio River, making for a gorgeous view from the press box. I covered Cathedral’s semistate game at Reitz at the end of the 2009 season and was blown away by the experience. I think Cathedral was, too, as Reitz won 31-10.
One of the things I’ll remember most was the walk from my car up the hill and through a neighborhood to the stadium entrance. Most of the houses on the tree-lined streets were dressed up with football signs and banners. It felt like something out of “All the Right Moves.” I can’t imagine there are many better atmospheres for football in the country, let alone the state.

The Changing Classroom: Collaboration is king in Menomonee Falls schools

Erin Richards:

It was early spring this year in Menomonee Falls when the school district brought together area business leaders, district teachers and administrators, college deans and chamber of commerce representatives to talk about an important issue: the local skills gap.
Particularly for this community rich with manufacturing and industry, that meant talking about health care jobs that would need to be filled at Community Memorial Hospital, and the need for trained workers in area manufacturing plants – and the school district’s role in preparing that labor force.
But unlike similar meetings where conversations fizzle after coffee or lunch, the ideas took root. The school district now aims to rebuild its technical education program from graduation backward, coordinating with a lead local manufacturer and Waukesha County Technical College to revamp curriculum and push new content down to the middle school level that will support that high school work.
At a time when budgets are tight and schools are under increasing pressure to strengthen student performance, collaborative efforts with other districts or nonschool entities are drawing attention as ways to either save money or create better opportunities for children.

Long-form writing is alive and kicking

Simon Schama:

All of you out there sounding off about the tweetification of English can relax. The 2012 Bodley Head/FT non-fiction Essay Prize, for writers aged 35 or under, yielded a harvest of essays so rich in imaginatively chosen subject matter and in spirited style that there can be no doubt that long-form non-fiction is very much alive and kicking. Somewhere between the expansiveness of the blogosphere with its indulgence of loose, spontaneous free association, and the straitjacket of the strict-deadline column, the essay as an art of written thought survives and flourishes. Hazlitt and Orwell can stop revolving in their tombs.
Some 400 submissions were received, in a wide range of voices from whimsically informal (a musing on scarecrows) to the sternly tutorial (what’s the point of foreign correspondents?). But all were stamped with the distinctive tone of their authors. The strongest followed the models of the classic essayists by beginning with a glimpse of the concrete (in both senses in the case of Enver Hoxha’s recycled Albanian bunkers) and moving outwards to bigger, deeper meditations on the human condition.

Like the neighborhood, not the school? Author understands your problem.

Jay Matthews:

In my 30 years writing about schools, one reader question outnumbers all others: “I like where I live, but I have kids now and the local school doesn’t look good to me. What should I do?”
I tell them how to investigate their neighborhood school. I explain that children of education-focused parents learn much no matter what school they attend. Then I advise them to go with their gut. Even if everybody thinks their local school is great, if it doesn’t feel right they should send their kids elsewhere.
I’ve done a long magazine piece and lots of columns on this, but I have never seen the issue dissected as well as in a new book by Washington-area parent Michael J. Petrilli, “The Diverse Schools Dilemma: A Parent’s Guide to Socioeconomically Mixed Public Schools.” It is deep, up to date, blessedly short (119 pages) and wonderfully personal. He shares all the frustrations and embarrassments he and his wife suffered while looking for schools for their two young sons.

Common Core: The Totalitarian Temptation

Jonah Goldberg
Liberal Fascism
New York: Doubleday, 2007, pp. 326-327
…Progressive education has two parents, Prussia and John Dewey. The kindergarten was transplanted into the United States from Prussia in the nineteenth century because American reformers were so enamored of the order and patriotic indoctrination young children received outside the home (the better to weed out the un-American traits of immigrants). One of the core tenets of the early kindergarten was the dogma that “the government is the true parent of the children, the state is sovereign over the family.” The progressive followers of John Dewey expanded this program to make public schools incubators of a national religion. They discarded the militaristic rigidity of the Prussian model, but retained the aim of indoctrinating children. The methods were informal, couched in the sincere desire to make learning “fun,” “relevant,” and “empowering.” The self-esteem obsession that saturates our schools today harks back to the Deweyan reforms from before World War II. But beneath the individualist rhetoric lies a mission for democratic social justice, a mission Dewey himself defined as a religion. For other progressives, capturing children in schools was part of the larger effort to break the backbone of the nuclear family, the institution most resistant to political indoctrination.
National Socialist educators had a similar mission in mind. And as odd as it might seem, they also discarded the Prussian discipline of the past and embraced self-esteem and empowerment in the name of social justice. In the early days of the Third Reich, grade-schoolers burned their multicolored caps in a protest against class distinctions. Parents complained, “We no longer have rights over our children.” According to the historian Michael Burleigh, “Their children became strangers, contemptuous of monarchy or religion, and perpetually barking and shouting like pint-sized Prussian sergeant-majors…Denunciation of parents by children was encouraged, not least by schoolteachers who set essays entitled ‘What does your family talk about at home?'”
Now, the liberal project Hillary Clinton represents is in no way a Nazi project. The last thing she would want is to promote ethnic nationalism, anti-Semitism, or aggressive wars of conquest. But it must be kept in mind that while these things were of enormous importance to Hitler and his ideologues, they were in an important sense secondary to the underlying mission and appeal of Nazism, which was to create a new politics and a new nation committed to social justice, radical egalitarianism (albeit for “true Germans”), and the destruction of the traditions of the old order. So while there are light-years of distance between the programs of liberals and those of Nazis or Italian Fascists or even the nationalist progressives of yore, the underlying impulse, the totalitarian temptation, is present in both.
The Chinese Communists under Mao pursued the Chinese way, the Russians under Stalin followed their own version of communism in one state. But we are still comfortable observing that they were both communist nations. Hitler wanted to wipe out the Jews; Mussolini wanted no such thing. And yet we are comfortable calling both fascists. Liberal fascists don’t want to mimic generic fascists or communists in myriad ways, but they share a sweeping vision of social justice and community and the need for the state to realize that vision. In short, collectivists of all stripes share the same totalitarian temptation to create a politics of meaning; what differs between them–and this is the most crucial difference of all–is how they act upon that temptation.

“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®

Housewife, “Gold Miss,” and Equal: The Evolution of Educated Women’s Role in Asia and the U.S.

Jisoo Hwang:

Abstract: The fraction of U.S. college graduate women who ever marry has increased relative to less educated women since the mid-1970s. In contrast, college graduate women in developed Asian countries have had decreased rates of marriage, so much so that the term “Gold Misses” has been coined to describe them. This paper argues that the interaction of rapid economic growth in Asia combined with the intergenerational transmission of gender attitudes causes the “Gold Miss” phenomenon. Economic growth has increased the supply of college graduate women, but men’s preference for their wives’ household services has diminished less rapidly and is slowed by women’s role in their mothers’ generation. Using a dynamic model, I show that a large positive wage shock produces a greater mismatch between educated women and men in the marriage market than would gradual wage growth. I test the implications of the model using three data sets: the Japanese General Social Survey, the American Time Use Survey, and the U.S. Census and American Community Survey. Using the Japanese data, I find a positive relationship between a mother’s education (and employment) and her son’s gender attitudes. In the U.S., time spent on household chores among Asian women is inversely related to the female labor force participation rate in husband’s country of origin. Lastly, college graduate Korean and Japanese women in the U.S. have greater options in the marriage market. They are more likely to marry Americans than Korean and Japanese men do, and this gender gap is larger among the foreign born than the U.S. born.

Benchmarking school systems

Chris Cook:

One question I get asked a lot is: “You say that Frewmanackshire is a terrible local authority. How do you know? Do you know what we are working with?” etc etc. It is true that schools with radically different intakes cannot be usefully compared. So I thought I would let you in on how I benchmark schools, and supply you with two jolly new maps.
What I do for secondary schools, is run a simple regression – that is to say, I fit a simple line through all the pupils’ school results in the country after asking it to account for the children’s ethnicity, poverty and prior test results. Unlike other models, the regression contains precisely zero information about the schools – only data about the children.
I work out what FT score each child would get if their fate were the national average for that kind of child. Then you can see who is under- or over-performing. By definition, this kind of approach is zero-sum (the computer will run its lines through the middle of the pack). Someone will always be behind. But it’s helpful to see who is weaker and stronger.

Graduates find success teaching in Chilean schools

Thomas Jerome Baker:

Enseña Chile, a programme backed by Anglo American that puts high-flying graduates in the classroom teaching some of Chile’s most vulnerable students, is achieving remarkable results. Enseña Chile selects and trains high-calibre university graduates to teach in state schools in vulnerable communities across the country. Photograph: Anglo American
Education is a hot issue in Chile.
The country is fiercely debating the best way to create the schools and universities it needs as it transitions to an economy that relies as much on the skills and talent of its people as on its natural resources.
Although classroom performance is among the best in Latin America and public spending on education has increased seven fold in the past 20 years, experts say there is a wide gap between the privately schooled rich and the majority who are too often failed by municipal education.

A sad attack on Advanced Placement

Jay Matthews:

Nearly all of us are experts about something — Yorkshire terriers, Redskins quarterbacks, California native plants, whatever. Even obscure subjects have fans.
My obsession is the Advanced Placement program, those college-level courses and tests for high school students. I have studied AP for 30 years. I am saddened, as all devotees are, by outbursts of misinformation about my topic. The most recent example is an essay on by former AP government and politics teacher John Tierney, entitled “AP Classes Are a Scam.”

Colleges join the food-truck craze, launching their own trucks to offer students convenience and variety — and to keep their dining dollars on campus

Jessica Teich:

The tantalizing aromas of earthy empanadas and tangy barbecue chicken mingling in the air lure a small crowd to the rumbling, bright red truck parked smack in the middle of Northeastern University’s Snell Library Quad.
Outside the Hungry Hungry Husky food truck, students and professors jockey to scan the menu. Reaching up to a delivery window for a heaping tray of pita chips and some fresh guacamole, Lauryn Coccoli gushes, “Ah, you’re the best, thank you so much!” She is met with an appreciative nod by a worker inside the school’s food truck.
“Whenever he’s here, I’m here,” says Coccoli, a graduate student at Northeastern. “It’s absolutely convenient, cost-effective, and the food’s great; it tastes better and is cheaper than in there,” she says, gesturing to the Curry Student Center, which houses nearly 10 food court eateries.

Schoolhouse to Courthouse

Donna Lieberman:

KENNETH screwed up. The 11th grader made a crude joke about the police officers in his Bronx high school — and an officer overheard.
“What did you say?” the officer demanded. “Say it again and I’m going to punch you in the [expletive] mouth.”
“You can’t [expletive] touch me,” said Kenneth, who has Asperger syndrome.
And so it began …
The officer pulled out his nightstick, with one hand, grabbed Kenneth (whose name I’ve changed) by the throat with the other, and pushed him against the wall. Then he pinned the boy’s arms behind his back and pulled him, by the neck of his hoodie, down the fourth-floor hallway.

Readers’ cures for bad teaching of writing

Jay Matthews:

The teaching of writing is one of the great weaknesses of American schools. It is also the only one about which I, as a paid manufacturer of sentences, am competent to give personal advice.
I think students would benefit from one-on-one editing by their teachers. This is rare, but teachers and students who have done it tell me that it works for them as well as it did for me when I was a beginning journalist.
They like my idea of a required one-semester high school English course called Writing and Reading. Each student would produce a written piece each week and have it edited by the teacher for 10 minutes. The rest of the week, students would work in class on their next essay or read whatever they like while their classmates are edited. This spares teachers from marking up essays at home. Just 10 minutes of editing a week per student does not seem like much, but such personal contact is powerful. By the end of a semester, that would total nearly three hours of personal editing per kid, unheard of in schools today.

What Should Children Read?

Sara Mosle:

Malcolm Gladwell, author of “The Tipping Point” and a New Yorker staff writer, told me how he prepared, years ago, to write his first “Talk of the Town” story. “Talk” articles have a distinct style, and he wanted to make sure he got the voice straight in his head before he began writing. His approach was simple. He sat down and read 100 “Talk” pieces, one after the other.
The story nicely illustrates how careful reading can advance great writing. As a schoolteacher, I offer Mr. Gladwell’s story to students struggling with expository writing as evidence that they need not labor alone. There are models out there — if only they’ll read them!
Mr. Gladwell’s tale provides a good lesson for English teachers across the country as they begin to implement the Common Core State Standards, a set of national benchmarks, adopted by nearly every state, for the skills public school students should master in language arts and mathematics in grades K-12.

Stop Subsidizing Obesity

Mark Bittman

Not long ago few doctors – not even pediatricians – concerned themselves much with nutrition. This has changed, and dramatically: As childhood obesity gains recognition as a true health crisis, more and more doctors are publicly expressing alarm at the impact the standard American diet is having on health.
“I never saw Type 2 diabetes during my training, 20 years ago,” David Ludwig, a pediatrician, told me the other day, referring to what was once called “adult-onset” diabetes, the form that is often caused by obesity. “Never. Now about a quarter of the new diabetes cases we’re seeing are Type 2.”
Ludwig, who is director of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center in Boston, is one of three authors, all medical doctors of an essay (“Viewpoint”) in the current issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association titled “Opportunities to Reduce Childhood Hunger and Obesity.”
That title that would once have been impossible, but now it’s merely paradoxical. Because the situation is this: 17 percent of children in the United States are obese, 16 percent are food-insecure (this means they have inconsistent access to food), and some number, which is impossible to nail down, are both. Seven times as many poor children are obese as those who are underweight, an indication that government aid in the form of food stamps, now officially called SNAP, does a good job of addressing hunger but encourages the consumption of unhealthy calories.

Given the role that nutrition plays — from conception onward — in brain development, learning, etc., clearly this is an achievement gap issue.

Patriotic education distorts China world view

Jamil Anderlini:

After 21-year-old Cai Yang was arrested in September for beating a Toyota-driving Chinese compatriot with a bicycle lock during an anti-Japanese protest, his mother tried to explain his actions.
“The education at school always instils the idea that Japanese are evil people and if you turn on the television most of the programmes are about the anti-Japanese war,” Yang Shuilan said. “How can we possibly not resent the Japanese?”
Apart from the fact that Cai’s 50-year-old victim was Chinese not Japanese, Ms Yang makes a valid point.
In the wake of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre and the fall of the Soviet Union, China’s leaders concluded that the Communist party needed to improve its “thought work”. So they launched a new “patriotic education” campaign that continues to this day.
The selective teaching of history – emphasising the brutality of foreign invaders and ignoring atrocities or mistakes by China’s leaders – is intended to boost the party’s legitimacy by cultivating a nationalistic, anti-western victim mentality among young Chinese.

Special Education teachers are an aging population: Local schools see shortage in speech and language pathologists and occupational therapists

Corrie Pelc:

California is currently facing as shortage of qualified teachers – including special education teachers – according to an article printed in September on US News on
The article cited a report, “Greatness by Design” released by the California Department of Education in September – a report designed to help improve how teachers are recruited, trained and mentored – that states “there are still shortages of qualified teachers in fields such as special education.”
Dr. Pia Wong, department chair for the Department of Teaching Credentials and professor at California State University Sacramento, says one reason for the shortage is teachers retiring without anyone to fill their positions. “When you look at the average age of teachers in special (education) and general education, it’s an aging population,” she explains. “Based on when people typically do retire or can retire, we know in the next 10 years we’re going to see very high numbers of retirement.”

Does Texas Have an Answer to Sky-High Tuition?

Lara Seligman:

Texas is experimenting with an initiative to help students and families struggling with sky-high college costs: a bachelor’s degree for $10,000, including tuition fees and even textbooks. Under a plan he unveiled in 2011, Republican Gov. Rick Perry has called on institutions in his state to develop options for low-cost undergraduate degrees. The idea was greeted with skepticism at first, but lately, it seems to be gaining traction. If it yields success, it could prompt other states to explore similar, more-innovative ways to cut the cost of education.
Limiting the price tag for a degree to $10,000 is no easy feat. In the 2012-13 academic year, the average annual cost of tuition in Texas at a public four-year institution was $8,354, just slightly lower than the national average of $8,655. The high costs are saddling students with huge debt burdens. Nationally, 57 percent of students who earned bachelor’s degrees in 2011 from public four-year colleges graduated with debt, and the average debt per borrower was $23,800–up from $20,100 a decade earlier. By Sept. 30, 2011, 9.1 percent of borrowers who entered repayment in 2009-10 defaulted on their federal student loans, the highest default rate since 1996.
In the Lone Star State, 10 institutions have so far responded to the governor’s call with unique approaches, ranging from a five-year general-degree pipeline that combines high school, community college, and four-year university credits to a program that relies on competency-based assessments to enable students to complete a degree in organizational leadership in as little as 18 months.

The Professionals Know What the Universities Won’t Tell You

Role Model Software:

I just got back from the Software Craftsmanship North America conference in Chicago. I knew that the industry was ready for a new model of training, but I was a bit overwhelmed by just how ready. I can honestly say that they were actually beyond ready… they were hungry.
At the welcome reception, one craftsman or journeyman after another greeted me (whether they knew me or not) and congratulated me on the opening of the Craftsmanship Academy. They all stated in one way or another that the universities weren’t preparing people for the realities of software development and didn’t seem to care. Many asked how I was going to approach their education and nodded approvingly when I told them what and why I was going to do. I probably told the story about teaching data structures in context, a half dozen times to people whose collective response seemed to be saying “I always suspected how much easier it could be to teach theory in the context of practice.”

Hooked on opiates: More legal use leads to more addiction, crimes, deaths

MaryJo Webster and Brandon Stahl:

Hannah Linderholm was a cheerleader and played sports in high school. She went to church every Sunday with her parents in New Prague and was excited about starting college.
“I had my life all together,” Linderholm, 21, said wistfully last week.
But in college, she fell for a guy who was getting high illegally on oxycodone, a highly controlled painkiller sold under the brand name Oxycontin, and she thought it would be OK to try it. “Then it just snowballed,” she said.
Within a year, she dropped out of college, had drained her savings account and was spending $180 a day to feed her body’s growing demand for the drug dubbed “oxy” on the street.
“All I wanted to do was get high,” she said. “I didn’t care about anything.”
Getting the pills was easy, Linderholm said, even though oxycodone can be obtained only with a doctor’s prescription. Her boyfriend had found a network of people willing to sell their prescriptions for $1 per milligram.

The most important element of student success?

Joanne Yatvin:

Not long ago I wrote a post condemning rigor in education and hailing vigor as the most important element of student success. Unfortunately, I used dictionary definitions and metaphors and gave only sketchy examples of vigorous learning activities to make my case. This time I want to be more factual and descriptive to let readers know what reformers mean when they call for more rigor and what good teachers mean by vigor.
Looking at the recommendations of policy makers, the widely adopted Common Core Standards and the practices in “reformed” schools, it’s easy to see what they mean by rigor: a demanding academic program for all, beginning earlier than at present and advancing more rapidly through the grades, with little tolerance for variations in student progress or behavior. Specifically, grade level performance is expected of all students in all subjects. There is greater complexity in reading materials and much more non-fiction at all levels. Algebra belongs in middle school, and there should two years of math and science in high school for everyone. Formal testing starts in kindergarten and test frequency increases in subsequent grades.

After settlement, UW System to turn over syllabuses to nonprofit National Council on Teacher Quality

Bruce Vielmetti, via a kind reader’s email:

Wisconsin’s public universities have agreed to turn over education course syllabuses to a nonprofit group reviewing teacher education programs nationwide.
The University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents had contended the course descriptions were copyrighted and not subject to disclosure under the state’s public records law. The National Council on Teacher Quality disagreed and sued in January.
Under a settlement agreement approved this month, the UW System will provide the syllabuses for “core undergraduate education” courses taught in 2012 at the system’s 12 universities, and will pay the council nearly $10,000 in attorney fees, damages and costs. The UW System will not charge location or copying fees for providing the records.
The agreement provides that the payment is not an admission of liability or of a public records law violation. The plaintiff is represented by the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, a Milwaukee-based public interest law firm.

Notes and links on the NCTQ’s open records lawsuit against the UW-Madison School of Education.

Elite education for the masses

Nick Anderson:

Brian Caffo teaches a public-health course at Johns Hopkins University that he calls a “mathematical biostatistics boot camp.” It typically draws a few dozen graduate students. Never more than 70.
This fall, Caffo was swarmed. He had 15,000 students.
They included Patrycja Jablonska in Poland, Ephraim Baron in California, Mohammad Hijazi in Lebanon and many others far from Baltimore who ordinarily would not have a chance to study at the elite Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. They logged on to a Web site called Coursera and signed up. They paid nothing for it.
These students, a sliver of the more than 1.7 million who have registered with Coursera since April, reflect a surge of interest this year in free online learning that could reshape higher education. The phenomenon puts big issues on the table: the growth of tuition, the role of a professor, the definition of a student, the value of a degree and even the mission of universities.

High-flying interns who are going places

Alicia Clegg:

Christina Pelka caught the tra­v­el bug as a Californian schoolgirl holidaying in Cuba. So when she heard through the college grapevine that KPMG, the professional services firm, was offering overseas internships to students she made sure she was part of the programme.
“Every dinner, basketball game and campus event they hosted, I was there. I knew that if they had interns travelling abroad, they must be serious about international opportunities,” Ms Pelka says. She completed a four-week internship in London in 2008 and now works at KPMG’s Chicago office, and is optimistic about a transfer to Europe.
KPMG is one of a number of organisations giving student interns an early taste of cross-border working. As more businesses operate globally, they want employees who have experience of working in other countries. Graduates, for their part, say they are up for overseas challenges. In a multi-country survey for professional services firm PwC, 71 per cent of recent graduates said they would like to work abroad at some stage.

‘Education First’ must put the marginalised at the centre

Pauline Rose:

Goal-setting often leads to attention being paid to low-hanging fruit – those easiest to reach, making it possible to show progress most quickly. Unfortunately, in education, this approach has left 61 million children – many of them poor, girls and those living in remote rural locations – missing out on the push towards getting all children into school by 2015.
It is welcome that one of the three areas being addressed by the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, in his new global initiative launched on September 26, 2012, “Education First” is putting every child into school.
To achieve this important intention, future goals and any discussions of a post-2015 agenda must include equity-based targets so that the marginalised benefit from progress. This is a remediable injustice and one which we must all work to resolve.
Ensuring progress in education reaches the marginalised has been a recurrent theme in our Education for All Global Monitoring Report, the next edition of which is due in just over two weeks.

December 2012 Education Insider: Tracking Measures, Assessment Consortia, Student Surveys, and Multi‐State Advocacy Groups

Whiteboard Advisors:

In this month’s Education Insider, insiders weigh in on the progress of the Common Core assesment consortia, the use of student surveys in teacher evaulations, and the state of education advocacy organizations. Highlights from the survey include:
Insiders continue to be skeptical of the Common Core assessment consortia–especially the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. In addition, 67% of Insiders think that the PARCC consortium will not succeed in establishing a common cut score across states on its assessments and 76% of Insiders believe the same thing about SBAC.
Insiders are not very familiar with the research about using student surveys as a component of teacher evaluation but see promise in the idea.

Learning from the next generation

David Montagu:

Members of the Royal Society’s Vision Committee went back to school yesterday to meet with pupils from the Paddington Academy.
In a session full of lively debate, pupils challenged the Committee on a wide variety of issues to do with science and science education. Among the major concerns they drew the Committee’s attention to were the uncertainties of climate change, increased flooding, the recent destruction wrought by Hurricane Sandy, worldwide water shortages and the need for more attention to be given to science in news programmes.

Five States to Increase Class Time


In an effort to boost student achievement and prepare students for jobs in a global economy, five states have announced they will add 300 hours or more of class time to the school calendar.
Currently, most of the country operates on the traditional, short, five-day school week, with summers off, a system largely based on a century’s old calendar that has little significance for the majority of American students. As reformers seek to find a schedule that works, many have argued for school week models that add instructional time.
Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York and Tennessee will take part in this new initiative, which will affect nearly 20,000 students in 40 schools. Schools, working with districts, parents, and teachers, will decide whether to make the school day longer, add more days to the school calendar, or both. Once a model is proven successful, advocates plan to expand the program to high-need schools in urban communities.

Even a bad AP score can be good

Jay Matthews:

I am approaching the 30th anniversary of my Dec. 7, 1982, encounter with East Los Angeles math teacher Jaime Escalante. That day changed my life. If I had not met the guy who was helping so many Hispanic kids master calculus, I wouldn’t be writing columns today. I also wouldn’t be having frequent arguments about how much low-income students can learn.
Escalante proved that the children of day laborers can do well in challenging Advanced Placement courses if given enough time and encouragement to learn. In 1987, he and his Garfield High School colleague Ben Jimenez were responsible for 26 percent of all Mexican American students in the country who passed AP calculus exams.
Several of these students were not doing well in other subjects. And many people, including some educators, still believe that AP can’t help you if you are not already a good student. That is why many schools still bar average students from taking AP.

Springboard to Higher Ed: More Students Are Taking Community-College Courses While in High School

Caroline Porter:

Nicole Perez spends her school days at a local high school here, but when the 17-year-old senior steps into English class she is dipping her toes into college.
Ms. Perez is one of a growing number of students taking community-college courses at their high schools. These “dual-enrollment” classes are a low- or no-cost way for students to gain college credits, helping smooth their way to a college degree.
“It’s a little more work, but I actually like that,” said Ms. Perez, who hopes the credits will save her time and money next year, when she plans to attend a four-year university.
The growing cost of college, rising student debt and a weak economy have prompted a rethinking of the role of community colleges. In 2009, President Barack Obama made community colleges a big part of his plan to return the U.S. to its perch as the nation with the most higher-education degrees per capita by 2020.

Is the Ivy League Fair to Asian Americans?

Conor Friedersdorf:

Are Ivy League institutions discriminating against Asian Americans by limiting how many are admitted? That’s the subject of a debate published this week in the New York Times. Let’s start with the folks who believe that there’s effectively a race-based quota limiting Asian Americans.
Ron Unz makes the most powerful argument for that proposition. “After the Justice Department closed an investigation in the early 1990s into charges that Harvard University discriminated against Asian-American applicants, Harvard’s reported enrollment of Asian-Americans began gradually declining, falling from 20.6 percent in 1993 to about 16.5 percent over most of the last decade,” he writes. “This decline might seem small. But these same years brought a huge increase in America’s college-age Asian population, which roughly doubled between 1992 and 2011, while non-Hispanic white numbers remained almost unchanged. Thus, according to official statistics, the percentage of Asian-Americans enrolled at Harvard fell by more than 50 percent over the last two decades, while the percentage of whites changed little. This decline in relative Asian-American enrollment was actually larger than the impact of Harvard’s 1925 Jewish quota, which reduced Jewish freshmen from 27.6 percent to 15 percent.”

High-profile studies overrate going to college and picking the right major

Andrew G. Biggs, Abigail Haddad:

There are obvious advantages to going to college. And yes, science majors have much higher lifetime earnings than art majors. But the reasons why aren’t as simple as some studies would have you believe.
Whether to attend college and, if so, what to study are decisions of great financial and personal importance for younger Americans. It has become conventional wisdom that as many people as possible should graduate college and that college students should increasingly major in technical fields such as engineering, math and computer science. But college is a major investment. Average annual tuition at public four-year colleges today tops $13,000, with tuition at private schools exceeding $31,000. Moreover, the college major chosen by students guides the types of jobs they may hold for the rest of their lives, which influences not only income but also personal satisfaction from work. These choices should not be entered into lightly or lacking solid information.
Unfortunately, popular research on the costs and benefits of higher education is plagued by basic statistical errors, generating misleading conclusions and encouraging bad public policy. It is a basic tenet of statistics that correlation does not imply causation: simply because two things tend to occur together — such as college attendance and higher incomes — does not necessarily mean that one causes the other. While both college attendance and choice of major do affect earnings, their effects are much smaller than has been reported.

Vocabulary Declines, With Unspeakable Results The first step to fight income inequality: Do a better job of teaching kids to read.

ED Hirsch:

For all the talk about income inequality in the United States, there is too little recognition of education’s role in the problem. Yet it is no coincidence that, as economist John Bishop has shown, the middle class’s economic woes followed a decline in 12th-grade verbal scores, which fell sharply between 1962 and 1980–and, as the latest news confirms, have remained flat ever since.
The federal government reported this month that students’ vocabulary scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress have seen no significant change since 2009. On average, students don’t know the words they need to flourish as learners, earners or citizens.
All verbal tests are, at bottom, vocabulary tests. To predict competence most accurately, the U.S. military’s Armed Forces Qualification Test gives twice as much weight to verbal scores as to math scores, and researchers such as Christopher Winship and Anders D. Korneman have shown that these verbally weighted scores are good predictors of income level. Math is an important index to general competence, but on average words are twice as important.
Yes, we should instruct students in science, technology, engineering and math, the much-ballyhooed STEM subjects–but only after equipping them with a base of wide general knowledge and vocabulary.

Related: 60% to 42%: Madison School District’s Reading Recovery Effectiveness Lags “National Average”: Administration seeks to continue its use.
When all third graders read at grade level or beyond by the end of the year, the achievement gap will be closed…and not before.

What grade would you give public schools?

James E. Causey:

Fact: There are some really good Milwaukee Public Schools. Another fact: There are some that even the district’s superintendent says need improvement. To be fair, the same facts also apply to voucher schools.
There are a number of factors that contribute to a school’s success. Successful schools have engaged parents along with an equally motivated student body and teachers. Struggling schools often lack parental support and more often than not have behavioral problems that impede learning.
If I were to ask you to assign a letter grade to public schools in Milwaukee, what grade would you give them?
A survey asked 1,200 city residents that question, and 70% gave the public schools a “C” or worse.
And when asked who is responsible for a child’s failure, 64% of respondents said it was the parents and the students. Only 10% said it was the teachers’ fault and only 5% blame the school as a whole.
I’m not surprised by the study’s findings because the struggling schools in the district usually receive the most press while, unfortunately, the best schools fail to receive the recognition they deserve.

For Whom Is College Being Reinvented?

Scott Carlson and Goldie Blumenstyk:

Last year, leading lights in for-profit and nonprofit higher education convened in Washington for a conference on private-sector innovation in the industry. The national conversation about dysfunction and disruption in higher education was just heating up, and panelists from start-ups, banking, government, and education waxed enthusiastic about the ways that a traditional college education could be torn down and rebuilt–and about how lots of money could be made along the way.
During a break, one panelist–a banker who lines up financing for education companies, and who had talked about meeting consumer demands in the market–made chitchat. The banker had a daughter who wanted a master’s in education and was deciding between a traditional college and a start-up that offered a program she would attend mostly online–exactly the kind of thing everyone at the conference was touting.
For most parents, that choice might raise questions–and the banker was no exception. Unlike most parents, however, the well-connected banker could resolve those uncertainties, with a call to the CEO of the education venture: “Is this thing crap or for real?”
In higher education, that is the question of the moment–and the answer is not clear, even to those lining up to push for college reinvention. But the question few people want to grapple with is, For whom are we reinventing college?

Another view, here.

The End of the Map

Simon Garfield:

As some may recall, it was not so long ago that we got around by using maps that folded. Occasionally, if we wanted a truly global picture of our place in the world, we would pull shoulder-dislocating atlases from shelves. The world was bigger back then. Experience and cheaper travel have rendered it small, but nothing has shrunk the world more than digital mapping.
Photo Illustration by Stephen Webster; Sebastiano del Piombo/Art Resource (painting)
There is something valuable about getting lost occasionally, even in our pixilated, endlessly interconnected world.
In medieval Christian Europe, Jerusalem was the center of the world, the ultimate end of a religious pilgrimage. If we lived in China, that focal point was Youzhou. Later, in the days of European empire, it might be Britain or France. Today, by contrast, each of us now stands as an individual at the center of our own map worlds. On our computers and phones, we plot a route not from A to B but from ourselves (“Allow current location”) to anywhere of our choosing. Technology has enabled us to forget all about way-finding and geography. This is some change, and some loss.

Parent sentenced for attack on coach

Tom Smith:

The parent of a Rogers High School student accused of attacking a coach in March will spend a year in prison.
Lauderdale County Circuit Judge Mike Jones on Thursday sentenced Edward Clarence Jenkins Jr., 41, 2042 Lauderdale 144, Killen, to 60 months, split with a year to serve in prison and the rest on probation.
Jones found Jenkins guilty of second-degree assault during a Nov. 15 trial.
District Attorney Chris Connolly said Jenkins waived his right to a jury trial and the case was heard by Jones without a jury.
Jenkins said he was upset with a coach for yelling at his 8-year-old son, according to reports.
Chris Krieger, head boys’ basketball coach and an elementary school physical education teacher, sustained minor injuries in the attack, which occurred in front of the high school office on the morning of March 6.
Jenkins had asked for probation and to be placed on home detention.
His attorney, David Odem, of Florence, said Jenkins’ wife is disabled and he is needed at home to help with their five adopted children.

Madison School Board Candidate & advocate TJ Mertz talks about Madison Prep, teachers and school ‘reform’

Pat Schneider:

Capital Times: What’s the most important issue facing the Madison Metropolitan School District today?
TJ Mertz: Trust. There’s a lot of distrust in the community on all sides — between community and the school district, within the school district between administration and classroom staff, between the board of education and the administration. If we’re going to have effective initiatives on the achievement gap, it requires trust.
CT: What can be done about that lack of trust?
TM: The district should be honest about what it can and can’t do, what is working and what isn’t working. It needs to be more open in decision-making and should be more transparent, welcoming and inclusive. There’s some collaborative work going on that’s good, but community leaders need to be more honest, too. If you are bringing in John Legend and Howard Fuller and Geoffrey Canada and say they have the answer, you’re lying to the audience. Look at how they are achieving their “success.” It’s being achieved largely through attrition, and even with that the test scores aren’t that good. Let’s talk about state school finance reform. Let’s not talk about firing teachers — every bit of research shows that as a tool for school improvement, it doesn’t work. People should stop looking for miracles. Hard work, incrementalism — it isn’t sexy — but that is what works.
CT: It was the Urban League of Greater Madison that brought Legend, Fuller and Canada to town recently for a fundraiser and education conference. You were strongly opposed to Urban League CEO Kaleem Caire’s Madison Prep proposal for a charter school aimed at students of color. Why?
TM: The proposed programs of that school did not target the kids who are being failed by the district. Ask anyone who knows curriculum if the international baccalaureate is a way to address students who are grades behind, and they’ll laugh. But that was what he was selling — so who was he targeting? Students below proficiency were the ones used in the PR campaign, which made it harder for them and a lot of other people to work with the school district. It was a bait-and-switch.

The End of the University as We Know It

Nathan Harden:

In fifty years, if not much sooner, half of the roughly 4,500 colleges and universities now operating in the United States will have ceased to exist. The technology driving this change is already at work, and nothing can stop it. The future looks like this: Access to college-level education will be free for everyone; the residential college campus will become largely obsolete; tens of thousands of professors will lose their jobs; the bachelor’s degree will become increasingly irrelevant; and ten years from now Harvard will enroll ten million students.
We’ve all heard plenty about the “college bubble” in recent years. Student loan debt is at an all-time high–an average of more than $23,000 per graduate by some counts–and tuition costs continue to rise at a rate far outpacing inflation, as they have for decades. Credential inflation is devaluing the college degree, making graduate degrees, and the greater debt required to pay for them, increasingly necessary for many people to maintain the standard of living they experienced growing up in their parents’ homes. Students are defaulting on their loans at an unprecedented rate, too, partly a function of an economy short on entry-level professional positions. Yet, as with all bubbles, there’s a persistent public belief in the value of something, and that faith in the college degree has kept demand high.
The figures are alarming, the anecdotes downright depressing. But the real story of the American higher-education bubble has little to do with individual students and their debts or employment problems. The most important part of the college bubble story–the one we will soon be hearing much more about–concerns the impending financial collapse of numerous private colleges and universities and the likely shrinkage of many public ones. And when that bubble bursts, it will end a system of higher education that, for all of its history, has been steeped in a culture of exclusivity. Then we’ll see the birth of something entirely new as we accept one central and unavoidable fact: The college classroom is about to go virtual.

Global Burden of Disease Study 2010

The Lancet:

The Global Burden of Disease Study 2010 (GBD 2010) is the largest ever systematic effort to describe the global distribution and causes of a wide array of major diseases, injuries, and health risk factors. The results show that infectious diseases, maternal and child illness, and malnutrition now cause fewer deaths and less illness than they did twenty years ago. As a result, fewer children are dying every year, but more young and middle-aged adults are dying and suffering from disease and injury, as non-communicable diseases, such as cancer and heart disease, become the dominant causes of death and disability worldwide.
Since 1970, men and women worldwide have gained slightly more than ten years of life expectancy overall, but they spend more years living with injury and illness.
GBD 2010 consists of seven Articles, each containing a wealth of data on different aspects of the study (including data for different countries and world regions, men and women, and different age groups), while accompanying Comments include reactions to the study’s publication from WHO Director-General Margaret Chan and World Bank President Jim Yong Kim. The study is described by Lancet Editor-in-Chief Dr Richard Horton as “a critical contribution to our understanding of present and future health priorities for countries and the global community.”

Ranks of English learners swelling in Minnesota schools

Mike Zittlow:

Maria and Ines Mendez, 17-year-old seniors at Harding High School in St. Paul, have lofty goals for students who spoke no English when their family came to Minnesota from Mexico five years ago.
“I want to own my own businesses; I want to be my own boss,” Ines said. Her twin sister wants to be a pharmacist. Both are in Advanced Placement classes and are on track to graduate in the spring.
The Mendez sisters are among the growing number of Minnesota students whose first language is not English. Nearly 65,000 English learner students are enrolled in Minnesota schools, representing more than 200 languages.
That number has grown rapidly in the past two decades, soaring by 50,000, a 300 percent increase in English learners.

Milwaukee Public Schools boosts teacher pay, (barely) tweaks residency rule

Erin Richards:

To better attract new talent to Milwaukee Public Schools, the district will raise starting teacher salaries and allow some new teachers or school leaders extra time to establish residency in the city, the Milwaukee School Board decided Thursday night.
Starting in July, the starting teacher salary will be $41,000, an increase from $37,721, according to a measure approved at the full board meeting.
Current teachers making less than that in the district will also be brought up to the $41,000, according to the Office of Board Governance.
That salary does not include benefits, which significantly increases an employee’s overall compensation.
The changes to salary and residency were proposed by the administration because of an expected wave of retirements at the end of this year that will require MPS to hire at least 700 new teachers and 50 new school leaders.

Waunakee nixes athletes swapping gym class for academic credit

Matthew DeFour:

A policy to allow athletes to swap gym credit for another academic credit sailed through the Madison School Board last month, but the Waunakee School Board took the wind out of such a proposal Monday night.
The suburban Dane County school board discussed whether administration should draft a policy, but voted 4-3 against it, Superintendent Randy Guttenberg said.
“The conversation at Monday’s meeting stemmed around the differences in lessons taught in physical education class vs. what is taught in athletic or other activities, on one hand, and the idea of giving students more flexibility to organize their high school courses, on the other,” Guttenberg said in an email.
The topic has generated a lot of letters to the editor raising similar pro and con arguments. The Monroe School District in Green County also recently adopted a policy allowing the gym swap.

In Madison high schools, 1 in 4 black students chronically absent

Matthew DeFour:

The district expects the attendance rate of minority students will improve as a result of strategies adopted in the district’s $7.5 million plan to close the disparity in achievement between minority and white students, said Joe Gothard, assistant superintendent for secondary schools.
The strategies include adding staff to work with parents at four elementary schools, expanding its culturally relevant practices program to help students understand the importance of school and implementing a new, $250,000 early warning system that among other things alerts principals when students are missing too much school. Previously principals had to track the attendance data themselves.
Gothard, a former La Follette High School principal, said when he would contact parents about absenteeism the reaction often was surprise.
“We know that we need our students in our schools in their seats to achieve,” Gothard said. “Attendance and time in school is definitely at the top of our list in strategies and partnerships that we have to put in place.”

For Poor, Leap to College Often Ends in a Hard Fall

Jason DeParle:

Angelica Gonzales marched through high school in Goth armor — black boots, chains and cargo pants — but undermined her pose of alienation with a place on the honor roll. She nicknamed herself after a metal band and vowed to become the first in her family to earn a college degree.
“I don’t want to work at Walmart” like her mother, she wrote to a school counselor.
Weekends and summers were devoted to a college-readiness program, where her best friends, Melissa O’Neal and Bianca Gonzalez, shared her drive to “get off the island” — escape the prospect of dead-end lives in luckless Galveston. Melissa, an eighth-grade valedictorian, seethed over her mother’s boyfriends and drinking, and Bianca’s bubbly innocence hid the trauma of her father’s death. They stuck together so much that a tutor called them the “triplets.”

Related: Madison’s ongoing reading challenges. More here.

University of North Carolina’s no-show classes

Allie Grasgreen:

Athletics-related motivations are not to blame for the breakdowns within the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Department of African and Afro-American Studies, in which hundreds of students — half of whom were athletes — received credit for no-show classes and benefited from unauthorized grade changes.
That was what one might call the positive takeaway from the latest investigation into the scandal, this one comprising two new reviews by former North Carolina Gov. James Martin and the management consulting firm Baker Tilly (both tapped by UNC). In laying all the blame on the department’s former chair and his then-assistant, the reports also cleared faculty in the department of any wrongdoing, and found that the bogus classes and grades do not appear to have extended to other departments.
But the news was far from all good for the university: evidence of erroneous classes and grades extends all the way back to 1997 — a decade earlier than UNC had previously documented — and it indicates that the number of courses that were not managed or graded properly is quadruple what UNC had previously reported.
“What we found was astonishing in its enormity,” Martin said as he presented the reports to UNC’s Board of Trustees on Thursday morning. “This was not an athletic scandal, it was an academic one, which is worse, but an isolated one.”

Scientists link obesity to gut bacteria

Pippa Stevens:

Obesity in human beings could be caused by bacterial infection rather than eating too much, exercising too little or genetics, according to a groundbreaking study that could have profound implications for public health systems, the pharmaceutical industry and food manufacturers.
The discovery in China followed an eight-year search by scientists across the world to explain the link between gut bacteria and obesity.
Researchers in Shanghai identified a human bacteria linked with obesity, fed it to mice and compared their weight gain with rodents without the bacteria. The latter did not become obese despite being fed a high-fat diet and being prevented from exercising.

Requiring ACT, partner tests would benefit high schools

Alan Borsuk

With many controversies and hard decisions to come in the next few months, this may be an important and fairly easy step:
Making the ACT college entrance exam mandatory for all students across Wisconsin, along with two partner tests from ACT to be given to students earlier in high school.
One result would be to create a new system of accountability for high schools, replacing what can be a badly flawed system used now. (Wisconsin tests high school students only once, near the start of their 10th-grade year. What does that tell you about students’ success and progress in high school? Not much. )
But advocates of the idea say stepping up the use of the ACT and tests known as EXPLORE and PLAN also would be valuable in helping more students, parents and educators see how kids are doing in getting ready for college and careers. The results of all three tests, especially the ones taken in ninth and 10th grade, would provide timely and effective help in guiding kids to work on weak areas and understand where their strengths are.
The state budget process will get under way in earnest in February. There will be a lot of heated advocacy over money, alternatives to conventional public schools and other issues. Republican Gov. Scott Walker has promised to be aggressive in helping charter, voucher and virtual schools, along with public schools, and his party controls the Legislature.

This is what is wrong with contemporary mathematics

Erik Poupaert:

The 1925 publication of Principia Mathematica caused something of a stir in academic circles back then. By firmly vesting precise mathematical notation and insisting on the precise use of language, Betrand Russell and Alfred Whitehead convinced approximately everybody in science and mathematics that it was time to stamp out ambiguity in scientific claims. Expressions and symbols like this became commonplace: φx ≡x ψx .⊃. (x): ƒ(φẑ) ≡ ƒ(ψẑ).
The year 1925 precedes a lot of change that has hit the world since then. The most important change is the advent and widespread use of computing devices, that is, computers.
One problem that we have run into is that a mathematical problem phrased in the Russell-Whitehead notation is not particularly well executable on a computing device. Besides making a particular, precise claim, the Russell-Whitehead notation does not allow you to verify it on a computer. That characteristic of the Russell-Whitehead approach is not particularly efficient. I will show in this blog post why it is even dangerous.
The Curry-Howard correspondence, on its side, claims that every mathematical “proof” is a program and the other way around. Therefore, instead of using a non-executable notation for “proof”, it should always be possible to use an executable one.

Residents blame parents, students for Milwaukee Public Schools’ failures, study shows

Erin Richards:

Most Milwaukee residents rate their public schools as average to failing, but the majority blame parents or the students for poor academic performance – not teachers or schools, according to a new study that reveals conflicting public attitudes about how to improve K-12 education in Milwaukee.
The results of the study released Sunday by the nonprofit Wisconsin Policy Research Institute indicate most Milwaukee residents want sweeping improvements in their schools but are far less supportive of the specific options proposed for getting there.
“We’re trying to get a sense of the public’s attention and knowledge of what’s going on in local schools and what their appetite is for change,” said George Lightbourn, president of WPRI, a think tank generally associated with conservative viewpoints.
Respondents’ answers send mixed messages to policy-makers.
Most residents surveyed believed Milwaukee’s public schools should be overhauled and not just tweaked, but they offered tepid support for reforms targeted most directly at reshaping school or teacher operations, such as adopting a longer school day or year or firing teachers – even those with records of low performance.
Some of those changes have become the hallmarks of urban schools showing strong results with mostly poor or minority students.

Chicopee ends all-girls math class at Bellamy Middle School

Jeanette DeForge:

A three-year experiment that created an all-girls math class at Edward Bellamy Middle School has ended in part because the students did not show they were doing any better than their peers in classes with boys and girls.
Bellamy Principal Matthew Francis created the all-girls math class in 2009 with the idea that adolescent girls will feel less intimidated and more focused if they are not competing with boys.
But after three years of collecting data from Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment Systems scores and students’ overall grades and performance, Francis said he decided to discontinue the class this year.

Dewhurst, Patrick Discuss Plans for School Reform

Morgan Smith:

Speaking in a Catholic school classroom in Austin, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and state Sen. Dan Patrick gave the first details of what they promised would be a wide-ranging set of proposals for public education policy during the upcoming legislative session.
Patrick, a Houston Republican who chairs the Senate Education Committee, said he would carry legislation that would increase the options for public school students through lifting the state’s cap on charter schools, fostering open enrollment within and across school districts, and creating a private school scholarship fund through offering a state business tax savings credit to corporations. When asked for further information about how such a scholarship program would operate, Patrick said the plan was still in its formative stages, and earlier, Dewhurst indicated that it may begin through a smaller-scale pilot program.

Advice, caution from early adopters of new teacher evaluations

Sarah Garland

In Washington, D.C., officials shortened a new teacher evaluation checklist after complaints from teachers and principals that it was too long and time-consuming.
In Memphis, Tenn., after a year of piloting new evaluations and a summer of training, some principals and teachers remained confused and overwhelmed.
In Louisiana, one expert warned of lawsuits as the state began to roll out a truncated observation system without first testing it.
But in New Haven, Conn., union officials and reformers alike have praised a collaborative effort to help teachers improve under the city’s new rating system.

Parents, teachers, public offer ideas for ways to increase security at Madison schools

Matthew DeFour:

The Madison School District is considering ways to increase school security in response to the mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school last week, though arming more school officials is not among them.
In the wake of the massacre, parents, teachers and members of the public have offered dozens of safety suggestions to the district, security coordinator Luis Yudice said Friday.
They include making it easier for teachers to secure their classrooms, training principals to deal with an armed intruder and reviewing the policy of having schools serve as polling places.

Related, via a kind reader’s email:

From: Sara Paton
Date: December 19, 2012 3:20:35 PM CST
Subject: Important Message from Principal Holmes
Reply-To: Sara Paton
Madison Metropolitan School District
The following letter was sent as an email to all students during 8th hour today. Please read:
December 19, 2012
Dear West Students,
There have been several concerns raised about safety and security at West High School over the past few days as it relates to 12/21/12. Safety concerns have included rumors about:
-Bomb Threats
-School closings on 12/21/12
-Comments made by West High students
Administration, security, and police have spent Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of this week speaking with students, staff, and parents regarding the concerns that have been raised. All of the information collected has been thoroughly investigated, and we as an administrative team, security staff and police are confident that the concerns raised do not pose a safety risk for the students and staff of West High.
In light of the recent tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary, tensions are high across the country and threats are more likely to be viewed as potentially dangerous. We want you to be aware that we are taking the concerns very seriously and are taking the necessary precautions to be sure we are safe. Unfortunately, information has been misinterpreted and taken out of context through multiple social media such as Facebook and Twitter. This has created a great deal of anxiety and fear in our school community. Again, we have found no substance to the rumors and no threat to school safety.
In conclusion, we know some students are frightened and some students have been blamed. It is critical at this time that we as the West High community work together to dispel rumors, ensure school safety and create a positive school culture.
Below are some suggestions on steps to take in the event important information comes to your attention:
-Continue to let trusted adults know when you are concerned about safety or someone else’s behavior.
-Be kind and patient with each other. This is a tough time for our school and our country.
-Make healthy decisions for yourself with your parents guidance.
It is up to all of us to be good stewards of our school and work together to protect one another.
Ed Holmes, Principal
Madison West

Learning new lessons: Online courses are transforming higher education, creating new opportunities for the best and huge problems for the rest

The Economist:

TOP-QUALITY teaching, stringent admissions criteria and impressive qualifications allow the world’s best universities to charge mega-fees: over $50,000 for a year of undergraduate study at Harvard. Less exalted providers have boomed too, with a similar model that sells seminars, lectures, exams and a “salad days” social life in a single bundle. Now online provision is transforming higher education, giving the best universities a chance to widen their catch, opening new opportunities for the agile, and threatening doom for the laggard and mediocre.
The roots are decades old. Britain’s Open University started teaching via radio and television in 1971, the for-profit University of Phoenix has been teaching online since 1989; MIT and others have been posting lectures on the internet for a decade. But the change in 2012 has been electrifying. Two start-ups, both spawned by Stanford University, are recruiting students at an astonishing rate for “massive open online courses” or MOOCs. In January Sebastian Thrun, a computer-science professor there, announced the launch of Udacity. It started to offer courses the next month–a nanosecond by the standards of old-style university decision making. He also gave up his Stanford tenure, saying that Udacity had “completely changed my perspective”. In October Udacity raised $15m from investors. It has 475,000 users.

An Interview with Writopia Lab Founder Rebecca Wallace-Segal

Rebecca Wallace-Segal SIS interviewI enjoyed a recent conversation with Rebecca Wallace-Segal, founder of New York based Writopia Lab. Here’s an excerpt:
Thinking back to how you were educated, and then thinking about it as a parent, what you might do differently given what you know now.
Going on the record, this is something I think about everyday. I grew up in the New York City public school system. Let me think about how to answer this question.
I think my parents, everyone around me, made the best choices that they could make, and everyone was trying the best that they could. I didn’t feel cared about. My classes were large, and so I didn’t have personal relationships with my teachers, starting in fifth grade. I did when I was younger, but then as the classes grew bigger, I didn’t feel anything nurturing from them. It wasn’t until I went to college that I started to develop really close relationships with my professors, in graduate school.

Then I ended up working in private schools for a couple of years before I started Writopia, and I really understood how schools that are philosophically-driven, mission-driven, can create such a different world for kids. That’s why I’m encouraging parents to go to the principal.

I think the principal even of any school can bring a culture to a school. Maybe that’s where we should be starting. The power that the principal has…if the school doesn’t have a mission, doesn’t have a philosophy, like this is the kind…
MP3 Audio: Rebecca Wallace-Segall interview. Transcript

The Sensitive Task Of Sorting Value-Added Scores

Matthew DiCarlo:

The New Teacher Project’s (TNTP) recent report on teacher retention, called “The Irreplaceables,” garnered quite a bit of media attention. In a discussion of this report, I argued, among other things, that the label “irreplaceable” is a highly exaggerated way of describing their definitions, which, by the way, varied between the five districts included in the analysis. In general, TNTP’s definitions are better-described as “probably above average in at least one subject” (and this distinction matters for how one interprets the results).
I’d like to elaborate a bit on this issue – that is, how to categorize teachers’ growth model estimates, which one might do, for example, when incorporating them into a final evaluation score. This choice, which receives virtually no discussion in TNTP’s report, is always a judgment call to some degree, but it’s an important one for accountability policies. Many states and districts are drawing those very lines between teachers (and schools), and attaching consequences and rewards to the outcomes.
Let’s take a very quick look, using the publicly-released 2010 “teacher data reports” from New York City (there are details about the data in the first footnote*). Keep in mind that these are just value-added estimates, and are thus, at best, incomplete measures of the performance of teachers (however, importantly, the discussion below is not specific to growth models; it can apply to many different types of performance measures).

Are Sleepy Students Learning?

Daniel T. Willingham:

How does the mind work–and especially how does it learn? Teachers’ instructional decisions are based on a mix of theories learned in teacher education, trial and error, craft knowledge, and gut instinct. Such knowledge often serves us well, but is there anything sturdier to rely on?
Cognitive science is an interdisciplinary field of researchers from psychology, neuroscience, linguistics, philosophy, computer science, and anthropology who seek to understand the mind. In this regular American Educator column, we consider findings from this field that are strong and clear enough to merit class- room application.
Question: Some of my students seem really sleepy–they stifle yawns and struggle to keep tired eyes open–especially in the morning. This can’t be good for their learning, right? Is there any- thing I can do to help these students?
Answer: Sleep is indeed essential to learning, and US teenag- ers (and teenagers in most industrialized countries) don’t get enough. Although recent work shows there is a strong biological reason that teens tend not to sleep enough, there is some good news in this research. First, the impact on learning, although quite real, does not appear to be as drastic as we might fear. Second, the sleep deficit teens tend to run is not inevitable; with some plan- ning, they can get more shuteye.

Keep it in the family Home schooling: is growing ever faster

The Economist

Every morning five-year-old Tristan starts his school day by reading in bed with his mother. He especially likes Enid Blyton. And even though he often doesn’t bother to get out of his pyjamas in time for his first class of the day, at the age of five he has a reading age of between seven and eight. He is also ahead of his peers in a variety of subjects–all, his mother reckons, thanks to home schooling.
Three decades ago home schooling was illegal in 30 states. It was considered a fringe phenomenon, pursued by cranks, and parents who tried it were often persecuted and sometimes jailed. Today it is legal everywhere, and is probably the fastest-growing form of education in America. According to a new book, “Home Schooling in America”, by Joseph Murphy, a professor at Vanderbilt University, in 1975 10,000-15,000 children were taught at home. Today around 2m are–about the same number as attend charter schools.

We can strengthen public schools by providing all kids the opportunities they need to learn

Angelina Cruz:

We live in an era in which the perceptions of public education have been formed based upon political ideologues bent on reform by means of accountability measures. These accountability measures in large part tie both school and teacher performance to high-stakes standardized tests. While it is reasonable that there be expectations established for teacher performance, it is not OK to impose punitive measures upon those performing in the most challenging environments with variables that extend beyond the classroom which impact learning.
Recently, a non-partisan think tank, the Forward Institute, released their findings in a study examining school achievement and poverty in public and charter schools. A key finding is that poverty is closely linked to academic achievement, as measured by high-stakes standardized testing, in the state of Wisconsin.
According to the statistical analysis, charter schools, long lauded as the solution to the ills of the public school system, actually fare worse in addressing the needs of our most disadvantaged populations. Statewide, public school students from low socioeconomic backgrounds actually outperform their peers in charter school settings. This study places public education within the context of the 2011-2013 Wisconsin biennial budget (Act 32).

‘What are you looking at?’ and other college application questions

Los Angeles Times:

Stanford University: Write a note to your future roommate that reveals something about you or that will help your roommate — and us — know you better.
Carleton College: Have you ever tossed around a Frisbee___, a hot potato___, an idea___?
Connecticut College: Tell us about your favorite place and why it holds special meaning for you. It can be close to home or on another continent, your kitchen or a mountaintop.
Pomona College: You are walking down the street when something catches your eye. You stop and stare for a long while, amazed and fascinated. What are you looking at?

A Modest Proposal on State Standards

Matthew Ladner:

A few years ago while serving as a VP at the Goldwater Institute I received a request to come out hard against the adoption of Common Core standards in Arizona. I didn’t know whether it would have mattered or not but the request originated from people who I continue now to hold in a great deal of respect. I considered the matter very carefully. I had deep misgivings regarding Common Core at the time, the most serious of which was the governance of the standards over time. At the time I was of the opinion that unless Ben Bernanke took up the task of governing the standards that it would inevitably follow that Common Core would eventually result in the Great American Dummy Down.
Nevertheless in the end I decided not to oppose Arizona’s adoption of Common Core standards. Regardless of how bad Common Core started out or later became, Arizona simply had nothing to lose. Arizona had just about every testing problem you could imagine- dummied down cut scores, massive teaching to test items, and something at least in the direct vicinity of outright fraud by state officials regarding the state’s testing system. Our state scores had “improved” substantially through a combination of lowered cut scores and teaching to the test items, but NAEP showed Arizona scoring below the national average on every single test and precious little progress. The status quo was worse than a waste of time.

A Game-Changer for Global Education

Rebecca Winthrop:

Recently at the Brookings Center for Universal Education (CUE), we were joined by colleagues from around the world in a two-day conference to discuss the status of global education and strategies for future action. Activities during the two-day conference included: a public event with United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown and Director of the White House National Economic Council Gene Sperling; a private meeting with a delegation from the Democratic Republic of the Congo; a meeting convened by Women Thrive Worldwide; a private all-day research symposium on ‘Learning in the Developing World’; and presentations by CUE’s Global Guest scholars.
The central theme of the events was to understand the new opportunities that Education First, the U.N. secretary-general’s new five-year global education initiative, affords our community. There was broad agreement that this new initiative has the potential to be a game-changer in global education if it succeeds in its mission to, in the words of Carol Bellamy, get existing and new actors alike to “do more and do better.” Not only does Education First inject much needed leadership and energy into global education advocacy and provide a bold vision for the future, but it also puts forward a set of concrete steps for actors to take if they want to lend their hands to the effort.

A Guide for the Perplexed — A Review of Rigorous Charter Research

Colin Hitt:

So you say charter schools don’t work. That’s an empirical claim. It needs to be backed up by evidence. Here’s a helpful guide to the most rigorous research available. Once you’ve tackled this material, you’ll be in position to prove your point.
As you probably know, the gold standard method of research in social science is called random assignment. Charter schools are particularly well-suited for random assignment evaluations, since they’re usually required by law to admit students by lottery. The lotteries are fair to families – that’s why they’re put in place. But they also allow researchers to make fair comparisons between students who win or lose lotteries to attend charter schools.
To date, nine studies lottery-based evaluations of charter schools have been released. Let’s go through them, starting with the earliest work.
The first random assignment study of charter schools was released in 2004 by Caroline Hoxby and Jonah Rockoff. It focused on Chicago International Charter School. After three years, charter students had significantly higher reading scores, equal to 3.3 to 4.2 points on 100-point rankings. Gains were even stronger for younger students.

Program teaches healthy habits for young and old

Pamela Cotant:

Jane Qualle found a nice fit with the CATCH Healthy Habits program when she looked for volunteer opportunities after she retired as a nurse.
CATCH Healthy Habits in Madison pairs adults 50 and older with children at various sites to encourage healthier eating and physical activity. It also is aimed at helping the adults, who can learn alongside the children and receive benefits by volunteering. CATCH stands for Coordinated Approach To Child Health.
After first volunteering at a site farther away from her home, Qualle volunteered at the Mendota Elementary School site, which was about a mile from home.
She usually walks, which allows her to get some exercise and serve as a role model for the children.
“I’m just a believer — the more active you are, the healthier you are,” Qualle said. “It’s an opportunity for kids to actually play rather than sitting in front of the TV or computer.”

No more Flori-duh. State’s fourth-grade readers go from bottom of the nation to top of the world

Mike Thomas, via a kind reader’s email:

Kids in Singapore and Finland have long distinguished themselves on international academic tests, leaving American kids far, far, far behind.
They would rule the 21st Century while our kids would assemble snow globes, sew sneakers, man the call centers and figure out how to pay their parents’ entitlements on 93 cents a day.
If things weren’t bad enough, now we have the results of international fourth grade reading assessments. And not only were the usual suspects at the top of the list, we have a new nation to rub its superiority in our face, a nation that bested even Singapore and Finland.
The kids there not only significantly outperformed American kids, they had almost triple the percent of students reading at an advanced level when compared to the international average.

The PIRLS Reading Result-Better than You May Realize by Daniel Willingham, via a kind reader’s email:

The PIRLS results are better than you may realize.
Last week, the results of the 2011 Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) were published. This test compared reading ability in 4th grade children.
U.S. fourth-graders ranked 6th among 45 participating countries. Even better, US kids scored significantly better than the last time the test was administered in 2006.
There’s a small but decisive factor that is often forgotten in these discussions: differences in orthography across languages.
Lots of factors go into learning to read. The most obvious is learning to decode–learning the relationship between letters and (in most languages) sounds. Decode is an apt term. The correspondence of letters and sound is a code that must be cracked.
In some languages the correspondence is relatively straightforward, meaning that a given letter or combination of letters reliably corresponds to a given sound. Such languages are said to have a shallow orthography. Examples include Finnish, Italian, and Spanish.
In other languages, the correspondence is less consistent. English is one such language. Consider the letter sequence “ough.” How should that be pronounced? It depends on whether it’s part of the word “cough,” “through,” “although,” or “plough.” In these languages, there are more multi-letter sound units, more context-depenent rules and more out and out quirks.

Colleges Pay to Protect Students from Toxic Google Results (!)

Lauren Weber:

Most college students understand that it’s probably a good idea to remove online photos of themselves drinking beer or mooning the camera as they plot their entry into the professional world.
But few realize they should spend just as much time highlighting the good news about themselves on the web.
Now some college career-services centers are providing tools to help their students influence the results a recruiter might see when typing their names into a search engine.
Schools, ever more conscious of their job-placement figures, are moving a step beyond simply warning students to clean up their profiles. They are encouraging students to put forward information that can help them land jobs – and investing in services to help them do so.

Higher education: our MP3 is the mooc Academics have watched the internet change the music industry, books and news. And yet, now it’s happening in higher education, we are about to screw it up

Clay Shirky:

Fifteen years ago, a research group called The Fraunhofer Institute announced a new digital format for compressing movie files. This wasn’t a terribly momentous invention, but it did have one interesting side-effect: Fraunhofer also had to figure out how to compress the soundtrack. The result was the Motion Picture Experts Group Format 1, Audio Layer III, a format you know and love, though only by its acronym, MP3.
The recording industry concluded this new format would be no threat, because quality mattered most. Who would listen to an MP3 when they could buy a better-sounding CD? Then Napster launched, and quickly became the fastest-growing piece of software in history. The industry sued Napster and won, and it collapsed even more suddenly than it had arisen.
If Napster had only been about free access, control of legal distribution of music would then have returned the record labels. That’s not what happened. Instead, Spotify happened. ITunes happened. Amazon began selling songs in the hated MP3 format.
How did the recording industry win the battle but lose the war? They crushed Napster, but what they couldn’t kill was the story Napster told.

Commentary here.

The Future of Academic Impact

Caroline Dynes:

LSE’s public policy group put on an excellent conference programme on 4 December at Beveridge Hall. The conference explored the themes:1) the Economic impact of academic research; 2) impact and the new digital paradigm; 3) next steps in assessing impact; 4) impact as a driver for Open Access. Throughout the day there were break-out sessions on different types of social media for enhancing academic impact but sadly I was unable to attend those (for more info see here).
Upon arrival on a cold London morning, I was struck by the size of the pastries on offer but once I had assured myself of one I bustled into the main hall for the beginning of the day’s sessions. The economic impact of academic research was a striking title, and I was unsure how the pounds were going to be counted. Patrick Dunleavy set out the work he had been doing on the impact of social sciences and the artificial lines in the sand he had to draw to demarcate the social sciences from other work in an increasingly interdisciplinary world. This included impressive figures such as £4.8bn annually as the total value-added from social sciences to the economy.

School Takes New Tack on Work Study

Anand Giridharadas:

“I was raised into believing that money is everything,” said Maire Mendoza, 19, crying at her own tale.
Her parents are near-invisibles in this city that they’ve heard called a city of dreams. They left Mexico before Maire was born and have toiled anonymously ever since — her mother a baby sitter these days, her father a restaurant worker.
They raised their girls as pragmatic survivors. So it was startling when Maire came to them not long ago with an epiphany: “I now know that I don’t want to work for money,” she said, to bafflement. But her father, sensing his limitations, deferred. “You’re probably right,” she remembers him saying, “and it’s because you go to school and you know things that we don’t know.”

Maryland Unveils new school accountability system

Joe Burris:

The State Department of Education on Monday unveiled a new way of assessing accountability of each school, a measure called the School Progress Index (SPI) that school officials say will cut in half the percentage of non-proficient students by 2017.
The Maryland State Department of Education unveiled Monday a new way of assessing accountability of each school in Maryland under the waiver that it received from the federal No Child Left Behind act.
The new measure, the School Progress Index, aims to cut in half the percentage of students who do not score at a proficient level on the state’s assessments by 2017, school officials said. It replaces the system of measuring school targets called adequate yearly progress.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: How Big Deficits Became the Norm?

David Wessel

Big budget deficits haven’t always been with us.
From the end of the Eisenhower years through the Carter presidency, the deficit averaged a modest 1.4% of the nation’s economic output. The budget was nearly balanced in seven of the 20 years from 1960 to 1979. And, as Bill Clinton reminds at every opportunity, the U.S. government was in surplus for four years at the end of his presidency.
In January 2001, the Congressional Budget Office projected annual surpluses totaling $5.6 trillion over the following 10 years. Alan Greenspan, the Federal Reserve chairman at the time, worried out loud about the consequences of paying off the federal debt, such as the possibility that the government might invest its surpluses in corporate stock and meddle in management.

New Jersey Teacher Tenure: Last in First Out

Laura Waters:

From NJ Ed. Comm. Chris Cerf’s just-released Education Funding Report:

It is the Department’s hope that in considering changes to the SFRA funding formula, the Legislature will also address some of the Education Funding Report’s recommendations. Three in particular are worth highlighting. First, notwithstanding the change to the State’s tenure law, where budget or other constraints require school districts to lay off teachers, state law forces them to do so based on seniority, not classroom effectiveness. The result is a system that prizes longevity over student outcomes. Such a system is tragically unfair to disadvantaged children and cannot be permitted to continue.

The other two recommendations Cerf refers to are creating incentives for school reform (“In fact, historically, the worse a school district was performing, the more state aid it received”) and phasing out “adjustment aid,” which was intended to protect districts as the state transitioned from the old funding formula (Abbott-driven) to the new one, the School Funding Reform Act (SFRA). From Cerf’s report:

$1.2 million Madison schools foundation grant targets achievement gap

Matthew DeFour:

Two yet-to-be-determined Madison elementary schools will split a $1.2 million grant to accelerate low-income and minority student achievement, the Foundation for Madison’s Public Schools announced Wednesday.
School Board member Mary Burke contributed the funding for the grant, which will be awarded in $200,000 installments over three years.
The foundation currently distributes about $400,000 a year to Madison schools, so the grant will double that amount, foundation executive director Stephanie Hayden said. The goal of the grant is to demonstrate that closing the achievement gap can be done more quickly than currently expected.
“We would hope that others in the community would step forward and fund similar things,” Hayden said. “We really view these as a demonstration project to show it can be done.”
The eligible non-charter schools must have at least 50 percent of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. Eighteen elementary schools meet that threshold this year.

Are Residents Losing Their Edge in Public University Admissions? The Case at the University of Washington

Grant Blume, Marguerite Roza via a kind Deb Britt email

There is a longstanding implicit bargain that comes with state-supported higher education: subsidized prices for in-state students, and resident preference in the admissions process.
News reports now suggest that public universities across the country are shifting more spots to nonresidents (who pay higher tuitions) in order to plug budget gaps, prompting critics to worry that residents are losing their advantage in the admissions process.
Do residents still have an advantage, or are admissions standards leveling for the two groups? Or, are admissions actually now favoring out-of-state applicants?
This case study examines admissions data at the University of Washington in order to quantify the effect on admissions standards for residents versus nonresidents. Like many other state flagship universities, the UW has suffered from constrained state revenues during the recent recessionary years. The findings suggest that Washington residents have indeed lost their edge in UW admissions, and in fact may have been at a disadvantage in 2011.

Madison Teachers Newsletter: Teacher Retirement and TERP Deadline February 15

Madison Teaches, Inc. Solidarity Newsletter via a kind Linda Doeseckle email:

In order for one to be eligible for the MTI-negotiated Teacher Emeritus Retirement Program (TERP) [Clusty Search], he/she must be a full-time teacher, at least 55 years old, with a combined age (as of August 30 in one’s retirement year) and years of service in the District totaling at least 75. (For example, a teacher who is 57 and has eighteen (18) years of service to the MMSD would be eligible: 57 + 18 = 75.) Teachers who are younger than age 55 are eligible if they have worked for the MMSD at least 30 years. Up to ten (10) part-time teachers may participate in TERP each year provided they have worked full-time within the last ten (10) years and meet the eligibility criteria described above.
Retirement notifications, including completed TERP agreements, are due in the District’s Department of Human Resources no later than February 15. Appointments can be made to complete the TERP agreement and discuss insurance options at retirement by calling the District’s Benefits Manager, Sharon Hennessy at 663-1795.
MTI was successful in negotiations for the 2009-13 and 2013-14 Contracts in negotiating a guaranteed continuance of TERP. Thus, MTI members can be assured that TERP runs through 2014 and not feel pressured into retirement before they are ready.
MTI Assistant Director Doug Keillor is available to provide guidance and/or to provide estimated benefits for TERP , insurance continuation, application of one’ s Retirement Insurance Account, WRS and Social Security. Call MTI Headquarters (257-0491) to schedule an appointment.

Rising Inequality, Even Among College Presidents

Steven Rattner:

Eye-popping tales of growing income inequality are hardly new. By now, nearly every American must be painfully aware of the widening pay gap between top executives and shop floor laborers; between “Master of the Universe” financiers and pretty much everyone else.
But here’s what may not be as familiar: Widening income disparities are hardly limited to the commercial world, and even among very successful individuals performing similar tasks, income differences have grown.
Recently, thanks to data compiled by The Chronicle of Higher Education, I saw these macro trends reduced to the micro level in a perhaps unlikely setting: institutions of higher learning.

Much more on Steven Rattner.

The End of Unions? What Michigan Governor Rick Snyder gets right and wrong about labor policy

Richard Epstein:

The age of big government is now upon us. The question is how to respond to this daunting reality. One possible approach is prudential acquiescence to the inevitable. Conservatives could work toward incremental reform within today’s political paradigm. The Hoover Institution’s own Peter Berkowitz offers this advice in his thoughtful column in the Wall Street Journal. Libertarians, in particular, must “absorb” the lesson that frontal assaults on New Deal-era policies are out. He writes:

[C]onservatives must redouble their efforts to reform sloppy and incompetent government and resist government’s inherent expansionist tendencies and progressivism’s reflexive leveling proclivities. But to undertake to dismantle or even substantially roll back the welfare and regulatory state reflects a distinctly unconservative refusal to ground political goals in political realities.
Conservatives can and should focus on restraining spending, reducing regulation, reforming the tax code, and generally reining in our sprawling federal government. But conservatives should retire misleading talk of small government. Instead, they should think and speak in terms of limited government.

I fear the downside of Berkowitz’s counsel of moderation. For starters, no one can police Berkowitz’s elusive line between “small” and “limited” government. At its core, Berkowitz’s wise counsel exposes the Achilles heel of all conservative thought, which can be found in the writings of such notables as David Brooks and the late Russell Kirk. Their desire to “conserve” the best of the status quo offers no normative explanation of which institutions and practices are worthy of intellectual respect and which are not. No one doubts that politics depends on the art of compromise. But compromise only works for politicians who know where they want to go and how to get there.

2012-13 Sun Prairie School District Administrator Increases and Pay


It seems only fair that if the teacher salaries were published, then we also publish the salaries for administrators.
We’ve got 10 members of the $100K club plus one that’s right on the edge.
The question in our minds right now is that a 2% pool was set aside for administrators, admin support, and Local 60. The average increases was 2% for these groups.

Montgomery superintendent shows courage in denouncing standardized tests

Robert McCartney:

For more than a decade, school standardized tests have been the magic keys that were supposed to unlock the door to a promised realm of American students able to read and do sums as well as their counterparts in Asia and Europe.
A generation of U.S. education reformers has assured us that if we would just rely mostly on test scores and other hard data to guide decisions, then all manner of good results would ensue. Foundations gave millions of dollars to encourage it. The Obama administration embraced the cause, lest it stand accused of short-changing kids.
It was always a fairy tale. Tests are necessary, of course, but the mania for them has become self-defeating. They don’t account for the vast differences in children’s social, economic and family backgrounds. Good teachers give up on proven classroom techniques and instead “teach to the test.”
Now, finally, somebody with standing is getting attention for denouncing the madness.
The truth-teller is one of our own from the Washington region, Montgomery County Superintendent Joshua P. Starr. He has only been here for a year and a half, but he arrived with an impressive résumé and is emerging as a credible national voice urging a more reasoned and deliberate path to educational progress.

In Minn., new tactics to help immigrant students

Tim Post:

Imagine trying to read and solve math problems in a school where you don’t speak the language of your teacher and classmates.
That’s the challenge facing roughly 65,000 students in Minnesota, or 8 percent of the student population, who are learning English as they go through the school.
Despite some recent improvement in their test scores, English learners, whose numbers are growing, perform far below the state average in reading, math and science. Only slightly more than half graduate from high school in four years. To boost English learners’ performance, some Minnesota schools are trying new approaches designed to help them more quickly grasp the language. Among them is Kennedy Elementary in Willmar, Minn., which has a growing number of students from Somalia.

School Board president James Howard faces challenger

Matthew DeFour:

Madison School Board president James Howard has drawn an opponent setting up the likelihood of three races for the spring election.
Greg Packnett, a Democratic legislative aide, has filed paperwork to run for Howard’s seat. Howard has yet to file, but tells me he plans to do so by the Jan. 2 deadline.
Dean Loumos, executive director of low-income housing provider Housing Initiatives, and Wayne Strong, a retiring Madison police lieutenant, have filed to run for the seat being vacated by Beth Moss.
Adam Kassulke, a former Milwaukee teacher whose daughter attends Shabazz High School, and Ananda Mirilli, restorative justice coordinator with YWCA Madison and a Nuestro Mundo parent, have filed to run for the seat being vacated by Maya Cole.
One other update: State Rep. Kelda Roys and disability rights attorney Jeff Spitzer-Resnick, who previously said they were thinking about running, have decided not to run.

A Guide for the Perplexed — A Review of Rigorous Charter Research

Collin Hitt:

So you say charter schools don’t work. That’s an empirical claim. It needs to be backed up by evidence. Here’s a helpful guide to the most rigorous research available. Once you’ve tackled this material, you’ll be in position to prove your point.
As you probably know, the gold standard method of research in social science is called random assignment. Charter schools are particularly well-suited for random assignment evaluations, since they’re usually required by law to admit students by lottery. The lotteries are fair to families – that’s why they’re put in place. But they also allow researchers to make fair comparisons between students who win or lose lotteries to attend charter schools.
To date, nine studies lottery-based evaluations of charter schools have been released. Let’s go through them, starting with the earliest work.
The first random assignment study of charter schools was released in 2004 by Caroline Hoxby and Jonah Rockoff. It focused on Chicago International Charter School. After three years, charter students had significantly higher reading scores, equal to 3.3 to 4.2 points on 100-point rankings. Gains were even stronger for younger students.

Related: Madison Mayor Paul Soglin: “We are not interested in the development of new charter schools”.

Are MOOCs becoming mechanisms for international competition in global higher ed?

Kris Olds:

Are Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) becoming mechanisms for international competition in global higher education? Where are Europe’s MOOCs in the context of the dearth of lifelong learning opportunities in the region, or both the internal and external/global dimensions of the European Higher Education Area? Who will establish the first MOOCs platform that spans the Arabic-speaking world? Are the MOOCs born in the United States (circa 2012) poised to become post-national platforms of higher ed given their cosmopolitan multilingual architects? And will my birth country of Canada ever sort out a strategy regarding MOOCs (a point also made by George Siemens), or will Canada depend on US platforms like it does in many sectors and spheres of life, for good and bad.
I couldn’t help but think about some of these questions when England’s Open University (est. 1969) announced last Thursday that it was going to establish a MOOCs platform that will be known as Futurelearn. Link here for the press release and here for some media coverage of Futurelearn. In total 12 UK-based universities will initially be associated with the Futurelearn platform:

Students aren’t the only ones cheating–some professors are, too. Uri Simonsohn is out to bust them.

Christopher Shea:

Uri Simonsohn, a research psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, did not set out to be a vigilante. His first step down that path came two years ago, at a dinner with some fellow social psychologists in St. Louis. The pisco sours were flowing, Simonsohn recently told me, as the scholars began to indiscreetly name and shame various “crazy findings we didn’t believe.” Social psychology–the subfield of psychology devoted to how social interaction affects human thought and action–routinely produces all sorts of findings that are, if not crazy, strongly counterintuitive. For example, one body of research focuses on how small, subtle changes–say, in a person’s environment or positioning–can have surprisingly large effects on their behavior. Idiosyncratic social-psychology findings like these are often picked up by the press and on Freakonomics-style blogs. But the crowd at the restaurant wasn’t buying some of the field’s more recent studies. Their skepticism helped convince Simonsohn that something in social psychology had gone horribly awry. “When you have scientific evidence,” he told me, “and you put that against your intuition, and you have so little trust in the scientific evidence that you side with your gut–something is broken.”
Simonsohn does not look like a vigilante–or, for that matter, like a business-school professor: at 37, in his jeans, T-shirt, and Keen-style water sandals, he might be mistaken for a grad student. And yet he is anything but laid-back. He is, on the contrary, seized by the conviction that science is beset by sloppy statistical maneuvering and, in some cases, outright fraud. He has therefore been moonlighting as a fraud-buster, developing techniques to help detect doctored data in other people’s research. Already, in the space of less than a year, he has blown up two colleagues’ careers. (In a third instance, he feels sure fraud occurred, but he hasn’t yet nailed down the case.) In so doing, he hopes to keep social psychology from falling into disrepute.
Simonsohn initially targeted not flagrant dishonesty, but loose methodology. In a paper called “False-Positive Psychology,” published in the prestigious journal Psychological Science, he and two colleagues–Leif Nelson, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley, and Wharton’s Joseph Simmons–showed that psychologists could all but guarantee an interesting research finding if they were creative enough with their statistics and procedures.

What is the Role of the Teacher in 21st Century Education?

Thomas Jerome Baker:

I am a member of many professional learning communities. I do a tremendous amount of reading, trying to be at the cutting edge of knowledge in my field: education. Here’s what I mean when I say “cutting edge”: to be one of the first people to know about new developments and news in the field of education in general, and English Language Teaching, specifically, which is my field in which I work, as an educator in an International Baccalaureate World School, located in Santiago, Chile.
Well, as I said, while reading I just came across an open question, asked by a colleague from Bengaluru, India, named Shivananda Salgame.
No, I didn’t make up that name, nor the question. Trust me, both the person and the question are real. In fact, let me first introduce you to Shivananda a bit, and then I’ll add my reflections to the question he posed.

If You Build It, Debt Will Come

Jeff Selingo:

When we read or hear stories in the news media these days about debt in higher education, we typically assume they are about the trillion dollars in student loans held by college graduates and their families.
But last week The New York Times put the spotlight on an often ignored angle to questions of debt in higher education: the amount of money owed by colleges and universities themselves.
“The pile of debt — $205 billion outstanding in 2011 at the colleges rated by Moody’s — comes at a time of increasing uncertainty in academia,” Andrew Martin of The Times wrote in a front-page story.
In some ways, the news is even worse. The Times only counted debt that is tracked by Moody’s, one of the big-three credit-rating agencies. Moody’s only rates the debt at a few hundred of the nation’s colleges, usually the ones that are in solid financial shape. Data from the Education Department paints a picture of more red ink for all of higher education: $277 billion, double what colleges held in debt in 2000.

Who Can Still Afford State U ?

Scott Thurm:

Though Colorado taxpayers now provide more funding in absolute terms, those funds cover a much smaller share of CU’s total spending, which has grown enormously. In 1985, when Mr. Joiner was a freshman, state appropriations paid 37% of the Boulder campus’s $115 million “general fund” budget. In the current academic year, the state is picking up 9% of a budget that has grown to $600 million.
A number of factors have helped to fuel the soaring cost of public colleges. Administrative costs have soared nationwide, and many administrators have secured big pay increases–including some at CU, in 2011. Teaching loads have declined for tenured faculty at many schools, adding to costs. Between 2001 and 2011, the Department of Education says, the number of managers at U.S. colleges and universities grew 50% faster than the number of instructors. What’s more, schools have spent liberally on fancier dorms, dining halls and gyms to compete for students.
Still, Colorado ranks 48th among states in per-person spending on higher education, down from sixth in 1970, says Brian Burnett, a vice chancellor at the University of Colorado’s Colorado Springs campus who recently published his Ph.D. dissertation on Colorado’s higher-education funding.

Lawrence schools planning expanded career and technical education

Peter Hancock:

The Lawrence school board hopes to finalize plans for an upcoming bond election, including plans for expanding career and technical education programs, when the board holds a special meeting this week.
The board meets at 7 p.m. Monday at the district office, 110 McDonald Drive.
Rick Henry, career and technical education specialist for the district, updated the board last week about the kinds of career and technical programs that officials would like to offer by forming partnerships with area community and technical colleges to teach classes at a facility in Lawrence.
Those programs include health sciences, machine technology, computer networking and commercial construction. Those would be in addition to the culinary arts program currently offered at the facility. Officials estimated the cost of launching those programs at about $4.4 million.

The Lawrence School District plans to spend $173,879,557 during 2012-2013 for 11,000 students or $15,807/student. PRK-12 Madison school district per student spending is $14,242 during 2012-2013.