“Uncommonly Bad” (excerpt)

Jane Robbins – National Association of Scholars Academic Questions, Spring 2013, Volume 26, Number 1

The advent of the Common Core State Standards has prompted a new discussion
about how to produce students who are “college- and career-ready.” But this question differs from the one that governed education throughout most of our history. We used to ask, what should a student know to become an educated citizen? Education would prepare one for college or career, certainly, but, more broadly, for life. What vision of education are we now advancing? As with parents and state legislators, academia has been largely excluded from this discussion…
…Should students read entire books? This is generally unnecessary, apparently, to get the flavor of the work and to have something to think critically about. Will Fitzhugh of The Concord Review notes this truncating feature of Common Core:

“Let us consider saving students more time from their fictional non-informational text readings (previously known as literature) by cutting back on the complete novels, plays and poems formerly offered in our high schools. For instance, instead of Pride and Prejudice (the whole novel), students could be asked to read Chapter Three. Instead of the complete Romeo and Juliet, they could read Act Two, Scene Two, and in poetry, instead of a whole sonnet, perhaps just alternate stanzas could be assigned. In this way, they could get the ‘gist’ of great works of literature, enough to be, as it were, ‘grist’ for their deeper analytic cognitive thinking skill mills.”39

A member of the “Implementing Common Core Standards” team at the Center for Teaching Quality argues that excerpts can be as educational as complete works:
“Not every student needs to read every word of every work. We can pull essential excerpts and examine them in small chunks–words, phrases, sentences–asking students to wrestle meaning from the text.”40
It is unclear how students can “wrestle meaning” from “words” or “phrases” wrenched cleanly from their context.

“Teach by Example”
Will Fitzhugh [founder]
The Concord Review [1987]
Ralph Waldo Emerson Prizes [1995]
National Writing Board [1998]
TCR Institute [2002]
730 Boston Post Road, Suite 24
Sudbury, Massachusetts 01776-3371 USA
978-443-0022; 800-331-5007
www.tcr.org; fitzhugh@tcr.org
Varsity Academics®

Deja Vu? Education Experts to Review the Madison School District

The Madison School District:

Superintendent’s Teaching and Learning Transition Team to Begin Work This Week
A group of national and local education experts will support Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham’s entry plan work, the district announced today. The Superintendent’s Teaching and Learning Transition Team will begin work this week.
“Instruction and leadership are critical components of systemic improvement,” Superintendent Cheatham said. “This team of local and national practitioners will join district and school staff in assessing and analyzing strengths, areas of opportunities and priorities for improving teaching and learning in Madison schools.”
The eight member team brings together education experts from Harvard University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, as well as educational practitioners from other urban school districts.
“We are fortunate to have access to national experts with a wide range of expertise from standards based instruction and leadership development, to bilingual and special education, to family and community involvement,” Cheatham said. “This team will help to deepen and strengthen my ongoing understanding of the strengths and challenges of our district. Their national perspective, coupled with the local perspective shared by principals, staff, parents and community members, will support us in narrowing our focus to only the most high leverage strategies for ensuring every student is college and career ready.”
The team, which was selected by the superintendent and will be funded through community and private foundations, will be chaired by Dr. Robert Peterkin, Professor Emeritus of the Harvard Graduate School of Education and includes: Maree Sneed, partner at Hogan and Lovells US LLC; John Diamond, sociologist of education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education; Sheila Brown, Co-Director at the Aspen Institute’s Education and Society Program; Allan Odden, Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis at the University of Wisconsin-Madison; John Peterburs, Executive Director of Quarles & Brady; Wilma Valero, Coordinator for English Language Learner Programs in Elgin, Il; and Gloria Ladson-Billings, Professor of Urban Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
As Superintendent Cheatham continues the listening and learning phase of her entry plan, the Teaching and Learning Transition Team will also meet with central office leaders, conduct focus groups with teachers, principals, and parents as needed, and review a variety of relevant data.
At the end of their work, the team will present the superintendent with a report of what they have learned and recommendations for moving forward systemically with best practices. That report will be used, along with data collected by the superintendent in school visits and other entry plan activities, to refine the district’s goals and strategic priorities.


    THURSDAY, MARCH 1, 2001 (additional background here)
    Updated Strategic Plan Results in Priority Action Teams
    Five Strategic Priority Action Teams, centered around the most critical challenges facing the Madison Metropolitan School District, are among the outcomes of the recently-completed strategic plan.
    “The immediate and emerging challenges facing the district are addressed in our revitalized strategic plan,” said Superintendent Art Rainwater, “and the Action Teams are focused on five important priorities for us.”
    The five strategic priorities are:
    Instructional Excellence – improving student achievement; offering challenging, diverse and contemporary curriculum and instruction
    Student Support – assuring a safe, respectful and welcoming learning environment
    Staff Effectiveness – recruiting, developing and retaining a highly competent workforce that reflects the diversity of our students
    Home and Community Partnerships – strengthening community and family partnerships and communication
    Fiscal Responsibility – using resources efficiently and strategically
    The five Strategic Priority Action Teams, one for each of the five priorities, are taking on the responsibility for continuous improvement toward “their” priority.
    The Action Teams, which will have both staff members and non-staff members, will be responsible for existing initiatives. In addition they will identify and recommend benchmarks to use in assessing school district performance.
    “We have a huge number of initiatives,” said Rainwater. “This strategic plan gives us a systemic approach to change, so that every initiative, everything we do, leads us to these established goals. I believe it is critical to our district’s success that we follow this strategic plan and use it as a decision filter against which we measure our activities.”
    Two other outcomes from the updated strategic plan are:
    a set of beliefs about children, families, enhanced learning, and the quality of life and learning, all of which are integrated with an identified District vision and mission.
    improved cost efficiency and effectiveness of many central office functions, which are being addressed on an ongoing basis.
    Madison Schools’ initial strategic plan came about in 1991, and provided direction until this update.
    “As a result of this project,” said Rainwater, “all of us who are stakeholders — parents, students, teachers and staff, administrators and community members — will share a renewed sense of clarity, while seeing an ever-more efficient deployment of resources.”
    You can see the complete strategic plan on the district’s Web site: http://www.mmsd.org.

  • Teachers Dispute District Standards: Superintendent Cheryl Wilhoyte’s Biggest Goals have become caught up in the contract battle with Madison Teachers.:

    Amid the picket signs Madison teachers carried at a rally last month protesting slow-moving contract talks, some teachers also carried a bright purple flier.
    On one side was written the heading “standards and benchmarks.” On the other, “Dimensions of Learning.” Beneath each, and filling the entire page, was one uninterrupted string of text: “Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah. . . .”
    While hardly erudite — some would call it juvenile — the flier expressed the sentiment many teachers have toward two of Superintendent Cheryl Wilhoyte’s biggest initiatives: the effort to create districtwide academic standards, and the teacher-training program that goes along with it.
    Neither issue is a subject of bargaining. But the programs have become a sort of catch-all target for teachers who blame Wilhoyte for everything from the poor state of labor-management relations to the current contract impasse.
    Wilhoyte, who was hired in part to implement the district’s 1991 strategic plan, including establishing rigorous standards, says carrying out that plan is central to the compact she has with the …

  • The 2009 update to Madison’s “Strategic Planning Process“.
  • Madison’s 2012-2013 $392,000,000 budget (just under $15k per student)
  • Madison’s long term disastrous reading results
  • The Madison school district’s recent “achievement gap and accountability plan“.
  • The Capital Times (9.21.1992):

    Wilhoyte, on the other hand, has demonstrated that she is a tough, hands-on administrator in her role as assistant superintendent for instruction and school administration in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. And even those who have tangled with her praise her philosophy, which is to put kids first.
    She has been a leader in Maryland in shaking up the educational status quo, of moving it forward to meeat the needs of the children, even while juggling new programs with budget cuts. The big question remaining about her: She has never been a superintendent. How would she handle the top job?

  • Retiring Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman’s 2009 speech to the Madison Rotary club.
  • Madison Teachers, Inc. on the Madison Schools 2000 “Participatory Management”
  • Notes and links on recent Madison Superintendent hires”

Matthew DeFour summarizes and collects some feedback on the District’s press release here. It would be useful to dig into the archives and review the various strategic plans and initiatives over the years and compare the words and spending with results.
Deja vu.

Madison’s public schools go to lockdown mode; no new ideas wanted

David Blaska:

Graphical user interface? I think not, Mr. Jobs. Mainframe is where it’s at. Big and honking, run by guys in white lab coats. Smart phones? iPads? You’re dreaming. Take your new ideas somewhere else.
That is the Madison School Board. It has decided to batten the hatches against change. It is securing the perimeter against new thinking. It is the North Korea of education: insular, blighted, and paranoid.
Just try to start a charter school in Madison. I dare you. The Madison School Board on Monday took three measures to strangle new ideas in their crib:
1) Preserving the status quo: Any proposed charter school would have to have “a history of successful practice.” That leaves out several existing Madison public schools – never mind new approaches.
2) Starvation: Cap per-pupil reimbursement at around $6,500 – less than half what Madison public schools consume.
3) Encrustation: Unionized teachers only need apply.
I spoke to Carrie Bonk, executive director of the Wisconsin Charter Schools Association.

Madison’s disastrous reading results.

The rejected Studio charter school.

Minneapolis teacher’s union approved to authorize charter schools.

“We are not interested in the development of new charter schools”.

Notes and links on the rejected Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School.

Madison School District Open Enrollment Leavers Report, 2012-13.

Madison’s disastrous long term reading results..

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

Fathers struggling to ‘have it all’

Naomi Shragai:

Oliver Rule says his four-day working week is the ‘opposite of emasculating – it’s empowering’
A senior television executive is reading a bedtime story to his eight-year-old daughter. It is 10pm and he has just returned home from work. His phone rings – a work call – and he answers it, leaving the story unfinished.
His daughter shouts from her bed: “You’re a terrible father!” He returns to his daughter and tries to explain, with little success, why the call was important.
This executive works late and sees his daughter for only about two hours during the working week. Although he feels guilty about this and fears he is missing the best moments of family life, he seems unable to switch off from work.

What Does Your MTI Contract Do for You? Worker’s Compensation

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

Among the excellent benefits available to MTI members is the additional worker’s compensation benefit provided by MTI’s various Collective Bargaining Agreements.
Wisconsin Statutes provide a worker’s compensation benefit for absence caused by a work-related injury or illness, but such commences on the 4th day of absence and has a maximum weekly financial benefit.
MTI’s Contracts provide one’s full wage, beginning on day one of an absence caused by a work- related injury or illness, with no financial maximum. Also, MTI’s Contract provides that one’s earned sick leave is not consumed by absence caused by a work-related illness or injury.
Although MTI is working to preserve this benefit, it is at risk due to Governor Walker’s Act 10.

Louisiana Governor Jindal on School Vouchers

Danielle Dreillinger:

Gov. Bobby Jindal defended his school voucher program in a whirlwind interview Friday with NBC-TV newswoman Hoda Kotb, saying that whether a school is a charter, private or a traditional public school, government should “fund what works for a child.” The interview took place during NBC’s invitation-only Education Nation summit in New Orleans and was broadcast live on WDSU and the Internet.
Jindal is waiting for a state Supreme Court ruling on the constitutionality of the 2012 law authorizing the voucher program. The state Department of Education will issue its first private/parochial school matches for new entrants in the program next week.
Vouchers help “low-income kids that are trapped in failing schools,” Jindal said to a who’s-who of New Orleans education figures, who grumbled at many of his remarks.
In Louisiana, he said, roughly 5,000 students are now “getting better academic results” at a savings to the taxpayer. The average voucher scholarship uses $5,300 of public money, compared with the $8,500 state and local per-pupil allotment for a child in public school.

California Democrats blast efforts to overhaul schools

Seema Mehta:

California Democrats on Sunday condemned efforts led by members of their own party to overhaul the nation’s schools, arguing that groups such as StudentsFirst and Democrats for Education Reform are fronts for Republicans and corporate interests.
Before delegates overwhelmingly passed a resolution excoriating the groups on the final day of the party’s annual convention here, speakers urged them to focus on protecting students and teachers.
“People can call themselves Democrats for Education Reform — it’s a free country — but if your agenda is to shut teachers and school employees out of the political process and not lift a finger to prevent cuts in education, in my book you’re not a reformer, you’re not helping education, and you’re sure not much of a Democrat,” said state Supt. of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, a registered Democrat whose office is nonpartisan.

Computers can’t replace real teachers

Wendy Kopp:

Tech visionary Steve Jobs understood better than anyone the impulse to believe that technology can solve our most complex societal problems. “Unfortunately it just ain’t so,” he said. “We need to attack these things at the root, which is people and how much freedom we give people. … I wish it was as simple as giving it over to the computer.”
That’s certainly true when it comes to education, particularly in impoverished communities.
As a founder of two organizations that recruit top college graduates to expand educational opportunity, I’ve spent a lot of time examining what’s at work in successful classrooms and schools over the past two decades. In every classroom where students are excelling against the odds, there’s a teacher who’s empowered her students to work hard to realize their potential. Whenever I ask the leaders of successful schools their secret, the answer is almost always the same: people, people, people. They are obsessed with recruiting and developing the best teams.

Online Education Trumps the Cost Disease: Interactive Learning Online at Public Universities: Evidence from Randomized Trials

William G. Bowen, Matthew M. Chingos, Kelly A. Lack & Thomas I. Nygren:

Online learning is quickly gaining in importance in U.S. higher education, but little rigorous evidence exists as to its effect on student learning outcomes. In “Interactive Learning Online at Public Universities: Evidence from Randomized Trials,” we measure the effect on learning outcomes of a prototypical interactive learning online (ILO) statistics course by randomly assigning students on six public university campuses to take the course in a hybrid format (with machine-guided instruction accompanied by one hour of face-to-face instruction each week) or a traditional format (as it is usually offered by their campus, typically with 3-4 hours of face-to-face instruction each week).
We find that learning outcomes are essentially the same–that students in the hybrid format “pay no price” for this mode of instruction in terms of pass rates, final exam scores, and performance on a standardized assessment of statistical literacy. These zero-difference coefficients are precisely estimated. We also conduct speculative cost simulations and find that adopting hybrid models of instruction in large introductory courses have the potential to significantly reduce instructor compensation costs in the long run.

Alex Tabarrok:

A 25% time-savings is significant. Moreover, the 25% time-savings figure is in itself an underestimate of savings since it does not include the time savings from not having to drive to class, for example.
Online education even in its earliest stages appears to be generating large improvements in educational productivity.

Sidwell Friends alumni aim to open public charter school in the District

Emma Brown:

Sidwell Friends, the elite private school known for educating the children of presidents and members of Congress, has lent its support to a group of former students and faculty who are seeking to open a public charter school in the District.
The aspiring charter founders say they want One World Public Charter School to give middle-school students from across the city an opportunity to experience — for free — the caliber of education that costs $34,268 a year at the independent Quaker school.
Tom Farquhar, Sidwell’s head of school, spoke in favor of One World last week at a D.C. Public Charter School Board hearing. “These are extraordinary people,” Farquhar said, “and they have demonstrated in their lives prior to this an extraordinary commitment to the children of our community.”
Charters have drawn leaders from high-flying college-prep schools before: A graduate of National Cathedral School started the high-performing D.C. Prep charter network, while a Sidwell alumnus co-founded the SEED School, a charter boarding school.

School Choice Expansion: The Power of a Fiscal Note

Mike Ford:

At the start my public policy career I had the good fortune to work with someone who fully understood the power of the Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB) in influencing Wisconsin policy debates. To paraphrase my colleague, legislators want answers, and LFB is the respected authority that provides them. It follows that the content of LFB fiscal notes are often the catalyst, or death knell, for major potential policy changes.
It will bear watching how yesterday’s LFB memo on the fiscal impact of the Governor’s proposed school voucher expansion to nine different communities plays out. The note, available here, is, like just about all LFB work, well done.
First the note points out the obvious. When a student switches from a public school to private school via the theoretical choice program the district loses revenue. Why? Each student attending a public school district generates somewhere around $10,000 in state aid and local revenue (this is an estimate for ease of understanding, the actual amount varies by district). When a student leaves for any reason, the district will eventually lose the $10,000 per-kid. If you look at Table 4 on page 5 the first column shows the eventual estimated impact on participating district revenue limits.
School districts will naturally get worked up about this; they want the market-share and the revenue that comes with it. However, it is hard to justify that districts should be receiving funds for students they are no longer educating.
The more problematic part of the note for school choice advocates is the next three columns. The first column shows the aid reduction to public school districts to pay for 38.4% of the new choice program. Districts don’t lose this money, they offset it with the property tax levy. In most cases, the local per-pupil cost for a choice program is less than the local per-pupil cost for a public school student, so on the surface it appears taxpayers are getting a bargain. However, the next column is where things get more complicated.
That column, labeled “Aid Formula Reduction,” reflects two things. First, the loss of state aid that would have been generated by each pupil that leaves the district. Second, the change in distribution of state and local aid caused by having fewer students in the per-member property value calculation. In English (or something closer to it), when a student leaves a district the district’s per-member property value increases, which lowers the portion of their revenue that comes from state aid and increases the portion that comes from the local property tax.
That is why, against all logic, that last column shows a levy increase despite the lower cost of the choice program. To put in even simpler, when a student leaves for any reason it does impact the state aid/property tax split for students the district is still educating.

With Police in Schools, More Children in Court

Erik Eckholm:

As school districts across the country consider placing more police officers in schools, youth advocates and judges are raising alarm about what they have seen in the schools where officers are already stationed: a surge in criminal charges against children for misbehavior that many believe is better handled in the principal’s office.
Since the early 1990s, thousands of districts, often with federal subsidies, have paid local police agencies to provide armed “school resource officers” for high schools, middle schools and sometimes even elementary schools. Hundreds of additional districts, including those in Houston, Los Angeles and Philadelphia, have created police forces of their own, employing thousands of sworn officers.
Last week, in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., shootings, a task force of the National Rifle Association recommended placing police officers or other armed guards in every school. The White House has proposed an increase in police officers based in schools.

Study: School reform in 3 major cities brings few benefits, some harm

Valerie Strauss:

Many people paying attention to corporate-based school reform in recent years will not be surprised by this, but a new study on the effects of this movement in Washington, D.C., New York City and Chicago concludes that little has been accomplished and some harm has been done to students, especially the underprivileged.
The report looks at the impact of reforms that have been championed by Education Secretary Arne Duncan and other well-known reformers, including Michelle Rhee, the former chancellor of D.C. Public Schools, and, in New York City, Joel Klein, the former chancellor of New York City Public Schools and Mayor Michael Bloomberg. It says:

Higher Education: A Deflating Bubble?

Paula Tkac & Michael Chriszt:

There are at least two sides to every debate, but it’s becoming clearer by the day that the debate over the cost of higher education is being won by people like University of Tennessee law professor Glenn Reynolds.
A frequent writer and lecturer, and even more frequent blogger, Reynolds visited the Atlanta Fed recently to share his views with local community leaders. He reported that total student loan debt now stands at over $1 trillion–more than total credit card debt and auto loan debt combined. As these charts from the New York Fed show, the increase in total student debt over the past eight years is a result of greater numbers of students and families taking on educational debt as well as higher debt balances per student.
One can argue that this trend is not necessarily a bad thing. Education is an investment in human capital, and if those newly acquired skills are valued highly by employers, then going to college can be a positive net present value project, even with debt financing.
And wage data reveal that these skills are indeed valuable. As this Cleveland Fed article and chart show, the median wage for a worker with a bachelor’s degree was about 30 percent higher than that of a worker with only a high school diploma in the late 1970s and grew to more than 60 percent higher by the early 2000s. However, the data also show that over the last decade the value of a college degree measured by wages has stagnated.

Management personnel decisions of Green Bay schools questioned

Randall A. Sanderson:

Months ago, the Green Bay Press-Gazette published salaries of public school teachers, but the management personnel weren’t included in the disclosures.
Here’s what the public record has shown in recent years about the Green Bay School District and advantages. After veteran schools Superintendent Daniel Nerad took a promotion out of the area, the School Board hired a replacement at a 24 percent increase in salary. That unprecedented jump in pay created the incentive for Greg Maass to leave his old superintendent position in Fond du Lac during their flood damage crisis.
He stayed with Green Bay public schools long enough for his salary increase to raise his retirement payout and then left early to head a district on the East Coast.

Commentary on Madison’s New Superintendent

The Wisconsin State Journal:

Cheatham suggested “there’s a ton” of things the district potentially can do to help struggling students. But she’s not jumping to conclusions. She wants to hear about what’s working, along with what’s not. Madison has a lot going for it, despite its significant challenges.
Cheatham highlighted the national push for common and higher standards during her visit to the newspaper. She also listed as key issues teacher and principal evaluations, technology, and helping students whose native language isn’t English.
Responding to a question, Cheatham said “absolutely yes” principals should know how well their individual teachers are performing. And Cheatham suggested the district has to own its gap, even though some factors are out of its control.
Cheatham said some Madison teachers have told her they feel overwhelmed by the demands of their jobs. In addition, she said one of the reasons some school districts don’t innovate is because “people are living in fear,” or because they are very “compliance oriented.”

Unions’ Charter-School Push Labor Looks to Organize in an Educational Sector That Has Largely Kept It Away

Stephanie Banchero & Caroline Porter:

Charter schools have spread across the country while generally keeping organized labor out, with operators saying they can manage schools better when their staffs aren’t unionized. But labor groups are now making a big push to get a stronger foothold in this educational realm.
Here in Chicago, a branch of the American Federation of Teachers is looking to organize one of the nation’s largest nonprofit charter-school groups. Under an agreement last month, the United Neighborhood Organization, which runs 13 charter schools in the city, agreed to provide the union with contact information for its 400 teachers and to let union organizers meet with them on school grounds, even as the charter-school group didn’t take a position on whether the teachers should organize.
Backers of charters, which are public schools run by independent groups, say freedom from union contracts enables innovation in areas like staffing and school calendars. Opponents say charters siphon money and students from struggling traditional public schools.

I was a college newspaper advisor

Jeff Pearlman:

When I told the heads of my department about the happenings, they had no idea. We wound up having a meeting with the provost. She apologized, also said it wasn’t her call, but that the college was concerned about “the message.” What if prospective students, taking a campus tour, pick up the Touchstone and see a column about crappy food or bad policies? What then? I told her that journalism can’t be taught as public relations; that students must be able to voice their displeasure–and pleasure–in a free forum. A college newspaper is not a promotional pamphlet. A college newspaper is a newspaper.
To my great shock, I sat in front of her and my voice began to crack. Again, I told her, I made no money to do this; I certainly didn’t need to do this for my career. It was, 100 percent, about love, passion, developing journalists, seeing them published and, ultimately, hired. She nodded and smiled and empathized.
The meeting ended.
I was later told, by multiple college officials, that this came down to one thing, and one thing only: Image control.
I felt like I got over it. I really did. My class started its own online newspaper, The Pub Wrap, and that was fulfilling. I was told only my students could contribute; that it couldn’t compete with Touchstone. “Compete?” I said. “This isn’t a contest …”
I moved on; emotionally distanced myself from the college (I’m completing my final semester as we speak); tried to love my students without any of the lingering anger. I brought in some excellent guest speakers (Rick Jervis, a Pulitzer Prize winner; Amanda Sidman from the Today Show; Brian Mansfield of USA Today, Steve Cannella and Jon Wertheim of Sports Illustrated); had the students do a cool (well, I think it’s cool) final project; pushed the kids toward internships. My class evaluations were excellent. I am, I think, a good teacher.
I was fine.
Then the Touchstone came out. And it was brutal. A pamphlet. A PR pamphlet. Awful layout, no rhyme or reason; mugshots alongside every story. It looks like a bad high school newspaper, or a mediocre junior high school newspaper. (For the record, I don’t blame the students at all. At all. They’re new to this). I actually asked the provost for her take. “I thought it was quite good,” she said.
I was speechless.

Will Teachers Unions Kill Virtual Learning?

Katherine Mangu-Ward:

In 2012, education technology firms attracted $1.1 billion from venture capitalists, angel investors, corporations, and private equity–an order of magnitude more than the industry was pulling in 2002. Startups Coursera and Udacity, which offer high-quality online college courses to the masses, have each received more than $20 million from investors. Big corporations are buying their way into the industry, with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. leading the way in 2010 by dropping $360 million to acquire ed-tech firm Wireless Generation and luring education superstar Joel Klein away from his gig as the head of New York City schools.
But will the rush of cash translate into a radically transformed education landscape? When this kind of money flowed into tech companies in other sectors of the economy, we saw radical improvements in everyday transactions, as well as some dramatic booms and busts. Think Amazon instead of the mall, iTunes instead of the record shop, Expedia instead of a travel agent. But also think Pets.com and Full Tilt Poker, where intense competition and bad politics squelched what looked like good bets. There has been a flowering of good ideas in online education, like hybrid learning, in which kids still head off to school every morning but receive the bulk of their instruction from an infinitely patient piece of software instead of a harried, overworked teacher. Yet education, particularly K-12, has remained mostly immune to the improving and empowering forces of the Internet, leaving millions of kids stuck in offline backwaters for six hours a day. Per-pupil spending on public education has more than doubled over the past three decades, while student performance has flatlined.
As the parent of a toddler, I’d love to start banking on my daughter’s virtual elementary school matriculation. I want more choices than just the neighborhood public school or an exorbitantly priced private school offering pretty much the same curriculum in nicer facilities. Personalized learning and highly specific feedback appeal to me as a parent. But while Wall Street’s interest in online education may bode well for entrepreneurs and students, bullish investors and parents would do well to listen to war stories from weary education policy wonks.
At the university level, MOOCs and other forms of virtual schooling are cheaper alternatives to a wildly overpriced product. But at the K-12 level, companies looking to break into that market have to make a choice: compete with the traditional educational system, which parents think of as free, or jump through the hoops required to get your product integrated into public schools–which will mean satisfying at least 50 different sets of standards, plus watering down, rejiggering, and generally accommodating your product to a system that wasn’t designed for tech-driven plugins in the first place.

Johnson and Grose: lexicography’s odd couple

Susie Dent:

April 15 marks the anniversary of Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language (1755), a work that’s today universally recognized as an astonishing feat of solo lexicography. The publication, in 1755, rightly attracted great attention; David Garrick wrote a poetic eulogy to mark the achievement in the Public Advertiser, describing Johnson as ‘like a hero of yore’. Reviews were plentiful, too, and, though mixed in their response, they were united in acknowledging an extraordinary effort.
Yet, in spite of the enormity of Johnson’s output, there was no grand celebration, no party to launch his work. In fact, when Johnson received a letter of praise from his friend Charles Burney, some two years after the Dictionary came out, his response was telling: “Yours is the only letter of goodwill that I have yet received, though indeed I am promised something of that sort from Sweden”.
Had there been a party, there is one notable contemporary of Johnson’s who is unlikely to have made the guest list, even though he too was a lexicographer, and his achievements equally extraordinary. The two men even shared the same ambition: to record faithfully the English of their day. Yet their focus couldn’t have been more different.

Uniquely Memorable

Chuck Culpepper:

His players implored him to belly-flop into a California hotel pool, and he complied — at age 75. He once took a running plunge into the mud during a soppy game in Oregon. He adored when players pulled pranks on him, insisted players use his first name — Frosty! — and corrected them if they used “Coach.”
He sometimes halted practice to have players spend five minutes gazing beyond the giant evergreens to Mount Rainier. He sometimes halted practice to have players go to other sporting fields and cheer on, say, the soccer team. He always halted two-a-day practices in August and instructed players to go help freshmen move into dormitories.
He believed deeply in singing. His players sang before games, after games. Sometimes they sang to the mock direction of the coach’s cane. Always they learned to sing without embarrassment, for it had become uncool to refrain from the refrains. For his 300th win in September 2003, an offensive lineman led the team in James Taylor’s “Steamroller.” During warmups for the NCAA Division III national championship game in December 1999, right there on the field in Virginia, his players sang “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” then proceeded to win 42-13.
Can you imagine warming up on the other side, then losing 42-13 to that?

Teach for America: A Terrific Model for Expansion!

Robin Lane:

Since Teach for America has been so successful at solving the problems of education in our country, I’m proposing we take their model and apply it to other failing systems and issues at hand. If the biggest problem in education is a lack of quality teachers, and we can provide those teachers and thus solve the education crisis in just six weeks time, why not try this out in other professions?
1. Heal for America — The healthcare system in America is crumbling, and what we really need to solve it are quality doctors. Give aspiring doctors 6 weeks of training, then put them in the most overcrowded hospitals around the country. If successful, we can send them abroad!
2. Police for America — Let’s solve the problem of gun violence on our streets once and for all by getting rid of corrupt and inept police officers. We will give aspiring police officers 6 weeks of training and then put them in neighborhoods with the highest rates of violent crime.
3. Experiment for America — If we want to cure cancer, we need fresh voices in the scientific community. Obviously, the scientists who’ve been working on a cure for the past decades aren’t doing their job very well, as cancer rates are skyrocketing with no cure in sight. Aspiring chemists will get six weeks of training, and then be put in charge of experiments testing cancer-curing drugs.
4. Defend America — The war in Afghanistan has been draining resources from the American people. We need better soldiers on the ground, or this conflict will never be resolved. What we need are bright young soldiers to shake things up a little bit. We will give aspiring army officers 6 weeks of training, and then put them in charge of units in the most complex arenas of war.

Joining the Ranks: Demystifying Harvard’s Tenure System


Nicholas Pandos & Noah Pisner:Ten people carry 10 identical dossiers into Massachusetts Hall at 10 a.m. on select mornings throughout the academic year. The dossiers vary in size depending on the person under consideration for tenure–some are thick like a phone book, others are thinner. Each of the 10 dossiers opens to a special letter from the chair of the candidate’s department outlining the tenure recommendation. Each contains a full-scale report on the candidate’s academic history: published works, research summaries, peer reviews, course evaluations, a résumé. Each has been read in its entirety before the committee meeting begins.
After a seven- to eight-year track, every tenure case at Harvard ends at an ad hoc committee meeting chaired by the President and Provost of the University. The meeting lasts around three hours. No notes are taken. No votes are taken. In addition to the President and Provost, the dean of the school, the divisional dean, and the Senior Vice Provost on Faculty Diversity and Development sit in ex officio. Five others join them: three area experts from co-divisional departments within the University and two from outside Harvard. Depending on the needs of the committee, Harvard will pay for experts from around the world to fly to Cambridge to participate in person.
“The ad hoc process is greatly shrouded in mystery; remarkably little is written about it,” says current Senior Vice Provost for Faculty Diversity and Development Judith D. Singer. She smirks wryly as she swigs coffee from her mug, as if this is something she’s explained a hundred times before.
“What the ad hoc process does is it takes a recommendation that has come up out of a department, been through a dean, and says, ‘Let’s look at this with a fresh set of eyes. Let’s look at the totality of the evidence and make a dispassionate decision about whether the recommendations that have come up are really in the best interest of the University,'” says Singer.

Why the US is Looking to Germany; Vo-Tech Schools…

Edward Luce:

As a package, the answer is no. Germany channels roughly half of all high-school students into the vocational education stream from the age of 16. In the US that would be seen as too divisive, even un-American. More than 40 per cent of Germans become apprentices. Only 0.3 per cent of the US labour force does so. But with the US participation rate continuing to plummet – last month another 496,000 Americans gave up looking for work – many US politicians are scouring Germany for answers.
It is turning into something of a pilgrimage. Rick Snyder, the Republican governor of Michigan, and John Kasich, Republican governor of Ohio, have both recently toured vocational academies in Germany. The German embassy in Washington has even set up a programme called the “skills initiative” to cater to all the questions from the heartlands.
“The US is not a developing country so we don’t need to send teams of technical advisers into the field,” one German diplomat said. “We are just trying to respond to the curiosity about the German model.”
The longer the US recovery continues, the more that curiosity increases. The US faces a deepening mismatch between what its labour market needs and what the education system is producing. There are two sides to this paradox. First, the US is underskilled. It has high unemployment at a time when there are 3.5m job vacancies, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Some economists argue that the US “skills gap” is imaginary – a shortage of engineers would have shown up in salary inflation, which has not happened. The average hourly cost of a US manufacturing worker is $32. In Germany it is $48. Yet US employers insist the shortage of skilled labour is a growing problem.

Will online education dampen the college experience? Yes. Will it be worth it? Well…

Andrew DelBanco:

In the spring of 2011, Sebastian Thrun was having doubts about whether the classroom was really the right place to teach his course on artificial intelligence. Thrun, a computer-science professor at Stanford, had been inspired by Salman Khan, the founder of the online Khan Academy, whose videos and discussion groups have been used by millions to learn about everything from arithmetic to history. And so that summer, Thrun announced he would offer his fall course on Stanford’s website for free. He reorganized it into short segments rather than hour-long lectures, included problem sets and quizzes, and added a virtual office hour via Google Hangout. Enrollment jumped from 200 Stanford undergraduates to 160,000 students around the world (only 30 remained in the classroom). A few months later, he founded an online for-profit company called Udacity; his course, along with many others, is now available to anyone with a fast Internet connection.
Meanwhile, two of Thrun’s Stanford colleagues, Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng, founded another for-profit company, Coursera, that posts courses taught by faculty from leading universities such as Prince- ton, Michigan, Duke, and Penn. Three million students have signed on. Not to be outdone, Harvard and MIT announced last spring their own online partnership, edX, a nonprofit with an initial investment of $60 million. A new phenomenon requires a new name, and so MOOC–massive open online course–has now entered the lexicon. So far, MOOCs have been true to the first “o” in the acronym: Anyone can take these courses for free.

Madison’s School Board to Finalize “Charter School Policy”……

Dylan Pauly, Legal Counsel Steve Hartley, Chief of Staff (PDF):

It is the policy of the School Board to consider the establishment of charter schools that support the DISTRICT Mission and Belief Statements and as provided by law. The BOARD believes that the creation of charter schools can enhance the educational opportunities for Madison Metropolitan School District students by providing innovative and distinctive educational programs and by giving parents/students more educational options within the DISTRICT. Only charter schools that are an instrumentality of the DISTRICT will be considered by the BOARD.
The BOARD further believes that certain values and principles must be integrated into all work involving the conceptualization, development and implementation of a new charter school. These guiding principles are as follows:
1. All charter schools must meet high standards of student achievement while providing increased educational opportunities, including broadening existing opportunities for struggling populations of students;
2. All charter schools must have an underlying, research-based theory and history of successful practice that is likely to achieve academic success;
3. All charter schools will provide information to parents and students as to the quality of education provided by the charter school and the ongoing academic progress of the individual student;
4. All charter schools will ensure equitable access to all students regardless of gender, race and/or disability;
5. All charter schools must be financially accountable to the DISTRICT and rely on +’ sustainable funding models;
6. All charter schools must ensure the health and safety of all staff and students;
7. All externally-developed charter schools must be governed by a governance board that is registered as a 501(c)(3), tax-exempt charitable organization;
8. All charter schools must have a plan to hire, retain and recruit a highly-qualified, diverse staff;
9. All charter schools must have a clear code of student conduct that includes procedures for positive interventions and social emotional supports

Matthew DeFour’s article.
The rejected Studio charter school.
Minneapolis teacher’s union approved to authorize charter schools.
“We are not interested in the development of new charter schools”.
Notes and links on the rejected Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School.
Madison School District Open Enrollment Leavers Report, 2012-13.
Madison’s disastrous long term reading results..
Interview: Henry Tyson, Superintendent of Milwaukee’s St. Marcus Elementary School.

Madison’s thriving private schools buck national trend

Matthew DeFour:

Private school enrollment has steadily declined across Wisconsin over the past 15 years, but that’s not the case in Madison and Dane County.
St. Ambrose Academy, a West Side Catholic middle and high school, has been rapidly expanding and is discussing the addition of an elementary school. EAGLE School is planning a $3 million expansion at its Fitchburg campus with the goal of increasing its student body by a third. And High Point Christian School on Madison’s Far West Side is full, so some students board a bus there and travel across town to its sister campus on the Far East Side.
“The Madison metropolitan area is definitely bucking the national trend,” said Michael Lancaster, superintendent of Madison Catholic Schools. “I wouldn’t say we’re growing at any kind of geometric or exponential rate. But we’re very solid in the Madison area.”
The vitality of local private schools could help explain the muted level of interest in Madison for the publicly funded voucher expansion proposed in Gov. Scott Walker’s biennial budget. Vouchers also face intense opposition from Dane County political and public school leaders.
Voucher expansion
Walker has proposed expanding the state’s voucher program from Milwaukee and Racine to school districts with more than 4,000 students and at least two schools with low ratings on the state’s new school report card. Based on the first report cards released last fall, students in Madison and eight other districts would qualify for vouchers.
On March 4, the Wisconsin Council of Religious and Independent Schools held the first public voucher meeting in Madison at St. James Catholic School on the Near West Side. Fewer than 10 parents and private school administrators attended.
A similar meeting last week in Beloit, a smaller city with far fewer private schools, drew about 40 people, WCRIS executive director Matt Kussow said.

The largest challenge to Madison’s $392,000,000 public schools is not the threat of vouchers. Rather, it is the District’s long time disastrous reading results that undermine its prospects and reputation.
Suburban district growth and open enrollment leavers are also worth contemplation and action.

The End of Stanford

Nicholas Thompson:

Is Stanford still a university? The Wall Street Journal recently reported that more than a dozen students–both undergraduate and graduate–have left school to work on a new technology start-up called Clinkle. Faculty members have invested, the former dean of Stanford’s business school is on the board, and one computer-science professor who taught several of the employees now owns shares. The founder of Clinkle was an undergraduate advisee of the president of the university, John Hennessy, who has also been advising the company. Clinkle deals with mobile payments, and, if all goes well, there will be many payments to many people on campus. Maybe, as it did with Google, Stanford will get stock grants. There are conflicts of interest here; and questions of power dynamics. The leadership of a university has encouraged an endeavor in which students drop out in order to do something that will enrich the faculty.
Stanford has been heading in this direction for a while. As Ken Auletta reported in this magazine a year ago, the connections between Stanford and Silicon Valley are deep. Federal Telegraph was started by a Stanford grad a hundred and four years ago. William Hewlett and David Packard started inventing things as students, as did the Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin. I was a student in the late nineties, and I worked for a start-up soon afterward. Classmates of mine went on to manage epic failures and astonishing successes in technology. Instagram was founded by Stanford graduates. When Auletta was reporting his story, he talked with a student, Evan Spiegel, who had an interesting start-up that was just beginning to grow–Snapchat, which now has at least sixty million photos a day flowing through its servers. Stanford feeds Silicon Valley, and Silicon Valley nurtures Stanford. You can’t have one without the other.

Medical School at $278,000 Means Even Bernanke Son Has Debt

Janet Lorin:

Mark Moy came to the U.S. from China, paid his way through medical school at the University of Illinois in the 1970s and became an emergency room physician.
His son Matthew, a third-year medical student, has racked up $190,000 in debt and still has a year to go. Accrued interest on his medical-school loans has swelled his balance by 13 percent over three years.
“When I think about it, it will keep me up at night,” said Matthew Moy, 28. “I’m dreading the exit interview when I will find out exactly how much I’ll have to pay back.”
The next generation of U.S. physicians is being saddled with record debt amid a looming shortage of doctors needed to cope with a rising elderly population. The burgeoning debt burden may be turning students away from primary care, which pays about $200,000 a year, toward more lucrative specialties and scaring off low-income and minority students fearful of taking on big loans.
Median tuition and fees at private medical schools was $50,309 in the 2012-2013 academic year, more than 16 times the cost when Moy’s father became a doctor. The median education debt for 2012 medical-school graduates was $170,000, including loans taken out for undergraduate studies and excluding interest. That compares with an average $13,469 in 1978, said Jay Youngclaus, co-author of a February 2013 report on medical school debt. The 1978 amount would be about $48,000 in today’s dollars.

How Parents Around the World Describe Their Children, in Charts

Olga Khazan:

A fascinating new study reveals that Americans are more likely to call their children “intelligent,” while European parents focus on happiness and balance. Here’s why.
If you ask American moms, we are raising a nation of baby Einsteins. Here’s what one parent had to say about the intelligence of her 3-year-old, which was apparent to her from the very first moments of her life:

“I have this vivid memory when she was born of them taking her to clean her off … And she was looking all around … She was alert from the very first second … I took her out when she was six weeks old to a shopping mall to have her picture taken — people would stop me and say, “What an alert baby.” One guy stopped me and said, “Lady, you have an intelligent baby there.” … And it was just something about her. She was very engaging and very with the program, very observant. She’s still fabulously observant.

The biggest difference between American parents and their counterparts in Europe might be that they are far more relaxed about enrichment than we are, according to a study released this week by Sara Harkness and Charles M. Super at the School of Family Studies at the University of Connecticut.

L.A. teachers vote ‘no confidence’ in Supt. Deasy In a referendum, 91% disapproved of the superintendent, the teachers union says. A measure sharply criticizing the union’s leadership and laying out priorities passes too.

Howard Blume:

Los Angeles teachers overwhelmingly expressed “no confidence” in L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy in the first vote of its kind in the nation’s second-largest school system.
In the weeklong referendum that ended Wednesday, 91% of the participating teachers expressed disapproval of Deasy, with about 17,700 of the union’s more than 32,000 members casting ballots, the teachers union announced Thursday.
The superintendent called the vote “nonsense” even before knowing its outcome, and a group of civic leaders rallied to Deasy’s defense. But United Teachers Los Angeles said it would now press more assertively against Deasy initiatives that have made the city a crucible for education debates playing out nationwide.
“It’s important to look at the data and impossible to ignore the results,” union President Warren Fletcher said.
Deasy has angered some teachers by pushing for evaluations that include the use of student standardized test scores. He also has tried to limit job and seniority protections and to speed up the dismissal of teachers accused of serious misconduct or ineffectiveness in the classroom.

An initiative to bring physical activity to schools

Designed to Move:

Just a few generations ago, physical activity was an integral part of daily life. In the name of progress, we’ve now chipped away at it so thoroughly that physical inactivity actually seems normal.
In less than two generations, physical activity has dropped by 20% in the U.K. and 32% in the U.S. In China, the drop is 45% in less than one generation. Vehicles, machines and technology now do our moving for us. What we do in our leisure time doesn’t come close to making up for what we’ve lost.

The Ever-Shrinking Role of Tenured College Professors (in 1 Chart)

Jordan Weissman:

Once, being a college professor was a career. Today, it’s a gig.
That, broadly speaking, is the transformation captured in the graph below from a new report by the American Association of University Professors. Since 1975, tenure and tenure-track professors have gone from roughly 45 percent of all teaching staff to less than a quarter. Meanwhile, part-time faculty are now more than 40 percent of college instructors, as shown by the line soaring towards the top of the graph.
This doesn’t actually mean that there are fewer full-time professors today than four-decades ago. College faculties have grown considerably over the years, and as the AAUP notes, the ranks of the tenured and tenure-track professoriate are up 26 percent since 1975. Part-time appointments, however, have exploded by 300 percent. The proportions vary depending on the kind of school you’re talking about. At public four-year colleges, about 64 percent of teaching staff were full-time as of 2009. At private four-year schools, about 49 percent were, and at community colleges, only about 30 percent were. But the big story across academia is broadly the same: if it were a move, it’d be called “Rise of the Adjuncts.”

Abnormal Is the New Normal Why will half of the U.S. population have a diagnosable mental disorder?

Robin Rosenburg:

Beware the DSM-5, the soon-to-be-released fifth edition of the “psychiatric bible,” the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. The odds will probably be greater than 50 percent, according to the new manual, that you’ll have a mental disorder in your lifetime.
Although fewer than 6 percent of American adults will have a severe mental illness in a given year, according to a 2005 study, many more–more than a quarter each year–will have some diagnosable mental disorder. That’s a lot of people. Almost 50 percent of Americans (46.4 percent to be exact) will have a diagnosable mental illness in their lifetimes, based on the previous edition, the DSM-IV. And the new manual will likely make it even “easier” to get a diagnosis.
If we think of having a diagnosable mental illness as being under a tent, the tent seems pretty big. Huge, in fact. How did it happen that half of us will develop a mental illness? Has this always been true and we just didn’t realize how sick we were–we didn’t realize we were under the tent? Or are we mentally less healthy than we were a generation ago? What about a third explanation–that we are labeling as mental illness psychological states that were previously considered normal, albeit unusual, making the tent bigger. The answer appears to be all three.

Is There A “Corporate Education Reform” Movement?

Leo Casey:

One of the more thoughtful voices in education, Larry Cuban, has delivered an interesting brief for the argument that there is no such thing as a “corporate reform movement.” While he acknowledges that America’s corporate elite largely share a view of how to reform America’s schools, focused on the creation of educational marketplaces and business-model schools as the engines of change, Cuban argues that it is mistake to overstate the homogeneity of perspectives and purposes. The power players of the reform movement have “varied, not uniform motives,” are “drawn from overlapping, but distinct spheres of influence,” and “vary in their aims and strategies.” The use of a term such as “corporate education reform” suggests “far more coherence and concerted action than occurs in the real world of politics and policymaking.”
Cuban’s argument amalgamates two different senses of the term “corporate education reform” – the notion that there is a movement for education reform led by corporate elites and the idea that there is a movement for education reform that seeks to remake public education in the image and likeness of for-profit corporations in a competitive marketplace.
In co-mingling these two distinct senses of the term, Cuban is adopting a common usage. And it is a usage not entirely without justification: many of the strongest advocates for transforming public schools into educational corporations are found in the corporate elite. But it is vital, I will argue here, that we separate these two conceptions of “corporate education reform” if we are to adequately understand the complexity of the political terrain on which the battles over the future of public education are being fought.

Memo warns of rampant cheating in D.C. public schools

Gregg Toppo:

District of Columbia Public Schools officials have long maintained that a 2011 test-cheating scandal that generated two government probes was limited to one elementary school. But a newly uncovered confidential memo warns as far back as January 2009 that educator cheating on 2008 standardized tests could have been widespread, with 191 teachers in 70 schools “implicated in possible testing infractions.”
The 2009 memo was written by an outside analyst, Fay “Sandy” Sanford, who had been invited by then-chancellor Michelle Rhee to examine students’ irregular math and reading score gains. It was sent to Rhee’s top deputy for accountability.
The memo notes that nearly all of the teachers at one Washington elementary school had students whose test papers showed high numbers of wrong-to-right erasures and asks, “Could a separate person have been responsible?”
It recommends that DCPS contact its legal department “as soon as you think it advisable” and ask them to determine “what possible actions can be taken against identified offenders.”

Reforming India’s Schools?

The Economist:

THE Bhandari Modern Public School can be approached only by technological downshifting. Full-sized taxis cannot penetrate the narrow, crowded streets, so you have to switch to a tuk-tuk. Soon the streets become alleyways, so you switch to a bicycle-rickshaw.
The Brahmpuri slum in New Delhi is an energetic place, home to migrants, Muslims and other marginals. A barber with a cut-throat razor and a bucket of dirty water shaves clients on the pavement. Factories hum in people’s front rooms. Animals and children are everywhere: buffaloes pulling carts, white ponies doing nothing in particular (they are popular for wedding ceremonies), children hawking bicycle pumps and washing powder.
The school, despite its name, is private, and it is a miracle of compression: floor upon floor of children, 25 to a class, crowded into a narrow concrete block. It is also a miracle of order: the children wear uniforms and stand up to greet visitors. One classroom is decorated with bright pictures and perky slogans such as: “We will get more than 80% in maths.” The teacher worked for Infosys, a giant IT firm, before finding her vocation. Other classrooms are drabber. Dr Bhandari, the school’s owner and headmaster, is clearly a shrewd businessman. He runs a fancier school next door, decorated with images of Mickey Mouse. He has an impressive collection of certificates. He uses an interpreter to explain that one of his school’s strengths is that it is “English medium”.

The Secrets of Princeton

Ross Douthat:

SUSAN PATTON, the Princeton alumna who became famous for her letter urging Ivy League women to use their college years to find a mate, has been denounced as a traitor to feminism, to coeducation, to the university ideal. But really she’s something much more interesting: a traitor to her class.
Her betrayal consists of being gauche enough to acknowledge publicly a truth that everyone who’s come up through Ivy League culture knows intuitively — that elite universities are about connecting more than learning, that the social world matters far more than the classroom to undergraduates, and that rather than an escalator elevating the best and brightest from every walk of life, the meritocracy as we know it mostly works to perpetuate the existing upper class.
Every elite seeks its own perpetuation, of course, but that project is uniquely difficult in a society that’s formally democratic and egalitarian and colorblind. And it’s even more difficult for an elite that prides itself on its progressive politics, its social conscience, its enlightened distance from hierarchies of blood and birth and breeding.
Thus the importance, in the modern meritocratic culture, of the unacknowledged mechanisms that preserve privilege, reward the inside game, and ensure that the advantages enjoyed in one generation can be passed safely onward to the next.

Tracking Measures, Common Core Materials, and Other Timely Topics in Education

Whiteboard Advisers [PDF]

Why or Why Not?

  • “Possibly–I think it depends on the size of the state and who they work with to develop the materials. Broader adoption would depend on them being externally validated in some way.”
  • “The Common Core creates a national market for effective curriculum, and it supports efficient scaling. The Common Core will therefore democratize curriculum development and adoption processes in a manner that will disrupt the current order.”
  • “Ultimately this is all about standardizing America’s classroom and what goes on within it. Like anything else mandated from the top, the first to market are going to have the advantage of stories being written about what they’re doing and then all of a sudden other state [leaders] are going to latch on, thinking A) this must be good for my kids, too, and B) they won’t have the time or the will to tell people they represent why they’re behind the curve.”
  • “First to market will rule the roost. The laggards will simply model on those who come before them, hoping to save money and time.”
  • “It’s too soon to tell. The disappointment here is that states have been unable to coalesce. There is less ‘common’ in the Common Core than people imagined.”
  • “Unless CA, TX, and FL are the ones furthest ahead forget about it. The primary concern of the publishers is making sure the largest states and their state contracts are happy.”

Education reform missing another ‘r’ word: results

Alan Borsuk:

Reform fatigue – that’s a phrase used last week by an Indiana legislative leader talking about how the drive to expand private school vouchers has hit a lot of resistance, despite the fact that the political situation in Indiana looks highly favorable to vouchers.
In short, enough legislators who were generally voucher supporters were concerned about the budget impact of expanding vouchers and the impact on public schools that the brakes were put on action, at least for now, according to an Associated Press report.
Sounds like what might unfold in another Midwestern state a couple hundred miles to the northwest of Indianapolis in coming weeks.
But consider the term “reform fatigue” more broadly and you could consider things going on all across the nation.
One of the most important aspects of education policy-making in the United States for the last decade-plus has been the struggle between what are, in at least broad terms, two schools of thought.
One is those who want to change education in ways that emphasize market forces; increased accountability for schools, principals, and teachers; and stepping on the gas when it comes to expectations. We can solve education first and that will do a lot to solve poverty – that’s an underlying belief.
The other camp includes those who say poverty and other social factors are at the core of why educational outcomes are, overall, so weak among low-income and minority students and we need to deal with the broader context of schooling. The existing system will work if it’s kept strong and given a fair chance with kids.

Grading Wisconsin’s School Performance: “Stigmatizing schools”?

Chris Rickert:

Turner and state Sen. Luther Olsen’s education policy analyst, Sarah Archibald, who also participated in the design team meetings, said letter grade opponents worried bad grades could stigmatize schools and their students.
Turner said the bigger problem was that in only their first year, the report cards would not be reliable enough to translate into simple grades. Walker “needed to have failing schools in Ds and Fs,” he said, as a pretext for expanding vouchers.
But Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie said letter grades were simply an easily understandable shorthand for the rating system’s five official designations, which range from “significantly exceeds expectations” to “fails to meet expectations.”
Indeed, the five designations do lend themselves to the five traditional letter grades. The report cards also rate schools on a 100-point scale, which also often translates into letter grades.
If Walker betrayed the DPI and the accountability team by introducing letter grades, DPI and the team are a bit naive if they thought no one ever would.
But more important is why Walker feels compelled in ways small — using letter grades — and large — basing voucher expansion on School Report Cards — to aggravate a public education establishment already aggravated by his moves to end teacher collective bargaining and cut education funding.
The governor’s voucher proposal was going to be controversial no matter what.

Related: NJ DOE Releases New School Performance Reports; Wisconsin? Stays Quo….

Addressing the declining productivity of higher education using cost-effectiveness analysis

Douglas N. Harris:

This paper is one of three in a series on higher education costs. The series also includes “Initiatives for containing the cost of higher education” and “Public policies, prices, and productivity in American higher education.”
Higher education productivity, as measured by academic degrees granted by American colleges and universities, is declining.[1] Since the early 1990s, real expenditures on higher education have grown by more than 25 percent, now amounting to 2.9 percent of US gross domestic product (GDP)–greater than the percentage of GDP spent on higher education in almost any of the other developed countries.[2] But while the proportion of high-school graduates going on to college has risen dramatically, the percentage of entering college students finishing a bachelor’s degree has at best increased only slightly or, at worst, has declined.[3]
Figure 1 shows the trend in productivity from 1970 to 2006, expressed in terms of the ratio of degrees granted to total sector expenditures.[4] The downward slope is steepest among universities, where current productivity is less than half of what it was 40 years ago. Even when adjusted for the growth in overall labor costs in the economy (see dashed lines in figure 1), the decline in bachelor’s-degree production is nearly 20 percent. If these declines continue, maintaining the current rate of bachelor’s-degree production will cost an additional $42 billion per year 40 years from now.[5] Thus, even if state support for public higher education did not continue to decline, tuition would have to increase by an average of $6,885 per full-time equivalent (FTE) student in public universities to maintain current spending, almost doubling today’s tuition.[6]
What accounts for declining productivity in higher education? Prior research provides an array of potential explanations.[7] Most analysts point to the role of rising costs, and others focus on declining degree attainment.[8] Collectively, these explanations reinforce a widespread perception among higher education administrators and many scholars that productivity is impossible to control. According to economists Robert B. Archibald and David H. Feldman, “The problem in higher education is that productivity growth often is synonymous with lower quality. Adding more students to each class can diminish the benefit for each student, leading to diminished outcomes and lower graduation rates. Increasing the number of courses a professor teaches would reduce research or community service.”[9] Similarly, in a study of college presidents’ attitudes, a two-year president said: “I don’t think there are any more efficiencies left to be squeezed out of public universities across the nation. . . . There are no more efficiencies to be had.”[10] So, at least some institutional leaders feel helpless when it comes to improving productivity without sacrificing quality.[11] Even when costs are considered, institutions tend to focus on enrolling more students rather than helping them graduate.[12]

Panel Calls for Overhauling Student Grants

Josh Mitchell:

A blue-ribbon panel is calling for an overhaul of the federal Pell-grant program for low-income college students, reflecting concerns that not enough of the award recipients end up graduating.
The report–set to be released Tuesday by a panel of educators convened by the College Board, a trade group of universities and colleges–adds to the debate about federal student-aid programs, which have grown rapidly under President Barack Obama.
The president is expected to propose a budget Wednesday that would again spend heavily on grants and loans, despite complaints from some Republican lawmakers and other critics that the programs, which require congressional approval, have become too costly and often ineffective in helping Americans get jobs. The grants are exempt from the sequester, the across-the-board spending cuts that began in March.

Scholars Increasingly Use Online Resources, Survey Finds, but They Value Traditional Formats Too

Jennifer Howard:

Scholars continue to get more comfortable with e-only journals, and they increasingly get access to the material they want via digital channels, including Internet search engines and more-specific discovery tools provided by academic libraries. When it comes time to publish their own research, though, faculty members still seek out journals with the highest prestige and the widest readership in their fields, whether or not those journals are electronic and make articles free online.
Faculty members also say they still appreciate many of the services traditional publishers offer, but the traditional services of libraries, the scholars say, are less valuable than they used to be.
Those are some of the significant findings from the 2012 Ithaka survey of faculty attitudes, which went public on Monday. The survey has been run every three years since 2000 by Ithaka S&R. (That’s the consulting-and-research arm of the nonprofit Ithaka group, which works to help the academic community make better use of digital technologies for preservation, research, and teaching.)

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Why the Next Great American Cities Aren’t What You Think

Joel Kotkin:

While Gotham and the Windy City have experienced modest growth and significant net domestic out-migration, burgeoning if often disdained urban regions such as Houston, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Charlotte, and Oklahoma City have expanded rapidly. These low-density, car-dominated, heavily suburbanized areas with small central cores likely represent the next wave of great American cities.
There’s a whole industry led by the likes of Harvard’s Ed Glaeser, my occasional sparring partner Richard Florida and developer-funded groups like CEOs for Cities, who advocate for old-style, high-density cities, and insist that they represent the inevitable future.
But the numbers tell a different story: the most rapid urban growth is occurring outside of the great, dense, highly developed and vastly expensive old American metropolises.
An aspirational city, by definition, is one that people and industries migrate to improve their economic prospects and achieve a better relative quality of life. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, this aspirational spirit was epitomized by cities such as New York and Chicago and then in the decades after World War Two by Los Angeles, which for many years was the fastest-growing big city in the high-income world.

The Military Prep School Scam

Joe Nocera

Is there any institution of higher learning that isn’t gaming the system to gain athletic advantage? I’ve come to believe the answer is no.
Harvard? Last year, before announcing that the university had uncovered widespread cheating, a Harvard administrator sent an e-mail to the university’s resident deans, saying that potentially culpable athletes might withdraw from school temporarily. That way, the cheating scandal wouldn’t cost them eligibility.
On the other side of the country, the University of California, Davis, had long kept athletics in perspective — until 2007, when it inexplicably joined the big boys in Division I. Vowing not to cut any “minor” sports, it did just that as athletic expenses soared. Promising not to lower standards, it abandoned that vow, too. After the U.C. Davis faculty athletic representative refused to support the application of “a talented basketball player with a questionable academic background,” she was removed from that position, according to a report by the Investigative Reporting Program at the University of California, Berkeley. The basketball player was admitted.
Which brings us to today’s subject: the military academies. Incredibly, even the Naval Academy, the Air Force Academy and West Point, charged with training the next generation of military leaders, systematically abandon their standards and admissions processes when a good athlete is within reach. Their highly questionable enrollment practices make one wonder whether the academies care as much about their mission these days as they do about winning football games.

Colleges and universities must adopt College 2020 if they want to remain in the game, says Vance Fried.

Jane Shaw:

In spite of all the alarm over rising costs and excessive borrowing for college, one person is confident that college will be far less expensive in just a few years.
In the vision outlined by Vance H. Fried, there will be little need for federally subsidized loans. Many parents will be able to pay for college for their children out of current income.
Fried is no utopian. He is a professor of entrepreneurship at Oklahoma State University who earlier wrote a paper explaining how a full-fledged residential college could operate with tuition less than $8,000 a year.
His new paper, “College 2020,” forecasts what he thinks will happen as online education increases its competitive impact. The paper is published by the Heritage Foundation’s Center for Policy Innovation.
Some commentators worry that tuition-dependent colleges will have to go out of business because they can’t control their costs and low-priced suppliers are going to take away their students. But Fried thinks that colleges and universities can survive, if they act soon.

NJ DOE Releases New School Performance Reports; Wisconsin? Stays Quo…

Laura Waters:

At long last the New Jersey Department of Education has released its “NJ School Performance Reports,” which replace the old School Report Cards. Details on school performance is greatly expanded now includes, according to the Christie Administration’s press release, “brand new data on college and career readiness and provide comparison to “peer schools” in order to provide a more complete picture of school performance for educators and the general public.”
Here’s coverage from the Star-Ledger, The Record, the Courier-Post, Asbury Park Press, Press of Atlantic City, NJ Spotlight, and the Philadelphia Inquirer.
The state also released the annual Taxpayers’ Guide to Education. Annual per pupil spending in NJ (if you use the state’s algorithm; others say it inflates costs) is $18,045, up 4.2% since last year.
Of course, there’s enormous range within that average. Fairview Boro (Bergen), for example, spends $13,317 per pupil. Asbury Park City spends $30,502. The plush magnet schools in Bergen County spend $35,900.

The Wisconsin DPI…..
April, 2013: Chief among them has been this notion from state superintendent Tony Evers that the state’s new accountability system, known as state report cards, shouldn’t be used to determine which districts get vouchers.
March, 2013: Evers on report cards: this last year was a pilot year. It’s just not ready for prime time.
June, 2008: “Schools should not rely on only WKCE data to gauge progress of individual students or to determine effectiveness of programs or curriculum”.

Eau Claire, Wausau, Green Bay Lead the Way Amongst Large Districts in Wisconsin When it Comes to Attainment Gaps Between Students

Christian D’Andrea:

On Tuesday, the Department of Public Instruction released the latest round of graduation rate data for Wisconsin. While it showed that more students were earning diplomas in four years in 2012 than they had in 2010 and 2011, there was still a persistent gap in attainment between the state’s white, African American, and Hispanic students. A closer look at that data suggests that this problem is prevalent in the state’s biggest cities – but minimal in Milwaukee.
A survey of 18 Wisconsin districts – all districts that served more than 7,000 students plus Beloit and Superior – showed that double-digit differences in four-year graduation rates persisted in 16 cities. Only Elmbrook, with high matriculation marks across the board, and Superior, which didn’t have enough minority students to comprise a significant sample size, avoided this label. Gaps between African-American students and white students were, on average, 10.1 percent higher than the gaps between Hispanic students and white students in these cities.

Math…. “Introducing the 97-Month Car Loan”

Mike Ramsey:

Last month Nakisha Bishop took out a loan to buy a $23,000 Toyota Camry and pay off several thousand dollars still owed on her old car. The key to making it work: she got more than six years–75 months in all–to pay it off.
“I had a new baby on the way, and I was trying to keep my monthly payment a little bit lower to help afford child care,” Ms. Bishop, a 34-year-old sheriff’s deputy in Palm Beach County, Fla., said recently. She pays $480 a month for the 2013 Camry, just $5 a month more than the note on her old car. The car won’t be paid off until her 1-month-old daughter is heading to first grade.
Ms. Bishop’s 75-month loan illustrates two important trends rippling through the U.S. auto industry. Rising new-car prices and competition among lenders to attract borrowers is pushing loans to lengthier terms. In part, banks see the longer terms as a way to attract buyers, by keeping monthly payments under $500 a month.

Related: Math Forum.

Hong Kong students return from eight-day trip to North Korea

Joanna Chiu:

Most parents would probably hesitate about allowing their children to visit a potential war zone.
But the group of Hong Kong high school students who returned on Saturday from an eight-day tour of North Korea will have holiday stories better than anything their friends will have managed in Phuket or Singapore.
Twenty-two students from Chinese International School watched teenagers practise military drills in Pyongyang, took photos with “friendly” soldiers in the demilitarised zone and stayed two days in the region of Kaesong.
Last week, North Korea banned South Korean managers from entering Kaesong’s joint industrial park, striking a blow against the decade-old symbol of inter-Korean co-operation.
But the returning travellers said they noticed little unease among the North Koreans they encountered.

Self-Fulfilling Professorial Politics

Scott Jaschick:

Conspiracy theories abound when it comes to professors and politics. To hear some conservatives tell it, a liberal-dominated professoriate attempts to brainwash students and to keep out of the faculty club any who challenge leftist orthodoxy. Ph.D. programs in the humanities teach some sort of secret handshake that lets those with politically correct views land the best jobs. To hear some liberals talk about it, there is no such thing as a liberal professoriate. Rather, a well-financed group of conservatives and their foundations use the politics issue to trash higher education. If there aren’t more conservative professors around, it’s because those on the right prefer the world of money to the world of ideas, and flock to Wall Street.
Neil Gross will disappoint most of the conspiracy theorists with his new book, Why Are Professors Liberal and Why Do Conservatives Care?, which is being released today by Harvard University Press.
Gross has spent years conducting research — large-scale national surveys and smaller experiments and focus groups — on professorial politics. And the book combines many of his studies, interviews with players in the debate, and a mix of history and sociology.
From the part of the book title that asks “why are professors liberal,” it’s clear that Gross has no problem saying that faculty members are in fact, on average, to the left of most other Americans. The degree to which this is true may differ by institution and discipline, and there are of course plenty of exceptions. But Gross cites his own past research to show that professors do indeed lean to the left. But that same research shows that most faculty members are not as radical as many believe and that there is a large center-left following in the academy.

My Little (Global) School

Thomas Friedman, via a kind reader’s email:

There was a time when middle-class parents in America could be — and were — content to know that their kids’ public schools were better than those in the next neighborhood over. As the world has shrunk, though, the next neighborhood over is now Shanghai or Helsinki. So, last August, I wrote a column quoting Andreas Schleicher — who runs the global exam that compares how 15-year-olds in public schools around the world do in applied reading, math and science skills — as saying imagine, in a few years, that you could sign on to a Web site and see how your school compares with a similar school anywhere in the world. And then you could take this information to your superintendent and ask: “Why are we not doing as well as schools in China or Finland?”
Well, that day has come, thanks to a successful pilot project involving 105 U.S. schools recently completed by Schleicher’s team at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which coordinates the Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA test, and Jon Schnur’s team at America Achieves, which partnered with the O.E.C.D. Starting this fall, any high school in America will be able to benchmark itself against the world’s best schools, using a new tool that schools can register for at www.americaachieves.org. It is comparable to PISA and measures how well students can apply their mastery of reading, math and science to real world problems.
The pilot study was described in an America Achieves report entitled “Middle Class or Middle of the Pack?” that is being released Wednesday. The report compares U.S. middle-class students to their global peers of similar socioeconomic status on the 2009 PISA exams.
The bad news is that U.S. middle-class students are badly lagging their peers globally. “Many assume that poverty in America is pulling down the overall U.S. scores,” the report said, “but when you divide each nation into socioeconomic quarters, you can see that even America’s middle-class students are falling behind not only students of comparable advantage, but also more disadvantaged students in several other countries.”
American students in the second quarter of socioeconomic advantage — mostly higher middle class — were significantly outperformed by 24 countries in math and by 15 countries in science, the study found. In the third quarter of socioeconomic advantage — mostly lower middle class — U.S. students were significantly outperformed by peers in 31 countries or regions in math and 25 in science.

Related: www.wisconsin2.org

Chinese Deluge U.S. Master’s Programs

Melissa Korn:

When the business school at the University of California, Davis, started its master’s program in accounting last year, administrators expected to attract aspiring accountants from nearby colleges.
What they got instead was a wave of interest from overseas: Roughly two-thirds of the 189 applications received for last fall’s entering class came from Chinese citizens.
“Frankly, we were shocked at the deluge of applications…for what we saw as a program that prepared students for a U.S. credential,” says James Stevens, assistant dean of student affairs.
Davis has plenty of company. Specialized master’s degrees in accounting, finance and other disciplines–generally aimed at students just out of college and lasting one year–have found tremendous popularity in recent years among Chinese nationals seeking a competitive edge and U.S. experience.

Problems in Education…….

Think of the Children:

However, this process yields sheer lunacy, mostly because of the ridiculous ineptitude of every single person involved. I remember specifically the first grant project I helped to evaluate. The local state government was offering up to $2,000,000 for grant proposals which would help the students in grades 6-8 who had failed their end-of-year standardized reading exam (a well-made test, in my opinion, in which failure basically means illiteracy). The specific project I was evaluating had only gotten $800,000 out of the maximum $2m. Its strategy was to purchase the male students iPod Touches, the female students makeovers, manicures, and pedicures at a local beauty parlor, and all students were offered an additional iPod Touch or Makeover, respectively, if they passed the exam at the end of the current year. The grant proposal had specifically listed these actions as being the goal of the proposal. If the iPods and makeovers were purchased, that constituted success.
When I asked the man who was in charge of the project if he really meant that these actions were the ‘strategy’, not the ‘goal’. He expressed confusion; he thought if the male students had iPod Touches, they obviously would get better at reading, and if the girls got makeovers, it would improve their self esteem and they would be more confident and get better at reading, so obviously isn’t the goal of the project to purchase iPods and Makeovers for the students? I explained to him that the goal was to make students, who had previously failed the exam, pass it on their next try. Success would, obviously, be measured in terms of how many students passed the exam. The strategy was whatever actions you took, whereas the goal was what you were trying to achieve. Now that the project was over, I told him that he had to go look at the reading scores and see if they improved. He couldn’t understand why he had needed to do this, and indeed, refused. I asked him how he had identified the students who he needed to give iPods to in the first place. Did he use their reading scores? Did he ask the school for a list of students who had failed the exam? No. He had asked the school for the free-lunch list, which determined which students came from low-income families, and for the bus route list, which determined which students came from low-income areas. He picked out any students who were on both of these lists who were also black. Since black students tend to have low reading scores, and low-income students tend to have low reading scores, those are the students who need the most help, and so are the students he targeted with his project. When I asked the school for the list of students who had failed the reading exam, it turns out that only 25% (14/56) of the students targeted by the program had failed the reading exam in the first place.
When I wrote up my evaluation, I described in rigorous detail everything the man had done wrong, put in a strong recommendation to not award him grant money in the future, and suggested that some sort of corruption investigation be conducted to see if he had committed any crimes (23 iPods + 23 Makeovers does not total to $800,000, after all). When I submitted this to my boss for approval, she was flabbergasted, and explained that the evaluators job was to collude with the grant proposal submitter, so that we got more evaluation jobs from them in the future. Over the next couple days, we had a long conversation, and in the end, she allowed my evaluation to go through.
The next project I evaluated was just as criminally neglectful as my first. And the next. And the next. In fact, for the first three years I worked at the firm, every single project I evaluated listed their ‘process’ and then said that their ‘goal’ was to enact the process. Every single project had used any subsidized lunch lists, bus route data, or demographic data they could get their hands on to decide which students to target; not a single project actually looked at test scores, for deciding either which students to target or figuring out if the project had even succeeded.

$Money first…….. Reading last, apparently

The Power of Talking to Your Baby

Tina Rosenberg, NYT

By the time a poor child is 1 year old, she has most likely already fallen behind middle-class children in her ability to talk, understand and learn. The gap between poor children and wealthier ones widens each year, and by high school it has become a chasm. American attempts to close this gap in schools have largely failed, and a consensus is starting to build that these attempts must start long before school — before preschool, perhaps even before birth.
There is no consensus, however, about what form these attempts should take, because there is no consensus about the problem itself. What is it about poverty that limits a child’s ability to learn? Researchers have answered the question in different ways: Is it exposure to lead? Character issues like a lack of self-control or failure to think of future consequences? The effects of high levels of stress hormones? The lack of a culture of reading?
Another idea, however, is creeping into the policy debate: that the key to early learning is talking — specifically, a child’s exposure to language spoken by parents and caretakers from birth to age 3, the more the better. It turns out, evidence is showing, that the much-ridiculed stream of parent-to-child baby talk — Feel Teddy’s nose! It’s so soft! Cars make noise — look, there’s a yellow one! Baby feels hungry? Now Mommy is opening the refrigerator! — is very, very important. (So put those smartphones away!)
The idea has been successfully put into practice a few times on a small scale, but it is about to get its first large-scale test, in Providence, R.I., which last month won the $5 million grand prize in Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayors Challenge, beating 300 other cities for best new idea. In Providence, only one in three children enter school ready for kindergarten reading. The city already has a network of successful programs in which nurses, mentors, therapists and social workers regularly visit pregnant women, new parents and children in their homes, providing medical attention and advice, therapy, counseling and other services. Now Providence will train these home visitors to add a new service: creating family conversation.
The Providence Talks program will be based on research by Betty Hart and Todd R. Risley at the University of Kansas, who in 1995 published a book, “Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children.” (see here for a summary.) Hart and Risley were studying how parents of different socioeconomic backgrounds talked to their babies. Every month, the researchers visited the 42 families in the study and recorded an hour of parent-child interaction. They were looking for things like how much parents praised their children, what they talked about, whether the conversational tone was positive or negative. Then they waited till the children were 9, and examined how they were doing in school. In the meantime, they transcribed and analyzed every word on the tapes — a process that took six years. “It wasn’t until we’d collected our data that we realized that the important variable was how much talking the parents were doing,” Risley told an interviewer later.

This is important stuff. Read the entire article here.

The Atlanta Teacher Aptitude Test (ATAT)

Dan Zevin
Please use a sharp No. 2 pencil and gloves to fill in each circle completely or maybe a little less.
1. Agree or Disagree? “It is my duty as a pedagogue to help each and every pupil arrive at the correct answer.”
2. When helping each and every pupil arrive at the correct answer, which pedagogical method do you find most effective?
(a) memorization
(b) deconstruction
(c) jumbo eraser
3. A troubled student has defaced the playground with graffiti that reads, “This school sucks.” Would you:
(a) defer to the school psychologist
(b) vigorously scrub the “k” with turpentine and spray paint the letters “c, e, e, d” in its place.
4. Teaching fine motor skills is a crucial component of early childhood education. Please rate your level of proficiency in this area.
(a) somewhat proficient
(b) less than proficient
(c) extremely proficient
5. If you selected “a” or “b,” please demonstrate your fine motor skill proficiency by applying the pink tip of your writing implement to the circle, and using a series of tightly controlled wrist motions to restore the page to its original state. Remove traces of rubber residue by pursing your lips and exhaling upon the page while concurrently brushing it with the side of your gloved pinkie finger. Darken circle “c.”
6. Because many children are not developmentally capable of mastering verbal articulation, they frequently say the opposite of what they truly mean. Do you believe this extends to their written work as well?
a) Yes
7. When Lily wrote that 2+2=17 on her math test, what did Lily truly mean?
(a) 2+2=15
(b) 2+2=16
(c) 2+2=4
8. Please refer to Question 5.
9. What do you like better, permanent markers or dry erase markers?
10. Jimmy has failed five quizzes, six tests and one midterm. On his final exam, Jimmy gets every answer right. How do you predict the principal will react?
(a) “Jimmy is engaged in wrongdoing.”
(b) “Jimmy’s teacher is doing an outstanding job.”
11. In basic algebra, when does X=Y?
(a) when X^2 < Y (b) when X/2=πr^2 (c) when you erase the bottom right part of the X 12. Studies show that children who do poorly in school experience decreased self-esteem. Do you consider yourself to be the type of instructor who wants to decrease a child's self-esteem? (a) Yes, I want to decrease a child's self-esteem. (b) No, I do not wish to decrease a child's self-esteem. 13. Cognitive psychologists have identified several key ways in which individuals retain and share the information they hear on a daily basis. Which of the following techniques do you find most useful? (a) note taking (b) review sessions (c) wiretap 14. If you chose C, we are sorry, but we do not have any openings at this time. Thank you for thinking of the Atlanta public school system.

Madison’s New Superintendent on Madison, Politics & Distractions

Pat Schneider:

You’ll find Jennifer Cheatham, new superintendent of the Madison School District, at the Capitol Wednesday when local education officials talk about how Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed budget would hurt Dane County schools.
But don’t expect her to be spending much time making political statements, Cheatham told me and other staff members of the Cap Times Tuesday. Too much focus on politics would distract her from her work in the Madison schools, she said.
“I think my major role is to work on improving schools in Madison. That’s why I was hired and I need to remain focused on that,” Cheatham said. “But I do think there are times it is important for me to voice my opinion on behalf of the school district on state issues.”
That includes the Walker education budget.
Cheatham is scheduled to be on hand at noon Wednesday when School Board members, superintendents, parents and other advocates from around Dane County talk about the impact of Walker’s education proposals in Room 411, the large Senate meeting room.
The Madison School Board has already actively lobbied against the Walker budget, urging local legislators not to support a plan that is “bad for our students, our taxpayers and the future of public education.”
Board members say expanding vouchers into Madison, as Walker has proposed, is a particularly bad idea. They note there’s no consistent evidence that kids using publicly funded vouchers to attend private schools do better academically, and they say that funding vouchers is likely to raise local property taxes.
It’s not just school officials who are weighing in on the highly politicized issue of school vouchers. The Madison City Council passed a resolution last month, sponsored by all 20 members, opposing expansion of vouchers to Madison. The Dane County Board is considering a similar resolution.

Reading has been job one for quite some time, unfortunately.
Right to read lawsuit filed in Michigan.

The school standards (common core) debate: time for tech to weigh in

Steve Wildstrom:

Tech people are very fond of whining about the U.S. educational system, complaining that it is not producing the sort of workers they need. With a few notable exceptions-Bill and Melinda Gates and Dean Kamen come quickly to mind-the are much less good when it comes to doing anything about the problems of schools.
OK, here’s your chance. It won’t even cost you anything-calls for better education seem to die quickly in places like Silicon Valley when the talk turns to taxes-except some leadership.
The Common Core State Standards are the most important school reform to come along in many years. The standards fo mathematics and language arts lay out what we expect students to learn, year by year, from kindergarten through high school. They are not a curriculum, but a set of mileposts for what curriculum should cover, and they inject a badly needed dose of rigor into education. If you have any interest in K-12 education, you should take the time to read them here.
Despite a studied effort by their authors and sponsors at the National Governors’ Association and Council of Chief State School Officers to avoid political pitfalls, the standards have come under increasing attack from both the left and right. CCSS was initially adopted by 48 states and the District of Columbia, but three states have withdrawn their support and their is pressure in many others to do the same.
On the left, opposition to CCSS is closely tied to opposition to standardized testing, based on the assumptions, not necessarily warranted, that the standards will lead to increased testing. The anti-testing advocacy group FiarTest argues:

Will Teachers Unions Kill Virtual Learning? New educational technologies could be great for kids–if regulations and politics don’t get in the way

Katherine Mangu-Ward:

In 2012, education technology firms attracted $1.1 billion from venture capitalists, angel investors, corporations, and private equity–an order of magnitude more than the industry was pulling in 2002. Startups Coursera and Udacity, which offer high-quality online college courses to the masses, have each received more than $20 million from investors. Big corporations are buying their way into the industry, with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. leading the way in 2010 by dropping $360 million to acquire ed-tech firm Wireless Generation and luring education superstar Joel Klein away from his gig as the head of New York City schools.
But will the rush of cash translate into a radically transformed education landscape? When this kind of money flowed into tech companies in other sectors of the economy, we saw radical improvements in everyday transactions, as well as some dramatic booms and busts. Think Amazon instead of the mall, iTunes instead of the record shop, Expedia instead of a travel agent. But also think Pets.com and Full Tilt Poker, where intense competition and bad politics squelched what looked like good bets. There has been a flowering of good ideas in online education, like hybrid learning, in which kids still head off to school every morning but receive the bulk of their instruction from an infinitely patient piece of software instead of a harried, overworked teacher. Yet education, particularly K-12, has remained mostly immune to the improving and empowering forces of the Internet, leaving millions of kids stuck in offline backwaters for six hours a day. Per-pupil spending on public education has more than doubled over the past three decades, while student performance has flatlined.
As the parent of a toddler, I’d love to start banking on my daughter’s virtual elementary school matriculation. I want more choices than just the neighborhood public school or an exorbitantly priced private school offering pretty much the same curriculum in nicer facilities. Personalized learning and highly specific feedback appeal to me as a parent. But while Wall Street’s interest in online education may bode well for entrepreneurs and students, bullish investors and parents would do well to listen to war stories from weary education policy wonks.

NJ State: Princeton High School Falsified Student Transcripts

Laura Waters:

The Trenton Times is reporting that Princeton High School, one of NJ’s highest-performing high schools, “allowed a ‘significant’ number of students to graduate over a four-year period despite their excessive absences, and in some cases could not provide documentation to justify the waiving of attendance requirements, a state investigation concluded.”
According to the article, the state Department of Education’s Office for Fiscal Accountability and Compliance released a report that shows that during the period of 2008-2012 “district staff altered transcripts by hand to show students earning credits that had been lost because of excessive absences.” In addition, PHS Principal Gary Snyder tried to “dodge a question” related to the alterations.
The Princeton Board of Education has released a statement, which concludes,

Teacher Knows if You’ve Done the e-Reading

David Streitfield:

Several Texas A&M professors know something that generations of teachers could only hope to guess: whether students are reading their textbooks.
They know when students are skipping pages, failing to highlight significant passages, not bothering to take notes — or simply not opening the book at all.
“It’s Big Brother, sort of, but with a good intent,” said Tracy Hurley, the dean of the school of business.
The faculty members here are neither clairvoyant nor peering over shoulders. They, along with colleagues at eight other colleges, are testing technology from a Silicon Valley start-up, CourseSmart, that allows them to track their students’ progress with digital textbooks.
Major publishers in higher education have already been collecting data from millions of students who use their digital materials. But CourseSmart goes further by individually packaging for each professor information on all the students in a class — a bold effort that is already beginning to affect how teachers present material and how students respond to it, even as critics question how well it measures learning. The plan is to introduce the program broadly this fall.

Mozart of Indian Music’ visits Middleton-Cross Plains

Pamela Cotant:

Orchestra students in the Middleton-Cross Plains School District had their music world expanded with a visit by Chitravina N. Ravikiran, who is known as the “Mozart of Indian Music.”
He is a world-renowned composer, slide instrumentalist and vocalist who visited the orchestra students in fifth through 12th grades last month and was commissioned to create compositions for them to play. The high schoolers have performed their piece, and the middle schoolers will play the one created for them at a concert May 23.
Fifth-graders came to Glacier Creek Middle School, where Ravikiran visited with all of the district’s middle school orchestra students although the younger students won’t play one of Ravikiran’s pieces in a concert.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Unions have filed suit to protect the infamous backdrops, which made many county employees wealthy.

Bruce Murphy:

Three unions have gone to court to protect the lucrative pension backdrop, whose passage caused a public outcry that led to the ouster of former Milwaukee County Executive F. Thomas Ament and seven county supervisors. The unions have filed suit against the county and its Pension Board, arguing the backdrop is a vested property right that can’t be taken away.
As Urban Milwaukee has reported, more than 1,700 county employees have collected a backdrop benefit, with some 255 getting at least $250,000, 40 getting more than $500,000 and three getting more than $1 million. The complete list of backdrops can be found here.
The benefit grows bigger the longer employees work past the date they are eligible for retirement, so the benefit is growing for many current employees on a monthly basis. As a press release by Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele noted, the county has already paid out $200 million for backdrops and could pay another $100 million, but the reform championed by him could reduce the blow, by freezing the backdrop benefit for employees who are eligible to retire and eliminating it for future retirees who are eligible for the benefit.

Two Madison high school students granted Achievement Scholarship awards

Wisconsin State Journal:

Two Madison high school students have won Achievement Scholarship awards through the National Achievement Scholarship Program, the National Merit Scholarship Corporation announced Wednesday.
Alondra P. Harris and Imani Lewis-Norelle, both from East High School, were among about 800 outstanding black American high school seniors who received the awards. Harris’ probable career field is genetics, while Lewis-Norelle chose “activism.”

Debt And The Modern Parent Of College Kids

NPR Staff
t’s college touring season, and many parents are on the road with their teenagers, driving from school to school and thinking about the college application — and financial aid — process that looms ahead.
Many baby boomers have already been through this stage with their kids, but because the generation spans about 20 years, others still have kids at home. So how should boomers plan to pay for school when, on average, students graduate from college in the U.S. with $25,000 in debt?
Ron Lieber, who writes about personal finance for The New York Times, tells Morning Edition’s David Greene about planning strategies and pitfalls to avoid. Go to npr.org to read or listen to the rest of the story

Right to Read lawsuit filed in Michigan

Wisconsin Reading Coalition, via a kind email:

The ACLU has filed a civil rights action on behalf of Michigan students who, despite not being proficient in reading, have not received the legally-required intervention intended to bring them to grade level within 12 months. Defendants in the lawsuit include the Highland Park School District, the charter operator to whom responsibility for HPSD was delegated, and other individuals and educational entities at the state and local level.
Under Michigan law, “Excluding special education pupils, pupils having a learning disability, and pupils with extenuating circumstances as determined by school officials, a pupil who does not score satisfactorily on the 4th or 7th grade [MEAP] reading test shall be provided special assistance reasonably expected to enable the pupil to bring his or her reading skills to grade level within 12 months.” [MCL 380.1278(8).]
In 2011-12, only 35% of 4th graders and 25% of 7th graders in HPSD scored proficient or better on the state reading test. According to the complaint, “There is no excuse for the deprivations of educational opportunity described in this Complaint. Consistent with the statutory and constitutional provisions cited, it has been repeatedly recognized that nearly all children can learn to read and achieve literacy skills and knowledge appropriate to their age and development with adequate intervention where necessary. Under the State’s own content standards, all students should be able to read fluently, accurately, and with appropriate intonation and expression by second grade. Education research has demonstrated the effectiveness of structured, systematic, direct and explicit teaching of the English language reading code to all children, including older students who are substantially behind in their reading ability and related skills.”

Read the complaint here [PDF].
Many links, here.
Related: Madison’s disastrous reading results.

Study: More Adult Pell Grant Students, Not Enough Graduating

Claudio Sanchez
National Public Radio
The federal government each year gives needy college students billions of dollars they don’t have to pay back — $34.5 billion to be exact. More than 9 million students rely on the Pell Grant program. But a new study says much of the money is going to people who never graduate.
Sandy Baum, an expert on student financial aid, has been leading a group in a study of the 48-year-old Pell Grant program. Their report, commissioned by the nonprofit College Board, confirms what many have known for years about grant recipients.
“We have always known that the completion rates are lower than what we’d like them to be,” Baum says. “But what we really learned was that there are so many students who are not the traditional Pell Grant student, who are not young people from low-income families but rather are adults seeking to improve their labor force opportunities. So understanding how important Pell Grants are to these students, and how poorly designed they are to actually serve these students, was something of an awakening.”
aum says these are people 25 years and older who were hit hard by the recession — lost their jobs, went back for more training and education, but have struggled to complete their schooling.
Baum says they get little or no guidance about what to study or even what school to choose. “If you’re an adult, you’re more likely to see a sign on the bus or hear that your neighbor went to school someplace. You really don’t have many options,” she says. Older, nontraditional students, Baum says, now make up nearly half of all Pell Grant recipients, but only 3 percent ever earn a bachelor’s degree. High dropout rates, though, are not limited to older students. Among 18- to 25-year-olds in the program, only a fraction earn a bachelor’s degree within six years — often because they’re just not ready for college-level work.
Sophia Zaman, a recent graduate from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, says Pell Grant recipients like her don’t drop out because they can’t handle the work — higher tuition and fees push them out. “I have numerous friends who were unable to afford taking on a fourth year of college because — and my university was not unique — we faced a 16 percent tuition increase,” she says. Zaman, who now lobbies Congress on behalf of the U.S. Student Association, says the $8,600 she received in Pell Grants over four years wasn’t enough. She still had to work three part-time jobs to make ends meet.
Researchers agree that Pell Grants cover only a fraction of what they once covered. Their key finding, however, is that the Pell Grant program must now serve two equally needy but very different populations — young and old.

Rigorous Schools Put College Dreams Into Practice

Kyle Spencer

ALONG his block in Newark’s West Ward, where drugs are endemic and the young residents talk about shootings with alarming nonchalance, Najee Little is known as the smart kid. He got all A’s his sophomore year, breezing through math and awing his English teachers. His mother, a day care worker, and father, who does odd jobs to make ends meet, have high aspirations for him. They want him to earn a college degree.
So last year, when Bard College opened an early college high school in Newark for disadvantaged students with dreams of a bachelor’s degree, he was sure he’d do well there. He wrote his first long paper on Plato’s “Republic,” expecting a top grade. He got a D minus. “Honestly,” he recalled, “I was kind of discouraged.”
That paper marked the beginning of a trying academic path that would both excite and disillusion him. The past two years have been peppered with some promising grades — an A in environmental science — and some doozies. He failed “Africa in World History” and squeaked by in calculus. Mostly, he came to realize that getting into college and staying there would be a herculean task. There was tricky grammar, hard math and tons of homework. There was the neighborhood cacophony to tune out and the call of his Xbox. And there was the fact that no one in his house could help him.
“My work is more advanced than anyone at home has experienced,” he said. And that, it turns out, is why the school had accepted him.

High poverty, high ability, high expectations, high achievement.

Double Jeopardy: How Third-Grade Reading Skills and Poverty Influence High School Graduation

Donald J. Hernandez

Educators and researchers have long recognized the importance of mastering reading by the end of third grade. Students who fail to reach this critical milestone often falter in the later grades and drop out before earning a high school diploma. Now, researchers have confirmed this link in the first national study to calculate high school graduation rates for children at different reading skill levels and with different poverty rates. Results of a longitudinal study of nearly 4,000 students find that those who don’t read proficiently by third grade are four times more likely to leave school without a diploma than proficient readers. For the worst readers, those who couldn’t master even the basic skills by third grade, the rate is nearly six times greater. While these struggling readers account for about a third of the students, they represent more than three fifths of those who eventually drop out or fail to graduate on time. What’s more, the study shows that poverty has a powerful influence on graduation rates. The combined effect of reading poorly and living in poverty puts these children in double jeopardy.
The study relies on a unique national database of 3,975 students born between 1979 and 1989. The children’s parents were surveyed every two years to determine the family’s eco- nomic status and other factors, while the children’s reading progress was tracked using the Peabody Individual Achievement Test (PIAT) Reading Recognition subtest. The database re- ports whether students have finished high school by age 19, but does not indicate whether they actually dropped out.
For purposes of this study, the researchers divided the children into three reading groups which correspond roughly to the skill levels used in the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP): proficient, basic and below basic. The children were also separated into three income categories: those who have never been poor, those who spent some time in poverty and those who have lived more than half the years surveyed in poverty.
The findings include:
— One in six children who are not reading proficiently in third grade do not graduate from high school on time, a rate four times greater than that for proficient readers.
— The rates are highest for the low, below-basic readers: 23 percent of these children drop out or fail to finish high school on time, compared to 9 percent of children with basic reading skills and 4 percent of proficient readers.
— Overall, 22 percent of children who have lived in poverty do not graduate from high school, compared to 6 percent of those who have never been poor. This rises to 32 percent for students spending more than half of their childhood in poverty.
— For children who were poor for at least a year and were not reading proficiently in third grade, the proportion that don’t finish school rose to 26 percent. That’s more than six times the rate for all proficient readers.
— The rate was highest for poor Black and Hispanic students, at 31 and 33 percent respectively–or about eight times the rate for all proficient readers.
— Even among poor children who were proficient readers in third grade, 11 percent still didn’t finish high school. That compares to 9 percent of subpar third grade readers who have never been poor.
— Among children who never lived in poverty, all but 2 percent of the best third- grade readers graduated from high school on time.
— Graduation rates for Black and Hispanic students who were not proficient readers in third grade lagged far behind those for White students with the same reading skills.

Unfair Harvard Inside the biggest scandal in quiz bowl history.

Alan Siegel:

Three weeks ago, North America’s pre-eminent quiz bowl organization announced it had discovered scofflaws in its midst. In a blog post, National Academic Quiz Tournaments revealed that four players–MIT’s Joshua Alman, Harvard’s Andy Watkins, Michigan’s Scot Putzig, and a Delaware high schooler–had improperly accessed Web pages containing tournament questions. Though NAQT reported there was “neither direct nor statistical evidence that [three of the players] took advantage of their prior access in game situations,” their behavior still went “against competitors’ expectations of fair play.” (NAQT believes there is statistical evidence that MIT’s Alman used ill-gotten information to improve his tournament performance. He denies the charge, saying in an email, “When I competed in tournaments, I was hearing the questions for the very first time. I did not cheat.”) As a consequence of their actions, all of the players’ schools were stripped of their tournament victories.
Multiple major news outlets pounced as soon as the quiz bowl scandal hit the Web. Predictably, all of the stories focused on Andy Watkins and Harvard, which was forced to vacate the national championships it won in 2009, 2010, and 2011–the quiz bowl equivalent of the 2004 USC football team losing its BCS title. “For me, it’s just amusing at this point how the only time quiz bowl can ever get coverage is the typical ‘Harvard sucks’ or ‘Harvard’s corrupt’ kind of story,” says Ted Gioia, one of Watkins’ Harvard quiz bowl teammates.
But Watkins wasn’t just the media’s main target–the quiz bowl community has focused its rage on him as well. After all, neither Putzig nor Alman did as much damage as Watkins, who helped his team win multiple now-tainted championships. (Putzig did not respond to requests to comment.) Quiz bowler Jarret Greene, a student at Ohio State, puts it simply: “He accomplished the most from his cheating, and therefore his actions hurt quiz bowl the most.”

The field of education is contentious and resistant to innovation or change

Naveen Jain:

The field of education is contentious and resistant to innovation or change. There seems to be a growing sense that the problems that education systems face is just too difficult and multifaceted to fix. Most importantly, the focus is on how to “fix education infrastructure” (improve teachers, reduce class size, improve curriculum, develop alternative school models, etc.) rather than to “build better learners” by enhancing each child’s neural capacities and motivation for life-long learning.
Less than two decades ago the concept that you could improve educational outcomes by increasing each person’s neural capacities for learning would have been inconceivable because mainstream medicine and science believed that brain anatomy (and hence learning capacity) was fixed at birth. It is commonly believed that children enter school with differing (genetically endowed) brain capacities and that teachers must just make-do with these individual differences in learning capacity. Recent breakthroughs in the neuroscience of learning have demonstrated that this view is fundamentally wrong.
The US has spent billions of dollars on educating and supporting teachers or developing curricula but no resources are applied to “improving the brain” that a student brings to the classroom. To this end, the educational systems lack an understanding of and do not utilize recent advances in the neurological underpinnings of learning. As such, these systems do not successfully take into account individual differences in brain development, or have tools to optimally address these.

The Impact of Disruptive Students in Wisconsin School Districts

Michael Ford:

In 2010-2011, more than 48,000 Wisconsin students were suspended. The disruptive behavior leading to these suspensions is detrimental to teachers, school cultures, and ultimately, student learning. Reducing suspension rates in Wisconsin school districts with high numbers of disruptive pupils can substantially increase achievement levels in those districts. An analysis of suspension rates in Wisconsin shows that decreasing those rates by five percentage points would yield an almost five percentage point increase in math proficiency, and a three and one-half percentage point increase in reading proficiency on the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam.
In other words, reducing disruptive behavior can yield substantial achievement gains for Wisconsin pupils.
This report reviews existing research on the link between student disruption and academic achievement, reviews current Wisconsin statues and practices regarding student behavior, includes comments from a discussion with teachers from the state’s largest school district, and uses data from both the Department of Public Instruction and from the National Center for Education Statistics to test several hypotheses. The finding that student behavior affects student achievement at the school district level is both intuitive and well-supported by evidence.
The findings are particularly interesting because the other factors that significantly affect achievement in Wisconsin districts, such as the socioeconomic makeup of the student population, cannot be readily addressed in the ways that student behavior can.
Ultimately, this report concludes that Wisconsin must honor its commitment to make a public education available to all of its students, but must not do so at the expense of the vast majority of pupils who do not engage in disruptive behaviors. Similarly, teachers must be supported and allowed to teach in an environment where their focus can be on student learning, not discipline.

5 powerful talks about the quest for equality in the United States

Kate Torgovnick:

Freeman Hrabowski was a 9th grader in Birmingham, Alabama, when he heard a dynamic, impassioned speaker at church — Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. At the time, King was organizing a march for children, and Hrabowski begged his parents to let him be a part of it.
Freeman Hrabowski: 4 pillars of college success in scienceHrabowski won their blessing to march in the Children’s Crusade, a pivotal moment in the American Civil Rights Movement in 1963. He was taken to jail for participating, even though he was just 12-years-old. In today’s talk, Hrabowski shares the words that King said to him and the others inside the jailhouse: “What you children do this day will have an impact on children who have not been born.”
Today, Hrabowski is the president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), a college that serves students of all backgrounds and that is known for supporting students of color in two areas of study where they are severely underrepresented — science and engineering. The school currently leads the country in graduating African-Americans who go on complete Ph.Ds and MD/Ph.Ds in these fields.

Dean Loumos wins final Madison School Board seat after Wayne Strong concedes race

Matthew DeFour:

Low-income housing provider and former teacher Dean Loumos will join the Madison School Board later this month after his opponent in a very close race conceded Tuesday.
Retired Madison Police Lt. Wayne Strong said the 278-vote margin, or about 0.76 percent of the total vote, was not close enough to justify a recount.
Loumos’ victory margin decreased by one vote from the original total after nearly 200 absentee ballots were counted.
A recent change in state law that allows absentee ballots to come in after Election Day has made it harder to know the winner immediately in close races. There were more than 1,300 absentee ballots that hadn’t come into the Madison City Clerk’s Office by election night, but not all were returned by the Friday deadline.
State law allows a candidate to seek a recount at no cost if the margin is 0.5 percent of the total vote or less. Strong said if the absentee ballots had closed the margin to that level, he might have sought a recount.

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

Here’s Where Most of the Money Goes When Private Colleges Hike Tuition

Jordan Weissman:

Why is private college tuition so astronomically expensive these days?
Ask an administrator, and they’ll likely tell you that it’s because they’re taking money from the rich and giving it to the poor. Many schools advertise sky-high tuition rates that only the wealthiest students ever actually pay, while dolling out generous financial aid packages to needier attendees. At Harvard, to pick a famous example, tuition is $37,000, but students from families earning $65,000 or less per year pay zero. In the higher-ed world, this all gets called the “high-tuition, high-aid” model.
But exactly how much of the last decade’s rising tuition has actually been used to cover rising aid?
Quite a bit, it turns out. Over at Education Sector, Andrew Gillen put together this handy chart comparing tuition increases to changes in financial aid at 911 private, non-profit colleges between 1999 and 2010 in nominal dollars. On average, schools spent 60 cents of every new tuition dollar on aid (as shown via the green line). Overall, 58 percent of schools devoted at least half their new tuition money to aid. (Schools above the red line spent spent more than 100% of their tuition hikes boosting aid, while schools below it spent spent less than 100%)

Testing helps maintain attention, reduce stress in online learning

Daniel Willingham:

A great deal has been written about the impact of retrieval practice on memory. That’s because the effect is sizable, it has been replicated many times (Agarwal, Bain & Chamberlain, 2012) and it seems to lead not just to better memory but deeper memory that supports transfer (e.g., McDaniel et al, 2013; Rohrer et al, 2010).
(“Retrieval practice” is less catchy than the initial name–testing effect. It was renamed both to emphasize that it doesn’t matter whether you try to remember for the sake of a test or some other reason and because “testing effect” led some observers to throw up their hands and say “do we really need more tests?”)
Now researchers (Szpunar, Khan, & Schacter, 2013) have reported testing as a potentially powerful ally in online learning. College students frequently report difficulty in maintaining attention during lectures, and that problem seems to be exacerbated when the lecture occurs on video.
In this experiment subjects were asked to learn from a 21 minute video lecture on statistics. They were also told that the lecture would be divided in 4 parts, separated by a break. During the break they would perform math problems for a minute, and then would either do more math problems for two more minutes (“untested group”), they would be quizzed for two minutes on the material they had just learned (“tested group”), or they would review by seeing questions with the answers provided (“restudy group.”)

What Does Your MTI Contract Do for You? Health Insurance

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

Since the late 1960’s, MTI members have had the benefit of the best health insurance available. Stressing the importance of having quality health insurance in providing economic security, members have made known that health insurance is their #1 priority via their responses to the Union’s Bargaining Survey. And, the Union not only was able to bargain specific benefits, such as acupuncture and extended mental health coverage, as demanded by MTI members, but due to a 1983 MTI victory in the Wisconsin Supreme Court, MTI was able to have an equal voice in which insurance company would provide the plan. This is important because varied insurance companies have different interpretations of the same insurance provisions.
Unfortunately, the District Administration took advantage of the increased leverage in negotiations enabled by Governor Walker’s Act 10, and forced concessions in health insurance and other Contract provisions, in exchange for agreeing to Collective Bargaining Agreements for MTI’s five bargaining units through June 2014.
Members who elected Physicians Plus health insurance under the revisions made by the District, will now lose that coverage June 30, 2013. For coverage effective July 1, options available are via Dean Health Plan, Group Health Cooperative and Unity. Each offers an HMO and a Point of Service Plan. The Point of Service enables greater coverage options, but at a higher premium.
Note: The three current carriers enabling a special open enrollment/annual choice to add or change coverage to members of ALL five MTI bargaining units until April 26, 2013. Changes in coverage will be effective July 1, 2013. The deadline for application to change coverage must be received in Human Resources by 5:00 p.m., April 26, 2013. The District has scheduled two health insurance information sessions for those with questions to seek answers from the above-referenced plans.
Health Insurance Information Sessions:
April 8 – La Follette Room C17 – 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. April 9 – Memorial Neighborhood Center – 4:00 to 6:00 p.m.

California’s New Taxes Are Paying for Teacher Pensions

David Crane:

What if a corporation raised $500 million in a securities offering on the premise that the proceeds would go for operating expenses, then disclosed a few months later that $300 million of this amount would instead be used to service a debt that wasn’t disclosed in the offering document?
This would be false advertising, subject to sanction by the Securities and Exchange Commission. Unfortunately, the SEC doesn’t have jurisdiction over state politicians engaging in the same behavior, and, in the case of California, involving sums that are 100 times bigger.
Last November, California politicians persuaded voters to support a proposed seven-year, $50 billion tax increase, largely on the vow that the money would go to public education. The first five words of the initiative’s title were “Temporary Taxes to Fund Education.”
Now, just four months after the election, the state’s Legislative Analyst’s Office has announced that the California State Teachers’ Retirement System requires an extra $4.5 billion a year for 30 years — $135 billion — to cover its unfunded liability for teacher pensions and that the money will have to come from some combination of school districts and the state. To the extent that it comes from the school districts, $4.5 billion a year is 167 percent of the annual amount those districts expected from the tax increase. To the extent that it comes from the state, $4.5 billion is more than 100 percent of the annual amount it expected in new revenue.

Professionals Against Machine Scoring Of Student Essays In High-Stakes Assessment


Every year hundreds of thousands of students write essays for large-scale standardized tests. The scores are used in life-changing decisions. Students are accepted into, placed within, and rejected from educational programs. Graduates are hired or not hired. Teachers are qualified, evaluated, promoted, and fired. Learning institutions are compared, accredited, and punished. Yet in a major disservice to all involved, more and more of these essays are scored not by human readers but by machines.
Let’s face the realities of automatic essay scoring. Computers cannot “read.” They cannot measure the essentials of effective written communication: accuracy, reasoning, adequacy of evidence, good sense, ethical stance, convincing argument, meaningful organization, clarity, and veracity, among others. Independent and industry studies show that by its nature computerized essay rating is

Related: Robo Essay Grading

The Practical University

David Brooks:

The best part of the rise of online education is that it forces us to ask: What is a university for?,
Are universities mostly sorting devices to separate smart and hard-working high school students from their less-able fellows so that employers can more easily identify them? Are universities factories for the dissemination of job skills? Are universities mostly boot camps for adulthood, where young people learn how to drink moderately, fornicate meaningfully and hand things in on time?
My own stab at an answer would be that universities are places where young people acquire two sorts of knowledge, what the philosopher Michael Oakeshott called technical knowledge and practical knowledge. Technical knowledge is the sort of knowledge you need to understand a task — the statistical knowledge you need to understand what market researchers do, the biological knowledge you need to grasp the basics of what nurses do.

Harvard Digs a Deeper Hole on Cheating, E-Mail

Paul Barrett:

Harvard has finally retained some adult legal supervision to sort out its cheating-and-e-mail-snooping fiasco. That’s the good news.
The bad news remains that the country’s most closely followed institution of higher education has already done damage to its valuable brand. The university’s clumsy reaction to the mess has made an embarrassing situation worse.
First, the latest headline: As reported by our colleagues at Bloomberg News, University President Drew Faust announced that David Barron, a professor at Harvard Law School, will head a new task force to develop recommendations on campus e-mail policy. Barron, a former journalist who went on to more respectable pursuits, including clerking for former U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens and serving in the Justice Department during President Obama’s first term, is a noted expert on constitutional and administrative law. Faust said she would also ask Michael Keating, a leading Boston business litigator with the old-line firm Foley Hoag, to help sort out the situation.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate:

Jeramey Jannene:

In November 2000, the Milwaukee County Board approved, on a 20-to-5 vote, a plan with new pension benefits for non-union workers that were particularly lucrative for veteran employees. In February, 2001, the board voted 22-2 to extend similar benefits to union employees.
The plan was passed with no media scrutiny. In October 2001, then MilwaukeeWorld.com editor Bruce Murphy (current editor of UrbanMilwaukee.com) wrote a story detailing the benefits and wrote second story filling in more details. Murphy’s story reported that Milwaukee County Executive F. Thomas Ament, should he serve as planned until 2008, would leave with a “backdrop” lump sum pension payment in excess of $2 million.
The issue received little attention until Murphy did a feature story for Milwaukee Magazine on the issue. This soon prompted the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel to report the story on January 6, 2002, the first of a run of front-page stories devoted to the issue, reinforced by considerable coverage by TV and radio news coverage.
The resulting public outrage forced Ament to fire many of his cabinet members, sign a form foregoing his backdrop and eventually resign from office. Seven county supervisors were also recalled from office. Measured by the number of officials thrown out of office, it was the biggest political scandal in Milwaukee history.

Schools shift from textbooks to tablets

Philip Elliott:

Well before the cleanup from Superstorm Sandy was in full swing, students could read about the weather system that slammed the East Coast in their textbooks.
Welcome to the new digital bookcase, where traditional ink-and-paper textbooks have given way to iPads and book bags are getting lighter. Publishers update students’ books almost instantly with the latest events or research. Schools are increasingly looking to the hand-held tablets as a way to sustain students’ interest, reward their achievements and, in some cases, actually keep per-student costs down.
“We must use technology to empower teachers and improve the way students learn,” said Joel Klein, a former New York City schools’ chief who now leads News Corp.’s education tablet program. “At its best, education technology will change the face of education by helping teachers manage the classroom and personalize instruction.”
News Corp. introduced their Amplify tablet during a breakfast Wednesday at the South by Southwest conference in Austin, Texas. Priced at $299, the 10-inch unit runs on a school’s wireless Internet system and comes with software for teachers to watch each student’s activities, offer instant polls and provide anonymous quizzes to gauge student understanding.

State geography bee winner keeps family tradition going

Dennis Punzel:

Asha Jain will be making her fourth trip to the National Geographic Bee in Washington, D.C., in May. This time she’s going as a participant, rather than a spectator.
Asha, a 12-year-old seventh-grader from Minocqua-Hazelhurst-Lake Tomahawk Elementary School in Minocqua, won the Wisconsin National Geographic Bee competition held Friday at the American Family Insurance national headquarters in Madison by correctly answering all 27 questions she faced.
In doing so she follows in the footsteps of her brother Vansh, who had won three of the previous four state bees and placed second last year in the national bee. Vansh also won the state bee in 2009 and 2010 and went on to place fourth and sixth, respectively, at the national bee.
“We like geography,” Vansh said of his family dynasty. “I’m happy and proud of her. She always lost to me before, so I wanted her to win.”
After being blocked by her big brother the past three years — only one contestant from each school can make it to the state level — Asha was determined to make the most of her opportunity.
“We study a lot,” said Asha, whose family has a world map mural on its living room wall. “We look at a lot of maps and go through the notes over and over.”
All that work paid off as Asha was the only girl to advance to the finals along with nine boys.
One by one, the boys were eliminated as Asha was the only contestant to answer each question correctly through 14 rounds. That brought her to the championship round against Andrew Tai, a seventh-grader from Templeton Middle School in Sussex.
They each answered the three championship-round questions and the first of the tie-breaker round.

Research? Most people cannot understand it

Ian Wylie:

Should business school students be made to foot the bill for academic research that no one reads? Not any more, says Larry Zicklin, a former chairman of Wall Street investment firm Neuberger Berman, a clinical professor at New York University’s Stern School and a lecturer on ethics at the Wharton school at the University of Pennsylvania.
With academic journals under increasing attack from several quarters, Mr Zicklin has upset some colleagues in urging schools to cut tuition fees by making faculty members focus more on teaching and less on publishing research in journals. He points to research that uses the University of Texas at Austin as a case study and says that fees could be halved if 80 per cent of faculty with the lowest teaching loads were to teach only half as much as the 20 per cent with the highest teaching loads. He predicts that the rise of massive open online courses, or Moocs, and other market forces will conspire against schools that fail to act.

Forward Theater’s “Good People” a Timely Must-See

It asks the question “who escapes poverty and at what cost?” And reflects on the role of luck, effort, education and parental engagement.

Produced by Forward Theater Co.
Wednesday through Saturday, April 10-13, 7:30 p.m., Sunday, April 14, 2 p.m., Thursday and Friday, April 18-19, 7:30 p.m., Saturday, April 20, 2 and 7:30 p.m., Sunday, April 21, 2 p.m.
Running time is two hours and 30 minutes, with one intermission.
Playhouse, Overture Center, 201 State St.
$10-38; $15 student rush


Teacher’s resignation letter: ‘My profession … no longer exists’

Gerald J. Conti, via a kind Rebecca Wallace-Segal email:

It is with the deepest regret that I must retire at the close of this school year, ending my more than twenty-seven years of service at Westhill on June 30, under the provisions of the 2012-15 contract. I assume that I will be eligible for any local or state incentives that may be offered prior to my date of actual retirement and I trust that I may return to the high school at some point as a substitute teacher.
As with Lincoln and Springfield, I have grown from a young to an old man here; my brother died while we were both employed here; my daughter was educated here, and I have been touched by and hope that I have touched hundreds of lives in my time here. I know that I have been fortunate to work with a small core of some of the finest students and educators on the planet.
I came to teaching forty years ago this month and have been lucky enough to work at a small liberal arts college, a major university and this superior secondary school. To me, history has been so very much more than a mere job, it has truly been my life, always driving my travel, guiding all of my reading and even dictating my television and movie viewing. Rarely have I engaged in any of these activities without an eye to my classroom and what I might employ in a lesson, a lecture or a presentation. With regard to my profession, I have truly attempted to live John Dewey’s famous quotation (now likely cliché with me, I’ve used it so very often) that “Education is not preparation for life, education is life itself.” This type of total immersion is what I have always referred to as teaching “heavy,” working hard, spending time, researching, attending to details and never feeling satisfied that I knew enough on any topic. I now find that this approach to my profession is not only devalued, but denigrated and perhaps, in some quarters despised. STEM rules the day and “data driven” education seeks only conformity, standardization, testing and a zombie-like adherence to the shallow and generic Common Core, along with a lockstep of oversimplified so-called Essential Learnings. Creativity, academic freedom, teacher autonomy, experimentation and innovation are being stifled in a misguided effort to fix what is not broken in our system of public education and particularly not at Westhill.


Great Scientist ≠ Good at Math; shares a secret: Discoveries emerge from ideas, not number-crunching

E O Wilson:

For many young people who aspire to be scientists, the great bugbear is mathematics. Without advanced math, how can you do serious work in the sciences? Well, I have a professional secret to share: Many of the most successful scientists in the world today are mathematically no more than semiliterate.
During my decades of teaching biology at Harvard, I watched sadly as bright undergraduates turned away from the possibility of a scientific career, fearing that, without strong math skills, they would fail. This mistaken assumption has deprived science of an immeasurable amount of sorely needed talent. It has created a hemorrhage of brain power we need to stanch.
I speak as an authority on this subject because I myself am an extreme case. Having spent my precollege years in relatively poor Southern schools, I didn’t take algebra until my freshman year at the University of Alabama. I finally got around to calculus as a 32-year-old tenured professor at Harvard, where I sat uncomfortably in classes with undergraduate students only a bit more than half my age. A couple of them were students in a course on evolutionary biology I was teaching. I swallowed my pride and learned calculus.
I was never more than a C student while catching up, but I was reassured by the discovery that superior mathematical ability is similar to fluency in foreign languages. I might have become fluent with more effort and sessions talking with the natives, but being swept up with field and laboratory research, I advanced only by a small amount.
Fortunately, exceptional mathematical fluency is required in only a few disciplines, such as particle physics, astrophysics and information theory. Far more important throughout the rest of science is the ability to form concepts, during which the researcher conjures images and processes by intuition.

Crucible of Change in Memphis as State Takes On Failing Schools

Motoko Rich:

Not far off a scruffy boulevard lined with dollar stores and payday loan shops in a neighborhood of run-down brick bungalows, Corning Achievement Elementary School here is a pristine refuge, with gleaming tile floors and signs in classrooms proclaiming “Whatever it takes.”
In this Mississippi River town marked by pockets of entrenched poverty, some of the worst schools in the state are in the midst of a radical experiment in reinventing public education.
Last fall, Tennessee began removing schools with the lowest student test scores and graduation rates from the oversight of local school boards and pooling them in a special state-run district. Memphis, where the vast majority of public school students are black and from poor families, is ground zero: 80 percent of the bottom-ranked schools in the state are here.
Tennessee’s Achievement School District, founded as part of the state’s effort to qualify for the Obama administration’s Race to the Top grant, is one of a small handful of state-run districts intended to rejuvenate chronically struggling schools. Louisiana’s Recovery School District, created in 2003, is the best-known forerunner, and this year Michigan also set up a state district for failing schools. In February, Virginia legislators passed a measure to set up a similar statewide district.
The achievement district is a veritable petri dish of practices favored by data-driven reformers across the country and fiercely criticized by teachers’ unions and some parent groups.
Most of the schools will be run by charter operators. All will emphasize frequent testing and data analysis. Many are instituting performance pay for teachers and longer school days, and about a fifth of the new district’s recruits come from Teach for America, a program in which high-achieving college graduates work in low-income neighborhood schools. And the achievement district will not offer teachers tenure.

A monopoly of mediocrity in American education

Margaret Spellings:

There is a monopoly of mediocrity in American education.
The challenge to New Jersey: Break it.
The great “Wizard of Menlo Park,” Thomas Edison, once said, “The three things that are most essential to achievement are common sense, hard work and stick-to-it-iv-ness.” It is an ethic that has served New Jersey well, helped the state weather many storms, and made it one of the first great centers for innovation in the United States.
Student achievement in New Jersey schools is evidence of hard work and perseverance in the Garden State.
According to the Nation’s Report Card, New Jersey ranks second in the United States in overall fourth- and eighth-grade reading achievement. The state has a four-year high school graduation rate of 86.5 percent.
Good news — but not nearly good enough.

Rutgers should focus on education, not athletics

Sabrina Arias:

Rutgers students are starting to become inured to seeing the name of their university associated with some negative story (“Tapes told Rice tale,” April 4). Is it a string of bad luck? Probably not. I think that it is most likely a problem that the university administration has created as a result of its policy choices and the undue attention it has devoted to athletics.
For years, the administration at Rutgers has been trying to develop a national brand for the university as an athletic powerhouse. Doing so, they claim, will increase alumni funding, draw more resources and talented students and faculty, and generally increase the prestige of the university. As a student who does not participate in athletics, I believe my academic opportunities have been short-changed by this misguided policy. Athletes have been more recognized and better supported by the administration than scholars.

A Critique of the Wisconsin DPI and Proposed School Choice Changes

Chris Rickert:

Chief among them has been this notion from state superintendent Tony Evers that the state’s new accountability system, known as state report cards, shouldn’t be used to determine which districts get vouchers.
Under Walker’s plan, districts with at least 4,000 students and two or more schools getting a D or an F under a new rating system would be eligible for vouchers. Evers — no fan of vouchers anyway — says the report cards were not intended for such use and need more refinement over several years.
But what was the purpose of spending more than a year working with a diverse group of education and business groups and state elected officials to create the report cards — which replaced the widely panned No Child Left Behind system — if not to use them to make consequential decisions about education?
On Thursday, Department of Public Instruction director of Education Information Services John Johnson called the report cards a “work in progress” that aren’t an appropriate tool for making a “major policy decision.”
Among their current limitations are that they are based on tests that are expected to change two years from now, they can’t show growth in high school student achievement, some schools weren’t rated, and there’s too little data to reliably identify trends in school performance.
Adam Gamoran, director of the UW-Madison-based Wisconsin Center for Education Research and a skeptic on voucher programs, agrees that the tool isn’t perfect and may well change, but “that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t use them now” to rate schools.
It’s also not as if DPI itself didn’t expect to use the report cards. Its budget request — which Walker didn’t include in his budget — included about $10.3 million over the next two years to replicate best practices from schools deemed high-performing by the report cards, as well as to help schools deemed low-performing by the report cards get better.

John Nichols appears to support the present DPI approach. Status Quo K-12 vs a Little “Reform” Rhetoric at a Wisconsin Budget Hearing.
Related: The Wisconsin DPI in 2008:
“Schools should not rely on only WKCE data to gauge progress of individual students or to determine effectiveness of programs or curriculum”.
A citizen, parent, voter and taxpayer might ask what the DPI has been
with state and federal taxpayer dollars since 2008?
Meanwhile, Alabama (!), Minnesota, Florida and Massachusetts are
continuing to aim high and compare their students to the world.
And, Vietnam is teaching computer science concepts in primary school.

School for Scandal

Cal Thomas:

The problem is that a monopoly always protects itself. The teachers’ unions and many Democratic politicians, who receive their campaign contributions, oppose school choice, which would improve not only public schools, but also the chances of poor and minority children to have a better life. The current approach appears to be to keep disadvantaged children in underperforming schools so that underperforming teachers keep their jobs and the politicians they support keep theirs. As long as the monopoly survives, we can expect more cheating and corner-cutting and less real achievement for children who ought to be everyone’s first concern.
Instead, as Atlanta would suggest, public school children are subject to all manner of manipulation and disservice by people charged with educating them. Perhaps if parents had the freedom to send their children to a school they believed would offer them a better shot at true success they would fare better. Could school choice be the answer?
Indiana thinks so. Last week, the state’s Supreme Court upheld a voucher program that gives poor and middle-class families access to tax dollars to help them pay private school tuition. Parents should decide where their children go to school.

More schools need “robotic” learning

David Cohen:

The images in the slideshow above are all pictures that I took at the 2011 and 2012 FIRST Robotics Competiton Silicon Valley Regional. (FIRST stands for “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology”). I’ve taken my sons to this event for four years now, partly to encourage my school and my participating students, and partly because it’s fun watching six robots zooming around and smacking into each other in a race to lift and place large inflatables, or play basketball, balance on a ramp or zoom up a pole.
If I’ve posted this online, then we’re on our way to the San Jose Event Center to watch the first day of this year’s competition, which is called “Ultimate Ascent” – yes, frisbee time! Watch the animated film below to see this year’s game.
But actually, the main reason I keep coming back to this event is that I love watching education in action. On the surface, it’s all fun and games, as long as you’re a kid who understands robotics, computers, engineering, CAD, and a variety of other technical and mechanical skills. If you look at the slideshow above, you can see there are great things happening here among the students, audience, coaches and mentors, referees and event organizers.

Majority Disaffection

Allie Grasgreen:

Most people who are not straight white men would probably smirk at the idea that straight white men feel alienated in the higher education workplace.
Those who smirk, Sandra Miles said here at the annual conference of NASPA: Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, are hindering meaningful discussion about race.
Miles, whose dissertation on the professional experiences of black women in her field produced an unexpected sub-study about the alienation of straight white men, made this argument to a couple hundred people who turned up to hear more about her research. The ensuing debate was, unsurprisingly, somewhat contentious.
A comment by one white graduate student toward the end of the session summed it up well. He described a recent discussion about privilege in a higher education class, when he was shot down after offering his own thoughts.
“I couldn’t even begin to have that conversation because it was automatically assumed I didn’t understand,” he said. “To go through that experience in a higher education class – which is supposed to be the safest place to talk about that – was just terrifying.”

Genetic Prefiction: Autism

Steve Hsu:

Some time ago I posted on a striking claim of genetic prediction for autism risk that appeared in Nature Molecular Psychiatry:

Predicting the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder using gene pathway analysis (Nature Molecular Psychiatry)
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) depends on a clinical interview with no biomarkers to aid diagnosis. The current investigation interrogated single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) of individuals with ASD from the Autism Genetic Resource Exchange (AGRE) database. SNPs were mapped to Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes (KEGG)-derived pathways to identify affected cellular processes and develop a diagnostic test. This test was then applied to two independent samples from the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative (SFARI) and Wellcome Trust 1958 normal birth cohort (WTBC) for validation. Using AGRE SNP data from a Central European (CEU) cohort, we created a genetic diagnostic classifier consisting of 237 SNPs in 146 genes that correctly predicted ASD diagnosis in 85.6% of CEU cases. This classifier also predicted 84.3% of cases in an ethnically related Tuscan cohort; however, prediction was less accurate (56.4%) in a genetically dissimilar Han Chinese cohort (HAN). Eight SNPs in three genes (KCNMB4, GNAO1, GRM5) had the largest effect in the classifier with some acting as vulnerability SNPs, whereas others were protective. Prediction accuracy diminished as the number of SNPs analyzed in the model was decreased. Our diagnostic classifier correctly predicted ASD diagnosis with an accuracy of 71.7% in CEU individuals from the SFARI (ASD) and WTBC (controls) validation data sets. In conclusion, we have developed an accurate diagnostic test for a genetically homogeneous group to aid in early detection of ASD. While SNPs differ across ethnic groups, our pathway approach identified cellular processes common to ASD across ethnicities. Our results have wide implications for detection, intervention and prevention of ASD.

Dangers lurk in move to open-access publishing

Stuart Macdonald:

The UK government’s working group on expanding access to published research findings reported last June. The intention of the Finch report is admirable, the effort misguided. The report concentrates on how academic research will be published. It rather neglects what research will be published.
Dame Janet Finch, advised less by academics than by organisations with interests in academic publishing, recommends open access – but open access to what? Perhaps only to the publications from which these organisations benefit most. Access to research findings unapproved by these organisations is likely to become more difficult.
Producing a vast report on academic publishing that does not mention research assessment is something of an accomplishment. Research assessment dominates academic life and academic publishing dominates research assessment. Publication in top journals is the main indicator of academic performance, determining salary, careers, research grants and a goodly slice of institutional funding.