# Talking about the Computational Future at SXSW 2013

Let’s start from some science. And you know, a lot of what I’ll say today connects back to what I thought at first was a small discovery that I made about 30 years ago. Let me tell you the story.
I started out at a pretty young age as a physicist. Diligently doing physics pretty much the way it had been done for 300 years. Starting from this-or-that equation, and then doing the math to figure out predictions from it. That worked pretty well in some cases. But there were too many cases where it just didn’t work. So I got to wondering whether there might be some alternative; a different approach.
At the time I’d been using computers as practical tools for quite a while–and I’d even created a big software system that was a forerunner of Mathematica. And what I gradually began to think was that actually computers–and computation–weren’t just useful tools; they were actually the main event. And that one could use them to generalize how one does science: to think not just in terms of math and equations, but in terms of arbitrary computations and programs.
So, OK, what kind of programs might nature use? Given how complicated the things we see in nature are, we might think the programs it’s running must be really complicated. Maybe thousands or millions of lines of code. Like programs we write to do things.
But I thought: let’s start simple. Let’s find out what happens with tiny programs–maybe a line or two of code long. And let’s find out what those do. So I decided to do an experiment. Just set up programs like that, and run them. Here’s one of the ones I started with. It’s called a cellular automaton. It consists of a line of cells, each one either black or not. And it runs down the page computing the new color of each cell using the little rule at the bottom there.

# Blowing up the K-12 Textbook Business

Call it a math lesson. Why would a school pay \$80 for a textbook that may quickly become irrelevant, when it could pay around \$5 or less?
A cadre of so-called open-education publishers is slowly beginning to gain the trust of schools and university systems by posing that question. Using free, open-source education materials, firms like CK-12 and Boundless are building digital textbooks and learning materials (mostly for math and science) that students and teachers can use and edit as they wish. While no single outfit yet dominates, the better such offerings get, the more traditional textbook giants like Pearson (PSO), Reed Elsevier (RUK), and Cengage ought to fear for their business models.
The U.S. spends more than \$7 billion every year on K-12 textbooks, according to the FCC. And college textbook prices have increased by a whopping 812% since 1978, according to the American Enterprise Institute, surpassing inflation, college tuition increases — even the much-discussed rise in medical expenses during that time period. College students report that they pay an average of \$655 a year on books and supplies, according to a 2012 report from the National Association of College Stores.

The K-12 world is generally very slow to change. Some schools, like Avenues have gone completely electronic along with their own iTunes U channel.

# Madison school board candidate TJ Mertz discusses charter schools, teacher evaluation

Five candidates are competing for three seats on the Madison school board, with the general election on April 2, 2013.
The political context for the races is explosive, given Gov. Scott Walker’s revolutionary proposals for education in Wisconsin: cuts to public school funding, an expansion of the voucher program, and a revamping of teachers’ evaluations and bargaining rights.
In Madison, the issues are particularly complex, with the intense disagreements over the district’s achievement gap between white and minority students.
TJ Mertz, an Edgewood College history instructor and education blogger, is running unopposed after Sarah Manski dropped out of the race for Seat 5 following the February primary. Her name will appear on the ballot, but she is moving to California. Mertz will replace retiring school board member Maya Cole.

Much more on the 2013 Madison School Board election, here.

# Wisconsin State Journal Madison School Board Endorsements

Wisconsin State Journal:

The Wisconsin State Journal editorial board interviewed — in person — 20 candidates for the City Council and four for Madison School Board. Every candidate deserves praise for giving voters a choice.
Yet the candidates pictured below are best prepared to tackle local challenges, including a dismal graduation rate for minority students and the need for a stronger economy and more jobs.
Seat 3
Wayne Strong will bring urgency to narrowing the achievement gap for minority students in Madison schools, while insisting on high standards for all. A father of two Madison graduates and an active community volunteer, Strong served on the strategic committee that prioritized the gap for action. Strong promises more accountability for results, starting with the new superintendent. He also wants to improve the school climate for minority families to encourage more involvement. A retired police officer, he’s well versed on effective strategies for reducing conflicts in schools that often lead to suspensions — “the genesis of the problem.” Strong’s opponent, Dean Loumos, is impressive, too. But Strong seems more willing to try new strategies for success.
Seat 4
James Howard likes to focus on school data to inform board decisions, rather than relying on assumptions or bowing to political pressure. The longtime economist and father of Madison students doesn’t go along to get along. Yet his peers elected him board president, and he played a big role in hiring incoming Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham. Howard expects action toward better results for struggling students. He wants to hire more minority educators and let key staff work flexible hours to better engage parents. Unlike his opponent, Greg Packnett, Howard cites concern for the burden property taxes place on older homeowners. A legislative aide at the Capitol, Packnett shows promise. But Howard’s experience makes him the clear choice.

Much more on the 2013 Madison School Board election, here.

# School Board votes to end dual-language immersion program at Chavez

Matthew DeFour:

The Madison School Board voted Monday night to discontinue the district’s dual-language immersion program at Chavez Elementary next year.
Current students will continue for one more year in the program, which offers a mix of Spanish and English instruction to both native Spanish and English speakers. Next year the district plans to work with families on how to continue the only dual-language program in the Memorial High School attendance area into the future, but there is no guarantee that it will continue.
The school district recommended discontinuing the program because of a shortage of Spanish-speaking families interested in participating. The program has been operating with some classes that have only native English speakers, which the board had not approved.

I wonder how much of the previous Superintendent’s initiatives (Dan Nerad) will unravel. Better to focus on the core reading issues, in my humble opinion.

# This Is What It’s Like to Take on School Unions As a Democratic Leader in California

Scott Shackford:

When National School Choice Week kicked off at the end of January in Los Angeles, former California State Senator Gloria Romero was there to celebrate. 2013 may prove to be a banner year for Romero in her school-choice activism. As a state senator, Romero introduced and fought for the passage of “parent-triggered” school reform in 2010. The law allows for parents to force a school district to convert a failing public school into a charter program if they have enough community support.
Toward the end of 2012, Desert Trails Elementary School in Adelanto, Calif., became the first school to successfully convert to a charter program through application of the parent-trigger law. A second school in Los Angeles is now on its way to join them.
Romero is also a Democrat, and thus her education reform activism has pitted her against the powerful education unions that are very politically influential within her party. She’s now the California director for Democrats for Education Reform (DFER), a group devoted to fighting for school choice from the left. Last month I interviewed Romero about recent school choice successes and the challenges of trying to fight for education reform within the confines of her own political party.
Reason: How do you feel National School Choice Week went this year?

# Madison West Student Wins Siemens Award

Amy Hua (left) from West High School is the 2012 Wisconsin Winner of the prestigious Siemens Award for Advanced Placement, making her one of the nation’s top achievers in AP science and mathematics courses and a future leader in the disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).
Amy is the first student at West High to receive this honor. The annual award honors up to 100 of the nation’s top performers in AP science and math courses (Biology, Calculus BC, Chemistry, Computer Science A, Environmental Science, Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism, Physics C: Mechanics, and Statistics) with a \$2,000 scholarship from the Siemens Foundation to one male and one female student in each state.
Amy has taken 11 AP courses during her high school years and lists calculus among her favorite such classes. Her initiative to enroll and excel in AP courses reflects potential to be a future leader in math and science and a role model for others. She advises to other students, “Collaborating with peers is a great way to learn new material since you can share ideas and synergistically approach complex problems.”

# ED TALKS: Renewing Public Education in Wisconsin

Madison Teachers, Inc. Solidarity Newsletter (PDF), via a kind Jeannie Bettner email:

The University of Wisconsin is sponsoring a free 10-day public event which is designed to engage educators and community members in a conversation about efforts to renew and reinvigorate education in Wisconsin. All sessions are in the evening. Program titles, presenters and locations can be found on MTI’s website (www.madisonteachers.org) or by contacting your MTI Faculty Representative. This week’s sessions are:

Related: www.wisconsin2.org
Much more on the Wisconsin School of Education, here.

# Students bare souls, and more, on Facebook “confession” pages

“I’m a compulsive laundry room thief,” says one Facebook confession. “I’m the reason the ‘Public Urination is Illegal’ signs were put up at Coyote Village,” says another.
“I sold books for the semester to go to South Padre for spring break … Gotta pay for the booze somehow,” reveals yet another poster.
By turns rueful and raunchy, these anonymous admissions pop up on ‘campus confession’ pages unofficially linked to scores of high schools and universities.
Like many social media trends, the confession craze captivates teenagers and 20-somethings – but alarms teachers, law enforcement officers and counselors.

# Federal gridlock means states control future of education

Alan Borsuk:

Optimism is such a core impulse for Milwaukee School Superintendent Gregory Thornton that he began to tell School Board members at a meeting Thursday he was pleased to inform them of something – and then corrected himself to say he regretted to inform them.
What he regretted – and a statewide roster of public school officials would agree – is that the news coming out of Washington and Madison when it comes to education funding is filled with uncertainty, confusion, and, from their standpoint, ill tidings.
Thornton said the meeting of the board’s budget committee had been postponed a week in the hope there would be more clarity (and maybe better news) by the time the board sat down. In reality, he said, things were cloudier than before.
But the lack of clarity on what lies ahead only underscores how important signals from Madison and Washington are.
It isn’t news that the capitals of the nation and state are the places to turn to if you want to get handles on what is going on in local education. Twenty-five years ago or so, that wasn’t nearly so true, especially in a places such as Wisconsin, which was (and still says it is) a “local-control” state for schools. As education moved up the priority list, the influence of Washington and Madison increased.

# Most Eighth Graders Matched to a High School of Their Choice

NY Times

This year, the racial breakdown of admission offers at these three schools looks like this (race and ethnicity data were not available for all test-takers):

Stuyvesant offered admission to 9 black students; 24 Latino students; 177 white students; and 620 students who identify as Asian.
Bronx Science offered admission to 25 black students; 54 Latino students; 239 white students; 489 Asian students; and 3 American Indian/Alaskan Native students.
Brooklyn Tech offered admission to 110 black students; 134 Latino students; 451 white students; 960 Asian students; and 5 American Indian/Alaskan Native students.

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# Students not to blame for web multitasking in class

Garth Beyer:

I’m going to be bold here and ask a question: “Does anyone pay attention in lectures?”
Of course some students do, but the majority are busy with other things: Facebook, emails, applying to internships (I hope you see the irony of this), reading, texting and now – what is most trendy – viewing images. Obviously not just any images but powerful images. Witty images. Funny images. Cute images. Images that really spark an emotion. In a couple of my classes if I sit in the back and look around, I can see a handful of people that are using laptops looking at images on Imgur.
Warning: If you haven’t been on sites like Imgur, 9gag, or Imgfav yet, you will get sucked in once you visit. You’ve been warned.
The days in which students could only spend boring classes napping are gone. The same goes with the age of merely texting. College students are notorious for multitasking. To think that we only text in class or only go on Facebook is outlandish.

# Western business schools have a crucial role to play in China

Simon Mosey:

Every business school in the western world places enormous stock in its global appeal, but how many of these institutions are genuinely catering for the market they probably covet above all others?
Latest OECD figures show that in 2010 the number of students studying internationally exceeded 4m for the first time, having topped 3m just five years earlier. The likes of India and Africa may have emerged as key targets, but it is China, inevitably, that demands special attention as the quest to expound the management wisdom of the west grows ever more competitive.
China needs entrepreneurs, but the notion that it is already a hotbed of innovation is a myth: it is still an imitator. Last year the Wall Street Journal, remarking on the findings of an investigation by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, observed that the typical Chinese entrepreneur might still be regarded as a restaurant owner or a farmer.

# Teens aspire to wrong jobs, says study

Helen Warrell:

British teenagers are in danger of pursuing careers which represent only a small fraction of future job vacancies, according to new research which exposes the gulf between pupils’ aspirations and the demands of the labour market.
The study of over 11,000 13 to 16 year-olds compared their career ambitions with projections of UK job availability over the next decade.
It showed that over a third of teenagers are interested in just 10 occupations. These included glamorous roles such as acting and professional sports and professions such as teaching, law, medicine and psychology.
The contrast is most stark among 15 to 16 year olds, a fifth of whom have ambitions to work in the culture, media and sport sector, which is projected to have only 2.4 per cent of the UK’s new and replacement jobs between 2010 and 2020.

# School Spotlight: Art program an oasis for students with special needs

Pamela Cotant:

Brenda Mueller was thrilled to have a creative outlet for her daughter, who attended a recent open art studio at the Monroe Street Arts Center for students with special needs.
“Sara loves to paint,” Mueller said about her daughter, who has Down syndrome. “She does a lot of painting at home.”
But the arts center program, called OASis, also gives the participants a chance to socialize with others, said Beth Jesion, art department head and lead art teacher.
OASis will be offered through May from 3:30 to 5 p.m. on the last Friday of each month except this month when it will run Friday, March 22, due to spring break for area students. It is open to those ages 6 and up, and registration by phone is encouraged.
The program is free due to a \$1,000 grant from The Capital Times Kids Fund.
OASis started in September, and Jesion said it will be offered again next school year. The arts center also would like to expand the program in the future such as offering it twice a month or having a day-long program, she said.

# China Is Engineering Genius Babies

It’s not exactly news that China is setting itself up as a new global superpower, is it? While Western civilization chokes on its own gluttony like a latter-day Marlon Brando, China continues to buy up American debt and lock away the world’s natural resources. But now, not content to simply laugh and make jerk-off signs as they pass us on the geopolitical highway, they’ve also developed a state-endorsed genetic-engineering project.
At BGI Shenzhen, scientists have collected DNA samples from 2,000 of the world’s smartest people and are sequencing their entire genomes in an attempt to identify the alleles which determine human intelligence. Apparently they’re not far from finding them, and when they do, embryo screening will allow parents to pick their brightest zygote and potentially bump up every generation’s intelligence by five to 15 IQ points. Within a couple of generations, competing with the Chinese on an intellectual level will be like challenging Lena Dunham to a getting-naked-on-TV contest.
Geoffrey Miller, an evolutionary psychologist and lecturer at NYU, is one of the 2,000 braniacs who contributed their DNA. I spoke to him about what this creepy-ass program might mean for the future of Chinese kids.

Related: New data reveal scale of China abortions and Eugenics.
Technology Review:

In its scientific work, BGI often acts as the enabler of other people’s ideas. That is the case in a major project conceived by Steve Hsu, vice president for research at Michigan State University, to search for genes that influence intelligence. Under the guidance of Zhao Bowen, BGI is now sequencing the DNA of more than 2,000 people–mostly Americans–who have IQ scores of at least 160, or four standard deviations above the mean.
The DNA comes primarily from a collection of blood ­samples amassed by Robert Plomin, a psychologist at King’s College, London. The plan, to compare the genomes of geniuses and people of ordinary intelligence, is scientifically risky (it’s likely that thousands of genes are involved) and somewhat controversial. For those reasons it would be very hard to find the \$15 or \$20 million needed to carry out the project in the West. “Maybe it will work, maybe it won’t,” Plomin says. “But BGI is doing it basically for free.”
From Plomin’s perspective, BGI is so large that it appears to have more DNA sequencing capacity than it knows what to do with. It has “all those machines and people that have to be fed” with projects, he says. The IQ study isn’t the only mega-project under way. With a U.S. nonprofit, Autism Speaks, BGI is being paid to sequence the DNA of up to 10,000 people from families with autistic children. For researchers in Denmark, BGI is decoding the genomes of 3,000 obese people and 3,000 lean ones.

# Madison Mayor Soglin Commentary on our Local School Climate; Reading unmentioned

Jack Craver:

The city, he says, needs to help by providing kids with access to out-of-school programs in the evenings and during the summer. It needs to do more to fight hunger and address violence-induced trauma in children. And it needs to help parents get engaged in their kids’ education.
“We as a community, for all of the bragging about being so progressive, are way behind the rest of the nation in these areas,” he says.
The mayor’s stated plans for addressing those issues, however, are in their infancy.
Soglin says he is researching ways to get low-cost Internet access to the many households throughout the city that currently lack computers or broadband connections.
A serious effort to provide low-cost or even free Internet access to city residents is hampered by a 2003 state law that sought to discourage cities from setting up their own broadband networks. The bill, which was pushed by the telecommunications industry, forbids municipalities from funding a broadband system with taxpayer dollars; only subscriber fees can be used.
Ald. Scott Resnick, who runs a software company and plans to be involved in Soglin’s efforts, says the city will likely look to broker a deal with existing Internet providers, such as Charter or AT&T, and perhaps seek funding from private donors.

Related: “We are not interested in the development of new charter schools” – Madison Mayor Paul Soglin.
Job one locally is to make sure all students can read.

Rainwater’s explanation also emphasized the fact that 80 percent of Madison children score at or above grade level. But the funds were targeted for students who do not score at these levels. Current practices are clearly not working for these children, and the Reading First funds would have supported activities designed to help them.
Madison’s reading curriculum undoubtedly works well in many settings. For whatever reasons, many chil dren at the five targeted schools had fallen seriously behind. It is not an indictment of the district to acknowledge that these children might have benefited from additional resources and intervention strategies.
In her column, Belmore also emphasized the 80 percent of the children who are doing well, but she provided additional statistics indicating that test scores are improving at the five target schools. Thus she argued that the best thing is to stick with the current program rather than use the Reading First money.
Belmore has provided a lesson in the selective use of statistics. It’s true that third grade reading scores improved at the schools between 1998 and 2004. However, at Hawthorne, scores have been flat (not improving) since 2000; at Glendale, flat since 2001; at Midvale/ Lincoln, flat since 2002; and at Orchard Ridge they have improved since 2002 – bringing them back to slightly higher than where they were in 2001.
In short, these schools are not making steady upward progress, at least as measured by this test.

According to Mr. Rainwater, the place to look for evidence of a closing achievement gap is the comparison of the percentage of African American third graders who score at the lowest level of performance on statewide tests and the percentage of other racial groups scoring at that level. He says that, after accounting for income differences, there is no gap associated with race at the lowest level of achievement in reading. He made the same claim last year, telling the Wisconsin State Journal on September 24, 2004, “for those kids for whom an ability to read would prevent them from being successful, we’ve reduced that percentage very substantially, and basically, for all practical purposes, closed the gap”. Last Monday, he stated that the gap between percentages scoring at the lowest level “is the original gap” that the board set out to close.
Unfortunately, that is not the achievement gap that the board aimed to close.
“All students” meant all students. We promised to stop thinking in terms of average student achievement in reading. Instead, we would separately analyze the reading ability of students by subgroups. The subgroups included white, African American, Hispanic, Southeast Asian, and other Asian students.

The other useful stat buried in the materials is on the second page 3 (= 6th page), showing that the 3rd grade proficiency rate for black students on WKCE, converted to NAEP-scale proficiency, is 6.8%, with the accountability plan targeting this percentage to increase to 23% over one school year. Not sure how this happens when the proficiency rate (by any measure) has been decreasing year over year for quite some time. Because the new DPI school report cards don’t present data on an aggregated basis district-wide nor disaggregated by income and ethnicity by grade level, the stats in the MMSD report are very useful, if one reads the fine print.

# Why Do We Suspend Misbehaving Students?

Brian Palmer:

Several schools have suspended children for joking about guns in the wake of the Sandy Hook shootings. A 7-year-old in Maryland was suspended for chewing a breakfast pastry into the shape of a gun, while others have received the same punishment for pointing their fingers like guns or using toy guns that blow bubbles. Suspension seems like a counterintuitive disciplinary tool, since many children would prefer to stay home from school, anyway. Why is suspension such a common punishment?
Because it’s familiar, cheap, and convenient. It’s also demonstrably ineffective. Its deterrent value is low: A 2011 study showed that Texas students who were suspended or expelled at least once during middle school and high school averaged four such disciplinary actions during their academic careers. Fourteen percent of them were suspended 11 times or more. Suspensions don’t even seem to benefit the school as a whole. In recent years, while Baltimore city schools have dramatically reduced suspensions, the dropout rate has been cut nearly in half.
Still, surveys consistently show that parents support suspension, because it keeps those students perceived as bad apples away from their peers. Principals continue to rely on suspension, in part because it creates the appearance of toughness. Parents can’t complain about inaction when a principal regularly suspends or expels bad actors. Administrators may also favor suspension because it edges problem students out of school: Students who have been suspended are three times more likely to drop out. Some researchers refer to a student who gives up on school after repeated suspension as a “push out” rather than a dropout.

# K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Wisconsin Bill would raise retirement age for public employees

Steven Verburg:

The minimum retirement age for public employees would increase by two years under a bill proposed by a state lawmaker who said the change would reflect increasing life spans and later retirement ages in general while possibly strengthening the pension system.
Democrats and a prominent retiree group were skeptical, and the state Department of Employee Trust Funds said a thorough actuarial study was needed to make sure the change wouldn’t cause unintended problems.
Most municipal workers, state employees and teachers in the Wisconsin Retirement System must work until they are 65 years old to collect full benefits, but they can retire at age 55 with reduced pensions.
Under a bill circulated by Rep. Duey Stroebel, R-Saukville, the minimum age would rise to 57. For police and firefighters, it would increase two years to 52.
“(Current laws) have been in place for many years and have not changed to reflect increased longevity, normal life work span or the changing demographics of our state,” Stroebel said Friday in an email sent to state legislators in an effort to find co-sponsors.
Stroebel’s bill would affect only people who are under 40, so nobody would be affected for more than a decade.

# Ability grouping is back despite scholarly qualms

Jay Matthews

My elementary School in San Mateo, Calif., had reading ability groups in every classroom. I arrived in the middle of third grade in 1952, and I was put in the lowest group, the canaries. By June, I had clawed my way up to the top group, the bluebirds.
This pedagogical device made sense to competitive types like me. My mother, a teacher, thought it was a troublesome crutch, but it was too tightly woven into American culture to change.
Except that it did, as Brookings Institution education expert Tom Loveless reveals in a new report. The canaries, redbirds and other ability-group fauna took a huge hit from scholars studying inequity in American schools in the 1970s and 1980s. Teachers moved away from ability grouping.
Now, without much notice, they have moved back. Depending on your point of view, the No Child Left Behind law deserves credit or blame for the return of my bluebirds and lesser fowl.

# Lady Bountiful: To anyone who knew her, Cecilia Chang was the gift that just kept on giving, be it designer watches, luxury holidays, scholarships or cold, hard cash.

Steve Fishman:

Cecilia Chang had always been a meticulous planner, so it made sense that she left three notes at the scene of her suicide, each prepared for a specific audience. The previous day (Monday, November 5, 2012), she’d tied up a loose end, testifying at her own trial and admitting to defrauding her employer, St John’s, a private, Roman Catholic university in Queens, New York, in the United States. She’d stolen hundreds of thousands of dollars, living a super-rich life on a university salary that at its peak was US\$120,000. On the Tuesday, as on every other day, she was flawlessly put together, her hair carefully arranged to conceal a thinning spot. She wore one of her flowery, silky blouses with a fitted black jacket.
Then, in her Queens home, where the government said she’d forced scholarship students to clean and cook, she turned on the gas in the kitchen, slit her wrists and, when the desired result didn’t come quickly enough, tossed a stereo cord over the ladder to the attic and hanged herself. The notes, carefully written in Chinese, were found at the scene. One was to her only son: “I love you,” she wrote, and she apologised to him. Another, addressed to the judge and jury, with a politeness she maintained till the end, thanked them for their time and attention. The third, the most elaborate, she addressed to her employer, for whom she reserved her fury. She’d been a fundraiser at St John’s for three decades, bringing in millions of dollars. And in the end, she felt the school had abandoned her. In her note, she described herself as a scapegoat.

# Mayor Soglin: The City Has to Help Students Who Live in Poverty

Jack Craver
The Capital Times

A number of figures stood out at the Ed Talks panel on the achievement gap that I attended last Wednesday night, part of a UW-Madison series of free conversations and presentations on educational issues. Here are two:
• 50: The percentage of children currently defined as low-income in the Madison Metropolitan School District.
• 9: The percentage of children defined as low-income when Paul Soglin was first elected mayor in 1973.
It is not just the schools’ responsibility to address the effects of such a dramatic increase in poverty, says the mayor, who participated on the panel along with School Board President James Howard and others.
“The school system has the children about 20 percent of the time,” Soglin said. “The remaining 80 percent is very critical.”
The city, he says, needs to help by providing kids with access to out-of-school programs in the evenings and during the summer. It needs to do more to fight hunger and address violence-induced trauma in children. And it needs to help parents get engaged in their kids’ education.
“We as a community, for all of the bragging about being so progressive, are way behind the rest of the nation in these areas,” he says.

# Race a Factor in the 2013 Madison School Board Election? I believe it is more of a “class” and/or “we know best” issue

That led minority leaders to complain about the perceived control white Madison liberals — including teachers union leaders — exert on elections and on efforts meant to raise minority student achievement. Some local leaders have undertaken soul-searching while others say more minorities need to seek elective office.
“You could not have constructed a scenario to cause more alienation and more mistrust than what Sarah Manski did,” longtime local political observer Stuart Levitan said, referring to the primary winner for seat 5. “It exposed an underlying lack of connection between some of the progressive white community and the progressive African-American community that is very worrisome in the long run.”
In the last few weeks:

• Urban League of Greater Madison president Kaleem Caire in a lengthy email described the failed negotiations involving him, district officials and Madison Teachers Inc. executive director John Matthews over Caire’s proposed Madison Preparatory Academy geared toward low-income minority students.
• Ananda Mirilli, who placed third behind Manski for seat 5, released emails in which Sarah Manski’s husband, Ben Manski, accused Caire of recruiting Mirilli to run for School Board and linking Caire to a conservative foundation. Caire confirmed the email exchange, but said he didn’t recruit Mirilli. The Manskis did not respond to requests for comment.
• Two School Board members, Mary Burke and Ed Hughes, vigorously backed former police lieutenant Wayne Strong, who is black, to counter the influence of political groups supporting his opponent. In the seat 3 race, Strong faces Dean Loumos, a low-income housing provider supported by MTI, the Dane County Democratic Party, Progressive Dane and the local Green Party.

Much more on the 2013 Madison School Board election, here.

# It’s the Students, Stupid

The billionaires’ club, with their long retinue of pundits, researchers, and other hangers-on, are giving their attention, some of the time, to education. But they are not paying attention to the academic work of students, or to their responsibility for their own education.
Mr. Gates spent nearly two hundred million dollars recently on a program for teacher assessment, but does he realize that in almost every class there are students as well, and that they have a lot to say about what the teacher can accomplish?
One pundit came to speak in Boston. When told that lots of good teachers were being driven out of the profession by the absence of discipline among students, he said, “They need better classroom management skills.” I don’t think he had ever “managed” a classroom, but I told him this story:
When Theodore Roosevelt was President, he had a guest one day in the oval office, and his daughter Alice came roaring through the room disturbing everything. The guest said, “Can’t you control Alice?” And Roosevelt said, “I can be President of the United States, or I can control Alice, but not both.”
Lots and lots of teachers have students in their classes who have not been taught by KIPP, to “Work Hard, Be Nice.” Their inability to control themselves and behave with courtesy and respect for their teacher and their fellow students frequently degrades and can even disintegrate the academic integrity of the class, which damages not only their own chance to learn, but prevents all their classmates from learning as well.
In 2004, Paul A. Zoch, a teacher from Texas, wrote in Doomed to Fail (p. 150) that: “Let there be no doubt about it: the United States looks to its teachers and their efforts, but not to its students and their efforts, for success in education.” Nine years later that remains the problem with the Edupundits and their funders.
Of course, one problem for the edureformers is that you can fire teachers but you can’t fire students. If students fail, largely through their own poor attendance, inattention and destructive behavior in class, we can’t blame them. Only the teachers can be held to account. This is beyond stupid, verging on willful blindness.
The University of Indiana, in its most recent Survey of High School Student Engagement, interviewed 143,052 U.S. high school students and found that 42.5% of them spend an hour or less each week on homework and 82.7% spend five hours or less each week on their homework. The average Korean student spends fifteen hours a week on homework, and that does not include evening hagwon sessions of two or three hours. Can anyone see a difference here? And, by the way, American students spend 53 hours a week playing video games and using other sorts of electronic entertainment.
While they play, and consume expensive products of the technology companies, students in other countries are studying hard, behaving in class, and taking their educational opportunities seriously so they can eat our lunch, which they are starting to do.
But let’s blame the teachers in the United States and ignore what their students are doing, in class and after class. That will work, won’t it?
Of course what teachers and all the other employees of our school systems do is important. But ignoring students and their work, and blaming teachers for poor student academic performance, would be like blaming a trainer if his boxer gets knocked out in the ring, while not noticing that the boxer stands in front of his opponent with his hands at his sides all the time.
We need high academic achievement, but we will not get it by blaming teachers and driving them out of the profession, while not noticing that students have an important, and even crucial, responsibility for their own learning.
Ignoring the role of our students in their own education, which at the “highest” levels of funded programs we do, is not only dumb, it will virtually consign all the other efforts to failure. Think about it.
Will Fitzhugh
The Concord Review

# Where Should Special Needs Kids Be Special? Tricky questions about how to share public spaces.

Earlier this year, I was out to dinner with a friend and our combined eight kids. My 14-year-old son, Jonah, who has autism, was very excited about the imminent arrival of his hamburger and french fries, so he was acting as he does when he’s happy: bouncing in his seat, clapping his hands, and vocalizing a mishmash of squawks and catchphrases from his favorite Sesame Street videos. He wasn’t exceedingly loud, but the oddness of his behavior had clearly caught the attention of an older gentleman at the one other table occupied at that early hour.
“Shhhhhhh,” he hissed from across the room.
Everyone at the table instantly froze–except, of course, for Jonah. “I’m sorry,” I explained, rising from my seat and taking a few steps toward him so I wouldn’t have to holler. “My son is autistic … ”
“Oh, sorry,” he said.
“He’s not trying to disturb you intentionally … “

# K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Younger Generations Lag Parents in Wealth-Building

Pearl Brady has a stable job with good benefits and holds two degrees, a bachelor’s and a master’s. But despite her best efforts, she has no savings, and worries that it will be years before she manages to start putting away money for a house, children and eventually retirement.
“The elite make economic policy to benefit themselves, alone. The more they pay us, the less is left to them to buy yachts and senators.”
“I’m in that extremely nervous category,” said Ms. Brady, 28, a Brooklynite who works for a union. “I know how much money I’m going to be making for the near term. I hope in my 30s and 40s to be able to save, but I have no idea how. It’s scary.”
Ms. Brady has plenty of company. A new study from the Urban Institute finds that Ms. Brady and her peers up to roughly age 40 have accrued less wealth than their parents did at the same age, even as the average wealth of Americans has doubled over the last quarter-century.

# Mathematics: What do grad students in math do all day?

A lot of math grad school is reading books and papers and trying to understand what’s going on. The difficulty is that reading math is not like reading a mystery thriller, and it’s not even like reading a history book or a New York Times article.
The main issue is that, by the time you get to the frontiers of math, the words to describe the concepts don’t really exist yet. Communicating these ideas is a bit like trying to explain a vacuum cleaner to someone who has never seen one, except you’re only allowed to use words that are four letters long or shorter.
What can you say?
“It is a tool that does suck up dust to make what you walk on in a home tidy.”
That’s certainly better than nothing, but it doesn’t tell you everything you might want to know about a vacuum cleaner. Can you use a vacuum cleaner to clean bookshelves? Can you use a vacuum cleaner to clean a cat? Can you use a vacuum cleaner to clean the outdoors?
The authors of the papers and books are trying to communicate what they’ve understood as best they can under these restrictions, and it’s certainly better than nothing, but if you’re going to have to work with vacuum cleaners, you need to know much more.

In recent months there’s been a lot of conversation in the Youth Services world about apps. Tablets loaded with pre-selected apps are available to users of some libraries, either on-site or for circulation. A long thread on the alsc-l listserv presented a number of strongly held opinions about the advisability of using apps during storytimes. Librarians are looking at the possibility of reviewing apps for developers and putting our expert imprimatur on their content and value, just as we already do for books and other formats. Regardless of where one stands on the issue of the best way to incorporate apps into services and programs for children, librarians seem to agree that they are important and they are here to stay.
I believe that this conversation is timely and useful, but incomplete unless we expand it to include a discussion of how librarians can use apps with children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The popular media and the ASD blogosphere is full of references to the amazing ways in which children with ASD have embraced tablet computers and apps, and these devices are taking the place of more expensive and cumbersome assistive technology. A number of developers are creating high-quality apps that are specifically designed for children with ASD. Other apps, written for the general population, are appealing to and useful for these kids. With the incidence of ASD at 1 in 88, we all need to think about how we are working with these children in our communities, and apps can play an important role.

# K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Too many tax-exempt properties in Madison?

Chris Rickert:

Over the last 10 years, the city of Madison has been subjected to a costly 2009 state law and hit with a string of unfavorable court rulings that together have effectively removed millions of dollars’ worth of property value from city tax rolls.
Meanwhile, it seems Mayor Paul Soglin and the Madison School District can’t go a week without complaining about how Republican Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican-controlled Legislature won’t give them the state tax dollars they need or let them raise local property taxes enough to cover their bills.
So what do a pair of Democratic state lawmakers from Madison do? Well, propose to make yet another piece of Madison property exempt from property taxes, of course.
It’s not like Sen. Fred Risser and Rep. Chris Taylor’s bill to make the Bartell Theatre tax-exempt is a huge deal. The theater at 113 E. Mifflin St. only paid about \$13,000 in taxes in 2012.
But it’s counterproductive at best given the context of tight city budgets and the whittling away of taxable property value in a city already steeped in tax-exempt properties owned by state government, UW-Madison and nonprofit agencies.
“It’s inappropriate,” said Soglin, who said the lawmakers didn’t talk to him about the bill. “If anything, the state should be working with us to close the loopholes.”

Mr Munger observes that America’s blockheaded debt-ceiling debate flows in part from a bipartisan commitment to the medieval theology of our tax code:

The Republicans in Congress are prepared to sacrifice our immortal debt rating to the proposition that not one penny increase is possible, even though almost no one actually pays those rates.
The Democrats in Congress like high rates, so that they can sell indulgences.

Republicans depend on selling indulgences, too, Mr Munger is keen to stress. Bowles-Simpson recommended closing some of the tax code’s most egregious loopholes. But the political incentives led President Obama to refuse the chance to go after tax expenditures; he has mostly pushed for higher rates. This is all incredibly depressing. You know we’re in trouble when Mr Munger, one of our sharpest scholars of political economy, is unable to offer useful advice beyond calling for a reformation, “a Martin Luther to speak out and tell the truth”.

# The multilingual dividend

A few years ago, when Anton­ella Sorace visited the European Central Bank in Frankfurt to talk about her research into bilingualism, she was astonished to find the bank’s multinational staff worrying about what should have been one of their families’ principal assets. “They had all kinds of doubts about the benefits of multilingualism for their children; they worried that their children weren’t learning to read or write properly – in any language,” she says. “I found it very instructive.”
The Italian-born University of Edinburgh professor of developmental linguistics should set their minds at rest. Prof Sorace’s research has shown that speaking another language offers not only utilitarian communication advantages, but also has cognitive benefits. Her message to business is: “Hire more multilingual employees, because these employees can communicate better, have better intercultural sensitivity, are better at co-operating, negotiating, compromising. But they can also think more efficiently.”
Big multinational companies recognise the importance of language skills. McKinsey counts more than 130 languages spoken across the management consultancy, and offers a bursary to those who wish to learn another language before joining. Unilever estimates that up to 80 of the consumer products group’s 100 most senior leaders speak at least two languages. Standard Chartered seeks out bilinguals for its international graduate training scheme.

# Voucher (all) schools’ finances must be well vetted

Racine Journal Times:

Last year, in its very first year of operation, St. John Fisher Academy, a voucher school, was forced to close its doors from lack of funding. The Northwestern Avenue school had counted on various grants and other funding coming in. But they didn’t come through and, after months of teachers working without pay, the school announced its closing.
After that episode, which left students looking for a new school, it was especially concerning to hear about another voucher school with money issues — Evergreen Elementary School.
This is a brand-new voucher school that wants to capitalize on the voucher program that started here in Racine during the 2011-12 school year. The program allows low- to middle-income students who live in the Racine Unified attendance area to attend participating private schools using state-funded \$6,442 vouchers to pay tuition. There was a cap on the number of students who could attend the last two years, but the cap has been lifted for next year.
For a spirited entrepreneur, this is an opportunity to establish a new business and, possibly, that is what the founders of Evergreen were thinking.

Are all publicly funded school budgets well vetted?

# Toronto District School Board Sicks Police on Blogger

Joe Warmington:

Can writing a sarcastic but clearly tame blog comment really land two cops at your doorstep?
It happened to Blazingcatfur blogger Arnie Lemaire Wednesday for musing “OISE and the TDSB need to be purged, or burnt to the ground whichever is more effective.”
He’s, quite rightfully, upset about it.
But, often critical of the Toronto District School Board and the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, Lemaire said he will not back down from efforts to “intimidate” him.
“Dear TDSB, You Can’t Silence Me,” was a headline on the blazingcatfur.blogspot in response.
But, what they clearly can do, is bring in the police to investigate.
In what can be described as more TDSB theatre of the absurd, an obscure six-week-old blog comment resulted in police visiting his home like one might see back in the day of the Stasi in communist East Germany.

The 2006 Stasi film: “The Lives of Others” is well worth seeing. Wikipedia on citizenship.

# Three voucher schools get state money after losing accreditation

Erin Richards:

Three private schools in Milwaukee continued to receive taxpayer money through the voucher program after losing their accreditation, under a loophole in state law that requires such schools to obtain that official approval but not maintain it.
Reports and records from the state Department of Public Instruction show that Dr. Brenda Noach Choice School, Texas Bufkin Christian Academy and Washington DuBois Christian Leadership Academy have accreditation that has either lapsed or been rescinded.
But on Wednesday, the head of the agency that rescinded its approval of Brenda Noach and Washington DuBois said that both of those schools have now been reinstated.
Still, the questions raised by the DPI accreditation reports illuminate an oversight hiccup for the voucher programs in Milwaukee and Racine. The accreditation issue has been a topic of discussion in Madison lately, and legislation is in the works to close the loophole and add other quality-control measures to the voucher program, which Gov. Scott Walker has proposed expanding to other cities.
School Choice Wisconsin, the state’s largest advocate for voucher schools, supports the effort. The group has also been advising accreditation agencies to more closely evaluate the quality of private schools they approve, according to Jay Nelson, head of the Association of Christian Teachers and Schools.

A related question: how many traditional public schools are in this position?

# In the Developing World, MOOCs Start to Get Real

Jessica Leber:

As online education platforms like Coursera, edX, and Udacity burst onto the scene over the past year, backers have talked up their potential to democratize higher education in the countries that have had the least access (see “The Most Important Education Technology in 200 Years”). These ambitions are now moving closer to reality, as more people begin to experiment with their setup, although significant challenges remain.
Students in countries like India and Brazil have been signing up in droves for these massive open online courses, or MOOCs, offered for free from top-tier universities, such as Stanford, MIT, and Harvard.
Yet in the world’s poorest regions, where even reliable high-speed Internet access capable of streaming course lecture videos is hard to come by, delivering a useful education to the masses is clearly not a straightforward operation, and experiments in doing so in an organized way are only just beginning (see “Online Courses Put Pressure on Universities in Poorer Nations”).

# Madison school board candidates Wayne Strong and Dean Loumos discuss superintendent Jennifer Cheatham, collective bargaining

Isthmus:

Five candidates are competing for three seats on the Madison school board, with the general election on April 2, 2013.
The political context for the races is explosive, given Gov. Scott Walker’s revolutionary proposals for education in Wisconsin: cuts to public school funding, an expansion of the voucher program, and a revamping of teachers’ evaluations and bargaining rights.
In Madison, the issues are particularly complex, with the intense disagreements over the district’s achievement gap between white and minority students.
In the race for Seat 3, former La Follette High School teacher and low-income housing provider Dean Loumos is running against retired Madison police lieutenant Wayne Strong. The winner will replace retiring school board member Beth Moss.
In this competitive series of elections, there are numerous candidate forums and listening sessions under way, and we thought we’d pose our own questions to candidates.
This week, we ask the candidates about where they think incoming superintendent Jennifer Cheatham should direct her attention. We also ask about the changes in collective bargaining wrought by Act 10: How have they affected the district, and how should it respond to this new policy?

Much more on the 2013 Madison School Board election, here.

# Tenure and Citation Influence Tracking Tools – Yea or Nay?

I was just asked a question by a faculty member about using Web of Science citation tracking as a preparation for tenure review. While I would never, at this point in time, advise anyone to NOT look or not make sure they have these figures in hand, the situation has gotten more complicated in recent years. For that reason, I wanted to share a lightly edited portion of my response to this faculty member, as possibly being of interest to others.
What we did last time was to search Web of Science for your articles and citations to them, and you helped identify which of the articles were yours and not someone else with a similar name. You also helped identify citations to your articles that were variations of the right citation, but which still meant your article.

# UK universities ‘face online threat’

“Complacent” British universities that fail to respond to the rise of online universities will be swept away by global competition, says a report into the future of higher education.
Sir Michael Barber, chief education adviser for Pearson, says online courses will be a “threat and opportunity” for the UK’s universities.
This “avalanche” could see some middle-ranking universities closing, he says.
“There are too many universities doing the same thing,” says Sir Michael.
The report, An Avalanche is Coming, argues that higher education faces an unpredictable global revolution, driven by the impact of the rise in online universities.

# Manski and Democrats used Madison’s minorities as partisan cannon fodder (2013 Madison School Board Election)

Madison Prep was the mouse that roared. How can you explain the fear and loathing Madison’s power elite directed at the Madison Urban League’s proposed charter school?
The Urban League’s Madison Prep charter school would have been just one school amid 50 Madison public schools. It would have taught 800 kids out of 27,000 enrolled in the district. The school board would have retained the ultimate authority to shut it down. So why the sturm und drang over this niche school? Two reasons:
• Because it would have been non-union.
• Because it might have succeeded. The Democratic Party cannot allow one small chink in the solid teachers union barricades.
How else does one explain Sarah Manski’s endorsement from the leader of the State Assembly Democrats, Peter Barca of Kenosha? How else does one explain an endorsement from the leader of the State Senate Democrats, Chris Larson of Milwaukee?
The purpose of the Manski campaign was all about staving off any threat to the teachers union hegemony. The power structure encouraged her to run after Ananda Mirilli, an immigrant Latina who supports the charter school (a public school, by the way), entered the race.
Husband Ben Manski said as much in his notorious December email blast.

# Massive Open Online Courses, aka MOOCs, Transform Higher Education and Science

M. Mitchell Waldrop:

When campus president Wallace Loh walked into Juan Uriagereka’s office last August, he got right to the point. “We need courses for this thing — yesterday!”
Uriagereka, associate provost for faculty affairs at the University of Maryland in College Park, knew exactly what his boss meant. Campus administrators around the world had been buzzing for months about massive open online courses, or MOOCs: Internet-based teaching programs designed to handle thousands of students simultaneously, in part using the tactics of social-networking websites. To supplement video lectures, much of the learning comes from online comments, questions and discussions. Participants even mark one another’s tests.
MOOCs had exploded into the academic consciousness in summer 2011, when a free artificial-intelligence course offered by Stanford University in California attracted 160,000 students from around the world — 23,000 of whom finished it. Now, Coursera in Mountain View, California — one of the three researcher-led start-up companies actively developing MOOCs — was inviting the University of Maryland to submit up to five courses for broadcast on its software platform. Loh wanted in. “He was very clear,” says Uriagereka. “We needed to be a part of this.”

# Journalist evalutes Milwaukee school experiments

Over the last 50 years, Milwaukee has been at the center of a series of experiments in public education — desegregation and “school choice,” as well as the rise of specialty schools and the expansion of a nationally known voucher system.
But these experiments, as well as the economic collapse of manufacturing in this blue-collar American city, have left a school system filled with massive inequalities, argues author Barbara J. Miner in “Lessons From the Heartland: A Turbulent Half-Century of Public Education in an Iconic American City.”
In the book, Miner, a Milwaukee resident and former reporter for both the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Rethinking Schools, a teacher-led education publication, looks at the story of public education in Milwaukee. “Lesson From the Heartland” is both a history of the school system and a look at the ways that education intersects with housing, economic opportunity and the values of democracy; Miner tries to discern how Milwaukee fell from grace and whether there is a chance for redemption in the years to come.
Miner comes to the book with both professional and personal experience, having worked as a reporter and writer in Milwaukee and being a parent of daughters who graduated from the Milwaukee Public School System. From that background, Miner positions herself as critical of the decisions that led to the current state of education in Milwaukee, while still recognizing that there are teachers, students and schools that are thriving.

# New data reveal scale of China abortions

Simon Rabinovitch

Chinese doctors have performed more than 330m abortions since the government implemented a controversial family planning policy 40 years ago, according to official data from the health ministry.
China’s one-child policy has been the subject of a heated debate about its economic consequences as the population ages. Forced abortions and sterilisations have also been criticised by human rights campaigners such as Chen Guangcheng, the blind legal activist who sought refuge at the US embassy in Beijing last year.
China first introduced measures to limit the size of the population in 1971, encouraging couples to have fewer children. The one-child rule, with exceptions for ethnic minorities and some rural families, was implemented at the end of the decade.
Since 1971, doctors have performed 336m abortions and 196m sterilisations, the data reveal. They have also inserted 403m intrauterine devices, a normal birth control procedure in the west but one that local officials often force on women in China.

# Boston Schools Drop Last Remnant of Forced Busing

Katherine Q. Seelye
New York Times

BOSTON — The Boston School Committee, once synonymous with fierce resistance to racial integration, took a historic step Wednesday night and threw off the last remnants of a busing system first imposed in 1974 under a federal court desegregation order.
Instead of busing children across town to achieve integration, the plan adopted by the committee is intended to allow more students to attend schools closer to home.
That was the objective sought by Mayor Thomas Menino, who appointed a special advisory group last year to overhaul the system. He said that keeping students closer to home would encourage more parental involvement, develop neighborhood cohesion and ultimately improve the schools.
“Tonight’s historic vote marks a new day for every child in the city of Boston,” the mayor said in a statement.
But numerous parents and activists complained during a hearing before the committee’s deliberations that the new system would leave some children — mostly black and Hispanic — in the lowest-performing schools.
“No way we can stand around the playground and say, ‘Yeah, we’re all getting a fair shake,’ ” one father testified.
They were angry, too, that the committee had not tackled what many agree is the district’s fundamental problem — the scarcity of good schools.

# The Visible Deterioration of Law School Quality

A red flag is signaling the potential deterioration of quality at a significant number of law schools. LSAT medians rise and fall by a point or two over time at many law schools, usually in conjunction with changes in the size of the overall applicant pool and the standing of a particular school. That in itself is not a concern–problems arise, however, when law schools accept students who would not have gained admission in years past. Applicants with low LSAT/GPA scores, in particular, have a higher risk of failing out and a higher risk of not passing the bar exam.
Rapidly rising acceptance rates provide ample reason to worry. A decade ago, for the entering class of 2003, only 4 law schools accepted 50% or more of their applicants (the highest at 55.4%).
Jump ahead to 2009, when 35 law schools admitted 50% or more of their applicants to the entering class. Within this total, at 31 law schools the acceptance rate was between 50% and 59%; 4 schools accepted between 60% and 69%, and zero law schools accepted 70% or above.

# Is education obsolete for new industrial revolution?

Mining asteroids on the moon; background reports on job applicants and internet metasearch. It’s quite a broad portfolio for one entrepreneur, and yet Naveen Jain still finds time for philanthropy and running the World Innovation Institute. Bdaily recently talked \$10bn global problems and re-thinking our approach to education with Jain. In part one of our interview, Jain discusses his thoughts on education.
“Often, when people are trying to tackle large global problems, they’re coming from a philanthropic angle. They’re not using the latest technological innovations or the entrepreneurial principles which will serve them in solving the problem,” he says.
“If you look at education, many people think you need more schools; better lighting in schools; better training of teachers, and so on. The problem is that billions of people around the world that have no access to education.

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# New Jersey’s new teacher evaluation system benefits students

New Jersey’s new criteria for grading teachers ultimately will benefit students. Last week the New Jersey Department of Education (DOE) released regulations for AchieveNJ, the blueprint for an entirely new rubric for teachers and even principals. It puts more emphasis on student performance as a benchmark for how well educators are doing.
Under the new proposal, teachers who instruct students in areas that have standardized tests will have between 35% and 50% of their evaluations based on student academic growth. (The DOE recommends the lower number.) For those who teach in untested areas, 15% of evaluations will be based on general school test scores. The rest of the annual evaluation, which eventually results in a rating on a scale that ranges from ineffective to highly effective, will be based on traditional subjective measures like classroom observations, lesson plans, classroom management, etc.
Will there be teachers and administrators who are misjudged? Sure. It happens in every profession. Is AchieveNJ new and imperfect? Of course, but it’s better than our vestigial, adult-centric system that defaulted in favor of teachers. Now we can default in favor of kids

# California Bill Seeks Campus Credit for Online Study

Legislation will be introduced in the California Senate on Wednesday that could reshape higher education by requiring the state’s public colleges and universities to give credit for faculty-approved online courses taken by students unable to register for oversubscribed classes on campus.
If it passes, as seems likely, it would be the first time that state legislators have instructed public universities to grant credit for courses that were not their own — including those taught by a private vendor, not by a college or university.
“We want to be the first state in the nation to make this promise: No college student in California will be denied the right to move through their education because they couldn’t get a seat in the course they needed,” said Darrell Steinberg, the president pro tem of the Senate, who will introduce the bill. “That’s the motivation for this.”

# In the Digital Era, Our Dictionaries Read Us

For Peter Sokolowski, a high-profile event like the 9/11 attacks or the 2012 vice-presidential debate is not just news. It’s a “vocabulary event” that sends readers racing to their dictionaries.
Sokolowski is editor at large for Merriam-Webster, whose red-and-blue-jacketed Collegiate Dictionary still sits on the desk of many a student and editor. In a print-only era, it would have been next to impossible for him to track vocabulary events. Samuel Johnson, the grand old man of the modern dictionary, “could have spent a week or a month writing a given word’s definition and could never have known if anyone read it,” he says.
Today, Sokolowski can and does monitor what visitors to the Merriam-Webster Web site look up–as they’re doing it.
With the spread of digital technologies, dictionaries have become a two-way mirror, a record not just of words’ meanings but of what we want to know. Digital dictionaries read us.
The days of displaying a thick Webster’s in the parlor may be past, but dictionaries inhabit our daily lives more than we realize. “There are many more times during a day that you are interacting with a dictionary” now than ever before, says Katherine Connor Martin, head of U.S. dictionaries for Oxford University Press. Whenever you send a text or an e-mail, or read an e-book on your Nook, Kindle, or iPad, a dictionary is at your fingertips, whether or not you’re aware of it.

# “And This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things…”

LearnBoost launched at the beginning of this recent resurgence in ed-tech entrepreneurialism, and in many ways, I thought it encapsulated much of the promise that new ed-tech startups are supposed to hold: great technology, great product, great team, grassroots adoption, freemium pricing, and so on.
To me, Corrales’ departure now serves to highlight some of the serious tensions, if not grave problems, that this new “ed-tech ecosystem” is facing. Indeed, what sort of “ed-tech ecosystem” are we really building here? Will it thrive? Which startups will survive? Whose values does this “ecosystem” reflect?
On VC-Backed Companies and Expectations for Growth: What happens when a startup raises venture capital? What happens when it raises a little bit of capital (e.g. LearnBoost)? What happens when it raises a lot (e.g. Edmodo)? Do the expectations of investors — for growth, for revenue, for a “return on investment” and for the timeline in which that will happen — match the needs of education (particularly public education) (e.g. Coursera)? Are investors looking at the right signals (growth in signups versus, say, intellectual growth of users)? Can venture-backed startups build long-term, sustainable, non-exploitative businesses in education? Or is “the exit” always on the horizon once VCs get involved?
On Business Models and Marketing: Can startups really be “lean” and find success in building for and selling to schools? Can a startup afford to eschew building a giant marketing team? And can education afford an ed-tech industry that cares more about marketing than product? Is the freemium business model, combined with grassroots user adoption, a viable path to sustainable revenue, particularly when startups are up against those enterprise corporations with deep pockets and deep talons — contracts, licenses, and so on — deep into schools and districts?

# Outsourcing Public Higher Ed

A powerful California lawmaker wants public college students who are shut out of popular courses to attend low-cost online alternatives – including those offered by for-profit companies – and he plans to encourage the state’s public institutions to grant credit for those classes.
The proposal expected today from Darrell Steinberg, a Democrat and president pro tem of the state Senate, aims to create a “statewide system of faculty-approved, online college courses,” according to a written statement from Steinberg’s office. (A spokesman for Steinberg declined to discuss the bill.)
Faculty would decide which courses should make the cut for a pool of online offerings. Likely participants include Udacity and Coursera, two major massive open online course providers, sources said. Another option might be StraighterLine, a low-cost, self-paced online course company.
Those online providers are not accredited and cannot directly issue credit. But the American Council on Education (ACE) offers credit recommendations for successfully completed StraighterLine courses and is currently reviewing MOOCs for credit recommendations, with five from Coursera already gaining approval. Potentially credit-bearing MOOCs will likely include efforts to verify students’ identities and proctored exams.

# Madison superintendent consultant defends search process

The consultant the Madison School Board hired to conduct its recent superintendent search defended its work in a statement Thursday, saying that the district hired “a top-notch leader” and that the company provided the board with detailed background information about all candidates.
The statement from Gary Ray, president of Ray and Associates of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, which the board hired for \$31,000, comes more than a month after the district hired Jennifer Cheatham, a Chicago Public Schools administrator who will start April 1.
It says the company provided the board “with all of the Internet information” regarding Springfield, Ill., superintendent Walter Milton Jr. before he was named with Cheatham as a finalist for the job on Feb. 3 and said reports to the contrary are “totally erroneous.”
Ray also issued a statement on Madison School Board letterhead dated Feb. 11 stating, “Ray and Associates did make the board aware of earlier allegations about Dr. Milton as well as Dr. Milton’s assurances that the claims were unfounded.”

# Tarski’s high school algebra problem

In mathematical logic, Tarski’s high school algebra problem was a question posed by Alfred Tarski. It asks whether there are identities involving addition, multiplication, and exponentiation over the positive integers that cannot be proved using eleven axioms about these operations that are taught in high school-level mathematics. The question was solved in 1980 by Alex Wilkie who showed that such unprovable identities do exist.

# “Everyone talked about collaborating but no one is collaborating”

Allie Johnson, via a kind reader’s email:

Mayor Paul Soglin said it is important for school districts to address parental involvement because it is one of the essential ways to create successful education. He explained it is important to engage parents in school and make them feel they have significant say in the education of their child.
“It is not good enough to send a note home in a backpack,” Soglin said. “That is not engagement.”
Soglin also emphasized the importance of getting parents involved in their children’s education early. He cited efforts in other cities to engage parents started with talking to parents before their children are even born.
The community also needs to focus on specific needs of students, according to Soglin. It is a tremendous challenge to learn in schools today, he said. Many households do not have computers, and if that is not recognized, it can impede ability of students to succeed, he said.

Related: Madison school district in disarray by Marc Eisen:

Because he hasn’t, Caire is shunned. The latest instance is the upcoming ED Talks Wisconsin, a progressive-minded education-reform conference sponsored by the UW School of Education, the Center on Wisconsin Strategy, the mayor’s office and other groups. Discussion of “a community-wide K-12 agenda” to address the achievement gap is a featured event. A fine panel has been assembled, including Mayor Paul Soglin, but Caire is conspicuously absent.
How can progressives not bring the Urban League to the table? Agree or disagree with its failed plan for the single-sex Madison Prep charter school, the Urban League has worked the hardest of any community group to bridge the achievement gap. This includes launching a scholars academy, the South Madison Promise Zone, ACT test-taking classes and periodic events honoring young minority students.
But Caire is branded as an apostate because he worked with conservative school-choice funders in Washington, D.C. So in Madison he’s dismissed as a hapless black tool of powerful white plutocrats. Progressives can’t get their head around the idea that the black-empowerment agenda might coincide with a conservative agenda on education, but then clash on a dozen other issues.

# Providence Wins \$5 Million Grand Prize in Mayors Challenge

Providence Journal

PROVIDENCE, R. I. — Bloomberg Philanthropies has chosen Providence as the top winner of its Mayor Challenge.
The \$5 million prize will be used to implement Mayor Angel Taveras’ initiative, Providence Talks, to increase the vocabulary of young students living in low-income homes before their fourth birthday. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg previously said the challenge was launched in the fall of 2012 to inspire innovation in local government, and spread the very best ideas. Three hundred and five cities competed, and Providence was awarded the top prize because it had “the best potential to take root and spread,” read challenge rules. The initiative coincides with the mayor’s goal to increase reading proficiency to 70 percent for entering fourth graders by 2015. In Providence, less than half of the district’s fourth-grade students scored at or above proficiency on the state reading assessment in 2011.
More about “Providence Talks” here and here.
This initiative is based on the research done by Hart and Risley, as described in their book “Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Life of Young American Children.”

# Up, Down & Transparency: Madison Schools Received \$11.8M more in State Tax Dollars last year, Local District Forecasts a Possible Reduction of \$8.7M this Year

The Madison School District stands to lose millions of dollars in state aid under Gov. Scott Walker’s budget proposal, district officials said Wednesday.
The district is projecting an \$8.7 million, 15 percent reduction in state aid, Superintendent Jane Belmore said in an interview.
She cautioned that the amount is a preliminary estimate based on the governor’s 2013-15 budget proposal, which could undergo changes by the Legislature.
The district is preparing its 2013-14 budget, and it’s unclear when a proposal will be finalized. School districts typically develop spending plans for the following year before knowing exactly how much money they’ll get in state aid.
Walker’s budget calls for a 1 percent increase in state aid, but Belmore said when district staff put the amount through the state’s complicated funding formula it resulted in the reduction. State Department of Public Instruction officials couldn’t verify the district’s estimate.
This year’s \$394 million school budget included \$249.3 million in property taxes, a 1.75 percent increase over the previous year.

One would hope that any budget article should include changes over time, which DeFour unfortunately neglects. Madison received an increase of \$11.8M in redistributed state tax dollars last year.
In addition, DeFour mentions that the current budget is 394,000,000. The most recent number I have seen is \$385,886,990. where has the additional \$8,113,010 come from? where is it being spent? was there a public discussion? Per student spending is now \$14,541.42.
Related: Ed Hughes on School District numbers in 2005: in 2005::

This points up one of the frustrating aspects of trying to follow school issues in Madison: the recurring feeling that a quoted speaker – and it can be someone from the administration, or MTI, or the occasional school board member – believes that the audience for an assertion is composed entirely of idiots.

# Who Should Be in the Gifted Program? New York, D.C., and other cities experiment with making honors classes more inclusive.

Starting in second grade, I took a school bus from my middle-class neighborhood to downtown Louisville, Ky., where my grade school was surrounded by public housing projects, as part of an effort to desegregate schools. The year I started there, I was identified as “gifted” and put in a separate, accelerated class, where my classmates were mostly other white boys and girls from the suburbs.
In 1975, the school system in Louisville had launched the district-wide “Advance Program,” which offered an enriched curriculum, just as the desegregation plan went into effect. All Louisville schools were required to have a mix of black and white students so that the number of black students never fell below or rose above a certain cutoff. (It varied over the years, but the range was around 20 to 40 percent.) In the Advance Program, however, the rules didn’t apply because classroom assignments within schools were exempt. The percentage of black students in the gifted program was 11 percent.
I had the choice to leave the school in fourth grade, as did my suburban peers, but most of us stayed at our inner city school because our parents liked the program so much. From second grade until my senior year in high school, my classes never had more than two black students at a time.

Related: English 10 and the talented and gifted complaint.

# Killing School Choice Hurts Poor Families

In her budget address before the Legislature, Gov. Maggie Hassan pledged to repeal the nascent Opportunity Scholarship Act, which grants tax credits to businesses that help low– and middle-income students afford independent and home schooling.
If the governor’s goal is saving money, as she claims, then she should oppose the repeal. The fiscal note prepared by the Department of Education states that repealing the OSA would actually cost the state half a million dollars over the next biennium.
The OSA was designed to aid low– and middle-income families while saving money. The maximum average scholarship size is only \$2,500, significantly lower than the more than \$4,300 that the state allocates for each public school student, and vastly lower than the total public school spending figure of \$15,758 per pupil.

# Seattle’s Low Stakes Testing Trap

Michael Guerriero:

Those with a mind for controversy or whimsy may recall the outrage last year over a certain talking pineapple on the New York State eighth-grade reading exam. The unfortunate pineapple passage was sliced, diced, and served up as an example of all that is wrong with standardized testing. Asking students to inhabit the shared mental landscape of some chatty anthropomorphized forest animals and tropical fruit, as the questions did, was deemed both ridiculous and unfair. The author of the excerpted passage criticized the exam’s adaptation of his story as “barely literate.” And the state quickly announced that it would not count on the test’s scoring.
And so the talking pineapple joined the long tradition of conflict and contention over educational reform in America, from Thomas Jefferson’s revolutionary plan for public education in Virginia, to the Texas State Board of Education’s recent demotion of Jefferson from its ranks of revolutionary thinkers. The current obsession with testing (and pineapples) belongs to the standards movement, which began in the nineteen-eighties. Now, one of its more unusual battles is being fought in Seattle, where, in December, teachers at Garfield High School voted to boycott the Northwest Evaluation Association’s Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) exam.
The Garfield teachers are not boycotting all standardized tests. Their complaints, as outlined by Kris McBride, the school’s testing coordinator, are focussed squarely on the MAP, which, as an assessment tool, can be categorized as a low-stakes test: according to the MAP-makers at the N.W.E.A., it is an “interim assessment.”

# MOOCs and the Mechanization of Education: Widening the Gap Between the Haves and Have-Nots

Gregg Graham:

Sebastian Thrun left his tenured teaching job at Stanford University after 160,000 students signed up for his free online version of the course “Introduction to Artificial Intelligence.” The experience completely changed his perspective on education, he said, so he ditched Stanford and launched the private Web site Udacity, which offers online courses. “Having done this, I can’t teach at Stanford again,” Thrun said. “You can take the blue pill and go back to your classroom and lecture to your 20 students, but I’ve taken the red pill and I’ve seen Wonderland.” (Thrun is staying at Stanford as a research professor, but will not be teaching there).
What exactly was the “Wonderland” that Thrun saw that sent him into such euphoric zeal that he discarded his position at a premier institution of higher education like he was trading in an old clunker at the car dealer? He saw those phenomenal numbers signing up for his class, and it made him dizzy with delight. Anybody with a Twitter account or Facebook page can understand the feeling. Your number of followers or friends can be a source of affirmation, proof that what you have to say is important. I was on Twitter for several weeks following anybody I found remotely interesting, and then someone told me that it is better to have more followers than followees, so I promptly started culling my list. I didn’t want to be a Twitter loser. But surely those adolescent impulses don’t affect scholars like Thrun.

# Massive open online courses: Time and a little money are a worthy investment

Emma Boyd:

Many in the world of higher education suspect they are witnessing the beginning of a revolution. The agent provocateur is the Mooc (massive open online course) and, if some pundits are proved correct, it could change the way all students experience learning – including those at business schools – and put a few professors out of a job.
Why the nerves? Moocs are free, millions have signed up and no one knows what the scene will look like after the dust has settled. Anant Agarwal, professor of electrical engineering and computer science at MIT and president of edX, a Mooc provider, thinks the result will be positive.
“I view online learning as a rising tide that will lift all boats. It will not only increase access, it will also improve the quality of education at all our universities.”

# Social media expands the classroom

Charlotte Clark:

When asked about the use of social media tools in the classroom, Mike Nicholson, director of global learning at Durham University Business School in the UK, fondly remembers an ex-colleague, now retired, who used to position a bucket of water at the front of his classroom with the label: Phone disposal unit.
“He actually would drop phones into it if he found students using them in class,” he says, laughing at how times have changed since then. Indeed, in spite of his own initial misgivings, he has adapted his teaching technique to suit the growing trends of social media in education.
Or, as he would say, “flipped” things round so that he delivers lectures via YouTube video clips, to be watched at home and then sets his students work to do when they come to class, integrating Twitter and Vine, a mobile app by Twitter that enables its users to create and post short video clips.
“It’s working really well,” Dr Nicholson says. When he first set the task of using Vine to explain what Apple should do next, his students split into groups and were moving all round the school filming things. The six second limit of Vine worked like the 140 character limit of Twitter in ensuring they remained succinct in their responses.

# Enrollment Management at UW-Madison: What Story Do the Numbers Tell?

Sara Goldrick-Rab:

For the first time, probably in UW-Madison’s history, we are enrolling more legacy students than first-generation students.
Enrollment of Wisconsin residents is at an historic low, while enrollment of international students is at an historic high.
Enrollment is a function of applications, admit rates, and yield. Arguably, changes in policies around cost and campus climate (e.g. the Madison Initiative for Undergraduates– see below) most often affect the yield. So let’s look at the yield rates– the percent of students who accept the admissions offer and choose to attend Madison. They are quite stable for some groups, but declining for others.

# Deasy: Political contributors “invest in L.A. schools”

David Cohen:

Like many interested observers around the country, I’ve been following the school board elections in Los Angeles. That’s partly out of general interest in a high profile drama involving the politics of education, the same way I’d pay some attention to a large district election almost anywhere in the country. It’s also a personal interest in my hometown, in a district where I was a student, and where I have friends and relatives attending the schools and teaching in them. Yet at the same time I think every Californian involved in education is affected to some extent by what happens in Los Angeles Unified School District. I’ve referred to that district as the Jupiter of our solar system. Looking at the situation less metaphorically, consider the significance of LAUSD in our state legislature. This one huge district covers a densely populated area represented by at least a dozen state legislators. Meanwhile, my state legislators in the San Francisco Bay Area might be representing dozens of school school districts.
So, yes, I pay attention to the gravitational force of LAUSD politics and policy. I also pay close attention to the words people choose, perhaps just as part of my nature or perhaps as a result of many years teaching English. Looking at a recent report on the LAUSD school board elections, I found some very interesting word choices in this article posted at L.A. School Report: “Defiant Mayor Promises Continued Involvement.”

# Capital Times Madison School Board Endorsements

The Capital Times

The Madison School Board will face difficult, perhaps definitional, choices in the next several years. To make those choices, the board must have the right mix of members. Members must be absolutely committed to public education. Yet that’s not enough. They must have varied experience and bold visions for how to address the district’s challenges. With this in mind, we recommend: Howard, Mertz (Primary winner Sarah Manski dropped out of the race, remains on the ballot), Strong

Much more on the 2013 Madison School Board elections, here.

# Madison school board candidate TJ Mertz discusses superintendent Jennifer Cheatham, collective bargaining

Isthmus:

Five candidates are competing for three seats on the Madison school board, with the general election on April 2, 2013.
The political context for the races is explosive, given Gov. Scott Walker’s revolutionary proposals for education in Wisconsin: cuts to public school funding, an expansion of the voucher program, and a revamping of teachers’ evaluations and bargaining rights.
In Madison, the issues are particularly complex, with the intense disagreements over the district’s achievement gap between white and minority students.
TJ Mertz, an Edgewood College history instructor and education blogger, is running unopposed after Sarah Manski dropped out of the race for Seat 5 following the February primary. Her name will appear on the ballot, but she is moving to California. Mertz will replace retiring school board member Maya Cole.
In this competitive series of elections, there are numerous candidate forums and listening sessions under way, and we thought we’d pose our own questions to candidates. This week, we ask the candidates about where they think incoming superintendent Jennifer Cheatham should direct her attention. We also ask about the changes in collective bargaining wrought by Act 10: How have they affected the district, and how should it respond to this new policy?

Much more on the 2013 Madison School Board election, here.

# Madison school board candidates Greg Packnett and James Howard discuss superintendent Jennifer Cheatham, collective bargaining

Five candidates are competing for three seats on the Madison school board, with the general election on April 2, 2013.
The political context for the races is explosive, given Gov. Scott Walker’s revolutionary proposals for education in Wisconsin: cuts to public school funding, an expansion of the voucher program, and a revamping of teachers’ evaluations and bargaining rights.
In Madison, the issues are particularly complex, with the intense disagreements over the district’s achievement gap between white and minority students.
In the race for Seat 4, incumbent James Howard is running against Greg Packnett, a Democratic legislative aide.
In this competitive series of elections, there are numerous candidate forums and listening sessions under way, and we thought we’d pose our own questions to candidates. This week, we ask the candidates about where they think incoming superintendent Jennifer Cheatham should direct her attention. We also ask about the changes in collective bargaining wrought by Act 10: How have they affected the district, and how should it respond to this new policy?

Much more on the 2013 Madison School Board elections here.

# Do You Really Have to Go to College?

This is the time of year when high school seniors across the country are checking the mail obsessively. They’re rushing down the driveway whenever an unusually loud car goes by, hoping the letter carrier has delivered that all-important, life-altering piece of paper: the acceptance letter to their dream school.
You should know, however, that not everyone is paying attention to the mailbox. Some teenagers are making plans to engage in self-directed learning.
All your life, parents, teachers, and guidance counselors have drilled the idea into your head that you must go to college. It has been made clear that if you don’t get good grades and attend a four-year college, the rest of your life will be a dismal failure.
I’m arguing that all of this is wrong. The social cues that defined what you thought about education ought to be questioned.
There is a community of people who are making a different choice. Instead of going into debt, they are taking the future into their own hands. They are using the real world to find mentors and learn practical skills. They are traveling, volunteering, interning and apprenticing.

# The Countdown to Connect with your Kids

The minute you walk through the door, the clock is ticking on time to connect with your kids.
According to a recent study, what happens in the first couple of minutes after parents return home from work makes a big difference in how parents and kids relate to each other for the rest of the evening.
The study, described in this article in The Atlantic, was conducted by a team of UCLA researchers who tracked the lives of 32 dual-earning, middle-class families living in Los Angeles between 2001 and 2004.

# Computer scientists use music to lure students to STEM majors

To students in Jennifer Burg’s computer science classes, making music is the main objective. But her goal is to get them to understand how the underlying technology works–and to love it so much they decide on a science-based career path.
And that, Burg’s study has shown, has helped Wake Forest University fulfill the national imperative to increase the number of majors in the STEM disciplines of science, technology, engineering and math.
The results of Burg’s research, “Computer Science ‘Big Ideas’ Play Well in Digital Sound and Music,” will be published during the upcoming Special Interest Group on Computer Science Education conference, on March 9 in Denver. The study was funded through two National Science Foundation grants totaling \$700,000.

# How Social Media Blurs the Black and White in Education

My students might have a coronary if I fail to answer an email at 10pm on a weekend.
With the creation of email, Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, it’s near impossible for the human part of a teacher to go without notice in settings less familiar than school. Comfortably seated with my iPad and iPhone on either side of me and my Macbook Pro serving as heating pad to my belly, I’m in bed conferencing with my students using powerful new social mediums.
Whether answering quick project direction questions, putting out fires of uncooperative technology when an assignment is due, or chasing down newspaper leadership to make sure deadlines are met, I’m certain some of my older colleagues would writhe with discomfort at how available I am to my students.

# Staying ahead of the online competition

Charlotte Clarke:

The entrance to Henley Business School’s Greenlands campus is reminiscent of a Jane Austen film, with its sweeping driveway leading to a stunning white country house. Indeed, once inside, most corners of the 19th-century building are conducive to afternoon tea. Oversized sofas and armchairs face each other, windows overlook the river Thames and nearby tables are stacked with selections of hot drinks.
Queen Elizabeth I is known to have visited the house on more than one occasion. But today, those most likely to be found drinking tea at the now triple accredited business school, founded in 1945, are students and faculty from the its executive education programmes, including the three-year flexible MBA which blends online learning with optional face-to-face workshops.
Since merging with the University of Reading in 2008, there is also the Whiteknights campus in Reading – a former country estate of the Marquis of Blandford – where Henley’s undergraduate, postgraduate taught masters, professional management and PhD programmes are delivered.

# Making the Mooc pay: Fresh partnerships offer more than financial survival

Amid the fanfare surrounding the nascent massive open online course (Mooc) movement have been looming questions concerning their economic viability. Leading platforms, including Coursera and edX, have committed themselves to providing higher education content online for free.
Until now, the costs of developing Moocs have been shouldered by the platforms themselves and the universities supplying courses, rather than consumers of the content.
Coursera, a for-profit Mooc platform that has more than 2.8m students, has raised venture capital to cover development costs. A \$16m injection from Silicon Valley-based Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers – an early investor in Amazon and Google – has been the most notable. Udacity, a for-profit platform that does not partner with universities, has raised more than \$21m in venture capital.

# Technology: Tablets offer immediacy in the global education market

Chris Nuttall:

A MacBook, or any laptop, is usually the default educational tool of choice for students but there are signs that our latter-day electronic versions of slates are making serious inroads in modern education.
Apple disclosed in February that it had sold more than 8m iPads directly to educational institutions worldwide, quite apart from the unquantified number sold to individual students.
With Android and Windows devices benefiting from updated operating systems and software, as well as student-friendly accessories such as digital pens, tablets are set to storm the bastions of education.
In terms of screen size, Apple recognised the popularity of the 7in category when it launched the iPad mini in October.

# Point of view: Virtual classes give lesson in reality

James Dean:

James Dean: ‘Using traditional education as the gold standard is outmoded’
Can an online MBA programme be of the same high quality as a campus-based programme?
From a teaching and learning perspective, there can no longer be any doubt that online education can match and, in some ways, exceed the performance of conventional education.
Online MBA programmes match or exceed the quality of on-campus programmes when done right. Doing it right does not mean simply transmitting taped lectures or using Powerpoint slides with a voice-over lecture. It does mean:

# New Front in Charter Schools In Massachusetts, a Pair of Democrats Push to Lift Restrictions in Some Districts

Massachusetts lawmakers are considering eliminating a cap on the number of charter schools that can operate in the lowest-performing school districts, including here in the capital city.
While other states also have weighed lifting caps, charter advocates point to left-leaning Massachusetts as a somewhat unlikely model for the movement. “This demonstrates that charter schools are a viable reform,” said Nina Rees, president of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, a nonprofit aimed at advancing the movement. “If it can happen in Massachusetts, it can happen anywhere.”
Charter schools receive public funding but, unlike public schools, employ mostly nonunion teachers and have autonomy in school districts, which allows them to set their own conditions, such as longer school days. They have long been embraced by Republicans for introducing choice in education, but have been assailed by some teacher unions and others as hurting traditional public schools.

Madison appears to be going in the opposite direction.
Related: Madison Mayor Paul Soglin: We are not interested in the development of new charter schools”

# Oxford University Blocks Google Docs

Google Docs is being used for phishing. Oxford University felt that it had to block the service because Google isn’t responding to takedown requests quickly enough.
Think about this in light of my essay on feudal security. Oxford University has to trust that Google will act in its best interest, and has no other option if it doesn’t.

# Universities face online ‘avalanche’

Helen Warrell:

Traditional red brick universities risk extinction unless they respond creatively to growing competition from free online courses, private providers and increasing globalisation in higher education, a former government education adviser has warned.
The study, “An Avalanche is Coming”, is published after global university rankings this month showed a greater polarisation between elite “superbrands” such as Oxford and Cambridge, and others such as Leeds, which has dropped out of the top 100 for the first time. The league, compiled by the Times Higher Education magazine, signals that British universities are losing ground to institutions in emerging Asian economies.
Sir Michael Barber, the report’s author, is a former adviser to Tony Blair and chief education adviser at Pearson, which owns the Financial Times. He identified “the ordinary red brick university that just ticks over” as most vulnerable, but said it was hard to predict when the “avalanche” would strike.

# A “Tsunami” of Change to Education

Garth Saloner:

Higher education is entering a new era in which educational technology will bring – as the president of Stanford University John Hennessy put it recently – a tsunami of change. The MBA will be no exception. But how should it change?
Rooted in Silicon Valley among some of the most innovative organisations in the world, people ask me: “Why not make the MBA an online degree?” My answer? While technology can greatly enhance the learning experience, it simply cannot replace the faculty-student interaction, experiential learning and self-discovery that occur in the MBA classroom.
The issue is an incremental experience versus a transformational one. The two-year, residential MBA is an immersive experience that delivers a life-changing process for those who embrace it.
In Stanford’s two-year programme, students learn about themselves and how they want to lead others through highly interactive eight-person leadership labs in which coaches and fellow students provide real-time, personal feedback. They engage in hands-on, multidisciplinary classes where new products or processes go through brainstorming exercises and rapid prototyping sessions with scores of ideas flying across work tables as one student builds on another’s idea. MBAs serendipitously bump into potential business partners in the dining pavilion, which draws engineering, law and other students.

# A Revolution in Mathematics? What Really Happened a Century Ago

The physical sciences all went through “revolutions”: wrenching transitions in which methods changed radically and became much more powerful. It is not widely realized, but there was a similar transition in mathematics between about 1890 and 1930. The first section briefly describes the changes that took place and why they qualify as a “revolution”, and the second describes turmoil and resistance to the changes at the time.
The mathematical event was different from those in science, however. In science, most of the older material was wrong and discarded, while old mathematics needed precision upgrades but was mostly correct. The sciences were completely transformed while mathematics split, with the core changing profoundly but many applied areas, and mathematical science outside the core, relatively unchanged. The strangest difference is that the scientific revolutions were highly visible, while the significance of the mathematical event is es- sentially unrecognized. The section “Obscurity” explores factors contributing to this situation and suggests historical turning points that might have changed it.

# K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: SEC Says Illinois Hid Pension Troubles

Michael Corkery & Jeannett Neumann:

For years, Illinois officials misled investors and shortchanged the state pension system, leaving future generations of taxpayers to foot the bill, U.S. securities regulators allege.
The Securities and Exchange Commission on Monday charged Illinois with securities fraud, marking only the second time the agency has filed civil-fraud charges against a state.
Related Video
But the agency and the state also announced that a settlement had already been reached in which Illinois won’t pay a penalty or admit wrongdoing.

# Diane Ravitch’s New Anti-Reform Organization

Laura Waters:

Politics K12 reports on Diane Ravitch’s new anti-reform organization, The Network for Public Education:

Education historian Diane Ravitch, a fierce critic of current education reform trends, is launching a new advocacy organization that will support political candidates who oppose high-stakes testing, mass school closures, and what her group calls the “privatizing” of public schools.
The new Network for Public Education is meant to counter state-level forces such as Democrats for Education Reform, Stand for Children, and Students First–all of which are promoting their own vision of education reform and supporting candidates for office, including with donations. That agenda backs things such as charter schools and teacher evaluations tied to student growth. Other powerful outside groups are also pushing such an agenda, though without the political donations, including former Gov. Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education and Chiefs for Change.

Although Kevin Werbach has made his name teaching about games, there are some things that the Wharton business school professor takes very seriously. One of those is the latest generation of online courses – Moocs, or massive open online courses – and just how his Ivy League institution, the University of Pennsylvania, can take advantage of them.
“They are an extraordinary opportunity for us,” says Professor Werbach. “For me it’s a platform to experiment on … I think these online resources free us up to do in the classroom the things that can only be done in the classroom.”
Though Moocs have been around for less than a year, they are one of the trendiest topics in education, says Jeff Seamen, co-director of the Babson Survey Research Group, which publishes an annual report on online learning. “What we see at the moment is a genuine excitement that this represents a fundamental change in the way we can deliver education.”
On campus, business schools have often been quick off the mark to adopt the latest technologies. From Kindles to iPads, and from videoconferencing to the latest online networking, MBA programme directors have been enthusiastic adopters.

# NJEA is Out of Remission

Laura Waters:

The honeymoon’s over. After years of attacking Gov. Christie and his education agenda full throttle – and losing authority, gravitas, and public support – NJEA’s leadership had seemed to undergo a makeover, fully backing the bipartisan bill that reformed teacher evaluation and tenure in New Jersey. Heck: NJEA even backed the Urban Hope Act, which allows charter operators to take over some of our worst-performing schools in Trenton, Camden, and Newark.
Of course, the Legislature made a huge concession to NJEA in negotiations over TEACHNJ, the tenure reform bill, at the last minute deleting the section of the bill that would have eliminated seniority-based lay-offs. Nonetheless, the resulting resolution was a huge step in partnership and collaboration.
Judging by today’s NJ Spotlight story, however, NJEA’s leadership has suffered a relapse, reverting back to the reactionary stance that undermined its brand in the first days of the Christie Administration. The first symptom was NJEA President Barbara Keshishian’s screechy response to Gov. Christie budget proposal, which increases state school aid, although not to the unattainable levels of Corzine’s School Funding Reform Act. The second symptom is covered in the Spotlight story, which recounts the union leadership’s retro reaction to the DOE’s proposed regulations for implementing the new tenure law.

# College: Where Free Speech Goes to Die; Thanks to unconstitutional university speech codes, students are losing their intellectual edge.

The value of the university once lay in its providing a nurturing space for what English poet and essayist Matthew Arnold called “the free play of the mind upon all subjects,” which would foster the “instinct prompting [the mind] to try to know the best that is known and thought in the world, irrespective of practice, politics, and everything of the kind.”
Critical to these enterprises is the notion of academic freedom–the ability to study, teach, and talk about subjects, no matter how controversial, without fear of retribution or censorship. For only by discussing openly a wide range of subjects can the liberally educated mind “make the best prevail,” as Arnold put it, and turn “a stream of fresh and free thought upon our stock notions and habits, which we now follow staunchly but mechanically.”

# Boys & Girls Club, Madison schools team up more to boost achievement

Matthew DeFour:

During her sophomore year at Madison East High School, Awa Fofana was facing a personal health crisis and her parents’ divorce when a teacher recommended she join the AVID/TOPS program.
Now a senior and headed to UW-Madison next fall to study nursing, Fofana credits the program, a partnership between the Madison School District and Boys & Girls Club of Dane County, with helping her succeed where other students facing similar challenges at home often do not.
“It’s hard to find someone who would support you through times like that,” Fofana said. “(AVID/TOPS) has been that push to do the things I need to do.”
AVID/TOPS — a college preparatory program for students in the academic middle — is one of the central pieces of an ambitious \$15 million expansion the local Boys & Girls Club is planning over the next six years.
The expansion represents a shift for the organization from recreational after-school programming to academic support services. It comes as the School District renews its focus on raising low-income and minority student achievement, and reflects increasing ties between the club and the district.

# MIT’s Charm School teaches bookworms about social graces

Social graces are just as important to success as mastering astrophysics or engineering. But how do you take someone who’s grown up in the world of pocket protectors and get them thinking about suits, bow ties and the proper way to hold a wine glass, be it of red or white?
To help the next generation of nerd overlords be as socially savvy as they are smart, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology runs an annual day of etiquette classes it calls Charm School.
Founded in 1993, Charm School just celebrated its 20th birthday with classes in alcohol and gym etiquette, how to dress for work (for men and for women) and how to visit a contemporary art museum. There are also classes on how to make a charming first impression, the right way to tweet and even how to dance at weddings.
“We’re giving our students the tools to be productive members of society, to be the whole package,” Alana Hamlett of MIT’s Student Activities and Leadership Office told the Los Angeles Times. “It gets them thinking about who they are and what their impact and effect is, whether they’re working on a team in an engineering company, or in a small group on a project, or interviewing for a job.”
Because, as Charm School’s course listing says, “What you do or don’t do in the interview can make the difference in getting the job.”

# Public Preschool’s Test Case: Oklahoma’s Expanded Access Shows Benefits, Hiccups; Classes in Strip Malls

Stephanie Banchero:

When President Barack Obama unveiled plans to vastly expand preschool access across the U.S., he singled out Oklahoma as a model–a state that shows the promise and the challenges of the undertaking.
In 1998, Oklahoma lawmakers passed one of the nation’s first state-funded preschool programs for all 4-year-olds. Since then, the number of children enrolled in preschool programs has soared to 40,000 this year, up from 9,000 when the program first started.
Many Oklahoma children now arrive in elementary school so well prepared that some districts have overhauled their kindergarten curricula.
Kim Jones, a kindergarten teacher at Western Oaks Elementary School near Oklahoma City, has seen the difference. She used to teach her students to recognize capital letters, add numbers up to five, follow directions and take turns. Now, most arrive from preschool with that knowledge. “We can jump right into the academics the first week,” Ms. Jones said.

# Public-University Costs Soar

Ruth Simon:

Tuition at public colleges jumped last year by a record amount as state governments slashed school funding, the latest sign of strain in the U.S. higher-education sector.
The average amount that students at public colleges paid in tuition, after state and institutional grants and scholarships, climbed 8.3% last year, the biggest jump on record, according to a report based on data from all public institutions in all 50 states to be released Wednesday by the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association. Median tuition rose 4.5%.
The average state funding per student, meanwhile, fell by more than 9%, the steepest drop since the group began collecting the data in 1980. Median funding fell 10%. During the recession, states began cutting support for higher education, and the trend accelerated last year.

# Wisconsin budget places some pressures on teachers, schools

Alan Borsuk:

How high do we want to turn up the heat? Where’s the line between “justifiable and productive” and “we’ll be sorry”?
Not questions that are easy to answer, but they deserve very serious thought, especially as the state budget process heats up. The questions involve money, of course, but they also involve the huge amount of change that is going on within schools – the pressure for better results, major changes in learning standards and teaching styles, and new approaches to evaluating teachers and principals that could carry big career implications.
I’ve visited several schools lately, both city and suburban, and I’ve seen some really big changes in what is going on, much of it appealing and promising when it comes to how students get engaged in their learning and what is expected of them. Cool stuff.
But I’ve also talked to teachers who went from describing great work with their students, and, within seconds, have tears in their eyes when talking about how things are going for them personally and for their schools. These are people – some of the best we have in classrooms – working under enormous stress. It is in everyone’s long-term interest for teaching to be good and ultimately doable work. Negative forces can – and are – putting that at risk.
For the moment, let’s focus on how much money public schools will get for the next two years, to be determined by the state budget to be set this spring.

Matthew DeFour:

Andrew Statz recalls playing the city-building computer game SimCity in the mid-1990s when UW-Milwaukee called to offer him a teaching position in their urban planning graduate program.
His assignment: teaching college students how to play SimCity.
“It was serious geekdom,” said Statz, 43, the Madison School District’s chief information officer since January 2011.
Statz, who lives on the East Side with his wife, Ronda, worked as a state budget analyst under three governors before becoming former Madison mayor Dave Cieslewicz’s efficiency expert.
Now as the School District’s numbers guru (he also oversees the enrollment office and information technology), Statz is applying his love for systems analysis to helping the district make data-driven decisions.

Andrew has always been most cordial, professional and helpful in my experience.

# Online Learning 2013 Discussion

Charlotte Clarke:

The past year has been a watershed year for learning online. At one end of the market, highly-ranked business schools have realised the value of teaching online, launching high-cost programmes for high-calibre students. But the past year has also seen an exponential growth in the number of free courses, or Moocs. Can these different types of programme co-exist?
On Wednesday, March 13, 2013, between 14.00 and 15.00 GMT, a panel of experts will answer these questions and others here on FT.com. Post your questions now to ask@ft.com and they will be answered on the day.

# Why Are Our Kids Useless? Because We’re Smart

Alison Gopnik:

Why are children so, well, so helpless? Why did I spend a recent Sunday morning putting blueberry pancake bits on my 1-year-old grandson’s fork and then picking them up again off the floor? And why are toddlers most helpless when they’re trying to be helpful? Augie’s vigorous efforts to sweep up the pancake detritus with a much-too-large broom (“I clean!”) were adorable but not exactly effective.
This isn’t just a caregiver’s cri de coeur–it’s also an important scientific question. Human babies and young children are an evolutionary paradox. Why must big animals invest so much time and energy just keeping the little ones alive? This is especially true of our human young, helpless and needy for far longer than the young of other primates.
One idea is that our distinctive long childhood helps to develop our equally distinctive intelligence. We have both a much longer childhood and a much larger brain than other primates. Restless humans have to learn about more different physical environments than stay-at-home chimps, and with our propensity for culture, we constantly create new social environments. Childhood gives us a protected time to master new physical and social tools, from a whisk broom to a winning comment, before we have to use them to survive.

# A Point of View: Mary, queen of maths

The request caught the attention of Dr Mary Cartwright, lecturer in mathematics at Girton College Cambridge. She was already working on similar “very objectionable-looking differential equations” (as she later described them).
She brought the request to the attention of her long-term colleague at Trinity College, Professor JE Littlewood and suggested that they combine forces. In a memoir written later in her life, she explained that he already had the necessary experience in dynamics, having worked on the trajectories of anti-aircraft guns during World War I.

# Create Cultural Practices that are Relevant (CPR) Model Schools

Jane Belmore, Interim Superintendent (PDF):

Background Information: The Model School concept, to develop culturally relevant teaching practices, was approved as part of the Achievement Gap Plan.
The recommendation for a Cultural Practices that are Relevant (CPR) Model School addresses three primary needs:

• The need for the creation of better programs and services to increase achievement for underserved students. The need to create better support for teachers around implementing Response to Intervention (RtI) with cultural relevance at the core, according to the state and national RtI models, and
• The need for a school-based professional development environment on culturally and linguistically responsive practices, with an emphasis on promoting rigor in the content areas–beginning with literacy.

Additionally, the CPR model school’s combination of culturally responsive instruction, high expectations for achievement, early and extended learning, character development, and strong community partnerships will serve as an incubator for instructional improvement efforts in the district.

# Madison’s Proposed Charter School (!) Policy (Now Explicit: Union Represented Only)

Dylan Pauly, Legal Counsel; Steve Hartley, Chief of Staff:

During last month’s Committee meeting, we presented a new, rewritten Policy 10000. At that time, we explained that the changes contained therein were intended to reflect the time the Board has spent reviewing and discussing Dr. Julie Mead’s work regarding principle-based policymaking. Over the course of the last meeting, several members suggested changes for and improvements to Draft 1 of the rewritten Policy 10000. Tonight we present Draft 2, which we believe incorporates the Board’s suggestions and input. Attached hereto is a redline draft highlighting the differences between Draft 1 of the rewritten policy and Draft 2.
The changes include:

• Express language stating only instrumentality schools will be considered (p. 10-1)
• Refinement of the guiding principles (pp. 10-1and10-2)
• Revisions to the timeline to include more Board involvement and specificity (p.10-3)
• Board review and approval of Initial Applications (p. 10-5)
• Clarification of the timing of the Superintendent’s Administrative Analysis (p. 10-6)
• Removal of the term “qualified” in Section IV (p. 10-7)
• Additional detail regarding location requirements (p. 10-8)

The changes in Draft 2 do not reflect any of the proposed statutory amendments contained in Governor Walker’s biennial budget. At this time, the changes are only proposals and may or may not be passed as law. Obviously, if any of the proposed changes, which primarily relate to independent and instrumentality charter schools, do become law, we will need to review Policy 10000 again to insure compliance.

# Harvard Searched E-Mails for Source of Media Leaks

Harvard secretly searched the e-mail accounts of several of its staff members last fall, looking for the source of news media leaks about its recent cheating scandal, but did not tell them about the searches for several months, people briefed on the matter said on Saturday.
The searches, first reported by The Boston Globe, involved the e-mail accounts of 16 resident deans, but most of them were not told of the searches until the last few days, after The Globe inquired about them. Resident deans straddle the roles of administrators and faculty members, teaching classes as lecturers while living in Harvard’s undergraduate residential houses as student advocates and advisers.
In August, an administration memo to the resident deans, on how to advise students being brought up on cheating charges before the Administrative Board, a committee of faculty members responsible for enforcing regulations, made its way to news organizations. The e-mail searches were intended to find the source of leak, but no one was disciplined in the matter.

# Saving Money, Healthcare Insurance and the West Bend School District

One small governmental entity has shown the way. The West Bend School District went self-insured years ago, then bid out its network needs, then went CDHP and now is putting in its own on-site clinic. It’s in the vanguard in learning from the private sector payers about what works and being a fast-follower.
Result? It is delivering first class health care for less than \$10,000 per employee. That’s half of what many districts are playing for fully insured plans.
Think about the numbers. At a savings of \$10,000 per employee and about 1000 employees, it is saving the taxpayers \$10 million per year.
The district is giving raises; it has found funds for deferred maintenance; it found \$5 million in reserves to put against a \$25 million bond program for school construction.

Smart, anti-orthodoxy thinking.

# The balinghou: Chinese parents bemoan the laziness and greed of their children, but this generation of young people has had enough

James Palmer:

In 2004, fresh off the plane in Beijing, I was asked to judge an English competition for high-school seniors. My two co-judges were pleasantly cynical middle-aged sociologists, both professors at Tsinghua University. After listening to the umpteenth speech about how China used to be poor, but was now rich and powerful, I remarked to one of them that the students seemed a little sheltered.
‘They don’t know anything!’ she spat. ‘They don’t have any idea about how people live. None of this generation do. They’re all so spoilt.’
It’s a view I’ve heard time and again over the past eight years, and one of which the Chinese media never tire. The young get it from left and right. This January alone, the jingoistic Major General and media commentator Luo Yuan condemned the young for being physically and mentally unfit, ranting: ‘Femininity is on the rise, and masculinity is on the decline. With such a lack of character and determination and such physical weakness, how can they shoulder the heavy responsibility?’ Meanwhile the writer and social critic Murong Xuecun blasted them in the US magazine Foreign Policy because ‘fattened to the point of obesity with Coca-Cola and hamburgers [ …] the young generation only believes official pronouncements; some even think contradicting the official line is heretical. They do not bother to check the details’.

# “Cheap Financing of Education Can Put a young Life Underwater

Note the irony here: The only education system that actually worked for him was the self-education kind. And it is what is going to help him work his way into the highest-paying career.
His top-20 law school and private education in general are not to blame; they’re in the business (yes, the business) of providing a service that’s in demand, no matter how misinformed their “customers” may be. If you’ve got foolish customers who will overpay for something worthless, who’s really to blame? Oh, right, the institutions that hand them the money, at high rates of interest, so they can buy the goods–law degrees, for instance–that won’t work for them. Cheap financing of education can put a young life underwater, just as junk loans for McMansions did in the housing market, where older lives were put underwater. Too much debt, too little equity in the product itself: the worker or the house.
The current administration has pursued a cheap-money approach to student loans in order to produce as many four-year-degree students (and not always graduates) as possible. Instead, the goal should be to assess which schools and degrees can be the quickest to bring well-trained workers to market. When workers emerge from their initial education and find jobs, they’ll soon learn what skills can drive their careers forward; that’s the time for graduate school or further training courses. That’s when speculation turns into investment: a known need, and then a wise outlay to meet it. Our economy needs the most cost-effective education/hire ratio possible, and we should also measure retention to make sure schools are meeting needs. Mr. Overqualified trusted that his expensive education was an investment; instead, it was a fraud. Let’s stop this nonsense.