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 
Ralph Waldo Emerson Prizes 
National Writing Board 
TCR Institute 
730 Boston Post Road, Suite 24
Sudbury, Massachusetts 01776-3371 USA
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.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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….
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”.
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.
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
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.
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?
(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?
7. When Lily wrote that 2+2=17 on her math test, what did Lily truly mean?
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Much more on GRUMPS, here.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.